Southampton worries pile up amid Van Dijk rumours

Year after year, impressive recruitment allows Southampton to remain a top half Premier League side, often pushing for Europe.

Despite losing the likes of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schniederlin, Nathaniel Clyne and many more over the past few seasons, they have consistently improved upon their league position each season.

However, this time, their luck seems to have run out.

After losing Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and boss Ronald Koeman in the summer, the Saints have found goals hard to come by this season.

In 2015/16, the form of Shane Long throughout, added to a few goals from Pelle and an impressive late flourish from Mane saw Saints finish as one of the higher scoring clubs in the league, but with the lack of goals from the former and the departures of the latter, the goals have dried up.

Charlie Austin has had a unspectacular start to the season and has now been side-lined through injury, and new-signing Nathan Redmond has been inconsistent, whilst Jay Rodriguez, finally back from injury, has hardly set the league alight with three goals.

What has kept Southampton tenth in the table up until now has been their solid back four of Cedric, Jose Fonte, Virgil Van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand, but with Fonte rumoured to be on his way to Manchester United and Van Dijk also subject of interest from a number of top clubs, their main assets in the squad could depart, leaving them without much hope.

Van Dijk, who signed from Celtic in 2015 for a fee of around £13 million, is being courted by the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, and it’s easy to see why.

The Dutch defender, who won Southampton’s player of the season award in 2016 is a calm and composed defender, possessing elegance similar to players such as John Stones and Gerard Pique.

His repertoire features his impressive range of passing, his excellent reading of the game, and his aerial ability which is second to none, coming handy in both defence and attack.

Going forward, he has scored three goals this season, the same as striker Nathan Redmond, and more than Shane Long, and whilst he has played as a centre-back for his whole career so far, his understanding of the game and his technical ability suggests that he could play in a role further forward, possibly as a holding midfielder.

The only reason to suggest that he isn’t a world-class defender already is the fact that we are yet to see how he adapts to a variety of tactical instructions, and maybe a move to the Etihad to play under Pep Guardiola would suit him.

He also seems ready-made to be a Barcelona player, with his ability on the ball appearing to be a perfect fit for the Catalan champions, whilst a move to title favourites Chelsea could also help his development, although he could struggle for game time.

Whether he stays or goes, Southampton aren’t in a healthy situation, but fans at St Mary’s will be praying that he stays nevertheless – and with good reason.

Lionel Messi retires from international football

It was meant to be the moment. The time when Lionel Messi finally achieved the international glory he craved so much. His fantastic tournament was all set to end with revenge against Chile, the side who had beaten Argentina in last year’s Copa America final in cruel fashion, thanks to a penalty shoot out after a 0-0 draw.

Incredibly, in this year’s Copa final, after a goalless 120 minutes, it was spot kicks again, and, after Arturo Vidal missed the Chile’s first, it was up to Messi.

The best player in the world places the ball on the spot. He hasn’t had a good penalty record over the past couple of years. Is he thinking about that? It doesn’t look like it. In fact, he looks quite confident, as he steps up to, quite possibly, take the most important kick of his life. If he scores, Argentina goal 1-0 up after a penalty each, and look favourites to win. If he misses, Chile are back in it.

He glances up at the goalkeeper, and steps up to strike. And he misses. He blazes his shot hideously over the bar. His head sinks into his hands as he begins the long walk back to the halfway line.

He had scored a penalty in the shootout of last year’s final, but Argentina ha still lost. This year, he missed, so it wasn’t really as surprise when Chile went on to claim back to back Copa America titles, both of them coming from 0-0 draws after 120 minutes and winning on penalties against Argentina.

However, in the aftermath of the match, little of the focus was on the champions, because it was Messi who sent shockwaves throughout world football, stating that he would retire from international football in an interview.

His decision to give up at 29 with the Russia World Cup looming just two years away was definitely unexpected, but before blaming him, we have to put things into context.

Whilst always consistently performing at club level for Barcelona, he has never quite been able to produce that kind of form for the national team.

