Never mind Cantona, Klinsmann, Henry or Ginola. In the Premier League’s history, it has produced many a memorable imported player. But it’s also had it’s fair share of big names that you forgot played in Blighty and briefly – very briefly – were the focus of the media.
1. Karl-Heinz Riedle.When Borussia Dortmund were crowned European Champions in 1997, the hero of the hour was striker Karl-Heinze Riedle. Later in that same year, Riedle was transferred to Liverpool where he featured irregularly thanks to the enormous rise of one Michael Owen. A move to Fulham in 1999 followed by a short stint as coach and the German striker’s time in England could be best described as luckless. It’s not the way a serial Bundesliga winner and World Cup winner usually ends their career. He now runs a hotel in Germany.
2. Nicola Berti.
Inter Milan fans know Berti very well. He’s something of a club legend around the San Siro. The Italian midfielder enjoyed ten seasons with Inter Milan before joining Tottenham in 1998, people sometimes forget the midfielder and World Cup runner-up played briefly in England. Yet, despite Spurs playing some terrible football in his one season at White Hart Lane, Berti was a decent signing – he played really decent football and he even scored 3 times for Spurs. But the Italian decided that La Liga was to be his next destination the following year, signing for Alaves. Perhaps it was the London weather.
3. Fernando Hierro.
Hierro, the captain of Spain, was to Real Madrid what Sergio Ramos is to the club now. A rock-solid defender, loyal to the club. He was consistent, if anything, in his 14 years at Los Blancos. When the Madrid hierarchy released Hierro (along with future Spain coach Vicente del Bosque) in 2003, he spent one season earning a ridiculous amount of money with Al-Rayyan in Qatar before making Lancashire his home, joining Bolton Wanderers. Teaming up with former team-mate Ivan Campo, Hierro was as solid for Bolton as he was for Madrid. But one season was all he could manage as he announced his retirement in 2005, much to the disappointment of the Bolton faithful – and manager Sam Allardyce.
For a player that won the Champions League twice, La Liga three times, the Copa del Rey and numerous titles in his native Brazil, Sylvinho enjoyed two stints in England – both of which seemed to be very quiet for a player as decorated as him. First up was Arsenal, who signed him from Corinthians in 1999. A decent left-full, he was admired by the Gunners’ faithful for his wonderful style of play (and the occasional cracking goal), but his performances were always overshadowed by Arsenal’s stars such as Henry, Vieira, Bergkamp and Ljungberg. With the emergence of Ashley Cole, Sylvinho spent most of 2000 and 2001 on the bench and was eventually sold to Celta Vigo before enjoying a hugely successful time with Barcelona under both Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola, he returned to England in 2009 joining the newly-rich Man City. Decent good performances, his limited appearances for City witnessed the Brazilian leave the club in 2010, before officially retiring a year later. He may have made little impact in England, but his trophy cabinet isn’t exactly empty.
5. Hernan Crespo.
When you think of Crespo, you think Inter Milan, AC Milan, Argentina, stunning goals, a world record transfer. You don’t really think Chelsea. But, yes, the Argentinian wizard spent a short stint in London with the Blues joining from Inter Milan. He never really settled in the area and, with the arrival of The Special One, Crespo was deemed surplus to requirements after one poor season and was promptly loaned out to AC Milan (he played in the 2005 Champions League final for the Rossoneri scoring twice before Liverpool’s huge comeback) – and later rivals and former-club Inter Milan. Chelsea paid just under £17 million for the Argentine and in return got 12 goals. Not exactly value for money. But that’s nothing new for Chelsea. See also Fernando Torres and Andrei Shevchenko. Oh yeah, remember Sheva played in England too?
Who is Rob Smith forgetting? Let him know your top foreign talents that he may have forgotten via Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)
For the second time this season, Inter Milan have been fined as a result of racial abuse by a small portion of their fans aimed at rival striker Mario Balotelli.
The first incident occurred just a little over a fortnight ago as Inter took on Chievo at the San Siro. Twice in that game certain supporters sang songs that contain racist lyrics against Balotelli. Inter were fined just €15,000.
