Sterling: Far from where Ronaldo/Bale were?

Date published: Thursday 7th July 2016 2:27

Keep those mails coming to


Wales aren’t even that good
This might sound outrageous in light of their performances at Euro 2016 but can everyone please stop going on about how great Wales are?

I am bored nearly to death with all of the over-the-top praise that has been lavished on them in recent weeks. The commentary on ITV during their semi-final vs Portugal was ridiculous – I have never heard such biased comments (apart from Clive Tyldesley commentating on Man Utd in the Champions League)! During the first half we kept being told how great they had played & how they were in control. This continued at half-time with the ‘experts’ saying much the same thing.

The facts are that they were totally outplayed by a very weak & ordinary Portugal team who were missing their best defender & one of their best midfielders. They barely managed any attempts on goal all game & as soon as Portugal got possession they packed the defence & fouled Ronaldo. There was a definite penalty in the 1st half & the final score could easily have been 4 or 5 nil.

I was delighted with the result. There, I’ve said it. If they had reached the final the coverage would have been unbearable. Can you imagine?

Looking back at the tournament as a whole – they beat 2 of the weakest teams in the tournament (Russia, who were the worst, and Slovakia), and squeezed past Northern Ireland thanks to an own goal! They lost to Portugal who hadn’t won a single game all tournament apart from on penalties and even lost to England for crying out loud! If you were to take Bale out of the team they wouldn’t even have qualified. Even his performances were just OK at best with a couple of weak free-kick goals that were down to poor goalkeeping. Their only decent result was a win against 11 individuals who have underwhelmed regularly for the last few years. Even that was extremely fortunate – how many chances did Belgium miss?

The Welsh players’ celebrations on England’s defeat were treated by the press as something humorous. Can you imagine the reaction if the roles had been reversed?
And no, this isn’t a bitter email from an Englishman who’s team performed atrociously – I fully accept that Wales went further in the tournament but I have no doubt they would have lost to Iceland if they had been in the other half of the draw.

I can’t wait for the World Cup qualifiers so we can see Wales back in their rightful place – the 4th or 5th tier of European teams.
Pete Tomlin


How come Ronaldo can hang?
Ronaldo’s heading ability came up a fair bit in the mailbox this morning and I was wondering if anyone could explain how he manages to ‘hang’ in the air?

I’m on my way down almost before I’ve left the ground, and even the majority of professional players obey the laws of gravity. But Ronaldo, and a few others, seem able to almost suspend themselves in the air. Why is that? I know his power/timing etc. contribute to him getting up there in the first place, but why doesn’t he come thudding down like a sack of potatoes? The only thing I can think is that he goes up so far/quickly, that it takes longer for his momentum to change? Even writing that looks stupid though, so what’s the deal?

Maybe some basketball fans can enlighten me? Or have I just made up that there are lots of basketball players with a similar ability?
Jack (Mkhitaryan and Ibrahimovic – United win football scrabble) Manchester


Whilst the MC has a point (except that Portugal drew Poland, not beat), Olly Cole has a point, too. This has got to be the worst/luckiest team to make a Final. They were lucky to get out their group on goals scored. They played the worst game I’ve ever seen, first shot on goal 117th minute (the Croatia team that beat Spain didn’t have Modric, should they not have played him?), get through on pens next round, and get to play a Ramsey-less Wales in the semi – which for me, made all the difference from the team that beat Belgium.

I’m just embarrassed for cheering when Iceland scored against Austria so we didn’t have to play them.
Adam Corbett


Is Sterling so different from where Bale and Ronaldo were?
Ok look, I’ve got a probably silly question for the mailbox.

Bale is considered by many to be a (slightly inferior) version of Ronaldo. They both make powerful driving runs from deep or out wide, with a penchant for a powerful shot and possess a tasty free kick. Both have developed into strong athletes too, starting off as quite lean wingers. For their teams, both club and especially country, they are put in the centre of their crowns, given freedom to do what they can. Of course they’ve both moved for record breaking sums. But critically both players have the trust and backing of their sides’ fans.

I remember a few years ago when this other young lad broke through. He was exciting, full of tricks, pace and direct running. He liked a powerful shot and everyone was behind him. He was on track to be the next big thing of the Ronaldo ilk. Then came the record breaking transfer to a club with greater capacity for success (very similar to Bale’s from Tottenham) and away from a manager who was holding him back. It probably happened year too early though.

