What does ‘més que un club’ mean?

In theory, ‘more than a club’ means feelings, it means a political idea of freedom and passion… for football, right?

At a time where politics and more importantly, Independència, is buzzing throughout the rambling state of Catalunya - FC Barcelona’s voice in the movement is long established. When Camp Nou makes a statement, people listen. Spanish football expert Sid Lowe explores FC Barcelona’s involvement in such a delicate and important issue - one which can completely transform Spain.

The journalist interviews a series of politicians, former and current board FC Barcelona members. In particularly, he underlines Joan Laporta’s role, the club’s former President and now an upcoming figure in Catalan politics.

"The Catalans had two options. Either do nothing and continue as we were… Or the option that has never been tried, which is to give as a solution the process for the independence of Catalonia."

FC Barcelona is a football club, although they are more than a club, or as they like to express it: ‘més que un club’. However, despite their involvement in Catalan politics, which is certainly pioneered through their board directors and passionate fans - the club must be careful, they can’t be used as a political engineer.

And as Cruyff states, "their attitude is one of the most improtant things - and sometimes it’s a battle."

The next weeks and months will be crucial in Catalonia’s fight for independence, and Barça too will be greatly affected - on or off the field; but it’s important to remember they are neither the protagonist nor the leader.

[This short documentary was first posted on the Guardian, by Sid Lowe - Posted by Dominic]

The Unexpected European Final: Fulham v. Atlético

By Dominic Vieira

Madrid vs Fulham, Europa League Final, 12th May 2010, 19:45 GMT, Hamburg

Tomorrow night, either Atlético Madrid or Fulham will be crowned as the first winner of the Europa League. It’s been an extravagant and revolutionary European campaign for both clubs and nobody, including me, would have expected the final to be disputed between these two clubs. How often is it that we find Los Colchorenos and The Cottagers disputing a European cup final?

Fulham have been the surprising and outstanding underdogs of the competition, who would have thought they would have knocked out numerous European giants on their path to reach the final. Some didn’t even expect them to pass the group stages. It has been a mythical journey for them and the culmination of hard work and team spirit has rewarded them with their first ever European final. Victory tomorrow night for Fulham would be the perfect ending to their European fairytale.

Atlético Madrid, who were knocked out of the Champions League grouped stages, also endured a challenging ride to the final. The Madrid based team may be underperforming in La Liga, but they’ve played their best football in the Europa League which has been highlighted by their efficient and offensive football. However, there is a tradition, when Atlético are considered favourites, the team fails to deliver. Will being crowned as champions save their season?

Read More

South American Dominance in Portugal

By Dominic Vieira

This week I am going to be commenting on a key issue which is affecting the modern game in Europe, foreign players vs. home-grown players. I will primarily focus on the Portuguese League, but this issue affects Europe’s top divisions, especially the Premier League where there are more foreigners playing than British players. I will also take a look into the FIFA 6 + 5 rule, which will start being implemented next season.

The Portuguese League is full of talented and gifted players, however, the majority are not Portuguese; they generally originate from South America, and some examples of the imported stars are Di María (Benfica), Hulk (FC Porto), Matias Fernandez (Sporting). These players are poached at a relatively young age and for a low fee. But Portuguese clubs don’t buy the top stars in South America as they have high transfer prices. It’s easy to sign Southern American players as they don’t require a work permit and initially don’t demand excessively high wages. After spending 2 or 3 seasons in Portugal they’re sold for at a multi-million transfer fee; Lisandro Lopez and Anderson both left Portugal for over 25 million euros.

Without a doubt, the transfers are highly profitable and are an essential source of income for clubs. It’s not only the top 3 clubs which benefit from this, for example, Nacional da Madeira bought Brazilian striker Nenê for a small fee and sold him last summer for 4.5 million euros to Calcio Cagliari.

Portugal produces world class players, but the rising stars tend to leave the country at a young age. They depart from Portugal to play in a more competitive league, further develop as a player and receive a greater salary. Cristiano Ronaldo spent one season at Sporting before transferring to Man. Utd and Quaresma played 2 seasons before moving to Barcelona in 2003.

