David Beckham the original Modern Day celebrity footballer has called time on his playing career at the age of thirty eight. The former Manchester United wide man has made the decision to end his illustrious career after discussions with his current employers, newly crowned French Champions Paris Saint Germain ended with Beckham rejected the Parisians’ offer of a new deal. Beckham ends his career after making 718 club appearances spanning across a career two decades in length with particular highlights being winning the treble with Manchester United in 1999, the La Liga title with Real Madrid in his final year in Spain and finally leading his LA Galaxy side to two consecutive MLS Cup triumphs.
Beckham has given the reason for his sudden retirement as wanting to bow out at the highest level “I feel now is the right time to finish my career, playing at the highest level” and there is little argument that playing for the French champions and one of the richest clubs in world football falls under the highest level bracket. Unlike fellow members of Manchester United’s illustrious class of 92, David Beckham according to Gary Neville was always interested and destined to travel and showcase his football in other top European countries and this is exactly what he did, the former Tottenham Hotspur trainee enjoyed spells at Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy and finally Paris Saint Germain, a fantastic array of top clubs with high or burgeoning worldwide reputations.
Beckham was the original modern day ‘celebrity footballer’ with his wife, Victoria, often taking up many more newspaper headlines than his football, however despite all this there can be no argument that David Beckham in the pomp of his career flew the flag for English football. Just like figures such as Paul Gascoigne, Gary Lineker of the past and now Wayne Rooney have done, wherever English football was mentioned, David Beckham was the first name to spring to mind. His sponsorship with Pepsi around the time of the 2002 World Cup in Asia sent his popularity in the Far East through the roof with fans across the continent idolising Beckham in a way only Manchester United supporters had previously done. Beckham was the first to take the now synonymous image of a footballer, he was flash, he idolised media attention very much like Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic does in the current era however this image did not always reflect positively on Beckham’s career with it arguably leading to his exit from Manchester United.
The 2002-2003 season was to be Beckham’s last with Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side as the pair’s relationship reached an unworkable level following a disagreement following an FA Cup tie against West Ham United when Sir Alex verbally berated Beckham leading the Leytonstone born midfielder to feel singled out at the club. Tensions were exacerbated further following an FA Cup tie with Arsenal when Sir Alex Ferguson was rumoured to have kicked a stray boot in the dressing room which struck David Beckham above the left eye with the England international requiring stitches. This signalled the end of Manchester United and David Beckham with Real Madrid being rumoured to be interested in bringing Beckham in as one of their first English Galácticos and the writing was on the wall for Beckham when he was left on the substitutes bench for a European Cup quarter final tie with Real Madrid at Old Trafford and where have we seen that this season?
Beckham’s move to Real Madrid continued his superstardom yet further however success did not immediately follow with Beckham’s time at the Bernabeu coinciding with Real Madrid’s worst ever extended period in the European Cup with the club having still not got their hands on the famous trophy since 2002. Beckham did however take to football in Spain with the English midfielder displaying exactly why on a regular basis he had cost Real Madrid 35 Million Euros, notable memories include free kicks against Villarreal and the league title in his final season at the club. Beckham’s final season despite seeing him lift the coveted La Liga crown was blighted by Beckham’s long disagreement with manager Fabio Capello with the Italian saying Beckham had played his last game for the club in January 2007, whilst club president Ramon Calderon being quoted as saying “he [Beckham] is going to Hollywood to be half a film star”, when it was announced Beckham had agree to join LA Galaxy at the end of the season once his contract expired. The pair would later go on to forge an amicable working relationship within the English national team set up.
Beckham’s time in America was largely successful with Beckham certainly being one of the first big name European players going over to join the expanding project that was the MLS, notable names such as Thierry Henry, Torsten Frings and Robbie Keane have gone on to follow him to the States. The MLS has certainly grown in stature since Beckham entered in 2007, there is a much wider base of interest in the League with European sports news outlets now taking the time to report on the MLS due to the fact they had to initially in order to satisfy the demand for ‘Beckham’ on European television screens, this has allowed fans of European football to see the excellent work being put in by coaching staff in the MLS which is improving the image of football in that part of the globe. The United States’ bid to host a second World Cup was in no small part down to the impact Beckham’s name had indeed had on the name of football in America.
Beckham’s final career move was one of great surprise, PSG one of the richest teams in the world who could have their pick of any of Europe’s top talents chose Beckham to be one of their January signings with the deal being announced on the closing day of the winter window. Beckham has had a reasonably successful spell in France picking up a Ligue 1 winners medal and his decision to donate all of his club salary to a local Parisian children’s charity was an act fitting with Beckham’s character. Underneath all the glamour of his and his wife’s lifestyle there was a genuine football man, a man who would put in endless extra hours of effort in training as a youngster to perfect his free kicks, his corners and his crossing, with AC Milan’s legendary Paulo Maldini complimenting Beckham’s incredibly high work ethic which matched his own during his loan spell at AC Milan.
Beckham’s impact on the English national team will be remembered forever, the free kick against Greece to send England to the World Cup finals in Japan and Korea, his penalty to give the Three Lions a historic victory over Argentina and his iconic 100th cap gained against France in Paris in 2008 are among the most memorable moments of his career with England. Beckham proved a vital member of the dressing room in the tenures of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren and Fabio Capello. Beckham would go onto to form part of the coaching staff for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa following his Achilles injury ruled him out of playing in the tournament. Beckham the second highest ever appearance maker for the England national team also earned the honour of captaining his country in the 2006 World Cup with the midfielder showing his passion for his Nation by resigning from his role of captain following an unsuccessful campaign in Germany.
Beckham will be remembered as a ‘celebrity footballer’ within some circles however the football fraternity committed to the game will remember Beckham for his incredible work ethic which enabled him to reach such lofty heights in his career, the boy who at just twenty years old audaciously chipped Neil Sullivan in the Wimbledon goal from inside his own half, the boy who following a disastrous exit from the 1998 World Cup in France had to face torrents and torrents of abuse from fans up and down the country, week in and week out yet still aided Manchester United to their success on three fronts yet David Beckham will be remembered most of all for being one of the few memorable characters who well and truly helped put English football on the map, and keep it there.
