Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pazzini's Debut Double Revitalizes Inter In 3-2 Comeback Win

It has been a fantastic January transfer window for the Serie A. While AC Milan signed the two Dutchmen (Mark van Bommel and Emanuelson), Inter Milan went out and did some business of their own. Leonardo got three big presents from the president Massimo Moratti: Andrea Ranocchia, Houssine Kharja, and Giampaolo Pazzini. All three were important in Inter Milan's 3-2 comeback win over Palermo, especially Pazzini who scored a double on his debut.

I admit, I was skeptical about Pazzini and Kharja. I thought that maybe they didn't have the ability to step into a treble-winning team and manage to perform. I was completely wrong though, with Pazzini scoring in just 11 minutes after substituting Davide Santon at halftime. But Inter Milan had allowed a brilliant Palermo side to dominate the first half, with Julio Cesar (returning from injury) picking the ball out of the back of his net twice in the first half. It would've been three, but only the post stopped Pastore's powerful shot, which the Argentine thundered from close range.

Two goals down, Leonardo decided to bring on Pazzini and Kharja, playing in a scintillating manner with three forwards. The first goal was created by the two substitutes, Kharja played a piercing ball for Pazzini with his back to goal, and Pazzini swiveled around quickly and slotted the ball in the far bottom corner. Pazzini then equalized with a trademark goal of his: anticipating everyone during a free kick, and heading a beautiful cross by Maicon into the back of Sirigu's net.

Pazzini heading in the equalizer

In the middle of Pazzini's two goals, Palermo had a golden chance to score a third goal at the San Siro. Javier Pastore stepped up to take a penalty which Kasami earned after being brought down by Thiago Motta. While the penalty was excellently struck towards the bottom right corner, Julio Cesar pulled off an excellent save, keeping his team in the match.

Pazzini fought for the winning goal, and was pulled back in the penalty box, earning Inter a penalty. Samuel Eto'o stepped up to take the penalty, and while Sirigu came close to the Cameroon's shot, he was unable to stop it from entering his goal. It was the final goal of a fantastic comeback, inspired and created by Giampaolo Pazzini.

It was a fantastic debut for Pazzini, proving me completely wrong about the player's immense talent. He will prove to be useful for Leonardo, who is having trouble inspring Diego Milito. While Inter have a  fairly simple fixture away against last placed Bari next week, the following weeks will be a test for this motivated side. After travelling to Bari, Inter will host Roma before having to travel to Juventus. If Leonardo can win all three matches, his race towards the scudetto will be a lot easier.

What do you think about Pazzini? Will he be able to continue performing so excellently? Can Inter come back and win the scudetto? Share your comments below!

Vive Le Football Libre: Nike Unveil New France Kit

Back in 2007, French football was riding on the crest of a successful wave. Second placed in the 2006 World Cup, France were regarded as one of the strongest in the world, and so Nike won the contract to supply the French international football team from 2011 to 2018.

But French football took a strange turn after that final. A poor showing at the 2008 European Championships, followed by a ridiculous display at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the reputation of French football eroded down to nothing.

Now Nike have a whole new task on their hands. With the French football team, Nike is stirring up slogans and advertisements which are reminiscent of the French revolution. The campaign with the French national team is entitled, "Vive Le Football Libre", which roughly translates to "Long Live Free Football". This indicates the new philosophy about the team; a more flowing and attacking style which is slowly being moulded by the young coach, Laurent Blanc.

This is Nike's description of the "Vive Le Football Libre" campaign.

"A new era inspired by creativity and attacking intent.
A fresh philosophy founded on possession and obsession.
A classic shirt created through innovation and elegant design.
French football enters a new era. The revolution is here.
Vive Le Football Libre."

It certainly sounds exciting, especially accompanied by such an elegant and striking kit. With Dri-FIT technology, this kit is made from a microfiber polyester derived entirely from recycled plastic bottles. For the shirt/jersey, the recycled material is mixed with organic cotton, balancing off at 96% recycled polyester and 4% organic cotton.

The shirt also features special sleeves, which can be folded to reveal a red portion, therefore retaining the classic blue white and red of France. The shirt has a deeper color of blue and the collar is very elegant, allowing a player to wear it as he prefers.

The shirt also features a slimmer cut embodying elegance and style, the French way. The printing of the names and numbers on the back of the jersey is a new technique of perforation which makes the jersey lighter. And to top it all off, the crest is also done in a special way, reducing the overall weight of the shirt, and making it more comfortable to wear.

The new kit will be debuted February 9th at the all-Nike friendly between France and Brazil at the Stade de France. The kit along with other France sportswear will be available for retail February 5th. I really love this kit, it's a new type of unsurpassed elegance which fits perfectly with the new image France is trying to create of their team. What are your thoughts? Share your comments below!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Friday Photos: Transfer Talk And The Asian Cup

Emmanuel Adebayor has been presented at Real Madrid. Adebayor is excited
 to begin playing, and is looking forward to having a successful loan spell with Real.

