Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The madness surrounding Gareth Bale.

Gareth Bale is an outlandishly gifted footballer. He has pace to burn, superb ball control, a wicked shot that not only packs a punch but seems to have a mind of its own, swirling and swerving at will. Gareth Bale has grown to be a deadly dead ball specialist. He is good in the air. If defenders mark him close, he’ll run away from them; if they give him space, he’ll hit a screamer into the roof.. Gareth Bale was forced to use his right foot ONLY, in the youth academy, to make things fair for the other kids!! That’s how good his LEFT FOOT is. But is Gareth Bale worth £80m or whatever the *expletive* Madrid are allegedly willing to pay for him.I have even seen stories claiming that Madrid are willing to go as high as £100m! I under stand Florentino Perez’ need to present a marquee signing every summer but isn't this a bit ludicrous?

Firstly, I’d hardly think Los Merengues are in desperate need of the Welsh flier. Realistically, Madrid have two open attacking slots; di Maria wide on the right and Benzema up top.( I am assuming Ronaldo and Ozil are untouchable). I don’t think the ape man would be as effective stuck out wide on the right like di Maria; and I don’t see Ancelotti  using a striker-less formation (.ie. dropping Benzema to fit Bale in; or Ronaldo being moved up front and Bale starting nominally on the left). All this would seem like too much of a hustle without vastly improving the team. There is also the small matter of the versatile 32m Isco, who can play anywhere across the three positions behind the striker.

Bale launches a 'Hail Mary' to save Spurs

Surely Madrid’s attack is as good as anybody’s, including Bayern Munich. I would think they would use their remaining transfer funds to shore up a defence that let Robert Lewandowski ran riot at Signal Iduna Park three months ago. Alvaro Arbeloa seems to be particularly suspect, Pepe could use a some anger management classes; and Marcelo is a wing back/winger whom Mourinho managed to turn into an okay defender.  Madrid would be better served surrounding Ramos and Varane with better quality.

As for Bale’s price tag itself, even in a market that has been sullied by Russian and Arab petro dollars, £85-£100m is just silly. Napoli’s president Aurelio de Laurentiis recently stopped short of rebuking PSG for paying 63m(~£50m) for Edinson Cavani. He described it madness.  I wonder what he’d say about Bale going for twice the amount. To put in context, Juan Mata cost £22m, Luis Suarez is going for ~£40m, RVP went for £24m, Hazard cost £32m, even the slightly overrated Neymar cost ~£40m. To use a rudimentary yard stick, Tottenham and Madrid are trying to convince themselves that Bale =(Suarez + RVP + Neymar) or =(Mata+ Hazard + Kun Aguero + RVP)
NB: Forgive the very rudimentary and rural proportionality method used above. I know the free market determines prices but this tool suffices to make the larger point.

What is perplexing, if rumours are to be believed, is that Tottenham are refusing to sell even with those obscene prices dangled in front of them. Either Daniel levy is a very savvy businessman, or he’s a raving lunatic who will soon strip off and start talking to himself on street corners.  With 100m, Levy would solve all of Spurs problems(left midfield and up front) in the blink of an eye; and even have a large chunk of scratch to buy a few backup squad players, plus a small yatch! Besides Bale’s depature,  if adequately replaced with two or three players, would serve to relieve Spurs of the Bale-dependency that we saw all too well last season.

 Here is a scenario, sell Bale; buy long term target Leandro Diamao(~£20m), Angel di Maria(~20m) and Nani(~15m). Hell, get the 100m and bid 60m for Suarez, then buy a creative midfielder, preferably who can operate slightly on the left; Julian Draxler and Nani pop to mind. Surely that would make a better more well rounded team than the bunch of boozers who, at times last season,  sat back and watched Bale save them time after time with ‘Hail Mary’ rockets.

