A real living legend! A visionary known by guiding his late 80’s, early 90’s Milan to Continental glory, revolutionizing Italian football fundamentals in the way. His counterculture offensive-minded full pressing football style nailed a profound mark in Italian Calcio, historically characterized by the famous catenaccio, as well as in Old Continent’s football, being the last coach to conquer back-to-back Champions League (European Champion Clubs’ Cup at that time).

When he arrived to Milan, the ever-demanding Italian press questioned his competence to occupy such a difficult role, since he hadn’t played football at professional level and was a shoe salesman before becoming a coach. Facing this hostility, he stated:

In order to become a jockey you doesn’t have to have been born a horse first.

The Milan of Sacchi is now remembered as one of the best teams in football history. However, his career would be marked by the inability to conquer titles anywhere else. He led clubs such as Parma and Atletico Madrid as well as the Italian National team. Nevertheless some of his words will be perpetuated in the hearts of those who became disciples of his philosophy. Here are some examples:

I was fortunate to have the Dutch in attack and the Italians in the back.

Football is the most important thing, amongst the least important in life.

The victory may stay in the books, but the way you achieve it will remain in people’s mind.

If a coach doesn’t have the courage to do what he believes, ends up losing before playing.

Ronaldo was the best I’ve ever seen, but he wasn’t passionate enough about football.

We couldn’t even score against a team of journalists.

Loose Thoughts

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Loose Thoughts

I wish I was ignorant enough to realize the simplicity of complex things, or else sufficiently intelligent to comprehend the full complexity of simple stuff.

Tiago Braz

After the Benfica-Chelsea Champions League tie, a recurrent and disturbing impression assaulted my thoughts. I sensed the veracity of this stunning game violated one more time.

What caught my eye was the rush of the referee to turn a barely open clash into a match without any interest – the booking spree in the beginning was inspirational – by condemning a side to impotence due to the implications, but some heroic display from a shorthanded team kept it alive ’til the very end. I actually fantasize with the sweat dripping in some foreheads.

The truth is Javi García and Maxi were reckless, as John Terry was a week ago with his wings wide open like Vitória the eagle on Benfica’s badge. Surprisingly or not, at that time there were no consequences.

The theory now shared with you wasn’t founded on a single match where I felt the club I support being discriminated. Actually, in the previous round I sensed Mr. Howard Webb being discreetly complacent with Benfica and somehow harsh on Zenit. This sensation emerged a long time ago, first in FIFA tournaments and for some years now in UEFA.

And it is what it is, a theory weakly substantiated, based on assumptions and at high risk of sin for lack of objectivity. Not really my style as I like numbers and facts, however, I felt the need to share these concerns with someone.

UEFA may have considered that one English club should be in the semi-finals. After all, it’s the most profitable country in football finances’ world, so the noble organization couldn’t afford to lose that prominent market for the remainder of the competition. In Portugal there’s no money neither to ring the bells and if you think about the subject, what kind of interest could a Bercelona-Benfica semi-final spark in the UK? It could also signify a stain in the good name of the competition in Her Majesty’s lands. Therefore Chelsea would have to win no matter what.

I suspect that before every important Champions League match, particularly in knock-out stages, the officials are ‘instructed’ to, if necessary, ‘facilitate’ the victory of the side that will generate more income for UEFA. In recent years lots of us noticed match officials with different sets of standards, in favor of the stronger team.

On the other hand we have APOEL’s success, the early elimination of Manchester United or even the 2004 Monaco-Porto final as counter argument to this theory.

Well when Monaco-Porto final happened, the reigning bigwig wasn’t bossing around with his innovative philosophies. Man Utd was eliminated in group stage, not a big problem since other English clubs should go through. In these early stages it’s not transcendental if a big club goes down since there are others from the same country to keep that specific market. The APOEL case is easy to explain: the success of teams like APOEL and Basileia proves that Platini’s model to open Champions League to minor leagues winners was right. Besides, Lyon advanced through group stage surrounded by odd happenings, so something similar against APOEL would be yet a greater scandal.

So I can keep on with the conspiracy. If you remind the latter years’ editions, most of the controversy arrived in semi-finals matches, where the clubs which served UEFA best interests in that particular moment should reach the final. The Chelsea-Barcelona was the greatest example, but in the following years strange stuff happened too.