“I was told about it because I couldn’t make out clearly what they were saying. I’m very sorry about that,” club president Massimo Moratti told inter.it. “I’m very sorry and I really hope it doesn’t happen during the derby.”
Guess what happened during the Milanese derby last weekend?
As a result of more racial abuse against Balotelli, Inter were this time fined €50,000. And the former Man City striker himself was fined €10,000 for making, in the words of Serie A’s disciplinary commissioner, an “insulting gesture” towards the Inter fans at the end of the 1-1 draw. While the Italian striker was victim of racial taunts, monkey sounds and inflatable bananas waved at him, his “insulting gesture” was raising his finger to his lips – sushing the racist section of Inter’s fans.
So Inter get fined a total of €65,000 for twice racially abusing a player of a rival club. Twice. Balotelli gets fined €10,000 for reacting by telling the crowd to basically “be quiet”. I can’t help but feel the powers that be behind Serie A are not dealing with the issue of racism well enough. In fact, Italian authorities have long been criticised by anti-racism campaigners for not cracking down hard enough on discrimination in sport.
Serie A president Maurizio Beretta would, in my view, want to take a look at this issue – and possibly himself – a bit closer and try put an end to the mindless actions of a few who are ruining the beautiful game. It’s not just Inter fans who are causing racial abuse to black players. It’s been an ongoing issue for a while now, yet the Serie A hierarchy are still not taking the issue of racism seriously it seems.
Morrissey. Robbie Keane. Two totally different people in totally different fields. But it turns out that the former Smiths singer and the current Ireland captain share the blood. Moz is keen (sorry) on our Robbie.
“It was a joyous head-storm to attend LA Galaxy v Club Tijuana last night and to see captain Robbie Keane score in the fourth minute. Why, exactly?”, the Mozfather wrote.
“Well, family tree aficionados will be aware that Robbie and I share the same Irish blood; his late grandfather (Thomas Nolan) being my own father’s cousin. In filial terms the Irish blood, English heart genetic between Robbie and I is evident – his chin is my chin, my chin is his.”
“Robbie was raised on Captain’s Road (as was my mother) in Crumlin (Dublin), before he was shipped out to Tallaght. He is a gentleman of the highest caliber (or, if you must, calibre), and to watch him on the pitch – pacing like a lion, as weightless as an astronaut, is pure therapy. Robbie, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.”
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)
A recent alcohol-fueled conversation about the 2012 Euros (we had to talk about it sometime) led myself and a friend to talk about previous European Championships competitions. While the 2008 competition seemed to be somewhat underwhelming, the 2004 competition will be forever remembered as the year when some outsiders won it – Greece.
But it was the 2000 one that witnessed some incredible games, spectacular football and some of the finest players in the history of the game all involved in this festival of European football. But where are these greats now, thirteen years on from the tournament? Let’s see where the competitions best players got up to since?
Patrick Kluivert. Barcelona’s and Holland’s number 9 was a big star with fans at this time. He shared the top-scorer position of the tournament with Serbia & Montenegro’s Savo Milosevic. He left Barcelona two years later for…wait for it…Newcastle United for one season. He then played a season for each Valencia, PSV and Lille before retiring in 2008. He never really showed the magic he did during his Barcelona years (or even Ajax before then). Still regarded as one of Holland’s finest players, he is now in the coaching staff under boss Louis van Gaal.
Sergio Conceição. The Portugese winger seemed to be around for years by the time Euro 2000 came along – yet he only retired from playing in 2010. Conceição was plying his trade in Italy during the competition for Lazio, winning a Serie A league title and Italian Cup double just weeks prior. He went onto play for Parma, Inter Milan, Lazio (again), Standard Liege and Porto before surfacing up in Greece with PAOK. He was recently managing Portugese side Olhanense, but was relieved from those duties merely weeks ago.
Fabio Cannavaro. Like Conceição, Cannavaro was on the scene for some time by the time this competition came around. The then-26 year old had 35 caps under his belt and was at Parma for five years already. He enjoyed a fantastic Euro 2000 and was named in the XI of the tournament. He later went onto Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid and Al Ahli (managed by one David O’Leary) before retiring at the age of 37 in 2011. His finest moment, however, came six years after this competition. He is now a pundit in Italy.
