01.07.16 | Comments Off on How will Zidane fare managing a troubled Real Madrid?
Politics, as you know, plays as much a part in Spanish football as the football itself. Especially with “the big two” – Real Madrid and Barcelona. The former have won only two La Liga titles in the past twelve years. What exactly is the problem with Real Madrid? They have a plethora of talent, more money than most clubs, and a colossal fan base.
Well, first things first, Real Madrid’s decline over the past decade or so is down to Barcelona’s prominence as a power house in both Spanish and European football. From the Ronaldinho era to the current Messi era, the Catalans have been extraordinary. But there’s other factors to consider as well.
One of the things to take on board is that since Florentino Peréz took over as club president in 2000, Real Madrid have been run more like a business and not a football club. He has even used the phrase “the Real Madrid brand” publicly on more than a few occasions.
In recent weeks, Peréz has been insisting that Rafa Benitez was the answer to the club’s on-field problems. He still sacked him, despite being second in La Liga.
Over the past 25 years, Madrid have gone through 27 manager – Barcelona just 14.
The great Zinedine Zidane takes over at the Bernabeu. The former French international was a joy to watch. One of the very best playmakers to ever play the game. With regards to his personality, he always came across as shy – sometimes even cold. Yet he had plenty of hot headed moments on the pitch and was sent off a few times for both club and country.
Zizou was previously in charge of the club’s reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, who play in Spain’s third tier. He left them sitting in second place in the league after cutting his teeth for a year and a half, to now join the big boys in La Liga.
But that’s another problem with the big boys in Real Madrid. Some of the biggest names come with some embarrassingly big egos. Only this week, I heard one journalist say live on air that club officials asked him not to write about Gareth Bale’s club record fee because – and get this – Cristiano Ronaldo won’t like it. That’s the tip of the iceberg of the kind of egos Zidane will be dealing with.
He’ll be used to it. Himself once a Galactico, having played alongside other major names such as Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Raul, Beckham, Casillas and Roberto Carlos to name but a few.
12.24.15 | Comments Off on Four players to watch out for in 2016.
It’s been a remarkable twelve months in football. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battling it out for the the prestige of the being the best footballer on the planet. Again. Neymar and Luis Suarez reaching stellar heights. Robert Lewandowski has become arguably the world’s greatest no.9 striker with team mate Thomas Müller going from strength to strength as one of the most in-form and in-demand players around.
The next twelve months will witness some players emerging onto big stages. Keep an eye out for these names over the coming year.
Jonathan Calleri (Boca Juniors)
One of the hottest prospects in Argentina, the 22-year-old has been wowing crowds at La Bombonera over the past year. A remarkable touch, the gifted striker is currently being eyed up by Inter Milan according to reports. I’m not surprised, given that he casually scores goals like this
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Lacazette is one of the most sought-after strikers in Ligue 1. The 24-year-old enjoyed 27 goals in 33 games for Lyon last season. He made his name as a brilliant striker in 2015. He could make his name as a world class striker in 2016
Koke (Atlético Madrid)
A brilliant footballing brain, Koke was picked up by Atléti at the age of eight. A spectacular passer of the ball, the Spaniard is constantly creating without dropping commitment. Still just 23-years-old, the best is yet to come.
Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)
Known in many Italian and Argentine tabloids for his affair with Maxi Lopez’s wife, the 22-year-old is an incredible talent. Now making more headlines in the sports pages than the tabloids, Icardi is Serie A’s youngest capocannoniere since Paolo Rossi in 1978.
12.20.15 | Comments Off on RIP Jimmy Hill. A man who gave more to football than you probably think.
Football mourns the loss of Jimmy Hill, who died on Saturday at the age of 87. Most will remember him as the host of BBC’s Match of the Day, long before fellow striker Gary Lineker took over the reigns. Aside from his 276 appearances for Fulham, and his managerial stint with Coventry City (in which he won the old second and third divisions), Hill’s name will go down in football history in more ways than you think.
Jimmy Hill was solely responsible for scrapping the then players wage cap in 1961 to allow his team-mate Johnny Haynes to become the country’s first £100-a-week player which, as the years went on, effectively changed the game to what it is today.
