Sunday, October 17, 2021

Liverpool FC launches new partnership with ThinkMarkets

Liverpool FC launches new partnership with ThinkMarkets

Liverpool FC has welcomed global online trading broker, ThinkMarkets, as its new Official Global Trading Partner.

With offices in London, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tokyo, along with hubs in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and South Africa, ThinkMarkets will work with the club to bring quick and easy access to a wide range of financial trading markets to Liverpool FC supporters across the world.

The global partnership will focus on bringing forward market access and game-changing technology, providing ThinkMarkets with a high-profile opportunity to promote its brand as well as its multi-asset trading products and innovative platforms.

The partnership will also provide ThinkMarkets with digital assets, club hospitality, and matchday sponsorship to drive acquisition and leverage engagement opportunities for its clients while reaching fans through exclusive experiences.

Liverpool FC launches new partnership with ThinkMarkets

Matt Scammell, commercial director, Liverpool FC, said: "A leader in its field that fosters innovation and delivers on quality experiences, values that resonate deeply through the club, we are very happy to add ThinkMarkets as our newest partner.

"Our worldwide following will generate global exposure for ThinkMarkets, whilst their core markets benefit from tremendous numbers of Liverpool FC supporters. Through this new partnership, we look forward to working closely together in offering our fans activities and experiences to bring them even closer to the club."

Nauman Anees, CEO and Co-Founder at ThinkMarkets, said: "ThinkMarkets is proud to be the Official Global Trading Partner of Liverpool FC and excited to bring global market access to Liverpool FC fans around the world. We look forward to exploring the synergies between trading and football strategy throughout our partnership."

Established in 2010, ThinkMarkets delivers some of the industry's most recognised trading solutions, including its best-in-class platform ThinkTrader.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Football legends returning to their former clubs over 10 years later

Football legends returning to their former clubs

Football legends return
Football Legends

Gianluigi Buffon - 20 years later to Parma (2001-2021)

Arjen Robben - 18 years later to Groningen (2002-2020)

Sir Stanley Matthews - 14 years later to Stoke City (1947-1961)

Diego Maradona - 13 years later to Boca Juniors (1982-1995)

Cristiano Ronaldo - to Manchester United after 12 years (2009-2021)

Romário - 12 years later to Vasco da Gama (1988-2000)

Denis Law - 12 years later to Manchester City (1961-1973)

Kaká - 11 years later to São Paulo (2003-2014)

Sócrates - 11 years later to Botafogo-SP (1978-1989)

Allan Simonsen - 11 years later to Vejle BK (1972-1983)

by Rasim Movsumzadeh

Sunday, October 10, 2021

LFC holds ground-breaking ceremony for Anfield Road Stand expansion

LFC holds ground-breaking ceremony

LFC holds ground-breaking ceremony for Anfield Road Stand expansion
LFC holds ground-breaking ceremony for Anfield Road Stand expansion

Work officially began on Liverpool FC's Anfield Road Stand redevelopment project last Thursday at a commencement ceremony that saw Jürgen Klopp put the first spade in the ground.

The ground-breaking ceremony, which was also attended by Sir Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush, saw the coming together of all those involved in the project since it first began in 2014.

LFC managing director Andy Hughes, Kevin Underwood - honorary vice-president from contractor Buckingham Group - first-team manager Klopp and Cllr Abdul Qadir, Liverpool City Council cabinet member for neighbourhoods, posed in the driving rain with brand-new diggers as the ceremonial first spade was put into the ground.

Hughes said: "It is my great pleasure to see work officially begin on the Anfield Road Stand redevelopment. Today marks the beginning of an important new chapter in our history, and one which will see us being able to bring more of our supporters into Anfield.

"I am delighted we can celebrate this significant milestone together with the many people who have contributed to this process and I look forward to celebrating further success with 61,000 fans when the stand is finished."

Cllr Qadir said: "This development is really welcomed and I'd like to thank everyone for their hard work in the background on this."

As he placed the first spade in the ground, Klopp said: "Everything is better with fans. I can't imagine how 61,000 supporters will feel, we love the idea. With the great history of this club, it's incredible that we are building the future too."

