“Leave him alone, this is all he needs. His name is hard to carry,” said France manager Didier Deschamps this week when asked about footballing legend Zinedine Zidane’s son, Real Madrid youth footballer and France under-19′s Enzo Fernandez. “Zizou lived his life, had his career. Enzo will have his own.”
Of course living up to your father’s name can be no easy task for a young footballer. Especially if your father is something of a legend. There will always be comparisons.
“There are two types of football players,” former Barcelona and Manchester United player Jordi Cruyff once said. “The legends and the mortals. My father is a legend and I am a mortal”. Indeed, when your father is Johann Cruyff, one of the game’s finest in history, it can come with extraordinary pressure.
Jordi spent much of his youth career at Ajax and then Barcelona before working his way into the senior side – then managed by his father. His performances earned him a switch to Man United for a £1.4 million fee in 1996, becoming a regular in the side before injury caused him problems and he slipped out of favour with Fergie.
But Cruyff played for Barcelona, Manchester United and Holland – he even scored for his country during Euro ’96. By any player’s standards, that’s pretty damn good. His performances didn’t live up to the name Cruyff in footballing world (he even put his first name ‘Jordi’ on the back of jerseys instead of ‘Cruyff’ in a bid to stop the constant comparisons). In reality, Jordi Cruyff, despite his obscure later career turning out for clubs in Ukraine and Malta, was a fine player. But Jordi was a mere mortal in a business where his father was a legend.
But plenty of players do emulate their famous fathers.
Cesare Maldini was an AC Milan legend. He played for the Rossoneri for twelve years and represented Italy in the 1962 and 1966 World Cups. His son Paolo, who was also a defender, ignored the pressures that came with the surname and became possibly a bigger legend. I’m sure Cesare’s grandson, Daniel, who is currently in AC Milan’s youth teams, won’t be feeling any pressure then.
But will the Maldinis become the new Forláns? You know the name, right? Sure they are just a family from Montevideo. But they led Uruguay to Copa America titles across three generations – Diego Forlán, his father, Pablo Forlán, and his grandfather, Juan Carlos Corazo.
So Enzo Fernandez may have chosen his mother’s name. But he’ll forever be linked with the name Zidane. And with that comes extraordinary pressure. But as the Maldinis and Forláns will tell you: that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
With major talents such as Robert Lewandowski, Gareth Bale and David Alaba missing out on this summer’s World Cup, they hope to some day showcase their talents of football’s greatest stage. Some of the game’s most legendary superstars, decorated at club level and adored by million have never actually made played in the competition. Let’s have a look at 10 of the best:
Eric Cantona – France.
The much-loved cult hero, nicknamed The King around Manchester since the mid-nineties, is a player who has had a turbulent relationship with the national team. Having been indefinitely banned international matches from 1988 after calling then-France manager Henri Michel a “bag of shit” on live TV. Recalled to the Les Bleus set up later by Michel Platini, the only international competition he featured in was Euro ’92.
Alfredo di Stefano – Argentina and Spain.
The great Real Madrid legend has represented three countries in his life – his native Argentina, Colombia (though not recognized by FIFA) and Spain. Argentina refused to participate in the 1950 and 1954 tournaments. He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956 – three years after joining Madrid – and was capped 31 times but Los Rojos failed to qualify for the 1958 tournament. Spain did qualify for the ’62 tournament but di Stefano didn’t feature due to injury. Argh!
Ryan Giggs – Wales.
Still playing at the highest level and into his 40′s, Giggs has won an incredible amount of silverware for his sole club – Manchester United. He’s also highly decorated with individual awards going back as far as 1991. It is a shame that his international career is almost the polar opposite having never qualified for a major tournament – let alone the World Cup.
George Weah – Liberia.
One of the greatest African players of all time, Weah came from a country that sadly has never qualified for the tournament. During qualifying for the 1994 tournament, Liberia, known as the Lone Stars, withdrew during the qualifiers. In truth, the footballing minnows, despite producing a world-class talent like Weah, has never even come close to a major tournament. A year later, he was FIFA World Player of the Year and joined giants AC Milan and stunned crowd with his talents. It’s a shame, he never came even close to doing the same on a big international stage.
