Friday, February 25, 2005

Players moving this summer

Brazilian Adriano, should he wish, is the prize player which European clubs will be chasing. And the 70m Euro price tag has not stopped suitors from expressing interest. Real Madrid and Chelsea look to be the only clubs capable of making a serious bid, though.

Michael Ballack of Bayern Munich will likely leave the club. He has expressed interest in playing abroad and Bayern have stated their interest in reducing player salaries. Chelsea, Milan and Juventus have all been linked.

Michael Owen seems destined to come back to the Premiership. It doesn’t seem fair he plays behind Ronaldo though. In the match against Juventus, Ronaldo was slow and looks chubby, it’s a stature gap, not one of quality. That’s why I hope he leaves; otherwise he will stay Real’s third option.

Carlos Kameni, wunderkeeper from Spain's Espaynol, is also being closely watched by Manchester United. United also have an interest in Paul Robinson from Tottenham. Arsenal is also looking for a new goalkeeper too, goalkeepers are at a premium nowadays, and seeing some of the clangers this season, it’s clear why. Want your kid to be a professional footballer? Goalkeeper.

Aruna Dindane of Belgian side Anderlecht has declared he is off. Look for interest from many clubs in Europe. Dindane is one of a new breed of stars from the Ivory Coast and has played some great football.

Rio Mavuba of Bordeaux has been linked with the biggest club of all, Manchester United. And since Roy Keane is leaving next season, I would expect bids since Bordeaux has already been in the press claiming they wont sell,; Bordeaux always sells. They said the same thing about Pauleta. In my opinion, Mavuba is the best prospects in the world in that defensive stopper role. Mavuba has great positioning, it makes him look like he hardly moves, but somehow he keeps the outside of the 18 yard box swept clean.

Lastly, Lius Figo has hinted at leaving Madrid for England. Shame that Madrid are not extending him, just look at his decisive play from the top center of the diamond midfield against Juventus. He was a constant threat.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sporting Lisbon in UEFA Cup final 16

Sporting Lisbon produced two spectacular second half goals to send Feyenoord packing from the UEFA Cup.

Feyenoord deserved to go packing because of their fan’s behavior. Throwing fireworks at the opposing goalkeeper should have had the match called off.

The referee’s leniency was also evident on the pitch, producing only one yellow card in a match with numerous rash tackles.

Liedson, who leads the Portuguese league in scoring, was the first goalscorer beating the offside trap into space and chipping sweetly over the keeper. Contrasting that goal was the second goal by Fabio Rochemback from a free kick. He smashed the ball so hard from 20 meters that the goalkeeper couldn’t stop a shot which was almost right above his head.

Feyenoord grabbed a late consolation goal but the aggregate of 4-2 was way too much work to do in the ten minutes left.

Live: Dutch fans a sad display

The Netherlands, Rotterdam, Feyenoord versus Sporting Lisbon.

Twice in this match the Lisbon players were hit with objects.

The first was goalkeeper Ricardo who was almost hit with an exploding object and was injured. The second was a crowd of Lisbon players celebrating a goal. Sporting leads the game 1-0, I don’t know why the referee does not call it a game, at this moment the players have left the field for a cooling off period of 5 minutes.

It’s amazing the referee does not end the game. Sporting deserve to leave with the victory as the Dutch fans deserve the red card.

Barcelona: top of the heap

Of all the Champions League performances over the last two days, Barcelona, to my mind was best in show.

I have not seen a team yet handle Chelsea as Barcelona did. Chelsea was buoyed by their lucky goal and had a good spell in the second part of the first half, but otherwise the game was Barca’s to win.

The sending off of Ivory Coast international Didier Drogba was a mistake, and referee Anders Frisk, as usual was a much bigger part of the game than he should have been in general. Regardless of this setback, Barcelona would likely have won the game anyway. Down to ten men, Chelsea had their backs to the wall right at the end of the game, only the superb Peter Cech, by saving about 11 shots on goal, saved a deeper scoreline than 2-1.

As for Barca, they were swathed in individual skill, and a world player of the year to boot; this is a team of known star quality, mind one new face. Maxi Lopez, a recent purchase from River Plate in Argentina, completely changed the game, scoring the tying goal and delivering the second. It’s too hard to tell how much of his play was his or from tired Chelsea players, two of them even having cramps. Chelsea, it must be said, worked very hard. Maxi Lopez, however physically talented he might be, certainly he looks like a quick thinker with the sense for when to pounce.

Mindful that the second leg is in England, Barcelona still has a wall to climb and I think Chelsea will be better in the second game. All things considered the outcome is nowhere close to decided.

Barca looked top, Real Madrid were a close second. Looks like the Spanish came to play.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Real Madrid - Juventus Champions League commentary

Real Madrid were sublime in the first half. For the first ten minutes the team was shaky as they felt Juventus out, Michel Salgado was injured in the third minute and hobbled, Juventus probed the goal. Raul Bravo replaced Salgado and Madrid began to attack the game. Pavel Nedved also suffered a first half head injury and was stretchered off the field. Especially devastating at the back point of the diamond was Thomas Gravesen who broke up numerous attacks and fed the ball beautifully into counterattacking opportunities for the whole 90 minutes.

Eventually Madrid established its dominance with a header from the corner taken by defender Ivan Helguera. It was all they needed.

Juventus, without Nedved looked without options. The midfield had less reach and more and more pressure was soaked up as Real Madrid pushed further and further forward. Helped by some vintage passing Madrid pinned Juventus until it was backs against the wall from the 35th minute onwards.

The second half had less quality than the first. Madrid were quickly on top again and threatening but it soon came to an end as Juventus fell into fouling to the tune of six yellow cards, and let me say, the referee was lenient. Manuele Blasi was thankfully substituted after his card and the game flowed better without an enforcer on the pitch.

Real Madrid deservedly held onto the win, a slim 1-0 margin to take to Turin, Italy for the second leg. Real merited another goal, going there again without the deserved 2-0 could prove costly.

