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Tough fixtures ahead as Champions League draw is made.

Some very difficult fixtures in store for the group stages of the Champions League. Manchester United avoided some seriously tough opponents, but still have a difficult task as they will face FC Basel, Benfica and CSKA Moscow.

Celtic have been given a ruthless draw as they face German giants Bayern Munich, the Neymar-led PSG and Belgian big boys Anderlecht. Chelsea could have wished for easier opponents too as they face Atlético Madrid, Roma and Qarabag.

Most pundits will expect Man City to top their group ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk, Napoli and Feyenoord, but only a fool would think that an away game against any of these clubs will be a walk in the park.

Liverpool can be thankful for missing out on some serious heavyweights such as Barcelona and Juventus, but they face Spartak Moscow, Sevilla and Maribor and no doubt Jurgen Klopp will be after the group’s top spot.

Finally Tottenham have been dealt heavyweights in Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. Along with APOEL, Mauricio Pochettino will face an uphill battle if they are to make it to the knock-out stages.

The groups in full:

Group A: Benfica, Manchester United, Basel, CSKA Moscow

Group B: Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Anderlecht, Celtic

Group C: Chelsea, Atlético Madrid, Roma, Qarabag

Group D: Juventus, Barcelona, Olympiakos, Sporting

Group E: Spartak Moscow, Sevilla, Liverpool, Maribor

Group F: Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester City, Napoli, Feyenoord

Group G: Monaco, Porto, Besiktas, Leipzig

Group H: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham, APOEL

 

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Spurs flop Paulinho’s move to Barcelona raises eyebrows

With the recent news of Neymar’s world-record transfer to PSG, one would assume Barcelona would be in dire need of a winger to fill the gap that the Brazilian will no doubt leave. There is talks about Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembélé. But the Catalan giants did make a signing this week. And one that has many raising questions.

When Paulinho left White Hart Lane in 2015, nobody would have predicted – not even the player himself surely – that within two years and two months, he would earn a dream move to Barcelona. While he was undoubtedly a big name player for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande, the €40 million Barça spent on the 29-year-old seems somewhat excessive.

To begin, Barcelona have players in his central midfield position. Lots of them. It would be unlikely that Sergi Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Andre Gomes or Arda Turan to name but a few, would be replaced by the former Spurs man. Barcelona have bought a player for a position they already have more than enough for.

But there’s also reports that the signing may not have been for sporting reasons. Reports suggest that Barça’s not-too-popular club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who is the CEO of a company called ADELTE Group (which is into designing, manufacturing, supplying and maintaining airports, seaports and road transport operations) and that that the group is expanding into China and bidding on projects like the Ocean Flower Island, which is being built by the Evergrande group – the same people who own Paulinho’s club Guangzhou. A bit far-fetched? Maybe. Would it be likely that this is the reason? It’s a possibility. But it’s a rumour at this point.

Conspiracy theories aside, Paulinho should be judged by what he does on the pitch.

It must be noted that Paulinho has not only excelled in the, admittedly lower standard, Chinese Super League, but he has returned to the Brazilian national team set-up. In World Cup qualification, the Seleção started their campaign with sub-par performances and results. However, they won all eight games after Paulinho’s return in the yellow jersey, even scoring a in a 4-1 away win against Uruguay.

Interesting times at Camp Nou. The signing of a certain fellow Brazilian who lives in Liverpool, will take the heat off Barcelona’s president. And indeed the fans who have yet to give Paulinho a chance.

Cheick Tioté RIP.

It is with great sadness that the blog learned of the passing of former Newcastle United player Cheick Tioté. The Ivorian collapsed while training with new club Beijing Enterprises and died a short time later.

Tioté spent seven season in the North-east of England where he was a fan favourite – especially after the screamer and his only goal for the Magpies that he scored in the 4-4 draw with Arsenal in 2011.

https://twitter.com/Joey7Barton/status/871798078122201089

https://twitter.com/didierdrogba/status/871777720748855297

https://twitter.com/No1shaygiven/status/871759300015816705

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

This summer’s free transfer XI

As players’ contracts are winding down at the end of this month, many will be moving on. But let’s have a look at the best eleven that will be available on a free transfer at the end of the month.

