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Player departures undermine Copa

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Tim Vickery | 07:44 UK time, Monday, 25 January 2010

In last month's final against old rivals Alianza Lima, Nolberto Solano rolled home the penalty that confirmed a record 25th Peruvian title for Universitario and ensured the club's qualification for the Copa Libertadores, the South American equivalent of Europe's Champions League.

Last year they came very close to making the knockout stages of the competition but coach Juan Reynoso feels that his squad is stronger now. This, then, is an exiting moment for the club. Solano, though, has decided not to be a part of it.

After flirting with Colchester and offering himself to Newcastle, he has signed for Leicester. Solano, then would rather wind down his career in lower division English football than in his continent's premier club competition.

Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, meanwhile, is in the early stages of what promises to be a magnificent career. The 20-year-old was South America's big revelation of 2009, making his name in his country's Under-20 side at the start of the year, and looking thoroughly at home in the senior side by the end of it.

He was also in excellent form in last year's Libertadores, scoring and setting up goals as Nacional became the first Uruguayan club to reach the semi finals in 20 years. They have brought back some experienced players in their bid to do even better in 2010 - but they will have to do it without Lodeiro, who last week signed for Ajax in Holland.

Alvaro Gonzalez and Nicolas Lodeiro celebrate a goal for NacionalLodeiro (right) will miss the Libertadores after leaving Nacional for Dutch football

Another loss that will be felt in the Libertadores is that of Colombian striker Teofilo Gutierrez. Strong and direct, he suddenly made the breakthrough last year at the age of 24, linking up well with veteran playmaker Giovanny Hernandez and scoring rivers of goals for Junior of Barranquilla.

This week, Junior are one of 12 sides in action in the Libertadores' brief qualifying round, chasing the final six slots in the group phase, which gets underway on 9 February. The Colombians are clear favourites to overcome tiny Racing of Uruguay, who are making their debut in the competition, and have a powerful incentive to do so as they will go into Group One, along with Corinthians of Brazil, who can boast Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos in their line-up.

It's glamorous stuff - but not enough to keep Gutierrez in Colombia. He has moved to Turkey to join Trabzonspor.

This constant selling undermines the Libertadores, especially with the January transfer window on the eve of the big kick-off. On the other hand, it does make the competition gloriously unpredictable. With even the biggest clubs continually waving off their best players the situation is very different from Europe, where the number of clubs capable of winning the Champions League has shrunk.

True, the Brazilian clubs, boosted by their huge internal market, are beginning to show signs of future domination - the country has provided seven of the last 10 finalists, but the title has eluded them in each of the last three years and part of the charm of the Libertadores is that there is always the chance of a surprise.

The 2010 winners, for example, could even be among the teams taking part in the qualifying round. That's what happened last year when Estudiantes of Argentina struggled mightily to reach the group phase, only getting past Peru's Sporting Cristal on the away goals rule. But during the course of the competition - in what was otherwise a dreadful year for Argentine clubs - Veron and co found the form that made them champions of the continent , and very nearly of the world.

Estudiantes celebrate winning the 2009 Cope LibertadoresEstudiantes defeated Cruzeiro of Brazil 2-1 in last year's Libertadores final

There is hope, then, for two other Argentine sides in this year's qualifying round. Colon of Santa Fe kick-off the action in a tricky tie against Chile's Univesidad Catolica, while an interesting Newells Old Boys team face Emelec of Ecuador.

Last year's beaten finalists, Cruzeiro of Brazil have to overcome the dreaded altitude to get past Real Potosi of Bolivia and there's an intriguing tie involving Juan Aurich, a little known team from Peru.

From the northern town of Chiclayo, Aurich were one of the first clubs to be included in the country's First Division when it finally decentralised in 1966. Until then, the league was restricted to Lima, the capital, and Callao, the neighbouring port.

In 1969, Aurich became the first provincial side to play in the Libertadores. Since then, though, the Northern Cyclone, as they are known, have blown hot and cold., with spells when they drifted out of professional football.

This is typical of provincial clubs in Peru and helps explain why the title has only ever left Lima/Callao on three occasions, and not since 1989. Now, though, Aurich are making a concerted attempt to establish themselves on a firmer footing.

Their coach has World Cup pedigree - Luis Fernando Suarez, the Colombian who took Ecuador to the last 16 in 2006. And in their squad, back from PSV in Holland, is Reimond Manco, a 19-year-old stocky support striker seen as one of the great hopes of Peruvian football.

Back in Lima, Alianza president Guillermo Alarcon has criticized Aurich as "irresponsible" for over-reaching themselves with financial commitments which are too heavy for the Peruvian market.

The stakes are high, then, when Aurich meet Estudiantes Tecos of Mexico in the Libertadores qualifying round. The Mexicans should be the better prepared side - this week's match is the first competitive game of the year for Aurich, while Estudiantes have been in action this month in the Mexican qualifying tournament.

