Monday, June 29, 2009

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

I do like one thing about the Confederations Cup: it's a bitchin' trophy; a lot better than the wimpy World Cup. Now, personally, I'm into trophies. There's nothing better than the Stanley Cup. That thing is big, shiny and perfectly symbolizes a championship. It's something tangible to play for.

The World Cup, yeah yeah it's OK and I'm sure it's worth a fortune. But my God, it's the size of a 12-inch ruler, and if you're not watching closely when it's presented to the winning captain, you'll totally miss it. The Stanley Cup, for instance, when you bring that sucker out, it gets a red carpet, introduction and a standing ovation; a guy in a three-piece suit carries it out wearing white gloves, it's so awesome.

The World Cup? It's already there on a podium with its gold leaf texture and naked lady holding up the world. Eh, doesn't exactly move me. And with Brazil winning it five times already, it blends in with those yellow jerseys and, ah, forget it. It's ugly. And never mind that IT'S NOT A CUP!!!

Now the Confederations Cup, that's what the World Cup wants to be when it grows up. It looks like a stick-shift on a gold pedestal. Someone's gonna drop that bad boy into their '65 Mustang and zoom off into the sunset.

Would have been so cool to see the U.S. win it yesterday. White jerseys, gold trophy. American muscle cars. Awesome.

But they had to go and blow it. That game was a total hot-chick tease: build you up big n' stiff by halftime only to let you down with a 20-minute threesome with somebody else. Ugh.

Now on to this week's jaunt around the football blogosphere:

  • Reuters Soccer Blog says Brazil restored order by winning the tournament; um OK
  • MatchFitUSA, quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs, puts the U.S. performance into perspective and cautions that now expectations will be a lot higher for the U.S. of A. And he's right. Only way to go now...
  • Want a rollercoaster of emotion? Skim through Unprofessional Foul's live blog of the match.
  • Did you know Dunga means Dopey in Portuguese? I didn't. Two Hundred Percent did.
  • Soccer Training Info finds the silver lining in the loss; I'm not buying it.
  • Ives Galarcep has a thoughtful review of the game and points out that while the core of the U.S. roster was pretty solid, overall, there wasn't much depth and in the end it cost them.
  • Original Winger has some snapshots from the final.
  • Check out Kartik's comprehensive work on the Confederations Cup at Major League Soccer Talk; probably the most comprehensive package of coverage you'll find out there.
  • Jack Bell at the New York Times, yes Jack Bell not Jeffrey Marcus, puts up his player grades from yesterday's match. I would have gone higher with Howard and DeMerit, and not so high with Onyewu.
  • And finally, Cristiano Ronaldo's six-year deal at Real Madrid was finalized. Bryan Robson says CR7 is irreplacable.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest in Peace

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Was the U.S. Win Over Spain the
Greatest Soccer Victory in U.S. history?

OK, so we've had 24 hours to reflect and rejoice on the United States' 2-0 win over Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals yesterday. And while the win is getting somewhat its just due from the mainstream media (ESPN actually led SportsCenter last night with it), some in the U.S. soccer community are trying to put the victory in some sort of historical context.

Was this the greatest win in U.S. soccer history?

It seems there's a shortlist of games to compare it to:

  • 1989 World Cup qualifier -- U.S. 1, T&T 0
  • 2002 World Cup first round -- U.S. 3, Portugal 2
  • 2002 World Cup second round -- U.S. 2, Mexico 0
  • 1994 World Cup first round -- U.S. 2, Colombia 1
  • 1950 World Cup -- U.S. 1, England 0
  • 2008 Confederations Cup -- U.S. 2, Spain 0

That's a pretty solid list. It's kinda tough, and kinda early, to shove aside the emotions of yesterday's win and properly rank it in U.S. soccer lore. I invite you all to vote in my poll, top right of this page, and we'll see how this one comes out.

Personally, I'm going to vote for the 1989 qualifier. I think historically, it's a far more important win to U.S. soccer. It kicked off the current era of success and helped U.S. Soccer put a priority on the game and the product it puts on the field. It's too early to see the aftermath of yesterday's win. If the U.S. stinks it up in the Gold Cup and against Mexico in its next World Cup qualifier and next year in South Africa, then maybe yesterday will ultimately be nice for a day, kinda like the 1993 friendly win over England in Foxboro.

But if the U.S. scoops up another Gold Cup and gets out of the first round of the World Cup next year (maybe a round deeper?) then maybe yes, yesterday will be an indicator the U.S. has truly arrived a world power.

So again, please vote in the poll. I'd really like to get an honest indicator of what you think of yesterday's win.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Running Commentary: U.S.-Spain, Confederations Cup semifinals

Random thoughts while watching today's U.S.-Spain Confederations Cup semifinal:

