The latest episode of the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast – slightly delayed as D.J. continues to man the editing while Jeremy’s computer is out of commission — is finally available for our listening enjoyment. It worked out well, as it allowed the guys ample time to reflect upon an interesting weekend full of Eto’o goals, missed calls and continued Manchester United misery. In addition to the normal Premier League action run down, the guys also dip their toes into the MLS SuperDraft, the latest national soccer broadcasting news and ugly kits and crests.
WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 6
Recorded just a mere four days after our Dos a Cero Special for Episode 5, what could we possibly have to talk about on the latest edition of the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast? A lot actually. Not only did we have another full weekend of Premier League fixtures to discuss — well everyone save Swansea-Liverpool from Monday, since we recorded on Sunday night — but we also had a weekend of MLS action to cover, not to mention delving into all of the wild speculation that currently surrounds the MLS expansion debate. We’ll also profile another bar from the WSOTP Soccer Pub Atlas… and this time Jeremy has actually been to it!
WSOTP Pod: Season 1 Episode 4
Round four of the WSOTP Pod is a hefty one, but before you go blaming us, have a look at the calendar. With yesterday being Transfer Deadline Day in Europe, we could have made a whole show out that alone. But we also managed to squeeze in a round-up of the weekend’s Premier League action, discuss our thoughts on the #SackWarzycha campaign actually coming to fruition AND we brought on the very first guest of the pod… as President and CEO of local side Cincinnati Saints, David Satterwhite, joined us to talk about his club’s recent moves up the American soccer pyramid!
Now that I’m sort-of fully settled into 2012 — I am admittedly still having trouble accidentally writing 2011 on everything, an annual challenge for sure — it’s time to ring in some minor changes around the blog. The largest of the changes is a new, fancy “Featured Posts” section, which highlights some of my bloggings that fall outside the realm of the standard essays on current events in and around the game. This new page is part of an overall effort I’ve undertaken to help improve site navigation and search… something nobody was complaining about yet I still felt the need to address.
OCD and ADD: it’s a powerful combination. Enjoy some links, now in doses of 10:
If there wasn’t football: Hodgson, Rooney, Mick, Gerrard, Rio, Beckham. - theoriginalwinger.com
Unique re-thinks of national team logos, by Pelé Sports. – creativeroots.org
The decision that saved MLS in 2002: contraction. – mlssoccer.com
Lesson learned? I still shouldn’t play in face paint. – inbedwithmaradona.com
The first foosball table I’ve wanted in 20 years. – 11thegame.com
This guy is buying everyone’s drinks this weekend. – timesofindia.com
Like the Super Bowl Shuffle, but 100 times worse. – youtube.com
“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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
there are few things that grind my gears more than a waste of talent.
many people (myself included) would give up their first born for an opportunity to make it at the highest levels of football. for those of us not born with phsycial traits akin to olympic gods or the blessing of amazing skills, even years of ball-busting effort, endless hours of training, and gallons of sweat and tears often aren’t enough to get us even into the lower echelons of the professional game. trust me: i’ve tried.
so when i see someone who has been blessed with such extraordinary talents pissing away an opportunity of a thousand lifetimes, it makes me want to go psycho, kill them and then eat their hearts to absorb their powers. if they’re not going to use it, we may as well give that talent to someone who desires it more.
so who out there inspires such murderous anger? none other than the title holder for “world’s biggest waste of footballing talent,” currently held by manchester city striker mario balotelli.
standing in at an imposing 6’2″ / 193 lbs, balotelli is a physical freak of nature. for those needing some frame of reference for his massiveness, that’s drogba’s size plus 10 pounds and minus 13 years. and do to his apparent pledge to never express any emotion, he displays a permanent scowl that certainly haunts my nightmares, something very difficult to admit being a grown man and all. couple that with his extremely dark complexion, and you’d never even see him coming if he were to mug you in a dark alley… hence the reason i’ve been avoiding every alley i’ve come across in the last six months.
but mario isn’t just a big brute, he’s got skills to boot. he has a deft first touch, near-blistering pace, and a nose for the goal. as of this writing, in just 109professional appearances he’s tallied an impressive 31 goals. considering a good chunk of those appearances were as a substitute (40), and you start to get a feel for the talent packed into the young italian’s 20-year-old feet.
