Friday, March 31, 2006

Nigel de Jong

Dutch club Ajax has proved once again to have some of the best youngsters in the World. Its policy is principally to develop young players, who then go to some of the best clubs. The latest "release" has been 21 year-old Nigel de Jong, who had gained main squad status 3 years ago, in last January, to german Hamburger SV. Nigel was inicially centre-back, but his 1m74 and good technique placed him into a new position: full-back. His best right foot leaded him to the right defensive place. In spite of his speed and technique, he never showed good crossing, so he's been, mostly this season, adapted in a new position: defensive midfielder. For me this is the ideal place for the talented youngster, who also showed great offensive characteristics. He scored 11 goals in 36 games (including League, Cup and Champions League). Now in HSV, de Jong, number 28, scored 1 goal in 10 games and still plays in the midfield. He's fast, strong, intelligent, not individualist, has great shooting, tackling, heading and also plays an essencial role in his team, since he can play in any position in both defense and midfield. Before Hamburg "kidnapped" him, the giant Manchester United has shown interest in this Roy Keane would-have-been substitute. He's also one of Holland's capped main players.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Georgios Samaras

Just when I was ready to mention him, he got injured along with about half of the Manchester City team. Against Chelsea yesterday they desperately needed him and since he’s emerged into a starting role, Greek international Georgios Samaras has been the suprise of the squad.

I’d never seen him before but the first time I did I thought ‘Oh look, Samaras, another Argentine prodigy’. Then I checked him out and realized, wait a minute, he’s Greek. Why wasn’t he at the European Cup? It’s because he’s only 21. Georgios Samaras only made his debut for Greece this year, in fact only last month, in style too, by scoring the only goal in their 1-0 win over Belarus.

He signed for City over the summer for 6m pounds, fighting off Arsenal who’d been rumored to have offered in the range of 4m pounds. The young striker had been playing in The Netherlands since the age of 16 for FC Heerenveen. In Holland he was not particularly prolific (25 goals in 88 starts) yet turned heads with his classy style of play.

Since his first substitution against Newcastle earlier this season he’s been nothing short of a revelation. He’s tall at 6’3” (193 cm) so he causes central defenders problems with crosses. Samaras’s best attribute has nothing to do with heading though: he moves brilliantly with and without the ball, sort of a bigger version of Barcelona starlet Lionel Messi, but a bit more direct.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Emmanuel Eboue

The Ivory Coast has yet another talent to look out for; 23 year old Emmanuel Eboue has been impressive so far for Arsenal.

Coach Arsene Wenger has shown a lot of confidence in the youngster and he’s really handled the starting job well. At right fullback he’s replaced normal starter Lauren and we may just see a repeat of last season when Philippe Senderos replaced Sol Campbell when he was injured. I can’t see Wenger giving Lauren the spot back if he returns this season after the way Eboue kept Robinho and Zidane completely shut down against Real Madrid.

Arsenal purchased Eboue during the January 2005 transfer window. He’d been a figure on the reserves and some of Arsenal’s cup matches. He’s impressed everyone at Arsenal so far and me as well.

In this year’s 2006 African Cup of Nations he also performed very well and will feature in this summer’s World Cup as Ivory Coast's right back. A good World Cup will surely win Eboue the starting spot next season as well.

Eboue brings tons of energy to the match. He’s got the moves of a midfield winger as well as the pace. He’s starting to win a reputation for fantastic runs as well. He should have already scored a few. Alongside countryman Kolo Toure, Arsenal has one of the most athletic back 4’s in Europe. He’s so quick in defense that he easily makes up for mistakes and just seems to have a knack for the position. I’m thoroughly impressed with Eboue and I’m convinced he’s going to be a world class player.

