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The Premier League’s most underrated footballers

For any side to be successful, yes you need your goal scorers, yes you need a top draw midfield, yes you need a solid back-four, but you also need that one player in your side who you can rely on when called upon to come in a do a job for the side .

You may not notice them on the pitch, nor even be fully aware of the job they are dong for your side, but they are the players who can prove the difference between winning and losing.

Darren Fletcher

Throughout his stay at Old Trafford, Darren Fletcher became one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first names on the team sheet when the big games came calling, pulling the strings in the heart of United’s midfield.

Despite getting the recognition from Sir Alex, Fletcher never received the same praise from the footballing world with many under valuing just how important Fletcher was to the Manchester United side.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney at the club, it would of course always be hard to grab the limelight, but the Scot’s importance to United was unquestionable, without him they were simply not the same side and who knows, if Fletcher hadn’t been suspended for the European Cup Final in Rome back in 2009 against Barcelona, Manchester United might now be sitting of four European Cups.

Fletcher currently plays his trade at the Hawthorns with West Bromwich Albion, where he is the current club captain.

James Milner

Having played at the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City and now Liverpool, James Milner is no stranger when it comes to playing for big football clubs. Managers from Roberto Mancini to Jurgen Klopp have all realised just how important the midfielder is to their side.

However despite earning the recognition from his fellow managers, Milner has failed to win over supporters with many failing to appreciate just how valuable a player like Milner is to their club.

He may not score a screamer, nor may he produce an outrageous piece of skill in a game but what he does give you his work rate and dedication. It doesn’t matter whether its the first minute or the last Milner will always work his socks off your side.

Brad Friedel

Having spent a near seventeen years playing in the Premier League, Brad Friedel is arguably one of, if not the most under rated goalkeeper of all time.

Friedel has featured over the years for the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa but it would be at Blackburn Rovers where the keeper truly established himself.

What made Friedel particularly stand out from the rest is that he didn’t necessarily have that great of a defence in front of him and was still making countless saves throughout every game. He was called into action far more frequently than other goalkeepers.

If there was one game to optimize just how great of a goalkeeper Brad Friedel was it would be back in August 2004 when Blackburn entertained Manchester United at Ewood Park. No matter what united threw at Friedel there seemed no way past him. Save after save after save! It was almost like Superman was in goal and remains the finest goalkeeping performance I have ever seen.

He was to be beaten seconds from time as Alan Smith rescued a point for Manchester United with a late powerful strike. However it wouldn’t take away just how phenomenal of a performance it really was from Friedel.

Friedel finally announced his retirement from the game last summer.

Gareth Barry

Despite playing at the highest level for eighteen years, many still to this day do not fully recognise just how important a player Gareth Barry is.

He is one of those players who you would only really notice when they are not in the side. Then you would see just how important he is and how much a difference he makes to your team.

Barry isn’t necessarily  a footballer who will you get off up for seat in excitement, nor do anything remotely exciting in a game, but he is still just as important never the less.

He currently plays his trade at Everton under new Manager Ronald Koeman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Premier League’s finest ever bargains

As we head into the final weeks of this summer’s transfer window, millions upon millions of pounds are likely to be spent as clubs go in search of adding to their squads before the window slams shut.

From Manchester United splashing out a world record fee of ninety plus million pounds to persuade Paul Pogba to re join the club, to Pep Gaurdiola paying Everton fifty million pounds to land John Stones. The footballing world we live in has spiralled into madness with even come of the league’s smaller clubs paying way over the odds to land their respective targets.

However throughout the Premier League era there has been those signings that have cost clubs next to nothing. Money doesn’t always buy you success and these players almost certainly prove that.

Peter Schmeichel. £505,000 from Brondy to Manchester United, 1991

When Sir Alex Ferguson brought then relatively unknown goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel to Old Trafford, few if any could have predicted what would have happen next, as the great Dane went on to become one of Sir Alex’s finest ever singings throughout his managerial reign.

Schmeichel went on to make 393 appearances for the club in all competitions, winning 5 Premier League Titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 European Cup, 1 Super Cup and a bundle of Charity Shields and is highly regarded as one of, if not the greatest goalkeeper in the history of Manchester United.

His stay at Old Trafford lasted eight years ,before the keeper eventually moved on to Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 1999.

His playing days may be long over, but Schmeichel’s contribution to the club will never be forgotten.

Joe Hart. £600,000 from Shrewsbury Town, 2006

Joe Hart’s days at Manchester City under new boss Pep Gaurdiola may be numbered, but it doesn’t put the gloss of what a magnificent career the keeper has had at the club.

Signed from Shrewsbury Town as a teenager back in 2006, Hart has since gone on to become one of the finest goalkeepers in the world, playing a pivotal role in City’s Premier League Title winning campaigns in 2012 and 2014.

The keeper has made 347 appearances for thus far for the club and has picked up nermous accolades along the way, including winning the Premier League Golden Glove award a mighty impressive four times.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. £1.5 Million from Molde FK, 1996

Nicknamed the baby faced assassin, Norwegian forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer quickly went on to become a Manchester United legend. If you hadn’t heard of him prior to his move to Old Trafford, you had certainly heard of him not too long after, as Solskjaer quickly adapted to life at the club.

Throughout his stay at Old Trafford Solskjaer netted 126 goals in 366 appearances for the club in all competitions, as he played a pivotal role in the clubs success on the field towards the late 90’s and into the new decade (2000’s)

His finest hour in a Manchester United shirt arguably came in the 1999 European Cup Final 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich, where Solskjaer flicked on Teddy Sherringham’s downwards header into the top right hander corner, winning the game and European Cup for Manchester United.

He officially announced his retirement from the game back in 2007 and has since moved into management, where he currently manages his beloved Molde FK.

