Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

European Football Preview (Clasico Special)

It is the biggest game in the Spanish league or perhaps the biggest fixture on calendar in European football. This weekend, newly crowned world club champions – Real Madrid host eternal rivals Barcelona in a must win game for Zinedine Zidane’s team if they still harbor any hope of retaining their La Liga crown. Elsewhere in Spain, there is a derby in Valencia, two English heavy weights will be battling for a top four spot and it is second versus fourth in the Serie A.

This is our preview of some key fixtures in the top leagues in Europe.

We kick off in Italy;

Juve v Roma

Bianconeri v Giallorossi


Italian champions Juve entertain Roma in the final league game of 2017. This fixture is one of the most keenly contested games in the Serie A, so expect fireworks from both sides at the Juventus stadium. Unfortunately, AS Roma haven’t enjoyed their trips to Turin lately, they haven’t won there since 2010. VERDICT: Juventus will shade 2-1


napoli v samp

Napoli ready to defend their top position

League leaders Napoli should consolidate on their victory away victory at Torino last week and ensure they retain top spot heading into the winter break. Sampdoria find no joy when visiting San Paolo, their last victory there was in 1998. VERDICT: Expect goals from both sides, Napoli to win 3-1 

We cross over to England,

ARSENAL v LIVERPOOL. The Gunners square off against the high scoring Liverpool. Arsenal managed to turn the corner with their narrow victory over Newcastle but Liverpool is a different proposition. The Reds current away form has been nothing short of spectacular.  VERDICT: Expect goals here. 2-2 draw 

ars v liv

Christmas party!!


city v bourn

Surely, no one will bet against Man City extending their impressive run in the Premier League. It’s difficult to seeing Bournemouth offer much resistance here. VERDICT: Man City to win at home comfortably. 3-0


burnley v tot

The Clarets are placed sixth on the log after 18 games. For a team whose initial target for the season would have been survival (40 points), they have 32 already. Spurs on the other hand have a good record against Burnely at Turf Moor winning their last three there. VERDICT: I fancy Burnley giving a better fight so I will go for a draw 1-1 


leicester v man u

Leicester host Manchester United at the King Power stadium. Both teams crashed out of the Carabao cup midweek so we should expect a reaction. Leicester have lost their last two games, their confidence could be fragile at the moment. VERDICT: Mourinho will demand an instant result after their Bristol collapse. 2-1 Manchester United 


everton v chel

Wayne Rooney…. Can he make this difference?

The Toffees form has improved drastically since Sam Allardyce took over the Goodison Park club. Club hero – Wayne Rooney has found his goal-scoring touch again and will be looking to add to his tally. VERDICT: This is a tough game for Chelsea so I will go for a draw 1-1

Moving over to Spain,


val v villarr

Mestalla is the venue for the Valencia derby..

We have a derby in Valencia. In spite of their recent poor away form, Valencia are stil unbeaten at home and would look to end 2017 on high. On the other hand, Villarreal too ended a three game losing streak last weekend with a victory over Celta Vigo. VERDICT: I am going for a close game here, 2-1 Valencia

To the biggest game of the weekend,


rma v bar

el clasico!!

Back-to-back Club World Champions and UEFA Champions League winners face their eternal rivals in the Spanish capital. The rivalry between these sides cannot be overemphasized but it is Barcelona who hold a healthy lead over their illustrious opponent going into this game. Real Madrid know it is all or nothing if they are to challenge for the league title season. Samuel Umtiti’s absence could prove pivotal for Barcelona. VERDICT: I’m backing Real Madrid to dig deep and secure a much needed win against a very strong rival. 2-1 Real Madrid




Awards, accolades and acknowledgement for outstanding performance in any sphere in life are appreciated but when the award begins to lose credibility, there’s a need for a review.

The surprising FIFA Pro XI of 2012 comprised of players from just three football clubs based in Europe precisely Spain; a league where we have two gladiators and 18 other participants. Is football played in Spain alone? Well, Yes!! No!!!

It is the home of current World champions and back-to-back European champions. So why not?

My targets below are positions I think the technical team could have considered someone else.


In goalIker Casillas of Real Madrid and Spain was picked. No doubt, Saint Iker had an outstanding first half of the year where his Real Madrid side ended Barcelona hegemony and won the league but it wasn’t his heroics that brought the title – rather, it was the ruthless attacking machines of Jose Mourinho side that secured the title. Iker also led Spain to an unprecedented triumph at the Euros and perhaps that could have pushed it his way but his poor form since the start of this season makes me question his inclusion.


