Posts Tagged ‘football


Football fever is back

So what if Manchester United lost the Community shield game to Chelski? We are still the Premiership champs and have also won the Champions League three times, something the Blues haven’t managed even once. Of course, there was Evra and his penalty kick. Makes me feel I coud guide the ball past Cech with a broken knee. But then there was also blind Mr. Chris Foy. It would be easy to argue about his decisions but it would be wise to say it was an evenly contested game that could have gone either way. Only a fool would play down United’s chances in the Premiership after this loss; the Shield after all only decides who gets to own up the initial bragging rights.

The Red Devils will definitely go into the league as favorites even without Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Sir Alex may not have shelled out £50 million on transfers, but Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan and Antonio Valencia will be eager to prove themselves. The signing of Owen on a free transfer is probably the best move this season so far in the Premiership. He has so far hit top form in the pre-season games. An early introduction of Owen could have swinged United’s fortunes against Chelski. Ecuadorian Valencia is by no means Ronaldo, but his last season at Wigan was nothing short of exceptional. Then there is also the yet to be tested Zoran Tosic. He played a few games for the senior team last year but was largely involved in reserve fixtures.

I really can’t wait for the Premier League to start. I have already started making my presence felt in Fantasy Premier League games on various sites. Like any other Red Devils faithful, I too am praying for another successive title not just in England but also Europe.


Michael Owen arrives at Old Trafford

Michael Owen playing alongside Neville, Rooney and Scholes not just for England but also for Manchester United. Is it possible? 24 hours ago the answer may have been no. But it is now onfirmed that the injury friendly striker has penned a deal with the Reds that will keep him at Old Trafford till 2011. He will become only the 4th player in history to have played for both United and their sworn enemies Liverpool. Honestly, being a Red Devils fan I really don’t know whether to take this new move positively or not. Sir Alex has sure made a huge gamble by signing him.

The latest Red Devil in town Owen sure has had a roller-coaster career. A boyhood Everton fan, he went against his father’s wishes to join Everton’s mersyside rivals Liverpool. During his time at Anfield, he was regarded as one of the world’s most feared strikers, having netted a staggering 118 goals in 216 appearances for the club. But in 2005 he made the biggest blunder of his career by moving to an already star- studded Real Madrid. Mostly benched and under-performing, he was sold off to Newcastle United later. His time there was injury ridden and he rarely showd glimpses of his much talked about prowess. The Magpies however were relegated this past season and Owen has found himself without a club to play for. Hull City were first to publicly acknowledge their interest in the player. There had also been offers from Tottenham, Portsmouth and Stoke City.

Michael Owen will be keen to fill be keen to fill in the void left by the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.  Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that Owen would  don a similar role like that of Henrik Larsson two years back. The former Swedish captain had joined United on a 6 month long loan deal after stunning spells at clubs like Feyenord, Celtic, Barcelona etc. Despite being in the swansong of his career, Larsson was able to help United to a League Championship while providing useful guidance to youngsters like Rooney and Ronaldo. One should also not forget when a 35 year old Edwin van der Sar was signed by Fergie there were quiet a few eyebrows raised. Since then, van der Sar has proved to among the best goalkeepers in Europe. Fergie had even called him the best keeper at Old Trafford since Peter Schmeichel. United legends such as Eric Cantona and Laurent Blanc were similar signings too.

As you can see, Owen can definitely be at comfort with the club’s history with ‘finished’ players. However he will have to see that his fitness doesn’t turn out to be a roadblock. The best thing to expect  from the striker though, will be a goal against his former club and United’s arch-rivals Liverpool. Now, that would be mouthwatering.


Euros and Pounds don’t mean Success

Second time Real Madrid President Florentino Perez has pulled of a major coup with the signing of Kaka and with Cristiano Ronaldo left to say just a ‘yes’. The two transfers together costing Madrid a whopping £136 milion at a time when the club’s own debts tune upto £900 trillion. Media reports suggest Perez is preparing for the second coming of Los Galacticos. Rumors linking the club to top footballers such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Franck Ribery, David Villa etc are already doing the rounds. Three words for the club – What the fuck?