Lastly, and this is with all due respect to Bale, his talent level is just not worth £100m. I mean he is quick, explosive and all but his game doesn’t have the nuance that would be expected of a player worth that money. His passing and vision is good but not world class for example. One can see players like Marco Reus, Eden Hazard, Mario Goetze, Jack Wilshere(injury allowing) to mention but a few, developing into better all round players than the Welsh wizard.

In my opinion, this ruckus is the result of two factors; one would be that Bale being British, is overrated(in price terms) as most Brits are. The Jordan Hendersons and Stewart Downings of this world being more pricey than the Santi Carzolas is proof of this phenomenon. The second factor would be that Florentino Perez is obsessed with building these super galactico teams despite the fact that these projects have always blown up in his face. He disbanded a team that had won two La Ligas and two European crowns; to build a team that won one Zidane inspired Champions League and handed over domestic dominance to Barca. The Kaka-Ronaldo-Benzema experiment folded under the force of nature that is Messi-led FCB. But Perez won’t rest.

It ‘s a free market and people are allowed to spend their money how they wish but Gareth Bale is just not worth £85m+. And I really rate him as a player but only genuinely, absolutely, incredibly, outrageously gifted footballers should cost that much. In this era, only Leo Messi should cost more than Christiano Ronaldo let alone cost £100m.

Thanks for reading. Kindly leave comments and spread the word..

Follow me on Twitter @Johnkabanza for more outrageously biased and parochial views about football and everything else.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

THE PANEL: The Transfer Saga Pt 2..

Hello everyone. Welcome to another series of often surprisingly coherent rumblings about soccer. For this edition, we invited a couple of friends(some of whom are soccer experts..) and posed a series of questions to them about the goings on of this summer's transfer window. Here we go;

1. Neymar and Messi; workable or implosion waiting to happen?

Can they co-exist?

Messi has  effectively just appointed Barça's new coach. Well, the coach himself believes so. Messi has rendered every Barça striker, during his reign surplus to requirements. It won't be an implosion. It will be what some of you like to call a "weak guy"
Prediction: Neymar to bag 12 league goals (if Messi lets him) and finish the season polishing King Messi's boots and washing the boy wonder's draws.

Its workable; Neymar is a wide player so he would not occupy Messi's space. It will be a success. The only problem is Barca's game which will restrict Neymar to two touches so we won't see his best.

I think we all have to agree that this will depend on how Neymar adjusts to being the Spliffstar to Messi's Busta Ryhmes. Neymar also needs to cut out the play acting and petulance or he'll soon follow the Ibra route. From a purist perspective, it's a match made in heaven but pragmatically, it could go either way.

Neymar and Messi..I get excited thinking of it. It will definitely work, I believe they will compliment each other very well, with some brilliant interchanges. My worry is the midfield, will it keep performing at the highest level or have other teams discovered their secret? But with decent supply, I think we are going to see some very exciting stuff from those two.


Neymar and Messi will do well. In as much as they both love the lead role, I find they share the added quality of the maturity to understand the essence of team play. The fact that they also bring slightly different styles -Messi is a false 9 while Neymar is good peeling off fullbacks- means they complete each other so well. It looks set to be a partnership on the level of Queen and David Bowie, or Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton if you like. I can put my hand on that one.

2. What now for Arsenal? Can they maintain there Top 4 status; considering Spurs and Liverpool's progress and Wenger's unwillingness to sign players eg. Higuan?

When will this happen again?

Surprisingly(Ed: not surprising at all), I think Arsenal will hold onto the 4th spot, regardless. I have noted with great discomfort though that it used to be the Big 3 but for sentimental reasons or otherwise, it was extended to 4 to appease the fallen angel. The gap has grown between Arsenal and the top 3 but the Spurs and Liverpool themselves look reluctant to pinch away. They have bigger demons to sort out. If Bale and Suarez won't lift you above Giroud's team, I don't know who will.

