Friday, July 29, 2011

FC Barcelona tries — and fails — to practice near White House on National Mall in Washington

As team members congregated on the Mall near the White House, video and photos posted by Spanish media show a U.S. Park Police officer asking team members, “Who is the leader of this group?” According to players and media reports, the team was told it could not train there.

Fun's over -- back on the bus...literally.

Klinsmann Named New USA Boss

Jurgen Klinsmann has been appointed the new manager of the United States. Klinsmann had a distinguished playing career, highlighted by winning the World Cup in 1990 and European championship in 1996 with Germany, but has had only fleeting spells in management, first with Germany and later Bayern.

Billionaire bets on boys from Brazil to win peace in Dagestan

The floodlights are on, the stadium is packed, and the familiar stocky figure of Brazilian World Cup winner Roberto Carlos is galloping down the left wing. The strange thing about this scene is where it takes place – in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan. A chunk of mountainous land on the southern fringes of Russia, looking out on the Caspian Sea, in recent years Dagestan has been known mainly for its poverty and violence. The rumbling Islamic insurgency claims victims almost daily among policemen and government officials.

Brazil's booming optimism subdues World Cup cynicism despite doubts over 2014 hosts' preparedness

If anything can disperse the cynicism and distrust clouding Fifa’s choice of World Cup hosts, 48 hours spent in Rio suggests that the 2014 edition in Brazil should do the trick.

Manchester United Visit the White House -- Obama Too Busy

Touring Manchester United soccer players voiced their disappointment online Thursday after finding out US President Barack Obama was too busy to meet with them at the White House.

In Pictures

Where's your cigarette, Berba?

Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby ruled out for 10 weeks after surgery

The Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby has undergone an ankle operation and will be out of action for up to 10 weeks.

Friday MLS Forecast

The Forecast explains the potential impact of Bob Bradley's dismissal on the MLS hiring pool and talks with a few All-Stars about this weekend's matches and their sides.

The Forecast is hot!!

Tim Vickery: Kun can charm City's fanbase

The sun is rising at Eastlands as "Kun" brings his special talent to Manchester City.

Kun is the nickname of Sergio Aguero, the Argentine striker who in the last few days has become the latest of City's South American signings - and potentially the best.

The Atlético fans are not happy...

The Mill +

Friday's Rumours


The Joy of Six: Football on YouTube

The Rest

Argentina names Sabella head coach

Argentina on Thursday appointed Alejandro Sabella as national team coach to replace sacked Sergio Batista, the federation's general secretary Jose Luis Meiszner announced.

"The decision has been taken. Sabella is the choice," Meiszner told official news agency Telam.

Second from the right...

That Neymar Goal

U.S. Soccer: Bob Bradley Fired

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati announced today that Bob Bradley has been relieved of his duties as the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Grant Wahl: Bradley era ends as U.S. stagnates

Martin Rogers: Klinsmann may finally be next U.S. soccer coach
Martin Rogers: Gold Cup loss was final nail for Bradley

Steve Davis: New coach won't lack for tasks

Malaysia apologizes for Benayoun abuse

The Football Association of Malaysia didn’t admit the abuse occurred, but said Friday, “if such an incident did happen, we would like to apologize to the player … and also to Chelsea FC.”

James Dall: Off the Ball

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Neuchatel Xamax's owner continues his sacking ways, Gary Neville is dubbed the "best ever", Mario Balotelli incurs Roberto Mancini's wrath, Sergio Aguero isn't the Che Guevara of football and Paul Sturrock likes Wheatus.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fulham captain Danny Murphy admits lack of excitement for Europa League

Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy admits it is hard to get excited about today's Europa League third-qualifying-round tie at RNK Split.

The 34-year-old won the competition a decade ago with Liverpool but today faces a first leg tie against Croatian minnows Split, who finished third in the top flight last season after successive promotions from the fourth tier.

Chelsea object to 'antisemitic' abuse of Yossi Benayoun in Malaysia

Chelsea have lodged a formal complaint with the Malaysian Football Association alleging that the club's Israel midfielder Yossi Benayoun was the subject of antisemitic abuse during last week's friendly in Kuala Lumpur.

