Highlights | Resumo: Benfica 1-3 FC Porto (Allianz Cup 18/19 1/2 final)

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Triunfo do FC Porto por 3-1 frente ao SL Benfica, em jogo da meia-final da Taça Allianz. Encontro emotivo até ao final e bem disputado, com golos de Brahimi (24′), Rafa (31′), Marega (35′) e Fernando (86′). A equipa portista segue para a final da prova.

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Champions League Draw – Chelsea Draw Barcelona For the Third Season Running

For the third season in succession Chelsea found themselves pitched against the current European champions, Barcelona in group A. Werder Bremen and Levski Sofia make up the quartet and it would be a huge surprise if either of those teams progressed.

In group B Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Sporting Lisbon and Spartak Moscow will do battle. Bayern have been weakened by the loss of Ballack to Chelsea, but should still be good enough to get through. Inter Milan have strengthened at the expense of their scandal hit rivals in Italy and will be hard to beat.

Group C sees Liverpool, winners in 2005, returning to the scene of their Istanbul triumph to play Galatasaray. Turkish football seems to have gone off the boil and Gala might struggle against both PSV Eindhoven and Bordeaux.

Group D pitches Valencia, Roma, Olympiakos and the dangerous Shaktar Donetsk, and the first two should make the last sixteen.

Group E sees the most successful European team ever, Real Madrid against Lyon, Steau Bucharest and Dynamo Kiev. Real begin the campaign under the returning Fabio Capello and they should improve on last season’s dismal performance. Lyon under Gerard Houllier are still improving and should qualify.

Group F coughs up an Anglo-Scottish clash. Manchester United sent a reserve team up to Glasgow just before the season started and duly thumped the Scottish champions 3-0. Not many give Celtic much chance against United’s first XI who have started the season on fire. Benfica look dangerous again. They knocked both United and Liverpool out last term and will need to be respected. FC Copenhagen makes up the quartet and may surprise a few people.

Group G features Arsenal, last year’s beaten finalists, and they take on Porto, CSKA Moscow and Hamburg, not an easy group on paper for any of them and Arsenal will have to improve on early poor results at their brand new stadium. But expect them to qualify. No London team has ever won the European Cup/Champions League and Arsenal are desperate to beat their rivals Chelsea and Spurs (they’re in the UEFA cup this time) to that particular honour. But Arsenal have lost several notable players such as Pires, Campbell and Bergkamp and though they have young rapidly improving players like Van Persie and Walcott, it is hard to envisage them picking up the trophy this time round.

Group H sees the banned, but reinstated AC Milan host surprise qualifiers Lille, AEK Athens and Anderlecht. Expect AC to win the group comfortably, and the others to all take points from one another.

For those who like a bet, early odds quoted go: Barca 4/1 favourite, Chelsea 5/1, Real 9/1, AC Milan 10/1, Man Utd 11/1, Inter 13/1, Arsenal and Liverpool 18/1 and 20/1 plus on all the others. You can still get a free $30 bet at betfair.com by inputting the code 6CHE3VPWJ when required.

So who will land the pot of gold of the Champions League this year? Barca have added Thuram and Zambrotta from Italy, but they were surprisingly smacked 3-0 by their compatriots Sevilla in the Super Cup, the match between the Champions League and UEFA cup winners. Barca displayed a surprising weakness in the centre of their defence and John Terry and his pals at Stamford Bridge are certain to have noted that. Best of the outsiders is the fast improving Lyon.

Chelsea have added Ballack and the wonderful Shevchenko, and may be Ashley Cole too. As I have written elsewhere, I think Chelsea can do it this time. They would surely trade the Premier League title for the Champions League. But what do I know? I’m still working for a living. Make up your own mind. Good watching.

Goal | Golo Fábio Vieira: FC Porto (1)-0 Benfica (Liga 21/22 #16)

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Rápida reposição de bola por parte do FC Porto, Fábio Vieira aproveita um ressalto após o passe de Mehdi Taremi, entra pela direita na área e atira por baixo do corpo de Odysseas.

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UEFA Champions League

Having won last season’s edition, Manchester United FC lead the entries for the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League, which will conclude on Wednesday 27 May 2009 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome; the question that rises is «can they repeat?»

Last season Manchester United could say they questionable had their best season for an extensive, lengthy time. Cristiano Ronaldo (Premier League top scorer and World player of the year) and Wayne Rooney helped win two big titles, the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. Both made millions of Euros.

The question this year will be in what order the ‘big four’ will be positioned. Can any team break into the elite group of clubs that are dominating English football? I will say it is possible!! Looking further down the league; can the newly promoted teams survive in the Premier League? Why not! They are prepared already.

Look at the ‘big four’. Manchester United has not brought any new bodies in (not that they need) but have lost someone significant, Tony Coton. Why will Coton be missed? Simple, best goalkeeping coach Manchester United has ever had and despite the fact the knee injury retired him for good, he will be someone to look for advice in a future.

Man Utd has survived the ‘Ronaldo saga’ and live to fight another day. All in all it has been a quiet summer for Manchester United. Alex Ferguson has said over the last few days that he hopes to sign an elite player soon (the name Robinho keeps popping in my head).

I don’t like to predict, but would expect Man Utd to be in the top two or I can foresee the future and say injuries could play a roll. Why? Well, besides the fact that this championship is being played in a «battle field» any injuries to key men like Ronaldo, Rooney or Tevez may mean they could struggle to score goals, has happened before; this was a problem that did occur at times last season, but like earlier mentioned, Ferguson is tracking a striker and this could put an end to any apparent flaw in the squad.

Now, how much is Chelsea willing to risk winning this year? Well, Scolari, Deco, Porto… need I say more? Of course I do, what about the dramatic change in tactics. Chelsea is going all the way, so don’t be surprised to see them playing another UEFA final game against Manchester United once again. Maybe you are wondering «will Chelsea focus more on the Champions League instead of the Premier League?» That sort of rational could ambition the title near Manchester.

Manchester United is with no doubt on top of the pile, not only locally, but on the European front. The current crop of players is certainly the finest manager Sir. Alex Ferguson has had at his retention in his twenty-two year influence, but who of the pretenders can make a strong claim as being genuine contenders this season? Will the ‘Big Four’ charge further away, or can others shorten the gap?

Champions League Matchday 1

Club Brugge vs. Juventus 1:2 (0:0)

Goal scorers: Yulu-Matondo 85′ – Nedved 66′, Trezeguet 75′.

