Just a quick update, you can find my scouting report on this season’s UEFA Champions League Group Stage available online at UEFA.com as well as in the print copy of Champions Matchday for January 2015.
Here is the link- http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/newsid=2202605.html , any feedback would be more than welcome.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Ahead of tonight’s UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Diego Simeone’s outstanding Atletico Madrid team, Jose Mourinho has spoken of his bemusement at Chelsea’s misfortune in European competition over recent years.
The Portuguese coach is looking once more to become the first coach to win Europe’s top prize with three different teams however despite all his previous successes Mourinho has never been able to guide Chelsea to the final with the club falling at the semi-final stage in two of Mourinho’s three full seasons in charge at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho will be hoping Chelsea’s bad luck in semi-finals does not strike again this evening with the Europa League holders holding a slender advantage over Atletico due to the fact the deciding fixture is played at Stamford Bridge. With the aggregate score at 0-0 there is no away goal for Chelsea to defend or indeed rely on so should Atletico score tonight the complexion of the tie will be completely different for Mourinho’s men.
Speaking to adidas to promote Gamedayplus, Jose Mourinho suggested that when Chelsea finally did win the Champions League in 2012 it was justice following all the disappointments of the previous decade,
“I think Chelsea winning the Champions League was like bringing justice to a team that was a very strong team in the Champions League for about a decade. Chelsea has had everything in the Champions League, we lost that semi final against Liverpool with a goal that was not a goal and the next year we lose the semi-final on penalties.”
It is a well known fact that is was Roman Abramovich’s great desire to see his Chelsea lift the European Cup. After years of lavish spending without continental success the Russian oligarch turned to the youthful Andre Villas-Boas, fresh off Europa League success with FC Porto, to guide Chelsea to the holy grail of the Champions League title.
Villas-Boas and Chelsea simply did not work, issues with individual players and confusing tactics left the club facing an ignominious exit for the Champions League at the hands of Napoli. Roman Abramovich dismissed Villas-Boas and brought in trusted first-team coach Roberto Di Matteo to guide the club at the very least until the end of the season. Di Matteo had the backing of the players and somehow through fantastically focused performances and a degree of luck guided Chelsea to the Munich showpiece.
Mourinho in the same interview goes onto state how it was destined to be dramatic when Chelsea did finally reach their goal of lifting Europe’s top prize,
“Finally Chelsea won the Champions League so I think it was to bring justice to a group of players that were there fighting season after season and reaching semis and reaching finals and being stopped to do more and finally Chelsea did it also in a dramatic way also with extra time and penalties.”
Chelsea’s victory in the final over Bayern Munich seemed to have given Roman Abramovich a new lease of life in terms of controlling Chelsea. It had appeared that the years of European disappointment and bad luck had seen the Russian’s desire to spend significant money on players wane however since Didier Drogba’s decisive spot kick in Munich, Chelsea have gone from strength to strength and are well placed to reach a third European Cup final.
Chelsea will need both Liverpool and Manchester City to drop points between now and the end of the season if Jose Mourinho’s team are to win the Premier League once more and it does seem as though the Champions League is the club’s best chance of silverware this season. After a defensive masterclass at Anfield on Sunday Chelsea are facing a similarly strong defensive unit in Atletico Madrid which could make for yet another, shall we say unappealing match for the neutrals.
Jose Mourinho won’t care, nor should he. His main goal is to reach the Champions League final and then win it. Whilst he recognises how Chelsea deserved their success in 2012, there is absolutely no doubt that the ‘Special One’ would love nothing more than to guide Chelsea to the trophy. It has been his ambition since he left Porto in the summer of 2004 and for one reason or another he was never able to achieve it.
With there little more than six hours before kick-off in tonight’s clash it is certain that European Cup semi-finals involving Chelsea rarely pass without drama and we can expect as such this evening.
“José Mourinho was speaking to promote adidas Gamedayplus, bringing together the best of the UEFA Champions League in one place. To find out more visit adidas.com/gamedayplus or join the twitter conversation @adidasfootball”
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
Ahead of this evening’s first knockout round clash with Turkish giants Galatasaray, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has once again reiterated that this current Chelsea squad is not quite ready to challenge for major honours but rather a work in progress for the coming seasons.
In one of the rather more surprising motifs of the current Premier League season the usually supremely confident Mourinho has played down his team’s title chances, even likening his Chelsea squad to a “little horse” who is not quite ready to race for the title despite being top of the Barclays Premier League table heading into late March as well as having a good chance of progressing to the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Many believe it to be a long running mind-game from Mourinho whilst others simply believe it to be his way of trying to downplay expectation and pressure within a squad where the majority have never been in a strong position to challenge for the Premier League crown.
In a recent interview to help promote Adidas Gamedayplus, Mourinho spoke yet again about how he is viewing the long-term rather than the upcoming months in terms of success with regards to the younger players in his team,
“We are trying to build this team for the future – obviously including these older guys because they are important to give some stability and some experience but I can guess this team in a couple of years with these guys below 25, in 2-3 years time they will be between 24 and27 which is a fantastic age for a high level football player. I think it can be a very good team.”
What Jose Mourinho says here is true, it is a complete turnaround from the ageing team he left behind at Stamford Bridge in September 2007, now it looks as if Jose Mourinho is planning on being at Chelsea for the long haul. Listening to him speak of the younger players, you do get the real sense he wants to be the manager to guide them through the development process and then take them into battle for all competitions in a couple of years time, when they reach their “fantastic” age as a footballer.