Mark van Bommel and Emanuelson debuted for AC Milan in the Coppa Italia.
The two recently joined Milan, and they helped their team to a 2-1 victory.
AC Milan will be playing Palermo in the semi-finals, and the other semi-final between
Inter and Roma. Could we see a Milan derby in the final of the Coppa Italia? 

There have been rumours linking Gareth Bale to a transfer in the summer.
Inter Milan are apparently prepared to offer 40 million Euros for the Welsh winger.
Andrea Barzagli leaves Wolfsburg and returns to Italy. Juventus have signed
the defender for just 300,000 Euros, but will the deal be worth it?

Giampaolo Pazzini has signed for Inter Milan. The nerazzurri had to pay
12 million Euros and give the speedy winger Biabiany to Sampdoria.
Can Pazzini end Inter's scoring difficulties?

While David Luiz's signing for Chelsea seemed imminent, the deal has hit a snag.
The Brazilian might not join the Blues, we'll just have to wait and see where
this young and talented defender goes.

Liverpool rejected Chelsea's bid of around 40 million Pounds for Fernando Torres.
The question is: will Liverpool manage to keep the striker over the summer?

The Socceroos celebrating their 6-0 semifinal victory over Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup.
Australia will be facing Japan in the final, and while the Samurais have been crowned
Asian champions three times already, Australia have yet to win the Asian Cup.

Ending on a beautiful note, the stunning Khalifa International Stadium where
Australia defeated Uzbekistan 6-0.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chelsea Coming Together For Final Push

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti spoke of "turning corners" and of having brought to an end a "difficult moment which went on too long", following their much-needed victory over Bolton Wanderers. The Blues won in a one-sided affair at the Reebok Stadium with unanswered goals from Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and Ramires, and the result marks the first time that they have won back-to-back Premier League wins since the end of October.

Chelsea are finally looking more like their former selves following a poor run of results which included losses against Sunderland, Birmingham and Wolves, and will now be looking to put together a run of victories in a bid to charge back up the table and into a position to challenge Manchester United for the title, who are most people's football betting tips for the league right now. At present they trail the Old Trafford outfit by seven points having played one more game, but with both fixtures between the pair still yet to be played. Their captain John Terry remains upbeat about their chances of retaining their title,
"In the past we've never given up. Manchester United are getting the right results and a little bit of luck - maybe that will turn. We still have to play them twice and if we can then we'll be back in it,"
Tuesday night's performance would suggest that Chelsea have managed to shake the sense of lethargy from their limbs, and their spirited, determined and ruthless display against a strong Bolton side will have been exactly what their fans would have been praying for. But if this is to be more than a flash-in-the-pan recovery then the Blues will have to keep their concentration, as their next three fixtures consist of challenging games against Everton, Sunderland and Liverpool and the football betting indicates all three sides will give them a match.

One factor which suggests that Chelsea might just be back to their best was the sublime strike by Didier Drogba to open the scoring against Bolton. The goal marks his first for the club since he managed to fully shake a bout of malaria which he admitted to playing through, despite him suffering symptoms for over two months. With Essien back, Drogba fit and Ramires finally opening his account for his new club, the future looks far brighter.

Mark van Bommel Joins AC Milan In Free Transfer

Mark van Bommel has been called many things. While some call him, "the dirtiest player alive", others prefer to simply call him "scum". While normally I don't approve of these rude and often over-exaggerated names, in van Bommel's case I might make an exception. Last season the Dutchman amassed an impressive 111 fouls and 16 yellow cards in all competitions, yet never receiving a red card.

While van Bommel is an intelligent central midfielder, with a relatively wide range of passing, his overall style is what turns many people away from him. He tends to plow through his opponents: ramming through them, stepping on them, and using sly tactics to avoid more bookings than he should receive. If you were to categorize Mark van Bommel, you would probably have to put him into a category of his own: a provoking bone-cruncher.

Acting is part of van Bommel's vast repertoire of skills
Regarding the deal which has been signed, Mark van Bommel was released from his contract at Bayern Munich after specially requesting termination of his contract. The club was happy to tear up the player's contract, thanking him for the four years and a half of service, and letting him join AC Milan on a free transfer. Mark van Bommel's deal with AC Milan is six months long, a smart move by the rossoneri. The former Bayern player will be useful in case injuries continue to pile up, but he won't be around for long to drag down the club.

Mark van Bommel joins another newly-signed Dutch player, Emanuelson who arrived from Ajax for about 1.5 million Euros. While Emanuelson will have the shirt number 28, Mark van Bommel will wear the prestigious shirt number four, previously worn by Demetrio Albertini. 

