new year’s resolutions

As 2011 winds to a close and the dawn of a new year is upon us, I imagine many of you are in the final stages of planning for the annual — and often eventually pointless — ritual called “New Year’s Resolutions”. Every year, millions around the world make commitments to achieve personal goals over the next year such as losing a set amount of weight, breaking bad habits or forming good new ones.

times square soccer ball

now that a very soccer ball-ish times square ball has dropped, it's time to think about what we want to have happen in 2012

However, despite these resolutions generally being made with the best of intentions, for one reason or another, we normally have a hard time keeping them. Scientists tell us that only 12% of all of New Year’s Resolutions are actually met by year’s end, a rate poor enough to make you wonder why we even make them in the first place.

Personally, I like to take the easy way out by not botering to make resolutions, period. By taking this approach, it prevents me from feeling disappointed when I don’t meet the overly ambitious targets I always end up setting for myself. After all, the easiest goals to achieve are the one’s you never make… or something like that.

But just because I don’t set my own resolutions, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make empty promises for other people instead.

Why pass up soaking in all of the instant gratification of setting ambitious goals, especially when I’m not responsible for any of the work that goes into turning dreams into reality?!

With that in mind, I present to you my idealistic 2012 World Football New Year’s Resolutions list:

For Mario Balotelli to keep being… Mario Balotelli

 balotelli why always me

i don't know why, mario... but let's hope it stays that way.

To say that the young Manchester City starlet has endured a roller coaster 2011 might just be the understatement of the year. From the highs of driving around Manchester’s city centre in a convertible giving fans high fives, to the lows of lighting his own bathroom on fire with fireworks, the Italian starlet has been nothing short of a machine at producing ridiculous headlines. He seems more at home in a made-up comic strip than in the life of a real, live professional athlete. And that’s just the way we like it, especially since he tends to make my job writing significantly easier. So please, Super Mario, don’t go changing anything. Just keep being you: it’s what you do best.

For Jürgen Klinsmann to show his grand USMNT experiment is actually working.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m all for Klinsmann’s efforts to reshape the national team and build it a new identity, and I know that this transformation won’t happen overnight. It needs some time to set in, like any master plan, and I feel like a pretty patient guy. However, it’s hard to stomach loses and ties against sides that we had been — and should still be — beating. I’m not asking for us to start rolling over Mexico like the Spanish would Andorra, but I would prefer to see us start stringing together some positive results sooner rather than later. A continued run of bad showings could, after all, have a devastating impact on the team’s moral and confidence. And that’s definitely not something we need heading into World Cup qualifying.

For John Terry to finally get what’s coming to him.

I’ve made no secret for my distaste for Terry in this space, so it’s not surprising that I would want for fate to finally catch up with the bastard in 2012. And even though I don’t need to recant all of his sins since most of them have played out publicly, I still want to. So, here’s why John’s karma is long overdue to bite Mr. Chelsea: 2001) drunkenly taunts American tourists at Heathrow airport immediately after 9/11, 2002) charged with assault for an altercation with a nightclub bouncer, 2009) takes cash bribes to give unauthorized tours of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, 2010) may or may not have had an affair with a former teammate/friend’s baby mama, 2011) racially abuses the younger brother of international teammate during a match. Even though he’s been “cleared” in a majority of those cases, how can one guy be investigated for so many claims and they all be false? Oh yeah, they can’t. Cue the Law & Order dun-dun!

For Jose Mourinho to finally to overhaul Barcelona as the best side in Spain.

mourinho eye poke

if mourinho doesn't come out on top soon, i fear for eyes the world over.

I know it’s pretty unrealistic to think this could happen in the 2012 calendar year, despite the fact that Real are currently three points clear of rivals Barça going into the Winter Break. Pep Guardiola and his men definitely still have a death-grip like hold over Mourinho and his charges’ confidence, as is evident with their impressive strings of results in the multitude of Clásicos in 2011. And while I’d love to see Los Blancos regain the edge in the rivalry for reasons that include restoring “parity” to Spain (and I very loosely use the word parity considering it’s a league where only two teams ever win) and being a fan, my main reason for wanting to see Mourinho finally overcome his demons is much, much more important. You see, I fear that if the Special One’s galácticos don’t take over the crown as Spain’s best soon, I think he’s going to poke out EVERYONE’s eyes.

For Alex Morgan to increase the number of shoots she books like this one.

So what if I’m married? I’m allowed to have internet crushes on attractive celebrities just like anyone else. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring to see more scantily clad pictures of my chosen crush. I mean as far as the picture shown, it underlines her ability to look attractive in both classy and sporty attire, not to mention her ability to knock the balls around… knock balls around the pitch you dirty perverts. And thanks to the WUSA WPS getting a renewed lease on life from US Soccer, Miss Morgan should stay in the limelight just a little bit more.

For Daniel Levy to not only continue sticking to his guns on not selling, but also pull the trigger on some big buys too.

Look, I’m stoked that the Tottenham chairman told Chelsea to shove their £40 million for Modrić where the sun doesn’t shine over the summer. It showed ambition, and sent a message to the rest of the growing egos in the locker room that nobody was bigger than the club. But aside from the last minute swoop for Rafa van der Vaart two summers ago and the bargain buying of Scott Parker from a desperate-for-cash West Ham, Levy hasn’t exactly shown any willingness to spend to match the club’s ambition. Though the free signing of Brad Friedel and the short-term solution of Adebayor up top have proven to be shrewd bits of business, the club desperately need to make a statement buy. Otherwise, can Spurs really consider themselves title challengers if we’re the only side that’s not continuously bringing in world class, young talent? I don’t think so.