As for Juventus, the masters of protecting a 1-0 lead, they were given a taste of their own medicine as Real Madrid showed the resolve needed to grind out a result in the second half.

Fan behavior getting spooky

Is there some social undercurrent I’m not aware of? Otherwise, why have Spanish fans gotten more racist because I don’t recall Spanish fans making engaging in racism in the past. This past weekend Malaga was the site of racist abuse when keeper Carlos Kameni of Espanynol suffered monkey chants.

Particularly shocking in Spain is the type of chants are the same stadium to stadium, the “oooh ooo” sound to imitate an ape. Does a large swath across Spain find this particularly funny so that city to city one group takes over for the other, match to match, like the “crowd wave” spread in America? It is starting to happen all over the country and the Spanish FA and media don’t seem too interested. I think one club was fined a piddle of 700 Euros for monkey chants. At that rate, slavery will make a comeback.

Another interesting thing I am noticing all over Europe is people unable to respect moments of silence in the audience anymore. I point to the recent Tsunami benefit match and also the start of the men’s 200 meters at the Olympics this past summer in Greece. More scary, also in Greece, is the example of misbehavior at a football match where the stands of that shiny new Olympic stadium were partially destroyed after crowd trouble erupted.

To sum up the inane nature of this subject matter, there was an incident over the weekend when a Burnley supporter in England charged the field and menaced the Blackburn players. What was so amazingly dumb about this was that his team, Burnley, was playing their best football of the FA Cup match. Go figure.

Champions League doozies

We have a host of potentially epic clashes this week in the Champions League.

Tonight, what looks like the highlight is Real Madrid taking on Juventus. Close second is Arsenal and Bayern Munich. The treat of the week though? No question it is Chelsea against Barcelona. Although Chelsea is without a few key players, the match still has many undertones flowing thru it.

Jose Mourinho used to coach at Barcelona under Louis van Gaal, spending a series of formative years developing his bedside manner which the players claim to be excellent. Another undertone is Deco playing for Barcelona, a former player of Jose Mourinho’s; they had a love hate relationship.

I think Chelsea is going to have a lot of problems containing Barcelona. Barca come into the match in supreme form and mostly healthy. Barcelona has the greatest chance of taking a lead into the second and if I were Chelsea, I would expect a draw to be welcome.

As for Real Madrid, Bayern, Juventus and Arsenal I sense Real will win and Arsenal-Bayern will end a draw.

Monday, February 21, 2005

FA Cup replays add unnecessary matches

I think it’s time to drop FA Cup replays. They add unnecessary matches to the calendar and cause Premier League teams to go into other competitions like the Champions League tired. If you notice, UK clubs don’t have such a great record in Europe yet with the football of the highest quality. What causes this to happen, I don’t really know which league plays the most matches, but I suspect its England. If not, its high on the list and that has an impact come World Cup and European Cup time.

In some respects it’s a good thing because many players get matches that they wouldn’t normally get, the problem is that the coaches usually strengthen the side for the re-match.

Football can be too much of a good thing sometimes, and when you over-run the players you don’t see as good a match. I think this is also why many traditional powers have dropped out of the last two World Cup tournaments.

Mourinho’s mistake

No, I’m not commenting on the three substitutions that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made a halftime yesterday against Newcastle, although it was a mistake in my opinion. Mourinho’s mistake I want to mention took place a couple of weeks ago when he suggested on camera that the Premiership was theirs.

Since that comment, Chelsea has been playing as if the Premiership was in the bag, which in part led to a loss yesterday against Newcastle in the FA Cup. Losing Arjen Robben (or anyone else)is not the overriding factor here, Chelsea were on fire before he joined after missing a good part of the season thru injury. What seems to be happening is that as a team they are coasting.

While its possible Chelsea is simply in a lull, I think it’s in large part to the manager initiating the lethargy by hinting at a trophy.

Losing Wayne Bridge and Damien Duff yesterday means there is a lot of season yet to play for Chelsea.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tomas Rosicky likely sold to pay the bills at Dortmund

The Bundesliga's only club which is publicly-listed on the stock exchange is going to have to sell assets. Borussia Dortmund can’t pay the bills. That’s to the tune of 68 million or so Euros. It’s obviously going to take more than selling players to fix it, but unsettled 24-year-old Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky has an opportunity to change leagues. He's a great player and will be snapped right up.

So Germany now has its own Leeds United. Cash problems are club killers, haven’t directors realized this? It’s a similar pattern: good club, long history, some good players, risky business, cash problems, suddenly everything starts to fall apart and shows up in the teams form.

Want a clearer example? This week Servette (115 years in Swiss top division) closed the doors. The club ran up debts after buying 21 players in the summer. Nice move.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


I wrote recently about Marek Mintal who, first year in the Bundesliga, is leading the scoring table. Coincidentally, in Portugal, Brazilian striker Liedson is doing the same. With 18 goals so far this season he is 5 clear of the closest chasing goalscorer. Liedson has scored those 18 goals in 20 games, and at 27 came over from Flamengo this summer; very late to make an impression.

Last night I watched him play for the second time and he looked super sharp. On one occasion faking dribbles in the 6 yard box on a moving ball by two defenders and the goalkeeper until a lucky defender caught a deflection; it was so close to a priceless goal. It reminded me of a goal Nwankwo Kanu scored for Arsenal years back where he faked the ball into the net without touching it, bamboozling everyone in his wake. Had it been a goal I would have hit the floor laughing, never underestimate how amusing a defenses reactions to goals can be.

Liedson is a polished 27 year old striker in his prime goalscoring years. I wonder if his age will be a detriment to bigger clubs paying him notice.