The expansion will see an additional 7,000 seats added to the stand, with construction taking place throughout the season while matches continue to be played.

The redeveloped Anfield Road Stand is anticipated to be ready for the 2023-24 season and will include improved concourses and sports bar lounge hospitality facilities, as well as the relocation of the Family Park to a covered position.

Anfield Road Stand Expansion Confirmed

Anfield Road Stand Expansion

The proposed expansion of the Anfield Road Stand will move forward, Liverpool FC has confirmed today.

The project, which has been undergoing enabling works throughout the off-season in anticipation, will begin in earnest with an official ground breaking ceremony planned for this week.

The redevelopment of the stand will see 7,000 more seats added to Anfield, taking its overall capacity to more than 61,000. The construction of the stand will work in the same way as the redeveloped Main Stand, with the build taking place throughout the season while matches continue to be played throughout.

Anfield Road Stand Expansion Confirmed

Andy Hughes, Managing Director, Liverpool FC said: "We have been clear from the beginning that in order for this expansion to go ahead we needed the co-operation of local residents and the community, to successfully navigate the complex planning landscape and to ensure the project is financially viable.

"We needed certainty for this project to progress and are now in a position to be able to move forward. We began this journey in 2014 and are grateful to everyone for the contributions they have made to bring the project to this stage."

Following two stages of public consultation and invaluable feedback on the initial plans, Anfield Road's expansion project will reroute Anfield Road itself around the footprint of the new stand.

The project was given planning permission by Liverpool City Council in June 2021 which also awarded the club permission to hold up to six concerts and major events at the stadium for a period of five seasons.

The club will work with Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd (Buckingham) as the principal contractor on the project.

Buckingham will work directly with the club's Red Neighbours initiative on a range of activities with the local community and schools in line with the club's current activities across food poverty and education and opportunities for young people, as well as taking the local community on the journey of the Stand’s redevelopment.

They will also work with local employment groups and education establishments to offer work experience, apprenticeships, graduate placements, and employment to local people. Buckingham is committed to offering around 35 work placements and over 800 apprentice and training weeks across the build.

When completed the expanded Anfield Road stand is expected to create around 400 matchday roles, in addition to the 2200 people currently employed in various operations at each home game, of which 95% are known to live in the Liverpool City Region.

The redeveloped Anfield Road Stand is anticipated to be ready for the 2023-24 season and its design will see the lower tier retained and refurbished with a new upper tier built above it. As well as an increased capacity the redeveloped stand will be similar to the Main Stand with improved concourses and sports bar lounge hospitality facilities. This stand will also see the relocation of the Family Park to a covered position.

Throughout the design process, careful consideration has once again been given to Anfield’s world class atmosphere through the development of an acoustic and lighting strategy to match that of the one developed with the Main Stand.

Part of the safe, secure and inclusive design plans will also provide additional pedestrian routes at the back of the expanded stand into Stanley Park, retain the four-stand stadium configuration and character, and include historical design references.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Munoz Wins the Sack Race

Watford's Manager is the First Firing of 2021/22

Xisco Munoz has parted ways with Watford after only seven games of the season, the first managerial casualty of the 2021/22 Premier League.

Xisco Munoz
Xisco Munoz

Sitting 14th out of 20 after two wins, a draw and four defeats, Watford is not quite mired in a relegation battle, but the Hornets have been serial sackers for a while. The Pozzo family who run the Hertfordshire club have overseen a dozen managers at Vicarage Road since 2012.

The firing comes on the back of a dismal display at Elland Road, where Leeds beat them 1-0. The board's official announcement spoke of "a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving."

That is more than the usual platitudes a club spouts when sacking their manager but it still seems a little harsh when there are six clubs below Watford in the table and Munoz won them automatic promotion to the Premier League after taking over mid-season in the last campaign.

"It concluded in a way I neither expected nor wished for," Munoz replied on Twitter, reminding readers his reign had only been a year, less than ten months in fact. Seven games into the season seems too soon, although had the axe been wielded at Christmas it would not have come as a big shock had Watford still been in the bottom third of the table.

Claudio Ranieri seems poised to take the reins at Vicarage Road.

