Posts Tagged Pep Guardiola

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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During the Week: Lance Owns Up, Pep Shows Up & Venus’ Beat Up


Lance Armstrong opened up to being dope to mother confessor Oprah Winfrey, if only he meant it same way Wiz Khalifa would. That dopeness thus ended what was a glorious era that saw him ride to victory at seven successive Tour de France.

Like Marion Jones, another champion looked up to by many millions… *poof* just like that, down the truth drain. So, since he ‘confessed’ (to) it rather than being made a scapegoat as the US Cycling body was about to do, he will likely get reprieve from ‘those who matter’ and become their puppet per se, complete with a severance pay.

My issue now is, why would a man, who fought and won a battle against cancer then rode on a prestigeous path to seven victories, and who vehemently denied being dope of the Ben Johnson kind… own up just like that? Smokescreen entertainment for the media and by extension, the world?

Pep Makes Move
Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. One play the world certainly didn’t see coming was Pep Guardiola’s pre-appointment as Bayern Munich manager, to the utter surprise of god Wenger and silent relief of Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez (in some way, seeing as he’s an “interim manager”).

It’s not often that a manager becomes more sought after than a footballer. Footballers get paid high-end five figures (at least) every week to play (crap or otherwise) or be benchwarmers, or be deadwoods… or be Florent Malouda. Managers get paid to win or get fired! (Ed. note: Arsenal’s god is an exception. Well… okay… Man. United’s too. Everton’s as well).

Some managers however see the tactics formulate against them and leave when appropriate, as Guardiola who had won it all at Barcelona did before taking a year long hiatus from the game.

Pep’s pre-appointment by Bayern exuded a number of facts, including “some people still can’t be bought” since he could well have chosen £15m/year at Chelsea or something similar at Man. City and the Bundesliga will (hopefully) finally get the attention and coverage it deserves.

Much as the battle of philosophies by Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp of B.V.B Dortmund is an exciting prospect, I honestly don’t see Guardiola’s imminent arrival there as a battle of such for while it is glorious to be Bundesliga champions, I believe the German clubs are out to dominate the Champions League just as the Premier League did for a while.

And it most certainly isn’t about what ex-Barça manager is doing better though you have to spare a thought for Frank Rijkaard who got fired in Turkey about the same time Guardiola signed with the Bavarians and barely made ‘breaking news’ almost two days after.

Racism
Indeed the matter of racism in stadia is treated as passive though the president of football’s world governing body admittedly has a hard time managing such behaviour in this sport of ours.

While mostly, but not entirely against players walking off when racially abused as AC Milan’s Kevin Prince Boateng did during a friendly match, he has suggested handing clubs of erring racist fans a points deduction punishment.

Obviously such action will not make a racist to stop being one but it could reduce drastically the occurence of racist abuse of footballers from the stands. But whatever happens outside the stadium therefore becomes out of FIFA’s jurisdiction.

Complicated as Blatter’s stand on the matter really. An example, though not borne of racism, comes with the attack of Serie A footballers’ close ones on the streets. Imagine then a racist attacking one of KPB’s close ones on the streets of Milan? What could FIFA do?

Proudly Aussie
The first tennis grand slam of the year began and home player Lleyton Hewitt set a record by appearing in his 17th successive Australian Open. Unfortunately, he lost his first round match.

That loss, which came after three keenly contested sets, marked the end (officially, for me) of players from my favourite ‘era’ of tennis that featured players such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Cedric Piolin, Pat Rafter, a Chinese-American, Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman and many more.

Back to the present, the usual suspects have eased through the first week, most especially Maria Sharapova who hadn’t lost a game so far ahead of an enticing third round clash with former number one Venus Williams.

By the end of that ‘heavyweight’ clash, Sharapova has now lost just four games on her way to reaching the last 16, beating the ranking points well out of Venus in straight sets of 6-1 6-3.

Venus meanwhile joined Samantha Stosur as the major names shown the exit from the Open down under… this weekend and most likely next week should see more high profile names fall aside as the year’s first grand slam draws to a close then.

With that, it’s a wrap. The African Cup of Nations begins later today in South Africa with a match between the hosts and debutantes Cape Verde. As always, the Ivory Coast are favourites to be crowned champions but hey, I’ll be rooting my fatherland and (this time) underdogs Nigeria.

