Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Newcastle and Owen united

I didn’t expect them to land Michael Owen, but in a swoop that could just save Graeme Souness from being the first Premiership manager fired, Newcastle United have splashed out a club record 17m pounds for the England international.

It’s a surprisingly high fee, but if this is any sign of fortune, it was the fee for Alan Shearer’s transfer that was broken when in ’96 Newcastle splashed out 15m pounds from Blackburn Rovers.

Liverpool looked hot competition for the player, but when the fee started to climb it quickly became apparent this was a one horse race, regardless of Owen’s visit to Liverpool the other day.

For Real Madrid, in a rare turn of events, they actually pocket money on a player, they only paid 8.5m pounds for Owen to begin with, but I think its more a sign of Newcastle’s desperation considering their shabby start to the season, albeit the football at times has been quite good.

For Owen it’s a clear starting spot with Alan Shearer, the master of heading balls on, to link up with and with their previous England experience together counting for something, he’s in a decent position. Joining so early in the season, Michael Owen could easily score 20 goals for United.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Brazil’s leading striker to Lyon

Cashing in part of their spoils from the Essien sale, Lyon have purchased star striker Fred from Cruzeiro for a fee of about 9m pounds.

The prolific 21-year-old striker saw lots of interest recently and is heading to France just before the end of the transfer window to finalize the terms of his transfer. Fred will join forces with John Carew, making Lyon’s attack formidable to say the least. Both are tall players.

In 71 games, Fred has scored 56 goals for Cruzeiro and was the top goal scorer in the Brazilian league last season.

The contract will extend for 5 seasons. The transfer gets Fred Champion’s League football from the start and could quickly boost his prospects for a call up to the national side.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Chelsea - Tottenham LIVE

The live blogging experiment continued, updating every few minutes

Full time: It failed to live up to its potential but Chelsea efficiently saw off the challenge. An away win and Chelsea has won 6 of their last 7 visits to White Hart Lane.

Chelsea win 2-0, have 12 points in hand, and have yet to concede a goal this season.

Chelsea were the better team. Tottenham failed to play disciplined football and it cost them.

92 mins: Chelsea are closing the match down and Spurs are left feeling, what if?

90 mins: 2 added time. Looks like it will be Chelsea with 9 points. Unfortunately, Mido made it easy for them. Criticized often for being a self-centered player, he showed it here again.

89 mins: Duff gives way to Huth for the final few moments.

88 mins: Wright-Phillips, Lampard, Crespo sees a shot blocked by a defender. Del Horno plays a great ball into the box, to Crespo, to Essien, oh, just wide.

86 mins: Lennon and Davids connect well but the long ball to the box is not enough. Carrick tries a long ball but Peter Cech picks up the easy fly ball. Robert Huth is preparing to make his first appearance of the season.

83 mins: Crespo almost scores at the back post. Wright-Phillips again shreds Kelly but runs out of pitch. Aaron Lennon has been impressive in his Tottenham debut.

80 mins: With nothing to lose, why not throw Robbie Keane in there? Essien chests well but Wright-Phillips can't control, he is starting to run past players at will though.

77 mins: Lennon again playing well, down the touch line, sends the ball in the box, but it’s a getting harder as the legs tire. A ball into the box sees the immaculate Peter Cech clean up. It’s Essien on the wing now but Tottenham, nothing to lose are countering, ah, it ends again in nothing. White Hart Lane has quieted.

75 mins: No immediate response from Spurs until Carrick crosses and Dawson just can’t get over the ball and direct it goal-mouth. Davids sees a yellow for a chop tackle.

72 mins: Great long ball to Duff as Chelsea are fighting back. The game has improved as Chelsea are not totally convincing at 1-0 ahead. Tottenham can’t find that last ball though. Davids is again dictating play for Spurs, but, oh, look as I say that, Wright-Phillips breaks thru and it’s a goal from Damien Duff for Chelsea, it's 2-0.

70 mins: Crespo shoots and almost scores strait away and Wright-Phillips gets a shot on goal. What a cross by Ferreira! Davids gives the ball away with a switch of play and Chelsea almost make something of it.

68 mins: Crespo comes on for Drogba.

67 mins: The pace of the game has quickened but Wright-Phillips has yet to touch the ball. Referee says play on for Chelsea. Forgot to mention, there was a substitution at the half, it was Lennon, who does well and has started to spark Tottenham.

63 mins: Oh, a Tottenham break reaches the box, Jermain Defoe does well but 3 Chelsea defenders smother the ball. Joe Cole sees yellow soon after. Shaun Wright-Phillips is about to come on. Spurs are fighting a bit more, there is some more conviction in Tottenham’s play as they realize Chelsea are not attacking them a lot. Defoe des well again, Reid controls well but not enough, then Reid sees yellow for complaining as the play broke up.

61 mins: Lampard loses possession in midfield but Tottenham can’t capitalize. Ferreira does well and the outstretched Drogba can’t get to the ball. On the touch like it could have easily ended the match.

58 mins: Even with 10 men Tottenham are holding their lines. I guess you can’t give up too much and go down 2-0. A Chelsea mistake could see the draw back on. Duff shots from distance and the match is lacking clear cut chances. Let’s see some substitutes.

56 mins: Terry walks off the pitch and will soon be back on. Close call, it could have been worse.
55 mins: It looks serious, Terry does not often go down but he certainly had his leg caught under an opponent’s back as he fell.

54 mins: Davids has been Tottenham’s best player but pressure is mounting. Chelsea are stringing passes as Tottenham are losing possession on their counter attacks. Lampard free kick as the match is turning testier. John Terry is down in the pitch.

51 mins: Terry heads away and it drops for Lennon but goes sailing over the bar. Del Horno has been looking better and better, week to week.

48 mins: Pedestrian start to the second period. Chelsea would love to let it play out like this. Robinson cleans up a Chelsea attempt into the box.

45 mins: Cannot see any obvious changes to either team.

Halftime: Defoe has 1/3 of a chance and a Carrick free kick forces a save but Chelsea sees out the half and Terry-Gallas have yet to give up a goal while playing under Mourinho. Tottenham sorely miss their 11th man. I’m sure they saw this game as a measure of how much they have improved as a club but it’s difficult to measure now.

Back in a bit...

45 mins: 2 minutes added on. Tottenham can’t push too much or the game will start to become too open but they need to attack more than this. Mourinho is looking moody today.

42 mins: A goal down and Tottenham cannot move the ball thru the midfield. On the stroke of halftime Chelsea look to have established control of the match. A Tottenham counter attach is again broken down.

40 mins: A Duff cross creates a corner. And Del Horno scores a goal, Robinson seemed distracted in goal and nobody defended the back post, shocking Tottenham mistake. Where was the defense, what a lollipop goal to give up down to 10 men! Chelsea 1-0

38 mins: It’s been so tight that John Terry has seen the ball more than anyone on the pitch. Just when I say that, a Tottenham counter runs out when Davids has run out of talent. Must admit, Davids and Carrick play well together.

