On Thursday, the Champions League groups were drawn. Here they are in full:
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad.
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen.
Group C: PSG, Benfica, Olympiakos, Anderlecht.
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, FC Viktoria Plzen.
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke, FC Basel, Steaua Bucharest.
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli.
Group G: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna.
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic.
The one that sticks out most there is Group H, isn’t it? Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic. Four former winners of Europe’s biggest prize and four clubs steeped in history and tradition. Neil Lennon has some task ahead of him. But as Barcelona found out last year, anything is possible.
Elsewhere, Man United seemed to have got off lightly. That said, on European nights, places like Shakhtar’s Donbass Arena and Leverkusen’s BayArena are like fortresses and the intensity can prove to be vital – how will Moyes cope in his first European competition.
Man City will be facing Bayern Munich. Two new managers, two extremely strong squads. Who will be hungrier for victory?
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side will take on Borussia Dortmund and Marseille. Neither of which will be an easy game for the North London side. The French boss has only a few days to strengthen the squad. He really needs to or it could be an early exit for the Gunners.
Who do you think will get through the groups? Tweet Rob Smith with your predictions (@robsmithireland)
Iker Casillas is, in my estimation, one of the world’s finest goalkeepers. Not only is he club captain of his beloved Real Madrid, but he is also the captain of the Spanish national team. Yes it was he who lifted the World Cup! And the European Championship trophy. Twice!
But now the 32 year old shot stopper is having a hard time as Madrid’s new manager Carlo Ancelotti, like José Mourinho before him for much of last season, left him on the bench during Madrid’s first game of the season.
Of course there’s not many goalkeepers as good as Iker if you ask me. Manuel Neuer, Victor Valdes, Samir Handanovič, Gianluigi Buffon and Hugo Lloris may all be world-class – but I still think Iker is just that bit better. However Mourinho, and now Ancelotti, think different as they seem to prefer Diego Lopez to stand between the posts for Real Madrid. It looks like the boy from Móstoles, just outside the Spanish capital, may have to leave the club where he has spent his entire footballing career.
But where could he go?
Well it’s no secret that Arsenal have a nice chunk of cash in the bank and Arsene Wenger himself admitted that he needs to strengthen the squad. Iker Casillas would be a hugely welcomed addition to Arsenal Football Club – and indeed to English football. I’m sure other Premier League teams, such as Manchester City, will be keeping an eye on this situation.
Paris St. Germain and their wads of Qatari cash could be another potential move for him. While they have the brilliant Italian ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu, they could easily afford Casillas. And he could fit into a star-studded PSG side that currently boasts the likes of Ibrahimovic, Cavani and Thiago Silva.
There’s plenty for Iker Casillas to think about. On reputation alone, he could get into 99% of clubs out there. But there’s a lot to be said about leaving a club like Real Madrid. Especially when you’re club and country captain and a huge fans’ favourite. That club has been his life, but as a born winner, he’s not destined to be warming the subs bench.
Do you think Casillas will stay at Madrid? Or leave? Will Carlo Ancelotti play him this season? Or is he better off elsewhere? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)
OK, Luis Figo’s departure from Barcelona to Real Madrid caused a stir only imaginable today if Wayne Rooney left for Liverpool for instance. But the Portugese star wasn’t the only player to jump ship and play for a rival club.
Johann Cruyff. Ajax (64-73) & (81-83) and Feyenoord (83/84).
Dutch genius Johann Cruyff was coming towards the end of his career in his second stint with his beloved Ajax. But in 1983, he engineered a move to arch-rivals Feyenoord. Despite an 8-2 demolition to his former club, the 36-year old superstar helped the Rotterdam outfit to the Eredivisie title – over Ajax of course. He promptly retired a champion. It took some time before the Amsterdam club to forgive him.
Sol Campbell. Arsenal (01-06) and Tottenham (92-01).
Back in 2001, Tottenham and England centre-back Sol Campbell made promises to the White Hart Lane faithful that he would never make the switch over to Highbury. But that’s exactly what happened as he jumped ship to join Arsene Wenger & co. on a Bosman and it became known as one of the Premier League’s most controversial transfers ever.
