One Mailer is telling us to hold fire on our Woodward criticism, whilst we also have some wonderful PFA Team of The year geekery, a well done to Vieira and much more...
You may know it all about Fabregas, Lallana and the like, but other signings may have slipped under the radar. WhoScored run their eyes over those recruited from abroad...
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Champions League Conclusions
* Carlo Ancelotti after the 2-2 draw in March said, "maybe after they tire out we could bring Marcelo and Isco". And he did it at Lisbon. Marcelo did have a big impact attack wise for Real.
* But take nothing away from Atletico and Simeone. The 11 players played like animals, showing loyalty to their coach and tactics. If only, if only Costa was fit, they would have had a genuine threat on goal. A truly great team.
* Also, this was no way a dominant Real. Real are one of the best in Europe but not the elite best (like Barca of 3 years ago or pre-guardiolization of Bayern). They still have a lot of flaws, especially in defence.
* Sergio Ramos - big game player. The number of goals he scores in big games is ridiculous being a defender.
* Angel Di Maria - my man of the match and Real's player of the season (ironically don't know if the crowd at Bernabeu would accept this). Truly selfless player that makes the difference in games.. Carlo has dramatically transformed him into a lethal attacker at the middle of the pitch.
* Also happy for Carlo. A great man, amazing coach and humble on top of it. I wish Roman never sacked him (but you know I'm ok now that Jose is here)
Aravind, CFC, Chennai
...I can't remember a sadder Champion's League final; and I still remember those Chelsea fans celebrating outside my window.
Once Real equalised, it was done - Aleti had nothing left to give, and not because it was the game catching up with them, but because it was the entire season. The strain must have been incredible - you have to run at a million miles an hour just to keep up with Real and Barca, and Atleti managed to sustain that magnificent, impossible effort for a whole season. Besides about thirty-two minutes there at the end. In a way, their extra-time collapse was a monument to the shocking levels of commitment they demonstrated for the last nine months. They took it to the absolute limits, and then broke down.
Now Atleti will have to share their magnificent season with their privileged neighbours; and maybe even end up overshadowed by them and their ridiculous decima. I don't know what the moral of the story is. Bad guy's always win in the end? Good guy's can win sometimes, but only til the 93rd minute? Football is so fleeting. After all their effort, they barely got a week of celebration out of it.
Stephen O'S, MUFC
Bowing To Ramos
In a team full of Galacticos, £80million pound wingers and £100million pound Welshmen, one man stands taller than them all: Sergio Ramos.
There is a reason that Iker Casillas ran to him screaming "you are the chief". Big games, big player.
The man is much derided for histrionics and play acting, but my goodness does he deliver on the big stage.Yes he cost £25mil from Sevilla, but his record stands up to scrutiny.
Rarely injured, b*lls of steel (See his Panenka penno in the Euro Champs semi final v Portugal), 115 caps for Spain, still only 28. When you are looking around for heroes and men to rely on, look no further than big Sergio.
Someone Doesn't Like Simeone
Well thank goodness for that result. Hopefully we will now witness the beginning of the end of this continental-wide circle jerk for football's supposed golden boy, Diego Simeone.
It's not how you act in victory but in defeat, and didn't he act just like the classless, undignified man-child of old last night. Having been drunk on success (thoroughly deserved, admittedly) for the previous couple of seasons, we've all been spellbound into believing this gilded child of Daniel Passarella and Eva Peron is what the modern day football manager should aspire to be; a vanquisher of both bus parking and tika-taka like some footballing Father Merrin to Mourinho's Linda Blair demon child anti-Cruyff. Well, fooled into believing so if you are the proud possessor of a goldfish's memory.
I've been staggered by this fawning love-in for Simeone, a player I remember with distinctness and antipathy on C4's Football Italia every weekend kicking lumps out of players, gobbing off at officials, feigning injury and just being a massive yampy t**t.
These were flashes of the past all gathering dust in the back our collective keepsake box until last night when he spectacularly p**sed all over his recent hard-earned reputation with aplomb. His protests against added time were completely baseless, his outraged pitch-invasions hilarious in their childish ridiculousness and I haven't even got started on his hair.
