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MAGAZINE 72

ONE ON ONE

MARCO ASENSIO PAULINHO

GOLDEN BOY

MAKING A COMEBACK

MILAN CASHES IN ON GOLDEN KEEPER

ZLATAN DIEGO COSTA

BARCA BLUES

20NTD18OWN

COU

DEPARTURES AND INJURIES

ENGLAND RISING

THE THREE LIONS LOOK FOR INTERNATIONAL GLORY

TEN OUT OF TEN ITALY 10’S

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TOP 10 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY ISSUE #72 $9.95 Display until January 03, 2018


CONTENTS NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017 ISSUE 72

SOCCER360 SOCCER 360

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

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MAGAZINE 72

ONE ON ONE

MARCO ASENSIO PAULINHO

GOLDEN BOY

MAKING A COMEBACK

MILAN CASHES IN ON GOLDEN KEEPER

ZLATAN DIEGO COSTA

BARCA BLUES

DEPARTURES AND INJURIES

2018

COUNTDOWN

ENGLAND RISING

THE THREE LIONS LOOK FOR INTERNATIONAL GLORY

TEN OUT OF TEN ITALY 10’S

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TOP 10 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

THE GOOD, BAD & UGLY ISSUE #72 $9.95 Display until January 03, 2018

06 ENGLAND 08 GERMANY 10 BRAZIL 12 U.S.M.N.T. 14 BY THE NUMBERS

EPL

18 3'S COMPANY 20 ZLATAN 22 AROUND ENGLAND

SERIE A

28 PERFECT 10'S 34 AROUND ITALY

LA LIGA

40 COSTA RETURNS 42 BARCA BLUES 44 ONE ONE ONE WITH MARCO ASENSIO 46 ONE ONE ONE WITH PAULINHO 48 AROUND SPAIN

BUNDESLIGA

54 LEWANDOWSKI 56 GREY SHADES 58 AROUND GERMANY

Champions LEAGUE 62 SPOTLIGHT

EUROPA LEAGUE 68 MAIN STAGE QUEST

MLS

72 ONE ON ONE WITH RUSSELL CANOUSE 74 EURO INVASION 76 AROUND NORTH AMERICA

PAGE 12 BRUCE ARENA RESIGNS AS USA FAILS TO MAKE THE WORLD CUP FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1986

FEATURED

80 CUBA SOCCER 82 TOP 10 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

IN STORE

84 PRODUCTS

GAME ON

86 ELEVEN

LAST WORD

88 RETAINER TROUBLE

PAGE 7 ENGLAND IS RISING UP TO WHAT THEY WERE BACK IN THE 60'S

PAGE 63 MANY TEAMS ARE IN CONTENTION TO WIN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE THIS YEAR

PAGE 10 THE DUNGA ERA WAS BAD, BUT THIS NEW ERA SEEMS PROMISING

2 Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

PAGE 40 DIEGO COSTA RETURNS TO START FRESH IN HIS PAST

PAGE 83 WHATS ON YOUR WISH LIST THIS YEAR?


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KICKOFF MIND THE GAP THE CONTINUED RISE OF EUROPE’S ‘SUPER CLUBS’ THREATENS THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, THE VERY TOURNAMENT POWERING THEIR SUCCESS, GABY MCKAY WRITES. Celtic were thrashed 5-0 in their first Champions League group game by PSG

‘Eight clubs have a realistic chances of winning the Champions League’

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eptember saw the Champions League proper get under way for the current season. After several rounds of qualifying, which began almost as soon as Real Madrid lifted the trophy in Cardiff back in June, the big boys took to the stage once again. The draw promised excitement. Juventus were paired with Barcelona, while Bayern Munich squared off against Paris SaintGermain. In Group C, Roma, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid formed a classic Group of Death. As the world gathered around its television screens for the first round of matches though, a pervasive, pernicious realisation began to dawn — this is all a bit pointless, isn’t it? Scottish champions Celtic, winners of the European Cup in 1967, were thrashed 5-0 at home by Bayern Munich. Chelsea slaughtered Qarabag 6-0 at Stamford Bridge, and Manchester City battered Feyenoord 4-0 away from home. This was not the European elite clashing on the biggest stage, this was shooting fish in a barrel. We may be reaching a point where the disparity between football’s haves and have-nots truly is insurmountable. Quirks in the draw and the seeding may throw up some exciting group stage clashes, but in reality the line-up for the Round of 16 could be guessed with a reasonable degree of accuracy before a ball has even been kicked. Of those 16, there are probably eight at best with a realistic chance of lifting the trophy at the end of the season. Surprises can still happen of course — just look at Leicester City’s Premier League triumph — but even this early in the season the battle is likely to be between Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris SaintGermain and perhaps one of the Manchester clubs. With the knockout rounds not getting underway until early next year, the group stages are starting to feel rather perfunctory. A perfect encapsulation of the increasing wealth gap in football is Celtic. Brendan

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Paris SaintGermain signed Monaco’s brightest young star, Kylian Mbappe


SOCCER360

MAGAZINE

Only seven or eight clubs have a realistic chance of lifting the Champions League trophy

TM

EDITOR Steven Davies

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Rob Paton MARKETING DIRECTOR Mario Calabretta ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Bill Asaro GRAPHIC DESIGN Nick Libertucci Gary Robinson SUBSCRIPTION COORDINATOR Tamara Hausner WEB MASTERS Nick Libertucci, Frank Calabretta CONTRIBUTERS Mike Barnes, Susy Campanale, Luca Cetta, Oli Coates, Sean Duffy, Thomas Unsworth, Stephen Donovan, Bradley King, Les Jones, Antonio Labbate, Alasadair Mackenzie, Lauren Maharaj, Alex Mott, Luca Persico, Jerrard Peters, George Rinaldi, Terrance Ross, Aman Sehdev, Andrew Tuft, Cronan Yu, Diego Jokas, Andrea Tallarita, Marco D’Onofrio, Gaby McKay, Livio Caferoglu PHOTOGRAPHY Action Images, Getty Images, Dale MacMillan, Richiardi, Sun Media, Dawn Westrbrook - Refs Cards

Rodgers’ side utterly dwarf any other in Scotland in terms of revenue. It’s no coincidence then that the Hoops hoovered up every domestic trophy last season without losing once. Transfer that to Europe though, and suddenly Celtic begin to look like minnows swimming among sharks. Prior to the start of this season’s Champions League, the Glasgow side had managed just one win from their previous 12 group stage games. That same financial gulf which aids them in Scotland is overwhelming in the Champions League, and much the same could be said for Basel, Qarabag or Shakhtar Donetsk. At the top of the food chain a group of ‘super clubs’ is emerging, reducing competition both domestically and in Europe. Juventus have won Serie A for the past six years, while Bayern Munich have five backto-back triumphs in the Bundesliga. In Ligue 1, Monaco managed to deny PSG yet another title, only for the Parisians to respond by spending €400m on Neymar and Kylian Mbappé — Monaco’s brightest young star. In Spain the Primera title has gone to either Real Madrid or Barcelona in all but one season since 2003-04, and Leicester’s triumph remains a glorious exception rather than the Premier League rule — since 2004 it’s the only title which hasn’t gone to Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. It appears than that football is heading increasingly toward a hegemony in which an elite band of super clubs fight it out for the trophies which matter. Is there any way to reverse the trend? American sports, of course, are remarkably socialist in their approach. In the NFL, the teams share television money, ticket sales and merchandising revenues, with the worst team from the previous season awarded the first draft pick. This is surely partly behind the fact no side has retained the Super Bowl since the New England Patriots in 2005. There’s no relegation in the NFL though, making redistribution more easy. There have been calls in Serie A to reduce the size of the division to 18 or 16 teams, given the struggles newly promoted sides have experienced in recent years. This would in theory allow fewer minnows, with only the very best sides competing.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT Dale Evans Ronaldo has been lifting Champions League Trophies for most of his career

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Is that really an answer though? Making the club even more exclusive, just because some can’t afford the membership fees? If anything, such a move might only entrench the current situation. What’s certain is that with the Premier League top six pushing for a bigger slice of the international TV rights, the financial gap won’t be closing any time soon. Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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1966 And All That. ENGLAND BOASTS BIG-NAME PLAYERS AND THE MOST HYPED LEAGUE IN THE WORLD BUT PRECIOUS FEW INTERNATIONAL TROPHIES. ROB MASON ASKS WHY THAT IS, AND IF IT IS LIKELY TO CHANGE…

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ptimism in England is always in plentiful supply before major tournaments as the nation that codified football embark upon trying to show the world they are still the best at it. Such high hopes are usually helped by England easily qualifying for the finals of both the World Cup and European Championships. The trouble is once they get to a major tournament, more often than not England fail miserably. They have won a major trophy since 1966, when they were hosts. Only twice since then have England even reached the semi-finals of a major competition — and the most recent of those was in 1996, more than 20 years ago, and when England again had the home-field advantage. But why is this? Of course, there are always great teams around who prove to be worthy winners, but surely England should have had more of a say in tournament latter stages? This summer, for the first time since 1966 at any level, England won a World Cup when the Under-20s raised the trophy in South Korea. Shortly after that the Under-21s were unluckily beaten in the semi-final of European Under-21 Championships, suffering the familiar fate of losing to Germany on penalties. But the last two summers the annual Toulon Tournament, for Under-21s, has been won by England. The Under-20 World Cup was won largely by Under-18s and for good measure, at the last Women’s World Cup, England earned a creditable third. So why can’t the men’s senior team do it too? The obvious and most cited reason is that while England do well in qualifying games, interspersed throughout the season, by the time the finals of a tournament come around the players are fatigued. Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson, the highly-regarded former England coaches from Italy and Sweden have both used this as a reason for previous failures. Italy and Germany have won the World Cup four times each while Spain and France have also lifted the trophy in the last two decades, and their domestic Leagues either have a winter break, fewer teams or a generally easier schedule. The days of English players playing 42 top-flight League games a season have long gone — 38 games has long been the norm. England players rarely play in many domestic Cup games, their managers preferring to rotate the squad for the lesser League Cup fixtures, and while those with Champions League clubs have that competition to contend with, so do the top players of the other leading nations. And yet England still can’t get it right and often struggle to make the last four of a major tournament, let alone win anything. The lack of a mid-season break may well be a factor. Players don’t get the chance to switch off mentally or physically during the season and even a rotation policy doesn’t help that much when training remains fullon throughout the year. There’s also the Catch-22 of top international players not benefitting from an international break, as they still have to travel, train and play,

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

‘‘Only twice since 1966 have England even reached the semi-finals of a major competition’’

Paul Gascoigne came to symbolise England’s near-misses.

LEFT: Gareth Southgate is aware of the strain the season will put on his England players ahead of Russia 2018.


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‘The lack of a mid-season break may well be a factor’

and deal with the pressure of an expectant nation. While the lack of a mid-season break is an undeniable difference between England and the other major Leagues, a bigger influence is the pace and physicality of football in England. The tempo is faster. The climate — cold and wet for much of the football season — doesn’t induce the slower pace of the balmier Mediterranean countries, and with a slower pace comes a more tacticallyfocused approach. The crowds, too, don’t tend to appreciate games of chess played out on a football pitch. Supporters have been reared on all-out action and expect

ABOVE: Sven-Goran Eriksson wanted his England players to get more rest before tournaments.

‘Gareth Southgate could be forgiven for secretly hoping English teams make early exits from European competition’

their players to give everything week in, week out. That might also be the case in Italy or Spain, but the blood-and-thunder nature of English football increases the impact. Such an approach is likely to bring more injuries, both in terms of broken bones as a result of high-speed collisions, and in terms of muscle fatigue due to the relentless pace of English football. To his credit England Coach Gareth Southgate is refusing to use this as an excuse. Already he is putting out positive messages. Southgate has heaped praise on Tottenham Hotspur and their boss Mauricio Pochettino for the way in which he has helped to develop the conditioning of star striker Harry Kane, along with other England players who have benefited from working with the Argentine, including Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Southgate also plans to issue individual conditioning programmes to his players as a long season ends. The Premier League concludes a month and a day before the World Cup kicks off on June 14. While the Europa League Final and FA Cup Final are scheduled for May 16 and 19 respectively, any players involved in the Champions League Final will be focused on that until May 26, meaning that the mandatory rest period FIFA have instigated between 21-27 May won’t apply to players representing Champions League finalists. Southgate could be forgiven for secretly hoping English teams make early exits from European competition. Southgate could consider drafting some fresh legs into his squad, maybe even the stars of the Under-20 World Cup-winning side who, by-and-large and despite their summer success, remain on the fringes of their club. Not even Dominic Calvert-Lewin, scorer of the winning goal in the final, looks like playing enough games to qualify as fatigued, even as Everton struggle without a replacement for Romelu Lukaku while Ronald Koeman shows signs he doesn’t fully trust the youngster to lead the line. Similarly, on the other side of Liverpool, Dominic Solanke, winner of the Golden Ball as the Player of the Tournament, swapped Chelsea for the Reds but began the season on the bench, struggling for Premier League minutes. World Cup 2018 then looks like coming too early for the heroes of England’s Under-20 World Cup win and if any one of them makes the squad for Russia it will be a huge surprise. Time will tell if they are involved by 2022, when England might still be waiting for another senior international trophy.

RASHFORD THE YOUTHFUL HOPE MARCUS RASHFORD HAS BECOME ONE OF THE FIRST NAMES ON ENGLAND’S TEAM SHEET DESPITE HIS TENDER YEARS, AND WILL HAVE A BIG ROLE TO PLAY FOR THE THREE LIONS.

There is a player likely to feature for England at World Cup 2018 who was young enough to have played in the Under-20 World Cup, but who had already progressed to the senior side. Marcus Rashford only left his teenage years at the end of October but is already an England regular. Home-grown Rashford has become arguably the fans’ favourite at Old Trafford, one of the players the crowd are most excited to see on the team sheet — and on the ball. There’s every chance Rashford emerges as one of the stars of next summer’s World Cup, even if he is stationed on the left of midfield rather than through the middle. Rashford’s industry, invention and unpredictability when running with the ball have made him increasingly important to Gareth Southgate and he appears to have even won around the hard-to-please Jose Mourinho, who doesn’t have the best reputation for trusting young players. United’s attack started the season in sensational form and Rashford was a big part of why. Should anything happen to England’s first choice No 9 Harry Kane and Rashford could get the nod to lead the attack, but the evidence so far suggests he’ll be crucial wherever he plays.

Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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Low’s Challenge ONLY ONE TEAM HAS EVER RETAINED THE WORLD CUP — BRAZIL IN 1962. JONATHAN SWINDLEHURST ASKS IF GERMANY COULD MAKE HISTORY AGAIN AT RUSSIA 2018.

‘‘Joachim Low is still at the helm and Germany look stronger than ever"

Joachim Low has led Germany in two World Cups and was Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant in 2006

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s the clock ticked on towards extra time, it was always going to take something special to win it. When the ball dropped over the shoulder of Mario Gotze, the diminutive German gave the watching world exactly that. Gotze, quickly becoming the darling of German football, showed perfect technique and ice-cool nerves to take the ball down on his chest before sliding a deft left foot finish into the corner of the net. The Maracana burst into rapture as the net bulged. Lionel Messi’s Argentina were to be denied a World Cup triumph in Brazil, partially softening the humiliation Joachim Low’s Germany dealt to the hosts in the Semi-Final. A war-torn, battle-scarred Bastian Schweinsteiger drove the side forward while Philipp Lahm lifted the trophy, and Germany were world champions once again. Fast forward three years. Low is still at the helm and Germany look stronger than ever as preparations for Russia 2018 continue apace. But can Die Mannschaft be the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the trophy? Winners face a huge challenge to retain their title four years later. To win the biggest

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

prize in football, it’s likely you’ll need world class players at the peak of their game. Think Ronaldo in 2002, Zinedine Zidane in 1998, Gianluigi Buffon in 2006 and Lahm in 2014. Four years on, they may have retired, or simply no longer be at those heights. The first challenge for holders is to replace world class performers, with other world class players hoping they stay injury-free and hit form at the right time. No easy feat. The second challenge is the soil on which they tread. Other than Brazil winning in Sweden in 1958, no South American team has triumphed in Europe. Before Germany in 2014, no European nation had won in South, Central or North America. Until 2002, the identity of the nation hosting the World Cup followed the same general pattern — the Americas were first, then Europe four years later, and so on. That meant that if you won close to home, to retain you’d have to win in unfamiliar surroundings on a different continent, factoring in the climate, altitude and numerous other variables. Having managed to win in Sweden, Brazil then successfully defended their crown in the familiar surroundings of Chile. When Sepp Blatter pledged to bring the

Bastian Schweinsteiger put in a battling performance in the final at Brazil 2014


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‘‘Tournament football is a strange beast"

tournament to new continents, European holders twice travelled to completely unknown footballing environments – France heading to Japan and South Korea in 2002, and Italy heading to South Africa in 2010. Winning a World Cup is one thing, retaining it away from your home continent is huge. Up until Germany 2006, the holders were also hamstrung purely by being the holders. Before this tournament they simply qualified automatically four years later due to their status as winners. While this sounds great, in practice it means two years of friendlies leading up to the tournament. It’s extremely difficult to get that competitive edge and function as a cohesive unit without the challenge of competitive football for that length of time. Just ask Roger Lemerre’s French team from 2002. So things aren’t looking too bad for Germany. They triumphed in South America and have the opportunity to defend in their home continent – having already secured the Confederations Cup this summer in Russia. They’ve had to qualify just like everyone else and look in imperious form, scoring 35 times in their first eight qualifiers and conceding only twice. These are big plus points but the biggest question is, do they have the players and the squad to succeed when tournament time comes? Since triumphing in Rio, Low’s side have lost inspirational leaders in Lahm and Schweinsteiger as well as tournament stalwarts Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, but still boast a number of the world’s top players and much of the side from 2014. Manuel Neuer continues to be one of the planet’s best goalkeepers, Toni Kroos has gone from strength to strength at Real Madrid and Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels are arguably one of the game’s strongest pairings at centre-back. Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller may be having difficult times with their clubs but they always perform on the international stage. The core of the side remains strong. It’s the strength in depth where we see a potentially better side than the 2014 vintage. Low can now call on Leroy Sane, Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Timo Werner, as well as counting on the emergence of Julian Draxler. Since making the squad in 2014 Draxler captained the successful

Confederations Cup-winning side in 2017 and made a big money move to Paris SaintGermain. He’s expected to have a big impact in Russia. If Low manages to make it to Russia with his chosen squad injury-free and hitting form at the right time, they clearly stand a huge chance of retaining their crown. But tournament football is a strange beast. It’s not always the strongest squad on paper that triumphs, but the one that rides their luck and is decisive in the crucial moments – just as Gotze was in Rio. It’s potentially here that the loss of Klose and the concern of Muller’s form will worry Low. Klose could always be relied upon to find a goal in the crucial moment — give him an inch of space and he’ll find the room to hurt the opposition. As it stands this current squad lacks a poacher of his exquisite ability. Muller on the other hand is a World Cup goal machine, having scored five in each of the last two tournaments. To triumph in Russia, he’ll need to lead the way with a similar haul. If he does, we could see Germany equalling Brazil’s record of five World Cup triumphs as well as becoming only the second side – and the first Europeans – to retain the trophy. If he doesn’t, the door is likely to be left open.

Mario Gotze scored a sublime winner in the final at the Maracana

WORLD CUP ROLL CALL YEAR 2014 2010 2006 2002 1998 1994 1990 1986 1982 1978 1974 1970 1966 1962 1958 1954 1950 1946 1942 1938 1934 1930

HOSTS Brazil South Africa Germany Japan / South Korea France USA Italy Mexico Spain Argentina Germany Mexico England Chile Sweden Switzerland Brazil Not held Not held France Italy Uruguay

WINNERS Germany Spain Italy Brazil France Brazil Germany Argentina Italy Argentina Germany Brazil England Brazil Brazil Germany Uruguay Italy Italy Uruguay

FINAL GER 1-0 ARG ESP 1-0 NED 1-1 [ITA 5-3 FRA]* BRA 2-0 GER FRA 3-0 BRA 0-0 [BRA 3-2 ITA]* GER 1-0 ARG ARG 3-2 GER ITA 3-1 GER ARG 3-1 NED GER 2-1 NED BRA 4-1 ITA ENG 4-2 GER BRA 3-1 CZE BRA 5-2 SWE GER 3-2 HUN URA 2-1 BRA ITA 4-2 NED ITA 2-1 CZE URA 4-2 ARG

Julian Draxler captained Germany at the Confederations Cup 2017

Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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RUSSIA 2018

The New Era THE DUNGA YEARS WERE UGLY AND ULTIMATELY DOOMED TO FAILURE BUT TITE, HAVING LEARNED FROM HIS OWN DISAPPOINTMENT, HAS SHAPED A BRAZIL READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD, PETER FERNIE WRITES.

‘The Selecao need to use the passion inside to fuel their dreams and not destroy them’

ABOVE: Will Brazil lift the World Cup again next summer? LEFT: Tite took over and revitalised the Brazil squad

‘Tite’s Brazil have been every bit as effective as NEEDED 10

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

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ix games in to the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign, Brazil were in a difficult spot. A 2-0 defeat in Chile followed by draws against Argentina and Uruguay left Coach Dunga in a precarious position and as Brazil faced Paraguay in Asuncion in March 2016 he was thought to be in the last chance saloon. Despite a late rally to salvage a 2-2 draw, it was not enough to save the 1994 World Cup winning captain. It took three months before the decision was made official but on June 14 2016, Dunga was removed from his position. Six days later, Tite [full name Adenor Leonardo Bacchi] was appointed. It was a popular and long-awaited decision in Brazil. During a 27-year coaching career, Tite has proved himself a flexible and intelligent tactician. Positive spells with southern giants Gremio and Internacional preceded his first spell at Corinthians, where he truly became a household name. Between December 2011 and December 2012, the Caixas do Sol native built an efficient and predominantly counterattacking side which achieved an incredible treble of the Brazilian Championship, Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup. By 2013, however, his penchant for defensive security had begun to work against him. Corinthians were no longer so adept on the counter and fans had become bored. After a campaign containing 10 goalless draws and only 27 goals scored, Corinthians finished 10th. He decided to take time out from the game to study his craft and learn from other coaches. In particular, Carlo Ancelotti significantly influenced his ideas in terms of midfield control and numerical superiority. In December 2014 Tite returned to Corinthians. The Sao Paulo giants clinched the 2015 Brazilian Championship with the statistically most emphatic performance in the tournament’s history. He did this with an adjusted style of play — a higher defence, more combination play and possession used as both a means of attack and defence. This version of Tite is who the fans and Press wanted to lead the nation. He preaches patience in the build-up with numerous options offered to the man in possession, ensuring both efficient ball circulation and a compact defensive organisation in transition, principles of play which he has utilised on the Brazilian bench. The current Brazil side is a return to what older fans still reminisce about from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. They generally utilise a 4-1-4-1 formation. In goal, Roma man Allison is the preferred option. The full-back positions are filled by Dani Alves and Marcelo, who bring added value to the attack with their technical ability, dribbling and stamina. A central defensive pair of Miranda and Marquinhos move the line high and with Casemiro slightly in front of them a fantastic defensive base has been created. A central midfield of Renato Augusto and Paulinho is supported in the wide areas by Neymar on the left and either Willian or Philippe Coutinho on the right, and from both sides Brazil look to their wide men


RUSSIA 2018 to move inside between the lines of the opponent. In the central attacking slot, Gabriel Jesus offers pace, imagination and finishing ability and is the favoured option. Cesar Menotti, Coach of 1978 World Cup winners Argentina, spoke highly of the side Tite has fashioned. “Tite has moved the defensive line 20 metres higher and brought the lines closer together,” he explained. “Without forgetting the difference in quality, they look like the Brazil of 1970.” While the natives enjoy watching the national side again, the tactical manoeuvres of Tite have been every bit as effective as they have been entertaining. His opening nine qualifying matches on the Brazil bench brought nine straight victories, with 26 goals scored and only two conceded. This excellent run saw Brazil become the first side to qualify for the tournament, the hosts apart. It’s a well-balanced team but there still remains room for individuals to stand out and in a side full of top class players, it is Neymar who still rises above the rest as the leader and reference point. The Paris SaintGermain man brings quality in both feet, pace, goals, assists and leadership. Neymar apart though, it’s down the centre of Tite’s team we find the decisive factors in making his Brazil function. In defence, the protection offered to Miranda and Marquinhos by Casemiro in front has been key to the Brazilian revival. Ahead of Casemiro, in midfield Renato Augusto and Paulinho have been a vital combination over the last 15 months. The two players contrast perfectly to provide the perfect combination. Renato Augusto is excellent technically and fundamental in directing the smooth and patient build up play his Coach craves. Paulinho offers physicality and thrust, consistently displaying a gift for finding space in the final third. In nine competitive games under Tite, the exTottenham Hotspur man has five goals and two assists. The shape of the side is perfect for Paulinho and leaves him the space to do what he does best. Expectations of this Brazil are high as the 21st World Cup approaches. We should see a balanced, fluid side that can control the ball and wear down opposition, possessing the offensive variety to break through any opponent. Defensively, they are extremely efficient. In terms of teamwork and talent Brazil appear dressed for success. A question that remains to be answered is whether they possess the necessary emotional control to triumph. In 2010, seemingly cruising against Holland, Brazil lost their discipline. Filipe Melo was sent off for a horror foul as Dunga’s side suffered from an emotional collapse in a 2-1 defeat. Four years later against Germany in the semifinal, admittedly shorn of Neymar and Thiago Silva, Brazil played as if crushed by the weight of the nation’s dreams and were annihilated by a rampant Mannschaft. This time, the Selecao need to use the passion inside to fuel their dreams and not destroy them. If they do it will take an outstanding opponent to prevent Brazil winning their sixth World Cup.

Dunga was unable to replicate his 1994 World Cup success as captain

BELOW: Great Defence comes from great defencemen. RIGHT: A Brazil World Cup win would need a major contribution from Neymar

KING NEYMAR TITE’S BRAZIL IS PACKED FULL OF TALENT BUT NEYMAR IS THE UNDISPUTED KING. AFTER LEAVING BARCELONA FOR PARIS SAINTGERMAIN, THE FORWARD HAS NEW CHALLENGES IN MIND…

Since making his debut for Santos in 2009 as a 17-year-old, Neymar has had a clear plan to become the best player in the world and win the Ballon d’Or. He choose to remain with Santos when making his first steps in the professional game. It proved a wise decision as Santos lifted the Copa de Brasil and the Copa Libertadores in 2010 and 2011 respectively, with Neymar firmly establishing himself as the finest player in South American club football. By 2013, he was ready to move abroad. He wished to test himself and improve but in an environment where all the pressure wouldn’t be placed on his shoulders. Barcelona craved his services and the Catalan club were the perfect choice for Neymar’s strategy. Barcelona was the team of Lionel Messi and only Messi could be the star in this team. Over the next four years, he played a massive part in the club’s success, winning nine trophies and proving himself one of the game’s elite players. However, he had long known this would only ever be a stepping stone to a greater challenge. To be crowned the game’s top talent, he needs to be the star man of his club side. In joining Paris Saint-Germain, the magician will be expected to decide key matches at home and particularly abroad. PSG have Champions League aspirations. Meanwhile, at the 2018 World Cup, Neymar will be the key player in an outstanding Brazil side. The Champions League, the World Cup and the Ballon d’Or are all in Neymar’s sights. Winning the first two for club and country respectively would surely guarantee the third. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in their 30s and the game is ready for a new king. Is Neymar ready to rule? Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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Down and Out

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ctober 10, 2017 at Ato Bolden Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago was a very dark time for the United States Men’s National Team. Heck, it was a very dark time for most football fans who follow the USMNT. There will be no last minute goals in St. Petersburg, no moments at local pubs captured on YouTube, no USMNT watch parties for the kids, nothing. After seven consecutive appearances in the Men’s World Cup the U.S. were eliminated during qualifying the victims of a 2-1 loss to the Soca Warriors and a series of events that would make Murphy’s Law proud. Everything that could have went wrong did go wrong for the U.S. But that doesn’t mean this was some act of randomness. While the stars did align for Panama and Honduras on the night to succeed the USMNT were heading for failure. Dating back and prior to the end of the 2014 World Cup there were worrying signs that all was not right in U.S. Men’s Soccer. Remember this is the same organization that missed out on two consecutive Olympics, the 2011 under-20 World Cup, and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. All of the seeds were planted for a terrible stretch of results for the USMNT but nobody was paying attention. So what is the root cause of this current run of terrible form. Here are ten possible reasons:

10. KEEPING JURGEN KLINSMANN ON AS MANAGER FOR A SECOND TERM. Managers very rarely have a good second act when it comes to World Cup qualifying. After a rocky, but solid run through World Cup 2014 Jurgen Klinsmann continued his stay as Technical Director and Manager of the senior side. While it would be difficult to take away what Klinsmann did as TD his work as manager was always suspect. Two consecutive losses in the final round of World Cup Qualification sealed his fate. 9. STICKING WITH ‘THEIR GUYS’ To be able to consistently make World Cups sides have to continuously bring in new players and deal with the growing pains. They also have to make the difficult call when it comes to saying goodbye to other players. Over 14 players on U.S.’ roster in the Trinidad match were over the age over 30.Both Arena and Klinsmann failed the U.S. by not overhauling the roster. Soccer is a young person’s sport and the U.S. were too slow and too old to keep up with their CONCACAF opponents. 8. NOT FINDING A REPLACEMENT FOR EITHER JERMAINE JONES OR KYLE BECKERMAN This might sound like a counter-argument to reason #9 but it is more of a highlight of a dearth of a specific type of player. As opposed to other players who were allowed to stay on past their prime (see: Bedoya, Alejandro) both Jones and Beckerman were shown the door quite quickly after the 2014 World Cup. The problem with that is the U.S. were never able to find one person, let alone two that could clog up the midfield and spur the counter-attack quite like those two.

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‘Heck, it was a very dark time for most football fans who follow the USMNT’

7. INCONSISTENT PLAY AT GOALKEEPER For years the debate amongst U.S. Soccer supporters was: Tim Howard or Brad Guzan. Now the debate is simple: anyone but Tim Howard or Brad Guzan. The two veteran goalkeepers struggled during key moments of qualification and ultimately played a huge role in the USMNT’s demise. After years of being very certain about their future at goalkeeper now the USMNT find themselves with a lack of experienced players to field the position. 6. INJURIES, INJURIES, INJURIES. Much was expected of Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Fabian Johnson heading into this campaign. But the four spent most of their time on the bench or at the doctor’s table nursing a variety of injuries. Losing two Premier League and two Bundesliga defenders will sink the ship of any side. 5. OPENING THE FINAL ROUND OF QUALIFICATION WITH TWO LOSSES No side has ever lost their first two matches in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualification and advanced. While playing Mexico at home and Costa Rica on the road might not be anyone’s idea of an easy start the USMNT had to at least get a point out of one of those two matches. They didn’t and it set the tone for what was to come.

ABOVE: Bruce Arena Stepped down as the USMNT head coach after being disqualified from the World Cup LEFT: Sometimes you need to change your squad to fit the dynamic international soccer world.


RUSSIA 2018

4. THE NEW GUYS ALSO DIDN’T WORK OUT. It is easy to say, “Throw out the old guys! Bring the next class in.” But what is harder is to keep justifying bringing in new guys in when they don’t produce. Aside from Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic no other player really stood out that wasn’t from the World Cup 2014 side or earlier. Kellyn Acosta, Jorge Villafana, and Darlington Nagbe both underachieved at the senior level while Jordan Morris had a precipitous fall from grace. 3. AN OVER RELIANCE ON CHRISTIAN PULISIC Yes, Christian Pulisic is a fantastic player and yes he had a spectacular qualification run. But he is 19 years old and to ask him to put a team of one, two, three (or in the case of DaMarcus Beasley four) cycle World Cup veterans is unfair to him. Arena gambled that by going with his guys and the hot hand in Pulisic that he could get this team to Russia. He failed and the risk that U.S. Soccer runs now is damaging Pulisic’s pedigree and image ahead of his prime transfer years.

2. MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER HAS MADE THE REST OF CONCACAF BETTER The two game-winning goals for Honduras and Panama during the final night of qualification came from two players currently playing in Major League SoccerRomell Quioto (Honduras/Houston Dynamo) and Roman Torres (Panama/Seattle Sounders). Matter of fact seven of the eleven goals scored on the final matchday came from players who are either currently playing in MLS, have played in MLS, or in the case of Carlos Vela will be playing in MLS. Many will claim that one of the goals of MLS is to grow and develop American soccer players. That is a myth. MLS’ goal is to grow and develop soccer players. That they are American is just a bonus. CONCACAF players outside of the U.S. have benefited greatly from the training and stability that MLS provides. It should be to no one’s surprise that these benefits to their home country as well as their club.

ABOVE: The USMNT needed to show more passion in their games. ABOVE SMALLER: Jozy Altidore will be one of the many US stars to miss next summer's World Cup. BELOW: Tim Howard has been through alot with the USMNT as he's been a prime keeper for them for years.

1. NO DRIVE. NO AMBITION. NO TICKET TO RUSSIA One of the calling cards for the United States over the past thirty has been their drive, their belief that no matter the odds they can succeed. That simply wasn’t there for this side during this cycle. At times their play was emotionless, passionless. In other moments passion and emotion were replaced by arrogance and petulance. The chant that you would often hear from the American Outlaws was that, “We believe that we can win” which for years was true because no matter the odds it always felt like they could win. But this cycle took that feeling away. This didn’t feel like the same USMNT that many of us had grown to know. It just felt like another team.

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RUSSIA 2018

By The Numbers QUALIFYING STATISTICS

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RUSSIA 2018

Qualified: Uruguay Colombia Argentina Brazil

Play Off*: Peru VS. NewZeland

*Oceania vs South America

Qualified: Nigeria Egypt

Play Off*: Tunisia Congo DR Morocco Ivory Coast Senegal Burkina C.V. Islands

*Three of the playoff teams will qualify.

Qualified: Iran Japan Saudi Arabia Korea Rep.

Play Off*: Honduras VS. Australia

*Asia vs North America

Qualified: Belgium France Germany Iceland Poland Spain England Portugal Serbia

Play Off*: N. Ireland Switzerland Croatia Greece Sweden Italy Denmark Rep. Ireland

*Four of the playoff teams will qualify.

