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Mourinho’s dramatic touchline sprint was flash of genius not a triumphant celebration by manager who is now ‘simply the best’

April 8th, 2014 at 9:30 pm

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There was a Jose Mourinho banner at Stamford Bridge tonight that said “Simply the Best” – and after watching Chelsea’s epic fightback to knock Paris St Germain out of the Champions League it is hard to disagree.

When substitute Demba Ba scored his decisive late winner that took the Blues into the last four, the Portuguese manner sprinted down the touchline in a celebration reminiscent of his defining arrival on the global stage when Porto toppled Manchester United in the same competition a decade ago.

Last time we saw an ecstatic Mourinho race miles out of his technical area the game was effectively over with Porto landing a dramatic injury time winner.

by John GubbaThis time there were crucial minutes left and Mourinho clearly bent the rules to pass on all-important tactical direction to his jubilant players. But that only underlines the brilliance of the Blues inspirational boss, whatever PSG may think. This was him doing everything possible to ensure Chelsea held on to go through on away goals by virtue of a 2-0 home win that made it 3-3 on aggregate.

At the end of a week where pundits have been debating which Merseyside boss is the best in the Premier League, following outstanding seasons so far for Brendan Rogers at Liverpool and Everton’s new talisman Roberto Martinez a global audience witnessed why Mourinho is the No.1.

After securing a fifth successive season in the Champions League semi-finals, this time with Chelsea, the master tactician said it all when he explained his touchline sprint was “not to celebrate but to tell Fernando (Torres) and Demba the changes we had to do because we still had three minutes to play and injury time.”

At times his body language this season has looked beaten and lacking passion. But this was a rejuventated Mourniho back at the top of his game.

Many of us poked fun when he was passed over by Manchester giants United and City and returned to the Bridge in the summer, despite his instance that this is the job he loves. Since then Arsene Wenger has watched his title hopes crumble at Arsenal and David Moyes has underachieved in his first season in succession of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fergie is the greatest British manager we have ever seen. But Mourinho is still making history and staking his claim to be judged alongside the greats.

Right now he is both the “Special One” and the “Happy One” as TV footage beamed around the world of football will rightly underline.

What Mourinho said when he returned to the Stamford Bridge hotseat

Why Wayne Rooney is priceless to Manchester United and his diamond studded boots will net one lucky fan a fortune

April 4th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

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collectors' item or work of art?

Signed by Wayne Rooney . . . but are these boots a collectors’ item or work of art?

BY JOHN GUBBA

Wherever you stand in the debate about whether or not WAYNE ROONEY is worth £300,000 a week, the honest truth is that Manchester United could not afford to let their talisman leave Old Trafford.

With the club in transition under new manager David Moyes and facing the real possibility of no Champions League football next season, keeping Rooney on board was a big statement that United still mean business.

In pure financial terms, the £85M cost of keeping Wazza until 2019 was a shrewd investment because the cost of replacing him would have been higher when you factor in both the transfer fee and wages.

When it comes to attracting new stars in the summer the message sent out by keeping Rooney and investing in record signing Juan Mata is a positive one that other top players will appreciate.

In my view Rooney remains truly world class and you have to give Moyes huge credit for revitalising a hugely influential player who had lost his way under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Rooney is still manchester united's biggest asset and revitalisd under David Moyes

Rooney is still manchester united’s biggest asset and revitalisd under David Moyes

Bought for 18K, worth 150K

The England marksman looks destined to become the United skipper and in the summer he will be hoping to make a big impact at the World Cup in Brazil.

He is a marketing man’s dream and the reality is that whatever Rooney touches turns to gold. One lucky fan is set to net a small fortune by selling a pair of his old boots.

Snapped up for 18,000 pounds at a charity auction five years ago, they are now worth 10 TIMES what a sharp-eyed Manchester United fan paid for them.

The Nike boots were worn by Rooney in a Champions League match. But the reason they are so valuable is that artist Luisa Di Marco turned them into a collector’s item by encrusting them with gold and precious diamonds.

The stones that make the boots unique were set by Embee jewellers of London using 31 carats of black diamonds, 10 carats of white diamonds and the number 10 is made from rose gold. The laces are dipped in gold and finished with diamonds on the ends. And both boots are signed by Rooney.

The boots are exclusively being offered for sale by London art dealer Tessa Hardy on her website ExceptionalPieces.com

If the boots are not sold in the next six weeks the owner plans to put them up for auction at a sporting dinner on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix on May 24.