Hasn’t Florentino Perez and Real Madrid proved us already that money alone can bring silverware? Perez became Madrid’s President in 2000 after promising to bring Portuguese winger Luis Figo to the club from arch-rivals Barcelona. This was a promise that he promptly delievered and that too at a then world record fee. Figo was followed by the arrival of an array of world-class players such as Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Robinho among others. Los Galacticos, as they were known, found some initial success, but only flopped in the long term. You might as well say Ronaldo’s career doomed after the move. He is yet to recover his magic form that made him the magician even after 2 years of leaving the club. The same could be said for Michael Owen too. Beckham’s arrival was solely kept in mind his off-field attractions than on-field performances. The club’s revenue skyrocketed with his shirt-sales but the former England captain’s  own career hit rockbottom.

Los GalaticosThe Real Madrid side of Perez looked almost like a World XI with the best talent from all over. But that also came to be the bane of the club. Most of the Madrid players had already reached the prime of their careers and it was only a matter of time before age and lack of form tested them. This combined with the egos of the World’s best created a lot of problems for coach Vicente del Bosque. While Beckham and Owen rarely started for the team, others like Ronaldo were usually playing out of position. Perez was only on keen on signing attacking players and gave no importance to the defense.  Claude Makalele who at the time was one of Europe’s best defensive midfielders was only paid a fraction of what was a Galatico’s salary. When Perez refused to hike his fee he promptly departed. Perez then signed a host of good if not not great defensive players including the likes of Walter Samuel, Thomas Gravesen and Cicinho. But these players failed to live upto expectations.

The final nail in the coffin was Perez’s decison to do away with the services of coach del Bosque despite him leading the club to 2 Champions League and 2 La Liga titles. Del Bosque’s departure also hastened the leaving of regulars like Fernando Hierro and Fenando Morientes. Both these players had backed Makalele for a pay-rise along with the coach. Carlos Quieroz who succeeded del Bosque too was forced to play the star players and the team continued in its stride downhill. Even Luis Figo who was the first ever Galatico left for Inter Milan after being denied a regular place. The problem with the team was that despite individual performances they failed as a cohesive unit, especially without the charismatic del Bosque.

The Galatico affair was heavily criticized. Steve McManaman, another former Madrid regular who suffered due to the arrival of Los Galacticos called it ‘The Disneyfication of Real Madrid‘. McManaman had lost his place to fellow Brit David Beckham was alleged to have been bought only for his off-field value. Somebody had even said Beckham was signed only for his looks while Ronaldinho who was bought by rivals Barcelona, did not interest Madrid since he was ‘ugly’. The signings of Michael Owen and Jonathan Woodgate did not escape any criticism either. It coulld be said Los Galacticos ‘officially’ came to an end when star-studded Real Madrid crashed out of the 2005-06 Champions League to an inexperienced Arsenal, a team in stark contrast to Madrid was made up of talented and young homegrown talent. Florentino Perez resigned from his post as President shortly after this.

Florentino Perez has been elected President for a second time after a disastrous last season. I agree, the less said about the club’s last season, the better. But then Barcelona were supermanesque and even a team which had Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Torres together couldn’t have stopped them. But surely the two seasons before that, Real Madrid was nothing short of being called stupendous. If arrogant Mr. Perez fails in his Los Galacticos venture for a second time as well, which looks most likely, then stupendous wouldn’t be the word to call, rather stupid. One can only hope that the bright careers of Ronaldo, Kaka and many others don’t meet their waterloo at the Bernabeu.

Update – Ronaldo and Kaka will be joined by Raul Albiol, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery in this mass (career) suicide spree. Probably even more coming up.


