Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Why Gianfranco Zola should leave Upton Park

"I have an opinion and I don’t think it’s my job to convince anybody, I could argue that there is nothing to convince about. I would hope he stays. He has been through hell and back. It has been a very difficult season for him. He has had new owners, owners before that who were not participating. Now he knows he is part of West Ham, whereas before he was isolated. So I hope that this moment of success we are enjoying will continue. I would have thought that he deserves another crack. But he’s also a man who might feel that it’s time for him to take a sabbatical"

The words of West Ham United co-owner David Gold, displaying another damning lack of support for their current manager. Ever since the club was taken over from the troubled Icelandic Bank Straumur, cutting all ties with its also troubled businessman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, Zola has struggled to receive the backing of the board, even though his time at the club has been somewhat of a struggle itself.

Zola took over from Alan Curbishley, who left in unceremonious circumstances in 2008 after the sale of two West Ham players without his consent. The former Chelsea and Parma star brought in Diego Tristan and Radoslav Kovac into the club, selling Craig Bellamy (who demanded to leave), Hayden Mullins on load, relegation tainted Nigel Quasie to West Brom and Julian Faubert on loan to Real Madrid (a miracle if there ever was one). West Ham finished 9th in the league, an excellent end to a turbulent season, in which they had a very rocky start.

This current season, Zola’s second in charge, the only high profile signing he managed to bring in was that of Italian Alessandro Diamanti, who has received rave reviews despite to financial constraints crippling the club. The club then released big wages Lucas Neill, Calum Davenport, sold Lee Bowyer to Birmingham, James Collins to Aston Villa and shipped the awful Savio back to Italy, while finally and unfortunately, losing Dean Ashton to retirement. The club were also fined for failing to control the crowd during the League Cup match against Millwall. Problems mounted for Zola.

Then on January 19th 2010, a small ray of light seemingly shined down on the East London club, whereby former Birmingham owners and lifelong West Ham fans David Gould and David Sullivan took over the club promising to revolutionise the club, move to a new stadium and finally be in the Champions League within 7 years (very farfetched if you ask me). But this ray of light was soon blocked by the very real belief that these plans have been made without Zola in mind, with the owners constantly coming out, being more than willing to talk to the media in which topics always seem to end up discussing the future of the manager. Complete disrespect. If the owners have plan to sack Zola or force him out off the club, then do it more respectfully. Keep your boat shut and wait at least until the end of the season, where he has ultimately kept the Hammers up, and then do so gracefully, with dignity. The latest to come out of their mouths is that stating they feel he may leave of his own accord, which I wouldn’t blame him to do, and go ply his trade somewhere where he deserves it.

Let’s look at the determining factors:


Loved and respected

No matter what happens, Zola is a respected figure in the game, and could probably get a job at any league in the World, now he has had two season in the Premiership. Zola is adored in England just as much as he is in Italy. Italy manager one day? Parma manager? Both sides would be interested, maybe even one of the relegated clubs such as Hull or Burnley may take a look at someone who plays attacking, technical football.

Fight and Heart

In the face of adversity, the boss has had the backing of senior members of the squad and managed to show total deserved disregard for the owners, instilling the belief that has kept West Ham in the League.

Captain Scott Parker backed his manager saying; "Everyone has massive respect for the manager and [it’s] clear to see"

Striker Diamanti said; "He works very hard and is a top guy and is always the one who takes responsibility when we don't play well. He is always there for us, always encouraging us and always on our side. We don't forget this, so I was extremely pleased to win and when I scored, my first thought was for the boss."

Even Everton Boss David Moyes said; "He [Sullivan] is entitled to have his say because he owns the club but I don't necessarily think it helps. This is a difficult time with only a few games to go and managers need support and help. I think it is better to say things like that behind closed doors.”

These professional’s continuously backing the Italian, again display the respect held for Zola, where the bargaining power and ability of Zola is supported throughout the League. Should Zola sign for another club, his relationship with these key allies could subsequently damage West Ham in the future.