However, the principal problem is that the larger intake of foreign players has made it harder for home-grown players to break into the first team of a club. If that player is talented, he will soon depart to another league and for a strong price. His replacement is generally Southern American, e.g. Benfica replaced Simão with Di Maria.

Read More

Millions Can’t Buy The Champions League

Dominic Vieira

Benzema: 42 million euros. Kaká: 65 million euros. Cristiano Ronaldo: 94 million euros. Winning the Champions League at the Bernabeu? PRICELESS. There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else, there is Mastercard.

The dream is over. Real Madrid was knocked out of the Champions League by Lyon and their fantasy of winning their 10th Champions League on home soil was destroyed. Surprisingly, this was the 5th consecutive time that Real Madrid was kicked out of the final 16 knock out round of the competition.

Real Madrid’s expectations for this season were incredibly high and ambitious, they have certainly not been achieved and now the chances of winning a trophy are limited. Firstly, Real Madrid were humiliated by AD Alcorcón for the Copa Del Rey (4-0 defeat!), Lyon knocked them out of the Champions League and they are battling head-to-head against Barcelona to win La Liga.  After spending an excessive 250 million euros this season on the world’s finest players, something is clearly not working.

What is going wrong? Who is responsible? Do we blame the President? The Football director? The players? Or in most cases, the manager. I will analyze each one.

Read More

The Plague of Injury

By Dominic Vieira

Every footballer wants to play.

All footballers can all run, jump and shoot. All players enjoy being part of a winning team. But how many players suffer a huge injury throughout their career? How many players end up not being able to run, jump, and shoot? How many players have to watch their teammates lift up trophies whilst they are in crutches?

Unfortunately, injuries play a negative role in football. Nobody wants to suffer them or injure another player opposition. Injuries are regarded as the worst moments in a footballer’s career, especially those who spend months (or years) on the sidelines suffering. The span of a football player’s career is short, and being told that they have to end their career early is a huge psychological and physical blow to take.

Imagine telling a 20-year-old he can no longer play football? Fortunately, medical treatment in football has improved tremendously; this has enabled players to continue playing after being told that they can’t play anymore. The beautiful game has become more demanding, and as players play more games they are put under more pressure and their muscles and bones need to be highly specialized. Therefore, the chance of an injury is excessively high. The individual player is not the only person who suffers from the injury but also the teammates, manager and the fans lose out.

The majority of players bounce back from a serious injury mentally and physically stronger, but sometimes that is not the case, the injury ends up destroying a football player’s career. In this article, I have closely studied 4 players’ career-altering injuries.

Ronaldo:

The Brazilian superstar has a very unlucky right knee. In 1999, against Lecce, he ruptured it and immediately underwent surgery. After several months away from the field and completing a rapid recovery, O Fenômeno returned to the fields on April the 12th, 2000 against Lazio. Just several minutes after his return Ronaldo found himself on the floor in pain, once again with his right knee injured, but this time it was worse than the last time. This injury ended his hopes of playing in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. 20 months later Ronaldo was back and earned a place in the 2002 World Cup winning team. The story does not end here. In 2008, whilst representing AC Milan, Ronaldo suffered another injury; this time it was his left knee and was sidelined for another 9 months. The striker was not expected to recover from it, but once again, he regained his fitness. However he also gained weight. Ronaldo is currently playing for Corinthians in Brazil, but is not in Dunga’s plans for the 2010 World Cup.

Read More

“The Success Behind Barcelona’s Cantera”

By Dominic Vieira

Spain has an astronomical football culture, a culture where most of their players started kicking a ball on the streets. In Barcelona it is easy find a group of “niños” kicking a ball around, this is where it all begins. Barcelona is a football city, everywhere footballs can be found being kicked and almost all of the boys represent a team, from a low level to the top youth divisions. All the boys in Catalunya dream of playing in the Nou Camp one day, but only the most talented and hard working make it happen. FC Barcelona are currently World, European and Spanish champions and one of the key reasons for this great achievement, is their world class players they have. The majority of them were produced through their own cantera, known as ’La Masia’, which is currently the best in the world. Do the names Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and Puyol sound familiar?