Wenger smells blood. Admittedly his pursuits this transfer window aren't coming through.. yet.. , but the caliber of stars he is chasing shows that he's willing to switch things up. I also believe he'll retire at the end of this season, that's why he's going for broke. I feel Arsenal will have a successful season. And no, I don't mean they'll get to put something their cob-webbed antique trophy cabinet.. I mean they'll finally finish above Man United. Yes, that was me predicting United to finish fourth.

Arsenal will not win the league but will finish top 4 with or without Suarez. Wenger is world class.

Spurs and Liverpool may make progress but honestly I think they will always be inconsistent. They don't really have the depth and maturity to really perform week in week out. And Arsenal with their mediocrity can still manage to just stay slightly above them. Unless they really lose more players.

My views on Arsenal are well documented here and I don't think anything has changed. It should be a scrap with Spurs for 4th place. Suarez could be a game changer if they managed to scrape enough coins together to buy him.

3. United have won titles with very mediocre teams of recent. Can Moyes keep it up or is the game finally up? Could Fergie have foreseen this situation being difficult to maintain and fast-tracked  his retirement?

John, if I asked you  to pick any bunny(Ed: lady) in the world, would u pick Michelle from Destiny's child? That's what Man Utd did by appointing Moyes. They could have had any coach in the world but they picked him. Moyes has always struggled against Liverpool, with all the shit teams and managers LFC have had he always got chowed(Edsexed, blasted etc). He's never won a game at OT so Man U might have to win all their away games to win the title. He is a certified boozer.

Two words: NO. NO!!!
Manchester United will falter in the league. Their lack of real quality outside Robin van PurseStrings will finally be exposed. Moyes will bottle Europe. He's a Glaswegian who has spent the last several years of his life in the backwater that is Merseyside, his accent is the love-child of two of the worst two accents on the Island of Britain. Elite Europe is no stage for such. 
I don't believe Fergie fast-tracked his retirement. Only he knew when the time would come, and kept his cards to his chest, offering no hints as to when he'd hang up his bubble gum. Legend.

The face is just as scary but he's no Fergie

United will take a bit of time to adjust in my opinion, may be 2 or 3 seasons. Moyes is no Fergie and with the mediocrity of players it will be some time before he can get something serious of the squad. They may compete for second/third place if they manage to maintain some consistency. If he can get someone to really lead the team, like Kagawa, who is more than capable, to have the attacks rotate around him, Utd may have a chance.

United won the title with one world class player RVP, a so-so Rooney and a bunch of average players. Sir Alex was worth half a squad of world class players by himself!! Moyes will take time to firstly, establish himself in the OT(especially with Fergie upstairs); and secondly to get the team dominant again. With the departure of Fergie, United lose a large chunk of their clout with referees, the FA, the press.. Tough times ahead.

United is a tough call. On the one hand, they have succeeded in part because Fergie intimidates officials, his own players and opposition teams alike; while on the other, Moyes has done superbly well on a shoe-string budget. Something tells me to trust Fergie's choice of Moyes on this one. He may not intimidate, but Moyes will at least take the FA Cup. Given that he has also inherited a team of believers, it looks good for United. 

4. Does Bayern go up or down with Pep? Can they be the first team to retain their CL crown? 

Personally, I consider Pep SLIGHTLY(I repeat slightly) overrated. He coached a Barca with Xavi, Iniesta, Messi et al, at the height of their powers. He abandoned them when they were clearly exhausted and on the wane. He has now chosen(yet again) to coach the club with the best squad in Europe. Unfortunately for him, anything less than a domestic double will be judged a disaster.