Lack of fear instilled in the players?

This is something which was argued from the get go. Zola is seen as a nice guy and a gentleman of the game, but is this lack of discipline which has seen them slide down the table, rather than the financial difficulties hindering their progress forward?

Panic signings + Huge wage bill

Ilan on a free transfer. By no means a very good player a few years ago, but St Etienne had been struggling in the French League and allowed a player to leave on a free transfer. He has only player 8 games since January and only scored 3 goals.

Benni McCarthy from Blackburn, £2.5 million. He has only played four games this season... What more is there to say? He has score no goals... Terrible signing.

Mido on loan from Zamalek. He has played for Tottenham Hotspur, Wigan Athletic and was relegated with Middlesbrough; he has never been prolific in the Premiership and is well known for his disruptive and disrespectful attitude.

Guillermo Franco on a free transfer. The Mexican has been a good signing and has shown good experience and knowledge of the game, but for a player who doesn’t look quick enough for the Premiership, he is unlikely to be around for the foreseeable future.

Kieran Dyer. He has only played 18 games in 3 years. Now fair enough Zola did not sign the winger but surely his career at the top level is over and he should actually consider significantly reducing his playing career. Did I mention he earns £60,000 a week?

Luis Boa Morte. Again another player inherited by Alan Curbishley (he is to blame for this high wage bill). The injury prone left winger was happily sold by Fulham for a tidy figure of £5 million, and hasn’t played at all this season. He turned down a move to Hull in January because they wouldn’t meet his wage demands! God only knows how much he gets paid.

Whether Zola’s time in charge of West Ham has been deemed a success of not, the 43 year old has achieved whatever objectives he has been set. A mid table finish in his first season, avoid relegation in the second season, he has done so. Could he simply be the man of bad fortune? Being in charge before the midst of this takeover and now subsequently being “temporarily” in charge until the end of the season? Who knows, but one thing is clear no matter what comes at the end of this season, it’s not the end of the road for Zola, as he will be able to leave with his head high, while West Ham must come with a very good replacement in order to restore the damaged morale, and subsequent divide in the dressing which may come to fruition should the club do what everyone now expects them to do.

What are your opinions on the West Ham situation? Leave a comment below

Monday, 26 April 2010

PFA Team of the Year 2009/2010

Manchester United Striker Wayne Rooney picked up PFA player of the Year, as many of you voted for, and saw the news posted last night on our Facebook page. Aston Villa’s James Milner picked up the Young Player of the Year award also.

The PFA of the Premier League also named their team of the season last night, and here’s the team in detail:

Joe Hart - Goalkeeper
Club: Birmingham (on loan from Man City)
Played: 34 games
Clean Sheets with the Club: 10

The young Englishman has been excellent between the sticks for promoted side Birmingham and was fundamental to keeping the midland’s club in the Premiership, helping them to achieve a club record 15 games unbeaten run. The 23 year old is now being converted by the likes of Arsenal, while a return to Man City is most likely. He is now on the brink of the England 1st team and is expected to travel to South Africa this summer. This loan move has undoubtedly been successful, so much so the likes of Manchester United’s Ben Foster should get off the United bench and take note.

Branislav Ivanovic – Right Back

Club: Chelsea FC
Played: 26 games
Clean Sheets with the Club: 16

Was linked with Real Madrid in the January window but decided to stay with the Premier League leaders due to an extended run in the 1st team. Although a centre back by trade, the Serbian has easily slotted in at right back filling in for the likes of the injured Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira, and has been one of Chelsea’s most influential players.

Thomas Vermaelen – Centre Back

Club: Arsenal FC
Played: 33 games
Clean Sheets with the Club: 13
Goals: 7

The Belgian has been brilliant for Arsenal this season, making the transition from Dutch Side Ajax to the Gunners with relative ease. One transfer which slipped under the radar with Wenger paying more than normal, £10million. However the defender played every game for Arsenal this season until his unfortunate sending off against West Ham earned him a one match ban, and a calf injury against Tottenham ended his season. Now regarded as the best defender in the Arsenal side, chipping in with 7 goals in the process, he can expect to be the key man at the back for many years to come.