Not only a manager, Hill went on to become director and chairman at Coventry, where he was also credited with coining the nickname Sky Blues after changing the team’s colours. He also wrote the club’s new song and even introduced the first modern matchday programme.
There is a famous story of Hill emerging from the crowd at Highbury in September 1972 to work as a linesman when the official became injured. An announcement was made in the stadium that the game between Arsenal and Liverpool could not continue unless a qualified referee could be found to help out. At the game as a spectator, Hill was also a qualified referee. And there he was with the linesman’s flag for Arsenal v Liverpool. Would that happen today?
12.17.15 | Comments Off on What next for Jose Mourinho?
The Special One, as you know, got sacked by Chelsea today. It was coming. The Blues’ results have been laughably poor for such a world-class squad and the club now hover just above the relegation zone. The problems were many.
But what next for Mourinho?
The Portuguese coach has made no secret of his desire to manage another English club should he be forced to leave Chelsea before his contract was up. Given Man United’s recent performances, and fans’ calling for Louis van Gaal’s dismissal, perhaps the 52-year-old could be on his way to Old Trafford?
Interestingly former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderón sent a tweet suggesting that Mourinho could be on his way for a second spell at the Spanish giants.
And with reports that Pep Guardiola is set to announce his exit from Bayern Munich at the end of the current season (to possibly join Chelsea or Man City), perhaps the Bundesliga could finally get a taste of the Special One.
It’s also worth pointing out that Laurent Blanc is in the final year of his contract with mega-rich Paris St Germain.
One thing is for sure, Jose Mourinho will have plenty of options.
12.17.15 | Comments Off on Five top players who are free agents right now
The January transfer window is almost upon us and no doubt some big money moves will take place. But, as of this very moment right now, here are five top players that are free agents and can be acquired for absolutely nothing.
The Ghanaian international was wearing the famous number 10 shirt for none other than AC Milan just two years ago. He left the Italian giants for a return to the country of his birth, when he joined Schalke. His behaviour off the pitch, however, outweighed his performances on it, and the club had his contracted terminated last week. Still a cracking player and only 28 years of age.
Is there anything about this guy that hasn’t been written before? Long past his heyday, the Brazilian magician is still box office for football fans and pundits worldwide. Recently playing for Fluminese, the 35-year-old has been a free agent since the end of September. A player of this calibre doesn’t deserve to finish such a remarkable career by being forgotten about. I hope he finds a club soon for one last encore.
Praised just a couple of years ago by the media in Brazil as part of the new generation alongside names such as Neymar and Alexandre Pato, the Brazilian became unattached just days ago. The striker was once decribed as “tall, strong, a very good goalscorer, a threat in the air and skilful with both feet” by none other than Brazilian legend Ronaldo. Only just 26, he will surely be snapped up quickly.
A product of Ajax’s sublime youth system, the Dutchman has played right at the top. With both his national team (he made his debut against Ireland at Lansdowne Road in 2006), and clubs (he’s turned out for the likes of Ajax, AC Milan and Roma), the winger always seemed to put in some good performances. Now, at 29, he’s currently without a club having last played for Atalanta.
The tall Togolese striker was never far from controversy, but boasts an incredible footballing CV with clubs such as Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham under his belt. Still just 31, Adebayor has the ability to be a constant threat in the opposition’s box. He always did. The striker’s name was always linked with some huge footballing nations, so I’d be surprised if he was finished just yet.
12.15.15 | Comments Off on The Netherlands added to Ireland’s pre-Euro 2016 schedule
The Boys in Green have three home friendlies pencilled in before taking off to France for Euro 2016.
Martin O’Neill’s men will face Switzerland on Friday 25th March before taking on Slovakia the following Tuesday. And today the FAI confirmed that the Netherlands will be the opponents for our friendly at the Aviva on Sunday May 22nd.
Robin van Persie & co won’t be joining us in next summer’s competition – the first time the country hasn’t feature in the finals since 1984. Though they boast some serious talent such as Arjen Robben, Daley Blind, Wesley Sneijder and rising star Davy Klaasen.