Qualified: Panama Mexico Costa Rica

Play Off*: Honduras VS. Australia *Asia vs North America


PREMIER LEAGUE

12 Months In The Making DESPITE HAVING TO WAIT 12 MONTHS UNTIL THEIR NEW SIGNING WILL BE DONNING THE RED JERSEY, WHAT CAN LIVERPOOL FANS EXPECT FROM RB LEIPZIG’S CENTRAL MIDFIELDER NABY KEITA. GEORGE RINALDI EXPLAINS…

“H

e’s fantastic,” was how Guinea teammate Ibrahima Traore described Liverpool new boy Naby Kieta. “He’s a really, really good player…everything that has been said about him is true. In the meantime he has to concentrate and he said to me: “Yes, you’re right…I still have to play well [at Leipzig].’” There was never any doubt in Keita’s ability, however. At just 22-years-old, the midfielder has ample years ahead of him to not only showcase the hype surrounding him, but also build on his impressive start. The Guinea international remained an unknown entity for many even as Liverpool came calling, with only those fixated upon the Bundesliga and the steamrolling success of RB Leipzig aware of Keita. Before that, he joined up with Ligue 2 side FC Istres and made an instant impact with the second-tier club. At 18, Keita was the new kid of the block, given his first big chance in professional football and he did not disappoint. For just one season, Keita played his part for struggling Istres, making 22 starts and getting four goals in the process. It wasn’t even his impressive command of the midfield that brought in the interest of scouts – mainly it was his passing and

RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keitajoins a rush for his now-former club

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dribbling ability. His deft one-touch flicks to set up his teammates were a regular occurrence, running the team in the centre. Keita could do nothing to stave off the team’s inevitable relegation, but his excellent performances had a handful of scouts interested in his availability. The main one? Benoit Thans. Back during Keita’s Istes days, Thans visited RC Lens, who were welcoming the financially troubled side in late December. Keita ran the show, and a brief glimmer of his brilliance was enough to convince Thans that he needed to get the Guinean youngster to sign on the dotted line for Red Bull Group. “I followed him a few times,” said Thans. “It was an away match and Istres were not in a good situation, but in this match, he was the best on the field. I followed him for three or four matches and he was always the best player on the pitch.” Thans made sure that no other suitors, and there were precious few at the time, could make an 11th-hour attempt at signing Keita. And so in 2014, Naby Keita became the latest addition in RB Salzburg’s increasingly impressive team. It was in Austria that the midfielder would begin to become the player he today. A regular in the match day line-up, two years

‘Klopp’s version of a 4-3-3 formation could work perfectly for Keita’s playing style’

were spent at Salzburg. Originally, some expected Keita to struggle with the step up in class between the French second tier and Austrian first division. The same was said about Austria’s top flight and the Bundesliga, when Keita eventually crossed the border, but it was at Salzburg that the doubters first spoke out. Instead of struggling, Keita helped to get Salzburg to the UEFA Europa League round of 32, as well as securing a League and Cup double. Not only that, but in 2015-16 he was involved in 19 goals for Die Roten Bullen, working out at around one in every four games. A fee touted at €15m took Keita from one Red Bull club to another — Salzburg to Leipzig — and from Austria’s Bundesliga to Germany’s, continuing his upward trajectory on the way to becoming one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe. “We are very pleased that Naby Keita has chosen, despite many requests from European clubs, to take his next steps in Leipzig,” said Leipzig’s sporting director Ralf Rangnick at the time of the move. “He fits our young team perfectly with his dynamism, outstanding technical and tactical skills, and his character.” Rangnick also played a key part in making

“I followed him for three or four matches and he was always the best player on the pitch" — Benoit Thans


MESSI ROLE MODEL NABY KEITA MAY BE A DIFFERENT KIND OF PLAYER THAN LIONEL MESSI, BUT HE STILL NAMES THE BARCELONA FORWARD AS THE PLAYER HE WANTS TO MATCH. Although they may appear poles apart, Naby Keita’s ambitions are as a great as one of the best footballers on the planet, Lionel Messi. Keita revealed in early 2017 that he’d like to emulate the success of the Barcelona forward, but is only taking his career one step at a time. “I see my life as a ladder that I want to climb rung-by-rung,” he said. “Right now I’m a relatively small, unimportant footballer, but I want to grow and experience success. I dream of being the best player in Africa, and one day the world. Messi is the best footballer on the planet right now, and I’d like to experience similar successes to him.” Keita was speaking in April and revealed his humility by referring to himself as ‘unimportant.’ But now he has secured a big-money move to Liverpool the pressure is very much on him to succeed. But Messi has to deal with pressure every time he steps on the pitch and if Keita is to live up to the Argentine, he’ll have to cope. That said, with his ability, there shouldn’t be any stopping Keita.

Keita first joined the Red Bull Group when signing for RB Salzburg in 2014.

sure Naby was part of the Red Bull conglomerate, considering it was he who went over to France in 2014 to sign Keita. The player himself acknowledged Rangnick’s influence, saying the former Hoffenheim Coach treated him ‘like a son.’ Keita is currently on his second year at Leipzig, and in his first full season with the club was an integral part of the newlypromoted side’s excellent campaign. Leipzig ended their first year in the top flight second to all-powerful Bayern Munich, with Keita’s individual highlight being a stunning goal scored with the outside of his boot away to Freiburg, or perhap brilliantly rounding the Werder Bremen goalkeeper in a 3-1 win. The fact of the matter is that Keita has a top five goals compilation on the Bundesliga’s official YouTube account and what is more impressive is that goal-scoring isn’t even half of Keita’s ability. His worth is his passion and work rate in midfield. Then came the inevitable. With Leipzig preparing for their first-ever Champions League appearance, another club who were looking to replicate their automatic qualification – Liverpool – came calling. A club record fee that was rumoured to be even more than his £48m release clause meant Keita would be playing for his fourth club while still in his early 20s. The one so-called ‘bonus’ for Leipzig was that they are able to keep him for the current season, mainly to play a big part in their Champions League ambitions. Liverpool Coach Jurgen Klopp revealed after Keita’s signing was confirmed that it was the most popular transfer he had ever completed. “I have never had so many congratulations messages as I had after signing Naby,” he said. “It’s really good news. We have to wait but sometimes we have to wait for a really good thing. I have no

Jurgen Klopp was thrilled when he discovered that Naby Keita would be joining Liverpool next summer.

FACTFILE NAME: Naby Keita BORN: February 10, 1995 (Conakry, Guinea) HT / WT: 1.72m / 64kg POSITION: Midfielder CLUB: RB Leipzig SEASON 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18

CLUB Istres RB Salzburg RB Salzburg RB Leipzig RB Leipzig

APPS 23 44 35 32 6

problem with this.” Keita will be joining a club that believe they are on the up, even though they spent the entire summer having to fend off Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho interest with a pointy stick. Liverpool fans should expect exactly what many have already said – one of the best young midfielders in the world. If Keita’s impressive Leipzig performances are anything to go by, they’ll be onto a winner, and the statistics back it up. Firstly, Keita was second only to Barcelona new boy Ousmane Dembele in terms of dribbles per game – 2.7, and Dembele played as a winger or wide forward, not Keita’s boxto-box midfield role, where he is less likely to embark on dribbles, let alone do so as successfully. And he made more assists than any current Liverpool player bar Georginio Wijnaldum, and was only out-scored by Liverpool’s attackers — Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Klopp’s version of a 4-3-3 formation could work perfectly for Keita’s playing style. With two of Coutinho, Mane and Salah on the wings, next season’s midfield three should realistically consist of captain Jordan Henderson, Germany international Emre Can — assuming he signs a new contract — and Keita. The new boy could play as the defensive midfielder, roughly the position he held in his Salzburg days, or as the more forward-thinking option seen at Leipzig. Keita’s sporting hero is Yaya Toure, a player whose career he has followed in earnest, and although at 5’8” he can’t match the Ivorian’s stature, he has the ability the Manchester City man had in his peak years. The skill of picking a key pass and playing the penultimate ball is his forte and a truly world-class player is coming to Liverpool, but with so much more to showcase.

GOALS 4 6 14 9 1

‘We have to wait but sometimes we have to wait for a really good thing’ — Jurgen Klopp

COMPARING KEITA WITH NABY KEITA’S MOVE SCHEDULED FOR 2018, HOW DOES THE GUINEAN INTERNATIONAL COMPARE TO HIS SOON-TO-BE TEAMMATES? When it comes to goals and assists, Naby Keita compares favourably to his future colleagues. In 31 Bundesliga appearances last season, Keita grabbed a more-thanrespectful tally of eight goals and seven assists, and the numbers explain why Jurgen Klopp was so keen to bring him to Anfield. Only Georginio Wijnaldum bettered Keita’s assist total with nine, but then Liverpool did score more goals as a team than RB Leipzig. Even with that taken into account, only Adam Lallana surpassed Keita’s minutes-to-goals/assists ratio, the England midfielder with a goal or assist every 156 minutes compared to Keita’s 161. Keita’s figure is also significantly better than that of Emre Can’s 338 minutes. Keita’s chances created per game stands out too, with 1.3 chances per game only bettered by Lallana’s 1.4. Wijnaldum and Can averaged 1.2 and 1 respectively. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s figures are hampered by the injury problems he suffered throughout the season, but it’s plain to see that Keita can make a strong contribution to the team. But Keita’s game can’t be reduced to numbers. Really, Keita’s value is best seen by watching him play. His vision and ability to pick a pass can’t truly be measured but there were countless times a Keita through ball sprung the opposition and sent Leipzig through. He has a remarkable ability in central midfield, and may prove to be everything Liverpool need. Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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PREMIER LEAGUE

Three’s Company ENGLAND WAS LONG MOCKED AS A HAVEN FOR TACTICALLY-BEREFT COACHES AND PLAYERS — BUT NOT ANYMORE. ANDREW TUFT EXPLAINS HOW ANTONIO CONTE HAS FORCED THE PREMIER LEAGUE TO EVOLVE…

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here’s rarely just one title-deciding turning point in a 38-game season, where the likely destination of the trophy can change game-to-game. But if there was one moment that set Chelsea on course to victory in the 2016-17 campaign, it was arguably when Antonio Conte settled on the 3-4-3 formation that eventually delivered the Premier League. Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge on the back of a spell in charge of Italy, taking an unfancied Azzurri to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, when they lost to World Cup holders Germany. The Coach was tactically fluid throughout the tournament and indeed his tenure with the national team, having employed formations ranging from 4-2-4, a system with which he was successful at Juventus, to something resembling the 3-4-3 that he settled on in England. The former midfielder admitted, though, that the 3-4-3 wasn’t his initial intention upon taking over in London. “We started the season with another system because the idea in my mind was that I wanted to play with the 4-2-4,” Conte confirmed in November 2016. “We switched with 4-3-3 and we played also in the same way like last year, 4-2-3-1 but I noticed in some circumstances we didn’t have the right balance.” Chelsea began the season brightly, with three straight League wins over West Ham, Watford and Burnley, before a draw at Swansea City, each with the same fourman defence — Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta. The problems arose in the next two games, a home defeat by Liverpool and an away thrashing at Arsenal, with three of the same back four — David Luiz replacing Terry in both fixtures, a change that would become permanent as the season went on. It wasn’t Terry’s absence that was the problem. The Blues were described as looking “old and jaded” against Liverpool and the reviews were worse against the Gunners. The loss to their London rivals left Chelsea with 10 points from six games, eight adrift of early leaders Manchester City. But within a week, Chelsea would begin a run of 13 straight League wins, recording clean sheets in 10 of those victories, each achieved with a three-man defence. It was a streak of form that set-up Chelsea’s eventual coronation, turning the eightpoint deficit to Pep Guardiola’s City to a 15-point lead, and a seven-point advantage over runners-up Tottenham Hotspur. Both of those sides have for the 2017-18 season switched to their own version of a back three and even Arsene Wenger, arguably the most stubborn of all the Premier League coaches, has followed suit, having had a back-three dalliance in 1997. Chelsea’s success was the first time in the Premier League era that a team had won the title primarily using a three-man defence, England having been the home of 4-4-2 for decades. Sir Alex Ferguson used to argue that he didn’t play 4-4-2 — that he always had one forward playing behind another — but the difference between the shape of Manchester United’s allconquering sides and Chelsea’s was vast. So too Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini’s City and Leicester City, themselves something

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Antonio Conte’s initial plan for Chelsea involved four defenders and four forwards

“I wanted to play with the 4-2-4… but I noticed in some circumstances we didn’t have the right balance”

David Luiz eventually took the crucial central defender position in Chelsea’s revamped system

Tottenham Hotspur Coach Mauricio Pochettino espouses tactical flexibility — Plan A, B and C

“I think that the answer is to have a Plan B and Plan C in different games”


“I thought if we needed a goal… bringing on David James might unsettle them” Stuart Pearce has been in the managerial business for a while

of a throwback to the hare ‘em scare ‘em standard of days gone by with a back four, four across midfield including a couple of genuine wingers, and two up top. The Premier League’s tactical evolution, from United’s 1992-93 side to Chelsea in 2016-17 was slow, almost glacial. Mourinho’s introduction of a defensive midfielder was practically revolutionary and so successful that the position, in English football at least, came to be named for its first and foremost practitioner, Claude Makelele [see sidebar]. “It's the ultimate honour to have [the position] named after me. I suppose it shows that I have achieved everything I have worked for,” the now-retired midfielder said. “The four at the back and the one in front of them - me - would concentrate only on defence and let the others go and do what they had to up front. They would take the risks, I would take care of the opposition's attacks,” Makelele continued, explaining his task. “In every team you need to know what your role is and one of the keys to my role is to keep the balance of the team right.” But the current success of the Chelsea side under Conte isn’t as simple as pushing the player in the Makelele role even further back — and like Mourinho’s 4-3-3, has spawned attempts at imitation that have had nowhere near the effectiveness. “The central defenders on the right and the left must be very fast and aggressive,” Conte noted. “In the middle must be more tactical and find the right position, and also call the line up and down.” Conte’s comments confirm that it’s not so much the system that’s the key but the players within it. Ronald Koeman has occasionally gone with three-at-the-back at Everton and rarely recorded a positive result — November 2016 saw the Toffees field three central defenders at Chelsea and lose 5-0. Less than a year later they did the same, and lost 2-0. Perhaps it’s not as easy as Conte, Pochettino or Guardiola have made it look. The back three Pochettino has gone with at Spurs operates differently from that of Chelsea’s — different players, different system. Different again is Guardiola’s City, a formation that encourages defenders

to act almost as midfielders. Conte, the originator, and Pochettino and Guardiola, the interpreters, are at the vanguard of the tactical craze sweeping the Premier League. Pochettino experimented with a threeman defence in 16-17, often dropping Eric Dier between Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. “I created a system that [Dier] felt comfortable in,” the Argentine revealed. “He played like a midfielder without the ball, with the ball he was a third centre-back. In possession he dropped in between the centre-backs, or between the full-back and the centre-back and always we played with three. This season Pochettino has Davinson Sanchez from Ajax as the central defender. “I think that the answer is to have a Plan B and Plan C in different games,” Pochettino replied when asked why he deviated from what had become the normal 4-2-3-1 formation. “It's important that he squad can surprise the opponent — sometimes you need to be flexible. The players need to know that we can play differently. Football is a game that you need to be flexible in and adapt your characteristics.” Only Mourinho’s United, of the four realistic contenders to win this season’s Premier League title, use a back four, but even the Portuguese has hinted he could make the change. “There are so many teams playing with three at the back and wing-backs that probably sometimes we have to play that way,” he conceded over the summer, and the Red Devils did indeed go with three-at-theback in the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid. How long until Mourinho makes it United’s default formation? Of course, neither Conte, nor Pochettino or Guardiola was the first to use three central defenders in English football. None of them can even claim to be the Coach who led its revival, after Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool used a three-man defence frequently in the Reds’ oh-so-close title challenge of 201314. But they have each perfected it in their own way, using modern interpretations of player roles to deliver sparkling football and important results, changing the face of English football in the process.

GENIUS OR INSANITY? NOT EVERY TACTICAL INNOVATION TAKES ROUTE. THAT’S FOR THE BEST, AFTER STUART PEARCE CAME UP WITH A HAREBRAINED SCHEME WHILE IN CHARGE OF MANCHESTER CITY… With Manchester City needing to beat Middlesbrough in the final game of the 2004-05 season to seal a UEFA Cup place at the Teesiders’ expense, and the game poised at 1-1 with five minutes to play, manager Stuart Pearce surveyed his options on the bench and recalled an idea he’d had in the run-up to the fixture. “I sat at home yesterday and thought to myself that if we needed a goal and were looking to launch the ball route one with five minutes to go, bringing David on might unsettle them,” Pearce explained. “And it did, although it probably unsettled our players as well.” The plan ultimately failed as Boro held out and beat City to a European place, although the Blues did have a chance to take the points when they were given a penalty, only for Mark Schwarzer to deny Robbie Fowler. “I couldn't believe my eyes when David James went into attack,” said Pearce’s opposing manager, Steve McClaren. “It was incredible but I suppose they were only one moment away from making Stuart a genius.” Jon Macken, the Northern Ireland international striker who Pearce overlooked in favour of beanpole James, would have had good reason to be the most unsettled of all. “Of course I was upset about what happened against Middlesbrough,” said Macken, who left City in summer 2005 — but denied Pearce’s preference for James was the reason. “The gaffer made his decision — I think it was the wrong one — and if it had come off, he would have been the hero.”

THE MAKELELE ROLE ANTONIO CONTE HAS HELPED USHER THE PREMIER LEAGUE’S TACTICAL REVOLUTION BUT A CHELSEA PLAYER MORE THAN A DECADE EARLIER PROVED EVEN MORE INFLUENTIAL, ANDREW TUFT WRITES. Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea in 2003 allowed then-manager Claudio Ranieri to play a real-life version of fantasy football. The Italian was able to pay a small fortune for the likes of Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Juan Sebastien Veron, Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo. But amid the plethora of attackers Ranieri brought to London was Claude Makelele, a bald France international midfielder who, though he came from Real Madrid, generated none of the excitement of his new teammates among the Chelsea supporters. And yet it was Makelele who would eventually prove most crucial to Chelsea’s first title win in 50 years. Ironically it wasn’t Ranieri who really benefitted, as he was sacked at the end of the season to make way for Jose Mourinho. Mourinho joined from Porto found in Makelele the player to anchor his Chelsea team, the reliable destroyer at the base of midfield who allowed Frank Lampard to support Didier Drogba in attack — and, Mourinho argued, began much of the team’s offensive play. “To me, attacking football happens when Makelele gets the ball and passes it…if he can do something, he passes forward or runs with the ball,” Mourinho said. “If not, he gives it back to Makelele, who builds the attack again. That is attacking football.” The Makelele role has come to mean only the ball-winning hard-man in midfield but the man himself was more than that to Chelsea, and left an indelible mark on English football.

Jose Mourinho’s biggest tactical influence on the Premier League is the introduction of the Makelele role

Claude Makelele became synonymous with the defensive midfield position

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PREMIER LEAGUE

Have Some ZLAT HIS TIME AT MANCHESTER UNITED SEEMED TO BE OVER BUT ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC WAS RE-SIGNED BY THE RED DEVILS DESPITE A SERIOUS KNEE INJURY. STEPHEN DONOVAN EXAMINES THE IMPACT HE COULD HAVE ON HIS RETURN…

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he summer of 2016 was just beginning to take shape when Jose Mourinho was appointed the new manager of Manchester United, with the task of restoring the club to its trophy-winning traditions after three largely faltering years. To do that, he needed a change in mentality and an injection of quality, and fortuitously, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had just become a free agent. It was an opportunity not just for the pair to reunite, having enjoyed considerable success together at Inter, but for Ibrahimovic to finally prove himself in England. Pundits who watched the Sweden international from afar questioned if he could replicate the success enjoyed at Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain in the Premier League. At the age of 35, many were sceptical and felt that he would struggle to make much of an impact, but they couldn’t have been more mistaken. After signing a one-year contract and scoring on his debut in the Community Shield at Wembley, he dominated Premier League defences in the same way as he had for many years across Italy, Spain, and France. All the while leaving pundits stunned by his fitness and longevity, his amazing return of 28 goals in 46 games in all competitions helped United to two more pieces of silverware, enhancing his already formidable reputation and leaving nobody in any doubt as to his quality. Yet, there was an abrupt and unfitting end to 2016-17 for the Swede, as he was cruelly struck down by a serious knee injury and ruled out for the rest of the calendar year. There were some wild suggestions that his career could be over but Ibrahimovic has far too much of an ego to allow injury to force him to retire, although it seemed certain that any hopes of staying on at Old Trafford had vanished. He was duly released in June, but that he continued to undergo his

rehabilitation at United’s training complex meant that a new deal hadn’t been ruled out, despite interest from elsewhere across Europe and abroad. And Mourinho, unwilling to allow a player of such status to leave, made the move in August to re-sign Ibrahimovic, who typically vowed to be back stronger than ever upon his return. There were many reasons why Mourinho decided to bring Zlatan back. First and foremost, the two have an excellent working relationship, one of mutual trust and understanding. Then there’s Ibrahimovic’s winning mentality and

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“It’s simply not in Ibrahimovic’s nature to be content with a supporting role.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has vowed to return stronger than ever after his long-term injury.

FACTFILE NAME: Zlatan Ibrahimovic BORN: October 3, 1985 (Malmo, Sweden) HT / WT: 1.95m / 95kg POSITION: Striker CLUB: Manchester United SEASON 1999 2000 2001 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18

CLUB Malmo Malmo Malmo Ajax Ajax Ajax Ajax Juventus Juventus Inter Inter Inter Barcelona Barcelona Milan Milan PSG PSG PSG PSG Man Utd Man Utd

APPS 6 29 12 33 42 31 4 45 47 36 34 47 45 1 41 44 46 46 37 51 46 0

GOALS 1 14 3 9 21 15 3 16 10 15 22 29 21 1 21 35 35 41 30 50 28 0


Jose Mourinho brought Ibrahimovic back to United in a bid to regain the Premier League crown

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC IS NEARER THE END OF HIS CAREER THAN THE START BUT ONCE HE’S FIT, WILL STILL THREATEN PREMIER LEAGUE DEFENCES. HE’S NOT THE FIRST GOLDEN OLDIE EITHER… By common consensus, the Premier League is the quickest and most physically demanding of Europe’s top leagues, but the ageless Zlatan Ibrahimovic defied its reputation by making an outstanding contribution throughout 2016-17, adding himself to a select group of players who have proved they can last the pace and excel at such a high level during the twilight of their careers. United’s record appearance maker is Ryan Giggs, and he was able to maintain an unfailingly high and consistent level of performance right up until his retirement in 2014 at the age of 40, scoring in each of the first 21 seasons of the Premier League. The Welshman’s record for the most Premier League appearances was broken in September by 36-year-old Gareth Barry, who has been a first-team regular at various clubs for nearly two decades. The oldest player to score in the Premier League was former England striker Teddy Sheringham, who was 40 years and 266 days old when he netted for West Ham United in December 2006, and he remains the competition’s oldest ever outfield player. Ibrahimovic may not continue for quite that long, but despite his injury, his fitness levels show no immediate signs of wilting. Many felt Ibrahimovic’s United career was over after he was released in the summer

experience competing for the highest honours, something which some of his colleagues have only aspired to. And of course, he provides an extra striking option, and what an option, a genuinely world class goalscorer who’s proven time and again that he belongs at the top. Ibrahimovic has more than once proved people wrong in the past, so who’s to say that he won’t this time? Beneath the brash and arrogant exterior, there’s an everdetermined athlete whose competitive streak, and desire to stand at the top of his profession, hasn’t shown any sign of diminishing. What’s more, the sight of strong new competition at United, in the shape of Romelu Lukaku will not faze him, especially when he’ll feel there is unfinished business to attend to after ending 2016-17 on the treatment table. Despite winning both the League Cup and the Europa League last term, United’s form in the Premier League was below-par. In order to address that, Mourinho continued to build his own squad during the summer, adding more steel in midfield, and spending £75m on striker Lukaku, who has led the line in Ibrahimovic’s absence. The Belgium international has hit the ground running in a red shirt, and his all-round performances have suggested that he’s critical to the balance of the team, which is playing its football at a considerably higher tempo than in recent seasons. With so much pace provided in wide areas from the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and the rejuvenated Anthony Martial, the former Everton star acts as a major focal point for a side that looks set to compete all the way for the Premier League title for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. A centre-forward in every sense, Lukaku possesses great strength and a natural finishing ability, and his goals to games ratio has been consistently impressive. The former Chelsea man was under a great deal of pressure when he arrived due to the hefty price tag and the goalscoring responsibility placed on his shoulders, but in a team of such quality and creativity, he’s had the desired effect. As things stand, Lukaku has everything at his disposal to become one of the most feared strikers in Europe. He has the ideal club, the ideal teammates, and the ideal manager to help him fulfil his ambitions. However, there remains a question mark as to how quickly he will reach that point, and that’s partly down to what will happen when Ibrahimovic makes his long-awaited comeback. What seems absolutely clear is that - but for exceptional circumstances - the pair will be battling for just one place in the United line-up, as Mourinho favours a 4-3-3 formation and is unlikely to change this in

order to simply accommodate both players, except maybe in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, it’s crucial for Lukaku to sustain his early-season form to ensure Ibrahimovic struggles to get a look-in. Of course, Ibrahimovic will be far from a bitpart player, and won’t be content to spend the majority of his time watching on from the sidelines. He’ll be an important figure during the second half of the season and will probably play his part in propelling the Red Devils towards potential major honours, but could he hamper Lukaku’s long-term prospects? The answer is, probably not. Lukaku is a highly driven individual, who has spoken of his motivation to be one of the best ever since arriving in England, joining Chelsea in 2011 at the age of 18. Didier Drogba was his role model back then, and similarly he can learn a lot from Ibrahimovic, who is well placed to give advice on maintaining peak fitness, out-psyching opponents, and indeed how to become one of the world’s most revered strikers. The statistics don’t lie. Ibrahimovic scored 122 goals in a combined 203 games for the two Milan clubs. His ratios for Paris SaintGermain were frighteningly good, with 156 goals and 61 assists in 180 outings during his time in France. Lukaku is well placed to follow in his footsteps after such a prolific spell with Everton, and still only 24, time is still very much on his side. Right through his first season at the club, it was clear that Ibrahimovic was a major influence on his teammates, and Lukaku has perhaps already benefitted from being in his presence in the United camp. In terms of competition for places, Ibrahimovic’s contract only lasts until next summer. There’s plenty of doubt over whether or not he’ll remain beyond the end of 2017-18. So, while Lukaku may be the more long-term option, Ibrahimovic is bound to have his say over the coming months as Man Utd battle on multiple fronts. Mourinho has built a powerful side that will be a force in both the Premier League and the Champions League this season, and each member of the firstteam squad will make a major contribution towards achieving their goals. Besides, it’s simply not in Ibrahimovic’s nature to be content with a supporting role. Returning to his best, and holding down a regular place in a new-look United may just be the biggest challenge he’s ever faced, but it’d be foolish to bet against him overcoming it, just as he has on many occasions throughout his trophy-laden career.

GOLDEN BOYS The presence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku at Manchester United only adds to the attacking quality on show among the Premier League’s so-called big six, ensuring the race for the Golden Boot this time around will be as fierce as it’s ever been. Huge transfer fees were shelled out on goalscoring talent over the summer, and the signs are that it’ll be money well spent. Signed for £60m from Real Madrid, Alvaro Morata looks a perfect fit for Chelsea, and has thrived on the opportunity to lead their attack, showing sharp footballing intelligence as well as finishing ability. Meanwhile, another record signing has slotted in well at Arsenal, where Alexandre Lacazette is aiming to replicate the scoring prowess of his days at Lyon. Manchester City have the most firepower of all, with Sergio Aguero still lethal in his seventh year at the club, alongside the precocious talent of Gabriel Jesus, who instantly adapted to the Premier League after arriving in January. Yet one man has reigned supreme in the scoring stakes over the last two seasons, and that’s Tottenham’s Harry Kane, who continues to be an irresistible force, so anyone aspiring to be English football’s top striker will need to topple him. £75m centre forward Romelu Lukaku has made a prolific start to his United career

Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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CAR TROUBLE

An unnamed Manchester United youngster was forced to sell his newlybought Bentley by then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Former United forward David Bellion revealed the kid arrived at training in the pricey super car shortly after signing his first professional contract. “Sir Alex made him sell it immediately,” Bellion said, before sharing his secret to avoid the same fate: “I drove to training in a Mini for nearly a year even though I had a Mercedes at home.”

’If you’re worried about the physical side of any sport then play chess.’’ - Former Manchester United

captain Roy Keane has thinks that footballers worried about concussion should play chess instead if they want to avoid injury.

POTTY TALK

Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Garth Crooks came up with an unusual comparison for Arsenal defender Saed Kolasinac. “He’s built like one of those brick toilets that withstood bombing raids in the Second World War,” the pundit said by way of — we think — praise.

RIO TO RUMBLE

Rio Ferdinand will get his competitive juices flowing by stepping into the boxing ring. The former Manchester United and England captain has partnered with a betting company and already called out the likes of Antony Joshua, David Haye and Tyson Fury.

by the numbers “If you ask me 'could English football survive or even be better without this competition?' Maybe. Maybe we would be fresher for European competitions, for example.” - Manchester United manager

Jose Mourinho suggests scrapping the Carabao Cup could result in Premier League clubs enjoying greater success in Europe.

848 32

Peter Shilton made 848 appearances in the top flight, starting with his debut for Leicester City in 1966.

The number of players with the first name Harry that have appeared for England, Harry Maguire and Harry Winks were the latest in the win over Lithuania.

BIRDMAN ROONEY

The Everton-Angry Birds arrangement could see Wayne Rooney appear in the world-famous game. “We have a history of doing Angry Bird homages of real-life characters,” Ville Heijari, of game maker Rovio, acknowledged. “Rooney could be involved.”

TROPHY ROOM A trophy cabinet isn’t enough for prolific Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who racked up six hat-tricks in 2017 before October and needs somewhere to store the match balls and manof-the-match awards. “I’m hoping to build a room for them,” Kane confirmed. “They’re just in bags at the moment.”

“Why do I look like Emil Heskey?”

- Manchester City fullback Benjamin Mendy is not amused by who his FIFA 18 face looks like

ANGRY INK

Everton’s sleeve sponsorship with mobile game Angry Birds led to one supporter unhappy with the Toffees’ form announce on Twitter that if Oumar Niasse scored the winner against Bournemouth, he’d get Angry Birds tattooed on his wrist. A Niasse brace later, Angry Birds offered to pay for the artwork.

DID YOU KNOW? ”Pochettino loves Kane and who do I love? That's the question? A waste of time.” - Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp endured an awkward end to his Champions League news conference in Moscow. 22

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Harry Kane joined Andrew Cole, Mike Newell, Alan Shearer, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck as English players to have scored Champions League hat-tricks. Arsene Wenger has never lost at home to a side managed by Tony Pulis.

THE NEW RONALDO?

Harry Kane has followed in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham by trademarking his name. The England No 9 has registered a HK Harry Kane logo with a view to a clothing and footwear range, it has been reported.


by the numbers

6000

More than 6,000 people signed a petition on the Government’s website to change the design of the football on road signs in the United Kingdom so it is more realistic.

KEANE VS. DAVIDS

WENGER WORRIED?

Arsenal Invincible Lauren believes he knows why Arsene Wenger’s side have struggled to compete lately — because Wenger used to focus only on the Gunners. “This year, he’s changed that,” title-winner Lauren argued. “After 19 years of 4-4-2, he’s playing three at the back. That means he’s worried.”

Martin Jol revealed details of a training ground scrap between Edgar Davids and Robbie Keane in 2005, when they were together at Tottenham. “After three years [without an incident], Edgar was fighting with Robbie,” Jol said. “Robbie was working out as a boxer so he was quite good…If I fined Edgar £30,000, to him it was nothing…they made up.”

THE NEW STAR ON THE FIELD. Introducing the All-New 2018 Volvo XC60, the evolution of the dynamic Swedish SUV. Where bold design meets a beautiful interior. Where technology is natural. Where every drive is a pleasure.

THE WRIGHT CHOICE?? A PIZZA HISTORY

Cesc Fabregas has finally owned up to one of the most notorious crimes in Premier League history — throwing a slice of pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson. Martin Keown had hinted it was the Spain international who hurled the snack at the then-Manchester United manager following a bad-tempered 2004 win for the Red Devils over Arsenal, and Cesc admitted on James Corden’s A League of Their Own that he was the guilty party.

BARRY’S BOW

Gareth Barry became the all-time record holder for Premier League appearances in September, playing in his 633rd topflight game as West Bromwich Albion lost to Arsenal. Barry’s Premier League debut came when he was 17 as a secondhalf substitute in Aston Villa’s 3-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday. Barry replaced Ian Taylor, and among his Villa teammates that day was current England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ian Wright believes Arsenal should consider Burnley manager Sean Dyche when it comes time to find Arsene Wenger’s successor. “He’s an experienced manager in the Premier League,” former Gunners striker Wright noted. “He’s done his groundwork with smaller teams and got them set up well. But will he get a job like that? I don’t think he will.”

DID YOU KNOW? There has never been a goalless draw in the Premier League between Newcastle and Liverpool.

The only Premier League opponent Harry Kane has played against without scoring is Cardiff City, the England striker drew a blank both times Spurs met the Welsh side in 2013-14. Tottenham won both games 1-0, with Paulinho and Roberto Soldado netting the respective winners. Everton lost as many home Premier League games by October as they did in the whole of 2016-17.

HEADS!

The Football Association stepped in to pay a bill of almost £10,000 after defender Michael Keane accidentally broke a photographer’s camera when he threw a medicine ball being used in training and smashed the snapper’s lens. Everton’s Keane apologised — twice — and the FA footed the cost.

ENGLAND UP

England moved up three places to 12th in the latest FIFA Ranking as Germany retained their grip on top of an unchanged top six, which comprises of the world champions followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium and Poland. Austria were the big movers in the top 50 as they leapt 18 places into 39th, while the Czech Republic (up 12) and Panama (up 11) also made dramatic strides.

Volvo of Toronto 43 Eastern Ave., Toronto, ON M5A 1H1 (416) 868-1880 www.volvooftoronto.com


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LONG MEMORY

by the numbers

Manchester United-supporting golfer Rory McIlroy doesn’t join fellow Red Devils in the hero worship of former captain Roy Keane after an incident when he was a child. “I went and asked for his autograph when he was with the Ireland squad, and he said no,” the former world No 1 revealed. “He should be one of my heroes as a United player, but I’ve never liked him since.”

13

Harry Kane scored 13 goals in eight games for Tottenham Hotspur and England in September, after not scoring at all in August.

DID YOU KNOW?

MOYES’ DEFENCE "My whole football life is pressure."

- Everton manager Ronald Koeman played down suggestions that the pressure on him is mounting after their 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.

David Moyes’ Manchester United tenure was an unmitigated disaster but the Scot insists he did the best job any manager could have done. “I don’t think there is a manager out there who would have been able to do something better or quicker in the time I was given,” he claimed, having been sacked less than a season into a six-year contract.

Rio Ferdinand isn’t the first ex-footballer to try his hand at boxing — former Sheffield United midfielder Curtis Woodhouse won the British LightWelterweight Title in 2014.

Roy Hodgson’s first game as Crystal Palace manager made him the third boss in his 70s to take charge of a Premier League fixture after Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Robson.

NEXT GENERATION

The next generation of Manchester United’s famous class of 1992 could be ready to arrive at Old Trafford. Phil Neville’s son Harvey has caught the eye playing for Valencia — where both his father and his uncle Gary where coaches — and the 14-year-old, compared to David Beckham, has been linked with a move to Old Trafford, having previously been on the books at both United at Manchester City.

FOXES FAMILY

Leicester City’s owners haven’t forgotten Nigel Pearson, who kept the Foxes in the Premier League in 2014-15, setting the stage for the shock title win under Claudio Ranieri a year later. Pearson has been appointed at Belgian second tier side OH Leuven, who are owned by the same King Power International Group that controls Leicester City. “I look forward to working with King Power again,” Pearson said.

“If I were to be an international manager one day, I'd relish the opportunity to coach the England national team” - Tottenham boss

Mauricio Pochettino reveals his ambition to coach the England national team in the future.

NICE BOOTS

Crystal Palace winger Bakary Sako introduced his Manga themed Nike Mercurial boots on his side’s narrow 1-0 loss to Southampton in September. The design on Sako’s Nike Mercurial Superfly V boots was created by Pierre Navarro, aka Orravan Designs, as part of his ‘MANGA Collection’.

PEACE TALKS

Kim Jong-Un has been revealed as a huge Manchester United fan — and believes it is only a matter of time before North Korean players are heading over to the Premier League. A close friend of the nuclear tyrant revealed that he loves the beautiful game and never misses a major football tournament.

"I am here to win, I am not here to entertain" - Manchester City boss

Pep Guardiola claimed he is "not here to entertain" after his side destroyed Stoke City 7-2.

BAD GRADE

Benjamin Mendy, who became the world’s most expensive defender in the summer when he moved to Manchester City from Monaco for a fee of around €60m, played a starring role as the French side won Ligue 1 and reached the semifinals of the Champions League. Reasonably, Mendy wasn’t too happy to find out that he was given only 78 in the new FIFA 18 game. “Ahaha you don’t have TV last year @EASPORTSFIFA?? 78 really?!!” the France international star questioned the game’s developers on Twitter.

