Tag Archives: cristiano ronaldo

Champions League Final review: Glory for Real Madrid.

Pundits, fans and even players expected a fiesty affair for the 2016 Champions League final. And indeed whenever Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid face each other, it usually is.

The man who broke Atléti hearts two years ago in Lisbon, Sergio Ramos, opened the scoring on 14 minutes. Toni Kroos swung in a free-kick from out on the left side, which Gareth Bale flicked on. The Real Madrid defender, who was in a slightly offside position, got a touch to put the ball past Jan Oblak from close range.

Ramos joins an elite group of players that have scored in two Champions League finals. The others include Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Samuel Eto’o and Raul.

Atléti would often play the long ball from the midfield area up towards Torres or Griezmann, but nothing really troubled the Real Madrid back four.

Los Rojiblancos struggled to close down Real as they normally would. The passing appeared to be just too quick for Diego Simeone’s men. With Atléti losing possession and looking somewhat uninspired, they didn’t seem to have any luck on their side.

For the last several minutes of the first half, Atléti seemed to have more possession, which didn’t bother Real too much. Diego Simeone looked on from the sidelines in the first half appearing to be more frustrated than his usual animated self.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Atlético Madrid did win a penalty in the first minute of the second half following Pepe’s challenge on Fernando Torres who, up to that point, was fairly anonymous in the match. Antoine Griezmann stepped up and slammed the ball down the middle and off the crossbar.

The first twenty minutes of the second half was all Atlético. They seemed hungry and their positioning was far better, but they weren’t efficient enough with their accuracy and passing and no shots to goal truly bothered Real ‘keeper Keylor Navas.

Real Madrid had the chance to double their lead on 69 minutes following Luka Modric’s sublime ball to Karim Benzema out on the right side played the Frenchman on, but Oblak was flawless in preventing Los Blancos in claiming their second goal.

Then a stroke of luck.

Atléti brought it back level on 78 minutes with a goal from half-time substitute Yannick Carrasco. A nice cross from Juanfran into Real’s six yard box, was met by the Belgian who buried it from close range. Real’s defence seemed to be asleep and Navas had no chance. Simeone’s men deserved the goal for their performance in the second half.

With the score at 1-1 at 90 minutes, the game was forced into extra time. Real, by then, has used all three of their substitutes. Atlético had only used the one.

The first period of extra time was mostly dominated by Atlético, but Real had their fair share of chances. The tired legs on players from both sides became more obvious. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, the latter had, in my opinion, been Los Blancos’ most creative player on the pitch, looked exceptionally tired going into the second 15 minutes.

Real Madrid were probably more dominant in the second period, but ultimately nothing came of it. And then we had the dreaded penalties. It was a game of nerves from here. Jan Oblak and Keylor Navas both have great reputations for saving penalties. Drama in Milan. Primera or Unidecima?

Given the pressure, each penalty from both sides went in with seemingly great ease. The Atléti’s fourth penalty from Juanfran hit the post. The who else but Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up and won the Champions League for Real Madrid. Unidecima it is.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cristiano crashes out as the World Cup second round begins

That’s the group stages out of the way and players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mario Mandžukić, Andrés Iniesta, Yaya Touré, Andrea Pirlo and Wayne Rooney all waved goodbye to Brazilian shores as they were eliminated from the World Cup.

Below is a list of how the groups finished.

 