Watford's managerial merry-go-round mirrors that of Nottingham Forest, who are on their 30th manager in 20 years. The twice European Cup winners fired Chris Hughton a couple of weeks ago after six defeats in seven games.

But whereas Forest have been unable to mount a serious promotion challenge and seem marooned in the bottom half of the Championship, Watford have at least yo-yoed between the top two flights and reached the F.A. Cup final.

The Pozzos' business model entails a consistent recruitment structure but regularly replacing the head coach, whose lifespan in the job they estimate at no more than a couple of seasons, according to Watford chief executive Scott Duxbury.

Forest have had a similarly dizzying turnover of players and managers but persist, expecting a different outcome, the classic definition of madness.

A comparison of the two clubs seems to confirm that when it comes to running football clubs, one size does not fit all.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, October 3, 2021

鄭展龍外借冠忠南區 藉更多上陣機會加快成長


鄭展龍外借冠忠南區 藉更多上陣機會加快成長

 為達至目標,鄭展龍借用費將與他在冠忠南區的上陣時間掛勾,上陣時間愈多,借用費愈低,傑志希望藉此增加鄭展龍比賽時間,透過實戰加快成長。 鄭展龍是傑志青訓的成功例子之一。
鄭展龍外借冠忠南區 藉更多上陣機會加快成長

2008年當時年僅9歲的鄭展龍加入香港巴塞足球學校(傑志足球學院前身),之後跟隨傑志青年軍征戰,15歲時提升至預備組,2015-16球季17歲時獲首份職業球員合約,2017年首次入選香港隊,直至2018年鄭展龍在主場出戰對日職球會柏雷素爾的亞冠盃比賽,射入致勝入球,助傑志獲得亞冠盃首勝,該絕殺球更被選為當屆亞冠盃最佳入球。 傑志體育會會長伍健先生期望,鄭展龍在外借期間能證明自己:「鄭展龍加入傑志大家庭已13年,他的成長故事,承載著傑志青訓的成功歷程。我們深信鄭展龍潛質優厚,有能力再突破自己,期望他在一至兩個轉會窗後回歸傑志時,會是更全面,更成熟的鄭展龍。」 

 暫代主教練金東進相信外借安排有助鄭展龍的發展:「年輕球員需要比賽來提升技術及心理質素,外借對處於成長階段的鄭展龍來說,是值得把握的機會。」 鄭展龍今天(8月16日)已向冠忠南區報到並投入操練,傑志祝願他有出色表現,為冠忠南區爭取佳績。

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Loss of a Red Legend


Roger Hunt - record goal scorer for Liverpool.
Roger Hunt - record goalscorer for Liverpool

Roger Hunt, Liverpool F.C.'s greatest league marksman with 244 goals for the Reds, has died aged 83. 

In the Anfield roll of goalscoring honour, Hunt's total of 286 is second only to Ian Rush's. For that reason, the Kop knew him as "Sir Roger".

He cemented his place in Liverpool folklore as his goals helped whisk the Reds from the second tier to the top of English football under Bill Shankly's charismatic management in the swinging sixties. 

The Lancashire-born forward won two league championships and an F.A. Cup with the club and then the World Cup with his country, playing in all of England's games in 1966.

Alongside Geoff Hurst, Hunt was famously preferred by manager Alf Ramsey to the more purely talented Jimmy Greaves, who died last week. He scored 18 goals in 34 matches for the Three Lions, netting three at the '66 finals.

Hunt was a hard-working centre forward with a good right foot, who not only scored plenty himself but also created so much space and chances for colleagues with his tireless running that England skipper Bobby Moore rightly called him "a player's player".

His career tally of 272 goals in 486 matches with only two bookings is testament to the positive way in which he played the game.

Hunt's greatest domestic season was 1963-'64 when Liverpool became champions of England and Hunt scored 31 league goals in a stellar partnership with Ian St John. 

That was the Reds' first title in 17 years and the start of their golden era of dominating English and later European football.

His death leaves England with three survivors from their only World Cup-winning team - Bobby Charlton, George Cohen and Hurst. 

