Does the importance of club football hamper Messi and Ronaldo in international games?

MEIOP(1)

The domestic football season has taken a break for the next week and some of the football results have been a surprise. Portugal drawing 0-0 with Ukraine was one, featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, the European champions could not beat Ukraine on their home turf. The other match that stuck out was a Lionel Messi Argentina team who lost 3-1 to Venezuela.

Argentina’s result was seen as a huge shock, even though the match was just a friendly and as usual Messi was given the scapegoat tag. How could it be that such a wonderful gifted player who is in brilliant form for his club side Barcelona not be able to perform and inspire his side to what should have been, at least on paper, a routine win?

One has to wonder if the importance of club football and the ever decreasing unimportance of international football is having its effect? Look at the evidence. An international match of no significance has come up bang in the last moments of the Spanish league title. Barcelona are 10 points clear and should win, but in a couple of weeks they will be playing in the Champions League against Manchester United.

Messi should be preparing for these matches both physically and mentally. Playing against Venezuela in a match that counts for very little save a few FIFA rankings points makes very little sense. The only saving grace for him and other international players who have bigger and more important games coming up is that the match was in Europe, Madrid to be exact at Atletico Madrid’s ground.

Is it any wonder then that players like Messi are not motivated to play in the match? It can end up being  a physical game, so what happens if he gets injured and then misses important matches for Barcelona, that actually mean something? At least in Europe, UEFA saw that friendlies were meaningless and introduced the UEFA Nations League. Whilst that competition does have its own flaws, it is still much better than friendless.

As for Ronaldo the situation was different in the fact that Portugal’s 0-0 draw with Ukraine was a Euro 2020 qualifier, but still it took the Juventus man time to get into the game. True the match ended up being a one sided affair where Portugal had an incredible 18 corners and dominated possession. But it was also a match where they really should have strolled home to a victory. With several players involved in title run ins again it just feels that such matches with just two months of the season in Europe left to play, simply come at the wrong time.

With such a full football calendar that UEFA have, it seems that nothing is going to change in the short run. But especially when matches are friendly ones, we shouldn’t be too shocked if the worlds best players are not up for a game, with so many important competitive fixtures around the corner.

 

 

 

Remembering Nantes and Cardiff player Emiliano Sala

sala-1-750x410(1)

Late last week we were all told of the news that we already knew, although this brought it home to us that the Argentinian player Emiliano Sala had died in a plane crash. This tragic news is of course beyond comprehension and at only 28 years old with his whole football career and life still ahead of him, Sala has lost that opportunity to shine even more than he already has.

Sala’s plane went down back on January 21st as the player had just agreed terms with Cardiff City to join the Premier League strugglers from Nantes in a deal wort £15m. On reflection this looked like a stunning deal for Neil Warnock and Cardiff and a bad one for Nantes. Sala had already scored 14 goals this season, and it seemed bizarre that Nantes would sell their star striker in the January transfer window. Alas Nantes needed the funds and Cardiff needed the player.

What happened next is incredibly sad. Sala’s plane went missing. There was of course some hope that he would be found in some kind of miracle rescue. But as hours turned into days and days turned into weeks that hope had faded. Everyone knew that he and pilot David Ibbotson had perished in the most horrific way possible. That confirmation hit the world of football hard at the end of last week.

Sala was a versatile player and was on the cusp of making the Argentina national squad, true his great form and scoring ability had started late in life but he had shown over the past 18 months at Nantes that he was developing into a proper centre forward. He would have been the perfect player for Cardiff, and would have saved them from the relegation battle that they face now in the Premier League.

But football of course has to take a step back, when life comes first and it is sad to think of all the great opportunities that Sala will now miss out on. Of course he reached and achieved his dream of being a professional football player but at the same time he was about to make that step up and play in the most competitive league in Europe.

While Sala’s family have at least some sort of closure with his body being recovered the poor family of the pilot Ibbotson do not have that joy, with his body still missing somewhere presumed in the sea.

Sala’s memory will live on and the great cities of Nantes and Cardiff will now be forever connected in this way.

Boca Juniors and River Plate final fiasco highlights the shame of football in Argentina

Boca-1 (1)

A great country, two fantastic and historical teams and yet it has come to this where the Copa Libertadores final will now not take place in Argentina, a final between two Argentinian teams in Boca Juniors and River Plate.

