Archive for July, 2009

So the actual deal that went through was….

Barca gets:
Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Inter gets:
Samuel Eto’o
A one year loan of Aliaksandr Hleb
€43.25 million

For an attitude like this Samuel Eto’o will be missed

“I don’t feel at all inferior to Ibrahimovic. I am Samuel Eto’o and can’t be compared to anyone,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Overall, should make for a very skilled and equally dangerous (on paper) Barca side as last season.

Also, I might try to post some US v Mexico thoughts later today…

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You know those swap meet things? You bring stuff to sell or trade…sometimes you make out with a sweet wooden tennis racket or old bowling shoes. I don’t know if they happen much anymore but I have memories of going to them when I was young and being real excited until I realized everything there was shit.

Anywho, the soccer version of this is always rumored in Europe but rarely actually happens. That didn’t seem to stop Inter and Barcelona from pulling off a blockbluster player swap….Eto’o, Aliaksandr Hleb, and ~$85M USD (around 50M Euros) for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Nothing has been signed but a FCB director has said it is completed and all that’s left is players signatures. Ibrahimovic has left Inter’s American camp to return home to Sweden before an apparent trip to Barcelona for a Monday unveiling.
The NFL parallel would be something like Adrian Peterson for Clinton Portis, Chris Cooley, and a 1st Round Pick. Would Minnesota give up AP for all that? Probably….would Washington? Probalby not but you never know w/Daniel Snyder (although, for arguments sake, lets say he’s a non-factor)
This is a fascinating deal for many reasons.
  • Barcelona won an unprecented Triplete this past season and Eto’o played a huge role, scoring 30 goals in La Liga (2nd overall) and becoming only the 2nd player to score in 2 Champion League Finals.
  • He was integral to FCBs back to back La Liga titles in 2005/2006, survived the exodus last summer (despite a ton of rumors), and as mentioned, rediscovered his form for this fantasy seasons.
  • He’s a 3 time African Footballer of the year…and there are a lot of good African footballers.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Serie A in goals scored with 25 and has been integral to Inter’s 4 consecutive titles…although his move is much less thought provoking.
From Inter’s perspective though, it was almost too good of an offer to be true. Swap 1 world class striker for another, only 1 year difference in age, and while Eto’o is a different type of player than Ibra, his ability to score goals is as natural as anyone in the world. When on form, you could make an argument for either being a top 3 striker in the world. They also receive Aliaksandr Hleb, a quality midfielder who never found his place in Catalunya but strengthens Inter’s squad as their midfield has been what is holding them back in Europe. Most shockingly they will also receive €50,000,000 EUROS

Seriously?!?!?! WTF?!?!? What kind of valuation is Barca using where they could believe that Ibrahimovic is valued that much higher than Samuel Eto’o? Do they feel it is this necessary to keep the squad fresh enough in hopes of preventing any sort of complacency?
He lacks the pace that Eto’o brings but his touch is an upgrade and considering the type of soccer that FCB likes to play, short/quick passes that require a lot of touch, maybe the brain trust thinks that he is the optimal type of striker. He also represents a size upgrade and will probably cause more problems in the air for opposing defenders. And finally, his ability to switch to the wing is a little more natural than Samuel, which could make that trident up front (Henry, Ibra, Messi) a little more fluid and allow Henry to play in the middle a little more than last year.
Overall…I like what it does to Barcelona’s team moving forward. I do think that Ribery would have been more of an upgrade, and altho it might have prevented the fluidity just mentioned, he is more versatile and could have helped Pep employ more rotation within the midfield and in the case that Messi doesn’t stay healthy (god forbid), provide an equally dangerous winger. Also, it’s not my money so I won’t get buyer’s remorse.
Eto’o does have a reputation for being a little inflamatory. Refusing to come on as a sub, being a “this is my job, i want to make as much cash as possible” and not a club first player. This could have also encouraged Barcelona to sell high but if you are selling high, how do you end up giving away €50M Euros as well?
An interesting move for Inter too, Eto’o has big shoes to fill in a league where goals are harder to come by. I imagine he will fit well and does bring Champions League experience to a team with out much of it. Let’s see if Inter doesn’t use this money to make another huge signing, it is widely known that Signore Mourinho has been in search of a top class midfielder since his arrival.
And now…a few videos to introduce you all…
First…Mr Zlatan Ibrahimovic
And now my ganked tributes to Samuel Eto’o…god speed good man

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A few random points/finds from around the soccer universe…

