Liverpool Keen To Offer Zidane An Escape Route From Real Madrid

Being the son of a famous footballer can heap pressure and unnecessary expectation onto a young players shoulders. The belief is that if your father displayed immense technical ability then it runs in the family and you will have it too. Some have shown this to be true like Mattheus, son of Brazilian legend Bebeto who is creating a name for himself as a player but is showing similar skills and traits that his father displayed some 20 years ago. Others have struggled to shake the high expectations set by fans and entire countries as they embark on their careers.  Andreas and Mads Laudrup can be forgiven for not yet reaching the levels that their father Michael did during his playing days. The duo, like their cousin Nicolai (son of Brian Laudrup) are being watched carefully by the whole of Denmark in the hope that they will follow in their famous fathers footsteps and lead Denmark to international glory again. Even Thiago (Lionel Messi’s son) and Cristiano Jr (Cristiano Ronaldo’s three-year old) are facing speculation about how good they could become, before they have even taken their first steps.

Andreas and Mads Laudrup (Image from seoghoer.dk)

Andreas and Mads Laudrup (Image from seoghoer.dk)

For Enzo Fernández, better known as tumblr_o0l0ic7A621uvbyu5o1_1280 the youngster is looking to escape his father’s considerable shadow by leaving Real Madrid’s reserve side Real Madrid Castilla for pastures new, in an attempt to make his own name in the game his father loved. Zinedine Zidane achieved much as a player, winning the World Cup and European Championship with France as well as a variety of league and European cups with Juventus and Real Madrid. He also picked up the FIFA world player of the year three times, the Ballon D’or and is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever players to grace the game. His natural ability, skill and flair gained him praise from across the globe, from a variety of the games greatest players such as Pele, Beckenbauer and Platini, most of which was capture in the 2009 documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Image from Fanpix.net)

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (Image from Fanpix.net)

As Zinedine’s oldest child, Enzo is the first to have the limelight thrust upon him and is reacting well, focusing on becoming his own player rather than trying to emulate the legend that is his father. He adopted his mothers maiden name Fernández in an attempt to remove the focus on his career and the comparisons to his father but has been unsuccessful so far. A move away from the Bernabeu makes sense for the youngster, with Liverpool keen to offer him a two month trial. It will be difficult for Enzo to leave Real as he has been at the club since he was nine years old and also employs his two brothers, Luca (a goalkeeper) and Theo (a striker) and his father as Sporting Director.

Enzo and his Father play in a charity game together (Image from tocachat.com)

Enzo and his Father play in a charity game together (Image from tocachat.com)

Enzo has shown he does possess his fathers talents and showcased them in a match recently for Real Madrid’s youth team against local rivals Atletico. With dad Zinedine watching on from the sidelines, Enzo muscled an opposition player off the ball some 40 yards out before unleashing an incredible 30 yard screamer that beat the goalkeeper with ease. It capped a fine performance by the youngster as he helped his side to an impressive 5-2 victory. The player has being playing well in the youth team, so much so that he was awarded with a call up to France’s Under 19’s, much to the frustration of the Spanish Football Association. Enzo, who has dual nationality thanks to his parents, can play for either Spain or France but at this time is focusing purely on his club football. His father is surprisingly not pushy when it comes to which country he will end up playing for:

“I do not like talking about it, but when one of the national teams calls him, we will decide which one to play for. If Spain comes calling, fine, and if France calls, the same. The important thing now is that he enjoys playing for Real Madrid”

Enzo has trained with the first team but has yet to feature (Image from anninhthudo.vn)

Enzo has trained with the first team but has yet to feature (Image from anninhthudo.vn)

Before his full international career can begin, Enzo knows he needs first team action. A move to the Premiership and to a club like Liverpool whose policy is to nurture young talent and give them exposure to the first team, could be exactly what the 17-year-old Enzo needs. If he can adapt to life in England and Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers gives him a chance in the first team, the young Zidane could make quite the impact and finally show the world if he is destined to follow in the same footsteps as his father.