Of course, we have seen spells of brilliance, and after he lit up the tournament all the way up to this year’s final, it would have been the perfect way to finally get his first major international honour, after winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

But of course, it wasn’t to be, and following Argentina’s defeat in the 2007 Copa America final, they have now lost the final at every tournament for the last three years, after the 2014 World Cup final, the 2015 Copa America final, and the 2016 Copa Centenario Final all saw Messi and co fall at the final hurdle.

Undoubtedly, it’s a situation that would be almost impossible to handle for the five time Ballon D’Or winner, and after his announcement that it was all over, reports are suggesting that Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero, Lucas Biglia and Angel Di Maria (to name a few) could also follow suit.

As for his international career on the whole, if he wasn’t Lionel Messi, it would have been brilliant. Unfortunately, the fact that he is such a good player means that despite being their all time record goalscorer, his lack of a major trophy means he falls just short of many Argentinian people’s requirements.

He may have taken apart bitter rivals Brazil with a stunning hat-trick, he may have scored four brilliant goals in the World Cup group stages, he may have guided his country to this latest final with jaw-dropping pieces of skill and brilliance, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough.

So, if he does stay true to his word, it seems he will ultimately fail to earn the elusive accolade of the best player of all time, after all, whilst he has never been part of a quality Argentina side, Diego Maradona, who he has been likened to on a countless number of occasions, managed to drag a relatively poor side to World Cup glory, and even if Messi may have been a better player, there is no doubt that Maradona had a better career.

Yes, he is a truly unbelievable football player – but perhaps not the best to grace the earth.


Embarrassing. A word that perfectly sums up every aspect of England’s performance in their 1-2 defeat to Iceland.

Harry Kane is still on set-pieces, and he’s still awful at them. Wayne Rooney can no longer control a football. No one in the entire starting eleven can pass a ball to a player standing five yards away from them.

In fact, the only player who really came away from the match feeling as if they did as well as they could have, was 18 year old Marcus Rashford. And the fact that Roy Hodgson turned to him, a man without a full professional season under his belt, with 2 minutes to go and expecting him to turn things around – that says a lot.

Hodgson however, who, as expected, resigned after the match ended, cannot be the man to blame when his team of professionals can’t pass a ball to each other.

Yes, he clearly hasn’t done well as England manager, and yes, he needs to go, but for the way the team played, he is not the one that deserves to be responsible for the truly awful performance on show.

Still, we do need to congratulate Iceland, who have been, deeply contrasting with England, consistently marvellous throughout the tournament, even if Cristiano Ronaldo does say they have a small mentality.

Whilst being a predominantly defensive side, they have scored in all four of their matches so far, and they showed real character to come from behind, scoring two goals after Wayne Rooney’s penalty put England in  front.

For a nation of around 300,000 people, it is quite some achievement to be doing so well, and it is clear that their improvement in youth development facilities in recent decades has paid dividends.

Still, no matter how well Iceland played, England, quite simply, should have won the match.

As for potential new managers, the choices seem less than inspiring.

Under 21 manager Gareth Southgate is currently favourite, whilst other options consist of the likes of inexperienced Eddie Howe, ageing and foreign Arsene Wenger, and Alan Pardew, who just doesn’t seem like the answer in any way.

The future of England clearly doesn’t look bright, although the players we have are still young, and this tournament will no doubt be a vital experience in their careers.

Unlike Argentina, who look like they’re going to almost completely replace their entire squad after Copa America defeat, the Three Lions are pretty much stuck with the players currently at their disposal.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is hard to tell. Obviously, they haven’t performed well at international level so far. On the bright side, for their respective clubs, the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli have looked fantastic, so the question is simply how do we convert their club form into national form?

Whether or not the next manager is able to do that could be huge, so we’ll have to wait and see. Will England finally, at long long last, be able to perform at a major tournament? The 2018 World Cup in Russia seems unrealistic, but Euro 2020, where Wembley stadium will host the final, has to be the target.

2015/16 Premier League Season Review

5000/1 to win the title? Tipped for relegation? Uninspiring managerial appointment? None of that stopped Leicester City from doing the impossible.

And so many elements of their unbelievable title winning success seem, well, impossible.

Take Jamie Vardy, for example. Just four years ago he was playing non league football for Fleetwood Town. Now, he’s scored for England, he’s on his way to Euro 2016, and he’s a Premier League winner. Not bad for a £1million fee, which, at the time, seemed expensive. Little did the doubters know that Leicester had bagged themselves an absoloute bargain!

