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On June, Netherland natioanal team have a tour to Indonesia. It supposed to be joyful occasion with tropical sunshine, new experience in new country, fans greetings, and leisure match. Alas, it turned out to be sour trip for Sneijder. Van Gaal confirmed that Sneijder was stripped of his national team captaincy and replace him with Van Persie who wore it in the match against Indonesia national team. And recently, he is omitted from national team squad in friendy match against Portugal at next month. With such precedence, there is chance he will lose the spot forever. What is happening to the player who once regarded as the one of world best players ?

Continuity between Mourinho and Van Marwijk

He played for Ajax in 2002-2007 seasons and Real Madrid in 2007-2009 seasons, but it was in year 2010 which saw him at the peak of his career. He was the key element for Inter Milan in historic treble winner 2009/2010 season. He also brought Netherlands into runner-up position in World Cup 2010. When he was omitted from top 3 nomination Ballon D’Or 2010 award, the whole world fumed upon such idiocy. Even Xavi (the 3rd winner) acknowledged Sneijder as the better candidate. Such global accolade confirmed his status as one of the best player in the world.

At that time, Sneijder gained benefit from the match-up between him and the coaches, i.e. Mourinho and Van Marwijk. Both of them are fans of counter-attack football. They both love to contain opponent’s onslaught before launching incisive counter-attack. Here, Sneijder acted as the key player to provide the pass to expose the space abandoned by attacking side.

At Inter, he wasn’t deployed at central midfielder, the position he used to play since he was in Ajax. Instead, he played as a trequartista. At first, such decision raised a lot of eyebrows. He was not the same mould as Totti, Zidane, Boban, or Rui Costa. But it turned out that Mourinho had different concept of trequartista in his counter-attack football scheme. Sneijder wasn’t meant to dictate the flow of the game, but to provide key assist in minimal possession time.

One good example was when Sneijder provided the assist for Milito’s 1st goal against Bayern Munich in UCL Final 2010. After Julio Cesar claimed the ball, he punted the ball far upfield to Milito. Then, the Argentinian head the ball to Sneijder then the latter gave the ball back to Milito, shot, and goal. The process only involved 3 players, 6 touches, and few seconds to cover from end to other end of the pitch.

This is where Sneijder adept at. He isn’t a classic trequartista, he also isn’t a pure passer like Xavi or Pirlo. Instead, he is very unique for being a direct playmaker. He isn’t the playmaker who controls the game, he doesn’t connect millions passes to retain the possession as long as possible. Instead, he must capitalize every available second to launch swift and deadly counter-attack.

Also, don’t forget his ability to execute set-piece especially direct freekick. His setpiece ability complements himself as the counter-attack specialist. Foul is one of effective ways to nullify the counter-attack. But, when there is deadball specialist in opposition team, the foul will be punished and the freekick scenario will be equally dangerous to counter-attack scenario. Foul is easily conceded when the defenders (countered team) are in much slower state then attackers (coutering team). Such circumstance happens a lot in counter-attack when  the attackers already reach their fullspeed while the defenders must either backrun or need time to reach their fullspeed.

Moratti’s Quick Trigger Finger Backfires Him and Sneijder

After the succesful continous spell with Mourinho and Van Marwijk, he certainly didn’t expect the disaster would come so quickly. Over the next 3 years, 5 different coaches handled Inter viz. Benitez, Leonardo, Gasperini, Ranieri,and Stramaccioni. Contrary to the continuity he used to enjoy with his coaches, now he had to deal with 5 coaches with different concept in each’s head. Also, he suffered the relapse of repetitive injuries that once plagued him and now it haunted over him again. Inter and Sneijder suffered excruciating seasons during those years, but for the latter, the time with Gasperini, Ranieri, and Stramaccioni were his worst.

Gasperini was the fan of 3-4-3 formation and he made it clear from very first day that he would use it regardless the players he had in the squad. For him, the players must adapt to the coach. The biggest problem for Inter was, Moratti didn’t trust Gasperini and his 3-4-3. Then, he didn’t comply to the players that Gasperini demanded therefore wondered us why he appointed Gasperini from the very first place. For Sneijder, 3-4-3 formation was disaster because he couldn’t unleash his full potential. Eventually, Sneijder didn’t have to adapt further to the formation because Gasperini only lasted for but 5 matches.

The appointment of Ranieri brought some fresh air for Sneijder. He has the title of Tinkerman for his ability to repair the sinking team and adapt with his environment. He is also the fan of counter-attack football thus bringing the optimistic feeling for Sneijder to replicate his top form again. Too bad, all his hopes vanished  in the series of unfortunate occasions. Another injury hit him again. When he was treating his injury, it coincided with 7 consecutive win in Serie-A by Inter. By the time Sneijder recovered and returned to the pitch, Thiago Motta (who was very vital to Ranieri tactic) was sold to PSG and soon the team lost their balance. Both occasions coincided with Inter’s lost streak and it was dilemma for Ranieri and Sneijder. Should Ranieri keep his winning team without Sneijder ? Or should he use Sneijder to cover the loss of Motta (which implied the overhaul of system because both of them are 2 different players) ? For Sneijder, how could he give his 100 % if he, club, and fans see him as 1 of factors which led Inter to the downfall ? Either it was true or not, it sure lowered his confidence and messed his head hence non-optimal performances for the rest of season. Oh, and another injury hit him.

After result crisis and fitness crisis, now tactical crisis also piled up to Sneijder’s misery. Still a mistery until now how Sneijder adjusted his playing style to inverted winger. His starting position wasn’t from the center anymore, but from the left. It was just so freaking ludicrous. The inverted winger position is designated for dribbler with fast pace and quick turn rate while they are obviously not Sneijder’s strong points. If he was about to change his position, he should revert himself into central midfielder like he used to do in Ajax or Madrid or to deep lying playmaker which is favoured in modern football. He chose neither of them and ….

…the result was an utter disaster. He isn’t Robben who is comfortable as the inverted winger and menacing opposition defence. His lack of quickness restricted him for being effective inverted winger. His ego and impatience led him to excessive and wasteful irrational longshots, much to the annoyance to the fans. His freedom was restricted as he was no longer stationed at the center of the park. The disastrous result at Inter during 2011/2012 season and Netherlands at Euro 2012 sank him into even deeper frustration.

During Stramaccioni tenure, the situation was even more ridiculous. Sneijder was hit (again) by injury, but when he was totally recovered, he was sidelined due to his unwillingness to sign the newer contract which would cut his salary significantly. After all cheap soap dramas, Sneijder was offloaded to Galatasaray for mere €6 million.

Epilogue; 1-Pass-1-Assist Midfielder

He has just begun his quest at Turkey for 6 months and it is difficult to forecast how his career will turn out to be. Theoritically, it would be difficult. One key factor is his uniqueness as direct playmaker as opposed to dictating playmaker. Being unique is great because the it gives more thought for opposition to find the solution. Being unique also means the lack of competition for certain position and role. There are many great dictating playmakers out there, e.g. Xavi, Pirlo, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Modric, Xabi etc, but there is only 1 great direct playmaker to lead the counter-attack : Sneijder. That’s why Sir Alex Ferguson was so persistent to sign him. Now, his uniqueness becomes his drawback as there is only 1 way to utilise him. With more and more teams favour the possessive and attacking football, Sneijder must adapt himself to the recent change in football evolution. It would be impossible for Fatih Terim to adjust his style into counter-attacking football only to accomodate. Sneijder has no choice. He must adapt to Terim’s need and the rest of his career will depend on how adaptive he is.

