Juventus: Matri the unlikely hero for the Old Lady and his loyal coach Allegri

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Juventus went mightily close to surrendering their chances of a possible treble, Lazio substitute Felipe Djordjevic beating goalkeeper Marco Storari early in extra-time with a rasping drive that cannoned off both posts and back out of the goalmouth. It would certainly have been contentious, Juventus’ own substitute Alessandro Matri having a goal cruelly disallowed for offside in the 87th minute of normal time of a Coppa Italia final which saw the Old Lady and the Biancocelesti match each other blow for blow from the very first whistle.

Matri however would have last laugh, sweeping home the winner after Carlos Tevez was shut-out by Lazio’s desperate defending. They were to be let down by Etrit Berisha, the goalkeeper who could have done better with the striker’s rather tame effort, but there was a felicitous quality about Matri wheeling away to celebrate the goal that had delivered his manager the second part of a domestic treble.

Matri played under Massimiliano Allegri at Cagliari for two seasons before the manager left for AC Milan while Matri was signed by Juventus. Two years later and the pair where reunited in Milan, Allegri spending €11 million on the forward and handing him the number 9 shirt. The goals would dry up though and five months later he would find himself being loaned out to Fiorentina, then Genoa last summer where an upturn in form resulted in Juventus, now managed by Allegri, take him back on another temporary spell to plug the gap left by the sale of Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto FC.

With Milan paying half of his €2.5 million salary, it was a low-risk deal for Juventus who got a fourth-choice striker who brought with him a wealth of experience and the ability to chip in with a goal when needed. He has started just 5 times since moving back to Turin in February but he has 2 vital goals to his name, the opener in the second-leg win over Fiorentina in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, then the winner in the final. The presence of Matri, plus Juventus’s luxury of tying up the Serie A title early, has allowed Allegri to juggle his attacking options, giving rest to Alvaro Morata, Fernando Llorente and Tevez as he chased trophies on three-fronts.

All four have now made invaluable contributions to position the Old Lady with two trophies already in the bag and with a chance to add a historic third in Berlin on June 6th. Their 10th Coppa Italia will position a silver star above their badge next season alongside three gold stars to mark 30+ league wins, but even if it won’t guarantee a star, a third European Cup will be the trophy they most covet on the 30th anniversary of when they first lifted it- the still haunting disaster of Heysel in 1985.

A fourth straight Scudetto will bring salient discussions about the league’s lack of competitiveness, they are currently 16 points ahead of second placed Roma, but the achievement of Allegri’s debut season in Turin cannot be diminished. Juventus’ director general Beppe Moratta recalls how the car he, Allegri and club president Andrea Agnelli were travelling in when the former Milan coach was brought in to replace Antonio Conte was pelted with eggs, kicked and spat at by supporters who waved a banner reading ‘We don’t want Allegri!.’

Allegri had delivered a first Scudetto to Milan since 2004 during his first season at the San Siro and overcame the departures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva to lead the Rossoneri to a third place finish in his second season. Though with Milan sat in 11th at the start of 2014 he was sacked and that sat more prevalently with Juventus fans. Allegri had been out of work since that January and arrived on a salary of €2.5 million for 2 years with lot of winning over to be done.

Arriving “amidst chaos” last July according to defender Leonardo Bonucci, 10 months later and Allegri has done far more than his original mandate. Few could have ever foreseen a third-ever domestic double let alone a chance to win a treble and it is twenty years since they last won the Coppa, when Marcelo Lippi was in charge.

Allegri took a squad that was accustomed to winning and made them win a bit more, maintaining the central core of players that had provided the spine of Conte’s hat-trick of league wins; Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli forming a fearsome spine of class mixed with endeavour and nous.

It was Juventus’ natural 3-5-2 that overcame Lazio, Chiellini and Barzagli partnering Bonucci in a seasoned back-line that is given protection by the evergreen brilliance of Andrea Pirlo in-front of them. Pogba and Vidal meanwhile do the scurrying and harrying while Tevez, scorer of 29 goals this term, leads from the front with his own fiery brand of energy. It all awaits Barcelona in Berlin in just over a week’s time.

