Duncan Hart fondly recalls Robert Prosinecki’s time at Portsmouth, and beyond…
The transfer deadline countdown on Sky Sports News surely bores even the most ardent football fan. If you care to check, then you will probably find the latest gossip being repeated ad nauseum on the hour for the rest of August, as the latest mercenary switches between one fat pay cheque to the next.
But, this wasn’t always the case. Transfers used to take us by surprise. The world stopped for a few seconds when the news filtered slowly filtered through that Pelé had retired from his only club in Brazil, Santos, to join New York Cosmos in 1975. Many would have had to double check that it wasn’t April 1st when Middlesbrough signed Fabrizio Ravanelli from Juventus at the peak of his career in 1996. Even manager Alan Pardew looked startled when Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano landed in his lap at West Ham in 2006.
Many other clubs have had surprise transfers over the years, but I would argue that perhaps none beat the shock in August 2001 when my team Portsmouth FC signed Robert Prosinecki. Portsea Island shook itself a few further yards further from the mainland; such was the tremor of excitement that spread across the city when Pompey’s Serbian-American owner, Milan Mandaric, announced he had managed to persuade his Croatian “friend” to move to the South Coast. Continue reading
Freddie Mickshik believes Gareth Bale’s sparkling performances could pave the way for a new wave of British players abroad…
Of the numerous British exports to Europe, few have delivered. This is undoubtedly due in part to a long era of Premier League dominance on the field coupled with financial clout off it, leaving little incentive for home-grown talent to fly the nest, and partly perhaps because the typical British-born player does not share the cosmopolitan outlook of his European or Latin-American counterpart.
Much has changed since the days of Kevin Keegan’s back-to-back Ballon d’Ors at Hamburg, let alone John Charles’ prolific spell at Juventus, which belongs to another age altogether. A low ebb of British football reached its nadir in the mid-1980s, with Keegan forging a trail for Brits in Europe followed most prominently and with greatly varying degrees of success by Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Paul Gascoigne. Continue reading
Joe Hall argues the case for Robert Lewandowski as the winner of the Ballon d’Or 2013…
He doesn’t have one tenth of the talent Lionel Messi does. He will never match the phenomenal force of Cristiano Ronaldo. And even when he eventually joins Bayern Munich, he could well play second fiddle to Franck Ribery. Having said all that, Robert Lewandowski should have won the 2013 Ballon d’Or.
Before you roll your eyes, I’m not a jumped-up Bundesliga “expert” with a BT Sport subscription who could tell you how the intricacies of Lewandowski’s games are more tactically flexible, his pressing more effective than the three nominees, or anything like that.
It’s just that if you do insist on giving out an individual award in a team sport, it’s not very interesting simply to ask “who is the best?!”. Laboriously working over the stats to try and come to some sort of scientific conclusion is a fruitless task; subjectivity will always be present. Some people are Messi people and some are Ronaldo people, just as some prefer Oasis and others Blur. Some don’t care.
Instead, the Ballon d’Or should be a bit more like the Oscars. Continue reading
Tom Victor looks back with fondness at the 2000-1 Champions League season…
Over the last few years the Champions League has – in amongst the tired predictability of shit-on-a-stick derbies and Messi and Ronaldo hat-tricks – had moments of bona fide craziness so ridiculous you wonder whether they actually happened.
Classic examples include Monaco’s 8-3 win over Deportivo La Coruña in 2003 and Lyon getting the win by five clear goals to qualify from their group in 2011, but nothing matches the 2000-01 competition for moments that make you look back and think “what, really”? Continue reading
Tim Stillman, writer for Vital Arsenal and Arseblog, remembers Julio Baptista…
Arsenal have a rather lukewarm history where Brazilian players are concerned. Edu and Silvinho were good squad players that will also be remembered for passport issues. Denilson and Andre Santos won’t be remembered as success stories, whilst a fleet of young Brazilians, such as Wellington Silva (currently out on his fourth loan spell) and Pedro Botelho haven’t made the grade. Interestingly, Botelho is currently enjoying a fine season at Atletico Paranaense, who sit 3rd in Brasileirão having been promoted from Serie B last season. Fran Merida is also on their books, but playing much more fitfully.
Going back further, Arsenal’s reserve left back Juan’s most notable achievement was to spawn the amusing chant “There’s only one Juan” in his solitary first team start against Gillingham in 2002. Gilberto Silva has been the only unqualified success having left his home state of Minas Gerais in 2002 to win a league title and two F.A. Cups at Arsenal. But there can be little debate about one of Arsenal’s least auspicious Brazilian signings. Julio Baptista joined on loan from Real Madrid in the summer of 2006, with a homesick Jose Antonio Reyes going in the opposite direction. Baptista arrived at Arsenal with some expectation and not solely because his talents had been acquired by Real Madrid. Continue reading
Chris Manning of Lion of Vienna Suite profiles the third and final Brazilian to have played in the Premier League for Bolton: Júlio César…
Júlio César’s early career is defined by his work in Spain, where as a youngster he was signed by Real Madrid and made 21 appearances in a two year spell, playing alongside giants of the game such as Hierro and Raul, as well as future Bolton Wanderers colleague Ivan Campo. Julio Cesar spent early 2000 being loaned to Italian side AC Milan.
Cesar’s nomadic existence then saw him move to Benfica and Austria Vienna before being sold to Bolton in July 2004. He made his debut in the first home game of the season – a sunny August day which saw two Jay-Jay Okocha goals help Cesar’s new side to a 4-1 victory over Charlton Athletic. However, the arrival of fellow defender Radhi Jaidi from Tunisian side Esperance saw his playing time limited to minor Cup games, including the two games against Yeovil Town where a reserve Bolton Wanderers side struggled to progress. It was against Yeovil Town where Julio Cesar scored his only goal in English football. It is difficult to assess his Bolton Wanderers career as it contains few notable moments, other than the absence of such events. Continue reading