Category Archives: European Football

Where next for gareth bale?

On Thursday the footballing world was treated to a lesser seen phenomenon, Gareth Bale played football, on an actual football pitch.

The 31 year old perhaps now ex-superstar appeared in the first-half for Wales during their 1-0 victory over Finland. In truth it wasn’t Bale’s finest 45 minutes and his manager Ryan Giggs said the amount of time was all he was fit for given his lack of match fitness, having not played for months on end.

With a CV that matches some of the greats of the game Bale has found himself very much of the periphery of things at Real Madrid for around two seasons now. Having almost secured a move to China last summer, the former Tottenham man could be looking for a way out of the Bernabau once more.

In a recent, honest, interview with Sky Sports, the Welsh forward said Real Madrid: ”make things very difficult” when asked abut his desire to leave the club.

Surely the time has come for the four times Champions League winner to find himself a new club, and with it regular football once more.

Success at Madrid?

There can be no doubt prior to the fallout Bale’s time in the Spanish capital has ultimately been a success, however, fans of the club would perhaps suggest otherwise.

Since completing his £90 million move the forward has won two La Liga titles, one Copa Del Rey, three FIFA Club World Cups, and the aforementioned four UEFA Champions League crowns.

Individually the Cardiff born star has the incredible record of 105 Madrid goals in 251 appearances in all competitions, including one of the greatest goals to ever grace a Champions League final.

Despite falling dramatically out of favour with Zinedine Zidane and the fans, although in truth the fans always seemed to struggle to warm to the Welshman, seemingly because he wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo and occasionally took the limelight off their darling, nobody can deny Bale still has something to offer at the highest level.

His fleeting international outings have proven his quality remains, often the go to man for a Welsh side which has reached higher than usual heights in recent times.

So where could, and should he end up…

Having been on the verge of a move to the Chinese Premier League last summer many may seem a repeat of that move as the logical switch,. Given his current wages and the two years left on his deal, it is going to take a club with deep pockets as well as some bargaining from all parties to make this move happen.

Without one aspect of the move forgoing some financial loss, Bale could continue to earn his money sitting on the bench and playing golf in his free time.

The romantics and Spurs fans will be dreaming of a return to White Hart Lane where he made his name, having been a struggling left-back before moving up the pitch and setting the Premier League alight.

In truth the powers that be and the wage structure in place is unlikely to see Bale back at Spurs. It is much more likely the Welshman heads to one of the other top six Premier League clubs, Manchester United have often been touted as potential suitors.

Opinion

Simply seeing Bale back playing football is the preferable option, however, not at one of Liverpool’s main rivals as adding a player of his abilltiy would enhance any squad, even if his days of playing two matches a week are behind him.

Whilst there is very little chance of it happening, given his wage demands and the type of player Liverpool sign. I would love to see Bale in the red of Liverpool, although I can’t foresee him being delighted with Jurgen Klopp’s running demands. A player of his immense quality would be beneficially to every team in world football, they simply need to let him play.

What would Lionel Messi bring to the Premier League?

In our latest 24-7 football podcast we discuss the big story surrounding Lionel Messi and his potential move from FC Barcelona.

What would Messi bring to a club? How much would you pay? And more…

You listen to the podcast by clicking on the links below:

https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-4

You can also watch the webcast here:

Wolfsburg Edge Past Barcelona to Reach Fourth Champions League Final

Wolfsburg will have the chance to add to their two previous Champions League crowns against French opposition on Sunday, after they overcame Barcelona in a hard fought semi final at the Anoeta Stadium this evening.

Fridolino Rolfo’s goal was the difference between the sides as Wolfsburg managed to hang on to reach yet another final, with underdogs Barcelona missing a host of chances after dominating the game for large spells.

In what was a cagey opening affair, Lluís Cortés team started brighter, enjoying more possession whilst limiting Wolfsburg to few forays forward.