Right Back – Dani Alves. Undoubtedly the best attacking full back when in his element but he will certainly want to forget 2012 in a hurry. His below par performances for Barca and as well as his frequent visit to the treatment table ensured Copa del Rey title was Los Cules only title of 2012. The way fellow country man Ramires exposed him during the UEFA Champions League semi final match at Stamford Bridge summarizes his poor year.


Centre Half – Gerard Pique. How in the world does he make it? As much as I rate Gerard, his performance last year does not come close to his personal best let alone make the pro team. His former coach Pep Guardiola confirmed Pique’s attention was elsewhere during the course of last season and he hasn’t hit the peak this term. Vincent Kompany, Matt Hummels and Giorgio Chiellini are guys that would challenge him effectively.


Xavi Hernandez – Central Midfield. I can’t fault the orchestra but the music of 2012 was not exceptional. Everyone knows Xavi’s quality – precise pass accuracy, controlling the tempo of games and popping up with the goals but all this could not help the Blaugranas to either La Liga or UCL success. Juventus maestro Andrea Pirlo waved his magic in Turin and across Italy in serie A games. He was without a doubt the star for La Nazionale during the Euro 2012.


Radamel Falcao – Forward. Who has got a natural striking instinct in the world that comes close to Falcao today? No one! We are blessed with a natural number 9 in the Colombian forward who terrorized defenses in La Liga and Europe last season enroute Los Colchoneros Europa league triumph but I’d argue that Ivorien striker Didier Drogba deserves a place in this XI because he rises to the big occasion. The Drog was the secret weapon behind Chelsea’s maiden European triumph last season which I feel was the biggest achievement in European football considering how their season panned out. Based on that, I will put Drogba slightly ahead of Falcao.

The whole list can be scrutinized hence the motive behind this article but above all, I would like to congratulate every member of the FIFA Pro XI 2012. I bet many people disagree with FIFA as well as my position. Please use the comment box beneath to express yourselves.

Thank you.


…exciting times ahead at The Emirates?

Seven years of fruitful harvest, seven seasons of famine. Does the biblical story relate to a certain North London club? I think so! The Gunners sudden change in status from genuine title contenders to pretenders in the last few years has been surprising.  Arsenal has become a perpetual selling club losing their key players to local and European rivals.

Wenger and the board have continued to convince their fans that the club is headed in the right direction financially but for the suffering supporters, they have continued to endure taunts from fans in West London, Liverpool and Manchester.

Every season starts with huge optimism and expectation but as the season winds down, it seem to be the same old story of misery.

Perhaps 2012/13 season may be different, despite losing former Captain Robin Van Persie and influential midfield man Alex Song to Manchester United and Barcelona respectively, Arsenal have made a good start to the season with one win and two draws.

Five out of a possible nine points is a good start? Yes, considering how they kicked off last season. Their impressive victory over Liverpool gives room for optimism and how they have shut out their opponents from scoring in 270 minutes of play.

I have picked three key men who I feel will be crucial to the Gunners success this season.


… marshaling the defence from the dugout

The former Stoke City, Arsenal and Sunderland defender had an illustrious playing career of 20 years has been promoted to the role of assistant manager at the club and has been saddled with the responsible of ensuring the back line is much tighter than it was before. Three games played, no goals conceded despite the absence of Koscienly and Sagna and maybe Andre Santos. The Gunners back four have stifled opponents, shielded their goal and are well coordinated when set pieces are whipped in. It is well documented fact that as long as your opponent don’t score, they are not likely to win. Scoring has never been a problem at the North London club with Professor Wenger’s philosophy and brand of football.

Steve’s role is keeping the defense performance top-notch. Time will tell if the early praises are not too premature.


..can he stay fit?

Has the hour cometh for the man dubbed the new Patrick Vieira to finally lay claim to that huge comparison? Since his arrival at the club, only a few which includes Arsene Wenger have believed in the French man. A broken ankle stalled his progress as a youngster upon his arrival from France, his fitness has seen been a concern for his followers coupled with his indifferent form. The elusive midfielder has started the season well with a man of the match performance against Liverpool where he pulled the strings effectively. Such performance highlights the qualities seen in him when Wenger sanctioned his move from Auxerre to North London in the January 2006.