Ronaldo. Barcelona (96/97) and Real Madrid (02-07) & Inter (97-02) and AC Milan (07/08).
A double. Ronaldo didn’t play for just one set of rival clubs but two. The Brazilian star represented Spain’s “big two”, as well as the two Milanese giants. Though, and possibly luckily for him, the transfers were never directly with the rival clubs themselves. The Phenomenon left Europe for Corinthians in his native Brazil, and despite a long history of injuries, he still managed to show some of that magic before retiring in 2011.
Gabriel Batitstuta. River Plate (89/90) and River Plate (90/91).
While a number of players have turned out for both Buenos Aires clubs, Batitstuta is probably the most loved. ‘Batigol’ played just one season for River Plate, winning the Argentine championship in 1990 before swapping white and red for the fierce enemy of blue and yellow. He played also one season at La Bonbonera before moving to Italy where he secured his place as an Argentine legend.
Mo Johnston. Celtic (84-87) and Rangers (89-91)
In 1987, Mo Johnston left Glasgow for the West of France and joined Nantes. After initially claiming he would never return to Scotland, Johnston reconsidered and appeared at a press conference in summer 1989 to announce that he would rejoin Celtic. But he had a change of heart at the 11th hour and joined fierce rivals Graeme Souness’ Rangers. To say neither sets of fans were happy would be an understatement. He left for Everton in 1991.
Honourable mentions must go to Andrea Pirlo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who have both played for AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus. There’s no great for one another between those three clubs. Also Emre and Colin Kazim Richards have made the switch between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. But who else is worthy of a mention?
Arsene Wenger is losing his fans
For some time now many Arsenal fans feel that a change in management would be the best solution. On Saturday the Arsenal faithful held up signs reading “Spend spend spend” as Wenger’s side looked weak against Aston Villa. A game in which many prior to kick-off predicted should be three points for the Gunners – but it ended up being three goals for Villa. And just the one for a disheartened 10-man Arsenal team. The fans are losing confidence in him. Are the players?
Barcelona: so good, it’s bad
“Sensational!” is how FC Barcelona described their first game of the La Liga season after they beat Levante 7-0. Yes, seven! While the result is all that really matters to the club, sometimes the best football needs to be competitive. There was none of that at the Camp Nou. There was a huge amount of empty seats towards the end of the final whistle. Have Barcelona become so powerful that they’ve actually become boring?
Mignolet’s Anfield future is looking bright
Yes, I’ll admit it. I was very unsure about Brendan Rodgers putting Liverpool’s long-time ‘keeper Pepe Reina out on loan, while acquiring the services of Simon Mignolet. But the Belgian truly delivered on his debut. I’d not seem him play with that amount of confidence when he was in Sunderland colours. “Simon actually made three terrific saves,” Rodgers said. “The double one at the end was the most important, as you could tell from the reaction of the rest of the players. You could see the spirit in the team and that’s what we are trying to cultivate here.”
PSG’s star-studded team yet to win
OK, so it isn’t France’s opening weekend. But, and after spending a ridiculous amount of cash for some fine footballers, PSG haven’t won a game in Ligue 1. This wasn’t in the script for the coach or, even more so, the owners. On Sunday night, and thanks to one of my former ones-to-watch Guillermo Ochoa, the Parisians were held to a 1-1 draw in their second fixture of the season. Given that the opposition would be considered to be far weaker teams, the pressure is now on coach Laurent Blanc.
Spurs looked like they missed Bale
Gareth Bale is still in limbo regarding the Real Madrid transfer saga. He is due to miss the first three games of Spurs’ season. When AVB’s men visited Crystal Palace on Sunday, and despite a goal from new boy Soldado, they lacked that spark. That spark being of course Gareth Bale. But, and as I said before, €100m is a lot of cash for just one player. It’s not like Spurs wouldn’t be able to get one or two absolutely world class players with that money. Not long left now in the transfer window.
The English Premier League kicks off this Saturday and we would like to invite you to join the official Hot Press fantasy football league for a chance to win monthly prizes.