Sneijder had only brief spell of prominence, but it was enough to incur the ripple of his influence to the other side of Atlantic Ocean. It was no coincidence that Ganso’s breakthrough was approximately when Sneijder his his peak. Ganso had unique characteristic as a playmaker. He might go invisible for many minutes before unlocking the defence with 1 flick. Surely it is different from Sneijder, but the point is both of them have unique knack to unlock the defence with minimum time. It is interesting to imagine how would current football be if Sneijder manages to keep playing at highest level and Ganso isn’t vulnerable to injury. Now, we see the death of the poacher. Poacher is the sort of striker whose task is only and only to score a goal. The best example are Inzaghi, Gerd Muller, Chicarito etc. Because he doesn’t have any other ability beside scoring, he should and must capitalize every chance to put the ball at the back of the net hence the term of 1-shot-1-goal comes. Sneijder and Ganso are the midfielder version of the poacher, only in this case they must convert every pass to assist. If both of them dominate world football now, maybe the concept of specialist midfielder will not evolve into complete midfielder as we experience now, but into 1-pass-1-assist midfielder. Maybe the main objective of every team isn’t about dominating possession to limit opponent’s chance, but how to utilize limited time as efficient as possible. Maybe the poacher will emerge once more because the team will aim to score in limited time as opposed to the targetman. Maybe, oh well, there is no end for “if “ and “maybe” in football.


Most transfer windows for European leagues officially opened at 1 July. Big transfer has already decorate the newsfeed, but the coaches flux around Europe is even more staggering. Some notable change of coaches in major clubs are Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, and Inter Milan. It is always difficult –if not impossible- to make pre-judgement if the new coaches will succeed with their new club . But, let’s have brief analysis to see if the clubs point the right man at the right time and right place.


David Moyes couldn’t hope for greater jump of career. Now he will replace the most succesful coach in EPL history viz. Sir Alex Ferguson. Either Moyes could continue the glorious legacy of Sir Alex is a big question mark for now, but it seems MU have picked the right man for coach seat. Moyes edged out 2 other strong candidates namely Pep and Mourinho.

In term of trophy, Moyes is far far more inferior. But MU have other consideration for their coach requirement which is continuity. Pep might have built 1 of finest teams in history and Mourinho’s cold hand has guided various teams across Europe to achieve unimaginable success . But, we haven’t seen how Pep fares in long term career while Mourinho is notorious for his nomaden short term coaching tenure. MU had enjoyed the stability brought by Sir Alex in his 26 years career. They surely still want to continue such continuity and Moyes is the man. He was the coach of Everton for 11 years and guided The Toffees to punch above their weight, highlighted by reaching Champions League in 2005.

The 6 years contrac offered by MU signals what the board want from Moyes. MU will give Moyes much time to continue and build his dynasty, unlike the typical modern coach contract which generally 2 or 3 years. At other side, such lengthy contract could backfire MU if Moyes cannot perform well. Remember, Moyes hasn’t lift any trophy yet until now, not to mention if he could handle the pressure at the big club and the comparison to his predecessor.Still, it seems Moyes is the right man for MU.


Guess who returns to London once more. Welcome again, Jose Mourinho The Special Happy One ! The Blues fans must have already imagined another bountiful spell by Mourinho. Only, it could turn out to be the bad one. The main stumbling stone is the conflict between Abramovich and Mourinho.

The Russian oil tycoon loves to encroach the manager job with his minimum knowledge of football while the high-ego Portuguese always wants the full control of his team. The combination of them will not yield good result as could be seen in Andriy Shevchenko transfer who became large waste of money.

Also, the former always crave for beautiful football while the latter is famous for his pragmatic approach. Mourinho recently promised to change his skin into more attractive football, but we know that it will not become easy job. Remember that the very same man promised to meet the high standard by Madridistas to play beautiful football yet he failed to do so. Madrid might scored 475 goals under his stint, but please distinguish the definition between beautiful and productive football. The same case could occur in Chelsea.

There are 3 possible outcomes of such the transformation. First, the extreme transformation will yield unstability which will lead to failure. Second, realizing that abrupt change is impossible and then decides to lower the gear to have more gradual change. Third, Mourinho’s magic works and Chelsea still succeed. For first and second possibility, we know that Abramovich neither tolerates any slightest failure nor has the patience. For the third possibility, well, it will be the ideal scenario, but can they achieve such miraculous feat ?

There are still other problems to be addressed such as, could Chelsea and Abramovich sustain the high operational cost by Mourinho ? How would Chelsea cope with Mourinho’s departure in future ? Can Abramovich run his club only by setting short term success and not long term development ? Anyway, Chelsea fans should be more anxious than they feel now.


The sacking of Roberto Mancini is a right call by City. Gameplay wise, he couldn’t keep his team playing at constant high level, let alone to improve them. The lack of identity in City’s gameplay is the most glaring aspect. The slump at continental competition and terrible man-management didn’t help the Italian to keep his job. Thank you Mancio for the BPL title, but we really need to improve; said every Manchester City stakeholders. The appointment of Manuel Pellegrini echoes such sentiment correctly. He is the coach who brought Villareal to UCL semifinal and Malaga to quarterfinal. With such good tradition in European stage with limited resources, City will be very hopeful to see Pellegrini keeps his magic working.

As the case with Abramovich and other sugardaddies of football, they all want both beautiful and succesful football. Pellegrini is the fan of attacking football, it seems there will be no friction between him and the boards about the football tactical issue. The more potential arising issue is about the success. The only high profile club in Pellegrini CV is Real Madrid. Here, he experienced the mixed bag result between success and failure. Back then, he broke the points amassed in one season only saw himself being beaten by Barcelona which accumulated even more points. Then, Madrid was out at UCL in the hand of Lyon and their involvement in Copa Del Rey is nothing short of embarassment, edged out by Alcorcon. But, Pellegrini had logical and great reason of such failure that Madrid really didn’t take his opinion into account in building the team. Now, he will be given more freedom. Expecting instant succesful debut season may be too much, but Citizens could expect at least a challenge for domestic title or further progress in Champions League.


 The quest for La Decima isn’t over yet for Real Madrid and now it is Carlo Ancelotti’s turn to deliver. The 2 UCL cups with AC Milan and couples more of trophies cement him as the big club specialist and Madrid can’t help but be attracted by him.

Ancelotti fits all the bill required for Los Merengues. He is not only known for delivering trophies whichever club he is at, but also for his exceptional man management. His ability to compromise his opinion and his superior’s is one key aspect which tempts Madrid to hire him. Remember that Ancelotti used to deal with the likes of Berlusconi and Abramovich who think they can be the president, technical director, and tactical expert at the same time. His approach to players and press are also the attribute that Madrid seek. You will not hear Don Carlo spat with media, boycott the press conference, and have a strife within his club. Madrid already have enough all sorts of controversies during Mourinho tenure and now it is time for them to turn over a new leaf. Once Ibrahimovic told the press that after winning Ligue 1 ,Ancelotti thanked every player personally for theri effort. Such gentle paternal approach is what Madrid urgently need. Furthermore, Ancelotti’s attacking style is what the club seek for and Madrid must hope for even slightest chance to salvage their €65 million Kaka.

If there is downside from Don Carlo, it is how he neglects young player development. His AC Milan, Chelsea, and PSG are all about revolving around established and senior players. Barring Carvajal, Madrid barely have any Castilla alumnus in their first team roster. Madridistas must wait longer to see their next Raul and Casillas. But, it is Madrid afterall. They have close to infinite money to spend in every transfer window and they couldn’t care less about youth development as long as they get their hand on trophies. Neverthless, Ancelotti is still the right choice for Madrid.

Pep Heynck

Don’t fix what’s not broken ? Screw it, Bayern Munich just replace their treble winner coach with another coach namely Pep Guardiola. The B. Munich management must not see the glorious treble coming when they announced Pep as their new coach at the halfway of 2012/2013 season. Jupp Heynckes is the first coach to bring treble winner to German team, but Pep did it even better with sexthuple with Barcelona. Still, there is no guarantee Pep could emulate his Barcelona achievement with Munich. It is such a risky move by the Bavarian. If there is obvious adventage that Bavarian get from Pep, it will be the leak how Barcelona run La Masia and establish it as one of best football academy in the world.

Pep will not have any difficulty to adapt in his new club. The current B. Munich is heavily influenced by Barcelona possession football, only the German add more versatility and physical presence in  their arsenal. The lack of competitors in domestic league surely remind him to the familiar condition in La Liga where there is only Madrid to stop him.

