All hail Rooney! I first must say that Heskey has done a great job for England recently and I would still take him to the World Cup but such is Rooney’s emergence as a striker who can lead the line, we can now drop ‘Bruno’ in favour of a more skillful and creative, preferably Joe Cole.
Rooney can move to the tip of the strike force with Gerrard in his former positi0n and Joe Cole obviously reverting to the left wing. This isn’t a situation we need to rush into, Rooney has been in superlative goal scoring form with Heskey as his strike partner and England’s form has been great too so we don’t need to meddle too much.
Against top quality opposition however, Rooney can give the team all Heskey can and more. He can hold it up, chase defenders , bring others into play, and SCORE. With Gerrard and Cole behind him dovetailed by Lampard and Lennon, England pose quite a formidible, varied and experienced attacking quintet.
I am sure Capello has no plans to play Heskey after the World Cup, it may just be worth playing him now for the sake of consistency but our future now seems a little more secure with the emergence of King Wayne and his new found ability to lead the line.
At least not for a very long time. One reason. Consistency.
In all its forms, African football as a whole lacks consistency and that alone is its greatest downfall.
African football is a growing force and its teams will never be able to compete overnight but steady progress is made with every new generation that emerges. All major clubs across the world throw money at African football in a bid to mine and cultivate all the best talent the continent has to offer.
No longer are African teams the butt of all the jokes from their former rulers; as seen in my ‘African XI’, the continent’s finest are amongst the world’s finest. But something still holds the continent back, and it is hard to pin point it because the reason’s seem to change regularly.
Defensive organisation has long been its (African football, so I don’t keep mentioning it) achilles heel, and to a large extent, it still is. I think its current problem stems from the elitest cherry picking of Africa’s young players.
In England, Spain, Italy, Brazil etc young players of all ages and abilities are coached professionally throughout their education. If a player fails to make the grade, he drops to a level below, say Championship or League 1, where he will continue to be regularly trained in comparitively good facilities. This holistic system gives major nations a greater depth of talent. Even average players in England’s/Italy’s/Spain’s lower leagues would be seen as world beaters in most top divisions around the world.
In Africa however, most clubs can’t afford such an encompassing youth system, therefore any good players are funneled into the various academies that belong to foreign organisations or clubs. These systems are extremely meritocratic (is that a word?) and notoriously ruthless. Any players seen not to be making the grade are dumped and any that do are heavily invested in. This creates a divide between the haves and have-nots. Were the have-nots still exposed to the high level of training, Africa’s general baseline level of player would move up considerably, although Africa’s welfare is not the concern of most European clubs – nor should it be, to be honest.
This divide can be seen in almost all major African teams – look at Ghana at the 2006 World Cup; Ghana boasted seasoned, top-level players such as Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Sami Kuffour and Stephen Appiah but on the flip side, they carried players such as Razak Pimpong and Emmanuel Pappoe. Whereas the aforementioned players played in the best leagues in the world, the other two played for FC Copenhagen and FC Ashdod respectively.
That last paragraph may seem a little ignorant but think about this; many people are tipping African teams for the World Cup, so that puts Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria etc on the same level as, say, England ( I use England as an example so I don’t have to do much research) – basically contenders with an outside chance of winning.
We can comfortably mention Essien or Drogba or Eto’o in the same breath as Gerrard, Lampard and Rooney but the same cannot be said of their compatriots. Can you imagine the uproar if England called up a player from FC Copenhagen or Ashdod? As if there isn’t enough doom and gloom around the England squad when the entire team is made up of experienced internationals who have played their entire careers at the top level, imagine if we started hand picking our players from these kinds of pools.
Teams that win the World Cup aren’t always the best team in the world at that time but they still have hard quality throughout their entire squad. There have been no World Cup shocks as yet, that would suggest it takes a deep pool of talented players to win the competition. Aside from 2002 and 1986, a single individual is rarely the reason behind a team winning the Jules Rimet.
Take one look at the ongoing African Nations Cup (I refuse to call it African Cup of Nations because it doesn’t make sense as a sentence, seriously read it back to yourself, its jibberish) all the so-called World Cup contenders are getting systematically merked by their lesser contemporaries. One minute, they look world beaters, the next they’re getting humbled by Malawi.
Personally I can’t believe people think an African team will win the World Cup, I can certainly think of reasons why they would say it, but not why they would think it.
