Posts Tagged Edinson Cavani

What Bayern Has (Inadvertently) Caused


When he was on a well earned sabbatical in New York, many football fans must have dreamed of what it would be like to have the man who led Barcelona through a spell of domination in world football join their respective favourite clubs and replicate his success with the Catalans.

It was a rude shock hence, when Pep Guardiola was announced as heir to the dynasty of Juup Heynckes, a man who at the time was on his way to lead the Bavarians to a spectacular treble, with the masterclass over Pep’s former club the crystal bubbles swimming all in that chilled glass of Heineken.

Pep’s ascension at Bayern’s helm was the start of what is turning out to be arguably the busiest and most high profile transfer window ever, with Mario Götze’s switch to Bayern from Borussia Dortmund, a move announced weeks before both met in that dramatic Champions League final which the then Dortmund player unfortunately sat out via injury, causing further stir well before the window opened.

The champions of Europe had made two formidable signings to an already formidable team, and they were made before two of the three titles in the treble were won. Psychological bullying to go with the on-field one they imposed on all season last season.

If Bayern, a team that lost only three matches all of last season; two of those coming at home weirdly, still found it necessary to add Pep and Götze to a team well groomed by a departing Heynckes, a team that had made the Champions League final in three of the last four seasons, then others needed to show their ambition in upstaging the German giants… or at least try to keep up.

Enter Pep’s former club Barça that finally secured the talent of Brazilian ace Neymar from Santos, a player the Catalans could play behind their superman Lionel Messi. But more importantly, Neymar is the signing Barça could rely on when a (12/13) Bayern or (11/12) Chelsea come along with kryptonite.

Then there is Paris Saint-Germain, the French club that has only itself to blame for losing on away goals to Barça in last season’s Champions League quarterfinal.

Le Parisiens paid over €100m to acquire fearsome striker Edinson Cavani from Napoli, defender Marquinhos from AS Roma and left back Lucas Digne from Lille OSC, signings which should be enough to quell the homefront threat of newly promoted AS Monaco that so far have signed Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, Jeremy Toulalan from a very sorry Malaga and James Rodriguez among others.

But the loss of the man responsible for bringing in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequel Lavezzi and Lucas Moura, Director of Football Leonardo, no thanks to his feud with the LFP, could be detrimental on the long run. Cavani’s arrival was his last act and the spotlight will now turn to Laurent Blanc who, for now, is a temporary replacement for Carlo Ancelotti whom they had to let go for Real Madrid.

Los Blancos, losing semi-finalists in the last three Champions League seasons, parted company with manager Jose Mourinho following a fiasco of a season that saw them come out tops in the 2012/13 series of the El Clasico but fall short where it mattered elsewhere, culminating in the embarrassing defeat to Dortmund in the Champions League semi-final first leg.

Florentino Perez has since paid top dollar to get Ancelotti as Mourinho’s replacement, Isco from a sorry Malaga and Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad while also soothing the ego that is Cristiano Ronaldo and holding on to Gonzalo Higuain till interested clubs do like he’s done in the market or the window closes – whichever comes first.

The latter in the above has frustrated Arsenal’s bid to bolster the perennially underachieving talented club, forcing the north Londoners to consider bidding £40m for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez. Which begs the question, why not hand that amount to get Higuain who is your true target in the window?

If indeed Arsenal are looking to piss Real off or force their hand in the Higuain deal by bidding for Suarez, who is admired at the Bernabeu, the Gunners could end up the biggest loser since Real have nothing to lose really while Liverpool aren’t a financially weak side, the type Arsenal enjoy poaching.

The Reds themselves have signed a few in order to help their cause of performing far better in the league at least, although losing out to Dortmund in the race for Mkhitaryan’s signature from Shakhtar Donetsk put a bad dent on that.

Along with the signing of Pierre Emerick Aubemayang from St. Etienne and the will to see Robert Lewandowski play in the yellow and black for the coming season (at least), his final season on his contract with them, Jurgen Klopp has a side that can perform as well as it did last season. You will recall, they lost the Bundesliga to Bayern, lost in the quarterfinal of the German Cup to Bayern and lost in the final of the big one to… yes, them again.

It would be interesting to have Dortmund drawn in the Champions League group stage with Real and Manchester City again. Would Klopp still come out top of the group with a smirk on him? Would Ancelotti and Zidane have made Real better? Can City qualify from the group stage in their third attempt? That would be Manuel Pellegrini’s true test in his first season as the manager of the ‘noisy neighbours’.

