Fan Zone: Elio on Nedved, Pirlo, Marchisio and of course Del Piero!

In the latest Q&A, Elio Salerno- a football writer and contributor- discusses his love affair with Italy’s Old Lady, Juventus. Elio talks in detail about legends such as Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved as well as current stars like fan favorite Paulo Dybala.

Some of his answers may surprise you but Elio methodically proceeds to explain why he made certain choices- particularly that of Blaise Matuidi. Below is the first part of the Q&A:

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players, and why?

Alessandro Del Piero – This is the obvious answer for me. Del Piero is probably the name the majority of Juve fans would choose. Watching him when I was a young boy inspired me. He is the reason I support Juve. The person and the player were truly iconic and one of a kind. Obviously, the career he had also speaks for itself.

Gianluigi Buffon – This was a close call between Giorgio Chiellini and Buffon. I really cannot separate them. However, Buffon’s longevity and ability to play through different eras of the game while staying in the conversation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers sets him apart. It is an incredible achievement. He has brought so many qualities to the club over the years on and off the pitch. He has collected a large number of trophies and showed unquestionable loyalty even during the darkest of times.

Pavel Nedved – What a player! The level of intensity and ferocity at which Nedved played were admirable. He was a winner and a fighter but also had boundless quality with not one but both feet. A creator and scorer of wonderful goals, he is a timeless player & would be at home in the modern game. The Bianconeri could do with a player of his versatility now.

2) From the current squad, name your favorite Juve player by position (DEF/MID/ATT).

DEF: Chiellini – The captain, the leader and the squad’s foundation. It is a pleasure to watch the passion he defends with. The enjoyment he takes out of thwarting attacks puts a smile on your face. As a fan, he is the example you want at the top of your squad. I say enjoy him before he retires.

MID:  Blaise Matuidi – It is not easy to pick a midfield player out of the current group but, and surprisingly so, I am going with Blaise Matuidi. I am sure very, very few fans would pick him. On face value, Blaise isn’t the type of player I’d enjoy watching. I would not even choose to have him on my team but you cannot belittle what he does and what he brings to the table. Yes he has the obvious flaws but he is arguably the only Juve midfielder who offers consistency- he isn’t going to let you down and at the moment it is undeniable that Juve are better when he is in the starting lineup.

ATT: Paulo Dybala – La Joya has been a favorite of mine from the day he arrived. Yes he has had his problems in recent seasons but his love for Juve is apparent and it is a trait we all want from our number 10. Dybala’s name in the Starting XI always bring joy to my heart. The way he controls the ball so smoothly and can change the course of a game in one magical moment is the reason why we watch football. I hope Juve can build a more complete team because Dybala has more to bring.

3) Name Juve’s most important moment in your lifetime, and why?

It has to be the first Scudetto of the current historic run- it came under Antonio Conte. After everything that happened and everything that has followed this was a pivotal moment and a welcome, much needed success. It felt like the beginning of something special and it has turned out to be the case.

4) Pick your favorite Juve match, and why?

The return leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2003. Everything about that night was perfectly scripted except for the Nedved yellow card!!! Where to start? The Delle Alpi was on fire. That Juve team, the Del Piero & Nedved goals and of course the Buffon penalty save on Luis Figo’s attempt. The game had it all.

5) Pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

It has to be Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. Pirlo is unique, there won’t be another Pirlo. To watch him in full flight is football poetry. As for Marchisio, aside from what he means to Juventus and the fans, he was an underrated and superb midfield player. He was the glue in almost any midfield set-up, his versatility and ability to adapt allowed for others to shine and he was a huge asset to the coaches and the team.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Is it the right-back position or the midfield which is under constant scrutiny? 

The glaring weakness is in midfield and it has been since 2015. It is the primary area that needs addressing and needs an injection of youth and energy. Juve need midfielders who have a more complete game combined with strong physical characteristics.

Beyond that, do the full back areas need an upgrade? Yes but it isn’t a significant problem and there aren’t many great or available full backs in Europe so I would not waste time in that area unless it is to sell one who is already in the squad.

I also would add that Sarri must decide what formation he will be using going forward. Since it is obvious Sarri favors 4-3-3, I would say a creative attacker/wide player would be a welcome & important addition. A fit Douglas Costa is that player, but we all know his injury problems.

Juve must also sign a versatile striker to replace Gonzalo Higuain- someone such as Timo Werner who can play wide or centrally. Werner would allow room for Ronaldo to be Ronaldo.

7) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It is really tough for me not to say Del Piero. I can only comment on players that I have been fortunate enough to watch in my lifetime & Del Piero succeeded in every way. He has the trophies and the stats to back this up. He was a complete forward, scoring & creating goals, able to link up the game and take on defenders with a sharp turn or a piece of skill. Del Piero was strong physically and difficult to dispossess and he gave you a chance to win whenever he was on the pitch.

8) Who is the one player you would sign from Erling Haaland (STR), Arthur (MID) and Achraf Hakimi (DEF)?

That’s a tough choice. I don’t particularly have a strong feeling towards any of the three names. I would favor Haaland for the simple reason he is a player set to take Europe by storm. He has everything you would want from a modern center-forward and more importantly he knows how to find the net.

9) Juve built a strong reputation signing free agents. Who will be Juve’s next bargain signing?

I feel this is something Juve should move away from unless it really is a deal they cannot afford to pass up. These free players come with a heavy wage, older age and are not always a big enough improvement to really help the team. I would like to see Juve invest more in Italian youngsters but keep them, perhaps even allow room for players currently at the club such as Hans Caviglia, Nicolo Fagioli and Manolo Portanova.

10) What do you make of Mauro Icardi? His stats are decent despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you sign Icardi, Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane

I would go with Gabriel Jesus, for the reason I mentioned earlier with regards to versatility, a player that is not a typical 9 and can allow for Ronaldo to express himself. Harry Kane is a fantastic player, arguably the best in his role but similar to Icardi. I don’t see them at Juve whilst CR7 is still on the books- it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Fan Zone: Gregory returns to discuss Juve in Europe, Higuain, Tonali & more

Gregory Caltabanis- who covers European football and is part of the team @FantaCalcioGame- is back with the second part of our Q&A! This time Gregory focuses on the Champions League but also talks about potential transfers and Juve’s reputation as a top destination for free agents (this June- or whenever FIFA/UEFA decide the contracts ending in June 2020 will now end after the pandemic).

Let us get straight to the answers by Gregory!

1) Juve have a great reputation signing players for free or at a bargain. Who is the candidate to be the next Juve bargain?

Tough to say. I’m not a huge fan of the players available on a free transfer this summer, but I wouldn’t be against making a move for Thomas Meunier. We need a right-back and he would come free. I recently saw Bayern Munich signed Charles Aranguiz, which I think will be the Bosman move of the summer.

Beyond that, bringing back Rolando Mandragora could be cost-efficient. I also like Bologna’s young prospects such as Jerdy Schouten, Nicolas Dominguez and Andreas Skov Olsen. Riccardo Orsolini is definitely one to keep an eye on, but I don’t think he would come cheap.

2) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland (striker), Sandro Tonali (MID) or Achraf Hakimi (DEF)? Who’s you pick and why?

If I must pick one, then I would have to go with Tonali. If we don’t sign him and he joins a rival, I get the feeling we’ll regret it for the next ten years. He is exactly what we’re missing in the midfield. Eventually, I’d love for us to sign Haaland, but he’s not a priority right now as there are plenty of strikers we can sign.

Hakimi is an interesting one as well, but I see him returning to Real Madrid this summer or next. If I had to throw in another name for the right back spot, I would go for Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira.

3) Harry Kane’s stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you be for signing Kane?

He’s definitely a top ten striker in the world right now, but I would stay away from him if I were Juve. I just don’t think he’s a good fit with the current roster. His scoring record is very impressive, but I feel like he’s lost a step over the past few years. Considering the price tag he would command, I would look elsewhere.

4) Do you believe Higuain has proven he’s worth the 90m fee paid to sign him?

Higuain has given Juve two very good seasons and has scored some important goals, but I can’t help but feel 90M was a bit excessive. That being said, he was playing for a direct competitor and the only way we would have signed him was by triggering his release clause. Ultimately, we didn’t win a Champions League with him, but he’s been integral to our domestic success. Bit of a mixed bag.

5) If European competition returns, will Juve overcome Lyon? How confident are you?

100%. The first leg against them was our worst performance of the season, but I’m absolutely confident we will overturn this narrow deficit. All we need is one goal and the whole tie will change. We pulled off a bigger comeback against Atletico last season and I don’t see why we can’t repeat the feat against a Lyon team without Memphis Depay.

