Samir Nasri – Arsenal Bound?

30/05/2008

The rumours have been flowing for well over a week now that Arsenal have signed Samir Nasri for around 12 million pounds. While Arsenal have denied that any deal is complete, they have not come out and said that the signing is not close to being done. Similarly Nasri’s camp have stated that their is interest from Nasri to go to the Emirates Stadium and join Arsenal’s young talented squad, without saying that he has already joined.

So while there are some that believe that Nasi may still end up at Lyon before heading out of France, the strong links to Arsenal suggest that a deal is probably done but just awaiting final points before being announced. While Nasri will be part of the French team at Euro 2008 next week and has rapidly become a house hold name in the French League, he is still relatively unknown outside France, with Karim Benzema perhaps taking most of the attention away from the player dubbed the new Zidane when just emerging in first team football.

This is from a post I wrote last year about some of the young French players who would be interesting Europes biggest clubs in the near future, just to give a brief idea about who Nasri is.

Samir Nasri, the Marseilles midfielder, has already had to live with the billing as the new Zidane. While this has a lot to do with the fact that he is from Marseilles and of Algerian decent, that is not the whole story. The 19 year old Nasri posses skill and talent that are very much Zidane like, possessing an uncanny likeness to the French legend when on the ball. But the humble kid, showing maturity that many his age in the game are lacking, wishes to shy away from such comparisons, claiming that there is only one Zidane, and he is just a young player trying to make it in the French League, something he says he has not yet done. A host of clubs are looking at the young prodigy, who was named France’s Young Player of the Year last season, including Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United. Rumours of a first option deal with Arsenal have been denied, yet with Arsenal Wengers history of bringing young players to London, and bias towards French players, don’t be surprised to see Nari at the Emirates Stadium in the future.

If Arsenal to sign Samir in the very near future there is no doubt that they will be signing a top class prospect for the future, and being French, someone who will be very much at home at the Emirates Stadium.

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Where was Loots, Mumbai?

29/05/2008

The Mumbai Indians failed to make the semi finals of the IPL, after a last ball fumble on Monday, and their season has come to an end. After a poor start, followed by a great run of form that saw them within striking distance of a semi final place, they limped out of the competition with some very poor fielding to blame more than anything else. They will now have time to look back at their campaign and answer some very tough questions, like why didn’t they make full use of the resources available to them? By this I mean why was Loots Bosman not used, not even for a single game?

While some may claim that perhaps Loots was an unknown to the Mumbai Indians staff, unknown to the degree that they were not fully aware of his capabilities, but this is a poor excuse. The number of Australian players who aren’t involved in the Australian team, players like Marsh, Thornely and Pomersbach to name a few, who have been bought and played by their teams shows that the homework done by the teams extends past international cricket and into domestic cricket of non Indian teams. So they should have been fully aware of what Loots had to offer. Failing that they had Shaun Pollock in the team and he would no doubt have informed them of the big hitting batsmans record in this form of the game.

In international T20 matches Bosman has played 3 matches, has an average of 38,5 and a strike rate of 135. Which shows that he is comfortable at the highest level in this form of the game. But its in the domestic Pro 20 Series that Bosman has really excelled. In 30 matches he averages 34,66 at a strike rate of 146,7 and is the only player in Pro 20 Series history to have scored a 100. He has been the top batsman in the competition basically from its inception and he is the type of swash buckling, big hitting, no fear, risk taking batsman that T20 cricket was made for.

Loots opens the batting and this may have hindered him with the likes of Tendulkar and Jayasuriya occupying those births it would have been hard to plead a case for Loots, but with Tendulkar missing the opening half of the series and Mumbai struggling, Bosman should have been given a chance at some stage. Even with Tendulkar in the team the nature and style of Bosmans batting means that he can bat anywhere in the top order, and would have been a far better bet then Dwayne Smith for one of the foreign player roles.

A batsman as destructive and experienced in T20 as Bosman was wasted at the Mumbai Indians and the people in India missed out on some very entertaining, explosive batting, and some good fielding. If Bosman returns next season lets hope the same mistakes aren’t made.


Giggs and Scholes – True Legends

23/05/2008

After Manchester United’s Champions League win on Wednesday evening in Moscow much has been made of the current squad being the best ever and earning themselves legend status. While it is true that they have now immortalized themselves within the club and may very well be the best squad that United have ever had, they aren’t necessarily legends yet – not all of them anyway.

Christiano Ronaldo is well on his way towards that end but needs a few more seasons of loyalty to reach that pinnacle and I really hope he does, for that would mean success for both him and the club. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are the United legends to come out of Wednesday evenings triumph.

