La Liga Best XI – Week 12

williamsWith the latest round of La Liga taking place this past weekend, it is now time to cast our minds back and see which players performed their roles the best for their clubs. There were, as always, some quality games on display – Barcelona losing for only the second time this season at home to Real Betis was something of a shock, while Real Madrid made it two wins on the bounce with their 4-2 win at Celta Vigo. We will be adopting a 4-3-3 this week, so let’s get to it.

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Serie A must continue purchase of World Class players to enhance image

Seven years ago, one French Club, Paris Saint Germain invaded Serie A and plundered the league’s top stars from its top teams. Jérémy Ménez, Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marco Verratti, Thiago Sliva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Later, Marquinhos and Edison Cavani joined the fray. PSG’s incursion was propelled by current owners, Qatar Sports Investments, spearheaded by Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

It wasn’t just the ability of the oil rich investors to price away the best talents from other clubs as was the case with Neymar last season, but it exposed how vulnerable and financially weak clubs in Italy were at that particular period. Let’s look at it from this perspective, the strength of a league is predicated on the strength of its clubs. Thus, Serie A became weak in the eyes of its opposing leagues.

It’s worth to note that, during those trial moments, Juventus were putting in place the right structures, both administratively and infrastructure (The Allianz Stadium). They managed to sign the likes of Carlos Tevez from Manchester City, Arturo Vidal from Bayer Leverkusen, got Andrea Pirlo on a Bossman and a world class potential in Paul Pobga. The results are six scudetti on the bounce and two Champions League finals in the last five years. They continue to attract some of the best talents in Douglas Costa, Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can.

This season,the backdrop to Juventus campaign is the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. Portuguese Captain is a symbol of perseverance, whiles his great achievements and showy personality drags the media to his orbit. A report this year from D’Marie Analytics, a social media research firm estimates that a post by Ronaldo across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is worth a cumulative $728,973.35, making him both the most valuable soccer player and athlete overall.

And of course, commercially, there are all sorts of financial spin offs when you sign Cristiano Ronaldo, from merchandise to image rights.

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Ronaldo’s debut match against Chievo attracted 2,330,234 unique viewers, with an audience share of 11.9 percent. That’s a 68 percent increase in viewers on Juve’s first match of last season, when they faced Cagliari at home. It is also the fourth-highest total since the Italian branch of Sky launched, surpassed only by the Derby d’Italia in 2013 and 2016, and Roma-Juventus in August 2015. Another Broadcast giant ESPN signed a multi-year deal to broadcast Serie A in the United States It’s difficult to quantify how much of this attention is contributed by the competitiveness of the league after Napoli gave Juventus a hard fought for the scudetto last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s entrance has brought the sheen that Serie A needs.

It is however important for the other top teams Inter Milan, Napoli, AC Milan and AS Roma to leverage on the current attraction to lure elite players to their abode.

The two San Siro outfits, AC Milan and Inter are beginning to recover their financial muscle after the change of ownerships from Italian families to foreign Investors, as well as Roma. Things are beginning to look up for AC Milan under the current owners Elliot Hudge Fund Management who have brought back Leonardo in the position of Sporting director, alongside Paolo Maldini as sporting strategy and development director.

AC Milan’s transfer activities have not triggered the kind of excitement that greeted the appointment of their former heroes. Paolo Maldini’s name seems to have overshadowed their purchases in the summer and rightly so because names likes, Tiémoué Bakayoko, Alen Halilovic, Samu Castillejo and Diego Laxalt do not generate euphoria. But the Rossoneri take consolation in the signature of Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara.

Inter Milan managed to sign Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma and Kwadwo Asamoah from Inter whiles keeping Ivan Peresic and their priciest asset, Captain Maruo Icardi. The reports about Luka Modric wanting to join the Nerazzurri drew a lot of enthusiasm around the club and showed further proof of the kind of players that Serie A are missing. Though the player decided otherwise, it was a sign of ambition on the part of the Nerazzurri.

Despite the acquisition of Javier Pastori and Steven Nzonzi by AS Roma this summer, the Giallorossi have lost world class goalkeeper Alison Becker to Liverpool and Kevin Strootman to Marseille. Whiles Mauricio Sarri and Jorginho have joined Chelsea from Napoli. Last year, three players from Serie A mounted the FIFPro World XI podium. Two of them, Dani Alves and Gialuigi Buffon are currently PSG players. Cristiano Ronaldo may be on the podium in the next FIFA Mens Best Player Award Event but it will be based on his performance at Real Madrid.