Sami Hyppia. £2.6 Million from Willem ll, 1999

In stay that lasted a decade at Anfield, Sami Hyppia went on to become one the clubs finest ever servants, as the centre-back became an integral part of the Liverpool side.

During his time at Liverpool Hyppia won ten major honours on the field, including one European Cup. Individually he was named in the PFA team of the year on two occasions ( 1999/2000, 2001/2002) and was named in the UEFA Team of the year for 2001.

His stay at Liverpool came to an end in May 2009,before the Finish international later joined Bayern Leverkusen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamadou Sakho – Liverpool’s Joker

Mamadou Sakho certainly has had an eventful few months at Liverpool. Lauded  towards the end of last season for his performances for Liverpool especially against Manchester United in the Europa League,  to been wrongly banned from football by UEFA (and himself) over a failed drugs test for using a substance that was not even on the banned list. Then there is the whole Alcatraz incident (I think Klopp would have left him there if he could have!!!) which lead to the French defender being sent home from Liverpool’s tour of America. 

Now according to who you believe, Sakho’s career at Liverpool is over. While it certainly looked like manager Jürgen Klopp was not best impressed by Sakho’s interruption of his interview with LFCTV where he chastised the Frenchman for being late for the flight to America, even though Klopp laughed it off it at the time, it was the same as one of those moments when your missus says she’s fine, you know you’re in trouble even though she has not said it, the assumption that his Liverpool career is over is a bit premature. Others will tell you that Sakho was sent home to Liverpool for specialist treatment on the groin injury that he picked up in pre season. Sakho is a joker, there is no doubt of this. You just have to watch his snapchats to see just how much of a joker he is but on the other hand he is a hard worker on the pitch for Liverpool. He has shown over the last couple of seasons just how important he is to the Liverpool defence.

Sakho has a lot to offer Liverpool in terms of experience, he is the type of player who has the ability to lead the Liverpool as captain for years to come. Don’t forget he was PSG’s youngest ever captain. With rumours that Jürgen Klopp is about to announce a new captain at Liverpool, I believe Sakho is the man to fill that void. It might just settle the joker down a wee bit. If you have not already figured it out I am a massive fan of Sakho, (even if he did storm off after learning he was dropped for a derby match in his first season at Liverpool) I have been a fan of his since he came in to the Liverpool team against Manchester United and settled a nervous defence out.

I personally can not see Klopp shifting on Sakho. With Liverpool’s defence already looking shaky with injuries to new signing Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Sakho himself and Tiago Ilori on duty with Portugal at this summers Olympics, it may be a case of Sakho getting a severe dressing down from Klopp. While Klopp has been known to be ruthless when it comes to wielding the axe with players in the past, I think Sakho’s ability and Premier League experience might just be enough to save his career at Liverpool. He will no doubt have to learn hard lessons when it comes to his behaviour in the future but I do feel he will and form a partnership with Matip that will provide the basis of a successful time in Liverpool’s history under Herr Klopp.

All Sakho needs to do for me is to start concentrating on his football again and come the end of October the whole silliness in America will have been forgotten and fans will be back talking about his footballing ability instead of his joker side. Although in saying that, I have a feeling that will be easier said than done but if anyone can do it, Sakho can. 

Greatest games the Premier League has ever seen

Since it was founded all the way back in 1992, the Premier League has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of if not the best football league on the planet.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have witnessed some of the very best footballers that the game has had to offer, from Thierry Henry at the peak of his powers at Arsenal to the unforgettable days of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. The list of magnificent footballers that have graced out shores is near endless, all whom have contributed into making what the Premier League is today.

Throughout this piece I will go through some of the very best games that have occurred in the Premier League era.

Tottenham Hotspur 4 Chelsea 4, 20th March 2008

This was arguably the game that all but ended Chelsea’s hopes of winning the Premier League title as they conceded a late equalizer drawing 4-4 at White Hart Lane.

In a rollercoaster of a game, it would be Chelsea who took an early lead through Didier Drogba heading home a John Terry cross. Spurs responded well and on the 13th minute mark levelled through  Jonathan Woodgate.

However not long after Chelsea restored their lead, this time through Michael Essien neatly placing the ball into the back of the net. Chelsea looked to have sealed all three points just after half time as Joe Cole cheekily dinked the ball over Paul Robinson in the Tottenham goal making it 3-1 to the visitors.

If Chelsea thought the game the over they were badly mistaken, as Spurs clawed their way back into the game. An excellent header from Dimitar Berbatov inside the penalty box pulled Spurs back in it with over half an hour to go, before an emphatic Tom Huddlestone strike brought the home side level.

Joe Cole appeared to have secured all three points for the visitors after delightfully edging his way past Pascal Chimbonda, superbly placed the ball into the top corner giving Chelea a 4-3 lead.

However the drama wasn’t over yet. It would be Robbie Keane who would save the day for Spurs.After seeing the ball bounce off Ricardo Carvalho’s back, the Irishman incredibly smashed the ball into the bottom corner levelling the game up at 4-4.

Spurs even had a chance to win the game at the very end, after clever work from Dimitar Berbatov he seen his shot superbly saved by Carlo Cudicini.

Manchester City 3 QPR 2, 13th May 2012

The 13th May 2012, the date that will live on in the hearts for every Manchester City fan for eternity. It was of course the day Manchester City were crowned Champions of England for the first time in forty four years.

Going into the game it looked almost a foregone conclusion that Manchester City would beat Queens Park Rangers to secure the League Title. United had to win at Sunderland but even if they did, it wouldn’t matter as long as City did the business and took 3 points.

The first of the goal came in the 39th minute through all people Pablo Zabeleta, who seen his effort bounce off Paddy Kenny onto the back post and into the back of the net.Few if any could have predicted what would happen next.