Embedded with black and gold diamonds by Embee jewellers of London

Embedded with black and gold diamonds by Embee jewellers of London

London art dealer tessa Hardy and John Gubba with Wayne Rooney's boots

London art dealer tessa Hardy and John Gubba with Wayne Rooney’s boots

With alarm bells ringing for the Premier League, it is not just Manchester United affected by champions’ slump under Moyes

March 29th, 2014 at 3:46 am

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RIVALS CHELSEA, Manchester City and Liverpool may be enjoying the first season of the Premier League without Sir Alex Ferguson dictating the agenda at Old Trafford, but the honest truth is that David Moyes’ failure to keep the red flag flying high is not simply hurting Manchester United – it is damaging the world’s richest league.

This season’s unprecedented decline of Manchester United has already affected the Premier League’s global brand to such an extent that chief executive Richard Scudamore has warned fans around the world will switch off if Moyes fails to stop the rot. Make no mistake this is no exaggeration and it is the financial implications that will ultimately focus the attention of United’s owners the Glazers when they decide what direction to take in the summer.

While fans of other clubs may be enjoying the champions’ meek surrender of the Premier League title, the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear for the League’s administrators who fear the financial consequences if United’s slump continues. And that puts the spotlight on the Glazers, who – whatever the fate of Moyes -  must soon decide whether to invest many millions on a huge rebuilding programme. The alternative will be to check out and sell the club to someone with deeper pockets or risk damaging the value of their asset.

The cost of United’s worst ever season in the Premier League is already being counted.  Speaking in South Africa on a promotional tour, Scudamore conceded that the global popularity of the Premier League will wane if United continue to toil. “It’s a double-edged sword. When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places,” declared Scudamore. “There’s lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again, but you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.”

The English champions are currently seventh in the table, 18 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and facing the prospect of no European involvement next season, unless Moyes can rally his troops to knock out the holders Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the Champions League and then go on to win the competition.

On current form there is more chance of Ferguson coming out of retirement to take over as England manager at this summer’s World Cup. Nothing short of such a miraculous turnaround by a United team embarrassed by biggest rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the past fortnight, will persuade the doubters that Moyes was right to be appointed the Chosen One.

Headline with new meaning

. . . but Moyes needs time and money to make new headlines

Meantime, Moyes faces the first public show of discontent by fans at Old Trafford on Saturday with a group of fans planning to fly a plane over the stadium during United’s match with Aston Villa trailing a banner: ‘Wrong One – Moyes Out’. Such is the groundswell of anger and disappointment circulating the Theatre of Dreams that even Sir Alex Ferguson will not be exempt from criticism if United take too long to re-discover a winning formula.

by John GubbaAnd it is not just about winning, as Sam Allardyce is discovering at West Ham, where fans booed the Hammers after they beat Hull City because they are tired of the boring style of play being served up at Upton Park. The Academy of Football was built on playing the beautiful game the right way – and the same rules apply at Manchester United. where fans will not tolerate mediocre football whatever the results.

Moyes is without doubt a talented football manager. He proved that at Everton and impressed the greatest British football manager of all time when he was anointed by Sir Alex as his successor. The immediate problem he now faces is time. How much time will he be given to re-build and find a winning formula? But there is another factor that may ultimately prove even more decisive – and that is money. When it comes to the crunch how much are the owners prepared to  gamble on Moyes getting it right.

Do they stick with blind faith in Moyes and back him to the hilt? Do they start again with another candidate, or do they cut their losses now and sell out to the highest bidder? How well United fare in the upcoming Champions League showdown with Bayern will inevitably have a big influence on how the club’s owners view both the question of time and money for their current manager.

As a fan old enough to remember the chaos that followed when Sir Matt Busby retired, I know that if United get it wrong we could be waiting another 26 years to get back to the top of the English game.  And that is a doomsday scenario that would change the football world as we know it. You only have to look at how long it has been since Liverpool last won a League title to see that reputation counts for nothing when you want to be the best.

Personally I have backed Moyes from the start and would still love to see him deliver. But there has to be some positive sign that he has the strength of character to learn quickly from his mistakes. So far United’s resolve to stick with their man has been tested well beyond anyone’s expectations and yet the support he has received is impossible to imagine at any other top club in the Premier League. 

Is it really Mission impossible?

