Time to stop the Messi/Ronaldo debate

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Here we are, in the wake of another Lionel Messi master class, debating once again if he’s the best or if that title falls to his nemesis, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Frankly, it’s becoming a pathetic comparison.

Each have a different set of skills and both are incredible players in their own right. To consistently have to compare one and the other is getting very tiring.

It’s blindingly obvious that one’s feats are what drives the other on, providing the biggest motivating factor.

There’s simply no need, when Messi writes the headlines, to even involve Ronaldo in the conversation. And vice versa.

Take Messi’s hat-trick against Betis.

There can’t have been too many other trebles that have included such incredible finishes, and maybe there are none at all.

But rather than dwell on just how brilliant it was, much of the Monday morning debate was filled by facts that are of no real consequence.

That Messi is still one career hat-trick behind Ronaldo, that the Portuguese has more Champions Leagues, that the Juve man is the highest scorer ever in the top European tournament…

They, and many other stats, are trotted out, parrot fashion as if to somehow reinforce that Messi will always be in Ronaldo’s shadow.

Messi’s supporters are always looking to denounce Ronaldo’s achievements too.

This endless quest for some sort of fanatical one-upmanship isn’t of any benefit, and moves the conversation away from the absolute fact that both players are in a league of their own.

They have been for years now, and though it’s become cliche to say it, football post-Messi and Ronaldo will be an interesting watch.

Generational talents, they will not be replaced, but someone, probably Kylian Mbappe, will take their crown at some point.

Perhaps then, and only then, will there be a full appreciation of what both players brought to their profession, and what’s more, did so for an unbelievable length of time.

It’s that consistency and longevity which is truly astonishing, but let’s stop throwing around the stats willy-nilly.

Who cares if one has more hat-tricks, goals or assists than the other.

Sit back, relax and enjoy what little time we have left to enjoy them because, in the blink of an eye, both will have exited stage left.

Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

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No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading

Škriniar dreams of Champions League glory at Inter

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Inter central defender Milan Škriniar appeared on Sky Sport programme ‘I signori della Serie A’ this weekend and talked about a variety of subjects, including his childhood dream of becoming a professional footballer. Here is what the Slovakia internationalist had to say: Continue reading

Four Talking Points Ahead of Napoli’s Clash with Juventus

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Stars collide on Sunday in Naples at the Stadio San Paolo as Juventus and Napoli will author another chapter in their heated rivalry.

Back in late September, the Partenopei, led by Carlo Ancelotti, leapt out of the gates early with a Dries Mertens strike 10 minutes into proceedings in Turin. From there on however, ‘the Old Lady’ established dominance once again over their league rivals, as Mario Mandžukić equalized then grabbed the lead before Leonardo Bonucci put the bow on the victory with Juve’s third in the final quarter-hour.

Entering this tie, the Bianconeri hold a firm grasp of first place with a 13 point advantage over Napoli and sit in pole position to make it eight straight Serie A titles. Despite that, Ancelotti men will press on and look to exact revenge from earlier in the season against a Juventus side hoping to catch fire again after a rough patch of form.

Here are four talking points ahead of Napoli vs Juventus: Continue reading

Ambition now bites the nails of Juventus’ success

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On one of U2’s best songs from the nineties “The Fly”, Bono mentions that “ambition bites the nails of success”, a fitting description of what has been happening at Juventus in recent weeks. After a resounding loss in the Coppa Italia to Atalanta, the Bianconeri now find themselves on the brink of elimination in the Champions League.

While Juventus has always made domestic success their priority, last summer’s acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, on top of redeeming the rights to Douglas Costa from Bayern Munich, bringing back Leonardo Bonucci after a season at Milan and acquiring Joao Cancelo made it quite obvious that the club was going all in for the Champions League.

This was a natural evolution for Juventus. When Max Allegri replaced Antonio Conte, one of the first things he said was that his immediate goal was to consistently get his team to the quarterfinals of Europe’s most prestigious competition. The thinking was that one year, things could break their way and they could finally lift the cup, something that had eluded Juventus since the 1990s.

