La Liga players we haven’t been praising enough

Sure, Lionel Messi remains magnificent and Karim Benzema has been brilliant, yet beyond the two dominant giants of Spanish football and at the other 18 clubs, there are a host of players who often go under the radar. Such players are often pivotal for their teams, whether it is scoring goals or creating them, spraying the ball around in midfield or making crucial tackles at the back, and standing tall between the posts.

We take a look below at four players who should be getting more attention on top of being talked about more thanks to their excellent contribution during the 2019/20 season in the Spanish top division.

Gerard Moreno – Forward, Villarreal

28-year-old Gerard Moreno is well on course to register the best scoring top-flight campaign of his career to date. His recent goal against Valencia was a joy to behold, assisted by an exquisite first touch pass from Santi Cazorla.

Although the latest La Liga betting odds have Moreno at 500/1 to finish as top scorer, behind seemingly nailed-on Pichichi Trophy favorite Messi at 1/40, the Villarreal forward has netted just seven goals less than the Argentine superstar.

As the highest scoring Spaniard in La Liga with 15 goals to his name after 33 games, Moreno’s form would suggest more games for the Spanish national team before too long, having scored 3 goals in 3 outings with La Roja.

Yangel Herrera – Midfielder, Granada

Granada have enjoyed a superb return to La Liga this season under manager Diego Martinez. Martinez is candidate for manager of the year, underlining his focus on teamwork and togetherness to get results. As one of their key components, Yangel Herrera has been tireless in midfield.


The 22-year-old Venezuelan international is Granada’s highest rated player according to whoscored.com statistics, having demonstrated an enviable level of consistency throughout the season, making him a priceless asset for his team. Crucial interceptions and tackles, key passes and a few great goals; he’s everywhere.

On loan from Manchester City until the end of the campaign, Herrera recently expressed a desire to remain at Granada beyond the end of this season. Whether that’s for another season on loan or permanently, the fans would be delighted if he stays.

Sergio Reguilon – Defender, Sevilla

Let’s be honest, dislodging Marcelo from his left-back slot at Real Madrid was never going to be easy for Sergio Reguilon, which means the loan move to Sevilla was always going to be a great opportunity. One that hasn’t been wasted as a fine showcase of his ability.

Sergio Reguilón has expressed his desire to return to Real Madrid to fight for his place. However, with Ferland Mendy and Marcelo already in the squad, the left-back may well be surplus to requirements and his plan B would be a return to Sevilla for another season. Former Spain and short-lived Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui knew exactly what he was getting, making 23-year-old Reguilon one of his first signings upon taking the helm at Sevilla this season. The hugely talented full-back has repaid that faith in abundance, given the freedom to express himself.

Solid and reliable at the back, with a great sense of positioning and agile on the overlap, Reguilon has been key to Sevilla’s push to stay in La Liga’s top four. They would like to keep him, although a return to Real Madrid seems almost certain.

Unai Simon – Goalkeeper, Athletic Club

No sooner had they sold Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea for a whopping £71.6 million transfer fee, the fabled Basque youth system of Athletic Club rolled out another fine homegrown talent in Unai Simon. What’s more, there’s also belief at the club that he’ll be the better goalkeeper.

While everyone runs out of superlatives for Jan Oblak and his performances with Atletico Madrid, by comparison, the goalkeeping displays of 23-year-old Unai Simon in La Liga have rarely received as much praise. Nevertheless, the agility and shot-stopping form of Simon with Athletic this season has actually been just as impressive, if not more so.

Having conceded just 28 goals this term, he looks set to be one of the best goalies in La Liga and if they can keep him, Athletic will have a fine goalkeeper for many years to come.

Fan Zone: Enrico returns to discuss Juventus transfer targets

Enrico Passarella is back to discuss Juventus but this time the focus is on the transfer market and the club’s potential targets. Enrico is well versed in Italian football and he methodically covers Calcio, in particular from the fantasy football angle. You can follow him on social media here.

Feel free to discuss the names linked with a transfer to the Bianconeri as well as other news pertaining to Juve with both Enrico and Rami Soufi. Check below for Enrico’s preferred choice among the summer targets (plus the names linked) as well as his take on who may turn out to be the club’s bargain signing.

1) Would you rather sign Erling Haaland or Mauro Icardi? How about Jorginho, Houssem Aouar or Sergej Milinkovic-Savic? Achraf Hakimi or Ricardo Pereira? Who would you pick from all of them?

Haaland just looks to me as a more complete player than Icardi and he is also much younger. He appears to be the perfect modern striker. Icardi would likely score a lot for Juve, but I never particularly liked him or his style of play to be honest.

Among the midfielders, while Jorginho would make most sense under coach Sarri, my choice is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who is the type of player that is currently missing at the club. It would also weaken a direct opponent and reaffirm the recent era’s tradition of acquiring the best players in Italy.

