Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Now get rid of Drogba

Within the next day, Chelsea are certain to pencil in Ukrainian international striker Andriy Shevchenko in a 34m pound deal.

The 29-year-old AC Milan player was finally given permission to make a deal after last ditch efforts to change his mind failed.

Argentine Hernan Crespo looks set to move in the other direction where he spent the previous season on loan.

With the arrival of Salomon Kalou from Dutch side Feyenoord it’s time to keep Eidur Gudjohnsen and say goodbye to Didier Drogba. Many won’t agree, but I like Gudjohnsen as a striker and I think he’d partner beautifully with Shevchenko, either as a starter of off the bench. While he’s not the huge goal scorer that a Shevchenko is he’s got a great touch and a better feel for the game than Drogba.

In addition, Drogba has an awful first touch and has developed a bad reputation in England as a cry baby and as a diver. While he was quoted as liking his partnership with Crespo, I never thought it was a convincing duo.

Gudjohnsen has been rumored to be on the move but I think Chelsea should keep him. He’s very useful and can fill a host of roles. Drogba whines about having to defend. Having real team players on Chelsea’s roster will do more to improve their results that Drogba ever will.

The swan of Anfield

Steven Gerrard, shame on you. Last night the Liverpool golden boy took the swan dive in an international friendly against Hungary as England make preparations in their run up to the World Cup.

Here is yet another case for video evidence being used retrospectively. Gerrard won the penalty and thankfully, Lampard missed the resulting spot kick.

Spare a thought for the devil in Ian Wright. In his commentary after the match he actually suggested this behavior was fine because other players do the same thing to England. That’s a sad indictment on the state of football and the world at large.

And please spare me this petty argument that the defender was coming in with both feet. Any school boy could have jumped in the air to avoid the challenge and land back on both feet. That’s pathetic to consider as a justification. Gerrard had both arms extended and was playing for the referee’s hand, plain and simple.

You know, the more you pretend you’re not like everyone else, the more you are willing to sink into denial to create that reality. Diving is not something that Jurgen Klinsman introduced to England and Drogba keeps alive. It’s part of the win at all costs mentality, even in a friendly.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Daniel Alves

Another Brazilian you say? Well, they breed them, I just write about them. Sevilla left back Daniel Alves was the best player on the pitch in this week’s UEFA Cup final against Middlesbrough.

It’s not often that a right back is described in these terms; the position is often thankless and anonymous as you are always being run at by the oppositions fastest players, but on this occasion it was Alves doing the running and Sevilla doing the scoring to the tune of 4-0.

In the match Alves was fantastic. His finest moment was when he set up the first goal on 27 minutes when he dribbled forward into Middlesbrough’s half and sent in a wicked looping cross which allowed Luis Fabiano a glancing header to the inside of right-hand post. In addition to the goal he was a constant torment.

The 23 year old is a native of Juazeiro, first club was FC Bahia, but after some great performances in Brazil’s youth sides he soon moved to Europe, Sevilla originally signing him on a 6 month loan. His runs down the wing and defensive presence were impressive from the start and the player was quickly given a permanent contract. During 2003’s World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates he was awarded recognition as one of the top 3 players, rare for a fullback.

Daniel Alves looks set to take over for Cafu in the Brazilian national team when the ageless wonder eventually calls it quits. Barcelona president Joan Laporta has reportedly made an offer for the player in recent weeks. He scored against Barca last week in their 3-2 followup win to the UEFA Cup success.

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Italian meltdown

Whoa, how many stories can possibly surface at once about Italian football in one week? Italian football is in melting faster than a double cheese pizza in a too-hot oven. Juventus, Inter Milan, the Italian FA, referees, you name it. Topics? How about match fixing, threats, influence peddling, betting, coercion and blackmail, just look at the barrage of stories:

Juventus: Italy warms up for World Cup - with rampant soccer scandal

Italian police search Italian FA's offices

Italian ref dropped in wake of Serie A scandal

Turin magistrates question Buffon

Wiretap unveils Juventus chief Moggi's Cannavaro, Ibrahimovic push (I even read Cannavaro was instructed to play badly to get a transfer)

He looked good in training!

