Is Cristiano Ronaldo’s ego spiralling out of control at Real Madrid?

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has been involved in a number of incidents throughout the current season, most of which have shed a negative light on his demeanor. The Portuguese international has long had a reputation for being an egotist, putting his desires ahead of others as well as being conceited. In Wednesday night’s victory over Almeria he was guilty of unsporting behavior after teammate Alvaro Arbeloa stole in front of him to score a tap-in.

Ronaldo booted the ball in frustration rather than opting to celebrate with his teammate, who scored his first league goal of the season. The 30-year-old star could perhaps be forgiven for an instinctive reaction, but he then walked away while sulking instead of celebrating with his teammate. The £80M man has been in the headlines for his attitude throughout the season, beginning with his criticism of teammate Gareth Bale, his obnoxious reaction after winning the Ballon d’Or, and his habit of celebrating only his goals and not that of his teammates.

Ronaldo has never taken well to sharing the headlines, but this season he has been particularly displeased when his teammates have scored instead of him. On more than one occasion, he was seen annoyed when one of his efforts would fall as a simple rebound for a teammate to tuck away and score! Wise supporters and pundits are noticing a change in him. It has often been said that the prolific goalscorer is obsessed with being the best, which is one of the main reasons behind his remarkable transformation beginning with the latter stages of his Manchester United career. His will to succeed and be a great saw him work towards his goal, but his ego looks to have spiraled out of control in the process.

It is a troubling sight when a player does not even celebrate a goal scored by a teammate, yet celebrates his goals in obscene fashion. There is no doubting Ronaldo’s talent as he can be safely placed among the best players over the past decade and some might even debate whether he is one of the five best players to ever play the game. However, there are serious concerns being raised about the mood in the Real camp, and whether the Portuguese forward is creating a toxic atmosphere.

Earlier in the season, he looked set to end his career at Real, yet anything is possible in the world of football. Most likely he will outlast his teammates in Madrid, thus, the imminent issue might be whether some of the current stars on the team will be able to tolerate him. In the case of future stars being targeted by Real, they might feel less inclined and less encouraged to join the Spanish giants despite the obvious spending ability.

While many will label him selfish and arrogant, Ronaldo would likely describe himself as confident and driven to succeed and win at any cost. No matter how it is presented, however, there is no doubt there has been some tension at Real Madrid with Ronaldo during the current season. Can Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti keep Ronaldo on his best behavior for the sake of the club?

Wolfsburg’s Kevin de Bruyne destined for bigger things

Wolfsburg midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has enjoyed an outstanding season for the current Bundesliga runners-up, and his future with the German club is already under speculation ahead of what promises to be a busy summer. The Belgian international, 23, has been a standout performer in the division, providing more assists (17) than any other player, while scoring 10 goals as well.

His influence has helped Wolfsburg to second in the table, but it is unknown if De Bruyne will remain with the club next season to build on the success achieved this campaign. Reports are suggesting his agent has held talks with French Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a big-money move this summer, but it is unlikely any deal could be agreed at this early stage, and there are a host of big European clubs seeking to sign the talented Belgian.

Signed from Chelsea for £18M in January 2014, the 23-year-old has since proven to his former employers that they made a big mistake in letting him go. De Bruyne is now regarded as one of the best young talents in the world, and could well be in the frame to win the Bundesliga Player of the Year award as a result. Even former Chelsea & Belgian teammate Eden Hazard believes his manager made a mistake in letting him leave.

“He is a great player. Mourinho decided to let him go and not play him. It was not my decision, even though I know very well that he could play at Chelsea because he has tremendous qualities. I think at Chelsea, you have more pressure than Wolfsburg. It’s a shame he’s gone but he’ll have a successful career,” he said.

However, if reports are to be believed, he could make a return to the Premier League next season, with Manchester City having shown interest in his services. The Sky Blues need to replace a number of fallen stars on their squad, and De Bruyne could well enjoy many years to come at the top based on his recent development and impressive performances.

“I have met the people from Manchester City and we know each other. A lot of other clubs have been in touch to find out some general information. In the next few weeks I will be going around the world to talk about the situation with Kevin, but it is a little bit too early to be making any decisions. We will have to see what (Wolfsburg) want to do. They paid €24M (to originally sign him) so I can see (his improved asking price) being a lot more than that,” said his agent earlier this month.

Where will Kevin De Bruyne go this summer?