In an amazing match that was completely one sided with Juventus having a great number of 100% chances but simply couldn’t break Club Brugge’s excellent goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen who with the performance he presented this evening fully deserves to stand between the posts instead of Croat goalkeeper Tomislav Butina on the Belgium’s team next match. The bare fact that the Italian giant had even 11 shots on goal and 26 in total while the home side made 7 out of which one was aiming the goal which even entered says it all.

The opening was very hard on the home side, Pavel Nedved had two excellent chances and then Trezeguet shot directly in the goalkeeper from just a few meters range when he was standing alone in front of Stijnen. Simply the 24 year old goalkeeper didn’t even have a time to catch a new breath but he defended his sheet well and kept it untouched until the 66th minute.

Then six minutes after an hour of the game, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was fouled outside the area, and Nedved took out a free kick that gone past the wall and drilled in the right side of the goal for the long waited 0:1 goal. The young Swedish international had a 100% chance as well when he came in the box from the right and waited just like four meters away from Stijnen but he also as Trezeguet struck the ball directly on the goalkeeper and that made him miss a great opportunity to sign his name in the score sheet.

Less than ten minutes later Trezeguet finally struck the back of the net and made it 0:2. The Frenchman received a pass by Mauro Camoranesi in 75th minute and beaten Stijnen with a well taken lob shot after a diagonal run. Right away Ibrahimovic who had most of the chances in this duel could have increased the Old Lady’s advantage but again the Belgium goalkeeper was a too big obstacle to go around and score.

Five minutes before the end Club Brugge succeeded to get their consolation goal (1:2) when Yulu-Matondo headed the ball past Christian Abbiati after connecting on Jonothan Blondel loose ball.

Line ups

Club Brugge: Stijnen, de Cock, Maertens, Spilar, Valgaeren (de Oliveira 74′), Vanaudenaerde, Englebert, Vermant (Leko 84′), Portillo (Blondel 52′), Balaban, Yulu-Matondo.

Juventus: Abbiati, Cannavaro, Kovac, Zambrotta, Blasi, Camoranesi (Giannichedda 89′), Emerson, Nedved, Vieira, Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet (Zalayeta 89′).

Rapid Vienna vs. Bayern Munchen 0:1 (0:0)

Goal scorer: Guerrero 60′.

This is a kind of a match that could have gone either way. While Rapid had the best of counter-attacks especially at the end of the first half, Bayern Munchen had most of the ball possession and far more shots on the goal.

Moments before the half time break Rapid’s captain Steffen Hofmann if quicker could have slotted the ball home but he failed to reach the cross and Oliver Kahn was safe. The same thing happened just before the referee announced the end of the first half, but this time the spotlight was over Marek Kincl who picked up a cross from Axel Lawaree but the Czech only blasted the ball over the crossbar.

Fifteen minutes in the second half Bayern ball possession finally paid of and the Peruvian striker Jose Paolo Guerrero struck the only goal of the match when he picked up a rebound from Roy Makaay’s header and shipped the ball past Helge Payer for 0:1.

Rapid could have scored the equalizer and they had the best opportunity to do so eight minutes before the final whistle when the referee awarded them a penalty because of a foul over Muhammet Akagunduz as the home side defender Jozef Valachovic missed the entire goal.

After the match Bayern’s chief in charge Felix Magath said that he feared for three points until the very last minute while his colleague on the home side bench Josef Hickersberger admitted that despite the missed penalty the Germans deserved to win.

Line ups

Rapid Vienna: Payer, Adamski, Dober, Valachovic, Bejbl, Hlinka, Hofmann, Ivanschitz (Dollinger 84′), Korsos (Korsos 65′), Kincl, Lawaree (Lawaree 74′).

Bayern Munchen: Kahn, Ismael, Lizarazu (Demichelis 52′), Lucio, Sagnol, Hargreaves, Scholl, Schweinsteiger (Deisler 83′), Ze Roberto, Makaay, Pizarro (Guerrero 52′).

Sparta Praha vs. Ajax Amsterdam 1:1 (0:0)

Although the Dutch giant completely controlled this match and had more than the game, with 72% of the ball possession and even 26 shots on Jaromir Blazek’s goal the home side held of their enemy’s and even got into the lead in 66th min after what they even had a chance to keep all three points but a late goal by Wesley Sneijder earned a point for Daniel Blind’s crew, deserved or not, they took it back to Amsterdame.

The match started with Aajax having most of the chances, Sneijder was the first to put Blazek on a test but the Czech’s goalkeeper was on top of his tasks what he proven on seven more occasions throughout the match but they are not important right now, as the only thing that counts are goals.

And the first goal fell in 66th minute when the Czech substitute Miroslav Matusovic fired a shot from way outside the box and drilled the ball in the left top corner of Hans Vonk’s goal after he picked up a lose ball. This of course cut Ajax in half and the Dutch tried to kick back but everything they have did didn’t give any result until the very last minute.

Then from out of Blue Wesley Sneijder got provided with a ball from Ryan Babel in 91st min struck the ball into the top left corner to beat Jaromir Blazek for 1:1 that ensured his side one point what seems great for the Dutch now despite the fact that with the chances they had it was obvious that Ajax could have bagged all three.

Line ups

Sparta Prague: Blazek, Kadlec, Lukas, Petras, Pospech, Kisel, Poborsky, Polacek (Dosek 79′), Sivok, Zelenka, Slepicka (Matusovic 49′).

Ajax Amsterdam: Vonk, Emanuelson, Grygera, Trablesi, Babel, Galasek (Heitinga 90′), Lindenbergh, Maduro, Pienaar (Rosales 81′), Sneijder, Rosenberg (Charisteas 76′).

Arsenal vs. FC Thun 2:1 (0:0)

Goal scorers: Gilberto Silva 51′, Bergkamp 91′ – Ferreira 53′.

Despite the fact that Arsenal had the control of this game they were on verge of sharing points with the Swiss representative until the very last minute when «grandpa» Denis Bergkamp who entered the game from the bench took things in his own hands (read feet) and scored the second goal for the Gunners.

And the man (boy) who will be marked as the guilty one for this match not going more smoothly will be the Dutch troublemaker Robin Van Persie who completely unnecessary earned a red card in 45th min for a highly raised foot and arguing with the referee and by that cost the English giant with his appearance in at least next two or three matches, and with Thierry Henry out Arsen Wenger wont take that so lightly.

Still even with one man down Arsenal succeeded to score first, Jose Antonio Reyes took out a corner kick in the 52nd minute and Gilberto Silva rose above everyone to head the ball in the net of Thun’s goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic for 1:0.

