Saturday, 25 June 2011

Who is Raphaël Varane?

Raphaël Varane is an 18 year old French centre back who currently plays for French Ligue 1 side Lens, and is widely expected to sign for Spanish giants Real Madrid within the next couple of weeks.

Varane signed for RC Lens at the age of just 9, made his way through their renowned youth setup for eight years before making his way into the Lens reserve team last summer. Barely two months had past with the reserve team saw him drafted into the first team squad, and he eventually made his debut aged just 17 years old, in the 2-0 victory over Montpellier.

He was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United over the past month, and records show that the English club first showed interest as early as January. However, a deal is in place for the youngster to sign Real Madrid, with football legend Zinedine Zidane having a significant influence on the deal, after he strongly recommended the defender to Real Madrid. Madrid eventually ended up paying more than €10million to Lens, fending off reported interest from Lille, Paris Saint Germain, Arsenal, Marseille and Borussia Dortmund, signing him down to a five year contract. reports that the 18 year old is “a powerful, robust defender who already boasts impressive physical attributes despite his young age”. Zidane has lauded Varane as having a “great future” and comparing him to France World Cup winner Laurent Blanc.

My view on the 18 year old is that he is a great talent and could certainly be the future of French football. He has received some outstanding comments and plaudits from some of the most respected people in the game. Going to Real Madrid at such a young age, is what concerns me about this deal. Real are not known for nurturing young talent and incorporating them into the first team duties, their known for singing establish class players at outlandish prices.

Already at the club are first choice defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe, as well as Raul Albiol and Ezequiel Garay, so Varane is in great company but will have severely limited first team opportunities considering he has only completed his first full season at the highest level, playing for a side that were relegated from Ligue 1.

A loan deal may be an option, but again this may damage his development, and he could join the list of young players who are at Real Madrid, and have been either farmed out on loan or just forgotten about and thrown on the scrap heap; names such as Pedro Leon, Esteban Granero and Serio Canales come to mind. Although I hope Madrid have a plan for Varane and don’t just waste his talents. It would have been interested to see him play another three or four seasons in the French league, and see if he could actually live up to the hype. One thing’s for certain, he’s a player of great potential, will a large fan base already, and hopefully will get the opportunity to prove his worth.

Here’s all you need to know

Age: 18 years old

Date of Birth: 25/04/1993

Place of Birth: Lille, France

Height: 6ft 3in

Position: Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder

Appearances: 22 Goals: 2

France U21 Caps: 3

Here’s the only real video of him on YouTube, he’s tidy in possession and reads the play quite well. Varane Vs Auxerre.

Real Talk Football

Who is Ricardo Alvarez?

With Arsenal fans crying out for Arsene Wenger to spend a little bit of cash and compete with the their Premiership rivals in this summer’s transfer window, on things such as a new centre back, a goalkeeper, or a striker. A player with experience, someone with commitment and a desire to win titles, an interesting transfer story broke yesterday afternoon from one of the most unlikely sources. Maurizio Zamparini, the president of Italian side U.S. Città di Palermo, declared their interest in Velez Sarsfield midfielder Ricardo Alvarez, yet curiously at the same time pulled his side out of the running for the signing of the 23 year old, claiming he had “already signed for the Gunners (Arsenal)”.

The 23 year old Argentinean has made 42 appearances for the Buenos Aires based club, and has chipped in with 5 goals. He is a left footed, attacking midfielder capable of operating on either the left side of midfield or in the central attacking midfield role. He is seen as more of a winger with flair, great technical abilities and dribbling skills.

He was first linked with the Gunners after Arsenal Chief Scout; Steve Rowley was seen assessing the Argentine playing for his club side in a Primera Division game last month. Rumours of a transfer fee of around £11 million have been touted in the British media. Now of course, this is just speculation at the moment, and we know Arsenal of all clubs, are the most secretive when it comes to transfers, and nothing can be confirmed until it’s on the clubs official website (forget BBC news, twitter or Sky Sports, it’s become accustomed to their recent transfers of the past few seasons).

