The Most Surprising Soccer Transfer of the Season

Twice a year when the transfer window opens, the soccer world goes crazy with players changing clubs and newspapers and soccer websites all over the world speculating on the latest superstars playing the game of musical chairs.

While some big name transfers such as Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid finally came to their expected conclusions, one transfer caught my eye this season. That of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s move from Italian champions Inter Milan to Spanish and Champions League winners Barcelona, with Samuel Eto’o going the opposite direction.

Now, Ibrahimovic is not a bad player and on his day can be one of the best players on the planet. But he has failed to live up to his massive hype in my opinion. Who can forget the 2 Champions League matches against Manchester United last season where he was virtually anonymous?

Samuel Eto’o on the other hand has proven himself to be one of the most lethal strikers in the world. Only 28, he has his best years ahead of him and unlike Ibrahimovic, doesn’t choke on the big stage. Don’t forget, it was his goal in last season’s Champions League final that started Barcelona on the road to victory.

On top of the player exchange, Inter Milan also received a transfer fee of 45 million Euros. I have no idea how it was done, but Inter manager Jose Mourinho must surely have negotiated the best deal of the season. Or does Barcelona know something that we don’t? Only time will tell.

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European Footballer of the Year Candidates

Real Madrid president, Ramon Calderon announced that his newly signed Italian centre-back Fabio Cannavaro had won the prestigious Ballon D’Or, or Golden Ball, and was to replace Ronaldinho as the European Footballer of the year. This came to the surprise of many and rose more than a few eyebrows. Not, through the fact that Cannavaro had been the selection, far from it given his dominant displays during the World Cup, but due to the fact that the winner of the much hyped award is not actually announced until 27th November. Surely this means one of two things. The first of these is that France Football, the magazine that actually host the prize, have a mole in the camp and need to seriously bolster their security, alternatively Senor Calderon is living up to the traditions of the Madridistas and filling newspaper columns with self gratifying propaganda.

If it was a media frenzy that Calderon wanted, then he will be a happy man. Italian newspapers were not slow in announcing: «Cannavaro, it’s all true.» (Gazzetta dello Sport) and: «Golden Ball to Cannavaro.» (Corriere della Sera). Despite the excitable nature of the Italian media, it would appear that the issue is done and dusted. Which would change the purpose of this article from a preview of the front-runners, to a selection of the nearly men. However, the famous trophy is not yet causing the Italian skipper feng shui difficulties at chez Cannavaro and so I will continue with my initial intentions.

The Ballon D’Or was created in 1956 by France Football magazine. At a time when Europe had begun to come out from the hangover of World War II a decade earlier, and football was enjoying its progression as a worldwide game. The inaugural European Cup (now known as the UEFA Champions League) was played out in the same year, and Stanley Matthews, the Blackpool winger was pronounced as Europe’s first Player of the Year. In the years that followed, the awards were dominated by the all conquering Madrid side, their forward Alfredo di Stefano claiming the title twice. The very idea of the award showed that football was now a sport that could bring people of different countries together, such an important factor when we consider that much of the continent had been a battlefield little over a decade before. Despite being held by France’s leading football publication, the award is based upon the considered opinion of journalists Europe-wide.

The award has been pretty evenly distributed around the leading lights of European club football over the years, Juventus lead the way with a total of eight winners (a total that could well have been further extended had the Calciopoli match fixing scandal not intervened), AC Milan (seven), Barcelona (six), Real Madrid (five) and Bayern Munich (five) all follow. Of course we must take into consideration that the award ceremony is traditionally held in November of every year, so many victorious players may well have been at new clubs at the time of the award, having earned the plaudits that lead to the prize at another side (both Luis Figo and Ronaldo are examples of this, having only moved to Madrid a few months prior to the presentation). The only major change in the award since it began came in 1995 when it was decreed that the winner need not be European in nationality himself, merely have his contract held by a club that comes under UEFA’s jurisdiction (much to the delight of the Liberian forward George Weah who took full advantage of the rule change in 1995).

An obvious start point for such an award would be to begin where we left off last year. The Brazilian Ronaldinho, who won last years award (to sit proudly on the mantelpiece next to his World Player of the Year award) to reconfirm him as being regarded as the planet’s finest player. The Barcelona man, by his very high standards, had a disappointing year. Despite adding the Champions League to his collection of medals, he was relatively below par in the World Cup (a competition that usually can be considered the deciding factor for the award) as his Brazilian side (and pre-tournament favourites) limped out in the quarter finals having been widely tipped to take a sixth title. Of his compatriots, only really Kaka’ shone in Germany and unfortunately the AC Milan forward ended the season medal-less despite enhancing his growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with in world football, and possible future winner of the award.

As we have previously examined, major tournaments often have a large impact on who is to be the recipient of the award. Take, for example, Ronaldo’s Ballon D’Or of 2002. Following yet another injury plagued season in Italy with Internazionale, el phenominon (as he is known by his adoring fans) turned it on in the Far East to help Brazil claim a fifth World Cup, scoring an incredible eight goals along the way and exorcised the some of the demons of his breakdown in the 1998 competition. Although many commented that surely seven games does not make a season, Ronaldo, who had since joined the Galacticos of Madrid, took the coveted prize.

From this theory, we can assume that this year’s victor will most likely hail from Italy. As previously mentioned, all of this talk is fairly irrelevant as Fabio Cannavaro has been, although as yet unconfirmed, declared by his club’s president as the winner. In reality, should this be the case, few could argue. The Italian captain was a lion in the heart of the formidable Italian defence that provoked headlines of ‘campione del mondo’ (‘champions of the world’) across the Mediterranean peninsula. However, the 33 year old former Juventus man is himself not getting as excited as his President (at least not before the famous ‘fat lady’ has had her moment). Cannavaro has said: «Of course I would like to win it. It would be wonderful and very gratifying on a personal level.»

As well as the Madrid man, Italy can boast strong claims for the award through both midfielder Andrea Pirlo and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Pirlo, during the previous season with Milan, and the World Cup with his nation, enhanced the reputation that he had, in his early career at least, threatened without ever achieving. Some superb displays in the heart of the Azzuri’s midfield raised Pirlo’s profile to be rated amongst the continent’s finest in his position, although lack of success on the domestic front may have cost him. More interesting though, is the calls for the award to be given to Gigi Buffon. The Juventus and Italy stopper has long been regarded as the finest in the World in his position. In Germany, Buffon further embellished this claim. Some heroic performances, most notably in the semi final against the hosts and his penalty saving performance to claim the trophy in the final, gave credence to him becoming only the second goalkeeper to win the award. In claiming the Ballon D’Or he would truly claim a place amongst the greats as the only other ‘number one’ to have won the award was the Russian Lev Yashin in 1963. He also has the support of Italy legend, and former European Footballer of the Year, Gianni Rivera. Upon hearing of Cannavaro’s premature victory, Rivera proclaimed: «I would have chosen Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon but if it is true that Fabio is to win it, I’m happy anyway.»

