After postponement of Euro 2020 & Copa America: Realistic options for European football

It was like the secret that every football fan knew in advance, that Euro 2020 and the Copa America would not be taking place this summer. It was announced and confirmed by UEFA on Tuesday morning and was obviously the right and correct decision.

With the two major tournaments being delayed a year until the summer of 2021 it frees up the summer for domestic seasons to continue. The hope of course is that the seasons will be able to continue. In the Premier League for example the FA have penciled in a return date of the first week of April. But that decision was made  a week ago.

The problem is that domestic sport returning that early seems like a far stretch with the world in chaos and uncertainly over the Coronavirus, which isn’t supposed to hit its peak according to scientists until the summer, possibly in June. Once it does then things are supposed to start returning to normal.

So the worry is can domestic seasons be finished this season? Of course that will be up to every different association and it wouldn’t be a surprise if, for example. Serie A is declared null and void this season, with Italy being hit the worst out of European countries. Spain has also taken a hit. It is less so in England, where the country continues to take a very different stance than its European counterparts by trying to continue to live day to day whilst other countries are on total lock down.

So when does the delay become a problem? Well there was 2 months of the season to finish and with no major tournaments now in the summer that means domestic football could, in theory, continue. The new season could also be delayed maximum to mid September and there would need to be at least a five week gap between the end of the season and the new one.

That would mean that this season would need to end by at least the beginning of August and start at the beginning of June. Of course football could be kicking off sometime in April and if that happens, then all is well with the world again, that is the hope. The biggest fear is that the virus drags on or even gets worse before it gets better. One would hope though that with almost a 3 month safety net all domestic leagues could continue again this summer.

These are very uncertain times, something that no new generation or the one before it has faced before, so nobody really knows what will happen, but for once UEFA has tried to help the situation and so has Conmebal to try and make the right decisions.

 

 

Manchester City’s reaction to Champions League ban has been breathtaking

It would have been easy for Manchester City to have given up on this season after UEFA banned the club for what, in their opinion breached and broke the FFP rules, but the club will not lie down and a lot of that credit has to go to Pep Guardiola.

City who are in 2nd place have played two games since the ban was announced and have both won of them. They have scored 3 goals in those matches, and they haven’t been their greatest wins ever but they have shown the ultimate response, that this team will not give up and that this team are going nowhere.

The clubs first game since the ban was against West Ham in 18th place and had City put in a lacklustre performance after just receiving the news it may have been understandable. The game was always going to be difficult with Hammers boss David Moyes predictably setting up five at the back and trying to park the bus. But City managed to score 2 goals and get the win and they showed the fight, despite the threat that all of their efforts this season could be in vain with no Champions League qualification.

The exact same mind set went into their more difficult tie, at King Power Stadium at the weekend away to 3rd placed Leicester who have had a magnificent season so far. The game was very entertaining and at tImes City needed to ride the storm but they came out 1-0 winners. That was only Leicester’s 3rd home loss of the season and City had had attempts on goal.

It never looked like, not even in one minute of the game that City didn’t care about playing in the league anymore. That is why they have a very good manager in Guardiola, a man who never gives up the chase and even if he has been fortunate to coach teams with open chequebooks at the end of the day his man management skills are some of the best in the world.

It’s very clear that City are on a mission and that is to try and win every other game they will play this season. It won’t be enough to overhaul Liverpool, but one of those games they must play them and if they can beat them that would feel like a mini trophy in itself.

Guardiola has said it himself, does it feel like we don’t care, and it certainly doesn’t. He has now installed an us v them mentality and the club could actually be stronger and more focused after UEFA’s decision. He has also hinted at staying at the club, maybe even beyond 2021, personally that should be taken with a pinch of salt as Guardiola rarely stays at clubs for too long. Also if City do lose the appeal, a few players could leave and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pep go too.

For now though City have reacted like champions should and they should be applauded.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

The fallout from Manchester City’s 2 year Champions League ban

There was more controversy in the Premier League with VAR, namely in the Chelsea-Manchester United game where it seemed clear as daylight Harry Maguire should have seen a red card. But nothing was even looked into, and the inconsistencies of VAR really need to be looked at.

However VAR seems to dominate the pages when it comes to controversial moments but off the pitch the story that could change English football’s greatest superpower was doing the rounds and that is Manchester City being banned by UEFA for 2 years in the Champions League.