yet super mario, as he is regrettably known, somehow manages to make me look like i’m a ridiculous overachiever, and that’s saying a lot for a guy who can barely muster more than an 6 posts per month on his blog.
i conveniently left out some other key statistics about balotelli above, ones that paint a much clearer picture about the controversy surrounding this boy. while he’s got a great strike rate in those 108 appearances, he’s also been booked a staggering 31 times and sent off 4, meaning he’s in trouble more than he scores. while still at inter he tried to steal a penalty from samuel eto’o, even though he hadn’t been called on to take it. his abrasive personality annoys opposing players so much that they like to kick him (though, admittedly, totti isn’t exactly a saint either). after being booed by his own fans, he removed his inter shirt and slammed it to the ground (endearing, isn’t he?). and he can’t seem to put on a bib…. this isn’t so such a bad thing, so much as it’s funny.
and all of those shenanigans are just the stupid things he does on the pitch. we haven’t even gotten into his off field incidents, which are far more numerous and retarded. let’s list out what balotelli was thinking in some of these unwise situations:
- i play for inter… but i think it’s okay to put on this milan shirt in public and on tv.
- i fight with world’s (likely) greatest manager, who stupidly benches me after calling me a bad name.
- i am totally worth £180k a week.
- i play for man city… but i think it’s okay to sing of my love for milan out my hospital window.
- i won a prestigious award, which means that i’m the second greatest player on the planet. and why should i know who jack wilshire is???
- i have never seen a prison… for women! soooo i’m gonna drive in this open gate. (side note: greatest quote of the year)
- my hair is bad ass, and so is my hat.
- i am going to taunt wayne rooney’s favorite hooker, and then i’m going to fight her friend.
- i don’t like my fiancée any more, so i’m going to send her a text to tell her it’s over.
- i should throw darts at the youth team to entertain myself.
what is clear here is that balotelli has a massive attitude problem. he’s entitled, egotistic and completely unaware of the concept of consequences. it’s like he thinks the world owes him for how awesome he is. in other words, he thinks he’s the shit; invincible even. also a cancer in the change room, he was openly derided by veterans in the inter squad. even with tottenham’s dire need for a new striker, i wouldn’t spend a quid on him if he were available for so cheap.
i also don’t feel like i’m going too far out on a limb when i say that he might literally be mad.
there’s not a doubt in my mind that if balotelli continues down this path, there is absolutely no way he can live up to his lofty expectations or audacious claims.
who’s to blame for this potential downfall? the first finger obviously should be pointed directly at the player himself, as his immaturity and stupidity shows he has no respect for the place he has in the game. but secondary fingers should also be pointed at his agent and adoptive parents. the circus of his personal life has no doubt created some deep rooted emotional issues, something that is well documented in children with rough upbringings. but mario shouldn’t let that be an excuse. plenty of players have had bad childhoods and they ended up just fine (thierry henry being a perfect example).
city should also shoulder some of the blame themselves, as the team’s constant revolving door has left the club devoid of any true role models for him to look up to as an example.
but with his actions seeming to spiral out of control, you have to wonder just what it’s going to take for him to finally “get it.” and i promise you that getting to meet the ronaldo won’t do the trick, unless sleeping with prostitutes on the regular can magically improve one’s attitude problems.
whatever that lesson is, here’s hoping it happens soon and not tragically.
balotelli has been gifted an extraordinary amount of ability and physical characteristics that could potentially lead to him being a truly great player, and no one wants to see that go to waste. i’d love to see what a player like mario could be capable of if he were fully focused and a little more humble.
though i would prefer that he gets his act together in a place other than manchester.
We’re taking a small departure from my normal subject matter in this post,straying away from the headlines that are dominating other blogs. It’s a somewhat difficult thing to do right now in the world of football, considering the closing of the transfer window (another ho-hum window I might add… van der Vaart to Spurs the “shocker” of the window) and the retardation that is an international break just weeks into the season (unfounded rumor: del Bosque is in cahoots with someone to make sure Torres stays hurt).
So what’s this new topic of discussion that I want to cover today?
Boots… football boots.
Deep at heart, I’m a huge nerd — as if this blog wasn’t proof enough of that on it’s own. But believe it or not, once upon a time, I was once much more of one. Allow me to explain the depths of my nerdiness.