Zinedine Zidane. The great Zizou was phenomenal. He rarely played a bad game for his then-club Juventus and was out of this world for France. Having won the World Cup two years prior, he set out to lift the trophy in the final in Rotterdam. And he did. Zidane went onto achieve more greatness with Real Madrid before retiring at arguably his peak in 2006. The best player of the tournament. He still lives in Madrid with his wife and children (one of whom is a hot prospect with Real) and works with local and international charities as well as being a sporting director with his former club.
Raul. Unlike the previous names mentioned, Raul Gonzalez is still playing. Approaching the final stage of his career now, he was only 22 at the time of the competition – yet he had been considered already a legend at club Real Madrid, having been there for six seasons. He played a fantastic tournament despite only scoring just the one goal. Raul went on to play for Madrid until 2010 (he is regarded as the club’s 2nd greatest ever player, only behind Di Stefano). He joined German side Schalke not long after his departure and performed brilliantly in the Bundesliga, scoring 28 goals in his two season there. He currently resides in Doha, Qatar while playing for his new club Al-Sadd.
What players did you like at Euro 2000 and where are they now? Send us your stories on Facebook (/FootballElMundo) and be sure to hit up Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland). Have a good weekend, folks.
Venlo is a small city in the south of Holland, located pretty much right beside the German border. It’s most famous export are the local football club, VVV Venlo, who ply their trade in Holland’s top tier of football, the Eredivise.
Frankly, they’re lucky to be in the Eredivisie, having narrowly missed out on relegation for a couple of seasons now. But they do possess two individuals that may be of interest to fans of both the Republic and Northern Ireland – a Japanese striker and a Dutch midfielder with the most interesting of names.
Barry Maguire is a 23-year old midfielder and previously represented Ireland and Holland at youth levels. The former-Utrecht star, born of an Irish father and a Dutch mother in Tiel, is still open to offers from the FAI. Trap and Tardelli know about Maguire, but perhaps it’s Venlo’s dire performances as of late that prevent him from getting that much-awaited call-up.
“If Ireland rang me in the morning and asked me to play for them, I would say yes without a thought. I would like to play for the Irish team again but I have no contact at all from them,” Maguire has said.
At just 23, he’s worth a punt. He’s not having the best of seasons, but only a few years back, clubs such as Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven came chasing after the youngster. What is that old saying about how form is temporary, class is permanent?
If you look closely at the list of players at VVV Venlo presently, you’ll notice another name that will raise an eyebrow. A former Japanese youth international named Robert Cullen. That’s right.
Cullen – known by fans and fellow professionals as simply Bobby – was born in Tsuchiura, about 60 km north of Tokyo in 1985, the son of a Japanese mother and Northern Irish father. Having spent six years at Jubilo Iwata in Japan’s J-League, a short stint with second-tier Roasso Kumamoto, Cullen joined Dutch side Venlo in 2011. A classic striker, he wears the no. 10 jersey.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill had previously kept Cullen in mind when making selections. Still to wear the green jersey of “our wee country”, Cullen is certainly a player O’Neill and fans wouldn’t mind seeing in Windsor Park in the near future. Though because Japan does not allow dual nationality, losing his Japanese citizenship might be too big of a gamble for Cullen to take. Watch this space.
It goes to show that there are plenty of decent players eligible for both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to have a look at, maybe even take a chance. If we never took chances, we’d never find people such as third-division star Mark Lawrenson or Oxford United duo John Aldridge and Ray Houghton. Some of these players are closer than we think. Some much further away (see Brazilian Adolfo Rosinei and Japanese under-19′s star Colin Killoran for example).
Oh, why couldn’t Messi’s granny hail from Castlebar or if Zidane’s parents came from Abbeyleix instead of Algeria?
No footballer ever praises the mid-season transfer window. Managers also hate it and even club owners want rid of it. I don’t know if it’s a good idea myself, but I can’t deny how entertaining it can be – especially on January 31st. Last Thursday proved to be extra entertaining.