While it's a little early to judge, we might get a chance very soon when AC Milan play against Sampdoria in the Coppa Italia. AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri says that it is likely that the new signings will play, giving them a chance to debut at the San Siro.

It's a strange transfer, probably one which will work out well for AC Milan in the end. What do you think? Share your comments below!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Real Madrid Sign Emmanuel Adebayor On Loan

It was just a matter of time. Mourinho was unhappy at Real Madrid, and the Portuguese had been whining consistently for a center-forward after Gonzalo Higuain's back injury. Emmanuel Adebayor didn't fit into Roberto Mancini's plans at Manchester City, especially considering that Manchester City went out and bought Edin Dzeko in this mid-season transfer window. Now, with Adebayor's loan to Real Madrid, everyone is happy. Adebayor is happy to be in the spotlight, Mourinho is happy to get his center-forward, and Manchester City is happy to (temporarily) rid themselves of the Togo international.

Adebayor wasn't Real Madrid's first choice though. Jose Mourinho was keen on bringing back Ruud Van Nilsterooy to the Bernabeu. But while Real Madrid expected Hamburg to let the striker leave, the German club felt rebellious. Even if Van Nilsterooy was interested in a return to Madrid, his club didn't comply with Real's demands.

Yet Adebayor isn't a bad choice. He's an excellent short-term signing, only causing potential problems if kept for more than a season. Adebayor even decided to cut down on his wages, just to make sure that there were no problems with the deal. If Real Madrid are interested in permanently signing Adebayor from Manchester City, they have what they describe a, "unilateral option", to buy him for 15 million Pounds.
Which Real Madrid player will make way for Adebayor?

While Real Madrid's current stars are already fighting for space, it seems like Adebayor could slot perfectly into the starting eleven. Jose Mourinho's 4-2-3-1 formation would accommodate Adebayor, with Kaka, Ozil, and Cristiano Ronaldo behind him offering extra firepower. That leaves Di Maria and Benzema on the bench, allowing Mourinho to rotate and/or use them as super-subs to inject some adrenaline late into the game.

All that remains a mystery is which player will be on the bench to make way for Adebayor. Could it be Kaka, who has finally returned to form? Or will it be Benzema, unliked by Mourinho? Share your comments below!

Raul Meireles Shines Against Troubled Wolves

It wasn’t all bad under Roy Hodgson. Despite the former Fulham man’s troubled time in charge of Liverpool coming to an abrupt end earlier this month, his presence was felt in a game which ironically signified the club moving on from his time as manager.

Kenny Dalglish’s first win in charge of Liverpool was somewhat of a departure from the manner that Liverpool fans have gotten so used to this season. Desire was the name of the game as his side looked to harass a Wolves side as short of points as they are luck.

Although the 3-0 score line represents a fair result, Mick McCarthy’s side can count themselves slightly unlucky not to have found the net; they troubled the Liverpool defence, particularly in the second half, and the arrival of new signing Adam Hammill did much to boost the home side’s attacking prowess.

But the man doing most of the damage in the game was to be found in red rather than gold. Although Hodgson’s time in charge will be quickly forgotten by the Anfield faithful,  Raul Meireles provided a fitting final goodbye to the man that signed him.

The absence of Steven Gerrard meant that someone new was needed to put their hand up and take control of the game, and that someone turned out to be the former Porto man. Feeding the fired up Fernando Torres for Liverpool’s first goal, Meireles displayed a clear head where plenty others would have fired a shot into to side netting, Meireles selflessly teed up the Spaniard for an easy tap in. His second contribution to the game was somewhat more spectacular. A Wolves half clearance dropped to the Portuguese international; technique and timing did the rest as he volleyed home a contender for goal of the season.

But his contribution went beyond that. His work rate set the tempo for the rest of the team to follow and his range of passing looked as though his personal mission was to exorcise the ghost of Xavi Alonso. Blackpool’s Charlie Adam may be the man to take up that challenge in the long term, but Meireles's delightfully chipped pass to play in JonJo Shelvey gave an indication of his passing ability. If Dalglish can accommodate him into a midfield alongside Gerrard, the returning Liverpool boss will have a midfield which big free bet will back to match most teams in the league.

The sight of Liverpool’s two holding midfielders betrayed the intent with which they set out to play, and alongside Meireles, Dalglish would have been happy with the contributions of the much maligned Christian Poulson as well as Fernando Torres. Although glimpses of defensive frailties were evident, Dalglish will look back fondly on an almost perfect weekend. Bigfreebet will likely see a shift in punters supporting the Red’s late push for a European spot if they continue in this manner.