If the Golden Ball is to head to Italy, it will be the country’s forth winner after Rivera himself (1969), Paolo Rossi (1982) and Roberto Baggio (1993).

However, not all are in agreement that the award should be given to an Italian. Upon hearing Ramon Calderon’s claims, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacted in typically defiant fashion: «Congratulations to Cannavaro if that’s the case,» Wenger said Friday. «But for me there’s only one candidate this year, it’s Thierry Henry. He just deserves it.

In retrospect, this is a fair argument. Henry appeared in both of the showpiece events in world football during 2006, and despite being on the losing side in both the World Cup and Champions League finals, getting to both is a testament to the man. Henry is widely regarded to have been the best striker in world football of the past few seasons. Consistently the English Premiership’s leading marksman and considered amongst the finest ever to have graced these shores, so perhaps, for once, Mr Wenger has seen something, he went onto say: «What does he have to do? Just to keep going. Sometimes you get rewarded at the moment where you expect it the least. That’s as well the sign of a superchamp.»

Other possible contenders are pretty thin on the ground. Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona was at his explosive best helping propel his side to titles in both La Liga and the Champions League, although not appearing in the summer’s festival of football due to Cameroon’s failure to qualify did not help his cause, as neither did the long term knee injury that will keep the striker out of action until the new year. The Portuguese midfielder Deco is another who has been mentioned in relation to the award. The diminutive string puller was considered to have been as, if not more, vital than Ronaldinho to Barcelona’s success last term. Another option, and one for the romantics, would be if the award was to go to Zinedine Zidane. The mercurial Frenchman finally hung up his golden boots during the summer after dragging his nation to the final. Some imposing performances from the one di Stefano dubbed ‘the maestro’ won Zizou the World Cup Golden Ball for being the tournament’s most outstanding player. However, we all know how it ended and, head-butts aside, the play-maker had a relatively poor season with Real Madrid.

With all considered, I feel I am largely discussing the competitors in a race already won. From a personal perspective I find this somewhat disappointing as it appears to be the closest competition for the award for some time. Not that I do not perceive Cannavaro a worthy winner, we have to go all the way back to Franz Beckenbauer in 1976 to find our last defender to have won the prize in a roll-of-honour dominated by players more accustomed to creating and scoring goals rather than stopping them. In this similar vein it would appear that given our three perceived favourites of Cannavaro, Buffon and Henry, only one is a striker. Perhaps a reflection upon the changing face of football? Perhaps merely a reflection of an Italian World Cup win? Either way, for me it is sad that such a prestigious award may not be announced with all of the pomp and ceremony that the eventual winner would undoubtedly deserve.

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Vitalish Bbege: Uganda’s Amateur Power Punching Champion and the Boxing Wins in Germany

American boxer Michael Gerard «Iron Mike» Tyson was born in the New York City borough Brooklyn on June 30th 1966. The ferocity and intimidating style of Tyson involved a series of rapid knockout wins that lead to his becoming the youngest heavyweight champion of the world in 1986. Ten years after Mike Tyson was born, a young Ugandan boxer Vitalis (Vitalish) Bbege, who had quickly acquired the equivalent of a national Tyson-like ferocious boxing image, was scheduled to represent Uganda at the 1976 Olympics to be held in Montreal from July 18th to 31st. Among the boxers on the Uganda team were future national boxing legends John Baker Muwanga (bantamweight) and featherweight Cornelius Boza-Edwards (Bbosa). Vitalish Bbege was scheduled to be Uganda’s welterweight competitor. Many African and other countries politically boycotted the 1976 around the starting of these Olympics. The scheduled preliminary bouts involving boycotting nations’ boxers were ruled walkovers in favor of the opponents of the non-boycotting nations.

In retrospect, Bbege had widely acquired his national brutal rapid knockout reputation during the 1974 African Amateur Boxing Championships that just so happened to be held in Bbege’s Uganda home territory. The boxing tournament took place in Kampala in November. Welterweight Bbege quickly disposed of all his opponents by early knockout, save for the audacious and strong Prince of Egypt who persistently held on until the end. Young and relatively unknown Bbege was quickly in the books as Africa’s amateur welterweight boxing champion. For decades, his name has remained legendary in Uganda and as synonymous with not only boxers, but also with belligerent and hard hitting regular people.

Bbege, as a welterweight represented Uganda at the Pre-Olympic Boxing Tournament in Montreal from November 27th to December 1st 1975. In the quarter-finals, on November 27th, the referee stopped Nico Jeurissen from Bbege’s onslaught, in the very first round. Bbege, in the semi-finals on November 29th, true to fashion, knocked out Leo Pelletier of Canada in the second round. But the finals, on December 1st, were not fruitful for Bbege. Bbege was defeated by Yoshifumi Seki of Japan with the referee stopping the fight in the first round. Bbege went home with the silver medal. And so did heavyweight Jacob Odonga, another Ugandan who was technically knocked out in the finals (by Hocine Tafer of France). The only other Ugandan contestant at this tournament was Mustapha Wasajja. He won the gold medal after outpointing Bryan Gibson of Canada.

After the 1976 Olympic boycott, Vitalish Bbege soon moved to the then West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany-FRG) where they would be more lucrative boxing opportunities for him. He remained an amateur boxer and never boxed professionally. He joined the Sparta Flensburg Boxing Club (BC Flensburg) in the city Flensburg where he still resides and is a fitness and boxing trainer.

Representing Sparta Flensburg (BC Flensburg), Bbege won numerous annual Schleswig-Holstein Amateur Boxing Association (SHABV) titles from the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s. In 1979, Bbege won the SHABV amateur middleweight (75kg) title, the same title as a light-middleweight (71 kg) in 1980 and 1981. In 1982, 1986, and 1990 Bbege became the SHABV middleweight champion. In 1984, 1985, and 1987, Bbege as a heavyweight (81kg), was the SHABV title holder.

On January 30th 1984, Vitalish Bbege represented West Germany in a boxing dual verses the United States. He boxed as a light-middleweight and defeated Michael Cross by two points to one in a three-round match-up. Interestingly Bbege has a brother who goes by the names Vitalish Nyamor Bbege and was another capable boxer who moved to Germany. Under the name Vitalish Nyamor, he also represented Germany at the same tournament and as a welterweight defeated Alton Rice by three points to zero.