Just two minutes into the second half Queens Park Rangers were level through Liverpool old boy Djibril Cisse as the Frenchman emphatically blasted the ball past Joe Hart. Things got even worse for City twenty minutes later, after Jamie Mackie headed home a Armand Traore cross putting the visitors 2-1 in front.

Looking all but down and out as we headed into stoppage time, City pulled off one of the most dramatic comebacks in sport, let alone footballing soring two goals in added time.

The first came through Bosnian forward Eden Dzeko, heading home a David Silva corner.However it would be Sergio Aguero who grabbed the headlines and win the game for City, cleverly blasting the ball past Paddy Kenney in the QPR goal handing Manchester City their first title in forty four years.

Liverpool 4 Newcastle United 3, 3rd April 1996

Arguably the greatest game of the Premier League era, when Roy Evan’s Liverpool hosted Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United side in April 1996.

Going into the game Newcastle needed the three points to keep pace of leaders of Manchester United, after seeing their 12 point lead over United disappear, whilst Liverpool still had their hopes of winning the Premier League Title.

Liverpool scored the first goal of this thrilling encounter inside the first two minutes as Robbie Fowler headed home a Stan Collymore cross inside the six yard box. However Liverpool’s lead wasn’t to last long too long. Great work from Faustino Asprilla inside the box found Les Ferdinand, who seen his effort edge past Liverpool goalkeeper David James.

The game was then turned on its head four minutes later and found themselves 2-1 in front, after David Ginola superbly finished off Les Ferdinand’s pass and put the ball in the back of the net.

As the second half got underway, Robbie Fowler levelled the game up for Liverpool brilliantly finishing off McManaman’s from just inside the box.

In a game full of twists and turns, Newcastle would be next to add another twist to this enthralling encounter taking the lead again, this time through Faustino Asprilla, who after getting on the end of Rob Lee’s pass, curled the ball into the net giving Newcastle a 3-2 lead.

However Newcastle’s lead was to only last eleven minutes, as Stan Collymore tapped the ball in from close range from Jason McAteer’s cross. The drama wasn’t over yet, far from it in fact.

Deep into stoppage time with only a matter of minutes left to play, It would be Stan Collymore who would be the match-winner for Liverpool finishing off a superb attacking team move by smashing the ball past Newcastle keeper Pavel Srnicek handing Liverpool a 4-3 victory.

Manchester United 4 Manchester City 3, 21st September 2009

Probably the greatest Manchester derby of all time. Going into the game the rivalry between both clubs had already been taken up an extra notch following Carlos Tevez’s controversial switch to City in the summer transfer window.

City’s millions spent on players and with the club starting to look like the real deal, made this particular Manchester derby have an extra edge to it. You just knew it was going to be something special and it didn’t disappoint.

It would be United who scored the first goal through Wayne Rooney, after getting on the end of Patrice Evra’s pass inside the box, Rooney neatly put the ball in the back of the net, putting united 1-0 up.

City drew level on the 16th minute after sloppy play from Ben Foster in the united goal, his error gave the ball to Carlos Tevez who then found Gareth Barry from just outside the penalty area who then calmly and coolly placed the ball home.

With the second half just four minutes old, united found themselves back in front, this time through Darren Fletcher who got on the end off Ryan Giggs cross to head the ball past City keeper Shay Given. However United’s lead was to last only a matter of minutes, after Craig Bellamy’s thunderbolt strike drew city level at 2-2.

It would be Darren Fletcher again who would find himself on the score sheet in similar fashion, heading home a Ryan Giggs cross putting the home side 3-2 in front.

However an uncharacteristic error from Rio Ferdinand led to a city equalizer. His miss placed pass fell to Martin Petrov, who’s pass then found Craig Bellamy who’s pace got the better of Ferdinand before then neatly rounded united keeper Ben Foster and placing the ball in the back of the net levelling the game up at 3-3.

The game’s most dramatic moment was yet to come. With all but seconds of the game remaining it would be Michael Owen who won the game for united. A long punt from the half way line up field from Wayne Rooney was cleared before then falling to Ryan Giggs in the centre, his pass then almost perfectly found Michael Owen lurking on the edge of the box where in typical Owen style he put the ball away giving united a 4-3 victory.

Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 4, 5th February 2011

Sitting 4-0 down to Arsenal at half time, I doubt even some of the most optimistic Newcastle United supporters out there would have given them much hope in coming back in this.

An early strike from Theo Walcott had given the visitors an early lead with a neat finish into the bottom corner. A second soon followed all but two minutes later, from an unlikely candidate in Johan Djourou with an header into the top corner. Seven minutes later it was 3-0, this time it was Robin Van Persie who found himself on the score sheet tucking the ball home. The Dutchman grabbed his second and Arsenal’s fourth goal of the game on the twenty sixth minute mark heading the ball past Newcastle keeper Steve Harper.

Arguably the key turning point of the came just five minutes into the second half, where Abou Diaby was sent off and Arsenal were reduced to ten men.

Newcastle began their comeback in the sixty eighth minute, as Joey Barton converted a penalty spot kick coolly putting the ball in the bottom corner. A second seven minutes later soon followed as Leon Best brought down a cross from Jose Enrique and slotted the ball away. The comeback was well and truly on.

Newcastle found a third eight minutes later in much similar fashion through a Joey Barton spot kick, only this time placing the ball in the centre of the goal.

The best was undoubtedly saved till last, as Cheick Tiote fired in a contender for goal of the season, hammering home a volley from outside the box and into the back of the net, as the game finished 4-4.

Portsmouth 7 Reading 4, 29th September 2007

When Portsmouth hosted Reading at Fratton Partk, few could have forseen a game like this unfolding like this, it was crazy!

The first goal of the game came in the seventh minute after Benjani tapped the ball in from close range. A second Pompey goal followed in the thirty seventh minute after the Zimbebwean finished off a lovely run putting the ball past Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Reading did manage to pull a goal back just before half time, after chaos in the Pompey box, Stephen Hunt’s header was judged to have crossed the line and the goal was given as we headed into the break with Portsmouth leading by two goals to one.

