Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Football careers hampered by injury.

Nobody in their right mind wants to see another play injured, major injuries can be devastating to footballers and can potentially end their careers. Unfortunately injuries are a real threat and many are unpredictable. Injuries can hit any player at any point in their career... here are 5 careers plagued by injury.

5. Michael Owen

Michael Owen, the 4th highest goal scorer for the England national team has had his fair share of injury upsets. In 1999 Owen picked up a hamstring injury in a league game against Leeds United, it ended his season and recurred for the future 2 years.

After a successful couple of seasons at Liverpool and a disappointing spell for Real Madrid, Owen found himself at Newcastle and picked up an injury within days of signing for them. Missing the opening of the season. However the worst was yet to come, on 31st December 2005 Owen fractured his metatarsal in a game against Newcastle. 4 months and 2 operations later, Owen was back in action, but not for long.

In the first minute of a World Cup 2006 match against Sweden, Owen injured damaged his cruciate ligament, ending his World Cup before it had even began.

By late 2007, after minor injuries for Owen, including concussion a thigh strain, it was reported Owen needed an urgent operation on a double hernia.

Following surgery, Owen stayed largely injury free, now playing for Manchester United, in March 2010, poor old Owen picked up yet another thigh injury, ruling him out of the rest of the season.

Despite having an impressive career and playing for some of the best clubs in the world, Owen is another that was never truly been as great as he should have. Being a mere 9 goals from equalling England's all time goal scoring record, we will never know if he could ever have reached that, should he remained injury free.

4. Ronaldo

Ronaldo is a modern day footballing legend. Two time World Cup winner, winner of 2 Balon D'ors, the all time leading goal scorer in the FIFA World Cup and countless other individual and team honours. Sometimes it is a wonder how this striker has achieved so much, in a career threatened by persistent knee injuries.

It was at his first club, PSV where his injury woes began. In his second season at the club he tore ligaments in his right knee, causing him to miss most of the season. Despite this setback he still managed a 12 goals in 13 appearances.

After a brief but successful spell at Barcelona, he moved to Inter Milan, where in 1999, he ruptured a tendon in his left knee and required surgery. Lightning struck twice when after 7 minutes into his comeback game from injury, he injured the same knee twice, needing more surgery and a long period of rehabilitation.

Several years and minor injuries later, 2008, now playing for bitter rivals AC Milan, Ronaldo landed awkwardly jumping for a cross, rupturing his left knee ligaments for a third time in his career.

In February 2011 Ronaldo announced his retirement, claiming his body could no longer handle playing football and his repeated injuries had taken its toll.

Ronaldo is an inspiration to all and has incredibly recovered from four potentially career ending injuries and on the way, captured the heart of football fans everywhere and got his name in the history books.

3 Ledley King

Ledley King has had praise heaped on him from many people, including Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, who claims King is "the only defender in the country who was able to get the better of him without committing fouls." However things aren't all rosy for King.

At the start of the 2006 season, fresh from missing the end of the 2005 season due to breaking his metatarsal, King injured his knee in training. Upon his return some months later, he broke his metarsal for the second time. By December 2007, King was under the knife, requiring surgery in attempt to correct his knee injury and in April the club released a statement saying they were planning to rest him for the remainder of the season.

By the start of the 2008 it was apparent King had a problem. A persistent knee injury limits him to a single game a week and only if he doesn't train. It is a massive accomplishment for King, to be the player he is by only performing specialist fitness work during the week, which somewhat limits his progress as a footballer.

2. Owen Hargreaves

Having suffered a torn thigh muscle and a torn calf muscle, within the space of two months back in 2002 then an adductor problem near the end of the season, Hargreaves was very much a first team regular at Bayern Munich by 2006. In 2006 Hargreaves suffered a leg break, resulting in his absence for the majority of Bayern's season.

On a full recovery, Hargreaves won the England Player of the Year award and voted England Player of the World Cup by official FA polls.

