Tag Archives: serie a

Totti’s 24 year career draws to a close.

Quite simply one of the greatest Italian players of all time, Francesco Totti is set to play his last game of football when Roma face Genoa at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on Sunday 28th May.

As his stunning 24-year career draws to a close, the 40-year old had spent his entire career with the Giallorossi, where he won a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia titles, and two Supercoppa Italiana titles. With his national team, he won a little-known trophy called the World Cup in 2006.

He won a plethora of individual awards throughout his career including a record eleven Oscar del calcio awards from the Italian Footballers’ Association, which consists of five Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year awards, two Serie A Footballer of the Year awards, two Serie A Goal of the Year awards, one Serie A Goalscorer of the Year award and one Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award.

He was nominated for the Ballon d’Or five times between 2000 and 2007. In November 2014, he extended his record as the oldest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history, aged 38 years and 59 days.

The word legend is thrown about football all too often and, in some cases, is definitely warranted. With Francesco Totti’s departure from the pitch, it’s more than warranted.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy diary: a look inside a Serie A adventure

As previously blogged, the city of Milan is a fine city for culture, shopping, sightseeing and, as you can imagine, football. Last weekend I found myself in the city for a couple of days and taking place in the San Siro during a few spare hours I had was a fixture between two little-known teams that are AC Milan and Juventus.

Initially the match was supposed to be held on the Sunday – the day I was due to fly back to Dublin – but the powers that be in Serie A around ten days prior changed the fixture to the Saturday evening. I assume for the sole purpose so that I could attend.

Getting to the ground usually is hassle-free. But when league rivals Juventus come to town for a top-of-the-table clash, there’s significantly more interest in the tie.

Being sandwiched in an incredibly stuffy carriage on the city’s metro railway system along with dozens of Milan fans whilst slightly (OK, fairly) hungover isn’t a good start. But eventually I arrive at the metro stop nearest the San Siro where a shuttle bus takes the public, free of charge, near the stadium’s gates.

outsidesansiro

The streets outside the San Siro almost two hours before kick-off and it’s jam-packed. People are drinking beer, people are eating fast food and, more importantly for the club, people are spending big at the many merchandise stalls outside the ground. There’s a constant smell of tobacco smoke and burger vans present in the air all outside the ground. A bigger smell of cannabis and flares would await me inside.

It was at this point that I become aware I was seated in the south stand. Now for those familiar with Italian football fan culture, the south stand in the San Siro is the AC Milan ultras’ designated spot – the Curva Sud. But that didn’t bother me. I was captivated by the San Siro’s easily recognizable architecture.

sansiroarchitecture

The long climb up to the stadium’s third tier was met with an unforgettable view of one of the cathedrals of world football. The San Siro currently holds 80,000. Tonight there 78,681 in attendance including myself – that’s quite a number given how so many games are less than half full. Sitting on the third tier is frustrating as an enormous net is somewhat distracting for your view.

The game itself is quite normal. Juventus seem to be taking more of the chances in the first half with Milan looking slightly uninspired. Most of the noise comes from the Milan ultras, all of whom are standing in their seats, chanting songs with arms in the air, except one down near the front of the dozens upon dozens of ultras. Known as the “capo”, he’s facing his fellow fans and leading them on. It’s pretty intense to watch, but does liven up the atmosphere incredibly.

The game finishes 0-1 to Juventus thanks to a second half goal from Carlos Tevez. It was interesting to see Fernando Torres make his home debut for the Rossoneri. The fans chanted his name in sheer adoration. Yes, he’s a great striker, but a bit past his Atlético Madrid/Liverpool prime now?

I have been to many matches in my time. I have been to many stadia. But I say this hand on heart that the atmosphere in the San Siro made by AC Milan fans is probably one of the best I have ever experienced. There was something about it and it’s unforgettable, yet I can’t quite explain it.

