Liverpool

Why Always Me will never walk alone…

Balotelli Man City PicWhy always me? That seems to be the question, and, the answer seems to be quite simple, really – because you make everything about you. Many players in the world would never get away with the mischievous crap that Mr. Balotelli has gotten away with in his career. He’s rubbed heads with Mourinho, who at one point called him “unmanageable,” and at another point, he even described managing him as a “comedy.” Even levelheaded Roberto Mancini’s had his fair share of fights with the kid, at one point even getting into somewhat of a physical altercation with him at the Man City training ground.

That said, at Milan last year, he was quite behaved, but is he really worth the risk for Balotelli Milan Pic
a Liverpool squad that’s bought into Brendan Rodger’s team mentality? I truly don’t know. The thought of Balotelli and Sturridge playing up front together seems rather mouth watering, but are they too similar of players? Will Balotelli give up on the pitch if things aren’t going right for him or the team? Those are questions that need to be considered…

Liverpool fans are known to be some of the best fans in the world. Above all else, they truly clamor over effort and work ethic on the pitch. As long as you give 100%, you’ll win over the hearts of their fans. But, does Balotelli play every game like it’s his last? Saurez truly embodied the mentality that Liverpool fans covet and relate to, like them, he’s a blue-collar guy. Furthermore, he plays every game with a passion that not too many players have, and that sometimes even he can’t handle (as represented by his three separate biting incidents). Plus, he produced on the pitch. Saurez worked for everything that he has today, not that Balotelli hasn’t, but Mario has been pampered his entire career, unlike his Uruguayan counterpart.

Saurez Balotelli PicSince he was a youth player, Balotelli’s antics have been put up with due to two things, his immense skill, and potential. But, now that he’s hitting the age of 24, that potential should have already been realized. Here’s what I mean by that: Had he already become world class as many expected, he wouldn’t have moved around so much, or been sold to Liverpool for a measly 16 million pounds. To put that in perspective, Barcelona bought Saurez for almost quadruple that price. And there’s a reason for that – although he’s sometimes just as ill-tempered, he’s also quadruple as talented. You can disagree with me there if you like, but, I’d stubbornly defend my point. The good news for Liverpool fans is that like Balotelli, Saurez came over to Liverpool when he was only 24, and over the course of the last three years, he’s developed into a world class footballer. So, Mario could conceivably do the same. But, because players of Suarez’s calibre are so rare, it’s hard to imagine that Balotelli will end up getting any better than he already is. I suppose Rodgers and the team around him will have a lot to do with his development.

Perhaps the best thing Balotell has to look forward to at Liverpool is the opportunity to play with such a young crop of talent. Balotelli crying picHe can grow with Sturridge, Henderson, Coutinho and Sterling. He can develop both in training and on the field with them. One moment that really stuck with me, was when he cried at Euro 2012, it expressed his desire for success, and if Rodgers can take him, and influence him to a point where the energy that he exerts into his silly antics is instead inserted into his energy on the field, he could be an awesome signing.

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Clubs, Real Madrid

Why sell an Angel?

A couple months ago I wrote an article with a poll question that asked readers who Di Maria pic for blogthey thought to be Real’s most valuable player this past year, obviously Cristiano Ronaldo won, but, Angel Di Maria ran away with second place – you can check out that article and poll question here.

Anyways, this brings me to the point of this article, and a question – why in the world is Angel Di Maria so undervalued by Real Madrid? I angrily ask this question because I think he’s been so integral to Real’s success this year. Not only did his run against Atletico set up Gareth Bale’s game winning header in the Champions Cup final, but, Di Maria also proved invaluable to the successes of Argentina at this past summer’s World Cup. He’s truly been solid all year, and I think he deserves much more respect and praise than he’s been given.

Di Maria and RonaldoFurthermore, why would Real sell a player that Cristiano told them to keep last summer? Clearly then, Ronaldo knew of how talented Di Maria was then, and that he could blossom even more over this past year…. It seems ridiculous that Real would sell him after such great form last year. When assessing Real’s transfers this past summer, I’m of the opinion that Di Maria is far more talented than James Rodríguez. I understand that James performed well at the World Cup, but I don’t believe that that merits Di Maria’s starting role. While I do think that it would be terrible for James not to start for Real this year, I also think that if I had to make a choice between Di Maria and James, I would pick Di Maria in a heartbeat, especially as he’s already used to King Carlo’s system of play.

With that said, if Real do sell him to PSG or Man United, and they don’t have a great campaign this year, Real’s management will take more slack than they would if they decided not to sell him. Moreover, I find it truly bothersome when the forces that be (management) take something that works, and try to make it better; in the footballing world management should adhere to this one old adage,  if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (or attempt to make it better)…

But back to Di Maria… His importance goes way beyond just his talent… He’s proven Messi and Di Mariahis ability to play well with the two best players in the world, with Ronaldo on Real, and Messi on Argentina. And, more importantly, he’s won their respect – which is an extremely difficult thing to do considering their God-like standard of play. The footballing gods that they are, have played well with their Angel, and Real’s management need to respect him more than they are by squashing transfer rumors and not even letting them begin.