The story with Riyad Mahrez is also quite similar, as two years ago he was playing for Le Havre in Ligue 2, and when he was signed for £400,000 by Leicester, (who he presumed were a Rugby club,) no one in England had heard of him. Now every young child in the country wants to be like the PFA player of the year.

However, the dazzling skill of Mahrez and the goals combined with relentless hard work from Jamie Vardy weren’t everything.

N’golo Kante, a relatively unknown midfielder signed from Caen in the summer, proved to be the heartbeat of the team, seeming to never stop running, and it was his box to box style of play, along with Vardy’s pressing, that set the tone for the team.

And if he was the core of the team, centre-backs Robert Huth and Wes Morgan were solid throughout the season, and ever since Ranieri promised the team pizza if they kept their first clean sheet of the season, the defenders haven’t looked back.

The full-backs are also vital to their brilliant defence, as at the start of the season, where many more goals were conceded, Richie De Laet and Jeffrey Schlupp preferred to attack more and play further up the pitch like the typical modern full-back, but Ranieri clocked onto that, and therefore replaced them with the reliable Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs.

Midfielder Danny Drinkwater’s solidity and creativity was important all season, and Marc Albrighton, despite losing his partner’s wife that summer, had the best season of his career.

Shinji Okazaki’s hard work fitted in perfectly with the style of play, whilst figures such as Leonardo Ulloa, Demari Gray, Daniel Amartey should not be overlooked, as they often proved influential from the bench.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Leicester’s unlikely triumph, however, was the fact that Claudio Ranieri, who had recently been sacked as manager of Greece without ever having one a league title in his career, was the charming gentleman who got the best out of every player and found the ultimate winning formula.

Throughout the season his jokes and comical style kept the media strongly in favour of him, whilst he identified the pace in his team, and he adopted a lethal counter-attacking tactic, which destroyed teams left right and centre.

It almost seems laughable really that Leicester great Gary Lineker welcomed Ranieri’s appointment with a tweet reading, ‘Claudio Ranieri? Really?’, as now he is regarded as a fine manager who is already a shoe in for the manager of the year award.

Moving elsewhere, we look at Chelsea, who’s almighty crumble led to the sacking of the previous fan favourite Jose Mourinho. It all started with the first game of the season, when Chelsea twice blew the lead and finished the game with a point, but where it really kicked off was with Mourinho’s appaling treatment of team doctor Eva Carneiro, who he strongly criticized for going onto the pitch to assist Eden Hazard who had gone down injured.

Despite the fact that referee Michael Oliver had called her on, Jose was having none of it, and from there on, it all went horribly wrong, with a run of poor results leading to his sacking in December.

Chelsea then appointed former manager Guus Hiddink to see out the job until the end of the season, and he steered the Blues away from relegation and into mid-table mediocrity, as they finished tenth at the end of the season.

Their London rivals, Tottenham, were alongside Leicester as one of the surprise packages of the season, and if it weren’t for a final day disaster, Mauricio Pochettino’s side would have finished second, but instead they had to settle for third place behind Arsenal.

Although Arsenal’s season will still be regarded as a failure, a second place finish may just keep Arsene Wenger in his job, but as for Pochettino, it looks like he’s really building something at Spurs, and after many, many false dawns at the club, it finally looks like their going somewhere.

Despite a slow start, Harry Kane finished the season as top scorer with 25 goals and was the real star of the show, whilst youngster Dele Alli, signed from MK Dons, also proved a huge success, with outrageous skill, ability and self-confidence, highlighted more than ever when he scored an outstanding goal away to Crystal Palace.

As for Manchester City, it seemed as if the decision to announce that Manuel Pellegrini would be replaced by Pep Guardiola at the end of the season had a negative effect  on them, and even though they won the League cup, a forth place finish was poor by their standards.

Sergio Aguero managed to score 24 goals despite a relatively low key season, whilst Kevin De Bruyne impressed, and if he hadn’t suffered an injury in the League cup semi-final, Manchester City could easily have finished higher.

