Ones to watch, Superstars

Just who exactly is Martin Odegaard?

I won’t profess that I know much about Martin Odegaard before a few weeks ago. In fact I never even heard his name before last month. But the Norwegian wonderkid this week, after being eyed up by some of Europe’s biggest clubs, has signed a deal with giants Real Madrid from Stromgodset.

The 16-year-old, who has been capped at senior international level, made a switch for around €3 million mark after passing a medical in the Spanish capital yesterday. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a bit unreal that I’m here at the biggest club in the world. It’s huge for me, an honour.”

He will play for Madrid’s reserve team for the rest of this season, coached by the great Zinedine Zidane, but will train alongside both the reserve side and the senior side, alongside world-class stars like Ronaldo, James Rodríguez, Bale and Sergio Ramos. It is possible that Los Blancos’ boss Carlo Ancelotti could feature Odegaard this season in the senior team.

Odegaard came to prominence when, in 2014, he became the youngest player to appear and score in the Tippeligaen (Norway’s highest tier of football). As a left-footed wonderkid, he is often compared to Lionel Messi due to his age and style of play (see video above).


It will be interesting to see just exactly what he can do when the time comes. Only a select few at the young age of 16 have proved that they can hold their own at football’s highest level – just think of players such as Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and even Pelé. Odegaard could join that elite, and the €3 million that Madrid paid for him could be the purchase of the decade.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy thoughts, Superstars

Should Barcelona cash in on Lionel Messi?

Earlier this month the internet went into overdrive as somebody somewhere noticed that Lionel Messi had started following Chelsea’s official Instagram account. The news spread like wildfire, and blues fans were even more delirious than the time they discovered that Mourinho was once again Stamford Bridge-bound in 2013.

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Messi isn’t overly happy with Barcelona’s title prospects this season (well, the lack of them considering how strong rivals Real Madrid are). He’s also allegedly not happy with the manager’s style. He’s not alone there. Many feel that Luis Enrique, himself a Camp Nou legend (he also played for rivals Madrid), simply isn’t the right fit for Catalans.



Spanish newspaper Sport had said that the Argentine captain was “pissed off” on their front page recently. It is indeed a worrying time to be a Barcelona fan.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu in fact told reporters that Messi would not be sold and he will stay with Barça until at least 2018.  “There is nothing to panic about in that regard,” the President said. “Messi is the central figure. The team is built around him.”

But should Barcelona cash in on the Argentine genius?

I was in Barcelona last week for Barça’s fixture against Atlético Madrid. Speaking to people before kick-off, the general feeling was that selling Messi wouldn’t be the worst idea because some feel he’s going to end up with a lengthy or even career-ending injury. This was plainly obvious as Diego Simeone’s plan was to put two men on Messi and kick him off the park whenever he had posession. It was the only effective way to stop the three time Balon d’Or winner.


But Atlético aren’t the only team to use this dirty tactic. Countless others try. Messi has many times been to quick for them. But some do succeed. And the last thing all at Camp Nou need is a repeat of Andoni “Butcher of Bilbao” Goikotxea’s horror tackle on then- Barcelona star player Diego Maradona in 1983, which jeopardized his career.

Lionel Messi’s buy out clause is €250 million. A quarter of a billion euros! Only a select few can afford that. But with the player’s enormous salary and of course the Financial Fair Play rules, it would be difficult to achieve that. Ultimately the player would have to force the move. But wealthy clubs such as Manchester United, Bayern Munich and PSG are realistically the only clubs with the kind of cash it would take to acquire Messi.

For Messi to force the move may not be so simple. After all, the city of Barcelona has been his home since 2000, and it was Barça that looked after him so well long before he became the global superstar he is today.

But, and as ever, you can never predict what can happen in football. If Barcelona were to receive a nine-figure sum for Messi, how could they possibly turn it down? But could any player – or players – fill the void in a Messi-less Barcelona team?


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Junior Malanda RIP

Sad news came in from Germany last night with the death of Wolfsburg starlet Junior Malanda.