John Odhiambo of Uganda and legendary Kenyan boxer David Attan are some of the other Africans that boxed in the Germany Bundesliga during the 1970’s and 1980’s. John Odhiambo, as a light-middleweight, had been scheduled to represent Uganda at the boycotted 1976 Olympics.

Vitalish Bbege and Vitalish Nyamor-Bbege, both regarded as Flensburg boxing legends, are well settled in Germany with their families. Offspring Dennis Nyamor Bbege is a boxer. Others of the Bbege descendants include Iris Bbege, Nancy Bbege, and Elvis-Aaron Bege.

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Fixed Odds Football Betting System Review

As I was a keen football fan but had relatively little betting experience I decided to test this system as the results looked good and at the time my bank account could do with a boost. The results were quite shocking.

Within a month of doing as the easy to follow guide suggested I was up over £300 on my initial investment, from the 8 selections I made I had placed 7 winning bets. Although I started to get excited at the great results I knew that it could just be beginners luck so I carried on using the system for a further 2 months I had already agreed that if this system was profitable over 3 months I would further increase the size of the bets I was placing. Well 2 months further in to my test and I was up nearly £1200. From 35 bets I had placed 29 winning bets which saw my bank account sky rocket. As I now felt confident in the system I increased my bets further and was still seeing great success.

A year on and I can now afford to work part time. I now place bets on 5 different football leagues in Europe including; the Premiership, the bundesliga, the SuperLiga, the Primera Division and the SuperLiga . That is whats great about this system, you can use the knowledge given to you in any footbal league around the globe and still have success. I now place over 40 bets a week and to date I have never had a week were I didn’t profit from using the systems advice.

I would definitely recommend purchasing and reading through the Fixed Football Odds Betting System. The name of the system I used was the football cashbuilder. I have gone through others and used and tested those, but few have resulted in the profits that I have made from this football betting system.

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Is The New Coach Effect A Real Phenomenon?

At the time of writing, ten Bundesliga coaches have been fired and replaced mid-season, with atleast three more already set to leave after the season. Often it’s because of a job poorly done, but it can also be just to bring in a breath of fresh air. To start a clean sheet and give the team new confidence.

I’ve heard the old cliché about the first game of a new coach numerous times while talking to bettors. That the combination of the team being fired up and wanting to prove themselves to the new coach and the team being underrated by the opposition makes the first game with a new coach the ideal time for backing a team.

It’s something I’ve noticed for a while, but haven’t gotten around to checking the accuracy of. This morning, I gathered the complete list of all coaches fired mid-season from the big four (Bundesliga, Premier League, La Liga and Serie A) leagues and checked how the teams did in the first game with the new coach.

Here’s the complete list:



* Steve McLaren -> Pierre Littbarski (7 feb)

* Pierre Littbarski -> Felix Magath (15 mar)


* Armin Veh -> Michael Önning (14 mar)


* Christian Gross -> Jens Keller (13 oct)

* Jens Keller -> Bruno Labbadia (12 dec)


* Zvonimir Soldo -> Frank Schäfer (24 oct)

* Schalke 04

* Felix Magath -> Ralf Rangnick (15 mar)


* Ralf Rangnick -> Mario Pezzaiouli (1 jan)


* Michael Frontzeck -> Lucien Favre (13 feb)

Premier League

Aston Villa

* Martin O’Neill -> Gerard Houllier (9 sep)


* Chris Houghton -> Alan Pardew (8 dec)


* Sam Allardyce -> Steve Kean (13 dec)


* Roy Hodgson -> Kenny Dalglish (7 jan)

Serie A:


* Franco Colombo -> Alberto Malesani (29 aug)


* Gian Piero Gasperini -> Davide Ballardini (8 nov)


o Guiseppe Iachini -> Mario Beretta (6 dec)

o Mario Beretta -> Guiseppe Iachini (30 jan)

o Inter

o Rafael Benitez – Leonardo (23 dec)

o Catania

o Marco Giampaolo -> Diego Simeone (18 jan)

o Bari

o Giampiero Ventura -> Bortolo Mutti (10 feb)

o Roma

o Claudio Ranieri -> Vincenzo Montanella (20 feb)

o Palermo

o Delio Rossi -> Serse Cosmi (28 feb)

o Sampdoria

o Domenico di Carlo -> Alberto Cavasin (7 mar)

La Liga


o Jose Antonio Camacho -> Jose Luis Medilibar (14 feb)

Racing Santander

o Miguel Angel Portugal -> Marcelino Garcia Toral (7 feb)


o Juanma Lillo -> Jose Luis Oltra (nov)


o Jose Gay -> Javier Aguirre (18 nov)


o Jesualdo Ferreira -> Manuel Pellegrini (2 nov)


o Antonio Alvarez -> Gregorio Manzano (30 sep)

There’s one or two instances where the new coach hasn’t had time to play any games yet, as with Eintracht Frankfurt.

There are 29 cases on this list. While that certainly isn’t enough to draw any absolute conclusions from, it should still produce some interesting results. If, in fact, the New Coach Effect is complete nonsense, numbers should reflect that.

But they don’t. Out of these 29 games, thirteen were won by the team with the new coach, six were drawn and ten were lost.

That’s a W/D/L percentage of 44.8%/20.7%/34.5%, or 1.55 league points per game on average. Considering the managerial turmoil and terrible form of pretty much every team on the list and considering that roughly half of the games were played away, taking 1.55 points per game is incredibly impressive.

It’s the equivalent performance of a top quarter table in any of the leagues. To give you a comparison, here’s some teams that has taken less than 1.55 points per game this season:

o Hamburger SV

o Schalke 04

o Liverpool

o Everton

o Sevilla

o Athletico Madrid

o Juventus

o Palermo

Of course variance could be the major cause in these surprising numbers, but I doubt it. But if there was absolutely no truth to the theory, then we really shouldn’t see a team portfolio containing teams like Almeria, Brescia, Blackburn and Borussia Mönchengladbach outperform a portfolio containing Hamburg, Liverpool, Sevilla and Juventus over thirty games.

When Eintracht Frankfurt faces Wolfsburg on March 4, both sides will have a new manager. Even though Felix Magath has actually already completed one game for his new side, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the impression he has left on Wolfsburgs morale won’t wear off quite that easily.

Magath has been described as a «short-term coach», implying he’s good for whipping an undisciplined, unmotivated team into shape, but in the long term, the relationship strains caused by his totalitarian leadership style makes retaining that morale quite difficult.

In this case, I think Magaths effect on Wolfsburg trumps Christoph Daums effect on Frankfurt. But then again, who am I to question such a seemingly powerful phenomenon?

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Ronaldinho’s Biography

Ronaldinho was born into a family of football addicts, living in a wooden house in the heart of a favela. His father, Joao da Silva Moreira who played for an amateur club made ends meet by by working as a car park attendant at Gremio Football Club. His brother Roberto was a great hope for the club but then his career was unfortunately ended by a terrible knee injury.

