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In which Owen Wyatt and Kevin Fylan discuss the merits or otherwise of Cristiano Ronaldo’s impending move from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
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One of the cruellest insults thrown at Florentino Perez during his first spell at Real Madrid was that the president had turned a great team into football’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Manchester United said on Thursday they have received a world record 80 million pound ($131.2 million) bid for forward Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.
“At Cristiano’s request – who has again expressed his desire to leave – and after discussion with the player’s representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player,” a statement on the United website said.
Forget about the 39th game. What about English Premier League playoffs to spice up the world’s most popular league and stop it becoming a boring four-horse race?
After watching the recent playoffs in the English lower leagues and witnessing the excitement surrounding the recent two-legged title decider in Belgium where I ply my trade, I reckon playoffs are the way forward for the top leagues, if not now, then possibly in the future.
Everybody loves the cup tie atmosphere, a nail-biting finale and a do or die decider.
But with the growth of the Premier League and top divisions in other countries, such as Spain and Italy, along with the popularity of the UEFA Champions League, the exhilaration of soccer seems to be dwindling.
Soccer’s governing bodies have admitted there is a real threat that the beautiful game is becoming boring.
My solution for the Premier League would be to have a four-team playoff for the title similar to that used in the Netherlands which proved successful.
This would prevent boredom should Manchester United run away with the title with a few games still to go. At the same time finishing fourth would have an added incentive for those teams battling to break into that coveted Champions League spot.
Breaking into the top four is hard enough for the likes of Everton or Aston Villa, but what about getting there and having a real chance of winning the title?
The ecstasy and heartbreak of Newcastle, Middlesborough, Sunderland and Hull on the final day shows a playoff at the bottom similar to those in the lower divisions is also more exciting than watching a club limp out of the top division weeks before the end of the season.
PHOTO: Burnley players celebrate after their English Championship playoff final victory over Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium in London May 25, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis
Manchester United palpably failed to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era but few would bet against Barcelona managing the feat next season.
And where would be the perfect place for Pep Guardiola’s stylish side to achieve it? The Nou Camp? No, next year’s final is in Madrid and the Barca fans I spoke to in Rome after the game could not think of a better venue to show their rivals and world football that they are undisputed kings.
Barcelona deposed Manchester United as European champions with an outstanding 2-0 victory in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
Samuel Eto’o struck the opener after 10 minutes when he cut in from the right past Nemanja Vidic with surprising ease and his low shot beat United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar at his near post. Xavi cracked a free kick against a United post at the start of the second half before Lionel Messi sealed the win after 70 minutes when he scored with a beautifully timed header from Xavi’s cross.
Full-time: Barcelona 2 Manchester United 0.
Samuel Eto’o 10, Lionel Messi 70
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From Mark Meadows at the Stadio Olimpico:
- – - -
Not quite the dream final. United just didn’t turn up after that initial burst came to nothing. Barca did what they had to do without being amazing. Did Fergie’s talk of greatness in the buildup get to his men? I’ve never seen United look so nervy. Well done Pep Guardiola.
- – - - 2-0 to Barcelona. Messi nods in after a hanging cross for what is a rare header from the Argentine. Ferdinand was no where near him. Game over? A chant of MESSI, MESSI MESSI rings out from my right. - – - - Wayne Rooney, who has been quiet all night and is now patrolling the right wing, has just failed to put two crosses in to the dangerzone with United well-placed. Dimitar Berbatov is taking off his tracksuit… And he’s on for Park.
- – - - Park is a hair’s breadth from nodding in a Rooney cross, and Park’s got longish floppy hair. United resorting to old fashioned English crosses to try to get a foothold back in the game. - – - - 53: Xavi strikes the post with a low freekick and Van der Sar barely moved at first. Tevez has hardly touched it since coming on. How many packs of gum does Fergie have? - – - -
50: Messi wants a penalty for a push in the box but the referee and most of the neutrals shake their heads. - – - - Tevez on for Anderson was pretty predictable given the Brazilian did nothing in the first 45. Tevez has the chance to make a name for himself on what could be his last game for United. Henry tests Van der Sar from close in. - – - - A curious first half, that. United made such a good start that I bet many of their more pessimistic fans were just waiting for Barcelona to get one against the run of play. United were very cool after going behind. They could probably do with getting in amongst the Barcelona midfield a bit more, stop Barca winning the ball back so quickly. Plenty of time before they have to panic. - – - - 45: Messi has just stormed into the box and Van der Sar fluffed the safe and the ball nearly ran free. That’s got the Barca crowd really excited, especially with United’s midfield all over the place at the moment. Half-time. - – - - 43: Victor Valdes, who took a bit of a knock earlier and is not taking goalkicks, has just been forced to rush out of goal to prevent Ronaldo from a clean run on goal. He’ll be needing some treatment at halftime. - – - - 35: United looking a bit nervous, especially in defence with some tentative passing. Strange for the holders… The fans in Red look especially tense too. - – - - 25: Xavi curls a freekick just over. That caused a lot of ooohs from the crowd. Lionel Messi had earlier shot over but United have still had the better chances despite being behind. - – - - 16: Is former United defender Gerard Pique a lucky man? The Barca centre-back blocks a barnstorming Ronaldo run and gets a yellow, but some in the press box are howling that he was last man. Ryan Giggs shoots over with the free kick. - – - -
10: 1-0 to Barcelona: Samuel Eto’o. Completely against the run of play Eto’o beats Nemanja Vidic very easily to get into the box and his shot goes in despite Edwin van der Sar getting touch. That followed two more good chances for Ronaldo. Was Barcelona’s first attack… - – - - 2: Cristian Ronaldo, who looks dashing in all white (Real Madrid might like that) tests Victor Valdes with a long range free kick first up which the keeper spills. Park Ji-sung is unable to get the rebound on target. The United fans suddenly get noisier. - – - - 1: Barcelona kick off.
Now the teams are in, and there are no big surprises (see below) here’s Mike Collett’s view from the press seats at the Stadio Olimpico:
The new Angels and Demons movie is based in Rome so it got us thinking who might end up being an angel or a demon after Wednesday’s Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona.
Will one of the goalkeepers drop a clanger or will Cristiano Ronaldo belt one in again from 40 metres? It’s a big pitch at the Stadio Olimpico, but I can see Lionel Messi running the length of it with the ball at his feet…
Manchester United’s Red Devils will be wearing angelic white in Wednesday’s Champions League final, just how Alex Ferguson likes it.
Barcelona are the nominal home team for the ‘dream final’ in Rome and as their famous claret and blue tops clash with United’s usual red and their first choice blue away kit, the holders will wander onto the pristine Stadio Olimpico pitch in white.
The Champions League final is almost upon us and the views of the Roman locals are quite interesting.
As Paul Virgo explains above, AS Roma fans are rooting for Barcelona while Lazio supporters want Manchester United to win.