Monthly Archives: February 2012

London calling for The Special One?

International fixtures are what’s on the menu this week for many a footballer and football fan. But Real Madrid manager José “Special One” Mourinho began his week by taking a flight to London on Tuesday morning and, according to Madrid-based sports newspaper AS, went house hunting in the English capital alongside his wife, Matilde.

Is he leaving Real Madrid? He may well do. Despite Madrid’s current league advantage over rivals Barcelona, Mourinho has not had the easiest of relationships with club president Florentino Perez or indeed some of the Spanish press – some of whom quite publicly do not respect Mourinho’s work at Madrid. But that is one of many possible reasons why The Special One would leave the Bernebéu.

And London? Is ‘Arry Redknapp taking the vacant England job and Mourinho is to the new replacement at Spurs? I wouldn’t bet on it. More likely he’s returning to Chelsea if anything – a club where he is worshipped. The Blues’ current manager André Villas-Boas is coming under fire from the powers that be upstairs at Chelsea. And given how ruthless that club is with managers, it would be a miracle if AVB was still in charge there next season. Mourinho back to The Bridge? Definitely maybe.

Mourinho spotted in London by a fan on Tuesday near Stamford Bridge. (Photo: TWITTER @CarefreeJD)

Things go from bad to worse for El Niño

Where did it all go wrong for Fernando Torres? Well, some might argue it all  went wrong the moment he signed for Chelsea from Liverpool on January 31st last year. I’m sure the Chelsea faithful will justify try justify the £50 million their club spent on the striker, but he has not been producing the goods whatsoever. And now, for the first time in years, he has been dropped from the Spain squad.

“Torres isn’t doing well, and we’ve decided that in this case he won’t come,” Spanish national team coach Vicente Del Bosque said, who has instead chosen to include Valencia’s Roberto Soldado and the highly-rated Athletic Bilbao youngster Iker Muniain (one to watch – believe me!) in Wednesday’s match against Venezuela. Now, Torres is dropped from the number one national team on the planet (who Ireland face in Euro 2012 on June 14th). What can he do next to get back into La Furia Roja?

Well, I believe, that “El Niño” should look for a move away from Stamford Bridge. He was playing his best football at Athlético Madrid and – especially – at Liverpool. He’s a shadow of the striker in those days. Where could Torres go? Back to Athlético? He’d have to take a massive pay cut. Real Madrid? That’d be like Steven Gerrard joining Man United. Barcelona? Their strike force would prevent him much playing time.

Back to Spain would be ideal for Torres – but if the “big two” and his beloved Athlético isn’t much of an option, would he really sign for Valencia or Malaga? I’d be surprised. The likes of the newly-rich Paris Saint-Germain would be keen to land the 27-year old. As would any Serie A club. His time in England is up and he needs a new lease of life elsewhere. At his best, Torres can be the best striker in the world. He really can. I doubt he’ll still be a Chelsea player next season. Time will tell where El Niño can find his footballing mojo again.

The story of Winston Bogarde and THAT infamous Chelsea contract.

Have you ever seen the movie Lost In Translation? There certainly must have been some Lost In Translation-moment when former-Ajax, Barcelona and AC Milan player Winston Bogarde was undergoing his medical in order to join Chelsea in 2000. When the injury-prone defender insisted his knee-injury was ‘recovering’ rather than ‘recurring’, all parties happily agreed to a four-year contract worth a whopping £2 million per season. It would be a contract (the pre-Abramovich) Chelsea would deeply regret signing.

When coach Gianluca Vialli (who purchased Bogarde) was replaced by Claudio Ranieri just weeks after the Dutch international”s move, it was Ranieri that wanted him to leave the club deeming him surplus to requirements – wages were far too high for a player no stanger to injuries. Bogarde knew he would not get a contract anywhere near as lucrative as what he got at Chelsea, so he decided to stay and honour his contract – regardless of what the manager, staff or fans thought.