Louis Van Gaal’s boring style of play meant that even though United won the FA cup, it wasn’t enough to keep him in a job, but along with the winning of the cup, their season did have a few bright sparks, as transfer deadline day signing Anthony Martial went a long way to repaying his huge transfer fee with a solid season including a stunning debut goal against Liverpool.

Another teenager in Marcus Rashford shone through as a debut brace in the Europa League was followed by another brace on his Premier League debut, and his winner in his first ever Manchester derby really showed that the 18 year-old is going to play a big part in not only United’s future, but England’s future.

In sixth place, Ronald Koeman’s Southampton defied the odds once again, and a 4-0 win against Arsenal and a 3-2 comeback win against Liverpool put the gloss on their impressive season, whilst West Ham had similar fortunes in seventh, as they waved goodbye to Upton Park.

Summer signing Dimitri Payet lit up the Premier League as Slaven Bilic’s side, for a while, looked like they could even break into the top four, but their form dropped slightly at the end what was still a very good season.

In eighth were Liverpool, who started slowly and ended up sacking Brendan Rodgers and replacing him with the exciting and entertaining Jurgen Klopp.

Klopp rejuvenated Liverpool and restored the feel good factor around Anfield, although focusing on the League cup and the Europa League, where they eventually lost in both finals, ended up costing them a high league place.

Stoke recovered from a poor start to really turn on the style before Christmas, as trident Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan and Marko Arnautovic put together a string of good performances before Christmas.

In the end it was another season of consolidation, as Mark Hughes’s side finished 9th for a third season running, but it still appears that there is plenty to build on for the future.

Looking at Everton, there was plenty of optimism around the club before the season started, as many people felt that Roberto Martinez had a talented squad at his disposal, although in the end, their season was a disaster, finishing 11th without ever hitting a spell of good form, and with just a couple of games left, the hierarchy at the club decided that time was up for Martinez, and he was then sacked.

Swansea finished 12th an didn’t really live up to expectations after an impressive first few games, whilst Watford, who many thought would get relegated this season, came thirteenth, and despite the outstanding early season form of strikers Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, a drop in form in the second half of the season led to manager Quique Sanchez Flores departing, which is shocking really, as he did a brilliant job without much to work with.

West Brom were medi-ocre, but Tony Pulis will be happy with a 14th place finish that they can build on, although Crystal Palace saw their form plummet, as their classy first half of the season was almost the exact opposite of their poor second half of the season where they couldn’t buy a win.

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will be delighted with 16th place, especially as they were without star striker Callum Wilson for almost the whole campaign.

They were resilient in their belief of ‘playing football the right way’ and it paid off as they never really looked like getting relegated and were always good to watch.

Moving on to Sunderland, Dick Advocaat vacated his role as manager and left the Black Cats looking doomed, but the appointment of Sam Allardyce played a major role in saving their season, whilst the goals of Jermain Defoe were also just as vital.

As for Newcastle, Steve McLaren seems more suited to being a coach than a manger, and when he was sacked with not long to go, even the surprise signing of Rafa Benitez, who had recently been sacked by Real Madrid, wasn’t enough to keep them up, although the good news for the club is that Benitez has signed a three year deal, and will therefore stay as manager even whilst they are in the Championship.

Alex Neil’s Norwich also couldn’t avoid the drop, and at the end of the day they just weren’t good enough, whilst Aston Villa sacked two managers, finished with 17 points, and, most importantly, came last, in what was a truly awful season for a club with a memorable history in the top division.

Overall, we have almost certainly witnessed the most spectacular and unbelievable season ever, seeing great goals, great players, the usual edge of the seat drama and more than anything else, Leicester City. Foxes, we salute you!


Saying goodbye to a legend

While many people argue that Johan Cruyff was the most influential man that our beautiful game has ever had the honour of witnessing, there is no doubt that his genius will be forever etched in the minds of football fans across the globe.

The Dutchman, who not only won the European Cup three years in a row and reached the World Cup final, also thrived at managerial level, with four successive titles and the European Cup to his name whilst managing Barcelona.

However, his immense skill, ability and countless trophies are only a mere fraction of what makes Johan Cruyff a legend, as it was he who put his stamp on the game, revolutionising it in so many ways, from his philosophy of ‘Total Football’ to his world renowned ‘Cruyff Turn’.

