REAL MAD-rid DIVORCES

Ask any football lover across the globe, Which club is the greatest football club in history? Well over 70% will mention Real Madrid the first or second time. The other 30% are sentimental staunch fans of other clubs, majorly Barcelona or Atletico Madrid for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, a team dubbed to be the greatest in football’s history clearly has no club policy but to splash out cash on big names. Two men can be held responsible for this, they are former and current Real Madrid Presidents ; RAMON CALDERON and FLORENTINO PEREZ respectively. 12 managers have kissed the Real Madrid badge since Mr Perez assumed office in the year 2000. Amongst them are some of the biggest managers in this generation of football; Carlos Queiroz, Fabio Capello, Bernd Schuster, Juande Ramos, Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and now Rafa Benitez. Just like other football faithfuls who have followed this situation closely, I also think that the epicenter of Real Madrid’s flirty behaviour with Managers started in 2003 when current Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque was allowed to leave just a few hours after he delivered the LA LIGA title to the country’s capital for the second time in three and half years in charge of the Spanish giants. Real Madrid have gone on to win the LA LIGA only 3 times after his exit, despite having the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo De Lima, Raul Gonzales, David Beckham, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Sergio Ramos, Guti Hernandez, Iker Casillas and a host of others – the ‘GALACTICOS’ era was born at this point.

In 2006, Florentino Perez resigned as President and Ramon Calderon took over, Calderon’s spell came with so much luck as success was pronounced almost immediately. Real Madrid won the LA LIGA in 2007 and 2008 but again Fabio Capello was sacked after winning the LA LIGA in 2007/08. In 2009, Ramon Calderon followed the same doors out as Fabio Capello. Again, Florentino Perez took over, this time around with the buy the best players syndrome again, but the Managers weren’t left out of the party and football funerals in the country’s capital. The new era produced Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Kaka, Zidane came back but this time for a managerial advisory role and it was all smiles again. Manuel Pellegrini set a new points total with Madrid and had the highest win per games ratio in Madrid’s history with 75%, but then, after one season, he was fired. Jose Mourinho came afterwards, managed a 71.91% wins per game ratio, had 2 great seasons but the 3rd was trophy-less and he couldn’t deliver Perez the LA DECIMA, so like the others, it was time to say his byes. Then came the Italian mafia Carlo Ancelotti in 2014, he finished 3rd in his first season in the league but was pardoned only because he made history, he had delivered the much anticipated LA DECIMA to the capital.

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A long term manager at last I thought, but then the just concluded season followed, yes a ‘trophy-less’ one but his team finished second in the league and made it to the semi finals of the Uefa champions league, the second best record for wins per games ratio in Madrid’s history with 74.79%, not a bad record by any standard, unfortunately you guessed right, its no news anymore, he’s been fired. This I think was very disrespectful for his achievement (LA DECIMA). This disrespect can date back to how almighty Kaka was treated like Nikolas Bendtner, how Rafael Van der Vaart, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sniedjer and most recently Mesut Ozil all left the club like they were never a part of it.

Rafael-Benitez

Rafa Benitez is the man on the hot seat now, a man who must have forgotten what it means to win on the world’s biggest stage. He couldn’t even qualify SSC Napoli for the champions league in the just concluded season, in a league where only Juventus can match up with the quality of his team. This is not to say that he is a bad coach, Ofcourse his records speak well of him from Valencia to Inter Milan to Chelsea and was even decorated in Naples but hey, Who fires Carlo Ancelotti and hires Rafa Benitez? Mr Perez! All the talks of wanting a man who can communicate in Spanish and who has part of Madrid before are cheap excuses to hire Rafa, Obviously the biggest name in the market as of now, but my point is – Why fire Carlo in the first place? So what if Benitez fails to usurp Barcelona in the first season? Which is very likely. He’ll get fired and then who takes over next? Jurgen Klopp? Stephen Keshi? Yemi Adesanya or Lanre Adenmosun?

 

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Florentino can bring Sir Alex Ferguson out of retirement and still sack him for one bad season. This constant change of managers is the major reason Real Madrid doesn’t have a pattern of play, talk less remain consistent with one. The last Madrid manager who kept his job after  a trophy-less season with Madrid was Alfredo Di Stefano, of course for obvious reasons. I have a soft spot for  Real Madrid but take it or leave it, Barcelona has been Spain’s biggest export in football in recent times, its my opinion but the statistics don’t speak differently. All Real Madrid lives on is past glory and believe me, this will remain until this insanity is cured.

 

Thank you for reading.

Can Liverpool Rise Again?

Another wonderful season of exciting football has again come to close in the English premier league with Chelsea being crowned the champion in grand style. Chief among the some of the events this season was the retirement of Steven Gerrard “captain fantastic” of Liverpool FC ending his playing career with the Anfield club after 17years. Liverpool FC showed a lot progress in the 2013/2014 season but lost it at the crucial period with the Gerrard slip against Chelsea and a final 10 mins 3- goals from Crystal Palace thus denting their hopes of clinching an EPL title.