Richard Dunne – Centre Back

Club: Aston Villa
Played: 35 games
Clean Sheets with the Club: 15

The Irish defender suffered heart break when the hand of Henry put the Republic of Ireland out of the World Cup, but he steadily recovered to help his side reach both the League Cup Final and Carling Cup Semi Final. He has also helped Villa challenge for the Champions League spot, while Martin O’Neill’s men are more likely to qualify for the Europa League. No failure none the less, while more of a personal achievement for Dunne himself, as he was ousted from Man City in favour of Kolo Toure, Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. Dunne is now respected as one of the most improved and most consistant defenders in the Premiership gaining acknowledgement from both Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.

Patrice Evra – Left Back

Club: Manchester United
Played: 36 games
Assists: 3
Clean Sheets with the Club: 17

Somewhat of a suspect singing four years ago, he has started every Premier League game this season, helping Man United challenge the the Premiership, helping United win the Carling Cup along the way. Going forward; superb, defensively; more so, the Frenchman is now rightfully considered the best in the World.

James Milner – Left Midfielder

Club: Aston Villa
Played: 34 games
Goals: 7 Assists: 12

The second Aston Villa player on the list, and another man ready to go to the 2010 World Cup. Milner has been in excellent form this year, collecting the PFA Young Player of the Year Award to boot. The midfielder’s versatility is that which has improved his overall game, with the ability to play both left and right midfield, or even as a central midfielder. At the age of 24, he has many more years to come playing at the top level.

Cesc Fabregas - Centre Midfield

Club: Arsenal
Played: 27 games
Goals: 15 Assists: 13

The stats speak for themselves; the Spaniard has had his best season on the field for the Gunners and can find himself very unlucky not to be collecting any silver wear this season. The Arsenal captain has been instrumental in the attacking prowess of the Gunners and can expect a very successful season next year as long as the club stays injury free and significantly strengthens it options.

Darren Fletcher - Centre Midfield

Club: Manchester United
Played: 28 games
Goals: 3 Assists: 4

The industrious midfielder is known for his hassling and hurrying play, keeping some of the most influential and talented midfielders in the World quiet! Sorely missed in last year’s Champions League final the Scottish international is a fully fledged fan favourite at Old Trafford and is arguably the first name on the team sheet in Ferguson’s mind. Has held down the central midfield role this year, ahead of Michael Carrick, Darren Gibson, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves (although injuries haven’t helped the latter’s situations). A future Man Utd captain? Only time will tell.

Antonio Valencia - Right Midfield

Club: Manchester United
Played: 34 games
Goals: 5 Assists: 7

The £16million signing from Wigan was linked with Manchester United for a very long time, even before Cristiano left. Now unfortunately he will always be compared the 80 million pound man as he was brought in directly after CR9 jumped ship to Real Madrid, but with this team of the year recognition, he clearly has done a commendable job. The Ecuadorian has done very well for United this season with his direct running and technique, with undoubtedly his crossing ability his strongest attribute. Valencia needs to significantly needs to improve his finishing, but he is becoming a very good player for the club and at the age of 25, has a long future at Old Trafford.

Didier Drogba - Striker

Club: Chelsea
Played: 30 games
Goals: 25 Assists: 10

The first of the dream partnership up front, Chelsea’s number 11, Didier Drogba. Chelsea now look odds on favourites to pick up the Premier League and FA Cup titles, while Drogba has been the focal point to this success. Almost the complete striker, he has power, touch, presence, prowess, technique, ability in abundance, you name it, the 32 has it, and he doesn’t look like slowing up any time soon. He is a match winner, and has been vital to Chelsea over the past few seasons. Expect him to play significantly well with the Ivory Coast at the World Cup and spring a few surprises. To read more about the African star, click here.