In the current edition unexpected events occurred earlier and the picture was complicating even more: after losing Italy on Tuesday, if Chelsea was eliminated, they would lose England too. This hypothetic scenario would create a big hole in the accounts and could affect the impeccable status of the competition, so someone must have been a bit scared and treated to avoid more surprises as quickly as possible. This is an industry after all, and many millions are at stake, so like in any other business, valued are the renown and benefits as the sporting merits play a secondary role.

Barcelona-UEFA link

The Barcelona case is actually funny since everybody is talking about a polemical connection, but that’s not quite it. I don’t believe in UEFA benefiting one or another club deliberately, this surges at some point as direct consequence of the protection of prestige, reputation and commercial interests of this exclusive and extremely hard to win tournament.

In fact, since the competition has adopted the designation of Champions League, no team was able to win it twice in a row. Something that must be easy to achieve for Barcelona as they’re one of the best sides ever, nevertheless after the 2009 Stanford Bridge scandal, in 2010 semis against Inter the impaired were them. Finally, last season was their time of glory again as they deservedly beat – even so with the typical arbitral help – the only team who could stand a chance to defeat them, Real Madrid.

So if I had to predict this year’s champion, Barcelona wouldn’t be my first guess, unless UEFA is ready to permit 2 consecutive victories, demystifying a little the character of the competition. After all, this may well be the greatest team in the rich history of this sport.

I honestly hope that all of this is bulls*** as we’re talking about the supreme competition of clubs in the whole world, one that year after year offers us – the lovers of this beautiful game – intense roundabouts of emotions, but what I observe when the competition reach these final stages are referees with double standards and the worrying suspicion that invades my brain makes me fear for the truthfulness of everything involving The Union of European Football Associations.

The year was 2009, another season was over and Jorge Jesus was then the coach of an emerging SC Braga. The attractive football played by his team together with interesting UEFA and league campaigns made him bounce deservedly into the spotlight. He was the chosen one to fill the challenging role of Benfica’s Boss. Benfiquistas were embittered and sad, the team wasn’t practicing good football for ages and their big rivals were dominating the Portuguese football panorama at pleasure. From 1990 onwards, Benfica had won only 3 Championships against the 14 titles of FC Porto. In the eyes of Benfica’s fans only a Prophet – Jesus – would be able to reverse this scenario.

The impact was immediate, in his presentation unabashedly proclaimed – “With me, this team will play twice better” – and few games were enough to realize that he would be able to transform a dull and monotonous team into a machine of attacking football.

2009/2010

The season was near perfect and the Prophet’s harbinger was fulfilled. A clear evolution was evident in comparison with the latest campaigns, since the competition is composed by 16 teams.

2010/2011

This year wouldn’t run so well, the team lost some key players – Di Maria, Ramires and later David Luiz – and the André Villas Boas’ Porto was literally unbeatable. Despite establishing a historical record of 16 straight victories and the extension of his contract until 2013, Jesus began to be contested by the demanding Encarnados fans, who were unhappy with the early elimination in Champions League, with the defeat in the semi-finals of UEFA League against Braga and with the 2nd place in Portuguese league, 21 points behind a FC Porto team which lost only six points throughout the competition.

2011/2012

The early phase of the current season was light work for Benfica, the team was playing brilliantly and seemed to be the strongest of Jesus’ era, arriving into middle of February undefeated both in Champions and National league.

The team was leading the league with a comfortable advantage of 5 points, had been first in the group where the United fell and was in the semi-finals of league cup. The black mark on this path was the elimination of Portuguese Cup against Marítimo.

But here would begin the critical phase of the season. On this date, the first leg of the Champions League knock-out stage was disputed in Russia, under extremely adverse conditions, with temperatures around -15 °C, against a vigorous, organized and aggressive team. Besides, was about to enter in the last third of the league, where would face the main opponents in the race for the title. In the midst of all this, there was a difficult match against FC Porto for the semis of league cup. The real test to the coach’s ability to manage physically and mentally his squad had come and the results would demonstrate the true strength and depth of the team.

In sum, the team broke down. Lost the league lead and was eliminated from the continental competition. Above all, the weaknesses of this squad were exposed, the same side which looked unstoppable at certain point of season. There are already some protesters calling into question the work of Jesus once again.

But which is the real reason for this drop of quality?

I could enumerate several that make sense – the fixtures congestion, injuries, poor management, questionable options, strong opponents – but in my opinion the greatest sin of Jesus was the season planning.

