Thursday, 19 July 2018

Frosty Reception for Team Sky


If cyclists were to use football parlance then Wednesday at La Rosiere was such a moment for Mikel Nieve of Mitchelton-Scott to feel “gutted” when after a lengthy breakaway on Stage 11 of the Tour de France, his efforts fell asunder. Just a few hundred of metres from the finish line. His former Sky teammates, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, flashing past Frosty – as he was named by Sky – to leave the Spaniard fifth despite a hard day’s work. Indeed, leading on his own on the final kilometres of the climb. But such is the sport of cycling that it so often features thankless moments and drains any sentimentality one might feel. Perhaps part of the overall fascination of the sport even amidst the perennial drug allegations. 

The sheer physical demands of the Alpine stages are always full of drama and require super human effort. Which although can offer enthralling spectacle it also means that performance enhancement is part and parcel of it all. A history of the Tour which goes well beyond just Lance Armstrong and a total list that is almost endless: Alberto Contador, Marco Pantani, Pedro Delgado, Thomas Ullrich, Richard Virenque – to just name a few. Curiously, in recent times it is the fate of the one-time domestiques of Team Sky that offer a footnote to these events. As once outside the team and that bubble their air of invincibility as individuals fades. All of a sudden real life embraces them one by one with Nieve experiencing that on Wednesday.

Australian Richie Porte, a one-time favourite perhaps to win the Tour - based on his work at Team Sky - fell victim yet again to injury this year after another accident ending hopes of a Grand Tour victory. In 2015, and indeed 2013, Porte’s hard work were key to Sky victories at the Tour. So, in 2016 when he declared he was leaving for BMC and seen as an ideal replacement for fellow countryman Cadell Evans, a victory was almost expected. Unfortunately, last year a bad fall ended his chances as it has this year on the cobbled roads to Roubaix on Sunday. 

Mikel Landa was another who spent a season as a domestique at Team Sky and fulfilled his fair share of duties at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta for \=Froome & Co. Like a number of the prominent Spanish cyclists he came from Euzkatel-Euzkadi - a Basque team which lost its funding in 2013 - with many promising riders on the books. But last year Landa moved to Team Movistar which placed him alongside Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde. If not as an equal it promised a future more appealing than slaving for Froome or Thomas for yet another season. 

On the way to La Rosiere Landa showed flashes of ambition but under team instruction no doubt remained in the peloton with Quintana as Thomas and Froome raced away. The frustration of not seeing Movistar battle was lessened by the breakaways of Valverde and Marc Soler on Wednesday. Perhaps the team hatching plans for Alpe d’Huez stage on Thursday’s long stage. Which may stifle the criticism of Movistar’s lack of ambition and willingness to compete with Team Sky despite a gala a roster. Although the team showed they have the ability to upset but perhaps lacked the belief on Stage 11. On Wednesday there was a sense of their talent and a possibility beyond just the team prize.

Meanwhile it was left to Nieve to make the run on his own. Another of that Eustakel generation Nieve showed why he nurtured his own ambitions outside the Sky team. The climbing specialist moving to Orica-Scott on a two-year deal in 2018. A reward for the 33-year-old after he assisted Froome in winning the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Tour de France. With a strong CV, Frosty has ridden in 13 Grand Tours and achieved five top 10 placings. At La Rosiere he was unlucky as G forced the issue just as Frosty ran out of steam. Perhaps victim of inside knowledge that only a former teammate of the Spanish rider would have at hand. Leaving him in his wake with Froome, Tom Dumoulin of Sunweb and Damiano Caruso of BMC all taking the first four places on the stage. 

Thursday may haunt Nieve as he wonders about the far-reaching power of Team Sky or Lady Luck. A bit like Porte no doubt. But both riders have had good seasons already and these are just short-term hiccups. In fairness, Nicholas Roche had a short sojourn at Sky and has battled with BMC Racing over recent years more competitively and unshackled. Looking at a top five place at La Vuelta at one stage in 2017. More importantly, enjoying the sport more now with BMC rather than just a being a Team Sky domestique. Viviani signed for Team Sky from Cannondale in 2015, riding the Giro d’Italia in 2015 and 2016 as part of the British team. However, he was reportedly unhappy about not being selected for his home Grand Tour in 2017 and departed despite having one year left on his contract. A move to Quick-Step this season saw him enjoy a very successful Giro D’Italia in Israel.

Obviously the most famous former Team Sky rider, Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour 2012 shared his views on the team with Eurosport this week, highlighting the possibility that Thomas might take the yellow jersey in Tuesday’s first Alpine stage, 

“This is where it gets difficult, as we hit the first mountain stage,” Wiggins said. “If Geraint stays where he is and takes the yellow jersey they’ve got a real problem on their hands.

“Both riders have got this joint leadership role, but that’s dangerous. But the quality they have in that team, they could end up first or second.”

Wiggins continued, describing the Team Sky principal, Dave Brailsford, as “divisive” and “self-serving.” He said: “Does Dave B come in and do his usual and be quite divisive and get in each other’s ear and kind of keep them both motivated for the same goal and there be a natural selection?