35 mins: The match was entirely too cautious before the red card and even more so now. Davids and Essien tangle for the second time and fouls Davids, on a yellow, Essien needs to watch it. Duff is offside.

32 mins: Approaching half time Tottenham have immediately moved into damage control mode. Defoe does well to join the match but amounts to nothing. Down a man, Tottenham have maintained their back line. Essien, for all that money, has shown very little.

28 mins: Chelsea corner sees Terry go wide, open header from 8 meters.

26 mins: Lampard sets up Drogba for a blocked shot but neither penalty box has been kind so far. Red card for Mido and WELL DESERVED for a horrible elbow, strait arm into Del Horno's face! Mido won't leave the pitch, come on, it's your fault -go! Finally. It's a much taller order for Tottenham now.

23 mins: Gardner blocks off Drogba and it’s another yellow card.

22 mins: Free kick and it was easily blocked. Back in to the box, Davids is there, amounts to nothing.

21 mins: Playing at home, Tottenham should be dictating more of the play but it’s a midfield struggle. Oh, and Davids is taken down right outside the box and it’s a yellow card for Essien, could have easily been a read for being clear thru on goal.

18 mins: Robinson steps in to prevent the corner. Chelsea are being very economical so far, quite happy to wait for their chance. Del Horno quickens play though a whistle stops the build up. Drogba takes it, and it goes well wide.

16 mins: Already this game needs a goal. Drogba and the referee argue but he gets no ear from the referee. Mido has made no impact and Jermain Defoe has been invisible.

13 mins: Davids goes in hard on Essien. Davids is showing that tenacity that’s made him famous. Lampard gets a Chelsea free kick but not vintage, to say the least.

10 mins: An appeal for a penalty from Chelsea but its not given. Drogba is slowly creeping into the match.

7 mins: The game has settled down and both sides are working hard defensively. ArsenalChelsea was similar to its start. Chelsea are as pressured as they were against Arsenal and Tottenham looks capable early on.

4 mins: A free header by Dawson seess Chelsea almost down 1-0. Drogba offside.

3 mins: Early mistake sees Chelsea scurrying but a shot is scuffed wide by Mido.

1 min: Del Horno suffers head injury and looks to be ok.

About to get going, as Chelsea have Robben and Carvalho injured.

Starting lineups:




Del Horno

Friday, August 26, 2005

The magic of those United

'Football is pricier, more uncompetitive and less atmospheric than ever. So why do supporters still lap it up'

Sean Ingle writes an excellent article, 'Football fans are idots' which is worth a read.

The hush of 6 points has washed over Old Trafford and will cement the fact that the Glazers, and others like them, are right.

If you win they will shut up, like at Manchester United. Thank Mount Glazer that you have Cristiano Ronaldo because Manchester United didn't look like scoring until he was brought on against Aston Villa. You fans used to have shares which had some value, now, you have zilch.

It's irrational. If big clubs win fans will not only shut up, but they will even pay your debts for you. Tomorrow, go pay some strangers credit card bill because to your bank accounts it is the same bottom line. Now who would do that? Then why pay Glazer's debts? But go on, stuff the pockets of an already rich man who is doing nothing more than facilitating your fantasies of glory, a fundamentally irrational pursuit.

It’s a fantasy. You support that club and win something, you feel like you were part of it. You were, on a 1/50,0000th level in the stadium, ya, your support helped a little but you paid thru the nostrils for it, buddy.

And if you big club wins they will not only shut up but they will even pay to finance your debts. Tomorrow, pay some stranger's credit card bill for them. To your bank accounts it is the same bottom line. Now who would do that? But go on, stuff the pockets of an already rich man who is doing nothing more than facilitating a fantasy of being linked with Manchester United bringing glory into your lives.

Women do the same thing. They look at those models on the runway and buy the clothes. They are the model, the designer, and lap up the Gucci like it means something.

The link here is a bigger fantasy in the world that has more than enough go-rounders to keep it alive. The music industry is one, the gambling industry, evangelists, you name it. Look close and the parasites are everywhere, all taking their nip at your quest for that goal.

Trophies go in cabinets, players into retirement or other clubs, managers’ change and the front office becomes heavier like the one at Manchester United. Oh, I forgot. You don’t care and are willing to pay.

Is this what your price of glory is? Glory, the fantasy of ancient Rome and so many places like it, still alive today.

Let me put it to you this way: when that club you’ve supported all you life wins another big one, you know, the Premiership or the Champions League or something, you will pay more money to be part of it. The club has gained in wealth, but you pay more?

That’s magic!

When other business, like oil companies, are having a boon like they are now, hey, they give their fat-cat shareholders a dividend –a payback for supporting the stock.

And you? You get nothing back except a bigger price tag for next season’s jersey. The 2 horse jockey's that sold out are paid, but not you.

Let me ask you how it’s possible the fans at Real Madrid can pay 200 pounds a year for a season ticket?

That’s the price for a handful of games against a mid-table club in the Premiership. Why? They have a say in the club and until that changes in the places that supporters are being exploited, the robbery won’t change. Step outside of the fantasy with your club and look at how you are being taken for a ride.

Have fun with football, enjoy your clubs, play, whatever, but be rational about it, Manchester United is owned by someone else now. When you are getting the screws turned on your wallet, push back and complain regardless of how many points you score. Or maybe support United once Glazer pays his American Express bill, because you are only United right now in pitching in to cover it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano is one of the finest Argentine players to appear in many years.

His club team in Brazil, Corinthians, rate him so highly that he has an 85m pound buyout clause In his contract.

Why? He’s a 21 year old who’s competence is astonishing. You don’t want him for a moment and think ‘that kids lost’, you think ‘whoa, that kid's dictating the play'. Mascherano can pass, tackle, move without the ball and holds the midfield like nobody’s business.

After his Messi-like climb through the youth sides, Mascherano cemented his place at last year's Copa America in Peru. He was voted the player of the tournament by his team.

After Carlos Tevez and Sebastian Dominguez, he is the third Argentine player to join Corinthians this year. Mascherano cost Corinthians only 8m pounds from Argentine giants River Plate. He’s among the top earners in Brazil.

Mascherano garnered interest in his first major international tournament when he was an under-17 in 2001. Now, more mature, his qualities have placed heavy Argentine expectations on ‘Jefecito’, or ‘little chief’ since his first full international debut in 2003.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

The football in Ireland interview

This is the second of a multi-part series in which I’m interviewing web log writers from around the world about football in their countries.

This second installment comes from Ireland and Cathal Breathnach from a web log called Football Corner, my thanks.

FC: The Irish League is a virtual unknown to me; can you tell me about it?

CB: The Irish League is called the Eirocm League and it consists of 2 divisions, The Eirocm League and the Eirocm First Division. There are 12 teams in the Eirocm League and there are 10 teams in the first division.

FC: Follow-up: What teams stand out at the moment in the Eirocm League?

CB: There are 3 or 4 teams that stand out at the moment; they are Bohemians from Dublin, Shelbourne who are also from Dublin, Cork City who as you get by the name are from Cork and Derry also stand out at the moment (as you get by the name are from Derry).