During his time in London, the club repeatedly tried to offload Bogarde because of his enormous wages. When there were no takers, Chelsea demoted him to the reserve teams to encourage Bogarde to leave. He had no intention to do anything of the sort.

“Why should I throw millions away when it is already mine? At the moment I signed it was in fact my money, my contract. Both sides agreed wholeheartedly”, he would later say. Furthermore, when Chelsea won a domestic trophy at this time, it triggered a bonus payment in agreement with his contract, despite Bogarde not featuring at all for Chelsea.

The English press ridiculed him for his alleged selfishness. Bogarde merely responded, ‘This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so much I am one of the few fortunates who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care”.

When May 14th 2004 arrived, his contract was up. He shook hands with some employees at Chelsea and a couple of players and left for the airport. He was now aged 34 and never played professional football again. He had no Premier League appearances for Chelsea, pretty much rotted at the reserves and got paid an enormous amount for it. Wasn’t it Dire Straits who sang “Money For Nothing“? I’ll bet it’s the soundtrack to Bogarde’s life.

What the hell is happening at Arsenal?

It’s been one of Arsene Wenger‘s worst weeks as Arsenal boss. After the midweek 4-0 demolition at the hands of AC Milan, Wenger watched Arsenal slump out of the FA Cup against Sunderland on Saturday evening. While his peers and his players believe otherwise, Arsenal fans generally believe that it’s time for a managerial change at the Emirates. It may not be the worst thing that could ever happen to the club.

Let’s face it, he’s idolised by the Gooners faithful. And rightly so. He’s brought in quite an amount of silverware including the Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield numerous times – not forgetting the famous “invincibles” Arsenal team of 2003/4. But it’s now seven years since Arsenal last won a trophy. Arsenal fans are losing their patience and after the Sunderland game Roy Keane, working for ITV as a pundit, described Wenger’s current squad as the worst Arsenal team he had ever watched. Ouch!

I believe a new voice at the Arsenal dug-out might be a nice, fresh change for the club. Football can be a ruthless business at times and even Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be immune to getting the sack. A friend of mine, a complete Arsenal fanatic who absolutely adores the French boss, believes he should resign immediately for the good of the club. Well, if Wenger was to leave now, he would leave in the knowledge that the red half of North London will worship the ground he walks on.

At the moment things are going from bad to worse at Arsenal. And who could take his place, you ask? Louis Van Gaal? Fabio Capello? Mick McCarthy? Well, that’d be another story altogether. Arsenal play Spurs in the North London derby next Sunday – victory is crucial for Arsene Wenger.

Champions League last 16 round-up

Lyon coach Rémi Garde had been disappointed by Saturday’s defeat by Caen and looked to freshen his side up by making four changes in their Champions League game on Tuesday against APOEL FC. One of these was the hot prospect Alexandre Lacazette and it was his 58th minute goal that secured the French side’s a vital home victory.

Also on Tuesday was Bayer Leverkusen who played hosts to current holders Barcelona. And despite it being Valentine’s Day, Barça showed the Germans no love or no mercy. Alexis Sánchez scored twice as the Catalans took a giant step towards a place in the quarter-finals. Michal Kadlec did score for Leverkusen but it was, of course, Leo Messi whose goal two minutes from time made him the competition’s outright leading scorer so far. See the video below for highlights:

[jwplayer mediaid=”1676″]

Arsenal have a mountain to climb at the Emirates. The reason? AC Milan put four past them at the San Siro. Ouch! Two goals from Robinho, a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty and a spectacular Kevin-Prince Boateng volley gave the Rossoneri a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the second leg. Arsene Wenger will need to go on an all out attack – or pray that an extremely sub-par Milan side turn up at the Emirates on March 6th. I can’t see Arsenal recovering from this, though football has it’s surprises.

