Tag Archives: tottenham

Bale officially joins Madrid. But is he worth €100 million?

The most inevitable signing has been officially announced: Gareth Bale has signed for Real Madrid. But it’s quite significant as the Welshman cost the Spanish side a world-record fee of €100 million, eclipsing the previous record of €94 million held by his new team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. But what if he flops in at Madrid? Not everyone settles in the club. I wonder one thing: is he really worth it?

Indeed what if he does fail at Madrid? It’ll be the biggest transfer flop since, well, Andy Carroll. But in far more spectacular fashion. €100 million is an absurd amount of money. If he fails, it will be quite catastrophic. But if he succeeds, he could be an even bigger hero to the Real faithful than Cristiano. After his season last year at Spurs, he could easily be brilliant as a Madridista.

“I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it’s the right time to say goodbye,” said Bale. “I am now looking forward to the next exciting chapter in my life, playing football for Real Madrid.”

He will be presented at the Bernebéu tomorrow following a medical at around noon Irish time. With the past few weeks in Spain being all about the pairing of Messi and Neymar together at Barcelona, it’ll be world’s media interested in the combination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.


Do you think Bale is worth €100 million? How do you think he will fare at Madrid? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Football's greatest debuts

Demba Ba and Daniel Sturridge enjoyed their Chelsea and Liverpool debuts at the weekend, respectively. Fans of both clubs will hope it’s the start of things to come. But those are just two in a long list of great debuts in the history of the game. Let’s look at some others.

Ronaldo. Real Madrid v Deportivo Alavés, 2002.
Not Cristiano’s first appearance as a Madridista in Tallaght, but the original. Ronaldo arrived at the Bernebéu with huge expectations, with the €45 million price tag seeking justification. He came off the bench with just 27 minutes remaining and scored two goals in a thrilling 5-2 win for Real Madrid. He exited down the tunnel at the final whistle to a standing ovation. Class is permanent.

Jurgen Klinsmann. Sheffield Wednesday v Tottenham, 1994.
The German international arrived at White Hart Lane from Monaco for £2 million in the summer of ’94 and with a reputation of being a constant diver. He marked his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough by scoring a brilliant header followed by a wonderful diving celebration. This immediately won the fans over and Klinsmann went on to win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.

Romario. Barcelona v Real Sociedad, 1993.
Brazilian genius Romario marked his Barça debut by netting a hatrick for the Catalans – a feat he achieved four more times throughout the season, earning him the Spanish league’s Pichichi award. He then went onto the little matter of winning the World Cup with Brazil. Had he not had played so remarkably on his debut, would his 1993/94 season been so flawless?

Fabrizio Ravanelli. Middlesbrough v Liverpool, 1996.
Ravanelli arrived in England’s north-east from giants Juventus in the summer of 1996 and he instantly made a huge impact and caused enormous excitement on Teesside by scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool. But unlike Romario, his season went downhill not long after with the club ultimately being relegated and the disillusioned Italian star moaning about everything from the club’s training facilities to the town itself.

Zinedine Zidane. France v Czech Republic, 1994.
Zizou’s debut for Les Bleus was a true Roy Of The Rovers moment. The French were 2-0 down and towards the end of the game, the then-22-year old came off the bench to show the world the start of things to come. Yes, Zidane’s leadership, skills and magic quickly restored France’s confidence in themselves and the Bordeaux man scored the two cracking goals himself to level the game up. Inspiring.

Alan Smith. Leeds United v Liverpool, 1998.
Not many people score on their debuts with the very first touch of the ball. Alan Smith did. He helped Leeds defeat the Reds 3-1 in their own ground  – and right in front of the Kop. Not bad for any 18-year old kid.

Álvaro Recoba. Inter Milan v Brescia, 1997.
The first game of Inter’s 97/98 season had eyes on one man. But it turned out to be not the man they’d hoped. Yes, Recoba made his debut on the same day as Ronaldo made his following his big money move from Barcelona. However, the Uruguyan stole the spotlight after he left the bench, with the Nerazzurri trailing, to score twice in the last ten minutes – the first a thirty-yard piledriver, the second a spectacular free-kick from a ridiculous distance. Watch it here.


Who else has had a cracking debut? Let Rob Smith know via Twitter (@robsmithireland)

London calling for The Special One?

International fixtures are what’s on the menu this week for many a footballer and football fan. But Real Madrid manager José “Special One” Mourinho began his week by taking a flight to London on Tuesday morning and, according to Madrid-based sports newspaper AS, went house hunting in the English capital alongside his wife, Matilde.