Left-back Patrice Evra, veteran of Manchester United’s trophy-laden years, was added for £1.2 million and Alvaro Morata, the talented youngster frozen out by Real Madrid’s new wave of Galactico, was signed for £17 million. The Spaniard has returned 12 goals, including the important away goal against his former club in the semi-final of the Champions League.

Other signings included Stefano Sturaro and Roberto Pereyra who were acquired to address cover options in various areas of the squad. Plus, in February there was Matri, on Wednesday evening reminding everyone how you can’t forget about him. Allegri surely never will.


Written by Adam Gray

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Football Crossword: Serie A Sensations

To celebrate a super season of Italian football, we’ve dedicated this week’s football crossword to Serie A. So if you think you know your Maldinis and your Mancinis, come with us on another puzzle adventure!


Clues Across

7 World-Cup winning Brazilian keeper who had two stints with Parma (8)

8 Mr Lamela, he moved from Roma to Spurs in 2013 (4)

9 Pierluigi Casiraghi’s nickname, for short (4)

10 Speedy Brazilian wing-back who arrived at AC Milan in 1999 (8)

11 Ex-Juventus defender Igor Tudor played international football for them (7)

12 _ Hamsik, Napoli’s Slovakian captain (5)

14 Roberto Donadoni’s already-relegated Serie A side (5)

16 Non-playing position - Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella, for example (7)

19 Which Turkish club bought Inter flop Ricardo Quaresma in 2010? (8)

20 Legendary Anfield striker signed by Juventus in the mid-1980s (4)

21 Veteran Cameroon striker who signed for Sampdoria from Everton in January (4)

22 Christian, French international midfielder who played for Sampdoria in the 1990s (8)


Clues Down

1 Inter’s long-serving Argentine captain whose number 4 shirt retired along with him in 2014 (6,7)

2 South _ , they were one-time Lazio defender Mark Fish’s national team (6)

3 Italian club where Roberto Baggio ended his playing career (7)

4 Source of bright light and smoke from the stands (5)

5 Jonathan, French defender previously with Cagliari, Roma, Juventus and Brescia (6)

6 Ghana midfielder at Milan nicknamed “The Bison” (7,6)

13 Iconic Serie A ground officially known as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (3,4)

15 Brazilian right-back at Roma who played for Inter between 2006 and 2012 (6)

17 Miralem Pjanic and Kevin Strootman’s club (2,4)

18 After spells at Roma and Milan, Bojan Krkic now plays for which Premier League club? (5)


Answers to this week’s crossword puzzle will pop in a random article within the next few days or so. So be on the look out for ’em!


Created by Aleric Linden

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Iago Falque: Former Barca prodigy finally living up to his potential

Started his career with the Real Madrid academy in 2001 and then moved across to Barcelona’s youth set-up for seven years, big things were expected from the Spaniard. Iago’s natural position is on the flanks, he is a tricky, dynamic winger who is very comfortable on the ball.

Now at the age of 25, Falque has already represented several clubs across Europe.

He moved to Juventus from Barcelona, signing a four-year contract. He was immediately loaned to Serie A side A.S. Bari, where he played for the club’s youth team, before returning to Juve’s academy in January 2010. The Italian giants then sent him back to Spain, on loan to Villareal B, where he had an impressive campaign – scoring eleven goals in thirty-six appearances, but Villarreal decided not to make a permanent offer.

Premier League side Tottenham took a chance on Iago, originally on a season long-loan and then on a permanent deal. But again the former Barcelona man was on the move, he had loan spells at Southampton, as well as Spanish clubs Almeria and Rayo Vallecano.  Struggling to settle down is an underestimate.

Last summer Genoa purchased the winger for approximately €5m.

Now approaching the end of the season, it’s fair to say Falque is having the best season to date – scoring thirteen in all competitions and seven in his last eight games. He has helped his side challenge for a Europa league position as Genoa sit fifth in the standings – having won four from five games.

That form has seen him linked with big moves this month, including the likes of Inter Milan, Valencia and Villarreal.

