Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Could van Nistelrooy be moving?

I’m at a loss to understand why any team would be linked with a player that is so often injured.

Ruud van Nistelrooy has to have set a record of some kind for missing games. AC Milan appear interested, and willing to offer Danish international Jon Dahl Tomasson. Tomasson is a fantastic player who deserves a starting role in a top team.

For their prices, I'd rather have Tomasson than van Nistelrooy as a rugged player is better than an often injured player who scores goals when fit. As Man U are now stinkers because some guy owns 98% of the shares, it’s too bad.

But I digress; Chelsea could be pondering a swoop due to their unsuccessful attempts at getting an expensive, I mean top, striker. At Chelsea, van Nistelrooy would at least be shielded by their depth.

Real Madrid were linked, and could be more serious since they seem to be losing out to Arsenal at the moment for Robinho. Also in Spain, van Nistelrooy's agent has apparently been taking in the Barcelona weather and pitching him to FC.

Could be interesting, but why anyone would bid above 10m euros is beyond me.

Kezman joins Crespo abroad, becomes crybaby

Mateja Kezman is going to Spain’s Atletico Madrid for 5+ m euros.

He claims Chelsea never believed in him. I disagree. I didn’t believe he’d do well there, but Chelsea sure did since they paid money.

Kezman knew going in he was not going to be starting so his role was simple: get in there as a sub, cover for some injuries and get a few goals, maybe stake a claim by scoring a game winner or something.

That was his role and he failed to deliver. He’s been sold for the same price he came in at. Equal value is a move sideways, and to a decent team so he has no cause to cry. He got enough minutes to prove himself.

What he showed me was that his style of play is not quick enough for England. So he should be reasonable: it’s not a question of belief in him, he didn’t adapt or impress the coaching staff enough.

Barcelona are not messing around

Lionel Messi is turning heads, especially at his club team Barcelona where, far from selling the player, they have extended his deal.

Messi, playing for Argentina, has been the sensation of the FIFA Youth Cup in the Netherlands. His confidence, decisiveness, and end product has brought praise from Diego Maradona, the national coach and many writers.

FC Barcelona have contracted the player until 2010 and notably Messi is Barcelona’s youngest ever goalscorer. Foreshadowing? From his games at the youth cup, it looks like it. He’s brilliant.

The buzz around the player has increased steeply in the last few days and his game winning performance against Brazil are clear evidence the player is set for a senior international call up.

Barcelona are one of the most impressive sides in Europe at the moment.

Thy have extended all their stars, signed Mark van Bommel, and have great prospects like Messi and 20 year old Argentinian Maxi Lopez who as a substitute blasted that goal and set up Samuel Eto’o for the second when Barca beat Chelsea 2-1 in the Champions League.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Surreal deal sends Mini Cooper of footballers to Juventus

Italy striker Fabrizio Miccoli is set for a return to Juventus. He played for Fiorentina for a season. But the player is leaving again, let me explain. (copy/paste this link for a pic http://members.xoom.virgilio.it/fmiccoli/images/00italia2.jpg -pic wont work as a link)

Miccoli joined Fiorentina last season in the strangest of joint ownership deals, and the player is set to return to Juve after a reported blind auction after a year. Juventus made the better offer and get the striker.

Juventus coach Fabio Capello is now loaded with strikers. After rejecting Juventus this week, he has David Trezeguet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Miccoli, Alessandro Del Piero, Marcelo Zalayeta, and Adrian Mutu. 6 in total.

Fiorentina figured Juve would bid low with 5 already in the books.

I would expect that situation to change. No club has the kind of money to keep that many expensive (although some not delpiero the money) players around. Expect sales, especially you-know-who.

Miccoli is no doubt a talented little player. He’s broken into the Italian side and gives defenses lots of trouble. He’s powerful for his size, don’t be fooled, and he creates space quickly because he’s so compact.

Chelsea in a recall?

I read Chelsea were thinking of bringing back Hernan Crespo. That would be a mistake.

To begin with, the club dumped Crespo off in pre-season after a few workouts. Generally, with that kind of signal, a player doesn’t come back. Crespo knows that. I know that. Chelsea know that.

Chelsea can’t seem to buy a striker they really want. They are obsessed with a superstar and are ignoring the bidding on players like Benjani from Auxerre in France, Robinho, and a host of other supertalent-yet-not-superstar strikers. They have a championship in hand and money and a healthy dose of confidence. So why not go galactico?

Problem is nobody wants to do a deal. And Kezman looks to be leaving for Atletico Madrid.

So now Chelsea are pondering whether to bring back Crespo. The Crespo-Kakha Kaladze switch failed to materialize and Chelsea have now bought at Kaladze’s position in Athletic Bilbao left back Asier del Horno.

Second, Crespo wants to stay in Milan. Milan know that. I know that. Chelsea know that.

Chelsea should take a risk and buy someone else, not bring back Crespo. Anything can happen, but the chances are it would end a train wreck.

When a player is dumped off (and Crespo deserved it) they should not come back. Its bad business, like bringing back an employee that is not up to the job because another employee quit. You know you’re not wanted, you’re just filling a gap -so you work that way.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Benitez making changes at Liverpool

I was struck by the tone of this article about Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez.

In fact he said "We need to train harder at the start and change the culture of pre-season here”, which to me is a pretty stinging critique of the teams work ethic last season to the public.

Benitez, soft spoken and measured is sending a clear signal to the fans here. The players must already know he is unhappy with their fitness. Benitez, I guess then is sharing his plans and maybe asking for support at the same time.

He has architected instant success for a team on the wane. I think he deserves the latitude to make changes across the board. He’s the only person at Anfield which can really turn the club around.

For one, I'd like to see 6 or 7 clubs going for the Premiership instead of 3.

Juventus brush off Chelsea, want Arsenal captain Vieira

Chelsea have bid for a host of top strikers and are striking out.

Juventus told Chelsea no when they offered a rumored 40 million euros for striker David Trezeguet. This on the heels of rejections from Barcelona, Inter and AC Milan.

If that figure is true, whoa, then that is too much. Trezeguet brings goals, but not 40 million worth. If that figure is true, Chelsea are paying a bigger wealth tax than I thought.

In response the northern Italian side has come out and said they want Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira. Juventus are nuts.

"What we want is a midfield partner for Emerson - and our wish is to buy Vieira if Arsenal are willing to sell" - managing director Luciano Moggi

Why would Patrick Vieira go and play defensive football? He said no to Real Madrid just last season because he wanted to play Arsenal style football and somehow he is supposed to want the Italian brand?

