Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Donovan and Beckham Turf War
Sets Up Great Galaxy Feud

Something is amiss. I mean, I'm turning into a Landon Donovan fan (there, I said it).

Not only has be been stellar in recent World Cup qualifying. Not only was he one of, if not the best, players at the Confederations Cup. But he recently bitch-slapped David Beckham for being selfish, opportunistic creep that he is. Awesome.

Granted, there's a bit of self-interest at stake for Donovan, whose comments about Becks are set to appear in a book written by Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl. But there's no gray area as to where Donovan stands regarding Beckham, who is due back with the L.A. Galaxy this month (who woulda thunk it?).

Donovan, the de-facto captain of the Galaxy (never mind Beckham wears the armband), says Beckham is a lousy teammate. He asserts that Beckham didn't want to play for L.A., especially after coach Ruud Gullit was let go. Beckham proved as much by bolting to Milan and A.C. Milan last January under the guise of maintaining his spot on the England lineup in hopes of playing in next summer's World Cup in South Africa. Now that he's coming back soon, he's gotta deal with Donovan's criticisms. Donovan is quoted in excerpts from Wahl's book:

“When David first came, I believed he was committed to what he was doing. He cared. He wanted to do well. He wanted the team and the league to do well. [Once Gullit was fired] he just flipped a switch and said, ‘Uh-huh, I’m not doing it anymore’. I can’t think of another guy where I’d say he wasn’t a good teammate, he didn’t give everything through all this, he didn’t still care. But with (Beckham), I’d say no, he wasn’t committed.”

The Galaxy were whores to Team Beckham. Spineless Alexi Lalas talked Donovan into giving up the armband to Beckham; nice treatment of a guy who is recognized as the face of American soccer. They shoved Beckham out as the public face of MLS, and what did they get in return? A half-assed performance that couldn't get L.A. into the playoffs (don't eight of MLS' 15 teams get in?). Hell, the Galaxy players couldn't even get Becks to buy a team meal.

Either way, Donovan doesn't want to see Beckham in the Starting Eleven when he comes back this month. Not at least until he proves his commitment to the team and to furthering the Galaxy. He's a teammate, not a commodity or marketing vehicle. Oh wait, he is a commodity and a marketing vehicle.

As for Donovan, he's giving notice that the Galaxy are his team, but if Beckham is going to be out front again, he's not going to be there for long.

"Let's say he does stay here three more years. I'm not going to spend the next three years of my life doing it this way ... I don't want to have soccer be this way. I've got to confront it somehow. If that's the way he's going to be, fine, then hold him accountable. Bench him. Just say, 'We're not going to play you, we don't think you're committed'."

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Platini's Criticisms of
Club Spending is Misguided

As Cristiano Ronaldo turned-and-coughed and smirked-and-dribbled for Real Madrid and 80,000 of its closest friends

yesterday, UEFA president Michel Platini was tsk-tsk-ing the whole damned thing.

Platini is watching his European football empire crumble about him as the game's biggest stars are garnering ridiculous transfer fees and are paid outlandish salaries.

He told L'Equipe:

“I think something is not right. I don’t like it. What I don’t like either is that nowadays, contracts only seem to be signed to be broken. On the other hand, if clubs have the money, what can I do about it? Personally I can’t understand that you spend 90 million Euros for just one player. But I also remember the transfer of Diego Maradona, who joined Napoli from Barcelona for 6.5 million Euros in 1984. The money for Ronaldo will be the equivalent, more or less, of what was paid at the time. Back then, people thought it was excessive too."

The key takeaway there isn't the big money, but the fact that contracts are paper tigers. They mean zilch. Players sign for three, four, five seasons, but at the first hint of success, they want out--and the clubs are usually willing to accommodate them because they giant transfer fee will enable them to either buy or develop more players, who will eventually be sold as well, and the vicious cycle continues.

Platini desperately wants parity in football. He's making the road into the Champions League easier to travel for smaller clubs, and to be honest, that's not a bad thing. But sticking his nose into the personal business dealings of private enterprises is another thing. If Real Madrid and Manchester United want to spend themselves into oblivion and rack up debt like yellow cards, they should be able to do so without the UEFA president speaking out. Let them fail fiscally on their own accord.

If Platini wants parity, then institute an UEFA-wide salary cap. Go ahead, try it. Florentino Perez already is making a call for a European Super League and says if UEFA won't sanction it, he'd like to see the participants break away and form the league on their own.

Platini's intentions on the surface may be honorable, but I don't think it's his place to legislate fiscal responsibility. When he invests in Real Madrid or any other of the big spenders, then he can have such a say. Until then, not so much.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Starting Eleven Football Blog Roundup

How about that Gold Cup everyone? Mexico suffers a fairly serious injury; Nicaragua plays its first major tournament and Guadeloupe wins and is headed for a showdown with Mexico. The U.S.? It pounds on Grenada, much in the same way our military did back in the '80s: Not necessarily with our elite troops, but it was an appropriate and efficient response to an annoying problem.