With the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern looming many are predicting humiliation at the hands of the European champions. But wouldn’t you just love it if  Moyes can mastermind Mission Impossible and defy the odds. All logic suggests it won’t happen and if it ends badly, as even the bookmakers suggest, the media and the accountants will turn up the heat on United’s manager. And yet . . .  being the eternal optimist I can’t help thinking that football has a habit of turning up a surprise result when you least  expect it!

Written by visionsport.TV

March 29th, 2014 at 3:46 am

1,000-up Wenger richly deserves tribute from Sir Alex Ferguson whatever maverick Mourinho says about Arsenal legend

March 21st, 2014 at 9:19 pm

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The day Old Trafford fell in love with the professor - The Arsenal manager was sent to the stands on 29 August 2009

I don’t care which team you support, anyone who loves the beautiful game owes a huge thank you to long-serving Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Whatever Jose Mourinho may think or say, deep down even Chelsea’s maverick manager surely respects the outstanding contribution Wenger has made to the Premier League.

When the two men come face to face in the dugout at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Wenger will be taking charge of his 1,000th match as manager of the Gunners.

It is an outstanding record that looked an impossible dream three seasons ago when his team were crushed 8-2 by Manchester United. It was a result that sparked a barrage of abuse from fans and so-called experts who called for his head. The way the man affectionately known as the professor has stuck to his guns and turned the cirtics around speaks volumes for his character.

by John GubbaDespite consistently losing his best players – Henry, Fabregas and most recently Robin van Persie – Wenger has never abandoned his purist principles in search of a winning formula based on an attractive passing game. For much of this season his team defied the odds by heading the Premier League, boosted by the outstanding early season form of Aaron Ramsey and new record signing Mezut Ozil.

The recent dip in form that has seen tomorrow’s rivals Chelsea take up the running at the top, last month prompted Mourinho to describe Wenger as a “specialist in failure” after the Frenchman commented that anyone ruling themselves out of the title race was doing so out of a fear of falling short – a clear jibe at his opposite number at Chelsea.

It all adds extra spice to the latest Chelsea-Arsenal showdown, a fixture that has been dominated by the Blues during Wenger’s resign with just four wins in 18 attempts home and away.

But the real achievement by Wenger has been the way he has changed the history of the club he has managed for close on 18 seasons. Not just with his trophy haul but by re-branding the Gunners image from ‘boring, boring Arsenal” to one of the most attractive sides in European football.

Many fans were asking “Arsene who?” when Wenger was appointed manager on 30 September 1996. But the Frenchman is now hailed the club’s best ever  manager and his 2003-04 Arsenal side were named the greatest in Premier League history after going for the entire season unbeaten, leading to their nickname The Invincibles.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal spans 17 top-four finishes, 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns, two doubles, three Premier League titles, four FA Cup triumphs and six Community Shield appearances. So far his 999 games in charge have delivered  572 victories . . .  a win percentage of 57.3.

Mourino described Wenger as "specialist in failure"

Mourino described Wenger as “specialist in failure”

Critics will point to the nine year trophy drought that prompted Mourinho to muse: ”I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”

Wenger’s legacy – and there is no reason why he can’t carry on for a few more years – is that he  has become synonymous with the club, their move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium and their brand of passing football.

The harsh reality of modern day football is that Arsenal’s lack of silverware for nearly a decade leaves fans divided between those who still trust Wenger to deliver and those who have lost patience with his methods. But let us all pay the Frenchman the respect he deserves as he reached his 1,000 match milestone. The fact that he becomes only the fourth manager in English football to join this exclusive club, along with Dario Gradi and Manchester United legends Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, tells you what a remarkable achievement this is.

Fitting then to leave the final word to Sir Alex because the pair, now friends, had an intense rivalry that included five years when they were not on speaking terms after a match at Old Trafford in October 2004 ended a record 49 match unbeaten run by Arsenal.

“I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark,” the Scot said in a statement issued on Friday by the League Managers Association.

“Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.

“Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other’s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides – Arsenal play the right way.”

Ferguson, who retired last year after 26 years at United, said playing against Arsenal always presented special challenges “that I burned many hours over the years thinking about. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

guardian-respect-999

Cristiano Ronaldo must be crowned world footballer of the year, but Luis Suarez is currently best player on the planet

December 22nd, 2013 at 11:14 pm

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The World Player of the Year for 2013 has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. Even FIFA president Sepp Blatter will surely concede that Real Madrid’s former Manchester United superstar has outshone Lionel Messi this time round . . . but the best player in the world on current form has to be Luis Suarez.