Written by Chris Winterburn @Chriswin4
With the Premier League being criticized for its lack of defensive cohesion and strength by all media quarters in the past twelve months, along with the Premier League’s dismal performances in Europe’s premier competition, the Champions League, it is widely expected that the clubs in question will go in search of defensive reinforcements in the summer transfer window. As a result of this there has been many names banded around as potential solutions to the defensive woes in the Premier League however one candidate stands head and shoulders above the rest, not just in terms of his sheer size standing at 6ft 4in but also in terms of his defensive ability, and this man is none other than Vasco da Gama’s Dede.Dede is widely expected to leave the club he joined in 2009 this summer after the club’s general director Cristiano Koehler stated it was likely the player would be sold to Europe in the next transfer window in order to raise funds for the club. This news then sparked a wave of interest from Europe’s elite such as Juventus and AC Milan with both of the Italian giants looking for yet another defensive lynchpin, however it is the widespread interest from the Premier League that has caught the eye with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United having all according to rumours from South America, expressed their interest in the twenty four year old centre half.
Dede has been voted the best centre half in the domestic Brazilian league’s and it is this form that has earned him several call ups to the Selecao with Vasco’s number twenty six making his international debut in September 2012 in an 8-0 victory over China. Dede famed for his physical strength and aerial ability would offer a welcome relief to Premier League defences which have found themselves undone by both the trick technical footballers of continental Europe and the physical centre forward play of the domestic game.
Dede is under contract at Vasco until December of 2015 so there is still a long time before Vasco are forced to sell in order to recoup the players worth however with the financial situation at Sao Januario has been the topic of heavy discussion in recent weeks with it being speculated that stars such as Dede, Carlos Alberto and Wendel may need to offloaded in order to balance the books. The obvious big money would undoubtedly come from England with Juventus and AC Milan unable to replicate such spending with Italian football in somewhat of a period of reconstruction with many of Italy’s top club sides looking to youth rather than signing and indeed keeping older players on monumental contracts with a prime example of this being the breaking down of Internazionale’s European Cup winning team in order to secure the long term sustainable future of the club.
There are several options available to Dede to inspect and eventually take up in the Premier League with all members of the current top four arguably in need of defensive strengthening with Liverpool and Arsenal also interested following the departure of Jamie Carragher and indifferent form of Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen who may well make a summer move to FC Barcelona following twelve months of interest.
Whilst Manchester United have only excelled themselves this season with twenty five wins out of their first thirty league matches there has still been a lot of talk about defensive frailties at Old Trafford. There can be no getting away from the fact last season United were caught out in Europe through defensive and tactical errors which has to a degree been corrected this season however there has still been a sizeably high proportion of sloppy goals being given away by the league leaders and this has been a cause for concern to Sir Alex. With Rio Ferdinand still yet to sign a new deal at the club with his current contract expiring in the summer as well as the long term worries with regards to Nemanja Vidic’s fitness, Sir Alex may decide to take a financial hit on signing Dede in order to give his defence, stability, leadership and most of all strength as the Scot looks to build yet another European Cup winning team.
With Joleon Lescott falling out of favour with Roberto Mancini this season it is expected he will leave the club this summer along with Kolo Toure and even Vincent Kompany who has been attracting Tito Vilanova’s Barcelona with his performances over the past twenty four months. With Matija Nastasic having impressed immensely in his debut season at Eastlands it wouldn’t be farfetched to imagine a central defensive pairing of Dede and Nastasic leading City to another title and more importantly a more successful European campaign following two consecutive seasons of disaster in the European Cup. Dede does have very similar attributes to Kompany both in physical and footballing terms and in my mind would be an obvious replacement for the Belgian should he leave. Finally Manchester City would have no problems with the players wage demands or transfer fee with Financial Fair Play being at the back of their mind following the expulsion of Malaga from the next four Champions League tournaments.
Tottenham whilst being accused of being short in the forward areas this season with Gareth Bale providing much of their impetus in the final third since Christmas, can have absolutely no complaints about their defensive form this year. Yes they have let in soft goals at times but the introduction of Jan Vertonghen into the side has been seamless whilst the performances of Caulker and Dawson in the latter stages of the season have been encouraging. However Caulker has shown glimpses of inexperience this season and maybe an addition of Dede to the Spurs first team will help aid Caulker’s development with an eye for him and Dede to be Spurs’ defensive partnership of the future with Vertonghen able to take the role of left back or even a place in midfield. However this deal seems the most unlikely with Daniel Levy more than likely unwilling to pay Dede’s high salary and a high transfer fee, especially with the summer’s business focus being on attacking additions with Leandro Damiao in mind for yet another transfer window.
Arsenal have long been noted for their defensive fragility, probably since the days of the invincible with Wenger’s men being known to shy away from aerial battles and crumble under well exerted pressure. Wenger following a seventh straight year without a trophy will be more determined than ever to sort out these problems with Wojciech Szczesny having already had the dye cast on his Arsenal career following a relegation to Arsenal’s Under 21 side this week. The performances of Arsenal’s centre halves in the recent North London derby against Spurs showed weakness in terms of pace and reading of the game with both Spurs’ first half goals coming from a poorly organised and slow Arsenal backline being punished by pace and quick thinking. The performances of Thomas Vermaelen have disappointed supporters largely this season with the Belgian having failed to produce good performances on a regular basis and having been at fault for a number of goals this season, it is expected that if a good enough offer comes in from Barcelona Vermaelen may be allowed to depart the club without much opposition. This would open the door for Dede who would offer the Arsenal backline a significant increase in pace and strength and could help Per Mertesacker a lot with his ability to cover just behind. As with Spurs however the financial aspect of this deal may well put Wenger off especially with Champions League qualification being in serious doubt for the first time in years.