Are Barcelona getting back to their best?

Barcelona are two points clear of fierce rivals Real Madrid in the race for the Spanish La Liga title, they face Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey final, and they are 180 minutes away from making the Champions League final, so it is fair to say Luis Enrique’s debut season as manager could be considered as a positive one despite a couple of turbulent events.

The former Barcelona midfielder took charge as head coach in the summer, after ex-boss Tata Martino was sacked following a season without a major trophy. Many had fears about whether the Catalan giants could respond following such a disappointing campaign by their lofty standards, but Enrique has silenced the critics. Barcelona last won the three major trophies under former manager Pep Guardiola in 2008/09, but could well repeat the feat six years on.

With the 2014/15 season reaching its conclusion, Barcelona are still on course to win the treble, which is a remarkable turnaround in such a short amount of time. Ex-Barcelona man Gaizka Mendieta was recently full of praise for Enrique, saying: “The majority of the credit goes to him. As a manager you learn every day, and I think that is what he has done at the club since the day he has arrived. He obviously arrived with some ideas for the team that he wanted to implement. And he then had to deal with the egos of the players. I think most importantly it has made him more disciplined tactically.”

They still have some work to do before their season comes to a close, as Real Madrid are maintaining the pressure on the Catalans in the La Liga table every week. Facing Bayern Munich – who are managed by Guardiola – in the Champions League semi-final will be far from easy, and Athletic Bilbao will be fired up in the Copa Del Rey final to come. Barcelona are certainly in a favourable position, but they cannot rest based on past results this season.

For Enrique, he could become a greater part of the club’s folklore if he can achieve such success as a manager, following in the footsteps of his success as a player at the Camp Nou. His reputation among the supporters would sky rocket, yet fans and players must be careful because the Spanish giants have eight games left in all competitions to make history.

They are on an impressive 14-game unbeaten run as things stand, and could welcome in a new era of success under another former legend of the club. Enrique is under no illusions. He knows he needs a trophy haul to become a mainstay, so he has set his mind on delivering success and is currently on course to achieve it.

Eden Hazard & Harry Kane swoop the PFA awards

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard won the PFA Player of the Year award, and Tottenham striker Harry Kane was named PFA Young Player of the Year. Both awards come as no surprise given the pair have been shoo-ins to win their respective category for weeks, yet the recognition given to them from their peers is a nice tribute.

Hazard, the Belgian international star more than deserves the award for a fantastic season at Chelsea considering he already won the Capital One Cup this campaign, and is on course to add the Premier League title to his name too.

The former Lille winger has come a long way in such a short space of time, and is now regarded among the top-10 best players in the world. He has proven to be a great investment by the Blues, and his consistency has been key to his club’s success.

“I’m very happy. One day I want to be the best and what I did this season is play very well, Chelsea played very well. I don’t know if I deserve to win but it is good for me. It is better to be voted by the players – they know everything about football. Personally I have played a good season, I have been there in the big games and I scored a lot of important goals, this is why I’m better this season,” he said.

As for Tottenham’s Harry Kane, his season came as a real shock to most. Outside of the London club, not many had heard of the young striker, and even less will have tipped him to produce 30 goals in all competitions this season.

But Kane is the type of player who takes the slightest of chances with both hands and tries to excel, both on and off the field. For Spurs, he has kept the likes of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench as a result of his fine form. He scored on his England debut, and is now being tipped for a bright future.

“It is amazing. It is a very proud moment for myself and my family – hopefully the first of many to come. I have got to keep working hard, but to be recognised by your fellow players is something special and it is a night I won’t forget. I got the opportunity with the gaffer and I have really enjoyed my season so far – I have taken my chance,” he said at the awards ceremony.

Will Borussia Dortmund Face a Summer Exodus?

Following recent news regarding Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan edging closer to signing a deal with Manchester United and after manager Jurgen Klopp revealed he would be resigning at the end of the campaign, will the German Bundesliga side undergo a mass exodus of players this summer?

Dortmund might feel compelled to cash in on Gundogan, as the German international is out of contract at the end of the 2015/16 season. The Bundesliga outfit missed on the opportunity to cash in on Robert Lewandowski when the Polish striker had a year to run on his deal. Dortmund opted to keep him, and he left to join rivals Bayern Munich on a free transfer last summer.