FC: Who are your top 5 players playing in Ireland and top 5 playing outside of Ireland?

CB: The top five players playing playing in Ireland are:

1. Kevin Hunt (Bohemians)
2. Owen Heary (Shelbourne)
3. Pat McCourt (Derry City)
4. Gearge O'Callahan (Cork City)
5. Steven Ward (Bohemians)

The top five players playing outside Ireland are:

1. Damien Duff (Chelsea)
2. Roy Keane (Man United)
3. Robbie Keane (Tottenham)
4. Shay Given (Newcastle)
5. Richard Dunne (Man City)

FC: How do you rate the development of football in Ireland in relation to the rest of Europe? And the World?

CB: The Irish League may not be the biggest in the world but from a spectator's perspective it is very exciting. Over the last couple of years it has really started to improve and people in Ireland who used to only support an English team have started to support their local side as well. I would say the Irish League is still a bit behind the bigger leagues like The Premiership, La Liga and Serie A.

FC: Would you like to see a Europe wide league that included Irish teams or do you feel each nation needs to have its own league?

CB: No, I think every nation should have their own league but I wouldn't mind seeing all of the big teams from around the world playing in one big league.

FC: Follow-up: And what if it meant 2 teams were plucked from the Irish top flight?

I wouldn't like if two sides were taken from the league because some of the great local derby's could be ruined and I also think it would be bad for the supporters of them teams because they would have to travel to different countries to see their team play.

FC: What's your take on the Irish national side at the moment?

CB: The Irish national side is in good shape at the moment coming first in their qualifying group for the World Cup. Many papers don't think we will qualify because France and Switzerland both have games in hand on us but I think we might just qualify.

FC: What do most Irish people follow, the Irish League or the Premiership? What about you?

CB: I think most Irish people support the English leagues but I think they should at least support their local side as well. I like the Irish League but I also love the Premiership.

email if you'd like to conduct an interview (over email) or if you know the name of a weblog in your country.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Chelsea vs Arsenal - LIVE

The live blogging experiment continued, updating every few minutes

Conclusion: Chelsea were efficient. They remind me of the way they started last season. Arsenal were plagued by a midfield that couldn’t turn the tide often enough to deliver a goal.
In honesty, it didn’t come close to living up to its billing as a match, ending up a tactical, mental battle where each team waited and waited for a mistake to see them through.

On the day, Chelsea get the nod, but only just. 3 points is more than they deserve.

93 min: Drogba takes advantage of a defensive mistake by Senderos and almost scores. Lehmann saves a certain goal. Whistle blows and Chelsea wins the match 1-0 over Arsenal.

89 mins: Cole gives up bad foul on Drogba, yellow card free kick. Lampard plays cross field to waste time. 3 mins added time.

87 mins: Chelsea are sinking further and further back into defense. Flamini gives the hands-open, ‘where are you?’ sign but Hleb was wide open.

84 mins: Flamini comes on for Fabregas . I don't understand the point of the substitution.

83 mins: No Arsenal player can establish a foothold on the match. Henry forces another save but the shot was not hard enough to worry the goal man.

80 mins: Stamford Bridge is celebrating, it looks good for Chelsea. Bergkamp, o Bergkamp, where are you Dennis Bergkamp.

78 mins: Chelsea break and Gallas shoots, forces a Lehmann save. Arsenal are finding progress against a very disciplined Chelsea defense.

75 mins: Makelele sees yellow for a hard foul. The games pace has picked up instantly. Henry forces a difficult save.

74 mins: Drogba Scores! A free kick and an accident of control sees the ball in the net. Drogba didn’t mean to do it, but the ball bounced off his knee across the unexpecting Lehmann. Chelsea 1-0.

73 mins: Wright-Phillips starting to make a small impact. Del Horno has made a series of bad defensive decisions and a cross across the box goes begging.

70 mins: No goal in sight for either team. Even Henry is defending. Just when I say that Cech saves from a free kick headed on.

67 mins: Wright-Phillips sees first bit of space to no end. Del Horno goes down injured, gets up but is limping badly.

63 mins: Duff breaks on a counter from an Essien steal. Counter breaks down but Chelsea maintain possession. Van Persie gets space but cross goes nowhere, Del Horno gives up a corner. 2nd corner played short with no result.

60 mins: Essien gets his first touch.

59 mins: A Robert Pires attack is broken up. Hleb pressing well. Henry loads up from a van Persie combination but the last ball goes begging. Drogba gets a shot one on one with Lehmann but goes way-way high. Essien comes on for Gudjohnsen and Shaun Wright-Phillips is being substituted for Arjan Robben, whose played poorly.

55 mins: Del Horno crosses well, Drogba controls well but Drogba cant get time to shoot as Senderos covers well.

54 mins: Arsenal poke thru midfield and link up play, but nobody could control the ball in the box for a shot on goal. Arsenal again try but Fabregas was crossing to nobody across goal. Henry shoots over the goal.

50 mins: Arsenal on the attack and so is van Persie with an ugly foul on Duff, deserved the yellow. Gallas gets a yellow for his reactions to boot. Duff is ok.

47 mins: This game desperately needs a goal. The caution is second only to handling radiation.

45 mins: Crespo off, Drogba starts the half

Halftime: It’s been a tactical battle throughout. This game could easily end 0-0 unless either side finds a solution to the crowded midfield. Starting again after the half...

Inj: Pires gets a late shot and the whistle blows for the half.

44 mins: Chelsea starting to make some progress. They have been the Arsenal box a few times and are getting corners. Lampard’s delivery goes nowhere but Arsenal fail to clear. Chelsea is very cautious in possession.

41 mins: Robben almost scores from a goal mouth scramble. Lehmann saves, don't know how much he knew about it.

40 mins: Lots of tactical football but not enough space for the talent to emerge. Essien looks like he’ll be introduced at half time.

38 mins: Crespo is offside. The midfield remains clogged and the wings are not delivering crosses, just deflections and the occasional corner. Good switch of play from Chelsea opens a long run of passes, Arsenal eventually clears.

34 mins: Gudjohnsen very unhappy about rough treatment. Aresnal have a 65%-45% advantage in possession.

33 mins: Both teams are starting to rely on the long ball more and more as the midfield is a mine field. It must be said, the defending has been quite good. Neither team deserves a goal despite the fast pace. Arsenal corner fails to get past the first man.

30 mins: Play starts to get a little choppy. Free kick for Chelsea ends in Arsenal counter, broken up by John Terry.

29 mins: Van Persie takes over for Pires and Pires drops back into Ljungberg’s place. Essien is already warming up.

27mins: Ljungberg is also off injured, van Persie is being substituted in. Robben returns to the match.

23 mins: The early pace has settled a bit. Neither team is able to make any stab into the box. Another long ball finally succeeds and Chelsea now begin to link up play of their own. It’s all crosses in the box thought for the Blues, nobody can play the ball in the box with the foot. Robben is down injured.

20 mins: Sun comes out. Both teams remain confident 20 mins into a 50-50 game. Chelsea are starting to probe with the long ball more often.