Talk about Zidane's wife but you know he left to Spain for the open play.

Italian clubs have not faced the reality that most of the worlds top stars hardly go to Italy anymore, mostly Italian clubs pick up their stars first time like Kaka, Adriano or Shevchenko. It’s the defensive, climbing in your shirt playing style. Nobody likes to play it and nobody likes to watch it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Arsenal and Real Madrid: the price is 30 million

World famous club team Santos, the great Pele’s first team, has steeply increased the price tag for its newest starlet Robinho.

Robinho has been a sensation this month at the Confederations Cup in Germany. Much to Madrid’s chagrin, Robinho’s price has increased in response.

Smartly, Santos have waited for the competition and have now said that the 15 million euro offer tabled by Madrid was not enough. Robinho looks to have cemented his place in the international side.

I think Robinho is worth more (maybe 25m) . You're getting a player which plays on the most successful international team ever, Brazil. Those are intangibles AC Milan get with Kaka and Inter with Adriano. Robinho will replace Ronaldo with Brazil.

So now I hear Robinho has been linked with Arsenal.

Manager Arsene Wenger indicated a big signing is on the horizon and Robinho’s agent Juan Figer claims that Arsenal have made a substantially better offer than Madrid for the player. We’ll see if this is true. I would not be surprised if it is, considering Arsenal could then sell Reyes to Madrid afterwards.

Robinho is every bit the real thing. He looks like a 9 year old kid on the pitch until he is past you.

In the Cup matches, his quickness and vision opened up lots of space for the attacking formation Brazil wants to play. Arsenal like to play an open style, and Robinho is smooth as silk. He drifts beautifully to the wings and can create with both feet, Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is gushing praise.

No question a step up from Reyes. Robinho is worth Rooney-like money as he is the same caliber of player. If the Gunners want him, they will have to pay market value.

Future stars

In the Netherlands the FIFA Youth Tournament has put a few really talented players on display. Many have been shielded behind superstars, others are playing at clubs I’ve never heard of, but for what its worth, here are some names I am sure you are going to hear again:

(no order)

Italy brought the most impressive striker of the tournament in Graziano Pelle. He plays for Italian minnows Catania but after this performance will be quickly snapped up by a bigger club. He's the player which got Italy thru to the knockout stages. At 193 cm he is tall, great with his feet and has a powerful shot. He looked a man among boys in some of the build up matches.

I promise you there will be interest in Isaac Promise from Nigeria. The Super Eagles seem to have developed another Jay-Jay Okocha in this quick and tricky attacking midfielder/forward. At the moment he plays for club team Grays International.

Hedwiges Maduro of the Netherlands deserves mention, although he was not so great in his last 2 matches. There is immense talent in this youngster who seems to maybe need a touch of conditioning and more focus. Two Dutch defenders were also really impressive: Ron Vlaar of UEFA Cup quarterfinalists AZ Alkmaar and Dwight Tiendalli of FC Utrecht. Vlaar, a central defender is a carbon copy of Arsenal’s Philippe Senderos.

Moroccan goalkeeper Mohammed Bourkadi has been the standout for Morocco all tournament. In the quarterfinal against Italy he saved 2 penalties, stopping a first try, then when ordered retaken, saving again with his foot. In the penalty shootout he easily saved 2 more to earn Morocco passage to the semi-final. He currently plays for Moroccan club Mas Fes.

Freddy Adu is a great player, but he is not a new Pele as the American media has touted. He is a youngster with a lot of talent, also with a lot of pressures and expectations. He’s got a great attitude, which impressed me most.

The best player of the tournament, by a mile, has been Lionel Messi. He is unfortunately buried beneath a host of players at FC Barcelona but after this performance, Barcelona either has to sell him or play him because a host of teams will be knocking.

Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal, of course, but the real revelation for Spain in this tournament has been Juanfran. He was playing behind Luis Figo at Real Madrid and he may have earned his shot after this display. I would give it to him, but politics and Real Madrid are not strangers. Spanish forward Llorente of Basque club Aletico Bilbao was fantastic all tournament. He’s very tall but extremely agile and fast on his feet.

Brazil’s team has been advancing, but lackluster, and their best players have been defensive minded. Renato is much in the holding midfielder mold of former Brazilian international Dunga, with the same fearlessness and raw strength. He could easily play central defense as well. Renato plays for Atletico Mineiro. Brazil’s other highlight has been Coritiba full-back Rafael who was tireless on the wings.

German goalkeeper Rene Alder of Bayer Leverkusen could give the senior German keepers a run for their place by World Cup 2006. Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann and Bayern Munich keeper Oliver Kahn failed to impress at the Confederations Cup. Alder was spectacular.

Oleksandr Aliev as shown himself to be a gifted player. The Ukrainian midfielder scored one of the goals of the tournament and impressed with his mature play. Dynamo Kyiv has a poor man’s Pavel Nedved in Aliev.


Letter to Figo: lower your price, join Arsenal or Liverpool

Dear Luis,

Your wage demands are in the 90 thousand pound per week range. You should face the footballing reality that you are over 30.

Generally this means that you are off the top wage plateau my friend. Its time for you to lower your expectations and play for a top English club next season like Arsenal or Liverpool, where I think you would do so well.

You’ve been turned down, scared everyone away with the 90k, so come back at 40k or something and profess “I want to play here regardless of money”, give the teams space to add more pieces, you wont regret it. They want you!

I’ve watched you since your Sporting Lisbon days, so I expect you won’t let money get in the way of playing for Liverpool or Arsenal next year. There was that thing when you left Barcelona for Real Madrid, but this is how you can prove the critics wrong. Sign for less.

Cheating a culture at Chelsea?

I’m getting tired of the news stories.

We’re living in a business culture where, it seems, if you don’t cheat then you are dumb.

That says something about the level of corruption in our world, and begs questions of its richest football club, Chelsea.

Is a cheating culture emerging at Chelsea as the media report? A single story is one thing, but more and more news stories confirm Chelsea are breaking the business rules.

And they just compensated Tottenham to cover up another illegal approach. The FA will be quiet now, since its 'between the clubs'.

That is a payoff, out in the open. See how wealth can get you out of problems?

So are Chelsea’s illegal contacts a microcosm of a global problem? I’d say so, since it seems seldom a selfless act exists anymore without measuring the political gain and risk. When Arsenal player Ashley Cole got involved, they measured the same things, just the stature of the player replaced politics, do we do this or not?

