Posts Tagged ‘Real Madrid’

Manchester United and Chevrolet Team Up to Auction Exclusive Fan Experiences‏

July 16, 2014 1 comment

Written by Chris Winterburn

Louis van Gaal touched down in Manchester early this morning to officially begin life as Manchester United manager. The experienced Dutchman comes to Old Trafford fresh from a wonderful World Cup campaign with the Dutch national team where he guided a team, not blessed with the masses of quality Dutch sides of the Cruyff, de Boer and Van Nistelrooy eras had at their disposal, to the semi-final of the competition. united chevrolet charity

Manchester United supporters eagerly anticipate the impact Van Gaal will have on the team’s fortunes with speculation surrounding moves in the transfer market likely to intensify following Van Gaal’s arrival at the AON Training Complex. 

Van Gaal himself is eager to start work as soon as possible, not even having a holiday following his adventure in Brazil and he will join Manchester United as the club fly out to America on Friday to begin the club’s pre-season tour.

Manchester United and Chevrolet are teaming up alongside ‘‘ a charity auction site to give six lucky Manchester United supporters the opportunity to bid for exclusive fan experience packages for Manchester United’s pre-season tour match with Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium on August 2.

The auction is to support ‘United Way’ in Southeastern Michigan, an organisation which strives to improve lives by mobilising the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.

Here are details of the auction and how you can get involved:

Chevrolet Offers Ultimate Manchester United Experience
Proceeds of ticket packages auctioned for Manchester United-Real Madrid match to benefit United Way for Southeastern Michigan

July 8, 2014 — Chevrolet will offer six exclusive ticket packages for auction, including a once-in-a-lifetime “Ultimate Manchester United Fan Experience” for the highly anticipated match against Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium as part of the Guinness International Champions Cup (ICC) .

Proceeds from the auction hosted at will benefit United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Soccer fans can place bids now through July 22 for a chance to win one of six ticket packages that include four tickets to the match, hospitality, pre-game access and more. Complete auction details are available at .

As the Official Shirt Sponsor of Manchester United, the team will wear Chevrolet-branded shirts during the Aug. 2 match that also feature a commemorative United Way badge. Each auction winner will receive one of the game-worn shirts from the team’s new kit, which debuted earlier this week.

“Like the athletes who give their all on the field and the lifelong fans who go the distance to support them, Chevrolet wants to connect everyone with the spirit that makes soccer the world’s favourite sport,” said General Motors President Dan Ammann, chair for the 2014-15 United Way for Southeastern Michigan Workplace Campaign. “From backyards to the ‘Big House,’ Chevrolet is proud to support our local communities and United Way.”

The auction extends GM’s and the GM Foundation’s ongoing support of United Way and its mission to improve communities and individual lives by focusing on education, financial stability and such basic needs as food and shelter.

In 2010, the GM Foundation pledged its largest grant ever – $27.1 million to United Way for Southeastern Michigan to establish a “Network of Excellence” in seven Detroit-area high schools. The grant is also helping to advance early childhood education in the area. Over the last two years, GM employees and retirees have contributed more than $11 million through the company’s United Way campaign, and have donated more than 7,200 hours of volunteer service at the Network of Excellence schools since 2011.

“United Way for Southeastern Michigan is honored to partner with Chevrolet for the Manchester United auction packages — these are two of the most storied and beloved brands in the world,” said Michael J. Brennan, president & CEO, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “With the same spirit that soccer fans unite to support their team, we are committed to uniting the community in support of making Greater Detroit one of the best places to live and work. We are deeply grateful to GM for their partnership and for this exciting opportunity to move our mission forward.”

The Manchester United ticket packages available for auction include:

Ultimate Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt – Signed
Meet & Greet with Manchester United Players
On-field Mascot escorting player on field (7-13 year old)
Attend Open Training Session
Four (4) tickets to a match at Old Trafford Stadium

VIP Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
Four (4) tickets to a match at Old Trafford Stadium

Executive Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt – Signed
Meet & Greet with Manchester United Players

Fred the Red Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
On-field Mascot escorting player on field (7-13 year old)

Super Fan Package Four (4) VIP tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt

Red Devil Package Four (4) tickets (8/2: Manchester United vs. Real Madrid)
Pre-Game pitchside walk
Game Worn Shirt
Attend Open Training Session

Head over to in order to take part in this auction for a what is a fantastic cause, and you may be lucky enough to win one of the aforementioned Manchester United exclusive fan experience packages.