6) One team you’d like Juve to avoid meeting in the Champions League?

It may come as a surprise but Red Bull Leipzig. The Germans press intensely and are incredibly difficult to break down. While I think we would beat them over two legs, we match up pretty poorly against their style of play and would have difficulty keeping up with the pace. They’re deadly on the counter and I fear Werner could hurt us.

7) One team you’d like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Right now it has to be Bayern Munich. Before play was suspended, they were in incredible form and looked like the Bayern of old. With their European pedigree and deep midfield options, I get the feeling they’re favorites to win it all.

Atletico is another interesting one. We got the better of them this season, but I wouldn’t want to play against a Simeone-led side in a one-off final. We all saw how they eliminated Liverpool and could be extremely dangerous if play resumes.

French Ligue 1 season is cancelled- what happens next?

The French Ligue 1 season has been ended by French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe.

The announcement means an immediate end to the season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, however the story doesn’t end there. The problem now for the French Football Federation is what to do next? There seems to be three choices which would be to declare the season null and void, to end the league as how it stands now or to count wins only and revise the table.

As far as winning the league there was only going to be one winner this season in PSG. The club are 12 points clear and with a game in hand over 2nd place with 11 games to play. It’s obvious that they were never going to get caught and the club will feel harshly done by if they are not awarded the league title.

Marseille could be left frustrated if the season is null and void. The club have had their best season in  years at last showing good consistency and are in 2nd place with 56 points and 6 points clear of 3rd. Indeed they are 7 points clear of not playing in the Champions League next season and they did look almost assured of being part of Europe’s elite club for the season after, now that is in the balance.

Rennes had won 15 games this season to put them in 3rd place and as it stands they would be entered into the qualifying stages for the Champions League. Though in 4th place is Lille who are just 1 point behind Rennes and they would feel very hard done by considering they had 10 games to make up 1 point.

Historical club Reims were in search of a long over due return to Europe too as they looked on course for a Europa League finish.

As for relegation Toulouse would certainly benefit with a null and void decision given that they have amassed only 13 points this season and are 10 points behind 19th placed Amiens- they were certainties to go down. Amiens were struggling too on 23 points and had fallen 7 points behind from safety.

The tricky part of the league if is declared by current standings is that Nimes are in 18th place with 27 points. Finishing here isn’t relegation but usually means a play-off with the team finishing in 3rd place in Ligue 2. So when would that play-off game take place?

Over the next few days there are many things to discuss, and what would be the fairest option should be put on the table. Also it is worth noting that Ligue 2 has also been stopped, simply put there will be no professional football in France until September.

Prove you have what it takes to challenge the best French Fantasy Football managers here www.fantasyligue1.com 

 

Moise Kean’s future with Everton in doubt after he breaks lockdown rules

Some Premier League players have been good at something during the lockdown due to Coronavirus and that has been flouting the rules. The latest player to do so is Everton’s Moise Kean. The striker hosted a party at his Cheshire apartment which is of course against strict rules.

Everton were left stunned and surprised that Kean would break the rules and host a party and they had the following to say in a statement:

”Everton Football Club was appalled to learn of an incident in which a first-team player ignored Government guidance and club policy in relation to the coronavirus crisis. The Club has strongly expressed its disappointment to the player and made it clear that such actions are completely unacceptable. Everton has regularly stressed the importance of following all the Government guidelines including rules and advice for inside and outside of the home through a series of official communications to all staff members, including players. The amazing people in the NHS deserve the utmost respect for their hard work and sacrifice. The best way to show them respect is by doing everything we can to protect them.”

Those are strong words by the club and reports have suggested that Kean could be fined 2 weeks wages, around £106,000 depending who you believe. The club will hope that Kean will learn quickly and will understand that he is completely in the wrong.

Of course when such matters are raised to the surface it is easy to reflect on what the player has done on the pitch- which isn’t much. The £25m move from Juventus last summer was supposed  to reignite Everton and on the surface Kean’s transfer looked like a good one. He had forced his way into the Juventus team and scored a few goals with limited time.

Everton came in for Kean, in what appeared to be a solid buy for the club but the fact that no other major European team wanted his services and challenged Everton for his signature should have raised alarm bells. This season Kean has struggled and has scored just 1 goal from 26 games.

But perhaps the main worry isn’t his lack of goals but his overall body language. When his team doesn’t have the ball he looks dejected, he doesn’t track back and simply doesn’t look very interested at all. For a player who is earning £53,000 a week this is a shocking situation.

