Football Priciest Flops

1. Juan Sebastian Veron (Lazio – Man Utd £28.1m)

Veron arrived from Italy with a big reputation, deservedly, as one of the world’s best midfield players who was a regular in both the Lazio and Argentina sides. A creative midfielder with brilliant vision and an eye for a pass, he was good enough that United deemed him good enough to be worth the best part of £30m.

Unfortunately Veron failed to settle in the English game, finding it too fast and physical for him. Injury also hampered is United career, and despite backing from Alex Ferguson, fans and media alike blasted his performances.

He spent just two seasons in Manchester before being sold to Chelsea for £15m.

2. Juan Sebastian Veron again (Man United – Chelsea £15m)

Despite two poor seasons at United, Claudio Ranieri thought Veron could make an impression in The Premiership, and shelled out over half of what United had paid two years previously.

His Chelsea career couldn’t have started better, scoring the opener in a 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield on his debut.

After that game his form steadily dropped and he only played 14 times for the Blues before heading back to Italy with Inter Milan.

3. Denilson (Sao Paulo – Real Betis £21.5m)

When Denilson signed for Spanish side Real Betis in 1998 it was a then record transfer. He came with a big reputation, having performed well for Brazil in the Copa America.

After just one season Betis were relegated and he was loaned back to Brazil. Upon his return he was considered a liability by his clubs fans, a luxury player, his trademark step overs signifying style over substance.

Despite winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil he was largely considered a failure at Betis, and was sold to PSG in 2005.

Since then he has become somewhat of a journeyman, appearing in France, Saudi Arabia, USA, Brazil, Vietnam and Greece.

4. Serhiy Rebrov (Dynamo Kyiv – Tottenham Hotspur £11m)

Another to move into a big league with a big reputation, Rebrov was one half of Kyiv’s brilliant strike partnership with Andrei Shevchenko. Rebrov was also the all-time top goal scorer in Ukrainian football, and still is.

His prolific goal scoring led to him signing for Spurs in a big money move, seen by Geogre Graham as the man to fire Spurs to glory.

Not fancied by new boss Glenn Hoddle he was farmed out on loan a couple of times, and at the end of his time at White Hart Lane had scored only ten goals in 60 games.

5. Hugo Viana (Sporting Lisbon – Newcastle United £12m)

Many foreign imports fail to make the grade in the Premier League. Some site the weather, others the style of play, the pace and physical nature, some blame
the lifestyle and the food.

Hugo Viana fits the bill of a failed foreign import. Newcastle United shelled out a hefty fee for the Portuguese youngster in 2002. He only played 39 times for The Magpies, mostly as a sub, and after three years headed back to Sporting.

6. Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur – Liverpool £19m)

Rafa Benitez bought and sold a lot of players in his time on Merseyside, and many were big disappointments, none more so than the Irishman who once played for Inter Milan.

Whether he was signed as backup to Fernando Torres or as a strike partner is unclear, but after 19 games and five goals he headed back to Spurs. The same season he was sold.

A massive let down at Anfield, Harry Redknapp resigned him for £12m, making a £7m profit in six months. Since his move to Liverpool and back he has looked a shadow of his former self.

7. Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan – Chelsea £30.8m)

Perhaps the most expensive transfer flop of all time, Shevchenko came to Chelsea with a huge reputation after winning trophy after trophy with a brilliant AC Milan side.

But perhaps it was done above Jose Mourinho’s head, as Sheva was said to have been Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovic’s favourite player.

Either way, he never re-created his Milan form, and scored just nine goals for Chelsea, and three years later was back at Dynamo Kyiv.

8. Francis Jeffers (Everton – Arsenal £8m)

Not the most expensive on this list by a long way, he was one of The Gunners most expensive ever signing when he arrived at Highbury in 2001.

A hot prospect from Everton where he had scored 18 goals in 49 games, he was signed by Arsene Wenger to be a typical English goal scorer.

His time was at Arsenal was marred by injury, and the form of Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry. His goal tally never reached double figures for Arsenal and two of his goals came against Farnborough in the FA Cup.

Despite all this, his goal to games ratio for England comes in at a very impressive one goal every 45 minutes.

Time to get shopping

Assuming we don’t go on a mega-slump, or sign 9 more Stuart Holdens, this season was put firmly to bed with an abject performance at Stoke on Saturday. Certainly not jumping on the manager’s back or that of the players as this was possibly only the second really bad performance of the season after allowing Liverpool some charity points at the Reebok.

With Chungy away at the Asian cup and a list of ‘long term absentees’ that seems to have contained the same personnel for well over a year, the slump was inevitable. The smallest squad in the league needs some new faces, to give this season some meaning and to boost hopes the Coyle revival will gain momentum again next year. 