If he stays fit and can keep his level of performance high, he is a player who can lift his team above many on his day. I am of the opinion that Diaby’s performance for the Gunners is vital to their campaign this time around.


…pulling all the strings in midfield

Once again, Arsene Wenger has shown us that he is still a master at wheeling and dealing. The capture of Santi Cazorla from Malaga is probably the best piece of business in terms of incoming player  the willy old French man has done most recently. The diminutive Spanish winger/playmaker is the closest thing to Andres Iniesta on the football pitch. Cazorla offers both feet and subtle skills, excellent crosses, powerful shot and he’s got to be the new jewel in the crown for the Gunners.

His link up plays with Diaby in the middle of the park shows a player who is ready to take up responsibility. Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski need to make the appropriate runs for the Spanish international to find them on the field – an example was Podolski’s first goal for Arsenal against Liverpool. He also adds his own fair share of goals from direct free-kicks and log range shots. The 5ft 6” man early season impression is leaving the Gunners excited about the prospect of a season deemed to be another long one after the exit of their erstwhile captain and talisman.

The season is just getting under way but these three men will need to play their significant roles to perfection if the Gunners will be celebrating for the first time at the Emirates.

I reckon you agree or disagree. You can have your say………

Why Brendan Rodgers must not walk alone

***Before we go on, since this post is about Liverpool, it is nice to spare a thought for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.  We hope the verdict of this week eventually gets them the justice they deserve, it might be delayed, but lets hope justice is not denied****

We on Redjiblog are walking with them, they are not walking alone.


“The king is back” was the glorious chorus being chanted on Meyerside upon Dalglish’s return. He was perceived to be the Messiah the new owners were talking about. Eighteen months later, King Kenny brought success in the form of the League cup and the FA Cup runners up medal, but couldn’t resurrect the Reds league form.

Someone had to pay the price. Fenway Sports Group reviewed the 2011/12 season where 110 million GBP was spent in the transfer market on players with very little to show for it – Dalglish was fired, Rodgers replaced him.

At the unveiling ceremony, club owner, John W. Henry said;

“Brendan Rodgers’s appointment today as manager of Liverpool Football Club is one of the most important steps we will take in building the kind of club on and off the pitch supporters can be excited about.”

It is three weeks into the 2012/13 season with Liverpool haven played seven competitive matches already securing three victories, two draws and two defeats. Perhaps the results in the EPL are the ones with cause for concern for their followers considering that they are winless after three rounds of games.

Tough(er) job?

Is this the excitement promised by Rodgers and Henry?

In a bid to defend the club’s new philosophy, the owner released wrote an open letter to the fans and this was quite significant

“”No one should doubt our commitment to the club. In Brendan Rodgers we have a talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgement about the make-up of the squad. This is a work in progress. It will take time for Brendan to instil his philosophy into the squad and build exactly what he needs for the long term.”

Rodgers has been saddled with the responsibility of charting a new path for Liverpool by investing in the youth which guarantees a future while playing attractive football and be competitive on a tight budget. It is very clear that he has quite a challenge at hand. The expectation of the Reds supporter is lofty, considering how the Northern Irish man’s former team (Swansea) played last season in their first season in the top flight.

Like every new manager, he has dipped his hands into the market to acquire players he feels will fit into his philosophy. The most notables are Fabio Borini from AS Roma, Joe Allen from Swansea City and Nuri Sahin on-loan from Real Madrid. Players have been promoted from the academy to the first team to gather experience as they build towards the future.

Now, let’s look at the team in prospect.

As it has been in the past few years, Pepe Reina is the first-choice goalkeeper at Anfield and would be assumed he is the ideal last line of defense for Rodgers; his position wouldn’t be threatened with backup options Alex Doni and Brad Jones not top-notch.

Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were successfully retained at the club along with Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson. The same defensive unit of last season will continue. The same cannot be said for the midfield that lost Brazilian anchor man Lucas Leiva through injury last season and had to rely on unproven back-ups. Jay Spearing and misfit Charlie Adam have been shipped out paving way for Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin with Jonjo Shelvey and Jordan Henderson serving as back up.

Scoring was the biggest problem encountered last season. Suarez and Borini are the centre forwards available in the first team with the Uruguay born forward as the most recognized striker saddled with the responsibility of getting the goals. His tricks and intelligent movement can compete with Lionel Messi while his execution and finishing leaves much to be desired  with just 23 goals and 15 assist in 56 appearances for Liverpool, it shows he doesn’t have the capacity to carry this enormous weight on his shoulders.