Scout Report-Alberto Moreno, 21, Left-Back, Sevilla

Alberto Moreno making a hugely important challenge on Benfica's Lima during the Europa League final.

Alberto Moreno making a hugely important challenge on Benfica’s Lima during the Europa League final.

Written by Chris Winterburn

If way back in August Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno would have dreamt of how he wanted his upcoming season to play out then I doubt it would have differed too much to what reality had in store for the Seville born full-back.

Making twenty eight La Liga starts, playing a key role in winning the Europa League and to top it all off being named in Vicente del Bosque’s provisional 30-man Spain squad for the upcoming World Cup finals in Brazil were just three of the main positives to come out of Alberto Moreno’s twenty first year.

Moreno’s outstanding performances over the last eighteen months have not gone unnoticed further afield that Spain however with Premier League giants Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all harbouring an interest in prising the young full-back away from his childhood club.

Alberto Moreno Perez as he is known officially will not be an easy transfer target for a whole host of England’s top flight due to the fact the full-back signed a significant new contract as recently as October 2013 which was set to keep him at the club until at least 2018. However as we have seen with even more regularity over recent seasons signing a new contract often just means your transfer fee will be a few million higher.

Moreno has caught the eye through his enthusiastic way of playing the full-back position. All the instances of marauding forward and impressive technical ability that saw the continent stand up and take notice of Jordi Alba not too long ago are prominent in Moreno’s game too. Moreno is perhaps more suited to playing a defensive position than Alba and his crossing is a lot better too however he lacks the explosiveness which made Alba Barcelona’s main transfer target when it became apparent Eric Abidal’s career with the Catalan giants was coming to an end.

In order to evaluate just how far Alberto Moreno has progressed this past season we must go back to last summer when Moreno first caught the wider European eye. Whilst the Spanish national team were away in Brazil competing for the Confederations Cup the Under-21 team were in Israel competing for the European Championship.

Much of the press attention was on Thiago Alcantara who captained the side. It was widely expected at that time that Thiago was going to the first of many new signings of the post Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United, this was not to be the case. As a result Moreno escaped attention, Alvaro Morata took the majority of the headlines with his goals whilst David de Gea was outstanding in goal.

What did become clear however is that Alberto Moreno missed just one game throughout the entire tournament. Spain won every match they played and Moreno was a sizable part of that success.

His marauding forward runs ably supported the likes of Isco, Morata and Thiago in attack, he often beat the right sided full-back for pure speed and was able to produce a quality delivery into the penalty area when asked.

He may not have been the media’s star of the tournament but the people that mattered could see his progress.

Although he had been fully promoted to the Sevilla first team the previous February it was his performances in Israel which convinced the Sevilla management to utilise him as first choice at left-back for the 2013-2014 campaign. Moreno went onto impress during Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial at Old Trafford with a confident defensive display down the left.

Fast forward nine months and we see a completely different Sevilla and completely different Alberto Moreno.

After a summer of financial woes placated only by the sale of the club’s two prized assets, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, Sevilla looked set for a season in the wilderness. Then came the reprieve. Due to financial issues at Malaga resulting in a UEFA suspension, Sevilla qualified for the Europa League. Unai Emery’s side had a challenge to aim for as well as a much needed financial boost to get the necessary talent in to move forward.

Moreno despite being just twenty one, has had to mature quickly. The pressures of regular first-team football are huge and Moreno has dealt with them very well indeed. The full-back has handled the press attention which comes with being the next star in the Seville crown whilst maintaining the levels of performance which earned him recognition in the first place.

From a footballing perspective Moreno is everything you would want in a full-back. He is quick, although not blisteringly so like a Gael Clichy or a Jordi Alba but quick enough to ghost past an opponent nonetheless however he is also strong.

On countless occasions this term Moreno has been forced to cut infield whilst in possession in order to play a clever slide rule pass in behind to either Bacca or Gameiro. When doing this Moreno has been faced with physically stronger central midfielders and defenders but he has an uncanny ability of being able to shake them off.