Football subscribes to the same business principle as all other business, and that is:

All business is politics

Illegal approaches, political bribes, Blair, Clinton and Enron. Its all part of the same global problem, of the global cheating culture, but this is about football and a club, Chelsea, which is lowering the bar.

Jose Mourinho is directly involved in many of the problems. As a coach he’s fantastic, the best coach in the world at the moment.

When it’s fair, 11-11, Mourinho is fine, but it seems that when the touchlines disappear then so do the rules.

How about Chelsea start respecting the global political impact of football: Brazil’s military dictatorships of the 60’s used football to extraordinary effect to pacify and oppress. Winning World Cup's made it possible for Brazil to buy bigger guns.

Chelsea are sending signals to the rest of the world, not just the Premiership. And that brings me to the second rule of business:

*Success can mask problems like nobody’s business.

*See Enron

Watching football is escapism. I don’t want to see the real world in a green rectangle, I want to see a fantasy, then turn off the TV and go back to the real world. In the real world we have a global social problem of cheating.

I’d suggest we keep this game clean because it has a global impact. A cheating culture cheats our culture.

Brazil teach Germany another lesson

Going into the World Cup my suspicions were confirmed about two things:

  • Germany has no chance of winning on home soil
  • Brazil’s defense will leak goals

What I wasn’t sure of is if Brazil could play rough and win. Outgunned, yesterday in the Confederations Cup, Germany adopted the “everyone do like Robert Huth” playing style and Brazil won with talent.

Brazil can win ugly, but it does not take much to upset their balance, as Argentina beat them handily, ugly, recently in a qualifier.

The lanky, akward German side has a long way to go. Without Bastian Schweinsteiger Germany looked hopeless. Like always, the technical quality was there, but little more creativity than to chase a long ball.

And they wonder why the German league's popularity is waning.

Of note, I truly can’t stand the way defender Robert Huth plays. There was a German defender in the 60’s which hunted Pele (injuring him twice) and played like a brute. Huth is of that mold, nobody gets within a meter of him without hitting the ground. When you watch replays, his negative intent is regularly clear.

Dindane joins Lens

Ivorian international striker Aruna Dindane has moved from Belgian team Anderlecht to French club Racing Lens after it emerged earlier this year that the player was planning to quit if he was not sold.

Now 24, Dindane is ready for the move to a bigger league. His new deal is for 4 years and a transfer fee was negotiated at around 3 million euros.

Dindane fell out with Anderlecht, where he won 2 league titles, as apparently the club had rebuffed a number of big-name approaches. He joined Anderlecht in 2000 and in his 4 season scored 50 goals in 132 matches.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Exclusive: Liverpool buys entire Spanish League

In a stunning move, Liverpool, led by new Spanish coach Rafael Benitez and his Spanish invading force has purchased the entire Spanish league ‘La Liga’.

“We were linked with every player in Spain, so we decided, hey, why not just buy the whole league” – Juan Juego, Liverpool insider

This brings to an end the endless speculation in the British media of the impending Spanish player invasion to Liverpool.

“I’m glad it’s finally over, the media’s constant speculation about so many players was driving us crazy,” added very connected Liverpool insider Buenos Dias, “what they didn’t see was the bigger picture: we were negotiating on buying the whole lot!”

This also puts to an end criticism of the media’s honesty.

It was incredible how a single club could be linked to so many players from a different league, literally hundreds of Spanish players!

This actually makes sense, because if it’s not true that Liverpool have purchased ‘La Liga’ then that means the media is making the connection between Liverpool and Spain up.

Why would the media do something like that up? Nationalist tendencies? Sell papers?

And obviously the media doesn’t lie or help whip up speculation for selfish interests.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Juventus Duo extend, club open to selling Chelsea a striker

Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved and French defender Lilian Thuram are staying put at Juventus until 2008. Nedved has been considering his retirement but has decided to play on a further two seasons. Thuram, no question slower, is still a solid defender, ala Paolo Maldini.

Rumors continue to persist that marksman David Trezeguet is on the table and that Chelsea want him. As deals go, Chelsea get a proven striker which brings in goals. I don’t recall a lot of Trezeguet tracking back, so I wonder how that would work considering Mourinho’s history with Joe Cole.

Chelsea's unsuccessful approaches for Adriano, Shevchenko and Eto’o have caused them to cast a wider net.

Looks like Kezman days are numbered. A trade for the player might not be a bad idea, as Kezman may have better luck in Italy.

Great new rule being tried at FIFA Youth Championships

A rule that is being experimented with at the FIFA Youth Championships is showing promise.

Players are now yellow carded for displacing the ball after a whistle.

No more kicking the ball away, throwing it high in the air, or refusing to release the ball to delay play.

For the first few matches it was clear the players were forgetting, there were a large number of cards, even a few reds, but the players have stopped the behavior completely, now that the tournament is in the knockout stages.

When I switch over and watch the Confederations Cup I notice how often it happens it now, so now I'm more annoyed with it. When you see a match without the new rule, you do notice a difference.

It’s a really good rule and should be adopted everywhere. Time wasting, like faking injury shouldn’t be tolerated.

I would suggest one amendment, that is to give a player already on a yellow, a second chance if it happens. It's a shame to see a red card over that, but if you do it twice, its on you.

Arsenal to buy problem solving midfielder

Belarus international midfielder Alexander Hleb looks set for a stint at Arsenal beginning next season.

Oddly enough new coach Giovanni Trapattoni, fresh from winning the Portuguese league, looks to be the facilitator, as he has stated that the player could leave if he wished.

The two-footed midfielder joined Stuttgart in 2000 and has been noted for his ability to play anywhere in midfield.

Hleb is a hugely talented player which will easily fit into the team. He was a large part of success Stuttgart have shown in recent seasons, and losing him will be a huge blow to their team. He is remarkably consistent, at a remarkably high level.

Arsenal have certainly made a swoop. This is a great replacement for Edu, in fact an even better player.

The takeover stinks, but Manchester United sign super player

Ji-Sung Park is without a doubt Korea’s best footballer.

He was very impressive at the last World Cup and now joins stinkers Manchester United. For him it’s a move up the ladder, but just consider the different feelings that each new player will enter Manchester United with. Will new players like Park play different for a team depending on who steers the ship, or is it true they are all mercenaries and don’t care who owns the team?

