Archive for the ‘champions league’ tag
West Ham’s move to Olympic Stadium not just hammer blow for Leyton Orient, it will challenge balance of power in London
Whether or not they take full advantage of the opportunity that has been granted to them remains to be seen, and there is still a legal challenge to be considered. But there is no avoiding the facts.Handing the keys to the Olympic Stadium to West Ham United will change the face of football in the Capital.
Whichever way you break this down, there is no escaping the fact that the Hammers will be paying just £15 million pounds for the keys to an iconic stadium with a 54,000 capacity and that could catapult the East End club into Champions League contention.
Purely based on capacity, that will give the Hammers the potential for more matchday revenue than Chelsea or Spurs. It will also put them close to being on a par with Arsenal, who invested £390 million pounds in building the 60,000 seater Emirates Stadium and have consequently struggled to hold off the challenge of neighbours Tottenham as the dominant force in North London.
It remains to be seen if West Ham fans, and most do not want to leave the Academy of Football at Upton Park, will fill the Olympic Stadium. By the time the Hammers are scheduled to take up residence in 2016 they may be watching a team back in the Championship.
But owners David Gold and David Sullivan, and vice-chairman Karren Brady, in agreeing such an advantageous deal with the London Legacy Development Corporation, have been handed a golden ticket that is better than winning the lottery every week for the next year.
As far as business deals go it is pure genius because when the new owners took control the club was in financial meltdown. Now there is an extremely bright future ahead if the Hammers can build on the solid foundations that have been put in place and continue to make progress on the pitch.
If West Ham play their cards right they could be knocking on the door of the Champions League within the next five years. But there is still much that can go wrong with this master plan and much will depend on the legal challenge being mounted by neighbouring Leyton Orient owner Barry Hearn.
There is something obscene about the ruthless way the League One club have been dismissively brushed aside by the LLDC. And you have to ask why London Mayor Boris Johnson has been so vocal in his support of West Ham at the expense of both Leyton Orient, who want to ground share, and Tottenham.
The financial facts are simple. The Olympic Stadium has been paid for by the public, the total bill topping £600 million pounds. The cost of extending the roof and adding retractable seats could be as much as £190m. And all but West Ham’s £15 million contribution is coming from the tax payer.
While Tottenham have the financial resources to search for an alternative, West Ham’s move – and whichever way you break down the figures they are getting it on the cheap – looks like a death sentence for the Os. It is hard to ignore the complaints by Hearn who quite rightly argues his small club are being trampled on.
“It is a mess, the whole thing has been a mess for the last six years, horribly handled by lots of different people,” said Hearn in an interview with London’s Evening Standard. “We are at the point where we are seeing if the club that is 750 yards away from the Olympic Park are being abused, ignored and sledge-hammered by a massive club.
“We think they have over-stretched their mark and the taxpayer will have something to say about it, but in the meantime we want to preserve the independence and existence of Leyton Orient Football Club.
“It is unbelievable, I remember four or five years ago one of the Olympic organisers said the tenancy of the Olympic Stadium would be decided four months from that point.
“Although West Ham have been confirmed as the tenants, there are still so many questions that need to be asked.It looks to me like there has been a deal done through a back-door somewhere and I have plenty of questions that need to be answered.
“Newham Borough Council have come up with £40million and in the difficult world when you are closing hospitals and libraries and putting people out of work, is this the right money to spend? West Ham are selling Upton Park but only contributing £15million to the stadium, should they be given a free home like this? I’m just asking a question.
“It does seem unfair that Arsenal and Tottenham are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on their own stadiums because they are stand-alone commercial enterprises and West Ham are being levered at huge discount and you have to ask yourself the question why. What has gone on for them to get that deal?”
Hearn is banking on a judicial review in his favour that will force the LLDC and West Ham to discuss the idea of ground-sharing. Whatever the outcome, questions will be asked by the public and the media for years to come.
Is Wayne Rooney world class? Why England’s finest will shape up and accept challenge to fulfill potential
How pathetic and predictable that the media jumped on the band-wagon of concluding that Wayne Rooney is on his way out of Old Trafford after he was left on the bench for Manchester United’s Champions League crunch encounter with Real Madrid this week.
There is always a stampede of opportunistic journalists and headline writers across every form of media, from newspapers and bloggers to radio and television, who revel in trying to knock sporting heroes off their pedestal, especially if they play for Manchester United.
