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


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.




Spanish test can secure England job for Gareth Southgate

Switzerland U21 v England U21 - European Under 21 Qualifier

England will take on Spain at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday evening in a game that promises much despite it being a friendly.

One of those is attack minded Spain who have beaten England four times from the last five meetings. The other will be England’s defence which always rises to the occasion of a superior talented opposition. And the English will surely remember that the last time these two nations met at Wembley, England ran out surprise 1-0 winners.

But the other huge factor is on England interim manager Gareth Southgate who might be close to getting the job full time. Southgate was brought in after Sam Allradyce was sacked after just 67 days and 1 game for off the field allegations.

At the time this looked like a solid move from the FA, but Southgate has repeated on a few occasions that he wasn’t keen in taking on the job full time. However with England recording good wins and now topping their World Cup group his thinking may have changed.

Added to that is that players themselves have now come out and praised England’s reluctant manager. There is of course the instant respect given that Southgate was an England international as little as 12 years ago. And it is clear that these set of players want to play under his wing.

It’s easy though to understand Southgate’s reservations about the job. So many have failed, better managers with greater resumes than Southgate’s have come and gone, so why should Southgate do any better?

The key though is player respect and understanding the philosophy behind England football and the player’s mentalities. Southgate seems to have that checked. One also only has to think back to Roberto Di Matteo. Four years before he was being sacked down in the Championship at Aston Villa he was steering Chelsea to Champions League glory over Bayern Munich. Again sometimes it isn’t the quality of a proven manager but their relationship with the players and the authority they hold in the dressing room.

And so back to Spain, a win for England should get Southgate’s ink on a permanent contract. The FA will want that stability heading to the Russian World Cup.

One also senses that even if Spain leave England with a victory, it won’t be by much and England would have faced one of their toughest opponents in a while. The test is welcomed and so is Southgate to the England set up, he just hasn’t realised it yet.

Dimitri Payet free-kick seals France friendly win ahead of Euro 2016 preparations

dimitri payet france

France midfielder Dimitri Payet scored the winner as Les Blues won 3-2 against Cameroon in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly on Monday evening. The West Ham United maestro struck in the dying minutes of the game with a trademark free-kick into the far corner. The angle seemed to favour a left-footer, but Payet somehow found the back of the net on the goalkeeper’s side to win the game in the 90th minute.

“When you score one, then two, then three, the crowd expect that you score every time. That doesn’t always happen, even though it worked again tonight. I don’t know if my goal rescued us but it allowed us to win when their second goal had been a bit contentious. It was special for me to come back here to this stadium, where I spent two beautiful seasons. And I was happy to feel the fans get behind us,” said Payet after the game.

The 29-year-old has enjoyed a real resurgence since his summer move to West Ham United, and is now a key player in the France squad. Manager Didier Deschamps has been the beneficiary of recalling him to the first-team, and Les Blues have another in-form attacking option to boost their chances in the European Championships.

Payet has developed a real knack with set pieces, and it will create such a nervous atmosphere should opposing sides commit fouls in dangerous areas. Scoring and creating 21 goals in 30 Premier League appearances for West Ham last season, Payet is deadly in the final third. He’s netted some outstanding free-kicks in the last 12 months alone, and gives France another dimension with his distribution in wide areas.

In addition to being a threat from direct set pieces, Payet boasts fantastic accuracy and technique to pick out his teammates. He is as likely to create a goal as he is to score one, and he could be a key player as France look to win Euro 2016 on home soil. Deschamps has a lot of attacking players to somehow fit into his starting eleven, and can hardly leave Payet out with how deadly he’s been of late.

Few players would have even attempted to score from the free-kick against Cameroon on Monday, as the angle did not favour a right-footer. Even less would put it into the back of the net as Payet did. The West Ham Player of the Year spends a lot of time after training practising his technique, and it’s clearly paying dividends. He could well light up Euro 2016 this summer.