He built a theoretically good squad to play in 4-4-2, but in most of the campaign, especially in highly competitive matches, has played in 4-2-3-1. This causes excess of players in certain positions and lack in others. Right now, Benfica has 4 midfielders to 3 positions. Let’s see:

This strategic adaptation arises in the need to make Witsel and Aimar compatible in the same 11 due to the huge quality of both. Yet, Jesus never felt the need to rebalance the squad. To make the situation worse, in January allowed the loan of Ruben Amorim to Braga, a versatile player who would be crucial in the rotations at this point, like in past seasons. Relinquish a guy able to make several positions was a blunder that denotes lack of vision. Another error was the loan of Carlos Martins to Granada at the beginning of the season. He would fit like a glove in this system, alternating with Aimar and Witsel. Jesus, more than anyone, must be regretting those choices nowadays.

The result of all this stands out, Maxi Pereira, Witsel and Javi Garcia are fundamental, don’t get rest and cannot be injured or suspended, Matic doesn’t satisfy the requirements to balance defensively the team alone, Saviola doesn’t play, Aimar rotates with Rodrigo or Nelson Oliveira, who should be near the opposite area instead of receiving ball in midfield, trying to connect sectors. I believe these facts are enough to justify the fall.

X-Ray of Jesus

In my opinion, this is the top of the mountain for Jesus, took 20 years to get here. Rose slowly but reached the top of the climb. He trains one of the biggest clubs of his country, a historical of Europe. I believe this is all that he aspired in his life, this is his peak and few can say that were in the position where he stands now. With this, I intend to say, with all due respect, that he wouldn’t fit in the top clubs of the European scenario. I can’t imagine him reinventing himself, adapting to a competition with different characteristics at this point in his career. The truth is that his strengths are many and are well in sight, but the defects are there too, precisely in sight of all who want to see and he doesn’t care much to hide them, probably it’s his enormous ego what complicates the task.

Strengths:

• Has the whole school of football, played in big and small, coached small and big, the man knows much about the game;

• A born leader, authoritarian one, the players accept his decisions without questions.

• Emanates determination, dedication and aggressiveness and makes the team play in his image;

• Offensive-minded coach with a catching football style.

Weaknesses:

• Hardly modest, incurs too many times in excesses of confidence and doesn’t realize it. The players absorb the message and become careless in some situations;

• His system exposes the team too much, it’s especially permeable by flanks;

• His speech is not gifted, definitely;

• He’s too stubborn. When he’s mistaken, this trait doesn’t allow him to recognize and rectify:

  1. At the beginning of the season he decided that Emerson would be his left back, leaving Capdevila out. The Brazilian is a nullity on the ball, he’s slow and when involved in the game creation process, the attacking move dies there. The Spaniard only plays when Emerson is unavailable and in the few games he was involved always has performed well. I honestly cannot understand the option.
  2. He has a huge propensity to break the team in 2 blocks at the attacking moment, see yourself, he wants the wingers wide open to give width, he wants Maxi making interior penetrations to unbalance the opposing defensive structure and wants Aimar and Witsel appearing near the opposing box, looking for combinations and increase the firepower. This works when the team is inspired and physically fit, several goals arose with this inner move from Maxi. But when things go wrong, the team has little criteria in the definition of the attacking plays and often disrupts. All losses of possession close to the opposing goal, especially in the right side of the pitch, cause enormous problems, as Javi García, the responsible for stopping the opponent counter-attacks, has to double Maxi and occupy the right back and a huge hole is created between the 6 ‘forwards’ and the 4 ‘defenders’. If the intelligent occupation of space is one of the fundamentals in football, this approach is at least very risky.

Overall, Benfica’s trajectory is being positive, reached the quarter-finals of Champions League, it’s a point behind the top spot of the league and will dispute the league cup final, however, only in the end we’ll be able to evaluate the performance of the coach. What remains in history are the titles, everything else is forgotten, so the achievement of the primordial objective will be essential for the continuation of Jorge Jesus at the command of this club, he needs to conquer the Portuguese league title.

With only five rounds to play, there are three teams separated by 2 points at the top of the table. The day 26 promises to be absolutely explosive, with the leader FC Porto visiting the difficult ground of Braga, meanwhile Benfica will play the Derby Lisboeta at Sporting’s home, a team which, despite being off the race, may have a transcendent influence in the definition of the champion, since after the match against Benfica, still has to face Portistas and Guerreiros do Minho.

If Benfica is finally proclaimed champion, Jorge Jesus will fill up his pigeon chest again and become the first coach since the British Jimmy Hagan (1970-1974) to start four consecutive seasons in this role, thereby leaving another personal stamp on the history of the club.

