Page 1









Enjoy life on the road. The Audi Q5


Meet The Team Name: Dan Rawley Supports UK: Everton Favourite EU team: AS Roma Fun fact: Dan has appeared on late-night Argentine radio. Name: Sam Koster Supports UK: Manchester United Favourite EU team: Juventus Fun fact: Sam took this profile photo last week. Name: Lewis Catchpole Supports UK: Manchester United Favourite EU team: BVB Fun fact: He shares his birthday with Ronaldo & Neymar. Name: Reginaldo Rosario Supports UK: Manchester United Favourite EU team: Benfica Fun fact: Reggie was born in Macau. Name: Joe Alborough Supports UK: Chelsea Favourite EU team: AFC Ajax Fun fact: Joe is a fully qualified football referee.

Name: Ben Moorcroft Supports UK: Liverpool Favourite EU team: Olympiakos Fun fact: Has scored six goals in his career, unfortunately five of them were in his own net.



Here we are: a big, warm welcome to the first ever issue of Eurofoot. We’re so proud to be able to bring you this magazine and are confident that we have a publication that will be able to whet the appetite of European football fans across the country. Of course, we’ve been spoilt for choice in regards to topics and issues to write about, despite it being the end of the current season. We say goodbye to three modern legends of the game, with Xabi Alonso, Philipp Lahm and Francesco Totti hanging up their boots at Bayern Munich and Roma after three stellar careers. We take an in-depth look back at their finest moments and consider who may take their place. We also take a look at the meteoric rise of AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. With maturity and level-headedness beyond his years, he has all the tools in his locker to join the pantheon of great goalkeepers. World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner Lothar Matthäus joins us for an exclusive one-on-one interview, shedding light on his illustrious career, which took him from Germany, to Italy, and the United States for his swansong. Matthäus also tells us the player that reminds him of himself most, during his prime, and the answer might well surprise you. This issue will cover a whole range of subjects across the European footballing landscape, from Monaco’s fearless, attacking style to the controversial ownership of Vitesse Arnhem and their arrangement with Chelsea. We’ve worked around the clock to feed your need for all things European football. Here’s to many more editions. Dan, Sam, Lewis, Reginaldo, Joe, and Ben.

SUBSCRIPTIONS: A 12-month print subscription could save you more than £15! To subscribe, see page 52.

Eurofoot Magazine 9 Mappin Street Sheffield, S10 1BE 0114 222 2500 Contact: @eurofootmag



8 22



P.13 Steaua Bucharest P.14-15 Transfer section P.30-31 What next for Bayern? P.32-33 Paris FC


P.39 Stat zone P.44-45 Behind the scenes P.55-57 Women’s Euros P.62-64 La Masia downfall?


P.67-71 Nostalgia P.74 The next Galáctico? P.85 AC Milan takeover P.86-87 Portugal

20 27 60

There were many photos we considered for our photo of the month, but the perfect timing of this one just stole it for us. Arjen Robben gets doused in beer by David Alaba as Bayern Munich celebrated a fifth straight Bundesliga title in May 2017.






Each month our team handpick some of the best fooball related tweets from the past mont. Got something to say? Tweet us @EurofootMag and you may get to feature in next month’s issue...

It’ll be interesting to see what she can do in the transfer market without Phillip Hammond’s help. Kranjcar, Assou-Ekotto, and Crouch are all sat patiently by the phone.

A new European formation to experiment with.

A summary of British football fans.

I think Jermaine is still sat there. Has anyone seen him? Mal MacDonald went to Dam, E-I-E-I-O.




Monaco have been one of the surprise packages of Europe this year. Rock bottom of Ligue 2 in 2011, the likes of Bernardo silva, Falcao and Kylian Mbappe have fired the club back to where they belong, but how? Reginaldo Rosario takes a look at one of Europe’s most proficient attacking outfits




ne glance at the goalscoring charts in Europe’s top five leagues, and the results will not surprise you one bit. Alongside the usual suspects of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona sit AS Monaco, who have scored a whopping 102 goals in Ligue 1 this season. The Monegasques are the second-highest scoring team in Europe, with Barça having scored 10 more than Leonardo Jardim’s side, while Los Blancos have scored two less and Bayern are off their usual lofty standards, having scored 17 less than Monaco this season. To put this into context, Monaco scored just 51 goals in Jardim’s first season in 2014-15, and only managed to push that figure to 57 last season, which saw the Portuguese manager criticised at times for being too cautious. This season has been different, and the Monegasques’ freeflowing, attacking style has captivated the footballing world and won them many admirers, both domestically and abroad. Their free-scoring form has propelled them to the Ligue 1 title, breaking the recent dominance of Paris Saint-Germain, and the semi-finals of this season’s Champions League, where they beat Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the knockout stages before falling to Juventus. PSG, on the other hand, fell in the round of 16 in Europe to the mother of all comebacks by Barcelona at the Camp Nou. You would think Monaco’s success would have been achieved through massive transfer spending - after all, they are owned by a Russian billionaire and as we’ve seen with the likes of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, investment by a sugar daddy can change a club’s fortunes. However, Monaco’s resurgence has been fuelled by a core of young players - Kylian Mbappé, Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko - all of whom are 23 years of age or below. It hasn’t always been like this for the Monegasques. After the ultimate high of reaching the Champions League final in 2004, losing to José Mourinho’s Porto in Gelsenkirchen, it all went downhill.


They might have worked miracles under Didier Deschamps that season, where they beat Real Madrid and Chelsea, but under the surface, a storm was brewing. At the start of the 2003-04 season, Monaco had actually been relegated by the LFP (French Professional League) for amassing €50 million (£42 million) in debt. “The debt built up as they tried to keep the likes of Fabien Barthez, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet at the club after the 1998 World Cup by tying them down to expensive long-term contracts,” football writer Ben Lyttleton told Eurofoot. “This, coupled with a lack of European football and the failure of several big-money signings, such as [Oliver] Bierhoff, [Christian] Panucci and [Vladimir] Jugović, meant that the debt spiralled as the income dried up.” On appeal, their top flight status was reinstated, but they were banned from signing any players. This forced club president JeanLouis Campora, who had been in charge for 28 years and overseen five Ligue 1 titles, to step down and be replaced by Pierre Svara. Despite the overwhelming on-field success, the club were inching closer to meltdown. Svara had no prior footballing experience before being appointed president, and it transpired that he had been paying out hefty player bonuses that far exceeded revenues. In what had been Monaco’s most successful season in Europe, they had endured the worst financial year in its history. Within 12 months, Deschamps had resigned as manager and the downward spiral began. The club became a revolving door, with dozens of mediocre players coming in and out and by the end of the 2010-11 season, the club had been relegated from Ligue 1 for the first time since 1976. The following season didn’t start any better and by December, Monaco were bottom of Ligue 2 and staring at the abyss, contemplating a future in the Championnat National (third tier of French football). In stepped Dmitry Rybolovlev, with the Russian businessman buying a 66.67% stake from Prince Albert, making it the first time since the club was founded in 1924 that the royal family did not own a controlling stake.


Jardim’s formation is very aggressively deployed. In the defensive phase, it is a normal 4-4-2, but when Monaco transition into attack, it almost becomes a 2-4-4, with the wingers pushed right up alongside the two forwards and the full-backs doing the same as well. As the creative fulcrum, left-footed Bernardo Silva often cuts inside into the half space, giving space for Sidibé to overlap on the right wing. On the opposite side, Lemar is more of an orthodox winger, but when Mendy overlaps from left-back, he is given the license to cut inside and give opposition defences problems. Jemerson and Kamil Glik push up from the centre of defence to keep a high line, while Fabinho drops back to cover for the two advanced full-backs. Bakayoko, meanwhile, is your typical box-to-box midfielder, defending where needed and coming late into the area for any shooting opportunities. The Monegasques rotate their strikers around, with three to fill two slots. Falcao is the less creative, predatory finisher, while Mbappé is the youthful presence, given freedom to roam and wreak havoc with his pace and dribbling ability. When he plays, Valère Germain is the hard worker, dropping into space to hold up the ball and bringing others into play.

The most common Monaco XI.

Bernardo Silva - discarded by Benfica, but the creative fulcrum of this Monaco side.



Rybolovlev immediately set about returning the club to its glory days. After recovering and finishing the 2011-12 season in eighth, he brought in Claudio Ranieri to bring Monaco back to Ligue 1 and the Italian did so at the first time of asking, winning the Ligue 2 title in style. In order to sustain the success and make Monaco a threat both domestically and in European competition, Rybolovlev embarked on a spending spree in the summer of 2013. On the suggestion of then-sporting director Tor-Kristian Karlsen, the Russian owner made contact with football’s premier agent Jorge Mendes, which would prove to be beneficial for both parties. Mendes clients João Moutinho, James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao would all arrive that same summer, becoming the most expensive players in French history. Those high-profile, expensive signings, as well as others, would help propel Monaco to second in their first season back in Ligue 1 and secure qualification back into the Champions League. However, their summer splurge would also come back to cause them problems, as UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules started to kick in, forcing clubs to live within their means. By the end of the 2013-14 season, Manchester City and PSG had been fined for exceeding FFP rules and Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev had been summoned to UEFA’s headquarters to


They are young, hungry, willing to entertain themselves and the spectactors, always looking to score more even when the game is beyond doubt

explain the club’s finances. As he recounted to the New York Times, “When we started, the rules of financial fair play existed but had not been implemented. Nobody really knew how real it would be.” When it became clear that FFP would have a detrimental effect on the club, starting with the prospect of heavy fines, Rybolovlev scaled back the spending. Off went Rodríguez to Real Madrid in the summer of 2014 after a stellar World Cup in Brazil. Falcao went as well, loaned out to Manchester United. Ranieri was also gone as well, with the club not renewing his contract. In came the relatively unknown Jardim - born in Venezuela to Portuguese parents - fresh off fairly successful spells with Greek side Olympiakos and Portuguese giants Sporting. However, almost immediately in the French press, he came under fire. “Jardim is getting good results, but his team is playing poorly. He invented new football tactics - the chloroform tactics. It’s impossible to watch them. Fans are dying of boredom,” said Canal+ pundit Pierre Menes in January 2015. Just a few weeks later in the Champions League, Monaco would stun Arsenal 3-1 in London with a brilliant display of counter-attacking football -

Criticised early on in his tenure, Jardim has worked wonders with this Monaco side.


the same sort of football that Menes described as ‘chloroform’. It may have been surprising to some, but it was no surprise to people who had seen Jardim manage before. “Jardim is . a pragmatic and versatile coach, able to work under significant budget restrictions. That is why he was chosen by Rybolovlev when the club decided to change their transfer policy,” Michael Yokhin, European football writer for ESPN FC, told Eurofoot. Jardim once said: “I work without whining.” He didn’t complain when his best players were sold after his first season in charge.During the summer of 2015, Anthony Martial moved to Manchester United, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco to Atlético Madrid, Layvin Kurzawa to PSG, Geoffrey Kondogbia to Inter Milan and Aymen Abdennour to Valencia. Monaco made a phenomenal profit on those players and Jardim rebuilt successfully, coming close to finishing second behind PSG before a late-season collapse saw them finish behind Lyon in third. However, the foundations had been laid. “Jardim might have been accused of a negative approach by some, but he didn’t try to kill off games for his own pleasure,” Yokhin says. “In reality, he is a very positive-minded coach, who believes that players should be only working with the ball during training sessions.” “He would have loved to implement an outrageously attacking style in every game. He just didn’t think that was possible in the previous two seasons. This season, however, the Portuguese saw an opportunity to change the approach.” A number of factors contributed to the change in style. Falcao




Kylian Mbappé - superstar in the making, but will he depart in the summer? returned to the principality after his two failed loan spells with Manchester United and Chelsea, with Monaco deciding not to sell him. Valère Germain also returned after an outstanding 2015-16 season with Nice. The arrivals of Mendy from Marseille, Djibril Sidibé from Lille and Polish defender Kamil Glik from Torino shoring up an already rocksolid defence, the attack-minded rightback Sidibé’s signing also allowed versatile Brazilian Fabinho to be moved into the centre of midfield, where he has excelled this season. Several players already present at the club also came of age. Bakayoko had developed into a tactically-aware defensive midfielder under Jardim. Lemar had matured and was ready to shine. Silva, all too easily discarded by Benfica, had completely recovered from niggling injuries and was ready to unleash his creative wizardry on opposition defences. While Argentine striker Guido Carrillo had acclimatised after his debut season in France. They also had the world’s hottest young footballer in their armoury. Having made his Monaco debut at the age of 16 years


and 347 days last season, Kylian Mbappé kicked on another gear, with the non-stop comparisons to Thierry Henry starting to come to fruition. Now 18, Mbappe has scored 25 goals and assisted another 14 in all competitions, including six goals in the knockout stages of the Champions League - the youngest Frenchman to do so. Jardim finally had a side that he felt was comfortable enough to unleash their full attacking potential. With the defensive foundations sturdy, his players are able to express themselves in the final third and control the possession throughout the 90 minutes of play. The formation they employ is a throwback to oldschool football - a well-balanced 4-4-2. With Sidibé on the right and Mendy on the left, they have two superb attacking full-backs. Central midfield is a mix of yin and yang, with Fabinho the more technically adept ballplayer and Bakayoko the physically imposing defensive midfielder. Silva and Lemar are positioned out wide, not as traditional wingers, but as creative playmakers, cutting

inside often to support attacks and thread the final ball through to the marksmen up front. The two strikers up front complement each other - the youthfulness and exuberance of Mbappé is paired up with the deadly movement and finishing of Falcao. Couple that with a strong defensive leader in Kamil Glik, a decent goalkeeper in Danijel Subasic and talented options on the bench (João Moutinho, Almamy Toure and Brazilian midfielder Boschilla) and you can see why this side has only lost ten games in all competitions this season. “They are young, hungry, willing to entertain themselves and the spectators, always looking to score more even when the game has been decided beyond doubt,” Yokhin says. No one can predict what the future holds, and it is inevitable that some of the stars of this side, such as Mbappé, Silva and Lemar, will move on to bigger and better things. Even Vasilyev himself admits that the Monegasques are ‘a selling club’. But for now, fans can continue to savour the most entertaining side in Europe.




THE FIGHT FOR STEAUA’S SOUL Once a proud holder of the European Cup, this famous Romanian institution is at the centre of a long-running row between the Romanian army and its eccentric owner


igi Becali is used to being vilified in Romania. After all, he is one of the country’s richest and most controversial characters, regularly making headlines for his outlandish statements. However, he is locked in a battle with the country’s army for control of Steaua Bucharest - Romania’s most famous and popular football club. The dispute has seen Becali lose the rights to the club’s badge and its name, as well as the creation of a new army team with Steaua’s name. What is certain is that it is a complex tale of greed, money and revenge. Steaua were formed in 1947 and like most teams in Eastern Europe under communist rule, belonged to a government department. In this case, Steaua represented the army. The club’s finest hour was the 1986 European Cup final in Seville, they beat Barcelona on penalties to win the trophy. They would also go on to reach the European Cup semifinals in 1988 and the final the following year. However, once the brutal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu fell in 1989, the club would become independent, spinning away from the army sports association in 1998 and Becali, who made his fortune in real estate after the fall of communism, took full control of the club in 2003. Under Becali’s ownership, Steaua were successful once again. Five league titles, several domestic cups and regular Champions League football meant that the revenue stream was constant. Despite this, the 58-year-old’s leadership style did not do him any favours. “He is a loudmouth, he likes to be on TV all the time,” says Emanuel Roşu, a Romanian football journalist. “He has opinions on every subject.” “But people with a loud mouth usually say a lot of inappropriate things as well. He


didn’t treat the fans or the club’s legends brings the Steaua vibe for many, but things properly, he fired managers and had a bad could be different after the creation of the attitude towards many of his players, which new Steaua club in the fourth tier. In all he often criticises publicly after games.” the major surveys, fans say Becali still has Shortly after Steaua qualified for Steaua…that still gives him some authority.” A separate case is still pending to decide the Champions League group stages in 2006, Becali’s troubles with the whether Becali will have to pay back tens army began. They began to look into of millions of pounds in compensation, the deal that allowed him to purchase and a final appeal on whether he can Steaua, claiming financial irregularities. use the Steaua name will be heard later Legal actions began in 2011, with the this year. In the meantime however, both army challenging the sale and use of the entities are getting on with their lives. Becali’s club changed their name to Steaua colours and badge, but those initial courtroom battles went under the radar. FC FCSB in March, which the Romanian When Becali was released from prison in Football Association signed off on. “They 2013 after being jailed for his involvement in just changed the name to make sure they’ll an illegal land swap deal with the army, the get the UEFA [competition] license for next legal battle was well and truly out in the open. season,” Roşu says. “FCSB stands for FC The Romanian courts ruled in December Steaua Bucharest. Becali chose FC FCSB so 2014 that Becali did not have the right to use the army can’t object to the name change.” Meanwhile, the army club (who have taken the Steaua crest and other symbols related to the club and it was forced to change its back the Steaua name) will be playing in traditional red and blue colours, as well as Romania’s fourth tier next season at the removing the Steaua badge from the player famous Ghencea stadium - the site of many kits, the bench and even the scoreboard. of Steaua’s European successes during the In protest at the decision, Becali 1980s. The club also retains the history of threatened to name the club after himself the original club, with the trophies being last year but relented acknowledging that it kept under lock and key at the Ghencea. The bitterness between the two would alienate the fanbase. But the effects of the name change were apparent. Attendance parties remains far from over and the collapsed and the atmosphere suffered, celebrated name of Steaua Bucharest with the hardcore ultras deciding to boycott could just simply vanish without a trace. Becali’s club, while others decided to support the old club, if not Becali himself. “The ultras stopped attending games, while others still don’t have a common front to fight,” Roşu says. “The atmosphere was damaged, Steaua’s fans used to help them a lot during games. Now they often have a very silent attendance and the numbers keep getting lower and lower. “Up to now, Becali’s team still Gigi Becali has been likened to Donald Trump in the past.


OUR WRITERS ASSESS THE MOST LIKELY TRANSFERS TO HAPPEN IN THE OFF SEAS Tiemoué Bakayoko AS Monaco ▶ Chelsea FC Chelsea are said to be leading the race for the £35m rated Frenchman, who along with his midfield partner Fabinho were instrumental in Monaco’s highly successful team last year. While most of the plaudits go to their more attacking players, Bakayoko is Monaco’s engine in midfield, giving the likes of Falcao and Silva free reign to attack.

Samu Castillejo Villarreal ▶ Napoli Steadily improving from season to season, Samu Castillejo is enjoying himself at Villarreal. The 21-year-old is catching the eye of many scouts with his speed and dribbling, causing defences many problems in La Liga. Pep Guardiola is a known admirer as well as Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.

Ivan Perišić Inter ▶ Manchester United

Jose Mourinho is reported to be looking to add Inter’s £35 rated Ivan Perišić to his attacking options at old Trafford. The Croatian perfectly fits the mould of a hard working wide player that Mourinho is so fond of. Perišić has been deadly when left one-on-one with defenders for Inter this season scoring 11 goals and assisting a further 8.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

AC Milan ▶ Real Madrid Any club who is considering their goalkeeper position will be interested in Donnarumma, simply put he is one of the best in Europe in his position. Despite being only 18-years-old, Donnarumma would command a fee of around £70 million. He has been touted as a possible replacement for David de Gea and Keylor Navas, who could leave their clubs this summer.


Nadiem Amiri

Ezequiel Barco

Hoffenheim ▶ Arsenal FC

Independiente ▶ AC Milan

With Mesut Özil’s future uncertain, Arsenal are said to be lining up Hoffenheim’s highly creative midfielder Nadiem Amiri. While Özil is known for his pinpoint passing, Amiri’s creativity comes from his slaloming runs. It wont be plain sailing for the Gunners, with Bundesliga duo RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach also showing an interest, as well as a £40m price tag.

It speaks volumes about Barco that people in his homeland country of Argentina have compared him to Argentina legend Robert Bochini, the childhood hero of Diego Maradona. Barco has seriously impressed this season with Benfica and AC Milan both interested in bringing him to Europe. However they may baulk at meeting the £20m asking price.


Antoine Griezmann

Nice ▶ Inter

Atlético Madrid ▶ Manchester United

Inter Milan are looking to sign the best leftback in Ligue 1. A classic attacking Brazilian full-back, Inter would be looking for hito form a dangerous partnership with Ivan Perisic on the flank. An agreement has already been made between the Brazilian player and Inter, and there’s only Nice left to okay the deal.

The suspected transfer saga of the summer. With Manchester United’s Swede star Zlatan Ibrahimovic possibly heading to LA Galaxy, the Red Devils have singled out the French international as the man to fire them to the Premier League title. This signing now looks more likely after United’s qualification to the Champions League.


Valencia ▶ AS Monaco French champions Monaco have set their sights on landing former Manchester United winger Nani. The 31-year-old is open to a move away from Valencia at the end of the season, after a tumultuous first campaign in La Liga. Monaco could well be lining him up as a replacement for his Portuguese compatriot Bernardo Silva who may well be on his way to either of the Manchester clubs.

Christian Pulisic

Dortmund ▶ Bayern Munich A just 18-years-old, Pulisic has been attracting interest from clubs across Europe after a string of impressive performances saw him contribute 8 goals in all competitions this year. Known for his dribbling ability, the versatile forwards style of play is reminiscent of Franck Ribery, who he could be playing alongside if Bayern’s history of raiding Dortmund is anything to go by.

Ander Herrera Manchester United ▶ Barcelona Ander Herrera has slowly become regarded as one the most determined and committed midfielders in the Premier League and has quickly established himself as a fan favourite amongst the Old Trafford faithful. Barcelona are supposedly interested however, and a move back to his home country could tempt Herrera. An asking price of around £45m is likely if he is to be allowed to leave.

Radja Nainggolan AS Roma ▶ Manchester United Nainggolan has been the engine in the AS Roma side for some years now, with his aggression and tenacity a key facet of his playing style. In need of some fire-power in midfield, United have been linked to the Belgian international, who scored 11 and assisted 5 in the Serie A this year, but a fee of around £50 million would be required to lure him away from the Stadio Olimpico.

SON, WHY THEY’RE LIKELY AND WHERE WE CAN EXPECT EACH PLAYER TO END UP Naby Keïta RB Leipzig ▶ Liverpool Naby Keïta has a reported £45m buyout clause although Leipzig will be hoping nobody matches it for the box to box midfielder. Keïta was the main thrust of the midfield for the side in the maiden season in top flight German football. Able to recover the ball and quickly change defence into attack Keïta’s impressive performances have alerted the likes of Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Chelsea.