Do not get me wrong, I am not suggesting that Suarez should be handed the FIFA Ballon d’Or. But the truth is that the shortlisted trio of Ronaldo, Messi and Franck Ribery have all been eclipsed by Liverpool’s unbelievable Uruguayan during the month of December.

The breathtaking way Suarez has terrorised the Premier League since his return from his 10-match ban with 19 goals in 13 outings has been simply awesome. And his form in recent games has been second to none.

The way he dominated proceedings in the Merseysiders’ stunning 5-nil demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane last weekend with two goals and three assists was out of this world. Yesterday against Cardiff Suarez again oozed a menacing quality and maturity that has taken his game to a new extraordinary level.

Brendan Rodgers deserves enormous credit for the way he has stuck by and rehabilitated a player who so often in the past undermined his outstanding skill with a tendency to self-destruct at the slightest provocation. By handing the captain’s armband to Suarez before the Spurs game, the Liverpool boss has given a huge public vote of confidence to the player who looked destined to leave Anfield in the summer. And this time there is a feeling that his star man has finally grown up.

There was no excuse for racially abusing Patrice Evra or the bite that scarred Branislav Ivanovic, and he only made his disgraceful behaviour worse by failing to make immediate, unreserved and unequivocal apologies for either misdemeanour. But since his return from his latest punishment he has been a changed man who has conducted himself admirably while performing at the highest level .

As a lifelong Manchester United fan, I have enjoyed dominating our rivalry with Merseyside for the past two decades as much as the next Manc. My belief is that Liverpool are overachieving because of the heroics of their star man and I still believe David Moyes’ team can reel in our rivals in the race to finish in the Premier League’s top four. Even retaining the title is not out of reach.

And yet if I am 100 percent honest I can see a huge parallel between the impact Suarez may have on the future of Liverpool Football Club and the pivotal inspiration that Eric Cantona proved for United when Sir Alex Ferguson recruited and then stood by the talisman who provided the catalyst for an era of unbelievable success at the Theatre of Dreams.

Suarez is that good that he has the ability to have the same impact at Anfield as Cantona had at Old Trafford. The big question is  can the Merseysiders keep hold of their prize asset? We all know that contracts are not worth the paper they are written on when the likes of Real Madrid come calling with a world record transfer fee. And there is no question that both Madrid and their Spanish rivals Barcelona will increasingly have their eye on Suarez if he continues to produce the form that has elevated him to a new level this season.

Whether or not there is an escape clause in the new contract that Suarez signed this week, even the lure of £200,000 a week will pale into insignificance if Liverpool fail to present Suarez with Champions League football next season. And that effectively means it could be qualification or bust for Liverpool in their quest to build a new era of success.

In much the same way that the task grew harder with every passing season until United ended their  26-year wait to once again become champions of England, the pressure on Liverpool to achieve has grown year on year since their last League title in 1990. Rodgers has laid impressive foundations in his quest to make the breakthrough at Anfield that Ferguson managed at Old Trafford with the help of Cantona. But it will be back to the drawing board if Liverpool fail to keep hold of Suarez.

by John GubbaForget club loyalties, the truth is that had Chelsea or Arsenal managed to prize Suarez away from Liverpool the Premier League title would surely be heading for that club in May. The same goes for both Manchester clubs. Even Spurs would stand a chance of taking the title if they had the Uruguayan in their ranks.

Barring injury or the return of his self-destructive tendencies, as England will undoubtedly find out at the World Cup in Brazil in the summer, Suarez is a remarkable footballer with the world at his feet.

Written by visionsport.TV

December 22nd, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Undeterred by Prince Harry’s polar race deemed too dangerous, Alex Hibbert’s landmark North Pole trek targets new world record

December 9th, 2013 at 7:00 am

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BY JOHN GUBBA

As we approach the much heralded BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards the debate over who is our greatest sports man or woman of 2013 will create as many arguments as answers. But one thing is certain, few will consider the extreme sport of polar exploration when asked who they believe should be on the shortlist, never mind who the winner should be.

Prince Harry has raised the profile of this extreme outdoor pursuit, despite his Race to the South Pole being suspended at the weekend. The Walking With the Wounded trek, which is raising money for injured troops, is expected to resume. But organisers say the teams will no longer be encouraged to race each other to the South Pole because conditions are too dangerous.