Liverpool are the club to have registered the most noticeable interest in Dede of late with Brazilian media carrying stories that Dede was destined for an Anfield move this summer and this comes as no surprise with Liverpool’s defensive record in recent seasons much less than admirable. For a long time now I think it has been shown just how far off a top quality central defender Martin Skrtel is whilst Daniel Agger is a good solid centre half, nothing more and the goals conceded by Liverpool particular against teams in and around the lower echelons of the table highlight real defensive frailties. With Jamie Carragher being brought back into the side with regularity post Christmas this season by Brendan Rodgers is appears the former Swansea boss may well have lost faith with Skrtel and with Carragher retiring at the end of this campaign Liverpool will be in the market for defensive reinforcements. Dede’s quality having been proven in a very competitive Brazilian top division over the last four years will no doubt excite Liverpool fans who would be looking forward to having a presence as towering and tough to beat as Dede at the heart of their backline however the crux of this deal hinges on Liverpool’s table finish this season. The higher up the table they go the more money they receive and can spend on transfers, with Liverpool unlikely to qualify for the Champions League next season they will have to offer a little higher salary than other clubs in order to tempt players and with FSG saying there isn’t a lot of money to play with any potential deal for Dede may be protracted and drawn out across the summer which would be good for nobody.
With Dede continuing to impress for Brazil and Vasco it is expected fans of clubs in Europe will get a firsthand look at Dede in this summer’s Confederations Cup in Brazil with fans of a certain few English teams getting a glimpse of what may be their star central defender next season.
Written by Chris Winterburn who you can follow on Twitter @Chriswin4 or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
The last time Feyenoord were crowned champions of Holland the new Millennium was still hotly anticipated, Manchester United had yet to win the treble and their current midfield maestro, Jordy Clasie was only seven years old. Since then there has been a tumultuous thirteen season period which has seen failed championship challenges, financial meltdown and a hugely embarrassing 10-0 defeat with the Rotterdam club in the midst of a boardroom level conflict. There has been a solitary UEFA Cup win in 2002 but you would be hard pressed to find little more positivity at De Kuip over the past decade since that title win marshalled by Leo Beenhakker.
This year however there is a sense and real belief that Feyenoord can end their thirteen season wait for their fifteenth Dutch title, with Jordy Clasie coined the Dutch Xavi aiding the Rotterdammer’s creativity from midfield, Bruno Martins Indi adding youthful exuberance and strength to a defence led by the experience of Joris Mathijsen and finally the travelled centre forward Graziano Pelle having arguably the best season of his career thus far having registered nineteen league goals.
This squad unlike previous Feyenoord outfits in the past ten years is not without leadership, Dutch icon Ronald Koeman after a disappointing spell in charge of AZ Alkmaar is leading his Feyenoord side to the height of their potential. Koeman has fully utilised the traditionally attacking 4-3-3 formation with Jordy Clasie being the pivotal point of his midfield very much like Xavi is at Barcelona, aiding Clasie in terms of Feyenoord’s creativity is the nimble footed trickster, eighteen year old Tonny Trindade de Vilhena, a prime example of Feyenoord’s famed youth academy who has taken the attacking midfield mantle from Georginio Wijnaldum following his transfer to PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2011.
Ronald Koeman has this week come out and publically stated he believes his side has the wherewithal to win this season’s Dutch Eredivisie “I don’t know why Feyenoord can’t be champions,” and the Rotterdam giants appear to be hitting form at exactly the right time following a 2-1 home win over league leaders PSV two weeks ago which was followed by an impressive 3-0 victory over NEC Nijmegen to leave Feyenoord just three points behind PSV at the top of the table and only one point behind fierce rivals Ajax who currently occupy second position.
It is said you need experience in abundance to win titles and this has often been proved to be correct with particular reference being made to the longevity and success of Paulo Maldini at AC Milan however another factor within a squad which is too vital to be overlooked is youth and inexperience which is at times when challenging for a title very useful to have. Feyenoord as they always have done possess a great deal of youth in their current squad, the Rotterdam club famed for its use of academy graduates for example Robin Van Persie, Leroy Fer and Jonathon de Guzman now of Swansea continues to produce exceptional talent with as many as 14 of Feyenoord’s current first team squad coming from the Varkenoord which is currently managed by Roy Makaay, with the most notable being Martins Indi, goalkeeper Erwin Mulder and the club’s vice captain Jordy Clasie.
The way Koeman has blended experience and youth this season has been a joy to behold with the success being clear for all to see as early as the start of the season with Feyenoord winning three of their opening five Eredivisie fixtures. Whilst Stefan de Vrij is registered as club captain a lot of the team’s leadership comes from the back in the form of Joris Mathijsen. Following the financial difficulties at Malaga the experienced Dutch centre half was identified by Ronald Koeman as the wise old head to guide his young defence through the more testing times of a thirty four game season and was duly snapped up on a free transfer. Alongside De Vrij at the heart of the Feyenoord defence Mathijsen has added the much needed nous of when to press and when to hold a line, as well as an eye for the timing of an aerial challenge which has all contributed to Feyenoord remaining unbeaten at De Kuip this season.
Feyenoord have nine games remaining this year and have to make up a three point deficit on PSV in order to win the Eredivisie title however when you look at the games Feyenoord have left to play it is a more than achievable aim especially when you consider PSV and Ajax still have to play each other. Feyenoord have just three of their remaining nine fixtures against teams inside the top eight of the Eredivisie standings with the toughest of those games being more than likely the home fixture against fourth placed Vitesse Arnhem who are pushing for a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League with great vigour led by the goals of Wilfried Bony. Feyenoord travel to sixteenth placed Roda JC tomorrow with victory firmly on Koeman’s mind especially with it likely that PSV and Ajax will win their respective games against similarly lowly opposition Heerenveen and FC Zwolle.
What will serve Feyenoord well in these remaining nine fixtures is their defensive solidity which we saw in evidence on February 24th as the Rotterdam side kept PSV to just one goal in the 2-1 win at De Kuip which ended in controversy with Mathijsen and Jeremain Lens embroiled in a brawl come the full time whistle. Feyenoord’s four at the back on that day consisted of Stafan de Vrij, Joris Mathijsen, Bruno Martins Indi and Daryl Janmaat and they all played exceptionally with Tim Matavz, Dries Mertens and Jeremain Lens being essentially defended out of the game apart from a small number of instances including PSV’s opening goal following a well worked passing move from Lens and Matavz. What was even more impressive however was the way in which the three man midfield of Feyenoord pressed PSV in such a way when they had possession of the ball that the creative spark of Kevin Strootman and Georginio Wijnaldum could not stamp their influence on the game in the slightest. Watching the match from a Manchester United supporter’s perspective I was keen to see just how Kevin Strootman would fare against one of the stronger teams in the Dutch league however at times I was left wondering if in fact he was on the pitch at all, that was the impact Jordy Clasie and Lex Immers had on the match.
