Imagining the Iberian Championship: Catalunya claims Group A

By Dermot Corrigan, imagining in Madrid

When the Iberian Championships was first mooted (last month, here on A Football Report), there was some skepticism in Spain as to the concept’s viability, given the tightness of the club schedule, rivalries between different footballing authorities with competing jurisdictions, the logistical challenges involved, fraught political atmosphere etc. But due to the diligence and far-sightedness of those involved in the project, and the generosity of a certain gulf-oil-money fuelled TV broadcaster looking to break into vital European markets, the first round of games is now taking place during this week’s international break.

As is customary in Iberia, the draw was organised to give the better supported teams the best possible chance of progressing, with the top four ranked sides - Castilla, Catalunya, Euskadi and Valéncia - securing home advantage for two of their three group games. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque did the honours at the neutral territory of the Andorran FA HQ, with the coaches and captains of all eight teams showing up for the event, along with a healthy smattering of regional political dignitaries and cultural figures. There was a surprisingly positive mood of friendship and fraternity among all involved, especially with the first tranches of TV money being delivered up front.

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Gerard Piqué, photobombed with love
Piqué started on the bench this past Sunday at the Vicente Calderon as Atlético Madrid hosted Barcelona. Many questioned Pep Guardiola’s decision, but this girl could not be happier with it. Also, it needs to be noted that that Piqué seems to be sporting the MJ single glove look.

Gerard Piqué, photobombed with love

Piqué started on the bench this past Sunday at the Vicente Calderon as Atlético Madrid hosted Barcelona. Many questioned Pep Guardiola’s decision, but this girl could not be happier with it. Also, it needs to be noted that that Piqué seems to be sporting the MJ single glove look.

Giuseppe Rossi, another one who flew away

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Lancaster, England

A consistent pattern is revealing amongst the young players at Manchester United: they’re awarded limited minutes on the field, sold, transform into first team players elsewhere and then Alex Ferguson admits regret. The manager normally makes the right decision having released a combination of international players who failed to attain their hype or potential, that list includes the likes of Manucho, Dong Fangzhuo, Markus Neumayr, Rodrigo Possebon, and Madds Timm. 

However, the stories of the sold talents who flourished elsewhere have become a growing concern issue. Ryan Shawcross departed in 2008 and is an irreplaceable captain for FA Cup runners-up Stoke City. A year later Pique joined Barcelona where we won everything and can be regarded as one of the most complete centre-backs. Finally, after hitting over 30 goals for Villarreal this season and on the verge of joining FC Barcelona, Giuseppe Rossi can officially join the list. Are you still crying Fergie?

Like most footballers, Giuseppe Rossi carries an intriguing football adventure starting in New Jersey before flying ‘across the pond’ at the age of 12 to develop at the Parma academy. He completed the dream which thousands of aspiring boys envisage to materialize, joining a world famous club like Manchester United. That ambition turned into reality for Rossi on the 6th of July 2004, during the same summer Gerard Pique also joined and the pair became close friends during their time in England; the club was heavily criticised in their approach for the two players.

His first team opportunities were slim as competition was high; players such as Saha, Rooney, Ronaldo, Nistelrooy and Alan Smith were above him in the pecking order. On the other hand, Rossi who could play as an attacking midfielder or striker was developing with the Under 18’s and Reserves coached by the expertise of Brian McClair, Francisco Filho and Rene Meulensteen. After winning the prestigious Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in 2005, Rossi played in red hot form for the Reserves throughout the 05/06 season scoring over 30 goals and winning the treble which consists of the Barclays Premiership Reserve League NorthManchester Senior Cup and Reserve Shield. 

Following a 6-0 victory against Manchester City Reserves in April 2006, Arthur Albiston praised the Italian youngster on manutd.com: ”He is a box of tricks, a real bundle of energy. He doesn’t look the tallest player, but he has a low centre of gravity and great control with both feet. When you have that low center of gravity, you can get away from people quite quickly. He looks an exciting prospect.” The future looked incredibly bright and promising for Giuseppe Rossi.

Frequent playing time is essential for a youngster’s development and in the 06/07 season Rossi spent the first 6 months on loan at Newcastle. His opportunities at the Premier League side were incredibly restricted as he completed 13 appearances and scored on a single occasion, a strike in the League Cup against Portsmouth. The second half was spent in the Serie A representing Parma, this is where the striker was finally able to demonstrate his true capabilities. He scored 9 times and was a vital component in their relegation escape. Rossi’s January debut goal was sublime and was probably scored on a day when Fergie was busy on the golf course.