Just three minutes into the second half Reading were level. Dave Kitson willingness to chase a seemingly lost ball, led to Portsmouth goal keeper David James running out of his goal,with Kitson then taking the ball past James and striking the ball into the net levelling it up at 2-2.

However Portsmouth regained their lead not not after through Hermann Hreidarsson, as he made the most out of Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann’s error and neatly headed the ball home restoring the home sides lead. Benjani added Pompey’s fourth and the strikers third goal of the game fifteen minutes later, taking the ball round a charging Hahnemann. The home side then added a fifth through Croatian Niko Kranjcar, who headed the ball in at the back post.

Reading’s hopes of an unlikely comeback gained some momentum, as James Harper’s deflected volley ricochet off Shane Long and made its way past Pompey keeper David James making it 5-3 in the seventy ninth minute.

However Reading’s hopes of a comeback were all but ended two minutes later, after Sean Davis effort from distance was deflected into the goal. Sulley Muntari added a seventh for the home side in stoppage time, before Reading grabbed a consolation goal moments later through a Nicky Shorey deflected strike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greatest ever footballing comebacks

In the game of football, it really isn’t over till it’s over. Until the last gasp of the referees whistle anything can happen.

Throughout this piece I will go through some of the most incredible football comebacks of all time, from Liverpool’s historic comeback vs AC Milan in Istanbul, to Manchester City doing the near impossible at White Hart Lane in the FA Cup.

Newcastle United 4 Arsenal 4, Premier League 2011

4-0 down inside twenty six minutes at St James Park, Newcastle United looked down and out. If anything it was looking a case of how many Arsenal would actually get.

Newcastle’s historic comeback didn’t start till the 68th minute, where Joey Barton put away a penalty into the bottom corner making it 4-1. Newcastle’s second goal of the game came through Leon Best who neatly tucked the ball home. A third eight minutes later followed, again via the penalty spot through Joey Barton.

However the best was almost certainly saved till last, as Cheick Tiote hammered home a contender for goal of the season, emphatically volleying the ball home from distance.

Still with a few minutes remaining and with additional time to be added on, it may sound silly,

but Newcastle would probably still feel a touch disappointed they didn’t actually go on to win the game!

Liverpool 4 Borussia Dortmund 3 (Aggregate 5-4) Europa League Quarter Final 2nd leg 2016
Needing three goals with less than thirty minutes left on the clock to play, Liverpool pulled off one of the greatest ever comebacks in European football, coming back from 3-1 down on the night (2-4 on aggregate) to win 4-3 (5-4 on aggregate)
The comeback began on the 66th minute through Philippe Coutinho, where the Brazilian delightfully curved the ball into the back of the net. Ten minutes later Liverpool added another, this time through Mamadou Sakho heading the ball in from close range.
As the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark, it would be of all people Dejan Lovren who met James Milner’s cross inside the box and headed home the winner.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 4, FA Cup Fourth Round Replay 2004
3-0 down and reduced to ten men at half time, the chances of Manchester City making it into the fifth round of the FA Cup looked a near impossible shot.
However against all the odds, Manchester City pulled off an astonishing comeback defeating Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 at White Hart Lane.
Three minutes into the second half, City grabbed their first goal of the night
through Sylvain Distin’s neat header. City’s second of the night came in rather more fortunate circumstances, as Paul Bosvelt’s shot was deflected off Anthony Gardner and made it’s way into the back of the net.
Eleven minutes later it was 3-3. Robbie Fowler’s excellent long ball found Shaun Wright Phillips who superbly lobbed the ball over Kasey Keller levelling the game up at 3-3. City were not finished there, it would be Jon Macken who completed the comeback heading home Tarnat’s cross.
Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 (After Extra Time, Liverpool win 3-2 on Pens)
Arguably the greatest comeback of all time. Looking all but down and out at half time trailing 3-0 to AC Milan, Liverpool came back against all the odds and won the European Cup for a record breaking fifth time in Istanbul.
Going into the second half, it looked a case of how many AC Milan would and wanted to score. How wrong could they or the footballing world have been.
The comeback started on the 54th minute, as Steven Gerrard met John Arne Riise cross inside the box and headed the ball home. Incredible two minutes later a second goal from Liverpool came, this time through Vladimir Smicer who struck the ball in from range. The comeback was well and truly on.
Three minutes later Liverpool were level. After Steven Gerrard was brought down inside the box by Gennaro Gatusso, Xabi Alonso stepped up to the spot and despite seeing his first effort saved by goalkeeper Dida, Alonso emphatically smashed the ball home levelling the game up at 3-3.
 After the final half an hour or so was played out, the game went to extra time, but nothing it seemed could separate the sides. It all came down to penalties and it would be Andriy Shevchenko’s spot kick miss that proved decisive, as Liverpool were crowned Champions of Europe.

Record breakers, Footballers who broke the transfer world record

In the wake of Paul Pogba’s rumoured £100 million pound to Manchester United, I thought it would be an interesting idea to go back and have a look at players who had previously smashed the world record transfer fee, from Ronaldo’s switch from Barcelona to Inter Milan back in 1997 to Kaka’s Multi Million Pound move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009.

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle United 1996, £15 Million Pounds

Having narrowly missed out on the Premier League Title the previous campaign, then boss Kevin Keegan was determined not to lose out to Manchester United again, as he signed Alan Shearer from Blackburn Rovers in a then world record transfer fee of £15 Million Pounds.

It’s fair to say the money was well spent, as Shearer went on to become the club’s all time leading goal scorer, in total netting a whopping 206 goals with his last goal coming against local rivals Sunderland in April 2006, where in typical Shearer fashion he blasted the ball home.

