Real Madrid

Real Madrid finally got it right… La Decima… And Ronaldo can get his third Ballon D’or

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Real Madrid finally found a suitable formula this year, and it’s been so unconventional that it’s somehow become practical… To start, Carlo Ancelotti has been exactly what Ronaldo’s needed, a manager with a calm demeanor that has never gotten too full of himself to take away the spotlight from his number 9. And, the other thing that they got right – Gareth Bale – a player that shines in big games where Ronaldo does not…

Whereas Ronaldo seems intimidated and swept away by being on center stage (despite the fact that he loves to be there) during huge matches, it seems Gareth Bale is intrepid and thrives off it. He veins are ice cold and he never seems taken aback by the fierceness that comes with a big match.

… Back to Ancelotti, his starting lineup this year draws some comparisons to Barcelona’s over the better part of the past decade… Di Maria acts like Iniesta, weaving his way through defenders from center midfield to help start attacks, and sometimes finish them. Modric is like Xavi, he can make the right passes and knows when to join the attack and stay back with Alonso. And, Xabi Alonso (who I believe has been their most solid player this year, despite his somewhat long injury absence this campaign) is a jewel in front of Ramos and Pepe – his positioning, attentiveness, and awareness are absolutely outstanding. Let me put it this way, Sergio Busquets (who plays a similar role with Barca, and I think is massively overrated) has nothing on Xabi Alonso…

Let me repeat myself, Real Madrid finally got it right – and this has huge ramifications on their fiercest rival and counterpart Barcelona, specifically, their gem, Leo Messi. Real has a team that’s young enough to shine for at least the next five years. Barcelona’s needs a complete overhaul, Xavi should not start anymore (Barca can’t run their attack through him anymore), they need someone with more attacking pop. In other words, they need to transition to a system of attack with faster buildup… Neymar doesn’t thrive in a system that appreciates possession like Barca’s, in fact, I’d venture as far to say that if Neymar were to be on Real, and Bale on Barca, Neymar would have excelled just as much (if not even more) this year. Furthermore, Messi is only 26 years old, he needs to be part of an attack that emphasizes speed, and some semblance of the counterattack, instead of a pure possession. I know these guys are all long shots, but Barca need to buy someone like Reus, Lucas, Bernard, or Julian Draxler… and they never should have let Thiago move to Bayern… But let’s move on… Real Madrid’s success this year has huge consequences on the football world… Specifically on Leo Messi…

First of all, Ronaldo is probably the happiest man alive at the moment… He knows better than anyone whatRonaldo Pic the Le Decima means… yes, that’s right, another Ballon D’or… Which of course can be solidified with a great performance at this summer’s World Cup… The only thing standing in his way, and perhaps his worst nightmare, would be for Argentina to lift the World Cup. That said though, I do believe that if Diego Costa shines this summer, he could also be a huge contender for the Ballon D’or next year as well… But anyway…

Ronaldo’s stats this past campaign have been nothing short of miraculous, 51 goals in 47 appearances vs. Messi’s 41 goals in 46 appearances (in all competitions)… Ronaldo scored 17 of those goals in the Champions league alone, a record that he now holds over Messi. Here’s the interesting part that needs to be emphasized: For the first time in forever Ronaldo is holding his own destiny in his hands… In other words, this year will not be one where he has to wait for Messi to slip-up or get injured in order to get crowned his third Ballon D’or, but rather he must maintain his current form to reach that success – and all signs point to him doing just that.

Bale PicThe additions of Carlo Ancelotti and Gareth Bale couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in Ronaldo’s career, and they couldn’t be more perfect fits. As previously stated, Ancelotti is calm, and he lets the players be themselves – unlike Mourinho, Ancelotti could give two damns how vain his players are and how often they stare at themselves in the mirror. In addition, Mourinho gives off a sense of knowing better than anyone and everyone else, Ancelotti does not – and this does wonders in the Real Madrid dressing room… this allows them to focus on one and only task – winning football matches… In other words, when you have players like those on Real, that already possess swagger, you don’t perpetuate or challenge their sense of entitlement with a manager that has more swagger (Mourinho), and that, my friends, is why Ancelotti was successful this year – he let the players be themselves, he treated them like adults, and he listened to them rather than assuming he knew better than them. No better example is when Real wanted to sell off Di Maria with the idea that it would help finance the purchase of Bale… Ronaldo requested that Di Maria stay and Ancelotti (and Perez) listened… and now Di Maria is a starter.

Ancelotti is a magician, he didn’t show any excitement or get ahead of himself when Bale scored the tying goal against Atlético Madrid this past weekend… he remained calm and collected, and because of that, so did his team… 

Now, only two questions remain: who do you believe has been Real’s most valuable player this campaign? … And at which position should Real Madrid strengthen this summer?  Take a second to answer the poll questions below and in the comments section please let me know which player (at the position you answered in the poll question) should be bought.


FC Barcelona

Puyol’s replacement? Who should Barca buy?

It goes without saying that soccer has changed a lot over the last decade, it really has evolved to a point where attacking football is now sometimes viewed as the newest and best form of defense. That point is purely evident by taking a look at the most successful club and international teams over the past decade, Spain, and FC Barcelona.

