Alejandro Grimaldo – The Latest Spanish Gem

24 05 2012

La Masia churns out talented individuals on an annual basis, but there is a sense of eagerness when the name Alejandro Grimaldo crops up in Catalonia. The left-back spot has not been a particular position of strength for the Cantera over the past decade, with players like Carles Planas, Oscar Lopez and even Fernando Navarro – despite enjoying remote success once leaving – failing to establish themselves amongst the senior ranks. Since Sergi Barjuán broke through at the start of the 1990’s, the Nou Camp has not had anyone to get excited about down the left flank, with Marc Muniesa being the most recent canterano, but he has a preference to play centrally. Despite this, the emergence of Grimaldo gives Culés hope that they have identified the left-sided Dani Alves.

Grimaldo was signed as a 13-year-old from Valencia in 2008, where he played for Los Che as a left winger wearing the number 10 shirt. His progression has been rapid and he is part of a select group of superstars who are progressing at Barcelona at the moment. Some of his teammates over the past few years have included current Arsenal pair Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin as well as Juventus defender Pol Garcia. The ‘1995 generation’ has swept everything before them at ‘Juvenil’ level including the Nike Premier Cup in Manchester.

Alejandro Grimaldo – The Latest Gem At La Masia

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The Crazy Spending Of The January Transfer Window

13 10 2011

The transfer window is a period the tabloids love with their continuous volumes of rumours to fuel the avid fan with belief his team is going to invest heavily in a top class forward, finally. The window at the turn of the year is traditionally one which sees low costs moves, usually mid-table clubs investing heavily to help avoid the drop. But this January saw an anomaly in England; big signings. Fernando Torres (£50m), Andy Carroll (£32m), Luis Suarez (£22m), David Luiz (£25m), Darren Bent (24m) and Edin Dzeko (£27m) all moved for prices above £20m, in deals you would generally expect to see in the summer. But what was the general trend across Europe?

The difference between the other European nations was drastic. With UEFA implementing new financial regulations next season in which clubs cannot spend more than their annual turnover, it seems the powerhouses of England – riddled with debt – wanted to make one last splurge. Overall in January a reported £225m was spent in the Premier League, a record amount which even surpasses the previous milestone of £175m which was set back in 2008, mainly due to Manchester City’s spending. The Citizens would be part of proceedings once more, but the big spenders were Chelsea. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic has been reluctant in the past few seasons to invest, hoping the influx of youth signings under Frank Arnesen would be promoted and provide an ending to the Jose Mourinho years of economically draining investments.

Over in Spain money was spent, but not in large quantities. Barcelona’s sole purchase was young Dutchman Ibrahim Affelay from PSV Eindhoven who cost roughly €2m, while Real Madrid’s recruitment was the flimsy loan signing of Emanuel Adebayor from Manchester City. Malaga, under the ownership of a Qatari millionaire, helped spice up the transfer window signing six new players, the most costly being former Arsenal forward Julio Baptista who returned to Spain from Italy for  €3m.

Giampaolo Pazzini Celebrates After Scoring A Goal For His New Club

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Giving Something Back: The Samuel Eto’o Foundation

30 08 2011

Samuel Eto’o. Arguably the greatest footballer Africa has produced, a player who has consistently demonstrated his place amongst the best forwards in European football and three times Champions League winner. His career has been impressive and Eto’o once again stole the headlines recently when he completed a reported €20.5m per season move to Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. But the Cameroonian striker has also delved into the world of charitable work in his home continent and established a foundation for malnourished and uneducated children to seek aid and opportunity.

The Foundation Samuel Eto’o (FSE) has outlined these three principles for the scheme:

  • – “Ensure the minimum conditions for survival and health that will permit further development, in our fight to eradicate poverty.
  • – Provide quality basic education, they can complete and will serve as a tool to achieve a secure social integration.
  • – Promote the opportunity to develop the individual abilities of each child through training grants and aid to support their cultural activities or sports skills.”

The most interesting aspect is the footballing project, with the inaugural academy based in the coastal town of Kribi. Prior to the opening, Eto’o expressed his desire was to expand the idea and locate more academies across the country, stating his yearning to offer opportunities to deprived children:

“As a footballer, the best I can do for youths in Cameroon is to give them a platform where they can learn how to play football and make a living out of it, and be successful in life, for a better tomorrow.”

Gael Etock Was The First Player To Join Barca From The Academy

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From Pedrito To Pedro

10 06 2011

They say nice guys don’t get anywhere, but Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma must be the exception. The forward is consistently praised for his down to earth persona, somebody who would rather pass on the praise to his star-studded team-mates and while Gerard Pique and Carlos Marchena wanted to be sexually inactive during the World Cup, Pedro had other ideas “[I’ll have] Sex for sure because my girlfriend is here. I hope to have some free time soon.”