For those of you who grew up playing soccer here in the States, odds are you had a Eurosport soccer catalog delivered to your door every month. Most kids would leaf through it, find a few things they like, and then they would be done with it.
I on the other hand would scrutinize every single page, looking over it inch-by-inch so I could see everything in that damn magazine. Not only would I’d pick out and circle my favorite shoes and training wear that I would never be likely to receive… but I’d do it for each brand. Prices, specs and colorways would be committed to memory. For the next few days after each edition would landed in my mailbox, you could find me on the family computer drawing my favorite jersey and boots using Microsoft Paint.
Yeah… I told you I was a nerd.
Needless to say, I have a profound love for soccer kits, boots, equipment and apparel. I love the art in the design of the products, their marketing ploys and logo placements. For some people, they love the shape and the lines of car. I get geeked about the lines and shape of new soccer shoes.
So with all of that in mind, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my super-dork mind and share my all-time favorite soccer boots. Not that this is particularly useful for anyone or anything, but it gives me the excuse to pour through the web looking for tokens from my childhood.
Trust that you will find absolutely no shoes from Reebok or UnderArmour on this list, as they make crap products that are more heinous than you’re average wannabe WAG. Sorry, but I’m judging you if you wear them. And if any of your other favorite(s) didn’t make the list, feel free to reply and convince me as to what I should have included.
Nike Mercurial Vapor III (2006)
worn by: Cristiano Ronaldo
Gifted to me by WSOTP favorite Chris Rolfe (Hurray for having tiny feet!), these boots made me feel like all of those kids from back in the day that said their Jordan’s made them run faster, jump higher, and have my own massive gambling addiction. When wearing these kicks, I felt like I could run a thousand miles an hour and have a first touch that rivals Messi’s. I couldn’t, but I at least felt like I could. This shoe’s fantastic lines alone just made them look fast.
Admittedly, it was a hard choice choosing which model of the Vapors I liked best, especially since I personally owned four different pairs of them (Vapor I’s in black synthetic and black k-leather, Vapor II’s in orange, and the Vapor III’s in the above white). The pair above won out becuase a) they’re ridiculously white — something I highly valued at the time — and b) they were the most comfy.
Adidas Accelerator Liga (1998)
worn by: Raúl
One of the few shoes on this list that I never had the privilege of wearing, I love the curling/swerving look of this boot. Throw in the ridiculously huge “adidas EQUIPMENT” logo on the heel and tongue, and you have the makings of a transitional modern classic. A few of my friends sported these back in the day, and I remember the k-leather feeling softer than any other leather I had ever felt before. Needless to say, I enviously eyed their feet at practice day after day… secretly plotting a way to swipe them. Sadly, I never succeeded.
Lotto PU Tacto (2000)
worn by: me, my senior year of high school
Arguably the most comfortable boot I’ve ever worn, I rocked these for my senior year in high school. They hold a particularly warm place in my heart since they wear on my feet when I bagged the solitary varsity goal in my high school career. Extremely supple and very reactive, these were the first boots to feature separate heel and forefoot outsole plates — a feature that also made them remarkably light (for the time). I also loved these because nobody wore Lotto in the States, so I felt like a trailblazer. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a single picture or reference to any pro player ever wearing this boot. So perhaps I’m a really big trail blazer.
Puma v1.06 (2006)
worn by: Samuel Eto’o
I loved these shoes, from a distance at least. Another gift from Rolfe, though these were passed down to his older brother, who as my roommate at the time, refused to let me wear them (I got the “shaft” and had to put up with another pair of Vapor III’s… boo hoo right?). They were the only shoe on the market at that time that could challenge the Vapors when it came to weight. However, that’s not what helped them on to this list. What really put them into my favorites was their design: these served as the launching point for Puma’s renaissance and subsequent avalanche of awesome designs that started to spill from their doors in the mid Naughties. Just whatever you do… try to ignore this color scheme.
Nike CTR360 Maestri (2010)
worn by: Cesc Fàbregas
There’s no way this list would have been complete without first putting up my current boots. The “shoe that Cesc built” is hands down the best synthetic shoe I’ve ever worn. Lightweight, well cushioned, and providing excellent touch and control qualities, the 360′s boast an extremely supple upper that could easily be confused for a k-leather. And while I would love to sport a pair from Elite Series, I just can’t justify spending such a hefty portion of monthly paycheck on football boots for my Sunday league team. Either way, I love this colorway much more than the current crop of neon and silver nightmares.