The Blaugrana had an early penalty appeal waved away after Nigerian forward Oshoala’s flicked header hit Kathrin Hendrich on the arm. Wolfsburg goalkeeper Abt was forced to scrambled to parry the ricocheted effort over the bar as it appeared to be looping in.

Despite howls of protests from Barcelona players and a guilty looking Hendrich, the referee opted to give a corner instead of a penalty. VAR was not in operation for the game, but will be brought in for the first time for the final.

If it had have been in use it is likely that it would have overturned the referee’s decision, as replays showed that it was a blatant handball.

Wolfsburg began to find their groove, with Rolfo blazing over on 24 minutes after a swift counterattack. Doorsoun picked the ball up in the middle of the field and drove forward before releasing the Swede with an incisive pass, but she couldn’t keep her effort down.

Just after the half hour mark Barcelona went close to a break through, with Oshoala poking wide after latching onto a superb through ball from Hansen. A combination of Abt and Hendrich managed to put off Oshoala who skewed her shot past the post.

The game really burst into life during the final few minutes of the half, with Rolfo firing wide and Huth heading straight at Panos after Rolfo teed up the German with a pinpoint cross.

At the other end, Hamraoui hooked the ball over the bar from range as the deadlock remained unbroken at half time.

Barcelona missed the first of their guilt edged chances on 51 minutes when former Wolfsburg star Hansen, baring down on goal having broken through the defence, attempted and failed to square the ball to Oshoala. A shot seemed like the better option, and Wolfsburg with bodies back, managed to clear their lines.

They were left to rue that opportunity soon after as Wolfsburg punished them just six minutes later. Barcelona failed to clear Harder’s audacious attempt at an overhead kick, and after pinball in the box, it fell to Rolfo who pounced, stabbing home from a matter of yards out to give Wolfsburg the lead.

Barcelona almost got the equaliser they deserved on the hour when Oshoala met a left-field cross and directed a powerful header goal-ward. Abt was equal to it however, demonstrating her superb reflexes to tip over Oshoala’s effort.

They squandered another marvellous chance when Mariona Caldente somehow put the ball over the bar with the goal at her mercy. She had managed to get on the end of Hermoso’s well timed cutback but couldn’t apply the finish needed to steer it into the bottom corner.

Barcelona continued to launch swathes of attacks, with Wolfsburg happy to sit back and defend their one goal lead.

They again went close when full back Torrejon laid the ball into the path of Hermoso who was in a great position in the box. The winger took one touch to settle herself before dragging her shot off target, as Barcelona’s frustrations continued.

A superb last ditch tackle from Hendrich prevented Hermoso from tapping home from close range a teasing Hansen cross as Wolfsburg held on to reach their first Champions League final since 2016.

They will meet either current holders Lyon or fellow French outfit PSG in Saturday’s final, with those sides contesting the other semi final tomorrow evening at the San Mamés Stadium.

Reflecting on the game, match winner Rolfo told BT Sport:

“We’re really happy with the result. We’ve made it to the final. It was tough game today but I’m proud and happy we’ve made it to the final. We didn’t play our best game today but we still won the game. We were a little bit lucky but I’m still so proud we did it.”

Barcelona’s Hansen also gave an interview after the game and summed up the tie very well:  

“The goals were the difference today. We played a good game and we had enough big goal chances to score at least three goals.

But we scored zero and they had one goal out of nothing so, for me, it feels very hard .. this defeat. But we have to congratulate them and wish them all the best for the final.”

How crucial could the signing of Thiago Silva be for Chelsea?

Brazil Centre Back Thiago Silva has officially joined Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on a one-year deal with a further option of 12 months.

The 35-year old follows the likes of Timo Werner, Hakin Zieych and Leicester’s Ben Chilwell to Stanford Bridge in what is proving to be a hugely successful transfer window for the Blues.

Following Champions League final disappointment for the Ligue 1 Champions, Paris Saint Germain, club captain Thiago Silva looks to have played his last game for the French side after his contract has expired and the Brazilian international is subsequently available on a free transfer.