But I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMwpepBZkDk

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Chaos and superstars: A round-up of the summer transfer window

Over the summer, there was an incredible amount of money spent on players shifting clubs. The biggest deals include Gareth Bale joining Madrid (€100 mil), Radamel Falcao joining Monaco (€60 mil), Neymar to Barcelona (€57 mil), Edinson Cavani to PSG (€67 mil), Mesut Ozil to Arsenal (€45 mil) and Peter Odemwingie to Cardiff City. OK, maybe not the last one. But at least he did get transferred this time instead of just hanging around a stadium in the hope that someone signs him.

I’ll start off with Serie A, and Juventus strengthened their strike-force with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente while the criminally under-rated-on-these-shores Alessandro Matri joined league rivals AC Milan. Speaking of the Rossoneri, they brought Kaka back to the San Siro on a free – four years after they sold him to Madrid for €65 million. Nice!
Roma brought in the likes of Gervinho, Adem Ljajić and Kevin Strootman but lost out on stars such as Marquinhos, Bojan, Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo. Interesting times ahead in the eternal city. Whatever happened Inter? They slipped off the radar in recent times. Didn’t they win the Champions League not long ago?

In Spain, Neymar was dominating all the headlines for months. Until a certain Welshman joined a certain club from the capital. Real weren’t afraid to splash the cash as they also purchased Asier Illarramendi and Isco. City rivals Atlético Madrid got David Villa from Barcelona for the bargain price of around €5 million. They also got Argentine defender Martín Demichelis from Malaga. But he stayed for all of five minutes before departing for Manchester City. Who says loyalty is dead in football?

European champions Bayern Munich signed not only a new coach in Pep Guardiola, but they also acquired the much-sought-after playmaker Mario Götze from rivals Dortmund. Barcelona midfielder Thiago also joined the side, pairing up with his former manager from Barça.
Borussia Dortmund signed Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan last month, but one can’t help but feel there will be a massive Götze-shaped-hole in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield. It’ll still be between the two sides in the Bundesliga, but how will Pep fare? As I said before, the only way is down.

Finally in England, and £624,560,000 later, it was non-stop in the Premier League. Tottenham and Liverpool made some interesting signings with Spurs bringing in Paulinho, Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and (one of my former ones-to-watch) Christian Eriksen. Liverpool brought in the Spanish duo of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas. Along with the Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure and PSG starlet Mamadou Sakho, Brendan Rodgers’ side will certainly be fighting alongside AVB’s men for a Champions League place.

Transfer deadline day was an interesting one. I believe Arsenal got the star signing in Ozil, but Man United done well bringing Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford. And £27.5 million is quite an amount for him. But is he worth it? In footballing terms, yes. United however faced some unusual situations – such as getting the signature of Ander Herrera from Bilbao. One minute he was ready to put pen to paper, the next it was all off with various reasons as to why.
This was then followed with news of signing of Real Madrid left-back Coentrao on loan – followed by reports that the deal had not in fact gone through. At least they got Fellaini.

Manchester City and Chelsea surprised nobody by splashing the cash on Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Álvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetić (Man City) and André Schürrle, Willian, Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea). But Chelsea did surprise everyone by hanging onto Fernando Torres. Surely he is surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge? The Special One has decided to hang onto for now him anyway. Same goes for the frankly brilliant Juan Mata who was rumoured to be joining either PSG or Liverpool. But he’s still a Chelsea player. For now.

Everton may have lost their star player, but along with the hugely-promising Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Koné, on deadline day they snapped up our very own James McCarthy on a permanent deal as well as Man City midfielder Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku. There is life after the afro’d one, Evertonians.

Other Irish players that moved in the window include Keith Andrews (Brighton), Stephen Ireland (Stoke), Enda Stevens (Notts Co), Noel Hunt (Leeds) and James McClean (Wigan). No move for Robbie Keane to (another) boyhood club then. That joke really is old.

Phew. That’s the transfer news until January.

 

Who were your favourite signings this summer? Tell Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Neymar goes to Europe, Rafa goes to Italy, Monaco go on a massive spending spree

While every sports journalist in the world was reporting on Bayern Munich’s impressive Champions League final victory against Borussia Dortmund, some of Spain’s press decided that such a victory wasn’t worthy of a mention. Instead, they went with the Neymar story.