Ignore all the media gossip and agent-inspired spin whenever you read a story about Rooney because the truth is 99.9 percent of speculation is absolute rubbish, even when so-called experts claim they have been briefed by reliable sources.
The truth is the media spend most of their time trying to guess what is really happening and there are only ever a small handful of people in the know. But newspapers do not care if they think a headline will sell more copies or attract more online viewers. It is that simple.
When Sir Alex Ferguson says Rooney is going nowhere and there is total silence from the player himself then you know that the media got it hopelessly wrong.
Speaking at his press conference pre Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea, Fergie put the record straight when he said: “The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is rubbish. There’s absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I. The suggestion we don’t talk on the training ground is nonsense. The decision to not play him was purely tactical and he understood that. Wayne will be here next year, you have my word on that.”
Forget the headlines, the real issue for me is that Rooney has underperformed on occasions over the last couple of seasons, not to mention the last three major international tournaments. And if he wants to continue to be regarded as truly world class, United’s England star must show he still has the hunger and desire to fulfil his true potential.
Despite all his goalscoring milestones, there is a sense that Rooney has never quite delivered at the highest level. Even though his record in the Champions League will suggest otherwise.
A remarkable statistic before the Real Madrid encounter was that Rooney had a better record in the Champions League knockout stages in goalscoring percentage terms than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba or Robin van Persie. But there is no doubt in my mind that Rooney can do better. And that is the challenge he faces if he wants to be regarded as one of the true greats in Manchester United history.
My guess is that Rooney wants the everlasting glory to match his trophies and goalscoring exploits and being left on the bench will give him the nudge he needs to step up and get back to his best. There is no better club in the world to help him achieve his goals and in Robin van Persie he has a the perfect striking partner to make that happen.
Fergie clearly still thinks Rooney will deliver. And that will only change if he fails to respond by working hard to do his absolute best for Manchester United.
Nani red card disgrace Real insult: Curse of anti-British referees ruining Champions League and threatens EPL quota
The history books will show that a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo on his return to Old Trafford earned Real Madrid victory over Manchester United and a place in the Champions League quarter-final. But anyone who watched this epic clash of the giants of world football can have no doubt that a Turkish referee tipped the balance in favour of a Spanish side that was second best over both legs.
The harsh reality is that a hugely controversial red card for Nani has destroyed United’s hopes of emulating the glorious Treble triumph of 1999. And this is not the first time the conspiracy theorists can point to what looks like a blatant case of anti-British refereeing.
Only last month Celtic were on the receiving end of a shocking display by the match official that contributed to their crippling 3-nil home defeat by Juventus. Who can forget the outrageous Rob van Persie sending off in 2011 when he planted the ball in the net for Arsenal against Barcelona a millisecond after the ref had blown for offside. And we all remember the way Chelsea were refused a succession of blatant penalties in their 2009 semi-final against the Catalans.
This time it is United’s players and global following who are left shattered, inconsolable and feeling deprived of the chance of glory in a match that will forever be remembered for one of the worst refereeing decisions in the history of the Champions League. It is always a huge disappointment when a major football match is decided by a controversial decision by a match official. But never has this been more blatantly the case than Madrid’s ref assisted win in Manchester.
The full extent of the damage to English football may ultimately be felt by the whole of the Premier League. UEFA are looking for any excuse to reduce the EPL from four to three qualifiers for future competitions and with no qualifiers for this year’s quarter-finals because Arsenal are already dead and buried in their tie against Bayern Munich, this has been a disastrous season for English clubs.
Former skipper Roy Keane mischievously argued that the red card was justified in a blatant attempt to wind up his former employers and shamelessly gratify anti-United viewers on ITV. But any rational football fan will agree with Sir Alex Ferguson who furiously protested from the touchline over Nani’s dismissal.
There was no doubt that Nani only had eyes on the ball when he attempted to make contact with the ball in the middle of the park. But Cuneyt Cakir waved a red card in the face of the Portuguese winger after his acrobatic attempt to win the ball resulted in a high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. The Spaniard theatrically rolled along the turf and the Turk stunned a worldwide audience by reducing United to 10-men.
Not only was it a shocking decision that robbed United of a victory that was firmly in their grasp at a time when they were firmly in control of the match, leading 1-nil with 56 minutes on the clock, it destroyed a beautiful game of football. Even though he refused to be drawn on whther or not the referee had got it hopelessly wrong Jose Mourinho admitted:”The best team lost.” And there can be no more honest assessment by a winning manager than that, even if he does have one eye on the ultimate prize of one day replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the king’s throne at the Theatre of Dreams.
