Toni Kroos: Bayern’s former midfield star proving his class at Madrid

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It must have been a tough 2014 for Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos. A Bundesliga title, won in record time under new coach Pep Guardiola, a World Cup winners medal for Germany during the summer followed by a move to Real Madrid after being courted by almost all of Europe’s elite. At the age of 24, life must have seemed pretty good.

Of course, all of the success that Kroos enjoyed last year was a reflection of his incredible ability aligned with a desire to be as successful as he possibly can be. A wonderful midfield player with a range of passing very few can better.

Following on from their ‘la decima’ celebrations last May, Real Madrid surprisingly decided to sell both Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria. Both were instrumental in their success against city neighbours Atletico in the final and the departures of both were unexpected to say the least. However, the pursuit of Kroos had been on going for some time and with the chance to add one of Europe’s best midfielders Madrid had made up their mind.

Having developed through the Bayern youth set up, from the age of 16, playing for a big club with big expectations was nothing new to the German international. Indeed, at his press conference, he remarked that playing with the pressure at Madrid would be an even bigger challenge to the one he faced at Munich. It certainly seemed that the deal was going to be beneficial to both parties from the outset.

With an attacking array such as Real’s, there is a definite need to have someone to pull the strings. Over at bitter rivals Barcelona, they have had Xavi Hernandez conducting the play throughout their successful period a few seasons ago and the position has become an integral part of the modern game. The ability Kroos has to pick a pass and execute it perfectly is something that can only help the likes of Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo to score more regularly.

However, there were certainly some doubts about how good Real could be defensively without Alonso sitting in front of the back four. Throughout his time at Tottenham, Modric was never known as fantastic defensive player and Kroos’ game is based more around attacking than defending.

However, a good understanding appeared to be developing before Modric sustained an injury that would keep him out of the side. Despite this initial fear though, Madrid managed a winning streak of 22 games and demonstrated that their midfield was more than capable.

The start to 2015 has been somewhat indifferent for Real Madrid, but Kroos has remained consistent despite some of the players around him. It seems likely that the summer may bring some changes in personnel at the Bernabeu, but the German’s future looks incredibly secure.

At 24, he has been brought to the club to be the mainstay of the midfield for a decade and so far he has looked a very good buy.


Written by Andy Hunter

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Real Madrid: The club have hit rock bottom, so it’s time for Ancelotti and co to step it up

Not so long ago, the Los Merengues went on a 22 match win streak which culminated in them lifting the club world cup trophy. Since the turn of the year, they have lost to Atletico, Valencia, Bilbao and lately Schalke which has led to lots of questions being asked. The biggest question right now is the form of Gareth Bale? The Welshman has been very poor since the European defending champions resumed hostilities for the new year and it is time to own up. Ancelotti has stuck to his guns that some players are untouchables in his team and that has angered a lot of Madridistas.

Carlo Ancelotti is undoubtedly one of the best coaches we have been fortunate to have in our sport, but his decision making or lack of it has been evident over the years. He may have won 3 European Cups but his record in domestic competitions leaves much to be desired. 3 league titles in 17 years is wretched and with Barcelona now calling the shots in Spain, if he doesn’t win La Liga this term and fails on the European front (defending the Champions League crown), his position will become untenable. Real and Florentino Perez have a history of sacking managers. Even the best are not safe. Something has to give.

The Italian tactician is a very lucky man, though. With Luka Modric back, the burden bore by Toni Kroos is now lighter as he has been a shadow of his dominant self for a few weeks now. Even without Itturraspe, Bilbao did well to stiffen the threat posed by the fantastic German maestro. With the Barcelona game only 11 days away, changes have to made in order to salvage a season which promised so much but is tending to end with the team going empty handed if you take away the Super Cup and the Club World Cup from the equation.

The Copa Del Rey was surrendered without a fight and the 4-0 demolition at the Vicente Calkderon left much to be desired. The B-B-C (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano) was so efficient in the early part of the season, but ‘BALE’ has become lightweight and it has greatly affected the potency of the fearsome trio.

Cristiano Ronaldo continues to prove the doubters wrong, but he will be aware that Leo Messi has risen to the challenge. 18 goals for the Argentine already and we are only in March. The Portuguese class act rose highest twice to become the highest goal scorer in European (UEFA) club competitions on Tuesday night but his brace (record equaling 20 of such with Messi in the Champions League) wasn’t enough to prevent Schalke and Leroy Sane from inflicting a first home defeat since September 2014.

