The new world beaters #1 Griezmann

For the past 7 years, world football and Ballon D’Or awards have been dominated by, well, you know who. But, as the Messi and Ronaldo era begins to draw to a close, it is time for a new crop of outstanding talents to take the reigns. This series will be analysing the potential new world beaters, the players who, in four or five years time, could be the real deal.

We will begin with 24 year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann started his career at Spanish side Real Sociedad in 2009 after spending 4 years in their youth academy, and immediately became a regular starter in the left wing position. In his first professional season, he scored 6 goals in 40 appearances including a goal against Huesca in his first start. His performances helped Real Sociedad gain promotion to Spain’s top division in 2010.

The following season in the top flight, having turned down interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Lyon, Griezmann, now under a contract until 2015, had another good season in which he scored 7 goals in in 39 games. This was when people first started to take notice of the young talent, as he displayed skill, ability, and from a young age, he was scoring quite a few goals.

After three more impressive years for the Basque team which included the goal that secured qualification for the Champions League and a stunning overhead kick against the club he supports Lyon, Griezmann attracted interest from Atletico Madrid, who were willing to pay the 30million euro release clause in his contract. It was then that he decided that it was time to move onto a bigger club and challenge for silverware, as Atletico had just beaten all the odds and won La Liga and become just seconds away from winning the Champions League.

In his first season with Atletico,  Griezmann delighted the Madrid faithful with 25 goals in 54 games along with some dazzling performances, and after the recent success of forwards Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa at the club, it looked to be that he was overshadowing fellow attackers Fernando Torres and Mario Mandzukic and becoming a real star.

This season Griezmann has continued his rich vein of form, and it’s looking like this so called ‘form’ is more likely to be permanent class. With this summer’s Euro 2016 in his home country of France, he will have the chance to produce his magic on an even bigger stage and show the world what he is capable of.

However, it could be possible that if he, ironically, performs TOO well in this summer’s tournament, he could be snapped up by local rivals Real Madrid, as club president Florentino Perez seems to have a habit of spending record fees on ‘the next big thing’. Surely, looking at the history if these types of players moving to Real, it would be a huge gamble, as it seems that Real Madrid at times look like an unbalanced team of superstars that put the manager under pressure to play them all and therefore not play his favoured system, and therefore, at times, it has cost Real trophies. Of course, some of these signings have been successful, like Ronaldo and James, but meanwhile, some of them, not so successful, like Kaka or depending on opinion, Gareth Bale. If he does decide to go there, Griezmann will hope to be in the bracket of  the former, rather than the latter.

Some suggestions have been made that a move to the Premier League could be on, and the most likely club for that would be Arsenal, with there lack of firepower up front. The move could be increasingly likely if Arsenal win the league this season, but it still doesn’t seem all that likely that move could be on.

What does seem to be a possibility would be a move to his home country, and PSG or Lyon would be candidates, PSG because they want to become a major force in world football and conquer Europe, Lyon because they want to shift PSG off their throne in domestic French football, and also because Lyon is the team that he supports.

So, Antoine Griezmann. 24 years young, a bright talent with a bright future – but we will see if success beckons.

Ballon D’Or 2015 Preview

Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar. These are the three names that have been shortlisted for this year’s Ballon D’Or award, all hoping to be crowned World Player of the Year 2015. Ronaldo is the current holder, Messi the favourite, but don’t rule out the samba skills of Neymar.

Beginning with Ronaldo, it is fair to say that the Portuguese superstar has not hit the heights of his sensational year in 2014, as 55 goals and 17 assists for club and country this year is obviously very poor. On a more serious note, he failed to pick up any trophies this year (other than La Liga top scorer) after the Champions League, Copa del Rey, World Clubs Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2014, and he’s seemed to struggle so far this season (despite 3 goals against Shaktar Donetsk, 4 goals against Malmo and 5 goals against Espanyol). Obviously, he is still Ronaldo, which means not only did he manage 5 goals against Espanyol, but also against Granada at the end of last season, but although he appears to be past his peak, Ronaldo seems to refuse to convert to a more authentic No.9 role where he could become a poacher. So, a good year, but perhaps not a Ballon D’Or winning year.