The styles of Moreno and Luke Shaw are eerily similar in that regard. Playing regular La Liga football from such a young age like Shaw, Moreno has been able to develop physically in a way which allows him to more than match adversaries, he can keep control of the ball when dribbling forward through his ability to come out the better of shoulder to shoulder challenges and the like.

With Liverpool looking for a better quality, long-term replacement for Jose Enrique this is a trait Brendan Rodgers is bound to view as positive. Continuing along the Liverpool centric line of argument, Moreno is also a clever footballer in that he knows when to use his pace to get into position to receive the ball.

A map of Alberto Moreno's typical movements within Unai Emery's system. Moreno looks to venture down the left hand side and reach the byline before putting in a cross to Bacca however he can cut inside on an overlapping run with Reyes and then place a short pass into Bacca's feet.

A map of Alberto Moreno’s typical movements within Unai Emery’s system. Moreno looks to venture down the left hand side and reach the byline before putting in a cross to Bacca however he can cut inside on an overlapping run with Reyes and then place a short pass into Bacca’s feet.

With Liverpool’s passing game being based around short, quick tempo passes the opportunities for one two’s are significant. Moreno has shown an ability to initiate a one two pass with a teammate and then get into a position far ahead of the defender as a result of his speed before receiving the ball in a better attacking position. This would also pique the interest of Manuel Pellegrini whose Manchester City side too looks to kick start passing moves in a similar vein.

The attacking side of Moreno’s game was perfectly highlighted in Sevilla’s 2-0 victory over Real Betis in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final in which Moreno recorded assists for both goals with exquisite, indefensible crosses into the penalty area.

Football wise Moreno is all but there, his talents are clear for all to see, as are his physical attributes and he is only going to get better. What is a worry however is whether or not a move to Liverpool or Manchester City will be a summer too soon for him.

The biggest game of Sevilla’s season was Wednesday’s Europa League final. The Andalusian club were victorious in a penalty shoot-out but rode their luck in normal time with Benfica under the spell of the Guttmann curse wasting numerous gilt-edged opportunities in front of goal.

Moreno struggled. Despite showing an innate ability to defend under pressure with a goal saving tackle on Lima early in the second-half the young full-back was in real trouble all evening long.

Admittedly he received little help from Jose Antonio Reyes just in front of him but Moreno’s positioning was inconsistent and at times wild. Early on in the second half it looked as if Moreno was trying to make too big an impact on the match and he ended up almost on the right side of midfield for one Benfica attack with the left midfield area left completely unguarded.

Several heavy touches and slips later and it looked as if the occasion was all too much for the highly rated Spaniard with it only through good fortune and the performance of Beto in goal that Moreno wasn’t punished for one of his errors.

This could very well have been a one-off but these are the slight measures upon which club’s make final decisions on purchasing a player. In Sevilla’s biggest match of the season, on the grandest stage available to the club, Moreno struggled. Of course he is young and it shouldn’t be a surprise but with both Manchester City and Liverpool looking at immediate first choice left-backs it is something to bear in mind from their perspective.

With the hype around Luke Shaw due to both his nationality and the price tag Manchester United appear willing to pay for him it is likely Alberto Moreno will not be the standout transfer of the summer should a move to England materialise however you would expect clubs to see the outstanding footballing ability Moreno possesses and how he has managed to hone his craft in such a short space of time.

With all this in mind it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to see Moreno move to pastures new this summer and with Liverpool and Manchester City believed to be assessing other targets it would take a brave individual to bet against Real Madrid attempting to secure solidity at left-back for the next decade with a late move for Moreno.

Scout’s Rating- 7/10

Follow Chris Winterburn on Twitter @Chriswin4

Greek Tragedy! Champions League Diary 26.02.14

February 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Another Champions League evening has passed and we are still waiting for a English club to avoid defeat in the first knockout round, admittedly Arsenal and Manchester City faced significantly more difficult opposition in Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively but Manchester United were certainly set for a tough evening ahead of kick off in Piraeus last night.

Alejandro Dominguez celebrates putting Olympiacos a goal up against Manchester United in Piraeus.

Alejandro Dominguez celebrates putting Olympiacos a goal up against Manchester United in Piraeus.