It was also only the second time that the Whites had conceded 4 goals at home in the Champions League (the first being v Bayern in 2000). Something that hadn’t taken place in 15 years. No one predicted such an outcome but in football, impossible is nothing and it showed yet again to the astonishment of the majority at the Bernabeu.

Crisis talks may be too extreme but if the ship is to be steadied, drastic decisions must be taken and keeping Bale on the bench is one of them but then again, the man can just turn up on Sunday and bang a hat-trick vs Levante. Then, all will be forgiven and perhaps, forgotten. Iker Casillas has done so well to win back the critics and doubters from the last two seasons or thereabout until Schalke exposed his weaknesses again and tongues started wagging.

The longtime Spanish number one responded like all greats do to prevent the likes of Sane and Howedes from scoring goals that would have certainly eliminated Real. What is glaring is that the capital club needs a new and better shot stopper. I am one of San Iker’s biggest fans but the truth has to be told without fear, sentiments or favour.

Ancelotti has faced some harsh criticisms over the last couple of weeks. The Schalke game must never happen again from now till the end of the season or else, a new sheriff will be introduced at the Bernabeu in no distant time. It is now or never Don Carlo. Set the ball rolling from Sunday. An immediate response is required and very vital.


Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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Gheorghe Hagi: The Maradona of the Carpathians


Short summary

The article presents the career of one of the greatest Romanian football players of all time in detail. Gheorghe Hagi was Romania’s best scorer and the national team’s leader during its most fruitful period. He played for top teams like Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona.

Also, Hagi became Turkey’s hero after leading Galatasaray Istanbul to the all-time best performance in Turkish football: winning the UEFA Cup. The article includes a chapter on the player profile, depicts his activity after ending the football career and discloses some of his personal preferences.


Long summary

Every country has a huge talent, a symbolic football player within one generation. Zinedine Zidane was France’s football player of the ’90s, Raúl González was Spain’s football player of the ’90s, Del Piero is a symbol of Italian football and Romário is a symbol of Brasil in the’ 90s. Who was Romania’s symbolic football player in the ’90s?



Gheorghe Hagi was born on May 2, 1965, in Săcele, Constanța. His parents were Macedonian farmers. Little Gheorghe was declared the most technical football player of the Hope Cup and his name appeared in “Sportul” newspaper on September 7, 1976. Hagi played for the junior team under sixteen (four matches), for the junior team under seventeen (13 matches, 1 goal), for the junior team under eighteen (32 matches, 9 goals) and for the Olympic team (four matches). His first coach was Iosif Bükössi.


Club and national team career

Hagi started playing for F.C.Farul Constanţa (1982-1983), scored 7 goals and then moved to Sportul Studenţesc (1983-1987), where he scored 58 goals. Gheorghe Hagi started playing for the national team at the age of 18, in a friendly match against Norway, in 1983 (0-0).

Hagi was loaned to Steaua București in 1986, after the Romanian team won the European Champion Clubs’Cup in 1986. Steaua București (“Steaua” meaning “The star”) is the Army football team, was and still is the most prestigious Romanian football team. Hagi scored 76 goals in 97 matches and won three national championships and three national cups while playing for Steaua.

Hagi won the 1987 UEFA Super Cup (1-0, against Dynamo Kiev), scoring the decisive goal. Gheorghe Hagi was the leading scorer (four goals) in the 1988 European Champion Clubs’ Cup (he was equal to five other players). The owner of Panathinaikos wanted Hagi so bad in 1988 that he offered 8 million dollars to the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu to allow the transfer to Panathinaikos, but the communist leader refused.

He considered the valuable football players as national values and did not allow them to leave the country until “they had done their duties” to Romania. Some of the football players left Romania illegally (Miodrag Belodedici - Red Star Belgrade, Marcel Răducanu - Borussia Dortmund), others continued to play in Romania in spite of the considerable offers from major clubs (Ion Voinescu - Arsenal Londra, Vasco da Gama, Florea Dumitrache - Juventus Torino, Nicolae Dobrin - Real Madrid, Cornel Dinu - Bayern München, Ilie Balaci - A.C. Milan, Rodion Cămătaru - F.C.Kaiserslautern, Benfica Lisabona).