17 mins: Arsenal are adopting a more defensive approach for this match, that’s clear and its suiting them well as Chelsea are struggling to win the midfield. Pires makes a good central run. A mistake sees Crespo almost go thru.

13 mins: Arsenal starting to link up a little more but an ill timed Henry pass fails and so do does Del Horno, from an Henry cross almost gifts the Gunners a goal. Chelsea right back again with a corner.

10 mins: Lauren deserved a yellow for an ugly foul on A Robben. Henry abandons an obvious offside. The quality of play from both sides is excellent so far.

8 mins: It’s a good fast start to the game. Hleb attacks for the first time. Senderos breaks up a Chelsea attack and Cech does the same to a Fabregas long ball intended for Henry.

5 mins: Ferreira tries a long pass to nowhere. Duff remains industrious early. Arsenal don’t seen intimidated but Chelsea have started better than last week. Streaker enters and removed from pitch.

3 mins: Arsenal settle quickly and fire back with an Henry from beyond the box

2 min: Lampard puts Duff thru right away but its not over yet, Crespo has shot blocked and Duff is again busy. Its off the goal line from Del Horno!

1 min: Pires is playing up front feeding Henry, replacing Bergkamp in his usual role.

Hoping for a great match....

Michael Essien is on the bench for Chelsea. With Essien, 80m pounds or so of talent sits on the bench, a few cracks have appeared in the Chelsea camp as Ricardo Carvalho and J Mourinho fell out in mid week. Drogba is on the bench.

Arsenal sees Hleb making his first start. It's Wenger's 500th match.

About to kickoff....

Chelsea - Arenal lineups:


P Cech
A Del Horno
W Gallas
J Terry
P Ferreira
A Robben
C Makelele
F Lampard
E Gudjohnsen
D Duff
H Crespo


J Lehmann
A Cole
K Toure
P Senderos
G Silva
C Fabregas
F Ljungberg
R Pires
A Hleb
T Henry

Friday, August 19, 2005

Benfica defender makes it 5 new internationals at Valencia

Valencia have completed the signing of Benfica full back Miguel Monteiro, it becomes the clubs fifth new international signing this season.

Coach Quique Flores has signed the Portuguese, a former winger converted to full-back, for five seasons at a price of 5.6m pounds.

Miguel has had interest from a host of clubs including Newcastle United and Juventus.

Dutch international Patrick Kluivert joined Valencia from Newcastle after a disappointing season. He joins Brazilian international Edu, a longstanding signing from Arsenal.

In addition, Valencia have also signed Uruguayan international winger Mario Regueiro and Spanish international central defender David Villa. An impressive array of signings to say the least –say what you want Newcastle, but Kluivert scored goals in Spain.

Benfica decided to end a contractual dispute which was seeing the club’s internal politics splattered over the local papers.

As for Valencia, they are prepared to play better than 7th spot in La Liga this season. 5 quality signings will jive well with any club’s fans.

Some weekend Premiership predictions

There are some pretty good matchups in store and I’m predicting a lot of wins this weekend. Let’s see how I do.

On Saturday:

Reeling Blackburn Rovers host Fulham. It’s not the most tantalizing game. Fulham will get a pair of late goals and win it 2-0.

Manchester United takes on Aston Villa at Old Trafford and I think it’s going to be a walkover. Manchester United will score early goals and sap Aston Villa’s relolve to the tune of 4 or maybe 5-1.

Liverpool plays at home to Sunderland. Liverpool, who were less than convincing in their opening game, face a Sunderland that was even less so. Liverpool 1-0.

Tottenham hosts Middlesbrough in what should be a hard fought match. Tottenham are the stronger side and are at home leaving Middlesbrough an uphill climb against a club buoyed by a good week of the press. Tottenham will take it 2-1.

In the battle of the athletics, Charlton Athletic are home against Wigan Athletic. Premiership cruelty lost Wigan a point opening day against Chelsea, that won’t be repeated again. Draw 2-2.

West Bromwich Albion play home versus Portsmouth. Portsmouth were entertaining first week but need time to sort things out, pressure will start to grow as West Brom will nip another entertaining game 3-2.

Looking at the schedule a few weeks ago, Newcastle didn’t expect to face a tough challenge against a rejuvenated West Ham United but that’s what they look like they have. I sense a hard fought game that Newcastle will only draw (and late) 1-1.

In the battle of the city’s, Birmingham City host Manchester City. Birmingham will have a lot to do since they looked undermanned and short of ideas the first week. Manchester City are teetering on a good run of form but not enough, ending in a 1-1 draw.

Sunday sees:

In what should prove a tactical battle Bolton hosts Everton at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton’s new signings will hopefully make an appearance; first week I was really disappointed in Bolton’s play. Everton were not a lot better. Often 2 teams that are known to play ugly can spark a great match. Of any of these predictions, this one is the one I am least certain about but I think Bolton grabs the 2-1 win.

Chelsea are at Stamford Bridge to host Arsenal. Even though Chelsea beat them a fortnight ago in the Community Shield, Chelsea didn’t look motivated last week. Arsenal are going to want this game a lot and will win it in style 3-1.

PS: I'll be continuing the live blogging experiment with Chelsea against Arsenal Sunday, tune in at 16:00 (GMT +0).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bolton loaned Nakata and linked with Ono

Japanese international midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata has been loaned from Fiorentina in Italy to Bolton Wanderers for the season.

Sam Allardyce has brought in an iconic figure. When it comes to popularity Nakata is Japan’s version of America’s Michael Jordan. At 28 he’s a complete midfielder who can create and defend; The Reebok Stadium sure needs some creativity looking at their first game of the season.

Jared Borgetti from Mexico looks set to start with the team soon enough. With a healthy Okocha and Nakata the team should be a lot more entertaining.

Rumor has it that Japanese midfielder Shinji Ono from Feyenoord and Sam Allardyce talked over a move to Bolton recently.

The 25 year old Ono was on Feyenoord’s UEFA Cup winning squad a couple of seasons ago. He went to the Netherlands via Urawa Reds in the J-league in 2001. Apparently there is a dispute with the player and team and Ono wants to leave.


Lionel Messi’s 3 minute international debut

Lionel Messi had his first international debut end after only 3 minutes against Hungary in Budapest after coming on as a substitute for Lisandro Lopez.

The Diego Maradona laden comparisons had Argentine expectations high. Messi had been promoted right from the under 20 team that won the World Youth Cup a few months ago. His performances in that tournament were brilliant. Unfortunately for Messi it ended seconds after it began.

With literally his first touch of the ball Messi saw a red card after having his shirt tugged and reacting by sticking out an elbow. The referee was having none of it and the 18 year old was giving his marching orders.

Argentina won the match 2-1 on a 17th minute goal by Maxi Rodriguez and a 62nd minute header by Manchester United's Gabriele Heinze.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New England international at Charlton Athletic

Darren Bent was called up to the England national football squad to replace the injured Andy Johnson; he thought his call up for England was a joke.

It’s an interesting selection for England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson but sort of supports his recent trend of picking new players. It’s a result of being in England for a few years and having gotten to know the younger players.

