Monday, January 31, 2005

French league continues to produce talent

For the past few years I‘ve considered the French league one of the most entertaining in the world. Just a sample of players that the French league has delivered includes Pires, Viera, Henry, Zidane, Thruam, Trezeguet and Djorkaeff, all players who won the ‘98 World Cup.

More recently, new players like Didier Drogba and Ludovic Guily, Jerome Rothem, Papa Bouba Dioup, Samuel Eto’o, Djibril Cisse, Ronaldinho, and Jay Jay Okocha have all played great football in France and propelled themselves to bigger clubs.

So who in France is now on course for a bigger stage?

France's Answer to Juventus's Pavel Nedved is in Brazilian Juninho from Olympique Lyonnais. Just his passing range and outstanding free-kicks are enough to warrant a bigger club.

Zimbabwean striker Benjamin Mwaruwari (“Benjani”) scored seven goals in his first seven games when he entered the French league but was hampered by injury. Now fully fit, he is showing great ability.

French international and Bordeaux midfielder Rio Mavuba continues to attract the attention of Europe’s largest clubs. Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid have all been linked. I guess they all realize it’s nice to have your own Claude Makelele (even if you already have one), and considering Eric Djemba-Djemba has moved to Aston Villa, Man U have a gap to fill.

Congo international Shabani Nonda has already expressed his intention to move from Monaco, but, as impressive as he has been at times, questions are still unanswered. In general though, AS Monaco has been making impressive signings for a few years now.

Jeremy Menez for Sochaux gets a mention only because at 17, is the youngest player ever to score a hat trick in Le Championnat. Well, talent too, let’s be fair, he is an excellent player.

Bolton Wanderers close to signing Vincent Candela

Former France international Vincent Candela looks set to join Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. Candela, who can play both right and left back, would certainly strengthen the Bolton defense with his experience.

Candela has not featured much for the ever-unsettled Roma and looks interested in leaving. Bolton manager Sam Allardyce has an impressive ability with players and is using his track record to his advantage to attract good players.


Chelsea's recruiting tactics redux

After just yesterday writing an article about Chelsea’s recruiting tactics the BBC reports an illegal approach for Arsenal’s Ashley Cole:

'Arsenal believe Chelsea could be guilty of an illegal approach to Ashley Cole.

The News of the World claimed Cole has attended a meeting in a London hotel with Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and chief executive Peter Kenyon.

Mourinho brushed off the allegations on Sunday, claiming he was in Milan for talks with Inter's Adriano at the time.

But Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood said: "It has been reported in a very definite manner and that makes you think something untoward has gone on." '

Eric Djemba-Djemba joins Aston Villa

Aston Villa have agreed terms with Manchester United and 23 year old Cameroon international midfielder Eric Djemba-Djemba.

David O'Leary has moved for a player unsettled after just 18 months at Old Trafford. He entered the Premiership with the physical skills necessary but tended to wander mentally in midfield and often make more difficult passes than the holding role required.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Last minute shopping

Here is some transfer news just before the closing of January’s transfer window.

In the UK, Portsmouth is trying to sign Dynamo Moscow striker Dmitri Bulykin. Middlesbrough is believed to have agreed terms with Chelsea to re-sign Geremi, but the player has stalled the move. Bobo Balde had not made a decision about a move to Middlesbrough but expect it to happen since it looks like Swiss international defender Stephane Henchoz will leave Liverpool to join Celtic for the rest of the season.

In Spain, Edu’s move to Valencia is still pending and Real Madrid is still trying for Brazilian club Santos forward Robinho. Barcelona have signed experienced former AC Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini.

In Germany, Bundesliga strugglers Monchengladbach has made several moves as Elber joins Wesley Sonck and former Tottenham goalkeeper Kasey Keller as newcomers to the club, which is trying to avoid relegation.

Hertha Berlin is reportedly close to signing Turkish forward Ilhan Mansiz who, if you recall played very well at the 2002 World Cup.

French club Marseille are likely to sign Japan midfielder Koji Nakata from J-League club Kashima Antlers.