To see Enzo’s 30 yard screamer, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZN_UeZE0Wc

April Round up – Goals, Gaffs and Guardiola

A Newcastle fan punches a horse (Image from Getty)May is the one of the most exciting months in domestic football. As the season draws to close, fans are poised on the edge of their seats waiting to see if their team is successful in winning the league, avoiding the drop or lifting the cup. For the first time since their famous win in 1997, Borussia Dortmund are looking forward to the Champions League final at Wembley on the 25th May, where they will face either Barcelona or fierce rivals Bayern Munich. The odds are firmly stacked against the Spanish side who trail 4-0 from the first leg but miracles do happen. Back in the Premiership, the fight for the title is over with Manchester United beating Manchester City to the post and picking up their 20th title, an english record. All eyes are now focused on the bottom of the table to see who will join QPR and Reading in the Championship next year. Newcastle, Wigan, Aston Villa and Sunderland are in a vicious dog fight with all four clubs desperate to avoid the drop.

On the Move - Mario Gotze  (Image from Reuters)

Champions League Final bound – Mario Gotze
(Image from Reuters)

Last month we took at look at two of those teams – Sunderland and Newcastle, focusing on two key stories, Sunderland’s appointment of controversal manager Paolo Di Canio and Newcastle’s recent slump which has left them dangling in the bottom half of the table. Di Canio got off to a flyer with unexpected wins against Everton and Newcastle before being cruelly brought back to earth with a bump by a rampant Aston Villa. Newcastle, who lost the Tyne Wear derby 3-0 have had a bad month, both on the pitch and off it. On the pitch, they crashed out of a winnable Europa League after defeat against Benfica then saw their domestic form slump as well picking up only 5 points out of a possible 15 during April. Off the pitch, the Tyne Wear derby was marred by the return of the english hooligan with Newcastle fans rioting after the match and one fan even punching a police horse. They were not alone in a month to forget for English football followers as fans of Millwall, Stoke, Bradford and Portsmouth all contributed to tarnishing the beautiful game’s reputation.

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio  (Image from Getty)

New Sunderland Boss Di Canio
(Image from Getty)

Also leading the charge in setting a bad example was Liverpool’s Luis Suarez who was banned for 10 games following an incident against Chelsea where he appeared to bite the arm of Branislav Ivanovic. The striker was slammed by his manager and the club for his actions before dramatically performing a U-turn and defending his actions, insisting it wasn’t worth a ten match ban. Very strange indeed. It could have been a lot worse for Liverpool, just look at AEK Athens who are now having to fight for survival without influential young midfielder Giorgos Katidis, now serving a ban for performing a nazi salute as a celebration. The incident which happened in March has not help AEK’s plight as they desperately tried to avoid the drop. However Sunday’s defeat in the final game, and a three-point deduction handed down for fan violence has resulted in AEK being relegated and dropping out of the Greek Super League for the first time in their history.

Suarez sinks his teeth in  (Image from SkySports)

Suarez sinks his teeth in
(Image from SkySports)

As AEK dismiss their manager following relegation, other teams across Europe are gearing up to follow suit. In a piece we called the six degrees of managerial separation, we predicted a chain of events that would start with Real Madrid and exiting manager Jose Mourinho and end back at Real with their new potential coach. See if you agree with us on our predictions. One manager who has already been confirmed is Bayern Munich’s new head coach, Pep Guardiola who has already started his revolution by signing Borussia Dortmund winger Mario Gotze. The player arrives for a record german transfer fee and kicks off what is sure to be a transformational time for the Bavarian club. Another club preparing for a transformational season is Cardiff City who led by Scot Malky Mackay celebrated last month with promotion to the Premiership. Cardiff will want to avoid the same fate as many promoted teams who find the move to difficult and end up back in the Championship after only a year. We looked at what Cardiff need to do to avoid the drop in their first season in England’s top division.