But it didn’t take the guests a long time to level the score because just one minute later Kolo Toure made and error and presented Thun’s Nelson Ferreira with a ball which the 23 year old Portuguese youngster gladly accepted and shipped the ball over him and Arsenal’s goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to level the result on 1:1.

Until the game the home side of course did everything possible to repair the score in their advantage but only thanks to Bergkamp they made it and won all three points. The Dutch veteran won the ball at the edge of the penalty area from Ljubo Milicevic and struck it past Jakupovic to regain his team’s advantage for Arsenal to win all three points.

Line ups

Arsenal: Almunia, Campbell, Cole, Lauren, Toure, Fabregas (Bergkamp 73′), Ljungberg (Hleb 81′), Pires, Reyes (Abeyie 81′), Silva, van Persie.

Thun: Jakupovic, Ferreira, Goncalves, Hodzic, Milicevic, Orman, Aegerter, Bernardi, Gerber (Vieira 72′), Pimenta (Souza 57′), Lustrinelli (Faye 87′).

Udinese vs. Panathinaikos 3:0 (1:0)

Goal scorer: Iaquinta 28′, 73′, 76′.

This was a historic game for Udinese and of course the hat-trick scorer Vicenzo Iaquinta who marked his team’s first UEFA Champions League appearance with a great hat-trick with what he earned Udine their first win in the most elite European club competition.

Although Panathinaikos started the match better the Italian representative picked up pace after 20th min when they realized that the Greeks and Champions League aren’t some forbidden taboo but that football is being played in this competition as well, and from then on it took them just eight minutes to beat Mario Galinovic.

So it was Vicenzo Iaquinta who rose above the rest to connect to Damiano Zenoni’s cross and head the ball perfectly from 10 meter distance that beat the Croatian goalkeeper and handed Udinese a 1:0 lead.

For those who don’t know what kind of a team Panathinaikos have, here’s a little info. It’s not just another anonymous team that by some mistake qualified for the Champions League. The Greeks came a long way to make a crew of well experienced players such as Igor Biscan, Ezequiel Gonzalez, Mikael Nilsson, Giannis Goumas and unlucky for them they weren’t able to field Fabio Conceicao and Emanuel Olisadebe or maybe the result would have been different.

But it wasn’t and in the second half Udinese struck two more goals and put an end to all Panathinaiko’s hopes to make a good result in Italy. Of course both times the scorer was the excellent Iaquinta who netter 13 goals in the past season and 11 in one before.

First the 25 year old escaped the offside trap in 73rd minute and made his way around the goalkeeper to slot his second and then three minutes later after accepting a ball with his back towards Galinovic’s goal what of course forced him to twist around and ship the ball in the bottom corner to sign in his hat-trick from a very strange and low goal-scoring profile situation.

Of course Udinese coach Serse Cosmi now feels like he’s on top of his words and the words that his win exceeded all his expectations confirmed it.

Line ups

Udinese: De Sanctis, Candela, Felipe, De Souza, Natali, Ali Muntari, Obodo (Pinzi 68′), Vidigal, Zenoni, Iaquinta, Di Natale (Di Michele 80′).

Panathinaikos: Galinovic, Goumas, Kotsios, Morris, Nilsson, Seric, Biscan, Charalambides (Gekas 70′), Gonzalez, Torghelle, Wooter (Leontiou 76′).

Werder Bremen vs. Barcelona 0:2 (0:1)

This was a very exciting match to watch and play. Both teams preformed a very attacking style of football and it was only a matter of luck and «touch» who will take away all three points, and although the home side tried their best and had a load full of chances fate has been on the side of the Catalonian giant and all three points gone to Barcelona.

The home side conceded the first goal after thirteen minutes of the game when Deco, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o combined in Werder’s box that ended up in Cameroonian sending the ball to Portuguese international at the edge of the box from where the former FC Porto playmaker’s effort was slightly deflected by Petri Pasanen but enough to fool Andreas Reinke and earn Barcelona their leading goal.

After this the Werder was a better side with Ivan Klasnic, Nelson Valdez, Torsten Frings having series of chances plus Johan Micoud hitting the post but Barca did not only hit the post too through Deco, they even scored the second goal after the referee pointed out to the spot kick because of Christian Schulz who made a foul over Leo Messi.

The taker was Ronaldinho and the Brazilian didn’t give a chance to Reinke but fired a fierce shot in the left side that the German had no chance of defending even if he was on the right place the ball would probably just pick him up and drag him in how powerful it was.

At the end Werder probably earned a draw at least but hey in football you don’t always get what you deserve…

Line ups

Werder Bremen: Reinke, Naldo, Pasanen, Schulz, Baumann (Jensen 63′), Borowski, Frings, Micoud, Owomoyela, Klasnic, Valdez (Hunt 83′).

Barcelona: Valdes, Belletti (Edmilso 45′), Marquez, Oleguer, Puyol, Deco, Giuly (Messi 66′), van Bronckhorst, Xavi (van Bommel 79′), Eto’o, Ronaldinho.

Villarreal vs. Manchester United 0:0

With two teams like Villarreal and Manchester United facing one another someone would think like a rain of goals would drop in that clash but both goalkeepers remained unbeaten despite the fact that the English representative was with one man down from 64th minute because of a stupid move by Wayne Rooney who applauded sarcastically to the referee when the man in black shown him a yellow card, what earned him a second booking that meant automatic early shower for the English youngster.

As for the match itself it was more or less leveled. But lets start from the beginning, Villarreal’s chief Manuel Pellegrini started the match in 4-4-2 formation with Kromkamp and Arruabarrena having the tasks to work on defensive flanks take the ball from midfield to attack where they would let it loose to Hector or Sorin to employ either Forland or Guayre, meanwhile Sir Alex Ferguson started the game with a clear 4-4-2 formation with Rooney and Van Nistelrooy up fornt.

Already in the 6th minute Manchester United had a serious chance to score, when Ronaldo crossed the ball at the far post where it was welcomed by Scholes who unleashed a solid effort but the ball was blocked by Villarreals midfielder Josico. The English side threatened Barbosa’s goal in 18th min when Mikael Silvestre headed the ball towards the net after a corner kick in 18th min but Villarreal’s goalkeeper was equal to the challenge and preserved his cleen sheet.

By the end of the first half there were a couple of chances on both ends. In 37th min one Villareal had an excellent attempt through their flankmen Arruabarrena who fired a volley shot from just eight meters distance but Edwin van der Sar put up a terrific display and made a save. After that Manchester almost struck the opener through Ronaldo’s free kick that was inches away to get in the goal of the crossbar but gone narrowly wide and then in 41st min the home side cleared Ferdinand’s header of the goal line.