Bayern have the best squad in Europe by a country mile. Bayern's Team B could reach the CL semis but it's a notoriously difficult competition to win and even harder to defend. History doesn't lie. They will be the strongest contenders but fall short 

Bayern stays  up either way. Their system and depth don't just get erased however shit the coach who comes in may be. And I doubt Pep will be shit, I actually shudder at the thought that he may bring more
fluidity into the team than they already have. I think they will own the big stage for a couple more years

For me, Bayern Munich demonstrated perfection last season. Pep is an artist dabbling in the science that is Bayern.. expect alchemy, not the real thing. It will be awkward but will reap domestically. Sure they'll do the domestic double with ease, but Europe is a different cup of tea. Pep knows this. They'll make the final as expected, and they'll be cockier than ever, and that will be the chink in their armour. Cockiness. I expect new champions of Europe come May 2014.

They can only go down but that would have happened with Jupp Heyneckes as well. You can't beat a treble. But Pep will give them a philosophy, I won't be surprised if he gets his 3rd CL to equal the great Paisley's record but not this year.

Bayern have hit the top. There's no where else to go but down for any team that can put 7 goals without a reply past Barca. Best case scenario, hold it up there for another season but not better it. Reason: they do not have a supply line as rich in talent as Barca's. The monster will need feeding and money doesn't quite cover that as Florentino Perez learned when he disbanded Del Bosque's Madrid side, in favour of the galactico policy.

5.Can Edinson Cavani play with prima donna, Ibrahimovic. How do you rate PSG's Champions league chances?

NO!!  Blanc's brief is to play both and he can't bench either one, or else...!  This is Qatar's sovereign fund money being spent here so these sheiks will be ruthless. For PSG to progress in Europe, they may have to build their attack around either one, but not both these superstars. Sure Ibrahimović will score loads, El Matador Cavani has to play second fiddle to keep the peace. I see him bagging a meagre (by his standards) 15 goals and be deemed a flop.This super combo of strikers will bark but won't bite.

Cavani can play with Ibra based on his performances with Uruguay. He's selfless, can play on the wing if he has to. He's not just a centre forward. As for PSG, its not long ago Blanc was the highest rated coach in Europe, everyone was after him. There's amnesia in football. He won the league with Bordeaux, AND CHAMAKH for *expletive* sake. But they lack something. So no CL.

 I think Cavani can be humble. Zlatan, once given the props he deserves to feed his ego, can be the big guy that holds the ball and feeds for the finisher Cavani. Zlatan doesn't usually play well with other big name strikers but I think this one may well work out. The question is, can Blanc control him? Perhaps just let him be? I have a strong feeling it will work out.

The more interesting question for me would be to paraphrase this very one and ask whether the prima donna can play with Cavani or any other bull for that matter. It is difficult enough already for any 2 bulls to be in the same kraal. It would take a very carefully crafted system and supreme player management nous to let the two thrive alongside each other. I say, any chance then of Cavani playing with Ibra depends on how Blanc asserts himself on the team. Deep down, I feel Ibra's ego will kill it.

The way Blanc has been bending over backwards to accomodate Ibra(I hear he gave himself an extra holiday), this situation looks toxic. Throw Ibra's agent Mino Raiola stirring the hornet's nest and things seem worse. Methinks PSG should sucker someone into buying Zlatan. That way; Raiola gets one more big transfer percentage, Ibra gets one last large payday and PSG continue building in peace. 

As for CL, it can't be won by throwing money at the problem. It takes experience and careful squad crafting. It took Chelsea 10 years and City are on 5 years and waiting so being noveau riche , with money to burn isn't a guarantee.

These were our panelists;

1.Rodney Kayonga is a Liverpool fan who must surely be considering being a cricket fan full time because of how shit his team is and having a cannibalistic best player who wants to leave. Also, a closet Arsenal fan.

2. Bob Muhumuza is a Roman Abramovich fanboy and thriving super YO(great fan of that jungle bunny hip hop culture)

3. Barnabas 'Barns' Kalenzi is a parochial Man United fan and a serial 'sneerer'

4. Paul  Lumala is a long suffering Arsenal fan who is used to the pain.

Editor's note: Some of our panelists are very deep into urban slang. I have tried to explain their terminology to the lay man(explanations bracketed) as best as possible.