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Both teams employed a Tika-Taka system that kept possession of the ball and gradually tired out their opponents to a point of submission (leaving very little for their own team’s defenders to do aside from passing the ball forward to their midfielders). All that being said, it seems Tika-Taka may have ran it’s course as evidenced by Spain’s failure to defend against the blistering pace of Brazil’s counter attack at the confederations cup, and Bayern’s humbling loss to Real’s similarly rough and tumble yet somehow systematic counter-attack in the Champions league semi-finals this year. Furthermore, both losses have pointed out something more interesting than the supposed death of tike-taka: The death of the pure defender, a player so sound that he alone can stonewall a counter-attack (or any attack) through brash ingenuity.

The pure central defender is hard to find these days amongst those considered to be some of the Puyol Blog Picbest at that position…  Vincent Kompany, Pique, Thiago Silva, Ramos, David Luiz, Koscielny (Dislaimer: Yes I know two are Spanish, and two are Brazilian, and perhaps Hummels is pushing slightly) are all very technically sound, and, in some ways, lack that killer defensive instinct inherent to central defenders that dominated the game throughout the 2000’s… Puyol, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini, Thuram, Sol Campbell, Lucio, Walter Samuel…

In short, I miss all of those players a lot, and not because they are legends, but because they all represent an era that now almost seems ancient to the modern footballer, and football fan… and that hurts. (But, because football is so enigmatic decade to decade, I think we’ll see a new reliance on defense, and a new generation of pure defenders… or at least I hope). 

Going out on a limb here, I’m going to make the claim that had a healthy (and young) Puyol been on Spain’s 2013 Confederations cup squad, they would have beat Brazil… Here’s why: Puyol’s brilliance is derived from many qualities, but one quality that stands out far more than the others is his ability to purely and instinctively defend (without any desire or want to attack). And, purely relying on his defensive instinct, he saved both Barcelona and Spain on countless occasions with his last ditch tackles, positional awareness, and most of all, brash ingenuity.

Aside from Terry, Vidic (who are old and practically done), Georgio Chillieni and I hate to say it, but maybe even Pepe (when he’s focused and decides to be ultra-defensive and doesn’t flail around on the ground as if he’s on fire after being nudged ever so slightly by another player), I’m unsure if I can name many other players as purely defensive as the aforementioned ones that ruled the 2000’s… and this brings me to another discussion… Who should Barcelona buy to plant next to Pique in the center of their defense? It’s a perplexing question because I’m of the belief that they need someone purely defensive, although there really aren’t many players that fit that mold anymore (as is the point of this article). But, I can say that I wouldn’t try to sign David Luiz because they need someone more defensive-minded.

A couple of  candidates that I would suggest, Holger Badstuber, Matts Hummels, Eliaquim Mangala, Marquinhos (If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments section)

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Manchester United

Muller would be a nice fit, but…

With all the talk surrounding Louis Van Gaal’s impending appointment as manager at Manchester Louis Van Gaal Blog Photo
United, some have forgotten that his real goal this summer will be to bring world cup glory to the Netherlands.  Now then, if he fails to bring them success this summer, and Van Persie doesn’t score a lot of goals (or any) for his country, would United fans still want him to be their manager? It’s a very relevant question (relevant poll question below) that sometimes makes me believe it’s rather stupid to speculate potential transfer moves that Van Gaal will want to make… however, I can’t resist, so let’s discuss the topic anyway, with a focus on Thomas Müller… 

Thomas MullerLet’s start with the positive: The BEST part about Müller is that he’s perhaps the most dynamic player in the world; he can play middy, striker, winger, and play them all effectively. But, let’s be honest, Man United don’t need a striker or winger (if it’s true that Gaal plans to keep Nani), they need a middy and some new defenders. So, with that said, it makes most sense for Müller to play in some kind of middy role… Please let me know in the comments section if you agree?

Now for the negative: The WORST part about Müller is that he’s too dynamic. I believe this to be the reason that Pep Guardiola has failed to make him a regular starter in his lineup; because he didn’t know how or where to use/play him in his Tika-taka system. Now then, I suppose you can call me Pep, because I have no sense about where he’d figure into Man United’s squad either, especially with their current crop of players. With Van Persie, Rooney, and Welbeck (who I think has a bright future if given the proper chance as a regular starter) there is really no need for Müller, and here’s why… 

Football TacticsThe reason why Sir Alex Ferguson was successful throughout his career was because he didn’t start players just to start them (hence why Rooney wouldn’t start (with Van Persie) regularly during Fergie’s final year), but rather, he started a team that best fit his system. It was perhaps his most beautiful feature; he was never too concerned about how to stubbornly make a star player fit into his system, and he didn’t waste time doing it. If a player didn’t fit into his plans, then he chose someone that was more compatible and willing. Giggs and Scholes had long careers for this very reason, they were always willing to adapt for Ferguson, rather than have Ferguson adapt his team for a single player.

If Müller were to transfer over to Man United, I think that Van Gaal would have quite some trouble fitting him into the current team… But, if Van Gaal truly believes that Müller could fit into the system/formation/tactics that he wants to implement at United, then I approve the transfer, but he shouldn’t sign him (and rumors shouldn’t be flying around about a potential transfer) just because he’s seems to be an accessible option due to his public acknowledgment of discontent at Bayern.

If Manchester United were to make a move for Thomas Müller where do you think he’d fit it? What formation would they play? Do Manchester United fans even want him? Please let me know in the comments section. Plus, if you have a chance, take a sec to answer the poll question! 

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