While other Romanian football players were allowed to leave abroad at the end of their careers (Rodion Cămătaru - Charleroi, Boloni -Racing Jet de Bruxelles, Tudorel Stoica - Lens, Victor Pițurcă - Lens). Steaua reached the 1989 European Champion Clubs’ Cup final (lost 0-4 to Milan).

After Romanians gained their liberty in the 1989 Revolution, Hagi was transferred to Real Madrid for 4.3 million dollars, where he played for two seasons (1990-1992) scoring 15 goals.

From there, he joined Brescia (1992-1994), helping the team to return to the first division (Serie A) scoring another 15 goals in the process.

Hagi led Romania in the 1984 UEFA European Championship and the 1990 FIFA World Cup and then he achieved the greatest performance in the whole Romanian football history, namely acceding to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals in United States. He scored three times there, including a brilliant lobbed goal from 40 meters against Colombia.

Hagi’s goal against Colombia (3-1) was also voted the fifth in a poll hosted on, gathering 9,297 votes. There were 341,460 votes online from over 150 countries worldwide for the greatest goal ever scored in FIFA World Cup history. Romania lost on penalties to Sweden (2-2, 4-5, after penalty kicks) in its 1994 World Cup final match. Hagi was the fourth football player in the world in 1994 (50 points), according to FIFA. He was selected in the 1994 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.

Hagi’s performances attracted F.C.Barcelona’s interest and the Spanish club transferred him for 3 million dollars. Hagi scored 7 goals for Barcelona in two years (1994-1996), winning a second Spanish Super Cup for his team.

Hagi with the 2000 UEFA Cup trophy.

Hagi with the 2000 UEFA Cup trophy.

Hagi joined Galatasaray (1996-2001), where he won four championship titles (1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999) and two national cups (1999, 2000). He scored 50 goals in 132 matches for his team. Gheorghe Hagi became Galatasaray’s leader and won the UEFA Cup (1999-2000) in a penalty shootout against Arsenal. Galatasaray Istanbul became the first Turkish team to win a major continental trophy and Hagi was the hero. Three months later, Galatasaray won the European Super Cup (2000), defeating Real Madrid.

Adrian Păunescu, a poet, convinced Hagi to return to the national team in an emotional and carefully prepared TV show in 1999, one year after his retirement. Hagi was cheered by his fans at three o’clock in the morning. It was a night to be remembered… Hagi retired in 2001 after 125 caps.


Player profile


Gheorghe Hagi was a great leader on the pitch, blessed with sublime vision, a creative, ingenious and precise passing ability, a disconcerting dribbling and an outstanding ball control. He was a greatly feared shooter from any distance and position. He also had a fine free kick technique. Hagi wore number ten.


Fair play

Although Hagi was mostly fair and disciplined player throughout his career, he was eliminated several times in the final years of his career, including during some important games like the final of the 2000 UEFA Cup against Arsenal, in extra time, when playing for Galatasaray (won 0-0, 4-1) (94 minute) and the 2000 European Championship quarter-finals, when playing for Romania (lost 0-2 to Italy).

He also attacked a Turkish referee in 2001, leading to a lengthy suspension (six matches) (Galatasaray- Gençlerbirliği SK 2-1).


Various records

Hagi was the top scorer in 1984-1985 season and then again in 1985-1986 season. He scored 141 goals in 222 matches in domestic games (0,63 goals per game). His domestic record is only second to Dudu Georgescu (Dinamo Bucureşti), who held the record (47) for goals scored in one season for a long period (1977-2012, which was eventually surpassed by Lionel Messi- 50 goals) and who also won the European Golden Shoe in 1975- 33 goals, who bagged 252 goals in 370 matches.

Hagi’s percentage (0,63 goals per game) is very close to Dudu Georgescu’s percentage (0,68 goals per game), a very rare performance for a midfielder. Hagi was declared the best Romanian football player of the year seven times (1985, 1987, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, and 2000). He has also scored 32 goals in 95 games in European Cup tournaments.

As an offensive midfielder, Hagi compensated for the weakness of the Romania national team’s attack in many cases. A midfielder is rarely the top scorer yet Hagi surpassed the very durable record of Iuliu Bodola, a football player of the ’40s (1939, 30 goals, 48 matches) in 1997 and still holds the first position (35 goals), which Adrian Mutu equaled in 2013.