KLOPP TROTTING

CHARITY STRIPS

"A lot of strikers in the league miss bigger chances than me. But with me it’s always: ‘Rom did this, Rom did that.’ I don’t know why. It’s the standard people set.’’ - Manchester

United striker Romelu Lukaku hits back at claims that he is a flat-track bully.

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Everton and Sunderland ditched their usual shirt sponsors when the clubs met in Carabao Cup to promote the charity set up in memory of Bradley Lowery. Both clubs’ strips displayed the logo of the Bradley Lowery Foundation and they were later signed by the players and auctioned off to raise money for the fund.

Harlem Globetrotters had a sharp response for Jurgen Klopp after the Liverpool boss referenced them when discussing the substance-versus-style debate. The Reds have caught the eye with their fluid football going forward so far this season, though their attacking style of play has often been let down by defensive mistakes at the other end. However, the basketball side have since taken to Twitter to respond to Klopp and Liverpool by reminding them it is possible to get the balance right between playing well and earning consistently-good results. They wrote on Twitter: “If you want to talk results, we've won 4,211 consecutive games @LFC.”

GRAPHICAL ERROR

An "unfortunate error" in subtitling led to Newcastle United being labelled "black and white scum" during the BBC's Match of the Day 2 programme. Commentator Guy Mowbray said Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge had scored five goals against the black and whites. But software confused the word "comma", spoken by a subtitler, and put "scum" into the on-screen text. The BBC said the error was spotted and corrected immediately.


PLAYING TIME

Chelsea have been named as the the club in the top five European leagues to hand the most minutes to foreign players. A study by Football Observatory Weekly Post has published data on top-tier teams from 31 European associations, ranking them according to the percentage of domestic league minutes played by expatriates since the start of the season. Chelsea, with 90.4 per cent, top the major European leagues.

SHERWAY NISSAN

JOSE AVENUE

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has had a street named after him in his native Portugal. The 54-year-old is one of European football's most successful managers, having won two Champions League titles, as well as league successes in Portugal, Italy, Spain and England. Mourinho’s success has not gone unnoticed in Portugal, as the former Rua da Saude road in Setubal, Mourinho’s hometown, was renamed as 'Avenida Jose Mourinho'.

BLIND?... NOT ME

Top eye doctor Sherylle Calder is working with Premier League refs to help them see incidents more quickly. She is putting six top refs and four assistants through their paces with an advanced version of her ‘EyeGym’ training programme.

WEAH TO GO

Arsenal’s football manager, Arsene Wenger, has been fooled by fake news making the rounds that George Weah won the Liberia’s presidential election. Wenger, who coached the 51-year-old footballer-turned-politician at Monaco between 1988 and 1992, had on the Gunners website congratulated Weah. Unfortunately for the 67-year-old French tactician, the results had not yet been announced.

GOING BLUE

Tiemoue Bakayoko had vowed to dye his hair blue after scoring his first Premier League goal for Chelsea. He did found the back of the net in Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat to struggling Crystal Palace on Saturday. Is he in the mood to fulfil his promise? We are yet to find out.

DID YOU KNOW? The XI Sunderland named for their Carabao Cup fixture against Everton had more Everton appearances to their name than the XI named by Everton.

John Stones’ two goals for Manchester City against Feyenoord made him the first defender to score a brace for the Blues in the Champions League. Liverpool went 10 years without missing a Champions League penalty until Roberto Firmino hit the post against Sevilla. Steven Gerrard’s saved effort against Marseille in 2007 was the last time the Reds failed from 12 yards in the competition.

QASHQAI

by the numbers

8

Eight Premier League teams would find themselves out of the top flight if League placings were determined by stadium capacity — Brighton, Stoke City, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Burnley would be in the Championship, with Watford, Swansea City and Bournemouth in League One.

STREET-SAVVY, ROAD-TRIP READY

POKER FACED

Former Premier League star Bernard Mendy has swapped football for flushes - by taking up poker. The France defender spent three top-flight seasons with Bolton (2002-03) and Hull City(2008-10).He has since won thousands in poker tournaments and cash games since learning the game from his Paris Saint-Germain team-mates. Mendy, 36, may now go fulltime after leaving Indian Super League club Chennaiyin FC during the summer.

2017 NISSAN

Introducing the brand-new Qashqai. The ultimate urban crossover that helps you navigate life's daily adventures, or break routine at a moment's notice. FREE SILVA

After weeks of protests, FIFA has finally given Adrien Silva the green light to train with his new club. Silva, who was signed on deadline day in a deal worth up to £27m, had been barred from representing Leicester due to the Foxes failure to register him before the 11pm transfer deadline. Given that the Foxes missed finalizing his details by all of 14 seconds, the former Sporting star has been ironically awarded the squad number 14.

IMMORTAL KENNY

Liverpool have officially opened the Kenny Dalglish Stand in honor of one of the club's most iconic players. It means the Scot, who also became a successful Liverpool manager, will be immortalized at the stadium for ever. Manchester United legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson were among the star studded guest list.

ORGANIZE. SEPARATE. SECURE.

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"But sometimes I hate it, you know. Sometimes I hate this job, because sometimes you lose your life. If you want to do this job, to be a good coach, a great coach, you must sacrifice your life and sometimes I hate this.’’ - Chelsea coach Antonio Conte admits sometimes he hates football.

GOOD HEADER

Peter Crouch earned a place in 2018 Guinness World Records owning a spot alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Christian Benteke and Alan Shearer in latest world records collection. Crouch holds the record of most headed goals in the Premier League (51, streaking ahead of Alan Shearer’s 46).

SORRY BOYS

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has revealed Mo Diame and Jamaal Lascelles will take the Newcastle team out for lunch to say sorry for their trainingground scrap. Newcastle players were involved in a brawl during which Jonjo Shelvey broke his finger while acting as a peacemaker.

GOOD CAUSE

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka posted a touching tribute on Instagram to families affected by breast cancer alongside a picture of the specially made pink boots he will be wearing to raise awareness for the disease. Under Armour launched the "Power in Pink" campaign in 2003 and this year 30 high-profile athletes will lace up the eyecatching boots.

"Tactically, he's one of the best I've worked with. If Arsene Wenger had Harry Redknapp's tactical nous, Arsenal would win the league." -

Paul Merson takes aim at Arsene Wenger yet again - this time claiming Arsenal would win the Premier League if the Frenchman had the "tactical nous" of Harry Redknapp.

EDNE MCGREGOR

Chelsea star Michy Batshuayi never misses out an opportunity to crack a joke and this time he has touted his club and national team teammate Eden Hazard for a potential career change. Hazard was seen training with boxing gloves in the gym ahead of Belgium’s World Cup qualifier with Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Michy posted a photo of the gloves donned Belgian star entitled “Edne McGregor”. Has Conor McGregor found his next opponent?

PITCH FIGHT

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren accused Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku of deliberately kicking him in the face. The pair were involved in a clash shortly before half-time in the 0-0 draw at Anfield, with Lovren left rolling on the floor holding his face. Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said he thought Lukaku "maybe" deserved a red card, but no retrospective action has been taken."My honest view is that he did it on purpose," Lovren said.

NOTHING GAINED

Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said he failed to develop during his time at Arsenal due to the gulf in coaching between the Premier League and Serie A. Szczesny left Arsenal on a permanent basis in the off-season, joining Italian champions Juve, having spent two years on loan at Roma. "I think in general, the coaches in Italy are much more tactical, that’s just how the league works," Szczesny told the Independent. "Whether it was [Luciano] Spalletti at Roma or Max Allegri here, the preparation for the game is different to what I was used to in England.

“The money isn't a problem here. But I think Messi, like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, are players who are symbols of their clubs and it's difficult for them to leave. I would love to have Leo on my team, but that seems quite complicated.” -

Sergio Aguero would "love" to have Lionel Messi join him at Manchester City, but accepts it would be complicated persuading a club "symbol" to leave Barcelona.

NUFC FOR SALE

“I think in football, you never know and you never rule out anything. It is not something that I definitely want to do but it could happen. You just never know.” - Harry Kane refuses to rule out a move away from Tottenham Hotspurs in the future.

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Newcastle United have officially been put up for sale by owner Mike Ashley. The Premier League club released a statement confirming the decision on the grounds they need "a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future". It is believed Ashley is eager to complete a sale before the new year. Reports have circulated for some time that Ashley has been prepared to sell, with entrepreneur Amanda Staveley one of the main figures linked with a possible takeover. The 53-year-old has been a divisive figure during his 10-year spell as owner, during which Newcastle have twice been relegated from the Premier League

FUN OVER AT MY PLACE

Manchester United ace Paul Pogba is lining up extra home games — on a new football pitch inside his £3million mansion. The midfielder is getting the floor marked in one of the rooms and is installing mini-goals plus an electronic scoreboard. The 24-year-old, sidelined with a hamstring injury, plans to get pals round for a kickabout in what he has dubbed “The Pogbarena”.

by the numbers

6

Manchester City needed only six Premier League games to score more goals in 2017-18 than Derby County did in the whole of 2007-08. City racked up 21 in their six games compared to the Rams’ 20 in 38.


SOCIAL MELTDOWN Paris Saint Germain star Julian Draxler sent Arsenal fans into meltdown by posting a photo of Sead Kolasinac’s Arsenal shirt with a love react on his Instagram profile. Julian Draxler and Sead Kolasinac are former Schalke 04 teammates, and many Arsenal fans see this post as a sign of reunion.

by the numbers

45

Arsenal’s win over Brighton and Hove Albion made the Seagulls the 45th different team Arsene Wenger has beaten in League competition, an English record.

7

Peter Shilton is one of seven players to have made more top flight appearances than Gareth Barry, who became the record-holder for Premier League appearances in September. The others are John Hollins, Ray Clemence, Pat Jennings, Martin Peters, Ryan Giggs and Mick Mills.

GOOD BUSINESS

Leicester City striker Ahmed Musa has opened a petrol station in Nigeria. It is reportedly the second the forward owns in Kano, 200 miles north of his hometown Jos. Business-savvy Musa, 24, who earns £60,000 a week at the King Power, also has a sports and fitness centre as well and other properties in the city, according to reports.

PHOTOPIA

“You have got Dembele who has gone to Barcelona and Mbappe who has gone to PSG. Would you say Rashford is of the same ilk as them? I think potentially he is as good as those guys, but they have done it in the Champions League, while he is yet to prove that.’’ - Ex-Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand believes Marcus Rashford is on track to emerge as one of the world's best footballers, but needs to catch up to his contemporaries.

Liverpool FC have launched an Official Archives Collection packed full of breathtaking photography, rare artworks and never-beforeseen memorabilia, to commemorate the club’s 125 year history. Among that are full-size replica medals, Joe Fagan’s handwritten prematch notes from the 1984 European Cup Final, Celtic’s agreement for the sale of Kenny Dalglish and much, much more.

GOOD CAUSE SPEAK EASY

Nicolas Otamendi has revealed that Pep Guardiola is making foreign Manchester City players learn how to speak English. Guardiola uses the English language for team meetings and wants his whole squad to be able to understand him. Otamendi also disclosed that he is due to sit for an exam in December!

by the numbers

52

Gareth Barry scored 52 League goals in his record 633 appearances, 41 of them for Aston Villa, with six for Manchester City and five for Everton.

West Ham striker Javier Hernandez has been using his social media accounts to help raise funds for his homeland Mexico, after the country was rocked by a series of devastating earthquakes. At the same time, a story has gained traction claiming that Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has donated one million euros to help the Mexican people. The story was originally made public by Fox Sports journalist who claimed Ronaldo has contacted West Ham’s Chicharito to discuss how best to use the funds. The West Ham star has flatly denied that Ronaldo has contacted him, although the El Tri forward said he hoped Cristiano would help.

“Has he become an easy target? Yes. The guy is brilliant. I'm not just talking about goalkeeping now. The guy never slaughters anyone in the job.” - West Ham manager Slaven Bilic backs Joe Hart, saying the goalkeeper was unfairly criticised and had become an easy target.

RECORD BREAKER

Arsene Wenger clinched a new Premier League record when he became the first manager to triumph over 45 different opponents after his side's 2-0 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion. Nacho Monreal and Alex Iwobi scored on Brighton's first top-flight visit to Emirates Stadium to ensure Wenger eclipsed Alex Ferguson's record of having beaten 44 different teams when he was Manchester United manager.

MOURINHO TACTICS

Jurgen Klopp has defended Liverpool's playing style following a dour goalless draw with Manchester United, and stated his side will not win the Premier League adopting the Special One's tactics. The Reds were frustrated at home as Mourinho's United shut up shop, and were forced to settle for a share of the points in a 0-0 tie. Klopp, however, feels that imitating tactics is no recipe for success. "Most things [Manchester United] did were completely clear. Why should I talk about them sitting back before the game? That's not my job," the German told reporters. "Jose obviously did what he thinks is right, or what he wants to do, and that is OK. It doesn't make life easier for us but I can't moan and say 'Come on, open up a little bit'. That's not how it is. "They want to win the league and I am sure we couldn't play like this in Liverpool after 125 years without the title. We cannot sit back and say 'Let's wait' — that is not possible."

“When they are fit they are unstoppable. They are both capable of changing a game — or a season. They have a big decision to make. But it would be a huge setback to lose them because from the stats you can see we do need them for their goals and assists.” - Arsenal

youngster Alex Iwobi warns it will be a “huge setback” if Arsenal lose Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

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PERFECT SERIE A

FEATURE

10

's

D

ifferent countries identify with different types of player. In England the No. 7 is king. The flying winger, tying full-backs into knots before delivering the pinpoint cross for a big man to head home. George Best, Stanley Matthews and David Beckham are just some of the iconic No. 7s taken to heart by the fans. Brazil have had their share of wonderful strikers, but it’s the flying full-backs who really catch the imagination — Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Carlos Alberto. And in Italy there’s only one shirt number every kid grows of dreaming of wearing on their back: the 10. In a country whose footballing traditions are based on defensive prowess, the No. 10 was the only man on the pitch unburdened from tactical responsibilities, free to cast his spell over the match with laconic grace. Known as the trequartista — literally a three quarters player, neither striker nor midfielder — a list of exponents of the role in Serie A reads like a who’s who of football. Zinedine Zidane, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti, Michel Platini, Gianni Rivera, Diego

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Maradona, Roberto Baggio — the list goes on. While not all wore the No. 10 — Zidane took 21 at Juventus — and not all played in the same style, each man fit the role of the trequartista, the fantasista, the creative outlet. In recent years though, the pipeline appears to have run rather dry. Just where are all the Serie A number 10s? In a sense the retirement of Francesco Totti felt like the passing of the last of a dying breed. Not only did Er Pupone spend his entire career with his hometown club, almost unheard of these days, for many he represented the last great Italian No. 10. Napoli’s talisman Lorenzo Insigne is prodigiously talented, and his journey from street urchin to hometown hero is a legend just waiting to be written, but the diminutive playmaker plays on the left of Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3. What’s more he can’t wear the No. 10, with the Partenopei having retired the number in honour of Maradona. At Fiorentina Federico Bernardeschi wore Giancarlo Antognoni’s 10 shirt, but he's more of an inside forward than a creative outlet. Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco couldn’t

The death of the traditional trequartista can be put down to tactical trends’


JUVENTUS NUMBER 10'S Paulo Dybala is seen as the heir to the legendary Alessandro Del Piero.

WHEN PAULO DYBALA WAS GIVEN THE NUMBER 10 SHIRT IN THE SUMMER, IT REPRESENTED A HUGE HONOUR BESTOWED UPON HIM BY HIS CLUB.

replace Del Piero at Juve, Alberto Aquilani’s chocolate ankles have stalled his career and Milan recently gave their 10 to Japanese winger Keisuke Honda, a player of great work rate but precious little invention. In part the apparent death of the traditional trequartista can be put down to prevailing tactical trends. With most top sides playing with three central midfielders, Coaches are unwilling to risk playing just two in the middle of the park, supporting a creative man who won’t offer much defensively. In short, the No. 10 is seen as a luxury. When Antonio Conte took over at Juventus in 2011, he realised his side wasn’t up to the technical level of champions Milan. After some tactical experimentation he adopted a 3-5-2 system based on aggressive pressing and hard running which took the Bianconeri to the Scudetto unbeaten. There was no place in his system for club

legend and former teammate Del Piero, with Conte instead looking for his side to create from deeper positions, through Andrea Pirlo. Nicknamed the Architect, Pirlo was once seen as the next great Italian trequartista, before Brescia’s Carlo Mazzone moved him to a deeper role behind the midfield. Known as the regista role, it’s essentially the calcio equivalent of the quarterback, with a silky, creative player looking to dictate the tempo from deep. Pirlo had one of the best seasons of his career, as an admittedly-ageing Del Piero was restricted to cameo appearances and Coppa Italia run-outs. The captain still scored some crucial goals — notably a late free-kick winner against Lazio — but the sense was very much of a square peg failing to find a hole. Suddenly the very hallmark of the trequartista — neither striker nor midfielder — was a limiting factor.

Much like the Manchester United No. 7 or the Milan No. 3, the Juventus No. 10 shirt has taken on a legendary life of its own, and not just any player is allowed to wear it. A possibly apocryphal story holds that Nicklas Bendtner asked for the shirt in a brief and unsuccessful loan spell, only to be told in no uncertain terms he wouldn’t be getting the shirt Alessandro Del Piero had just vacated. ‘Pinturicchio’ had played his final match for the club only a few months previously, and he left as the club’s all-time top-scorer with a record 705 appearances. Del Piero had inherited the number from Roberto Baggio. Before the Divine Ponytail, Michel Platini, Omar Sivori and Liam Brady have also worn it, with a total of five Ballons d’Or connected with the Juve 10. Paul Pogba and Carlos Tevez briefly wore the shirt after Del Piero’s departure, but Paulo Dybala is very much seen as the continuation of a lineage which stretches back into the 1950s — the jewel in the crown, if you will.

The Divine Ponytail, one of the most iconic number 10s ever

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SERIE A

FEATURE

Was Francesco Totti the last of a dying breed?

THE MEN WHO WOULDN’T BE KING NOT EVERY PLAYER HAILED AS THE NEXT GREAT ITALIAN NO. 10 QUITE MAKES THE CUT…

‘Dybala was handed the 10 this summer, following in the footsteps of Del Piero, Baggio and Platini’

Neither the prevalence of back-threes nor were struggling for cohesion as Coach the decline of the trequartista started with Massimiliano Allegri looked to balance Conte and Juventus, but it was emblematic playing time for Dybala, Mario Mandzukic of a wider trend. The increased physicality of and Gonzalo Higuain. the game appears to have squeezed out the It wasn’t until January 2016 that the Tuscan slight, subtle stylings of the true No. 10. came up with the solution: play them all at If Del Piero, Totti et al were neither once. After a defeat at Fiorentina, Allegri midfielder nor striker, the top attacking lined his players up in an all-out attacking players are expected to be both midfielder 4-2-3-1 for the visit of Lazio, with Dybala and striker. Lionel Messi isn’t a poacher, but playing in the hole backed by just two he definitely scores like one. Luis Suarez central midfielders. isn’t a midfielder, but he’s still expected to The Bianconeri took a comfortable 2-0 contribute to Barcelona’s build-up play and victory, and the formation dubbed ‘Mad Max’ Edinson Cavani spent years at Paris Saintby fans was born. “I had said yesterday in Germain unselfishly working out wide. the Press conference that it was an option, Is this really the end then, for the No. but nobody expected me to actually do it,” 10? Have the collective stylings of the titular Max explained after the game. “I gegenpressing, tiki-taka, and Sarrismo killed am not much of a theorist, but every now m aofft c h i the specialised role of the trequartista? and thent I come up with a mad idea and try Perhaps not yet. One of the world’s hottest m it on the pitch.” s . F r o up-and-coming talents has begun to make His mad idea continued to pay dividends, o v g thati role hisd own — and he’si wearingn Del with Juve winning Serie A and the Coppa Piero’s shirt in Turin. Paulo Dybala joined Italia, as well as reaching the Champions Juventus from Palermo for a fee of €32m, League Final. A starring performance in the with add-ons later taking that price to quarter-final of the latter competition truly €40m. It was seen as excessive at the time, announced Dybala as a star on the European especially for a player who had enjoyed just stage — and he did it in the trequartista role. one good Serie A season. Having taken the No. 21 shirt on his arrival Initially playing as a second striker, the in Turin, Dybala was handed the 10 this man known as La Joya or the Jewel in his summer, following in the footsteps of Del native Argentina hit the ground running for Piero, Baggio and Platini. The shirt doesn’t the Bianconeri, scoring 23 times in his first shrink to fit anyone, but Dybala has made it season as the Old Lady won the double for his own already, with Del Piero even naming the second campaign running. Dybala as his heir. It was the following season though where Rumours of the death of the Serie A No. Dybala really established himself as a 10 have been greatly exaggerated, and potential heir to the great No. 10s who Dybala is well and truly giving the kids in the piazzas a reason to aspire to that iconic have graced Serie A over the years. While Juve were attaining good results, they number.

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Alberto Aquilani came through the Roma youth system just as Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti had done, and was hailed as an eventual heir to Er Pupone. The fact that Totti retired at the age of 40 probably tells you that he wasn’t. Possessed of a divine touch and a 360-degree vision, Aquilani never quite looked cut out for the modern game. A move to Liverpool was hit by injury, and the last six months has brought spells at Pescara, Sassuolo and Las Palmas. Fabrizio Miccoli once threatened to keep Alessandro Del Piero out of the Juventus side, but never quite had the attitude or application to make it at the top level. Sebastian Giovinco sporadically impressed in two spells in Turin but ultimately had to move to MLS to show what he could do on a weekly basis. Some have merely achieved cult hero status, such as Catania’s Francesco Lodi. Nicknamed ‘the Pirlo of the Provinces’ for his raked passes and freekick prowess, nine games for Genoa is probably the high point of his Serie A career


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Golden Boy SERIE A

GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA IS NO LONGER AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY. FOLLOWING A TUMULTUOUS SUMMER, NICK VALERIO CONSIDERS HOW CALCIO’S BRIGHTEST TALENT IS DEVELOPING…

F

irmly in control of the gloves, ‘Gigio’, as Gianluigi Donnarumma is affectionately known, is in his second full campaign as Milan’s No 1, and will want to let his performances do the talking after an intense post-season. It was the story of the summer, a bombshell no one expected. CEO Marco Fassone first revealed the verdict: “[Mino] Raiola informed us that Donnarumma has made a definitive decision not to renew the contract with Milan.” Shockwaves were sent around Milanello and across Europe when the news unfolded. From afar, it simply didn’t add up. It was completely out of character with the player, until the bigger picture became apparent and the opprobrium pointed in the direction of one man: agent and all-round antagonist Mino Raiola. Raiola is a canny operator, and knew full well the outrage and contempt which would ensue from making his client’s, or his own, view public. There’s no denying Raiola has a pull over the stellar cast of players he manages. Raiola has engineered the moves of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli and the former world-record transfer of Paul Pogba in recent years and it’s in his best interests to keep moving players from club to club, with a monstrous pay day accompanying each big money deal. While the super-agent is notoriously difficult to do business with, each of his esteemed clients holds him in extremely high regard, though the way he works leaves a lot to be desired and Sir Alex Ferguson, as an example, vowed to never do business with him again following Pogba’s acrimonious switch to Juventus in 2012. Five years on, and the bad blood has yet to dissipate. Raiola has previous, but for a contract offer to be rejected, the player would have to agree and Donnarumma must accept some culpability. The experience itself should act as a learning curve going forward. Of course, there is never a good time to

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admit you want to leave your boyhood club. Donnarumma was soon to be embarking on the Under-21 European Championship with Italy, and the magnitude of the situation came to life when countrymen littered his goal with fake dollars in the tie against Denmark, resulting in play being temporarily halted. Donnarumma’s form visibly plummeted during the tournament and the vilification throughout, both on and off the pitch, had taken its toll. To be jeered while playing for the national side was detrimental and benefited no one. Donnarumma is an emotionally charged character and a sensitive soul to those who know him best. The young custodian deserves immense praise for the courage he displayed under the constant media glare as his will-he-won’t-he soap opera occupied the bulk of column inches in the Italian press and across all media platforms. Just under one month later, and in a complete about-turn, the Milan goalkeeper signed a four-year contract, but is there more than meets the eye? It’s been widely speculated there are release clauses in the new deal, notably for a figure in the region of €70-100m and another of €50m, or thereabouts, if Vincenzo Montella’s men fail to qualify for the Champions League. It’s been well documented how much the Rossoneri have spent, and it’s all or nothing in the 2017-18 campaign. Having forked out €230m in the summer, the minimum requirement is a top four berth and both the No 99 and club will be equally anxious to meet this expectation. There will be repercussions for Milan if they fail, not just the future of Donnarumma, whose ability should be showcased on Europe’s elite stage every season. This time next year we will know if the reported numbers are indeed accurate and if so, and Milan fail to meet their objective, Donnarumma’s loyalty will be put to the ultimate test. The board will hope this

worst-case eventuality doesn’t unfold, but no player is bigger than the club and having previously resigned themselves to losing their crown jewel, there would certainly be no desperate attempt to convince the player to stay once more. Donnarumma has the world at his feet and has drawn inevitable comparisons with Gianluigi Buffon, which resonate with the


youngster. “My idol is Buffon and my dream is to become first choice goalkeeper for the Nazionale, following in his footsteps,” he said. “Everyone would love to have a career like his.” The feeling is mutual. The current Italy No 2 has earned the backing of Buffon and there can be no higher praise for the teenager. Indeed, if Donnarumma is having any lingering doubts about staying in Milan for the foreseeable future, Buffon would be the perfect example to follow. When Juventus were embroiled in the Calciopoli scandal which rocked Italian football in 2006, the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved sacrificed themselves to play in Serie B for a season alongside Buffon, whose stock was at its peak. The Bianconeri hero had a host of offers both domestically and on the continent, passing up the opportunity to join a Milan side at the peak of its powers, who subsequently went on to win the Champions League that year. A decade later and this remains the trophy Buffon craves the most, and this is the loyalty Milan supporters will expect from Donnarumma. If you ask a Juventus fan now, they will proudly put Buffon playing in Serie B over the glittering silverware the club have accumulated over the last 10 years. Milan may or may not be genuine title challengers, but Donnarumma has a good platform to build something special. The goalkeeper is treated like a god and by most accounts, is level-headed and grounded. Thrust into the Milan team at

16, his physically imposing figure belies his years and has the calmness and composure to match. “Since I have always been a Rossoneri fan, I would also say that it would be a dream to wear the captain’s armband,” he enthused. Like his namesake Buffon, Donnarumma is assuming the mantle of a leader. At a time when Milan have virtually a brand new starting XI, he is one of a few starters from last campaign to have kept their place in the line-up, and as a regular, should position himself as a main figure in the dressing room. Donnarumma has an ice-cold temperament. “Calmness is my strength,” he noted. “A ‘keeper has to transmit a sense of security to the team. I talk to my defenders continuously. I don’t worry about the age gap.” For an 18-year-old to speak with such assurance is almost unheard of. Donnarumma has shown no sign of nerves and revels in marshalling a backline which includes six-time Scudetto winner and new captain Leonardo Bonucci. From a national team point of view, Italy lack true world class footballers, but if Donnarumma develops naturally, he will ultimately merit the tag and for this, must act as a leader both on and off the pitch. Donnarumma is destined for greatness, but must be mindful of past boy wonders who have failed to realise their potential. Countrymen Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano broke through at a similar age and went through the motions, while courting controversy on a regular basis. Internationally, it’s well known Donnarumma is next in line to Buffon’s throne and the stopper must avoid being complacent. The hard work starts now. Donnarumma is living out a boyhood dream, following great legends of the game such as Francesco Totti, Ryan Giggs and Paolo Maldini and the hope will be his career can be fulfilled while running out in the red and black of his club.

WHO IS DONNARUMMA?

BELOW OPPOSITE PAGE: Donnarumma reacts during a Serie A regular season match BELOW: Donnarumma hangs out with his idol, Buffon during an Italy international training session MIDDLE OF PAGE: Gianluigi Donnarumma makes one of his many saves during a Serie A soccer match.

GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA SUDDENLY BURST ONTO THE SCENE, BECOMING PART OF THE MILAN FIRST TEAM EVEN BEFORE HIS 16TH BIRTHDAY. NICK VALERIO OFFERS SOME BACKGROUND ON THE GOALKEEPER. Gianluigi Donnarumma was born in Castellammare di Stabia on February 25, 1999 to parents Alfonso and Marinella. Gigio’s formative years were spent in the academy of local side Club Napoli, before the Milan supporting youngster achieved a boyhood dream and was signed by the Rossoneri at the age of 14. Tellingly, Donnarumma also received an offer from bitter cross-town rivals Inter, but was only going to join one club. Gigio featured in the Milan youth ranks from 2013-15 and was a level above his peers. Consequently, this ability and flawless keeping was rewarded three days before his 16th birthday, when he received his maiden call-up to the full team from Coach and Diavolo legend Filippo Inzaghi. The teenager was in unknown territory and before he could take his place on the bench in the fixture against Cesena, had to receive special dispensation from the League association because of his age. Older brother Antonio also came through the Milan setup and has returned to the club after a five-year absence to deputise for his younger sibling. Gigio is also student away from the playing field and had to postpone his college exams to play at the European Under-21 Championship in June.

WAITING IN THE WINGS

‘My idol is Buffon and my dream is to follow in his footsteps’

FACTFILE NAME: Gianluigi Donnarumma BORN: February 25, 1999 (Castellammare di Stabia, Italy) HT/ WT: 1.96m/ 90kg POSITION: Goalkeeper CLUB: Milan CLUB STATS SEASON CLUB 2015-16 Milan 2016-17 Milan 2017-18 Milan

APPS 31 41 12

GIANLUIGI DONNARUMMA ISN’T THE FIRST ‘NEXT BUFFON’ AND HE WON’T BE THE LAST. AS NICK VALERIO WRITES, THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE OF GOALKEEPERS VYING FOR THE GLOVES… Gianluigi Donnarumma’s career may be in its infancy, but it’s evident the goalkeeper is the successor Italy, and indeed, Gianluigi Buffon, have been waiting for. The path is clear for the future No 1 but there have been other up-and-coming custodians who had high hopes of emulating the legendary Buffon. The most obvious candidate preDonnarumma was Mattia Perin. The Genoa man, who missed Euro 2016 through injury, has talent and confidence in abundance, and would have more than a solitary international appearance to his name if it wasn’t for two long-term knee ligament injuries. The charismatic 24-year-old remains in the plans for the national team and this is just reward for a character who has not given up despite wretched luck. Perin can expect to be Donnarumma’s main reserve from next season and will keep the Milan giant on his toes. Elsewhere, current Torino regular Salvatore Sirigu has slipped out of contention but was an able deputy to Buffon when called upon. Sirigu represented the Azzurri in the last two major tournaments and it was widely regarded the Sardinian native was next in line, before the emergence of Donnarumma. Udinese pair Simone Scuffet and Alex Meret have similarly earned their fair share of the plaudits but have been overtaken, having failed to develop to the required standard.

INTERNATIONAL STATS YEAR TEAM APPS 2016 Italy 2 2017 Italy 2 Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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around

ITALY

LOPEZ BURIES THE HATCHET

Udinese striker Maxi Lopez revealed that he is willing to talk to his rival Mauro Icardi in the future even though the latter is now married to his ex-wife Wanda Nara and lives with his children. “Will I talk to Icardi one day? Yes, but it doesn’t keep me up at night,” the 33-year-old said.

by the numbers

0 13

This is the first time since 1998-99 that no Coach has lost their job after the first seven games of Serie A.

By round seven of Serie A, only Lionel Messi had scored more than Ciro Immobile (13) in all competitions among players of the top five European Leagues.

SARRI NO SACCHI

"This is the right way to be. I cannot understand those who want to go back to how it was before. Perhaps it poses them some disadvantages." - Inter coach Luciano Spalletti has aimed a dig at critics of the video assistant referee (VAR) system, suggesting it possibly "poses disadvantages" to its detractors.

Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri denies he is the new Arrigo Sacchi in terms of his tactical innovation. “If you ask me, that comparison is an insult to Arrigo who has won so much, while I’ve won nothing,” Sarri insisted. “My innovation is partial, his was total, so while it’s a gratifying comparison for me, I don’t think it stands up.”

DONSAH GRATITUDE

Bologna midfielder Godfred Donsah revealed how he didn’t see his father for eight years after moving from Ghana to Italy. “If I weren’t a football player, I’d be working in the cacao plantations, just like my parents did,” he said before adding how grateful he was for his father’s sacrifice.

“It wasn’t clear to me how the squad would be reshaped and I wasn’t convinced it would work. I was being asked to swap one of the most historic and successful clubs in Europe for a team who were only at the beginning of a new project, where I was supposed to be the first big player. It was safer to stay at Milan.” - Kaka reveals why he decided to

stay at Milan in 2009 ignoring Manchester City’s lucrative offer.

Artist Mimmo Paladino compared Napoli to a work of art with Maurizio Sarri as Pablo Picasso. “I love football because it is like a canvas that needs geometry,” he said. “Even when it doesn’t look like there is structure, for example a Pollock painting. Marek Hamsik for me is a Goya, especially when he scores and screams.”

INSIGNE ALMOST QUIT

Legendary Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos didn’t hold back when it came to comments about current Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson. “Hodgson's stay at Inter destroyed me,” the former Nerazzurri man said. “It's not that I did not have a good relationship with Hodgson. It is just that he doesn't know much about football.”

right-back Alessandro Florenzi says a gruelling 11-month road back from injury has only served to strengthen his love for the game.

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Andrea Pirlo decided to call time on his playing career after an injury-hit season with New York City FC. The 38-year-old has played 755 club games, has been capped 116 times for Italy and won 17 trophies during a glittering career that has seen him become one of only 10 footballers that have enjoyed spells with Milan, Juventus and Inter.

NAPOLI IS ART

CARLOS SLAMS HODGSON

"Everything that has happened has happened to me, not because of me. It has made me grow, made me become stronger. Made me be who I am, made me appreciate every second of life. Just like [I did as a kid], now a man, who kept believing in his dream with the strength that helps you overcome any obstacle. That kid wants to keep doing what he loves most in the world: playing football." - Roma

PIRLO ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Pint-sized Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne admitted that he almost quit football over his 5”3’ frame. “They used to say I had some talent, but was too short,” he said. “At one point, I wanted to quit football, as the scouts all told me the same thing and I thought it might be futile to continue. Then I had a trial with Napoli and it went well.”

JOAO MARIO LOVES SPALLETTI

After playing under Frank de Boer and Stefano Pioli last season, Inter forward Joao Mario admitted that new boss Luciano Spalletti has brought improvements to San Siro. “Compared to last year, the organisation has changed,” he said. “Spalletti has been decisive, he is doing well and his work gives us added strength.”

BERLUSCONI PUZZLED OVER MILAN

Former Milan President Silvio Berlusconi couldn’t resist giving his opinion on the summer transfer window, after having handed over the reins to Chinese investors. “I didn’t understand their transfer campaign,” the former chief said. “I’ve never seen a team change 11 players. With all that money, you couldn’t even buy a top player?”


HAGI DISAPPOINTED IN FIORENTINA

18-year-old Ianis Hagi – son of the legendary Romania attacker Gheorghe Hagi – has publicly criticised Fiorentina over a lack of playing time. “I am very disappointed,” he said while on international duty. “I trained well, I made progress and everyone appreciated that. I hoped I would play more, but nothing has happened.

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BERNARDESCHI NO BAGGIO Federico Bernardeschi revealed he wouldn’t repeat Roberto Baggio’s refusal to take a penalty against former club Fiorentina, after making the same move to hated rivals Juventus. “A professional has to make his choices, and I wanted to change,” he said. “That means if I get a penalty against Fiorentina, I’ll take it, because I’m part of another team now.”

TOTTI SCARED AND SAD

Francesco Totti’s wife revealed the emotions of the former Roma captain on the day of his retirement. “He was scared and sad, which is what he told the crowd too,” Ilary Blasi said. “On that day, I just tried to be helpful to him. Francesco is well aware that he has been a very fortunate man, but saying goodbye to the passion of a lifetime after 28 years was not easy.”

