Tag Archives: liverpool

Manchester City: Where Young English Players Go To Die

On Wednesday, Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling skipped his team’s daily training sterlingsession, supposedly because he felt ill. “Sterling is now set to be assessed by a club doctor, as is standard practice at Liverpool when there are doubts regarding a player’s health,” ESPN FC reported. In reality, there is very little doubt regarding Sterling’s health: As Lionel Messi demonstrated last January, in European soccer “illness” has nothing to do with bodily discomfort. It’s merely a rhetorical tool wielded by unscrupulous agents, an especially transparent example of the cynical bullshit that dominates summer transfer news.

Sterling, who has reportedly informed Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers that he isn’t “in the right frame of mind” for a pre-season tour, has spent the last four months angling for a transfer to Manchester City. In April, his refusal to sign a new contract overshadowed the admittedly-not-that-impressive conclusion to Liverpool’s league campaign. Then City submitted a 40-million-pound bid for Sterling, which Liverpool promptly rejected.

Over the last couple of weeks, Sterling has been vigorously lampooned. BBC pundit Jamie Carragher recently claimed that Sterling has permanently sullied his public image. “He’s starting to get a reputation that could be hard to rid himself of in the future,” Carragher said. The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman compared Sterling to Pieree van Hooijdonk, the Dutch forward who infamously went on strike in 1998 when Nottingham Forest refused to sell him. But frankly, Sterling’s recent conduct isn’t particularly unusual or surprising. Every year, celebrity players lobby for transfers to richer, more successful clubs: the rather well-paid Cristiano Ronaldo declared himself a “slave” the summer he pushed for a move to Real Madrid. That’s how modern soccer has operated for at least the last two decades. Once Sterling makes his City debut, nobody but a few aggrieved Liverpool supporters will remember that he feigned illness during pre-season.

On the other hand, Manchester City’s involvement in this transfer-window tug-of-war highlights a relatively recent, genuinely alarming trend that has actively stymied the development of young English talent. In 2010, the Premier League instituted the Homegrown Player Rule, a regulation intended to boost the fortunes of the English national team. Under the HPR, clubs are required to include at least eight homegrown players on their 25-man rosters. The rule targeted teams like City – big spenders that had invested hundreds of millions of pounds in foreign signings, rather than nurturing academy prospects or recruiting the best English players from smaller clubs.

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Mario vs. Robbie

Back in January, Roma’s Francesco Totti pioneered the celebratory selfie – a quick on-fieldbalo selfie photo marking an important goal. Yesterday, Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, another Italian player with a penchant for quirky goal celebrations, introduced the self-justifying selfie – a quick off-field photo directed at a critical analyst.

According to Liverpool coach Brendan Rodgers, Balotelli didn’t play in yesterday’s hard-fought FA Cup quarterfinal victory because he wasn’t feeling well. TV pundit Robbie Savage was appalled: “To miss an FA Cup quarter-final when you’re feeling a bit ill? Nonsense,” he said on BT Sport. “I would have to be really, really ill to miss that game.”

Savage’s comments highlight the generational divide between today’s players and the grizzled punditocracy: I can think of plenty of reasons why an under-the-weather Super Mario would skip the quarterfinal of a third-rate tournament, especially given the lousy condition of the Ewood Park pitch. But apparently Balotelli was in fact “really, really ill.” After the game, he posted this #thermometerselfie to Instagram, along with a message conveying his frustration: “MISS THE PICTH SO MUCH.”

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Breaking: Costa Admits He’s Not An Angel

Despite all evidence to the contrary – numerous camera angles, an FA investigation, the laws of physics – Chelsea striker diego costaDiego Costa insists he did not intentionally stamp on Emre Can in Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final. “When I get home, I can go to sleep knowing that I’ve not done anything wrong,” Costa told the Daily Mail.

Pundits love to say that Costa, who is currently serving a three-match suspension for violent conduct, enjoys “the physical side of the game,” a euphemism for the fine art of starting fights with Jordan Henderson.