For Neymar to finally move to a team in Europe, and for said team, to make him cut his hair.

neymar and his hair

hey, rufio. leave your hair in brazil once you leave for europe.

It might just be me, but I’ve grown extremely tired of the weekly Neymar transfer rumors. At this point, I’m not sure if the constant stream of “done deal” rumors to Real Madrid/Barcelona are actually true, or if it’s just an elaborate ruse by Santos to raise their asking price for the extremely talented young starlet. And if anything was learned from Barcelona wiping the floor with Santos at the Club World Cup final, it’s that Neymar needs to move on to a club where he’ll be pushed to raise the level of his game… and that clearly can’t happen in Brazil. And let’s be honest, a classier club will actually make the kid cut off his stupid rooster hair so he looks like a proper footballer.

For Blackburn Rovers owners Venkeys to finally put their manager out of his misery.

Don’t let yesterday’s upset win away at Old Trafford fool you: even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. Said plainly, Rovers boss Steve Keane is not a Premier League caliber manager. The rumors of his impending sacking have been circulating since at least the tail end of last season. And to be completely honest with you, I have no clue how he’s still in his job. The Ewood Park outfit have struggled in nearly every department on field this season, and the fans have stood in unison for months saying that want the poor guy out. Maybe the Venkeys think they can save themselves from the drop if they just stick it out with the same manager all season, who knows. But regardless of whether you have a shit manager or not, if you don’t end up spending a significant amount of money to bring in fresh blood this January, you are going down.

For Carlos Tévez to end up at A.C. Milan.

With the dispute between Carlitos and City having now extended an entire half of a season, the Citizens are finally ready to rid themselves of this headache permanently. And luckily, they’ve lowered their asking price enough that a few other clubs are at least considering the thought of making a move for the temperamental striker. Though Corinthians have renewed their interest, the club making the most noise about signing Tévez are the Rosaneri. So why do I want him to end up there? Well, if Carlos is signed permanently, Milan will have the undisputed craziest front line in the world: Robinho (the brat), Pato (the indifferent), Cassano (the mad hatter), Ibrahimović (the bully) and Tévez (the ego). And with Silvio Berlusconi resuming his duties as club chairman, I’m really hoping he forces Allegri to play all five of them at once.

And lastly, for Fernando Torres to keep looking like this:

sulking torres on chelsea bench

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wrong side XI: offensive center mid

this is part IX in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

this collection of mighty mites will do battle for the honor of my starting offensive midfield spot.

Off all the positional choices for the wrong side XI series that I compiled since the beginning of the summer, my offensive mid selection has probably fluctuated more than any of the others. Of the five “lucky” men that managed to make this shortlist, all of them have occupied the top spot at least once or twice since I began work on this project. So as you might have guessed, making my final selection has been very, very difficult.

Complicating the issue is that all five of these players has been in phenomenal form over the last 18 months. They’re often one of the first names on their respective club’s teamsheets each match day, and are by far some of the most visible players on the field during those matches. Each is the central creative force for their club, and their play often dictates the fate of the outcome of the matches in which they take part.

Part of me wishes I could just pick them all. Hell, if I were to abandon the game plan I lined out in the first post in this series, and instead replaced it with a system akin to Barcelona’s interchangeable top four, I almost could have.

Unfortunately for no one but me, that’s not how I want to run my imaginary team. so we’ll have to narrow this down to just one midfield wizard… follow my thought process after the jump.

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a big dose of “aww”

As a married man that has yet to have his first kid, sometimes I feel like I’m constantly feeling pressure to start making babies.

angry feyenoord baby

while i want my eventual offspring to be a fan of football, THIS type of child fan might be a bit over the top.

My high school friends are starting to have kids, as are a few from college. There must be something in the water at work, as there at minimum five pregnant ladies wandering around the office right now. And anytime I bring up my wife around any of the lot, they feel it necessary to let me know that I’m effectively “on deck”. Hell, when we got a puppy a while back, my mother-in-law told us we should have had a baby instead.

It’s not that I don’t want to have kids, I just don’t want them yet. Considering that’s it’s a tiny miracle that I’m actually able to make it to work each day on time, it would be safe to say that I’m maybe not quite mature enough for that kind of responsibility yet.

Thankfully, my lovely wife has agreed to postpone having children, for a little while at least. I convinced her it’s so we can enjoy each other’s company sans-children, take some trips, etc. However — and perhaps more importantly — by delaying having a baby, I’ll still have the energy to get up and watch early morning soccer matches each weekend. Also thankfully, my wife very rarely reads my posts.

So, imagine my surprise this morning that, while I’m reading through my normal morning blogroll, I found myself thinking I wanted to have a kid of my own.

But, not just any kid. I want this kid:

How freaking awesome is he?!?! He knows damn near every player’s name, and he’s what, 6 or 7 at the most? And not only does he know their names, but he’s genuinely having his mind blown by seeing his Spanish heroes. That’s not to mention that he’s not even Spanish: he’s actually Costa Rican! I doubt there are more than a handful of 6-year-old grommets in the entirety of the US that can name half of the USMNT players on site, let alone the players from another country.