Speaking following PSG’s 1-0 defeat to the German Champions Bayern Munich Silva said:

“It was my last game in Paris. I thank all for the fans for their love.  I will return to Paris and this club that I love in another role.”

Chelsea Manager Frank Lampard is believed to be a keen admirer of the centre back He has also spoken of the need to add someone who is more vocal at the back and Silva would certainly fit the criteria.

It is clear now that Lampard wants to add to his back line that shipped 79 goals across all competitions last season.  The West London side also conceded 54 league goals, which was more than any other top half side.

This is a record that will need to be improved upon if the Blues have designs on challenging the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League crown.

Despite Silva’s advancing age of 35, he will still add some much needed experience and leadership to Lampard’s defence.

Indeed, more experienced players such as German international Antonio Rudiger, who has struggled for both form and fitness during the last campaign.

Silva began his career in Brazil before spending a bit of time with the Porto B side for a year, from 2004-2005.  From their he moved to Russian club Dynamo Moscow for the 2005-06 season before spending a further three years back in Brazil with Fluminense (2006-09).

It was 2009 where Silva secured his big move to Italian giants, AC Milan where he spent three years at the Milan based club. In that time he managed to win the Serie A title in 2011 with the likes of Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the side.

From there, the Brazilian international moved to Paris in 2012, where he has gone on to win a further seven league titles, five French Cups and six French League Cups.

Silva has also earned 89 caps for Brazil, making his debut in 2008 and has recently won the 2019 Copa America.

This clearly demonstrates that Silva has that winning mentally and he certainly could provide Lampard’s side with the organisational skills that could help the Blues achieve further success.

Silva’s main strength is his passing accuracy, which was a staggering 95.45%, the highest in the Ligue 1 2019/20 season.

In the Champions League final, meanwhile, despite being on the losing side this was also clearly demonstrated having completed more passes (38) and having more touches (57) than any other teammate.  He was also successful at keeping one of Europe’s form strikers, Robert Lewandowski, quiet.

The big draw back with this signing, however, will clearly be Silva’s age and whether he has the ability to adjust to the physical demands of the Premier League week in and week out.

Overall, however, this potential signing for Chelsea has a relatively low element of risk due to it being a free transfer and it only being a one-year deal, if nothing else he could help aid the development of the Blue’s youngsters.

European finals preview

Whilst many of us were hoping and maybe expecting a premier league representative in one if not both European Finals they’re sill matches to look forward to and relish. Both Manchester clubs suffered disappointing exists when many people had them down as favourites. City in particular should have had enough to beat Lyon but other thinking tactics from Pep was their downfall.

Bayern Munich’s relentless march through this season’s Champions League continued as they brushed aside Lyon to book an 11th appearance in the final of the competition and a showdown with Paris St-Germain. The German champions have barely had a glove laid on them in Europe this season, with this their 10th straight Champions League win – equalling the record for winning streaks in the competition set by Real Madrid in 2015 and Bayern themselves in 2013 – as part of a 28-game unbeaten run stretching back to December.

Bayern ended their run of having lost the previous four Champions League semi-finals in which they had appeared. It also keeps them on course for a treble of trophies in Hansi Flick’s stellar debut campaign as coach.

Sunday’s final promises to be a thriller, pitting arguably the best side in world football against one of the planet’s finest forward lines.

The stunning 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in the last eight – which had pundits and fans alike purring and sent the Spanish club seemingly into meltdown, Robert Lewandowski, who has 55 goal in 46 games this season and becomes only the second player to score 15 or more Champions League goals in a single campaign after Cristiano Ronaldo (who has managed it on three occasions).

Bayern’s impressive stats:

  • They are on the longest unbeaten run across Europe’s top five league’s (P29 W28 D1 L0), scoring 97 goals during this run (3.4 per game) and winning each of their past 20.
  • They are only the fourth team in Champions League history to surpass 40 goals in a single campaign. Only Barcelona in 1999-2000 have netted more in a single campaign in the competition (45) than Bayern’s 42 this season.
  • They already have two trophies this season, scoring 100 goals to claim their 30th Bundesliga title before also claiming the German Cup.