After the interval Juan Pablo Sorin slid the ball to Forlan perfectly on the left flank but former United’s striker failed to make use of it and his shot went wide. From then on Manchester had a few chances but the Red Devils gone silent from the moment Rooney got sent off.

In 77th min Senna made a run down the right side of the penalty area and employed Sorin with a low cross but the experienced Argentinean’s attempt was well held by van der Sar. And finally in 89th min Senna fired a shot that deflected of Ferdinand and if Villarreal was more fortunate the ball would finish in the goal instead of it clipping the crossbar before finding safety in the corner.

Overall this can be considered a failure for the home side who almost had a man more on the pitch for half an hour but didn’t manage to do nothing with that advantage.

Benfica vs. Lille 1:0 (0:0

Goal scorer: Miccoli 92′.

The Dutch coach Ronald Koeman was very lucky this evening as the whole army of Benfica fans was set to deliver him a series of insults with the game coming to its end but then out of the blue the loaned Italian striker from Juventus, Fabrizio Miccoli, appeared in Lille’s box and scored the winning goal for the Portuguese Champion.

«This was very lucky, but we deserved it after having more control in the second half during which we created a lot more opportunities than our guests,» said Koeman who also added that his team has gained good confidence with this win which he hope they will boost up already in the next league game and improve their table status.

On the other side Lille’s coach Claude Puel stated that he has nothing to blame on his players, that they played very well and showed that the «small guys» can do a lot of damage as well.

The only goal of the match was scored in the second minute of the stoppage time when ran onto Pedro Mantorras cross and somehow placed a head shot that beat Tony Silva for 1:0 home side win. After the game was finished the Italian forward said that he never scored a more difficult goal in his career.

Line ups

Benfica: Moreira, Leo, Luisao, Nelson, Rocha (Beraldo 45′), Fernandes, Geovanni (Mantorras 80′), Petit (Karagounis 67′), Simao, Nuno Gomes, Miccoli.

Lille: Sylva, Chalme, Plestan, Schmitz, Tafforeau, Bodmer, Cabaye, Dernis (Lichtsteiner 84′), Gygax (Debuchy 45′), Makoun, Moussilou (Odemwingie 71′).

Lionel Messi: A Biography – A Genius of Soccer

From Carlos Gardel and Eva Peron to Maradona and Lionel Messi

«He (Lionel Messi) is the best player in the world by some distance», Arsne Wenger, the coach of the F.C. Arsenal, has proclaimed of the five-foot-eight-inch tall, Argentine-born football star, «He’s (like) a PlayStation. He can take advantage of every mistake we make».

As elsewhere in Latin America, much of Argentina’s sporting history has been dominated by football — known simply as soccer in the States– since the 1920s. After Argentina’s military strongman Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, a hated tyrant, declared top priority to win the FIFA Global Cup in the late 1970s, the nation’s footballers invaded the world with a host of global awards and trophies. On June 25, 1978, Mario Kempes and his fellow players lifted the winner’s Cup on home soil upon scoring an overwhelming win against a Peruvian team led by an Argentine-born goalkeeper (6-0) in the semis. Within a year, in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo, the South American contingent,spearheaded by Diego Armando Maradona, was regarded as the best junior team on the Planet at the expense of the former Soviet Union/USSR. Shortly thereafter, Argentina was one of the «huge favorites» in the men’s football tournament prior to joining the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games. Three years on, its national side came close to winning the IV Junior Global Championship.

On June 29, 1986, Los Celestes, as the national squad is known around the globe, placed first in the FIFA Cup in the United Mexican States; One of the most memorable matches ever seen in World Cup history was played there as Argentina beat England–Maradona and his team-mates tried to win on the field what their countrymen had lost in the 1982 Anglo-Argentine Falklands War. Already, in 1990, once again Maradona put Argentina in the final of the FIFA Cup on Italian soil. In the space of six years, from 1995 through 2005, the national contingent was four-time winner of the Under-20 World tournament. It was around this time that name Messi appeared on the scene.

Argentine-born Messi,who is dubbed » the Flea», is a strong and powerful forward who plays both in FC Barcelona (since 2003) and Argentina’s national squad (2006).Curiously, he has spent his entire career in Spanish club (nearly 10 years), working in a variety of teams (Under-15, U-17, U-19, as well as other squads). Messi has become almost indispensable to his club (known popularly as «Barca»)-he is the backbone of Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation. Nevertheless, he loves to play football with the Argentine side, having refused to be a member of the Spanish national team despite his strong links to European nation. As well as being an Argentine-born person, Messi, of Italian background, is a Spaniard citizen since the mid-2000s. From 2005 through 2011, Messi collected over seventy individual awards. Indeed, his success as a sportsman is largely due to his persistence and hard discipline. According to Paris-based magazine France Football, Messi is the world’s top paid footballer. Besides all that, the center forward —a soccer gold medalist in the 2008 Olympics– has gained international stature as a champion for the rights of children.

Although Lionel Andres Messi, known occasionally as «the ghost center forward»,is considered one of the greatest soccer players to have never won a FIFA World Cup (together with Ferenc Puskas from Hungary and Liberia’s George Weah), he is already one of the male athletes most famous on the global sporting map. In the Western Hemisphere, Messi, who is often compared to Maradona, has inspired thousands of young would-be footballers to follow their dreams,especially in poverty-stricken regions. But not only that, because of him more people know about Argentina –which has a long-standing history of man-made disasters— than ever before. On his home soil, his status is only comparable to three national celebrities: Argentina’s postwar First Lady Eva Perón -made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita— Maradona, and Carlos Gardel, nicknamed the «songbird of Buenos Aires» and who helped popularize tango around the world.

Lionel Messi: A Rough Diamond

Lionel Messi’s life changed forever when he was plucked out of the Spanish-speaking republic of Argentina by a talent scout to play for Barca, which is often referred to as one of the top clubs around the globe- it holds hundreds of millions of soccer fans outside its own borders, from Bangladesh and Guinea-Bissau to San Marino and the Feroe islands.