Total Football was an idea he had taken from Holland, and whilst managing Barcelona, he successfully implemented the style on not only the first team, but later on all the youth teams at the famous ‘La Masia’ academy also, and it is a philosophy that has taken the club to new heights in the past decade.

Whilst the original idea of Total Football, where any outfield player could take up any position in the team, has been adapted and changed throughout the years, Cruyff’s mark still stays firmly in place on the current style of play aswell.

The fact that Barcelona have managed to produce so many home-grown talents in recent years who all play the same way shows that Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ of the 90’s has played a huge part in the success of Pep Guardiola’s treble winning team of 2009 and Luis Enrique’s team of 2015, and it also shows that FCBarcelona have so much to thank Johan Cruyff for.

His famous ‘Cruyff turn’ has also survived all the way through the years since his playing days, and can be seen so many times in the modern game, once again, all thanks to Cruyff.

In truth, there are many, many more ways in which Cruyff has changed the game for the good of all those who love football, but it would be impossible to pinpoint every single one of those things.

From an outstanding player who is no doubt one of the best we’ve ever seen, to a manager who’s ideas in the 90’s are still affecting the game today, Johan Cruyff’s untimely death has left the game in shock – but we’ll never forget what he’s done for it – thank you, Johan.

Will Pep be a success at Manchester City?

Pep Guardiola lives for football. His mind rarely drifts from the beautiful game. He’s been told on many an occasion to focus his mind on something else, but the longest he can go without thinking about football is, according to Manel Estiarte, his personal assistant, 32 minutes. He may have the odd weakness that the Premier League is waiting to ruthlessly exploit, but their is no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s understanding of football is exceptional.

When announcing the incredible news that Pep would succeed him as City boss next season, current manager Manuel Pellegrini said, “The club aren’t doing anything behind me. I knew about this one month ago.” Pellegrini also said that it was the right time to make it public so that the rumours would end once and for all, and also because it was important that his availability was made known to other interested clubs.

Pellegrini, who is still in with a chance of winning all 4 available trophies to him, would be right to feel hard done by, but it’s hard to argue when a manager such as Pep Guardiola says he wants to coach in the Premier League. And he is not just any old manager.

Pep’s father, Valenti Guardiola, was a brick layer, so hard work was immediately instilled into a young Pep. His early days with Barcelona couldn’t have made for much of a better footballing education. Not only did he get to come through the ranks of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, but he also, alongside many great players, got to learn from one of football’s greatest ever players, Johan Cruyff.

Despite once being christened by Cruyff, “slower than my Granny’, the pair got on very well, with their coinciding outstanding knowledge of the game combining to great effect.

Cruyff used Pep’s intelligence in the holding midfield position of his ‘Dream Team’, which won four straight league titles from 1991 to 1994 along with the European Cup in 1992, and although Pep moved elsewhere towards the end of his career, the Catalan had still lived in Barcelona for the majority of his life, and that was a factor in the decision to come back to Barca in a coaching role, where he enjoyed a successful spell with the side’s B team before being given the role as first team manager for the 2008/09 season.

His endless analysis of opposition footage and hours of explanations to his players about how he wanted them to perform the perfect role in the team lead to a sensational first season as a manager, in which Barcelona won all three trophies, the Copa Del Rey, La Liga, and the Champions League.

Although people may suggest that it could have been done by any manager due to the players he had at his disposal, many people do not understand the tactical detail that Guardiola uses, and how difficult it is to then explain his visions and ideas to his players, but Pep did it.

He would spend hours on both the training ground and in his office planning a brilliantly well organised defence that allowed him to let his attacking players flourish. Pep does the work creating the system with the conducting holding midefielder (just like himself) and the overlapping full backs, and then, once his system has succeeded in getting the ball into dangerous areas, it is left up to the attacking players to score the goals, and with Lionel Messi and co in his team, it is no wonder Barca were so successful under him.

Guardiola is a perfectionist, and despite being criticized for this sometimes, he did an incredible job in winning 14 trophies in just 4 seasons Barca whilst still playing attractive attacking football, known throughout the world as ‘Tiki-Taka’.