  • Charlie Davies' bicycle kick, had it gone in, would have been legendary
  • Landon Donovan has been fantastic so far, very patient and very deliberate with his passes
  • John Harkes raises an interesting possibility, that if this game goes into the penalty kicks, Tim Howard is a great equalizer there for the U.S.
  • The rest of Harkes' drivel? Not so much
  • Is Spain actually giving Donovan space--out of respect?
  • Pardon my ignorance, but is it cold in South Africa this time of year?
  • Ban the horns Sepp
  • Spain, slow and sloppy. A little overconfident; a lot outplayed so far
  • Torres was offside, but Jesus Christ, no one knew he was there.
  • U.S. defense playing a bit ambitiously, pushing forward and getting caught in counters by Spain
  • U.S. doesn't want to have to play from behind
  • That's twice Altidore has passed up shots in the Spain last third of the field. Shoot the ball son.
  • Spain doing a little bit of internal bickering, sloppy passes leads to U.S. counter and Donovan shot
  • Bocanegra's bad throw-in was fugly
  • Um, yeah, Donovan's looking, um, world class
  • Jonathan Spector is a marked man, Spain LOVES his side of the field - and with good reason so far
  • GOAL -- Altidore finally shoots- and scores.
  • Davies and Dempsey just relentless in keeping possession. And Altidore beats back the Spain defender and gets a break from Casillas' incomplete save. Wow, 1-0 27 minutes in.
  • First goal against Spain in the tournament.
  • Torres again offside; wonder how long before the flag stays down on one of those exchanges?
  • Is Torres just being arrogant on these offsides calls?
  • U.S. is really doing a solid job in the middle defending their end of the field
  • Great sequence from Spain.
  • A lot of desperation on that field right now, from both teams
  • A first half to remember for the U.S.
  • Xavi a tad high with that boot challenge
  • Howard setting up to be the hero in this one, tremendous hit from Villa, better save from Howard
  • Demerit leans on Villa there
  • Looks like the U.S. is gonna sit on it
  • U.S. is asking a lot of its back four right now.
  • Possession is key for the U.S.; can they manage to keep the ball?
  • Another opportunity for Spain and another corner
  • Spector is just scary.
  • Bradley is setting this team up to fail. They're not playing the same game they were in the first half
  • Wow
  • It's not all Spain Harkes!
  • Xavi was offside on that chip.
  • Constant turnovers from the U.S.
  • At this rate, it's a matter of time for Spain. Reminiscent of the Italy game; early lead, floodgates open in the second half.
  • When does exhaustion become a factor too for the U.S.?
  • Is it more tiring to defend than play in the flow of the game?
  • Howard is so solid, but none of these shots aside from Villa's is really testing him.
  • Altidore wins a corner, nicely.
  • What is Bradley's first move off the bench?
  • Failharber? Or does he swap out a fullback. And when does he make the move?
  • There's a lot on the coach's plate right now, especially with a tiring Starting Eleven. How well does he know these guys?
  • Goodness, eight, even nine white shirts defending in the U.S. box. Wow
  • Already playing the clock. I hate this tactic
  • At least pretend you're playing for another goal U.S.
  • At least the U.S. challenges every cross, a foot, a back, something tries to get in the way
  • A for effort there Altidore, but pretty transparent try for a PK
  • 30 minutes to go
  • ESPN rant: Stop with the graphic about the U.S. beating a No. 1 ranked team. This isn't the NCAA where the freaking polls somehow matter. No one outside of ESPN ever pays attention to the rankings. /endrant
  • Awesome run from Davies, but selfishly, he kept it. Shoulda gone to Donovan.
  • Has Spector challenged any crosses on his side of the field? Any? He's awful. Riera is having his way over there
  • What is Bradley waiting for? 24 minutes to go. Put someone on.
  • Have I mentioned how awesome Donovan's been? [Did I say that?]
  • Feilharber coming in. Soon I hope.
  • Feilhaber for Davies
  • I'd rather have seen Altidore come off there. Davies much quicker, much more disruptive on the counterattack. That's the only semblance of offense from the U.S. on the bench right now.
  • Possession. Feilhaber. Imagine that
  • Squeaky-bum time has arrived
  • This has to be murder on Spain. So dominant and nothing to show for it.
  • GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!! DEMPSEY
  • Amazing!!!!!!
  • Counterattack. Spain disaster on defense and Dempsey finishes
  • Great run from Feilhaber. Great clusterfuck from the Spain defense.
  • 2-0
  • 76 minutes. Hurry up clock
  • Feilhaber fouls in a bad spot. ho-boy
  • 80 minutes. Hurry up clock
  • Howard or Donovan for man of the match? Close call right now
  • Feilhaber has been the perfect sub. Can we get another one Butcher Bob?
  • Spector tries a trap in the box. Awesome. GET HIM OUT OF THERE
  • Altidore out, Connor Casey in. Finally another fresh body. Possession boys
  • 84 minutes. Hurry up clock
  • Onyewu, high marks in the last 15 minutes.
  • Anyone else smell a PK for Spain? I sense something
  • Oh Boy. Bradley gets a straight red. No Bradley in the final. Wrong Bradley.
  • 88 minutes. Hurry up clock
  • Dempsey out. Bornstein in.
  • 3 minutes stoppage time. Hurry up clock.
  • 1 minute to go
  • Just an amazing win. Quite a feat. Very proud.
  • U.S. 2, Spain 0. Suck it Spain.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Does the U.S. Really Need to Fire Bob Bradley?

OK, I give. White flag is up. I was wrrrrrr-ong (if you're old enough to remember Happy Days, you know where I'm coming from with that one).

The U.S. men's national team did a great thing Sunday beating Egypt, 3-0. Coupled with Brazil's 3-0 mirror win over Italy, the U.S. is in the Confederations Cup semis, and Italy, which beat the U.S., 3-1, earlier in the tournament, goes home. Likewise Egypt, which tied Italy and the U.S. on points and goal differential.

