Former Buenos Aires resident Rob Brown looks at the differences and similarities between football in England and Argentina…
Although the subject is hotly debated, it’s generally accepted that the English Premier League is now the best division in the world. Its unmatched wealth, rich history and aggressive marketing make it hard for any other division to keep up. Crucially, the league is well-organised and located in a country with no possibility of political or social upheaval that could lay waste to its schedule. It’s a well-oiled machine and now generates nearly £2bn in TV money per year.
The Premier League is fast becoming the world’s first and only global league – football’s version of basketball’s NBA. Of course, most of the money and the media attention go to a small minority of teams and those are the giants that players all over the world now dream of representing, but the Premier League’s rapid growth means that even the smallest clubs have entered something of a golden age, pulling off expensive transfers that take the breath away.
Eduardo Vargas’ reward for scoring a World Cup winner against holders Spain was a loan move to newly promoted QPR. Jefferson Montero, one of the most exciting prospects in South American football, chose Swansea as the place to take his career to the next level. Esteban Cambiasso, a bona fide legend, is winding down his career with Leicester. Continue reading →
There is a bizarre nostalgia that affects people when they discuss Wayne Rooney. The prevalent view seems to be that he had all the talent in the world, demonstrated it with carefree abandon during his teenage years and then got spoiled by necessary on-pitch self-sacrifice and voluntary off-pitch self-sabotage. Now he is seen merely as a good player – not a genuinely great one, and certainly not the one we thought he would be.
This sudden about-turn in public opinion does not really tally up with what has been written and said about him up until now. Throughout his Manchester United career his performances have received glowing write-ups in the press and when he has underperformed – and it has happened repeatedly, sometimes for months on end – his industry and work-rate have seen him bundle in goals and escape the harshest criticism.
Perhaps it is a British journalism thing – “build ‘em up to knock ‘em down” and all that – but the idea that Rooney has not fulfilled his potential is quite ridiculous. As a conclusion, it is simply unfair. Sure, he has never hit the heights expected of him and his contribution to football pales in comparison to those of era-defining freaks Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but the reality is that he was never going to match them.
The problem lies not with Rooney but with us, his viewers. It is not that he never made the most of himself but more that we overestimated his talent to begin with. Continue reading →
Kicking off The Samba Series in style, Rob Brown charts the history of Brazilians in the Premier League…
Brazil’s relationship with football is unique. In no other country is it such an integral part of national life: simultaneously everyone’s favourite pastime, dream job and topic of conversation. In Brazilian society, the game’s players are messianic figures. Many, such as Zico, Romário and Bebeto, have assumed high-profile political positions after retiring.
Defeat to Uruguay in the 1950 World Cup Final, played on home soil in the Maracanã, was a genuine national disaster. Victory was apparently so assured that a spontaneous carnival took place in Rio de Janeiro prior to the match, an official song was composed to mark the occasion and FIFA president Jules Rimet prepared a congratulatory speech in Portuguese. The pain of that ignominious reverse served as the catalyst for what has since been an almost constant stream of success.
The men’s national team has won five World Cups, eight Copa Américas, four Confederations Cups and the hearts of millions of neutrals. According to FIFA’s Big Count, conducted in 2006, only Germany and the United States have more registered footballers than Brazil and only England has more registered clubs. Simply put, no other country can match the scale of Brazil’s success in the beautiful game, nor its devotion to it. Continue reading →
The Premier League kicks off tomorrow, and in preparation for the new season the TFN crew have taken to the BBC Premier League predictor to try guesstimate how the league table will look come May 2014…
With each entry completed by a different writer, with different methods and bias galore, we’re hoping the wisdom of the crowds will help us out to divine a more balanced final conclusion, even if our sample size is against us.
After reading through the tables and reasoning (or apologies) of each writer, scroll down to the end of the piece for a meta-table created using the average points collected by each club based on our individual predictions.
Our results may not be entirely accurate, or even intentional in some cases, but we at least hope they’re entertaining, and if you fancy having a go on the BBC predictor, feel free to send over your table to firstname.lastname@example.org to help inform our final results!
Without further ado, let the anomalies and prediction catastrophes commence… Continue reading →
The False Nine’s Greg Johnson, Rob Brown and John Guillem take a look at the brilliance of Andrés Iniesta, Michael Laudrup and Zinedine Zidane, and ask who is the greatest…
Football today is a package deal of quasi-mythological narratives, disseminated and consumed by the widest possible array of people. Hipsters, tweeters and bloggers all have as much of a vested interest1 as former internationals with limited vocabularys. We see so much attention going to the playing careers of former greats such as Michael Laudrup, often by those who never witnessed his football first hand or even second hand, from the reportage of the day.
This is not to say that players now experienced third-hand through the distance of time and history – Di Stefano, Puskas, Schiaffino, Masopust and their ilk – weren’t as utterly magical as their legends suggest. Due to our age, we lack the personally acquired experiences and evidence required to know for sure, but from reading the accounts of published witnesses, listening to the memories and thoughts of senior fans and pundits, and watching the various selectively edited YouTube montages and videos now available, it seems that those purported to be worthy of a place in football’s cultural canon were indeed sublime. In a sense, we’ll never really know, because one of the main selling-points that contemporary football has is the personal aspect of its narratives.
Introverted yet influential, with an unfussy technical excellence and an ever-growing list of honours and feats accumulating upon his mantelpiece, Andrés Iniesta is now something of a living football saint to both the self-appointed connoisseurs of the game and well-grounded, matter-of-fact spectators alike. The Spaniard seems shrouded by an almost unknowable mystique of significance which pervades his every action, from the elegance of his touch up to his trophy winning goals and assists. Continue reading →
Guest writer Rob Brown looks at what happened to David Villa, as El Guaje enters a career crossroads…
The date is November 29, 2010. Camp Nou is full to capacity and Barcelona lead Real Madrid by three goals to nil. Nearly 100,000 Culés plus a global audience of millions are enthralled by one of the greatest team displays ever.
David Villa, assister of Barça’s second goal and scorer of their third, stands in front of his team’s left-back, Éric Abidal, as Madrid keep the ball on the opposite flank and try desperately to find a way back into the game. Possession eventually turns over and Villa begins to run forward.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Lionel Messi receives the ball from Sergio Busquets. He immediately turns and drives at Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira. As Messi reaches them he darts to his left, skipping past the German midfielder, and Villa sprints through the blind spot of the Madrid right-back, Sergio Ramos.
Right on cue, Messi pings a perfect diagonal through-ball between Pepe and Ramos, leaving El Guaje one-on-one with Iker Casillas for the second time in three minutes. He lets the ball roll for what seems like a millisecond too many and then stabs it under the onrushing Casillas for 4-0. Continue reading →