United fans will not forget Mourinho’s humility when it comes to winning the public vote to become Fergie’s successor. Equally, supporters will respect the way former idol Ronaldo was equally apologetic when he struck the decisive blow after an outstanding equaliser by Luka Modric cancelled out the opening goal turned into his own net by Sergio Ramos after a telling ball in by Nani.
All this on the night Ryan Giggs celebrated his historic milestone of 1,000 career appearances with yet another outstanding performance at the heart of United’s midfield. And Wayne Rooney was left on the bench as Fergie pulled off a tactical masterstroke and nullified Madrid with a classic counter attacking display that worked perfectly until Nani unjustly received his marching orders.
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Below: No penalty: Did the ref ignore Ramos clearly holding back Danny Welbeck in the box?
Cristiano Ronaldo guaranteed hero’s welcome on return to Old Trafford but Manchester United fans know he must be stopped
Lionel Messi has been voted FIFA’s world player of the year for the past four season. But there is no doubt in my mind that Cristiano Ronaldo is even more valuable to Real Madrid than the little Argentinian is to Barcelona. How Manchester United deal with their former idol will determine the outcome of Tuesday night’s Champions League decider at Old Trafford.
On the evidence of the first match in the Bernabeu, there is one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest of his team. And that tells you how good he is, because Real Madrid are one of the strongest sides on the planet.
The truth is that Ronaldo is an even better player now than he was when he left Manchester shortly after being recognised as the best player in the world when he received his one and only Ballon d’Or to date.
It is baffling that the Madrid fans have not always shown Portugal’s finest the love and respect he deserves, despite averaging more than a goal-a-game since he signed in 2009 for £80m. United fans would take him back in an instant and he is still adored in Manchester which makes his return to Old Trafford the most eagerly awaited football match at the Theatre of Dreams for many years.
Robin van Persie is the new talisman in Sir Alex Ferguson’s current squad and at times this season the inspirational summer signing from Arsenal has been out of this world. Many have billed this tie as a head-to-head between CR7 and RvP. There is every chance the Dutchman will deliver the magic that ends Jose Mourinho’s dream of making Madrid champions of Europe at Wembley in May. But there is a big difference in my mind between the pivotal roles of these opposing superstars.
Ronaldo is the one player in Madrid’s star studded team who could genuinely rip United to pieces almost single-handedly. He is that good and that important to the Spanish hopes of success in the biggest club competition in world football. Stop Ronaldo and United will fancy their chances of reaching the quarter-finals. That is why Mourinho left him out of the first half of today’s La Liga clash with Barcelona.But Real still conquered Barca and Messi for the second time in five days. That tells you all you need to know about the challenge facing United.
Van Persie on the other hand is brilliant and has stepped up another level since he arrived in Manchester in the summer. But the strength of this United side is far greater than one man and it is the unity and dynamics of the team that makes Fergie’s side special. Wayne Rooney still has the ability to terrorise opposition. Michael Carrick is playing the best football of his career. Rafael is getting better with every game. While anyone who writes off Ryan Giggs had better beware. Giggsy is destined to make his 1,000 career appearance against Madrid.And wouldn’t it be just priceless if the Welsh wizard stole the limelight.
The English Premier League is best on the planet and football fans are so fickle – just ask Robin Van Persie and Arsene Wenger!
To all those fickle football fans out there who think one bad result or two is the end of the world, just take a look at the way Arsenal have bounced back from that 8-2 demolition by Manchester United.
Led by Robin Van Persie, the most outstanding striker of the season so far, Saturday’s remarkable 5-3 triumph at Chelsea was the Gunners’ eighth win in nine matches. So what do those ridiculous fans who were baying for the head of Arsene Wenger have to say for themselves now?
When Manchester United crashed 6-1 at home to neighbours City it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Premier League. But does that make Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a bunch of no-hopers overnight? Of course it doesn’t – and that’s the point.
City boss Roberto Mancini won a lot of respect from United fans when he refused to crow about the way his side destroyed the Reds at Old Trafford. And the Italian knows only too well that there is a long way to go to win the toughest League in the world.
