Platini Ready To Answer The Call And Run For FIFA President

Platini to run for FIFA president (Image from PA)In France’s darkest hours during the Second World War, the French looked around desperately for a figure who could stand for them and lead their fight against the invading Nazi Germany. In Charles De Gaulle they found that leader who formed the Free French Forces that would fight back against their occupiers. De Gaulee was pragmatic figure forthright with his opinions and an inspired leader whose efforts during that time went along way towards the allies eventually winning the war. Now 70 years later, another Frenchman is stepping up to the plate as the voice of the people, not to stop a war but to restore pride and honour to football’s governing body FIFA. This week, UEFA president Michel Platini will step into the FIFA presidential race much to the delight of many in the game. Like De Gaulle, Platini does not mince his words and has been vocal about his distaste for the current regime and how it has been operated.

French leader Charles De Gaulle  (Image from BBC)

French leader Charles De Gaulle
(Image from BBC)

As a legend in the game as a player, Platini has used his reputation wisely post retirement to cement himself into the running of football first in his native France then later at UEFA. His rapid ascent through the football ranks to become UEFA president would not have been possible if he hadn’t established a pedigree on the pitch. Quite simply he would have not have had a seat at the table without it, a fact that Platini is keenly aware of. However Platini the player has now progressed into Platini the politician – a suave, calculated operator who leverages his knowledge of the game and his ideas by encasing them in his rich Gallic charm. But unlike a politician, Platini can separate his opinion from that of the organization allowing him to rock the apple cart without letting one fall from it. When the Swiss authorities arrested several key FIFA delegates at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich in May, many in opposition to Sepp Blatter’s reign took it as an opportunity to slam his running of FIFA publically to any media outlet nearby. But Platini took a different route by going to meet with Blatter one on one and pleading with his friend to step down. Blatter rejected the idea claiming it was too late to do so but days later recanted and did indeed resigned.

Blatter ignored Platini's original suggestion to resign  (Image from Getty)

Blatter ignored Platini’s original suggestion to resign
(Image from Getty)

Despite their differences, Blatter and Platini are friends, aligned closely due to shared interests. That said, Platini has told the FIFA president in no uncertain terms that what has happened under his watch is simply unacceptable and that his reputation within the game lies in tatters. Blatter will depart form FIFA next February by which time Platini should be the clear favourite to replace him. He may have delayed his announcement to run for as long as possible but his intent was always there. Gaining the support of the majority of the six confederations was important to avoid ending the election with egg on his face. With four now secure including Africa and Asia, Platini has time to win over the remaining two, one of which should be incredibly easy given that he is their current sitting president. Abandoning that position may be viewed as detrimental to UEFA SO Platini will look to lock in his successor if not formally but at least in principle. Current vice president Michael van Praag, UEFA executive David Gill and the inexperienced Portuguese legend Luis Figo should all be front-runners, each offering something different to a Platini run FIFA.

Will Luis Figo step into Platini's UEFA shoes?  (Image from Getty)

Will Luis Figo step into Platini’s UEFA shoes?
(Image from Getty)

In the next few months, Platini will make his case for reform at FIFA. His manifesto will be etched onto a chalkboard not stone to allow for greater flexibility and fluidity than the current regime offers. Matters concerning the restructuring of FIFA, the purifying of its members and the unravelling of key decisions such as the World Cup award to Qatar will be crucial sections that will be scrutinized the most. But there will also be a fair amount of Platini ideas scattered in amongst it – changes he sees that would be to the betterment of the game in the long run. He has shown as UEFA president that he is not willing to sit back and let things run as they have done for centuries. During the last eight years since Platini was elected to UEFA’s highest chair, he has made changes to almost every tournament under its jurisdiction, most notably abandoning the European Championships single country format for hosting in favour of a multi country extravaganza. But he has also tackled the bigger issues including child trafficking, racism and in recent years club debt that is threatening to cripple the game. Platini is at heart a reformist, someone who wants to adjust the norm rather than destroying it. After years of behind doors corruption at FIFA, Platini’s arrival could be exactly what it needs.

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Blatter Wins Fifth Term As FIFA’s Corruption Machine Rolls On

Another four years under Blatter (Image from Getty)In between the over spilling cocktails and the highly inappropriate dancing girls, an election of sorts took place. The result was expected but more than ever was met with a general feeling of disdain. Joseph “Sepp” Blatter may have secured a fifth term as FIFA president but the fall out of this decision will be felt for the months and years ahead. There is little faith that Blatter is the man to stop the rot within FIFA, mostly because few believe that he hasn’t been involved or indeed orchestrating the corruption from the start. Despite this lack of faith, few of the 206 delegates attending the election in Zurich were willing to go out on a limb in opposition of Blatter, probably in fear of what will happen. Only the European delegates under the protective banner of UEFA stood tall but in the end it matter little. In a two horse race between a heavyweight hitter and a featherweight, there was only going to be one winner.

Prince Ali was never likely to win. Lacking the charisma of Portuguese footballing legend Luis Figo and the experience of former Dutch FA head Michael Van Praag, Ali was nothing more than a lame duck. But despite this many believes that last weeks arrests and as a result the negative view point towards Blatter and FIFA, Prince Ali stood a strong chance of an upset. However the timing of the arrests may have worked ultimately in Blatter’s favour. FIFA denied calls to delay the election, stating that it simply couldn’t. But in truth forcing the election to go ahead only two days after news of the latest scandal broke meant little time for lobbying by parties connected to Prince Ali’s campaign. Few were turned in those 48 hours resulting in an alarmingly sizeable victory for Blatter. Prince Ali’s concession speech said it all. He thanks those few who “were brave enough” to support his campaign but in the end it wasn’t enough. With only 67 votes from a possible 206, Blatter secured 64% of the vote and with it a fifth term. He won thanks primarily to the delegates from Africa and Asia who are loyal to the FIFA president. They claim their loyalty is tied to FIFA’s assistance in growing the game in their continent but the sad truth is that financial compensation over decades helped to soften their resolve and secure their favour. Like a sugar daddy, Blatter used his position of power and the draw of riches beyond their wildest dreams to entice the highly impressionable delegates into doing exactly what he wanted. FIFA will deny all allegations of such rewards but the truth always has a habit of eventually revealing itself one way or another.

Never likely to win - Prince Ali  (Image from Getty)

Never likely to win – Prince Ali
(Image from Getty)

Universal reform at FIFA is needed but unlikely to materialize. Blatter talked passionately about changing FIFA starting tomorrow but like a drug addict or an alcoholic, his promises of being better in the future will hold little water with those who know him well. Protests against his reappointment will happen as well as calls for boycotting of FIFA organized events like the World Cup but again this is unlikely to happen. Blatter is set for another four year term at least unless health or criminal charges halt him in his tracks. At 78 years young and with the FBI breathing heavily down his neck, both scenarios are possible. The only other likely scenarios would come from either a huge advertiser walk out that would cripple the FIFA machine or the total collapse of the organization itself by federations leaving to set up a new brand. UEFA delegates have refused to rule this out stating that they will consider all options when they meet next week to discuss the aftermath of this election. UEFA president Michel Platini has played the whole situation very well, protecting not only his constituents that make up UEFA but also his relationship with Blatter by speaking to him “as a friend” when he asked him to step down. But if changes are to be made, Platini will need to make a difficult decision and side with only one of them going forward.

If looks could kill - Platini is annoyed with another Blatter win  (Image from Getty)

If looks could kill – Platini is annoyed with another Blatter win
(Image from Getty)

This has always been Platini’s fight but he has chosen to remain on the sidelines for one reason or another. He is the obvious candidate to run against Blatter in the race for FIFA highest position but he has been reluctant to do so perhaps because he doesnt believe he would win. He may be right about that which is worrying for the world of football. If Platini cannot beat Blatter in a race then who can? The hopes of the world rest now on the FBI investigation and the potential for Blatter to be forcefully removed from his position as leader of the world most corrupt organization.

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How Long Before FIFA Cracks Under The Heat Of Its Own World Cup Report?

Another World Cup Scandal for FIFA to deal with (Image from Getty)FIFA’s report into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has cleared Russia and Qatar of any wrong doing, ending the possibility of a re-vote. Since the winning bids were announced in 2010, controversy has surrounded the proceedings with several claims made of bribery and corruption against the FIFA delegates, some of which has now been substantiated by various newspapers across the globe. FIFA originally denied any illegal activities and insisted that both bids had been awarded on merit and with the games’ best interest at heart. However as problems began to emerge, particularly with the Qatar winning bid, the fire underneath FIFA was turned up forcing them into action. FIFA President Sepp Blatter launched an independent inquiry, led by US lawyer Michael Garcia and a FIFA appointed ethics adjudicator, German judge Hans Joachim Eckert. After two years of investigations, Garcia concluded his findings and handed them to Eckert for review on September 5th 2014. A 42 page report was revealed earlier this week that cleared the two hosts nations but surprisingly heavily criticized England for its part in the bid process.

You didn't believe the report? Blatter in hot water yet again  (Image from Getty)

You didn’t believe the report? Blatter in hot water yet again
(Image from Getty)

The report claims that England acted inappropriately by trying to win over now disgraced Jack Warner by offering him assistance in getting a person of interest to him work in the UK, letting the Trinidad youth team hold a training camp in the country in 2009 and sponsoring a gala dinner for the Caribbean Football Union. England’s bid team is bemused by these claims, insisting its transparent bid was fully in line with the guidelines provided. But FIFA claims that England actions damaged the FIFA image and the bid process as a whole. These claims are laughable given FIFA’s handling of these bids and recent revelations of corruption by certain high profile members of their organization. It is not by coincidence that the English FA has been the most vocal of its objection to the handling of the bid process after the winnings bids were announced and have been stoking the preverbal fire under Blatter to reveal the truth. This report has been written in a way to silence the critics and put England back in its place whilst pulling a veil over what has really gone on.