Juventus did come close, ironically more so the first year Allegri arrived in Turin when a controversial non call on Dani Alves tackling Pogba in penalty box could have swung things the Bianconeri’s way. A few years later, Juventus went to Cardiff with much more confidence, only to be outclassed by Real Madrid.

But the Cristiano Ronaldo acquisition was not only a marketing bonanza, it was also a statement of intent. While the club’s brass had always been very cautious saying the Scudetto was the main objective and that the Champions League was a crapshoot, things changed across the board- from the president to the players- with statements that winning the trophy with the Mickey Mouse ears was the priority.

While Juventus did win their group, the first leg of round of sixteen against Atletico Madrid was a disastrous as the Pop tour was for U2. The bainconeri’s best player was keeper Szczesny, the duo of Chiellini and Bonucci struggled, Dybala played scared and Allegri’s decision to start De Sciglio over Cancelo was widely criticized.

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To make matters worse, Juventus gave up a goal to Diego Godin who is set to join their arch rivals Inter and Diego Simeone’s celebration went viral and will be added to the list of moments that illustrate the Bianconeri’s underachievement in Europe.

But despite all this, is it fair to describe Juventus as being a team in crisis? Or has the team’s consistent success in Italy given them an almost impossible bar to surpass to define success?

It’s certainly fair to say that Atletico Madrid was arguably the most challenging opponent they could have faced in this round. The last second injury to Sami Khedira, who despite being hit like a piñata by Juventini on Twitter, is a proven commodity in the Champions League and the midfielder who scores the most goals in Allegri’s scheme forced the Bianconeri to have to make a last second adjustment.

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While Rodrigo Bentancur has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first half of the season, he doesn’t bring much offensively. If that weren’t enough, Pjanic came down with a fever the night before the game making him even less valuable than usual (it’s fair to say that Ronaldo taking so many free kicks had already made him less decisive this season).
But it’s also true that Atletico Madrid was without some key players in the match and they played with much more determination. Ronaldo was brought in for exactly these types of games and his only highlight was his mocking of the fans with the number of Champions League he won.
This wasn’t exactly an aberration for the former Real Madrid striker during this Champions League campaign. So far he has only scored one goal in Europe, and while it’s great that he’s leading Serie A in goals scored, Juventus really didn’t need him for that.
So where do Juventus go from here? In the short term, they need to try to come back for the first time from a 2-0 loss in the first leg and channel the same energy they showed at the Santiago Bernabeu last year when Simeone’s crew travels to Turin in 20 days.
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Should Juventus fail to overcome this deficit, which won’t be easy against a disciplined and staunch team like Atletico, they’ll have to think long and hard on what they need to do next season. While it’s fair to expect that Aaron Ramsey will make more of an impact than Emre Can has so far, it remains to be seen if he’s enough to upgrade a midfield that is a fair cry from the one Allegri fielded when he faced Barcelona in Berlin.
Considering the seven previous Serie A titles- and closing in on number eight- it’s going to be very hard for Juventini to talk themselves into how meaningful another Scudetto is. The rightful ambition the Bianconeri made by acquiring Ronaldo truly bites the nails of success- it is now Champions League or bust for Juventus and this is a good thing.

Real Madrid fans are wrong to turn on Gareth Bale

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If any player deserves myth status at Real Madrid currently than you could do no more wrong in suggesting that accolade should go to Gareth Bale. But it seems that every time Bale makes an error it is this the fans are remembering him for and not his greatness as a player.

Let’s be blunt, Bale has become the best ever British import- he has joined Real Madrid, competed in a side with Cristiano Ronaldo, scored countless goals- most of them important ones and most of them awe inspiring and has won so many trophies that it is easy to lose count of them all. But for some reason that doesn’t matter diddly to Madrid fans.

Madrid’s fans have always been very hard to please. Especially if you are a player of flair- even Ronaldo has been booed at the club before, and if he can be then anyone can. But these are fans that probably wish the likes of Roy Keane had played for the club. The harder you are the more loyal you are etc etc.

