The Highs And Lows Of Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United Career

7 03 2013

Rooney's Future Is In Doubt

Rooney’s Future Is In Doubt

Highs

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The Shrewd Transfer Policy Of Villarreal

29 08 2011

Based in Castellón, the northern district of Valencia; a team whose nickname resides from a Beatles song have been making an impression in Spain and Europe for the past seven seasons. The Yellow Submarines were notoriously a club which hovered around the lower depths of Spanish football and it was not until 1970 before they even reached the Segunda Division. However, since 2000, Villarreal have been a mainstay in La Liga, establishing themselves as European contenders virtually every season. Unlike Alavés, Real Betis or Celta Vigo before them, they have been able to achieve consistency, which the others failed to do with subsequent relegations only years after European qualification. So how has this little team, whose El Madrigal stadium holds only 25,000, been able to punch above their weight?

The strategy has consisted of thorough scouting. South America is a hotbed for talent, with abundance to choose from and players being relatively cheap and Villarreal have found the perfect model to make money. The likes of Diego Godín, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Birmingham flop Luciano Figueroa, Martín Cáceres and Antonio Valencia have all become successful internationals that have been sold for a profit or in Gonzalo’s case, stayed and become a proven talent. With such a vast array of talent, the B team helps to nurture these prospects, and they are now in their third consecutive season in the Segunda Division. Of course by signing youngsters in profusion, you are bound to sign the odd flop. Players like Sebastián Battaglia, Damián Escudero, Mariano Barbosa, Sebastián Viera and American Jozy Altidore did not live up to their potential, but the scheme is generally successful, and you only have to look at the current crop making strides in La Liga like Jefferson Montero, Matteo Musacchio and Marco Ruben to see that the production line is continually developing new faces.

The next stage to help aid these talents in development is sign experienced players who have the hunger, and whose wages won’t strain the club’s budget. Boca Juniors legend Martín Palermo was one of the first to travel, along with teammate Gustavo Barros Schelotto at the turn of the Millennium, but both proved unsuccessful. Juliano Belletti, the man who scored the winning goal for Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final, got his first taste of European football at Villarreal. Then you have one of the greatest signings in El Submarino Amarillo’s history, Marcos Senna. Plucked from Brazilian football as a relative unknown, the holding midfielder eventually became captain in 2005. His biggest impact perhaps was for the national team. Nationalised in 2006, he became a key figure for Los Rojo for four years, with his greatest moment winning Euro 2008, Spain’s first title in 44 years.

Riquelme Was A Maestro When He Graced El Madrigal

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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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Decision Time For Alex Chamberlain

9 05 2011

With the Premier League implementing new rules at the start of the season, clubs are now permitted to have at least eight ‘home-grown’ players in their squads. The hope is that it will encourage teams to nurture more English talent through into the senior squads.

The top clubs are always on the prowl for young talent. With the reward of watching players develop into stars and being a cheaper alternative in the inflated transfer market, the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have become notorious for this modus operandi.

The latest prospect on everyone’s lips is playing down at Southampton. With the recent success of Theo Walcott and especially Gareth Bale in North London since their moves, and Premier League legends like Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer being produced by the South Coast side, there is now an element of expectation when the Saints promote a new youngster to the first team. In Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it looks like they have a new prodigy to add to the list.

Alex Chamberlain Is Attracting Interest From Premier League Sides

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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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Manchester United Player Focus – Jonny Evans

21 10 2010

At the start of the 2008/09 season, Manchester United Coach Sir Alex Ferguson had a dilemma; albeit one he was not complaining about. With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand being the first choice centre-back pairing, a deputy was needed, someone who would be the long-term successor to Ferdinand, yet would get opportunities to develop in the first team.

The previous season Spanish defender Gerard Pique had impressed everyone at Old Trafford, with mature performances and the manager was not afraid to play him in big games against the likes of Arsenal and Roma. In the second half of the 2007/08 season Jonny Evans rejoined Roy Keane’s Sunderland side, whom he had already played for in a spell the season before, to help them in the fight against relegation, and displayed performances which caught the attention of his parent club. He had spent the first half of the season at the Red Devils, but appearances were restricted to just cup competitions. Eventually Barcelona resigned Pique, but Ferguson was not as reluctant as people would have expected in letting him depart, as he knew that Evans was ready for the step up to the first team.

Evans Needs To Rediscover Form

Evans Needs To Rediscover Form

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Manchester United Player Focus – Paul Scholes

18 08 2010

“Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. He would have been one of the first players I’d have bought, given the chance”. Those are the words of Marcello Lippi, a manager who has won five Serie A titles, a UEFA Champions League, and won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. His gracious remarks show the reputation that Paul Scholes has earned from putting in stellar performances over the past 16 years both domestically and on the European scene. Only two games into the season and the midfielder has earned two man-of-the-match performances against Chelsea in the Community Shield and against Newcastle United on Monday night, and there are even whispers of Mesut who?

Even though he is now 35, and his fitness and pace are not what they used to be, Scholes has evolved into a different player, something which is a remarkable achievement. During his peak he would make trademark late runs into the box, which resulted in eight seasons where he was in double digits for goals. He was in many ways the second striker, playing just off Ruud van Nistelrooy, and was a footballer who would cause havoc to opponents. However, since 2005, setbacks such as knee ligament damage took their toll on a man who was already approaching his 30’s, and meant he could not be the athlete he once was. Since then Scholes has turned into a defensive playmaker. He will sit around the half-way line and spray majestic passes behind the oppositions defence. His pass ratio is consistently high and it is rare to see him lose the ball. If you take into account somebody like Michael Owen, who since losing his pace is not half the player he was, Scholes has shown just how good he is by being able to adopt a different style of play.

Still Going Strong At 35

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