Chelsea recruiting tactics

Recently Portugal's Sporting Lisbon reported Chelsea to FIFA over illegal approaches to its youth academy players.

The Portuguese club claim three 15-year-olds from their youth team Adrien Silva, Fabio Ferreira and Ricardo Fernandes have all trained with Chelsea in London.

This is the second time in the last year that a Portuguese club has lodged a complaint with FIFA over Chelsea's recruitment tactics.

Porto complained to FIFA over Chelsea's approach for manager Jose Mourinho.

Italy may be first to use artificial pitches

Some Serie A matches could be played on synthetic pitches as early as next season now that UEFA has approved their use.

UEFA's decision to lift its ban came after two years of testing in the colder climates of Holland, Russia, Scotland, Austria and Sweden. Tests showed that the surfaces were a vast improvement on the early 'plastic' pitches of the 1980s.

My question still is:

Historically synthetic pitches caused more injury, what about that? The NFL, American football’s professional league, had increased injuries when synthetic pitches came into use. The cause was often feet catching on the turf.

With claims that the synthetic alternatives are very close to the real thing, it would be logical that the “grabbing” effects (which causes injury) of past artificial pitches is also minimized.
To date, I have not heard any comment about the impact on players, so lets hope so.

Benoit Cheyrou

At French club Auxerre, playing for Guy Roux (now 40+ years as coach), Benoit Cheyrou has been in impressive form. He shows good touch, vision and composure. He is so willing to wait for the right moment to move the ball and makes class pass after class pass with defenders on top of him. At over 180 cm, Cheyrou is also useful in the air. The only question mark remains defensively, although the signs are good.

You may have heard of Benoit’s older brother Bruno Cheyrou. He plays for Marseille now in France, on loan from Liverpool, where he spent the last few seasons.

Sitting third in the French league Auxerre are doing well, also in the later stages of the UEFA Cup with a two leg matchup against Ajax on Feb. 16th and 24th. Benoit Cheyrou should feature in both ties.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Jean Carlos Chera: Brazilian 9 year old is truly a prodigy

I saw the video of 9 year old Jean Carlos Chera; it was stunning, and you will agree.

Be prepared because I am not exaggerating.

Wait until you see a 9 year old doing moves many professionals cannot, and score goals you didn’t think a 9 year old could, this is a wunderkind:

Jean Carlos Chera

Click the image of the boy in the center, that’s him.

You see what I mean?

A blog has already been created to follow his progress:


And more reporting in Sports illustrated has been done.

European clubs target 9 year old

Blogsoccerblog has an article about a 9 year old football prospect, an interesting find.

"The Argentinian newspapar Clarín has published a video which shows an extremely talented nine year old player of the Brazilian team ADAP in the town of Paraná.

Jean Carlos Chera currently weighs 35 kilograms and is 1,37 meter tall, and is already a key target for European top clubs FC Porto and Manchester United, who both want the youngster's entire family to move to Europe.

Chera, who plays football under the name Anderson, shares the field with players four years older than he is, and manages to surprise all spectators with his actions. ADAP chairman Adilson Batista Prado commented: "He's phenomenal; I've never seen anything like this before.

He keeps on surprising. Everybody who sees him play is fascinated. "The video can still be seen here, but Clarín's webmaster has already announced to take the link down soon, in order to avoid a site-crash."

It’s too bad the video is not available.

Thoughts about Manchester United win over Middlesboro in FA Cup

With a striker’s goal by John O’Shea and two by Wayne Rooney, Manchester United move into Monday’s FA Cup next round draw.

Rooney scored despite a variety of errors in midfield linkup play, Christiano Ronaldo, on the wing, lost the ball regularly. When Ronaldo and Rooney lose the ball it’s usually in the process of attack, so together they eventually an impact on the game with both skill and luck.

Manchester looked timid after Ronaldo came off and once he left the field Middlesboro seemed to have a weight lifted off. Missing a part of that attack Middlesboro created more. Man U lose the ball less when Scholes plays, tonight they still produced goals and entertaining football. It’s tremendous what these two players are doing at their respective ages.

