Carlo Ancelotti the archway firefighter who always pays his route | Richard Williams

2 days ago

Latest book about Bayern Munichs new director says he saw the end coming early at Chelsea and Real Madrid, and discloses the unstinting admiration of Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The captains of industry and cultural rainmakers who form the usual casting of a weekly-newspaper feature titled Lunch with the FT tend to use the opportunity to make a public demonstration of their ascetic personal habits. A small salad and a bottle of sparkling water is usually enough to induce the point about what disciplined lives they lead.

Not Carlo Ancelotti.

When the man who has won the European Cup twice as a player and the Champions League three times as a manager sat down with an FT journalist last week at a favourite Italian eatery in Mayfair, he began by ordering an 82 bottle of Guidalberto, a red wine from Tuscany. I dont need to try it, he told the waiter. I know this wine.

The contents of the bottle vanished, along with a selection of starters and a doubled order of lobster with tagliolini. You like grappa? Ancelotti asked the journalist, who prepared to honour the FTs custom by paying the bill with a twinge of anxiety when it came to a few pennies short of 250. He got out his card, merely to discover that Ancelotti had already come to an arrangement with the proprietor. No fuss.

At Ancelottis home, you always eat well, Adriano Galliani says. The long-serving general manager of Milan, Galliani was the buffer between Silvio Berlusconi and Ancelotti during the latters eight years as the team administrator, from 2001 to 2009( quite a accomplishment, given that in the past 20 years Berlusconi has hired and fired 13 managers , not counting caretakers ).

Galliani is one of the witness whose evidence appears in Quiet Leadership, Ancelottis new volume of semi-autobiography. Co-authored with the management studies expert Chris Brody and the former Chelsea director of football operations Mike Forde, it is probably intended to be racked in the business studies shelves at airport bookshops. But like its predecessor, published just as Ancelotti joined Chelsea in 2009 it is also a treasury of anecdote and insight.

Everyone likes the man who is about to take over at Bayern Munich, which is why the books other voices include Cristiano Ronaldo, Alex Ferguson, Paolo Maldini, John Terry, Alessandro Nesta and David Beckham. They all have affectionate things to say about him as a human his personal warmth, his tactical flexible, his humour, his tendency to lapse into Italian on the rare occasions when he loses his mood in the dressing room but their narratives, and his, create a picture of one style of managing a football squad: a rational approach to the job of operating a team amid the climate of lunacy found at the top of the European club football pyramid.

At Real Madrid, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain, however, rationality is generally in short supply. There is nothing he would love more than to recreate the sense of family he enjoyed with Milan, involving himself in a long-term project, but age and experience please give him a philosophical posture to the whims of proprietors such as Roman Abramovich, presidents such as Florentino Prez and directors of football such as Leonardo, an erstwhile friend by whom he feels betrayed.

At Chelsea he was impressed by the requirement to attend 10 meetings to discuss his ideas before being offered the job. He won the Doubled straight away but in his second season, he writes: I find the end coming months before it did, just as I would subsequently at Madrid. He[ Abramovich] would try to convince me, with all my experience to the contrary, to be stronger, tougher and more rigorous with the players. Ive heard it before and Ive heard it since, but he was wrong they are all wrong. What they hire me for is to calm the situation at a club by building its relation with the players. At some later stage that is not the approach they want any more and the relationship with the owners not the players, but the owners begins to worsen. They hire me to be kind and pacify with the players and then at the first sign of trouble along the way thats the very characteristic they point to as the problem.

Those who think of him as soft might come away from the book watching virtue in a willingness to listen to the believes of others and to step back when necessary. He lets Terry take on the job of persuading Didier Drogba to stop diving and exaggerating traumata, knowing that the lesson in English football etiquette would come more powerfully from an English player. He describes consulting Andrea Pirlo on the revolutionary positional shift that turned a very good player into a great one.

He is impressed when Beckham, before making a deal with Berlusconi and Galliani for a loan period with Milan, calls him up first. He is smart enough to know that, with his profile, it could be that he is being pressed on to a manager for reasons other than football. So he contacted me directly and would like to know whether I wanted him to come to Milan. I told him Yes. We trusted one another to speak the truth.

He is, however, a pragmatist. If Berlusconi wants to come to the dressing room to tell his gags, he writes, I have to understand that it is his dressing room. When Ronaldo indicates that he does not want to play alongside another striker in a 4-4-2 formation, Ancelotti thinks to himself: Who am I to argue? How can I change the position of a player who scores 60 aims a season? So I had to find a solution.

If he moves to a club that does not want him to bring his own support staff, he simply adapts. Bringing in tried and trusted lieutenants sounds sensible, he writes, but presumably they were also at your side when you were sacked from your previous task. I giggled at that, and thought of the newspaper pictures of Rui Faria at Jos Mourinhos side this week, while the Portuguese provocateurs negotiations with Manchester United were going on.

Ferguson writes that he tried to persuade Ancelotti to succeed him. It didnt quite work up, he says. Another time, maybe. Thats an interesting statement which might even turn out to be prophetic, bearing in mind the fact that Ancelotti has some experience of putting out Mourinhos fires.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has played for and admires them both, and who currently appears certain to start next season in Uniteds colours, makes an interesting comparing between the Italian and the Portuguese. Jos Mourinho knows how to treat a footballer, he says, but Carlo knows how to treat a person. He also pays the bill.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Tottenham’s Harry Kane strikes four in 6-1 thrashing of Leicester

11 days ago

Spurs Harry Kane scored four goals to take the lead in the Golden Boot standings while Son Heung-min added two in their sides 6-1 stunning win at Leicester

A team does not necessarily need a title to depict their class, although Tottenham Hotspur do crave one. Spurs demonstrated their excellence at the King Power by swatting aside last seasons champs with regal aplomb and, in the process, Harry Kane struck four goals to enhance his chances of being crowned as the Premier Leagues top scorer for the second season in a row. His tally for the campaign stands at 26, two more than Evertons Romelu Lukaku with one round of matches to go. Spurs cannot catch Chelsea but they have no intention of stopping their glory hunt.