At the age of 8, tregedy struck as Ronaldinho’s father drowned in a swimming pool at a villa provided by Gremio for Roberto. Following in the footsteps of his brother Ronnie then joined the Gremio’s footballing school and wowed everyone there. He made it into the first team in 1997 and was being heralded as one of the best young hopes in Brazilan football. Meanwhile, he was already making the breakthrough with the national squad, and his six goals were fundamental in Brazil’s Copa America triumph in 1999.

In 2001, Ronaldinho moved on to PSG where he became a fan’s favourite with his tremendous flair and excting style of football – also contributing tremendous amounts of goals. However his employer’s still weren’t happy with his atitude and looked ot get rid of him. Of course, he continued to shine in the international arena. His finest hour came at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea, where he was a key member of the side that won Brazil’s record fifth world title – scoring in the quarter final and playing an integral role in midfield in the final.

Ronaldinho then moved to Barcelona – arguably the biggest club in the world – for what now seems a bargain at £21,000,000. When he arrived, he said that his desire was to bring as much success to the club as so many Brazilians had done before him, such as Evaristo, Ronaldo, Romario and Rivaldo. Having won the World Footballer of the Year title it seems he has now fulfilled that desire.

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10 Players Who Failed To Reach Their Full Potential

Playing football in today’s game is incredibly demanding. Yes, they may get paid millions and millions playing their favourite sport week in, week out, which most of us would happily do for free, yet many would argue it doesn’t come without difficulty. The constant media surrounding players can take its toll, where even the smallest step out of line can be blown way up in a player’s face. With the constant temptation that must surround them, be it wanting to live a ‘normal’ life (wanting to have a drink and go out clubbing) or the ‘perks’ of being rich and famous (the women, lads… ?) a God given talent is not enough to secure your place in history as a top player. Of course, it helps, but it is also necessary to work incredibly hard at training, stay out of the headlines for the wrong reasons, and have a bit of luck.

Yet sometimes, a player who seems to show so much promise fails to reach his potential. Could it be the pitfalls of living the footballer lifestyle that takes them off the rails? Were they unlucky with injuries that blighted their career? Or was it just too much, too soon; being built too high up a pedestal they were never going to reach. Of course, the saying goes that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. So why do some players fade so much, when their star seemed destined to shine so bright? The Football Writer has picked his top 10 players who have failed to truly fulfil their potential…

10. Kerlon, 24, Brazil (currently playing for Brazilian side Nacional-NS).

Brazilians are famed for their flashy technique and dribbling ability, something which certainly wasn’t lacked by Kerlon. An incredible natural talent, he became famous all across the world as millions watched on Youtube his unbelievable ‘seal dribble’; bouncing the ball on his head repeatedly while running down the pitch. This would often force opposition players to foul him and become frustrated, which although must have been difficult for himself, could only be of benefit to the team.

Perhaps inevitably due to his trademark dribble he picked up a serious knee injury which limited his appearances. A transfer to Inter Milan via Chievo had Kerlon seemingly destined for a career at the top, yet he continued to suffer from knee injuries which prevented him from making an impact. A loan move to Ajax to gain first team fitness and experience in Europe was tarnished by another knee injury, before he escaped his Italian hell with successive loans and an eventual permanent move back to Brazil. He ended four years in Serie A with only four appearances, all for Chievo. Now featuring for Brazilian side Nacional-NS, one can only wonder just how good he could have been had he been able to replicate his early natural ability onto the European stage, yet this is a tale of injuries really getting the better of a player before he’d been given the chance to start.

9. Michael Owen, 32, England (currently a free agent having been released by Manchester United).

Having successfully graduated through their youth system and making his debut for Liverpool (in which he scored) on the penultimate game of the 96-97 season, Owen’s first season in the Premier League saw him named the PFA Young Player of the Year, finishing joint top goalscorer in the league with 18 goals. Enthusiastic, pacy and a knack for hitting the back of the net, Owen announced himself as a world class ‘wonderkid’ with a brilliant solo goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

Owen continued this excellence by being Liverpool’s top scorer for every season that followed until leaving for Real Madrid, and thus began his downfall. Failing to start with a bang meant he regularly had to settle for a place on the bench, and so he ended his single season with a move to Newcastle in order to gain match fitness in time for the World Cup in 2006. While he began to get back on track, a serious knee injury at said World Cup gave him a huge setback. It seems that since that injury he has lost some of his pace that was so devastating and such a huge part of the way he plays. Several other injuries and setbacks began to blight his career and so it was a surprise when he was signed by Sir Alex at Manchester United. Yet just five league goals in his three seasons at the club before his release show just how far he has fallen since his Liverpool days. Not only has he lost some of his brilliance he had as a youngster, he is now far too unreliable due to injuries (this was indicative from his pay-as-you-play deal he signed for the Red Devils). In a time when England could really have done with a world class striker to win their first tournament since 1966, Owen’s ill fated career is a sorry sight to behold, and shows just how much of a difference a few unlucky years can have on a whole life.

8. Denilson, 34, Brazil (retired).

When a club really breaks the bank to sign a player, you expect something in return. So when a club smashes the world transfer fee? Despite the extortionate amounts paid, Cristiano Ronaldo’s £80m transfer to Real Madrid can be classed as value for money, while I doubt there is a Newcastle fan who would regret Alan Shearer’s 1995 cost of £15m. Zidane, Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Maradona and Cruyff are also amongst those who hold a world transfer record. And while these players all lived up to their pricetag, Denilson will surely go down in history as the most expensive flop ever signed.

After impressing at club level, Denilson enjoyed a successful start to his national career, winning both the Copa America and Confederations Cup in 1997, before playing in every game for the 1998 World Cup runners up. This prompted Real Betis to surprisingly smash the world record transfer fee, overtaking the previous record holder (his international compatriot Ronaldo) and becoming the first player to surpass the £20m mark. Unfortunately for Betis fans, that is as high as it got with regards to Denilson’s career. After two uninspired seasons which saw the club relegated, Denilson, after a brief return to his homeland on loan, became a bit part player in his remaining five years, never shining even close to how bright he was supposed to. Following a solitary season in France, Denilson continued this disappointment as he travelled the globe, unimpressively it must be said, before his retirement in 2010.