The emergence of Meireles will be an added bonus to the feel-good atmosphere surrounding Anfield since “The King” returned to the hot seat. Although Hodgson’s time at the club will be remembered for its failure, he can find comfort in bringing the talented Portuguese midfielder to Anfield. The win at Molineux closed the chapter on his time with Liverpool, and now they will look forward to an altogether more successful period. It just so happens that the man to usher in the new era, is a man from Liverpool’s darker days.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Berbatov's Hat-Trick Gives Manchester United Important Boost

An imperious display from Dimitar Berbatov
The Bulgarian is a goal machine. Dimitar Berbatov has scored another hat-trick, his third this season in the Premier League. It was another routine home-win for Manchester United, a 5-0 thumping of Birmingham City with all of Old Trafford revelling in Berbatov's predatorial grace.

But it wasn't a one-man-band, although he didn't score, Wayne Rooney provided two wonderful assists in his excellent display. The English striker was instrumental in almost all of Manchester United's build-up play, linking up wonderfully with his flowery touch. The only reason he wasn't on the scoresheet was because he missed a header about a meter from the goal, but Rooney's return to scoring seems imminent in this form.

These aren't just another three points for Manchester United. Manchester City lost away against Aston Villa, with new signing Darren Bent scoring on his debut for Villa. His tap-in decided the match, with Manchester City trying very hard to overcome a defensive Aston Villa team which ultimately held on to the 1-0 victory. Although Manchester City kept the ball well, and were ominously circulating around Villa's box, they weren't incisive enough to create many opportunities.

He missed a penalty,  but RVP still scored a hat-trick against Wigan
Meanwhile, Arsenal defeated Wigan Athletic with a simple 3-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium. Robin van Persie scored all three, missing a penalty on the way to his hat-trick. It's important to note that Wigan's keeper, Al Habsi was fantastic, keeping the score slightly respectable for Wigan.

Now the table has a slightly different look to it, with Blackburn hosting West Bromwich tomorrow and Chelsea still having to travel to play Bolton Wanderers on Monday. With a two point lead over Arsenal, Manchester United are looking more and more comfortable in first place with two games in hand. While they do have to play some tough games in the future, Sir Alex Ferguson's team doesn't seem worried about anything right now. As long as Berbatov continues shining alongside an ever-blossoming Rooney, the title is in Manchester United's hands.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chelsea Back On The Right Track

Although Chelsea have blown a massive opportunity to be well clear at the top of the table, in a Premier League season where everybody is dropping points – in Manchester United's case, even without losing – they do seem to have turned their season around in time to save their boss from the sack. Had their dismal run of form continued then it would have been almost inevitable that Roman Abramovich would have wielded his managerial axe once more, but three wins in a row following the 7-0 FA Cup rout of Ipswich has breathed new life into a campaign which seemed to be circling the drain.

With just two wins from ten domestic fixtures, rumours of discontent amongst the playing squad, the surprise dismissal of popular coach Ray Wilkins, and Frank Lampard's admission that he had "lost the feeling of being able to win every week", it seemed that all hope was lost of not just winning the title that bookies had been offerings football odds as short as 1/3 for, but also of even qualifying in the top four and retaining Champions' League football for next season.

But with the recent change in luck – or at least results – Chelsea head into a tough run of fixtures starting with an away match against an in-form Bolton Wanderers. From there they face away fixtures against Everton in the FA Cup and Sunderland in the league, before welcoming Liverpool to Stamford Bridge – the team whose 2-0 victory back in November acted as the catalyst for their downfall.

Carlo Ancelotti however remains upbeat about his side's chances of rediscovering the form they were showing at the start of the season, and of putting together a late charge up the table, even if the football predictions suggest otherwise.

"We're doing better. The difficult moment is gone. It was very important to show the quality we used to show in the past – we are working hard, we are able to move on and we will be stronger,"
said Carlo Ancelotti.

The timing couldn't be better either – as Everton's Steven Pienaar has chosen a move to rivals Spurs ahead of them, it seems unlikely that any new faces will be arriving this transfer window.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eric Cantona Becomes New York Cosmos Director Of Soccer

Image from The Sun

Eric Cantona has returned to the world of soccer. The former Manchester United legend announced that he will be New York Cosmos's Director of Soccer. Eric Cantona joins Pele (honorary president) and Cobi Jones (associate sporting director) at the New York Cosmos, and he has big aspirations. Here's what he said about the Cosmos to The Sun in an interview,

"I am very honoured to join the legendary New York Cosmos. It's a big project, a wonderful project. The Cosmos are very strong, beautifully made, with a great past. It's kind of a mix between football and art. I will do everything I can to help us first find our way to regain the No 1 position in the United States, and then for us to become one of the best clubs in the world."
Cantona's role at the New York Cosmos will be to help rebuild the team, starting by attracting professional players to the club. We might see David Beckham helping rebuild the Cosmos with Cantona in the future, because there are heavy ties linking him to the New York club. While the New York Cosmos are building a formidable team of board members and directors, will they build just as strong a team? We'll just have to wait and see.