But Falque is set to stay with Genoa - according to his agent.

“Iago is very well with the city and with the fans. And with the club, as well as with a coach who make the most of him thanks to the continuity and freedom that has given him in the field. Inter, Milan , Valencia, Villarreal? Right now they are just and only rumours. He is quiet and just wants to finish the most of this wonderful season. After the season ends, any club interested should call Genoa and talk about it with the president. He is still in Genoa, we’ll see what happens. If Genoa will listen to offers we will evaluate, otherwise we will respect his contract.”

Loan after loan, I began to think that it would never happen for the young Spaniard, questioning his credentials.  At Genoa he has found his feet and finally feels at home, playing under a manager – Gian Piero Gasperini - who has faith in him.  Perhaps it’s the fact he is playing in a pressure free environment.

Along with the Genoa fans, I’m enjoying Falque’s break out season and happy he is starting to live up to that early potential, long may it continue.


Written by Serie A Writer

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HEADS UP: Below are the answers to last week’s La Liga-themed crossword. Hope you guys enjoyed it. 

Football Tip: How to Avoid Being a Sports Widow

When you dread seeing the leaves fall from the trees because it signals the start of football season, or cringe when the first crocus pops its head out of the soils because it means baseball is just around the corner, you may be a sports widow.

Sports widows are women who feel that their life and their needs take a backseat to their husband’s interest in sporting events. Rather than mourning the loss of your husband’s company during the sports season, why not join him in his interest and share some special together time?


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

While you’ve probably found ways to entertain yourself while your husband watched sports in the past, you may not have considered joining him in his enthusiasm.  Even if you find sports mind-numbingly boring, there are ways to focus on other aspects of the festivities and draw your own enjoyment from the event.

This year, inform your husband that rather than complaining about his obsession with sports, you’d like to join him in his love of the game. Just stand back when you make your announcement in case he passes out from shock.


Dress the Part

Before the start of the season, go shopping. Buy yourself some new duds to wear while you watch the game. Team-oriented apparel is mandatory to put you in the proper frame of mind.  If you’ve never worn a t-shirt with your team’s name emblazoned on it, you may be surprised how doing so can raise your enthusiasm level.

Check out the official team sites for apparel, or visit your local big box store. Grab a baseball cap and situate it atop a jaunty ponytail, or buy an oversized football jersey and wear it with a sexy pair of leggings or tights.


Block Out Your Schedule

In order to be able to enjoy game day, you may need to plan ahead. Clear your schedule, and ensure that there’s nothing else tugging at your attention while you settle in for quality time with your family. It’s hard to immerse yourself in the moment when the sink is full of dishes, you have laundry to do or you can’t quit thinking about how you need to balance your checkbook.

Get your work done ahead of time and free yourself to really watch the game with your attention on it.


Learn the Rules of the Game

While you don’t have to be an aficionado, you may want to gain a rudimentary understanding of the rules of the game. Visit a website, or pick up a book that breaks the game down into simple, understandable terms.

Better yet, ask your husband to explain the finer points of the action to you as the game goes along when he doesn’t mind.


Enjoy the Extras

Even if you find that you really can’t immerse yourself in the sports action, you can still enjoy a special day with your family and friends. Focus your attention on creating special dishes for the game. Make a cheese ball, spicy bean dip, a football-shaped meatloaf or any other recipe you choose for everyone to enjoy while the game is on. Women’s magazines and recipe websites abound with game-time treats.

Decorate the room where you’ll watch the game. Blow up balloons, and hang streamers in the team colors to surprise your family. They’ll be thrilled at your show of team spirit.

Even when sports aren’t your favorite activity, it’s still possible to turn any athletic event into valued family time, rather than isolating yourself from the action. Once you put forth the effort, you may be surprised at the results and actually find yourself looking forward to game day.


Written by Amie Taylor

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Patrice Evra: Juve’s unsung hero?

When Patrice Evra arrived in Turin last summer from Manchester United for approximately £1.2m – at the age of 33, there were eyebrows raised from the Juventus supporters.

