Dignity and doom: Levante succumb to inevitable in Bernabéu mauling

May 15, 2022


Francisco Gomez alias ‘Son’ of Levante is consoled by teammate Ruben Vezo after their team were relegated to the second division.
“Adrián Cordero Vega ended it a second too early and not a moment too soon. The clock said 89.59 when the referee blew but it had been over almost from the start, and not just last night. Levante were a goal down after 12:42 at the Bernabéu; they were down-down as well, no longer able to resist the inevitable, the fate they had fought. …”
Guardian


Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp Era Is Ascending and Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

May 10, 2022


“It’s a good time to be a Liverpool fan: They reached their third Champions League final in five years following Tuesday’s win over Villarreal, their 63rd game of 2021-22. They’ve played in every possible fixture available this season, they’re in contention to win a historic four trophies, and Jürgen Klopp recently signed a contract extension committing himself to the club until 2026. …”
The Ringer


Futures bets for EPL, Serie A title chases and other tight European races

May 7, 2022


“The Champions League final is set between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but there are still two incredibly close title races in two of the biggest leagues in Europe. The Premier League and Serie A titles are coming down to the final few weeks. There are also close battles for European places and relegation battles across the top five European leagues. Here’s a look at what’s on the line, the biggest matches to come and how the betting market views the close races in the final few weeks of league play. …”
The Athletic


Outbreaks of chaos expose fatal flaw that keeps denying Guardiola European glory

May 7, 2022


“At what point does just one of those things become more than just one of those things? If Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night were a one-off, it could be written off. What can you do about luck like that? If you have nine shots on target to the opposition’s none in the first 90 minutes and still lose 2-1 what, really, have you done wrong? Especially when you’ve dominated the first leg as City had done. But this keeps happening. Season after season, Pep Guardiola finds his teams dominating Champions League ties and losing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Cox: Like Ancelotti, Guardiola got his subs right. There’s not much more he could have done

May 6, 2022


“Even by the standards of Champions League semi-finals, the most action-packed and dramatic stage of any competition in modern football, Real Madrid’s comeback against Manchester City last night was truly extraordinary. For 85 minutes at the Bernabeu, City were largely faultless and seemed set to record a controlled 1-0 victory that would take them into the final against Liverpool on May 28. Then, suddenly, a late blitz saw the Spanish champions score two goals, both through Rodrygo, and at 5-5 on aggregate, the momentum was with Madrid. It wasn’t a surprise they opened the scoring in extra time, and it wasn’t a surprise that they held out. City were shellshocked. Is it possible to make sense of such a chaotic ending? Let’s see. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
Guardian: Systemic flaws of Guardiola’s City keep Champions League out of reach (Video)
NY Times: Real Madrid Stuns City, Seizing the Moment as Only It Can
Guardian: Real Madrid’s latest miracle is a tale of 88 seconds and one Ancelotti video (Video)
The Athletic: Camavinga, Rodrygo, Vinicius: Real Madrid’s big bets on rising stars are paying off


A Clash of Civilizations in the Champions League Semifinal

April 29, 2022


“It is easy to see a clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal as the ultimate contrast of footballing cultures: If City are the brash young upstart of European football, then Madrid are its landed gentry. The latter have been crowned its kings on 13 occasions, while the former still await their first European title. Historians might see this as a reductive reading of the situation—as a club, City were actually founded several years before Madrid, but in terms of prestige, the Mancunians are still playing catch-up. The pattern of Tuesday’s first leg, which Manchester City won 4-3, perfectly illustrated this dynamic. …”
The Ringer
NY Times: Superclubs and Spring Nights
Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid


Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Classic Champions League tie a genuine gold standard match

April 27, 2022


Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring after only 93 seconds in an incredible Champions League semi-final first-leg tie
“Carlo Ancelotti’s last visit to Manchester City ended in a 5-0 humiliation in what proved to be the final match of his tenure as Everton manager. When the legendary Italian manager, 62, turned to his Real Madrid backroom staff with arms outstretched and gave an anxious glance down at his watch with City 2-0 up after only 11 minutes on his return to Etihad Stadium, he was probably fearing a similar scoreline. City were flying. Real were overwhelmed. This was shaping up as a one-sided mauling for the great old Champions League campaigner chasing the trophy for a historic fourth time….”
BBC
The Athletic: ‘I always have it in my head’ – the mental strength behind Karim Benzema’s outrageous penalty for Real Madrid
NY Times: A Convincing Win That Was Anything but Convincing
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti’s quiet path to redemption at Real Madrid
Guardian: Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City to be more ruthless in Real Madrid return