After such a successful World Cup, finally finding his feet, Hargreaves signed for Manchester United for £17m. After a successful first season, knee tendon problems limited him to 2 league appearances.

Having visited physiotherapists in London, Sweden and America, Hargreaves, now 30, is still plagued by his injury problem, having made 4 league appearances for United since his first successful first season. Unfortunately, it is another career that has been ruined by injury and had it not been for injury, Hargreaves could have achieved so much more and become the player he was destined to become.

1. Dean Ashton

Poor old Dean Ashton was forever plagued with injury throughout his career. At his first club, Crewe Alexandra he was regarded as a massive prospect, earning caps with England at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level, despite a disrupted second season with damaged knee ligaments disrupted.

He continued to impress for Norwich City, who spent a club record of £3,000,000 on the striker. Due to an injury which meant him missing an FA cup game, resulting in him not being cup tied, West Ham made an offer, which eventually rose to £7.25m for the striker, the club where he would end his career.

Within a year of joining West Ham, he had been called up to the England squad, however it was not meant to be, as one day before the match, a hard challenge by Shaun Wright Philips broke Ashtons ankle. Ruling Ashton out for a year and a whole premier league season. A year later, he was then recalled up to make his debut, however a sprained knee ligament removed the possibility of him making his debut that game.

Two years later Dean Ashton gained his first and only England cap, a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.

Gianfranco Zola, newly appointed at The Hammers, found Ashton injuring his ankle after his first ever training session under the new manager.

Sadly on the 11th of December 2009, Dean Ashton announced he was retiring at the young age of 26, claiming he never fully recovered from the ankle injury inflicted in training by Shaun Wright Philips all those years ago.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Ali Dia, footballs greatest conman.

I recently stumbled across this player and extremely surprised I hadn't come across him earlier, considering his incredible story.

In November 1996, footballing legend George Weah, former World Player of the Year, phoned up then Southampton manager Graeme Souness. Weah told him about his cousin, a rising star in France, having already represented his country 13 times and insisted he should sign him immediately. Souness was sold and signed Dia instantly on a one month contract. Little did he know, it was the agent of Ali Dia that phoned Souness on that fateful day and the whole story was a complete and utter fabrication.

The original plan was for Dia to take part in a reserves game against Arsenal, however as fate would have it, the pitch was deemed unplayable due to waterlogged conditions and the match was cancelled.

On 23rd November 1993, Southampton were playing a league game against Leeds United. New signing Ali Dia was, to the worlds surprise, named on the substitutes bench. Upon a minor injury to Matt Le Tissier, Dia was substituted on the pitch after 32 minutes.

53 long minutes later Dia was taken off after a worse than woeful display. It was clear to everybody that Dia was not a footballer.

In an interview later on, Matt Le Tisser gave his version of the story,
"His performance was almost comical. He kind of took my place, but he didn't really have a position. He was just wondering everywhere. I don't think he realised what position he was supposed to be in."

For Dia his time was up before it had even started. He'd had his 53 minutes of fame and was released by Southampton after 2 weeks. He was later signed by Gateshead, scoring 2 goals in 8 appearances before ultimately being transfer listed.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

5 retirements that left people scratching their heads.

Footballers are notoriously known as having a short career span, with the average career being around 15 years. So you would think that footballers would continue playing for as long as they possibly could. This sadly isn't the case for some footballers, who choose to end their career prematurely. Some footballers have their career tragically ended through injury, but some choose to retire...here are 5 retirements that left people scratching their heads.

5. Dimitar Berbatov - Bulgaria

 On May 13th,2010 Berbatov announced his retirement from international football at the age of 30. This came as a shock to many as there had been no warning prior to his announcement. He stated his main reason for retiring was to give the younger players a chance. ''I promised to myself when I was nearly 30, if I didn't do anything with the national team it would be best to retire and give chances to younger players''. However, at the time it was unclear if this was really his main reason for retiring. He was later quoted as saying it was due to fatigue- but he refused to come out of retirement even though both Wales and England were drawn in the same group as Bulgaria for the 2012 qualifications, which would mean little travelling. He was also quoted as saying it was partly due to the criticism he received from his homeland for his 'lazy' performances in the World Cup qualifying campaign. He has also been quoted as saying he retired due to family commitments and then his was because he wanted to focus on his football at Manchester United. It struck people as odd that he couldn't decide on what was the real reason. It could be a combination of all these reasons. It could also be that there was something going on behind the scenes that none of us know about. Even so, his decision to retire came as a shock.