Another intriguing underlying concept to this transfer story is that it came on the same day as Spanish giants rekindled their persistent pursuit of Arsenal’s club captain Cesc Fabregas, and made derisory £27 million bid. The Catolonia bred playmaker, who has a fondness for Arsenal and more specifically Arsene Wenger, has Barcelona in his blood, and is yet to commit himself to the North London side this summer. This has left some media outlets, and even Arsenal fans, sounding out Ricardo Alvarez as a replacement for the 24 year old Spanish World Cup winner.

Alvarez, a player with limited information available in the UK (but has lots of YouTube videos) is 6ft 2in with great balance and determination. He’s been compared to Robert Pires when he first joined from Marseille, and is said to impact games in spells, rather than be a persistent influence throughout the match (similar to the way he Andrey Arshavin has been playing of late, Arsenal fans will no longer allow passenger on the pitch anymore in my opinion).

It remains to be seen if this deal will actually materialise, and I could have wasted an hour writing this blog post up, but with the amount of Arsenal fans that have tweeted me asking about this “Alvarez bloke”, I thought I’d give some of the info I could actually find on the 23 year old. Arsenal apparently now only faces competition from Inter, Malaga, Sevilla, Schalke and Roma for Alvarez, and he reportedly has a £10.6 million release clause in his contract.

Here’s all you need to know

Age: 23 - April 12th 1988
Position: Left Winger, Attacking Midfielder, Second Striker
Club Apps: 42 Club Goals: 5
Argentina Primera Division: 2009, 2011

Below is a video of the Ricardo Alvarez in action

Real Talk Football

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

André Villas-Boas – Football’s Brightest Prospect

With a relatively short experienced manager set to take over the reigns at Chelsea, in one of the biggest transfers of the summer, we ask the questions, and give you the answers into Football’s Brightest Prospect’s and the future Chelsea manager; André Villas-boas

Who is André Villas-Boas?

Luis André de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas, known commonly as André Villas-Boas, is a Portuguese football manager born on the 17th October 1977. He is 33 years old and widely expected to take over the vacant managerial position at Premiership side Chelsea. He was an apprentice of late Sir Bobby Robson, who helped him gain his coaching qualifications in the United Kingdom. He has established himself of fantastic scout and strategist of the modern game through backroom spells at Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea.

He is the former manager of Portuguese sides Academica, and FC Porto.

He worked as a trainee with the FC Porto youth team in 1994, under the invitation of Sir Bobby Robson. In 1999, he took the role of technical director of the British Virgin Islands, and in the year 2000 he became the youngest international manager at the time, taking over the national side.

Villas-Boas, who ascertained his UEFA C license in Scotland, stayed in the Caribbean for over a year and a half managing the Virgin Islands national team aged just 21. He remembers the time their well, and admits that it was a difficult learning curve, yet an important experience none the less.

He moved back to Portugal, and was appointed manager of the Porto under 19’s. A role he held up until 2002, when Jose Mourinho was appointed FC Porto first team manager. Mourinho was familiar with Villas-Boas during his time as Sir Bobby Robson’s assistant at Sporting Lisbon, and employed Villas-Boas as a member of the first team coaching staff.

Jose Mourinho had referred to Villas-Boas as his “eyes and ears”, and he was a vital member of the all conquering FC Porto team who won back to league titles (03/04, 04/05), the 2003 UEFA Cup and 2004 Champions League titles.

When Mourinho exited to join Chelsea, Villas-Boas was one of the first men hired to Mourinho’s back room staff. During his tenure at Chelsea, he was in charge of developing strategy, as well as pre match preparation. He was a member of the Chelsea staff that won back to back Premiership titles in 2004/05, 05/06. As well as two League Cups, and the 2007 FA Cup.

When Jose Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea manager in 2007, he waited nine months before joining Inter Milan as manager. Villas-Boas again was drafted in, and again, was a vital member of the back room staff and in their successful title victory.