Atletico and Simeone have earnestly filled their boots these past couple of years but with Costa and Courtois most likely leaving and Real and Barca spending the big bucks, I can only imagine we'll begin to see an antagonised Simeone show his true colours increasingly often.
When his well crafted patina of sophistication erodes under the burden of increased expectation, imagined refereeing conspiracy and intense media scrutiny, I'll try not to laugh at the resultant sight of something resembling Paolo di Canio.
I was hoping for a Barcelona victory last weekend and a Real victory last night, not because I oppose spirited underdogs or support established elites but because I would've rather seen much more decent blokes in Gerardo Martino and Carlo Ancelotti lift some silverware ahead of that stupidly coiffed t**ser. One of two is better than none.
Extra-time, Extra Sub?
After watching yesterday's Champions League final and feeling sorry for Atletico who were a minute away from a historical victory, I watched how the players were having a hard time running, paralysed by cramps, especially Juanfran, during extra-time, especially after a long and intense season.
Now there was an article here on F365 questioning the rule of the 23-man squad for major competitions, and by lining up the dots, I came up with a proposal: Why not allow an extra substitution for each team when games go to extra-time ?
FIFA came up with the golden goal then the silver goal rules only to revert back to the old system. They were trying to find a way to minimise player fatique during extra-time or maybe the intent was to avoid the dreaded penalty shootout. In all cases, I think coaches plan the 3 substitutions for 90 minutes of play. When extra-time is added, teams should be allowed to make an extra-substitution, to counter player fatigue or for tactical reasons or even to bring in a player renowned for his spot-taking abilities.
Teams have 23-men and it is absurd to have 9 players tingling their thumbs on the bench after all 3 subs have been made and 30 extra minutes yet to be played.
Completely disagree with John Nicholson's assessment of Danny Welbeck.
The claim that by 23 you have to be a fully developed striker was long since blown away by Didier Drogba, different players develop at different rates. I'm not saying that Welbeck will ever be as good as the big Ivorian but certainly feel it is too early to write him off.
He also claims that a striker needs to be scoring 25 goals a season to be considered a killer, a feat Wayne Rooney has accomplished just twice at his time at the club yet we are constantly told by the media he is World Class. Danny has so much more to his game with his link up play often better than Van Persie and lightyears ahead of Hernandez.
At a time where FFP Homegrwon quotas are rearing their nasty head why would United ever want to sell a striker who has been at the club since a boy? He would be relatively hard to replace especially considering the "mega rebuild" already needed. In many quarters he is already considered a fan favourite through his work rate, determination and obvious love for the club.
Chev (would hate to see the back of that hightop) Belfast
...And Agreeing With Johnny
As I read Jonny Nic's piece on Danny Welbeck, I found myself nodding. As a Manchester United supporter, I quite like Danny boy, and I really hope he finds some goal-scoring boots this season, or at least adds a little more finesse to his first touch (and last touch).
However, while Mr Welbeck has proved himself to be a decent at worst defensive forward with an excellent work-rate, I might have to admit that he may never be good enough in terms of goal-return to play long-term for Man Utd. And like Jonny says, it might be best both for Welbeck and United if he tried his thing elsewhere. The reason I think United would be loath to lose Danny is that we need to fill out the Home-Grown players for the EPL and for the Champions League - a minimum of 4 players who've come through United's academy or have spent 3 seasons prior to turning 21 at the club.
United have sold a fair few Home Grown players over the last few years, almost all of whom were not good enough to play for the club. Some names that come to mind are Richie de Laet, Fabio, Darron Gibson (whose light briefly flickered very brightly before he was packed off to Everton), Macheda (who has been released). All of these players showed a bit of promise, but ultimately didn't measure up to the standard required. This year, we're seeing transfer speculation linking Cleverley (another HG player) with a move away as well as Welbeck. Both Cleverley and Welbeck are still young enough to become better, and maybe a better time to get rid of them would be next year, when youngsters like Wisdom, Januzaj, Tom Lawrence, Lingard et al show enough ability to step up and into the first team.