Is he leaving Real Madrid? He may well do. Despite Madrid’s current league advantage over rivals Barcelona, Mourinho has not had the easiest of relationships with club president Florentino Perez or indeed some of the Spanish press – some of whom quite publicly do not respect Mourinho’s work at Madrid. But that is one of many possible reasons why The Special One would leave the Bernebéu.

And London? Is ‘Arry Redknapp taking the vacant England job and Mourinho is to the new replacement at Spurs? I wouldn’t bet on it. More likely he’s returning to Chelsea if anything – a club where he is worshipped. The Blues’ current manager André Villas-Boas is coming under fire from the powers that be upstairs at Chelsea. And given how ruthless that club is with managers, it would be a miracle if AVB was still in charge there next season. Mourinho back to The Bridge? Definitely maybe.

Mourinho spotted in London by a fan on Tuesday near Stamford Bridge. (Photo: TWITTER @CarefreeJD)

Transfer deadline day chaos (or the lack of it)

Ah, the last day of January. A day many spend the evening by staring at Jim White and his colleagues on Sky Sports News for the usual drama of transfer deadline day. Last year Andy Carroll joined Liverpool for an astonishing £35 million and Fernando Torres joined Chelsea for £50 million. Social networks went crazy that night. What could happen tonight? Will Chelsea make another massive signing? Could Gerard Pique (and girlfriend Shakira) make Manchester their new home? Could Carlos Tevez join Liverpool and then Everton only moments later? Will it be the most exciting day in footballing transfer history?

The answer is…no. The day hadn’t quite the excitement as last year’s for the average footie fan. But it did have some interesting moves that will no doubt make an impact at certain clubs. One of these clubs is of course QPR. Having already captured Nedum Onuoha (Man Citeh) and Taye Taiwo (AC Milan), they signed Bobby Zamora (Fulham) and Djibril Cissé (Lazio) to strengthen Mark Hughes’ side. Throughout January, they more or less bought half a team.

Zamora joins the R's

Meanwhile ‘Arry Redknapp (who is not a “wheeler-dealer”) brought Everton’s Louis Saha to White Hart Lane on loan for the rest of the season with Steven Pienaar going back to his former club also on loan.  Everton did also complete the £5.5m signing of Nikica Jelavic from Rangers. Speaking of Spurs, their out-of-favour striker Roman Pavlyuchenko left to join Lokomotiv Moscow in his native land. Elsewhere, Man City landed Chile midfielder David Pizarro on loan from Roma for the rest of the season as did West Brom, for our very own Keith Andrews from Blackburn.

There was some interesting moves elsewhere in Europe such as this and this, but overall it could be considered a fairly quiet one – certainly by English standards with “only” £55.1 million spent by Premier League clubs this deadline day. Last year it was £215 million. Maybe at the next transfer deadline day, on the last day of August, it might be even less? Who am I kidding…Man City and Chelsea are still around, aren’t they?

Anyway, throughout the entire month of January, some of the best signings in my opinion have been:

  • Thierry Henry – New York Red Bulls to Arsenal (loan)
  • Carlos Kameni – Espanyol to Malaga (free)
  • Maxi Lopez – Catania to AC Milan (loan)
  • Gary Cahill – Bolton to Chelsea (£7 mil)
  • José Antonio Reyes – Athletico Madrid to Sevilla (€3.5 mil)
  • Moussa Sow – Lille to Fenerbahce (€15 mil)
  • Nicolas Anelka – Chelsea to Shanghai Shenhua (undisclosed)
  • Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy to Aston Villa (loan)
  • Amauri – Juventus to Fiorentina (€500k)
  • Alex – Chelsea to PSG (€5 mil)

Any other good transfers missed this month that is worth mentioning? Leave a comment or hit me up on twitter.

Champions League and Europa Cup round-up

Heartbreak for the hoops. Shamrock Rovers put on a fine display at the Toumbas Stadium against Greek side PAOK in Group A of the Europa Cup. Many feel the Irish champions deserved a point from the tie. Sadly it was not to be. Costin Lazar’s spectacular 25-yard strike put the Greeks ahead early on before Karl Sheppard headed the equaliser just after half time. Then, on 63 minutes, Blackburn target Vieirinha scored what turned out to be PAOK’s winner. Rovers were second best on the night. But Rovers weren’t humiliated by any stretch of the imagination. PAOK are certainly beatable back in Dublin 24.