Gradually BVB are beginning to lose the core of their squad, and it comes at a time when they are on course to finish in their lowest league position for seven years. By his own admission, Klopp is leaving the club because he feels he is no longer the right man to lead Dortmund forward, so BVB will be commence a new chapter in their history following his departure.

His exit comes not only on the tail end of a miserable Bundesliga campaign, but also with Dortmund set to lose a number of key players this summer. The likes of Marco Reus have been linked with every top European side over the last two years, and he looks destined for a big-money move. Defender and captain Mats Hummels has been linked with Manchester United all season, and there is a lot of interest in securing his services.

Manager Jurgen Klopp was one of the main reasons so many players wanted to play for Dortmund, and his departure could signal the start of a massive transfer campaign with many players leaving the club. Thus, a domino effect could ensue, forcing the German side to begin a major rebuilding process this summer. The concern for supporters is that it could be the end of Dortmund as title-chasers and a Champions League heavyweight, leading to years stuck in mediocrity.

Dortmund are set to lose players that cannot be easily replaced, meaning Bayern Munich’s stronghold on the division could become even more of a given for the next few years unless a challenger can stand up to them. Dortmund won back-to-back titles under Klopp in 2010/11 and 2011/12, but have since fallen short. The situation became even worse at the sight of their best players being snatched by their Bavarian nemesis.

Could a repeat occur this summer, starting with Klopp’s and Gundogan’s exit?

Should Liverpool consider bringing back Rafael Benitez to replace Brendan Rodgers?

Napoli secured a 2-2 draw with VFL Wolfsburg in the Europa League’s 2nd leg of their Quarter-Final tie, to earn a place in the semi-finals of the competition. Napoli’s manager is Rafael Benitez, formerly in charge of Liverpool between 2004 & 2010, and he has been linked recently with a move back to the Premier League. His former side the Reds are on course for a trophyless campaign under manager Brendan Rodgers, with Liverpool’s most recent disappointment being the loss to to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final.

Benitez, 55, could well win the Europa League for the second time in three seasons – the first being with Chelsea in 2012/13. The Spanish manager won the Coppa Italia with Napoli in his debut campaign, and is now dreaming of making the Europa League final with the Serie A outfit aiming to end his time on a high. In all likelihood, Benitez will likely depart the club in the summer for a fresh start in England or Spain.

Liverpool supporters are debating his potential return to Anfield, with current boss Brendan Rodgers looking likely to have missed out on a top-four finish in the Premier League. This season has been one of inconsistency on Merseyside, and despite an upturn in results in 2015, the Reds have not been able to make up for their poor showings in the first-half of the campaign.

The answer to their problems could well be former fans’ favourite Benitez, who has made it clear that he would like a return to the Premier League in the future, but which club he would join is another matter. His reputation is intact after an impressive interim spell with Chelsea, and his relative success in cup competitions at Napoli will make up for the stumble in the Serie A, thus, he is a coach who will surely be coveted in the summer.

Most likely Benitez would jump at the chance of a return to Liverpool over many other clubs showing an interest. It is noteworthy that he has at times given his opinion on the Merseysiders and their current campaign. He still pays attention to how they are doing, but it would be a huge decision to axe Rodgers, given that he has not performed too badly since taking over and considering the shaky state the Reds were in prior to his appointment.

Rafael Benitez, however, is a manager who could bring in big-name players with his standing in the game, and would bring a new positive mentality to the side, as Liverpool have looked jaded and bereft of luck in recent weeks. The club could well take advantage of this opportunity, as the Spaniard is not likely to be around for long this summer.

So could Rafael Benitez replace Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool ahead of next season?

Competition for Europe’s top goalscorer heats up

With another season of football close to reaching the annals of history, competition for the European Golden Boot is about as hot as it has been in years. Most of the top European leagues still have a pool of two or three players vying for their respective domestic accolade, though one league seems to be all but done and dusted as far as the top scorer charts go.

Alexandre Lacazette of Olympique Lyonnais seems to have the Ligue 1 award all but sewn up, with 25 strikes to his name this season – some way off of second placed André-Pierre Gignac, with 18. With only five games left of the league season, Lacazette would need to just about draw all blanks with Gignac going on a rich run of goalscoring form to see the French boot heading anywhere other than Stade de Gerland in a few short weeks’ time.

