Rosell Resigns - AFR Voice Ep.25

In this week’s pod we’ll be taking a look at the rather strange goings on in Barcelona - they may now have one of the world’s brightest young players on their books, but their President has paid for it with his job. Listen to us squirm as we get lost in a pool of hidden payments, sign-on fees and third party ownership deals that we still think nobody (including Neymar himself) really understands.

Away from the mess of Catalan invoices and contract law, it’s nearly the end of January which can only mean one thing – the transfer window is about to SLAM SHUT. We’ll be taking a look at the big transfer news in Europe, Diego Forlan’s rather unexpected move from Brazil to the Far East, as well as indulging in some transfer window cliché bingo.

With Europe’s top leagues now back in full swing after the winter break we’ll also be discussing Dortmund’s latest woes as Bayern pick up where they left off in the Bundesliga, and take a peek at the top of Ligue 1 where a team actually bought a French player from Newcastle (which makes a nice change).

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Boxing Day Bonanza - AFR Voice Ep. 20

In England, the day after Christmas means only two things – one, gulping down the remainder of the Christmas turkey and two, watching a phenomenal amount of football.

Each side in the top tier played on the 26th December, and we’ve picked out the major points for debate – including the continuation of Newcastle’s astonishing hot-streak, a potentially season-defining win for Manchester City and the welcome return of Darren Fletcher at Manchester United.

After we made our way out of that dizzying coma of food and goals, we took a far more global approach – analysing The Guardian’s list of the top 100 players in the world and doffing our caps to Bayern Munich who won the Club World Cup in Morocco. But what about the tournament itself – is it simply a vacuous money-spinner for FIFA, or is it a credible title that deserves more respect?

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What we’re reading this week

Although we’re proud to publish plenty of articles by our talented network of writers and contributors here at AFR; we also keep an eye out for work which is being written elsewhere. Here are a few articles out there that we recommend, in no particular order:

Who is the ultimate big-game scorer in football history?

Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) compiles a consolidated study to determine who are the most decisive footballers to decide a big games, who is most likely to score and who scores the most goals in the big games. Let the number crunching surprise you.

In 2020, the European Championship will travel to 13 cities. Football fans will pay the price

Multimedia journalist Claudia Bracholdt (@cbracholdt) addresses and analyses the issue of UEFA’s latest groundbreaking decision to host the Euro 2020 in 13 different cities.

Tiny Cape Verde is Africa Cup of Nations’ Cinderella story

Africa is the current centre-stage of world football with the vibrant 2013 AFCON, hosted by South Africa, entertaining us on a daily basis. This year’s surprise has certainly been Cape Verde, one of the smallest nations in the world, are writing their very own ‘Cinderella Story’. SI’s Jonathan Wilson (@jonawils) unravels the fairytale.

Newcastle’s French Fancies - Player Analysis of Newcastle United’s Ligue 1 Signings

It’s been a busy transfer window for Alan Pardew, who’s re-enforced his Premier League side with 4 new signings, who have all arrived from the France’s Ligue 1. Jonathan (@JustFootball) provides insight on all new recruits, looking at the value for money paid and whether they’ll make it in the league or not. Complete.

Those who will be cheering: the evolution of WOSO and their fans

Second Touch, a new site run by female fans of the game, launched with a bang as it examined the current state of women’s soccer, not to mention the state of its fans.

Bob Bradley - the American who stayed

There’s no hyperbole in saying that Egyptian football has descended into utter chaos once again. But despite having so many reasons to walk away from the Pharaohs, Egypt’s American manager Bob Bradley sticks to his morals and continues to serve as a uniting figure for those who welcomed him in such a foreign land.

Josep Guardiola’s Greatest Achievement: BARÇA B

And last, but by no means least, Spanish youth football expert Caleb Cousens (@FootballCantera) has written a 4-part masterpiece on Guardiola’s work and success with Barcelona B. We’ve made it easy for you, here’s also part 2, part 3 and part 4. Find some peace, sit down and enjoy.

We’ve read them and now we recommend that you do, too. A selection made by Dom and Eric.

A forgotten past, and the rise of Chelsea’s new signing Demba Ba

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It didn’t take long for Premier League fans to embrace Newcastle’s Senegalese striker. After all, it’s hard to resist a player that admits“I love syrup … It’s something I can’t live without, like an addiction.”