GIAMPAOLO - SLAP NEEDED

Previously unbeaten Sampdoria were mauled 4-0 by Udinese in Week Seven, but the Coach hoped that this wasn’t such a bad thing. “There was a series of errors that compromised the match,” Marco Giampaolo said. “There is anger, disappointment and regret, but the positive aspect is that I hope this slap in the face will do us good. It must make us reflect on certain situations.”

DID YOU KNOW? For only the second time in the Serie A history, three sides have picked up more than 19 points in the opening seven fixtures, the only previous occasion was in 2013/14.

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Alessandro Florenzi scored against Milan on October 1. His previous Serie A goal was some 546 days earlier.

SAVING DYBALA

Italian senator Antonio Razzi wants to take Juventus’ Argentina star Paulo Dybala to North Korea to ease tensions. Razzi is a close friend of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, who believes Dybala’s presence would create a festive atmosphere in North Korea and play a vital role in achieving world peace.

BAD HAIR

Juventus star Sami Khedira is not happy with his virtual representation in the FIFA 18 video game. After realizing he is depicted sporting long hair in the new edition of the game, the Juventus midfielder took to Twitter to point out that he has kept it short for some time now.

MILITO LOVES ICARDI

Former Inter striker Diego Milito revealed his admiration for Mauro Icardi, but admitted the race for Capocannoniere would be between him and two of his other compatriots in Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. “Icardi is an exceptional centre-forward who has an incredible eye for goal,” he said. “As for whether I think he can be the top scorer in Serie A, however, I don’t know.”

INZAGHI HAPPY AT LAZIO

Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi dismissed talk that he was ready to move on to a big club due to his success at the capital club. I’ve already said several times, I’m already at a big club in Lazio,” he said. “I was lucky enough to forge my career as a player here, I won a lot as the Coach of the youth team, a satisfaction which will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

by the numbers

15

By round seven of 2017-18, Atalanta had lost only one of their last 15 home League games.

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NEW LOOK MILAN

Adidas will end their 20 year relationship with AC Milan at the end of the season and the rossoneri are close to reaching an agreement with Puma for next season, according to Fox Sports. Although rumours have also linked New Balance and Under Armour with becoming the new kit suppliers of the Serie A giants, Puma are now believed to be in pole position for the sponsorship.

by the numbers

19 27

Inter collected 19 points over the opening 7 games for the first time since 2002.

Roma equalled their all-time record of 27 consecutive Serie A games with at least one goal scored by matchday seven.

SERIE A IMG-ING

"After Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi, who are from another planet, Icardi is the striker I like the most." - Mauro

Icardi is the best forward in the world after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Argentina international Hernan Crespo.

EITHER YOU SHOOT MORE, OR...

Former Italy international Amauri claimed Francesco Guidolin aimed a rifle at the Palermo players to help motivate his team before a European fixture in 2006. Amauri, 37, spent two years at Palermo and he recalled an incident before the Italian club faced West Ham in the second leg of their UEFA Cup first-round qualifying fixture 11 years ago. Leading the Premier League side 1-0 after the opening leg, Amauri revealed ex-Swansea City manager Guidolin used a weapon to inspire the squad prior to the clash at Stadio Renzo Barbera as Palermo went on to triumph 4-0 on aggregate.

GOOD DEED

"Montella said he would like to be my assistant and I would be happy to be his. We will manage one game each in turn. We only have to find the club willing to do this." - Carlo Ancelotti joked that he could share a coaching job with AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella after being sacked by Bayern Munich.

SHIRT FOLLIES

NEDVED BACK

At the age of 45, former Juventus midfielder and Ballon d'Or winner Pavel Nedved is coming out of retirement. Ex- Czech Republic international signed for amateur side FK Skalna in his homeland after retiring from football in 2009. It is a return home for Nedved, who started his career in Skalna before going on to win Serie A titles among others with Juventus and Lazio.

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Marco D'Alessandro's goal against Inter ended a 567-minute goal drought for newly-promoted Benevento.

Napoli are the first side in Serie A history to win the opening seven matches of the season having scored at least 25 goals.

Benevento president Oreste Vigorito has claimed that a cream used to treat a wound caused the club's captain Fabio Lucioni to fail a drugs test. The 29-year-old returned a positive sample for banned anabolic steroid clostebol following his side's 1-0 Serie A defeat to Torino on September 10 and faces a lengthy ban.

JUVEMOVIE

TOTTI DROP OUT

Francesco Totti has withdrawn from a course to earn a preliminary coaching badge due to his commitments as a director of Roma, the Italian Association of Coaches (AIAC) has confirmed. Totti, 41, started studying for his UEFA B coaching badge just over a fortnight ago, but he has already withdrawn and made way for his former Roma teammate Simone Perrotta to take his place.

RENO TIME

JUST A BAD RUB

Piero saluted Paulo Dybala's incredible start to the season, calling the Argentinian a "superstar" who has the ability to stay at the club until he retires.

DID YOU KNOW?

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini became the latest player to pledge 1% of salary to Juan Mata scheme following the footsteps of Mata, Mats Hummels, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan in donating 1 per cent of his wages to football charities.

Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne wanted to pay homage to his injured pal Arkadiusz Milik after scoring against Feyenoord in the Champion’s League– only to be handed team-mate Piotr Zielinski's shirt instead. Fortunately, Insigne noticed quickly and swapped it for Milik's so he could follow through on his heartfelt plan.

"I hope he can have what I did [in terms of adulation] in Turin, because no-one can enter the hearts of the fans like him. The number 10 [jersey] wasn't really my property. Before me was Roberto Baggio, [Omar] Sivori and [Michel] Platini – they all wore it. And now there's a superstar who has everything to stay at Juve for life if he wants to. I'm so happy." - Juventus legend Alessandro Del

Serie A has made a switch and assigned its international TV rights predominantly to IMG for €371 million per season – nearly double the value of the previous deal. The agreement covers the next three Serie A seasons through 2020-21, and represents a step forward for the league from the previous deal with MP and Silva that was worth €190m per season.

Juventus are to feature in a four-part documentary produced by Netflix next year after the U.S. entertainment company was granted behindthe-scenes access to the Serie A champions. The series, which is due to air in early 2018, will consist of four hour-long episodes produced from footage gained from following the Italian club throughout the first half of the season.

The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, has met with representatives of AC Milan and Inter Milan to discuss the possibility of modernising the San Siro -- and he says the signs are positive. The two Serie A clubs are tenants in the cityowned stadium, which underwent significant renovation work prior to staging the 2016 Champions League final. However, more work is deemed necessary to bring the 80,000-seater stadium up to modern standards and it has been mooted that both clubs could contribute financially in these works.

by the numbers

500

Juventus-owned Mattia Caldara scored the 500th goal against the Bianconeri with Gianluigi Buffon in goal in all competitions.

2

Genoa gained only 2 points in the opening 7 Serie A games – equalling their opening 7 record in 1957/58.


by the numbers

374

Between August 2016 and October 2017, Torino scored just one goal in 374 minutes without Andrea Belotti on the pitch in the League.

TICKET TO NOWHERE

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli was banned for one year by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) for his role in selling tickets to ultra fans that encouraged touting, also known as scalping. The FIGC also hit the Serie A champions with a €300,000 fine, but Juventus say they are confident they will be able to clear the club's name of any wrongdoing.

ITALIAN TRADITION AND QUALITY 1969

ADRIANO BACK

Former Brazil star Adriano has announced plans to return to football this winter. The 35-year-old striker was once considered the future of Brazil football, with comparisons to countryman Ronaldo as he starred in the domestic league as a youngster before moving to Inter Milan. However, personal tragedy combined with a life of excess contributed to a rapid decline for Adriano, and the man nicknamed 'The Emperor' ended up out of the game following a spell in 2016 with Miami United, a lower division club in the United States.

SNAP HAPPY PUPPY LOVE

Inter striker Mauro Icardi has asked fans to suggest the name of his new puppy via social media. The Argentina international made the appeal via Instagram, including a photograph of the mastiff pup. He has promised to give away an Inter jersey to the person who comes up with the winning name.

Udinese star Emil Hallfredsson snapped himself playing chess wearing just a pair of red slippers, in a hilarious Instagram post after securing World Cup for his country Iceland. "The art of chess wearing shoes," Hallfredsson wrote on his Instagram to explain the picture, as he looked extremely focused - and extremely short of clothing - in the game.

BE AFRAID

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Fiorentina defender Cristiano Biraghi revealed that he had received death threats on social media for his below par display against Chievo. The left-back says the threat was made by a fantasy football manager who was annoyed with Biraghi because his mistakes cost him valuable points.

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Before Udinese beat Sampdoria 4-0, the last Serie A team to take three penalties in the same game was Genoa vs. Inter in April 2012. Seven of the first 15 of Roberto Inglese's goals in Serie A were headers. For the first time in the Serie A history, two sides – Juventus and Napoli – both won each of the opening six matches.

TASTE THE TRADITION

BUG EYED BELOTTI

Torino striker Andrea Belotti says he suffered an unusual injury on the eve of Italy's 3-0 defeat to Spain in Madrid. Belotti claimed he was stung by an insect and his eyes puffed up which resulted in his below average display for the Azzuri.

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“I am not Lionel Messi, I'm not Maradona, I'm just Dries and I'm happy with that.” - Napoli star Dries

Mertens says he should not be compared to Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi following his wonder strike against Lazio.

JUVE BETTER

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has revealed that he rejected the chance to join Liverpool as he desired a "bigger challenge" at Juventus. Van der Sar, who joined the Italian champions in 1999 from Ajax, also had a tour of Anfield with former Reds boss Gerard Houllier before choosing Juventus.

by the numbers

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Five different players have been booked for four fouls on Paulo Dybala - a League-high in Serie A this season.

Dries Mertens has been involved in 35 League goals in 2017 (24 goals, 11 assists), more than any other player in the Italian top flight.

FILM WORTHY

The story of the Nottingham man who founded Italian football club AC Milan has been turned into a feature-length documentary. Herbert Kilpin, a butcher’s son who grew up on Mansfield Road in Nottingham, went on to set up the club in 1899. Now his story has been committed to film by Nottingham’s Left Lion magazine, in collaboration with author Robert Nieri.

TINKERING MONTELLA

Vincenzo Montella admits “I still have to figure out which socks go with which trousers” in his Milan team. Montella’s position was plunged into further doubt after Milan’s 3-2 defeat to Inter in the Derby della Madonnina last weekend, but the Coach insisted his side “deserved at least two draws” from their last two losses and “didn’t see” much difference between them and their arch-rivals. “Post-derby? I’m convinced, through these experiences and defeats, that I’m finding the right team, the right path,” he began at a Press conference for Tuesday’s Europa League match against AEK Athens. “We’re improving. In our last two games, we deserved at least two draws and they would’ve made us talk about different things, but it’s not the case and we need to be more ruthless.

"A goalkeeper to follow me? At the moment the most interesting is Donnarumma. At a European level he's the youngest and it's normal that there's curiosity surrounding him. He's a lad with extraordinary skills." - Gianluigi Buffon has backed the

"extraordinary" Gianluigi Donnarumma to follow him as Italy's number one when the Juventus goalkeeper finally hangs up his gloves.

GIOVINCO, WHY NOT?

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco doesn’t understand why Italy won’t call him, but says the Azzurri is his “greatest aspiration”. The former Juventus man hasn’t been capped by his country since October 2015, ostensibly because he’s playing in Major League Soccer, which is seen as weaker than European football. “It’s true that the tactics are easier to play against here, and the attackers get more chances to score,” Giovinco admitted, speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport. “At a physical level though it’s a very demanding tournament, nothing is simple. “Why haven’t I even been invited to a training camp? These aren’t things for me to consider, I’m just pushing ahead without trying to influence things which are outside my control.

DZEKO DREAMING

"I would never exchange Sarri for Guardiola, even if they were to earn the same salary." - He has won

Champions League, LaLiga and Bundesliga titles but Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis says he would never swap head coach Maurizio Sarri for Pep Guardiola.

Roma striker Edin Dzeko says “nothing compares” to the Italian capital but admits his club “aren’t here to win the Champions League.” Dzeko endured a tough first season at Roma but ended last term as Serie A’s top scorer with 29 goals, ahead of the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens and Mauro Icardi. “Nothing compares to Rome, nothing,” people there are crazy about football, in a positive way. The expectations were big in Germany, bigger in England, but nothing even close to Rome.

ZOLAS SAYS

“Gonzalo has to be more decisive. So far he has done 50 per cent of what he could do. Higuain is an extraordinary player, I get angry with him a lot because I demand more, because he can do much more.” - Juventus boss Massimiliano

Allegri says he gets angry with Gonzalo Higuain as the striker only does around half of what he is capable of. 38

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Gianfranco Zola claims Italy not qualifying for the World Cup would “absolutely not” be a tragedy but admits they “lack quality”. “Tragedy in the event we don’t qualify? Absolutely not,” the 51-year-old – who scored 10 goals in 35 caps for the Azzurri between 1991 and 1997. “I remember when Germany were eliminated from Euro 2000. That disappointment acted as the catalyst for real change. German football is back at the top. “[Italy] teams have been focusing on the result and not the performance for too long.

AZZURRI GLAM-PING

Serie A clubs have agreed to grant Italy four training camps before the World Cup. Giampiero Ventura has asked for extra time to prepare the Azzurri for the World Cup, assuming they qualify. Camps were approved for December, January, February and April, with new statutes unanimously agreed by the 18 clubs present, minus Chievo and Napoli.


DID YOU KNOW?

AVENUE COLLISION

Fiorentina didn’t fire one single shot on target in their away fixture to Juventus on September 20th. By the end of August, Milan youngster Patrick Cutrone was the youngest player to have scored at least two goals in the top 5 European Leagues during 2017-18.

SINCE 1965

LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED.

BALOTELLI WORKING IT.

PRANDELLI TO SCOTLAND

Former Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli has become a candidate to take over from Gordon Strachan on the Scotland bench. Strachan stepped down after they failed to qualify for the World Cup play-offs. According to Mailsport and the Daily Record, Prandelli has made himself available for the Scotland job. The 60-year-old has experience in international football, as he took Italy to the Euro 2012 Final before quitting due to a dismal 2014 World Cup campaign. Prandelli only recently took charge of UAE club side Al Nasr, while before that he had brief spells at Galatasaray and Valencia.

Nice Coach Lucien Favre says Mario Balotelli is “making huge efforts to reach the required level”. The Italian striker has rebuilt his career in France after a difficult spell at Liverpool and an ill-fated return to Milan, scoring seven goals in 10 appearances so far this season. “He’s doing some things better than he did at the start,”. “Mario needs to be supported, he needs you to talk to him. He needs the players in the squad to be close to him, because if he feels good he knows how to be decisive. “He’s made a lot of progress with his movement, he’s become more unselfish and efficient. He still has work to do, but we all know that. “He works very hard in training, he presses when he’s lost the ball. These are small steps forward, but important ones.

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NAPOLI ON BUDGET

Kevin De Bruyne cost Manchester City as much as the entire Napoli starting XI put together. The two sides faced off in the Champions League and they are both currently leading their respective domestic leagues. However, while Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri have similar ideas of beautiful football, the cost of realising their vision has been wildly different. Incredibly, De Bruyne alone cost €74m to sign from Wolfsburg in 2015 – as much as the entire Napoli starting XI put together. The likely 11 players for Manchester City cost the club a total of €487m, whereas Napoli’s squad was purchased for €74m. Lorenzo Insigne counts as free because he came up through their youth academy. The most expensive purchase was defender Raul Albiol, bought by predecessor Rafa Benitez, for €12m. Manchester City squad: Ederson (€40m); Walker (€51m), Otamendi (€44m), Stones (€55m), Delph (€11m); Fernandinho (€40m), Sterling (€62m), De Bruyne (€74m), David Silva (€28m), Sane (€50m); Gabriel Jesus (€32m) Napoli squad: Reina (€2m); Hysaj (€5m), Albiol (€12m), Koulibaly (€7m), Ghoulam (€5m); Allan (€11m), Jorginho (€9m), Hamsik (€5m); Callejon (€9m), Mertens (€9m), Insigne (€0m)

ZACCHERONI TO EMIRATES

Alberto Zaccheroni has been appointed as the new Coach of the United Arab Emirates national team. The former Milan and Juventus boss has been out of work since leaving Beijing Guoan, but will now take over the of the UAE national side. “The Emirati football federation has named the Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni to lead our national team,” a tweet from the federation confirmed. It’s believed Zaccheroni has singed on until 2019, when UAE will host the Asian Cup, which he won with Japan in 2011.

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VAR FOR LIFE

Referee Roberto Rosetti assures “there’s no turning back” now that VAR has been introduced in Serie A, but “we’re aware of the limitations.” The Video Assistant Referee technology was introduced this season and has already been used multiple times, but not without controversy. “There’s no turning back now,” Rosetti told news agency Ansa at the Hackathon event in Trento.

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LA LIGA

Unfinished Business DIEGO COSTA WANTED TO RETURN TO ATLETICO MADRID AND DIEGO SIMEONE WAS KEEN FOR A REUNION TOO. BUT WILL IT ALL WORK OUT? EUAN MCTEAR TAKES A LOOK.

‘Costa could be the striker Simeone needs to take Los Rojiblancos all the way in European competition’

T

he last time Diego Costa wore an Atletico Madrid shirt on a football pitch, he was limping out of the 2014 Champions League Final in Lisbon, with his iffy hamstring having held up for just nine minutes. Real Madrid did, of course, go on to win that match, so the striker has some unfinished business in the Spanish capital and he’ll now have another chance to fight for continental glory with Los Rojiblancos, having signed from Chelsea after a three-year stint in London. However, his return has been anything but simple. When Costa announced back in June that he’d been sent a text message by Blues Coach Antonio Conte to tell him that he was no

longer needed or wanted at Stamford Bridge, it seemed that a transfer away would be fairly easy to work out. Then, when he was partying in an Atleti shirt on holiday and live on social media at the same time, it appeared the player was confident of returning to the club he considers his home, the one he first joined at just 18. Yet Atletico were under a transfer ban during last summer’s window and could not register any players until January. Costa, then, would either have to accept going

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

out on loan or sitting out half a season in a World Cup year if he were to move back to Madrid. Transfer deadline day came and went, while the 29-year-old was even left out of Chelsea’s Champions League squad list, but eventually a deal was struck between the two clubs, one which sees Costa sign for Los Colchoneros until June of 2021. As soon as the fireworks hit the skies on New Year’s Day, he’ll be eligible to once again don that red and white shirt for a competitive fixture, and not just for an Instagram Live session. It’s an exciting time for Atletico fans and for the player himself. But will it all work out? Will there be a happy ending? Will this endeavour finish with a Champions League trophy and some red and white confetti? Costa will be 29 by the time he returns to action and he won’t have played any competitive football since appearing for Spain in Macedonia back in June. Not only might his peak years already be numbered, but there are genuine fears that his fitness won’t be at the required level when he does make his re-debut for the club. Atletico and Costa aren’t too worried, though, as they have set their fitness coach Profe Ortega loose on the centreforward. Ortega, a fiery Uruguayan with a rugby background, is widely regarded as one of the best physical trainers

ABOVE: In 134 appearances for Atletico Madrid, Diego Costa scored 64 times.


COSTA DID THE BUSINESS

"This is an exciting time for Atletico Madrid"

TWO PREMIER LEAGUE TITLES IN THREE YEARS IS A VERY IMPRESSIVE HAUL, EVEN IF DIEGO COSTA’S TIME AT STAMFORD BRIDGE ENDED ON A SOUR NOTE.

FACTFILE NAME: Diego Costa BORN: October 7, 1988 (Lagarto, Brazil) HT / WT: 1.88m / 87kg POSITION: Striker CLUB: Atletico Madrid SEASON 2006-07 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2017-18

CLUB Penafiel Braga Celta Vigo Albacete Valladolid Atl. Madrid R. Vallecano Atl. Madrid Atl. Madrid Chelsea Chelsea Chelsea Chelsea Atl. Madrid

APPS 14 9 31 36 36 39 16 44 52 37 41 42 0 0

GOALS 5 1 6 10 9 8 10 20 36 21 16 22 0 0

in the sport and if anyone can get Costa to sweat off his holiday weight then he can. “Firstly, I am not as unfit as some have been saying and, secondly, we have Profe Ortega here, so he'll get me sharp,” Costa said upon his arrival in Madrid in September, following his extended break back in his Brazilian hometown of Lagarto. “I'm not scared of the scales, only of his training sessions!” The fitness issue, then, is one which should be easily solvable. So the other question is how much a fully-fit Costa can add to a team which has finished in the top three of LaLiga every year since his 2014 departure for Chelsea and which has reached another Champions League final without him, as well as semi-final and a quarter-final? Well, from Diego Simeone’s point of view, Costa could be the striker he needs to take Atletico all the way in European competition. It is ironic that Atleti boasted excellent centre-forwards for years and years at the same time as the rest of their squad was anything but world-class, whereas it has been the opposite ever since Costa packed his bags three years ago, from having the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Radamel Falcao to having to rely on Mario Mandzukic, Jackson Martinez and Kevin Gameiro. The latter three were brought in during the summers of 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively and not one of them has been able to fill Costa’s boots, with Mandzukic sold to Juventus after a year, with Martinez offloaded to the Chinese Super League after just half a season and with Gameiro still at the club, but struggling to make the bench,

never mind the starting XI. What has made the team’s striker troubles so frustrating over the past few seasons is the fact that Atleti have a truly world-class attacking talent in Antoine Griezmann, a player who arrived at the club in 2014 at the same time as Costa was walking the other way through the revolving door. The France international is the current third best player in the world and can play as the focal point of attack on occasion, but he is not a natural centre-forward and is best utilised as the man playing just off the striker in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation. Griezmann even made Mandzukic, Martínez and Gameiro all look good at various points, so one can only drool with excitement at the prospect of a Griezmann-Costa partnership. There is always the potential for a lack of chemistry and for this to go wrong, but all evidence would suggest that Costa is exactly what Griezmann and Simeone have been missing to solve the team’s weak link, that of their central striker position. Elsewhere, this Atleti squad is even more talented than the one which Costa left in 2014. While some players are getting on in age slightly, the club are still enjoying excellent performances from their spine of Diego Godin and Gabi and even have an heir to the captain’s central midfield throne in Thomas Partey, while they also count upon Koke and Saul Niguez, two of the finest Spanish midfielders around, which is saying something. On the flanks, Juanfran and Filipe Luis, another Chelsea returnee, are still working wonders, while the aforementioned Griezmann does his thing in attack. Like Costa, Spain international Vitolo will be joining in January, to assist Yannick Carrasco in threatening from the wings. In terms of depth, Simeone has so much talent that he has been able to rotate like never before this season, thanks to the reliable backups such as Jose Maria Gimenez, Lucas Hernandez and Angel Correa. Then, in goal, they have the highly-rated Jan Oblak in case the back line ever is breached. On top of all that, the club has just moved home into a new stadium, the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano and it has largely been a positive move. While there were legitimate concerns that something would be lost by leaving the Estadio Vicente Calderon, most fans have taken to the new ground and the atmosphere has been even better than most optimists could have imagined. All in all this is an exciting time for Atletico. They’ve had most of the boxes ticked for some time, but had struggled to find a new centre-forward to replace Costa, who averaged a goal every 145 minutes during his time at the club. It might turn out that the only man able to replace Costa is Costa himself and, if so, then a new era of success could be about to hit the red and white half of the Spanish capital. There is no reason why this shouldn’t be a happy homecoming.

ABOVE: Antoine Griezmann will surely relish the chance to play alongside a worldclass talent like Costa.

The way Diego Costa left Chelsea will have upset a number of Blues fans, but the striker’s achievements in England will surely be remembered with fondness with the passing of time. In three seasons, Costa lifted the Premier League title twice and the League Cup once, which is more silverware than Atletico Madrid won without him. By scoring 20 times in the race to the 2014-15 and to the 2016-17 league titles, the 29-year-old has been vital in both of those Premier League triumphs, while he also managed to bag 16 total goals during the write-off that was the 201516 season. Throughout his time in London, Costa gave everything for the blue shirt he wore and frustrated opposition players, coaches and fans with his physicality and the way he could bait his rivals into committing a red card offence. As both Cesc Fabregas and John Terry said following his move back to Atletico Madrid, Costa was one of the most underrated players to have passed through the front doors of Stamford Bridge. Alvaro Morata may do a good job of replacing his goals, but nobody will ever again be able to offer Chelsea the fireball of energy that Costa did.

COSTA DID THE BUSINESS SOME BELIEVE SITTING ON THE SIDELINES COULD JEOPARDISE HIS WORLD CUP HOPES AND SPAIN HAVE FOUND A WAY OF PLAYING WITHOUT COSTA.

When Spain took on Italy and Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifiers in September, there was a notable and understandable absence from the squad list — Diego Costa. With the striker still trying to force through an exit from Chelsea and having not trained or played yet in the 2017-18 season, he was not in the right state of mind or in good enough shape to merit a call-up, leading to an emotional return to international action for David Villa, who had retired from international duty in 2014. But what about next summer, as Spain Coach Julen Lopetegui names a squad for Russia? Does Costa return to his plans? Fellow strikers Alvaro Morata and Villa should both be in contention for a spot too, but the fact that Spain were able to play a striker-less formation against Italy and to do it so effectively may be the biggest obstacle between Costa and Russia. Not only will the striker have to impress in just six months, once Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban is lifted on January 1 and he can return to action, but he’ll also have to hope that Lopetegui doesn’t place too much trust in his midfielders and that there is room for more than one striker on the squad list.

‘One can only drool with excitement at the prospect of a Griezmann-Costa partnership’ Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

41


Barca Blues LA LIGA

ERNESTO VALVERDE INHERITED A BARCELONA SIDE IN A STATE OF FLUX AND IN NEED OF CLARITY BOTH ON AND OFF THE PITCH. COLIN MILLAR ASKS IF HE CAN BUILD A TITLE WINNING TEAM.

I

t was the summer of discontent in Catalonia, a period which began with the indignity of watching eternal rivals Real Madrid first beat them to lifting La Liga before becoming the first club to defend their Champions League title in the modern era. As with any fierce rivalry, fans of La Blaugrana are often hurt as much by success at Santiago Bernabeu as they are by their own team’s failings. Madrid’s signings of Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos – two of the hottest properties in Spanish football – furthered the exasperation levels at Camp Nou. A decade ago Barcelona’s spine of Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Carlos Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi was a show of strength and a vindication of their faith in youth and hovering up the best Spanish talent. Madrid’s reboot of the Galacticos side had failed, but the table had now turned. Hernandez and Ceballos were talents who escaped Barca’s clutches despite late, and ultimately futile, interest. Relative snips too in a market quickly becoming bloated beyond recognition, the emerging talent of Marco Asensio – whom officials at Camp Nou had reportedly rejected for €4m three years earlier – only added salt to the

‘Barca fans are hurt as much by Real Madrid’s success as their own team’s failings’ 42

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

wounds. As the 2016-17 campaign drew to a close, the Catalan club had only three regular starters under the age of 28: Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto and Neymar. This was a side who desperately needed succession planning and to replenish their ranks in order to reduce their dependency on the magical Lionel Messi. The club’s shortcomings in all of these aspects was exposed by the Neymar’s summer exit to Paris Saint-Germain. The €222m release clause inserted into his contract, signed only the previous year, was meant to rule out the possibility of the 25-year-old’s departure. Barca had banked the house on landing Neymar from Santos only three years earlier: strengthening their questionable relationship with Qatar, failing to disclose and account for payments. It was a controversial part of a flawed and ultimately illegal transfer strategy which eventually saw Barca sit out two transfer windows due to breaking FIFA rules on signing youth players. Reinforcements arrived, perhaps belatedly. The club’s right-back slot – utility midfielder Roberto had filled in for a season due to the club’s bizarre decision not to replace Dani Alves – was filled by the arrival of highly-rated Portugal international Nelson

LEFT: Brazil international Paulinho is on course to win Barca hearts and minds BELOW: Neymar’s summer departure to Paris SaintGermain rocked Barcelona


Semedo from Benfica. Gerard Deulofeu, the Spain Under-21 captain, returned to Camp Nou while Ousmane Dembele arrived from Borussia Dortmund as a de facto Neymar replacement. But the frustration of the fans at the incumbent board, led by President Josep Maria Bartomeu, came to a head with the signing of Brazilian midfielder Paulinho. A fine player in his own right with dynamic box-to-box attributes with international pedigree, but whom was viewed as the wrong signing at the wrong time. At €40m, signing a 29-year-old midfielder seemed like a misguided direction of funds. That he had excelled in the Chinese Super League with Guangzhou Evergrande did little to quell the doubters. To direct ire at the signings seems illadvised, if understandable. The arrivals strengthen the team and the squad but the summer was not only overshadowed by Neymar’s exit from Catalonia, but also by those who failed to arrive. Ceballos, Hernandez, Marco Verratti, Hector Bellerin, Philippe Coutinho, Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala, Jean Michael Seri, Angel Di Maria and Riyad Mahrez. All made the front page of Barcelona-based newspaper Diario Sport as being on the club’s transfer wish-list,

none arrived. Some seemed speculative, but Coutinho and Seri were among the players to express their dissatisfaction at deals not being done. Following Dembele’s arrival, the Barca board promised “two more.” None came. A 5-1 defeat to Real Madrid on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup appeared to reinforce the power shift to the Spanish capital. However, Ernesto Valverde – the former Athletic Bilbao Coach who replaced Luis Enrique in the Camp Nou hot seat in May – guided his side to nine straight victories. As the calendar turned to October, his unbeaten side had established a sevenpoint lead over Zinedine Zidane’s side and were on course to top their Champions League group. This has come with a number of caveats. Most strikingly, Barca had yet to face a major test and had not met any of La Liga’s top seven. Their European triumph over Juventus was impressive but equally came against an injury-ravaged Bianconeri, while a 1-0 win at Sporting was scrappy and undeserved. Dembele suffered a hamstring injury in his first League start and was ruled out of action until the New Year, with the reliance on Messi – which should have been lifted this summer – appearing more central than ever. If the Argentine does not perform his side usually struggle and the further the season progresses the more cracks could appear. But as things stand a plaster has been successfully applied by Valverde to a wound which had threatened to bleed uncontrollably. Football is a results business and despite various lingering doubts a feel-good factor has been restored to the Catalan capital, at least temporarily. Open fan discontent against the board had threatened to genuinely damage the players and results but the calming influence of the 53-year-old has been admirable. In a club threatening to descend into civil war at board level [not for the first time] he has acted as a calming mediator and has helped forge a side capable of not only grinding out results but dismantling inferior opposition. That said, the early season form of Luis Suarez is concerning. The Uruguayan turns 31 in January and fears continue to grow that his decline in performances may become irreversible sooner than anticipated. Iniesta too is struggling, but more so to maintain fitness. Niggling injuries are restricting the captain’s game-time while, like Messi, he is yet to officially put pen to paper on a new contract. Neither player is said to be keen on giving Bartomeu a publicity opportunity. Whilst those mumblings are little more than rumours, off-field issues at Barca may yet see their campaign unravel with a chaotic summer eventually catching up with the team. Fashioning a winning spirit was Valverde’s first success but his next challenge, maintaining it, may prove much tougher.

ABOVE: Big signing Ousmane Dembele got injured at the wrong time. BOTTOM LEFT: Ernesto Valverde has been a calming figurehead since arriving at the Camp Nou in summerBarcelona

FIVE SIGNINGS TO FLOP BARCELONA’S TRANSFER STRATEGY HAS HAD ALMOST AS MANY MISSES AS IT HAS SUCCESSES OVER RECENT YEARS. COLIN MILLAR PICKS OUT FIVE OF THEIR MOST NOTABLE FLOPS. DMYTRO CHYGRYNSKIY (From Shakhtar Donetsk, €25m, 2009) The Ukrainian international made only 14 appearances for Barca's first team and was sold back to Shakhtar for €15m after only one season. Currently playing with Greek side AEK Athens. DOUGLAS (From Sao Paolo, €4m, 2015) The Brazilian full-back started just one La Liga match for the Blaugrana after signing a five-year deal two summers ago. He spent last season on loan at Sporting Gijon and has joined Benfica this season, and is unlikely to ever play for Barca again. ALEX SONG (From Arsenal, €19m, 2012) Barca turned down Athletic Club's Javi Martinez in the summer of 2012 to sign the Cameroonian from Arsenal. However, his performances did not impress either in defence or midfield and his most memorable moment came when he went to lift the League title when Carlos Puyol had been beckoning Eric Abidal. Now at Rubin Kazan after a stint at West Ham.

‘The summer was not only over shadowed by Neymar’s exit but those who didn’t arrive’

KEIRRISON (From Palmeiras, €14m, 2009) Signed for €14m, he never made a first team appearance at the Camp Nou and his five-year spell at the club encompassed loan moves to Benfica, Fiorentina, Santos, Cruzeiro and Coritiba. Left on a free transfer in 2014 and now plays for Arouca in Portugal. GEOVANNI (From Cruzeiro, €18m, 2001) The €18m spent on the Brazilian forward was particularly lavish 16 years ago and despite making 50 appearances across two seasons, made little impact. He was loaned to Benfica before eventually leaving on a free, and later had spells in England with Manchester City and Hull City.

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ASENSIO

ONE ON ONE

Midfield Maestro MARCO ASENSIO IS REGARDED AS ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG PLAYERS IN THE WORLD. THE MIDFIELD MAESTRO TELLS SOCCER 360 PABLO GOMEZ WHAT IT’S LIKE BEING COACHED BY YOUR HERO AND WHY EVERY SPORTSMAN SHOULD TRY AND MIRROR RAFA NADAL. BY: PABLO GOMEZ

‘‘The price they put for me is the price they put – but for me it does not matter.’’

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE NEW CONTRACT AT REAL MADRID – WHICH HAS A STAGGERING 500 MILLION EUROS RELEASE CLAUSE. THEY MUST REALLY WANT TO KEEP YOU? The price they put for me is the price they put – but for me it does not matter. Even if one or two of the clubs in the world that could afford that fee bid for me – I would not go – I am happy here. THERE WAS SO MUCH INTEREST IN YOU FROM OTHER TEAMS – WHAT MADE YOU STAY WITH REAL MADRID? There is nothing bigger than signing a new contract with the biggest club in the world. Already I have won trophies here and I want to win many more. YOU ARE NOW ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG PLAYERS IN THE WORLD – BUT GROWING UP YOU HAD SOME SERIOUS MEDICAL PROBLEMS DIDN’T YOU? I had some pain in my knees with lumps appearing – sometimes it was so painful I could not walk. I never thought about quitting or giving up – the doctors said it would be cured with growth – and I never doubted them

‘‘People think I might say this because he is no my coach – but I used to love to watch Zidane on the ball’’

ABOVE: A very happy Asensio. Playing for a club like Real Madrid is always exciting.

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Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

CRISTIANO RONALDO HAS CALLED YOU ONE OF HIS POTENTIAL SUCCESSORS FOR THE BALLON D’OR – JUST WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Praise from a player and a man like Cristiano means everything – but that is not even something I am thinking about right now I have a lot of growing and developing to do – and everything will happen in the right time. WHO WAS YOUR IDOL GROWING UP? People think I might say this because he is no my coach – but I used to love to watch Zidane on the ball. He is one of the true geniuses of the game – and now I get to learn off him every day WE KNOW ZIDANE IS A GREAT MAN MOTIVATOR – HAS HE HAD ANY KIND WORDS FOR YOU? He once told me that he has not seen a left foot like mine since Lionel Messi – and when you look at Messi as a player – that is a big compliment. YOU FAMOUSLY SAID IN THE SUMMER – THAT REAL MADRID WOULDN’T HAVE ROOM FOR LIONEL MESSI? It was no disrespect to Messi who I have a lot of respect for as a player – it was more a compliment for the Real Madrid Squad which I said was a complete squad.


DID YOU KNOW?