From Di Maria’s perspective, I understand his desire to leave Real… I would also want to leave if my club’s management didn’t appreciate my efforts. Plus, considering that he’s at the pinnacle of his career, it’d make sense for him financially to make a big money move to a club like PSG and cash out… especially as his salary isn’t even remotely close to that of Gareth Bale’s.. Di Maria makes 3 million euros to Bale’s annual haul of 10 million… Which to me seem very ridiculous.

In review, it makes sense for Di Maria to want to leave, but, it doesn’t make sense for Real to want to sell him. Let me know in the comments section if you agree with my assessments or not!

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Clubs, Real Madrid

James Rodríguez will work well with Ronaldo, and be a huge success

James Rodríguez is an interesting signing for Real Madrid, he’s a playmaker – as proven by his time at Monoco, James Rodríguez pic for blogand he’s also a goal scorer – as proven by his World Cup performances. It’s difficult to assess where a player like him fits on a Real team with multiple playmakers… they just purchased Kroos, they already have Modric and Isco, and Di Maria for all intents and purposes plays an attacking playmaker role behind Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo. So where does a player like James Rodríguez fit in?

To answer that question let’s first assess the situation from Rodríguez’s perspective/point of view: after a world cup performance like his, he deserves not only a big money transfer (which he got), but also to start for the team that bought him. His mouth is probably watering at the prospect of playing with Real’s world class stars. He knows as well as anyone that this team is Ronaldo’s, and not his. He knows he must be humble, and work hard as he a smart young kid. But, in knowing that, he’s also aware that he will not have the limelight centered on him in the same way that it was at the World Cup (and for a very long time).

James Rodríguez pic 2 for blogFrom my perspective, James Rodríguez is not the kind of player that is going to get better sitting on the Real Madrid bench – he has a lot of potential to improve, but only through playing with his teammates and growing with them. Right now, he is only 23 years of age, he needs to be in the starting 11 to get a feel for his teammates and learn how they work around him on the pitch, and he must adjust to their movements and not the other way around: He is joining a team that found a lot of success last year, his job will be to figure out how he fits into Real’s current playing style; when Ronaldo transferred over to Real, the team was set with the objective to fit around him – this will not be the case for Rodríguez, as he will be left using his own ingenuity and smarts to gain respect on the pitch from his teammates.

Continuing on the above points: James Rodríguez can and will succeed at Real, but only if he starts immediatelyJames Rodríguez crying pic for blog – He knows as well as anyone that this Real Madrid squad is not his team, but that it’s Ronaldo’s, and considering his awareness of this situation (and his talent, I’m sure he can adjust to playing with him, and the rest of the squad). James is undoubtedly in one of the best situations ever, especially being that the talent surrounding him is at an extremely high – they will give him an opportunity to play well, but he can’t be content with a role off the bench, and I don’t think he would be… Rodríguez, like Ronaldo, is a competitor, sure he just received a massive paycheck to play for Real, but clearly that’s not what drives him to win.

Ronaldo crying pic for blogHe will find success because he plays with a heart and a desire similar to Ronaldo. I think that it’s a genuine display of drive, heart, and also a love for the sport when players cry. It’s a sign of how much the competition means to them – James cried at this past summer’s world cup, just as Ronaldo did back at Euro 2004 after being knocked out. Both of these players will learn to respect one another through their competitive natures and ultimately through this, James will be a great success at Real – but he must start!

I don’t know where he will start, but I only see Di Maria’s current role as a great fit for him. I suppose we’ll see how King Ancelotti figures him into his plans. For Ancelotti, it can’t hurt having so many insanely talented players… Unless, of course, you lose many competitions with them…

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Clubs, Real Madrid

Real Madrid going for a Kroos

Kroos pic for blogToni Kroos’ transfer to Real Madrid makes perfect sense; he is an extremely adaptable and balanced player, two attributes (along with many others) that make him a complete midfielder. What I mean by “complete” is that he can fit into any tactical scheme.  At Bayern over the past couple seasons he got used to a system that emphasized speedy attacks emanating from the wings. He manhandled the midfield and distribute the ball to the likes of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, (two worldclass wingers) that benefited greatly from his vision, tenacity and calm. Also at this past summer’s World Cup he fit into Germany’s tactical alignment,  playing a style of football that slowly grew attacks through fluid short passing. In other words, he can do it all…. Except one thing, but I’ll get to that later…

Aside from being a complete midfielder, he’s also a winner. Kroos already has German league titles, a Champions League victory and a World Cup under his belt.  Not only is he used to big competition, but he’s used to winning them. Moreover, he’s pretty smart too: he left Bayern at a perfect time: their team, although outstanding, is getting older… Who knows how long Ribery (31), Robben (30) and Schweinsteiger (about to turn 30) will last?

On the other hand – Real’s Benzema is 26, Di Maria is 26, and Bale only just turned 25 (all of them about to hit the peak of their careers). And then, there’s also Ronaldo, a player who is at the peak of his career. Furthermore, when you look at their defense, Ramos is 28, Marcelo 26, Carvajal 22, and Varane only 21… Real Madrid have a young team that’s already gelled together quite a bit, and when you add the adaptable Kroos into the mix, their team only gets better.