Employed from a very very sorry Malaga side, Pellegrini has pretty much stated that ‘eez nuffin’ for City to win the Premier League and do very well in Europe. Time will tell. For now, the arrivals of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Alvrado Negredo hold promise for the Citizens, as does the impending confirmation of Stevan Jovetic’s signing.

The activity at the blue side of Manchester poses a real threat to reigning league champions Manchester United that are still sulking from the inevitable retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and the appointment of David Moyes whose presence is understandably underwhelming.

There’s also the loss of the race for Thiago Alcantara’s signature to none other than Bayern Munich as well as Kevin Strootman’s departure to AS Roma from PSV Eindhoven after being well followed for long by the Red Devils.

They do have Robin van Persie’s goals to bank on but he can only play so many games on the trot, which makes reinforcing the squad with a quality signing or two; hence, going (rather vainly) after Cesc Fabregas, and/or (mostly ‘or’) keeping Wayne Rooney (since he’s now an accomplished midfielder, to his subtle dismay) Moyes’ most important preseason task.

The thought of keeping a player at a club where he’s previously had transfer trouble with may entirely not be a good idea, leaving a hopeful silver lining for the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea who are very interested in the 27 year old Nike UK athlete.

Why Chelsea would want Rooney following the signings of Andre Schurlle and Marco van Ginkel, coupled with the return from loan of Kevin de Bruyne and Romelo Lukaku to complement a squad comprising Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Ramires, Demba Ba (yes!) and Fernando Torres (no sarcasm here)… just why? To bully the competition of course.

Otherwise City wouldn’t have bought those players, PSG probably didn’t need to get Cavani though Digne and Marquinhos were needed, sort of. Barça too probably didn’t need to get Neymar but Bayern left quite the scar.

Real would tell you Illarramendi’s for the future and Isco adds depth to a squad headed in that department by Mesut Ozil, ably backed by Luka Modric and Kaka… and Juventus, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente to complement Fabio Quagliarella, Matri and Sebastien Giovinco?

Bayern tops all that with Gotze and Alcantara joining up with Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery, Arjen bipolar Robben, Mario Mandzukic, Javi Martinez, Xherdan Shaqiri, Luis Gustavo… and that’s just the midfield up. So unfair. Oh, and Toni Kroos who sat out the titles’ run-in last season injured. Such bulls!

It’s no contest that these are the clubs that would figure prominently in their respective leagues’ title race. Their performance among Europe’s elite is where the spotlight would really be.

Finally, the bullish nature of these clubs just goes to show how well thought through by UEFA the Financial Fair Play rule was, a rule that has as its victims this season an oh so verily very very sorry Malaga and Turkish side Besiktas among others whose financial muscles aren’t so Tyson.

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Over the Weekend: Brazil on Fire, Pirelli’s Bad Tyres, Goodbye Oliha & More


The Brazilian national team have inadvertently granted their government massive reprieve by winning the Confederations Cup to appease a population discontent with the government; mostly triggered by a recent increase in bus fares and sustained by the amounts spent to ensure the South American nation successfully host next year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016.

For the moment, the manner of the Samba Boys’ 3-0 humbling of Spain, achieved through a Fred brace early in each half either side of a Neymar striker, will be remembered for a long time in the same manner Bayern Munich’s masterclass over Barcelona in the semifinal of last season’s UEFA Champions League is remembered.

Worthy of being remembered as well is the third place match between Italy and Uruguay, a match of three well taken freekicks which the Italians eventually won 3-2 on penalties after scores was level at 2-2 after regular and extra time.

Victory for the Italians was ensured by Juventus stalwart Gianluigi Buffon who saved three penalties in the shootout and redeem (or more like reaffirm) his status as a legendary goalkeeper, which was brought to question in regular time by Edinson Cavani’s brace for the reigning South American champions.

Cavani’s goals, including a 78th minute peach of a freekick to get Uruguay on level terms again, would certainly tempt Napoli president De Laurentis to increase his €63m valuation of the striker who has been linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea.

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s value could’ve increased as well if he wasn’t on the books of Championship side QPR… but not for long if reports that he is Arsenal bound are to be followed. Heading to north London with him is midfielder Paulinho, but to the White Hart Lane side of NL, whose fans would surely be highly expectant of his arrival following a good display at the Confederations Cup.

Already highly expectant are Barcelona fans of Neymar who put in another good display to further more debunk arguments that he may be a tad bit overrated. Imagine a front trio there with him and Pedro just behind Lionel Messi, ably supported by Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets or Fabregas… or Thiago Alcantara who basically snubbed Manchester United via Instagram on Saturday (damn, that’s just cold blooded!).

