by Pablo

The glorious Pablo kicks off our 3 day, 3 part transfer extravaganza where we list every deal in the bloody league and give our two cents on what the business will mean for the season ahead.

INS: Lukas Podolski (£11m, FC Köln), Olivier Giroud (£13m, Montpellier), Santi Cazorla (£16m, Malaga).

OUTS: Rhys Joe Campbell (loan, Real Betis), Denilson (loan, Sao Paulo), Manuel Almunia (free, Watford), Benik Afobe (loan, Bolton), Carlos Vela (undiscl, Real Sociedad), Ryo Miyaichi (loan, Wigan), Wellington Silva (loan, Ponferrada), Robin van Persie (£24m, Manchester United), Alex Song, (£15m, Barcelona), Henri Lansbury (£1m, Nottingham Forest), Ju Young Park, (loan, Celta Vigo), Nicklas Bendtner (loan, Juventus)

Had Arsenal kept Robin “the little boy inside me” Van Persie you’d have to say they had improved their squad significantly with more midfield guile in the form of Santi Cazorla, and more attacking threat up top in the form of Giroud and Podolski. The only problem was RVP let “the little boy inside me” do all his talking and as we all know, it’s hard to convince “little boys” to do anything productive when they start to whinge like bitches. Noticeable “outs” apart from the Dutchman with a child inside him is Alex Song, primed for a midfield ‘enforcer’ role the Cameroonian actually played quite well in dribs and drabs last season and may be missed in the middle until Wilshere (who is an actual “little boy”) gets back anyway. In other good news Bendtner left. In other bad news the ‘Moroccan Bendtner’ Marouane Chamakh stayed.

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 “If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”
― John Lennon

Cristiano Ronaldo eh? The ultimate in marmite footballers. On one hand you can hold him in the same esteem that one may hold your Cruyffs, your Beckenbauers, your Peles, and on the other you may hold him with the same disdain that one may with your Bartons, Savages, or Terrys.

Let’s get one thing straight, Ronaldo is an excellent footballer, there’s things he can do with his feet that many can’t do with their hands. He’s the spark, the ingenuity, the ‘x-factor’, that footballing demi-god every team wishes they had in their side. So, why the derision? Why the hatred? Does Messi get this much stick from all quarters? Never.

Why do the two players get compared so much anyway? Is it too hard to just enjoy the two players at the height of their games? Maybe this is a rivalry borne from brand identification more than anything. Messi; Adidas, Barca, El Mundo Deportivo. Ronaldo; Nike, Real Madrid, Marca. Is this why the two are locked in this never-ending rivalry? Possibly…


Recently at a press conference before the recent Portugal/Netherlands game Ronaldo was asked about Denmark’s fans chanting ‘Messi’ towards him, which obviously annoyed him no end and brought out a few childish giggles. “You know where he was at this time [last year]? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country,” Ronaldo said at the post-game press conference. “I think that’s worse, no?” Strangely it reminded me of that scene from Happy Gilmore where ‘Shooter’ McGavin was dismissing questions about Adam Sandler’s character.
“Trying to reach the green from here, Shooter?”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible, sir”
“I beg to differ. Happy Gilmore accomplished that feat no more than an hour ago.”

Even at the Czech Republic game a banner was unfurled with the message that “Messi is still better”. It seems wherever he goes, and whatever he does, he is constantly compared to the diminutive Argentine master.

The two players couldn’t be more different either. One is a 5’7″ scruffy looking chubby faced kid who wouldn’t look out of place at a skate park or a garage band, the other is a 6’1″ muscular, athletic, good looking, tanned, Adonis with a string of model girlfriends. One looks very much a Rolls Royce player, the other a KIA. Both are very much aware of how good they are, it’s a pre-requisite for a world class talent to never have doubts about your ability, however one is as humble as a lamb, the other thinks he’s a popstar.


Maybe it has a lot to do about the environmental and social upbringing of both players more than anything. There’s a story doing the rounds about Alexander Hleb during his time in Cataluña asking Xavi Hernandez what sports car he should get, the reply “You can drive what you want in your spare time but don’t bring it to the training ground, it’s not the type of thing we do at Barcelona” Maybe it’s this ethos taught to Messi during his early formative years has had an effect of keeping his feet on the ground and being thankful for what he has. Ronaldo however, well, there’s only so many sports cars, supermodels and lavish lifestyle choices one can make. Whilst Messi is engaged to a girl from his home town of Rosario in Argentina. Meanwhile Cristiano can be seen having a boozy vodka-fuelled night in Paris (Hilton).