Álvaro Morata Real Madrid ▶ AC Milan A late spurt of games featuring in Real Madrid’s 2nd 11 that was charged with securing the points to win only their second La Liga in seven seasons, it seems was not enough to convince Morata to stay at the Bernabéu. A proven goal scorer wherever he goes, AC Milan, fresh with a new Chinese chequebook have recently solidified their interest in the striker.

Bernd Leno

Bayer Leverkusen ▶ Napoli With Pepe Reina’s future unknown, Napoli are interest in signing the German shotstopper after he repeated his impressive performances of the last few seasons again this year. According to Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, there has been serious interest. However, if Real Madrid fail in their endeavours to sign David de Gea, Leno could be tempted by a move to the Spanish giants.

Sokratis Dortmund ▶ PSG A mainstay of Dortmund’s back line for the last few years, Sokratis is a no-nonsense defender who is hard in the tackle and a threat from set-pieces. Despite going close with Dortmund, he has never won the league title, which is the reason he is understood to be eyeing a move away from BVB this summer. A move to PSG or Bayern could beckon for around £25 million.

Kylian Mbappé AS Monaco ▶ Everyone The sensation of the season not many 18 year-olds have made a similar impact as Mbappé has this season for Monaco firing them to their first league title in 17 years. His parents want him to stay in Monaco unless crazy offer arrive, which they have. Mbappé and his parents have some thinking to do, as he is wanted by every top club in Europe.

Alexis Sánchez Arsenal ▶ Bayern Munich The frustrated Chilean looks set to leave the North London club after a disappointing season saw Arsenal miss out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 21 years. Bayern Munich currently looks favourites to sign Alexis as they are looking for replacements for the aging duo of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben.


Sandro Ramírez

Patrik Schick

Corentin Tolisso

Malaga ▶ Atlético Madrid

Sampdoria ▶ Juventus

After leaving Barcelona due to a lack of first team football, Sandro’s first season as a starter was a productive one. A striker who likes to drift out wide, 14 goals and 3 assists was his return as well as creating another 35 scoring chances. This is enough for Atlético Madrid to signal him out as a potential replacement for Antoine Griezmann if he joins United.

The 21-year-old Czech Republic international was a revelation for Sampdoria last season, scoring 11 goals in 18 appearances, with only starts. Both Milan clubs and Roma are said to be latest clubs interested. However, Juventus are said to be the favourites in the race, and could rely on Schick’s compatriot Pavel Nedvěd to smooth any negotiations.

The 22-year-old’s remarkable form for Lyon this season has attracted the interest of Arsenal and Inter Milan. However, Juventus are considered to be favourites for his signature. One of the brightest midfield prospects in the French league, Tolisso has decided to leave as to increase his chances of making it into the French national team.

William Carvalho

David de Gea

Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang

Sporting ▶ Newcastle United Once linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal, newly promoted Newcastle United are the newest name to be heavily linked with the Portuguese defensive midfielder. Rafael Benitez is said to have been handed a £100m war chest to turn Newcastle into an assured Premier League side and is said to be happy to part with £39m.

Manchester United ▶ Real Madrid This summer looks set to continue the endless transfer saga of David de Gea, who would have joined Real Madrid in 2015 were it not for a fax-machine failure. With Keylor Navas not having enjoyed as successful a season as last year, some Madrid fans are demanding an improvement between the sticks, and as a Spaniard himself, de Gea looks set to tick all he boxes.

Lyon ▶ Arsenal

Dortmund ▶ PSG Aubemayang is one of Europe’s most soughtafter strikers, and continued his fine form with another 42 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions. Aubemayang himself has made no secret of the fact he wants to play for Madrid, but with Benzema still firing on all cylinders, a move to PSG could materialise. Though a fee of around £70m is rumoured if the Gabon international is to leave.




Meet the teenage goalkeeper being hailed as the next Courtois Goalkeeping is in Mile Svilar’s blood. His dad, Ratko, was a Yugoslavia international and Antwerp legend who only retired from playing aged 46. “I always wanted to be a goalkeeper,” says Svilar Jr. “I have learned a lot from my father, almost everything.” Milestones have come thick and fast. A product of the Anderlecht youth system, Mile made his debut for the under-19s just three weeks after turning 15; he was handed a three-year contract upon turning 16. On the bench on several occasions last season both in the league and Europa League, it surely won’t be long before he makes his first-team bow. A regular for the Belgian national youth sides, Svilar kept five clean sheets in the under-17s’ run to the semi-final at the European Championship last year. “[He’s one of the best goalkeepers in Europe for his age,” says Belgium under-17 coach Thierry Siquet. “When Mile comes into the dressing room it’s reassuring for the other players.” Belgium’s gain is Serbia’s loss: Svilar qualifies for the latter through his father but turned down their advances to play for the Red Devils. Unsurprisingly, Svilar has already attracted the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs, and Anderlecht were relieved when he chose to remain with them last year amid interest from Schalke, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. His father has been a guiding light, encouraging him to remain with Anderlecht to develop under less pressure before moving abroad. He’s been dubbed ‘the new Thibaut Courtois’ by the Belgian media, though the title seems to be based on little more than the fact that he is expected to be the next world-class goalkeeper to emerge from Belgium. Not that Mile’s bothered: “I have no problem with that,” he’s said. “Just don’t call me the new Svilar!”


Despite the comparisons to Courtois, Svilar’s style more closely resembles Manuel Neuer, one of his self-confessed inspirations; he is good with his feet and capable of sweeping up behind his defenders. The Belgian also boasts great reflexes and calmness, and is gaining a reputation as a penalty-saving expert.


APerhaps his arrogance: in an interview with last year, Svilar claimed he already has all attribute needed to be a world-class keeper, concluding: “Now it’s only training that can make me better.”While over six foot, he’s not tall for a goalkeeper, although he still has time to grow.



Words by Joe Alborough


or one of the oldest football clubs in the Netherlands, success seems to have evaded Vitesse. Victory in the Dutch Cup last season allowed them to dust off the trophy cabinet but prior to that, two Eerste Divisie titles in the 1970s and 1980s were all they had to show for 125 years. Bankruptcy hit in the early 1980s but their luck changed when Karel Aalbers, a Dutch entrepreneur, took over the club in 1984. He injected money; enticing top players and managers to Arnhem, and built a new stadium that featured a retractable roof and retractable pitch. They finally seemed to be going in the right direction and some much-needed stability had been brought to the club. For a period of 11 years, the team didn’t finish lower than sixth in the league. Following fraud allegations, Aalbers left in in 2000. Vitesse was heavily in debt and had it not been for the council and some affluent supporters helping out, the club would have gone bankrupt again. From 2002 to 2010, the club’s best finish

was 7th and their worst was 16th. Arnhem fans would have been justified to start worrying again. Firstly, to the mysterious case of Merab Jordania. After retiring from playing professionally in 1992, he began his new life as a football executive. He became chairman of his former club, Dinamo Tbilisi, and aged just 38, was made president of the Georgian Football Federation (GFF).He was president of the GFF until 2005, and also served as the national team manager for a short spell in 2003. Bizarrely, in between running a football club and leading the Georgian Football Federation, he made himself a billionaire (strange even in today’s cash rich environment). After becoming the first foreign businessman to buy an Eredivisie club, the Dutch media were immediately interested and so started investigating. According to them, Jordania started a company in 2009 called Mj-Georgia, which basically acts as a middleman for

the transfer of players and organising friendly games for a number of teams. Strangely, the Georgian Chamber of Commerce officially consider it a ‘small enterprise’ and therefore, it is hard to see a way Eastern European middlemen are earning billions of anything. He was dismissed by the GFF after he was arrested for embezzling £700,000 and had also been arrested in 2003 for tax evasion. These facts only made things even more confusing for those on the outside looking in. Why would a billionaire risk his career for £700,000? The widely accepted view is that Jordania was simply a custodian for billionaire Alexander Chigirinsky, business partner and friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. For everything said about Jordania, the results speak for themselves and the club was clearly in stable footballing hands. In October 2013, Jordania transferred his shares to Chigirinsky. This announcement effectively confirmed the media’s theory: Jordania was just a front man for the Russian.


Priya Ramesh is a Dutch football writer for BeNeFoot and The Guardian among others. I asked her to explain what happened after this announcement. “In 2013, when Jordania left and Chigirinsky was formally announced as the new owner, the former gave some interviews where he basically insinuated that Chelsea had a lot of influence behind-the-scenes at Vitesse.” “UEFA rules state that no two clubs under the same ownership/ senior management could play in the same competition. This was particularly interesting in 2013-14 when for a period of time Vitesse seemed like title contenders and could potentially finish in a position that ensured European football. Interestingly, they tailed off and ended up not qualifying for Europe at all.” Both clubs operate within the set guidelines put there by the football bodies, or else some form of punishment would have been forced upon them by now but in what way has this partnership affected both parties? “I think initially there was a lot of aversion to the loanees coming in - dilution of identity and all that,” Priya continued. “Also, what I considered important a few years back, was the fact that the relationship was lopsided. If Chelsea loanees did well and were integral to the team, Vitesse were unlikely to be able to hold on to them and build their team around a core.” From the outside it does seem as though Chelsea has everyone at Vitesse on a puppet string, but how much influence do those involved really have? I decided to ask Albert Capellas, assistant manager to four former Vitesse managers between 2010 and 2014. “If pressure came from Chelsea to play any of the players we had taken on loan, I didn’t feel any of it. We would have meetings with Chelsea, they would keep track of their players and watch them.” If you look back, Albert’s point is reinforced by the facts. A few of the loanees in his time and more recently, like Wallace, played

If pressure came from Chelsea to play any of the players we had taken on loan, I didn’t feel any of it.

a handful of games at most. Famously, Sam Hutchinson appeared for exactly one-minute vs Ajax. When Lucas Piazon lost his form in the second half of 13/14, manager Peter Bosz did bench him, even though he had been on fire in the first half of the season. Last season, playing time was not a problem for the Chelsea loanees with Baker, Miazga, and Nathan more often than not finding a starting position. More than anything else, this was perhaps more to do with the fact that their ability gave them that right.



Vitesse players celebrate winning t he KNVB Cup.

Roman Abramovich is most recognisable as Chelsea’s owner in the UK. Chelsea Football Club has become a global empire in recent years under the stewardship of Roman Abramovich, Michael Emenalo, Bruce Buck, and recently, Marina Granovskaia. They have shown the ability resist and rise to the modern football’s challenges. In these days of financial fair play, the club has realised that significant investment into both scouting and youth development will harvest a return in quality players. Whether they make effective contributions at Stamford Bridge or are sold to raise funds, the effort to help these players reach their potential will be worthwhile. Selling these young players for net profit is becoming more of a trend in today’s game and has the potential to reduce wage bills and provide the manager with more money to spend on big name players. At Vitesse, Chelsea has the benefit of applying some control. This creates a distinctive setting where Chelsea’s loan players only assist in making a success of Vitesse. Is such a partnership a model that looks to be stable for the future and will others follow suit? I went back to Priya to ask for her opinion. “It’s hard to say. [Manchester] City have started sending a number of loanees to Dutch clubs too; they’ve initiated partnerships with FC Twente and NAC Breda and the likes of Enes Ünal and Bersant Celina have enjoyed relative success in their time here [the Netherlands]. I have no clue if dodgy stuff happens behind the scenes, but on the surface, clubs do seem to see some merits to sending loanees to the Netherlands.” The Chelsea affiliation gives Vitesse access to executives like Marina Granovskaia advising upstairs and young talent like Lewis Baker shining on the pitch. Without the intervention from Abramovich & Co., Vitesse would probably still be millions of pounds in debt and no longer in the Eredivisie. This is all just a story of how modern football works.


THE NEXT CROP Mukhtar Ali - Midfielder Age 19 Country England The youngest of the current crop, Ali is a speedy box-to-box midfielder with a knack for scoring impressive goals (check out his strike against Real Madrid in the Under-16 Premier League Tournament in 2013/14). Impressing at school-level, in 2015-16 he emerged as youth coach Adi Viveash’s favourite from a group of midfielders to be taken to Under-21 level permanently. After making only six(CORRECT AT TIME OF WRITING) appearances for Vitesse in his time at the club, Ali is still fairly raw in his potential. His playing style could be compared to that of Nathaniel Chalobah, but with the latter having to wait 2,190 days to make his Chelsea debut after being given a spot on the bench, Ali could be in with a similar wait.

Matt Miazga - Defender Age 21 Country USA The young American is a no-nonsense, ‘head and kick it’ centre-half but certainly has more to his game. Some fans questioned his transfer from New York Red Bulls in January 2016, citing Chelsea’s desire to increase their profile in the USA as one of the main reasons for signing him. After only two appearances for Chelsea’s first team, he was sent to Holland to improve his competitive game time. Despite being a fine reader of the game, Miazga will certainly have to overcome a number of obstacles in order to earn his chance in Antonio Conte’s side. The departure of John Terry leaves a gap in the squad for another centreback, but with the likes of Cahill, Zouma, Luiz, Azpilicueta, and even partial success story Nathan Ake providing the competition, it seems unlikely to me that Miazga will get the game time he needs at his age at Chelsea, and may spend this summer looking for a move elsewhere.

Nathan - Midfielder/Attacker Age 21 Country Brazil This young Brazilian has pace and natural ability that attracted interest from Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool. He is direct thinking, strong with both feet but primarily right-footed, and is seen more as a provider than a goalscorer. In recent years, Chelsea’s Brazilian contingent has been strong but only Willian, Kenedy, and David Luiz remain around the first team. Scoring twice in his second season at Vitesse, Nathan has had a fairly productive time at the club and looks to be showing the flair that first attracted the top clubs. He certainly has the potential to be a Premier League player but whether or not that is with Chelsea, is another matter.

Lewis Baker - Midfielder Age 22 Country England If you have followed any of Chelsea’s youth teams in the past, or make a habit of regularly watching England’s Under-20 or Under-21 squads, the name Lewis Baker should be a familiar one. Two-footed, technical, and the only one of the four to have made his Chelsea first team debut, Baker is an exciting prospect. In 2013/14 he was named Chelsea Young Player of the Year, and also won the club’s Goal of the Season. He impressed enough for the club to award him a new five-year contract in August 2014 and even made Jose Mourinho’s Premier League squad. Lewis Baker is the most successful Chelsea loanee out of everyone they have sent over. He fought hard and chose to come back again for a second season. What the future holds for Baker is up to him. He certainly has the talent to be a regular squad member for the Chelsea side but this would certainly depend on opportunity. He is consistently one of the best for the England U21s and one day, Baker will be a very talented Premier League footballer. “He did exactly what I personally expected of him last season - tied down a starting XI place in midfield and regularly influenced the game. He was arguably their best player in their KNVB Beker run: their first trophy in their 125-year history.” – Priya Ramesh


season is often marred when a legend of the game retires at its end. This summer we have lost three of football’s biggest icons; three of its most recognizable faces. Francesco Totti, Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso have graced the top level of European football for the best part of two decades, inspiring multiple generations of fans and young players. Three World Cup winners, three inspirational captains, three legends of the game. During scruffy games in the city’s streets as a little bambino, Totti imagined himself as a future Roma captain. He will never forget sitting among the substitutes aged 16 in a match at Brescia and hearing Roma manager Vujadin Boskov whisper to a coach, “It’s the kid’s time.” By 24 he had captained his city to a Scudetto, their first since 1983, and in 2006 he and Daniele de Rossi brought the World Cup back to Rome. Over the course of 25 seasons he became as irrevocably linked to the city as Romulus and Remus. Roma’s top scorer and most-capped player of all time, he inevitably drew the attention of other clubs, but he never understood people who said he should’ve moved on. “It’s a love for Roma and for football,” he once said. “I have married both. I was born a Roman and I’ll die a Roman.”The titles bestowed upon him piled up along with his medals: Il Capitano, the Gladiator, Er Pupone (Roman slang for ‘the Emperor’. “It’d take forever to remember them all,” he said. “But I’m Francesco – and there’s nothing nicer than being called by your first name, as you are by your family.” More than anything he wanted to be seen by the fans as one of their own. At his last game against Genoa in May they held his iconic no.10 shirt aloft and wept with him as he concluded: “I hope that I’ve made you proud.” He’d dreamt of emulating The Prince, Giuseppe Giannini, who he’d succeeded as Roma’s number 10. Francesco Totti became the King. Bayern Munich’s Mr Consistent, Lahmrevolutionised the role of the full-back in 12 years as the first name on the team-sheet. The most tactically gifted player of his generation and one of the most technically gifted too, the famously private man inspired those around him through his quiet dignity and breathtaking ability. When Bayern attempted to set up 19-year-old Lahm with a loan spell at Stuttgart, a sceptical Stuttgart manager, Felix Magath asked “Why do I want him?” “He looks like he’s 15 but plays as if he’s 30,” came the reply from Bayern.When Lahm retired from international duty after 113 caps, the German writer Uli Hess said Germany boss Joachim Low “had to make do without one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, one of the best left-backs in the world, one of the best right-backs in the world and his righthand man on the pitch… These four key figures are all called Philipp Lahm.” Xabi Alonso was the captain of Real Sociedad in his native Basque country by the age of 19. He’d been handed the role by a desperate John Toshack in January 2001 with Sociedad bottom of La Liga. They finished in mid-table. Mature beyond his years and a natural leader, Alonso was “the player his team-mates look for, the one who never hides, the manager’s coach on the pitch,” according to Spanish writer Guillem Balague. By the time he left for Liverpool in 2004 Sociedad fans had been referring to him as “Don Xabi” for two years.Alonso possessed an incredible range of passing. As former Liverpool icon Jan Molby observed, he had the ability to stop the ball and dictate play when everyone around him was playing at 100mph. He became a firm fans’ favourite at Anfield and then, as his career trajectory took him even higher, at Real Madrid and finally Bayern Munich. His ability was such that he was able to immediately improve a world-class team without disrupting its previous style. He was adored wherever he went and even where he didn’t, perhaps helped by his photogenic good looks (have you ever seen him in a suit?!)While Totti and Lahm’s loyalty to their cubs was unswerving, Alonso drew his pleasure from testing himself in different environments: “I came from my hometown team, to the best team in England, to the best team in Spain, to the best team in Germany,” he said recently. “I would say it is beautiful career. I wanted a nice football script.” It’s perhaps fitting then that he ended his career at FC Hollywood. As we say goodbye to these three icons, Eurofoot takes a look at what made each player so great, identifying three traits for each that shaped their career and will define their legacy.

786 appearances. 316 goals. 1 league title. 4 domestic cups. 1 World Cup.



ADIOS 815 appearances. 4 league titles. 2 Champions Leagues. 6 domestic cups. 1 World Cup.

765 appearances. 8 league titles. 1 Champions League 10 domestic cups. 1 World Cup.





aptain from the age of 24, Totti inspired those around him with his obvious passion for the club and city. Through the hundreds of shirts that hung alongside his in the Roma dressing room, his was the only peg that remained constant throughout the years. To new signings, he was Roma. Led by a man as desperate to play for the club as the fans would be themselves, it was impossible not to try your hardest and Totti dragged Roma to heights that would otherwise have been impossible. Although a man of few words in the dressing room, he didn’t need to talk to inspire and lead by example. “There is no secret to being a successful leader,” he said. “The most important thing is to understand the group, to be available to everyone and stay humble.” Though clearly Roma’s biggest star and the clear fans’ favourite, Totti’s humility was vital to ensuring he appeared approachable to his team-mates. It stemmed from Totti’s unassuming nature – his ‘plan B’ if he didn’t make it as a footballer was to become a petrol pump attendant – and his father’s habit of claiming Francesco’s brother, Riccardo, was the better player every time he thought Totti was getting too big for his boots. Though having to hand over the captaincy was undoubtedly painful, ll Capitano was relieved the baton was passed to Daniele de Rossi, another one-club man. “When the armband ended up on his arm, I felt it was in a safe place,” said Totti.

Though he will be remembered as one of the most skilful players in history, Totti’s standout trick was undoubtedly Er Cucchiaio (“the spoon”), where he would chip the ball over a diving goalkeeper. He became so renowned for the skill that he named his autobiography All about Totti: I’m gonna chip him now. Many of his lobs were scored when running through one-on-one; Totti would wait for the goalkeeper to commit before clipping it over his head. However, the technique was also used for penalties and even from distance when Er Pupone spotted the keeper even marginally off his line. Indeed, one of Totti’s most famous chips, and the origin of his autobiography title, is his penalty in the Euro 2000 semi-final against the Netherlands, the tournament’s co-hosts. As the game entered a tense shootout to decide which side would make the final, Totti stepped up to take Italy’s third penalty in front of a stadium dominated by Dutch fans, and nonchalantly chipped it past Edwin van der Sar. He had reportedly calmly informed his nerve-wracked team-mates of his intention before strolling up to the spot and executing his plan despite Paolo Maldini’s protestations. Nerves of steel.

Never especially blessed with pace, Totti instead used his impressive dribbling skills weave his way past defenders from his playmaker position. The number of defenders blocking his path to goal was never an issue; Totti would shift the ball to either foot to evade their tackles and use his strength to hold them off when they came back for more. Early in his career, Totti had been placed on a weights programme by Roma boss Zdenek Zeman. He lost some of his speed and agility as a result, but became much more resilient, able to resist knocks from defenders while continuing his charge towards goal. His dribbling skills were honed in the streets of Rome, dodging both his friends and obstacles in the road like bollards and traffic. His sublime ball control made him almost impossible to dispossess; mid-flow he was a joy to watch. “Totti is an artist of football,” Michel Platini once said. “A true number 10.” Against Inter Milan in 2005 he combined his dribbling prowess with Er Cucchiaio, running from his own half and shrugging off defender after defender before lobbing Júlio César from the edge of the box. Even the Inter fans applauded.


THE EMPEROR Icon: Totti holds his iconic no. 10 shirt aloft after his final game for Roma, as thousands do the same.

Cheese: Totti’s infamous selfie with the Roma fans in 2015 after scoring the equalizer in the derby against Lazio.

Young: Totti in action soon after breaking into the Roma first team.