Moving onto Messi, what else is there to say? The little Argentine played an instrumental role as Luis Enrique’s Barcelona emulated the 2009 team of Pep Guardiola and won the League, Cup and Champions League all in one season, he guided Argentina to the final of the Copa America, and all the way through delighted us with incredible free kicks, solo goals, and assists. Also, even though Messi scored 51 goals despite an 8 week injury in 2015, it isn’t just his scoring that makes him favourite to scoop up the prestigious golden ball for a fifth time. Firstly, he provided 26 assists, with 18 of them coming in the league, meaning he topped the assists chart for La Liga last season. Also, it was his link with team-mates Luis Suarez and Neymar that enthralled the world of football, as it seemed as if the trio had some sort of telepathic link, which allowed them to score goal after goal last season, and they weren’t just average goals, but usually absolutely outstanding ones, and Messi was at the heart of it all. His most notable moments of the year would be his insane solo goal in the Copa Del Rey final and his bamboozling goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.

The final genius to be shortlisted for the award is the 23 year old Brazilian superstar that is Neymar, and he isn’t just there to make up the numbers. Scoring in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final, the trickster stepped up to the mark whilst the inspirational Messi suffered a cruciate ligament injury in September. With the trio broken up, Neymar and Luis Suarez formed their own mini double act to save Barca, and let Messi make his return with the Azulgranas three points clear at the top of the table. Like Messi, Neymar has produced moments of jaw-dropping magic that have left the world in awe, and his superb year could lead to his crowning.

Finally, looking at the people who have missed out on the final three, names include James, unsung hero Ivan Rakitic, and the brilliant Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan Suarez is the most high profile name left out, as his stunning finishing, superb awareness and overall brilliantness, along with the fact that he won the treble with Barcelona means that, surely he could have been on the shortlist rather than Ronlado or Neymar.

Anyway, put January 11th in your diary – will Ronaldo equal Messi’s four Ballon D’Ors, will Messi get his fifth, or will Neymar be the first person other than Messi or Ronaldo to win it since Kaka in 2007?

Real Madrid v Barcelona Preview

With the latest edition of the world’s greatest game edging ever closer, it’s time to analyse the players on form going into the game, how the two teams have fared recently and which team will come out on top – Real Madrid or Barcelona?

The home team, Madrid, have been in mixed form recently, and since their 0-2 victory over Malmo in September, they have had 4 wins, two draws, and, most recently, a 3-2 defeat against Sevilla, who have also beaten Barcelona this season, despite sitting 10th place in mid-table mediocrity. They sit second in the table behind Barca themselves, but with a win could go top due to the head-to-head rule. Their star player, a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, is hitting a slightly rough patch, but, as we all know, form is temporary, but class is permanent, and it will surely be only a matter of time before he starts scoring again, and of course, he and the rest of the Madrid faithful will hope that is Saturday night. Looking at their defence, which has been solid all season, keeper Keylor Navas is lucky to be playing football at all this season, as he would almost certainly be sitting on the bench if the disastrous De Gea hadn’t been so, well, disastrous. But he is playing, and he’s pulled it out of the bag so far this season, and even with the form of Neymar and Suarez in Messi’s absence, it will be a real challenge for Barcelona to get past the Costa Rican international. Also in defence, it is uncertain whether or not centre-back Sergio Ramos will start after picking up a shoulder injury in the process of scoring a stunning acrobatic goal in the defeat by Sevilla a fortnight ago, and it has been suggested that the Spaniard may play on pain-killers.

Looking at Barcelona, where else is there to start than with the scintillating form of Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have scored 26 goals between them this season, with 13 goals each. The Azulgranas come into the game off the back of 3 wins in their last 4 games, and last week, a confident 3-0 victory over Villarreal saw a Luis Suarez penalty along with two goals from Neymar, the second being an outrageous piece of skill from the Brazilian.

So, Barcelona are on form, Real slightly shaky, but as they say – the form book goes out of the window on derby day – and this isn’t any old derby.

Ronaldo and Mourinho to PSG?