Villas-Boas was there for only one season, before he left to try his hands at senior management, taking the vacant managerial role at Academica, back in the Portuguese Liga. He secured top flight survival, for a club who were known as one of the weakest side in the Portugal, and he guided them to the Portuguese cup semi-final.

His impressive managerial skills didn’t go unnoticed and he was given the chance to join one of the biggest club in Europe; a role as FC Porto first team manager. His career path followed the same long winding roads, similar to that of his former colleague; Jose Mourinho. The man who has made it no secret that he holds Villas-Boas in extremely high regard.

What are his managerial credentials?

In only his second season in professional management, as manager of FC Porto he guided his side to the Portuguese Primera Liga, Portuguese Cup, Portuguese Super Cup and the UEFA Europa League.

His side blasted their way to the title, scoring 73 goals in 30 matches, winning 27 matches, drawing 3 games and losing none. His side amassed 84 points, and boasted a defence which only conceded 16 goals.

Hulk was the side top goalscorer, hitting 23 goals. Radamel Falcao hit 16 league goals, and scored a record 18 Europa League goals in 16 games.

He broke many records in charge of FC Porto
  • He became the youngest manager to win the UEFA Europa League, aged just 33 years old and 213 days
  • The club record for the most matches across all competitions unbeaten (36). This record was previously held by José Mourinho at 33 matches.[11] Part of this streak was completed by the previous coach of FC Porto, Jesualdo Ferreira
  • The most wins in Europe in one season by a Portuguese club (14)
  • The most points in a 30-game Portuguese league season (84)
  • The highest number of consecutive wins in the Portuguese league (16)
  • The biggest margin over the second placed team in the league (21)
  • The only team to win the Portuguese league without being beaten aside from Benfica in 1972/73
  • On 3 April 2011, Villas-Boas won his first Primeira Liga, five rounds before the end, by defeating second-place Benfica 2–1 away at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon,[15] becoming the third youngest coach to win it, only behind Mihály Sistka (1938–39) and Juca (1961–62). It is the second time that Porto won the Portuguese league by beating its rival at its home soil, the first time being 71 years ago, in the 1939–40 season when Porto clinched the title by defeating Benfica at the Estádio das Amoreiras
  • On 22 May 2011, Villas-Boas won the Treble by winning the Portuguese Cup, equalizing Tomislav Ivić (when he won 4 titles for Porto in 1987/88), and making Porto the first (and only) European team to win a treble twice (Portuguese League, Portuguese Cup and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League)
What will he bring to Chelsea?

Off the back of a sensational record breaking season, it’s clear he is all about attacking free flowing football. He advocates the 4-3-3 formation, which Chelsea fans became huge admirers of during Mourinho’s reign in charge.

He is a known strategist, a great planner and tactician, with a solid in depth analysis of every opponent. He has the outlook of a scout, combined with the intuition of a coach. The BBC reported that preparation is key for Villas-boas, with every training session being very specific for preparing for the next match. No two training sessions in a day, just one intensive session in the morning, demanding maximum concentration and commitment. Training methods similar to that of Barcelona’s, lots of passing in short spaces, short and sharp, quick and under pressure, pass-and-move with the long ball game a non entity.

A scouting report was posted online a few years ago, was in preparation for a match between Chelsea and Newcastle. The pre match scouting report showed in depth detail on the opponents strengths, weaknesses, ability from set plays, corners, free kicks, everything. He picked up the moniker of “Director of opposition intelligence” during his time at Stamford Bridge, and was renowned for his creating pre match reports which included “personalised DVD’s” of opposition players.

For a copy of the scouting report, tweet me @ and I’ll send you the link.

Can he become a success?

Let’s be honest, one name has cropped up throughout this blog post, and that is Jose Mourinho. Villas-Boas has taken the same career path, and without doubt has a similar understanding and knowledge of the game, and is a man who comes up with the plan to win. A game plan which has brought great success and achievements, both domestically and internationally. Okay the Portuguese League isn’t regarded as one of the toughest in Europe, but its a professional, competitive league none the less, with skilful players and fantastic individual talent.