Brendan has his work cut out!

Where will the goals come from? His philosophy will require sufficient time for it to be transfused into his new team as they embark on a new journey.

The American owner stressed;

“No one should doubt our commitment to the club. In Brendan Rodgers we have a talented young manager and we have valued highly his judgement about the make-up of the squad. This is a work in progress. It will take time for Brendan to instil his philosophy into the squad and build exactly what he needs for the long term.

We are still in the process of reversing the errors of previous regimes. It will not happen overnight. It has been compounded by our own mistakes in a difficult first two years of ownership. It has been a harsh education, but make no mistake, the club is healthier today than when we took over.

That ethos is to win. We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending.

“It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, but there is a clear vision at work.”

The early signs have shown that it would neither be easy nor perfect but the WORK IS IN PROGRESS. The future looks bright with youngster like Raheem Sterling, Oussama Assaidi, Daniel Pacheco, etc who are coming through the ranks while veterans Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard  will step to the back stage quietly.

John W. Henry’s letter indicates the board position and their willingness in backing up this new project but I reckon they will have to do more than an open letter in the coming months as Brendan Rodgers tries to navigate the Reds’ ship through difficult storms created by previous regimes.

Rodgers must not be allowed to walk alone even in the coldest night.

Will He Never Walk Alone?



Many bookmakers predicted a Dutch and Deutschland progress from the “Group of Death” in the ongoing UEFA Euro 2012 tournament. There were reasons for the Oranje team and supporters to feel confident as they embarked on their European adventure.

Bert van Marwijk’s team qualified for the continental championship in comfortable style with nine wins out of ten, their consistent performance earned them the second position behind the current World and European champions Spain in the FIFA Coca-Cola monthly ranking for a significant period. Being runners-up at the last FIFA World Cup, the Dutch team was expected to at least match their performance at South Africa or go a step further.

However, the abundance of attacking talent has turned out to be a curse rather than a gift. A team blessed with two golden boot winners of two top European leagues (Robin Van Persie and Jan Klass-Huntelaar), mercurial playmakers (Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart) and the explosive Arjen Robben not to forget the workaholic Dirk Kuyt.

What went wrong?

For a team touted as one of the pre-tournament favorites but soon became the laughing stock by finishing bottom of their group without a point to their name. Major disaster.

It is the first time in more than a decade that the Dutch have failed to reach the second round at either the World Cup or the Euros. 

Chemistry‘ and bonding was a big problem. 

The likes of Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas Jan Huntellar, who were coming after fantastic performances for their clubs in respective leagues, were all over the place.

It was a mix of playmakers of different minds, always operating in accordance with their own opinions. Playing nine months with different clubs was the major factor here. Most of these players are used to being the main man for their club’s team attack, but they never gelled together here. They were mostly confused while attacking.

Van Persie, who is one of the biggest transfer targets this summer for a number of clubs, missed opportunities after opportunities. His decision making was poor and apart from the one goal he scored against Germany, was poor throughout. Robben, on the other hand, can arguably be seen as the better performers but it was the same old story for the Bayern Munich winger. Robben moaned about the presence of too many big egos in the Dutch squad, yet he himself was too selfish while on the pitch. He forgot that football is a team game and you have to pass around the ball. He also was a problematic personality in the dressing room- storming off the pitch after being substituted against the Germans.

Petulant Robben. Egoistic player in a team full of Egos

For a team full of immense talent, ego was the biggest enemy for them and their coach – Bert van Marwijk could not deal with so-called ‘big name’ stars.

Holland have not only embarrassed themselves, their fans and their country with three rubbish performances, they have also shown that they need a major overhaul in their team and the style of their play if they want to banish the tag of Neverland which hangs over them like the Sword of Damocles.

Or, what do you think The Netherland need to do?

La Liga without Mourinho and Guardiola?

Would they be doing this in England next season?

In politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. This also applies in football. Going back to when Jose Mourinho was an assistant at FC Barcelona while Pep Guardiola was a player, they had a good relationship. Fast forward to the present day, Pep is the head coach of Barcelona while Jose is in charge at Real Madrid, the situation has seen “once upon a time” friends or members of the same boat turn their backs against each other several times in the media when the clasicos come up.