2004 20 top earning European clubs

1 (1) Man Utd £171.5m
2 (4) Real Madrid £156.3m
3 (3) AC Milan £147.2m
4 (10) Chelsea £143.7m
5 (2) Juventus £142.4m
6 (7) Arsenal £115m
7 (13) Barcelona £110.1m
8 (6) Inter Milan £110.3m
9 (5) Bayern Munich £110.1m
10 (8) Liverpool £92.3m
11 (10) Newcastle £90.5m
12 (11) Roma £72m
13 (18) Celtic £69m
14 (16) Tottenham £66.3m
15 (15) Lazio £65.8m
16 (-) Man City £61.9m
17 (14) Schalke £60.5m
18 (-) Marseille £58.3m
19 (-) Rangers £57.1m
20 (-) Aston Villa £55.9m

Source: BBC


Chelsea hops from tenth place up to fourth. Both Spanish giants Real and Barca jump up.

There is only Bayern Munich and Schalke from Germany and they both lost ground, only Bayern is in the top 10 and clinging at that.

England own eight of the top twenty (almost half the Premiership), Italy have five, Spain, Scotland and Germany have two each and France has one team on the list.

European champions Porto do not even appear on the list, further testament to their achievement. Celtic are generating good revenue in their market.

See the source data with plenty of financial facts in this BBC article.

Hugo Viana in impressive form, Newcastle

Newcastle are poised to bring back year long loan out Hugo Viana. Former Benfica coach Graeme Souness has been monitoring his progress, which has been considerable indeed as he has retuned for this season to his previous club, Sporting Lisbon on loan. His form more than merits a return and Sporting are bobbing at the top of the table.

Last night against Feyenoord in the UEFA Cup he was man of the match, alongside Brazilian striker Liedson. Viana was ever present in midfield and looked very confident in his distribution, shot and freedom. He really flourishes when is given the open role behind strikers, something that for whatever reason didn’t happen under Robson.

He was demanding at Newcastle, hints of Bellamy there, and that needs sorting out, but the other thing he needs to do is sort out his number. 45 is the number of an NFL running back, or a backup center in the NBA. He needs a footballer’s number because he looks like some kid called up from the youth side with that number.

I am sick of players faking injuries

Longer than usual, this article, but the tipping point has been reached.

When I was a kid playing sports it was unheard of to fake injury. What happened to that?

There was a certain shame in it, and even as kids, in general not known for their morality, we knew better than to act hurt. Now, up the age to today’s pros and the faking injury flourishes, and I wonder what happened to the morality about it.

A lot is at stake in today’s top championships, the root of the problem, and the stakes sometimes cloud the right and wrong of it and it gets overlooked as we watch incidents of this football side-show grow. So what are the self interested reasons faking happens?

  • A breather – If you are winded and losing step, what better way than to sprawl on the ground and then rest for a minute? That player should work on his fitness to say the least. Notice there are more miraculous recoveries closer to the end of games.
  • Time wasting – ah, the spoils of protecting a 1-0 lead are many indeed. See the Italian league/national side for the portfolio on ways to do this.
  • Draw red and yellow cards on opponents – Watch any nature program on chimpanzees and you can see the evolutionarily principle in practice. Play acting to gain the favor of the dominant male chimp is a great way to avoid getting beaten up; if you have ever seen a chimpanzee fight you will understand why, as they usually don’t survive the beating.
  • Draw attention away from your own foul – Opossums are famous for "playing dead" when threatened, there is a saying “playing possum” in the American south which means “hide the truth”. “Playing possum” is becoming “playing soccer” much like “hockey” and “boxing” are indistinguishable at times.
  • Creating a virtual time out – notice how everyone circles around and gets a drink during treatment? Or imagine an office kitchen and it looks just like a coffee break sometimes, you are paid to play 90 minutes. We work 8 hours. You don’t need coffee breaks. It’s just like the faking player is at a bar and buys the team a round of drinks, hey it’s good PR within the team! Oh, and when you look at it, the other team is getting a round of drinks also, so they don’t mind.

There are a lot of reasons in that list to gain an advantage for your side thru faking. So: morality doesn’t work anymore, you can’t ever tell when it’s a real injury, and you can only really punish the fakes where there isn’t contact. Not a lot of room to play there.

Well, one thing that can be done is to say “its time hitting the deck when you are not touched is a direct red card”. That’s clear and simple. Players will stop flopping everywhere on the field. Importantly, as by-product players will also be less likely to fall hands flailing at the slightest touch. That is good for the game. It seems everyone is made of a helium balloons these days instead of muscle.

Coaches are also responsible for educating the players, some still very young and impressionable, on the morality needed to play and win the right way.

Another step that can easily be taken is for us, the fans, to actively criticize our own players and let them know we prefer to pay for 90 minutes and watch free flowing football. You are older now boys, no need for cloak and dagger, bathroom breaks, brownie points, or to get your opponent kicked out of a match. It’s more satisfying to watch when it’s fair and leave knowing your team won that way.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Feyenoord gem in Romeo Castelen

What Shaun Wright-Phillips is to Manchester City, so is newly capped Dutch international Romeo Castelen to 2002 EUFA Cup winners Feyenoord. Surinamese born Castelen joined Feyenoord this summer after three years at ADO Den Haag on a free transfer.

At 21 Castelen is showing the promise that got him that contract, his skills are great to watch. He’s speedy, works within the team, has spectacular darting ability and draws constant defensive attention. He was great in a recent 7-0 thrashing of Willem II of Tilburg by setting up goals and general havoc.

Bryan Robson sounds the horn

West Bromwich Albion coach Bryan Robson is putting a lock on the gate:

Zoltan Gera will be going nowhere - no matter what division we're in next season"

"What I want is to add more Geras to the squad. Not let them go. Nobody will leave unless I say so. Nobody has any escape clause in their contract." -Robson
Reading the comments from the BBC I couldn’t help but think of how he was signaling relegation to his team, I wondered why he said this publicly.

The conclusion I've reached is that it’s a motivational tactic: everyone goes down with the ship. I don’t think anxiety is a good motivational tool. Oh, and it’s the captain that goes down, not the sailors.

German football federation orders match replay

Criminal action in a major match-fixing scandal that saw betting on German second division football games has resulted in a match replay.

The German football federation has annulled the result of a second-division game between Ahlen and Wacker Burghausen after match referee Robert Hoyzer admitted that he rigged the game to allow other place successful bets.