Summer of Soccer???
This “World Football Challenge” that has been providing a great array of soccer on ESPN/ESPN2 over the past few weeks has provided more soccer in a summer that has been full of it. It also provides excellent variety to a sports landscape that is really limited to baseball and the terrible nature of the Mets. From a business perspective this WFC has also been quite a success…
CAA Sports has “sold 14 sponsorships and more than 240,000 tickets” to the six-game World Football Challenge exhibition series, according to Tripp Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. CAA expects to sell “more than 300,000 tickets to the six games,” which began Sunday in Palo Alto and end this Sunday in Foxborough. All of the matches are “being shown on ESPN, which is covering production costs and sharing advertising revenue with CAA.” Sponsors of the event include State Farm, Volkswagen, Bridgestone, Stanley Tools, Lucas Oil, SpongeTech, Verizon, Burger King, Aaron’s (furniture), O’Reilly Auto Parts, Logic Wireless, 7-Eleven, Anheuser-Busch and EA Sports. Sponsors receive “full-board signage during games, 30-second spots on ESPN and clock wraps during game telecasts.” CAA Sports marketing exec Paul Danforth “led the sales effort” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/20 issue).

Greg Lalas has surmised that the MLS and the USMNT have helped Soccer generate a lot of buzz in the state this summer and it could be the start of something more.

The prototypical American Sports Nut, Bill Simmons, has addressed it multiple times and given his own reasons for why soccer is on the verge of taking off in the states. (Almost half way down….) He also discusses it with Colin Cowherd in his BS Report podcast from 7/8. (I think its post 30-min mark)

I am going to take the easy way out here and say its some combination of all of the above. I do think that one of the most important pieces is the increased acessibility of the top flight European leagues on American TV. Fox Soccer channel getting all UEFA rights and going HD towards the end of this year should help increase . ESPN buying select La Liga games for both the networks and ESPN 360 (If you don’t think they are showing El Classico on 11/29 on ESPN/ESPN2, you are crazy) Nothing is going to increase this sport’s popularity as fast as accessible/heavy exposure of the weekly quality that can only be found in the top 3-4 leagues.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?


First off, I can’t believe the end of a decade since y2k is upon us. With this in mind, Goal.com has done a cool feature, naming teams of the decade from major clubs and national teams over the past few weeks. As my knowledge is sparse pre-2005, I found them all both educational and thought provoking. Take a look….

As they come out with more, I will update.

Also…can’t forget….tonight, 7PM EST, FSC, US v Honduras

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Despite being stretched for the full 120 minutes, the US was able to qualify for a semi final date with Honduras thanks to an extra time penalty from Kenny Cooper. A few quick thoughts from the game and on the Thursday night semi-final against Honduras in Chicago…

Stuart Holden has continued to establish himself as the integral offensive cog for this iteration of the national team. Feeding Kenny Cooper on the play that drew the penalty, letting the ball run past him on the Beckerman equalizer, and sliding just wide on a beautiful give and go mid-way through the 2nd half.

Davy Arnaud impressed me greatly as well and it was unfortunate that he came off. Not sure I believe in the Cooper/Ching pairing as they are very similar players. If BB wants two strikers, one should be in the Arnaud/Davies mold…smaller, faster, more comfortable with the ball at his feet. Ching and Cooper’s strength is not feeding other players to provide much service to eachother.

Kyle Beckerman has been invaluable throughout this tournament as well, making his way from box to box, distributing the ball well and coming up with a huge/timely equalizer last night as well. Whether there is room for him on the ‘A’ team is yet to be seen but he has put in a good showing for himself so far.

I thought Jimmy Conrad played a superb first half and despite being beat in the air for the Panama goal, Clarence Goodson filled in admirably for the 2nd half really doing everything he could to limit their chances. If Conrad’s concussion is serious though, he will be missed for the duration of this tournament.

Heath Pearce looks good coming forward out of the left back role and should cement himself within the ‘A’ team. I do prefer having Bocanegra out there but Pearce has shown that he can provide a solid backup/secondary option.

Moving into the semi-finals it remains to be seen if BB chooses to pull from his extended pool of players. I can’t seem to find who that pool includes but BB has hinted that he is going to go with what he has here. Not sure this is the best option as winning the Gold Cup could go a long way in establishing World Cup seeding, as Greg Lalas explains here.

BB has done a great job of getting 80+ players capped during his 3 year tenure as the the USMNT coach and he has continued during the early stages here. At this point though, he needs to focus on winning this tournament and therefore putting the best possible team out there. As admirable as it would be win this tournament with a team that is basically a ‘B’ team, there are no points awarded for level of difficulty.

The key cogs in the group stage 2-0 win over Honduras, Davies and Feilhaber, are with their club teams in Europe now and are tehrefore unavailable for the upcoming semi-final. Who is going to step up in order for the US to win is the question for the next 4 days….

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The US is through to the elimination round, expectedly.