In my opinion, I think he was right to retire early because he can't achieve anything else with Bulgaria as i don't see them winning euro 2012. He has achieved all he realistically could with Bulgaria by becoming the all time record goal scorer for Bulgaria, with 48 goals in 70 appearances, and now Berbatov can concentrate on his club football with Manchester United, and it's already paying off as he has 20 goals already this season.

4. Paul Scholes - England

On August 3rd, 2004. Paul Scholes announced his retirement from International football with England, aged just 29. Scholes stated that he retired so he could spend more time with his family. Although, it's pretty clear he wasn't happy playing for England. Alex Ferguson said of Scholes retirement "I spoke to Paul nearly a year ago about it when he came to see me'' That means in 2003, at the age of 28, Paul Scholes was thinking of quiting England. So I doubt it was just family commitments, he was clearly unhappy playing for England, but why? The most likely explanation is because he was being played out of position after World Cup 2002, playing on the left wing to allow Gerrard and Lampard to form a partnership in midfield. Gerrard and Lampard were seen as the next England midfield and Scholes said he felt he should  'leave them to it'. Paul Scholes also received criticism from the English press and fans for his performance in Euro 2004, with everyone calling for him to be dropped- this could have played a big part in his decision to retire. The irony of it is that Gerrard and Lampard never formed a partnership in midfield, and had Scholes waited a little longer he would have had his favoured position back - still, he retires with 66 caps to his name.

Scholes was asked to return for England for the 2010 World Cup, he turned it down however,stating that if he had more time to think about it he may have said yes.

3. Tobias Rau - Germany
 Tobias Rau might not be a name known to everyone. But Rau was capped 7 times for Germany and also played 48 times for Wolfsburg and 13 times for Bayern Munich. He retired from all forms of the game aged just 27. He was a highly rated defender that had lost his love for football. Following his move to Bayern Munich, he suffered a serious injury which kept him out of the side for 3 months. After he recovered he found it difficult to break into the first team as he faced stiff competition from Willy Sagnol. This would be a decent reason to leave Bayern, but is it enough to make someone quit football forever? Tobias Rau was arguably in his prime at 27 years old. He had won the Bundesliga title and the DFB Pokal ( The German equivalent of the English F.A Cup) He had also earned 7 caps for Germany scoring 1 goal. Rau could have easily earned a contract at another club but instead decided to retire with immediate effect. Could it be that even footballers on thousands of pounds per week can get depressed? 

Tobias Rau stated the official reason for his retirement was so that he could go to university and start a career as a teacher.

2. Espen Baardsen - Norway

  Baardsen may also not be a household name, however, he has 67 premier league appearances to his name, he also has 4 Norway caps and played in a World Cup. Espen Baardsen decided to retire from all forms of the game aged just 25. When asked why he quit football he said ''I got bored of it. Once you've played in the Premier League and been to the World Cup, you've seen it and done it. It was dictating what I could do and when. I felt unsatisfied intellectually, I wanted to travel the world'' Baardsen clearly wasn't cut out mentally for football and was unhappy, so decided to call it a day. On asked if he missed football he said ''Sometimes I miss the excitement, the stadium full of people, making a great save, you can't replicate that buzz.''

Espen Baardsen is now a Managing Director for an asset management fund called Eclectricaa. He shall forever be remembered for keeping a clean against Arsenal in a 0-0 draw at Highbury. Only one Spurs keeper has since held the Gunners to a blank on their own turf.

1. Eric Cantona - France

 Eric Cantonas career at Manchester United ended in as much drama as it had begun. He had been signed for £1.2 million pounds from bitter rivals Leeds United. This created much unrest amongst the Manchester United fans as they grew increasingly frustrated by the lack of spending from Alex Ferguson. Especially someone who was relatively unproven having only scored 9 goals for Leeds United. However, he became a cult hero at Manchester United scoring 80 goals in less than 5 years and helped to bring Manchester United 11 domestic trophies and 5 Champions League trophies.

Eric Cantona first retired in 1991, in retaliation to being banned for 3 months by the French F.A, aged 25. He was convinced to come out of retirement and play his trade in England. After playing in England for 5 years,he retired from football indefinitely one week before his 31st birthday. This came as a massive shock not just to Manchester United fans, but football fans up and down the country. It was also the lack of a substantial explanation from the player who had disappeared to France that left everyone scratching their heads. Why has someone who was still at the top of their game and rumoured for a move to Real Zaragoza, retired from all football aged just 31. Still no one really knows, perhaps he thought if he retired he wouldn't lose his legacy and he could retire as one of the best players to have ever played football, rather than continue playing till he is 35 and be classed a has been who should call it a day - such as Beckham for example.

When questioned about his premature retirement Cantona has been quoted as saying "When you quit football it is not easy, your life becomes difficult. I should know because sometimes I feel I quit too young. I loved the game but I no longer had the passion to go to bed early, not to go out with my friends, not to drink, and not to do a lot of other things, ­the things I like in life."

Monday, 7 February 2011

Footballs gone mad

In a time when a country is in recession and the average Joe has become more careful in watching what he spends, it is clear, now more than ever that football has gone mad. In the January 2011 transfer window, the deals of Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll became the 1st and 2st highest ever premier league transfers. With the former being sold for a staggering British record of 50m, despite recent announcement that Chelsea have losses of 70m last season. [1] With a new record for the January window, £225m was spent, massively contrasting the £30m spent this time last year.

The most surprising of the two transfers is young Andy Carroll. Rewind to last year, Newcastle are promoted to the Premier League, with Andy Carroll their top scorer with 17 goals, joint 6th highest scorer in the Championship. Now fast forward back to January 2011, 6 months later, Carroll, last years 6th top scorer in the Championship, is being bought for more money than Rooney, Drogba and Berbatov.

Admittedly his 11 league goals in 19 appearances is very impressive, however having only played half a season in the Premier League, Liverpool are taking a massive gamble, especially by making him the second highest Premier League transfer of all time. The amount of money they have offered must be putting great pressure on young Carroll. Coupled with the fact he has basically been straight swapped for Torres, Carroll has very big boots to fill and despite playing it cool, he must surely be feeling pressure to deliver the goods. Nobody can argue that Carroll has massive potential and could become a great striker in the future, however the transfer has potential to be disastrous, should this be a footballing experience similar to that of Roque Santa Cruz.

Being only 22 years old, Carroll has his best days ahead of him and has plenty of time to mature. Only time alone will tell is Andy Carroll is truly as great as his price tag suggests and I sincerely hope he is.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wayne Bridge,good riddance!

It was a crazy 2010 for Wayne Bridge. A year that saw him lose his wife, lose his place in the Man City side and also lose his place in the England national side. But it's not all bad news...for England fans anyway.

Wayne Bridge started his career at Southampton as a striker, but due to injuries he was forced to play left wing for his first season. He made 15 starts for Southampton but was dropped after a string of poor performances. The following year, again due to injuries, he was asked to play left back. It was in this position that he found his feet and went on to impress over the next two years. These performances earned him a move to Chelsea for a fee believed to be 7 million.

Wayne Bridge never really managed to hold down a starting role in the Chelsea team and spent half his time playing second fiddle to Ashley Cole. He then moved to Man City for 12 million where he also spent most of his time on the bench. Why is it then, that someone who was called ''the best left-back in England and the Premier League," by Roberto Mancini, find himself on the bench?

The answer is simple. I saw an interesting stat recently that in the 09/10 season, Wayne Bridge made 47 crosses and not one of them reached a team-mate. Furthermore, Wayne Bridge played 5372 minutes of football without getting a single assist- that's 60 matches played without a single assist during the 08/09 and 09/10 seasons. If we go on to analyse his whole career statistics we see that in 218 matches, Bridge has made just 9 assists- that's an average of one assist every 24 matches.This isn't what you come to expect from someone who used to play left midfield and who has always been praised for his attacking ability rather than his defencive capability. Compare this with Ashley Cole, who kept Bridge out of the Chelsea team, who has 30 assists in 367 games - an average of one assist every 12 games, then you start to realise why Cole kept Bridge out of the team. Comparing Bridge with Kolarov, who kept Bridge out of the Man City team, you really start to see why Bridge became a bench warmer. Kolarov has 13 goals and 10 assists from 116 games- an average of one assist every 11.6 games and a goal every 8 games.

So, it could just be that Wayne Bridge is unlucky to be up against stiff competition. It could also be argued that if Wayne Bridge got more assists he would hold down a starting place in the Man City side. His time at Chelsea was disrupted by injuries and the John Terry scandal can't have helped Bridges performances at Man City so these could also be contributing factors to Wayne Bridges poor form. However, it could be deeper than that. Wayne Bridges' team mates call him a gym monkey because of the amount of time he spends in the gym. Part of it he said is because, and i quote, ''I need to find any edge I can''. In my opinion, these are not the words of someone who is confident in their own ability as they need to find some other edge, but that's just how I feel.

Fortunately for Bridge, he has been loaned out to West Ham this season where he has started to rekindle some of the form that saw him get a baffling 36 England caps. But following his International retirement from football, he won't add to that.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

How long until proven?

In the modern day world of football, making a right signing and a wrong signing can potentially cost a managers job. Managers are under great pressure these days to buy the best players, for the lowest prices, although you wouldn't think it by looking at the January transfers.

Being a "proven" player is usually quite important for potential buyers. Spending a considerable amount of money on a player from a foreign country, for him to come into the Premier League and crumble isn't going to be the deal of the century. How long does a player have to play in the Premier League for him to be considered "proven"?

I would argue nowhere under 3 years, minimum.

In July 2007 Roque Santa Cruz was bought by Blackburn Rovers for a fee around 3.5m In his first season he scored an impressive 19 league goals placing him as the 4th top scorer in the season and was hailed as an incredible buy. However it was not meant to be.

The following season Santa Cruz netted a measly 4 league goals and despite this apparent minor blip, enter Manchester City, who are never shy to flash their cash. Santa Cruz moved on June 2009 to City for £17.5 million. He has scored 3 league goals since.

Unfortunately for him, it can be argued Roque Santa Cruz is unproven and can be considered a "one hit wonder" unless he can rekindle the sensational form he had in the first season, now back on loan at Blackburn.

This is the kind of risk the modern day manager has to take, if it comes off, you will be hailed a genius. However should it fail, the results can be disastrous.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Is Fabregas still a role model?

I've been watching Fabregas play football since he first moved to Arsenal at just 16 years of age. I have watched him grow into one of the most intelligent football players I have ever seen. Over the years I have been a huge fan of his passing ability that is second only to Xavi. However the thing I most admire about him is his professionalism, that is until this season.

Fabregas is considered to be the perfect role model for young footballers. The way he conducts himself both on and off the field are something to admire. He is incredibly grounded for such a young age and has coped well with the tremendous amount of pressure put on him by the Arsenal faithful. He is the heart beat of the Arsenal team and every successful Arsenal move comes through him. He is also considered to be the most honest professional playing in the Premiership. I believe the pressure on both Fabregas and Arsenal to deliver a trophy after an incredible barren spell lasting over 5 years has finally taken its toll on Fabregas.

This season Fabregas has, in my opinion, lost all credibility as an honest player. He recently dived in a match against Ipswich in an attempt to win a penalty, he has been showing a complete lack of respect for officials and he has also been telling the ref to book or sent opponents off. He has also put in some late, reckless challenges through frustration or malaise.

Firstly, I have no problem with foreign exuberance when it comes to football, in fact I think it brings a lot to the English game, but one thing I cant stand is when players wave imaginary cards at the ref in an attempt to get an opponent booked or sent off. This seems to be a thing thats been brought over from foreign players and there should be no place for it in the English game. I recently saw Fabregas do this in a game against Huddersfield and it's sending the wrong message to people who consider him a role model. This can then become a problem at Grass Roots level and it all comes from Fabregas being a dishonest professional.

When it comes to diving in football there is no other word to describe it other than cheating. Now, Fabregas isn't alone in this as even English players do it, most recently Theo Walcott. However, as both a Captain and a role model, Fabregas should be speaking up against diving not diving him self or even sticking up for divers- regardless of whether or not they are a team mate. Again this has lost him credibility in my eyes.

A recent example of Fabregas showing disrespect for officials is in last weeks game against Everton. Everton had a goal allowed when it was clearly offside. This lead to Fabregas accusing the officials of accepting bribes from Everton. This not only disrespects the integrity of the officials but also Everton as a football club. Again this is not the kind of actions I should be displaying as a role model for young children.

Now, as for Fabregas making late, reckless tackles I actually quite like to see this is football to an extent. It shows he has passion for the game and that he wants to win. It's the same qualities shown by Alan Smith and Roy Keane. It is a known fact that nice guys get nowhere in football so to see a bit of bite to Arsenal after years of being push overs is actually nice to see and are some of the qualities a leader and captain should show. But like I said, I only like it to an extent as we wouldn't like to have another Eduardo on our hands. As long as his tackles are kept passionate and not petulant I have no complaints.

To conclude, I think Fabregas has lost all credibility as a role model and as a model professional, but I think he had to lose all that to become a better leader and a winner, he was never going to win trophies through being nice and neither were Arsenal. So as far as Arsenal fans are concerned it is a welcome change,but to me and young kids its a bad example to be setting...but what ever wins you trophies, right?


Thursday, 3 February 2011

The gamble you take when signing proven goal scorers from Holland.

Sometimes I wonder if I should pack up my bags and move to Holland to earn a living playing Football. For years and years proven goal scorers in Holland have made big money moves to England only to flop and be shipped off within a year.

A good example of this is Alfonso Alves, who was a consistent goal scorer in Holland scoring 45 goals in 39 games for Heerenveen (including scoring 7 goals in one match). He then moved to Middlesbrough in a club record fee thought to be around £12.7 million. He went on to score just 10 in 42 games for Middlesbrough before being sold to Al-Sadd for a surprisingly healthy £7 million.

Another example of a flop is Mateja Kezman. He scored 105 in 122 for PSV which prompted Chelsea to splash out £5.3 million on him, which at the time seemed like a bargain surely. Kezman went on to score just 4 times in 25 for Chelsea and since moving away from Stamford Bridge in 2005 he has played for 4 different clubs failing to rekindle the form that saw him score 105 goals in 122 games.

However, it would be false to say that everyone who does well in Holland flops elsewhere. A prime example of this is Ruud Van Nistelrooy, he scored 62 in 67 for PSV before moving to Manchester United in a big money move believed to be £19 million. He scored 150 goals in 220 games as well as being the club's all-time European scoring record with 38 goals.

This brings me onto the main reason for the post. Liverpool have recently spent close to £23 million on Luis Suarez. This is a hefty price tag which brings with it added pressure. Suarez scored 81 goals in 110 games for Ajax which prompts the question 'will he be a flop like Kezman and Alves or a success like Van Nistelrooy?'
Personally I think he will be a success at Liverpool as he has confidence from having a successful World Cup and also Liverpool are renowned for getting the best out of their strikers- they even got N'gog scoring. But only time will tell and the proof is in the pudding as they say.