I think Eriksson has been getting some mud lately about moving on, but that’s a mistake. He’s not had the years and years other coaches have had to get to know their players. Eriksson has reached that level of understand inside England now, that’s why calling for his job is a mistake. He’ll be as prepared for the 2006 World Cup as anyone could, give the man his chance because England have the horses.

Bent has only played one Premiership game. Obviously Eriksson was impressed. He’s fast to the ball and efficient in a Ruud van Nistelrooy way.

Having moved from Ipswich in June, he overcame a slight injury and scored 2 good goals in his debut with Charlton against Sunderland. He joins the England squad for a friendly in Copenhagen against Denmark on Wednesday.

Bent has scored eight times for England's U-21 team in 12 matches but has never played for the seniors.

Chelsea get their man, but is this the only price?

Michael Essien joined Chelsea the other day. I think that’s great and all but you know this whole thing of players refusing to play is just as unsportsmanlike as if he walked off the pitch and left the team with 10 men.

Was the 32m pound asking price too high? Yes, much too high. Did Chelsea pay too much at 27m pounds? Yes, way too much.

Lyon was stubborn and their extortion of Chelsea succeeded; but it’s still the player’s job to play for the club: he’s paid to do that, he has teammates, fans or is it just about the ‘me, me’?

In some ways this saga could have been avoided if more reasonable people were involved in the negotiations, but not playing is like tossing rocks thru windows: juvenile.

I wonder if we are seeing the Essien which impressed last season. Things happen to you when you become highly touted.

I wouldn’t purchase a player that refused to play for another club. Reason is simple; he’d do it to you too. Essien signed a contract stating he’d play for Lyon for ‘x’ years. He blew it off with his agent condoning it; another reason not to deal with him.

If we look back at Essien’s career, it resembles 90% of footballers: they were playing from some club and got a big break. They were not sons of famous athletes; they had to get noticed thru talent. That talent got him his first contract at a club and got him earning money.

Look to the moment in every player’s life when they get their first big break and ask yourself if they were thinking about refusing to play in that moment. In that moment the player knows how lucky he is to do this; what’s changed?

I’m not intending to say that there is no reason, ever, to refuse to play. If a club doesn’t pay you your wages then they have failed in a fundamental responsibility, that’s a reason not to play. If a club is doing something illegal, that’s a reason, etc. I’m not inventing some code of honor either, just pointing out self interest.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Novidades do Brasil

I’m going to be posting a multi-part series. My objective is to interview web log writers (or football enthusiasts) from around the world and find out about football in their countries from an internal perspective.

I’m starting the series with web log writer Mauricio Teixeira from Brazil. He writes a web log called “Blog de Bola
and was kind enough to share some thoughts about Brazilian football, my thanks:

FC: What club in Brazil has impressed you the most recently?

MT: In the past three years, the most impressive club has been Santos.

After almost 20 years without a title, they formed a really strong team in 2002 with young players. In 2004, they won their second Brazilian title in 3 years. Home made players like Diego (now at FC Porto), Alex (PSV Eindhoven), Elano (Ukraine), Renato (Sevilla) and the show man Robinho were responsible for that success.

FC: Who are your top 5 players that are playing in Brazil right now?

MT: The top 5 players in Brazil right now:

5 - Giovanni (Santos)
4 - Fred (Cruzeiro)
3 - Ricardinho (Santos)
2 - Carlos Tevez (Corinthians)
1 - Robinho (Santos, recent transfer to Real Madrid)

FC: Why are so many Brazilian players responsible for innovating things in football?

MT: When a boy is born in Brazil, his first gift is a ball. Everybody in this country has a passion to football. More and more, at school or in the neighborhood, kids are challenged to make different stuff with a ball and you have to be creative to get a place in a team.

I think this is the main reason for the habit Brazilians have of creating new plays and reinventing the game.

FC: Who are some young Brazilian players that we haven't heard of yet?

MT: This is a difficult question because some players go to Europe even before they are old enough to drive.

An example is Anderson, 17 years old, from Gremio, the same club where Ronaldinho started. Anderson’s rights were sold to a bank in Portugal and will play for FC Porto next season. But another young player that seems to be the next sensation is Kerlon from Cruzeiro, a boy also 17 years old, who perform a new incredible play that he keeps the ball up on his head and runs.

Other players, not so young, with a great future are Fred (Cruzeiro), Cicinho (São Paulo - maybe Manchester United), Rafinha (Coritiba), Evandro e Fabricio (Atlético-PR), and Jo (Corinthians).

FC:Brazil has the situation of having so many good players. Should Brazilian players like Alex and Deco naturalize and play for other countries?

MT: I’d like to say that 'having too many good players to choose from' is a problem, but a great one.

I don't like the idea much of Brazilian players naturalizing and playing for others countries; really only if they have a huge affinity with that country.

Alex, that plays for Japan, is a good example. He lives in Japan, speaks Japanese and always played in J-League. But, if the naturalization is almost a deal, like if the country is a club and hires the best players, I don't see it as a good thing. Recently, a country tried to 'hire' Ailton to play. I think FIFA should not allow, or a player should at least prove 5 years or more of residence in the country.

*note: please email if you'd like to conduct an interview (over email) or if you know the name of a weblog in your country.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Look at West Ham with the win

West Ham United started their Premiership revival well yesterday with a good win against Blackburn Rovers.

In his 23rd season as a professional, evergreen Teddy Sheringham was instrumental helping West Ham come from a goal down. He’ll be 40 during this campaign, and with 139 goals, added his 140th.

The newly promoted London club surprised me with their spirit. They started 4 of their 8 new players and went down a goal early. From that they managed to climb back with 3 goals and capitalized on Paul Dickov’s red card.

It was Sheringham who pulled the team back, more or less alone. He started his classic combination play and got the midfield behind his cadence until he broke thru for West Ham with the goal. Yossi Benayoun from Racing Santander did superbly to assist the goal. Ok, a touch of luck too.

Matthew Etherington was also useful on the wing, looked dangerous, and provided the goods for Nigel Reo-Coker.

For my money though Reo-Coker was the surprise of the match (Yossi Benayoun looked great too). He strolled by Blackburn defenders a few times and defended well. Techincally he’s still growing but, at 21, I thought he was pretty impressive. He joined West Ham in 2004 and has been a hit since, even becoming West Ham's youngest ever captain.

His 62nd minute goal was extraordinary. Reo-Coker led the ball sweetly past his body and blasted the ball into the net. It was the goal of the week, even better than Crespo’s goal against Wigan.

It’s one game; all the same, it’s an excellent start to the season for West Ham and their new signings change their prospects.

Manager Alan Pardew’s tactics against Blackburn were also excellent, the midfield answered the questions. He also did well to take Sheringham off early: save his legs and West Ham may stay up.

Premiership red cards deserved

We saw a spate of reds this weekend which sees the standard of discipline set early. Good work: the Premiership referees did well this weekend by giving red cards that were well deserved.