Following the positivity taken from the result at Selhurst Park over the weekend it was expected that Manchester United would kick on in Athens on Tuesday even without Juan Mata eligible for selection in the competition courtesy of his pre-Christmas involvement with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Manchester United hoped to continue their record of having never lost to a Greek team in European competition but David Moyes’ men were yet again unable to get out of second gear and were second best for almost the entirety of the evening.

Olympiacos were up for the fight, despite having the lower section of the North Stand closed as part of UEFA disciplinary action due to racial conduct by supporters and the use of lasers. Despite this the atmosphere at the Karaiskakis stadium was electric, it was very much a classic European evening for the hosts and Manchester United looked rattled from the off.

The visitors struggled in the early goings to at the very least keep their footing, particularly on the right hand side where the hosts had watered the pitch for a solid seven minutes just prior to kick off, this then transcended to the passing of the football around the back four with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic putting each other into all sorts of trouble with ill thought out and poorly executed passes across the defensive line. Olympiacos, despite not boasting the attacking talent they had in the group stage with Konstantinos Mitroglou and Vladimir Weiss both leaving the club in January, were still a threat to United with Arsenal’s Joel Campbell and former Valencia midfielder Alejandro Dominguez both putting United under pressure during the first half.

After a shaky start United seemed to ease into the tie with ball retention improving even if there was very little done with the ball once into the final third, it just seems a case of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley not being able to function to their best when playing together. You have to feel that Cleverley needs a talisman next to him, someone who can tell him where to be, take the pressure away from Cleverley when he is on the ball. We saw a performance of that nature by Marouane Fellaini at Selhurst Park at the weekend but the Belgian was left on the bench in Piraeus.

As has so often been the case for Manchester United this season the visitors were punished by a bit of bad luck when Olympiacos took the lead just before half time. Giannis Maniatis received the ball just on the edge of United’s penalty area and not a single player was quick enough to close the shot down, Maniatis had essentially a free shot at goal, it was a minor miracle in itself that the Greek international’s shot was such a poor one however with the ball looking to be going wide the always alive Dominguez flicked his heel at the ball and directed it past the outstretched De Gea. United had gone from being in an okay position in the tie whilst not playing well to being under immense pressure to now go out and seek an away goal.

If there first half was poor then United’s second half performance at least until the last ten minutes was dire. Ball retention was nonexistent and chance creation was not a feature of the English Champions’ second half performance. Ashley Young looked to get forward when he could with Evra ably supporting him on the left hand side but it was futile, the players looked tired and by this point Olympiacos had their tails well and truly in the air. 

The evening got even worse for United later in the second half when again a lack of desire to close down a shot was punished. Michael Carrick was too late to make up the ground on Joel Campbell and when he eventually did the tackle was weak. Arsenal’s Costa Rican forward curled in a fantastic shot past De Gea to give the Greek side a deserved two goal lead. Try as they might in the last ten minutes following the introduction of Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa, United could not break the hosts down although the best chance of the evening fell to Robin van Persie inside the penalty area only for the Dutchman to fire over the power. Had that shot gone in United’s continental prospects would have been looking far rosier with an away goal under their belt.

Take nothing away from Olympiacos, they were excellent. The energy they showed off the ball was impressive with the players feeding off the atmospheric crowd although some of their tackling was clumsy and on another night with another referee could have resulted in a foul. Manchester United have it all to do at Old Trafford in three weeks’ time with no away goal to take away from the Greek capital however the tie is by no means over. David Moyes will be confident his side can improve their level of performance and put a shaky Olympiacos defence to the sword on home soil, however United will have to really step up their game to continue this year’s continental adventure.

In another of the first knockout round ties which look all but over Borussia Dortmund ran out 4-2 winners away in Russia to Zenit St Petersburg in yesterday’s early fixture. In what was a nice break from the difficulties of domestic action, Jurgen Klopp’s team seem to take the shackles off and really play the way we all know they can yesterday. Maybe it is an early sign that the club are heavily going for European glory rather than trying to close the gap between themselves and the almost invincible Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga title race?

Zenit’s evening started horribly with Dortmund going two goals to the good inside five minutes with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus both netting for the visitors. Zenit did pull a goal back through Oleg Shatov but that was cancelled out by the first of two Robert Lewandowski strikes just minutes later. Hulk’s penalty made the game 3-2 but Robert Lewandowski’s second strike left the scoreline at 4-2.