#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Brazil
3
2
1
0
7
2
5
7
2
 Mexico
3
2
1
0
4
1
3
7
3
 Croatia
3
1
0
2
6
6
0
3
4
 Cameroon
3
0
0
3
1
9
-8
0
Group B
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Netherlands
3
3
0
0
10
3
7
9
2
 Chile
3
2
0
1
5
3
2
6
3
 Spain
3
1
0
2
4
7
-3
3
4
 Australia
3
0
0
3
3
9
-6
0
Group C
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Colombia
3
3
0
0
9
2
7
9
2
 Greece
3
1
1
1
2
4
-2
4
3
 Ivory C.
3
1
0
2
4
5
-1
3
4
 Japan
3
0
1
2
2
6
-4
1
Group D
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Costa Rica
3
2
1
0
4
1
3
7
2
 Uruguay
3
2
0
1
4
4
0
6
3
 Italy
3
1
0
2
2
3
-1
3
4
 England
3
0
1
2
2
4
-2
1
Group E
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 France
3
2
1
0
8
2
6
7
2
 Switzerland
3
2
0
1
7
6
1
6
3
 Ecuador
3
1
1
1
3
3
0
4
4
 Honduras
3
0
0
3
1
8
-7
0
Group F
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Argentina
3
3
0
0
6
3
3
9
2
 Nigeria
3
1
1
1
3
3
0
4
3
 Bosnia &Herz
3
1
0
2
4
4
0
3
4
 Iran
3
0
1
2
1
4
-3
1
Group G
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Germany
3
2
1
0
7
2
5
7
2
 U.S.A.
3
1
1
1
4
4
0
4
3
 Portugal
3
1
1
1
4
7
-3
4
4
 Ghana
3
0
1
2
4
6
-2
1
Group H
#
Country
GP
W
D
L
GF
GA
GD
PTS
1
 Belgium
3
3
0
0
4
1
3
9
2
 Algeria
3
1
1
1
6
5
1
4
3
 Russia
3
0
2
1
2
3
-1
2
4
 S.Korea
3
0
1
2
3
6
-3
1

There was no football on Friday (yes, I was sweating), but the 2nd round continues tonight in Belo Horizonte as Brazil take on Chile.

The second round in full is:

Brazil v Chile

Colombia v Uruguay

Netherlands v Mexico

Costa Rica v Greece

France v Nigeria

Germany v Algeria

Argentina v Switzerland

Belgium v USA

Roll on 5pm Saturday.

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

2013 in football: The good, The bad & The ugly

The good:
German football. Oh my! If you thought the big two in Spain were the best in the world then you were mistaken. It was no coincidence that giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund ended up in the Champions League final. In fact, the big two from Germany dethroned the big two from Spain in the semi-finals before coming head-to-head at Wembley Stadium.

The management dream team.  While many – and I do mean many – were delighted to see the back of Giovanni Trapattoni, even more were delighted to see the arrival of the new management team for the Republic of Ireland. Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have been hailed as the dream team, but they face an uphill task to bring back the excitement that once existed around Lansdowne Road on matchday.

Ronaldo. Messi has had a realtively good year. The previous three were sublime. 2013 however, belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo.

monrkeane

The bad:
Luis Suarez. Liverpool’s best player by a mile – possibly the Premier League’s best of the first half of the 2013/14 season. But no stranger to controversy. I like Suarez. He oozes brilliance. But some of his antics, such as biting an opponent, is where I have to draw the line.

The decline of tiki-taka. Admittedly the only way for Barcelona was down. And they seem to be certainly on the slide. The tiki-taka style of football that was synonymous with the Catalans simply isn’t working as well as it once was. Don’t get me wrong – they’re a still  a world-class outfit with huge players such as Iniesta, Xavi, Neymar and some Argentinian bloke whose name I can’t remember – but they are a shadow of their former serial-winning selves.

Zahir Belounis. By the summer of 2012, the French-Algerian striker had been almost five years plying his trade for clubs in Qatar. Somehow he found himself in a dispute over unpaid wages dating back to 2010. In Qatar however, the employer has control over exit visas under the Kafala system, and denied Belounis his visa to leave the country. Only last month he was given the freedom the leave the Middle East in order to return to France – 19 months after being denied an exit visa.

messiheadinhands

The ugly:
Qatar 2022. Last month Fifa were forced to address the issue of workers’ rights after an investigation by a British newspaper showed that dozens of Nepalese workers had died in recent months following slave labour conditions preparing for the 2022 World Cup.

blatterqatarwcdraw

Happy new year, dear readers. More come in 2014…

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

No Ibra for Brazil 2014 as Ronaldo shines like a Ballon d’Or trophy

“One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing” was Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s immediate response following Sweden’s 2-3 defeat to Portugal on a night so inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, it may just secure him this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Indeed it was heartache for Swedes and especially Ibra as he himself admitted that it was probably his last chance to play in a World Cup. Real Madrid star Ronaldo was far too strong and his 2nd half hat-trick made the scoreline: Ibra 2 Ronaldo 3. His performance this year alone makes Madrid’s €80 million transfer fee seem like a bargain. Will he win the Balon d’or prize over rival Lionel Messi and the powerhouse of Bayern Munich and France’s Franck Ribery? If I was a betting man, I’d say yes.