He was labelled as just another ageing defender to drop out of the Premier League to play in the ‘comfortable’ Italian league. Patrice, along with Nemenja Vidic and Ashley Cole made the jump to the peninsula - unlike the other two, the Frenchman has been a success.

Initially brought in to cover for Kwadwo Asamoah who would be absent due to the African Cup of nations, Evra has played more than expected. The Ghanaian suffered with a cartilage injury whilst playing in the tournament and was ruled out for four months.

The former French captain has featured in twenty league games this season and has made eight appearances in the Champions League.  The Italian champions have conceded just twenty goals in the league and six goals in Europe’s premier competition. Evra’s experience has been pivotal to this Juve side and has benefited from manager Massimiliano Allegri’s willingness to play four at the back.

The former Monaco player has settled in very well - the fact he can interact with his teammates has certainly helped. He had learnt the language and played in Italy earlier in his career, with spells at Marsala in Serie C1 and Monza in Serie B in the late 1990s.

The team have welcomed him to the ranks with open arms. French compatriot Paul Pogba refers to him as ‘Uncle Paddy’. They have a great relationship on and off the field and that can only help Pogba with his development.

Massimiliano Allegri has been complimentary of the full back;

“He’s a very intelligent player who has played in England for a long time, playing a very different style of football there. But he’s having an impressive season with us. He’s a strong personality, an important player, and showing why he’s been playing at the top level for so long. His career speaks for itself.”

With the Serie A title already wrapped up, Evra can add that to his extensive list of honours which includes; five Premier League titles, three English League cups, one Champions League and the Club World Cup.

The left back’s mighty runs forward along with intelligent positioning has also helped his side reach the Coppa Italia final and the Champions League semi-final.

There is no doubt about it, he’s been a tremendous signing.


Written by Serie A Writer

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HEADS UP: Below are the answers to last week’s Champions League-themed crossword. Hope you guys enjoyed it. 


Stefano Sturaro: The young Juventino that stood out against the Los Merengues

The big team selection news prior to Juventus’ wonderful victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday was the inclusion of 22 year-old midfielder Stefano Sturaro. The young Italian impressed, as he put in a terrific defensive display - imposing  himself against the likes of Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos.  So, who is the player that registered just four minutes of European football before that clash in Turin? Here is the lowdown.

Born in the north-western town of Sanremo in Italy, Stefano started playing calcio for the local side, he made an impact at such a young age which resulted in several top clubs from Italy eyeing him up - they included the likes of Sampdoria, Lazio and Genoa.

It was Genoa who snapped him up in 2008 and was immediately assigned to their Primavera squad. He had a successful two years in Genoa’s youth squad, winning the title during that time.

Sturaro was then called up to the senior squad, however, he was loaned out to Serie B side Modena in the summer of 2012 to gain that fundamental senior experience. He returned to Genoa as a more confident player for the 2013/14 season - he made 16 appearances for the side, scoring once.

Goals and assists is not part of his game, his priority is to break up play and protect the defence, which he does very well – no wonder he is labelled as the new Gennaro Gattuso by the Italian press.

His solid performances attracted the interest from reigning Champions Juventus, they purchased the player for €5.5 million in the summer of 2014 on a five year deal.  It was agreed between the two clubs that Stefano would be loaned back to Genoa for the following season, but that was not to be the case.

In January 2015, Juventus were still fighting on all fronts – Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The Italian giants had suffered with injuries in the midfield, in particularly to Andrea Pirlo, they needed reinforcements to cover. So, Juventus reached an agreement with Genoa to cut his loan spell and call him up to the squad.

Since his move back to Turin, Sturaro has made eight appearances and helped the side clinch their fourth consecutive Scudetto and reach the Champions League semi-final. As mentioned, Sturaro started alongside Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal in Juve’s 2-1 win over Real Madrid in the first leg. He played a pivotal role.

Most notably, pulling off a great piece of defending - intercepting James Rodriguez’s header on to the crossbar.

After that performance there is talk of Antonio Conte calling him up to the Italian national side. I think it’s only a matter of time considering Italy isn’t exactly blessed with an array of talent at the moment.