Two nights in Madrid, two wildly contrasting experiences

April 16, 2022


“Nobody was leaving. Not Atletico Madrid’s players, who it seemed were going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the Champions League stage, and not their supporters, who were determined to have the last word. … You wouldn’t have guessed their team had just been beaten to a place in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City. What a noise — from the start to the bitter, bitter end. And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Again. … When the dust settled on that angry, bad-tempered quarter-final second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano last night, it was City who had held on to secure a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid, leaving Atletico, like Chelsea the previous evening, to count their regrets. …”
The Athletic


Shakhtar provide supplies to refugees but ‘dreaming of return to normality’

March 28, 2022


“Normality is another world for Shakhtar Donetsk. When Russia invaded Ukraine, football was stopped and the lives of the players, coaches, staff and fans were turned upside down in an instant. There was no time to waste with lives at stake as the autumn’s Champions League games against Real Madrid and Internazionale quickly became a distant memory. Sergei Palkin, the chief executive, has been at the forefront of the club’s humanitarian efforts and ensuring the safety of players from the academy to the first-team captain. …”
Guardian


Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Aubameyang score twice for El Clasico to give Barcelon 4-0 win over Real Madrid

March 21, 2022


“Barcelona boss Xavi will not rule out a remarkable late push for the La Liga title after his side’s thrashing of runaway leaders Real Madrid in a statement win at the Bernabeu. Real, who had won the previous five Clasicos, are nine points clear of Sevilla with nine matches to go, with third-placed Barcelona a further three behind with a game in hand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice on his Clasico debut and set up Ferran Torres. Aubameyang and Ronald Araujo headed in crosses from Ousmane Dembele before the break and Aubayemang then flicked the ball into the path of Torres for their third. …”
BBC
Guardian: Aubameyang leads way for Barcelona with two goals in Real Madrid thrashing


Paris Saint-Germain and the wreckage of another Champions League calamity

March 12, 2022


“On Wednesday evening, moments after the final whistle in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, the Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the club’s sporting director Leonardo descended into the bowels of the stadium. It is now almost 11 years since Al-Khelaifi’s state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) acquired PSG and, despite spending in excess of £1 billion on incoming transfers, the Champions League trophy remains elusive. This season, a devastating final half-hour from Real’s French striker Karim Benzema turned the round-of-16 tie in favour of the Spanish team, enabling a side led by former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti to recover from a 2-0 aggregate deficit and eliminate them from the competition. …”
The Athletic (Audio/Video)


New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings

February 24, 2022


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst


‘What they think is what we think, to go through’ – Ancelotti ready for PSG test

February 15, 2022


Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain
“‘What Mbappé thinks is what Benzema thinks, which is what Vinícius thinks, which is what Messi thinks,’ Carlo Ancelotti said, pretty much saying it all, or at least trying to. And he hadn’t named half of them yet, the list lengthening a few minutes later even without citing Neymar when he added Marco Verratti, Ángel Di María and Mauro Icardi. … ”
Guardian


What Happened to Eden Hazard?

February 4, 2022


“Once again Real Madrid were playing Barcelona, the latest game in this greatest of rivalries; once again, two of their superstars stepped forward to give them the lead. Karim Benzema strode forward and delivered a pass into the path of one of the game’s most gifted wingers, one whose form had long ago made him undroppable, and he duly provided a superb finish, thrashing the ball high into the net. As Vinicius Jr. turned away in triumph, having scored his 15th goal of a thoroughly impressive season, Eden Hazard watched from the bench. …”
The Ringer (Audio)


Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis: Evolution, Not Revolution

January 28, 2022


“Holder of the highest ever win percentage at four different clubs in LaLiga – Villarreal, Real Madrid, Malaga and now Real Betis – Manuel Pellegrini wears his crowns lightly. With the exception of his time in Madrid, where being thrown out is in fact the norm, the Chilean arguably has hero status at all three of the others. For a man who has lived through the heat of Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and Madrid, each its own brand of pressure cooker, Pellegrini’s demeanour remains demure, his manner stoic. This latest escapade brings all the baggage of a big club that is often outperformed by both its rivals and its own expectations….”
Breaking the Lines


Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona

January 24, 2022


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian


Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)

January 21, 2022


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)


Spain: 2021-22 La Liga – Location-map, with Seasons-in-1st-Division for the current 20 clubs & Spanish titles list.

