“Peter Ndlovu was the first. Now 246 African players have played in the Premier League since it began in 1992, scoring 1,776 goals in 14,210 appearances. Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has scored the most goals (104), Kolo Toure has made the most appearances (349) while Nigeria (35) has contributed the most players. As the Premier League live fan park comes to Cape Town this weekend learn all you need to know about African players in the English top flight.” BBC, BBC – You can read an accessible version of this graphic here.
“In the 22 years I have been living over here there have been plenty of careers I have been lucky enough to follow from the start. The highlight, of course, is Lionel Messi. Little known even by Argentina when he was called up for the South American U-20 Championship at the start of 2005 in Colombia. He was two years younger than the rest of the players and seemed half the size, an unimpressive figure – until the ball was tied to his left foot and all of us fortunate enough to be watching were aware that we were in the presence of something very special.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)
“The ball was offered, then swiftly withdrawn and Martín Demichelis was hopelessly drawn in, snatching vainly at the space where the ball had been and collapsing as Marcus Rashford zipped by him, opened up his body and calmly rolled a finish past Joe Hart. A fifth goal for Manchester United puts the 18 year old from Wythenshawe level with Federico Macheda, an albatross of a comparison he will surely soon cast off, and reinvigorated United’s challenge for the top four. Whatever else happens, this season will not have been a waste for United if he delivers on even half his potential.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
“It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Liverpool supporters in recent times. Last season the Reds finished sixth in the Premier League, while they also reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, before being eliminated by Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. This season looks like it might be another case of Liverpool being the nearly men, having been narrowly beaten by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup on penalties, while they currently lie just outside the European places in the Premier League. They still have hopes of success in the Europa League, having just put bitter rivals Manchester United to the sword at Anfield, but there’s still a long way to go in that competition.” The Swiss Ramble
“After a dramatic 2-2 draw in the first leg, Juventus travel to the Allianz Arena in Germany to face Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg ended 2-2 at the appropriately named Juventus Stadium following Pep Guardiola’s Bayern going into a 0-2 lead. Readjustments from Massimillano Allegri which saw the men from Turin adopt a more direct style for the latter stages causing Bayern’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba serious problems.” Outside of the Boot
“With so much going on across Europe, it is very easy to forget about the Eredivisie. Napoli’s relentless chase of Juventus for the Serie A crown, Leicester’s astounding ascent to the top of the Premier League, PSG’s successful retainment of Ligue 1 and Barcelona’s utterly breath-taking performances over in Spain have caught the eyes of many. Over in Holland though, something equally as intriguing has been brewing. Two giants of the Dutch game, PSV and Ajax, sit atop the Eredivisie, separated by 1 point, and with 7 games each to go. Both have won exactly the same number of games this season. Things are tight, let’s say. But who will prevail?” Outside of the Boot
“In international soccer, the United Arab Emirates are looking good. The national team finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup continental tournament, and it is stocked with the country’s golden generation of players. The team has a real chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The 14-team Arabian Gulf League, which professionalized in 2008, is now regarded as one of the best in Asia. One of the clubs, Al Ahli of Dubai, reached the final of the Asian Champions League last year. Yet the league still struggles to attract fans, and it is now facing twin threats from the rise of Qatar and China in global soccer that threaten to knock the Emirates down the soccer ladder.” NY Times