Furthermore in stopping Strootman and Wijnaldum having any influence and time on the ball it allowed the more creative Tonny Vilhena to express himself further up the pitch and help Feyenoord create chances, which they did. Vilhena was deployed in a way that surprised many against PSV with the youngster being positioned by Koeman in almost a box-to-box midfield role, this role whilst at times restricting the impact Vilhena can have in the attacking third of the field conversely utilises the Dutchman’s raw pace and energy allowing him to cover a lot of ground from the middle of the midfield through to the final third when Feyenoord are on the attack.
Do not be fooled however, Feyenoord are not simply a well oiled defensive side with the ability to occasionally counter attack, they can if the game requires it create numerous chances with the pace and passing ability spread across the three man midfield and the three man forward line. In recent weeks the emergence of Jean-Paul Boëtius and Anass Achahbar has really aided Feyenoord’s forward line with an almost over-reliance being placed on Graziano Pelle at times this season. Pelle has taken the goal scoring mantle from last season’s loanee John Guidetti who in retrospect should really be at Feyenoord once again this season with injuries hampering his current campaign at Eastlands with Manchester City. Boëtius expresses the pace of a winger yet the nimble footedness of a player in the trequartista mould and his recent performances in particular against PSV have earned him his debut call up to the Dutch national side. It is in no small part down to Pelle, Boëtius and Achahbar that Feyenoord have the third highest goals scored tally in the Eredivisie this season behind only PSV and Ajax however with those the teams above them in the table it may well be this that could cost Feyenoord when May comes around.
Feyenoord finished runners up to champions Ajax last season and Koeman following that disappointment will be determined to avoid the same outcome this season and it seems as though Feyenoord does have more about them when in the face of adversity this season with the most recent example being the match against PSV where Feyenoord came from a goal down to keep their title challenge alive and it is this resolve that will have to stay with Koeman’s charges as there will undoubtedly be bumpy moments in the next nine games but champions have to get through them. Feyenoord need to keep pressure on PSV and Ajax right up until those two sides meet on April 14th with that being the weekend when the title could swing in Feyenoord’s favour providing they beat RKC Waalwijk away from home.
In their current form and with their squad in the main at this point remaining injury free it is by far Feyenoord’s greatest chance to claim their fifteenth Dutch title since they last ruled Holland way back in 1999 and it will be with great intrigue that many will watch their remaining nine fixtures to see if their squad can keep their nerve in a pressure situation of the highest order and it is important to note that with many of Europe’s top clubs circling around their brightest talents this year may well be the best chance Feyenoord gets to win the Dutch title for the foreseeable future.
Written by Chris Winterburn who you can follow on Twitter @Chriswin4
Whether or not this is due to the regularity with which these fixtures have cropped up in the European footballing calendar in recent years or the characters that have become involved we cannot be sure but it is certain both have had their individual impacts respectively. In days gone by the Spanish National team has always teetered on the brink of success with the talented individuals such as Raul, Morientes, Mendieta, Hierro, Campo and Zubizarreta gracing La Roja with their individual talents and traits to no avail in terms of trophies won.
Since Luis Aragones took charge of the National team following Euro 2004 what has now become known as ‘The Golden Generation’ of Spanish football has matured and found a footballing style which suits thee nimble footed creative players that the country has always produced. The National team since the rise of Barcelona headed by Pep Guardiola and to a certain degree Frank Rijkaard have reached previously unthinkable heights winning two consecutive European championships as well as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The Spanish national side that has reached such heights is, as it always has been littered with players from both Real Madrid and Barcelona and in the past it was said that the Spanish compatriots would put any differences they encountered between each other inside the powder keg atmosphere of El Clásico would be forgotten about as soon as the match ended and it would in no way hinder the squad camaraderie within the La Roja setup and this always proved to be the case however the malevolence at which El Clásico is now played it is difficult to see how this can occur. As yet the success of the national team has not suffered but it is difficult to say that Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Pedro and Jordi Alba can all get on handsomely following on from events that in the past two years seem to occur in every Clásico.
In the early Millennium El Clásico was an event looked forward to by football as a universe with the talents of Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Luis Enrique and others all being on show in the same stadium at the same time. It was the same excitement that surrounded an International tournament all wrapped into one ninety minute footballing festival. Now thirteen years on there is much more football made viewable by the wider world with the influx of online streaming and worldwide television stations and maybe football fans have been spoilt, maybe the vast amounts of world class football on offer every weekend has reduced the ardour with which people used to feel for El Clásico as a spectacle.
Many will remember the defining moment of El Clásico as a worldwide spectacle being in April of 2005, a 4-2 win for Real Madrid at the Bernabeu with Zinedine Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo and even Michael Owen getting on the score sheet for the Galácticos with Ronaldinho and Eto’o registering for Barcelona. The football on display on that evening was sublime, breathtaking in fact, there they were all the stars of European football in once place playing to their maximum ability, it was fantastic, a game that would be talked about for years to come. However fast forward just eight years to 2013 and Clásicos are now being greeted by a significant percentage of footballing fans with derision and widespread annoyance at the acts of petulant ‘diving’ and ‘dissent’. It is from a neutral and a football lover’s perspective very hurtful to see one of the biggest matches in world football, steeped in political history greeted in such a way however one can in some ways see where they are coming from.
There has always been a sort of edge, a warm intensity between the two clubs which did in fact stem from the political landscape of Spain and Catalonia however since the introduction of Jose Mourinho in 2010 this has essentially exploded into something more hostile and unpleasant, the rivalry has exceeded what was known before. Even the relatively fierce undertones that Clásicos took on following Luis Figo’s transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid is nothing compared to the current level of hostility. The footballing rivalry has been distorted into something unrecognizable that has at times crossed the line.
Jose Mourinho has always had unfinished business with Barcelona, ever since his time at the club working with Sir Bobby Robson where he became rather less than endearingly known as ‘The Translator’ right through until his time at Chelsea where the self proclaimed Special One criticised Barcelona and referee Anders Frisk publically following a European Cup tie between the two clubs. This was compounded further and possibly even taken to a new level when in 2008 it was announced Frank Rijkaard would not manage Barcelona any further than the end of the 2007-2008 season and there was a vacancy for the role of Manager. Jose Mourinho was interviewed and as mentioned by Graham Hunter in his book “Barca: The making of the greatest team in the world” prepared a hugely detailed presentation on how he could take Barcelona forward yet Mourinho never felt as if he was truly considered for the post, there was an underlying suspicion within the Los Culés hierarchy that they didn’t feel Mourinho had the right personality and temperament for the job.