Despite his upcoming move to fierce rivals Bayern Munich relations appear to still be more than cordial between Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski after last evening's 4-2 victory over Zenit.

Despite his upcoming move to fierce rivals Bayern Munich relations appear to still be more than cordial between Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski after last evening’s 4-2 victory over Zenit.

You wouldn’t expect Dortmund to face any real trouble from Zenit in the second leg however with the significant injuries the German giants have, squad management may become an issue ahead of the second leg however Mats Hummels is expected to return for the second leg which can only boost Dortmund’s defensive resolve.

Jurgen Klopp was left pleased with his team’s response to the weekend’s 3-0 drubbing at the hands of prime relegation candidates Hamburger SV and despite claiming the tie was “not easy” the German coach was pleased with his teams response to recent adversity, “It was clear to me that my team would produce a reaction, we were close to optimal this evening.”

Wednesday completes the first leg action of the Champions League first knockout stage with two of the outside favourites for the competition in action. Chelsea visit Istanbul to face Galatasaray with an emotional rendezvous with Didier Drogba likely to be the main talking point prior to kick off, whilst Real Madrid head to Germany to go up against Jens Keller’s Schalke team with the German coach suggesting his side will “need a miracle” if they are to overcome the might of Madrid.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Twitter and the Transfer Window

The transfer window, the three month period where a football team has the opportunity to add to, take away from or even slightly develop their squad, be that through the removal of the so called ‘dead wood’ or the arrival of a megastar on a multi million pound contract in order to just propel said club into a title winning position.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer window was once a place of rather secretive dealings, almost like the Speakeasies of prohibition filled 1920’s America with nobody quite knowing who was going to be sold where or who was unhappy at a club aside from the parties directly involved, i.e. the two clubs and the player himself. Nowadays we are in a time when we as a society find ourselves enslaved to social media, I make no bones about the fact I too fall into this category and to a certain degree there is little wrong with this, moving forward and keeping up with the times is a necessity if one desires to progress. However one common, widespread gripe with social media is the sense of freedom in creates within the everyday human being.

Since the introduction of Twitter we have seen an emotive new term created by the media to categorise those who perceive a sense of freedom within social media and then abuse said freedom, this term is the ‘Twitter Troll.’ A Twitter Troll is no different to the definition of an actual mythical troll, something which seeks to harass or disturb only via the new technology involved in social media and with Twitter in particular, they can harass or disturb on a very public platform.

Just, for example, take the events of last summer, Tom Daley had just missed out on an Olympic medal in the Synchronised men’s 10m diving event and immediately received a Tweet from an individual who I probably cannot name  suggesting that Daley had let his deceased father down by not winning a medal. Now this is not somebody who knows Tom Daley personally, this is not somebody whom Daley has ever come into contact with, no it is an individual sat behind a computer, tablet or mobile phone screen on the other side of the country who is seeking to bring attention to themselves by harassing an individual who is well within the scope of the public eye, simply because they can.

This moves me onto my next point, the as ever useful ‘Urban Dictionary’ has a definition of their own for the term/act of ‘Trolling’ and it is one that describes the crux of the problem with freedom on social media in under ten words, Being a prick on the internet because you can.” Just look at those last three words for a moment, people gain some sort of self justification for their actions simply because there is no means in place to either prohibit them from doing so or punishing them after. Yes methods have been brought in over the past two years to counteract the ‘Trolling’ of celebrities and public figures on Twitter with several high profile cases, including the aforementioned Tom Daley incident leading to an arrest. However it is still going on.

Just last week we have seen a high profile incident of Twitter trolling which specifically targeted women. Female MP Stella Creasy and Female Historian Mary Beard were threatened with rape due to their public backing of a campaign headed by Caroline Criado-Perez which lobbied for banknotes to feature the faces of women and not just men. This is an individual sending a threat of one of the most violent and life damaging acts that can happen to anyone just because they have the freedom to do so, and what did it lead to? Yet an ever fiercer battle held within Twitter with certain users of the social media website taking part in a twenty four hour boycott of the social media site entitled ‘Twitter Silence’ to essentially make a stand against such public and abusive ‘trolling.’ This was then met by a backlash from individuals who felt it was ‘shirking’ the problem or a pointless act to gain attention, yet again the troll had got what it wanted, attention and on a sizeable scale.