Gheorghe Hagi played in three World Cups (1990- Italy, 1994- United States, 1998- France) (equalling the old national record of Nicolae Kovacs, present in the World Cup Final Tournaments in 1930, 1934, 1938 and playing 12 matches) and in three European Championships (1984- France, 1996- England, 2000- Belgium and Netherlands).

Gheorghe Hagi also surpassed Boloni‘s record for caps (108 matches for the national team) which had lasted ten years (1988-1998). Hagi holds the second place (125 caps) after Dorinel Munteanu (134 caps). Hagi led Romania 65 times (continuously 1990-2001), holding the present record (the next one is Cristian Chivu, Internazionale Milano, 50 times).


Post-football career

Hagi coached the Romania national team, Bursaspor, Galatasaray (twice), FC Politehnica Timişoara and Steaua București. He won a National Cup as Galatasaray’s coach in 2005. He founded “Academia de Fotbal Gheorghe Hagi” (Gheorghe Hagi Football Academy) for training football talents and also founded Viitorul Constanţa, which promoted to the First Division in 2012.

Beside his coaching activities, Hagi is a businessman, he owns the four stars Iaki Hotel in Mamaia. In addition, Hagi is National Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Romania, supporting children in difficulty.


Private life

Hagi is married for the second time. His first wife was Leni Celnicu (1990-1995) and he is now married to Marilena Vlahbei, Gheorghe Popescu’s sister. He has two children from the present marriage, Kira (15 years old), who has humanist inclinations, and Ianis (13 years old), who plays football. Hagi has two older sisters, Sultana and Elena.

Gheorghe Hagi is a close friend of another great Romanian football player, Gheorghe Popescu, who was FC Barcelona captain. Hagi enjoys listening to Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Mariah Carey. He likes Johan Cruijff as a football player and coach, J.F. Kennedy as a politician and Napoleon as a historical figure.

His favorite actors are Al Pacino and Michelle Pheiffer. Hagi likes eating macaroni and drinking red wine and prefers Hugo Boss clothes and BMW cars.



“Maradona of the Carpathians”, as Gheorghe Hagi is sometimes called, is a hero in Romania and Turkey alike for helping both countries decisively establish their greatest national or club performances. The Romanian Football Federation declared in 2008 that Hagi is the most valuable Romanian football player in the last 50 years.

Miodrag Belodedici (the Romanian football player with the best club success, namely that he won the European Champion Clubs’ Cup twice, in 1986 with Steaua București and in 1991 with Red Star Belgrade), Gheorghe Popescu (winner of the 2000 UEFA Cup with Galatasaray, was also Barcelona captain in the 1996-1997 season) and Cristian Chivu (winner of the 2010 Champions League with Inter Milan) are the other Romanian football players with international performances.

“The King”, as some people called Gheorghe Hagi, is one of the most popular Romanian sport players abroad, along with the great gymnast Nadia Comăneci and the tennis player Ilie Năstase of the ’70s, and along with football players Adrian Mutu and Cristian Chivu of the present generation.



Written by Vladimir-Adrian Maftei

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Pre-season friendlies: Have they become a victim of football’s obsessive media scrutiny?

Pre-season friendlies are an established part of football’s close season. With the pressure of the various league competitions forcing clubs to be ready to hit the ground running, friendlies play an important role in ensuring players’ fitness and bedding in new signings.

Having spent several weeks with little to no physical exertion, footballers can be forgiven for being sluggish in their first few weeks of training. More than this, the summer transfer window sees the majority of teams face at least some upheaval in their squads, as departures need to be plugged and new faces accepted.

Additionally, coaches can play around with new formations and blood potential stars, luxuries not permitted in the ultra-competitive league format. Over recent years, however, friendlies have created more and more media interest.

Real Madrid’s pre-season match against Shamrock Rovers, featuring the debut of the one-and-only Cristiano Ronaldo, was a tepid affair, settled only by a late Benzema goal. Having spent over 180-million-pounds that summer, many expected Real to annihilate their opponents. The score, though, was not where the popular interest lay. The match was an exhibition, an opportunity for Real to showcase the attacking talent that they held, and to allow salivating fans their first chance of seeing Ronaldo in action.