Serie A need a continue purchase of world class players to continue enjoying the attention it’s currently attracting.

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Early La Liga fixtures favour Barcelona title defence


Barcelona began their La Liga title defence with a 3-0 home win over Alaves last weekend, and they have a favourable run of games right up until mid-October.

Ernesto Valverde’s side won the domestic double last season, losing just one game in the La Liga season, and they look in strong form to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2016.

The former Athletic Bilbao manager has focused on youth within his summer transfer policy, bringing in Arthur Melo and Malcom – alongside the experience of Arturo Vidal.

They are set to play a key role for the Catalan side this season, combined with their established superstars, and the early season run of games lends itself to a title push.

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La Liga tension ahead of Super Cup final


Controversy continues to plague the Supercopa de Espana, ahead of Sunday’s showdown between Barcelona and Sevilla in Tangier.

The traditional La Liga curtain raiser between the defending league champions and the Copa del Rey holders (or runners up in this example, as Barcelona won the double last season) has been littered with bad tempered incidents.

Initially the Andalusian club objected to La Liga’s decision to change the competition format of a two legged affair played at each side’s home ground, to a one-off game contested at a neutral venue outside of Spain.

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DFL Supercup Preview: Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich


Niko Kovac’s first chance to win a trophy at new club Bayern Munich will be against his former side Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFL Supercup on Sunday. It’s the Bundesliga champions vs DFB Pokal winners in the curtain raiser for Germany’s 2018/19 football season and it’s a fixture that is expected to be as exciting as their last: the Pokal final. The previous meeting between the two sides resulted in a 3-1 victory for Eintracht which was masterminded by Kovac, with the Croat now in the opposite dugout at Commerzbank Arena, in charge of Bayern.

Sunday will be just the second-time Eintracht Frankfurt has featured in the curtain raiser, their last coming in a 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen in 1988. Meanwhile, the ever-dominant Bayern Munich have participated in seven of the last eight DFL Supercup’s, although they’ve lifted just four with their most recent being last season.

We’ve seen mixed results from Bayern Munich in pre-season during their International Champions Cup fixtures and for the 2018 DFL Supercup, the Bavarians will have to do it without Arturo Vidal who has departed Munich for Barcelona. Although, there could be starts for Bayern’s two new signings, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry, the latter returning from his Hoffenheim loan spell.

Like Bayern Munich, Eintracht Frankfurt are undergoing a transitional season. Kovac’s spell at Eintracht couldn’t have gone better but now at Bayern, it will be up Adi Hutter, former BSC Young Boys head coach, to carry on the good work by his predecessor.

Eintracht Frankfurt have lost a key player in Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has joined Sassuolo but arguably their biggest signing this summer is the contract extension of Croatia international and World Cup Finalist Ante Rebic, who had been close to joining Manchester United. The forward scored a brace in his last meeting with Bayern Munich, helping Eintracht lift the Pokal while a fine month in Russia has resulted in the 24-year-old penning a new contract that will see him remain at the Bundesliga club until 2022.

New signings Felix Wiedwald, Goncalo Paciencia, Nicolai Müller and Chico Geraldes could well start on Sunday for Eintracht Frankfurt and while there’s no doubting the 2018/19 campaign will be a tough one for the Super Eagles, certainly more difficult than the previous, there’s no reason as to why they can’t push Bayern Munich for 90 minutes on Sunday.

Early signs in the Bayern side suggest that Kovac doesn’t quite know his best formation while they’re going to have play the Eintracht without James Rodriguez, who has yet to return to full fitness after missing the England game at the World Cup.

One positive for Bayern Munich is that star striker Robert Lewandowski will remain at the club despite immense speculation that he would leave for one of Manchester United or Real Madrid this summer. The Poland international looked increasingly frustrated towards the end of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign while the 29-year-old criticised his teammates the prior season after accusing them of not helping Lewandowski finish top scorer, instead finishing behind then Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

“It’s true Robert and I had a chat. Robert knows what I think about him and how I rate him. The whole club knows the qualities he possesses. He is one of the best three strikers in the world. There’s no way we’d let him leave. That’s why I told him. Robert accepted that, and I’m really happy about it,” Kovac told Sport Bild.

Like the Community Shield, winning the DFL Supercup isn’t the biggest of deals. Of course, both teams still want to win silverware at the end of the day but it’s more about signifying the start of the football campaign in Germany. Eintracht Frankfurt vs Bayern Munich will provide fans with exciting football given both Hutter and Kovac like their teams to press high up the pitch while defensively neither have look solid. This fixture should certainly provide viewers with top class entertainment.