Going in the right direction - Cardiff win promotion  (Image from BBC)

Going in the right direction – Cardiff win promotion
(Image from BBC)

Also making the news last month was the never aging story of Nigerian footballer Taribo West, who Serbian officials are now pursuing over allegations that he lied about his age to gain a contract with Partizan Belgrade. It would appear that he is not the only player to have done this with other players from the same region reported to have done this. Two players who don’t need to do this just yet are Esbjerg’s Youssef Toutouh and Utrecht’s Mike van der Hoorn who made the news in April but for different reasons. Toutouh took the plaudits in April with a stunning effort against high-flying Randers whilst Van Der Hoorn felt the heat due to a clumsy error in Utrechts 6-0 defeat at the hands of AZ Alkmaar. Both players have exciting careers ahead of them so we are sure this won’t be the last time we hear from them. Also featured a crazy Bulgarian coach ripping up a referees cards, a goal from a goalkeeper, Bebeto’s resignation from the CBF and a look at Hamburg’s tactical woes in what proved to be a busy month. May is likely to throw up more interesting stories so please keep checking the blog and enjoy!

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Bebeto’s Resignation Adds Further Concern To The CBF

Former Brazil star Bebeto (Image from AP)A World Cup at any level without Brazil often feels like a half effort. Its like birthdays without cake or summer holiday’s without the sun. But whilst the senior team gets ready to play host to the world next June, Brazil’s junior teams are struggling to make the grade.  It comes at a time when Brazil has failed to qualify for the under 20 world cup in Turkey after finishing bottom of their group,  ringing alarm bells across Brazilian football. Failure to qualify for the event, which Brazil are current champions, has been seen as a disgrace by the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) who launched an immediate investigation, with several people losing their jobs.

Brazil's under 20's struggle against Peru (Image from PA)

Brazil’s under 20’s struggle against Peru
(Image from PA)

Former Brazil striker Bebeto, who starred alongside Romario in Brazil’s USA 1994 World Cup winning side, who was parachuted in by the CBF during January to oversee the transformation of the youth system, sensationally quit last month after only two months in charge stating that he didn’t have enough time to dedicate to the job. The former player is currently one of the three members on the local organizing committee for the 2014 World Cup that will be held in Brazil, as well as a state legislator in Rio de Janeiro. But many believe that Bebeto was unaware of the state of the youth game and the work needed to overhaul the setup from the ground up. The CBF itself has taken some heat over the Bebeto appointment, which was seen as a panic move as a reaction to the country’s poor showing in the South American U-20 Championship, the gateway to the Under 20 World Cup. Most blame the Brazilian FA entirely for the poor showing, stating that the CBF have been neglecting the U-20 side somewhat over recent years, but has been getting away with it thanks to some superb generations of talent

Bebeto and his famous Rocking the Cradle celebration at USA 94 (Image from Getty)

Bebeto and his famous Rocking the Baby celebration at USA 94
(Image from Getty)

The issue is not around the production of new talented Brazilian youngsters but instead it’s a deployment problem with a lack of fresh ideas and forward direction. When Mano Menezes was brought in as the senior team national coach in 2010, he pinpointed the under 20 side as a problem. He appointed Ney Franco to the job who immediately began reorganising all levels of the junior game, its structure and coaching methods. But Franco’s departure to  coach Sao Paolo in 2012 led to Under 17 manager Emerson Avila being promoted to the role and a reversion back to old habits and philosophies. Proper preparation time and training have fallen by the way side as the general approach changed with many believing that the team was good enough to qualify without it. Granted the team still possess some genuine talent in the form of Fluminense duo Wallace and Marcos Júnior, plus Sao Paolo’s Ademilson and even the star of Bebeto’s famous goal celebration, rocking the baby, his son Mattheus, is part of the squad. The team has skill and ability throughout but without direction and a winning formula the Brazil Under 20 team are a disorganised group, with little to offer. Evidence of this was seen during the South American U-20 Championship where Brazil let teams score weak goals against them and failed to create anything in return.

Bebeto's son Mattheus is now part of the Under 20's team (Image from PA)

Bebeto’s son Mattheus is now part of the Under 20’s team
(Image from PA)