Maybe all the players will be politically correct and stuff. You know, a short laugh and then a diplomatic waif of an answer. Geez, we’re becoming so beholden, you know, where being honest is replaced by self interest.

Nothing starts problems faster than the truth.

If were him, I would have played somewhere else. It’s disconcerting when an owner knows nothing about the business. The conglomeration of professional football into the sports ‘sector’, like what happened with ‘media’ and countless other industries, means that richer and richer people who know less and less about the business at hand are able to bully (oh, I mean buy) their way in.

Manchester United has gone from being wealthy to being in debt. It’s the most astonishing, illogical reversal, yet, thru complicity, the takeover happened. And honestly, the response from the fans, the heart and soul of the team, is but a murmur. I am not a supporter, but I’m even louder!

Whether Park is a mercenary or not, his play from central midfield is polished and outstanding; he’s certainly ready for this level.

Too bad Manchester United now stinks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Chelsea swoop up prospect

Apparently Jose Mourinho has the confidence of scout Gwyn Williams, who spotted Swiss youth international Jonas Elmer while scouting a different player.

The 17 year old youngster joins Chelsea from Grasshopper Zurich and is set for a medical in London today.

I wouldn’t expect any first team football; this is a move for the reserve side. Jose Mourinho has been quoted as saying he wants to put a lot of emphasis on the youth academy. Chelsea have quietly purchased quite a few youth prospects from around Europe.

Look at this world class goal

I mentioned 19 year old Hedwiges Maduro a couple of weeks ago when he debuted for the senior Dutch national side. He’s playing in the FIFA U-20 Championship this month and the other day he scored a mesmerizing goal.

Here is the video:

(Once the flash page loads, choose #3 Hedwiges Maduro from list on the right)


Keep in mind you are watching a holding midfielder score that goal.

By the way, some of the other goals are real crackers and in general it's been a good tournament.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Luciano Figueroa

Argentina is advancing in the Confederations Cup. The other night they played Australia in an entertaining match in which Luciano Figueroa scored a hat trick in a 4-2 win.

It’s the first time I’d seen him, and frankly ever heard of him, but he was so devastating on the ball that I wanted to make mention.

He’s clinical, a lot like Manchester United’s Alan Smith but with more pace. Smith is more polished in general, as Figueroa is a bit overcommitted to attacking by trying too many runs through the course of buildup play. That said, he did score 3 goals.

He’ll be more effective when he gains a touch better feel. He doesn’t look for balls at the edge of the box. There he’d be integrated and able to 1-2 more often with the midfield.

As a more finished striker, he may only have scored 2 goals against Australia, but the team may have gotten 5.

He, like Alan Smith and Chelsea’s Mateja Kezman is just not quick enough to play that way. Notice their productivity in England. Figueroa got 3 the other night but it would fail if he tried it in the UK, clearly the fastest paced football league in the world.

24 year old Figueroa scored twice in a World Cup qualifying win against Bolivia in March. Playing club football in Spain for Villarreal, he is surely a contender to play versus (maybe I’ll show up, maybe not) Hernan Crespo and the stout, uni-browed Carlos Tevez.

Interestingly he was a Birmingham player in 2003, only played a single match and was loaned to Mexican club Cruz Azul. Back now in Europe, he’ll have Champions League football to play along side Diego Forlan with Villareal next year.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Guti worth the Premiership interest?

Real Madrid midfielder Guti would probably do better at another club. I had clubs like Real Sociedad or Villareal in mind. But it has emerged that the lifetime Real Madrid player wants to play in England.

I’m rather surprised at the clubs interest. He’s a mature 28 year with very low mileage and a generally polished player, but in a market where much better prospects exist, why would top Premiership teams want to spend the money?

Manchester United are said to be interested, but is Guti really the midfielder Manchester United need? I’m not convinced. Can you picture him as a United player? Carlos Quieroz, a former coach, offers the obvious link, but Guti could easily go the wrong way there.

And what would Guti add to Liverpool’s midfield already stacked with Alonso, the resigned Hamann and Gerrard? If his intention is to get more regular football, I don’t see it at Liverpool. Barring injury, he would not get too many games.

So if Guti wants a stint England, what is left? Arsenal are losing Edu to Valencia. But Arsenal could do with a bit more toughness in midfield, so maybe that’s not the best fit for Guti.

It looks like teams such as Tottenham, Newcastle, Everton, Bolton and Middlesbrough remain as potential suitors. And that’s not a lot different from joining Real Sociedad or Villareal.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Figo hunt

Manchester United and Inter Milan are pricing out Bolton, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the hunt for Luis Figo. French side Marseille have inquired as well as Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, Figo’s first professional club.

To Luis Figo there is no fire sale, as he is slowly working the media for a stint in England. You don’t hear him talking any other league than the Premiership.

Teams like Bolton and Middlesbrough were making inquiries but it’s become clear that Figo wont play for less than he deems himself worth.

Liverpool probably feel that he’s overpriced, but it seems Figo has Quatar’s Al Rayyan interested and willing to overpay for a big name in their league. Inter Milan wanted Figo before he moved to Barcelona. Amazingly, team president Massimo Moratti still wants Figo to wear his shirt this far on. Moratti is a sentimental guy.

I sure hope Luis Figo does choose for England, as I sense he will. I’m sure he is holding out for a place in a top club, but also hope he is willing to lower his price, I think he’d add the most at Liverpool.

Bolton lose Candela

Bolton Wanderers short term contract signing Vincent Candela, who joined during last season from AS Roma, has decided to join Italian club Udinese.

Candela has opted for the Champions League, Udinese has qualified. Bolton managed a good UEFA Cup place for next season but it was not enough to tempt the former French World Cup winner to stay.

Bolton now has the left back role to fill again. Fellow Frenchman Olivier Bernard from relegated Southampton might be a quick fix. Competition exists for him though from Middlesbrough.

Candela originally joined Roma in 1997 from French side Guingamp but left a turbulent situation. He returns now for a second stint in Italy.


Liverpool: Harry Kewell the fool, how to give away money

For a person with his and hers bathroom television sets, it seems there is nothing else more frivolous to spend your money on than lawyers and suing a guy, Gary Lineker, who is right.

Lineker, in his Sunday Telegraph column, characterized Kewell as being so foolish he needed his head examined. He's being sued for deafamation.