But Aurich have the first leg advantage of a synthetic pitch in their Elias Aguirre stadium.
and coming out on top over the two legs will lead to at least six paydays for Aurich in the group phase - and they will also be in the same group as Alianza Lima, which after Alarcon's comments will surely set the sparks flying.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) My question is about Arsenal's recent signing Samuel Galindo from Bolivia. He seems the kind of midfielder that Wenger likes: very good technically on the ball, and has an eye for the killer pass from midfield. How do you rate him as a prospect, and how soon do you feel we could see him in England? At 6ft 2ins and only 17, I'd imagine he'll soon "fill out" soon enough to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League.
Jason Romero


A) There's talent there - elegant, languid (perhaps a bit too much for English football) with a left foot capable of playing some excellent 40 yard diagonal passes.
I saw a fair bit of him a year ago when he captain of Bolivia's Under-20s. This is very unusual for a 16 year old, and he later played in the South American Under-17 Championships as well.

Since then there have been allegations made that some of that Under-17 side were in their 20s. This can happen in South American football - Brazil and Ecuador have had most problems with it. It's been reported that the Bolivian FA have appointed someone to look into the allegations.

Hopefully there is nothing untoward with Galindo. I trust that Arsenal have carried out thorough research on their acquisition.

Q) I have a couple of questions about two players that I was really excited about a few years ago who have now gone off the radar. Firstly, Colombia's Johnnier Montano and secondly Argentina's Daniel Montenegro. I remember Montano having a couple of spells at Parma that didn't amount to much, why was this? Montenegro spent a little while at Marseille that also didn't amount to much and I recall him being linked with Manchester United in his early days before that move. Was he just another victim of the 'new Maradona' syndrome that has destroyed many Argentinean youngsters?
Seb, Manchester


A) The pace of European football mean that the playmaker position can be hard for South Americans - they don't have the time on the ball that they'd like to choose their options. 'Rolfi' Montenegro perhaps suffered from an inflated reputation early in his career. There was a buzz around him with European agents that hadn't really been justified by anything he'd done. A good player, but never on course to be a great one - didn't do much in France, Spain or Russia and is now in Mexico with America.

In the case of Jhonnier Montano, I think the talent was there - he looked sensational at 16. I see him as a victim of the premature move syndrome - Parma came way too early, and at a time in his career when he really needed games, he was on the bench or in the stands. Short term loans never worked either, and he ended up losing momentum and motivation and gaining weight. He's done reasonably well in Peru over the last couple of years, and is now with Alianza Lima. But it's very little when compared with the promise that he was showing a decade ago.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As a West Ham fan it infuriates me to see our club continually selling it's best players - but the order of ascendancy is already well established.

    I can only imagine how South American fans must feel to see their brightest stars constantly crossing to Europe. Perhaps they already know they'll get to see them again after 10 years or so, once the peak of the player's career is long gone.

    On the plus side at least those fans get a wonderfully unpredictable competition like the Copa Libertadores. I don't have to think too long or hard about which teams will be competing for the Champions League or even the top European domestic leagues every season.

  • Comment number 2.

    Being an Arsenal fan, what do you think the prospects of Arsenal's Denilson getting a place in Brazil's World Cup squad? He has come forward leaps and bounds and Wenger's belief in him should be giving Dunga a headache surely?
    Ibrar, Bristol

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim,

    I'm off to Sao Paulo in April and am very keen on watching a game there. I know the Serie A season is over but I see a fixture list for the Paulista. Could you (or anyone else here) tell me what this competition is all about and the format? I'm guessing it consists of all the teams in the Sao Paulo region?

  • Comment number 4.

    What do you make of this whole Robinho saga in Britain at the moment. He doesn't seem to be enjoying his football, or playing well when he does start or come off the bench. The City fans do not seem to like him anymore and now he has said he would like to go back and play in Brazil for the rest of the season. No disrespect to City's other players but he clearly is someone who could be a star for you. Do you think it's possibly the coaches and being played a lot as a left midfielder in a 4-4-2 or possibly that English fans always like a hardworker that runs around and tackles back over some great footwork and passes that unlock defences; or just that he simply doesn't fit into City's style?

  • Comment number 5.

    Interesting read as always and you have wetted my appetite for the Copa Libertadores.

    I was wondering if you think that a player leaving the continent to pursue European football is cyclical as this is the last 'season' before the World Cup. Do you think a good showing by the South Americans in South Africa would redress the balance and keep more players in the continent for longer?

    Or whether I am being naïve and it is purely down to the financial rewards Europe offers.

    http://thoughtsonfootball.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 6.

    I personally think the problem with Robinho at Man City is not neccessarily the coach or the formation, but the player's attitude. I won't use the lazy stereotype of South Americans not liking the cold British weather, but seriously, whenever you see him in a City shirt Robinho always looks like he wants to be somewhere else.

    It has got me thinking though about South Americans playing football in Britain. I've been trying to think about any Brits who have gone the other way and played football in South America. I can't think of any. Can anybody else? http://www.loserscomesecond.com

  • Comment number 7.

    In defence of Solano, and as a Newcastle fan I am pre-disposed to love the man, he left Newcastle in order to be nearer his estranged wife and child who had moved to London at the time. I dare say there is a likelihood that there is similar motive in his most recent move. Can not wait to see him in action again soon, even if he will be wearing the wrong strip he will get a fantastic reception. He was/is a great player and will remain a legend on Tyneside, indeed we have a history of South American cult heroes up here.

    There must be a lot of players who are aware of the time constraints on their careers and look to milk it for all it's worth though. The rewards in Europe can be vast, particularly if the player is young and promising. I look at the young English players coming through and see a dearth of creative talent in general. Sure all the players are neat and tidy, great athletes and professional - yet none seem to have the kind of inventiveness or creativity that makes football exciting.