The truth is football fans in England are so lucky to have the Premier League – the most exciting and popular domestic competition on the planet. It will be fascinating to see if anyone can stop City’s mega millionaires becoming champions. But you can bet your bottom dollar there will be many more twists and turns before the destination of the silverware is decided in May.
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Champions League success for Manchester giants United and City is only the starter before the main course at Old Trafford
The biggest compliment you can pay Manchester City is that they are picking up good habits from their more famous rivals over at United – and Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time winner in the Champions League against Villareal is one of the most precious goals he will score all season.
Instead of settling for the paltry return of two points from their opening three Group matches, City crucially ended the night on four points and with qualification to the knockout stages back in their grasp courtesy of their dramatic 2-1 win. Neither Manchester club was at their best, as United needed second half penalties from Wayne Rooney to see off Otelul Galati in Romania and claim an equally precious 2-0 triumph that puts the Reds in second place behind Benfica in Group C.
For both clubs there is the feeling that tonight was the lull before the storm as the countdown begins to the most intriguing Manchester derby in years. With City holding a two point advantage, the battle between the Premier League’s top two is the most eagerly awaited match of the season so far at a time when the Mancunian rivalry grows more intense with every meeting.
Whatever the outcome, it will tell us a lot about how the season is destined to unfold – and whether or not City have made any progress since being brushed aside 3-2 by United in the pre-season Community Shield at Wembley.
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Gary Neville hits England where it hurts and admits Fabio Capello’s team are no hopers – with or without Wayne Rooney
Since ending has career as the best right back of his generation, Gary Neville has established himself as football’s undisputed No.1 pundit.
There is no-one in the game who talks more sense than the tough talking ex-England and Manchester United hero who was grew up in the famous Class of 92 that produced David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and his younger brother Phil.
He has already been a revelation as Sky Sports’ most dynamic expert analyst, a million light years better than the excitable Scotsman Andy Gray. And he has also made his mark as a columnist.
Writing in this weekend’s Mail on Sunday, Nev the Red put it simply for the fans when he explained why England do not have a prayer of winning Euro 2012 – with or without Wayne Rooney.
“The real issue is that the spine of the team is not good enough,” explains Neville, who won 85 England caps, in his assessment of Fabio Capello’s chances of winning next summer’s tournament.
“When I look at it coldly, a team that has John Terry, Gary Cahill, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry, Darren Bent and Rooney in its central positions is nowhere near good enough to take on the major nations such as Spain.
“I’m not having a go at individuals; there are some very good players among those names.
“Rooney aside, there is hardly any pace, very little invention and hardly any rotation of positions. Compare that with the spine of Spain: Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, David Villa and Fernando Llorente.”
England take on Spain in a friendly at Wembley next month with Neville keen to see a number of younger players given a chance.
“Let’s be clear, England are not as good as Spain but you can’t just accept they’re better,” said Neville.
“You have to find a way to stop them, to disrupt the rhythm and to hurt them going forward – because England need to believe that, in a one-off, they can beat Spain.
“The rest of Europe is watching and if Spain do what most people think they will do and destroy us, just like France did in February 1999 at Wembley when they were world champions, then England will go into Euro 2012 thinking they have no chance.
“There are younger players – Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck – who are mobile, talented and not tainted by previous failures.
“Somehow, Capello has to mould those with the more experienced players into a team to compete with Spain because the team that played on Friday would be well beaten. It’s now time for Capello to be brave.”
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For those of us in the UK who can’t afford the luxury of a Sky subscription, news that Sir Alex Ferguson has ended his ban on talking to the BBC has got to be good news.
The boss began his boycott of the broadcaster in 2004 following allegations made against his son, Jason, in a TV documentary. A statement said: “Sir Alex and the BBC have put behind them the difficulties which led to Sir Alex feeling unable to appear on BBC programmes.”
In his attack on the FA Fergie blasted: ‘They treat Man United like s***! United could have up to eight players called up for England duty next week by Fabio Capello and Ferguson is unhappy the organisation do not give his club more respect.
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PAUL SCHOLES SIGNS OFF WITH A TRADEMARK NETBUSTER AS SOCCER GREATS PAY TRIBUTE TO THE GINGER-HAIRED GENIUS
Truly great footballers let their feet do the talking – and no one in the history of the beautiful game has epitomised that sentiment more eloquently than Paul Scholes.
The ginger-haired genius even managed to serve up a glorious strike in his testimonial match at a sold out Old Trafford tonight as the Manchester United side he has served faithful for nearly 17 years gave New York Cosmos a 6-0 thrashing.