Now consider that an expedition to the North Pole is deemed to be a more dangerous challenge because you are walking on frozen ice and you will start to appreciate that Alex Hibbert and his team are tackling something extraordinary when they leave London today (December 9) en route for a ground breaking expedition.

Not only is Hibbert leading an unsupported mission to the North Pole, his team are tackling their extraordinary 210 day challenge mostly in the dark. And they are starting in Greenland, from where the North Pole has never been reached.

In sporting terms The Dark Ice Project is an attempt to set a new world record that would dwarf the majority of record breaking achievements of the polar variety, not to mention the more traditional sporting conquests placed before us by the media.

You may ask why would anyone want to do such a thing and the answer is what sets these Dark Ice heroes apart from your average sportsman or woman. As Hibbert says in an exclusive interview with Tina Fotherby:

“If it was easy what would be the point of actually going out there and doing it, of putting your life in danger in order to achieve something pointless? It’s that very fabric and that danger element that it hasn’t been done before that makes the entire reason behind it exist.”

Only a handful of polar expeditions in history have ventured into the polar winter. Beginning in mid-December, this landmark expedition will be undertaken by Hibbert (27), plus team mates James Wheeldon, a 23-year old fellow Brit, and two 24 year-olds, Russian Anastasia Kim and Anders Rasmussen from Denmark.Each will haul over 250kg the length of the Nares Strait and then make an unsupported return attempt on the Geographic North Pole.

The route will cover up to 1800 miles over fractured and mobile sea ice between the cliffs and glaciers of Ellesmere Island and North-West Greenland and then the vast, frozen Arctic Ocean. The team will set out from the Greenlandic Inuit village of Qaanaaq and travel north to the edge of the Arctic Ocean and then the North Pole, before returning. The sea ice through these narrow straits is amongst the most dynamic and technically demanding in the world.

The team will have only their tent as protection against the brutal Arctic winter conditions and their trusty Inuit dog, Dave, whose job will be to warn them when they are under threat from polar bears.

It is not easy to judge who is the greatest  when we compare one sport with another. And many would not even consider the extreme outdoor pursuit of polar exploration to be a sport. But in the rarefied world of this unique trek to the North Pole Alex Hibbert is a leader who will rank alongside the greats if he can lead his team to the North Pole and safely bring them back home in July 2014. It is a triumphant homecoming scheduled to happen  around the time the world will be crowning the greatest football team on the planet and one all-conquering team captain will be lifting the famous FIFA World Cup Trophy.

 

Explorer Alex Hibbert sets off to North Pole for a Dark and Icy Christmas

BY TINA FOTHERBY, FAMOUS PUBLICITY

Fabulous 40 is magic number for sporting legends Ryan Giggs and Sachin Tendulkar – heroes united by universal adoration

November 29th, 2013 at 10:41 pm

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here is what Giggsy had to say about his future 20 years ago

here is what Giggsy had to say about his future 20 years ago

On the day that Ryan Giggs hits 40 the world of sport has rightly been paying  homage to one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. The Manchester United superstar’s remarkable longevity is not unique. He is the fourth outfield player – and the seventh in total – to grace the Premier League at 40. But none can match the extraordinary level of sustained success achieved by the Welsh wizard.

Just two days before reaching his incredible milestone, the most decorated footballer in English soccer turned in yet another remarkable 90 minute display in United’s outstanding 5-0 Champions League demolition of  Bayer Leverkusen. It was a midfield masterclass from arguably the greatest ever player in the history of the club to demonstrate that he is still hungry for more success.

by John GubbaThe magnificent seven who have graced the Premier League into their fabulous 40s are  Kevin ­Phillips, Teddy Sheringham, Gordon Strachan, Brad Friedel, Mark Schwarzer, Mike Pollitt and Giggs, whose appearance in Germany was his 953rd for United. Even more remarkable is that Giggs has done it for one club, scoring 168 goals along the way.

Almost 23 years after he first pulled on a United shirt as a raw 17-year-old, he still plays with the verve, vigour and guile of a man at least 10 years younger.

It has been an historic month for famous forty year old sporting legends, with arguably the greatest cricketer in history Sachin Tendulkar crowning his majestic career with a spectacular flourish in his final Test Match for India against the West Indies in Mumbai.