Emerson Avila was quick to blame the players for a lack of commitment which was shot down by former Brazilian internationalists like Ronaldo and Tostao as being a poor excuse. Emerson was quickly fired and replaced by Bebeto but with the former striker now leaving the role, its back to square one for the CBF. Bebeto’s only act during his time in charge was to appoint Alexandre Gallo from Nautico as new boss of the under-20. Gallo, a former defensive midfielder, is seen as one of Brazil’s new generation of coaches with new ideas and visions but will face an uphill struggle as boss if he doesn’t get the appropriate backing from the CBF. Now that the man who appointed him has left, Gallo will be concerned that his new boss (to be appointed) may have different plans which he doesn’t fit into. If this is the case, Gallo could be looking for new work before he has really had a chance to influence the team or its structure. The situation comes at the worst time for the CBF who are struggling to be ready for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, with stadiums half completed and infrastructure issues still a worry. The only silver lining for Brazil in this whole situation is that rivals Argentina are facing similar problems with their youth setup after also failing to qualify for the World Cup in Turkey but that will hold little  favour with A Seleção (the selection, a nickname for the Under 20 team) fans. Whoever is brought in to replace Bebeto faces a tough task to get Brazil’s youth teams back on track and once again become the team that no one wants to face.

*Credit given to World Soccer Magazine’s Tim Vickery for elements of this article.

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Even Great Players Can Miss Penalties

The most memorable moment of the USA 1994 World Cup final, and some say the only one in what was a boring final itself, was Roberto Baggio’s penalty miss in the shootout. Baggio, who had been Italy’s star player throughout the tournament, conjuring two goals in the last 16, one in the quarter and two again in the semi finals to send Italy through to face favourites Brazil in the final. The Brazilian’s powered through to the finals mostly due to the goals of strikers Bebeto and Romario, keeping a young 17-year-old Ronaldo on the bench for the entire tournament. In the final, the two sides played out a drab match with few chances falling to either side, leading eventually to the dreaded penalty shoot out.

Under the baking hot sun in the Rose Bowl Arena in Pasadena, California, AC Milan legend Franco Baresi  stepped up to take the first penalty for Italy. He missed, giving Márcio Santos the chance to put Brazil ahead but he too caved under the pressure and miss his strike. The next two penalties from either side were scored, tieing the game at 2-2 after three penalties taken each.  Italy striker Daniele Massaro then missed his penalty and watched helplessly as Brazil captain, Dunga put his away. It was now down to Roberto Baggio to score the fifth and final penalty for Italy and keep them in the game. He placed the ball down, took a look at Cláudio Taffarel in the Brazil goal, steady himself for a long run up before skying the ball over the crossbar to hand the 1994 World Cup to Brazil. The divine ponytail, as Baggio was known at the time due to his chosen hairstyle, could only look at the ground in disgust. Camera replays show the ball moving slightly which could have led to the striker blasting over but there was nothing he could do but watch Brazil celebrate.

The Baggio miss is one of many penalty misses from football greats. Looking back through history, players like Van Basten, Muller, Platini, Cruyff and Puskas all missed penalties at some stage in their careers, granted not all of them as important as Baggio’s one. Even new stars like Messi and Neymar have missed penalties in their time. Only two days ago, in a friendly between Brazil and Colombia, Neymar replicated the Baggio miss in the last few minutes of the game. Although it was only a friendly, pride was at stake between these two countries coming into the match. Neymar had managed to equalise for Brazil after they fell behind to Colombia, courtesy of a Juan Cuadrado strike just before half time. But when Brazil were awarded a penalty in the 78th minute following a foul inside the area, Neymar, unopposed, confidently picked the ball up and placed it on the spot. Similar to Baggio, he took a long run, glanced at the keeper and then sent the ball some 15 yards over the cross-bar in an amazing miss. Neymar looked in disgust at the ground, but it may have been the slight hesitation he had in his run up that led to the miss. Either way, this miss cost Brazil the win, with the game finishing at 1-1.

Neymar was dismissive after the game, blaming the state of the pitch:

“The penalty was horrible but you probably noticed the state the pitch was in, it didn’t have any stability. I tried to take it slowly but it didn’t work out. These things happen.”

To be fair to Neymar, the surface at the East Rutherford Stadium, more suited to NFL than international football, was not in the best of conditions. The ball may have bobbled or rolled on the pitch resulting in him lifting it skywards and into the crowds. Neymar will no doubt want to correct his mistake in the next game for Brazil but this time he may have a few others looking to take over the penalty taking duties from him.

To see Neymar’s miss, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILqIS39fca8

To see Roberto’s miss in the 1994 final, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRpmm2GucK4