Son Heung-min contributed to the rout here by scoring Tottenhams other two aims. That amounted to six damaging blows to Craig Shakespeares prospects of landing the Leicester managerial chore on a permanent basis. Ben Chilwell scored for the home squad but that was no consolation to their caretaker manager. There are no positives, said Shakespeare. We were totally second-best.

Shakespeare should not be judged too harshly on this performance, as the main cause of this thrashing was Tottenhams exceptional slickness and their encouraging bloodlust. Mauricio Pochettino had demanded his team maintain their high standards despite the title being beyond them. They had faded at a similar stage last season once Leicester get beyond their reach so the Argentinian wanted to see evidence of a positive evolution since then. His wish was granted, and this time Leicester were left looking like a rabble.

Our attitude and internal motive was good, said Pochettino. We have been talking a lot about why we finished so badly last season. This type of performance shows that the team is improving and has learned a lot from last season. This is fantastic.

Leicester constructed the better start but began to tremble as soon as Spurs bared their teeth. That was the beginning of a nightmare for Yohan Benalouane, including with regard to, as the centre-back was made to look ditzy by Spurs artful attackers. Especially Kane. The striker threatened to open the scoring a couple of times before he eventually did so in the 25 th minute.

Toby Alderweireld uncovered flat-footedness in Leicesters rejigged defence by falling a long pass over them from deep inside his own half. Christian Fuchs, a makeshift centre-back, failed to cut it out and Benalouane undermined the offside strategy. Son took advantage, scampering on to the ball before playing a square pass to Kane, who scored from close range.

Spurs began to run amok. They increased their lead 11 minutes later with a sumptuous objective, an intricate move culminating with Dele Alli scooping the ball over the head of Benalouane before Son swept a volley into the net from 10 yards.

At half-time Shakespeare had to find a way to stop the bleeding, at the least. He introduced Islam Slimani for Shinji Okazaki and Leicester made a strong start to the second period. In the 59 th minute their uprising assembled momentum when Chilwell scored with impressive equanimity. Hugo Lloris had rushed out of his box to intercept a pass to Jamie Vardy but Leicester kept possession and when the ball was played to Chilwell, the 20 -year-old sidestepped a defender and stroked it into the net from 12 yards despite Eric Diers attempt to clear off the line.

Belief in a home comeback lasted four minutes. That is how long it took Spurs to re-establish their superiority. Alderweireld cantered down the right and floated a cross to the back post, where Victor Wanyama headed it back across to Kane, who nodded in from two yards. Eight minutes later Son struck again, ridiculing Wilfred Ndidi at the leading edge of the box before sweeping a low shoot into the net. The uprising had been quashed with imperious style.

Kane was not finished. He had his eyes on a personal prize as well as an emphatic team triumph. He rifled in a low 20 -yard shot to complete his hat-trick, then fired in his fourth in time added on. That was the first four-goal haul of his career and he acknowledged he was driven by his pursuit of Lukaku at the top of the scoring charts.

Id be lying if I said I wasnt, he said. I was looking to take it into the last game, but now Im in the driving seat. Im not resting on my laurels, and Ill go to Hull[ on Sunday] looking to get four more hopefully.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Lucas Leiva: a role model who is leaving Liverpool after 10 rollercoaster years

17 days ago

The Brazilian, who has joined Lazio, was heavily criticised where reference is joined from Grmio in 2007 but earned the respect of his team-mates and the 30 -year-old will be sorely missed in the Anfield dressing room

Lucas Leiva had heard the lament many times before but it was still a astound when it was repeated at his testimonial dinner by Jrgen Klopp. An atypical Brazilian “wouldve been” politest summary of the Liverpool managers on-stage tribute in April, when he devoted thanks that he could at least rely on Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino to sprinkle the team with ingenuity and flair. It ran unsaid but Liverpool could rely on the duo less-heralded compatriot for almost everything else.

The Liverpool squad have lost their longest-serving player with Lucas 5m transfer to Lazio. The club is not losing its most gifted or decorated player and many is likely to be bemused by any fuss over the midfielders departure after 10 years but Klopp is losing an asset that he, and Liverpool managers before him, came to trust implicitly and value for his influence on and off the pitch.

That Lucas remained at Liverpool long enough to have a testimonial tribute and Klopp was the fifth director to appreciate its own contribution reflects a successful fight for recognition. He exits having constructed 346 competitive appearances for the club he joined from Grmio for 5m in 2007 and with a certain degree of respect that would have been difficult to see during his initial conflicts in Rafael Bentezs team. Lucas competed with Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano for a central midfield stance and was judged by their lofty criteria. The shouts of shoot, shoot whenever Lucas took possession in his final game at Anfield, against Middlesbrough on the last day of the season, when Liverpool reclaimed entry into the Champions League, underlined how far his relationship with supporters had come.

Lucas
Lucas was an attacking midfielder where reference is joined from Gremio for 5m in 2007. Photo: Bevilacqua/ Rex Shutterstock

Its been an incredible 10 years, said Lucas that day, after being presented with a memorial trophy by Kenny Dalglish. We all is well aware been a little bit like a rollercoaster, a lot of ups and downs, but Im so proud to wear this shirt every day of my life. This club stimulated me better as a person, as a player, I have two kids born in Liverpool. For sure, my kids will be really proud when they grow up, come to Anfield and watch games, and know their dad played for Liverpool.

The words, and the ovation they triggered, were heartfelt. Lucas and his family have always intended to return to Brazil when his playing days objective but have subsequently considered maintaining a base in Liverpool too, such is their affection for the club and the city. A rollercoaster has its downs and being booed by a section of the Anfield crowd against Fulham in November 2008 was the worst moment, he later acknowledged. There was hardly an interview with Lucas during his early years on Merseyside that did not reference criticism from the crowd.

A cruciate ligament injury expense the midfielder the opportunity to play in two Wembley finals under Dalglish and two years of his international career. Liverpools merely trophy during Lucas hour at the club, the 2012 League Cup, arrived three months after he suffered the trauma in the quarter-final victory at Chelsea. His participation in the beaker run was enough for Lucas to take great pride in his wins medal, presented to him at Melwood after Dalglish and the then director of football Damien Comolli had ordered an extra one.