Second division Ahlen beat Wacker Burghausen 1-0 on October 22, 2004, a replay date has not been set.

Ahlen won the match 1-0 thru a handball penalty.

I would expect that if they're going this far back then there are more matches to be replayed.

Rafael Benitez rocks Liverpool boat

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has publicly shaken up a team which needs shaking.

Comments today make Benitez’s frustrations clear that he doesn’t feel he is getting the effort he needs from his team, and he is not. The latest game against Birmingham was a performance that should have seen the players return their salaries for that week.

I’d been thinking for a long time that the reason for Liverpool’s inconsistent play has been the non stop injuries pecking at the side. While that surely exists there seems to be a bit of a work ethic problem as well. This problem is not down to a single player, string of bad buys, a past coach or a current one, the problem is the mentality that’s set in from years of mediocrity and the team does just enough to stay at that level and no more. Thus you get two good games and then take one off.

"I don't want to spend time here without trophies. It's not enough for me to see my side play well in one or two games. I want consistency and that means everyone working harder. I told the players this week that when I decided to join this club I took it on as a challenge. I have not come to Liverpool to earn money.”-Benitez

And Benitez correctly noted:

"It shouldn't be like this. If you want to win trophies and play for a big club, you have to play important games all the time. Whether it's for the national team or Champions League, you have to reach a level and stay at it.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wenger sets controversial record

Arsene Wenger has fielded, for the first time the history of the Premiership, a squad without a single English player. In 1999 Chelsea fielded the first non-English starting eleven, but the squad last night had all sixteen players of a foreign birth.

In reality, Wenger didn’t really have a lot of choice. His English players are injured. I wonder why the media is on about it.

Arsenal dismantle Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace coach Ian Dowie is ruing the clubs decision not to invest in their Premiership survival by acquiring players in the recent transfer window.

Last night Arsenal was dominant for 90 minutes. The game ended 5-1 but it could have easily been 8-1; 8-0 had Patrick Viera not stuck a leg out in the box.

During the game, Robert Pires hit the post, Thierry Henry had 2 shots whiz past the post and so did Jose Reyes.

Reyes got his first goal in 13 matches, bitten by the tasteless joked played on him during the week, he looked great in response. His running was decisive, quick and he looked in step with the team.

Henry, who I thought should have won world player of the year, was amazing. There was nobody Crystal Palace could throw at him to keep step. Arsenal is also gifted to have Dennis Bergkamp, who at 35 looks ageless.

As for Palace, what can you say? This was a game that demonstrated the stature gap which is by all the looks of it, wide as ever.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blackburn Rovers: the impressive Morten Gamst Pedersen

23 year old Morten Gamst Pedersen was named player of the month in January for his English club Blackburn Rovers. Building on last months form, his display this weekend against Norwich City was spectacular.

He is a promising Norwegian international who came into Blackburn this season from Norwegian club Tromso. Pedersen is two footed and versatile; he has a strong shot and demanded constant defensive attention from Norwich City.

Against Norwich he scored a goal and set another one up, showing a lot of potential throughout. Manager Mark Hughes has also been impressed with his progress and we should expect Pedersen to become a regular.

Marek Mintal

Marek Mintal leads the German Bundesliga in scoring so far this season with 15 goals.

Mintal plays for FC Nurnberg which he joined from Slovakian club MSK Zilina in 2003, helping Nurnberg join the top flight this season via a championship win last term. Internationally, for Slovakia, he has 20 caps.

The surprising thing about being top scorer so far this season is that Marek Mintal is a midfielder.

He is scoring goals ahead of people like Roy Makkay, Claudio Pizzaro, Miroslav Klose and Jan Koller, all highly paid international strikers.

At 27 Marek Mintal has emerged late. Regardless, this is a crafty player which sneaks in goals from seemingly harmless situations. A lot of attention is paid to young players emerging, here is one doing it later in his career.


Dutch first division breaks from tradition

The Eredivisie, as it’s called in The Netherlands, is the Dutch first league. Next season it will begin a new chapter as it gets set to decide the championship using a playoff.

The playoff will not only crown a league champion, but will also decide who plays in European competitions and even who is relegated.

The details are more complicated than a sweepstakes entry so I wont bother, but what I find odd about this idea is that the same number of ‘regular season’ games are played leading up to it and this new system is slated to be part of a pay-tv scheme.

While its novel that clubs which would normally be relegated have a chance to survive, loading up the schedule and going pay per view might just undo the whole thing thru greed and tired players.

Bolton’s 6th to bolt into 6th not to be

Bolton Wanders had a chance to make it an impressive 6th league win in a row and also surpass Middlesboro in the table into 6th but it was not to be. Middlesboro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was impressive in goal to deny Bolton a game which was theirs to win. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Bolton Wanderers playmaker Jay Jay Okocha returned from injury. In form El-Hadj Diouf was on the substitute’s bench. Okocha looked right up to speed and played well for 90 minutes adding many dimensions to Bolton's play.

Diouf entered as a substitute as Bolton tried late to grab the points. They looked more potent with both players on the pitch but were likely not started together because of Diouf’s recent international.

Also of note was Ricardo Gardner who was a deserved man of the match. He passed extremely well into the other half all day.

Bolton look set for a place in European competitions next year. A taste of Okocha and Diouf together looked promising.


Christiano Rolando draws endorsement contract

In addition to being very close to terms on a new Manchester United contract, Christiano Ronaldo has already signed with London jean company Pepe for an ad campaign beginning in March of this year.

Pepe sign on a player which is quickly becoming a globally recognized youth icon.

But let’s hope that Christiano keeps the focus on football because we've seen the impact of commercial success on other players which have worn the number 7.

I’ve enjoyed Ronaldo’s evolution as a player immensely, I’d seen him play for Sporting Lisbon a few time before the pre season friendly against Manchester United that sparked his transfer. If you recall the players approached Alex Ferguson after the game floored by his abilities.