Put simply, none of Africa’s teams have a good enough squad and neither are any of the teams consistent from game to game. My reasons for this may be wrong but the opinion cannot be; I will eat my bollocks, and that’s a promise, if an African team wins the World Cup in the next 20 years, and I’d be happy to fulfil that promise.
After having such an enjoyable time of writing the African XI, I think I will cross the continents picking out all the best players. Europe is football’s true home and the world’s greatest footballing continent (don’t even think about saying South America is better) and I would even go as far as to say winning the Euros is as hard, if not harder, than winning the World Cup simply due to the consistent level of so many teams across Europe.
The team will play the formation of its most exciting team, Barcelona – a 4-3-3 with two wide wingers.
Goalkeeper: Tough call. Europe certainly knows how to make goalkeepers. Cech is sadly declining since getting knocked on the bonce by Stephen (C)Hunt and I fear Gigi Buffon’s best days may be behind, even if he is still a superb goalkeeper. With that in mind the title has to go to Casillas who has matured into a great all round goalkeeper and can be regularly seen keeping Real Madrid in matches they really should lose. He also sdeems to have cut silly mistakes and a vampire-like fear of crosses.
Right Back: Never a position with too many great contenders and I think Sergio Ramos is the only player that can rightfully claim this spot. It takes a lot for me to say that as I have claimed for years that he was garbage, but his rampaging runs and excellent delivery make him a sure choice ahead of Bacary Sagna, Philip Lahm, Gianluca Zambrotta and err.. Glen Johnson.
Centre Backs: Many of the continents great defenders are currently on the wane, players like Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta would have walked these spots previously. Despite recent form and fitness issues, I have to give Rio Ferdinand a spot simply because on his day he is simply the best. With that in mind I am going to give the other slot to his erstwhile teammate Nemanja Vidic. Over the last three seasons they have been the outstanding central partnership in the World.
Left Back: Another bit of bias, and I appreciated he is a bit of a penis, but Ashley Cole takes this slot. Back to his best now, no left back around competes in my eyes. Chiellini of Italy, again Lahm of Germany and Evra of France all deservce very credible mentions but sometimes you have to pull rank on your bias.
Defensive Midfield: I know strictly speaking he isn’t a defensive midfielder but Xavi Hernandez wins this spot hands down. Again he is another favourite of mine, but he is truly one of the world’s most outstanding players and would get into every midfield in the world, bar none.
Central Midfield: Andres Iniesta, my favourite and with bloody good reason. Under valued for so long, people have finally begun to appreciate the Spanish Paul Scholes/Albino Maradona. Movement, passing, technique, decision making; all perfect – without question the best player in the world at the moment.
Attacking Midfield: I’m going to be a little controversial and drop Wayne Rooney into midfield. I think that is where he will play for much of his career and his industry and creativity make the perfect player to play behind a roaming set of three attackers. Big mentions to Steven Gerrard, Andrey Arshavin, Mezut Ozil, Cesc Fabregas, Frank Ribery and Frank Lampard.
Left Forward: Coming in on to his right foot, Fernando Torres would be unstoppable. His late, angled runs would always be found by his midfield trident. He is unbelievably dangerous on his game and still extremely good when he isn’t.
Centre Forward: David Villa. Another Spaniard but how can you ignore someone who has been so consistently deadly every season whilst playing for substandard teams. Excellent at every role in the forward line and just an incredible goal scorer; probably the best striker in the world at the moment. Under no absolutely no circumstances was this position going to Zlatan Ibrahamovic.
Right Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo. No explaining needed really. Done very well recently considering he used to be a pile of shiite.
After reading the ridiculous claims that an African team can win the World Cup, I thought I would put together an all African team, which, on reflection would have a very good chance of winning the World Cup.
I will go into detail on why an African team won’t win a World Cup for some time soon but for now enjoy the best XI from the World’s emerging football continent.
Goalkeeper: There is only one pick, Carlos Kameni, a true Champo legend and, by a considerable distance, the best goalkeeper in African history. He has the agility and dexterity associated with African goalies but without the overwhelming ability to sacrifice cheap goals and get lost on crosses, he would walk into most international teams.
Right Back: Great right backs aren’t that easy to come across on the world’s largest continent but Emmanuel Eboue shades Hatem Trabelsi for the title. Both have fallen off in recent years and, at his best, Trabelsi would have walked into this team but Eboue continues to play regularly at the top level and his recent poor form has been more to do with him playing out of position than him being a bad player.