You would refer to him as a normal guy. He is not flashy, is not covered in tattoos and tries to avoid the public attention. His favourite pastimes are hiking and snorkelling. He thanks his brother Jonathan for getting him into football and how he learned from playing against him and his older friends. His nature is thanks to the traits his family instilled in him. “I come from a family of hard-working people. My parents told me: Pay attention and you’ll learn. Putting desire into something I like is easy. I saw my parents labour to pull us through, so I’m fortunate to have this as a job.”

The 23-year-old from Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife has had a meteoric rise in the past few years from being a B team player to starting a World Cup final and becoming the only player to score in six different tournaments in a calendar year in 2009. Here is his team-mate Pique’s evaluation on his development “He has shown how much he can do in the last two years, though it took him a while to get going in the first year. The last two years have been something to see. Everything he has touched has gone in. He’s always on the lookout and at key moments he is always there.”

However his path to the four-time European champions was something of an accident.

Pedro Rodriguez has become an important player for Barcelona.

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How Do Manchester United Beat Barcelona?

24 05 2011

Saturday is a chance for redemption for Sir Alex Ferguson. Two years ago on that fateful night in Rome, Manchester United succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in a final which has been privately exasperating the manager. Barcelona overran the Red Devils in the centre of the pitch and it has been said that Michael Carrick is only just starting to rediscover that consistency which vacated him after that game.

United come into this match after a title-winning campaign brandished as lacking ‘fantasy’, but perhaps that will put them in good stead against a team who have it in abundance. Trying to play Barça at their own game will generally result in defeat, but with dogged determination, team full of energy and a potent striker, United have a great chance of reversing the disappointment from 2009.

Despite claims that we might be witnessing one of the greatest teams ever in the Catalans, they still have their flaws, and Ferguson knows if he can exploit them and more importantly take their chances, then United are one of the best teams to sit back and play on the counter-attack when protecting a lead.

Busquets Needs To Be Prevented From Playing

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Contributions To BackPage Football’s Top 50 Players In The World

20 02 2011

Sergio Aguero

When a player makes his debut at the age of 15, he is regarded as a prodigy. But when he breaks a 27 year old record set by Diego Maradona, there is an expectation of excellence. Other young prospects like Freddy Adu and Nicolas Millan may have faded into anonymous realms since their breakthroughs, but the man they call ‘Kun’ has gradually developed into one of the most wanted forwards in Europe.

The link with Maradona does not end there however. The legendary former captain was Aguero’s manager at the World Cup last summer, although the 22-year-olds impact on the tournament was restricted to just two substitute appearances. However he did assist Gonzalo Higuain with a goal against South Korea. Opportunities for Argentina have been tough with competition from the likes of Carlos Tevez, Diego Milito and Higuain, but Aguero will be a key element alongside his best friend Lionel Messi in the future if he can replicate his form at youth level for La Albiceleste. He has been part of the 2005 and 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup winning teams, and won the top goalscorer award in Canada 2007, and was also an Olympic gold medallist in Beijing in 2008.

At domestic level, the player who cost €23m from Independiente in 2006 was an important figure in a team which won Atletico Madrid’s first major trophy since 1996. A Europa League triumph over Fulham saw the Argentine win his first major trophy for the Spanish side, and he was a key man in the final. He assisted both Diego Forlan’s goals to ensure Los Rojiblancos overcame the English side.

He has recently signed a contract extension with Atleti, and despite the reported interest from Chelsea and Real Madrid, is happy to stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2014, a huge boost for the club, who are hoping their prized asset becomes as symbolic as Fernando Torres.

Great with the ball at his feet, an extra yard of pace to leave defenders in his tracks, and also remarkable strength for such a small player, Aguero has all the assets to mature into a world class player, and it seems Atletico will be the platform for him to demonstrate his ability.

Kun Aguero - 44

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The Curious Case Of Bojan Krkic

10 02 2011

Some players are destined to be great. From a young age they stand out head and shoulders above their peers. Fans know they have a genius amongst their academy, and they count down the years until they see the rough diamond explode onto the first team scene. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere, Mario Balotelli and Neymar were hotly tipped to be superstars a few years before they even made their first team debuts; or since 13 in Neymar’s case, who apparently was subject to a €1 million bid from Real Madrid.

Bojan Krkic was the player the Culés were anticipating the most after the flattering reviews from his youth team days. Whether this fact is true is dubious, but reports state Bojan scored over 800 goals during his seven-year spell in La Masia. Forget Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez or Thiago Alcantara, this young striker whose father was an international for Serbia, was the prestigious talent who was destined for greatness.

Bojan has scored 28 goals in 154 games for Barcelona.

Bojan has scored 38 goals in 154 games for Barcelona.

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