Small vs Tall: Which Team Would You Take?

Everyone knows the best player in the world is also pretty diminutive. Everyone also knows that second best player in the world is an absolute specimen of human and a bit taller. The great part about this information is that soccer has no definitions of height specifically of linked to world-class footballers. That’s why anyone can play and anyone can be successful. So I pitch this out to you… which team would you choose if you had to take only players over six feet tall or only those under 5′ 8?” The decision would be tough but I can tell you this, I would pay an incredible sum of money to watch this game go down.

small vs tall

Monday Musings

It’s always important to enjoy the weekend’s goals but it is not always easy to see the best ones. Some of us have commitments to things that create a schedule that we like to call life. So for those who missed some of these on the weekend, take a look below…

Senor Pogba – Juventus vs Napoli

Francesco Totti – Roma vs Lazio

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal vs Stoke

Luis Suarez – Barcelona vs Atletico Mardrid

Arturo Vidal – Juventus vs Napoli

Ian Henderson – Rochdale

Tadic – Southampton vs Manchester United

Messi – Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Tanaka – Sporting CP

Just to clarify that Neymar is not always faking injury, check out his ankle after a tackle on the weekend:

Summer Transfer Update: July 8th, 2013

We’ve reached the point of the summer transfer season where many of the biggest moves have taken place and the rosters for Europe’s top teams are beginning to take shape. If history is any indication, the remainder of the transfer season should be rife with drama, unexpected acquisitions, and head-scratching rumors. However, given the moves that have occurred, let’s take a look at who has changed uniforms and how that may affect the upcoming season.

Notable Transfers

La Liga

It would not be right to start this conversation without mentioning the biggest signing of the summer – Barcelona’s completion of their multi-year courtship of Neymar, the recent Golden Ball winner at the Confederations Cup who captured the hearts of the host nation and inspired the collective belief that Brazil can win the World Cup next summer. It will be a sight to behold when Neymar lines up with Barcelona and teams up with Messi to terrorize each and every opponent.¬†Thiago Silva¬†is still rumored to be joining the Catalan giants, but his signing has not yet been finalized.

Never one to rest on their laurels, Real Madrid flexed their financial muscle in signing¬†Isco, the skillful winger who turned heads this past season in La Liga and for his native Spain, winner’s of U-21 European Championship. While Isco does not arrive at the Bernabeu with the same acclaim as Neymar, he is a serious talent and adds another weapon to Madrid’s already potent arsenal (Angel Di Maria is likely to lose his spot to Isco sooner rather than later). Madrid is one of the team’s still chasing some of the bigger names rumored to be available (e.g. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani).

As of today, it appears that the other team in Madrid, Atletico, have completed a coup of mercurial Barcelona striker, David Villa. Villa fell out of favor at Barcelona ever since his gruesome leg injury. With Neymar in the fold, Villa became the odd man out so the move should not take any by surprise. I do expect Villa to regain his form and expect him to excel in Madrid.

English Premier League

While La Liga lays claim to the two most talented signings of the transfer season, the English Premier League has dominated much of the conversation and made a number of significant signings. Chief among these signings is Chelsea’s acquisition of Jose Mourinho to finalize one of the world’s worst-kept secrets. Coupled with the addition of¬†Andre Schurrle¬†from Bayer Leverkusen and the return of¬†Romelu Lukaku¬†from loan at West Bromwich Albion, Mourinho takes charge of a team replete with talent and depth who should be favored to win the league this season.

From one billionaire-owned team to another. Manchester City opened the transfer season with a bang with their signings of Jesus Navas and Fernandinho. While these may not be the two sexiest signings of the summer, make no mistake about their importance or abilities. Both players have been mainstays at strong clubs (Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk) just outside of the scope of the casual soccer fan and will add diversity to an already immensely talented team.

Before discussing Manchester United, it should be noted the Tottenham have quietly made one of the best signings of the summer in acquiring Paulinho, the recent Bronze Ball winner at the Confederations Cup. The 24-year old Brazilian should solidify the central midfield and will be an imposing force for Tottenham. If ‘Spurs can retain Gareth Bale, I believe they have all the tools to finish in the top four and earn a spot in the Champions League.