Out in Brazil meanwhile, Sao Caetano of the second division there has completed the signing of former World Footballer of the Year… Rivaldo. Yes, 1999 World Footballer of the Year Rivaldo.

Now 40, the midfielder who won the World Cup in 2002 joins the Sao Paolo club following a spell in Angola. Yes, the oil rich east African nation Angola. Rivaldo certainly loves to travel.

Elsewhere, the Bundesliga returns this weekend and Schalke and Hannover already provided the world with a goal glut on Friday night. And in the Premier League, leaders Man. United face Tottenham Hotspur at the Lane while Arsenal make the short trip to face Chelsea at the Bridge, a day after Theo Speedo finally signed da ting!

It promises to be an eventful weekend, which I’ll mostly spend reading for my exams… that’s the plan anyway.

Have yourselves a fabulous weekend then!

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Is the Red Devil You Know Really Better than the Angel You Don’t?


Having won the UEFA Champions League in 2005/06 (2-1 vs. Arsenal) and again in 2008/09 (2-0 vs. Manchester United), Spanish giants C. F. Barcelona now appear to be favourites to once again reclaim Europe’s most prestigious club competition following the semi-final first leg matches. According to statistics (from Opta Sports) no club has overturned a 2-0 defeat in 15 attempts at the semi-final stage of this competition, a result the Catalans achieved on April 27 against fierce rivals Real Madrid; all the better at the Santiago Bernabeu home of the Merengues.

The result may have been different had Real’s Portuguese defender and a sturdy defensive midfielder of late Pepe not been sent off quarter of an hour into the second half with scores still goalless, albeit it would be biased to let that take the shine off the very well executed brace by Argentine phenomenon Lionel Messi whose second saw him weasel past four white shirts before finally slotting past Iker Casillas for his 52nd goal of the season in all competitions for Barcelona and 36th goal in all his Champions League appearances, which has seen him go past German legend Gerd Muller on the all time top-scorers list.

Meanwhile a repeat of the 2008/09 final is on the cards after the Red Devils finally got two goals past the impressive Manuel Neuer of Schalke 04 in the second half after the German goalkeeper kept his side in the tie with a string of saves in the first half. Barring what happens to any of the teams’ players in the second leg matches, Manchester United stand in better frame to match the ingeniousness of Barcelona. However, it would be very difficult for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to reclaim a trophy it won in the 2007/08 season.

First factor going against United is the unfair fluidity Pep Guardiola’s charges have attained when it comes to team play, which leaves opposition teams either having to play a faster pace game, have at least a 90% completion rate in its passing game and then have a minimum of three players that each can produce a moment of magic from any part of the pitch. There also is going about grinding the game to scrap, not allowing Barcelona the fluidity they have perfected and successfully implemented in a majority of matches in all competitions this season before then going about to win such match.

And yes, United’s attacking third comprising an in-form Wayne Rooney with goals and assists paired with this season’s revelation in perhaps all of Europe, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez with his great technique at positioning and not just goals scored but important match winners time and again that have seen him earn himself a starting shirt ahead of Dimitar Berbatov (left out completely in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Germany) can pose quite a threat to the rampaging Catalans.

This is complemented by Edwin van Der Sar who stands stalwart between the sticks, the imposing Nemanja Vidic who is the heart of the Red Devils’ defence and a midfield based more on effectiveness than on flair through veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs alongside Michael Carrick and Anderson with Nani especially and Antonio Valencia most capable of the flair part of the business.

All that said, whichever of the aforementioned midfielders Sir Alex puts in the starting line-up must play like they sometimes have over this season in order to not see Rooney having to come deep just to get a feel of the round leather, a scenario the Red Devils team must avoid otherwise Chicharito would be left isolated upfront and Rooney would have been taken some distance from a range where he can actually cause damage.

It would be the best starting Scholes as he has the ability to achieve a pass completion rate the Barcelona forwards enjoy supply from their midfield while starting Giggs would be a better idea than starting Luis Nani as the vastly experienced Welshman has been more consistent over the season and more so lately than the Portuguese whom one isn’t sure would turn up on match-day. Carrick is also capable of achieving a good pass completion rate but like Nani, one can never know which Michael would turn up on match-day.

Based on this seeming uncertainty in midfield that normally would not be glaring against most other oppositions, United may still just find Barcelona a riddle a bit too hard to sort out.

©ð.òÁ

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