If you haven’t signed up and registered a team already all you have to do is:
Head over to the Premier League’s official site by clicking here and sign up.
Start picking your team consisting of 11 players and 4 substitutes with the £100mil you are given (Fellaini is worth £8.5mil while Robin Van Persie is £14mil for example – but it’s a lot harder than you think to get a perfectly balanced squad)
Once that is done, click on “leagues” and select “join a league”
You will be asked to enter a code to join a private league. The code for the Official Hot Press league is 968906-347121.
Right folks. We are nearly there. Normal service resumes at the weekend. What should you expect over the next nine months in European football?
Jose Mourinho’s press conferences
Love him or hate him, his press conferences and post-match interviews are hugely entertaining. The Special One’s unique brand of humour didn’t go down so well in Spain as many (such as Andrés Iniesta) believe he was damaging Spanish football. Which media love his quotes, his arrogance and his style? The English media. Which set of fans love him the most? Chelsea’s. He will deliver his gift of the gab. But will he deliver the results for the club’s trigger-happy owner?
Until Bale signs for Madrid, the darling of the Spanish media is Neymar. The €57m signing from Santos has divided press. The Madrid-based media have used the word “unproven” where the overly-excited Catalan media proclaim him as “the new Ronaldinho”. Which will he be? And will his style of football fit in with Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of play? How will he fare alongside Messi? People such as Johann Cruyff are extremely skeptical of his arrival at the Camp Nou. With an “outsider” appointed as new coach, it’ll be an interesting year for Barça.
A sudden interest in the Bundesliga
And rightfully so. The Bundesliga has long been a dominating force in European football. It just hasn’t had the coverage like it’s Spanish and Italian counterparts on these shores. That’s all changing. ITV4 will be showing weekly highlights from Germany’s top tier. Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich aren’t the only teams worth watching – the league is filled to the brim with some incredible emerging talent. This blog, for one, cannot wait to get stuck into some weekly Deutsch Fußball.
The international games could give us a huge climax for Brazil 2014
Selfishly, I am mostly referring Ireland’s remaining and must-win qualifying games against Sweden, Austria, Germany and Kazakhstan respectively. As we’re on the same points as Austria and Sweden, dropping points would be suicidal. They are all must-win. Though don’t be hopeful when we go to Cologne in October. While neighbours Wales (who we face on Wednesday) and Scotland have no hope of qualification, England will be battling it out with Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine for 1st and 2nd place. Roy’s boys may not qualify at all. It’ll be an interesting climax for sure.
Both transfer deadline days
Arjen Robben to Cardiff City? Rickie Lambert to Real Madrid? Mario Balotelli to join Drogheda United on loan? Two hugely entertaining evenings of the football calendar – if sometimes a bit ridiculous. Sky Sports News’ Jim White will be getting very excited while reporting that the kitman of Oldham Athletic allegedly drove Xavi from Manchester airport to the club’s offices while 20 young fans hang around outside pestering journalists reporting live on-air. All the ridiculousness aside, it is an intriguing and entertaining day in which some of the biggest deals are done. Especially the final half hour – as Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres will tell you.
Starting at a new club can bring certain pressures. New fans, team mates and a manager to impress, you don’t want to make a mess of it. But some do. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
I know. It’s not a name you were expecting for this list. But Messi’s debut for his national team was, for many Argentines and himself especially, a forgettable one. On 17th August 2005, in a game against Hungary, 18-year-old Leo Messi came on during the 63rd minute, but was sent off on the 65th minute after elbowing defender Vilmos Vanczák. Fortunately for Messi, from then the only way was up. And up he went indeed.
Jonathan Woodgate (Real Madrid)
This was the obvious choice for this list, wasn’t it? But it was such a spectacularly disastrous debut for poor old Woodgate that you can’t not include it. The £13 m signing from Newcastle United had to wait a little over 12 months before he made his debut. And he did, on 22nd September 2005 against Athletic Bilbao. And he celebrated that debut by scoring an own goal and then later being sent off for a second bookable offence. Oh dear.