The Belgian was killed in a car accident near the city of Bielefeld. He was 20 years old.

Malanda was a hugely promising player and was regarded as one of the finest youngsters in the Bundesliga and had recently attracted the attention of Premier League side Crystal Palace.

Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs said in a statement: “We are all deeply saddened and our disbelief can hardly be put into words. We can’t believe he is no longer with us. Our thoughts at this difficult time are with his family and loved ones.”

Rest in Peace.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


HAPPY NEW YEAR – the January transfer window is open

Happy new year, dear blog readers, and welcoem to the first blog post of 2015, which is the fifth year we’ve been active. We’re getting old. Anyway, now that January is upon us, it also means that the transfer window is open. Prepare for weeks of activity.

An already done-deal is the news that Fernando Torres is set to join AC Milan permanently from Chelsea. The Rossoneri will then loan the Spanish striker out to his boyhood club of Atlético Madrid from January 5th. That £50 million transfer seems like a really long time ago now. 


Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has long been linked with a move to Liverpool now that Thibaut Courtois has overtaken the Czech international as Jose Mourinho’s number one. Liverpool have struggled this season and need to strengthen the team, and quickly. A few wing-backs also wouldn’t go amiss, with Fabio Coentrão’s name having been mentioned.


Brendan Rodgers insists that Mario Balotelli isn’t going to be pushed out the Anfield door, despite his poor form, but Liverpool need to strengthen their attacking options. Balotelli, either way, needs to find his form, or it could be a long and lonely time on the substitute’s bench for the Italian.

Meanwhile in France, newspaper reports in Italy suggested that Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t happy at PSG, and Roma are lining up a big for the Swede. But with only a year left on his contract, the powers-that-be upstairs may want to cash in on 33-year-old, who has never, so far in his career, spent more than three years at a club.


Speaking of PSG, Ezequiel Lavezzi has been heavily linked with a move to Inter Milan, with some press even calling it a “done deal”. The truth is that it’s very far from being a done deal, but if Inter can raise the funds to bring the Argentine to the San Siro (along with their other target in Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski), it would be likely Lavezzi would leave the French capital.

Marseille striker Andre-Pierre Gignac seems like a likely candidate to leave Ligue 1. The 28-year-old’s technique and predatory goalscoring makes him ready built for the Premier League, but the Frenchman himself hasn’t ruling out elsewhere, such as “the Turkish and Russian leagues”. (A fine option for Brendan Rodgers?)


In La Liga, Barcelona have been hit with a much publicised transfer ban. The club have enough players to see the ban through, but with players such as Dani Alves, Martin Montoya and Adriano all rumoured to leave, it could give the Catalans a headache at times.

The ban puts rivals Real Madrid in the driving seat in the race to win Borussia Dortmund’s ridiculously brilliant Marco Reus. While the German international may not move in this window, he has a release clause which kicks in during the next one, which means he can leave Jurgen Klopp’s army for as low as €25 million.


Speaking of Real Madrid, los Blancos have reportedly told Man United that star player Gareth Bale is not for sale at any price. Louis van Gaal is determined to strengthen his United team, but the Welshman will not be a player that will be joining him. Players who the Dutch coach is highly interested in include Roma’s Kevin Strootman, Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and the currently-unattached, yet highly-decorated goalkeeper Victor Valdes.


United’s neighbours Man City are keeping a close eye on the Edinson Cavani situation. The Uruguayan has been reported to be in talks with Arsenal in a cash-plus-player deal with PSG, but City will be keeping tabs on the player they’ve been interested in for some years now.

Arsenal have also been linked with Aston Villa’s centre-half Ron Vlaar. The Dutchman was reported to be on the verge with a move to Man United, but Vlaar himself told the Dutch press: “I’ve never heard from them (Man United). If a club had really wanted me, I would have noticed. That has not been the case.”