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, September 26, 2021

傑志與Nike共同發佈2021-2022球衣 展現90週年乘勢而上精神

傑志與Nike共同發佈2021-2022球衣 展現90週年乘勢而上精神

傑志與Nike共同發佈2021-2022球衣 展現90週年乘勢而上精神

傑志2021-2022全新主場球衣隆重登場,由官方運動用品及裝備贊助商Nike設計及生產。新球季球衣以球會傳統藍色作主調,加上粉紅色搭配,以色彩展現傑志引以為傲的光輝時代。 適逢球會成立90週年,傑志復刻了創會初期的斜間作主場球衣設計,顏色上融合了3種不同藍色,展現出藍鳥過往不同時期輝煌歷史,向前輩致敬之餘,亦以富現代感的配搭突顯勇往直前,乘勢而上精神;衣領、袖口、球衣和短褲側面以及長袜則以粉紅色作呼應。


「心懷傑志」字句一如以往出現在球衣衣領內,體現堅守傑志核心價值。 90b.jpeg 傑志與Nike由2009年起攜手合作,傑志在賽場上爭勝,Nike則在裝備上作最強後盾,繼續以創造香港足球更好未來作共同目標。

今季傑志新球衣,首次應用了Nike最新的「4D FIT」測量技術;透過邀請超過300位職業球員到實驗室,利用電腦掃描球員不同身體部位的體型動態數據,再結合Nike的電腦運算技術,精準地設計球衣剪裁,製造出最舒適合身的球衣,讓每名傑志球員以最佳狀態投入比賽。 傑志後防靈魂人物艾里奧試穿新球衣後,立即回想起剛完成的亞冠盃之旅:「在泰國進行的6場比賽,一時下雨,一時炎熱,Nike的Dri-FIT球衣一向以透氣見稱,快速地將汗水吸收及揮發,讓我們盡情發揮。而穿上了今季的新球衣,感覺是比之前更進一步,絕對有助我們在賽場上乘勢而上,創出更佳成績。」

Friday, September 24, 2021

James to Al-Rayyan - a Sign of the Times

James to Al-Rayyan
James to Al-Rayyan


James Rodriguez
's swift move from Everton to Al-Rayyan has raised a few eyebrows with many claiming it is a bad move for the World Cup 2014 Golden Boot Winner.

Aged 30, the Colombian should normally be at the peak of his powers, starring for a big club in the UEFA Champions League and challenging for titles.

Instead, Rodriguez found himself frozen out at Everton under new manager Rafael Benitez so was offloaded unceremoniously to the Qatar Stars League, where he will be the only South American or European in his team's squad, coached by French World Cup winner Laurent Blanc.

The Lions' 36-man roster is all Qatari except for Iranian Shojae Khalilzadeh, Cameroonian Franck Kom and the Ivory Coast's Yohan Boli. 

At Everton by contrast he played with 12 different nationalities including five current or former England internationals, two Brazilian internationals, one French and one fellow Colombian, Yerry Mina.

Compared to Rodriguez's previous homes the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue Un or the Bundesliga, the QSL is not exactly overflowing with star names, but James will at least recognise former Bayern teammate Javi Martinez at Qatar SC, Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld at Al-Duhail and Barcelona legend Xavi in charge of Al-Sadd. There is one other Colombian in Qatar, Jeison Medina of Al-Shamal.

"It's not easy to find good offers when you want," Rafael Benitez explained at today's Everton press conference, "and that was the time. That was the right one for him and he is happy with that and we have to do it because we have to maximise our resources."

James was Everton's highest-played player at around £200,000 a week and with six goals and 26 appearances last season, could have been seen as somewhat of a luxury. Benitez also lamented James' regular injuries, saying, "when you have a player...available for 50% of the games in the Premier League, it is not something we can manage easily." He also cited the UEFA rules on spending as a factor in the Colombian's exit.

Financial Fair Play Rules were probably a factor in his departure, as was the Covid hit all clubs took last season without paying spectators. It cannot be a coincidence that the continent's two brightest stars, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, were both sold in the most recent transfer window. But one wonders if it was not merely a case of a coach not rating a player's abilities or attitude.

Benitez did not want him and James wanted to play, so that was that. With the European transfer window shut, the only options for selling James, therefore, were in the USA and Asia, but the clubs with the dollars to afford him were in China and the Middle East. 

