Posts Tagged ‘Champions League’

The beautiful game no more, as modern football has sold its soul.

25th of May 1967, Jock Stein’s Celtic side just defeated Inter Milan to lift the European Cup for the first time in the clubs history.  An achievement made even more credible by the fact the ‘Lisbon Lions’ starting eleven were all born within 30 miles of the clubs ground.  This is unimaginable in today’s footballing world plagued with corruption and billionaire foreign investors.  Football was never a perfect game but it was beautiful, played and viewed by honest-hardworking people.  This is now lost.

Recently the Premier League sold the live rights to BT and Sky for £3.018 billion for three seasons, a figure which will probably further increase when the contract has expired. The amount of money being invested into the English game is becoming farcical and in truth, is killing off the charm of football.  However, England is far from the only country targeted by billionaires seeking a new club to guide to success – or in so many cases, send them into financial ruins.

Paris Saint Germain (PSG) were bought by a Qatari businessman looking to flounder some money in football – money that he will more than likely never see again – and for what?  PSG are a relatively new club in footballing terms, formed in 1970 but it is only now that Parisian side are making a real name for themselves in global football, despite previously winning multiple titles in France.  The fans seem pleased with the good times, naturally, but it is the other teams in France who are forced to sell their best players –that they produce year-in-year-out that suffer.

Ajax fans protest vs Man City

Rumoured by The Telegraph, PSG are one of the elite clubs backing the proposed Dream Gulf League (DGL), a club competition that is to be held in Qatar and neighbouring countries on a bi-yearly basis.  The competition is backed by the Qatari royal family who aim to set-up the tournament in the summer of 2015.  The DGL is to be ran during the summer in order to prove the doubters wrong – who believe it to be too hot in Qatar to host the 2020 World Cup – by hosting games in air-conditioned stadiums. The tournament is set to rival other competitions such as Uefa competitions and the Club World Cup.  Surely though clubs will not want to partake in a quite meaningless tournament in the Gulf regions over the prestige of winning a European Cup.  Sadly nowadays, most clubs are attracted to where the money appears.  It is rumoured that Sheikhs are prepared to off £175 million to each invitational club, a very appealing proposition once the Financial Fair Play rule comes into effect. Unlikely, but if this were to happen, it would be disastrous for the world game.

Clubs are viewed as pawns by these businesspersons and the fans voices fall on deaf ears.  The investors are the ones with the money, so they are the ones with the power (or so they see it).  In order for football to reclaim some pride, something has to happen

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Profile of the week: Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini (born 26 June 1968, Milan) was an Italian footballer who spent his entire career playing for Ac Milan. Many people acknowledge him as one of the greatest defenders ever. Despite being naturally right footed, Maldini played in the left back or central defender position for a majority of his career. He played at an elite level his entire career spanning over two and a half decades.

16-year-old Paolo Maldini making his debut for Ac Milan

At the age of 16 Maldini made his professional debut against Udinese in the 1984/85 season, making him the youngest ever player to play for Ac Milan in the Serie A. It would be his first and final appearance of that campaign. However the following season he started eleven times for the Rossoneri. The following season marked Paolo Maldini’s first Serie A trophy. This would be his first of seven. He also played a vital part in the Milan side who went the entire season unbeaten. Due to his fine form Maldini played all four games at Euro ’88 for Italy, eventually being knocked out by Soviet Union in the semi-finals. On the 24th of May 1989 Maldini would lift his first European Cup after Ac Milan bet Steaua Bucarest 4-0 . They went on to win it the following season too. Many feel that Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan were one of the greatest teams in history as no team has won the European Cup back-to-back since. The 1990 World Cup then came around, Italy were hosts and felt they could go on to lift the trophy for the fourth time in the country’s history. However this was not the case as Italy once again fell short, being beaten by Argentina in the semi’s on penalties.

Following the disappointment of Italia ’90, Maldini was lifting silverware with Ac Milan almost every season. Winning the Scudetto three times in a row (91/92, 92/93 & 93/94). During this period Milan went on to win their fifth and Maldini’s third Champions League against are Barcelona side which were considered heavy favourites. The Rossoneri went on to win 4-0. Paolo Maldini was made captain of the Italian national team for the 1994 World Cup in America. This tournament proved to be more heartbreaking than the previous World Cup. Italy made it all the way to the final against Brazil to be once again denied on penalties. Maldini was named in the team of the tournament, 32 years after his father, Cesare Maldini, received the same honour. In the same year, he also became the first defender to ever receive the World Player of the Year award.

