Friday, September 7, 2007

Updated Euro power rankings...

From -- South American and Mexican clubs were omitted:
1. AC Milan (prev. 1)
Fiorentina slowed Milan down last weekend, but the Rossoneri are still red-hot, undefeated in Serie A so far and adding the European Super Cup to their haul in a magical 2007. Most impressive was how Milan became a different team against No. 2 Sevilla in the second half -- efficient and clinical. And how about that plum Champions League draw? (Though Celtic probably has a revenge scheme on its mind.)

2. Sevilla (prev. 3)
Some of this spot may be slightly ceremonial, but I can't see how anyone with a heart can knock Sevilla at this point. The fact that the two-time UEFA Cup champs (and first-time Champions League participants) can find any kind of focus, even after the shocking death of 22-year-old midfielder Antonio Puerta, is nothing short of remarkable. The Sevillistas have dedicated their entire season to Puerta, and there's nothing like a team riding an emotional wave.

3. Real Madrid (prev. 6)
You have to figure Villarreal defenders' necks were getting sore from constantly turning around to watch the ball go in the net last weekend. Bernd Schuster wants his Real to be more attack-minded, and that's certainly what the new Galácticos did in their 5-0 beatdown of the Yellow Submarine -- a decent side. Meanwhile, check out the quartet of flying Dutchman: Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Royston Drenthe, Real's own Clockwork Oranje.

4. Bayern Munich (prev. 5)
Hamburg's Mohamed Zidan cooled off Bayern's perfect start with a late equalizer last weekend, but I still can hardly believe we're attaching the label "UEFA Cup favorites" to arguably the most successful club of all-time. With the power the Bavarians have at their disposal, I can't see anyone -- other than themselves -- getting in their way for Europe's No. 2 trophy.

5. FC Barcelona (prev. 2)
Barça drops for its deepening injury crisis (Samuel Eto'o joins Carles Puyol, Edmílson and Eidur Gudjohnsen on the sidelines) and its lame scoreless draw with Racing Santander in its opener. But let's call out the youth movement at the Camp Nou. We all know Lionel Messi (age 20) is prolific. Now gifted Mexican Giovani dos Santos (18) looks like he's finally on his way, and stud Bojan Krkic

6. Liverpool (prev. not ranked)
OK, let's not get all crazy about the 'Pool's 6-0 laugher over Derby County. We're talking Derby County here. But the best sign is that Fernando Torres is displaying awesome speed, ball control, strength and giant cojones -- all things that will keep opposing defenses terrified all season long. could be next -- the 17-year-old is shining for finalist Spain in the Under-17 World Cup.

7. AS Roma (prev. not ranked)
Inter is banged up and leaning too heavily on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Meanwhile, Roma has shot to the top of Serie A with back-to-back shutouts, and gets drawn into a Champions League group where it can get some immediate revenge on No. 10 Manchester United. Anyone vote Ludovic Giuly for biggest steal of the transfer window?

8. Manchester United (prev. not ranked)
They're not necessarily pretty wins, but until everyone's healthy and integrated into the squad, Sir Alex Ferguson will take them. And for those counting at home, that's two clutch winners in two weeks: Nani bagging a screamer in the 68th minute against Tottenham and Louis Saha nailing it in the 72nd to ruin Roy Keane's return to Old Trafford last weekend.

9. Chelski

10. Inter

Honorable mention: Werder Bremen, FC Porto, PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, Rangers, Celtic

Thursday, September 6, 2007

SAF: Becks can't succeed...

Can David Beckham change the attitude of an entire country? Fergie doesn't think so and makes some valid points:
Manchester United boss Ferguson says his former superstar can’t hope to succeed where legends like Pele and Johan Cruyff have already failed.

“David Beckham himself can’t change the whole country,” was Ferguson’s blunt verdict on the injured England star’s £128m move to Los Angeles Galaxy.

Galaxy’s massive investment is geared at not only upping their ­fortunes but also giving US soccer a facelift.

Ferguson, who sold Beckham to Real Madrid four years ago, said: “In the late 1970s I went to America with Aberdeen and there were guys like Teofilo Cubillas and Peter Shilton there.

“Before that, there was Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer. It is difficult with David going there. I don’t know what kind of impact he can make.

“The size of the country makes it difficult. In Europe, and especially in Britain, you can travel easily.

“If you are in Boston and need to go to Los Angeles, it’s a six-hour flight.

“Supporters don’t travel so you are missing that rivalry between fans.

“So you have a problem. To make it substantial you could have to go regional but there’s not enough teams to have four strong leagues.”