Borussia Dortmund Continue Bundesliga Domination

Dortmund's players believe they can win the club's seventh title

In the past decade the Bundesliga has been eclipsed by Bayern Munich. In the past fifteen seasons Bayern Munich have won nine titles, and in the past ten seasons they have won six, maintaining a prolific 3:5 title to season ratio. While before German football was dominated by the Bavarian giants, this season the Bundesliga dances to a different tune, Borussia Dortmund's tune.

Borussia Dortmund have been truly suffocating the competition in Germany's top tier of football. Dortmund are in first place, with a staggering 12 point lead between them and second-placed Hannover 96. Jurgen Klopp revolutionized a team which previously could only arrive in sixth place, into a team which currently fears nothing.

This past weekend, Borussia Dortmund had a big test. Klopp's team had to travel away from home to face Bayer Leverkusen, and surrounding this match was a large amount of hopefuls, saying that Borussia Dortmund would buckle under the pressure under the spotlight.

Borussia Dortmund's motivating coach, Jurgen Klopp
But what took place in against Leverkusen wasn't a tense battle, it was a waltz in which Dortmund comfortably won 3-1. Like a team of miners, excavating towards goal in luxurious style, Dortmund made the Leverkusen players as uncomfortable as they've been in quite some time. Tireless in attack, Borussia Dortmund's players scored three goals in six minutes, in the 49th, 53rd, and 55th minutes. Kevin Gro├čkreutz scored the first two, and 18 year-old Mario Gotze scored the third.

All three goals were wonderful. Borussia Dortmund were an organic mechanism, working together in picking apart a shaky and imperfect defence. Mario Gotze tortured Leverkusen in his scintillating performance, and was ultimately substituted because Klopp feared that a Leverkusen player would try and harm the young genius.

Before the season started, this dominance was unimaginable. Borussia Dortmund are on the track to winning their seventh Bundesliga title, and they're doing it in style. Can Bayern Munich make a 16 point comeback? Share your comments below!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Real Madrid Halted In 1-1 Draw At Almeria

La Liga has been a constant battle this season. Jose Mourinho brings a sinister atmosphere wherever he goes, and compared with this shimmering Barcelona team, Mourinho looks even more like a "bad guy". While Barcelona had no trouble in their 4-1 win over Malaga, Real Madrid were unable to defeat bottom-placed Almeria.

Real Madrid are the comeback kings. While Barcelona oppress teams with their staggering patience in possession and one touch passing, Real Madrid are a spasmodic bundle of energy, outrunning and often overkilling their opponents. While it often happens that teams manage to stall Real for the first half, the athleticism and motivation - which Mourinho creates - crushes Real Madrid's opponent.

Almeria grabbed the unlikely lead in the second half, Ulloa striking a diagonal ball past the badly-positioned Casillas. The Real defence had left Ulloa completely alone, and when the ball bounced to the Argentine, he clinically finished, low and hard.

Ulloa celebrating his opening goal
While Jose Mourinho gave Kaka a place in the starting eleven, he replaced the Brazilian with Karim Benzema in the second half. And it was the Frenchman who provided other substitute Granero the assist for the equalizer. Benzema laid the ball off for the oncoming Granero, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net.

But after the equalizer, the forever desirous Mourinho wasn't given his sixth victory running in La Liga. Instead Almeria held on, the players doing their best to suffocate Ronaldo, Ozil, and Di Maria. Yet the "try-hard" Ronaldo had to have his moment; a late free kick, in the final minutes of the match. Yet instead of rocketing it into the back of the net, it collided against the crossbar. This time, the comeback kings were unable to channel their frenzied attacks into goals.

Now La Liga is slowly slipping away from Real's grasp. While Mourinho's men might be able to rally themselves by Thursday, when they play Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey, they have a majestic rival. Barcelona seem unstoppable, their latest win against Malaga is their 13th in a row in La Liga. It will take something special from Real Madrid if they want to have a chance of winning La Liga.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jean Makoun Joins Aston Villa

Jean Makoun when he played for Lille
Aston Villa have signed Jean Makoun from Olympique Lyonnais for about 6 million Pounsa. The Cameroon midfielder joins Villa in 19th position, and he should be able to bring some solidity to the midfield. Makoun is a dynamic defensive midfielder, he's seen in front of the defence spreading passes around and offering an extra layer of protection in front of goal.