Yesterday I blogged that if I'm Italy, I'm pissed that I'm going home and the Yanks are going on. You guys slapped me down about my head-to-head contentions, and fine, you're right. The total-goal scenario, I suppose, is the only fair way to break such a unique tie.

[End of apology]

Now on to today's rant. Well, maybe not a rant, but a take or two on Bob Bradley, the U.S. coach. Bradley went from goat to hero overnight following the Egypt win. The U.S. hasn't exactly been mowing 'em down in World Cup qualifying and Bradley's been taking the heat for questionable in-game tactics, poor lineups and shaky substitutions. He was doomed.

But you read the platitudes and listen to the podcasts yesterday, and move over sliced bread, Bob Bradley is the shit.

Or is he shit?

OK, that's harsh. I don't know him; I'll assume he's a good guy and a loyal soldier for the USMNT. In fact, I'll put it out there: What would firing him today, or even tomorrow after the Spain game, accomplish for the U.S.?

We have to assume the U.S. is going to get out of CONCACAF and qualify for South Africa. They're doing so with Bradley in charge, and doing pretty well. If somehow the U.S. manages a decent result against Spain, Bradley gets a reprieve for sure. But if Spain puts up 3-4-or-5 goals, what of Bradley?

I'll say he stays. Why?

Well, if we've established that the U.S. gets out of CONCACAF, Bradley or no Bradley, you have to look ahead and set some expectations for next summer. What's realistic? Getting to the second round of the World Cup? Quarterfinals? Semis?

The U.S. bombed out of the '06 Cup after getting to the quarters in '02. So let's say a realistic goal is the second round. Can they do it with Bradley? Or do they need a Klinsmann type to get there and beyond? Bradley has decent talent, starting with his exceptional son Michael in the midfield, a solid core of keepers and defenders who don't make many glaring errors. Landon Donovan is becoming a leader--finally. All under Bradley.

Bradley is the latest U.S.-born coach in charge of the national team. But has he brought this team as far as he can? England finally broke out of its English-men-only coaching philosophy, and under Fabio Capello, one has to think England looks like one of the favorites for the 2010 title. Why can't the U.S. break out of its mold and hire a successful, viable international coach who can bring the team the rest of the way?

Well, again, it's a matter of realistic expectations: Do you think it is the U.S.' coaching shortcomings are keeping it from moving beyond the second round of the World Cup? If so, then make the move now, win or lose tomorrow. Otherwise, ride the Good Ship Bradley into South Africa and roll the dice.

A lot of questions, I know, but there are no clear answers right now. Those of you who ranted yesterday against me, share with me today your constructive ideas. No legitimate comment will be rejected.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

I'm not Italian and I don't necessarily root for Italy in the World Cup, Euro or the Confederations Cup. Pretty lukewarm.

I am American. I root for the U.S. I want to see them win and evolve.

That said, Italy got jobbed at the Confederations Cup. Just so I get it straight:

  1. Italy beat the U.S. head-to-head, 3-1.
  2. Italy and the U.S. finish tied for second in their group.
  3. The U.S. advances? Because it scored more goals than Italy?

Pardon my Web 2.0 language, but WTF is that all about? Pardon me while I find my Confederations Cup-sized Mickey Mouse ears for this tournament. Yeah, yeah, I know the rules are spelled out ahead of time and everyone is playing on a level field, blah, blah. But what kind of dipshit event is this where two teams finish tied on points and goal-differential and a head-to-head result means NOTHING??

Call me when this thing is over.

Here's this week's tour of the football blogosphere:

  • World Cup Blog wonders if the U.S. has used up its quota of miracles.
  • Ives Galarcep laments the loss of one American in the Confed Cup: Guisseppe Rossi
  • More hero worship for the U.S. men's national team at World Cup Buzz. I don't get it. Did everyone forget how Brazil and Italy stomped on this team?
  • Off The Post lacking a little insight into Group B, but what the hell, here's a little link love
  • More on the miracle of South Africa from Awful Announcing. Stick to Joe Morgan boys.
  • Two hundred percent rebuffs the notion that South American teams don't travel well and points out that Brazil just might have what it takes to stop Spain.
  • Center Line Soccer has a good read on tournament from a fan's point of view who is actually in RSA.
  • New York Times' Goal blog rates the U.S. performance: high marks for the back four, and world class marks for Charlie Davies.
  • Reuters Soccer Blog analyzes the quandary Maradona is in as Argentina preps for its next World Cup qualifier, which happens to be against Brazil.
  • In case you were wondering, CR7 updates us on his status with Paris.
  • SkySports has more on Ronaldo, and regrets publicly talking about his desire to leave Manchester United as early as 2007.
  • Silvio Berlusconi dishes on Real Madrid's spending spree. He's, um, well, not, um, happy.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Football's Hottest WAGs Get
Early Jump on World Cup Headlines

And today's top story: Vicki Beckham had her knockers knocked down a peg. Seems the former Posh Spice and current Mrs. David Beckham has downsized from a 34D to help her fashion career get in gear. Really?

As far as WAGs go, Beckham's not even in the top 10 (20?) any more. I love dipping into the WAGs (I'm talking figuratively here, for the moment) because they give the best head(lines). Check out these gems:

OK, so excuse me for turning Starting Eleven into a tabloid for today, but c'mon WAGs totally rock. I'm totally speaking out of jealousy here, because we just don't hound the WAGs here in the States the way the Brits do. I mean, we're totally burned out on Tom and Gisele, well, because they're the only story in town.

