Archive for March, 2012

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.

Quick analysis of Benfica

Posted: March 16, 2012 in World of Football

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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:

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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:

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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.

From: The Other One, To: Mr. Someone

A letter to Mr. Someone

Posted: March 14, 2012 in World of Football

Dear Mr. Someone

I have decided to write this letter because I’m an imaginative young bloke, aspiring to find a little hole in order to penetrate in the vast yet very restrict Football’s World and you are the gentleman who can grant this young fellow his lifelong dream. The thing is I’m no neighbor of a renowned manager (Sir, rest in peace) and I’m no son of a former footballer, nevertheless, YES, I’m Portuguese too.

Will you the almighty Mr. Someone, the ultimate opinion maker, give me the chance to make your Organization better? An opportunity, it’s all I ask. I promise to delight you with my brightness, and then… who knows… conquer the world underneath your wing. They call me a dreamer. I like to believe I’m simply an idealist. I set my goals and battle the way to create the means which may take me right there.

The truth is I was blessed with a mind teeming ideas, but this great gift came with a drip of poison, I have no resources to implement them and audience… neither. In this new era of fear and contention I’m a 25 year old with a boy’s face, who still gets nervous talking to gentlemen in suits, who sends SPAM to people (CV’s, letters like this, etc.)  always getting the same answers: No; No answer; Not for this department; No Answer; No, is the ******* crisis.

Allow me to expose my opinion about your magnificent self, and it’s a very honest one, I think you’re not a normal guy (you’re one abnormal shall understand) and I say this with a strange sense of respect, admiration and even a tinge of envy. I’m sure you are a man with a special, wide vision so I hope there is something you identify with in this small story I’ll tell:

“A boy reached a point in that journey commonly called life where the big road divides into several tracks, and he wants to follow for all, the big problem is that EVERY SINGLE ONE ends a few feet ahead in a giant cliff, and he falls… (in a big fluffy mattress colored in pink). So he gets up and crawls his way back to the beginning of the tracks, praying to when reaches the cliff again there exists one of those weak tiny bridges, potholed and unstable, like seen in Indiana Jones movies, so he can follow without fear, takes what is takes, until he steps solid ground again.” Will you provide one for him? He would be so very thankful.

This pretty lame allegory to the beginning of my career brought a tear to the corner of my eye… I’m lying.

Whatever, I read somewhere that you are restructuring your sports project, including a brand new team of proclaimed experts, reputed analysts, monsters of communication. True references. Then I explored about the subject and found out the core of it is all about bringing the brightest young prospects around the world. At this point I almost had a slight erection.

As mentioned, my crazy lifelong passion is FOOTBALL. I breathe football, like to see, to examine, to study, to investigate, to analyze, to discuss, to scrutinize, to decompose, but above of all I love to FEEL it.

This sport triggers the most intense and versatile carousel of emotions I have ever experienced in a short period of time. That anxiety before the beginning, then comes that energy, the joy, the anger, the rage and the sadness. Then comes the surprise, the wonder, the madness, the ecstasy… Wow… Sometimes I am sorry for my neighbors. Hmm… Nah.

As somebody said, football is a communal celebration of humanity. Wealthy people, poor people, the beautiful, the tall and the fat people, politicians, homeless and ugly people, shout and chant, suffer and vibrate at the same time as fellow human beings, whether in stadiums, in pubs, or in al-Qaeda caves.

I like to picture myself as a flexible human being, figuratively of course, my vision blends passion and objectivity, humor and romanticism, so I summarize the whole thing in these points:

1. We love the beautiful combination of the tiniest technical, physical, mental details of the athletes with the huge macro-tactical team plans, engaged and constantly interacting in a green rectangle.

2. The decision > action > reaction cycle, created by the interaction between 22 players, 4 judges, 2 technical teams and thousands of supporters, conceives, in my humble opinion, the richest environment in the world of sports. This is the kind of richness that accelerates my big heart.

3.There is NOTHING better than a beer and a good match. Nothing. Neither sex. Lasts less.

Anyway, for me it would be phenomenal if an opportunity to work in something related to football arises. I have a degree in sports and the only reason I chose this route was the ambition to reach the football’s world one day, your world. As we share this same huge passion and you are a wealthy man who likes to share your money with fascinating individuals, for sure you’ll give me a try. It’s hard times we’re (not you) living.

I continue studying, living alone supported by parents, sad but common situation in our reality, what is just sadder. Not too depressed about it, I’m a citizen of the world. The prime minister of our sunny Nation advised 35% of our young minds to immigrate. Because of the markets’ saturation there are no jobs within boundaries. If you make the right offer for the right function, I’ll take the noble’s gentleman advice without thinking twice.

Here are some things you may want to know about me: I value the honesty and the humility. I’m creative, autodidact and a team worker. I love writing, in English I’m not very good at it but I can improve quickly. I know about football and I’m OK at promoting and selling stuff. It’s not hard, target the product, create affinity, highlight the strengths and hide the weaknesses. Just did it with myself.

In 30 years I see myself supporting my kids… and my parents, so with some luck, I may still get something of inheritance. If you fail me in this I’ll have to go kiss the ugly ass of that rude French guy. Well… Forget about the money, for you I’ll work for free.

Without further subject, I send my best regards,

The Other One

P.s I’m sorry for my limited vocabulary in English. Sorry for misspell and malformed expressions. In Portuguese it would sound much better but unfortunately you wouldn’t understand a word.

P.s2 I’m really sorry for my huge ego, I’m fully aware that you are infinitely more awesome than me.

P.s3 It’s utopia to believe that a busy man like you Mr. Someone or even somebody else will read these 1000+ disorganized words but at least I’ll feel carried out for a few hours.