There is no proof of course that City have done any wrong doing, and we can’t say they have because the club have appealed UEFA’s decision. But after a thorough investigation UEFA seem fairly confident that they have a case against City, and together with the ban they have fined the club £25m. City can deal with the fine, even though that is huge compared to say, the fines that UEFA dish out for racism, but that is for another day and another story. But City can’t deal with not being in the Champions League.

The FFP is one of contention too- so City may have overspent and UEFA do not like how clubs can be run. At the same time the flip side to that argument would be how were City ever going to be able to catch up to Manchester United their eternal rivals? How were they going to be a force in Europe? FFP seems to target clubs who want to make investments and challenge the bigger teams. Are UEFA trying to stifle the progress of new clubs and just keep the Real Madrid’s, Barcelona’s and Bayern Munich’s happy?

Of course in an ideal world the FFP rules would make sense. But ideal and football doesn’t go together, at least in the top tier’s, it really doesn’t. When TV deals are being negoitated in one country to show live football for upwards of £3 billion over a 3 year period, that is off the ball in itself and makes no sense the money being talked about so TV can show a games of football. For this UEFA look out of their depth even if their initial plans was to make football fairer, it actually is doing the opposite. Maybe that is why we are seeing the same teams win the Champions League?

But City may not have a leg to stand on if they have done wrong and it is proven. Even if you don’t agree with the FFP rules surely every club had to sign up for it? City must have and if those rules have been broken, then what would be the excuse? Still there is so much power in football and City will certainly fight their case, one thing is sure we will learn just how much power and influence UEFA have in today’s game, and if City win the appeal it would seem that they would have fairly little.

There’s quite a fall out to be had too. Have UEFA shot themselves in the foot for example? If Europe’s most powerful clubs feel stifled by their budgets and spending, could they be banned in the future? Will the clubs simply form a breakaway from UEFA or create a Super League which has been touted for years? Do the big clubs need UEFA if they don’t like their rules?

Also for City if they are banned surely that will mean the end for Pep Guardiola. He has hinted he would stay, but really would he, when he is going to leave in the summer of 2021 anyway? Some of their stars could leave too, and whilst City would still remain a quality team and powerful one, if the appeal loses one suspects it could knock the club back a few good years.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Liverpool and Chelsea are shot down in Champions League openers

The Champions League is back and the premier competition in European football wasn’t without its surprises.

First Liverpool, and the current European champions were beaten 2-0 by Italians Napoli, signalling a poor start from Jurgen Klopp’s team in their title defence. The biggest worry for Klopp will be that his side always looked second best and credit to Napoli who played brillantly and made the unstoppable looking Reds side look very normal in this competition.

Still write Liverpool off at your peril, everyone knows how strong they are at Anfield and with the likes of Red Bull Salzburg and Genk in their group they should be more than fine. However notice needs to be given to Salzburg who smashed Genk 6-2. They had scored five of those goals in the first half. Also Napoli do not travel historically well and so this group is still obtainable for Liverpool.

The more disappointing result of the night for English teams would have been Chelsea, who at Stamford Bridge, lost 1-0 to Valencia. In years gone by this type of fixture would have been won a canter for the Blues, and problems still persist with the club with Frank Lampard in charge. They are playing some good football of course but not getting the results desired.

Chelsea could face an uphill struggle now with the likes of Ajax and Lille also in their group. Ajax who so impressed last season beat Lille 3-0 even though they have lost the core of what made them a great side, it is clear that their objectives will be to at least get to the knockout rounds.

Barcelona drew against Borussia Dortmund with the final score ending 0-0, but Barca will be more than happy with that at a very difficult ground. This is multiplied when we consider that ter Stegen saved a penalty from Dortmund and that Lionel Messi finally returned this season. The Argentine came off the bench in the 2nd half and Barcelona will be very happy about this development with La Liga looming at the weekend.

Inter Milan were very lucky to draw 1-1 with Slavia Prague. A last minute injury time goal by Nicolo Barella sealed a point at San Siro, a defeat would have been a big shock for the Italians.

Whilst it is just the first games of the competition there is a feeling that this edition could be wide open. Could a non big traditional team win it? The last one to do so was arguably Porto in 2004, still one has to remember that they one of the biggest teams in Portugal and had won the competition before in 1987. Another club that won it and shocked was Borussia Dortmund back in 1997. Maybe 2020 could see a change from the usual teams getting to the final and winning it?