An estimated television audience of over a billion people watched Tendulkar crown his 200th Test Match with a dazzling 74 that fell short of yet another century by the only man to score 100 international 100s, the feat he achieved when he scored his final ton against Bangladesh in March 2012.

Fabulous 40 is magic number for sporting legends Ryan Giggs and Sachin Tendulkar – heroes united by universal adoration

The Greatest of them all? The legendary Sachin Tendulkar was hailed as ‘The God of Cricket’ by Time Magazine who also included the Indian superstar in their list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010.

Like Giggs, Tendulkar can proudly declare that he was still hitting extraordinary levels of achievement at the end of his fourth decade in his chosen sport. And there is at least one other parallel between these giants of the sporting world. Both are true  legends because they are admired by fans of their rivals as much as the supporters of the teams they have graced for so long.

Such is the universal love for Tendulkar that in New Delhi the Pakistan Taliban commander, in a video message widely circulated on social networking site Facebook, has warned the Pakistan media to stop paying tribute to the Indian cricket legend.

“We have been monitoring Pakistani media, including news channels and newspapers, for the past three weeks and got to know how was Pakistani media praising Indian cricketer during his farewell. It was unfortunate to see Pakistani media went to great extent to pay tribute to Indian cricketer by running video clips on TV channels and writing huge articles in his praise. On the other hand, it was sad to know same Pakistani media badly criticised Pakistani cricket team as well as its captain Misbah-ul-Haq. We condemn this move of Pakistani media and expect it will not repeat the same in future,” said the commander in the video.

“Shame for Pakistani media that spoke highly of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. No doubt, he has been a great cricketer, but, he`s Indian after all, so stop promoting him,” warned the Taliban leader.

To my knowledge there has been no equivalent plea from the big chiefs at United’s rivals Manchester City or from any other quarter tired of the adoration for Giggs. Watching the old master turn back the years with his latest contribution for Manchester United  in Germany on Wednesday night, it was music to my ears to hear a life-long Arsenal fan pay tribute to the memory of Giggs’ wonder goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay that shot down the Gunners. And that underlines my point.

True sports fans appreciate greatness, whoever they perform their magic for. It is that respect and appreciation that unites us all. In Giggs and Tendulkar we have been privileged to witness two of the greatest sportsmen of them all.  And that is something beautiful that no tribal jealousy can deprive us of.

The difference is that Giggs is a freak of nature who still has more to give and where it will end is almost impossible to predict.

Were you watching Mr Blatter? Ronaldo deserves to be crowned World No.1 after knocking out Ibrahimovic’s Swedes

November 20th, 2013 at 12:42 am

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Who is the Greatest of them all? . . . Cristiano deserves 2013 Ballon d'Or

Who is the Greatest of them all? . . . Cristiano deserves 2013 Ballon d’Or

BY JOHN GUBBA

Ronaldo or Messi. Messi or Ronaldo. The debate over who is the best player in the world is never ending and the argument got personal when FIFA’s buffoon of a President Sepp Blatter recently delivered a tasteless putdown of Real Madrid’s former Manchester United superstar.

Confirming his preference for Messi, Blatter mocked the Madrid hero for having “more expenses for the hairdresser” than the Barcelona player when he made an address at the Oxford Union last month. It sparked a storm that has overshadowed the countdown to the vote for this year’s world player of the year.

Tonight, on the pitch, it was much anticipated Cristiano Ronaldo v Zlatan Ibrahimovic II . . . and the man from Portugal delivered one of the most spectacular statements ever in the quest to be crowned No.1 with a sensational one-man demolition of Sweden’s World Cup hopes.

In one of the most dramatic qualification play-off deciders in the history of the FIFA World Cup, we were treated to a gladiatorial showdown of the highest quality that will force many of the experts who have thus far  favoured Messi to reconsider who is the greatest of them all.

The talk in the game is that the Ballon d’Or voting – which was due to end last week – has been extended to the end of November, which means that Ronaldo’s latest extraordinary show could help him to the world title.

With a ticket to Brazil on the line, Portugal went to Sweden with the slender margin of a 1-0 lead from the first leg. Ronaldo, who scored the winner in Portugal,  struck yet again when he doubled his side’s lead with a 50th minute opening goal that ignited an astonishing duel with his outstanding Swedish counterpart.