For those concerned that the poor little guy’s hopes were crushed because most of La Furia Roja passed him by despite his ear-splitting screams (I’m sure Carlos Puyol’s ears are still ringing after he decided to quickly bypass the youngster), worry not. As this linked video shows at the 3:08 mark, he was actually able meet a few of the stars. But that wasn’t enough for this young fanatic, as he was even so bold as to pet Fernando Torres’ magnificent blonde mop!

What… a… badass!

Now, I am perfectly aware I can’t have this particular kid. I’m sure his parents would certainly balk at the idea, not to mention the whole language barrier thing that might prove a tad problematic as well. So that leaves me only to hope that my eventual child will be half as awesome as this footy-obsessed toddler.

Sadly, that’s also making a big assumption that I won’t smother him/her so much with soccer that they end up hating the sport and preferring that disgusting gridiron variety just to spite me.

the great schism

There is a war going on, and it’s battlefield is professional football.

michel platini

if i were uefa's michel platini, i'd be very worried about the complaints from my biggest clubs.

Now, before you get all worked up about me calling a soccer problem a “war,” I know that any issue occurring in the game isn’t exactly comparable to any of the “real wars” that are currently plaguing the planet — Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan or even Mexico’s drug war, for example. It’s completely fair to say that any conflict brewing within a sport is effectively a first world problem. I don’t mean any disrespect, so why don’t you go ahead and put down that pitchfork.

But for all intensive purposes, I’m calling it a “war” because there is an enormous battle getting ready to take place over the future of the professional sport we all love and obsess over. Just like the Great Schism of 1054 that broke apart the Catholic Church, this impending war will shake the very foundations of professional soccer if not resolved.

I wrote a month ago about class warfare in the game, and the damage that financial inequality has done to it. The cascading pyramid system of European football has created a system where the powerful become more powerfulon the backs of the little guys (shades of real life, perhaps?). That’s why it takes a club like Manchester City to spend it’s way into powerful elite.

This system has also given increasing amounts of power to the clubs with respect to the international game, and rightfully so. After all, the national teams only pay a fraction of the costs in developing international caliber players, the majority of which is paid by the many clubs across the globe. But in the end, the national teams reap rewards from all of that investment by the clubs without as much at risk if a player get’s injured. At the very least, this is why I think it’s fair that clubs should be compensated by FIFA in those situations.

But as the club game has grown in popularity, the race to capitalize and profit on the club game has caused the clubs to continuously push for more and more concessions from the international game and the governing bodies.

And frankly, their demands are ever increasing and completely troubling.

jorge valdano

when a former major executive at a major club makes major accusations, i have major concerns.

Former Manchester City CEO Garry Cook was one of the first to publicly claim that the idea of a breakaway European Super League was being discussed back in 2008. But he wasn’t the last either. As recently as last month, former Real Madrid Sporting Director Jorge Valdano claimed that Real and Barça will eventually have to move on from La Liga because the competition isn’t strong enough for them.

Let’s focus less on the fact that both Cook and Valdano are publicly-shamed, formerly high ranking members of their clubs’ hierarchies, and focus more on the fact that they were both very high ranking officials at their former clubs.  These guys were the ones sitting in on and directing the shady backroom deals that everyone knows suspects happen at the world’s biggest clubs.

The fact that both of these departed executives, coming from two vastly different countries with very different sporting cultures, have declared that their clubs were at least kicking around the idea of breaking away from their existing domestic leagues… isn’t that extremely worrying to anyone else?!?!

Throwing fuel on the fire is the speculated work of former Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon. Unlike Cook and Valdano, Kenyon is very well respected within the game’s management circles, and apparently he is already working on a plan to help clubs break away when they want to do it. Though he has yet to publicly back up said claims, I can’t imagine Peter working on a project that was merely a pipe dream.

The idea of a break away “European Super League”, akin to the major sports leagues on this side of the pond, has long been a dream of the major clubs. The best playing the best, week in and week out, is — no matter how you put it — a mouthwatering idea.

But with clubs once again apparently threatening their imminent withdrawal, would a EuroLeague really be the right move for professional football?

The positives, at first at least, seem to heavily tilt the scales in favor of this breakaway league.

  • For the fans, it would easily be a mouthwatering opportunity to truly see a European champion crowned in the same way a normal national league system would crown a champion: through a weekly league table. The current Champions League format almost promotes conservative/boring tactics as clubs look to minimize the risk of conceding away goals while waiting for the other teams to make a mistake. Replacing the knockout rounds with a league table would allow teams to focus on putting in solid performances across an entire season instead of just trying to go on a good run towards the end of the competition.
  • The clubs would surely rake in a mountain of cash through a revised competition. By breaking away and drawing up their own rules, they would suddenly have the ability to take a significantly larger chunk of the profits than the current set-ups allow.
  • Playing off the potential increase in revenues is that money’s ability to possibly save some “super” clubs that are currently on shaky financial ground. Proud, illustrious clubs hampered by leagues they’ve outgrown (The Old Firm, Ajax, FC Copenhagen, etc.) could potentially return to their former glory by using the higher revenue provided by a Euro League to strengthen and balance their books. Some of these clubs, notably Rangers in Scotland, are already looking to break away from their existing leagues just to survive, and would surely jump if a bigger opportunity showed itself.
  • Players the world over, just as they do today with the Champions League, would undoubtedly strive to compete in this one competition to rule them all. Just like with James Milner, guys would leave behind starting spots at slightly less prestigious clubs just to ride the pine at clubs competing in the world’s penultimate league. The wages are sure to be higher for those that are able to make the jump, thus increasing the desire of players to make it to that level. And just like their employers, some are even calling for the league themselves.