England were blasted for their dealings with Jack Warner (Image from AFP)

England were blasted for their dealings with Jack Warner
(Image from AFP)

Put yourself in FIFA’s boots for a second and imagine that they were accused of helping with a murder along with two other accomplices. Faced with acquisitions that you had a role in this death, you would do everything in your power to clear your name including helping organize an investigation. However you would hardly leave the body out in the open or any other clues that could connect you with the death?  Of course you wouldn’t and this is exactly what FIFA has done. Case in point, it has been revealed that the Russian bid team only handed over limited documents to Garcia’s investigation claiming that the rest were on computers that were leased to the bid team and have subsequently been returned to their owners and wiped. Very convenient you may say. Added into this the report made mention of connections to the Qatar bid and former Fifa vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam including payments he made to several individuals but insisted that these payments were made for his personal political interests rather than that of the 2022 bid.

Russia's bid team have made sensational claims about what happened to all of their bid information  (Image from Getty)

Russia’s bid team have made sensational claims about what happened to all of their bid information
(Image from Getty)

Few believe this to be true including the man who started the investigation, Michael Garcia who has sensationally blasted the 42 page report insisting that it contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions. He, along with several others including UEFA president Michel Platini and FA chairman Greg Dyke have called for the full 430 page investigation to be released rather than FIFA’s interpretation of it. Dyke in fact has gone one step further by writing to every current sitting FA chairman across the world to take a stand and boycott any future World Cups until the full findings are released. German Football League president Reinhard Rauball has echoed this sentiment but also added that UEFA could leave FIFA if the findings weren’t published in full.  Pressure is now mounting on Blatter to act but once again the FIFA president is refusing to do so. Can we really be surprised by this or by the nature of FIFA’s handling of this matter? Not really as it’s is to be expected. Its dark criminal underbelly remains intact for the time being but as the fire is reignited and intensifies, will Blatter really be able to hold out any more or will he eventually cave and reveal what really happened during that bid process four years ago? There is a body somewhere that needs to be dug up after all.

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Where Are They Now Series – France 1998 World Cup Winning Team

With the chaos surrounding the fitness and mental state of Brazil’s star striker Ronaldo, the media spotlight had swung away from the hosts and firmly on to their opposition.  With the pressure lifted, France was able to complete their historic march to the World Cup lifting the famed trophy following a stunning 3-0 victory. The team heralded as legends in France would later go on to lift the Euro 200 championship trophy cementing their status in World football as legends too. With Euro 2016 due to be held in France next summer, we now look back on that 1998 final team and ask where are they now.

Goalkeeper – Fabien Barthez

The eccentric Barthez played an integral part in his country’s first ever World Cup triumph by conceding only twice in the seven games during the tournament, winning the Yashin award for best goalkeeper in the process. The former Marseille, Monaco and Manchester United stopper took over the No.1 jersey from Bernard Lama shortly after Euro 1996 and held onto the shirt for almost a decade. In the final itself, he made a wonder save from a nervous looking Ronaldo which kept France in the game. After retiring in 2012, Barthez became honorary president of US Luenac and now splits his time between performing that role and partaking in his new passion for motorsport.

Right Back – Lilian Thuram

Widely considered as one of the world’s greatest ever defenders, Thuram retired in 2008 as France’s most capped player with 142 caps to his name. Versatility is the word that describes Thuram the best, as a player he was comfortable anywhere across the back four, either as an outright defender or an offensive threat. During a distinguished playing career that saw him turn out for Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona, Thuram won over all that watched him with his grace, passion for the game and outstanding physical and technical attributes.  A great thinker on the pitch, it comes as no surprise that now retired Thuram has shown interest in raising the awareness of a variety of political and social issues, both at home in France and in his role as UNICEF ambassador.

Centre Back – Marcel Desailly

Sent off in the final after receiving two yellow cards with twenty minutes to go and France two goals ahead, Desailly could only watch in anticipation of a Brazil revival. Luckily for him that revival never came and France completed the rout with an Emmanuel Petit strike in the dying minutes. Desailly, often criticized by many for his outspoken nature and often over exuberance about his own abilities, was the rock at the heart of the France side alongside Blanc. Like Thuram, he is considered to be one of France’s best defenders with 116 caps to prove it. The former Nantes, Marseille, Milan, Chelsea player finished his career in 2006 after a two year spell in Qatar, first with Al-Gharafa and then latter with Qatar S.C. Now working as a pundit for the BBC and Canal Plus, Desailly has the platform he so desperately wanted during his playing career in order to make his opinions heard.

Centre Back – Frank LeBouef

In for the suspended Laurent Blanc, the then Chelsea defender has only played a bit part in France’s run to the final but would play a larger role in their final 90minutes of the tournament. Tasked with man marking Ronaldo, LeBouef gave the performance of his life limiting the Brazilian to only few attempts on goal. Not considered to be on the same playing field in terms of legendary status as Desailly, Thuram or Blanc, LeBouef’s showing in the final did earn him cult status at home and abroad which has helped in his career after football. Now an accomplished actor, LeBouef starred in the Oscar nominated The Theory of Everything as the Swiss doctor who tells Stephen Hawking’s wife that he will never talk again. Hollywood is calling for more of LeBouef with several casting firms keen to sign him up following his performance in the film.

Left Back – Bixente Lizarazu

Having made his name at Bordeaux during a ten year spell in the late 80’s early 90’s, Bixente Lizararu was set for greater things. A brief stint in Spain was followed by a career defining move to Bayern Munich where he would play for seven years and win countless honours including the Bundesliga title six times and the Champions League. The diminutive left back, at only 5ft 7inches was a star player for both club and country, always reliable and never caught wanting.  During the final he was asked by Jacquet to control the runs of Rivaldo and Cafu, something that Lizararu did perfectly with the duo limited to bit parts roles in Brazil’s defeat. Since retiring, Lizararu has gotten involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, becoming the European champion in the blue belt senior 1 light division.

Midfielder – Didier Deschamps

Captain fantastic, Deschamps was a leader both on the pitch and off of it for France and played a starring role in lifting the World Cup and latter the Euro 200 cup.  Over a 16 year playing career with Nantes, Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia, Deschamps perfected his trade whilst using his time wisely to ingest as much information about the game as possible. Since retiring, Deschamps has become an accomplished manager in his own right although serious honours have somehow eluded him to date. Now the France manager, Deschamps is looking forward to next summer when France host the European Championships with Deschamps keen to become one of only a few to win the tournament as a player and as a manager.

Midfielder – Christian Karembeu

Originally from New Caledonia, Karembeu was one of several players in the French squad from French overseas territories but it matter little to many as he earned his spot as part of the national team. An accomplished tough tackling midfielder, Karembeu alongside Deschamps and Petit boss the French midfield during the 1998 World Cup. He would only play a bit part in the Euro 200 triumph as well but by then Karembeu’s legacy was complete. Another player who started at Nantes, Karembeu travelled far during his playing career with spells in Italy (Sampdoria), Spain (Real Madrid), England (Middelsbourgh), Greece (Olympiacos), Switzerland (Servette) and France (Nantes, Bastia) chalking up 414 appearances along the way. Now strategic advisor at Olympiacos, Karembeu also campaigns for peace throughout the world as part of the Champions for Peace club.

Midfielder – Emmanuel Petit

The long blonde locks of Petit are probably what he is remembered most for but his role in the final could not be understated. His corner just before the half hour mark was met by Zidane to give France the lead and it was his goal in the dying minutes after a through ball from Patrick Vieira that sealed the victory. Petit in fairness had played a significant role in getting France to the final with his nonstop running and occasional goals. Having spent nine years at Monaco, it wasn’t hard to see why he jumped at the chance to reunite with his old boss Arsene Wenger at Arsenal after the Frenchman took over there. It was here that Petit was converted into a defensive midfielder in a move that benefited both Arsenal and France in the end. He would spend three years at the Gunners before moving to Barcelona and then back to the Premiership with Chelsea. Since hanging up his boots, Petit has become a football analyst back home in France whilst also throwing his support behind football initiatives like the Homeless World Cup.

Attacking Midfielder – Zinedine Zidane

Widely considered the greatest French football of all time (some argue Platini is), Zinedine Zidane did not have the greatest of tournaments but popped up at the right time to become a legend. Having been sent off in the group stage against Saudi Arabia, Zidane returned for the quarter final against Italy and semi final against Croatia without really having an impact. But buoyed by the chance to win his country’s first world cup, Zidane stepped out onto the pitch to deliver arguably one of his best performances in the Les Blues jersey. His two headed goals sent France into half time with a 2-0 lead and the momentum they needed to go on a win the trophy. After the final whistle, Zidanes name rang out across France as a legend with his image projected onto the Arc de Triomphe in Paris along with the words Merci Zizou. He would go on to play a bigger role in France’s Euro 2000 success and latter in their march to the World Cup final in 2006, where despite losing his head and the game to Italy (he was sent off for head butting Marco Materazzi in the chest after the Italian had insulted his sister), Zidane retired as a legend. Now manager of Real Madrid’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla many believe Zizou’s is destined to manage France one day, a notion the great man has failed to dismiss.