Middlesboro, without several influential players, of which Mark Viduka was indeed needed, dropped five players in midfield. After going down 0-1 they added striker Joseph Job. But despite the increase in chances Middlesboro could not get the equalizer and succumbed to goalkeeping error for the second goal -in fact the keeper was 15 meters from both the ball and goal line when Rooney struck cheekily over his head.

Middlesboro still have Graz in the UEFA Cup to play for and in a competition where they have a reasonable chance with players healthy.

Craig Bellamy to Birmingham City

Newcastle United have accepted a 6m pound bid from Birmingham City for Craig Bellamy. He has been left out of the Newcastle squad to face Coventry in the FA Cup.

After a very public row with team manager Graeme Souness, Bellamy was told he has no future at Newcastle.

Bellamy will now play for Mark Hughes, former Wales manager. Having coached Bellamy in the national side, this was probably the best place for him to go; I would not be surprised if Bellamy had lobbied Hughes hard over the last few days for this deal.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Chelsea prospect for the quadruple

Domestically, a treble is closing in. But on the day Chelsea can also be beaten by Arsenal, Manchester United, and yes, even Liverpool. All 3 teams have shown the ability to create chances, but have lacked good defensive performances.

While Chelsea is in the kind of form Arsenal was in at the end of their 49 unbeaten run, the match with Barcelona is looming. If any club in the world can beat Chelsea right now it would be Barcelona. With Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o in unconscious form we might see a classic. If Chelsea wins the Champions League they must do it by beating a team of equals. This is a 50-50 game.

The Premiership and Carling Cup are Chelsea’s best chance to win a trophy, and with both, they likely will. The League Cup is a closer call. The Champions League offers Chelsea the stiffest resistance, and is the most likely spot to have quadruple hopes to end.

While I would like to see it achieved, like I wanted to see Arsenal get 50 wins, I still think it unlikely.

Hidetoshi Nakata remains a mystery

After becoming something of a revelation at the 1998 World Cup (joining Italian club Perugia afterwards) Hidetoshi Nakata has become a mystery.

The 2002 World Cup was not as successful in 2002 as 1998. He Parma after a series of fallouts with managers for Roma, then Bologna and now plays with Fiorentina. No great news of fine form has emerged there.

At 28 Nakata has had an up and down career. I’ve kept tabs since that 98 cup and feel there are still questions unanswered.

It’s my impression that Italy was never the best place for him to play. His style clashes with the Italian game, and while it had an edge when he was new, it wore away, don’t know why. In a more open series he could have resurgence. The talent exists, no doubt. He would be a great replacement for Deco at Porto, would make a positive impact at Celtic, Paris Saint Germain where Pauleta needs balls fed in, and Borussia Dortmund for unsettled Tomas Rosicky, even replace Gravesen at Everton.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ryan Babel: yet another Ajax youth talent

Ajax Amsterdam has been renowned for finding players from all over the world. This time they have found one right in Amsterdam: 18 year old Ryan Babel (2nd photo).

A right footed striker, 185cm tall with remarkable dribbling skills, he has been with the club since the age of 11 as have so many of Ajax Amsterdam’s prodigies. Babel particularly likes going past opponents, and was helped along by legend Marco van Basten in the youth squad.

A substitute in the Amstel Cup quarterfinal tonight Babel changed the game, helping to turn a 0-0 tussle into a 2-0 win in 5 minutes, scoring one of the goals with power and style. He did the same thing in injury time on a Jan. 23rd win over FC Utrecht.

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On referees

Since we started calling it ‘modern football’, one of the things that has changed is the speed of play. This means the speed of the ball and the players as well as a decrease in their reaction time. This adds up to closer calls.

Maybe its time to admit a single referee may not being enough anymore?

