Liverpool FC in profit – but debt almost doubles

May 31, 2009

“LIVERPOOL Football Club’s debts have almost doubled to £86m according to its latest financial results, despite returning to profit following losses the previous year. The club’s annual accounts will reveal a pre-tax profit of £10.2m for the year to July 31, 2008, an improvement on the previous year’s loss of £21.7m.” (Liverpool Daily Post)

Gerrard expects to get even better next season (ESPN)
“Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is as ‘hungry and ambitious” as ever – vowing to make sure he will once again be in contention for Footballer of the Year at the end of next season.”

Michael Owen: The End of an Era? (This Is Anfield)
“THERE were only three times during the recent Villa versus Newcastle game, when I realised that Michael Owen had actually travelled to the West Midlands for the day. During a game that was mostly a blur in the late May sunshine, the TV camera panned to a morose-looking Owen on the steps of the dugout.”

Torres sees Villa and Silva as missing links (Setanta Sports)
“Fernando Torres feels that David Villa and David Silva would be the perfect accompaniment to what Rafa Benitez already has at his disposal at Liverpool.”

Fernando Torres targets a trophy after signing new Liverpool contract (Guardian)
“Fernando Torres has vowed to add a trophy next season to the new contract he has signed with Liverpool. The Spain international, who also married his childhood sweetheart this week, revealed his objective for the next campaign on his personal website today.”

Reds target Anfield-bound? (Shankly Gates)
“Ezequiel Lavezzi is the subject of a bid from a major English club, according to his agent. The Napoli striker has been strongly linked with Liverpool and Alejandro Mazzoni says that an unnamed English club has enquired about the availability of his client and that Lavezzi’s departure from Serie A could be imminent.”

Liverpool FC can build on these firm foundations (Liverpool Banter)
“HAD Liverpool picked up four more points at home during the 2008/09 season they would have been crowned Premier League champions for a record 19th time. It is, to use one of Rafa Benitez’s favourite word, a fact.”

Goals of the Season 08-09 (oh you beauty)
“Same format as last year – my 10 favorite Liverpool strikes in one compilation. Well, actually 11. It’s been a good year for great goals.”

Photo: Soccer City Coming Along Nicely in Johannesburg

May 30, 2009

“I know everyone’s a little worried about stadia not being completed on time in South Africa, but this recent photo of the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg is nice and reassuring. Definitely more reassuring than the older photo.” (World Cup Blog)

South Africa Countdown (NYT)
“One of the first orders of business at the start of a news conference at the South African Consulate General on the East Side of Manhattan on Friday was to show a video highlighting a proud country and its herculean efforts to prepare for next summer’s World Cup. The pictures rolled across the screen, but, alas no sound.”

Oman – Egypt preview: Algeria’s rehearsals!! (World Cup Blog)
“Consider the stadium isn’t the stadium, the opponent isn’t the opponent and the fans definitely not the fans; I am talking about our game with Oman and the following one against Algeria. When our boys take the gulf champions, Oman in the friendly match in Muscat, the thoughts of the players, fans and Shehata will be on the game against Algeria and Oman will only be a final rehearsal before the game.”

Burton O’Brien out to prove South Africa wrong (Times Online)
“There are only a handful of players on the planet who can say with any certainty they will be going to the World Cup finals next summer. If your name is not Kaká, Lionel Messi or Michael Ballack, the chances are you have not yet cancelled any holiday plans.”

Bar set high for ’10 World Cup’ (The London Free Press)
“It was a good year for soccer. The year has been so good, that it augurs well for the 2010 World Cup in Africa. With most major competitions now down in Europe, there will be a summer of friendlies and a high-profile tournaments in South Africa, acting as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. The next big event will be the resumption of World Cup qualifying.”

World Cup 2010 and ‘juju’ men (World Cup Blog)
“Photograph courtesy Oliver Becker, Occasione Documentaries. A witch doctor, or juju man, in Tanzania casts magic spells over a soccer ball and a player’s uniform before a game.”

Dunga Names Squad (sambafoot)
“Dunga announced on Thursday afternoon at the CBF headquarters in Rio de Janeiro his list of twenty-three player squad for the next two World Cup qualifiers. The auriverdes play Uruguay on June 6 in Montevideo and Paraguay on 10 June in Recife. They then fly to South Africa to compete in the Confederations Cup which will start for Brazil on 15 June with a match against Egypt.”

