Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Low Lands Aim High, Barca the Richest


* Plans for a European Super League never seem to go away but a Low Countries top division could begin as early as 2025.

Representatives of 11 clubs met in Eindhoven last week and Deloitte estimate TV revenue from the new competition could be up to five times the current domestic models.


The idea is for an 18-team league of ten Dutch and eight Belgian sides with promotion and relegation from the two nations' second divisions.

The idea of an Atlantic League featuring the best of Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Scotland surfaced twenty years ago and was discussed as recently as 2016, with Scandinavia's top teams party to discussions.

If course UEFA would have to agree but since existing competitions offer those nations's clubs slim pickings, it seems they would have a strong case.

Placating them by offering more guaranteed Champions League places is perhaps the only way to stop the plans in their tracks.

Money talks ultimately and breakaways have happened in many sports including football.

* Speaking of Deloitte, the accountancy firm's annual Football Money League was published this month and showed Spain's big two are the biggest money makers in the sport.

Barcelona generated £841 million last season, clearly ahead of Real Madrid's £757 million. Manchester United despite their on-field travails, came in third on £712 million.

Naming the top 20 richest clubs would make a tricky quiz question, especially as it includes Everton, Schalke and West Ham United.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, January 27, 2020

Death of the Snake Man


One of the stars of the golden age of Dutch football Rob Rensenbrink has died aged 72.

A World Cup finalist in 1974 and '78, as well as a legendary striker for Anderlecht, he is perhaps best remembered for hitting the Argentine post in the last minute of the 1978 World Cup Final with the score at 2:2.

Holland went on to lose in extra-time and the slender Amsterdammer, nicknamed the Snake Man, missed his chance to win the Golden Boot and give the Dutch their longed-for first World Cup.

He had played the first 45 minutes of Oranje's greatest loss - their heartbreaking 2-1 loss to West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final, before being substituted for a lack of fitness.

With Anderlecht he won the Belgian League and European Cup Winners Cup twice, against West Ham in 1976 and Austria Vienna two years later.

Rensenbrink was a rangy forward/winger who despite his undoubted ball skills and scoring ability lived somewhat in the shadow of Johann Cruyff and Piet Keizer for his country, scoring 14 goals in 46 games.

Anderlecht teammate Jan Mulder penned a memorable tribute to the Snake Man in David Winner's wonderful lovesong to Dutch football, Brilliant Orange:

"Some players have that. La beaute de geste they call it, the splendour of the gesture...He was only kicking a ball but I was moved to tears...it's art, not art but something more beautiful, more precise, it's like handwriting. He had beautiful handwriting, all with the left foot."

In addition to his nine seasons with Anderlecht he also played for Club Brugge, Toulouse and the Portland Timbers as well as DWS in his native land.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Monday, January 13, 2020

Valverde sacked Setién appointed


A day after Xavi spurned the job, Barcelona have sensationally sacked manager Ernesto Valverde and appointed the relative unknown Quique Setién in his place.

Valverde took training this morning for the last time although he was not informed of his fate until the afternoon board meeting with president Jose Bartomeu. Setién was announced this evening as his replacement.

Camp Nou

The 61-year old played over 300 times for his hometown club Racing Santander and was in the Spain squad for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He has managed seven clubs, most recently Real Betis the season before last.

The club statement made a point of showing the somewhat leftfield choice fitted the bill for his long-confessed admiration for the Barça way of playing:

"Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession-based attacking football that has been attractive to fans," it said.

Valverde leaves the Catalan giants with two league titles, a Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup on his CV and a 66% win ratio.

Setién enters the madhouse on Tuesday with a public presentation at 1pm GMT, the sixth head coach at the Camp Nou in seven years.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Xavi says no to the Camp Nou, for now


Barcelona are in another 'crisis' after a disastrous trip to the Middle East.

In another desperate attempt to challenge English football's global appeal, La Liga had organised this year's Spanish Super Cup as a mini-tournament in Saudi Arabia, but the desired clasico showdown between Spain's big two failed to materialise as Barca were knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the semi-final.

Camp Nou
Camp Nou

The Blaugrana then made a cack-handed attempt to swiftly replace manager Ernesto Valverde with former club favourite Xavi, a change which was reported as a fait accompli by many media outlets this morning, before the news filtered through that Xavi, currently coaching Al Sadd in Qatar, had said no.

Were the club seriously planning to fly back to Spain with a different manager?

Xavi will probably be coach at the Camp Nou in time for next season. Could not the Catalans have waited until then and kept their dignity? Maybe they did and in planning for the future could not have missed the chance to speak to their former midfielder in person since they were in the Middle East for a few days, while checking on the recuperation of striker Ousmane Dembele as well.

According to club sources, Sunday's meeting between Xavi, Barca's CEO Oscar Grau and sporting director Eric Abidal was merely, "de cortesia" - a courtesy call, while Xavi reiterated his respect for Valverde and his current employers while saying they had talked about "many things". But this was clearly an attempt to sound him out for the job at the very least.

Camp Nou
Camp Nou

Until recently another old boy Ronald Koeman, currently manager of the Netherlands, was supposed to be a shoe-in for the hot seat, while rumours are growing that the currently unemployed Mauricio Pocchettino could pip both him and Xavi to the job.