George Best – Northern Ireland.
“George Best was one of the most talented players of all time and probably the best footballer who never made it to a major world final”. Those are the words of 1974 World Cup winning captain Franz Beckenbauer. That kind of sums up pretty much everyone’s opinion on Best’s international career. The playmaker only appeared for Northern Ireland 37 times, scoring nine goals. His well-documented lifestyle was the main reason behind so few caps in a 13-year international career. Best came close once to playing in the competition when he was considered by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 competition but, at the age of 36, the genius’ skills had faded and his party lifestyle had taken it’s toll.
Bernd Schuster – West Germany.
Schuster won only 22 caps for West Germany. He was part of the 1980 European Championship winning team and is one of the few players to play for both Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid. His premature retirement from the national team was, according to Schuster, due to a major disagreement with the managements of both Barcelona and the German national team on either side of a friendly match against Brazil. When West Germany lifted the World Cup trophy in 1990, the 30-year old, a star in La Liga, could only watch on.
Jari Litmanen – Finland.
His country’s greatest ever player, Jari Litmanen has enjoyed an illustrious career, turning out for the likes of Ajax, Barcelona and Liverpool. Finland’s failure to qualify for a major tournament however prevented Litmanen from proving his talent at the highest level in international competition.
Liam Brady – Republic of Ireland.
Having won 70 of his 72 caps starting for Ireland, Chippy enjoyed a long yet somewhat unsuccessful international career. A Serie A winner with Juventus and a PFA Players’ Player of the Year with Arsenal, Brady had, by the time of the qualifiers of the 1990 World Cup came around, retired from international football. The Boys in Green secured a place in the 1990 competition in Italy (for the first time in our history) and Brady made himself available once again for selection. Boss Jack Charlton decided that those who played in the qualifier were the ones considered for the selection and Brady’s World Cup dreams, at the age of 34, came to a full stop for good.
Matthew Le Tissier – England.
Le Tiss played the vast majority of his career for one club – Southampton. Throughout the mid-nineties, his dazzling skills made him one of the hottest talents in England and he resisted the urge to transfer to some major clubs that were swooping around at the time. Barcelona superstar Xavi still hails Le Tissier as his favourite player to this day. Bizarrely, he never really had the chance at international level and made only eight appearances and failed to score in any of them. Having failed to qualify for the 1994 tournament and being controversially overlooked by Glen Hoddle for the 1998 squad, Le Tiss’ international career never really took off.
Ian Rush – Wales.
Rush had a wonderful eye for goal. His time at Liverpool throughout the 1980′s and 1990′s produced well over 200 league goals. His 16 year international career witnessed him score 28 goals – still a Welsh record – in 73 caps. But, and like many of his countrymen, a major tournament eluded him. I’m sure Wales’ current superstar, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, will be doing his best not to end up on a similar list in years to come.
The Boys In Green have been drawn with Germany, Poland, Scotland, Georgia and UEFA’s latest member Gibraltar in Group D.
On paper it seems very possible. Likely even. The reality is that Ireland will have to work hard if we are to qualify for Euro 2016. Martin O’Neill, more than anyone, will know this.
“I think it’s the toughest group but it’s an exciting one,” the Ireland boss told the press following the draw.
Ireland fans will relish the trips to some of the countries anyway. I’d be lying if I said a trips to Scotland, Germany and Gibraltar don’t appeal to me.
England have been handed the easiest group in my opinion with San Marino, Estonia, Lithuania, Switzerland and Slovenia. Meanwhile our Northern Irish neighbours have a tough task in facing Greece, Romania, the Faroes, Finland and Romania.
The draw in full:
Group A: Holland, Kazakhstan, Iceland, Latvia, Turkey, Czech Republic
Group B: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Andorra, Wales, Israel, Belgium
Group C: Spain, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine
Group D: Germany, Gibraltar, Georgia, Scotland, Poland, Republic of Ireland
Group E: England, San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland
Group F: Greece, Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Finland, Romania, Hungary
Group G: Russia, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, Austria, Sweden
Group H: Italy, Malta, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Norway, Croatia
Group I: Portugal, Albania, Armenia, Serbia, Denmark
What do you make of the draw? Is it doable? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
The Spanish capital is known for its great cultural and artistic heritage as well as it’s lively nightlife. But it’s also home to some of the biggest clubs in the history of the game.
