The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance

Today Chelsea loanee Pat Bamford fired ‘Boro past current Premier League Champions Manchester City in the FA Cup. Bamford is one of the leading lights of no less than 28 players that are on loan from Stamford Bridge.  Being one of the top players on loan from Chelsea, why do I see a future away from the Bridge for him?

Only rivalled by Will Hughes Patrick Bamford is the top young talent in The Championship. After a successful loan spell at Derby County last year Bamford now finds himself at promotion contenders Middlesbrough. Situated 2nd in the Championship he has scored 11 goals in 26 appearances for The Boro this term. With a player obviously playing so well and brimming with potential why do I see his future anywhere but at Stamford Bridge?

Patrick Bamford

Patrick Bamford celebrates scoring against Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round at the Etihad.

Every home-grown player from England has a cross to bear. They are ‘the next Beckham’, ‘the new Scholes’ and so on. There is no room for originality and more often than not players fade under the intense media and fan scrutiny that is put on them. If I were to count the amount of truly world class English players that would get on any team in the world the only name that springs to mind is Wayne Rooney. Say what you like about him but he possess the star quality coupled with a fantastic work-rate and a killer instinct.

Expand the boundaries and look at every player Chelsea have on loan. Thorgan Hazard, Lucas Piazon and  Marco van Ginkel are the names that stand out. Do they have a future at The Bridge? Extremely doubtful . The only player that may regularly feature would be Thorgan Hazard due to his wonderful football ability (obviously), but particularly the fact his brother is the main man at The Blues. That isn’t saying that Thorgan is more talented or gifted than any other player out on loan from Chelsea, that is just how football works sometimes.

Chelsea, last year, were missing a prolific goalscorer so they bought Diego Costa. They needed a star turn in central midfield so they bought Cesc Fabregas. Finally, they bought a left-back to shore up their defence in Filipe Luis.

Josh McEachran was playing Champions League football for Chelsea at the age of 17. Following successive spells on loan at Swansea, Watford, Wigan and Middlesbrough he now finds himself at Vitesse Arnhem, Chelsea’s feeder club in Holland. You could say that the burden of expectation got to him and it is an exceptional case?

McEachran has made 8 appearances for Vitesse since his loan move in August.

McEachran has made 8 appearances for Vitesse since his loan move in August.

Tomas Kalas is an exciting young centre-back that has been in the Chelsea ranks since the summer of 2010. Now aged 21 he has only appeared for Chelsea four times. He is quite young so he has got a great chance to develop but with the arrival of 20 year-old centre-back Kurt Zouma it is unlikely his time will ever come at The Bridge.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andreas Christensen buck this trend but then again they have only played three times for Chelsea this season compared with 11 appearances for Zouma.

This is a trend that is repeated again and again in England. Too often teams are more willing to dip their hands in to the transfer kitty than nurture players to their full potential. Who could blame them? The Premier League and Champions League are the two trophies most coveted by English clubs so why should there be room for sentiment? Football is a cut-throat business so you can forgive giants like the Manchester clubs or Chelsea allow Patrick from down the road have a crack when they can buy somebody who would convert a sniff of a chance.

The system deployed in England is fundamentally flawed and the loaning out system does not work. Look to Germany, look to Spain and you can see the implementation of second teams for a club in lower divisions works wonders. Castilla, the Real Madrid ‘B’ Team is coached by none other than Zinedine Zidane*. What kid wouldn’t want that type of tutelage? And it is exactly that type of tutoring that a top English club should offer.

A survey from CIES Football Observatory in October 2014 documented the amount of players coming through the academies of the big five leagues in Europe. Each team was given a point if they had a home-grown player in their squad or if a home-grown player was playing in one of the big five leagues in Europe. A player has to have been at a club at least three seasons between the ages of 15-21 to be defined as home-grown. Unsurprisingly, Barcelona and Real Madrid are first and third respectively. Manchester United are in second position thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson’s ethos of developing players through the academy. We have seen Louis van Gaal reach in to the academy this season but it is hard to see them as anything but stop-gaps until they buy more commanding defenders.

Manchester United have 12 players in the squad of 2014 that came through the academy while Arsenal have seven. This is well and good but the two teams were unsuccessful in Europe last year, and Arsenal won only their first trophy in nine years as well.