Maldini won two more Serie A titles before the end of the ’90s (95/96, 98/99) but continued to return from major tournaments with Italy trophyless, following disappointing team performances at Euro ’96 and the World Cup in 1998. In 2000 Maldini was denied another international trophy as Italy were beaten in extra-time by a David Trezeguet golden goal in the final of the Euro’s. This would be the last time Maldini would play in an international final.

After being knocked out of the World Cup in 2002, Paolo Maldini decided it was the right time to retire from international football. Although he retired trophyless, he retired  as Italy’s most capped player of all time, making 126 appearances for the Azzurri. He also captained his country a record 74 times throughout his international career.

Remarkably, 2003 became the one and only time Maldini won the Coppa Italia beating Roma 6-3 on aggregate. Just three days before the Coppa Italia final second leg, Ac Milan beat another Italian rival, Juventus. However this was in the Champions League final, which they won on penalties in Old Trafford, Manchester. This was the fourth time Maldini has won the competition.

Paolo Maldini lifts the Champions League for the fifth time in his career.

 

The 2003/04 season saw Carlo Ancelotti’s – a former team-mate of Maldini’s – Milan side win the Scudetto for the first time in five seasons.  That season, Paolo Maldini was named the Serie A defender of the year for the first time at the age of 36. Ac Milan once again reached the Champions League final in 2005 against Liverpool. Maldini opened the scoring himself after just 51 seconds but he was again denied by an unlikely comeback as Liverpool went on to win the final on penalties following a 3-3 draw. However in 2007 he would get his revenge as Milan beat Liverpool 2-1 in the final to give Maldini his fifth and final European Cup.

On the 17th of May 2009 Maldini played his 900th official match for Ac Milan against Udinese. The following week saw Maldini play in front of San Siro crowd for the final time in a match which Milan lost 3-2 to Roma. Maldini’s send off was marred by a banner displayed by a small section of Milan fans which read “Thank you, skipper. On the pitch you were an infinite champion, but you failed to show respect towards those who made you rich”. His last appearance in a Milan jersey came on the 31st of May, a game they won 2-0 against Fiorentina. The win meant Milan qualified automatically for next season’s Champions League, although Maldini would be absent.

The famous number 3 jersey which Paolo Maldini wore throughout his Milan career has been retired but it may be restored if either one of his children, Christian or Daniel  play for the Milan senior squad in the future.

Chelsea’s Season: From AVB to the Champions League final via Roberto Di Matteo

The term ‘crazy season’ has been thrown about this season and rightly so, as it has been remarkable. From Swansea’s dynamic play to Liverpool’s cup runs and dismal league form and that’s before we mention the title race. Don’t forget Manchester United were 8 points clear with a month to go, City overturned the deficit but still needed the last kick of the season for the trophy to move across Manchester.

If there was one club’s campaign that could some up this crazy season it would probably be Chelsea’s, from apparent disaster to their best season ever.

So where did this epic journey begin? Well, it all started in Dublin, in a Europa League final between Porto and Braga. A young manager called Andre Villas-Boas steered Porto to their best ever campaign and was a manager who was itching to prove his skills at the top-level. Up step Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who just sacked his 6th different manager since buying the club.

Abramovich took a chance on the young Portuguese man and must have being hoping he could replicate the success of Chelsea’s former Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho. But it just wasn’t to be for AVB who seemed to lose the dressing room during the turn of the year and there was increase speculation that Frank Lampard would leave the club and up until Paul Scholes did a u-turn on his retirement it looked as if Lampard could end up a United player, something unthinkable looking back. Chelsea’s league form was suffering and looked set to be heading out of the Champions League itself in February after a 3-1 away defeat to Napoli. Abramovich then did what Abramovich does best, he sacked the struggling manager and back the dressing room. With no one in place to replace AVB, his former assistant Roberto Di Matteo took the reins until the end of the season as an interim manager.

The Robbie Revival: Roberto Di Matteo’s first task was not on the field but off it. He tried and succeeded in restoring harmony to the dressing room and by went back to the Chelsea old guard and reintroduced Drogba and Lampard to the starting a move that would richly pay off for the Italian. Chelsea somehow came through the Napoli game winning 4-1 (aet) and also continued their march towards Wembley. Di Matteo’s biggest scalp came in the form of a two-legged siege against defending European Champion’s Barcelona. A backs to the wall job, they also rode their luck at times with Barcelona missing a penalty and they also hit the woodwork on numerous occasions. But Chelsea went through to the final were they would be underdogs again, a role they relished in Europe this season. In the meantime Chelsea also found themselves in the F.A cup final, a trophy they dominated in recent years and they picked up their first trophy of the season with a 2-1 win over Liverpool. So all their was left to do was overcome Bayern in their own stadium the magnificent Allianz Arena.