How do I get in? Madrid Barajas airport is about 18 km north-east of the city centre. It is connected by both rail and bus which frequently run to the city. The obvious more expensive choice is a stress-free cab ride and should take no more than 20 minutes or so as it’s nearly all motorway for the entire journey in.
What teams can I watch?Real Madrid are one of the leading names in the history of world football as well as one of the most supported teams in Spain. City rivals Atlético Madrid are enjoying a great rivals this season. Rayo Vallecano are also in La Liga, but don’t enjoy the successes of their neighbours. Finally, Getafe, also another La Liga team, are located about 13 km south of the city centre.
How do I get to the stadiums? All four stadiums can be reached by the city’s underground metro service. Real’s Bernebéu is on line 10 and the stop has the same name as the stadium – that should be an easy one to find. Atlético’s Calderon is located on the banks of the River Manzanares and the closest metro stop is line 5′s Marques de Vadillo. Rayo Vallecano’s ground is a short walk from the Buenos Aires stop on line 1. Finally, two metros is required to get to Getafe, but once you get onto line 12, the stop for the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez is Los Aspartales.
How do I get tickets? Apart from paying above the odds for in-demand fixtures outside the grounds on any given matchday, the best way is the web. Real Madrid sell their tickets online, although very rarely cheaply. As do Atlético – though their recent form has seen an increase in spectators. You can go to a Rayo Vallecano match for as little as a tenner (sometimes less) via their website, while tickets for Getafe is rarely a problem regardless of the opposition.
What else is there to do? Visit any of the city’s iconic landmarks, from the Royal Palace to the Cibeles fountain. The city has plenty of markets and a great shopping district around Grand Via and Sol. But it also has no shortage of pubs and clubs – some of them don’t close until 7am (I can vouch for those ones personally).
MLS side Toronto FC have this week confirmed the signature of the brilliant QPR goalkeeper Júlio Cesar on a loan deal after the Brazilian international had fallen out of favour with Harry Redknapp. Before crossing the Atlantic, the 34-year old had been approached by a number of top European sides, including former club Inter Milan, where he was a Champions League winner under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
But it’s World Cup year, and Cesar will be actively seeking some first team football to ensure he’s part of Felipe Scolari’s plans for the competition (Big Phil luckily has always seemed to favour Cesar as Brazil’s no.1 – despite QPR’s relegation).
Toronto also secured the signature of Michael Bradley from Roma for €7.35 million. Bradley was a regular in the squad that are, this season, enjoying some of their best football in a number of years as well as currently lying in 2nd in Serie A.
It is a surprising move for Bradley, who is a class player and still only 26. But it shows the ambition of Toronto, whose third big recent signing was Tottenham striker Jermaine Defoe – a striker far from past his prime and with one of the sharpest eyes for goal to grace the Premier League over the past decade.
It’s a sign of the growing pulling power of the MLS. Yes, the league still needs to work a little more to reach the levels of the likes of the Premier League, Serie A or La Liga. But it’s definitely improving. And as their new signings prove, Toronto are one of the most ambitious clubs in it. They could, after all, have an active World Cup winning player in their squad after the summer. That would boost the club – and the league – further.
At this year’s World Cup, all eyes will be on the usual suspects in Messi, Neymar, Ronaldo, Suarez, Ribery etc. But here is a list of players that will feature in the competition this summer that may just shake things up a little.
Miralem Pjanić (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
While Edin Dzeko is the main man for Bosnia and Herzegovina for some, upon closer inspection it is twenty-three year old Miralem Pjanić that is the engine for the team. The Roma midfielder is a classic playmaker with a sharp eye for creating chances. In Bosnia and Herzegovina’s group is Argentina and it will be this man, Pjanić, that Argentine manager Alejandro Sabella should certainly not underestimate.