Centre Back: Kolo Toure and Joseph Yobo have the responsibility of breaking the reputation that African teams can’t defend. Both have played in the Premiership for the best part of a decade for good clubs. They are as happy with the ball at their feet as they are with their heads.
Left Back: Taye Taiwo strolls into the final defensive birth. a sweet left foot that rammed home many a ripsnorting free kick and would provide a constant attacking menace.
The defence maybe fairly light on leadership but in terms of quality and experience, it is well stocked. On the other hand this defence could never compete with a European back line.
On to the midfield; this is where the Africans really start to show their teeth.
Defensive Midfield: Africa maybe short on wingers but it is not short of quality midfielders, hence my narrow three man midfield. I also had to keep plenty of places free for Africa’s wizard attackers. Real Madrid’s Mahamadou Diarra takes the defensive midfield spot. His size, athletic ability and tackling will be crucial in protecting what is a vunerable defence. Also has the ability to start off attacks.
Central Midfield: Stupid question. Michael Essien and Yaya Toure stroll into the team as they would almost any continental team. We have known Essien’s quality for some time but Yaya Toure’s emergence has been stratespheric. Not only can he defend like a viking, he can press forward with power and pace, and he has been the scorer of some magnificent goals. Creditable mentions go to Stephen Appiah, Jon Obi Mikel, Seyda Keita, Mohamed Aboutreika and Sulley Muntari.
Strikers: The fun part. I’m going to throw tactics out of the window a little and simple pick the best three individuals. Luckily all three are so adept they could simply select any role and carry it out with ruthless efficency. I hasten to add that two of my choices would be members of a World squad. Didier Drogba. Naturally, he is currently the best striker in the world and on his day he is completely unplayable. He has come along way from being a crap centre back at Le Mans. Samuel Eto’o. Quite simply a goal machione and the victim of the worst piece of transfer business of all time. Why Barca sold him to Ibrahimovic plus $40 million is anyones guess. Aside from David Villa, no other player has been so prolific in top level football over the last 5 years. The final spot goes to Emmanuel Adebayor. Not my favourite choice but I couldn’t bring myself to pick Obafemi Martins and something nagging didn’t let me pick Frederick Kanoute. The Mali international does make more sense on second thoughts but I have to stick with Man City’s finest. Like so many great Africans, he is a mix of brilliance and incompetence but on his day, he is near unstoppable.
Would you make any changes? Perhaps there is a young upshot we should know about. Comments below.
Ye olde Viera, formerly of North London, who used to terrorise teams up and down the leagues but has since been seen wandering around Milan in blue and black shirt doing his best impression of Cartlon Palmer has finally signed for Middle Eastlands.
But I think it is a very shrewd piece of business by Leicester legend Roberto Mancini. It reminds me of when Spurs signed Edgar Davids in the season that they came within a lasagne’s splatters of a Champions League spot; an experienced campaigner well past his prime but capable of inspiring his team mates on to greater things.
Manchester City are not devoid of talent, in fact they have a surplus, neither are they short of whippets ready to chase the ball around, basically all Viera needs to do is stroll round the pitch looking statesman like whilst instilling something like a winning mantality in to his comrades.
According to popular belief, the Blues’ problems stem mainly in defence but I think it is more deep rooted than that. Sure Lescott has played like an inbred mutant with a hideous scar on his forehead and Kolo Toure looks more and more like an African defender whilst Bridge and Richards conspire to bring their careers to a screetching hault but they are all accomplished players capable of great performances. Their problem stems in leadership.
They have two, possibly three, captains in their team (Given, Barry, Toure) all of which have won about two trophies between them (and Toure won all of those, thanks largely to his returning teammate). When the tough gets going, players like Robinho hide under the table. With Viera around that is unlikely to happen.
His talents and physique may have deserted him but his mentality can make up for Manchester City’s less tangible frailties.
As promised here are the football awards earnt over the last decade – again any additions or suggestions let me know.
Player of the Decade
Deeply hard decision; Ronaldinho lit up the middle of the decade but was mediocre either side of those years, Thierry Henry has been astonishing from start to finish, fat Ronaldo also had some gloriously prolific years but, and controversial I know, but Zinedine Zidane may have only played for half the decade but his performances in those six years were the greatest since Maradona. His extrordinary highs and unbelievable low make him just too irresistable to turn down. Unbelievable player.