Champions League draws announced

 The draws for the Champions League Quarter finals were announced today and it promises some really mouthwatering clashes. Defending Champions Manchester United take on Porto while rivals Arsenal take on the Yellow Submarines, Villareal. Liverpool who earlier thrashed Real Madrid will be facing off against Chelsea in all-English clash. High flying Barcelona square off against Bayern Munich.

United will be looking for revenge as it was Porto who triumphed last time they faced, throwing the Red Devils out of the 2004 tournament. But this time around, things may not be the same for Porto as half the side from the 2004 team are away. But the biggest person missing for them would be Jose Mourinho. It was the ‘Special one’ who guided the underdogs to a famous victory and later clinched the League itself. United are not the only club looking for vendetta. Spanish club Villareal crashed out against Arsenal in 2006 when Juan Roman Riquelme’s last minute penalty was saved by Gunners keeper Jens Lehmann.  Arsenal should be able to see off Villareal this time too.

Liverpool definitely are the team to watch out for. Captain Stevie G and marksman Fernando Torres are both in lethal form, blasting away oppositions including the likes of Man Utd and Real Madrid in recent weeks. Chelsea are under a Guus Hiddink revival, although I seriously doubt if even he could help them overcome the Merseysiders.  Barca vs Bayern is undoubtabely the clash of the stage. The teams are equally matched in all the departments and both the managers are relatively young and also have played for the respective clubs. The Catalan giants should reach the semis; a penalty shootout is very much a possibility here.  

I was hoping for an all-English semi final line up but with Chelsea and Liverpool facing eachother that is unlikely just like the last time. Also for the first time since the 2001-02 season, the quarters would see the absence of an Italian club.  My prayers are with Manchester United and I hope they repeat Moscow at Rome too later this year.


Fergie, don’t sell Tevez

I just hope Carlos Tevez doesn’t listen to his national team coach, Diego Maradona and leave Man Utd for Inter Milan, or for that matter any club. Tevez has a great future at Old Trafford and has to be patient in order to realise his aspirations. Five years back his countryman Juan Sebastain Veron made a big mistake by leaving United and has since been in a state of virtual non-existence. Tevez shouldn’t make any hasty decison and follow Veron’s footsteps. In fact Veron himself has recently said that it would better off for Tevez to stay on with the Red Devils. 

As for Sir Alex he should give Tevez more chances in the starting eleven. Berbatov sure is a great player but has so far not been performing enough to match what was expected of him. Also before his arrival, Tevez along with Rooney and Ronaldo had formed a formidable strike force. It would be a feast if all four start more often. We may as well see repeats of the 3-0 demolition of Chelsea. Ferguson shouldn’t also forget that if he goes by Maradona’s words, Tevez would end up with old nemesis Jose Mourinho. I am sure Sir Alex wouldn’t want the cocky Mourinho to have the bragging rights at least in this issue.


All set for I-League

Indian football is all set to enter a new era as the second edition of the I-League will kick off from tomorrow. The I-League was launched last year as its predecessor, the National Football League (NFL) received largely lukewarm responses from both fans as well as pundits, despite being India’s first national league set up. Although the country has had a rich footballing history of more than hundred years, it was never in the limelight due to the popularity of cricket as well as it being reserved to a few pockets like Goa, Bengal, Kerala and Punjab. Goa, Punjab, and Kerala have all had their own leagues but a nationwide league was not a reality till 1996 when the NFL was launched. But even the NFL couldn’t really bring any help to Indian football. None of the clubs had any proper home grounds. Since most games were played during weekdays, the stadiums remained more or less empty except for big clashes like East Bengal- Mohun Bagan. But the biggest problem was the non-cooperation from the state associations of Bengal and Goa. The associations wanted their own leagues to be given more importance than the NFL. Also the matches were not properly televised. As a result, the clubs remained semi-pro or amateur. The problems were reflected in India’s international matches, as the team saw their rankings plunge to as low as even 160. Eventually it lead to the demise of the NFL itself as the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to replace it with a Pro setup after recommendation from the Asian Football Council.

