Iker Casillas is a legend who has nothing else left to prove and should retire after heart scare

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It only feels like yesterday when Iker Casillas replaced Cesar Sanchez in goal for Real Madrid in the final absorbing minutes of the 2002 Champions League final. Real were leading the game 2-1 against Germans Bayer Leverkusen but had a poor second half where Leverkusen created wave after waves of attacking football, the game seemed destined to end 2-2. But Casillas pulled off a string of fantastic saves and although he had made a cameo part in the final he emerged as a hero, saving the day for the club who went onto win their 9th European Cup.

From that day forward Casillas established himself as Real Madrid’s No.1. goalkeeper and would keep the job between the sticks for the next 13 years. In that time he won everything a player possibly could. As Madrid’s first choice he was also naturally Spain’s too, and was part of the most successful Spanish side in history.

Casillas has spent the last four seasons at Porto after his surprise move there took place in 2015, but it felt like the right time for him to be moving on. Recently though it came as shock news to learn that Casillas had suffered a heart attack, even if mild on the training pitch. It is not something which one fathoms about happening to a 37 year old elite athlete.

Casillas is fine, he is good and that is all that really matters at this stage. But he must be incredibly shaken up and also ask why this has happened to him? He has put on a brave face in front of the media but there is no doubt that tears have been shed and part of this isn’t because he has survived and is thankful. It is also a realisation that his football career is over. Of course nothing has been made official and if Casillas can continue all good to him. But he must be fearful in some respects and he must also have the ability to protect himself and his health. Yes his career is ending perhaps 3-4 years before he would have ideally liked, but at the same time doesn’t it make sense to hang up his boots?

What does Casillas have left to prove, he has literally won every trophy one could ask for. This includes 19 trophies for Real Madrid, 5 league titles and 2 Champions Leagues. He won the league in Portugal with Porto last season. There could yet be another title this season as Porto are just 2 points behind Benfica with 2 games left to play in what should be a thrilling end to the season.

And then there is the glory with Spain. Two European Championships and a World Cup, in an extraordinary four year period.

Perhaps Casillas needs to reflect on the utterly amazing career he has had, this dreadful attack did not happen when he was 27, but at 37, he has had a 95% career in football. Simply for his health and well being he should be dropping the football gloves for the microphone of punditry and saying goodbye to his playing days- remaining a legend in any football fans eyes.

Bundesliga Fantasy Game Predictions – Round 4

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Criticised for being a one team league, the Bundesliga may well be that but there’s no denying it’s one of the most exciting in Europe. With 34 goals across nine league games, round three had it all.

Looking ahead, here’s three important games to keep an eye on this weekend. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen remain pointless after three games

After an impressive campaign last season, it’s fair to say that Bayer Leverkusen look as though they’re still in pre-season. For the first time in their Bundesliga history, they’ve lost their opening three league fixtures which sees them rooted to the table.

Granted, they’ve had a tough start to the season with Borussia Monchengladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich but many of them had predicted Heiko Herrlich’s side to be up there with the reigning champions this season. Continue reading

Bayer Leverkusen’s season isn’t going as planned

Consecutive defeats for Bayer Leverkusen to start their 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign isn’t something head coach Heiko Herrlich had in mind. Many had predicted Die Werkself to challenge Bayern Munich for the title after a strong summer of recruitment following a successful campaign last season.

The 46-year-old brought European football back to the BayArena, finishing fifth and just missing out on a return to Champions League football on goal difference to Borussia Dortmund. Europa League football will have to do but the vibe around Leverkusen playing in Europe once again is positive.

Continue reading

Kai Havertz, Thilo Kehrer and Nico Schulz deserving of Germany call-ups

It was a summer to forget for Germany and their national team. Failure to advance from their World Cup group which included Mexico, South Korea and Sweden, Joachim Löw’s managerial skills came into question following sub-par performances.

Unlike four years ago, there was a sense of uncertainty around this Germany squad once the squads had been announced. Löw once again put faith in his old guards, such as Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez while the likes of Leroy Sané were left at home, a decision that angered fans. Continue reading

Ranked: How Bundesliga’s top teams fared in the transfer market

Now that the transfer window is shut, clubs can focus on football on the pitch rather than recruitment off it. There’s been a total of 208 departures (£452m) and 247 arrivals (£441) which makes the Bundesliga one of the most profitable, and most entertaining, leagues when it comes to transfers.