“Dave will be telling them they can both win it, as a way of motivating them, as a way of playing these cards deep in to the race. He’s quite self-serving. For him it’s about the team winning, it’s not about the individuals or the characters. He will always be in those riders’ ears constantly, and he has been, up till now as you can see.”

Last year Dan Martin revealed he declined a contract offer from Team Sky the British World Tour outfit seeing the Irishman as a replacement for Landa and offered the chance to focus on some events, including one-week stage races, for himself with Team Sky. But when it came to the Tour de France he would then ride for Chris Froome. However, when UAE Team Emirates saw him as outright team leader for the Tour de France it was an easy switch from Quick-Step. In the 2018 Toru Martin has looked strong and clearly hay with his choice.

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Thursday Stage 12


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Luis Enrique - Real Barca Leader for Spain


Although said before in Russia 2018 these words from Lionel Messi have never been more apt. “You have to show up in the World Cup, and in the World Cup anything can happen.”. In Argentina’s case this was certainly true when France brought an end to their involvement in this world cup. But the same could be said of Germany and Spain who also found the going tough and seemed unable to react and remain in the competition. With Joachim Loew deciding to remain as head and Argentina hopeful that Messi will continue to play for the national team. It seems that Spain may face the most turmoil. A continuation of the turmoil that started in Russia with the sudden departure of their manager, Lopetegui.

However, the subsequent performances of the Spanish team that has caused the most outrage and the players apparent lethargy under the stand-in manager, Fernando Hierro, that may prove the weakest link. In fairness former international and Real Madrid captain had the job thrust upon him under very difficult circumstances after travelling to Russia as an assistant. But football is unforgivably measured by results and so the early exit – albeit the last sixteen leaves may leave a few too many questions for Hierro to answer. So, there are names appearing in the press that could offer alternatives. One of them is former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique or another former Madrid player Michel – who has worked with Olympiacos in Greece and also in La Liga.

Clearly Hierro would not have be considered for the role of national manager in the normal course of events and would not have even viewed himself as a possible candidate – yet. But the truncated events however saw things develop rather differently and now see the novice manager emerge with his reputation not necessarily enhanced. His future career will lie elsewhere and stood down. Within days the Spanish Football Federation decided one Ex-Barcelona and Roma coach Luis Enrique has been appointed on a two-year contract. The 48-year-old former Spain midfielder has been out of management since leaving the Nou Camp last June.

Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales said: "The decision was unanimous. I like his commitment and he has turned down better-paid jobs in order to coach Spain. "He's a coach who has all the requirements the federation was looking for."

Enrique, who played for Real Madrid and Barcelona, won the La Liga, Spanish Cup and Champions League treble as Barca manager in 2015. His first game in charge will be a Uefa Nations League game away to England at Wembley on 8 September, with Jose Francisco Molina, a former Spain keeper, as their sporting director.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Federer Does Not Just Do it Anymore


Roger Federer has signed a deal with Japanese clothing company Uniqlo after ending his decades-long partnership with Nike. The new contract is reportedly worth $300m (£228m) over the next 10 years and was signed after Federer's deal with Nike expired in March.

The tennis star donned the Japanese brand at his Wimbledon match on Monday, but for now has kept his Nike shoes. The 36-year-old Swiss player first signed with Nike in 1994.

Sports news site ESPN reported the price tag of Federer's new deal, but Uniqlo has not shared the specific terms. The star athlete added that the partnership had "been a long time coming".

Uniqlo's current athlete lineup includes Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori and Australian golfer Adam Scott.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Nike said they "do not comment on athlete contracts".

"However, we are thankful and proud to have been a part of Roger's incredible journey and wish him the best in the future."

Nike still retains ownership of Federer's monogrammed RF line.

ESPN reported Federer's earnings on-court are around $116m, making this new deal more than double his current tennis paycheck.

The sports news website also said Nike had been given the chance to match the new contract but declined.

But as the Japanese company does not make tennis shoes, it appears likely he will continue to wear his Nike trainers.




Team Sky welcome Froome verdict


Team Sky have today welcomed the decision by the UCI to dismiss the case against Chris Froome.

Chris Froome said:
“I am very pleased that the UCI has exonerated me. While this decision is obviously a big deal for me and the Team, it’s also an important moment for cycling. I understand the history of this great sport – good and bad. I have always taken my leadership position very seriously and I always do things the right way. I meant it when I said that I would never dishonour a winner’s jersey and that my results would stand the test of time. 

“I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong. I have suffered with asthma since childhood. I know exactly what the rules are regarding my asthma medication and I only ever use my puffer to manage my symptoms within the permissible limits

“Of course, the UCI had to examine these test results from the Vuelta. Unfortunately, the details of the case did not remain confidential, as they should have done. And I appreciate more than anyone else the frustration at how long the case has taken to resolve and the uncertainty this has caused. I am glad it’s finally over.

