So, here’s a question for you? Who do you think had scored the most goals in international football? Pelé? Nope, not even close. Ronaldo? Closer, but no cigar. Ferenc Puskás I hear some of the more ‘mature’ voices claim. Well, not quite, although he was the record holder until 2003. Continue reading →
On the first day of September 2001, England travelled to Munich to face old adversaries Germany in a World Cup qualifying game. Within six minutes of kick-off, the Hertha Berlin midfielder Sebastian Deisler had carved open England’s defence with an exquisitely crafted chip that was nodded down by Oliver Neuville for Carsten Jancker to put the home team ahead. Not only did the goal suggest that Germans were on the road to victory, it also underscored the promise that Deisler, the latest German Wunderkind, could deliver on the prophases of Franz Beckenbauer who had described the 21-year-old as “physically and technically the best in Germany”, and national coach Rudi Völler who asserted that Deisler would be “influential for Germany for another 10 years.” As things turned however, Germany collapsed under the weight of a crushing 1-5 defeat, and by the age of 27, Deisler’s career was over. A promise unfulfilled. Continue reading →
Featuring the likes of Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjær, the Danish team at the 1986 World Cup with jet-heeled strikers and elegant midfielders played such a dynamic and explosive game that they were lauded as the Danish Dynamite. Some years later, Thomas Gravesen would earn a similar appellation, but for an entirely different reason. Continue reading →
It’s probably the most famous club game in the history of football. The 1960 European Cup Final, played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. You know the one. It was the game when the might of Real Madrid secured their fifth successive title as Champions of Europe under new manager Miguel Munoz. The former Bernabeu midfielder had joined the club on 13th April 1960, just over a month ahead of the final. He would be at the helm of Los Blancos for almost 14 years, winning nine La Liga titles, twice triumphing in the Copa del Rey and landing two European Cups, as well as one Intercontinental Cup. It was the game when legendary striker Alfredo Di Stefano struck a hat-trick, but was outgunned by the ‘Galloping Major’ Ferenc Puskas who netted four times. It was the game when legends were born. It was the game when a crowd of some 127,621 officially attended the game, but for years afterwards, many more would have claimed to have done so. Everyone wanted to say that they were there at the game where Real Madrid received their coronation as the best club side on the planet.
I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Thomas Tuchel at the time, but a while ago, he was linked with a move to take over at Aston Villa. After a little research, it quickly became clear that Tuchel was not, as perhaps Jose Mourinho may say, ‘one from the bottle.’ Here was a coach who had a different approach. Someone who had a penchant for engendering respect among his squad, with a novel approach practice sessions, and who had experienced working under the influential Ralf Rangnick. It seemed an inspired appointment if it had taken place. Tuchel had taken unfashionable Mainz to the top level of German football, and even at one stage had them sitting atop of the Bundesliga. I’ve also seen it reported that in the five year period running up to the end of the 2013-14 only three Bundesiga cubs had gained more points than the small club from Rhineland-Palatinate. There seemed the germs of a good story, so I made a few notes and thought I’d progress it when – or if – the appointment happened. It didn’t and as other events took prominence they sat in a virtual folder gradually accumulating virtual dust. Continue reading →
Back at the turn of the year, SkyBet rated Derby County head coach and former England boss, Steve McClaren, at 16/1 to take over at Newcastle United this summer. When Alan Pardew decamped to Crystal Palace to be the South London club’s second coming of Tony Pulis, it left a gap at St James Park that John Carver, for all his earnest endevours, never looked likely to fill in the long term. Other betting sites had MacClaren as far out as 22/1 to become the Magpies’ boss. If you took those odds you may well be sitting in the pound seats now, as currently, some bookies make the former Wembley umbrella salesman as short as 4/6. Continue reading →
OK, here’s a quick quiz question. Name the striker with the best goal-scoring record this calendar year – and I’ll give you five guesses. Cristiano Ronaldo, you say. No. What about Messi. Well, no. He’s scored most goals, but his goals per game ratio is far inferior. Aguero? Nope. Costa. Nope. last guess. What about Ibrahimovich then? Er, no. I’m afraid not. I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t a trick. I’m not looking for the name of a player from the third division of the Albanian league. This guy plys his trade in the Bundesliga, but he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich. Give up Currently, Europe’s most prolific striker plays for Wolfsburg and goes by the name of Bas Dost. Continue reading →
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 →
On the 25th May last year, Borussia Dortmund came with an ace of taking the Champions League crown and being regarded as the best team on the continent. Just as with the final of Europe’s premier club competition, the same was true of the Bundesliga, as the Westphalian club had finished as runners-up to Bayern Munich. Their coach, Jurgen Klopp, was very much flavour of the month and was linked with a number of top jobs in the Premier League. Now, just over 18 months later, after 16 games of the new season, and Bayern again cantering to the Bundesliga title, Dortmund lie in a relegation spot at the foot of the table, a single point above the bottom club. It all begs the question: ‘What went wrong? Continue reading →
Jose Mourinho’s rampant Chelsea squad top the Premier League with a number of opposition managers already apparently prepared to write off the title race with less than a dozen games played. Whether that’s more than a mite premature is something that will be revealed over time. For Blues’ fans however, it seems the ‘Special One’ can do no wrong. The summer transfer market saw the arrival of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, already two stellar names in the club’s performance to date, plus the redoubtable tyro goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Brazilian Felipe Luis who is already offering genuine competition to Cesar Azpilicueta on the left flank of Chelsea’s defence. Add this to big money sales of David Luiz and Romelu Lukaku that balanced the books with an eye to FFP, and it’s bordering on genius dealings. Back in January however, Mourinho countenanced the sale of player who, current statistics reveal, is at the top of the creativity stakes in European football.
Everyone can be wise after the event of course, but back In January, accepting a £18million bid from Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg for Belgian wide player Kevin de Bruyne appeared eminently sound business. The player had after all cost a mere £7million when Chelsea secured is services from Genk. Although now distant from the blandishments and promptings of Mourinho, de Bruyne has however had an exceptional start to the season, and currently is the main reason why unfancied Wolfsburg are tucked nicely into second place in the Bundesliga, behind perennial champions Bayern Munich. Continue reading →