Paul Dickov got his marching orders minutes after coming on for Blackburn Rovers against West Ham in their loss for a wild tackle on full back Paul Konchesky; so much for his defensive help. Blackburn lost 3-1.

Middlesbrough defender Ugo Ehiogu was clearly the last player taking on Steven Gerrard, who was thru. Appropriately given, a few times last season the referee’s hesitated and didn’t show the red when everyone knew it was. Good. I want to see the goals. Middlesbrough survived with a draw.

Darren Ambrose got a 55th minute red card on his debut for Charlton. It was a horrible tackle on Sunderland’s Stephen Wright. Charlton won anyway 3-1 in large part to impressive Darren Bent’s double.

Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas was sent off with a straight red card in the 32nd minute against Arsenal. Isn’t that the club he’s being linked with? Not good for your chances to join, that’s for sure. That tackle from behind on Gilberto was a potential career ender. Newcastle lost 2-0.

Chelsea vs Wigan Athletic - game minutes

The live blogging experiment, updating every few minutes.

lets see how it goes....

Chelsea - Wigan:

4 mins: Chelsea start with Drogba up front, Gudjohnsen in midfield, Robben and Duff on the wings. Early pressure is Chelsea's but Wingan fire back on with a great shot from Camara.

7 mins: Wigan are enthusiastic and taking the game to Chelsea.

10 mins: Del Horno shuts the door on Teale but Wigan are unintimidated. Paulo Ferreira shows he's capable as well.

14 mins: The early Wigan flurry settles down as Chelsea begin to link up play. Wigan's Teale creative again on the wing though and Chelsea must scurry.

15 mins: Drogba gets first good Chelsea shot.

18 mins: It's an even match, open play and entertaining so far. Gudjohnsen shoots, 2nd chance for Chelsea within moments. Robben shows first solo action.

21 mins: Wigan giving Chelsea way too much space, will be giving up a goal soon. They are trying too hard now to take the game to Chelsea.

24 mins: Robben and Drogba starting to link up. Even Makelele is pushing forward. New Wigan man Francis gives up foul and Arjen Robben goes close. Soon after Mahon goes ever so close for Wigan.

28 mins: Its still an even game. Chelsea have started to fray their passes. Wigan has shown a lot of life so far but Chelsea don’t forgive mistakes.

32 mins: New Wigan signing Henchoz comes forward for a corner. Camara gets another shot on goal. Cech saves. Duff looks cautious in attack, picks up a foul though. Lampard cross goes begging.

33 mins: Shaun Wright-Phillips is already warming up.

36 mins: Wigan defending well. Ferreira cross too high for Drogba. Gudjohnsen starting to come very deep for the ball.

40 mins: Robben changes wings momentarily. John Terry heads just over the bar. Game continues to be open.

43 mins: Duff and Robben stay switched. Mourinho is worried with good reason, Chelsea can't make any impression on the wings.

44 mins: Duff gets best chance of the match so far.

46 mins: One minute added time to a good half of football. Wigan sure seems a tougher challenge than on paper. Mahon wrestles Robben to the ground for the match’s first yellow card. Wigan, playing in their new stadium made Chelsea work to the point that this either side could have easily had a goal in the match.

47 mins: Joe Cole and Shaun-Wright Phillips come on to replace Gudjohnsen and Robben.

50 mins: New signing Arjan de Zeeuw looks good in defense. Chimbonda from Wigan looking a good fullback.

54 mins: The change on the Chelsea wings is making little difference. Wigan are growing in confidence.

58 mins: Wright-Phillips has first shit on goal deflected. Duff substituted for Hernan Crespo. Chelsea can't afford to start the campaign with anything less than 3 points and Mourinho knows that.

63 mins: Mourinho is prowling the touch line, a bit nervous giving direction. Hernan Crespo shot saved by the keepers foot.

67 mins: Chelsea are starting to dominate possession. Wigan’s counters are breaking down. Its going to be hard to hold shape for 23 minutes under this much pressure. Camara with a nice dummy on Ferreira.

70 mins: Crespo puts Drogba thru, de Zeeuw defends well. Joe Cole forces a save. Camara creates a good chance for Wigan.

74 mins: Ferreira continues to keep Camara at bay. Well done Chelsea counter stopped by last ditch tackle. Play returns the other way immediately and Wright-Phillips makes last ditch save for the Blues.

78 mins: De Zeeuw continues to play good defense for Wigan. Its still 0-0 in large part due to him and Henchoz, who’s also been useful. In fact the entire Wigan back line have played well.

80 mins: Wigan squander a good chance. Looked like a hand ball on Teale from a Del Horno cross. Chelsea can’t get thru.

81 mins: Terry goes close for Chelsea in a close fought match.

82 mins: Francis off the post for Wigan!

82 mins: Chimbonda makes last minute save for Wigan.

85 mins: Camara off in a late substitution. Wigan are looking for the unlikely point from a draw.

87 mins: It’s an even contest. Wigan are pressing Chelsea in the last moments. Oh, a Gallas flub almost loses Chelsea the match.

89 mins: Chelsea are throwing everyone forward. A Lampard solo run peters out. 4 minutes added time.

90 mins: Joe Cole shot saved! Counter by Wigan ends with a shot well wide.

92 mins: Francis gives up late Wigan free kick. Lampard gets ready for it, shoots and hits the wall. Wigan counter! 3 versus 1 - a golden chance goes begging for Wigan!

93 mins: GOAL!!! Hernan Crespo is the hero for Chelsea with a fantastic goal! Solo effort, outside the box!! What a strike in the top corner.

94 mins: match ends. Chelsea win 1-0.

Mourinho gives words of encouragement to Wigan's coach and it's well deserved. Wigan played a heck of a match against the champs and must feel like a point was stolen.

Chelsea are lucky to escape with a win. I'm sure they didn't expect so much resistance from Wigan and did what champions do. The subsitute scored, what else do you expect from Mourinho.

Best game yesterday was Portsmouth vs. Tottenham

In an entertaining display Saturday, Tottenham started their season well in a 2-0 win over Portsmouth. It was their first away win since December last year.

At home, Portsmouth stood a decent chance with that away record, but the only downpour bigger than the rain was the shower of new players in their lineup. Although they had their fair share of chances, virtually half of their team was missing from last season and it was their undoing. Portsmouth need 10 or 12 games together to get their chemistry sorted out. The first goal came just before the half from a panickey Andy Griffin clearance ending up in the net for an own goal.

Tottenham had good movement and showed consistency throughout the match. Generally, the back four kept the pressure off the keeper and Michael Carrick kept the pressure off the back four. With confidence to attack Tottenham opened up play with more and more utility from midfield.

The second half began well, even with some torrential rain, usually a quality killer, but this time not. The match kept its shape and Tottenham continued to apply pressure on Portsmouth.

Laurent Robert, who throughout the match delivered a number of great balls, really relished the chance to have such a central role. Lua Lua is going to get bored of this though, on the opposite wing he realized Robert is not known for switching play.