Slowly, Ronaldo is showing signs of what is coming. Tricks and flicks aside, the kid is bursting at the seams with ability and as he gains more and more control over his talent, I expect we will see a world player of the year eventually.

David Moyes needing reality check after checking video

James Beattie was red carded yesterday in a match against Chelsea for a head butt.

I thought Everton manager David Moyes comments after the loss were lunar. James Beattie clearly head butted William Gallas from behind, not once, but twice.

Beattie’s comments on their own put him in contention for lie of the year, but to have the manager defend the behavior by claiming it didn’t deserve a red? That’s one head butt too far.

"I don't think it was a sending-off, I've been a centre-half in my time and I would have been ashamed to have gone down as easily as that.”-Moyes
Doesn’t David Moyes realize that a head butt, even a feint (as Aston Villa’s Lee Hendrie was recently red carded for), is a strait red? So let's not waste time deflecting the conversation into Gallas’s reaction then.

In the video you can see Beattie chasing Gallas down extending his head with the intention to make contact. Beattie said it was “accidental contact” and Moyes, even after seeing the video again said:

"I have seen the video. I have never heard of anybody butting somebody from behind while you are running after them.”

“I will certainly not be punishing James Beattie”

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Coaching, and other ways to do laundry

Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen, Jamie Redknapp and Graham Le Saux were uber negative about the coaching tactics of Sven-Goran Eriksson in the recent draw against England:

"I defy anybody to learn anything from that match. It was very bad, a night to forget for England and the use of substitutes was scary, Andrew Johnson was hung out to dry.”- Hansen

There is a nice article over at Soccer-Europe about the BBC pundits (full quotes).

Eto'o wins African Footballer of the Year

Samuel Eto'o was a Cameroonian football phenom when at 17yrs 3mos he became the youngest player ever to appear in the World Cup finals (France '98). He’s now a worthy winner, two years running, of the African Footballer of the Year award.

Eto’o is a member of in form FC Barcelona and will be facing Chelsea in the Champions League this month.

At the age of 23 Samuel Eto’o has made quite a name for himself in Europe as a striker scoring blistering goals and demonstrating an amazingly direct touch with pace. He reminds me a lot of George Weah with his mix of balance, pace and strength.

Liverpool drop 6 points to Birmingham

Walter Pandiani scored his second goal in three games and Jermaine Pennant looked interested in playing himself into a contract as Birmingham have now beaten Liverpool twice this season.

Liverpool didn’t look a threat and had a chance going in to get within two points of Everton, which lost, for the final Champions League spot.

Why Rafael Benitez decided to play Igor Biscan and Dietmar Hamann together is beyond me: the center of the park looked inept going forward which attracted Birmingham pressure and leaked goals.

This game was also another example of Steven Gerrard needing to shoulder too much attacking responsibility for the team. One player cannot initiate everything, how they miss Xabi Alonso.

Birmingham had a similar dimension in Pennant that Southampton showed last week with the addition of Henri Camara. Julian Gray, scorer of the second goal, also looked promising.

Zoltan Gera

One bright spot in the fledgling English Premiership survival campaign of West Bromwich Albion this season has been Hungarian international captain Zoltan Gera.

Big, aggressive and creative with the ball, Gera has helped Albion a great deal. Good players on struggling teams often don’t get attention, so Gera came to mind as Tottenham have knocked them out of an FA Cup replay match today.

Zoltan Gera came to West Bromwich Albion via Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros where he'd won a league cup before leaving for the UK.

They paid over two million Euros. quite a lot, but he was being sought by a number of teams in different countries, and all said, is looking a solid investment.

His play has been enthusiastic and at age 25 he has his prime years approaching and he seems eager to prove himself in England as a playmaker. Internationally, with over 30 caps, he plays on a team with heritage as 1938 and 1954 World Cup finalists, 1962 and 1966 quarterfinalists. Since then Hungary has disappeared off the map.

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Friday, February 11, 2005

Done deal: Robinho moving to Madrid in the summer

Negotiations are finished between Real Madrid and Santos of Brazil to move striker Robinho to the Bernabeu in the summer.

Real director of football and former Italian national coach Arrigo Sacchi has confirmed the deal is finished according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

— Robinho l’avete già preso?
«Sì, è nostro». -Sacchi
(yes, he's ours)

Madrid coach Wanderlei Luxemburgo is a former Santos coach.

The twist here is this: there are now 3 non-EU players on the books at Madrid, which one must make way (bottom)?

Roy Keane set to retire

In 18 months Manchester United will be without one of their most important players of the last decade. Captain Roy Keane has commented that he plans to retire from football when his contract ends in 18 months.

"I'm enjoying my football, but when I signed my contract I believed it would be my last playing contract and I still believe that to be the case." -Keane

Now 33 and creeping up to 35 at contract’s end, it’s a good possibility, at least to give up the place at Manchester United. Retire? I don’t know, maybe a smaller league because he’s a very competitive guy, interesting to see what happens; and also see who they may target for a transfer since Djemba-Djemba is now at Aston Villa.

Gerrard: delivering the ball

Have you noticed how amazing Steven Gerrard’s passing range is?

Against Holland the other night he made a low pass across the field in the opposite third that beat the back four and about two other players. The only caveat is that Shaun Wright-Philips couldn’t get on the end of it. Even though it didn’t connect, it reminded me of how many other times he has made such decisive passes from all over the field that worked.

Gerrard has a particularly devastating low ball, often connecting perfectly from 50 meters. He often uses the low pass with pace in a switch of play. That fast switch tends to open defenses and leads to chances on the other end as Wright-Philips almost found out.

The only other players at the moment which can match his passing ability are Frank Lampard at Chelsea, David Beckham at Real Madrid and Barcelona’s Ronaldinho. Paul Scholes, Kaka, Nedved and a few others come close too.

It’s not a joke unless everyone can laugh at the end

A radio station in Spain made contact with Arsenal’s Spanish international footballer Jose Antonio Reyes.

The DJ pretended to be Real Madrid’s sporting director and inquired about Reyes state at Arsenal.