First it was his wealthy agent Bernie Mandic (and his MaxSports company) who gets 5% of Harry’s contract, which also got 2 million pound directly from Leeds United, and another million from Leeds to Liverpool. So the agent actually negotiated his own transfer fees too.

They even tried to negotiate in a “success fee”. In court, Kewell claimed no knowledge of this. Unreal!

Now, being duped again, its lawyers, eagerly vacuuming up the player’s money. This is good money which could have been spent installing his and hers televisions in the shower.

And don’t say it was the clubs that got duped, Leeds and Liverpool are fools too, that’s true, but a player’s transfer fee is for the player, not for his agent. Um, Harry, it’s the other way around see, they negotiate for you. And you aren't bringing the goods to warrant such fees anyway.

Although the role of agents and football's transfer system is not the focus of the defamation case, I’m rather glad Harry Kewell is indulging in this American style circus. It sheds much needed light on a football mafia.

The FA and all these other associations are said to be ‘split’ or ‘unsure’ how to police agents.

Very rich people don’t police other very rich people very well folks. They are not split, they are dragging their feet.

In the end the jury could not reach a verdict. It’s up to Kewell to sue again should he want to give lawyers more money to defend his gullibility.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Can Liverpool get too Spanish?

In the age of Man U’s takeover, team identities are changing.

The English Premier League identity is more and more being driven by influential owners, and the transfer markets are filled with wealthy players demanding yet more wealth and play anywhere the wealth is. Even Liverpool are looking for an ‘investor’.

Clubs are not national symbols anymore. They are global brands, hiring more marketing people, and doing deals to earn more revenue to buy more players.

A more global fan base might mean more money for a club. More Gerrard shirts in China eventually mean more Gerrard’s at Liverpool. So is a club like Liverpool getting too Spanish an idea of the past?

The question of teams becoming too ‘something’ had arisen more recently in the mid 1990’s when an influx of Dutch players joined Barcelona. I recall reading articles back then about how the character of the team had changed nicknames like Ajax-Barcelona, and heavy criticism of player choices and tactics as Barca started with 7 Dutch players on occasion.

Dutch players sought good salaries at Barca, and followed their greatest player their, Johan Cruyff. Mark van Bommel just signed for Barca, who is coached by a Dutchman. So obviously it’s not a failing policy. Barca just won the domestic league.

There were similar murmurs when Arsene Wenger brought in a large number of French players to Arsenal.

So Liverpool are ‘more Spanish’ but won the Champion’s League.

Benitez is linked in the press with 203 different Spanish players.

Who is making Liverpool too Spanish, Benitez or the Press? Maybe the focus needs to change over to the real identity shift.

Changing the identity of a team to improve its football is a good thing, but taking over a team to milk its wealth is not.

Sales off the radar: Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle, Liverpool

Quietly players are being sold off, its the stage in the off season where clubs realize they are not going to get a better deal and nobody is really taking a step up here.

Manchester United have let goalkeeper Roy Carroll go to West Ham United on a free transfer.

Chelsea have sold Scott Parker to Newcastle United and also sold Finnish striker Mikael Forssell from Chelsea to Birmingham City. Chelsea have also said no to a Benfica approach for Mateja Kezman.

El-Hadji Diouf’s transfer from Liverpool to Bolton Wanderers is now final. Vladimir Smicer has moved from Liverpool to Bordeaux. Oh, and the Pellegrino experiment is over, he's been sent packing.

Newcastle have sold Laurent Robert to Portsmouth, quashing speculation of a return to France.

New Real Madrid man Robinho makes splash at Confederations Cup

The big price stickers are on Brazil international Adriano at the moment but the player that stole the show at the Confederations Cup last night was his strike partner and man of the match, Robinho.

It was only his 8th full international but his performance gives coach Carlos Alberto Parreira a selection decision to make, now with Adriano, Robinho, and Ronaldo all available.

Now that Robinho’s club team Santos has been eliminated from the Copa Libertadores, the last hurdle in the move, Robinho’s agent will be going to Madrid to finalize the open secret.
It looks like Real Madrid have the same selection problems, even worse , as 2/3 of the Brazilian national side's forwards play for them. What happens when there are internationals?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Gerrard wants Liverpool extension

Even though Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has 2 years left to run on his contract, he’s ready to sign an extension.

"The ball is in Liverpool's court now. I'm ready to talk and am waiting for them to give me the nod" - Gerrard

It seems that Gerrard is happy with the clubs future, I’d agree. The Champions League win was not a fluke for Liverpool; they went thru 2 of the 3 best teams, Chelsea and Milan (Barcalona the third). Earlier in the season I sensed this was a fundamentally sound team, and if you notice, virtually all injured players were available in the final.

Liverpool’s equal billing to win the Premiership next season.

What you can do to deglaze Man U

Don’t buy the tickets so they can bring in busses of tourists to take your place

Don’t buy the kit, wear your old stuff in protest

Don’t but the posters, dad’s pull out the old ones from the loft. Teach your kids about the way it should be (was), not the way it is now.

Don’t surf the website

If you can’t resist anything, resist just once with something

Learn about the club structures in Spain… where supporters pay dues for a vote in the club. If that were true in the Premiership, YOU would have voted on the takeover, not a couple of horse jockeys.

There is nothing new in football

Comments about another article mentioned a string of criticisms that I was discussing “old” tactics.

I though the idea was silly. There is nothing tactically new in football. Every system possible has been tried and re-tried, tinkered with and honed. Maybe a bit more honing is taking place today, but no more.

Let’s face it: when you watch a game, you are seeing the same formations you saw 10, 15, 30 and more years ago. 4-4-2 is ancient. Brazil has been attacking the same way for 50 years. The classic German defense with the use of a libero, its old as bones.

So when I read about ‘old’ tactics, I thought, hold on: Greece won the European Cup in 2004 using the same system Germany won in 1974 with.

Did Greece use old tactics? Or did Greece use the tactics that suited their squad? That win was no fluke; the Greek team played some disciplined football.

There is nothing new in football; there are no ‘old’ tactics. Creative coaches use whatever tactics suit the team and solve matchup problems.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lionel Messi

Argentina has a fantastic midfielder on display at the U-20 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands. Lionel Messi has been a member of the Barcelona youth academy since the age of thirteen and is a really big talent.

At 18 Messi has been a substitute for the Barca senior side, but cannot break into the team when the likes of Xavi, Ronaldinho, Deco and now Mark van Bommel are all in form.

Yesterday against the USA, Messi was clearly Argentina’s best player and was unfortunate not to get his goal thru midfield. A gritty US side fought Argentina off, Messi held Argentina up.