I conclude then, that in this very moment, Jesus is as close to achieve glory as of the end of his line in the leadership of Benfica. Only time will tell.

I like to think this is an underrated competition. There is a huge difference of quality between stronger and weaker teams, the budgets are limited yet there are enormous financial troubles, there are more foreign than national athletes, the average technical level is relatively low and the stadiums are empty. Despite all these problems, the top portuguese clubs usually perform well in continental competitions. The proof is the current 5th place in the UEFA country coefficient rankings. If we analyse the ‘avaliable resources / success achieved’ relationship, the Portuguese sure are in the TOP in the European context.

In adition to the sportive acomplishments, some major businesses took place there over the past years. In 2003 an 18-year-old teenager named Cristiano Ronaldo was sold for about € 15m to United. The following year Porto won the Champions League and Mourinho decided to take Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira to Chelsea with him in exchange for € 50m, while Deco was transferred to Barcelona for € 21m. Here began the inflation. From this year onwards the best teams from the country are seen by experts as means of transition, growth and consolidation for young prospects, a bridge to get to the top leagues. In spite of all adversity, that is the right place to become men, to acquire discipline, tactical enrichment, routines and culture of victory. The result of all this is within sight. In almost every transfer window there are expensive deals with origin in Portugal and the success rate of these players in a higher level of requirements is satisfactory.

TOP transfers in Portugal

I will now evaluate the next to join this list, the best players in this league. In my perspective, the modern footballer cannot be labeled just by his physical attributes or technical skills. There is a whole set of other characteristics as important as these referred before, to thrive in football elite. I am talking about certain personality traits, work ethics, psychological stability, a strong mental structure, among others. That said, to simplify, I split the characteristics of the athlete in four main areas with the respective parameters:

Emotional Quotient (EQ): character, consistency, determination, handle pressure.

Football IQ (FIQ): tactical intelligence, efficiency, decision-making.

Technique (T): passing ability, shooting, dribbling, tackling, marking, aerial ability. (In this area the characteristics considered not relevant to the position of the player are not considered).

Physical attributes (Phy): Anthropometrics, strength, stamina, pace.

(I acknowledge there are a bunch of additional parameters that should be considered, however, I believe these will be sufficient to make a simple, concise and objective evaluation.)

The characteristics of the players will be valued with a 0 to 10 scale:

Axel Witsel

Probably the most complete player in Portugal. Essential in the offensive process and responsible in the defensive. A box-to-box by excellence. Vision, technique and smartness. All this combined with an impressive physique. Strength, stamina and an interesting ability to protect the ball possession with the body. Goal scoring ability and raise the tempo of his game are aspects to develop. Keystone in Benfica, he fulfills all the requirements to play in any top team around the world.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8

T: 7,6

Phy : 8,1

Average: 7,95

Hulk

Mr. € 100m. Can dismantle any defense with a mixture of power and technique. His left foot is a real cannon. Last year did a fantastic season and was the most crucial player of Villas Boas’ FC Porto. This year has returned to be an intermittent player, similarly to his team. At times accused of being individualistic. This is the time to make the leap, or is at risk of stalling his potential. In Portugal has achieved everything he could reach.

EQ: 7,4

FIQ: 7,3

T: 8,5

Phy : 8,8

Average: 8

Fernando

The best defensive midfielder of the competition. He’s known as The Octopus. Just look at his long legs, wide paces and how he disarms opponents to understand the nickname. The kind of player who fills the field. A tireless worker with a physical capacity far above the average. The type of player that all coaches love, however Mano Menezes  seems to ignore him. Something similar happened with Deco and Pepe who ultimately decided to represent the Portuguese National team. The true quality of this player is only seen in games demanding maximum competitive intensity. As in Portugal there are few, he needs to make the leap to consolidate his game.

EQ: 7,7

FIQ: 8

T: 7,6

Phy : 8,5

Average: 7,95

João Moutinho

Needs no introduction, an excellent player on and off the ball. He presses, shortens spaces, recover, passes, dribbles, shoots. He’s an exemplary professional and everything he does has quality, but lacks some irreverence and a touch of pure and innate talent. He is at the peak of his career and in Portugal has nothing more to learn.