Now that we have proper perspective on the Gold Cup, here's this week's skip-to-my-Lou around the football blogosphere:

  • Kartik at Major League Soccer Talk covers all the bases regarding to Gold Cup. Today's must read!
  • Today's Jinx of the Day Award goes to Young Guns for its feature on Carlos Vela, who promptly went out and got himself hurt. Ouch.
  • The 90th Minute has a clinical look at the Gold Cup so far. If you're a numbers person, click through.
  • Ives Galarcep has a report that Real Madrid wants Onyewu. Awesome.
  • The Offside examines why U.K. football coverage matters to the U.S. and why ESPN is so important to the mix.
  • Soccerblog wants the U.S. to go to the next level. Me too man, me too.
  • Benny Feilhaber will play against Honduras, so says the USMNT blog.
  • More on (moron?) Florentino Perez's call for a European Super League: BIGON Sandbank thinks Perez wants to overthrow UEFA, more or less.
  • EPL Talk says this recurring idea is a head scratcher.
  • Short and steady opinion on the Super League from Spot Kicks. Bad idea, still.
  • Clearly the Super League is a power play against Platini, right The Offside?
  • Finally, World Football Here says it best: Rubbish!
  • F.C. Porto is under seige. Lisandro and Lucho on the way out? Well, maybe not Lisandro says Portugoal.
  • Lucho, meanwhile, is lovin' Marseille, says
One final note: Take my frikkin' poll up top will ya. And leave some comments.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

European Super League Proposal
A Threat to Domestic Leagues

Back in the day, I had FIFA '99 for the PC (in fact, I think it's still loaded on my old Windows 98 SE machine somewhere). And in that game was a cool European Dream League option that allowed you to pick a team and play against 19 other of Europe's elite teams for continental supremacy.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, if he gets his way, is going to owe EA Sports some royalty fees.

Apparently Madrid's big spender wants a real-world version of the Dream League. He's proposing a 16-team European Super League that will pit the best against the best. He promises his scenario would not damage domestic competition. He's also saying that if UEFA doesn't sanction his idea, the Gang of 16 should secede from the union and form its own competition.

The Champions League, Perez says, doesn't always pit the best against the best, and that's what he wants. Perez knows damned well his idea, however, would slaughter Europe's domestic leagues. Why would Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich et. al. field their best teams on Sunday, knowing a gigundo match awaits on Wednesday with a guaranteed full house and big dollars awaiting on a Wednesday.

It's an intriguiging idea, but there are too many variables in the way that make it unfeasible. Players are already stretched thin between domestic, continental and international play that injuries and fatigue end up destroying the quality of play at the end of major tournaments. And what of the next tier below the Gang of 16, whomever that might be? First they cry about not getting into the elite league, then they'll cry for a B Division of the Super League, and soon enough UEFA would capitulate. The money would be too great and the lure too tempting. Pretty soon you'd have relegation between the divisions of the Super League and the Portuguese Liga, Ligue 1 and other smaller leagues would be long lost memories.

Perez needs to go away, sit on his fat wallet and hope to God he wins something with his Galacticos this season. If he does, maybe then he could succeed Platini as UEFA chief and impose his will as he chooses.

Until then, go play FIFA 99; it was pretty fun as I seem to recall.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Michael Owen, Besieged by Ifs and
Injuries, Signs with Manchester United

So I wake up this morning expecting nothing actually. Fireworks tonight. Some beer and burgers in between.

And Michael Owen signing with Manchester United?


Isn't this one about 10 years too late?

Seriously, Michael Owen can't take two steps onto the pitch without tripping on the touch line, pulling a hamstring and sitting on the sidelines for four months.

Owen signed for two years with an option for a third for United. Naturally, you lose Cristiano Ronaldo, who bolts for Paris (Hilton) and Madrid, and your best move is to lock up 29-year-old Michael Owen, a guy who's best years are 11 years behind him?

Seriously, a healthy Owen gives you a nice goal-scoring option off the bench. The guy knows how to score and does it quite well--when healthy. That's a big tomale sitting out there. The guy is never healthy.

Will it hurt United when Owen goes down? Probably not because depth is not an issue at Old Trafford, and Owen is, I guess, a nice-to-have option.

As for Owen, this guy went from the Kansas to the Land of Oz in an instant here. Stoke was his next stop not too long ago, and now he's got a chance, if he stays healthy, of playing in the Champions League final, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and whatever else, Sir Alex Ferguson decides he wants to win this coming season.

I guess SAF is that man behind the curtain.

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