The Ball Is the End: Assessing Lionel Messi’s Career on the 10th Anniversary of His Debut for Barcelona

October 8, 2014

FC Barcelona v APOEL FC - UEFA Champions League
“Lionel Messi played in his first competitive match for FC Barcelona 10 years ago this month, on October 16, 2004. He was already famous, of course, among the hardest-core coterie of Barça fanciers, the types who write forum posts about training-academy gossip; to the rest of the world, his eight scoreless minutes at the end of Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Espanyol didn’t do much to make him a household name. Still, if you watch the video now, it’s pretty clear, even allowing for the benefit of hindsight, that at 17 Messi was a frightening talent. He’s not ready yet, not quite, but he already has that strange quality of slant directness, that mysteriously straightforward elusiveness, that would later make him seem magical, insoluble.” Grantland


International break provides valuable opportunity for Premier League clubs

October 8, 2014

“Once upon a time, an international break was extremely useful for almost every Premier League manager. In the days before foreign imports dominated England’s top division, relatively few players were selected by their country — put simply, the majority of players in the division were English, but only around 25 were called up to the England side. Therefore, the majority of the squad would continue to train at the club — although they might, however, use the absence of upcoming matches to spend the afternoons at the pub.” ESPN – Michael Cox


What next for hipsters’ post-World Cup favourites, Colombia?

October 8, 2014

“With no competitive fixtures for almost a year, the post-World Cup period is a perfect opportunity for South American nations to assess, experiment and in some cases, rebuild in preparation for the next qualification campaign. Tom Robinson takes a look at the future of the Colombian side that we recently witnessed at the FIFA World Cup.” Outside of the Boot


Roberto Di Matteo – A Good Manager, a Great Man

October 8, 2014

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“Roberto Di Matteo is very much one of football’s managerial curiosities. The Swiss-born former Italian international went from managing English League One side MK Dons to a Champions League winner with Chelsea in under four years. And yet no sooner had he won the trophy Roman Abramovich had been craving for nearly a decade, he was replaced. Two years on, and having been handsomely paid in compensation by Chelsea throughout that period, Di Matteo has returned to football management. His appointment by Schalke to replace Jens Keller is sure to provoke a very mixed response. Some will be hopeful that a Champions League winner will bring stability and consistency to the club, while others will fear that the Champions League trophy aside, this is not a manager with a fantastic CV.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Wayne Rooney can take England’s goals record but not the glory of his predecessors

October 8, 2014

“The Sir Bobby Charlton suite is the most luxurious room in the hotel currently occupied by England at St George’s Park albeit hardly the Ritz. The Gary Lineker pitch (No 11) is, contrary to expectation, more than two six-yard boxes. Yet nowhere at England’s training base is there any room or pitch named in tribute to Jimmy Greaves, the distinguished international lying third behind Lineker and Charlton as his country’s all-time goalscorer. Greaves’s photograph does hang alongside those of Lineker and Charlton on the walls of the corridors that Wayne Rooney will walk along on this morning, heading off out to Pitch 6, the main England practice area. Rooney will soon pass the fabled trio in the record books as well as the corridor, starting with Greaves possibly this week. His elevation will stir sadness as well as admiration. Rooney can equal the maths but not the history.” Telegraph . Henry Winter


Saint or Sinner? The debate surrounding Landon Donovan

October 8, 2014

“Normally one needs to die to gain Sainthood, but footballers seem to be granted a special exception. At the end of this week, Landon Donovan will play his final match for the US Men’s National Team. As is par for the course when announcements like these are made, there has been an immense of praise and detractors coming out of the woodwork for the former US Captain. Despite all of the hostility and passion that comes from such a debate, there is still a question that is not answered: just how good was he?” backpagefootball


Reflecting on Relationship Between Britpop and Football

October 8, 2014

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“Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone for the past month you’ll have noticed the media, and in particular the BBC, working itself into a frenzy over the 20th anniversary of ‘Britpop’. To many this level of nostalgia for a musical movement which was, if anything, merely the collection of a handful of zeitgeist wresting retrograde magpies sticks in the craw. ‘Britpop’ wasn’t a cohesive genre, less still a cultural movement, it was a confection – a label for ideas at best, a marketing tool at worst. This is right, to a degree. Britpop was a label. As Alexis Petridis noted in the Guardian last week, there’s little to sonically link the titans of the era in the way that there was with grunge, its direct precept.” thetwounfortunates


Five things we learned this week in the Primeira Liga

October 8, 2014

“For the second game in a row, the Primeira Liga champions had to wait until the last 20 minutes to breakthrough a stubborn defence. Benfica eventually ran out 4-0 winners over Arouca at the Estádio da Luz but for a long time it seemed to heading for a stalemate. This game was an interesting one as it was the first time ‘Aguias’ fans got to see Lisandro López in action. The 25-year-old Argentinian centre back signed for Benfica from Argentinian side Arsenal de Sarandi in 2013 but was loaned out to La Liga side Getafe for all of last season. López was signed as a long term replacement for Ezequiel Garay who joined Zenit Saint Petersburg in the summer. Arouca defended deeply in the first half forcing Benfica to shoot from distance. Arouca looked far more dangerous going forward and forced Artur into making a couple of decent saves.” backpagefootball


Scotland’s Tartan Army can be patriotic without politics

October 8, 2014

“When Georgia arrive in Glasgow this Saturday, the fallout from September’s independence referendum will mean more to many Scotland fans than Euro 2016 qualifying points. The Scotland support could never match the recent emoting of politicians but has long been regarded as the voice of raw Scottish nationalism. The encouragingly narrow defeat for the Yes campaign may therefore have echoed the national team’s 2-1 loss at World Champions Germany last month. But the Scottish Football Association is not the SNP.” WSC