Iker Casillas. (GK)
The Spanish World Cup winning captain has been linked with a move to Liverpool, and would possibly be a starter ahead of Mignolet. What’s that saying…class is permanent?

Bacary Sagna. (RB)
He may be 34, but Sagna has always been a solid right-back for all the clubs he’s turned out for. Still Premier League quality, he would be a wonderful addition for any club.

Gonzalo Rodriguez (CB)
The Fiorentina captain will be coming to the end of his contract this month after five years with the Serie A side. One of the newly promoted sides of the Premier League for next season should really consider acquiring the services of the Argentine international.

Pepe (CB)
I was going to include John Terry for this position, but the fiesty Portugese centre back has been a more consisent player in recent years. His final days at Real Madrid are upon us and, like his one-time team mate Casillas, he would fit into just about any team.

Gael Clichy (LB)
Another player the press has linked with a move to Liverpool, this French left-back who at 31 would still be considered a top acquisition by most teams at the highest level.

Jesus Navas (RM)
Predicted to return to his native Spain, the talented winger has long been wanted by managers over the years. Still only 31, with the right club, this is his last chance to impress to regain his place in the Spanish national team before his career begins slowing down.

Lucas Leiva (CM)
The Brazilian has been at Anfield for a decade and will leave this summer with Besiktas ready to take him on board. Not all players succeed in Turkey, but I’m sure Lucas will be surveying his options. There will be a lot of teams interested, no question.

Miguel Veloso (CM)
The 31-year-old has been a full international with Portugal for 10 years now, appearing at two World Cups and as many European Championships. Soon to be out of contract with Genoa, the midfielder should gather some interest with lots of clubs.

Valentin Eysseric (LM)
This 25-year-old is coming to the end of his contract at Nice and with plenty of clubs – especially in his native France – keeping an eye on him. A talented midfielder, the right move could be easily benefit both club and player.

Mario Balotelli (FW)
His excellent season with Nice last year will see Super Mario a wanted man once more. Heavily linked with a move to Napoli, no doubt his agent Mino Raiola will ensure the most lucrative offer possible. A great if sometimes difficult striker, he’s worth a punt.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (FW)
If Mourinho wants the Swede to stay at Old Trafford, he more than likely will get him to stay. But anything is possible. Ibra will only want to play at an elite level and make no mistake – elite clubs will be keeping tabs on him.

 

Substitutes:
Nilmar, Rachid Ghezzal, John Terry, Seydou Keita, Marouane Chamakh.

 

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Xabi Alonso calls time on a remarkable career.

Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso announced this week that he would retiring from playing at the end of the current season.

In a tweet, the Spaniard simply wrote “Lived it. Loved it. Farewell beautiful game” and received subsequent praise from the his peers and fans around the world for his 17 years playing top flight football with such class.

Alonso was captain of the John Toshack-coached Real Sociedad where the Welshman built the team around the young midfielder. During the 2002-03 season, Alonso was instrumental in helping Sociedad to a club record for their highest ever points total, and qualifying for the UEFA Champions League for the first time.

He joined Liverpool in 2004 under a new era at Anfield under the tutelage of Rafa Benitez as well as a number of his compatriots. He played a massive part in the famous Champions League victory for the Reds in Istanbul in 2005.

He completed a €40 million move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009, where he was ever-present in the midfield role for Los Merengues. He won La Liga once during his tenure in the Spanish capital and the Copa del Rey twice, and this was topped off with a Champions League medal.

Approaching 33 years of age, Alonso was still in high demand with clubs and it was Pep Guardiola who took him to German giants Bayern Munich where he was deployed as both a midfielder and a centre-half. He won the Bundesliga twice during his stint in Bavaria.

A naturally gifted midfielder, a player of Xabi Alonso’s class comes along not too often.