The battle for acceptance extended to Liverpool managers too with the exception of Bentez, who signed him and stood by him throughout. Klopp, like Brendan Rodgers, did not have Lucas in his first-choice schemes but turned to him at key moments. Having been selected in central defense ahead of established defenders last season, Lucas created a dominant human of the match showing when restored to midfield against Everton in April. His reaction on the final whistle demonstrated how much it meant to someone from Dourados, Brazil, to win one last Merseyside derby, and silenced perhaps even his own doubts about contributing at the highest level.

Lucas
Lucas applauds fans after an FA Cup tie against Plymouth in January, when he wore the captains armband. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/ Reuters

Behind the scenes there was no doubting the extent of Lucas contribution in the Liverpool dressing room. Fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese he took the lead in helping foreign importations resolve , not least Coutinho whose happiness on Merseyside has brought reassurance for Klopp amid the reported interest from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. Lucas hurled himself into ambassadorial responsibilities for the Liverpool Foundation, the clubs charity arm, with equal relish.

As captain Jordan Henderson reflected following the Anfield derby last season: Any person joining Liverpool who is looking for a role model or an example to follow then, for me, you look no further than Lucas Leiva. In simple terms he sets the standard of professionalism and posture of what it is to be a Liverpool player. In the dressing room there is no one who is respected or admired more.

I guess from the outside he is often portrayed as being the go-to person for our lads from his own country or any Spanish or Portuguese-speaking players who join Liverpool but that does him a massive disservice. It doesnt even scratch the surface of his influence. I came from the north-east and the help and support he gave me initially and still gives me to this day is massive. It doesnt matter to Lucas whether youre from Runcorn or Rio, hell make time for you and look to offer his experience to help individuals or the team when its needed.

Lucas has more to offer aged 30 than a bit-part role on the pitching at Liverpool. Klopp, despite the jokes at Liverpools atypical Brazilian, recognised as much with some reluctance.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

For all the Russia 2018 describe razzmatazz, darknes cast by Olympics takes off gloss | Martha Kelner

23 days ago

Moscow stages the World Cup draw on Friday but Russias systematic doping at Sochi 2014 and beyond has undermined what should be footballs crowning glory

The darkness will be thick and the temperature below freezing in Moscow when the first ball is drawn but the historic snow-dappled domes of St Basil’s Cathedral remain visible from the Kremlin palace even at night.

As a set for the World Cup describe it is a perfect showcase, the imposing houses of the fortified complex and Red Square totemic of Russian power and influence. There are Christmas suns, an ice skating rink and hot sausage stallings in the shadow of one of the most uncompromising political regimes of the modern era.

That contrast between fun and fear will be embodied by next summer’s World Cup. A chance to watch Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, to follow England around this vast country but also the knowledge that the host country has serious questions to answer on its attitudes to race, sexuality and human rights. It is understood Vladimir Putin, although not a football fan, will provide an opening address at the depict, keen presumably to take advantage of the political capital on offer.

For all the understandable wariness of Russia 2018, Moscow has offered a window into what the World Cup may be like when it gets under way on 14 June. Access has been closely controlled by the security services but an army of volunteers, decked in red, demonstrated an eagerness to please and experiences have been mostly positive.

The foreign media, often cast as an foe faction by Putin, were treated to a special performance by the Moscow State Academic Theatre and offered gifts of notepads and Russian dolls from the 11 host cities.

” There is an exhilaration about the World Cup ,” one local said.” People are looking forward to it and want to put one over a present- but perhaps not as much as before the Olympics when it was thought it could change how the world viewed Russia. They’ve learned how incorrect the latter are .”

Sochi 2014 and the systematic doping that blighted that event and at least the three preceding Olympics has only reinforced negative views of Russian culture, its attitude towards athletic and fair play. On Thursday evening, as Gordon Banks and Fabio Cannavaro spoke of their pleasure at being chosen by Fifa as draw deputies, news filed through of another two positive narcotics tests from Russian athletes at London 2012. Of 226 samples collected from Russian athletes who participated in London and retested, 21 have been dirty.

Vitaly Mutko, the country’s athletics pastor at that time, is now not only Putin’s deputy but the head of the Russian FA and will be a key figure at the describe. This is despite the publication this week of diaries belonging to the Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, a former head of the Moscow drug lab, which detail sessions with Mutko and offer the strongest evidence yet that Mutko fully knew of the systematic doping programme.

The
The rehearsal for the 2018 World Cup depict at the Kremlin. Photo: Matthias Hangst/ Bongarts/ Getty Images

While Mutko may be on borrowed period pending farther revelations, it is too late now for there to be any realistic prospect of Russia being stripped of the World Cup.

At the hotel where Fifa executives are remaining, Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of the medical committee, was at pains to insist doping control would be kept out of the hands of the hosts.

” The anti-doping control is likely to be done by medical officers of Fifa not Russia- nothing will be in the hands of the Russian organisers ,” he said.” With the rumours around Russia it’s one reason more to say we devote nothing of the doping control to Russian physicians, to the Russian authorities, to the local organising committee .”

Nevertheless, there is understandably widespread disquiet about a country guilty of such craven cheating being given the honour of hosting football’s biggest showpiece.

Even before the doping program was uncovered, the style Russia came to win the 2018 bid was the subject of much consternation. It was Gary Lineker who revealed to a group of British journalists that England would be knocked out in the first round of voting despite being among the favourites to host.

He violated ranks from assembled dignitaries in Zurich in December 2010 to express his abhorrence. Most of the Fifa executives who voted on Russia and Qatar 2022 have been uncovered as having been part of an organisation characterised by bribery and corruption.

It was only six months ago Lineker tweeted:” Fifa bidding process created a murky world where favour/ bribes were just thrown around. Stinks .”

So his decision to accept the governing body’s invitation to co-host the describe alongside the Tv presenter Maria Komandnaya prompted some created eyebrows.