In recent times Barcelona’s cantera has been flourishing, each season they manage to promote another highly talented player who immediately makes an impact on the team; this season Pedro has been in flying form. Their current squad consists of 10 home grown players, 8 of whom are Catalan. In comparison to their arch-rivals, Real Madrid’s squad consists 5 home grown players; however, there hasn’t been any indication of young players being launched into the first team. Real Madrid may have the best facilities in the world but instead of benefitting from it, they decide to spend millions on some of the world’s best players.

La Masia is a symbol of FC Barcelona; the excellent and highly successful academy saves the club millions of euros; Barcelona doesn’t need to spend 96 million euros on a winger when they have Lionel Messi. La Masia the home for Barcelona’s youth players who live and grow up in the residence. Many of Barça’s most prolific stars have live there, and it is part of the club’s culture, history and etiquette. What is it that makes La Masia a success? Their style of coaching is like no other, they focus on technique, controlling the game and playing the ball on the ground. If you would watch any of their youth teams play, you would see that they all play a very similar game and style; this makes it easy for the players to adapt easily when they are promoted. From the early ages of 8, the players start learning to play the Barcelona way, the famous tiki-taka game, where the players play with 2 or 3 touches on the ball and always have many direct options to pass the ball; it is a fast style and one which requires high levels of concentration. The club’s philosophy plays a key role in the development of their players, Messi has stated in several interviews “As a kid they teach you not to play to win, but to grow in ability as a player. At Barca, we trained every day with the ball, I hardly ever ran without a ball at my feet. It was a form of training aimed very clearly at developing your skills.”

Read More

Dominic Vieira’s “Super Sixteen Champo Tuesday and Wednesday Round Two”

This week’s Champions League last 16 first-leg matches:

TUESDAY 23RD FEB 19:45GMT

Stuttgart x Barcelona

Olympiacos x Bordeaux

WEDNESDAY 24th FEB 19:45 GMT

CSKA Moscow x Sevilla (17:45GMT)

Internazionale x Chelsea

This Tuesday defending champions FC Barcelona will travel to Germany to play against Stuttgart, who will be bouncing back from a 5-1 thrashing they gave FC Köln. The Barcelona defence, who have not been as solid as last season and are without Eric Abidal and Chygrynskiy, must definitely look out for Cacau who is in hot form; he scored 4 goals on the weekend. Barcelona are entering this match which a 4-0 beating they gave Santander and I will expect their midfield which will be composed of Xaxi, Toure and Iniesta to dominate the match with their tica-taca style. Also, up front Barcelona’s tridente will certainly be running riot with their typical Henry, Messi and Zlatan trio. But, this is the Champions League, no game is easy and Stuttgart is a strong side at home. Hleb (former Barcelona player), Cacau, Pogrebnyak and Kuzmanovic will certainly cause danger to the Spanish side. This is definitely a must watch game which promises excessive offensive and fast football, I can see Barcelona taking this one 1-4 if they get it right, but be careful with Stuttgart.

Greek champions Olympiacos will be hosting French champions Bordeaux at the Karaiskakis Stadium, a very hard ground to play at with a menacing atmosphere. The Greek side will be without its Brazilian vice captain, who is a crucial figure in the team and will be missed. On the other hand, their striking force composed of the Spaniard Oscar and young Greek talented Mitroglu will certainly be a threat to Carrasso. Olympiaco’s Captain, Antonios Nikopolidis is a highly experienced goalkeeper and may prevent the French giants from many goal scoring opportunities. Young manager Laurent Blanc is taking a strong team which beat Lorient 4-1 last Wednesday, Bordeaux have the advantage of not having played on the weekend and will be able to utilize a fitter and well prepared team. The usual threats will be coming from Chamakh, Gouffran, Gourcuff, and in-form Wendel. Olympiacos better watch out! I could see Bordeaux taking this one, but in a highly intense atmosphere it may be hard. A 2-2 draw will put a smile on Blanc’s face.