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Bolton and Allardyce to take on new problem child

Looks like Newcastle United fallout Laurent Robert is set for a switch to Bolton Wanderers.

Robert claims a contract will be signed tomorrow.

This could bring to an end a bad episode of player vs. club for Newcastle United.

For Robert, Allardyce may indeed have what it takes to make him listen. For Allardyce, Robert may prove one difficult player too many. To integrate Laurent Robert into the mix, however, should already earn him coach of the year, no matter what Mourinho does.

For everyone involved, let’s hope the contract is indeed signed. Robert’s got a lot of talent and its better to read about that rather than his antics. Bolton has saved a few careers in a short time, who knows, Diouf’s growth (spitting aside) was a big surprise to me.


Think football is not changing? Look at this list

This year’s World Youth Championship sees a bunch of new faces: further confirmation that football’s power structure is continuing to change rapidly.

Have a look at the list of teams that qualified, starting with traditional powers:

Netherlands (hosts)

Nothing special there.

Now subtract the fact that UEFA (Europe) gets 6 teams in the tournament and that only Brazil and Argentina have ever won a World Cup outside UEFA teams, look that the list that is left:


South Korea

Notice the nations which are now regularly appearing at World Cups now like Morocco, Nigeria, Japan, China, South Korea, Turkey and the USA. When the national side is growing on both youth and senior levels, it’s a clear upward trend.

Then we start to see minnows like Benin, Honduras which has not appeared in a World Cup since 1982, Syria and Panama. Egypt has not been to a cup since 1990.

Unfortunately nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, much of the African continent and some of Eastern Europe still show a significant gap at the youth level but some progress is better than none.

Freddy Adu

The World Youth Championship started yesterday in Enschede, Netherlands which gave me the chance to watch a very highly touted player from the United States, Freddy Adu.

In their first match, the Americans upset Argentina, 1-0. The team played a focused and determined match led by (usually you fill in the name of a veteran player here) a 16 year old.

Freddy Adu, who is just barely 16, can now drive himself to work in America, where he plays professionally for D.C. United. And he is indeed an impressive striker.

Adu is the youngest player in the entire tournament and leads the American team. He did quite a good job. I saw him regularly talking to teammates and pointing out direction, even getting upset when he needed to. It’s a role reversal to say the least, but Freddy Adu’s maturity is as impressive as his quickness.

You know that joke about ‘being quick over a yard’? He gives that phrase new meaning. In basketball, it’s called a ‘first step’, and Freddy Adu has an incredible first step; like Allen Iverson’s of the Philadelphia 76ers or Frenchman Tony Parker, of the San Antonio Spurs.

From what I saw this was a very good American team who played Argentina physically and won. Adu attracted a lot of attention the entire game, sapping Argentine strength with darting runs and quick changes of direction to closing in on central midfield space.

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Chelsea – Liverpool Champions League 2nd leg, was it a goal?

Enough time has gone by to re-dress a problem in football because it happened in a hi-stakes match.

I’m not looking to re-hash the past, my point has nothing to do with the teams involved but the importance of the game and the fact that its not clear if the ball went in the net or not back in May, during the second leg clash between Chelsea and Liverpool.

It’s the most fundamental part of the game and we are leaving it up to a linesman that must see a ball thru the net and a match referee often in front of a crowd of players.

Introducing goal line cameras, which is something I’ve called for earlier in the season, would remove this problem. Friends have complained that it would take the human element out of the game, but I think this is one human element that needs to go.

Was it a goal? I don’t know, I couldn’t tell, I don’t think anyone could except for Peter Cech. And that’s the point, a camera would make sure.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Do FIFA World ranking mean anything?

So many times I have read thru the FIFA World rankings and wondered what matches they were watching.

So I dug in a bit, learned a few things:

Results are considered over the last eight years, which is a long time. Maybe too long, as reputation, in the rankings, too often precedes form.

Rankings are judged with a computer program with the following criteria:

1. Winning, drawing and losing
2. Number of goals
3. Home or away match
4. Importance of the match (multiplication factor)
5. Regional strength (multiplication factor)

For each team only the seven best results per year are given full weighting. May this be too low a number? The World Cup itself is a minimum of 4 matches. If a national team plays 15 matches in a season and lose 8, while wining 7 by the score 2-0, all away, then they will potentially be ranked above a World Cup finalist?

Look here, this is the weighting scheme:

Friendly match x 1.00
Continental championship preliminary x 1.50
World Cup preliminary match x 1.50
Continental championship finals match x 1.75
FIFA Confederations Cup match x 1.75
World Cup finals match x 2.00

Notice a World Cup finals match is given only 2x the weight of a friendly and no extra is given for reaching knockouts or finals of competitions.

How can a rankings system mean anything if it does not reflect accurately the importance of a match?

Arsenal should play 3 central defenders next season

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has a selection decision to make. And with 3 world class central defenders for 2 spots, it’s a shame to see one sit. Why not experiment?

Sol Campbell is at the edge of his prime but under no circumstances showing it. He was sidelined thru injury this season and is now 100% fit.

Philippe Senderos has been lavished with praise for his work in Campbell’s absence. It would have been unthinkable at the start of the season that this young Swiss international could play his way into the side, but it happened.

And then we have Kolo Toure, who has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few seasons into a thoughtful and athletic defender. Toure looks the Marcel Desailly of old (no snickers, please), with long tackling legs able to extend to the difficult ball.

A way to resolve this selection issue may be to go with a 3 man central defense, with an extra player in midfield. Toure and Senderos have the ability to cover the extra space and Campbell would do well in a central role.

It would require more running on the wings and a shuffle in midfield, but could offer Arsenal a way to get the best 11 on the pitch.

Player finally comments about Glazer and Manchester United

The BBC quotes Gabriel Heinze:

"The truth is I still don't know what the new owner's intentions are"


"The players certainly haven't felt isolated from the demonstrations. They make sense because the fans feel a special affection for United."

Its clear Heinze is expressing what is probably obvious within the majority of the player ranks: this deal has affected them, and they, like all of us like stability for our futures.

It has not been a topic of media speculation, but Heinze has confirmed my suspicions, and that is the Glazer deal will have an adverse affect on the team's play.

Let’s make it simple:

Which Man U would you want prefer to play for? The one of a few months ago, free of debts, or the one of today? The one that lost the FA Cup.