UEFA make Real Madrid unseeded in an odd move for the Champions League draw

The draw for the Champions League season 2019/20 will take place later today and sadly UEFA have made it all about them. In a stunning move, which actually feels more bizarre they have decided not to seed Real Madrid.

Now even if you are not a fan of the club, that is beside the point. Barcelona fans for example may just be laughing at the idea that Madrid have been relegated to Pot 2. However if you are a fan of football then you’ll be scratching your head and wondering why a club that has won the competition 4 times from the past 6 years isn’t being seeded.

The story has gone completely under the carpet which is a bit of a travesty really. Had Liverpool won the competition 4 from the last 6 years could you imagine the media in England? And these type of stories shouldn’t go unnoticed around Europe and only be centered on one country. All sports media should be crying out loud because this is a playing like a bad joke from UEFA. They are not rewarding success, they are making their awkward points system all about them and not the club- and then UEFA wonder why some of them threaten to breakaway and start a super league.

As news stories go, this one may not feel important, but it should be. UEFA used to respect the clubs that won their own leagues and competitions. UEFA have punished Madrid based on last season alone when they didn’t win the Champions League or the Spanish title. Punished for one season, makes little sense when they have dominated the competition for years.

However rules are rules and the likelihood is that Madrid will qualify for the knock out stages anyway.

The draw should be an exciting one as Madrid count draw one of the very big teams. Imagine for if example they came head to head with Liverpool that would be a repeat of the 2018 final. Not only would Liverpool be after revenge but how will Mohamed Salah react to having to play against Sergio Ramos. Put it this way you wouldn’t want to be Ramos when Liverpool play at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said this season will be the hardest in the Champions League ever, and with teams always improving he has a good point. Any one of 6 teams could win it this season, or perhaps we will have a major surprise.

 

The Big four in the Premier League have been quiet in the transfer market

zz599(1)

The summer transfer window in the Premier League has been open since May 16th and in that time 7 weeks there hasn’t actually been that much activity between the top 4 clubs who finished in those places in the Premier League. The ones where you expect them to break the bank and make massive signings just like they have in the past.

Is FFP to blame? Or is it a case of the teams are simply not finding the right players at the right prices to try and compete? There haven’t been too many eye catching transfers in Europe either although the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool both aiming to dominate football and be the best would have risen an eyebrow to the highly talented Joao Felix signing for Atletico Madrid a few days ago. So the money is there or thereabouts but where is the quality this summer?

Of course the window does not shut yet but in England it has changed. Years ago the window used to close on August 31st even though the league had in all of those cases already started. The window now closes just before the league starts and that has been the new given rule in England. So it will close on August 8th. That is just 31 days away, and that goes very quickly, will we see more big deals go through or is that it?

Champions Manchester City who have spent close to £500m since Pep Guardiola became manager have brought in just two players. Angelino from PSV and their big one Rodri from Atletico Madrid. Angelino cost just over £5m but much is expected of Rodri who cost the club £63m. Give or take City have spent about £75m this summer on players, a lot of money but not nearly as much as City would usually spend.

Premier League runners up Liverpool have been very quiet buying just one player, Sepp van den Berg from PEC Zwolle for just over £1m and it will be questionable if the player gets games in the league and he may be only used for the league cup. So manager Jurgen Klopp is keeping his chequebook closed but at the same time Liverpool do have a very strong team and he will be happy with what he has.

Chelsea managed 3rd place in the end in the league but unlucky for them they currently have a transfer ban from UEFA. It is something that the club are appealing but with days running out anyway it looks almost certain that the Blues will not be buying or be able to buy any new players this summer.

That leaves us with Tottenham. A team who went the past two transfer windows not buying anyone. Young prospect Jack Clarke has come from Leeds for just £10m but the big purchase has been for Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele who cost the club in the region of £55m, though that may rise.

All in all the big four clubs who finished in the top four last season have spent a combined £140m on players so far. Even taking into account Chelsea’s transfer ban this is a very low figure when you think of the TV deals that the clubs have been able to broker. We could also be fair and include Arsenal who finished 5th in place of Chelsea who can’t buy players.Yet even if we do this the Gunners have only spent £6m, with one player coming in on a free transfer.