More than this, the friendly served as a glorified fitness check, ensuring the Madrid players were in acceptable shape. Friendly in name only, this type of fixture does possess a serious drawback – the attitude of the opponents. Refusing to lie down and die, Shamrock attempted to match their superior foes through sheer physicality. Although an accepted part of football, a problem for managers is the risk of losing their star players to injury in an ultimately meaningless friendly.

Another footballing superpower, Manchester United, took a different approach to their pre-season preparations. Renowned for having a huge following in the Far East, United took the team to them, playing a series of fixtures in China. This not only swells their coffers in the short-term through merchandising, but also serves to raise their profile even higher.

Additionally, their friendlies against inferior opponents have allowed new summer signings acquired in previous years such as Michael Owen a chance to show his prowess by netting four goals in as many matches. This helped eases fans’ worries over his suitability for the team, and encouraged high hopes heading into that season. United’s financial gains were surely welcomed, but is this reason enough to justify the trip?

Every club must balance their accounts, but United may well have let greed choose an unsuitable pre-season. Another example of a pre-season friendly that raised the hopes of fans and players alike is provided by Villarreal’s 27-0 demolition of third-division Navata in 2009. Whilst United’s success on tour and Villarreal’s record-breaking victory can have a psychological impact on the team and the fans, that wasn’t why they were scheduled.

Results aren’t important in friendlies. An example of this: Newcastle’s 6-1 humiliation at the hands of League One side Leyton Orient. It was a result that hinted at the possibility of malaise gripping the club, but it doesn’t hide the talent still resting there. The fixture meant nothing to the players who would have shown more fight in a competitive match. Although it would have been another blow to severely weakened morale, that one result will have no effect on the club’s overall season.

Symbolic of the hyperbolic world of friendlies was the Wembley Cup, a competition featuring Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, Celtic and Egyptian Champions Al-Ahly. This served the traditional purpose of a pre-season competition by allowing players to adjust into vaguely competitive football again.

However, the marketing aspect of the competition demonstrated how serious friendlies could be, portraying a glorified training session as one of the prizes of European football. The crowds that swelled to Wembley (with a two-day ticket reaching £100) illustrated the moneymaking potential of pre-season, and football as a whole.

Friendlies should be merely opportunities for players to prepare for the upcoming campaigns. Instead, they become more victims of football’s obsessive media scrutiny. Victories and defeats should count for nothing, but are seized upon and used as evidence to praise or vilify players and teams. These stories are lapped up by fans, desperate for any indication of how their team will fare in the coming season.

The financial side of friendlies just demonstrates how commercial modern football is, with fans charged for the privilege of watching their team prepare.


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Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo: An Infographic that compares the two living legends

Messi or Ronaldo? A popular and divisive debate among football fans. Two players with different styles, but both wonderful and enjoyable to watch and admire. Below is an infrographic provided and created by the folks at Guarantee Tickets that compares stats and other details between the two living football legends. Regardless of all the records and stats the two behold, both are a pleasure to watch, so let’s enjoy their presence and talents while their still around and in their prime.

The stats highlighted are up until the end of 2014. Ronaldo has since won another Ballon d’Or to make it 3 for the Portuguese talisman to magical Messi’s 4.


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Martin Odegaard: Madrid get the Norweigan prodigy but may have already damaged the promise of his career

The rumours, no matter how unlikely, concerning Gareth Bale’s exit from Real Madrid, with Manchester United the possible destination, continue to flow. He has 36 goals in 18 months in Madrid, but the strained relationship between Real’s record £85 million signing and the fans, first showing itself last January after misplacing a pass against Granada before the boos returned earlier this month after he failed to pass to Cristiano Ronaldo, has so far undermined his time in Spain.

Winning goals in the finals of the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League have been highlights but in the minds of Real Madrid fans- expecting Ronaldo levels of return on his world record fee- they have counted for little in a stint that has been hampered by injury, accusations of poor work-rate and the form of Isco in his absence.

Bale hasn’t been poor since joining from Spurs, far from it in fact, but he so far hasn’t reflected the billing to which Madrid projected him with that obscene transfer fee, which is of course isn’t the Welshman’s fault. Now a similar predicament faces 16 year old Martin Odegaard.

Odegaard was in Madrid last week for his unveiling after making a £2.2 million move from Stromsgodset- the fee is set to rise to a potential £8 million should he reach simple objectives- in front of a packed press room, the excitement was clear.