Pep only has managed Barcelona in top tier competition. It is the succesfull 3 years, but it is hard to forecast the future by those mere 3 years. Anyway, winning Bundesliga is a must. Anything lower will be deemed as failure. As for UCL, it seems the UCL curse (where no team can win it for 2 consecutive years) is too strong to be broken. So, the failure in UCL would be acceptable as long as they are out in non-embarassing fashion. The 2013/2014 season will not be very interesting, but the upcoming season will be more exciting to see how B. Munich and Pep progress.


The one who fill Ancelotti’s shoes in PSG is Laurent Blanc. His run with France national team during 2010-2012 was decent, but how he led Bordeaux reigning over France was very exceptional. It is expected for him to lead PSG win the league once more.

The major problem is at continental stage. Nasser Al-Khelafi, as the president of PSG, certainly isn’t content by only domestic domination. He has already invested large chunk of money and now he must set his eye on European domination. Blanc himself doesn’t have impressive track record in cup competition. Not to mention he has Ibrahimovic in his team and we know the trend with him : win every domestic league, but fall in every UCL competition. Unless Blanc messes up, winning domestic title will not be difficult, but winning UCL is not the case. It will be interesting how Al-Khelafi will react to it. Does he consider winning only Ligue 1as a success or failure ? If somehow AS Monaco rise and snatch the Ligue 1, will he still trust Blanc ? Does he have the patience to wait his team become ready to be European powerhouse  ? Or will he act like other sugardaddies who always demand instant success ? Only time can tell.


The gamble by hiring Stramaccioni as permanent coach of 2012/2013 turned out to be utter disaster for Inter Milan. This season, Moratti opted for safe route by appointing Walter Mazzarri. He is already well-proven in Serie-A with Livorno, Reggina, Sampdoria, and Napoli. He revived Livorno back to Serie-A, surviving Reggina despite 11 points deduction, leading Sampdoria to 2nd place at Coppa Italia, and 2nd place in Serie-A, Coppa winner, plus UCL competition for Napoli. Those were terrific track records which manage to lure Moratti to approach him.

The target for upcoming season is nothing less than UCL spot. The absence of European competitiion really hurt Inter a lot and Mazzarri will make sure it doesn’t happen again. With his experience and the players quality in his arsenal, 3rd spot in league table will be minimum target while becoming the champion is still possible.

Coincidentally, Stramaccioni once used 3-5-2 system in Inter and this scheme is also Mazzarri’s main formation in Napoli. The type of players in Inter are also not so much different with what he had in Napoli. So, adaptation will not be an issue here and the quest for Champion League spot will be smoother.

The only problem is just how long Inter and Moratti can continue with such tinkering pattern every years. Mazzarri may be the right man to rejuvenate Inter, but can Moratti give him full trust and authority like he gave to Mourinho ? They are not only important for Mazzari, but also to upcoming years ahead. We still don’t have any clue for how long Mazzarri will stay at Inter, but if Inter want to have sustainable succes in future, they better learn to trust their coach and they can start from Mazzari. UCL spot for 2013/2014 season ? Likely. Scudetto ? Maybe. Stability and continuity in future ? Not sure.

They are important players at their club, yet they aren’t heralded as one. They do not cover the headlines like their teammates do. They lurk at the dark side of spotlight. Even in worst case, the fans question their immense contribution. The list belows are some underrated players in Europe :

Darijo Srna

The only reason why Srna isn’t rated as one of best right fullback in the world is he plays for Shakhtar Donetsk. If only he plays for big profile clubs in big league, no doubt people will talk him in the same breath as they talk about Lahm, Alba, Cole, or Coentrao. Don’t get me wrong. Staying in low profile club isn’t a mistake. If anything, it proves his quality both in and out of field. How many players can you find who able to pledge his loyalty despite lucrative offers constantly come ?

His quality is unquestionable. Shakhtar Donetsk aren’t the club with stellar resources, yet they always pose trouble against the teams that have double or triple players worth. Willian was the hottest asset of Shakhtar in recent season, but people forget about Srna who has been the skipper of lethal black horse team for years. His crossing is top notch and can be rated as one of the best in the world –if not the best-. His set-piece ability is deadly as well. Also, he has tremendous stamina to move back and forth, bombarding forward while not neglecting his defensive duty. And his statistic speaks his volume quite well. Captain of Shakhtar Donestk and Croatia national team, 100 international caps, 2 trophies with Hajduk Split, 15 trophies with Shakhtar including UEFA Cup in 2009, and a part of 2010/2011 UCL Team of the Season. Truly one of leading right back in generation.

Thomas Mueller

The UCL semifinal served as grandstages with different purposes for 2 players : Lewandowski and Mueller. The quattrick acted as proving point that the Pole is already ready to challenge the world. For the latter, it is a wake-up call for everybody to realize that –along with Lahm- he has been the best German player since his emergence in World Cup 2010. Scoring 5 goals in World Cup is an exceptional feat, let alone if he was only 20 years old and it was his first World Cup tournament. He replicated his scintillating form into next seasons and the current 2012/2013 season perhaps is his best one. He has already producing 20 goals and 15 assists for Bayern Munich this season and still counting.

Thomas Mueller is the embodiment of old Germany and the contrast of newly technical national team. He can’t dribble past opponent beatifully like Reus or Goetze. He doesn’t have an eye for space and pass like Schweinsteiger or Ozil. But he has key attributes that few have : consistency and tough champion mentality. Let’s look back at UCL final 2011/2012 when Chelsea won it through penalty shootout. When it seemed the Bavarian couldn’t break the deadlock, Mueller came to the rescue by scoring desperately needed goal. Unfortunately, the adventage was denied when his German colleague Manuel Neuer couldn’t save easy Drogba’s header which he should and could deal with. Schweinsteiger case wasn’t better either. He didn’t even dare to watch his teammate Robben took the penalty and he didn’t have enough nerve to take it by himself. He was obviously nervous and he didn’t even dare to look at the goal when his shoot-out would determine the heaven or hell. Muller proves that, to become the champion, skill and technique aren’t adequate, you must have the champion mentality to achieve it.

He also has 1 key attribute that is frequently overlooked, namely defensive contribution. Most of attacking players have tendency to neglect their defensive duties. Ronaldo and Hazard are few examples of them as the opponents will target their flank and pose big trouble for the sideback. It is not the case for Mueller. Either closing down at the front line or tracking back the opposition winger, he deals with them excellently.

Mikel Arteta

Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are the main cannons of Arsenal, but everyone forgets the base which allows the bullet to be shot without losing its stability. Arteta is the base of explosive cannon of Arsenal. Stationed in front of unreliable and inconsistent backfour in ultra-offensive team, he is the first man who is responsible to repel opponent’s attack. Adding up the factor that the level of Arsenal pressing is nowhere near good, Arteta’s task is incredibly difficult.

One amazing thing that is often overlooked is how Arteta converts his role in the age of 29. He was always the playmaker who relied on his vision and passing ability and they are the asset that attracted Wenger. But, Wilshere recovery and Cazorla arrival compelled Wenger to shift Arteta for greater good and the latter willingly agreed. Such sacrificial alone in late stage of career is already worth the praise.

Maybe Arteta defensive ability isn’t as good as other established players like Schneiderlin, Sandro, Parker, Lucas etc. But, to underestimate his defensive contribution is really a stupid thing. Currently in EPL rank, Arteta stands at 13th rank in tackling department (highest in team), 10th in intercepting (2nd in team), and 3rd in committing foul. The statistic proves that he is the most important axis in Arsenal defence and it is underlined by his foul. We all know that Arsenal play high defensive line, but with lack of pressing. Thus, they are really vulnerable to counter attack. By committing foul, he buys time for his team to retreat and forming the defence. And amazingly, he has only amassed 3 yellow card in this season. Adding up he always manages to distribute the ball well after robbing the possession, Arteta is undoubtly an unsung hero of Arsenal.