Neymar, who was amongst one of my first ones to watch on this blog, has long been the target of Europe’s biggest clubs. On Saturday, the 21-year-old Santos striker confirmed that he decided to join Barcelona, stating that playing alongside Leo Messi was a major factor in this decision (rivals Real Madrid were reportedly extremely close to landing the Brazilian’s signature).

But some aren’t convinced if Neymar will be a success at Barça. “Messi and Neymar?” asked former player and coach Johann Cruyff. “Two captains on one boat doesn’t work”.

He has a point. Messi is, after all, the focal point of Barcelona. With Neymar there will be two. As Zlatan Ibrahimovic may tell you, it won’t always work. I would agree.

Which reminds me – it wasn’t long ago when the Italian press said that Rafael Benítez isn’t suited to the Serie A style of play, referring to his short-but-colourful tenure at Inter Milan.

Yesterday the president of Napoli, Aurelio de Laurentiis, confirmed that the Spaniard as the new boss of the club, hailing him as “a great man with international experience. A leader”. His first job may be to try hold on to the in-demand striker Edinson Cavani.

Finally, it appears that AS Monaco will be the Chelsea of Ligue 1. That’s right, a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, is pouring his cash – Abramovich style – into the club. The newly promoted team having already recruited the highly-rated Porto pair Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez for a combined fee of around €70 million.

Now the club are set to land Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao for a fee of €60 million.

Monaco’s assistant coach, Jean Petit, is reported to have told Radio RCN last weekend: “Yes, we are expecting Falcao and four or five other players of his quality”.

“Monaco need a player like Falcao because he can help us a lot and because he can attract other top players, and that’s the best way of confirming our project is big and interesting.”

If PSG are Ligue 1’s answer to Man City, then Monaco are definitely Chelsea. But with possibly even bigger ambitions. The Parisians should be aware: there’s some new heavyweights in town – and they are not afraid to spend big.

 

What do you think of Neymar’s move to Barcelona? How about Rafa at Napoli? Will he “do a Chelsea”? Or “do an Inter”? And what about Monaco’s big spending? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)

Ones to watch #13: Mateo Kovačić

It’s been just under a year since I last blogged about a young up-and-coming footballing star. Some of my previous ones to watch, such as Juan Mata, Neymar, David de Gea, Alexis Sanchez and Hernanes have all gone on to make big money moves (well, except Neymar – but that will change in the summer – more about that at a later date). Let’s hope my 13th pick as a One To Watch doesn’t have an unlucky future ahead of him. May I present Mateo Kovačić.

Kovačić was born in Linz, Austria to Bosnian Croat parents. Having played outstanding with LASK Linz‘s academy, scouts from some of Europe’s top clubs, such as Ajax, Juventus and Bayern Munich, tried to lure the then-13 year old to their academy. In the end, it was Dinamo Zagreb that was Kovačić’s preferred destination.

Three years in Zagreb’s academy, witnessed the youngster progress into Zagreb’s senior team alongside the likes of Mario Mandžukić and Igor Bišćan. As a technically gifted midfielder, it was no surprise when he became the youngest goalscorer in the history of Croatia’s top tier, at the age of 16 years and 198 days in 2010.

By the 2011/12 season, he was a regular in Zagreb’s starting eleven and the Croatian – and indeed European media – hailed Kovačić as “the next Robert Prosinečki” and “the next Zvonimir Boban“. I wonder who he would be compared to had he been Argentine.

On the final day of the January transfer window of this year, Zagreb accepted a €15 million bid for Kovačić. The team? Italian giants Inter Milan. And with star player Wesley Sneijder Istanbul-bound with Galatasaray mere days prior, Inter’s coach Andrea Stramaccioni handed the 18-year old the number 10 jersey. Not just any kid gets handed the number 10 jersey at any club – let alone Inter Milan.

Despite being Austrian-born, Kovačić has played only for Croatia’s youth teams and then, only last month, made his senior debut for Croatia against Serbia. Fellow compatriot and former-Spurs star Niko Kranjčar hailed him as a “professor of football”.

He’s still only 18. You will be hearing his name a lot more in the future – mark my words.