Madrid already had the symbolic victory of beating Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Arsenal and Paris St Germain to the Norwegian’s signature and the potential is huge. The midfielder is Norway’s youngest ever debutant and goal-scorer, his former manager Ronny Deila described him as “special and to celebrate his signing, Real released a mouth-watering video to showcase his undeniable talent to the world. It is not just his ability that separates his brilliance but an attitude that so many believe will see him stay on the route to the top.

Describing the lengths Real went to securing his services can give some indication into the extent of Odegaard’s ability. To ensure his signing they have given Hans-Erik Odegaard, Martin’s father, a role as youth team coach, while also paying the teenager an £80,000-a-week wage.

That has already caused issues among Madrid’s reserve side, where Odegaard is likely to spend his first months in Spain as Madrid seek to run his development with caution, with captain Sergio Aguza making clear his envy of the riches the Norwegian has been given. Aguza will also be denied the same opportunities, Odegaard will train with the first-team but will play with the reserves.

Odegaard only has to look to Aguza, a player who also joined Real as a 16 year old only to see his career fail to take off, for warning. The midfielder is now 22 but has yet to make a first-team appearance for Real since joining them in 2008, managing 23 appearances for the B side while staying mostly a regular for the Castilla team in the third tier of Spanish football.

It is unlikely Odegaard’s career, given the clear signs of an extraordinary talent, will follow a similar path of stagnation, but Aguza is just one of many cases of players who have failed to successfully realise their true potential as they age into the maturity of late-teens and early-20s.

Madrid will also be familiar with many of those cases. Samuel Eto’o was a fellow 16 year old signing but he only managed 3 games for Real before leaving for Mallorca while Esteban Cambiasso was also 16 when he joined from Argentinos Juniors. The Argentine would be loaned back to his native league on a couple of occasions before moving to Inter Milan on a free as a 24 year old. It would then ire Madrid to watch him lift the Champions League, alongside Eto’o and another Real-reject Wesley Sneijder, in the Bernebau in 2010.

Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo would all fail to make the cut in Madrid’s academy but total over £130 million in transfer fees over the past five years. Real would not reap that money, nor the brilliance of Eto’o, Cambiasso and Sneijder in their prime, and would instead have to keep subscribing to the ‘Galactico policy of constant investment in order to wrestle league and European dominance away from bitter rivals Barcelona.

Again, this would be irksome to Florentino Perez and Real, aware that Barca’s juggernaut under Pep Guardiola was founded on a group of supremely gifted academy products. How Madrid longed to replicate that, but simply found it beyond their reach. “You have to know how to manage a youth system, and Madrid aren’t doing that” said Negredo, who failed to make a single appearance for Real despite two spells with the club.

Whether Real will heed the lessons of the recent past and alter their approach in managing precious young talent will now come under intense scrutiny with Odegaard, as the club try desperately to nurture and mould their own Ballon D’Or winner instead of attempting to break the bank on one every summer.

But such are the finances already involved on a player unable to drink alcohol in his native country and only just out of compulsory education, the attention on the Norwegian will be microscopic. The private jets, the VIP treatment and the packed press-boxes, with all that comes ludicrously high expectation.

Odegaard will have to be very special to justify it all, anything less and the critics will find their voice. They may have compromised Odegaard’s career before it has even truly begun.



Written by Adam Gray

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Champions League: An Infographic on the 2014/15 Round of 16 contenders

Below is an infographic highlighting and detailing the round of 16 contenders in this season’s Champions League. It was created and designed by the folks at Guarantee Tickets.

Champions League Round of 16 Infographic

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Football/Sports Tips: How to Effectively Communicate With Your Players

Communication is key in any sport, especially team ones such as rugby and football, where the success of the club depends on effective management of large pools of talent. Keeping track of the well-being, health and fitness of each individual player is essential to manage your resources and ensure that the group on the pitch is able to get the best results. It can also help you to avoid injury, overrunning certain players in the build up to important events, and overseeing opportunities as they arise.


Face-to-Face Communication

Whether you are training or giving the team a talk during half time, it can be difficult to get your message across clearly both to the team as a whole, and individuals who need specific advice or criticism. Especially during intense situations such as games, mistakes made by players can be frustrating for the coach and manager, but a negative approach to communication can only have adverse effects. In any situation, try to build a criticism into a compliment. Tell them what they were doing well, then how they can improve their game, and you are much more likely to get a positive response.