Attacking Midfielder – Youri Djorkaeff

The little magician, Youri Djorkaeff played a vital attacking role alongside Zidane in Jacquet’s 4-3-2-1 formation.  The son of former France defender, Jean Djorkaeff it only seemed fitting that it was part of France’s greatest hour given his performances up until that point. Despite only scoring once in the tournament, Djorkaeff was one of France’s biggest contributors of assists including that cross in the final for Zidane’s second goal.  After spending eight years in France perfecting his craft, Djorkaeff eventually left home to join Inter before a spell in Germany with Kaiserslautern. But it was his switch to Bolton in 2002 that he will be most remembered for, at least with British fans. During those years, Bolton attracted the likes of Jay Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo to play for them but Djorkaeff was by far their best signing. After leaving England he spent the last year of his career in the US with New York Red Bulls before retiring to become a pundit and bizarrely a singer releasing “Vivre dans Ta Lumiere” as a single.

Striker – Stephane Guivarc’h

Picked ahead of Dugarry and a youthful Thierry Henry, Guivarc’h had only played a bit part up until the final despite being handed the number nine jersey by Jacquet at the start of the tournament. He did start against South Africa, Italy and Croatia in the run up but was substituted on all three occasions. Even in the final, Guivarc’h failed to complete ninety minutes, giving way to Dugarry on 66 minutes. The former Auxerre, Rennes, Rangers and Newcastle striker had a mixed career with the highlight of it being the World Cup win. Since retiring in 2002, Guivarc’h has done a variety of things including selling swimming pools. No diving jokes here.

Subs

Alain Boghossian

A 57 minute substitute for Karembeu, Boghossian is probably the least well known player to have played in the France win. Dogged through his career with injury, including picking up one a day before Euro 200 started, Boghossian was limited to only 26 caps for France. He did spend eight years in Italy making a name for himself with Napoli, Sampdoria and Parma before eventually retiring in 2003. He is now a coach with the French national team.

Christophe Dugarry

Replacing Guivarc’h in the final was surprisingly Christophe Dugarry ahead of France’s top goal scorer in the tournament Thierry Henry. Jacquet decided to throw Dugarry on with a view to introducing Henry later. But when Desailly was sent off, the plans were changed and Henry never took to the field. Dugarry had played well during the tournament so it was only fair to use him and as a different type of striker to Guivarc’h, one capable of holding up the play, it was just what France needed. The former Bordeaux, Milan, Barcelona, Marseille and Birmingham striker played 55 times for France over eight years starting in 1994. He joined LeBouef and Lizarazu in the punditry box after retiring in 2005.

Patrick Vieira

Best known for his spell with Arsenal, Vieira was still a youngster when the tournament was in full swing so was limited to substitute appearances. At Euro 2000 however he would take Karembeu’s spot as starter in the midfield, a role he would hold for a further nine years. After leaving Arsenal in 2005, Vieira returned to Italy with Juventus and then Inter before heading back to England for a final year with Manchester City. It’s at City where Vieira has remained appointed as part of their new administration as Football Development Executive.

Manager

Aime Jacquet

The mastermind behind the win, it’s hard to believe that even up to a month before the start of the tournament that Jacquet was not liked by the French fans, many of who were calling for his head. Despite this, Jacquet created a siege mentality and national pride within the team giving them the opportunity to win the World Cup on home turf. After securing the World Cup, Jacquet quit his job later becoming technical director of French football a month later. He held that role until 2006 when he finally retired from the game.

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Nothing Fair About UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rule

Masterstroke or Mistake - Platini (Image from Getty)The inclusion of the word “fair” in UEFA financial fair play rules is somewhat ironic given that its intended purpose will be anything but fair. Introduced by UEFA president Michel Platini as his masterstroke idea of how to curb exuberant spending by clubs across Europe, its objective is to limit the spending capacity of clubs to their net gains. By net gains what we mean is the difference between what they spend each year in transfers and employee wages vs. what they make back from gate receipts, TV revenue, advertising, merchandising, sales of players and prize money. With a host of clubs now bankrolled by wealthy investors and owners, Platini is keen to stamp out overspending before it damages football in Europe beyond repair. But will the rules really prevent clubs from spending beyond their means or will it simply drive clubs to be more deceitful about its practices and how it generates revenue?

UEFA's Financial Fair Play Rule is designed to make things fairer but will it?  (Image from Photos8.com)

UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Rule is designed to make things fairer but will it?
(Image from Photos8.com)

Breaking it down, it comes down to profit vs. loss and the difference between them. So if a club’s overall running costs (not including infrastructure, training facilities or youth development which is not factored in) are $2million per year whilst they make $6m, they are allowed to spend $4m in that year (give or take a 5% grace window). In theory the rule is sound and restricts clubs from spending astronomical amounts to bring in top talent, and widening the gap between those that have and those that have not. However in practice the rule is flawed and like most things full of grey holes and loopholes. For instance UEFA’s terminology for what they consider acceptable sources of revenue are questionable and without limitations. Advertising revenues generated mostly by corporate sponsorships are  an area that should be built within barriers but none exist to date which will lead to inside deals and US style advertising. Currently there is nothing to stop a club structuring a multimillion pound sponsorship around something as non essential as a training ground or their corner flags. Whilst the latter is idiotic (at the moment) the former is already been explored by clubs desperate to retain their financial clout and advantage. Barcelona recently announced a $25million deal with Intel, for a shirt sponsorship that would be inside the player’s shirts. The deal itself caught the headlines but for the wrong reasons as many looked at it as a unique and quirky ad campaign by Intel. A closer look exposes a potential risk of clubs having more than one shirt sponsor (similar to Formula one) with each piece of the shirt classified as advertising space. Multiple shirt sponsors mean that rule will be exploited as clubs rake in the cash.  If expenses total $2million but revenues, including such sponsorships equal $50m, surely that defeats the purpose of this rule?

Is the Intel deal a sign of things to come?  (Image from AFP)

Is the Intel deal a sign of things to come?
(Image from AFP)

In addition, TV revenues are factored into the profit margin which presents a further problem. The top five leagues in Europe have never been as popular on a global scale as they are right now on. Interest in the leagues continues to surge and as a result so do the various TV deals attached to it. BSkyB, BT, NBC and Al Jazeera have paid billions of dollars between them for the exclusive rights to showcase these leagues, with the money trickling back down eventually to the clubs. However in most Leagues the allocations of TV revenues are not shared evenly but instead the top clubs profit more than the rest. In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid command the lion share of this allocation with the rest in La Liga getting a small fraction of the remainder. In the Premiership, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City all received bumper payouts last season based on their top half finish but all have wealthy owners backing them. It’s a similar story when talking about gate receipts and the ability to strike multimillion dollar deals. The top clubs can play host to larger crowds due to larger stadiums which in turn entices companies to invest in association advertising.  Barcelona’s deal with Intel is a good example as Intel see the value in working with the Catalan giants and their extended global reach. A deal with fellow La Liga teams Elche or Almeria would never have been structured by Intel as the value exchange does not exist. In essence the rich are getting richer whilst the poorer clubs struggle to compete. The gap will only widen unless clubs in the lower half of the divisions can compete but in order to do so, they need better players which cost more than they can afford.

NBC has invested heavily in US TV Premiership rights (Image from NBC)

NBC has invested heavily in US TV Premiership rights (Image from NBC)

These are just a few of the loopholes and grey areas within the Financial Fair Play rules but there are many more including 3rd party ownership of players (clubs only pay a fraction of a players wage, whilst an outside corporation picks up the remainder), multiple club ownership outside of Europe (Manchester City’s owners have acquired teams in USA, Mexico and Australia with a view to setting up a network that will see player and financial exchanges outside of these guidelines), varied country specific economical situations(some countries will have higher wage bills due to higher tax rates like France) and charity payments (not included in the calculation by UEFA but questions are being raised over using charities to invest in a clubs development). All in all the Fair play rules, set to begin in full next season, with clubs that fail to adhere to the new rules punished either in the form of a fine, deduction of points or exclusion from European competition.

Manchester City's owners expand their reach across the world  (Image from Getty)

Manchester City’s owners expand their reach across the world
(Image from Getty)

Clubs like Russsian side Anzhi Makhachkala are taking the new rules seriously and have made drastic cuts to their playing staff in order to fall in line with the new rules. Bankrolled by billionaire Suleyman Kerimov since 2011, Anzhi had grand ambitions to dominate European football and with Kerimov’s wealth in support embarked on a spending spree like no other, tempted some of football’s biggest players into moves to the Russian wilderness. Samuel Eto’o, Roberto Carlos, Willian and Christopher Samba were paid astronomical wages by Anzhi as they looked to exploit the system and buy success. But the club has now cut its cloth accordingly, selling most of its star players and started to live within its means. Kerimov is an example of what Platini calls “fat cat owners” and the reason behind the introduction of this new rule but will others follow suit or will they instead look for ways to exploit the system and continue to operate as they have done over the past decade? Share your thoughts now on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BackOfTheNetBlog or on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BOTNBlog

Why Platini’s Tinkering Could Destroy UEFA

All smiles from the joker (Image from PA)With the application phase firmly underway, there appears to be no turning back on Platini’s revolution of the European Championships. The next event, due to be played in France in 2016, will be the last of its kind as a new format is adapted for the 2020 tournament. No longer will a single country host the entire tournament, instead 13 cities will host various games in an attempt by Platini to mix things up. His argument is that no country alone can afford to host the games on its own, with infrastructure alone being a huge cost to the host nation. Added into this falling attendances and partially filled stadiums at some of the less glamorous games highlight a need for radical change. Platini is convinced that a revitalized European Championships that encourages smaller nations to join in with by hosting games can reignite the passion and generate more money. The fans will benefit too in his eyes, with hotel chains and airlines unable to hike up their prices specifically to the host country. Instead low cost airlines will profit by ferrying passengers between the various cities where the games are being played.