    Also, as per the other week, I watched Palermo again this weekend and was thoroughly impressed with Pastore. He's such a good player to watch, you never quite know what to expect next, he has a great improvisational touch to him. I remember seeing Montano play for Parma a couple of times, he always looked dangerous but seemed isolated in games. I think he may have been better suited to playing in Spain, tis a shame.

  • Comment number 8.

    #6

    Off the top of my head I can think of one Englishman, high-profile at the time who went to South America.

    Neil Franklin was reputed to be Englands finest centre-half in 1950 when he went to play in Colombia, which at that time was a pirate league outside of FIFA and able to pay wages way above the maximum wage in England.

    England could have used him at the 1950 World Cup!

    Thats about all I know about him though, I'd be interested if Tim or anyone else can fill in more details.

  • Comment number 9.

    #6,

    I assume you are talking about it in recent years because british footballers did play in South America. Some even played in Colombia back in the 1950s.

  • Comment number 10.

    #8,

    You are correct. Even though the majority of the players that went to Colombia were not of the highest standards, there were some that played for big clubs.

    Charlie Mitten was another one and he did write a book about his time in Colombia.

  • Comment number 11.

    I wouldn't know about as far back as the 1950's to be honest. I think off the top of my head some players were lured by the promise of a big money league at some point in the past, which went bust, but I don't know when? I certainly can't think of any good players in the last few decades.

  • Comment number 12.

    In the last few decades I can only think of europeans going to the USA and Mexico but not to South America.

  • Comment number 13.

    #3

    The Paulista is a 20-team championship that displays the teams of São Paulo state (the well-known are Palmeiras, which happens to be my team, São Paulo, Santos and Corinthians). It is the oldest championship in Brazil, dating back to 1902.

    From January to April 7th all teams play against each other only once. The top 4 qualify for the semis (1st x 4th, 2nd x 3rd), which are played in home-and-away matches, just like the finals. Semis and finals are only played on weekends (semis usually have one game on Saturday and one on Sunday; finals are always on Sundays. So matches should take place on April 13, 14, 20, 21, 28 and May 5).

  • Comment number 14.

    A lot of people will be asking if the 'first option' on Neymar and Henrique is worth the loan of Robinho from Man City... Do you think this is good business ? If it means that someone like Neymar (now 17) can stay at their club until they are 20, is this a good thing for their development ? Or is this still too young to move to a big club in Europe ? (I'm thinking Rooney was ready at 17 to play for United !)

  • Comment number 15.

    I think there are a number of levels this challenge of player turnover can be looked at. Even without starting the leaving-too-early debate, there is almost nothing anyone can do about it nowadays.

    Is the issue merely money? Suppose local clubs like Sao Paolo could match the wages of Barcelona would it mean players would automatically opt to stay home rather than play abroad? Is money the only incentive to stay or leave?

    South American players, just like their African counterparts benefit more from playing abroad. They acquire skills and remuneration they otherwise would only dream of. Does it improve their skills? Of course. The likes of Drogba, Kalou, the Toure brothers, etc. have no doubt grown in physical prowess and tactics courtesy of time spent abroad.

    There is a case for leaving at a slightly late age but Messi is an example of a player who left Argentina early and ended up in a club whose system has aided the player's development. It's debatable if Argentina would provide just such an environment.

    Age can be considered and players allowed to leave say at around 16, with guardians accompanying them. In the case of clubs, they must be vetted for ability to look after minors, much the same way governments vet prospective adopters of children or animals.

    Another way to look at the issue of children leaving for soccer abroad is the relative retardation of British children soccer-wise. They rarely venture outside their local areas, and in a sense retard in terms of personal growth. Whereas a child from the so-called third world will be exposed early to other cultures, a child from the Isles is relatively shielded - from other cultures different to one's own, from other playing traditions, from other foods and weather, etc. I feel that this might end up retarding more than building.

    Playing outside one's comfort zone is a super way of building mental muscle. While saying all these, the issue of optimum age when a child should leave the home environment for challenges abroad should be set out. The issue of the child's education, earnings and career development should be part of any team seeking to sign up any such prospective.

    Governments must actively vet any interested in their wards, and soccer federations must be doubly vigilant. I cannot see any involvement by the government and local soccer federation without FIFA. The soccer body must create guidelines to guide any recruitment policy.

    In all these, the child must come first, with strict adherence to the fundamental human right principles. After all it's only a game, albeit the beautiful game, but the child will remain a person long after the final whistle of their career's blown.

  • Comment number 16.

    1. At 09:13am on 25 Jan 2010, CharlieDontSurf wrote:

    As a West Ham fan it infuriates me to see our club continually selling it's best players - but the order of ascendancy is already well established.

    I can only imagine how South American fans must feel to see their brightest stars constantly crossing to Europe. Perhaps they already know they'll get to see them again after 10 years or so, once the peak of the player's career is long gone.

    On the plus side at least those fans get a wonderfully unpredictable competition like the Copa Libertadores. I don't have to think too long or hard about which teams will be competing for the Champions League or even the top European domestic leagues every season.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    And I would just like to say thank you for being such a great feeder club...

  • Comment number 17.