Some commentators believe Lineker’s involvement is wrong because it gives a cape of legitimacy to the governing body. If Lineker, once such an ardent critic, is willing to align himself with it then things cannot be so bad, surely?

The golden boot win defended himself.” There is a new guard ,” he said.” If it were still Blatter and his brigade I would not have done it. I was approached by[ Fifa’s technical development director] Marco van Basten and[ deputy general secretary] Zvonimir Boban. They are two good football people. I hope and think Fifa is changing. New people deserve a chance to prove it is, we will see .”

Whether the world will offer the same olive branch to Russia as Lineker has to Fifa remains to be seen.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Golden Aim: Esteban Cambiasso for Argentina v Serbia& Montenegro( 2006) | Gregg Bakowski

1 month, 3 days ago

It took 25 pass for Argentina to score their second in a memorable World Cup 2006 win but for Jos Pkerman it was the realisation of years of work

There can be few things in life more satisfying than watching years of hard work culminate in one fleeting but beautiful moment. In 2006 Jos Pkerman stood in the technological region at Gelsenkirchen and experienced just that, bathing in the warm glow of fulfilment as he saw the stars align in 54 glorious seconds.

Two years earlier, Pkerman had been entrusted with the Argentina job, succeeding Marcelo Bielsa, with whom he shared many deeply held beliefs about how the game should be played. The appointment induced perfect sense. Pkerman could try to improve on the fine but flawed work of his meticulous predecessor but better still, he would be working with players whom he had helped to sculpt into steely winners in his role as the under-2 0 coach.

Between 1994 and 2001 he supervised a golden era of Argentinian youth football, winning the World Youth Championship three times in four tournaments. It was an unprecedented period of success with Juan Pablo Sorn, Esteban Cambiasso, Pablo Aimar, Juan Romn Riquelme, Javier Saviola and Maxi Rodrguez among the players whom Pkerman schooled in a highly effective kind of possession football that he hoped would serve Argentina well in the future. Underpinning his doctrine was the keenly held belief that a composed approach will always be rewarded more richly than a hurried one.

This was something he tried to drum into his under-2 0 players on a personal level as well as a tactical one. He left Aimar, among his most heralded players in 1997, on the bench for the final of the World Youth Championships in Malaysia, apparently with the sole intention to teach him the lesson that haste, whether on the football pitch or in progressing a career, isnt always the best style forward. Having had to wait for his chance to manage Argentina after a career that weaved in and out of football following the early curtailment of an undistinguished playing career, Pkerman knew the value of patience.

There were signs in the buildup to the 2006 World Cup that Argentina could be a force with a manager at the helm who knew the players so well. None more so than at a raucous Estadio Monumental on 8 June 2005, when just under 50,000 fans bore witness to a devastating first-half display in which Argentina danced around a spellbound Brazil, their rhythmic passing providing a joyous backing way as they raced into an insurmountable 3-0 lead against the world champs to seal World Cup qualification. There was also a rare glimpse of peak Riquelme, with the enigmatic playmaker swivelling away from Roque Jnior with graceful ease before unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard ten-strike into the top-left corner.

Freeing Riquelme to influence games as a imperil metronome was the chief reason that Pkermans side were so easy on the eye in Germany. There had been criticism in Argentina that Riquelme was often have been able to get away with too much in matches, paying scant regard to tracking back and scoffing at the idea of winning back possession. But the truth is that by playing one or both of Cambiasso and Javier Mascherano behind him, most of the time Riquelme didnt need to.

When Mascherano stole the ball with Ivory Coast on the attack and Argentina only 1-0 up in the first group game in Germany, they looked perfectly set for a scald counterattack. Instead, Argentina took eight considered touches, never accelerating the move until within striking distance. It was Riquelmes wand of a right boot that set up Saviola to stab home. The patient approach had worked again and given us a clue of what was to come. It appeared Pkerman had come up with the magic formula. The grumblings of acceptance for Argentinas style of possession football afterwards would become a chorus following the game against Serbia and Montenegro.

Among Argentina advocates there was a whiff of anticipation about what was possible against Serbia and Montenegro. Two years earlier the same sides, containing a good portion of the players lining up in Gelsenkirchen, had met at the Athens Olympics, which Argentina went on to win. The rating? Argentina 6-0 Serbia and Montenegro.

Perhaps that is why Argentina had a swagger about them from the start. Six minutes into the game, a delicious move on the left resulted in Saviola bursting into the box, where he poked the ball across to Rodrguez to jab home and prompt Diego Maradona, high up in the stands, to begin merely the first of his many crazed festivities that evening. It would take a further 24 minutes for the lead to be increased, but it was a period in which Argentinas grip on the game became so unbearably tight that something had to give. It did. The most wonderful objective, as Hernn Crespo described it.

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Diego Maradona celebrates during Argentinas mesmeric display of possession football against Serbia& Montenegro. Photograph: Achim Scheidemann/ EPA

It begins in much the same way as the second goal scored against Ivory Coast, with the opponents pocket being picked while on a dangerous-looking attack. On this occasion it is Rodrguez who does the pilfering, chasing back and hooking the ball away from Mateja Kezman, in full gallop. He then demonstrates he has the intelligence to match his industry, floating off into space and dragging three opponents to the left of the pitch before popping a little pass back to Sorn, who takes them out of the game by coming back inside.

The patient pas continues over to the right-hand side of the pitching, with Mascherano, Riquelme and Cambiasso all getting a touch and appearing to move in slow-motion as their adversaries huff and puff around them. The ball , now on first-name terms with Argentinas midfield, is worked back over to the left in sophisticated style, never in danger of being stolen away. Its at this point that you become aware that the unhurried motion of both players and ball has begun to mesmerise.

There is an opportunity to quicken the two attacks as the ball arrives over on the left again but these Argentina players, schooled as they have been by Pkerman to be patient at all hours, demonstrate their intelligence, choosing to shun the first opportunity to attack down the left wing and instead frustrate their opponents to the degree that five Serbia and Montenegro players are drawn towards the ball as Argentina play it backwards again. Now, this is when the slow-slow-quick approach kicks in, with Mascherano fizzing a pass out to Sorn, who is hugging the touchline, before find Saviola, the catalyst for the deadliest part of the attack. He explodes inside from the touchline and plays a cute one-two with Riquelme, who for all his influence on the game, plays only a minor role in this wonderfully-crafted aim.