Pizzaro wants English Premiership move

The other day I wrote about clubs with players expecting a transfer this summer; well add another to the list:

Claudio Pizzaro of Bayern Munich has joined Michael Ballack in announcing his intentions to leave.

The Peruvian international striker is powerful and clinical. He’s similar to Thierry Henry in both size and strength, although Henry is a more finished product at this point.

Pizzaro has been heavily linked with Italy in recent seasons, but the player has been holding out for a place in England’s top flight.

Everton lost Rooney, Tottenham are selling Kanoute, Liverpool are unloading Baros, Newcastle released Kluivert, Manchester United are selling Saha, Reyes wants out of Arsenal.

Lots of clubs are looking for goals.

Managers not up to the job, for whatever reason

Rudi Voller has not made an impact coaching any club he’s tried with. Sounds like he needs some experience as an assistant.

Brazil's Wanderly Luxemburgo is of the old world and clashes with players everywhere he goes. Luis Figo never clashed with a manager like this before, not even Louis van Gaal.

Jose Peseiro’s coaching decisions in the UEFA Cup final were terrible. Sporting Lisbon’s run to their first UEFA Cup in their home stadium screeched to a halt at his feet.

Jaques Santini seems to coach with a single toe in the water. He’s scholarly, in a Morten Olsen (Denmark) way, but remains distant from the players.

Ruud Gullit didn’t spend enough time as an assistant, since his inexperience has shown too often. He’s got a feel for the players but the missing piece is still there.

Ronald Koeman suffers from the same inexperience.

Whatever success he may have, Mark Hughes, coach of Blackburn Rovers, rubs me the same wrong way as Robbie Savage.

I’ve never been fond of Carlos Ancelotti coaching style, and losing after being up 3-0 in the Champion’s League gives me just the excuse I need to include him. Negative football only wins when the opposition is complicit.

10 year old Brazilian phenom joins Santos

Young Jean Carlos Chera was global news at age 9 when a video was released by his youth club, Associacao Desportiva Atletica which astonished viewers.

After being linked with a host of European sides it has been revealed that the wunderkind will stay in Brazil, for now.

Santos has brought Jean Carlos Chera into their youth system. The youngster will now regularly be training and will probably disappear of the map for a few years while he develops.

The story was originally broken in January 2005, and then followd up on when a 23 minute video was released.

Southampton: Harry Redknapp says forget it

Southampton manager Harry Redknapp has never been afraid to tell it like it is.

In an attack on new Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, he's let it be clear that there will be no fire sale at Southampton.

Redknapp has warned interested clubs that if they want a player, they are going to play fair value.

“I won‘t be giving guys away on the cheap, that‘s for sure. I‘ve got plenty of players here I would be happy to sell to Celtic – I‘d even drive them up to Glasgow myself.”

I wonder just who Redknapp has in mind.

Liverpool have golden chance to unload Baros

Lyon football coach Paul Le Guen has left new French champs, in his place is former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

Liverpool are going to sell striker Milan Baros and he’s probably headed to Lyon.

If Houllier is interested in re-uniting with Baros, a player he brought to Liverpool, let him. Winger Sydney Govou, a great player, may be what unites the deal as apparently he is being offered in trade.

I’d say Liverpool gets the better of the deal for sure, and should unload the Czech international. Liverpool won’t get a better player (or cash in return).

Arnold Mvuemba

Last night Arnold Mvuemba was given the player of the tournament award in the U-21 Youth Football festival in Toulon.

Without a doubt, this was the most outstanding player in the tournament. He was so outstanding in the final; you could not even work out what position he plays in due to his dominance and moments of brilliance at every corner of the pitch.

And I mean that literally, Mvuemba took France's corners, cleaned up defensive corners, opened play with virtually every pass, set up goals, cleaned up the midfield, and got his just reward.

He led a superior French side to victory over an overwhelmed Portugal in the final.

Mvuemba currently plays for French side Rennes, but I would expect that to change soon enough as scouts return to their clubs with reports about this kid.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Ji-Sung Park: South Korea’s best player at Manchester United next year?

South Korean international Ji-Sung Park has Manchester United quite interested in him.

The Korean international has a fantastic workrate. He showed great football at the last World Cup and joined PSV Eindhoven after Dutch coach Gus Hiddink stepped down return to coaching in Holland.

The BBC article

Glazing the fans of Manchester United: how really rich people behave

It was reported on the BBC World Service radio today that a document has been leaked which details the plans for Manchester United’s new milker Malcom Glazer.

Over the next five years, get a load of this:

  • Man U fans will see a steady rise of 54% in ticket prices
  • Merchandise across the board will be more expensive
  • There will be a fixed cap on transfer money, so like if the greatest prodigy ever were to emerge, then Man U would say no because the milker was not being fed regularly.

Man, you would think the freedoms from dictatorship were something to be cherished. But we have a world class sell out and it ain’t in the seats, it’s in the wallets when your ass sits on them.

How is that for red and black?

Liverpool in the Champion’s League should spark rule change

It’s a good thing UEFA have allowed Liverpool to enter the Champion’s League for next season.

They will have to enter thru the qualifying rounds but that seems a reasonable compromise.

This should get UEFA to change the rules because the world and regional cups all automatically qualify the winner.

Having the defending champ present adds drama and spectacle, it just makes sense.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Luis Figo must have phone ringing off hook

Wanderly Luxemburgo/Real Madrid are making the same old mistakes of letting their ‘old’ players go, instead of appreciating their contributions, rejuvenation, style and fine representation of the team in public.

Instead Real Madrid plan to continue with Ronaldo, coach favorite. Luxemburgo's dominant coaching style simply doesn't work and to choose it (in a world full of great coaching prospects) over #10 is indeed a mistake.

It’s still ridiculous that the coach would bench a player in great form. It’s a non issue if there was bad form involved. So what does it say about the Figo of 2005 which at the Euro was told by the BBC interviewer “You’re a star Luis” and has been wily and willing to play thru his years, and whose cross against Estonia just yesterday proved the difference in a 1-0 win.

Real Madrid have often made bad decisions. If you recall, Figo was the first player to start the “Galactico” years. More and more its Malcom Glazer and no appreciation for a players contribution.

Arsenal play Bergkamp folks.

So, an era is over, and the most coveted #10 shirt in the (club football) world is up for sale.

Bayern, Bordeaux, Dortmund, Crystal Palace, Espaynol, Manchester City and Anderlecht all have something in common

All of these teams have a budding talent which seems destined to leave, the question remains, where? Surprisingly, the deals have not already been done.