You cannot become a top sportsman (woman) if you don’t achieve notable results, if you are not a hard worker, and before all, if you are not able to overcome the obstacles in your life. In fact, Lionel Messi knows firsthand about this. Like his fellow Argentine Maradona, Messi is small who stands 5 feet 8 inches tallfor the position of forward, but he overcame this with a prodigious ability and exceptional intelligence on the filed, earning the nickname «Flea». Over his athletic career, he also has defeated other hurdles: numerous injuries, especially during Rikjaard’s direction. Throughout his years as a boy, his country underwent one of the deepest recessions in the Americas. But this wasn’t all. Because of an illness, he almost gave up the sport. By 2008, there were troubles to send Messi to the Summer Games due to his dual citizenship and status as a professional footballer in Barcelona. Against club wishes, however, Messi,the greatest professional footballer of all time, arrived at Beijing with the Argentine squad (as a defending champion). In the Olympic arena, soon afterwards, he and his colleagues were champions, making history in the People’s Republic of China. Currently, Barcelona won’t sell Messi for anything in the world.

Messi bases his success on being able to offer a play based on passion, determination, hard discipline, and an exceptional ability. No player can ever be categorized as invincible in football world, but Messi is probably the most talented man ever to carry a ball. In all his matches, Messi plays as if were a game for the FIFA World Championship.

Rosario: The Birth Of A Footballer

Born in the Argentinian city of Rosario (Santa Fe Province), on June 24 1987 – a year after his country captured the FIFA World Tournament in the Mexican metropolis— Messi is one of the fourth children born to Jorge Horacio Messi and his wife, the former Celia Mara Cucittini. Curiously, he is one of the four most prominent individuals from Rosario, alongside Libertad Lamarque (performer), Valeria Mazza (supermodel),and César Luis Menotti (football coach).

His father had been a factory steel worker. In fact, Messi inherited his football genes from his father, who was coach during a brief period. Meanwhile, Messi’s mother is an admirer of notable people and wanted his children to have famous names. Celia Mara named his son Lionel after her favorite idol Lionel Richie, a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter whose pop chart-topping hits in the 1980s included «Truly», «You Are», and «All Night Long».

Like most of Argentina’s sportsmen as Octavio Dazzan (cycling), David Nalbandian (tennis), and Manu Ginibili (basketball), Lionel reflects the Italian roots of his motherland. His father’s family is from Italy’s city of Ancona who came to the Latin American place during a large-scale European immigration at the turn of the 19th century. This Spanish-trained professional footballer, the high-scoring forward of Barcelona, has two brothers, Rodrigo and Matas, and a sister, Maria Sol. On the other hand, his cousins Maximiliano and Emmanuel Biancucchi are also soccer players.

His sporting life goes back to times when Messi grew up playing football in Rosario, a land famous for their athletic passion and hosted the World Championships for both professional and amateurs, including the Men’s Football World Cup (1978) and Men’s Volleyball Global Tournament (1982);Messi can take credit for that because he has been named official Ambassador for Rosario’s 2019 Pan American bid. Under this Olympic atmosphere, Jorge Horacio Messi made no secret of his ambitions for his son.

Like several Latino champs –among them Edwin Vásquez Cam (shooting) and Nancy López (golf) — Messi was introduced to sport by his father. Before joining the Newell’s Old Boy’s youth side, Lionel -when he was only 5 years old— played in the local team of Grandioli, where his father was coach. On that occasion, the smaller Lionel was a goalie on the football team. At the time, he had a lot of athletic skills, but not the technical skills. Shortly after, while Lionel demonstrated his talent in the under-10 competitions in his homeland and abroad in the middle of the 1990s, the Argentine boy, at the age of 11, was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency. Since then, prior to begin an athletic career as a junior player in the following years, he had to beat back an illness, whose treatment cost $ 900 a month. But in spite of this problem, his enthusiasm for football was unbelievable.

A Golden Opportunity

Recognizing Messi’s precocious talent, Carles Rexach, a sports administrator, promised him that FC Barcelona would pay his treatment if he decideto play for the famous club.The answer was «yes», of course. As a consequence of this, Messi and his parents moved permanently to Barcelonese soil, a football-mad place. On that occasion, the youngster was sad to leave his home city. However, the Spaniard place had a special significance to Messi: There, on May 3, 1980, his fellow Argentine Maradona signed a six-year contract with the traditional side.

The travel proved to be a turning point in his life. In the capital and largest city of Spain’s Catalan region — one of Europe’s first class cities— Messi received a scholarship to play football in Barca’s athletic academy, alongside Xabi Alonso, Gerard Piqu, Andrs Iniesta and other boys. The Club’s Youth Academy (one of Western Europe’s major sports academies), was set up with one primary goal in mind: Scans up to 300 young talents and transform some of them into champions. The youth squads have always preoccupied Barcelona’s sports leaders. In recent decades, the Spaniard club sent scouts to Latin America looking for promising youth athletes.

As well as being the nation’s second largest city behind Madrid, Barcelona is a place that is tied closely to the Olympic Movement, physical activity and all of the values that sport represent in the 21st Century. This corner of the planet, host to the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, is an international grandstand with recreational spaces, sports academies, and state-of-the-art Olympian facilities on a par with other sporting cities such as London (UK), Singapore City, Doha (Qatar), Montreal (Canada), Dubai ( United Arab Emirates), and Los Angeles (CA). Additionally, it was home of Mr. Juan Antonio Samaranch, former Chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and among the world’s most gifted and influential sports administrators.

During a breakout year, after overcoming his illness, Messi, who was about four-foot-seven-inch tall, become one of Barca’s top male players in the Boys’ Division of the Spanish Football Championships. There, he had been outstanding throughout the event, scoring over 35 goals and setting numerous records for his age group. A couple of years later, under the aegis of Spain’s Club, Messi improved rapidly his play and was promoted to the junior team’s starting lineup, competing in the under-19 tournaments.

Encouraged by Frank Rijkaard

As a young teen, he got the first opportunity to used his talent as a member of Barca’s official contingent when he made his first appearance in the friendly against Porto on November 16, 2003. Following his initial impact, scoring 22 goals in the junior competitions, the up-and-coming Messi, by late 2003, was moved up to the reserves of the club: The squad «C», prior to winning the right to play for Barcelona B side, a second division club. Messi, as a young athlete, acquired enough expertise to participate in senior soccer events, face-to-face with finest professional players from Europe and abroad. It was an excellent school for him, of course.

After watching his athletic performance in the traditional junior contests on Spaniard soil, Frank Rijkaard, Barca’s major coach at the time, put his eyes on Messi –perhaps his most famous pupil–and did not doubt that he would be the next greatest footballer on the Planet —Perhaps a Maradona. Nonetheless,the high-flying coach was not the first to be excited by the potential of Messi. On the other hand, Rijkaard backed up a number of young players, including Carles Puyol and Vctor Valds.