If things are happening faster then the referee has less time to be in a good position. Over the course of almost every football match there are obvious mistakes. Flops, out of bounds decisions, the goal like, penalty decisions and injury fakes: these bad calls happen all the time.
In American professional sports leagues there are more referees, in the NBA, there are 3 officials on a 30+ meter court. I have watched enough NBA ball to know they are right more often than football referees and they make considerably more calls.

This article is not a slap at bad refereeing, the opposite. From the distances the referees are at, it’s very hard to get it right much more often than they do now. That is why I think more help is the solution, managers are whining about it constantly, let's get back to talking football and not bad decisions.

FC Barcelona buys Argentinian striker

20-year-old Argentinian striker Maxi Lopez has completed his transfer to FC Barcelona from club River Plate for 6.2m euros and a four-and-a-half year contract. Lopez came thru River Plate's youth program and had been playing regularly since 17. He is considered a powerful striker and resembles Hernan Crespo in his playing style and can play in any spot on the forward line.

The word 'Forlan' is stuck in my ear.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Up and coming players

A lot of the Premiership here recently so let’s balance it out a bit and point out some players developing elsewhere:

A reader recently asked me about American prospects. I’ll go ahead and mention Freddy Adu here, although I have not seen him play. The hype is strong. He’s 16, and joined his club team DC United a year ago.

is a wide defender playing in Portugal for Benfica. A converted wide midfielder his biggest asset is his pace, he likes to venture forward. His body reminds me a lot of Arsenal’s Lauren. He is also part of the Portuguese national side.

Speaking of Lauren, Tunisian international Hatem Trabelsi has many similar qualities. But after misbehaving over at Dutch team Ajax, there is much to smooth out. Trabelsi is the type of defender that sort of appears on top of you with easy strides that seem slow before the pounce. Should have been smoother about his contract and good money they pay him.

From the Ivory Coast, Aruna Dindane from Anderlecht once put a move against a German team in the Champions League game that floored me. He dribbled to the end line, paused suddenly until the defender stopped and then slid the ball past him, horizontal to the end line towards goal, passing off for a chip in goal. Brilliant.

An Ivory Coast international who scores goals along side Didier Drogba, Aruna was voted Belgium's Player of the Year in 2004. Needs a bigger club. Ivory Coast football also getting attention:

World Soccer: "If Anderlecht striker Aruna Dindane, Arsenal centre-back Kolo Toure and midfielder Gilles Yapi Yapo of Nantes constituted the first wave of talent to break upon European shores, teenage Feyenoord striker Salomon Kalou is on the crest of the second. The 19-year-old younger brother of Ivory Coast and Auxerre front man Bonaventure Kalou – who himself spent six years at Feyenoord before moving to France in 2003 – appeared in only two Dutch League games before this season. But no one would have guessed it from the way he has run riot this term, using his speed, exuberance and ball skills to pierce defences at will."

One of the best players I say at the European Cup in 2004 was Borussia Dortmund midfielder Tomas Rosicky. Apparently Portugal liked what it saw because European champions Porto wanted to sign him before the season. His price tag seems the problem; let’s see if anyone wants to fork over the $15 m or so. This is a very talented player on a very good Czech Rep. team who’s agent claims is unsettled in Germany.

Kaka: Serie A Player of the Year

The previously written about Kaka from AC Milan:

"Kaka voted Serie A Player of the Year” - And worthy of it.

Liverpool’s injury curse

Liverpool says that 20 year old forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle will probably lose the rest of the season because of injury. Another injury to the long list is why I think Liverpool are underrated; Alan Hansen disagrees.

This injury is added to that of Djibril Cisse, Xabi Alonso and Harry Kewell. Both Steven Gerrard and Luis Garcia have missed a significant number of games.

Ever-understated Benitez said "We have not had the best of luck with injuries of late and this is another blow."

The club said the knee injury Pongolle suffered in the in the Carling Cup win over Watford was to the cruciate ligament area .

Fenerbahce closing in on Anelka

Before the recent draw at Arsenal, Nicolas Anelka refused a fitness test.

That upset Kevin Keegan to the point which Manchester City have been shopping Anelka around.

