James Dutton looks at two lessons from Liverpool’s recent past for Mario Balotelli…
Mario Balotelli is at a crossroads. In fact, Mario Balotelli is always at a crossroads.
Every decision he makes, however crucial or anodyne, is analysed for its far-reaching consequences and wider meaning by somebody somewhere. Every pass, every run, every shot, every turn is scrutinised and pored over in minute detail like every dismissal suffered by Kevin Pietersen. The record-breaking batsman once famously said, “It’s tough being me in this dressing room”, and you imagine the Italian knows where he’s coming from.
This scrutiny reached new peaks at the weekend when he was patronised by commentators for working the channels and tracking back; like a schoolchild receiving a gold star for a sympathetically deficient piece of homework.
In reality it was a seven out of 10 performance for a footballer fully capable of nine and tens, but who has mostly hovered around the fours and fives since his £16m to Liverpool from AC Milan.
For Liverpool to be stuck in this position with a misfiring multi-million pound striker is nothing new. Andy Carroll will always pop into mind when the term “expensive flop” is bandied around Anfield, but for now Balotelli is neither of those things; £16m is not a lot of money in football anymore, and there is still time for him to rectify his career on Merseyside.
The two strikers of recent Anfield past whose difficult starts run most in parallel with Balotelli’s own are in fact Peter Crouch and Robbie Keane. Continue reading →
Once mocked for being controlled by a 10-year old on his playstation, David Luiz grew into a central part of Chelsea’s European conquerors. Ramon Isaac looks back at his three years on English soil, and what the future may hold under Jose Mourinho…
The Untouchables are long gone, Mourinho has, if anything, made that abundantly clear to the new squad. Nonetheless, in the case of David Luiz, the new (and old) Chelsea manager has highlighted the swashbuckling Brazilian as a player with exceptional ability, a judgement that anyone who has seen Luiz play won’t take him long to deduce.
Perhaps more importantly, Mourinho has highlighted what the three previous Chelsea managers have – David Luiz is a centre back and that is the position he has the potential to become one of the very best at.
Since he arrived in the January transfer window in 2010, Luiz has first and foremost, provided an exceptional amount of entertainment. His first start against Fulham was the epitome of what was to follow. A marauding defender that looked more comfortable up front than most of the Chelsea front men as he hit an overhead kick cross into the box after finding himself doubling up as a left winger. In a season of little joy, David Luiz lifted the crowd with his enthusiasm and passion on the field; a trait that no one can deny the Brazilian international. Continue reading →
Joe Bookbinder brings us a Hypothetical XI comprised of Premier League Spaniards…
There is nothing new in the fact that this generation of Spanish footballers represents a decent bunch of players. In fact, some may go as far as to argue they are a “Golden generation”. Best in Europe? Yes. Best in the World? Probably. The general rule, tried, tested and accepted is that if you do not play for Barcelona or Real Madrid you have very little chance of representing your country. If you play outside of Spain altogether your chances are further diminished.
So spare a thought for the just-above-average motley crew of Spanish players who lighten up the Premier League every weekend. Playing the in vogue 4-2-3-1 this team would a force to be reckoned with come every other June/July. Continue reading →
Greg Johnson asks whether foreign managers have fallen foul of the English football psyche…
As he held the League Cup aloft in victory, shares in Michael Laudrup rattled up the ranks of the managerial stock exchange. His worth had already soared far beyond and above the valuations placed upon him in the summer, and come the close of business in May, it looks likely that Laudrup will have all but confirmed his place as one of the most attractive managerial investments around.
Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history; Europa League entry for next season; exquisite football; the likelihood of an entirely respectable final position in the Premier League; and named as the man fans most want to takeover the reins at Real Madrid – it’s an impressive end-of-season growth report to reflect on for the Dane who co-founded a free-market think tank in his homeland in 2004. Continue reading →