There’s been a few times it’s been mentioned that Ronaldo needs to be the centre of attention, he’s had accusations of being ball-greedy, not being a team player, being very much an individual, a ‘total fucking rock star from Mars’ to put it mildly. It was noted in several media outlets than when Silvestre Varela scored the last-gasp winner for Portugal against Denmark during the Euro 2012 group stages, he was the only player not to celebrate with the goal scorer despite being the closest to him; almost as if he was pissed off he wasn’t the one who got the winner.

Messi on the other hand is not only the greatest individual talent in Barcelona’s long illustrious history, but also one hell of a team player. If he wasn’t a team player, he wouldn’t be in that Barcelona side at all (the reason Ronaldinho was tossed on the scrap-heap, well… that and the pies). It’s the way they’re bred apparently.


On a recent interview with Time Magazine Messi was asked about comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I never really fixated on him or compared myself with another player. My mentality is just to achieve more each year, to grow both as an individual and as a team, and if he wasn’t there, I’d be doing the same thing.”

In comparison Ronaldo recently said in an Interview;

“It’s like comparing a Porsche to a Ferrari. We push each other in competitions. Some people say I’m better, some people say it’s him. People try and decide who is best at the moment; I’m thinking it’s me”.

Although he said that with his tongue firmly in his cheek you can see from the 2 interviews that one player is definitely thinking about the other. You can just imagine him coming off the pitch at Mallorca or somewhere like that after bagging a hat-trick to run straight to the nearest TV and then curse his luck as Leo sticks 4 past a hapless Villarreal and the headlines head north to Barcelona again, like an evil villain repeatedly getting thwarted by super human heroics.


Both have had awful times at international level however. Football purists will say 60-80 goals a season will mean very unless an international tournament is won by either of them. In this instance I believe Ronaldo has finally bested Messi. Only one player is ever going to drag his international team-mates to glory, through his sheer bloody-mindedness, arrogance and that “give me the ball attitude” rather than his humble, team playing counterpart. Argentina look to Messi for answers, Portugal already know the answer, give the ball to that guy in the number 7 shirt, he’ll do the rest.

Interestingly since that post-Denmark press conference Cristiano has upped his game significantly with 2 virtuoso displays in 2 games, netting 3 (could been 17) and winning games for his country. He’s finally showing his Madrid form for his country, something he has been slated for by certain sections of the Portuguese press.

With Messi successfully bogarting the #1 spot for FIFA Ballon D’or for 3 successive seasons, the most famous footballer to ever be named after Ronald Regan (I hope that’s true) has finally got the chance to put one over his Los Culés arch-nemesis. An international tournament with the blistering brand-mark of CR7 on it would secure that, surely? 2 games, 2 wins, and he can thank his Portuguese team-mates in his acceptance speech in Zurich in 2013.


Or will it be a case of him running up to the podium and running away with the Ballon D’or trophy the way ‘Shooter’ McGavin did with Happy Gilmore’s winner’s jacket?


by @semtex_elvis

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The next European Championships will be held in France in 2016, exactly 20 years after the last time every English man, woman and child supported the 3 lions. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people still do follow and support England. It’s just for one beautiful halcyon summer, we all did.

What wasn’t there to love about it? The sun was out every day, Blur and Oasis topped the charts, Danny Boyle’s opus Trainspotting ushered in the bold new face of “Cool Britannia”, this blogger had his first brush with female infatuation whilst on holiday in Rhyl and, most importantly, there was a major football tournament happening in our back yard for the first time since Bobby Moore lifted aloft that shining Jules Rimet trophy 30 years earlier. We believed in Psycho, Gazza, Teddy, Super Al and Dave Seaman. To borrow a phrase from the kids of the time 1996 was “all that and a bag of chips”.

When I think back to Euro 96, I long for those days when supporting the national team wasn’t a chore or something to be ashamed of. The honest football fan in me started seeing the national team in a different light around 2002, its blindingly true light. The harsh realities of its travelling fan base, the Charleroi’s and Marseille’s and the vile (mainly racist) chanting created feelings for football I had never previously known from the wide eyed innocence of a child witnessing his first World Cup in 1994. I remember specifically the moment I fell out of love with England for good.