But believe it or not, Pep himself sees ‘Tiki-Taka’ as a stupid meaningless phrase, saying that it suggested that his team would pass the ball for no reason, when, in fact, they would move the ball in order to move the opposition.

But whatever ‘Tiki-Taka’ is, and however Pep mastered his Barcelona side throughout his spell with the club, he clearly did it well. He had done what no other manager with Barcelona had done before, and he had guided the club to the most successful period in its history. But that took its toll though, so by the end he couldn’t handle the pressure of the job, and at the end of the 2011-12 season, Guardiola resigned as manager of Barcelona.

During his year out of the game, it was reported that Roman Abramovic may have approached him for the Chelsea job, and that he could begin planning the squad for the 2013/14 season already, but if that story was true, Guardiola clearly turned it down, and the following season he was appointed as manager of Bayern Munich.

He has done well so far, but has only enjoyed limited success as he is still yet to take Bayern to Champions League glory, and he has the remainder of this season left to fulfil that dream before he takes over at City.

So how will the Premier League treat him? Can he handle the media? Louis Van Gaal has been seen to crush under the press conference pressure on more than one occasion, of course. And then there’s the factor of the winter break, which Jurgen Klopp clearly wasn’t prepeared for, and finally, you could say that despite in Germany and Spain the league’s stronger teams are more strong, but in the Premier League the weaker teams are less weak, and English football is more balanced, so will Pep struggle to win so many games by 5, 6 or 7 goal margins now? What’s most important though, is will Pep guide City to glory?

The end of the Galacticos

Year after year, Real Madrid never fail to look for the next big thing, splash the cash, and continue to build a team of superstars. However, we could be witnessing the climax of this era, and the fact that Real, along with fellow Madrid club Atletico, have both been handed transfer bans, it is looking increasingly likely that we could be seeing the death of the “Galacticos”. But that would only be the straw that broke the camel’s back…

Florentino Perez (president of Real)  wants Real Madrid to be an icon. He wants the biggest names. He wants the next big thing. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, James, to name a few. But although the “Galacticos” approach can be successful to a certain degree, it is neither sustainable nor easy to convert into a complete starting 11. As Rafa Benitez found this season.

The 4-0 crushing at the hands of Barcelona summed up just how badly the idea can work. Rafa took the job because it was the Real Madrid job, who wouldn’t? But if you’re a manager with a certain philosophy being forced to play players who don’t necessarily fit the system purely because of their huge price tag, it is unlikely to work, hence the crushing defeat. How was Benitez meant to play a team “the Benitez way” when he must start Isco, Ronaldo, Bale, James, Benzema, Kroos, Modric and more? It’s a recipe for disaster. But, on the other hand, not playing them would make them a waste of money. And, in most cases with Real, a lot of money. Benitez had no choice but to start their £30 million right back Danilo because they paid so much for him. But what if Benitez’s preferred, and more successful system, involved a right back who played differently to Danilo’s style, but didn’t cost as much money, for example?

Managers need to have control over transfers in order to play the way they want to. You can’t chuck the most sought after wingers in a team with a system that plays wing-backs instead. Instead of buying wingers, you buy wing-backs,  don’t you? If only poor old Florentino could understand.

Real went trophy-less last season without Angel Di Maria. The season before, they won the Copa Del Rey and the Champions League with Di Maria, and the Argentinian was arguably Real’s best player that season. But instead of keeping one of the most important players in the team, Perez saw how much worldwide attention James Rodriguez was getting after his world cup performances. So, he bought James for a hefty price tag, leaving the squad with too many attacking players. Goodbye Di Maria. It seemed as if, despite his extraordinary talent, because Di Maria wasn’t a 21 year old recent £60 million signing, he was useless, and therefore surplus to requirements.

Now this season things are continuing to be going downhill, but with club legend Zinedine Zidane at the helm, you can’t help but wonder if he will be given more freedom in the transfer market. Another reason for the end of the “Galacticos” is the transfer ban of course, but that is only temporary. The most significant reason though, must inevitably be that Perez must finally realise that it just doesn’t work. Of course you can forgive him for keeping up with the idea as he watches his side destruct teams like Rayo Vallecano 10-2, or beat Malmo 8-0, because that’s what world class players do for you. But looking at last season, looking at the current league table, and looking at the fact that Rafa Benitez had to be sacked so early on in his rein, surely even Florentino must give it up.