There’s endless rumours, reports and chatter going on at the moment, but the next four weeks will be very interesting indeed. As usual at the end of the window, I’ll be doing a round-up of the best, worst, weirdest, talked about and least-talked about transfers in January. So stay tuned for that.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Bloopers, Footy thoughts

The best moments of 2014

And so another year draws to a close at midnight tonight, so let’s take a look back at the past twelve months in the beautiful game.

Ashley Cole surprised many by joining Roma and this photo of an uncomfortable Cole spawned a thousand memes.

Speaking of team photos, Wesley Sneijder’s mascot made the Dutchman a little conscious about his height.

In the World Cup, James Rodriguez’s new friend was more of a talking point than the Colombian’s sensational skills.

This is the same World Cup in which Rihanna declared herself a Germany fan.

Don’t look, Liverpool fans.

Sepp Blatter talks ethics.

Mario Balotelli wants a smooch from Queen Elizabeth II.

Footy thoughts

Happy Christmas from us to you

Happy Christmas, dear blog readers. I hope you have been enjoying the day.
And also a happy birthday to Brazilian legend Jairzinho, who turns 70 today. A member of the iconic 1970 World Cup winning Brazil squad, a Botafogo legend, and a one-time owner of a supremely impressive afro hairstyle.


Thank you for sustaining your interest in the blog, which will be entering it’s 5th year in 2015. Anyway, a full Premier League schedule tomorrow on St Stephen’s Day. Predictions?

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Don’t remember Thierry Henry just for THAT handball…

Yesterday Thierry Henry announced his retirement from professional football and would return to live in England begin work as a pundit for Sky Sports.

Henry is, in my opinion, the best striker of the Premier League era. I’m putting him ahead of the likes of Eric Cantona, Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, or even Geoff Horsfield. Not to mention his tenure at Monaco and Juventus and his massive contribution to Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls.

I will certainly be remembering the French international for his moments of sheer genius on the pitch.

But, and almost expected, some fans, almost all Irish, took to Twitter and various other social media sites to have one last go at the 37-year-old for his infamous handball against the Boys In Green.

Surely we’re not still going on about that, are we?

Footballers' mad moments

The top 20 players of 2014 (part 2)

The first part of my top 20 players of 2014 earlier in the week caused some debate on Twitter. Maybe this second part now might cause a little more, even if it is my honest opinion. Here is the the final ten best players.

10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG & Sweden)
Ibra is an absolute genius at football. But you knew that already. His speed, technique, ability and absolute audacity make him one of the most entertaining players to watch in world football. He is guaranteed goals and guaranteed headlines, though it’s not always consistent. Sweden’s finest ever export is the biggest name in Ligue 1 and looks to add even more silverware to his already stuffed trophy cabinet.

9. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)
A remarkable player that plays alongside other remarkable players. Admittedly Bale didn’t see much international action (though he did manage to bang in three goals in both games he played in 2014), his club form has gone from strength to strength for Real Madrid. A crucial ppart to Carlo Ancelotti’s starting XI, he can, like his Portugese team-mate, be the difference between winning and losing.

8. Neymar (Barcelona & Brazil)
Neymar has long had his doubters, but his genius is there. His World Cup was ended by injury, but the frenzy that surrounded him didn’t disappoint. At club level, he has gelled well with Lionel Messi despite much doubt from the likes of Johann Cruyff that the two superstars wouldn’t gel. The new Brazil national team captain is consistent, skillful, lethal and mesmerising on the ball.

7. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany)
The only goalkeeper on this list is in fact the best goalkeeper in the world. By far. His agility, reflexes, speed, ball distribution and all-round entertainment make the 28 year old stand out as one of the finest ‘keepers to ever be produced from Germany. Aside from his phenomenal club form, he won the World Cup with Germany as well as the Golden Glove award for being the best goalkeeper in the tournament. A master of his position.

6. Luis Suarez (Liverpool/Barcelona & Uruguay)
A controversial choice I have no doubt many will think, but hear me out on this one. His bite on Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup and subsequent justified ban had many calling for his head. All the negatives aside, this is one of the most intelligent game-changing players to ever wear a Liverpool (or Uruguay) shirt. Just look where Liverpool last season and how close they were to that elusive Premier League title compared to now. He’s fitting in superbly alongside Messi and Neymar at Barcelona which makes the South American trio one of the most feared attacking line-ups in the global game.

5. Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich & The Netherlands)
A fine World Cup and fantastic club form, it’s difficult to ignore Robben. Easily one of the best wingers in the world, he has a knack of skipping past players and leaving them for dead. The speed, dribbling skills, vision and his consistency in delivering his world-class performances make him one of the most in-demand players in the game. He will be 31 next month but, and like so many in this top 20, shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Literally.

4. Sergio Aguero (Man City & Argentina)
When Sergio Aguero joined Man City from Atlético Madrid in 2011, the City fans knew they were getting a good player. But did they truly realize what a great player they were getting? Aguero is one of the most lethal strikers playing in Europe today. If not, then the most lethal. The Argentine striker currently has the highest goals per minute ratio in the history of the Premier League averaging a goal every 115 minutes and was recently named the Football Supporters’ Federation Player of the Yearfor 2014. I’m sure even father-in-law, Diego Maradona, is highly impressed.

3. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich & Germany)
An all-round attacking genius and he’s only 25. Muller has enjoyed possibly his finest 12 months in his career to date with Bayern Munich’s phenomenal form and Germany’s triumphant World Cup win. Easily the stand-out player for club and country, Muller is an extremely gifted and versatile attacking player. You will be seeing this phenomenon up high on lists like these for a very long time to come.

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
In 2014 Messi was World Cup runner-up, broke Telmo Zarra’s record as the highest scorer in the history of La Liga, scored his 400th professional career goal at the age of just 27, not to mention put on some of the most dazzling displays any football can watch. But despite all that, he is a very, very close 2nd in this list. That’s certainly not to take away the sheer brilliance of the Argentine international – I could write 500,000 words on his absolute genius but for now let me show you. Check out this video below.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
At the time of writing, in 179 league appearances, Cristiano Ronaldo has scores 202 goals for Real Madrid which includes a La Liga record of 23 hat-tricks. Think about that for a minute. Yes indeed, 2014 has been nothing short of phenomenal for Cristiano Ronaldo. And unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last twelve months, I’m sure you knew that already. Watch this:

Honourable mentions to Toni Kroos, Paul Pogba, Xavi Hernandez, Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard, Javier Macherano and Cesc Fabregas who have all also played out of their skin during the past twelve months, but just missed out narrowly on this list. But maybe next year.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Football's greatest moments, Superstars

The top 20 players of 2014 (part 1)

It’s that time of the year where we look back at the previous twelve months of football and pick the best players of 2014. This is part one, and a countdown from number 20 to 11. Nevermind the Ballon d’Or…here’s the Football el Mundo Bloggies.

 20. Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid & Germany)
When Kroos scored in Bayern’s 3-1 victory over Hertha last March, it confirmed that the Bavarian outfit had secured the Bundesliga title…in record time. Fast forward some dazzling displays at the Allianz Arena before a World Cup win in the summer, he made a €30 million move to Real Madrid in the summer, where he aims to continue his form which has, in the past few months alone, earned him praise from the world’s media.

19. Yaya Touré (Manchester City & Ivory Coast)
Touré has long been regarded, even going back to his Barcelona days, as an incredibly intelligent  and versatile midfielder. His physical presence and vision made him perfect for the Premier League when he left the Camp Nou in 2010. This year, however, the Ivory Coast international played out of his skin and was incredibly influential in guiding Man City to the 2013-14 Premier League trophy. So much that the club even awarded him the 2014 Player of the Year.

18. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich & Germany)
The last 12 months for Schweinsteiger have been phenomenal. Like Kroos, he played a massive role in helping Bayern secure the 2013-14 Bundesliga title in record time, but his presence was utterly instrumental in Germany’s World Cup triumph. Now aged 30, and recently appointed the captain of Germany, he shows absolutely no sign of stopping.

17. Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona & Spain)
Both club and country may have not hit the familiar top spots like in recent years, but the sheer brilliance of Iniesta’s skills and ability hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s often said that “if we didn’t live in an era with both Ronaldo and Messi, then Iniesta would be the best in world”, and I agree with that. A disappointing season with Barcelona last year by their standards (they finished 2nd in La Liga and were quarter-finalists in the Champions League) didn’t stop the 30-year-old putting on some stunning displays and winning the Golden Foot award.

16. Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid/Chelsea & Spain)
Before last season Diego Costa was forced to take a back seat to Falcao when playing for Atlético and never really had the opportunity to shine. Cue Falcao’s exit and the Brazilian-born Spanish international will be forever remembered for helping Atlético win the 2013-14 La Liga title with his 27 league goals. A €32 million move to Chelsea in the summer under José Mourinho, and Costa is one of the best strikers in England. By far.

15. Phillipp Lahm (Bayern Munich & Germany)
When a manager like Pep Guardiola says that you are “perhaps the most intelligent player I have ever trained in my career”, you can take it as an enormous compliment and that you are pretty good at football. Lahm, Germany’s captain of their 2014 World Cup triumph, enjoyed a fantastic record-breaking year with Bayern. Now retired from the national team, the versatile defensive player is totally focused at even more achievements for his club, who recently renewed his contract until 2018.

14. Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona/Arsenal & Chile)
Having previously blogged about Sánchez while he was at Udinese, the Chilean international has gone from strength to strength. The past twelve months witnessed him become one of Barça’s most influential players, with goals, assists, and stats to put any manager in awe, to a surprise move to the Premier League for Arsenal, where he has excelled beyond expectations. The best player at both club and country in my opinion.

13. James Rodríguez (AS Monaco/Real Madrid & Colombia)
When I previously blogged about James just prior to the World Cup, putting his name in the same sentence as both Messi and Ronaldo, you thought I was crazy, right? Commonly ranked among the greatest young footballers today, it was at the World Cup that he grabbed everyone’s attention. And I do mean everyone, including giants Real Madrid who, following the competition in Brazil, paid a whopping reported €80 million for the 23-year-old – making him the 3rd biggest transfer in Real Madrid history.

12. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid & France)
He may be surrounded by Galacticos at all times at club level, but Karim Benzema is a sheer world-class goalscorer. His three goals in the World Cup could only help France reach the quarter finals (where they were narrowly beaten by eventual winners Germany), but his club form and work-rate has been excellent. He scored 17 La Liga goals last season which doesn’t sound like a lot, but bear in mind he was competing for goals with a certain Portugese genius.

11. Angel Di María (Real Madrid/Man United & Argentina)
Like Alexis Sánchez, here is another massive player who left La Liga for the Premier League. Genius winger Angel Di María was a big money signing for Louis van Gaal’s Man United side. Hugely influential in Real Madrid’s Champions League glory (earning the Man of the Match honour in the final), the World Cup runner-up is continuing to improve time and time again.

Come back later in the week for the top 10.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footballers' mad moments

The time Harry Redknapp brought on a fan as a substitute

To turn out and play for your club alongside all of your heroes is something we can only dream about. Many daydream about it as they sit in their seats or stand on the terraces. Many will reckon they can do a better job than the centre forward who happens to be having a nightmare that afternoon. But nobody, outside of the inner circle of a football club, will don the jersey and play in a match.

But it actually happened.

It’s 27 July 1994 and West Ham United are playing an away pre-season game against Oxford City and almost from the off, Harry Redknapp was getting abuse from one particular hardcore Hammers fan from behind the away team’s bench.