The 2013/2014 season was almost their best season after the famous win of 2004-2005 champions league final win over AC Milan in Istanbul after coming back from 3 goals to draw level and win on penalties. They had likes of Xabi Alonso, Dudek, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Riise to mention a few and was managed by Rafa Benitez. Few players came into the fold each season and some departed too, Joe Cole, Luiz Suarez and Raul Merieles, Dirk Kuyk to mention a few joined the Reds to bolster the team.

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Looking back at the 2013-2014 season, Liverpool attack had Suarez, Sterling and Sturridge- “S.S.S trio”, scoring goals aplenty, Man Utd fell victim of the rout of this combo winning both home and away, likewise mauling Arsenal at Anfield, despite Suarez missing about 8 games at the beginning of the season due to his Indiscipline yet he won the golden boot award with 31goals and the PFA awards. Compared to the 2012-2013 season, Liverpool gained 20 more points in the 2013-2014 with their goal difference showing a marked improvement as they scored 28 goals more while conceding just 6 goals more than 2012-2013 season, 2013/2014 season was quiet amazing for the Reds, they converted their chances and the scored over 100 goals.

With their exploit during this season, 2014-2015 season is expected to be a work over for the Anfield team, losing out in the FA cup in fifth round to Arsenal after defeating Oldham Athletic and Bournemouth in the 3rd and 4th round respectively. Also, they crashed out of the League cup in the 3rd round to Manchester united, with this losses, they had ample time for the EPL, playing 38 games won 26, drew 6, lost 6 scored 101 goals and conceded 50 and a goal difference of 51 with a win ratio of 68.42%, great season it was for them indeed.

Luis Suarez

Jamie Carragher’s retirement at the end of 2012-2013 season and Luiz Suarez move to Barcalona the season after, there was a need to strengthen their back four, midfield and bolster their attack. With Suarez moving to Spain at 81m euros, Brendan Rodgers brought 3 players from Southampton: Adam Lallana, Lovern, Rickie Lambert, Mario Ballotelli, Moreno, Kolo Toure, Manquillo, Emre Can, Markovic. With this array of players, UCL, FA Cup, Capital One Cup, EPL was in store for the Anfield giants, One would think, at least a trophy should be celebrated at the end of the season by Brendan Rodgers and his boys.

Employing different formations from 3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-4-2, Little did we know we would be receiving a shocker from Brendan Rodgers and his boys, worst performance in all leagues contested for, played 58 games in all, won 26, drew 14, lost 18, scored 74, conceded 69 goal difference of 5 and a win ratio of 44.83%.

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A lot of questions arose in my mind, was Brendan Rodgers wrong to have allowed Suarez leave? Or was Sturridge injury a factor? Was it wrong to have built the team around Suarez, Sterling, Sturridge combo? Even with Raheem Sterling’s threat of leaving Anfield this summer and mauling of Liverpool by Stoke on the final day of the EPL by 6 goals to 1 and their qualification to play in the Europa league by a stroke of Luck, would we say Brendan Rodgers wasn’t capable of leading this team to glory once again as the board as assured Brendan Rodgers of their support? Above all, what do this team need to succeed and rule Europe again?

Fingers are crossed!!!

Afolabi Adedapo Abayomi

@daphor11

 

 

Juventus v Barcelona: Five Tactical Preview Points

It is no longer news that on the 6th of June; Juventus, potentially the most unfancied of most of Europe’s elite clubs will take on Barcelona; incredibly or should I say ironically both are vying for a treble. Interestingly, we have had this happen twice in recent history; 1999 and 2010; when Manchester United, Bayern and Inter Milan were in the same position with Bayern Munich the only constant in both years. This Barcelona side are looking to match the unprecedented achievements of the 2009 Barcelona side under Pep Guaradiola that won a treble. Juventus have defied  all odds to make it to this year’s final after having ensure a total domination of the domestic Italian game, possessing a manager that has come under immense criticism especially at the point of his appoint from many including me; but if omens were anything worth considering Juventus have the edge going into this game.

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Gigi Buffon returns to the scene of his career’s biggest triumph; Berlin where Italy were crowned World Champions in 2006.If were to consider omens even further Max Allegri  has the comfort of been one of the coaches that has had the rare privilege of defeating Barcelona in time past and finally as we look at the pivotal tactical considerations; Barcelona defeated an Italian team to win their first Champions League/European Cup with Johan Cryuff’s dream team of 1992. Here are my tactical pivotal points:

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Will Giorgio Chiellini be missed?

Without a shadow of a doubt Giorgio Chiellini is Juventus best player and there is no point beating around the bush he will be a big miss, he’s strength, marking and power play has always been an integral part of Juventus set up this season; obviously complimented by the poise, elegance and control of Leonardo Bonucci, one of the few remaining ball playing defenders in world football.

Andre Barzagli is the obvious choice to replace the Italian international, but you have got to say that both are a couple of miles apart as Barzagli’s apparent lack of full match practice would be put to the test by Barcelona’s triple threat attack.

Lets call a spade a spade; Juventus would miss Chiellini and would have to call on a super human performance to see the game through.