Looks like Turkish side Fenerbahce is the destination as the two clubs negotiate a transfer which is thought to be worth 7 million pounds.

For Anelka, this is another climb down in a career which has seen the player join and then unsettle himself at every club he's joined. In addition to that, what more can you ask than being a striker an offensive minded team like Kevin Keegan’s?

Edwin Van Der Sar signs Fullham extension

There was speculation recently on whether Edwin Van Der Sar was leaving Fullham for a new club.

Consider those rumors quashed because Van Der Sar has signed a 2 year contract extension.

Earlier this season I was surprised manager Chris Coleman benched Van Der Sar for a few games. While I’m obviously not privy to what goes on inside the club, I didn’t think it was deserved. While his form dipped, this is a vastly experienced keeper. The manager should have shown more faith, but a new contract should smooth everything over.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Andy Johnson: the real deal

Andy Johnson is scoring goals.

From the article “Joy for Johnson in front of Sven”:
“With England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson watching from the stands, Johnson netted Palace's third goal of the game to take his tally for the season to 14 and further stake his claim for an international call-up.”
Andy Johnson deserves that call up, here is why:

Thierry Henry 16
Andrew Johnson 14
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 10
Jermain Defoe
Robert Pires
Andy Cole 9
Shaun Wright-Phillips
Paul Scholes 8
Didier Drogba
Aiyegbeni Yakubu
Milan Baros
Frank Lampard 7
Kevin Phillips
Fredrik Ljungberg
Robbie Keane
Nicolas Anelka
Paul Dickov
Eidur Gudjohnsen
Craig Bellamy
Arjen Robben 6

Of the top 20 goal scores in England: Andy Johnson is the only one which does not or has not regularly played on a national side.

And he’s #2 on that list…. By 4 goals.


Ups and Downs

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard scored the only goal as Liverpool reach the Carling Cup final. As I said a few posts ago, this is a fundamentally good team that needs some time. Unfortunately Xabi Alonso will probably be out the rest of the season having suffered a broken ankle.

Diouf’s dupe shows its time for change

From The Scotsman:

“The Press Association understands the Football Association will not be taking action against the Senegal international, despite his manager implying Diouf exaggerated any contact.”
Should Sam Allardyce take a stand and suspend the player for what would be the second time this season? The serial spitting and now diving for points?

The think that irks me is that when I saw El-Hadji Diouf’s performances in the 2002 World Cup I was convinced that a great player was emerging and thought Liverpool made a smart move and even paid a good price. His play this year has been the best since he has been in England but conversely his behavior is at its worst.

Is it time to punish with strait red cards for diving? I think so.

It’s also time to take action for faking injuries.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Man Utd targets goalkeeper Kameni

Sir Alex Ferguson has targeted Cameroon international goalkeeper Carlos Kameni in a bid that would potentially see cash or player exchanged for this great prospect. Kameni has a 4 million pound buyout clause.

The BBC offers a really great profile of the player that those in the UK might soon be seeing alot of:


Manchester United need to resolve this crisis to get the team on all cylinders. This is considered the best keeper in Spain at the moment and I agree.

Here is a profile of Kameni:

Carlos Kameni

Real Madrid trying on a new diamond

Excerpt from the article Beckham happy to be back on right track:

“Coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo switched the England captain from his usual central berth to the right wing in a diamond formation with Thomas Gravesen in the middle, Zinedine Zidane on the left and Luis Figo slotting in behind the strikers.

The move paid off as Beckham produced an impressive display in Real's 3-1 win over struggling Real Mallorca at the Bernabeu.

"It was my best performance of the season and possibly my best performance maybe since I've been in Spain," Beckham told reporters."

A few days ago I chatted with a friend and mentioned that Figo should try a more central role and let Beckham be out wide. The response was that it would be foolish to move him in good form. In the moment I had to agree.

Luxemburgo’s risky decision seems to have paid off the first time out.


