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.
10.18.15 | Comments Off on Boys in Green face tough challenge for 2016
The Boys In Green were earlier today confirmed to face Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-off for Euro 2016. The first fixture will take place in Zenica on Friday 13th November – bad news for those who are superstitious. The return leg will take place at the Aviva Stadium the following Monday.
It will be a tough test as Ireland will be without the suspended John O’Shea and Jon Walters. As for fans, it is not an easy journey. Bosnia’s stadium in Zenica, 70 km away from the capital of Sarajevo, holds 15,600 and visiting supporters are likely to receive only around 750 tickets. Also the fact of no direct flights will be problematic to some.
10.13.15 | Comments Off on Who can Ireland face in our crucial play-off for Euro 2016
Tonight’s results brought a few surprises. The Netherlands were battered by the Czech Republic is the night’s biggest shock. Turkey were grateful for Kazakhstan beating Latvia to finish fifth in Group A, otherwise Hungary would have qualified. So what does that mean for us? Well here is the ranking from the best third-placed teams:
Group A: Turkey 16pts – qualified automatically Group F: Hungary 15pts – play-offs Group C: Ukraine 13pts – play-offs Group H: Norway 13pts – play-offs Group I: Denmark 12pts – play-offs Group G: Sweden 12pts – play-offs Group D: Republic of Ireland 12pts – play-offs Group B: Bosnia and Herzegovina 11pts – play-offs Group E: Slovenia 10pts – play-offs
• Four sides will be seeded and drawn against the four non-seeds. The teams will be seeded for the play-off draw according to the UEFA national team coefficient rankings updated after the completion of the group stage. The four top-ranked teams will be seeded and be paired with unseeded teams. The seedings will be confirmed on Wednesday.
• After the draw is made on Sunday, ties will be allocated to be played on either 12 & 15 November, 13 & 16 November or 14 & 17 November, with at least one game on each night.
The seeded teams are:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
while we are unseeded alongside:
Republic of Ireland
My preference at this moment in time is Hungary. But there’s no real easy match when there’s this much pressure on. Keep your eye on the draw on Sunday.
10.12.15 | Comments Off on Martin O’Neill’s men now must do it the hard way
We went into the game in Warsaw with the knowledge that we would be guaranteed at least a play-off spot. However, the best team won in the Polish capital tonight, and they weren’t wearing green shirts. Ireland simply couldn’t create the chances. Martin O’Neill’s men started with a hint of nervousness and ended up being frustrated. The result was fair. But we’re not out. Not yet.
Ireland’s fate for next summer’s Euros will be decided in a month from now with the first legs being played from 12-14 November and second legs on 15-17 November.
Going to France next summer, aside from the host nation, will be Wales, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Iceland, Czech Republic, England, Austria, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Armenia.
Eight third-placed teams in the qualifying groups will contest four places in the finals. The best four ranked teams will be seeded. The other four will not. As it stands, we fall into the latter category. But let’s see how it develops.
Our heroics last Thursday against Germany helped to get us in this position and, let’s face it, we would have taken a play-off six months ago.
Today was very disappointing, but hey, we’re not out yet.
10.07.15 | Comments Off on Jurgen Klopp is just what the doctor ordered at Anfield
One slip and it could have been all so different. But despite nearly winning the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers’ departure from Anfield is not exactly unexpected. Since the club’s near miss in 2014, the Liverpool team we have seen have been somewhat average. And it looks like just the right man is set to head to Anfield to turn things around.
Jürgen Klopp’s reputation as a manager is colossal. As a player, he was a one-club-man with Mainz, who he also went on to managed between 2001 for seven years. In 2008, he was unveiled as Borussia Dortmund manager where he won back-to-back Bundesliga wins in 2011 and 2012, as well as the DFB-Pokal in 2012, the DFL-Supercup in 2008, 2013 and 2014, as well as narrowly missing out on the 2013 Champions League title (to rivals Bayern Munich).
It is widely agreed among pundits and fans that the 48-year-old is just perfect fit to revitalize Liverpool.
I’d have to agree. The two big names that were floating about for the Anfield job was Carlo Ancelotti and Jürgen Klopp. The German, for me, is by far the better fit. He’s more used to working with limitations. Liverpool, as historic and beloved worldwide as they are, have something of a mediocre squad at the moment. Especially with Steven Gerrard now departed for Stateside and Luis Suarez’s enormous talent has not – possibly cannot – be replaced.
Klopp has the charisma and title-winning pedigree to attract some of the world’s best to Anfield. Liverpool’s record of Champions League qualification in recent years plays a major part as to why the likes of Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose other clubs ahead of the Reds (the latter chose Klopp coincidentally). The German would appeal to many players ahead of Rodgers – no disrespect to the man who almost led Liverpool to their first league title since 1989.
Some say Liverpool are a poisoned chalice. And that regardless who the next manager is, unless Liverpool win the Premier League, it will be considered a failure. I disagree. Look at Klopp’s record. As I said earlier, he is used to working with limitations. Not to mention his knack of nurturing of upcoming talent like, for example, Mario Götze – now a World Cup-winning goalscorer.
This is a man, don’t forget, who brought in a little-known player to Dortmund called Robert Lewandowski for €4.5 million from Lech Poznan. He was sublime for Klopp and today, he is considered one of, if not the, most lethal strikers in Europe. Also see Sven Bender, Mats Hummels, Marco Reus etc.
For the average football fan, it will be great to see this man in the Premier League. He is absolute box office. Both he and Mourinho head-to-head should make entertaining television. Think Ferguson v Wenger, only better.
Interesting times ahead – possibly great times ahead – at Anfield.