 

What do you think of Kovačić? And what other youngsters have you spotted? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook by clicking here.

Nevermind the Premier League – here's the Eredivisie

Man City‘s season certainly looks over. After the sky blues’ weekend defeat to Arsenal, their hopes of shutting the red half of Manchester up don’t look good – even though Roberto Mancini, in all fairness to him, still refuses to give up. But it would take an enormously spectacular slip-up from Man United to throw it all away now. Those who have a keen eye on the English league will be focussed on who may get a Champions League spot (Newcastle United or Tottenham will be battling this out with Arsenal for that 3rd spot). But in other leagues, things are slightly more tense for the top prize.

In Italy’s Serie A, title holders AC Milan are just holding onto first place ahead of rivals Juventus with just two points in the difference. But Juve have a game in hand. That game in hand is against Lazio – who themselves will be fighting to remain in their current 3rd place. There’s six league games left in Italy. Will Milan be crowned champions once more? Or will Juve add yet another Serie A title to their trophy cabinet? Or will it be someone else? It’s certainly going to go the distance anyway.

A month or so ago, you wouldn’t have been crazy to back Real Madrid to become La Liga champions in Spain. Eleven points clear at one stage, José Mourinho’s men had to simply not slip up.  Three draws in Madrid’s last five games alone witnessed rivals Barcelona sneak up behind them rapidly. As of right now there is one point in it – yet Madrid have a game in hand. In ten days time, both teams face each other in the Camp Nou. That night could decide the title. A draw will mount the tension even more. The dual between Pep Guardiola and The Special One is at it’s tightest.

Finally, football fans should keep one eye on Holland’s Eredivisie. There is only four points between the top six teams. Imagine if that happened in the Premier League? Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, AZ, FC Twente and Heerenveen are all in it. With six games left, I for one will be watching how this one plays out. In Dutch football, anything can happen sometimes. Literally anything…

Ajax & PSV: just two of six clubs looking for Holland's big prize

 

Curtain call for Juve's classy captain

The 2011/2012 season will be the last one we will see Juventus club hero Alessandro Del Piero in the famous black and white jersey. Just a few weeks after the Juve faithful celebrated the opening impressive new stadium, they now mourn what will be their famous number 10’s curtain call. It certainly is the end of an era for the “Old Lady”.

Contrary to popular belief, Del Piero is not a one club man unlike fellow Italian former-internationals Francesco Totti and Paolo Maldini. In fact, Del Piero started his career at Padova, making his senior debut in 1991 before joining Juventus in 1993. Scoring a hat-trick on his first start for Juve, fans of the Turin-based club simply fell in love with the boy from the town of Conegliano – and they still adore him to this day.

Del Piero has been through the highs and lows with the Old Lady. Highs such as numerous Scudetti, a glorious Champions League victory, Supercoppa Italia winning finals to name but a few – right through to the devastating lows such as Juve’s demotion to Serie B following the 2006 Italian scandal (Del Piero, unlike many team-mates such as Ibrahimovic, Zambrotta, Vieira and Cannavaro, was one of a few players that stayed with Juve and fought to bring them back up to Italy’s top-flight). His talent, brilliance and what I can only describe as sheer class has been constant for 18 years.

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The veteran forward had been keen to stay for another year – yet it was Juve that opted against it. Club president Andrea Agnelli recently confirmed the news at a shareholders’ meeting. “The unique link between the old Juventus and the new Juve is our captain, Alessandro Del Piero” commented Agnelli. With their brand new stadium, Juve are certainly changing their look and their style and creating ‘a new Juventus’ in a bid to bring back the glory days they once had. I for one hope that they can find a player with the same class as Alessandro Del Piero. Besides, how many players are ever applauded by away fans time and time again? That, my friends, is the sign of a sheer legend.

"Unbelievable Jeff…I mean, Fulvio"

A bunch of grown men sitting around and excitedly describing the action on an unseen monitor. It’s the classic Soccer Saturday formula that many (myself included) tune into on most, if not all, Saturday afternoons. Well, the Italians have something similar. But they love a bit of drama in their version.