I hope he gets a chance to prove himself at international level.


Written by Serie A Writer

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AC Milan: What’s the main reason behind their perplexing demise?

AC Milan are closer to the bottom of the table than the top and will miss out on European football for a second consecutive season. Midweek, Filippo Inzaghi and his men suffered yet another defeat, their tenth of the season -this time at home to Genoa (3-1). Milan also sit tenth in the standings. It’s simply not good enough.

The Rossoneri’s demise has been extensively covered by the media, with many neutrals still perplexed as to what the hell is going on with the eighteen times Scudetto winners and seven times Champions League winners. It’s clear that the supports have had enough, they gathered together in tightly choreographed ranks until they resembled the word ‘Basta’, which means ‘enough’.

There are a host of on the field issues at the club, but I think the big problem is the ownership.

It’s been widely reported that owner Silvio Berlusconi is considering selling the club. I ask, how can a side push forward under an owner who no longer wants to operate at the club, it can’t be easy -  players, management and general staff have uncertain futures.

However, Berlusconi leaving the club is a good thing; AC Milan are in need of fresh ideas from higher up the hierarchy, and more importantly, funds.

Silvio Berlusconi has now lived long enough to see himself become the villain at the club he took over in 1986. Yes, under his ownership, Milan have had the most successful period of their history. Berlusconi saved the Italian giants from near bankruptcy.

Recently, he has not invested enough, due to the struggling investments of other personal ventures. His holding company Fininvest is bleeding money. They had to sell 92 million shares of Italian broadcaster Mediaset - a host of corruption scandals certainly doesn’t help either.

The club has debts of around  €250m and lost €91.3m in 2014. This is mainly due to the club missing out on European football.

So, who is in line to take over? There are two men emerging as the finalists in the race. One of them is Thai businessman Bee Taechaubol and the other Hong Kong entrepreneur Richard Lee.

It has been heavily reported within the last few days that Mr Bee of Thailand is the favourite. The businessman flew in last week to watch the side and meet with Silvio Berlusconi. Taechaubol’s group is said to be offering €500m for somewhere between 51% and 60% of the club.

The Milan faithful certainly want a deal to go through. The club’s Ultras, the Curva Sud, wrote an open letter to the management, which is rather touching;

“It seemed impossible, but we’ve reached a historic turning point for our Milan, our President, who bought the club in a courtroom, and just three years later gave us the joy of winning the third European Cup in our history, who helped us win that trophy four more times, not to mention eight Scudetti.

Our President, who many times has made us angry with his choices and distant periods, but in the end has always shown that his heart is made up of these two colours [red and black].

Our President, at the worst moment of his stewardship, now has to make another decision of love, in the face of this current situation, and the mismanagement of those at the top which is demonstrated by the disastrous team which reached its nadir yesterday.

Now you face a turning point, and you must to decide whether to give up Milan, which has been yours for 29 years, and for which you wrote indelible pages of history.

Unfortunately, all stories have a beginning and an end.

Revolution must be just that - to start over again, while never forgetting our history and tradition.

Now is the time for you to make a choice, one which will surely be the best for Milan and all that the club represents.

If you decide to remain, we ask you to make a change at the corporate level, in order to return to being great.

If you decide to sell, you will always be the most successful President in the history of football, and no-one can ever erase that.

We are here awaiting the future, and always will be.”

As a fan of Serie A, I sincerely hope that the situation is resolved, because the league needs a good AC Milan (along with Inter) to be competitive.


Written by Serie A Writer

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Also: Below are the answers to yesterday’s crossword puzzle

Felipe Anderson: Lazio’s Standout Player of the Season

With seven games remaining in Serie A, Lazio have managed to leapfrog their bitter rivals Roma in second place, on goal difference.  They are having a tremendous season under coach Stefano Pioli. They have some top performers;  Antonio Candreva, Marco Parolo, Miroslav Klose and Stefan de Vrij to name a few.  The stand-out player for me is Brazilian Felipe Anderson.