His playing days may be long over, but his legacy at the club will live on in the hearts of every Newcastle United supporter.

Ronaldo, Barcelona to Inter Milan 1997, £19.5 Million Pounds

Having shone emphatically for Barcelona throughout the 1996/97 campaign, Inter Milan broke the then world record transfer record, splashing out £19.5 Million on Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s time with the Italian Giants was a successful one, but injuries towards the latter end of the Brazilian’s stay limited the star’s game time.

Throughout his stay, he netted a mighty impressive 59 goals in 99 games for the club and if it wasn’t for injuries getting in the way, it would have been no doubt so much more.

One of the game’s true greats, and a footballer that will never be forgotten.

Hernan Crespo, Parma to Lazio 2001, £35 Million Pounds

Hernan Crespo will probably be best remembered for his time in England playing for Chelsea, where he endured a mixed stay at Stamford Bridge.

However it may have actually escaped most peoples notice that back in 2001, Hernan Crespo became the world’s most expensive footballer by joining Lazio for £35 Million Pounds.

The move itself worked out quite well for the Argentine, as the forward scored 48 goals throughout his 2 year stay at the club.

Luis Figo, Barcelona to Real Madrid 2000, £37 Million Pounds

For a Barcelona footballer to even mention Real Madrid’s name in the city of Barcelona would be seen as an insult, to actually go and sign for the club is simply unforgivable, but that is exactly what Luis Figo did, as he made a world record transfer switch from the Camp Nou to the Bernebeu in 2000.

The move turned out to be a clever piece of business on Figo’s part. Throughout his 5 year stint at the club, Figo won 2 La Liga titles and one European cup, going to become a key part of Real’s success on the pitch.

Zinedine Zidane, Juventus to Real Madrid 2001, £46 Million Pounds

Having joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2001 for a then world record fee of $46 Million Pounds, Zidane went on to become one of the finest players to have ever graced the Santiago Bernabeu turf.

Throughout his 5 years at the club, Zidane won 1 La Liga Title (2003) , 1 European Cup (2002) amongst other domestic honours.

His finest moment in a Real Madrid shirt arguably came in the 2002 European Cup Final vs Bayern Leverkusen at Hampden Park, where the Frenchman scored one of the greatest goals of all time, neatly and acrobatically volleying the ball home giving Real their 9th European Cup.

Kaka, AC Milan to Real Madrid 2009, £56 Million Pounds

Throughout his 4 year stay at the Santiago Bernabeu, Kaka was never able to rediscover his previous form that seen the Brazilian crowned world footballer of the year (2007)

Even his then world record transfer signing was overtaken and overshadowed by the arrival of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo not too long after.

There were however some positives, he played his role in Jose Mourinho’s La Liga title winning side that overhauled arguably the greatest ever Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola (2012) and contributed a total of 29 goals and 32 assists throughout his stay at the club.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United to Real Madrid 2009, £80 Million Pounds

Having become a Manchester United legend at Old Trafford ,winning all there was to win, the Portuguese’s next step in his footballing career would see him move to Real Madrid and in the summer of 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo signed for the Spanish Giants for a whopping £80 Million Pounds.

His stay in the Spanish capital has been nothing short of sensational, as Ronaldo has gone on to become the club’s all time leading goal scorer.

Domestically the Portuguese star has won 1 La Liga Title (2012) 2 European Cup’s ( 2014, 2016) along with other domestic honours throughout his stay so far at the club.

Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid 2013, £77-85 Million Pounds

It came as no surprise when Real Madrid came calling for then Spurs star Gareth Bale in 2013. However the cost of the transfer almost certainly did!

There has been no official release of what Real actually paid for the Welshman for reasons we really don’t know and are never likely to know, but what looks a near certainty is the fact Real paid a world record fee to land Bale in the region of £77 Million – £85 Million Pounds.

Since arriving in the Spanish capital, Bale has endured a largely successful time at Real. His debut season seen the Welshman play a massive role in the club’s European Cup triumph over Atletico Madrid and whilst his second season fell below expectations, last season Bale shown not just the Madrid faithful but the entire footballing world why he is one of the best footballers on the planet, becoming an essential part of the Real Madrid side that claimed another European Cup defeating Atletico Madrid on penalties.

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What To Expect

What can us fans expect from Liverpool this season under the guidance of Jürgen Klopp? This is a question I have sat and pondered for the last number of days after being tasked with writing an article about it. Thanks Mike! 


When Klopp came to Liverpool last season it was reported he was dismayed at how unfit the Liverpool players actually were, this, for me accounted for some of the poor results towards the end of the Brendan Rodgers era. It took 6 or so weeks for those who were “fit” to get up to scratch and even longer for those who were coming back from injury. Klopp is a manger who likes his teams to press high up the pitch, something we saw towards the end of last season. Klopp likes his forward players to defend from the front and this is why he likes players who are pacy. He wants his team to give the opposition team as little space as possible and then break quickly. This is why he has rumoured to be having 3 training sessions a day this pre season. 

Liverpool last season for me lacked a quality box to box midfield player. Yes Emre Can can do that, he has bags of pace and is hungry to get the ball when the opposition has it but he needs a like minded midfield player beside him, a player bursting with energy and who can sit back when he goes forward and vice versa. And in Marko Grujic I believe Liverpool have this. With young Cameron Brannagan showing plenty of quality along with Ryan Kent, for some of the established midfield players at Liverpool I feel their careers are over. I’m not gonna mention any names but you have a fair idea who I’m on about. 


I think and hope Klopp dips in to the transfer market for a Defensive Midfield player to offset Can and Grujic, a player who has no problem bossing other teams attacking players. I’ve seen reports that Joel Matip can play in the DM role but I would much prefer to see him partner Mamadou Sakho in the centre of defence. Like Sakgo he’s a big strong player who likes to play football and not just hoof it up field at the first opportunity. Last season for Schalke he had 3 goals and 3 assists, something no Liverpool centre back had managed in a few years. While some may argue the Bundesliga and Premier League are two different beasts, the positional sense and the want to get in those positions is something you can’t teach on the training pitch. 