In danger of getting snubbed as well, unless they find a fix to the mess of rubber made in Formula 1 is Pirelli, whose tyres ensured the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was eventful to the extreme while costing championship leader Sebastien Vettel valuable points.

It all started in the practice sessions when Sergio Perez suffered a punctured tyre. Then Mark Webber damaged his front wing at the very start of race proper, debris from which may have caused home favourite Lewis Hamilton’s left rear tyre getting destroyed in the eighth lap to have him relinquish his lead, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa who suffered exactly same fate at same area on the track as Hamilton in the 11th lap… followed soon after by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with the same puncture.

Vergne later became the first driver to retire on the day after 37 laps and was soon followed out by Vettel after the German driver lost his gearbox while in the lead. Then Perez’s terrible weekend came to an end as he had to retire from the race with a tyre failure in the 46th lap.

Hamilton recovered very well from last position to tussle for third spot and a podium finish with Fernando Alonso, but eventually settled for fourth. Massa did well too to come from well behind and finish in sixth, just behind a seemingly weary Kimi Raikkonen.

In the end, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg (friends with Lukas Podolski) won the dramatic race, holding off the late charge of Red Bull’s Webber by 0.7 seconds while Alonso finished third after he usurped Raikkonen.

As for the tyre drama, blame is in fact being pointed at the teams after it was revealed that three teams had voted against Pirelli bringing in new tyres made specifically for the Silverstone track, tyres which were secretly tested with the Mercedes team earlier in the season, around the time David Moyes was revealed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United.

The Scotsman officially begins work at Old Trafford today; as does Manuel Pellegrini down the road at the Etihad, with the transfer situation with Wayne Rooney his prime concern for the moment. The Red Devils also have had a £12m bid for Leighton Baines rejected by their manager’s former club Everton.

To ease the bit of headache for him on the transfer front and in the backroom where Mike Phelan and Rene Meulensteen have left is the appointment of Steve Round as his assistant along with a couple more entrants to OT from his backroom staff at Goodison Park.

Wrapping up, it is sad to hear of the death of former Super Eagles midfielder Thompson Oliha, aged 44. Until his death, Oliha was the head coach of the Kwara Football Academy (KFA) in Ilorin, Kwara State. May he soul rest in peace, amen.

On that note, it’s a wrap from me. Looking forward to Nigeria’s U20 national team take on their Uruguayan counterparts on Tuesday in a second round match at the ongoing World Youth Championship in Turkey. All the best to the Flying Eagles there, vengeance must be attained following the Super Eagles’ loss to Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last week.

Before then Wimbledon resumes today with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray scheduled to play against veterans Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny respectively.

On this day in 1903, the first Tour de France began and today, the 100th edition of cycling’s most prestigeous competition rode off. Also on this day in 1881, the world’s first international telephone call was made between St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada and Calais, Maine in the United States. Today however, my sister in the bedroom could call me; just right there in the living room, on my mobile when a simple yell of my name would suffice… if I’m bothered enough to answer.

Today also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Abramovich era at Chelsea, the birthday of former American athlete Carl Lewis (52), American rapper Missy Elliott (42), former Dutch internationals Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooij (both 37)and actress Liv Tyler from the Lord of the Rings fame (36).

Late Princess Diana was born today in 1961 as was Carol Chomsky, deceased wife of foremost linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky. And today marks the ninth anniversary of the death of actor Marlon Brando.

Have a great week ahead wherever you are, mine began yesterday with my brother’s birthday. Many happy returns to him and to everyone else celebrating this week. Cheers!

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Over the Weekend: Dream Debuts, Big Italians Lose & Tito Wins One


The FA Cup began proper in England as clubs from the Premier League joined in the third round action, while a couple of the major leagues returned from the mid-season break with Cavani, CR7 and El Messius still banging goals in and Tito Vilanova back in the Catalunya dugout as he recovers from cancer… and Casillas showing just why The One would rather not start him.

FA Cup
The oldest competition in football witnessed its third round over the weekend, traditionally the stage where the elite clubs – the Premier League clubs – begin their quest for the Cup.

But there’s a reason the FA Cup is so revered by all who play and who watch the competition, the giantkilling. And Brighton & Hove-Albion set the third round going with a well earned 2-0 humbling of what has lately been a rather appalling Newcastle United (one club from the elite, down! Next!)

Yes, yes, the pitch there wasn’t Ashburton Grove sleek or Old Trafford inspiring but the early kick-off on Saturday gave little indication that the Toons deserved to get even a replay from the encounter.