Probable line-ups

Eintracht Frankfurt: Wiedwald – Abraham (c), Hasebe, Salcedo – Da Costa, Torro, Fernandes, Willems – Fabian, Gacinovic – Haller

Bayern Munich: Neuer (c) – Kimmich, Hummels, Süle, Alaba – Martinez, Thiago – Robben, Müller, Ribery – Lewandowski

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Arturo Vidal signing makes sense for Barcelona


This summer transfer window surely cannot be compared to the last for Barcelona. Unlike twelve months ago, when they missed out on a series of prime transfer targets, they have already landed Arthur Melo, Clement Lenglet and Malcom this time round for a combined €115m.

They have been left frustrated in their pursuit of a secondary central midfielder. Arthur primarily will fill the void of outgoing captain Andres Iniesta but the unexpected – certainly for boss Ernesto Valverde – departure of Paulinho has left another gap in the squad. Continue reading

Retaining Perisic a huge win for Inter and Spalletti


The future of Ivan Perisic was one of the big talking points of the summer. It was no secret that Manchester United coveted the Crotian winger and that José Mourinho pushed hard to get a deal done. At the beginning of the summer, when the Financial Fair Play restrictions were still a problem for Inter, it looked like the management resigned itself to letting Perisic go and the player was very much willing to move to England.

Then, June passed and Inter gathered what they needed to fulfil the economic requirements through smaller transactions, so they started to resist the idea of selling one of their very best elements. The reports about the asking price are not unanimous, but it was at least €50M, if not up to €60M, which is not insane in today’s market, even though Perisic is a little older than some of the other stars that have moved for mind-boggling sums.

Throughout the summer, the newly appointed Luciano Spalletti worked on Perisic, trying to change his mind and making him commit to his cause. The coach, after some early openings, became a strong supporter of the permanence, especially in August, when it became clear that Inter would have struggled find a proper replacement.

Inter did not budge in the final days of the summer window and Perisic has been on fire early on. He has scored with a header against Fiorentina and with a beautiful volley against Spal and has assisted thrice in three games, providing two key dimes in the all-important Roma game. Perisic has always been excellent since joining from Wolfsburg, but he is now taking it up a notch: the sample size is small, but he never looked so engaged and so efficient. Spalletti has an history for getting the max out of his players and it looks like has done the trick again.

On top of the brilliant start, Perisic has signed an extension through 2022, which will earn him a base salary of €4.6M, making him the highest paid player on the roster, alongside Mauro Icardi, who could be getting a new deal soon. The resistance has paid dividends for Inter and it is a notable difference compared, for instance, to Juventus’ philosophy, which in the past has sold key players, such as Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Leonardo Bonucci, as soon as they expressed the slightest intention to leave.

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Bayern Munich host Benfica in the Champions League in tricky encounter

German league leaders Bayern Munich will play host to Portuguese league leaders Benfica on Tuesday in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals.

On paper, the Bundesliga champions will be favorites but assuming Bayern will go through from this tie should not be taken for granted. Italian champions Juventus exposed Bayern’s clumsy and susceptible defensive line and Juve striker Alvaro Morata was able to run circle around the Bavarian defenders in Munich.


Another concern for Bayern is the fact Arjen Robben will most likely miss the first game in Munich. While Bayern can compensate for his absence, particularly with the return of Frenchman Franck Ribéry and the presence of young compatriot Kingsley Coman, the team’s manager Pep Guardiola would most likely prefer to have Robben with his added experience and his uncanny ability to get foul calls.

In addition, it would be wrong to focus on Bayern without mentioning a few pillars of the squad, including the club’s top scorer Robert Lewandowski, midfield terrier Arturo Vidal and German star Thomas Müller. Austrian defender David Alaba, who can also operate in midfield, is another name to keep an eye on.



The big names and the great exposure given to Bayern Munich should not take away any credit from current Primeira Liga leaders Benfica and their pool of talented players. In attack, Portuguese top league scorer Jonas Gonçalves Oliveira  is having the best season of his career and the veteran is supported by Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou. Between them, the attacking tandem has managed to score an impressive 47 league goals this season!

Another player to keep an eye on is midfielder Nicolás Gaitán who has scored 4 goals and provided 3 assists in 7 Champions League starts this season.