“I am grateful for all the support I have had from the Team and from many fans across the world. Today’s ruling draws a line. It means we can all move on and focus on the Tour de France.” 

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said:
“We have always had total confidence in Chris and his integrity. We knew that he had followed the right medical guidance in managing his asthma at the Vuelta and were sure that he would be exonerated in the end, which he has been. This is why we decided that it was right for Chris to continue racing, in line with UCI rules, while the process was ongoing. We are pleased that it has now been resolved.

“Chris’s elevated Salbutamol urine reading from Stage 18 of the Vuelta was treated as a ‘presumed’ Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) by the UCI and WADA, which triggered a requirement for us to provide further information. After a comprehensive review of that information, relevant data and scientific research, the UCI and WADA have concluded that there was, in fact, no AAF and that no rule has been broken.

“We said at the outset that there are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of Salbutamol. The same individual can exhibit significant variations in test results taken over multiple days while using exactly the same amount of Salbutamol. This means that the level of Salbutamol in a single urine sample, alone, is not a reliable indicator of the amount inhaled. A review of all Chris’s 21 test results from the Vuelta revealed that the Stage 18 result was within his expected range of variation and therefore consistent with him having taken a permitted dose of Salbutamol.

“Chris has proved he is a great champion – not only on the bike but also by how he has conducted himself during this period. It has not been easy, but his professionalism, integrity and good grace under pressure have been exemplary and a credit to the sport. 

“The greatest bike race in the world starts in five days. We can’t wait to get racing again and help Chris win it for a record-equalling fifth time.”



Thursday, 28 June 2018

Future Path Unclear for Loew


The return to Frankfurt will bear little resemblance to that of four years ago when Juergen Loew and the German national team landed as world champions. This time after just one win out of three matches at Russia 2018 – including a sensational defeat by South Korea – the silence at the Deutscher Fuessball Bund (DFB) given Loew’s newly signed contract – will be deafening. As will the crowd at the airport. But the silence surely to be broken given the insipid and lethargic performances at the World Cup by the national team. With key players from four years ago absent without trace in Kazan when faced with an industrious South Korean side that played until the final whistle. Withy many senior players looking on absolutely bemused and lost on the field. 

Undoubtedly as holders there is more pressure and Germany confirmed the sequence that afflicted holders previously such as Italy, Spain, Brazil – and making a first-round exit. Proving yet again that reigning champions usually fail to pass the test four years after winning. Making consecutive world cup wins virtually an impossible task. However, for Germany there were signs during the Champions League of problems with some of their key men: Manuel Neuer’s season truncated with injury and looking only a shadow of his former self; Matt Hummels looking past his sell by date when Bayern faced Real Madrid over two legs; as did Thomas Mueller and indeed Jerome Boateng. 

It may also reflect a growing concern about the strength of the Bundesliga as it now is just a two or three team league. Given then that the Munich club delivers the majority of the national squad it all seems too cosy and lacking a competitive edge. As it may for Spain with a number of the players now over cooked after a long season with Real Madrid and perhaps too many years at international level. Or simply aging poorly in the modern game where their club is the main interest. In Germanys’ case Thomas Mueller fell victim to a similar fate and is nothing close to the MVP of Brazil four years ago. Not unlike Boateng, who apart from suffering an injury in the second games, cannot operate any longer in an environment where the game is not played at Bundesliga pace. Indeed, against Mexico the quick feet seemed to show up his weaknesses. 

In midfield the loss of a generations of talent such as Bastian Schweinsteiger was very noticeable with Toni Kroos a different style of player. Or losing Philippe Lahm who was more often than not operating as a right-sided midfielder rather than right full back. Then up front the loss of Lukas Podolski or Miroslav Klose makes Mario Gomez look less than average as the Germanys strike force on Wednesday night. The number 9 usually the heartbeat of their teams from the days of Ui Seeler in 1966, Gerd Mueller in 1974; Karl-Hein Rummenigge and Hansi Muller in 1978; Pierre Littbarski, Klaus Fischer and Rummenigge again in 1982; Rudi Voeller in 1986; or as in 1990 with Klinsmann; then for years later in 1994 with Oliver Bierhoff; followed by arrival of Klose and Christophe Metzelder and then Podolski. Apart from a curious era where Carsten Janckers was the best Germany could offer up front. 


Yet Loew did not favour blooding new talent in the past four years and understandably after losing the first game against Mexico he did not have the luxury. Precluding nothing more than token opportunities for the likes of Julian Brandt, Jonas Hector, Sebastián Rudy or Nikias Sule. All of whom did show signs of a hunger that the senior players seemed to lack. But it was only a glimpse of a future that Loew did not seem yet to believe in. Clearly, the German squad reflected the tried and tested where the management remained comfortable since the departure of Juergen Klinsmann post 2006 world cup where Germany reached the semi-finals in their homeland. 