Adidas Adipure II (2009)
worn by: Frank Lampard
A departure from my longstanding preference for white kicks, I loved the murdered out Adipures. You could perhaps best describe the entire Adipure line as “classic with a modern edge.” The shoe clearly pays homage to the Adidas’ classic Copa Mundial (see the toe box stitching and general overall shape), the shoe features a myriad of improvements such as the external heel counter and bladed stud configuration. All of that combined make the Adipure II’s one of the best natural, out-of-the-box feeling boots i’ve ever put on.
Umbro Xai (2001)
worn by: Michael Owen
I never in a million years thought I would wear these shoes. At their release, these were the most expensive soccer shoes on the planet ever. But when a senior on my college team realized he’d bought them too small, I hit the jackpot. Super comfy with a very durable k-leather upper, they featured “rubberized leather” strips that allowed you to put excellent spin on the ball without the added weight from Predator-like rubber fins. Were they worth the $200+ price tag? Probably not, but it was a quality boot that looked good and made me feel more important than I really was.
Nike Tiempo Ronaldinho (2007)
worn by: Ronaldinho
This was another shoe where I didn’t have any trouble deciding if it was on my list or not, but struggled to decide which colorway I liked the best. Dished out by Nike in four flavors (black, off-white, brown and red), I actually managed to rock two of the models (I couldn’t ever find the brown in my size, and never wanted to sport the reds). Ronaldinho’s first signature boot borrows much of its design from the days of old, with lines that give it a very classic silhouette. You could easily picture a player from the 1950′s digging them. My only complaint? The boots’ extremely thin and supple kangaroo leather did make them very prone to blowing out — a flaw that found it’s way to all three pair that I managed to lace up.
I’ve been patiently awaiting Barcelona’s counter to Real Madrid’s spending spree, wondering how the current best-team-in-the-world would “improve” themselves. I really wasn’t sure how they were going to do it, or if it could even really be done.
The Catalunyan’s had, arguably, one of the best ever season’s in European club football history in 2008-2009. After wrestling away Madrid’s two-year [albeit weak] hold on the La Liga title, they went on to secure the Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies in impressive fashion, thus completing the first ever Spanish treble.
Led by rookie manager and former midfield star Pep Guardiola, the blaugrana showed a swagger and work ethic that was missing during the end of Rijkaard/Ronaldinho era at the club. They were balanced and played total team football. They also had the world’s two best players at the Camp Nou last season, with Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta (if you’re partial to the Premier League, you may disagree… but trust me on this, they were better than even Ronaldo last term). They were deep enough to succeed even when long term injury laid up starting center back Rafael “I’m a dirtball” Márquez and Iniesta playing injured for a good portion of the season.
Their form was stunning all season. They accumulated a record points total of 50 in the first half of the La Liga season. Barça crushed my whites at home in the the second El Clasico of the season 6-2. And a comprehensive 2-0 win in the Champions League final cemented them as a superior team to Manchester United. As a Madrid fan it’s very hard to say this, but Barcelona were a near perfect team last season.
So the question became, how were they going to get any better this year?
There was no way that Barcelona were going to remain idle as their main rivals to the South were spending the equivalent of the Spanish national GDP in revamping their team. Their self-loathing fans wouldn’t stand for a lack of response. But who could they possibly land that would be considered an adequate answer to Madrid signing the last two FIFA World Players of the Year? And how could they fit anyone else into their star-studded yet balanced team?
The rumors, of course, swirled. My man crush Csc Fàbregas was again tapped up by his original club. But with Xavi and Iniesta already having the starting midfeild slots locked down, the move seemed unlikely. Chairman Joan Laporta then tried to hijack the David Villa sale after Madrid failed in their bid, but again Valencia stood firm in their stance that the striker was not for sale. They were also reportedly in for Ribery, but of course declared they couldn’t pry the Frenchman from Bayern either.