For the right-back position, I have been impressed with Hakimi when watching BVB, so I would pick him over Pereira. However, for some reason, I sense the Leicester player would likely work out better in Italy. He is still working hard to recover from a serious injury back in March 2020, but is expected to be ready for the start of the new season- whether in England’s Premier League or in a different league.

If I am to pick just one then I like Haaland the most as Juve definitely missed out when they had a chance to get him for relatively cheap although signing a striker was not really a priority in January and it would have been difficult to integrate him.

2) Juve built a reputation signing players for free or for a bargain. Who is potentially the next bargain signing by Juve?

I can see Juve’s management making a run on at one of the PSG fullbacks who are on expiring contracts, meaning Thomas Meunier or Layvin Kurzawa or perhaps both.

3) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? His stats are decent despite Pep Guardiola using him as a substitute in most games. Would you sign Jesus or Harry Kane if you’re in charge

Gabriel Jesus has ton of potential- unfortunately for him he has Sergio Kun Aguero ahead of him. He has everything in place to fully blossom once he becomes the unquestioned center-piece of the attack, either at Manchester City or elsewhere.

No doubt though, I would sign Harry Kane, who, with his physical attributes and skill-set, would have an easier time adapting to Serie A. I consider him one of the best all-around strikers. Having said all that, I do not see Juve pulling off such a mammoth transfer this summer.

Fan Zone: Enrico covers many Juventus topics including legends Buffon & Del Piero

In the latest Q&A, we welcome Enrico Passarella, a writer who covers diligently the Italian league, in particular fantasy football and transfer news. If you want the latest injury news as well as other updates regarding Serie A then you should give Enrico a follow on Twitter @Guardalinee. You will not regret it.

Check out the Q&A’s first segment below and read what Enrico has to say about legends such as Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and others. Feel free to reach out to both Enrico and @RamiSoufi on their respective Twitter account. You should scroll below and look for Enrico’s take on Juve’s all-time best player!

1) Name your 3 favorite Juve players, and tell us why?

Gianluigi Buffon: This is a particularly easy one. I was a goalkeeper when I was a kid and that plays a huge role. It is very simple, I always looked up to him and felt a strong
connection because of playing in a similar position on the field despite of course the gap in levels.

Alessandro Del Piero: This is another simple choice. He is an undisputed icon for all things Juventus. He is one of those star players who brought endless joy to the Juve fan base.

Giorgio Chiellini: I always loved his grit and charisma. I absolutely admired the way he went toe-to-toe with the best opponents while still setting the tone for the whole squad, particularly in key matches.

2) From the current squad, list your favorite players per position & state why? 

Among defenders, I am going with Chiellini again for the reasons I just mentioned a short while ago. I feel confident Matthijs de Ligt can and will fill the void once the captain retires.

In midfield, Rodrigo Bentancur is my choice. Juve can always count on his contribution, including his fair share of yellow cards, and he has shown exponential growth since joining the club. He already has about 30 caps for Uruguay.

In attack, it must be Paulo Dybala. He is truly a joy to watch when he is able to express himself and when he is in good form. I would add that he is a true difference-maker and I strongly believe he can still improve to get to another level.

3) Name the most important Juve triumph in your lifetime, and explain why?

The first Scudetto under Antonio Conte back in 2011 because it meant Juve were finally back where they belong after several difficult years. It was also an incredible achievement as the squad was inferior when compared to other title contenders. At the end, the players pulled it off, with much of it thanks to their drive and perseverance.

4) Choose your favorite Juve match. Why?

No doubt when talking about this one. It is Juventus-Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League in 2003 with the Bianconeri winning 3-1. Juve performed a remarkable comeback against a legendary team and the best Bianconeri players, Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Pavel Nedved scored while our number one Buffon saved a penalty. So all the key players from that squad chipped in on that memorable night. I cannot stress enough how it was a truly magical night.

5) Choose two from Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal for your midfield, and state why?

I am definitely picking Pirlo and Vidal -both unique contributors. There is really nobody like Pirlo, who remains unmatched for the way he was able to pull the strings and dictate the tempo with his class and vision. Vidal was an animal in his prime, he embodied the fighting spirit of the club and it was a gut punch when he decided to leave.

6) What are Juve’s weaknesses? Many focus on the midfield while some say it is the lack of creativity when Dybala is not playing. Your thoughts?

The current fullbacks are not great but the biggest issue lies in the midfield- an area that is too dependent on Miralem Pjanic from a creative standpoint. To make matters worse,  Pjanic has been subpar this year, and does not provide much scoring in any case.

Summer signings Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot were supposed to fix that, but the former has been too injury prone and the latter has yet to really settle in. It is another cautionary tale when it comes to signing free players as it can backfire too. I can see a major investment coming in to fill the gaps in midfield if Juve plan to compete regularly in Europe.

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

In the modern era I would confidently say a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. His achievements speak louder than all the words of praise any of us can give. In the past, I’d single out Michel Platini. The Frenchman achieved a lot on both the individual and team level while with the Bianconeri. Still, Buffon’s standing in the history of the sport should not be underestimated so his is a name we must always keep in mind. I am not going to single out one name, so I would let my fellow Juventini ponder on this point.