Finally, a tense-scoring match at the Petrovsky Stadium, witnessed home side Zenit St Petersburg narrowly clinch victory against Benfica. Uruguayan Maxi Pereira opened the scoring on 20 minutes for the Portugese side, only for Roman Shirokov‘s equaliser seven minutes later for Zenit brought things level. Sergi Semak goal gave Zenit the lead on 71 minutes before Benfica’s equaliser came with three minutes from time from Oscar Cardozo. But, it was to be Zenit’s night as sixty seconds later, Shirokov gave the Russian outfit their much deserved with and the game finished 3-2. Phew!

Next week sees Chelsea take on CSKA Moscow away, Chelsea travel to Napoli, Basel host Bayern Munich and Inter Milan face Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome in the French port city. ‘Til then.

Welcome to Manchester – again!

So Carlos Tevez arrived back in Manchester with an appointment with City’s club doctor. This comes after three months of unauthorised leave in his native Argentina. Roberto Mancini, who once said that he was “finished” at the club, is now welcoming back Tevez. Even though this week he has said that he was treated “like a dog” by the Italian manager. Will his return make an impact at City?

Well, the fans might boo him for what happened in Munich (even though Noel Gallagher publicly asked the City faithful not to) but the mood in the City camp isn’t one of division – according to Joleon Lescott who tweeted “All I can say…is that all the players are excited to have Carlos, Kolo and Yaya back to help achieve our goal”.

Tevez insists he is ready to play for City and do his best. In an interview in Argentina on Monday he said “I do not think I was wrong, but if they (the club) think so I apologise…I am ready to return, to win and do the best for the club’s shirt”.

Carlos was in talks with AC Milan, Inter Milan and Paris Saint Germain in January looking for a move away from Manchester but was unable to reach a deal with any club (most likely due to the enormous size of his pay packet). I for one am surprised Mancini is welcoming the Argentinian back – and especially after his comments. I’d be surprised if Tevez was a Man City player next season.

Mancini has his eyes on the big prize in England. Can Tevez make the difference? I personally believe that Balotelli, Dzeko and Aguero can do a good enough job without him. It’ll be an interesting time at Eastlands, that’s for sure. Watch this space…

 

So what next for England?

So Fabio Capello resigned as manager of England and, of course, the English media were quick to speculate who could take over the reigns  (José Mourinho and Arsene Wenger were just two names mentioned on TV literally within minutes of his resignation). But who will be the next England manager? How will England fare with a new boss just months before they embark on another major tournament.

"Arrivaderci, Inghilterra"

Well, the FA chairman David Bernstein said in his press conference that he is “not prepared to rule out anything but an Englishman or British person would have a good start”. So who’s the best man for the job then? Stuart “Phsycho” Pearce will take temporary charge of England for this month’s friendly against Holland – but he’s not the right man to take the reigns on a permanent basis. The media (and some England players also) seem to be concentrating on our favourite wheeler-dealer, Mr. Harry Redknapp.

‘Arry said his main focus was on managing Tottenham and that he had not thought about the England job. Well, of course he would say that. He is possibly one of, if not then THE best man for the job. But even if offered it, would he take it? He way well not – Spurs are doing mighty fine and he’s the reason behind that. So who else is there? Roy Hodgson? I can’t see that happening. David Moyes? I strongly doubt it. Alan Pardew? He won’t even be shortlisted. Who? Maybe another foreign manager is the way to go.

'Arry could get the top job

Of course, The Special One would be welcomed back into England with open arms. But it’d be very unlikely for him to part company with Real Madrid – especially now at this point in the season with Los Blancos top of La Liga. Arsene Wenger was mentioned? He wouldn’t leave Arsenal. And I don’t think he’d be too keen to manage England. What about Guus Hiddink? He wouldn’t be a bad choice in my view. But would the FA hire him?