It all started off fairly regularly. Mario Balotelli finally completed his move to AC Milan after the Italian club’s director leaked details of the transfer earlier in the week. Luchiano Becchio left Leeds for Norwich City with Welsh international Steve Morison heading in opposite direction to Elland Road. David Beckham signed for newly-rich Paris St Germain and the former England captain announced that he would donate his entire salary to a local children’s charity. A nice touch, Becks!
As the day progressed, big moves such as Christopher Samba joining QPR from Russian outfit Anzhi and Nacho Monreal joining Arsenal were the other big headlines. That was until one Peter Odemwingie turned up at Loftus Road all on his own in his Range Rover. His window was down and as he was shaking hands with fans and talking to Sky, but it soon became apparent that Odemwingie didn’t have a deal with QPR. We know this because West Brom issued a statement soon after the striker was seen on live TV: Odemwingie was a West Brom player and no deal had been reached for QPR to sign him.
The Uzbek-born Nigerian was in fact denied access into the stadium by officials of the London club once lawyers were getting involved, as Odemwingie had no permission to speak to QPR. Bizarre? Yes. But there’s more. The 31-year old later said “I came to this club (West Brom) in a wholly unprofessional way. I wasn’t given any permission by Lokomotiv Moscow”. If Odemwingie is going down, it seems he’s taking everyone with him.
I’ve no doubt that a deal had likely been agreed in principle. Only it probably broke down when, if Odemwingie had left the Hawthorns for Loftus Road, it would have left West Brom in need of a replacement striker at the last minute. But for it to be handled so poorly, and in public, is one of the most bizarre things that can happen. Like it or not, the transfer deadline day always seems to create a surprise or two.
Even though this blog will forever remain a fan of the great Rivaldo, we’ll admit that he was at his world-class peak around 2001 or 2002. But that won’t stop him even though it’s 2013. Oh no. The Brazilian playmaker has decided that, despite the fact that he will be 41-years old in just three months time, his playing career must carry on.
The former Barcelona and AC Milan star signed for Brazilian second tier side São Caetano. He last played on his native soil just a year and a half ago, when he was loaned out to giants São Paolo from Mogi Mirim – the club he is also chairman of, yet bizarrely never made a single appearance for in his two stints there.
Rivaldo is no stranger to playing in exotic lands such as Spain, Greece, Italy and, em, Uzbekistan. Last year, he played an entire season for Angolan side Kabuscorp, having been turned down by Dinamo Zagreb and Charlton Athletic.
Indeed, at 40-years of age, Rivaldo shows no signs of hanging up his boots. I for one hope that he doesn’t for more years to come. Viva Rivaldo!
It’s been a while since I’ve compiled some videos for you, dear readers. Some clips doing the rounds on the internet as of late:
First off is Thai side Muangthong United and their slightly bonkers Macedonian star Mario Durovski lining up a free kick about 30 yards from goal. Only he doesn’t do what every single person watching expects him to do…
Next up is from last week’s Eredivise tie between PSV Eindhoven and PEC Zwolle (which yours truly was in attendance). Watch as three PSV players miss three chances in a row from just a couple of yards. PSV were deservedly beaten too…
You’ve seen it before, no doubt. But let’s look at it again. Personally I am liking the ballboy’s facial expression (at 0:14) as he looks on towards the referee, seeking to get the foolishly impatient Edin Hazard punished.
Muteba Kidiaba, the eccentric goalkeeper, celebrates DR Congo’s goal in the African Cup Of Nations like a true champion.
Finally, two dogs celebrate the signing of midfield maestro Wesley Sneijder with Galatasaray’s stars by the only way dogs know how to – interrupting them mid-match. Think what could happen is Sneijder actually scores?
Send any funny, strange and outrageous football clips to Rob Smith via Twitter (@robsmithireland) and don’t forget to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)
With the news on Wednesday that Pep Guardiola is set to join Bayern Munich as manager starting from the summer, it surprised a lot of people who were convinced that the 41-year old would be joining one of England’s big clubs.
