Remembering Chieck Tiote

I still remember that goal to this day.  As the minutes ticked away towards the end of a thrilling match, Newcastle were awarded an opportunistic free kick on the right hand side. Barton hovered over the ball as Coloccini, Nolan and others jostled for good positions in the Arsenal box with their markers close at hand. The free kick was unsurprisingly tame; floated in speculatively before being headed away with ease. It sat in the air for what seemed like an eternity as Chieck Tiote made moves towards its downward path. Just knock it back into the mix Chieck was what most fans were thinking but the midfielder had other plans. He connected with the ball brilliantly and before Arsenal could react, the ball flew past Szczesny and into the net. 4-4!! What a comeback. Newcastle had pulled off the comeback of all comebacks. From 4-0 down at half time to level the game in such a fashion is why many consider that match one of the best the league has seen. Tiote’s goal was magical like the player himself which makes his death so much harder to take.

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That strike by Tiote (Image from Tumblr)

Newcastle were full of characters and leaders at the time of the game with Nolan and Barton in particular big voices in that changing room. But it was Tiote who grab that match by the scruff of its neck and shook it violently into submission. His battling spirit and crunching tackles made him a firm favourite with the Newcastle faithful who will remember him for all that he contributed to the club during his seven-year stay.

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Tiote arrived in England following an impressive spell in Holland with FC Twente. A fee of £3.5million was been agreed for the player and in August 2010 he pulled on the black and white striped Newcastle jersey. By that point he was already an international player having made his debut for Ivory Coast the year previous. Tiote would play a key role for his country over the next five years as he amassed 52 caps, not an easy thing to do in a star-studded team like that. His career in the north-east of England was just as fruitful with the player a mainstay in the Newcastle side for the majority of his time there. Injury prevented more appearances for the club but it never seemed to bother Cheick who former boss Steve McLaren (who managed him at FC Twente and Newcastle) described as “always having a smile on his face”. Another former boss Alan Pardew referred to him as a giant and a dream player to have in your squad. Fitting words for a player who meant so much to the club he gave his all for.

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Tiote took pride in representing his country (Image from Tumblr)

Selling Tiote was a hard choice for Rafa Benitez but one he felt made sense both for the club and for the player. A move to China could provide the player with a consistent run out as well as a massively increased pay packet to boot. Tiote could have gone to Russia or Turkey and had his options but the money in China could set his family up for life. Family to Cheick was everything so China was simply too good to turn down. He may have only spent a short time in the Far East at his new side Beijing Enterprises but he had already won over the fans in the handful of games that he played for the club.

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Tiote made his move to China in February 2017 (Image from Tumblr)

In football there are different types of players from the adventurous wingback who loves nothing more than running down the byline or six yard box strikers to seize on scraps thrown their way. But the type I like the most are the workhorses, the grafters who battle for the ball in the middle that break up the play, turning defence into attack. Chieck Tiote was very much a work horse, a  central figure in the Newcastle side whose job was not to be fancy but instead to hassle and harass the opposition midfield. It’s a job he did brilliantly. Much like a pit bull clambering to get its jaws around a juicy bone, Tiote never gave up until he got his prize. That’s the type of player he was.

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Over a seven years period with Newcastle he would make 141 appearances for the club but only score one goal – that strike against Arsenal. Clips of that strike are now doing the rounds on Twitter and various sports websites as fans pay homage to Tiote. But look beyond that game to the other clips that show Tiote at his best – hunting down opponents, biting at their ankles continuously until eventually exhausted they release the ball. He was more than just that goal, he was a fantastic player who will be sadly missed by all those who played with him and all of those who watched him play. Tiote was 30 years old.

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Guardiola Grabs Gotze As His Revolution Picks Up The Pace

Bayern Bound - Gotze (Image from MIS Sweden Germany )Jupp Heynckes might still be in the hot seat but the Pep Guardiola revolution at Bayern Munich has already started with the Spanish coach making his first move in the transfer market by splashing out a new record German fee for Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze. The pacey winger has been a revelation for his team over the past three seasons after Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp promoted him from the club’s youth setup but will join Bayern when the current season ends. Bayern have agreed to pay a record breaking £31.5m to sign the Germany international in a move which formally kicks off a new era at the club following the appointment of their first ever Spanish coach.