Saviola picks up the return from Riquelme( pass 22 in case youre interested) and curls the ball out towards the edge of the box, where Cambiasso is lurking. Its not an easy pass to control, bouncing awkwardly in front of a player who had only come on 12 minutes earlier, as a substitute for the injured Luis Gonzlez, and had never been famed for his attacking prowess. But sometimes in life, moments arrive that hint at perfection and must not be undo. There is a sense that Cambiasso was acutely aware of this as his first touch, a feathered dink with the outside of his left foot, feeds Crespo perfectly. The big striker then depicts incredible deftness himself, taking one delicious touch with his left instep, delaying to allow Cambiasso to catch up, and then teeing him up with his right heel. Impeccable link-up play.

Crespo said afterwards that he knew that something great was happening as the move was gradually and skilfully stitched together behind him. Perhaps Cambiasso did too, and it is why, when the series of 25 pass was nearing its glorious end, neither player dared shirk the responsibility of assuring to it that it was given the final prosper it deserved.

There is utter exhilaration and intense relief as Cambiasso drills the ball high into the net. In some routes goals the hell is built through patient passing moves are similar to 147 transgress in snooker. As they reach their denouement, the pressure mounts. Dont ruin it, must have been the recurring believe as Cambiasso and Crespo realised it was up to them to do justice to what had gone before them. They did not. As Cambiasso raced off to celebrate, clutching his shirt with two hands, Pkerman roared his approval from the sidelines, having watched his team score a aim that he had helped make possible by drumming into them the value of possession when many were still kids.

It would have particularly pleased Pkerman that it was Cambiasso, the epitome of a team player, “whos” the right place at the right time to score one of the great squad goals. There were echoes of the recently passed Carlos Albertos iconic goal for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final in Cambiassos effort, merely with an even greater number of passes and a finish that was not as emphatic but still exhaustively assertive. A decade after it was scored, this goal is now considered by many as being the precursor to tiki-taka, when possession itself became a potent weapon in football.

It still haunts many Argentina fans that the class of 2006 did not go further than the quarter-finals, with Pkerman accused of blundering against Germany, going against his principles and substituting his pass master Riquelme for the more defensive qualities of Cambiasso in the 80 th minute and thus ceding the attacking initiative. Germany went on to equalise as Argentina became far less assured in possession. They lost on penalties, of course. Worse still, they disgraced themselves as a fight broke out at the end.

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A fight breaks out at the end of Germanys victory over Argentina on penalties at the 2006 World Cup. Photograph: Frank Augstein/ AP

Pkerman resigned after the defeat. It is a great disgrace. His methods had imbued Argentina with the kind of on-the-ball authority that would serve Spain so well in their period of dominance between 2008 and 2012. But Pkerman can be proud that his team created something wonderful in Gelsenkirchen, something he deserved to oversee and take credit for given his key role in developing the players who induced it happen. The fact that it took a while to arrive built it all the more beautiful.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Celtic beat Lincoln Red Imps to put Champions League slip-up behind them

1 month, 10 days ago

Celtic beat Lincoln Red Imps 3-0 to seal a 3-1 win on aggregate following the shock 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the Champions League qualifying tie

Lincoln Red Imps will prove nothing more than a footnote to the tenure of Brendan Rodgers at Celtic.

There should never have been any real doubt about that, the obvious raising of eyebrows after the Northern Irishmans first competitive game in charge of the Scottish champions resulting in defeat in Gibraltar aside. Celtic were the overwhelming favourites to turn this Champions League qualifying tie around on their own turn and duly did emphatically. In front of a close-to-capacity mob, Rodgers presided over a summertime stroll that was over as a competition within half an hour.

Even Celtics manager, in time, may raise a smile when the issue of Gibraltar is raised. Scottish football has not yet sunk to depths where glaringly limited sides such as the Red Imps can prevail over two legs. The next round, where Astana of Kazakhstan lie in wait, will provide Rodgers and his humen with a different exam entirely. Yet, Rodgers has visibly raised high levels of optimism during the course of its early weeks in post.

I was delighted with the attitude of the players, Rodgers said. I was delighted with the way we took to the game right from kick-off. We scored three but I believe their goalkeeper stopped it being doubled figures.

I am pleased to qualify. That was the objective here. The intensity from the start was outstanding.

By round three, Celtic hope to have added necessary depth of talent to a lopsided squad. Rodgers has targeted a centre-back and a winger as matters of priority. We have another difficult tie-in, on a plastic pitching, but we will be ready for it, Rodgers said of Astana.

Rodgers had not so much been taken aback by the scale of reaction to last weeks loss in Gibraltar as refused to cow to it. The former Liverpool manager played down any sense of first-leg shock and, in doing so, staunchly refused to scold his players. That approach was notable and perhaps admission of shortcomings of his own, the deployment of two holding midfielders among them. Within one Glasgow half, Rodgers sense of calm had been fully endorsed.

Celtics set-up was altered here. A three-man defense was utilized, with Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembl afforded opportunity to stake their suit as a forward pairing.

The hosts swarmed around the Red Imps from kick-off. Celtic believed they had a 10 th-minute penalty, only for the referee to alter his decision and award a free-kick instead. Griffiths flamed that over.

Within seconds, Callum McGregor had crashed a shot off the crossbar.

Already, there was inevitability attached to Celtic squaring the affiliation. McGregor was denied again with 18 minutes played, this time by a terrific low save from Ral Navas. Mikael Lustig was to provide the opening objective, the Swedish defender swivelling before turning the ball home. Red Imps had earlier failed to clear a Stuart Armstrong free-kick from Celtics right flank.

Griffiths soon doubled the Celtic advantage. The striker, so prolific last season, continued this theme with a fierce drive from 18 yards. Only 25 minutes into the game, it was already a matter of how many Celtic would choose to score. Red Imps were chasing shadows.