Of course, Pep is hot property. His time as Barcelona manager between 2008 and 2012 witnessed him pick up no less than 13 trophies for Barça, making him the club’s most successful manager in their history. A host of clubs were linked with the Catalan including AC Milan, PSG, both the red and blue half of Manchester as well as Chelsea.
As I discussed before, Chelsea would not have been Pep’s priority – despite the fact that Pep himself is the priority of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. But with the Russian’s habit of firing managers, it always seemed like a destination that never suited Pep and his ultra-professional ways.
Man City, one would assume, would have the upper-hand in this situation now that Pep’s long-time pal and former Barça technical director Txiki Begiristain has been installed as the director of football at the Etihad Stadium. And no doubt there was some ridiculous money on offer for Guardiola (from PSG also especially). But he could not be tempted.
It’s interesting to note that Guardiola’s agent, Josep Maria Orobitg, had said “Bayern weren’t the team which offered the most money”. Yet Bayern were the team he chose. Well, it does make sense. Pep demands sheer perfection and professionalism when he coaches and given his natural desire to win things, Bayern would be the best choice to achieve all of this.
Pep also appears to have been lured by the close similarities between Bayern and Barça, both of whom enjoy bringing players through their excellent youth academies and relying on their managers to oversee the first-team set-up, with others charged with recruiting top players from elsewhere. His preferred 4-3-3 set up with the attractive tiki-taka style of football he enjoys coaching may just go down perfectly with the Bavarians.
Of course, it could worry fans of Barça for Pep could attract some of the Camp Nou’s big stars, such as Cesc Fabregas, to the Allianz Arena, especially with the fact that Bayern could also afford to do so. For now it seems unlikely, but don’t rule it out – mark my words.
I for one wish him well. To turn down huge money deals in London, Manchester or Paris for Munich is a move I applaud. A club filled with prestige and history is set to enjoy one of the world’s most successful managers in their hot-seat.
The Chelsea and Man City hierarchy will have to wait until 2016 before they can again try lure the man they have been chasing since the day he left his office in Barcelona.
What do you think of Guardiola joining Bayern Munich? Tell Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook.
The Real Madrid job has never been a safe job. In the past decade, the Spanish giants have hired eleven managers including current boss José Mourinho. Bitter rivals Barça, on the other hand, have only gone through four. But of those eleven managers, The Special One has held the position the longest. He was only hired back in the summer of 2010. But the Portugese coach’s tenure at Madrid could be soon coming to an end.
Aside from the fact that Mourinho has fallen out with president Florentino Perez, star goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas as well as vice-captain Sergio Ramos, the club is currently eighteen points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga. They lie in 3rd place while city neighbours Atletico lie between them and the Catalans.
If it was any other manager then he would have been shown the door by Señor Perez well before now. But José is an extraordinary coach with an enormous reputation. But that could soon mean nothing. To sack Mourinho is not unthinkable – as Roman Abramovich did back in 2007 (and as the Russian billionaire has done many times to others since).
Now he has put English clubs on high alert following his recent comments about a possible return to Blighty. “I know that one day I will come back because English football means a lot to myself,” Mourinho said. “Of course, it’s impossible, but I feel everybody involved in the game should experience English football because it’s a special feeling. You really enjoy being a football professional there.”
It seems The Special One has one eye on English football. Is he preparing for a swift departure away from the Bernebéu and catching a flight to the UK? I reckon so. Where could he go? Back to Chelsea? It’s not unthinkable you know.
Do you see José Mourinho leaving Real Madrid and if so where to? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and don’t forget to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)
Dutch superstar Wesley Sneijder was, just yesterday, given just 24 hours to decide if he wants to swap the blue and black of Inter Milan for the yellow and red of Galatasaray following the Turkish side’s €10 million bid was accepted by the Italian giants.
“Galatasaray’s offer satisfies us. Now it depends on the player,” Inter president Massimo Moratti told Sky Sports. “We would be happy if he decided to stay on our terms.”
By “our terms”, he means taking a pay cut of about €2 million per season which Sneijder has publicly refused to accept (he hasn’t played for Inter since September 25th of last year as a result of this dispute). The Dutch maestro arrived from Real Madrid for €15 million back in 2009. But unless a late offer comes in (and Manchester United, Chelsea, PSG and Liverpool are reported to be keeping an eye on this situation), then Sneijder could be swapping Milan for Istanbul before the weekend.