But to be honest, all of those seem like such short term improvements. A look at the other side of the coin reveals some startling issues that would arrise from a breakaway European super league:

  • The little clubs that aren’t lucky enough to make the cut for the new league would eventually become second-rate, feeder squads to the EuroLeague clubs. The amount of financial discrepancies between the leagues would no-doubt cause the best players from the rest be cherry-picked by the elite sides. Not that this doesn’t already happen to an extent, but with no chance of ever being promoted to the big time, what other purpose could a small club serve? Welcome to the minor leagues of Europe!
  • How would the fans of the small clubs feel about supporting a club that could never possibly reach the big time? The appeal of the super league and it’s clubs would surely dilute the interest in smaller clubs and their competitions.
  • While the creation of a breakaway league would probably save some clubs on poor financial footing, the power vacuum left by their departure from smaller leagues will likely lead to the quick demise of many clubs and competitions. Think of leagues like the Scottish Premier League: without Rangers and/or Celtic to draw in TV viewers, would the SPL and all of its clubs actually be able to survive?

The potential ripple effect from a mass withdrawal of major clubs from European competitions could be devastating and far reaching. Stress on could.

The European Cup has long stood as UEFA’s answer to the clubs’ calls for a super league, though it’s never quite been the competition the clubs have desired. In fact, the threat of clubs breaking away from the traditional structure has essentially mandated UEFA to revamp the competition numerous times just to keep them appeased.The original rebranding of the tournament to the Champions League — a change that drastically increased the revenues generated for participating clubs — is one such example of this. And it’s good thing that they did, as the exit of the old continent’s major clubs from the domestic and international leagues which UEFA sanctions would have surely been a fatal blow to the organization.

liverpool's john henry

if you think that JWH wouldn't breakaway from the premier league to maximize his investment return, you're only kidding yourself.

Unfortunately for UEFA, the reorganized Champions League is already growing stale. The group stage is generally considered a bore, with the top teams even fielding weakened sides because the competition is often poor. There are already calls to revamp the competition to keep fans and clubs interested, once again creating leverage for the clubs to break away.

Of course, this all hinges on whether or not the owners of said clubs have the stones to make this kind of move. Considering the fallout and subsequent backing away from the purported desire of some Premier League foreign owners wanting to end the relegation/promotion system, as well as having clubs sell their own international television rights, I’m guessing that their stones aren’t quite as big as some fear.

But the failure of those initiatives doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about this one.

Look, I’m not sitting here saying I have a solution to this threat, and I’m not sure of anyone that does yet. Without a doubt, tackling the issue of financial inequality between the clubs is a good first step. Though as intimately tied to the solution as that financial inequality is, fixing that problem is another completely different mountain to scale itself.

I am, however, saying that I’m really worried about the prospect of a breakaway league. And if it happens, I can’t help but worry more whether Tottenham will actually be included in it.

wrong side XI: defensive center mid

this is part VIII in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

these fine gentleman face off for my defensive midfield starting spot.

You probably thought I had forgotten about these Wrong Side XI posts, didn’t you? Admittedly, I haven’t been cranking out these posts nearly as fast I originally promised. And yet here we are, with summer in the rearview mirror and my summer post series is still dragging on. You can see my excuse on the site’s Facebook page if you’re really interested in hearing the reason for the delay.

Anyway, it’s high time we get back to it, and we’ll do so by narrowing down my selections for defensive midfield. I’m guessing due to the wait I put you all through to get to this point, I you’re probably not interested in a further wait, so let’s dive right into my #5 choice…

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cat and mouse

My email inbox blew up yesterday, a multitude of emails from concerned and inquisitive friends filling it up several times throughout the day. They all asked about the same thing: how was I handling the news? And while the news of the passing of one America’s foremost innovators was the headline story of the day, that wasn’t the story to which my friends wanted to hear my reaction.

cesc fabregas in puma gear

the cat is out of the bag: cesc has jumped ship for puma.

No, they were all much more concerned with hearing my thoughts about Cesc Fàbregas’ traitorous, out-of-the-blue switch from Nike to Puma. Riveting, right?

Some in the boot-obsessed corners of the game are calling Puma’s capture of Cesc “one of the biggest brand transfers in football history”. Personally, I think that’s a bit sensationalist: Thierry Henry leaving Nike for Reebok in 2006 was a much bigger bombshell (Although ironically, Henry just signed on with Puma too.). But it’s still a massive move by a brand that’s been losing ground to industry leaders Adidas and Nike for years, as well as to upstarts UnderArmour.

So, what was my reaction to one of my favorite players leaving one of my favorite brands?

Admittedly, it was a bit hard to swallow at first. After all, my choice in boots has mirrored Cesc’s almost identically over the last few years. I’d argue that this wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. But from the Tiempo Legend II’s through to both models of the CTR360’s, I feel like I formed a(n obviously non-existent) bond with my idol by way of our common footwear. And now that he was leaving Nike, I foolishly felt a bit betrayed and hurt.