Michael Carrick

This season is when MU fans finally appreciates Carrick as fine player. Carrick himself admitted that he is enjoying 2012/2013 season as the best campaign he has ever have. But, it is not that his previous seasons were bad. Instead, he has always been one of MU best players since years ago. Common sense here. There is no way Sir Alex will keep playing him if he is bad player. Also, to quote Xavi and Xabi Alonso, Carrick is the player that both of them dream to play with. Pay attention, the words come out from the cores of reigning world champion.

Carrick is the modern central midfielder which emphasizes on ball retention. He is not trequartista who able to unlock the defence with magical pass. He is not anchorman who fights for every centimetre of midfield. His role is very simple and not eye-catching. Sitting in front of defence, he tries to make himself available for his teammate to pass and then recycling it with short pass to other players. Simple, isn’t it ? Sounds like easy job, but when you must do it on regular basis on high level games, it becomes ridiculously hard. In current era when possession and ball retention are the key features of game, the passer role becomes even more important. His defensive contribution also can’t be overlooked. Just like Arteta, he defends with his sense, not by physical battle like classic defensive midfielder.

Carrick has his up and downs during his career in MU. Back then, he was good player, but his passing was more sloppy than now. Sometimes, he coughed up possession in even easiest circumstances. Furthermore, his defence wasn’t as good as he has now. Any MU fans would remember how he conceded unnecessary foul or just couldn’t apply enough pressure on his opponent. Also, only few people understand the tactical value of passer role as it seems like easy job. It was very common to hear any MU fans called for Carrick’s head and complained how he contributes nothing for team. What abruptly change people opinion is the licence to spray more ambitious ball which he gets this season. It is obvious that he passes more risky ball and more defence-splitting pass than he used to do. And it is the reason why more people regard him more highly now although there is not so much difference between present-Carrick and past-Carrick.

Samir Handanovic

Throw “Who is the best keeper in the world ?” question to people and most of them will answer big names such as Casillas, Buffon, Neuer, Hart, Cech etc. If anything, he can be counted as best 3 goalkeepers in the world, if not the best. Aside of Inter Milan and Serie-A fans, it seems no one bothers about Handanovic. Too bad that people don’t know he was elected as Serie-A best goalkeeper, in 2011. Considering how he stands strong amidst crumbling defence of Inter, it is very likely for him to grab the award for 2012/2013 season.

He had already shown his remarkable goalkeeping skill while he was at Udinese, but it was Alexis Sanchez and Di Natale who got the attention. When Inter released Julio Cesar to QPR and replaced him with Handanovic, many people raised their eyebrows. Could the Slovenian replace an integral part of Inter Milan treble team and Brazil number 1 ?  Now, the move has been proven as a great business as he produces terrific performances throughout the season. Every Interisti has already lost count of how many times Handanovic saves Inter from certain goal. The most notable games were when Inter defeated Juventus at their own home 1-3 and drew against AC Milan 1-1. He contained barrage of shots, keeping Inter in the game before the Nerazzurri clawed back into the game. If Handanovic could keep his performance in high level consistently, no doubt that he will be Inter number 1 for many years ahead.

Sergio Busquets

The offensive football of Barcelona has taken the world by storm. Messi-Xavi-Iniesta have won so many admirers across the globe. But does anyone ever put attention on the man who does all dirty jobs to shore up the team ? The man is Sergio Busquets. Messi may score as many goals as he likes. Iniesta may split the defence like a hot knife on the butter. Xavi may dictate the game like a dirigent maestro. But, Busquets is the first layer of Barcelona defence and believe me, he is as indispensable as them.

To describe how good is Busquets in short, he is the better version of modern central midfielder than previously mentioned Arteta and Carrick. Three of them play at the same role, only Busquets does it even better. To begin with, his defensive ability is top notch and arguably the best among the midfielders in the world. As Barcelona play high-line defence, they are very vulnerable to counterattack and Busquets shoulders the greatest responsibility to break it before his backline is threatened. He reads the game very well. To quote Iniesta, Busquets is the best player when it comes to tactical understanding. As if they are not enough, Busquets also holds great importance in term of aerial dominance. Remember, Barcelona comprise of mostly short players and only few of them are comfortable in handling aerial threat, i.e. Puyol, Pique, and Busquets himself. Since Puyol has been injury-ridden throughout the season and Pique is oblivious in defending, the task is even heavier for him.

Attacking wise, Busquets is fine player as well. His passing is top class –as expected from La Masia graduate-. There is reason why Barcelona can switch from defence to attack smoothly and Busquets is main factor here. And his passing also the reason why Barcelona dominated football backthen. It is impossible to close down Barcelona as the whole tri-cores of midfield are very comfortable with ball.

If there is downside of him, it is his notoriety as a diver and actor. Although he has been already trying to fix his old sins by playing more cleanly, his past will keep haunting him. The image of him peeped through his palm when he rolled down the pitch as Thiago Motta was sent off will linger forever in history. But, like or not, his acting is one of his strength. He has magical knack to turn 50-50 situation in favor of him. When other players must commit a foul to stop the counterattack, Busquets will get a freekick when his opponents run into him. This is a dirty trick, but unnoticed foul is the high-class technique, isn’t it ?

Others :

For several reasons, here are other players which aren’t mentioned in list above : Neven Subotic, Sami Kheidira, Stephan Liechtsteiner,  Ramires, Thiago Silva, Leighton Baines.

I don’t usually quote other’s writing to be my blog content. But this post regarding the background of Croatia vs Serbia match is too good to be missed. We all know that both Croatia and Serbia were united in the name of Yugoslavia together with Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia. They broke up and on 22 March 2013, it was the fate that bridges them in the peaceful football field instead of bloody war field. It was also destiny that both coaches from each country were the captain of Hajduk Split (Croatia) and Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) when the war ensued. They are Igor Stimac and Sinisa Mihajlovic. Little do people know the bloody background between them. Here is the details :

Stimac and Mihajlovic, Once Brothers (courtesy of

Originally posted by Pietro Paolo Virdis

Original post :

Sinisa Mihajlovic – current coach of Serbia – was a real hothead throughout his player career, as most know. Some of this has been on display during his time as national coach, which Fiorentina player Adem Ljajic got a taste of last year. Ljajic, born in Serbia by Muslim parents didn’t sing the Serbian anthem ahead of a game why Mihajlovic kicked him out of the team. It seems, however, the coach will have to take the player back due to pressure from both media and fans, because the very talented 21 year old midfielder is having a splendid season and while Mihajlovic has a world class defence, even in the absence of Vidic who’s refusing to play since 2011 because of negative comments from fans, Mihajlovic is in desperate need of players in the attacking line. Ljajic can play second striker or attacking midfielder, together with Filip Djuricic who I think it’s only a matter of time before he has his big international breakthrough, they’ll still lack in striker options.

I’ve mentioned Stimac – the current Croatian coach – here before. A truly dodgy character involved in everything from beating up people at nightclubs, betting syndicates with mob members and rigging elections both at Hajduk Split as well as the Croatian FA.

Mihajlovic and Stimac got to know each other when in their teens. They played together in the Yugoslavian team which won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Cup and often met while stars in their respective club in the two neighbouring cities.
Stimac is from the southern part of Croatia but was on loan to Dinamo Vinkovci at the age of 19. Vinkovci is a railroad transfer-point in the north-eastern part of Croatia close to where the Serbian border is today. Sinisa Mihajlovic grew up in Vukovar, some 20km from Vinkovci. The two socialized in different crews but they’d often meet at bars and cafés. Their respective friends would pressure for them not to talk but they’d greet and chat about their mutual interest, football.

The war between Croatia and Serbia was ignited one could say in those very parts where Sinisa and Igor lived just a few years earlier. Twelve Croatian police officers and three Serbian militia were killed in a gunfight in Borovo, a suburb to Vukovar, 2 May 1991, just a few hundred meters from the house where Mihajlovic grew up and thus the war begun.
I’m sure you’ve all heard about Vukovar. The town was basically levelled to the ground and is one of the greatest atrocities committed during that war.
Less than a few weeks later, the Yugoslavian cup final was played at the JNA stadium in Belgrade. Red Star Belgrade met a Hajduk Split wearing mourning bands in honour of the fallen police. When the Yugoslavian anthem was played the Hajduk players looked towards the ground and not the flag. Igor Stimac was captain for Hajduk Split and Sinisa Mihajlovic was captain for the Serbian side. When the two met ahead of kick-off at the centre Stimac leaned forward and whispered to Mihajlovic.
– I hope our guys kill your entire family in Borovo.