Axel Witsel (Belgium)
Belgium have an incredible side for this summer’s competition: Hazard, Lukaku, Kompany, Fellaini, Benteke are just some of the big names in the side. Along with all of them is one Axel Witsel – a supremely talented player who can play all across midfield. It’s no wonder Zenit St Petersburg paid a staggering €40 million for his services to Benfica in 2012. One of the sharpest players in the Belgium squad, Witsel possesses all of the attributes to be one of the competitions biggest stars.
Fredy Guarín (Colombia)
Like Witsel, Fredy Guarín is an incredibly versatile player with, by the looks of things, no weak foot. Currently plying his trade for Inter Milan (after a decade of moving around clubs in Argentina, France, Portugal as well as his native Colombia), the 27-year old is a massive talent and when he’s in the same side as Radamel Falcao, it can only mean bad news for Colombia’s opponents.
This 21-year old kid is probably the fastest player in the Brazil squad. In the highly likely event that he’ll make the cut into the final squad for the competition, the Shakhtar Donestsk winger will stun both players and fans as he doesn’t seem to have an off switch. Renowned Spanish newspaper El Pais named Bernard as one of the eleven best South American footballers of 2013.
Keisuke Honda (Japan)
A mainstay of the Japanese national team since his debut in 2008, Keisuke Honda is a growing talent. Signing from CSKA Moscow to AC Milan last month, the 27-year old is now at the perfect stage of his career to showcase his incredible abilities at the highest level. A technically gifted attacking midfielder, Honda will be at the heart of Japan’s engine – and he is not one bit easy to stop.
This week David Beckham has confirmed that he exercised his option to buy a MLS expansion team for $25 million, which he had received as part of the contract he signed with the LA Galaxy seven years ago. Becks promises to make the new franchise a magnet for the football world.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in Miami and live in Miami?” Beckham said of the players who are apparently already calling up the former-England captain seeking to be a part of the new franchise. “I know this city is ready for football.” But I wonder is it?
The city already have four major sports teams – the Miami Heat in basketball, the Miami Dolphins in American football, the Florida Panthers in the NHL, and the Miami Marlins in baseball. All of them are contsantly have a high number of empty seats – and they are the four major sports in the United States.
Football, or soccer as it’s called stateside, simply cannot compete with the other sports currently. It will take decades for it to catch up. Both the Miami Fusion and Miami Toros, now-defunct clubs that had great expectation, have both tried and failed.
Beckham is credit to the sport for trying to develop the game he loves for the American market. The Beckham brand will get the world’s media interested. And, more importantly, some big-name players and coaches, as well as the all-important investors to help the club survive.
The club are not expected to compete until 2016 or 2017 (the location for a stadium is being scouted as I type), but I would guess that if an ageing Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand want to get one last hurrah as well as a big pay-day, they’ll be calling up their former international team-mate. Or maybe Becks has other ideas and wants to bring in major talent at their peak? Time will tell.
It’s three years now since Fernando Torres left Anfield for Stamford Bridge for a fee of £50 million – a British record. His tenure at Liverpool was quite successful. In his four years on Merseyside, the Spanish international scored 65 goals in 102 league games. Not a bad ratio. He’s played almost the same amount of league games for Chelsea and hasn’t even scored a third of what he achieved at Liverpool. So the question is: what next for Fernando Torres?
There was a time when Torres was one of, if not, the world’s best striker. It was the former Spanish manager Luis Aragonés (who sadly passed away last Saturday) that showed him a lot of faith, making him a regular in the national side while dropping national hero Raul in the process.
Torres was now firmly Spain’s no. 9 while David Villa was given the sacred no. 7 jersey of Spain. Now many reckon that current coach Vicente Del Bosque needs to do what Aragonés did with Raul with some of the current players – starting with Fernando Torres.
Indeed he’s not the greatest striker in the world anymore. He’s not the greatest striker in the Premier League and for some time now he has even being having difficulty getting his name on the starting sheet for Chelsea. I’m sure you will agree that El Niño needs a brand new start.
Chelsea manager José Mourinho insists that Torres remains part of his plans. But with Samuel Eto’o ahead of him, what realistically could the star gain from starting most games on the bench? With the World Cup mere months away, Torres will likely be nervous as to wonder if he will make it into Del Bosque’s squad.