    Julian,Neil Franklin used to play for Stoke City and after his career ran a pub in Sandon,Staffordshire. It was called the Dog and (?). By all accounts he was a fantastic player but a bit of a grumpy landlord i recall.

  • Comment number 18.

    #15 wrote,

    "Is the issue merely money? Suppose local clubs like Sao Paolo could match the wages of Barcelona would it mean players would automatically opt to stay home rather than play abroad? Is money the only incentive to stay or leave?"

    Well, I for sure would prefer to stay at home if I could earn the same here as in the US, for example. Most migratory movements have economic causes. The same for footballers.

  • Comment number 19.

    Of course, times have change and players now want to prove themselves and compete with the best. Pele stayed at home with Santos because he got paid well and in those days you didn´t need to prove yourself in Europe to be a world super star like him. Now you have to play in Europe to be the #1.

  • Comment number 20.

    Another good blog, Tim. This year's Libertadores is one I'm really looking forward to.

    One unrelated question I have is this: what is going on at Boca!?

  • Comment number 21.

    #14,

    IMHO if Man City will really have the priority in catching Neymar and Paulo Henrique, then it is a good deal, provided Robinho won´t stay anyway.

    Neymar is skilled, but still too imature. It´s too early for him to move. Paulo Henrique is older and, althoulgh also unexperienced, more prepared to adapt himself to playing in another country. I reckon he is a step ahead of Neymar at the moment.

  • Comment number 22.

    as an added bonus to lodeiro coming to us, suarez signed a longer contract and we beat az tho we were lucky lol, it was a good sunday:)

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim,

    Completely off topic but I just read in the news that Salvador Cabañas was shot in the head in Mexico City.

  • Comment number 24.

    HI, I ask you all to pray for Salvador Cabañas today, apparently he was shot in the head this morning.

    Thanks.

  • Comment number 25.

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I have just read that Salvador Cabanas was shot in the head in a bar in Mexico last night..tragedy

  • Comment number 26.

    13

    Thanks Claudio, much appreciated.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Tim,

    Could you give us an update on Salvador Cabanas' condition? There seems to be a lot of unsubstantiated reports out there about a bar fight or a bungled robbery and that his chances of survival are "grave"

  • Comment number 28.

    #6 (Malt Loaf), well, City bought Robinho, not Pato, Kaka, L. Fabiano, or Felipe Mello. When they decided to acquire him I am sure they did not expect a vibrant committed player who would not only fight for the football but win most physical challenges cause that would have been crazy! :)

    Robinho at City is the same player who played for Santos and vanished in the libertadores final against Boca. The same player who dominates when Brazil plays easy games and vanishes every time things get rough. Same player who hasn't been able to become a regular starter in Europe for the reasons I stated. He will do better at Santos though. Refs in Brazil will call foul for every little bump on him.

    On the Paulista championship, a little better than the others (Gaucho, Carioca, etc) but my view of state championships in Brazil is that they are equivalent to preseason friendlies elsewhere.

    On the article itself, well, Douglas Costa has left Gremio (for Shakhtar) and I haven't really seen much of him (as a supporter). However, some interesting players do come back to Brazil because only so many can play in Europe! That's the reason Rochamback is there at Gremio (they will get him in shape this season). R. Carioca is now at Vasco (loan), Fred is still at Fluminense... anyway some good players to watch in Brazil.

    A player to watch at Gremio is certainly 19 yo Mario Fernandes! He's a tall and pacy defender who can play center defense or right back. He's a starter for Gremio and one of the better players of the team.

  • Comment number 29.

    Lots of mixed reports about cabañas but apparently he was conscious until he went in for surgery about 20 minutes ago...

  • Comment number 30.

  • Comment number 31.

    The Cabañas case is quite tragic. We all hope the best for him.

    Regarding the Robinho discussion, I have to agree with some of the comments here. You can't fault him for lack of grit or endeavour in the challenge, he is never going to do that. However, it is fair to say he has failed to provide what was expected from him: constant display of skill and class. It has been sporadic at best. The way he is apparently leaves the club harms his bad reputation, because he is walking away from Man City just like he did to Santos or Madrid. He has skills, yet he has proven to have average technique (surely not up to the standards of the best players in the world) and poor physical conditions (I don't mean bulk, I mean speed. He hasn't got the pace to burn past defenders). He probably won't be the player he and we thought he'd be.
    Plus, the assumptions people are making here of a trade-off for Santos'new gems, Neymar and Ganso, are ludicrous! They are 17 and 19 years of age. They belong to Brazilian football and must acquire maturity there

  • Comment number 32.

    Brain drain - in this case dribble drain - has been around since time immemorial. People with skills are attracted to places with money.

    I am curious about the numbers - just how much is the wage differential between Europe and South America? Some histograms, each showing footballing wages in a country, would be nice.

    If a player makes more sitting on a bench at some European club (i.e. if his move doesnt work out so well) for a year than he can playing at his old South American club for five years, I'd hardly blame him for moving.

    If you can't build a nest egg at home, why stay at home?

  • Comment number 33.

    Saying 'Solano would rather wind down his career in lower division English football than in his continent's premier club competition.' is a little unfair.

    I imagine the Championship is a stronger and more competitive division than any of the top divisions in South American let alone the Peruvian one.