Now don’t forget the man I’ve written about more than anyone else this summer, Samuel Eo’o. With Barcelona clearly shopping the Cameroon striker for the last year, they made it clear they wanted to improve their already deadly Strikeforce. Pep apparently felt that despite the impressive goal tally Eto’o provided each season for them, Barça would be better off without him. He has long been rumored to have a large ego, and has had public clashes with the club in the past. With moves to Man City, Man United and Chelsea apparently nixed, it was looking increasingly difficult for Barça to unload him.
And then Jose Mourinho decided to get involved. Having always been willing to work with head-case strikers (ex: Didier dogba), the special one decided he would be willing to swap his head case for Guardiola’s. Eto’o was shipped off to Inter Milan, in addition to £40 million and a one year loan of Alexhander Hleb, in exchange for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Almost a straight up trade: one crazy for another.
And you know, it just might make sense.
Sure, you’re giving up the 20-30 goals per season that Eto’o gives you. But Samuel is of the Michael Owen mold — a right time, right place, poaching type of player — and that’s what him makes him so valuable. However, Eto’o isn’t much of a creator, and lacks the creative flair that the Spanish fans desire.
Ibrahimovic gives you a similar goal output to Eto’o, but with loads more style. Check out this YouTube video (but please ignore the awful euro techno). Zlatan reminds me of Thierry Henry during his prime, only more cocky. He definitely is the only other player who poses run of play skills comparable to Ronaldo’s. His creativity will match up very nicely with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta and Henry. The blaugrana fans will be properly entertained.
While imbrahimovic’s ego will certainly be an issue as well, I think Barcelona were right to take the risk. He’s definitely worth what they spent on him: if you consider Eto’o to be worth £20 million, then he’s about equal to Kaká in terms of value. He appeases the fans’ desire for a big signing to “rival” Madrid’s. And they manage to pawn off Eto’o onto Mourinho. Brilliant. And though I would like for this move to blow up in their face, I think this is good business and shouldn’t hurt their already stellar team.
And if nothing else, think of the amazing attacking array of players trotting out during next year’s Clasico matches: Messi, Kaká, Henry, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Benzema, Iniesta, Robben. That thought alone makes this an interesting move by barcelona.
And though I didn’t think that they could make a signing to rival Madrid’s summer spending spree, this one move may have at least pulled them even… and for way less money. Touché Barça… touché.
in what i think will become a semi-regular posting, i’d like to present the first edition of the “round up.” we’ll quickly take a look around a few short news stories that i found interesting, but don’t have a whole lot to say about… yet.
we’ll sell cesc… for £40m – the sun
in an attempt to ward off potential suitors barcelona and real madrid, arsenal have slapped a £40m price tag on my favorite player. fàbregas has long said that he would some day like to play back home in spain. former scandalous real president ramón calderón promised a cesc signing in his election campaigns. but having grown up in barça’s youth system and being from catalunya, cesc will likely head back to barcelona if he leaves arsenal. i know this is the most likely scenario, and it makes me want to cry… a lot.
in pursuit of accuracy – nike
nike made a new ball for this year’s EPL, la liga, and serie a campaigns… and apparently put a ton of research and engineering into its development. watch this short clip to see how they’ve made the “perfect ball.”
harry rues city’s double swoop – sky sports
my spurs are effectively being priced out of the top 4, so admits harry redknapp. he’s basically admitted that he lost out on both roque santa cruz and gareth barry this summer because he couldn’t compete with the wages being offered by the manchester city. great, the yid’s hope of ever breaking into the top four is now even less likely. not to mention stewart downing is also probably not going to come in due to a potential season ending injury this summer. so far, nothing exciting from white heart lane this summer for transfers. can ‘arry pull some more magic and make the current squad better without any additions?
pennant agrees shock real deal – the sun
so i almost had a heart attack when i read that jermaine pennant was moving to real… i click in and am overcome with joy when i read that it was real zaragoza. thank god.
eto’o wants united move – the telegraph
i can see this move actually happening. they haven’t brought in anyone to replace ronaldo’s goal scoring yet. it would definitely lighten rooney’s load to carry, whether he wants that or not. eto’o is said to favor this over moving across town to city because he was “eager to play in the champions league” next year. finally, someone being smart about this moving to manchester city trend. did you hear that john terry? if eto’o is really smart though, he could totally stick it to barcelona by rejecting any moves until barcelona when his contract will be up… when he can leave and barça will get nothing in return.