I still wonder who will move for Anderlecht’s Aruna Dindane, clearly determined to leave. He really does deserve a better club, if he doesn’t move, I hope Ivory Coast qualify for the World Cup, he is said to play well along side Didier Drogba of Chelsea.

Borussia Dortmund's Tomas Rosicky remains a great player on a club with huge debts. Where are the suitors for this great midfielder? Did any scouts notice how creative he was with the ball at Euro 2004 with the Czech Republic?

Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich would like to play abroad and Bayern don’t want to let him go. He could go to Real Madrid, as they would surely buy him.

Bordeaux’s Rio Mavuba is one of the finest prospects in the world, although a stubborn Bordeaux refuse to negotiate.

Manchester City, Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Crystal Palace’s Andy Johnson, this is a tough one. Its hard to remain in a national side from the second division. But maybe its time Sven make a statement if he doesn't move?

Espaynol's Carlos Kameni is a world class goalkeeper and deserved the spot that van der Sar got at Man U. He could land in Italy at this rate: with all the goalkeeping issues in England’s Premiership, you’d imagine a club would make the call to Spain.

Hedwiges Maduro

Ajax Amsterdam is scrambling to resign its latest sensation, Hedwiges Maduro.

Maduro has been an instant sensation after a match changing substitution after the half in the Netherland’s impressive 4-0 win over Finland.

The praise is well deserved: it was an amazing display of a player turning a match around, and to that degree, and on top of that on his debut!

Lookout for this 20 year old talent:


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Roma, Manchester United, Liverpool, Valencia, Arsenal, Chelsea all doing deals

AS Roma have resigned captian Franceso Totti and signed Sammi Kuffor from Bayern Munich.

Manchester United have had a bid rejected for Valencia’s Vincente and have luckily signed Dutch international super-keeper Edwin Van Der Sar. They have solved the situation and are a much stronger team because of it.

Liverpool have been rejected for newly relegated Southampton’s Peter Crouch but have resigned Dietmar Hamann, and have even been linked with Raul. I think Liverpool have been linked with about 11 Spanish players recently. It seems in the press that Benitez only sends his scouts to Spain for players.

Valencia has moved for Patrick Kluivert, who is now officially away from upper managerial problems at Newcastle United.

Arsenal have resigned the amazing Dennis Bergkamp.

As always, Chelsea are in the transfer mix with defender Asier Del Horno of Athletic Bilbao, Michael Essien from French champs Lyon, Adriano, and any players wanting to quickly increase their transfer value by announcing interest. No deals yet. Its more or less written they will, so they are on the list anyway.

Kaladze thinks Chelsea may swoop, may be right

AC Milan’s Georgian international Kakha Kaladze has boasted that he is days away from a Chelsea move.

Since he’s free on Bosman in a few months, AC Milan stand to lose considerably. So its sell or sign time.

The key here is Hernan Crespo, as Milan are keen to secure him. If Mourinho is really keen for the Georgian, it’s a workable deal. And I think a good one for Chelsea. Milan get a bit of a, you know, touch light on the effort, niggle injury, crybaby sorta player. He can score, but doesn’t seem to do the locker room much good.

Kaladze is a workhorse extraordinaire. Just the kind of player Mourinho likes. And hes a really good player. He’s reliable, durable, sensible and unselfish.

FIFA Youth World Cup to introduce new offside rules

Well, they are calling it a clarification.

This new interpretation says that if an attacker is offside but not interfering with the play, the referee will now wait until the attacker who was offside touches the ball (or interferes with the play).

What this does to the linesman’s role is interesting. He can’t lift the flag anymore because it would distract other players, but other players also don’t know if he saw the offside or not. He also must make a further judgment as to the flow of play. His workload has gone up.

I don’t understand how this can work.

I like the clarification because it means fewer offside calls but does this open up confusion or is it just me who’s confused?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My favorites for the World Cup final in 2006

This years World Cup sees a lull in some traditional powers.

France is ‘rebuilding’, Germany just doesn’t seem able, Italy’s mired in tactics of the past, and Argentina is still unadjusted to life after Diego.

I sense the biggest opening in 30 years for an ‘emerging’ team to swoop the cup; the reason is a combination of the old power’s lull, fatigue and a clear closing of the footballing gap. I’ll address a few unheralded teams which might have a chance below. But lets begin with my favorites:

The list must again start with Brazil. With Kaka and Adriano, next to Ronaldinho, this is as formidable a Brazil up front as ever. The team is strong in midfield attack and quite capable of pulling back goals if the defense turns rickety.

You can start your giggles now, but I’m convinced Spain has the goods this time around. While failing miserably on many occasions, this team with Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia, Barelona’s Xavi, also has an excellent defense, width and pace.

England is a mature team, with a world class player in every slot now. The coach has flexibility and the team has not won anything in a while, Liverpool’s success may spark the national side into some more belief.

A half a pace back I must place Portugal and The Netherlands. Portugal has a recent run of success both at club and international level which includes a European Cup final. Coach Luis Scolari is proving a coach which has instilled a focus which the team has lacked in the past. Marco Van Basten is proving a very capable coach, very willing to give players a chance, and getting results at the same time. Its possible we are seeing the start of a new era in quality Dutch football.

A few teams that have the outside chance I mentioned above are South Korea, who with the right coach can do wonders because their team will run their opponents legs off.

I feel Uruguay also have a very good team and could prove a surprise.

Denmark, with the sublime Thomas Gravesen is so well coached and talented that they have a shot.

Lastly, I sense that Cameroon or the Chez Republic could reach the final; I don’t think either can win it this time around, but Cameroon remains my future choice for Africa’s first World Cup winner.

U-21 Youth Cup in Toulon set for strong final pairing

The U-21 Youth Cup in Toulon is an invitational tournament which has been showcasing talent for European scouts since 1974.

Interestingly, the torurnaments (’67-’74) roots lie in club teams, but since then has been played with international youth sides.

This year the tournament has shown some excellent football which is set to culminate in a great final.

Tomorrow defending champs, 9 time winner, 7 times 2nd place France – takes on 4 time winners, 2 times 2nd place England to settle the placements for the final.

The winner will face Portugal, 1-0 winners today against a quality Mexico side. Portugal are the 2003 Champions, 2 time champion and three times 2nd place.

It’s set to be a good final this Friday night, June 10th.