Fan Zone: Kartik on City’s Sterling, Bernardo & David Silva as well as Fernandinho & more

A special guest for the latest Q&A is Kartik Krishnaiyer- heavily involved in soccer and politics in the state of Florida- and the author of Blue with Envy: My American Journey with Manchester City.

Instead of starting with how it all began for Kartik, the focus in this part of the Q&A is mostly on current Manchester City topics, in particular the key players. We discuss current stars such as David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero as well as some of the club’s key figures in the past such as Vincent Kompany, the former captain who left last summer, and of course Francis Henry Lee.

Kartik’s wealth and depth in information when it comes to discussing the Citizens is even more evident when you cover not just the club’s current era but the history of Man City. You can reach Kartik and Rami Soufi on their social media accounts and feel free to discuss further any of the points raised in the Q&A below.

1)  Choose 2 players from David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez for your team. Explain why?

I am going with Sterling and Bernardo Silva though at one point it would have been Sterling and David Silva. Sterling’s off-the-ball runs are among the best in world football, something England fans and many in the British press didn’t quite understand in the World Cup in 2018.

Sterling didn’t score so they couldn’t understand why Gareth Southgate kept picking him then came the Colombia game. Sterling was replaced by Jamie Vardy and that absolutely gutted England’s play going forward. It was then that people started to notice Sterling’s role and significance. Bernardo Silva has a different game than peak David Silva did. Bernardo has more bite to his play without the ball but he is not as creative a player in the final third. They aren’t like for like, but both complement Sterling very well.

2) Choose one from Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho, and explain why?

Fernandinho is the heart and soul of Manchester City. An outstanding two-way player, he’s a master of keeping the ball moving, winning the ball and if needed cynically breaking up play. Also, he is a leader on and off the pitch.

3) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the City shirt, and why?

So this is a difficult conversation because it’s probably Franny Lee – who also later as Club Chairman presided over the worst era in the club’s history largely due to his decision making. Don’t get me wrong he inherited a really bad situation from Peter Swales but he had no idea how to fix it. The most lamentable era in City’s history coincided with his tenure.

Still, as a player he was brilliant. A forward who could score and link play and seemed to reserve his best for the biggest occasions – cup finals, Manchester derbies and other key matches. His partnership with Colin Bell was off the charts.

4) What are City’s weaknesses? Is it the full-backs or the central defensive pair looking shaky? Did losing Kompany hurt City’s title defense?

It is the central defense for sure. Losing Kompany has taken away an important dressing room figure and deprived the Starting XI of the glue that keeps together the team’s core defensively. This has continued to be an issue with City’s transfer failures in the center-back position go back to selling Matija Nastasic to Schalke and buying Eliaquim  Mangala as a replacement. The miscalculations in the market have finally caught up with City.

5) I know you follow Bundesliga closely so you’ve seen Erling Haaland & Achraf Hakimi play. Would you rather sign Haaland or Hakimi? 

Hakimi fits Pep Guardiola’s style of an advanced fullback working a lot in terms of crossing and tucking into midfield. Cancelo was a bad experiment and will likely be moved. Hakimi can be explosive going forward, but I am not in love with his defending.

6) City built a reputation playing the possession game. Do you think this focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic has hurt City’s quest to defend the Premier League title?

Yes, and even hurt City’s chances in Europe to be honest even more since counter-attacking wins trophies, particularly in critical and tight games. Frankly, same thing happened to Pep at Bayern Munich. His Bayern teams kept the ball all day long but whenever faced with the counter-attacking ability of the Spanish opponents they played in the semi-finals, the Spanish clubs tended to counter them to death.

7) What do you make of Gabriel Jesus? His stats are great despite being mostly used as a substitute. Would you keep Jesus or go for someone like Harry Kane?

Jesus is a better all-around No. 9 for the modern game than almost anyone we could sign. It’s the stuff he does off the ball and his ability to adapt tactically (as seen in Madrid) that make him suitable for Pep.

Sergio Aguero scores a ton of goals and he’s tough to drop but I would argue Jesus is a better overall footballer at this stage of their careers. At the same time Kane is a wonderful player who doesn’t have to be a No. 9. He can play deeper and already understands Sterling’s game from England duty where the two of them lead the line.

Fan Zone: Jason returns with focus on Messi, Maradona, Ronaldinho & more

Jason Pettigrove- a sports Journalist and broadcaster- is back to discuss more topics involving Barcelona with emphasis on current hero Lionel Messi as well as former football stars such as Ronaldinho and Diego Maradona.

In the previous Q&A, Jason focused on former Barca star Neymar as well as wily veteran Luis Suarez and last summer’s marquee signing Antoine Griezmann. This time around, Jason talks in details about Barca’s success and the factors behind it. Feel free to leave a comment below, or contact either of Rami Soufi and Jason on social media to further explore related topics and to provide any additional feedback.