Although able to possibly irritate people, Klinsmann was always thinking and trying new things and his squads were always on their toes. But Loew operates the exact opposite and the predictability of not seeking inconvenience may have caught up with him. As did the qualifying where they won all their games with Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, San Marino and Azerbaijan. Arriving in Russia over confident and untested. Obviously in 2014 Loew worked with a hungry squad burdened with years of failure and desperate to win the trophy that the Franz Beckenbauer achieved for the nation - both as a player and manager. And never stopped reminding anyone who would listen. 

Then in 2014 the results of their national project started by the DFB post 2000-euro failure that moved the Bundesliga away from foreign players and in turn created centres of excellence at the clubs that delivered the world cup in 2010. The Nationalmannschaft’ S success had been patiently planned, engineered and inculcated as is the German way with nation by then waiting for such a victory for over a decade. 

"The lowest point came in Euro 2000 -- that was German football's nadir: very poor performances, a very poor team and very poor management," German football expert Ralph Honigstein told CNN in 2014. “It was Germany's performance in the 2002 World Cup, where they lost in the final to Brazil, helped papered over the cracks, but it would take another two years for the real changes to the national game to filter through. "The grass roots reforms were already in place by the time Jurgen Klinsmann took over with Joachim Low in 2004," added Honigstein.

"The 10-year development you've seen culminate in Brazil benefited from two changes being made at more or less the same time. Youth development was instilled to make sure young players were much better educated and had better facilities and coaching.” Honigstein explained, "And at the same time there was a change of philosophy and footballing ideas at the very top -- after 10 years these two elements fused quite brilliantly to deliver the World Cup. 

"You have to credit the chairman of the German Football Association (DFB) at the time, Gerhard Mayer, who realized the needs for reform. He was able to get all the Bundesliga clubs, including the big ones, on board. 

"They all signed up to create academies and there was a spirit of cooperation, which was especially pronounced in those years, because Germany had won the right to host a World Cup in 2006. There was a real fear the team and the footballing nation might embarrass themselves as hosts if they didn't make changes," said Honigstein. However, Germany's blueprint for change didn't come cheap and it needed the clubs to work closely with the DFB. 

"You need a lot of money and you need the commitment to do it. Very few countries could replicate what Germany has done. You have to consider they now have 366 centres of excellence for youth development throughout the country.” Albeit Bayern Munich has been the driving force of the national team because they produce the best youngsters, and they buy the best German players and hone them, to make them even better. It was no coincidence that when Bayern did well in the 1970’s, 1990’s and now, the national team has benefited. 

"Bayern, under former president Uli Hoeness, always kept the greater good of the national team at the back of their minds and that's an important factor for the success of German football," explained Honigstein. In Brazil Schweinsteiger would dedicate Germany's final performance to Hoeness, as the man responsible for many of the players being where they are. 

Such long-term planning and dedication to a single goal, by the time the last match was being played in Brazil in 2014, was in the final throes of its application. The squad and the 11 men on the pitch were the fruition of a design drawn up long ago. The path to glory sewn into the psyche of everyone involved as Honigstein explained, "The reality is, as soon as you start winning a lot of things people want to see you fail. You can play beautiful football, but people soon want another team to come to the fore and accuse you of arrogance if you win too easily. 

"Germany can still grow as a team with some really exciting youngsters, the likes of Marco Reus and Julian Draxler, coming through," added Honigstein, "I think the future is bright, but will Germany be adopted as the world's favourite team? I doubt it very much." The reality in 2018 shows that there is also matching declined from the top of a loss of hunger and a premature collapse. 

The truth is that a status quo has now developed where Loew was at his weakest it would appear form the outside. Underpinned by a declining talents and players that have become accustomed to having it their own way. With Mesut Ozil it was an error to persists with him and the team played better when he - and also Hummels and Mueller - were out against Sweden. Indeed, also Boateng was poor and quite rightly got suspended for a bad tackle in the second game. The ability of Draxler was never tested at this level despite doing it regularly at PSG, Schalke and Wolfsburg over the years. 

Others now need now to be given the chance over the coming four years and clear some of the deadwood. Five players are a carryover from South Africa and that reflects on Loew Teutonic system -which is far too rigid. 

Kroos as a midfield player is talented yet not in the physical and driving style of a Schweinsteiger or Lothar Matthaeus. Playing the role for Germany that Deschamps did for France - water carrying role. Albeit a bit more sophisticated one at Real Madrid - where Modric is the designated playmaker. For Germany that role is lost and the likes of Uli Hoeness, Rainer Bonhof or Michael Ballack types are missing. With Loew seemingly confused by his options and never sure whether up front Timo Werner is his best choice or Gomez. Pushing Mueller wider where he was truly ineffective. In Saami Khedira there was a lack of clarity for a game and a half. Yet as a tracking midfielder is what he does very well at Juventus 

Clearly the reliance on Ozil, a much-maligned player at Real Madrid, Arsenal and with Germany for his languid style, seems to have been a source of problems. Even outside the squad from past players; “Ozil’ s body language is like that of a dead frog, it’s pathetic,” Mario Basler, a Euro 96 winner with Die Mannschaft, told German television. Basler is known for being deliberately outspoken so Lothar Matthaeus’s criticism in his column with Sport Bild was considered more damning. “For a year or two, Özil has played much weaker and at a level that does not justify Jogi Loew's free ticket,” said Matthaeus, who played in five World Cups for Germany and won the tournament in 1990. 