There had been interest in Europe from Milan, Porto and Istanbul Basaksehir but no agreement could be reached before the window shut, presumably because James or his super-agent, the famous Jorge Mendes, held out for a big salary. James did admit playing in Italy sounded attractive but never showed interest in a move to Turkey, while Porto could not agree on a swap involving compatriot Luis Diaz.

In the end they settled for £6 million per annum with Al-Rayyan, 57% of what he was getting on Merseyside. The transfer interestingly includes a clause that he can break his contract at a loss if a team in the UEFA Champions League comes calling and given Qatar's connections with Paris Saint-Germain, there remains a possibility of a return to France, where James previously played with Monaco.

Although he has just headed in the opposite direction, a player of James's calibre surely still belongs in Europe, or at least at a top South American club.

For Al-Rayyan and the Qatari league, signing James is therefore a big coup, which reflects well on the country's football in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, which will make use of the club's 47,000 capacity stadium.

Qatar World Cup stadium

That competition and the need for first-team football must also have been in his mind as the offer arrived. 

In May, James issued an extraordinary press release expressing his "great disappointment" and "huge pain" at being dropped for Colombia's September World Cup qualifiers. He remains the team's talisman as far as the fans are concerned and his absence grates on a nation who all gather round to watch 'La Seleccion.'

While he and the federation disputed his fitness levels this summer, the real reason for his exclusion must have been his persistent calf muscle problems at Everton last season which restricted his appearances, as well as his complete rejection by incoming manager Benitez. 

Given James arrived on a free transfer from Real Madrid and the Toffees made £7 million on his sale, it could be argued he was not a big financial drain on the club. Had Carlo Ancelotti still been on Merseyside, the Colombian would surely have remained a first-team regular having signed him and coached him at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Benitez of course had coached James at Real too, albeit briefly and has also changed the Everton style by eschewing his playmakers in favour of the newly-acquired Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend, tramline wingers tasked with firing in fast crosses to strikers Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Four opening wins seemed to justify his changes, although the past two defeats have led many to question why James was not at least on the bench. His assists and passing last season for Everton proved he had lost none of his famous technique.

James himself recently lamented the decline of No.10s, the creative hubs between defence and attack. He is 'un atipico', a player who is hard to define, loosely described as an attacking midfielder. He plays high up and drifts in the hole, threading clever balls beyond back fours with a palpable footballing brain. 

In addition he scores goals and his six at Brazil 2014, including that wonder strike against Uruguay,which won the FIFA Puskas Award, remain the high point of his career. Afterwards, Diego Maradona said he should have won player of the tournament ahead of Messi.

As for Everton, their sudden rise in popularity in South America has come to an abrupt halt. 

James' signing saw Colombia's tallest building, the Colpatria tower, bathed in blue. Supporters' clubs were set up in Latin America, the club played Bogota club Millionarios in a Florida friendly and the club website was given a Spanish translation. 

The sudden departure of the country's star player has left the Latino Toffees followers dismayed and season-ticket holders are also sad they never had the chance to see the Colombian play in person.

"A pity not to have played in Goodison Park with you. It would have been very nice," Rodriguez wrote laconically on Instagram.

Last year James admitted how much it hurt not playing in the Champions League, so one wonders how he will adapt to what is in footballing terms, a bit of a backwater. He has penned a three-year contract with Al-Rayyan but one has to wonder if he will fulfil it. The Middle East, as they say, is not for everyone.

He will have to adapt quickly to a new culture but Qatar will be the eighth country in which he has plied his trade, so he is unlikely to suffer from homesickness.

Al-Rayyan, the western suburb of Doha, is a world away from Merseyside. 

It contains the Doha Zoo, National Stadium and the Villaggio Mall, a typically bling block of high-end Western stores, where, given his Instagram posts of relaxing on private jets and yachts, James should feel right at home.

Even the intense sun of Doha should not be too much for a man who grew up in the all-round heat of Cucuta, in northern Colombia.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Farewell to the Goal Machine


Today's sad announcement that Jimmy Greaves had died aged 81 was not wholly unexpected.

The record Tottenham goalscorer (266 goals) and fourth-highest England marksman (44 goals) had been ill for some time. 