Without further delay, the third segment of the Q&A is below:

1) Is Barca’s success the last 12 years down to a system (possession etc), La Masia Academy, coaching philosophy, the players or simply Messi? 

I think you answered it yourself. It is all of that. Take away one element and I’d argue that the club wouldn’t have been as successful as they have since 2008. When we look back in a few years, Messi will be the dominant name of course, but he’s the first to admit that without the likes of Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Dani Alves, David Villa etc, he wouldn’t have been as lethal or productive.

Let’s not forget how many La Masia graduates have played in the first team since 2008. Yes, there have been a lot lately that haven’t made the grade and that’s something that the club must address, but you could probably make two Starting XI’s composed of players that have come up through the academy and that would hold their own in most leagues.

2) Messi’s Barca has been dominant in La Liga despite constant change in coaching on top of Messi having to adapt to new partners in attack. The point is Barca kept winning. Where does Messi rank among Barca’s all-time greats?

I think what Johan Cruyff did off the pitch helped define the Barça that we see today, not to mention how brilliant he was on the field. Ronaldinho brought some Joga Bonito to the club and definitely did his utmost to put a smile on everyone’s face. Perhaps his signing more than any other is responsible for the worldwide interest in the club- and that interest has kept growing since his spell due to the club’s success on the pitch.

Ronaldinho also took Messi under his wing. Just discussing Leo brings up the ultimate candidate who has become Barca’s greatest. It has to be Messi. Messi is like a chameleon. He is whatever Barça need him to be, and to have done what he has for so long is beyond words. For those reasons, I put Leo at the top.

3) Some keep comparing Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo, but what about the Maradona vs Messi comparison? Interestingly, Maradona played for Barca too but just 2 seasons.

As far as time at Barcelona is concerned, there is no comparison. Perhaps a better one would be Maradona’s time at Napoli versus Messi’s time at Barça, but I think that even then Leo would come out on top.

4) How do you explain Maradona’s success with Argentina as opposed to Messi’s inability to win that elusive trophy with his country? Messi came close twice in Copa America and once in the World Cup final vs Germany.

Maradona is certainly a unique talent who achieved incredible things when at his peak.  If we are to properly assess him, then it is fair to say that over the course of those matches in 1986, Maradona was simply unstoppable. He left many in his wake.

Let’s be clear here though, Messi has been unstoppable for around 15 years, not just a tournament like the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

5) What do you make of Coutinho? Do you think he can fit in with this Barca and with Messi? Should Barca keep him or sell him?

I’m torn with Coutinho. He showed at Liverpool as well as in a number of games at Barça what a great talent he is. He just wasn’t consistent enough in Spain, though a lot of that has been put down to him not being played in his natural position under Ernesto Valverde. Unless the club get a big fee in return for selling him, I’d probably be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and bring him back. Still, the club should also be willing to lose money on him if he doesn’t hit the ground running next season.

Alberto returns to talk about his latest project born out of his love for Juventus

There is no doubt Alberto is a massive Juventus fan yet that is not what makes him a popular and well-loved person. It was a pleasure to have him in a two-part Q&A back in April 2020. In fact, just over a month ago Alberto discussed in an initial Q&A Juve legends from Roberto Baggio to Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon.

Alberto is also involved heavily on Twitter and social media in general. You can follow him on his Twitter handle @AllJuveCast. He not only focuses on promoting Juve and sharing his stories as well as trying to give a voice to other Bianconeri fans but he also has great giveaways including historic Juve kits from his tremendous collection.

Al1

In recent times, Alberto has taken his love for the Bianconeri a few steps further and mixed that passion for the club with his thoughtfulness and generosity. Alberto has helped design a plethora of shirts- obviously with a strong Bianconeri theme. When asked about his newest project, Alberto happily took time from his busy schedule to briefly discuss @Striped_Hearts and what the project stands for.

Even the designs which finally make it to the production phase are chosen carefully and are made available to the public- well, Juve fans to be specific- after a nod of approval from the Juve faithful. In Alberto’s own words: “the designs are voted for by Juve fans worldwide and only the most popular ones are then taken to production.”

This highlights what kind of person Alberto is. He is not only loyal to the club and a very ardent supporter, but he is also heavily involved in spreading word and sharing fabulous stories about the Bianconeri. However, as great as Alberto’s work has been to give a vote to the Juve supporters who at times feel disengaged or left out, his finest work is the fact this project is also a for a good cause on top of being a labor of love.

Alberto mentions that: “Proceeds of all sales go to a rotating carousel of charities I support as well,” and this in itself highlights his giving nature and his willingness not only to give the time and effort to further promote Juve and other club-related aspects but also a strong desire to help in every possible way. Politicians carry an agenda, Alberto carries the Bianconeri colors in his heart but also seeks to do good in the name of the club he loves.

