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Archives for October 2009
West Brom fans, and indeed many others, may be a bit surprised about what they are about to read next, but on Saturday night I think I might have seen the next great European midfielder.
His name is Borja Valero and he plays for Real Mallorca.
Yes, you did read that right. The very same Borja Valero who was the Baggies' record signing for £4.7 million from Mallorca at the start of last season before enduring a miserable dysfunctional season which ended with West Brom being relegated.
The pair are the two most successful sides in the history of Europe's premier competition, winning the European Cup or Champions League nine and seven times respectively.
However, these are strange times for both these continental giants.
At face value, you might think that all is well at Real. After all, they lie second in La Liga and are just one point behind Spanish league leaders and bitter rivals Barcelona.
The Russians are coming, well almost. After a World Cup weekend in which only a few European matches had any significance, one exception was Russia's encounter with Germany in Moscow.
Joachim Low's men emerged 1-0 winners to book their place at the finals next summer but the German coach himself acknowledged that they were fortunate to do so. "Luck played a part a couple of times... I'm sure Russia will still qualify," he said.
There were two clear-cut occasions when the Russians, who put Germany under pressure throughout much of an entertaining game, could have, and should have, had a penalty but the Swiss referee's whistle never got close to his lips.
Nevertheless, with Fifa having only recently cleared up the situation regarding the play-offs, and surely far later than they should have done, Russia will be seeded and so they avoid France, as well as probably Portugal, when the draw is made next Monday, which should give Hiddink's men a better chance of reaching South Africa.
Happy days are, finally, here again at Sampdoria. There is a palpable sense of optimism sloshing around the Italian port of Genoa these days, with the feeling that Sampdoria are making a return to the glory days of the early 90s.
Helped by Gianluca Vialli's goals - he topped the Serie A scoring charts that season - plus the shot-stopping skills of Gianluca Pagliuca and the fancy footwork of Roberto Mancini, the Blucerchiati won their one and only scudetto in 1991.
Now, under new coach Luigi Del Neri, they have already spent a brief spell at the top of Serie A this season and currently lie second, just behind reigning champions Inter, who they have already beaten, only on goal difference.