Also missing out on a trip to Brazil next summer is former Chelsea and Barcelona striker Eidur Gudjohnsen who couldn’t hold back the tears after Iceland’s 2-0 defeat to Croatia which was surprisingly scoreless in the first leg. So close yet so far.

France overturned a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Ukraine in Paris. Two goals from Liverpool centre-half Mamadou Sakho – the first two of his international career – and Karim Benzema was enough to make the impossible possible for the French.

So, to round it up, the 32 teams that will next summer be in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup are:

Argentina
England
Belgium
Australia
USA
Italy
Nigeria
Brazil
Greece
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cameroon
Iran
Costa Rica
Uruguay
Germany
Honduras
Algeria
Spain
Ivory Coast
Japan
Colombia
Switzerland
Mexico
Russia
South Korea
France
Croatia
Chile
Portugal
Ecuador
Ghana
Netherlands

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I for one, cannot wait. There will be some talent on display there.
But here is my XI of players who won’t be in the competition. Let’s go 3-4-3:

GK: Samir Handanovic
DF: Daniel Agger, Stefan Savic, Martin Olsson
MF: Juan Manuel Vargas, Christian Eriksen, David Alaba, Gareth Bale
FW: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robbie Keane, Robert Lewandowski

Quite a handy team there themselves.

 

Who will you be backing to win the competition? Let Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and hit up the blog on Facebook.

The top 15 players of 2012

Along with the Euros, the second half of last season and the first half of the current football season, made 2012 to be quite an exceptional footballing year. But who have the best players been? Well, here’s my top 15.

15. Robert Lewandowski. Borussia Dortmund and Poland.
Lewandowski would be the first to admit that his stint with his national side in the Euros were a little underwhelming. No doubt this is probably due to the huge expectations from the 24-year old prior to the competition. But in the Bundesliga, he absolutely tears defences apart – and one Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to bring him to Old Trafford for big money.

14. Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia.
Mkhitaryan is probably the biggest footballing product to ever come out Armenia – and he’s still only 23. At club level, he is one of – if not the – biggest talents in Ukraine. He was voted Shakhtar’s Player of the Season at the close of the 2011-12 season and continues to play some incredible football. He’s enjoyed a phenomenal 2012 – watch out for him in 2013.

13. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. AC Milan/Paris St-Germain and Sweden.
Serial-title winner Ibrahimovic broke tradition this year when he didn’t win a league winners medal with AC Milan who narrowly missed out on the Scudetto to Juventus. Aside from that, the Swede enjoyed a brilliant Euro 2012, scored the best goal of 2012, and now plies his trade with the noveau riche Paris St Germain, who have their eye on the Ligue 1 title. This Malmo native causes concern for every opposing defender he faces.

12. Robin van Persie. Arsenal/Manchester United and Holland.
Following his controversial £22 million move from Arsenal to Man United, van Persie arrived with huge expectation given his reputation with the Gunners over the previous number of seasons – and he delivered. Totalling 20 goals for his new club so far, van Persie & co finish 2012 in the Premier League’s pole position.

11. Gareth Bale. Tottenham Hotspur and Wales.
Bale’s performances for Spurs throughout 2012 have been stunning. His sheer pace, agility, and that brilliant left foot of his make him one of the most fearsome players any player in the Premier League can face.

10. Mesut Ozil. Real Madrid and Germany.
Madrid’s playmaker and Cristiano Ronaldo’s right hand man may not have played as well as he’d hoped at the end of last season. But he was certainly one of Euro 2012’s better performers and is now considered a crucial element for José Mourinho’s  current Madrid side.

9. Neymar. Santos and Brazil.
The Brazilian wonderkid is constantly being linked with a move to Europe – and very often with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. His 31 goals and 15 assists this year, coupled with his sheer ability and dazzling displays makes him easily the best player in his country’s domestic league. He enjoyed a fantastic spell during the Olympics in London, picking up a silver medal in the process.

8. Sergio Ramos. Real Madrid and Spain.
Ramos’ natural ability to change from his preferred position on the right side of the pitch to partnering Barcelona’s Gerard Pique during Euro 2012 is a testament to his footballing brain. Not only did he end up winning Euro 2012, but he played out of his skin. And I haven’t even mentioned how powerful he has been for Real Madrid during 2012 yet.