Novo goal wins Cup

May 30, 2009

“Fans’ favourite Nacho Novo fired Rangers to a domestic double with the winner in a 1-0 victory over Falkirk in the Homecoming Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park. The diminutive striker heaped more Hampden heartache on the Bairns months after his double sent them crashing out of the League Cup, netting his ninth goal of the season to help Rangers claim the trophy for the 33rd time.” (ESPN)
Rangers 1-0 Falkirk (BBC)

Rep of Ireland 1-1 Nigeria (BBC)
“The Republic of Ireland warmed up for their World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria with a draw in Friday night’s friendly at Craven Cottage. Both sides were under-strength with the Republic giving debuts to six players.”

Wales 1-0 Estonia (BBC)
“Wales’ youngest side in history secured a morale-boosting friendly win before the World Cup qualifier in Azerbaijan by beating Estonia in Llanelli. Rob Earnshaw’s 26th-minute penalty proved enough, confidently converted after a harsh handball decision against Estonia captain Alo Barengrub.”

Referees: Gods Playing the Fools or Fools Playing the Gods?

May 29, 2009

“Referees lie at the center of the game’s most cruel paradoxes. They are the only true gods of the field. And they get harassed like goobers. They exist to uphold justice. And they get booed like villains. This is true in almost any sport. But soccer refs get unusually harsh treatment.” (Foot Smoke)

Ammo Baba: The Amazing Story Of Iraq’s Football Legend (Goal)
“The Iraqi football community is in mourning with the news that the former national team player and coach, Ammo Baba, passed away on Wednesday evening at the age of 74 after complications with his health. The legendary figure had been suffering from diabetes for many years and was earlier this year diagnosed with prostate cancer after he fell ill at the Gulf Cup in Muscat.”

FA Cup final 2009: Top 10 Cup final goals (Telegraph)
“We’ve compiled some corkers from FA Cup finals past. Some of the strikes deserve superlative praise, others make the list as they simply recall the romance of this famous competition.”

Five great FA Cup finals (ESPN)
“In placing the FA Cup final on the Saturday after the Champions League’s conclusion, the Football Association look to have scored another own-goal in the continued devaluing of the jewel in their crown.”

How Fellaini became Everton’s mane man (BBC)
“Whatever happens at Wembley on Saturday, it is safe to say that Marouane Fellaini has already done more than enough to get himself noticed in his first season in English football.”

Mali, France set for tug-of-war (BBC)
“Mali and France seem to be on a collision course over the services of French-born forward Sambou Yatabare. Yatabare has been included in France’s under-21 squad, just a week after Mali named him in their squad for two World Cup qualifiers in June.”

Ribery and Bayern have a big decision to make (Reuters Soccer Blog)
“Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery is a joy to watch. His acceleration, ball control and creative play have quickly elevated him to the Bundesliga’s biggest asset. But come next week the Frenchman could be gone as the pulling power quickly fizzles out of the German league.”

Beautiful Barça strip the fallen of their crown

May 28, 2009

“To call Barcelona the champions of Europe this morning is to give them their lesser title. The one they demand, unquestionably, is champions of football. Champions of the game that can, even in this high-pressure age of super athleticism and grinding work assignments, still be exquisite. The margin of victory was two goals but the gap between the ambitions, and the execution, of the two teams touched on infinity.” James Lawton: (The Independent)

Barcelona – Manchester United: A Live Blog of the Champions League Final (The Run Play)
“Manchester United and Barcelona are in Rome, their supporters are having Champions League Final toga parties in the street outside their hotels, and the waters of the Fontana del Nettuno are running purple with the leaky ink of self-applied Wayne Rooney neck tattoos.”

Thierry Henry salutes Barcelona’s ‘incredible’ Champions League victory (Guardian)
“Thierry Henry has credited his manager, Pep Guardiola, for his decision to remain with Barcelona in a season in which the Catalan side has won an historic treble. The former Arsenal striker endured a difficult beginning to his Camp Nou career, but last night collected a Champions League medal to go with the league and cup titles already won by Barcelona this year.”

Football Weekly Extra: Treble joy for incredible Barcelona (Guardian)
“James Richardson, Barry Glendenning, Sean Ingle and Rob Smyth are the men that matter in this Champions League final pod special. They will be answering such questions as: just how good are Barcelona? Could United have approached the game differently? And why did the British media – including the sagacious Tim Lovejoy – get it so wrong about the Spanish champions?”