A possible reality that may dawn on the Primera Liga in Spain this summer is that both outstanding managers may be plying their trade in other countries, with the speculations surrounding their futures.

Jose Mourinho (Real Madrid)
The loquacious Portuguese who is in the second year of his four-year contract at Real Madrid may be considering quitting the White House in Spain. Why is he quitting when his team is performing very well and are on their way to their 32nd La Liga title – the first in four years? We know how many battles he has fought since making the Spanish capital his home; battle for autonomy in all football related matters at the club, battle to break Barcelona hegemony and return the club back to its glory days, lastly his love-lost affair with the Spanish media.

It’s clear he is totally not comfortable in Spain where the experience hasn’t been as enjoyable as he expected. Although he has been granted greater autonomy than any Real Madrid coach before him, he delivered the Copa del Rey last season and he his on the way to a La Liga crown this term, but then, there is a certain BARCELONA and his perception of being treated badly by the media in Spain.

Recently, the Special One was spotted house-hunting London, an exercise which has increased the speculation about his return to the Premier League – a desire he has never hidden publicly. Jose loves the EPL and has a relationship with the press that doesn’t come close to his experiences in Italy and Spain.

Potentially there could be two new vacancies in the Premiership come this summer. Harry Redknapp is favorite for the England job which leaves Tottenham without a manager, Andre Villas-Boas has also been shown the exit door at Mourinho’s former club, Chelsea. Mourinho’s relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has greatly improved since they parted ways in 2007 and he would be given the financial backing to rebuild the “aging” squad. Tottenham would not be able to compete with Chelsea financially and even Chelsea would be a financial come down after being at Madrid where money is never an issue. Tottenham offer an enthusiastic prospect but not much more, working with players like Luka Modric and Gareth Bale is an attraction and if Mourinho was to go there, both of those players would surely stay at White Hart Lane.

Mourinho leaving Madrid is a question of when and not if as he would be leaving as an accomplished man who returned the glory days back to the Santiago Bernabeu as well as ending Barcelona’s hegemony.

Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona)
Everything that has a beginning must surely have an end. Since he took over Barca’s first team in 2008, Guardiola has been working on a 12-months rolling contract which he has renewed in the last two years but it appears he is weighing other options this time around.

Pep has transformed Barcelona into world beaters, an envy for many rivals and an epitome of what many desire. It’s difficult to comprehend why he is stalling on a new contract or a reason why he wants to leave; maybe a new challenge is what he is relishing as he has conquered not only Spain and Europe but the entire world with Barcelona.

Pep is a through-in-through Cule breed; he hasn’t been disrespected by the Spanish media so his reasons may be personal. A quiet air of discontent has been circulating around since current president Senor Sandro Rossell’s discrediting remark about Joan Laporta’s administration which was met by an opposite opinion. Pep is seen as supporting the previous regime – that can be understood since Laporta was the man who gave Guardiola the opportunity to manage the team. Guardiola’s stand on the situation has been perceived as supporting an enemy, an act which has resulted in a bit of bad blood but his success and popularity with the players and supporters at the club has made it quite difficult for the executives to turn their backs against him. With the La Liga title heading to the capital this season, his team’s dominance may be coming to end and it provides him an opportunity to part ways with his employers.

Inter Milan and Chelsea are monitoring his contractual situation at the Camp Nou closely. If Pep decides to leave, it will be his second exit from his beloved club.

Whenever Jose or Pep decides to leave Spain for other challengers, their departure will be a colossal loss for their respective clubs and the league as they are about the best managers in the game presently. Losing both in one summer is unimaginable for me. What do you think?

Deschamps’ rises Marseille again.

If there is a man who can turn around the fortunes of Olympique Marseille at any point in time, look no further than Didier Deschamps. Deschamps captained Marseille to the Champions League crown in 1993, as well as winning two league titles. Since returning in 2009, he has overseen the club’s first league triumph in 18 years and picked up the Coupe de la Ligue twice as well as two Trophées des Champions.

The early months of this season looked chaotic with no league win after nine rounds of games with Marseille at rock bottom of the league. It was no surprise to see some passionate Stade Velodrome faithful asking for the head of their head coach. During the mini-crisis, some disillusioned fans attempted to invade the pitch a pitch with a banner calling for the return of former coach Éric Gerets. This despicable act was followed up with a clash between Deschamps and sporting director Jose Anigo in the press, club owner Margarita Louis-Deryfus delivered a devastating blow with a poorly timed reminder that Champions League qualification was “imperative” and warned that she could walk away from the role that she had taken over from her late husband, Robert Louis-Dreyfus, in July 2009.