But after a year which didn’t bring the support or success he would have hoped, although it wasn’t that bad, he went in to these championships a slightly diminished figure. As opposed to support, fans and media have ceaselessly been on his back, seemingly forgetting to accept the naïvity of youth that both Ronaldo and Bale showed at that age. At least in part because he had the audacity to leaving his former club. He was marginalised and castigated for every mistake.

But my question (and hope beneath it) is this… is Sterling really so different from where Bale and Ronaldo were at this age?

I just hope Pep can get his mojo back as the Sterling we first saw was every bit as good as Bale, and both these other two have shown what a country can achieve if you have and support such a player. We should be so lucky as to have one of our own.
Guy S


Mourinho, trophies and orgasms
Here we go again, then: Mourinho, away for barely a blink, returns to English football and immediately returns to his favourite subject: himself, and how many trophies he has won. And again, he frames this with comparison to other managers, implicitly Arsene Wenger. Fair enough, up to a point: he has been wildly successful, last year may turn out to be a hilarious blip, and he could go on to have another 10-15 years (Jesus…) at the top of the game.

Only up to a point though. Trophies – the most visible token of success – are a small part of football. Most managers don’t win one because most clubs don’t win one. The reasons why most clubs don’t win one are long and complicated, and although Leicester’s brilliant, unfathomable success last year may bring about profound change in the English game, I suspect it won’t. Only a few clubs regularly have a realistic chance of winning something. Most reacquaint themselves with disappointment on an annual basis. So why do thousands and thousands of fans constantly show up to watch teams that have no hope of success, if success is the only thing that matters?

I am lucky enough to have grown up supporting one of the teams who can and (sometimes) do win, at a time when they were going through one of the most successful periods in their history, so perhaps it isn’t fair of me to talk of unsuccessful teams, whose fans may feel differently. But as much as I love the shit out of that 2004 Arsenal team, the two doubles, Alan Smith in Copenhagen, and the comeback against Hull, I love just as much Eduardo returning from injury to score two goals in a nothing Carling Cup game, Henry vs Leeds, the silence from both sets of fans in the North London derby the day after David Rocastle died, Arshaaaaarviiin, that Wilshere goal vs Norwich – etc etc etc – none of which helped us win anything. Because some things are more important than winning, or mean more than winning. The 2005 FA Cup final? Yeah, I’m glad we won, it was hilarious. But I’ll take Reyes with two against Chelsea in the 2004 QF, thanks, even though we went on to lose the semifinal.

Trophies are like orgasms: obviously pleasurable, and you can see why people make such a big deal about them. But one of the reasons they are deemed so important is pressure: the longer without one, the more the pressure builds. Arsene Wenger’s long dry spell caused a near collective combustion in the Arsenal fanbase. Mourinho is a serial shagger: fucks one, moves on, fucks another one, moves on. No harm in that, so long as both parties consent. But it doesn’t mean as much. He now has his hands on his dream woman, the mirror of himself – rich, glamorous, troubled – and who knows, maybe he’ll finally settle down.

One of the common threads running through many of the subjects in your Portrait of an Icon series is loyalty: persisting with one club in spite of the temptations elsewhere. Totti. Le Tissier. Maldini. Zanetti. These players are synonymous with one club, they found somewhere they liked and stayed, they seem to regret nothing and they are loved unconditionally by the supporters of those teams. What means more: Jose’s (admittedly impressive) collection of flings, one night stands and dalliances with ex’s? Or Totti’s lone, cherished Serie A? You could make a case for both, but I know which I’d go for.
Matt Hennessey


Like a kid at Christmas
Should we really be that surprised?