Chelsea and Manchester City are joint 45th on the list by virtue of having nine and 11 players playing in other big five clubs respectively. They have three players and only one respectively again in their squad of 2014. Manchester City won the Premier League last year and Chelsea finished four points adrift while reaching the semi-final of the Champions League.

This only reinforces the fact that success can be achieved by buying players who are the finished article rather than giving time to young players to improve and play at the highest level. If the development system is not looked at seriously and changes are implemented, gems like Patrick Bamford will fall through the net and languish in The Championship for the rest of his career.

Independent thinkers like Andrej Kramarić need to be commended for putting football over money. Heavily linked with a move to Chelsea the man from HNK Reijka chose first team football with Leicester over a big move to the London side. Scoring 37 goals in 42 games for the Croats he understands a move to Chelsea means successive loan spells with no real first team opportunities. Will we see more like him? Probably not.

Will we see him be a Premier League success?

More than most top club loanees can say, probably.

*Zidane is coming to the end of a three-month ban for not holding the required coaching licence but there is no reason to suggest he won’t retake the helm when he has served his ban and acquires the proper qualifications.

FIFA World XI according to Jerome

Last Monday we saw Cristiano Ronaldo pick up his third Ballon d’Or and second in a row. A player at the peak of his powers he made the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. The official World XI was picked by over 20,000 professional players – who am I to tell them they are wrong? Nobody, but the team looks more of an elitist team than the best team. Of course being a keen follower of football I have my own correct opinion and made a World XI that I felt would have been a fairer reflection of 2014.

I hope you agree.

FIFA World XI

FIFA/FIFPro World XI 2014

(GK) Manuel Neuer

This isn’t even a contest. Neuer has proved that he is one of the best goalkeepers ever to play football. Coupled with his intelligence and sweeping ability he is the best man to have between the sticks now. He inspired Germany to success in the World Cup with outstanding displays against Algeria and France especially and led Bayern to a Bundesliga and cup double back in May.

(DL) Cesar Azpilicueta

Jose Mourinho famously once said that a team of 11 Azpilicueta’s would win the Champions League. He is definitely not wrong. The Premier League’s most consistent performer he churns out minimum 7/10 performances weekly. Playing most of last season out of position at left back ahead of Ashley Cole he fills his natural right-back role now with Chelsea. Here though, he plays left back.

(DC) Sergio Ramos

He played a starring role in a Madrid side that won the Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2014. Scoring a last minute equalizer for Real versus Átletico in the Champions League final his performance was crucial to their capture of la Decima. A poor World Cup but Ramos had a magnificent year for Real which saw him make the side.

(DC) Diego Godín

He turned out 51 times for Átletico last season in what would become a historic year for them. Scoring on the final day in the Nou Camp which sealed La Liga capped off a near perfect season for him on a personal level. A resolute and mature defender he is also good for a handful of goals a season. Bringing his fine performances in to the World Cup and the first half of the 2014/15 season he was one of the first names on the list.

(DR) Phillip Lahm

Lahm marked his final performance in a Germany jersey by winning the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Moved to a central defensive role in the past few seasons here he occupies his original right back role. Enjoying successes with Neuer, Kroos and Müller at Bayern last season he has been playing at the very top level with the last few years. A great leader and organiser he will go down as one of Germany’s finest ever players.

(MC) Koké

Jorge Resurrección or ‘Koké’ as he known as announced himself to world last year. A central midfielder he demonstrates fantastic awareness with or without possession and his ability to link up play in the final third sees him as a real threat to opposition defences. A crucial player in the Átletico side he was dubbed “the new Xavi” by Xavi himself. Part of the ill-fated Spanish World Cup squad last year the 23 year-old made 2014 his own by inspiring Átleti to La Liga and a Champions League Final appearance.

(MC) Toni Kroos

A perfect partner for Koké Kroos is a complete midlfielder. He can play as a centre mid, attacking mid or defensive midfielder. What sets him apart is his ability to pick a pass. Playing in this side as a deep-lying playmaker Kroos regularly shows that you don’t have to run through a defence to take it apart. Winning a remarkable amount of trophies last year Kroos won the Bundesliga, World Cup and Club World Cup, to name a few. Moving to Los Blancos over the Summer he has hit the ground running and pulls the strings week in week out at the best club team in football at the moment.