Triumph: Totti finally gets his hands on the World Cup after Italy’s win over France in the 2006 final.






tanding at only 170cm (around 5ft 7) and not blessed with mercurial pace, it is fair to say that Lahm isn’t exactly a physical specimen. However what made him such an effective player on the field was his footballing brain. “Have you seen how well [Lahm] anticipates the next pass?” Guardiola is quoted as saying in Marti Perernau’s book Pep Confidential. “Have you seen how he turns and protects the ball? He can play on the wing or in the middle of the field.” “He understands the game,” said Guardiola. “Not all players do. Philipp can play in all positions. Football is a game where people move and you have to decide in one second what’s going on in your position, as well as all around the field. What he decides in that moment is right.” Lahm had a fantastic capability to read the game and spots almost every pass. Whether it was as a full-back or playing as a pivote Lahm always knew what the right decision was and when to make it.

Thanks to his high footballing intelligence what made Lahm such a great defender was his ability to read the game. Preferring to tackle only when the opposition player lost control of the ball and when he was absolutely sure that he could win it fairly. Lahm was more effective by taking up defensive positions and shepherding opposition attackers away from dangerous position and into more covered areas. Coupled with this, Lahm knew how to intelligently block passing lanes when he pressed the ball. Before he moved out to press the player on the ball he would look to make sure his shadow covers at least one opposition player and to provide proper cover at an angle which would cover the most dangerous passing lanes. His preferred style of defending more with his brain than with tough tackling is evidenced that in the past couple of season Lahm averaged more successful interceptions per game (2) then tackles made (1.23).

As a modern day full-back Lahm was more than capable of making it to the by-line and cutting back to oncoming forwards. Lahm has made 43 assists for Bayern during his career and his career high of 12 assists in the 2012/13 season saw him only trail his teammate Frank Ribery in the Bundesliga assists charts that season. As the conducting midfielder under Pep Guardiola, Lahm showcased a much wider variety of his passing ability. As the pivot, he played a huge role in Bayern’s transition phase, receiving the ball from center-backs before progressing the ball into the forward positions. Lahm was charged with the key dimension to Bayern’s attacking phases with penetrative passes through the lines, breaking the opposition’s defensive midfield lines. Lahm’s passing ability allowed him to provide vertical thrust and movement to initiate attacks for Pep’s Bayern. Whether it be perfectly weighted balls into feet or long floated diagonals Lahm had the ability to pull them off. There is one skill though that set Lahm apart from the masses, one that only a few midfielders have had the ability to pull off. That is “La Pausa”, made famous by players like Xavi, Busquets, Maradona and Lahm’s former manager Guardiola. It involves holding onto the ball for half a second longer than your average midfield distributor, to lull the opposition into a positional error feigning to pass one way before suddenly splitting the defenders through the middle with a single pass. It’s not just the ability to pass the ball, that’s just a tiny part of it. You have to be intelligent and make the right decisions. That’s what made Lahm such a good passer and why he was entrusted by Guardiola to be one of the primary organising midfielders in his Bayern side.


MR RELIABLE Success: Philipp finally gets to lift the trophy.

Rare: Lahm scores his first ever senior goal while on loan at VFB Stuttgart.

Beginning: Lahm makes his first Bundesliga start for Bayern against Arminia Bielefeld in a 2-1 win.

Leader: Lahm had the honour of becoming the fourth German captain to lift the World Cup.





complete, consistent, hardworking and versatile midfielder, Alonso is regarded as one of the best players of his generation, and was effective both creatively and defensively. Gifted with good technique, excellent vision, and varied passing range, he excelled in the deep-lying playmaking role, where he could best use his accurate long passing ability to create goal scoring chances for team-mates. Alonso was obsessed with positioning, movement and space. Surprisingly, he says he learned almost nothing new about how to pass the ball since he was an 18-year-old at Real Sociedad, in La Liga. A natural distributor, he was always able to hit any type of pass, from short tiki-taka touches to piercing through-balls on the counterattack to 40-yard diagonal Hollywood passes. Alonso—at Madrid—was part of one of the world’s best defensive midfield double pivots with Sami Khedira. His passing and accuracy was like few others’ in world football, and the manner in which Madrid dominate possession against their opponents means that Alonso was often heavily involved in their attack— regularly chalking up more than 100 completed passes per game. An expert at transitioning from defence to attack, Alonso was an integral part in Los Blancos’ counterattacking system with his brilliant long-passing ability. Few players in world football could hit a 60yard pass like Alonso can.

He was the quintessential engine room guy. Like Javi Martinez at Bayern Munich, Busquets at Barcelona. Only, he had a much more diverse skillset than these two, which is why he was one of the best defensive-minded midfielders in the world. Xabi Alonso was first name on the team sheet in his five years apiece at both Liverpool and Real Madrid. Why? His qualities: dependability, consistency, calm and controlled approach to the game: rarely did he ever seem hurried in possession. Before Alonso can deliver a pass, though, he had to receive the ball. And before he could receive the ball, he had to be aware of what’s surrounding him from a 360-degree perspective. The only way to do that is by constantly swivelling his head and employing his ­ peripheral vision to register players (teammates and ­opponents) and open space. Because Alonso touched the ball so often in any given possession, he could influence the tempo of his team’s passes, adjusting the metronome to a higher frequency to put pressure on the opposition, or to a lower frequency to settle the game down. The Spaniard was rarely rushed, hardly ever flustered and sparingly dispossessed. This cool and calm persona, unlike many technical and physical abilities, cannot be taught or forged; it is simply something that (very) few players are lucky enough to just have.


DON XABI Switch: Xabi’s time at Real Madrid saw him convert from an allaction midfielder into a deep-lying playmaker with great success.

Serial winner: Alonso picked up three Bundesliga titles in his time with Bayern Munich, including one in his final season - a fitting end to an illustrious career.

BALL STRIKING AND SETPIECES Alonso’s grandiose and elegance can be juxtaposed with his ability to strike a ball with accuracy and venom. The technique and skill of the Spanish legend never ceased to amaze those that were lucky enough to watch him up close. He was not known for his goal scoring abilities but was one of those that fitted the category of doesn’t score many, but when he does score it’s special. The midfielder’s first two goals for former club Liverpool against Newcastle and Luton Town, were both from over 50 yards out and 11 of his 14 Premier League goals for Liverpool were scored from outside the box. Further examples including his special strike for Bayern against Darmstadt 98 in the 40th minute of their German Cup tie, and his ninth minute strike on the opening day of the 2016/17 season against Werder Bremen. They are both worth a look at online. In addition to his long range goals, Alonso’s delivery from free-kicks and corners often led him to being given the set-piece responsibilities at all of his former clubs. In this day and age when corner taking seems to be a dying art, Alonso’s deliveries were always something for the neutral football fan to sit back and admire. Any young player wanting to improve their dead ball capability, take a look back at some of Xabi’s tapes.

Tackle: Xabi battles Edgar Davids during his early years at Real Sociedad.

Suave: Alonso’s popularity was partially down to his look. Not too shabby...

History: Lifting the Champions League in 2005 after scoring in Liverpool’s famous comeback vs AC Milan in Istanbul.



With Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm retiring this summer, and Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben also reaching the twilight of their careers, change is obviously on the cards for Bayern Munich in the near future. I spoke to ESPN Bayern Munich correspondent Mark Lovell about what changes we may see inside the club in the near future. Mark and I talked potential recruits, players that need to step up and Bayern’s domination in Europe.


Renato Sanches had huge hopes placed on him after his transfer from Benfica in the summer, but has largely ‘flopped’ says Mark. Alonso’s retirement means the Portuguese international must step up and perform next year before Ancelotti looks for other options.

Marco Verratti is arguably one of the most sought after midfielders in European football, having amassed 6 goals and 40 created chances last season, Verratti could potenially be in line to replace Alonso at Bayern, with Mark Lovell stating that Carlo Ancelotti is a ‘big admirer of him’.





Joshua Kimmich is expected to replace Lahm at right-back, but it remains to be seen whether he can reach the heights of his predecessor. With full-back Nélson Semedo and Bruno Peres supposedly available this summer, Kimmich is under pressure to perform.

Nélson Semedo is one of Benfica’s most recent protégé’s, with clubs such as Bayern and Manchester United apparently sniffing around he youngster. With Lahm having retired, it might make sense for Bayern to invest in a right-back to provide some competition for Joshua Kimmich, who is yet to nail down a starting spot under Ancelotti.


With Alexis Sanchez running down his contract at Arsenal this year, Mark thinks Sanchez could make the switch to Munich, and says Ancelotti ‘loves’ Sanchez’s style of play and attitude.

People had high hopes for Kingsley Coman after his fantastic breakthrough season on loan from Juventus in 2016. However, he has largely failed to recapture the form that made him so valuable to Bayern last year. If Douglas Costa continues to underperform, Ancelotti may be expecting more from Coman.


















aris FC are a club with a rich and complicated history, Founded in 1969 as an attempt to re-launch professional football in the City of Paris and with the aim to be playing in the French first division by 1970. In order to reach this goal they merged with one of the other local clubs situated in one of the suburbs near Paris – Stade Saint-Germain. Paris Saint-Germain was born. Known as Paris SG, rather than the current PSG, they had instant success winning Ligue 2 in their inaugural season celebrating their first birthday since the merger in the top league in France. A year later in 1972 Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain split after coming under pressure from the City’s mayor, who refused to support a non-Parisian club, the club had originally been situated in nearby Saint-Germain-en-Laye. As a result, a bitter split occurred and both Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain separated. Stade-Saint Germain kept the Paris

Saint-Germain moniker however the main agreement was that Paris FC had the right to keep the splitting entity’s first division and professional status, as well as all the professional players. Paris Saint-Germain were, on the other hand, administratively relegated to the third division and given all the former Paris SG’s amateur players. At the start of the 1972-73 season Paris Football Club became the first resident club of a brand new Parc des Princes stadium. After a difficult start Paris FC finished in an honourable 12th place. Unfortunately, the following season 1973/74, Paris FC could not avoid relegation. This coincided with Paris Saint-Germain’s rise to the topflight and they acquired the rights to Parc des Princes The balance of power hasn’t shifted since. After four years of playing in Division 2, Paris returned to the first division for the 1978–79 season. However, the season was a difficult one and resulted in the club falling back to Division 2 after one season. Paris FC have since yet to return to the top-flight

league of France. In 1983, Paris FC, merged with Racing Club de France. While Racing remained in the first division, Paris FC was administratively relegated to the fourth division. Due to having limited resources, Paris fell to the Division d’Honneur after one season and, subsequently, spent four seasons in the fifth division before returning to Division 4 in 1988. Another promotion the following season saw Paris earn a place in Division 3. PFC remained in the division for 12 years becoming inaugural members of the Championnat National in the process. In 2000, the club finished 17th and were relegated to the Championnat de France amateur. Paris spent six years in the league before returning to National in 2007. After a successful 2014–15 campaign, the club gained promotion to Ligue 2, the French second division, alongside its local rival Red Star F.C. However, it would stay in Ligue 2 for only one year and was relegated back to the Championnat National for this season, where they finished third.



Eurofoot spoke to Paris FC commentator Gabriel Aumont to give us the lowdown on Paris FC’s key players.

Demba Camara Pos: Striker

Parc de Princes Years 1972-1974 Capacity - 48,583

“ While Paris FC don’t have much strength in depth in the centreforward positions one of their k e y players is their striker Demba Camara. He is a pacey forward who likes to make runs into the channels, the 22 year old Guinean forward is the team’s top scorer in the league with 5 goals. He has a very tall frame and his his physical combination of size and speed make him the main attacking focal point of the team. He is also capable of linking well with the midfield when starting attacks as well as playing on the shoulder of the last man.”

Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi Pos: Centre-midfield “A deep lying playmaker who is pivotal while in possession for Paris. While his passing skills dont equate to too many assists most of the attacks go through him. He also has a fondness for long distance strikes.” Pierazzi has been praised on several occasions, for his interceptions and ball retention which is crucial to the club’s style of play. “As their lnk between defense and midfield, Pierazz is extremely important to the club.”

Stade Sébastien Charléty 1974-present Capacity - 20,000 Paris FC played their games in the biggest club stadium in France for over 45,000 people during the time they were merged with PSG and for their remaining two season they were in the French league top flight. Parc de Princes was built to provide the city of Paris with a modern venue for important rugby and football matches. The stadium replaced the old Vélodrome that had stood in its place since 1897. Designed by architect Roger Taillibert, was lauded for its avant garde design. Described in French as a ‘caisse de résonnance’ (‘box of sound’) due to its tight dimensions and the pressure-cooker atmosphere created by its home fans and the fact that no seat is more than 45 metres from the pitch, it is one of the continent’s most emblematic and historic venues. Its raw concrete exterior may not be as extraordinary today, in the era of multimedia stadiums. But the “razors” supporting the concrete shell remain an icon of the local skyline. Paris FC played their last game as hosts at the Parc de Princes at the end of the 1974


season when they were relegated from Ligue 1 and tenancy was taken over by their former partners PSG. Since their decline into the lower leagues Paris FC has been playing at the Stade Sébastien Charléty which although accompanies a running track holds an impressive 20,000 Parisians on match day, making it the second biggest stadium in the French third division, behind CS Sedans Ardennes’ Stade Louis Dugauguez which holds over 23,000. Paris Fc share the stadium with the Paris Saint Germain womens team. The stadium has also hosted many matches during various Rugby League World Cups. The stadium has an athletic track that hosted the 1994 and 2002 IAAF Grand Prix Final and the 2003 European Youth Summer Olympic Festival. There is an indoor sporting arena called Salle Pierre Charpy that is located under the stadium. The capacity of the arena is 1,850 people. It is currently the home arena of the French Pro A League professional volleyball team Paris Volley.

Jean-Jacques Pierre Pos: Centre-back “The 36-year old best days may be behind him, however the former Nantes, Caen and Angers man is still Paris FC’s most experienced centre-back. He is the organiser of the defence, he is the only defender at Paris FC that has experienced top flight football and that is why at the age of 36 he still has the trust of the manager.” 36 years is old for a professional footballer, but Pierre’s positioning is similar to how the likes of Rio Ferdinand managed to play into their later years - his knowledge of the game is hugely important and rarely gets caught out by defenders

Lalaïna Nomenjanahary Pos: Left-Wing, Left-Back “Paris’s most exciting player, Lalaïna is an extremely quick and nimble winger whose direct running is a real attribute to this Paris side. He used to star for a RC Lens side in Ligue 1 two years ago so it was a real coupe when Paris signed him on a free transfer at the start of this season.” We here at Eurofoot believe Nomenjanahary could be destined for a move elsewhere if his he continues his rich vain of form.


Words by Sam Koster




At Under-12’s level, Gianluigi Donnarumma’s Mother, Marinella, had to bring his birth certificate to games in order to verify his age. While his physicality has always been impressive, it is his advanced mentality that his coaches believe will see him go all the way.


t just the mere age of an A-level student, Gianluigi Donnarumma’s name is no mystery to most football fans across Europe. While other 18-year-olds sit in their bedrooms revising for exams, Donnarumma prepares for an altogether different type of test, a fierce, weekly scrutiny of his mental capability. For those that don’t know the Italian prodigy, it is unlikely to be long before you do; the Naples-born goalkeeper harbours ambitions to emulate his idol, Gianluigi Buffon, both domestically in Serie A and internationally for The Azzurri.Despite becoming the second ever-youngest Serie A player when he made his debut for AC Milan at just 16-years-old, you would be forgiven for thinking the Italian ‘bambino prodigio’ might be a tad rough round the edges at such a tender age. Yet this is not the case. While Donnarumma may actually only be 18-years-old, every aspect of his physicality is more akin to someone much older in years. Tim Dittner, an FA goalkeeping coach for England U21’s believes this is why Donnarumma is regarded as such a special talent. “His unique physical attributes such as his mobility, reach and power are second to none for someone of his age and really help him in his possession, which is equally good. “Given his large frame and feet, his ability to support, receive and execute the ball is very good, again, especially for his age.“He also seems to have developed a knack of keeping the ball out of the net - I’ve seen him make a number of excellent saves this year for Milan which appear to be unique to his own skillset and not locked into prescribed techniques.”It is Donnarumma’s mentality however, which exceeds all expectations. Under pressure, the 18-year-old displays a calmness that belies his age, while his unflappable persona on the ball only serves to fuel comparisons between himself and Buffon, who at 39, was playing for Italy before Donnarumma was even born. Confidence and calmness in equal measure. Tim echoes this view and argues his nerve is his stand-out feature: “His mental strength in particular is outstanding – to have the mental capacity to play under such pressure at that age is very, very special.“ Not every goalkeeper has that.” Donnarumma’s stats for the season suggest the player is indeed unique, with a hugely impressive record to boot already. Boasting 11 clean-sheets, an average claim success of 100 per cent and an impressive 3.6 average saves per game; the youngster’s numbers stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best in the world. Both David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois, who are a number of years Donnarumma’s senior and arguably the most coveted goalkeepers in the Premier League – stand at 99 per cent and 1.59 and 84 per cent and 1.54 in comparison. Even Buffon, guarded by one of the most experienced defensive units in European football in Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, only has


an average claim success of 91 per cent and the same number of clean sheets as his Italian protégé. It is not just current goalkeepers Donnarumma outshines though. When asked about the 18-year-old, legendary Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff simply stated, ‘Donnarumma? He is already better than me. ’Such lavish praise, you might think, could encourage complacency or arrogance. Not quite. AC Milan U19’s coach, Filippo Galli, who persuaded then AC Milan coach Siniša Mihajlović to give Donnarumma his debut in 2015, says he remains grounded.“He wants this more than anyone, Gianluigi found his own way to the first team squad and will work hard to stay there. “He has the strongest mentality that I have ever seen in my 13 years working with Milan .“All we did was play him ahead of the age group he was in to improve his abilities and [help him] deal with faster shots and generally faster games.“He is humble, hard working, and not affected by his mistakes. “He can become Italy’s number one.”It is not difficult to notice a pattern emerging here, those who know him will tell you Donnarumma’s mentality is nothing short of exemplary. Serie A expert and AC Milan correspondent David Amoyal agrees: “Just being able to replace Diego Lopez who had done well for Milan during the course of last season wasn’t easy, but he’s had some excellent matches against Juventus and other top teams in Serie A, as well as his full debut for Italy too. “Just this season his positioning has also really improved, in the past he had to rely on his agility to overcome the fact he wasn’t always in the right place. “It’s also very rare to see a keeper as tall as Donnarumma be so excellent at stopping low shots, he can get to the

Donnarumma hopes to emulate Gianluigi Buffon’s career domstically and internationally for Italy.


ITALIA Words by Sam Koster



ground so quickly. “But it is his mental ability which stands him above all else.”The pattern continues. David was quick to point out that, Wif Donnarumma is to reach the heights expected of him, there is room for improvement: “Having said this, his ball distribution needs work, and like any young keeper, he will make some embarrassing mistakes such as the one against Pescara earlier in the season. “It is how he deals with them that counts.” While the golden age of the early noughties might be over at Milan, where players such as Kaka and Cafu graced the San Siro, Rossoneri fans can rest assured that the goalkeeper’s shirt is in safe hands. For now, at least. Super agent Mino Raiola, who represents players such as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimović alongside Donnarumma, recently branded the potential takeover of AC Milan by Chinese investors as ‘embarrassing’, leaving the door ajar for a potential summer exit. Linked with clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid, Donnarumma would likely command a fee north of £70 million, perhaps higher, with Milan president Silvio Berlusconi insisting he would reject an offer of ‘even £80 million’, were one to be made. How much of this is lip service remains unclear, but at 18-years-old, the last thing the Italian international needs is constant speculation surrounding his future. For those who want to see Donnarumma switch jerseys, Paul Pogba’s performances for Manchester United this year should serve as a reminder of how hard it can be to adjust to a new culture, especially when such a high transfer fee is involved. David believes Donnarumma’s heart lies in Milan, but insists anything could happen: “The rumoured sale of Milan to Chinese investors will have a big impact on Donnarumma’s future. “A move to one of the Manchester clubs or to Real Madrid could happen, but staying where he is, if there’s an ambitious project, is Donnarumma’s priority.” Tim Dittmer agrees, and cites Buffon as a perfect example of why Donnarumma should stay put: “Given Buffon has played in Serie A all of his career, this would suggest it is the correct place for his development.“In the Premier League the game is quicker and more physical, and there is a better standard of opposition every week, which would make it hard for Donnarumma as we saw in David de Gea’s early games for Manchester United.“He also runs the risk of having a goalkeeping coach try and change his game too drastically. While fans of the aforementioned clubs may drool at the thought of Donnarumma’s


Dino Zoff was one of Italy’s most successful goalkeepers.

WORLD CLASS KEEPERS: WHY SO FEW? While Donnarumma is no doubt a special talent, his unique position of being the only real wonderkid-goalie in European football begs the question: what’s wrong? Let me clarify. When we think of ‘wonderkids’, the likes of Marcus Rashford, Kylian Mbappé, Rúben Neves, Luke Shaw, Kingsley Coman and Deli Alli, are names that spring to mind. Yet there are no goalkeepers in sight. In football, ‘the 12th man’ is a commonly referred to term, whether it’s a dodgy ref or an intimidating crowd. Though this seems strange considering the shortage of world class ‘11th men’ across Europe. Dean Neil, founder of the UK’s first ever goalkeeping academy, agrees, and believes this is part of a much bigger problem across Europe, where goalkeepers are ignored from their very first steps onto the training pitch. “If I ask you to name me a formation, you will say something like 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 back to me. Why is that not a 1-4-4-2 or a 1-4-3-3? “It is because the position is not valued in football. Goalkeepers are 100% ignored at grassroots level.“Even in the earliest years of grassroots football, anyone is shoved in goal, with priority completely focused on the outfield players.” A quick Google search suggests Dean is right. - The term ‘UK goalkeeping academy’ throws up around 240,000 results, while a search for ‘UK football academy’ returns over 16 million. While the number of outfield players compared to goalkeepers obviously means there must be more all-purpose academies, such a disparity suggests Dean has reason to be frustrated.““I was told when I was younger that because I was under six foot I would never make it as a professional ‘keeper, despite playing a good level of football before that. It’s nonsense, some of the best ‘keepers we’ve seen play the game are under six foot.”Dean isn’t wrong, icons such as Víctor Valdés and Iker Casillas stand at 5”10 and 5”11 respectively, illustrating how such a dismissive attitude can harm youngsters who dream of becoming professionals between the posts.“How many ‘keepers who are under six foot have we gone and told ‘you’re too small to succeed’?” We need to change our approach by stopping this robotic blueprint we have for goalkeepers and be a bit more commonsensical about it. “But if the coaches are not taught this how are they ever going to pass it on to the kids they coach? It’s just not going to happen.” I still go into parks and academies and coaches just aren’t getting it. “At the end of the day it’s about stopping this ignorance which pervades the modern game.”The fact Donnarumma will likely command a fee north of £70 million if he leaves Milan is in fact a microcosm of a much larger issue; a classic case of supply failing to meet demand, where an institutionalised ignorance towards ‘keepers from the very beginnings of their careers means clubs are now myopically focused on spending rather than selfsustaining. It seems football must indeed focus on the 11th man before thinking about the 12th. transfer, what the youngster needs now is stability; the journey of a young keeper is far from straightforward. Mr Dittmer said: “The main bit of advice I would give him would be to stay humble – understand why it is you are doing well and continue to be curious about what might make you better.” Donnarumma could still technically go back and play with the kids should he want to, but for now, his birth certificate must remain firmly in his Mother’s clutches, only then can he realistically dream of emulating his idol.