This should be an interesting battle between two teams on top of their respective league, yet the history, the players at Guardiola’s disposal and Bayern’s experience tip the balance in the Bavarian team’s favor. However, nothing can be taken for granted! Tune in on Tuesday, April 5th, 2015 to find out what the final score will be and remember you can follow the result of the game live by clicking here.

Can Bayern’s King haunt Juventus?


It almost seemed inevitable that Arturo Vidal would return at some stage. Now that the day has come, he does so “as an opponent, not an enemy.”

The Chilean spent four successful seasons at Juventus. He was a lynchpin in the side which dominated Serie A, lifting a trophy at the end of each campaign. Vidal also aided Juve’s European progression to last term’s Berlin Final. Then he was gone.

Vidal told La Stampa this week he will not celebrate if he scores, but is unsure about what to expect. “I don’t know how I will be welcomed, but I hope the fans don’t jeer. I am excited about this game and it’ll be strange to see myself there with another jersey.”

The man dubbed ‘King Arthur’ was a well-liked figure at Juventus Stadium. Although his somewhat abrupt departure meant there was no time for goodbye.

Even if the goals have not flowed in the south of Germany compared to his time in the north of Italy – he’s netted just three times this term – the combative Chilean has slotted in Bayern’s midfield and is a regular for Pep Guardiola.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. In January Vidal was accused of turning up to Bayern’s training camp with alcohol on his breath. According to Tuttosport, that led Bayern officials to phone their Bianconeri counterparts and ask how they dealt with the Chilean. It’s a story Vidal denies. It’s worth remembering Vidal’s drunken car crash during last summer’s Copa America was seen as a catalyst for Juventus accepting Bayern’s €40m offer.

As they cruise towards another Bundesliga title, the Champions League is Bayern’s main focus. Having gone so close last season Vidal cited the chance to lift ‘big ears’ as a major reason for his summer switch. “The defeat against Barca had an impact on my decision to leave Turin, because every player wants to lift that Champions League trophy into the air at some point in his career,” Vidal told Bild last August. “I have the feeling that with Bayern I can win that trophy.”

The road to glory goes through Turin, where the 28-year-old must put sentiment aside. While Juventus weren’t thrilled about being paired with one of Europe’s top three clubs, equally so the draw could have been kinder to the Germans. “I haven’t given my teammates any special advice, as they know how strong Juve are even without Vidal.” Director Karl Heinz Rummenigge says a score draw would be a good result for Bayern on Tuesday.

While it appears the home fans will be welcoming towards their former King, could he be the player to give Bayern a precious advantage?

Can Juventus’ Arturo Vidal really replace Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern Munich this summer?

Bayern Munich are reportedly close to signing Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, with club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitting the perennial German Bundesliga champions have been lining him up this summer, saying: “We’re interested, but we’re not yet so far that we’ve discussed details and signed contracts. I read that it was all wrapped up and I cannot confirm that. I hope at the end of the day he will come.”

The title-holders are looking to replace Bastian Schweinsteiger, who left the German outfit to join up with his former manager at Manchester United, and in his place Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal looks to be the preferred replacement. Given the differences in style between the player and manager Pep Guardiola, it would be a surprise to see the Chilean through the door, but he’s been a long-term target of the Bavaria club.

“(Then-Bayern manager) Jupp Heynckes really wanted (Vidal) and we tried all we could to sign him. The message we were given was that the player didn’t want to come to us, but that’s not true. It was Leverkusen who clearly turned down what was a better offer from us at the time purely because they didn’t want Vidal to continue playing in the Bundesliga,” added Rummenigge.

Arturo Vidal, 29, is a talented and highly-experienced midfielder, but his attributes don’t quite weigh up with the manager’s philosophy. He has an abundance of energy, and is full-bloodied going into his challenges, but does the Chilean have the finesse and composure to blend into the Bayern outfit?

Known more for the amount of bookings picked up in a season, Vidal appears to be somewhat of a panic buy. He doesn’t fit the Bayern Munich system, and the extent of Guardiola’s true impact on the signing may speak volumes. A host of European sides were after him this summer, believing Juventus wouldn’t stand in his way if he wanted a move, but the German giants appear to have won the race.

With such a key player like Bastian Schweinsteiger having departed the club for Manchester United ahead of the new season, Bayern have quickly sought out the first world-class midfielder available. Vidal was seeking a move away from the Italian Serie A, and subsequently jumped at the chance to join a side of Bayern’s reputation. He’s certainly not a typical Guardiola signing, and he’s not of the same ilk as the player his replacing, so why have the Germans been so forthright in their bid to sign Vidal this summer?