(AML) Cristiano Ronaldo

What. A. Player. Rightfully picking up his third successive Ballon d’Or on Monday his poor World Cup was the only negative next to an otherwise perfect 2014. He broke more records last year than I can count on my fingers and toes. The first player on any team sheet he will be seen as one of the most talented players to ever kick a ball.

(AMR) Thomas Müller

I almost forgot about Müller when I made this team and I think that sentiment says a lot about him. He is not a flair player and he is not a remarkably stand out player. What you will get are socks rolled down around his ankles and a work rate any manager would kill for. He does the basics perfectly and goes above and beyond what his teammates and coaching staff ask of him. For club and country he won the same trophies that Lahm and Neuer won in 2014. Bringing his form through the Summer to this campaign he has notched up 11 goals and nine assists in 22 matches.

(SS) Lionel Messi

Playing just behind the striker in a shadow striker role is where Messi excels. Deploying him in a 4-3-3 formation as the focal point of the attack would be a suitable alternative but I think this formation works equally as well. Becoming Barcelona’s all time top scorer, La Liga’s all time top scorer and the top scorer in the Champions League aged 27 I think 2014 wasn’t too bad for Messi. He aslo won four man of the match awards and scooped the player for the tournament at the World Cup too. Not bad, eh?

(ST) Sergio Agüero

Luis Suarez missed too much time to be considered and Diego Costa missed this by a hair. Kun Agüero inspired Manchester City to a League and Cup double last season and was unfortunate not to win the World Cup. Finishing the 2013/14 Premier League season as the most prolific striker to ever play in the league (averaging a goal ever 115 minutes) Agüero hasn’t let a few injuries interrupt his form. One of a couple of truly world-class players playing in England he demonstrated his explosive speed and clinical finishing in a famous Champions League hat-trick versus Bayern Munich at the Etihad. No striker is better than him on his day, and it’s his day every day.

You can view the full team sheet here:

http://lineupbuilder.com/350×500/?p=11&a=1&t=&c=dc0000&1=GK_Neuer__388_174&2=DL_Azpilicueta__295_64&3=DC_Ramos__315_138&4=DC_God%EDn__315_211&5=DR_Lahm__295_286&6=MC_Kok%E9__201_134&7=MC_Kroos__213_214&8=AL_Ronaldo__129_57&9=FC_Messi__112_163&10=AR_M%FCller__133_282&11=FC_Ag%FCero%20__67_189&c2=ffffff&c3=ffffff&output=embed

Personally I don’t think that the official team of the year was a fair reflection on 2014. Interestingly, six of the players I chose featured in the World Cup Final in Brazil. Also six players I chose featured on the official team of the year. The team comprises of four Germans, three Spanish, two Argentines, a Uruguayan and a Portuguese.

Have I made the worst call in the history of football? I love getting feedback so let me know in the comments below.

Football’s Most Promising Defenders

It’s back.

This time defenders who I believe have the quality and ambition to make 2015 their own. Once again players who are performing at a consistently high level and are under the age of 23. The Players’ Football Association (PFA) Young Player of the Year award can be given to anybody under 23, so that seems a reasonable age limit for these defenders (who can be from anywhere).

Ricardo Rodriguez (22) VFL Wolfsburg

Depending on your interests he is the best left back in football or the best kept secret in football. At the age of 22 he has 27 international caps and has transformed in to one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent performers.

Ricardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez has already netted 6 times this campaign.

Signed from FC Zurich in January 2012 for a meagre fee of €7.5 million he has blazed a trail in Germany. According to OptaJoe during the 2013/14 season he played a hand in 14 goals – more than any other defender in Europe. A move to a bigger European club was on the cards with a host of top clubs interested in the young defender but he has recently put pen to paper on a new contract that will see him – in theory – at the club until 2019. Will he still be at Wolfsburg if a bigger team makes an aggressive move for him? Unlikely

Aymeric Laporte (20) Athletic Bilbao

Born on May 27 1994 he is five months and two days older than me. That puts what he has already done in to perspective. A commanding centre-back the Frenchman, wait what? Yes he is only the second ever French player to play for Bilbao after Bixente Lizarazu. That statement alone sets the standard for what this player is all about.

He can cover left-back if needed but where he really shines is in the centre. Monitored by almost every European club worth their salt, Laporte is attracting huge attention. He was at the heart of Athletic Bilbao reaching the Champions League for the first time in 18 seasons. What makes him a rare commodity is that there are really only a handful of truly world class centre backs – defenders who are as comfortable on the ball as they are chasing it – and Laporte has it all. Contracted until 2016 he will go for nothing less than his €27.5 million buyout clause.