It's a great signing for Aston Villa. The 27 year-old is a very talented and hardworking player. Makoun won't be diving into two-footed tackles with his studs up, in fact in 17 appearances for Lyon this season, he's only received one yellow card. Villa fans might still be scratching their head, wondering who Makoun exactly is, a special goal of his might help remember him. This was in the Champions League last season, and Lyon were against Real Madrid in the round of 16. Makoun provided a solid defensive performance, and produced this gem of a goal.

While Makoun won't be playing for Aston Villa tomorrow away against Birmingham City, I do believe that the player will have a positive impact once his work permit is sorted out. Aston Villa have only gotten four points out of their last fifteen possible, and this has a lot to do with the large amount of goals the team concedes. Makoun should be able to provide cover for the back four, while also distributing the ball and creating a few chances for him and his teammates.

It's certainly a great signing for Aston Villa, but it could last just until the summer. If Makoun has a great second half of the season with Aston Villa, I could see "bigger" clubs calling his name. Manchester United could use a player like Makoun in their midfield, and Makoun would also be useful to Arsenal. But for now he's an Aston Villa player, and I expect great things from Jean Makoun in the English Premier League.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

SUFC Shirt: Let 'Em Hang Blue

I recently won this awesome t-shirt from Studs Up Football Club. I just thought I'd give them a mention because they have fantastic shirts, and I think I'll certainly be getting myself a few in the future.

If you're not interested in buying awesome shirts, I highly suggest you check out Studs Up. Chris Toy's hilarious comic strips are relatable to what's going on in the world of soccer right now, and his writing is wonderful. He has plenty of cleat and gear reviews worth checking out, so head over there if you've got time to spare.

Here's the official SWU Youtube video of opening the shirt along with a few pictures of it. It's my favorite of the selection, but there's plenty other awesome ones!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lionel Messi Wins 2011 Ballon D'Or

Choosing the winner of the 2011 Ballon D'Or seemed like a tough decision to make. Three Barcelona geniuses, all with a chance to be crowned as the best player of the world. Iniesta and Xavi had just triumphed in the World Cup with Spain, but Messi was part of an amazing season for Barcelona, scoring 43 goals in 57 matches. Xavi Hernandez seemed like the favorite because of his long and underrated career as a true midfield maestro, but Andres Iniesta had scored the goal in the World Cup final, making Spain the world champions for the first time in the nation's history.
The trio of nominees, from left to right, Xavi, Messi, and Iniesta

While all this speculation was amassed, it seemed unlikely that Lionel Messi would win the Ballon D'Or for the second year in a row. But the Argentine won the award with his loveable humility on display for everyone,
I’m happy, but I didn’t expect it because everyone had been talking so much about Xavi and Andres [Iniesta]. They also deserved it for the wonderful year they had. They won the World Cup, which usually goes a long way to deciding who wins this award, and they both had big parts to play in that. That’s why I thought one of them would be going up to collect the trophy. It was a wonderful surprise.
It really is fantastic seeing such a fantastic player with so much humility. Yet I feel that if there was a year where Xavi or Iniesta would've won the award, it would've been this one. As for the Soccer Wrap Up poll which all you readers voted in, it was Lionel Messi who got more than 55% of your votes. Xavi came in second place with about 25% and Iniesta came last with 17%. Thank you for voting!

Jose Mourinho, winner of the Coach of the Year award of 2011
But there was more than one award given out at the FIFA gala. Marta won female player of the year for the fifth time running, and it was Jose Mourinho who won the Coach of the Year award. I really think that the Coach of the Year award winner is spot on, Jose Mourinho truly deserves the award after his historic season at Inter Milan. While of course Vicente Del Bosque won the World Cup, and Josep Guardiola won another La Liga title with Barcelona, the two Spaniards had much more talent to work with, and they ultimately achieved less.

What are your thoughts on Messi winning the award? Many say that this was to be Xavi's year of recognition, do you agree? And do you think Jose Mourinho truly deserves the coach of the year award? Share your comments below!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Was Roy Hodgson Destined To Fail At Liverpool?

Roy Hodgson's presentation
After Roy Hodgson left Liverpool, this question sprung immediately into my mind: was Roy Hodgson destined to fail at Liverpool? If you look at it, there are few other jobs which entail a bigger revival needed than Liverpool's. When Roy first joined the Liverpool project, there were fans burning American flags to spite the incompetent owners, there was a shattered group of players searching for a saviour, and there was Roy. Looking at Roy, he seemed out of place in the disaster setup that was going on. A calm and experienced manager, looking to do his best with what he could. Wasn't he exactly what Liverpool needed? So, like a sane man joining a group of lunatics, Roy soon found it difficult to cope with the multiple troubles which sprung up.