But before this interview with Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves in 2012, Demba Ba was still relatively new to the British game, having only swapped the Bundesliga for the Premier League a year previously. The contrast between Ba’s reputation in England and Germany is interesting, to say the least.

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Is this really the return of St. James’ Park?

By Tom Kelk

In the space of 5 minutes Newcastle fans, myself included, traversed from a familiar feeling of unease and tension - over the new sponsorship deal with payday lenders Wonga.com - to delirious excitement! The moment our managing director Derek Llambias announced that Wonga.com had requested that the ‘Sports Direct Arena’ be returned to its rightful name: St James’ Park, Wonga transcended the hate to love spectrum rapidly in the eyes of many.

But since that delirious reaction, a sound of derision has begun to reverberate around the media. So why this stark contrast? And why is it difficult to sit either side of the fence?

Skim over the deal and this seems wonderful for both the club and us, the fans. Looking at figures the deal brings in an estimated £8m per year, in return for the shirt sponsorship alongside £1.5m dedicated to the NUFC academy and foundation which focusses on helping people in the region. Furthermore, there will be a fans forum to discuss kit design as well as ongoing issues at the club, and to top all of this? We can all embrace the true name of our beloved stadium once more. Sounds perfect, right?

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Is the End Nigh for Andy Carroll’s Liverpool career?

By David Tully

That he has found himself sailing too close to the wind is something Andy Carroll has been accused of before, but Brendan Rodgers’ recent comments have left the towering striker closer than walking the green mile to the precipice of the Anfield cliff. He may look stronger than ever, having likely stocked up on whey protein and casein protein, but it may not be enough.

Carroll, a striker seemingly reborn once the credits rolled on last season, could now find himself in great danger of having his yet still brief Liverpool career terminated just at the stage where, to many observers, he had begun to find his feet on Merseyside.

While it would take a Johnny Cochrane-inspired defence for anybody to argue that the player has been anything but an overall disappointment during his time at Liverpool, it would understandably frustrate the towering striker that the justification for his probable demise lies not in the poor form that he looked to have finally eradicated but rather one of conflicting footballing philosophies.

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Bringing North East Italy to North East England?

By Amy Eustace

Eight months ago, the top six was nailed on. You could bet your house on the fact that the usual suspects – the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs – would all be up there, fighting it out in their customary gloves-off style. But you wouldn’t have wagered a penny on the prospect of Newcastle, of all clubs, throwing their hat into that ring. It would’ve been like betting on a 12-year-old to knock out Ali, or a three-legged horse to win at Cheltenham. They had lost a raft of regular players; including the brash but effective Barton, the reliable Nolan, the indispensible Enrique and…well, Andy Carroll. Their fabled return to the Premier League hadn’t exactly coincided with a return to the glory days.

Geordies were faced with a lean transfer window. A few presumed nobodies from France here, some lad that played for West Ham there; it didn’t make for pleasant viewing. Expectations had been lowered since their year in the throes of the Championship, sure, but in a desolate summer thoughts strayed to the likelihood of being back there again sooner rather than later. No one expected to see them chasing European qualification at this point in the season. If you HAD bet on it, you would probably be looking forward to a handy payoff in two months’ time.

The question is…how did they do it?

How, at a time when all and sundry are abandoning the purse strings, did Newcastle manage to do the opposite, and compete at a higher level? To put it rather plainly, their methodology closely resembles another black-and-white-striped team: Udinese. From the North East of England, to the North East of Italy, a radical – yet perfectly sensible – strategy has been translated.

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Newcastle: Time They Were Taken Seriously Again?

By Andy Brunning, writing from Dorchester, England

As it always does by this stage in the season, the Premier League table is beginning to take on a not unfamiliar appearance. True, perhaps the advent of Manchester City as the current league leaders is a marked change from recent years, but with their many millions it was really only a matter of time before they sauntered to the top of the table. No, the team whose position sticks out like a sore thumb at the moment is Newcastle’s; riding high in third place, three points ahead of Chelsea, and just one point behind last season’s champions, Manchester United. Bear in mind we’re talking about a Newcastle team not drastically changed from the one who finished just seven points above the relegation places last season, and the current state of affairs becomes all the more perplexing. Recall that they’re owned by a man who enjoys cavorting around Chinese restaurants in his pants of a Saturday night, and it becomes nigh on miraculous.

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