The disgraceful scenes which marred what would have been the 2nd leg match after the first ended in a cliff hanger at 2-2 is the reason behind it. First the final was cancelled for 24 hours then it was pushed back a few days more and more violent scenes erupted. The fans to blame are the fans of River Plate, this time. But last time going to 2007 it was Boca’s fans that had the tear gas out and were then kicked out of the very same competition. So now Boca want River kicked out, but something about that doesn’t seem right. Why do fans have so much ‘influence’ when not one player from either side was involved in the problems?

The decision to play the 2nd leg outside of Argentina is sadly the right one. Sadly because this simply should not be happening. But maybe this is a final and direct message that if you want to see your club in a final then we are going to make it as hard as possible to happen. What the authorities must do next though is make sure the final is in Europe. Move it to Brazil for example and you could end up with even more problems.

A Brazilian final would mean that both River and Boca fans would have the chance to travel to that game and even if they do not have tickets they could create ugly scenes outside of the stadium, at this stage we couldn’t put that past them. No this final needs to be far and away and Italy have stepped forward to take it on.

In an ideal world the final would have been played and sorted now and the most that losing and winning fans should be doing is calm banter. Instead these fans are used to creating violence at games, yes it makes for an electrifying atmosphere no doubt about it but it can cause problems. The Argentinian FA have had to deal with that and that is why no away fans are allowed to attend football games in the country. It’s a step that had to be taken but it is sad at the same time that it has come to this.

League matches have been affected before but now Europe is looking at what is South America’s equilivant of the Champions League final, and you look on in shame and disappointment that such a showpiece event can not take place because of violence.

 

Diego Simeone needs to leave Atletico Madrid

zzzzz (3)

If you look at this decade alone and name 5 brilliant managers surely one of them has to be Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone. The Argentinian has been in charge of Atletico since 2011 and has achieved some incredible results with the perennial underdogs.

In a league such as La Liga that contains the two best teams in world football in Barcelona and Real Madrid his achievements with the club cannot be underestimated. He has won 7 major trophies with Atletico which includes the title win of 2014 and the team have got to 2 Champions League finals- both lost to their eternal nemesis Real Madrid. But in Copa del Rey’s and the Super Cup they have also exacted their revenge. They have knocked Barcelona out of two Champions League campaigns and this season have already beaten Real Madrid 4-2, and let’s not forget their 2 Europa League titles.

Under Simeone Atletico are experiencing their greatest achievements and no matter what happens he will go down as a legend with the club. And he still has pulling power- that’s most of the reason that French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann has stayed with the team, even when Barcelona have come calling and would easily spend £100m on the player. Simeone has made Atletico believe that they are invincible and for the most part his fantastic managerial tactics have been spot on. However after 7 years, which will be 8 years in 2019 in charge, is it time for Simeone to leave the club?

At just 48 Simeone does have time on his hands, at least another 20 years at the top but surely if he doesn’t leave Atletico soon he could become the forgotten man. He has won everything with the club apart from the Champions League, but he has nothing left to prove, and yet he still searches for more trophies. It is clear that he wants to add another Spanish title to Atletico’s history and of course make up for the two final losses in the Champions League. But he should be free to walk if he so chooses.

The time feels right for Simeone to branch out at pastures new. The Premier League has shown hints of wanting him to coach over there, how Manchester United perhaps could use his services right now. Arsenal were reported to be interested a few seasons ago but that has gone with Unai Emery in charge now. Over in Italy there is Inter Milan who have struggled since Jose Mourinho left the club in 2010.

If Simeone wants to be known as one of the greats, well you can’t do a Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger anymore. It makes sense to leave and prove your worth elsewhere. What is sure is that the lucky team that gets the pleasure of working with him, will surely benefit, and yes it could well be the saddest day in Atletico Madrid’s history when he finally does decide to leave, but leave at one point he must.

 

Diego Maradona was misunderstood in his criticism of Barcelona star Lionel Messi

aaaaa (2)

Two of the very best players of their generations clashing will always garner attention and Diego Maradona, the Argentine legend has spoken out about another Argentine legend and a lot seems to have been lost in communication.

Maradona has spoken out about Messi and has said he is not a leader. It was these words that have been completely taken out of context, and it doesn’t matter what else Maradona said in his most recent interview. Messi not being a leader has been good enough for the worlds press and fans to run with it. Now Messi’s fans have turned against Maradona- ‘what do you mean he isn’t a leader?’

What Maradona was trying to say is that Messi should not captain the Argentina national side, you’re leader doesn’t have to be the best player in the world- and he’s absolutely right.