Patrick Roberts notched the third and one are worth praise, despite the lowly level of opposition. The Manchester City loanee danced through the visiting defence, playing a neat one-two with McGregor before rendering an equally composed finish. Roberts was the standout musician of the opening period and a constant menace to a bamboozled Red Imps defence.

Celtics superiority entailed the second half was always likely be an exercise in “re going through” the motions. It duly transpired as such. Red Imps had brief flirtings with the edge of the Celtic penalty area but never seemed to have the faith or talent to make that presence counting. At the other aim, Navas saved brilliantly when Griffiths bore down on goal.

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Mesut Ozil adopts the mantle of Arsenal’s double-winning mentality

1 month, 15 days ago

Arsenals Premier League title bid has, in no small component, been down to Mesut Ozil, who does the damage and is inducing the difference

One year ago, a debate about which players Arsenal might really depend on if the pressure was on would not often indicate Mesut Ozil as written answers. At the time the clubs record signing, yet to overrule a general consensus that he was a luxury item, had been off the radar for a while. Having come back from the 2014 World Cup tired, he drifted through the first couple of months of the season, got injured and spent three months regaining. Last January he reappeared not that many imagined he was about to step on to an upward curve so captivating it may as well have been crafted with a brush of his left foot.

Perceptions about Ozil have been revised over the past year. Where his languid body language built critics carp , now it represents clever, elusive movement. Where resisting defenders sought to rough him up and squeeze him out of video games , now they know he is strong enough to handle it and slice them open. Where fans doubted he would be the protagonist in the biggest challenges , now they expect him to wave his wand.

Arsene Wenger, grateful to welcome Ozil back into his team after skipping two out of the last three games( he took a breather for the FA Cup third round and rested his sore toe for last weekends trip-up to Stoke) gave an interesting insight into how the 27 -year-old has become an unexpected leader in his own way at Arsenal. He will never be a shouty commandant but on the pitching he is a technological leader and off it emits the various kinds of presence that ensures when he talks, everyone listens.

Hes not an extrovert, as you know, says Wenger, but hes demanding from his partners. That description applied to Dennis Bergkamp, and the comparing made Wengers eyes light up. Bergkamp was a huge figure in the dressing room in his time. He could be an introvert but was also funny, sharp, observant, and spoke with piercing accuracy. Yes, Ozil is a bit like that, adds Wenger. He is not that guy who stands up and speaks too much but every time he says something it is just straight to the point. The manager snaps his fingers for emphasis.

Going back to Bergkamp, there is the story of Tony Adams feeling a compulsion to say a few strong terms to the Dutchman when he saw him sitting quietly on the team bus after an FA Cup fourth-round match at Middlesbrough in January 1998. Youve is right there two and a half years now, Dennis, isnt it about day you won something? Adams asked. It would be a disgrace not to, with your ability.

Arsene Wenger lauds Mesut Ozil.

Come the summer of 1998, Bergkamp had inspired Arsenal towards the double and was voted Footballer of the Year. Adams point was that he wanted to push Bergkamp, to elevate his performances so that they had substance as well as style. Do the damage. Make the difference.

Ozil appears to have had his own eureka moment. As well as being more robust, the consequence of extra work at the gym to bulk up during that post-World Cup lay-off, these days he carries himself with more swagger. He now wants to do the damage. Make the difference. I am super happy with the No10 position and I will confirm that trust, Ozil pledged on this seasons eve. So far “hes having” been true to his word.

When he was shunted out of Real Madrid in 2013 as they sought to raise funds to buy Gareth Bale, perhaps it is understandable if he saw the move to Arsenal as a step down, something that would be easy. To flourish, he needed to reboot himself. Arsenals Ozil 2.0 plays with heightened levels of responsibility and determination. If he had been without Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla for several weeks a year ago to share the creative energy, would he have been able to pull the team along as he has recently? Apart from the 4-0 blip at Southampton on Boxing Day, Arsenal have coped quite well in this phase without Sanchez, Cazorla and the supporting act Francis Coquelin.

This hardened spirit is what Wenger wants over the next few weeks ahead as Arsenal try to push on in the title race. He has guided squads over the line, and others that fell short. The ability to keep our fighting spirit and togetherness is what he believes induces the difference.

The qualities that have come out of our team up to now are essentially mental. To keep that spirit is necessarily be vital for us because every game is very tight. Sometimes before, we had a team that had a margin of security. What has changed now in the Premier League is that every game is a massive fight.

Spirit is a bit like the climate in England. It can change very quickly. And we have to take care of that. It is something that is very fragile, to maintain that under pressure, frustrations, traumata. That is our task. Thats why all the older players have this kind of responsibility to take care of our unity.

Wenger is looking to his experienced men for that. The knowhow of Petr Cech, Per Mertesacker, Sanchez and Ozil, who have all won major accolades, will be leaned on.

Although Arsenal might have ideally wanted more points from their last two away games at Liverpool and Stoke, keeping their momentum going while missing leading player sets them up for the visit of Chelsea, the first in a sequence of four home games from five before the sudden change of pace that will come with the Champions League visit of Barcelona.

Wenger believes his squad have become stronger, perhaps a little wiser, since they last fulfilled Chelsea. That defeat in September riled because of the ugly episode involving Gabriel and Diego Costa, on which the game hinged.

The Arsenal manager agrees that his team needed to show a bit more spite to cope with the toughest tournaments. I believe we have shown since that game that we can do it, we can face big opposes, he says. We have improved on that front. We have to combine the fighting spirit with a relaxed stance and a controlled attitude. We have to be controlled. Discipline is very important in big games.

Would he go in so far as to ask his players to perform on the edge that Costa treads? I dont know, he meditates. Its difficult for me to talk too much about Chelsea. We can master and control our own behaviour. What is important is that we focus on us. Experience helps but what will help more than anything is the quality of our performances. Sunday is a big one for us on that front.

The onus is on the big talents to lead the way.