Though, after seeing his first promotional picture for Puma — the awkward picture from the top of the post that makes him look a bit out-of-place in their digs — I did feel a bit more vindicated in my feelings. Then I remembered that Cesc jumping off the Nike boot train doesn’t mean that I have to, too. And then I remembered that none of this is really that important.

But, it did make me wonder why a player like Fàbregas — one of the elite players on the planet — would ditch a lucrative sponsorship with a deep-pocketed, innovative, industry leader to join forces with a company that appears on the wane.

To Nike, Cesc might have been the lead athlete on their CTR360 line of boots, but there are also a small herd of other stars that rock the same boot, including teammates Andrés Iniesta and Javier Mascherano. And considering that Nike already have the entire club wrapped up in Nike apparel, it wouldn’t be crazy for the Oregonians to think that they’re already getting plenty of exposure out of the Barça camp.

cesc fabregas and puma

cesc loyalty goes no further than the city behind him or the largest checks offered to him.

To Puma, Fàbregas appears the perfect pitch man for their footballing endeavors. By all accounts, the Catalonian is a good lad that won’t cause them much worry about exposure to bad PR on his behalf. He also just happens to be a member of the most famous and idolized team on the planet at the moment, and prior to his signing, Puma didn’t have a single endorsement on a roster that’s dominated with Nike (11 of 16 regulars) and Adidas ( 4 regulars) athletes. With Barcelona sure to make deep runs in the Champions League, Club World Cup and La Liga competitions, there are few other athletes that could offer the sheer amount of global exposure that Cesc’s feet can.

The plain and simple fact seem to point towards one conclusion: Puma offered more money to Cesc than Nike thought would be worth the investment to match. And though I’d love to believe with starry eyes that he would be loyal to the brand that’s paid him for so long, Fab4 has proven recently that he’s only loyal to two things: FC Barcelona and money.

Fàbregas — along with Kun Agüero — will now undoubtedly serve as the face of the brand now that their former face, Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto’o, has moved to the wilds of Dagestan far from Western eyes and their bank accounts. And it will likely do Puma, and the player’s bank account, well.

And to all of my friends who think that I’ll now be giving up my beloved Nike boots to copycat Cesc’s latest move, you’re crazy… I won’t be doing that until Chris Rolfe loses his endorsement and/or grows bigger feet than me.

ronaldology

Do you have an hour to kill? Oh you do. That’s great, because you’re going to need it.

cristiano ronaldo was scientifically amazing against real zaragoza

some scientists have decided to use their magical methods to figure out why ronaldo is so good being good.

Don’t worry, I promise you that this isn’t just another babbling tirade about the mundane day to day drama of being a Tottenham Hotspur fan. This is far more interesting — wait, no — fascinating even.

Anyway, the reason you’ll need an hour is I’m about to subject you to four, ten to fifteen-minute YouTube videos focused on everyone’s favorite greasy Iberian… Cristiano Ronaldo. In some odd, convoluted effort to try to sell us all motor oil that I don’t fully understand, Castrol teamed up with SkySports to “forensically analyze what makes him such an efficient machine.” Cheesy tagline? Yes. But trust me when I say it’s worth watching Cristiano Ronaldo: Tested to the Limit.

The experts managed to breakdown this highly scientific affair into four separate categories in which to further inflate Ronaldo’s gargantuan ego:

  1. Body Strength
  2. Mental Ability
  3. Technique
  4. Skill

In each segment, they compare CR7 against a series of benchmark tasks to see how he excels — or maybe fails? — in each category. And surprisingly, they don’t always set him up to crush the benchmark either.

So kick back, maybe grab a small snack, and watch science tell you why you should like Cris more Leo.

Body Strength

While we all probably could have predicted the results of Ronnie facing off against Spanish sprinter Ángel David Rodríguez, solely based on the way the two guys are used to running. But it’s also worth noting that Rodríguez’s personal best in the 100m of 10.14s is pretty far off of Usain Bolt’s World Record of 9.58s.

Extrapolated out, Ronaldo’s time in the 100m would (roughly) be 11.06s. A far shot off of both sprinters, but as the specialists in the film noted, his form was atrocious. If you taught the Real Madrid star how to run properly, I’m guessing he’d probably be able to close the gap on the Spanish champion pretty quickly.

Then again, this isn’t a sprinter’s blog, so I could just be blowing smoke up your ass. The math seems somewhat logical, right?

Mental Ability

This segment was truly amazing, as we got to see the scientific explanation of why renowned dribbling players like Ronaldo, Messi, and Maradona have so much success beating opponents. Essentially, this segment shows the role that instinctual, muscle memory training plays in allowing each player to see exactly when the defender is off balance or unable to shift a particular direction. If we were to place those fancy eye-tracking visors on other successful dribblers, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if we saw very similar eye movement patterns.

Secondly, Ronaldo’s ability to judge a ball’s flight path based solely on body language is absolutely mind blowing. He wasn’t just able to connect with the ball despite the lights going out, but he was able to showboat. Awesome. Also, my neighbors are going to be awfully pissed off with me tonight when I’m flashing floodlights on and off at 3 AM tonight trying to replicate this experiment.