The prospect of a long season of in-fighting and under-achievement loomed, but he has been able to turn the corner.

So what went right?

Steps were taken to improve the harmony within the changing room. Scores were settled at a crisis meeting between Louis-Dreyfus and the players in a bid to hurl themselves out of their misery.

After club president Vincent Labrune fined him for criticising Deschamps, Anigo distanced himself from the squad and focused his attention on recruitment (with Deschamps and Anigo barely on speaking terms, Labrune has been forced to act as a go-between in discussions over potential signings).

Summer recruits Jérémy Morel who joined from Lorient to replace Taye Taiwo, Cameroonian stopper Nicolas Nkoulou a promising and youthful successor to Gabriel Heinze, Gennaro Bracigliano, Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano all took some time to fit.

Deschamps has also made efforts to get closer to his players, distributing uncharacteristic on-pitch embraces after matches and joining in with ball exercises in training. Required tactical adjustment were made while under-performing stars like Lucho Gonzalez and Mathieu Valbuena were dropped from the starting XI momentarily.

All these changes have impacted positively. Three straight wins in late-October steadied the ship, before OM’s campaign exploded into life with a 3-0 humbling of PSG and a magnificent comeback at Borussia Dortmund that took Deschamps’ men into the Champions League last 16.

They have been flying ever since.

Valbuena has returned to the starting line-up after his sensational winner against Borussia Dortmund. The departure of Ghanaian brothers André and Jordan Ayew, Charles Kabore to the Africa Cup of Nations has only reduced Deschamps’ options but their absences were barely noticed in the 2-0 defeat of champions Lille recently. Marseille are now dominating their opponents and playing attractive football. Even maligned striker Brandão, back at the club after an exile in Brazil following his arrest on rape charges in March last year, has been granted a warm reception by the Vélodrome.

Rémy’s burgeoning partnership with Valbuena has been a key factor in the revival. Five of Remy’s nine league goals have been created by Valbuena who tops Ligue 1 assists chart with 11 decisive passes. Rémy said;

“Sometimes, it feels like we’re the only ones playing and that everything will come off”

Champions League qualification remains the minimum requirement this season, but the current run means supporters’ eyes are beginning to linger on the eleven-point gap separating them from leaders and sworn enemies PSG in the league table.

“As the manager of the club, you could say that my role is to expect the worst,”

says Labrune.

“But you could also say that we can always dream.”

The were 2 goals up against Lyon on Sunday, but ended the game with 1 point, thanks to a fight back from Lyon.

With OM still in contention for four major honors having made it to final of Coupe de la Ligue where they can retain their title for the third straight year.  They are also in the round of 32 in the French Cup, eleven points behind leaders PSG in French Championnat and are in the round of 16 knock-out stage of UCL.

President Vincent Labrune’s courage must be commended for keeping faith in a manager who is a proven winner and has never let Marseille down in the past.

Didier Deschamps’ Marseille has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.

Underrated Bent joins the Centurions

100 and counting...

Last Wednesday, Darren Bent joined the exclusive class of players who have scored at least 100 premier league goals. This is not mean feat considering the quality players who have played in the Premier League with only 20 scoring over a hundred goals.

The 27 years old England poacher said

It meant the world, It was fantastic to score my 100th in a Villa jersey. That meant a lot to me. It meant the world to me actually.”

Bent is one of the finest strikers in terms of goals-to-games ratio, he has been consistent at all of his clubs, but endured a nightmare spell with Tottenham before finding his feet again.

A product of Ipswich’s youth system, he broke into the first team in 2001-02 and he banged 18 goals in all competitions. Two more solid years saw him emerge as a real talent before Charlton Athletic came calling. The striker joined the Addicks during their struggling period in the Premier League, he still bagged 32 goals in 68 starts for a team which was eventually relegated in 2007

He moved on to Tottenham Hotspurs for a club record fee of £16.5 million. It proved to be a frustrating experience as he found first team opportunities hard to come by and he failed to hit the net with the same regularity, bagging 18 in his two seasons at White Hart Lane.

Sunderland snapped him up for £12 million in 2009 and his career was back on track again with a career high of 24 goals in 38 games in his first season which saw him finish as the 3rd top scorer in the Premier League. However, a shock bid from Aston Villa saw him move south in January 2011 for a record fee of around £24 million.