While Manchester United have yet to make a major signing they are stacked with talent at nearly every position with the exception being a gifted, world-class central midfielder. However, the Red Devils are on the verge of securing the signature of Thiago Alcantara, the supremely skillful Barcelona player and son of Brazilian World Cup Winner, Mazinho. Thiago recently won man of the match at the U-21 European Championship match scoring a hat-trick with goals coming from his head, left foot, and right foot. If United can finalize the Thiago signing, they will be much more confident in their ability to defend their title, though Chelsea and Manchester City will be snipping at their heels.

Other European Leagues

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention AS Monaco who made a serious splash this transfer window with five signings. Monaco broke the bank to acquire the talented trio of Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, nnd James Rodriquez. Furthermore, Monaco added Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abdial on free transfers. It will be interesting to see how Monaco performs with all of these new, talented players so keep an eye on them.

Moving on to Germany, Bayern Munich made the earliest signing when they snatched Mario Gotze, the young German starlet, from Borrusia Dortmund before their clash in the Champions League final. Also, it goes without saying that, like Mourinho above, the appointment of Pep Guardiola to manager is an extremely important move. Guardiola will have his work cut out for him, as Bayern is coming off a historic, treble-winning season, but if there is any manager that could possibly elevate Baryen’s level of play it is Guardiola.

In Italy, Fiorentina and Juventus have been the most active teams in the transfer market. Fiorentina has added Bayern’s Mario Gomez who should form a formidale duo with Giuseppe Rossi once he recovers from his rash of knee injuries. It appears that Stevan Jovetic, the current Fiorentina frontman, is on his way to Juventus. Juventus has also signed¬†Carlos Tevez who has fleed the city of Manchester for greener pastures for the second time.

Who Still May Move?

Although much of the summer transfer season dust has settled, there is still time for players and teams to make moves. As many big fish players remain on the transfer block and many top teams remain unsatisfied with their squads, there will undoubtedly be some major signings with teams looking to reload and compete for titles. The following lists high-profile players who have been rumored to be transferring and their potential suitors:

Edinson Cavani –¬†PSG, Chelsea, Man City

Luis Suarez –¬†Arsenal, Real Madrid

Gonzalo Higuan –¬†PSG, Monaco

Robert Lewandowski –¬†Bayern Munich

Stephen El Shaarawy –¬†Chelsea, Man City

Christian Benteke – Tottenham, Chelsea

Huge Transfer Deals Already Making Waves

With the Champions League finished and the European leagues coming to a close, transfer news and rumors heat up. ¬†A few of the hottest commodities in the world are already confirmed to be on the move. ¬†This could mean that when the actual transfer window opens for the English Premier League in July, pickings may be slim on superstars for the top clubs looking to add top quality. ¬†Lets take a look at some of the “confirmed” transfers already in place.

1) Neymar from Santos to Barcelona – Confirmed

New Barcelona teammates Messi and Neymar

Arguably the best young talent to hit the transfer market was Brazilian International Neymar.  Reportedly, he had a choice between Real Madrid and Barcelona and chose to join forces with Messi rather than Ronaldo.  With Alexis Sanchez and Pedro losing form and the likely departure of David Villa, Barcelona were in need of a winger upgrade and what better way than to add a 21 year old prodigy to partner with the best player in the world.

Santos will receive a reported¬†‚ā¨30 million euros and Barcelona likely have to pay a substantial fee in addition to that to Neymar’s third party investors. ¬†(Explanation of third party investors here.) ¬†Neymar’s talent level is unquestioned, it is whether he can translate that to the rigors of “big boy” soccer in Europe after beating up on the lowly Brazilian League in his teenage years. ¬†Either way, you can’t blame Barcelona for taking a gamble on him. ¬†After all, take a look at some of his highlights:

2) Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid to Monaco – Pending Physical

Falcao celebrating after scoring for Atletico Madrid

Speculation has been surrounding Falcao since last transfer window as Atletico look to cash in on his incredible form in becoming one of the top central strikers in the world over the past few seasons. ¬†The 27 year old looks to be snubbing the Premier League and will look to join France squad Monaco in their attempts to rebuild. ¬†Monaco have already purchased the talented Porto duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez for a combined¬†‚ā¨70 million and will have to splash out another¬†‚ā¨60 million for Falcao. ¬†Quite the spending spree for the Ligue 2 champions. ¬†The deal is expected to be confirmed sometime following Atletico Madrid’s final match of the season.

3) Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich – Agent Confirms

As if Bayern hadn’t given enough blows to Dortmund by announcing the signing of Mario Gotze and then beating them in the Champions League final, Bayern are set to steal their top goal scorer as well. ¬†This deal is far from official yet and no transfer fee amount is being reported, but Robert’s agent recently stated to the media that Bayern have agreed on a transfer fee and that his client is set to join following his brilliant season. ¬†I’m willing to bet he had the attention of Bayern even before he put 4 goals past Real Madrid in the Champions League semi’s. ¬†If the signing of Lewandowski comes to fruition for Bayern, they have to be the favorite to defend their Champions League title next season.

With 2 of the worlds top strikers supposedly off the market, it looks like squads will be forced to overpay for the next tier talents.  Cavani, Rooney, David Villa, and Dzeko (among many others) would be included in this group as possible and likely departures.  It should be a very interesting summer as the transfer season heats up so stay tuned.

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USA vs Brazil: Right Where USA Belongs

When I started watching this game, way before the first whistle blew, I had a faint hope, a glimmer of potential success that the USA Men’s National team could have a had against a Brazil side that was young but skillful. That was put to rest quickly. Was the penalty soft? On another day, could the referee have seen the ball play the hand and yelled “play on?” Yes, I think so. But that was not the defining factor in the game. The first half was a talent show for the Brazilians. Neymar and Marcelo had their way with the US. The long bright spots for the half and for the game were Fabian Johnson and Hercules Gomez. It is a tall task to ask a single forward to occupy a Brazilian backline that had little to do for the first half. I would say on average that it took five seconds for Brazil to win the ball back once they had lost it.

Still, with US down 1-0 it was a comedy of errors that allowed Brazil an easy second goal. It started with a Gooch(who was awful on the day) misclearance and then back to back corners. Less than perfect marking from Jermaine Jones and boom, it is 2-0 and the hill for the US to climb just got a lot steeper. I’m not sure if the US settled in or Brazil took their collective feet off the gas because once it was 2-0, the US finally had a little joy and salvaged the half with a brilliant goal off some solid work from Edu and Bradley, followed by a smart run from Fabian Johnson and a workmanlike finish from Gomez.

The second half brought out better things from the United States but still not enough to really threaten a certain comeback against the Brazilians. The US was very dangerous on set pieces but couldn’t make the most of the many corners they were given. Brazil was too much to handle. Marcelo and Neymar enjoyed the left flank and combined well to continuously put pressure on the US back four. This pressure paid off and Brazil won the game 4-1.

Here is Marcelo. He flicked it around Donovan in his own half like Donovan was a statue.Landon Donovan

Is this the end all for the United States? Are they just not a high caliber team? I would say the scoreline is a little harsh. 3-2 or 4-2 would be a fairer result. US missed some golden opportunities but if it was not for many early heroic saves from Tim Howard, this game could have been a blowout within the first twenty minutes. He let in four goals but saved the game on numerous occasions and is still the best player at his designated position that the US has. Dempsey made an appearance and was a bit of a factor. It would be interesting to see him and Donovan together for an entire game. Maybe in a 4-4-1-1 type formation? Who knows, but Klinsmann definitely got a lot of reads out of this game. Gooch and Bocanegra are not good compliments for each other. Neither is pacy or agile enough to compete with quick and nippy forwards. Fabian Johnson needs to be on the field. He will bring a potent attack to that left side, something that the US has been lacking from an outside back. Gomez made a strong case for why he should be considered in the USMNT starting lineup. It will be fun to see how Klinsmann switches up the lineups for the remaining friendlies and eventually the World Cup Qualifiers. The US should be upset with the result but not devastated. There is more football to be had and there will be more chances for the team to prove itself. Now the task is Canada on the weekend. We will see how this US team reacts to such a performance.

What do you think? Did the US play that poorly or did Brazil just show them what master class really is? Who were the best and worst US players on the day? How do you think the team will change on Sunday?

Looking forward to your comments.

-LM