‘‘Praise from a player and a man like Cristiano means everything’’

1. Asensio was scouted by Real Madrid ages before he finally signed with them in 2014. In fact, the club scouted the wonder kid before he even made his debut for Tercera Division club Mallorca B in the 2013-2014 season at 17 years of age. 2. Barcelona was the first club to bid for the youngster at a €1.5 million fee, but due to complications delaying the signing the Catalans lost Asensio to Real Madrid who swooped in and bought him for €3.9 million. 3. Asensio is said to have been a dedicated Real Madrid supporter growing up. However, the 21-year-old admits being mesmerized by Lionel Messi and the great Barcelona team of 2009. 4. The Spaniard’s mother – who was an avid football fan - named him after Dutch legend

Marco van Basten. She introduced him to the former A.C. Milan man as a footballer to shape himself after. 5. Since Asensio’s mother was of Dutch descent, the Madrid prospect was eligible to play for either the Netherlands or Spain internationally. 6. Legendary Spanish manager Vincente Del Bosque has praised Asensio as ‘one of the best things to happen to Spanish football’. Coming from the man who spearheaded Spain’s golden age, these words are invaluable. 7. Asensio’s dedication behind every goal he scores is a heartfelt one. When he was only 15 years of age, the Spaniard lost his mother to cancer and since then has dedicated every goal scored to her memory.

8. Internationally, Asensio has played for Spain at all the junior levels including the U-19 and U-21. He was a part of the prolific U-19 side that won the European Championships and he was also named the Golden Player of the tournament. 9. Madrid president Florentino Perez recalled meeting Asensio’s parents 12 years prior to him signing with the club and at the time Asensio's parents proclaimed he would one day play for the Galaticos. They weren’t wrong. 10. During a loan move to Espanyol, Asensio played 34 matches and racked up four goals and ten assists. Only Luis Suarez, Koke, Neymar and Lionel Messi provided more assists that season.

TENNIS LEGEND RAFA NADAL IS A BIG FAN OF YOURS – WHAT A COMPLIMENT THAT IS? It is a big compliment – but more than that Nadal is somebody you can learn off. He should be the mirror for every sportsman – his hunger is something to admire. All his grand slam wins, all his achievements, and still he is hungry for more. Hunger is fundamental to success.

BELOW: A big fan of Asensio, Nadal has had his own success in a different sport.

REAL MADRID HAVE WON 3 OF THE LAST 4 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TITLE INCLUDING BEING THE FIRST TEAM TO RETAIN THE COMPETITION. CAN YOU MAKE IT 3 IN A ROW? Like I say winners stay hungry. We have belief; we are hungry, so yes we can do it. WHAT ARE YOU PLANS FOR CHRISTMAS? Probably it will be a family Christmas back home in Mallorca which is a beautiful island – and even though I will enjoy – football is always on my mind at the moment because I am enjoying it so much.

‘‘but more than that Nadal is somebody you can learn off’’ Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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PAULINHO

ONE ON ONE

Paulinho Redemption ONE OF THE SHOCK SIGNINGS OF THE SUMMER HAS STARTED LIFE AT BARCELONA IN FINE FORM. THE BRAZILIAN MIDFIELDER TALKED EXCLUSIVELY WITH SOCCER 360 AND TELLS WHY HE IS KNOWN AS “THE WARRIOR”, WHAT IT’S LIKE PLAYING WITH MESSI, AND WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER FORGET TO CALL YOUR WIFE!

‘‘IT'S DIFFICULT TO FIND PAULINHO WITHOUT A SMILE ON HIS FACE’’

YOU HAVE STARTED SO WELL - HOW HAPPY ARE YOU TO BE AT BARCELONA? Very happy. I am came here for a four day vacation back in January and fell in love with the beauty of the city – but never did I dream I would be back here playing for the best team in the world just a few months later. YOU WERE ONE OF THE SURPRISE SIGNINGS OF THE SUMMER – WHAT CAN BARCELONA FANS EXPECT FROM YOU? They will see there is a reason why my nickname with The National team is “The Warrior.” I give everything on the field, I am a fighter, they will see I never give up. They are seeing that already. AND YOU ARE A WARRIOR OFF THE FIELD? No there are two different versions of me. On the field I am a warrior ready for battle – off the field I am a very reserved man who just likes to spend time with my family. THROUGHOUT YOUR SOCCER CAREER YOU HAVE LIVED IN LITHUANIA, POLAND, BRAZIL, ENGLAND, CHINA, AND NOW BARCELONA – HOW HAS THAT BEEN AS AN EXPERIENCE? Amazing – I had a great time discovering places in China, as I say Barcelona is beautiful and as a family we are happy here, but I have always said there is no place like home – and Sao Paulo will always be home.

BY: PABLO GOMEZ


‘‘The moral of this story is never forget to call your wife guys!’’

IS IT TRUE MESSI WAS KEY IN CONVINCING YOU TO JOIN BARCELONA? I did not need any convincing – but it’s true that during a Brazil v Argentina game he said “so are you coming to Barcelona?” I just laughed and said “do you want me?” and here I am now! MESSI HAS HAD AN INCREDIBLE START TO THE SEASON – YOU SEE HIM EVERY DAY IN TRAINING – CAN YOU EXPLAIN JUST HOW GOOD HE IS? It has been said before – but he is not from this planet – it is that simple – nobody who can do what he can do can be from this planet. YOU WOULD HAVE GROWN UP WATCHING SOME OF THE MOST ICONIC BRAZIL TEAMS – WHO WAS YOUR HERO? My idol was Ronaldo – and then I got a chance to play with him at Corinthians and he taught me so much not just as a player but also as a person.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PRE GAME SUPERSTITIONS? Superstitions no – but I have the same routine. When we leave the hotel for the stadium I call my wife, and then when I get to the stadium I call her again. The moral of this story is never forget to call your wife guys! BARCELONA WANTS SUCCESS IN EVERY COMPETITION – BUT WHAT IS YOUR DREAM TO WIN? Like you say everything and I will be fighting to help the team win everything – but it would be so special to win La Liga and The Champions League. WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR CHRISTMAS? Christmas is a time for celebration and for family – but then after Christmas the real business starts. It’s when we have the knock out stages of The Champions League, The title race starts to get exciting, and it’s a time to win trophies.

‘‘but it would be so special to win La Liga and The UEFA League.’’

DID YOU KNOW? 1. Paulinho endured a short but bitter spell in England at White Hart Lane for two uneventful years. After his tenure, he was savagely voted “Tottenham’s Worst Ever Player” by Spurs fans. 2. Before his Barcelona entrance, Paulinho spent time playing football in several countries outside of the European top five including, Poland, Brazil, China, and Lithuania. 3. The Brazilian was very close to calling it quits on his footballing career in 2008. During that time he was playing for Lithuanian club FC Vilnius where he endured prolonged racist abuse from fans. 4. Paulinho’s Camp Nou transfer was heavily criticized by the Barcelona faithful since he moved from the Chinese Super League which they considered an ‘inferior’ league. Barcelona spent a whopping €40 million for him. 5. The 29-year-old has already earned himself a nickname at the Camp Nou. Coined by a journalist with Diario Sport, the Brazilian is now deemed “Air Paulinho” thanks to his strong aerial abilities only matched by Pique and former Barcelona captain, Carlos Puyol. 6. Paulinho’s professional golden period was when he played for Brazil’s Corinthians and won one of the most important titles in the history of the club, the 2012 Copa Libertadores. 7. Thus far the Brazilian has only amassed less than 50 international appearances for his country. He collected the most appearances in 2013 during his tenure in England. 8. Paulinho’s most decorated performance period was in the Chinese Super League when he played for Guangzhou Evergrande. He scored 28 goals in 95 appearances, won two league titles and an AFC Champions League. 9. Paulinho’s Barcelona unveiling was an unpleasant one, to say the least. A Barcelona club shop employee told Goal.com that they didn’t sell a single Paulinho shirt on the day of his arrival. However, it was confirmed the following day the shop had indeed sold one shirt. 10. The Brazilian said in an interview shortly after his unveiling that he ‘took a pay cut’ to join Barcelona FC. He proclaimed that ‘money’s never been the most important thing. I have come here to fulfill a dream, to win titles and be happy’.

LEFT:Brazil's Paulinho (L) in action against Venezuela's Adalberto Penaranda (R) during their FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifying soccer match at Metropolitan Stadium in Merida, Venezuela

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around

SPAIN

“I suffered a lot when I had to face him as a coach but now I get to enjoy him. He's involved in everything.” - Barcelona head coach

RUSSIA CALLING FOR SPAIN

DID YOU KNOW? Lionel Messi scored his 300th goal at Camp Nou during Barcelona’s 6-1 demolition of Eibar in September.

Spain qualified for their 11th-straight World Cup and booked their place in Russia with a 3-0 win against Albania at the start of October. La Roja ended their qualifying campaign with nine wins, a draw, no defeats, 36 goals scored and only three conceded.

Spain played more passes than anyone else and had the best pass accuracy in the European qualifying section for the 2018 World Cup. Aritz Aduriz went into October having scored more goals than any other Spaniard in 2017 (19).

ATLETI BRING BACK COSTA

Ernesto Valverde is enjoying being on the right side of Lionel Messi masterclasses after seeing his star man inspire a comprehensive 3-0 win over Juventus in the Champions League.

Atletico Madrid ended the summer’s most protracted transfer saga when they announced the return of Diego Costa from Chelsea in September. Los Colchoneros have reportedly paid up to £57m for the striker, who will sign a three-and-a-half-year contract once the market reopens in January. The 29-year-old won a Copa del Rey and La Liga with Atleti in his first stint at the club.

CARVAJAL SUFFERS HEART PROBLEM

Real Madrid announced in October that Dani Carvajal had been diagnosed with pericarditis, a viral infection that affects the membrane enclosing the heart. The right-back had only recently extended his contract with Los Blancos until 2022 but reportedly faces a minimum of two months out. The symptoms of pericarditis can be similar to a heart attack but are more often represented by the sudden onset of sharp chest pain.

“We have been living through politically complicated weeks, above all in Barcelona. But I believe our fans are aware that politics is one thing and a game of football is something else.” - Atletico Madrid

president Enrique Cerezo has says Atletico Madrid’s crucial La Liga fixture against Barcelona bore no political significance.

INIESTA SIGNS NEW DEAL

Andres Iniesta ended all speculation about his future by signing a new, ‘lifetime’ contract with Barcelona. The midfielder appeared to take a swipe at the club’s board for not appreciating him enough during a drawn-out negotiation process, but any differences have been put aside as he will now have a say in his own future at the end of each season. “This is priceless,” beamed the 33-year-old at a Press conference.

BARCA BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

"I am only thinking about Real Sociedad – that's the only thing in my head." - Real Sociedad defender

Alvaro Odriozola has said he has no time to think about speculation linking him with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"At Madrid, if you don't win everything, other people consider it a failure. This is the expectation of greatness. This is my job. But when you are a father, it is a completely different feeling. A feeling that I cannot describe. This is why my time in Madrid has been special. I have been a footballer, yes, but also a father." - Real Madrid star Cristiano

Ronaldo says that becoming a father has made him experience winning trophies in a new, more fulfilling way. 48

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Barcelona played Las Palmas behind closed doors in October after the match fell on the same day as the Catalan referendum. The independence ballot led to a huge stand-off between voters and Spanish riot police, also forcing other games in the region to be called off. The Blaugrana won 3-0, but President Josep Maria Bartomeu claimed after the final whistle that they risked a sixpoint penalty if they did not fulfil the match.

YERAY WINS — TWICE

Athletic Bilbao confirmed in September that defender Yeray Alvarez had beaten testicular cancer for the second time in less than a year. The 22-year-old recovered from a first bout of the disease last December, but another abnormality was found in June, meaning he had to undergo a new course of chemotherapy. “I appreciate everything much more [now],” he revealed in a YouTube video.

PIQUE TO QUIT SPAIN? Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has offered to quit the Spanish national team before the 2018 World Cup. Pique was part of the Barca team that played Las Palmas behind closed doors at Camp Nou following the ugly scenes of the Catalan referendum, and the 30-year-old struggled to hold back the tears after the match. “It was my worst experience [as a player],” he admitted, before confirming he would step aside “if I’m a problem.”

PARTNERS OFF THE PITCH

LAS PALMAS SHOW THEIR COLOURS

Las Palmas made it clear they sided with a united Spain during their match against Barcelona on the day of the Catalan referendum. The islanders announced just hours before kick-off that they would wear a Spanish flag on their shirts, but the decision was roundly criticised, with even their own fans branding the club as ‘fascists’ and a ‘disgrace’ on social media.

Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are working on launching a new business together, reportedly named ‘Power to the Players’. According to Marca, the project would be a European version of The Players’ Tribune, where a number of high-profile sportspeople pen their own articles, often detailing their background and opinions on how sport has changed them. It comes despite the pair’s rivalry at club level and differing views on the Catalan independence referendum.

by the numbers

13

13 La Liga players made up the 30man shortlist for the 2017 Ballon d’Or


MADRID TIE DOWN STARS

YOUR COFFEE TABLE NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD

Six of Real Madrid’s star names have signed new, long-term contracts. Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo lucratively committed themselves to Los Blancos last year, and they have since been joined by Marco Asensio, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Isco and Karim Benzema. Los Blancos have also protected themselves from a Neymar situation by tying the sextet down to huge release clauses, with Benzema’s at a cool $1.2bn.

COACHING CASUALTIES

La Liga risks becoming more known for its high turnover of Coaches than beautiful football, with three walking in September alone. Luis Zubeldia was the first to bite the bullet at Alaves, before Fran Escriba paid the price for Villarreal’s poor start to the season and Manolo Marquez stepped down after disappointing results with Las Palmas. The changes made a desired impact as Alaves and Villarreal won their first games under new trainers.

DID YOU KNOW? Zinedine Zidane needed just 65 games to reach 50 League wins as Real Madrid boss.

MADRID & BARCA UP FOR FIFA AWARDS

Barcelona and Real Madrid challenged for the individual titles of the world’s best on October 23 as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi reignite their rivalry for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2017. Zinedine Zidane is also nominated for Best Men’s Coach after guiding Los Blancos to a historic double last season, while Keylor Navas is in the running for Best Goalkeeper thanks to his heroics between the sticks.

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MAGAZINE

Real Madrid had picked up more points per League game without Gareth Bale (2.6) than with him (2.2) since his arrival four years ago.

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ONE ON ONE

MARCO ASENSIO PAULINHO

GOLDEN BOY

MAKING A COMEBACK

MILAN CASHES IN ON GOLDEN KEEPER

ZLATAN DIEGO COSTA

BARCA BLUES

DEPARTURES AND INJURIES

2018

COUNTDOWN

ENGLAND RISING

THE THREE LIONS LOOK FOR INTERNATIONAL GLORY

TEN OUT OF TEN

ITALY 10’S

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TOP 10 CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

CRASHED BENZ

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema was involved in a car crash mid-September but escaped unharmed. El Mundo reports Benzema’s Audi RS6 was hit from behind on the M-13 motorway in Madrid, but neither driver suffered any injuries or had traces of alcohol in their bloodstreams. The Frenchman has been involved in two other accidents as a Blancos player and detained by Spanish police three times for driving without a valid licence.

RONALDO BREAKS MORE RECORDS

Barely a month into the season and Cristiano Ronaldo is already breaking records. After his brace in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win against APOEL on the Champions League’s opening matchday, he surpassed Lionel Messi as the scorer of most Champions League penalties (12 to 11) and goals at home (55 to 54), as well as netting in Los Blancos’ first Champions League match in each of the last six seasons and finding the back of the net more times than 116 of teams that have played in Europe’s elite club competition (107). Let that sink in…

Atletico Madrid opened Wanda Metropolitano to not only a 1-0 victory over Malaga in September but also record profit margins for a matchday. According to Marca, Atleti recorded a turnover upwards of €235,000 – which more than trebled the club’s previous record against Osasuna at the old Vicente Calderon in April. “The truth is that it’s the best stadium I’ve played at,” said goalscorer Antoine Griezmann of the 67,703-seater arena.

by the numbers

0 11

No fans were present during BarcelonaLas Palmas, which was played behind closed doors Spain have qualified for their 11thstraight World Cup

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around

SPAIN

MORE HEARTBREAK FOR MUNIAIN

Just two years on from tearing ligaments in his left knee, Iker Muniain broke down again towards the end of Athletic Bilbao’s 1-0 defeat at home to Zorya Luhansk in September, this time rupturing his right ACL. The diminutive attacker underwent knee surgery a fortnight later and is expected to miss the rest of the season, thereby putting pay to any outside hopes of a call-up to Spain’s World Cup squad.

"Of the players we have had, he(Costa) is the one who most surprised me. He brings together goals, hard work, effort and leadership. I imagine Costa and Vitolo finding it tough to get into the team. I look at who we have at the moment. They will have to work to earn their places." - Atletico Madrid

coach Diego Simeone says that new signing Diego Costa is not guaranteed a starting spot when he is available to play in January.

VALENCIA WIN – AT A COST

Valencia Coach Marcelino picked up a muscular injury while celebrating his side’s winner at Real Sociedad in September. Simone Zaza’s late goal at Anoeta secured a 3-2 victory for Los Che, but it came at the expense of the trainer’s upper left leg causing him discomfort. Still, there was one positive to arise from the incident. “It’s better that I’m the one who’s injured as I’ll still be able to coach,” he said after the game.

DID YOU KNOW? Real Sociedad’s 4-4 draw with Real Betis was the first time such a result had occurred since October 2008.

“We very seriously considered the option of postponing the game, but we could not get La Liga to approve our request. Having reached that point, I decided to play behind closed doors because we believed that the image of a football match being played in a completely empty Camp Nou would have been an act of responsibility and would have been a way of showing how we utterly reject the exceptional and inadmissible situation going on around Catalonia.” - Barcelona

president Josep Maria Bartomeu defends his decision to play against Las Palmas at the Camp Nou behind closed doors, saying images of the empty stadium seen across the world sent a message.

LA LIGA DOMINATES BALLON D’OR

Eleven La Liga stars and three Spaniards have made the 30-man shortlist for the 2017 Ballon d’Or award in May. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are joined by Real Madrid sextet Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Isco, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, as well as Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, Atletico Madrid duo Jan Oblak and Antoine Griezmann, plus David de Gea. Andres Iniesta, however, was not nominated for the first time in almost a decade.

CELTA FINED FOR LOW ATTENDANCES

Celta Vigo were fined by La Liga after they recorded low attendances at the start of the season. The Galicians’ opening two home matches against Real Sociedad and Alaves mustered numbers of just 16,961 and 17,384 at their 29,000-capacity, Balaidos stadium, which fell below the League’s requirement of a venue to be at least 70% full, in a bid to make La Liga the most marketable division in world football.

SPARKLING RON

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo's amazing new diamond-inspired Nike boots have been unveiled. The Chapter 5: Cut to Brilliance boots, the fifth instalment of Mercurial Superfly V series, are even set to "sparkle under lights", according to Nike.

SEVILLA SLAM ‘TRAITOR’ VITOLO

Little over a week after it was announced in September that Sevilla would take Atletico Madrid to court over their summer purchase of Vitolo, the winger faced his former club as a Las Palmas loanee. The 27-year-old’s side went down 1-0 to the Andalusians, but not before supporters of the latter scrawled ‘Vitolo traitor’ graffiti on the islanders’ team bus out of their unhappiness with the player’s refusal to honour a new contract.

A SHAVE TOO CLOSE T-SHIRT WARS

"Isco doesn't hide who he is, his football is from the street," - Real

Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez is a fan of teammate Isco’s raw, natural style of football.

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Barcelona’s players have been trolled for wearing T-shirts in support of their injured colleague Ousmane Dembele. The Frenchman, 20, has been ruled out for around three and a half months after limping out of Barca's victory over Getafe in September. In the following La Liga fixture, Barca players walked out of the tunnel sporting “Courage Ousmane” written t-shirts. The T-shirts instantly grabbed the headlines, with fans saying it was overkill for a player who has only just joined the club.

Real Madrid's Marco Asensio was ruled out of his side’s Champions League match against Apoel Nicosia for an injury he sustained while shaving his feet. That's right, a shaving injury kept him off the field. He reportedly shaved off a pimple on his leg and got an infection that didn’t allow him to pull up his socks.


WAG SUPPORT

Valencia forward Simone Zaza's girlfriend posted an unusual veiled message to Valencia coach Marcelino after Zaza and Marcelino had a disagreement during the side’s clash with Levante. Zaza took exception to being substituted and immediately stormed down the tunnel, the former Villarreal coach was not happy that the forward failed to show respect to the club's supporters. The next day, Biasi posted a message on her official Instagram page that appeared to be a cryptic message to the Spanish coach saying, “If you want people with character, you must know how to manage them, above all you must find the balls you have, do not leave them in a drawer for no reason.”

DID YOU KNOW? Cedric Bakambu became the fourth Villarreal player to score a hat-trick after Diego Forlan, Juan Roman Riquelme and Ikechukwu Uche. Barcelona equalled their best-ever start to a La Liga campaign with seven wins out of seven.

by the numbers

116 235k 70m

Cristiano Ronaldo had scored more Champions League goals after matchday one than 116 of teams that had played in the competition

Wanda Metropolitano’s opening night reportedly generated around $235,000 in revenue Diego Costa’s return will reportedly set Atletico Madrid back $70m.

GOOD DEED

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly helped raise €600,000 ($705,000) for charity by donating a replica of one of his four Ballon d'Or trophies, which was bought at auction by Israeli millionaire and philanthropist Idan Ofer. The good deed took place during a gala hosted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation at London's Dorchester hotel last Sunday, with Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes on hand to make the presentation as per a photo in Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha.

MESSI FUN

Ever wanted to play alongside Lionel Messi? Well, you can at the Chinese theme park carrying the Barcelona star's name which will open its doors in 2020. Mediapro, who launched the ambitious project in June in collaboration with the Phoenix Group and Leo Messi Management, say you will be able to line-up alongside a version of the Barcelona star at the theme park, which is based in Nanjing, China.

LEGENDS WALK

Jose Mario Gimenez earned a plaque on Atletico Madrid’s Walk of Legends after representing the club for the 100th time against Chelsea. Just outside Atletico Madrid's new Estadio Wanda Metropolitano sits the club's Walk of Legends, where all players to have represented Los Colchoneros at least 100 times are honored.

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around

SPAIN

DEFECTING GRIEZMANN

His passport may say he's French, but Antoine Griezmann has long had a soft spot for Uruguay, ever since he worked with several Uruguayans during his time at Real Sociedad. At Atletico Madrid he also shares a dressing room with some players from the South American nation and Griezmann went to Madrid's airport to welcome Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez back to the Spanish capital, following their qualification for the 2018 World Cup. He was wearing a Uruguay shirt when he met them and also had some mate - a traditional Uruguayan drink in his hand.

LA LIGA DREAMING

BIRD CALL “In LaLiga, there is more quality. It's easier for me to play here.”

- Swansea City forward Borja Baston, currently on loan at Malaga, says he is better suited to LaLiga as the quality is higher than in the Premier League.

In association with Amazon, LaLiga are set to work on a project to develop a Spanish football television series. The process is still in the approval stage and a lot is likely to change, but the initial idea is that it will be called 'Six Dreams' and will focus on six stories related to key LaLiga figures.

A group of pigeons have caused havoc at Villarreal's Estadio de la Ceramica by causing some damage to the playing field. In a short amount of time, an ever increasing number of the birds have made their home on the field and are eating seed on the surface, which is cutting up the pitch. Ultrasound systems are now being used to ward them off, while spikes are being put in place in addition to prevent pigeons nesting in parts of the stadium.

FIGO ADVICE

Real Madrid and Portugal legend Luis Figo is to join UEFA in a wide-reaching "football advisor" role, Europe's governing body has announced. Figo was one of the finest players of his generation and enjoyed a professional career that spanned 19 years, making his Sporting CP bow in 1990 and eventually hanging his boots up while at Inter in 2009.

I’LL BE BARCA

"I've got my white heart and I'm not going to change." - Real Madrid boss

Zinedine Zidane said his heart belongs to the Spanish and European champions after he was asked about coaching bitter rivals Barcelona.

FABIO - A BAD EGG-SAMPLE

Former Barcelona and Brazil midfielder Fabio Rochemback was taken into custody for allegedly participating in an illegal cockfight, police have confirmed. The 35-year-old was arrested along with more than 100 others in Palmeiras das Missoes, Rio Grande do Sul, in an operation headed by civil and military police.

ANTOINE ADVENTURES

Antoine Griezmann is showing that he has another string to his bow as aside from being a sharp-shooter for Atletico Madrid he has also put pen to paper to write children's stories on how he became a footballer. He announced on Facebook that the stories will be on sale soon.

"But he dares, like [Alvaro] Arbeloa. They are people who are not afraid to say what they think, who do not hide behind their fame. They are admirable and hopefully more footballers will be like them." - Atletico Madrid defender Filipe Luis commended Barcelona's Gerard Pique for speaking his mind with regards to the recent Catalan independence referendum, saying that more footballers should be like him. 52

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

There was a touch of Hollywood at Camp Nou on September 23 when Arnold Schwarzenegger visited LaLiga giants Barcelona. Former California governor Schwarzenegger was a special guest as he took a tour of the club's facilities before league leaders Barcelona won 3-0 at Girona. In Barcelona for the second consecutive year to run his Arnold Classic Europe, the 70-year-old Austrian-American – best known for his roles in The Terminator, Commando and Predator – was presented with his own Barca shirt.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Barcelona have honoured Camp Nou's 60th birthday with a video of some of the finest moments from their famous stadium's history. The ground opened on September 24, 1957, and has been the site of significant success, including the celebration of 18 LaLiga titles, 16 Copas del Rey and five Champions League and European Cup wins. Stars including Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi have graced the hallowed turf, and all feature in Barca's commemorative video.

by the numbers

70 485 1.2b

La Liga guidelines state stadiums must now be at least 70% full

Ever Banega and Jesus Navas made a combined total of 485 appearances for Sevilla, prior to their returns Karim Benzema’s new Real Madrid contract includes a $1.2bn release clause.

CHAMPIONS DELIGHT

The Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico Madrid's new home, has been awarded hosting rights for the 2019 Champions League final. UEFA confirmed at their ExCo in Nyon in September 19 that Atletico's 67,000-seater stadium has been chosen to host the showpiece match for next season's competition. The last Champions League final to be hosted in Spain was in 2010, when Inter beat Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu, host of the city rivals of Diego Simeone's side, Real Madrid.


FIFA President following elections at an Extraordinary Congress in February therefore came at a time when trust in the administration of the world’s most popular sport was at its lowest ebb. Like his predecessor, Infantino is Swiss, but as a lawyer and professional football administrator, the new man presents a far slicker, more credible, personality. Entering the FIFA presidential race as a late substitute after his former boss Platini had been forced to leave it, the multilingual Infantino is a smooth operator, personable rather than charismatic. As he acknowledged in an emotional victory speech, FIFA’s reputation needs to be restored, but there is a very long way to go to achieve that aim. It is tempting to remain sceptical, but after garnering 115 votes against the 88 for his closest rival, the favourite Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, Infantino Cristiano Ronaldo returned to former does least have mandate to in press ahead clubatSporting CPato see them action with on reform. September 15. The Real Madrid star, For many of its associations, suspended formember his side's LaLiga match away to particularly thosetook in thethe developing Real Sociedad, chance toworld, watch his FIFA a reliable source of cash. firstrepresents professional team play against Tondela in Infantino has said that he flewattended the equivalent the Primeira Liga. Ronaldo the match of with five times around the world, meeting and girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez and was greeting men whose votes he needed warmlythe welcomed by the home support,and who who wouldhis bename glad of development money chanted asthe he sat in the stands. promised by the new FIFA boss. The spread of the football gospel around the globe is one of the fundamental reasons for FIFA’s existence, but Infantino will need to balance this with his reform agenda and the need for transparency to keep his membership

BIG FAN

by the numbers

2 3

Iker Muniain has suffered two ACL injuries in the past two years

‘The challenge facing Infantino Three Coaches departed La Liga clubs is to reform an during the month of September organisation whose name has become synonymous with corruption’ – especially those who voted for his chief opponent – onside. The new Swiss boss gave a nod in that direction too in his post-election address. An early understanding of what an Infantinoled FIFA might look like as the new man eases himself into the role can be seen from his election manifesto. Alongside the additional money promised to member associations, Infantino’s glossy election document was built around reform and good governance, democracy and participation and football development. Infantino clearly stated his belief that “fundamental reforms must be at the heart of FIFA to ensure that it regains the trust of both the football world and the wider public. These reforms need to be structural but also cultural in nature. In this respect, FIFA must Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl demonstrate that it has the strength and has emergedto asreform a Manchester City transfer determination itself into a modern, target for Pep Guardiola. The 22-year-old, well governed, institution which is a worthy who is also by Barcelona, is considered to leader forwanted the world’s number one sport.” beisone theof rising starsfacing in European football This theof crux the task Infantino, and Guardiola is keen to bolster his midfield the seemingly insurmountable challenge Fernandinho Yaya Toure both out of ofwith reconstructing anand organisation whose contract in the summer. very name has become synonymous with

BARCA WATCH

corruption, as the multiple suspensions and arrests triggered by the present investigations testify. During his election campaign, Infantino unveiled a 90-day plan to reform FIFA. “I Spain moved into the top ten nations in think it’s now or never,” he said, introducing FIFA’s World Rankings, as they climbed his proposals in front of reporters at London’s three places to eighth in October’s table. Wembley Stadium. “We have to take this Julen Lopetegui’s men recorded victories opportunity, to take a turn, to make a better over Albania and Israel to seal their spot FIFA and work for football in a united way, in in next summer’s World Cup in Russia and a positive way. This is the right moment to do complete their qualification group. La Roja that.” have jumped above nations such as Chile Inevitably, much of the reform promised by and Switzerland in the standings, while they Infantino is of the structural variety, vital to are joined in the top 10 by Peru – who will the need to fix the organisation but unlikely to contest a World Cup playoff spot against capture the imagination of those who follow New Zealand. football by buying season tickets or regularly handing over their hard-earned cash at the October FIFA World Ranking ticket office on matchday. 1. Germany - 1631 However, an important gauge of whether 2. Brazil - 1619 Infantino is likely3.toPortugal be successful - 1446is provided by those who backed him. Unsurprisingly, it 4. Argentina - 1445 was some of the5.big names -in1333 the European Belgium game who came 6. out with the most fulsome Poland - 1323 support, with Fabio Capello- 1226 and Jose Mourinho 7. France among Infantino’s8. high-profile backers. Spain - 1218 Mourinho was enthusiastic his support 9. Chile -in 1173 of Infantino. “I think very capable, very 10.he’s Peru – 1160

SPAIN UP

DID YOU KNOW? Celta Vigo entered October having dropped more points from winning positions than anyone else in La Liga (10).

Alvaro Morata’s goal for Chelsea at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League was his first ever against Diego Simeone’s side.

SEPP BLATTER’S MISTAKES EXCLUDING HIS SEXIST WAYS, TROUBLES IN THE GAY COMMUNITY, AND FALLING OFF A STAGE, HERE ARE SOME OF SEPP BLATTER’S MISTAKES DURING HIS TIEM AS FIFA PRESIDENT. THE TIME HE SUGGESTED ELIMINATING DRAWS Showing exactly how in touch with the modern game he is, Blatter once suggested that draws should eliminated. "EVERY GAME SHOULD HAVE A Roma legendhe Francesco Totti journalist believes in WINNER," told a German Cristiano Ronaldo “is HAVE aheadTHE of” COURAGE Lionel Messi 2004. "WE SHOULD INTRODUCE FINAL for DECISION INFIFA andTO Neymar in the A running the Best EVERY GAME OF FOOTBALL. THAT IS Men’s Player of 2017. Ronaldo fired Madrid to a WHAT European double lastI WANT." season. “I must say that That, of course, is not each what other everybody else we always respected on and off wants. the field. But I think that, in the end, Ronaldo In the run-up to the 1994 World Cup, is ahead of the others. “He had an amazing Blatter also suggested that games should season and also accomplished all of his goals be divided into four quarters, presumably with the most prestigious of teams.” Totti to appease the American broadcast also felt Ronaldo’s Coach Zidane sponsors who were liningZinedine FIFA's pockets.

TOTTI ENDORSES RONALDO:

and teammate Keylor Navas equally merited recognition at the ceremony in London nextTHE Monday. Coach?CRISTIANO Despite the TIME “Best HE CALLED extraordinary job of Conte and Allegri, I think RONALDO A ‘SLAVE’ Zidane is the favourite for the same reasons In 2008, Ronaldo: Blatter pulled his foot out of the as Cristiano he won everything mouth added long enough to suggest lasthis season,” the iconic No 10.that “Best Manchester [Gianluigi Utd’s desire to keephas Cristiano Goalkeeper? Buffon] been the Ronaldo from joining Real Madrid was best individually, but also his team reached tantamount to “MODERN SLAVERY.” the Champions League Final – same as Keylor Yes, you read that correctly. In Sepp’s eyes, Navas. “In the end, I think the 2 gets of them an international megastar who paidwill be competing for it.” upwards of €250,000 per week to do his

‘Infantino flew the equivalent of five times around the world, meeting and greeting the men whose votes he needed and who would be glad of development money’

UEFA President and former French legend Michel Platini had eyes on the top job at FIFA.

experienced, with a complete knowledge of everything around football and its organisation,” the Portuguese said. Ahead of the election process at the February Extraordinary Congress, the FIFA membership approved a package of reforms to pave the way for significant improvements to the governance of global football, including clear separation of political and management functions, limits on the length of time FIFA officials can remain in office, greater recognition and promotion of women in football and a commitment to enshrining human rights in the FIFA statutes. With the new reform package on the table, Infantino was elected to office to implement it, but it will be a slow and gradual process for change to be embedded and implemented. In the meantime, this autumn will see the beginning of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals. The controversial decisions to award the tournament to Russia – and to Qatar in 2022 – were an integral part of the allegations aimed at FIFA that eventually led to Blatter’s downfall. The legacy of years of mismanagement and maladministration will not be eradicated overnight and, to that extent, Infantino’s challenge is an unenviable one. A fundamental cultural change must take place. That will not happen quickly, but it will influence how FIFA is perceived in future and how Infantino’s time in office will be judged.

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dream job is comparable to a slave. Unless Madrid start making Ronaldo build a pyramid as Florentino Perez whips him while dressed as a Pharoah, this is not a good parallel.

THE TIME HE TALKED ABOUT SCRAPPING THE OFFSIDE RULE In 2010, Blatter was inspired by a conversation with his hockey equivalent Leandro Negre to suggest SCRAPPING THE OFFSIDE RULE. It was abolished in hockey in the nineties, and Blatter assumed its success could be translated to the beautiful game. As you can imagine, absolutely no one else at FIFA agreed.

THE TIME HE CHOSE QATAR TO HOST A WORLD CUP. “Of course, it was a mistake. You know, one makes a lot of mistakes in life. The technical report indicated clearly that it was too hot in summer, but despite that the executive committee decided with quite a big majority that the tournament would be in Qatar.” Well, we’re all human aren’t we Sepp? We all make mistakes. This one isn’t your mistake though, ofFootball course. No. Of course not. The Spanish League has cancelled

AWARDS RESTRUCTURING

its 2016/17 annual Gala Awards Ceremony that honours the top players and coaches in Spain and will instead create a new THEthat TIME WHEN HE LET ALL OF The format ensures better attendance. THE CORRUPTIONS BRIBERIES 2015-16 awards winnersAND Lionel Messi (best striker) and LuisHAPPEN. Suarez (best world player) of Barcelona well asof Atletico Madrid's Here isasjust one the many: Antoine Griezmann (best player of the year) Former FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner didwas notrevealed attend the ceremony that was held to be the recipient of over in October 2016.from A Laa Liga statement said: £720k in bribes company controlled "With aimQatari of defining a new format by athe former football official. Jack and adapting to the Lareceived Liga new strategy, Warner’sitsons also payments inwe have taken decision not to celebrate the the the hundreds of thousands. Gala Awards for the 2016-17 campaign. Look for a new format coming soon.