Is the bubble finally bursting in the world’s most expensive league or should we remain more patient as the window closes by each passing day- either way we will find out soon enough.

Why UEFA should build a super stadium for major events

uefa(1)

It’s been a busy and interesting last few days for UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin who called English clubs ‘mad’ because Chelsea and Arsenal had complained that the Europa League final was in Azerbaijan and Ceferin had many good points to his argument. At the same time it is estimated that only 10,000 fans of both clubs witnessed the game live and one wonders if UEFA needs to change the format of the final?

Ceferin himself admitted that future Champions League finals need to be played at only 4 or 5 rotating venues around Europe, but is happy for the Europa League final to be played anywhere that has a capacity of more than 50,000.

For Europe’s premier prize it is thought that a stadium like Atletico Madrid’s Wanda was in fact too small at 67,000. And Ceferin rightly pointed out that more tickets would have been sold had the final been at Wembley Stadium for example. There is also the Bernabeu in Madrid and Nou Camp and if Ceferin gets his way we should expect these stadiums to be on the short list for future Champions League finals.

But here’s the thing- why don’t UEFA build their own purpose stadium, perhaps in Switzerland? A stadium that is simply the largest in the world- we’re talking between 150,000-200,000 capacity. It would be quite a job but it would also be possible in this day and age and with the technology we have.

One could see Ceferin’s frustration when he admitted that 980,000 fans had applied for a Champions League ticket. This was the tickets released on general sale. With so many applying less than 3% ended up being successful. In other words the chances for general football fans to witness a Champions League final is almost non-existent. Why not cut in those odds and sell more tickets?

Of course countries love to host the final but having it always in Switzerland makes sense if we have such a mega stadium. Switzerland is basically like the middle ground of Europe and easily accessible for fans. Over time the stadium would get a legendary reputation as the stadium that every professional footballer would want to play in.

As for getting costs back, other events such as concerts could take place there, Swiss expos, conventions, perhaps even the Europa League final and maybe the semi-finals of the Champions League too. UEFA could have shops and a UEFA museum attached to the stadium with exclusive hotels to boot. What UEFA would be doing is in affect stamping their name on the heart of football by creating a super stadium for super final games.

In the current climate the finals are evidently not working and genuine fans of clubs are being left out in the cold. Time for a mega stadium to happen.

 

The rise of the UEFA Nations League

880x495_cmsv2_a8113204-3d30-5222-9519-acf680b0ee38-3304558

As the finals of the UEFA Nations League took place on Sunday in the beautiful city of Porto, between the home country Portugal and Netherlands, majority of football supporters will look back at the contest and will wonder what the actual strengths and positives are of the competition.

To start off with, the lively challenge and crucial thrill has been instantly injected into when the international break arrives, rather than the usual pointless friendly matches that take place here and there. Because of these futile games, a large number of well-known players feel their hunger for success and concentration decreases during the 10 to 14 days they spend in another environment.

Now, looking back at the UEFA Nations League from a fans point of view, it can easily be stated that the tournament is closely watched and followed by nearly everyone as the manager as well as the players have began to take it serious.  The winners receive a trophy as the prize award and another chance to qualify for the 2020 European Championships should they fail to do so through the qualifiers.

Given that the chances of winning either the Euros or the World Cup are very little for the countries outside of the top ten teams, this short competition will allows the likes of Croatia, Denmark and Serbia to potentially be successful in the long run. Not only that, both the players and the managers from these respective countries would receive more recognition going into the major tournaments.

Thanks to this incredible format, the supporters of the beautiful sport of football had the chance to see Netherlands overcoming France and Germany, England dominating Spain and having revenge on Croatia as well as both Portugal and Switzerland magically making it through their respective groups. On that note, there shouldn’t really be any issues or queries that downfalls this entertaining system.

Digging more into it, the system has been organised by four leagues and where they are placed separately by their current world rankings, with the motivation and inspiration being to reach League A before heading onto the knockout stages of the competition. The winners of the league move up a level, on the other hand, those who finish at the bottom are relegated to the tier below.

When reviewing it from the UEFA’s prescriptive, they have turned the friendly matches into a more meaningful list of fixtures, which gives the governing body of European football a better reputation for what they stand out for. And financially, the Union of European Football Associations can make a huge amount from the contest compared to making nothing at all from the international friendlies.

