Saturday, August 28, 2021

Ronaldo's return to Manchester

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Manchester United, the club that saw his career take off after he joined them at the young age of 18, and spending six years there, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008. In 2009 Ronaldo changed to Real Madrid, where he spent nine years that made him a legend, with four CL titles and 450 goals (the most scoring player in Real Madrid's history). 

Ronaldo's last three years in Juventus saw him win a Serie A title and scoring an amazing 101 goals. But it was perhaps not what Ronaldo expected, and the transfer to United has happened amid stories that he wanted to leave.

Manchester United may be his last club, as he is already 36 years old (but in amazing physical shape), but also a club that will clearly be fighting for titles during the season: Ronaldo will be joining a club with Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, as well as Raphael Varane (former teammate at Real Madrid). 

I think all football fans should be grateful that we will continue to see a fantastic player for more years at the highest level.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Champions League 2021-22 Groups

I have been disappointed that Brøndby did not manage to qualify to the Champions League after two defeats to Red Bull Salzburg. It was probably for the better, as Brøndby has started the season really bad, and may struggle both in the Danish League, as well as in the Europa League (which they will play). Despite this, there are now many reasons to look forward to the Champions league following today's group draw:

Group A:

  • Manchester City
  • Paris St. Germain
  • RB Leipzig
  • Club Brugge

Messi's new club, PSG, against Guardiola's Manchester City, in its continuous search for European glory, alongside always-strong RB Leipzig and a Club Brugge that can only surprise!

Group B:

  • Liverpool
  • Atletico Madrid
  • AC Milan
  • Porto

There is no way around it: this is a group of giants; AC Milan, who is finally back in the CL for the first time since 2014, alongside Liverpool and the Spanish champions of Atletico Madrid, who always have ambition for the title, and Porto, who can always defeat anyone. This group will be impossible to predict.

Group C:

  • Sporting Lisbon
  • Besiktas
  • Borussia Dortmund
  • Ajax Amsterdam

Not likely that the future champions will come out from this group, but an interesting group nevertheless, where Borussia Dortmund are probably favourites (still with Erling Haaland?), but with all other teams surely with a chance, all champions of their respective leagues in Portugal, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Group D:

  • Inter Milan
  • Real Madrid
  • Shakhtar Donetsk
  • Sheriff Tiraspol

Two giants from Inter and Real Madrid are huge favourites in this group, where Shakhtar and Sheriff will hopefully be able to upset the two giants.

Group E:

  • Bayern Munich
  • FC Barcelona
  • Benfica
  • Dynamo Kiev

Another group with only giant clubs. The "new" Barcelona will likely struggle to show how good they are without Messi. Bayern Munich are surely huge favourites in the group, as the others appear quite even in terms of fighting for the second spot in the group.

Group F:

  • Villarreal
  • Manchester United
  • Young Boys
  • Atalanta

The two finalists from the Europa League will face one another again, with Manchester United appearing as a team that has become stronger since then (and soon with Cristiano Ronaldo). Atalanta though, is a team that has shown that they can defeat anyone. Young Boys may struggle to compete.

Group G:

  • Lille
  • Sevilla
  • RB Salzburg
  • VfL Wolfsburg

The French champions from Lille and ever-ambitious Sevilla appear as the favourites in this group, but in particular Wolfsburg could surprise.

Group H:

  • Chelsea
  • Juventus
  • Zenit St. Petersburg
  • Malmo FF
It is great to see good ole' Jon Dahl Tomasson back in the Champions League, although this time as manager of the Swedish champions of Malmø, who will have to play their best in this group against the defending champions of Chelsea, the Russian champions of Zenit, and mighty Juventus

Friday, August 20, 2021


I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about Pelé, the legendary Brazilian footballer.

Pelé is perhaps the greatest player of all time, but certainly the greatest player of his generation. The documentary circles around his four World Cups and his importance at a time when Brazilian society was undergoing profound changes, with modernization and the wake of a dictatorship. The documentary dwells relatively much on the dictatorship, with an implicit criticism of Pelé never taking a clear stand against the dictatorship. Pelé at no time appears to be much interested in politics, and the issue remains relevant to this day: what can or should we expect from footballers, who have been thrown into an unlikely fame for the mere fact of kicking a ball. At the same time the documentary also shows how Pelé transcended football, becoming a world-wide super-star that symbolized and represented Brazil beyond all the political upheavals.

Pelé actually describes himself as an average guy that happened to be good at kicking a ball, and his enormous humility is extremely likeable, but it also borders on boring for a documentary about such a nice guy outside the pitch.

The footballing part is both the most relevant and interesting part of the tournament, and Pelé crying when he recalls the finals of 1958 and 1970 truly shows how much football and the finals meant for him. The interviews with many of his teammates such as Mario Zagallo, Jairzinho or Clodoaldo, also gives weight to Pelé as not only a great player, but also a great friend. At the same time I think that the very interesting stories behind the Brazilian team in each World Cup (including the 1966 World Cup, when opposing teams violently struck down on Pelé's brilliance) could have benefited greatly from including some of the opponents, in particular defenders and goalkeepers who had to struggle with a player of a quality that was almost unseen back then.