Forwards Álvaro Negredo, Cristian Tello, Roberto Soldado and the frankly brilliant and in-form Diego Costa will all be eager for that no. 9 jersey of La Roja. Is time running out for Torres?
I hope El Niño gets a second wind as I have always been a fan, going back to his Atlético days. Because on his day Fernando Torres can be one of the greatest players to watch. It’s a shame we haven’t seen that magic in a while. I for one hope he finds his mojo again – I just can’t see it being in a Chelsea jersey.
The first travel guide of 2014, and in this edition we take a look at Marseille – France’s second and indeed oldest city and home to the most supported team in France.
How do I get in?Marseille airport is about 30km north-west of the city centre and is serviced by Ryanair from Dublin airport. The easiest transfer from the airport to the city centre is bus which runs every 20 mins and takes around a half an hour for €8 one way or €12.80 return. A taxi will cost you around €40 or €50.
What teams can I watch? Aside from the many amateur teams you may come across in the parks on the south of city, there is one team that rules this city – Olympique de Marseille. Players such as Robert Pirès, Franck Ribéry, our own Tony Cascarino, Didier Drogba, Eric Cantona, Jean-Pierre Papin, Gabriel Heinze and Joey Barton have all turned out for l’OM.
How do I get to the stadium? The Stade Vélodrome is currently under major renovation – it’s finally getting a roof, plus 7,000 extra seats (not sure why the latter as nearly all games have plenty of empty seats). But games still go ahead during these renovations and on matchday, it is simple enough to find. It’s located about 4km south of the city centre’s Saint-Charles station. The easiest way is by taking the metro from the Saint-Charles station, taking line 2 (red line) in the direction of Sainte-Marguerite Dromel. The penultimate stop, Rond point du Prado, is about 300m from the stadium.
How do I get tickets? Games, as I said before, rarely sell out – with the exception of Le Classique (the huge rivalry vs. PSG). You’ll need to register to get tickets on l’OM’s website. Tourist offices in Marseille also sell tickets. Just be careful if you choose to try getting a ticket outside the ground. People have paid top dollar for very good photocopies.
What else is there to do? As with any Mediterranean port city, a few beers in the sunshine would appeal to anyone – there’s a number of Irish pubs around the Quai de Rive Neuve. Take in any of the 21 museums or visit any one of the many clean and gorgeous parks throughout the city. There’s also shopping in La Butte or an inexpensive two hour cruise around the sea. Whatever takes your fancy.
France 2016 calling! UEFA have confirmed the seedings for the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Ireland are among the second seeds. From the draw nine groups will be produced – eight of six countries and one of five.
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the finals with the third-placed teams going to a play-off. I’m sure like the rest of us, Martin O’Neill was more than relieved to be in the second seeds.
The full seeding looks like this:
First seeds: Spain (holders), Germany, Netherlands, Italy, England, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Second seeds: Ukraine, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Republic of Ireland
Fifth seeds: Iceland, Northern Ireland, Albania, Lithuania, Moldova, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Cyprus
Sixth seeds: Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Malta, Andorra, San Marino, Gibraltar
We’ll be hoping to avoid Spain or Germany, but many Irish fans will relish the thought of facing England. I’ll be honest – I’m no different. Though, of all the top seeds, I’d prefer Bosnia and Herzegovina.
France will also take part in qualifying, the first hosts to do so after a rule change, although no qualifying points will rest on their fixtures and will join the group that includes five teams. They will play in the finals whatever the outcome of their games.
In all, given the amount of teams that will qualify for the finals in 2016, it is looking good for the boys in green. On paper at least.
Yesterday, football giants Barcelona announced plans for renovations which may be made to the Camp Nou. Instead of building an entirely new stadium, club president Sandro Rosell had said that renovating the iconic stadium and keeping it in the city’s Les Corts district, which has been home to the club since 1957, was the best option.
The renovations will cost around €600 million and would be completed by 2021. A club members’ referendum will be held in April to decide if the plans will go ahead.
The new-look stadium will see the capacity increase to 105,000 and every seat will be under cover.