With the Bundesliga season now in full swing, let’s rank the transfers from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern Munich

Perhaps what is surprising from the Bundesliga champions is their failure to sign a winger despite cries from fans of the club to splash the cash even with the recent contract renewals of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. The experienced duo are not getting any younger and with the departure of Douglas Costa to Juventus on a permanent deal and the recent injury to Kinglsey Coman, Bayern find themselves short in wide areas.

Alphonso Davies will arrive from Vancouver Whitecaps in January and although this is an exciting signing, it’s not someone who’s expected to contribute to straight away. And considering Bayern Munich were linked with the likes of Julian Brandt and Leon Bailey, it’s perhaps a tad disappointing from the reigning champions.

That said, Bayern’s hierarchy did a remarkable job in convincing Leon Goretzka to join the club with Liverpool and Manchester United showing an interest in the Germany international, who joined Bayern Munich from Schalke after an impressive campaign. C.

Borussia Dortmund

Like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund have a new head coach at the helm. Lucien Favre swapped sunny Nice for Dortmund which sees him return to Germany after a two year absence. With the appointment of the Swiss tactician, a revamp of the squad followed.

Andre Schurrle, Sokratis, Gonzalo Castro and Nuri Sahin were all high-profile departures but there’s no doubting that Dortmund have made some brilliant acquisitions. Thomas Delaney arrived from Werder Bremen, adding much needed stamina in midfield while Belgium international Axel Witsel followed. These summer arrivals make BVB midfield one of the most impressive in the Bundesliga with either Mahmoud Dahoud or Mario Gotze complementing the duo.

Abdou Diallo also arrived from Mainz as Sokratis’ replacement. The 22-year-old Frenchman had an outstanding season with Mainz last campaign and early signs suggest he’s worth the €22 million spent on Diallo. And just 48 hours before Friday’s deadline, Borussia Dortmund got the striker they desperately needed in Barcelona striker Paco Alcacer. The Bundesliga club were calling out for a No. 9 which will allow both Marco Reus and Max Philipp to play in their preferred positions.

A remarkable summer window from Borussia Dortmund. A.

Schalke 04

It is always going to be hard to replace players such as Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka but it’s fair to say that Schalke have done so rather well. Suat Serdar, Omar Mascarell both arrived to shore up the midfield before Bayern Munich’s Sebastian Rudy’s arrival later in the window.

Domenico Tedesco and sporting director Christian Heidel also did well to convince central defender Salif Sane, who was statistically in the top five defenders last season, to join the Royal Blues. 20-year-old Hamza Mendyl also adds further youth to Schalke’s defence while the left-back can also add quality going forward.

Finally, Schalke announced the signing of Mark Uth on a free transfer before the transfer window had even opened. The former Hoffenheim striker finished the Bundesliga last season as the highest scoring German in 2017/18 while the 26-year-old will certainly provide a different threat to Guido Burgstaller and Breel Embolo. B.

Bayer Leverkusen

Unhappy with playing time, Bayer Leverkusen said goodbye to highly-talented Benjamin Henrichs who joined AS Monaco for €20m. The Bundesliga club have adequate cover with the arrival of Hertha BSC right-back Mitchell Weiser who is much better defensively. Like Uth, it was also announced before transfer window opened that Vasco da Gama forward Paulinho would join the club for €18m. At just 18, the Brazilian adds pace to Leverkusen’s frontline while early signs show that Paulinho is yet another impressive South American import for the Bundesliga side.

One of the Bundesliga’s best goalkeepers last season, Lukas Hradecky, joined the club from Eintracht Frankfurt on a free transfer following the departure of Bernd Leno to Arsenal, while the loan signing of Isaac Kiese Thelin adds depth up top following the resignation of Stefan Kiessling.

Despite lack of arrivals, it has been a good summer for Leverkusen who have also renewed the contracts of Julian Brandt and Leon Bailey. B.

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Three U-20 players to keep an eye on in Germany this upcoming season

If there’s one thing German clubs are good at, it’s developing players. Schalke’s renowned der Knappenschmiede has provided the club with the likes of Mesut Ozil and more recently Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka while their rivals, Borussia Dortmund, have blessed the Bundesliga with talent such as Mario Gotze while Borussia Monchengladbach have been responsible for Marco Reus, who will now play under his former coach Lucien Favre in Dortmund.