On the 1st of August 2007, Rossi, aged 20, having only played 14 matches scoring 4 goals for Manchester United, left England for Spain as he joined Villarreal. He was viewed as the long-term replacement of Diego Forlan, another former United striker who failed to establish himself at the club. It’s fair to state that Manchester United were reluctant in letting him go and secured a buy-back related clause in the transfer. But the move was crucial for his development as Rossi could play 90 minute football. 

The New Jersey-born striker proved his capabilities immediately as he scored on his La Liga debut against rivals Valencia. However, Rossi required time to adapt and develop in Spain, but the glimpses of potential continuously unveiled and strengthened. Each year he was maturing, improving his game and created a dangerous attacking partnership with Nilmar who joined in 2009. Last season was his best where he scored 18 league goals equalling David Villa’s tally, including a quality strike against Espanyol. Throughout the four years, Rossi has yet to lift a piece of silverware and any top footballer wants to be a champion.

After shining at the 2008 Olympics were he was top scorer for Italy, Rossi made his international debut in October against Belarus for a 2010 World Cup qualifier. Despite making the provisional squad for the tournament he was left out of Lippi’s final 23 man team. Under new manager Prandelli, Rossi became a frequent figure for the Azzurri and partnered Cassano last week for a Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia where he scored.

It’s the time of year when money is consistently circulating, the summer transfer window and Rossi isset to complete one of the biggest transfers. His agent told Sport.co.uk: “He is happy to stay there (Villarreal), but he is willing to wait for a big offer from a top club. He will only leave for a bigger club than Villarreal, and he would like a call from a Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, or Chelsea. If not, he is happy and he will extend his contract.”

But when asked about his previous club Manchester United who’ve been linked with a move, the agent stated: “before the club can accept any offer for Giuseppe, they must check with Manchester United.” However, Rossi does not have to accept the offer and probably won’t; a return to Old Trafford is unlikely.

After years of hard work, Rossi has displayed his sheer talent and quality, the 2010/11 season portrays him as a world class star, 32 goals in 56 matches. In a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 24 year old stated: "Playing for Barca is the dream of every player." And it probably is.

The Barcelona bells are ringing. A top player must win and medals are definitely missing in his trophy cabinet, a club like Barcelona guarantees him major victories. His versatility, ability to use both feet, speed and killer instinct enable him to play anywhere in the club’s attacking trademark trident. However, it’s likely to see Rossi sitting on the bench as it’s virtually impossible to dismantle the high scoring 'M + V + P'.

Messi is irreplaceable up front, but will miss the start of the season as he’ll be busy in South America fighting for his first major trophy, the Copa America. Therefore, his position will be filled by either David Villa or La Masia product Bojan who’s been linked with a move to the Premier League. If it’s unlikely to see Rossi filling Messi’s shoes, he would play on the left flank where he normally does at Villarreal. However, Rossi will struggle to play as frequently as he does at El Madrigal which would become an issue. Winning trophies for the best club or playing 90 minutes every week? The choice is his.

Another factor which must be taken into account is the estimated transfer which is €35m (£31m) this price has the potential to reduce Barcelona’s interest as they may focus on lowering their debt or other prime signings such as Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. The club does not necessarily require Rossi as their youth academy is blossoming, Gerard Deulofeu is an emerging star who plays on the left for the Under 19’s and could be the solution. 

Juventus and Tottenahm Hotspur are also linked with a move for the Italian star, but neither is playing in the Champions League like Villarreal. Remaining at his current club is a realistic option for Rossi who will continue shining and running riot alongside Nilmar. But is it possible to say no to FC Barcelona?

There’s another Italian who could follow Rossi’s footsteps, a name which hasn’t been forgotten and belongs to Federico Macheda. The youngster impressed in his debut season scoring 2 crucial goals in Manchester United’s title winning campaign. Since then he’s played a low number of games and struck the back of the net twice. He spent the second half of this season on loan at Sampdoria and unlike Rossi’s Italian spell; Kiko scored one goal and failed to save the club from relegation. Macheda is one year younger than Rossi and is competing against Rooney, Chicharito and Berbatov for a place in the XI; if there’s no room for him, what will United do?

After last night’s El Clásico, the logo for Madrid’s 2016 bid for the Olympics just got Barcelona’s full support and I’m fairly certain it’s Pique approved. It’s too bad that Rio already were given the bid.