Wayne Rooney - Striker

Club: Manchester United
Played: 30 games
Goals: 26 Assists: 3

Again, one of the best strikers in the World, and England’s World Cup hope. The striker has been brilliant for Manchester United this season, scoring winners in many vital games, including the winner against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final. The 24 year old also possesses excellent pace, acceleration, power and determination, but most impressively standing at just 5ft 10in he has scored numerous headed goals this season. Expect more to come this summer and beyond. For more on Rooney click here.

That’s the in-depth player information regarding the PFA awards. Let me know whether you agree with this list of if you feel any players were missing. Lampard? Darren Bent? Michael Dawson maybe? Let me know what you think

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Welcome Back...

Real Talk Football would like to congratulate Newcastle United for winning The Championship and therefore gaining promotion to the Premiership.

After a season full of turmoil, whereby Joe Kinnear, Kevin Keegan, and even legend Alan Shearer managed the club, the conflicts between the board and the management were the clubs undoing leading to Newcastle being relegated from the Premiership for the first time in 16 years.

The Magpies, managed by former Republic of Ireland player Chris Houghton, beat Plymouth 2-0 on Monday night and condemned the green and whites to relegation. Goals on the night came from the excellent young prospect Andy Carrol, and club vice captain Kevin Nolan.

Newcastle United now currently sit atop of the league with one match left to play, a game in which if they win, they will end with an astonishing total of 101 points. The club has the joint best attack (with fellow promoted side West Brom) with 87 goals.

Despite losing the likes of Damien Duff, Sebastien Bassong, Shay Given, Strikers Obafemi Martins, Mark Viduka and Michael Owen, the club have still been very impressive this season, bouncing back at the first time of asking. With this in mind, let’s look at who have been the key men in Newcastle's promotion:

No. 1 – Steve Harper – Goalkeeper - #1

He has played for the club since 1993, and has established himself as one of the most loyal and consistent number 2’s. Finally after the sale of World Class keeper Shay Given to Man City, he was given his chance for the Number 1 jersey, which he grabbed with both hands. This season he has been in fine form this season playing 44 out of 45 games, keeping 21 clean sheets, making 215 saves in the process. Expect the Englishman to continue to keep goal next season.

No. 2 – Kevin Nolan – Attacking Midfielder - #4

The former Bolton midfielder had offers to join Premiership clubs when the Magpies were relegated last season, but decided to stay with the team and fight for the cause. The midfielder didn’t score a single goal in his 1st season with Newcastle, but in this current campaign he managed a career best 18 goals, picking up 5 assists in the progress. A key member of the team, he is their top league goal scorer and is now the clubs vice captain.

No. 3 – Fabricio Coloccini – Centre Back - #2

The Argentine defender had a mixed 1st season at St James Park, but has now settled in England and been solid for the Magpies, situating himself at the heart of the Newcastle’s defence this season playing 35 matches, scoring 2 goals. Most impressively though is that Newcastle boast the best defensive record in the league only conceding 33 goals.

No.4 – Andy Carroll – Striker - #24

The 6ft 5in striker has had a very good season, establishing himself as a 1st team regular, pairing up with the likes of Shola Ameobi and Peter Lovenkrands. He is the second highest top goal scorer at the club with 17 goals this season, while possessing skills leading him being compared to club legend Alan Shearer. The striker has also chipped in with 8 assists and is expected to go from strength to strength with the Newcastle.

Welcome Back, hope you guy’s stay around for a while...

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Moroccan on Route to the Emirates

With Arsenal’s abysmal defeat to Tottenham last week, as well as a shocking 3-2 defeat to Wigan Athletic, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has seemingly already started to bring in that extra added bit of quality the club needs.

Eduardo Da Silva still seemingly not fully recovered from that infamous leg break 2 years ago and now being linked to an £8 million move to Lyon, something not as farfetched as first thought, coexisting with Mexican striker Carlos Vela still failing to live up to the hype (looking a lot like Jose Antonio Reyes) a loan next season may be on the cards, some firepower is definitely needed. Step forward Moroccan International, and the forever linked, Marouane Chamakh. It now seems the striker is all but certain to be joining on a free at the end of season. I know nothing is yet confirmed, but I’m attempting to cheer up Gunners with this all but confirmed signing.