The only other problematic position for Liverpool is the left back role. We all know Moreno’s forgetfulness that he is a left back and not a winger, his contanst mistakes, been caught out of position and costing the team points and wins is something that needs changing. (Although in saying that in the Premier League last season he only made 2 defensive errors in 27 appearances last season. Let’s not talk about the Europa League final). Klopp can offset this by maybe going 3 at the back and playing Clyne and Moreno as wingers. This would allow Moreno for one concentrate more on attacking and less on defending but if Klopp insisted on playing a back four then Moreno has to go. 


The question What Can We Expect Next Season under Klopp is a question I’m afraid I can’t answer. Why? Well there’s too many factors to weigh up. Will the young players he has bought settle in to the league quickly or will it take them a few months. Will the buying of so called superstars by other clubs affect the minds of Liverpool players when they come up against them? Will Klopp be given the time by Liverpool’s loyal football manager playing fans to develop his team? What other players will Klopp buy and who will he be moving on? These questions will remain unanswered until, some until September 1st others until maybe October or November but one thing I am sure of us fans can be guaranteed of is plenty of Klopps laughs, hugs and emotions on the side lines. And for now that will do me. 

A Funny Old Game

Isn’t football a funny old game. For the past 6 months football fans of the Premier League witnessed a miracle when Leicester City won the Premier League with a team of unknown players, unknown unless you’re Sam McGuire or Dave Hendricks. Then at the European Championships, fans got to see the underdogs, the Icelands, the Northern Ireland’s and the Wales go and not only get out of their groups but do it comfortably while bigger nations such as England and Belgium stuttered through theirs.


As I sat watching the Portugal France match in the European Championship final I had a sneaking feeling that Portugal would win it and when Ronaldo went off injured I knew Portugal were going to win it. I know that’s a daft statement to make, but it’s like the whole Portugal team relaxed when he went off. The pressure to perform seemed to have lifted and Portugal got on with their own game. Earlier in the competition I commented that Portugal won ugly, won like the German teams of old, boring boring football but always sneaked through and thats exactly what happened against France. 

Portugal minus Ronaldo locked up shop, defended immensely, each player knew their role from Nani up front to Rui Patrício in goal, every player did their job and did it to perfection. I’ve seen and heard some pundits totally tear in to Portugal for the way they played. The whole “Portugal only won one game in 90 minutes”, finished third in their group behind Hungary and Iceland really pissed me off, who cares where they finished in their group, how many games they won in 90 minutes in the competition, they had the same amount of shots on target as France up to the final, they are undefeated in 18 competitive games under manager Fernando Santos. They played extra time in the European Championships and still came out on top.


If it was Germany or France that won the title the way Portugal did, would people be as quick to lambast them? I don’t think so. They would be praised and applauded the manager for getting his game plan correct and applauded the players for sticking to it for the full 120 minutes. They played for each other and didn’t crumble when Ronaldo went off, they stuck to their task & it payed off. Portugal are another example of why ultimately team work pays off. They worked the hardest over the tournament, yes they rode their luck at times (drawing with Hungary) but that’s the sign of a good team and a good manager. While many wanted France to win last night, I’m happy for Portugal, they caused an upset, they played against the grain and out the nightmare of Rio behind them. Will they go on to copy France, Germany and Spain and win the World Cup and do the double, it’s doubtful but if they continue to play the way they did in France anything is possible. 


On a side note, I have to say well done to Ronaldo for finally playing the team game. Instead of sulking and withdrawing in to himself after going off injured he played a blinder, a captains role. He inspired the players and never let their heads drop. He made sure that the players knew they were good enough to win the competition and for that he has to be applauded. Hopefully it’s a sign of a changing Ronaldo and instead of people talking about him being selfish, they’ll start to talk about his football skills more. 

Jose Mourinho, A wounded animal ready to strike back

There can be no denying that Jose Mourinho endured his worst ever campaign of his managerial career last season, taking his then Champions Chelsea side from top to the nearly bottom of the Barclays Premier League table.

Rumoured fallouts with key members at the club, amongst other things played it’s part, as the Portuguese was relieved of his managerial duties at Stamford Bridge back last December.

It was the first time the footballing world had seen a Mourinho team fail, truly fail. This was not a team who were just having a poor run of form, it was deeper than that. Defeats just kept on coming, Manchester City, Southampton, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, the list went on as Chelsea collapsed.

Mourinho always had that supreme confidence, even arrogant attitude in him. That is what makes him one of, if not the best manager in todays game. However last season it was that attitude that seemingly back fired on him. No longer where his players hanging on to every word he said, they had turned against him and there was little way back.

Louis Van Gaal’s mixed fortunes at Old Trafford made it almost inevitable that the then unemployed Jose Mourinho  would be linked with the United hot seat. It had always been speculated that Mourinho wanted the Manchester United job, but hand on heart, the majority of us thought it would be a job he would never get.

However minutes after United’s 2-1 FA Cup final defeat over Crystal Palace at Wembley, it was confirmed that Jose Mourinho would be becoming the new Manchester United manager. Mourinho’s dream had become a reality.

Mourinho arriving at United really is a make or break point for not just him, but for both parties. Manchester United are a club who for the last 3 seasons have fell well short of expectations, whilst for Mourinho it is the chance to show and prove to the footballing world that last season was a mere blip. Neither can afford to fail.

 

 

Andreas Pereira, The star that hasn’t been given a chance to shine

Footage of Louis Van Gaal leaving Carrington for the final time brought a smile back to the vast majority of the united faithful in the knowing that the Dutchman’s reign at Old Trafford was well and truly over, but few would have had a smile on their face as wide as Andreas Pereira.