Read More

The Illustrious Iberian’s Insight: “Super Sixteen Champo Tuesday and Wednesday”

By Dominic Vieira

This year’s Champions League last 16 is organized in a different format.  Instead of there being the usual 4 games played on Tuesday and the other 4 on the Wednesday. The UEFA (brilliantly!) spread the schedule of matches over the course of 8 days. The benefit from this is that there will be a huge increase in TV viewers and us – the fans who love the Champions League.  However, it may be a bit of a problem if your wife is not keen on football. Plan B: run down to the nearest pub/bar, these matches must not be missed!

At this stage of the competition, there is no such thing as an easy win.  On that note, we must remember that in football we must never underestimate the opposition, never. All the games are going to be close and challenging, personally I find it incredibly hard to predict the results because they can easily swing either way. I would not be surprised if the so called “weaker/smaller” teams win, at this stage all of the teams have the potential to go far in the competition.

Each day, two intense close battles of “must-see” matches will be played; football will be performed at its highest level. Below is the schedule of the first leg of the last 16:

TUESDAY 16TH FEB 19:45GMT

Lyon x Real Madrid

AC Milan x Manchester United

WEDNESDAY 17TH FEB 19:45 GMT

Bayern x Fiorentina

Porto x Arsenal

TUESDAY 23RD FEB 19:45GMT

Stuttgart x Barcelona

Olympiacos x Bordeaux

WEDNESDAY 24th FEB 19:45 GMT

CSKA Moscow x Sevilla (17:45GMT)

Internazionale x Chelsea

On Tuesday, we will be entertained with two crunching matches; it will be hard to follow both of them. We will see the almighty Real Madrid play at the Stade Gerland under frigid conditions. However, we are unsure of Karim Benzema’s warm welcome return home, due to his current injury. Other notable missing players from The Merengues will be of Pepe, Guti, and Van der Vaart, who are all out due to injury. On the other hand, Olympiqyue Lyon will not be missing any of their regular starting eleven men. Kaka, Ronaldo and Higuain are certainly the men to watch from the Spanish side and it will be interesting to see how Cris, Cissokho and Toualalan will deal with them. On the other side of the field, Lisandro Lopez will definitely be running riot for Les Gones and he is capable of changing the result at any time. It will be a close and physical battle, I believe that Real Madrid has the quality and experience to win, and they are boosted by the return of Ronaldo, who scored two goals on the weekend. Real will win 1-2, but it won’t be a smooth victory.

The match in Italy will see a typical battle between two classic Champions League giants, AC Milan against Manchester United. This game will not only be a battle between Ronaldinho and in form Wayne Rooney, hopefully we will also see David Beckham playing against his former club. I believe this game will be won and lost in the middle of the park. It will be interesting to see Milan’s experienced and elegant trio composed of Pirlo, Gattusso and Ambrosini take on the physical and efficient United’s midfield.  It will not be surprising if Ferguson opts to use a 4-5-1, his typical formation used in recent CL editions. The 4-5-1 will allow Fergie to utilize two wide fast wingers, which could be Nani, Valencia or Park; and they will certainly cause problems for Abate and Favalli. Manchester United will be without their Serb rock - Nemanja Vidic, veteran Ryan Giggs and creative midfielder Anderson. AC Milan recently recovered from many injuries and they will benefit from the return of Pato. However, they did play on the weekend and may suffer from fatigue. The match will be close and experience will be vital, knowing United’s style very well and not trying to be biased, I can see this game ending as a 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2. However, the result could tip either way, but United will want to finish the job at Old Trafford. Dida will be essential for the game; hopefully United will not be favoured by his infamous slips.

Read More

Disclaimer
A Football Report © 2009-2013