Ian Herbert: Guardiola’s brilliant creation is enough to make the heart weep (The Independent)
“Pep Guardiola’s words had sounded a little too ornate to be football language when he took a seat up on a stage in this stadium on Tuesday evening and spoke of how he wanted his side to be ‘beautiful’ and to feel they were playing in front of the whole world.”

Pete Jenson: Eto’o thrives after move to right (The Independent)
“”We don’t always agree on things,” said Samuel Eto’o about his relationship with coach Pep Guardiola this week. “Sometimes we do what I say, sometimes we do what he says but usually it’s true that when we do what he says he turns out to be right.”

Manchester United v Barcelona: 10 reasons why Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lost in Rome (Telegraph)
“1. Darren Fletcher was suspended. The Scot received a red card in the 3-1 semi-final second leg at Arsenal and attempts to have the ban rescinded failed….”

Picture Galleries (Telegraph)
“Kings of Europe: Carlos Puyol, the Barcelona captain, holds aloft the European Cup after his side beat Manchester United 2-0 in the Olympic Stadium, Rome, as the Catalan side completed an historic treble.”

Barcelona triumph in Rome (World Soccer)
“United were beaten 2-0 courtesy of goals from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi on a sweltering night in the Stadio Olimpico. United started the final brightly with Cristiano Ronaldo a constant threat but were stunned on 10 minutes when Samuel Eto’o, supplied by the outstanding Andres Initesa, skipped past Nemanja Vidic and poked the ball past Edwin van der Sar.”

Daily Dose: May 27th, 2009 (the Offside)
“Something to read while you watch Barcelona lift that big trophy…”

Barca rule Europe, and have done it their way (SoccerLens)
“For nine minutes, I was smug and self-satisfied, as well as disappointed. My pre-match predictions were being played out in front of my eyes; the men in all-white were on top, and the Catalans were struggling to adapt to the intensity of their play.”

Manchester United’s shocking inferiority exposed in Eternal City (Times Online)
“The final parp of the whistle put Manchester United out of their misery last night, and how often do we write that of the side led by the most insanely driven pensioner in sport — a man still biting off a journalist’s head for asking a perfectly fair question about his future plans?”

Wayne Rooney threat was wasted against Barcelona (Times Online)
“Manchester United deserved what they got. If you cannot expose that vulnerable Barcelona back four with all the attacking talent at United’s disposal in Rome, something is badly wrong.”

Barcelona – Manchester United (2-0) CL Final (Mighty Football)

Barça reign supreme

May 27, 2009

“Barcelona stunned holders Manchester United to win their third UEFA Champions League crown with a 2-0 victory in Rome on Wednesday. Goals from star forwards Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi gave the Catalans a deserved victory and denied United from becoming the first team to retain the title since the European Cup became the Champions League in 1993.” (FIFA)

Latest Photos (FIFA)

Barcelona Style Triumphs Over Manchester United (NYT)
“Patience, flair and beauty dominated over force Wednesday night as Barcelona defeated Manchester United, 2-0, to win the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club soccer tournament, before 72,000 fans at Olympic Stadium.”

Barcelona 2-0 Man Utd (BBC)
“Manchester United’s attempt to make history and become the first club to defend the Champions League ended in failure against Barcelona in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Sir Alex Ferguson’s hopes of repeating last year’s triumph against Chelsea barely got off the ground as they ended well beaten by a Barcelona side inspired by the genius of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.”

Messi seals emphatic win (ESPN)
“Manchester United discovered what it is like to lose a European Cup final as brilliant Barcelona ruled Rome on Wednesday, securing a comfortable 2-0 win. If there is any consolation in failure to become the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era, it is that they lost to a side as fluent and brilliant to watch as they are.”

Messi mindful not to let final moment pass (uefa)
“For most players who reach a UEFA Champions League final, it is a moment which blends joy with tension, ambition with nerves, but for Lionel Messi a whole different range of emotions is almost certain to come into play.”

Guardiola scripts dream end to debut season (uefa)
“His first season in charge could scarcely have gone better but Josep Guardiola is determined to finish it on the biggest possible high by guiding FC Barcelona to victory in the UEFA Champions League final.”

