It’s in 2019. Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are still considered the dominant forces when it comes to football, claiming almost every individual award there is while leading their teams to several prestigious titles. However, both these players are in the twilights in terms of their careers, at 34 and 31 respectively, and possible heirs to the throne, including Gareth Bale and Neymar, haven’t been able to match their skills and abilities. This brings up a burning question. Who is next to become the greatest player in football?
Player: Kylian Mbappe
Clubs: France/Paris-Saint Germain
Transfer Value: $280 million
Mbappe managed to burst onto the scene as a teenager two years ago and has made a name for himself while playing in Monaco when he became the centre of attention during the Champions League in the 2016/17 season. In 2017, he decided to join PSG and never looked back. He was one of the best players in the 2018 World Cup and came with incredible pace, frightening skills, and is a fantastic finisher too. He also plays as a wide winger for the French national football team as has a bright future as the number 9 player, regardless of where he decides to play.
Player: Jadon Sancho
Clubs: England/Borussia Dortmund
Transfer Value: $128 million
Watford initially saw this exceptional player from London at the age of 7 before they lost him to Manchester City when he turned 14. Manchester City identified this player as the first star to emerge from the football academy but grew frustrated due to the lack of opportunities. He then decided to make the bold move to transfer to Germany where he now plays for Borussia Dortmund since 2017. Since he arrived, he has managed to turn heads in the Bundesliga and quickly became one of the most incredible players in Europe. His future looks promising.
Player: Matthijs de Ligt
Transfer Value: $90 million
The unusual way in which de Ligt forced himself onto the ball during Ajax’s victory against Juventus was reminiscent of an uncompromising, gnarled veteran. However, this player is only 19 years old, and the list of surprises doesn’t stop there either. He is already the captain of Ajax, a teenager with the mentality and physique of someone that’s seen it all, and continues to improve daily. When he was younger, he showed promise in both hockey and tennis, and he is considered an all-rounder when it comes to football as well.
Player: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Transfer Value: $77 million
The right-back for Liverpool, who was raised in the city, has managed to advance through the youth system and was initially spotted at the age of 6. The player’s ability was singled out by Gerrard who described him as the star of the future. The player boasts with athletic physique, strength, and pace and is a critical player in Liverpool at the moment.
During his seven-year role as manager for the Borussia Dortmund football club, Jurgen Klopp would frequently ask himself: what if?
What if Shini Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and Nuri Sahin remained within his team as opposed to being seduced by Manchester United and Real Madrid? What if that cohesive and young team with so much talent were able to develop together for a couple of years? This was quite natural for Klopp to ponder about because it would have allowed BVB to claim at least one Champions League trophy because they lost to Bayern Munich in 2013.
While the Liverpool manager has a larger-than-life approach to the chaos that was created by football due to its emotional pull and unpredictability, what Jurgen Klopp truly wants is continuity and consistency. At Anfield, these two factors are vital to a club that managed to accumulate a record 97 league points in the previous Premier League season before they claimed their 6th European Cup by defeating Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. This was the first trophy that the team claimed under Klopp’s guidance.
Liverpool Powered Up
While BVB was never able to shelter themselves from the mega-spending predators in football, a levelled-up Liverpool team has been able to tie down significant assets comfortably.
Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah signed brand-new, extended contracts when it comes to the Liverpool club in the last 12 months. Virgil van Dijk is interested in a new deal, while Divock Origi has received new terms, with James Milner, Joel Matip, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain next in line.
While superior football clubs like Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid have focused on spending a considerable amount to reconstruct their clubs, Liverpool concentrates on retention. Each of the clubs mentioned here will happily trade places with The Reds. Liverpool is a squad that has stability during an era where everything is left in the air when it comes to European football.
How Liverpool Was Constructed Under Klopp
Since Jurgen Klopp was appointed in October 2015, he has made the job of Edwards far more simplistic and more comfortable thanks to his clear vision when it comes to the overall on-field product. The Reds boast with a stylistic profile, and Jurgen Klopp has managed to make the negotiation process and sales pitch much smoother than ever before. Klopp and Edwards have an open-door policy and mutual trust, allowing the club to benefit from a unified strategy.
You won’t find any agendas or competing egos in this squad where no coherent plan, flaws in structure, lack of transparency, and politics reign supreme at this elite level of football. Manchester United is a prime example of this. However, Liverpool only has one vision, and everyone adheres to it. If last season is any indication, and the team manages to provide the same performance as they did last year, Liverpool is going to fill their trophy cabinet in 2020.