Since this well, rejection Jose Mourinho has appeared at times to be on a one man, Brian Clough esque mission to gain the upper hand over Barcelona whenever possible. This was seen during his final season managing Internazionale Milan when Mourinho rose from his crouched position to an iconic sprint, arms raised across the hallowed turf of the Camp Nou to celebrate a victory over the Catalan club. As Mourinho stood arms aloft avoiding the heated advances of Victor Valdes it just screamed “Jose Mourinho 1 Barcelona 0.” However this was not to be the end of the battle with Mourinho becoming manager of Real Madrid just months later.
Since then the Clásico has become a much more volatile affair, Pepe stamping on the arm of Lionel Messi, Jose Mourinho himself gouging the eye of the then Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova and the recurring gamesmanship engulfing the clash to name just three incidents and the worrying thing is that it appears to not be discouraged by the man at the top. Comments made by Jose Mourinho following the European cup semi final Clásico in 2011 suggesting that Barcelona got favourable treatment from referees due to their affiliation with the charity Unicef did little to quell the intensity ahead of the next fixture.
The grudge that Jose Mourinho so obviously bares towards Barcelona as a club has manifested itself on the pitch with the way Madrid have approached fixtures between the two sides with rough over the top challenges being used as game plans in order to halt Lionel Messi. The response to this tough tackling from Barcelona has been a polar opposite with the Catalan’s players seemingly hitting the ground in at times theatrical manners which has in part contributing to fans turning their backs on El Clásico.
Barcelona has historically been the rebel club ever since their conception in 1899, Catalan and proud has often been the message given off by Los Culés and this was illustrated perfectly on the October 7th 2012 edition of the Clásico when fans of Barcelona waved Catalan flags to show their desire for Catalan independence from Spain. In stark contrast Real Madrid who were formed in the mould of London side Corinthian FC who were renowned for their elegance and sportsmanship, were always the royal club ever since 1920 when King Alfonso XIII granted Madrid the title of ‘Real’ translating to Royal. The club as a result was seen as the puritans of Spanish football with many fans across the country feeling that they were never on a level playing field with Madrid always being preferred due to their royal status.
However since the introduction of Jose Mourinho combined with the success of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola this notion has been completely inverted with Barcelona now seen as the puritans of the game playing perfect Tiki-Taka football acclaimed across the continent and Real Madrid the villainous rebels headed by a marmite like figure in Jose Mourinho, being criticised for their heinous acts of trying to stop Barcelona. The media coverage both clubs receive across the world has reflected this shift in perception. Madrid are seen as number two in Spain to Barcelona and with Barcelona’s free flowing style of football having made its way to the National team many have pointed to Real Madrid’s somewhat conservative, if not a little negative at times, tactics under Jose Mourinho as anti-Spanish football and completely the opposite of what Real Madrid stood for upon their creation in 1902.
Real Madrid no longer set the benchmark for the rest of Europe as they did at the turn of the Millennium, Barcelona do and this is something that does not sit right for supporters of Real Madrid, there may be a hint of jealousy in this new found spite towards Barcelona and when you consider the political history of between the two clubs of Franco and The Cortes it is surprising that it has taken one single Portuguese manager to ramp up the El Clásico rivalry to such turbulent levels.
In terms of a worldwide perspective of El Clásico, it is still the most watched footballing fixture, dwarfed only by the European cup final yet as previously mentioned the sudden spates of people losing interest or deriding El Clásico appear to be ever increasing. The departure of Pep Guardiola from the Barcelona hot seat has done little to cool tensions between the two clubs and now it seems that unlike early on in the 2000′s where the star names and world class players drew crowds it is two star individuals that are now turning people away rather than towards El Clásico in 2013.
Lionel Messi Vs Cristiano Ronaldo has now taken on a life of its own inside the parameters of El Clásico with supporters and pundits prior to every clash analysing and debating as to who is the better footballer. From Messi’s four straight Ballon d’Or wins or Cristiano Ronaldo’s astronomical goal tally everything is debated except the 20 other players that are taking part in the match. People are becoming so engulfed in Messi Vs Ronaldo that they no longer see El Clásico as a matchup between Real Madrid and Barcelona and many fans are sternly against this, they do not have an interest in individuals and do not agree with the idolisation and pedestal these two in particular are placed upon. These fans steer away from El Clásico in order to avoid the media circus surround Messi and Ronaldo which engulfs it.
Finally, something which I noticed in particular during the summer, people become bored with constant success. The large amount of footballing neutrals supporting Italy rather than Spain in Euro 2012′s showpiece final illustrated just how frustrated people had become with La Roja’s monotonous winning. This is not to say the football played by Spain was in anyway boring but the success they were having had began to grate on peoples nerves somewhat. It is human nature to favour the underdog and that is what Italy were and people wanted desperately for Italy to break Spain’s vice like grip on International football. The same frustration is happening with Barcelona.
Barcelona’s success since 2008 has been both consistent and unprecedented with multiple European cups and La Liga titles being won during this period however just like Spain people are now beginning to find themselves fed up of Barcelona. People do not want to see the same team winning over and over again, everybody has appreciated the football Barcelona has given to the world since 2008 but not they want something new to marvel at, something new to take Barcelona down from their perch and footballing history has always been this way. Sir Alex Ferguson wanting to halt Liverpool’s recurring successes, English teams wanting to end Arsenal’s unbeaten run and Manchester City wanting to end the city wide dominance Manchester United had lauded over them for so long.
Fans who are feeling these frustrations will now turn away from Barcelona’s matches as they feel they know the outcome prior to the fixture being played and the same is happening with El Clásico, once ninety minutes of unpredictability fixtures between Real Madrid and Barcelona are now predicted as affairs filled with Barcelona constantly passing, Real Madrid being physical in order to stop this constant passing and Barcelona eventually coming out on top. People do not want to be subjected to the same thing over and over again.