Under Van Gaal, Pereira. failed to be given a proper run in the first team, with the youngster more often than not finding himself involved with the Under-21’s.

His lack of first team football led to speculation that the 20 year old was seeking a move away from the theatre of dreams and in many respects you could understand why. However with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, this could be exactly what Pereira needs.

Let’s be honest here, with Pereira we aren’t just talking about a player who can go on to become a good all round footballer, we are talking about a player who could potentially go on and become a Ballon dor winner. The hype and anticipation surrounding the star is much similar to the days of a certain Paul Pogba and we all know how that turned out.

Mourinho is no fool and will be fully aware of Pereira’s potential. The fact he is only 20 years old and has little first team experience matters little, he will no doubt be given a chance in the first team to impress by Jose. If you are good enough you are old enough, just look at Rashford.

 

Ronaldo -V- Bale 

As Wales prepare to play Portugal this week in the European Championship Semi Final, a lot of fans, journalists and media pundits have pitted it as Gareth Bale -V- Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s not as if there will be 20 other players on the pitch, with 2 managers pitting their wits against each other trying to out do the tactics of the other, no according to some this match is solely Bale against Ronaldo. It’s been portrayed that they’re going to have some sort of competition between themselves for 90 minutes and this is how the Semi Final is going to be contested. 


This kind of build up really annoys the bejaysus out of me, both Bale and Ronaldo are two completely different players, one plays for his team and his teammates and the other has the weight of a whole country on his back. One has had a decent tournament with a team that has outperformed all expectations and the other, well his team has failed to win in 90 minutes so far this summer, a statistic that starting to piss me off a bit. Who cares if Portugal have failed to win a game in 90 minutes, they’re through to a European Championship semi final, they’re still there, while countries like England, Belguim and Italy have gone home. Germany were famed for winning tournaments the boring way throughout the 80′ and 90’s and now it seems that Portugal might just follow them, the Germans were hailed as heroes and when Portugal do it they get slated.

While no one can argue that Bale and Ronaldo both had excellent seasons at Real Madrid last season I wonder if the same tact by the media be used to hype up a match if it was say 2 teammates form Manchester United, Liverpool or Barcelona were facing each other? I somehow doubt it. 


Last season Gareth Bale according to squawka.com played in La Liga 23 times for Real Madrid and 8 times in the Champions  League. He scored 19 goals and created 50 chances, his shot accuracy was 51% and he won 51% of his average duels, and his pass accuracy was 80%. Cristiano Ronaldo for Real Madrid last season played 36 times in La Liga for Los Blancos scoring 35 goals, he played in 4 more games then his Welsh teammate in the Champions League. Ronaldo’s shot accuracy was 52% and like Bale he created 50 chances, his average pass accuracy was 79% and he won a total of 54% of his duels. So in La Liga there was very little between them bar goals scored but as a central striker I would expect more goals from Ronaldo.

So far in the Euros Bale like Ronaldo has played 5 games, Bale has scored 3 goals, created 4 chances, has won 54% of his duels, has a shot accuracy of 74% whereas Ronaldo has scored 2 goals and created 8 chances, his shot accuracy is only 41% and he has only won 46% of his duels. Look at those stats and make up your own minds about whether it should be Bale -V- Ronaldo or Ronaldo -V- Bale.


As I said earlier on there’s 20 other players on the pitch when Wales and Portugal play. Wales are the eternal underdogs, this is their first major international tournament ever and they have defied everyone’s predictions of how they woul get on, just ask Dean Saunders. Portugal though, like England are the eternal underachievers. Going out of the group stages in the World Cup in Brazil they were heavily criticised and so was Ronaldo for his performances. With Chris Coleman in charge, Portugal have a tough game ahead of them. He sets his team up to frustrate at the back but break quickly. Portugal will like always be heavily reliant on Ronaldo and hope he can come up with a piece of magic to beat the Welsh.

With players like Nani, Ricardo Quaresma, Renato Sanches, Andre Gomes and João Moutinho in their team you would expect them to easily thrash Wales but as Belguim found out in the previous round that’s easier said than done. The average Welsh players have really stepped up and players like Joe Allen and Hal Robson-Kanu have been a revelation for Colemans side with Allen coming in for special praise from fans of not only Liverpool but fans of other Euroepan nations.


This game will be so much more then Bale against Ronaldo it will be a joy for the neutral to watch. For English fans it will be a reminder of what could have been. If Roy Hodgson could have instilled the team spirit and want to play for your country like Coleman had in to the Welsh team they could have easily won the competition but as always they live in the past and now have to chose between the sheep shaggers winning it or a team with the loathed Ronaldo in to win. For me I’m hoping for an entertaining game and not another dour game which seems to be the norm this summer in France. 

Transfers that shocked the Football world

In the game of football there are no certainties, anything can happen and when it comes to the transfer side of things this couldn’t be more true.

Throughout this article I will go through some of the most shocking transfer deals that have occurred throughout my 12 years or so of watching the beautiful game, from Robinho’s move to Manchester City in 2008 to Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano’s switch to West Ham United back in 2006.

Carlos Tevez, Moved from Manchester United to Manchester City 2009

Hand on heart, we all felt Carlos Tevez would probably be leaving at the end of the 2008/09 campaign. The arrival of Dimitar Berbatov the previous summer, seemed to make the Argentinian more of a fringe player than a regular first team starter for Sir Alex Ferguson. The majority of the supporters wanted him to stay, but at the same time accepted that he probably should move on to another club in order to secure more first team football on a regular basis. I doubt few could have predicted what would happen next.

Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Chelsea, Arsenal, he could have moved anywhere he liked, but he didn’t, he chose instead to move to our local rivals Manchester City.