“There was a guy next to the dug out,” Redknapp would later explain on the Jonathan Ross Show last year. “Big West Ham fan. He has Hammers tattooed on his arms and he had the earrings with Hammers on them. He started after about two minutes ‘Harry, we haven’t got Lee Chapman up front again this year? When are we gonna get a decent striker?’ He kept going on about Chapman, he wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Harry Redknapp chats to Steve Davies in the crowd at Oxford

“Anyway at half time I made five substitutions. So the subs go on, I’ve got no more subs, after two minutes we get an injury and I now I’ve only got ten men. So I turned to him, and he’s still shouting at me, I went ‘Oi. Can you play as good as you talk?’ He went ‘I’m better than that Chapman’. I said ‘Go on, get your gear on, we’ll have a look at you’. He said ‘What do you mean?’ and I said ‘You’re playing!'”

The fan in question was Mr Steve Davies, a courier from Milton Keynes, who had been sucking on cigarettes for the first half and was considering getting his third beer. Davies was unsurprisingly unprepared.

“He said ‘I haven’t got any boots’,” Redknapp recalled. “I said ‘what size are you?’, he said ‘nines’. I said to Eddie the kitman to get him a pair of boots. He takes him up the changing room, he gets changed, he comes waddling back. He’s got feet like this (hands pointing outwards).”

“He gets to the touchline and he’s coming on. He says ‘where do you want me to play?’ and I say ‘go up front because I wanna see if you’re better than Chapman’.

Harry Redknapp sends Steve Davies on at Oxford

When the stadium announcer saw Davies take to the field, he sent an assistant down to get the name of this new signing so he could announce it to the crowd. When he asked Redknapp who the unfamiliar face was, the response was only marvellous in true Harry Redknapp style. “Haven’t you been watching the (recent 1994) World Cup? Tittyshev, the Bulgarian striker?” Redknapp said before the assistant, in a bid to cover his blushes said “I thought it was him”.

But there was more to come from the Hammers fan. He wouldn’t only play for his boyhood club – he actually SCORED for his boyhood club. “It was like time stopped still – it was the greatest moment of my life,” the courier from Milton Keynes would later recall.

“And I got to be honest,” admits ‘Arry. “On the night he was better than Chapman.”


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland, Superstars

FIFA Goal of the Year: Van Persie, Rodriguez…or Roche?

You may well be aware of Republic of Ireland international Stephanie Roche‘s super-strike for Peamount United in October 2013, which is now (currently) just shy of three and a half million views on YouTube. 

As previously blogged, the 25-year old’s goal earned her a place on a ten-person list for the prestigious FIFA Puskas Award. Now she’s in the final three. 

Beating off goals from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Diego Costa, Roche faces stiff competition from Robin van Persie and James Rodriguez. Both the Dutchman and the Colombian’s goals were scored in the summer’s World Cup.

Watch Rodriguez’s superb strike here, Van Persie’s wonderful diving header here. And check out Stephanie Roche’s wonder goal once more below

CAST YOUR VOTE HERE. And, of course, best of luck to the mighty Steph.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Europe, Superstars

Messi makes history…but for how long?

Last weekend at the Camp Nou,  78,283 spectators watched Lionel Messi mark his name in history books as his hat-trick ensured he surpassed Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra as the all-time highest scoring player in La Liga.

The Argentine genius, regarded by some as the best in the world and by others as one of the best of all time, has ten years of La Liga games under his belt and in those 289 games he has scored a ridiculously impressive 253 goals. A remarkable achievement.

But we live in an age where we have two absolute giants in world football. His nemesis is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo who, unless you’ve been living on the moon for some time, plays for rivals Real Madrid and, like Messi, likes to score goals by the bucketload.

Ronaldo’s goals-to-games ratio is currently 197 in 176 games. That’s around 1.13 goals per game. That is insane! He is only 56 goals behind equalling Messi’s current amount. I say only because, while 56 goals is an enormous amount, it’s certainly doable for Ronaldo. I mean he has scored twenty goals in eleven games this season already.

Messi has a five year head-start on Ronaldo, but the Portugese international isn’t too far behind him. Of course, Messi could just keep scoring goals to keep him back in the ranking. That’s, of course, Messi continues to play in La Liga.

Reports in Spain suggest that the 27-year-old could do the unthinkable and leave Spain altogether. But not for sporting reasons but because the tax authorities continue to persue him. Messi was accused of hiding €4.1m earned from image rights in companies in Uruguay and Belize but, despite making a €5m settlement, the authorities continue to hound him.

