Posts Tagged ‘Barcelona’

Ballon d’Or 2012: A Case For Ronaldo

Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the three nominees for the Ballon d’Or this calendar year. But of course only one of them can win the award. The Ballon d’Or is meant to be awarded to the most outstanding player of the year and not given to someone who may be the best player on the planet. Of course team achievements are a huge part in the selecting of the winner. But ultimately it is down to personal achievements.

The obvious favourite is Barcelona’s Messi who is about to break Gerd Muller’s goal scoring record for a calendar year. The Argentine has, at time of writing, 84 goals with three league games remaining a Champions League fixture and a Copa del Ray fixture. This is a phenomenal achievement and one we will not see again for a long time. Unless the little man has a similar year in 2013. Despite this spectacular landmark Messi isn’t in a one horse race for the Ballon d’Or which he has won three years in a row. The two other contender’s have just of much of a chance of winning the prize. This is mainly down to the European Championship that took place this summer, which of course, Messi did not partake.

First up, his teammate, Iniesta. Iniesta is part of what could be considered the greatest international side there is. He’s the linchpin in Spain’s dominance of world football at the moment and was named player of the tournament of the European Championship. Iniesta also won UEFA’s Champions League best player this year, where Messi and Ronaldo were the other nominees, but many saw this as a mere token gesture to a fantastic career. Alas Iniesta is the outsider of the three and when the best player in the world today is argued it is argument between Ronaldo and Messi and not Iniesta.

Ronaldo Silencing the Nou Camp

Ronaldo Silencing the Nou Camp

So then the man from Madeira, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo had probably his best season since his 07/08 season with Manchester United, which saw him win the Ballon d’Or. With Real Madrid he won the La Liga title as Jose’s men finally toppled their Catalonian rivals. He also was instrumental in Portugal’s Euro campaign as they were knocked out on penalties in the semi-final to eventual champions Spain. In that semi-final for 90 minutes it was Portugal that were more dominating and looked the more likely to grab a winner. In extra time tired legs showed and the game eventually went to penalties. Ronaldo, who always wants to be the hero, elected to take the fifth peno but it never came to that as Spain went through after their fourth penalty. Ronaldo who has similar percentage of importance of goals as Messi does at Barca has scored a remarkable 58 goals this year but even that number is dwarfed by Messi’s 84. But sometimes stats alone can lead you down the wrong path. What is 84 goals if they are all the third and fourth goal in a 6-0 win? Compared to a 1-0 winning goal? The difference is simple, one is a goal that boosts the goal difference and the other is changing one point into three. Of course, that is a very harsh statement and an exaggerated one but nevertheless can serve a purpose in deciding the Ballon d’Or winner.

Lionel Messi, The Current Ballon d'Or Winner

Lionel Messi, The Current Ballon d’Or Winner

Alas I am not going to sit down here and go through all 84 of Messi’s goals and 58 of Ronaldo’s but I will look at the key games of the year. When the El Clasico took place last season Real were four points clear and a victory would all but guarantee the title, the match took place in the Nou Camp and after Alexis Sanchez cancelled out Sami Khedira earlier effort. The match was perfectly poised, until Ronaldo got on the end of a Mesut Ozil pass and slotted the ball past Victor Valdes silencing the 90,000 Barca fans. On a night that ultimately decided the title where both Messi and Ronaldo were playing only one of them scored the winning goal. The other two defining games of the respective player’s season was their Champions League semi-final. Barca faced Chelsea and Real Madrid faced Bayern Munich. Both players saw their teams behind after the first leg and both where playing at home in the second leg. Barca drew 2-2 with Chelsea and Messi missed a penalty which saw Chelsea through 3-2 on aggregate. Real Madrid won 2-1 (levelling the tie on aggregate) and it was Ronaldo who scored both for Madrid, Madrid were eliminated on penalties. The other time Messi and Ronaldo faced each other throughout the year (bar the super cup) was in the league this season where both Messi and Ronaldo were on target twice in a 2-2 draw.

So despite Messi’s soon to be record goal scoring year, The Ballon d’Or may not fall on his lap and the Portuguese man may just take home the award four year’s after first winning it.

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Nike Confirm New Kits For 2012/13

Nike are one of the top manufactures of football jerseys. So because of this you would be forgiving to think they would also be very stylish. But the truth is, despite having major clients such as Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Juventus yet every year they tend to ‘experiment’ or for use of a better term ‘mess around.’

For Arsenal their one objective is to have a red body with white sleeves and most of the time they do just that and Arsenal have lovely home kits. But this year Nike decided to incorporate a red and white band around the sleeves that just gives the kit a bit of a ‘tacky’ look.

The New Arsenal Kit

For Barcelona their objective is even simpler, Red and Blue strips. That is all. Yet for some reason Nike seem to mess it up and try to over complicate the issue.

Confirmed Barcelona Kit for the new season

As for Inter and Juventus, well you have to give credit where credits due as Nike normally stick to their task well with these too. After all they wouldn’t want to mess up an Italian jersey, as Italians appreciate style.