No, no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, Cristiano Ronaldo could be leaving Real Madrid this summer, and sorry Manchester United fans, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to England. His future may well lie with the French capital at Paris Saint Germain, in a possible £87m move.

So, let’s dissect the story. The incredible, magical, genius that is Cristiano Ronaldo is not having a great season with Real Madrid, and whilst 13 goals in 15 games is usually satisfactory for a top level striker, by Ronaldo’s standards, he isn’t in the best form in front of goal – but – his finishing isn’t the only problem. There are suggestions that he has fallen out with Real Madrid manager Rafa Benitez, and also possibly with his team-mates, he doesn’t appear to have the backing of the supporters either, and most importantly, he no longer feels like Madrid’s no.1, their iconic talisman. All in all, his time looks to be up in Spain, and with that being the case, most people would generally look towards the rumours that a move to either former club Manchester United, or to France with PSG is on the cards.

In terms of which club is more likely, Ronaldo’s heart is telling him that a reunion in Manchester would be perfect, whereas his undoubtedly intelligent brain is telling him that PSG suit his needs much better. While the Red Devils are a team Cr7 is fond of, everything has changed since his move in 2009. Firstly, United are no longer winning trophies and dominating England like they did before. Secondly, the great Sir Alex Ferguson has moved on, and the man currently occupying the throne – Louis Van Gaal – wouldn’t necessarily work as two egos in one team doesn’t often go down smoothly. Also, a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an ageing talent at 33 years of age, and is no longer seen as the man that can help PSG achieve their goal of winning the Champions League, so with the league title almost guaranteed every year and often the cup, Ronaldo could win trophies, whilst still having the challenge of conquering Europe with three different teams from three different leagues. Laurent Blanc could build his team around him, he could score loads more goals, break records – and he seems keen, too.

Reports suggest that the Portuguese international, after Real’s champions league meeting with PSG themselves, approached Blanc, and told him that he wanted the move to go ahead. Ronaldo was also seen winking at the president of the club, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, which is an action open to interpretation.

So surely it’s a done deal, then? All parties are keen, the deal would work, everything would be fine! Don’t be so sure. PSG also appear to have their eye on struggling Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who also looks as if his time is coming to an end at Stamford Bridge. Also Portuguese, Mourinho didn’t get on well with Ronaldo in their time together at Real Madrid and that factor could harm the move. But, if they were both to move, it would surely be one of football’s most fascinating stories.

Well then, will Mourinho and Ronaldo move to PSG this summer – we’ll have to wait and see.

La Liga: The annual two horse race is bigger than ever

As the Premier League season looks all done and dusted with Chelsea almost certainly going to win the title under Mourinho once again, in La Liga, it is definitely not the case. It may be another ‘two horse race’ as they call it between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but after each team taking turns to take the throne and be the dominant force in Spain, (apart from last year when Atletico won it) this year it is looking closer than ever, and after the recent change of hands after Barcelona’s triumph in El Clasico, the situation currently stands that Barcelona are two points clear of the ‘Galactico’s’, but, fear not Madrid fans, as Barca still have to face Atletico Madrid and local rivals Espanyol, and it may well mean that Barcelona cannot afford to drop any points for the rest of the season, that is, as long as Real don’t drop any either.

Not only are Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly closer than ever, but their two star players are also both hitting top form this year, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, despite winning the Ballon D’Or, seemed to dip in form after receiving the award, but that all changed when he scored five goals in Real’s clash with Granada in which Madrid won the game a staggering 9-1. As for Messi, he has also been scoring plenty of hat-tricks himself in 2015, and both players seem to be in the form of their lives, only further increasing the battle between the two arguably best clubs in Europe and the world.

With six games to go, it is set to be a huge climax to the season, and I can only give one piece of advice: don’t put any bets on it!

Match Report #1 Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid

The headline says it all. Arguably the best team in the world with the Ballon D’or winner and a few world cup winners in their side, Real Madrid, the current European Champions, were incredibly thrashed 4-0 by local rivals Atletico on Saturday. On Cristiano Ronaldo’s return from suspension after his red card against Cordoba, Real were completely dominated by an Atletico side playing as if it was the World Cup final.