April 2nd 2003, England were on “tour” taking the national team to the people in a commendable exercise by the FA, as Wembley had closed its doors for a multi million pound refurbishment that would go on for what seemed like 1000 years. Sunderland was its next stop for the potential powder-keg of a clash against group 7 rivals Turkey. I was working in a pub (well, I use the term pub loosely as it was actually a Wetherspoons) nearby that day and we were warned to expect a LOT of England fans. The pub was decked out in St George’s flags, the staff all in 3 Lions shirts, with myself in the rather fetching 2002 away shirt (think Beckham, Argentina, Sapporo Dome). The ‘clientele’ that day contained some of the worst human beings I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. No one seemed arsed about the game of football, they were more bothered about far right political dick swinging chants and fighting rival gangs of football ‘fans’. The local BNP morons coincidently decided today was a good day to march in support of a man who had stabbed an Iranian man in a racially motivated attack a few weeks before. After about the 75 th chant of “no surrender to the IRA” and “I’d rather be a Paki than a Turk” I decided I didn’t want to wear the shirt any longer. My manager asked why I’d taken it off, I simply told her it felt uncomfortable.

After I’d finished my shift I went to my mate’s house for a smoke and a beer. As I watched England win convincingly 2-0 with a young Scouse lad called Wayne in a starring role, I realised I’d fallen out of love with it all. It was like a girl I’d been enamoured with for years had suddenly grown massive hairy balls, got a facial tattoo and started listening to Nickelback. I hated her, and everything to do with her.

I spent the next 4 tournaments laughing at England, praying for their downfall. I enjoyed Euro 2008 without that lot there. I laughed during the World Cup in South Africa. I must’ve been the only one who enjoyed that Algeria game, drinking beer through a Vuvuzela and shouting “Heskey!” through it like a loudspeaker to annoy mates who were devastated by the team performance. I tuned into TalkShite that night to listen to Stan Collymore’s phone in show just to hear the irate fans in an act of pure schadenfreude. I was revelling in it. I loved the media furore, the anger, the bile, the ‘wally with a brolly’, the Swede, the turnip, the “Bo Selecta faced” Italian, the Gerrard/Lampard conundrum, the abject failure, everything! Why? Because I hated the people associated with England.

Euro 2012 is here in the next few days, I can’t wait to enjoy the “football” as a fan of “football” in this festival of “football”, not being another little Englander who stops caring when their team is out. My boss, knowing I’m a football fan surprised me by telling me I had the France and Sweden games off. I was delighted, I couldn’t wait to watch every player fall flat on their faces and condemn those idiot fans with their little flags with tiny towns no-one’s ever heard of daubed on to further dismay.

But today, my mind was cast back to that beautiful summer of ’96. The dentist’s chair, Shearer’s goal scoring drought ending, Pearce’s screaming reconciliation with penalties against Spain and Germany, the 4-1 defeat of Holland, the nation coming together under the mantra of “football’s coming home”, those long idyllic summer days practising Gazza’s genius flick over Colin Hendry’s head with my mates in the park. Where did that youthful exuberance go? Could I ever find it again? I hadn’t realised it till recently but I’ve actually missed it. I’ve been feeling like a bitter old spurned lover watching England over the last few years. Maybe it’s something I should put to bed, support the team a bit. Try and rediscover that spark. I’d love to see some performances this year that would get the country unified in these less than ideal times. I’d like to see pride in the national team again, the spirit of ’96!

Before that tournament England had a friendly with Greece that had an attendance of 23,000. Before that tournament they were being vilified, insulted, being told they didn’t stand a chance by a media and fans who had been burned by failure to qualify for USA ‘94. England fans had bought tickets the quarter final at Anfield due to their lack of faith in England topping their group (instead they got to watch a young, precocious talent called Zinedine Zidane, so swings and roundabouts eh?).

England find themselves with even less hope heading into Euro 2012. The squad decimated by injuries, the first choice centre halves have an awkward conversation to have next time they meet, the star player banned for the first 2 games, a quarter of the squad are mid table under achievers who couldn’t string 3 passes together last season for Liverpool and the coach is a head banging, face rubbing mentalist who loves an archaic 4-4-2 like your Nan loves Werthers Originals and Lonnie Donegan.

Still, that 14 year old kid with the spliffy jeans and the Umbro bench jacket inside me holds hope, and maybe so we all should too, for and for old times’ sake.

by @Semtex_elvis

Being a Liverpool fan is fun. Well, I say fun, what I mean is quite the opposite; it’s usually as fun as a swift kick in the nuts.  Since our adopted goateed Spanish messiah left his post in 2010 we’ve had a pretty shit time of it. The season before he left we finished second with the highest points total ever amassed by a runner up, a points total that would’ve won the league in every other season in Premier League history. Liverpool were a well oiled machine, the might of Carragher and Agger at the back, the attacking threat of Arbeloa and Aurelio down the flanks, the midfield magic of Alonso, Mascherano and the industry and pure striking power of Gerrard and Torres. That season we decimated Manchester United, Real Madrid and Aston villa in just over a week, playing the sort of football that had both the pundits and the punters drooling.