The phone lines to Borovo had been down for several days and Mihajlovic had no idea whether his family was alive or not. He could care less about the cup final and spent every second trying to injure Stimac. The game ended up being more of a brutal kickboxing match between the two with both eventually sent off. Hajduk won 1-0, Stimac raised the cup and said:
– It’s ours forever now. The Yugoslavian cup will never be played ever again.
Hajduk-Red Star Belgrade kickboxing

A few months later Hajduk and Red Star met again in a league game. A very hot headed Mihajlovic acted like a ticking bomb and was sent off. Again.
Mihajlovic losing it

The war had put an even greater wedge between the two players. Hajduk’s training ground was door to door with a Croatian army base and Stimac spent more time with military and militia than with his team mates. In October 1991 Hajduk were returning to Croatia after having met Tottenham in the Cup Winners Cup. To cross the border they had to go by bus through Austria.
– When we got to the northern parts of Croatia we were at the front. Everything was on fire. Every 200m a bomb detonated and when we were getting closer to Zadar we noticed they’d blown a big hole in the bridge. We had to get out of the bus, all of us, and jump over.

When the team finally arrived Split they were stopped by police. Igor Stimac was arrested because he carried a machine gun without permission and had to spend four days in prison.
– Some team mates had bought guns to keep on the bus because we made the judgement that we might need them.

A few months later Stimac was back at the police station. The police had brought him in for questioning due to his association with a group of Croatian nationalists who had burnt and blown up cafés, stores and cars belonging to ethnic Serbs. Stimac didn’t deny he was involved with them, one of them his cousin and another the godfather to his son. But even though he said that he had nothing to do with the crimes he said that he didn’t find anything wrong with them morally.
– My friends are part of an anti-terrorist group within the Croatian army. Their mission is to blow up certain buildings. During our conversations they’re always talking about how they will chase out the Serbs from Split since it’s become impossible to live with them.

Sinisa Mihajlovic had it a bit tougher to separate ethnicity. His father is Serb but his mother is Croatian.
– All wars suck, but a civil war like ours is worse than anything else. Guys I grew up with are now shooting at each other, families are torn apart.

While Vukovar was controlled by the Croatian militia his Serbian family was living under constant threat of death. A few days after Mihajlovic had them evacuated a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the house he grew up. A few days later some of his friends found a couple of Red Star team photos in the burnt down house. Someone had put a bullet through Sinisa’s face in every one of them.
– Who could do such a thing? It was something which haunted me every day until the day I found out. It was Stipe, one of my childhood friends, a bloke I’d looked upon like a brother. He did it simply because I was Serb and he was Croat. How is it possible for war to darken your mind so much about someone who used to be your friend?

After they’d fled to Belgrade, Mihajlovic’ mother got a phone call from her brother, a general in the Croatian army.
– Why have you fled? We wanted to kill your husband, the Serbian swine.
When Vukovar finally fell the same uncle was captured by the Serbian forces, led by warlord Arkan Raznatovic. Execution by fire squad was only a few hours away when someone told Arkan about one being family to Mihajlovic.
– Then he called me and I managed to convince him to spare my uncles life.

Sinisa and Arkan got to know each other when he moved to Red Star Belgrade less than a year before. The ex-ultra leader had already then reached a new position and status since he had armed the supporters in the Delije (Red Star ultras) and transformed into some sort of militia commander.
– I met him through football. During a short period we spent a lot of time together and I will always be grateful for saving my uncles life. It’s easy to point finger from the outside, but he defended the Serbs who would otherwise be massacred in Croatia. I condemn the war crimes he’s committed but in a civil war there is no good or evil. There is no black and white, the colour of war is always red like colour of the blood of the innocent.

Both Mihajlovic and Stimac have been judged by their certain affiliations together with some of their actions and have become anti-symbols for both sides. Lots of Croats hate Mihajlovic because he defended Arkan and stood by Slobodan Milosevic. A lot of Serbs hate Stimac because he praised the Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. And they’ve continued to build on it by throwing insults one another.

Igor Stimac:
– He claims that I’ve wished for his family to die but I don’t express myself like that. Mihajlovic doesn’t exist for me anymore. Since his mother is Croatian, he’s always the one trying to prove something, like he’s a greater Serb than anyone else.

Sinisa Mihajlovic:
– That he can’t stand for what he says makes him an even lesser person in my eyes. He should just vanish. I don’t believe in violence but Igor Stimac is the only human I would actually want to kill.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has not been in Vukovar since 1991 but he has been in Croatia once. October 1999 with the national side still playing as Yugoslavia against Croatia in the European Championship qualifiers.
– The stadium in Zagreb was like a volcano. Police everywhere. Everybody still had the war in their bodies. There were many players from the old Yugoslavian team on the field but this time we played against them.

Last time Mihajlovic was in Vukovar he couldn’t even recognize it. Whole streets and city blocks were gone. Left were only skeletons of houses and people. He felt like there weren’t even any birds in the air anymore.
– When I entered the pitch to play Croatia in that qualifier I saw the name of my hometown again. A huge flag was hung in the Croatian section behind goal which read “Vukovar 91”. I kneeled and made the cross sign in remembrance to all Serbs who had fallen there. The stadium felt like it would crumble to the ground from all the fury around me.

The game 99’ finished 2-2. Croatia missed the EC, Yugoslavia qualified. Igor Stimac out of the game due to bookings, Sinisa Mihajlovic assisted to both goals. Yugoslavian player Zoran Mirkovic received a red card after he had grabbed Robert Jarni by the balls and on his way off the pitch he made the provocative Serbian sign with three fingers towards the crowd.
– I will never forget that game. It’s the biggest game I’ve ever played, said Mihajlovic.

Igor Stimac was in Vukovar in November 2012. A few days before the Hague tribunal had decided in the appeal from the Croatian generals Gotovina and Markac regarding their respective 24 year and 18 year prison sentences they’d been given. When the jury found Gotovina and Markac not guilty more than 60,000 Croats travelled to Vukovar to celebrate. Stimac was one of them.
– They are the greatest heroes in our history. I really hope they can make it to our next game and make a symbolic kick-off.

That next game is tomorrow, Friday. The first game ever between Croatia and Serbia. Where Igor Stimac will sit as coach on one bench and Sinisa Mihajlovic on the other.

A few years ago Igor Stimac was a guest on a Croatian talk-show. The host was breaking down the whole feud between Stimac and Mihajlovic when he presented a surprise. A pre-recorded phone conversation with Sinisa was played.
– I’m already old and father of six children. Perhaps it’s time to move on with some things. Everybody can make mistakes in life. Stimac made a great mistake which he probably is aware of. I can forgive him, but on one condition, that he gives me two, three bottles of wine. And it has to be real Dalmatian wine. I’m prepared to meet Stimac, to kiss and embrace him and drink wine together. I’m prepared to forgive him for the Dalmatian wine alone.

Sinisa Mihajlovic had tried to play down the situation but Stimac reacted with anger:
– What can I say about a man who’s gone out and said that I’m the only one he’d kill in cold blood. He never asked about his old friends during the war. He signed campaign letters for Arkan and promoted a great-Serbia even though his mother is Croatian. No, Mihajlovic, I don’t accept your offer. I can forgive him but I’ll never embrace him or drink wine with him.

In fall 2012 there was a UEFA conference in Warsaw. National managers from whole of Europe were invited to discuss current football affairs and solve some administrative issues. Suddenly Stimac and Mihajlovic stood face to face. They hesitated but then sat down together for a cup of coffee. Less than an hour later they parted.

– When I was a young man I wasn’t always making the brightest decisions but I’ve matured. I understand now that we must prevent the game against Serbia to be a continuation of the war. If the crowd starts to chant “Death to Serbs” or sing Ustasja songs I will take my players off the pitch. Most of all we have to protect the children and youth in the stadium from being pushed down by the same war which destroyed so many lives in our generation.