EQ: 8

FIQ: 8,2

T: 7,6

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,9

Nico Gaitán

He has talent in abundance and an exquisite technique. A ball touch which deceives no one. Delicious left foot. However he doesn’t seem so ready to make the leap as the previous. Must stiffen and grow physically and has to improve the definition of the plays. Sometimes comes to seem ungracious. Reminds me both  Quaresma and Di Maria and this is the moment to decide whether wants to pass alongside a great career or be a tireless worker, improve mental and tactical aspects of his game, and achieve greatness.

EQ: 7,4

FIQ: 7,5

T: 8,5

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,8

James Rodríguez

This kid exhales football and is a joy to watch him play. He’s a born disruptor of defenses, posesses a good vision, assists his teammates and scores a bunch of goals. He’s in plain development process but I already realized that he will quickly reach the top of the world. Why? Because all his talent and ability are together with the humility and discipline. The complete package. Another year in this top player factory named FC Porto and will be prepared to take the leading role in any team able to sign him. Solid!

EQ: 7,8

FIQ: 7,5

T: 8

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,78

Ezequiel Garay

Transmits remarkable tranquility and safety. Not very fast, but he’s irreproachable in marking and positioning. This allied to a good aerial ability and the capacity to break opposing lines with tidy passing from the center of defense, turns him in the best central defender in the league. Couldn’t impose himself in Real Madrid, but in the few opportunities he had, has never compromised the team.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8,2

T: 8

Phy : 7,5

Average: 7,95

Álvaro Pereira

The best left back in Portugal and probably in the world’s top 10 for this position where quality does not abound. Pace, strength, smart moves and good crosses. No need to say more. Sometimes his offensive penchant could endanger the defensive balance of the team, but this is associated with the team’s game plan and should not necessarily be considered a flaw.

EQ: 7,8

FIQ: 7,7

T: 7,3

Phy : 8

Average: 7,7

Rodrigo Moreno

Here is another great prospect of the Spanish school, this one with Brazilian blood. A very determined kid with an overwhelming will to succeed in this world, and has all the conditions to accomplish his objectives. Again, a complete package. He’s strong technically, physically and mentally. If at 21 he’s already a goal scoring machine, shall have a bright future. Fast-growing.

EQ: 7,9

FIQ: 7,7

T: 7,6

Phy : 7,9

Average: 7,78

Javi García

Bravery, impetus, aggressiveness. The equilibrium point of a team where he is the greater responsible for the defensive midfield. Does all the dirty work for the team and plays the ball simple to his talented companions. A game-reading ability above average makes him tactically flawless. A wall in front of the central defenders. Ideal for teams which usually play with a pure defensive midfielder.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8,2

T: 7,5

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,93

And now others who just missed out:

Danilo, 20. Under-20 World Champion and the most expensive purchase ever in Portuguese football. Versatile player who was seriously injured shortly after arriving to Porto. However, mouthwatering at first sight.

Rui Patricio, 24. Goalkeeper of the Portuguese National team and the main reason for the good defensive record of Sporting CP which is capable of the best and the worst.

Maxi Pereira, 27. A gladiator. Always leaves his skin on the field. One of the right-backs in best shape in the European panorama nowadays.

Rolando, 26. A low-profile central defender with a high level of effectiveness. This season his performance dropped significantly compared with the previous one.

Luisão, 31. Boss of Benfica’s defense and a leader in the locker room. Exemplary professional and a regular in the calls for Brazil National team.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, 23. A Dutch killer with goal printed in his DNA.

Nelson Oliveira, 20. This raw talent with limitless potential was nicknamed The Portuguese Cantona in the last U-20 World Cup, where he was the major figure of the team defeated in the final. Here is another project of great footballer. Powerful.

The world is now praying for him.

This can be another dark day in football history but the medical intervention was fast, and there are rumors telling the player was resuscitated in the hospital and is now breathing. We hope this to be the truth.

Update: The rumors were confirmed and the clinical situation is considered ‘stable’. Let us hope that there will be no permanent wounds.

Mourinho and Cech are partially responsible for the survival of the player.

In 2007 Cech suffered a major injury during a match fracturing his skull and there were no means in the stadium to transport the player to the hospital. After that match an angry Mourinho proferred this words:

“My goalkeeper was in the dressing room for 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance. This is something English football has to think about. This is much more important than football.”

Later in that same year the competition introduced new measures in the medical rules, including a requirement to have an ambulance in every game.