Technique

This segment felt like one of those crappy ESPN Sports Science shows where the network tries to explain to people who never studied physics why things in sports happen the way they do. When they made this, it’s like they expected every viewer to say, “Ahhhhhhh, curving the ball is all due to air pressure!” Quit belittling me Castrol! I took physics in high school and college!

Otherwise, I feel like the only purpose of this segment was to allow Cristiano to roll up his shorts to show off his oily legs and fulfill his childhood dream of breaking five windows with two shots.

Skill

I can only imagine the producers sitting around drumming up ideas for how they were going to test Ronnie’s amazing footwork:

Should we just have him dribble through a bunch of cones?

No. Too elementary. We need more entertainment.

Maybe we can have him do some skills and then another guy do the same skills, and measure how much faster Ronaldo is than the regular bloke.

On the right path, but how are we going to get viewers with just that?

Well fine, Jack, how about we just have a bunch of trained snipers come out and try to shoot Ronaldo with a bunch of lazer guns while he’s dribbling!? Would that be exciting enough for you, Jack!?!?

BRILLIANT!!!!!!!

Not much science involved in this segment really, as all we were really able to prove is that Ronaldo is either really unpredictable in his dribbling or that England have a load of shit snipers.

—————————————————-

Overall, it was a pretty interesting bit of footy video. My biggest complaint was that they never bench marked Ronnie against another professional player. It wouldn’t have to be anyone special… hell, it could have been Robbie Savage or some other footie celebrity. But to be able to compare Ronaldo to someone who is at least close to him on ability level.

To be fair, no other pro would volunteer to devalue himself by competing against the former World Player of the Year in a bunch of tests that are devised to make that guy look like a deity. But it would have been nice to have a standard of comparison.

Regardless, I learned a lot about what makes Ronaldo so great… he’s a physical freak with the perfect mix of various body features that make him an ideal footballer, and that he’s a dedicated professional that’s put in his time on the training ground to fine tune and hone his skills.

However, I do think some researchers did overlook one thing that does give him an advantage: that extremely greasy and oily hair and skin. Perhaps that helps him with aerodynamics and opposing players not being able to grab onto him… can we get some scientists in here to figure this out, like now?!?!

ten words or less #34

sexy mike ashley

after seeing newcastle owner mike ashley's sexy body, i bet you're not mad at me anymore for not posting for a week. right?

I feel a bit like a bad boyfriend right now, one who’s been accused of ignoring my long-term girlfriend for a while, since I haven’t posted in a week. And even though it appears that I’ve not been working on it — ignoring the fact this TWOL post has been sitting around for at least a week itself — I promise that I’ve got some original content in the pipeline for you. Whether you’ll find that new content interesting, that’s another issue…

So, consider this quick posting a small bouquet of flowers to make up for my perceived lack of attentiveness.

“FIFA: For the Good of the Game a Select Few” – grantland.com

Barcelona youth teams occasionally have to play on dirt pitches!?!? – youtube.com

I would watch this. – regista-blog.com

Spanish football is in some serious (financial) shit. – fourfourtwo.com

Germany loves my favorite formation: the 4-2-3-1. – soccernet.com

If true, I’m just glad it’s not some Union-Jack monstrosity. – football-shirts.co.uk

More bad ass football art. – miniboro.com

A brilliantly written article on racism in football. – runofplay.com

the stench of new money

“Class warfare” is a dirty phrase these days, mostly used sparingly by politicians publicly attempting to convince their constituency that they’re being looked out for while conducting the shady, backroom negotiations that pass for the legislation process. It pits the upper class against the lower class, those with versus those without, the have’s battling the have not’s.

manchester city as fa cup winners

the stink emanating from the midlands became much more pungent after city's f.a. cup win.

The little guy, alone, could never stand a chance versus the established elite. With generations of “old money” giving them a distinct advantage over the masses with little to no individual wealth, the rich could always quash the competition by paying over the odds for the precious resources in their industries. Meanwhile, all of the little guys are dependent on the powerful for their jobs/money/needs, so there’s little they can really do. The rich maintain their monopolies, spending big to keep their perch on the top of the pile where they can continue to take advantage of their power and wealth.

So when the many little finally realized that they could band together to fight against the big few, class warfare was born. History is written on the back of class warfare struggles, cyclical in nature as they follow the rise and fall of power/money distribution between the classes. The successes of the lowly are still present in modern society in the form of institutions such as unions, social welfare programs, and public works projects.

In truth, class warfare is just a symptom of human societies. While political figures might conjure images of blue-collar workers armed with tire irons and food stamps attacking white-collar scoundrels armed with hired mercenaries and bars of solid gold, class warfare is more akin to the mechanism by which the lowly can raise themselves up out of the gutter into more palatable circumstances. It’s as pervasive as it is necessary to our culture, present in all aspects of our lives, like a yin and yang to keep society in equilibrium.

Football: a war’s battle field
Sport is not immune to class warfare, as its battle has been ongoing since the early days of the professional game. A look across the world footballing landscape, and you see a select group of clubs that have dominated their domestic programs since nearly the beginnings of professional football:

  • River Plate and Boca Juniors in Argentina.
  • Santos, Palmeiras and São Paulo in Brazil.
  • Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal in England.
  • Bayern Munich in Germany.
  • Olympiakos and Panathinaikos in Greece.
  • Ajax and PSV in Holland.
  • Juventus, Inter and Milan in Italy.
  • Benfica, Porto and Sporting in Portugal.
  • Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
  • Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş and Galatasaray in Turkey.
  • I’ll quit here because I’m sure you get my point.
manchester united's trophy cabinet

you're trophy cabinet doesn't get this full without having a long line of success and wealth to build upon.