And, in case you haven’t heard, Ireland’s fixtures for Euro 2016 are:
Monday 13 June, 18.00 (Paris): Republic of Ireland v Sweden
Saturday 18 June, 15.00 (Bordeaux): Belgium v Republic of Ireland
Wednesday 22 June, 21.00 (Lille): Italy v Republic of Ireland
12.10.15 | Comments Off on A quick word about football with…Richie Egan
The blog recently caught up with Richie Egan, leader of Dublin’s own Jape. We had a quick chat about his fondness for Liverpool and how Marouane Fellaini reminds him of Peter Crouch with an afro hairstyle.
Hi Richie. Crumlin’s other famous son, Philip Lynott was a staunch Man United fan. Which club did you support as a kid if any and why?
When I was younger I supported Liverpool. I didn’t really pay attention to football after I got into music but recently I got back into it thanks to my friend Niall from the Redneck Manifesto who is a Liverpool fan too. I suppose I still am really.
Have you ever caught a match while touring?
No, but I saw a match in Stockholm. Djurgården were playing. It was fun to watch a match in Sweden, they have these weird cheerleaders that sing to the crowd.
Amazing. What’s your earliest memory of football?
The goal against England in Euro ’88. I remember it was a sunny day and me and my Dad literally running around the house in Crumlin shouting our heads off.
Which players do you admire, and which do you dislike?
I like Bastian Schweinsteiger a lot. Arjen Robben I used to dislike, but I like him a lot now. Philippe Coutinho. I always liked Danny Wellbeck too. I don’t really hate any players but I do find Fellani quite a funny character, like Peter Crouch with a ‘fro.
Finally, and most grave of all enquiries. A Jape album to reach number one, or Ireland to win the Euros next summer?
Oh, I would defintely sacrifice that non existent number one spot in service to our country and the hi jinks what might happen on the Walkinstown roundabout if we won.
12.09.15 | Comments Off on What exactly went wrong when Steve Finnan went to Espanyol?
For any player looking to expand their horizons and play in an unfamiliar league, success is ultimately the goal. No matter who it is or where you come from. Irish players have done this and some have been successful. Some less so. Unfortunately for Steve Finnan, he falls in the latter category. Injuries and plain bad luck made the Champions League winner´s tenure at RCD Espanyol somewhat underwhelming.
Espanyol are a Barcelona-based club originally from the middle-class neighborhood of Sarrià. Their former stadium, the EstadioSarrià was used as one of Spain´s World Cup venues in 1982 hosting players like Diego Maradona, Zico, Marco Tardelli, Socrates and Dino Zoff.
The stadium was sold and demolished in 1997 and the club were forced to take up home in the purpose-built Olympic Stadium at the scenic Montjuic hill. The stadium had seen the world´s greatest athletes compete in the 1992 Olympic Games. On transfer deadline day in 2008, Liverpool defender Steve Finnan would now call it his home.
Finnan arrived in Barcelona with an impressive C.V. He has been a Champions League winner just a few seasons before in what some describe as one of the greatest Champions League finals – a game in which he started in. Along with his 150 appearances for Liverpool, Finnan has also played for Birmingham City, Notts County and Fulham. Falling out of favour with then manager Rafa Benitez, Finnan´s exit from Anfield seemed likely.
It was then, on September 1st 2008, that Espanyol signed Limerick-born defender on a two year deal for an undisclosed fee. Not that Finnan wanted to leave Liverpool. “It was totally out of the blue,” Finnan told the press at the time. “It’s exciting to be going to a great club in Spain but I didn’t want to leave”.
Sensing there would be limited opportunities at Anfield, he added “But it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get a game by staying so I didn’t really have much choice”. From the lower leagues of England to European glory with Liverpool, Steve Finnan´s next adventure was La Liga.
Of course, Spain is not an easy league to succeed in. Finnan was going to the same league where legendary players from England´s top flight such as Mark Hughes and Michael Owen had both previously failed. Having arrived with muscular problems, he didn´t make his debut immediately. But on on 20th of September 2008, Steve Finnan made his debut for Espanyol against Getafe at the Olympic Stadium coming on as a substitute for striker Raúl Tamudo with eleven minutes to go. The game finished 1-1.