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Also in Group A, Tottenham beat Rubin Kazan by 1-0 courtesy of a Roman Pavlyuchenko goal. Spurs lead the group with PAOK and Kazan following. Rovers are still last – but the Tallaght club won’t be giving up just yet. Elsewhere, in Group H, Birmingham City travelled to the Jan Breydek Stadium to take on Club Brugge. The blues’ 19-year old striker Chris Wood’s goal – after 10 minutes of stoppage time – earned City’s win to put them joined-top with the Belgians. Stoke City are still unbeaten in Group E and their 3-0 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv sits them comfortably in first place of the group. Things aren’t looking up for Neil Lennon though. Celtic have yet to win a game in Group I. A 1-1 draw against Rennes puts the Glasweigans disappointingly in last position.

In the Champions League, Manchester City and rivals Manchester United (who both face each other this Sunday) recorded their first Champions League wins. City‘s win against Villareal was a major confidence boost as Sergio Aguero’s 93rd minute winner sent the blue half of Manchester into ecstacy as it was also the club’s first ever win in the Champions League. Two Wayne Rooney penalties earned the Red Devils their first three points against Oțelul Galați in Bucharest.

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In Group E, Chelsea earned their three points with their five goals against Belgian side Genk at Stamford Bridge. £50 million signing Fernando Torres got his name on the score-sheet twice. Not that Chelsea were particularly good as much as Genk were, on the night, pretty bad. Arsenal travelled to France to take on Marseille – and were blessed to go back to London with anything. But they did. Aaron Ramsey’s 92nd minute winner was the result of Arsenal’s persistence. Arsene Wenger can be pleased. He got, in the end, the points he needed to put the Gunners top of Group F.

Elsehwere, Real Madrid‘s 4-0 thrashing against Lyon at the Bernebeu puts the Spanish side top of their group – five whole points ahead of 2nd place Ajax who won their fixture 2-0 away to Dinamo Zagreb. Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona played 90 minutes of sheer wonderful football at the Camp Nou against Czech side Viktoria Plzeň. The Barça faithful in the 98,500 arena applauded and cheers the pure possesion, skill and showboating from Iniesta, Xavi and, of course, you-know-who. But it was their two goals that got the biggest cheer on the night. I’m sure Pep Guardiola will feel that Barça should have scored another two or three easily.

The next Champions League nights are 1st & 2nd November, while the next Europa night is on the 3rd – when Rovers will host the Greek side that broke their hearts tonight.

Shamrock Rovers: from relegation to jubilation

Football el Mundo congratulates Shamrock Rovers today. What a complete u-turn for the now Tallaght-based club. Five years ago the club were near extinction – now they’re rubbing shoulders with the big boys.

Rovers are set to become the first Irish club to make the group stages of a major European competition. And in their group are Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur, Russian side Rubin Kazan and PAOK.

Considering just a few seasons ago Rovers were relegated, homeless and in financial troubles – now they have their own stadium, Irish league champions and will be set make some a nice bit of revenue from the big European clashes. It’s not only good for the club – but it’s putting Irish football on the map a little bit more. Can Rovers go into the Europa League and even get a result or two? In football, sometimes anything is possible – as Rovers have proved.
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Champions League quarter-finals preview (part 2)

A lot of goals in the first leg of the quarter-finals. Eighteen goals over the four games to be exact. And Messi didn’t score one of them.

The new impressive Donbass Arena is the venue where Shakhtar Donetsk play host to Barcelona. The Catalan giants scored five in the first leg at Camp Nou which makes the Ukrainians job closer to the impossible. Shakhtar will be thankful Andres Iniesta will play no part in the game through suspension but they will have to be on their game to stop some of Barça’s other talent.

One goal seperated Man United and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last week thanks to a first-half Wayne Rooney goal. With Carlo Ancelotti’s Premier League hopes slowly fading, the Italian will be looking to end the Red Devils’ treble dream. United haven’t lost at home at the knockout stages of the Champions League for years, though Chelsea will take a 1-0 victory which would bring the game to extra-time and possibly penalties – something Chelsea and United are no strangers to in this competition.
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Schalke 04 and Inter Milan‘s result last Tuesday was a surprising one with the Germans scoring five away goals at the San Siro. Inter’s two goals (including one cracker from Stankovic) may count for something if the Italians raise their game at the Veltins-Arena and unleash a complete goal fest. Anything less will see the current holders make an exit and nobody more so than Inter boss Leonardo knows this.

Finally, I secretly predicted a score draw at the Bernebeu last week when Real Madrid played Tottenham. Sadly for ‘Arry Redknapp, Spurs on the night were played off the park and beaten 4-0. It’s not impossible for the north Londoners to make a comeback that would put the team in legend status for years to come – but it’s not far off. The Special One’s men are however red-hot favourites which would mean, if victorious, Madrid would see a possible semi-final tie against Barça – unless ‘Arry has the mother of all plans up his sleeve.