Éder Alvarez Balanta (21) River Plate

South America has never really been renowned for defenders. Colombian born Balanta bucks this trend. Playing for Argentinean giants River Plate he has been lauded as the top defending talent coming out of South America. This was further complimented by his inclusion in the Colombian World Cup squad.

Standing half an inch shy of 6 foot the player is intensely physical, but possesses the agility and speed of a man half his height. Primarily left-footed he has shown that he is comfortable on his right as well. In a particularly memorable Copa Sudamerica match he put in a man of the match performance that also included a cheeky nutmeg in the opposition’s half. This particular match also shows one of his defining traits; his ability to read a game. His ability to read the game is world class but he also manages to combine this with playing out of defence and moving the ball quickly up the pitch. He never represented Colombia at underage level due to injury after injury which is the only negative next to his name.

Hugely talented he is set for a move away from River Plate. River Plate Vice-president Matias Patanian said:

“If the amount of money that the newspaper mentions is true and we receive an offer like that, then River could sit down and start negotiations as it would be close to the amount the club expects for transferring Balanta.”

Terence Kongolo (20) Feyenoord

How much more talent will come out of Belgium? A seemingly limitless amount of talent is being harnessed in the Eredivisie and Terence Kongolo is at the forefront. The Swiss born centre back represents Netherlands and featured in the World Cup squad that travelled to Brazil. Coming through the Feyenoord academy – voted best in Holland for the last 5 years – he is following in the footsteps of Bruno Martins Indi and Stefan de Vrij.

Kongolo has turned out 25 times for Feyenoord in all competitions this season.

Kongolo has turned out 25 times for Feyenoord in all competitions this season.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will surpass both these players in a few years. What sets Kongolo apart is his bravery and his mindset that every ball is his to win. During the 2013/14 season he was booked only twice in almost 2,000 minutes of play. Starting originally as a left-back his lack of pace has seen him move to centre-back. This move has seen a rise in the fortunes of Feyenoord and they have lost only one of the last 10 matches he played in – a 4-3 away defeat to PSV. Only Sven van Beek has made more appearances in the Eredivisie this season for Feyenoord. Great things await this Dutch destroyer.

Tin Jedvaj (19) Bayer Leverkusen (on loan from AS Roma)

The Croatian right back is the youngest player on the list. Originally signed from Roma on a two-year loan deal the youngster has gone from strength to strength. Displacing Giulio Donati and Roberto Hilbert at full back he has gone from back up defender to first team regular and has played in every position across the back four this season.

This versatility coupled with extreme energy has shown Jedvaj to be a handful for opponents when he attacks as well as his resoluteness while defending. An own goal against Hertha Berlin saw his positioning come in to question but he scored the equaliser in a game they went on to win 4-2. He also scored and assisted in a 3-3 draw with Bremen. His idol he says is PSG’s Thiago Silva and Jedvaj certainly has a flair for central positions – a move later on in his career could be to centre-back. Brimming with potential Leverkusen have shown fantastic foresight by getting him on a two-year loan deal and first refusal on any offers if Roma ever wish to sell the Croat.

Honorable mentions:

Eliaquim Mangala (23) Manchester City

Mangala deservedly earned a big money move to Manchester during the summer. Despite playing excellently for Porto he hasn’t found what made him tick at City yet and never looks entirely comfortable. Out of position and failing to spot danger at City has seen him miss out.

Marquinhos (20) Paris Saint Germain

A fine defender 2014 will be remember for his wonderful goal-saving tackle against Barcelona in the Champions League. This was the highlight of an otherwise safe season. Hopefully he can kick on this year but limited first team matches could hamper his progress.

Raphaël Varane (21) Real Madrid

Varane could have easily made this list. A mainstay in the Champions League his appearances in other competitions haven’t been so plentiful. Missing out on the 2013 Golden Boy award to Paul Pogba, Varane has fulfilled most of the potential that a bit-part player can fulfill. A move away from the Bernabeau or a starting place on the team is the next move for the defender.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below what you think or who I may have missed out on.

Should Messi leave Barcelona?

I love Messi.

How often have we seen him jink his way past a couple of helpless defenders, ride another tackle and effortlessly stroke the ball in to the goal? As a player I believe he’s on a different level to Ronaldo.