The Copa Del Rey fixture that was taking place at the start of writing this piece has now just finished with Real Madrid winning 3-1 on the night sending them through to the final. There was lots of good football yet as expected a certain amount of diving and controversy which the fans who wish to stay away from this fixture will have been happy to have missed. Barcelona appear to be in somewhat of a rough patch which many will say has been long overdue, the presence of Tito Vilanova is clearly being missed with Jordi Roura struggling to handle the pressures of being a first team coach. If Barcelona fail to overturn a 2-0 deficit against AC Milan in two weeks time the season will in the eyes of many be considered a failure but you cannot keep performing at the level they have been forever and with the what at times seemed an endless Barcelona success streak in place since 2008 potentially coming to an end combined with the expected departure of Jose Mourinho from Real Madrid this summer, then maybe just maybe El Clásico can return to where it was at the turn of the millennium with fans flocking for the football rather than turning away due to the fiasco.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Gill has often split opinion amongst fans at Old Trafford as a result of his transfer dealings with some sections of supporters unhappy at the clubs unwillingness to part with a significant amount of money for a player in the centre midfield role. Gill had been in his current position of chief executive since 2003 following the departure of the much loathed Peter Kenyon following his move to Chelsea.
Sir Alex Ferguson was among the first to pay tribute to the work David Gill has done during his time at the football club and went on to state “Him stepping down is a big loss to me.” Sir Alex and David Gill have formed a very close relationship in recent years with the two sharing a professional relationship in terms of transfer negotiations and whilst these have not always gone to plan in the more recent of seasons following the influx of money back into the English game through Manchester City, they have more often than not left supporters content.
Much has been said about David Gill’s place of prominence on the board of the Football Association whilst also serving as United’s chief executive and whether this has influenced his decision to leave the post we don’t know. Gill will continue in his role on the Football Association board.
Alongside this announcement it has also been confirmed that current executive vice chairman of the Old Trafford club Ed Woodward will take up the position of chief executive and will assist Sir Alex Ferguson in all transfer market related matters.
Looking back on his time at Old Trafford since 2003 David Gill released a statement this afternoon saying “It has been the greatest privilege to serve Manchester United”
Written by Chris Winterburn
How does it come to pass that a footballer who just over two seasons ago was lifting Europe’s premier club prize finds himself frozen out of his current club and unable to find a new team with which to go and ply his trade? This scenario, it seems somewhat ludicrous yet it is the scenario that is facing Internazionale Milan’s Wesley Sneijder. After his significantly protracted move to Manchester United in the summer of 2011 never came to pass the Dutchman has struggled to find the levels of performance that saw him guide his nation to a World Cup final, the departure of Jose Mourinho signalled the beginning of the end for Internazionale’s great European Cup winning side and Wesley Sneijder a favourite of Mourinho has found himself on the scrapheap as a direct result of the changes in management since that faithful night in Madrid in May 2011.
It is said that the deal between Manchester United and Internazionale for the sale of Wesley Sneijder had long been agreed in the summer of 2011 and it was simply the players astronomical wage demands that were the stumbling block, in one of the most arduous and long winded transfer sagas in recent times fans of both United and Internazionale were left wondering right up until the final moments of the 2011 summer transfer window just where Wesley Sneijder would be spending his footballing future.
Wesley Sneijder’s public gratitude of the support Manchester United fans gave him during that summer transfer window via twitter all but confirms to us that there was indeed negotiations held that summer but exactly why the transfer didn’t go ahead we perhaps until the former Madrid playmaker writes an autobiography will never know. Now however two years down the line we are looking at a situation where Wesley Sneijder has been prohibited from playing for Internazionale until he signs a new contract on significantly lower wages yet with the Dutchman unwilling to do this there is also no club willing to take him on.
Internazionale Milan would not change their 2010 European Cup win for anything and rightly so, but the legacy that squad has left behind has had a hugely detrimental impact on the finances of the Milanese giants. Mourinho’s squad was built on ridiculously high salaries and bonuses and the players that earned these wages were in the latter stages of their career. Internazionale since then with the introduction of UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations have had to completely restructure their team finances with several of the highly paid, older superstars of that Mourinho side leaving the club for example Samuel Eto’o, Douglas Maicon, Lucio, Thiago Motta and Julio Cesar. These players have been replaced by younger players on significantly lower wages for example Alfred Duncan, Joel Obi and Coutinho with the talented young tactician Andrea Stramaccioni being given the responsibility of building a squad around these young players.
Wesley Sneijder’s struggles began last season, in a campaign that was hampered by injuries Sneijder was never able to put together a consistent run of performances in the first team with his contribution to the teams play becoming less and significant in comparison to what it was only the season before and as a result Internazionale were unable to reclaim their title from fierce rivals AC Milan with the Scudetto returning to Turin with Juventus.
This season Sneijder has once again suffered with injury yet it is instructions from above that are stopping him playing for the first team. It has long been public knowledge that Wesley Sneijder is on wages that are not conducive to fitting into UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations and as a result Massimo Moratti has tried to encourage Sneijder to sign a new deal with a significantly lower salary and this offer has been ignored by Wesley Sneijder who is unwilling to lower his salary. Some will argue that he has no right to do this and he should accept less money with a club that rescued him from his peril at Real Madrid way back in 2009 however why should he? If he is as he believes Internazionale’s most important asset why shouldn’t he be rewarded accordingly and surely being offered a deal with a significantly lower salary is an insult to a player of his individual talents.
It is this blank refusal to sign up to a new deal that has led to this stalemate with both sides being less than blameless for the current state of affairs. Wesley Sneijder is not permitted to play for Internazionale Milan’s first team and he is free to find a new club this January window. Sneijder himself has come out and admitted it will be better for all parties if he finds a new club this month however it is proving considerably more difficult than both he and his agent Soren Lerby had imagined. First it was Anzhi Makhachkala then PSG and finally and most inevitably Manchester United that were reportedly on alert when the situation between Internazionale and Wesley Sneijder had reached stalemate yet all three of those clubs have yet to make any contact with Sir Alex Ferguson informing fans not to “hold their breath” in any expectation of a new signing this January.
Sneijder, following such low levels of early interest has moved to state he would be in favour of a move to England and this sparked all sorts of twitter hysteria with Queens Park Rangers being mentioned as a potential destination for the Dutchman however it is more than likely that these rumours are somewhat false. With Wesley Sneijder being interested in a move to England there would be a number of clubs who would benefit from having this world class playmaker at their disposal.