January 20, 2022


“The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the Spanish La Liga [2021-22]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current La Liga clubs. Plus, the recently-promoted and -relegated teams are noted. (Promoted in 2021: Espanyol, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano; relegated in 2021: Eibar, Valladolid, Huesca). …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Sid Lowe


Valverde’s extra-time strike sends Real Madrid into Spanish Super Cup final

January 13, 2022


“By the time this was over, it was way after midnight in Riyadh, they were barely able to walk any more let alone run, and they were 6,500km from home but Real Madrid had made it. The last ball had been caught by Thibaut Courtois and he lay on the turf, clutching their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Fede Valverde’s extra-time goal having settled a match that ultimately had the winner everyone expected but did not play out as anticipated. A fun night could have gone either way, from 1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and ultimately 3-2. …”
Guardian
El Clasico score: Real Madrid edge Barcelona in extra time with Fede Valverde’s goal to reach Supercopa final


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


Getafe roll over Real Madrid in great escape bid inspired by Crystal Palace

January 5, 2022


“Giovanni Trapattoni carried a bottle of holy water with him, blessed by the sister who actually was his sister. In 2009 the Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino hiked to Montserrat to visit the black virgin, enlisting her help in avoiding relegation, salvation delivered soon after. And Raúl Madero, the Argentinian national team doctor, twice visited the wailing wall. The first time, before the 1986 World Cup, he asked for them to be champions; when he went back four years later, he thought that would be pushing it, so requested runners-up. True story, and when it comes to football you’ll try anything. Sometimes it even works. …”
Guardian


Overperforming Real Madrid? Underperforming Barca? Analysing how La Liga season could unfold

January 2, 2022


“There are many ways to win in football — but scoring more goals than you really should have, while conceding fewer than would have been expected, is a pretty good mix. Real Madrid have definitely been outperforming their numbers over the first half of this La Liga season, both in attack and defence. These are two big reasons why Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been able to open up what already looks a potentially decisive lead over their challengers — eight points over second-placed Sevilla, an astonishing 17 to champions Atletico Madrid in fifth, and 18 to Barcelona in seventh (albeit with Real Madrid having played a game more). …”
The Athletic (Video)


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot

December 9, 2021


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage


History of FC Barcelona

November 9, 2021


Barcelona’s Copa del Rey-winning squad of 1928.
“The history of Futbol Club Barcelona begins from the football club‘s founding in 1899 up until the present day. FC Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English, German and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club played amateur football until 1910 in various regional competitions. In 1910, the club participated in their first of many European competitions, and has since amassed fourteen UEFA trophies and a sextuple. In 1928, Barcelona co-founded La Liga, the top-tier in Spanish football, along with a string of other clubs. As of 2020, Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga, a record they share with Athletic Bilbao and arch-rival Real Madrid. The history of Barcelona has often been political. Though it was a club created and run by foreigners, Barcelona gradually became a club associated with Catalan values. In Spain’s transition to autocracy in 1925, Catalonia became increasingly hostile towards the central government in Madrid. The hostility enhanced Barcelona’s image as a focal point for Catalonism, and when Francisco Franco banned the use of the Catalan language, the stadium of Barcelona became one of the few places the people could express their dissatisfaction. The Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 has not dampened the club’s image of Catalan pride. In the 2000s – a period of sporting success in the club and an increased focus on Catalan players – club officials have openly called for Catalonia to become an independent state. …”
W – History of FC Barcelona
W – Joan Gamper
How society and politics gave us Catenaccio and Total Football
A Brief History Of FC Barcelona
Paulino Alcántara: Barcelona’s Filipino icon who blazed a trail for Messi
The importance of Catalonia – past and present – to Spanish football
In the pantheon of modern-day greats, where do Sergio Busquets’ unique talents rank?
YouTube: Barcelona, Johan Cruyff & Catalan Independence, La Masia: The History of Barcelona’s Academy

Barcelona face PSV in the 1977–78 UEFA Cup semi-finals. They also finished the season as Copa del Rey winners.


Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid

September 28, 2021


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: Extended Highlights


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


Vinícius kickstarts Bernabéu party and comes of age as Real Madrid hero

September 20, 2021


Vinícius Júnior
“In the end, the police had to pull him out of there. There was a party back at his place and Vinícius Júnior was enjoying this more than the last time he was there and probably more than he should have been, but he didn’t care and you couldn’t really blame him: this had been a long time coming and when at last it did, boy was it good. Boy was he. After 560 days, football finally returned to the Santiago Bernabéu and, having conceded inside 200 seconds, twice trailed and been reacquainted with whistles, the Brazilian put Real Madrid into the lead and on course for a 5-2 win over Celta de Vigo that made a celebration of their homecoming. …”
Guardian
NY Times – At Barcelona, a Feeling Worse Than Sorrow: Pity


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


Paying the Price for Premier League Riches

August 7, 2021


Andreas Pereira is known as the Preseason Pirlo. But he has nowhere to go.
“The headed clearance did not quite get the requisite power, or direction. It floated, rather than fizzed, out of Brentford’s penalty area, the danger not quite clear. Two Manchester United players converged on it, sensing opportunity. The ball bounced off the turf, not too high, not too quick, and hung in the air for just a second. And that is where Andreas Pereira met it.There is a reason some Manchester United fans have come to know Pereira — with equal parts affection and admonishment — as the Preseason Pirlo. …”
NY Times


How Barcelona’s wage bill has gone from highest in the world to on a par with AC Milan and Tottenham

July 24, 2021


“… That was Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s new president, who has essentially walked into a financial nightmare devised by Sir Alfred Hitchock. Speaking to La Vanguardia after his recent election victory, he painted a bleak picture. ‘We’ve encountered a squad with old-fashioned contracts and we will have to work out what to do,’ he added. ‘The existing contracts can be changed or restructured. After that, there are more drastic measures that we hope we don’t have to adopt.’ Barcelona are not alone in their struggles, as Real Madrid are finding things a little warm under the collar too. As The Athletic’s Dermot Corrigan has outlined in concise detail, Barcelona and Real Madrid find themselves in a bit of a mess when it comes to their salary cost limits for next season. …”
The Athletic (Video)


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


How Barca got themselves into €1.2bn debt: in-depth analysis

April 30, 2021


“Alex Stewart of Tifo Football explains how Barcelona‘s overall debt has risen to €1.2bn over the last few years and how they could get themselves out of this money pit. Barcelona are said to owe Liverpool more than 50 million euros, as per Diario Sport. These are the instalments that have to be paid as part of the Philippe Coutinho deal. Barca’s idea is to try to sell the Brazilian for that price so that the debt can be paid. Coutinho has made just 14 appearances for Barca this season, scoring 3 goals and recording 2 assists. Overall, the 28-year-old played just 90 games for Blaugrana. …” TRIBUNA (Video)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League

April 21, 2021


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away


Europe Plunders Paris for Talent, and P.S.G. Pays the Price

April 7, 2021



“Paris St.-Germain could not, in the end, have sped Tanguy Nianzou along much quicker than it did. He was captain of the club’s under-19 side when he was only 16. He was called up to the first team at 17, training alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and the rest, and soon made his debut. He even started a game in the Champions League. And still, despite all those opportunities, he left. Nianzou had just turned 18 when, on July 1 last year, he was presented as a Bayern Munich player. P.S.G. did not even have the solace of being able to pocket a premium fee for a player it had nurtured. Nianzou’s contract was expiring. He walked out of his hometown club for nothing. …” NY Times


Soccer Isn’t Blameless in Its Culture of Abuse

February 15, 2021


“This time, it was Yan Dhanda. A few days ago, it was Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial. Before that, it had been Alex Jankewitz and Romaine Sawyers. It happened to Lauren James, and to her brother, Reece, too. So pernicious, so constant is soccer’s problem with racist abuse that it is, at times, hard to keep up. Almost all of these cases echo what Dhanda experienced on Wednesday night: The names and the details can be changed, but the themes are the same. That evening, the 22-year-old Dhanda played for his team, Swansea City, in an F.A. Cup match against Manchester City. Swansea lost, 3-1. After the game, Dhanda checked his Instagram account. And there, waiting for him, was a racist, abusive private message. …” NY Times (Video)


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


A History of Soccer in Six Matches

April 18, 2020


Hungary’s visit to Wembley in 1953 was a seminal moment in the modern game.
“A few weeks ago, I asked readers to submit ideas for what they would like to see in this column. Not because I am short of them, you understand, but because in this bleak new reality of ours writing about sports very much falls into the category of ‘things you want,’ rather than ‘things you need.’ There was a flurry of suggestions, on every topic under the sun, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. One theme that stood out, though, was that many would welcome the chance to immerse themselves in the comforting nostalgia of soccer history. Even with my understanding editors and generous word counts, that is a vast, unwieldy subject. You can write soccer history in a million different ways: through the lens of teams and individuals, through tactics or geography or culture. …”
NY Times (Video)


Paul Pogba: which clubs could offer him escape from Manchester United?