I was in the Camp Nou around a fortnight ago to watch Barça take on La Liga newcomers Elche on a mild (the locals insisted it was freezing) Sunday afternoon. The game finished 4-0 to the Catalans. I don’t see what is wrong with the current stadium. I’m not alone with that opinion.
Granted from the outside, it looks somewhat dated and just appears to be an uninviting grey concrete structure. But the stadium is an icon of the city and indeed of European football. It has character and history. Where as every new large stadium being built nowadays looks incredibly generic and seems somewhat soulless.
But when you are in the Camp Nou, you can almost feel the tradition and the history. There’s almost ghostly presences of the likes of Cruyff, Maradona, Ronaldinho etc.
I don’t share the excitement some do for the new look Camp Nou – if it does go ahead. It’s unusual shape is part of it’s charm for me. Plus the fact that games very rarely sell out with the exception of El Clásico. In fact, it’s estimated that 10,000 tourists turn up for games each week.
Either way, many are excited for this new look stadium. I’m not one of them. I have a love for old-fashioned stadia. What I’d give for one more match in the old Lansdowne Road instead of twenty in the Aviva Stadium.
They may have ended up as finalists, but France actually struggled to qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. Veteran key players such as Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly, Claude Makélélé, Lilian Thuram and Zinedine Zidane himself had all retired from international football in 2004. They had drawn the four of their first qualifying five games for the World Cup.
Zidane was hungry. His time as a professional was coming to a close and he had already said farewell to his beloved Real Madrid. France, in the group stage however, were average. Two draws and an unconvincing win against Togo (in which Zidane was suspended) was enough to land them second place to get through to the knockout stages.
He inspired a 3-1 victory over Spain in Hannover in the second round before an incredible performance to claim a 1-0 victory over a Brazil side that featured then-World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka, Roberto Carlos to name but a few.
Zidane ran the show in Frankfurt that day. It was clear his hunger and desire to put his hands on the World Cup trophy for the second and final time in his career was painfully clear. He was in the zone now and his penalty in the semi-final against Portugal in Munich was enough for Zidane and Les Bleus to book their place in the final.
On the 9th July 2006, France took on Italy in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin before 69,000 eager fans. Millions upon millions were watching on TV (whilst I was watching in a field at the Oxegen Festival). Clearly this was Zizou’s night. Surely?
In the 7th minute, he scored a cheeky yet confident penalty. I remember thinking to myself: “he’s going to score a hat-trick. He’s too good!”. It was written in the stars for him. Until Inter Milan’s Marco Materazzi decided to break Zidane’s heart.
Firstly with an equalising goal in the 19th minute. Materazzi, for the record, doesn’t score goals for Italy. This was his 2nd ever international goal. The game went into extra time when Materazzi would get in Zizou’s way once more.
As Zidane and Materazzi were jogging up the pitch close to each other, words were exchanged after Materazzi was seen tugging at Zidane’s jersey before Zidane began to walk away from him. Moments later, Zidane suddenly stopped, turned around and head-butted Materazzi’s chest, knocking him to the ground.
The referee had no choice: red card!
The game went to penalties and France, after losing their leader, lost out 5-4. A moment of madness cost Zidane an absolute fairytale ending to a spectacular career, and France the World Cup.
There was much speculation as to what Materazzi said to provoke the Frenchman. It turned out that after grabbing Zidane’s jersey, he said to the Italian “If you want my shirt, I’ll give it to you afterwards”. Materazzi responded with “I prefer the whore that is your sister”. It was at this point that Zidane saw red.
Zizou has been prone to these moments of madness before. He’s headbutted a player before. The recipient on that occasion was Hamburg defender Jochen Kientz in a Champions League match six years prior while still at Juventus. Plus he made headlines in the 1998 World Cup when he quite deliberately stamped on the back of Saudi Arabian midfielder Fuad Amin.
It wasn’t exactly the best way for such an enormous talent to exit the game. But don’t let it overshadow what an incredible player Zinedine Zidane was – especially during that tournament in 2006.
Some say, usually French football fans in my experience, that his temper was probably part of his genius. He never smiled when playing. Always had a serious, concentrated look on his face. Then-French president Jacques Chirac even hailed Zidane as a “man of heart and conviction” after the final.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez had his eye on Aiden McGeady for quite some time even going back to when the Spaniard was the gaffer at Wigan. Now he finally got his man.