These are notes taken from the uk.sport.football.clubs.newcastle-united newsgroup:

Any good then? Worth 8M? How does he compare to Woodgate.
--I'm lovin' it
he looked better today, seemed to hold his own against henry and bramble seems to look/play a bit better alongside him. Still to early to form an opinion really though, as he's only played a couple of games and now looks like he's injured and could miss a fewmore. Doubt he'll be as good as Woodgate was when he played, but you can always hope.
comparing the two isn't fair..... but one thing they do have in common atthe moment..... they are both injured"

I'm not sure, but there is huge potential; he does have the prototype central defender body that seems to be emerging these days in the like of Sol Campbell followed by Ferdinand and King. He's also entering a club not at full throttle.

Work in progress, with a lot of upside. They did the right thing to take a stab at replacing the hole Woodgate left. Too many clubs spend only on front men.

Souness has the obligation to use his authority

Craig Bellamy refused to play out of position.

Graeme Souness is correct 100% is using his authority; and it is his to use.

Bellamy’s behavior demonstrates a problem with authority. Remember the substitution reaction on camera recently? Look at the regular responses to tackles when it doesn’t go his way.

Don’t get me wrong, Bellamy is a good player with potential; he has tenacity, strong shooting skills and a natural instinct for goal. He has a similar personality to Joe Cole where they want to do what they want to do in an environment where they don’t have such a luxury. Cole learned this lesson, and has actually improved as a team player, showing he is learning how to better manage himself. Bellamy would also improve.

Mourinho, Ferguson, Moyes et al, have and would do the same thing, so should Souness.

A few last notes about the Premiership weekend

My player of the week is Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given who alone kept an un-inspiring Newcastle in the game against Arsenal for 90 minutes. His saves were inspired. Its amazing they only lost 1-0.

Amazing what a difference Dennis Bergkamp makes to a side. For my money, he is why Arsenal looked renewed in attack. Why does he have to age?

Craig Bellamy is paid too much to refuse to play out of position.

Matt Holland’s goal for Charlton against Everton was my goal of the week.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bastian Schweinsteiger

German football clubs, shall we say politely, generally import their creative players into the otherwise dreary Bundesliga. Now the Germans have what the Dutch have in Arjen Robben, Italy has with Totti, the Nigeria in Okocha and the Portuguese in Christiano Ronaldo: players which alone can change a match.

With Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich and the German national side have a player in this playmaking role. Expect him to figure heavily in Germany 2006 for the World Cup.


The everlasting Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio remains a potent footballer. After leaving the UK he's now back for a second stint at Lazio where he first emerged, every bit as 'di canny'.

His work in the Lazio attack up front has produced chance after assist, over and over. I a few seasons ago I heard Manchester United (pre C. Ronaldo) was interested and at the time I felt it was a good move since it seemed he got his personal side worked out after his rocky start in England.

He scored another great goal this weekend and set another one up.

Premiership notes from Sat. Jan 23 gameday

A few performances of notice today came from Chelsea as a team now with some 10 hours un-scored upon.

I’ve wanted to write for a few months about Papa Bouba Diop, who again seemed to impress. He finally seems to be showing that form we saw with Senegal in the 2002 World Cup. Remember that goal he scored when he ran the length of the pitch? While his countryman Salif Diao has now moved to Birmingham for the rest of the season we can see if a change of club can give him a change of fortune. I still think Diao can become a great player.

Boa Morte and Morientes shouldn’t flop.

I know that I am going to get head shakes in disagreement, but I sense Liverpool are going to finish the season strongly and beat out Everton into the 4th Champion’s League spot. Today they looked disorganized, but there is a lot there to sort out and injuries have hurt them. All things said, they are still 5th with the 4th best goal difference in the league. This team can handle adversity and only needs a good stretch with the same 11. Benitez is a good coach, albeit slow in adapting, which can get Liverpool there.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Figo's form not equalling contract extension yet

Quote from Telegraph article:

“While some may see the death of a bloated, lazy galactico culture in Figo's departure, they would be wrong. Figo has commitment as well as class and was among the few who performed last season.