Now, after reading the title of this piece you are probably wondering what on earth all of the above and the serious nature of those examples have to do with the transfer window, well I will attempt to clarify that now. With the freedom that has come with having your own social media profile on Twitter or Facebook there is also a degree of entitlement that comes with it, to the end which people think they are owed information by certain individuals who also share Twitter space. Football is known to be one of the most tribal sports with every match being a direct battle between two sides so to speak, you are either with one side or you are against one side. This tribalism mixed with a sort of freedom of speech if you will that is provided by social media creates a rather newfound drama surrounding the Transfer window.

Football writers have, as the media has grown in importance to football, long been fed snippets of information by clubs during the transfer window and this information was relayed to the public via a newspaper article or interview. As social media has developed however these snippets of information have become much more readily available to the public via the single touch of a button and this allows supporters to be constantly kept in the loop and updated as events occur.

We see it every summer, a transfer saga involving usually one of England’s bigger clubs as in my experience supporters of non English teams tend not to get too involved in transfer tittle tattle on Twitter, however these sagas are usually started by a report in a newspaper which is probably based on a reliable tip they have received, however what happens now and what didn’t before Twitter is these reports are almost instantly passed on and twisted by people, almost like a much wider scale game of Chinese whispers and before you know it football writers find their personal Twitter feeds inundated with questions like ‘Is Thiago going to sign for United?’, ‘How close is Isco to Manchester City?’ and my own personal favourite ‘Why did Sir Alex Ferguson lie about Wayne Rooney’s transfer request?’

The majority of football writers to their credit attempt to answer these questions, some feel it is part of their job whilst others enjoy dispersing the information they have at their disposal.  This information is then lapped up by supporters and is yet again passed on and twisted  before the transfer saga eventually comes to an end with a different outcome to the one stated by a particular football writer. The aforementioned football writer then finds his Twitter feed littered with abuse and personal attacks which I find completely unnecessarily and in as serious and pitiful a way as possible, rather laughable.

The supporters who target football writers with abuse when a transfer deal doesn’t go the way they want it to are those who yet again act by the unwritten rule I previously alluded to in those three words, ‘Because you can.’ They feel the freedom given to them by social media websites propels them to a state of entitlement to information, they feel as though they are entitled to be given information on transfers by football writers when it actual fact they aren’t and never have been before.

Transfer negotiations are no business of anybody but the two clubs involved, the player and unfortunately in the modern game, the player’s agent. It wasn’t so long ago that supporters knew nothing of transfers until a player was picture on the back page of their local paper holding up the club’s new shirt, everything before the internet and particularly high speed broadband took off was much more secretive and whilst many yearn to return to this era you can’t, you have to move forward with the times.

The advancement in media coverage of football has been excellent for supporters, we can now be kept abreast of rumours involving our club’s negotiations as they are happening and the introduction of Twitter has opened up even more positive avenues for both news reporting and discussion. You ask most football writers and they will tell you the discussions they have with fans on Twitter are on the whole something they enjoy and welcome, it is this link between the media and the supporters that in a way brings the supporters closer to the club which is what we have always wanted, however it is something which must not be taken for granted by supporters and must not lead to a feeling of entitlement which eventually leads to trolling simply because you have the free platform upon which to do so.

Technology is going to keep advancing, we are going to be given even more information about transfers as the years go on and that is excellent but don’t let that ‘power’ lead to feelings of entitlement, just embrace it, trust you own judgement on how to differentiate fact from fiction in transfer stories, don’t target football writers who are attempting to do their job and you will end up enjoying the transfer window a whole host more. The less of a whirlwind created by people’s reactions to transfers then the less falsities will be put out by people, no reaction means no attention and no attention means for the troll no reason to do it.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

David Beckham Retires

article-1241289-0137490200001005-288_634x461David 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

Milan plot Kaka return, the right move for all the wrong reasons?