While last season the Liverpool train wreck was entertaining, this season I found it a little bit sad. I saw Roy, doing his best to permeate a sense of order throughout the club, even if the players weren't even of his choice. Roy Hodgson had to do his best with a group selected by the previous manager Rafa Benitez, with some of the key players like Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano gone. Roy tried to do the sensible thing: bring in the best players he could with the limited financial resources at his disposal. Hodgson signed the dependable defender Konchesky, swapped Yossi Benayoun for Joe Cole, and did his best with what he could, getting Poulsen and Raul Mereiles to strengthen the midfield, along with Jovanovic at no cost. Roy also managed to keep the two talismans (Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard), therefore having two players he could count on in times of trouble (but not really). I don't think I could've done a better job myself with the poor resources given, and the fact that Liverpool weren't in the Champions League made it even harder to attract top-quality players.

Throughout his career at Liverpool, it seems to me that Roy has always tried to do the sensible thing. He tried to make a disorganized group into a strong team, teaching them about "cooperation" and "working together". Roy tried to build from the bottom up, the foundations first, with the individuality and star-power of the players coming second. At Fulham it worked, so why wouldn't it work at Liverpool?

The darker times for Roy Hodgson

You could say that there is a difference in the expectations at Fulham and at Liverpool. Strangely enough, Liverpool fans seem to ignore the fact that the majority of their squad is made up of average players, with a couple of more notable ones littered around here and there. So while the fans should be expecting a season to rebuild, regroup, and refocus, they expected a season of glory and trophies. And while the high expectations of the fans weren't being met, the Liverpool ownership was like a pendulum sustained by a thin and frail string.

Ultimately a distraction came for Roy Hodgson. New England Sports Ventures (NESV) bought the club, giving Roy about a month in which the head honcho (John W. Henry) was being questioned by the media about his plans for Liverpool. The new owners seemed like a sensible bunch, and they realized that this shambles of what was once a great side couldn't be rebuilt overnight. Roy got the vote of confidence, and was allowed to continue his work with one less thing to worry about.

But Roy didn't realize that he had a stone wall, impeding his progress in managing Liverpool. While he did his best to get his players to work hard and execute his plans, the players didn't seem to understand Roy. My theory about managers is: a manager can tell, teach, and motivate all he wants, but in the end it's the players who will do what they want. Yet no matter what, the manager will always be blamed. This sad truth was the real reason behind Roy Hodgson's and Liverpool's "mutual consent". Maybe the players aren't completely to blame, but they certainly had their part in Roy's unemployment.

Liverpool's appointed caretaker manager, Kenny Dalglish

As things have become slightly steadier at Liverpool now, the owners (NESV) felt that there wasn't enough unpredictability among the club. So they got rid of the sensible Roy Hodgson, and they appointed the sprited fan favorite Kenny Dalglish. I can't say how things will go now for Liverpool; maybe Dalglish will get more out of this group of players, but in my humble opinion, Roy was best left alone. Roy Hodgson came in at the worst of times, took the abuse, and left when the good times looked ready to start. There's a man to admire.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Barcelona's New Jersey With Qatar Foundation Sponsor

Possible Barcelona 2011/12 away shirt with the Qatar sponsor

When Barcelona announced that they would be allowing the Qatar Foundation to be their shirt sponsor, the world gasped. What about Unicef? Where would they go? Fans were assured that the expert designers at Nike would do their best to incorporate the two sponsor logos somehow.

This is the first sneak peak at a possible Barcelona 2011/12 away shirt, and there's no sign of Unicef on it. This shirt is certainly part the away kit, with the blaugrana stripes remaining on the home shirt. I really like this black color mixed with the golden detailing, it's got a sleek look to it. 

As for the home shirt, there was a possible design leaked some time ago which has sparked a reaction (mostly negative) from fans. Next season's home shirt features much thinner stripes with a diagonal pattern of the stripes getting thicker. While you might be recoiling in disgust, I actually don't think it's that bad. The blaugrana colors are still there, and the thickness of the stripes isn't really important to me.
Barcelona's 2011/12 home shirt design which was leaked
While the Unicef logo is still on the image of the home shirt, it's probably only because the Qatar Foundation logo hadn't been designed yet. What are your thoughts regarding the kits and the whole matter of Barcelona finally selling the front of their shirt to a sponsor? While I think it's sad that Barcelona change their history for economic gain, it was going to happen one day or another. 

I like both of the designs, especially the away one, which one is your favorite? Share your comments below!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fights Within Manchester City As Edin Dzeko Arrives

Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor being separated by teammates
There has been much criticism aimed towards Roberto Mancini's Manchester City. Although the Italian has guided City to third in the Premier League table, he still has a lot of work to do. This hectic month is the window for City to get rid of a few problems, and buy a talented Bosnian forward.