Tottenham Hotspur after having finally lost their battle to keep Luka Modric at White Hart Lane when the Croatian midfielder moved to Real Madrid last summer have still yet to replace him. The signing of Porto’s Joao Moutinho never went through on deadline day and there has been a lack of creativity in the Spurs midfield ever since, Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have since provided fleeting sparks of ingenuity on the ball it is however not enough to fill the chasm of creativity left behind by Modric. Wesley Sneijder would fill this hole, the Dutchman having the ability to drop into the deep lying playmaker role in the centre of the midfield and dictate the tempo of the match would allow for Spurs’ more inventive midfielders such as Dembele and Dempsey to sit in their favoured positions further up the pitch just behind the forwards.
Having Sneijder in the centre of the midfield at Spurs would make the team that much more balanced and his wide range of cross field passing would mean countless opportunities for Gareth Bale to use his pace to get on the end of one of these long passes in much the same manner that Ryan Giggs has done in relation to a Paul Scholes pass over the past decade. The main sticking point with this deal would be Sneijder’s wages, Daniel Levy has long been known to be a tough negotiator not to be bullied by any player or agent and this as Spurs fans will testify is quite frustrating at times and it is unlikely Daniel Levy will offer the wages Sneijder is looking for.
Liverpool are a team that under Brendan Rodgers have shown glimpses in quality with a lack of consistency being an overriding theme of their season. The midfield and wide players have created numerous chances for Liverpool this season and it is their frailness in the striking department that has let the Merseysiders down thus far this year. With loanee Nuri Sahin apparently unsettled into life at Anfield Wesley Sneijder could well settle into Brendan Rodgers’ midfield alongside Lucas Leiva and or Steven Gerrard or Joe Allen with relative ease, The Dutchman’s European experience would help the younger members of Liverpool’s squad such as Suso and Raheem Sterling and the levels of creativity Sneijder brings to the table would create even more chances for Liverpool’s forward line now bolstered by the signing of Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool unlike Spurs I feel would be in a position to offer Sneijder something close to the wages he wants especially with Joe Cole now off the Anfield wage bill and with the transfer fee being as low as £6.5 Million pounds it is definitely something Ian Ayre would be taking a closer look at however the level of necessity this transfer would be to Liverpool is relatively low with the defence and forward line needing looking at in the short term as well as the fact Brendan Rodgers needs to find a long term replacement for Pepe Reina so again it appears unlikely Liverpool will make a move for Sneijder, however the conspiracy theorists among us will be the first to point out that signing for Liverpool would anger Sir Alex Ferguson in a way that signing for another team for example Manchester City would not and depending on what occurred in the summer of 2011 signing for Liverpool on slightly lower wages could be the perfect parting shot at Sir Alex from Wesley Sneijder’s perspective.
Arsenal and Chelsea are both believed to have rebuffed Wesley Sneijder and Soren Lerby’s advances in the past fortnight and with good reason, there is no way Wesley Sneijder would fit into Arsene Wenger’s carefully constructed wage structure at the Emirates Stadium and with all Arsenal’s negotiating efforts being preoccupied with persuading Theo Walcott to sign a new deal with the club it is unlikely Wenger will look to Wesley Sneijder despite needing to strengthen a midfield that is missing Abou Diaby through long term injury as well as over relying on Jack Wilshere after a long injury lay off himself.
Chelsea despite having the means to offer Wesley Sneijder the wages he demands, have more than enough in the current midfield and the signing of a player approaching twenty nine years old would unlikely fit in with Roman Abramovich’s current reshuffling of his squad with the Russian owner looking to rid Chelsea of the common belief that they are an old team by filling his team with bright young footballers in preparation for the future.
Manchester City seems the most likely English destination for Wesley Sneijder with the English Champions having registered their interest in Sneijder also in 2011. Manchester City have been crying out for midfield reinforcements this year with Javi Garcia not having adapted to English football as quickly as everyone at Eastlands had hoped and with Jack Rodwell seemingly not ready to be a key member of the first team just yet Wesley Sneijder could be exactly what Manchester City need.
He would add depth and quality to a midfield that will be without the talismanic Yaya Toure for a month due to the African Cup of Nations, Sneijder will add a spark of creativity from deeper in the midfield which is something that Roberto Mancini does not get from Gareth Barry and James Milner, just like I have previously mentioned should in relation to Sneijder signing for Spurs, the Dutchman’s deep lying playmaker characteristics could supplement the more nimble footed creative play of Samir Nasri and David Silva perfectly. It would also take City away from the “defensive” stereotype that surrounds them with two holding midfielders often being chosen in the starting eleven.
Whilst needless to point out it is true that Manchester City would be able to offer Sneijder the wages he is on at Internazionale Milan however Roberto Mancini has said just prior to the opening of the current transfer window that Manchester City are not relying on spending big money to improve their squad so it could well be that Manchester City are too not interested in prying Wesley Sneijder away from the San Siro.
With all the English avenues now fully explored there seems very few options available to Wesley Sneijder, Internazionale Manager Andrea Stramaccioni has made his position clear in recent weeks “I’m sure that Wesley can make me change my mind and, if he does, the shirt is waiting for him” this leaves the door open for Wesley Sneijder to sign a new deal in Milan and return to the team however I feel too much has happened for this to occur and the once harmonious matrimony of Wesley Sneijder and Internazionale Milan is now irreversibly fractured. Paris Saint Germain is a club that has proven it is not afraid to test UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations with the big money signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi and it wouldn’t surprise anybody if they were to add Wesley Sneijder to their list of handsomely paid ‘Galactiques’ however there has been very few signs of development on that front.
Leonardo who is the current Director of Football at the Parc des Princes has worked with Wesley Sneijder during his five month tenure in charge of Internazionale and this could swing a potential move to the French capital for the Dutchman providing there is a bid made. One final point to make in relation to Paris Saint Germain is it would suit Sneijder’s lifestyle it is clear his wife Yolanthe plays a big part in his decisions and a move to Paris would suit Wesley Sneijder in terms of his family.