On the whole, Portsmouth worked hard but were the more uncertain; Tottenham crept into overall control off the match. Instinctively, Jermain Defoe capped his good game with a quality finish on 64 minutes. He reacted first to a Mido clearance and, left footed, shot across goal and made it look easy, ending Portsmouth’s hopes for an equalizer.

It was a good performance from Tottenham, missing Ledley King and new signing Edgar Davids; it was win which showed they have depth.

Bolton vs Aston Villa took 10 minutes

Fours goal hit the net in 10 minutes at Villa Park yesterday and after that, you pretty much could have taken a nap.

On 4 minutes Aston Villa took the lead as Kevin Phillips took advantage of Bolton's Nickey Hunt crossing himself up with the keeper to convert the easy header.

Jittery Aston Villa defending led to the second goal. From a corner, 1 minute later, Kevin Davies evened the score. Again from a corner, Bolton took a 2-1 lead on 8 minutes, Ivan Campo providing the conversion.

Steven Davis restored the parody again for Aston Villa as the Bolton back line dozed into a 1-goal-lead-induced, 2 minute cat-nap. It was a decent enough goal, but schoolyard defending from Bolton Wanderers. 10 minutes, 2-2, last goal.

The following 80 minutes saw a few changes and chances but not even Jay Jay Okocha was enough to restore interest.

Aston Villa were average. Angel doesn’t see the ball much anymore. Remember when you were a kid and you never passed the ball to someone because they sucked, or, maybe that was you that couldn't score (or was it me?), anyway, in the adult world, more refined, we say ‘his teammates have lost confidence’, but didn’t it seem that way?

I seriously had an inkling Bolton were going to be the best looking team yesterday, my inkling turned into a 2-2 schminkling.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Manchester United win over Everton sees plotlines played out

Manchester United started their new Premiership campaign today by rolling over Everton away 2-0.

There were lots of plotlines played out in the first Premiership match of the season. JS Park started his first game, Phil Neville playing against his old club and brother, Wayne Rooney back home, and the Moyes-Ferguson catfight from last season.

Manchester United saw newcomer JS Park start in place of injured Cristiano Ronaldo and showed he was not at United just to sell shirts. He played well and was on pace from the moment go, but you could see a big difference in the side without Ronaldo; another clear sign of the teams growing dependence on the Portuguese international.

Phil Neville, at United since age 10, started his career away from the nest for Everton against his old team. After 18 years at United I even considered if he might pass the ball to a red shirt by mistake.

United were the better side early until Everton’s James Beattie suffered an injury only 16 minutes into his season. Marcus Bent came on in his place (with his socks pulled so high up he looked like a cabaret dancer) and improved on Everton’s start significantly.

Beattie isn’t suited to the single striker role. He doesn’t bring others into play. Once Bent came on Everton began to have the better run of play. Tim Cahill started to link up with summer signing Simon Davis and Bent was better able to switch play and encourage crosses.

Everton had a good 20 minute spell of pressure and a few good chances that went begging. Once, Van der Sar saved. On 33 minutes Bent hit the crossbar. Everton didn’t capitalize. Ruud van Nistelrooy had disappeared from the game but finally capitalized on a John O’Shea overlap to chip the ball in from point blank range; it was his 4th goal in his last 31 hours of Premiership football. The 43 minute goal sapped Everton of confidence and on 45 minutes, as the half approaced, Joseph Yobo made a shocking defensive flub to gift Wayne Rooney a goal.

Rooney had been getting jeered the whole match when he touched the ball, but it was Yobo that made his vengeance easy having no reason to play the ball square across the goal. Rooney stepped in and scored the lollipop.

After the half new captain David Weir went close on 49 minutes but the rest of the game was pretty academic.

Without Ronaldo to stretch the pitch Manchester United were a little flat. 3 points away is never easy but my conclusion here is that Everton is a weaker squad than their 4th place finish from last season. Tottenham looked good today against Portsmouth and would have probably beaten the Manchester United I saw.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The global football interview series

Here are the list of current links to my multi-part interview series.

My objective is to interview web log writers (or football enthusiasts) from around the world and find out about football in their countries from an internal perspective.

The interviews published so far are:

Part 13: Italy is next!
Part 12: The Malaysian football interview
Part 11: The O Canada interview
Part 10: The 'a bola' interview
Part 9: The rising sun interview
Part 8: The Bulgarian football interview
Part 7: The Socceroo interview
Part 6: The football in Germany interview
Part 5: The Argentine football interview
Part 4: Czech-ing out the Republic
Part 3: Noticias de Chile
Part 2: The football in Ireland interview
Part 1: Novidades do Brasil

*note: Please keep checking back as I have writers from many more countries who have agreed to be interviewed. This page will have the most current list and is linked on the left navigation panel.

Please email if you'd like to conduct an interview (over email) or if you know the name of a weblog in your country.

Everton, Manchester City, Wigan, Middlesbrough, Fulham, Birmingham have something in common

It’s not a list of the Premiership’s middle rung, as Wigan would be the odd man out.

And it’s not a list of transfers either, Everton can’t do a deal.

All six clubs are part of an article by the BBC’s Chris Bevan. He’s written a list of six players he thinks we should be watching:

James Vaughan from Everton

Nedum Onuoha of Manchester City

Leighton Baines of Wigan Athletic

James Morrison from Middlesbrough

Zesh Rehman from Fulham

Njazi Kuqi of Birmingham City

Read the BBC's article here.

From the list, only Middlesbrough midfielder James Morrison has made any mark in the Premiership . Good reading, but I think the list was begging for Ricardo Vaz Te from Bolton.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Arsenal sign load deal with Bastia

Arsenal have opted to take on Cameroonian Alexandre Song, nephew of Rigobert Song from Galatasaray, on a single season loan.

Bastia, relegated from the French first division last season, has agreed a fee of 2.75m pounds if Arsenal exercise an option to sign the player at the end of the season.

Apparently Song impressed on trial at Highbury. He practiced in defensive midfield as well as with the back four. He'll probably disappear into the youth side for a while.

French super-prospect to Arsenal?

You may not know the name, but Rio Mavuba is one of the best players in the world today.

The 21 year old French international made a shuddering impact on the French league last season. His defensive midfield skills scuttled attack after attack to the point that he was given his first international cap. He started in a 0-0 draw, where he replaced the injured Patrick Vieira.

Commenting on a move to Arsenal, Mavuba replied:

"They are considering the prospect of a move next season.”

I’ll bet they are. I picked Mavuba as one of the players to replace Vieira at Arsenal. If he keeps playing the way he played last season Arsenal, are going to get priced out. It would be poetic to see Vieira’s international replacement become his Arsenal replacement as well.

Let me curb my enthusiasm, a bit: he’s very young for a role that requires stability, especially at an attacking side like Arsenal. But the upside is having, potentially, the best player in the world at that position in a few years.

If Rio-Antonio Mavuba doesn’t join Arsenal he’ll be playing for a top-top European side within a year or so.

In my list of 5, at number 3 was Mavuba. He’s do the job for Arsenal if he joined today, and is the world’s best prospect in defensive midfield.

John Carew

Norway’s best footballer moved to Lyon over the summer and has started brightly. The French League has never been so popular in the Nordic country.