The FIFA World Cup tournament is considered the most competitive and prestigious soccer tournament in the world that comprises of the most elite national teams in the world to compete against each other for the world-class title of being the best on the planet.
Since not all countries can compete, each continent will send their representatives. The national team needs to qualify on a continental level and must be considered the best before they can represent their continent. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the smallest nations that have played in the FIFA World Cup.
After Croatia defeated them in the qualifications round of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, most people in the country lost all hope as they were under the impression that their World Cup dreams were over. However, during 2016 the team managed to bounce back when they reached the first significant event after they qualified for Euro 2016. This gave them tons of motivation to defeat Kosovo to secure their entry into the 2018 Russian World Cup finally. With only 334,000 citizens in the country, Iceland became the smallest nation that ever participated in the FIFA World Cup.
Even though they were unable to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after they lost 8 of their matches and managed to finish 7th in South America, the country of Paraguay was considered the smallest nation to participate in a FIFA World Cup back in 1930. Back then, the state only had a population of 860,000 people. During the FIFA World Cup in 1930, Paraguay was defeated by the United States and claimed victory against Belgium. Since then, the country has managed to qualify for seven additional World Cup appearance, including 2010. During the FIFA World Cup in 2010, Paraguay managed to reach the quarterfinals and was eventually taken out by Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago
After attempting for several years, the country that is known as Trinidad and Tobago managed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the very first time back in 2006. In 2006, the country had a population of around 1.3 million and was considered the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The country held this record until Iceland qualified in 2017. The nation only qualified once for the World Cup and lost eight matches during the qualification rounds for the 2018 campaign.
Even though they did not qualify for the most recent tournament, the country did make history back in 1958 when they became the smallest country on earth to be eligible for the 1958 World Cup. This is one record that was held by the country until 2006. During the 1958 World Cup, Northern Ireland managed to reach the quarterfinals after they claimed victory against Czechoslovakia. However, they were quickly dealt with once they faced France.
The countdown for the 2019/20 Premier League season has finally started thanks to the much-anticipated publication of the upcoming fixtures for the brand-new season that lies ahead, promising tons of excitement and nail-biting action. Manchester United is set to host Chelsea during the opening weekend at Old Trafford.
There’s a bunch of heavyweight clashes on the horizon that will take place during the first month of the 2019/20 Premier League season. For instance, Manchester City will return from their domestic treble to face West Ham on route for their third consecutive Premier League title. The match will take place on 10 August 2019, so make sure you don’t miss it.
Liverpool, the newest Champions League winners, will return to face Norwich City during their opening match and will hit the ground running to ensure they stay ahead of Manchester City this season to finally claim the Premier League title they have wanted for so long. So, which team will have the most relaxed start and which team will have a nightmare from day 1?
Easiest Premier League Start: Manchester City
Even though Manchester City are scheduled to have a challenging home game against Tottenham Hotspur on 17 August 2019, it’s necessarily the only fixture in their first six matches that will see them face a genuine contender for all 3 points. The team’s opening match is against West Ham which Manchester City destroyed 4-0 the last time they met on the field. Pep Guardiola’s side will have a smooth start this season as they face Watford, Norwich, Brighton, Bournemouth, and Everton. Manchester City will have the perfect start this season as most of their rivals will meet at least two of their opponents from the start.
Toughest Premier League Start: Manchester United
Manchester United’s offensive end during the 2018/19 season, when the team only managed to win 2 out of the 12 matches in all their competitions, has placed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under an immense amount of pressure before the season even gets underway. The team start their Premier League journey by facing Chelsea at home during the opening weekend and will then make their way to Wolves territory who defeated Manchester United twice in the previous season. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs also have a difficult start, but there’s no other team that is required to be more successful than Manchester United and its manager. There will be no margin for error when the team goes up against West Ham, Leicester, or Southampton.
Apart from the easier starts and the toughest beginnings for Manchester United, there are a couple of must-see matches not to be missed. This will include the Manchester United vs Chelsea game on 11 August 2019 followed by the Liverpool vs Manchester United game on 19 October 2019. You can also tune in to witness Manchester City vs Liverpool on 9 November 2019 as well as Liverpool vs Manchester City again on 4 April 2020. So who do you think will win the Premier League title this year?
This should be a relatively easy question to answer because sport often provides clarity. However, the pace of change at Arsenal is so different that we tend to read runes instead of making snap judgements. Fans of Arsenal are considered to be evolutionary biologists or climate change scientists as oppose to football fans, which means every microscopic shift in genes, temperature, and patterns are compared to come up with a possible theory.
Is Arsenal Better This Season Compared to the Last?
Is losing a Europa League final 4-1 better than losing a League Cup 3-0? Some would argue that it is cause Arsenal scored a goal and it was still 0-0 at half time during the Europa League final. However, most believe that letting in 4 goals in 20 minutes is far worse than letting in 3 goals in 90 minutes.
When you look at the overall statistics, you will see that Arsenal conceded 51 goals last season compared to 51 goals this season. So what about the attack? Well, Arsenal scored 73 this season compared to 74 goals last season. So it’s quite challenging to determine if this season is better than last season for Arsenal.
During the last autumn, following an away defeat against Chelsea and a home defeat against Manchester City, things felt quite different. Arsene Wenger was someone that never really stood up from the bench and only got up on rare occasions to discuss something with the 4th official.
However, Emery can be considered a blur of motion as his hands are always guiding the players and the ball. This felt quite reassuring at first, but then you start to realize that Juan Carlos Carcedo, his number two who is responsible for corners and free kicks, comes out to lead the team while Emery disappears back to the bench.
Is Unai Emery Doing Everything Possible to Lead His Team?
On 1 April 2019, any Arsenal fan would have told you that this season is far better than the last after their incredible 2-0 victory against Newcastle that placed them into top 3 of the Premier League. However, things took a drastic turn, and everyone is wondering whether Unai Emery was a good option for Arsenal. The manager lost a total of 10 games this season, only three defeats are less than last season. However, 4 of those defeats all occurred in April. If only one of those games were a win, Arsenal would have ended up in the top 3.
In the end, it seems like the club is suffering from some hereditary disease that is transferred from one generation to the next, regardless of who is coaching the team. It’s necessarily the players that will always let you down as opposed to the head coach. So, can Arsenal make the necessary changes in the team to lead them to glory?
Tim Howard has managed to experience both the lows and highs of being a goalkeeper. However, it’s the lows that seem to stick to your memory. He recently informed reporters that you have to go to some pretty dark places when you become a goalkeeper, especially for a team like Manchester United.
Goalkeeping – The Thankless Job
Howard was celebrated by Barack Obama, becoming a national hero following his remarkable display at the 2014 World Cup against Belgium where he made a total of 16 saves. However, his failure to hold the 90-minute free kick from Benni McCarthy during a second-round tie in the Champions League against Porto a decade earlier provided Costinha with a goal that managed to knock out Manchester United from the competition. It also led to convincing Sir Alex Ferguson that Tim Howard wasn’t the right man for the job.
To be a successful goalkeeper in England, you need to be phenomenal for at least 5 or 10 years. Tim Howard had an incredible season at Manchester United, and within an instant, he didn’t see a pitch for at least two years. So having one or two suitable matches is not enough.
Being a top-rated goalkeeper is seen as a thankless job, one that will require a certain kind of player brave enough to fit the number 1 jersey along with the gloves that come with it. You can make 100 excellent saves and only allow one to go past you into the back of the net. Guess what will be remembered?
Goalkeepers in Football
David De Gea is the number 1 goalkeeper for Manchester United as well as the number 1 goalkeeper in the world. However, he is one player that is well aware of the downside that comes with his position. In recent years, he has had a nightmare run when it comes to mistakes that date back to his World Cup performance last year for Spain. His enormous error on 29 April 2019 against Chelsea is the critical moment the slide happened for Manchester United.
Loris Karius is one goalkeeper that has had an even worse time when compared to De Gea. The goalkeeper from Germany made two huge mistakes, leading directly to the goals scored in the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool that ended 3-1 in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2018. Although he suffered from a concussion after he collided with Sergio Ramos earlier on in the match, he still became a subject of fierce criticism.
Both Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp defended Karius at the time. However, he hasn’t played for another club since. He was eventually shipped to Turkey where he is currently on load for Besiktas where he is battling to regain his confidence. He managed to make a fatal error on his debut for the team that led to a 1-1 draw for Besiktas. He also made another mistake during a Europa League game against Malmo.
How do you resolve a concern like Gareth Bale? It’s something that no one has an answer to at the moment, including Florentino Perez as the Real Madrid club president and Zinedine Zidane as the manager of the team.
Gareth Bale’s Career
After six years with Real Madrid and a €100 million transfer in 2013 from Tottenham Hotspur, the Wales international has managed to make himself the most successful and popular British player in the world having won every major honour while playing for Real Madrid, including a total of 4 Champions Leagues. Bale took on the challenge to prove himself alongside Christiano Ronaldo and did a stellar job to ensure he has a place in the team.
However, it did not meet Zidane’s critique after Real Madrid was defeated 2-0 by Real Betis at home on Sunday, when the head coach questioned Bale’s attitude daily, to expose the player’s situation at the club. Zidane is not a fan of Gareth Bale’s qualities and could quickly offload the player to save a truckload of money and make space for other talents that are more to his liking, including Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and Eden Hazard.
However, there’s one significant problem: Gareth Bale is going to be 30 in July and still has three years left on his contract with Real Madrid, which is worth around £15.5 million a year. This is good news for Gareth Bale as the finances are in his favour. However, it makes it quite impossible to find a club in Europe that will take him off Zidane’s hands.
Gareth Bale has made a total of 79 appearances from 151 La Liga games for Real Madrid in the last four seasons. This essentially means that he has either been on the bench or hasn’t been around for almost half the league games. Bale’s fitness issues in the last few years, when he suffered several muscular injuries, will not stop other clubs from making a move because, when he is fit and healthy, his capabilities and skills are well-worth the gambles.
However, there’s gambling on a player’s fitness, and then there’s gambling on a player’s eligibility who earns £300,000 a week. Manchester United learned this the hard way with Alexis Sanchez who only scored five times in 45 appearances.
Gareth Bale’s Future
Any football club that is considering a move on Bale need to weigh the reward and risk of gambling with his financials and fitness. This is the biggest problem that Real Madrid is facing at the moment. Bale is not keen on leaving Real Madrid. He managed to win Zidane over before and will try his best to succeed again even though his future at Real Madrid looks bleaker than ever.
If Zidane and Real Madrid want to let him go, they need to compensate him for the remaining years and make him affordable to any club that wants him.
Antoine Griezmann has recently informed his football club, Atletico Madrid, that he will be leaving this summer. Sources have also reported that the player is likely to sign with Barcelona next season less than 12 months after the player turned the club down.
Atletico Madrid decided to release a brief statement on Tuesday morning to reveal that Antoine Griezmann has stated that he will be leaving the club after playing for them for more than five years. This was followed up with a video post on social media that showcased the French forward explaining his decision to leave the club to his supporters.
Antoine Griezmann’s Future
Initial reports of Antoine Griezmann wanting to Atletico Madrid at the end of the season first surfaced in March 2019. He was offered to several of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Barcelona. However, the Catalans were not interested initially in reopening the transfer discussion as he turned the club down last summer.
The World Cup winner in 2018 from France played his entire football career in Spain, arriving at Atletico Madrid in 2014 from Real Sociedad. Paris Saint-Germain is another elite football club that is currently interested in signing the 28-year-old player.
Barcelona was under the impression that a singing deal was in place for Antoine Griezmann before the start of the World Cup. However, the Catalans were caught off guard when Griezmann released a statement before the tournament started in Russia where he commented on his plans with Atletico Madrid.
However, Antoine Griezmann had a change of heart after this occurred, while Barcelona has also decided to change their minds after much debate for a possible signing that first surfaced in March.
Antoine Griezmann’s Records
Antoine Griezmann managed to score 133 goals in a total of 256 matches across all competitions in 5 seasons for Atletico Madrid. This allowed him to be the leading scorer for his team. He managed to score 126 goals in La Liga alone which places him fourth just behind Christiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, and Lionel Messi.
Griezmann also managed to win three football titles in 5 years with Atletico Madrid, including the 2014 Spanish Super Cup, the 2018 UEFA Super Cup, and the 2017/18 Europa League. He was also the player that unfortunately missed a vital penalty during the UEFA Champions League final in 2016 against Real Madrid in a penalty shootout.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has recently informed reporters that there are absolutely no bad feelings with Antoine Griezmann. Barcelona has since made Antoine Griezmann and Matthijs de Ligt, the Ajax defender, their primary targets during the summer.
The horrible Champions League defeat against Liverpool last week in the semi-finals further enhanced the decision by the club to add fresh legs to an ageing club. Barcelona can attempt to negotiate a deal with the current club but remain reluctant to start talking to anyone about Griezmann until July when the clause of Griezmann drops from $200 million to $120 million.
The most troubling aspect for Manchester United at the moment, after their last hope, to qualify for the Champions League was ripped away on Sunday due to a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield, is that there’s no guarantee that things will get any better going forward.
Football players will come and go when summer approaches as Solskjaer finally get his first opportunity to design the squad he wants. However, we’ve been in this position before. Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, and David Moyes have each received money to spend, a total of £600 million in total between the three of them. For the fourth time in the last six years since Sir Alex Ferguson departed, Manchester United will finish outside of the top four in the Premier League. It’s precisely what they deserved to be honest.
Manchester United vs Huddersfield
Within the first 15 minutes of the game, Manchester United was able to lead thanks to the second goal of the season by Scott McTominay. However, by the time Mr Mason blew into the whistle, Manchester United was merely hanging on for dear life. During the second half, Isaac Mbenza managed to score the equaliser after a long punt from Jonas Lossl as a goalkeeper.
The ball was in the back of David De Gea’s net only 13 seconds after the corner was taken by Manchester United on the other side of the field due to the miskick by Luke Shaw. The ball travelled over 60 yards beyond Shaw, and the goal was even worse for United as Mbenza kicked the ball through the legs of David De Gea to send Manchester United home with a draw instead of a win, ending the hopes to make it into the top four of the Premier League standings.
Huddersfield managed to lose a total of 22 matches out of 24 in all competitions. However, the team was genuinely disappointed that they couldn’t’ claim a win against Manchester United on Sunday. Solskjaer stated after the match that his team was not good enough. However, even though he was spot on with his assessments, it’s something that can be applied to almost every Manchester United game since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club.
The coming summer is filled with promises of a new and fresh beginning for Manchester United. However, with just a week away to the end of the season, there are more questions than answers at the moment. To give you an idea, De Gea will be entering his final year as per his contract, Pogba is unsure of his future, and there’s still no technical director at the club. This leaves Solskjaer to drive the recruitment stages with Ed Woodward as executive vice-chairman.
There’s one more match to play before the season ends and that’s when Cardiff visits Manchester United at Old Trafford. Once that match is completed, everyone will start talking about the fresh start and their optimism for the new season. Let’s hope they are right this time around.
It’s now extremely simplistic for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea. Claiming victories against Leicester and Watford over the last two weekend of the English Premier League will ensure a group stage entry into the Champions League next season.
Chelsea’s Current Season
Let’s forget about the potential of a Europa League final that will occur in Baku as a safety net – 6 points from two matches and the Blues will finally be over the line, allowing them to return to where Roman Abramovich wants them to be, among the most prestigious clubs situated in Europe.
This will necessarily mean that the first season where Sarri was in charge was a successful one. Of course, we mean relative success, because Chelsea hasn’t been anywhere when it comes to challenging clubs for a title. However, progress is the same when it comes to a coach that has also witnessed his team miss out on the Carabao Cup after a penalty shoot-out against Manchester City. Even if the Blues manage to finish in the top 4 and claim victory in the Europa League, it might still not be enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job as head coach.
The Doubts Over Maurizio Sarri
Marina Granovskaia, the person that runs the football club daily, remains the most prominent advocate for Sarri, and that is considered a massive tick in the coach’s favour. However, one the dust settles on the current season for Chelsea, the doubts and questions surrounding Sarri will remain, and Marina Granovskaia will be required to convince Abramovich that Sarri is the coach to lead the club during the 2019/20 season.
With Chelsea back in the Champions League next season, it will help their rebuilding program. However, the current season has produced more questions than answers regarding their development and progress under Maurizio Sarri. If Chelsea managed to end up in the top 4 positions of the Premier League, it could be argued that the result is the failings of Manchester United and Arsenal instead of the successful methods by Sarri.
This might be harsh, but the Blues have managed to open a two-point lead between themselves and Arsenal that is currently in fifth place despite claiming 2 points from a potential 9 points in the last three games of the Premier League.
Chelsea managed to make ten goals without being able to score in consecutive away matches against Manchester City and Bournemouth earlier this season. It was only the 1-1 draw against Manchester United on Sunday which spared the Blues from becoming the first Blues side to lose all away matches against the big six rivals during a season since the club was bought in 2003 by Abramovich.
Chelsea is also on the brink of losing their most valued player, Eden Hazard. He is currently playing the last year of his contract, and when he transfers to another club, Chelsea will need all the help it can get to stay an elite football team.