Tag Archives: ronaldo

Five Years Later, Manchester United Is Finally Taking Wayne Rooney’s Advice

In October 2010, Wayne Rooney announced he was leaving Manchester United because rooney applausethe club could no longer attract star players in the transfer market. “I met with [United chief executive] David Gill last week, and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad,” Rooney said. The news of Rooney’s impending departure triggered a frightening reaction: A mob of 40 fans clad in hoods and balaclavas gathered outside the gates of his Cheshire mansion, chanting insults and waving banners.

Rooney’s concerns were completely legitimate; he just wasn’t the right person to voice them. Since losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, United had missed out on almost all of their top transfer targets: Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Wesley Sneijder. The fans who showed up at Rooney’s house were members of the Continuity Manchester Education Committee, a group of vigilante-activists who fought to prevent the Glazer family’s controversial 2005 takeover. They almost certainly shared Rooney’s apprehension about the club’s future. But Rooney – still recovering from a series of dreadful performances at the World Cup, as well as the public embarrassment of his second major sex scandal – lacked the moral authority to speak truth to the Glazers. (The tabloid rumors linking him with a big-money transfer to Manchester City didn’t help.)

Rooney eventually decided to stay at Old Trafford, thanks to the persuasive magic of a 160K-a-week contract offer. But his complaints about United’s transfer business marked a significant chapter in the club’s ongoing transition to the world of post-Sir Alex Ferguson soccer.

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In The Shadow of Cristiano

Manchester United supporters never came up with a catchy chant to celebrate the nani ronaldopowerful long-distance shooting and intermittently successful step-overs of Portuguese international Luis Nani. But that didn’t stop fans from yelling Nani’s name. A few seasons ago, one exasperated season-ticket holder, seated close enough to the television microphones that his cheering occasionally interrupted live broadcasts, would shout “Come on, Nani, lad!” when the winger conceded possession.

United fans spent most of Nani’s Old Trafford career exhorting him to improve – to score important goals, to commit fewer fouls, to be more like Cristiano Ronaldo. After signing in 2007, Nani produced enough highlights to fill an average-length YouTube montage – the showboating against Arsenal, the back-flip celebrations, the Champions League penalty conversion – without ever establishing himself as the dominant attacking force Sir Alex Ferguson had thought he would become. Yesterday Nani, who spent last season on loan at Sporting Lisbon, left United for Turkish club Fenerbahce. No one seems to care that much.

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The Obsolescence of Javier Hernandez

The immediate consequence of the broken collarbone that Mexican striker Javier hernandez collarbone“Chicharito” Hernandez sustained on Wednesday is bad enough: at this month’s Concacaf Gold Cup, a regional tournament that almost always culminates in a hotly contested USA-Mexico final, Mexico will compete without its most prolific goal scorer. ESPN columnist Andrea Canales called the injury a “cruel setback” for the Mexican team, which hasn’t won any of its last seven games.

But Chicharito’s long-term prospects – his chances of securing regular first-team soccer at a top European club – look even worse. Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal has never seemed particularly interested in him, and Chicharito struggled for playing time last season during a loan spell at Real Madrid. In June, ESPN tweeted that Major League Soccer owners “are looking for a mechanism” to bring Chicharito to the United States. (One commenter suggested an airplane.)

Sebastian Giovinco’s transfer to Toronto last January showed that MLS is fast becoming a realistic option for big-name players in their mid-20s. Still, the rumors linking Chicharito to Orlando City FC, among other MLS clubs, constitute a harsh verdict on his recent form – and on his distinctive brand of old-fashioned forward play.

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Go Easy on Neymar

One year ago today, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez transformed an otherwise uneventful neymar headbuttround of World Cup play – two relatively boring games, one of which featured the already-eliminated English national team – into a global referendum on biting.

In the second half of Uruguay’s group-stage match against Italy, television cameras caught Suarez nibbling the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who later tweeted a picture of the bite marks. “These are just things that happen out on the pitch,” Suarez said after the game. “It was just the two of us inside the area, and he bumped into me with his shoulder.” (He has since grudgingly admitted that his collision with Chiellini led to the “physical result of a bite.”) The international sports media rushed to denounce Suarez. In the Daily Mail, a reliable source of sanctimonious soccer analysis, Ian Ladyman argued that Suarez “has a dangerous mind that can never be rewired.” Deadspin’s Billy Haisley dedicated nearly 2000 words to Suarez’s long history of “acting like a shithead.” FIFA banned Suarez for nine games, ruling him out of the 2015 Copa America, which kicked off earlier this month in Chile.

Memories of #bitegate came flooding back last week, after another high-profile indiscretion triggered yet more media outrage. On Thursday, Brazilian superstar Neymar was sent off for head-butting Colombia’s Jeison Murillo in the aftermath of his country’s 1-0 Copa America loss to Colombia. According to tournament officials, in the tunnel after the game, Neymar confronted the referee who had sent him off, fuming, “You want to make yourself famous at my expense, you son of a bitch?” The Mail mocked Neymar’s “red card shame.” Columnists lined up to denounce his “petulance” and “immaturity.” CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, suspended Neymar for four games, which means he will miss the rest of the Copa America.

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Why Isn’t Wayne Rooney Considered A Great Player?

Wayne Rooney recently earned his 100th England cap in a European Championship Manchester United v Manchester Cityqualifier at Wembley Stadium. He scored in that game, and then netted another two goals in a friendly against Scotland, putting him within reach of Bobby Charlton’s England goal-scoring record. At club level, Rooney has won five Premier League titles, a Champions League, several domestic cups, and a handful of individual awards. And yet many pundits insist that, despite his prodigious talent, he will never join the pantheon of footballing greats.