In the summer of 2013, Anderson left Brazilian side Santos to showcase his qualities in Europe. Several big clubs such as AC Milan and Bayern Munich were interested in the highly rated attacking midfielder at the time. But it was Lazio who would win his signature and sign for approximately €8 million.

It was a very slow start to life in Italy, he only made a total of thirteen appearances and started just seven league games - failing to score or assist.  Many had by then written the Brazilian off, labelling him as just another young South American player who had earned his big move to Europe and failed to prosper.

Now into his second full season, it’s fair to say it’s been nothing short of revolutionary.  It took a slice of good fortune for him to get a real chance, when Antonio Candreva was injured back in December. Pioli gambled on him in the Coppa Italia fixture. Four months on, Felipe is now considered as one of the league’s star performers. The midfielder has already registered 10 goals and has been ever present in Lazio’s Champions League chasing campaign.

The 22 year old has an outstanding range of talents, and the most important of them is that he is naturally two footed. The Brazilian is equally comfortable controlling the ball or shooting with either foot, and that – together with his lightning speed and change of direction – makes him a nightmare for his opponents.

The stand out performance for me was when Lazio travelled to Milan to face Inter back in December, the match finished 2-2 – Anderson scored both goals.

After just two minutes the young Brazilian – starting the game on the right flank – received a low cross in the Inter penalty area. With one touch he deftly took the pace off the ball, controlling it and skipping past the Andrea Ranocchia all at once, before firing home firmly with his left foot.

For his second, Anderson then popped on the left flank just before the 40th minute mark. With the ball bouncing just inside the Inter half, Anderson nodded it into his path and advanced at speed. His compatriot, Juan Jesus, came across to cover him, but was evidently aware of Anderson’s pace. Jinking inside the penalty area and on to his right foot and slotted home. Outstanding.

More top performances followed, Lazio’s system seems to suit Anderson - Stefano Pioli has created an effective unit since he took charge last summer, with Anderson now an important component on the right or left wing of a 4-1-4-1 formation.

Unsurprisingly, the likes of Barcelona and PSG have been linked with the Lazio starlet. If he keeps this up, I think it will be difficult for Lazio to hold on to him. Nevertheless, they should receive a big fee, which they can invest in other areas of their squad.


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European Football Weekend Review: The Surprises were Unsurprising

So the weekend is over and it’s now time to analyse what happened, in the most honest, unbiased and fair way… Or just the opposite. It depends on how you see it.


Barclays Premier League

Chelsea stayed true to their ‘one goal margin’  name when they defeated Manchester at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. And of course, it was Eden who scored the only goal of the game. Despite all the ‘memorable moments’ that the game had, there is one thing that really stood up in the game and it was not the fact that Falcao played more than 10 minutes (although that was really surprising). It was Chelsea’s new trend: “Don’t dominate, just win”. Many coaches might disagree with that mantra, but it might be what wins Chelsea the title this season, and it’s Mourinho’s new system. Remember the ‘parking the bus’ tactic from last season?

On United’s side, it’s the end of an amazing run of impressive wins. Who is to blame? Mourinho’s tactics? Was it the fact that Mata, Fellaini, Herrera, Rooney and Ashley Young didn’t deliver? Although it maybe one or all of the above, the reason that many will go with is the fact that Falcao started the match and started up front, while Rooney was again dropped in midfield.

Moving to other side of Manchester, City beat West Ham 2-0 to end their run of well deserved defeat. Jesus Navas was the unlikely hero as he had his feet on his team’s 2 goals, but all eyes was on Aguero as he scored his 20thgoal of the season (sorry Navas). Although the win got the Citizens back to winning ways, it won’t ease the pressure on Pellegrini and his ‘old-er men’.

Oh yeah and on a sad note, David Silva was stretched off the field after being elbowed by Cheikou Kouyate.  Get well soon D. S.