Manchester United’s Gingham Kit for 2012/13

Finally, the new Manchester United kit. For the past couple of seasons Nike have played it safe with United kits, just making them plain and simple with the odd white stripe running through the jersey here and there. Nothing major, just simple. So it was probably about time Nike took a ‘risk’ with next season’s United kit. Nike went for two shades of red in a chequered style, which gives it a bit of a table cloth feel to it. The idea of the kit is “Forged in industry, striving for glory.” It is a special edition Gingham made jersey as Manchester was a huge producer of Gingham textile in the 18th century.

Nike have also confirmed that as of 2013/14 they will be manufacturing Manchester City’s jerseys.

The Ultimate Debate: Pele vs Messi

As you get to a certain level you will always be compared to the best in any sport. In football the greatest of all-time in many people’s eyes is Brazilian legend Pele.  Not much people imagined somebody challenging Pele for the title of ‘greatest of all time’ but then came along Lionel Leo Messi. Are these comparisons premature or justified?

Last night saw Messi score four goals against Espanyol. This brings him to 50 goals in La Liga and 72 in all-competitions this season which is now a new record, having beaten Archie Stark’s 70 goals in one-season for Bethlehem Steel in 1924/25. Nobody can argue that it’s an amazing achievement.

Despite the numerous records he has broken is he on Pele’s level?

Pele claims Messi needs to score 1,000 goals before he can be compared to him. Also making a rather absurd statement  “Now everyone is talking about Messi, he is a star. But for Messi to be the best ever, he must first become better than Neymar.”

Pele claims to have scored 1281 goals but only 760 of these were actually official goals. Messi is now on 276 goals, so it’s achievable considering he is still only 24 years of age.

For some people, Messi has to win a World Cup to prove he is the best of all-time as Pele won three with Brazil. Is this fair though? The current Argentina squad who are ranked 10th in the world aren’t even the best team in South America, never mind the world. Whereas Pele played in arguably the greatest international team of all time. Surrounded by world class players like Garrincha, Gilmar, Carlos Alberto and Jairzinho. Brazil lifted three world cups between 1958 and 1970.

Pele celebrating at the 1970 World Cup.

The only success Messi has on the international stage is a under-20 World Cup back in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal won at the 2008 games in Beijing.

However Messi is playing in arguably the greatest league in the world, the La Liga, as well as the worlds greatest club competition the Champions League. These are two competitions Pele never played in. The Brazilian spent most of his playing days at Santos before a two year stint with star studded New York Cosmos.  This is why some (very few) people doubt Pele’s ability as he never tested himself in Europe.

Another day, another record broken for Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi now has three Ballon d’Or’s to his name and looks likely to add his fourth which will also be another record broken for the Argentinian. He also has won five La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and two Club World Cup trophies among others with Barcelona. Although this season wasn’t as successful as previous campaigns for Barcelona it is possibly Messi’s greatest individual season so far.

Is Messi the greatest of all-time?

Will he eventually be or is Pele going to remain the best player to ever grace the pitch?

The end of an era?

Following Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea, questions were being asked. Is this the beginning of the end for one of footballs all time great teams? This is the first time Barcelona have failed to win in three consecutive games since 2009.

It was truly a week to forget for Barcelona, as they lost to their rivals Real Madrid 2-1, which led to them falling a colossal seven points behind with only  four games left. The competition that the Catalan club have won for the past three seasons is on it’s way to the capital, Madrid.

Following that defeat they went into the Champions League semi-final second leg match against Chelsea at the Camp Nou. Many expected Guardiola’s men to bounce back and proceed to the final in Munich following their 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge the week before. However this was not the case. Ten men Chelsea battled and secured their place in the final with a 2-2 draw. One of the major talking points of the game was Barcelona’s penalty, one that Lionel Messi stepped up to take and missed. Are teams starting to adapt to Barcelona’s “total football” tactics?

Guardiola is set to leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

Not much people would argue the fact that Pep Guardiola is one of the finest managers in the game today, having won 13 trophies with Barcelona in just four years and turning them into one of the most attractive  free-flowing teams in the world today. Although his time with Barcelona is now up. Guardiola has announced today at a press conference that he will be stepping down as manager come the end of the season. He will hope to leave on somewhat of a high by beating Athletic Bilbao in next months Copa Del Rey final.

Two questions are on everybody’s lips, 1) What’s next for Guardiola should he leave Barcelona? 2) Who will replace him?

1)  Many expect him to take time off management following claims that he is “exhausted” and at only 41 years of age he won’t be in any hurry to get back. However when he does return it’s rumoured that it will be to the Premiership, although I wouldn’t rule him out taking over the Spanish national team.

2) It’s official, Francesc “Tito” Vilanova will succeed Pep Guardiola as manager. Vilanova was assistant coach under Guardiola since 2008 and has been part of the reason for Barcelona’s success. Tito was once the manager of Barcelona’s youth team which featured Messi, Pique and Fabregas. Will he be the one to bring the Champions League trophy back to the Nou Camp next season?

Is this just a minor setback or is this truly the end of the “Barcelona era”?

Champions League Final 2012

Bayern Munich will face Chelsea in this year’s Champions League final at the Allianz Arena on May the 19th.