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Islam Slimani heads relieved Leicester to victory over West Ham

1 month, 22 days ago

The Leicester striker headed home Marc Albrightons cross in the 20 th minute for a welcome 1-0 win against West Ham

The way Leicester City rounded off the greatest year in its own history augurs well for 2017. The champions will not maintain their title, but this timely reassertion of the virtues that earned them their proudest accolade at least indicated they are primed to avoid an undignified descent into the relegation zone. Not that Claudio Ranieri is making any bold declarations in that regard: he counts phases , not chickens, but he acknowledged that this tenacious performance was a step in the right direction.

It has been an amazing, unforgettable year and 2016 will remain in our hearts and minds, he said. But it was important to win here and assure our fans supporting us and our players opposing together.

Ranieri had similar believes three weeks ago after the rousing victory over Manchester City but his squad did not sustain their sort after that, which is why it remained their only victory in nine league matches before this one. That operate “d left” Ranieri facing accusations that his perseverance with the 4-4-2 system that served his side so well last season amounted to trying to make cake from stale bread. He concocted a new formation for this match and it worked a treat. But an all the more important factor than the switch to 4-2-3-1 was the attitude of the players. They played with the zest and resilience that had constructed them kings.

No Leicester player stood out because all played well. Islam Slimani scored the winning objective but the display of his Algerian countryman Riyad Mahrez was equally notable bearing in mind the fact that the latters performances had fallen in so far below the different levels that earned him the Premier League player of the year crown last season that he had been fallen for the last home match. Although he did not quite reach the heights of last word, he responded in the way Ranieri had hoped. Deployed just behind Slimani, Mahrez devoted flickers of his grandeur, justifying the decision to assign him a central role rather than a wide berth.

It was important to change something because now all the world is waiting for Riyad on the left or right to come inside, we have to improve how we find him between the lines, Ranieri said.

It took 63 seconds for Mahrez to show he was on song, but Darren Randolph prevented him opening the scoring by tip-off his half-volley simply over the bar.

West Ham could not match Leicesters early intensity and slickness. Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray were excellent out wide, ensuring a regular furnish of threatening traverses. Slimani met one from Albrighton in the fourth minute but the strikers header rebounded out off the post.

A similar move in the 20 th minute created the breakthrough. Quick thinking and passing by Danny Simpson and Danny Drinkwater launched the attack before Albrighton delivered another delicious cross from the right and Slimani headed powerfully into the net after peeling away from Winston Reid.

They deserved the goal, it was a combination of their aggression and our sloppiness, said Slaven Bilic.

West Ham soon get up to velocity with their hosts. They provoked havoc in the home penalty area only to be frustrated by defenders who had rediscovered their sharpness, as shown by the number of timely blocks on shootings. Even so, Leicester were lucky in the 41 st minute when Michail Antonios shot cannoned out off the crossbar. The chance had been created by Aaron Cresswell, whose raids down the left were becoming a nuisance. They were not the only source of bother for Leicester Simpson and Daniel Amartey had thrown themselves in front of shootings by Antonio and Andr Ayew just before that and Kasper Schmeichel had made a fine close-range save to foil Dimitri Payet.

A free-kick by Payet forced Schmeichel into another save just before half-time. Randolph then had to make an even better stop from a free-kick by Mahrez.

West Ham exerted strong pressure in the second half. Schmeichel made a high-class save on the hour to paw away a shot by Cresswell after it took a treacherous deflection off Ben Chilwell.

With the visitors on top, Ranieri replaced Mahrez with Christian Fuchs in an attempt to reinforce his squads solidity. It ran. For the last stages of a helter-skelter contest that was generally clean despite being strewn with eight yellow cards, West Ham were for the most component kept away from Leicesters goal.

Andy Carrolls header into the side netting was the closest they came to an equaliser thereafter. Leicester, indeed, objective video games on the two attacks and Carrolls last significant touch was a block that avoided Chilwell from building it 2-0.

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Jose Mourinho’s criticism of Luke Shaw was justified but at what expense? | Paul MacInnes

1 month, 24 days ago

In the context of Jos Mourinhos criticism of Luke Shaw managers must accept that modern footballers are delicate as well as valuable and public shames could demonstrate expensive

Were all human resources executives now. Or perhaps its merely felt that way the coming week as the debate over whether Jos Mourinho was right to criticise Luke Shaw in public operated on longer than your median job tribunal.

The young defender was singled out following Manchester Uniteds insipid 3-1 defeat to Watford last weekend. He was not the first individual to be treated in such a way by his manager this season: Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Jesse Lingard have already felt the edge of Mourinhos tongue. But the Portuguese was surely unsparing. Our left-back is 25 metres away instead of five, he said of Shaws involvement in Watfords crucial second aim. Devote him 25 metres and you have to press. But no, we wait. It is a tactical but also mental attitude.

There have been theories and counter hypothesis as to why Mourinho did what he did. Grumblings from Shaws camp have suggested that the player has been left upset. United themselves have let it be known they watch outspoken statements as not only part of Mourinhos character but in the tradition of Sir Alex Ferguson himself. None of these have resolved the key question though: whether such tactics are ever really effective.

The one big qualifier to this entire debate is that every individual is different and a relationship between a director and federal employees will differ from person to person. Some players might respond to it you never know says David Pleat, the former Tottenham manager and director of football. You dont know what the relationship is between the player and administrator. Neither do you know the motivation behind what was said and what they discussed in private. But to do it in public is commonly a last resort. You cant devote a final warning to a player. You can to a member of staff, but not a player. So some administrators might see this as an equivalent.

Dr Steve Peters has worked as a sports psychiatrist for both Liverpool and Roy Hodgsons England and says that aspects of behaviour will always remain opaque to a degree. You would have to be a mind reader to know why someone would publicly criticise[ an employee ]. You would have to question them immediately to find out their motives, he says, adding but sometimes people just dont know why they have done something.