Their Jeff Stelling is Fulvio Giuliani, a sharply dressed and slick haird host that often mistakes replays for the live action. The Chris “Unbelievable Jeff” Kamara is Elio “Forza Inter” Corno – an obsessed Inter fan. Corno is known for his spats with the mustachioed AC Milan fanatic Tiziano Crudelli. In March 2009 things came to blows in the studio with the two nutters literally fighting live on air. Cue for commercial? No chance.

Crudelli's usual reaction to when AC Milan win a corner

During AC Milan vs Tottenham’s Champions League tie last season, Crudelli’s reactions to both Crouch’s goal and Milan’s disallowed goal went viral on You Tube. Could you imagine Phil Thompson reacting like this? Actually, you probably could. But could you imagine Paul Merson reacting like this if Arsenal scored? Actually, maybe you just could too. Tiziano Crudelli is my new favourite hero.

If you find yourself in Italy, check out the show titled Diretta Stadio. The chaos along with the pretty girl who reads out the best emails from viewers really makes it no wonder Italians don’t bother going to too many games.

The rise and fall & rise and fall of Adriano

Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful city full of colour, life and energetic partying. And one native is no stranger to partying despite his profession as a footballer. He’s got a wonderful striker’s ratio of 27 goals in 48 games for the Brazilian national team – yet it’s his antics and partying lifestyle off the pitch that’s seen him play less and less for country and clubs. The player in question is of course Adriano.

A product of the Flamengo youth system, it was at this club when he first got called up to wear his country’s famous yellow shirt for the first time. He left Rio for Milan when he joined Serie A giants Inter in 2001 (a certain Tallaght native joined the Nerazzurri the same year also). He was promptly loaned out to Fiorentina, then onto Parma where he formed a fantastic partnership alongside future Chelsea player Adrian Mutu. He made his return to the San Siro in 2004, having vastly improved his deadly left foot and eye for goal.

In August 2004, he unfortunately suffered the death of his father – an event that was to have a great affect on him where the player said he fell into a depression which he “only managed to cure with alcohol.” Then his attitude and work ethic was then questioned by Inter president Massimo Moratti and Brazilian coach Dunga. His 25th birthday celebrations in 2007, caused him to skip training and then-Inter coach Roberto Mancini slowly put the Brazilian further down the pecking order.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/HxyjWJk-BtQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
A return to his native Brazil first with Sao Paolo then Flamengo seen Adriano get a recall back to the national side, scoring vital goals in competitive games. His club form was once again excellent with top-class performances and hat-tricks to boot, it wasn’t long before Serie A would come knocking again – and they did. He joined Roma last summer and was given the number 8 shirt. However, the contract was terminated by mutual consent recently. Rumours of Adriano’s personal problems are to blame.

One thing is certain, the man has a wonderful gift for scoring. But what saddens me is that he is still only 29. He should beat his peak. But that’s been the rollercoaster career and life of Adriano Leite Ribeiro.

The Battle of Milan

  On the last two occasions of the Milan derby in Serie A, Inter have put six goals past AC Milan in total. The Rossoneri on the other hand, haven’t scored against their rivals since early 2009 – in a game they also lost. 
  That said, this was all under José Mourinho’s brilliance. And while new boss Rafa Bentitez is a Champions League winner and owner of a brilliant goatee beard, he certainly is no “special one”.  

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  It’s always an exiting game to watch, what locals call the “Derby della Madonnina”. Especially since it’s setting is in one of the most impressive (and sadly usually only half full) stadia in Europe – the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or better known to you and me, the San Siro.

  AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is currently on loan from Barça, has played for both Milanese clubs. He will be familiar with plenty of faces in the Nerazzurri. But his current goalscoring form should see him trying to put a few past Inter’s Brazilian ‘keeper Júlio César. Especially with the absence of injury-prone Alexandre Pato and veteran Filippo Inzaghi.

  So whether you sympathise with the red or blue half of Milan or even if you are a neutral, I recommend making it your business to watch this game on Sunday night. It should pack in more power and more passion than a Joey Barton punch.