Overall, with how straightforward and effective the Nations League has been, it would not be a surprise to see a similar setup for the international football countries that are based in Asia and South America. If it was to end up happening, all the parties would see it as a win-win outcome, from the people making the decisions off the pitch to the supporters watching it live or at home.

Portugal win first ever UEFA Nations League as Ronaldo revels in the glory

pot(1)

Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the final of the first ever UEFA Nations League to crown only their 2nd ever international trophy and both have been won with Cristiano Ronaldo in the side.

The win which was deserved only underlined Portugal’s status, after all they did win the last European Championships in 2016, but this win will sit nicely with a team that have to surely be regarded as one of the favourites to win Euro 2020 next year.

While the European Championships remain much more important than the Nations League this was still an incredibly special night for Portugal given that the final was in Portugal. Ronaldo was part of the Portuguese team who in the 2004 final lost against Greece in what was seen as a shock 1-0 defeat. This happened in Portugal in front of their home fans, so even though this isn’t another European Championship it was a UEFA final and surely meant a lot to Ronaldo and his teammates.

But it wasn’t Ronaldo who was the goal scoring hero that went to Goncalo Guedes who struck what turned out to be the winning goal on the hour mark. Portugal deserved to win the game and had more clear cut chances, but they also looked more hungry and determined for the win.

As for the Netherlands, reaching a final marks a huge improvement for them, after reaching the 2010 World Cup final the Orange as they are so famously called have really struggled this decade and failed to qualify for major tournaments. They look to be back on the right track, but they will have to be less naïve in the future if they are to remain consistent and win trophies.

The match was very telling on how one team wanted the win and the other in the Netherlands felt that their semi-final victory over England where they won the match 3-1 after being a goal down was their personal final.

Ronaldo played his part too as he usually does and was seen in defence giving orders- when one sees Ronaldo like this just like in the Euro 2016 final when he was forced off with injury, but supported the players from the side lines one sees a potential future coach in the player.

And what of the UEFA Nations League? Has it been a success? Well in a nutshell yes and it does give the football fan something extra to cheer about and watch after the domestic season has ended. What is clear is that when it comes down to the semi-finals and final we are not watching friendly exhibition games anymore, all teams at that point want to win, that is the positive of it. However it still has a long way to go in convincing some of the bigger nations in the group stages of the competition to get their best game on, some like Italy and Spain didn’t seem too bothered. With time that might just change.

 

FIFA are correct to uphold decision to ban Chelsea for two transfer windows and Sarri should be happy with the outcome

Sarri1204abcde(1)

Chelsea have been told by FIFA that they will indeed serve a two window transfer ban which was imposed on them earlier in the season for breaching signing of youngsters and that means the club will not be able to sign any new players until the summer of 2020.

Chelsea will appeal to the courts of attribution but could be likely to lose. Whilst Chelsea should be punished, one cannot get away from the fact that UEFA are not promoting the game in the right direction. Unless one truly hates the club does anyone associated with football want to tie two hands behind a clubs back? Chelsea could win the Europa League enter the Champions League and not be able to buy any new players. Basically killing their chances of winning the competition before they have even started.

On top of that Chelsea have the problem of Eden Hazard their star player who looks like he will be leaving the club in the summer to join Real Madrid. This was further highlighted when the star player was seen nodding his head in a no fashion when fans asked him to stay at the club last week.

Surely the situation is a harsh one for the club who, yes, should receive a ban this summer but not extended to two windows. Ideally why not fine the club £500,000 and give back to hospitals or put back into the grassroots of the game. After all the ban won’t hurt as much as not being out of a little pocket for the club.

Of course the good news if the club are to be banned for purchasing players is that Maurizio Sarri’s job will be safe. It was oddly under threat a few months ago, even though he has steered Chelsea to a Europa League final, a Carabao Cup final and a top 4 place ensuring Champions League football either way next season, that’s not too bad for your debut season surely?

Still who will want to join the club now knowing you can’t buy any players for over a year? That would be like playing Monopoly and going round the board several times until your rivals all have the properties they want. In that sense Sarri suddenly holds all of the cards and with a strong link to Roma, Sarri may just think enough is enough and walk in the summer if he is not being respected at the club.

For now Chelsea are doing well, but the future hardly looks bright.