Caveats to one side, it is clear that the downsides to public criticism are many and sizeable. The notion, for example, that some players will thrive under the pressure is unlikely to be true, says Peters. Clearly very few people would react well to public criticism, he says. We are all unique private individuals and react very differently depending on a number of factors. For instance, we generally dont get affected if “weve been” robust or if what is happening is not of any significance to us. So it may not be about personality but about faiths or abilities to manage feelings. But even if a criticism is justified it is possible that there will be a feeling of shame and a reaction to this to defend[ yourself] or attack specific comments. We are by nature emotional creatures and, for most, compassion is more powerful than a rebuke.

For Pleat, there are scenarios in which public criticism can have a positive effect, though not inevitably on the individual involved. You might criticise your best player to demonstrate the younger members of your squad that youre not afraid to challenge the top human. It can be motivational for them to see that, he says. But what you would never do is criticise a young player in public. Its hard enough for them to break through the tough atmosphere of a dressing room as it is, without you knocking their confidence. Its likely to alienate the rest of the squad who will look at what has happened and see it as unfair.

And therein lies the rub. Because while a director speaking out of turn in your place of work might lead to some awkward meetings, in top-flight football it could entail writing off millions of pounds. Modern players are delicate commodities but theyre also very valuable, says Pleat. Even if theyre on what Id call a minimal Premier League contract of 20,000 a week, thats a million pounds a year that youre putting at risk. A chairwoman might look at[ a player whos been criticised] and say: Ive now got a million pound liability.

In the febrile world of modern football there are few directors who could afford to take on a risk like that( though Mourinho might be an exception ). In fact, much of what has changed in video games over the past two decades has helped swaying the balance of power away from the manager to players and their agents. Players, after all, have social media on which to air their grievances, or the receptive ear of a friendly journalist. I still have the active antenna of the PFA, who could bring their well-resourced heft to bear on international disputes. As brutal as it might be, the public dressing down is one of the few tools that a director has left in their arsenal. So if things stay sticky at Old Trafford, and maybe even if they do not, expect Mourinho to use it again.

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Sleek Southampton stroll to win and devote West Ham grounds for fear

2 months, 2 days ago

Slaven Bilics West Ham United suffered their fifth defeat in six Premier League matches this season when Southampton beat them 3-0 at the London Stadium

The initial temptation is to blame the ground and say that West Ham United were sorely mistaken when they decided to leave Upton Park. The explosion of optimism that greeted their move to the London Stadium has given route to an unmistakable sense of drift, on and off the pitching, and Slaven Bilic could only watch helplessly as Claude Puels sleek Southampton inflicted a third defeat on his ragged squad in their new home.

At this phase, however, it would be a flimsy excuse for West Ham to argue that anyone would experience these teething problems after moving grounds. Their flaws operate deeper than that. They have conceded two or more objectives in 15 of their past 23 matches, did not force Fraser Forster to make a single save in the Southampton aim and played with the louche air of a squad who are yet to accept the severity of the situation.

While West Ham find themselves stuck in the bottom three and look like a team without any discernible scheme after losing five of their opening six league matches, Southampton shot up to ninth place, thanks to a performance that showcased the craft and intelligence that persuaded them to appoint Puel after Ronald Koemans summer departure to Everton.

It was a stroll for the visitors after Charlie Austins composed finish shattered West Hams fragile confidence long before James Ward-Prowse added a third objective in stoppage time and there was a pleasing verve to their play, their zest encapsulated by the way Dusan Tadic left Adrin on the floor before inducing it 2-0 shortly after the end of the hour.

After a somewhat unconvincing start to life under Puel this was their fourth successive victory in all competitors. In the second half we could see a team with a good technical level, the Frenchman said.

West Ham were fortunate not to be beaten out of sight and as a mood of uncertainty spread around this curious ground before kick-off, it felt like a sign of the times that, to borrow the terminology favoured by the stadium operators, clients were advised that persistent standing would result in offenders being expelled. Those kind of messages explain why it is difficult not to suspect that the club left an indelible part of its identity back at Upton Park and it was not long before stewards were trying to persuade the boisterous little pocket of home fans near the away end to sit down.

Arguments in the stands were not Bilics main concern. He required a reaction after the defensive capitulations against Watford and West Bromwich Albion but West Ham were ponderous on the ball, predictable in assault and vulnerable whenever Southampton transgressed forward.

Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyat were passengers in midfield unable to be dealt with Southamptons diamond as video games wear on, while Dimitri Payet was subdued. Simone Zaza has not hit the ground running after joining on loan from Juventus and there was none of Michail Antonios usual brio.

Individual mistakes, tactical indiscipline and the failure to defend as a collective division have all contributed to West Hams decline and it was no help that knee injuries to Arthur Masuaku and Aaron Cresswell deprived Bilic of both of his left-backs.

lvaro Arbeloa, who did not possess the pace to supporting West Hams assault, filled in after moving across from the right while Havard Nordtveit was a fish out of water at right-back.

Comfortable in defence, measured under midfield and lively up front, Southampton sought to capitalise on that weakness and the origins of Austins opener were not a astonish, given that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had already fired an early warning shooting. Nordtveit, who was signed to play in midfield, failed to read the danger when Tadic slipped a pass behind the Norwegian and Ryan Bertrands cutback determined Austin, who took advantage of slack marking from Angelo Ogbonna by sweeping a low finish beyond Adrin.

Soon Cdric Soares was almost doubling Southamptons lead after peeling behind Arbeloa and Bilic had find enough, replacing the ineffectual Manuel Lanzini with Sofiane Feghouli at half-time. That change allowed Payet to slot into the No10 role but Zaza remained forlorn and isolated.

West Ham fought back from a objective down to win this fixture last season. But they are a pale imitation of their former selves, mustering little beyond got a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals, and Southampton would not let them off the hook this time.

Although Tadics objective was a wonderful piece of skill, it was also a damning indictment of West Hams lax attitude. Winston Reid and Kouyat took it in turns to bungle with the ball just outside their own region and Nathan Redmond combined with Austin, who released Tadic. Faced by Adrin again, the Serb duped the goalkeeper with a dreamy body swerve before rolling the ball into the unguarded net.

That masterclass in efficiency and imagination from Tadic encapsulated the difference between the two teams and the only surprise was that Southampton had to wait until the dying moments before Ward-Prowse scored a simple third.

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