With the financial demands on Europe’s top clubs, there’s an ever-intensifying demand for every last pound or euro to be wrung from operations. This has led to domestic mid-winter breaks, ostensibly to avoid the worst of the seasonal weather conditions and offer a break to players and staff, to now become opportunities for lucrative mini-tours to far-flung countries to boost support and promote commercial opportunities. Such enterprises can however have a negative effect, as Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich recently discovered. Continue reading →
In the modern game, the term ‘player power’ has come to be used to describe a process wherein a player’s wish to leave a club can be made real, even if his employers may not want to lose him. Any reference to a contract of course is purely incidental. Once a player’s head is turned, by the lure of loads more lucre or the tantalising glitter of silverware, club’s faced with the alternatives of keeping a dissatisfied player or cashing in, usually take the latter as the least bad option.
There is another element to this however, where player power manifests itself in a battle of wills between the manager and a particular player nominally under his charge. Some have painted such a picture with regard to the relationship between Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard. Continue reading →
Once described as a ‘hot shot’ forward, and a player that both Manchester United and Arsenal were likely to battle over in a £15million bidding war, Serbian-born Germany international Marko Marin, eventually decided to join Chelsea instead. To say it was a move that hasn’t quite worked out well would, however, be an understatement. As the winger joins his third club on loan from Stamford Bridge, his appearances for the Blues remain stuck at a paltry half-dozen, without much prospect of that changing any time soon. A loan move to Anderlecht has now been announced. Continue reading →
Not only has the city of Milan been dominated by a succession of empires, with the Romans, Spanish and French all having claimed dominion over the capital of Lombardy, powerful families have also held sway there. The Viscontis were deemed ‘lords of Milan’ from the late thirteenth century through to the middle fifteenth, and the Sforza family later took up this control around the Renaissance period. Nothing is for ever though. Empires crumble and families wither, and a similar fate appears to have befallen the city’s two football clubs. Once dominant in Serie A with an imperial strut to their performances, both AC Milan and Internazionale appear to be in decline, and the Berlusconi and Moratti families whose respective ownership of the Milanese clubs has identified them over recent years, appear to be following a following a similar pattern. Continue reading →
As long as ten years ago, the World Cup in 2014 was ordained as the time Freddie Adu would prove himself to be a truly global star. Way back in 2004, the Ghanian-born American signed a professional contract with MLS club DC United at just 14 years of age. Adu had been playing against opponents twice, or even three times his age for years, drawing flattering comparisons with Brazilian legend, Pele. In the land of hype and the home of celebrity, the youngster was primed to be America’s first superstar soccer player – and 2014, when he would be 24 – was to be his coming out party. Well, that was the theory anyway. Although the USA team certainly enhanced its reputation during the Brazil tournament, Adu was not there; the ghost at his own party.
When West Bromwich Albion dispensed with the services of Alan Irvine, just before the turn of the year, they wasted precious little time in appointing Tony Pulis as their new manager. The former Stoke City and Crystal Palace boss was bound to be in demand about this time of the season as chairmen of struggling sides sought salvation with the man who transformed Palace’s fortunes last season. If, after two successive victories under Pulis however, Baggies fans thought that all would be sweetness and light under the new regime, the rapid exit of Paul Jewell from Pulis’s entourage will have quickly disavowed them of such a belief.
As well as being a former Newcastle United, Tottenham and Aston Villa midfielder, David Ginola, was also known for advertising a certain brand of shampoo on TV. I’m not sure how much he was paid for his services on that particular enterprise, but I’m sure he was worth it. Ouch, sorry about that, just too big a temptation to resist though. The flamboyant footballer now however appears to have thrown his hat into the ring for the populist post of being the man who ousted Sepp Blatter from Fifa. Or has he? Continue reading →
Of course it’s an age thing, but doesn’t everyone look back through rose-tinted glasses to wallow in a bit of nostalgia from time-to-time. The thing is though, that with all of the current unsavoury issues swirling around the game, there’s a distinct attraction to hark back to a time when everything seemed so much simpler. Systemic corruption, the ‘loadsamoney’ attitude at the heart of the game and unedifying equations about the relative importance of results and morals all conspire to make football a fickle mistress to fall in love with. Flaming passions tinged with infidelity. It wasn’t always so, however. Continue reading →
When you’ve been following the ‘beautiful game’ as long as I have, you’ve seen a few World Cup tournaments. I think I remember elements of Chile 1962, but can definitely do so with the one that followed four later as England were crowned as champions of the world. The downside of this of course means that I’ve also seen some skulduggery of the lowest order in the four yearly event that should present the highest standards of the game.
The genius of Maradona was sullied when when he punched Argentina past England and then was banished as a drug cheat in the 1994 tournament. Harold Schumacher assaulted French full back Patrick Battiston with a malice that may have earned a prison sentence had it occurred anywhere but on a football pitch. And then Luis Suarez reprised his dental belligerence by biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in last year’s tournament.
For conspiracy and mass inclusion however, there’s one instance that stands out, and it involved neither violence or cheating per se. No-one was banned. Indeed both of the ‘guilty’ parties progressed in the tournament, and the only injuries and damage were to broken hearts and shattered dreams. It occurred in the 1982 tournament in Spain – the very same event where Schumacher displayed an aggression well beyond the pale, but on this occasion the problem was a lack of aggression, rather than a surfeit of it. Continue reading →