The reports in Spain say that Messi has paid upwards of €52m in income tax and fines and “that should be that” but as the authorities have continued to keep a close eye on him, “who knows where it will end”. There are naturally suggestions that the situation is something of an anti-Catalan conspiracy, with the rival Real Madrid players not facing anywhere near the same level of scrutiny.

Ronaldo, on the other hand, shows no sign of stopping. Only the English press continue to link him with a return to former club Manchester United. A rumour that is always stopped in it’s tracks from the Spanish capital.

Messi is deserving of such a prestigious honour. He is, for me personally, the greatest player I have ever watched in the flesh. But Ronaldo is a machine that simply won’t slow down and you can bet that he has his eye on stealing Messi’s crown. And he just might.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy thoughts, Internationals

Why do people hate the international break?

I have a friend who is a massive Arsenal fan. He has never gone to an Ireland match home or away and watching the boys in green on television certainly isn’t a priority for him. The reason? He thinks international football is a waste of time and it “gets in the way of real football”. I strongly disagree.

He’s not alone. Aside from fans, many managers in the past have voiced their opinion about releasing their players for international duty due the condition they may return in. I can see where these managers are coming from, but these managers’ opinions aren’t universal.

In 2008, Pep Guardiola famously insisted on releasing Lionel Messi for international duty for the summer’s Olympics in Beijing despite the fact the dates clashed with a crucial Champions League qualifier against Wisla Krakow. The matter initially went to a tribunal where it was established that the club was well in it’s rights not to let the player go. Guardiola over-ruled it. Because he knew what it’s like to play in – and win – a gold medal in the Olympics for his country. (Argentina would also go on to win gold).

International football doesn’t pay players like the way clubs do. Fame, glory and money dictate most things in football. Especially the dough. International football is about honour. I suppose that’s one of the many reasons I’ve always admired players like David Beckham – he always made himself available despite fitness and, more impressively, age. But players aged 29 or 30 retiring from international duty to focus on their club career always seemed to get under my skin a little bit. But that’s just me.

Are you a fan of the international breaks mid-season? Let me know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

Vote for The Mighty Steph

Republic of Ireland international Stephanie Roche finds herself competing against the likes of Diego Costa, James Rodriguez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the 2014 FIFA Puskas Award.

The 25-year-old is the only woman on the ten-person list for the prestigious award for her incredible strike for former club Peamount United against Wexford Youths in the Women’s National League in October 2013.

You can vote for Stephanie’s goal here.

And you can watch it below:

I think we can all agree that this is what you call a cracker!

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Republic of Ireland

McQueen wishes “horrible reception” for Irish duo

Former Scotland international Gordon McQueen is hoping that Ireland’s Glasgow born stars James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady receive a “horrible reception” in Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifier. 

“I hope they get a horrible reception because they deserve it. I’ve got no time for these players,” McQueen said. “You’re born in Glasgow but then you go and play for somebody else? What’s that all about? I’m not having that at all. I hope it’s hard for them coming back here with Ireland.”

McGeady played for Scotland at schoolboy level, but since switching allegiance via his Irish grandparents, he has since earned 72 caps so far for the boys in green since making his debut in 2004. His international and club team-mate James McCarthy has played for Ireland since under-17’s level.


Gordon McQueen also went on to say “I played alongside Bob Wilson and Bruce Rioch, who were born in England but they always considered themselves Scottish. If you feel Scottish you’re Scottish but I hate these guys who think, ‘I can’t get a game for England so I’ll go play for Scotland’.”

I wonder did he stop to think that maybe, just maybe, both McGeady and McCarthy simply feel Irish. That said, hypothetically if two Dublin-born lads happened to turn out for Scotland, I wonder what kind of reception they’d get in the Aviva.

Republic of Ireland face Scotland at Celtic Park on Friday at 7.45pm and then host the United States in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium four days later.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)