"With Özil on the pitch I often have the feeling that he does not feel comfortable in the German jersey, almost as if he does not want to play. There is no heart, no joy, no passion.” 

Stefan Effenburg struck a similar tone and accused Low of making a “completely misjudgement” by starting Ozil over Reus against Mexico. Which would suggest that Loew has a limited future as the four-times champions, who have reached the last eight in 16 consecutive World Cups. 

Its the first time Germany have failed to pass the group stage since 1938.


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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Germany Record Loew in Russia


Germany manager Joachim Low says his side deserved to go out of the World Cup after they crashed out in the group stage in "historic" fashion. The defending champions finished bottom of Group F after losing 2-0 to South Korea, the first time Germany have gone out in the first round of a World Cup since 1938.

"This is something for us to reckon with," Low said. "This is historic. I am sure this will create some public uproar in Germany."

Sweden won the group with a 3-0 win over Mexico at the same time, which meant Germany needed to win their game in Kazan.

"We saw Sweden had taken the lead so we needed to keep the pressure up but our team was missing the ease of play and the classiness we usually have. So, we deserve to be eliminated, yes," said Low, who had never failed to reach a semi-final before in his 12-year reign.

"At this tournament we didn't deserve to win again or move to the round of 16. We were eliminated not because we didn't want to win but we never had the chance to take a lead at any point - we were always lagging behind, trying to keep up."

Both of the South Korean goals came in injury time. Kim Young-gwon scored from close range, a goal initially disallowed for offside but then awarded after video assistant referee consultation. And with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer losing the ball in South Korea's half, Ju Se-jong found Son Heung-min with a long ball and the Tottenham forward tapped into an empty net.

This is only the second time that Germany have been eliminated in the first round at a World Cup, with the last occasion back in 1938 before the tournament introduced group stages. In fact Germany had reached at least the semi-final in their last four World Cups - getting to the final twice. This is only their third time not reaching the last four since 1978, with quarter-final exits in 1994 and 1998 their worst runs in the following 40 years

Germany are the fourth defending champions to be eliminated from the group stage at the World Cup in the last five tournaments (also France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014). This is the first time Germany have not beaten an Asian team in the World Cup, winning the previous five meetings by an aggregate scoreline of 19-3

Germany lost their opener 1-0 to Mexico, but then beat Sweden 2-1, thanks to Toni Kroos' 95th-minute winner to give themselves hope going into the final game. Low decided to leave Thomas Muller - who has scored 10 World Cup goals in his career - on the bench for the first time in the tournament since the 2010 semi-final against Spain.

"According to what I saw today this was a good line up, Thomas Muller was not so convincing in the first two matches so I thought I would make a point. We had to take risks, we couldn't go on and wait and because of this we opened the doors in our defence.

"We had a good training camp, the team has worked well and we felt we would shift gears but we lost to Mexico when a point might have been different and we just couldn't make that switch.

"We were convinced that when the tournament started things would go well but that wasn't the case.

"We've been stepping up the pressure to score goals, certainly in second halves, but it didn't come together. We were dead, after their first goal. We realised there would be no opportunities for us.


"I'm shocked because we didn't manage to pull it off and beat South Korea. It wasn't my understanding when speaking to the team that they felt under pressure. They were ready to move ahead and qualify. We need to talk about it calmly and I think it will take some hours for us to come to terms with it."


Who is Florentino Perez


Florentino Perez Rodriguez splits his time between Spain's largest construction company, Grupo ACS (Actividades de Construccion y Servicios) and the world's most valuable sports team, Real Madrid. 

Perez essentially invented Real Madrid's modern business model, signing major stars like David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane in his first tenure as president, between 2000 and 2006, boosting commercial revenues and making the team number one in terms of worldwide sales. 

Re-elected in 2009, Florentino's Real Madrid outpaced Manchester United to become the world's most valuable soccer club in 2013. Florentino has also been president and CEO of Grupo ACS since 1997. 

He owns a 12.5% stake in the global construction company and his current net worth is estimated at $1.64b.

Pérez first ran for the presidency of Real Madrid in the 1995 election and campaigned on the poor financial situation of the club and the alleged mismanagement by the board. On that occasion he lost to the much loved incumbent Ramón Mendoza.

His second attempt was more successful when he took over as president in 2000, beating the current chairman at that time, Lorenzo Sanz. 

In his campaign Pérez also promised the incredible - to bring in Luís Figo from Barcelona – which played a key role in the outcome of the elections. He was then re-elected in 2004 on a similar platform – a policy to bring some of the best football players in the world to Real Madrid each season. 

The strategy became made the Real Madrid squad became known as Galácticos. 