I don’t support Sven-Goran Eriksson’s inclusion of Arsenal new-boy Theo Walcott in his World Cup squad.

Darrent Bent scored a lot of goals this season. Shaun Wright-Phillips, while he has not has his best season, is a similar player to Walcott and has top flight experience. To take a player that has never played a top flight match is something done in weakest of footballing nations, like when you just don’t have anyone else.

I’m not bagging on Walcott, from what I have seen he’s a great talent, it’s just that, well, what if you were Darren Bent? All the work you’ve done, all the years you’ve put in to be pushed aside on a coaches hunch? It doesn’t make sense.

You include Theo Walcott in buildup games leading up to the Cup, judging his playing style and how it might contribute to the national side. Eriksson has admitted he’d never seen him play. At 17 Pele was already a seasoned professional. What kind of decision making is this??

Arsene Wenger is supportive of the move… sure, when you’re French and it won’t cost you points. Arsene things he’s looked good in training, but not good enough to shell out 100,000 pounds per start to see him in Gunner’s kit. Let him get a free education in Germany; let players who deserve the call up watch on TV. I’ll tell you, MacLaren won’t do anything special as England manager but I’ll be glad to see the end of the Sven era.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


They call him the next "Ronaldinho". Anderson Luís Oliveira was born in Brazil in 1988 (he's 18 now) and, like the best player in the world, he started his football career in Grêmio, where he gained first team status by the age of 16: he didn't even get to 17 and he already was the team's playmaker; when he was 14 he was left full-back, but soon they recognized offensive qualities in the kid.

He got to play his first game as a senior after being arrogant with Grêmio's coach: he said he was better than many of the team's players, so the coach invited him to prove himself. Anderson scored one goal and never lost his indispensible status.

Portuguese FC Porto bought him at the beginning of the season - 5M for only 50% of the player (the rest belong to himself) - but he wanted to stay at his club for the rest of the season (he wanted to help Grêmio get back to the first league, and they achieved it). In January Anderson came into a new reality, a new country: he only got to play two games until the end of the league, but in both he showed great ability. They say he'll "explode" in the next season... You can see him here.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Igor Akinfeev

Igor Akinfeev is one of the most promising goalkeepers in the World. He is now 20 years-old and is CSKA Moscow's main keeper since 2003. Remember CSKA reached the UEFA Cup final in the last season... I don't think there's anyone as good as him if comparing goalkeepers his age. Maybe Roma's Gianluca Curci could be comparable... But Igor's potential his higher. Nigmatullin and Ovchinnikov are exponents of an older generation, and they simply can't stop Akinfeev's potential. He's commanded the Russian net since age 19. I don't think there are any particularities Akinfeev needs to work on. He'll for sure be on the same level of Buffon or Cech in the near future. I cannot assure it, but I strongly believe Akinfeev will someday be the best goalkeeper of the World.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Remembering Yeboah's greatest goal

Former Leeds United striker Tony Yeboah scored one of the finest goals I have ever seen in 1996 against Wimbledon. It was actually judged the goal of the season that year and deserved it. It was a strike dripping with class from start to finish (video below).

Yeboah, a former Ghana international, scored a number of remarkable goals in his short stint at Leeds but for my money this incredible volley is the greatest of his career.

The buildup was rather innocuous. A Wimbledon goal kick followed by a clearance, a header, another clearance, another header followed by yet another headed Wimbledon clearance. It was the sort of moment you flip channels to the other match and see if football is being played with any flow over there.

The final clearance was too short and Yeboah chested the ball gracefully and dribbled with his left knee. The ball sat beautifully and he seemed poised for a long rage effort. He cleverly faked the left footed strike sending the defender into a pirouette and dragged the ball forward to his right foot and, just outside the center of the box, unleashed one of the most ferocious strikes ever. The ball took from his boot like a rocket. The keeper made an effort but never really had a chance as the ball struck the bottom of the post and ricocheted up and down 3 times. The keeper looked on in amazement like me and millions of others too.

Unfortunately, stupid manager George Graham took over at Leeds and sold Yeboah. Go figure, he went on to score a mountain of goals back in Germany.