FA Cup

Despite the fact they booked their place in this year’s final with a 2-1 win over Reading, the Gunners weren’t themselves possessed by ‘the Ghost of Arsenal’s past’. Of course, all the credit should go to Reading (except their goalkeeper) for revealing Arsenal;s true colours but for a team that is hoping to stop ‘Chelseazard’ from winning the title, it should have been a routine win. And of course if it wasn’t for Adam Frederici generous gift, it’s very likely that the game would have gone to penalties. However, on the positive side, Sanchez got his title of ‘Gunners’ saviour’ back.

Now despite the fact that many expected Liverpool to be Arsenal opponent in final, the Reds had other ideas. Rodgers men went down 2-1 against Aston-Benteke Villa, despite taking the lead.

Who was to blame this time? Was it the fact that Lovren and Skrtel were at their usual worst? Was it the fact that Gerrard was a ghost during the game? Was it cause Moreno is an overrated wing back? Was it the fact Balotelli had 45 ineffective minutes? Or was it a ‘come and coach us plea’ to Jurgen Klopp? Whatever it was, it definitely sounds like a ‘leave when you can’ message to Sterling.


La Liga

Barcelona beat Valencia 2-0 and Luis Suarez scored again. Nothing much to report on that except the fact Messi scored his 400th La Liga goal. No offense but that would have been impressive if Leo and his buddy Cristiano weren’t busy breaking records every week.

Speaking of Cristiano, him and his teammates (sidekicks) recorded a 3-1 win over Malaga to stay 2 points behind Barca. Now the big issue with this game was the fact that Ancelotti lost Modric and Bale through injury. Why did he play them just few days before hosting Atletico Madrid in Champions League? What happened to rotating the squad? That’s maybe a discussion for another day, but Ancelotti depleted his squad of 2 important players by employing Mourinho’s no rotation policy.



It was a weekend of expected and unexpected results in Germany. Yes Dortmund and Leverkusen won, but Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg De Bruyne drew and Bayern didn’t win by 7 goals. Maybe I’m wrong about the Bundesliga not being exciting. Or maybe those teams played the way they did just to make me change my opinion about the Bundesliga. Is there a conspiracy against me by this league?


Serie A

Juventus won and Tevez scored. The Milan derby, aka the battle of the best bench-warmer XI, was so boring that you could have felt as asleep watching it, and Roma drew (it would have been a surprise if they didn’t).  A typical Serie A weekend.


Ligue 1

In Ligue 1, aka PSG 1, it was business as usual. PSG won and their closest rivals all drew to make sure that the Les Parisiens win the title in peace. Like I said, un weekend sans surprise.



Those who thought that this weekend would be surprising, you were right, it was surprisingly unsurprising. Supra Checkin’ Out.


Written by Christopher Kayembe

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Alvaro Morata: The latest La Fabrica product to expose the naivety of Perez’s Real Madrid transfer policy

The folly of Florentino Perez’s association with Real Madrid is probably best summed up by his decision to overlook Claude Makelele’s defensive contribution to his team upon selling him to Chelsea for £16.8 million in 2003.

‘’We will not miss Makélelé” said the Madrid president about the midfielder who became hugely important to Chelsea’s consecutive league wins in 2005 and 2006, “He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten”.

Madrid, who had won La Liga in the summer Makelele departed and the Champions League the season before, had to wait another 4 years for a title as they sorely missed the Frenchman’s influence in favour of marketing ventures and more glamourous players. As Zinedine Zidane infamously pondered ‘’Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?’’

Acknowledging Madrid were in need of a new direction away from the Galactico era, Perez stepped down in 2006 however in 2009 he was back, delivering Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema and Kaka in the summer of his return for a total in excess of £200 million. So restarted the revolving door of the Bernabeu, with then-manager Manuel Pellegrini dismayed by the sales of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben that summer setting the tone for round 2 of the commercial-driven authority of Perez.

In 2013, when the transfer record was broken to sign Gareth Bale from Spurs for £85 million, Mesut Ozil had to be sold to Arsenal, alongside Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon to Napoli, for £42 million in order to balance the financial books, something manager Carlo Ancelotti described as a “mistake”.

Nevertheless Ancelotti and Bale delivered La Decima, Madrid’s tenth Champions League, that season but again the Italian would find himself losing an important midfielder in Angel Di Maria, man of the match in the final with Atletico and who created 72 goals in 190 games since his £29 million move from Benfica in 2010.