Elsewhere in this transfer window, Giuseppe Rossi has left Villareal after six years at the Spanish side. He joins Fiorentina for a fee of about €10 million. Excellent business for such a great attacking playmaker – but one that is, in recent times, unfortunately quite injury-prone.
Meanwhile Tottenham have been eyeing up Brazilian star Leandro Damião from Internacional. With Emmanuel Adebayor’s decision to go to the Africa Nations Cup, AVB is rumoured to be interested in the 23-year-old. Though he won’t come cheap. Then again – talent like this rarely does.
Finally, following his run-in with boss Roberto Mancini last week, there are plenty of rumours doing the rounds that Mario Balotelli is set to leave Man City in this transfer window. His destination: his native Italy. But not to AC Milan if club owner Silvio Berlusconi has anything to do with it, having said that Balotelli is “a bad apple,” and did not want him in the Rossoneri squad. We shall have to wait and see what the predictably unpredictable Super Mario has up his sleeve then.
Keep an eye on the blog in the coming days for the big moves in this transfer window as well as our usual (and even unusual) content.
Also, the blog has decided to get involved with social media – so do check us out on Faceboook.
Meanwhile, all your opinions, questions and general rants about the big moves in this transfer window thus far can be sent to Rob Smith via Twitter (@robsmithireland).
Demba Ba and Daniel Sturridge enjoyed their Chelsea and Liverpool debuts at the weekend, respectively. Fans of both clubs will hope it’s the start of things to come. But those are just two in a long list of great debuts in the history of the game. Let’s look at some others.
Ronaldo. Real Madrid v Deportivo Alavés, 2002.
Not Cristiano’s first appearance as a Madridista in Tallaght, but the original. Ronaldo arrived at the Bernebéu with huge expectations, with the €45 million price tag seeking justification. He came off the bench with just 27 minutes remaining and scored two goals in a thrilling 5-2 win for Real Madrid. He exited down the tunnel at the final whistle to a standing ovation. Class is permanent.
Jurgen Klinsmann. Sheffield Wednesday v Tottenham, 1994.
The German international arrived at White Hart Lane from Monaco for £2 million in the summer of ’94 and with a reputation of being a constant diver. He marked his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough by scoring a brilliant header followed by a wonderful diving celebration. This immediately won the fans over and Klinsmann went on to win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Romario. Barcelona v Real Sociedad, 1993.
Brazilian genius Romario marked his Barça debut by netting a hatrick for the Catalans – a feat he achieved four more times throughout the season, earning him the Spanish league’s Pichichi award. He then went onto the little matter of winning the World Cup with Brazil. Had he not had played so remarkably on his debut, would his 1993/94 season been so flawless?
Fabrizio Ravanelli. Middlesbrough v Liverpool, 1996.
Ravanelli arrived in England’s north-east from giants Juventus in the summer of 1996 and he instantly made a huge impact and caused enormous excitement on Teesside by scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool. But unlike Romario, his season went downhill not long after with the club ultimately being relegated and the disillusioned Italian star moaning about everything from the club’s training facilities to the town itself.
Zinedine Zidane. France v Czech Republic, 1994.
Zizou’s debut for Les Bleus was a true Roy Of The Rovers moment. The French were 2-0 down and towards the end of the game, the then-22-year old came off the bench to show the world the start of things to come. Yes, Zidane’s leadership, skills and magic quickly restored France’s confidence in themselves and the Bordeaux man scored the two cracking goals himself to level the game up. Inspiring.
Alan Smith. Leeds United v Liverpool, 1998.
Not many people score on their debuts with the very first touch of the ball. Alan Smith did. He helped Leeds defeat the Reds 3-1 in their own ground – and right in front of the Kop. Not bad for any 18-year old kid.
Álvaro Recoba. Inter Milan v Brescia, 1997.