Unfortunately Reyes admitted some uncomfortable things; things that may or may not be public within the team. We don’t know. Whatever happens, arriving at training today Reyes must have wondered what was waiting for him.

A player has a right to have their career decisions be private, like we do when we send out our CV’s and resumes. What would you say if it became public within your company you were looking for a new job and it was a ‘joke’?

At any point in this prank, the DJ had the chance to stop himself, he didn’t. Jose Reyes may not be comfortable in London, so what? Have you ever been uncomfortable living somewhere? There was no need to embarrass him over it.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fan uprising in the winds

A good article in TeamTalk comments on the emergence of a grass roots effort from Manchester United fans:

"Manchester United fans have warned Malcolm Glazer they will take their battle against his takeover bid to Parliament and beyond."

Adriano at Chelsea just got more likely

Gilmar Rinaldi, agent of Brazilian international Adriano says that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich phoned Inter Milan chief Massimo Moratti and discussed the potential of signing the player.

Adriano, a forward, has been in smashing form this season, there have been many other signs of interest from all over Europe but only the money bag elite can play in this hand of poker. Inter have valued the striker at 2,531,382,945 rubles, $90m dollars, and 70m euros.

Why did Eriksson play Andy Johnson out of position?

"I know he’s better in the centre, but we decided to stick with the system we started with”- Eriksson
Andy Johnson plays in England for Crystal Palace and earned his first cap last night in a friendly against Holland.

Why England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson played Johnson out of position doesn’t make sense to me.

My logic on this is that Johnson plays alone up front all the time at Crystal Palace and would have felt very comfortable in that spot. Instead the coach chose to experiment by having Johnson deliver crosses instead of receive them. To go for the win, a fresh, in form striker in position would have been the right thing to do.

Sven-Goran Eriksson didn’t go for the win. Yes, a friendly is a friendly, but why bother watching if you see the coach’s experiments sacrifice the teams chances?

Denny Landzaat

AZ Alkmaar probably doesn’t ring a bell, but last night when Holland and England played in a friendly Denny Landzaat, who plays for Alkmaar or “AaaZed” as the Dutch call it, gave an impeccable display in central midfield.

In the Dutch league 3 teams dominate. They are Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord of Rotterdam, and PSV of Eindhoven. AZ sit 2 points behind leaders Ajax and Denny Landzaat’s passing and defensive skills on display last night against England gives a good indication why “AaaZed” are poised to grab the league.

Praise also for inexperienced Dutch coach Marco Van Basten, he's done a good job so far.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Michael Ballack: Chelsea future?

"My contract expires in a year and a half so we will see what happens. Moving abroad does appeal to me as I can discover something new." -Ballack
Bayern Munich can’t keep midfielder Michael Ballack if Chelsea bids because they have too much money. There is suspicion of a link.

The German captain is an excellent player, his tactics at times not withstanding, he is a commanding midfielder with strength, intelligence and a high workrate.

Ballack is out of contract at the end of next season so he has a strong negotiating position. I’d expect a move because he seems keen on it. He has something to prove, and I think he’ll play well anywhere he goes.

Goal line cameras will improve the game

Goal line cameras have tremendous potential, but only if they are incorporated in a way that doesn’t stop the game.

Here is my suggestion:

In America’s NFL there is a booth in the stands where questionable calls are reviewed.

It’s possible to put such a referee in a booth with a set of 3 or so screens with different angles of the goal line.

Similar to how the referee looks to the linesman for offside before he awards the goal, he can communicate with a booth quickly, maybe by putting on an earpiece to get confirmation of the ball crossing the line.

In this way we don't slow the game, a goal is really a goal, and to assure this, it could get reviewed after the match for accuracy.

Real Madrid made an official offer, so who is Robinho?

Real Madrid were set to buy him, then it was off, then on, and now its confirmed by the player that there is an offer on the table to move this summer. His club Santos is ‘reviewing the offer’, whatever that means.

Who is he and why does Real, not known for thrift, want him?

  • For starters, he scored his first goal for the national side today in a friendly against Hong Kong.
  • He didn’t move in the transfer window because Madrid has three EU players, the maximum, and is said to be in talks with Inter Milan over Roberto Carlos, hint hint.
  • He’s anxious to go since his mother was kidnapped and released a month later.
  • He dribbles the ball brilliantly.
  • Pele told Robinho he reminded him of himself as a young man. They are friends.
  • He’s another Brazilian player whose name starts with R and ends with O.
  • What buying Robinho does to the link with Adriano is uncertain, but if this deal goes thru and there is further interest in Adriano, there is only Ronaldo and Walter Samuel left. I don’t see Real Madrid selling two defenders to buy two strikers.
  • Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    Gabriel Heinze

    Sir Alex Ferguson's purchase of left-back Gabriel Heinze is proving a great move indeed. Manchester United signed him away from Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season he has stepped right into the left side of defense and was right on the pace.

    At 26, the Patagonian born defender has moved up from club to club: Real Valladolid and Sporting Lisbon, PSG and now in England.

    Heinze adapted immediately to the pace of English football. He’s especially good at attacking from the flanks and doesn’t seem too bothered by level of talent either; I’ve only seen him skinned a few times so far and he regularly takes the ball away from quick players. Added to that he has good feet and crosses well, the only improvement needed is a tendency to take risks with the ball in his own half. That’s coach-able.

    Manchester United seems to have found a long term solution to their left back position. Gabriel Heinze is a energetic, smart and talented player and deserves a spot in the Argentinian side for the 2006 W Cup.

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    Monday, February 07, 2005

    Kameni cools on Manchester United interest

    Speculation circled around Manchester United and Cameroon international keeper Idriss Carlos Kameni during the transfer window. Nothing emerged so Kameni, for now, is staying put at Spanish club Espaynol.

    "I am very flattered to hear that a huge club like Manchester United are interested in me, but I am still young and have to work very hard so that in the future maybe one day I can go and play for another big club."-Sky Sports

    I wonder if the departure of fellow Cameroonian international Eric Djemba-Djemba to Aston Villa has changed his views at all.