If you can look past his ‘record fee failure’ nametag he will forever live with, Denilson does boast the unbelievable strike rate of a goal every 45 minutes for Vietnamese side Xi Mang Hai Phong. It’s just as shame he only ever played one half of football for the club…

7. Gianluigi Lentini, 43, Italy (retired).

From one world record transfer to another yet upon slightly different circumstances in the shape of Gianluigi Lentini. Lentini was an up and coming winger, whose talented displays whilst playing for Torino earned him his Italy debut at the age of 21. His efforts caught the eye of the prestigious AC Milan, who were somewhat in the process of undergoing a new era and saw this enthusiastic youngster as part of their rebuilding process. A £13m transfer ensued, giving him the highest transfer fee the world had seen. Despite playing well and picking up a Serie A title in his first season he was unable to truly break out as a star player and justify his hefty price tag, yet unlike other failed stars, there became a vital moment in his life that prevented him from doing

so. At the age of 24, Lentini was involved in a car crash which left him not only battling to save his career, but his life. 2 days in a coma ensued having suffered a fractured skull and a damaged eye socket and, although he did make a full recovery off the field, he never quite did on it. Despite picking up two more Scudetto’s and a Champions League, Lentini was never able to make out on his young promise and, after four years in Milan, was sold for just £2m.Lentini’s career continued with relative personal success wherever he went, despite not being at the same level he would’ve hoped to be at. Credit must be given to the fact that he continued playing until the age of 40; it shows that he just wanted to play the sport he loves, regardless of ‘what-might-have-beens’. But you can’t help but wonder what might have been.

6. Javier Saviola, 30, Argentina (currently playing for Portuguese side Benfica).

It’s not that Saviola has been a flop, or even a bad player. In fact, he’s pretty good, in which his career has seen him play at Barcelona, Monaco, Sevilla, Real Madrid and now Benfica since leaving River Plate as a youngster. It was just that he was supposed to be so damn amazing that it is frustrating he is not currently partnering his compatriot Messi for the ‘best in the world’ tag, and that is what puts him on this list.

My earliest memory of Saviola is from the 2000-2001 edition of the Championship Manager series in which this 18 year old was easily one of the most talented players in the game, with incredible potential. This genuine ability led to a £15m transfer to Spanish giants Barcelona, where he scored 17 goals in his first La Liga season, becoming their top scorer and the league’s third. Yet perhaps Saviola was a victim of circumstance. Despite scoring nearly a goal every two games for the club, he was deemed surplus to requirements with the recent arrivals of Ronaldinho, Larsson, Eto’o and an up and coming Messi and subsequently shipped out on loan to Monaco and Sevilla.

Continued effective displays eventually saw Real Madrid snap him up, but he struggled to fit into the team and left for Portugal after two seasons, where he is enjoying a successful time with Benfica. Yet like I said at the beginning, although he has always played well whichever club he has turned out for, he was supposed to be one of the best ever. After all, Pelé named him on his FIFA 100 list at the age of 22. Perhaps the gods decided it wasn’t fair for Argentina to have two ‘out of this world’ players at the same time and, after flipping a coin, decided to wait for Messi instead.

5. Paul Gascoigne, 45, England (retired).

‘Gazza’, as he is affectionately known, is one of the greatest players to pull on a shirt for England. A technically brilliant midfielder, Gascoigne was something different who played with amazing results. He played his best football in his early years at Newcastle and Tottenham, with the great Sir Alex admitting that failure to capture the ’88 Young Player of the Year has been his biggest disappointment of his managerial career; high praise indeed. Yet never being far from controversy, his career was marred and overshadowed by some infamous incidents; driving a tractor into the dressing room, the Euro ’96 dentist chair, and ‘f*ck off, Norway’ amongst many.

Gazza was unfortunate with injuries meaning that his only real success after leaving Tottenham was in the SPL with Rangers; certainly not as high a standard that he should’ve been playing at. But these injuries did take their toll on him, as personal problems with alcoholism further disrupted his career until he retired in 2004 (some personal problems have continued past his footballing career).

I don’t really feel like I have written all that much about Gascoigne on the pitch as I have with the other players in this list, but for anyone who has watched him in his early career will know just how good he was. Along with his undoubted passion; the image of Gascoigne crying after his booking in the 1990 World Cup semi final which would’ve ruled him out of the final is iconic (perhaps second only to that Vinnie Jones picture) – Gazza was one of the most technically brilliant players England has ever produced and should’ve been so much more, but injuries on the field and personal problems off of it got the better of him.

4. Ronaldinho, 32, Brazil (currently playing for Brazilian side Atlético Mineiro)

‘A Champions League and World Cup winner? A multiple time member of the FIFPro World XI? A two time FIFA World Player of the Year? Why oh why have you included Ronaldinho in this list!?’ Let me explain before jumping to criticism. I agree that Ronaldinho was an absolutely class act, and one of the most talented footballers the world has ever seen, but this is an article not about bad footballers, but about those who failed to fulfil their full potential, and I believe that is the case.

Ronaldinho first came to media attention at the age of 13, when his local team won 23-0; he scored all 23 goals. After a successful start to his career at Gremio, he was able to translate his ability into the French league and on the European stage with Paris Saint-Germain, yet his first announcement to the world for many will be that goal past David Seaman in the World Cup and his subsequent sending off. Albeit with a little controversy off the pitch with his passion for the Parisian nightlife, Ronaldinho was fast becoming one of the most sought after players in the world.

Then Barcelona president Joan Laporta has fierce rivals to thank for being able to bring Ronaldinho to the Nou Camp (he had originally promised to sign David Beckham, but following his move to the Bernabeu, targeted Ronaldinho instead) and he quickly turned into a magnificent capture for the club. Scoring regularly was a bonus to his dazzling skills, such as his patented ‘elastico’, he displayed week in, week out; at times he was almost unplayable. Renowned as the world’s best, perhaps the highlight of his career was receiving a standing ovation at the Bernabeu after his incredible display in a 3-0 victory; not something that happens to just anyone. Yet this really is where this ‘unbelievable’ Ronaldinho’s story ends.

In his fifth season at Barcelona, where playing time was unfortunately plagued by injuries, he announced he wanted a new challenge and, at the end of the season, was shipped to Milan. Many will praise Guardiola that selling the talisman was the reason behind Lionel Messi’s emergence as a legend, avoiding him the temptation for the party lifestyle. Yet although Ronaldinho continued to play well at Milan, and since back home in Brazil, he has never reached the dizzy heights he achieved during his five years in Spain. Is it because of his party lifestyle, or did he get lazy? Or did he simply, as he said, fancy a change, and that he for some reason hasn’t been able to produce in his later years elsewhere? We’ll never know, but you can’t help but wonder what Ronaldinho would be like today if he had stayed at Barcelona. Placed in today’s Barcelona side with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, you can’t help but believe the same gradual downfall would have happened. Ronaldinho’s career, for me, began to unravel at the age of 28. Four years on, for a man with all his talent, he should still be playing at the top.