Chelsea; Champions of Europe

How did Chelsea defeat the Germans? Well, they did it in a way that summed up their season. They had to defend for their lives for the most part went behind and looked destined to lose the prize they wanted the most. But for a Didier Drogba bullet header that took the game to extra time and penalties. Chelsea kept their nerve and it was the same man who got them to extra time that scored the winning penalty, Didier Drogba. A truly remarkable season for Chelsea and one that will never be forgotten by any football fan.

Here’s to many more incredible season and that the Euro’s can live up to the amazing expectation that this season has placed upon it.

Liverpool – A club in turmoil?

There is no doubt about it that Liverpool F.C is one of the greatest clubs in Britain, dare I say it, the world. A club decorated with major trophies from FA Cups to First Divisions t0 Champions Leagues. They are known and respected by almost every football fan from around the globe.

Yesterday Kenny Dalglish was sacked as manager of Liverpool. “King” Kenny is regarded as a legend at the club having won multiple trophies as both player and manager in his first stint in charge but failed to live up to his name this time around. The news brought mixed emotions for the Liverpool fans, some said it was the right thing to do, others believed he needed more time. The owners were convinced though, they felt that despite winning the League Cup and guiding them to the FA Cup final were they narrowly lost to Chelsea, that their league performance was simply not good enough. Dalglish was the third manager to lose his job at Anfield in just two years.

This year saw rivals Everton finish above Liverpool for only the fourth time since 1962 despite the Toffees spending far less money. Is this a sign of things to come?

It now seems like a lifetime ago since Liverpool lifted the Champions League in Istanbul. That was just 2005. They also made the final two years later only to be bet by Ac Milan 2-1, but unfortunately for Liverpool it doesn’t look like they’ll replicate that for some time to come.

The club spent over £136 million from Summer 2010 – January 2012. Giving the amount invested into the team they were expected to challenge for the top four in Dalglish’s first full season in charge, they didn’t even finish close.  They came eighth,  a total of 17 points off the top four. The Reds lost as much as they won last season, 14 games. Definitely not acceptable for the money that was invested into the team.

Dalglish’s men had a bit more success in the cup competitions though and came close to doing a cup double. Would that of kept him in the job?

Will the owners be able to continue to pump money into the club without selling? I seriously doubt it. Top goalscorer Luis Suarez is heavily linked with a move to PSG so they could be faced with a real dilemma, keep arguably the best player or try make a healthy profit on the Uruguayan. Charlie Adam and Dirk Kuyt are also rumoured to be leaving Merseyside this Summer.

Will Suarez still be a Red come next season?

Plenty of managers are being linked with the Anfield job as you would imagine. The main names being thrown around are Andre-Villas Boas, Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, Frank Rijkaard and former boss Rafa Benitez.

Whoever takes over is going to have his work cut out for him. The fans want European Football again and ultimately, eventually, a Premier League title. Although that would be a long term goal.

Are Liverpool starting to decline and become just a top half side who won’t realistically challenge for a top four spot for some time to come or can they rebuild and break it? With the right man in charge you never know.

 

 

The Bianconeri rise again.

Juventus lifted the Scudetto for the 28th time in their history this season. A season in which they went unbeaten.

Who would of predicted this six years ago?

Match fixing Scandal

In 2006 Juventus were one of the five clubs who were linked with the Italian match fixing scandal. They were stripped of the two titles they won under Fabio Capello and demoted to the Serie B for the first time in the clubs history. As expected some key players left, including Lillian Thuram and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However others showed their loyalty and agreed to remain with Juve despite playing in the second tier of Italian football. The main players being Buffon, Nedved, Trezeguet and Del Piero. Juventus went straight back up after winning the Serie B, only losing four times in 42 games.

Rebuilding

The following season Claudio Ranieri took over the “Old Lady”, guiding them to a very respectable third place finish.  It also meant they had qualified for the following seasons Champions League.