In light of Kean breaking the lockdown rules, one could presume that Everton would be better off trying to offload the player. The problem is that they will almost certainly lose their investment and could take a 50% hit. Or possibly the best is yet to come from Kean and current manager Carlo Ancelotti will try to get the best out of the player.

As it stands Kean needs to realise how lucky he is. There will be hundreds of young kids in the local Everton area that could only dream of playing for the club, that may just lack some skills or just be unlucky. But are equipped with more passion and understanding of the club and football. Kean simply needs to wake up and realise playing for Everton in the Premier League is a huge opportunity that should not just be thrown away.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Real Madrid: Total Overhaul?

Few football clubs have enjoyed prolonged glory like Spain’s Real Madrid. In fact, Real is considered one of the most prestigious clubs in the football world, and across all sports fields for that matter. Real achieved this acclaim in a different way than most other clubs, utilizing socios, or club members, who own and operate all facets of the franchise.

Founded in 1902, Real Madrid was estimated in 2019 to be worth 3.8 billion Euros as the second highest-earning football club in the world. For any football pundit, this information isn’t surprising. After all, in their 118 years of existence, Real Madrid lifted 33 domestic league titles, 19 Copa del Rey trophies, a remarkable 13 Champions League trophies, and 4 FIFA Club World Cup titles. Some of these wins stretch back over a century ago, like the club’s first Copa del Rey triumph in 1905.

Real has entertained the fans with some of the greatest athletes of all time, as well. Top goal scorers and creative stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul, Alfredo di Stefano, and Karim Benzema called Madrid home for years. And players like Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos have appeared in upwards of 500 football matches wearing the Real Madrid jersey.

Others, like Ronaldo- the Brazilian or original one as some call him, Luka Modríc, and Cristiano Ronaldo received their prestigious Ballon D’Or awards while on the team. In fact, to this day, Real Madrid’s head coach, Zinedine Zidane, is one of his generation’s greatest players, and won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award in 2002 while playing for the club he now leads.

 Future Plans

Most recently, Real Madrid have been associated with the superstar power of Cristiano Ronaldo. A dynamic and powerful goal scorer with an unstoppable drive, Ronaldo led a highly talented cast for nine years at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. The team flew high and attracted record number of fans to the stadium, remote viewership of games, and title wins, leading many to consider this era as Ronaldo’s.

However, in 2018 Ronaldo moved to Juventus to play in Italy’s Serie A. Despite this move, Real Madrid have not crumbled, though president Florentino Pérez seems likely to address the club at its foundational roots in an attempt to revitalize the team following their leader’s departure.

Meanwhile, in the US, NBA franchise the Golden State Warriors have also recently overhauled their mediocre team, drawing in star players as well as solid, vetted athletes. In fact, the Golden State Warriors have a near monopoly on NBA basketball odds in the US since winning the NBA Championship in 2015, 2016, and again in 2018. It seems Real Madrid is looking to rebuild its squad in a similar manner, though this change isn’t motivated by disappointing play. It’s preventative, if anything.

 Stadium & Roster

First, Pérez has shown interest in demolishing Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in order to begin construction on a ‘digital stadium of the future’. However, his comments have left some fans in mourning, and others confused. While many will mourn the loss of a stadium as well-loved as Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, most are waiting for the club to roll out its plans to understand what exactly a ‘digital stadium’ entails.

The stadium is set to have a capacity of 90,000. Other plans for the updated stadium include a wrap-around facade onto which images can be projected, retractable roofs that will cover all seating, and additional leisure and entertainment activities within, like shopping and a museum.

However, Perez also seems hellbent on revamping Real Madrid’s once-motley crew. While some franchises, like the Golden State Warriors, have to start from scratch to build a strong team, Madrid won’t face such challenges. While rebuilding a team is often undertaken for many top clubs that lose a star player, Real Madrid is full of star power.

Still, some athletes may be moving on. Rumor has it that in order to welcome in shining young recruits, Zidane may be letting go of players like James Rodriquez, Gareth Bale, Lucas Vasquez, and Mariano Diaz. Even important figures such as Marcelo and Luka Modric also face uncertain future despite historic wins with the club.

The above moves could be made in order to welcome new talent like Eduardo Camavinga, a 17-year-old midfielder with great promise. This comes after attempts to land Paul Pogba from Manchester United have fluctuated between cold and hoot. There is also interest in Raul Jiménez, a forward who may be able to pick up some of the pieces in attack in case Benzema leaves.