The FIFA Team of the Year 2015

So, Lionel Messi has won his fifth career Ballon D’Or and the little Argentinian takes a starring role in this year’s FIFA team of the year. Featuring 8 La Liga players, a Bundesliga player, a Serie A player and a Ligue 1 player, it isn’t hard to tell that the Premier League wasn’t quite as successful as some hoped in 2015.

Manuel Neuer: Not quite as successful as his outstanding 2014, but Manuel Neuer is still the best goalkeeper I the world, and despite missing a penalty in the German Cup semi final shoot out defeat to Borussia Dortmund  and crashing out of the Champions League (also in the semi-finals) to Barcelona, “The Wall”, as he is otherwise known, was vital in helping Bayern to a third successive Bundesliga title.

Dani Alves: The Barcelona full back continued to demonstrate just why he plays for such a decorated club as Barcelona, his attacking qualities were second to none in 2015 as he was part of Luis Enrique’s treble winning side. Despite not being known for his defensive qualities, there is no disputing that Alves was an important figure for Barcelona last year.

Sergio Ramos: Solid in defence and also proving a threat going forward, Ramos was a somewhat good point of a Real Madrid team that failed to build on their success in 2014. The Spaniard thrived under former coach Rafa Benitez in Real’s brilliant start to the season (from a defensive point of view).

Thiago Silva: After the disappointment of the 2014 World Cup, the Brazil and PSG captain lead his side to a domestic double of Ligue and the Cuope de France. The centre back also scored his side’s vital goal in the 2 leg defeat of Chelsea in the Champions League, before being knocked out by eventual winners Barcelona.

Marcelo: An attacking threat who is similar to fellow Brazilian Dani Alves, Marcelo was a slightly controversial pick for the team of the year as he failed to win any trophies, but has started this season in good form.

Paul Pogba: Paul Pogba could be the real deal. He possesses all the qualities needed to be one of the greats, and starred in a Juventus side that aswell as winning Serie A and the Coppa Italia, also reached the Champions League final, only to fall to Barcelona. With unbeatable strength, the ability to prove an attacking threat whilst also being solid in defense, and a superb long shot talent, Paul Pogba can build on an incredible 2015.

Luka Modric: Luka Modric finally looks at home with Real Madrid after being called “La Liga’s worst signing the season he joined the Spanish giants. The 30 year old has played well with German Toni Kroos after the departure of Xabi Alonso, and is looking like the old Modric that we used to see at Tottenham Hotspur.

Andres Iniesta: Winning his second treble with Barcelona last season, the 2010 World Cup winner demonstrated just why he is so good in one of the biggest games of the year – in Barca’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid. A superb goal accompanied by an all round sensational classic Iniesta performance meant that he could once again prove that he is one of the best in the world.

Neymar: The Brazilian enjoyed an outstanding 2015, and after an okay start to his Barcelona career, Neymar kicked on and showed just why Barcelona paid so much money for him. With the goals and assists flowing, he was essential to Barca’s outstanding trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Moments of utter jaw-dropping skill like his goal against Villareal, aswell as a goal in the Copa Del Rey final and the Champions League final saw Neymar have his greatest year yet, and it looks like there’s is much more to come.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Yet again brilliant, but maybe this time not quite brilliant enough. 5 goal hauls against Granada and Espanyol respectively reminded us of his sheer talent, but 2015 could be the start of Ronaldo’s decline. Obviously records were still broken and goals were scored at a freakishly high rate, but Cr7 failed to live up to the expectations that were set after his brilliant 2014.

Lionel Messi: Not only did he get the most assists in La Liga last season, Lionel Messi still scored goal after goal, and not only were they brilliant, but they came just when Barca needed him most. For example, his outrageous skill to discard Jerome Boateng followed by his audacious chip on Manuel Neuer in the Champions League final, or his incredible solo goal in the Copa Del Rey final, or even his neat finish that secured the title for Barca against Atletico Madrid. Messi also helped Argentina reach the Copa America final before losing on penalties to Chile, and his telepathic understanding with team-mates Neymar and Suarez was at times truly unstoppable.

Who missed out?: Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez.

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!