After last night’s El Clásico, the logo for Madrid’s 2016 bid for the Olympics just got Barcelona’s full support and I’m fairly certain it’s Pique approved. It’s too bad that Rio already were given the bid.

(via cheekychip)

The Team Of The Group Stages

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Barcelona

Many players shined in the group stages and it was incredibly challenging to find 11 players to select. The team would operate under a 4-3-3. The players selected have been consistent and all played a key role in their team’s success. However, the players were not necessarily the best player in each position, but the selection of players was chosen so that these players would work well in a team and under the formation.

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We may look different, but don’t fret! AFR is still the same.

Posted By Eric Beard, A Football Report Co-Founder

Just like Pique, the jalapeno pepper who was the mascot for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and Gerard Pique, the Barcelona and Spain defender, here at AFR we’ve kept our name, but we’ve changed our site’s look a little bit. Just because our content is now easier to read and you now have much easier access to all of the AFR features, well, that doesn’t mean we’ve changed. We haven’t.

Even though we have (hopefully) evolved from that mascot with an awkward looking mustache to a professional footballer on the outside, don’t worry, we’re still the same footy-mad group with an undying relationship with the game. And although we’re still finishing up with the final touches on the redesign, but we’d love to hear what you think of the new “Pique 2.0” AFR! Feel free to drop a comment below or hit us up at contact@afootballreport.com.

Champions League Team of The Season 2009-10

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Portugal

To conclude another breathtaking, emotional and unbelievable 2009-10 Champions League, it’s time to select the 11 players who have been brilliant and consistent throughout the campaign to feature in the Champions League Team of The Season.

Júlio César (Inter Milan): A world class goalkeeper, one of the key pillars of Inter. He produced dozens of saves in beautiful Brazilian style and kept Inter alive in the competition. What would José do without him?

Maicon (Inter Milan): Pace, height and strength. What more do you need from a right back? Maicon has been subliminal throughout the European campaign and no defender has been able to match his level. Has he stolen Dani Alves’ place as the right back for Brazil?

Lúcio (Inter Milan): A solid rock at the back. Lúcio defended the likes of Drogba, Olic and Ibrahimovic and always managed to keep them quiet with his outstanding displays. Lúcio is an efficient player and rarely losing a physical battle. His presence, influence and voice are always felt.

Piqué (Barcelona): The young centre back plays like an experienced 34 year old. Piqué is continuously developing, this year we saw him leading the Barça defence and driving the team forward. For many years Piqué will be regarded as one of the best and may even transform into a striker if he continues to score like he did against Inter.

Zanetti (Inter Milan): At the age of 36 Il Trattore is not running out of gas. He played in all the Champions League games, most of the time as a left back and was impassable. The captain and leader finally lifted the trophy he desired 15 years later.

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Saturday Showboat: It’s that time once again!

Hope everyone is making the most out of their weekend so far. If not, here’s a little style & swag to get your blood pumping. From Pique’s Maradona-esque turn to Lampard and Drogba’s immaculate first touches to Luis Fabiano playing with diving defenders to Sergio Canales’ wondergoal, I can’t choose who is the prestigious showboater of the week! So I’m turning it to you guys, who had the best skills on show?

Barcelona 1 (2) – 0 (3) Inter Milan: The End of a Dream or The End of an Obsession?

Sports News - April 29, 2010

By Dominic Vieira

Barcelona 1 -0 Inter Milan, Camp Nou, Semi-Final 2nd leg (2-3 Aggregate)

An underperforming Barcelona beat an extremely defensive but brilliantly tactical Inter Milan 1-0 at the Nou Camp tonight. Pique’s sublime second half strike was not sufficient for the current champions to knock out the ten men Italian team. Inter Milan fought hard to book their ticket for the final at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, Madrid. José Mourinho got his tactics right in a very narrow and passionate encounter.

Yesterday, the atmosphere of the match was intensified and set alight by another, typical José Mourinho mind game. He commented about the match and stated, “It’s not a war, it’s a game.” However, after tonight’s performance, it wouldn’t be hard to contradict his point.

Barcelona was without their leader Puyol and the flamboyant Iniesta. Guardiola made two unexpected changes in the starting line-up; Yaya Toure was selected as centre back to partner Piqué and Milito given the thumbs up as left-back instead of Maxwell. On the other side of the field, Sneijder and Maicon managed to recover in time for the match, but a late injury from Pandev ruled him out of the match, Chivu stepped up for the challenge.

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