Jimmy Greaves

A stroke in 2015 had left him speechless and wheelchair-bound and he had spent time in hospital last year.

The East Londoner had all the gifts for being a goal poacher -  two good and quick feet, a hawk's eye and a bloodhound's nose for the target. For those reasons, he scored a whopping 357 top-flight goals in England between 1957 and 1971 for Chelsea, Spurs, and West Ham. 

Across Europe's top leagues, only Cristiano Ronaldo has netted more in his career.

After 125 goals for Chelsea, a brief sojourn for Milan in Serie A brought an impressive nine strikes in 12 games but Greaves failed hopelessly to adapt to a different culture and hurried back home to sign for Spurs, where he became their record goalscorer and won two F.A. Cups and one European Cup Winners' Cup.

He played at two World Cups, famously catching an encroaching dog at Chile 1962 and playing in England's three first-round matches in '66.

Subsequently dropped by Alf Ramsey, Greaves' miserable face at the final whistle as England won the Jules Rimet trophy, was unforgettable. He did not attend the after party and his perceived failure lived with him. 43 years later, in 2009, he was at last awarded a winners' medal.

He had famously battled alcoholism and bankruptcy in the 1970s as his career petered out but conquered both to reinvent himself in the '80s as a pally, vaudevillian pundit alongside the laughing Ian St John, who passed away earlier this year, on ITV's Saint & Greavsie show, cementing a different Jimmy Greaves into the minds of a younger generation who had never seen him play.

In later years he would periodically appear in the tabloids with reactionary political opinions or would admit he had fallen so out of love with football that he preferred watching cricket and rugby instead.

In his final year he at last achieved national recognition with an MBE. He remains in football history as a pure goal machine, probably the best England has ever made. 

A schoolteacher of mine told us, "If the ball ever fell to him in the box, Greaves would always get it in."

How fitting that today his two main former clubs, Spurs and Chelsea, play each other in London.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

利物浦足球會宣布與 Sonos 建立音響合作夥伴關係

利物浦足球會宣布與全球領先的聲音體驗公司Sonos 簽署多年協議,正式歡迎 Sonos 成為紅軍的官方音響合作夥伴。 這個全球協議象徵着Sonos 首個與運動品牌的合作,並將會更加深入地關注球迷與運動聲音之間的緊密聯繫,為球迷和球員創造出「身臨其境的音響體驗」。 


從 Kop看台的音響至全新主看台的擴大聲學設計,可看得出紅軍及我們的城市均與聲音有着明確無誤的聯繫。 利物浦商業總監Matt Scammell表示:「利物浦足球會與 Sonos之間的關係和諧共融,我們均對原聲配樂的體驗充滿熱誠。

聲音成功讓晏菲路球場打做為如此特別的地方 - 當我們的支持者於團隊奮戰的背後,『第 12 人』發出改變比賽節奏的聲音,這正正是我們本賽季迫不及待想再次聽到的聲音。 我們非常期待與 Sonos 合作,將我們世界各地的支持者與Anfield的聲音聯繫起來。」 Sonos 營銷副總裁 Pete Pedersen 亦指出: 「聲音一直是體育運動重要組成的一部分 - 它為每場比賽注入能量,無論是球員在作賽時播放的音樂、看台上球迷反覆高歌的振聲,或是在家裡建立球場體驗。


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Messi & Ronaldo's Indian Summer


Last time I was in Colombia, two years ago, my wife's little nephew Felipe told me a joke:

"Why didn't Messi want to baptize his son? - Because he didn't want him to be a Cristiano" (it works better in Spanish).

The thing was, Felipe had no interest in football, but the fame of the two titans of the modern game had found its way into the eight year old's jokes cabinet.

Lionel Messi

The Argentine and the Portuguese have bestrode the sport for the past decade as outstanding individuals at excellent clubs, although have struggled to translate their greatness to their national teams.

Lionel Messi seemed embossed into the crest of FC Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo looked similarly chiselled into the keystone of Real Madrid. But CR7 upped sticks for Juventus three seasons ago and last month rejoined Manchester United, while Messi has stunned the world by swapping the Camp Nou for the Parc des Princes.