With Internazionale no longer feeling like home for Sneijder the only other conceivable option would be Russia, it was reported last month that a club believed to be Anzhi had made initial contact with regards to the potential purchase of Sneijder but nothing materialised. The big money at Anzhi and Zenit Saint Petersburg would allow both clubs to offer Sneijder a substantial wage packet and if there are no other options on the table then I feel Sneijder would have to move to Eastern Europe. On the positive note of a move to Zenit, he would be playing in the Champions League alongside stars such as Hulk and Axel Witsel but moving to the Russian Premier League when you look at the position Wesley Sneijder was in two seasons ago, ‘On top of Europe’ and with Manchester United wanting to bring you to their club then you have to look with hands over eyes at the Dutchman’s dramatic freefall from grace and wonder how much of this was of his own doing?
Written by Chris Winterburn
Sitting at the bottom of League Two with the probability of staying in the Football League seemingly decreasing after every game there was very little for supporters of Barnet to be cheerful for around about a week ago, that was until a well known Dutchman in the form of Edgar Davids was to join their ranks as a player/head coach. Davids having spent time in Europe’s elite leagues with Juventus, Ajax, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur during an illustrious career will bring a sizeable knowledge of the game as a whole to Underhill and whilst his initial aims are to aid Barnet in their fight to stay in the Football League there may well be a cause to believe that the Dutchman might just make a difference to English Football as we know it.
Edgar Davids has made no secret of the fact he grew up playing street football which he often attributes as the catalyst for his impressive close control and ability to find space on a full sized football pitch which would go onto to helping him become one of the most widely recognized midfielders of his generation. Davids has spent a lot of his time post Crystal Palace trying to set up street football arenas around the globe in particular in Vietnam. Davids earlier this month before becoming a member of the Barnet staff said “coaches need good players, and what I and the street football community are trying to do is to help to create more good players. We go back to the roots of football, and foster a game in which players work a lot on the ball”
It has long been recognized that in terms of technical ability, English football has fallen behind a lot of other footballing nations in recent years. This is illustrated perfectly in international tournaments where England have been outclassed by technically superior teams such as Germany and as recently as this past summer Italy. Whilst Barnet at the moment is simply the starting point there could well be a revolution on the cards should Edgar Davids be able to work in an environment that he controls. With the Suriname born Davids being appointed as Assistant Head Coach at Barnet it is quite likely he will take charge of most of the League Two sides training sessions, these training sessions will be completely different to what has gone before at Underhill with Davids focusing on close control and the ability to find space, his knowledge of street football and his strong belief in the concept of street football itself will without doubt be used in training.
It is a simple fact, if on the five or six a side pitch you develop the ability to find space for yourself in such a tight area then it will be of great benefit to you when you move onto the full size pitch as you will find it even easier to find space for yourself and then bring teammates into play, this is why Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands and to a slightly lesser extent others like Russia, Poland and Ukraine are so fantastic in terms of technical ability when their young players reach senior level. Their young players when they leave academies will have far greater close control, first touch and spatial awareness than that of their English counterparts of the same age and this is something that has to change in order for England to be successful in the future.
You would think that Edgar Davids with the reputation he has built up over his career could walk into any Chinese or Qatari side at this current time and pick up a large pay packet however it seems that he is motivated to achieve much more than that, he is realistic he understands that his playing career is nearing its end, he said as much when he joined Crystal Palace in August 2010 “I might last two games, I might stay here for two years, I don’t know”
The Pitbull as he is so affectionately known in Turin wants to be part of something far greater than a cameo season in China or Qatar. Since he left Crystal Palace Davids has been coaching at amateur level with Brixton United in the hope of replicating Marco van Basten’s rise to the top of the coaching hierarchy from amateur level and he has been successful having won two cups with the side, this illustrates that Davids’ philosophy of technical football can work in England and whilst amateur level is a world apart from the professional stage the basics are the same.
If you can get a team in League Two playing good football with a high level of technical ability then you have every chance of being successful just take a look at Swindon Town last season under Paulo Di Canio, whilst they have had considerable financial aid in that time there is still a philosophy of the Italian that has been followed to the letter and has seen them not only promoted to League One but also being one of the standout teams in the third tier of English football.
Davids having overseen last weekend’s heavy defeat to Plymouth Argyle made his first real mark on the club this past Friday evening when he made his playing debut for Barnet wearing the Captain’s armband against Northampton Town. After a week of training with the squad and coaching the players it appeared that there had been a change in mentality at Underhill with the Bees after having taken just three points from their opening twelve games convincingly beating Northampton 4-0. Davids said after the match “I’m proud of them because the tactical things we worked on all week they executed them”
Davids if he can continue motivating the Barnet players and improving them technically then there is hope for the Bees’ Football League status and should Davids and Mark Robson keep Barnet in the Football League then there is every possibility that the former Ajax man could really make his mark and get a chance to work with the younger players at the club and then should that prove to be a success then who knows where Davids could move to in the future.
Whilst it seems so insignificant and miniscule in the grand scheme of things at this moment the appointment of Edgar Davids whilst indeed it is a risk, is an appointment that signals a change in philosophy of some of England’s less travelled teams. Gone are the days of the stereotype “if you’re in League two, then you have an awful pitch and you just play it long” there are many more coaches at that level trying to incorporate technical, attacking football into their sides makeup and this for English football can be no bad thing.
Should Davids as I expect him to do succeeds at Barnet then there may well be a place closer to the English national team for him in the future. The playing style of the English national team is something that troubles Davids “When I look at the English team and I see them play, I’m not a great fan. I know they have talent but it’s not developing right now. It needs a lot of work.” Davids being given the chance to work with England’s best young players in the future would be certainly a positive step with the Dutchman without doubt being strong enough in character to stick to his principles and keep utilising his street football coaching methods and it may be this that the England players of the future need more than anything.
Despite it still being early days at Barnet the potential for success and development is there with Edgar Davids as part of the staff and the English FA should really look at Davids and take note of his progress with Barnet as he may well be the man to take the mantle from Sir Trevor Brooking and Gareth Southgate and succeed where they appear not to have done, in revolutionising the training and coaching given to young players in order for them to stand a chance of matching up against the likes of Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands in the future and it is this possibility that gives me every confidence that the appointment of Edgar Davids at Barnet could be the first step towards a great change in English football.
Written by Chris Winterburn