Video  —  Posted: March 17, 2012 in World of Football

Quick analysis of Benfica

Posted: March 16, 2012 in World of Football

Image

The Portuguese giants have in their museum of trophies 2 European Champions Clubs’ Cup and 5 runners-up medals. A true continental historical. The problem is this Giant is asleep for so long that his achivements have fallen into oblivion. 22 years have passed since their last appearance in a final and 50 since the last time they managed to lift the cup.

Jorge Jesus is the man who tries to return the club to the glories of the past. A very offensive minded coach, who leads the team with an iron fist demanding hard work, determination and total dedication to his players. This is his trademark. The way he screams, gesticulates, leaps during the games, even if the team is winning 4-0, is in itself a performance worth beeing seen.

His strategy has evolved over the years, adapting the team to the entrance and exit of players and the requirements of the different competitions. At this point they’re playing like this:

Image

A 4-2-3-1 based on an effective pressure and continued attacking. Javi Garcia is the equilibrium point in a midfield full of offensive-minded players. Jorge Jesus wants his team starting the plays from the back based in short, line breaking passes. In the game construction process Javi backs to the center of defense and the full backs go up in the pitch to give width to the team. Witsel and Aimar are in charge to pick up the ball near the central circle and organize the attacking move.

Strengths: The team’s attacking process. A great set of creative players, with unpredictable moves and high quality passing ability. When able to get the ball circulating in the opponent’s half they’ll create several goal scoring chances. The secret to stop this team is to nullify the creators of the game, Witsel and Aimar.

Weaknesses: Despite having a good goalkeeper and a pair of good central defenders, the team as a block doesn’t defend well. The defensive routines aren’t always optimal and the team is permeable especially if the wings are well exploited. Emerson, the left full back, is an average player, Maxi Pereira is very offensive-minded so he’s often caught out of position, and the side midfielders doesn’t occupy effectively the space sometimes. Doesn’t seem a team capable to face a game with a counter-attack strategy and this can be a problem when facing stronger opponents.

The stars

Artur. An excellent keeper. Was one of the figures of that magnificent Braga who reached the Europa League final last year.

Maxi Pereira. A player with a fantastic willingness, a real gladiator. Never give up a ball and is the first to press when the team loses it. One of the most loved players by fans.

Luisão and Garay: A very strong double in positional play and aerial ability. However slow. Leadership, experience and quality. They are very similar, so little complementary. Garay has quality with the ball.

Emerson: The black sheep, the ugly duckling, the rotten apple. These are the nicknames chosen for him by the fans. The coach says he plays because it is strong defending. In my opinion, neither defending nor attacking. His replacement is Capdevila, a 34 years old overweight World Champion.

Javi García: The pendulum of the team. Always reading the game superbly and tactically perfect. He is the primary responsible for halting the opponent attacks and keep the team defensively balanced. A wall in front of the central defenders. The cornerstone of this team that remained unbeaten until February. When he got injured the team started losing games. Sometimes exceeds in the aggressiveness.

Axel Witsel: The most complete player of this squad. Strong physically and mentally, remarkable technical quality and vision of the game. Flawless in the tactical plan. In recent days were ventilated in the Portuguese press reports about a potential interest from Real Madrid.

Nico Gaitán: The fantasist, a delicious left foot. He started the season in style, then the press started talking too much of his departure and thereafter the quality of his game decreased. Need to achieve a greater physical dimension in order to better cope the final minutes of games.

Aimar: El Mago needs no introduction. His job is to break down defenses and does it very well. His 33 years old are starting to pass bill but he’s still able to perform 60/70 minutes at the highest level. He plays and makes the whole team play.

Bruno César: He’s positioned near the line but has a huge tendency to come inside looking for combinations with teammates. A very rotational player with a strong left foot. Attention to his long range. His nickname is Chuta-Chuta, Kick-Kick translated to English. Recently debuted with the Brazilian National jersey.

Cardozo: The Paraguayan killer doesn’t need to run much to make goals. Always in the right place. His left foot is a precision weapon. Against him has the low quickness and little mobility. Despite being the top foreigner scorer in club history he has a love-hate relationship with fans  because seems ungracious sometimes.

The Prospects:

ImageImage

Rodrigo and Nélson Oliveira: The first is a Brazilian raised in the Spanish school, great combination for a footballer, he’s extremely determined and possesses fantastic conditions to play football. At 21 he’s a scoring machine. The second was nicknamed the Portuguese Cantona in the last under 20 World Cup. Suits him very well. In this season he has debuted in the league, scored his first goal in Champions League and has made his first appearence with the Portuguese National team. These two are certainly in the worldwide list of promising young forwards.