Large sections of the 84,980 crowd at the Bukit Jalil national stadium booed and jeered Benayoun's every touch in Chelsea's 1-0 victory over a Malaysian XI. The 30-year-old, one of the first Israelis to play in the country, did not complain at the time and was substituted at the interval along with all the starting XI. Malaysia, which is 60% Muslim and strongly supports the Palestinian people, does not recognise Israel and maintains no diplomatic ties with the state.

Jon Carter: Rewind to 2005

Having thrown away the 2004-05 Scottish title in the final two minutes against Motherwell on the last day of the season, Martin O'Neill's reign at Celtic ended on a high with victory in the Scottish Cup. However his successor, Gordon Strachan, could not have asked for a worse start to his tenure at Parkhead as his side faced Slovakian champions Artmedia Bratislava on July 27, 2005 in the Second Round of Champions League qualifying.

The Mill +

Thursday's Rumours


Sid Lowe in Spain

The Argentinian striker has been compared to Romário and is poised to be the master of invention at Manchester City.

Sergio Agüero is so much more than Carlos Tevez Mark 2.

Premier League Transfer Table - Who is winning the window?

In lieu of any actual football the summer break can be a confusing time. Are Norwich really better than Spurs, as the current alphabetical table suggests? Is QPR's Kieron Dyer a classy Premier League operator, or someone who loves lying on physiotherapy tables and being massaged? And is Gervinho a classic-era Wenger find from the ether, or a post-injury Eduardo clone?

All of these questions will be answered in time (for the record the answers are: no, the latter and the latter) but in the meantime one thing we can judge the league on is club's acquisitions to date.

Using a proudly subjective and patently unfair scoring system we will assess each side's signings and provide a league table which doesn't have that lonely pre-season filled with zeroes look .

A transfer rating will be awarded, with points earned as follows:

Friendly: MLS All-Stars 0-4 Manchester United

After pledging his short-term future to Manchester United, Dimitar Berbatov served notice he intends to fight his way back into Sir Alex Ferguson's good books with an excellent performance in a one-sided romp over the MLS All-Stars.

Rooney sets up 2 goals, Manchester United dominates MLS All-Stars.

Ives: All-Star format needs overhaul

Player Ratings

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fire Sign Pardo and Bobbie Rants

As covered earlier in this blog, the mid-season cash spinning barnstorming tours by the giants of Europe (Man Utd, Barca), the wish-they-were giants of Europe (Man City) and the minnows of England (West Brom) are a somewhat unwelcome distraction.

President Bush inspects the Fire's new midfielder/marketing plan

It's routine to see players taking it easy in league matches to save their legs for the friendlies and we even saw Vancouver cancel a league match so that they could stage a friendly. It's annoying, it's a distraction and it inevitably paints a picture of MLS as a league that's not very serious about its own product.

A second is the MLS roster revamp. Because it's so absurdly easy to get into the playoffs, many GMs around the league feel content to build a provisional squad for the first half of the season with an eye toward adding a big name or some cheap talent once the summer transfer window opens. In theory this seems like a fine idea but more often than not players show up out of shape and are coming off of a 6-8 week break, then have to play themselves into shape while adjusting to the pace of the league and learning how to combine with their new teammates. More often than not there's not much to show for the effort until the middle of August, or in the case of last year's mega-bust Nery Castillo, he never gets it together and ends up eating a whole bunch of salary while producing nothing.

Chicago Fire Technical Director and Head Coach Frankie Klopas is perhaps the most guilty of this routine. The last few years have seen an incomplete roster to start the season built with the idea of adding a star at mid-season. Castillo was the most spectacular failure, but Brian McBride arrived exhausted and injured from the Olympics in 2008 and Freddie Ljundberg, while arriving fit, also came so late in the season that by the time he was playing well with his teammates the season was a lost cause. Only his mid-season addition of Cuauthemoc Blanco has worked for him.

Well, Frankie's done it again. The team announced the signature of Sebastian Grazzini, a journeyman Argentine playmaking midfielder, at the beginning of July and he finally made it on to the pitch for a 30 minute cameo against Man United on Saturday. He took some nice touches while looking a bit lost and unfit. His last competitive action came in early May after being used lightly by his Argentine club through the spring. Yesterday the Fire announced the signature of Mexican International and star Pavel Pardo through the end of the season. Pardo is a player of vast experience and skill who has performed at a high level in the Mexican league and in Germany as well as for the national team. However he's 35 years old and his last competitive action came at the beginning of May. He also plays a position, defensive midfielder, currently held by club captain Logan Pause, which isn't really an area of urgent need on the field. Now Klopas is expecting Pardo to get into shape, form a partnership with Grazzini and the rest of the club all while getting results on the field in the hope of making the playoffs. You could say it's an ambitious plan or just a foolish one. And the best part? He and Grazzini are only signed through the end of the season so we likely get to do this all again next summer.