Never thought I’d say this but losing Danny Shittu and Andy O’Brien has hurt. We are now left with two out and out centre backs, the brilliant Cahill and the worrying Knight. Sam Ricketts has stepped in there well at times but should the worst happen and Cahill goes (please go to Arsenal if you do leave Gary) we need real cover. It seems as though David Wheater is on his way, which will be a good signing so long as he is not a replacement for Cahill, a base of 3 young English centre backs would stand is in good stead on the pitch and financially for the next few years. Another player on the market is Curtis Davies, again fitting the bill and not a half bad player to have challenging Knight for a place. 

The other big concern regarding exits is occasional goal machine Johan Elmander. Thankfully he seems to have entered another chasm of a goal drought in the league, fending off teams looking for a cheap and quick fix. If he is to leave, then I hope it’s in the next 2 weeks so we can claim a million or two for our record signing as opposed to losing him for free in the summer. With this season looking lost it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have Ivan Klasnic on the pitch for a few weeks, assuming he remains an innocent citizen. Cover for this area seems most likely to come in the shape of Carlos Vela. If that deal comes in and Vela does well it may be of greater long term benefit than first meets the eye. Jack Wilshire’s development at Bolton last season has got us a foot in the door with Arsene. If Vela does the same we may have years of amazing man-child players on loan in the years ahead.  

The one thing I feel we need elsewhere is a midfield enforcer who can pass 5 yards, sorry Muamba but you look horrible when Holden and Mark Davies are either side of you. Let’s have a bit of tabloid journalism and put 2+2=5… we’ll have Scott Parker thanks. 

Overall I hope we invest our money in a Holden cloning machine ahead of Shaun Wright Phillips though…. Jesus.

The Other Foot – A Brand New Concept In Technical Football Training

It seems that just about everyone has had their two-pence worth when it comes to batting down Scottish football in recent years – from tabloids to former players, from pundits to politicians – but whilst the world seems to be dead set in pointing the finger, some people seem more apt in pulling it out, as it were. 

Take ‘The Other Foot’ for example.  This Soccer School franchise based in Inverness focuses on a niche form of technical training for aspiring young footballers, whereby a series of inviting, competitive and fun drills lead to “two-footed effectiveness”.  The idea is simple – to strengthen the weaker (‘Other’) foot so that a player’s technical ability is not limited by whatever foot controls the ball. 

‘The Other Foot’ was set up by Ian McArthur, who was inspired by past two-footed players such as Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, George Best and Tom Finney.  Note the names – only two of the four are British – and our two-footed starts are viewed as a rarity in this country.  Ian praises Finney’s acknowledgement that in order to be a more flexible and, shall we say, ‘useful’ forward, he needed to be able to use both feet to cover any of the five forward positions.  Finney went on to become a legend for both Preston and England and played in the World Cup – something Scottish kids are becoming less and less familiar with in terms of national association. 

So why has Scottish football lagged behind or, to be kinder, stood still whilst other nations overtake on the world stage?  It’s perhaps not possible to point the finger directly at any one aspect, but if I put to you the words “antiquated”, “dinosaur”, “Henry T. Ford” and “ignorance” then we’re on the right lines.  It’s the same with any issue – football or not – that progression is key for progression.  For too long, Scottish kids have been coached on muddy, over-sized pitches and been put through their paces on sprints, shooting, heading and more running.  Strength and fitness appears to have been fixated on most coaches’ mindsets, with the idea that ‘the skill is there, now get them fit’.  

Wrong!  As Ian again points out on his website, “there’s always room for improvement… it will always be an advantage if you feel more comfortable in using your other foot.”  Technical skills and technical coaching is what has been lacking in Scottish and UK football in the past 20 years.  Some argue that Scotland are a small country and can only produce a handful of world-class players at any one time.  Again, wrong!  It only takes 11 players to fill a team; and Holland – with a population of around 15 million – repeatedly play above their station if population is to be factored.  The key is to get the kids coached well and coached correctly; continually developing their all-round skills.  ‘The Other Foot’ focuses on small-sized coaching classes run by professional coaches, whilst at the same time ensuring that the classes remain fun… after all, football is meant to be enjoyable! 

This simple yet novel coaching scheme may not be a 100% solution to the lack of technical coaching skills, but used as a weekly addition to a young player’s training and match-days then it really is a no-brainer.  Football is a team game, and for that you need to be a team player.  You can add to that team if you can play in more than one position, and to play in more than one position you need more than your right or left foot… you need ‘THE OTHER FOOT’. 

www.theotherfootsoccerschool.com

 

Felix da Gama

UEFA’S NEW FINANCE RULES

Michel Platini is leading the way in controlling footballs out of control finances with UEFA bringing in a set of new rules and regulations that would see clubs living beyond their means banned from European competition.

After almost a decade of foreign sugar daddies buying clubs and chucking vast amounts at the club in a bid to buy success, we have also seen a record number of clubs dive into administration and flirt with liquidation.