Rooney’s detractors emphasize a few key criticisms. He has repeatedly underperformed at the World Cup. He has endured long goal-scoring droughts. He can’t control his temper. He smokes cigarettes and eats unhealthy food. But the real reason Rooney hasn’t achieved greatness – or, at least, the kind of greatness pundits recognize – is the same reason he continues to be one of the most interesting players in world football.

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How Do You Say “Laser-gate” In Russian?

Fabio Capello has blamed Russia’s embarrassing exit from the 2014 World Cup on the meddlesome fan who akinfeev laserpointed a laser at keeper Igor Akinfeev’s face mere seconds before Islam Slimani headed the goal that sent Algeria to the next round. “You can see that in the footage,” Capello said after the game. “This is not an excuse – it is a fact.”

The laser incident isn’t the first time a fan has tried to hobble a player at this year’s tournament. Earlier this month, Ghanaian witch doctor Nana Kwaku Bonsam (aka Devil of Wednesday) claimed he placed a curse on Cristiano Ronaldo’s knee. Ronaldo started all three of Portugal’s games, but he played poorly and scored only one goal. That’s a fact. You can see it in the footage.

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A Few Words About Fox’s Coverage of La Decima

During the buildup to yesterday’s Champions League final, as the always-rousing official UEFA anthem played gus johnson againand Ronaldo winked mischievously at the camera, I thought to myself: This is completely ridiculous. The dancers, the banners, the beer ads, the #riskeverything hashtag, the Portuguese guys dressed as sailors – the whole pre-game spectacle.

And then Fox cut to its Los Angeles studio – to Warren Barton, Rob Stone and Brad Friedel, who should have known better – and I soon found myself pining for more bad Euro pop, more weird dancing and more Heineken commercials.

Before the game, I hoped that Fox’s studio crew, or even its dumb-and-dumber commentary team, would produce something more than the usual platitudes about “the rivalry aspect” of a match featuring two teams from the same city. I hoped that someone at Fox would delve into the complex political history of Real and Atletico and that Stone would stop calling the kickoff “the kick.” Alas, my hopes were disappointed. In a dull pregame montage, Real and Atletico fans talked about how excited they were. After Sergio Ramos’ equalizer, Barton, whose lengthy career heading balls in the Premier League explains a lot, noted that “the pendulum [had] turned” in Real Madrid’s favor.

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What’s Happened to Manchester United?

The manager: It seems almost inconceivable now, but nine months ago the media loved David Moyes. David Moyes believes Manchester United need to sign 'one or two' playersFourFourTwo published a fawning profile. Columnists praised him for guiding Everton to fifth place. And in a fit of enthusiasm, an Israeli newspaper erroneously claimed he was Jewish.

Since then, it has become increasingly clear that for all his accomplishments at Goodison Park – and I’m not convinced there were quite as many as some people think – Moyes is neither charismatic enough to inspire a dressing room full of bloated egos nor courageous enough to put his best attacking players in the same XI. Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie, and Mata would probably form a dangerous, flexible attacking unit, but Moyes, whose Everton team won plenty of games but never threatened to entertain anybody, isn’t interested.

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It’s Like Watching Brazil!

The 1970 World Cup was almost a religious experience. The tournament has gone down in football history as the greatest, most exhilarating exhibition of attacking play ever, and anyone who dares to say otherwise, or so the argument goes, is either “too young to remember” or “too fickle to be taken seriously.” This was the stage on which Brazil’s legendary striker Pele redefined the game, playing football with more exuberance and creativity than anyone before or since. It was the moment when the cult of the Brazilian – football’s worship of anyone with decent ball skills and a life story that starts with kicking soda cans in a favela – took root.

When non-football fans think about football, they generally think about Brazil. That has a lot to do with Pele, arguably the best player of all-time, and – largely because he devoted the last three or four years of his career to self-promotion – a recognizable star. People still love him even though, in the years since 1977, when his playing career formally ended with his second retirement, he’s demonstrated just how banal a retired athlete with guaranteed lifetime fame and a cushy administrative position can be. His post-career achievements include winning FIFA’s Player of the Century gong amid controversy – it took official intervention to stop Diego Maradona from walking away with the title – and deflecting criminal charges after his company robbed UNICEF. Still, clips of his greatest goals are a must for any TV montage worth its salt, and the image of a shirtless Pele lifting the World Cup is one of football’s most iconic.

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Reflecting on the Euros: Team of the Tournament

So that’s it for this summer’s football entertainment. Once again, the streamers were red and yellow. Those who dared to question tiki-taka were well and truly silenced. All is as it should be. A month of tedious transfer gossip is just around the corner.

By the way, here’s my team of the tournament (playing a trendy 4-2-3-1 formation):

GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)- It’s not enough just to stand in between the goalposts, popcorn at the ready, and watch your defenders effortlessly repel opposition forwards. That’s why Iker Casillas didn’t get my pick. Buffon was consistently impressive throughout Italy’s ultimately unsuccessful run, saving Ashley Cole’s penalty in the quarterfinal shootout and making several important stops against Germany. Spain’s four goals weren’t his fault.

LB: Jordi Alba (Spain)- Arguably the best defender at Euro 2012. Alba is a distinctively modern fullback, fit enough to play a significant role in both penalty areas. In the final, he took his goal with the poise of a natural finisher, and the run that preceded it showcased his speed and timing. With Alba rampaging up the left flank, Barcelona should be better than ever next season.

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