Villas-Boas is different from Mourinho, he’s more humble and reserved, and has earned great respect over the past year. Seemingly while Mourinho’s reputation has taking a slight decline due to some of his outlandish statements and comments made over the past season.

For Villas-Boas, he will look at it this way. Their will undoubtedly be comparisons to Mourinho, both were never professional footballers. Both were protégé’s of the great Sir Bobby Robson. Both were vital figures behind the scenes before becoming successful managers, both cutting their teeth in Portugal’s northern region.

Villas-Boas is his own man, with his own methods, who has a great knowledge of the game, and has great respect for Mourinho. He will in not want to be judged by the standards he set (especially at Chelsea), nor will he like to be played off against as in some sort of young buck looking to take the “Special One” title.

Chelsea will have an exciting fresh faced manager in charge, with great maturity and intelligence. He will however be judged on how he copes in arguably the World’s toughest league. He’ll be managing the Premiership runners-up, managing some big names within that side; the much talked about player power struggles between players and manager, main culprits being the Club’s captain/spokesman John Terry (who has had his fair share of controversy in the past few years), Frank Lampard (who is the same age as Villas-Boas), Didier Drogba (who is undecided about where his future lies), and the most intriguingly the misfiring Fernando Torres. Can he be the man to rejuvenate the Spanish international, and get him scoring again?

A lot of important questions. All of which can be answered, if he is given time to implement his ways at Stamford Bridge. All football fans are aware of Roman Abramovich having this Real Madrid like culture, whereby unless a manager is delivering the Champions League title, the Premiership title is the only other option that can save your job for another year.

Villas-Boas is a young man, and will need time. One season at the very least he’s guaranteed, but two or three would give a well rounded opportunity to assess how successful/unsuccessful he could really be.

His record in the short period of time he’s spent as a manager, is excellence, and must be what Roman Abramovich for him to fork out nearly £13.3 million compensation for the 33 year old.

My message to the Chelsea fans who are sceptical about the man, or who just don’t know too much about him, is that they have every reason to be optimistic. Villas-Boas has a history of working behind the scenes at Chelsea during their most successful period in their history, as well as the skills he has learned working with Mourinho at Inter, Porto and with Chelsea.

Villas-boas has a chance the dynasty both he, and Abramovich desire. The real question is; can both coincide long enough for relationship to be triumphant or will Abramovich’s ruthless streak in a quest for the Champions League damage the best candidate for that achievement since Mourinho left? Time is the essential factor, but whatever the outcome is, we are in for another enthralling Premier League season, let alone a captivating summer, and the possibility of a new Special One hitting these shores.

Leave your thoughts below, and let me know what you think of the André Villas-Boas and how do you think he will fair at Chelsea?

Real Talk Football

Monday, 6 June 2011

Málaga – Spanish Football’s Billionaires

Andalusia, situated in the southern region of Spain, is a destination well known to people in England because it’s one of the top tourist destinations for holiday makers. The tourist hotspot is home to two teams, Sevilla and Málaga who all play in Spain’s top flight division La Liga. Next year’s campaign will exceed by one, at the very least, as Real Betis gained promotion to the top flight after finishing top of the Segunda Division (Spain’s second tier of professional football). Granada CF could be the fourth side from the region to compete in La Liga, should they win the Segunda Division play-offs.

Some of you may be familiar with a couple of the sides located in the south of Spain, Sevilla who won the back to back UEFA Cup titles in 06’ and 07’. Newly promoted Real Betis, a club which has had their ups and downs over the past few years, has been home to some fantastic players in the past such as Denilson (Brazilian winger who Betis once paid $21.5million back in 1998), Marco Assunção (a culture centre midfielder and free kick specialist) and finally Spanish winger Joaquin who now plays with Valencia, and once commanded a fee of €25million.