His £66 million sale to Manchester United would land Real a vast profit and Ancelotti would have to unconvincingly explain his exit last November, though regardless of his struggles in Manchester since his move, it was again Madrid being forced to sell an important asset in favour of the latest fashionable talent at the peak of their marketing value; in this case James Rodriguez, who impressed in last summer’s World Cup for Colombia, and Toni Kroos, who won it with Germany, for a combined £96 million.

To the others who had to follow Di Maria in making way for such extravagant out-lay. Xabi Alonso had also featured heavily in Madrid’s success last season and Josep Guardiola understood his brilliance even if Perez no longer didn’t, taking him to Bayern Munich for just £8 million. Alvaro Morata, a recent product of the Cantera, left for Juventus for £17 million, Madrid negotiating a clause that gave them an option to sign the player back at any-time over the next three years.

Morata though is clear where he sees his future, having broken through into Spain’s senior team in a successful first year in Turin under Massimiliano Allegri. “I’m so happy here that I cannot even contemplate the idea of being in Madrid or at any other club,” he said, I’m much more appreciated now I’m playing outside of Spain. When somebody packs their bags and leaves, they mature in many different ways.”

Competing with Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez in attack, Morata has been restricted to 8 starts in the league with another 16 appearances coming as a sub. Despite this the Spaniard has 7 Serie A goals, making him joint-second top-scorer with Paul Pogba, with another 4 coming in the Coppa Italia and the Champions League, in which Juventus are in the quarter-finals.

Morata has made a vital contribution to that run, scoring in both legs of the 2nd round elimination of Borussia Dortmund and winning the penalty against Monaco on Tuesday night to leave the Old Lady with a 1-0 lead to take to Monte Carlo for the second leg.

It has been a long-awaited but welcome emergence for Morata who displayed his potential by top-scoring in European Championships at both under-19 and under-21 for his country. After averaging a goal every 2 games for Real Madrid’s Castilla side from 2010 to 2013, his first-team chances were sporadic until Jose Mourinho fielded him 15 times in his final season in charge at the Bernabeu in 2012-13.

Ancelotti would give him 34 appearances, most coming as a substitute, the following season which Morata repaid with 9 goals, though his relationship with the Italian completely broke-down. “I still cannot understand how I went from playing well for Real Madrid to sitting in the stands. I hardly had any kind of relationship with [Ancelotti]” said the striker.

Turning down Arsenal and Wolfsburg to move to Juventus, life in Italy for Morata was initially a struggle with injuries and extreme competition for places curtailing his impact, though he has gradually grown into the team and as a player. With his instinct in front of goal and clever movement being a feature of his play during his time in Madrid, he has visibly added more strength and intelligence on the ball, improving in link-up play and ability to hold it up.

His progression has seen Madrid send scouts to Turin with a summer return, for a fee in the region of £26 million, in mind. Morata has ruled that out and so has his agent Giuseppe Bozzo, who says Madrid were only interested in selling him to the club that offered the most money, in that case Arsenal. “Morata’s very happy at Juve and isn’t thinking of anything else”, says Bozzo.

Over in Naples Callejon is again in double figures with 10 goals after netting 17 in his first term at the San Paolo and his and Morata’s strong showings in Serie A could become appealing to Jese Rodriguez, the latest striker to emerge off the Real Madrid production line and again experience a dearth of first-team opportunities with just 5 starts over 2 years. Though that period has been deeply affected by injuries and he is rated highly by Ancelotti.

Despite that, the Italian has had to explain to his 22 year old striker that the more illustrious strike-force of Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema will start ahead of him. That adherence to Perez’s Galactico policy has cost Madrid Juan Mata, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado amongst others, including now Morata and Callejon, who have left the Spanish capital to hit form elsewhere. Jese may yet follow them and it will be another one lost as Perez will inevitably seek the latest big-money star who can sell shirts across the globe.

Morata is not the first to expose the misguidance of such and he surely won’t be the last.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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