 

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Graham Taylor R.I.P.

The blog is very saddened to learn of the passing of former England manager Graham Taylor, following a suspected heart attack. He was 72.

“With the greatest sadness, we have to announce that Graham passed away at his home early this morning of a suspected heart attack,” read a family statement. “The family are devastated by this sudden and totally unexpected loss.”

Taylor’s playing career took him to Grimsby Town and Lincoln City, managed England during a difficult time as they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. He also had two spells in charge at Aston Villa, Watford as well as Wolves (where he signed a 14-year-old Dubliner called Robbie Keane).

Elton John, Paul McGrath and various clubs and sportsmen led the tributes to Taylor, a true footballing man.

 

Five players to keep an eye on during Euro 2016.

Not long to go now until kick-off for the first game for Euro 2016. This competition, much like the World Cup, are where stars are born. If a promising player has a good tournament, then all the big clubs are keen to sign him.

However, this tournament will, as I’m sure you well know, be contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format. There will be a plethora of talent on display throughout. But here’s my list of some fine stars and hot prospects to firmly keep an eye on.

Mateo Kovačić (Croatia)

I’ve previously featured Kovačić in my One To Watch section a little over three years ago just as he signed to Inter Milan. He excelled at the Milanese club, and was signed by giants Real Madrid last August. With the talent at Zidane’s disposal, chances have been limited, but performances have been great. Kovačić is set to shine alongside Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric for Croatia.

Julian Draxler (Germany)

The 22-year-old midfielder has got some serious competition to make it into the German starting XI. They are, after all, world champions (not that that fact would phase Shane Long…). But Draxler has the sheer talent, speed and determination to be exactly what Joachim Löw needs. This is a player you should definitely keep an eye on, whether he’s in a Germany or a Wolfsburg shirt.

julian-draxler

Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland)

Ireland fans may remember Krychowiak. He scored the first Polish goal against the Boys in Green in Warsaw last October. In truth, the Sevilla midfielder is actually a very clever player in an improving Polish team. The 26-year-old has been linked with a number of clubs, including Arsenal. A good tournament here and many more heads, other than Arsene Wenger, will definitely be turning.

Koke (Spain)

If you have been watching La Liga, you will be more than familar with this 24-year-old. Atlético Madrid’s Koke is absolutely brilliant. I believe that the current Spanish side’s midfield, which usually contains the likes of Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas and David Silva, can only be complimented by his presence. Spain are one of the favourites to go far – keep your eye on him in this.

Antoine Griezmann (France)

Koke’s Atletico Madrid team-mate, Antoine Griezmann is, on a good day, pretty unstoppable. His hunger to win and his form (he scored 32 goals across all competitions for Atléti this season) would mean that the 25-year-old just may well get in Didier Deschamps’ starting XI ahead of the likes of Giroud, Gignac or Martial. With no Benzema around, it could well be his time to shine.

 

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International Champions Cup comes to Dublin

The 2016 edition of the International Champions Cup was announced today. This will be the tournament’s forth installment and is set to be played in the last week of July and first week of August. Heads have been turned though on these shores though, as Barcelona have been confirmed to take on Celtic at the Aviva Stadium on July 30th.

This is obviously of big interest with the vast numbers of Celtic fans in this country, as well as the colossal worldwide interest that Barcelona bring. All of the online publications screamed that Messi and Neymar are coming to Dublin this afternoon. I would be surprised if Barcelona’s full starting XI feature. I’d be surprised if even Messi, Neymar or Suarez will at all feature. I’d put money on that you’re more likely to see Rafinha, Munir and Sergi Roberto as opposed to MSN. I could be wrong, and hope I am for football fans’ sake in this country. I doubt it however.