August 1, 2012 7 comments

Kaka, the return of the “Prodigal Son” to Milan

Just two weeks have passed since Paris Saint Germain completed the mammoth double €62 million signing of both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from Italian giants AC Milan, and in that time frame there has been multiple reports and rumours about just where the Rossoneri are going to turn next with Dimitar Berbatov and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa muted as potential direct replacements for Zlatan and Thiago Silva respectively. AC Milan being undoubtedly one of the most renowned clubs in all of European football are always going to be linked with players who appear to be available for transfer however in the Milanese giant’s current financial state it is very difficult to look at any rumour involving Milan without a certain degree of scepticism. The talk of Dimitar Berbatov and Yanga-Mbiwa however seem to be both extremely sensible and significantly likely signings with the Bulgarian centre forward available for transfer away from Manchester United with just under a year left on his contract at Old Trafford, and Yanga-Mbiwa having proved himself in the last two seasons, in particular last year where he played a huge part in Montpellier’s French title triumph being available at not such a high price due to the African born Frenchman entering the final year of his contract at Stade de la Mosson. What followed the rumours regarding Berbatov and Yanga-Mbiwa was in a way both surprising and unsurprising, it was the rumours of a potential return to the San Siro for the iconic AC Milan legend Kaka whom had been told his future was uncertain with the Spanish Champions. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho fuelled the fire for more speculation just last week when he announced “I don’t know if he [Kaka] will stay or not” this then forced AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi’s hand with the former Italian Prime Minister stating that ” Kaka would be welcome back at AC Milan.”

It is always the case with any transfer involving a “blockbuster” player that the old adage “he may one day return” gets broadcast, as with Cristiano Ronaldo when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid and indeed Kaka himself when he made the second most expensive ever transfer to Real Madrid from Milan. As much as fans wish to believe that their hero will one day return in actual fact it happens much less frequently than you would think with the saying essentially being used to cushion the blow of losing a top player for the fans, however in this case it seems that Kaka may well return to the club where he established himself as the best player in the world. Kaka has never truly settled in at the Bernabeu like he did in Milan and many have attributed a mixture of injuries and poor fitness as the reason for this although others would point out Mourinho’s signings of fellow attack minded midfielders Ozil and Di Maria havent exactly made it straightforward for Kaka to earn a place in the Real Madrid starting line up on a consistent basis. Kaka now aged thirty is certainly still a player of immense individual talent who if given a consistent run of games at Madrid would undoubtedly produce displays replicating his days at Milan however with the possibility of Kaka being Madrid’s first choice playmaker next season looking highly unlikely especially with Madrid’s apparent significant interest in Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric and to a lesser extent Benfica’s Axel Witsel, it may well be the case that in order to prolong his footballing career and possibly even earn a place in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup squad Kaka has to move on.

A return to AC Milan would no doubt give Kaka a boost when he most needs it, the former Ballon d’Or winner has found life in Madrid extremely difficult and despite having a much better season last term contributing five assists in Real Madrid’s route to the European cup semi final it still appears that Kaka is a shadow of his former self both on and off the pitch. Let us not kid ourselves Kaka was never the most media hungry player whilst at Milan with the former Sao Paulo midfielder often preferring to shy away from the cameras when possible, however he always looked happy in red and black of Milan, he always appeared to be enjoying his football and why wouldn’t he with everything seemingly going his way? However the iconic smile of the deeply religious Kaka has not been a common entity in the three seasons he has spent in the Spanish capital. Despite the obvious positivity that would go with a return to Milan for Kaka there is a question over whether there would be the same “footballing benefits” for AC Milan themselves.