You would accept the fact he isn’t a Manchester lad and wouldn’t necessarily be as passionate about the club, as lets say a lad from Salford. Add to that he reportedly didn’t know the English language too well, but even with all that he surely must have been aware that City were United’s local rivals!

Sol Campbell, Moved from Portsmouth to Notts County 2009

Sol Campbell was admittedly coming towards the end of his footballing career in 2009, but few would have expected the former Arsenal star to be playing the latter end of his footballing days in League 2 at Notts County.

Campbell then a free agent after leaving Portsmouth, signed a whopping 5 year deal with the club earning a reported £40,000 a week and teamed up again with Sven-Goran Eriksson who was working then as the club’s director of football.

However Campbell left Notts County after playing just one game for the club, leaving by mutual consent.

Robinho, Moved from Real Madrid to Manchester City 2008

This one really did come out of near nowhere! On the last day of the summer transfer window Manchester City splashed out a then British record fee of £32.5 Million pounds to sign the Brazilian.

At the time Robinho was very much a wanted man.The likes of Chelsea and even Manchester United were linked with a possible move for the star, before Manchester City got their man.

Robinho became a significant statement signing for the club, even though it didn’t work out too well for the Brazilian in the end. Robinho’s arrival at the club led to the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Ya Ya Toure, Sergio Aguero all joining the club. Yes the handsome wages almost certainly helped matters in their decision to join the club, but without Robinho moving there in the first place, I doubt other top footballing names would have made the jump to the club.

Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, Moved from Corinthians to West Ham United 2006

This one produced yet more shock value, as Argentinians Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano signed for West Ham United in the summer transfer window of 2006.

The deal itself was more dodgy than one of Del Boy’s wristwatches. Hardly anybody knew how they ended up at West Ham and to this day we still aren’t 100% sure either.

The club would later be found guilty in April 2007 of acting improperly and withholding vital documentation over the duo’s ownership.

 

 

 

 

Footballs Hardest Job

Some jobs in football you accept knowing that no matter what you do your back is going to be up against the wall. Take the Real Madrid job, look at how Rafa Benitez was treated by Madrid, yet his team went on to win the Champions League, Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, a few bad results and the fans turn on him, Jose Mourhino at Chelsea, arguably their most successful manager ever and he gets dumped without a second thought after a poor start to the season, in all of the above jobs you get a bad run of results and you get your marching orders, not given the chance to change things and maybe improve results on the pitch. For me though there’s one job in world football if I was a manager I would be avoiding like the plague and that’s the England national team job. It’s a poison chalice, a career breaker and one that I’m amazed so many top level managers apply for.

England are yet again managerless after Roy Hodgson resigned from his post after the defeat to Iceland in the European Championships, as much as he got wrong in the competition I give him credit for that. Hodgson was doomed in my opinion going in to the competition. His squad selection was off and his insistence of playing Wayne Rooney was one of the reasons England failed so badly in France. I’m not going to pretend I know too much about some of the players he picked both in his squad and his teams but 2 obvious mistakes apart from the Rooney one for me was playing an out of form Raheem Sterling over say Adam Lallana and his bringing the injured duo of Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshire with him. Both players were injured and had coming up to the tournament played little football for their respective clubs. In actual fact Wilshire only played 3 games for Arsenal this season, his inclusion was madness.


You could go through the whole squad and think of players who might be better suited to certain positions. Dele Alli for me was a complete failure at the competition, he was caught out of position on a number of occasions and left gaps in the England midfield. As much as I hate to admit maybe James Milner would have been a better choice in England’s midfield three that Hodgson insisted on playing. Personally I would have gone with a midfield duo of Milner and Eric Dier which would have allowed Hodgson to have an extra man in attack maybe John Stones with Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and one of Harry Kane or Jamie Vardy leading the attack. 

One thing these championships showed up is how limited for me Harry Kane is. At Spurs the team is set up to play to his strengths whereas playing for England he was isolated a lot and ineffective. If I was a Spurs fan I would be worried about how the Euros may have affected him for the start of next season. I’m by no means a football manager, I’m not even English but even I saw how poorly Hodgsons tactics were and how he lacked a plan B at times. His ineptness reminded me a bit of the end of the Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool.

 

What next for England? Where do they go from here? Can they get a manager who can unite the team? For me as an outside observer and a football fan England are plagued by one thing and one thing only (and no it’s not been shite) it’s certain players egos. If I took the job the first thing I would do is bin Rooney, he offers nothing, in fact he hasn’t done anything much at Manchester United over the past number of years of note, next I would get Jack Butland involved more, Joe Harts time as undisputed number one for both England and Manchester City is over for me, while England are decent in defence I think the likes of John Stones and Gary Cahill need to be able to build some sort of an understanding together. Chris Smalling in my opinion simply isn’t good enough. I would also look for alternatives for both Henderson and Wilshire in midfield and start to build the team around the younger players. Fans and pundits alike speak of the golden generation of English football with David Beckham and co but I think there’s an up and coming generation who under the right guidance could conquer not only European football but also World football for years to come.

Hodgson was always doomed at England, fans never took to him because he didn’t play fast paced attacking football. He took a modern cautious approach to games no matter no the opposition was, but he guided England through qualification to France this summer undefeated and they were one of the first countries to qualify with a few games to go. He guided an unfancied Fulham team to a major European final, while his career at Liverpool was deemed a failure I think a lot of his failures had to do with the turmoil going on behind the doors of the club and not his own doing. (Remember a lot of his signings were committee signings and we Liverpool fans know how good they are at picking up players). For whatever reason he didn’t stay true to himself in France maybe bowing to fan pressure and ultimately this cost him. He can leave England with his head held high and I’m sure he’ll walk in to another top job sooner rather than later. He is a top level manager, a few will disagree with me on this but this is my piece but that’s my opinion and you know what they say about arseholes and opinions we all have one and the majority of them are full of shite. 

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