At the age of 17, Messi had a chance to show his athletic potential. Fortunately,he did not disappoint to Barca’s sports officials and soccer fans when he entered the highest level in Spanish championship, by passing many senior footballers and becoming the youngest player in the domestic soccer league. It was one of the greatest moments of Messi’s life on the soccer field.

Encouraged by his coach, Frank Rijkaard, Messi, months later, made his mark with the club by scoring his first senior goal against Albacete Balompi, becoming the youngest footballer from Barcelona to ever score in the domestic football league, among the world’s most competitive sports tournaments. By any standards it is a phenomenal achievement. In fact, Rijkaard made him the focus of the team’s new offfensive scheme. Later on, Messi spoke with gratitude about Rijkaard, «I will never forget the fact that he launched my career, that he had confidence in me while I was only sixteen or seventeen». Without a doubt, he was considered one of the great prospects of the world football.

A Champion In the Netherlands

By the mid-2000s,Messi brought home his country’s fifth junior global title, considered a huge success in the South American republic; It was a history-making day for the Argentinean Football Association (AFA). Messi began his work with his homeland when Argentina’s sports officials called on him to join the 2005 junior World Cup team. Always a heavy favorite with the Dutch fans, the national side, sparked by Messi, came first in the global contest in front of the Amsterdam (Netherlands’ capital) crowd, an international sporting platform to numerous unknown footballers. Thereupon, Messi collected two special awards in Holland: The Golden Ball and the Golden Shoe.

Futbol Club Barcelona: 2005- 2006 Season

The breakthrough season for the team and Messi came in 2005-06. Three of Barcelona’s Spanish titles can be attributed to Messi: Domestic League, Cataluña Cup, and Spanish Supercup— beginning a new period of success for Spain’s most popular club and topping the TV sports rankings in the European nation. On that occasion, Messi also amassed three individual trophies.

On September 27, 2005,before a crowd of several fans and spectators at Barcelona’s Nou Camp Stadium (among the world’s major football stadia), star youngster Messi made his debut as a local player in the European League Championship (against Italy’s Udinese). He competed with Barca until his injury, six months later. In spite of playing without Messi, however, the club earned the famous Champions League, one of the four big international events on Earth, along with the Olympic Games (Winter and Summer), and the FIFA World Cup.

In the same year, the prolific scorer Messi was named as Europe’s best young player by Tuttosport (a magazine from Italy), gaining the Golden Boy Trophy, by passing several sportsmen such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney.

Curiously, Spain is home of one of the world’s largest populations of foreign-born athletes(along with France, Canada and the oil-rich Kingdom of Qatar) such as Eulogio Martínez (Paraguay, football), Nina Zhivanevskaya (Russia, swimming), Juan Domingo de la Cruz (Argentina, basketball), Glory Alozie (athletics, Nigeria), and Juan Pérez (Cuba, waterpolo). By the end of 2005, Messi was one of the last athletes to become a Spanish citizen (dual citizenship), making him eligible to play as a Spanish player in the National League.

FIFA 2006 World Cup

Historically, Argentina has the honor of being the third Third World country to capture the global contest after Uruguay (1930 & 1950) and Brazil (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002). Due to this tradition and thanks to its world-beating players on European soil, the Argentine football squad had become one of the top favorites to gain the 2006 FIFA Cup, but they finished sixth overall (ahead of three Europeans squads: England, Ukraine and Spain), after losing to host Germany in the quarterfinals. Immediately, Argentina’s soccer fans blamed José Pekerman, national coach, for the defeat against Germany. Why? Incredibly, Messi was excluded to play that game.

Certainly, Messi had dissapointed 2006. Although, he made his long-awaited debut in the World Cup as he led Argentina -two-time winner of the men’s football World Cup (1978 & 1986)– to win its first points following a triumph over Serbia-Montenegro (former Yugoslavia). In Germany, he played three of Argentina’s five football matches.

During the 2006 World Cup, Messi became Argentina’s most youngest footballer to attend the FIFA Cup. The following year,Messi and his fellow Argentine players finished as runner-ups to Brazil in the 2007 America’s Cup on Venezuelan soil.

Spain’s ‘Football War’

Throghout his 2006-07 season, Messi had become a regular player in his European squad, competing on equal terms with senior players and attracting huge numbers of interested fans. It was truly an inspiring moment. However, he withdrew from the Spaniard Football League due to an injury (a game against Real Zaragosa).

With better health and upon spending three months on South American soil, Messi went back to Spain, playing in the match between Barcelona and Racing de Santander. Soon after, he made a hat-trick when his club drawn 3-3 with Real Madrid, a match between the two most popular teams in Spain (better known as «The Clasico»). Since decades ago, these matches have been labelled the «Spain’s Football War», attracting the largest average audience in the European country and numerous regions around the world, especially in soccer nations. In fact, it is a battle which is being won by Barca’s team in recent years.

Messi’s Hand of God Goal

As he entered his 20s, by 2007, he picked up a total of 14 individual trophies inside and outside Spain, a new personal record over his professional career. But this wasn’t all. Evoking the style of Argentina’s former star Maradona, Messi, was dubbed «Messidona» in the course of an impressive career as a sportsman.

During a never-to-be-forgotten game, on April 18, 2007, the Barcelonese club got two goals from Messi to defeat Getafe CF in the semis of the Copa del Rey; one goal inspired comparisons to Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God ‘goal against England’s squad at the 1986 Mexico City World Tournament — it appeared that Messi may have knocked the ball into the net with his fist. In fact, this was great news both for Barcelona and the whole country. Nobody could imagine this feat. His fellow player Deco said, «It was the best goal I have ever seen in my life».

2007-2008 Campaign

Over the course of the season,Messi was in the spotlight as he was regarded as the world’s top footballer by experts, sportswriters, coaches, players, and sports administrators. Meanwhile, Messi was elected as one of the 14th Best Male Athletes in 2007 by a total of 422 AIPS (International Sports Press Association) members from 94 countries–ahead of South Africa’s rugby star Bryan Habana and Rafael Nadal, a tennis player from Spain.

After making a record in soccer world —scored five goals over a span of seven days– Messi helped Barcelona to become one of the four leaders in the first class Spaniard championship. He was the answer to their lack of versatility in attacking positions. In fact, he sees Barcelona through the eyes of a lover. Additionally, he scored also two goals in the UEFA Champions League. In beginning 2008, Messi celebrated his 100th match.