Ferguson also feels the MLS is undermined by an exodus of young, homegrown talent.

He added: “What you have in the States is a lot of kids playing football but with nowhere to go.

“The best American players go to Europe very early, like Brad Friedel at Blackburn and Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey at Fulham.

“So that situation doesn’t help the American game.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Arsenal to be owned by Russian gangster?

Another excellent piece from David Warner at AOL:
While the English press seems focused on Cristiano Ronaldo's partying habits -- and really, who wouldn't want to know more about a poolside orgy with hookers from Leeds -- a former ambassador is focusing on a very different matter: Alisher Usmanov, the Russian steel magnate who's attempting to purchase Arsenal.

Craig Murray, who served as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, says that Usmanov's lawyers have written a letter to British newspapers that might be misleading. The letter reads:
"Mr Usmanov was imprisoned for various offences under the old Soviet regime. We wish to make it clear our client did not commit any of the offences with which he was charged. He was fully pardoned after President Mikhail Gorbachev took office. All references to these matters have now been expunged from police records . . . Mr Usmanov does not have any criminal record."
Murray, however, plainly disputes this.
Let me make it quite clear that Alisher Usmanov is a criminal. He was in no sense a political prisoner, but a gangster and racketeer who rightly did six years in jail. The lawyers cunningly evoke "Gorbachev", a name respected in the West, to make us think that justice prevailed. That is completely untrue.
After detailing some of Usmanov's alleged atrocities, he suggests that if Arsenal supporters allow Usmanov's purchase to happen, they're making a deal with the devil.
Football now is about nothing but money, and even Arsenal supporters - as tight-knit and homespun a football community as any - can be heard saying they don't care where the money comes from as long as they can compete with Chelsea.

I fear that is very wrong. Letting as diseased a figure as Alisher Usmanov into your club can only do harm in the long term.

Foreign ownership in the Premier League has been a controversial issue during this decade. UEFA president Michel Platini brought it back to the forefront by blasting the Premier League for allowing so many foreign owners to buy English clubs. The controversy swelled after former Thailand Prime Minister and current Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra became a wanted man in his own country. Should the Usmanov takeover of Arsenal happen, voices speaking out against foreign owners will only get louder.

(H/T: Pitch Invasion)

US/Brazil Roster Released...

From Yanks Abroad -- once again, no Altidore or Adu:
Howard, Tim Everton (England)
Seitz, Chris Salt Lake (MLS)

Bocanegra, Carlos Fulham (England)
Cherundolo, Steve Hannover 96 (Germany)
DeMerit, Jay Watford (England)
Onyewu, Oguchi Standard Liege (Belgium)
Pearce, Heath Hansa Rostock (Germany)
Simek, Frank Sheffield Wednesday (England)
Spector, Jonathan West Ham United (England)

Beasley, DaMarcus Rangers (Scotland)
Bradley, Michael Heerenveen (Holland)
Convey, Bobby Reading (England)
Dempsey, Clint Fulham (England)
Feilhaber, Benny Derby County (England)
Mastroeni, Pablo Colorado Rapids (MLS)

Arnaud, Davy Kansas City Wizards (MLS)
Donovan, Landon Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
Johnson, Eddie Kansas City Wizards (MLS)
Wolff, Josh 1860 Munich (Germany)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Recap of the weekend; Best XI

David Warner at AOL Sportshouse with another entertaining break down of Saturday and Sunday's fixtures.

The best XI from ESPN:
GK: Robert Green (West Ham)

LCB: Joleon Lescott (Everton)
CB: Zat Knight (Aston Villa)
RCB: David Wheater (Boro)

LM: Matt Etherington (West Ham)
CM: Xabi Alonso (Liverpool)
CM: Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
RM: Ashley Young (Aston Villa)

ST: Craig Bellamy (West Ham)
ST: Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
ST: Michael Owen (Newcastle)
Manager: Martin O'Neill (Villa)
Don't have too many problems with that line-up but I would have to offer up Clint Dempsey who was all over the pitch over the weekend, contributing 1 goal and 2 assists allowing Fulham to salvage a point. In any event he was certainly the top Yank from the weekend.

Another worth noting - the FA chief is concerned about the recent influx of foreign players into the Premier League.

Oh yea -- Chelski lost to Villa thanks to Zat Knight, narrowing the lead they enjoyed over ManYoo.

Since the PL seems to be blocking anyone from showing their highlights - I would have love to have show Kamara's equalizer for Fulham - here are some brilliant goals from their competition instead:

Wesley Sneijder's unstoppable free kick

Ditto from Ron

Alberto Aquilani with a nice free kick

Apologies in advance for the foreign languages.