This week, both legends played in the Champions League. Neither won, but Ronaldo scored and Messi played his 150th game in the competition and his first for Paris Saint-Germain.

After their aeons of Spanish booty had become a defining narrative, you have to pinch yourself to realise neither is playing in La Liga anymore, after scoring 785 goals between them. Who are the biggest stars in Spain now? Gareth Bale, Antoine Griezmann or maybe the 36 year-old Luka Modric?

Using the Arsene Wenger forensic approach to transfers, when you sell your prize assets as soon as their value starts to diminish, offloading Messi & Ronaldo made perfect financial sense for the two giant clubs because the men in question are no spring chickens at 34 and 36 respectively.

But CR7 made a mockery of age on Saturday by netting two goals on his Man Utd return debut, outsprinting and outthinking much younger opponents. Three goals in his first two games for the Red Devils hint at many more to come.

The Madeiran veteran was also top scorer in Serie A last season and at Euro 2020, aged closer to 40 than 30. Messi, too, has plenty of gas left in the tank and a mind as fast as any footballer's. Last night he caused panic in the Brugge defence with his familiar dribbles and hit the bar for the Parisians with a typically powerful snapshot.

So why sell them now? For money of course, or the lack of it as reality has finally seemed to catch up with the two Spanish behemoths, whose serial indebtedness epitomised the ‘too big to fail' motto of irresponsible corporatism. Last season alone, Barcelona incurred a debt of half a billion Euros, more than enough to sink any normal business. Their total debt is more than double that.

La Liga is getting tougher with this reckless management and tightening salary requirements, which Barça boss Joan Laporta said meant Messi's wage packet alone would have constituted 110% of his club's total salary pot. Even a 50% salary reduction, the maximum legally allowed, would have left the blaugrana breaching the league rules.

Covid must also have been a factor, as a season without ticket revenue has hit football clubs as it has other businesses in the wallet. It was no coincidence that the desperate and ultimately doomed attempt at a breakaway league occurred during the pandemic.

The egregious Real owner Florentino Perez's plea of poverty was met with suitable derision but had a grain of truth, if he was planning on another summer spending spree despite having taken no money through the turnstiles.

Ronaldo’s €60 million salary of was also a drain on Juventus, who are roughly €400 million in the red, but unlike Messi who seemed glued to Catalonia and left only in tears, the Portuguese was apparently happy to depart Turin having finished fourth in Serie A and been knocked out of the Champions League in the quarter finals.

The Madeiran felt the need for yet more trophies in his twilight so he could end his career on a high and he felt there was more chance of that happening in England.

It is the end of a golden era for Spanish football,  but Messi moving to France and Ronaldo back to England have enlivened those particular leagues unexpectedly.

From the perspectives of Paris and Manchester, there is plenty here to celebrate, as there is for the neutrals, who can enjoy two genuine greats in their enduring sunsets.

Leo Messi is playing alongside Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Sergio Ramos and finally won the Copa America this summer.

Messi and Ronaldo themselves have long been assured of seats in footballing Valhalla. Let us see how end their storied careers at new clubs and for the last time, at a World Cup finals next year in Qatar.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Fifa World Rankings September 2021

Fifa World Rankings September 2021

Fifa World Rankings

Fifa's World Rankings for September 2021 were published on September 16 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

Belgium who exited Euro 2020 in the quarterfinals are still top followed by Brazil and England. England are presently in their highest position since September 2012.

France who lost in the round of 16 at Eiro 2020 to Switzerland fall to fourth. Euro 2020 winners Italy, Copa America winners Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, and Denmark round out the top 10.

Senegal are the top African team in 20th place. Wales remain in 19th with the USA now in 13th spot. Australia are in 32nd place; Japan drop to 26th position down two from August. Near neighbors South Korea are 36th in the list. Scotland are 45th. The Republic of Ireland are in 50th place, Northern Ireland are up to 47th.

1 Belgium
2 Brazil
3 England
4 France
5 Italy 
6 Argentina 
7 Spain
8 Portugal
9 Mexico
10 Denmark
11 The Netherlands
12 Uruguay
13 USA
14 Germany
15 Switzerland
16 Colombia
17 Croatia
18 Sweden
19 Wales
20 Senegal

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