WAGs tales (tails?) are great because they kick up so many side stories of interest. I mean, does sex before a Confederations Cup match really weaken the legs? And just where, oh, where will the ladies bunk up in South Africa next summer? I mean, seriously, these are huge questions to be answered. We can't have the ladies too close to the boys!

Finally, my gift to you: Hours of fun clicking through English football's finest WAGs (a sticky site indeed)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bayern Driving Up Price for Franck Ribery

Who doesn't love Franck Ribery? The guy's awesome.

But €150M worth of love? No way.

That's what Bayern Munich general manager Uli Hoeness says the France international is worth. In the meantime, chairman Karl-Heinze Rummenigge says Ribery, who is under contract until 2011, is not for sale. The former German scoring machine says Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester United have made offers to scoop up the sensational Ribery.

Real Madrid? Not so much, says Rummenigge.

Ribery plugs a lot of important holes for Madrid and could be the best signing of the offseason for the Galacticos if it were to happen. He's a complete player, more so than Ronaldo and Kaka, who have already started looking for pricy real estate near the Spanish capital. It makes sense he go there. He also makes a lot of sense for Chelsea, who is looking to dump a lot of former F.C. Porto stars to a certain special coach in Italy, clearing the decks for some big signing. And Barca? Well, Ribery would have no trouble finding playing time for the European champs either, especially if he's joined by the likes of Cesc Fabregas.

So what's the big whoop?

Well, the cynic in me says Bayern would sell its best player, but it has a certain number in mind for a transfer fee, and one not as exorbitant as €150M; probably closer to €100M. By dragging Real Madrid's name into the fray, Rummenigge and Hoeness are doing nothing but driving up the price.

Question is, clearly, does Madrid have enough of a credit line left to scoop up fast Franck? He would complete the biggest triple play in sporting history and simultaneously put Madrid in line to become the greatest team in football history [where's my sarcasm font?]. Would it ever lose a game?

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

Cristiano Ronaldo not only stands to make a world record salary from Real Madrid by the end of the month, but more importantly, he stands become the world-record 11,000th notch on Paris Hilton's bedpost by the end of the week!! Awesome. It's good to be CR7; I wonder whether he'll insist on full color for his sex tape, or whether he'll stand for night-vision goggle green?

Either way, here's this week's jaunt around the football blogosphere:

  • Portugal may miss out on the World Cup if it doesn't get its act together quickly. But more tragic than Portugal's absence would be us, as fans, missing out on Paris Hilton being the top WAG in South Africa. Here's to Paris and Ronny, long may they... well, whatever...
  • Spain stomped all over New Zealand in yesterday's Confederations Cup, 5-0. Fernando Torres scored three goals leading Spain's emphatic win. The hosts, meanwhile, opened the event with a 0-0 draw against Iraq. More awesomeness.
  • You know the RSA-Iraq match sucked when SoccerBlog opens its game story with a quote from Sepp Blatter.
  • Sinnacle lives up to its name, but makes up for it with a pretty picture of the actual Confederations Cup.
  • Some People are on the Pitch talks up Day 1 of the Confederations Cup; solid review.
  • Final word on the Confederations Cup; the Washington Post offers you an explainer, complete with a schedule. Apparently, the U.S. plays Italy, today at 2:30 p.m. ET.
  • BTW, the cruddy Paris-Ronny pic up top is from Here's more on Ronny's easiest score!
  • Inside World Soccer has the news out of Milan that Inter is chasing Deco, who wants out of Chelsea.
  • Soccernews says Ricardo Carvalho may leave Chelsea as well for an Inter reunion with the Special One.
  • Soccernet reports Manchester United is chasing David Villa. Barcelona, Chelsea and Real Madrid have already expressed interest in the Spain star.
  • Headline: Tight pursestrings at Liverpool. Also, the sun will come out tomorrow.
  • Oh You Beauty has a nice rundown of the Silly Season spending. Recession? What recession?
  • And finally, my bud at Talking to the Doll, a Benfica blog, has a very telling quote from Benfica's recent Argentina signing Ramires, who wants to have a big season in Lisbon and spring off to a bigger club in Europe. Awesome. Says it all about Portuguese soccer.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

ESPN Says It Has No Plans to Buy Setanta

The Guardian is reporting ESPN will not make an offer to buy Setanta.

Bad news for the Irish broadcaster. No doubt they're desperate for someone to take the debt they've incurred off their hands. Here's a bit from the Guardian piece:

However, a spokesman for ESPN, which is keen to expand its portfolio of UK sports rights, said: "We currently have no plans to buy Setanta. There are a lot of stories out there linking us with a possible purchase and we wanted to set the record straight."

ESPN was a bidder for some of the English Premier League rights, covering three seasons beginning in August 2010, when they were last auctioned off in February, but lost out to Setanta and Sky. Setanta has 23 live Premier League games a year from the 2010-2011 season.

ESPN may still be interested in acquiring these rights should Setanta go under. If that happens, they will revert to the Premier League before being auctioned off again.

The US broadcaster could also bid for the rights to 46 live games owned by Setanta as part of its current three-year contract with the Premier League, which has one more year to run. If Setanta folds, those rights will also revert to the Premier League and be resold.

That last paragraph is the key. ESPN is lying in wait to scoop up those rights once they're resold. Football in HD here we come.