These clubs, often backed by wealthy entrepreneurs (think Manchester United) in their primitive years, built upon their early successes and the ensuing popularity that came with them to become today’s super powers. While good financial management and opportunistic thinking was also required to get them into the class of elite, almost none of that would be possible without the original advantages that wealthy ownership provided.

Unfortunately, the dichotomies created by these gaps in wealth left thousands of other clubs left to fight for the scraps year after year. Sure, a small(-ish) side breaks through from time to time, with recent examples including Sampdoria in 1991, Blackburn Rovers in 1995, Valencia in 2003 and VfL Wolfsburg in 2008. But in the last 10 years of the eight leagues mentioned above (minus Brazil and Argentina, as their league systems are vastly different from the rest), the 19 dominant clubs won 82.5% of the 80 championships awarded. They all spend big to remain so dominant, but then again, they’re able to.

So for a club to break the mold and evolve from a small time club into a big time club, an enormous amount of financial resources would have to be poured into the club.

We saw that happen in the late 90’s when Leeds United and Blackburn Rovers spent their way into the English elite. But when both squads were split up and relegated due to the heavy debts they incurred in the process, it served as a warning to other clubs that wild spending wouldn’t pay off in the long term. “Remain small and live on” became the rule.

So when the occasional breakthrough by a smaller club does happen, it feels like a victory for the masses. Thoughts of “Look at us! We/They stuck it to the big guy!” or “Take that privileged elite!” rush through our brains. We know that the one elite will reclaim their “rightful” place next year, so now is the time to rub it in their faces.

But what would happen if a small club were able to find a steady stream of investment from an owner that wouldn’t up and vanish when the going got tough? Would that be enough for a victory in class warfare?

Lucky for us, we’re finding out the answer to those questions right now. All across Europe, a trend is developing where meek clubs are being taken over by insanely rich individuals with the aim of toppling the status quo.

The trail was first blazed by Chelsea’s takeover by billionaire Roman Abramovich. Prior to Russian’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had just a quintet of major trophies in their 106 year history: a single 1st division championship (1954-’55), two FA Cups (’69-’70, ’96-’97), a League Cup (’64-’65), and UEFA Cup Winners Cup (’70-’71)… not exactly the stuff of an elite club. But in the eight years since his takeover, Abramovich’s injection of approximately £800 million into the club for both transfers and managerial changes has bore fruit in the form of eight major trophies. New money could buy you titles after all.

However, Chelsea’s rise from obscurity to power wasn’t easily swallowed by the rest of the soccer world.  How could that be possible when it was a “smaller” club disrupting the old guard’s rule?

Roman Abramovich, Peter Kenyon & Jose Mourinho

abramovich's expensively assembled ensemble proved that money would be the most valuable asset in this class warfare.

The Blues were accused of inflating prices in the transfer market, making it prohibitively expensive for other clubs to bid for the services of top players. At times, they were accused of entering bidding wars for players not with the intent of purchasing that player, but instead just to drive up his price. They lured players to Stanford Bride by offering wages that no other club could match, unsettling players at their current clubs, and utilized other generally shady transfer practices.

So while some fans, clubs, managers, and chairmen were busy gathering the pitchforks to march down Fulham Road, a group of wealthy businessmen/oligarchs around the globe sat up and took notice. “If Abramovich was able to do it,” they must have wondered, “why couldn’t I do it at my own club?”

And then the money pours in…
What’s resulted is an avalanche of money into the European game as billionaires race to exploit capitalize on the sport’s growing global audience

Of course we all know that the next club to join the craze was that other club from Manchester, as they received the backing from Abu Dhabi royal, Sheikh Mansour. Nearly £600 million in personnel and coaching changes and four years later, and we’re talking about Manchester City being a legitimate title contender on four fronts this season.

England isn’t the only place we’re seeing the new money rush in either, as other formerly small, continental clubs have begun joining the fray recently, too.

sheikh abdullah, joaquin at malaga

sheikh abdullah has pledged to help málaga challenge real madrid and barcelona's dominance in spain.

Qatari royal family member Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani recently purchased La Liga minnows Málaga in June 2010. After a year of relatively little spending, Abdullah has dished out €58 million to bring in ten new players this summer, and is on the record saying his club’s ambition has no limits.

Another Spanish side that recently become a billionaire play-thing is Getafe CF– ahem, excuse me, Getafe Team Dubai. Shockingly though, and despite the club’s purchase by the Royal Emirates Group (the marketing arm of Dubai government), they’ve only seen a transfer outlay of €14 million since the takeover. But world domination is always just around the corner when you’ve got oil-rich owners, right?

Making waves in France are perennial almost-there’s Paris Saint-Germain, whose recent purchase by the Qatar Investment Authority means they too are now filthy rich. They’ve been the summer’s biggest spenders to this point, spending a cool €47 million on Argentine starlet Javier Pastore and another €37 million on another seven players.