Maximilian Hofmann (Rapid Vienna)
You’re 19 years of age. You’re about to make your debut for your hometown club, and one of the country’s most famous clubs too. What do you do? Well what you don’t do is get sent off after 47 seconds and give away a penalty. Maximilian Hofmann couldn’t help himself.
Rio Ferdinand (Leeds United)
In 2000, Rio Ferdinand was transferred from West Ham to Leeds United for a then-British transfer record of £18 m. In his debut against Leicester City, he walked onto the pitch of deafening chants of “waste of money” by the Filbert Street faithful. Indeed it was looking that way as the future England and Manchester United centre-half was having an absolute nightmare and after 29 minutes, Leeds were 3-0 down. The rest of the game didn’t improve for him. Ouch.
Curtis Davies (Aston Villa)
Back in 2007, Aston Villa beat off plenty of competition to sign the much-praised England under-21 defender Curtis Davies on loan from relegated side West Brom. But his debut was a disaster. Mistake after mistake and he looked several levels below Premier League quality. “I was just awful. I didn’t contribute anything. I’ve been bigging myself up, saying I’m ready and obviously I’m not,” said Davies after the match. “I looked like a pub team player”. Ouch!
Not long now until Serie A starts and normal service in Italia shall resume – nineteen days in fact. I can’t wait. Neither can all of Italy come to think of it. Having previously profiled the country’s capital, it’s now time to take a look and see what Milan has to offer for football fans.
How do I get in? Milan has two airports. Malpensa and Linate. Both of which are serviced by Aer Lingus. Malpensa, a major international airport, is around 40 km from the city, while Linate is just outside the city limits at a mere 6 km from the centre of Milan. A third airport, Bergamo, is about 50 km away and is serviced by Ryanair.
What teams can I watch? I know you’ll find this as a complete shock, but both AC Milan and Inter Milan are based in the city. The two clubs are fierce enemies and are two of the most supported clubs in Europe. A third city team, AC Monza, ply their trade in the forth tier while Atalanta, who are based in Bergamo (not far from the Ryanair airport), are a Serie A team.
How do I get to the stadiums? AC Milan and Inter share the hugely impressive cathedral that is Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – known as the San Siro. It’s located about 5 km west of the city centre and is widely serviced by bus, metro and tram. You will have no problem in finding it. AC Monza’s stadium, the Stadio Brianteo, is about 19 km north of the city centre and is only serviced by bus unfortunately.
How do I get tickets? Online is the best way for tourists to get tickets in advance. Both AC Milan’s and Inter Milan’s websites can help you here. Very rarely do games sell out – even the Milan derby itself will have a few empty seats. But generally the availability is never a problem.
What else is there to do? Two beer-loving pubs I can personally vouch for is Pogue Mahones, home of some surprisingly delicious Guinness and The Football English Pub. If beer, craic, music and football is your thing, look no further. Elsewhere, if you like shops, you’re in the right place. Milan, a hugely stylish town famous for it’s fashion, has long been synonymous with top-end retail therapy. Finally a trip to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is hugely recommended for Da Vinci’s famous Last Supper mural.
Ok, so the potential (or even likely) Gareth Bale to Real Madrid saga has been dominating the headlines as of late. But elsewhere there has been some major deals going on. Let’s have a look at some of them.
First off and with the arrival of Belgian ‘keeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers felt that the time has come to offload the club’s long-time first choice goalie Pepe Reina. The Spaniard has been shipped out on loan to Napoli where he re-joins former boss Rafa Benitez.
Napoli themselves have been busy. Star player Edinson Cavani was sold to PSG for a measly €64m. With that wad of cash, Rafa managed to bring in Gonzalo Higuaín, Raúl Albiol and José Callejón from Real Madrid not to mention PSV star Dries Mertens.
Speaking of PSG, they signed 19-year old Marquinhos from Roma for €32m. He played just 26 games for Roma since joining the Italian club in 2012 from Corinthians (whom he made just six league appearances for). An exciting prospect, I hope Marquinhos doesn’t end up being known as “the new Andy Carroll”.
