Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
The departure of Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid marks the end of the Italian era in European football. Not only can Italian clubs not attract the best players in the world to play in Serie A but now, when they unearth a talent like Kaka, they can’t stop them from leaving.
Italians used to describe their Serie A as ‘il campionato piu bello del mondo’ , the most beautiful championship in the world. It was not just because Italians love nothing more than talking themselves up — Serie A was the first league in the world to sign up top foreign stars, bringing in international talent at a time when the English league, for example, stretched no further than Scotland in search of players.
Beginning in the late 1950′s when the likes of Brazilian Jose Altafini (AC Milan) and Welshman John Charles (Juventus) were among the top performers, Serie A prided itself on being the league that had the money to bring in the best in the world.
After the 1966 World Cup, where Italy was humiliated by North Korea, foreigners were banned as part of an attempt to strengthen the domestic talent base and the national team, but when the rule was relaxed in 1980, the top clubs began importing talent again and before long Italy had become the first league to truly take on global status.
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
As impressive as two Champions League triumphs are, Chelsea’s appointment of former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti will not leave their Premier League title rivals quaking in their boots.
Ancelotti ended his reign at Milan on Sunday after eight years, following top flight stints at Parma and Juventus, all of which amounted to just one Serie A scudetto.
Most people agree that sacking a manager after a few weeks or a handful of matches is ridiculous, but sometimes chairmen go to the other extreme and exhibit reserves of patience that would be beyond most fans.
Given the frantic pace of the soccer industry, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate can consider himself an extremely lucky man after a season that brought the club just seven league victories, 28 goals and relegation.
It’s been a while since Burnley last enjoyed top flight success but fans of the Lancashire club can dream once more after winning promotion to the Premier League on Monday, beating Sheffield United 1-0 at Wembley.
Founding members of the Football League in 1888, Burnley, join Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City as next season’s new boys, replacing relegated West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.
Alan Shearer has a big decision on his hands after his eight-game stint in charge of Newcastle United ended in relegation from the Premier League on Sunday.
Most fans of the club will be desperate for Shearer, the club’s record goalscorer, to be handed the job of rebuilding the team as they prepare for life outside the top flight.
“Highly intelligent” and “Arsene Wenger” sit neatly together in countless newspaper columns outlining the exploits, achievements and travails of the cerebral Arsenal manager.
Consequently there was no elaborate deconstruction required following an interview with a French television channel at the club’s training ground this week.
Soccer magazine FourFourTwo has published a superb article this month: 49 Things We Hate About Football — Even Though Its Still The Best Thing on the Planet.
I reckon every real fan would agree with almost all of the things we probably hate about football and I give you a random selection of their choices, in no particular order:
England’s most popular soap operas thrive on a weekly recipe of misery, doom and gloom that is gobbled up by television viewers seeking some relief from their own trials and tribulations.
In that sense, the final weekend of the Premier League season is quite similar.
With Manchester United already polishing the trophy again after sealing a third consecutive title last week, neutral television viewers are salivating at the prospect of watching the suffering of fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Hull City and Sunderland as their clubs desperately scarp for top flight survival.
Manchester United have captured their 18th English league title after securing the point they needed in a 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal.
It was a subdued display by United but the celebrations began when the final whistle sealed a hat-trick of titles and moved them alongside Liverpool as England’s most crowned club.