13 venues across Europe will host Euro 2020  (Image from Skyscraper.com)

13 venues across Europe will host Euro 2020
(Image from Skyscraper.com)

It’s another hair brained idea by Platini which on paper looks sound but in practice makes little sense. Logistics aside (organizing a 4 week tournament across 13 countries with consideration for fans, TV broadcasters and players would be a nightmare for anyone), the idea of ripping up the framework of the world’s second biggest football tournament and starting from scratch is crazy. This isn’t the first time that Platini has been found guilty of making strange suggestions and he has many wondering if he is a football genius or a buffoon. Orange Cards, sin bins, Gulf World Cups and a newly created Nations Leagues to replace international friendlies are all straight from the Frenchman’s head whilst goal line technology which the game is crying out for is ridiculed by Platini as Playstation football. His support of the switch to the winter for the Qatar 2022 World Cup also shocked many, none more so that the leagues that play in his own organization who will see major disruptions to their domestic schedules that will take seasons to rectify. Platini appears to have too much time on his hands and too much of that time is spend on his own thinking up new ways to change football “for the better”.

Platini compared goal line technology to Playstation Football  (Image from PES)

Platini compared goal line technology to Playstation Football
(Image from PES)

Granted the European Championships needs a fresh coat of paint and some additional glamour added to it, but starting from scratch is not the solution. Yes the cost is intrusive but can limited if the country selected already has the stadiums in place. It should be pointed out that some countries in Europe have the facilities and infrastructure in place to stage a tournament tomorrow. England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy could all host with ease whilst Turkey would only require spending on infrastructure like roads and airports which is already doing. The problem sits with Platini and his inability to listen to reason or any other argument other than his own. Many saw Platini as the man to save football from the clutches of a corrupt FIFA and the eventual successor to Sepp Blatter but now many are hoping this won’t happen as given a bigger remit, his damage could be on a grander scale. Imagine a World Cup split over five continents or a new international Super league that pits Scotland against New Zealand or Chile against Japan on a frequent basis. As crazy as it may sound, it could be a possibility if Platini got his way. Like Napoleon, there is a danger that Platini believes he can conquer the world and change it for the better. His world however is football and needs to be protected. Football fans across Europe will be hoping that common sense returns to this once great man and he returns the European Championships back to its original format just in time for the 2020 tournament.

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Need For Change As David Ginola Enters FIFA Presidential Race

FIFA president in waiting, David Ginola? (Image from Getty)FIFA president, David Ginola has a nice ring to it. In truth anything besides Sepp Blatter has appeal. But for the Frenchman who is more known for cringe worthy shampoo commercials than football politics, the notion of becoming FIFA’s commander in chief took a small step closer when he surprisingly announced that he will run against Blatter in the forthcoming FIFA presidential elections. The ex France international formally entered the race claiming that the FIFA system is not working and that the game needs to change. It’s a strange move by Ginola who had a very successful career in England with Tottenham, Newcastle, Aston Villa and Everton but a brave one none the less. Taking on Blatter is a daunting task, one that even UEFA president Michel Platini appears up to. Ginola’s application makes it a four horse race between Blatter, Ginola, Fifa vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and long time FIFA delegate Jerome Champagne but there is still time for additional applicants before the ballot is closed on January 29th.

The media are skeptical of Ginola’s bid for a variety of very valid reasons. Firstly there is his lack of pedigree in international football. Whilst an accomplished and well liked player, Ginola has done very little since his retirement to enhance the game, other than acting as a commentator on various TV broadcasts. Secondly to be in with a chance of progress his nomination, Ginola needs to prove the validity of his bid and showcase that he has or can obtain the support of a minimum of five football associations. The fact that Ginola could not name a single representative of the FIFA executive committee when questioned at his press conference was alarming to say the least and hints at a major flaw in his bid. And finally and most significantly his bid has been backed by Irish betting master Paddy Power, who have gained a reputation for outlandish PR stunts in recent years especially in football. In 2012, Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner was fined heavily by UEFA for his part in a Paddy Power orchestrated stunt during the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine. Having just scored against Portugal in the group stages, Bendtner proceeded to reveal his Paddy Power branded underwear to the world as part of his celebration. UEFA took exception to this due to its exclusive relationship with Ladbrokes and fined the player £80,000, a fee that was later paid by the Irish betting firm. Both parties pleaded ignorance and said that they had done nothing wrong with the player claiming that they were his lucky pants and that he hadn’t broken any rules. Indeed Paddy Power mocked the decision by UEFA but fell short of denying that they were behind the stunt.

Bendtner was fined by UEFA for breach of advertising guidelines  (Image from Reuters)

Bendtner was fined by UEFA for breach of advertising guidelines
(Image from Reuters)

Many believe that Ginola’s application is in vein and is simply another pr stunt by the bookmaker who is reportedly paying the French star £250,000 for his involvement. If this is another stunt, then Ginola’s bid will fizzle out by the end of the month and the player will return to bad commercials and even worse commentary. However it does raise a valid point that regardless of the intentions of Ginola and his bid, his message is one that is gaining momentum. A change in FIFA is desperately needed given years of underhanded dealings, rumours of insider bullying and corruption. That change happens firstly at the top with Blatter standing aside to give someone else a fresh look at how the organization conducts itself. Of all the existing candidates, Prince Ali is by far the strongest. With financial backing and the support of some associations already behind him, the Prince is in the best position to dethrone Blatter and bring change to FIFA. Blatter however remains strong and is likely to regain his seat despite the recent problems and his aging years. The elections in May will be closely watched by many across football and its wider community with the hope that regardless of the outcome FIFA does heed the warnings and makes significant adjustments for the betterment of the game as a whole. Whether Ginola will be in that race is still to be seen or will his bid fizzle out as the marketing dollars from Paddy Power disappear.

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Europe’s Minnows Finally Turn Up To The Party

Europe's minnows finally stepping up? (Image from Getty)It’s been an interesting start to the 2016 European Championships qualification campaign with a series of surprising results so far. In the earlier match weeks Northern Ireland, Slovakia and Iceland showed non believers that spirit and determination sometimes can overcome experience and skill as they set about securing a handful of points in the race for qualification. Meanwhile the so called European heavyweights appeared to be sluggish out of the gate with Holland, Spain and Greece all failing to dispatch teams ranked much further down the FIFA official rankings. Whilst the Dutch and the Spanish have rebounded in spectacular fashion, Greece stuttering start to the campaign under new coach Claudio Ranieri came to an abrupt halt this past weekend when the lowly Faroe Islands arrived in Athens and left with their heads held high and three vital points in the bag. Joan Edmundsson’s 61st minute miss hit shot was enough to condemn the Greeks to bottom place in group F and to give the Greek FA enough leverage to finally dispatch Ranieri.

Joan Edmundsson celebrates his goal against Greece  (Image from AFP)

Joan Edmundsson celebrates his goal against Greece
(Image from AFP)

To be fair, the Faroes result was a shock but not as much as San Marino’s point against Estonia. The enclave microstate has not managed to secure a single point in their last 61 international games so ending that run meant more to them that winning itself. For a while it looked like the match would follow the usual storyboard with Estonia pressing from the off. But the resilient San Marino side held on to the end, securing a valuable point and ending that horrific losing run. The last game the San Marino actual won was in a friendly back in April 2004 against fellow strugglers Liechtenstein who have had their fair share of defeats as well since then. But recent results including a 0-0 draw against Montenegro in October followed by Saturday’s stunning 1-0 victory over Moldova have given Rene Pauritsch’s side much need optimism for the future. Liechtenstein now find themselves in a strange position, three points ahead of Moldova in fifth place with the former Soviet state rooted to the bottom of the table. It’s the same position that Malta now finds themselves in after their 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Sofia this past weekend. The tiny Mediterranean island used to be the whipping boys of European football but in the past few years have started to show a more formidable side to their play, carving out friendly wins against the Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, San Marino and Luxembourg whilst holding Northern Ireland to a draw. However in international competition the team still lacks that killer instinct showing only flashes in recent years, especially in the 1-0 win over Armenia in June of last year. Sunday’s match in Sofia started much like most of the others, with Malta going behind after only 6 minutes to a bundled in goal by Andrey Galabinov but fought back well to earn a point from the penalty spot converted by left back Clayton Failla.

Failla converts the penalty that gives Malta a point against Bulgaria  (Image from PA)

Failla converts the penalty that gives Malta a point against Bulgaria
(Image from PA)

When the idea of changing the qualification criteria for this upcoming European Championships was floated, it was met with a tidal wave of negative responses from critics citing that it would not make for interesting viewing nor makes it easier as UEFA President Michel Platini suggested for smaller European nations to qualify. Platini ignored the objections and pushed ahead with his master plan to rejuvenate what has becoming a stale second tier tournament behind its much more glamorous cousin, the World Cup. But after four matches which has shown that the qualification process is far from pre determined and is in fact wide open, Platini will surely now be sitting back with a large grin across his face. All nine groups are very much still in play with a variety of nations who have struggled to qualify in the past like Wales, Iceland, Scotland and Cyprus all in good positions. There is still a long journey ahead before reaching France but if qualifying continues to throw up these startling results, it may not be impossible to believe that the tournament will see not just one but several new faces taking part.