With these great rivals becoming a focus of things to come next season, there is a captivation story unfolding amongst the third side from the area, who look to build their history after a turbulent recent one, which saw them dissolved in the early 1992 and then forced them to make their way up the football ladder and back into the top flight in 1999. They would continue their superb rise and fully establish themselves as a mainstay mid table side in Spain’s top flight for the next six years until the 2005/06 season were there troubles began to reappear.

The Andalusian outfit were relegated from La Liga with an embarrassing total of just 24 points. To make matters worse, during their first season back in the Segunda, they almost suffered back to back relegation, finishing just six points away from the relegation places. They managed to regain their form in the 2007/08 season, finishing second in the league, and gaining automatic promotion back into the top flight.

During their return to the top flight, they finished brilliantly in 8th place at the end of the 08/09 season, but they were back to their old ways the very next, scraping past relegation in the next season, finishing 17th.

Heading into the 2010/11 campaign, they were one of the favourites to slip out of the division. However in that summer before the season began, an interesting development befell the club, as the club’s owner Lorenzo Sanz sold the club for a report €36 million. The significance of this deal was that it had given the club a new lease of life and cleared all of the side’s debt. The buyer? One man named Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nassar Al-Thani, a Qatari businessman and billionaire, member of the Qatari ruling family.

The Sheikh, whose full name is Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Abdullah Al Ahmed Al Thani, who has ties to the Al Nair Stud horse collection, manages a “Business Empire based in the United Arab Emirates which employs around 3,000 people and operates in more than 30 coutntries”.

The Sheik’s aims for this Málaga team? "Our goal is to help Málaga take the necessary steps to consolidate its presence in La Liga and to reinforce the excitement and hopes of the supporters.”. His first move was to relieve Juan López Muñiz of his position, and employed Jesualdo Ferreira. The Portuguese manager had built up a career in his home country, but was given only four-and-a-half months in charge as Málaga and was sacked with the club underperforming and sitting in 18th place in the league.

In stepped the well respected and established coach; Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who had had success with Villarreal and a short yet successful stint at Real Madrid. His immediate aim was to steer Malaga clear of relegation. In the winter transfer window came the unattached, and well travelled Enzo Maresca, the well experienced but somewhat of a liability Martin Demichelis, defensive midfielder Ignacio Camacho, goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero and finally inspired signing Julio Baptista.

A mix of technically sound, experienced and hungry players added to a squad that already possessed Simon Rondón who scored 12 of his 14 goals in 30 games under Pellegrini. Established central midfielder Apoño made 27 appearances, winger Eliseu who made 35 appearances, and club captain; right back Jesús Gámez made 30 appearances. All key players helping the sides eventually finish in 11th place. Mission one accomplished.

Testament to Pellegrini, and the €2.5million gamble Julio Baptista inspiring Málaga to this fantastic finish, was that on the 10th April 2011, with eight matches remaining were five points from safety. Pellegrini, and Baptista, who scored seven goals in the final eight games of the season, inspired “The Anchovies” to shoot up the table, collecting 17 points with a record of D, W, W, W, W, W, D, L for those remaining games.

A fantastic turn around for the club, and now it’s the opportunity for Málaga side, a team who in the next few years, have ambitions to make a serious impact against La Liga’s two dominant sides, will now be bankrolled by their respective Qatari owner, just like Manchester City and there rich Middle Eastern owners in the English Premier League, Málaga have a reported budget of €100million to spend in this summer.

Abdullah Ghubn, the Vice President who runs the club on behalf of Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani, has been vocal recently, stating that with Real Madrid and Barcelona negotiated their TV deals individually rather than in European leagues were “clubs bargain collectively and income is shared more equitably” he feels La Liga could get boring, and fans could get disinterested due to the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

One thing’s for certain, the influx of foreign ownership may not be as bad as some fans are making out. Getafe has recently been taking over by Dubai based Royal Emirates Group, but it remains to be seen whether they have the supposed financial backing as this Málaga side. A signal of intent is that they have signed great Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistlerooy, at 35 years old, he of course past his prime, but still has something to offer.