7. Andrea Pirlo. Juventus and Italy.
He may have won the Champions League twice with previous club AC Milan, but the 33-year old midfielder has just enjoyed possibly his finest 12 months in football with new club Juventus. Maybe it’s the new beard? Nicknamed “The Architect”, Pirlo was hailed by pundits, along with Andrés Iniesta, to be one of Euro 2012’s best performers.

6. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United and England.
A key player for club and country, Wazza is easily one of the biggest natural talents in British football for the past decade. Depsite being banned for England’s opening two games in Euro 2012, he still scored 4 goals in 5 games during the calendar year all the while playing phenomenal for the Red Devils.

5. Xavi. Barcelona and Spain.
Xavi is, by many people’s opinion, the greatest Spanish player of all time. I agree. His remarkable vision, ability, precision and consistency makes him easily one of the world’s best. The midfield maestro also set a record for pass completions during the summer. I can’t even remember the last time I witnessed Xavi give the ball away. Has it ever happened?

4. Ramadel Falcao. Atlético Madrid and Colombia.
A sheer goalscoring machine, Falcao is one of 2012’s biggest sensations. Recently the Colombian star became the first player for a decade to score five goals in a single La Liga game. His nasty habit of finding the back of the net in almost every fixture is causing him to be the focus of all the big-spending clubs.

3. Andrés Iniesta. Barcelona and Spain.
Many fellow professionals, pundits, managers and fans believe Iniesta to be the finest midfielder in the world. He’s regularly the only player outside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who is even mentioned about for the Ballon d’Or. Dazzling displays for both club and country, Iniesta is on every manager’s dream-list.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid and Portugal.
CR7 has been hugely influential in Real Madrid’s quest to claim the La Liga title off rivals Barça. He enjoyed a superb Euro 2012 and at club level, aside from his impressive performances, he is currently sitting nicely on 20 goals in 24 games this season alone. The last twelve months has been kind to the Portugese winger. But what could be considered a poor season for Cristiano is still better than most.

1. Lionel Messi. Barcelona and Argentina.
It was never in doubt was it? Leo Messi is, and has been for some time, the world’s greatest player. His ability is beyond phenomenal. Sometimes there are no words to describe exactly what I had just witnessed when watching Messi play. His 91 goals in the calendar year is a record – one that may take some time to break it too I should add. One he may even break himself in 2013 if he carries on. The scariest part? He’s still only 25. Diego Maradona once famously said back in 2006, “I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi”. El Diego was not wrong.

Honorary mentions must go to Mario Gomez for his eye for goal for Germany during Euro 2012 as well as tearing defences to shreds for Bayern Munich. Yaya Touré and his forceful, direct style constantly causes many an opposing manager headaches. Mats Hummels has been the full package for both Borussia Dortmund and Germany, giving strikers serious problems. Likewise with Sergio Aguero who has been fantastic for both Man City and Argentina – and forever a legend in east Manchestester following that goal at the end of last season. Juan Mata’s consistency has been remarkable for Chelsea and he picked up a winners medal at Euro 2012. Edinson Cavani has been wonderful for Napoli with his insane 19 goals in 17 starts for the Serie A club.

Who do you think have been the best players of 2012? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Champions League draw has some tasty ties

Thursday’s draw for the last 16 in the Champions League revealed some interesting fixtures. All eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo, as he and his Real Madrid team-mates return to Manchester United, where the Portugese star developed into one of the world’s top players, while rival Leo Messi’s Barcelona take on seven-time winners of the competition, AC Milan.

Arsenal were handed a tough test in German giants Bayern Munich. Arsene Wenger’s men have been suffering a poor form as of late, whereas the Bavarian side’s has been anything but.

Neil Lennon’s Celtic drew Italian side Juventus and is feeling confident ahead of their meetings. “Over two games anything is possible,” he said. “It’s a beauty against one of the traditional European teams”. The Glasgow club’s excellent spirit in the group stage would make them certainly ones for The Old Lady to be wary of.