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Platini Views Changes to Champions League Amidst Pressure From Others

Changing the Champions League? (Image from UEFA)Once a giant of European football, AC Milan have struggled in the past few seasons and as a result do not feature in this year’s Champions League. Given their absence and the loss of revenue they would have received having participated; AC Milan Director Umberto Gandini has called for changes to be made to the qualification process for the Champions League with the introduction of a wildcard or other access routes to be established. He believes that the tournament is weaker for not including a team of the size and prestige of AC Milan. Whilst one of the most successful teams in European football over the past 50 years, Gandini’s suggestions are absurd along with the notion that Milan should be given access based not on result but on who they are. Currently Italy has three places for Europe’s top club tournament, two automatically placed into the group stages and the third going into the play offs. Milan finished last season in 8th place, 21 points off of the Champions league places so to suggest they should gain entry into the tournament would make a mockery of the system as a whole. However the underlining notion posed by Gandini is correct, that the Champions League tournament can be improved.

Gandini believes Milan should get a free pass into the Champions League based on history alone  (Image from PA)

Gandini believes Milan should get a free pass into the Champions League based on history alone
(Image from PA)

Like the European Championships, UEFA President Michel Platini has desires to alter and improve on the existing Champions League format although it’s not clear how he intends to do this. In 2012 amidst concerns that Europe’s top clubs would form a breakaway tournament to compete with the Champions League, UEFA under Platini’s instructions started to look at ways to improve both UEFA run tournaments, the Champions League and Europa league. His initial idea was to scrap the poorer of the two, the Europa League in favour of a new look 64 team Champions Cup. Whilst this idea was never put into practice, it has still not been dismissed and could be executed at any time. The existing format is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, drawing huge viewing figures globally as well as large advertiser dollars. For this reason Platini is conflicted, wanting only to make adjustments that he thinks will see increases in both viewers and revenues.

Changes Coming - Platini looking to improve the Champions League  (Image from ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Changes Coming – Platini looking to improve the Champions League
(Image from ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

So what changes could be made? The name itself needs to be changed as ironically the new format bares more resemblance to a European Cup than a competition for Champions. The original idea was for a tournament to exist for the champions of each country but soon it became apparent that the advertisers and viewers wanted to watch two runners up such as Barcelona and Liverpool more than actual champions like Ludogorets Razgrad and APOEL. This led to the opening up of the tournament to include not only Champions but the runners up in Europe’s big five leagues – England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France. Arguably the change made the tournament more exciting to watch but to the same effect it has made it harder for sides outside of the top five leagues to qualify and compete. Take the example of Slovenia champions Maribor who find themselves in this year’s Champions League group stage with three tricky sides – Chelsea, Sporting Lisbon and Schalke all of whom were runners up in their respective leagues.  So far they have held their own however qualifying from the group looks unlikely given the strength of the other three. Added into this, Maribor had to qualify for the group stages via the play offs where as the other three gain automatic entry.

Maribor have a tough group made up of teams who didn't win their leagues  (Image from UEFA)

Maribor have a tough group made up of teams who didn’t win their leagues
(Image from UEFA)

This favoritism towards what is seen as the money makers of European football is driving a wedge between those in the top five (plus a handful of other teams like Benfica, Ajax and Sporting) and the rest of Europe. UEFA is hoping to correct the balance by giving Champions of individual countries higher seeding during the drawing process as of next season. Previously teams were ranked on their European performances over the last five years which given the above mentioned problem was a flawed way of ranking teams. This may go some way to narrow the gap but in truth the damage has already been done with former European powerhouses like Steaua Bucharest, Celtic and Red Star Belgrade further away from challenging for honours than ever before. Platini has been vocal about helping smaller countries qualify for major international tournaments but has yet to come out in support of the same principles for club sides. Money talks and unfortunately it also controls how the Champions League will look going forward. Platini can ill afford to annoy advertisers who are investing in Europe’s biggest club tournament but at the same time he can’t afford to isolate the clubs that are making it so successful. Any changes that are made will need to be done with the blessing of both to maintain the status quo. What this means for the viewers however and what they will be watching is anyone’s guess.

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Champagne On Ice As Blatter Considers Fifth Term

Blatter to run again? (Image from Getty)It should have been a straight race but now candidates for next year’s FIFA presidency are facing up to the possibility of it being a one horse race. Outgoing chief Sepp Blatter was due to retire and vacate his role allowing someone else to have a shot at football’s top job but a change of heart may have scupper those plans. Reports suggest that 78 year old Blatter, who will be portrayed in a new Tim Roth movie this summer about his life, will seek a fifth term in office. Having secured support from four of the six FIFA confederations (Asia, Africa, North and Central America and South America), Blatter would win by a landslide much to the disappointment of the other candidates.

Jerome Champagne will run  (Image from afp)

Jerome Champagne will run
(Image from afp)

The aptly named Jerome Champagne, a former FIFA executive, UEFA supremo Michel Platini, North American and Caribbean head and FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb and Spanish football president Angel Maria Villar will all have a tough job in persuading the 209 FIFA delegates to choose them over Blatter.  Platini appeared to be the front runner for a long time but has since gone cold on the idea, instead wanting to further secure his foothold on European football with UEFA. Webb then took on the mantel, backed graciously by Blatter himself at a recent gala, but the understanding between the two gentlemen is that Webb will not oppose Blatter if he decides to run again. Instead he will bide his time until 2019, when Blatter will definitely retire (or so he says). At 49, Webb has time on his shoulders and sees the four year grace period as the perfect opportunity to forge stronger ties in the FIFA community and continue to expand on his growing reputation in the game. Villar is a popular figure within FIFA’s ranks but lost a lot of credibility in his pig headed stance against allowing Gibraltar to join UEFA. The Spanish president is yet to announce if he will run but with little chance of success he may choose to wait and see what happens with the top job at UEFA if Platini moves.

President in waiting - Jeffrey Webb  (Image from Getty)

President in waiting – Jeffrey Webb
(Image from Getty)

The only candidate to formerly announce that he intends to run is Jerome Champagne. The former FIFA deputy general secretary left FIFA in 2010 having spent 11 years at the organization. With a strong political background from his days as a French diplomat, Champagne spent most of his time engaged in policy and ethics discussions, which remains a huge issue for FIFA. Since leaving, he has travelled the world as a football consultant working in impoverished countries like Kosovo, Congo and Palestine trying to setup up football related programs as a form of escapism for the masses. This experience bodes well for the top job but his grasp of the fundamental make up of the game may be his downfall. After announcing his intentions to run, Champagne revealed his idea to introduce a new form of punishment to players – the orange card. Put in place to complement the yellow and red card, the orange card will act as a deterrent and when issued will sin bin players for up to five minutes. The idea comes from other sports like Hockey but is flawed in its approach and will be rejected outright by all sanctions of football as unusable. Regardless he will continue with this and his bid, unless Blatter chooses to run again, at which time Champagne will likely put his bid on ice.

The Orange Card - Sin Bins to follow  (Image from PA)

The Orange Card – Sin Bins to follow
(Image from PA)

Whilst the current president has faced criticism for his handling of various issues associated with FIFA and the beautiful game such as match fixing, its stance on racism and of course corruption stemming from the choices of hosts for the next two world cups, he remains in good favour with a majority of the delegates. Seen by many as the mastermind behind FIFA recent growth and financial prosperity, Blatter’s position as president is somewhat safeguarded as long as he wants it to be. Only a catastrophic scandal that direct involves Blatter could rock this steady ship but even then as history has shown, that might not be enough. He survived allegations of bribery and unsolicited payments in exchange for rewarding tournaments to regions or turning a blind eye to issues that should have called for action. It would appear as though Blatter will remain in charge for the foresable future, only to be stopped by either health issues or objections from his family including new girlfriend Linda Barras. They are said to be concerned with the demands placed on the aging Blatter and would like him to resist a fifth term in favour of retirement in order to protect his health. For the other candidates, this might be the only way to halt Blatter and his stint as FIFA president.

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Behind The Murky Curtain Of Neymar’s Barcelona Transfer

Smoke and Mirrors - The Deal that Brought Neymar to Barca (Image from PA)

Arguably one of the most anticipated transfers of the last five years, Neymar’s long awaited switch to Barcelona from Santos appeared to go without a snitch. That was until a Catalan pharmacist and Barcelona fan wanted to dig deep into the transfer and with it set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. What Jordi Cases did was simply ask for an explanation of Neymar’s transfer fee and in turn blew the lid off of one of footballs murkiest deals to date. Like many transfers in the current game, not all was revealed straight away to the general public and for good reason.

The Puzzled Pharmacist that started it all - Jordi Cases  (Image from Getty)

The Puzzled Pharmacist that started it all – Jordi Cases
(Image from Getty)

As reporting in World Soccer, Brazil’s brightest prospect for several years arrived at the Nou Camp for only €17.3million. Yes you read that right, the actual fee paid between the two clubs makes Neymar’s transfer look like daylight robbery. But the fee claimed by Barcelona at the time of signing was significantly more, a more realistic €57.3million so what is actually the truth? Well its somewhere in between as Barcelona did part with the larger amount but not all to Santos, with €40 million going to an agency called N&N, run by Neymar’s father Neymar da Silva Sr. The truth is that one of footballs biggest moves is not as it seems and at the heart of things is corruption and greed.

Neymar Snr profited from his son's move  (Image from Getty)

Neymar Snr profited from his son’s move
(Image from Getty)

The winner in this transfer was not Santos but instead Neymar’s father who has pocketed a total of €51.9million through a combination of economic rights payments and marketing fees. Besides the €40 million already mentioned, Neymar Snr picked up €4million for his role in identifying further sponsorship opportunities for his son over the next five years. In his capacity as advisor to his son, combined with his close relationship with super agent Wagner Ribeiro plus Neymar’s strong advertising appeal, the need for Barcelona to pay Neymar Snr for this service seems unnecessary. In addition to this, Barcelona are forking over €7.9million for collaboration efforts with N&N where Neymar Snr is expected to identify three future prospects for Barcelona to potentially sign. Ironically all three players have been found and unsurprisingly play for Santos, giving the Brazilian club a realistic future revenue stream that may go some way to calm the choppy waters between the two clubs. Santos rightly feels somewhat aggrieved at the nature of the Neymar transfer and the final amount agreed. They feel that their prize asset should have departed for a much higher traditional transfer fee than what was given. Barcelona has thrown a series of friendlies there way in an effort to maintain a good working relationship with a club they see as a good source of young Brazilian talent.