And perhaps amazingly, the craze is even spreading to the wilds of Republic of Dagestan. Yes, Dagestan. Capital club Anzhi Makhachkala, a member of the Russian Premier League, has also become one of European football’s most lucrative spenders when they were taken over by Suleiman Kerimov, another russian oligarch.

After dishing out a ridiculous sum a year ago to lure Brazilian senior citizen legend Roberto Carlos from the warm coast of his homeland, the club has just landed an even bigger and highly more expensive target. Cameroon’s 30-year-old striker, Samuel Eto’o, signed just yesterday with Anzhi for a astounding €20.5 milllion a year after taxes. Yes, that’s nearly the total combined yearly wages of Messi and Ronaldo.

That’s what we call “new money”
If Chelsea are to serve as our template (and it has to, as we don’t really have any other concrete examples), the ridiculous amounts of money that are being tossed about by these formerly small clubs will likely end up shaking up the game a bit. Results are likely to follow, assuming that these new owners don’t lose interest and bail out to leave their clubs in billions of pounds of debt.

And if one thing is certain in all of this, just like with Chelsea, the public will not take kindly to it.

But doesn’t that seem kind of, well, ironic? Isn’t the point of class warfare to topple the establishment and allow the proletariat club to rise? Shouldn’t we all be standing up and applauding their efforts and achievements?

It appears that answer is a resounding “No”.

Just for a minute, think about the city you live in. Many modern metropolises have several “rich” areas in town. One of them is where the “old money” lives; the folk who inherited or come from a long line of wealthy family members. There is also likely a “new money” portion of the city, where all the formerly-poor and now-wealthy individuals live.

The “old money” crowd certainly don’t want to socialize and live with the “new money” crowd, for fear of possibly tainting their gene pool. But then again, the “new money” crowd aren’t as welcome in their lower/middle class neighborhoods as they used to be because they face the envy of all of their former peers who haven’t been as fortunate. So are the after effects of spending their new-found fortunes with loud purchases.

In short, nobody likes new money.

While the masses desire to see the Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids of the world fall to one of the “small” clubs, the masses demand that they do it on their terms. They want to see a little guy steal the limelight… but do it the honest way. Clubs shouldn’t beat their bourgeois counterparts at their own game, outspending with their greater purchasing power. No, they need to do it in someway that seems genuine and organically.

The soccer world wants to see a club rise to the top like a true Cinderella story… but only if Cinderella doesn’t have a rich uncle who will buy her a ticket to the ball.

But the ire isn’t just reserved for the clubs. Take for instance the Arsenal fans angrily shaking their fists at the departing Samir Nasri, or Inter fans miffed that Eto’o left for so much money, or Napoli fans angry with Alexis Sánchez for heading to greener pastures. We like to call them traitors and say that they’ve sold their souls to the devil in exchange for some additional coin.

And to be honest, I get all that, at least on a purely sentimental level.

samir nasri arrives at manchester city

nasri seems to be saying "don't blame me" for joining city, and he's right.

I could easily posture that Manchester City are buying up all of that talent, and not playing or selling them, solely to keep that talent away from their opposition. I don’t know if that’s true, but wouldn’t you believe it if someone of greater stature than my own told you so? I could easily condemn the players for money grabbing and playing with our hearts.

But then I remember that I would jump ship at my real world job if another company came calling and offered me three, five or ten times my current pay to do the exact same job. I also remember feeling genuinely envious of City when they got a mega-rich owner and Tottenham didn’t. Why couldn’t my club have a shot at becoming the next footballing power?

The reality of it is that we’re at a crossroads in the game’s history. The class warfare struggle that exists in the game rages on, yet the weapons in the battle have changed.

We can’t all hope that the little club could actually compete, using just traditional methods, against the inherited financial might of the established European elite. It’s become evident that in order to finally beat them, large amounts of money need to be spent, and there’s no way around it. If we want to see the mighty usurped by the meek, then this is the game that has to be played.

The question then becomes, if that’s really what we want, are we ready to accept everything that comes with it? The financial ruin of small clubs trying to compete (Does the Spanish players strike start to ring a bell now?) could be the cost of watching a few of the formerly small overtake the reigns of power from the original enemy.

So is the stench of new money.

ten words or less #32

potential corinthians signing bing chang bao

i'm fairly certain bing chang bao's potential signing by corinthians is not what's kept the club from being able to buy tevez.

While it’s often times more fun to squabble and make a fuss about all of the (likely) false transfer rumors that abound this time of year in the soccer blogosphere, I find it interesting that this particular TWOL posting get’s half of it’s links from mainstream media outlets. They’re not usually known for diving into the transfer drivel, so you’ll get some interesting reads this time around.

And since it’s not very often that the likes of CNN, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports get to grace the hallowed spaces on my blog, I’m sure their editors are rushing to publicize their distinguished appearances on today’s quick update.

Ronaldo, Coentrão and Mourinho… you dirty dogs. – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

How I feel during every USMNT “home” match.” – cnn.com

Ooooh… that burns, doesn’t it Messi? Doesn’t it!?!? – whoateallthepies.co.uk

Signing a rubbish player probably won’t catch the Chinese market. – ojogobonito.com

Nobody on the FIFA executive committee gets dirty money. – nytimes.com

The typical American soccer fan? I hope not. – reddit.com/user/devineman

Yet nobody wondered when decent-named players signed in Turkey. – si.com

A brilliant piece on the state of the women’s game. – foxsports.com