Champions League 2nd leg preview (part 1)

March is now upon us and that means the Champions League Final is a little over two months away. This week however, we will see the 2nd leg of the round of 16.

Shakhtar Donetsk have the advantage over Roma with their 3 away goals in the Stadio Olimpico on February 16th. This will be the Champions League debut of Roma caretaker-manager Vicenzo Montella (himself a former Roma striker and Fulham loanee) after the resignation of Claudio Raneiri last month. But this will be no easy task as Shaktar, despite it being the Ukrainian off-season, have proved yet again that they are no pushovers.

It’s Arsene Wenger’s match to lose as he takes his Arsenal squad to the Camp Nou where they will face FC Barcelona. The Gunners won 2-1 at The Emirates last month, despite an early Barça lead from David Villa. Pep Guardiola’s men have won 18 of their last 21 games on their home turf and despite captain Carles Puyol’s absense, it will still prove to be an extremely tricky tie – as Arsenal fans will choose to forget the last time these two sides met in this fixture last year.
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Valencia travel to Gelsenkirchen where they take on Schalke in the Vetlins Arena. The Spanish side are currently in 3rd place in La Liga and impressively lost only once in the league season since December 13th (against current leaders Barcelona). Schalke, on the other hand, have only won five of their last 10 Bundesliga games. But the Germans do have the advantage of an away goal in this tie which could prove to be lethal. Something ‘los che’ coach Unai Emery is well aware of.

Finally, AC Milan travel to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham. Spurs beat the Rossoneri thanks to a single Peter Crouch goal at the San Siro a few weeks ago. Harry Redknapp will be extra pleased with the news that Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart are likely to return from their injuries. But the north-Londoners will know that Milan are no pushover having had a remarkable Serie A season, losing only three times and with fifty goals under their belt – thirty-five of which from their in-form forward line of Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Pato.

Remember the San Siro, 'Arry?

Well certainly Gareth Bale will remember the San Siro. He should – he did score a highly impressive (but ultimately too late) hat-trick there against Champions League holders Inter Milan. The Welshman and co. will return to the city’s fine stadium to face Inter’s bitter rivals AC Milan in February.

The British media have hyped up Bale a lot since that October night (Sky Sports News were comparing his stats against Lionel Messi’s the very next day) so no doubt most of their talk will be of that hat-trick and not of AC Milan’s danger men. And they do have some: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while some question his attitude on the pitch, cannot be denied for his goalscoring abilites. His goals-to-games ratio is deeply stunning – particularly during his time at Italy and he also boasts a remarkable assists statistic too. Another is former Man City star Robinho who, like Ibrahimovic, has also been doing rather well in his first season for the Rossoneri. It should also be pointed out that Alessandro Nesta, despite his age, still proves to be one of the most strongest defenders in world football. Did I forget to mention Andrea Pirlo, Gianluca Zambrotta and Ronaldinho also? Harry Redknapp will need to study AC Milan very closely if he wants Spurs to progress past this next round.
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It is by no means the biggest game of the round but, in footballing terms, it might…just might prove to be the most spectacular.

Here is the full draw for round of 16 – first game will be on Feb 15th:

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
AC Milan v Spurs
Valencia v Schalke 04
Inter Milan v Bayern Munich
Arsenal v FC Barcelona
Marseille v Manchester Utd
FC Copenhagen v Chelsea
Lyon v Real Madrid

Let’s hear your early predicitions…


Champions League Matchday 6 preview

  Afternoon one and all. Matchday 6 in the Champions League this week and despite most clubs already qualified for the next phase there’s still some good games worth watching.

  Group H is the most open one with Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal and Sporting Braga all having a chance to progress into the next stage in the top position. It’s amazing Arsenal still haven’t qualified despite having scored 15 goals and mastered 6-0, 3-1 and 5-1 victories back to back. An upset at the hands of Serbian side Partizan could see a big surprise exit for the Gunners.

Wenger hopes his team keep their eye on the ball

  With this weeks contraversial news that Russia is to host the 2018 World Cup, the only team flying the Russian flag in the Champions League with hope is Rubin Kazan. Either themselves or FC Copenhagen could finish in second in Group D. Kazan face a very much in-form Barcelona in the Camp Nou but it was only a year ago when they caused an upset in the very same fixture.

  Finally, Spurs manager (and allegedly occasional wheeler-dealer) Harry Redknapp will be looking for maximum points to ensure their finish on top of Group A. They face FC Twente, previously managed by Ssshhteve McClaren. Inter Milan will be looking for points and as many goals as possible to finish in pole position. They will take on Werder Bremen, who have been well below their standard in this year’s competition.