On the contrary, the Cup’s most illustrious clubs and landlords of the exemplary pitches in the previous paragraph, managed to trigger yet more twitter banter between both set of their loyalists along with nosy spectator fans of other clubs.

First, on Saturday, Manchester United took a Cleverley lead, then fell behind to DeJoe vu moments as Joe Cole (on his second West Ham debut) fed James Collins twice, only for Robin van Persie to come on, take down a long ball from Ryan Giggs under pressure and strike low (with his right foot) for a 90th minute equaliser.

With that goal, gooners yet again opened the book of Lamentations on the world though it sounded more like the Songs of Solomon to the red devils.

And on Sunday, Arsenal, typically, fell behind to a Miguel Michu strike, before well taken goals by iPod, who came on for the much loved Ramsey, and a well struck left foot venom by Kieran Gibbs off a sumptuous one-two put the Gunners ahead in the closing stages.

But that’s merely dramatic and Arsenal love the drama only when it’s extremely so hence, some very absurd defending allowed the Swans to get a late equaliser and earn a replay next week at the Emirates with Brighton & Hove-Albion awaiting the winner of that.

Elsewhere, Demba Ba settled in quite quickly to being number 29 at Chelsea, getting a brace on his debut as the Blues came from behind (sexual) to trounce Southampton 5-1 at St. Mary’s.

Then Daniel Sturridge, sold to Liverpool for 12 mlllion quid by Chelsea, got a goal as the Reds beat Mansfield 2-1. He lived up to expectation of course, failing to convert when one-on-one with the opposition keeper.

Why Liverpool got Studge for a dozen million quid when it would’ve cost a bit less to get Ba… well, it’s done. Liverpool have done better in these sort of matters ala Henderson and Downing.

The club did spend good money on Luis Suarez, a very talented player that. Problem is, the Uruguayan always has controversy trailing him and this weekend was no exception as he clearly controlled the ball with his hand just before scoring Liverpool’s second.

La Liga
Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal of the season.. pause… I’ll take that again. After 18 matches played, Zeus’ godfather incarnate Lionel Messi scored his 27th league goal as Barcelona eased to a 4-0 win over neighbours RCD Espanyol.

More embarrassingly for the neighbours, all four goals were scored in the first half while Pedro was denied a hattrick by an offside flag. Neighbours, the closest Espanyol will get to being at Barcelona’s level.

That said, Barça now holds an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid after the latter was held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca. Real Madrd meanwhile remains ♫super sweet 16♫ points adrift of their arch-rivals after coming out of an eventful seven-goal encounter victorious.

Iker Casillas again started from the bench and after Karim Benzema had put Real ahead in the second minute with a goal that continues to render Gonzalo Higuain surplus to requirement, Real keeper Adan was sent off for conceding a penalty in the sixth minute.

On came Casillas but Prieto levelled for Sociedad. No problem there, goalkeepers hate facing penalties. But Casillas twice lapsed in concentration and you have to ask, is the man still motivated to be Real and Spain’s number one? Reina, De Gea and Valdes keenly watch on.

Real at the other end spared Casillas blushes and, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo brace, claimed a fortuitous 4-3 win over Sociedad that later had a man sent off themselves.

In the end, what matters is the count in the 2013 golden boot, they-score-when-they-want race. Radamel Falcao isn’t off the mark yet, CR7 has two and Messi has one no thanks to Pedro’s stray foot and the crossbar.

Robin van Persie though has three goals so far and was joined by the very fit Edinson Cavani who got a hattrick as Napoli bullied AS Roma to a 4-1 defeat.

Serie A
Cavani now has 16 league goals and a total of 99 goals in his Serie A career, helping Napoli rise to third on a weekend that saw Juventus, Fiorentina and Inter Milan fall.

Juventus’ lead had been cut to five points by Lazio in a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Saturday, but the Old Lady certainly was still on her mid-season break as 10-man Sampdoria came from behind – after being reduced to 10 men – to claim a 2-1 win at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico.

Antonio di Natalie meanwhile orchestrated Inter Milan’s 3-0 loss at Udinese while Fiorentina fell 2-0 at home to lowly Pescara but remain ahead of Inter on goal difference, with both still nine points behind leaders Juventus.

It’s a Wrap
Here’s wishing Tito Vilanova a recovery as smooth sailing as his club’s La Liga form. Barcelona, after 18 matches, have won 17 and drawn one and look very well on course to break the records Real set in winning the title last season.

Finally, I don’t think I’ve ever run a series of posts to schedule over a stretch of time on here so “Over the Weekend” and possibly “During the (Mid)Week” will help this cobweb clogged blog clear up.

Have a productive week then.

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