At the World Cup last summer Messi only showed flashes of his brilliance and for the most part he walked around the pitch with his hands on his head, it was a forgettable tournament in all truth for him and Argentina. And then there was Maradona high up in the VIP seats who really did cut a frustrated figure. Admittedly he refused to criticise Messi at the World Cup, and so doing so three months later has probably come as a shock to some, but you get the feeling that it had to be said. Read between the lines and Maradona is calling Messi a superb player that has to have his leadership within the team stripped away to become a better player for the national side. In truth there is nothing wrong and everything right in what Maradona is saying.

Maradona said: ” Messi’s a great player, but he’s not a leader, before talking to the coach and players, he’ll play on the PlayStation. Then, on the pitch, he wants to be the leader. He’s the best along with Cristiano Ronaldo but for me, it’s pointless to make a leader out of a man who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a match. There’s no two ways around it. Let’s stop making a God out of Messi. Messi is just another player for Argentina. I wouldn’t call him up right now. We need to take pressure off him and the leadership away from him for him to be the Messi we want him to be. I would make him play as I want, how I know Messi can play.”

No coach for Argentina including ironically Maradona has found the right balance to accommodate Messi and it seems no coach will. Although Messi is set to star in Copa America next year a trophy like the World Cup that has eluded him, could 2019 be the year to end Messi’s draught with the national side, and will anyone take positive notice of what Maradona has said? Only time will tell.

 

It is time to put more appreciation and respect on Lionel Messi’s name

messi

The incredible debate of who is the best player in the world between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will continue to increase forever and ever, no matter which league both players are playing in. Though, the main focus will be on the last five to ten seasons, where both individuals went head-to-head with one another on a weekly basis as Barcelona and Real Madrid became spoilt with success.

In that period, one giant clashed with another giant as the passionate supporters of the beautiful game enjoyed a rivalry that is being regarded as the greatest rivalry in the history of football. In terms of the numbers and trophies won, Messi is superior as he has achieved 472 goals, 176 assists, 24 trophies won, five Ballon D’or awards and five Golden boots whilst Ronaldo has incredibly produced 450 goals, 119 assists, 16 trophies won, five Ballon D’or awards and three Golden boots.

Focusing more on the Barcelona man, he has won all the individuals awards that were up for grabs in the past and is now focused on winning as many trophies as possible with the team as well as to entertain the rest of the world with his style of play. Despite it being easier said than done, the high standards Messi has set is the same reason why many do not rave about him like they used to do.

During his early days as a footballer, the Rosario-born star had to take steroids in order to try and overcome Growth hormone deficiency, a medical condition he was diagnosed with at a young age. Many will feel that this improved the player or gave him a sort of advantage, but you can ask Messi himself and others who suffer from it, about how painful it is when steroids are your only solution.

On top of that, season by season, the pointless and unnecessary questions continued of why the Argentine international has never left the Camp Nou and La Liga, to go on to proving why he is the best player in the world by playing in the Premier League or in Serie A. However, why should he leave the club that had faith in him from a young age and also paid for all of his medical treatments?

Due to this kind and noble gesture, Messi has never had any serious thoughts of leaving the club as he wants to carry on repaying Football Club Barcelona for the life-changing decision they made to support him at the age of 13. Not only that, but the 25-time La Liga champions welcomed him with open hands and were willing to invest on him whilst being aware of his huge potential as a player.

Looking back at the last couple of years in Spain, the incredible rise and increase in appreciation for players such as Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric has been well deserved. Though, it should not be given in the place of Messi, who has rightfully earned the reputation as the dictator of Spanish football and is yet to see a certain individual come and challenge for his throne.

Also, the Argentina and Barcelona star did not make it into the list for the Best FIFA award, which should make one consider that what else does he have to accomplish in order to make it into the three-man shortlist. On the other hand, this outcome does imply that the players that were successful only in the Champions League are mentioned as the worthy candidates to win this prize.

Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis recently made an honest statement regarding to the FIFA awards, “The FIFA Best Player award is for the best player in the world. In my opinion, the best player in the world is Messi. Today, last year, two years ago, and three years ago. When he’s not there, it loses credibility. It does not matter who wins the World Cup or the Champions League. He is the best.”

Each supporter and player have their own opinions at the end day, but many will have to question how Messi, who won the league title and the Copa Del Rey whilst producing 52 goals and 21 assists throughout the season, somehow was not included in the shortlist for the FIFA Best Player award.

Overall, the 32-year-old is the greatest player to play in La Liga of all time and he has the countless trophies and records he has personally broken to back this statement.  Without his impact and presence, Barcelona and Spanish football would not be popular as many people think it would be.

There are no assurances of when his time as a footballer will come to an end, so it is ideal for all football fans to enjoy his brilliance on the pitch before it is too late. If not, then one will have to deeply wonder if there will be another player in the future that comes half close to Lionel Messi.