– When I accepted to be manager of Serbia a big reason was this game. I would give three years of my life to be able to play it and I hope to be able to convey some of that hunger to my players. But, both I and my players will applaud the Croatian anthem since we always do so out of respect to our opponent. If any of my players are sent off due to unsportsmanlike conduct or for agitating the crowd he will never play for the national side again. The world is looking at us. It’s time to forgive and forget, to reach out a hand and move forward instead. This game is not a continuation of the war. We’ve already lived through the real war. It was damn bloody and dirty and we still carry wounds and scars from it. But if I who lived through it can let it go and move on, lads who weren’t even born then should be able to.

Lots of things have changed since 1991. It is without doubt the biggest game in Croatian history so far. It’s big in many ways. The rivalry will always remain. If games like Betis-Seville, Schalke-Dortmund or Fener-Galatasary will always be big, you can imagine this one. In terms of rivalries between national sides I can’t come to think of one to match it, not at this level. Argentina-Brazil? Germany-Holland? Scotland-England? Ireland-England? Greece-Turkey? I still think this one is bigger.

It’s big because it’s the first time ever we will meet? Think of all the times you’ve read about the big rivalries around the world, how they started, and the stories behind them. This is the time you will actually be able to say that you saw it that day, you witnessed the moment that very first game was played.

It’s big because…. it can be massive. It’s enough with a few troublemakers to turn this into a terrible something. Pitch invasion, flares, anything is possible.

Or it can be massive the other way around. A very good game with none or few to talk of incidents, outside the stadium or in it. A massive win for the process of continuing to build bridges between the Croats and our neighbours the Serbs.

Yes, a lot of things have changed since 1991. Back then I kept a sort of distance to the people I knew who were Serb. We all did, both side. I was never much into the whole nationalism bullshit with hate towards Serbs, but times were confusing, sensitive. It was easier to stay away from one another, those of us he grew up here in Sweden.
Tomorrow, I will be watching the game together with some Serbian friends. They’ve insisted we must watch it together.

They met each other and no more violence involved in the match that Croatia won. May the peace reigns all over the world.

Pirlo Inter Milan

So many youths enroll in Inter Milan young player academy yet so few who make it to the highest level. It seemed they have bright future ahead in their football career. The fans put their hope on them as the next star. Too bad. Some still play at highest level of football, but some play at lower division and worse, some gave up their football career at early age. Here are the little compilation of some players who once are the part of Inter Milan and Inter Primavera. Lets have some bitter sweet nostalgia of the players who once we bear the hope on.


Note :

*Age when the player departed from Inter Primavera

**Departed status means the player left Inter due to loaned, released, moved to other club, or promoted to Inter Milan first team

ps : Since the writing isn’t for serious purpose, sorry for inaccuracy then. Only want some nostalgic stuff and wondering how Inter young player academy works.

Reference :

After a strong start in Serie-A campaign, Inter Milan performance suffers freefall recently. But, despite the disappointing results they have gotten, there are still some players who deliver. One of them is Fredy Guarin. His form was bad when the team were good and the vice versa happens. His performance got better when Inter chose attacking approach instead of defensive one. Then, he began to leave his defensive duty and participate more in attack. He was bought as defensive and box-to-box midfielder (or shuttler), but this season sees we often see him playing as attacking midfielder (or even trequartista).

The question is, does the shift of role favor him and Inter ? How effective is it? The results vary between highs and lows. But, it is author’s personal opinion that Guarin should not play as attacking midfielder. Why ?


Attacking Midfielder Is Not His Natural Position

First, Guarin was simply a makeshift attacking midfielder as no one else could do it. Cambiasso is too slow and doesn’t have enough guile to be attacking midfielder, Gargano’s passing is on Serie-C1 class, Sneijder was injury-plauged (and now has gone), and Ricky Alvarez follows the Dutchman footstep as hospital patient. But, several strong performances as attacking midfielder should not justify him to deploy him there in long run. Last season, he impressed everyone with his physical and combatant presence in the middle of the park. With the emergence of Benassi and arrival of Kovacic and Kuzmanovic, there is simply no reason to continue playing him as attacking midfielder. Furthermore, box-to-box midfielder is his natural position and it is very difficult to teach new role in his mature golden age.

Brute Strength Is Not For Number 10

Second, physical player can’t optimize his power if he is stationed close to opponent’s goal. History teaches us that attacking midfielder is decorated by techincal players (e.g. Iniesta, Zidane, Laudrup etc), not physical one. In the area congested by opponent bodies, vision and technique are more important than raw strength. That’s why Guarin suits best in shuttler role. The further you are from opposition goal, the more space you have to build up the momentum. The proofs are, most of Guarin commendable plays come when he outpaces and outmuscles everyone in his wake, not from his astute positioning or deft passing.


Ramires, Boateng, and Yaya Toure

Third, lets take recent history lesson from Ramires, Boateng, and Yaya Toure. Together with Guarin, 4 of them started as pure defensive midfielder and then development in modern football shifted them into box-to-box midfielder. Until this stage, all of them still did well. But, the circumstance in each player’s club saw them developing in each way.

Ramires still continues playing as shuttler in Chelsea. In this position, he deserved great merit for his contribution in delivering UCL title for The Blues. It was his sudden burst against Barcelona that secure vital goals. In first leg, he provided assist for Drogba and in second leg he scored it by himself. Chelsea sat back, soaked the pressure, and then launched quick counter attack with Mata vision, Ramires surge, and Drogba finish. Isn’t it how Stramaccioni wants to play with Cassano, Guarin, and Palacio in his arsenal ? Despite there is slight drop in his performance recently (together with most of his teammates), Ramires is still valuable first team member in shuttler role.

Kevin Prince Boateng is the case where Inter and Guarin try to avoid. He was stationed as trequartista and even earned number 10. He was instrumental when Milan won Serie-A 2 seasons ago, but then saw drastic drop in his performances. Neverthless, Allegri still insisted to deploy him as number 10 and it led to strings of bad results, much to the rage of Milanisti. Surely Stramaccioni doesn’t want his Colombian star bears the same fate as Boateng. Only after Boateng was benched for several matches, Allegri plays him again now as midfielder. With Montolivo at his side as passer and El-Sharaawy upfront, it seems Boateng form has gotten better. Now, as Guarin will be suspended for next match again Chievo, it could give time for thought for the him and his coach to decide the best for Inter.

Contrary to Boateng, Yaya Toure succeeds in more advanced role. Started as box-to-box midfielder in Barcelona, he transited into more attacking role in Manchester City and now he established himself as main attacking midfielder with Silva. Could Guarin emulate him ? No. The main reasons why Yaya Toure thrives well in attacking role are Barcelona and David Silva. He gains a lot of benefit for playing and training in Barcelona which have strong accent on passing and technique. Also, it is Silva who provides creativity edge and Toure complements it with his powerful drive. Let’s apply the case to Nerazzurri. Inter may have the creative figure, but not the staff and system to shape someone into fine attacking midfielder. Let alone converting someone who is 26 years old and has spent his entire career in defensive nature. Sidenote for Toure, although his current fine form, every City fans will agree that Toure reached his greatest height last season when he played as shuttler. So, shall we see Guarin as box-to-box midfielder again, Mr. Andrea Stramaccioni ?


The hibernation is over. Pep had decided that he will handle the Bavarian next season. Coincidence or not, Pep chose Bayern Munich that have a lot of similarities with previously Barcelona he handled. Guaranteed, Pep will bring his trademark passing football to German side. The good thing is, B. Munich will not have any difficulty to adapt as they are only second best to Barcelona in term of possession game. Not only the playing philosophy, even the players characteristic resemble a lot. Lets see the comparison below.

 Muenchen Barca 11

There is slight difference in formation as Barcelona sticks to 4-3-3 and B. Munich plays 4-2-3-1. But, consider that both Robben and Ribery spent their time attacking and offer little in defence. Also, consider that all Barcelona forwards wil press and track back to defence. So, practically there is not so much difference between them.