Al2

Fan Zone: Jason’s back to discuss Suarez, Griezmann, Neymar and more

Jason Pettigrove- a journalist who has covered football for decades and who is the content editor at FC Barcelona- is back for the second segment of the Q&A.

Jason discusses Barca’s possession game as well as some of the big names such as Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and others. In addition, Jason touches upon the frequently mentioned topic of PSG star Neymar who is often linked with a return to the Catalan club. Remember to leave your feedback and feel free to discuss any of the points with both Jason and Rami Soufi by connecting with them on social media.

1) Barca built a reputation playing a heavy possession game. Has the focus on possession at the expense of being more pragmatic hurt Barca’s quest to lift more Champions League trophies? Contrast that with the direct and ruthless approach of Liverpool at Anfield (to overturn 1st leg deficit)

I don’t think there’s any doubt that your suggestion has merit, but what I would say to counter that is Barça’s style is ingrained in the players from the moment they set foot in La Masia academy. Just the thought of leaving behind the possession game or playing any other way, as we saw with Valverde’s 4-4-2, would cause concern and would lead to the rise of discontent among the fans. Simply put, the fans have long bought into that philosophy and would most likely make their displeasure clear.

2) What do you make of Luis Suarez? His stats are decent despite being sidelined due to injury. Would you keep Suarez for one more season, or would you sign Gabriel Jesus or Harry Kane?

I’d keep Suarez for one more season without doubt. Not just because he and Messi are such good pals off of the pitch but because there’s a great understanding on the field- a telepathy which would be near impossible to recreate with any future signing or incoming elite player. He has to leave sometime soon of course, but I think 12 months from now is a better bet.

3) Were you for signing Griezmann, or did you prefer bringing back Neymar setting aside the financial factor involved in Neymar’s return?

I didn’t like the whole ‘Decision’ video fiasco- to me that was entirely unnecessary. I’ll always support whoever wears the shirt, but I did think Griezmann’s purchase was another ‘statement’ signing without looking at whether he’d fit in well with the team. So far, the season has proved difficult for him further highlighting that not every big signing will automatically succeed.

4) Should Barca bring back Neymar for the 2020/21 season? And why?

No, I definitely would not welcome it. There are just too many concerns and negatives when it comes to bringing back Neymar. Too much money. Too much baggage. Too many injuries. Too many absences. It is just a long laundry list.

5) Moving on from Neymar, what do you make of BVB’s Erling Haaland? Should Barca invest in signing him?

Haaland has shown an incredible appetite for scoring goals, and his movement is beyond his years. Barça should be in the queue to sign the best players if and when they become available, but they shouldn’t sign him just for the sake of piling up talent.

If the technical department believe he’s a good fit and that he can improve, then he’s worth spending money on. Otherwise, let someone else take him. Don’t get me wrong, he’d be a great potential signing for almost all big clubs but Barca have had their share of big name signings who haven’t worked out exactly- Coutinho from Liverpool, Griezmann so far as discussed earlier and Ousmane Dembele due to injuries.

6) Are you for resuming La Liga this season or for voiding it, and why?

Not even a question for me. People are losing their lives. Football isn’t that important when considering the bigger picture. Just void this season and reassess in the upcoming few months.

7) If the league is voided, does Barca get the title despite being only 2 points ahead with over 10 Rounds remaining on schedule?

Nope. You can’t realistically argue that Barça would have gone on and won it at this point. Anything could happen over the course of 10 Rounds let alone a single match when you consider the gap between first and second is only two points.

Fan Zone: Jason on Barcelona legends Cruyff & Messi, El Clasico and more!

Jason Pettigrove is a well established author and sports journalist as well as a content editor at FC Barcelona. Jason’s love affair with Barcelona goes back several decades and covers the tough, the good and the great eras of the Catalan club.

In the first part of the Q&A which is published below, Jason touches upon the connection he built with the club as well as his favorite Barca players and matches. Feel free to discuss the main points from the Q&A and to connect with Jason and Rami Soufi via their Twitter profiles.

1) You’ve been a Barcelona fan for quite some time. What made you support Barca?

I’ll try and shorten a long story! I went on holiday to Lloret de Mar in the mid 1970s with my parents, and the Barça shirt was the first one I bought. I saw the Camp Nou and also brought home some posters of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Sotil to put up on my wall, as well as a Barça pennant.

When I was old enough to go to watch football, West Ham were my local team so I followed them for many years. My eldest son, who is now 25, played at the West Ham academy from the ages of 8-12, but he was bullied incessantly by his coach. It got to the point where I had to complain to the Premier League, and was astounded by the club’s attitude.

The week after he walked off of the pitch in disgust at his treatment, leaving football behind in the process, I was in Barcelona to see my first match at the Camp Nou – the 2007 El Clásico where Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick. Barça were always my first love, but that was the point when I began to properly support them.

2) Who are your 3 all-time favorite Barca players and why? 

Lionel Messi – A player who can do it all and still be better than anyone else while do it all on the attacking front. Goals, assists, dribbling, passing, etc you name it and Messi can do it! Biggest point is we should remember that to be at the very top for as long as he has is astonishing as well.