Fan Zone: Gregory on Nedved, Buffon, Dybala & more Juve talk

Gregory Caltabanis is an established writer and reporter who covers extensively European football, but what matters for the purposes of this Q&A is Gregory’s unfaltering allegiance to Italian giants Juventus.

Gregory is part of the @FantaCalcioGame team as well! They run the most popular Fantasy Serie A Game, but for now let’s go straight to the Q&A with Gregory offering lots of interesting takes on legends such as Pavel Nedved and Gianluigi Buffon.

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Juve players (ranked by preference) and why?

Pavel Nedved: My all-time favorite Juve player is undoubtedly Nedved. One of the first games I saw as a kid was Juve against Milan in 2005 and all I remember seeing was a player with blonde locks run effortlessly down the left wing. Of course, it was Nedved. From that point forward, I always watched Juve and became a fan. The rest is history.

Gianluigi Buffon: After Nedved, I would have to say it’s Buffon. Buffon has been with the team since I’ve followed them and is the main reason I’m a goalkeeper to this day. Beyond saving countless goals, he’s a class act both on and off the field. I’ll never forget his save on Zidane’s header in 2006.

Paulo Dybala: The last one is a bit difficult, but I have to go with Dybala. I know he’s not up there yet with Alessandro Del Piero and other legends, but Dybala is one of the reasons I’m still passionate about the team today. He’s always respected the shirt and is arguably the first worthy number 10 we’ve had since Del Piero. I hope he stays with Juve for the long haul.

2) From active players, pick your favorite Juve player by position: one each from defense, midfield and attack. And why did you pick each one of them?

DEF: My favorite defender is 100% Merih Demiral (Gregory says it emphatically!). Since he’s joined, I always thought he would be very important for our success. It’s a shame the serious injury halted his progress, but I’m confident he’ll come back stronger. Demiral embodies everything that Juve should seek in a player. He’s confident, plays with an edge and has that fighting spirit. I’ll be ordering my Demiral jersey very soon.

MID: It has to be Rodrigo Bentancur. I’ve had my doubts about him over the years, but he’s stepped up this season and looks to be evolving into an important player for us. Like Demiral, he plays with an edge to his game which I feel we lack sometimes. I’m looking forward to seeing him make further progress when play hopefully resumes.

STR: It’s an obvious one- Paulo Dybala. You really get the sense that he loves Juve and fights for the shirt every time he steps onto the pitch. It goes without saying, but his left foot is incredible. It’s just amazing to watch him play. Now, if only Fabio Paratici shared the same opinion, we’d be better off.

3) Your pick for most important Juve victory in your lifetime? Why?

Without a doubt, when we knocked out Real Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in 2015. While the win against Inter in 2018 was huge, for me the Real result announced Juve’s return on the world stage and showed the rest of Europe “we are back.” After all, we just took out Real Madrid. The final didn’t go our way, but I can’t recall a win I’ve celebrated more.

4) Your all-time favorite Juve match? Why?

Against Inter and on their home turf just over two years ago. At times, it felt like the game and the title were slipping away but as soon as Dybala stepped onto the pitch, it changed everything. I’ll never forget Gonzalo Higuain’s goal to complete the comeback. Made it that much sweeter that it was against Inter at the San Siro.

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5) Where do you rank Sarri among the current generation of Italian coaches? How about among coaches worldwide?

I’d put him in the top five, but I wouldn’t rank him in the top tier of Italian managers at the moment. Conte is in a class of his own, in my opinion. Other than last year, I’d put Allegri in the same tier as Conte. Beyond them, I rate Gasperini highly but it would be interesting to see how he does outside of Atalanta.

Worldwide, I think he’s a top ten manager. If I had to rank them, I’d say this is my top ten: Klopp, Guardiola, Simeone, Conte, Zidane, Allegri, Nagelsmann, Sarri, Tuchel, Gasperini.

6) What’s Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League, or both?

Definitely both. When you have Cristiano Ronaldo on your team, the objective always has to be the Champions League. While I don’t think the team is well equipped for a deep European run, a player like Ronaldo can make the difference in a big game. It would be a waste of his final years if Juve didn’t push for European glory.

7) Perhaps a tough one here but pick two from Marchisio, Pirlo, Pogba, and Vidal for your midfield, and why?