Four days later, Espanyol were due to travel to southern Spain to take on Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan stadium. With French-born defender Gregory Beranger forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury, Finnan was now in the starting eleven. Espanyol´s coach Bartolome Marquez admitted before the match that it would be far from an easy debut for Finnan, saying: ‘It will be a baptism of fire because he will play on one of the flanks and that’s where Sevilla have some very good players’.
Finnan knew he´d be up against the class of Jesus Navas and Luis Fabiano. This was his opportunity to shine for his new club. Show them all what he is made of. The game kicked off at 8pm before a near-full house. With an unbelievable and cruel twist of fate, injury struck Finnan down after just 33 minutes. He was tragically forced to be taken off while JaviChica, a young Catalan right-back took his place for the remainder of the game. Espanyol ultimately the game lost the game 2-0.
Finnan´s injury was a slight tear in his left thigh muscle. It was a big setback for the defender. He would certainly miss out on the opportunity to play against local rivals FC Barcelona in the Olympic Stadium the following week. Barça fans see the game against Real Madrid (commonly known in Spain as “el clásico”) as the biggest fixture in their calendar. Espanyol fans look no further than the “Derbi Barceloní” – Espanyol v Barcelona. Finnan would have been made aware of the huge importance of the game for the club ´Blanc i Blau´ faithful.
But aswell as that, Espanyol was looking for experience in their right-back position on a more long-term basis. Sergio Sanchez was challenging Finnan for the position and in 2008, Sanchez was severely lacking the experience and confidence he posseses now. In the end, it turned out to be mid-November before Finnan could play for Espanyol again.
Espanyol coach Bartolome Marquez selected Finnan in the starting eleven for Espanyol´s home game against Numancia. Finnan took up his usual right-back role with Gregory Beranger on the opposite flank. The game started poorly for Finnan. After just 14 minutes, his side went a goal down. Espanyolequalised after 35 minutes. Numancia took the lead and Espanyolequalised yet again in second half.
Then, after 72 minutes Espanyol were awarded a penalty. 3-2. Just eighteen minutes to hold on before Finnan would get his first ever win in Spain. With six minutes to go, Numanciaequalised. Then very cruelly, in the 93rd minute Carlos Bellvís left footed shot captured Numancia´s winner. The game finished 3-4 and the 18,000 Espanyol fans were left deflated. As was Espanyol´s Irishman in the number 15 jersey.
The Republic of Ireland had featured in a friendly the following Wednesday against Poland. The boys in green lost 2-3 at Croke Park. The result ended Giovanni Trapattoni´s six game unbeaten run. Finnan didn´t get a call-up. On Sunday 23rd November, Espanyol travelled to the port city of Santander to face local club Racing de Santander at El Sardinero. Finnan was selected once again in the starting line-up in his usual right-back position.
It wasn´t a good evening.Espanyol were beaten 3-0 in a fairly one-sided affair – the same result Santander inflicted on the ´Blanc i Blau´ the previous season at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona. Little did he know at the time but this, only his forth appearance, was to be Steve Finnan´s last game for Espanyol. A training ground injury would see Finnan watch his team from the sidelines for the remainder of the year.
By the time the next transfer window arrived, Finnan has looked for a way out of Spain. Injuries and bad luck grew his frustrations. It emerged in January 2009, Hull City were keen on the Irish defender. The press at that time had been speculating that Hull´s then-manager Phil Brown was interested in offering Espanyol £1 million and a deal that would see Finnan play in a more familiar league. He had yet to win a match in an Espanyol jersey.
There was also a rumour that Tottenham wanted his services in a loan-deal, but it wouldn´t have been a wise move considering the talent Spurs had that season in defence. Then the reports came that Finnan failed a medical at Hull. Finnan remained silent and told journalists “What do you want me to tell you? I can say nothing publicly. You would have to ask Hull. You ask them. In reality it was not strange; it was not strange for me”. The deal fell through and Finnan would have to remain in Catalonia.