Neymar-Barcelona-1

The fixture list in full:

Saturday, 23 July
Celtic v Leicester City, Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland

Sunday, 24 July
Paris Saint-Germain v Inter Milan, Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon

Wednesday, 27 July
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Bayern Munich v AC Milan, Soldier Field,  Chicago, Illinois
Liverpool v Chelsea, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California

Saturday, 30 July
Celtic v Barcelona, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
Chelsea v Real Madrid, TBA, USA venue
Bayern Munich v Inter Milan, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Liverpool v AC Milan, Levi’s Stadium; Santa Clara, California
Paris Saint-Germain v Leicester City, Los Angeles, California. TBA venue

Wednesday, 3 August
Barcelona v Leicester City, Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
Chelsea v AC Milan, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Saturday, 6 August
Liverpool v Barcelona, TBA European venue (reports suggest that it will be Aviva Stadium)

Saturday, 13 August
Celtic v Inter Milan, TBA European venue

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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.

malanda

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Superstar Ronaldinho to sign for non-league English side?

Brazilian football legend Ronaldinho currently finds himself without a club having last played with Atletico Mineiro. There hasn’t been the world’s elite queuing up to sign the former World Player of the Year. But there is an offer from one English club. No, it isn’t Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal, but non-league side Basingstoke Town have been in contact with the 34-year old’s agent.

Barcelona's Ronaldinho celebrates goal against Sevilla during Spanish first division match in Barcelona

“We’ve put an offer to his brother, who is his agent, and look forward hearing back from him,” Basingstoke marketing director Simon Hood has said. “We took a look at the transfer list to see which players were available. We were shocked to see that Ronaldinho was a free agent and thought what better way for him to get back into football than to play for Basingstoke Town.”

The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner, 2006 Champions League winner and 2002 World Cup winner has previously won 97 caps for his country and his time in Europe playing for PSG, Barcelona and AC Milan between 2001 and 2010 earned Ronaldinho worldwide acclaim.

Basingstoke aren’t the only club interested in signing ‘Dinho.  Chennai Titans, who play in India’s top tier, have also been in contact to bring the Brazilian to the Tamil Nadu region of India where he could join up with former PSG team-mate, and one-time Hull City right back, Bernard Mendy.

Publicity stunt from Basingstoke? Or legitimate attempt to lure on of the most famous faces in world football to England’s sixth tier?

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Five talents to watch out for in the World Cup (part 2)

Less than a fortnight to go! Are you excited? We certainly are anyway. Last week, as you probably remember, I previewed five promising young talents who will be showcasing their skills on football’s biggest stage. As promised, I got five more for you.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Leo Messi, Hulk, Falcao, Andres Iniesta, Mario Balotelli, Wayne Rooney and Mario Götze are just some of the name expected to make all the headlines. But, and as with any major tournament, there’s always some young lads whose skills make you sit up and take notice. Here’s part two of my five talents to watch out for in the World Cup:

  • Raphaël Varane (France)
    It surprised some that Patrice Evra is on his way to Brazil as part of Didier Deschamps’ final France squad. But the Manchester United star isn’t guaranteed any playing time. Certainly not ahead of the much-praised Raphaël Varane. The defender, who turned 21 last month and recently won the Champions League with Real Madrid, is frequently named as an extremely promising player. He is very often praised by José Mourinho, so I wouldn’t be surprised if The Special One puts in a bid for Varane to replace the outgoing David Luiz. Varane will be tested in the World Cup. I reckon he’ll be superb for Les Bleus.
  • James Rodríguez (Colombia)
    If there’s one young player that has the ability to blow our minds in the same way Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do on a regular basis, it’s 22-year-old James Rodríguez. The Monaco midfielder made headlines last year when he moved to the French side from FC Porto for a fee of €45 million. A versatile playmaker with speed and creativity anywhere within midfield, you expect him to supply Falcao with goals – if he’s not banging in one or two himself.
    jrodricolombia
  • Son Heung-min (South Korea)
    Fans of the Bundesliga will know this guy – 21-year-old Son Heung-min has been putting on fantastic displays in Germany’s top flight for the past couple of seasons now. The Bayer Leverkusen forward is a sharp and crafty player with a considerable eye for goal. He often plays as a second striker, but can be put anywhere in an attacking position to full effect. Son could be difference to help South Korea squeeze out of their group.
  • Héctor Herrera (Mexico)
    They have a hard group, but Mexico have no shortage of talent with names such as Chicharito, Guardado, dos Santos and Ochoa all on display. But they do have a very talented and feisty box-to-box midfielder in Héctor Herrera. The 24-year-old Olympic gold medalist signed for FC Porto for €8 million in 2013, and just two years ago he was being heavily scouted by both Liverpool and Manchester United. Keep your eye on El Zorrilo – he could cause the mighty Brazil some problems.
  • Miralem Pjanić (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
    When it comes to Bosnia and Herz., all eyes are usually on the brilliant Edin Džeko. But 24-year old Miralem Pjanić is one player that the rest of Group F could take for granted – at their peril. The Roma midfielder is a classic playmaker with two quick, strong feet with exceptional abilities with set pieces. Like with club, Pjanić has no trouble slotting in any midfield position for Bosnia and Herz. But at the World Cup expect to see him just behind Džeko, both hungry for goals.