Four well-known players who failed to impress at the World Cup

De Gea

As the World Cup has now come to an end, many football fans will be filled with pure joy or sadness as 32 countries went on to play in the most prestigious international competition there is to play for.

Many young talents received their ideal chance of shining on the grandest stage of them all in Russia, whilst a number of well-known players failed to show their skills and quality this summer.

With no further ado, we now look at the four individuals that had a poor World Cup at a personal level and did not replicate the performances they were producing at club level in recent years.

David De Gea – Spain

Manchester United’s David De Gea, who is seen as the best goalkeeper in England and the whole of Europe, had a poor World Cup at a personal level as he could not produce the crucial saves that he makes on a weekly basis at Old Trafford. However, his team-mates and most importantly the manager, kept faith in him and had had his back as he started in all of the side’s fixtures.

De Gea’s first error of the competition came in the opening fixture, where it allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to score his second goal of the match during an entertaining and thrilling draw between Portugal and Spain. Also, he was criticised and personally targeted following the side’s penalty shoot-out against Russia in the last-16, where he failed to save any of the four penalties he faced.

Javier Mascherano – Argentina

Not many were expecting Javier Mascherano to play a regular role for Jorge Sampaoli’s side throughout the competition due to his poor positional awareness as well as the decline he has experienced in recent years. Though, the 34-year-old surprisingly started in all four of Argentina’s games as he went on to construct some unconvincing displays whilst being a passenger in midfield.

After having such a below-par campaign compared to his old and usual standards, it’s not a surprise to see the former Barcelona and Liverpool player retiring from international football. Four years ago, Mascherano played an influential role in helping the side to reach the World Cup finals, but he could not do the same this time around as he looked past his best and totally confused on and off the ball.

Jerome Boateng – Germany

Germany were seen as one of the main favourites to win the competition, especially as they were the current champions of the world before the tournament had kicked off in Russia. Many football fans will state that the likes of Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller had let the side down, when in fact, it was Jerome Boateng and the rest of the defence that could not handle the pace of the opposition.

Against Sweden, Boateng let the team and himself down, when he made two unnecessary fouls which led to him being sent off at a time his side needed him the most. Although the team went on to beat Sweden, it was more down to some late brilliance and due to the help of the video assistant referee. Overall, the 2018 World Cup will be one campaign that the defender will want to forget.

Neymar – Brazil

It’s quite difficult to analyse Brazil’s time in the World Cup as they did not take it up a notch after the group stages, and it followed with them not having the composure and mentality to go on to beating Belgium in the quarter-finals of the competition. Tite’s men and the whole of Brazil had huge expectations in Neymar, who simply did not come up with the goods in the final third of the pitch.

On top of that, his antics of rolling around the pitch and diving from time to time summed up his average performances throughout the competition. The Paris Saint-Germain star was hyped up as the key man who would bring some excitement to the World Cup and help Brazil to take the trophy back home, however, that was not the outcome as he only scored twice from 26 attempted shots.

Gallant Croatia undone by France’s star quality

mandzukic

Football is a game of clichés. Indeed, one of the oldest ones in the book suggests that intelligent coaching and tactical systems can only take a team so far; world class players are the real difference makers. And so it proved tonight as France secured a second FIFA World Cup trophy after defeating Croatia 4-2 in Moscow. For the best part of an hour, the Vatreni were definitely the superior side and were extremely unlucky to find themselves 2-1 down at half-time thanks to a dubious penalty in the opening 45 minutes. Continue reading

France are favourites but Croatia may be destined for glory

mandzukic

Regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s FIFA World Cup final between France and Croatia, the Vatreni have already made history this summer. Indeed, they are the first team in the tournament’s history to reach the final after each of their three knockout matches went to extra time. Denmark, Russia and England have all taken Zlatko Dalić’s side beyond 90 minutes, which many fear could take its toll on them physically in the Luzhniki Stadium. Continue reading

Why Croatia must grasp glorious opportunity with both hands

5b4128f7fc7e9318048b4645

Fans of the Croatian national team have spent much of the last 20 years pining for a side to do them as proud as the ‘Class of 98’ did at the World Cup in France. Unfortunately for them, no group of players has ever come close to matching the third-place finish earned by Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban and their colleagues. Comparisons between Miroslav Blažević’s squad and the Vatreni’s current crop of stars are inevitable, especially now that they have reached the semi-finals where they will face England, another country which has struggled to live up to billing in recent years. Continue reading