Johan Cruyff – The Dutchman was perhaps the master. As a player he took the Blaugranes on a long journey which he would later complete as a coach when he guided them to their first European Cup while creating what was referred to as the Dream Team.

Pep Guardiola – From ball-boy to record breaking coach is probably the best way to describe Guardiola’s incredible journey with Barca. An imperious captain and a member of the Cruyff teams in the 1990s. Pep would later prove to be a managerial genius as shown by the titles won under his guidance between 2008 and 2012.

3) Name your favorite Barca player by position. One each from DEF/MID/ATT.

DEF – Gerard Pique – Once regarded as a bit of an afterthought next to club skipper Carles Puyol, Pique has matured into the consummate central defender. As big a part of the success over the last decade, his absence often corresponded with a drop in form defensively and exposed Barca’s back four.

MID – Arthur Melo – Although I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Arthur yet, he gives the team balance and purpose. The ‘new Xavi’ moniker is probably a little unfair, but the team looks so much more in control in the middle of the park with Arthur on the pitch.

Attack – Messi – The phrase ‘Messi-dependence’ is a little overused in my opinion, but
there’s little doubt he is the conduit through which all good things come. He is not just the team’s attacking spark and a football genius, but he is also the glue that holds the team together.

4) Most important Barca victory in your lifetime? Why?

That’s a very tough one as there have been a few important wins and for a number of different reasons. I think I will go with the 1992 Champions League win at Wembley. Simply put, for a world class club with world class players, it had taken them until then to reach the pinnacle in Europe.

Winning the cup got a huge monkey off of the club’s back, and though they probably
should’ve won more than they have since, that victory was a huge turning point.

5) Your all-time favorite Barca match? Why?

I’ll give you two. First, the 3-3 draw in El Clásico that I mentioned earlier. It happens to be my first live Barça match and also Messi’s first hat-trick not to mention the atmosphere that was as good as I’ve ever known.

Second, the 2011 Champions League final. I was lucky enough to be there, and it remains the best 90 minutes of football I think I’ve seen, or will ever see. Pep’s Barça at their absolute peak, and there was nothing Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United could do about it.

6) Pick two from Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann for your team, and why?

For the short term, it would have to be Suarez and Dembele. Although El Pistolero is getting on a bit, he still knows where the goal is, and a lack of pace hasn’t dimmed his excellence in sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Dembele has had his critics, and I’ve been one of them, but there’s little doubt that he is a top player when he’s free of injury. I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on
when he returns.

7) Pick two from Arthur, Frankie de Jong, Busquets, Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and why?

Easy one here- Arthur and Frenkie de Jong. The future of Barça’s midfield. Rakitic has been a fine servant and doesn’t deserve the heat he’s getting at the moment, but the time has come for him to move. Vidal is a breath of fresh air, but if the club can get some decent money for him, his sale is a no brainer. Busi only doesn’t get in because he’s coming to the end of his career and, sadly, isn’t quite the player he once was.

8) What are Barca’s weaknesses? Some single out the full-back positions while many point to the central defensive pair being shaky with Pique slowing down. Some mention Neymar’s departure. Others refer to over dependence on Messi. Thoughts?

I think what makes Barça great is also their weakness. Full-backs pushing too far up and being susceptible and getting caught on the break, a willingness to always look for Messi when often there will be better options available, possession for possession’s sake which, though incredibly pleasing on the eye, needs to have more of a purpose sometimes.

9) Who is in your opinion the best player to ever wear the Barca shirt?

As with other questions here, it has to be Messi for me. Whatever he is asked to do, he does it better than all others. His goal-scoring exploits and his magical assists will stand the test of time, and his passing ability is beyond comparison. There hasn’t been another player in the history of football that ‘had it all.’

Fan Zone: Giuseppe is back with focus on Juve’s transfers & European chances

Giuseppe Bognanni is back for the second segment of the Q&A discussing everything Juventus from club legends in the previous part to the Bianconeri’s transfer targets as well as European dream in the section below.  Feel free to share your opinion and ask us any questions you may have on Juve’s potential European run as well as the upcoming transfer campaign by connecting with us on Twitter @RamiSoufi and @BognanniG.

1) Juve built a reputation signing players for free. Who could be the next bargain signing?

How about Paul Pogba in July 2021? That’ll be a funny scenario. A full circle for a player Juve signed for free (only a small fee was paid per rules) several years ago. Just imagine Juve signing Pogba for free twice and both times from Manchester United! That would be hilarious!

Another possible name could be PSG’s Thomas Meunier. He is a useful player since the right-back sport is a weak one. No doubt Juan Cuadrado has given his best as a makeshift right-back but still it should be one of Juve’s priorities this summer transfer campaign to sign a full-back.

2) Do you rate Gabriel Jesus? He has decent stats despite mostly being used as a substitute. Would you sign Jesus or prefer to pick Harry Kane?  

