All posts by Aaron Sharp

France’s rising star (Video)

January 30th 2013 saw the first ‘El Clasico’ of the new year. It wasn’t your typical ‘El Clasico’ with only two goals (neither scored by Messi or Ronaldo) and all 22-men managed to avoid sendings off – remarkable I know.

The Copa Del Rey semi-final did however did show me something. Before the game, I tweeted ‘Real Madrid’s back four will get torn apart tonight‘ and I’ll be first to admit – I was wrong. 

Real Madrid’s, 19-year-old French centre back, Raphael Varane, put in the performance of a lifetime. He cleared up off of his own line after a dreadful back pass by experienced defender Ricardo Carvalho. Also, more impressively, he had four times Ballon d’Or winner and arguably the best ever footballer, Lionel Messi, in his pocket for the full 90 minutes. It was the first time this season I had seen the little Argentine has a quiet game and also the first time I have seen him handled so well.

On top of the sensational defending, Varane popped up with a headed equalizer in the 81st minute to cancel our Cesc Fabregas’ earlier opener. 

On this games viewing, I can safely say Raphael Varane is a player who very soon will be regarded as world class. At such a young age he is being compared to French legend, Pascal Cygan – or was it Lillian Thuram?

 

 

Time for Premier league change?

The Premier League has a reputation – Controversy surrounds the league almost continuously and it’s damaging the league and more importantly – it’s damaging the football.

 

In recent years, foreign players have flooded into the Premier League and are influencing the game massively. Simulation, notoriously used by Europeans and South Americans, is sneaking into the game of players who don’t need to cheat. Players like Gareth Bale, Ashley Young and Luis Suarez have all been at the centre of diving rows, but with the quality they possess they needn’t be.

 

Diving is cheating, no matter what anyone says or how they try to justify it, it is cheating. Before the sudden influx of foreign players into the Premiership, it was rare that something like diving would cause such debates as we have nowadays. I have heard people say such things as “Diving has become part of the game!” or “If he didn’t dive he would have been fouled anyway!”  and it sickens me. Diving is the cancer of football and only recently have referees begun to brandish yellow and red cards for simulation.

 

In La Liga they have a system to keep the number of non EU players to a minimum. Each team is allowed a maximum of 3 non EU players in their match day squad. Although this rule does not eliminate diving in it’s entirety, I’m sure it would help the Premier League significantly. The influence foreign players have on the English game is huge and is ever growing.

 

Deploying this role would not only benefit our domestic leagues, but it would have a huge change on our national team. With the number of foreign players limited, it would give the younger English players a platform to showcase their abilities. Very rarely are young English prospects given the chance to impress at top clubs, because the level of competition from foreign signings is so great. Youngsters are usually sent out on loan to lesser known clubs and nine out of ten times, that’s the level they stay at.

 

I can also happen the other way round which is ever increasing, a young English talent shows signs of great potential at a ‘small’ club and almost immediately a ‘big’ club comes calling with an extortionate sum of money that is too good to refuse – with such a move, a players first team chances become limited and the sum of money that they have been purchased for creates huge expectation. The English expect too much, too soon.

 

In Spain, with this rule in place it has worked wonders. The Spanish national team, as we know, has become one of the best national teams of all time winning the last three major tournaments. Young Spaniards are being used throughout all La Liga teams and seeing the talent that is coming through, it’s safe to say Spain’s dominance isn’t ending anytime soon.

 

For England to do this it will take time of course, but in the long run it would help. Reducing the number of foreign players in the English League may be do able quickly, but to affect the national team will take years, as it did with Spain. The current England team will not win a major trophy for the foreseeable future, so now is the time to change.

 

Nurture the talent we do find instead of rushing them and inevitably damaging another career.