Espanyol has a new coach in José Manuel Esnal, the much travelled Basque better known as Mané. Himself and sporting director Paco Herrera (who was previously Liverpool´s assistant manager under Rafael Benitez) insisted that Finnan was a valuable member of the squad. Further injuries caused Finnan to watch the club´s remaining fixtures from the sidelines. After 38 games and just 12 wins, Espanyol finished in 10th position – exactly in mid-table. Finnan featured in four games and didn´t win one. On Monday 29th July 2009, Espanyol released a statement that they had mutually terminated Finnan´s contract due to “consecutive injuries that have not allowed him to fight for a place in the line-up”. Two days later, he returned to England and signed for Portsmouth, where the Irish defender saw out his career. His time at Espanyol could only be best described as luckless
Espanyol have since moved to a brand new €60 million stadium in Cornellá, just outside Barcelona city. However, just beside the club´s former ground, the Olympic Stadium, there lies a small park with a sign on the fence reading in Spanish “No ball games”. Thanks to sheer bad luck, Steve Finnan barely had the chance.
12.03.15 | Comments Off on The Neville brothers take over at Valencia.
When Nuno Espirito Santo announced his resignation last Sunday night, reports said that assistant manager Phil Neville would take over as the club’s manager in an interim role. It wasn’t to be. Instead, and surprisingly, it was his brother Gary to take over in a permanent role.
It comes as a surprise to many. But not a major surprise to some. The Neville brothers are business partners of Valencia’s owner, Peter Lim, who also owns half of Salford City alongside the Class of ’92.
Singaporean Lim obviously more than impressed with Neville’s approach to football. The former Manchester United right-back was a fiery and passionate individual with strong leadership skills. His knowledge on the game made him arguably Sky Sports’ most prominent pundit.
It all seems to fit so perfectly. But it is a major gamble from both parties.
There are obviously doubts about a man taking over a massive club in his first job, with no experience and halfway through a season in a foreign country. It is said David Moyes’ lack of learning the local language cost him the results, which led to his dismissal at Real Sociedad. British managers don’t always do well abroad. Phil would be well aware of this. There will be serious questions asked if results don’t go well. The 40-year old former England international would be forgiven if he rang his former boss Alex Ferguson for advice. In fact, it’s probably advised.
Phil Neville is facing a huge challenge. In a league where only Barcelona and Real Madrid largely dominate, it will take some doing to do what Diego Simeone achieved and get his side, Atlético Madrid, ahead of them. But there’s far bigger challenges than that. On and off the pitch. Neville will hope to take a leaf out of the late Bobby Robson’s book, as opposed to David Moyes.
The blog celebrates its 5th birthday this month. We’ve brought you football news, rumours, guides to cities and profiles on young upcoming players such as Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata (to name but a few) long before they reached the heights they are all at now.
More of the same shall continue.
We’ll celebrate our birthday by looking at this video of Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup against Brazil. This, dear readers, is how football should be played.
11.21.15 | Comments Off on Five talking points from Saturday’s football action
Saturday witnessed some interesting football across Europe with some interesting results to boot. Here’s five talking points from the day’s action.
Leicester City are top of the Premier League. Really. And all the talk is about about striker Jamie Vardy, who scored in his 10th consecutive match. “I also had Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina score in 11 consecutive matches,” said boss Claudio Ranieri. “I hope Jamie can achieve this”.
Luis Suarez and Neymar are a lethal combination. Barcelona used to perform differently when Messi was missing. Not so much anymore. They proved that they have absolutely lethal players when the Argentine genius isn’t starting following the 0-4 win in el Clásico. Surely they will be unstoppable when Messi is back to full fitness
Sixteen years old, 6’5 and starting for Milan. Hailed by the Italian press as Gianluigi Buffon’s successor in Italian football, Gianluigi Donnarumma seems to be cementing his place as AC Milan’s starting goalkeeper – at just 16 years old. Despite losing to Juventus 1-0 last night, the Milan faithful are confident that Donnarumma is indeed the future.
Is Jurgen Klopp doing what all Liverpool fans hoped for? Man City were expected to beat Liverpool at home. If Brendan Rodgers was still in charge, most pundits and fans would predict a City win. But the Northern Irishman isn’t in charge anymore. Jurgen Klopp is. And City were thrashed 1-4 by the Reds. Things are changing at Anfield under “the normal one
Keep your eye on Wolfsburg. Bayern are already running away with the Bundesliga. They are unbeaten and eight points clear of second placed Dortmund. But keep your eye on Wolfsburg. They boast a serious plethora of young talent such as Draxler, Kruse, and Ricardo Rodriguez – one of the best left-backs in Europe in my opinion. Wolfsburg, I reckon, would be the team that can upset the presumption that Bayern will win yet another Bundesliga title.