Just the past season we’ve seen the likes of Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt – both of Bayer Leverkusen and Timo Werner of RB Leipzig, all shine in the limelight and establish themselves as important players for their respective clubs.

And now with the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign well underway, here’s three U-20 players to keep an eye on in Germany this season.

Weston McKennie

A product of FC Dallas’ youth academy, Weston McKennie decided against college and Major League Soccer in favour of a move to Schalke in 2016. Now 19, McKennie became an integral member of Domenico Tedesco’s Royal Blues last season, playing in 22 Bundesliga games and helping S04 to a runners-up place.

Swapping USA for Germany at such a young age is never going to be easy but McKennie seems to have settled down well in Gelsenkirchen, where he’s excelled in such a short time.

“I think I’ve made my mark on the team.” McKennie told Bundesliga.com. “I think they respect me now. As a young kid going over there, it’s kind of hard to try and gain the respect of your own teammates and let them trust you. But I think I’ve gained the trust from the players, and from the coach as well.

“And the club supports me also. So I think that’s the most important thing as a foreign player, I guess, going into a foreign country and playing, is to make sure you have a good support system from everyone. And just always have the right type of mentality.”

The 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign promises to be a good one for Schalke if they can build on their success last season while McKennie will become a key member for Tedesco given the departure of Max Meyer. Now capped for USA at international level, the 19-year-old is level-headed given his age while Schalke fans can expect big things of him.

Sergio Gomez

A member of Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy, Sergio Gomez swapped sunny Barcelona for Dortmund at the age of 17. A quicker route to first team football has been granted and given Dortmund’s emphasis on youth players, the Spaniard is at the perfect place to develop his game.

Injuries to key first team players resulted in Gomez getting a few minutes under his belt where he’s shown glimpses of just what he can do. Able to play anywhere behind a striker, the Spaniard offers plenty of options to Lucien Favre while the Swiss tactician is the perfect man in charge to develop Gomez’ game, perhaps like that of Reus during his time at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Whether Gomez gets more game time this season remains to be seen but if injuries occur, then the 17-year-old may just find minutes here and there just to show what he’s capable of.

Kai Havertz

Perhaps one of the Bundesliga’s and Germany’s best youth talents, it seems as though Kai Havertz has been around for some time given the experience the attacking-midfielder has under his belt. At just 19, Havertz has already appeared in 55 Bundesliga games for Bayer Leverkusen, notching up 15 assists in the process while he’s also shown glimpses of his talent in the Champions League, namely against Atletico Madrid.

During the 2017/18 season, Havertz became the youngest ever player to reach 50 Bundesliga games while he’s also Bayer Leverkusen’s youngest ever goal scorer. For a player of such an age, the 19-year-old has shown maturity while it’s clear to see just why he’s been linked with European’s top clubs. B04 will be hopeful of keeping Havertz, who signed a new deal with the Bundesliga club last summer until 2022.

A big future is expected of the youngster and although you could argue he’s already broken through, Leverkusen’s 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign will be largely down to the attacking talent of Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt and Havertz.

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Vidal vital to Inter’s hopes of knocking Juventus off their perch

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Not even in their wildest dreams could Inter fans have been prepared for how well their club has done during this summer’s transfer window so far. Having already secured the signatures of Stefan de Vrij, Kwadwo Asamoah and Lautaro Martínez before last season came to an end, the Nerazzurri have since added Radja Nainggolan and Matteo Politano to their increasingly talented squad. As if that was not enough, right-back Šime Vrsaljko is on the verge of joining from Atlético Madrid, while Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal is said to have agreed personal terms with the Milanese giants. Continue reading

Borussia Monchengladbach to begin Bundesliga season full of confidence

Euro 2016

The first round of Bundesliga fixtures for the 2016-2017 season are to be played over the course of this weekend, when two of Germany’s four Champions League representatives will play another.

Those are Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen with the pair set to meet at the former’s Stadion im Borussia-Park.

Whilst at the end of the 2014-15 Bundesliga campaign, Monchengladbach were third and Leverkusen fourth, there was a reversal of those positions last season. Specifically Leverkusen finished five points ahead of Monchengladbach and in doing so secured automatic qualification to the group stages of this season’s Champions League, along with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Schubert’s side overwhelm BSC Young Boys

Also joining the trio in the group stage of European football’s elite club competition are Monchengladbach, after Andre Schubert’s side successfully progressed from their qualifying play-off encounter against BSC Young Boys by comprehensively defeating the Swiss side 9-2 on aggregate.