Valencia, who have only won six La Liga games this season, take on the newly-rich Paris Saint Germain. The French outfit currently lie in pole position in Ligue 1, but have made some slip-ups this season. It’s up to Los Che’s coach Ernesto Valverde to take full advantage of PSG’s exposed weaknesses.

The draw in full:

Galatasaray v Schalke 04
Celtic v Juventus
Arsenal v Bayern Munich
Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund
AC Milan v Barcelona
Real Madrid v Manchester United
Valencia v Paris Saint-Germain
Porto v Malaga
First legs to be played February 12/13 and 19/20, second legs March 5/6 and 12/13.

 

Give Rob Smith your predictions via Twitter. (@robsmithireland)

Messi…the best ever. There, I said it!

Maradona, Zidane, Cruyff, Di Stefano, Pele, Ronaldo. These are some of the names mentioned when talking about the greatest player ever. And rightly so. For years I would argue that Diego Maradona was the greatest player to ever kick a ball (with “Zizou” a close 2nd). However, in my opinion and after much consideration, I now give this title over to the little Argentine wizard. Take a bow, Leo Messi.

I first got introduced to Messi in late 2004 when he made his debut against Espanyol. It was clear was an extremely promising Barça youth. The following year, he was creating a buzz around Camp Nou – and remember, this was when Ronaldinho was King of Catalonia. Young Messi was certainly turning heads. It wasn’t long before Maradona himself said “I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi”. The rest, as they say, is history.

Some may argue that Cristiano Ronaldo is better. I don’t think so. CR7 has all the technical ability of a true great, but Messi has the flair that really underlines nickname “the beautiful game” – that’s just one small part of his many traits that makes him stand out. His close control is unmatched by anyone – past or present. Despite being the obvious star of Barça’s star-studded team, he is the humblest of humble players with a footballing attitude seen so rarely these days.

I have seen players like Zidane and Ronaldinho play in front of my eyes at the height of their powers and I thought I’d never see brilliance quite like either player for another generation. That was until I witnessed Leo Messi so many times over the years.  He takes genius to a whole new level. In my opinion, the best ever. No doubt about it (sorry Diego). And the scary part? He’s still only 24.

He may still yet to win a World Cup like Diego – but he is simply the best.

Has José Mourinho taken it a little too far this time?

Eye-gouging on the touchline. Well, it’s certainly a new approach to get under someone’s skin from The Special One as his Real Madrid side travelled to Barcelona‘s Camp Nou during the week for the 2nd leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

Following Marcelo’s two-legged tackle on Barça’s Cesc Fabregas, chaos ensued at the sideline. Red cards were being thrown around to Marcelo, Mesut Ozil and David Villa. Then Mourinho very calmly walks up behind Pep Guardiola’s number two Tito Vilanova and very bizarelly sticks his finger in the Barça assistant’s eye. Vilanova retaliated by pushing The Special One who in turn responded with a menacing smile.

Cue post-match uproar in Catalonia. Barcelona vice-president Carles Villarubi described the Real Madrid boss as a “stain on football”. Defender Gerard Pique said that “someone has to take action on the matter. Mourinho is destroying Spanish football”. Someone probably should take action against The Special One – but in truth, it will be likely he’ll avoid punishment as the incident wasn’t in the referee’s report and it’s understood that Barça won’t make a complaint to the Spanish FA.

Then in a post-match press conference, Mourinho described Barça as a “small team” while Pep Guardiola said that he could only congratulate his players “for their way of thinking”. A strange night in the Catalan capital and a very ill-tempered end to a game that witnessed (and overshadowed) greatness from Leo Messi, who very nearly clinched another hat-trick against the old enemy.

Has José Mourinho taken it a little too far this time?
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uUgOuzWvDfE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Always read the small print

In January, Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam was linked with a move away from Bloomfield Road and was rumoured with a transfer to Liverpool. The seasiders’ manager Ian “Ollie” Holloway would make a percentage of any transfer Adam completes and came under criticism as many claimed this was the reason he held off bids from Liverpool even labelling their £4 million offer as “disgraceful”.

Adam eventually made the move to Anfield for £7 million last week, Ollie made a nice few bob out of the deal and the media said nothing about it. But Holloway personally making a nice lump sum of cash out of a transfer isn’t the first unusual clause in a footballer’s contract.