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Dream Bigger BUNDESLIGA

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI INCURRED THE WRATH OF BAYERN MUNICH’S HIERARCHY WHEN HE COMPLAINED ABOUT THE CLUB’S TRANSFER POLICY. MICHELLE BONSU ASKS IF HE HAD A POINT…

R

êvons Plus Grand. Dream Bigger. That has been Paris Saint-Germain’s vision, and the club’s motto ever since the Qatari royal family took over in 2011 through their investment engine Qatar Sports Investments. Over the course of the past six years, QSI have spent well over €1bn in their quest to try to do just that —to dream bigger and turn Les Parisiens into a serious player on the world stage. While they have managed to conquer the French footballing landscape thanks to acquisitions of players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani, PSG have not achieved their ultimate goal: to win the Champions League. Their tactical naïveté was brutally exposed especially this season, when they went 4-0 up in the first leg of the round of 16 against Barcelona, but became the first team to fail to progress as they lost 6-1 in the second leg at Camp Nou. So, earlier this summer, they opted to go one step further, and not just smash, but obliterate world transfer record. That had been set by Manchester United's purchase of Paul Pogba from Juventus for €105m just a year prior. Barcelona had figured that no one would even dare to buy Neymar when they had set his release clause at around €200m when they brought the forward in from Santos, but La Blaugrana were desperately wrong. PSG, of course, had made no secret of trying to up the ante, with attempts to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi coming up short. Neymar, however, was a more realistic target

‘Bayern’s cautious approach has not always paid dividends’

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for the cash-rich and ambitious club. As the saying goes, anything and everything has its price. And so, for a reported €222m, Barcelona was forced to part ways with the 25-year-old as PSG got the man who helped end their Champions League hopes only six months prior. Naturally, this transfer set tongues wagging all over Europe, as it forever changed the transfer landscape. In England, Manchester United had broken the transfer record in 2016, while Juventus opted to splash €90 million – a Serie A record – on Napoli’s Gonazlo Higuain in 2015. Real Madrid, of course, are no strangers to spending big – they previously had held the world record by buying Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspir for €100m in 2013, and Barcelona purchased Ousmane Dembele for €105m from Dortmund to replace Neymar. Meanwhile, this summer saw Chelsea spend €65.5m to bring in Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid, and Manchester United forked over €85m for Everton’s Romelu Lukaku. The transfers go on and on. A close look at this list, however, will reveal one glaring fact. There is no room for the Bundesliga. Despite being ranked as among Europe’s so-called big five Leagues, there is no transaction featuring a German team amongst the top 50 most expensive transfers in football history, with the exception of Dortmund’s sale of Dembele to Barcelona. Mind you, it’s not that the Bundesliga are strapped for cash, or struggling financially, like how Serie A has taken a major financial hit as of late. Bayern Munich, for instance, are consistently ranked by Forbes as one

LEFT: Failure in the Champions League is at the heart of Robert Lewandowski’s complaints BELOW: Lewi publically criticised his teammates for their “lack of support” and was rebuked for it

FACTFILE NAME: Robert Lewandowski BORN: August 21, 1988 (Warsaw, Poland) HT / WT: 1.85m / 79kg POSITION: Striker CLUB: Bayern Munich SEASON 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18

CLUB Z.Pruszkow Z. Pruszkow Lech Poznan Lech Poznan B. Dortmund B. Dortmund B.Dortmund B. Dortmund B.Munich B. Munich B. Munich B. Munich

APPS 29 34 48 34 43 47 49 48 49 51 47 11

GOALS 16 21 20 21 9 30 36 28 25 42 43 12


of the most profitable sporting enterprises in the world. In fact, the Bavarian titans’ net worth was estimated at $2.71bn by the American publication in their latest report, which placed them within the top 20 sports franchises worldwide, slightly ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and even ahead of enterprises like the Chicago Bulls, Denver Broncos, and Manchester City. Die Roten are fourth in terms of football team valuations only behind Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Barcelona, and last season made a total of nearly $700m in revenue, $1.2bn in commercial revenue, but ranked eighth when it came to Champions League earners during the 2015-16 season. Nonetheless, austerity is the order of the day, especially for Bayern. Never have the club bothered to spend more than €50m on a player. That is a relatively average sum these days for most top tier clubs, and only this summer did they break their transfer record when they signed Corentin Tolisso for €41.5m from Lyon. Prior to that, the most they had spent was the €40m on Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao in 2012. However, their cautious approach has not always paid dividends. Bayern haven’t reached the Champions League Final since 2013, falling in the semi-finals and repeatedly to Spanish opposition. Pep Guardiola was brought in in an attempt to again clinch the coveted trophy, but to no avail, and the Carlo Ancelotti experiment was aborted prematurely after the Italian failed to make any improvements on the Spaniard’s work from the prior three seasons.

BELOW: Bayern executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge verbally put Lewi in his place following his second outburst

The lack of progress certainly has not gone unnoticed, but some players have not been shy about speaking out. One in particular is Robert Lewandowski, who incurred the wrath of Dortmund fans when he swapped the Signal Iduna Park for the Allianz Arena in 2014. Star striker Lewandowski certainly does not have a university degree in economics or finance. In fact, the Poland ace, who recently became his nation’s all-time top goalscorer doesn’t have a university degree in anything, for that matter, but it did not prevent him from taking a look enviously across at PSG – and other clubs’ spending – and voicing his frustration at Bayern’s timidity, namely with quality of players the club have bought during this summer’s transfer market. This wasn’t the first time that Lewandowski has aired his annoyance with the club. Last season, while many were impressed to see Dortmund’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang make history as the first African international since Anthony Yeboah to clinch the Torjägerkanone, Lewandowski was visibly angered by a “lack of support” from his teammates. “Bayern will have to come up with something and be creative if the club wants to keep bringing world-class players to Munich,” Lewandowski complained. “And if you want to compete at the top, you need to have these quality players.” His point wasn’t lost on Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who didn’t hesitate to fire back. “Obviously Robert was irritated by PSG's transfers. He is employed with us as a football player and earns a lot of money. I regret what he said,” Rummenigge began in reply. “Whoever publicly criticises the club or his teammates will get in trouble with me personally. He already made false claims last season following the Freiburg match, where he claimed he had not been supported enough.” As expected, the numerous “ambassadors” of die Roten, namely the club’s ex-players, who act as unofficial spokesmen for the team and are more than happy to voice their opinions, whether unsolicited or not, were also keen on weighing in on the issue. The overwhelming consensus, arguably, was that if Lewandowski was not happy with the club’s recruitment policy was that he could go seek greener pastures elsewhere. Of course, the player, through his outspoken agent, is not immune to making remarks about the club, and he’s not the first to share his opinions whilst trying to angle for either a better deal or more significant, a move elsewhere. After all, the player himself moved to Bayern with the objective not just to win the Bundesliga, but to win the Champions League. Having featured on the losing side of the historic all-German Champions League Final at Wembley in 2013, he surely thought that crossing the divide would have gotten him the success he so desperately craved. And yet, four seasons later, he is no closer towards achieving that dream. Seeing others spend big to bring in superstars naturally will have incurred his further frustration, but the question is, do Bayern double down and hang on to a frustrated player who has consistently produced goals for the team? Or do they cut their losses and ship him out? Furthermore, with rivals spending big, are Bayern at risk of being left behind?

NO RISK, NO REWARD BAYERN MUNICH’S FAILURE IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WAS AT THE HEART OF ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI’S COMPLAINTS AS THE COMPETITION BECOMES A TWO-HORSE RACE WITHOUT ROOM FOR THE BAVARIANS.

Bayern Munich’s conservative fiscal policy so far has prevented them from running afoul of Financial Fair Play, that’s for certain. However, without risk, there’s no reward. Die Roten are loath to gamble and as such, they have fallen behind. Bayern’s tendency to focus largely on recruiting within the Bundesliga to acquire talent has helped them to retain their status as the No. 1 club in Germany. When they do venture outside their comfort zone, it’s not to wade into the volatile transfer market that sees teams pay massive sums for average players and astronomical fees for top talent, but rather to conduct shrewd deals to bring in quality, albeit, not necessarily superstar faces. But is that enough? Not to Lewandowski. And he does raise a very valid point. With the exception of 2012 when Chelsea won it, and the allGerman affair in 2013, the Champions League has become a two-horse race. One can bet who those two teams have been. Juventus attempted twice to end that dominance and were twice outplayed by Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s hard to find anyone who will bet against one of the Spain giants again somehow being in the final yet again this season – barring a surprising collapse, of course. Paris Saint-Germain want to change that, as do every other major side in Europe. Bayern have been notably absent from the big-spenders’ table. It may be time for the club to throw off the shackles and loosen the purse strings a bit if they want to avoid continuing being lions in Germany, but lambs in Europe.

WHAT NEXT FOR LEWI? ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI’S LATEST WAR OF WORDS WITH THE BAYERN MUNICH MANAGEMENT LOOKS LIKE LEADING TO A PERMANENT SEPARATION, SO IT’S TIME FOR THE STRIKER TO CONSIDER HIS NEXT STEP. Clearly, Robert Lewandowski seems to feel he has reached his limit at Bayern Munich. He will turn 30 next August, and that is the age at which a player hits a crossroads, when he only has so much time left to make one last major move. The Premier League is certainly an option, and he enjoyed a good rapport with both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, now at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. However, there has always been the persistent rumour that he long has harboured ambitions of playing for Real Madrid, and who can blame him? Los Blancos are the first club to have successfully won back-to-back Champions League titles, and ironically, Lewi himself made history by scoring four against Madrid for Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals back in 2013 on route to the final. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge though warned it would not be easy for Lewandowski to leave Bayern if the club wasn’t on board with his exit. “I don't think the player's might is that high,” the chief executive stressed. “And Lewandowski can see that when he looks at his contract. He signed until 2021 without an exit clause.” Whatever the case, with Carlo Ancelotti out and Jupp Heynckes returning as a stop-gap solution, the marriage between Lewandowski and Bayern seems destined to come to an end.

Soccer360Magazine.com Holiday Edition 2017

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Shades of Grey BUNDESLIGA

CARLO ANCELOTTI HAS WON THREE CHAMPIONS LEAGUES BUT HIS 20-YEAR CAREER HAS DELIVERED ONLY FOUR LEAGUE TITLES, DESPITE COACHING SOME OF THE GAME’S GRANDEST SIDES. EMMET GATES DELVES DEEPER…

‘Ancelotti won his first Champions League before he won his first Scudetto’

I

n the wake of Bayern Munich’s swift and brutal sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, much has been said and written about the Italian. Many feel his infamous laissez-fare attitude to coaching and his role as merely a facilitator to the game’s best players is simply no longer enough to win trophies at the highest levels, more so in the age of the super manager — though that begs the question why Bayern hired him in the first place, as it’s hardly a state secret. Carletto’s supporters would make the argument that the Bayern side Ancelotti inherited was one in a state of flux after the intense Pep Guardiola years. Others argue that Ancelotti’s status as the joint-most successful European CupChampions League Coach of all time has somehow camouflaged his genuine credentials, pointing to his absurdly low tally of four League titles spanning a 20-year career as evidence of a man that lacks the skills to manage a side over the marathon of a season but is perfect for the sprint nature of Cup competitions. It’s a criticism that does have merit. Considering he has managed some of the biggest and richest clubs in the European game, and that he’s only won a single League title more than his Champions

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ABOVE: Carletto refused to change systems for Roberto Baggio but had to for Zinedine Zidane LEFT: Carlo Ancelotti helped Andrea Pirlo become one of the best midfielders of the last two decades

League record, it is indeed a poor return from a Coach of his pedigree. But a deeper inspection of the quality of his teams at the time – and not necessarily their stature in the game – suggests some of that criticism is a little excessive. Context is very much needed. His eight-year reign at Milan was bookended by sides that were hardly befitting of the Milan name. Upon taking over from Fatih Terim in November 2001, Ancelotti inherited a squad in transition, a mix between the old guard of the 1999 Scudetto-winning team and a new breed. As is Ancelotti’s way, he would win the Champions League before winning his first League title by a year. Despite the fact that his Milan side finished 11 points behind Juventus, they were an excellent side within the confines of a 90-minute match. They also won the Coppa Italia that season and Ancelotti further added the FA Cup and the Copa del Rey to lend more credence to the Cup argument. When analysing Ancelotti’s time at Milan, there’s a feeling that they could have and should have achieved more, certainly in those peak years from 2003 to 2006. The solitary title in 2004 simply doesn’t correlate to the abundance of world-class


FACTFILE NAME: Carlo Ancelotti BORN: June 10, 1959 (Reggiolo, Italy) HT / WT: 1.80m/81kg CLUB: N/A SEASON

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Reggiana Parma Parma Juventus Juventus Juventus Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Milan Chelsea Chelsea PSG PSG Real Madrid Real Madrid B. Munich B. Munich

Serie B Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A Serie A EPL EPL Ligue 1 Ligue 1 La Liga La Liga Bundesliga Bundesliga

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Below: Ancelotti and Ronaldo have a special bond. BOTTOM: Carlo Ancelotti lifts the Bundesliga title trophy.

players that Ancelotti had at his disposal. From Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta to Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf to Andrei Shevchenko and Kaka. They were a much better-constructed and freeflowing side than Fabio Capello’s functional Juventus side that would win the titles in 2005 and 2006, Calciopoli notwithstanding. Ancelotti’s Milan was a swashbuckling, cohesive Galactico-esque team that worked. The latter years, especially after the Calciopoli scandal and the winning of their last Champions League, saw ageing stars age further, and with little investment from a pre-occupied Silvio Berlusconi, Ancelotti could do little but observe as city rivals Inter hoovered up titles. Oddly, since — and even prior to — his time at Milan, he’s never lasted more than two years at any given club, being shown the door at both Chelsea and Real Madrid for the indignity of finishing second in the second season. In the first instance, to the last dominant Manchester United side under Sir Alex Ferguson, the second to a Barcelona side that would win the treble with the newly formed MSN attack. Hardly cause for condemnation. Where the knives are really sharpened, and primed — especially in Italian circles — are his two and a half years in charge of Juventus. The period in his career when Ancelotti really should have secured his first titles, yet ludicrously contrived not to win any. Many of his defenders will point to the biblical deluge at the Stadio Renato Curi in Perugia on the final day of the 1999-00 season which saw the title float away from Turin and towards Rome as a unique, freak occurrence. It can’t be ignored that they were nine points ahead of Lazio at the beginning of April. That a team consisting of hardened pros like Antonio Conte, Alex Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane could falter in such a manner, in such a rapid timespan, can’t be so easily explained. A year later and while another collapse wasn’t as profound, it effectively cost Ancelotti his job. In what could be viewed as a prequel to A Coruña and Istanbul, Juve let a two-goal lead slip at home to Roma that killed off any remaining chances of winning the title. Instrumental in the Roman comeback was Hidetoshi Nakata, who was only eligible to play due to changes in EU regulations concerning non-EU citizens a week prior to the game. The Japanese star scored one and was pivotal in the second. “A pig who can’t coach,” Juventus fans spraypainted on an obelisk in central Turin during this time, a reference to Ancelotti’s humble upbringing as a farmer’s son in Reggio Emilia. Furthermore, it’s often forgotten that Ancelotti almost took Parma — in his first big job — to the Serie A title in what would’ve been one of the biggest sporting upsets of recent times, finishing two points short of Marcello Lippi’s all-conquering Juve side of the mid ‘90s. Despite a decade of success, this was as near to the sun as Parma would ever get, and they’ve never come remotely close since. So what are we left with? The Juventus era remains a stain on Ancelotti’s CV that, unless he wins a couple of more titles, will never fully rub off. His title victories with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern will never gain wider acceptance from his detractors, which leaves only his Milan and Chelsea victories as holding genuine credibility. The statisticians will throw out the seven second-place finishes — eight if you include his half season at PSG in 2011-12 — and his critics will list the high-end clubs he’s managed and state that a handful is titles is insufficient. However, stats are only black or white and football, as we all know, is not a simple black and white sport. The truth with Ancelotti is somewhere in the middle.

NO RISK, NO REWARD CARLO ANCELOTTI FAMOUSLY REJECTED THE PROSPECT OF SIGNING ROBERTO BAGGIO IN THE SUMMER OF 1997 WHEN AT PARMA. EMMET GATES RECALLS A DECISION CARLETTO LATER REGRETTED…

Parma had just finished second in Serie A, the small Emilia-Romagna club more famous for its prosciutto and cheese than its football team but who had been making waves under Nevio Scala. Carlo Ancelotti was the brains behind the team that came second to Juventus, and was at that stage of his career a fervent disciple of Arrigo Sacchi and his 4-4-2 pressing ideals. But Ancelotti was presented with signing Roberto Baggio, the Divine Ponytail himself, from Milan by President Stefano Tanzi. Baggio wanted to play in his preferred No. 10 position, behind two strikers. Ancelotti and Baggio had a conversation via telephone and the Coach told him in no uncertain terms that he would not reshape his system for Il Divin Codino and furthermore, with Hernan Crespo and Enrico Chiesa as his strikers, he would have to earn a starting birth – as a striker. Baggio, needless to say, wasn’t impressed with what he was hearing and signed for Bologna instead. Ancelotti, who would later field four No.10s during the 2002-03 season with Milan, later admitted how tactically rigid he was during the earliest stages of his coaching career and massively regretted not implementing the Italian genius into his team. “If I had a time machine, I’d go back and of course I would take Baggio,” he said. “I lost 22 goals!” Carletto also encountered similar problems with Gianfranco Zola the season before, and sold the diminutive Sardinian to Chelsea in November of 1996. According to Ancelotti, the executives within Parma never forgave him for the Baggio rejection, and was sacked a year later.

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around

GERMANY

PIROUETTE PAIN

Hamburg’s Nicolai Muller will have plenty of time to re-think his celebrations after a failed ballet-like pirouette turned disaster following a goal for die Rothosen. The winger is now set to be out of action until next year having ruptured ligaments in his knee after landing awkwardly and twisting on the turf.

“I think it's a real shame that [Netherlands] failed to qualify for the World Cup because traditionally it's one of the major footballing countries producing some of the great players like [Johann] Cruyff, [Ruud] Gullit, [Marco] van Basten and [Frank] Rijkaard and many, many more. You have to place Arjen on a par with these greats because he has been an exceptional player for [Netherlands] over the years – just like the ones I have just named. It's a real shame. But of course he can now focus on Bayern Munich – and this is what he will do.” - Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes regrets Netherlands' failure to qualify for the World Cup, despite it meaning that Arjen Robben will be able to concentrate solely on Bayern Munich following his retirement from international football on Tuesday.

FEEL THE NOISE

Noisy stadia are the order of the day in football, but it actually became an unfortunate health hazard for RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner. The 21-yearold had to wear earplugs against Besiktas in an attempt to drown out the Turkish crowd’s ruckus, and even that didn’t prevent him from being struck down by apparent dizziness that forced him off before the first half ended.

NO ONE’S IMMUNE TO BEING TROLLED…

DID YOU KNOW?

Bayern's 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg prior to Ancelotti's sacking was the first time they had dropped home points against die Wölfe since December 2001. It was also the first time since March 2004 that Bayern had dropped points at the Allianz Arena after taking a 2-0 lead at half-time. That result means that current Wolfsburg boss Martin Schmidt hasn’t lost any of his last three away games against Bayern, and is the first Coach to do so since Jurgen Klopp from 2011 to 2014.

MY DOG SAID SO…

No, really. At least that is what Jupp Heynckes claimed when asked why he decided to come out of retirement for a fourth stint with Bayern Munich. “My dog barked twice”, he mused in his Press conference, and it was that, along with, of course, his wife and other family members’ support, that convinced him to take on the job.

Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic will have plenty of time to work out his celebrations. At least, unlike Nicolai Muller, he didn’t get injured, but the 19-year-old American was rather embarrassed when his own celebration attempts went awfully wrong, with his knee-slide attempt causing him to tumble awkwardly on the pitch in a heap – and the Bundesliga’s Twitter account didn’t hesitate to troll him on that, either.

"If you let in a goal, you know people are thinking Neuer would have saved it." – Bayern Munich

goalkeeper Sven Ulreich reveals how tough it is to fill the boots of "the world's best" as he stands in for the injured Manuel Neuer.

SELF-INSPIRED

Robert Lewandowski has now earned a university degree, it seems. The subject of his thesis? Himself. The Poland striker, who is now his nation’s all-time top goalscorer, recently earned his bachelor’s in sports management from the Warsaw School of Education in Sport, where he had been studying for over a decade and successfully defended his thesis in front of a faculty panel after firing Poland into next year’s World Cup.

AN UNUSUAL COMPARISON

Hoffenheim Coach Julian Naglesmann had some interesting words to say when asked about rumours linking him to the Bayern Munich job prior to Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking, noting that the veteran Italian tactician had more “trophies in his cupboard than he had underpants”. We all know that Ancelotti is a highly decorated manager but still…

by the numbers "I would give all my money away to be fit to be able to do my job, to do what I love playing football"

- Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus would sacrifice all his wealth for an injury free return to football. Reus has been out of action since May with a torn ACL injury.

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2 9 5

Jupp Heynckes is the first Coach in Bundesliga history to manage the same club for the fourth time

CREATIVE WAY TO EXPRESS FRUSTRATION

Dortmund fans had 148,000,000 reasons to be angered about Ousmane Dembele’s departure to Barcelona. Die Schwarzgelben supporters famously burned Mario Gotze’s jerseys after he left for Bayern, but used more creative ways to show their irritation at Dembele’s ditching Signal Iduna Park. Rather than destroying the kit, some simply modified the jersey number to show Dembele’s ‘true motive’ – at least in their opinion.

Nine Americans play for a team in Germany, led by hot prospect Christian Pulisic

Bayern Munich have won the last five Bundesliga titles


YOUTH DERBY

Hoffenheim vs. Schalke was a more interesting match than usual as it featured the two youngest Coaches in the Bundesliga – Julian Naglesmann (30) and Domenico Tedesco (32), both of whom are younger than many of their own players. First blood in the ‘youth derby’ went to Naglesmann, who bested his former classmate 2-0, but it will be certainly be very interesting to see the rematch later this season.

by the numbers

8 6

The number of times Julian Draxler had captained the Germany national team before turning 24

Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic had netted six Bundesliga goals before his 19th birthday – the only foreign player to achieve this

CALLING IN THE OLD-TIMERS Given their scoring – and winning woes – Koln have turned to desperate measures to address their crisis by bringing in 39-year-old veteran Claudio Pizarro. The Peru international was a free agent after leaving Werder Bremen last season. Given that he’s the Bundesliga’s alltime foreign goalscorer it goes without saying that Koln will be hoping he can alleviate their woes as they aim to finally start racking up some goals and winning some games to get away the relegation zone.

PUTTING ON A THINKING CAP

Footballer…rapper…and now fashion designer? Seems like it. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a man of many talents, there is no doubt about that. The Gabon star is no stranger to wearing some interesting headgear and footwear, having displayed Swarovski-encrusted boots and is often spotted with unique hats, so designing his own shouldn’t be any surprise. Fans can now purchase his latest creation, which was designed by the star himself and has yellow trim amongst other unique features, but as of now, it’s seemingly out of stock…

ASSISTING OFF THE PITCH, TOO

RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsbeg is clearly as generous off the pitch as he is on it! The 25-year-old Swedish international has made a name for himself as one of the Bundesliga’s ‘assist kings’ thanks to racking up an impressive 19 assists for die Bullen. Leipzig finished in a surprise second last term behind Bayern, which earned them a Champions League spot, and Forsbeg decided to reward his hard-working agent not with crate of expensive wine but topped even that, buying the representative a Ferrari.

SERVING THE GTA FOR OVER 49 YEARS. SERVING THE GTA FOR OVER 49 YEARS.

NOW, THAT’S ‘ECHTE LIEBE’

Dortmund fans again showing that football is more than just about the game. Due to the terror attacks earlier this year Monaco fans were stranded in the city, and die Schwarzgelben fans opened their homes to host rival supporters, using the Twitter hashtag #BedForAwayFans. Whilst it did not win the nomination for FIFA’s #TheBest award, it still was a great display of unity nonetheless in the face of trying times.

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A CONSOLATION DRINK

Supporters of 2.Bundesliga side Jahn Regensburg had to travel over 1,000 kilometres to see their side face Fortuna Düsseldorf in a midweek tie, not exactly something one does on the spur of the moment. Whilst their team lost, for the approximately 100 fans who decided to make the long journey it was not entirely in vain as they ended up receiving some nice free beers as some consolation so they at least returned home a bit more cheerful.

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around

GERMANY

I’M NOT A KINGSLAYER!

Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking brought out some vehement denials from some Bayern players, but Mats Hummels’ by far had to be the most interesting. Not only did the ex-Dortmund player claim that he had nothing to do with forcing the Italian tactician out, but went so far as to state that he is not a “king-slayer.” While that is an interesting translation from German to English, it still could not help raise some comparisons to Game of Thrones, perhaps?

"It makes you think that this is going to be perhaps the first American superstar in the sport. I'm willing to say that, and you have to be hesitant about this, but this is a very talented young man." – Christian

Pulisic will be the first American footballer to become a "superstar," says former United States coach Bruce Arena.

"I was never tempted by the Premier League. It's simply a personal opinion." – Borussia Dortmund

by the numbers

148

Ousmane Dembele will earn Bourssia Dortmund €148m [including bonuses and other add-on]) in his transfer to Barcelona – the most expensive sale in die Schwarzgelben’s history

100

Lewis Holtby’s 100th minute goal for Hamburg vs. Cologne [officially registered as 99 minutes, 54 seconds] is the latest ever in Bundesliga history

MAKING HISTORY

All eyes were firmly on the referee during Hertha Berlin’s match with Werder Bremen, namely because Bibiana Steinhaus was making history as the first woman to take charge of a top-flight match in Europe’s big five Leagues. Hertha Berlin, to celebrate the milestone moment, also gave female fans a chance to purchase tickets at half price, and the Hannoverborn policewoman reportedly passed her first big exam with flying colours.

GOOD PLAY

On-loan Hoffenheim midfielder Serge Gnabry has become the sixth player to join Common Goal, the charity initiative pioneered by Manchester United's Juan Mata. Former Arsenal man Gnabry, who is on loan at Hoffenheim from Bayern Munich, has joined Mata in donating one percent of his wage to charity. Bayern defender Mats Hummels, Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini and United States women's internationals Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have already signed up to Common Goal, a fund which aims to help football-based charities around the world.

striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claims that playing in the English Premier League has never appealed to him.

by the numbers

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All six Bundesliga sides in European competition lost on match day two in the Champions League and the Europa League – a new low for the Bundesliga

MASTER FINGERS “It's the biggest nonsense ever to impose a fine on Paris. They laugh at it in Qatar.” – Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke has called on UEFA to deduct points from overspending clubs, saying Paris SaintGermain's owners "laugh" at fines.

A master with his feet, a master with his fingers Bayern Munich playmaker James Rodriguez has joined eSport team Ares. The Real Madrid loanee - a self-styled EA Sports FIFA series enthusiast - joins the likes of Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur) and Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City) as an ambassador of the Ares project, which offers gamers from all walks of life the opportunity to showcase their skills on the global stage.

Bayern, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, Koln, and Hertha Berlin all lost consecutive matches in 72 hours timeframe – something Bundesliga fans will want to forget in a hurry

DID YOU KNOW? VIDEO ASSISTANCE

“I don’t want any regrets when my career is over. I want to give everything until the day I stop playing,” – Bayern Munich and Germany

defender Jerome Boateng is keen to expand his already impressive trophy collection. 60

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng has called for video technology to be used in football to ban racist supporters from matches. Video footage is now heavily used on the pitch in the Bundesliga, with goal-line technology this season joined by VAR. But Boateng is frustrated that there has been no progress in identifying racism within the stands - something he believes could now easily be achieved.

Pulisic’s goal celebration versus Hamburg may have gone embarrassingly wrong – but it was still a milestone for the American international as it was Dortmund’s 3,000th goal in their Bundesliga history. Carlo Ancelotti’s sacking marks the first time Bayern Munich have ever changed managers during the Oktoberfest period. Bundesliga sides tend to suffer stage fright in their debut Champions League appearances on the road. So far, no German side has ever won their first away Champions League fixture [including Leipzig’s recent 2-0 defeat to Besiktas, the record now stands as three draws and 10 losses]


DID YOU KNOW?

YOUR COFFEE TABLE NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD

Hamburg's Jann-Fiete Arp is the first player born in 2000 to appear in the Bundesliga [born 6 January 2000].

Bayern’s 3-0 loss to PSG marked the first time die Roten had conceded three sans reply in the group stages of the Champions League. Germany is the first country to qualify for the World Cup not just by winning every game but also by a goal margin of +39.

GOOD DEEDS

Cologne fans donated their UEFA Europa League tickets to a Belgrade orphanage. In their eagerness to follow the Billy Goats home and away during the clubs's first Europa League campaign in 25 years, many fans of the North Rhine-Westphalia club purchased ticket packages for Group H matches - including all three of Red Star’s home games - the moment they went on sale. They are only interested in attending matches involving their own team, of course, so tickets obtained by Cologne supporters for the Belgrade outfit’s two other home group-stage encounters have now been donated to an outstanding cause.

BROTHERLY LOVE

Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery paid over €30,000 for one of his brothers to play amateur football in France, it has been revealed by a French agent. Ribery paid amateur side Bayonne the sum to cover the cost of obtaining a playing licence for his sibling Francois in 2010 shortly after he had found himself without a club after his previous team, Calais, had gone bankrupt. The story, revealed in a book by agent Christophe Hutteau, was confirmed by a member of the Bayonne board.

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PULISIC TOUCHED

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic made a plea to help and donate to the people of Puerto Rico after learning that a seven-year-old fan, Alex Idarra, had decided to raffle off a jersey signed by his USMNT idol to help the US territory recover after Hurricane Maria.

FREE KICK CHAMPIONS BEER TIME

Bayern Munich’s players and staff made their annual visit to the traditional Oktoberfest. Donning their traditional Bavarian outfits of Lederhosen and garters before, they stopped to smile for the cameras, beers in hand, before tucking into Bavarian specialities inside the Käfer Wiesenschänke tent.

Following the success of past years, Bundesliga have launched their annual FIFA18 Free Kick Challenge. Every club in Germany’s top flight takes part in the competition, in which their star players must battle it out by taking FIFA18-style free-kicks. Each club is awarded points for every try and in the end, the best team is crowned Free Kick Challenge Champions.

GOOD WORD

SPOTLIGHT ON KLOPP MR. INTER MONCHI

WORLD CUP CHASERS THE FINAL STAGES

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Bundesliga legend Lothar Matthaus enjoyed a successful trip to Kenya recently and helped spread the good word about Germany’s top flight football. Alongside posing for countless photos and signing autographs, Matthäus also found time to visit the German embassy in Nairobi and appear on local television channel K24 TV as a football pundit. Furthermore, he competed against Javelin world champion Julius Yego in a light-hearted competition to see who could get the greater combined distance by throwing the javelin and kicking a football.

SURPRISES OF THE YEAR GOLDEN GOALS

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Money Can't Buy

F

rom its heyday in the years between 2004 and 2009 the Premier League gave the Champions League 13 out of 24 semi-finalists, reaching a peak in the three seasons between 2007 and 2009, when England had three of the last four teams every year. But in the last eight seasons, there have only been four English teams in the last four. It remains to be whether or not any of this year’s challengers have what it takes. When the Premier League was in its pomp, before the current Spanish dominance, the last of the old school of British players ruled the roost. Players such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs epitomised the never-say-die attitude and hard running all-action style that was still prevalent in the 1990s. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United made it to three finals over a four-year period, winning once against Chelsea, who themselves were semi-finalists six times in nine years and also won the trophy once. Liverpool made it to two finals and three semis in four years, again winning one, while Arsenal made a final and two semis in four seasons. English clubs were almost unstoppable Ferguson’s team was built to be on the front foot with a young Wayne Rooney and even younger Cristiano Ronaldo leading the attack, while Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand formed one of the best defensive partnerships in Europe and Paul Scholes pulled the strings in midfield. Chelsea had the tough backbone of Petr Cech, John Terry and first Claude Makelele, then Michael Essien with Frank Lampard in support and Dider Drogba as the battering ram up front. A powerful, physical side that were near impossible to breakdown and only occasionally breached in Europe — once by a Liverpool side that boasted Steven

THERE HASN’T BEEN A WINNER OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE — OR SO MUCH AS A FINALIST — SINCE 2012. CIRO DI BRITA ASKS WHAT HAS GONE WRONG IN THE WORLD’S RICHEST LEAGUE.

ABOVE: Liverpool reached two finals in three years, winning in 2005

LEFT: Manchester United haven’t won the Champions League since Cristiano Ronaldo and Sir Alex Ferguson left

RIGHT: He already has two Champions League medals — will Jose Mourinho prioritise the Premier League?

‘Jose Mourinho has European pedigree with Porto and Inter’

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE YEARS OF PREMIER LEAGUE DOMINANCE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINALISTS (WINNERS IN BOLD) 2003-04 Chelsea, MONACO, PORTO, Deportivo 2004-05 Chelsea, LIVERPOOL, MILAN, PSV Eindhoven 2005-06 ARSENAL, Villarreal, Milan, BARCELONA 2006-07 Man Utd, Chelsea, LIVERPOOL, MILAN 2007-08 MAN UTD, CHELSEA, Liverpool, Barcelona 2008-09 MAN UTD, Chelsea, Arsenal, BARCELONA 2009-10 BAYERN MUNICH, Lyon, INTER, Barcelona 2010-11 MAN UTD, Schalke, R. Madrid, BARCELONA

Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano in one of the best midfields on the continent. Arsenal had Thierry Henry leading their line in the year they went to the final and the still-inspirational Dennis Bergkamp. The English clubs then competing for the Champions League had a virtual monopoly on the world’s best players, save for a Ronaldinho here or a Kaka there. That’s not the case today as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain hoover up the stars and at Old Trafford, Ferguson has been greatly missed while Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have fallen behind the back domestically, never mind on the continent. Liverpool’s identity is strongly wrapped up in their European pedigree but they spent years out of the competition and Chelsea’s managerial merry-go-round was no way to build continuity. The Blues also spent the odd year out of the competition which didn’t help either, and newcomers Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have yet to forge a European mind-set. The playing style that has crept into English football hasn’t helped either. The Premier League looks increasingly like a watereddown version of Spain or Italy, with an attempt made to up the technical level of the top teams, a short-passing game that the best teams from the continent simply do better. It’s anathema to English fans and has become neither one thing nor another. It’s changing, as Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino imprint their style on their respective clubs, and the Premier League has learned that simply trying to replicate Barca or Madrid isn’t the answer. Guardiola’s City have the most recent experience of the Champions League’s latter stages of the five Premier League teams in this year’s competition, reaching the last four in 2015-16 before losing to eventual winners Real Madrid 1-0 on aggregate. They certainly have the players to go deep on this year’s edition but long-term injuries to Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero could prove costly, as could Vincent Kompany’s continued struggle to be fit. Premier League champions Chelsea are an unknown in Conte’s first year with the club in the competition, but the Diego Costa saga raises questions of the Blues’ depth. A lack of match-winners beyond Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata could prove costly, as there

is a great deal of reliance on the playmaker and the striker. Conte’s predecessor at Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho, has European pedigree with Porto and Inter and spent heavily in the summer, though surely a return to the top of the Premier League is as important for a club that hasn’t lifted the League title since 2012-13. The Portuguese can call on the likes of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku, as well as Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, giving Mourinho the balance of strength and skill he prefers, but if push comes to shove, where will United’s priority lie? Liverpool’s defensive frailties mean they’re at best dark horses for the tournament and what would be a sixth European Cup and as strong as the Reds are in attack with Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, it takes a stronger defence than Jurgen Klopp has been able to fashion to thrive in the Champions League. That leaves Tottenham, possibly the hungriest of the Premier League’s five and, secretly, maybe the best-equipped. At least in Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Dele Alli and Harry Kane there is the spine of a successful team but one that has so far failed to claim any silverware. There is a first time for everything, though, and the well-drilled Londoners are as cohesive as any of their rivals, but this could be a tournament too soon for ambitious Tottenham. England went into this season’s Champions League tied for second with Italy in the list of best-performing countries in the history of the competition. The sceptred isle has produced 12 winners, five behind Spain, but until Madrid won in 2014 there was barely anything in it. Los Blancos’ three wins since then, and Barca’s 2015 success, has put the Iberian nation out in front. These things can be cyclical but it can’t be denied that the Premier League clubs no longer compete for the biggest prize in club football. There’s a lot of work to do this year to change that fact.