Scholes unassuming modesty has kept him out of the limelight and away from the front pages of newspapers but his value to the team has never been underestimated. His value to his country may have been as it was only when he retired from England duty that England really began to appreciate the player he was and is, and have tried on many occasions to get him back into the fold. Scholes was perhaps the least likely of the golden generation, of Giggs, Beckham, Butt and the Nevilles, to succeed at the highest level, because of his size and asthma and the position he plays. Even before he made his United debut, while still with the youth team, there were concerns about his size and he came very close to be let go. Luckily for all at United he proved his worth and went from strength to strength. He is no longer the attacking midfielder he was a few years ago, getting his fair share of goals, arriving late in the box, and playing behind the front two, but now collects the ball from deep and dictates play from the centre of the pitch. The little maestro was called the English Zidane but Patrice Evra, who had no idea just how good Scholes was until he arrived at Old Trafford. With Anderson likely to play more next season, and the possibility that new players could come in, Scholes may see less action then he has in the past, but there is little doubt that he will always give 100% for his team and will never let anyone down. Approaching 34 years of age Paul Scholes will retire a legend when he eventually does hang up his boots. That may not be for a few seasons yet.

Ryan Giggs is a true legend of Manchester United and the sport of football. On Wednesday night he came off the bench to not only win his 2nd Champions League winners medal but also to break Bobby Charltons appearance record by making his 759 United appearance. In the modern game that is a record that is extremely hard to come by and is unlikely to be broken any time soon. The achievement is all the more remarkable in that he has played during United’s most successful period throughout his career, as the team evolved and changed, yet he has kept his place, being the constant in all Uniteds successful teams under Sir Alex. Giggs has lost a yard or two of the blistering pace he once had, but at 34 that is expected, but his experience has been a vital factor in bring success to a young team. He is the most decorated United player of all time, and the most decorated player in English football, with 10 League titles, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues and a couple of European Super Cups to his name. A staggering haul and one he will look to add to before he retires. In the modern game, when money often speaks louder than anything else, Giggs has shown unprecedented loyalty to his one and only club, and will forever be remembered as a United legend. Like Scholes, Giggs can expect to play less and less from next season, as the likes of Nani become more involved, but his contribution to the squad will always be maximal, and the squad will never lack for leadership or role models.

Giggs and Scholes are real legends in a time when the word is branded about loosely without much meaning. The modern game is better for them and will be hard presses to see their kind in the future. We can always hope, but for now we must enjoy and respect two of the games best ever.


United – Champions of Europe!

21/05/2008

Moscow crowned new Manchester United legends as the Red Devils beat Chelsea 6-5 in a penalty shoot out to win the European Champions League.

On a night heavy with fate, destiny and calling, the young stars of this current Manchester United squad, Rooney, Tevez, Hargreaves, Brown, Evra, Vidic, Nani, Anderson, and the undoubted star of the team, Christiano Ronaldo, reached the hights attained by Beckham, Solsjaer, Stam, Schemiecle, Giggs, Yorke, Cole and the 99 treble winners by lifting club footballs biggest prize.

50 years since the Munich tragedy, 40 years since United first won the European Cup, under Busby and with Best, Law and Charlton, on the day a true legend of the game, Ryan Giggs, broke the clubs appearance record, and the day Paul Scholes finally got to play in a Champions League Final, United let fate lead them to victory.

After taking the lead through Ronaldo and enjoying the best of the opening period, only for Chelsea to draw level through a bad bounce off a United defender, a slip from van der Saar, and the persistence of Lampard, United survived a stronger showing from Chelsea in the second half, Lampard and Drogba both hitting the bar, 30 more minutes of extra time, and Chelsea given the opportunity to win on penalties with the score on 4-4 and Terry missed. United scored their next penalties and when van der Saar saved from Anelka United were European Champions for the 3rd time in their history, and the 2nd time under Sir Alex. Giggs, Scholes and Brown also collected their 2nd winners medals.

United had chances to win during the game, Cech made two great saves early on from Tevez and Carrick, Tevez almost slid in another time, and then Chelsea had their share of chances, but the result appeared to be destined towards a United win – and thats what happened.

For Chelsea it ends a season to forget, the finished runners up in the Community Shield, the League Cup, the Premiership and the Champions League. It was a season of almosts that ended with nothing. Avram Grant is not sure if he’ll be around next season, and if he isn’t it would mean his spell in charge was book cased between two losses to Manchester United. Drogba too may be on his way out, and if he is his last appearance for Chelsea ended in a red card,  for a slap at Vidic, and surely he would have taken one of the penalties, seriously letting down his team.