Oh f**k off Harry. It has been great without you.
A Proud Derby Fan
Thought I'd pull together a summary of my thoughts after watching my team lose in today's Championship Play Off Final on the telly (otherwise I'm just sitting here disconsolately gazing at the Champions League final). QPR's goal, and the almost immediate loss after, were a real punch to the gut, and sadly one that felt like it was coming. There was a sense that it was going to happen, too, that we weren't going to get a goal before extra time, and that QPR could catch us unawares.
We never really found top gear in the match, and that anxiety seemed to carry over to the side after the red card (Lee Mason had an excellent game by the way, deserves mentioning). QPR's experience seemed to weigh heavy on us, and stood them in good stead, and our inability to find an opening became a burden, rather than a sense that we would eventually find one. The top sides see a side with their backs up as an opportunity - we saw it as a tripwire, and QPR took advantage of that perfectly. Credit to them for that.
It's rare that Derby are in the public eye, and our football, and McClaren as our manager, seemed to set us up a some sort of moral opposite to QPR's less exciting, more experienced and more moneyed side. It was all a bit annoying, to be honest. I don't think many of our fans see our team as moral crusaders, and it's hopefully not a 'philosophy' people associate with us (ugh...).
Having the team you love moulded into something else by the media and neutrals is an irritating experience, and made the loss almost feel like an inevitability, in order for the drama merchants and media rags to paint their tales of woe. It becomes a stick to beat you with - a stick you never wanted in the first place. I've loved the way Derby have got results this season, but the small amount of attention we've had has been a reminder that sometimes playing away from the spotlight can be a blessing.
As for the match, we weren't at our best. I don't think any team is in the playoff final (one of the most difficult games you'll ever have to watch as a fan), but I don't think we can claim that we were robbed, really. Sure, we had more of the ball after the red card, but we couldn't really break QPR down that well.
I know that I'm supposed to be congratulatory and respectful, but it's difficult. I don't believe in a 'moral victory', but I do look for a side to achieve something that I can respect, and QPR just haven't done that for me. They are an extremely underwhelming side for the amount of money invested and quality on display, and have been joyless to watch every time I've seen them. So were Derby under Billy Davies, so I claim no superiority - take the victory and stuff the lot of you - but I also don't feel I should have to wish well to a team that I, well, don't.
It's one thing for a side to execute a smash and grab, quite another when that side cost more than half the sides in the division combined. I don't want to see their fans suffer - I just don't want to see that side do particularly well. Sour grapes, sure, but well considered sour grapes, that have been sour for a good while now.
My main fears now are that the squad break apart, we drift back to mediocrity and all that, but that's for another day. Bring on the bread and circuses of the World Cup!
Mark, DCFC and proud
It's All Coming Together Nicely
Only once before did all the following things happen in the same year:
- Austria won the Eurovision song festival
- A thrilling FA Cup final saw the eventual winners come back to win 3-2 after being two goals down
- Atletico claimed top spot in La Liga
- Real were crowned champions of Europe
- Ajax and Feyenoord finished first and second in the Eredivisie, Celtic won the Scottish Division One and Dortmund came in second behind their Munich rivals in the Bundesliga
That year was 1966.
Call me superstitious but I reckon we should keep the champers in the fridge just in case.
Joe (not walking under any ladders for the next few weeks) Fulham
Vaughan's Signed For Forest
Here is an UNDER 31, released XI.
1. Has to be 31 years of age or under
2. Must have at least 10 Premier League appearances
3. Must not have agreed a contract with a new side
Here they are in a 4-3-3
Lukasz Fabianski - Liam Ridgewell, Joleon Lescott , Johnny Heitinga, Johnathan Parr - Kagisho Dikgacoi, Jack Collison, David Vaughan, Mark Albrighton, Nicholas Bendtner, Matty Fryatt
Going down on the last day, I reckon