Tag Archives: real madrid

The Great Manchester United Exodus Is Here. And About Time, Too.

Tomorrow is the last day of the summer transfer window, and the Great Manchester United Exodus is finally nani sportinggaining momentum. Last week, Luis Nani returned to Sporting Lisbon – though, thanks to Ed Woodward’s world-class negotiating, United still pays his wages. Earlier today, Shinji Kagawa re-signed for Borussia Dortmund. Javier Hernandez is about to complete a loan move to Real Madrid. Tom Cleverley looks set to join Aston Villa, where, hopefully, his “lack of ability and beady little eyes” won’t provoke quite so much outrage.

Woodward often delays important business until the end of the window. But I kind of doubt Arturo Vidal will leave Italian champions Juventus for a team that recently drew 0-0 with Burnley. So this year, my deadline-eve wish is rather modest. I want the long-overdue GMUE to keep rolling along.

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Five Transfer Headlines That Seem Important

Clint Dempsey to the Seattle Sounders: This transfer is pretty baffling. Clint Dempsey is in his prime. He plays dempsey seattlefor Tottenham Hotspur, which will qualify for next season’s Champions League. (You heard it here first.) He is a cult hero. So why did he decide to leave the Premier League?

I watch Major League Soccer regularly, manage an MLS fantasy team, and tolerate the incoherent bloviating of pundits like Alexi Lalas and Simon Borg. I am both an American soccer fan and a fan of American soccer. But I would love it (love it) if Dempsey stayed in England for a few more seasons.

Cesc Fabregas to Manchester United: Last month, Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward left the team’s Asia Tour to attend to “urgent business.” According to the English media, Woodward was finalizing a deal for Cesc Fabregas, who lost interest in Barcelona when it became clear that Xavi Hernandez has resilient knees. Needless to say, Fabregas hasn’t joined United – nor, for that matter, has anyone else. I’m increasingly certain that David Moyes and Woodward, who replaced the unpopular but devastatingly effective David Gill, have no idea what they’re doing.

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Cliches about Cliches: The Wrong Way to Cover the Summer Transfer Window

Last month, Rory Smith, a writer for ESPNFC, published an article titled “Cracking the Transfer Window Code.” higuainSmith bills the piece as “a public service announcement” that will “help us pick our way through the endless night of summer,” then makes a few tired jokes about British tabloids (don’t believe everything you read, kids) and the transfer-window vernacular (United remains hopeful, despite rumors that want-away striker Wayne Rooney has set his heart on a move to Chelsea).

The football media comprises two main groups: the mischievous news outlets that report transfer gossip as if it were fact, and the “serious” sites that run Jonathan Wilson articles and care about things like, you know, ethics. Most of the year, the serious sites are the only ones worth visiting: they feature stories about tactical trends and neurotic South American coaches, while the tabloids explore the minutiae of Cristiano Ronaldo’s love life.

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Barcelona is the Best and You Know It: Graham Hunter’s 400-page Fanzine

FC Barcelona’s world-famous academy is no longer based at “La Masia,” the endearingly decrepit farmhouse in which Lionel Messi of Barcelonamany of Barca’s homegrown players spent their formative years. In 2011, the club moved its training complex to the shiny, modern Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, which contains, among other things, an enormous sauna.

Over the last decade, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas have graduated from the old, La Masia-based academy, where they learned drills like rondo, a kind of monkey-in-the-middle game that promotes quick passing and intelligent pressing. The place was legendary; as Graham Hunter explains in Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, it had become a byword for Barcelona’s unique philosophy, its more-than-a-club-ness.

In another era, the relocation might have provoked an angry backlash. But in early 2011 – a couple of months away from its second Champions League title in three seasons, cruising in La Liga, scoring brilliant goals just about every game – Barca could do no wrong. Twenty-eleven was also the year newly elected president Sandro Rosell decided that the club’s long-standing refusal to negotiate a jersey sponsorship constituted financial suicide, and quickly struck a deal with a Qatari airline – but not many people complained about that decision, either.

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Why So Dull? The European Run-In

I once wasted a few minutes trying to convince some minor acquaintance that the 2010 World Cup final attracted RvPmore television viewers than the Super Bowl, and that therefore the World Cup is quantifiably better than the NFL play-offs. The argument approached yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t territory, and the fact that we both walked away more entrenched than ever in our respective positions says a lot about the stubbornness of sports geeks (and about arguments in general). Most serious[1] football fans are totally convinced that the sport they watch and love is superior to every other sport by every conceivable metric, and if you tell them they’re wrong, they get angry and defensive.