September 30, 2018


“Paul Pogba, who was stripped of the Manchester United vice-captaincy on Tuesday, could potentially leave the club in January after his relationship with José Mourinho hit an all-time low. But with a salary of £250,000 a week and a fee likely to be in the region of £100m, which clubs have the financial might to sign the French World Cup winner?” Guardian


Atletico Madrid’s Slow Start

September 12, 2018

“Atletico Madrid are off to a curiously slow start. It’s the rare year where there might be some cracks at the top of La Liga. The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid means there’s a crack of daylight at the top of the table. But, three games in, the perennial favorites, Barcelona, and Ronaldo-less Madrid are perfect and Diego Simeone’s team has already dropped five points. Is there anything amiss with Atletico, or have their opening three games been the kind of fluke that the next 35 games will make everybody forget?” StatsBomb


La Liga: Why Real Madrid and Barca changes could pave way for Atletico Madrid

August 18, 2018

“The new La Liga season gets under way this weekend amid plenty of intrigue, especially for Real Madrid – as the three-in-a-row European champions begin life without iconic duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. Real are by no means the only team going through a period of change, however, with similar – although less dramatic – transitions being experienced by their biggest rivals, Atletico Madrid and domestic champions Barcelona.” BBC (Video)


It’s the Sids 2018! The complete review of the 2017-18 La Liga season

June 2, 2018

“All that and in the end it came down to this … nothing. There were tears and plenty of emotion, Fernando Torres serenaded off and Andrés Iniesta sitting alone on the Camp Nou turf long into the night, lights out for the last time, but for the first time in history there was no dramatic ending and nothing to play for on the final day of the Spanish season. Not the title, not Europe, not relegation, not the Pichichi, not the Zamora either – and not even a first-ever unbeaten league campaign. Barcelona had lost that record seven days earlier, finally defeated 37 games in, without Leo Messi. Still, they did win a friendly in South Africa three days later, so that’s okay. They also won the league of course, which they were always going to. Only, they weren’t – not really. …” Guardian


Sergio Ramos and the Egyptians

June 2, 2018

“On Saturday Spanish football club, Real Madrid, became European club champions for the third time in a row. It was also its 13th continental championship since 1955 (the most for any club). The game was won through a sublime overhead kick by their Welsh winger, Gareth Bale (rivaling a goal scored by his coach, Zinedine Zidane, in the 2002 final) and the repeated blunders of Liverpool FC’s goalkeeper Loris Karius (Real Madrid scored twice from those). But it was the antics of Madrid defender Sergio Ramos that has dominated online discussion since. …” Africasa Country


Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool: freak goals hand Real their third straight European Cup

May 29, 2018

“Two crazy goalkeeping mistakes and an all-time great goal from substitute Gareth Bale earned Zinedine Zidane his third European Cup in three attempts. Zidane decided to use his diamond midfield here, meaning Isco started instead of Bale, with Karim Benzema leading the line. Jurgen Klopp’s side was as expected – injury problems meant he didn’t really have any selection dilemmas. …” Zonal Marking – Michael Cox


Real Madrid’s Champions League Triumph Defined By Bale’s Heroics, Salah’s Injury

May 27, 2018


“KIEV, Ukraine – The decisive goal, scored with a Gareth Bale overhead kick moments after he had come off the bench, was brilliant, and the two Loris Karius mistakes that gifted Madrid goals either side of that were ghastly. But there was no doubting what had been the decisive moment as Real Madrid won its third European title in a row and its fourth in five years with a 3-1 triumph over Liverpool. As Keylor Navas went to take a goal kick, Mohamed Salah slowly subsided, sinking with a desperate sadness to the ground. It looked bad, and confirmation soon followed from Liverpool’s medical staff. He had not recovered from an injury suffered a couple of minutes earlier and his final was over after just half an hour. As Salah walked off, his face crumpled in tears, his right arm hanging awkwardly limp, Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos both consoled him, but the truth is his departure had been Ramos’s fault. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Zinedine Zidane Has the Wins at Real Madrid. Where Is the Praise?