    If Solano would rather test himself in a competitive league than wind down back home in an easier league then good luck to him. I certainly have more time for him than a certain Brazillian who's currently crying himself a move back to Brazil.

  • Comment number 34.

    Mexican clubs have been part of the Copa for years. There are something like 8 involved in various international competitions at the present time.

    We will know U.S. soccer has matured when MLS is invited and fields a compelling side that takes it seriously. So far we've done nothing with the opportunity of the CONCACAF Champions League, which is always won by a mediocre Mexican side (the big boys get the big money in the Copa) which then proceeds to fall on its collective face in the world club championships each December.

    Oh, and U.S. soccer has the same problem described here. Only worse, because MLS is about to take a strike in an effort to break its union, and U.S. players are opting to go elsewhere in droves. Good for Everton. Bad for us.

  • Comment number 35.

    Tim

    How can you write a blog like this and not mention Jackson Martinez? He has just left Deportivo Independiente Medellin (qualified in Copa Libertadores) for a Mexican club, Jaguares de Chiapas. I am an Englishman living in Medellin and, although Arsenal is my true football love, I have become a fan of D.I.M. They won the last league competition (Copa Mustang II) largely thanks to Martinez. He scored 18 goals in the campaign, breaking the record for Colombian league goals in one season. The only reason he did not score more in the whole of 2010 than Gutierrez is that he was injured for the first half of the year. Yet ask anyone in Colombia (Junior fans aside) and they will tell you there was only one striker in Colombian football in 2009, and it was Jackson Martinez, not Gutierrez. Indeed, as I have watched him a lot recently, I was wondering why he chose to go to Mexican football as opposed to Europe or Argentina (or stay with D.I.M. for the Libertadores). For me, he clearly has the talent, and after the success of the likes of Rodallega, I would think he could do well in the Prem. What do you think? Have you followed his career?

  • Comment number 36.

    Apparently they have been aunable to remove the bullet from Cabaás' brain... It was a bigger calibre than expected.

  • Comment number 37.

    35 - i've written loads on jackson martinez recently - he's very impressive.

    didn't go there for this blog because of space - went with gutierrez of junior because they're playing in the qualifying round this week - and that was the subject the blog moved on to cover.

    and 33 - I'm not going out of my way to attack solano's choice - if he thinks that's best for him then fair enough.

  • Comment number 38.

    35 - i think the reason jackson martinez ended up in mexico is that he'd boxed himself into a corner with a pre-contract signed in november with a korean club.
    come late december his profile was higher, he m#had more options and clearly didn't want to go - so he needed someone to get him out of the korea situation quickly.
    Racing in Argentina were interedted, but then signed Biler from LDU - and then there was river plate - a dream move. But in their financial crisis it took them a while to sort out an offer - by which time he'd signed for jaguares in mexico.

  • Comment number 39.

    I was just wondering, eventhough not related to this article, do players only work hard when big competitions comes around the corner (like World Cup or Euro Championship) etc? I've just been reading articles about players wanting to move to another club for first team action so that they can secure a place for world cup. If no major tournament is around, then they are happy to warm the bench and wait for the contract to run out. Take an example of Robinho, Van Nisterlooy etc, to name a few. In Robinho's case, nothing personal with Brazilian league, but if you can't prove yourself in premier league, especially for the amount of money that he is being paid, how does moving back to brazil for 6 month loan, scoring a few goals merit a place in Brazil.

    Van Nisterlooy, OK he's 33, now to get a place in Dutch side for world cup, he's decided to shun offers from Engish sides and couple of other european teams to move to Hamburg? hmmmmmmmm. German league??? Aren't West Ham or Tottenham good enough or German League poses more of a challenge than premier league. I'm not saying that all players should prove themselves by playing in premier league but point is if you cant repay the faith the club shows in you by paying some stupid amount of wages to play good football, what does it says about the player? Clearly football nowadays is not what it used to be. Players back in the days were more passionate representing their clubs and countries, even playing through injuries than players are nowadays. Money has in fact spoilt the game!!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Tim,

    Thanks very much for replying to my blog and apologies for not knowing about your writings on Jackson Martinez - I have just been trying to search for your comments on him and nothing suitable comes up when I type "tim vickery" "jackson martinez" into a BBC search - any clues on where I could find it?

    Also, to Jagjit Singh, I think it is obvious that Robinho will have more chance of getting into the Brazil team if he is playing a central role at Santos as opposed to warming the bench at Man City. The exposure to the Brazilian people and media would be far greater - just think of the UK's reaction to Hargreaves when he was playing in Germany - nobody knew anything about him. Also, with Van Nistelrooy, he is choosing a good team in a great league - how is this possibly worse than being a sub at Spurs or playing relegation football with the likes of West Ham - at Hamburg he will receive service from good players and continue playing at a high level. I do not think you have seen too much of the German league as it is far superior than you think.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ok, Tim, I have another question! While trying to find your comments on Jackson Martinez I read your comments that you had expected Colombian football to take off about five years ago but it never happened. Without wanting to go over old ground, why do you think this is? Having lived in Colombia for 2 years, I notice that the culture of how to play, from the schools and streets to the stadiums of professional teams, is to try individual skills and to shoot from long distance, often ludicrously so. This leads to a lack of passing, intelligence and speed; qualities that, seemingly, are not admired as they should be. Yet everyone raves about European, and in particular English, football. So my question is why, in your opinion, do you think that there has not been a manager/team that has tried to adopt a more European style with quick passing and playing at speed? It seems almost obvious to me that a team with these characteristics would walk through the Colombian league, and subsequently benefit the Colombian game as a whole. I just cannot understand how a country with a larger population than Argentina, typical South American passion for the game, and few or no other sports to rival it, can do so badly and produce so little - any ideas?!