    Best defender in the world today? Jaap Stam

    Yes, this is subjective, but, eh.

    Wednesday night England and Holland play. When I thought about it Jaap Stam came to mind as I recalled an international, of which the details are sketchy.

    It was a few years ago, an international, I’m sure because he was wearing orange. It was dreary game, and after about 50 minutes Jaap Stam began to get visibly annoyed with his team who were unable to breakdown a European minnow (I remember that too). So Stam took the game over from central defense with precise long passes centrally and out wide, and on a few occasions dribbling the ball thru the midfield himself right into the strikers. As he continued to attack the opponent slowly began to sink back deeper and deeper in defense to the point which Dutch pressure eventually popped thru an ugly goal around the 75th minute or so.

    Stam had nothing to do with the goal but that game would have ended a boring 0-0 draw without him. His compelling play rewarded my own patience to sit thru 50 minutes of dull football.

    They say the measure of a great player is the ability to take over and change a game. I don’t know many other defenders who can do that.

    Davids wallowing at Inter

    Holland international Edgar Davids spent six months on loan at Barcelona last season while at Juventus, this summer his contract expired and he moved to Inter Milan and has played in just 13 League games so far. These events come on the heels of a career where he was ever in demand since his early 90's debut at Ajax Amsterdam.

    Holland coach Marco Van Basten has omitted Davids from this Wednesday’s friendly against England for lack of fitness. He played at Parma on Sunday but was substituted on 60 minutes.

    As he might fall out of favor at Inter, this is a player whose skill set is desperately needed by a host of clubs. Wouldn’t Edgar Davids fit in great at Everton?

    Andy Johnson gets his cap

    England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has awarded Crystal Palace's Andy Johnson his first international cap in a friendly against Holland.

    Although Johnson deserves this call up on merit, having Alan Smith and Darius Vassell injured made the decision easier.

    I made the call for his inclusion recently. Its nice to see that Eriksson is willing to include players from smaller clubs, this is good motivation for up and coming players.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    Southampton revived in Premiership survival

    Southampton looked much improved today against a feisty Everton side that needed a last second goal by substitute Marcus Bent to come away with a point.

    An entertaining match throughout, both teams played attacking football and the scoring came early as former Southampton player James Beattie netted in the 4th minute followed by Peter Crouch in the 36th and Southampton newcomer Henri Camara in the second half.

    Southampton has a number of new signings on display and was it not for a last minute lapse, deserved the 3 points. Camara in particular was tricky and created all sorts of defensive problems. There was a lot of potential although he held the ball much too long, at times not aware of players available in acres of space.

    As a team, Southampton was much stronger today. There was better organization and veteran Oliver Bernard, who played very well, fit right in.

    This result was a definite setback for both teams as Southampton must dig even deeper to avoid relegation and Everton have given 2 points to heel snappers Liverpool.

    23 minute Jean Carlos Chera highlight video

    The England National Football Team blog has been kind enough to uncover a 23 minute version of 9 year old Brazilian soccer phenom Jean Carlos Chera.

    The video is an extended version of the original 5 minute version which has been circulating the internet.

    The highlight for me, if I counted correctly, was in one sequence against a team wearing light blue where he scored 7 goals in a half.

    This blog has written about this story as has Blogsoccerblog.

    Saturday, February 05, 2005

    Zinedine Zidane announces retirement date

    Real Madrid galactico Zinedine Zidane has been quoted in World Soccer as saying:
    "At the latest I will end my career in 2007.

    Stopping before then is not on my agenda, but who knows? I won't go further than 2007 but I would like to go all the way.”
    Zidane, 32 has already retired from the French national side.

    There are few arguments against Zidane being the best player of the 90’s.

    Fans paid for 90 minutes but got 45 instead

    Arsenal’s game against Aston Villa today had the potential to be a great 90 minutes but was a letdown as the Gunners emerged listless after the break.

    Aston Villa’s own problems were clearly on display which didn’t make the match any easier to watch in the second half.

    Arsenal, in the first 45 minutes were priceless. All three goals were taken with class and it could have realistically been 5-0 at the break, they were that dominant.

    On another note, Arsenal may have discovered a potential solution to some of their defensive woes and it came in the form of Philippe Senderos, who at 19 showed great composure in central defense. He looked willing to work and had precise timing in the tackle, understandable since he’s Swiss. Also of note, Cesc Fabregas came on late and was played out wide where he has not played before for Arsenal. Interesting to see if that happens again.

    Liverpool improving, win again

    Liverpool, who I’ve written about recently, won again today at Anfield against Fulham.

    The game ended 3-1 with well taken goals and a few moments of timely defense. Not all was great for Liverpool as there were a number of defensive lapses but on the whole Sami Hyypia’s goal summarized the resilient defensive performance, responding to the critics in style.

    Fulham were plagued by bad passing and a lack of attention to the forwards. Andy Cole was indifferent at times while Luis Boa Morte was ever industrious and would have had a late chip in were it not for an excellent tackle by Djimi Traore. It was not to happen and Fulham on the whole probably didn’t deserve any points.

    Liverpool, regardless of their faults, is gaining form. We’ll see if my Champions League prediction will keep pace as Everton have yet to play.

    Under pressure, Rafael Benitez was much more active on the touchline today which is a good response also. He has stood back a bit too much this season and made a good substitution in bringing in Dietmar Hamann in place of Igor Biscan, as the team settled immediately and put in a goal.

    Friday, February 04, 2005

    Blackburn wet the bed

    Blackburn soaked the pitch to slow the play before the match. This was reported by a member of Chelsea’s equipment staff.

    Blogsoccerblog provides a funny Jose Mourinho quote about it.

    Luis Figo in England next season?

    Gone are the days of quick bursts opening space, replaced with a wily sense for when to play off weight on the opponent’s feet. 2000 European and 2001 world player of the year Luis Figo says they he would relish a chance to play in the Premiership.