In his debut, against Auxerre in the season opening Trophy of Champions, John Carew scored a hat-trick. Lyon ended up beating Auxerre 4-1. Carew has since scored a goal in his first two league games and Lyon has the 6 points.

At 6’ 4” (193cm) and powerfully built, Carew has had his way against every defender he’s faced in France. His goals have all been well taken and demonstrated his ability to overpower most anyone. I can assure you he’s already on the minds of every coach in France. Imagine Liverpool’s Peter Crouch, a bit shorter, but built like a tank.

You may remember John Carew from his stint at Valencia where he made the Champions League final in 2000 and won La Liga in 2002. Well, you may remember him from a number of places; he’s played in 5 countries, most recently in Turkey for Besiktas, but also in his native Norway for Rosenborg Trondheim and Italy’s AS Roma.

While the critics of Carew say he’s shown his talent in glimpses, I don’t agree. Carew is a victim of the Norwegian long ball mentality (always bad for strikers) and also a stint being tragically underplayed at AS Roma. Given consistency, he’s quite productive and paired with Sidney Govou it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him as top scorer in France this season.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baptista sounding the monster fool

Madrid’s Ronaldo is far better than Barcelona’s Eto’o? Eto'o wins on apostrophes and points.

It's what new Real Madrid player Julio Baptista thinks.

Julio Baptista is trying too hard to make friends at Madrid. Let me ask you people, if he went to Barca, think he’d be jocking Eto’o instead of Ronaldo?

Apparently this was intended to stoke the rivalry between Real and Barca. And reporters are covering this as if its serious.

Baptista, earlier this summer was a target for Arsenal. The versatile Brazilian, nicknamed 'the monster' can play in midfield or as a striker. He joined Madrid in favor of the Gunners. If he had joined Arsenal would Thierry Henry be ‘a far better than (name here)’?

Those are the kind of stories that stoke nothing but the denial of Ronaldo's twilight years.

Allardyce at it again for Bolton

Italian club Fiorentina are having to sell players to balance the books. Italian financial regulations are much stricter than in other European countries and Fiorentina have already been burned once.

That’s where Bolton Wanderers come in. After losing out on Olivier Dacourt, Bolton are tageting 28 year old Hidetoshi Nakata, who looks to be getting sacrificed in the restructuring.

Today Fiorentina’s website confirmed the Nakata transfer talks with Bolton. Nakata has traveled to London to sort out terms. Bolton’s website also makes mention.

Nakata’s been with a large number of Italian clubs since starting with Perugia in 1998. The Japanese international has been capped 66 times. Since moving to Italy he’s also played for AS Roma, Parma, and then Bologna.

With Jay Jay Okocha and Nakata in the same midfield Bolton are well reinforced. Nakata has traditionally been an attacking midfielder but has assumed a more defensive role internationally, so I’m curious to see where he’d play at Bolton.

I’m sure Nakata will give Bolton the extra push for a European place. Unless we see a sudden breakdown in talks, this looks like a done deal, and a good deal for Bolton. Sam Allardyce, Bolton manager, has pulled off another great swoop.


My FIFPro World XI Player Awards shortlist

FIFA released a shortlist of their nominees for the World XI Player Awards. I thought I’d choose my 11 from the list.

My shortened-shortlist is:

Goalkeeper: Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon which plays for Juventus nudges Chelsea keeper Petr Cech by a whisker because he’s slightly more polished.

Defenders: Brazilian Cafu from AC Milan and Argentine international Gabriel Heinze from Manchester United are my pairing right and left.

In central defense I’d want Rio Ferdinand from Manchester United and Jaap Stam from AC Milan.

Midfielders: My midfield would team up Brazilian wunderkind Kaka from AC Milan with England international Frank Lampard from Chelsea in midfield. Barcelona wide man Ronaldinho and Christiano Ronaldo from Manchester United would play the wings.

Forwards: Couldn’t be easier: Thierry Henry from Arsenal and Inter Milan’s devastating Adriano.

FIFPro World XI Player Awards shortlist

Before I start this, can you think of a more goof-ball name than ‘FIFAPro’? There is a marketing guy somewhere, sitting at a desk.

FIFA’s first ever such award includes a ceremony in September. Never one to ignore a list of big names, here is the shortlist that was released:

Gianluigi Buffon (Ita/ Juventus)Iker Casillas (Spa/ Real Madrid)
Petr Cech (Czech Rep/ Chelsea)Nelson Dida (Bra/ AC Milan)
Oliver Kahn (Ger/ Bayern Munich)
Alex (Bra/ PSV)Roberto Ayala (Arge/ Valencia)
Cafu (Bra/ AC Milan)Sol Campbell (Eng/ Arsenal)
Fabio Cannavaro (Ita/ Juventus)Roberto Carlos (Bra/ Real Madrid)
Ricardo Carvalho (Por/ Chelsea)Ashley Cole (Eng/ Arsenal)
Rio Ferdinand (Eng/ Man Utd)Gabriel Heinze (Arg/ Man Utd)
Lucio (Bra/ Bayern Munich)Paolo Maldini (Ita/ AC Milan)
Alessandro Nesta (Ita/ AC Milan)Carlos Puyol (Spa/ Barcelona)
Walter Samuel (Arg/ Inter Milan)Jaap Stam (Hol/ AC Milan)
John Terry (Eng/ Chelsea)Lilian Thuram (Fra/ Juventus)
Gianluca Zambrotta (Ita/ Juventus)Javier Zanetti (Arg/ Inter Milan)
Michael Ballack (Ger/ Bayern Munich)David Beckham (Eng/ Real Madrid)
Joe Cole (Eng/ Chelsea)Deco (Por/ Barcelona)
Luis Figo (Por/ Inter Milan)Gennaro Gattuso (Ita/ AC Milan)
Steven Gerrard (Eng/ Liverpool)Kaka (Bra/ AC Milan)
Frank Lampard (Eng/ Chelsea)Claude Makelele (Fra/ Chelsea)
Pavel Nedved (Czech Rep/ Juventus)Andrea Pirlo (Ita/ AC Milan)
Arjen Robben (Hol/ Chelsea)Ronaldinho (Bra/ Barcelona)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Por/ Man Utd)Paul Scholes (Eng/ Man Utd)
Mark van Bommel (Hol/ Barcelona)Patrick Vieira (Fra/ Juventus)
Xavi (Spa/ Barcelona)Zinedine Zidane (Fra/ Real Madrid)
Adriano (Bra/ Inter Milan)Hernan Crespo (Arg/ Chelsea)
Didier Drogba (Iv Coast/ Chelsea)Samuel Eto'o (Cam/ Barcelona)
Thierry Henry (Fra/ Arsenal)Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Swe/ Juventus)
Ronaldo (Bra/ Real Madrid)Wayne Rooney (Eng/ Man Utd)
Andriy Shevchenko (Ukr/ AC Milan)Ruud van Nistelrooy (Hol/ Man Utd)

How Xabi Alonso was left off and Walter Samuel made it on that list is beyond me.