Well, until the start of last season I would have said that.

His 2013/14 campaign was a success by most means, but by Lionel Messi standards it was a quiet season. A major stumbling block that disrupted his season were the injuries he suffered. He missed two months from November to January, his third injury of the season. Despite ending up with 28 goals in La Liga he was not able to fire Barcelona to the title, or claim the Golden Boot. Many people thought he was saving himself for the World Cup.

Fast forward to the World Cup and a Messi inspired Argentina progress from a mediocre group. In a competition where they reached the final he claimed four man of the match awards and was named the player of the tournament.  Throughout the competition he seemed subdued but still managed to put in top quality performances. He didn’t have the mesmerising effect he did at Barcelona in seasons past but, crucially, appeared like a vision at the important moments to score for Argentina.

Now, In January, Messi is linked with Chelsea. Why does this story refuse to disappear and why does the move make sense?

One of the most revered managers in world football managed Barcelona in a four year period where the Catalan club won fourteen major honours. Pep Guardiola gave an interview in March 2014 where he said:

“I found it more and more difficult to motivate myself and to motivate the team. That is when you know it is time to walk away.”

Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or three times under the former Spanish midfielder. Messi has won only one since, which came in the immediate season after Guardiola’s departure.

What makes Pep Guardiola’s admission that motivating both himself and the team was becoming difficult is that his departure begins the slow decline of Lionel Messi. Granted Barcelona did have a magnificent season in 2012/13. They accumulated 100 points in La Liga with Messi scoring 60 and assisting 16 goals in all competitions that season,  but numerous changes at the helm and several injuries have hampered this phenomenon.

This makes me think that a move to Chelsea does make sense. In the four years that Barcelona won all round them the club was stable. The manager was a constant, the players at the peak of their powers all came through the famed La Masia academy with him and the club was not in turmoil.

Since 2012 when everything was rosy the club have had 3 managers, the club have been embroiled in a scandal over the actual signing fee of Brazilian golden boy Neymar from Santos  and now the club have a transfer embargo lasting until 2016 which resulted in the sacking of Andoni Zubizarreta and further resignation of icon Carlos Puyol.

This suggests that off the field matters may be affecting Messi. He needs the consistency that only Chelsea can offer him. Of all the suitors for one of the greatest players of all time Chelsea is really the only viable option. Manchester City and PSG have both gone over the FIFA Financial Fair Play (FFP) limit and a major re-balancing of the books would need to take place to afford such a deal. Furthermore, Jose Mourinho is the best manager in the world and if anybody can get the Argentinean firing on all cylinders again it’s him.

Maybe a change of scenery would do Messi good? People who were close to him once are coming out of the woodwork with many theories of why he should go, why he should stay and where his unhappiness is coming from. Truthfully, we don’t know explicitly that he is unhappy and if this indeed is all just press speculation. Either way this story will rage on for time to come until the magician does decide to stay at his spiritual home or make a disappearing act and quit Barcelona.

Is There Still a Place for Ched Evans in Football?

A convicted rapist, he served two and a half years of a five year sentence and is now looking for a club to play football with once more.

His former club Oldham Athletic are today in advances talks to sign the former striker. Released on October 17 2014, he has struggled to find employment in the field of professional football since.

Sheffield United were in the advanced stages of signing him but came under increasing pressure from the stands and sponsors not to sign him. Olympian and Blades fan Jessica Ennis-Hill also disagreed with the proposed move.

Supporters of a move for Evans back in to football will argue that he has served his time, is remorseful and deserves another chance at a game he loves.

Where this falls down is that Evans only served half of his sentence. If he were to find employment Ched Evans and his employing club would have to have regular meetings with the probation service for the remainder of the five-year term. This coupled with the fact he will be on the sex offenders list for the next 15 years at least makes him that bit more difficult to employ. Not only do fans and sponsors not want him at the club, employees of the club could feel uncomfortable working with him. A physiotherapist would be a prime example, especially if she was female.

I am not suggesting that he would rape somebody again when I say that particularly a female physiotherapist would feel uncomfortable working with him – that is just an observation.

A telling aspect to the case of Ched Evans is that he maintains his innocence. The website www.chedevans.com states that The Ministry of Justice allow prisoners who maintain their innocence to use the internet through a third party to make serious representations about their innocence. The title of the main page on the website reads:

“Ched Evans was wrongly convicted of rape on 20th April 2012”

The fact he maintains his innocence despite spending two and a half years in prison either shows he genuinely believes he didn’t do anything wrong or that he is remorseless. In an attempt to clear his name the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) are conducting a review of the case and their report will be completed in autumn of this year.