In both legs of the tie Monchengladbach produced extremely assured and competent performances to completely outplay their Swiss opponents, whilst in doing so they built up a great deal of confidence ahead of the Bundesliga season.

Whilst Monchengladbach displayed control and discipline to beat BSC Young Boys 3-1 in Bern, during the return game Schubert’s team played a wonderfully expansive attacking game, which resulted in them securing a thoroughly impressive 6-1 victory.

From the outset of that, Monchengladbach showed great desire and enthusiasm to substantiate their advantage from the first leg, which they were rewarded for, as both their experienced Brazilian striker Raffael and Thorgan Hazard scored hat-trick.

Despite being highly convincing, the margin of Monchengladbach’s victory could have been wider had it not been for some inspired interventions by BSC Young boys goalkeeper Yvon Mvongo.

Monchengladbach talented players in fine early season form

In stark contrast to that, Mvongo’s Monchengladbach’s counterpart Yann Sommer was rarely tested in either game, whilst neither were the defensive trio of Andreas Christensen, Nico Elvedi and Tony Jantschke, who combined to form a strong unit in front of the Swiss international goalkeeper.

Nevertheless Monchengladbach’s concession of a goal in both legs of their tie against BSC Young Boys was attributable to moments of complacency in defence, which Schubert will strongly encourage his players to eradicate from future performances, so that they do not risk undoing the fine attacking work which they undertake.

Chief architects of that work are captain Lars Stindl, along with the wide pair of Fabian Johnson and Ibrahima Traore. Each of those three players are capable of both scoring goals and providing quality service Raffael and Hazard, who invariably spearhead Monchengladbach’s attack, although Andre Hahn is another excellent striking option available to Schubert.

Confidence high among Monchengladbach squad

As such at present the 45-year-old manager is working with an extremely talented group of players, who are full of confidence, after earning their place in the group stage of this season’s Champions League.

Prior to the commencement of that on either 13 or 14 September, Monchengladbach will play two Bundesliga games, with the first of those being against Bayer Leverkusen, which is set to be an extremely keenly contested affair.

Timely Dzeko goal a boost for Roma

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It was as timely a goal as Edin Dzeko is likely to score. For the Bosnian, slotting past Bernd Leno in the Bayer Leverkusen goal on Wednesday was his first strike for Roma since getting the better of Gianluigi Buffon on August 30th.

It was also important on another front. For the Giallorossi, that goal helped maintain their hopes of Champions League knockout phase progression. It was a much needed second victory of Group E, propelling the capital club up to second with two matches remaining.

And ahead of Sunday’s Rome Derby, the timing was perfect.

Dzeko had been under pressure to find the back of the net. It was hoped that with his summer arrival the Roma attack would go to the next level, especially after last season’s struggles.

Currently, Roma are Serie A’s most prolific attack and third-best in the Champions League, so they haven’t exactly been lost without Dzeko’s contributions. The goals have been shared, although the burden has fallen on mercurial wing duo Gervinho and Mohamed Salah – 12 strikes between them.

After protracted summer negotiations with Manchester City and a long-standing desire to end Juve’s domestic dominance, Dzeko is expected to deliver the goals. He wasn’t helped by an early knee injury that saw the striker miss a month of action.

Rudi Garcia was quick to remind after last week’s loss to Inter that he is still to rediscover full fitness, although national team boss Mehmed Bazdarevic – watching in Milan – had no concerns. “If he had scored, for me he would’ve been the man of the match.”

What Bazdarevic did like was Dzeko’s selflessness to help create opportunities, of which Roma spurned many. And against Leverkusen the 29-year-old was vital in Roma’s opening goal, scored by Salah.

They extended the lead through Dzeko’s drought-breaker. Latching on to Radja Nainggolan’s pass he ran clear, before an unerring finish. Roma eventually triumphed 3-2.

The Bosnian admitted he isn’t happy with his goal total, but says he has always been backed. “The team and the club have always been behind me and I dedicate the victory to them. This is why I haven’t felt pressure.”

He knows about the big occasion, having netted four times in nine Manchester Derby appearances. Now Dzeko is approaching his maiden Derby della Capitale in a buoyant mood. That could spell trouble for Lazio, and for the rest of Serie A.