The Premier League sees Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane sitting alongside Man City counterpart Sergio Aguero on 20 goals each, but with Tottenham still on the chase for a European spot – as opposed to Man City looking good for fourth place at least – one could argue that there will be more expectant eyes on Kane between now and the end of the campaign. He certainly seems to have more to play for, both personally and for his club, but Aguero still needs to do his bit to help ensure City at least reach next season’s Champions League qualifiers. With Chelsea’s Diego Costa still to fire his side over the finishing line to the title the Spaniard could yet trump the pair to the Premier League Golden Boot as he sits just a single goal behind on 19.

The Bundesliga is a closer race, with Eintracht Frankfurt’s Alexander Meier leading the charts with 19 goals, but he has Bayern Munich’s former Chelsea star Arjen Robben breathing down his neck on 17 – just one ahead of team-mate Robert Lewandowski’s 16. Meier’s standing as present leader is all the more impressive given his club’s standing smack bang in the middle of the league table – meaning that on paper they are likely to face a more stern run-in than league leaders Bayern, and so Robben and Lewandowski will surely fancy their chances of toppling Meier by the end of the season. Whether they work together to get to the top of the charts, of course, remains to be seen! Bayer travel to third placed Leverkusen on 2 May, and that appears their most challenging assignment remaining.

Travelling across to Italy, the Serie A still has four names in with a considerable shout for the award, with the top four scorers in the league sitting within three goals of each other. Juventus star Carlos Tévez leads the way with 18, but a quick glance over the Argentine’s shoulder reveals Jérémy Menez and Mauro Icardi (of AC Milan and Inter respectively) almost keeping pace with 16 each, with Luca Toni (Verona) just a step behind on 15. This one seems just about the most open race of the lot, though our next league is even closer.

The cream of the crop, however, rests in Spain’s La Liga – where a truly epic battle for the domestic Golden Boot – and indeed the continental award too – is being directly contested between arguably the world’s two best players. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid leads the way with a whopping 39 – a total which would almost guarantee him the award, but for the presence of a certain Argentinian in the rival Barcelona squad going by the name of Lionel Messi, who has 35.

While this gap between the top two is only bettered by the race in France, Ronaldo and Messi have both proven themselves capable of scoring goals for fun at times this season, and so this one could yet still go either way. One thing seems pretty sure though – whoever claims the Golden Boot in Spain will win the European accolade too.

Marco Verratti: The Italian Xavi?

Paris Saint-Germain were comfortably eliminated by Barcelona in Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final second leg, however, there was one bright light shining in the PSG changing room – Marco Verratti. The Italian midfielder came away with a lot of credit for his performance against the Spanish La Liga leaders.

The Italian international, 22, was singled out for his performance at the Camp Nou, where he completed 99 passes (91% completion ratio), six tackles, three interceptions, five dribbles, and was the most fouled player on the pitch (4). Verratti has earned rave reviews at a young age, and is already being regarded as one of the best deep-lying midfielders in the world.

Following the game, the Italian was being compared to highly-decorated former Spanish international midfielder Xavi, and it is not hard to see why. Both players boast a high level of ball retention and they are very adept at keeping possession under pressure. They control the tempo of the game, and link the midfield with the attack. But both are also hard-working off the ball, and perform defensive duties too.

Barcelona have been linked with Verratti’s signature, and the player even admitted being flattered by the interest, saying: “It would please any player. But PSG believed in me when no-one expected it and I would like to repay that faith.” The youngster is being lined up to replace Xavi, and could well be tempted in 2016 once the transfer ban is lifted.

He has been enjoying domestic success with Paris Saint-Germain since his 2012 move from Italian minnows Pescara. However, PSG have struggled to transform their domestic success onto the European scene. In addition the Parisian side’s squad is getting older and will likely endure a rocky transitional period in the near future. On the other hand, Barcelona are one of the world’s biggest clubs and are steps above PSG in terms of history and prestige.

The Catalans are in the Champions League semi-final this season, and will look to lift the famous European trophy. Anything less than winning is seen as a disappointment for Barcelona and the Spanish side will have to keep improving their squad to remain competitive against the likes of bitter rivals Real Madrid. Once Xavi leaves this summer, there are very few players who can replace the Spanish midfielder yet Verratti might be the best equipped to do so.

His performances against the Catalan giants will have served as further proof of Verratti’s maturity and will be another testament to his qualities. Barcelona are now more certain that he can handle the demands of playing with such world-class players, considering he did not look out of depth in any form or shape when facing the stars of Barca. Verratti is still young, and has more room to grow, yet he is already one of the best in his role.