After scaling those heights it all started going a bit tits up, Alonso and Arbeloa left, Gerrard started getting injury prone, Torres starting acting like a sulky lesbian with M.E. and the people who were signed to replace them weren’t up to scratch (not naming any names like N’gog or Aquilani). Much of the blame was directed (correctly) at the board room. At the time we were under the tyrannous rule of professional Waldorf and Statler lookalikes Tom Hicks and George Gillet, who were more arsed about dipping into club funds to redesign bathrooms on their ranches than trying to turn Liverpool into a truly global power.

There were protests every game, marches, high profile emails and gaffs (“BLOW ME FUCK FACE!”), dirty laundry being aired, Jurgen Klinsmann’s phone was being texted, and to make things worse, the team were playing like a gang of dickheads. Collectively, a lot of eyes were taken off the ball. Liverpool were out of the Champions League. Rafa left, Hodgson was appointed, key players were disinterested, no money was available to rebuild. Since that moment on, a once proud sporting institution started to resemble a midget kicking itself in the head.

Then, after years of transfer targets falling by the wayside due to dithering and a lack of funds (names such as Walcott, Vidic, Alves, Villa, Barry), we finally got lucky when FSG came riding to the rescue on their big beautiful American horses, swinging their big thick dicks and promising changes. Money? Yes! We finally had some to spend, and how we spent it! After scrimping, saving and being frugal (Pennant over Simao anyone?) we finally had plans in place to buy who we needed to fit a system and start back on the road to recovery. 100m quid pissed down a drain later (with the exception of a certain Uruguayan with big teeth) and that blueprint was cast aside. We were starting to act like a business, something the club had never previously done. The sentimental (emphasis on MENTAL) support for Kenny Dalglish’s sacking was beautifully over the top and just so us.

So, a poor team, no manager, no plan, no director of football on the books? What now? Oh, I don’t know… how about a media feeding-frenzy regarding the new manager? At last count we were linked with Pep, Jose, Hiddink, De Boer, Laudrup, Klopp, Jogi, Capello, Gullit, Ranieri, Emery, Benitez, Villas-Boas, Rodgers, Martinez, Van Gaal and that bloke who runs Pret A Manger on Castle Street. It seems today the big boys have finally made their minds up, and the hopes, dreams, aspirations and historical significance (cause we love our historical significance don’t we) now rests upon the shoulders of one Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers was my personal choice for manager of the season last term because of the excellent work he had done with Swansea City, so why was there a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that worries me about his appointment. Then it hit me, is a sexual thing! He’s not a big name; he’s just a coach, a coach with one year’s worth of premier league experience. A coach who was relieved of his position at Reading a few seasons ago. A coach who isn’t going to generate a lot of excitement for fans, and probably players alike.

But, peel back the layers of this particular footballing onion however and you’ll find a coach with excellent philosophy who has learnt from some brilliant sources. He studied in Spain during his coaching education, under the coaching staff of Barcelona’s famous “Tika Taka” mantra, and also in Seville and Betis. He also had in a spell in Holland, out of pure “thirst for knowledge”. He applied these practises to the Reading FC academy and did such a good job he was picked up by Chelsea’s then boss José Mourinho to work with the reserves, again, picking up more knowledge. The guys had an education that most UEFA B-Licence holders could only dream of. There’s experience, and then there’s potential, which is what Rodgers offers us. As for his previous job ‘failures’ at Watford and Reading that many Liverpool fans will point to, I’ll point to Rafa’s CV and highlight Real Valladolid and Osasuna as too prime examples of a coach learning his trade.

In a recent interview, he spoke of his footballing philosophy in The Telegraph;

“People don’t notice it with us because they always talk about our possession but the intensity of our pressure off the ball is great. If we have one moment of not pressing in the right way at the right time we are dead because we don’t have the best players. What we have is one of the best teams. Leo Messi has made it very difficult for players, He’s a real team player. If you have someone like Messi doing it then I’m sure my friend Nathan Dyer can do it. It is an easy sell.”

Are we getting the glamour of Pep? No. Are we getting the cock-sure attitude of José? No. Are we getting the experience of Capello? No. What we are getting is a young hungry manager who wants to play football properly with emphasise on team-work and possession. Surely that’s an exciting proposition after the overly cautious football we’ve seen in the last 2 years? Time will tell if it was a sensible appointment, but from what I’ve seen from him so far definitely a step in the right direction. (Although what Andy Carroll makes of ‘Tika Taka’ is a different story, he probably thinks it’s a late night Indian dish)

Guest blog courtesy of @Semtex_Elvis. Give him a follow, he’s a lovely bastard.

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