Bent hasn’t been accorded the respect he deserves. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp once made this comment after a Bent miss

“You will never get a better chance to win a match than that. My missus could have scored that one”.

Despite finishing third top scorer behind Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney in the 2009-10 season, Fabio Capello couldn’t find a place for him on the plane to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The fast, powerful, quick and incisive striker said

“If I could get another 100 in the Claret and Blue I’d be happy, delighted. It would really be fantastic.

An affirmation of his commitment to Aston Villa.

Congratulations to Darren Bent!

Here are the other exclusive members of the illustrious group.

  1. Alan SHEARER –  260 PL goals
  2. Andy COLE – 187 PL goals
  3. Thierry HENRY – 175 PL goals
  4. Robbie FOWLER – 163 PL goals
  5. Les FERDINAND – 149 PL goals
  6. Michael OWEN – 149 PL goals
  7. Frank LAMPARD – 148 PL goals
  8. Teddy SHERINGHAM – 147 PL goals
  9. Robbie KEANE – 148 PL goals
  10. Wayne ROONEY – 132 PL goals
  11. Jimmy Floyd HASSELBAINK – 127 PL goals
  12. Dwight YORKE – 123 PL goals
  13. Nicolas ANELKA – 123 PL goals
  14. Emile HESKEY – 117 PL goals
  15. Ian WRIGHT – 113 PL goals
  16. Dion DUBLIN – 111 PL goals
  17. Ryan GIGGS – 111 PL goals
  18. Paul SCHOLES – 103 goals
  19. Matthew LE TISSIER – 101 goals

Group stage round up AFCON 2012

Despite the absence of some big names at this year’s African Cup of Nations, the excitement and quality of play from participant in Equitorial Guinea and Gabon has been top quality, projecting African football to the highest level.

...even the array of attacking options couldn't save them

Group A:
The biggest shock of the tournament till date is the embarrassing exit of one of the tournament’s favorite, Senegal. The Teranga Lions lost their three group games thus leaving Equitorial Guinea with no points, much to the chagrin of their supporters and many bookmakers.

Libya should be proud of their campaign which ended with a solitary victory.

The Zambia won the group with seven points while co-host Equitorial Guniea finished as runners-up.
The game between Knights of the Mediterranean (Libya) and the Chipolopolo (Zambia) was the only draw recorded in  group A while the remaining five had winners and losers.
A total of 15 goals was scored in Bata and Malabo

Group B:

Kolo Toure marshalling the Ivory Coast...

Cote d’Ivorie have left no one in doubt of their mission in Equitorial Guniea by securing maximum nine points. The Elephants started slowly with a narrow victory over Sudan before dispatching Burkina Faso and Angola respectively. Didier Drogba and company may not have hit top gear but the Kolo Toure marshaled defense has been resolute with no goal conceded.

Les Etalons (Burkina Faso) and Palancas Negras (Angola) were expected to jostle for the second spot behind Les Elephants but the Falcons of Jedaine (Sudan) grew stronger after their opening game to secure the quarter final ticket ahead of the other two competitors.

Burkina Faso exciting brand of attacking football was a joy to behold. AJ Auxerre’s Alain Traore pulling the strings upfront but their weakness at the back conceding six goal caused their downfall.

Recent host Angola exit the tournament after round one despite Manucho’s goals.

Five victories and one draw was recorded in this group too with a total of 15 goals scored in Malabo and Bata.

Group C:
My team of the tournament so far – Les Panthers of Gabon haven’t failed to light up the stadium on their match day. The co-host attacking brand of football has yielded three victories including a last gap winner against the Atlas Lions of Morocco on match day two. Crowd favorite and homeboy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who the locals call “Neymar” has shone like a million stars.

My team of the tournament, so far

2004 winners, Tunisia finished in second ahead of their fellow north African brothers Morocco who have disappointed their fans once again while the Mena of Niger leave without a single point but a solitary goal to cherish.

It was a case of winners and losers in here with six victories and no draw. 15 appears to be the number for goals in Libreville and Franceville too.

Group D:
The Syli Nationale (Guinea) turned on the style in Franceville in their make or break game against AFCON debutant Botswana by crushing 6-1. It’s a shame such a emphatic win wasn’t enough to help secure their passage to the next round. A loss to Les Aigles (Mali) in their first match and a draw against tournament favorites The Black Stars of Ghana condemned them to third position on the log.