In March, the star athlete was forced to drop out of the Champions League because of an injury. Following over a month, he returned to the line-up, competing with Cristiano Ronaldo, considered among the globe’s finest footballers. Under Messi’s guidance, however, the Barcelonese club was eliminated from the European championship, showing the effects of his injury. Certainly, Messi had not a strong performance in this season, winning only two unofficial events (Beckenbauer Cup in Germany and Joan Gamper Trophy). In July of that year, on the other hand, Messi was appointed as the captain for the first time in a friendly match against Scotland’s Dundee United.

Subsequently, the Barcelonese soccer club paid tribute to Messi’s perseverance: Wearing the shirt number ten for the first time (historically given to the leading scorer), the number worn by former stars such as Romario Souza of Brazil, Hugo Sotil of Peru and Maradona, Messi began a new period in Barca, few weeks prior to 2008 the Summer Games.

Messi At the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Argentina earned its first soccer medal in the 1928 Amsterdam Games, after falling to Uruguay’s side in the gold-medal match. Then, the national contingent was asked to replace Uruguay in the 1976 Montreal Games, but it did not accept.

During the Centennial Games in the States, on August 3, 1996, the Argentine team was runner-up to Nigeria (sub-Saharan Africa)-matched its performance in the 1920s. In the 26th Olympiad, the silver medalists were Roberto Ayala, José Chamot, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Sensini and Diego Pablo Simeone, Ariel Ortega, Hernan Crespo, and Claudio López, among others footballers. Over the next years, by 2004, the Spanish-speaking republic placed first in the Athens XXVIII Summer Games upon their victory over Paraguay, a feat never before accomplished by a male squad from Argentina in the men’s soccer Olympic Cup.

Messi was Latin America’s top hope for a medal in the 2008 Olympiad. Nonetheless, there were troubles to send Messi to Beijing: his club did not approve his Olympic participation. After a long-running conflict between the Spaniard club and AFA (Argentinean Football Association), Messi was eligible to represent his nation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he won his second major global event following a convincing triumph over Nigeria, one of the most extraordinary results in the history of the Olympic Championship. It was interesting to note that Messi was a great Olympian champ in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Unlike Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) -a long-standing senior player from Brazil– and Maradona, Messi has won an Olympic gold medal after Argentina defeated six countries in the men’s Olympian football championship in the Games of 29th Olympiad in mainland China, becoming the first world-class soccer player to win a trophy in the Modern Olympics since the early 1950s when Ferenc Puskas took the Hungarian team to its first Olympian title in the Finland Summer Games.

The Soccer Tournment included some strong names such as Brazil, Belgium, Holland,and Cote d’Ivoire.There, this Spanish-trained professional player also helped Argentina to win their second straight Olympic title; the nation’s fourth Olympian medal in men’s football. As well as earning the gold in the People’s Republic, Messi was regarded as one of Latin America’s foremost Olympic athletes. Nonetheless, his trophy was overshadowed by the wins of Michael Phelps, Usain Powell of Jamaica ( 3-time Olympic gold medalist ) and other champions.

2008-2009 Season

After being part of the Olympic gold-winning squad in 2008, Messi won the world’s best footballer by FIFA ( the world’s governing body of soccer ).

In beginning 2009, Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Racing de Santander was one of Messi’s most notable matches, scoring both goals in the last 45 minutes. Messi entered the match when its club was defeated (0-1), but he confirmed his international status when he was able to break down a Santander defense. During the game, Spain’s team made its 5,000 goal with Messi.

After making worldwide headlines on Spaniard soil, he was a key player when his club had a convincing 6-2 win over Real Madrid at Santiago de Bernabu Stadium in Spain’s capital city— Without a doubt, one of the greatest games of Messi’s athletic career. As has traditionally been the case, this a match attracted several neutral fans across the globe. Messi’s other important achievement was when Barcelona’s side finished first in the unofficial event Joan Gamper Trophy for the third time in a row. In 2008, he came away with 10 individual awards.

His Play Speaks For Itself

By the time the 2009-10 season, Messi brought about a sporting revolution at Barcelona. Astonishingly, his side won all the championships. For these wins, some experts and sportswriters believe he is better than Maradona and Pele.

Upon claiming five prestigious competitions —the Champions League, the UEFA Supercup, the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey), the National League, and the Spanish Supercup— Messi was able to lead Barcelona side to victory in the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the turn of the 2009, becoming Spain’s most popular person and making Barcelona one of the world’s most successful clubs in football history. Apart from winning these events, he collected over 15 individual awards in the Americas, Persian Gulf, and Western Europe: World Football of the Year, Alfredo Di Stefano Trophy, World Selection, Best Player in the Club World Cup, and Champions Trophy, among other trophies.

In April 2010, one of the most interesting statistics came from Messi when he became Barcelona’s first footballer to score four goals in the Champions League-all against Arsenal F.C. Likewise, he made a name for himself in soccer world as he was Barcelona’s top scorer in the Champions League ( twenty-five goals). Later on, Messi helped the club to capture the Spanish league, as well as winning two special trophies as the Best Player.

Spain: The Best Domestic Football

Not all of Messi’s play was acclaimed in 2010. Despite the optimism following Messi’s strong performance in Western Europe, Argentine side was eliminated by Germany (0-4), allowing it to secure a top five position in the FIFA Global Tournament;one of Messi’s most disapponting results in this period.

The men’s football team of Argentina departed for Africa in the quest of their third Global Cup. From the beginning, Los Celestes entered the 2010 South Africa World Cup as a front-runner to win the title. Prior to being eliminated in the quaterfinals, the South American nation had four wins: Nigeria (1-0), South Korea (4-1), Greece (2-0), and Mexico (3-1). Ironically, the Spanish national team won the Global Cup for the first time.

Although one of the most prominent sportsmen in this Century, Messi has not won a World Cup (2006 & 2010). In sub-Saharan Africa, his production was poor: He did not score a single goal. Up to now, his results pale in comparison with Maradona and Pele.

2010-2011 Season

In September 2010, Messi’s play captivated the audience, from experts and sportswriters to fans, setting new Spanish and European records. For the third consecutive time,the star player became top scorer in the Champions League. It was unbelievable. In the whole event, the sport’s greatest footballer was a «perfect machinery». Spearheaded by its idol Messi, the Barcelonese club amassed two tournaments – The national tournament and then Champions League for the second successive year, sparking off celebrations in the Spaniard city of Barcelona. In the meantime, he gained the FIFA Ballon d’ Or. These wins have helped construct an excellent relationship between Messi and his fans inside and outside Spain. In his native country, however, there is another atmosphere.