The Italian international has been described as “unsellable” by his agent, as the Parisians have no intention of letting such a key player leave. However, every player has his price, and Verratti’s flattery at being singled out for praise by Barcelona could perhaps be the hint that he is keen to move to the Spanish giants.

Have Liverpool tied down the best midfielder in the Premier League?

Liverpool are set to tie down midfielder Jordan Henderson on a five-year-deal (£100K-a-week), ending any speculation about his future. The England international has been linked with Manchester City, with the dethroned Premier League champions searching for homegrown talent  due to new regulations expected to be introduced in the future. However, the former Sunderland midfielder looks to have committed his future to the Merseysiders.

After a bad week for Liverpool in the League and FA Cup, Henderson inching closer to signing a new deal is certainly good news, considering he has been a vital player of the side over the last two seasons. His debut campaign was far from impressive, as he was played out of position, and he struggled to settle down, but under Brendan Rodgers – as many predicted – his style of play was deemed perfect in the middle of the park. The Liverpool manager loves the high-pressing approach which fits the England man perfectly.

Henderson is an industrious midfielder, boasts a wide range of passing, has a great eye for goal, creates scoring opportunities for his teammates, and protects the back four while making important tackles and interceptions. He has emerged as the leader at the heart of the side, commanding the players around him on the pitch. There are few, if any, midfielders of Henderson’s ilk, and his importance continues to grow under Rodgers.

This season, the 24-year-old has made 31 Premier League appearances, scoring six goals, and giving eight assists. In addition to creating 53 chances, he has performed 74 tackles and 28 interceptions, and completed a total of 1368 short passes. Henderson is the ideal central midfielder, and he has helped shore things up at the back too, with Liverpool keeping 13 clean sheets.

It is clear to see why Manchester City would be interested in him. Henderson covers every blade of grass in games, and is a well-rounded talent performing in a key area of the pitch. Considering how much criticism has been directed at Yaya Toure way this season, the Liverpool vice-captain could be a perfect replacement to usher in a new era for the Citizens. However, the Reds are set to lock down their Steven Gerrard successor for the long-term, which could be key for their trophy success in the future.

Are there any better homegrown players in the Premier League doing Jordan Henderson’s job better than he is? Ander Herrera is impressing for Manchester United, while Francis Coquelin has been a revelation for Arsenal since his recall, but have Liverpool tied down the best in the Premier League?

How good is Manchester United-target Memphis Depay?

According to various reports, Manchester United are close to signing PSV Eindhoven forward Memphis Depay this summer. The 21-year-old has been outstanding in the Dutch Eredivisie this season, helping his team win the league title. He scored 20 goals in 27 games, and has made it clear he wants to join a top side ahead of next season.

“We have had a telephone call from (Man Utd) about him. But no talks have been held yet. There are several top clubs who have expressed an interest. He will be very expensive. It will be much higher than the (£14.5M) offer from Tottenham Hotspur,” said PSV technical director Marcel Brands.

Manchester United are considered as one of the favourites to secure his signature due to a number of factors. First, it is important to note that Depay worked with Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal during his time with the Netherlands. In addition, the likes of Robin Van Persie, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are perhaps nearing the end of their United career due to a combination of factors, including their advanced age. On-loan striker Radamel Falcao, nearing the end of a disappointing spell at Old Trafford, is set to return to Monaco, so the Premier League giants are in need of reinforcements.

It is somewhat surprising that Depay seems to be getting the attention now despite an outstanding breakthrough season in 2013/14 – scoring 12 goals & making 7 assists in 32 games. He has been setting the division alight for two years, yet has only begun to garner attention in recent weeks. Deepay is destined to leave according to his manager Phillip Cocu, who said: “The chance is really good… But I do hope we’ll be able to keep the rest of the team.”

Depay is certainly ready for a big-money move. He is full of confidence in his ability, and has been consistent over the entire campaign. During a rather impressive season, Deepay has provided moments of individual brilliance, and the 21-year-old has made over 100 successful dribbles, while creating 56 chances.

He is sometimes guilty of being wasteful in possession, however, with 65 of his shots being off-target, as well as being dispossessed 62 times when in control of the ball. Depay is a talented player, but certainly needs to work harder as well as get better guidance in order to reach his best potential. Van Gaal could well be the man to guide him in the coming years, and United are known to be willing to pay whatever it takes to land their man.

Could Memphis Depay be a hit at Old Trafford?