BBC BLOGS - Chris Bevan

Archives for March 2011

Seedorf sees the changing face of European football

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Chris Bevan | 07:49 UK time, Tuesday, 15 March 2011

It is just short of 16 years since Clarence Seedorf got his hands on the Champions League trophy for the first time, part of a youthful Ajax side that seemingly had Europe at its feet for many seasons to come.

As we now know, things did not quite turn out that way.

Seedorf certainly lived up to his vast potential, becoming one of the most decorated footballers in the history of the game. He has won domestic titles in Spain and Italy as well as tasting further Champions League success with Real Madrid and AC Milan (twice). Still only 34, the Dutch midfielder has achieved the unprecedented feat of becoming champions of Europe with three different clubs.

For Ajax, on the other hand, it is something of an understatement to say they have had a lot leaner time of things since that memorable night in Vienna.

They got as far as the final the following year and reached the semi-finals in 1997. Since then, though, they have been as far as the quarter-finals only once - in 2003. When they made this season's group stage, it was for the first time in five years. They failed to make it through to the next round, finishing third behind Madrid and Seedorf's AC Milan side.

There are many reasons for Ajax's decline as a continental force but their relatively limited finances is probably the biggest.

Seeing as he was the first of five members of that all-conquering team of 1995 to depart on a Bosman free transfer, it is probably no coincidence that, when I asked Seedorf what has changed most about football during his playing career, he replied: "Money. It has definitely played a bigger and bigger role over the years."

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Pulis deserves plaudits for Stoke progress

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Chris Bevan | 22:40 UK time, Sunday, 13 March 2011

Britannia Stadium

Critics of Stoke City boss Tony Pulis - and there are a few out there - might raise a wry smile when they learn that he had half an eye on England's Six Nations clash with Scotland as he answered questions after his side's dramatic FA Cup quarter-final win over West Ham, and even chuckle when they discover that he also announced he "loves rugby".

After all, in the past his tactics have been unkindly compared to those employed in the oval-ball game.

Undoubtedly, Pulis's approach rubs many people up the wrong way, and not just purists like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who made that rugby jibe. Even some Potters fans have voiced their disapproval this season.

But, as he contemplates taking Stoke to Wembley for their first Cup semi-final since 1972, the Welshman clearly does not care one bit.

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Would a revamp revive the FA Cup - or ruin it?

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Chris Bevan | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 11 March 2011

Ahead of a quarter-final weekend that appears likely to be dominated by talk of teams with other priorities fielding weakened line-ups, it is timely to tackle what is becoming a familiar question - how to arrest the seemingly inevitable decline of the FA Cup?

The Football Association has been discussing it for a while now, ever since former chief executive Ian Watmore unveiled some radical plans to revamp the tournament at the start of 2010 in fact, but little has changed yet.

On paper, the FA's task looks difficult. How do they reinvigorate a competition currently trading largely on nostalgia and attract a younger audience, without upsetting traditionalists who want to protect the 139 years of history on which its famous folklore has been built?

By doing so, can they keep the big fish at the top (and bottom) of the Premier League happy as well as the minnows looking to write their own Cup fairytales and stay afloat by cashing in? And where do their commercial partners, who sponsor and broadcast the tournament, fit into the decision-making process... not to mention you lot - the punters who pay to go and watch the games?

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