Here’s all you need to know:

Name: Marouane Chamakh
Age: 26 DOB: 10/01/1984 Height: 6’1”
Current Club: FCG Bordeaux
Club Apps: 55 Club Goals: 219
Shirt Number: 29
Nationality: Moroccan
International Apps: 27
International Goals: 53

The tall, quick striker was seemingly a certainty to join Arsenal in the summer, but the move never materialised. He is now expected to join on this summer on a free transfer, excellent for Wenger as we all know he has strong connections in France, along with his strict transfer policy, no one loves a freebie quite like Arsene!

The Moroccan International has an excellent record at his nation, scoring 27 goals in 53 games, a rate of 1 goal in every 2 games. At club level, he may not be as prolific, but most recently in Bordeaux’s route to the Champions League Quarter Final, he has displayed his attacking prowess, displaying his excellent technique and probably his best attribute, his aerial ability. So far he has become a key player in the French side along with the sensational Yoann Gourcuff.

The 26 year old can be used as the focal point of the attack, or play out on the right wing forward position drifting into the penalty area, making him very difficult to mark. With the current 4-3-3 formation, he could play in the Nicklas Bendtner role he played before picking up his injury against Spurs. The Morroccan is probably more adapt to playing out wide rather than the Dane as he is quicker and more skilful, while Bendtner is all about link up play and scoring. With Theo Walcott now hitting form and heading to the World Cup, Striker Robin Van Persie (married to a Moroccan woman) and the vastly improved Nicklas Bendtner, it seems Arsenal can expect more of the same going forward next season. Now leaving them to concentrate on their defensive problems.

How well do you think the Moroccan will do in the Premiership? Do you see it as a good signing? Let me know what you think.

Real Talk Football

Friday, 16 April 2010

PFA Awards - Premier League


The Professional Football Association has named their shortlist for both the Young Player of the Year, and most importantly the Player of the Year awards. Currently BBC have just solely concentrated on Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, stating his is “among” the nominees. Affectively making him the favourite, and with nothing against Wayne Rooney or Man United, but why are the BBC acting as if they other players already don’t matter... a technique used in covering the 2010 World Cup so far, as if with Rooney, and Rooney alone, England will win the biggest trophy in football, while standing no chance without him... Anyways that another argument for another day, but for now let’s look at the candidates, in which you can cast your vote of who you think should win on the right hand side:

PFA Player of the Year

Didier Drogba

Age: 31
Club: Chelsea
Nationality: Ivorian

In case you missed my special on the star striker earlier this year, then click here. The stats speak for themselves; one of the best strikers in the World, and a vital cog in the Chelsea machine seemingly charging towards their third Premiership title. Drogba has led Chelsea to the FA Cup final; facing relegated Portsmouth, while the blues are currently sitting atop of the league, 6 points clear.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 28
Scored: 25
Assists: 8

Cesc Fabregas

Age: 22
Club: Arsenal
Nationality: Spanish

The Spanish midfielder has had his best season for the Gunners so far this year, and has finally progressed into the game changing player he needs in order to be considered World Class. He dragged Arsenal back from the death against Barcelona and was undoubtedly missed for the 2nd leg. He is currently the second highest scoring midfielder in the Premier League, behind Frank Lampard, and is one ahead of the Chelsea player in the Assist rankings. The Arsenal number four’s season came to an abrupt end after he fractured his leg against Barcelona, but still had a significant enough impact to lead the Gunners to a Champions League spot and a top 3 finish in the Premiership.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 27
Scored: 15
Assists: 13

Wayne Rooney

Age: 24
Club: Manchester United
Nationality: English

The England striker has had his best ever season so far as a player, scoring a total of 34 goals in 41 games, with 29 coming in the league. Even though Manchester United only look to be collecting the Carling Cup this season, it’s clear he’s filled Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots since his departure to Real Madrid, and is now the key man at Old Trafford.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 29
Scored: 26
Assists: 3