It’s not that the fans do not like Bale, and any of them would have to admit he has been one of the best foreign players the club have had in their last 25 years, but they won’t let things lie down. So when Bale missed a sitter against Atletico Madrid that was brought to the forefront so much so that Spanish daily reported on it, is Bale in crisis at Madrid moment? What was bizarre is that Bale scored in that game and Madrid won 3-1, which has consequently brought them  back into the league.

But this is Madrid fans in a nutshell, they did the same to another British player-who scored important goals and won 2 Champions Leagues, Steve McManaman. Now the ex Liverpool player is welcomed back at the Bernabeu with open arms and you get the feeling that once Bale leaves the club and the years go on and retirement comes, Bale will be seen as a very important figure at the club. Surely that was cemented last summer when he came off the bench in the Champions League final and scored an incredible bicycle kick against Liverpool- and let’s be honest it was his involvement in the game that ended up winning Real Madrid their 3rd consecutive Champions League title.

Madrid fans will never change- but they need to show Bale a little bit more respect- after all he is the best player they have at the moment.

Window Shopping: 10 Impactful Serie A Transfer Deals From The Summer

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As we wave goodbye to 2018, and say hello to 2019, it is now time to list the 10 best performing transfers from the summer market – based on the impact each has provided to their respective clubs during the first half of the 2018-19 Serie A season. Continue reading

Chiellini, Dybala, Paratici, Pjanic and Nedved speak at Gran Galà

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Monday was a day of awards, as the Ballon d’Or was handed to Luka Modric, with Cristiano Ronaldo finishing second and Mario Mandzukic 25th, and Serie A held its Gran Galà. Juventus triumphed as best team of last season, Massimiliano Allegri prevailed as best coach and four and a half Bianconeri got into the ideal XI: Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala, while Joao Cancelo was recognized for what he did last year at Inter.

Several personalities spoke to the journalists during the event. Continue reading

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

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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.

Goals continue for King Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus

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Was it ever in doubt when Juventus bought Cristiano Ronaldo for a mind boggling 100m euros in the summer? For a 33 year old such an amount of money would never have been thrown on the table, and it may never happen again- but there are rare exceptions and one of them is Ronaldo.

Ronaldo has kept himself in such good shape that many of his teammates believe that he is playing in a body of a 27 year old. Ronaldo himself believes that he can play at the top until he is at least 40, and that means 7 more seasons of his greatness. It  is also great news for Portugal where Ronaldo is set to play not only at Euro 2020 but at the Qatar World Cup in 2022, which would fittingly end his international spell.

But back to Serie A and Ronaldo’s new club Juventus. When Ronaldo joined the old lady, there were some cynics that said that the free scoring record breaking player would naturally struggle in a league that prides itself on defence. And for a brief moment they were absolutely correct. Ronaldo wasn’t scoring for the first few weeks, game after game would come and go, Juventus would win, whilst Ronaldo would miss chances, hit the woodwork and yet still set up goals. It was key and showed and does show the depth of this Juventus side that they could win without Ronaldo’s goals- but let’s be honest, Ronaldo lives for goals.

Then came the game against Sassuolo where after four league games he finally broke his duck, and then in typical fashion added a 2nd which also marked his 400th league goal of his career. Ronaldo was off and running and hasn’t looked back. It was ironic too that his first Champions League goal for Juventus actually came against one of his former clubs Manchester United.

As for stats well Ronaldo already has 8 goals in Serie A from 12 games and is just one behind in the standings, something that he would dearly love to top in his debut season in Italy.

Since Ronaldo became the complete player and not counting his youth his least amount of goals overall in the season was 23 for Manchester United 11 years ago. He is well on track as a 33 year old to beat that and also on track to add even more trophies to his cabinet. Juventus are clear at the top of Serie A and will qualify for the next stage of the Champions League- can Ronaldo continue his glittering career and fantastic stats? Absolutely, he already is and yes it was never really in doubt.