3. Adriano, 30, Brazil (currently a free agent having been released by Corinthians).

What ever happened to Adriano? Let’s go back to the beginning of his career, where after just a season and a half in the first team for Flamengo, Inter Milan picked up the promising striker and brought him to Serie A. After a brief loan stint with Fiorentina, Adriano began lighting up the league playing for Parma (who had agreed a co-ownership deal with Inter) scoring over a goal every two games. Inter Milan, seeing a world class player in the making, brought him back to the San Siro in 2004, and the 22 year old became their star striker. The gold Nike boots he wore emphasised that he was joining the elite, with comparisons being made to a young Ronaldo thanks to his power, pace, incredible technique and ability to find the back of the net with ease. Adriano was set to become the best of his generation, and Inter tied him down to a new, bumper contract in September 2005. And this is where we can now ask; what ever happened to Adriano?

Seemingly content that his talent alone would get him by, sweetened with his hefty contract, Adriano began to disappoint on the field with a string of poor performances. Questions were raised about his personal life, where he seemed partial to the nightlife, concerns about his weight and his work ethic; skipping training was one of the final straws at Inter. He was sent back to Brazil to regain fitness and form, and while this idea started promisingly, it ended in a return to Italy to avoid unsettling the Sao Paulo team, according to the sporting director.

Eventually leaving Inter Milan saw Adriano begin to get his career back on track at his first club, Flamengo, where he did enough to convince Roma to give him a second chance in Serie A. Unfortunately for Roma, the only noticeable thing he did in his seven months stint was to pick up his third Bidone d’Oro (the ‘Golden Bin’ awarded to the worst player in Serie A). Bear in mind no other player has won it more than once; that takes some beating. Admittedly he suffered injuries at both Roma and then Corinthians, whom he joined from Roma, yet the same concerns from his Inter Milan days arose and left no option but for the latter to terminate his contract after a year.

A 30 year old, over weight footballer who shows little effort for the clubs he plays for as he enjoys the party lifestyle. Who would want to sign him now? And yet he so easily could still be on top of the world, in his prime, after an illustrious career wherever in the world he wanted to play.

2. Freddy Adu, 23, USA (currently playing for Philadelphia Union).

It’s quite hard to believe that Freddy Adu, who first shot to worldwide fame over eight years ago, is still only 23 years old. And thus of all the players on this list, he still has the greatest chance to fulfil that early promise he showed during the remainder of his career. Whether or not he will is another question.

Adu is most definitely the victim of too much, too soon. Hugely impressive as a youngster, he became the youngest American athlete in over 100 years to sign a professional contract in any team sport, was the number one draft pick in the 2004 MLS Draft and made his MLS debut; all at the tender age of 14. In any European league in the world this would not happen, but it can be argued that the bosses of the MLS saw an opportunity to exploit a youngster as a marketing gimmick; boost the popularity of the league by getting him to perform rather than to learn how to play.

Appearing in an advert with Pelé aside, while Adu performed considerably for a child amongst men, the hype that had surrounded him meant that nothing less than excellence would be considered good enough, and thus he didn’t make quite the impact that was expected of him. Yet a move to Real Salt Lake at 17 showed that, although he wasn’t yet at the standard of the Brazilian icon, he was nonetheless an exciting talent. This was proved after an impressive showing at the under-20 World Cup, before he was eventually taken to Europe with Portuguese giants Benfica. With his first start for the national team following shortly after, Adu looked back on track to become that much heralded star. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite turn out that way.

After failing to take Europe by storm as was hoped, his misery was compounded with a series of loan spells at increasingly obscure clubs, trying to find some form to add to his undoubted talent; but he never did. Yet a surprise call up to the national side for the 2011 Gold Cup saw Adu perform admirably, and he soon after returned to his country to sign for Philadelphia Union.

For the first time in several years, he seems to be getting fairly regular game time at a respectable level, along with some enjoyable performances, and people are beginning to talk about him again in the States. And so as I said at the beginning, perhaps he can still make a name for himself; time is on his side. But for now he will still be known as one of the youngest ‘wonderkids’ who had it all far too soon. Expected for greatness, but nearly washed up before he left his teens.

1. Nii Lamptey, 37, Ghana (retired).

Uhm, who? Many of you might have said this when reading that Nii Lamptey is number one on this list of players who failed to reach their full potential, so I guess that response justifies this position. Indeed, I had never heard of him until reading an article several years ago about his unfortunate career. Before Adu was a 13 year old sensation, there was Lamptey, who looked destined for greatness.

With undoubted quality, he came to the world’s attention in 1989 at the under-16 World Championship with some mesmerising displays. Making the step up to the under-17 World Championship in 1991, he won the player of the tournament ahead of a young Juan Sebastian Veron and Alessandro del Piero, of Argentina and Italy respectively. But perhaps the highlight over these achievements was to be named as the successor to the great Pelé, by none other than the man himself. Pelé naming his own successor who was non-Brazilian? That just confirmed the height of his ability.

After being sought after by many clubs, he signed his first professional contract with Anderlecht after leaving Ghana, and began to sparkle in the league. Despite an injury, his incredible performances convinced PSV to take him for a season on loan as a replacement for Barcelona bound Romario. Some big boots to fill, but fill them he did as he continued expertly and became their joint top scorer for the season. However, after PSV failed to match Anderlecht’s asking price, Aston Villa swooped in and signed the talented Ghanaian, who was still only 19 at the time. Yet this unfortunately became the beginning of his downfall. Along with the demands from the national team, who saw Lamptey as their future but were still unhappy about him leaving the country at such a young age, he struggled to adapt to the physical nature of the English game before failing to renew his work permit at Coventry, having played just 16 games during his two years in England. Travelling around the globe, he plied his trade in Italy, Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, Germany, China and Dubai before returning to Ghana, a broken man with a broken career.

What is so sad about Nii Lamptey’s career however is the battles that he had to deal with alongside the pressures of expectation from being named Pelé’s successor. Abusive parents who divorced at eight, he was beaten by his alcoholic father and moved to Muslim accommodation, converting from Christianity. He then had to sneak out of the country to obtain his first professional contract after his passport was confiscated by the Ghanaian FA in a bid to keep the squad together, who then made it difficult for him when he was selected for the national team (Lamptey believes witch doctors were punishing him for deserting the country). His agent cheated him out of thousands, if not millions, from contracts and signing on fees, while his marriage was frowned upon by his parents. The death of his father, an incident at the 1996 African Cup of Nations after his semi final sending off that all but sealed his exile from the national team, and the death of not one but two of his children all sums up a heartbreaking life Lamptey has had to suffer.

