Friday, September 02, 2011
My first, already fading, memories of a Real Madrid-Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu go back to December 1990. After a long history of failed efforts, a bunch of friends and myself finally managed to get tickets to watch the two giants face to face live. It was the second leg of that season's Supercopa, and even though the tournament was perceived as second-rate when compared to La Liga or the old European Cup, the atmosphere in the stadium was fantastic.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
In the chief executive's office, Ivan Gazidis had spent the day making phone calls to agents and officials at other clubs as he tried desperately to complete the spending spree that the summer sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri had enabled and which the humiliating 8-2 defeat by Manchester United had subsequently made a necessity.
A few yards away, club secretary David Miles, chief accountant Stuart Wisely and head lawyer Svenja Geissmar were working furiously, filling out registration documents and ensuring they were emailed to the Premier League. In all, 20 officials from the club's finance and legal departments were working harder than they could remember.
"Tough night for Everton fans. A small squad seems to be getting smaller. Exciting times for QPR, Stoke and Arsenal." Manchester United striker Michael Owen on Twitter.
"Nice to see Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias come through with their promise to reinvest Andy Carroll money, £59m net profit from transfers in last 5 seasons... ambition???" QPR's former Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton on Twitter.
There is a cruel joke doing the rounds on Twitter suggesting that the deal to take former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves to Manchester City has hit a snag due to an injury caused by him falling out of the transfer window.
After more than three years of injury misery, Hargreaves probably doesn’t find the wisecrack too funny, but the consolation for the 30-year-old is that he now has an incredible opportunity to prove his doubters wrong at City.
With Joe Cole loaned to Lille and Christian Poulsen going to Evian, two overpaid earners from the Roy Hodgson era are gone. The former manager's best buy, Raul Meireles, is another matter altogether and he could be missed. Among the arrivals, Sebastian Coates is the extra centre-back they needed while Craig Bellamy, coming in as David Ngog goes out, brings pedigree and versatility to the forward line.
Verdict: Did well to dispose of the deadwood, while Bellamy could be a bargain and Coates is one for the future. But losing Meireles to Chelsea may backfire.
So the insane deadline day frenzy took place yesterday. Some used it well [Stoke], some used it out of desperation [Arsenal], while others fucked it up [Bolton]. Meanwhile Fergie sat watching with a big grin on his reddened chops. Here's a review of what teams did on the final day.
Arteta and Benayoun are adequate signings but Wenger lost Cesc and Nasri without getting any of his top targets. Santos is an improvement on Traore, but so would my Grandmother. Mertersacker is interesting. He probably knows more about defending than coach Pat Rice, but Rice probably has more speed and mobility.
Hutton and Jenas. Not exactly signings to get the pulse racing. But that's what you get when your manager is Alex McLeish.
6 million for Scott Dann isn't bad business but what happened to the promises of signing Ronaldihno, Beckham and Raul? Yakubu is not quite what fans were hoping for.
The club, which has massive debts, played poker and lost. Come winter the money Spurs offered for Cahill will look very good. They did pull off the huge coup of signing David Ngog, though.
Personally I think Modric is overrated at 40mil, so rabbit-out-of-the-hat Meireles seems good business. Everything will depend on how well he teams up with Torres.
Ouch! Big debts, no one wants to buy the club, and now they've lost one of their best players. But at least they brought in Drenthe from Real and the unpronounceable Stracqualursi who was top scorer in Argentina.
Have taken a gamble with Bryan Ruiz from the Dutch league. Cottagers will be hoping he's more Suarez than Kežman.
Almost the perfect, albeit very expensive, summer transfer window, especially with the capture of Coates. Then came the 11th hour loss of Meireles to Chelsea. He brought some guile to the team, matching up well with Suarez, so could be missed. At least they're rid of Joe Cole and now have Bellamy to organize golf trips.
Award for the left field signing of the window. Its a shock Hargreaves didn't hurt his knee getting up from the table after signing the contract.
Used the final day to finallly bring someone in who isn't French. 20 year old Santon comes highly rated.
Hard to say because I don't really know anything about any of the players they've brought in.
If you're probably going down anyway, you might as well do so interestingly. Anton Ferdinand, Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt all managed by Neil Warnock should provide entertainment.
Kept Modric, but this only works out if he doesn't sulk for 12 months. Got rid of a lot of deadwood including the creepy David Bentley, but failed to bring in a defender. Parker is a solid signing, though.
Paid a lot for Crouch and Palacios but the signings make sense, fitting into the team's style. Rory Delap will be delighted he has something even taller to aim at. Deadline day used well again by Pulis.
Went for the scattergun approach all summer. Among all those signings there has to by a good buy. Right? The modest Bendtner should fit in better than he did at Arsenal and they got rid of Anton Ferdinand, which is always a bonus.
If you're buying someone from Celtic [Shaun Maloney], you know your budget is limited.
West Brom, ManU and Wolves did nothing. Boring bastards.
The plebe's view of our seats.
We were escorted to a nice little table set up at the edge of the field and were introduced to the hospitality staff who informed us that we'd be enjoying a four course meal and free drinks. We informed them that we are both vegetarian and they said they'd have to consult with the chef to see what they could do for us. The cheese plate arrived in short order.