*Note: Welcome Rui Rocha from Portugal, he's going to contribute when he has time. I've mailed Rui a number of times with questions about Portugal and Spain and have been really impressed with his knowledge, glad to have him here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

David Villa

Spanish football league LFP (Liga de Fútbol Profesional) is witnessing nowadays the rise of a home striker: David Villa Sánchez is his name.
Villa is a 24 year-old player that started his professional career in second division's Sporting Gijón, where, from 2000 till 2003, he scored 51 goals in 115 matches. He was 21 when first league's Real Zaragoza purchased him. He's been there two years and scored 32 goals in the 73 games he's been in. Fragilized Valencia saw in him an important piece for 2005/06, season in which this spanish club bet on the return of its natural international success. 12 million euros was the price that Zaragoza set for their promising striker; Valencia didn't think twice.

Currently, David is the second LFP's maximum scorer, after the unstoppable cameroonian Eto'o, who's only 1 goal ahead. His main characteristics are his finishing, speed, technique, positioning and good penalty taking. He also likes to play on the edge of offside and falls at the minimum touch (latin blood there...).

Deportivo de la Coruña's keeper José Francisco Molina knows what Villa is capable of, after the astoneshing volley he suffered some weeks ago. Nowadays he's one of the best spanish team players, where he disputes with Atlético de Madrid superstar Fernando Torres for scorer title. We'll be seeing him in the upcoming World Cup.

Today's spanish sports newspaper Marca reports Villa's contract extension until 2013, with a fee release clause of 126 million.

*Rui Rocha is a blogger from Portugal who contributes to Football Commentator, you can read his blog at www.opinioespublicas.blogspot.com.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Champions League follow-up

Hey, if you haven’t noticed, I had a perfect record in my predictions for the Champions League round of 16, 7-8 correct, and 8-8 if Inter Milan manages to stave of Ajax next week. Arsenal were deserved winners, Chelsea deserved losers, and Liverpool unlucky across 2 legs against a stubborn Benfica side.

Arsenal have done what no other Premiership club has managed this season by placing themselves in the last 8 of the competition. By sinking Real Madrid they achieved the one thing that just might keep Theirry Henry at the club.

Madrid, well, what can you say other than an era is over. And Arsenal did it with their ever improving group of young players. In fact, game in, game out, Arsenal keep improving. They were deserved 2-1 winners just today against Liverpool in the Premiership. As for Real, it’s time to rebuild. Zidane looks set to retire after the World Cup, Ronaldo looks to gain weight -I mean play elsewhere after the season. Roberto Carlos will also likely make an exit. What is left can’t keep the reputation alive, and if you consider the money spent on disappointment Robinho, well, there is more money needed to get them afloat again.

Conversely, the Gunners are on the rise. The ghost of Patrick Vieira will appear again at Highbury in the name of Juventus. How many times can a team get lucky? The Old Lady’s hopes were saved because of a last minute flub by Werder Bremen’s keeper. Now Arsenal must contend with the team which will probably end their European hopes.

Chelsea-Barcelona should have been better, in the second leg especially. Chelsea just ran out of ideas. Barcelona didn’t have to bring their best to the occasion; the Blues looked beaten by about the 10th minute.

Jose Mourinho’s petulance could not be hidden and for my money he’s crossed the line of how far excuses can get you. Sometimes 'the special one' takes it on the chin and accepts defeat but too often, especially in the big games, he starts his litany of excuses which often centers on the referee. His behavior against West Brom recently was terrible.

Without Asier Del Horno’s red card I think the result would have been the same. Barcelona were just too fluent in attack to be stopped.

Liverpool lost to Benfica, twice. Simao’s wonder-goal finished things off in the first half of the second leg. Liverpool hit the post and couldn’t buy a goal which has emerged as their Achilles’ heel. They are scoring about ½ a goal per match recently. That’s not good enough with the kind of talent they have brought in. I got a lot of ‘are you nuts’ comments when I predicted Benfica would win. I’d like to see as many ‘you were right’ comments but something tells me I won’t.

As for Benfica, they play like a team from Italy. Stubborn, hard to break down and opportunist. I didn’t see Ronald Koeman as being up to the job but I have been proven wrong. He’s put together a gritty team which finds a way to win.

*PS- Again, sorry for the lack of articles, I'll be more active soon enough