Nii Lamptey should have been a star. Individually he could have been up there with Pelé, Maradona, Di Stefano, Cruyff. And from a wider view, he could have helped spark African football. But unfortunately with all the difficulties he faced, it all crumbled down before him. From the man himself: «I know if people had left me alone, the way God created me and wanted me to be, for sure I should have been playing for Madrid… Sometimes I will be in my room and I will cry… that thing has been taken away from you. It’s really, really painful.»

So there you have it, the Football Writer’s top 10 unfulfilled talents in world football. Do you agree with the selections, or is there anyone in particular you feel I have missed out on?

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Soccer Trying to Make it in the Football World

In most countries, the name of the game sound alike. Words like football, fussball, futbol, futebol… don’t just sound the same, they are the same game. In the U.S., however, they call it soccer. Major League Soccer (MLS) as an American professional soccer league has been around for some time now.

Unlike other American major league sports, MLS does not dominate the sport’s public attention on global scale, nor its champion is crowned as the ‘World Champion’. MLS has been going through constant development. Did it gain significant public and media attention in the world football? No!

Soccer as the 2nd, 7th or 10th most popular sport in the U.S. doesn’t make a great difference, the American public will still follow the NFL, MLB, NHL or NBA. The world public would follow those leagues with same attention as they are world’s most prominent sports leagues.

In recent years with the globalization of media, the world sports scene has started to change; in that process, English football Premier League, promotes itself as ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’ and is in fact the world’s most popular and most watched sporting league, with a current worldwide viewership of half a billion people and media income for seasons 2007 to 2010 worth over $5 billion. If the world will watch football leagues like English Premiership or Spanish La Liga, who will watch the American major league sports other than domestic spectators? Will a part of the American public turn to watch overseas football leagues as well? Such questions made soccer be an issue in the U.S sports.

Every now and then, the MLS officials would wake up from the drowsiness of being in shadows of Top 4 American major leagues around the time when World Cup takes places and it becomes evident how immense the game of football is in the terms of world public interest, media attention, sponsors.

As the noise around World Cup passes, the MLS would fall back in drowsiness. It was not to be like that after the World Cup 2006 in Germany when the world public had clear picture of European football’s modern stadiums, multi-million player contracts… the world sports spotlight got a hold on football.

This time it’s not the MLS who is to take the initiative of promoting MLS, it’s the whole of American professional sports entertainment industry. It is an economic opportunity where the money revolving around the world football was too great to be missed or discarded.

In the summer of 2007, U.S. soccer attempted to take over the world football by storm by offering David Beckham a $250million contract, the most expensive football player contract in history of the sport, some described it as the deal to bring Beckham to America is thought to be the biggest in sporting history. MLS sent out a message to the world.

In the midst of summer when European leagues were between the seasons and the waters were still, MLS got the wanted exposure with news stories being dominated with the Beckham family moving to LA. Did the stories overtake the world football media and public attention in favor of MLS yet? No!

Is $250 million worth of exposure in the long run? Time will tell. Autumn came, European and international leagues are in full swing, the world sports news publish less articles about Beckham, LA Galaxy and the MLS. To make things worst, LA will hardly make the play-offs, giving the media less to write about.

In the league that has had an overall lost of more than $350 million in the first 8 years after its foundation (a BusinessWeek report from 2004), where at the present time only two teams, LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, are profitable with 3 additional teams expected to be profitable within a year, a $250 million one-player investment seems like a gamble. If so, what are the odds?

In recent years, several notable players chose to make the step away from the bigger leagues of Europe and South America for a financially good contract with teams from the Gulf countries. The headlines reported rich transfer deals, though there was no to little follow-up in media coverage of those leagues.

Not to be forgotten, prior to David Beckham’s arrival, MLS attempted to gain exposure with Freddy Adu, a player under the age of 16 that was crowned as the next Pel é. Adu received significant media attention, the world knew he’s playing for DC United of the MLS.

Many may or may not know that Adu, this past summer at the age of 18, signed a contract in Europe with Benfica FC – Portugal. Prior to joining Benfica, Adu spent some time during summer in the Man Utd’s training camp, Alex Fergusson did not give him the reason to stay.

Benfica paid to the club from Salt Lake City $2million for the player’s release note and Adu will receive $1.2million per year, solid but not the contract that tops the news. Adu was not on Benfica’s Champions League match roster against Milan on Sept. 18th, in compare a player like Messi at the current Adu’s age was already among the starting 11 for the football giant FC Barcelona. The MLS didn’t appear to have gained substantial attention for the sport with Adu, nor contributed to his development into the world dominant player as expected. Through history, some of the best players of all times played soccer in the States, including Pel é, Beckenbauer, Eusebio…

After the decades long attempts that did not give hoped results for the success of U.S. soccer, what difference Beckham’s playing (currently on a 6 week absence due to the injury) may makes now? Let’s have a brief look at the MLS, a professional soccer league that started in 1996 with more than 10 seasons of experience under way.

Logistics and facilities:

On the day of publishing this text, September 27th 2007, Beckham’s LA Galaxy is playing against the KC Wizards., as the author of this text, had the insight in MLS through KC Wizards in the summer of 2006, a year prior to Beckham’s arrival in the MLS. At that time KC Wizard’s head coach complained about having himself and 2 more assistant coaches to run the team’s training, forcing him to leave several players from 26 man roster sitting on the bench because of not being able to have them all on the field during trainings at the same time.

The training facilities included one open-air field and the in-door field with gym used by the NFL team KC Chiefs, within the Arrowhead Stadium complex. The Wizard’s open air-training field was situated next to the fence aside KC Chiefs training fields.

Grass on the Wizards field was almost separated turfs on the ground as hard as a rock, a field where many players would pass on training in order to avoid injuries. A head coach, 2 assist coaches, fitness trainer… NFL stadium and facilities… small office space at the corner of a stadium… it would be quite a contrast to the clubs from leagues where Beckham previously played.


Majority MLS players come in the league as drafted college players. College soccer usually means player’s playing for a full ride scholarship with the first pro contracts signed at the age of 22 or so. In other countries, first pro contracts are usually signed at the age of 18, at the age of 22 the player is coming out of a 4 year contract and managers have a better understanding of a player’s capabilities in pro football.

This means college players are 4 years behind. By signing a first pro contract at the age of 22, they would come out of the 4 year contract at the age of 26, at that time, major world football clubs would rather invest their money in a 22 year old’s prospect who has also had 4 years of pro football experience. College players hardly pass over playing in the MLS (players’ first pro contract) on their way to better paid leagues as most foreign clubs would not sign a college league soccer player with no pro football experience at the age of 22.

Prominent American players like DeMarkus Beasley ($2million to PSV – Netherlands, currently for £700,000 with Rangers – Scotland) or Tim Howard ($4million to Man Utd – England, currently with Everton after being loaned), joined MLS directly from high-school without playing college soccer, just like Freddy Adu.