These five plus last week’s lot are my 10 players to watch at the tournament. In fact I may be very well tempted to include a number of them in my World Cup fantasy football team which starts on June 8th. But I’ll remind you of that closer to the time.

Not long left now ’til kick off in Sao Paolo.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

What next for Barça and where next for Mourinho?

Adios amigos. The two Spanish teams are out of the Champions League and it will be an all-German affair come May 25th when Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund at Wembley. The last time a Bundesliga club won this trophy was back in 2001. But while German football continues to increasingly shine, lots of people are wondering what next for Spain’s “big two”.

“End of an era” is what many journalists wrote on Wednesday night after Barcelona‘s 7-0 aggregate defeat against Bayern Munich. Some players, such as Xavi, dismissed such headlines. “There’s no need to be drastic,” he told Spanish television. “The team has a future, we’ve competed very well up until now. I’m always optimistic and this team has the desire.”

Under Pep Guardiola, the squad played incredible football week-in, week-out. To win games 4-0 and 5-0 wasn’t a big surprise. But Pep has gone, and under current coach Tito Vilanova, there’s been a different style of football. In fact without Leo Messi, it’s like a completely different team to that of the one 12 months ago. After Guardiola, the only way was down.

The defeat at the hands of Bayern stings the Catalans – mainly because of the nil part in the scoreline. Barça are better than that – even if they did face the team who, in my opinion, are playing the best football in any league this season. That said, Barcelona are on course to win another La Liga title.

José Mourinho, meanwhile, made it pretty clear to the media that his time is all but up at Real Madrid following his side’s defeat to Borussia Dortmund. “I know I am loved in England. I am loved by some clubs,” said the Special One, “especially one”. You don’t have to be a genius to know exactly who that “one” is.

But while José is eyeing up a return to England (he won’t be at PSG next despite what you may hear), what next for Real Madrid? In the past decade, the club has gone through eleven coaches. And getting a new one wouldn’t be much a problem. To coach Madrid is, and always has been, one of the biggest jobs in world football. But who? Lots of candidates. I wouldn’t rule out the likes of Ernesto Valverde or even, brace yourselves, Rafa Benitez.

But José’s departure will be music to the ears of certain Madrid players, especially club captains Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas – both of whom had fallen out with the Portugese coach. And they’re not the only ones. A change of management will likely give Los Blancos a boost for next season – especially when rivals Barcelona’s morale is, despite being all but crowned league champions, at an unusual low.

While Spain’s “big two” are feeling crushed, two of Germany big guns are getting even bigger.

 

What do you think the future holds for Barcelona and Real Madrid? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo). Enjoy your weekend.

Champions league round of 16 review and preview (leg 1)

Celtic hearts were broken on Tuesday night. The three-nil loss at the hands of Juventus all but crushes their Champions League dreams. The Glaswegians played with a lot of heart at Celtic Park, and the scoreline did not reflect their performance. Celtic boss Neil Lennon admits that it will take a miracle to topple The Old Lady in Turin. To be fair, Neil, stranger things have happened. Weren’t Liverpool 3-0 down at half time in Istanbul in that final?