Carlos Tevez

Age: 26
Club: Manchester City
Nationality: Argentinean

What can be said about the temperamental Argentinean? Sparked up rivalries between himself and Ferguson, the two sides of Manchester, himself and Gary Neville, and then his Man City “Team Bridge” against John Terry’s Chelsea! The man has been involved in everything this season. However to the most important matter regarding Tevez, his performances on the pitch. Brought in by Mark Hughes, he flourished under Roberto Mancini, scoring 22 goals in 30 games, with 7 assists; carry Man City’s charge to 4th and final Champions League place.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 30
Scored: 22
Assists: 7

PFA Young Player of the Year

Joe Hart

Age: 23
Club: Birmingham City (On loan from Manchester City)
Nationality: English

The third Englishman on the list, and currently one of the best goalkeepers in the league. According to ESPN.com Hart has played 32 Premier League games this season, making 118 saves and keeping 9 clean sheets. He already has one full international cap for England and is expected to compete for the number one spot in the near future.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 32
Clean Sheets: 9

James Milner

Age: 24
Club: Aston Villa
Nationality: English

Milner has been excellent for Aston Villa, helping his side reach the FA Cup semi final and the Carling Cup final. Also Villa were fighting a Champions league spot, but a Europa League spot looks a lot more realistic. Milner is also expected to be in the 23 man squad heading to South Africa later this year.

Here are his stats for this season:
Played: 31
Scored: 5
Assists: 12

Cesc Fabregas

Age: 22
Club: Arsenal
Nationality: Spanish

See above for more, but the 22 year old Arsenal Captain has been excellent for the Gunners this season.

Wayne Rooney

Age: 24
Club: Manchester United
Nationality: English

See above for more, but at the age of 24 can he still be considered young? Either or, he is up for both and deservedly so.

Who do you feel should win the awards? Click to vote on the right or leave a comment below

Friday, 9 April 2010

Fergie's First Move

After Manchester United’s defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Quarter Final on Wednesday night, they have made the first move of all the Premiership clubs, making the 1st signing ahead of the 2010/11 season. Step forward Mexico’s young striker, Javier Hernandez.

The 21 year old has signed from well known Mexico side Chivas Guadalahara for an undisclosed fee (reportedly worth up to £10million) and will join the club June 1st 2010. Admittedly I didn’t really know too much about the young striker, but after speaking to a few of my confidants, and conducting my own research, I’m quite impressed with the ability of the striker. Although United don’t have a great history with young strikers, think Manucho, Danny Wellbeck, David Bellion and so on, however the Mexican nicknamed “Chicharito” could be different. He posses very good raw finishing ability, acceleration and movement (similar to that of Arsenal’s Carlos Vela).

However he is definitely one for the future, but in the mean time, here’s all you need to know:

Name: Javier Hernandez
Age: 21
Nationality: Mexican
Int Apps: 4 Int Goals: 4
Previous Club: Chivas Guadalahara
Club Apps: 64 Club Goals: 28

Watch the video below for more, and let me know what you think our the youngster.

Real Talk Football

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Lionel Messi – The Greatest of All Time

Earlier tonight, last night or even the 6th April (depending on when you read this), myself and the World tuned in to watch Arsenal face up to Barcelona at the Camp Nou. After an excellent 2-2 draw at the Emirates, Arsenal traveled to Spain with a depleted squad leaving the likes of Captain Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie, William Gallas, Andrey Arshavin in London along with long term absentees Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou. While the Catalan giants and reigning European Champions had Carlos Puyol and Gerrard Pique suspended, with Andreas Iniesta and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were out injured. All the talk pre hand was Thierry Henry’s return to his former club and of course the current FIFA player of the year; Lionel Messi.

After the first match, where Messi had had a relatively quiet game, some of the pressure had seemingly been taken off the small Argentine. Now don’t get me wrong, most people know I’m a big fan of Arsenal, but above all else I am a fan of football and the performance of Messi was something to behold.