While Marquinhos left, Roma completed the signing of Dutch international midfielder Kevin Strootman from PSV. The Italian side also let Bojan Krkic return to his native Barcelona where he was immediately loaned out to Ajax to restart his career. And also the signing of Neymar means places are very limited at Camp Nou.
One player who did leave Camp Nou was one-time Manchester United target Thiago. He joins up with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, who themselves have also brought in the hugely talented Mario Götze from rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Cesc Fabregas and Luis Suarez‘s names are coming up a lot in the back pages recently. Cesc is a target for Manchester United, but the Catalan media are now reporting that David Moyes has all but given up on the former Arsenal star and is now looking at Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio. While Suarez is a £40m + £1 target for Arsenal. Yes – Arsenal! Arsene Wenger! He could well be a Liverpool player still by September 1st, but perhaps selling the Uruguayan wouldn’t be the worst idea if the price was right.
Elsewhere Joey Barton is doing his best to join boyhood club Everton and told the club that he’d take a significant cut in wages. Will he fit into Martinez’s plans? Maybe. QPR will happily play him in the Championship anyway.
It’s no secret: Real Madrid want Gareth Bale. The Spanish giants have also made no secret of their willingness to pay what would be a world record €100m [£86 m] for the Welshman but so far Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has refused all offers.
Now Spanish media are reporting that Levy has told Madrid’s board members that they will have to pay €145m (£125m) if they want to sign Bale. I don’t see Real spending that (though given Florentino Pérez’s reputation, it wouldn’t shock me), but I do see one outcome: Gareth Bale will be a Real Madrid player by the end of the current transfer window.
I think realistically €100 m is likely the most they will get for Bale. And they should take it. Here’s why:
First off, €100 m isn’t exactly pennies. It can get you a number of absolutely world class players with a massive wage bill. Off the top of my head, the likes of Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski or Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be easily purchased (or indeed any two of those particular four), along with their wage bill covered and having a nice chunk of change left over. Not bad for the sale of one player.
Secondly, aside from any possible signings of superstars from the multi-million pound profit of Bale’s sale, the North London club have already signed the enormously-talented and hugely-admired midfielder Paulinho from Corinthians for £17m, not to mention promising Belgian winger Nacer Chadli from FC Twente for £7m. Paulinho, a regular player for the Brazilian national side as of late, is something of a genius. A late bloomer but a genius indeed. Where Chadli has about as much pace as Bale on the wing as well as a lovely first touch.
Lastly, while players like Bale don’t come around very often and he did have an exceptional – beyond exceptional – season last term, any chairman would kick themselves not to accept a sum of cash this big. Daniel Levy I’m sure would be no different.
Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and both Ronaldos were all “not for sale” at one point in their careers. But eventually the price was right.
Take the cash, Mr Levy. Take it and buy some outstanding talent with it. You’ll never get an offer like it again. Not for a player that was bought for only £7m a few years back anyway.
Normally a city derby is one filled with passion, tradition, and even tension. But when I was told that the Lichtstadtderby (city of lights derby), a fixture contested between neighbours PSV and FC Eindhoven, was “the friendliest derby in Europe”, I had to go check this out for myself.
Eindhoven in The Netherlands is home to just over 200,000 people. As previously blogged, the city has two major teams. PSV are the dominant club, while FC Eindhoven are in the second tier and always been in the shadow of the 1988 European Champions.
There was tension between the two clubs. FC were known as “the people’s club”, as PSV had, at one time, a policy of only having Philips employees for players. PSV dropped this policy and grew as years went on and the rivalry and tension died down.
Of course, since 2004 the two clubs entered a co-operation agreement which involves the two clubs swapping youth players. I couldn’t imagine that happening between, say, Celtic and Rangers. On match-day itself, there is a small buzz about the stadium. Both sets of fans are decked out in their club colours, drinking beers and mixing with one another. Again, it’s not exactly something that one might see at outside Ibrox before the Old Firm.