Both sides have struggled in their respective leagues, with Bayern doing the better of the two sides with Bayern guaranteed to finish second, whereas Chelsea are sixth the Barclays Premier League and will more than likely have to win the Champions League to qualify for next seasons competition.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo will hardly believe his luck. The Italian was sacked by West Bromwich Albion in February last year, then was turned down by Birmingham City, who preferred Chris Haughton and the Italian was keen to take the seat next to Andre Villas-Boas as his second in command. Yet in three weeks time he will lead his Chelsea side onto the German turf.

Bayern Munich, who are looking for their fifth European success, will be delighted to have reached the final in their own back yard and will be looking to complete the fairy tale story by lifting the trophy itself in the magnificent Allianz Arena.

Both sides got to the final the hard way, with Bayern’s campaign starting in August in the play-off round defeating FC Zurich. They then come through the hardest of the eight groups, coming out of it hardly unscathed overcoming the mega rich Manchester City and a fighting Napoli side, the other team in the group was Villarreal who failed to pick up a point.

The Munich side then faced FC Basel, who overcame last year’s finalists Manchester United in the fight for second place in their group stages, and Basel won the first leg in Switzerland 1-0 to the shock of the football world, again. But Bayern showed their resolve in the second leg brushing aside any doubt winning the return leg 7-0. Next up for the four times winners was Marseille, Which Bayern got through easily winning 2-0 in both legs. Then the German champions faced their hardest test when they had to face La Liga leaders Real Madrid. The German’s won the first leg 2-1 but having conceded a crucial away goal the momentum was with Real Madrid to go through at the Bernabeu. The second leg was a captivating match with two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and the Spanish side looked set to go through but a penalty from former Chelsea and Madrid winger Arjen Robben. The game went to extra-time and then went to a dreaded penalty shoot-out. But former world players of the year Ronaldo and Kaka both missed and the confidence was with Bayern. Sergio Ramos missed a third penalty for Madrid which gave Schweinsteiger the chance to put Munich into the final and that he did in slotting his penalty away.

Bayern Munich squad 2012

Chelsea had a much harder task in getting into the final winning only one away game against Portuguese side Benfica. Between the two ties against Napoli, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich changed the managing structure in sacking Andre Villas-Boas and bringing assistant manager in Roberto Di Matteo as interim until the end of the season. A move that has brought Abramovich many rewards, as Chelsea are now in two finals. Chelsea faced the daunting task of overcoming Barcelona in the semi-final. Chelsea put up two brave displays against the defending champions with two excellent defending performances, Di Matteo’s side had too ride their luck at times with Barcelona hitting the post three times over the two legs and also missing a penalty.

Chelsea will be looking to win the European Cup for the first time

The final has classic written all over it with the only drawback being that seven players will miss the final through suspension, for Bayern they’re missing Holger Badstuber, Luiz Gustavo and David Alaba. Chelsea are missing four key players in John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and Brazilian midfielder Ramires.

Chelsea v Barcelona; Match Report

Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona

Drogba’s strike on the stroke off half time proves the difference at the bridge.

Didier Drogba, who would have you believe he got kicked more times than the ball tonight proves the difference between the sides, on a frustrating night for the Catalonian side.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side will take a one nil lead into the second leg at the Camp Nou, despite Barcelona’s dominance in a match where near misses had all Chelsea fans hearts in their mouths.

The early minutes of the match was controlled by the defending European Champions, who after 9 minutes should’ve been ahead after Iniesta clipped a perfectly weighted ball to Alexis Sanchez who bet the offside trap and chipped the ball over an oncoming Petr Cech, but the ball landed on the bar.

During the first half Chelsea looked most dangerous from a long throw coming in from Ivanovic, with one just falling behind the feet of John Terry who couldn’t get his feet sorted in time and Barcelona cleared.

Barcelona continued to work the ball well just in front of the Chelsea defence but they could not break them down in the final third as Chelsea remained very disciplined throughout the first half.

In the last five minutes of the first half Messi intercepts the ball on the halfway line and runs at the Chelsea defence lays the ball onto Cesc Fabergas who clips the ball over Cech who is saved by Ashley Cole who clears the ball just as it is about to cross the line.

The turning point: A perfectly timed and weighted clipped through ball by Frank Lampard into Ramires who collects the ball at the edge of the Barcelona box and pulls the ball back to Drogba who scores with Valdes scrambling back across his goal line.

The second half proved much of the same frustration for Barcelona.

With their best opportunity of the match coming shortly after the break, a great give and go between, former Arsenal man, Fabergas  and Chilean Sanchez who only had to hit the target from 6 yards out but somehow hits wide, to Chelsea’s relief.

Much of the second half was played like the first half, with Chelsea remaining very solid and disciplined at the back.

Just before the end and a real last chance saloon for Barcelona to grab an away goal in this two legged tie, Barcelona power forward towards the box only for a John Terry tackle to save them, but the ball rebounds to Pedro who side footed the ball onto the post and Busquets had the goal at his mercy but fired the rebounded ball over the bar, leaving the Catalans with it all to do in the second leg.