Ibrahimovic responded with a stunning quickfire double in the 68th and 72 minutes that made it 2-2 on aggregate. The stage was set for a pulsating final half an hour in the battle for that precious place in the greatest football show on earth and Swedish fans sensed home advantage was destined to give them the edge.

But then came an even more spectacular double from Ronaldo to spark wild scenes of Portuguese celebration. Two goals in the space of three minutes delivered the knockout blow.

It meant the Portugal skipper had scored all four of his country’s goals in an epic shoot out. And with the statesman-like dignity so lacking in president Blatter, Ronaldo insisted his celebrations were not aimed at FIFA’s dictatorial leader who made it clear Messi gets his vote when he  spoke at the Oxford Union last month.

Ronaldo, who clearly believes he is now the undisputed No.1, said this after his match-winnning display against Sweden:: “I do not live my life obsessed with titles and do not have to show anything to anyone, because I have shown my worth, I’ve done 40/50 goals every season and it is not within the reach of anyone. I know what I am.”

In my humble opinion, not since the great Diego Maradona dragged Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup Final in Mexico has there been a footballing superhero so indispensable  to his national team.

Just as Ronaldo dragged Portugal into the 2012 European Championships and then all the way to the semi-finals, the golden boy has done it again by leading his countrymen all the way  to Brazil.

While Barcelona’s adopted Argentinian Lionel Messi has never quite reproduced his majestic artistry for his country, no such criticism can be aimed at  Madrid’s hero who has matched his Barca rival in La Liga. At club level there is little to choose between Messi and Ronaldo.

But on the world stage Ronaldo has surely done enough to claim the top prize.

On a night of high drama, lovers of the beautiful game will be thrilled to see France joining Portugal in the finals after their own sensational comeback from 2 goals down in the first leg against Ukraine with a thrilling 3-0 victory in Paris.

QUOTE OF THE DAY
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “A world cup without me is not worth waiting for.”

 

Don’t call me Dean! How Daniel Sturridge is keeping up the family goal-scoring tradition and believes in Wayne Rooney partnership

November 19th, 2013 at 7:33 pm

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Remember that name: Daniel Sturridge has heart set on being a World Cup hero for England

Remember that name: Daniel Sturridge has heart set on being a World Cup hero for England

Two decades on from the spectacular goalscoring exploits of Dean Sturridge, his nephew Daniel is enjoying the limelight with both Liverpool and England – and the ace marksmen is hellbent on making the world remember his name at next summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

by John GubbaI must admit that like many football experts above a certain age I have been guilty of calling the 2013 version of the Sturridge goal machine by his uncle’s name.

Dean Sturridge made his mark when he topped scored  with 20 goals to help Derby County win promotion to the Premier League in 1995/1996. It was a spectacular season for the Rams that launched Sturridge – who went on to complete 10 years with Derby – onto the biggest stage in domestic football.

“People still call me Dean now,” says the current England ace Daniel, adding: ”I’ll say ‘wait a minute I’m Daniel’.

The 24-year-old has found a new lease of life since moving to Liverpool, scoring 21 goals in 29 games since he has been regularly accommodated in the central striker role he has always enjoyed the most. Initially benefitting from the 10-match ban for Luis Suarez, Sturridge has  since formed what he describes as a “telepathic” partnership with the world class Uruguayan hitman.

If Sturridge can forge a similar understanding for England with Wayne Rooney, the sky is the limit for the hotshot who showed no lack of ambition when he decalred as a 19 year old at Chelsea: ”If a player said he didn’t want to be one of the greats in football, then he would be lying because everyone wants to make a stamp on football.”

“It can definitely be as good,” says Sturridge of his partnership with the Manchester United striker. ”Wazza is a world-class player and it is easy to play with him. I enjoy playing with him. We complement each other’s game. In training, it is almost like we don’t need to work on things. We know where we are, where team-mates are.”

On recent form England will go to Brazil as no hopers. But as all top managers will tell you, you always have the ability to beat the best when you have top strikers. In Sturridge and Rooney, Roy Hodgson’s men potentially have one of the most lethal strike forces in world football. And if they do hit it off next summer, the days of people getting Daniel Sturridge’s name wrong will definitely be a thing of the past.

