Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The top 10 Asian players in Europe 2010-11

It's fair to say the highlight of the 2010-11 European season for Asian football was the number of players who had breakthrough campaigns with their clubs.

The apparent increase in Japanese players heading to Europe to embark on club careers arguably had an influence, but the number of young footballers from around Asia developing their game abroad certainly bodes well for the future.

With that in mind, let's take time to reflect on the Top 10 Asians in Europe for the 2010-11 season.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The top 10 most expensive defenders of all time. Rio Ferdinand at 1st.

Big-spending Spanish giants Real Madrid confirmed this week that they have made Benfica's Portuguese full-back Fabio Coentrao their latest mega-money signing, as they begin their summer shopping assault that they hope will see them overhaul Barcelona at home and in Europe next season.

There was a day when defenders were not high on president Florentino Perez's shopping list, but his 'Zidanes y Pavones' policy has been ripped up in recent years, with the left-back becoming Los Blancos' second €30 million (£26.9m) purchase in their backline alongside compatriot Pepe.

But they are not the only club to have spent big at the back over the years, and indeed are joined by two other sides - Barcelona and Chelsea - in having a pair of entries in the list of the 10 most expensive defenders.

Let's runs through the 10 costliest stoppers in the world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 European Under-21 Championship Team of the Tournament

'Dominance' should be the sole term used to describe Spain's recent success on the international stage, as the nation added yet another trophy to their recent haul by winning the 2011 European Under-21 championship on Saturday evening with a 2-0 win over Switzerland.

The triumph rests alongside the senior team's Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup victories, not to mention the recent accomplishments of club side Barcelona.

Often seen as a glimpse into the future as to which young players could become stars of the game, the tournament provided excitement and spectacular individual displays in abundance.

Indeed, the eight-team event provided a platform to showcase some of the best talents from the continent.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Chinese club now boasts the world's third highest paid player after Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo

Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande made quite the splash this week when they signed Fluminense's Argentine midfielder Dario Conca to a deal reportedly worth £23.6 million over two and a half years, making him the world's third-highest paid player behind superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Pretty impressive for a footballer who is nearing his thirties and has never been capped by his country, nor played in Europe.

Admittedly, there is some uncertainty about the finer details of the agreement, but it is still massive money. Conca's Fluminense boss Abel Braga made that clear when he said: “This offer will put him in the top 10 highest-paid players in the world.”

Well, for starters, this is a club from China's third-largest city with an urban population of some 12 million. The city itself is a key transport hub in China's south, just 100-odd kilometres north of Hong Kong and Macau.

As for the club, Guangzhou Evergrande are the current leaders of China's Super League, holding a seven-point advantage from second-placed Beijing Guoan after 14 matches in the 30-game campaign. They look certainties to, at least, qualify for the 2012 AFC Champions League and are the clear favourites for the 2011 title.

Not bad for a club that 12 months ago were in China's second-tier League One.
However, their rapid rise isn't down to luck, rather the influence of the deep pockets of the club's wealthy owners Evergrande Real Estate Group (hence the latter half of the club's name), who took over following their relegation in 2009. Evergrande are one of the biggest real estate companies in China and their chairman Xu Jiayin is one of the richest men in the country, too, ranked 200 in the 2011 Forbes Global Wealthiest List.

If you know much about world economics, you'd realise property is big business right now in China and that's beginning to have an effect on football, with more investment from companies such as Evergrande.

Earlier this week, real estate giants Dalian Wanda committed to a £47m sponsorship deal with the Chinese Football Association, which would underwrite several projects. It's a colossal agreement that has some people talking about a new beginning for Chinese football, the game's sleeping giant.

Whatever the case, the point is the real estate industry holds major power in the nation and there's few better examples of that than Guangzhou Evergrande's current position, which most attribute to their financial might.

Soon after being relegated in 2009 following a match-fixing scandal, Evergrande assumed control and began investing in the squad, luring several high-profile additions including former English Premier League midfielder Zheng Zhi as well as Korean coach Lee Jang-Soo, who had previously all but guided Beijing Guoan to the Chinese title in 2009 before being sacked late in the campaign after a squabble with directors.

If promotion was ever in doubt, a club-record £2.2m was spent on Brazilian striker Muriqui midway through the campaign, before he added 13 goals in 14 games to help Guangzhou finish League One champions.

However, Evergrande's investment didn't end with promotion. In February, they set a new Chinese transfer record of £2.8m on Brazilian striker Cleo, who had only a few months earlier scored in the Uefa Champions League against Arsenal. Ex-Premier League midfielder Cho Won-Hee and South American duo Paulao and Renato Caja would follow soon after.

As you'd expect, the team are flying atop the Super League with a substantial buffer, but the ambition clearly doesn't stop there, following the news of Conca's signing, for another unprecedented fee of £8.9m.

Conca, who won the Brazilian Serie A Best Player award for 2010, is expected to make Guangzhou quite the force and it's hard to see anyone stopping them their march towards the title, with the AFC Champions League also in the club's sights.

Financial investment in football clubs isn't anything new in China, but transfer fees and salaries of this size are. Opinions are split on whether Evergrande are good for the game.

However, we've seen this happen before in Europe, with Russian oligarchs and oil-rich Middle East investors. Financial power has changed the sport there and it seems it's inevitable the same will occur now in China.

English superkid offered Barcelona trials after being spotted in kickabout by coaching staff

Barcelona have offered trials to seven year-old English footie fan Kai Fifield.

Kai, seven, did not realise the other lads were in Barcelona’s youth team and was amazed when he was offered a trial for the academy which has produced players like Lionel Messi.

British Kai was on a tour of the club’s Nou Camp stadium with dad Delaney when he asked to join the boys playing on a pitch near the ground.

Delaney, 38, told the Mirror: “Kai couldn’t resist it. We thought it was local lads having a kickabout.

“He was like a little blonde dot dribbling round these Spanish lads who were all three years older.

“After an hour the other kids changed into the same kit and said they were Barcelona’s youth team.

“A coach said Kai must have a trial – we couldn’t believe it.

“They were very persistent so we cancelled our flights home, which were booked for the next day, and stayed all week. He was fantastic – he wasn’t nervous at all.

“He plays just like his hero Messi. His dribbling is mesmerising but he’s unselfish too.

“I would pack our bags and move there tomorrow if they asked.”

The coaches described Kai, of Northampton, as “very, very good” after his trial with the under-8s.

But the youngster will have to wait several weeks before finding out if he has made it into Barcelona’s famed youth academy.



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