Atletico started the stronger, and it was goalkeeper Iker Casillas’s mistake that lead to the opening goal from Tiago. That did the ‘Rojiblancos’ the world of good, and they took that confidence into their stride, as Saul scored an audacious overhead kick to make the score 2-0. After Atletico’s blistering start, Real Madrid began to come into the game by around the half hour mark, but not to register any attemps of note. Down the other end however Atletico Madrid claimed that they should have had a penalty to make it 3-0 before half time as Diego Godin’s volley appeared to strike the arm of Sami Khedira, but the German World Cup winner conned the referee, by dropping down to the ground and pretending it had hit him in the face. In the second half, a rampant side did make it 3-0 after Antoine Greizmann’s goal. This was after two glaring chances were missed by the La Liga Champions to put the game beyond doubt, including a poor header from Tiago, but after all the pressure Real Madrid finally woke up with about ten minutes to go, as Asier Illaramendi’s fearsome strike was tipped over the bar by Moya. But when Cristiano Ronaldo dribbled the ball out of play under little pressure, that summed up Real’s day, and just a minute later, a diving header by Mario Mandzukic sealed an incredible result for Atletico Madrid.

Many people are now wondering how Real will recover from this hammer blow, as star man Ronaldo’s form had already shown signs of dipping, so, this could mean that we could be in for some title race at the end of the season!

Messi v Ronaldo Rivalry #1

When the topic of conversation ‘Who is the best player in the world?’ crops up, thoughts immediately turn to the sensational football brains of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Although both different, no one can argue that the pair are two footballers who will go down in the history of the game. Many people have many views, and this is a rivalry that has got pundits trying to make an impossible decision. Week in week out they don’t fail to produce outstanding pieces of football which no one else in the world could come close to. But the question is, who is better, Messi or Ronaldo?

First of all, let’s start with something that just cannot be ignored – goals. Both are expected to score at least once in every game they play in, and why not? They both average over a goal a game and take to the pitch every game expecting to score. But looking deep into statistics, somehow, one has the better record than the other. Despite the fact that Ronaldo has scored more career goals than Messi, he is two years and a half older than Leo, and his goals to game ratio isn’t quite as outstanding. In Cr7’s career, he has played 594 matches, scoring 407 goals, but in Messi’s career, he has played 479 matches and scored 388 goals, giving Messi a better goals to game ratio than C-Ron.

Moving on to style of play, you can’t fault either of them. Messi is known for his 100 mph dribbles and beating five players before delicately chipping the goalkeeper, whereas Ronaldo is known for beastly runs before unleashing unstoppable 30 yard screamers into the top corner. They are very different in their style, but they cannot be separated on how good their style is, as both of them are out of this world.

Looking at extra attributes other than goals and style, both of the two superstars have their very own trademarks, which complete them as a player. For Ronaldo, this trademark is his unique way of striking a football to get it to go up and down so quickly and to move in all different directions whilst in the air to give the goalkeeper no chance. He either uses this when gaining an extra half a yard on his man on the edge of the box, or from a free-kick. In terms of Messi, he has two trademark specialities that makes him into the world-class bracket. First of all, it is his ability to run almost as fast with the ball as without it, keeping it perfectly in control the whole way. That is an ability that can change any game and is almost impossible to stop. Also, he is well known for his classy lobs over the goalkeeper. He has scored many of these, where just as the keeper rushes out he cleverly scoops it over his head and into the back of the net. He best portrayed this finishing technique in a Champions League round of 16 match against Bayer Leverkusen, where two of his FIVE goals on the night were chipped over a helpless Bernd Leno.

Finally, to give one the advantage over the other may seem impossible and somewhat unfair on the extremely talented footballer who is only the second best player of his generation, but I have made my decision. Based on the fact that the magician that is Lionel Messi scores more goals and chips in with more for his team mates, I would have to say that Leo just edges this one for me. Of course there will be times when Cristiano is in better form than Messi, but currently looking back at each of their careers, Lionel Messi is the best player in the world.