2011-12 CHELSEA, Barca, BAYERN MUNICH, R.Madrid ABOVE LARGE: Antonio Conte took Chelsea back to the Champions League but can the Blues win it? ABOVE SMALL: Pep Guardiola was a Champions League winner with Barcelona

2012-13 BAYERN MUNICH, Barcelona, BORUSSIA DORTMUND, Real Madrid 2013-14 Chelsea, ATLETICO MADRID, REAL MADRID, Bayern Munich 2014-15 BARCELONA, Bayern Munich, JUVENTUS, Real Madrid 2015-16 Man City, REAL MADRID, ATLETICO MADRID, Bayern Munich 2016-17 REAL MADRID, Atletico Madrid, Monaco, JUVENTUS

YEARS OF PREMIER LEAGUE DOMINANCE CHAMPIONS FINALS (WINNERS IN BOLD) 2003-04 Monaco, PORTO 2004-05 LIVERPOOL, Milan 2005-06 Arsenal, BARCELONA 2006-07 Liverpool, MILAN 2007-08 MAN UTD, Chelsea 2008-09 Man Utd, BARCELONA 2009-10 Bayern Munich, INTER 2010-11 Man Utd, BARCELONA 2011-12 CHELSEA, Bayern Munich 2012-13 BAYERN MUNICH, B.Dortmund 2013-14 REAL MADRID, Atl. Madrid 2014-15 BARCELONA, Juventus 2015-16 REAL MADRID, Atl. Madrid 2016-17 REAL MADRID, Juventus

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

The Good, The B STORY BY: LAUREN MAHARAJ

THE GOOD PROLIFIC REDS Liverpool snapped a 7-match Champions League losing streak with their sensational thrashing of Slovenia’s Maribor. The Reds scored four goals in the first half with both Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah scoring two apiece over the course of the 90-minute beating. Jurgen Klopp’s men are now the fourth English side in the history of the competition to have put four past another side within the first 45 minutes. PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN DUE CREDIT? Is it time to finally appoint PSG the elite status among Europe’s greats that they’ve been craving? With the introduction of Neymar, perhaps it is time. Critics were weary of the Brazilians move to the capital but it seems that the former Barcelona man has proven such weariness wrong. It could be argued that Neymar has been the Champions League best player thus far. He has earned not only goals but also Man of the Match awards at every one of PSG’s European outings. Alongside this lies the fact that the French giants are not just collecting victories but dismantling their opponents at the same time. Large score line victories like their 5-0 overhaul of Celtic and shock 3-0 dominance over Bayern Munich prove that much.

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ABOVE: Liverpool will try to make a statement in this year's champions league ABOVE RIGHT (OPPOSITE PAGE): Insigne may be on his way of becoming Italy's best player, as well as Napoli's all time Franchise Player. RIGHT: Is this PSG's year after the major Neymar Signing? RIGHT (OPPOSITE PAGE): PierreEmerick Aubameyang protests a call on the field.

A CURSE BROKEN There’s no denying the level of quality that both Gianluigi Buffon and Lionel Messi have in their respective positions. But in this particular case, the highlight belongs to the Italian. Unlike much of the sport’s best goalkeepers, Buffon has been able to deny one of world football’s finest marksmen from earning a goal several times. In fact, on three out of four occasions that the Argentine has faced Buffon’s Juventus, he has denied him a much-desired goal - including in a Champions League Final. However, during the 2017-2018 group stage, the Argentinian maestro finally slotted one past the Italian gatekeeper in Barcelona’s 3-0 group stage victory over the Old Lady. The goal was instantly celebrated across social media. THE DARK HORSE Few would’ve banked on the fact that a Turkish side with dicey success in the Champions League would dominant in a fashion similar to Europe’s elite. But that is exactly what Besiktas have managed to do. The 15-time Süper Lig champions have bulldozed their way to the top of Group G sustaining a perfect win record much like other European heavyweights Manchester City, Paris-Saint Germain and Barcelona. To put this into perspective, one should be reminded of the fact that Besiktas have never advanced past the group stages of the Champions League and only made it past the first round of the European Cup twice in their history.


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

e Bad, The Ugly 2017/18 UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CALENDAR 31/10/17–01/11/17: GROUP STAGE, MATCHDAY FOUR 21–22/11/17: GROUP STAGE, MATCHDAY FIVE 05–06/12/17: GROUP STAGE, MATCHDAY SIX

11/12/17: ROUND OF 16 DRAW 13–14/02/18 AND 20–21/02/18: ROUND OF 16, FIRST LEG 06–07/03/18 AND 13–14/03/18: ROUND OF 16, SECOND LEG

16/03/18: QUARTER-FINAL DRAW

THE BAD THOUGHTFUL INSIGNE Of course, it is the thought that counts, but when the thought is live broadcast to millions on TV, it better be perfect. After getting on the score sheet in Napoli’s 3-1 victory over Feyenoord, Lorenzo Insigne looked to pay homage to his injured teammate Arkadiusz Milik who suffered a devastating knee injury the week before by holding his jersey up to the Naples faithful. Instead, he was given the jersey of fellow Pole Piotr Zielinski. Luckily Insigne was playful about the mistake and quickly corrected the error with the proper jersey. UNDERDOGS UNDERPERFORMING The likes of Bourissa Dortmund and Atletico Madrid have always managed to tread deep and dangerous waters in the Champions League. They’ve also been able to hold their own style of play and underdog status against the most daunting of opponents, including in finals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like their romantic climb to the top has found its rhythm this season since both sides have failed to achieve successful group stage runs. Diego Simeone’s men have had more shots on target in the Champions League than all but seven clubs and sit 2nd from the bottom in Group C. Dortmund have suffered even worse, winning no matches at all and sitting dead bottom of Group H.

03–04/04/18: QUARTER-FINALS, FIRST LEG 10–11/04/18: QUARTER-FINALS, SECOND LEG

13/04/18: SEMI-FINAL AND FINAL DRAW 24–25/04/18: SEMI-FINALS, FIRST LEG 01–02/05/18: SEMI-FINALS, SECOND LEG

26/05/18: FINAL (NSK OLIMPIYSKI, KYIV)


CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

"MESSI FINALLY SCORED AGAINST BUFFON"

THE UGLY CHAMPIONSHIP SLUMP Leonardo Jardim’s AS Monaco are in the midst of enduring a “Jekyll and Hyde” sort run of results this year compared to their powerful claim of the 2016-2017 Ligue 1 title and their former Champions League semifinal appearance from last season. The Ligue 1 side are currently banking only one point in three matches sitting dead bottom in Group G having only won one match out of five played. This sort of slump in form can surely be the result of losing a slew of bright young talents to bigger, financially backed clubs this past summer.

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CARLO ANCELOTTI SACKED Bayern Munich is widely considered one of Europe’s most dangerous clubs in the Champions League. The German side has won the continental trophy on five occasions but that prolific fact didn’t stay true when the side faced Paris Saint-Germain at home. In what was anticipated to be a true push and pull of competition, Munich was outplayed across the board by the French side ultimately losing 3-0 at the Parc Des Princes. Like world footballing clockwork, the day after the match the Italian coach was sacked for their disappointing result.

ABOVE: Lionel Messi has faced Buffon 4 times. After being denied a goal in the first three games, the Argentine finally slotted one past him in the group stage of this year's Champions League SECOND ABOVE: Ancelotti was sacked by PSG after a heafty loss to PSG in this year's group stage of the Champions League

"Munich was outplayed across the board by the French side ultimately losing 3-0 at the Parc Des Princes"


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EUROPA LEAGUE

Looking for the Main O

nce they reached the knockout stage, last season’s Europa League seemed to become about one thing and one thing only. Manchester United were the strongest team in the tournament and with so much competition on the domestic front, Jose Mourinho earmarked European football’s supporting act as a path back to the main stage of the Champions League. The United boss even went so far as to sacrifice Premier League position when it seemed like a top four spot was becoming less likely. There were serious questions raised at the time as the Red Devils slipped down the table, particularly from supporters wanting their side to return to the upper echelons of the League after the dismal reigns of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. However, the moment Wayne Rooney raised the Coupe UEFA into the Stockholm sky on May 24, the Portuguese was ultimately vindicated. United successfully navigated the banana skins that can be so common in knockout football, from nervy moments when an away goal can destroy your plans, to your big players freezing on the biggest stage of a showpiece final. This season there’s a range of teams that could earmark the Europa League as a potential route back into the big time. To do so, concentration on each game is crucial, especially as domestic rigours take their toll through the knockout rounds. Playing Thursday and Sunday week in week out is not an easy thing to do, so managers have a tough job to keep their players focused as well as fit and fresh. Squads will be pushed to the limit, energy levels will be thoroughly examined and nerves will be tested as each club does their best to lift the Europa League crown on 16 May 2018 at the Stade de Lyon.

ARSENAL The Gunners are in the Europa League this season after 19 consecutive Champions League appearances. Despite claiming early in the season that he wouldn’t prioritise the competition, Arsene Wenger must surely realise that it represents an excellent way for his club to return to Europe’s top table. Premier League competition is getting tougher and tougher each year, and Arsenal are no longer near-certainties to finish in the top four like they once were. If they make it to the latter stages of the tournament, they could be derailed by the ongoing contractual issues surrounding stars like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. If they turn it on though and keep a happy ship sailing, they’ll go deep into the competition. MILAN It’s fair to say that everything has not gone quite to plan since the cash flowed into Milan’s coffers over the summer. Despite all the new signings and fanfare, the Rossoneri got off to a slow start in the League and have struggled to find their form. With Serie A guaranteed four Champions League places, new chairman Li Yonghong wouldn’t have envisaged Vincenzo Montella needing the Europa League for qualification to next year’s Champions League. However, with a clutch of other clubs looking strong, it could be a viable option and it’d hardly hurt the new regime to kick things off with a nice shiny trophy.

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MANCHESTER UNITED USED THE EUROPA LEAGUE TO EARN A RETURN TO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE AND PLENTY OF AMBITIOUS CLUBS AIM TO FOLLOW SUIT. OLI COATES REVIEWS THIS YEAR’S CONTENDERS.

‘Premier League competition is getting tougher and tougher’


ain Stage LYON After their total dominance of the early 2000s, things have hardly gone well for Lyon in recent years. The riches that poured into Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have deprived OL of a Ligue 1 title for almost a decade, leaving them fighting for the scraps. With Nice’s resurgence last season, Bruno Genesio’s side were relegated to fourth place and the Europa League. There’d be no better way to respond though than by winning the competition in their own stadium. The route to the Champions League looks harder than ever considering Marseille are also looking good this season, so Lyon will hope for favourable draws in the knockout stages and that some of the stronger teams slip up. EVERTON Even with all the money spent by Everton over the summer, a top four finish in the Premier League was always going to be a tall order. And after the start they made to the new season, all that early optimism and the hope of pushing the big boys soon disappeared. With plenty of pressure on his shoulders, Ronald Koeman could do with a strong Europa League campaign to relieve some of the tension and catapult Everton back into the European conscience. If Wayne Rooney could lift the trophy for the second consecutive season, it’d be some statement for a club looking to build for the future with a new stadium and lots of investment. NICE To say that winning Ligue 1 is a tough ask for Nice would be something of an understatement. The cash splashed by PSG on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe is unprecedented on any level, and turns the capital club into real contenders on the European stage, never mind strengthening their domestic hand no end. Throw in Nice’s stuttering start to the campaign and winning their first title for 58 years quickly became little more than a pipe dream for the south coast club. Led by the likes of Mario Balotelli and Alassane Plea, Lucien Favre’s side will need some luck in the draw but could be a threat in the knockout rounds. ATHLETIC BILBAO, VILLARREAL AND REAL SOCIEDAD Each of these teams falls into the same category when it comes to this season’s Europa League. Passage into the Champions League via La Liga would be nigh-on impossible, so winning this competition is the only stepping stone available to Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal and Real Sociedad. Spanish teams have been dominant in both of Europe’s leading club competitions over recent seasons, winning seven of the eight finals over the last four years. It’d be quite the achievement for one of these teams if they could add their name to the roll of honour.

EUROPA LEAGUE ‘Squads will be pushed to the limit, energy levels will be thoroughly examined and nerves will be tested’

STRAIGHT FORWARD IN STOCKHOLM? MANCHESTER UNITED’S EUROPA LEAGUE ROAD TO THIS YEAR’S CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ENDED IN STOCKHOLM WITH VICTORY OVER AJAX, BUT THERE WERE PLENTY OF BUMPS ALONG THE WAY. With all of their wealth and big names, Manchester United were expected to cruise to victory in last season’s Europa League. The final ended up being a relatively straightforward affair as Jose Mourinho’s side did a professional job against Ajax, but there were plenty of nerve-jangling moments along the way. United were beaten twice during the group stages of the competition, in away trips to Feyenoord and Fenerbahce. They were down in third place in Group A before defeating the Dutch side in the return fixture, eventually finishing as runners-up. Saint-Etienne were easily dispatched in the first knockout stage, before Rostov put up a stubborn fight and were only seen off 2-1 on aggregate with a late Juan Mata goal in the second leg. A tense period of extra-time was needed in the quarter-finals against Anderlecht after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury, before Marcus Rashford stepped up to send United through. The semis were a nervy affair too, when Facundo Roncaglia’s late strike at Old Trafford left Celta Vigo just one more goal away from a stunning upset. The Red Devils squeezed through by the skin of their teeth, before a comparatively comfortable night in Stockholm to lift the trophy. Jose Mourinho was bold to concentrate on the Europa League

Wayne Rooney lifted the Europa League in his final appearance for Manchester United

Mario Balotelli wants to lead his team to Europa Glory

PAST TEN WINNERS 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008

Manchester United Sevilla FC Sevilla FC Sevilla FC Chelsea FC Atlético Madrid FC Porto Atlético Madrid Shakhtar Donetsk Zenit St. Petersburg

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MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCERMontreal impact Spotlight

BORN AGAIN DAVID VILLA A few years ago when David Villa joined New York City FC, many expected his career to wind down, to peter out following trophy-filled time in Europe and across the globe, but the World Cup winner has taken MLS and New York by storm since arriving in 2015. Villa had just left Atletico Madrid following a World Cup win with Spain in 2010, two European Championship triumphs in 2008 and in 2012, along with multiple honours including La Liga with both Barcelona and Atletico and the Champions League with the Catalans, but Villa has completely changed the game in the Big Apple, becoming a fan favourite at Yankee Stadium. In his first season with the Bronx Blues, Villa netted 18 goals in 30 games and went further in 2016, hitting 23 to claim the Landon Donovan MVP Award. He passed 20 again in 2017 as NYCFC pushed for a playoff spot and made himself a contender to retain the MVP Award. Most incredibly, Villa also earned a call up to the Spain national team, having initially retired from international duty following the 2014 World Cup. His return to La Roja was down to his outstanding MLS form, and sums up how good he has been for NYCFC and MLS.

SEBASTIAN GIOVINCO It was a surprise to see a player of Sebastian Giovinco’s quality move to MLS early in his career, but it’s turned out to be an incredible move for the former Juventus forward. Giovinco has slotted in perfectly to life in Toronto and done so in the prime of his career. Signing for Toronto on a free transfer from the Bianconeri in 2015 after some disappointing years with the Old Lady and at Parma, Giovinco has consistently been one of the top attackers in the MLS, reaching the 50-goal mark in fewer than 100 games. But it’s not only goals that the Atomic Ant has been delivering — he’s also picked up his fair share of trophies along the way, including being the MLS MVP in 2015, Newcomer of the Year, Golden Boot winner and most assists winner, all also in 2015, as well as being an MLS All-Star in each three of his years in the League. All that is left now is for Seba to get a recall to the Italy national team. Antonio Conte overlooked Giovinco when he was in charge of the Azzurri and so has Giampiero Ventura, but if the 30-year-old keeps posting the numbers he has in the past few years, he’ll more than deserve his chance when it comes. BRADLEY WRIGHT-PHILLIPS In England, Bradley Wright-Phillips is known for a few things. One, he is the son of legendary Arsenal striker Ian Wright and brother of Shawn Wright-Phillips, a Premier League title winner at Chelsea and two, he’s went off to MLS after failing to make the grade at Manchester City and Southampton. The 32-year-old bounced around the lower leagues of English football after leaving the Saints but during his time with the New York Red Bulls, Wright-Phillips has established himself as one of the greatest goalscorers the League has ever seen. Despite those in his home country having their reservations, the facts and figures speak for themselves. Wright-Phillips can boast an extremely good goals-to-games ratio, two MLS Golden

MLS HAS ITS SHARE OF STAR NAMES BUT IT HAS ALSO PROVEN A HAVEN FOR PLAYERS TO REHABILITATE THEIR CAREERS AND SHOW THEIR WORTH. TOM SCHOLES PICKS OUT SIX WHO MADE A FRESH START IN NORTH AMERICA…

‘David Villa’s Spain return sums up how good he has been for NYCFC and MLS’

David Villa’s Spain career was over but his New York City FC goals earned a recall

‘All that’s left is for Giovinco to get a recall to the Italy team’

A barren spell at Sunderland threatened to derail Jozy Altidore until Toronto came calling

Moving to Toronto FC in the prime of his career proved a masterstroke for Sebastian Giovinco


Overshadowed by a famous father, Bradley Wright-Phillips has shown goals run in the family

LA Galaxy provided a new challenge for Robbie Keane after leaving Tottenham Hotspur

Boot trophies — in 2014 and 2016 — and a place in the MLS Best XI in both of those years, becoming one of the greatest goalgetters MLS has ever seen, his time in New York Wright-Phillips to show his natural instinct for finding the back of the net. He has stepped out of his familial shadow and when it comes to changing perceptions and enhancing reputations in MLS, there isn’t a greater success story. LANDON DONOVAN California-born Landon Donovan only debuted in MLS for San Jose Earthquakes while on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, having been snapped up by the German giants after impressing at youth tournament in the late 1990s. But given his struggle in the Bundesliga, there was no way to know he would become one of the greatest players in MLS history. Donovan spent four seasons with the Earthquakes, recording 32 goals in 87 games before making a permanent move back to the United States, staying in his home state but signing up with the LA Galaxy in 2005. It was there that he became a four-time MLS Cup winner and claimed two Supporters Shields and the US Open Cup, as well as countless other individual awards. A couple of loan spells aside — first at Bayern Munich and then, more successfully, with Everton in 2009-10 and 2011-12 — Donovan’s Galaxy tenure helped him become arguably the greatest United States player of all time. He retired in 2016 after more than 300 appearances for the Galaxy and almost 150 goals, as well as 157 US Men’s National Team caps and with the League’s MVP Award named in his honour.

Landon Donovan cast aside early struggles in Germany to become an alltime MLS great

ROBBIE KEANE Robbie Keane had been one of the deadliest strikers in the Premier League for much of the 2000s, scoring 118 goals for Tottenham Hotspur in under 300 appearances, but when his time at White Hart Lane came to an end in 2011, the Ireland international was in need of a new challenge. He could have taken an easy ride somewhere, acted as well-paid back-up to a younger player, but that wasn’t Keane’s style. Instead, he moved to Los Angeles to become a star for the LA Galaxy, and his time in MLS is fondly remembered. He became one of the League’s most successful players, picking up three MLS Cups and the Supporters Shield, and was named League MVP in 2014. In four years on the west coast, Keane was named Galaxy MVP each time, ahead of the likes of David Beckham and

Landon Donovan. Keane will go down as a Galaxy legend but he also helped pave the way for players from outside MLS, showing them that your career doesn’t peter out once you leave the club at which you’ve made your name. Keane’s case is proof to all that if you apply yourself with the same dedication as ever, you can become a legend elsewhere. JOZY ALTIDORE Altidore left MLS as a teenager to make it in Europe, and at such a young age it can terribly tough to make it straight away. Moves to Villarreal for $10M meant the striker arrived with huge pressure and expectation on his shoulders. After spells with the Yellow Submarine, Xerez, Hull City and Bursaspor, Altidore found form in the Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar and was plucked from the Netherlands by Premier League Sunderland, but his time with the struggling Black Cats completely ruined his reputation as a young, talented striker when he managed only three goals in more than 50 games. But a return to form with Toronto, alongside Sebastian Giovinco, marks Altidore down as another player who has had their career revived after floundering elsewhere. He never lost his place in the US Men’s National Team but his club form is finally living up to his potential. A large part of that is down to his partnership with Giovinco, which has helped Toronto thrive this season. Twice selected as an MLS All-Star, in 2015 and 2017, Altidore’s record with Toronto is the best of his career and his reputation as a goalscoring striker has never been higher.

‘Robbie Keane was LA Galaxy MVP ahead of David Beckham’


CANOUSE

ONE ON ONE

Home Again

I

t has been six long years but Russell Canouse has finally come home. The 22 year old midfielder is back in the United States after spending the past six years plying his craft with in 1899 Hoffenheim. In six seasons with Die Kraichgauer Canouse worked his way through their Youth Academy system all while featuring for the United States at the under-20 level. After a loan spell with VFL Bochum last season the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native signed with D.C. United as part of the club’s roster overhaul.

Soccer 360 Magazine’s Sean Maslin spoke with Canouse about his new club, the transition back to the United States, working under current Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann, and his offseason plans. SEAN MASLIN: What has been your experience been like so far with D.C. United? RUSSELL CANOUSE: It has gone well. The guys have helped me integrate well and the staff have been very open and welcoming. It is really nice that my family gets to come down and watch the games so I have a big fanbase every home. So that is nice and very special for me. Training has gone well. It kind of stinks that we were unable to make the playoffs but I am enjoying myself so far. SM: Why was now the right time to come back to the United States and what attracted you to D.C. United? RC: Major League Soccer has grown a lot over the last few years and what D.C. United put forth with the new stadium and the organization and obviously my ties to [the team] as a kid growing up really interested me. It has been out there that I went to games as a kid growing up and it was kind of cool to know that they had interest in me and to get the chance to come back home. I was over in Germany for six and a half years so to have the opportunity it just felt right. It was kind of spontaneous but at the same time all of the stuff fell into place and made it an interesting move and an enticing move for me. SM: What has been the biggest adjustment for you in going from Germany back to the United States, both in terms as a player and as a person? RC: The game over in Germany is a little bit different. It is hard to explain what is different in each country. One thing though that I had to adjust to is the traveling. For example, [in September] we had to travel to Red Bull [Arena in Harrison, New Jersey] then we had to hop on a flight the following day to travel to Columbus and play 90 minutes on the weekend. You have tough weeks and a lot of travelling so that is something that I am still getting used to. But I don’t mind it though because you get to see different cities. I haven’t had much of chance to see my own home country because I have been away for awhile and when I had vacations growing up we would normally just go down to Delaware or spend summer at the beach. My family never really went up to all of these cities. So it is really cool to experience each of these cities now.

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SM: We have seen a large number of younger players in recent years go from the United States to Germany, especially as teenagers. For you what initially attracted you to Hoffenheim and why do you think German soccer is becoming such a popular destination point for young American players? RC: I think [German soccer] is a technical, faster game. Well, at the time when I went over there, it was a technical, faster game. I don’t really know the comparisons now with the youth [academy] structure. But when I went over to Germany I thought ‘Whoa, I don’t know if I am going to be able to play here.’ So it is really just about adjusting to the speed of play and trying everyday in practice try to make the game quick for yourself no matter team you are playing for. So my dad worked for the sponsor of Hoffenheim at the time SAP [Author’s Note: SAP is a software company] so we kind of had that tie to Hoffenheim at the time. Hoffenheim was SAP’s club so that was my tie to the club. We followed it a little bit and then my dad found a connection and said ‘Hey, Is Russell able to come over and try out?’ I really liked the club at the time and I was down in [U.S. Soccer] residency at the time and actually went back after my trial and decided six months later that I would like to make the move over there if it was possible. We worked it out and so I landed there.


‘It is really nice that my family gets to come down and watch the games so I have a big fanbase every home game.'

SM: Your time with Hoffenheim obviously coincided with the rise of Julian Nagelsmann at the club. What was it like to work with him and what sort of impact did he have on your career. RC: Huge. So in my first six months there he was the coach of the under-16’s. I was training up a year because for the first four months I had to wait to get approved from FIFA. So I was working with the under-17s working with him a lot, where he was an assistant coach so he was also learning a lot under their coach at the time. Then I moved up into the U-19 age group and he was helping out with the first team. Then in my second season with the U-19s he came down and coached us. We won the under-19 German Championship which kind of propelled him and put him on the map. Hoffenheim already kind of knew that they wanted to promote him. From a tactical perspective he was unbelievable. A lot of the training sessions we had a lot going on, a lot of pennies, a lot of rules on the matches. It was tough to understand what was going on. But it made you think quicker during the session and then into the game. So that was one of the things that I learned from him. When I went up to the first team I was with the reserves and he gave me my Bundesliga debut. SM: That experience, getting into a Bundesliga match and going onto the pitch. What were some of your emotions in the lead up to that moment? RC: I was nervous. I mean I think everyone says that they were nervous before their debut but I was extra nervous. I was called over to the sideline and I had been warming up for five minutes and play had continued and I am standing there over on the sideline thinking ‘Oh man. When am I getting in? When am I getting in?’Is he [Nagelsmann] going to put me in? Did something happen in the game and maybe they subbed someone else?’ But once I got in it was fine and it was a great experience in front of the home fans. SM: Were your folks watching at home or did they fly in? RC: My dad actually flew over two days before. He knew I had a chance of possibly playing so he got on a flight the next day and got to witness it so that was pretty neat. SM: A lot has been made about Nagelsmann’s age. For him and also with [D.C. United head coach Ben] Olsen, who is kind of a younger coach as well, does that help you because you have someone who is a little closer in age to you and may be a little more relatable? Or does it not make much of a difference? RC: I think sometimes people forget that Nagelsmann was a player too. You see Ben is a player and that he sees things from a player perspective. I think that is important. You can have coaches go by the book but the coaches that were in the game understand how players react in certain situations, what the daily tasks are, and how stressful mentally this game can be. I think they have an advantage there and I think that is something that they share.

ABOVE: Russell Canouse speaks to the media at his first press confrence after being signed by D.C. United OPPOSITE PAGE (MAIN): Russell captains the US national team. BELOW: Special moments after coming back home.

SM: You have been in MLS for a couple of weeks now. Are there any players or teams that have caught your eye? RC: It has been tough and you have to win every game in MLS. It is not easy. I felt like playing away against the [New York] Red Bulls and Columbus these past two games that you can tell they have a system set up and it is not easy to play against them. Every team, every game is a tough game. We have had home games here where they haven’t been easy. SM: Any players or teams on your bucket list that you are looking forward to facing? RC: I don’t have a bucket list . I mean I know a lot of the guys from the Youth National Teams so when I go against those guys there is always a little extra motivation. SM: What are some things that you are looking forward to in the offseason? Any plans for travel? RC: I think I am just going to go back home and relax for right now and maybe decide to do something spontaneously. But I don’t have anything planned right now I am going to go home. I am kind of on the European plan. SM: If you could give one piece of advice to a D.C. United Youth Academy player who wants to play professionally what you say to them? RC: I always tell kids to work hard everyday. There are certain situations where you may feel like you are the better player. But you need to use that training situation to play quick and think quick no matter if the game is slower. You need to play quick because the next step you go up is a jump and that jump happens every single time, every step you take. That is one of the things that I have taken away from Germany that it is never going to get easier. It is always going to get harder.


MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCERMontreal impact Spotlight

EURO INVASION

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here is nothing better than watching soccer on a Saturday. The only thing that might perhaps sweeten the pot is seeing one’s own countrymen take the pitch in the same game. While American and Canadian players have been playing for decades in Europe now more than ever there seems an overwhelming amount of talent coming through the pipelines. With the European season in full swing here are some of the top American and Canadian players to keep an eye on: 10. BOBBY WOOD (HAMBURG/UNITED STATES) This is a big season for Wood for both club and country. At Hamburg he is likely to be engaged in a relegation fight all season. The club struggled to find the back of the net last season (33-second lowest in the Bundesliga)so Wood will likely be given every chance to improve upon his five goals from 2016-2017. If he can keep Hamburg up and hit his scoring stride he will find himself not only in Russia but in the starting eleven. 9. MATT MIAZGA (VITESSE ARNEM/ UNITED STATES) While Miazga was sent out on loan again by Chelsea to Dutch side Vitesse Arnem for the season this is a good move for the American center-back. Rather than toiling on Chelsea’s bench behind eight other defenders he will get a chance to not only play for one of the top sides in the Eredivise but also in the Europa League. Another strong spell with Vitas may give Miazga his ticket out of Chelsea limbo.

8. GEOFF CAMERON (STOKE CITY/UNITED STATES) At this point Stoke City supporters should just call Cameron Mr. Consistency. For the past five seasons Cameron has been a rock for The Potters defense making 152 appearances and serving as a key cog in their efforts to stay in the Premier League. He just signed a two year contract extension with Stoke so with no worries about where he will be next season Cameron can continue his work as anchor of their defense.

7. MILAN BORJAN (RED STAR BELGRADE/ CANADA) After a successful spell with Korona KIelce in the Polish first division, Borjan made the move Red Star Belgrade in the offseason on a two and a half year deal. So far the Canadian goalkeeper has impressed with Crveno-Beli, helping the side earn a spot in the Europa League and earning a clean sheet against Partizan Belgrade in the first Eternal Derby of the season.


TOP FIVE BEST EUROPEAN ERA'S FROM AMERICAN AND CANADIAN PLAYERS 5.) CLINT DEMPSEY, FULHAM (20092010, 44 APPEARANCES, 9 GOALS) While Clint was beset knee problems this season his and The Cottagers terrific run through the Europa League make it one of the top performances of all-time. His goal against Juventus not only shocked the world but also showed that the country could develop field players to go against the best. Also, becoming the first-ever American to feature in European final is a tremendous accomplishment that has yet to be matched. 4.) CRAIG FORREST, IPSWICH TOWN (1992-1993) Forrest was an integral part in Ipswich staying up in the inaugural Premier League season. His quick-thinking and sprawling defensive work limited The Blues to just 55 goals allowed.

6. WESTON MCKENNIE (SCHALKE 04/ UNITED STATES) McKennie has burst onto the scene with Schalke 04 early in their Bundesliga campaign after a succesful run in preseason. The 19 year old from Little Elm, Texas has become a favorite of Domenico Tedesco and provided The Miners continue their solid run of form their little reason to believe McKennie will stop seeing minutes. Now the question is can his hard work earn him a surprise spot with the USA for Russia 2018? 5. DEANDRE YEDLIN (NEWCASTLE UNITED/UNITED STATES) There is perhaps no player with more to lose and more to gain this season than Yedlin. A positive campaign with the Magpies could lead to greater fortunes for the U.S. ahead of the World Cup. But he needs to stay healthy. Injuries have plagued the Washington native this season and Newcastle’s/USA’s nosedive in performance is indicative of his impact. If he can stay healthy it could be a big season for a Yedlin. But that is a big if. 4. SCOTT ARFIELD (BURNLEY/CANADA) It wasn’t that long ago that Burnley and Arfield were yo-yo’ing between the bottom of the Premier League and the top of the Championship. But thanks in large part to the Canadian defender The Clarets have become a mainstay in England’s top division. Arfield’s expert tracking on England’s best have the faithful at Turf Moor believing they could claim their first FA Cup title since 1914.

3. FABIAN JOHNSON (BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH/USA) Much like with Yedlin the United States will hope that Johnson can have a healthy campaign with ‘Gladbach to improve their chances in Russia. Johnson’s dogged defensive work and runs down the left flank make him a valued asset for both club and country. 2. ATIBA HUTCHINSON (BESIKTAS/ CANADA)Another year, another season of Champions League football for Besiktas and Atiba Hutchinson. The 34-year old midfielder is an integral part of The Black Eagles European ambitions and will be looking to earn their third consecutive Turkish Super Lig title. 1. CHRISTIAN PULISIC (BORUSSIA DORTMUND/UNITED STATES) At just the age of 19 Pulisic is becoming one of the top players in Europe. Yes, you read that right. Beyond the hyperbole is the truth and that is that the American midfielder has become a central figure in Dortmund’s attack and will figure prominently in both their Bundesliga and Champions League efforts. He is going to have a difficult task with both Madrid and Tottenham in CL play and a little called Bayern Munich in Germany. But to be placed among the elite a player has to overcome the odds. Pulisic will be given every chance to prove his value this season. For now though he will just have to be satisfied with being the top American or Canadian player in Europe.

ABOVE (OPPOSITE PAGE): Christian Pulisic BELOW (OPPOSITE PAGE): Atiba Hutchinson ABOVE: Deandre Yedlin BELOW: Scott Arfield

3.) ATIBA HUTCHINSON, FC COPENHAGEN (2009-2010, 42 APPEARANCES, 3 GOALS) Hutchinson was the standout player for FC Copenhagen during their thrilling run in the Europa League and in the Danish SuperLiga. Thanks to his efforts The Team of The City made it to the Round of 32 and won their sixth SuperLiga title. For his efforts he was awarded the Danish SuperLiga Player of the Year. 2.) JOZY ALTIDORE, AZ ALKMAAR (2012-2013, 41 APPEARANCES, 31 GOALS) After several stops and starts in Europe Altidore seemed to find his rhythm with the Dutch side. He followed up an already strong 2011-2012 campaign (52 appearances, 20 goals) with an even more dominant effort in 2012-2013. Alkmaar would also go on to win the KNVB Cup that season. 1.) DEMPSEY, FULHAM (2011-2012, 46 APPEARANCES, 23 GOALS) While Dempsey and Fulham’s 20092010 run was certainly memorable it was 2011-2012 where he really showed his promise. With 17 goals in Premier League play he became the all-time leading American goal-scorer in England’s top division. It also gave him the chance to make the big move to Tottenham Hotspur the following season.


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“During the games, you kind of muster up the motivation and you’ve got the adrenaline and the fans backing you to keep you going. But there’s definitely certain days I feel tired and need that little bit longer to recover.” - Orlando City defender Scott Sutter looks forward to a break as the ongoing MLS season approaches toward the end.

VILLA TIES BWP

David Villa has tied the record set by Bradley Wright-Phillips of two consecutive seasons of scoring 20 goals or more in an MLS season, following a goal on the road against the Chicago Fire. BWP also holds the record for most goals in a single season, 27 in 2014, joint with Roy Lassiter for Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996 and Chris Wondolowski for San Jose Earthquakes in 2012.

TORONTO WIN SUPPORTERS SHIELD

Toronto FC defeated New York Red Bulls to claim this season’s Supporters Shield, following a hat-trick from Justin Morrow in a 4-2 victory at BMO Field that meant Toronto couldn’t be caught at the top of the Eastern Conference.

ALMIRON INJURED

Atlanta United’s creative attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron faced a race against time to be fit for the MLS Play-offs after a hamstring injury suffered in Atlanta’s 2-0 win over Montreal Impact in late September. The injury also meant Almiron had to sit out the final round of CONEMBOL World Cup qualifying games as Paraguay fought for a place in Russia.

by the numbers “Looking back in preseason I was shy, a little timid when I played because I was like, ‘Hey I’m playing with the professional team now,’ - Chicago Fire youngster Djordje Mihailovic reveals how he felt playing with the senior team for the first time.

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Real Salt Lake scored in nine straight MLS away games, their best record since scoring in 10 back in 2013.