2008-09 season was going to be a test for Ranieri’ men as they now had high expectations on their shoulders. The Summer transfer window saw them bring in eight players to strengthen the squad. Amauri being the “big” signing, coming from Palermo for €22.6 million. Juventus looked like genuine title contenders at various stages of the season and to boost the confidence of the fans they topped their Champions League group which contained Real Madrid. They were later knocked out by Chelsea in the last 16. However the players were struggling to remain motivated at certain times throughout the season as Ranieri belittled their title chances. The team went seven consecutive league games without a win. Despite this they finished second, a total of 10 points behind Champions Inter. Ranieri was sacked for failing to win a trophy.

With new coach Ciro Ferrara spending over €50 million on transfers, people imagined that the team could make the push and once again become champions of Italy. This was not the case as the 09-10 season proved to be disastrous for the Bianconeri. They failed to qualify from their Champions League group. Following the loss to Inter in the Coppa Italia, Ciro Ferrara was sacked as manager. The day later Alberto Zaccheroni was made head coach. Zaccheroni made a pretty decent start, knocking Ajax out of the Europa League followed up by a 3-1 win over Fulham. However Juventus were bet 4-1 in the second leg thus knocking them out, a poor run of form followed. Juve finished 7th in the Serie A.

Juventus started the following season with a new president, Andrea Agnelli and a new manager, Luigi Delneri. Despite the change Juventus once again had a poor season, finishing 7th for the second consecutive season and once again another year without a trophy. The crowds were plummeting, failing to sell out the 28,000 seater Stadio Olimpico once. Agnelli knew something had to change.

Resurrection 

There was a lot of change, the main one being the change of Stadium. Juventus became the only team in the Serie A to fully own their own stadium. Former Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte was made manager. The fans became optimistic and Juventus stadium was frequently sold out. Andrea Agnelli pumped money into the club and Conte gladly spent it, bringing in no more than twenty new faces for a total of €94.5 million. They knew they had to challenge Ac Milan for the title, a title that the Rossoneri were not going to give up easily. Juvetus won six of their first ten games, beating Inter and Ac Milan in the process. Despite the good form some criticised them for drawing too many games, something that might just cost them the title. Between the 5th of Febuary and the 11th of March Juve drew six of their seven Serie A games. However this was followed by an impressive run of form that saw the Bianconeri gather up nine wins on the trot. Despite Milan throwing away their lead earlier in the season, they still remained closely behind. Juve slipped up slightly following a 1-1 draw with Lecce, which allowed the Rossoneri back into the title race. It all came down to match-day 37. Ac Milan had to beat rivals Inter to keep their title hopes alive. A breathtaking Milan derby ended with the Rossoneri losing 4-2. Juventus win away to Cagliari meant they became champions of Italy for the first time since 2003. The win on the last day of the season ensured that Conte’s men went the entire Serie A season unbeaten, becoming one of only three teams to do so (Perugia in 78/79 and Ac Milan in 91/92).

Del Piero lifts the Scudetto in his final season as a Juve player.

Juventus have the chance to do a domestic double when they play Napoli in the Coppa Italia final on Sunday.

They will be hoping to defend their Scudetto next season and continue their unbeaten run. They will also be expected to do well in next seasons Champions League and could well prove to be dark horses.

Does this Juventus side have what it takes to become one of the best sides in the world?

The Premiership: Last Day Scenarios

Another Premiership season has come and gone but there is still a lot to sort out in the final round of fixtures this Sunday. Here are all the possible scenarios for the key battles.

The Title Race;

The Title race will go down to the last day, with both Manchester clubs still in with a chance to lift the title. Manchester City are firmly in the driving seat and a win against QPR at the Etihad would crown them champions for the first time in 44 years, but any slip up from City will give United the chance to retain their Premier League crown who still have a tough job to do themselves against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Another and more unlikely scenario is if both sides win but Man United match Man City’s score and win by a further 8 goals. A scenario that not even United fan’s could dream up.

Prediction;

Both sides to win.

Winners: Manchester City, Runners Up: Manchester United

 

The Champions League Spots;

The last guaranteed Champions League spot is still up for grabs, with three teams still in the hunt. Arsenal, Tottenham, and Newcastle are still looking for that last guaranteed spot. There is still a chance that fourth place could get one of the teams a place, in the best placed play-off round, but that place would be taken away if Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the final of the competition itself. Arsenal’s destiny is in their own hands and a win away at West Brom would assure them an automatic spot in the group stages in next season’s Champions League. If Arsenal fail to win, Tottenham would have to beat Fulham at White Hart Lane in order to leap frog Arsenal. Another way and less likely scenario is if Arsenal lose by two goals or more and Tottenham at least draw against Fulham. Newcastle have to rely on both Arsenal and Tottenham to lose (or Tottenham to draw) for them to take the last guaranteed spot. Newcastle also have arguable the trickiest task as they face Everton at Goodison,a must win for Newcastle.

