Monday, May 31, 2010
In the other corner we have Jose Mourinho, the self-styled Special One - a born winner who has now won the domestic title in three different countries as well as the Champions League with two different clubs. If there is anyone who has the self-confidence, charisma and the CV to take on the job at the Bernabeu it is Jose.
But will it turn out that way? After all, the manager's chair at Real has rarely been one for men with oversized egos. The internal politics that run through the club often mean managers are dictated to, be it in team selection or signings. Mourinho may not be able to have things is own way. You can expect a fair few players who will be justifying their country's World Cup betting odds in South Africa this summer to turn up in Madrid next season, whether the manager wants them or not.
Secondly there is an issue of tactics. Mourinho has long drawn criticism for his defensive style of play. His suffocating tactics get results, but they don't set the pulses racing. The Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona, which was achieved despite only have 16 per cent of the possession in the second leg, says it all.
At a club famous for its Galacticos - with famous names such as Puskas, Di Stefano,Raul and Zidane having donned the famous white shirt in the past - the fans will not want to see eleven workhorses, squeezing and closing the opposition down. They want to win yes, but they want to win in style.
Such is Mourinho's ego and his determination to see out a managerial master plan to win the league in all the major European divisions before returning to England, a stop off at Madrid was essential if he was to match his sky high ambitions. The football betting will suggest he's in with a chance of glory, but you can never tell with Real.
If he can somehow overtake Barcelona then he will be truly considered a hero in the Spanish capital, just as he is in Milan, Porto and West London. But the fans and players may have to accept a drop in their lofty, and sometimes unrealistic, standards.
And in the utopian World of Real Madrid that just may not be acceptable.
Friday, May 28, 2010
With this in mind, it is worth listening to which World Cup teams he considers to be the strongest. Who does he think are the favourites for glory in South Africa?
Well, speaking about who goes into the tournament as the best three teams, Messi listed Spain, England and Brazil. Each of these teams "had strong qualifying campaigns" and are "very tough" to play against according to the Barcelona man.
This seems to be the theory across football with regards to these three teams. In fact, the best betting site odds also make them the three favourites for the tournament.
As for Messi himself, he is targeting a successful few weeks both individually and for the Argentina team. He says that the whole squad must "hit the ground running and play up to people's expectations and win".
The 22-year-old continued with the positive comments by saying that he wants to ensure the World Cup "belongs" to him as a player and Argentina as a team. So, even though he doesn't rate his team as one of the top three going into the first game, he truly believes they can be the best around come the end of it. Anyone with a betting system may want to take note of his comments.
Should this become a reality, Messi will go some way to proving his doubters wrong too. Despite a superb season for Barcelona where he has been at his scintillating best, he has been challenged to repeat this kind of form for his country.
Referring to making sure he performs at his best for Argentina, he says that the World Cup is "a really good opportunity" to show what he is made of at international level.
Should he help guide Argentina to the later stages and perform in the way he has for his club over the past few months, it will secure his status as one the greatest players the game has ever seen, all at the tender age of 22.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Referring specifically to England's victory over Mexico on Monday evening, of which he played the full 90 minutes, Baines revealed he didn't exactly enjoy the experience. He said that despite the fact the team won, it "was very hard work" for him personally. Anyone with a betting system would have put a few black marks next England's name after the performance they put in.
Many have been critical of the young defender's performance, with suggestions that he could be out of his depth at international level. The player himself admits that he would have "liked to have done better", so at least he is aware there is room for improvement.
As for making the final 23-man squad, he says that it would be a "dream come true" and that he will keep "fighting" to ensure he does enough to impress Fabio Capello before it is decision time.
Should he get given a seat on the plane, there is another sub plot for the former Wigan man. Ever since he was a teenager, he has struggled with being away from home for any length of time and considering the World Cup could mean nearly two months in South Africa, this could be a problem.
However, Baines is looking positively at this situation, despite admitting that he has "always struggled" with time away from his home comforts. He says that he has begun to feel "part of everything" now that he has spent considerable time with the England squad and that this is helping matters.
He acknowledges that "everyone wants to be a part of England" and that he "doesn't feel out of the picture", but he will just have to keep his mind occupied should he make the final World Cup squad. The betting guide odds make England thirds favourites, so he won't want to miss out for personal reasons.
And anyway, considering the busy schedule in South Africa and the fact he will want to improve his England performances more and more, this shouldn't be too difficult to achieve.
Monday, May 17, 2010
The Catalan club, astutely managed by Pep Guardiola, clinched a second successive La Liga title on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Real Valladolid, ending the campaign on a hefty 99 points with 96 goals scored. Their great rivals meanwhile could only draw 1-1 with Malaga, meaning the title went to the Nou Camp for the 20th time in the club's illustrious history.
Much of Barca's success is down to Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, who hit 34 league goals and 47 in all competitions, equalling the club record which was set by Ronaldo in the 1996-97 season. He now heads to South Africa as one of the World Cup 2010 betting favourites to take home the golden boot.
Their victory will not go down well in the Spanish capital and the future of Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini is in doubt after just a year at the Bernebau.
But Real may do well to take a step back before making yet another reactionary move. A quick glance down the team sheets perhaps pointed to the clubs failings. Real can call on some very talented players, and their ranks were swelled significantly last summer with the expensive arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. But this Galacticos approach is in contrast to their Catalan rivals, who had seven players developed from their youth system on show against Valladolid, Real had one.
Throwing a team of superstars together does not guarantee success and it appears the greater unity of the Barca side has got them through the games that matter - in particular two victories over Real in El Clasico. Anyone who placed a football bet on Barca will be delighted with the way the season has gone.
It will take something special to overtake Barcelona next season - so it is little wonder that the special one himself - Jose Mourinho - is being linked with a move to Madrid.
Monday, May 3, 2010
He was subject to a torrent of abuse and ridicule when he led England to dismal failure in their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, but 30 months later, Steve McClaren has bounced back in style.
Soon after that now infamous, wet November night against Croatia, where he was dubbed, the "Wally with the Brolly", McClaren made the unusual, but ultimately wise move to take a job aboard.
It is unusual because most English players and coaches choose to stay at home. And it was wise because it gave him the time and space to rebuild his shattered career which had hit an all time low.
He moved to Holland and took up a role with FC Twente in the east of the country. He brought no coaching staff with him and instead immersed himself into Dutch way of life - perhaps too much so if his "Dutch" accent in a now infamous TV interview is anything to go by.
Twente - or the Tukkers, as they are nicknamed - last won the Eredivisie in 1926, when they were known as Sportclub Enschede. The closest they had come to repeating that was when they finished runners-up in 1974. This year's online odds reflect the size of the task that faced the club this time around.
In his first season at the club, McClaren led them to second place, while they also got to the Dutch Cup final and were agonisingly close to making the Champions League group stages, before losing out on away goals to Sporting Lisbon.
This year was different though, and their 2-0 win of NAC Breda last weekend sealed the league Championship ahead of free-scoring Ajax.
Though the dominance of sides like Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord have weakened in recent years the achievement of taking such a small side like Twente to the title shouldn't be understated, and in doing so McLaren has joined the thin ranks of English managers who have won titles overseas.
Is it time to return to the Premier League? After his harrowing England experience I expect not. But one day with more experience, and honours, under his belt McClaren may make a return to England and prove to the doubters that he is a good manager after all.
Meanwhile, Fabio Capello, his replacement as England manager, has the hefty weight of expectation on his shoulders.
The Football World Cup betting makes the side third favourites, and Capello will know a poor performance could see him out of a job.