AC Milan despite having lost arguably their two best players in the forms of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva do not have a huge need for an attacking midfielder such as Kaka, if anything they have been trying to cut their midfield down which has been made evidently clear with the decision to release the experienced Clarence Seedorf following a decade long spell with AC Milan. AC Milan have also moved to strengthen their midfield with the free transfer signing of Riccardo Montolivo from Serie A rivals Fiorentina which leaves Massimiliano Allegri with a vast number of midfielders to choose from including Montolivo, Nocerino, Robinho, Kevin Prince Boateng, Muntari, Ambrosini, Mathieu Flamini, Urby Emanuelson and the newly signed midfield duo of Bakaye Traore and Kevin Constant. It is difficult to find a way in which Kaka will fit into the Milan side with Kevin Prince Boateng and Robinho being the usual candidates to fill the Central Attacking Midfield role, however with Ibrahimovic now gone it may well be the case that Robinho plays as a forward next season which arguably leaves a gap in the central attacking midfield position if Boateng is required to play in a deeper role. Kaka could well fill this gap however with Nocerino and Montolivo who can both perform competently in that position it is once again difficult for me to see just how Kaka could command a consistent spot in the Milanese starting line up, and if he cannot be guaranteed playing time then there is little point of him leaving the Bernabeu. Following brilliant campaigns for both Kevin Prince Boateng and Robinho last year with both displaying their ability on the continental stage with their noticeable performances against holders Barcelona and Arsenal it is difficult to suggest that Kaka would be more deserving of a starting spot ahead of those two players in the AC Milan first team, with Kaka having not been at his absolute best for a number of seasons whilst Boateng and Robinho have gone from strength to strength. The signing of Kaka may not represent the best interest for Milan on the football pitch itself but in comparison off the field it would improve the mood in the city surrounding the club substantially.

There is a sense of furore among the supporters of AC Milan this summer as a direct result of the sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, this has illustrated itself in the poorest ever season ticket sales since Berlusconi took ownership of the club way back in 1986. The worry this caused within the AC Milan hierarchy was significant with club C.E.O Adriano Galliani even addressing the fans to try and calm them down stating “AC Milan will sign a champion this summer” How much of this was simply bravado to appease fans we are still unsure, as we will be until the transfer occurs or when the transfer window shuts on the 31st August. The signing of club legend Kaka however would be a masterstroke from Galliani should the deal be completed, not only would he have fulfilled his promise of signing a champion which would restore the fans confidence in both the team and the board of directors but it would also appease the fans whom are angry that Milan are moving backwards by selling their best players, the signing of Kaka in a way would still prove to supporters that the Rossoneri have the capability to attract the world’s best talent at a time when it appears that they can no longer do so. Season ticket sales would also improve at Milan should Kaka be signed up with fans clamouring to get a glimpse of their hero once again, the media frenzy that this signing would cause would also sway fans into the thinking that despite the sale of Zlatan and Thiago, Milan could still well challenge both in Europe and on all domestic fronts next season which would improve the season ticket sales statistics. Finally at a time when Milan have admitted themselves they are struggling to compete financially hence the sales of their two key players, the fact that the deal for Kaka in itself would not be one of huge expense is hugely important with Madrid unlikely to command a huge transfer fee and the player himself would more than likely not request the same wages he is on currently at Madrid. Failing this the deal may well even prove to be a loan with Madrid looking to free up squad space for a season and Milan looking to appease frustrated fans it could well be a win win scenario for all parties involved despite the suggestion that Jose Mourinho would not be in favour of a loan move for his Brazilian playmaker. Should a loan deal be agreed it is rumoured that AC Milan are only in a position to pay half of Kaka’s current salary with Madrid continuing to pay the other fifty percent until the end of the 2012-2013 season when a low fee buyout clause would be involved should Milan wish to make the move for Kaka permanent.

Whilst there is absolutely no arguments about Kaka’s ability as a footballer whom on his day could still walk into most sides in Europe, there is still a case to answer as to whether he can reach the high standards of performance which he has set for himself with fitness and lack of confidence still being key issues that raise doubt. A return to Milan would boost his confidence noticeable but the question marks over his fitness and recent performances lead me to believe that he would not be a first choice player at Milan and if he was it could well be a potentially disastrous move from Allegri with the possibility of alienating either Kevin Prince Boateng or Robinho being quite likely. Despite the obvious problems that the signing of Kaka would cause for Allegri whom until now has kept relatively quiet on the subject which suggests a great deal about his involvement in any potential deal, there is still the huge matter of off the field positivity that this transfer would cause for AC Milan, it would get them out of a difficult position they have put themselves in following the somewhat forced sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva with fans excited at the prospect of the prodigal son Kaka returning to the San Siro and with the potential to increase the as yet disappointing ticket sales by the signing of Kaka it would be a hugely sensible move for Milan off the pitch. Whether or not it is the best move for footballing reasons however we will have to wait and see.

Written by Chris Winterburn