Feilhaber, Davies, Adu, Cherundolo, and Parkhurst are back in Europe as the shortest offseason imaginable comes to a conclusion.
Jozy Altidore seems to be in Florida with his family while his club future is being determined.
So let’s take a look at where the US goes from here (hopefully) and how…
Panama has had a pretty good showing in Gold Cup v2009 thus far and an absolute thrashing of Nicaragua has put them through to the quarter finals.
The US could struggle with out Feilhaber and Davies who proved to the shot needed against Honduras. However, I like what Stuart Holden and Kyle Beckerman have shown thus far, two stars of the tournament for the US.
Robbie Rogers has pace that can be dangerous but I get frustrated when pace alone is considered dangerous. Pushing the ball forward and trying to run by your man is predictable from about minute 10 on and often leads to loss of possession. It might work against some lesser teams but these opponents are nothing if not athletic. The players who have pace and are dangerous, are those who are unpredictable with it and keep the defenders guessing about which way they’ll go, which foot will be used, what the player is thinking, etc. Personally, I haven’t seen RR exhibit any of the necessary skill to go along with his pace to make him an international threat.
Stuart Holden on the other hand has been calm on the ball, shown excellent balance, has done a great job of finishing and distributing. There have been calls for Rogers to get a nod next summer but I think BB would be making a grand mistake to leave Holden home.
The next few games come down to him and beckerman continuing their coordination in the middle. They also need Santino Quaranta, one of the feel good stories of the tournament, to continue his playmaking. He is dangerous from the outside, confident with the ball and not afraid to think creatively. His finishing is also quite good and he is once again putting himself in the top tier of American players.
If they can get by Panama I hope you see BB pick up some more of that extended roster he was granted so generously by CONCACAF.
See it tomorrow night, 8 PM on FSC.

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Apparently the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) decided to schedule the August 12th World Cup Qualifying match against the US at 3PM local time (4PM EST).

This continues the trend between the two nations of going a step further in order to really cement their home field advantages….
The last US/Mexico qualifier (a 2-0 US victory) was a February game, played in the cold, 92% white/black, midwestern city of Columbus, OH. Compared with the other soccer markets in this country, Columbus is likely the most homogeneously American/least Hispanic (2.5% of the pop.). The last thing USSoccer wanted, understandably, was to hold it somewhere that the crowd could end up pro-opposition (read: Mexican).
Not really sure how a 3PM kick off would serve to increase the home field advantage, but I don’t know why the FMF would do this unless they thought it was providing some sort of advantage. I am sure those 114k+ with tickets will still find a way to go and the stadium will still be a raucous mess for the Americans. Some possible advantages from an early game…

  • It’s so hot in Mexico in August that by 8PM everyone is just so tired that they can’t be as loud?
  • Mexicans love to drink around noon more than around 5 PM so they will get drunker and be even rowdier for a 3PM kickoff?
  • You might think that 3PM would be brutally hot in Mexico City in August (the anti-Columbus, OH in Feb effect) but apparently b/c it’s so elevated the climate is really mild and the avg Aug high temperature isn’t even 80 degrees. That also rules out bullet point number 1.
  • They think the Americans will be thrown off by a 3PM competitive game???
I am all for trying to increase your home field advantage in any sport but, honestly, I have no idea what the thinking behind this is….please let me know if you have a view…
I do know that for me it means I am either going to have to construct an excuse to leave my cubicle earlier than usualy or pull the always difficult, avoidance of sports news for a few hours and watch on DVR…at least 4PM is closer to EOD than those 2:30 Champions League starts.

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As has been widely reported this AM…Oguchi Onyewu has been obtained by AC Milan on a free transfer from Standard Liege in Belgium. Interestingly enough, during his time in Belgium, Onyewu was able to get a Belgian passport and therefore will count as an EU player for Milan, thus easing the transfer process.

This is arguably the biggest transfer move ever for an American player. Milan is a club who has just regained entry into the Champions League after the Calciopoli events of 2006 and consequences put them out of the competition since that spring. Additionally, they have just seen one of the all time great Italian Defenders and AC Milan legend, Paolo Maldini, end his 24 year tenure with the club.
This has resulted in an offseason devoted to attempting to strengthen their squad in order to improve on their 3rd place Serie A finish and to impress in their return to the CL. Additionally, they are obviously seeking defensive reinforcements. Thirdly, you will probably see another move or two from them after their sale of Kaka left them with a little extra cash.
In an attempt to temper the enthusiasm, let’s remember that this is only the first step and at its core, a huge opportunity for Onyewu. Alessandro Nesta, has a hold on 1 of the 2 center back positions but as the roster stands at this time, the other one is up for grabs. With Thiago Silva as the only other established defender, it is safe to assume that Milan brought him in to compete immediately for a starting role.
Here’s to Oguchi and him making the best of a fcking awesome opportunity!
Others….and their thoughts….

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