When third division Real Oviedo invited fans to buy shares in the club, they couldn’t have predicted how much the idea would take off. Dan Rawley met some of the 50,000 shareholders from around the world.


hese days, most football clubs across Europe are owned by a few shadowy billionaires who quietly pump money into their business interest. Real Oviedo, of the Spanish second tier, are a little different. They are owned by roughly 50,000 people from 125 countries around the world – enough to fill Oviedo’s 30,000-capacity Estadio Carlos Tartiere almost twice. Nestled in the fiercely proud Asturias region in the north of Spain, Oviedo spent most of the 20th century in La Liga before being relegated in 2001. It was the start of a rapid decline: by 2003 they found themselves in the fourth division, battling to stave off administration. By 2012, the club had been promoted back to the third tier but was still suffering serious financial problems. Staff were forced to work in the bathroom when the power in their offices was switched off, players threatened to strike over unpaid wages and a huge tax bill loomed, with their despised owner, Alberto González, missing in action. Oviedo officials made a very unorthodox decision, and called on fans to buy shares to keep the club afloat. Former players Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata and Michu, by then all Premier League stars, were among the first to do so, each buying significant amounts of shares. Sid Lowe, the Guardian’s Madrid-based football writer and an Oviedo fan, was instrumental in spreading the message to football fans worldwide


and Oviedo’s plight soon went viral, as are now the majority shareholders, owning thousands of sympathetic fans pitched in. a combined 41% of the club to Slim’s 32%. “The fact it was driven by social Their financial crises may now be well media meant I could make a difference behind them, but the club expects the by spreading the message,” says Lowe. numbers to rise still further: “We’re currently “There’s a lot of gratitude and everyone’s having a new capital increase where people very nice to me when I go to Oviedo but can buy shares until September, so the it makes me uncomfortable that I get so number of shareholders will increase again,” much credit– there’s lots of people who Oviedo spokesman Miguel Sanz tells us. The club’s first international Supporters’ worked very hard and put their necks on the line to save the club that deserve the Day, held in 2013, was attended by 150 recognition.” However, that hasn’t stopped Oviedistas from around the world, and the Oviedo fans’ adulation: in May they started numbers have swelled each year since. a petition to give him the keys to the city. With foreign shareholders offered free The club faced a deadline of 17 November tickets to league games, many have flocked 2012 to raise enough money to survive. As to Asturias to support the club they now the day of reckoning loomed larger, it looked part-own. You can become a shareholder, like they’d make it – but then Carlos Slim, or accionista by buying one share for €30 the world’s second Oviedo have more owners than could fit in their 30,000-capacity richest man, suddenly stadium, the Carlos Tartiere. invested $2.5m, putting to bed any lingering fears about Oviedo’s survival and rendering any further new shareholders irrelevant. Not that has stopped tens of thousands more, keen to join the feel good factor, becoming involved since. Indeed, fans





(£25), and buying four entitles you to attend the club’s AGM. “It’s not an especially remarkable club, but I think a combination of factors made lots of people buy shares,” says Lowe. “Firstly, the share price was pretty low, so it wasn’t going to bankrupt anyone. Secondly, Oviedo only needed €2.9m to survive; it was a realistic target and it meant people could make a real difference with very little money. “And thirdly, the fact that they’d produced players like Mata, Cazorla and Michu – who were probably in the top 10 players in the Premier League at the time – made them much more tangible to fans in other countries – otherwise they would have been just a random club in the Spanish third division.” Oviedo were promoted back to the second division in 2015 and, now managed by legendary former Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro and with ExSwansea city striker Michu back leading their attack, are well-placed to launch a bid for promotion to La Liga after falling just short of the play-offs last season. Eurofoot met some of the many shareholders dotted around the globe, including the Portuguese toddler who became a shareholder at six months old and the American school principal who got an Oviedo tattoo for a bet, to find out why they got involved.

Fans’ favourite Michu is back at his boyhood club Oviedo after spells in England and Italy.

Oviedo aren’t the only club owned by the fans... SD Eibar

Oviedo’s compatriots are also owned by the fans, on a smaller (but still international) scale - they have more than 11,000 shareholders in 65 countries. Threatened with relegation to the third division in 2014, the Basque club launched a campaign called “Defend Eibar” and sold all its shares to fans. They’re now flourishing: the tiny side - their ground holds just 7,000 - finished tenth in La Liga last season.

TC Freisenbruch

Ninth-division German outfit TC Freisenbruch are owned by the fans in a very different way. For just five euros per month, supporters can have a say in the starting lineup, ticket prices and even the season’s budget. Freisenbruch currently have 384 online co-managers. Their real-life coach, who gets no say in team selection, resigned in March, unsurprisingly.

Austria Salzburg

Oviedo’s promotion back to the second division in 2015 was celebrated all over the world due to their network of shareholders. Here, fans in Oviedo celebrate under a banner saying “We’re back”.

Salzburg were born when fans rebelled after their team was renamed after Red Bull in 2005 and the club colours changed Starting in the seventh tier (and playing in Salzburg’s original purple and white) Salzburg quickly rose to the third tier, where they’ve remained since. While they don’t l o o k like adding to the original Salzburg’s three Bundesliga titles or UEFA Cup forays any time soon, often being cheered on by thousands at tiny grounds across Austria.

Hajduk Split After a failed attempt to buy-out unpopular directors in 2009, fans successfully took over the club two years later under the slogan, “Naš Hajduk” (‘our Hajduk’). One of Croatia’s biggest clubs, Hajduk have more than 40,000 shareholders and 50 fan clubs, mostly across Croatia and Germany.






Haoyu Yang Anhui Province, China Age: 21 Occupation: College student I had heard of Oviedo long before 2012 from a football magazine, I knew it was a great club with a long and glorious history and that they had been the starting club for some great players. In 2015 I came across Oviedo’s been the starting club for some great players. In 2015 I came across Oviedo’s been the starting club for some great players. In 2015 I came across Oviedo’s them and

Nir Lavie Tel-Aviv, Israel Age: 26 Occupation: Psychology student I think every football fan dreams of owning a team. For me, nostalgia played a huge part in buying shares. I read an article about their financial crisis on an Israeli website and I remembered Oviedo from my childhood – I used to watch the Spanish league when they were in the top division. I bought two shares thought I was the only Oviedo shareholder in Israel. But in 2015 the club released more shares and I bought two more and convinced my father, brother and two of my friends to buy shares as well – so now I know I’m not the only one! At first my friends and family laughed at me and called me crazy, Diogo Geraldes Lisbon, Portugal Age: 32 Occupation: Medical implant designer My wife is from Oviedo, so I knew about the club’s great history and financial trouble. She took me to a match for the first time in 2013 and I was amazed at the amount of people there for a third division game. Since then I’ve been hooked – I try to go every time we visit Oviedo. When I heard they were issuing more shares in 2015, the decision to help the club was a no-brainer. I have three shares – one for myself, one for my wife, and one for my 2-year-old daughter (she was six months old when I Sid Lowe Madrid, Spain Age: 40 Occupation: Football writer Oviedo are the team I’ve supported since I moved to Spain – I’d backpacked there in 1996 on my year abroad, which shows my age. I was there for

Tony Ayoub Dunedin, New Zealand Age: 27 Occupation: Disability assessor Being involved in all aspects of football is my passion. After reading about Oviedo and their worldwide following in 2015, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved and bought


became an Oviedo fan.Now I am a member of the Real Oviedo Chinese Fans’ Association sent a delegation to Shanghai to have a meeting with Chinese shareholders, where they presented us with our shares certificates. It was a moment I’ll never forget. I’ve watched some Oviedo matches online, but I haven’t had the chance to go to a game yet. I’m also the founder and chairman of the Official Middlesborough China Supporters’ Club – the spirit of Boro moved me and cheered me up when I was in at a low point in life. Boro or Oviedo? It’s a hard question to answer, but Boro are my favourite team for now. but now they think it’s awesome. They kept asking me how the team was doing, sarcastically at first, but after Oviedo were promoted back to the Segunda División it became real all of a sudden. I’ve only been to one game so far – against Real Sociedad in the Copa Del Rey in 2014 – but already I can’t tell which is my favourite team between Maccabi Haifa and Oviedo…I guess I’ll only find out if they ever play each other! I wore an Oviedo shirt when I went to the Euro 2016 final in Paris, and a few people recognized it and started chanting Oviedo songs. Then when I was in the stadium gift shop the person next to me in the queue was another Oviedo shareholder! I think there’s a bond between all our shareholders and fans, no matter where they’re from.

bought them) (see picture left). It gives me a sense of pride to be involved in a club that means more than just money – it’s a breath of fresh air in today’s hyper-commercialised football world. I watched the 2015 play-off games against Cádiz, when we were promoted back to the second division, in London with about 50 people from around the world. We were all gathered in this bar, intensively living the rollercoaster of emotions - my wife was so nervous she had to leave! My heart belongs to Benfica but it is increasingly being overtaken by Real Oviedo. It’s an honour to be a part of such a wonderful and beautiful sporting story. I can’t wait to watch a match against Sporting Gijón, our bitter rivals – or maybe even a Champions League qualifier in the future. a media event in 2012 and one of the board members mentioned the idea of selling shares to raise money – I said I’d help any way I could. I would guess I have about 40 shares – but only ten are in my name! I bought them for everyone in my family, the group of English lads I was with in Oviedo in 1996…pretty much everyone I know really.

11 shares because of the NZ dollar to Euro exchange rate. What football fan wouldn’t want to have a connection with a team halfway around the world? I’m hoping to convince my fiancé to add an Oviedo game to our honeymoon next year – until then I’ll have to stick to watching them online. One of the amazing things about football is that it captures the hearts of people all around the world, and the Oviedo story is a perfect example of that.





Sherrilynn Rawson Oregon City, Oregon Age: 53 Occupation: School Principal It began more or less by chance – a student from Oviedo called Alberto posted on a Timbers fans’ forum; we got talking and swapped information about our teams (see picture right). I told him about Portland and he taught me about General Franco, Oviedo’s legendary forwards of the 1930s, and their fight to avoid extinction. I found a lot to love about the team and the town, and a lot that felt familiar. Oviedo has a fierce, independent spirit. I started to watch lagging streams of their matches when I could and listened to Asturian radio commentary of matches when I couldn’t find a stream. Then Oviedo asked supporters to buy shares in 2012. Since Real Oviedo was my second club, I knew how much their existence meant to the town and how much they’d already fought to survive. Of course I was going to buy Jonathan Hawkins Atlanta, Georgia, USA Age: 44 Occupation: Journalist, CNN Like a lot of people, I heard about it via Sid Lowe. It had a bit of romance about it. As a Nottingham Forest fan, I’m a sucker for a club that has fallen on hard times. I love Spain and it was a corner of the country I knew relatively little about. The idea of any football club going to the wall is always sad, so I also wanted to play a part, however small, in helping to save it. I bought four shares as it was the minimum amount to get me into shareholders’ meetings, but I haven’t been able to attend one yet. My wife’s initial concern was that I might have spent a lot of money on it,

but once she realised it was a small amount she thought it was quite cool. I have the shareholder certificate in a frame, and obviously I follow the broader story of the club far more than I would have done, but that’s about it. I certainly didn’t expect to make any money from it - it’s more about the feeling of being part of something. I watch games online where I can, but it’s sporadic – I watched the playoff run when they were promoted from the third tier very closely, though. One day I’ll make it to a game.

Abdulrahman Bangura Freetown, Sierra Leone Age: 38 Occupation: Charity worker I heard about Real Oviedo through my friends from Asturies por África [a charity in Asturias that works in Africa], who I now work for.. They told me about its financial crises and in order to help rescue the club I decided to buy a share because they’d explained Oviedo’s great history. I only have one share because I don’t have too much money. I don’t know of any other shareholders in Sierra Leone. At first my friends did not believe me – they thought it was impossible

for an African to be a shareholder of football club in Europe. But when I explained how it works everyone was happy and impressed. I was lucky enough to go to Oviedo for a week through the charity in 2016 and meet the players and Fernando Hierro. Unfortunately they were playing the day I left, but I plan to watch a match in the future.

Ignacio Franganillo Teresina, Brazil Age: 35 Occupation: Business consultant I’m originally from Oviedo, so I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen them playing Real Madrid at the Bernabéu and at stadiums in the third division that only hold 1,500. But the league they’re in doesn’t matter - I’ll always support them. There are four shareholders in my city, Teresina, and I know there are others across Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, Rubén Bernardo Panama City, Panama Age: 35 Occupation: Businessman There’s a big Spanish community in Panama – more and more Spanish people are moving here because of their economic problems. A lot of new young people arrived and many of them supported Oviedo, so we all knew


shares—I bought nine, and my three kids got one each— but I wanted to do more to help save the team that I had grown to love. I decided to throw out a challenge among the Timbers Army: if they bought at least 100 total shares, I would get a tattoo of Real Oviedo’s crest. To my surprise, the challenge was quickly accepted, and met. By the end of the two-week campaign, 176 Timbers fans had purchased 478 shares in Oviedo. It was a surreal couple of weeks as I got to tell the storyl on Spanish TV and in newspapers in Spain and the US. I was overwhelmed by the interest and support from so many people, both here in Portland and places as farflung as Texas, Minnesota, Florida and the UK. Oh, and that tatt turned out pretty sweet, too (see left picture).


Sao Paulo and Ceará. I haven’t been to any shareholder meetings, but when I go back to Spain I always try and watch a game. I don’t know why Oviedo’s shares venture took off so much. Other teams have tried to do the same without success; I think we just had the help of the right people at the right moment.

about the problem and they encouraged us to buy shares. There are 20 members of the Real Oviedo Panamá fans’ club, and ten of us are shareholders. Our members are from all over North and South America originally: of course Panama but also Costa Rica, Honduras, Brazil and Nicaragua. The president of our fans’ club visited Oviedo last year, but we’d like to all go on a big trip when they reach La Liga!




Albert Capellas

Age: 49 Role: Assistant Manager, Maccabi Tel-Aviv


urofoot had the opportunity to sit down and talk with footballing coach Albert Capellas. Albert is a highly experienced and well-travelled coach, working in Spain, Belgium, Denmark, and Israel. He spent a large part of his career at the world famous La Masia academy in Barcelona, working in an elite environment producing world-class players. Albert talked topics such as the philosophy that he learned in Barcelona, the importance of the development of players from young ages through to professional, as well as the importance of having a footballing ‘stamp’. How did you get into coaching? “When I was 19, 20, 21, I was going to university in Barcelona and I was living five minutes from the Camp Nou. Every morning I would go and watch Johan Cruyff’s training sessions and as Johan’s sessions were mainly an hour long - 10-11 – he completely focused on quality over quantity. I would be able to then hop on my motorbike and head to my university classes afterwards. Those training sessions were like my university before university. After that, I developed some of my own ideas at CF Gava where we had success getting promoted to Segunda B, the equivalent of League One in England. After nine years at Gava, I was disappointed that Barcelona had not called, so I made a decision to change my life. Yet one week later, I received a call from the then physio of Barcelona B who asked if I wanted to become a coach for them. How do you scout a new talent? When we were scouting players to join the academy we would put them in one drill to see if they had what it takes to play for Barcelona. Four on four with three jokers. The main man would be in an attacking role. We would see how he touches the ball, opens his body, creates triangles, the way he passes the ball. Then we have four or five coaches watching from the sideline. You could tell straight away if they had the technical ability and the fast thinking to join La Masia. Albert on...the pass and stay philosophy: In football, all the trainers say when they are teaching exercises and teaching a possession game is pass the ball and move. However, at Barcelona we say the opposite. We say pass the ball and stay, pass the ball and find the line pass. Only move two metres in each direction to open yourself up for the pass. This way, you don’t expend too much energy running. With pass and stay, the team is already set up in the case of losing the ball. You don’t have to run 50 metres forward then 50 metres back. You are already in place to regain possession. If you pass and move and suddenly lose possession, the players may not be in position to recover the ball. Then, you


are susceptible to a counter attack. Every player has to play in their position, occupy all the positions and when you lose the ball, try and win the ball in five to six seconds. If you win the ball back, take three, four, five simple passes to keep possession then go wide and deep as quickly as possible. That is the basis of positional play. Albert on...having a footballing stamp What I like with Barcelona, Ajax, Chelsea, and even now Manchester City is that they have a plan. I would not say it is wrong, clubs just have a different way of thinking. If were technical director, the first thing I would look for is a technical and intelligent player. Once you get to the age of 17/18 the physical side evens out and the technical player will have an edge. Why did you choose Maccabi Tel-Aviv? I received a call from Jordi Cruyff and he asked if I wanted to join him in Tel Aviv. When Jordi called, I couldn’t say no as I had learnt everything I knew from his father, so it was a difficult opportunity to turn down. I also spoke to Peter Bosz and Oscar Garcia, who I know well and have worked with, what it was like and they both gave glowing recommendations. What does the future hold for you? One of my main passions is coaching coaches. I enjoy giving seminars and lectures to help spread my knowledge of the game and that is why I am setting up my website I’m not saying it’s the truth, but it is what I have learned from my experience in the game so far. I enjoy working with big teams. Maccabi TelAviv, Barcelona, these are big teams. If an offer in the future came from the Premier League, Bundesliga or La Liga to become a head coach, then of course this is something I would consider.

Capellas with Maccabi Tel-Aviv sporting director Jordi Cruyff.




Schattorie’s managerial career has taken him around the world, from Ghana to India and the Middle East.

Judah Davies

Eelco Schattorie

What does your role entail - what are your main responsibilities? “My role entails watching a full game of an upcoming opponent and writing a report in our specified format giving details on the team’s overall tactical approach as well as player-specific information.”

Why do you enjoy management? “I enjoy it so much because there is no formula in football that guarantees you success. The variables are so big that trying to manage this insecurity is a fantastic challenge. Besides that, it’s fantastic to work with people to motivate and inspire them to find their ultimate limits.”

Age: 19 Role: Opposition scout, Huddersfield Town

Why is it important for a club to employ a proper opposition scout as opposed to just watching footage that already exists online? “It’s about who the club trust to give them this specific information. Of course, ideally the head coach and his assistant would just watch all the opponents themselves and come up with their game plan. But because of time they can’t always watch enough to come up with the conclusions, so they need trusted analysts and scouts to do most of that work for them. Also club’s have their own specific match footage including better angles to view the whole match.” What type of information do you give to the manager about the teams you watch? Playing styles? Certain players? “So we have a set number of questions relating to strategy, including things like formation, height of pressing, approach in both defensive and offensive transition, and of course approach with the ball (long balls, short passing) and final third (early crosses, combinations & through balls). Then we give separate specific information on set-pieces, player comments, etc, as well as suggestions for how to play against it.” Does the role involve traditional types of scouting like looking at the strengths of players or is it simply just tactical? In my case I have simply been tasked with looking purely at the tactics, although I am sure there are some who are asked to do both. With each team an opposition scout would be asked to look at different things , I can only talk from my own personal experience though.

Age: 45 Role: Manager, Al-Ettifaq (Saudi Arabia)

I notice you have managed/coached all over the world. Where has been your favourite place to work and why? “I have no favourite place for coaching, but my most fulfilling experience was in Africa. I worked in Ghana and was head coach of the first team of Red Bull Salzburg, who had an academy in Ghana. Working with players who come from poverty and very poor backgrounds, have a completely different mindset than for instance Dutch people. The drive and sincerity of wanting to succeed is so pure that it is a joy you will never forget. Also, the progress that these players made because of this commitment was so fulfilling for a coach because you see right away the individual results in a very short time.” How hard was it to obtain the UEFA Pro Licence, and how important is it for coaches to obtain this qualification? “I applied three times to get admitted into the course for the license. In the Netherlands, to be admitted is not an easy thing at all. Its for sure in the top three best courses in the world. The course takes a whole year. If you want to succeed at being a professional coach, this license of course is a must to obtain. Without it, you will be limited to a limited level.” Have your Dutch roots influenced your style in any way? “Being Dutch means: adventures, open-mindedness, cultural diversity, being straight-forward, creative and thinking you know it all. All these characteristics fit into my football philosophy. I am a big fan of Johan Cruyff, who’s the only player that was top of the world, a top coach, and an innovator in football. His style and way of thinking is a big part of my philosophy and I use it as a guide. Of course, I have my own preferences and beliefs. The best way to describe my vision is: “Being invincible lies in the defence, victory in the attack.”” What are your ambitions for the future? “My ambitions are simple. Find my own ultimate limit and be at the top of Europe. Is it realistic? I am sure I have the coaching qualities to make it to the top.”

Judah carrying his duties of surveying the opposition.





