Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Kaiser: The Victor Lustig of football

Meet former Brazilian striker Carlos Henrique, nicknamed “The Kaiser“. Henrique has quite a respectable footballing CV. Domestic clubs such as Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, Fluminense and Botafogo all feature, not to mention top French side Ajaccio (where goalkeeping talent Guillermo Ochoa now plies his trade), as well as Mexican side Puebla. What makes that all the more impressive is that Henrique was on all of these clubs’ books without ever kicking a ball – even in training.

Before you say anything, yes – Henrique was something of a conman. Certainly in footballing terms –  his story is that of a man who, in his own words, “wanted to be a player, without having to play”.

Carlos was well-known within certain footballing circles having listed the likes of Brazilian internationals Romário, Renato Gaucho and Edmundo as his mates. Henrique saw this as an opportunity for his way into a professional club and would ask his peers to include him as a makeweight in potential deals. This would usually earn the Kaiser a trial of around three months at a club.

The Kaiser (L) with Renato Gaucho (R)

Henrique had the physique and fitness like a top pro, but couldn’t kick a ball to save his life. So the next part was slightly more dangerous. But he had a crafty plan. The moment the first ball came near him, he’d boot the ball away and collapse in apparant agony. This was at a time before excessive medical assessment and it meant it bought the Kaiser a few months on the physio’s table.

While at Botafogo, he would frequently pretend to “receive calls” from agents and managers around the globe and take the calls within earshot of team-mates and technical staff. The only thing was that he was using a toy phone – not that anyone knew.

On another occasion, while playing for Bangu, the coach called upon Henrique to come on as a sub in a league match against Coritiba. Fearing he’d be exposed, he started a fight with fans and this resulted in him getting sent off before he’d even got on the pitch. He’d do almost anything NOT to touch a ball – and succeeded for years.

The Kaiser would often tell porkies to the press about his "skills"

These days, the Carlos Henrique works as a fitness instructor in Brazil. But happily tells the tales (some large ones included) about his two decades as a footballer without ever kicking, or being able to kick, a football. But even now he has no regrets over deceiving so many clubs. He once said “If I had been more dedicated, I could have gone further in the game”. God certainly does love a trier.

Balotelli's stamp? I've seen worse behaviour.

When “Super” Mario Balotelli stamped on Scott Parker during Sunday’s tie between City and Spurs, it sparked outrage (mainly on Twitter, as always). It was, by all accounts, clearly intentional and well out of order. But it is far from the worst thing I have ever witnessed on the pitch. Here are 5 gutwrenching moments in our beautiful game:

1. Brazilian youngster Kerlon rose to fame in 2007 for his famous seal-dribble of the ball during the match. This involves him repeatedly bouncing the ball on his head while running past and beating players. Then in 2007, Atletico Mineiro’s Coelho thought enough was enough. See below. Ouch!

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2. Revenge, they say, is best served cold. Roy Keane loves to serve his revenge with all his power and six studs. Alf-Inge Haaland found this out the hard way.

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3. German keeper Harald Schumacher‘s name is often remembered in world football for one thing: leaving French defender Patrick Battiston in a coma after knocking two of his teeth following a horrific collision in the 1982 World Cup. Battiston made a full recovery and even faced the keeper again in a future World Cup, but stayed well away from Schumacher during the game.

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4. There is a 21st Century Schumacher. While Nuno Claro’s chest-smashing karate kick didn’t nearly kill his opponent (unlike our German friend) it was fairly filthy, to be honest. What’s unusual is Claro protesting his innocence to the referee. A judge would have given him a jail sentence.

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5. Last but not least. Cameroon v Argentina in the 1990 World Cup. Claudio Cannigia v Benjamin Massing. The worst part is that you could see this (possibly quite deliberate) foul coming. It’s not every day you see a defender challenge a player so hard, his boot comes off in the collision. Even the referee gave him another yellow card after the red.

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So what next for Rivaldo?

He scored the greatest hat-trick I have ever witnessed. He performed moments of magic at the highest level. He is the true meaning of the word “legend” in football. But when Rivaldo he left Greece to play his football in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2008, it raised eyebrows. Come on – he was 36, he’d won a World Cup, Spanish League titles, a Champions League and was World Footballer of the Year in 1999. He didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. Sure, the Uzbek move was mainly for financial reasons (he earned €5.1 million per season with the ambitious FC Bunyodkor) but his latest venture is, well, a strange one.

The great Brazilian, who turns 40 in April, has recently signed for Kabuscorp. They are based in Luanda, Angola. Before you ask: no, I’d not heard of them either. A strange choice I’m sure you’ll agree. He’s certainly not on the money he was earning when playing for Barcelona, AC Milan or FC Bunyodkor. He did have a superb yet short stint with Sao Paolo just a few months ago and after he brought that to an end, his agent contacted Partizan Belgrade and Belgian side Genk offering his clients services – both turned him down.