It seems like every team in the Premier League lacks something this season. Arsenal could use a pair of strong defenders, Manchester United wouldn't mind a creative central midfielder, and Manchester City lacks overall team spirit. While there are plenty stars at the club, it doesn't mean that they get along with each other. From homesick Carlos Tevez to wild Mario Balotelli, Manchester City are an asylum with their hands full of patients.

The latest spat/scrap/punch-out was between two former Arsenal players, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor. Funnily enough, this latest ardent disagreement is right before Manchester City travel to face Arsenal. The two players lost their cool during a non-contact practice match when Toure stuck his leg out behind him in order to halt Adebayor. The Togo international wasn't too happy, and the two eventually had to be physically separated by teammates.
Tricky Toure decides to leave his leg behind, tripping Adebayor
This isn't the first time we've seen animosity in the Manchester City camp. Mario Balotelli has had his fair share of disagreements with many squad members, and Carlos Tevez and Roberto Mancini have come close to exchanging blows in the locker room. It really isn't a surprise that Adebayor has begun to get a little restless, especially with the mid-season transfer window upon us. 

Adebayor's restlessness could be caused by Edin Dzeko, the tall, strong, goalscoring Bosnian forward who will soon be arriving at City from Wolfsburg. The two clubs have decided on the price of 27 million Pounds, and it seems like the move has already been sorted out. But where does this leave unhappy Adebayor? 

Well, there's another unhappy man situated in Madrid who has been demanding a proper center-forward. After Gonzalo Higuain suffered an injury which will sideline him for about six months, the only true striker left at Real Madrid is Karim Benzema. Jose Mourinho has been keeping his eyes on Adebayor, and a loan deal with the possibility of becoming a permanent transfer would certainly please the Portuguese coach. But Adebayor has also been observed by Malaga, owned by a member of the royal family of Qatar, and they're willing to pay Emmanuel a hefty salary if he joins. It wouldn't be unlikely that Adebayor goes to ply his trade in Spain for the rest of the season, making pretty much everybody happier.

But looking at all this internal tension at Manchester City, could Mancini's team get a result at the Emirates? Mario Balotelli and David Silva are unable to play, and Arsenal have just defeated Birmingham City at St. Andrew's Stadium 3-0, so an Arsenal win seems the most likely result. Share your comments on what you think will happen below!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Adidas F50 Adizero Prime Revealed!

The orange version of the F50 Adizero Prime

Adidas revolutionized the idea of a lightweight boot when they released the F50 Adizero. Now they have raised the bar yet again with their release of the Adidas F50 Adizero Prime. While Puma held the title of, "lightest cleat in the world" with the Puma V1.10 SL, Adidas managed to shave off about 20 grams from the original F50 Adizero, making the Prime version an impressive 145 grams (or 5.2 ounces).
The orange colorway of the Adidas F50 Adizero Prime

There are many things which helped this drastic decrease in weight, and a lot of it has to do with Adidas's new synthetic upper called, Adilite Twin. It's a single layer (to reduce weight obviously) upper, and it seems like Adidas have put the majority of their effort into the synthetic version of this boot. This is interesting to me, mainly because with the Adidas F50 Adizero, most professionals decide to go with the leather version. While the leather is slightly heavier, it offers better comfort along with a better touch and protection.

The adiLite Twin synthetic upper

The lines on the upper are supposed to help with ball control etc.

The Prime also feature kevlar laces (which help reduce weight and are probably more durable) along with the (in my opinion) very important TPU bottom frame. The TPU bottom frame is the strip between the outsole and the upper which offers lateral support and stability along with protecting the upper from general damage.

There is also a leather version, but there hasn't been much said regarding it. There won't be TPU support in the leather version, mainly because it isn't needed with the leather upper which is already durable enough on its own.

Some sideshots of the leather version

The inside of the leather version of the F50 Adizero Prime

Right now only three colorways have been announced for the Adizero Prime. You've already seen the orange and black ones above, but Adidas have obviously created a unique chrome colorway for Lionel Messi. Strangely enough, it feels like I've already seen a similar colorway... Silver, orange, and a bit of black? Very similar to Nike's Elite range which was very popular during the World Cup, does anyone else see the similarity?

Whoops! How did that slip in there? Anyone else see the similarity?

With the fact that Adidas has created the lightest boot in the world now, they've decided to crank up the price. I've read many different prices on many different websites and blogs, but expect the prime version of this cleat to be at least $300. I wouldn't be surprised if Adidas tried to put it all the way up around $400, just so that they can compete with Nike.

I want to mention that I'll be reviewing a pair of Adidas F50 Adizero soon, and if you're interested in reading the preview, you can check it out by clicking here.

An exciting release, and now we'll have to see what Nike's reaction is. While Nike have been pumping out plenty of new colorways for their cleats, they haven't mentioned anything regarding a new speed boot. Adidas have the crown of the lightest boot in the world, for now...


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