Perhaps the biggest difference of both squad. Neuer boasts cat-like reflexes while Valdes doesn’t, but the latter has a great asset in his passing ability, something that Neuer will jealous for. Once Neuer said that he worked less than he did when he played for Schalke, but Pep arrival will change everything. Neuer will see a lot of time with ball, but instead of playing it with hand, he will play it with his feet. In Pep tactic, goalkeeper is the first foundation of attack and Neuer must adapt well for it.


Alves was the main man in width department. With Messi cut inside and the rest players tend to congest middle of the park, Alves was the key tactical figure to provide the width. Pep propelled him from great fullback into even greater one, but Pep will not miss him as Lahm is nothing short of his quality.

Puyol was the right back before he established himself as accomplished center back. Does it resemble Badstuber very much ? None of them are comfortable in sprinting along the flank and sending the cross to penalty box. Even if they are deployed as full back, they will as centerback at flank, prioritising in defence over offence. For now, Badstuber is still very inferior compared to Puyol. But he is still 23 and lets see how far Pep can develop him.

Another man in centerback, Dante, worths comparison to Pique. Contrary to their partner (Badstuber and Puyol), Dante and Pique are very comfortable with ball. Just how many defenders in the world can pass as good as Pique, let alone his trademark long diagonal pass. Not to mention his overlapping run from backline when the attack has met deadend. All of these can be found in Dante. Aside of some differences, there is little doubt that Pep will utilise Dante like Pique.

The question for fullback position is, who will be given a licence to charge forward and who will focus on defence ? Back in his Barca tenure, Pep chose offensive right flank and defensive left flank. In B. Munich case, the case will not be as simple as that. Lahm is great fullback with balance on his offensive and defensive side. On the other flank, Alaba favours offence over defence, frequently leaving his position as the hole in defence. As much as Pep loves attacking football, he still has to think the balance with the defence. Perhaps, Pep will utilise Alaba as “Alves” and Lahm as “Abidal”, but only time can tell.


Pep was close to sign in Martinez before the deal collapsed, but now he gets his second chance to play with the ex-Bilbao. There is no doubt that Martinez will operate similarly like Busquets does. He will distribute the ball from defensive line to Schweinsteiger, just like Busquets links Puyol-Pique to Xavi. He will act as centerhalf, positioning himself along centerback when his team attack. If somehow B. Munich run out of centerback (either due to injury or suspension), Martinez will play as centerback as he is also adept playing there. Uli Hoeness might not see Pep coming when he decided to splash hefty sum of money to acquire Martinez, but now it turns out to be a blessing.

Here comes the hotlink between Pep and Van Gaal. They worked each other as player and coach. Pep was the team’s playmaker while Van Gaal were moulding young Xavi into fine playmaker. Xavi enjoyed his peak performance with Pep, but the foundation was builded by Van Gaal (which was admitted by Xavi himselft). Now, history is repeating himselft. Schweinsteiger was a winger. He was eccentric unique figure as German didn’t have much technical player. But everything changed when he met Van Gaal. At first, everybody was skeptical about the idea of putting Schweinsteiger as metronome. No one would expect the experiment turned out to be great success. Schweinstegier plays at completely higher level than he had ever played as a winger. In term of pacesetting, he is on par with Xavi, Pirlo, and Scholes. What distinguses them is, the German is not the one who will spray deft throughball to split opponent defence. But, he compensates it with his presence in defence. It is interesting how will Pep work with Schweinsteiger. Will Pep sharpen his creativity edge or will he keep his attack-defence balance ?

Now, it is hard to compare Kroos and Iniesta. The former is the rising star while the latter has established himself as powerhouse in world football. Kroos is a passer who has exceptional eye for space, he will spot opponent’s weak spot and capitalise it. On the other hand, Iniesta is like an upgrade version of Kroos with unparallel dribbling skill.

To sum up the midfield, perhaps in future Kroos will remain as creative passer as he is now while Schweinsteiger too will remain unchanged. In short, defensive Martinez, balanced Schweinsteiger, and offensive Kroos.


Dribbling from right side then drifting inside, fast, explosive, and selfish. Name 2 players who fit the description and the answer will be Robben and young Messi (as if he is already old). There is chance that Pep will once more revive the combination of inverted winger and overlapping fullback as the resources are available. Pep had Messi-Alves, now he has Robben-Lahm. Different players, same devastating effect. The problems are, Robben doesn’t have an intention to press and a vision to pass. Homework for Pep.

It is the case of tranformation from central to forward. Both of them started in central position. Fabregas already pronounced himself as midfield linchpin in Arsenal with his passing and sudden forwarding burst.. The Spaniard was projected to replace Xavi as playmaker, but it turns out he plays in other position. In most case, he plays as a part of Barca tridente forward. It was almost similar to Ribery. Ribery was heralded as Zidane’s replacement. He played as trequartista in France national team then brought to Munich to add creative presence and replace Scholl. Now, the task of playmaking has been lefted to his teammate and he spents majority of his game in opponent final third.

Although Pep was renowned for his fluid passing game, he is not an alien to imposing figure of targetman. His previous tenure was coloured by his strife with Ibra, but it is not that Pep cannot utilise him. In fact, Ibra made an instant impact with his continous goal, including the winner in El Classico with his volley. The problem began when Messi started to want to play in more central role, encroaching Ibra’s position. Then, the rest is history. Now, it is unlikely that Robben will play in central position so Pep can continue his work with targetman with Mandzukic or Gomez. Although the Sweden is undisputedly better player, both of them aren’t bad players either.


It is very adventageous for both Pep and B. Munich as they have fair share or philosophy. They will not start from zero. Pep will have almost the same players like he had in Barcelona. Furthermore, B. Munich have completely better players than most of Bundesliga clubs. It seems that everything will go smooth and it seems the fans are already very optimistic. But, you know how football realm frequently shocks us. There is no guaranteed succes and it also applies to Pep-B. Munich case.


The picture above is the picture of  Herbert Chapman. Most Arsenal fans will acknowledge him, but not for most other fans. In short, he is the important figure for Arsenal and for football itself. He was the main developer of counter attack. Because of him, counter attack had been refined and transformed into deadly weapon. Then, let’s talk about his legacy, counter attack.

When a small team faces a  bigger team, the approach that mostly is taken is counter attack tactic. The smaller team would defend, containing the attack, then  launch quick attack to the heart of attacking team. As most players of attacking team is still on other half of field, there is so much space to be exploited for counter attacking team. The defending team robs the possession, quickly distributes the ball to the front as fast as they can, shoot, and goal. Simple, isn’t it ? No. Since many small teams defeat bigger teams with counter attack tactic, it seems the scheme is easy while in truth it is not. So, what is the difficulty of executing counter attack ?

1. Defence

To execute counter attack, one must first contain the attack of its opposition before attacking. If the defence fails then so does the attack. Defending is easier than attacking, but defending isn’t easy either. The attacking team will have plenty time on ball and the defending team must concentrate fully and defend valiantly under pressure. Punishment will quickly come upon a lapse of concentration or little crack on defence.

The problem for small teams versus big teams is the former always have lesser resources than the latter. This is the main problem and the main disadventage. Of course it will mean the bigger teams will likely unlock the defence. So, to overcome the disparity in quality, they would deploy more men for defence, but it will mean less outlet for outball from the defence. Lose-lose situation, isn’t it ?

2. Little time on possession

Barcelona, with Xavi-Messi-Iniesta and other mighty attacking power, sometimes only able to score 1 goal despite 60 minutes of possession. So, the main matter of defending team  is, could they score with their limited player quality and time ? When counter attack, the players will enjoy vast space in opposition defence line. They too will enjoy the lack of numbers of defenders. Still, in most cases, the defenders are better players than the counter-attackers so the counter attack probably fails here.

Limited possession means the counter-attacking team must utilise their time as optimum as possible. In such limited time, they must distribute the ball accurately from the back to front as swift as possible. Of course you don’t think it is an easy job, do you ? Once they fail to counter attack, they must defend again and wait in indefinite time to do another counter.