Whoever gets the full time gig may have to deal with some issues before even setting foot on a training ground such as the captaincy and if John Terry and Rio Ferdinand play together at centre-half or if  JT should be selected at all given recent events. Interesting times ahead. Watch this space…

 

Eamon Zayed: Roy of the Rovers in Tehran

Imagine being two-nil down with ten men. In the country’s biggest derby in front of 80,000. With a further 20 million watching on TV. And then scoring a very late hat-trick to win the game. That is exactly how Dublin-born Eamon Zayed introduced himself to fans of his new club Perepolis in the Sorkhabi derby against Esteghal – only the second time he turned out for the Tehran club.

The goals were decent too (especially the first one) – check out the video below. “It was Roy of the Rovers stuff,” Zayed said after the game, “fairytale stuff really and everything since has been mad, surreal but great at the same time”.

[jwplayer mediaid=”1646″]

I’ve always been a fan of Irish-based players plying their trade in more exotic lands (as previously blogged), but given exactly how passionate Iranians are for the beautiful game, you can rest assured Eamon Zayed is a household name this weekend. Not bad for the former Bray, Drogheda and Derry City striker. Good on him, I say!

Transfer deadline day chaos (or the lack of it)

Ah, the last day of January. A day many spend the evening by staring at Jim White and his colleagues on Sky Sports News for the usual drama of transfer deadline day. Last year Andy Carroll joined Liverpool for an astonishing £35 million and Fernando Torres joined Chelsea for £50 million. Social networks went crazy that night. What could happen tonight? Will Chelsea make another massive signing? Could Gerard Pique (and girlfriend Shakira) make Manchester their new home? Could Carlos Tevez join Liverpool and then Everton only moments later? Will it be the most exciting day in footballing transfer history?

The answer is…no. The day hadn’t quite the excitement as last year’s for the average footie fan. But it did have some interesting moves that will no doubt make an impact at certain clubs. One of these clubs is of course QPR. Having already captured Nedum Onuoha (Man Citeh) and Taye Taiwo (AC Milan), they signed Bobby Zamora (Fulham) and Djibril Cissé (Lazio) to strengthen Mark Hughes’ side. Throughout January, they more or less bought half a team.

Zamora joins the R's

Meanwhile ‘Arry Redknapp (who is not a “wheeler-dealer”) brought Everton’s Louis Saha to White Hart Lane on loan for the rest of the season with Steven Pienaar going back to his former club also on loan.  Everton did also complete the £5.5m signing of Nikica Jelavic from Rangers. Speaking of Spurs, their out-of-favour striker Roman Pavlyuchenko left to join Lokomotiv Moscow in his native land. Elsewhere, Man City landed Chile midfielder David Pizarro on loan from Roma for the rest of the season as did West Brom, for our very own Keith Andrews from Blackburn.

There was some interesting moves elsewhere in Europe such as this and this, but overall it could be considered a fairly quiet one – certainly by English standards with “only” £55.1 million spent by Premier League clubs this deadline day. Last year it was £215 million. Maybe at the next transfer deadline day, on the last day of August, it might be even less? Who am I kidding…Man City and Chelsea are still around, aren’t they?

Anyway, throughout the entire month of January, some of the best signings in my opinion have been:

  • Thierry Henry – New York Red Bulls to Arsenal (loan)
  • Carlos Kameni – Espanyol to Malaga (free)
  • Maxi Lopez – Catania to AC Milan (loan)
  • Gary Cahill – Bolton to Chelsea (£7 mil)
  • José Antonio Reyes – Athletico Madrid to Sevilla (€3.5 mil)
  • Moussa Sow – Lille to Fenerbahce (€15 mil)
  • Nicolas Anelka – Chelsea to Shanghai Shenhua (undisclosed)
  • Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy to Aston Villa (loan)
  • Amauri – Juventus to Fiorentina (€500k)
  • Alex – Chelsea to PSG (€5 mil)

Any other good transfers missed this month that is worth mentioning? Leave a comment or hit me up on twitter.