With the start of Liverpool’s pre-season tomorrow (as of writing this), I’m getting a little bit of that old buzz that comes from the knowledge that the excitement and that special Liverpool magic (ie drama) is merely, well still several months away from the new season actually. But moving on from that slightly depressing realization, there’s a genuine bit of excitement for me looking ahead because of the mixture of an influx of world-class managerial talent and sides with genuine ambitions of upsetting the establishment old-school makes for a repeat of the Leicester “surprise” seem more likely than ever. But really should we be so surprised? I posit that what we are seeing now is not only a product of the expansion of financial muscle of the league but also the a scene of a known quantity. Sir Alex Ferguson is, it pains me deeply to type these next words but…possibly the most talented coach/manager whatever you wish to call it in modern professional sports history. Amongst American professional sports the only name that comes close is probably Phil Jackson. He won 6 championships with Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen (two of the 5 greatest players of the past 30 years) and another handful in LA with Shaq and Kobe and during those runs you could pretty much be assured that Phil Jackson’s team would be winning everything in sight. In fairness there’s only 1 trophy per season to win for an NBA team so the number of “trophies” may not compare but in terms of sustained dominance? By that admittedly subjective criteria Fergie had an outside influence on the the early part of the premier league era.

Liverpool 2013/14 was a warning and Leicester was the coronation but with Ranieri/Klopp/Conte/Mourinho/Wenger and Pep all proven title winners and the likes of Poch and to a lesser extent Koeman and Bilic looking up for the part I’m not certain we shouldn’t be scratching our head’s a little wondering who finishes up top come next spring.

Perhaps rubbing our hands? Forget silly season, I want my weekly dose of Wenger abuse back again.
Matthew LFC Washington DC


Curious case of Mario
I had almost forgot that Mario Balotelli was a Liverpool player until he showed up for preseason training last week. Though Balotelli is a much-maligned player after the awful season he spent at Liverpool two years ago, I must admit he is very much a player I would like to see at Liverpool this season.

It is my belief that the successful development of a player hinges on two major factors; the athletes desire to succeed and the correct environment. There have been many players who have fallen to the wayside simply because they made the wrong decision in a transfer.

Jurgen Klopp has the type of relationship with his players that Mario Balotelli needs to thrive. Unfortunately the high expectations Jurgen Klopp demands of his players to successfully play his style of football is something Balotelli, to this point, has shown he cannot reach.

Mario Balotelli said that he can still win the Ballon d’or and I honestly believe he has the ability to do so. At the age of 25 it is not too late for him but the end is near if he doesn’t change. Mario will have had the opportunity to impress Klopp in training and only he can decide if he wants to reach the stratospheric levels his abilities dictate he can. Balotelli though is very much like a drug-addicted friend. He screws up and continues to apologize and promise that he can change, but whenever he gets the opportunity he falls off the wagon again. In the end you know inside that it will all be over before he is thirty.
Brian (15 mil for Ibe makes 30 mil for Mane look like a snip) LFC


Mousa trap
As a Newcastle fan, I have never found Sissoko to be lazy, quite the opposite actually. He completes lung busting runs from box to box throughout the game. This is not the view shared by the idiots that sit behind me at the match or plenty of other Newcastle fans who seem to have apportioned a significant amount of blame on him for our poor performances last season. Obviously more goals and assists from him would have helped, but I’ve always felt he was a very instinctive player. Once he is on the charge, with little time to think about, he is like a juggernaut. But as soon as he has to think, he does that mad foot stompy dance thing and makes a poor decision.

I don’t think he has helped himself by repeatedly stating he wants to leave and play for Arsenal mind.
Paul, Newcastle


Messi? Ronaldo? Nope. Buffon
Messi or Ronaldo best ever? Behave. They are not even the best currently playing.

Here’s why: Buffon.

Captain of Juventus and Italy, and a proper captain at that, none of this Eden Hazard type bullsh*t. The most capped Italian international of all time. Most clean sheets in Serie A, ever. Most clean sheets for Italy, ever. Still the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, despite being transferred 15 years ago. Age 38 went the longest streak without conceding a goal in Serie A history. He has been the goalkeeper of the year 10 times in his league. He came runner up for the Ballon D’Or, as a goalkeeper that is some achievement in itself, oh, and that was 10 years ago! He has been in the Italy squad for 5 World Cups and 4 European Championships.

I know that goalkeepers aren’t regarded as footballers or held in the same bracket as the guys that score or create the goals but isn’t this a bit weird. They are on the same pitch, playing the same game. And no-one has played their position on that pitch with better skill, athleticism and class as Buffon, over such a long and consistent period of time either. The guy in the mailbox this morning I think referenced the game being different now. Does this not strengthen the case for a consistent goalkeeper, who has to react to a different football, a faster, more powerful striker? Does this not make the guy the best ever? Or do we have to say the best ever goalkeeper so we don’t confuse him with the rest of the guys that kick it?