In terms of the Champions League Mourinho was yet again slightly coy in his verse. This is a coach who has won Europe’s top competition on two separate occasions with two different football clubs however bringing the title to Stamford Bridge is clearly still an important target. However Mourinho once again stated that this season’s continental adventure was going to be used as a learning tool for his younger players in the hope it will prepare them to perennially challenge for the trophy in the coming seasons.
“We have to use the competition and the difficulties of the competition to improve, to prepare ourselves for the future, I think. It is the kind of competition when you are in the last 16 you can clearly identify the 3, 4, 5 teams that are favourites for the competition but also depends about the draw and sometimes the draw can make things happen in a different way.”
One thing that Jose Mourinho is crystal clear on is his passion for Chelsea Football Club. If Chelsea supporters can take one thing from the repeated rhetoric from their boss about the team not being strong enough to challenge this season, it is that Jose Mourinho absolutely wants to be the man in charge when the young players are ready, and as we have seen throughout the Premier League’s history there is no better catalyst for success than continuity.
“Sometimes it is difficult to explain, maybe because it was my first experience abroad? Maybe because at the same time I had Chelsea and English football and because English football is something with a lot of appeal and when you like you really like… after that the relation lies with the fans since 2004 – you know, big deep relation we couldn’t hide even when I was coaching with other teams so I like it. The club likes me and here I am and happy to lead.”
Chelsea host Galatasaray this evening hoping to progress to the quarter-final stage with the score from the first leg in Turkey 1-1 with Fernando Torres giving Chelsea what could prove to be a vital away goal. There is also the secondary spectacle of Didier Drogba returning to Stamford Bridge with a lot of rumours this week suggesting he may well make a Chelsea return, as a player, this summer.
“Jose Mourinho was speaking to promote adidas Gamedayplus, bringing together the best of the UEFA Champions League in one place. To find out more visit adidas.com/gamedayplus or join the twitter conversation @adidasfootball”
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
As the 2013-2014 season progresses one of the transfer rumours which simply won’t go away is one involving Bayern Munich’s metronomic midfielder Toni Kroos. Kroos, whose contract in Bavaria is up at the end of the 2014-2015 season, has been repeatedly linked with a cut price move to Manchester United this summer with the German midfielder desiring a wage similar to that given to Bayern Munich’s other stars.
Despite words from Franz Beckenbauer alluding to the fact Bayern Munich will not be held to ransom by one player, and that the club will therefore not break its wage structure to keep one player happy it still seems as though a re-signing with Bayern Munich is the most likely outcome for Toni Kroos, especially when you consider the recent endorsements from manager Pep Guardiola with the Spaniard believed to desperately want to keep the midfielder at the club.
“Toni played awesome but not just in this game [vs Arsenal], the whole season. We had a lot of problems at the beginning of the season in our midfield because we had a lot of injuries and I hope he maintains this level until the end of this season.”
With the long-term fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger not clear after a run of numerous injuries of the past two seasons, and with Pep Guardiola possibly having the long term plan to utilise Javi Martinez as a central defender, as he wanted to when he was in charge at FC Barcelona, there is very much a key place in the midfield belonging to Toni Kroos. Obviously there is competition for places in the Bayern Munich squad with such an array of talent in all areas but if you were going to look at the most important players, the spine of the team if you will then you have to include Toni Kroos in that.
The former Hansa Rostock youth midfielder is so centric to what Guardiola has thus far accomplished at Bayern. It was always impossible to improve on a treble winning season, however the real task for the two time UEFA Champions League winning coach was to make Bayern a sustainable entity, to improve them in areas which ensured they could challenge for the top honours every season without relying on individual brilliance, and he has done that. Kroos controls the tempo of Bayern’s play from either a deep position or a position further up the field as we saw recently against Schalke, where he made 142 passes in a 5-1 victory. Furthermore, as Guardiola states, he was tremendous at the Emirates just under three weeks’ ago working as a calming presence and moving the ball into good areas to take control away from Arsenal following the opening ten minute spell.
Kroos’ goal was an example of his individual brilliance, a perfectly struck shot which started off going way wide of the left hand post and somehow curled into the top corner. A true sign of how good the strike was is how goalkeeper Fabianski clattered into the post in an attempt to keep it out and was still somehow nowhere near it.
Guardiola was also discussing this evening’s tie with Arsenal with the current holders of the Champions League being two goals to the good after the first leg in London.
“We will be respectful, because in knockout games when we play against Arsenal or other teams, all of the people around the world think Arsenal know they are out of this competition already. It’s not true. I’m pretty convinced of that.”
Guardiola finally gave a closing word on how he is looking to change the traditional German approach to knockout ties when you have a lead to defend,
“Bayern last year took a better result than this year so 1-3 is better than 0-2.The Deutschland culture for the mentality, they are so good when they are aggressive, when they are going to look for something, to take something. When they are going to defend our result, to defend something, they are not so good, so I improve that since I am here.”
This is definitely one of the areas I mentioned earlier where Guardiola can improve the team to give this current Munich squad long-term sustainability at the highest level.
“Pep Guardiola was speaking to promote adidas Gamedayplus, bringing together the best of the UEFA Champions League in one place. To find out more visit adidas.com/gamedayplus or join the twitter conversation @adidasfootball”
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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