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The most interesting aspect of his transfer will be finding out how Carlo Ancelotti fits him into his current lineup. In my opinion, he’ll replace Xabi Alonso, and learn to play a slightly deeper role than he’s used to. If not, then I would imagine he’d split time with Modric, or, if Real Madrid do end up selling Di Maria, he would take his attacking midfield role.

Now, here’s the issue with this, Kroos can do it all except one thing: have the ability and flair to dribble the ball with speed past defenders whereas Di Maria is masterful at this.  Di Maria has been incredible in the attacking mid position right behind the front three BBC… So, if Acelotti truly wants to use the same system that he did last year that brought him so much success, then it would be to his benefit to use Kroos in either Modric’s box-to-box role, or Alonso’s role in front of the back four.

In my opinion, Kroos will be a great fit if played in the right position. He’s a great replacement for Alonso, and will be a mainstay in the Real side for years to come.

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FC Barcelona

Biting Barcelona!

Saurez Barca pic for blogHere is the question: Is Luis Suarez exactly what Barcelona need? I truly don’t know, but I also don’t doubt Suarez’s ambition and drive as a player –  he’s been the best player in the premier league for the past two years and considered a top five striker in the world… but does he fit into Barcelona’s team? Let’s examine…

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived at Camp Nou I was very Zlatan Barca pic for blogexcited, I thought his technical prowess and height would be extremely helpful on a team with a bunch of shorter and faster players, and that he would finish off their moves both on the ground and in the air. Upon Zlatan’s arrival at Barca he was considered a World Class striker (he still is now), yet he didn’t fit into Barcelona’s scheme. He is extremely physically gifted, but his style of play didn’t fit in with his team’s. He was an individual amongst team players that had grown up together at La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy. Ultimately Zlatan didn’t end up finishing moves on Barca’s attack, but rather, he ended up slowing them down – and because of this, he left the club a couple seasons later. In other words, Samuel Eto’o was a better fit than Zlatan in Barcelona’s system. That said though, it’s worth noting that Zlatan wasn’t a good fit for other reasons as well – supposedly his personality didn’t mesh well with Guardiola’s, plus – the team wasn’t his, it was Messi’s, and I’m sure this was a point of contention for both players…

La Masia pic for blogAnyways, let’s examine Suarez in comparison: 1, For the first time in a long time La Masia graduates will not be dominating Barcelona’s first team this season, so Luís Enrique won’t have an issue with fitting him into a system, but instead he’ll be able to start fresh and create his own system of play that hopefully will benefit Suarez as Barca look to move past Tika-Taka and into new waters. 2, Saurez doesn’t seem to have much of an ego, he knew Liverpool was Gerard’s team and he respected that, so I don’t think Messi will have an issue with him but rather, they’ll drive each other to play better. Furthermore, when Saurez is on the pitch he always plays the game with a stern love, determination, and anger – an anger that I think will benefit Barca and drive their players to new heights and breathe life into Barca’s fan, especially after last years terrible campaign. 3, Saurez fits in culturally, and will have no issue transitioning to the Spanish lifestyle – plus being Uruguayan, he speaks Spanish, and this will surely benefit his ability to get to know both his teammates and fans better.

Now, while that all sounds very positive, the question remains whether or not he can fit in at Barca tactically? Now, this is a really difficult question to answer considering that we don’t know what tactics Luis Enrique will employ this year – if he employs a 4-3-3 as Barca has for the last decade, It’s difficult to say where Messi, Saurez and Neymar would fit in as they are all best in a center forward position. Neymar thrives in a free roaming attacking mid/striker role for Brazil, and Saurez thrived at Liverpool playing in e two striker formation with Sturridge supporting his attack… and, Messi has set many scoring records playing as a center forward for Barca over the last couple years.

Luis Enrique pic for blog 2Luis Enrique has a lot to think about. That said, if I were to guess, Messi would stay at center forward, Neymar would take left forward, and Saurez the right. If I were to pick a starting lineup though, I would use Saurez in the middle, Messi on the right as he used to play very effectively as a right forward during the Eto’o days, and Neymar in a free roaming left wing/attacking mid role. In this way Neymar can help lead an attack from midfield as he does for Brazil and also utilize his playmaking to feed Messi and Saurez, almost in a way that allows them to be a striking partnership.Ivan Rakatic would play attacking mid with Iniesta and if Barca knew what was good for them, they’d employ Mascherano at defensive mid and rid Busquets of that duty as I don’t believe he has the ability to disrupt the opponents attacks. Behind the midfield, Barcelona need to bolster their defense with a new Center back, especially as Marquinhos’ transfer has been halted by PSG management for now.

I’m excited to find out how Saurez fits in at Barcelona, but I’m even more thrilled at the prospect of Barca deviating from their Tika-Taka ways with their new manager and players. But back to the original question: Will Saurez fit in and be a success at Barcelona? I say yes. Let me know what you think in the poll question below.

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