Both are quality players. It is difficult to choose between them as their game is very different. They bring different qualities to a team. With Douglas Costa leaving or consistently injured, we need to add a player who has the skills and technique to create something out of nothing. I think Gabriel would be a nice addition.

3) What’s your take on BVB’s Erling Haaland? Would you sign Haaland, or Mauro Icardi? Would you sign Barcelona’s Arthur or Lazio’s Milinkovic-Savic? And who’d you pick from BVB’s Achraf Hakimi and Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira? 

I wanted Juve to sign Icardi before they signed Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli. That’s how much I wanted Mauro at Juve as I believe the guy is strong, still young and a proven scorer. Still, Haaland is an upgrade on Icardi with at least 8 years more in the game than the current PSG striker. I go with the young BVB man.

For Juve’s midfield, I would love to see Pogba, Rodrigo Bentancur and Arthur holding the fort and combining together. If this is not possible then I’d choose Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fondly known as SMS. He knows Serie A, is just 25-years-old and still has tremendous potential. So I am going with SMS.

For the right-back spot, I think it’s impossible at the moment but I’d go with BVB’s Hakimi- he is reportedly heading back to Real Madrid. If I must pick one position to improve then considering Higuain is leaving, we need a true 9. Out of the 6 players discussed above, and this is going to shock many since Juve’s midfield is weak but I would still invest in Haaland.

4) Will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

Before the stop I was not confident at all. The Lyon game was awful and despite the quality game win against Inter, I’m not sure Juve was mentally strong enough to win.

Today it’s difficult to predict any result. France stopped Ligue 1 what means Lyon will not play any official game before the return match against Juve. It is hard to predict.

5) One team you want Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League?

Juve and the Champions League is a crazy love-hate relationship. Juve were able to beat Barcelona and Real Madrid in the knock-outs in the past few years but not in the final! Something about playing a single-match to determine the trophy winner I guess.

Juve lost to a young Ajax team last season- that’s how unpredictable this Bianconeri side is. I would for sure like to avoid Atalanta. They know Juve, they are fast and have nothing to lose. Also, it would pain me a lot to eliminate them before the final because they have been this season’s true Cinderella story in the Europe.

6) Which team would you like Juve to avoid playing in the Champions League final?

Juve have lost 7 out of 9 finals. It’s not the opponent that scares me. It’s Juve and the mental barrier the squad must overcome- not just the psychological aspect for the current players but also the history of the club failing in one final after another. It’ll depend on how we enter the pitch. If we are confident enough we can beat any opponent.

Fan Zone: Giuseppe on Del Piero & Trezeguet plus Juve’s weaknesses!

In the latest Q&A, Giuseppe Bognanni- a massive Juventus fan- shares many of the highlights as a supporter of the Bianconeri but also brings up one of the lowest points summed up by the serious injury to club legend Alessandro Del Piero against Udinese.

Giuseppe provides some expected answers but he also raises some intriguing points. Without any further delay, let us get to the main topics discussed in the Q&A.

1) Name your 3 all-time favorite Juve players. Why did you choose them? 

Alessandro Del Piero – Much of this has to do with this unique connection I’ve built with Del Piero. Now looking back, I can confidently say it is because we both entered the serious phase of our football at the same time. Del Piero as a professional Juventus player, and myself as a true and committed supporter.

I grew up with his skills, “alla Del Piero” free-kicks and goals. I remember wearing laces around my football socks as he did. As strange as this may sound, I felt pain when he was injured against Udinese. Seeing him fighting to come back was an example for me during my youth. I cried tears of joy when he scored against Germany in World Cup 2006. A few weeks later he proved himself again as a man of values, leading by example and staying at Juventus despite not knowing if we would be relegated into the third or second division.

David Trezeguet - Quando gioca segna sempre Trezeguet” which translates to “When he plays, Trezeguet always scores”… David is the foreign player with most goals for Juventus. I loved seeing him paired with Alex. When both were starting, I always felt reassured and I was confident goals would arrive. He could disappear from the game but as soon as the ball was in the area or let me just say “his” area, it was a moment of panic for the defenders. He was elegant and humble but also a real killer in front of goal.

Edgar Davids –  If it hasn’t become clear by now, let me just say Alex and David are above all the rest in my opinion. A third pick is always tough- Juve featured the likes of Zidane, Pavel Nedved, Marchisio and Paolo Montero… but if I am forced to choose then Edgar Davids makes it to the podium. He was an absolute beast. He had the Grinta of someone like Gennaro Gattuso but was way more technical. Remember the Nike promotions? Davids with his glasses on, his swagger… How could any young Calcio fan resist?

2) From the current team name your favorite Juve player by position (One each from DEF, MID and ATT).

First, let me just say that my chosen players are linked to each other despite not being from the same country and despite playing in different positions. All three arrived young at the club yet came with great potential- particularly the Dutchman Matthijs de Ligt and of course La Joya Paulo Dybala. Don’t forget Rodrigo Bentancur who represented Uruguay during World Cup 2018 and then in Copa America 2019 when he was entrusted with and duly converted his penalty-kick in the shootout (Peru would eliminate Uruguay on penalties).

DEF: Matthijs de Ligt. I am going to start off by saying Matthijs is my boy! He is the young and talented defender several of the big clubs wanted to sign. Without hesitation he preferred Juve over those elite teams. He’s already learning Italian which is also a sign he’s a smart young man who does everything possible to adapt to his new reality. Being so young and receiving so much criticism after his debut for Juve were hard enough to knock down many others but not him

MID: Rodrigo Bentancur. The young Uruguay midfielder was called the new Zinedine Zidane by my father. That should be enough, onto the next pick Dybala! He’s probably exaggerating a bit but the idea is there. I was at the stadium against Udinese and I noticed Rodrigo was impressive. Against Udinese (something about that team and Juve) he played his first game as a Regista instead of Miralem Pjanic. What a game. What a player. Bentancur showed the vision, defensive skills, forward thinking and fast thinking too. Overall, he rarely ever complains and he has accepted the fact he arrived young and needed to learn and work hard to be in the Starting XI yet he has not given up. He is taking his chances and impressing!

ATT: Paulo Dybala. Paulo has been at Juve for five seasons now and while he has had his ups and downs, no one can deny his immense talent. A times, he was not placed in the ideal position to shine. He may not have a great right foot, but La Joya more than makes up for it with an incredible left-foot. Most importantly, he showed many times how much love he has for Juve.

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

Being a Juventus fan is great because you have a lot of victories to choose from. To my great misfortune I’m a Libra and when the choices are too many I start doubting. So as  a Libra I get extra allowance and therefore I am picking two victories not one!

Udinese – Juventus 0-2 on May 5th, 2002- It is so important because it represents our famous motto “Fino alla Fine” and more. Can you imagine Lazio beating Inter 4-2 but Juve not believing in a comeback and failing to beat Udinese? That would have been tragic! Luckily, we not only have famous catch phrases but we believe in them too- as a club, a squad and as fans!

Juventus – Parma 4-1 on September 11th, 2011- The wind was changing. A game plan executed so well that as a Juventino- and after two consecutive 7th places- you truly felt the club was entering a new era.

4) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

I am definitely going with Juventus-Milan on October 2nd, 2011. The final result was a memorable 2-0 win.

It was my first time at the Juventus Stadium with my father, brothers and other family members. We played incredibly well against the title holders. Everything was perfect. The late Claudio Marchisio brace was crazy. What a remarkable game on all levels. Simply put, Juve’s back!

And seeing my father jumping from his seat and finding him 5 rows below, celebrating with Juve fans we never met before was crazy but unforgettable.

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

People who follow me on twitter or YouTube know how much I love Paul Pogba. When you read Marchisio, I read Juventus. Still, if I must choose only two for a perfect 4-4-2 than I go for Pirlo and Vidal.

Pirlo’s vision, ability to find impossible passing lanes, his greatness at short and long range passing, his leadership and free-kicks are unparalleled. He gives you that sense of security and you know he’ll invent something out of nothing. He will come up with a genius move.

And what about Vidal? I say Vidal because the genius needs a protector. A beast, a player you always want on your team. Vidal has great understanding of football, is a fighter, the perfect box-to-box midfielder and on top of that he will give that 110% for you. He is the poster boy for Fino alla Fine.

6) What is Juve’s main weakness? Is it the right-back or left-back position, or the  midfield which is often mentioned as the squad’s Achilles heel? 

From the moment our midfield was dismantled it became one of our persistent weaknesses.

I also think we have great individuals but not a great team. Our squad has a mix of skillful and physically strong players but they have often looked incompatible together. One of the major problems we have since last year is the Dybala and Pjanic tandem. It just doesn’t work. Miralem can’t play in a two-man midfield. He’s not fast enough and misses the physical attributes needed to pull his weight on the defensive end. He needs to be protected by two other midfielders.

Dybala can’t play in a 4-3-3 if he’s on the right side of the field. He’s lost there and tends to wander and then veer towards the center instinctively a lot during the game. When he plays as a Falso Nueve or in a 4-3-1-2 it’s even more clear how the two can’t play together. As we miss creativity and contribution from the midfield, Dybala goes back to start building and creating himself. That means Pjanic remains in the back without any offensive duties- they create an automatic overlap in duties.

Look at this season, when did Pjanic play extremely well? At the start, when Paulo was benched. When were Dybala’s best games? Inter, Udinese, etc all games where Pjanic was benched or injured. That in my opinion is also the reason why both names are always rumored to be on the way out- perhaps one must go?

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

I think this one is a given and you should know by now that I am sticking my neck out for my “football career partner” Alessandro Del Piero! The Del Piero pre-Udinese injury (the dreadful date of November 8th, 1998) was the goat. The real goat. Remember at the time Serie A was the best any elite player could dream of.