In 2001, Zinedine Zidane was signed from Juventus for a then-world record transfer fee of €73.5 million. A move that was followed in 2009 with Ronaldo, after short periods of David Beckham and Michael Owen playing at the club in their later years. The Brazilian superstar Robinho was also signed in 2005 but failed to impress and was off loaded to Manchester City.

In the first Perez Presidency Real Madrid won two Spanish Championships and a record ninth Champions League trophy. The club also sold the valuable Ciudad Deportiva training ground in central Madrid and cleared the club’s outstanding debt.

In the 2002–03 season, Pérez decided not to renew Vicente del Bosque's contract, despite Real capturing a 29th La Liga title. The move led to the departure of a number of the old guard including Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Claude Makélélé.

Regardless increased financial success came the club’s way as it exploited marketing potential around the world, especially in Asia and North America. However, increasing criticism for the marketing of the brand and not enough success on the football pitch, saw Perez resign in 2006, acknowledging that the team and the club needed a new direction.

Amidst the economic crisis Pérez was the only one able to provide the €57,389,000 guarantee necessary to run for the presidency in 2008

In 2013 Pérez was awarded a fourth term as the Real Madrid president and brought in PSG manager Carlo Ancelotti – one of only six people to have lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup as both a player and coach. Also the second manager, after Bob Paisley, to win the trophy three times. As a player he won back-to-back European Cup triumphs in 1989 and 1990.

Pérez also brought Welsh footballer and PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur for €100m - again breaking the world record. 

Florentino also announced Real is seeking to sell the naming rights for its stadium and looking for a sponsor for the €400 million project. The proposed design of the stadium renovation, produced by German architects GMP, was unveiled in 2014. 

The new design includes a retractable roof, with the overall cost of around €400m likely to be met half via the sale of naming rights and half via a bond issue to Real members. 

"We want to make the Santiago Bernabéu the best stadium in the world".

The same season proved a resounding success, as Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey and its much sought after tenth Champions League title – La Decima

In 2015 Ancelotti’s contract was not renewed and his replacement was former Liverpool, and Napoli manager Rafa Benitez – and local boy come good - who joined last June.

On January 4th 2016 Zinedine Zidane replaced Rafa.

It has been a long-time dream of Florentino Perez that a former Galactico manage the Galacticos. The most decorated French footballer now gets that chance and Perez will hoe that he does not have a Materazzi moment.

Factfile - Florentino Perez
Age: 68
Source of Wealth: construction, Self-Made
Residence: Madrid, Spain
Citizenship: Spain
Marital Status: Married
Children: 3 
#12 billionaire in in Spain

Last five Real Madrid managers
Win percentage
Juande Ramos 2008-2009 66%
Manuel Pellegrini 2009-2010 75%
Jose Mouirnho 2010-2013 72%
Carlo Ancelotti 2013-2015 75%

Rafael Benitez 2015-2016 68%

Footie Quotes - Franz Beckenbauer


"The trouble for today's footballers is they have too many distractions. We used to get our old players coming to watch training with football magazines in their hands. Now, more often than not, they are checking the share prices."

Franz Beckenbauer










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ARCHIVE - German Football in Crisis

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There is a serious crisis afoot in Germany and it has been worrying the nation for many years, and this week raised it’s ugly head once more in the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv as the "The Mannschaft" readied to face the old enemy, Holland. 

Even in the deepest Ukraine the German football team would have been aware that 1996 was the last time the national team held the European Championship trophy, and 1990 since last seizing the World Cup title. So the two nil defeat from the Netherlands was efficient and effective, done with flair and no little skill, and followed by the minimum of celebrations as nothing has yet been won to solve the crisis. 

With a team averaging 23 years of age the German Football Federation DFB is now looking to reap the rewards on July 1st in Kiev for some of their long term planning. For them it is no surprise that four of the current team played in the EURO 2008 final, with a number of the others on the subs bench. 

But for Germans the crisis arose not after that loss in Vienna, but many years before when the game was actually on a high in 1997 with Borussia Dortmund winning the Champions League and Schalke 04 becoming UEFA Cup champions. Just a year after the win at Wembley in EURO 1996 final against the Czech Republic. The crisis identified at the time, was a lack of quality players in the Bundesliga

Part of the problem being that the ready supply of former east German professionals – arriving since unification in 1989 – and products of those specialised sports schools which they joined at a young age in the old German Democratic Republic were no longer in existence. To compound the problem Bundesliga clubs were busy with the newly discovered TV money and were spending their budgets on big name players from abroad – a number that grew from 17 percent in 1992 to 34 percent five years later. Then reaching 50% by the year 2000. 

All leading to a crisis for the national manager Berti Vogts who was faced with a serious lack of German strikers in the Bundesliga to select for major tournaments. 

Consequently the Deutsche Fussball Bund [DFB] went through an emergency phase of chasing anyone with a vague German background, offering citizenship to South African Sean Dundee playing for Karlsruher, and then Brazilian Paulo Rink of Leverkusen. Neither of whom proved a long term solution forcing the DFB in 1999 - under their vice president of day - Franz Beckenbauer to seek a better alternative. For that purpose he collected the input from a number of key football people in Germany. The result of which were two key initiatives. 