Paris St-Germain are through to their first Champions League final, One of Europe’s biggest spenders, but also one of the continent’s most high-profile underachievers, finally seized their opportunity.

In the three seasons prior to this one they exited in the last 16, and before that they went out in the quarter-finals four years in a row – results that ultimately cost managers Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery their jobs.

Thomas Tuchel, though, has found a way to break the glass ceiling, leading the side from the French capital to their first major European final since the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997, a year before Mbappe was born.

You cannot begrudge them it either on the basis of Tuesday’s Semi Final performance, which was calm, confident and incisive.

PSG’S Front three is their biggest asset; Neymar’s brilliant assist took him to 23 goal involvements in 19 appearances for PSG (14 goals & nine assists) in the Champions League and while he and Mbappe’s finishing was rusty, they were still able to regularly fashion chances for themselves and others. When you add Di Maria, who got his 88th and 89th assists in all competitions since he joined the club in August 2015 – (only Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has more in Europe’s top five leagues in that time) He also now has nine goal involvements in the competition this season, surpassing the tally he managed in helping Real Madrid lift the trophy in 2013-14. You have a front three who will fancy their chances of scoring against Bayern who despite their dominant performances give the opponent opportunities. When this trio have started together this season, PSG have lost just one of 12 games. With them fully fit and firing, they will be a match for anyone.

PSG Stat’s

  • This was PSG’s 110th game in the European Cup/Champions League – the most played by a side before reaching their first final, overtaking Arsenal’s record of 90 between 1971-2006.
  • PSG will be the fifth different French side to appear in a European Cup/Champions League final and the first since Monaco in 2003-04. Only Italy, Germany (6 each) and England (8) have had more different clubs appear in the final of the competition.
  • German sides have been eliminated in the semi-finals of the Champions League on each of the past five occasions they have reached this stage of the competition (Bayern four times between 2014-2018 and RB Leipzig tonight), since both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund made the final in 2012-13.
  • No side has ever scored in more consecutive matches in major Uefa competitions than PSG’s current run of 34 (level with Real Madrid between 2011-2014 in the Champions League). The last side to stop the Parisians scoring were Manchester City back in a 1-0 win in April 2016.
  • PSG’s Angel di Maria is unbeaten in all 17 Champions League matches he has scored in (W15 D2 L0 – 21 goals in total) – only Mohamed Salah (18), Gonzalo Higuain (21) and Patrick Kluivert (25) have scored in more games without defeat in the competition’s history.

Europa League Final

Inter Milan will face Sevilla in final on Friday, Romelu Lukaku extended his Europa League scoring run to 10 matches as Inter set up Friday showdown with Sevilla. He  scored twice as Inter Milan thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0. Lukaku is the first player in UEFA Cup/Europa League history to score in 10 consecutive matches via a run stretching back to November 2014 with Everton. Lukaku and Martinez are the first duo to score 20+ goals each in a single season for Inter Milan since Adriano and Obafemi Martins in the 2004-05 campaign.

Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte:

“I am very happy to say we feel very satisfied because our fans see Inter Milan reaching, firstly, a semi-final and now a final of the Europa League after ten years. Of course, we are really looking forward to provide some satisfaction to all of them, but we also know we are facing an opposition with great experience.They have won this tournament five times already, so we will have to prepare ourselves in the same way we have done against Shakthar.I have a great satisfaction to see how the team are giving everything they got with plenty of eagerness and resolution. I am satisfied also because the players do really believe in what we are doing, in what we are proposing. I think we play a very brave game.”

Sevilla feel like they own this competition with a remarkable record, they won three in a row from 2014 to 2016. This showed in the win against manchester united as despite being second best they kept their belief and confidence to snatch the victory. Against Wolves also they kept going in what was even game to get another late winner.