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Ronaldo to Madrid for Record Transfer Amount, or Rooting for Laundry is Passe

I am at a loss for the written word today. Cristiano Ronaldo is going to Real Madrid. The deal is for a record transfer amount of $131 million. It will be completed by the end of the month. Kaka who?

Frankly, I don't care. Honestly. I'm not a Real Madrid fan; nothing personal, just not my club. I like to watch them play, I watch El Classico without fail. I don't care that they've spent a quarter of Billion dollars this week on talent. I don't care that their president is setting the team, its fans and coach up for the biggest failure in the history of not only professional sports, but business.

Doesn't matter to me.

I am kinda saddened by this cherry-picking of talent. Now before you call me a hypocrite (I stick by my stand that clubs should spend and scoop up players as they please), it bugs me that guys like Cristiano Ronaldo don't stick with the same club for their whole careers. Yeah, yeah, I know that's the way of the world, that we shouldn't root for laundry any more. But what the hell, for one day, I'll root for laundry.

Thank God Larry Bird never wore any jersey other than a Celtics'. Equal praise that Magic Johnson never wore anything other than Laker purple. Didn't it suck when Michael Jordan played for the Wizards? Bobby Orr playing for the Blackhawks (ugh, pass the puke bucket). Terry Bradshaw stuck with the Steelers (I'm flipping off Joe Montana as we speak). Imagine Mickey Mantle wearing the Padres diarrhea brown?

Like or loathe him, you associate Cristiano Ronaldo with Manchester red. No more. There is no identity in sports. Imagine if Eusebio played today? Benfica? Sure, for the first season of his career then it's off to one of the Milans; I hear Barcelona is lovely this time of year. Pele? Santos? Hahahaha. How long is the flight from Rio to Europe again?

I have to laugh every time my kid wants a pro sports jersey or t-shirt. Yesterday he wore a Jonathan Papelbon jersey. Luckily he'll outgrow it soon because by the time he does, he can get the Yankee version of a Papelbon T.

Point is, I guess (I'm ranting in case you can't tell), that the players will soon become the soverign nations of football, and the clubs will be secondary. Hell, it's that way already. They shouldn't sell Ronaldo Madrid jerseys; Ronaldo should come up with his own logo and marketing and sell CR7 kits. Cuz, hell, he won't play out his career in Madrid, you know it, I know it.

How do you think Ronaldo would look in Galaxy white? Tune in, oh, say, 10 years from now to find out.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did ESPN Know Setanta was Doomed?

Remember a few months back when the rights to broadcast English Premier League games was being negotiated. Many people figured ESPN was a shoo-in to score the rights and establish itself as the continent's primary football network. Then the news came in February that premium cable provider Setanta failed to hold on to its rights to broadcast a significant number of EPL matches; the EPL being the primary subscription driver for Setanta.

ESPN stayed quiet during that period, neither lamenting the outcome, nor promising an alternative. Setanta, meanwhile, won downgraded rights to two EPL packages that equal 23 matches per season for the next three years. SkySports, meanwhile, will broadcast 115.

With Setanta figuring on winning the massive EPL package and banking on close to two million subscribers, the Irish broadcaster went on an acquisition spree bidding for and winning the rights to broadcast everything from boxing to baseball, doing so on the assumption it would have all this EPL revenue.

Well, we all know Setanta is on life support and could be off the air today, by some accounts.

With the reduced EPL package, Setanta is nowhere near the number of subscribers it needs to sustain its books (up to 1 million shy, some have said) and investors are fleeing this sinking ship. Dark days indeed.


Well Misha Sher, business development director at Soccerex, was interviewed on Sirius by the boys at World Soccer Daily. He put forth the theory that ESPN was in the know.

"If you look at it now, it's very strange that ESPN did not have as big a role, though everyone expected them too. I think ESPN may have known something that the rest of us didn't," Sher said. "ESPN may have figured that if Setanta would only get one of the packages and Sky would get the rest, Setanta would be in a predicament. ESPN was sitting back waiting for the situation to play itself out."

If Setanta is taken into administration and/or goes off the air, the rights to its Premier League packages would have to be resold, and at a heavy discount, Sher speculated. ESPN, or Fox perhaps, would likely pick these up for a half of what Setanta paid. Fox already has secured the rights to the Champions League, so you have to figure ESPN swoops in for the EPL.

The Sher interview was a great recap of the whole Setanta mess. I recommend hitting up the iTunes store (search: World Soccer Daily podcast) and downloading it.

Having lost the Champions League, you have to figure ESPN is sharpening its claws for the EPL, and if it had some insider info on Sky winning the EPL packages away from Setanta, what a shrewd score for the WorldWide Leader in Sports.

Setanta, meanwhile, is a case study in building a flawed business model. The Irish company gambled heavily that it would win the EPL rights and began back-filling its offerings based on the assumption that advertising revenue from the EPL would backbone those investments.

"[Setanta] got into the market at a time when it was relatively easy to get money to acquire rights. And they weren't actually making money, just acquiring rights," Sher said. "When things were going well, the business plan was done under the assumption they could get [he guesses] 1.7 million subscribers. That hinged on being able to get certain rights, because if they didn't have certain rights, they would not be able to drive subscriptions.

"And when they missed out, everything went wrong. What this signaled to investors was that this business model was flawed. They can't guarantee x-amount of subscribers, and they can't get advertising as a result and everything falls flat on its face.