There is a lot to look forward from the I-League for fans, especially after the national team’s victories at the Nehru Cup and the AFC Challenge. The duration of the league will be from September 2008 To April 2009, much like the European Leagues. Since the matches are on Saturdays and Sundays, decent crowds can be expected. This year 14 teams are in the fray, two more than last year. Current champions, Dempo are the team to beat. Mahindra United are strong favorites as well. Despite dominating the defunct NFL, Calcutta giants, East Bengal are currently going through a lean patch having lost the Calcutta League to arch rivals Mohun Bagan. Still, they can be counted as serious contenders, along with Bagan. The Goan clubs, especially Churchill Brothers and Sporting club de Goa as well as JCT are looking strong. Mohammedan Sporting and Vasco are back to the top flight after a brief hiatus and will be hoping to stay there. It is a matter of survival for newbies United FC and Mumbai FC.

Indian football of late has seen many a new talent. Players like East Bengal’s Sunil Chetri and Mehrajuddin Wadoo etc have shown there is something to look forward beyond Bhaichung Bhutia. Bhaichung will be turning up for Mohun Bagan this season. Steven Dias and NP Pradeep are staying at Mahindra after the controversy surrounding their now canceled move to East Bengal. Other Indian players to look out for are Mahesh Gawli, Renedy Singh, Subrata Paul, (all East Bengal), Climax Lawrence, Clifford Miranda and Samir Naik (Dempo), Anwar Ali (JCT), Gourmangi Singh (Churchill), Abhishek Yadav (Mumbai) among others. This year too the league has a good number of foreign talent. Dempo’s African duo of Ranty Martins and Mboyo Iyomi are tough nuts to crack. Brazilian forward Edmilson will be seen in East Bengal colors. Mohun Bagan’s veteran Brazilian Jose Barreto is back for another season. Most of the clubs have new coaches. Bagan hace recruited Moroccan Karim Bencherifa while Mumbai is managed by Brit David Booth. Former assistant coach of India, Stanley Rozario is the new guide to East Bengal.

The I-League does promise a lot, but the AIFF has to make sure the promises are kept. Teams still have to share stadia. Salt Lake at Calcutta is shared by four clubs whereas The Cooperage in Mumbai is shared by three. There are also many critics to the import of foreign players. Although the AIFF has maintained they will be gradually phased out, most of the clubs are still afloat only because of these foreign players.


Robinho does a Maradona

24 years ago, a certain Diego Armando Maradona, regarded by many as the one of the Greatest footballers, left Champion club Barcelona to play in the Italian Scudetto for mid-table Napoli. It turned out to be a master move for both player and club. With Maradona’s brilliance, the club who were struggling to stay in the top flight not long ago, won two Seria-A titles, a Copa Italia title and a UEFA Cup. Napoli easily beat clubs like Juventus, Bayern Munich and Vfb Stuttgart en route their first major European title.

So at a time when Robson de Souza, better known as Robinho has completed a move from Real Madrid to English club, Manchester City, the similarities are quite obvious. Maradona was 24 when he moved to Napoli. Robinho is 24 as well. Barcelona were the Copa del Rey Champs when Maradona left. Real Madrid are the current defending La Liga Champions. And just like Napoli at that time, Manchester City are also strugglers with not many titles to their credit. Both Maradona and Robinho were unhappy at Barca and Real respectively despite finding success regularly. Argentina coudn’t find much success in the 1982 World Cup despie spirited performances from Maradona. The same happened for Brazil with Robinho at the 2006 World Cup. One should wonder whether these similarities are just co-incidents or an indication of Robinho striking wonders with Man City in the coming years.

Maradona was constantly supported by other new signings like Ciro Ferrara, Salvatore Bagni and Fernando De Napoli. At Man City, Robinho will also be looking for help from fellow Brazilians Elano and Joe as well as marksman Benjani. Fans should also hope that Robinho doesn’t face any cultural or language barriers at Manchester. For Maradona though, Italy was a second home because of his Italian ancestry.