 

No Point Playing Three @ the Back

Juventus under Max Allegri have found a versatility that many thought didn’t exist with this team, he has adjusted the team’s play and made them adaptable to whatever opponent they are faced with. He has dropped off, for most of the campaign the three defenders system that was the main stay of the Conte era and instilled a 4-3-1-2 formation that embodies all that Allegri expects from his team.

Juventus give very little away, remaining at the edge and at the threshold of always taking advantage of their opponent’s weaknesses. With the days leading to the game Allegri might or may have been caught up in the disillusion of reverting to the old prototype; the temptation to switch tho three at the back, just as a number of pundits expected approaching the second leg against Real Madrid. All those thoughts would have been especially banished with the injury to Chiellini, as he may have been tempted to bring on Barzagli to join his defence.

A three man defense isolates Juventus more like one v one against Barcelona’s attackers in their 4-3-3 formation; however approaching the game with a flat back four allows the Bianconneri  have a spare man in defense, allowing them to sweep, re-position and regroup.

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Will Pirlo have special treatment?

Barcelona always enjoy the lion share of possession in virtually all games and it would be no different in this game, but with that comes Juventus’s desire to implement their own game plan; that game plan would revolve around Andrea Pirlo. Would Barcelona single out Pirlo for special treatment? Would Barcelona cater or set up for a Pirlo reprisal?

I do not think Barcelona would  be compelled to cater for individuals like Juventus may have to against some of the Catalans bigger stars; Luis Enrique has to set up his side to be able to respond to a tactical counter or counter attacking approach from Juventus; set up to counter the collective because that is what the Turin side have above many.

Exploiting the wide areas

If there is one thing both teams have in common it is their full backs; both have marauding full backs; always willing to push forward to be part of the attack; but then Juventus potentially have the more disciplined lot in Lichtseiner and ; this poses a major outlet for the Italians as they would look to exploit the spaces left behind by Dani Alves and Jordi Alba when then move up to midfield and join the attack.

Breaks in those areas would serve Juventus very well if utilized especially as they try to break forward and attack the Catalans using Pirlo and Bonucci’s diagonal passing capabilities; however, this also poses an area of penetration for Barcelona as well as interesting to see Messi v Evra and Neymar v Lichtseiner isolated in one v one situations; these may be pivotal in what direction the game swings.

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Stopping the MessiSauarezNeymar trident

If there is a way, well I can assure you I do not know it; but one thing is for sure it requires a performance  of an unbelievable stature.How do you stop a 121 goals partnership that has really flourished? The three are in absolute tandem with each other, flowing and floating around the attacking third willing to work for each other.

Barcelona have failed to score only three times this season; Celta Vigo, Malaga and Real Sociedad  have the rare privilege of keeping clean sheets against the Catalans; so those tapes will come in handy for Max Allegri.Juventus would have to be discipline, compact and resolute; there two banks of four have to locked tight, not giving up any spaces, not allowing any spaces between the lines. Allegri, then in charge of Milan  record a famous victory against the Catalans, so he has been here before and he possesses players for the big occasion.

My Verdict: In six meetings against Italian sides; Barcelona have only won two. The Catalans are  obviously favorites, but stranger things have happened; just watch Milan v Barcelona 1994 Champions League Final. I would take the betting route to predict that both teams will score over 2.5

Sharks go the Interim route

Sharks FC have appointed Coach Dokubo Daboere on an interim capacity as head coach. The former technical adviser of the side Gbenga Ogunbote tendered his resignation letter during the week citing personal reasons and the General manager of the club Okey Kpaluku has heaped praise on the managerial prowess of the Ogun state born soccer tactician and wished him the best of luck in his future endeavour.

Kpaluku who recalled with nostalgia how coach Ogunbote lifted the team from relegation waters in 2013, however said his right hand man Daboere Dokubo will tinker the team on an interim capacity.

“No doubt we will miss the services of Coach Gbenga Ogunbote because he is committed to his job and does not like losing”.

“And I want to wish him the very best of luck wherever he may be at the moment” Kpaluku said.

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“Don’t forget that the success recorded by Ogunbote could be attributed to the fact that he had capable assistants who all worked towards his success in 2013 when the team escaped relegation, it was on that premise we have now handed the team temporarily to his right hand man on the bench Daboere Dokubo” Kpaluku added.

The General manager of the club is however optimistic that coach Dokubo and his able assistants led by Festus Allen will continue from where Ogunbote stopped and even surpass his record so as to discourage the search for a substantive technical adviser.

He urged the technical crew to ensure that they do their best to making sure that Sharks does not play championship football next season but have a respectable finish at the end of the season.

‘’Am very sure Dokubo and  his team will do a good job to ensure we remain in the elite league next season’’.

“And with that there will be no need for management to go search for another coach to boss them’’ Kpaluku said.

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Kpaluku also seized the opportunity to congratulate the executive governor of Rivers State, Barrister Nyesom Wike on his successful swearing in and pray God gives him the required wisdom to pilot the affairs of the state.

He called on supporters of the team to keep faith in the team following the departure of Ogunbote stressing that all the team need right now is moral support while management will be counting on governor Nyesom Wike’s support for the team to bounce back to winning ways.