"Setanta acquired way too much, now they're looking at how they're going to hold on and manage all this? Companies backing them are not willing to put up money in their pockets for that reason. They would have done so by now if they felt Setanta could weather this storm. They have no confidence Setanta's business plan could sustain missing out on the Premier League rights."

Meanwhile, Setanta's downfall could also take down many mid-tier clubs in Scotland for example, that depend on broadcast rights for operating expenses. Sher explained that clubs buy players based on expected revenue from television rights, shirt sales etc. Without that revenue stream, some clubs are having to go into their own pockets to pay expenses, putting some of them in jeopardy as well. They will have to rely on the Scottish Premier League, for example, to sue Setanta's backers to recover the money.

It's ugly and sad. No one is spared in the global recession. When you mix a poor economy with an equally poor business plan, it's a lethal concoction. Just ask Setanta.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kaka Moves to Real Madrid;
Perez Creating Galacticos Second Coming

Kaka's monster deal with Real Madrid (six years, €68M or $94M) is the first chess piece that Madrid president Florentino Perez has put on his board that he soon hopes to fill with Galacticos. Perez wants to emulate the Beckham-Figo-Ronaldo-Owen days of the early '00s, but if he pulls it off and brings over Cristiano Ronaldo, Franck Ribery and David Villa among others, this team will dwarf that team in not only talent, but payroll.

Why? May seem like a dumb question to ask, but I think it is a legitimate one. Has it ever worked? Madrid last won the Champions League in 2001-2002, and that team had Zidane and Figo and Raul, but it was hardly the superstar-laden team that followed. It was immensely talented and cohesive enough to win the continental title without the over-the-top spending on Beckham and Owen and (fat) Ronaldo that followed. A team that won squat by the way.


  • Filling the Bernabeu? Never an issue for Madrid.
  • Selling shirts? Well, OK, they'll sell more, but enough to offset the debt incurred to pay Kaka et al.?
  • Foreign tours? OK, sure, the world will want to see these guys play everywhere, but at what physical toll? And how many times do ALL the stars play on these tours?
  • Titles? Maybe. If history is any indicator, it's no guarantee of a championship. Look at Mourinho's Chelsea and Porto teams; neither of which was outlandishly decorated with the kings of the game, yet they won and won and won. Same goes for Liverpool. Same goes for Valencia (twice Champions League runners up, UEFA Cup winners, UEFA Super Cup winners). Same goes for Sevilla (two UEFA Cup wins, one UEFA Super Cup win.)

So why? Is Perez and ego gone mad? Perhaps. You can bet that a lot of it has to do with Barcelona's dominance in Spain and Europe this season and the lack of Madrid headlines worldwide. I'd love to feed manager Manuel Pelligrini some truth serum to see what he really thinks of Perez's Galacticos strategy. It's definitely squeaky-bum time for him because the fans won't turn on the players--at first--if things don't start out with a swathe of 3-0 victories.

Meanwhile, Kaka is the first pawn in Perez's game. Certainly, if he has his way, Ronaldo will be next, and maybe Villa and/or Ribery. It will be intersting to see how this works; there's only one ball and many superstar egos. That equation usually doesn't work out to the No. 1.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

I Twitter (I Tweet?). I'm not going to explain Twitter, you know what it is; if you don't, Google it.

Watching a World Cup qualifier on a Saturday night with your Twitter followers is a unique experience. I marvel at those who Tweet "US Scores" Duh. We're watching. You're watching. I assume you saw the same goal I saw. But hey, whatever. The instant gratification of social media is what it's all about.

It's the instant analysis I like and one of my followers Kartik, summed up the United States' 2-1 come-from-behind win over Honduras quite well (certainly better than Eric Wynalda did) "Good enough to win at home in CONCACAF. Not to win on the road, and probably get slaughtered against top competition."

Such is the curse hanging over U.S. soccer. The U.S. will always be good enough to get in, but never quite good enough to get over the hump. It's in that spirit that we renew the weekly blog roundup:

  • The Chicago Sun Times blog makes a keen observation: Soldier Field may have been within the U.S. borders, but it sure as hell wasn't a home game for Uncle Sam's boys.
  • Soccer By Ives has a nice recap of the U.S. win, but the comments section is a better read.
  • Major League Soccer Talk also recaps, but has some insight into some of Bob Bradley's moves and speculates about his frame of mind in making those moves.
  • Match Fit USA, one of the Twitter folks, pretty much sums up the sentiments of many: Take the 3 points and run.
  • Texas Soccer Blog did some live commentary from a bar; check out how the spelling deteriorates ;)
  • Have we mentioned Mexico coughed up a major furball losing 2-1 to El Salvador? Check out for all the gory El Tri details.
  • World Cup Xpert has more on the Mexico loss and declares Quintilanna a national hero in El Salvador.
  • Portugal World Cup blog breathes a big sigh of relief. Still a 2-1 squeaker over Albania doesn't make me want to keep Carlos Queiroz on the bench any longer.
  • has Bruno Alves saying Portugal had it all the way.
  • England won a big one; England World Cup Blog has a player-by-player analysis.
  • And finally, The Gaffer at EPL Talk has some Man. City and Man. U. news.

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Holding Fast to My Disdain of the 6+5 Rule

So I got a very thoughtful reply to a year-old post I made on the 6+5 rule "FIFA Approves Blatter's Rule: Or When 6+5=0". You can read the post for yourself, but the gist of it is that I think 6-5 rule sucks and is an affront to free trade, capitalism and economics.