For an average football fan with the choice to watch a variety of matches, e.g. the giants of the game squaring up in domestic leagues like this past weekend when it was Man Utd vs Chelsea in England, Barcelona vs Sevilla in Spain, Roma vs Juventus in Italy, PSV vs Feyenoord in the Netherlands… Boca Juniors games in Argentina, Lyon in France… there’s little space for MLS.

A football fan wants to see the competitiveness, passionate fans, decades-long fierce rivalry between the clubs, tradition, the world’s best players, established players with reputation of playing for prestigious clubs, ultra-modern football-specific stadiums, most of which the MLS does not offer. The MLS needs to gain the interest of the American public and media in order to gain the same interest with the world public. Hard-working, attractive all-around players like Eddie Johnson of the KC Wizards or DC United’s Jaime Moreno, who proved their quality in this summer’s Copa America 2007 are the prototype players for a successful competitive league.

The MLS’s proposed soccer-specific modern stadiums for all clubs are a step forwards. German Bundesliga witnessed tremendous boost of public interest and media attention on domestic and global level prior to and after the World Cup 2006, with a legacy of great new and renewed old stadiums. The MLS ought to internationalize as much as possible, the English Premiership did it, when foreign billionaires started buying clubs, world class players arrived in even great number to make it the most watched and profitable football league in the world. Many writers have speculated on why football is not as popular in the U.S. as it is in some other countries, most of them point to the fact that the game does not have enough scoring. Changing rules of the game in favor of having more goals per game may be beneficial this time around.

Football is a powerful force, it already changed the North American major league sports philosophy, MLS clubs are competing in the Super League and the Copa Sudamericana, The New York Red Bulls new stadium will feature a full «European-style» roof, in 2007 MLS started selling ad space on the front of jersey (a floor of $500,000 per shirt sponsorship), following the practice of the international football.

As the Latin American immigration increases in the US, so is the interest in football. With football being the most popular recreational sport for both boys and girls, the MLS has potential. In 2006 Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, expressed his expectations for the league’s clubs to be profitable by 2010 overall. LA Galaxy’s merchandise sales through Beckham’s next 4 four years with the club may not top $600 million as it was during his time with Real Madrid, still an MLS player made onto the covers of Sports Illustrated magazine and gather a crowd of 66,000 spectators at a packed Giants Stadium.

In the words of David Beckham about his move to MLS: «I’m coming there to play football… I’m not saying me coming over to the States is going to make soccer the biggest sport in America». It’s about taking one step at the time, if soccer aims to make it in the football world.

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Karim Benzema Brilliant Performances

The 23 year old striker has achieved a lot is his career. This can be attributed to his humble nature and the fact that he is an extremely mature person who works diligently to excel. He is extremely loyal and this can be judged from his career. He started playing football with Olympique Lyonnais, when he was 9 years old, in 1996 and stayed with the club for 13 years. He was transferred from Lyon to Real Madrid in 2009 and even with his new club he signed a long term contract of 6 years.

Karim Benzema started his football career with a domestic club and later joined Olympique Lyonnais – the biggest club of the city. He started playing with the club when he was 9 years old and progressed through the ranks of the club fairly quickly. He was able to make his professional debut in the 2004 – 2005 season and played on and off during the season.

Benzema made his mark in the season of 2007 – 2008 when he scored 30 goals over the season to guide his team to winning their 7th successive league title. It was a magnificent year for Benzema indeed as he was the center of attention all around and the highlight of the season was him being named the UNFP Ligue 1 Player of the Year award.

His services acquired by Real Madrid in 2009 for a six year contract. The start of the 2010 – 2011 season was disappointing for Benzema as he failed to make any regular appearances for the team and was only used as an occasional striker. However, the injury of his team mate Higuain meant that Benzema was to take the responsibility of Higuain’s shoes. Benzema grasped the opportunity with both hands and performed remarkably in the role of the first choice striker of the team. The sale of the Real Madrid Tickets increased majorly because of his spectacular performances.

Benzema played a key role in the Real Madrid’s Copa Del Rey. It was a match for which the Real Madrid Tickets were extremely difficult to procure for the fans. His overall superb run of performances throughout the year of 2011 led him to winning the award of French Player of the Year.

This led to everyone having high expectations from the young French striker for the next season of 2011-2012. Benzema certainly didn’t disappointed his fans with his brilliant pre season performance in which he scored a total of 8 goals in 7 matches. Benzema went to score the fastest goal in the history of El Clasico. He scored the remarkable goal in just 22 seconds to distinguish himself prominently in the history of El Clasico. He performed remarkably throughout the match and his goal gave his team an early edge in the game. However, Real Madrid failed to capitalize and lost the match 2-1.

Benzema has also represented his national side of France at the youth and international level. His brilliant performances have made him the center of much speculation – Will he take his team to the ultimate glory in the next FIFA World Cup?

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Lionel Messi: The Greatest Player in History

Early Life

Lionel Andres Messi, was born on 25 June, 1987, in Rosaria, Santa Fe Province, to parents Jorge Horacio Messi, a factory steel worker, and Celia Maria Cuccittini, a part-time cleaner. His parental family originates from the Italian city of Ancona, from where his ancestry, Angelo Messi, emigrated to Argentina in 1883. He has two older brothers, Rodrigo and Matias, and a sister, Maria Sol.

Messi started playing football for Grandoli, a local club coached by his father. In 1995, Messi switched to Newell’s Old Boys who were based in his home city Rosario. He became part of a local youth powerhouse that lost only one match in the next four years and became locally known as «The Machine of ’87», from the year of their birth.

At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Local team River Plate showed interest in his progress, but were not willing to pay for treatment for his condition, which cost $900 a month. Carles Rexach, the sporting director of FC Barcelona, was made aware of his talent as Messi had relatives in Lleida in western Catalonia, and Messi and his father were able to arrange a trial with the team. Rexach, with no paper at hand, offered Messi a contract written on a paper napkin. Barcelona offered to pay his medical bills on the condition that he moved to Spain. Messi and his father duly moved to Barcelona, where Messi enrolled in the club’s youth academy.


By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. The following year, in 2009, was his first time winning both awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, and again in 2011 and 2012. He also won the 2010-11 UEFA Best Player in Europe award.

At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At 25, he became the youngest player to score 200 goals in La Liga. In September 2014, Messi scored his 400th senior career goal for the club and country at just age 27.

Commonly ranked as the best player in the world and rated by some as the greatest of all time, Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballon d’Or, all of which he won consecutively, and the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards. With his professional club, FC Barcelona, he has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, six Supercopas de Espana, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

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