  • Comment number 42.

    I did a profile piece on jackson martinez for world soccer magazine a couple of weeks back, and mentioned him in an article in australia.

    That predication on colombian football? Not one of my better moments! Seemed coherent enough at the time - were doing well at youth level, a number of clubs strong in the libertadores, lots of urban centres...

    Always make your predictions after the event!

    Even with the current econoic problems of the clubs they have the potential to do much more. I worry that they've gone too far down the road of bulking up - i remember hernan dario gomez complaining recently that it's a good job messi was argentine, cos if he was from colombia he'd be considered too small.

    Perhaps the whole 94 thing remains a trauma. Despite their failure in the USA, that team were really good. The passed the ball so well. Nowadays I don't see this in colombian football - they play one creative midfielder and say 'you pass the ball, you be valderrama,' forgetting that valderrama was the hub of a team which moved the ball well collectively.

  • Comment number 43.

    I have to say from an Argentina point of view this blog is mierda
    Solano is hardly a World superstar at this stage but the likes of Robinho,Roberto Carlos,Adriano certainly are and they are back playing the Libertadores and possibly also Gago
    Brasilian domination is a topic Tim has gone with for a while without the slightest grounds for it.Facts are Argentinas clubs have dominated the Copa Libertadores 22 wins against 16 including 2 of the last 3 years if we have to get recent.
    As for Brasilian clubs bringing back players from Europe so far this window Maidana(Banfield)Sosa(Estudiantes)Fernandez(Newells)Estigarribia(Newells)Gracian(Independiente)Fredes(Independiente)Licht(Racing)Moreno y Fabianesi(Colon)Benitez(San Lorenzo)Figueroa(Central)Fontanello(Tigre)Casas(Gimnasia)Gimenez(Chacarita)and Obolo(Arsenal)have all returned to Argentina from Europe to play Primera whilst only Salvio(Atletico Madrid)Suarez(Dynamo Zagreb)Valencia(Rubin Kazan)Civelli(Niza) have moved the other way suggesting Argentina is also with its new tv deal becoming more attractive for players to come home to

  • Comment number 44.

    7 of the last 10 finalsts are brazilian - this kind of thing has never happened before in the history of the competition.

    The people coming back from Europe
    1 - veterans
    2 - people with problems/going through a bad spell
    3 - people who haven't made the grade

  • Comment number 45.

    Moreno, you insult my blog without even taking on its main point - which was about a provincial club's bid to end the centralisation of Peruvian football.

    The tiny nationalist mind sees ony waht it wants to see.

  • Comment number 46.

    Re the state of Colombian football I definitely agree with the comments regarding playmakers. As a Millos supporter I'm looking forward to seeing how we do without Ricardo Ciciliano this season (Cizou may be his nickname, but Zidane he ain't). Ciciliano played some great matches for Millos, especially during the Suramericana run of 2007, but so many times the momentum of a break was lost when Ciciliano put his foot on the ball looking for the killer pass. There were times when you could see players with the ball going out of their way just to give him the ball to try and conjure something up.

    Colombian football's going through a very tricky time at the moment. The country's two biggest clubs (in terms of championship wins) Millonarios and America are both in a terrible financial position. America have seen a mass exudous of players as a result of thier situation and will be lucky to finish above the bottom few positions this season. Meanwhile the saga continues at Millos with Lopez and Co staying put and dragging the club further and further into debt. Add to that the usual corruption issues including the questionable decision to allow Postobon the rights to the Colombian league whilst also owning Atletico Nacional (a club with a history of "alledged" corruption - 1989 Libertadores anyone?). And that's without even mentioning the national side's 3rd consecutive failure to qualify for the World Cup.

    The fact that Colombia has large urban centres is potentially an advantage. However, by far the largest of those urban centres, Bogota,(9 million inhabitants) barely produces any players of note: Andres Perez, Andres Chitiva don't exactly stand out compared to the talented paisas, calenos and costenos that have emerged over the past decade. The only quality "rolo" I can think of over the past decade or so is Fabian Vargas who had a couple of successful spells at Boca. This has to be at least part of the reason a team from the CAPITAL of Colombia has not won a championship since 1988! I cannot think of another South American country in which the capital (or biggest) city has produced so few top players and whose clubs have won so few championships in the last couple of decades (maybe Tim can correct me if I'm mistaken). This has to have an adverse effect on the national team in that the pool of players to select from is almost entirely limited to the provincial part of the country (which admittedly, is still a reasonable number of people in Colombia relative to other South American countries.) Even going back to the highly talented national team of the early 90s before the "big bulky player" mentality emerged, a huge chuck of the national team was made up of paisas, with costenos forming the remainder.

    Tim, any theories as to why there exists this dearth of players from the colombian capital? Assuming Junior make it through, which of the colombian teams do you expect to go furthest in the Libertadores?

    Cheers.