3. Anticipation from attacking team

Attack and being counter-attacked for numerous times in competitions, the big teams certainly already have the plan to break the counter attack. It is merely plain stupid to attack without defence plan. There are various ways to stop counter attack. For example, after losing the ball, the attackers must surely close down the player who has the ball. They will not allow the counter attack runs smoothly. They will exert pressure to force an error and regain the lost ball. Then, if the counter-attackers manage to pass this obstacle, there are more to come such as offside trap and the last-resort-effort namely technical foul. If the counter-attacked team have to suffered yellow card in exchange of goal threat, they will gladly take the deal.

4.  Balance in number of defenders and attackers

As have been mentioned in point number 1, the smaller team mostly must deploy more men in defence to keep their goal intact. But, it comes in expense of no outball. Illustration will explain it better.

Image courtesy of


At the image above, Liverpool acted as “bigger team” while Aston Villa acted as “smaller team”. As can be seen, Villa specially designated Benteke as counter attack pivot and Weimann as secondary outlet. When Villa managed to rob the ball from Liverpool, they could send the ball directly to one of them.

 Counter 1

But, how if Liverpool’s attack was so dangerous that Villa urgently needed extra men to defend ? For example, imagine that Benteke had to mark Johnson and Weimann had to mark Downing (denoted as black dots). When Villa managed  to gain the possession, they only can find Benteke and Weimann were on deep of their half. They still could pass the ball to them, but the counter attack wouldn’t be swift. They had to pass many times, skipping past Liverpool pressing, to get the ball into opposition area. The more passes and touces required, the more time it takes, the most likely Liverpool will be able to return to their position. Thus, Villa players only could find a body of men already protecting their goal. Counter attack failed.

5. Inflexiblity

For defending team, conceding a goal is twice much worse than for attacking team. The reason is, the former must completely alter their tactic in order to catch up the score. This is simply not the case for attacking team. When they concede a goal, it only adds more fuel to their attacking power. Surely it gives more vulnerability to counter attack, but at the very least they do not have to change their strategy and rework the scheme.

Usually, the counter attacking team would have quick players to exploit the huge gap behind opposition defence line But, when his team concedes, the scorer team have luxury to play more safely and put more players in defence. Then, the quick players won’t have any space to run to anymore. And, usually, the fast players lack technical guile to unlock packed defence. Frankly, this is like taking half of his football ability. And of course, his team will have less chance to score with such scenario.

Conclusion :

Counter attack is not as easy as we thought, but small teams have no choice to deal with bigger team. It would be suicidal to attack the better team as they will end up being plummeted. For small team, they opt for counter attack because they have no choice, not because of they want to.

But it is different case for any Mourinho’s team, Di Matteo’s Chelsea, Chapmann’s Arsenal, or Herrerra’s Inter etc. They have stellar players yet they still choose for counter attack strategy. Then, they have luxury to deploy fewer men in defence and putting more in offence. Hence, the counter attack has more chance of success. It creates dilemma for attacking team. If they only send out few players to attack, they will not be able to score. But, to deploy more attackers means more vulnerability to counter attack.

So, it all comes down to resources (read : players) that the coach has. The better quality he has, the more option he has. But, of course the good coach is the one who could achieve the highest with most minimal resources.

Know The Knowledge Of Knowing

If you know that you know, you are great

If you know that you don’t know, you are good

If you don’t know that you know, you are forgetful

If you don’t know that you don’t know, you are ignorant

If you know that you know and act like you know less, you are humble

If you know that you know but act like you know more, you are pompous

If you know that you know and act like you don’t know, you are pretending

If you know that you don’t know but act like you know, you are bluffing

If you know that you don’t know and act like you don’t know, you are modest

If you don’t know that you don’t know but act like you know, you are pedantic

If you know that you know but still learn to know even more, you are open-minded

If you know that you don’t know and you learn to know, you are receptive

If you know that you don’t know but you don’t learn to know, you are dumb

If you don’t know that you don’t know yet still you don’t learn to know, you are doomed

Talking about Inter Milan means talking about Javier Zanetti and vice versa. As a captain for 13 years, he has led Nerazurri with fine performance and consitency, leading them to 15 trophies during his reign as captain. But, there is an end for everything and Zanetti is no exception. Currently he is at the dawn of his career and already shows the signs of declining. So, when Il Tractore retires, who will inherit the armband that has been strapped tightly to his arm ? Who is Inter Milan captain after Zanetti ? For now, the vice captain is Cambiasso and below him is Milito and Samuel. Also there is still Stankovic and Chivu. But all of them also already at the age of 30’s. Apparently, following Zanetti’s footstep to play in high level competition until 39 years old is virtually imposibble for them. Even Milito already shows alarming inconsistency while Stankovic and Chivu are struggling with their fitness.

So, who will continue the legacy of Zanetti and leading new generation of Inter Milan in next few years ? This is quite difficult question as there is no standout leader among the players within current Inter squad. The current Inter mostly comprises of new legs like Handanovic, Juan, Guarin, Gargano, Pereria, and Palacio. So, by common sense, unlikely they would be the next captain as there are more senior players out there. Also, the likes of Livaja, Coutinho, and Ricky also would be unlikely as they are tender in age. So by eliminating the least probable one, here are the candidates of next captain:

1. Wesley Sneijder (age 28, joined Inter in 2009)

In near future, he will be the only remnant of treble winner team. And, within Inter first team squad, he is the most senior player and has the longest service for under 30 years old player criteria. Seems the chance of him as captain is quite high, but it only and only happens if both the Dutchman and Nerazzuri do not part way. There is no telling when Inter will sell him for big amount of money or either Sneijder will leave Milano to follow other stars that had left Serie-A.

2. Samir Handanovic (age 28, joined Inter in 2012)

Talking about captaincy for him is extremely premature. But, barring the 30 years old players in the squad, he is the most senior player there on par with Sneijder. Also, as the goalkeeper, his position is relatively secure and there is little chance of him being offloaded in near future. In next 2 or 3 years, probably the only active player in current squad that is older than him is Palacio. But, there is no telling when his performance drops, let alone as a striker in modern football that requires a lot of movement. Also, combination of rat-tail and armband isn’t neat fashion, is it ?

3. Andrea Ranocchia (age 24, joined Inter in 2011)

As the name stands, Internazionare Milano was established to accomodate foreigners to play football in Milano. The policy still continues as the number of foreign players of Nerazurri is almost always the most among other Serie-A teams. Neverthless, Interisti would be proud to have Italian captain to show the identity of Italan club. And, if he is the great defender that Italians desperate for so long and becomes the backbone of Gli Azzuri, it would be perfect scenario for Interisti. Could it be Ranocchia ? Forget the great defender part, he still has long way to go to be the one. But, currently he is the primary centerback of the team and his playing time is among the highest in squad. Add the factor of him as Italian, his odd as the captain is widely open. The recent match against Rubin Kazan, when he became a captain,  just confirmed it even more. If somehow he becomes leader of La Beneamata, the captaincy will once again return to centerback position, just like Giuseppe Bergomi who was the predecessor of Javier Zanetti. Of course, comparing Ranocchia to Bergomi is an utter insult to such accomplished defender. Well, at least the harsh challenges reminds Ranocchia to the former captain a lot. Surely The Frog can leap even higher, right Ranocchia ?

4. Yuto Nagatomo (age 26, joined Inter in 2011)

Probably mentioning him as Inter’s next captain is a bit peculiar, but no one bears any resemblance to Zanetti better than Nagatomo. Simply say, Nagatomo is a poor man’s Zanetti. Both player have almost similar charateristics. Versatile, infinite stamina, industrious, with dribbling as strong point. By the next couple of years, his age will allow him to be senior enough to be a captain and still has enough time to serve Inter long enough. Then, the main point with him as a captain is, he would inject the enthusiasm and lead by example just like Zanetti has been doing. His chance for the captaincy is sandwiched by Handanovic and Ranocchia, but if somehow he becomes one, he would be the first Asian to lead the top European team.

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Feeling up the senses like a night in Giuseppe Meazza

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Feeling up the senses like a night in Giuseppe Meazza


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