Thanks to our panelists and thanks for reading

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The summer saga so far..

No.1: Colombian megastar Radamel Falcao

It's now roughly a month to the beginning of Europe's major football leagues and the anticipation is hitting fever pitch. I know the pay channels always hype the following season as the most exciting yet.. This time, the hype is real. This hype has been fuelled by two major factors; the various mangerial changes around the big European clubs, and the blockbuster transfer sagas mostly involving Europe's premier attacking talents. 

Managerial musical chairs.

As always, I'll do a quick recap for the rock dwellers. The wily old master Sir Alex Ferguson retired from football to 'see the world'. Jose claims it was his impending return that forced the Scot into retirement but then again Mou claims he is now 'the Happy one' so it was all in fun. Well, Fergie was replaced by David Moyes at OT, a decision in which Fergie had a say. It has been said he vetoed Jose due to his cantankerous nature. The non-cantankerous David Moyes' vacant chair at Goodison was filled by Roberto Martinez, the man who gave the term 'bitter-sweet' a whole new meaning by winning the FA Cup and getting relegated in damn near the same week!

But the real catalyst of the managerial stampede was Pep Gurdiola. He was a prime target for all big clubs outside Spain's Big Two. Gurdiola chose Bayern. A spurned Roman Abramovich turned to old frenemy Jose Mourinho who was tired of not being adored at the Bernabeu. Mourinho replaced the revilled Rafa Benitez, who in turn replaced Walter Mazzari(who moved on to replace Andrea Stramacioni at Inter) in Naples.Meanwhile, after lengthy 'vibing', Carlo Ancelotti took Mou's seat at Madrid with Laurent Blanc replacing him(Carlo) as Zlatan Ibrahimovic's nanny at PSG. Carlo, it is rumoured, has a 'no poach' clause in his severance with PSG; he can't take any of their players. As I had predicted severally, Roberto Mancini was fired by Citeh and replaced by the Chilean Pellegrini. Am out of breath. Did I miss any? Ohh.. there was no movement on the Wenger front.

So the subplots begin. How can Pep possibly improve the best side in Europe? There only seems one way for Bayern to go from here and it's down. Pep is likely gonna wanna impose his Barca philosophy and replace 'beasts' with 'beauties'. Bayern dominated last season because of a perfect mix of technique and dominant brutality. Pep is likely to get rid of the latter. Still in the Bundesliga, how does Jurgen Klopp re-organise after the sucker punches BVB has suffered at the hands of FC Hollywood over the past four months? The signing of Mkhataryan and Aubameyang should help keep them competitive.

How will Moyes step out of Fergie's shadow? Will he be able to go toe-to-toe with Mourinho and City, with considerably less resources and talent just as Sir Alex did in his final years at OT? Who becomes the new chief bully of referees in the Premier League? If it's a question of seniority, then Arsenal fans may have something to cheer about; we could have 'Wenger time' soon. Manuel Pelligrini, meanwhile, was brought to City to deliver the champagne football and domestic and European glory that people who reside on Forbes lists require. Wenger will frustrate and entertain as usual. What's not to love?

Player transfer sagas 

First, Bayern bought Mario Goetze, a future Ballon d'Or winner to many in German circles, from bitter rivals BVB; a move who's announcement before Dortmund's Champions League semi against Real had Jurgen Klopp tearing out his mane and calling Gurdiola names. Then the Bavarians secured a pre-agreement with Robert Lewandowski that had all 600,000 Dortmund fans seething.