If this United team were to justify their billing as the best ever they had to win in Europe. They have now. They’ll want to do it again now. But for now, congradulations – and enjoy.

Manchester United – champions of England and champions of Europe.


Destiny Awaits

21/05/2008

Destiny awaits the current Manchester United team tonight as they take on Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow. This season marked the 50th anniversary of the Munch disaster that struck down one of Uniteds most promising teams ever, and the history of that tragedy, sown into the fabric of the club, will play a part in motivating the team tonight.

Not that they should need much motivation, going into a final against their rivals, who have the financial clout to outspend anyone, and who usurped United as the best team in England for a brief spell, before United fought back, wining the last 2 Premiership titles.

One player that will need little motivation tonight is Paul Scholes. Scholes was booked in the semi final against Juventus in 1999 and so missed the final against Bayern, along with the also suspended Roy Keane. Keane never got the chance to rectify that miss in his career as United failed to reach the final in the remainder of his career. Scholes though gets a chance at playing in his first Champions League final, 9 years after his team mates, and players he grew up with, like Giggs, Beckham, Butt and Gary and Phil Neville, had their chance. Scholes has the chance to add to his legend and bring a deserved part of his own playing history to where it should be.

The game tonight will be one of many contrasts, in style, Uniteds free flowing, attacking brand, against Chelsea’s cautious, determined approach, in leadership, United’s Sir Alex will look to attain immortality in footballing terms with a win tonight, while Chelsea’s Avram Grant will hope to hang on to his job for next season, in owners, Uniteds American owners against Chelsea’s Russian, a throw back to the cold war for these two, and in history, United have a long history in Europe and will be looking for their 3rd European Cup, while Chelsea will be appearing in their first.

Manchester United’s current squad is thought to be the best they’ve ever had, with the likes of Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Hargreaves, Carrick, and Anderson combining with the the experience of legends Giggs and Scholes, as well as van der Saar. However they will have to win the Champions League to be regarded as the best, a head of the treble winners of 99.

Tonight is their date with destiny.


Parma Relegated

19/05/2008

Parma’s 2-0 loss to Inter yesterday not only confirmed Inter as Serie A champions again, but saw the home team relegated from Serie A for the first time in their history.

Parma were always seen as a small, provincial team in Italy, having never been in Italy’s top flight until 1990, but grew in stature and support in the mid 1990’s. Backed by the financial might of the food group Parmalat they not only survived their earlier seasons in Serie A but much to everyones surprise became a real force in Italian football. They have produced a lot of young players in their youth set up, including Italian keeper Buffon and future Italian star Guiessepe Rossi, now at Villareal. Their past players during this period alos included the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Veron, Mutu, Adriano, Gilhardino, Zola and Crespo to name a few. Parma won 2 UEFA cups, in 1995 and 1999 as well as finishing as Serie A runners up in this high period for Parma.

With the collapse of Parmalat the football club began to struggle, and last season it took loan signing Rossi, on loan from Manchester United at the time, to rescue Parma from relegation. This season they fell short and were relegated after the final game of the season.

Parma should look to Fiorentina for inspiration and not dwell on their fall for too long. Fiorentina were relegated a few seasons back and came back reinvented and have had great success since then, having pipped AC Milan to the last Champions League place for next season, just 2 seasons after returning to Serie A.

If Parma are to make an immediate return to the top flight much will depend on how many of their best players they will be able to keep for their Serie B journey. Luca Cigarini and Danielle Dessena are two young Italian midfielders who are thought to have promising futures ahead of them, and have been linked with a host of top teams, most notably Inter. The Parma board will have to convince the two young stars that guaranteed first team football will always be better then sitting on the bench at bigger teams. Loyalty will hopefully speak louder than money. Budan, Gassbaroni and Luccarelli will also hopefully stay on and ensure that Parma return after one season, and then build from there.

While this is a sad time for Parma the writing had been on the wall for a while, ever since the Parmalat scandal rocked the club, but hopefully plans will be but into place to ensure that they are back at the top end of Serie A in the not to distant future.


Man Utd South African Tour Tickets On Sale

15/05/2008

Tickets for Manchester United’s pre season South African tour, the Vodacom Challenge, go on sale today.

United will play Kaiser Chiefs at the Newlands Rugby Stadium in Cape Town on July 19th, and will then move to Durban to take on Orlando Pirates at the ABSA Studium on July 22. Chiefs and Pirates will then play each other for the right to once again take on United, this time in Pretoria at Loftus Versfeld on July 26.

Tickets are available at computicket.