Listening is as important for coaches and managers as it is for the players. Instead of giving them a 5-minute talk on where they have gone wrong and how they could improve, get them more actively involved in the conversation. Ask them where they think things went wrong, and talk through their situation to come to a solution. By being approachable and willing to hear what the athletes themselves have to say, you might also be surprised at how many of them are perfectly capable of self-diagnosis, and ask for advice of their own accord.


Interacting off the Pitch

However much you might try to cover every base in the time spent with your players, you inevitably can’t keep track of each player at all times. Yet understanding their feelings and physical situation is crucial to effective team management, and a passing comment during training from a player might easily get lost in the pipeline. Equipping your players and your organisation with sports performance management software allows you to interact off the pitch.

Your players can fill in surveys on their performance and fitness, whilst you can co-ordinate their training and development remotely, accessible on mobile devices to fit around the busy lives of every member of the organisation. By doing so, you can secure on-going communication with your team, and make sure that everything is professionally tracked and recorded.

In a modern world where mobile technology offers the opportunity to interact any time, anywhere, as a sporting organisation or individual, communication on the pitch is only one half of the picture today. Investment in sports performance management software and makes interaction with your players easier and more effective. Combined with an approachable and positive style of coaching and management, you can get the best out of your team to watch the success speak for itself.


Article by Kelly Gilmour-Grassam, freelance copywriter from Yorkshire. Kelly loves the great outdoors, interesting places and fine foods. You can follow her on Twitter at @KellyGGrassam. This article is written with support from The Sports Office.

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Real Madrid: Ronaldo correct to voice concerns

The toughest thing to do in football is to repeat success. Whilst this sounds a little foolish taken at face value it is undoubtedly true. No side in the history of the Champions League, for instance, has ever managed to win back to back titles. Only Chelsea and Manchester United have achieved the feat since the Premier League began over 20 years ago. Having finally won ‘la decima’ last season, Real Madrid will find it much tougher this time round.

After eventually achieving the obsession that had gripped the club for a decade following up that success is always going to be difficult. The club has made some substantial additions to the squad over the summer transfer window but bizarrely it is the players that they have lost that appear to have weakened them.

With two of their most influential players in Alonso and Di Maria both leaving the club within a fortnight of each other, Cristiano Ronaldo has even questioned their departures in the media. Whilst the common consensus of Ronaldo single handedly carrying Real on his shoulders carries a little weight, those who have watched them over recent seasons know better.

Alonso has been the chief architect in the side since his arrival from Liverpool. He has been the dependable and consistent player they have needed in the middle of the pitch, who is able to dictate the game with his fabulous passing range. His experience and knowhow was paramount in their Champions League success last year and his nous will be missed hugely. The head coach Carlo Ancelotti certainly has several options, but when he sees Alonso playing for Bayern Munich he will still secretly wish he was organising his team.

Much has been made of Di Maria’s departure and none will feel his loss as much as Ronaldo. Indeed, it was the Portuguese player who spoke out last summer regarding rumours of the Argentine’s exit from Madrid. However, this summer he could not stand in his friend’s way. Di Maria was sensational in the Champions League final and has been assisting Ronaldo seemingly at will over the last few seasons. His ability to move between the midfield and defensive lines when attacking at speed has made him one of the most influential players in the game.

Losing two such players would likely cripple many of the leading teams in European football. However, Real Madrid is not exactly your stereotypical club. This summer they have signed Hernandez from Manchester United on loan and added the permanent signatures of Kroos, Navas and Rodriguez to really strengthen their squad. They have begun the season as favourites for the Primera Division and will be serious contenders for the Champions League.

Refreshing the squad after a period of success is not out of the ordinary. What remains doubtful though is the effect it could have on the remainder of the squad if they fall on tough times. Having lost 4-2 to Real Sociedad last weekend, having been two nil up, does suggest that there could be some fragility to their team. It is still incredibly early to predict outcomes, but it will certainly be something to watch out for in the coming months.

The ability to maintain success is one that even the elite managers have struggled to achieve over the years. Whilst freshening up the team in order to repeat the success is a very sensible idea, the departures of Alonso and Di Maria could have a huge bearing on Madrid’s season.