In the end the documentary is great for anyone interested in football history, and the focus of Pelé, who remains a legend among legends in international football, but the documentary could have been better.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

RIP Gerd Muller

 This week one of the greatest footballers of all-time passed away at the age of 75: Gerd Müller, is arguably the best striker of all time; although some of his records have been broken over the last years, he remains the most scoring player of the German league. He was for many years the most scoring player of the German national team with 62 goals in 68 matches (until Miroslav Klose beat him, but with more than 100 matches). He was European Footballer of the year in 1970, after he had become top-scorer at the 1970 World Cup, and his legend was perhaps cemented by his goal in the 1974 World Cup final, which gave West Germany the world championship:

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

PSG "Galactico II"

With the transfer of Lionel Messi to PSG the French club has strengthened its already strong team, and it would appear that few, if any, clubs will be able to compete with them at the French league level or European level. Because Messi is only the most famous of the new players that have arrived in Paris this summer, a list that includes: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan's and Italy's fantastic young goalkeeper), Giorginio Wijnaldum (the Netherlands' captain and solid Liverpool player), Achraf Hakimi (Inter's and Morocco's brilliant right-back) and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid's and Spain's legendary defender). These players enter a team that already includes Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Marquinhos, Keylor Navas, Marco Verrati, Leandro Paredes, Angel DiMaria, Julian Draxler, Pabloa Sarabia, Rafinha, etc.

The undoubted quality that PSG has is no guarantee that they will be successful in their pursuit for titles, but it is certain that they are the team to watch in the coming season. Almost 20 years ago Real Madrid were dubbed "Galacticos" for the quality of players they had back then; PSG this season appears to be "Galacticos II".

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Messi's exit from FC Barcelona

Lionel Messi's 21-year stay at FC Barcelona has ended. We all knew the day would come, but I guess the shock was about how abrupt the end was, not least for Lionel Messi himself, who appeared crying during the subsequent press conference

Everything comes to an end, and this moment is one for remembering the incredible contributions Messi made to FC Barcelona and to Football during his stay at the club. He has been an incredible player to follow.

Because let us admit it: it is not the fact that he is leaving, but how it happened. FC Barcelona has appeared a money-circus for many years, and Messi's exit appears as much as an economic tit-for-tat between la Liga and the club's management, who after pushing for the so-called European Superleague has had its financial troubles exposed. In sporting terms Messi's exit gives Ronald Koeman little time to build a transition to a new team and they appear weak as the la Liga season is about to start.

In sporting terms Messi's exit could be interesting, and perhaps he may also be interested in a new challenge as his career nears an end. Paris St. Germain is increasingly being touted as his next club, and this will surely be interesting as he reunited with Neymar, and will play alongside extraordinary players such as Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Marco Verrati, and even Donnarumma in goal! If Messi can adapt to another team than Barcelona (something that is not guaranteed, as he has never done a change before) the Parisians will surely look like the team to beat next season.

In the meantime, I hope Messi adapts and continues making football fans happy wherever he ends up.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

When spectators are redundant

FC Copenhagen faced the Danish champions of Brøndby today at home in a sold-out match, the first since the post-Corona reopening. However, expectations were disappointing as the newly arrived fans used the match to light smoke bombs and throw things at the players.

I hope FC Copenhagen and Brøndby both get huge fines for this behaviour, and on top of this FC Copenhagen should not be allowed to play with spectators for a number of matches.

In terms of football the match was intense. FC Copenhagen were leading 2-1 at halftime on goals by Jonas Wind and Davit Kocholava for the home team, and Tobias Børkeeit for Brøndby. All goals came following corner kicks, as did the second half equalizer for Brøndby by Sigurd Rosted, and both teams are looking weak in defense; hardly like the best teams in Denmark as they would like to see themselves. But as the match progressed Brøndby were inefficient while FC Copenhagen scored two more goals by Jonas Wind and Pep Biel, to take their 4-2 victory.

The defending champions of Brøndby only have 3 points after their first four matches in the league, and after having sold some of their best players from last season appear as a team that will struggle to hold and unlikely title in this season. In the meantime FC Copenhagen may appear stronger than Brøndby, but will certainly have to improve, specially in defense, to be a serious title-contender.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Gold medals

Olympic football is usually overshadowed by other sports and this did not appear much different this time in Tokyo, although it is surely interesting.

Canada took their first ever gold in women’s football, after taking bronze in the last two Olympic Games. They defeated Sweden after extra time and penalties, with the Swedes taking their second silver medal in a row. The world champions of the USA took bronze, which must surely have been a disappointment for the Americans.

On the men’s side there were not many surprises: the final was between the two favourites of Brazil and Spain faced one another in the final that became an intense affair, with both teams able to take the price, but the match ended 1-1 with goals by Matheus Cunha and Mikel Oyarzabal respectively. In extra time Malcom scored the winner for Brazil, giving them their second football Olympic gold in a row.