Where the money went?  (Image from World Soccer)

Where the money went?
(Image from World Soccer)

With add-on’s including bonuses and signing on fees, the full value of Neymar’s move sits around €86.2million, with another €44million set aside for the players wages, making his move one of the most expensive in history. But for all the trouble and effort that went in to negotiating the deal, it could spell disaster for Barcelona. The Catalan club now faces the realization of a court led investigation which could lead to sanctions or heavy fines laid against them. President Sandro Roswell has already resigned in a damage limitation exercise but it’s unlikely to deter those now chasing Barca. New President Josep Maria Bartomeu is cooperating with the investigation but in truth there may be little he can do to repair the harm done by Rosell, who sanctioned the deal and its various components. FIFA and UEFA have yet to weigh in with their thoughts but UEFA president has been vocal in the past about his desire to make transfers more transparent and above board. His distaste for third party ownership and side deals is known widely but in a game that stretches beyond the boundaries of his control, he may have little power to influence the changes needed. Only one man, FIFA president Sepp Blatter can orchestrate such a change on a global scale, but with corruption and back payment rumours rife in the halls at FIFA, perhaps Blatter is choosing to ignore the situation that is developing so that he and his delegates can partake in a piece of the action.  Unsubstantiated speculation only but given FIFA’s track record, it’s not outside the realms of possibilities.

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Atletico La Liga Victory Parade On Hold Due To Travel Issues

Atletico celebrate their first title in 18 years (Image from AP)Imagine waiting a long time for something and then not being able to do it due to bad planning. Well that’s exactly what Atletico Madrid are going through right now. The new la Liga champions, who secured their first title in 18 years, are being forced to wait until the start of next season to get their hands on the trophy because Spanish football president Angel Maria Vilar was travelling. Some would say its bad timing given the significance of Sunday’s title decider. But others may feel that it’s a deliberate snub by a man who is rumoured to have grown up as a Real Madrid fan. In any case, it is a black mark against the 64 year old who has been Spanish President since 1988. After one of the most exciting La Liga seasons in the past 20 years, for Vilar not be present at a match of this significance to Spanish football is baffling. Why Vilar did not cancel his travel plans to ensure he would be at the Nou Camp to present the winner with the trophy is unknown. At best he should have appointed someone else to the role to ensure that the season ended on a high. Now trophyless, Atletico are unable to do a well deserved victory parade.

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona  (Image from AFP)

Vilar was on hand last season to present the trophy to Barcelona
(Image from AFP)

Not that Diego Simeone will mind as he now switches his focus to this Saturday’s Champions League final against city rivals Real. Injuries to star striker Diego Costa and Turkish midfielder Arda Turan are legitimate concerns for Simone as they look to win their first ever Champions League trophy and end the season with a famous double. Real too have injury worries with Cristiano Ronaldo struggling to shake off a thigh strain. However with Gareth Bale on form and Karin Benzema firing on all cylinders again, Real Madrid are a formidable force with or without Ronaldo. Atletico will know that they need to be at full strength if they are to repeat their win from last year’s Copa del Rey final and will need Costa and Turan fit to do so. Costa limped off after 14 minutes against Barcelona with a tweak of his hamstring that has been troubling him for a few months now. Turan followed seven minutes later after landing heavily and awkwardly on his back following a strong challenge by Cesc Fabregas. The Turkish midfielder is so often the creator of opportunities for Atletico so his absence will be a bitter blow. His chances of making Saturday’s showcase in Lisbon is rated as slim however Costa is more likely to recover and be ready to face Real.

Sweating over Costa and Turan  (Image from Getty)

Sweating over Costa and Turan
(Image from Getty)

Celebrations have been cut short by Simeone who needs his players to remain focused and ready for the challenge ahead. One final effort to round off a dream season for Atletico. Victory parade or not, Atletico will be prepared to face Real Madrid and its star studded lineup. Angel Maria Vilar is expected to be in the crowd presumably cheering on both sides but the responsibility of handing out the trophy will fall to UEFA president Michel Platini who is unlikely to miss such a momentous occasion. If Atletico do win the match, then Simeone and his players may just get the victory parade that they deserve.

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UEFA To Make Example Of Clubs Playing Outside Of The Regulations

Man City under the microscope (Image from Getty)UEFA has announced that it plans to investigate further into the finances of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Both clubs have passed the financial fair play regulations but in doing so raised questions about the validity of some of the additional revenue they generated to do so. If found guilty of breaching guidelines or falsifying reports, UEFA could impose heavy fines and sanctions on them but Michel Platini has already revealed that no club will be excluded from UEFA run competitions as originally suggested. The Club Financial Control Body’s (CFCB) investigatory chamber, headed by former Belgium prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene are looking deeper into the books of over 76 clubs across Europe but its believed that Manchester City and PSG will be scrutinized the most.

Jean Luc Dehaene is leading the investigation  (Image from PA)

Jean Luc Dehaene is leading the investigation
(Image from PA)

Both clubs deny any wrong doing and whilst this may be accurate, its assumed that both clubs have found clever ways around the regulations to allow them to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of running their expensive squads. City for instance will have to explain the decision to sell $25million in player image rights to an unknown and yet unannounced third party. This deal is the first of its kind in the Premiership, hence why it was flagged by UEFA. Questions will be asked if the third party in questioned is associated in any way with the clubs owners or affiliated clubs like New York City FC. The newly formed New York team are outwith the reaches of the UEFA sanctioned fair play rules so are not subject to the same financial monitoring. There are also concerns around a sponsorship deal struck by PSG and the Qatar Tourism Authority. The Qatari-owned club effectively wiped out its annual losses of 130 million euros by announcing a back-dated sponsorship deal which will earn the club around 200 million euros a year. The Qatar Tourism Authority insist that an investment of this size and nature is vital to help grow awareness of Qatar and soccer in the region ahead of the 2022 World Cup which is due to be held in the city. But skeptics believe that the close links between the tourist authority and the clubs owners along with the new regulations have lead to this deal. It’s unclear what the new sponsor will get from this sizable investment, as the shirt sponsorship remains as Emirates at least until the conclusion of its contract in 2019. City also has to answer questions about a similar type of deal after they announced a £350m, 10-year deal with Etihad Airways two years ago. However this deal appears to be more valid with the stadium, training campus and shirt sponsorship coming along with the investment.

PSG and Qatar Tourism Authority ink major sponsorship deal  (Image from PSG)

PSG and Qatar Tourism Authority ink major sponsorship deal
(Image from PSG)

As we reported previously, UEFA’s financial fair play rules have been introduced in an attempt at leveling the playing field and restricting the potential for those clubs with wealthy owners to monopolize the transfer market. Clubs are only allowed to spend the net the same amount as they bring in but if clubs like City and PSG are bending the rules to manipulate the system then the financial fair play project will be set for failure. The man responsible for drawing up the UEFA Financial Fair play rule David Lampitt has his doubts about the PSG deal and cites recent history of sponsorships in the French league as being a good benchmark. He believes that the size and nature of this deal is far beyond anything that the league has ever seen so it raises questions about its authenticity.  Whilst the fair play rules are still in its infancy, UEFA may be forced to act now and tighten the guidelines before it becomes beyond their control. UEFA will look to make an example out of PSG and City to warn other clubs about the dangers of partaking in rule bending deals in the future. PSG and City will likely pay a hefty fine but whether it makes them rethink their revenue generating ideas, we will all have to wait and see.

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Platini Revamps Euros, World Cup to Follow?

The Changemaster - Michel Platini (Image from Getty)UEFA president Michel Platini confirmed what most people had suspected would happen by announcing a radical overhaul of the European Championships format. No longer will one or in recent cases two countries host the four-week long, now 24 team tournament but instead thirteen countries will take on smaller hosting duties, in an effort to minimize costs. The first Championships that will be affected won’t be until 2020, with the announcement of the host cities not set to happen until September 2014. Twelve packages will be awarded to a stadium staging three group matches and one match in the knockout rounds. The remaining package will see the host of the final and one of the semi finals named. Platini’s plan is to encourage smaller nations ,who may only have one or two stadiums large enough to meet UEFA’s international competition hosting standards, to take part whereas they haven’t been able to do so in the fast. Whilst it doesn’t mean automatic qualification to the tournament (Platini’s plan has no one automatically qualifying), it is hoped to help generate extra revenue to smaller nations that have struggled in the past.

Spain Wins Euro 2012 (Image from CP)

Spain Wins Euro 2012 (Image from CP)

The financial arguments around this change have been strong – reduction in one country having to spend big on improved stadia, infrastructure and accommodation, reduced risk on UEFA having to bail out a country or find an expensive last-minute replacement, plus potential reduced costs for teams as games will be played in countries closer to their own, if not indeed their own. Fans will be relived to hear UEFA promise to ease the time and cost burdens on them as well by organising the group stages to within a two-hour flight radius. However what they haven’t considered is what , will happen after the group stages. Take for the example a Danish fan who follows his team at home in two of the three group stages whilst travelling to Germany for the third. Cost should be restrictive, unless Denmark qualify for the knockout stages. If they are played in Spain and England, Danish fans will be faced with a last-minute scramble to find flights and accommodation in those two cities. Added in to this, if Denmark manage to go all the way to the final, as they did in 1992, it could see Danish fans travelling across 4 countries in less than 2 weeks at a cost which most fans will be unable to afford. Platini’s belief is that by hosting the games in major cities, they will all be served by low-cost airlines which is true but unlikely to stop said airlines from hiking up their prices in the summer during the tournament. Added into this, with the inability to control hotel pricing in 13 countries, fans could be faced with a very hefty bill.