I love Marchisio and it’ll be hard to leave him out, but I have to go with Pirlo and Vidal. Pirlo is the ultimate Regista and is needed to dictate play. Obviously, it helps he can score a free-kick from just about any angle. As for Vidal, he’s your classic box-to-box midfielder and is not afraid to jump into tackles. Few midfielders impressed me more than prime Vidal and let’s not forget, he could score, too. Juve’s current midfield is really lacking his type of profile.

8) Where are Juve’s weaknesses? Some say right-back, others say left-back, or many mention the midfield. Your take?

It has to be the midfield. This may anger some, but Miralem Pjanic is a complete liability both in and out of possession. Juve can do much better in his position and I think they’ll look to replace him this summer. Blaise Matuidi is necessary to press and offer defensive support, but ultimately he’s far too limited. Remember his turnover against Napoli?

I think this Juve side needs at least two signings in the middle of the park and should arguably offload two or three guys (Sami Khedira, Pjanic and perhaps Adrien Rabiot) As I said before, this midfield lacks fight and demonstrates zero Grinta.

Of course, our depth at full-back is worrisome particularly with Alex Sandro slowing down, but for now, I think Sandro and Juan Cuadrado can manage the situation. Hopefully, Pellegrini comes back in the summer and competes for the left-back position.

9) In your opinion who is the best player (not necessarily your favorite) to ever wear the Juve shirt?

It has to be Del Piero. Record goalscorer and record appearance holder, few match Del Piero’s resume with the club. He’s won it all with us and has inspired many to support Juve over the years. At the height of Italian football, he was one of the best and led Juve to many trophies.

Del Piero set the standard for our number ten jersey and raised the bar for everyone after him. Perhaps Buffon is in it with a shout, but I have to give this one to Pinturicchio.

Fan Zone: Isak on Ibrahimovic, Romagnoli & other Milan topics

Despite his young age, Isak Möller is a knowledgeable and well-seasoned Milan fan. He is an integral part of www.sempremilan.com and you can find him on Twitter @Isak_Moller.

Below is the latest Q&A with Isak- again I cannot highlight enough how much of a big Milan fan he is! The club is struggling to win trophies but it does not mean the fans have disappeared! Here we go:

1) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Milan players (ranked by preference) and why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: As a Swede, it would be impossible not to choose the big striker. I started following Milan (and football in general) in 2010, meaning the first season I watched in full ended with us winning the Scudetto! Zlatan was a huge part of this and we really missed him when he left. Even at 38 years-old, arriving for his second spell at the club, he has made an incredible difference.

Paolo Maldini: Although I never got to see him in action before he retired, it’s an obvious choice. The greatest players are never forgotten, and the defender is certainly one of these. Ever since I started following the Rossoneri, he has been the symbol for the red and black colors, keeping the club’s reputation intact.

Alessio Romagnoli: As mentioned, I wish I had followed Milan back in the day. But since that isn’t the case, it would be silly not to pick a player from the more recent years. Joining from Roma in 2015, Romagnoli has been one of our best players, keeping us from crumbling completely. He has certainly become a fan favorite, giving his all while wearing the captain’s armband.

2) From the current team, pick your favorite Milan player by position. Pick one for DEF, one for midfield and the same for attack, & why?

DEF: Obviously, I have to choose Romagnoli for this one as well. Although this season has been tough, the 25-year-old has continued to perform on a consistent level, which isn’t exactly easy given the number of changes made throughout the course of the season.

MID: Hakan Calhanoglu. Yes, I’m one of those fans. If there is one player that has divided the Milan fan-base in recent years, it’s the Turkish midfielder. You could argue that he’s inconsistent, but in my opinion, he’s a very important player even when he isn’t performing at his best level. Hopefully, Ralf Rangnick can help him improve further next season, should he arrive.

STR: Of course, Ibrahimovic. It’s no coincidence that the Rossoneri have performed a lot better since his arrival in January, seemingly elevating the likes of Samu Castillejo, Ante Rebic and Ismael Bennacer. Hopefully, he will stay for next season as well, although it looks unlikely.

3) Most important Milan victory in your lifetime? Why?

I would probably have to say the Champions League win against Liverpool in 2007, getting revenge on the English side. And since it’s the last time we won the competition, it obviously makes it a bit more important.

4) Your all-time favorite Milan match? Why? 