Team of the Decade
Manchester United have dominated, Arsenal were unbeatable, AC Milan got to three European Cup finals and Liverpool gave us a night we will never forget but Barcelona’s football in the last 18 months has taken the breath away almost everytime they have played. Lest we forget they were also the most attractive team in the world between 2004 and 2007.
Manager of the Decade
Carlo Ancellotti would have pegged it if he had won more titles, Sir Alex would have got it if he hadn’t had a barren run in the middle of the decade and Arsene Wenger would have won it if he had built on the Invinsibles. But for success and entertainment value Jose Mourinho has to win it. Never has a manager demanded so much attention and never has a manager had so much (domestic) success whilst moving clubs. His home unbeaten run is mind boggling and winning the Champions League with Porto was the greatest managerial accomplishment of the last ten years. Massive shout for Otto Rehagal who some how won the European Championship with Greece.
Shock of the Decade
Greece. I invented this award while thinking of candidates for the previous award but people seem to forget what an unbelievable achievement it was to win the Euros. If Sweden (or any other decent team) had won, it would have been a major shock and they qualify for the second round every time. If Greece had not qualified or lost every game, no one would have batted an eyelid so to win the whole thing is truly staggering. They dealt a major lesson to England and others.
International Team of the Decade
Tough one; Greece again deserve a mention, Brazil and Italy won World Cups and Spain played the greatest tournament football since Brazil in ’82, but my – perhaps surprise – choice is Germany. Now here me out: They have had their greatest dearth of talent since the 1940’s and their crop shows few signs of improving. Carsten Jancker, Oliver Neuville and Friedrich are some of the worst players to ever pull on the white shirt but somehow Germany competed in two finals and one semi final while – at times – playing some superb football. They have relied heavily on Michael Ballack and, earlier, Oliver Kahn but them pesky Germans simply have knack of doing it when it counts. Euro 2000 and 2004 were disappointments, but the other tournament performances make up for it. If only England could have a slice of their mental powers.
Winner of the Decade
Johan Cruyff. Odd choice but let me explain. Twenty years ago, when Cruyff was Barcelona manager, he set up a model that Barcelona were to stick to. It involved the revolutionising and updating of the youth academy; a blanket tactical style and formation that was to be played by all age groups in the club; and a club philosophy based on the ethics of the beautiful game. It was ambitious but I’m sure he knew it would succeed.
In the Noughties, Barcelona have dominated La Liga and Europe. Their youth academy now accounts for more than half of their starting line up (Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Bojan, Pedro) while other graduates have had huge success abroad (Fabregas, Reina, Luis Garcia, Mikel Arteta, Fran Merida, De La Pena and hhmmm Giovani Dos Santos). It is the greatest youth conveyor belt since Ajax. (I think Cruyff had something to do with that too)
Their tactical style has yet to be mastered and compromised, with many teams coming close but not succeeding. Barca play their own way and it is up to the opposition to adapt.
Finally, their philosophy has been responsible for some of the greatest football ever played and the most trophy laden season of any major team.
Yes, Cruyff is a cock but he has created an environment that would it make it possible for a confounded moron to win every trophy available.
Loser of the Decade
Winston Bogarde. He actually came second in winner of the year having earnt 2 million quid a year for doing fuck all. He wasn’t an untalented player but he managed to have one of the most disgraceful decades a player could have. He made two appearances at Chelsea in four years while commuting from Amsterdam daily, paid for by his 40 grand a week wages. When he did play he was bollocks and any player with any self respect can see it was a waste of a previously successful career.
Goal of the Decade
There was some absolute screamers. Zidane’s volley; Ronaldo screamers against Portsmouth and Porto; Figeroa’s belter last week; Ronaldinho’s incredible goal in El Clasico and Messi’s Maradona impression against Getafe are all challengers. My favourite, however, wasn’t a piece of incredible technique nor a goal from distance, it was the most breath taking display of simple team work and athleticsm with two of the greatest players of the generation in tandom before a finish of sublime genius and subtlety. It was Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning double act against Bolton.