The first game of Inter’s 97/98 season had eyes on one man. But it turned out to be not the man they’d hoped. Yes, Recoba made his debut on the same day as Ronaldo made his following his big money move from Barcelona. However, the Uruguyan stole the spotlight after he left the bench, with the Nerazzurri trailing, to score twice in the last ten minutes – the first a thirty-yard piledriver, the second a spectacular free-kick from a ridiculous distance. Watch it here.
Who else has had a cracking debut? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Happy new year dear readers. Welcome to the first post of 2013. Even though the new year is only five days old, it’s already been quite the eventful week.
To start off, the transfer window has reopened for the entire month of January and already big headlines are being made. Daniel Sturridge has joined Liverpool from Chelsea for a fee of around £12 million, while the Blues spent £7 million of that on in-form striker Demba Ba from Newcastle. Speaking of Liverpool, they off-loaded Joe Cole back to former-club West Ham, who are also looking to bring Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh t0 Upton Park on loan.
Elsewhere, it seems that AC Milan are having something of a Brazilian clear-out. Injury-prone (but hugely talented) striker Alexandre Pato has left after almost six years. The Brazilian returns to his native soil to play for Corinthians after the Sao Paolo-based club paid around €15 for his services while Santos are in talks with bringing Robinho back to his former club as Massimiliano Allegri sees the 28-year old as surplus to requirements in the San Siro.
Speaking of AC Milan, the club visited forth-tier Pro Patria during the week in a friendly game, but was cut short after a minority of the home crowd directed racist abuse towards playmaker Kevin-Prince Boateng which prompted the Ghanaian international and his Milan team-mates to leave the field of play during the friendly at the Stadio Speroni.
“I’m surprised we’re still hearing these things in 2013″, said Boateng afterwards. “It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve heard these things, but I’m 25 now and I’ve had enough of this.”
Meanwhile over in Manchester, Roberto Mancini was photographed at City’s Carrington training ground clashing with fellow Italian Mario Balotelli. The pair squared up after Mancini claimed Balotelli made a heavy tackle against team-mate Scott Sinclair during training. The 48-year old boss tried to send the striker off the pitch before coaches intervened.
It’s not the first time Balotelli and Mancini came head-to-head. And it may not be the last. ”I will give him another one hundred chances if it is possible”, said Mancini.
Along with the Euros, the second half of last season and the first half of the current football season, made 2012 to be quite an exceptional footballing year. But who have the best players been? Well, here’s my top 15.
15. Robert Lewandowski. Borussia Dortmund and Poland.
Lewandowski would be the first to admit that his stint with his national side in the Euros were a little underwhelming. No doubt this is probably due to the huge expectations from the 24-year old prior to the competition. But in the Bundesliga, he absolutely tears defences apart – and one Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to bring him to Old Trafford for big money.
14. Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia.
Mkhitaryan is probably the biggest footballing product to ever come out Armenia – and he’s still only 23. At club level, he is one of – if not the – biggest talents in Ukraine. He was voted Shakhtar’s Player of the Season at the close of the 2011-12 season and continues to play some incredible football. He’s enjoyed a phenomenal 2012 – watch out for him in 2013.
13. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. AC Milan/Paris St-Germain and Sweden.
Serial-title winner Ibrahimovic broke tradition this year when he didn’t win a league winners medal with AC Milan who narrowly missed out on the Scudetto to Juventus. Aside from that, the Swede enjoyed a brilliant Euro 2012, scored the best goal of 2012, and now plies his trade with the noveau riche Paris St Germain, who have their eye on the Ligue 1 title. This Malmo native causes concern for every opposing defender he faces.
12.Robin van Persie. Arsenal/Manchester United and Holland.
Following his controversial £22 million move from Arsenal to Man United, van Persie arrived with huge expectation given his reputation with the Gunners over the previous number of seasons – and he delivered. Totalling 20 goals for his new club so far, van Persie & co finish 2012 in the Premier League’s pole position.
11. Gareth Bale. Tottenham Hotspur and Wales.
Bale’s performances for Spurs throughout 2012 have been stunning. His sheer pace, agility, and that brilliant left foot of his make him one of the most fearsome players any player in the Premier League can face.
