Looking back to how Cristiano Ronaldo emerged as a centre-forward at Real Madrid


On the 4th January of 2016, a new era began at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Zinedine Zidane was announced as the new manager of Real Madrid on a two-and-a-half-year deal. The departure of Rafa Benitez was simply inevitable, as his short and unconvincing time at the club had to come to an end.

At the time of the announcement, there were a lot of mixed thoughts on the decision made by Los Blancos, with the majority being filled with excitement as the Frenchman aimed to extend his legacy at the club by bringing in success as a manager. However, the rest of the footballing world felt the appointment was a huge risk, with Zidane lacking managerial experience and tactical knowledge.

During his time as the coach of Real Madrid, Zidane went on to one La Liga title, three Champions League trophies and one Spanish Super Cup as well as a number of individual awards. The European dominance along with winning the club’s 33rd league title in 2017 would not have been possible had the coach kept Cristiano Ronaldo on the left flank instead of moving him up top as a lone forward.

Focusing more on Ronaldo, he first started to acknowledge this new role under Benitez, when Karim Benzema was suffering from a few injury issues. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner faced a number of problems whilst playing in this position, with the main one being the side was not built around him, and Benitez’s defensive style of play did not work well with Real Madrid’s free-flowing system.

On the other hand, once Zidane was introduced into the managerial picture, Ronaldo became the perfect number nine in Europe due to his movement on and off the ball and his pure instincts. The best example to show that he adjusted to a new approach and style is the 3-0 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in November 2016, when his hat-trick summed up his growth as a centre forward.

The 4-4-2 diamond formation got the best out of both strikers in Benzema and Ronaldo, with the former playing as the deep-lying forward who would combine with the midfielders, whilst the latter would remain in the final third of the pitch and come up with the goods for when his side needed him the most. Overall, the improvements became evident as the trophies started to come in.

Ronaldo’s transition from being a dazzling winger to a dominant and ruthless forward became much easier, when Portugal coach Fernando Santos started playing him up front alongside either Ricardo Quaresma or Luis Nani. Playing in the same role as well as a similar formation at both club and international level has allowed the Madeira-born star to adapt and thrive within this new change.

It’s definitely not easy to pick out an international game that proved Portugal were on top of their game and the opposition. Though, the most recent and memorable competitive fixture that comes to mind is the World Cup match between Portugal and Spain, where Ronaldo’s incredible hat-trick allowed his team to pick up a vital point early in the tournament as they went past the group stages.

Throughout the closely-watched game, Portugal were defensively sound and composed to a certain level whilst Ronaldo’s influence on the pitch gave Santos’ men some hope that they would get something out of this match. In the end, the test of patience pulled through as Portugal earned themselves an invaluable point and Ronaldo went on to steal the headlines for the next few days.

Overall, it is fair to say that two to three managers have helped Ronaldo to become the centre-forward he is today. Although he is playing as a left-winger for Juventus at this moment of time, the Italian side will be relying on his individual brilliance in strike as the Serie A and Champions League campaign goes on, especially given that they are aiming to complete the treble this season.

A night for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to remember in Turin


Going into the game at the Allianz Stadium, the majority of Manchester United fans would have been more than happy with a vital point away to Juventus, who are currently considered as the main favourites to win the Champions League when you consider their overall quality and squad depth.

Looking back to the first match between both sides at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, the hosts were absolutely dominated by the visitors from the first minute of the match till the end, even though the end score-line made it seem like a very close match to watch. Had Max Allegri’s side been more aggressive and ruthless in the first half, the game would have been all over by the half-time break.

The Red Devils had one of the worst games at home so far this season, where they were catching Juventus’ shadows on both sides of the pitch and were unable to string a couple of passes together without being pressed on all areas of the pitch. On top of that, they had only managed to complete four shots on target throughout the match, showing how much time they had in the final third.

Focusing back onto the match on Wednesday night, the Old Lady started the game in their normal fashion of controlling the ball whilst attacking fluidly through the middle and on the flanks. From Sami Khedira’s attempt striking the far post to Cristiano Ronaldo’s shots from distance, the chances to take the lead were there for the Italian giants, but luck simply looked to be on United’s side.

At the half-time break, the main attention was on Juventus and their two attackers in Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, two individuals that were utilised in a free role and were causing problems to United’s defence and midfield. Meanwhile, Mourinho’s men showed periods of how quick and effective they can move the ball from one side to another, despite not testing the opposition’s goalkeeper at all.

In the second half, the hosts instantly piled on the pressure and were close to taking the lead as Dybala’s shot from just outside of the box hit the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick. Following this moment, United began to sit a bit deeper than they did in the first half, which allowed the likes of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci to progress up the pitch with the ball at their feet.

At the 65th minute mark, Juventus finally took the lead and the incredibly well-taken goal came from none other than Cristiano Ronaldo, whose instant shot flew past David De Gea and into the back of the net. The Portuguese international went on to celebrating passionately in front of the home supporters in his usual way, before turning to the United fans and putting his hands up in apology.

With how the game was panning out, Mourinho was left with no choice but to bring on the likes of Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini in order to add the aerial presence and the quick passes that were missing before they had entered the pitch. This decision from the manager allowed the key individuals such as Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba to find more space and time on the ball.

Five minutes on, Blaise Matuidi concedes a foul just outside the box which leaves United with a good chance to score a goal. Mata steps up to take the free-kick and hits it perfectly over the wall and into the corner of the net. A couple of minutes after the equaliser, the side complete an incredible smash and grab with another set-piece somehow going through everyone in the box and into the goal.