So here's my message for management in MLS: we fans care about regular season games, namely winning them. We like to win in April as much as September and the points have the same value. It's cute and fun to watch your team get its ass kicked by the superstars playing 30 minutes at half speed while your fans deal with condescending fucks who feel that soccer's something to be watched on TV or live every 3 years when your nominal favorite team comes to down, but the priority should always be to build a strong team from the start of the season and take your regular season games seriously. And now that I'm done pissing into the wind I'll go change my pants.

Funny Photograph

Africa Report: Bin Hammam and Liberian girls

Mohammed Bin Hammam got a lifetime Fifa ban, but why is the Qatari causing angst in... Liberia? And what is this about four Spanish referees in charge of the Mali Cup?

It's all in this week's Africa Report.

Steve Kean's Blackburn recruitment drive needs action, not words

Unless the Blackburn Rovers manager backs up his transfer claims with new faces, the club will struggle next season.

Major League Soccer's Summer Sideshow Problem

For the past three summers, big-name European teams have been coming to the United States for preseason exhibition matches against each other and MLS teams. Problem is, MLS squads have started to become the Washington Generals to the European teams’ Harlem Globetrotters - a sideshow to the main attraction. And it’s not helping their cause - on the field or off.

And so, the time has come to pull Major League Soccer out of this carnival, and leave the friendlies to the teams that should actually be playing them: namely, those not in the middle of their season.

Major League Soccer: All Star Game Previews

David Beckham didn’t need to be educated about Manchester United’s motivation heading into Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game at Red Bull Arena. The L.A. Galaxy star, capped 115 times for England’s national team, expected the English Premier League champions to come out full blast against his All-Star teammates. “When you play at that level,” Beckham said, “you approach every game the same—to win. Man U didn’t come here to have a nice holiday and run around the field. They want to get their fitness up and they’re playing to win.”

Steve Davis: 10-Point Primer

Georgina Turner: United impress on tour in the U.S., though midfield questions remain

Most Beautiful Footballer Players All The Time

Top Ten Cute Sexy Hot Football Players For Female soccer fans

Frankie Hejduk = Not on the Most Beautiful Footballer Player list...

The Mill +

Wednesday's Rumours


Manchester City set to complete Sergio Aguero transfer

Argentina striker Sergio Aguero has arrived in Manchester to complete his move to Manchester City after they agreed a fee with Atletico Madrid. The 23-year-old frontman is reported to have agreed terms on a five-year deal, with the fee thought to be about £38m.

Aguero Tweeted: "Just arrived in Manchester to finalise details of deal with City. Everything is going well."

Europe's top clubs threaten FIFA revolt

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chairman of the European Club Association (ECA), has called for a club-led "revolution" against the "corrupt people" who govern football and called for his members to have a say in Fifa's decision-making process.

The 55-year-old chief executive officer of Bayern Munich said he despaired at what he described as the "daily corruption process at Fifa" and asked the footballing authorities "to recognise that it's time for democracy, transparency and the right balance in the football family".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On tour with Manchester City: It's not pants to see Beckham in the locker room

One of the highlights of a week in California has definitely been the chance to see David Beckham in his pants.

It has never been an ambition of mine to see Beckham in his undies but last week I was grateful. It’s all about media access, you see.

In England we used to loiter in car parks and hang about at training grounds in order to interview footballers. These days we need to make appointments through press officers and agents and often are required to plug a sponsor or a community event in order to hear a player talk about how much he likes scoring goals.

In America things are different, though. At the end of the game you wander downstairs and walk straight in to the ‘locker room’.

Mario Balotelli: the life and times of Manchester City’s Italian bad boy

Telegraph Sport looks back at the eventful time Mario Balotelli has had since his arrival at Manchester City.

The Mill +

Tuesday's Rumours


A summer of discontent for Queens Park Rangers and Neil Warnock

What kind of club do you think would provoke these kinds of comments on message boards?