11.14.15 | Comments Off on Ireland on the edge of Euro 2016 after foggy draw
In the thick Bosnian fog, Ireland were oh so close to recording a huge away competitive win. Robbie Brady opened the scoring for the Boys In Green with eight minutes to go. It was a lead that lasted three minutes.
Plagued by injuries and suspensions, Ireland showed great spirit. As for Bosnia, despite the great talents of goalscorer Edin Dzeko and the world-class Miralem Pjanić, they seemed unremarkable and lacked hunger.
We go into the second leg the happier team. The away goal could make all the difference. Monday night in the Aviva should be busy with a full house expected. But it’s far from over. There’s a lot more to be done in the second leg.
I would expect to see more from Bosnia on Monday night. Make no mistake, they are more than capable of causing an upset. But with Irish players returning from suspension (more from injury hopefully), I also expect to see more from the Boys In Green too.
11.08.15 | Comments Off on End of the line for David Moyes’ reign in Spain
The Chosen One. That is what Manchester United fans called David Moyes as he was unveiled as the Red Devils’ manager back in July 2013. Fast forward almost a year-and-a-half, and the Scot is on the verge of getting the bullet from his second club in such time, Real Sociedad.
It has been argued that Moyes wasn’t given enough time at United, having been sacked in April 2014. And it’s probably fair enough. His performance as United manager wasn’t anywhere near the high standards of his predecessor, Alex Ferguson. He lost 15 times in 51 games. Not terrible, but pressure from the fans and upstairs following back-to back losses at Old Trafford, poor performances and questionable selections isn’t going to cut it. He became manager of Sociedad in summer 2014.
Since taking over, the former Everton boss has been in charge for the San Sebastian side for 38 games. During that time they have picked up 46 points, with 11 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats. Last season they finished 12th in La Liga, 11 points above the relegation zone. Now following a 2-0 defeat at second-bottom Las Palmas, only goal difference seperates Sociedad from the bottom three.
What went wrong for Moyes? At Everton, he was hailed by all his peers and fans. At United, he had the impossible task, but didn’t disgrace himself. At Sociedad, his sacking is all but confirmed (at the time of writing), following poor, poor performances and poorer results.
Well, there was a language problem. Crucial if you want to get your message – indeed any message – across. When Pep Guardiola was unveiled as Bayern Munich manager, he impressed the assembled media with a strong command of German. Moyes has only ever said three words publicly in Spain in their language – “two, three, four“.
Moyes will be welcomed back into the Premier League. If he can find a team that will suit him that is. I’m not sure if he suited to managing a club with a different culture and a different language.
10.27.15 | Comments Off on Is it only a matter of time for José Mourinho?
All is not well at Stamford Bridge. José Mourinho is a much-loved figure among the Chelsea faithful, but things have not been going well for the Portuguese coach of late. Poor performances, poorer results, alleged infighting and the whole Eva Carneiro thing are all taking it’s toll.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has sacked managers for less. Just ask the likes of Carlo Ancelotti who’s 61% win ratio and trophies won wasn’t good enough for the Russian. Or Roberto di Matteo, the only manager to win the Champions League for the Blues.
José Mourinho has only won three games out of ten and currently lie in 15th in the Premier League. Fifteenth! Under normal circumstances that would mean a P45 in the post. But these aren’t normal circumstances. This is Mourinho – the most loved figure among Chelsea fans. He would right up there with John Terry or Frank Lampard for devotees of the Blues.
How much more can the fans endure? More importantly, how much more can Abramovich endure? Mourinho has a lot of work to do to turn things around. Newspapers are already speculating about his successor as well as rumours of players soon to be departing such as Fabregas and Hazard. A sinking ship? There’s certainly a hole in the boat and it needs fixing. Mourinho has quite a task ahead of him. Roman Abramovich is watching!
Hold onto your hats. Things are getting interesting around the Bridge.