Champions League photos (BBC)

Scenes From an Italian Sporting Event

May 26, 2009

Picasso Soccer
“If one is lucky enough to have a job these days — and that is a big ‘if’ in the newspaper business — one should never hesitate when the boss says drop everything and get to Rome for the Champions League final and make sure you go jogging around the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus and don’t forget to expense the pasta with seafood, especially if the shrimp are the size of handguns.” (NYT)

Barcelona have edge over Manchester United in that they will never be sold (The Sport Blog)
“Manchester United versus Barcelona is a dream final for the romantic, two great clubs sharing traditions of skill and panache – yet the broader values they embody seem now to spring from opposing visions of the sport. On one side of Stadio Olimpico tomorrow will be Barça, ‘mes que un club’ – more than a club – as the Catalan institution proclaims itself, bearing Unicef on the shirts, owned by 163,000 members.”

The Camp fire that will never go out at Barcelona (Times Online)
“If Barcelona win tomorrow evening, the Plaça Sant Jaume will be the magnet for the city’s delirium and that is unlikely to have changed by the time the team return for the official party the following day. On one side of the square is the neo-classical City Hall building, and celebrating within those walls will be one of politics’ more genuine football romantics.”

The Big Interview: Lionel Messi on imposing Barca’s style on Manchester United and stopping Crisitano Ronaldo (SoccerLens)
“Like a butterfly floating around the pitch, Lionel Messi has an uncanny ability for making things look easy. With the ball at his feet and a pair of defenders flanking him on both sides, what seemed like a lost cause only seconds before turns into an opportunity to make the opposition pay.”

What I Saw in the Vatican Museum (Run of Play)
“The man with the blanked-out eyes followed me all through the Vatican. I first noticed him in the sculpture garden—standing stone-still in front of the Laocoön—and he kept popping up in odd nooks and corners all the way to the Sistine Chapel. It was daylight this time; there was no mistaking him.”

Just Two Days To Go Now (FCB News)
“On Wednesday night in Rome Football Club Barcelona and Manchester United will go head-to-head to see who is the best team in Europe. For the first time that I can remember for a final practically every bookmaker you care to look at has the odds for the two teams exactly the same.”

10 Reasons to Be Excited About Barcelona vs Man Utd (The Offside)
“I’m very very very excited about tomorrow’s Barcelona vs Man Utd UEFA Champions League Final. And rightly so. There, I said it. I know bloggers are often meant to have one eyebrow raised in snarkiness when faced with a big (and very corporate) event. But that feels impossible in this case.”

Head over heart for Champs final (SI – Greg Lalas)
“It’s safe to say Wednesday’s Champions League final is the most anticipated title match since UEFA created the platinum edition of Europe’s top tournament. From Rome to Rochester to Rangoon, everyone with even a modicum of soccer in his blood is planning on watching the game live, regardless if that requires skipping an important sales call at work or losing a few hours of sleep.”

Vidic ready to win at all costs (BBC)
“Nemanja Vidic is sure Manchester United will beat Barcelona in the Champions League final – and does not care about the style in which they do it. Wednesday’s match in Rome pits holders United against the team regarded as the most attractive in Europe this season.”

Anderson provides midfield balance (BBC – Tim Vickery)
“At a conference in Rio in December 2007, a panel of big name local coaches were discussing the essence of Brazilian football. One point was made a few times, that Manchester United were playing their expensive new signing Anderson in central midfield, a role that no coach in his native land would have considered for a nanosecond.”

The men who make Barca beautiful (BBC)
“It is perhaps not surprising that Barcelona’s Yaya Toure believes he plays with the two best footballers on earth. After all, the likes of Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry have scored an incredible 97 goals between them this season.”

Barcelona v Man Utd (BBC)
“Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand says he is “fine” to play against Barcelona in Wednesday’s Champions League final. The 30-year-old has been out for three weeks with a calf injury and missed the 1-0 win at Hull on Sunday.”

The Dream Final? (ESPN)
“Barcelona versus Manchester United – for many it’s the dream Champions League final: Two of the best supported teams in the world contesting the most prestigious club competition, and all in the Eternal City.”

The finals reckoning (ESPN)
“Both were denied triumphs in the old European Cup’s formative years. United were victorious in 1968 yet had to wait 31 years to triumph again. Barcelona suffered two horrendous disappointments before finally being able to claim the crown in 1992.”

Barcelona v. Manchester United (SoccerLens)
“It’s the big one! Barcelona and Manchester United will clash for the most prestigious trophy in Europe, the UEFA Champions League Cup! Soccerlens will be bringing you the action live! Log on to the site 15 minutes before kickoff for the live-blog! In the meantime, feel free to make predictions or leave comments below!”