Would it be so negative if the club broke up into the top four, and eventually managed to topple the top two teams in La Liga? Manchester City have shown its possible in England, but it seems all too farfetched idea with regards to the Spanish league, as I believe that no amount of money could simple overpower the fan base, great tradition and football philosophy of Barcelona or Real Madrid in Spain. In their league, they are miles ahead of fellow competitors and expected to be there for years to come. One thing the ambitious Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani can take solace in, is the fact his club is definitely heading in the right direction under Pellegrini, and given time, they could reach the heights Sevilla did a year years ago, in the domestic cups or even on the European stage.

Finally it seems the label of relegation/promotion “Yo-Yo club” could fade away as long as the club keep the excellence Manuel Pellegrini in charge, maintain the squad with a good degree of depth, whether they can challenge for the title remains to be seen, but a fresh face throwing their hat into the ring for a the places in the upper echelons of La Liga, whether through financial means or youth development methods, anyone who can break up the duopoly of Real and Barca is a refreshing and welcome side in my eyes.

Real Talk Football

Friday, 3 June 2011

Euro 2012 - England vs. Switzerland Preview

Since we are all suffereing from the lack of football this week, the final game of the 2010/11 season is England's Euro 2012 Qualifier against Switzerland. England won 3-1 away in Basle last time round, and are expected to collect maximum points again this weekend.

Kick off: 4.45pm
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

England 4-3-3

Switzerland team 4-5-1

Player’s one yellow away from suspensions


o Ashley Young
o Ashley Cole
o Gareth Barry
o Glen Johnson


o Eren Derdiyok
o Stephan Lichtsteiner
o Valon Behrami
o Tranquillo Barnetta
o Stephane Grichting

England Squad

Scott Carson, Joe Hart, David Stockdale

Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jagielka, Glen Johnson, Joleon Lescott, John Terry, Kyle Walker

Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, Stewart Downing, Adam Johnson, Frank Lampard, James Milner, Scott Parker, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young

Strikers:Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Bobby Zamora

Switzerland National Team

Ranked number 25 in the FIFA World Rankings

Head coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld
- 62 years old, German
- Been in charge since July 1st 2008
- Used to play for Swiss side FC Basle
- Nicknamed the General

Last 6 results – L, L, W, D, D, D

Tues 07/09/10 - Euro 2012 Qualifier - Switzerland 1 – 3 England
Fri 08/10/10 - Euro 2012 Qualifier - Montenegro 1 – 0 Switzerland
Tues 12/10/10 - Euro 2012 Qualifier - Switzerland 4 – 1 Wales
Wed 17/11/10 - Friendly - Switzerland 2 – 2 Ukraine
Wed 09/02/11 - Friendly - Malta 0 – 0 Switzerland
Sat 26/03/11 - Euro 2012 Qualifier - Bulgaria 0 – 0 Switzerland

Squad Goalkeeper

Diego Benaglio – 27 years old – 34 caps – Club: Vfl Wolfsburg

Faces still competition from fellow goalkeeper Marco Wolifi. Wolifi has started three of the last six Swiss matches, while Benaglio has started the other three. (Pictured)

Marco Wölfli – 28 years old – 9 caps – Club: BSC Young Boys
Currently vying with Benaglio for the number one spot. Has played in two qualifiers and one friendly, out of Switzerland’s last six matches.


Reto Ziegler – 25 years old – 23 caps 1 goal – Club: Juventus
He had spells in England with Tottenham and Wigan, and most recently joined Juventus. Likely to start at left back

Johan Djourou – 24 years old - 25 caps 1 goal – Club: Arsenal
He has made 37 appearances for arsenal after missing a year of football and the Swiss side’s 2010 world cup campaign. Likely to start centre-back. (Pictured)

Stéphane Grichting – 32 years old – 45 cpas 1 goals – Club: Auxerre
The Auxerre defender has made the centre half position his own after injuries to first choice pair Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos saw them miss a large portion of the Swiss fixtures. He is the only player over 30 in the squad.