Rodger and Bobbie enjoying the cheese plate
A better view of the cheese plate
Frankly the cheese was a bit disappointing, though solid- cafeteria grade cheddar, some mild blue cheese and a standard wedge of brie. Garnish options included nuts, honey and some sort of plum jelly which was quite nice. There was a huge amount of melon on the plate as well as a nice helping of pineapple. While we snacked a slight drizzle started and our server brought us complimentary ponchos. We also enjoyed the sight of the excellent Sebastian Grazzini scoring from the penalty spot.
Grazzini Takes a Penalty
The entrees were fresh mozzarella sandwiches with tomato on baguette. Sadly the chef was overly generous with whatever weird aioli he was using that night and the whole experience was somewhat soggy. Still, we were well into the free Heineken at that point so it hit the spot.
We were served dessert in the 83rd minute while the Fire easily kept the ball out of reach of the Kickers. It was a delightful red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting- easily the best of the food we were served.
We were polishing off the last of the crumbs as the final whistle sounded. Rodger and I downed our last beers and headed for the exit, though not before paying a visit to the excellent new fan shop to pick up a pair of Fire Zubaz for the wife.
Bobbie and Sparky
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Yet the centre-half is available at a relatively small fee for a player who boasts 75 caps, for his country given the financial problems being experienced by Werder, and should complete his move having broken away from international duty to fly to London and undergo a medical. Mertesacker will be followed to the Emirates by the South Korea striker Park Chu-young, a £1.8m signing from relegated Monaco, and the Brazil defender André Santos, a 28-year-old attack-minded full-back who is to join on a four-year deal for £6.2m from Fenerbahce.
United States midfielder Michael Bradley has moved from Borussia Moenchengladbach to Chievo Verona, becoming the only American player in Italy’s Serie A.
The only other American-born players to have joined Serie A clubs in recent years were Alexi Lalas, Giuseppe Rossi and Oguchi Onyewu.
Five Reasons Why This Move is Great
Liverpool fans in the UK could be forgiven for not having seen Coates in action; the Copa America was hardly played at the most Europe-friendly of times for the most part. So let me assure you that you're getting a genuinely fine defender, regardless of his youth.Of all the talents in an exciting generation of players coming through for Uruguay, Coates is perhaps the most complete.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
The new season has finally started in La Liga but there was no sign of a revolution at the Sánchez Pizjuán.
Alvaro Negredo makes Málaga's brave new world feel remarkably familiar.
Three years after the regime of previous owner Thaksin Shinawatra almost plunged City into financial meltdown, with the club desperately attempting to fund the £6.45 million signing of Argentine full-back Pablo Zabaleta before the 2008 summer transfer window closed, the transformation of Manchester City is now almost complete – at the cost of £915,000 a day.
Having spent £210 million to acquire Thaksin’s stake, plus a transfer outlay taken to £433 million with Nasri’s arrival last week and an aggregate wage bill of £360 million, Sheikh Mansour’s bank account has now had £1.003 billion of its funds directed towards his football team since Sept 1, 2008.
Who have been the best, the most exciting and the most creative football players in the world over the past 25 years?
Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane perhaps? How about Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Michel Platini?
Do they have anything in common? Well, they could all be loosely described as number 10s.
They are players who control games from a forward area using their vision, skill, intelligence and, above all, creativity.
Going back through history, the truly great teams have almost always had one of them. Right now, Barcelona have four - Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and now Cesc Fabregas. That is proof of just how highly Barca - the best in the business - rate this type of player.
The new cast of "Dancing With the Stars" has been revealed.
Bulgaria coach hopes Euro 2012 qualifier against an old adversary may open up the prospect of a passage home.
Lothar Matthäus seeks win over England to help end his German exile.
Wealthy behemoths Real Madrid and Barcelona top the standings on goal difference after each recorded emphatic wins against opponents who were utterly outclassed.
Villarreal, through to the Champions League group stages after finishing fourth last term, were thrashed 5-0 by Barca at the Nou Camp on Monday night, a day after Real Madrid romped to a 6-0 victory at Real Zaragoza.
Barca’s financial clout was underlined by the fact that coach Pep Guardiola was able to start without Spanish World Cup-winners Xavi and David Villa as new signings Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez scored on their home debuts in the league.
Two Champions League teams prepared for their meetings with Arsenal and Chelsea with a convincing display of English cliches.
Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund draw on English influence.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Barcelona vs. Villarreal: Preview
This particular strike – clinically placed to the opposite side of the diving Kasey Keller – wouldn't merit much in the way of scrutiny under normal circumstances. It lacked any aesthetic or tangible significance. It didn't inspire a revival or halt the unfolding horror show for any length of time. It just added another goal to the total of a team on the wrong side of a heavy defeat. It did, however, possess one characteristic that will rescue it from the scrap-heap of forgotten goals: it allowed Cunningham to displace Jaime Moreno from atop the league's career goalscoring chart.
Liverpool 3 - 1 Bolton: Tim Rich at Anfield
Chelsea 3 - 1 Norwich City: Paul Doyle at Stamford Bridge
Tottenham 1 - 5 Manchester City: Dominic Fifield at White Hart Lane
Team of the Week
Five Things We Learned
8 - 2
Kevin McCarra: Wayne Rooney hits hat-trick as Manchester United crush Arsenal
Phil McNulty: Wenger's greatest humiliation
Martin Samuel: United shot Bambi and even Fergie felt the pain
Richard Williams: Shell-shocked Arsenal troops led by a general stripped of his virtue
Henry Winter: Arsenal's most humiliating result since the days when the Queen Vic was a monarch and not a pub
Paul Parker: Who would want to join Arsenal now?