“I’m not saying I’m an angel,” Costa added. “But every time I play, I will play the same way. That’s what I need to do in order to support my family.”

Yup, Costa, who makes a cool 150,000 pounds a week, just played the “feed my family” card. Personally, I’m unconcerned about the welfare of Costa’s as-yet-unborn children, even if the FA’s crackdown on dangerous play promises to stifle their dad’s talent for pissing defenders off. Once he retires, Costa will have plenty of time to cultivate, and eventually monetize, his true passion: His massive collection of postage stamps.

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We Are The Champions (Of A Meaningless Pre-Season Tournament)

Last night, Manchester United won the Guinness International Champions Cup – or the Guinness Cup, asguinness cup television commentators are instructed to call it – even though the team isn’t actually a champion. Liverpool, which lost 3-1 to United in the ICC final, isn’t a champion either. In fact, of the eight teams that entered the tournament, only three won trophies last season.

This obvious inconsistency left Fox, the network that broadcast yesterday’s final, with a difficult task: to convince viewers that the game really meant something, that it was more than just an excuse for a pre-season fireworks show. JP Dellacamera pointed out that as the players lined up in the tunnel, they eschewed pre-match greetings and instead stared straight ahead, focussed on the job at hand. Keith Costigan kept insisting that the match represented Javier Hernandez’s last chance to impress Louis van Gaal before next week’s cuts. And Warren Barton touched on the same themes – bravery, spirit, intensity – that animate his analysis (if “animate” and “analysis” are even the right words) of the Champions League.

It was both kind of sad and kind of funny. It was, in short, vintage Fox.

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Someone Should Make Howard Webb Talk

It’s been a bad week for Howard Webb. Fans are still parsing his controversial performance in Chelsea’s howard webb2-1 win over Liverpool, and on New Year’s Day, David Moyes called his failure to award Ashley Young a penalty “scandalous…an incredible decision, probably one of the worst I think I saw.”

It’s also been a bad week for Mark Clattenburg, whom Southampton has accused of  “insulting” playmaker Adam Lallana. (Never mind that, as alleged insults go, this one isn’t particularly offensive.) Clattenburg has been through this before. In 2012, John Obi Mikel accused him of racial abuse. It later emerged that Mikel hadn’t actually heard the abuse – he’d merely heard rumors in the Chelsea dressing room – and Clattenburg was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing. Mikel, however, received a three-match ban for using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviors” when he charged into Clattenburg’s office screaming bloody murder.

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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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What’s Next For Andy Carroll?

Brendan Rodgers is one of an ever-increasing number of football managers devoted to the mystical Barcelona Way, the aesthetically pleasing football method that, after a couple of years of obscurity, suddenly popped into our collective consciousness in 2008. The Barcelona Way got Rodgers where he is now. Without the inspiration of Cruyff, Guardiola and company, he would never have succeeded in teaching a Swansea team composed of honest, lower-league professionals to “play football the right way.” And had Swansea employed traditional kick-and-run tactics, they would probably have been relegated. And had they been relegated, Rodgers almost certainly wouldn’t have been hired by Liverpool.

It’s a bummer for Andy Carroll that Barcelona exist.

The really frustrating thing about Andy Carroll is that he fooled us all. That six-foot something bludgeon of a center forward, that Anfield flop, that money-grubbing drunk: he had us. All of us. When he scored ten goals during the first half of the 2010/11 Premier League season, when he routinely scared the bejesus out of real-life European defenders, we all thought he was good. Not just good; good. Future-of-English-football good. Gonna-bring-home-the-2018-World-Cup good.

These days, the best you can say about Carroll is that he probably didn’t do it on purpose. No footballer can control tabloid hype. Carroll didn’t decide to have his potential international future elevated from “maybe decent” to “certainly brilliant,” The Sun decided for him. Even in his glory moment – and moment is certainly the right word — Carroll probably knew that the press was only praising him to the heavens in preparation for a precipitous trip back down.

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