The Black Stars haven’t been spectacular so far but they have been professional in getting the job done. Emmanuel Badu’s unstoppable belter from outside the box was Ghana’s 100th Nations Cup goal in their 1-1 draw against Guinea. Mali have Seydou Keita to thank for keeping them alive in the tournament but had to endure a nervy five minutes wait for news of a favorably result to filter in from Franceville.
Five victories and one draw settled the round robin games here with a total of 16 goals scored in Franceville and Libreville.

The sub-region of West Africa is the biggest loser in the first round with four teams (Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea) crashing out.

The stage is set for quarter-finals.

The first game is between the Chipolopolo of Zambia and the Falcons of Jedaine from Sudan in Bata.

The second game sees tournament favorite Cote d’Ivoire tackle co-host Equitorial Guinea in Malabo for a place in the semis.

Perhaps one that offer more intriguing sight is the game between co-host Gabon and Mali in Libreville. Mali coach Alain Giresse coming face to face with the country he managed before being succeeded by current Gabon coach Gernot Rohr while another favorite the Black Stars of Ghana will take on the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia for a place in the last four.

What next for Carlos Tevez?

No Love Lost

I got my first glimpse of Carlos Alberto Tevez during the FIFA u-17 World Cup hosted by Trindad and Tobago in 2001. His goal celebration caught my attention during their semi-final loss to France. He pulled his shirt off and to my surprise, I saw a full grown man with a hairy chest at age 17.

Carlos’ professional career has been hugely successful but it has also been accompanied with its bags and bags of controversies and issues. His protracted ownership right alongside his country man Javier Mascherano who both moved from Corinthians to West Ham in the summer of 2006 couldn’t be resolved until Manchester City acquired his full rights in 2009.

During his second season of his loan spell at Manchester United, he showed a lot of animosity when he dropped down the pecking order. One of his famous act of cynicism was him standing right in front of the Man Utd dug out with his hands to his ears (a gesture to SAF to listen) as the Old Trafford fans were chanting his name after his goal against Manchester City. A few months later, he was on the other side.

Tevez was signed by Hughes but was made captain by Mancini when the Italian replaced the Welsh man. The Argentine was arguably City’s best player in his first two seasons at the club despite his numerous outburst of being unsettled in England and had his fixed eyes on the exit door.

The day it all went south...

Manchester City managed to deal with his tantrums quite well and the manager even appeared to be a partial with the way he handled Carlos’ case when one compares it with the situation of Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy who were turned to outcasts. Every beginning they say must have an end so it is in Tevez’ case. His Munich refusal to warm up and play in a UCL game against Bayern appeared to be the final straw that broke the camel’s back. He has been suspended indefinitely from the first team and in a bid to force his way out of the club, Carlos went AWOL in November and vowed never to return to the club.

Livin' Lavida Loca?

His club responded by freezing his salary account at the end of November. A total of £9.3m has been taken away from the Argentine in fines, lost wages and bonuses since the start of this season.

The final resolution to the problem is for both parties to part.

AC Milan and a host of other clubs signified their intention to sign the embattled striker but City have refused to be bullied into selling a disgruntled star at a cut price.

Manchester City have warned Milan that they are “not an option” for Carlos Tevez unless the £30m price-tag is met, despite their “misplaced sense of confidence.” According to reports, the AC Milan’s negotiating team have agreed personal terms with the players and hope to use that as a means for City to lower their asking price.
The usually quiet Abu Dhabi owners have finally broken their silence on the matter to express their anger about what they regard as Milan trying to engineer a way to sign Tevez on the cheap.
On the other hand, PSG, another front runner for Tevez signature look to have pulled out of the race. Their Sporting Director, Leonardo told L’Equipe,

“We’ve ended the talks, there was an opportunity to sign him, but it is over. We did our calculations, we made a good offer but we’ve been unable to reach an agreement. We don’t intend to overpay in order to sign him.”

With just a day left in the January transfer window, it appears all parties involved in the Tevez saga have reached an impasse.

Manchester City have refused to budge. Milan who can’t match City’s demand have opted to sign another Argentine, Maxi Lopez from Catania. This may signal the end of their pursuit.

All interested clubs have in one form or the other backed out, what becomes of Carlos Tevez from now till the end of the season if no one comes to bail him out of his wilderness by 11:59pm, January 31, 2012?