Eurofoot’s Joe Alborough explains his own discovery of a new way of understanding the beautiful game


ootball stats are a burgeoning field, and literally every day there are new ideas worth reading about. New measures are developed on a regular basis, many of which I wouldn’t have time to mention in this article. The one thing you can be sure of with football stats is that there’ll always be something more to learn. The first time I came across the phrase “expected goals” was in 2015. A day spent on social media wasn’t wasted as I stumbled across a site called Statsbomb. Articles were highlighting expected goals and expected goal difference ratios. Expected what? It seems I had come across a new type of football analysis. It was one created in public, often by the public, and one that seems likely to transform the way people watch and talk about the game. I was certainly not the first to discover it, evident by the already thriving digital community – but at the same time, I had never heard it mentioned in any pub, football commentary or match report, or even among my well-versed and knowledgeable friends. As someone who has a tendency to get hooked to any type of new way to engage in football to a deeper level, from Football Manager to Fantasy Premier League, I was slightly wary but compelled to keep looking. If you’ve read this far you may already have an interest in stats but for those of you who are as clueless as I was first time round, I asked one of the men responsible for this statistical rise, Michael Caley, to explain what it all means in layman’s terms: “The idea of expected goals (xG) is to quantify the likelihood of a goal being scored from a particular shot attempt (or other scoring chance). This is an idea that I think is quite intuitive. ‘We need to create better scoring chances’ is something managers have said


forever, and xG is basically just a quantification of that notion.” Caley, who gained a doctorate from Harvard, started fiddling in football data while he was a student. Now he writes about it full-time, his motto: “Bringing baseball stat nerdiness to football.” Like many of his fellow analystenthusiasts, Caley collates masses of football data to establish how likely any given chance might be to end up in a goal. It starts with the position of a chance – one shot in six inside the six-yard box might go in, for example – but it hardly ends there. Caley described the variables that inform his own xG model. “Right now my model evaluates shot attempts across a variety of axes: where was the shot attempted from? What sort of pass assisted the shot? With what body part was the shot taken? Did the attacker dribble past his defender before trying the shot? How fast was the attacking move that led to the shot? Was the shot off a rebound or from a set play? All of these factors clearly influence the likelihood of scoring a goal. By aggregating this information into a model, I can estimate the likelihood of scoring different shooting chances in a match or over a season.” Quantitative statistical analysis is here to stay. Over the past decade we have become used to the analysis of football becoming ever more in-depth: from the revolutions around nutrition and fitness within the game to magazines like this one writing about it. This analysis is another leap altogether, however, and there is some question as to whether the football world is ready for an approach that basically says “I value your opinion, but these are the facts”. The creation of expected goals most likely lies with Opta, the data company that has been analysing football matches since 2001,

recording all the information that for years has appeared in the small statistical summaries on TV and in the papers. According to Caley, it was two of the company’s analysts, Sam Green and Devin Pleuler, who first began modelling xG in the late noughties. There are obvious advantages for professional clubs in getting analytics right, such are the tight margins of competition and the potential financial rewards. There is certainly the potential of people starting to watch football differently, and it is likely to bring a new kind of fan to the game. The data overlaps with people like myself who enjoy a game of Football Manager. It’s exactly the same thing, you take information about players and you evaluate them. However, for all that they show us, we have to remember the figures don’t have all the answers. The story of Leicester City was a case in point: the stats kept saying that Leicester would fade. If you took a snapshot at the midway point in the season the numbers and performances of the sides would point you towards Spurs winning the title. Stats are an aid, sometimes an excellent aid, to understanding. They can tell you what to look for. But you still have to look, and you have to spot the things that stats can’t reach. They can tell you about events that have happened, but don’t mean anything without context. And that cliché about the table never lying? Perhaps it just doesn’t tell the truth. Virtually every xG model said that Arsenal missed a huge opportunity in Leicester’s title winning season and should have been top. Play that same season again an infinite number of times and most models would have them between fourth and eighth. Variance and luck, then, remain quite important over a 38-game period.



Lothar Matthäus has had an incredible career in European football. With 26 major honours to his name, the now 56-year-old is the most capped German player of all time. Winning the Ballon d’Or in 1990 and the World Cup in the same year, the Erlangen-born midfielder is comparable to some of the best to have ever played the game. Once labelled as Maradona’s best opponent by the man himself, we caught up with Lothar for an exclusive interview, chatting to him about his incredible career, playing style, ups and downs, plans for the future and managerial style. An insight into the hugely successful career of ‘Der Panzer’ - the tank.




he history of any major European player is always something to behold. Watching them play and produce moments of magic is always fascinating. Speaking to one of Europe’s best however, is something else entirely. Eurofoot got the chance to speak exclusively to Lothar Matthäus about his career and achievements, of which there are many. “From when I first joined, winning was drilled into my DNA by Bayern Munich. From top to bottom in the club I was coached and taught how to win," he says. And win they did. Lothar has collected 26 major honours during his club and international career and cites his coaches and determined mentality of his Bayern teammates as key to his success: “The whole atmosphere and training sessions at the club meant there was always a competitive edge to whatever we did as a team or individuals. "The majority of training sessions or drills were ones we all wanted to win. As a player no one enjoys losing and being the best team in Germany meant that we were used to winning and had that mentality drilled into us as a team.” One of the many special things about was his ability to tailor his playing style to his opponent - something which had to happen when he moved from Bayern to Internazionale in 1988. “The biggest change was how tactically disciplined Italian teams were defensively. The tactical change in defence especially under Trapattoni meant that I went from playing in an attacking Bayern Munich side to defensive Italian football. "You can compare this now with Juventus and how defensively disciplined they are and also with [Antonio] Conte at Chelsea who adopts a similar style. Tactics are the key in Italian football and this


is what we focused on the most.” Such a meticulous focus on tactics obviously paid dividends, as Lothar went on to win the Serie A, Supercoppa Italia and UEFA Cup during his stay at the San Siro. Despite being a hugely successful individual however, Matthäus was not always on the winning side, and famously lost out on the Champions League after two David Beckham corners gifted Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær two dramatic late goals at the Camp Nou in 1999. That was the year the young Manchester United side won the treble, meaning momentum was arguably on their side, however that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking for Lothar, who cites it as one of his most disappointing moments. “It was deeply disappointing as we were winning the game from the 6th minute until the 91st minute," he said. "However as a player, in the morning you have to get up, and move on from a loss and work to become better. There was no change to my mentality, losing a game is part of sport and the best players always bounce back from defeat.” Lothar did just that, and in true ‘Der Panzer’ fashion, dusted himself down and went on to be included in the FIFA XI in 2001, cementing his place as one of the all time greats. “I think my passion for the game, hard-working mentality and persistence and perfectionism were what really helped me as a professional footballer. I always strived to be the best," Matthäus said. It certainly did; even Diego Maradona labelled Matthäus as the best player he had ever faced, something which Lothar reciprocates. “Mine was probably Maradona as well, I always enjoyed my battles with him. He was such a technically fantastic player and always played with flair and passion.” Looking more currently, we asked

Lothar what player still playing reminds him of his own style. “I think I would compare myself to Arturo Vidal at the moment, apart from his red cards and discipline issues. He is a very strong and powerful midfielder and I do see similarities in my game with his." Lothar is currently a media pundit for companies including Sky, but has dipped his feet into management on several occasions, something he says was completely different from his playing days. “I found it a completely different role and view. When I was coming to the end of my career I became a mini coach on the pitch and helped train the younger players in the squad. Therefore the change was not too dramatic as it was more of a natural progression. For example, the likes of Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane have followed similar paths and are now great managers.” Lothar may have been like a tank on the pitch, but is more coy on what the future might hold: “You never know what could happen in the future, but at the moment I am focused on being a football expert for my multiple media partners.” Wherever Lothar goes next, he is sure to be successful. Whether that is into management, coaching or even more TV punditry, his legacy as ‘Der Panzer’ is cemented, and serves as a blueprint for players honing their trade today. His influence wherever he ends up will be unequivocal for those around him.

Serie A x1

Bundesliga X7

DFB Pokal x3

Supercoppa x1

World Cup X1

European Championship X1



By Sam Koster

Lothar Matthäus’ Ballon d’Or win in 1990 is one of his other hugely impressive achiements. Fending off the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Salvatore Schillaci and Franco Baresi to lift the illustrious award. Since 1990, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho and Kaká have gone on to win the award, which helps to illustrate how special he really was.



In 2000, Matthäus joined American side Metrostars and by doing so became by far the biggest player to make the switch to the MLS, arguably a trend which has since continued with the likes of David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry opting to continue their careers in the states. Metrostars eventually went onto become known as the New York Red Bulls, and are now one of the MLS’ biggest franchises. As for Matthäus, he only stayed a year in New York for one season after injury problems and internal issues led him to retire.







Matthäus’ biggest achievement was probably captaining West Germany to the 1990 World Cup. Victories over the Netherlands and England resulted in a fiercely contested debate against Argentina, which finished with a 1-0 victory courtesy of an Andreas Brehme penalty in the 85th minute - nothing like leaving it late! Players such as Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann were instrumental to the teams route to the final, with Voller racking up an impressive 4 goals in the competition. Even more impressive however, was Matthäus’ tally of 4 goals as a midfielder. Such stats give you a glimpse as to what type of player Lothar was, hard in the tackle, committed in tracking back, and a potent goal threat to top it off. Such traits made Matthäus’ one of the stand-out players of the competition, and contributed to his 1990 Ballon D’Or win.

Matthäus was regarded as a fierce midfielder and gained the nickname ‘Der Panzer’, which translates to ‘the tank’ due to his performances. This photo illustrates his passionate, determined and assertive nature when on the field. Despite his hardnatured persona on the pitch, Matthäus was never sent off in a professional game and only received eight yellow cards.


Not all of his cup finals ended positively however. In 1999 Manchester United famously scored 2 extra time goals courtesy of Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær to lift the Champions League to complete their domestic treble. Bayern went on to win the trophy two years later, after Matthäus had left. ▼



MATTHIJS DE LIGT A handy guide to the Ajax starlet who is one of the most promising defenders in Europe Born in a village just six miles from the Amsterdam Arena, Matthijs de Ligt is a homegrown talent who is greatly exciting Ajax fans, and for good reason. At the club since the age of nine, he made his senior debut in September a month after turning 17, taking just 25 minutes to open his account with the first team in a Cup tie against Willem II. De Ligt had started the season with the reserves but was promoted to the senior side permanently by October. The defender has rapidly progressed through the Netherlands’ youth set-up since the under15s, but it was still a surprise when he was called up to the senior squad in March for a crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria - he’d made just two league starts for Ajax at that point. It made him the youngest player to be capped by the Netherlands at senior level for 86 years, but de Ligt’s debut didn’t go to plan. Arguably at fault for both of Bulgaria’s goals in a 2-0 defeat, he was subbed at half-time. The pressure and resulting media scrutiny was a tough lesson but one for which he is now mentally stronger. “I am not nervous anymore,” he has said since. “I have to be calm in order to make the best decisions.” De Ligt finished the season was 22 senior appearances for Ajax in all competitions and impressed in their Europa League final defeat to Manchester United, which suggested he is ready to play in big games after his disastrous international debut.


Ajax youth coach Wim Jonk describes De Ligt as a “modern central defender.” A good passer, he is twofooted and reads the game well. “Matthijs organizes the defence and takes initiative when in possession says his manager Peter Bosz. As he demonstrated against United in the Europa League final, he has great strength and tackles aggressively. Considered a fine leader at youth level, he could well be a future Ajax captain.


While his ability on the ball is undoubted, occasional lapses in concentration or over-confidence in possession lead to misplaced passes, although Bosz encourages his players to take risks. Questions about his big game temperament linger, though another couple of seasons at senior level should satisfy the critics.




Rottedam Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel Capacity: 10,600 4 Group matches 1 Quarter-final

Utrecht Stadion Gallgenwaard Capacity: 23,750 4 Group matches

Enschede De Grolsch Veste Capacity: 30,000 1 Semi-Final

Breda Rat Verlegh Stadion Capacity: 19,000 4 Group Matches 1 Semi-Final


Germany have won every European Championship since 1995 and they are showing no signs of letting up. Despite losing goalkeeper and captain Nadine Angerer, who will inevitably go down as Europe’s greatest-ever player, this German contingent continues to get better and better. Led by Captain Dzsenifer Marozsán and featuring Stalwarts such as Anja Mittag and Babett Peter, they are the resounding favourites to repeat what they have done so many times before. Youngsters like Pauline Bremer and Melanie Leupolz give this squad a new balance which has enabled them to go unbeaten against European teams for over the last two years.The Die Nationalelf have never finished second or third so one they get in to the knockout stages it is almost a formality.If this team needed anymore reason to win, new manager Steffi Jones will be keen to bring home the silverware in her first major tournament.This seemingly unstoppable force, a team who pride themselves on their medal collection, will meet 15 teams determined to end their love with the competition.Turn over for Eurofoot’s guide to every team in the Euros, including an exclusive one’s to watch XI.

Deventer De Adelaarshorst Capacity: 10,500 4 Group matches 1 Quarter-Final


Tilburg Koin Willem ll Stadion Capacity: 14,500 4 Group matches 1 Quarter-final

Doetinchem De Vijerberg Capacity: 12,500 4 Group matches 1 Quarter-final

Women’s Euros 2017



ISSUE 1 All eyes in Group A will be on hosts Netherlands. The Oranje last challenged for a major championship in 2009; since then they have struggled to compete with their neighbours France and Germany. However they did experience a renaissance having emerged out of the group stages in the 2015 World Cup and only eventual finalists Japan could defeat them. Optimism is high for the hosts. Shelia Dekker, analyst for Dutch newspaper Het

Parool tells Eurofoot: “There is much excitement around this tournament. We know how to put on a show and our ladies could really do something special.” Despite the hosts drawing all the attention, Group A’s best chance of success might come from Norway. The Scandinavians made the semi-finals in 2009 and finished runners-up in Sweden in 2013. Denmark made the semi-finals in 2013 but their team has been decimated through

retirements however they are ranked 13th in the world so could easily provide some shocks. Debutants Belgium could overachieve in the tournament given their talent and the relatively low expectations on them, however their cause has not been helped with the draw. It is unlikely that Belgium will finish anywhere other than fourth but they will treasure the experience.

There is only one sub-plot in Group B, Germany vs Sweden. The 1st and 6th best ranked teams in the world, respectively, are set to battle it out once again. Germany have knocked Sweden out in the last two major tournaments including on Sweden’s own home ground. Swedish journalist Paul Hurtig of the Götesborg Posten says: “They have denied us at e

last few tournaments. We are probably the best two teams in the competition so everyone will be watching our group game to see who gets the under hand. I am hoping we can finally get past them.” Sweden are keen to get revenge and Germany, being the most successful European team ever, are eager to add to their collection. The group also contains Italy and Russia, two good

teams in their own right but who will likely be outclassed. With Sweden and Germany most likely to finish as the Group’s top two, the question after that is whether they will meet once again in the knock-out stages. .

Group C contains one of the tournament favourites: France. The young French squad which burst on to the scene in 2013 has matured in to one of the great teams. Stalwarts like Laura Georges and Elise Bussaglia, who have 342 caps between them, combined with MarieLaure Delia, who has scored 50 goals in 52 games for her club PSG this season, should provide Les Bleus with all the tools they need to win their first major

tournament. It is the hope of youngster Sandie Toletti that France’s golden generation finally breaks their voodoo. “We know we have the talent and we have confidence in ourselves to see to do really well. We are up against some tough teams but we know what we have to do in order to win,” she has said. France have been drawn alongside debutants Austria and Switzerland. Switzerland did manage to qualify for the 2015 World

England are the main team to watch in Group D. In 2013 the team failed miserably drawing one, losing two and crashed out in the group stages. However they made a surprising revival in the 2015 World Cup when they beat current favourites Germany in the third-place playoff. It is their hope that a defence built around experienced defenders

Steph Houghton, Alex Scott and Casey Stoney will provide the stability needed for a successful campaign. The other area of intrigue in the group lies with Portugal. Following the male squad’s triumph in France last year, excitement around the Seleção has continued. They were the last team to qualify for the competition following a play-off win.




Cup but where knocked out to Canada in the first round of the knock-out stages. Iceland are the last team to make up the group. Similar to their male counterparts they shocked on the European stage in their debut appearance. In 2013 they made the quarter-finals of the European Champions. They were roundly beaten 4-0 by Sweden but will have learned from the experience.

Portugal and England are joined by their neighbours Spain and Scotland respectively. One of the longest odds in the competition, Scotland are unlikely to kick up any storms in the Netherlands.



ISSUE 1 Key group stage fixtures: Netherlands vs Norway - (Utrecht) 18:00, Sunday 16 July Germany vs Sweden - 20:45, Monday 17 July, Breda France vs Iceland - 20:45, Tuesday 18 July, Tilberg Netherlands vs Denmark - 20:45, Thursday 20 July, Rotterdam

Women’s Euros Xl Women’s Euros 2017


Sarah Bouhaddi (France)

Nilla Fischer (Sweden)

Steph Houghton (England)

Wendie Renard Maren Mielde (France) (Norway)

Germany celebrate World Cup win vs Sweden

Melanie Behringer (Germany)

Veronica Boquete (Spain)

England captain Steph Houghton celebrating the Lionesses’ third-placed finish in the 2015 World Cup

Marie-Laure Delia (France)

Amandie Henry (France)

Dzsenifer Marozsan (Germany)

Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands)

Tournament odds: 5/2 Germany 4/1 France 8/1 Sweden 10/1 England Netherland 12/1 16/1 Norway 20/1 Spain Switzerland 20/1 25/1 Denmark 25/1 Iceland 33/1 Italy 40/1 Austria 50/1 Belgium 75/1 Scotland 100/1 Portugal 100/1 Russia

Germany are favourites for this years competition



EUROFOOT ISSUE II COMING JULY 2017 Cover Juan Mata EXCLUSIVE chat that reveals how Real Madrid shaped his future

Spain La Liga Ones to watch in the 2017/18 season

Germany RB Leipzig Can the cash-rich club continue on from their successful last season?

Nostalgia Béla Guttmann Read about the Hungarian coach who led Benfica to two European Cup titles in the early 1960s




Mr / Mrs / Miss / Ms / Dr



SAVE £32.80


Post Code:


Mobile: Email:


SAVE £17.40

STEP TWO: SUBSCRIPTION BUNDLE (TICK ONE) Option One: Access All Areas (Print + Digital) £50 for 12 issues - SAVE £32.80! Option Two: Print


£30 for 12 issues - SAVE £17.40 Option Three: Digital


SAVE £15.40

£20 for 12 issues - SAVE £15.40

STEP THREE: PAYMENT (BLOCK CAPITALS) Please debit my card to the sum of:


Name of account holder: Card type:

DELIVERED to your door SAVINGS on the cover price

Visa / Visa Debit / Mastercard / American Express

Card number:

Valid from:

EASY, SIMPLE one-off payment

Expiry date:



CCV: Date:



Red Star Belgrade - The greatest team that never was


n May 1991, in a small Italian stadium in Bari, Red Star Belgrade should have marked themselves as one of the greatest teams Europe has ever seen. With an unknown squad built from home-grown youngsters, the Yugoslavian underdogs beat Europe’s original Galácticos, Marseille. It is was hardly a final to remember but nevertheless it appeared that Red Star had won their first of many on the road to becoming a European super giant. Little did people know at the time that the best club in Europe would fade from memory so quickly. Never has a football team been so unjustly deprived of their right to history than Red Star Belgrade. On the eve of their summit to the pinnacle of European football, circumstances out of their control would deny them any chance of reaching their potential. Just one month after that infamous night in Bari, the former nation of Yugoslavia began to split. Within a year the Balkan peninsular descended into full scale civil war. Where the great Marakana (Red Star’s stadium) once stood, the home to 90,000 deafening supporters who were packed cheek to cheek for just a glimpse of their heroes, a shrine to football in Eastern Europe, now lay M-84A4 tanks triumphantly atop concrete ruins. Serbian journalist Dobrivoje Janković, former writer for the Belgrade newspaper Večernje novosti told us: “No one had time for football. People were leaving their homes, the wars


were starting, Belgrade winning the cup seemed to be in a different life’. Red Star embodied everything good about Yugoslavia. They were industrious, tireless and honest, just like the people at home. Their miraculous success in the face of the odds, with the background of war, is held up to the World at the last great act of a dying nation. Dobrivoje Janković said:‘Today, you enter any coffee house or pub in Belgrade, you will always find someone who will tell you about that game. People will lie and say they were there, because that is the only

By Ben Moorcroft


Today, if you enter any coffee house or pub in Belgrade, you will always find someone who will tell you about that game

good memory people have of that time’. Red Star, just like Yugoslavia, faded in to obscurity soon after that night in Italy. Even when the team beat Chilean outfit Colo-Colo in Tokyo to officially be crowned the best team in the word, events at home distracted from that success. By November 1991 UEFA had ruled Belgrade unfit to host football. Red Star moved 245 miles south to Sofia to play their home matches. When they played Manchester United in the Super Cup, UEFA only allowed one leg to

The European Cup-winning Red Star team of 1991. be played at Old Trafford denying Red Star the chance to play at home, they lost 1-0. Within two years the Red Star team that had once shocked Europe was no longer intact. Every player who started against Marseille had fled. Many went abroad to great success. Miodrag Belodedici, the first player to win the European Cup with two teams after winning it three years earlier with Steaua Bucharest, went on to play for Valencia and Villareal. Dejan Savićević joined Milan for a whopping £9.5 million. He famously destroyed the Barcelona defence in the 1994 final, scoring one and setting up two. Winger Robert Prosinečki would make 55 appearances for Real Madrid and he also spent a season at Barcelona. The winning penalty taker on that infamous night in Bari was Darko Pančev. The striker scored 94 goals in just 91 appearances at Red Star. His 34 goals were good enough to win the European Golden Boot that season



before moving to Internazionale for seven million. However just three goals in three seasons left him bouncing around obscure European teams before retiring in 1997. Many of these players would have likely departed anyway. An era of big money was just beginning to enter the game, it is probable that many of the conventional European giants would have been circling. However many would have been persuaded to stay for another year or two, this combined with a famed youth system, most of which won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Cup with Yugoslavia beating West Germany and Brazil, would have allowed Red Star to challenge again. However circumstances robbed Red Star of that opportunity. A barbaric war decimated one of Europe’s greatest ever teams on the eve of their summit. Red Star sit atop of a list which includes the likes of the ‘Busby Babes’ and the 19851990 Liverpool squad pioneered by greats such as Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, and John Barnes as the foremost teams denied greatness through no fault of their own. Years later, goalkeeper and captain Stevan Stojanović remained haunted by the thought of what might have been: “The tragedy is that we will never know how good we could have been”. A brief look at events since then supports



established as a country and that people were able to rebuild their lives and homes that anyone had any time or effort for football it is fair to say sport as whole suffered a setback during those years, at a time when things were looking up in that area”. The ‘Yugoslav wars’, especially the Bosnian War of 1992-1995, became known for its brutality. It is amazing to think that just 16 months before a vicious war engulfed the region, one team, in the midst of all the tension, was able to unite such a troubled nation. The events and time which have passed since that night in May 1991 has only immortalised and romanticised that great achievement to many in Belgrade. Milos Markovic said:“Youngsters are taught about this stuff, they dream of the days when their team will be great in Europe again”. One of football’s saddest stories is that for many outside of the old Yugoslav nations the story of Red Star has been forgotten. Tipped to be a dynasty of the great game, born out of tireless effort and a love for the sport, champions of dynamic, electric, and skilful football, Red Star should be a household name. The travesty is that Red Star should be mentioned in the same breath as Real Madrid and Barcelona, but likely never will. Dobrivoje Janković passionately endorsed that 1991 squad:“By far the greatest team I can remember. You should have seen us play MIlan and Munich, we showed them how to play football.” This was echoed by Milos Markovic: “That team had everything. Quick attackers, strong defenders, skilful midfielders and a coach who had one of the very best minds in the game”. When the iron curtain fell so did any hope of Red Star challenging on the European stage again. The result of resources and publicity being driven away from the old Yugoslav countries has meant that no eastern European team has ever come close, or likely ever will, to replicating what happened in Bari. Never has a nation reached so high and climbed so far in it’s last dying act. At the very least events off the field have denied that Red Star team of the recognition it deserves. It is a great shame that in the shadow of conflict and unrest, this epic, improbable success has been marginalised and one of Europe’s greatest teams will forever be deprived of that title.