Throughout the match in the Camp Nou, Barca again dominated the possession while having a few lackluster attempts on goal, compared the 1st leg, where they barraged Arsenal goal with attempts. Then, around 18 minutes in, Abou Diaby stole the ball off Gabriel Milito and played in English winger Theo Walcott, who sprung the offside trap and burst through on goal, squaring for the inform Nicklas Bendtner, who at the second attempt, put the ball away.

The Barca fans and side were stunned silent and were in disbelief, however after this seamless act of “disrespect” Barca responded immediately and this is when Messi took the game to the Gunners in the final third, and thanks to poor defending from Mikael Silvestre, a sign of things to come, the Argentine smashed the ball in the top corner. The Camp Nou erupted, but Arsenal was still in with a shout.

16 minutes later Messi done it again. This time picking the ball up from 30 yards out, picked out a great pass to find Eric Abidal down the left, and attempt a square ball into the box, was poorly cleared by Arsenal again, the ball fell to Messi who had started the move, and dinked the ball over Almunia with his right foot. Again Messi celebrated, the Camp Nou again erupted, and Arsene Wenger looked dismayed. The Argentinean, pushed his team into the lead and carried the Barca team forward.

5 minutes later, the ball lost in midfield, a high line from Arsenal, a simple headed ball through, away goes Messi who carries the ball towards the goal, looks square, decides against playing in teenage prodigy Bojan, looks at Almunia and outrageously chips the Spaniard and wheels away in celebration. An excellent goal, to cap an excellent 21 minutes for the Argentine and for Barca.

Half time came and went, with Arsenal almost conceding immediately after half time, managed to restrict Barca to no more real chances. Arsenal brought on Eduardo and Eboue in an attempt to salvage something, but the Arsenal side look tired, and after chasing the Spanish giants for near enough 3 hrs of football, and with 2 minutes left on the clock, Xavi jinked passed Denilson, shimmied left and slid in Messi again... Eboue playing him onside, went passed the chasing back Clichy and Vermaelen, hitting his 1st shot directly at Almunia, and then easily smashing the rebound in.

4 goals in the one of the biggest games of the season, in the biggest club competition in the World. Messi undoubtedly the star of the show, head and shoulders above fellow professionals including the likes of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. After displaying amazing attacking ability and bravery, opposition boss Arsene Wenger said:
"I believe we lost against a team that is better than us and that has the best player in the world. Once he's on the run, Messi is unstoppable. He's the only player who can change direction at such a pace."
I echo these sentiments, and feel that not only is he the best player in the World, but the best ever. Some people say the likes of Pele, Eusebio, Bobby Charlton, George Best and who can forget the man he has been forever compared to Diego Maradona, but there were players from a different era. Messi is only 22 years old, and already has 119 goals in 204 games, while scoring 4 hat tricks this year alone.

This performance, along with his many other excellent displays in the number 10 shirt, showcasing his pace, bravery, amazing dribbling ability, power, strength and shooting accuracy, you’ll have to come up with a well thought out and valid argument, with some very strong reasoning for me to reconsider. In a team which won every tournament/competition it entered in calendar season 2008/2009 alone, and combined with great players such as Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Alves and many more, it seems not only is Messi the greatest ever, but he could be playing in the greatest team ever.

Real Talk Football gives its tributes to Lionel Messi. What’s more to come??

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Jose Mourinho: The Special One

The Man

Arguments again have arisen amongst football fans regarding the best 3 managers in the world, while I’m hearing names such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola, I believe Jose Mourinho should be in place of the Spaniard, although I respect Guardiola’s excellence with Barcelona, Mourinho’s ethics and impact on the game as a whole cannot be discounted.

The man with a degree in physical education, specialising in football methodology, worked many minor jobs before working his way to becoming the late great Bobby Robson’s apprentice, and subsequent assistant manager, at both FC Porto and FC Barcelona respectively in the mid 90’s. Motivational skills from Robson, and the added influence of Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal’s defensive mentality, preparation techniques and strategy, helped drive Mourinho’s appetite for management. In the year 2000, he got his first management job at Portuguese giants Benfica, but only lasted 9 months, before leaving to joining mid-table team Uniao de Leiria.