I find myself in the Philips Stadion on a warm July for a pre-season friendly between the two sides. Friendly it is. It is also quite impressive in terms of attendance. And normally in the Netherlands, fans are always seperated as the country sadly has its fair share of hooliganism. Not tonight. No, the fans are mixing well. Flags and banners held in the air, both fans are chanting their songs. It’s an unusual atmosphere for a city derby.
As for the match itself, there is no sign of new signings as, perhaps unsurprisingly, PSV control the game. Man United target Kevin Strootman isn’t even named amongst the substitutes. PSV go on to a win the game comfortably 3-0.
So who are the two clubs’ rivals? FC Eindhoven consider Helmond Sport their biggest rival. They’ve been playing at the same level for a long time and are just 15 km apart. PSV, on the other hand, always compete fiercely against both Ajax and Feyenoord.
“It’s good to see the two sets of fans behave so well,” one local journalist tells me. “One day maybe FC Eindhoven can compete in the Eredivise (Holland’s top tier) alongside PSV”. But will that change the friendly dynamic between the two sides? “I don’t see that happening” is the reply with a chuckle. Indeed this is quite a unique derby. And an incredibly enjoyable one too.
I love an ol’ documentary about football. Those official FIFA World Cup movies make the hairs on my neck stand up (especially the ’90 and ’94 ones obviously). But there are some cracking football documentaries for you to check out in full and online right now. I’ve compiled a few for you:
The Impossible Job (1994)
When a camera crew were allowed inside the England dressing room, you must wonder who allowed them to do that. Especially with a character like Graham Taylor managing them. It most definitely wouldn’t happen today. But it does show a side of the England camp that hadn’t been seen before. Or since. Except Mike Bassett: England Manager, of course.
Football’s Greatest (2010)
Sky developed a series of 30 minute documentaries, each one focusing on a particular player of a particular era. The obvious names are featured such as Pelé, Maradona, Zidane, Charlton, Best and Cruyff. Players such as Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Raul, Maldini and Ronaldinho are there too as a reminder as to how good this lot were. Then, and perhaps most impressively, players that in my view don’t get enough recognition with aspiring young footballers today such as Gerd Muller, Puskas, Garrincha and Di Stefano are all there too. May I suggest the Ronaldo one.
Those who remember Manchester City for more than 6 years, will be all too familiar with this Manchester City. Hard times and, well, harder times. A brilliant watch.
Orient For A Fiver (1995)
This behind-the-scenes look at Leyton Orient during the 1994/95 season is perhaps one of the more entertaining documentaries you’ll see. It’s quite the watch, but the most memorable moment came when manager John Sitton sacks defender and fan favourite Terry Howard on camera in the dressing room. He also offers to fight two other players, even inviting them to pair up if desired. You couldn’t make it up.
Big Ron Manager (2006)
Ron Atkinson. Barry Fry. Steve Bleasdale. Peterborough United. And a camera crew. Yes, this was always going to be an interesting mix.
This blog doesn’t usually comment on fashion but thanks to the multi-million euro industry that is replica jerseys, it’s time we do. Indeed, with plenty of leagues’ new seasons drawing near, we are treated to a slew of kit releases as we wait for the football to finally begin.
Adidas seem to be doing this incredibly large v-neck design thing. As modeled by the Spanish national side amongst others. Fulham will be displaying this style in the forthcoming season.
I have to mention Liverpool. A great club with great traditions. Their away kits baffle me. What do you think?
Rivals Manchester United get it right with a classic red/black combo.
Barcelona have returned to classic stripes with both home and (a very Catalan) away…
…while Real Madrid have gone for…uhm…classic all white.
As demonstrated on the last day of the Serie A season, AC Milan‘s away jersey is made of solid goooooold.
Atlético Madrid have another beautiful red/white striped jersey and with the added bonus of being sponsored by an entire country.
Celtic will be wearing little hoops inside big hoops.
European champions Bayern Munich go with a classy all-red number.
PSG‘s new kit, much like everyone’s hair colouring in this pic, is a bit all over the place.
Celebrating their centenary, PSV will wear all red this forthcoming season…
…so too will Cardiff City. And again aren’t in their traditional blue. Is nothing sacred?