It has to be the Supercoppa Italiana final against Juventus in 2016. After beating the Bianconeri a few months earlier in the league, courtesy of a Manuel Locatelli rocket, we managed to do it again against all odds. It was also the first trophy in quite some time, and although I watched the 2010/11 Scudetto season (I was very young), this win meant more to me.

5) What’s Milan’s objective for this season? Is it making the Europa League, or perhaps the Champions League?

As always, the objective is to reach the Champions League. However, looking at the current standings, it becomes pretty clear that the Rossoneri will have to fight for the Europa League.

6) Where do you see Milan’s weaknesses? Is it the midfield or are the issues defensively?

At the beginning of the season, I would have said the midfield, or perhaps even the attack. However, since Pioli changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1, everything has worked a lot better. I think it’s just a case of getting better players, which obviously is something that Milan will work on this summer.

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7) Different from ranking your favorite Milan players in Questions 1&2, who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Milan jersey?

I think it has to be Paolo Maldini. In addition to being an icon of the club, he has also become an icon of defending. I don’t think it needs further explaining, really, as he’s known all over the world as a spectacular player.

8) Who is the most critical player for this Milan team? Is it Rebic, Ibra or Theo Hernandez?

For the time being, I think I speak for the entire Milan community when I say Ibrahimovic. Sure, you could argue that both Hernandez and Rebic have done better on the pitch. However, you can’t deny the Swede’s incredible impact on the team, turning things around after a poor first half of the season.

9) Who should Milan sign realistically? If you can pick 3 players to strengthen the squad ahead of the next season?

If I can only pick three players, it would have to be one for each department. Milan desperately need a centre-back, in my opinion, and signing a player like Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic would make it interesting for the future. For the midfield, the choice is obvious: Sandro Tonali. The competition is fierce, but I don’t think we should rule out the Rossoneri. Up front, there has been a lot of talk about Gianluca Scamacca, who certainly is a name for the future. However, if we need to replace Ibrahimovic, I’d say Arkadiusz Milik.

10) Why did Bonucci and Higuain fail to impress at Milan?

I think it was a combination of many things. Let’s just put it this way, Leo Bonucci wasn’t the only disappointing player that season, although it must be said he was very good under the guidance of Gennaro Gattuso. In the end, he clearly just got homesick. As for Gonzalo Higuain, he’s no longer the goalscorer he used to be. In half a season at Milan, he got 8 goals and 3 assists. This season, with Juve of course, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. Considering he has played more games with the Bianconeri, it’s not much of a difference if you ask me.

11) Based on the above, would you sign another player from the current Juve squad if he’s made available? 

I wouldn’t mind someone like Daniele Rugani, although he isn’t a personal favorite of mine. Merih Demiral would obviously boost our squad, but the price tag is simply too high. That’s about it, though.

12) When football resumes, do you see Milan with any realistic chance of making 4th to qualify for the Champions League?

Not at all, but you never know! I’m afraid we’ll have to settle for the Europa League.

 

Fan Zone: Alberto returns to discuss Sarri, Higuain, the market and more!

In the second part of our Q&A, Alberto- you can follow him here @alljuvecast- discusses Juve’s weaknesses, coach Maurizio Sarri, Gonzalo Higuain and a few other topics! Without wasting more time. Here goes:  Continue reading

This is how the Premier League season could be saved after Coronavirus

The Coronavirus continues to stop life as we know it and as a consequence that means no football. There has been talk by the FA in England that the Premier League could resume on the weekend of June 13th. But that is a best case scenario.

To add to the problems is that for many clubs there are still 9 games to be played and yet UEFA have stipulated that they would like domestic seasons to be completed by July 31st so they could then dedicate the month of August to the Champions League and Europa League.

The top leagues in England seem to be waiting for one reason only and that is the amount of money that is at stake that would be lost this season to TV companies. It is in the region of £700m, that’s what it would cost the FA if they voided the top leagues. Lower leagues have already been declared void and null. In Belgium the league season was brought to an end. The Dutch Erdevisie could close down their league and in Scotland a voting process is taking place to end the season.

So what is the best option for the Premier League?

As time goes on and the PM of England Boris Johnson states that a 2nd wave of the virus could emerge it looks more and more likely that the current season will be voided. If that is announced the problem is over and the next season could start later in the year. Or there is another way, which would be to stop the league season and end it with play off games.