  • Comment number 47.

    Hello Tim, I am interested in getting an english translation of Zizinho's autobiography. I think its called Mestre Ziza - Verdades E Mentiras No Futebol – Zizinho in portuguese. Is there an English version? Do you know where I can get that from? Any information would be great. I am interested in football tactics and this book seems to have quite a lot of information on the subject. Keep up the good work. Thanks.

  • Comment number 48.

    Hello everybody.

    Nicolas Lodeiro is an excelent player. In Club Nacional de Football was 2 times Champion of the National Championship (Campeonato Uruguayo), being one of the most important players. He plays a friendship match or a final, at the same way. He's really profesional. I think that he's don't have "roof", he can play in any big team of Europe.

    That is in a way, because Nacional is a big team of the entire World

    Viva Nacional !!!! Viva Lodeiro

    www.decano.com

    Best regards for everybody

    Sam

    ps: Just for reminder. Nacional 3 times World Champion, 3 times Copa Libertadores Champion, 42 times uruguayan championship Champion (Number One in hte list). Is the most winning team in Uruguay and some of the most winning teams in the entire world. His history is unique.

  • Comment number 49.

    #44 Tim wrote, "The people coming back from Europe
    1 - veterans
    2 - people with problems/going through a bad spell
    3 - people who haven't made the grade"

    1) true and some if not most are well past their prime.
    2) That's the only chance for a truly special player play in SA, Adriano for example.
    3) True, but I question how much worse are those who havn't made the grade. Could it be they are just about the same level of the locals where they played in Europe? Which means there was no reason to keep them there? I think sometimes some players in European sides are greatly overrared. Only a handful of players playing for the best clubs are the ones who can truly make a difference in a football match.

  • Comment number 50.

    I dont insult your blog Tim I usually praise it to the moon but when it deserves constructive criticism you should know.I contend that after all your years in Rio you are seeing things with a Brasilian tint.The facts are there for us all to see Brasil does not dominate the Libertadores punto.I am often Argentine futbol biggest critic.
    Argentinas primera is a dog eat dog league that is hyper competitive.Whilst the Argentines are killing each other during the early rounds of the Copa Brasils top clubs are playing mickey mouse state leagues of as much consequence as the Torneos de Verano in MDP,Salta and Mendoza.This allows them a big advantage until the later rounds but when you get that far the Argentines are more than a match for the Brasucas.This year the Brasilian teams will be more star filled than for 20 years whilst all 5 of Argentinas big 5 havent even classified.I am willing to bet if Velez or Estudiantes survive the early rounds they will be more than a match for Sao Paolo/Flamengo /Cruzeiro/Corinthians etc
    As for the returning Argentines being veterans
    Jose Sosa 25 scored for the seleccion last night,Jonathan Maidana24,Lucas Licht 28,Luciano Figueroa 28,Pablo Fontanello 25,Nelson Benitez 25,Leandro Gracian 27,Gaston Casas 32,Ivan Moreno 30,Marcelo estegarribia 22 and Santiago Fernandez 21
    Not too many veterans there only some european sterotypical thinking.The Worlds changeing folks get used to it

  • Comment number 51.

    Hmmm a blind Brazilian or a stereotypical European... a tough choice.

    If the players were that good someone with more money would buy them. I think it is probably you that needs to adjust to that change.

  • Comment number 52.

    50- marcelo estigarribia is not argentinean!

  • Comment number 53.

    52 who said he was he has moved from europe to play in Argentina is what i said as has now Leandro Prediger(Porto-Boca) and it seems Diego Valeri also an international is about to join Central

  • Comment number 54.

    53 - you did...
    "As for the returning Argentines being veterans
    Jose Sosa 25 scored for the seleccion last night,Jonathan Maidana24,Lucas Licht 28,Luciano Figueroa 28,Pablo Fontanello 25,Nelson Benitez 25,Leandro Gracian 27,Gaston Casas 32,Ivan Moreno 30,Marcelo estegarribia 22 and Santiago Fernandez 21"
    but i get your point.

  • Comment number 55.

    Apologies Sergio i made the point badly

  • Comment number 56.

    no problem. Why are so many players going back to argentina? is the financial situation much better there now? Or is it because it's a world cup year, nd they want to be playing more?

  • Comment number 57.

    #56,

    Those players moreno mentioned might not be veterans but otherwise fill in the other two categories Tim highlighted: either not good enough for Europe or going thru a bad spell.

    And to think the reason they are moving back to Argentina because it is a WC year is nonsense. All those players have 0 chances to play for the Albiceleste. They are just fringe players, no stars.

  • Comment number 58.

    I should think jose sosa has a chance, and marcelo estigarribia could go, but i see your point about the others.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lucas Licht a regular at Getafe returned because Racing pay better
    Jose Sosa is determined to make the mundial squad.The notion that full internationals Figueroa and Maidana or Gracian/Benitez arent up to playing for European clubs is laughable.The arrogance of that statement to a South American is mind boggling.
    The reasons they are coming back are varied.some such as Maidana found East European culture impossible Licht for money,Sosa to make the World cup as possible with Estegarribia.Casas wanted to return to Argentina after along time in Europe.Fernandez because he was too young to leave his country.
    As for the financial situation clubs such as Velez and Estudiantes with more or less a dozen full internationals each in their squads are run in the black.River,Boca and co have been helped by the new tv deal and of course Argentina 2002-2008 grew 8% a year whilst in 09 its economy while bad didnt fall so much as in Europe and in 2010 it will grow 5-7%

  • Comment number 60.

    moreno - i hope i'm not wasting my time trying to debate with you - my fear is that you want to see everything through some impassioned nationalist perspective that distorts the truth.