Overall, both Jose Mourinho and Manchester United will feel more confident that they will reach the knockout stages of the Champions League following a memorable comeback and victory away at the Allianz Stadium. Meanwhile, Juventus will see this as a simple setback and will still feel that they have the perfect tools within the squad to go on to winning the competition for the third time.

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


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.

Man City’s Toure best value in Europe’s top 10 midfielders list

The presence of Yaya Toure, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Marco Reus in the top positions in Euro Fantasy League’s midfielder rankings suggests that you generally get what you pay for when it comes to players in the middle of the park.

Bale was the most expensive of the group, with the general consensus being that Real Madrid paid Tottenham Hotspur £86m for the Wales winger. Then comes Eden Hazard, who cost Chelsea £32m from Lille. Yaya Toure’s price-tag puts him third at £24m, leaving Reus in fourth at a bargain £14.5m. That’s a combined fee for four players of £156.5m. You could buy entire clubs for that.

The top 10 Euro Fantasy League midfielders is generally a mix of expensive purchases and home grown talents. Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid’s Koke fall into the latter category as, technically, does Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona, although La Blaugrana did pay £35m to repatriate the former Arsenal captain from England.

Raffael is the closest thing to cheap in the list and his 15 goals in 32 games have helped Gladbach to a decent position in the Bundesliga, having cost a reported €5m. But the Brazilian is very much the exception that proves the rule.

Goal-scoring midfielders are at a premium and tend to move for fees usually reserved for strikers. But when Toure is netting 19 times, Bale and Hazard 14 and Reus 16, not to mention the best part of 40 assists between them, it’s clear to see why clubs with cash are willing to splash it on midfielders.

A midfielder who reaches double-figures in both categories is akin to having two players for the price of one. They ease the burden on the front man – usually a lone striker with 4-2-3-1 still a fashionable formation – and create chances for their colleagues. In the case of Hazard, he is Chelsea’s top scorer this season, and without the Belgian the Blues’ Premier League title challenge would never have got started.

They’re each accordingly expensive to have in your Euro Fantasy League team, too, although James Rodriguez offered far more value here than in the real world. A €45m signing for Monaco cost €7.5m in Euro Fantasy League; nine goals, 12 assists and 435 points suggests the Colombian would have been money well spent.

But it is Toure who boats the best points-to-value ratio. The Ivory Coast powerhouse cost only €8.5m in Euro Fantasy League and would have delivered 560 points. His 19 goals and 6 assists have put Manchester City in third in the Premier League and while they might yet overhaul Liverpool with the help of their game in hand, if Toure had been fit all season the title could have been wrapped up already.

Indeed, none of the top four players represent teams at the top of their domestic league. Toure, Hazard and Bale could all still claim winners’ medals and it appears clear that to stand a chance of lifting silverware, a goal-scoring midfielder is a must. If you can afford it.

Enyeama Tops Europe’s Best Goalkeeper List Above Cech and Courtois

Any list of Europe’s best goalkeepers would throw up a lot familiar names – Thibaut Courtois, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech and Manuel Neuer would all figure highly no matter who was asked.

Indeed, that quarter feature highly in the Euro Fantasy League’s highest scoring goalkeepers. Starting with Courtois, they hold the fourth to seventh rankings but it may come as a surprise to see not one of them cracks the top three.

They are the No.1s for title challengers in what are arguably Europe’s strongest leagues and Cech is the only one not holding the gloves for the league leaders. But none of the four, nor any other goalkeeper, can top Lille’s Vincent Enyeama.

Enyeama is the highest scoring goalkeeper in Euro Fantasy League, with 560 points, despite his club, Lille, falling well adrift of Ligue 1’s leaders Paris Saint-Germain. But Los Dogues have a superb defensive record, conceding only 20 goals in 33 games – compared to 19 in 33 for PSG.

For his part, Enyeama has kept 20 clean sheets in 33 games to the 18 in 33 of his PSG counterpart, Salvatore Sirigu, who is third on the Euro Fantasy League points list. Neuer has conceded fewer goals than any top 10 goalkeeper but Enyeama’s 20 conceded is fewer than Cech’s 24 and substantially fewer than the 32 let in by Real Madrid’s Diego Lopez or the 31 of AS Saint-Etienne’s Stephane Ruffier.

Enyeama is also the second-cheapest goalkeeper in the top 10, valued at only €5.5m – compared to €11.5m for Sirigu and €14.5m for Neuer, the most expensive in the top 10. Roma’s Morgan De Sanctis, third, would cost €7m to have in your team.

Ligue 1 fairs rather well in the goalkeepers stakes. Enyeama and Sirigu are joined by Ruffier to make the French league the joint-most represented. Only La Liga can also boast three representatives – Courtois, Lopez and Victor Valdes of Barcelona. It suggests that Ligue 1 is hiding some bargains both for Euro Fantasy League and a real world application.

With only 7% of Euro Fantasy League teams choosing Enyeama, having faith in the Nigerian could have been telling. Courtois features in 12% of teams and while his score of 495 is nothing to dismiss, it falls well short of Enyeama’s.

As noted, Enyeama is the second-cheapest goalkeeper in the top 10. The cheapest is Lopez, available for only €4m but generating 380 points. His Real Madrid displays have been enough to keep Iker Casillas out of the league XI and in the wake of Valdes’ World Cup-ruining injury, Lopez has been touted as a possible replacement in the Spain squad this summer.

Lopez has 15 clean sheets for Madrid this season, from 33 appearances. It could be argued that it’s easier to keep goal for Madrid than Lille and the stats back that up, Enyeama making more saves on average than Lopez, but also keeping more clean sheets, which offers further evidence for the storming season being enjoyed by Enyeama.