Indeed the 27-year-old winger has agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal after signing from Spartak Moscow for an undisclosed fee. But one would wonder how the former Celtic star will fare at Goodison Park.
It’s fair to say that McGeady is somewhat inconsistent. Anyone who goes to the Aviva Stadium can second that. His form in Russia was good – he scored 13 goals in 93 games and played a key role in helping Spartak finish in 2nd place in 2012.
Though improving, Russia may not be the highest level in Europe yet Martinez definitely sees something in the Ireland international. Certainly enough to bring him to the Premier League and into an Everton side that is playing great football as of late with one eye firmly on a top four finish.
I believe that Roberto Martinez may be just the right man to get the most out of McGeady. He’s not just a squad player. He’ll be joining nternational team-mates Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Darron Gibson in the squad. And given how Martinez has done with the other players this season so far, it’s make-or-break for Everton’s new boy.
How do you think Aiden McGeady will fare at Everton? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
As if there’s wasn’t enough controversies surrounding the 2022 World Cup to be held in Qatar, now FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke, has stated that the competition “will not be in June or July”.
FIFA have since said in a statement that it was the secretary general’s own view and that no decision had been taken on the timing. Ultimately it is however Mr Valcke’s task, given to him by FIFA, to find alternative dates due to the extreme heat of the Qatari summer.
Regardless, a winter World Cup is a ridiculous idea in my view. It will completely interfere with most major leagues and cup competitions such as the Champions League. Not to mention ruining the tradition of the tournament.
Surely Australia, who competed with Qatar to stage the tournament, would have been a far better option due to their cooler temperatures in June and July?
That’s just the footballing argument as to why I, along with many others, am baffled as to why Qatar is hosting the World Cup. The issue of migrant workers’ rights has also caused significant controversy. As did the rights of LGBT fans. Not to mention the Qatari FA’s allegations of bribery.
The blog recently caught up with Stefan Murphy, leader of Dublin’s own The Mighty Stef. We had a quick chat about his fondness for Roy Keane, hatred for John Terry and why he is going to be a supporter of Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Hello, Stef. What was the first match you ever went to?
My Da played football right up into his 40′s. One of my earliest memories is going to see him play for Glenmore Celtic, his team in the late 70s early-80′s. I’ve probably have been to about 500 A.U.L. or Leinster Senior games by the age of ten which is also when I first went to the UK to see an English League fixture. It was Man Utd v Coventry and United were still managed by Ron Atkinson at the time. After the game we got to meet Paul McGrath. I can’t even remember the result.
The mighty father: St Francis’ John Murphy in action against Bohemians in the 1990 FAI Cup semi-final
Which players do you admire most – past and present?
I’m a Liverpool fan since the age of about seven. Kenny Dalglish and John Aldridge were big childhood heroes. I also loved Jan Molby for his passing ability. Marco Tardelli for his celebration in the World Cup final in 1982. I have always been a major fan of Roy Keane. I seen him score against one of my Dad’s old teams, St Francis’, and he was 17 and playing for Cobh Ramblers at the time, just before he went to Nottingham Forest. I saw him make his debut for Ireland just a year later and simply admired him ever since. I find it hard to revere the players of the modern era in the same way but great to see Luis Suarez in a red shirt causing all sorts of trouble.
Which team or player you dislike the most?
Easy: Chelsea. John Terry.
You’ve toured a fair bit. Ever caught a game in strange town when on tour?
Sadly not. Ive tried many times, especially in Germany but its never worked out. I have made pilgrimages to Dortmund’s stadium and St. Pauli’s in Hamburg too but not on a match day. I have made a pact with a German promoter named Harald Haas that I would support Borussia Mönchengladbach as my German team of choice.
Finally, if you had to choose – a Mighty Stef album going to number one or Ireland winning a major tournament?
Nothing would mean more to me than Ireland winning the World Cup. If RTE could use one of our tunes as the closing montage to the coverage of said World Cup, that would make up for the disappointment of never getting to don the green shirt.
The Mighty Stef play Whelans on Friday 31st January. Tickets are €12.