"I've had my fill tonight of the club, they can fck off."

"I have mates who support other teams asking me if I am looking forward to this season and I tell them I don't want to talk about it because I am so depressed about the current situation."

"We've been fleeced as fans, the manager has been taken for a ride and the club's name has been continually dragged through the dirt IMO."

"Whenever I think about the shambles they have turned us into I feel like spouting off. There literally is so much material. I find it hard just to accept it and get on with things."

"I refuse to be part of their willful destruction of our club whilst paying through the nose for the privilege."

Steve Davis on MLS

Know your Major League Soccer --

Five things we learned from Week 19:

Batista fired as Argentina coach

Sergio Batista has been dismissed as Argentina coach following a disastrous Copa America in which a team of stars led by Lionel Messi managed only one victory.

Batista, who took over a year ago, was Argentina's fourth coach in five years and had the same problem as his predecessor Diego Maradona: little tactical experience and an inability to get superstars to play as a team rather than as individuals.

Uli Hesse in Germany

Four weeks ago, my column about relocating to a football diaspora mentioned the North German club Holstein Kiel and noted in passing that their fans and players are known as the 'Storks'. The resourceful Soccernet editors thereupon illustrated the piece with a picture of the club's mascot, a stork called Stolle, which prompted a reader to remark: "I would have guessed Holstein Kiel's mascot to be a cow." He meant no disrespect, I hasten to explain. Kiel, as noted, is in Schleswig-Holstein, hence the club's official name, and that region is famous for a breed of cattle - the Holstein or Holstein-Friesian cow, if you must know.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Meet the new Bergkamp

Well before he put pen to paper and signed for newly promoted Brighton, Roland Bergkamp knew what to expect. Famous name, chip off old block, let's see how he compares with great uncle Dennis. That sort of thing.

England: Can Moyes the magician conjure up another miracle season for Everton?

Calling all Evertonians.

Roll up, roll up to see the Magnificent Moyesie perform his magic trick at Goodison Park yet again! Be amazed as without having spent any money again this summer he attempts to challenge for Europe and claim a few big scalps along the way. Marvel at how he takes players and wrings every last drop of talent and ability out of them. Be astonished as he pulls another white rabbit out of his hat to follow in the long tradition of Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Jack Rodwell, Stephen Pienaar, Mikel Arteta and Seamus Coleman.

The Mill +

Monday's Rumours


Monday MLS Breakdown

Henry and Shea continue their tussle for MVP honors: MLS MVP contenders Thierry Henry and Brek Shea tangled over the weekend as FC Dallas and New York dueled at Red Bull Arena.


Tony Adams is still relishing his Azerbaijan adventure

Tony Adams hardly made the most auspicious of starts. Thousands of miles from home and in a tiny town that he surely had not heard of at the beginning of last year, he watched his ticket to managerial redemption threaten to flutter away. After three matches of the Azerbaijani league season, Gabala FC had failed to pick up a point.The reaction in England was predictable.

If there had been general incomprehension that Adams, the former Arsenal and England titan, had signed an initial three-year contract at a footballing outpost, then it moved to derision in some quarters.

Copa América: Final Reports & Analyses

Uruguay won the Copa America for a record 15th time after beating Paraguay 3-0 on Sunday from two goals by Diego Forlan and another from Luis Suarez. Suarez scored in the 12th minute while Forlan hit the target in the 42nd and final minute of the match.

Jonathan Wilson:
Tabarez the driving force behind Uruguay's rise to soccer greatness

Tim Vickery:
Future bright for Copa kings Uruguay

Jonathan Wilson:
Uruguay's Copa América triumph ushers in another golden age

Three Things We Learned


Aston Villa Agree N'Zogbia Fee

Aston Villa have re-opened talks with Wigan regarding Charles N'Zogbia and have agreed a £9.5million fee. Having seen a £9million bid knocked back earlier in the summer, Villa are prepared to raise the stakes and have put an improved package to the Latics.

Mario Makes Football Fun

It took just a few seconds for Mario Balotelli's latest bizarre act to go viral. He swiftly trended on Twitter as links to the now-famous video clip peppered timelines across the globe. I duly clicked, watched, chortled. Then Tweeted on it myself. But when the dust had settled, though, there appeared to be quite the animosity towards the Manchester City striker for his actions. Why?