The letter-writer, Michael, disagrees. The full text of what he wrote follows, and it's in the comment section of the previous post. We'll agree to disagree on this one. Michael counters my post with the argument that "money clubs" have a monopoly on the best talent and championships. Well, I'll agree to a point, but honestly, if I'm a Russian oligarch and I drop a billion dollars or Euros on a top English or Spanish club, and I want to buy up the best talent, it should be within my purview to do so. I'm not constricted within traditional business of making maximum profit and success; why should I be so constricted within sport?

There are solid arguments for a wage/salary cap in football. I don't know where Michael is from, and he may well know that in the United States, the National Football League has a salary cap and the league is thriving. Parity exists and between six and 10 teams annually have a chance to win the Super Bowl. But it doesn't always work.

In Major League Baseball, the teams with the highest payrolls are subject to a "luxury tax" and some television money is pooled and shared among all the teams in the league. They're essentially penalized for the success, their marketing expertise and their talent evaluation. Why then don't some of those lower-tier clubs re-invest in their product once they get their welfare earnings from the big clubs? Why are some teams perennially terrible, play in shit-hole stadiums yet ownership continues to line its pockets? The 6-5 rule tries to legislate greed and profit-making, and tries to institute a balance in the table where the West Hams of the world have a chance to win. Well, you know what, despite our politically correct world, not every team deserves a trophy at the end of the season.

And the argument that it would foster player development is a farce. For clubs such as Sporting Lisbon, young player development is a revenue stream--and don't think for a second otherwise. Their academies are great at what they do; it's a cottage industry. Develop these young players, ingrain in them what it takes to play at the highest level, grow partnerships with the Manchester Uniteds and Real Madrids of the world, and sell off their commodities. And then, convert that money, those profits, into the best Brazilians available and contend for a championship, or at worst, a Champions League spot in a middle-tier league such as Portugal's. It's a vicious cycle, and trust me, no one in charge at Sporting Lisbon is complaining.

We hear it constantly that football and sport is a business. Well, you can't have it both ways. If it's a business, then run it like a business. In the business world, the strongest survive. You can't romanticize business and run it like a fan, because if you do, pretty soon you're sitting with the fans.

Following is Michael's comment on my post in its entirety:

This article misses the point immensely and i do hope the author replies.

Capitalism (free trade) and team sport are at odds clearly. To create fair competition in sport you need to give everyone equal chance to succeed by allowing free trade those with the most money succeed especially when those with the most money get more money for doing better. Thus creates a virtual monopoly. It would be like in an individual sport if performance enhancing drugs were allowed and they were a more scarce commodity and winning the tournaments and making more money allowed you to spend more on these drugs so you can make yourself better. It's unfair!

Football for me is about the balance between scouting and youth development, and equal weight should be placed on both. That is 50/50 squad wise.

The fact of the matter is football isn't entirely free, in most EU leagues you can only have 3 non EU players within your squad, free trade yeah?

The essence of sport is to see who is the best within the rules of the specific competition. What free trade allows is for the strong to get stronger and the weak to get weaker, and it is evident that since the bosman rule allowed free transfers no small club has won a major european league, whereas previously small clubs challenged and won as they were under no pressure to sell their players. Big clubs (like sporting lisbon) in small countries without massive TV contracts are forced to sell whenever they develop good talent rather than be allowed to compete to win, as the risk of losing them for free is to a richer club is too larger.

Now i am not advocating going back to how it was as it was clearly unfair to players, but what it did do was create an effective wage cap, as there was no threat to clubs of playes walking away for free meaning that players couldn't demand higher wages.

This is why I personally would prefer a wage cap, that would effectively do what the 6+5 rule wants to, as why would you leave a top romanian club for a average English club if you can earn the same amount of money? However the big clubs don't want it because manchester united would then be at the same risk of relegation as wigan which although good for sporting competition is against the interests of what is now a business.

That is the problem the short term business interests of too many clubs is in conflict with what is best in the long term for football.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

South America World Cup
qualifiers Carry Most Intrigue

Looks like the most interesting World Cup qualifiers this weekend may be in South America.

To refresh, Paraguay leads the group with 24 points, three points up on Brazil. Chile has 20 points in third, Argentina in fourth with 19, Uruguay fifth with 17. The top four qualify for South Africa.

Uruguay, behind Diego Forlan, can make a big leap toward the 2010 finals tomorrow when it hosts Brazil. For what it's worth, Brazil has never won in Uruguay. Brazil coach Dunga has walked a tightrope for his job during qualifying and has to deal not only with the pressure of qualifying, but Kaka's reported transfer from Milan to Madrid. Uruguay has scored 21 goals in 12 qualifying matches and has conceded the fewest number of goals.

Paraguay, meanwhile, hosts Chile in a battle between first and third place. The leaders are without four regulars, including Roque Santa Cruz and Jonatan Santana, but nonetheless, a win essentially puts Paraguay into the finals.

Speaking of coaches on the edge, Portugal boss Carlos Queiros should get the boot if the 2006 World Cup semifinalists do anything but bash Albania. Portugal has not won in four matches, and has not scored in three, and trails Denmark and Hungary by seven points. Portugal needs some help from Sweden which hosts Denmark. Portugal, Sweden and Albania have six points in Group 1.