Flights could be a problem for fans (Image from Getty)

Flights could be a problem for fans
(Image from Getty)

The media will also lose out. Whilst logistical organization for a place like Ukraine and Poland (the last hosts) was a bit of a nightmare for most media outlets, trying to organise coverage over 13 countries may be slightly worse. It is unlikely that a company like the BBC will have studios in every one so they will pick one (probably England if they are chosen as one of the hosts) and operate field operations for the other 12. Coverage will likely rely on a multitude of media networks working together, sharing resources, feeds and equipment which poses its own problems.

TV companies face issues (Image for AP)

TV companies face issues
(Image for AP)

Each host city will need to have a stadium that can hold a minimum of 50,000 people, with the final to be played in a 70,000 seater stadium, however UEFA has confirmed that it will pick at least two cities that only have a 30,000 people stadium to make it fairer on the smaller nations. With 20 of the 53 nations in UEFA possessing a 50,000 seater stadium, it makes sense to lower the threshold to 30,000 to increase the options available. Turkey, who pitched to host the 2020 tournament outright before the decision was made, look favourite to be named as one of the 13 cities and indeed is Platini’s choice to host the Final and Semi-finals, as long as they are not hosting the Olympics in the same year. For the ambitious Turks, who wanted both tournaments, choosing between hosting two games in the European championships and the entire Olympic games, shouldn’t be a difficult decision. Turkey will likely pick the Olympics if they are rewarded it and forego the Euro’s, at least for 2020. The timing of UEFA’s announcement of the chosen hosts in September 2014, ties directly into the decision on the 2020 Olympics which is likely to be announced before then, with Istanbul joining Madrid and Tokyo in the running.

Istanbul 2020 Olympics bid (Image from Fansided.com)

Istanbul 2020 Olympics bid
(Image from Fansided.com)

Whoever the selection board decides to pick as host is irrelevant at this stage as Platini eyes the future of the UEFA’s prize international tournament. Change is happening, whether countries, fans or the media like it but it may not be the only tournament that changes in the next five years. With Sepp Blatter’s colourful tenure as FIFA president due to end in 2015, Platini will be looking at football’s top job and in turn its biggest event, the World Cup. Platini is likely to use the 2020 European Championship as an experiment to see if everything works before making the change permanent or reverting back to the previous one country model. If it is successful and he does secure the FIFA hot seat as expected then changes to the World Cup may take place, with Platini already showing his flexibility for his when talking about moving the Qatar 2022 World Cup to the winter to accommodate the countries extreme summer heat. What Platini has is time however to analyse and assess his next move. His focus until the announcement of the hosts in 2014 will be on the next European Championships in 2016, ironically to be held in Platini’s homeland, France. Fans too will be looking forward to the tournament as it could be the last of its kind for a very long time, especially if Platini gets his way.

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Billionaire Dream In Tatters As Platini Clamps Down On Finances

Changes ahead for Kerimov (Image from Business Insider)It was a project constructed to fail from the start but the decline of Anzhi Makhachkala has happened not because its wealthy owner has lost interest, but UEFA is forcing its hand as the governing body tries to grab back control of the game. Over the past decade, money (in particular from Russia and foreign shores) has threatened to tear apart the infrastructure of the game in Europe by the creation of uber wealthy clubs who can monopolize the transfer market. Chelsea were the first team to start to see this influence when Roman Abramovich took control in 2003 but many have followed with clubs across Europe benefiting from an influx of cash and increased spending power. It has become a billionaire’s playground with clubs like Manchester City, PSG, Monaco, Zenit St Petersburg and Liverpool all being purchased as investment opportunities with the scope of creating world dominating teams through heavy spending and marketing initiatives. Anzhi’s owner Suleyman Kerimov too dreamed of creating the world’s greatest team that would rule Russia as well as Europe but UEFA’s recently introduced financial regulations look to have pulled the plug on his ambitions plans.

Anzhi Makhachkala squad  (Image from BBC)

Anzhi Makhachkala squad
(Image from BBC)

The brainchild of UEFA president Michel Platini, who upset at what he defined as exuberant spending by clubs (ironically in reference to Anzhi as well as Manchester City and PSG), introduced new guidelines prohibiting clubs from living beyond their means, capping their spending power in line with their profit margin. In other words, as of 2015 clubs will be restricted from spending more money than they can generate from player sales, ticket sales, merchandising and other cleared revenue sources. Clubs found guilty of spending above these limits will be fined and banned from European club competitions, potentially including the league that they currently play in. This would have devastating effects on clubs so most are looking at ways to fall in line with the new guidelines before the start of next season.

After the announcement, Platini spoke about his reasoning’s on why this move was so significant to the long term health of football across Europe:

“Fifty per cent of clubs are losing money and this is an increasing trend. We needed to stop this downward spiral. They have spent more than they have earned in the past and haven’t paid their debts. We don’t want to kill or hurt the clubs; on the contrary, we want to help them in the market. The teams who play in our tournaments have unanimously agreed to our principles…living within your means is the basis of accounting but it hasn’t been the basis of football for years now. The owners are asking for rules because they can’t implement them themselves – many of them have had it with shoveling money into clubs and the more money you put into clubs, the harder it is to sell at a profit”

Not impressed - Platini  (Image from AFP)

Not impressed – Platini
(Image from AFP)

Anzhi knows that with current costs per season sitting at $180million and revenue potential at between $50-70million, they have a long way to go to be compliant with the new regulations. That has forced Anzhi boss, Suleyman Kerimov into making some rapid changes including a fire sale of his expensively acquired squad. Top of the list is star striker, Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, who is on a whopping $350k per week at the club. Bought in 2011 shortly after Kerimov took control of the club, the sale of the now 32 year old Eto’o would shave a massive $20million off of the current costs but with only a collection of clubs able to afford his wages and all of them looking at making financial savings, it may not be as easy to get the striker off the books. More likely will be the departure of key players like Christopher Samba (yes, he returned to Anzhi after only 6 months at QPR for $12million), Brazilian trio Willian, Ewerton and Jucilei as well as Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa and Ivory Coast striker, Lacina Traoré, all of which are on high weekly wages. The vultures are already circling about Makhachkala, keen to pick up a bargain or two but with Kerimov keen to get as much value as possible for his stars and still retain a squad capable of competing, these players will not be allowed to depart for cheap. Kerimov has looked at other ways to slice costs and has already made several changes including two managerial adjustments. The sudden departure of Dutch legend Guus Hiddink in June is now starting to make a lot of sense, as it cancels his $6million a year contract. In his place, former Manchester United coach René Meulensteen was appointed but he lasted only 16 days before being axed in favour of Russian Gadzhi Gadzhiev, presumably as he is more likely to follow the orders of Kerimov and club chairman, Konstantin Remchukov who has been given the unenviable task of overseeing the reduction of the wage bill. In a series of tweets, Remchukov has eluded that his mandate is to adjust the makeup of the club to secure its long term future whilst maintaining a squad capable of competing. No statement was made about Meulensteen’s departure but many suspects that the new manager is on considerably less than the departing Dutchman.

For Sale - Samuel Eto'o (Image from PA)

For Sale – Samuel Eto’o (Image from PA)

It’s hardly surprising that the club finds itself in this situation after three years of exuberant spending and trying to build something that wasn’t sustainable. Before the purchase in 2011, Anzhi was a struggling team in the Russian leagues, playing their home matches in the war torn region of Dagestan. Geographically removed (it’s a two and a half hour flight to Moscow) and with a population of just over 500,000, creating a footballing dynasty in this small pocket of the former Soviet Union was never going to be easy. Despite paying very little for the club (reportedly only $1.6million), the revenue potential was always going to be restricted due to the reluctance of people moving to the region. In addition, the continuing war meant that the team could not reside in Dagestan, instead having to live in Moscow and commute on match days for home games, under heavily armed guards of course. As Kerimov’s home town, it is understandable why he chose to invest in Anzhi but as a business, it made very little sense. Now his dream is falling apart as he strips back his team to the bare bones in order to comply with the rules. It’s surely only a matter of time before he does become bored of playing with his expensive toy and drops the club, spinning it into further peril. The club won’t comment on how many players will leave at this time but if Kerimov interest does start to dwell, Anzhi could see all its players leave as the club folds under pressure from UEFA’s mighty hand.

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Fantasy Football At Monaco As They Prepare For The New Season

Moutinho and Rodriguez start revolution (Image from CP)Lavish luxuries and expensive toys are the norm in Monaco but even for their standards, Monaco FC’s recent transfer activity looks somewhat out of place. The newly promoted Ligue 1 side have just announced the £60m double signing of Porto midfield duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez and their spending isn’t likely to end there. Discussions with Atletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao are already underway, with the player likely to sign for the club within the next few weeks, much to the disappointment of Chelsea and both Manchester clubs.  Falcao’s signature will likely come with a £40m price tag attached, taking Monaco’s pre-season spending to £100m. For Russian oligarch owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is a small price to pay to ensure his side are competitive in Ligue 1 next season.