Watched by one of his idol’s Pele, arguably the greatest footballer of all-time, and the incomparable Eric Cantona, Scholesy unleashed a trademark rasping drive past Brad Friedel to open the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes.
It was pure theatre as Unted’s shy and retiring midfield maestro bowed out with a flash of brilliance that brought the house down. It reminded everyone just why Scholes has earned the highest of accolades from so many of the greatest names in football.
Anyone who knows anything about football will appreciate why the unassuming Salford-born 36-year-old is rated as the best English footballer since Sir Bobby Charlton.
Had Scholes been given more respect by the bespectacled Swede Sven Goran Eriksson when he was England manager, who knows, our so-called golden generation may have emulated Sir Bobby’s feat of winning the World Cup in 1966 instead of falling to Portugal in the quarter-finals 40 years later in Germany.
The greatest players around the world have never understood why Scholes was allowed to retire early from the England team. Eriksson should have been down on his hands and knees begging him to carry on.
It is criminal that Scholes earned the last of his 66 caps against Portugal in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004. Fabio Capello came to his senses much too late when he waited until the last minute to sound him out for a dramatic comeback at last year’s World Cup in South Africa.
“I had only been given a couple of hours, so it was a bit of a rush job,” said Scholes. “But the World Cup is the biggest tournament you can be involved in. I wish I had gone. I did feel as though I had made the wrong decision. There was a touch of regret, but it doesn’t matter now. It’s gone.”
A great little feature here with Scholesy being quizzed by my old mate Mark Sullivan at MUTV
Sir Alex Ferguson has hailed Paul Scholes as one of Manchester United’s greatest players of all time”. And many legends of the game have added equally gushing praise for the man who is surely the most modest footballing genius in living memory.
“My toughest opponent? Scholes of Manchester. He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation” – Zinedine Zidane
“For me, it’s Paul Scholes. He’ll do ridiculous things in training like say: ‘You see that tree over there?’ – it’ll be 40 yards away – ‘I’m going to hit it.’ And he’ll do it. Everyone at the club considers him the best” – Rio Ferdinand
“Paul Scholes would have been one of my first choices for putting together a great team – that goes to show how highly I have always rated him. An all-round midfielder who possesses quality and character in abundance” – Marcello Lippi
“I tell anyone who asks me – Scholes is the best English player” – Laurent Blanc
“Without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Paul Scholes. He knows how to do everything, and he is the one who directs the way his team plays. On top of that, he has indestructible mental strength, and he is a genuine competitor” – Thierry Henry
France’s World Cup winning goalkeeper Fabien Barthez: “He’s the best player I ever played with.”
“Everyone of us should emulate him. We can all learn from Paul Scholes” – Edgar Davids
“I have no hesitation in putting a name to the embodiment of all that I think is best about football. It’s Paul Scholes.” – Sir Bobby Charlton
The last word goes to Scholesy – delighted with his farewell goal on his final appearance – who told the fans at the end of his testimonial: “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone. The goal was nice, that’s what I say it’s about. Memories. I just hope I’ve given the fans some decent memories. It was a really nice goal and I was pleased with it.”
UPDATE: 20 July 2011 – Is anyone surprised that City’s decision to move the goalposts scuppered the deal which fell through when the Brazilian transfer deadline passed. You can’t blame Corinthians for refusing to be held to ransom after City had announced the deal was agreed. Now Tevez and City are in limbo. Watch this space!
BY JOHN GUBBA
For a club boasting to be the richest in the world, it does appear rather unseemly that Manchester City are using Wednesday’s transfer deadline in Brazil to squeeze every last penny out of the sale of their skipper to his former club Corinthians.
On Sunday, City boss Roberto Mancini announced a deal had been reached for the 27-year-old - City had previously rejected a bid of £39 million – with only personal terms still to be agreed. But 48 hours before the transfer deadline in Brazil, Corinthians revealed City had moved the goalposts and want more money for Tevez, who previously played for the Sao Paulo club from 2004 to 2006.
The truth is that City, accustomed to getting their own way since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in 2008, are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that that even their mega riches do not guarantee keeping their best player. It is a bitter pill to swallow and the Eastlands club do not like the taste.
Tevez divided Manchester when he made the controversial move from United to City. But you can not fault the Argentine’s commitment on the pitch and he has proved value for money ever since he arrived in England and kept West Ham in the Premier League.