England, meanwhile, can wrap up its group for all intents and purposes, with a win over Kazakhstan.

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Real Shenanigans: New Prez Stuck with
€30M Bill for Ronaldo: We Call B.S.

Gotta love the new regime at Real Madrid trying to blackmail the club and its fans with threats that if they don't sign Cristiano Ronaldo, they'll be forced to honor an alleged "pre-contract agreement" arranged by former prez Ramon Calderon and the player's agent Jorge Mendes that says Ronaldo will be owed €30M as a penalty.

We call B.S.

New president Florentino Perez and his VP henchman Fernando Tapias are blitzing the media with this story trying to gain support for the outlandish €90M deal Ronaldo reportedly would get from Madrid. "Either we pay €90M for the best player in the world, or we pay €30M for nothing." Wow.

Tapias told a Spanish radio station that the agreement exists and suggested that maybe FIFA take care of the issue by capping transfers at say, oh, €50M.

Real Madrid is at the head of the Silly Season class. The Independent reports they're going to sign Kaka for €56M-plus on Monday and perhaps Ronaldo soon thereafter. Madrid is in a headline-grabbing war with Barcelona, which won the Spanish League-Copa del Ray-Champions League treble a couple of weeks ago. Signing Kaka and Ronny may not put Madrid back on top in those three competitions, put it puts them on top of the Galacticos competition and on the back pages of the Spanish tabloids.

We wonder which is more important to Perez and Tapias? Perez told the Spanish media:
"People say that [Zinedine] Zidane was the most expensive signing but he turned out to be the cheapest in many ways. It was that type of signing that made us the club with the highest income in the world. When [David] Beckham came we went from earning €7m a year to €45m a year through our deals with our sponsors. We salvaged the situation of the club. If Cristiano Ronaldo comes, even though he is currently with Nike, he then puts on an Adidas shirt every week. There are certain players who are very profitable because they have spectacular commercial repercussions that earn the club money."
Don't feel badly, however, for Madrid. Like the New York Yankees, the Spanish giants have a pretty steady flow of cash coming in. Again, courtesy of The Independent, Madrid gets £100M annually from a seven-year MediaPro deal (double what Manchester United earns from a similar deal); Spains tax laws tax foreign players at 23% while England tops 50%; banks in Spain give the club "unwritten privileges", e.g., low interest rates on loans; attendance is high, as is revenue from overseas trips and merchandise sales.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kaka to Chelsea? Kaka to Madrid? Kaka to Milan?
An Early Silly Season Sampler

Stay tuned: Kaka might be wearing Chelsea blue, Real Madrid purple, or Milan black and red next season; sounds like he's got the whole rainbow covered there. And we know since he's no longer the last Brazilian virgin alive, at least he won't be wearing white--home whites notwithstanding.

While we wait for the Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid talks to sizzle again, let's fire up the Silly Season cauldron and talk about Kaka's impending departure from the San Siro. Silvio Berlusconi, Italy prime minister, senior G8 leader and owner of A.C. Milan (I wonder if Obama wants to pony up for the White Sox?), says Kaka may be leaving Italy after all, but over his dead body is he going to Stamford Bridge with former Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Berlusconi, ahem, hates(?) Ancelotti. He all but blamed Ancelotti for Milan's dismal season and said he had the magic formula for on-field success all along; the manager just wasn't listening to the owner. Berlusconi told Canale 5 in Milan (a channel he owns):

"This season Milan didn't play with the tactics I suggested. They only did so in the last game which allowed us to qualify for the Champions League. Games were lost because in the last minutes the team failed to play the way I advised."

Berlusconi bristled that Ronaldinho was a substitute for much of the season, and decisions such as that one led to a lack of team morale in Milano.

Kaka, meanwhile, would fetch many Euros for Milan, which finished third and qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the Serie A season. The club reportedly lost $70M Euros last year, and selling Kaka to Madrid would recoup most if not all of that sum.

As for Ancelotti, he's tweaking his former club, hinting that he'd like to see Kaka play for him at Chelsea, and while he's at it, why not bring over teen sensation Alexandre Pato and/or Andrea Pirlo. Hell, Roman Abramovich's Russian rubles stretch pretty far, don't they?

It's funny how easy it is to goad non-football people into pissing matches about something that really isn't their element. One would think Berlusconi has enough to entertain himself with--you know, running the country!--that he'd leave football to football people. But boys will be boys, and we all know it's the boy with the most toys who wins.

Berlusconi, however, is going to lose one toy it looks like. Kaka has likely played his last match for Milan and will likely end up playing for Real Madrid, which is desperately trying to regain stride with European champions, Barcelona.

Meanwhile, I'll call it now: Wanna bet that somehow, some way, Milan and Chelsea end up in the same group in the Champions Leauge?

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Don't Call It a Comeback--Well Yeah, It's Back

Mea culpa.

I've ignored my little space in the football blogosphere long enough. I promise to get back at it--and soon. Some personal issues (nothing serious) required my undivided attention since my last post on Nov. 17 of last year; jeez that's awful when you say it out loud.

I missed the bulk of the league and Champions League seasons--well, I followed everything, I just didn't blog about it. Bummer for me because I enjoy doing it so much.

But hey, we're back, and back in time for World Cup qualifying, Confederations Cup and the silly season of transfers and "Will Ronaldo go to Real Madrid?" talk. Can't wait.

See you soon.

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