    Having retired from the national side after the 2004 European Cup, Figo now looks more rested, quicker and more interested in scoring.

    It’s unfortunate for Figo, since his Real Madrid teammates want a new contract and his form has been exceptional.

    Spain’s loss is England’s gain, and I think that many teams will be enquiring.

    Where would I see Figo doing the best? I think that Tottenham would be a reasonable fit, but the best fits are Manchester United and Liverpool.

    Sir Alex has been a long admirer and Carlos Quiroz goes back to Figo’s youth days.

    But for myself, I would like to see Figo join Liverpool because he would do the most for them. He would provide another source of leadership, professionalism and most of all some crosses into the box.

    The BBC quotes Figo saying:

    "England has always been a dream because of the respect they have for professionals there and the prestige associated with playing there."

    Aruna Dindane seeks bigger league to play in

    Previously written about as an upcoming player, Aruna Dindane of Belgian club Anderlecht has announced he is leaving the club at the seasons end.

    Bids of up to 6 million euros have been rejected by the club who has been contacted by Deportivo la Coruna, Benfica, and also English clubs Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion.

    Unfortunately this is not such a happy situation: Dindane has a year left on his contract. Apparently the player was rather upset that he wasn’t sold, so it looks like plans to force an exit in the summer. Anderlecht stand to lose money from what they were offered, but as many clubs have learned, it’s unproductive to keep an unhappy player on the books. On the other hand, fewer and fewer players are giving their clubs enough respect for Anderlecht took a risk and afforded the player a chance.

    Petr Cech: Chelsea goalkeeper breaks Schmeichel record

    Czech Republic international keeper Petr Cech has now gone 781 minutes without conceding a goal in the Premiership. He has kept a clean-sheet in 19 of the 25 Premiership games Chelsea has played this season.

    The previous for stingy goalkeeping was 694 minutes by Manchester United's Peter Schmeichel in ‘97.
    I thought Petr Cech was the best goalkeeper at Euro 2004 and was not surprised when Chelsea swooped for him. He has keep highly rated Carlo Cudicini on the bench virtually the entire season.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    Jean Carlos Chera: Brazilian 9 year old story still growing

    Blogsoccerblog re-visits the fascinating story about the Jean Carlos Chera, also called “Anderson” in this well written summary of events:

    Another repost due to the high demand (original appeared January 26):

    reports that Porto and Manchester United are chasing Jean Carlos Chera, a Brazilian nine-year-old. You read that right: a nine-year-old! In addition to signing the child, the clubs also intend to settle his family in Europe.

    The child's talent came to light after Clarín, an Argentinian newspaper, got hold of a video showing the younger, smaller Chera in competition against children four years older than he.

    Soccerway.com has a link to the video, but the Argentinian newspaper has warned that it will remove the link soon to prevent a site crash. I have seen the video and there is no doubt that the child is impressive. He has a great first touch and impressive ball-handling skills, but really, do we want to shove a nine-year-old into the footballer meatmarket? The video can be found

    This blog has written about the same story here:

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

    European clubs target 9 year old

    When in Rome: Abel Xavier

    Former Portugal defender Abel Xavier has joined AS Roma. Luigi Delneri lost defender Vincent Candela during the transfer window and has logically reinforced the back line.

    Xavier, the much-traveled former Liverpool defender was linked with potential moves to Blackburn, Bolton and also Southampton but it seems Roma is now Xavier’s second stint in Italy, having played at Bari in 1995.

    During his career Xavier has also played at Benfica in Portugal, Real Oviedo in Spain, PSV Eindhoven in Holland, Everton and Liverpool in England, Fenerbahce in Turkey, and Hanover in Germany -6 different countries (that I know of).

    Walter Pandiani: a very bad start

    "I wanted to join Fiorentina but Depor took time sending the fax so I'm in Birmingham, where I didn't want to be."

    That is not the way to begin with a new club, especially on loan. This is a clear act of sabotage by striker Walter Pandiani whose salary demands better behavior. No wonder he had problems with him old manager Javier Irueta at Deportivo la Coruna.

    And what about the supporters of Birmingham City? Sheesh, is this getting worse by the transfer window or what?

    What's the return policy?

    Harry Redknapp wins Oscar for transfer window performance

    Harry Redknapp left Premiership side Portsmouth a few months ago and soon after joined relegation bound Southampton with the single task of avoiding relegation.

    Here is as clear a reason as any why Harry Redknapp is such a good manager. Look at what he has done in the transfer window this January:

    Five players have joined Redknapp at Southampton: son and Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp, Calum Davenport, Nigel Quashie, and just as the transfer window closed, Henri Camara from Celtic and Olivier Bernard from Newcastle.

    Those are five good players; compare that to the work the previous two Southampton managers have done this year and looking at the side now, this was as winning a performance in January as any in Europe.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005

    FC Porto “restructuring”

    Less than 24 hours after firing Spanish coach Victor Fernandez, FC Porto have hired former director of football at Sporting Lisbon Jose Couceiro as its new manager. Couceiro, 42 quit Portuguese league pretenders Vitoria Setubal for the opportunity. He leaves a team currently only 6 points behind the Portuguese champions.

    That makes 3 coaches this season for Porto, unwilling to realize when you sell your best players it has an impact.

    Player head injuries increasing in football

    As the speed of football increases also has the frequency of head injuries. There have been some very serious collisions this year; the worst I saw was a collision with Bolton’s Ivan Campo.

    Heading is an integral part of the game, but your head is also an integral part of your body. At the moment the rules do not correctly reflect the speed of the modern game. This is also true in refereeing.

    My suggestion is to eliminate extended arms after the player’s feet has left the ground. This would eliminate the elbowing in the air. In addition, I would further protect the goalkeeper by disallowing high kicks in the 6 yard box since I’d rather lose a few spectacular goals than a keeper for the season.

    I know that players are paid to take such risks. Just because that is true doesn’t mean we cannot also make the game safer: just look at what has evolved for drivers protected in F1 cars as the speed of that sport increased.