 

 

Premier league downfall

The Barclays Premier League used to dominate European football. Each year there’d be at least two English representatives in the latter stages of the Champions League, this would almost be a guarantee.
Players from the Premier League would set the world stage alight with tantalising performances, Ballon d’Or nominations, world players of the year all hailing from the English Premier League – But no more.
Spanish teams have begun to dominate European football in recent seasons. But is this because La Liga is improving or because the Premier League is getting worse?
The Premier League is watched all over the globe by millions of people and statistics say it is the most watched league in the world. Players like Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo used to grace our Premier League pitches and showcase their undeniable skill and talent week in week out. Henry was part of ‘The Invincibles’ Arsenal team that notoriously won the Premier League is 2002 by going an entire season unbeaten. Cristiano Ronaldo burst onto our screens and showed us how skill, ball control and pace put together can slice through a defence with ease. Oh how the league has changed.
Going an entire season unbeaten? Not nowadays. The consistency levels in the Premier League are at an all time low. Fans aren’t tuning into our league expecting to see football being played at it’s best, they’re tuning in because of the pure excitement, the goals, the controversy. This isn’t good for our league nor our teams. Each weekend there is an upset or at least an unexpected result, Chelsea losing to QPR, who were at that time bottom of the league, for example. 
I am not saying the Premier League has no quality, that’s not what I am saying. I am saying that the talent we do hold is often overshadowed by the controversy and the errors.
In recent years especially, the talent is slowly fading. A lot of players can’t seem to face more than a handful of seasons in the Premier league before departing to, more often than not, La Liga. You only have to look back over the five or six seasons to see the departing talent that heads to Espana – Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, Alex Song to name but a few. There comes a time for every Premier League player when enough is enough and it’s the quality of football that takes priority, hence the exodus.
It seems the Premier League has become a stepping stone to La Liga. Our Premier League may be the best in terms of entertainment, but if judged correctly on the football itself it’s a no brainer – La Liga.

Why always me? – Mario Balotelli

Manchester City‘s joker and part time striker Mario Balotelli, has been the subject of rumours and speculation regarding his future this month. Serie A sides, AC Milan and Juventus, have in the last few days reportedly opened talks with Manchester City over taking the 22-year-old back to his home country. 

 Despite Roberto Mancini confirming a number of times that Balotelli was staying put, it seems the Manchester club have given in (or seen their senses).

Balotelli cost €22,000,000 from Inter Milan in 2010 but hasn’t quite lived up to the expectation that the price tag suggests. Earning just over £100,000 a week Manchester City are throwing money away to keep the services of the Italian.

Despite not performing on the pitch, Mario has provided some, shall we say, memorable moments off it – But this is not what he is being paid such a wage for.

If Mario does eventually depart from the Etihad, Manchester City will surely be on the hunt for a replacement in the coming days and could we therefore be in for a frantic last few days for Manchester City?

 

Tea & Busquets (Video)

Sergio Busquets is one of the most underrated footballers in world football – Being a defensive midfielder, it is no surprise.

The composure and technique the Barcelona man possesses is unrivaled and at the tender age of twenty-four, he has the time to become one of the greatest defensive midfielders of all time.

Busquets has been at the heart of Spain and Barcelona’s recent dominance. His clever tactical approach to the beautiful game allows his compatriots to excel – thus letting them grab the headlines.

As you know, I am a football fan who notices the simple things in the game. The step overs and flashy boots don’t impress me, it’s the first touch, the tackle and the composure that does it for me.

Not known for his goalscoring, Busquets has conjured up only four goals in 186 appearances for club and country – not bad really for someone who rarely passes the half way line. However this stat only backs up that defensive midfielders do not get the credit they deserve, the day there is a ‘Top Tackler’ award is a day I will finally be happy.

Pompey’s blues (Video)

It’s been a hard January for every Pompey fan. With 26 players departing since the start of this season, it’s tough to see a way forward. There has been over 50 players that have pulled on a blues shirt this season, more than any other football league club.

Pompey are coming up to their administration year anniversary – but there is no cause for celebration. The club are sitting second from bottom in League One and have not won a game in one hundred days. The football league have kindly lent the South Coast side a helping hand, by slapping a ten point deduction on them as soon as the club exit administration. Understandably, fans are beginning to prepare for life in League Two.