Lewandowski was one of three marquee strikers on sale this summer, the other two being the spelling-phobic Edinson Cavani and Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao. Falcao moved to Monaco to earn a tax free $15m/yr while he(reportedly) waits to move to Madrid next season. Apparently he didn't want to move straight from Athletico to Madrid and get  the 'Judas' tag. BVB held on to Lewandowski and risk him walking for free next summer. Unless they manage to convince him to move to a club outside Germany in the next few weeks. Edinson Cavani moved to PSG for 63m Euros, proving once again that cash rules everything. On PSG signing Cavani, Zlatan predictably tossed his toys out of the pram and his agent Mino Raiola is currently shopping him around for a 'cut-price' $25m and ~ $15m/yr wages. I don't see any one paying that kind of money for a bad tempered 32yr old prima donna. One can't rule out a return to Milan though, stranger things have happened. 

Luis Suarez also decided to cook up a manure storm by batting his eye lashes at Real Madrid and conducting himself with the general douchebaggery that is tolerated purely because of his mastery with a football. Amazingly Madrid have largely ignored him and no bid has been lodged so far. Instead he has been linked to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and even Barcelona. One fascinating story I read was that Luis uses outrageous acts of violence as a way to leverage himself out of a club. Basically he does something so outrageous the club have no choice but to defend his inane behavior or sell him; and it usually involves his teeth.. Bollocks I know.

Wayne Rooney..

We had anticipated fireworks and 'handbags' when it came to 'fighting' for the above three strikers and many of us were pleasantly surprised when things weren't so protracted. Then came the Wayne Rooney saga. Rooney is suffering from first born syndrome(among other debilitating ailments). The second child(RVP) arrived and took away all his shine, all the attention and most of the love. And he's sore. He acted out and the parents(Fergie) responded with the stick, not the carrot. He was supposed to talk to Moyes, to smooth things over. We aren't really sure what happened there.

Rooney is suffering from first born syndrome(among other debilitating ailments). The second child(RVP) arrived and took away all his shine, all the attention and most of the love. And he's sore.

What we know is that someone leaked a story about Chelsea bidding 10m + David Luiz or Juan Mata for Mr. Potato Face. As the frenzy peaked, it turned out that Chelsea had made a full cash bid. United saw this as an affront and an effort to distabilise their player further so they responded by attempting to distabilise Chelsea's players by putting out the news of the player plus cash bid. Everyone knows that David Luiz is a fan and Board(read Abramovich) favorite and has been fingered as the club's next captain. As for Juan Mata being up for sale, the less said, the better.. So the saga drags on. Personally, I see Rooney staying at United and this being put down to yet another adoloscent rebellion by the Scouser goon. Besides, I don't think he'd be able to communicate with people in London; and he might get arrested for peeing on roadsides at 3am whilst looking for a sausage stand.. I kid.

In other news

Meanwhile, in Catalunya, Barca swiftly concluded a deal for Brazilian superstar Neymar; a move that could turn out as titillating(if he gels with Messi) as it could be disastrous if 'the Little dictator' treats Neymar the way he did Zlatan or David Villa(it's all conjecture along with knowledge gleaned from Ibra's autobiography)
Disclaimer: I am not slandering Messi's character. I know some people think his poo smells like roses 

Man City just bolstered their attack with the twin signings of Alvaro Negredo and Stefan Jovetic to add to the earlier signing of the previously agorophobic Jesus Navas and Fernandinho That should spell the end of Edin Dzeko's City career. Pelligrini normally uses one striker so that situation should be interesting. I hear BVB are nosing around for Dzeko to partner/backup new signing Pierre Aubameyang from St. Ettiene. This all leads me to believe Lewandowski could still be on the market but BVB want to deal from a position of strength. Fiorentina signed Mario Gomez to replace Jovetic and Napoli are in the running to replace Cavani with Higuan(who was apparently a done deal at the Emirates just the other day). And so the game of musical chairs continues..

NB: Arsenal are still making positive noises but without tangible results. I heard they were trying to put in a 35m bid for Luis Suarez but I think they were filming an episode of 'Just for Laughs'. Olivier Giroud scored hi first hat-trick for the Gunners so I guess that puts to bed their interest in strikers this summer. 

Thanks for reading.