This is one reason so few football fans are discussing the Great Big Secret of 2012-13: for the first time in a long time, none of the five major European leagues has produced a genuinely exciting title run-in[2].

Earlier this month, Bayern Munich clinched the 2013 Bundesliga. In Spain, Barcelona is only a few games away from yet another trophy. Manchester United is strolling to title #20, and Juventus has surged clear at the summit of Serie A. In Ligue 1, nouveau riche Paris St. Germain is seven points ahead of its closest challenger.

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The Very Best Of Friends

It’s La Liga’s winter vacation, and Lionel Messi hasn’t scored a goal in more than two weeks. Which, after Messi’sbarca real era-defining, award-winning, 91-goal 2012, comes as a bit of a relief. He’s good, but enough already. Messi’s Barcelona is undefeated in the league, and with two Champions League titles, four La Liga championships and the odd Official FIFA Triumph[1] under its belt, the team is arguably (because these things are always arguable) the greatest of modern times.

At this point, the ins and outs of Barcelona’s recent history are common knowledge: how homegrown players like Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Puyol, Valdes, Pedro, Busquets and Messi gelled in Barca’s legendary academy; how Zlatan Ibrahimovich, one of the most talented players of his generation, simply couldn’t adjust to Barca’s selfless passing style and eventually fell out with Pep Guardiola (supposedly the nicest man in football, so the joke was definitely on Zlatan); how Spain, a perennial underachiever for most of its history, suddenly became world and European champions, thanks mostly to the same homegrown players (minus Messi) who boarded together as kids. It’s impossible to understand the last five years of football history without first understanding Barcelona. Since 2008, virtually everything that’s happened on the European football scene has happened because of Guardiola-era Barca.

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Ronaldo Recovers His Swagger

Cristiano Ronaldo is supposed to have it easy. He dates beautiful women, collects an exorbitant salary and plays professional football for Real Madrid. No one complains anymore about his arrogance or his theatrics. After another immense season, he’s earned the right to say and do what he wants. Yet Ronaldo somehow seems unfulfilled. A lurking suspicion remains that the Portuguese international just isn’t as good as he seems to be. On Thursday, those doubts grew when Ronaldo missed a series of gilt-edged chances in Portgual’s 3-2 victory over Denmark. In the white of Madrid, critics said, he would have scored at least twice.

Maybe all this has something to do with Ronaldo’s rival and footballing antithesis, Lionel Messi. If not for Messi, Ronaldo would, indisputably, be accounted the world’s most accomplished footballer. Instead, he’s an awfully talented narcissist defined by the one player who is better than he is. Indeed, for a player of his stature, Ronaldo has won relatively little – especially compared to his sparkling contemporaries. Messi and Barcelona’s other insufferable perfectionists have twice denied Ronaldo the Champions League — once when Ronaldo played for Manchester United and once when he played for Real Madrid. Xavi and Iniesta, neither a member of the pantheon to which Messi and Ronaldo belong, have each won more silverware than the Portuguese has.

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INFTH Book Review: All Or Nothing

At football’s European epicenter lies the world’s premier annual sporting competition. The Champions League shapes the
ambitions of clubs across the continent; all of them dreaming of the same ungainly, two-handled trophy. All or Nothing is the story of that tournament. The story of the teams, fans and players that make-up modern football’s most defining edifice.

Andy Brassell sets out to understand the Champions League’s transcendent influence on European club football, to examine how the tournament affects competitors big, small and in between. Unfortunately, Brassell’s account of one “season in the life of the Champions League” fails to compel. It’s not fresh, it’s not new and it’s not exciting. Moreover, only eight years after publication, it’s hopelessly out of date.

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INFTH Book Review: Morbo

Morbo. In the passionate world of Spanish football, where pigs’ heads fly from the stands and clubs take on quasi-political roles in the lives of millions, it is an undefinable source of intrigue which keeps the masses coming back for more. In his book, Phil Ball admits early on to the impossibility of clear translation, but nevertheless places the force at the center of his arguments. It is morbo, he writes, that is the essence of Spain’s national pastime. Morbo; the self-perpetuating, ever evolving creature which forms the hub of rivalries across the peninsula.

This view of the game – through the vitriolic, morbo ridden inter club relationships that make up Spanish professional football – is a novel one indeed. It treats football not so much as a tool for higher political wrangling, but as a phenomenon deserving of appreciation in its own right.

An expert in his field, Ball is an authoritative guide, one that understands the context of his subject. While consumption takes an appetite for basic politics, a sense of fun continually pervades; the one that keeps fans interested in football and readers interested in reading.

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