First up Liverpool should be declared winners of the league. They are 25 points clear with 9 games to go, let’s face it the league is over as far as the title winners go. Liverpool had hit some poor form by their standards just before the virus hit but they are not going to lose 8 of their 9 games after losing just one in a year. Not going to happen. Currently Jurgen Klopp’s team need just 2 wins to wrap up their first league title in thirty years.

In the name of gamesmanship one could conclude that Liverpool deserve their title, and if the season was to restart it would only be a matter of time before they would have won it. So let’s give them the title and leave them out.

Next up is Manchester City who are in 2nd place. On account of them being 12 points clear of 5th and very unlikely on losing a top 4 place with the quality the reigning champions have at their disposal they should also be left out of a play off place and should qualify for the Champions League. Of course all of that depends on their appeal with UEFA over an earlier sanction which could see them lose it anyway, but that is an argument for another day.

In an ideal world then, to see who will take up the other 2 places of the Champions League we could have a play-off which would take in teams placed from 3rd to 6th (4 places). 3rd Leicester would play 6th placed Wolves and 4th Chelsea would play 5th placed Manchester United. The two teams who win qualify for the Champions League. Matches could be played behind closed doors as a one off game at Wembley Stadium, with heavy policing outside to stop the congregation of fans.

Of course the likes of Sheffield United in 7th place would feel unjust given that only goal difference separates them from Wolves. Tottenham who are 2 points behind Wolves and Arsenal who are three points would probably feel that they had a good run in chance to compete, but at the end of the day if the league is not abandoned then cut off places are needed. Those teams from 7th to 10th would then go into a play off anyway to determine who plays in the Europa League.

As for relegation Norwich are bottom, but are just six points from safety and with 27 left on the board for them it would seem unfair to just relegate them. So why not a play off?

This is where things could get very heated as it would feel unfair if say the bottom three of the Premier League played off against the top 3 of the Championship who would have felt they have earned their right to have the chance to play in the Premier League. The next objective then would be to have the bottom three of the Premier League play off against the next 3 clubs in the league positioned in 17th, 16th and 15th places. The team in 15th which is currently Brighton are after all just 2 points clear of the relegation zone. But it is evident that those clubs would complain about being rounded up into a play off for survival.

The games would be incredibly exciting though, and for most would amount to a fair way of ending the season. Instead of having to play out another 100 league games, the season could be decided in 9 games.

To some it might sound fair and to others very unjust, but at this time it almost feels like play-offs could be the perfect option for a very troubling and complex moment.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

 

Gabriel signing could determine how far Everton have come

Everton have emerged as the front runners to sign Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes. The player is currently with Lille and has impressed the Premier League side who are willing to spend £30m to get his services for next season.

If Everton get the player simply known as Gabriel it would be seen as a major swoop, and they certainly look the favourites to secure his services at this time. One of the reasons that the transfer would be impressive is because both Arsenal and Chelsea have shown an interest. Not only are both clubs equipped with larger budgets, but because of recent successes they would also have more pulling power.

One has to remember that Everton have not won a major trophy since 1995 when they won the FA Cup. Some could see Chelsea and Arsenal in transition at this moment but both clubs are still powerful and can attract the very best players in Europe. The question is could Gabriel’s head be turned? Could Chelsea for example offer more wages, or a bigger transfer fee to Lille?

The good news for Everton is that they have Carlo Ancelotti as manager and no one can deny that he is amongst the very best managers in Europe his CV speaks for itself and that could mean everything in Everton persuading Gabriel to join and be coached by one of the greats.

However is £30m too much of a risk on Gabriel? The defender has only played 34 games for Lille since his move there in 2017, and one of those reasons is that he has been loaned out to Troyes and Dinamo Zagreb. Why would you loan out a player, if he is worth £30m to you?

Of course it could simply be that Gabriel has needed time to grow and adapt as a player and at 22 he is still young and learning. He hasn’t made the Brazilian national team yet but has played for the under 20 side. Also Gabriel would be able to link up with Richarlison, Everton’s Brazilian forward who has improved his game since joining Everton from Watford, that could also be a major plus.

The transfer though isn’t assured, as both Arsenal and Chelsea also have another trick up their sleeves, which is the pulling power of life in London and all that comes with it.

It will be interesting then to see if the Ancelotti effect has taken on some importance, as he looks like the only major ‘player’ in proceedings that could swing this deal Everton’s way.

If they do get their man, well done, but presently Gabriel seems a little unproven for the money being talked about.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.