Newly-rich PSG travelled south to Spain to take on Valencia. Despite having far less possession than Ernesto Valverde’s men, the Parisians enjoyed more chances on goal. With that, goals from Argentine duo Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi witnessed Carlo Ancelotti’s go two-up in the first half. A late consolation goal from Adil Rami and an even later Zlatan Ibrahimovic red card wasn’t enough for the Spaniards to get more out of the defeat. But will the Zlatan-shaped hole in PSG be enough for Valencia to come back in the Parc de Princes?

Borussia Dortmund travelled to face Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, but the game was overshadowed by a fatal plane crash carrying fans to the game in eastern Ukraine just hours before kick-off.
Shakhtar’s Daniel Srna opened the scoring with a world-class free kick. Polish striker Robert Lewandowski levelled the scoring four minutes before the break. Things were looking up again for the home side as Brazilian Douglas Costa put the Ukrainians ahead after 68 minutes only to have their hearts broken by Mats Hummels, who equalized for the Germans with three minutes to go. It’s all to play for in the Signal Iduna Park on March 6th.

It’s all to play for in Old Trafford also as Manchester United held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in the Bernebéu. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men can be pleased with the away goal, courtesy of Danny Wellbeck, but they will need to be more ruthless in the second leg. Ronaldo was sheer class and his headed goal proves why he is a constant threat against any opponent. It could have been more though if it were not for goalkeeper David de Gea, whose world-class goalkeeping performance almost single-handedly saved the English side from a defeat.

The fixtures for next week are:

Porto v Málaga
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Galatasaray v Schalke 04
AC Milan v FC Barcelona

What did you think of this week’s games and what are you predictions for next week’s fixtures? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)

Trap stays. Now what?

The FAI confirmed on Wednesday evening that Giovanni Trapattoni will remain on as Ireland boss. Despite the Boys In Green’s 4-1 win over the Faroe Islands (currently ranked 158th in the world) on Tuesday, it was clear to everyone in the country that a change in management would be the best thing for the future of Irish football. Sadly, John Delaney and the FAI board of management failed to see it that way. Or perhaps they don’t have the guts to fire him.

The feeling among the general public is that Trap is simply not the right man to do the job. He should be applauded for getting us into Euro 2012, but our three humiliating defeats in the competition leave an awful bad taste in the mouth. Not to mention the performances during and since the competition. The vast majority of pundits and indeed supporters (and possibly the players within the Ireland squad) would prefer it if Trap was to leave his post. A change of management is desperately needed.

The FAI’s statement at one point said that “qualification for Brazil in 2014 remains a realistic and achievable prospect”. Unless the 73-year old boss has a complete change of heart for tactics, player selection, man management skills and communication with players, the chances of the Boys In Green going to the World Cup shall most definitely remain somewhere between slim and none.

I am in disbelief how the FAI board of management fail to see that the Italian is the cause of the decline in Ireland’s performances, morale, spirit and – ultimately – results.

Trapattoni’s unwillingness to watch his international players in live action for their clubs is frankly bewildering. His stubborn approach to explore new tactics and new personnel is bizarre to say the least. Then add to this his complete lack of interest in Irish football outside the international level is, to put it mildly, appalling. Hotpress.com has this week even launched an online petiton calling on Il Trap to resign with these very reasons in mind.

I will applaud the FAI for going for a manager of Giovanni Trapattoni’s calibre back in 2008. Failing to realise that keeping him on could prove to be a costly mistake. I’d be almost certain of an empty Aviva Stadium for Ireland’s friendly against Greece next month. Fans won’t want to pay into watching more performances well below our usual standard as well as demoralising defeats. And I honestly can’t blame them.
So, what now? All I know is that with Trap in charge, the future ain’t so bright for Irish football.

 

What do you think of the FAI’s decision to keep Trapattoni on? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland)