AS Roma are in big trouble


They are second in Serie A, still in the Europa League and alive in the Coppa Italia. But AS Roma could face a bunch of troubles next summer and in the near future.

Ever since Luciano Spalletti took over the reins of Rudi Garcia in January 2016 for his second stint with the club, Roma have been on fire. The Giallorossi boost a league record of 33 wins, 6 draws, and only 6 losses since their Coach’s return. I mean, that’s impressive, especially when you count in this team hasn’t dropped a point at the Stadio Olimpico since April.

The big problem for Roma, however, has been the even more impressive run of Juventus. The Old Lady have won the last five Serie A titles, with the Lupi finishing second on two occasions and third last season. Since winning the Scudetto in 2001, Roma have finished in second place eight times. When they were great, there has always been one team being slightly better and more consistent over a full season.

This campaign, Spalletti’s Giallorossi are on course for another fine finish. Second, behind a star studded Juve squad. On top, Roma are still alive in the Coppa, even if they lost the first leg to Lazio 2-0, and they are due to clash with Lyon in the Europa League’s Round of 16.

Long way to go

But is anyone expecting Roma to actually win their first trophy since 2008, when they lifted the Coppa after beating Inter for the second year in a row?

The Lupi are the only squad that can really chase Juventus, but it will take a massive meltdown from the Bianconeri for Roma to win their fourth Scudetto. Lazio have been impressive this season and if Roma do manage to outplay them in the return, they’ll have to face Juve or Napoli in a thrilling final. And there’s a long way to go at the European level, with a Roman error always lurking around the corner…

However, at this point it’s fair to say Roma have a decent chance of winning two trophies this season. And quite frankly, they better do. Juventus aren’t slowing down, while Inter and AC Milan are starting a comeback with financial power, Napoli are in great form on and off the pitch, and Lazio are looking better and better again.

This is the time

Next summer, the Giallorossi will once again lose at least one of their key players, maybe even two or three. They’ll make moves during the mercato but in the end, Roma will be on the same level they are on this season. They have been unable to take that final step towards calcio greatness and it’s really starting to get problematic.

Building a new stadium is awesome and necessary. But investing in a new Roman football temple means less money for transfers. Remember, when Juventus invested big in a new stadium, they finished 7th two years in a row. Eventually, Roma will benefit greatly from owning their own arena but it will require sacrifices and patience.

Meaning a fourth Scudetto is set to be possibly won in 2025? I’m not sure any current top player is willing to sign on for that. Meaning Roma will remain trophy chasers for the next couple of years. Unless, they break out this season. Really, it’s their only option.

Belgians finding way to win in Serie A

Only 27 Belgium-born footballers have ever played in Serie A and most of them didn’t last too long or played for smaller teams. The notable exceptions are Vincenzo Scifo, Luis Oliveira, and Gaby Mudingayi.

But today, nine Belgians are listed on one of Serie A’s squad lists. Easily a record. So let’s talk about the players who made the leap to Italy’s top flight.

Familiar faces

Two Belgium internationals have been in Italy for quite a few years now, and are considered key players for their respective squads. Radja Nainggolan was born in Antwerp but moved to Italy in 2004, when he joined Piacenza’s youth ranks at the age of 16. From there he worked his way up to Cagliari and in 2014, ten years after his arrival, made his big move to Roma. First on loan, then on a permanent transfer.

The Ninja is one of the most popular players on the Lupi’s squad list, running and working like an animal every single game. It has made him a transfer target for Juventus and a bunch of foreign clubs, like Chelsea. Nainggolan knows Italian football better than any Belgian player. He knows the culture, what is means to the fans, and how to act accordingly. It’s not crazy to say Nainggolan is more Italian than Belgian.

Meanwhile, Dries Mertens recently started his fourth Serie A campaign with Napoli. The pocket winger joined the Partenopei in the summer of 2013 from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. Since, the 29-year-old has become one of the best supersubs in the world, often replacing Lorenzo Insigne. Mertens is known to enjoy the Italian lifestyle and is not about to move abroad anytime soon.


It takes guts and courage to move to Italy on such an early age like Nainggolan did, but two youngsters are taking the same road. Samuel Bastien was loaned to Avellino by Anderlecht last season, and this summer Chievo opted to buy the 19-year-old for €1.3 million. Bastien has yet to make his Serie A debut, but impressed enough last season to move from Serie B to the highest level of Italian football.

Senna Miangue is a Belgian young gun that has made his first appearances in Serie A already. Coach Frank De Boer seems to thrust the left-back enough to warrant him a consistent spot in his squad, albeit on the bench. Miangue moved to the Nerazzurri’s youth ranks in 2013, at the tender age of 16. Like Nainggolan. He’s already familiar with the style of play, which could help him massively in the long run.


But the majority of Belgians in Serie A (5) are new. Thomas Vermaelen joined Nainggolan at Roma on loan from Barcelona, Jordan Lukaku picked Lazio, Dennis Praet went to Sampdoria, Sven Kums is at Udinese on loan from Watford and Noe Dussenne made the move to Crotone last summer.

If Vermaelen wasn’t injured, he would have been a regular in the Lupi’s line-up, while Lukaku started the first two games for Lazio. The younger brother of Everton’s Romelu Lukaku has had trouble adjusting to a higher level of football, but also showed his abilities with a good performance against Juventus.

Praet only made his move from Anderlecht at the end of August but has already worked his way into Samp’s XI. The 22-year-old could be a perfect fit due to his mentality. Kums made his Udinese debut after the international break, but has started all games so far. He’s seen as the Zebrette’s midfield mind. Last, Dusenne got red carded in his Crotone debut and will have to fight for his playing time. Are you in for a challenge? Visit EFL’s Game Room and pick your fantasy Team!

Five surprising goalscorers to start the new season across Europe

Uc Sampdoria vs Atalanta Bergamasca Calci

Alexandre Lacazette, Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski, Diego Costa, Antoine Griezmann, and Carlos Bacca scoring a combined 29 goals so far in the 2016-2017 season shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But in the first month of the season, five players have been on fire in a surprising manner, hitting the net more than expected. Let’s see who they are!

Franck Kessie (Atalanta) – 4 goals

Serie A fans were pretty excited about the arrival of Franck Kessie in the Italian top flight. After just four games, the 19-year-old Ivory Coast midfielder has already proven his (super) talent. Kessie scored two goals in his Serie A debut for Atalanta and has already hit the net four times this season (and once in the Coppa Italia). Perfect start, definitely for a new kid on the block who mainly plays as a defensive midfielder.

Joel Pohjanpalo (Bayer Leverkusen) – 4 goals

It’s been a crazy season for 22-year-old Joel Pohjanpalo. The Finland international rejoined Leverkusen this summer after a loan spell at Dusseldorf. He’s received just 30 minutes in two Bundesliga appearances, but scored four goals in games against Borussia Monchengladbach and Hamburg. Pohjanpalo hit a hattrick for Leverkusen against Hamburg, including two goals in extra time to secure a 3-1 win.

Etienne Capoue (Watford) – 4 goals

In 2013 Etienne Capoue joined Tottenham from Toulouse for €11 million. However, the central midfielder was unable to live up to the high expectations at White Heart Lane. Last season, the 28-year-old scored zero goals in 33 appearances for Watford but during the new campaign Capoue has already hit the net four times. Among those are goals against Chelsea and Manchester United.

Fabinho (Monaco) – 3 goals

Monaco have launched a serious challenge at Paris Saint-Germain this Ligue 1 season. They have assembled a talented team, among them Fabinho, for who Monaco paid just €6 million to Rio Ave in 2015. The defensive midfielder has scored three goals in four league games this season, including two against Lille and PSG. The Brazilian 22-year-old also hit the net twice in the Champions League qualifiers against Villarreal.

Leroy Fer (Swansea) – 3 goals

Swansea needed just 11 appearances from Leroy Fer last season in order to decide to make his loan spell for QPR permanent last summer. The Dutch midfielder has a history for scoring a couple of goals every season, but nobody expected the 26-year-old to score three goals in his first five appearances this season. Including one on the road against Leicester and one at home in an encounter with Chelsea.

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Pogba and Higuain enjoying different starts

Manchester United vs Southampton United

During the past summer transfer market, Paul Pogba and Gonzalo Higuain were football’s biggest transfers. However, both players have enjoyed different starts for their respective new clubs, Manchester United and Juventus.

Pogba’s struggles

Pogba made the switch from Serie A to the Premier League, with the Red Devils putting a record fee of €105 million on the table for the French midfielder. That amount surpassed the €100 million paid by Real Madrid to Tottenham for Gareth Bale in 2012. However, it was considered a solid deal, as Pogba has massive marketing appeal and United expected a serious boost in shirt sales, for example.

On the pitch, however, the 23-year-old hasn’t been that impressive compared to his marketing numbers. Jose Mourinho has opted for a 4-2-3-1 line-up with his Old Trafford squad, playing Pogba in front of the defence alongside Marouane Fellaini and using Wayne Rooney as the team’s attacking midfielder.

Pogba became big in Juve’s 3-5-2 system as a box-to-box midfielder, running up and down the pitch and able to use his athleticism in his advantage. The France international always played alongside a deep playmaker, but in Mourinho’s system Pogba is forced to play that role. One that doesn’t suit him, as he’s robbed from his best attributes by playing too deep.

A role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is now played by Rooney, could be a better alternative. But the best one is deploying a solid passer alongside Pogba, not a bruiser like Fellaini. Morgan Schneiderlin would fit the bill in this regard, or even Ander Herrera. This would free up Pogba’s box-to-box skills, as he doesn’t have to be the link between the defence and the midfield. The big reason why he’s been struggling so far.

Higuain’s perfect fit

Meanwhile, Higuain moved from Napoli to Juventus for a Serie A record €90 million. The 28-year-old turned up in Turin overweight and was mocked for being “too fat”. The Argentine striker was consequently forced to come off the bench for the Bianconeri’s first two games, against Fiorentina and Lazio, but started in place of Mario Mandzukic against Sassuolo.

After just 117 minutes in three league games, Higuain has already provided three goals for the Old Lady. He scored the winner against Fiorentina and hit the net twice against Sassuolo, one coming from a scissors kick. The Argentine became a star in 4-3-3 systems at Real Madrid and Napoli, but has already shown to be his old self in Juve’s 3-5-2. His relationship with Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic has already proven to be deadly.

Conclusion: one big transfer is not the other. Pogba has much to prove at United in a system that doesn’t suit his abilities, while Higuain is already fitting in at Juventus. Only time will determine how these summer moves will be judged in the future.

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Dybala hints at being the “new Messi”

Paulo Dybala

Making comparisons is always dangerous. Definitely in sports and football, as historical era’s tend to differ due to new training methods, changing ways of thinking about the game, revolutionary tactics, standard of the opposition, and pure random factors among others.

Therefore, stating Juventus’ Paulo Dybala has hinted at being the “new Lionel Messi”, is always going to be controversial. It’s even somewhat subjective because these kind of comparisons are never easy to measure. Especially if players don’t play in the same team, being deployed in different kind of line-ups.

Still, Dybala has been pointed out as a potential new superstar. In a position, form, and approach displayed by his fellow countryman at Barcelona. The 22-year-old registered two difficult performances to start the 2016-2017 Serie A season, against Fiorentina and Lazio. But in the encounter with Sassuolo, the first after the international break in which Dybala was send off during his full Argentina debut, he played phenomenal.

Free role

Bianconeri coach Max Allegri was finally able to field Miralem Pjanic, using him as a box-to-box player and not as a deep playmaker, with the latter being the overall expectation. On paper, Dybala was Juve’s second striker next to Gonzalo Higuain. However, on the pitch the Argentine dominated from the first to the last whistle in a free role.

Dybala dropped deep to demand the ball, like he did against Fiorentina and Lazio. However, with Pjanic’ timely runs and creativity, Juve didn’t lose any offensive fire power this time. Dybala created chaos with his positional switches, speedy dribbles, and combinations with his teammates, all while controlling the tempo of the game. Like Messi at Barcelona? Yes.

What also stood out in Dybala’s strong performance was his unselfishness. The Argentine hasn’t scored this season, but he’s provided two assists, while also being involved in almost every dangerous attack by the Old Lady. Always looking for a teammate first, and only later thinking about his own glory. Like Messi? Yes.

Complete forward

The 22-year-old has already provided 23 goals and 11 assists in just 49 appearances for Juventus, revealing himself as one of Europe’s most complete forwards. Using his small body, football IQ, and speed to his advantage. Like Messi? You already know the answer.

Will Dybala ever become the legend Messi is? Probably not. The Barcelona star has set the bar extremely high for players in his position. Almost unreachable. But considering his talent, skills, mentality, and mindset, Dybala could follow in Messi’s footsteps. Albeit doing it in his own spectacular way. The hints have been too obvious to ignore.

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Top 10 bargains of the summer transfer market


The 2016 summer transfer market was wild and crazy. As was expected due to the new Premier League TV deal kicking in, handing English clubs a massive amount of money to spend on new players.

However, a great transfer doesn’t always has to be expensive. Therefore, let’s rank the ten best bargains of the summer!

1. Ilkay Gundogan: from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City for €27m

When Pep Guardiola arrived at the Etihad Stadium, a bunch of big transfers were expected by Man City. But those came pretty late, with the arrivals of the likes of Leroy Sane and John Stones. However, Pep’s best player arrived early, as the Citizens secured Ilkay Gundogan from Dortmund. The German is one of the best midfielders in Europe and cost just €27m. On top, he’s perfect for a Guardiola team. Best bargain of the summer.

2. Miralem Pjanic: from AS Roma to Juventus from €32m

Juventus planned to spend big this summer and work their way back to the top level in Europe. They did, spending €90m on Gonzalo Higuain. But their first signing could prove to be Juve’s most important one, luring Miralem Pjanic away from rivals AS Roma for just €32m. A bargain price for the best playmaker in Serie A, who’s only 26 years old.

3. Ousmane Dembele: from Rennes to Borussia Dortmund for €15m

Talking about a young gun. Ousmane Dembele rocked the Ligue 1 with his dazzling dribble moves at the tender age of 18. The Frenchman looks destined to become one of the best wingers in Europe and Borussia Dortmund moved quickly to secure his services. The German giants brokered a deal worth only €15m with Rennes. Peanuts.

4. Alvaro Morata: from Juventus to Real Madrid for €30m

A young top striker costs a lot of money these days. Not so for Real Madrid. The La Liga giants put a buy-back clause worth €30m in Alvaro Morata‘s contract when the Spanish international left for Juventus two years ago. Real didn’t hesitate long to activate it when Morata proved to be a killer in Italy and especially in the Champions League.

5. Joel Matip: from Schalke 04 to Liverpool on a free transfer

Liverpool needed a new defensive leader to help Jurgen Klopp’s system find a good balance. The Reds found one in Joel Matip and didn’t have to pay a single euro for the 25-year-old, as the Cameroon international came to Anfield on a free transfer. Matip’s no world-class player, but he helps out Liverpool for years to come. Great business.

6. Ever Banega: from Sevilla to Internazionale on a free transfer

Another free transfer that made so much sense. Inter lacked creativity the last couple of seasons, especially from the midfield. The Nerazzurri searched for it this summer and found Ever Banega, securing the Argentine’s signature as his contract ran out at Sevilla. The 28-year-old has already proven to make Inter better, so good deal.

7. Sofiane Boufal: from Lille to Southampton for €19m

Southampton sold three key players this summer: Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama. A new influx of talents was needed and Claude Puel ordered the signing of a 22-year-old kid from Lille named Sofiane Boufal. The attacking midfielder made a massive impact in just 18 months at the Ligue 1 club and the Saints paid only €19m for him. Boufal could rock at the St. Mary’s.

8. Franco Vazquez: from Palermo to Sevilla for €15m

Talking about rocking. Sevilla lost a bunch of talent this summer and was forced to search the market for quality players to keep up their Europa League streak and La Liga position. Sevilla made a couple of interesting signings, but getting Franco Vazquez for only €15m from Palermo might be their best one. The 27-year-old can play multiple positions offensively and is ready to unleash his creative skills in Spain.

9. Alen Halilovic: from Barcelona to Hamburg for €5m

Alen Halilovic is a player that has been given the chance to shine in La Liga but failed to break out at Barcelona. Considered one of the biggest talents in Europe at one point, the Croatian now tries his luck in the Bundesliga with Hamburg. And for a fee of just €5m, the Germans might have struck a wonderful deal.

10. Kamil Glik: from Torino to Monaco for €11m

Last but certainly not least, is the transfer of Kamil Glik from Torino to Monaco. The Polish central defender was an icon in Serie A but the 28-year-old was also ready for a step forward. Monaco acted quickly and secured Glik for just €11m. A bargain prize for one of the better and most fearless defenders in Europe.

HM: Mario Balotelli from Liverpool to OGC Nice on a free transfer.

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History proves a veteran striker is needed to win World Cup or European Championships


It’s been twelve years since that dramatic day at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, when Portugal’s dream of winning the European Championship on home soil were crushed by a surprising Greek team. Greece won the 2004 final 1-0 with a goal by Angelos Charisteas, making a young Cristiano Ronaldo cry like a child.

Experience needed

However, Portugal got their redemption, as they are finally the kings of European football. The Selecao beat hosts France in the Euro 2016 final by the same score as the one in 2004: 1-0. A goal in extra time by Eder did the job for Ronaldo and his teammates, handing France the same fate: losing a European Championships final on home soil.

Maybe it had something to do with experience. Or maybe not. That 2004 Portugal team had very experienced star players, like Luis Figo and Deco. And they played 29-year-old Pauleta in attack, just like Les Bleus played 29-year-old Olivier Giroud next to Antoine Griezmann (25).

It’s an historical fact that teams who reached the final of the Euros or a World Cup this century have had at least one striker above the age of 27 starting the game. The only exception to this rule was Spain, who started a 24-year-old Fernando Torres during the Euro 2008 final against Germany.

Belgium’s problem

This seems to be a big issue for a nation like Belgium. The Red Devils, with new coach Roberto Martinez, have four strikers in their current squad: Christian Benteke (25), Romelu Lukaku (23), Michy Batshuayi (22), and Divock Origi (21). Belgium were one of the favourites to win Euro 2016 but were eliminated by Wales in the quarter-finals, suffering the same fate during the 2014 World Cup against Argentina.

Beneteke will be 27 when the 2018 World Cup arrives, meaning it would be wise for Martinez to play the Crystal Palace striker. However, the Spanish manager seems to rely on a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lukaku (then 25) as his first option.

If history repeats itself, Belgium won’t make it to the final. Unless, they play as great as the 2008 Spain team… Yeah, right.

The numbers:

European Championships 2000

France: Christophe Dugarry (28)

Italy: Marco Delvecchio (27) – Francesco Totti (23)

World Cup 2002

Brazil: Rivaldo (30) – Ronaldo (25)

Germany: Oliver Neuville (29) – Miroslav Klose (24)

European Championships 2004

Greece: Zisis Vryzas (30) – Stelios Giannakopoulos (30) – Angelos Charisteas (24)

Portugal: Pauleta (29)

World Cup 2006

Italy: Francesco Toni (29) – Luca Totti (29)

France: Thierry Henry (29)

European Championships 2008

Spain: Fernando Torres (24)

Germany: Miroslav Klose (30)

World Cup 2010

Spain: David Villa (28)

Holland: Robin Van Persie (27)

European Championships 2012

Spain: Andres Iniesta (28) – David Silva (26)

Italy: Antonio Cassano (30) – Mario Balotelli (22)

World Cup 2014

Germany: Miroslav Klose (36)

Argentina: Gonzalo Higuain (26) – Lionel Messi (27)

European Championships 2016

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo (31) – Nani (29)

France: Olivier Giroud (29) – Antoine Griezmann (25)

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The painful but brilliant summer of Borussia Dortmund

borussia dortmund

Like Paris Saint-Germain have dominated the French Ligue 1 and Juventus have dominated the Italian Serie A during recent years, Bayern Munich have been on fire in the German Bundesliga.

In fact, ‘Der Rekordmeister’ has been rivaled by just one team during the last couple of seasons – Borussia Dortmund. The BVB finished second three times during the last four Bundesliga campaigns, after picking up the German title two times in a row before that. Therefore, Dortmund are the last team to beat Bayern in a Bundesliga title race.

Painful departures

Will the 2016-2017 season see the Black and Yellow be able to compete with the team from Munich once again? Probably not. Despite delivering nothing less than a brilliant performance on the summer transfer market, Dortmund are primed to finish in second place once again. And also once again, well behind Bayern.

Coach Thomas Tuchel has seen three key players, one in every line, leave his squad this summer. Star defender Mats Hummels left the club for his old one, yes, Bayern Munich. Dortmund received 38 million euros for the 27-year-old, a big amount for a defender but a fair one for as Hummels is one of the best in the world.

Meanwhile, Manchester United were able to steal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a 42 million deal. The Armenia international proved himself as one of Europe’s most versatile offensive players, having a foot in a staggering 55 goals for Dortmund last season, 31 of them coming in the Bundesliga.

In addition, the BVB also lost midfield wizard Ilkay Gundogan to Manchester City, as the Citizens put 27 million on the table for the Germany international. The 25-year-old was big for Dortmund due to his excellent positional play, key passing, and ball-winning abilities.

Brilliant signings

This means Dortmund lost a big amount of quality and will trail Bayern all season long. Despite the fact that the club has made a series of great signings this summer, who will contribute to the BVB’s success for the next couple of years.

In defence, Dortmund covered for the loss of Hummels by signing Marc Bartra (25) from Barcelona, while adding Euro 2016 champion Raphael Guerreiro (22) from Rennes… before the tournament started. Total cost? 12 million. Bargain! In midfield, the Black and Yellow secured the services of Bayern’s Sebastian Rode (25), while the amazingly talented Julian Weigl is primed for a big season and Nuri Sahin is finally healthy again.

And then, there’s the offence. Dortmund have been able to hold on to top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, which might be their biggest summer achievement. But in addition, they brought back Mario Gotze (24) and added Andre Schurrle (25), while also being able to land supertalents Ousmane Dembele (19) and Emre Mor (18).

To conclude: Dortmund fans won’t celebrate their first Bundesliga crown since 2011, but they can look forward to a very fun season. Again.