But for Perez, Figo has gone from superstar pioneer to embittered old-timer. It is hardly surprising that Figo should feel poorly treated: while Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo have signed generous contract extensions, Figo has not - something he publicly laments.

In June he will have a year left; Madrid will have to sell him. He is already being eased towards he door, and what better way than easing him out of the team? It is no coincidence that, with Gravesen's entrance, Beckham has suddenly reappeared on the right of midfield just as Figo's relationship with the club reaches its lowest ebb.”

I completely agree. Luis Figo has played exceptionally well.

(Unless Figo wants to leave) He is being pushed out from the top or he is being squeezed for a shorter/lower paying contract or hey don’t get the marketing revenue from Figo that they see someone else getting (ehm, a new galactico). And the strategy at Madrid is to market the players for profit as much as win.

He has played very well this season, especially in the Champions’ League and he has the public support of Zidane, Roberto Carlos and Raul.

The management under Perez has laid blame before on those that did not deserve it. For Real Madrid to play in the style that the fans want, they need solid players supporting the attack, and fired coaches needed those players. Gravesen is making up for the long standing mistake of not keeping Makelele, but before that Hierro was showing signs of distress. In those years Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Nesta, Stam and Canavarro moved clubs.

Figo is not showing signs of Distress. If he moves clubs, I predict he will be great a few more years. Retiring from the national side will preserve him a bit longer.

I rather hope he does move, but only to the Premiership (to be able to watch him). He would bolster Liverpool, who needs bolstering.

Ken Bates and fixer-upper Leeds United

I think that Ken Bates takeover of Leeds United is a good fit.

Bates brings the experience of being the chairman of Chelsea and his lessons learned to Leeds. There are many critisms of Ken Bates, but he seems able to give things time, which Leeds needs. They are still reeling.

For Bates himself it’s a fresh start in a situation that has the entire top flight infrastructure in place. The coach, players and management all have to steer the club together and that is up to Bates to do.

"Rejected in his bid for Sheffield Wednesday, is he now biting off
more than he can chew?"

No, I don't think so, I think that Ken Bates just wants to prove himself.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Arsenal's form since it ended at 49

In an article about what is going wrong at Arsenal, the author Isabelle Kliger writes:


We’ve all heard the whispers around Highbury, “We should have cashed in on him when we had the chance”. It is far from pleasant, feeling that way about our talismanic captain and the supposed backbone of our team, but there is, in black and white. Patrick’s heart just doesn’t seem to be in it. He was 100 per cent committed to winning the Champions’ League with Arsenal. But where is that commitment when he’s playing Stoke or Manchester City? Furthermore, Vieira is he team captain, but where are his leadership skills? Does he inspire and motivate the players or is he, all too often these days, the person losing the ball in the midfield and leaving someone else to clean up his mess? This may be provocative, rash, and unrealistic but how about selling Vieira, offering Edu a decent contract and using the cash for Shaun Wright-Phillips? Any takers?

No, not a taker.

Vieira chose for less money for what he thought was the better club. And he is right. Arsenal are better than Real Madrid, I think. Just compare the back fours. Henry is the best striker on either club. Bergkamp is virtually the only regular which is not in his prime playing years. Vieira, albeit on the edge of his prime, is an instrumental piece. Just look at Figo's recent form as an example of resurgence.

Arsenal are suffering from goalmouth leadership right now. They have some players that look tired. They have a 17 year old learning the midfield (and a worthy starter) -but still a 17 year old. Most of all, Arsenal didn't seem to accept the streak at 49. Something washed thru the camp, ‘we wuz robbed’ maybe? Destiny of 50 shattered? Dunno, but the run of mediocre form started when the streak ended. That is something team related, not a specific player.

Tottenham sign mediocre player

Tottenham have signed Egyptian striker Mido from Roma on loan for the remainder of the season. Sorry Tottenham, but I think this is a bad move.