The LA Galaxy only scored six goals at home between July and October, half of which came against Colorado.

NEW MLS ATTENDANCE RECORD

A new MLS attendance record was set in September as Atlanta United opened their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and a few games later broke the record for most fans at a single game as they hosted rivals Orlando City. 70,425 fans flocked to the new stadium, which will be shared between Atlanta United and NFL franchise the Atlanta Falcons, to see the Atlanta and Orlando play out an exciting 3-3 draw. The game broke the previous record set in 1996 by the LA Galaxy, who had 69,225 fans attend the Rose Bowl for the franchise’s very first game.

MLS UNION DENOUNCES TRUMP QUOTES

The MLS Players Union have responded to President Donald Trump’s comments regarding NFL players and their actions during the national anthem, calling them “jarring and disappointing.” “All players have every right to exercise their Constitutional rights and we will do everything in our power to defend those rights when they are challenged,” the statement began. “It is our deepest hope that the solidarity exhibited on a daily basis by professional athletes throughout North America can serve to encourage a more tolerant and less divisive society.” MLS President Don Garber has supported the players’ right to protest.

DID YOU KNOW?

MULLINS BREAKS MLS RECORD

Justin Morrow’s hat-trick for Toronto against the Red Bulls was the sixth scored by a Toronto player, but the first by anyone who other than Sebastian Giovinco.

Patrick Mullin hasn’t had a season to remember on a personal level, with most of the 25-year-old’s year being put to one side in his recovery from injury, but the striker managed to break a 17-yearold scoring record by netting four goals in 31 minutes. The previous record was set in 2000 by Diego Serna, and Mullin’s feat will go down as a highlight in an otherwise lacklustre season both individually and for DC United.

Nemanja Nikolic’s goal against NYCFC meant he became Chicago Fire’s all-time single season goal scoring leader with 21 goals in a single campaign.

“It’s about proving people wrong every time. No one gave us probably a chance to get into the playoffs to start with. I did.”

CLOUD NINE

- Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson takes a sly dig at skeptics as his team stand only one win away from securing the MLS Western Conference title.

“That’s not something I would talk about at this time. You guys have heard me in the past — the one thing I’ve always said (is) anybody is going to listen to somebody when they come and talk to you,”

- Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes responds to speculation about U.S. national team job. 76

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

RSL REVIVAL

Mike Petke had a huge impact when he was hired by Real Salt Lake, becoming the fourth Coach in the club’s history and putting RSL into play-off contention. Jeff Cassar managed only one point in three games but under Petke, the Utah-based outfit became contenders for a play-off spot in the Western Conference and at one point picked up 25 points from a possible 39. Young stars Justin Glad and Jefferson Savarino were particularly impressive once Petke took over.

Records have tumbled of late in MLS and one of the most impressive was set by Diego Valeri, as the Portland Timbers midfielder scored in nine consecutive games. The 31-year-old scored against Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Toronto, New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids, Seattle Sounders, New York City FC, Real Salt Lake and Orlando City, with Valeri scoring twice against the Floridians to make it 10 goals in nine appearances. Argentinean Valeri has been with Portland since 2013, and was previously on the books with Spanish side Almeria and Portugal giants Porto.

HEAPS LEAVES REVS

After spending six years in the hot seat at the New England Revolution, Jay Heaps was sacked as Head Coach of the organisation after missing out on the play-offs a second straight season. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the embarrassing 7-0 road defeat against Atlanta United off the back of two successive losses, with the board at the Revs deciding enough was enough and that it was time for a change. At the time of his departure, the Revs had yet to win a road game all season.


ALTA INFINITI

DID YOU KNOW? Chris Wondowlowski tied third in all-time MLS goals with Jaime Moreno on 133 goals, with only Jeff Cunningham and Landon Donovan ahead of him.

Against NYCFC in September, Diego Valeri tied the MLS record for scoring in seven straight games, equalling the record set by Raul Diaz Arce (1997), Wolde Harris (2000) & Carlos Ruiz (2006).

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WONDOLOWSKI SETS QUAKES RECORD

Legendary San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski set the new franchise appearance record, making his 251st appearance against Houston in a 1-0 win. The previous record was set by Ramiro Corrales, but 34-year-old Wondolowski is now the current record holder, one that he is likely to be the champion of for quite some time. Wondolowski also has Landon Donovan’s alltime MLS goals record in his sights as well.

NASHVILLE NEXT

DISNEY DRAMA

Nashville has announced a $250m stadium plan as part of the city’s bid to become a new MLS Expansion Franchise. Mayor Megan Barry and investors have drawn up plans for a new 27,500- capacity soccer-specific stadium on the Nashville Fairgrounds. Los Angeles FC will become the 23rd MLS Franchise and will start next season, and along with Nashville, David Beckham’s Miami outfit have also looked into becoming a new MLS team. Charlotte, Indianapolis, Detroit, Phoenix, St. Louis, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg and San Diego have all also looked into the possibility of placing bids.

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United States Women’s National Team star Alex Morgan was one of a group of players kicked out of the Epcot Centre at Disney World. Morgan, Orlando City players Giles Barnes and Donny Toia and Toia’s wife were asked to leave following an allegation of trespassing.

SAFETY CALL

The union representing MLS referees called for a review of security measures after an official was injured by a cup thrown from the stands during the Atlanta United-Minnesota United fixture. Referee Armando Villarreal was making his way to the Video Assistant Referee system when he was hit in the face by the cup. A 40-year-old Georgia man was arrested for assault, while the Professional Soccer Referees Association said “there must be strict security protocols in place to protect the match officials” in future.

KAKA COINING IT IN

Orlando City star Kaka remains MLS’ bestpaid player with more than $7m in earnings for the third consecutive season. The former Milan and Real Madrid forward’s pay packet was revealed by the MLS Players Union, who also confirmed Jonathan Dos Santos is getting $2m-a-year from LA Galaxy after joining from Villarreal in July. Other big earners include Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, who is also paid a cool $7m, and Chicago Fire’s Bastian Schweinsteiger at $5.4m, while Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan takes home a $340,000 base salary.

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by the numbers

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Jack Harrison of NYCFC has completed a total of 51 dribbles this season, the most by an NYCFC player in a single campaign.

GOOD CAUSE

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey will participate in the “Kick in for Houston” celebrity match on Nov. 18 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The charity match, started by former Houston Dynamo and United States national team member Stuart Holden, will raise money to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which devastated southeast Texas at the end of August and early September.

Toronto FC have scored 15 goals from headers this season, the most by any MLS team this season.

San Jose Earthquakes went unbeaten in eight of nine games at home, with their only defeat coming at the hands of Chicago Fire

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LIMITED PTFC GEAR

Portland Timbers are launching a limited edition collection under the PTFC Authentic line. The collection includes three t-shirts, three patches, a scarf and soon to arrive, a set of four enamel pins. All items are available only in-stadium at the adidas Timbers Team Store and go on sale October 15, 2017.

PURPLE POWER “I’m just taking it one game at a time, one day at a time, one training at a time and just going from there. I’m thankful for the longevity. I’ve just got to keep looking forward. We’ve just got to keep looking forward and moving forward and we can’t live in the past and keep shopping for more.”

- Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark, who made his 316th MLS appearance recently, is not thinking of hanging up his boots just yet.

Orlando City will play Puerto Rico’s national team in a friendly Nov. 4 at Orlando City Stadium. All proceeds from the event, called “Fuerza Puerto Rico,” will go to the United for Puerto Rico initiative to raise funds and aid recovery efforts following the destruction on the island caused by Hurricane Maria.

GIVING BACK

The LA Galaxy Foundation, in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), unveiled a brand-new community soccer field in Watts at 109th Street Recreation Center. The new turf mini-pitch was opened in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles, Department of Recreation and Parks, and LAPD Southeast Division to provide a safe place for the local Watts community to play soccer.

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Seattle Sounders went unbeaten in 11 home fixtures, scoring 19 goals in the process.

"I'm just concerned in the Premier League with all the different ways of operating – we're not familiar with all of them. Let's say people from all over the world come in and buy teams and maybe they have different reasons for doing it and managing it. And you have to compete with that and I'm not sure. But I'm still intrigued." - New

England Revolution owner Robert Kraft says he is "intrigued" by the prospect of owning a Premier League club despite admitting the fact that he would be at a competitive disadvantage because of a lack of familiarity with the game in England's top flight.

YEE HAARD OF HEARING

The first concert in Atlanta’s shiny new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium ended in controversy as some fans took to social media to demand refunds, claiming they could not hear country music superstar Garth Brooks. Attendees of the show were blasting the venue on Facebook and Twitter Friday morning, posting videos of Brooks playing with a significant echo that frustrated fans. Some fans that were sitting close to the stage reportedly left early.

GOOD TIMES

Earlier this month, season ticket holders came to the Minnesota United Training Ground to watch a training session and have dinner with the team. Fans got a chance to hang out with the players and celebrate the club's first year in MLS.

DID YOU KNOW?

Jack Harrison’s call up to the England Under-21 set up means he is the first active MLS player to be called up to any level of the England National Team. FC Dallas had lost five straight games away from home before their 0-0 draw against Orlando City in late September, tied third for the worst road losing streak in MLS franchise history. When Houston lost against Colorado on September 10, it halted their 12-game unbeaten run at home, and have failed to pick up any points in the games following that defeat.

HONOUR LIST

Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera and minority owner Oscar De La Hoya were named to Sports Illustrated's "30 Most Influential Hispanics in Sports" list released on October 13. The unranked list honours the 30 most influential non-athlete Hispanics shaping the American sports culture and industry in honour of Hispanic Heritage Month.

LUCKY DRAW

"I finish playing a game and feel a lot of pain. My body starts to feel it, and it no longer brings me that much happiness, it takes a lot more to do the same job. Kids can play today and again tomorrow. I'm 35, I take longer to recover, it's a different rhythm. You can feel when the time is coming." - Orlando

City star Kaka hints at retirement at the end of this season. 78

Holiday Edition 2017 Soccer360Magazine.com

Major League Soccer will announce its next two expansion teams in mid-December, a league spokesperson confirmed earlier this month. MLS is currently in the process of evaluating bids from 12 expansion candidate cities to fill four slots. The league has long planned to make the announcement regarding the first two near the end of the year, with the last two to be announced at date to be determined.

GOOD TRAINING

D.C. United celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by hosting local youth in a soccer clinic and panel discussion featuring Latino figures in the sports industry. More than 75 students from the Latin American Youth Centre were invited to RFK Stadium where they participated in soccer drills that allowed them to test their passing, scoring, and dribbling skills in front of Marcelo Sarvas, Luciano Acosta, and United’s U-19 Academy coaches.

GETTING CLOSER

The ownership group attempting to bring an MLS team to Nashville released details of its $250 million stadium plan for the first time during a meeting of the Metro Council. Nashville Soccer Club Holdings, led by John Ingram, reached a "private-public" deal with the mayor's office in September to build a stadium at the city's fairgrounds site in the Wedgewood-Houston neighbourhood.


DID YOU KNOW? Alex Ring’s red card against Montreal meant he became the MLS leader this season for yellow cards, but had yet to be shown a red card. Atlanta United 12-game home unbeaten run stretched back to April. Sporting Kansas City’s home loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in September was their first at home for 24 games.

I CAN SEE HOW THAT MIGHT HAPPEN GOOD YEAR

Vancouver Whitecaps winger Alphonso Davies and Atlanta United forward Andrew Carleton have been named among the Guardian's 60 top football prospects born in the year 2000. American youth international Timothy Weah, son of George Weah and a current player in Paris St. Germain's youth academy, also made the cut. Both Carleton and Weah are currently with the US U-17 national team at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India.

Philadelphia Union rookie Aaron Jones was mistaken for Green Bay Packers’ running back Aaron Jones and was applauded by many Packers fans on Twitter for his namesake’s marvellous touchdown in Packers’ 35-31 win over Dallas Cowboys. The fun little mix-up seemed to work out well for Jones, who enjoyed the moment, gained some Twitter followers, and shared a little bit of info about himself to his new fans. He even exchanged pleasantries with the other Aaron Jones.

RECORD BREAKER

D.C. United forward Patrick Mullins broke out of a long slump in Week 29, scoring four goals in D.C. United's 4-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. Mullins set the record for scoring the fastest four goals in MLS history, having accomplished the feat in only 31 minutes.

"I have acquired a lot of experience during my two seasons in New York. I feel ready to take up challenges. But today, I'm lucky to have a squad that enables me to flourish. I don't have a reason to go looking for something else." - NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira says he is "really ready" to take up the challenge of a coaching job in Europe, but insists he has no reason to leave New York City FC just yet.

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Chicago Fire have only lost one game when Nemanja Nikolics has scored, winning 12 of the games in which he has scored.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez has scored three hat tricks in 2017, becoming one of only five players to have a hat-trick of hat-tricks since the 2010 season. 1DC United’s Patrick Mullins recorded the fastest four-goal-haul in MLS history against the San Jose Earthquakes, scoring four in 31 minutes, beating the record set by Diego Serna’s record in 2000.

"If that's the standard of what's going to be a red card in this league, then there's going to be no players left to play the games, because that's a normal soccer play” - New England Revolution Chris

Tierney on teammate Xavier Kouassi’s red card against Orlando City, which was later rescinded by an independent panel.

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Atlanta United reached 12 home games unbeaten, scoring 39 goals and only conceding nine.

LA Galaxy conceded 21 goals in nine away games, failing to win any of them.

Seattle have lost five straight games against Real Salt Lake in MLS.

GRAND OPENING

With soccer thriving across North America a new soccer store opening is always a great thing for soccer fans and players. Evangelista Sports recently opened its new location in Maple Ontario at 3120 Rutherford Rd, Unit 12 and will look to fill the demand for the Maple and the surrounding areas. Evangelista Sports is one of Canada’s premier soccer retailers, open since 1985 and serving the Canadian soccer community with the largest and most exclusive soccer collections available. The new location offers fans and players a one-stop solution for licensed apparel, footwear, goalkeeping equipment, customization, and team-wear. If you’re in the area definitely check out the store, the friendly knowledgeable staff will be happy to show you around.

FANTASTIC

Atlanta United FC already have the MLS record for attendance at a single match, but they aren't resting on their laurels. The club announced on October 5 they have broken the record for highest attendance again, with over 70,000 tickets sold for their Decision Day clash against Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

HIGUAIN DEALS

‘Pipa’s staying in Columbus. The talisman midfielder for Columbus Crew SC signed a Designated Player deal that will keep him with the club through 2018. In his sixth season with the club Higuain helped get Columbus back into the playoffs for the first time since 2015. He also set a career-best in assists with eleven.

“Real Madrid and Barca do really hate each other... So if they can do it, I think Montreal should do it" - Toronto FC defender Steven Beitashour expected a guard of honor from rival Montreal Impact players after securing the Supporter’s Shield honor.

“If you don’t know how old he is, you would think that he’s the youngest one.” - Houston Dynamo head

coach Wilmer Cabrera praises his side’s 37 year old forward Vicente Sanchez’s ageless performance on the field.

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CUBA'S CLASH SPECIAL FEATURE

Cuba's Soccer Re STORY BY: STEVEN S. JOTTERAND

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uba is known for its rich history, bloody conflicts, and vibrant culture—so begins another revolution. In the 1860’s, baseball voyaged to Cuba with American sailors and Cubans returning from universities. It spread like a wild fire across the island, captivating the Cuban imagination. However with the Spanish in control, baseball was quickly outlawed. The Cubans desire to play baseball could not be suppressed, so a league of three clubs— Almendares, Havana, and Matanzas—was created in 1878. The Cuban league was like Hollywood with the brightest lights and hottest style. Baseball had always been popular, but when amateur leagues popped up in the 1940’s baseball had taken a plunge into the very fabric of Cuba. Whether it was businessmen, farmers, or factory workers they were getting together to the play the game they all loved. Then came Fidel Castro’s declaration— sports were the right of the people and country. Despite his initial support, professional sports were outlawed under Castro’s leadership because they did not fall in line with the principles in which the Revolution stood for: nationalist pride and socialist ideals. Cuba’s switch from professional to amateur baseball was quite

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successful. Castro continued to emphasize baseball as an illustration of strength to its neighbor North of the island. The communist ideals in sports didn’t stop there- Castro’s government created the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER- Instituto Nacional de Educación Física y Recreación) for the development of top athletes. This was the perfect fit for his egalitarian society. Then, in the late 90’s, economic turmoil struck the nation and forced Cuba to close its sports programs. Baseball upholds the legacy of nationalism, freedom, and pride. Then there’s Soccer. The introduction of ‘the beautiful game’ did not follow the same path. Though football had been more accessible than baseball, it wasn’t nearly as popular. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of Cuba’s best baseball stars defected to America. Unable to return, football grew tremendously. In Cuba today, Soccer is the wildfire that baseball was in the 19th and 20th century. Baseball diamonds have been deserted, or transformed into Latin versions of Camp Nou. As you walk through the streets of Havana or drive through the rolling hills of cigar country, football has undeniably made

BELOW LEFT: Zlatan's jersey is worn by Cuban youth around the streets. BELOW: The driving of Cuban traffic is hot and congested, but still does not stop residents from showing their favorite team.

itself at home on the island. Ronaldo, Messi, or Manchester United roll off the tongue effortlessly and their jerseys add color and hope to the broken, dirty streets. Local bars flood with passionate football fans hoping to catch the magic of the game we all love. The scores of the latest Champions League results are sure to be printed in country’s largest paper, Granma. If anytime Real Madrid or Barcelona were brought up in the streets, the language barrier would instantly vanish. Kids kick a ball around Plaza de San Francisco as if they’re in the World Cup Final. It gave off a sense of freedom those kids had likely never known. Soccer in its purest form has no borders. Although there’s been no World Cup appearance since 1938, and little success since, significant growth of the sport is happening on and off the pitch. In 2016, midfielder Maykel Reyes made international headlines by signing for Mexican club Cruz Azul. A couple of months later, defender Jorge Luis Corrales signed with North American Soccer League club Miami FC. Finally, the Cuban government changed their policy to allow Cubans to play professionally outside of the borders without recursions. The Federation’s President wants players to play internationally as it raises “the level


Revolution of each athlete.” FIFA is even investing in resources toward an artificial pitch to help promote the sport. There’s also the price of football- you only need a ball. Cuban parents know it’s a lot cheaper than mitts, bats, and a baseball diamond. In the future If FIFA expands to a 48 team format, Cuba hopes to cash in on the opportunity. Though the growth and attention we see surrounding Cuban football is promising, there is still resistance when it comes to accepting the sport. As baseball Commissioner Heriberto Suarez explained to Milton Jamail, the author of Full Count: Inside Cuban Baseball, “[football] is not in our blood, baseball is.” Some just don’t want to let go of the past. Our tour guide, Alejandro, an easy going Cuban who speaks English with a British accent, emphasized football lights up kids’ imagination more so than baseball. To the younger generation, unlike Baseball, the beautiful game is an endless flow of excitement and adrenaline. Alejandro continued on to say baseball is more than a game. It represents freedom, nationalism, strength—Cuba’s identity. The older generation, who have weathered Cuba’s rocky past, still yell at each other over the latest baseball game near Parque Central in Havana. Their faces worn and

beaten by the caribbean sun, dried up by sea salt, often find refuge under a New York Yankees cap and in love their of baseball. Even big hotels have pictures of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams hanging on the wall to showcase the importance of the floors we were walking on. Alejandro explained tongue and cheek, that you learn to pitch a ball and the rules of baseball before you learn to add up two numbers. Then there’s the Castro element. Sports had to support the communist vision—baseball being top priority. When we spoke with the locals about Castro’s legacy, he is absolutely a cult hero. Baseball, Castro, and Cuba are married together in a way that no divorce, could break them apart. Cuba’s newest Revolution is only starting. Overcoming centuries of history and development isn’t a new idea for culture, or even sports. Take France for example. Yes, football is the most popular sport today, but cycling still has significant meaning to the country’s culture—it was once the nation’s number one sport. Think about that. With so many French stars in today’s game playing in the world’s biggest clubs, football could very well be France’s number one sport—even after Michel Platini led his country to the European Championship in 1984 and Zinedine Zidane scoring a brace to

BELOW MIDDLE: Cuban tourism is always beautiful BOTTOM RIGHT: Names like Cristiano Ronaldo roll off the tounge very easily in Cuba. Soccer is a big thing and they celebrate celebrity players. BOTTOM: Cuba from above.

IMAGES BY: REED J KENNEY

help win the nation’s only World Cup. It’s rather muddy, for even in French culture football still has yet to be fully accepted. Sociologist Christian Bromberger explained to The Associated Press in 2016, “France [still] does not have the characteristics which fuel the passion for football.” Even in the United States with the amount of resources getting pumped into Major League Soccer and the Development Academy, football is nowhere close to touching the big four—NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA—on a cultural aspect. So how would Cuba, a country struggling economically, socially, and politically, find the resources and effort to change? Cuba simply is baseball. It’s difficult to see the country in any other way. Months after my visit, Alejandro and I exchanged a couple of emails to catch up. Besides for finding out he was getting married, Alejandro wrote, “there used to be more conversation of baseball than in present days.” Maybe that is just the beginning.

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TOP 10 Christm CHRISTMAS WISH-LIST

CHRISTMAS IS OFTEN CITED AS A TIME FOR THOUGHT AND REFLECTION; TIME SPENT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO REJOICE OVER ANOTHER YEAR GONE BY, LISTENING TO FESTIVE SONGS AND EATING FAR TOO MUCH. IT’S ALSO THE MOMENT FOR MILLIONS OF CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD TO ASK AN OVER-WORKED BUT EVER-RELIABLE MAN IN A LARGE RED SUIT FOR A SACK LOAD OF GOODIES. SUCH AN OPPORTUNITY SHOULDN’T BE PASSED UP BY THE FOOTBALLING WORLD, SO JARED TINSLAY REGRESSES TO ASK FOR WHAT HE THINKS IS REALLY NEEDED IN THE GAME – THE TOP 10 CHRISTMAS WISH-LIST FOR 2018. C’MON SANTA, DON’T DISAPPOINT…

10. MORE SOCIAL MEDIA FUN All across the globe, teams are increasingly engaging fans through social media, using the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to offer an insider’s view of the club. It’s a great tool for followers to get to know their heroes, with clubs often posting humorous, entertaining posts. One of the most recent trends has been intriguing transfer announcements to introduce new signings, with English Championship club Aston Villa presenting John Terry through a fake WhatsApp group chat, and Sevilla ‘kidnapping’ Jesus Navas. With the January window approaching, we’re hoping for more outrageous transfer reveals and social media fun.

Good-guy Juan Mata donates 1% of his salary to better causes.

H C R E M OL WERS PRICE

9. GENEROUS FOOTBALLERS Footballers often get scrutinised for the amount they’re paid, especially when they appear to not give their all on the pitch. Charitable actions are therefore always welcomed, and Juan Mata set a nice precedent back in August, pledging to give 1% of his salary to global football initiatives to help disadvantaged children. His call for fellow footballers to do the same has been somewhat successful, with a number of players agreeing to join the Common Goal – as it is known – including Mats Hummels and Georgio Chiellini, but hopefully 2018 will see more sign up. 8. FEWER TV ADS Football is, naturally, a lucrative business. It's a massively followed sport, appealing to billions of people across the planet. Television companies take advantage by selling so many pre-match, half-time and post-match ads that spectators are ever more deprived of actual analysis of the game. Considering the substantial cost of subscribing to sports channels nowadays, it's time broadcasters allowed more time for pundits to actually comment on the major moments of the game, rather than just displaying them briefly on a rushed highlights reel. Otherwise, fans will just turn to social media for their post-match analysis...

JUST SHOW THE GAME

The fans just want to suppor their team

Kylian Mbappe is an emerging star in today's soccer world.

7. STARLET EMERGENCE Football is always on the lookout for the future stars of the game, with Kylian Mbappe causing a furore with his incredible form at the end of last season. There are a few starlets we currently know about, including Mbapppe, Dele Alli and Marco Asensio, but there are surely a whole host of others waiting for their chance to break through. Hopefully, 2018 can be the year for a number of starlets to make themselves known — players that people may not have heard much about now, but certainly will do by the end of the next calendar year.

SOCIAL MEDIA SHOWS LIFESTYLE

More soccer stars should share on Social Media

Brazil star Neymar signed for an incredible amount of money last summer, selling thousands of shirts in the process

6. HOMOGENOUS TRANSFER WINDOWS This year, Premier League clubs voted in favour of closing the summer transfer window before the 2018-19 season actually starts, meaning clubs wouldn’t be able to buy once the season kicks-off — but would be able to sell to Leagues where the window remains open. Preventing buying once the season is underway is a sensible move, as previously, new signings bought late in the window would have no time to adapt or integrate with their new teammates. Yet, the Premier League is so far the only European League to do so. Chiefs in France, Italy and Germany all backed the Premier League’s decision, and could stage their own vote, however La Liga officials seem keen to keep their deadline as it is. With two extra weeks for transfers considered an advantage over European rivals, homogeneity would ensure fairness.


mas Wish List

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5. CHEAPER MERCHANDISE Inflation has seen transfer fees go through the roof, with Neymar’s world recordbreaking £220m move to PSG proof of that. Nevertheless, as clubs try to rake back some of their expenditure, fans are made the victims. Within hours of the Brazilian’s move to the French giants, personalised shirts were already being sold on the website for £140 – an incredible price for an item of clothing. Among Europe’s elite clubs, it’s rare to find a replica shirt for sale for less than £50, with other merchandise, matchday programmes and stadium drinks also rising in price. That could do with changing.

4. VAR ADVANCEMENTS Video assistant referees – or VARs – are slowly gaining more prominence in the game, reviewing incidents relating to goals, red cards, mistaken identities and penalties. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has already suggested that they’ll be used at next year’s World Cup, and their success there could lead to mainstream usage for 2018-19. Whilst some may argue that contentious decisions add to the sport’s narrative, they also change games and lose teams matches. There will always be talking points in a match of football, and the success of VAR will mean we can concentrate more on the action and less on the referees. 3. FOOTBALL SHOCKS Denmark in 1992. Greece in 2004. Leicester in 2016. They all shook the footballing world with their respective achievements. Everybody loves a football fairy-tale, when a group of apparent no-hopers achieve incredible feats. After being spoilt in recent seasons, with Leipzig also breaking the Bundesliga duopoly in 2017, we want more epic underdog tales in 2018 — perhaps an unfancied nation reaching the World Cup final or a maligned player becoming a world beater. Whatever it may be, it needs to be dramatic, previously unimaginable and a worthy story for future generations.

2016's Leicester championship was the biggest shock in the past couple of years.

Can video technology finally be given the green light for mainstream usage?

2. PROPER TITLE RACES Three points separated first and second in La Liga last season, four in Serie A, seven in the Premier League, eight in Ligue 1 and 15 in the Bundesliga. Despite the more marginal gaps in Spain and Italy, eventual winners Real Madrid and Juventus were actually top throughout almost the entirety of the campaign. In 2018, we want proper title races across all of Europe’s elite Leagues, with winners not being known until the very last match week, extending excitement to the very end. Without wanting to be greedy, last day relegation deciders would also add to the intrigue.

Title Races need to be tighter.

1. WORLD CUP GOAL-FEST Every four summers, the planet is thrown into football frenzy, with 32 nations participating in one of the globe’s greatest sporting events — the World Cup. Next year it’s the turn of Russia to host the seasonclosing tournament, and excitement levels are already reaching fever pitch. With so much anticipation, however, disappointment is sometimes inevitable. South Korea in 2002 and South Africa in 2010 come to mind. Our biggest wish for next year, then, is an unforgettable tournament in Russia, with plenty of goals and scintillating matches to make for a memorable summer event. More goals should be scored during international play


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ICONIC PUMA Paying tribute to 20 years of dedication and passion and in anticipation of a possible 6th World Cup appearance, PUMA FOOTBALL and FIGC revealed the new 2018 Italy jersey on Gianluigi Buffon’s legendary shoulders as he unveiled a giant mural of himself by street artists Kamp Seedorf, on the streets of Torino. At the game between Italy and Macedonia, in honor of the Italian hero, the squad didn't take the opportunity to wear the shirt, passing the jersey to their Captain who for the first time in his career wore the famous ‘Azzurro’ during a game. The rest of the team wore the jersey on-pitch for the game against Albania on the 9th October.

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GAME ON

WORD SEARCH MBAPPE

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hen it really matters, will you sit on the bench or get out on the pitch? The Eleven Campaign is asking. As global tensions mount, it's never been more important to seek globalized solutions. Fear -of others, of change, of what and who is different- is the number one factor deterring meaningful progress in today's world. The Eleven Campaign is a non-profit organization endeavoring to catalyze global solutions, using sport as a vehicle to promote diversity, inclusion, and crosscultural collaboration. Eleven Campaign recognizes the unparalleled unifying ability of sport; its power lies in the simple joy of play, which virtually everyone on the planet has experienced at some point in their lives. The flagship project of the Eleven Campaign is an eponymous feature-length philanthropic documentary ELEVEN profiling eleven, 11-year-old children from eleven different countries and what soccer means to them and how it affects their life and personalities. Each of these remarkable children is preparing for the biggest match of their lives, In hopes of scoring the most beautiful goal the world could witness; unity. All eleven children will come together for the first time to form a team, knocking down

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cultural, language and gender barriers for a game in front of thousands of spectators at a world class stadium. The Eleven Campaign is challenging Word you to Bank give an assist the team by joining the eleven. ACCURACY Presently Eleven Campaign is working ATTACKING toward making the final match possible for BLUE their team of young heroes. The campaign is CONTROL calling on everyone to get off the bench COUPE and DE FRANCE into the game. You can donate DEBUT quickly and securely on their crowdfund EFFECTIVE EXPENSIVE page to make your mark on this project; no FIFA amount is too small and there are fantastic FOOTBALL perks to claim, such as signed kit and FORWARD experiences with your favorite sports figures FRENCH and celebrities. GOAL SCORER Watch the Eleven documentary trailer and KYLIAN visit the official Eleven Campaign website LEAGUE to learn more about the organization. MONACO PSG Follow the progress on the social media: STARTER Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. TALENT Countries involved: TEAM TRIO Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Denmark, Greece, TWENTY-NINE Japan, Rwanda, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, YOUNGEST United Kingdom, United States of America Any press or sponsorship enquiries can be directed to Kyriakos Kyriakopoulos at kyriakos@elevencampaign.org or info@ elevencampaign.org

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LAST WORD

IN THE OPENING COUPLE OF MONTHS, NONE OF THE TITLE HOLDERS IN EUROPE’S TOP SIX LEAGUES WERE ON TOP, SUGGESTING TO SUSY CAMPANALE THE POWER IS SHIFTING.

RETAINER TROUBLE In recent years, some of Europe’s top Leagues have become somewhat predictable, with the balance of power kept firmly with one, or at most two, clubs. But judging by the first few months of the 2017-18 season, it would appear to be changing, as by the break for international duty in October, none of last year’s six title winners in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France or Portugal were top of the table. It’s early days, of course, but the trend would suggest a seismic shift is on the horizon, and it is frankly welcome for most fans, tired of seeing the same old colour ribbon wrapped around the silverware come May. For those suddenly losing their undoubted champion status, it can be a traumatic experience. Bayern Munich have won the last five editions of the Bundesliga and three of the last four German Cups. Finding themselves five points behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Borussia Dortmund at the start of October threw them for a loop. Add in a 3-0 Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and the rebellion by a group of high-profile players, led by Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and Carlo Ancelotti was given the axe. Kicking the Italian out didn’t seem to resolve their problems overnight, fumbling a 2-0 lead again with Hertha Berlin, which prompted caretaker manager Willy Sagnol to make a devastating assessment: “We are now no longer the strongest team in Germany.” Those words must cut like a knife to their fans and the players, who seemed to believe they were simply owed the Bundesliga by virtue of being Bayern. When a side repeatedly celebrates the title in March, it’s understandable

Bayern Munich were forced to admit they are no longer the strongest team in Germany

“When a side repeatedly celebrates the title in March, it’s understandable that complacency would set in”

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that complacency would set in and this can be a much-needed rude awakening for them. Paris Saint-Germain got shaken up last term by Monaco taking the Ligue 1 honours and reacted by buying their best player, Kylian Mbappe, and proving FFP a joke with the €220m Neymar clause activation from Barcelona. Completing the double of simultaneously strengthening their own squad while weakening their biggest rivals, PSG have started the season by surging out in front. Just in case they fall back into old habits of taking the French title for granted, there’s the marvellous presence of nicest man in football, Claudio Ranieri. His Nantes are flying high in the early weeks and it’d be poetic justice for him to ‘do a Leicester City’ by stunning the big spenders again. Juventus have utterly dominated Serie A for six years and they now find themselves dealing with a Napoli side in spectacular shape. Practically unchanged from last term and with Coach Maurizio Sarri’s complex one-touch football fully ingrained in these players, they have become the first ever Italian club to win the opening seven rounds while scoring 25 goals. In fairness, it’s not as if Juve have had a sluggish start either, dropping points only in Week 7 to giant-killers Atalanta, but Max Allegri’s men don’t appear to have strengthened as much as some other rivals and may well pay the price for not adequately replacing Leonardo Bonucci. If Napoli do hold on and celebrate their first Scudetto since 1990, the days of Diego Armando Maradona, it’ll not only be a fantastic signal for the future of Italian football based on entertainment and technique rather than rugged defending, but also the party everyone will want to attend. It cannot be overstated how much fun Naples would be for weeks, even months, afterwards. Think Mardi Gras mixed with Leicester’s Premier League shocker and VE-Day: strangers hugging in the streets and a fairy-tale coming true. There’ll be no Leicester miracle in England this year, as whoever wins the Premier League will have pumped millions into making it happen. Antonio Conte won in his first attempt, but Chelsea were given limited resources to work

Napoli have broken records for the best Serie A start in history

with this summer, certainly compared to the Manchester giants. Jose Mourinho has United trying to shake off his reputation for boring football, while Pep Guardiola over at City is doing the opposite, aiming to show his tiki-taka also has steel with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge. It’ll likely be an all-Manchester derby for the trophy and that means the revival of over-the-top mind games we saw at between Mou and Pep at Real Madrid and Barcelona. Ah well, England is the land of pantomime and Jose does love playing the villain. The biggest gap has opened up in Spain, where all-conquering Real Madrid appear to be resting on their laurels after back-to-back Champions League triumphs. Perhaps Neymar’s departure motivated Barcelona to prove themselves all over again without him, but a seven-point gap from the leaders after seven rounds is still a pretty big wake-up call for Zinedine Zidane’s Galacticos. Even in Portugal, Benfica were five points behind FC Porto after a couple of months, threatening an end to their four-year Primeira Liga hegemony. Whether this paradigm shift in all the top leagues remains at the end of the season is yet to be seen, but the opening rounds show us nothing can be taken for granted.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City beat Premier League holders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge


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JAGUAR F-PACE

ANY CAR CAN TURN A CORNER. THIS ONE SEES AROUND THEM.

You can’t eliminate uncertainty on the road. You can, however, minimize it. That’s why the F-PACE features a host of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems to help make every journey an enjoyable one. With Forward Traffic Detection, a grille-mounted camera can detect cross movement of obstacles, offering an extra level of observation at junctions. To assist with parking, Forward Vehicle Guidance displays graphics to help navigate into even the tightest of spaces with ease. And with Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Closing Vehicle Sensing, and Driver Condition Monitoring you can be assured that more intelligent technology goes in to the F-PACE, so that you get more enjoyment out. JAGUAR THORNHILL. www.jaguarthornhill.ca 434 Steeles Ave W, Thornhill, ON L4J 6X6 • (905) 889-0080

Profile for Soccer 360 Magazine

Soccer 360 Magazine Issue 72 November / December 2017  

2017 Holiday Edition Featuring interviews, World Cup Qualifying, Champions League and more!

Soccer 360 Magazine Issue 72 November / December 2017  

2017 Holiday Edition Featuring interviews, World Cup Qualifying, Champions League and more!

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