Finally this appears to have worried those at UEFA and shaken them into action. They want clubs to be breaking even on all footballing matters over a three year period, so the clubs have time to get their books in order, and the ban from European competition is a last
resort.

It really is time something was done to curtail out of control spending. You’d have thought big football clubs, apparently being run as businesses, with experienced chairmen, chief execs etc. would be able to keep spending under control, but just looking at the piles of debt at Manchester United and Liverpool show that UEFA might just need to take control, or at least keep a closer eye and a firmer hand on things.

The new rules would let a club lose a set amount over the first three seasons, dropping down gradually and eventually reaching zero.

As mentioned earlier, the ban is a last resort, and if a club can prove that they are moving in the right direction, and losses are being reduced year on year, then no sanctions will be taken.

And UEFA have also said any clubs trying to flaunt the new rules, or hiding bad finances will be cracked down on twice as hard.

The new rules are a positive step, less a set in stone rule and more a massive deterrent. With the money a club can bring in from television revenue from The Champions League, they will be sure to keep their books in order.

It should force the owners to become more responsible.

The problem will come the further down the football pyramid you go. There are by far more clubs who won’t consider getting into Europe a manageable aim, there are many who won’t even factor it into the
equation at the start of each season. Not just in the lower leagues, but in the top flight as well.

I can’t see Qpr, Carlisle or Torquay being too put off about living beyond their means with the threat of being banned from European competition looming over them, it just doesn’t affect them.

UEFA need to come up with a plan to stop all professional clubs in all European countries from making a loss and coming close to rack and ruin. Or at least work with their member countries FA’s to come up with a plan of action.

The current way of deducting points for a club going into administration doesn’t work. It pretty much condemns a club to relegation, or no chance to compete within their division that season.

It’s hard to say what would be the best way forward. Perhaps a transfer embargo, which would stop a club spending more on players and wages. A wage cap would be another alternative, with only a certain percentage of a clubs turnover being allowed to be spent on wages.

UEFA have taken a big step in the right direction, but they need to look after the whole of football, and not just those dining at the top table.

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Liverpool in need of dedication

Players at the club are not doing their utmost best to reproduce the club’s form that was challenging for the title just 2 seasons ago.

The majority of the players are the same, although 2 world-class centre-midfielders left in Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano, the club should of been able to find adequate replacements elsewhere as the world isn’t short of top class playmakers.

Although their replacements haven’t been near Xabi or Javier’s standard, there has been a cause to say there could be enough in the likes of Mereiles and Lucas to suggest they could do enough.
And despite never finding quality in the centre of the park, there is still some to challenge at the right end of the table.

So there shouldn’t be any excuses on Liverpool’s part. The club has been in freefall this season, and the main problem they have is the lack of passion shown by the majority of players who pull on the famous Reds’ shirt and step over that white line.

The only few who do include players who, as many a fan would tell you “bleed Liverpool red”.
Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, and the bright young talent of Martin Kelly at right-back who are 100% committed to the cause.

Other than a few players plying their trade for Liverpool’s Reserves, looking to get their first-team shot, commit 110% when crossing that white line.
Even Fernando Torres, feared by strikers a few seasons ago doesn’t give his all. When luck doesn’t go his way, or the service isn’t up to his liking, he is ineffectual.

Kenny Dalglish has a tough job to get Liverpool back on track.
New players are the answer, and players like Charlie Adam, Scott Dann and youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlaine could provide the spark back into their season. With few other names being linked, they should consider getting players with more grit and determination, because these current players simply; are. not. working.

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Is the passion of the lower leagues starting to prevail?

In the week that League 2 Stevenage defeated Premiership Newcastle, Conference side Crawley dumped Championship Derby out of the FA cup, and Arsenal went down 1-0 to Ipswich, we could be expected to ask what’s going on in football! The magic of the cup has always led to such upsets but it seems this season it’s happening more than ever. Is it down to over paid players underestimating lower league teams or is it in fact pointing towards the gulf in class between leagues becoming narrower?

Could these players learn a thing or two from the sheer passion that these teams are showing? Do you think the top players in English football are relying too much on their perceived natural talent and therefore not playing the beautiful game with the spirit that was once evident in every game no matter which league you were watching?

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Captain Marvel to Managerial Muppet

Roy Keane’s sacking from my beloved Ipswich Town wasn’t a surprise.  Watching their uninspired and leaderless performances over the past few months has been frankly painful; never have I seen the old blue and white so lacking in ideas, creation, invention.  Everything really.  A Championship squad containing the likes of David Norris, Gareth McAuley and Connor Wickham should be performing a whole lot better.  Unfortunately, the problems lay solely at our esteemed manager’s door.