Mido’s first large club was Ajax Amsterdam. It was the first opportunity I had to seem him play. I was not impressed, in fact I wondered how long he would actually last there. His play was a bit lackadaisical and he lacked (what seemed like) basic ambition and drive. To my surprise he moved to France to play with reasonable results.

Mido then joined Roma from Marseille last September and has quickly fallen out of favor at Roma. In my opinion there is a good reason he was not playing, as the Spurs will likely soon learn.

There were better players out there. Martin Jol looks a good coach, lets see if this transfer is not an ominous sign of a coming rash of bad buys wrecking a squad.

Often a player gets his act together when he realizes his career is sunk if a move like this doesn’t work. I sense that it won’t matter much.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Manchester United vs Exeter: FA Cup replay

What can be said when a non-English league side like Exeter can extend a side like Manchester United for 180 minutes and only succomb to 2 goals?

We are comparing elite players to a side made up of players who have had their careers stall at some point in their respective lives. Is that gap really that small?

Probably not. There is a difference between 1 big game and the abilities needed to compete at the highest level for an entire season, and career for that matter. Exceter raised their game and were valliant, let that be clear, but we are not looking at a true comparison of teams.

One thing I do note about the game: Exceter were in great shape. They lasted the 90 minutes and didn't seem any more tired than United.

Its wonderful to see a team made up of such players battle a global big gun. It makes me feel, personally, that we "non-elites" are not so different from the elite. The elite should also take note that there is a fine line between where they are and where the rest of us are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Why hasn't anyone made a run at Maniche?

After a breakout performance for the Portuguese international team, Maniche (Nuno Ricardo Oliveira Ribeiro was nicknamed Maniche in honor of Benfica's Danish forward Michel Manniche) has not yet moved into a top flight club.

When the transfer window opened I imagined how Real Madrid could have been shored up with his presence, but Real made a great move for Gravesen. I had the idea earlier that Arsenal should sell Edu and make that run at Maniche... even trade him for cash in a deal with his current club FC Porto.

A versatile attack-minded midfield player, Maniche approaches his game with vigor and impressive stamina. His durability and activity reminds me a lot of Frank Lampard, although Maniche is significantly shorter.

I heard rumors over the summer that Arsenal would make a move for him if Vieira went to Madrid, claiming that Wegner was an admirer. Who knows, it is a matter of time for Maniche, only Porto's price tag would hold him up any longer. While he remains in the Champion’s League, Porto's player sales over the summer have significantly weakened the team.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Thomas Gravesen to Real Madrid

I must admit, in my mind Thomas Gravesen was not an A list player up until this season. A good player, yes. Solid player? Yes. Outstanding player? No, but I have changed my mind. Gravesen has proven his worth for Everton this season and was rewarded in style with a contract with Real Madrid. Madrid has not been the same team since the departure of Claude Makelele to Chelsea last year. Gravesen was brought in for a single reason: hold the midfield. And that he will do.

For Everton, Gravesen was given a much freer role in midfield. He was instrumental in attack and inspirational in the tackle. In Madrid he wont have this freedom anymore but at least will get the a great view of the galacticos in front of him.

This was a great purchase for Madrid. I have been highly critical of some of their decisions such as firing Carlos Quiroz (the team failed because of staffing issues, not coaching, Quiroz asked for midfield holders and defenders and was given Beckham instead) Madrid now have a great midfielder in superb form and paid almost nothing (In Real Madrid terms) for him. He can step right in and fill the biggest hole in midfield. Guti wasn’t the player for that role but Gravesen is. Madrid have made a great score here, they used their name to lure a player on the cheap that was out of contract at the end of the season. I doubt Gravesen would have moved to big clubs like Tottenham or Celtic or Porto, but Madrid are a different story. You just can’t say no.

Everton, you should have extended his contract.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Xavi Alonso

Xavi Alonso has played some instrumental football for Liverpool since arriving from Spain. Although injuries have slowed him down he has shown equally sparkling form for the Spanish national side.

Partnered with Gerrard in midfield, they have the potential to be formidable if the team around them gets its shape together.