Rivaldo: from Barça & Milan to Angola (via Uzbekistan)

So in the end, it was the Angolan club that signed the legend. And Kabuscorp aren’t even the wealthiest club in the Girabola league, so it certainly wasn’t a financial move. And why Angola, I wondered? Well, Angola and Brazil do speak the same language – Portuguese. But the common language couldn’t be sole reason why the legend moved to Central Africa. You never know – we could still see him, aged 40 turn out in a Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers or even Monaghan United jersey yet.

 

The Xavi from the Welsh valleys

Anyone that watches football, and more specifically watches La Liga, will tell you that the best passer in the game is hands-down Barcelona’s Xavi. He is incredible to watch in Pep Guardiola’s dream team. For three years on the bounce he has been in 3rd place in the Ballon d’Or (his team-mate Leo Messi coming in 1st). But is he actually the best passer in the planet? The answer, shockingly, is no. He’s 2nd best. Statistics show that the best is – brace yourselves – Swansea City’s Leon Britton.

Britton: officially better than Xavi - and everyone else.

The 29-year-old midfielder tops a pile that features some of the best-known footballers in world football such as John Terry, Yaya Touré, Philip Lahm, Thiago Silva and more. Incredibly, Britton’s central midfield partner Joe Allen also features in the top 10. Here are the ten best passers in world football today:

  1. Leon Britton (Swansea), 93.3% accuracy. 1127 passes.
  2. Xavi (Barcelona), 93% accuracy. 1830 passes.
  3. John Terry (Chelsea), 91.6 accuracy. 1209 passes.
  4. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), 91.3% accuracy. 1086 passes.
  5. Thiago Silva (AC Milan), 91.1% accuracy. 1068 passes.
  6. Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich), 91% accuracy. 1326 passes.
  7. Joe Allen (Swansea), 90.3% accuracy. 1075 passes.
  8. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), 90.3 accuracy. 1318 passes.
  9. Yaya Touré (Manchester City), 90% accuracy. 1552 passes.
  10. Scott Parker (Tottenham), 89.8& accuracy. 1035 passes.

Now that’s quite incredible statistics, isn’t it? People always think Xavi & Iniesta when they think of the perfect midfield duo. Nobody would dare think of Joe Allen and Leon Britton. Then again, Allen & Britton aren’t surrounded by superstars such as Messi, Dani Alves and David Villa each week.

But should Fabio Capello consider the Britton for his England squad for the Euros this summer? He did attend and watch The Swans beat Arsenal at the weekend. Anything is possible. What do you think? Leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.

 

 

It's all Jimmy Hill's fault.

It was just over fifty years ago when the age of the millionaire footballer began. “How?” you ask… Well, it was in fact January 1961 when the maximum wage for players was abolished. Who was behind that? None other than Jimmy Hill believe it or not.

Yeah, it’s true. The former-Fulham striker and media pundit became PFA chairman in 1957. He campaigned tirelessly to have the £20 per-week maximum wage scrapped and ultimately achieved this four years later. The generously-chinned one would later claim that his crusade to have the maximum wage scrapped began the moment Leeds centre-half John Charles signed for Italian giants Juventus in August 1957, quintupling his weekly pay packet with the move.

"£20 a week? You're having a laugh, ain't ya?"

“John Charles and Jimmy Greaves (who was AC Milan-bound) were going out to Italy and earning vastly different sums of money,” Hill explained. “In the end we’d have lost all our top-class players”. It was then Jimmy Hill’s own club Fulham which suffered from footballers’ new financial clout – they were forced to fork out £100 every week to keep the talented midfielder Johnny Haynes at Craven Cottage.

In the years that followed, players became millionaires and lived extravagant lifestyles (see George Best), player-power was a problem (see Carlos Tevez) and attitudes stunk up dressing rooms for decades all because of dough. So the next time you think to yourself “too much money has football ruined”, remember this – it’s basically all Jimmy Hill’s fault.

Talent + too much money = moments like this

The King that wishes to be President

So, you’ve thought you’ve heard everything, huh? You haven’t. Eric “The King” Cantona wishes to be the next President of France. No, really…I’m not making this up. The former-Man United striker, who once called on people to empty their bank accounts in protest at the global financial crisis, has already written to mayors requesting that they nominate him for the contest to be held on 22 April. He needs 500 signatures.

The French newspaper Libération published a copy of the letter Cantona sent to mayors around France on its website. In it he vows to fight against social inequality if he becomes France’s next President. “I am a committed citizen,” the 45-year old wrote. “This commitment obliges me to speak up, more seriously than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country is faced with difficult choices for its future”. Ooh.

Cantona was one of Man United’s most famous players, not only for his wonderful display of  exceptional skills, but also for his unpredictable behaviour. In 1995, he famously kung-fu kicked a Crystal Palace supporter following his dismissal from the match. In a press conference later about the incident, all he said was: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”. Allez Monsieur le Président!