April 29, 2018


“MUNICH — Unlikely as it seems, it may be time to consider the distinct possibility that Zinedine Zidane — winner of the Champions League in each of his first two seasons as a manager, and now on the brink of guiding Real Madrid to the competition’s final for a third year in a row — may be quite a good coach. That his brief managerial career has thus far delivered eight trophies in not quite 30 months should have made that perfectly obvious, of course; by this stage, the fact that he could steer his team to a 2-1 victory at Bayern Munich in the first leg of a Champions League semifinal should barely be worthy of note. Zidane the coach, not unlike Zidane the player, has known nothing but success. …” NY Times


Bayern: The Invisible Giants

April 13, 2018

“Sports Burst knows exactly how it feels to be overlooked, ignored and underappreciated for its greatness. After all, it looks at its readership stats every day. Basically, the column is Bayern Munich this week. While the world was clucking and fretting over the demise of Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League and oozing over Liverpool and Real Madrid, the Germans did their thang by qualifying for the final four of Europe’s top club competition, without anyone really noticing. …” BeinSports (Video)


Juventus’ Near Miracle Against Real Madrid Ends in Controversy

April 13, 2018

“MADRID — Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus’s veteran goalkeeper, has lived through all the highs and lows of soccer, from winning the World Cup with Italy to getting relegated with his club because of a match-fixing scandal. But even by such standards, his exit from the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night will rank as one the most dramatic events in his career. In the dying moments of the game, Buffon was shown a red card for angrily protesting a penalty that allowed Real Madrid to advance to the semifinals of the competition. …” NY Times


Champions League quarter-finals: tie-by-tie analysis

March 18, 2018


“We run the rule over the last-eight matches, including the all-Premier League duel between Liverpool and Manchester City, and predict who will triumph …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Grounds for closer inspection, part 1: Sevilla and Real Betis

February 27, 2018


“In the first of a new series, JAMES EVANS examines the evolution of pairs of stadiums across the world; starting with the Spanish city of Seville and its two clubs – Sevilla and Real Betis. …” Football Pink, Grounds for closer inspection, part 2: Portsmouth and Plymouth Argyle, Grounds for closer inspection, part 3: Barcelona and Real Madrid


The ‘Two Worlds’ of the Champions League Keep Drifting Apart

February 22, 2018


Sadio Mané and Liverpool put five goals past F.C. Porto last week.
“As he readied his players to face Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League last week, F.C. Basel Coach Raphaël Wicky realized he had a problem. Ordinarily, Wicky would dedicate one training session shortly before a game to a shadow match: On one side, his likely starting team, and on the other, 11 squad members slotted in to simulate Basel’s forthcoming opponent. They would line up in the same system, adopt the same style, play in the same patterns. The aim of the exercise is to familiarize the first team with the challenge that lies in wait. …” NY Times


No Ne-exit For Neymar

January 30, 2018

“1) Neymar pledges PSG future. Time for a bit of a giant media reverse with beep-beeping and hazard lights in full effect. Neymar is going nowhere next summer except to Russia for the World Cup and no doubt a lengthy vacation in Brazil. His club boss says it, his manager says it, the footballer’s ‘people’ say it and heck, the football says it too. The player is ‘2000% percent’ going to be playing with PSG next season, whether the French club wins the Champions League or not. ‘I’m happy with my team-mates and I’m happy at PSG,’ was Neymar’s message after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Montpellier. So back off, Real Madrid and pack away any sneaky ideas in a bag marked, ‘not in a million years’.  …” Bein-Sports (Video)


An Englishman Abroad

January 26, 2018

“Thirty years ago this summer, Gary Lineker came to the end of a highly successful first season with Barcelona. Signed from Everton after his exploits with England at the 1986 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, he was an instant hit at Camp Nou, scoring a match-winning hat-trick against Real Madrid in the Clásico and finishing his first season with 21 goals. …” The Blizzard


Cristiano Ronaldo Is Human After All

January 22, 2018


“We’re doing this again, huh? Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo began to walk toward the exit of the Santiago Bernabéu. He even turned the door handle—only to, and I’m guessing here, realize that, along with the value of the British pound, his scoring rate was about to plummet. Brexit has consequences, and so does trading Marcelo for Ashley Young. Although Spanish authorities dogged him for the (reported) €14.8 million he hid in a shell company in the British Virgin Islands, he eventually came back to Spain after a summer vacation ready to … uh, oh boy. …” The Ringer


La Liga At the Break: Valencia, Girona and Atlético

January 4, 2018

“In just a scant few days the La Liga teams will return from their truncated winter rest. Before we dive head first into the home straight of the season, let’s take a look back at what the first chunk of games has taught us, shall we? This isn’t technically the halfway-point as Spain’s domestic break comes after 17 games rather than 19. Don’t worry though, we’re not about to let that get in the way of a good ol’ rummage through the numbers! …” StatBomb