Poor old Valverde. His contract expires in the summer anyway so was it too much to expect some respect until then for a man who has won the league the past two campaigns, is top of the league this campaign and is still in the Champions League? Bravo ex-Barca managers Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola for leaping to his defence tonight.

At any other club, with the exception perhaps of Real Madrid, that record would mean the manager would be in no danger of an imminent sacking, but as ex-blaugrana striker Gary Lineker said of the club to Bobby Robson, who himself was hired under false pretences at the Camp Nou before being ceremoniously sacked, "That place is a madhouse".

As if the gods had got wind of this latest hubris, they not only made Barca throw away a 2-1 lead in the semi-final to go home and let their arch rivals lift the trophy, but also sent an injury to Luis Suarez, which will keep him out of action for the next four months.

Barcelona is a mess de un club tonight.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Fifa World Rankings December 2019

Fifa World Rankings December 2019

Fifa World Rankings

Fifa's World Rankings for December 2019 were published on December 19 at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

There is little change in the top 20 positions. Belgium who finished third at the World Cup 2018 in Russia are still top followed by champions France who defeated them in the semis, Brazil, England Croatia and Uruguay.

The full top ten is Belgium, France, Brazil, England, Croatia, Uruguay, Portugal, Spain, Argentina and Colombia.

Senegal are the top African team in 20th place. England remain in 4th. Wales are 22nd tied with the USA. Australia are in 42nd place; Japan are in 28th spot. Near neighbors South Korea are 40th in the list. Scotland are 50th. The Republic of Ireland occupy 34th place, Northern Ireland are 36th.

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

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

© Soccerphile.com

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Bielsa's Boys Shine in Arsenal Outing


FA Cup Arsenal v Leeds

The F.A. Cup might have lost its sheen some time ago but at least it gives us a chance to see teams from different divisions crossing swords.

Fans of clubs who draw an opponent from a different division still get excited, even if the big boys show up with nine changes or the U-21 team.

Last night's Arsenal v Leeds tie was a treat for terrestrial viewers, a first chance for many to see Marcelo Bielsa's Championship-leading outfit rattle the doors of the top flight before it flies too far out of reach.

And fascinating it indeed was to see how the away side from the lower league outplayed their Premier hosts for 45 minutes, before succumbing by a goal in the second period, perhaps inevitably because they had failed to translate their swarming and swirling around the Arsenal box early on into net contacts.

Outstanding Championship performers often impress on their Premier League debuts, particularly when their playing system is well-honed. Once the element of surprise has gone though, second season syndrome frequently kills off their blooming.

On the evidence of last night at Ashburton Grove, Leeds will be a rich addition to England's top division, bringing a distinctive running style from a storied manager.

Like the Liverpool v Everton clash a day earlier, Gunners v Whites was a real game of two halves, with the stats confirming a complete turnaround after the break.

Leeds outmoved, outpassed, outran, outshot and outthought Arsenal in the first half and despite being outwitted in the end by Mikel Arteta's interval team-talk, which should go down as one of the most effective halftime hairdryers ever, they certainly won the neutrals over.

We are eager to see one of England's most famous sides and one of world soccer's most renowned coaches in the Premier League next season.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Who's in Who's Out?

Swansea - From The Archives

How will Swansea react to the loss of their talisman Ferrie Bodde who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering his second cruciate ligament injury in the space of twelve months?

Their inspirational player had only just come back into action after being out for ten months with exactly the same injury. The Dutchman has made only ten appearances since being sidelined last season. Tragically the midfielder only lasted 9 minutes before being stretchered off the field of play.


After his highly anticipated come back game, against Sheffield United that Swansea won 2-1, Bodde reassured fans on the club website that this was not an occurrence of the old injury.

"The knee is ok; it's not inside the knee like it was last time."

Unfortunately subsequent scans revealed that the despite the midfielder's optimism his worse nightmare had come true and he will be forced to sit out for the rest of this season.

Swansea now face the rest of the season without one of the toughest tackling midfielders in the Championship who was at the heart of many of their wins last season. The Dutch under 23 international had only signed a new contract with Swansea City in 2008, following rumours of a move to Championship rivals Derby County for around 2 million pounds.

Former Swansea boss Roberto Martinez even turned down a reported 3.5 million pound bid down from Bolton this summer. The sense of dismay in the Swansea camp was echoed in the comments of club physiotherapist who stated how unlucky Bodde had been to suffer a repeat injury:

"It's very rare for this to happen, as the graft is normally stronger than the original ligament."

Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins reflected the thoughts of many fans and club officials when he conceded:

"It's a big blow, not just for the football club but more importantly for Ferrie himself. He is devastated at the moment, but as a club we have told him we will look after him and stand by him every step of the way - as we did last time. He will remain a very important member of this football club. We all feel for him and I'm sure every Swansea fan will join me in wishing him a speedy recovery."

Meanwhile messages have been flooding in from the fans wishing Ferrie the best of luck as he returns to his homeland to await yet another operation. Last night Swansea drew 0-0 away at Doncaster, finding themselves 16th in the league with only 11 points, and wondering how they will cope with the loss of an integral part of their team.

Tom Haw

© Soccerphile.com