On the Move - Mario Gotze  (Image from Reuters)

On the Move – Mario Gotze
(Image from Reuters)

Gotze joins the club at a time of transition with Guardiola likely to adjust the team to his liking. Suspected departures include the aging trio of Daniel Van Buyten, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Claudio Pizzarro and the second string pairing of Luiz Gustavo and Rafinha in favour of some fresh young blood, in a similar mold of Gotze. Bayer Leverkusen may be bracing themselves for a double bid from Guardiola for Andre Schürrle and Lars Bender whilst Borussia might not have seen the last of them as they circle back for prolific striker Robert Lewandowski and defender Mats Hummel. Similarly the form of Freiburg defender Oliver Sorg, Eintracht Frankfurt duo defender Sebastian Jung and midfielder Sebastien Rode as well as Bochum’s rising star Leon Goretzka will not have gone unnoticed to the Spaniard who will look to bring in exciting German talent into his already impressive squad. Guardiola will also look to other shores to strengthen with likely candidates being the controversial biter Luis Suarez, Barcelona’s Thiago and Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote whilst also looking to promote exciting youngsters from the youth setup into his first team.

Rising Star - Leon Goretzka  (Image from Getty)

Rising Star – Leon Goretzka
(Image from Getty)

But Gotze is and will be the glamour signing and what a signing they have made. Comfortable on both wing and possessing breathtaking speed and close control, Gotze is one of the most exciting young players in the game today. Over three seasons, the twenty year old has scored twenty two goals from wide positions and created countless more on route to back to back domestic league titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Seen as one of the best products of the Borussia youth setup for decades, Gotze is now one of the first names on Klopp’s team sheet and a fully fledged member of Joachim Low’s national squad too. The news of Gotze’s decision to leave and Bayern’s purchase (having activated a release clause in his contract) has upset the talented Klopp but the Dortmund boss holds no animosity towards his star player, despite his somewhat sarcastic response to the media when questioned over the transfer:

Gotze was the player Guardiola wished to sign. So if it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine. I cannot make myself 15cm smaller and learn Spanish. Gotze wants to work with this extraordinary coach that is Guardiola. I cannot preach football of quick transitions and now start playing Tiki Taka. Mario knows he owes a lot to the club, but I know he gave a lot back as well”

Not Happy - Klopp (Image from PA)

Not Happy – Klopp (Image from PA)

Klopp knows he has lost one of his best players to the clubs biggest rivals which will hurt for some time but he will start the rebuilding process in earnest as he looks to re-strength his squad ahead of the new season and a new title challenge. He will also be looking forward to testing his skills against one of the best coaches in the world in Guardiola. Munich will be stronger than this season and Dortmund know they will need to be up to the task if they are to peg them back. Munich have been in dazzling form this season, losing only once to Bayer Leverkusen (an 87th minute strike by Sidney Sam ruined their chances of an unbeaten season) and conceding only 14 goals. Guardiola could not have dreamed for a better time to take charge of a new club, especially one that is flying so high this year.

Let the Games Begin - Guardiola makes his first move  (Image form Getty)

Let the Games Begin – Guardiola makes his first move
(Image form Getty)

As Heynckes prepares to vacate his position, the legacy that he leaves to Guardiola may well include a Champions league title after a convincing 4-0 victory at home to Pep’s old team, Barcelona in the first leg of the semi finals of that competition put them in a commanding place. But that will matter little to Guardiola, who has won the same event twice as a coach already and is looking more towards the future of the club and its next metamorphism. No transition can start without the initial spark and it appears as though Gotze is that spark. Guardiola’s Bayern revolution is firmly underway, even before he arrives in Germany. The fans will demand success and Guardiola will want to deliver it, that is with the help of his new Messi, Mario Gotze.

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