 

"China….do well!" and other football chants

Football chants are a major part of the game. Always have been. From fans of the Italian national team screaming the bass riff of “Seven Nation Army” to fans of our own boys in green roaring Depeche Mode’s classic “Just Can’t Get Enough“, at almost nearly every game you will hear the the public sing at the top of their lungs – not always in tune, but that doesn’t matter.

Clubs often try to include some memorable drama with their teams’ enterances. One of the most famous being of course Liverpool, who walk out on each matchday to Gerry & The Pacemakers’ hit “You’ll Never Walk Alone“. No merseybeat for rivals Man United though, who use an indie classic: they enter onto the Old Trafford pitch to The Stone Roses’ “This Is The One” blaring – I approve.

"What pineapple?"

Former Notts Forest star Jason Lee was subject to fans (his own and rival ones) constantly singing “He’s got a pineapple, on his head, he’s got a pineapple, on his head!” to the tune of “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”. His hair did, if I’m honest, resemble that particular fruit (see above) and he shaved it off in the end after much taunting.

West Ham fans at least used their imagination for Bobby Zamora, when he played for the Hammers. Fans used to regularly sing “When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, it’s Zamora.” to the tune of Dean Martin’s classic “That’s Amore“. And Liverpool fans used the witty “He’s big, he’s red…his feet stick out the bed” for former striker Peter Crouch. Now that’s funny.

Crouchy after investing in an 8 foot bed

But the best chant I’ve ever heard is for the China national team. The best their loyal supporters could come up with is “China….do well!” – at least it’s to the point.

Do let me know your favourite football chants and hit me up on twitter also.

Tim Howard: Not the first goalscoring 'keeper

On Wednesday evening, I noticed on my twitter timeline that Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard was trending. I wasn’t watching the Everton v Bolton game as I was gearing up for Barcelona’s Copa Del Rey match against Osasuna, but a quick search showed that the American ‘keeper scored a goal. Nice! The wind and a freak bounce played a massive part in his goal, but it’s still a feat worthy of an applause from me. However, as you may well know, he ain’t the first ‘keeper to score in the opposing goal.

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Probably, the most famous goalscoring goalkeeper is Sao Paolo’s 38-year old Rogério Ceni. Not only is he been the club’s no.1 player since 1990, but he has also scored an unusual amount of goals for a ‘keeper. 103 to be exact. Yes…one hundred and three. Many of you dear readers will remember his 100th from this blog twelve months ago.

Paraguay’s Jose Luis Chilavert has banged in a few in his time. His career tally is 44 professional goals. He’s a bit of a nutter at the best of time and is known within the sport for being “loco”, but he also scores and there’s a fine line between genius and insanity – just like this.

And of course, nobody will forget Mexico’s Jorge Campos. Mainly due to his colourful jerseys, but also for his knack of scoring the odd goal. 31 of his 34 goals throughout his career was scored whilst he was playing for his beloved Pumas FC.

Shay Given for a hat-trick in the Euros against Spain? Go for it, Shay!

 

Another transfer window, another month of chaos, rumours and big money!

It’s that time again. The transfer window is open. Naturally, the last day of the window (Jan 30th) is always the busiest, but between then and now, we may see some interesting movement throughout the sport.

First off, keep your eye on Paris Saint-Germain (who’s city and club have been recently profiled on this blog). With their Qatari millions backing them, the club’s owners are hungry to make the Parisians what Real Madrid were in the early 2000’s. They’ve already tried to acquire the services of one David Beckham, who recently turned them down in favour of staying put in LA. But PSG have also rumoured to have been eyeing up Mario Balotelli (as have AC Milan) and Alexandre Pato. One thing’s for sure, they will not be quiet in this window.

Speaking of Real Madrid, their defender Raul Albiol is now a target for Manchester City having missed out on the brilliant Daniel De Rossi, who signed a contract extension at Roma. While rivals Man United are linked with CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev, known as the Russian Leo Messi, himself linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

TH back at the Arsenal. Good or bad?

Elsewhere, Arsenal are linked with Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson and Lyon’s Aly Cissokho having already, all-but-officially, snapped up legend Thierry Henry on a two-month loan from the New York Red Bulls. I have reservations about TH14’s move back to London. It might provide a feel good factor for staff, certain players and fans, but I’d be surprised if the Henry of circa 2003/4 will return to the Emirates. We shall see – only time will tell.

Finally, Brazilian magician Neymar, currently playing with Santos, could leave his club in the window. Club president Luis Ribeiro has admitted he is unable to afford the rising star’s salary. Neymar is a long-time target for Barcelona and AC Milan. Barça might have the upper hand however as they need a replacement for David Villa and AC Milan are expected to land Carlos “I don’t want to play” Tevez, who himself isn’t exactly on peanuts.

Come back to me on Wednesday 1st February for a complete round-up of the major transfers over the next four weeks. Also, keep an eye on my twitter for the big movers as they happen.