10. Mesut Ozil. Real Madrid and Germany.
Madrid’s playmaker and Cristiano Ronaldo’s right hand man may not have played as well as he’d hoped at the end of last season. But he was certainly one of Euro 2012′s better performers and is now considered a crucial element for José Mourinho’s current Madrid side.
9. Neymar. Santos and Brazil.
The Brazilian wonderkid is constantly being linked with a move to Europe – and very often with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. His 31 goals and 15 assists this year, coupled with his sheer ability and dazzling displays makes him easily the best player in his country’s domestic league. He enjoyed a fantastic spell during the Olympics in London, picking up a silver medal in the process.
8. Sergio Ramos. Real Madrid and Spain.
Ramos’ natural ability to change from his preferred position on the right side of the pitch to partnering Barcelona’s Gerard Pique during Euro 2012 is a testament to his footballing brain. Not only did he end up winning Euro 2012, but he played out of his skin. And I haven’t even mentioned how powerful he has been for Real Madrid during 2012 yet.
7. Andrea Pirlo. Juventus and Italy. He may have won the Champions League twice with previous club AC Milan, but the 33-year old midfielder has just enjoyed possibly his finest 12 months in football with new club Juventus. Maybe it’s the new beard? Nicknamed “The Architect”, Pirlo was hailed by pundits, along with Andrés Iniesta, to be one of Euro 2012′s best performers.
6. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United and England.
A key player for club and country, Wazza is easily one of the biggest natural talents in British football for the past decade. Depsite being banned for England’s opening two games in Euro 2012, he still scored 4 goals in 5 games during the calendar year all the while playing phenomenal for the Red Devils.
5. Xavi. Barcelona and Spain.
Xavi is, by many people’s opinion, the greatest Spanish player of all time. I agree. His remarkable vision, ability, precision and consistency makes him easily one of the world’s best. The midfield maestro also set a record for pass completions during the summer. I can’t even remember the last time I witnessed Xavi give the ball away. Has it ever happened?
4.Ramadel Falcao. Atlético Madrid and Colombia.
A sheer goalscoring machine, Falcao is one of 2012′s biggest sensations. Recently the Colombian star became the first player for a decade to score five goals in a single La Liga game. His nasty habit of finding the back of the net in almost every fixture is causing him to be the focus of all the big-spending clubs.
3. Andrés Iniesta. Barcelona and Spain.
Many fellow professionals, pundits, managers and fans believe Iniesta to be the finest midfielder in the world. He’s regularly the only player outside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who is even mentioned about for the Ballon d’Or. Dazzling displays for both club and country, Iniesta is on every manager’s dream-list.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid and Portugal.
CR7 has been hugely influential in Real Madrid’s quest to claim the La Liga title off rivals Barça. He enjoyed a superb Euro 2012 and at club level, aside from his impressive performances, he is currently sitting nicely on 20 goals in 24 games this season alone. The last twelve months has been kind to the Portugese winger. But what could be considered a poor season for Cristiano is still better than most.
1. Lionel Messi. Barcelona and Argentina.
It was never in doubt was it? Leo Messi is, and has been for some time, the world’s greatest player. His ability is beyond phenomenal. Sometimes there are no words to describe exactly what I had just witnessed when watching Messi play. His 91 goals in the calendar year is a record – one that may take some time to break it too I should add. One he may even break himself in 2013 if he carries on. The scariest part? He’s still only 25. Diego Maradona once famously said back in 2006, “I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi”. El Diego was not wrong.
Honorary mentions must go to Mario Gomez for his eye for goal for Germany during Euro 2012 as well as tearing defences to shreds for Bayern Munich. Yaya Touré and his forceful, direct style constantly causes many an opposing manager headaches. Mats Hummels has been the full package for both Borussia Dortmund and Germany, giving strikers serious problems. Likewise with Sergio Aguero who has been fantastic for both Man City and Argentina – and forever a legend in east Manchestester following that goal at the end of last season. Juan Mata’s consistency has been remarkable for Chelsea and he picked up a winners medal at Euro 2012. Edinson Cavani has been wonderful for Napoli with his insane 19 goals in 17 starts for the Serie A club.
Who do you think have been the best players of 2012? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland)