Reuters Soccer Blog

World Soccer views and news

Macheda highlights Serie A’s impatience with youth

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Serie A clubs are understandably upset about English sides scooping up youngsters such as Federico Macheda from their academies.

Lazio President Claudio Lotito cried foul after the 17-year-old, a product of the Rome club’s youth system, scored a stunning winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa in his Premier League debut on Sunday.

He has a point. After doing the hard part of nurturing the players’ talents, wealthier foreign sides can step in and enjoy the benefits. It’s not the best way to encourage clubs to invest in their academies and FIFA and UEFA are looking at tightening the rules on the transfer of under-18s.

But Lotito’s annoyance is only justified to a certain degree as, if Macheda had stayed at Lazio, it seems unlikely that he would have got the chance United boss Alex Ferguson gave him to hit the headlines at such a tender age.

Just kebabs and tea in Sivas – hence the team’s success

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“There is no nightlife in Sivas,” states Sivasspor coach Bulent Uygun.

This is why his team are surprise leaders of the Turkish championship.

Located in Anatolia’s bleak central heartland, Sivas is a tortuous 12-hour drive from the temptations of Istanbul. Turkey’s glittering beach resorts aren’t much closer.

Champions League draw — your views

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So, here we go again. For the fifth successive season, Liverpool will face Chelsea in the Champions League.

Quarter-finals:

Villarreal v Arsenal

Manchester United v Porto

Liverpool v Chelsea

Barcelona v Bayern Munich

Semi-finals:

Manchester United or Porto v Villarreal or Arsenal

Barcelona or Bayern Munich v Liverpool or Chelsea

Liverpool will perhaps be marginal favourites in the all-English quarter-final after knocking Chelsea out at the semi-final stage in 2005 and 2007 but their fans will need no reminding that last season, when Chelsea got to play the second leg at home, it was the Londoners who came through.

Benitez deal comes at perfect time for Liverpool

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The news that Rafael Benitez has agreed a new deal that will keep him at Liverpool until at least 2014 could not have been better timed for the club.

Uncertainty has stalked the 18-times English league champions for the past few seasons with rifts between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, confusion over the proposed new stadium and above all the future of the manager Benitez.

Real’s Ramos unlikely to stay despite successful spell

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Quite a few sceptical eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid gave Bernd Schuster the boot back in December and brought in Juande Ramos.

After an impressive spell at Sevilla, Ramos had faltered badly at Tottenham and it seemed the Real board were taking a big gamble in bringing him back to Spain with a contract until the end of the season.

A Super League is a non-starter

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Comments by UEFA officials that the body’s president Michel Platini is “dead set” against a European Super League must come as a huge relief to a vast majority of Europe’s clubs.

“People should not mix up philosophy and reality. As far as the president is concerned, such a proposal is a non-starter,” a senior official close to Platini told Reuters.

Ibrahimovic – Europe’s biggest enigma

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During a typical football discussion at a Milan pub recently, a friend made a comment which really stayed with me.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the closest there is to Van Basten.”

After thinking about it, I realised he was probably right. Ibrahimovic’s touch for a big man and his ability to score wonderful goals really do mark him out as special. It is right to talk of him in the same breath as one of Holland’s finest.

United could afford to drop points but manner of defeat must hurt

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Please don’t try and tell me that a 4-1 defeat at home to your arch-rivals does not affect you — it must do.

At lunchtime on Saturday Manchester United knew they could probably afford to lose against Liverpool and still claim another Premier League title but does the manner of their capitulation offer hope to the chasing pack?

Even Mourinho can’t halt Serie A decline as England dominates

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The sight of Serie A sides flopping in the Champions League has become a familiar one and although the three teams eliminated this week were a little unlucky, a mental block against English opposition is developing.

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho, who won the trophy with Porto in 2004, was hired in June largely to boost their hopes of challenging Europe’s elite after years of failure.

Real’s problems begin in the boardroom

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The Spanish press have one question on their minds following Real Madrid’s Champions League humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

Why has the club that dominated Europe from 1998 to 2002 failed to make it past the last 16 of the Champions League in five years, despite spending (wasting?) tens of millions of euros in the transfer market?

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