One of my favourites that I have seen so far, in terms of simplicity and style, must go to Juventus. The thin black/white stripes do it for me.
…while FC Copenhagen‘s kits look something like a costume designed for ABBA. *shudder*
There’s countless more that could be included. What jerseys do you like? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)
The transfer window officially opened last Monday and between now and August 31st, expect a lot of deals to be done and some serious money to be spent. But also as of last Monday, there is a number of players that clubs can acquire for absolutely nothing as some contracts have expired. Yes indeed, let’s take a look at the best freebies in football right now.
Since the French international was released by Chelsea, there has been no shortage of enquiries for his services. His style of play has helped the Blues win a Premier League trophy, three FA cups and, of course, the holy grail for Abramovich, the Champions League trophy. A one-time Liverpool target, the 33 year-old still can be a threat and will easily find a new club that can avail of his style of play. Don’t be surprised if he returns to France.
Needs no introduction to anyone on this island. Plagued by injuries last season, the Tallaght native will turn 34 next September and many will wonder if his best days are behind him. In all honesty, that’s possibly very true despite it being just a year and a half since his heroic display in Moscow, in which many agree is one of – if not the – finest display in an Irish jersey. Dunne is a strong and reliable defender but may drop to the Championship to find regular football.
Diarra was one of Lyon’s most important players during the mid-2000′s. He also played a huge role during his five seasons at Real Madrid, which ended in 2011 after an injury witnessed the club purchase more and more players to fill his position. He last turned out for Fulham, but only made 19 appearances for the West Londoners. Diarra may not be the €26 million player he once was, but can still do damage. The Malian international could return to France.
Another ex-Chelsea player. He may be 34, but he can still be quite lethal in front of any goalkeeper. Nico last turned out for Italian giants Juventus, but chances were limited given the amount of talented strikers at the Old Lady. The former-French international may play somewhere in the Middle East, though reports suggest that West Brom are keen for him to partner Shane Long up front.
The former Aston Villa and Stuttgart defender has turned out for four clubs in the past three years – Lazio, West Ham, Wolfsburg and Everton. Despite having limited appearances with each of them, the German defender’s performances were decent. He’s well settled in England and is fluent with the language, I feel that one of the Premier League’s newly-promoted teams could benefit from having him in their squad. He is, after all, just 31.
The hugely experienced Israeli has plied his trade for clubs such as Racing Santander, West Ham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Despite playing just a handful of games for the Hammers last season, Benayoun’s experience and professionalism would make him a valuable asset to any club. Could end up another Premier League club.
A solid left-back, Abidal’s tenure at Barcelona is up after six seasons. Some serious health issues (in 2011, he underwent surgery following a diagnosis of a tumour in his liver then he received liver transplant a year later because of problems which were unresolved with the previous operation) witnessed the Catalans purchase Jordi Alba in his position, Abidal can still play a flawless game as he proved time and time in the previous La Liga season. It’s understood that his former club, the newly-rich Monaco are interested in his services.
Picture the scene: you’re a professional footballer and your wife is about to give birth, yet it’s on the same day as a fixture against a rival club. Which do you pick? Well it’s understandable if you miss the fixture obviously. But not if you’re Red Bull Salzburg striker Jonathon Soriano. He, remarkably, managed to do both.
Yes, after witnessed the birth of baby daughter Abril, word leaked through to the club’s management that the new father was on his way back to the Red Bull Arena where Salzburg were facing rivals Wolfsberger. A tight game, it was 2-2 at half-time. After some brief congratulations on the touchline, Soriano was coming on for the second half.
You know what’s coming next, don’t you?
Indeed the Catalan wasted no time and proceeded to score a hat-trick. Yes – a hat-trick! Red Bull Salzburg eventually won the game 6-2.
“This is an incredible day for me,” the 27-year old said. “Having the chance to play and three goals, I think I will not forget any time soon.”
Hats off to the former Espanyol and Barcelona player. He certainly won’t forget that afternoon indeed. (It’ll help block out the memory of this one no doubt)