Poor signings were plentiful throughout Keane’s reign.  The likes of Tamas Priskin, Darren O’Dea and Colin Healy seemed hopelessly lost whenever they ventured out into the Championship battlefield.  This was confounded when good signings like Andros Townsend and Jake Livermore were consistently ignored when it came to first team duties.  People playing out of position was also commonplace with Keano; I remember recalling one game where our team selection left even the most ardent Town fan with a massively boggled brain.  Jamie Peters, a winger, was right back.  O’Dea, a centre half, was left back.  We had two central midfielders on our flanks, and a defensive midfield player in Colin Healy playing in the ‘number 10’ role of our centre forward.

The style of play we played encompassed everything a fan doesn’t want to see.  Dull, limp, slow, sideways.  I’ve always found that losses aren’t actually what irk fans; it’s the manner of these losses that is so important.  If your boys put a good shift in, do their best and give you a bit of excitement, you’ll likely forgive that narrow home defeat against your bitterest league rivals, satisfied that sufficient effort was injected.  We just never had this, with the player’s undoubted effort going to waste in the face of disastrous tactics and team selections. 

Essentially, Keane displayed all the traits of a biblically bad manager.  Yet Keane at his peak was one of the finest midfielders to ever grace the game.  Tenacious, energetic, powerful and fearless, with an abundance of quality on the ball that people often forget about when talking about the man whose steely will to win is unmatched in British football.  All these qualities should have transferred seamlessly into the managerial domain, but given his shambolic performance at Ipswich I can assure you this wasn’t the case.

He isn’t the first on-field leader to freeze in the managerial spotlight.  Tony Adams displayed similar incompetence during his brief spell in charge at Portsmouth; Bryan Robson made a right hash of Middlesbrough, and Paul Ince resembled an excitable child when given the reins at Blackburn.  These men were true giants on the field, at a game which came naturally to them.  They were surrounded by truly great players, so their desire and relentless pursuit of high standards wasn’t out of place amongst their team mates.

Put these players in the managerial dug outs though, and their demands are suddenly unrealistic for players blessed with much more modest talents.  As good as Grant Leadbitter is as a central midfielder for Ipswich Town, he is never going to be Roy Keane.  I imagine that as Keane continually saw his charges fail to replicate his on-pitch performances, the frustration must have grown within him.  I believe this frustration led Keane to some of his more ‘inventive’ decisions, abandoning logic in favour of an outlandish ploy to somehow make Ipswich Town into the Manchester United of the nineties.

Players these days are much more delicate creatures.  While conviction and self-belief are paramount in any good manager, criticising your players and constantly demanding more and more just isn’t going to get you results.  Players won’t be interested.  The key to modern management is instilling confidence into this new breed of fragile footballers, whose careers can be made or broken on the outcome of one chance in front of goal.  The likes of Owen Coyle, Ian Holloway and Steve Bruce were not outstanding players, but through a more careful and softer version of football management they are experiencing much more success in the dugout compared to the likes of Keane, Ince and Adams.  Average players such as Arsène Wenger and José Mourinho are further evidence of the coaching benefits accessible by having no notable success as a player.

Mourinho in particular is the maestro in making his players’ self-confidence soar.  The likes of Wesley Sneijder, Deco and Didier Drogba were transformed into the world’s best under his tutelage at their respective clubs, simply because he kept insisting that these and the rest of his players were the best.  The problem for Roy Keane is, no matter how good the players he manages are, they’re never likely to be as good as he was.  I suspect he knows this, which is why until he can overcome this superiority complex, fans like me will be questioning Keane’s managerial ability for a long time yet.

Jon Vale

Leeds revel in the big time

Leeds United and their 9000 following descended on the Emirates on Saturday afternoon and went home the happier after a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. Indeed for the last half hour of the game it looked like Leeds would take the spoils from a compelling cup tie. The travelling fans were superb and the noise reverberated around North London long after the game had finished.

Arsenal it must be said were not at their best but after Denilson’s clumsy challenge on Gradel 10 minutes into the 2nd half Robert Snodgrass dispatched the resulting penalty. The Leeds fans were delirious and as the crowd cheered the players began to believe. Snodgrass was outstanding and the defence held firm against everything Arsenal threw against them. It was only the introduction of Fabregas that lifted the home side; he began to open up the Leed’s defence with some delightful passes. One of these passes ended up with Walcott being brought down in the area for a penalty that Fabregas calmly stroked passed Schmeichel. It was a shame to see the Arsenal theatrics being displayed again although Walcott did apologise after the game for his horrible dive 5 minutes from time.

It was a cracking advertisement for the FA Cup and also for Leeds United. It has been a horrible few years for the fans and it was incredible to see the numbers turning up for the 3rd round tie. They have made good progress under Grayson and it is surely only a matter of time before they return to the top tier of English football where they belong. The replay is Tuesday week and I for one and hoping Leeds can finish off the job!

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