When former Arsenal midefielder Stefan Schwarz joined Sunderland in 1999, the Swede had a clause in his contract banning him from space flight. “At the end of the day we are protecting the club really”, said then-chief executive John Fickling “But one day it could become be quite acceptable to put such clauses in various contracts”. And with that went Schwarz’s ambitions of becoming the next Neil Armstrong.

Got a billion quid spare? Because that’s how much Real Madrid maestro Cristiano Ronaldo‘s buy-out clause is. Buy-out clauses are normally three or four times a player’s market value to keep temptations away from other clubs. Messi’s, for example, is approximately €300 million. Now, nobody has €300 million to spend on a player, let alone €1 billion. Looks like Cristiano’s going nowhere. Unless if Man City….

Finally, Chelsea paid €15 million to FC Porto to activate André Villas-Boas’ release clause in his contract for the Portugese side to join the London team. But another former Porto and Chelsea manager went one better. Before winning the treble with Inter, José “The Special One” Mourinho said “My contract is simple. I’ve got another three years, with a clause that allows me to leave whenever I want”. Then along came Real Madrid and the rest, as they say, is history. At least Inter then hired Rafa Benitez. Ahem.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ti2Cg9jfaXU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Ones to watch #9: Alexis Sanchez

Discussing football transfers with a friend recently, we were talking about possible transfers in football. I mentioned one name in particular. My friend’s reaction was “Have you seen him? He is sheer class!” upon hearing the name. The player in question? Udinese’s Alexis Sánchez.

A product of Chilean side Cobreloa‘s youth system, Alexis Sánchez signed for Serie A side Udinese in 2006 for US $3 million as a 17-year old and was immediately put on loan for the next two years. The first was to one of South America’s most popular teams Colo-Colo in his native country. The second was to Argentine giants River Plate where he impressed fans and press alike. He made his first appearance in an Udinese shirt in July 2008 and has done nothing but impress since that day.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/b0LFJAfqKmE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Turkish side Galatasaray took note and offered €20 million for the winger upon his return from last summer’s World Cup. It was declined as the Italian club still didn’t feel the Chilean had quite reached his potential. Scoring wonderful and important goals and playing beautiful football made him one of Serie A’s best players in the season just gone. Comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo are being made by the press. One thing is for sure. Sánchez has the technical ability to reach similar heights as the Madrid star. Manchester City and Manchester United have been reportedly very interested in Sánchez. But it could be Barcelona who might have the upper hand as the player has said the Catalan giants is the only club he wishes to play for. Man City might be able to change that with the wads of cash they can afford to blow. Only time will tell. Lucky the club will be that signs Alexis Sánchez.

The ones that got away

I find it somewhat amusing when I hear the story about how when in 1995, Blackburn Rovers were close to signing French legend Zinedine Zidane. The hugely-gifted future World Cup winner never made it to Ewood Park after manager Jack Walker famously said “Why would I want to sign Zidane when I have Tim Sherwood?”. I’m sure it made sense in ’95. At least, I hope so.

 There are some other “almosts”. Like when in recent times when Steven Gerrard was almost set to join Chelsea only to pull the deal at the last minute. And even more recently when Brazilian maestro Kaka was almost lured to the sunshine of Manchester to play for the sky-blue half of the city. After much media attention, he announced he would stay with Milan. Fans flocked to his Milanese apartment, chanting his name on the streets below in sheer joy that their genius was staying. He left for Madrid some months later.

 Gerard Houlier spotted a 16-year old Cristiano Ronaldo and could have signed the talented Portugese winger. He didn’t and “CR7” soon joined rivals United and the rest, as they say, is history. Another United hero is Eric Cantona who, like Ronaldo, also nearly went to Anfield. Then Liverpool manager Graeme Souness was offered the fiery striker but the Scot declined admitting he didn’t want to unsettle the dressing room. Cantona went to Leeds United and then ultimately to Old Trafford where his time in Manchester will be long remembered in the club’s history.

 But I must give it up to the Arsenal faithful who, despite signing some great ones like Henry, Bergkamp, Brady, Wright etc., missed out on one Diego Armando Maradona. The Agentine nearly went to Highbury when he was 19. “I sometimes wonder what might have happened” the former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli striker commented. I’m sure every Arsenal fan does also. This is what they missed out on.

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He's no Francis Jeffers, thats for sure.