Stephen Lichtsteiner – 27 years old – 36 caps – Club: Lazio
Fiery right back, he was sent off against England in the last meeting between the two sides in 2010. Almost a certainty to start right back.


Philippe Senderos – 26 years old – 41 caps 5 goals – Club: Fulham
Well known for his time at Arsenal, he now plays for Fulham. He missed most of the season due to a cruciate knee injury and only managed two appearances this season, and unlikely to start.

Steve Von Bergen – 27 years old – 21 caps – Club: Cesena
Centre back who earned his place due to Senderos’ and Djourou’s long term injuries. Featured in two of Switzerland’s three matches at the 2010 World Cup


Tranquillo Barnetta – 26 years old – 58 caps 6 goals – Club: Bayer Leverkusen
The versatile midfielder is the most experienced member of the squad, with 58 caps. He can operate on either wings or can play in the defensive midfield role. Expected to start on the left side of midfield.

Gokhan Inler – 26 years old – 47 caps 4 goals – Club: Juventus
Expected to be appointed for this game, after Alexander Frei’s retirement. He’s played in all four Euro 2012 qualification games this season. (Pictured)

Pirmin Schwegler – 24 years old – 11 caps – Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Defensive minded midfielder expected to sure up the middle with Inler. Featured in five of the last six matches under Hitzfeld.

Valon Behrami – 26 years old – 29 caps 2 goals – Club: Fiorentina
Well known to England fans for his three years with West Ham United. The right sided player is expected to feature of the right midfield postion, and is of Albanian descent.

Xherdan Shaqiri – 18 years old – 10 caps 1 goal – Club: FC Basel
One of the most promising Swiss players for some time, caught the attention of English fans after scoring the only goal with a sensational strike in the 3-1 defeat last September. Left footed, but operates wide right or behind the striker, likes to cut inside onto his left foot. Has played almost 60 games for FC Basle.


Gelson Fernandes – 24 years old – 33 caps 2 goals – Club: Saint-Etienne
Tall, strong defensive minded midfielder who may be remembered for his time in the Premiership with Manchester City, where he spent two years, played 43 games scoring 3 goals. He was Switzerland under-21’s captain.

Blerim Džemaili – 25 years old – 12 caps – Club: Parma
Spent two years contracted to Bolton Wanders (2007-09) but didn’t make a single appearances for the English club, and spent most of that time on loan in Italy with Torino. Plays predominantly as a central midfielder

Xavier Margairaz – 27 years old – 18 caps 1 goal – Club: FC Zurich
A defensive midfielder who spent all but one season of his career playing in the Swiss football. He had an unsuccessful stint at Osasuna in 07/08 but now plays for Swiss Super League runners-up FC Zurich

Granit Xhaka – 18 years old – 0 caps – Club: FC Basle
Uncapped at senior level, only previous outing in any form for Switzerland is for the under-17 level where he featured in 13 games. Can operate as a forward


Eren Derdiyok – 22 years old – 31 apps 2 goals - Club: Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Scored on his international debut at Wembley in February 2008 when England won 2-1 in coach Fabio Capello’s first match in charge. Tall, strong striker who adds more to the team in way of presence and work ethic than goals. (Pictured)


Admir Mehmedi – 20 years old – 0 caps – Club: FC Zurich
Uncapped young striker who has scored 21 goals in 76 appearances for his club.

Innocent Emeghara – 22 years old – 0 caps – Club: Grasshoppers
Uncapped young striker who was born in Nigeria and has opted to play for Switzerland. This is his first international call up. Has 4 goals in 3 games at Under-21 level

Players missing

Valentin Stocker – Out with a knee injury. Out for around 8 months, was expected to start on the left side of midfield

Alex Frei and Marco Streller – Both retired due to criticism after the 0-0 draw with Bulgaria

Average age of the Switzerland squad: 24.8 years old
Average age of the England squad: 26.7 years old

Real Talk Football