the notion that the world was robbed of one of the greatest teams that might have played. Just ten days before the 1992 European Championships, Yugoslavia were disqualified. Ironically they were replaced by eventual winners Denmark. In 1998, Prosinečki’s Croatia finished third in the World Cup, begging the question what could have been achieved by both Red Star Belgrade and Yugoslavia if they would have remained together and intact. Football would not be played again in Belgrade until 1996. By this point the team featured mostly amateur players. UEFA banned them from Europe and football lay in turmoil. Milos Markovic, writer for Futbolgrad, said: “It was M-84A4 Tanks on the Croatia - Bosnian border. as if we had to start football from the ground back up again. It took people a while to start enjoying football. It was only after Serbia was







n 25 November 2012, in the 14th minute in a game against Levante, a significant moment in Barcelona’s illustrious history was made. Martin Montoya replaced an injured Dani Alves and for the first time the entire 11 players on the pitch had all graduated through the club’s famed La Masia academy. Víctor Valdés, Montoya, Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro and Fàbregas were the 11 players who would go down in folklore as Barcelona ran out 4-0 winners. It was the realisation of Barcelona’s academy-based approach which was masterminded by the godfather of football, Johan Cruyff in the late 1980s. La Masia as a concept is a very clear understanding of a way to play football and how to develop players. The main core of La Masia is based on the idea to instil in every single player from the kids in the Under 8s to the starting XI of the first team the same philosophy of how to play football the Barcelona way. The success is based on choosing the right players and helping them to develop into potential first team players. The first big variance to La Masia compared to other team’s academies was a focus more on their talent than their physical stature. No player was too small or weak to be able to succeed as long as they had the necessary


footballing talents to compensate. Without this important principle players such as Xavi, Pedro, Iniesta and arguably the greatest player ever to play the game, Lionel Messi, may have been released at an early age for simply being too small. The most important ability that a La Masia player possesses is that they are intelligent and able to understand the game. Then, their speed and technical ability is looked into, and, lastly, their physical capacity. The club must look for talent, real talent. The goalkeepers must be tall and be able to play with their feet; the centre backs must be able to handle the defensive transitions, this is why Barcelona sign defensive midfielders from other teams to convert them into defenders. The actual defensive midfielder must

Cruyff (L) instilled his philosophy from 1988 from which Guardiola (R) later reaped the rewards, winning 14 trophies in 4 seasons.




already learnt in the first two steps. We look to set them up for life as a good character. Even though they are talented players coming from Barcelona, there will still be those that will not make it professionally and so have to have those important life skills.” The formula yielded results, and the La Masia system was the envy of clubs all around. Unfortunately that has changed since 2010, when Sandro Rosell became Barcelona’s president and kick-started a tide of changes that greatly damaged the club’s prized facilities, its trusted philosophy and the way La Masia is looked at by the entire world. The conveyor belt of players progressing through La Masia has stuttered almost coming to a complete halt. Many diehard Barcelona fans are worried. The club that romanticised youth football has become just like any other football-based company. Brazilian football journalist and Barcelona fan, Rafael

“ LA


Words by Lewis Catchpole be intelligent, have a great vision, superb technique and very fast thinking. The forwards must be creative and able to make the right decisions at the right time as well as having a natural ability to score. However more importantly than the players themselves, La Masia’s greatest treasure is the philosophy. Johan Cruyff installed his philosophy in 1988, and immediately in the academy they started to work on his blueprint. Players that have progressed through La Masia since Cruyff started have had his philosophy engrained into them every day from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. Players like Pique, Messi and Iniesta had up to 2,500 training sessions with a pre-determined style and method before ever playing for the first team. When Pep Guardiola took over in 2008, he reaped the results and brought the method to its highest level. It’s the development programme that Barcelona gives to all players, be it on an individual or collective level during the whole year and on all areas. This means technical aspects, tactical, physical and psychological. La Masia focused on improving the players first, and getting results second. Albert Capellas, the current assistant coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C and former Coordinator of the Youth department at Barcelona for six years from 2004-2010, explains that the main priority for developing players during his time was first focused on developing the person. “From Under 8s level, we look to build a person in three steps. Firstly teach them to be a good person, with good morals. Second, we develop their technical ability. Third, we teach them to have a desire to win without losing what they have



It’s not a matter of worrying anymore, but something that has already happened

Hernández, argues that fans should be more than just worried. “Unfortunately, it's not a matter of worrying anymore, but something that has already happened. The quality of young players at the academy won't decline, even if the international scouting is lacking as of late. “Good players with tremendous potential will always be found and brought in, much like all other big youth academies in Europe such as Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City, but the core methods implanted in La Masia's inception have been altered, it's not standardised among all age groups anymore, especially with the B team.” Since Rosell has been in charge and subsequently Josep Bartomeu the focus of bringing through La Masia talent has been replaced by the process of ‘Galactico-esque’ signings that would be more akin to their greatest rivals Real Madrid than the Catalan club. Barcelona supporters have always been proud of their “Cantera encima cartera” (youth over cash) motto but since 2013, two-thirds of the most deadly attacking trio in world football - Neymar (£71million) and Luis Suárez (£65million) - were brought in. When a replacement was needed for Xavi they opted for Ivan Rakitić (£15million) and, last summer they signed forward Paco Alcácer (£25million), midfielder André Gomes (£30million), as well as Samuel Umtiti (£25million) and goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen (£11million) to strengthen the defence. During that same period from 2013 onwards only Sergi Roberto and Rafinha have managed to break into the first team from La Masia. Furthermore La Masia graduates have been sold in order to finance the signings: Pedro, Muniesa, Sandro, Montoya, Bartra, Traore, Deulofeu, Grimaldo and even the man heralded as the most talented player since Messi to graduate La Masia and expected heir to Xavi, Thiago Alcantara, was sold to European rivals Bayern Munich.

Dani Alves was replaced in the 14th minute by Martin Montoya as Barcelona fielded an XI entirely made up of La Masia graduates.



“My personal perceptions – and, therefore, subject to mistake – is that the work of La Masia has been moving away from excellence since 2010 for one main reason: the lack of investment in coaches,” claimed the highly respected Catalan writer Marti Perarnau last year, highlighting another of the main reasons for the academy’s decline. He is referring to the number of coaches that have been pushed out of, or have left Barcelona’s youth system during Rosell’s and his successor Josep Bartomeu’s reign. Famed coaches José Ramón Alexanko and his assistant Albert Benaiges, the men who had been successfully running La Masia since Guardiola’s time as Barcelona B manager, were both dismissed. They were the ones who ensured that Barcelona retained the same philosophy throughout the youth

and at school. We made him train with the Benjamins (U8s) and carry their training gear. Besides that, we didn’t let him travel with the Spanish or the Catalan national team and took away the contract he had with Nike. This ended up serving him well for the future”. Under the Rosell and Bartomeu regime, even the qualities of the player being given the chance to play have changed. The coaches are now relying heavily on African players that are further developed physically and are now taking precedence over the smaller more technically gifted players. Each passing day the teams are playing with a different style than the original idea, and there are matches where the classic Barcelona football is barely recognizable. Take for example the former head coach of Barcelona B and now Real Sociedad manager,


development were stunted because decisions made by those running the academy. Four young players, Ruiz, Kubo, Sousia and Adekanye left after growing tired of waiting. The rest, including Korean wonderkids Lee Seung-Woo and Seung-Ho Paik were left wondering when next they were going to be able to pull on the shirt of the Blaugrana. Rafael believes that these mistakes were made because the board are now focused on buying the youngest talent all over the world rather than developing the ones found in Catalunya. “They are getting the scouting wrong. They are looking for the Globetrotters and players like Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pique, and Valdés. You only find them once. There aren’t copies of them out there”. La Masia now finds itself at a crossroads, either the current management might give

A player that comes through La Masia can expect around 2,500 training sessions before turning 18. system passed on from coach to coach since Cruyff, but without them that link vanished. La Masia based its model on the strength and footballing philosophy of its coaches, knowing very well it was harder to find good coaches than good players. It is the coaching success that allows its most promising youngsters to one day feature at the Camp Nou. Yet this has seemingly been abandoned. One of the men dismissed after Rosell’s appointment, Albert Benaiges, makes the point: “The departures of myself and Alexanko and Amor started a degeneration in La Masia, and time only made it worse. Before when one of the youth players misbehaves he was punished for it no matter his quality. But now when the same happens, he suffers no sanctions; some of the important lessons are being forgotten. This has been going on for years, and that is not good for the players. When I was at the club, we were very strict about such matters. Once, for instance, a Cadete (13-16) player misbehaved at home


Eusebio Sacristan. The man in charge of the penultimate stepping stone for Barcelona youth players before reaching the first team, Eusebio’s time as coach of the reserve side was renowned for putting results before style of play. Under him the development of the players became secondary to results, the complete antithesis of Cruyff’s blueprint. The final demonstration of how poorly La Masia has been run since 2010 is the transfer embargo that was placed in 2014. Barcelona was found guilty of illegally signing ten international players under the age of 18 from 2010-2013. FIFA forbid the club from registering players for two transfer windows as a result which famously prevented Turkish star Arda Turan from playing in the first team for six months. However more damagingly the ten youth players were forbidden from playing any type of competitive football or even training with the team and living at La Masia during the duration of the ban. The most formative years of their football

way for a more proactive, traditional and competent administration. In that case there may well be a second sunrise of La Masia, returning to the ways instilled by Cruyff where developing young talents come first and foremost before anything else. Or quite possibly it may continue on the road that the current board has set itself on, which could take decades for the damage to be undone. If so it is a sad day not just for Barcelona fans, but for the football purists who will witness the most famous footballing school in the world be turned into just another business based youth academy.


NOSTALGIA SECTION Each month we’ll choose one classic player, team, manager, and game from the archives and talk about why it is so special. Read on to take a trip down memory lane...




Words by Lewis Catchpole


magine a striker tall in stature but with lightning quick feet, a velvety deft first touch, the explosiveness of a coiled spring, the flexibility and acrobatic ability of a gymnast, and the footballing IQ in the category of the game’s cerebral geniuses. Add ice cool finishing and a fondness for a sweetly stroked volley and you have Marco Van Basten. Affectionately known by Ajax fans as one of Johan Cruyff’s protégés and by fans of I Rossoneri as ‘San Marco’ (Saint Marco), van Basten was a complete striker. In a fitting debut, Marco van Basten replaced Cruyff and scored within ten minutes of coming on the pitch against NEC Nijmegen. The reality is Van Basten never stopped scoring for Ajax. After finding the net nine times in 20 appearances during the 1982-83 season he asserted himself as Ajax’s primary central striker and led the league in goals from 198387. Van Basten’s most prolific season in an Ajax shirt was in 1985-86, and after tallying 37 goals in 26 league matches, van Basten won the European Golden Boot award. At AC Milan he went on to carry on his goalscoring exploits scoring 125 goals in only 201 appearances. Due to his performances


for AC Milan Van Basten went on to win three Ballon D’Or awards, becoming one of only 10 players to win the award multiple times. However, Van Basten is best known for that volley against the Soviet Union in the final of the UEFA Euro 1988 championships. The pass was seemingly endless. Arnold Mühren had done his team-mate no favours, sending him deep and wide towards the edge of the penalty box. The midfielder had hit a cross so high as to be almost interminable; for a brief moment it felt as if the ball would not return to the field of play. Then came Van Basten. Inexplicably audacious, incomparably executed, his looping, dipping shot from what seemed an impossible angle helped the Dutch capture their only major international title. It also captured the very essence of Van Basten. With the natural scoring ability of a predatory number nine, but the technical ability and a fondness for dropping back into midfield like a number ten Van Basten was the complete forward. With a wide range of passing, Van Basten was also adept at playing the killer pass as he was putting it into the back of the net himself, his finest assist was his deft flick to Alessandro

Costacurta for the winning goal of the 1990 European Cup final against SL Benfica. His height and strength allowed him to excel in the air, and his technical ability and agility saw him execute spectacular strikes, such as volleys and bicycle kicks, throughout his career. A fast and opportunistic striker with quick reactions, he often took advantage of loose balls in the penalty area. Possessing a powerful and accurate shot, he was capable of scoring goals with both feet from inside or outside the penalty area, as well as with his head; he was also an accurate and reliable penalty kick and free-kick taker. Unfortunately, his time at Milan was dogged with chronic ankle injuries. Eventually, after numerous unsuccessful operations and two years on the side-lines, he decided enough was enough at the age of just 28. On 18 August 1995 – the day that Capello cried – the Trofeo Berlusconi ended 0-0 and, for the first time in the friendly’s history, a penalty shoot-out was required to separate the two sides. That fact the match should end goalless was in its own way a sort of symbolic tribute to Van Basten. One of the most prolific finishers of all time had just retired; it was only right that the nets remained untouched.


TEAM: AJAX 1994-95 ISSUE 1


ecent memory of Louis van Gaal will leave you thinking of an eccentric old man, whose press conferences were more entertaining than his Manchester United team’s style of play. In contrast, 20 years before he became the manager of the Manchester club he was in charge of one of the greatest sides in footballing history. From 1993-1996 Van Gaal’s Ajax side were unbeatable in the Eredivisie winning three straight championships. However, it is the 1994-95 side that will forever go down in footballing folklore. Van der Sar, Reiziger, the De Boer twins, Davids, Seedorf, Rijkaard, Blind, Kanu, Overmars, Litmanen – this famous Ajax side reads like a who’s who of Dutch football over the last two decades. During the 1994-95 season, they went an entire campaign unbeaten in both the Eredivisie (scoring 106 goals in 34 games) and the Champions League, where they ultimately saw off Fabio Capello’s stoic AC Milan in the final, thanks to a single goal from 18-year-old substitute Patrick Kluivert. Utilising a unique 3-3-1-3 formation, Ajax usually lined-up that season with two lightening quick wingers in Marc Overmars and Finidi George patrolling each flank with the intelligent, technically superb and mulleted Jari Litmanen behind the youthful Kluivert. Van Gaal packed the midfield with Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids and Frank Rijkaard protecting the backthree of Michael Reizeger, Frank de Boer and Danny Blind, and Edwin van der Sar in goal. Danny Blind was usually charged with the job of operating as a sweeper which helped negate the opposition’s threat in the attacking


third. With Reiziger and De Boer charged with man-marking the opposing team’s strikers this left Ajax with numerical superiority at the back as Blind was left to pick up stray balls, midfield runs from deep and as the last defence if Reiziger or De Boer were beaten. Frank Rijkaard was situated as a traditional defensive midfielder tasked with breaking up the play and recovering the ball when Ajax were rarely out of possession. In possession Davids/ Seedorf and Ronald de Boer acted as the engines in a midfield three driving the ball forward to the attacking four. Out of possession however is where Ajax’s use of the centre-mids becomes interesting. Due to the back three’s narrowness

Ajax’s unique 3-3-1-3 formation


the two centre-mids were asked to track the opposition wingers and fill in as auxiliary fullbacks to nullify the chances of them getting in behind. This was the tactical ploy which made this Ajax team so difficult to break down. Jari Litmanen was the main creative force in the side. Operating as a classic number ten, Litmanen’s main job was to exploit space in between the oppositions midfield and defence, which at the time the majority of teams played a 4-4-2 with two solid banks of four. As soon as Ajax gained possession their first job was to try and find Litmanen in space so he could get quickly into the attacking third and look for the dangerous attacking trio of Kluivert/Kanu, Overmaars and George. Overmaars and Finidi George were instructed to stay as wide as possible to stretch the opposition, allowing them to create as many oneon-one opportunities as possible. It also had the added effect of helping Ajax to retain possession as there was always a switch of play available. Time up front was shared between Nwankwo Kanu and 18 year-old Patrick Kluivert whose jobs were simply to score goals and were involved very little in the actual build up play. There was so much to admire in a team that had an average age of 23 – the speed and precision of their passing; the way they dominated possession; their almost telepathic understanding; their intelligence and technical qualities; the way they maintained numerical superiority in all areas of the pitch; the players’ near-perfect drilling. They were a team that truly captured the imagination of European football and wrote their own chapter into the history books.






est known for his pioneering use of catenaccio, a system built on a rock-sold defence, Helenio Herrera is remembered for creating the ‘invincible’ Inter Milan side of the 1960s, but there was much more to his 37-year coaching career across four countries. After a modest playing career in Morocco and France, Herrera – known as HH - took his first jobs in management in wartime France. After moving to Spain, he won successive La Liga titles with Atlético Madrid in 1950 and 1951. His two seasons at Barcelona, from 1958-1960, defied belief. Herrera again led his side to successive league titles, a Copa del Rey and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups. His win percentage was 77%, with his Barca side averaging over three goals a game. However, it was at Inter Milan that Herrera perfected his catenaccio system. He made pioneering use of the 5-3-2 formation, with four defenders rigidly man-marking and one sweeper (libero) behind them. The sweeper was able to start attacks and recycle the ball once the defenders around him had won it; Herrera converted midfielder Armando Picchi into a highly technical libero. He was vehemently opposed to possession football: he famously said, “the ball always moves further, and more quickly, when there isn’t a player behind it.” His way of playing was to form the bedrock for Italian football for decades to come. Catenaccio’s translation (it means “door-bolt” in Italian) means Herrera’s legacy is often one of a manager who preferred unadventurous, negative football. But HH was also a pioneer going forward: he used his full-backs to start fast counter-attacks – and often finish them: Inter left-back Giacinto Facchetti scored 12 goals in 1965-66, at the height of Inter’s invincibles. Herrera instructed his players to attack “at great speed, with no more than three passes to get to the opponent’s box. If you lose the ball playing vertically,

it’s not a problem – but lose it laterally and you pay with a goal.” Not long after arriving at Inter Herrera was dubbed Il Mago (‘the wizard’) by Italian journalists. He could apparently correctly predict the final score more often than not before a game. But the nickname also referred to the perceived ‘black magic’ of his defensive style. Nonetheless, he established Inter as the dominant force in world football: between 1962 and 1966 the Nerazzurri won three Serie A titles, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups. Herrera’s catenaccio was famously dealt a huge blow by Inter’s defeat by Celtic in the 1967 European Cup final. He left Inter the following year and never recovered: unsuccessful spells at Roma, Inter again, Rimini and a return to Barcelona brought a fascinating career to a close. However, his legacy was already well-established; Herrera was arguably the first celebrity coach, and certainly the first to receive such substantial press coverage. The Argentine also made a significant contribution to other parts of football. A strict disciplinarian, he banned players from smoking or drinking and controlled their diet – changes that would see Arsene Wenger hailed a pioneer decades later at Arsenal. That said, Herrera was probably too strict a disciplinarian: his players complained about being placed under prison-style observation, and there were even rumours that he sent Inter officials to players’ houses during the week to check they’d gone to bed on time. At Barcelona one player reported for training in a plaster cast; Herrera broke it off and made him train. HH was also a skilled motivator and quotes from his team talks soon adorned every wall at Inter’s training ground. Every morning after waking up he told himself, “I am strong, calm, I fear nothing, I am beautiful”, and he tried to ensure his players were similarly self-confident. As he never tired of telling his players, “He who doesn’t give it all, gives nothing.”

Inter’s legendary team of the 1960s were known as La Grande Inter.