After one year with Uniao de Leiria, which saw him take the side to their best ever finish in the Portuguese top flight history, finishing in 5th place at the end of the 2000-2001 season, caught the eye of the biggest side in Portugal, FC Porto. Near enough everyone in World football knows the success he had at the club, but here’s what truly showcased his abilities. When he joined in 2002, in his 1st full season he took the club to a Portuguese Liga Title with a record 86 points, along with collecting the Portuguese Cup to complete a domestic double. In addition, Porto conquered the Europe, winning the UEFA Cup, beating Celtic 3-2 in the final, after extra time; achieving the “treble” in his first season with the club.

In his second season in Portugal, he continued his brilliant success, regaining the Portuguese Liga title, while ending as runners-up in both the European Super Cup, losing to Andriy Shevchenko’s AC Milan, and Portuguese Cup, losing to rivals Benfica. But the truly amazing performance came in the Champions League, whereby the much unfancied Porto won the trophy, destroying AS Monaco in the final 3-0. On route to the final, Mourinho’s side beat the likes of Deportivo, Lyon and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.

Players become synonymous with teams, for example Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is known for players such as Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas, Alex Ferguson with Ryan Giggs and David Beckham, but it is dually noticed that Mourinho’s Porto side consisted of some of the best and relatively unknown players in Europe, with the likes of Benni McCarthy, Deco, Vitor Baia, Ricardo Carvalho, Derlei, Carlos Alberto, Maniche, Costinha all going on to play for many different successful clubs.

West London

After the final victory, it seemed the lure of the big European clubs was too much and English money machine Chelsea were the club of choice the coach who had took FC Porto to back to back league and European titles in just two seasons. Joining Chelsea in the summer of 2004, he aptly named himself “the special one”, the media followed, and the rest as they say; was history.

He immediately transferred Chelsea into a World Class side, taking them to their 1st ever Premiership title and 1st league title in 50 years, breaking all sorts of records in the process. The side collected the record of most Premiership points of 95, fewest number of goals conceded, 15, highest number of league wins, 29, and most clean sheets in a season with 25. In his second season at the club, as if a form of Marmite; people either hated him or loved him! he regained the Premiership, making it Chelsea’s 2nd title. He also helped Chelsea maintain an unbeaten home record (at 60 games when he left the club) that ended in 2008 with an astonishing 86 games.

In his time at the club he finalized the successful signings of the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack. The relatively average signings of Paulo Ferreira, Arjen Robben, and Shaun Wright-Phillips, and the poor signings of Tiago Mendes, Scott Parker, Mateja Kezman and of course Andriy Shevchenko. However Chelsea collected the 2005 Carling Cup, 2007 Carling Cup and 2007 FA Cup, while Mourinho left the club by mutual consent 2 months into the 2007/08 season.

New Beginnings

After a year away from the game, in the summer of 2008, Mourinho returned to football replacing Roberto Mancini as manager of Serie A Champions Inter Milan. He signed the likes of Sulley Muntari, Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder, getting rid of Adriano, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hernan Crespo and Julio Cruz, while losing Luis Figo to retirement. He guided them to the Serie A title for the 17th time, tying in second with rival AC Milan in the history books, and they also picked up the Super cup. This season they look on course for another title and a Champion’s League semi-final, as they knocked out former side Chelsea on route.

Should he be considered as one of the best managers in the World? Unquestionable. He has revolutionised the game with his methods, and ability. Known for his confidence (sometimes regarded as arrogance), attention to detail, psychological influence and winning mentality, he has amassed one of the best records in Europe. With his unforgettable quotes, and success he has been touted as a future Real Madrid, Manchester United or even Arsenal manager in the near future. No matter what the case he is definitely a manager, who is respected throughout the game, in which fellow professionals will look to emulate, and is one of the most sought after managers in the World.