The biggest issue I find with Evans coming back to football is the position in society which footballers hold. It is fair to say that footballers are role models to young people and in some cases are seen as gods. Evans didn’t have the ability to be seen as a god but certainly as a role model.  If he is allowed to come back to the game where does the buck stop? Could a football team be so stuck that they employ a convicted rapist? With all the talented young players looking for a break Oldham Athletic and other teams would do well to steer clear of him.

Furthermore, club sponsors Verlin Rainwater Solutions and Mecca Bingo have vowed to cut their ties if Oldham do eventually offer him a contract. If this, along with a petition of over 62,000 names at the time of writing does not show Oldham they are making a grave error then nothing will.

I understand sex offenders are stigmatised, shunned and still have to find a way to integrate back in to society. It could be seen that I’m adding to the stigma. Personally I don’t think so because giving him a professional footballing contract would be elevating him to a higher position in society than he deserves. He had his chance, now what? Put on the jersey like the events of the past three years didn’t happen? Malky Mackay showed us football can be a barbaric place, but this is a completely different ball game.

Football’s Most Promising Goalkeepers

I know, I know.

We’ve all seen the list of the hottest young talent or who has got the highest potential in FIFA, but can you make a list of the best young keepers that aren’t flashes in the pan? In this list I’ll name my best five ‘keepers that perform at a high level on a consistent basis and who can go on to achieve real greatness. Considering goalkeepers can play until their late 30’s, the list will be on goalkeepers who are 24 or younger.

So, let’s begin.

Maksym Koval (22)

Who? Not a household name by any means, this boy has arguably the best record on the list. Having progressed through the youth system he got his first team chance with Ukrainian side Metalurh Zaporizhya at the age of 16. He kept clean sheets in his first three games.

Interested in this prodigy, Ukrainian side Dinamo Kyiv bought him. Between 2010 and early 2014 he made 56 appearances for his new club, notably a magnificent performance in a 3-1 win away to Bundesliga high-flyers Borussia Monchengladbach.

With a new manager who has put faith in two older, more experienced ‘keepers, Koval was put out on loan to bottom-half strugglers Hoverla. So far this season he has conceded 12 goals in 11 games. Doesn’t sound great? In the three league games he hasn’t been between the sticks Hoverla shipped eight.

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Dynamo Kiew - UEFA Champions League Play-Off

Maksym Koval looks on during the Champions League Qualifier at Monchengladbach.

Marc-André ter Stegen (22)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A very recognizable name, ter Stegen has made the monumental leap from Monchengladbach to Barcelona this summer. For a ‘keeper with the world at his feet, things aren’t as rosy as you’d think.

2014 was a year to learn from for him. A mediocre first half of the year saw the hometown hero miss out on a place in Germany’s victorious World Cup squad. Having been capped by Germany previosuly, this must have been gut-wrenching. With no opposition for the number one jersey at club level, complacency could have been the issue for him. Regardless, long term admirers Barcelona came in with an offer for his services and he duly obliged.

The next few years will be critical in the development of ter Stegen. At Barcelona he is now very much a small fish in a big ocean. He will have the opportunity to learn from one of the La Liga’s finest goalkeepers in Claudio Bravo. It will be the competition for a first team place at one of the best clubs in the world will see him develop in to the world-class goalkeeper we know he can be.

Gerónimo Rulli (22)

Rulli can be a bit of a grenade as a ‘keeper. A good grenade, mind. Playing with a saving style that can only be called unorthodox he is the goalkeeper Argentina has been crying out for.

Graduating from the Estudiantes LP academy he made his debut in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal di Sarandi in 2012. What he achieved next was nothing short of phenomenal. During six and a half of the next 11 games he played he set a club record for not conceding a goal. 588 minutes of football for an inexperienced keeper not to pick the ball out of his own net is something to be marveled at.

During the 2013-14 season he appeared in every Argentinian league game firmly establishing himself as the number one. Bought and loaned out by Uruguayan side Deportivo Maldonado he is now at David Moyes’ Real Sociedad. We know he has the talent so with a chance he can follow in the footsteps of David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois in making himself the prmairy shotstopper in the league.