America’s Cup

Argentina’s side was upset by Brazil in the finals of the 2007 South American Cup (there Messi appeared in all six of his nation’s games). Four years later, the traditional event was held in Argentina. There, the host nation entered the regional contest, but it did not even make the semis. On the eve of that event, Argentina was a gold-medal contender well ahead of Brazil and Uruguay.

Unfortunately, Messi could not do anything. In spite of his extraordinary achievements in Western Europe, the amazing Latino player was unable to lead the Argentine side to win the Copa America for the second time, being strongly criticized by Argentina’s football fans.

The local squad had two draws with Bolivia (1-1) and Colombia (0-0) before defeating Costa Rica (3-0) and falling to eventual champion Uruguay (4-5) in the quarter-finals. In his own land,Messi did not score a single goal (except on a penalty) over the course of the Latin American championship. Undeterred, he departed for Spain.

Undoubtedly, some soccer fans don’t understand why Argentina’s national team can not win international tournaments with the world’s most prominent soccer player.

2011-2012 Season

Spearheaded by Messi, the Barcelonese club captured the Spanish Supercup on in August 2011. With 8 goals, Messi was the top scorer in the national contest, ahead of Raúl González Blanco. Within a few weeks, they also won the European Supercup. On December 18, 2011, Barcelona won the Club World Cup by beating Brazil’s Santos (4-0). There, Messi was the tournament’s most valuable athlete. Astonishingly, Messi became the top scorer (236 goals) in Barca’s history on March 31, 2012.

An Advocate for the Rights of Children

Latin America’s remarkable football player Messi is regarded as Argentina’s long-standing advocate for the rights of poor children. By 2007, he created a self-named foundation,whose principal aim is to improve education and health care of the future generation of Argentina’s boys and girls. Recently named UN Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Messi works closely with the international organization, increasing global awareness and providing financial aid to programs for children and mothers on Earth.

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Chelsea Set to Dominate European Football

There is a new heavyweight force in European football, they are being bankrolled seemingly by the Russian economy, they mean business, and their name is Chelsea F.C. Chelsea Football Club have always been a decent club in the second strata of English clubs. In London alone Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have invariably been ahead of the Chelsea Blues, even West Ham have often put Chelsea in the shade. But no longer, for in the season 2004-2005, Chelsea won the English Premier League title for the first time in fifty years, their only previous winning season.

But they haven’t stopped there, in the new season 2005-2006 they are already well clear in the title race leaving all their rivals gasping, and now they have set their sights on the pinnacle of all the club trophys, the European Champions League. Chelsea have never won the Champions League, indeed no London club ever has. And it is clear that their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho is intent on winning the Champions League again, he did so with his previous club Porto, of Portugal.

So what of the traditional English giants? Manchester United, often described as the world’s richest football club, have fallen into the hands of the Glazer family of Tampa Bay fame, but they reportedly needed to borrow half a billion pounds to buy United, a debt the club now shoulders. Spending on new players has so far been thin on the ground and United’s brusque Glaswegian manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has admitted that United, for so long England’s most successful club, cannot compete with Chelsea when it comes to buying players. The hordes of United fans are not amused, the natives are growing restless.

Arsenal, London’s biggest and most successful club, lost their skipper and driving force Patrick Vieira last summer, he moved to Juventus in Italy for £12 million pounds and with their star striker Thierry Henry suffering fitness problems, they picked up some uncharacteristic defeats at unfashionable clubs like West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough. This is their last season at their famous old Highbury Stadium before they move to their new purpose built Emirates stadium almost next door. The increased capacity of 60,000 will undoubtedly give their French manager Arsene Wenger more money to spend next year, but of course they have to pay for that new ground too. Far from challenging Chelsea again, it would seem that Arsenal are more likely to fall further behind.

That leaves Liverpool and Newcastle. News comes through just today that the American Kraft Company and family are interested in investing in Liverpool F.C., perhaps even buying the club outright just like Manchester United fifty miles up the road, but that is some way down the line. And they too are seeking to build a brand new stadium on Stanley Park and of course that all costs big money. Despite last year’s freakish win in the Champion’s League, Liverpool’s league form this season has again been patchy, and that included a 4-1 walloping by Chelsea on their own Anfield pitch. The idea that Liverpool might challenge Chelsea for the title remains a far-fetched one. Newcastle, England’s second best supported club are gradually improving, and they have signed England’s centre forward Michael Owen, but they still remain unconvincing at the top level. They haven’t won the title since Noah was seen building his ark, or so it seems, and they aren’t going to do so this season either.

So though it is very popular for foreign investors to snap up the leading English (and Scottish) football clubs, it appears that only Roman Abramovich at Chelsea has the financial muscle to buy the best players around. He is the only one to put unlimited funds on the table. Top class players now command a transfer fee of £40 million each and whereas Manchester United might afford one of them a season, Chelsea’s purse seems bottomless. They have already spent £220+ million and are still in the market to buy again when the transfer window re-opens in January.

They have already achieved success by winning at home, now the European Champion’s League is the Holy Grail for them, a trophy they are now the outright favourites to win with the odds layers. And astonishingly they have achieved their success to date with an array of strikers who haven’t really cut the mustard. Mutu the Romanian, was promptly sacked for drug taking, Crespo the Argentinian, was sent out to Milan on loan last season, and though he is back now he is hardly setting the world afire,or even playing that often, Gudjohnson an Icelander, plays more often than not, the muscular Drogba from the Ivory Coast, seems to have finally claimed the number nine shirt as his own, yet many blues followers still remain unconvinced about him, so it would seem likely that Chelsea may yet be looking for another proven goal scorer come January, especially after a recent rare defeat at Manchester United.

It would take a brave man to back against Chelsea in any competition at the moment. But if you’d like to, you can still have a free $30 dollar bet at Betfair.com by entering the code 6CHE3VPWJ when prompted. But one thing is for sure; no one would be surprised if this time next year the Premier League trophy AND the Champions League trophy were both on display in the Chelsea boardroom. It seems that only the Italian giants Milan and Juventus, and the Spanish top two, Real Madrid, and most especially Barcelona with their Brazilian superstar, surely soon to be the world player of the year, Ronaldinho, might stop the London blues. It really does seem as if we have entered a new era in European and world football, or if you prefer the ridiculous name that no one ever uses, Soccer. Chelsea fans have never had it so good while everyone else is left gasping in their wake, for it is a fact that Chelsea Football Club have raised the bar for everyone else to follow. Time will tell if anyone can.