Written by Andy Hunter

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Angel Di Maria: Real Madrid star edges nearer to Old Trafford to hand Van Gaal much-needed tactical versatility

After a nervous opening to Sunday afternoon’s engagement at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Juan Mata was on hand to turn home Antonio Valencia’s driven cross to remind everybody of the match-changing quality Manchester United possess in attack. Minutes later Jack Rodwell would head an equaliser, rising unchallenged at a corner to expose the vulnerability at the heart of an unfamiliar defence in an unfamiliar system.

1-1 is how it remained for the next hour and Louis Van Gaal finds himself without a win in his opening two games as the second heir to Sir Alex Ferguson’s throne. It is ludicrously early to doubt his suitability but questions will justifiably arise over the 3-5-2 system that, in theory, is designed to produce the best form out of Mata in tandem with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. In practice however it left United fraught and disjointed, Van Gaal describing the draw as “not good enough”.

The conversation would then move on to Angel Di Maria, the current Real Madrid winger who is subject to United’s interest to the tune of £75 million. He will be signed by Van Gaal to play predominantly as a wing-back, an improvement on Valencia and Ashley Young who struggled on each flank as they stuttered to a draw in the north east. In the opening day defeat to Swansea, the injury to Jesse Lingaard forced Van Gaal into a rethink as Adnan Januzaj’s lack of defensive discipline saw a switch to a more conventional 4-4-2. Di Maria’s versatility and energy is likely to solve that issue.

Will Buckley gave both Ashley Young and Tyler Blackett a torrid time on the right on Sunday while Patrick Van Aanholt’s incursions from left-back troubled Valencia on the opposite side. Ahead of him, Connor Wickham was moved from his central-striking role to the left by Gus Poyet and his constant cutting-inside caused numerous problems for Phil Jones. Jones in particular looks uncertain on the right side of the defensive trio while Valencia, assist aside, was poor throughout and was culpable for Rodwell’s goal.

What would have alarmed Van Gaal was the speed of the build-up, with the central-midfield pairing of Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley slow and ponderous in possession, failing to offer any real incision and causing both Van Persie and Rooney to drop deeper, distorting United’s attacking verve. “Our passing let us down, we need more creative passing”, said Van Gaal.

Michael Carrick, pinpointed by the new manager as an integral asset to the new system, is watching his long-term injury absence have a huge effect whilst Ander Herrera was injured for the trip north. In Di Maria, Van Gaal would have a player able to play in central-midfield like he did impressively on occasion for Real Madrid, boasting tremendous vision as well as a nature for explosive runs from midfield. Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone named him as Real Madrid’s “best player” in the wake of the SuperCopa first leg last Tuesday, calling him “the most dominant player in pushing the play up the pitch.”

It does indeed seem a surprise that Real Madrid are allowing the 26 year old to leave, the attempt to balance the financial see-saw after a summer’s indulgence on Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez put strain on Madrid’s FFP situation does not excuse the quality that they will undoubtedly lose. After a turbulent search for form under Jose Mourinho, Di Maria blossomed under Ancelotti, featuring regularly and topping the La Liga assist chart with 17. He was also named Man of the Match as Real achieved a tenth European Cup in Lisbon back in May.

Naturally a right-winger, Di Maria will offer United a world-class option, should Van Gaal choose to ditch the 3-5-2 system that is experiencing intense growing pains, in an area they have been seriously lacking since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009. Valencia and Shinji Kagawa continue to struggle for form, Nani’s inconsistency has seen him packed off on loan to Sporting Lisbon and Adnan Januzaj remains an extremely raw talent, offering mere glimpses of considerable promise.

The move will attract the cynical view that Di Maria represents another marquee signing which can be seen as unnecessary, another instance of high-spend to serve the Glazer’s gratification in the face of growing dissent and unrest over the direction of the club. It will also reposition Manchester United’s ability to compete at the higher end of the market and ease the doubts over the nous of Ed Woodward, the chief executive who has so far found life difficult as chief negotiator.

The transfer, which will restore Manchester United as top-dogs of the English transfer scene, will please the shareholders and the plethora of partners the club are associated with, but it is on the pitch where United desperately need this move to work. Di Maria’s worth off the field will be huge, but it will be up to him, as well as Van Gaal as the search goes on for the right system, to ensure he is highly valuable on the field.


Written by Adam Gray

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