CR7 is the greatest
Cracking game last night and full credit to Wales for their performance during the championships, they certainly deserve to return home to a hero’s welcome. Unfortunately, Wales came up against a boring, yet efficient Portugal team that is led by the greatest player to grace the game. I’m sure that will generate some laughter, some derision and some anger from a few but that is my honest opinion and I thought I’d elaborate on this a little further for those who are interested.

I believe that the two greatest players ever are Ronaldo and Messi. I believe this for the simple reason that they exist in a period where the game has never been played at such a high standard. The times where players smoked or drank at half-time, full-time, before and after games have been removed in the majority of professional leagues and replaced with an ever increasing emphasis on self-management and awareness in order to maximise the potential of players. The days of a player plying his trade in Brazil for the majority of his career and plundering goal after goal, whilst cheekily including friendlies in those statistics, are long gone (I’m looking at you Pele). To play at the highest level year in year out is takes an awful lot of dedication, sacrifice and skill in the modern game, these two simply are the greatest.

I consider Ronaldo to be the greater out of the two, not by much, but just enough for him to shade it. Messi’s ability is superhuman, it was a gift from the gods and he is the most naturally gifted football to grace the game. But Ronaldo forged his own destiny, he created himself. Ronaldo’s determination and graft allowed him to sharpen his footballing skills so that he went from raw talent to goal-scoring machine. A man that creates himself against adversity is a man that I admire and respect, not that I don’t respect natural talent, I just believe that a man who has to work to be on par and even surpass the most natural gifted of all time is feat worthy of recognition until the end of time. His jumping ability is unparalleled and deserves its own plaudits in the way that Messi’s control is lauded and Zidane’s grace is lauded, as a writer on here wrote shortly after the game last night. To be able to head a ball like that whilst maintaining a ridiculous amount of hang time is a skill that is both underappreciated and undervalued when compared with skills when the ball is at a players feet. Even then Ronaldo is in the same league as Messi, Zidane, Cruyff and Maradona, just because his skill set is a bit audacious and can be seen as arrogance at times, it should not deter from the fact that his ball control and skill is up there with the greatest, a skill that he developed by tying weights to his feet to increase his speed.

Some will also point to the personality debate, where many have suggested that Ronaldo’s ego holds him back from being truly loved by all. Ronaldo’s ego is what has driven him and will continue to drive him until the day he dies. Without the ego, Ronaldo simply would not be another Nani, a player with immense talent who does not possess the work ethic and consistency to hit the dazzling heights over football’s genuine superstars. But that ego doesn’t transcend all of his life, he donates large sums of his wages to charities around the world and was recognised for his donation to the children of Palestine, a genuine philanthropist.

Ronaldo is audacious, egotistical and perpetuates his own stereotypes but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Without that personality and those traits he wouldn’t be the player he is today and I think we will all agree on one point, thank goodness that he is because I love seeing two of the greatest players ever grace a football field in my lifetime.
Leon, Basel.


Where art thou, Jorge?
Is anyone else worried about the whereabouts of Jorge Mendez? We’re a week in to the transfer window being officially open and there’s been no sign of him. As a Manchester United fan this has not gone unnoticed and I’m worried he may have strained his back trying to pick up his wallet and is unable to signal for help. Please check your local football club for signs of drastically overpriced footballers who may also be homeless . These are telltale signs that he’s been in the area.

Kind regards
Wayne, Manchester


Football’s f**ked
If you were to say Paul Pogba is ten times better than Jordon Ibe it would be hard to argue that. If Paul Pogba supposedly has a market value of £100,000,000 then Jordan Ibe in that same market, at a slightly younger age, is worth around £10,000,000 with an extra £5,000,000 in value added due to his age and homegrown player status bringing a total value of £15,000,000 which is the amount Bournemouth are, reportedly, willing to pay Liverpool for Jibes services.

So, it appears that Ibe’s transfer fee may not be that ridiculous after all. But what does all this mean?

Football’s f**ked. That’s what. Irreversibly broken indeed.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach.


Oh my Lord. This is really happening isn’t it?

Man Utd are going to spend £100 million on a player they let go for free just 4 years ago.

Cant get my head around it all. Surely pride would tell you not to even go there. Surely?!

Fergie will no doubt find the whole amusing rather than shameful…this attitude pretty much sums up his whole career.

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