A star added to the Bayern Munich crest. Yes, they were crowned champions domestically and in Europe for the fifth time in the 2012/2013 season. It was coming sooner or later with the disappointments faced in 2010 and 2012. This Bayern Munich team have been resilient and the signing of Pep Guardiola is a mark of intent as to which direction the club is heading. Having said that, one cannot take away credit from an exceptional Borussia Dortmund team who have lost only twice in the tournament overcoming the likes of Manchester City, Malaga and Real Madrid to reach the final. Klopp has built a team which have stood firm following their recent success and although the underdogs for the final, no one could question their display against the German and European champions. Their only weakness was a lack of sharpness in the centre of defence with the pairing of Hummels and Subotic. It cost them dearly and Klopp admitted that the final that may happen in Berlin, two years from now, is a realistic target for Dortmund. Only a brave man, with one of the strongest mentalities could make such a claim straight after a loss in the final. As Lineker said, “football is a game played by 22 men kicking a ball about for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win.... and lose”. I couldn’t agree more after watching these two teams dominate the biggest names in European football, Real Madrid and Barcelona, to say the least.
It was a night of joy in particular for Arjen Robben who savoured that late goal. This man has endured heartache after his displays in the 2010 world cup and the 2012 champions league finals. He missed several chances against Spain only for Iniesta to capitalise late into the game to crown them world champions in 2010. And against Chelsea, it was a night to forget for Robben. He missed several chances including a penalty into extra time which could have given them the edge over Chelsea. Subsequently, he did not step up to take a penalty after extra time clearly down to his lack of confidence as a result of his missed chances.
However yesterday, there was no better player than Robben in the second half. He took his chances well and was sharp on the ball. He looked threatening cutting in from the wing, trademark Robben, but better. He capitalised well on the lack of concentration from Subotic and Hummels to finish cooly into the corner of the goal getting the better of weidenfeller for only the second time in the game. Bayern Munich deserved that win and Robben’s tears at the end sums up what that trophy and performance meant to him. Jupp Heynckes’ tears in his post match conference against Borussia Mönchengladbach were justified as he is the only manager ever to reach the champions league finals for every team he has managed in the champions league. He leaves with his head held high only to set up the stage for the incoming, Pep Gurdiola.
Nirav Khant (twitter: @nirav_rk)
The transfer merry go round continues as clubs work on strengthening their squads. With four of the top 6 changing managers, expect much more transfer activity to come but let’s see what’s been happening at the mid table clubs.
Emanuele Giaccherini has completed a move to Sunderland from Italian champions Juventus. The 28 year old becomes Paolo Di Canio’s 9th signing this window following a £8.6 million move. Having only made 17 appearances for Juventus last season, the winger was impressive for Italy during the confederations cup and wants to cement his place for the forthcoming world cup in Brazil. He scored 3 times and created 3 assists mostly coming off the bench but he should be a regular starter at the stadium of light and with only 1 yellow card last season, he has fantasy point potential.
Once linked with Arsenal and Barcelona, the much sought after Kenyan defensive midfielder, Victor Wanyama, has put pen to paper with Southampton on a £12.5 million deal. His impressive performances for Celtic particularly against Barcelona in the champions league have earned him a strong reputation. Being a defensive midfielder, his goal to game ratio for Celtic has been is 1 in 6 games and with a high number of passes and pass accuracy, expect a few assists as well from the 22 year old for your UFC team.
Maicon has completed a move to AS Roma from Manchester city where he played a bit part role making only 7 appearances. This loosens competition at the right back spot with only Richards and Zabaleta available. Micah Richards had an injury riddled 2012/13 season but is back fit and in training with the city squad. Expect Richards to play more and 20 appearances is the least you can budget for from the right back. He has solid assist and clean sheet potential and pellegrini has hinted Richards would be getting more game time.
In other news, Stephen Harper has finally called time on his Newcastle United career. Well, discounting his 6 loan spells in that time at least. The 38 year old has completed a move to Hull City on a free transfer and the veteran adds experience to their current squad. Harper will mainly be used as a back-up goal keeper but is worth a second-choice shot stopper for your UFC team.
I read an article recently (which I can't currently find) that talked about the evolution of English soccer/football. The English Premier League is arguably the most competitive of the major European leagues (La Liga in Spain, Ligue 1 in France, Bundesliga in Germany, Serie A in Italy, Eredivisie in Netherlands). However, the quality of international play has suffered. As of this post, the English national soccer team is ranked #14 in the FIFA World Rankings. Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands are in the top six.
Critics have pointed to the dominance of the English Premier League as the cause of the demise of the English national soccer team. The argument is that so many foreigners have come to the league that they have pushed the local English out. More than two-thirds of the players in opening matches in the Premier League were foreigners. Club owners rightfully want the best for their club. If they have the option to chose between a star foreign player or an Englishman a little worse, the former will be chosen. This has caused Englishmen not good enough to play in foreign leagues or those below the Premier League. The quality of play in these leagues are often second-tier and so these players do not experience as high quality play as they could be.
Now personally, I'm all for keeping the Premier League the way it is. I don't think it's the main reason of the demise of the English national soccer team. The Premier League is a global brand, and it needs to stay that way. It's the Mecca of world football. Germany's Bundesliga and Spain's La Liga mainly feature local players, but the Premier League is the most recognized worldwide because of its diversity. To be honest, this benefits England more than the national team's success. Club soccer is bigger than international. Honestly, there are very few hardcore fans of an international team. And by that, I mean the fans that religiously follow the team year-round (not every fourth year during the FIFA World Cup). They should not sacrifice the popularity of the league at the expense of the international team.
Also, the increased quality of play in the Premier League simply means that the English players in that league compete against stronger opposition. Theoretically, this should mean they play a higher quality game and improve more than second-tier players. They are playing the leaders of most international teams on a weekly basis during their club fixtures. Shouldn't this be adequate preparation? I mean, if most of the players in the Premier League were English, the players would be at a disadvantage when they play international teams because they are used to only competing against their own countrymen and not the top players in the world.