Why Daniel is often called Dean Sturridge

Why Daniel is often called Dean Sturridge

Wenger reaping rewards for putting faith in Aaron Ramsey when Welsh youngster looked destined for Manchester United

November 2nd, 2013 at 10:45 pm

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MUFC_AFC_PL

BY JOHN GUBBA

You can say what you like about the durability of an Arsenal side searching for their first silverware in nine seasons. But the Gunners boast one of the standout players of the season so far in Aaron Ramsey . . . and the most successful Premier League manager in Arsene Wenger.

Ramsey, whose career was threatened by an horrific double leg break in February 2010 inflicted by a tackle from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, is making the kind of impact that will soon see him being compared to fellow Welshman Gareth Bale if his progress continues.

 And you have to credit Wenger for putting his faith in the prodigiously talented youngster, who once looked destined for Old Trafford.   

Much has been said and written about the professor stealing a march on his rivals when he pulled off the standout signing of the summer with the spectacular £42.5 million capture of German superstar Mesut Özil.

But just as crucial for the Gunners was the business Wenger did five years ago when he persuaded the Cardiff City youngster to opt for a move to North London rather than the North West.

The Bluebirds’ youngest ever player at just 16 years and 124 days when he made his debut in 2007, Ramsey soon became one of the most sought after youngsters in Europe, attracting interest from Everton and Manchester United.

While United reportedly offered £5 million for him to be loaned back to Cardiff, it was the Gunners who secured Ramsey’s signature when Wenger matched that bid and promised to put him straight into his first team squad.

That crossroads in his career will give an extra edge to the showdown between defending champions Manchester United and this season’s pacesetters Arsenal on November 10. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Ramsey is a player with the world at his feet.

Familiar tweet this season from Aaron Ramsey

. . . a familiar tweet this season from Aaron Ramsey

FACT FILE: AARON RAMSEY 

:- Born 26 December 1990, he joined the Youth Academy at Cardiff City when he was eight years old.

:- He made his debut for the Bluebirds on the final day of the 2006/2007 season, when he came on as a substitute in a the final minute of a 1-0 defeat by Hull City. He was still 241 days short of his 17th birthday.

:- Signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2008 for £5 million.

:- Made his competitive debut for Arsenal in a Champions League qualifier against FC Twente on 13 August 2008

:- Given his first run out in the Premier League a month later against Blackburn Rovers.

:- His first goal for the Gunners came in a 5-2 Champions League win at Fenerbahce on 22 October 2008, making him the fifth youngest scorer in Champions League history.

 TITLE RACE: ROONEY v RAMSEY

While Aaron Ramsey has been the player whose outstanding early form has been arguably the biggest surprise of the season so far, even more spectacular has been the way Wayne Rooney has shrugged off doubts about his future at Old Trafford.

Rooney has a great record against the Gunners, a side he has enjoyed superb form against, ever since he burst onto the scene with that famous strike as a 16-year-old for Everton to become the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League. Not surprising that Wenger and Jose Mourinho both wanted to sign him in the summer. What top manager wouldn’t want to sign him?

Ramsey, meanwhile, also has form against United. In 2010/2011, he scored the winner at the Emirates. It came at the end of the season that celebrated his return from his career threatening injury, after signing a long-term contract with Arsenal.

There will be many other potential matchwinners on show next Sunday, with Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud both hitting the target on a regular basis. But Rooney v Ramsey at Old Trafford will be a fascinating showdown between two players at the top of their game.

HOW WAYNE IS STAKING HIS CLAIM TO BE UNITED’S NEXT LONG-TERM SKIPPER

Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes deserves enormous credit for standing by his former Everton protegee and helping the England striker rediscover his best form. Wayne Rooney looks lean, mean and determined to prove the critics wrong who have been too quick to write him off.

In fact it will be no surprise to see Moyes hand Rooney the captain’s armband, further underlining the new boss’s pre-season insistence that there is no way Wazza will be leaving United any time soon.

With the countdown under way to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Rooney has looked in menacing form and is hopefully destined to make an injury-free impact on a major international tournament for the first time. Meantime, he has been United’s most consistent performer and the main reason why the defending champions are still in  touch with race for the Premier League title.

Rooney has shown his leadership qualities by lifting his team mates during a difficult start to the season and with Patrice Evra and other senior players nearing the end of their United careers, the case for making him skipper is stronger than ever.

Given the captain’s armband on several occasions by Sir Alex Ferguson,Rooney has already had the honour of being captain for Moyes in the Capital One Cup win over Liverpool.

Meantime, his leadership skills will be needed against form team Arsenal, even if he is not the player who leads United out against the table-toppers.