Though a controversial figure, Herrera was undoubtedly a leader.







his end-to-end UEFA Cup final had it all: five goals, two red cards, a dramatic late winner, and the emergence of ‘the Special One’ on the world stage. Celtic fans dominated Seville’s Estadio de la Cartuja, having descended on western Spain in their thousands to watch the Hoops’ first European final since 1970. “It was an Andalusian Celtic Park as the vast majority of spectators were clad in green and white, albeit with painfully pink skin,” wrote The Telegraph’s Christopher Davies. Around 80,000 Bhoys made the trip to Seville, despite the club only being given an official allocation of 15,700 tickets. Porto had stormed to the league title, finishing eleven points clear of Benfica; having also won the domestic cup, they were on for a treble. Their young coach José Mourinho was making a name for himself and victory would announce his arrival on the world stage. Martin O’Neill’s Celtic were desperate for silverware after losing out on the SPL title to Rangers by a single goal. Celtic’s starting XI comprised nine nationalities, a stark contrast to Porto’s all-Portuguese side with the exceptions of Russian midfielder Dmitri Alenichev and Brazilian forward Derlei. Their side included future Chelsea stars Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche and Deco. Celtic lined up with three at the back and two wing-backs pushing on to provide service for the aerially dominant Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton, while Porto ‘s 4-3-12 formation allowed Deco to control play from behind the strikers. It was Deco who came closest to opening the scoring in a tense first half when he flicked the ball over two defenders and fired powerfully at Rab Douglas, but the Scot was equal to it. Porto were clearly the technically superior side but Celtic’s energy and determination kept them at bay – until first half stoppage time. Deco, pulling the strings from his no.10 position, floated the ball across the penalty area to Alenichev. Douglas was able to parry the Russian’s volley, but Derlei was on hand to tap in the rebound at the back post. It was a crushing blow for Celtic, but they equalized just a minute into the second half through Larsson’s superb header back across goal from a deep Didier Agathe cross. However, Deco was a thorn in the Scots’ side and soon after he threaded a gorgeous pass into the path of Alenichev, who made no mistake with his finish. The final’s pulsating tempo continued when Larsson again levelled immediately with another fine header from a corner. Neither team could force a winner in normal time, and Celtic were forced to hang on when Bobo Baldé was sent off just six minutes into extra time for an ugly tackle which earned him a second yellow. As


the clock ticked towards 120 minutes, the players began to prepare themselves for penalties; Porto keeper Vítor Baía admitted he was already trying to guess who Celtic’s penalty takers would be when Derlei grabbed a dramatic late winner, his shot squirming into the net via cruel deflections off Douglas and Hoops defender Ulrik Laursen. Porto left-back Nuno Valente received his marching orders in the dying seconds for two yellows but Mourinho’s men held on. The Special One had been anointed, and he declared the final, “a great example to those who love football.” Porto would win the Champions League the following season. The starting lineups for the 2003 UEFA Cup final.






anchester United comfortably forced to play ineffective passes out wide. only adaptation that Ajax made throughout defeated Ajax 2-0 in the Europa Ajax then attempted to bypass the midfield the game was for their winger Bertrand League final at Stockholm to completely and try and find young Danish Traoré to come deeper and more central in add another trophy to their striker Kaspar Dolberg in one long pass. search for the ball and found some limited cabinet and just as importantly secure a Unfortunately for Ajax their former graduate success in helping Ajax build some form of place in the group stage of UEFA Champions Daley Blind was at hand, using his superb attack, especially towards the end of the first League next season. A final with one team reading of the game, to more often than not half. However, one player was never going to dominating the whole narrative be it with or intercept the pass or at least force Dolberg be enough against United’s stalwart defence. Offensively Mourinho also had an answer mostly without the ball is a bit of a mismatch. into playing a pass back into midfield where This is what the Europa League final felt a combination of Herrera, Pogba or Fellaini for Ajax’s high press: to bypass it completely. like throughout. José Mourinho’s tactics of were once again on hand to mop up. When Romero was in possession United’s Due to United’s compactness Ajax centre-backs did not even show for the ball stopping his opponents playing their passing and instead pushed football worked out up with the midfield very well, so well looking to win the that the final had second ball after a winner once the it was fired up to second United Fellaini. In a more goal went in early advanced attacking in the second role in behind half, to which a Rashford, Fellaini young Ajax team won 15 aerial duels, simply had no a new Europa answer. The League record. game began with Once United had United pressing possession Pogba in higher blocks usually dropped trying to force deep to create Ajax to play long. chances by either The Dutch team driving through struggled to cope Ajax’s midfield with with it initially as his strong running they continued to or by looking to find play out from the Rashford in behind, back and were in who was constantly danger of getting on the shoulder of caught out at any the last defender. moment. United United’s everplayed with a present full-backs m a n - o r i e n ta te d still had licence to defensive system. go forward when Mourinho let the opportunity, Ajax’s Davison Sanchez remain while rare, free on the ball presented itself. Mourinho with his third trophy of the season after the Community Shield and League Cup. Antonio Valencia as he is not as his comfortable as was often available his teammates when charged with build- struggled to string even a few passes as an outlet due to Amin Younes’ fondness up play from the back. Rashford was asked together in United’s half. The compactness for coming inside. This almost resulted in to press Sanchez as well as to cut off the allowed players the ability to stay close to a goal when Valencia’s powerful shot had left hand side of the pitch. However at the their targets while also cutting off the passing to be parried by Ajax keeper Andre Onana. beginning of the game Rashford began lanes available to Ajax. Henrik Mkhitaryan While as a result of these tactics the game pressing Sanchez too early and this allowed and Juan Mata, United’s wide players, may have not been one to remember, credit enough space for Ajax to find De Ligt who were asked to drop back and help as extra has to go to Mourinho for the way he set up was more comfortable bringing the ball into defenders. This allowed United to isolate the his side to play a game of football which was midfield. Yet even when Ajax managed to Ajax player on the ball when out wide and not pleasing to the eye but was enough to progress the ball into midfield they were met double team them into losing the ball either win an important football match. United are with a block of Fellaini, Pogba and Herrera through a tackle or forcing a misplaced pass. in the Champions League now and José’s Ajax manager Peter Bosz was was critical of gamble of picking this route to qualify for who did well to press the central play of their opponents which left little options for Ajax Mourinho’s tactics calling them “boring”. Yet the top continental competition paid off. to move the ball vertically. Instead Ajax were he himself did little to try and overcome it. The






Real Madrid will be looking for another Galáctico signing this summer. Will they splash the cash - or do they have him in their squad already?


s the end of the season approaches, the attention for Real Madrid always turns to the summer transfer window. Los Blancos fans always expect a big name to arrive in the Spanish capital, and this year should be no different, with club elections on the horizon. As such, incumbent president Florentino Pérez is targeting a Galáctico signing - a world-class talent that will stand up and capture attention. Since returning to the Real presidency in 2009, he has spent in excess of €250 million (£218m) in his attempts to create a new team of Galácticos, in the vein of the side containing the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham. Pérez’s plan has always been to build a team with the best of Spanish talent and the finest footballers around the world and upon his return, stellar names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Xabi Alonso and Gareth Bale have all made their way to the Bernabéu, along with the likes of José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti being made manager. In 2013, Perez was re-elected unchallenged and four years on, Real have won two more Champions Leagues under the management of Ancelotti and Zidane. As such, Pérez is unlikely to face any competition for the presidency this summer. He is helped by the fact that any candidate needs to guarantee that they can put forward 15% of the club’s budget - €150 million (£130m) - as well as being required to be a socio (club member) for at least 20 years. Nevertheless, Pérez will want to excite Real fans for next season with a marquee summer signing - with Chelsea winger Eden Hazard


WORDS BY REGINALDO ROSARIO and Monaco striker Kylian Mbappé topping wonderkid Vinícius Júnior, with Real paying the transfer list. However, it will be a tall the release clause of €45 million (£38 million) order to bring in either two of those players. to sign the 16-year-old from Flamengo. Vinícius will officially join Real from Chelsea have made it clear in the past that Hazard is not for sale, while the player July 2018, but he will still spend another himself - who is a favourite of Zidane - has year at Flamengo before arriving in the said that he is very happy in London and in Spanish capital in the summer of 2019 no hurry to move. “My kids are very settled although Los Blancos can choose to bring in London,” the Belgian winger told the him to Madrid earlier if both sides agree London Evening Standard back in March. that it would be beneficial for the attacker. Dubbed the “next Neymar” by many, he The arrival of Mbappé could be another tantalising prospect - still only 18, the has only played 17 minutes of senior football, Monaco striker visited Madrid when he having made his debut for Flamengo against was younger. His idol is also Cristiano Atlético Mineiro at the Maracanã in mid-May, Ronaldo, which could help sway his but his talent has seen him make waves in decision, although his arrival would mean the footballing world. Born in São Gonçalo, a Álvaro Morata being shown the door. There could also be room for another midfielder or forward, with James Rodríguez set to depart after getting frustrated at his lack of playing time under Zidane, but with Isco and Marco Asensio waiting in the wings, Real could hold off on signing a world-class outfield talent if the right player is not available. What is certain is that Real will be chasing a new goalkeeper, despite Keylor Navas impressing throughout his stint at the Bernabéu. David de Gea will certainly be targeted again, but Real’s damaged relations with Manchester United following a botched move for the 26-year-old two summers’ ago means that avenue may be a tricky one to navigate. One thing’s for certain - that won’t stop Perez from finding a Galáctico to sign and the club may have already have a future The next big thing: Vinícius Júnior with his best one on their hands in the form of Brazilian player award from the U17 tournament.



suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Vinícius was spotted aged 10 by Flamengo and by 13, he was playing for the club’s under-15 side. In March, he enhanced his burgeoning reputation further, scoring seven goals for Brazil as they won the South American Under-17 Championship for the record 12th time. His talents were on full display, as he wreaked havoc on opposition defences on the left flank, using his physique and speed to great effect as he often latched onto balls played over opposition full-backs. Once with the ball at his feet, he would look to run at defenders or cut inside to link up with team-mates. In the final third, his ambitious shooting and ability to change direction at quick speed laid the foundations for his lethal finishing. Of the seven goals he scored, five were composed finishes, while the other two consisted of a lifted effort from outside the box and an instinctive lob which punished a keeper who recklessly charged off his line. There are definitely things he can improve on - his preferred move is to knock the ball into space and rush past his marker, which doesn’t always work when you move into senior football, while he also provokes opposition fans by showboating at times - at the same tournament, he flicked the ball over the heads of three Paraguayan players and brought it down with his shoulder, eerily reminiscent of Neymar’s moves with Barcelona and Brazil. These brief glimpses of quality show that he has the tools to succeed, but youth

Nine goals and four assists for Asensio in all competitions - not bad for an impact sub. tournaments are not a reliable indicator of how a talent will progress. Vinícius is a rough diamond, and time will tell whether he is the next Galáctico - the price tag will certainly weigh on him through his time at the Bernabéu. While Vinícius doesn’t arrive for another two years, a current member of the Real squad could develop into a Galáctico in the meantime. It may well be Marco Asensio, with the 21-year-old forcing his way into the reckoning under Zinedine Zidane’s tutelage. Asensio, named after Dutch legend Marco Van Basten (his mother is Dutch and his father Spanish), signed for Real after Pérez was convinced by tennis star Rafael Nadal to secure his signature from RCD Mallorca when he was still 18. He stayed at the club on loan for a season before being sent to


Espanyol, where he provided 15 assists in all competitions last season. Despite returning to a Real side brimming with talent in attacking midfield, Asensio has made the most of the chances that Zidane has provided him with, forcing his way into the Frenchman’s plans with some impressive performances, including a long-range strike on his first competitive start against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup in August. In the Champions League, he was sent on in the late stages for both legs of the quarter-final against Bayern Munich and decided matters, firstly with an assist for Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner in the first leg, before netting a solo goal in the second to kill off the tie. His role as a impact substitute is vital, always positive and brimming with energy. His technique is exquisite and his willingness to run into space, take players on and move the ball forward progressively to the likes of Benzema and Ronaldo a key element of his play. His versatility is also an asset - able to play in all three positions just behind the centre forward, he has primarily been used on the flanks for Real. Asensio’s speed and agility gets him round defenders and he often embarks on long dribbles towards goal. Defensively, his aggression helps him hassle opponents into making mistakes, trapping them into corners and tight spaces on the touchline in order to force a misplaced or panicked pass. But his stand-out attribute is his crossing - this season, he’s shown a canny ability to play low, accurate balls into and around the box, whereas earlier in his career at Mallorca and Espanyol, he played long, floated passes from a deeper position. The crosses that Asensio puts in are not hopeful ones - they’re measured and aimed to create chances, picking out the targets with remarkable consistency. This combination of technique, sheer confidence and consistency should force Zidane’s hand - with James Rodríguez with one foot out the door at the Bernabéu, Asensio should be able to step up and challenge Gareth Bale for a first-team spot in the near future. However, with the likes of Isco and Lucas Vásquez all itching for more action, all that Asensio can do is to continue impressing - he’s proved that he can cut it at one of the biggest clubs in the world and if nurtured correctly, could become Spain’s next big midfielder and a potential Galáctico in his own right.


Martin Ødegaard

Borja Mayoral

Marcos Llorente

Jesús Vallejo

The Norwegian wonderkid is still only 18, having joined the club at 16 from Strømsgodset. A lack of firstteam opportunities meant that he was sent out on an 18-month loan to Dutch side Heerenveen, but that will stand him in good stead when he returns to Madrid.

The deep-lying playmaker has progressed leaps and bounds while out on loan at Alavés this season, and his style has earned comparisons with Xabi Alonso. With a season of senior football under his belt, he should be ready to challenge for a midfield spot at the Bernabéu.

Despite a disappointing loan spell in Germany with Wolfsburg this season, the striker is still highly thought of at the Bernabéu, having scored 32 goals in 58 reserve appearances. With the attacking ranks swelled, he may have to spend another season on loan elsewhere.

Vallejo has enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt this season, and the centre-back may yet be used as a rotational option at the Bernabéu next season, with Pepe set to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.






Learn about the schoolboy midfielder who has become a regular at Bayer Leverkusen Born in Aachen, close to the Dutch border, Havertz was picked up by local side Alemannia Aachen aged eight. At 11, he joined Leverkusen and within four years, he was playing for Germany’s under-16 side. Having been invited to Leverkusen’s preseason training camp at the start of the season, Havertz proceeded to force his way into former manager Roger Schmidt’s plans, eventually becoming the youngest player to play for Die Werkself when he made his debut against Werder Bremen in October. He went on to make 28 appearances in all competitions and was one of the rare bright spots in what turned out to be a disappointing season for Leverkusen, who finished 12th in the Bundesliga. Havertz scored six goals and laid on seven assists, with his goal against Wolfsburg in February making him the youngest scorer in the club’s history. He did all this while being forced to juggle school exams, which unfortunately meant he had to miss a Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid in March.


Havertz’s style has been likened to former Leverkusen midfielder Michael Ballack, imposing his will on games with relentless energy and superb tactical nous. The 17-year-old’s versatility is also an asset, having been move from his usual position in the centre of midfield at youth leverl to the right wing in the senior Leverkusen side. His ability to split open defences with a killer through ball is also apparent, inviting comparisons with another top German playmaker in Mesut Özil, with his seven assists a clear indicator of the ability he has. His decision-making is superb for someone so young, showing a cool head in possession, and he has shown that he can beat several defenders pressuring him, a trait not often seen in young footballers.


No one expects Havertz to be the complete player at such a young age, and the midfielder does have several flaws in his game, with his tendency to give the ball away too easily a trait that needs to be rectified if he wants to advance to the next level. His wing play also needs refining, with his crossing often letting him down, undoing all the hard work he had done by getting into threatening positions. However, that can be put down to being played in an unfamiliar position at such a young age.





Serie B - Italy

Liga 1 - Romania


HNL - Croatia



48 44

SPAL Verona

42 22 8 27 42 20 8 24

78 74

Viitorul FCSB

26 16 7 17 26 13 5 12

51 47

Rijeka Zagreb

36 27 2 36 27 4

Vicenza Pisa Latina

42 9 19 -19 42 6 15 -13 42 6 15 -12

41 35 32

ACS Poli 26 7 12 -17 26 5 13 -17 Mures

14 12

Cibalia Split

36 4 23 -53 21 36 3 24 -40 18

In 1968, Juventus midfielder Gianfranco Zigoni scored the goal which would condemn SPAL to Serie B for the first time in their history. Few would have suspected that it would have taken so long for the then Serie A stalwarts, staples of the Italian game, to return. The team drifted into football wilderness, bouncing around the lower divisions. They even fell to the Italian fourth division and just one stop away from becoming an amateur team as recently as 2005. In 2013 the club nearly went bankrupt finishing them off altogether. However, in a bizarre turn of fortune, SPAL have managed to string together back-toback promotions to return to the promised land. They are the only team in Italy this season to have a squad made up of completely Italian players. They have been credited with playing fast and attacking football and needless to say Serie A is looking forward to their return. And who led them there … only Gianmarco Zigoni, son of the man who relegated them in the first place. Meanwhile Italian legend Gennaro Gattuso has resigned from Pisa following their relegation into Serie C. He took charge two years ago. Fortunately for Gattuso he has walked into a coaching job with AC Milan.

P W L GD PTS Viitorul 10 5 2 4 44 FCSB 10 6 2 8 44


Viitorul Constanta have won the Romania league for the first time...or at least we think so! Viitorul, who were only formed in 2009 by Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi, finished tied on points with Steaua Bucharest. However because Viitorul beat the latter in the playoff stage of the league, they were awarded the title on their head-to-head record. This has angered Steaua. Despite finishing with a greater goal difference and a better head-to-head record over the course of the season, they will finish second. Owner Gigi Becali has vowed to challenge the verdict, claiming his team were robbed. Ironically Hagi had formed Viitorul because he fell out with Steaua, and now it looks like he has finally got his revenge. His squad, mostly build from domestic youngsters, may have wobbled towards the end but they have likely earned themselves a memorable title as controversy around Steaua (see page 17) continues. If the decision is upheld Viitorul will enter the third qualifying round for the Champions League.

Bundesliga 2 - Germany


P W L GD PTS Stuttgart 34 21 7 26 69 Hannover 34 19 5 19 67 Munchen 34 10 18 -10 Wurzburg. 34 7 14 -9 Karlsruher 34 5 19 -29


36 34 25

Olympiakos 30 21 5 41 PAOK 30 20 6 33

67 61

30 11 13 -11 30 7 18 -33

26 22

Iraklis Veria

Rijeka have finally broken Dinamo Zagreb’s hold on the Croatian league. Zagreb had previously won 11 consecutive league titles, but Rijeka won their first league title to finally close the gap between Dinamo and the rest of the league. Rijeka had finished runners-up for the previous three years but had never genuinely threatened Zagreb’s supremacy. However, a sublime season, only conceding 18 goals and only losing one game, have crowned them champions of Croatia, a position they will want to hold for as long as possible.

Ligue 2 - France

P Strasbourg 38 Amiens 38 Troyes 38 Red Star Laval

Superliga - Greece

Olympiakos comfortably won their 44th Superliga despite having three managers this season including Marco Silva.. Iraklis suffered relegation on goal difference. If not for the three points docked due to late payment of players’ wages, they would have survived.

88 86

W 19 19 19

L GD PTS 9 16 67 10 18 66 10 16 66

38 8 18 -20 38 5 18 -19

36 30

Entering the last game of the season six teams all lay in contention to win Ligue 2. Only three points separated them as kick-off began. Strasbourg, the leaders entering the day, scored two early goals, almost guaranteeing their promotion. As the clock struck 90 minutes and the fourth official began to hold up his board, Troyes lay in second, having held that place for much of the season, and Lens lay in third. Little did those teams know that dramatic scenes would unfold at the Stade AugusteDalaune ll in Reims. A 96th minute winner, bundled home by Emmanuel Bourgard, would send Amiens from sixth to second, ensuring promotion in the most theatrical fashion. What makes this more impressive, Strasbourg and Amiens, the two automatically promoted teams, both sealed back-to-back promotions.





Levante Girona

P W L GD PTS 40 25 6 27 84 39 20 10 23 69

Gimnastic Mallorca Elche Mirandes

40 40 40 40

9 9 11 8

14 15 19 18

-8 -8 -11 -26

43 42 42 37

After cruising to the Segunda Liga title and returning to the top flight at the first time of asking, Levante offered free season tickets to fans who’ve attended 50% of games or more. It is estimated that around 10,000 fans will therefore be able to claim free season tickets when Levante return to La Liga. Crisis club Elche’s woes continue: relegated from La Liga two seasons ago for unpaid taxes despite finishing mid-table, they have been demoted again after winning just once since March. Lower-league Spanish football was shaken by allegations of match-fixing. The accusations focused on third-division Eldense, who were hammered 12-0 by Barcelona B in one game, but a Spanish match-fixing investigator has claimed that it is rife throughout the Spanish lower divisions.


P W L GD PTS 32 21 3 35 Beşiktaş Istanbul BB 32 19 3 33

71 67

Portimon. Aves

42 25 9 31 83 42 23 7 25 81

32 8 18 -11 Rizespor 32 7 20 -28 Gazian Adanaspor 32 6 19 -26

33 26 25

Vizela Fafe Freamunde Olhanense

42 42 42 42

Istanbul BB fell just short in their bid to emulate Leicester City as shock champions. Top and unbeaten halfway through the season, the tiny club - its average attendance is just 3,000 - Istanbul stuttered and fell behind favourites Beşiktaş. Despite a late charge, winning four of their last five, Istanbul were unable to prevent Beşiktaş winning their fifteenth league title. Rizespor almost saved themselves with a late rally, including a 6-0 thrashing of relegation rivals Bursaspor, only to be condemned on the final day by losing at home to Trabzonspor. Bursaspor will be relieved the season wasn’t a game longer: they survived by two points after a dismal run-in, losing nine of their last ten. The Turkish season began in farce when an arrest warrant was issued for legendary former Turkish striker Hakan Şükür in August over his alleged connections to the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Gheorghe Hagi’s Viitorul side mostly consists of players from their academy.


Segunda Liga - Portugal

Super Lig - Turkey

Segunda Liga - Spain

9 11 9 7

14 19 20 28

-10 -13 -13 -38

46 45 40 28

Portimonense’s Vítor Oliveira has done it again: the promotion king has secured his 5th promotion from the Segunda Liga in as many years. The top two cruised to promotion, with thirdplace União Madeira seventeen points adrift. Fafe very nearly stayed up after a fighting run to the end of the season, winning four of their last six. Vizela suffered a terrible second half of the season, winning just twice after the start of February, and were condemned to relegation when Leixões won their final game to overtake Vizela and survive on goal difference. However, it’s only a stay of execution: Leixões and eighteenth-placed Academico Viseu will have to win play-offs to hold onto their second division statuses. The rest of the league was remarkably tight, with just twelve points separating third and sixteenth.


ISSUE 1 By Ben Moorcroft


SC Bastia: football’s bad boys


here is hardly anything spectacular about SC Bastia. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you have never heard of them. Last season they finished bottom of Ligue 1, three points adrift from safety. They have won only eight of their thirty-six games. They were 19th in terms of goals scored, 15th in terms of goals conceded and 17th in the end-ofseason form table. However, there is one category that they top, not only in France, not just in Europe, but world football. Bastia set the record for having the worst discipline in Ligue 1, eclipsing Montpellier who previously held the title. So far the team have racked up 67 yellow cards and 14 reds in thirty-six games. During a ten game spell from January to March the club suffered nine dismissals and only finished two games with all eleven men on the field of play. What marks Bastia apart is their attitude. Describing a team as ‘dirty’ or ‘thuggish’ is usually interpreted as a negative, a title a team would likely look to shy away from, but not with Les Bleus. Julien Lemet, writer and founder of Bastia website, told us: “This is us, it is the way we play. We don’t know any different and don’t want any different. All we ask is the players give us one hundred percent in everything they do”. Their lack of discipline is nothing new to them. They finished bottom of Ligue 2 in the fair play table in 2009/10 and 2011/12 before being promoted. In Ligue 1 they finished last in 2012/13, second to last in 2013/14 and 2014/2015 and then regained their title as the most ill-disciplined club in France last season finishing with 84 yellow cards and 10 red. Romain Lantheaume, who covers Bastia for the French organisation MaxiFoot, told us: “there is no demand for change here. Everyone knows what Bastia are like. There is no shame in the club, this is the Bastia way.