Moment of the Decade
Ronaldo’s resurrection in 2002, Beckham’s free kick in 2001, Mourinho’s famous run down the touchline, no. Zidane’s Headbutt heard around the world. It was almost a fitting end in a Shakespearian tragic way. The greatest player of the last twenty years, playing in the World Cup final having scored the most nerveless penalty of all time and dragging an ageing France team single handedly to the final itself. His skill had been mesmorizing and to finish his career as World Cup winning captain seemed the perfect script. But this moment of madness ended up being the full stop in one of world football’s greatest stories. And who wouldn’t want to headbutt Marco Materazzi.
Twat of the Decade
Peter Taylor – absolutely no argument! Complete wanker. I urge you to join this group
Most of this is with regards to British football but I have made a few notable exceptions. I will be doing more as well as a decade awards but this should suffice for the time being. Any suggestions, comment below.
World Player of the Year
Lionel Messi– Difficult to look past the diminutive Barcerlona winger who has won every trophy going this year whilst playing scintilating football and scoring more times than John Carew in a Birmingham brothel.
Unofficial Best Player of the Year
Lee Trundle – Thank you to the Swansea City fans that voted literally hundreds of times on this blog’s recent poll.
British Player of the Year
Some strong contenders for this award but it is hard to look beyond Wayne Rooney who continues to be the stand out player for club and country. Notable mentions to Shay Given, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and Matty Fryatt.
Young Player of the Year
I believe young player of the awards should go to teenagers; 22,23 years old doesn’t constitute a budding star anymore, most top players are established by that age. With that in mind, Jack Rodwell wins for me. There are better prospects around I’m sure but no young player in England has played so many games and put in so many consistently good performances.
Goal of the Year
Michael Essien’s unbelievable strike against Barcelona in the Champions League semis in April was truly spectacular. the agility, accuracy and inclination make the pick of the bunch.
Most Underrated Player of the Year
Andres Iniesta – My favourite foreign player. Despite getting a lot of recognition following Barcelona’s relentless consumption of trophies, ‘The Albino Maradona’ is still not given the credit he deserves. No player is so easy on the eye and no player can make such a complex and intricate job look so damn simple.
The David Trezeguet Award for Most Overrated Player of the Year
Ryan Giggs – Excellent player, top professional and most decorated player in Britain since Kitchener. But he was NOT the best player last season and his performances in 2009 did NOT deserve Sports Personality of the Year. Give him a lifetime achievement award and longevity award sure, but currently he isn’t in the top 20 players in the Premiership. We simply left it too late to appreciate him and now we’re over compensating.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos – I have had a pop at this useless defender before and its not his fault he went to Liverpool, but what the hell was Benitez thinking. Surely one of the worst defenders in living memory.
The Lentini Award for the Biggest Waste of Money
Easy. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Why swap a prolific striker for a less prolific striker AND pay 40 million quid for the privilege. It beggars belief and is the only stain on Pep Guardiola’s managerial career. Good player, shit economics.
The Steve Claridge Award for Best signing
Tough call, there have been some rip snorters but Richard Dunne pips it for me. His leadership could also be the catalyst for Villa finally getting in the Champions League, after which I’m sure he will be jettisoned. Shout out to James Beattie and Michael Owen.
The Jens Lehmann Award for Madman of the Year
Jens Lehmann: he pissed on an advertising hoarding for Christ sake, gotta love him, even if he is a complete bell end. Good old ‘Comedy Jens’.
Sepp Blatter. Bet you thought it would be Henry didn’t you? No the Swiss Hitler continues to cheat his way through everything he does. His biggest crime; not giving us video replays Tennis style. For or against replays – Blatter is terrible bastard. Also, look at him celebrating Switzerland’s youth cup win like he had a hand in it (which he probably did).
Manager of the Year
Tony Pulis – To keep that Stoke squad comfortably in the Premiership twice (cos they will stay up again) is quite something, have a look at their squad, it really is dreadful. Jesus may have turned water into wine but Pulis turned Ricardo Fuller into a regular scorer.
The Carlton Palmer Award for Worst Manager of the Year
May favourite Rafa Benitez. I love having a go at that ‘Max and Paddy’ look-a-like. Never has a manager made more poor signings and never has manager mounted a title challenge with only one striker at his disposal. Hats off to his guts but put it back on when you next see Lucas drive past Shankley’s statue. I hope he doesn’t get sacked because I would love to see Liverpool get relegated.
Only one winner. Paulo Sousa look at this picture. Nuff said. Phil Brown: maybe next year.