Prediction;

Arsenal to win, Tottenham to draw, and Newcastle to win.

3rd: Arsenal, 4th: Newcastle, 5th: Tottenham

 

Relegation;

Wolves and Blackburn may already be relegated but who will join them?

Bolton Wanderers currently occupy the final spot and must beat Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. If they do manage to win against Stoke it would mean QPR would have to get at least a point against Manchester City. This scenario would mean that both sides would be level on points but QPR boast a better goal difference and Bolton would have to win their match by at least 7 goals. Aston Villa are mathematically still in the relegation battle but for them to be relegated they must lose and there to be a 17 goal swing in Bolton’s favour. QPR would also need to win against Manchester City for Aston Villa to go down.

Predictions;

Bolton to draw, QPR to lose, and Aston Villa to draw.

18th: Bolton Wanderers, 17th: QPR, 16th: Aston Villa

 

Other unsolved battles;

Only a point separates Everton and Liverpool, in the favour of Everton, and bragging are on the line as Liverpool will be keen not to finish behind their Blue neighbours. Swansea and Norwich will be battling it out to be crowned the best of the promoted sides. Both have preformed above expectations this season and are locked on 44 points with Swansea having the better goal difference.

 

Fixture List:

Chelsea v Blackburn

Everton v Newcastle

Man City v QPR

Norwich v Aston Villa

Stoke v Bolton

Sunderland v Man United

Swansea v Liverpool

Tottenham v Fulham

West Brom v Arsenal

Wigan v Wolves

Top European Striker Want’s a Move to England

A top European striker wants a move to England.

Fernando Llorente has fast become one the hottest properties in European football and after an impressive campaign with Athletic Club, a campaign in which he helped his team reach the Europa League and Copa Del Rey finals, he is on all the top teams radar.

Athletic Club have been widely praised for their all out attacking style and passionate play and fans. Llorente has been at the forefront of all praise and at the age of 27 this is maybe his last chance to force a move to a top European team.

Many people feel that Llorente is a player designed for the Premiership and this is something he agrees with, he says “I’m the sort of player who would be successful in the Premier League… (But) it’s all hypothetical.” He went onto say that he feels it’s one of the best leagues in the world, saying “I’d love to get to know it and enjoy it” but he did finished off by saying that he was still very happy in Bilbao. But Llorente didn’t stop flirting with the Premiership just yet. When asked what did he like to do in his spare time, he again brought up England. “…I love travelling… We (himself and his girlfriend) went to London on holiday last year, I loved it, I saw Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and went to see the Wimbledon tennis, but I don’t speak English. I need to learn the language.”

Llorente “I’m the sort of player who would be successful in the Premier League”

And it is that last sentence that fuels most of the flames to this transfer rumour. Llorente clearly has strong intentions to return to England and shows a strong intent to stay for a long time. Well long enough to need to learn the language.

But who would be in for Llorente and who could afford him? Manchester City will be the favourites for the marksman but they may not need to sign him if Carlos Tevez decides to stay and if Balotelli isn’t sold. Chelsea will also be in for the Spanish foreword, as Didier Drogba is out of contract in the summer. Manchester United will also have tabs on Llorente as Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen look set to be on the way out of Old Trafford. Others that will have interest are both Tottenham and Liverpool, who will need to reinforce their squads to stand a chance of challenging for a Champions League spot next season.

But out of the five who would be able to afford him? Well, Manchester City and Chelsea will happily spend what is required to get their man. Manchester United would be able to afford him but may struggle to match his wage demands, especially if facing direct competition from rivals Man City. Tottenham and Liverpool’s best chance of signing the Spanish giant would be if City, Chelsea or United don’t go in for Llorente as neither Tottenham or Liverpool could guarantee Champions League football every season.

This rumour could run all the way through the transfer window as the striker will not make up his mind until after the European Championships, where he may have to play a huge part for Spain as David Villa is struggling in his race for full fitness.

Llorente has scored 28 goals already this season and has provided 6 assists for his teammates.

See also; Europa League Final 2012