The first was to create 121 national talent centres to help 10 to 17 year-olds with technique, and a requirement for all 36 professional clubs in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to build youth academies. Fortunately their initiative also coincided also with the liberalisation of the citizenship laws and a willingness by the DFB to actively integrate young footballers from the new immigrant groups. In 2000 when Germany were named hosts of 2006 World Cup it accelerated that vision as the country came together to boost the national footballing effort. 

But perhaps the biggest happenstance in the domestic game – which at first appeared a major crisis – was the collapse in 2002 of Kirch TV, the company that been funding the Bundesliga for over a decade. Not unlike the ITV Digital’s collapse in 2002 in the UK, it left many clubs with over-geared budgets, huge wage bills that would have only been possible through TV money - and could not be honoured anymore. As result many players were then released. 

In Germany the Kirch collapse meant that the imported players, all attracted to the Bundesliga by the generous pay scales, were on their way out. The result being that it then propelled the unknown younger local talent into the first team of many Bundesliga clubs - by default. Ironically it has been onward and upward in German football ever since. 

In Spain the history is probably slightly different, but in the same vein, as the academies of Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Real Madrid are producing talents such Ces Fabregas, Xavi, Lionel Messi, Raul, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres, all learning to play a system at Barcelona for instance, which was a legacy of Johan Cruyff's affinity with the club since 1973. 

The result of which has been La Liga teams dominant in the European Cup competitions, including this year as the Europa League final was played between Valencia and Atletico de Madrid, with Athletic Bilbao eliminated in the semi-final. Which in away addresses the misnomer that Spanish football is just about the two top clubs – Real and Barca. 

Let us not forget either the French successes in the 1998 World Cup and the EURO 2000 were a product of the French Football Federation [FFF] blueprint at Clairefontaine which cultivated players of the calibre of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka, David Trezeguet, and so on. With a number of high profile coaches like Gerard Houllier also establishing reputations all over Europe. 

All long term development and a story often told by former Republic of Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, given that he came across many of those names during his time at under age tournaments he attended all over the world for the Football Association of Ireland. The amazing thing being that most of them made it through to the national team, as the new players continue to do for France to this day.

All of which some how will lead us back to the undoubted recriminations for the Republic of Ireland, the Football Association of Ireland and manager Giovanni Trapattoni, after the team became the first side to be eliminated from EURO 2012 after the 4 – 0 rout by world champions Spain in Gdansk. 

More worryingly however for Irish football, is what good is the Premier League in England as ot offers little of the learning apparent in the German Bundesliga. In fact it is is evidenced every time an England manager gets injuries in his squad ahead of a major tournament as there seems little strength in depth.

For all the good Peter Scudamore CEO of the Premier League might claim for the domestic game the facts do not bear that benefit out in real terms as young English players are failing to get into their club sides given the competition from the increasing number of overseas players. Which is not a jingoistic observation, but a factual one as at least 65% of the players in English game are now foreigners. 

The top source for players being France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and in that order. 

When it comes to the English national team and injuries occur to players like Frank Lampard or Gareth Barry, there always appears to be no replacements at hand or even being blooded. Yet an English team has either won or appeared in the Champions League every other year since 2005 – the top club competition in Europe – too often three quarters overseas players. 

But if all the young talent from the club academies was blooded correctly then it would not be an issue for the national team. This proclivity highlighted even more when clubs announce their transfers in the close season, as the chances are few players are being chased. Unlike the days of the record breaking signings of Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Roy Keane. 

Soon it will;  be difficult to justify the costly club academies when agents keep providing cheaper overseas options, and clubs are unable recoup their investment with regular transfer fees of the players they have developed since 15 or 16 years of age. Also, domestic players appear to be more costly – given the valuation of Andy Carroll at £35m last season as an index.
No doubt some day there will be a Kirch type moment when fans, sponsors or pay-tv subscribers find the Premier League no longer attractive. Or value for money and the income slows down. 

At least one of the highest earners in the world Wayne Rooney is eligible for England and his salary of £17.6m will see some return as long as Manchester United remain a top Champions League club. The striker also scores for the national team regular. However the salaries for Sergio Aguero at Manchester City of £14.7m and Yaya Toure on £13.9m or indeed, Fernando Torres at Chelsea are costly to the game as it’s currently structured and that income that is leaving the English game. 

In Germany, Philip Lahm is the highest paid player on £11.9M, and in fairness it’s a right earned after a nearly a decade playing for his national team – and his German club Bayern Munich. 

With the new BSkyB and British Telecom deal worth £3.018 billion to the Premier League - a substantial increase on the current £1.178 billion three-year UK deal that runs until the end of the 2012-13 season - it would be naive to believe that this increased money will not be spent by club’s to increase wages for some players. Or allow clubs chase some up to now unobtainable targets on the continent. Which all only adds to the long term problem 

In the more modest Irish case, the cost of Trapattoni and his backroom team, does not come cheap either - albeit it is subsidised between the FAI and a leading businessman. 

With qualification for Poland and Ukraine accruing significant prizemoney from UEFA - of about €8m - the costs of that are covered in many ways. However the poor results on Thursday and Sunday show that the same money could be used for a longer term strategy, as at the age of 73 Giovanni Trapattoni is hardly the future for the next batch of Irish players for the Brazil 2014 world cup campaign. 

Unless, Marco Tardelli is the automatic replacement and the continuity – in the German style of Klinsmann and his assistant Joachim Loew - by the Football Association of Ireland. Otherwise we just repeat the problems that have beset the FA in England over the years with managers and other countries 

In the meantime the short term chasing qualification for tournaments with no real longer term, strategy seems wasteful - and Gdansk proved that point beyond doubt. Indeed, even if Pep Guardiola was managing Republic of Ireland there is only so far guile, guts and gusto can get a team at this level. 

The absence of a serious domestic league – as exists in every other country in Europe – truncates the development of Irish players into the hands of clubs in Scotland, England and Wales. With all the quirks that managerial changes at any given club can have on a player's long term career. 

Which in effect will always dictate the Republic of Ireland’s future and always be the limitation on the ability to improve much beyond 18th place in the current world rankings. 

In the short term though, and like the Dutch FA, Irish football needs to accept a series of strategic objectives as the DFB started in 1997, if the fans are to travel to far flung destinations of Poznan, Suwon, New York and Stuttgart. Just carrying the torch of hope for moral support is no longer a "plan". Or indeed blueprint for anything other than nights singing Ole Ole Ole.

As part of Irelands’ strategic goal there must be real targets in place  and the involvement of former players - like Roy Keane – who should be asked to help on some key deliverables from English clubs where they have influence. As former managers too they could work for the long term gain of Irish football and in return ensure a minimum target is met of qualification every two years to the major football tournaments. After all, the next EURO will have 24 teams qualifying and the world cup is already extended to an inordinate number of teams, which makes it unfeasible on both counts for any Republic of Ireland manager as it is 

What the EURO 2012 has shown that an absence of ten years since the last time Ireland qualified for Korea and Japan, a generation of fans missed out on Germany 2006, Euro 2008 and South Africa 2010. Meaning the expectation for fans this time around in Poland was based on the folklore handed down by those who had actually been in Stuttgart, Genoa or New York. All grossly exaggerated and bearing no reality to the real task at hand in a tough 16 team tournament where the opponents in Group C were Croatia, Italy and Spain. 

Which barring an upset offered little chance for Ireland to further progress. 

Sadly the BSkyB deal maybe the death knell for development of future Irish talent and will mean that the days of seeing the likes of Liam Brady, Roy Keane, Niall Quinn, Kevin Moran, Ronnie Whelan, Paul McGrath – in large numbers - at major clubs may never be repeated in our lifetime. The national team will be the loser of that experience and reliant on players battling it out in the championship Or at best the struggling Premier League teams. 

All very unlike the EURO 1988 squad where the Irish players were stars at major clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Aston Villa, or Celtic - and to boot were all winners in their own right of League titles, FA or League Cups. But those days too seem of a bygone era. 

And the Germans think they have a crisis?

Republic of Ireland, EURO 1988 team 
Packie Bonner: Celtic 
Scottish League: 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1988, Scottish Cup: 1980, 1988; Scottish League Cup: 1983 

Chris Morris, Celtic 
Scottish League: 1988, Scottish Cup: 1988; 

Chris Hughton; Tottenham Hotspur 
FA Cup: Winner 1981 & 1982), UEFA Cup 1984; FA Charity Shield: Winner (1981), runner up (1982). 

Mick McCarthy; Celtic 
Scottish Premier League 1988; Scottish Cup 1988 

Kevin Moran; Manchester United 
Dublin GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship (2): 1976, 1977; Leinster Senior Football Championship (3): 1975, 1976, 1977; Manchester United FA Cup 1982–83, 1984–85; FA Charity Shield 1983 

Ronnie Whelan; Liverpool 
League Championship 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988; FA Cup 1986; League Cup 1982, 1983, 1984; Charity Shield; 1982, 1986, 1988; European Cup 1984 Super Cup 1986 

Paul McGrath, Manchester United 
FA Cup: 1985 

Ray Houghton; Liverpool 
League Championship 1988; League Cup 1986; 

John Aldridge; Liverpool 
Newport County Welsh Cup 1980; Oxford United, 3rd Division Winners 1984; 2nd Division, Winner 1985; Football League Cup 1986; League Championship 1988; Charity Shield 1988; 

Frank Stapleton; Manchester United 
Arsenal FA Cup 1979; Manchester United Charity Shield 1983; FA Cup 

Tony Galvin; Tottenham Hotspur 
FA Cup winner 1981; FA Cup winner 1982; UEFA Cup winner 1984 


©MrPundit 
First publshed June 15th 2012