Falcao on Route? (Image from AFP)

Falcao on Route? (Image from AFP)

Manager Claudio Ranieri will be pleased too. The former Chelsea and Valencia boss has successfully managed to steer the French-registered Monegasque-based football club out of France’s second tier and back into the top flight in his first season in charge but will know that his current squad of players will not be able to cope with a very competitive top division. He will have to dramatically transform his team of aging pros and youthful youngsters to a well-balanced squad of internationalist able to compete with the likes of Lyon, Marseille, Lille and new champions Paris Saint Germain. The signings of Portuguese international Moutinho and Colombian winger Rodriguez, as well as the potential arrival of Falcao will go a long way in starting this process but it’s unlikely to end with them. Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes, who is leaving the club as a free transfer is likely to join whilst former Monaco star and now Manchester United left back Patrice Evra is also touted to be returning to the club this summer. Wayne Rooney is also on their wanted list but he is unlikely to leave Old Trafford, despite his current grumblings.

Evra is due to return to Monaco  (Image from Getty)

Evra is due to return to Monaco
(Image from Getty)

For Football Manager fans across the globe, the signings look more like a fantasy than reality as Monaco splash their cash to land some of football’s biggest and brightest stars. However it’s clear from these arrivals how serious Rybolovlev is about turning Monaco back into a dominant force in French football. Next season’s aspirations will likely be to finish strongly in the league, secure champions league football and potentially win a cup along the way. Failure is not an option for Ranieri as he takes on the challenge of managing this expensively arranged squad of players. However he may not get the chance, if the French Football league (LFP) have their way and ban Monaco from re-entering Ligue 1 for tax reasons.

Owner Dmitry Rybolovlev ready to fight the French FA  (Image from PA)

Owner Dmitry Rybolovlev ready to fight the French FA
(Image from PA)

Currently Monaco are tax exempt as they reside in a principality that they do not have to pay income tax, nor does its players, much to the annoyance of the LFP and its council. They voted unanimously in March to change league rules to require all clubs competing in the French game to be subject to the same financial rules, giving Monaco until June 1 next year to comply. Monaco owner Rybolovlev is rightly incensed by the ruling and is thought to be ready and willing to fight the league on its decision, based firstly on the fact that no Monaco representative was present at the meeting when the decision was made despite offering to be so and secondly on a pre-existing agreement between the French FA and the Monaco government that has allowed the team to play in the French setup for over 80 years. As Monaco is not a member of UEFA, Michel Platini cannot intervene even though he is encouraged to do so by many. It may come down to Monaco either having to relocate just over the border into France, and accepting the tax laws of France as they go, or paying the hefty 200 million euros fee that the French FA is insisting Monaco pays to stay where they are. Rybolovlev is rightly angry and has vowed to fight the ruling. He may have to negotiate a happy middle ground with LFP or face having one of the most expensive teams outside Europe’s top divisions.

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Quite A Month! Time for a catch up

Theo tries to grow a 'tacheAs we say good-bye to November and enter into the final month of 2012, we have a chance to reflect on everything that has happened last month. November saw footballers across the globe grow moustaches as part of Movember – a charity that raises awareness through the month of November by asking men to grow moustaches for mens charities. Theo Walcott grew one or at least attempted to much to the amusement of his teammates. Also amusing teammates this month was Joey Barton with his suspect french accent during a press conference. It has to be seen to be believed and reminded us of the infamous Steve McLaren interview he did on joining FC Twente the first time around.

One person not laughing this month is Roberto Di Matteo, would was brutally sacked by Chelsea and replaced by Rafa Benitez to the joy of the Chelsea fans. It wasn’t the strangest appointment of November though. That honour went to FC Baku who appointed 21-year-old Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade because of a successful managerial career in a football management game! He’s hoping to guide the club into the Europa League in 2 years, that’s if it still exists, following Platini’s recent announcement.

Oh dear Joey...

Oh dear Joey…

Players across the world made the headlines this month too – Ayanda Patosi, Lucas Perez Martinez and one Zlatan Ibrahimovic all scored spectacular goals that have to be seen again, David Beckham announced his intention to leave the MLS, just as it announced the return of the NY Cosmos. One russian goalkeeper, Vyacheslav Malafeev was using his head by announcing his international retirement for family reason’s whilst another, Serhiy Pohorilyi was losing his head and getting sent off in the process.

Serhiy Pohorilyi connects with a Rocky like punch

Serhiy Pohorilyi connects with a Rocky like punch

All these stories made the blog this month and many more so check them all out!

Here is a choice few:

Wonder Strike puts Houston In The Driving Seat – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/wonder-strike-puts-houston-in-the-driving-seat/

Spanish Fire Sale Puts Clubs Across The Globe On Alert – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/spanish-fire-sale-puts-clubs-across-the-globe-on-alert/

International Footballer Puts Family First – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/international-footballer-puts-family-first/

Now That’s How You Volley!! Spaniard Lucas Shows Us How It’s Done – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/now-thats-how-you-volley-spaniard-lucas-shows-us-how-its-done/

Africa’s Latest Talent Impresses In Belgium –https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/africas-latest-talent-impresses-in-belgium/

Ibrahimovic Wonder Strike Nothing New For Superstar – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/ibrahimovic-wonder-strike-nothing-new-for-superstar/

Baby faced Assassin Now All Grown Up And Killing The Competition – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/babyfaced-assassin-now-all-grown-up-and-killing-the-competition/

The New Generation of Mexican’s Taking Over The World – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/the-new-generation-of-mexicans-taking-over-the-world/

Tactical Change Sweeping Across Europe – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/tactical-change-sweeping-across-europe/

End Of An Era For Dutch Master – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/end-of-an-era-for-dutch-master/

Internationalist Struggles To Catch A Break – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/internationalist-struggles-to-catch-a-break/

Pointless Friendly Hides Other Problems For SFA – https://backofthenetblog.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/pointless-friendly-hides-other-problems-for-sfa/

Enjoy!

Swansea Players Need To Roll With The Changes

Swansea City’s debut season in the English Premier League last year was the making of Brendan Rodgers. Predicted to struggle in the league and be one of three clubs to be relegated, Rodgers inspired his team to an impressive 11th place finish, shocking critics and fans alike. His approach to the game – work as a unit, pass the ball from the back to the front, and attack with pace was hailed as the key reason for their success and ultimately led to Liverpool’s approach for Rodgers when Kenny Dalglish was dismissed. Rodgers leapt at the opportunity to take over at Anfield and left the Swans in the summer of 2012. The search began for his replacement immediately with several names begin thrown into the mix but one name stood out from the rest – European Cup winner and Danish superstar, Micheal Laudrup.

Laudrup, a legend in his native Denmark, had a glittering career that saw him grace the pitches at Brondby, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax. Voted the Best Foreign Player in Spanish Football for the past 25 years in 1999, Laudrup won a variety of trophies including the La Liga title 4 times in a row and 1992 European Cup with Barcelona. His managerial career has been varied with spells in charge of Spartak Moscow, Getafe, Mallorca and Brondby with a short spell as assistant manager of the Danish National team as well. Managers and players are happy to talk about how good Laudrup was with former Juventus teammate and now UEFA President Michel Platini calling Laudrup ” One of the biggest talents ever”. Pep Guardiola, a colleague at Barcelona talked about their time together recently ” He was the best player in the world, I can’t believe he didn’t win the title as best player”. His former boss, Johan Cruyff ran out of superlatives to describe his talents

“When Michael plays like a dream, a magic illusion, determined to show his new team his extreme abilities, no one in the world comes anywhere near his level.”

Laudrup’s experience, both as a player and as a manager, held him well above all of the other applications that Huw Jenkins, the Swansea Chairman, received. His appointed as head coach came shortly after Rodgers departure and work began on rebuilding the Welsh club who had already started to lose a majority of the stars from the previous season. Laudrup knew that he needed to fill the void left by the departures of midfielder Joe Allen (to Liverpool) and Scott Sinclair (to Man City). He did so by quickly signing Spanish midfielder Michu and Korean star Ki Sung-Yueng who dropped into his new look team with ease, with the former hitting the ground running with a series of goals that helped Swansea to early season points.

But not everything is rosy at the Liberty Ground as recent reports have suggested that some senior players are going behind Laudrup’s back to complain to Huw Jenkins about their new coach. Their grumble is simple – he is not Brendan Rodgers and the tactics/training are different. The players feel that they are not as fit as last year and are forced to do additional training themselves to get into the same condition. Laudrup’s methods are indeed different from that of Rodgers and his approach mirrors his playing philosophy, believing that each player is responsible for their own condition, beyond team training. He is in a collection of foreign coaches who strongly believe that the players should be treated as adults and care about what they eat, how much the rest and how much additional work they want to do on the training pitch or in the gym. This is not to say that Rodgers fathered his players or told them how to do this, but he encouraged it on a regular basis. Laudrup feels this encouragement is not necessary as the players should want to improve themselves especially as the now play in England’s top league.

Jenkins has been quick to come out and publicly back Laudrup and his methods stating:

“As with any change in manager, particularly at a club who have been successful, it will take time to settle down. Everyone has a different approach and this is a normal issue for us after Brendan Rodgers went to Liverpool.

Whilst Laudrup’s training method’s may be different, he is still getting the results needed, leading Swansea to 11th place in the league so far in their second season in the Premiership. The players need to respect that his management style may be different from the last manager. Their focus should be on the pitch, making sure they give 110% for the manager at all times instead of going behind his back like school children to complain to the owner. It’s up to them at the end of the day, they can either work with Laudrup and forget about the differences or watch him depart the club and leave them without a leader as they embark on the second half of this important season.