Stefanos Kapino

Standing at 6ft5 Kapino is a giant in every sense of the meaning. Starting as the youngest ever Greek international in a friendly aged 17, Stefano also played 12 times for Panathinaikos in his breakout season.

The 2012/13 season saw him only manage one appearance, but with the selling of first choice ‘keeper Orestis Karnezis that summer, Kapino saw plenty first team action afterwards. Playing consistently at a high level aided this players’ development. He was brought along to the 2014 World Cup but was an unused substitute.

A £2 million transfer to Mainz and now Kapino is providing competition to Lorus Karius. Having not started a game yet, the rivalry with Karius will make or break the Greek.

Stefano Kapinos

Stefano Kapino

Lorus Karius (21)

At the tender age of 21 Karius has already been at Stuttgart, Manchester City and now Mainz. According to Stuttgart’s youth coordinator Thomas Albeck the 2009 move to City was for “an exorbitant amount of money (that was) well out of proportion” for the 15 year old.

Making no appearances for the Manchester club, Lorus Kairus went back to Germany and has been a main stay in the Bundesliga. Notching up 36 appearances for Mainz, this season he has played 15 games with four clean sheets including a victory over struggling Dortmund.

Representing Germany from u-17 level to u-21 he has yet to get a run out with the senior team but it is only a matter of time.

Honourable mentions:

Simeone Scuffet (18)

The Udinese wunderkid had a remarkable run last year, but due to the fact he only played 16 professional games I didn’t think he played enough to be counted.

Nicola Leali (21)

Much like Scuffet, dubbed “the new Buffon” Leali earned himself a move to Serie A giants Juventus. Three consecutive season-long loans to Serie B sides saw him miss out.

Players such as Thibaut Courtois and David de Gea have not made this list becuase they have turned their potential in to something real and have become world class goalkeepers.

Not everyone will agree with this list so who would you put in? Let me know in the comments below.

World Cup blame game

Only hours before the start of the greatest football tournament in the world Brazil is in turmoil. The host nation is rife with riots and protests against a government that has put more money in to the World Cup than residents want to imagine. Where does the fault lie? In a government that wanted to host the World Cup or the governing body of football that ratified the decision?

It is evident in many sports that governing bodies and sponsors are becoming ever distant from the people. This is a great shame as fans are the people who make sports truly great. When South Africa were awarded the World Cup the continent rejoiced; the first African country to host the greatest spectacle on Earth. Soon we saw the extent to which South Africa had to prostitute itself so that stadia and adequate public transport were put in place. As a result South Africa are still bearing the brunt of a $2 billion cost of upgrading and implementing infrastructure. South Africa plays a perfect foil to the previous World Cup location in financially secure Germany. With next to no middle class in the country the new facilities are out of the price range of most citizens. The government must find it impossible to recoup these disastrous debts from taxes as the upper and middle class are very much in the minority in South Africa.

On the other hand FIFA walked away from South Africa with a cool $2,357 million.

“The 2010 FIFA World Cup™ generated total revenue of USD 3,655 million for FIFA
(excluding ticketing revenue) and incurred total expenses of USD 1,298 million.”

FIFA Financial Report 2010.

Brazil could take many lessons from 2010. Already huge amounts of money have been poured in to the transport networks and stadia. As a result this has caused outrage for citizens who feel the money could have been better spent on schools and job creation. FIFA must take more responsibility to make sure that the countries applying to host the tournament can actually afford it. South Africa couldn’t afford it, Brazil don’t want it, Russia is partaking in a civil war in another country and Qatar is under investigation. FIFA have caused serious and blatant grievances in what they say is a time to bring football to new frontiers. If they are to repair their already tarnished reputation they must act more transparently and responsibly in deciding where the month-long football celebration will be held.

Redevelopment of Rio's Maracana reportedly cost a figure nearer to $1 billion than the initial $200 million.

Redevelopment of Rio’s Maracana reportedly cost a figure nearer to $1 billion than the initial $200 million.

 

When the dust settles from this tournament and Rio opens for business next year what will we see? Will it be a country ravaged by the World Cup juggernaut only to go to round two with the Olympics the following year, or a country that has prospered and gone from strength to strength? As I sit down to watch the World Cup I don’t look forward to it with the usual excitement. It feels hollow, like the World Cup is already over before a ball has ever been kicked.