It’s hard to believe that such a club can decline so rapidly, a club that in recent years has won the FA cup with a team riddled with international footballers. Restricted to signing only free agents and loanees, Portsmouth interim manager Guy Whittingham has an uncertain future ahead of him and one can only feel for such an inexperienced manager that has taken on such a task.

Until ownership is sorted, Portsmouth FC can’t move forward. The results and the table are no longer a Portsmouth fans priority, the priority is existence and Pompey fans will do whatever it takes to save their club.

Barcelona need a Nou ‘keeper

According to a number of reports, Liverpool are bracing themselves for a bid from Barcelona for Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Barcelona’s current number one, Victor Valdes, has revealed he has no intention of extending his contract at the Nou Camp, beyond 2014 – thus Barcelona are in the market for a new shot stopper.

 

In all honesty one of the few weak links in the Barcelona set up has always been Victor Valdes and many will not be too sad that he’s departing. He has made countless errors in what is an almost perfect team. Although Pepe Reina is a fantastic proven goalkeeper, in recent seasons errors and fumbles have crept into his game and in my humble opinion, the following three goalkeepers are better options for Barcelona than the Liverpool shot stopper.

 

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea on loan at Atletico Madrid)
At the tender age of 20, Courtois is one of the hottest prospects in European football, it’s no secret that Chelsea see him as the ideal replacement for current number one Petr Cech, but how long can Courtois wait? Having been shipped out on loan to Atletico Madrid for the past two seasons, Barcelona have witnessed first hand the talent the Belgian has. For someone so good and so young, Barcelona may have to break the bank to secure his services, but in the long run it will be worth every penny.

 

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Having made his way from Germany U17’s to the German national team and making over 50 appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach, it is hard to believe that Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is only 20 years old. Having been compared to German goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn, Marc-Andre has the world at his feet. During a 16 game spell last season, Ter Stegen managed 11 clean sheets with an 83% save percentage rate. The stats speak for themselves.

 

Tim Krul (Newcaste United)
Tim Krul moved to the North East in 2006 from hometown Dutch club ADO Den Haag. However it took a little over 3 years for Krul to finally make his debut. After injuries to Newcastle’s first choice, Steve Harper, Krul took this chance by the scruff of the neck and soon became the Magpies number one. Now 24 years of age, Krul has still to reach his peak and with reported interest from Italian giants Juventus, he may well be on his way out of the North East very soon.
With all due respect to Pepe Reina, it seems he is past his best. If Barcelona do sign him it would by no means be a bad signing, but on value for money and longevity the three above options would be a wiser choice.

QPR haven’t found the Remy-dey just yet

If ‘Arry pulls this one off, it will be his greatest yet. Keeping Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League looked an impossible task when Redknapp took over at Loftus Road. With a squad of Premier League rejects assembled by Mark Hughes, Harry has his work cut out.

We are aware Redknapp likes to keep most of his January dealing until last minute, but with QPR and their precarious position, is it worth risking last minute deals? With Tony Fernandes’ obsession for wasting money, Harry needn’t wait – He should get what he needs as soon as possible.

French striker Loic Remy took all of twenty minutes to make his mark on the Premier League, but with his likely inconsistent form and with Djibril Cisse departing, QPR need a proven goalscorer – Peter Odemwingie seems the perfect choice. With Ryan Nelsen jumping ship to manage Toronto FC and Anton Ferdinand reportedly a target for Turkish side Bursaspor, one defender at the very least needs to arrive if QPR are going to pull of their great escape.

Harry has been in talks with FC Porto over their Portuguese centre back Rolando, who said to be interested in such a move (or the money). Rolando is the leader QPR may need to shore their defence up. If this transfer is completed, another defender and Peter Odemwingie bought in, then it’s game on.

Arry needs to forget bargains for once and focus on getting what he needs to carry out his QPR mission before it is too late.