The fight shown by the team excites the fans”. But Bastia are not only the worst team in terms of discipline this season, but they can also officially be deemed the most aggressive club in history. Bastia average 11.9 fouls per game. This puts them around 14th in Ligue 1. However, their foul to red card ratio puts them way above everyone else. In every other European league there is a clear correlation between statistics. You can see that the teams with the worst discipline commit, on average, the most fouls per game and also have less possession, which obviously puts more pressure on them defensively. For example Sporting Gijón and Alavés are ranked the worst teams in Spain for discipline, they are both in the bottom five for possession and for fouls per game. This is a trend echoed

FRANCE across every major league in Europe, yet not so much with Bastia. Seven of the club’s fourteen red cards were straight dismissals. One of those was a bizarre incident featuring captain Yannick Cahuzac, who has been sent off four times this season. He was substituted in a loss to Angers SCO when the fourth official accidentally caught him with the electronic board. Cahuzac responded to this by grabbing the board and smashing it to the ground. What makes Bastia’s style of play more remarkable is that they have had five different managers in this time span. Over the past six years they have all attempted to implement a different style of football. Frederic Hantz, who was in charge between May 2010 - May 2014, advocated a style of play which heavily involved width and counter attacking speed whereas current manager Francois Ciccolini is more structured and conservative. However despite differences in philosophies, one constant has remained at the club: the aggressive style of defending. Julien Lemet said: “that was the problem with (Claude) Makélélé, he tried to change the way we played, that wasn’t right. The fans didn’t like it and neither did the players. He didn’t last very long”. This aggression is something which is bigger than any individual, it belongs to the club. One possible explanation for this is the club’s history. Situated in Corsica, an island off the cost of France, the club and its fans have been pro-independence since the 1970s. This has resulted in rivalries with many mainland clubs. It is possible that the players have been simply mirroring the passion and aggression shown by it’s fans. There is no cry for tiki-taka football here and while they may have been relegated, the club is proud to call itself the dirtiest team in football.

SC Bastia fans







hen AC Milan clinched a Europa League place on the penultimate day of last season, their celebrations showed how far the club has fallen. Manager Vincenzo Montella was hoisted aloft by his players, and their sixth-place finish – almost 30 points behind champions Juventus – was hailed as a great success. It was a marked contrast to the turn of the century, when anything less than a league title and European glory was considered an abject failure. That sixth-place finish is Milan’s highest for four years; they have won the title just once since 2004, the end of their last great team and an era in which the Rossoneri dominated Italian football. Recent years have seen them fall behind the likes of Juventus, Roma, Napoli and even Atalanta. However, optimism is rising among Milan fans. The club’s protracted takeover by Chinese owners Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux was finally completed in April, and the new owners have wasted no time in making Milan competitive in the transfer market. “Since the takeover, the club have been working tirelessly to strengthen the squad,” Sumeet Paul, ESPN’s Milan correspondent, tells Eurofoot. “It’s widely expected that key signings will be made this summer, so it’s hard for Milan fans not to be optimistic.” Milan will expect highly-rated Villarreal defender Mateo Musacchio, Wolfsburg


left-back Ricardo Rodríguez and Atalanta midfielder Franck Kessié to be part of their squad next season, and they’re tipped to make a marquee signing, with the likes of Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata and Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heavily linked and both expected to cost upwards of £50m. They’ve also made other steps towards their return to greatness. The new owners are apparently keen on building a new stadium, which would mean an end to Milan’s sharing of the historic San Siro with rivals Inter. Gennaro Gattuso, the tigerish midfielder who was a crucial part of that 2004 team, has also returned to the club as a coach. “I’m going back to a glorious club that wants to return to greatness,” he told Italian TV station Mediaset Premium. “I

hope to convey a sense of belonging and help them improve.” Milan already have the makings of their next great team with young talent such as goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, centre-back Alessio Romagnoli, right-back Davide Calabria and midfielder Manuel Locatelli already establishing themselves as regulars in the first team. While they may not yet be close to the levels of 2004 stars such as Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Cafu and Kaká, if blended with more experienced big signings this summer, these promising players could form the bedrock of a new, formidable side. That said, Paul argues that patience is needed in the meantime: “With the work required to strengthen the squad combined with how strong their rivals currently are both in Serie A and Europe, it’ll arguably be a few years until Milan can boast a team capable of restoring former glories - but the future is certainly bright.”

Young talent like Locatelli and Donnarumma will be key in building Milan’s next great team.


PORTUGAL Words by Reginaldo Rosario





hese three, simple F-words were used as the propaganda pillars of the dictatorship of António Salazar - distracting and pacifying the Portuguese public as the Estado Novo regime used censorship and secret police to silence political opposition. When the peaceful Carnation Revolution displaced the Estado Novo in 1974, the three Fs were dismissed as symbols of the old regime, relics left behind with the heavyhanded methods of the one-party state. However, in a fully-fledged democracy, these three Fs have maintained their presence, revitalising a nation which has suffered the damaging effects of a deep recession and punishing international bailout over the past decade or so. Football, especially, has been an important distraction from the doom and gloom of the Portuguese economy. Having won the European Championship last summer in France, it could be argued that Portuguese football has never been stronger. “Portuguese football is at the level of the best in Europe,” says Nuno Correia, owner of NCfoot, a network of Portuguese football agents. “Proof of this is we have the best player in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo), Portugal are European champions, we have the best coach in the world (Jose Mourinho) and we have the most important agent in the world (Jorge Mendes).”

underprivileged backgrounds, see the beautiful game as Portugal's national sport their one route to prosperity. In contrast, foreign prospects see Portugal as a stepping stone to greater and better things. The crème de la crème of young talent will be scouted and picked up Portuguese folk music by one of Benfica, Sporting or Porto, where Champions League The Primeira Liga also plays an important role in the global transfer market, with football is virtually guaranteed every year. the Big Three - Benfica, Sporting and Additionally, these players will benefit from Porto - commanding vast transfer fees world-class coaching, which will strengthen for their best players. However, clubs of their skills and put them in the window a lower stature, such as Braga, Vitória for a move to a bigger European league. “Portugal has a competitive league Guimarães, Rio Ave and Boavista also with good coaches and good working command decent fees for their players. Like most businesses, there is no one conditions. Then for Brazilian and South single reason behind the success that American players there’s the question of Portuguese clubs have in making a massive the climate, the hospitable nature of the profit on their players, but a variety of country, the culture - and the language factors help make Portugal the perfect in the case of Brazil - which makes it destination for players to develop, make easier for them to adapt,” says Correia. Along with the usual South American their mark and be sold on for a profit. prospects, in recent years there has been “There’s a reason you’ve never heard of a famous Portuguese-born tennis player, an influx of Eastern European players to golfer or athlete,” says Portuguese football the Primeira Liga, with Nemanja Matić and journalist Tom Kundert. “The beautiful game Jan Oblak the two notable names who is everything in this football-crazed country.” have made the step from Benfica to Chelsea When you consider the blanket media and Atlético Madrid respectively. “A young coverage that football receives in Portugal, Serbian is more likely to get significant including three daily sports papers (A Bola, playing time for Benfica, Sporting or Porto O Jogo and Record), and the economic than for Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus situation at present, it’s no wonder that or Bayern, for example,” Kundert says. Third-party ownership (TPO) also young teenagers, especially those from Portugal's devotion to the Catholic faith

Fátima, fado, futebol



ISSUE 1 played a big part in the early successes of the Portuguese transfer market. The practice involves companies or agents owning all or part of the financial right to a player, so that the third party, instead of the football club, benefits from the transfer fees every time they are sold. Widespread in South America, the practice allowed big names such as Hulk, James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao to sign for a Portuguese club, in this case Porto, showcase their skills and be sold abroad for a large fee, with the third party taking most of the cut from the transfer. Former UEFA President Michel Platini branded third-party ownership a ‘form of slavery’ in 2015 and a global ban on third-party ownership of players was introduced by FIFA in the same year. Although Kundert agrees with the ban, he also believes that Portuguese clubs cannot attract the calibre of player that was possible before the outlawing of TPO. “There is no doubt it gave rise to serious ethical questions, and there was also a huge lack of transparency in the deals,” he said. “Having said that, it gave Portuguese clubs the possibility to bring in the likes of Falcao, James Rodríguez or Axel Witsel, so it being made illegal unfortunately means we are unlikely to see these stars sign for Portuguese clubs now.” No matter how talented the player is, without the right coaching or the ideal learning environment, it would be impossible for Portuguese clubs to adhere to their ‘buy low, sell high’ policy that has been so successful. In fact, the success of former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz in nurturing the original Geração de Ouro (Golden Generation) during the late 80s and early 90s helped set up the current generation of Portuguese coaches. “[After Queiroz’s success] Football club presidents put more faith in national coaches; several of Portugal’s universities began running degrees in the sports performance and coaching fields, while the Portuguese Football Federation invested heavily in setting up courses and organising workshops and seminars,” Kundert said. “The spectacular success of José Mourinho and André Villas-Boas further consolidated the profession and saw studious and well-prepared coaches become favoured over former players, especially it came to appointing youth coaches.”

José Mourinho - the standout of the golden generation of Portuguese coaches. The results of this approach speak for themselves. Although Euro 2016 was the Seleção’s first triumph at senior level, Portugal has almost always achieved impressive results at international youth tournaments over the past three decades, most recently finishing runner-ups to Sweden at the European Under-21 Championship in 2015. Members of that squad, including Dortmund’s Raphaël Guerreiro, Sporting’s William Carvalho and Inter’s João Mário, would go on to play a pivotal role in Portugal’s triumph in France last summer. At the business end of successful transfers by Portuguese clubs is one man and one man only: ‘super-agent’ Jorge Mendes. A former nightclub owner, Mendes took full advantage of football turning into a multi-billion dollar business almost overnight, forming mutually beneficial relationships with players, coaches, chairmen and presidents all over the world. “Mendes’ contacts in the game are unparalleled; his ability to find clubs willing to pay big for Portuguese talent is also without equal,” Kundert says. “His most famous clients are [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [José] Mourinho, but his Gestifute stable oversees the careers of hundreds of players and managers, and he has been responsible for the vast majority of the major sales of Portugal players over the past two decades.” In the wake of Portugal’s Euro 2016 victory, business proved to be profitable for Mendes. Renato Sanches, who won Young Player of the Tournament in France, moved from Benfica to Bayern Munich for €35 million (£30m), while André Gomes moved from Valencia to Barcelona for the same amount. What did they have in common? Both were Mendes clients.

Why Portugal is the perfect proving ground for unpolished talent

However, despite Benfica and Porto having good relations with Mendes, the last member of the Big Three refuses to do business with the agent. Sporting, under outspoken president Bruno de Carvalho, declared war on Mendes, making him persona non grata at the Estádio José Alvalade. The likes of Adrien Silva, João Mário and William Carvalho have all had to leave the Gestifute stable while at Sporting, with Carvalho unable to sign a new deal with the club until he had left Mendes during February of last year. But that hasn’t stopped the Leões from being an active participant in the transfer market. “Carvalho initially attracted mockery for inserting unrealistically inflated release clauses into every new signing Sporting made, but the policy has now become common practice across the board,” Kundert says. “Last summer saw the club’s two record sales as João Mário and [Islam] Slimani brought in €45 million (£38m) and €35 million (£30m) respectively following their transfers to Inter Milan and Leicester.” With all the tools in place to find and attract talent, as well as developing it to the next level, there’s no reason why the pounds and euros should stop flowing into the safes of Portuguese clubs up and down the country anytime soon. The bottom line is basic economics and the simple theory of supply and demand. Or as Correia puts bluntly: “Portuguese clubs have to sell, and the big European clubs come here and can get technically and tactically proficient players who don’t exist in their countries.”

Who will be the next big transfer from Portugal’s Big Three? Semedo - the Sporting Gélson Martins - a shining Silva - the Portuguese Porto André Benfica Nélson light in a disappointing attacking full-back has international scored 21 goals in all competitions this season and will lead the line for the Seleção at the Confederations Cup this summer. An ideal number nine for big European clubs.


been likened to Dani Alves and played a key role in the Eagles' fourth consecutive Primeira Liga title. Has been linked with a move to the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United.

season for Sporting. Compared to Luís Figo in style, the tricky winger has been linked with moves to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the summer transfer window.





s transfers go, it was an unlikely one. Kyle Lafferty – a gangling striker with modest goalscoring records at Burnley, Rangers and FC Sion – signed by Palermo to spearhead their return to Serie A. As well as questions about his ability, Lafferty had attracted plenty of controversy already, such as openly courting offers from other clubs while at Burnley; twice diving embarrassingly to get players sent off at Rangers; Tweeting taunts to then-Celtic boss Neil Lennon; and parking in a disabled space on a trip to Asda. His international team-mate Jamie Ward once described him as “a clown”. Even more surprisingly, Palermo genuinely seemed to see the Northern Irishman as the heir to the prolific Fabrizio Miccoli, who had just left for Lecce. The Italian media also played their part in piling on the pressure, comparing Lafferty to Luca Toni, a Palermo legend and former Bayern Munich star. The Northern Irishman’s stay would be eventful: he would outscore two of Italian football’s hottest prospects and be likened to an Italian comic book superhero before being sold for being a womaniser. Lafferty’s move to Sicily came about when he befriended Gennaro Gattuso, his player-manager at Swiss outfit Sion. When Gattuso was offered the Palermo job in June 2013, he encouraged Lafferty to come with him and the striker duly obliged, joining for an undisclosed fee just a week later. “It was a very surprising signing,” Lorenzo Vicini, a Palermo fan who runs the English-language UltraPalermo. com website, tells Eurofoot. “You don’t see many Englishmen in Italy, much less a Northern Irishman in Sicily.” While Palermo had been relegated to Serie B the previous season, as one of Italy’s biggest clubs they were expected to make an immediate return to the top flight.

Lafferty’s cult hero status was only furthered by his apparent likeness to Dylan Dog, an Italian comic book hero vegetarian paranormal investigator

There was plenty of competition for places up front, with the club already boasting fans’ favourite Abel Hernandez as well as Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti, both already being tipped for stardom. However, Lafferty quickly made his mark with a prolific record during Palermo’s pre-season friendlies in Austria, and he continued to live up to the lofty expectations with a goal on

Lafferty also outscored Andrea Belotti (middle), who netted 25 times in Serie A this season for Torino.


When Lafferty Outscored Dybala

Just three years ago Kyle Lafferty was outscoring Dybala and Belotti at Palermo. His only season there was eventful...

his debut in a Coppa Italia win over Cremonese in August. By September, Gazetto dello Sport’s Palermo correspondent Fabrizio Vitale was surprised but impressed by the gangly Northern Irishman: “Looking at him, you wouldn’t think it – but slow, lanky Lafferty scores goals,” began a backhandedly complimentary report on Lafferty’s start to life at the club. Despite Gattuso being sacked just a month into the season, three more goals (and two yellow cards) followed for Lafferty in September, and the following month he further endeared himself to the Palermo faithful with a goal in a 3-0 derby win over Trapani at the Stadio Renzo Barbera. The striker was thriving from Dybala’s supporting role as no.10, allowing Lafferty to cause problems for defenders, confident service would arrive from behind him. “Dybala always manages to pick me out,” he said early in the season. “Playing with him is a pleasure.” Lafferty’s cult hero status was only furthered by his apparent likeness to Dylan Dog, an Italian comic book hero vegetarian paranormal investigator (of course). With Lafferty’s lanky frame and pallid skin a match for the pale, skinny Dylan, Palermo fans nicknamed him ‘DylanGol’. Dylan Dog’s creators even included him in one of the comics (see right); a bemused Lafferty was presented with the comic before a home game against Cittadella in December. In February 2014 Vitale summarized Palermo’s new hero with the following gushing (if geographically inaccurate) eulogy: “He has the face of Dylan Dog, the temper of Braveheart and the resistance of a Highlander.” “The fans quickly fell in love with Lafferty’s gritty and passionate performances,” adds Vicini. “It was that energy




Just three years ago Kyle Lafferty was outscoring Dybala and Belotti at Palermo. His only season there was eventful...

Words by Dan Rawley

and emotion that endeared him to us.” Palermo stormed to promotion back to Serie A as champions, finishing 14 points clear of second place Empoli. Their success was largely thanks to their “Magnificent Five” attackers: Lafferty, Dybala, Hernandez, Belotti and Argentine midfielder Franco Vázquez, now at Sevilla. “Absolutely not,” said Lafferty when asked if there was a goalscoring competition among Palermo’s talented strikeforce. “It doesn’t matter who scores more.” That said, the race to be the club’s top scorer was tight. Lafferty narrowly lost out to Abel Hernandez’s 14 goals in all competitions, but the Northern Irishman’s 12 was enough to beat both Belotti (10) and Dybala (5), and he was also voted Fans’ Player of the Season. Despite comfortably outscoring Dybala, Lafferty was clearly impressed by the Argentine. “It was great to play alongside Paulo - his talent was clear and he was a good lad off the pitch too,” he told The Sun in May this year. “I have never seen a player try to nutmeg opposition players so much in my life. The ability that he has is incredible. “He has the potential to be the best player in the world and knowing him


he will fulfil it...In time he’ll take over from Messi and Ronaldo,” he continued. But Lafferty’s stay at Palermo was to end even more ridiculously than it began; it seems he’d been enjoying himself even more off the pitch than on it. Beppe Iachini, Gattuso’s replacement, told Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini that the striker was “unmanageable” and begged Zamparini to sell him. The President agreed: “He is a womaniser – he disappears for a week and takes a plane to go hunt for women in Milan,” Zamparini told Italy’s Radio 24. “He never trains. He’s completely off the rails. He’s an Irishman without rules.” Having sacked more than 40 managers in his 15 years at Palermo, Zamparini was no stranger to controversy himself, which makes his moral outrage all the more incredible. Lafferty was quickly flogged to Norwich City for around £5m and soon returned to the Lafferty of old: he scored just two league goals for the Canaries and was farmed out on loan twice before being released last month. It seems ridiculous now to think that just three seasons ago the man languishing in Norwich’s reserves all season outscored Dybala – now at Juventus and widely

tipped to challenge for the Balon d’Or soon - and Belotti, now of Torino and one of Serie A’s most prolific strikers. Incredibly, Lafferty’s off-field antics didn’t seem to put Palermo off – they tried to re-sign him in 2015 and 2016, failing in both attempts. “The fans were sad to see him go - he’d be welcomed back with open arms,” says Vicini.

Lafferty (right - or is it left?) posing with Dylan Dog in perhaps the world’s least likely comic book tie-in ever.



ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN A quick lowdown on the tricky winger that could be starring for Monaco soon

From Châtenay-Malabry in the southwest suburbs of Paris, Allan Saint-Maximin was touted as Saint-Étienne’s next big thing when he broke through at Les Verts in 2013, becoming the third youngest player to wear the greentunic jersey at 16 years, five months and 17 days. However, a falling out with manager Christophe Galtier meant that Saint-Maximin had his chances limited at the Stade GeoffroyGuichard, and in 2015 he joined Monaco as part of a massive spending spree on young players by the club from the principality. With plenty of players ahead of him in the pecking order, he was immediately sent out on loan to German side Hannover. Despite showing glimpses of his talent, he was not played regularly and was unable to keep them in the Bundesliga. He was once again sent out on loan this season to Ligue 1 side Bastia, and unlike at Hannover, has been one of their key players in their ultimately futile relegation battle.


Saint-Maximin’s primary strength is his dribbling ability, and his take-on numbers rival some of the best in Europe, including Eden Hazard and Neymar. That’s made all the more remarkable considering Bastia finished rock bottom of Ligue 1. He possesses blistering pace, using it to knock the ball past opposition full-backs and latching back onto it before they know what to do. It’s not all speed for Saint-Maximin, as he also has a repertoire of tricks and skills which make him an extremely unpredicatable opponent to play against. That unpredictability also manifests itself in his shooting, with all three of his league goals this season being spectacular strikes.


As is the case with most young wingers, SaintMaximin’s end product is unreliable and he can often be very wasteful in attacking positons, taking shots from ridiculous angles even if a pass is on. Poor decision making is often an indicator of relative inexperience and Saint-Maximin should improve as he accumulates greater experience. His work-rate is not the best either, as the stats show that he is not inclined to track back and help his full-back, only averaging one defensive action per game.



European Xl


Born in Burkina Faso, Lafont only missed two games for Toulouse this season. He became the youngest ever Ligue 1 goalkeeper when he made his debut last season and helped Toulouse avoid relegation. Heinrichs is renowned for his good ball skills, pace and attacking prowess which means he can play anywhere in the midfield or defence. Despite being just 20 Sanchez has already led his club to a European final. Many teams have their eye on him as has proved he is strong and quick and possesses leadership qualities. Leverkusen managed to sign Tah from rivals Hamburg, and they’ll be pleased they did. He is tough and robust, a no-nonsense defender. Signed from Barcelona B, Grimaldo Alban Lafont proved his worth last season. He is extremely Club: Toulouse quick and incredibly proficient going forward. Nationality: French Neves is part of Portugal’s current crop Age: 18 of promising young players. Despite his age he has gained experience quickly and has become a staple in the Porto team. Tielemans has earned a big money move to Monaco this summer. He captained his old club Anderlecht despite being just 19 at the time. Dahoud, born in Syria, has great vision as a deep-lying playmaker which obviously attracted Davinson Sanchez Jonathan Tah Alex Grimaldo Dortmund’s attention. Benjamin Heinrichs Club: Ajax Club: Bayer Leverkusen Club: Benfica Mor has proven he has tons of Nationality: Club: Bayer Nationality: German Nationality: skill and flair. Next season he Colombian Leverkusen Age: 21 Spanish should see more playing time Age: 20 Nationality: German highlighting his mercurial Age: 21 Age: 20 ability. Baldé is known for his strong dribbling and skill. This season he has finally added an end product scoring 16 goals. Youngster Kean became the first player born in the Rúben Neves Youri Tielemans 21st Century to Mahmoud Dahoud Club: Porto score in one of Club: AS Monaco Club: Borussia Dortmund Europe’s top 5 Nationality: Portuguese Nationality: Belgian Nationality: German leagues this Age: 20 Age: 20 Age: 21 year. He should prove to be one the next greats.

Future generation

Emre Mor Club: Borussia Dortmund Nationality: Turkish Age: 19


Moise Kean Club: Juventus Nationality: Italian Age: 17

Keita Baldé Diao Club: Lazio Nationality: Senegalese Age: 22


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.