    Sosa is back because he hasn't done well enough with bayern - this season in the german league he's started 2 games and come on once as a sub.
    licht hasn't played for getafe this season - i remember when he went a gimnasia director told me that he was on course for the national team - hasn't happened.

    I'm a huge fan of argentine football - well played, it's my favourite style in the world. i love the atmosphere in argentine stadiums - tthere's nothing like it. but i'm trying to be realistic when you just want to be nationalistic.

  • Comment number 61.

    wrote that having only read 59, and not the 10 previous, so missed a debate that was going on and hadn't read your point in 50. well, we're just going to have to disagree on a few things. But no, i don't think i see things through a brazilian perspecetive - and i don't realy understand yor point about the brazilian calendar giving their clubs an advantage - i think the calendar is the biggest impediment brazilian football has to fulfilling its potential.

    where i agree is that in the later stages of the libertadores the argentines can be strong, and i think that a big reason for this is mentality. The argentine teams play decisive matches at 100%, with total personality. The brazilians in recent years have, as we say in england, 'bottled' the final - not been up to it in mental terms - hence corinthians team of veterans for this campaign - but that's a subject for the week after next!

  • Comment number 62.

    Of course Tim I see things from an Argentine perspective just as you do from a Brasuca/English one.You may think i am on a nationalistic trip while I may think Globo tv/Sky Soprts has you brainwashed thats life its full of opinions that vary
    In 2 seasons Licht played 70 games for Getafe thats what I would call a regular fisrt teamer.Sosa returned to BA in November hoping to play the Woeld club title and make the Mundial squad its hardly his fault from an Argentine perspective you need to be 2 metres tall and run the 100 m in 11seconds to play the Bundesliga.I am willing to have a bet he makes ouir Mundial squad.
    I am being realistic re the Copa I beleive as do most South Americans outside of Brasil that Velez/Estudiantes if they survive till the second round will have as good a chance as any of the Brasilian clubs.
    It is surely a legitimate opinion to hold id Argentine clubs have won 22 Libertadores and 2 of the last 3 or is debate not allowed

  • Comment number 63.

    Hi Tim,

    Just wondering what you're thinking on the current 'will he won't he' contract situation of Juan Roman Riquelme at Boca Juniors?

    As a big fan of Boca, i'm of course very much hoping that Roman puts pen to paper, he's without doubt one of the elegant footballers i've ever seen, and maybe he'll just return for Argentina in South Africa.

    Thanks Tim

  • Comment number 64.

    I would call a regular fisrt teamer.Sosa returned to BA in November hoping to play the Woeld club title and make the Mundial squad its hardly his fault from an Argentine perspective you need to be 2 metres tall and run the 100 m in 11seconds to play the Bundesliga. Online Universities | Online Bachelor degree | Online Master degree

  • Comment number 65.

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  • Comment number 66.

    I may think Globo tv/Sky Soprts has you brainwashed thats life its full of opinions that vary
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  • Comment number 67.

    There must be a lot of players who are aware of the time constraints on their careers and look to milk it for all it's worth though. The rewards in Europe can be vast, particularly if the player is young and promising. I look at the young English players coming through and see a dearth of creative talent in general. Sure all the players are neat and tidy, great athletes and professional - yet none seem to have the kind of inventiveness or creativity that makes football exciting.
    Also, as per the other week, I watched Palermo again this weekend and was thoroughly impressed with Pastore. He's such a good player to watch, you never quite know what to expect next, he has a great improvisational touch to him. Car rent bucuresti | Masini inchiriat

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    South American players, just like their African counterparts benefit more from playing abroad. They acquire skills and remuneration they otherwise would only dream of. Does it improve their skills? Of course. The likes of Drogba, Kalou, the Toure brothers, etc. have no doubt grown in physical prowess and tactics courtesy of time spent abroad.
    There is a case for leaving at a slightly late age but Messi is an example of a player who left Argentina early and ended up in a club whose system has aided the player's development. It's debatable if Argentina would provide just such an environment. Car for rent bucharest | Masini de inchiriat

  • Comment number 69.

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  • Comment number 70.

    When the latter are not yet ready for Europe. I guess Mexican clubs benefit too as they get living proof of their future southern prospects.
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  • Comment number 71.

    Great article ,As a West Ham fan it infuriates me to see our club continually selling it's best players - but the order of ascendancy is already well established, thank you so much !

  • Comment number 72.

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    Well the world is getting smaller and smaller, and footballers just like people from any profession such as the entertainment business for example will go where the money is. It would be surprising if that was not the case. On the plus side, these footballers can send money to their families, put a smile on their faces, and thus indirectly benefit their original countries.

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    They acquire skills and remuneration they otherwise would only dream of. Does it improve their skills? Of course. The likes of Drogba, Kalou, the Toure brothers, etc. have no doubt grown in physical prowess and tactics courtesy of time spent abroad.
    There is a case for leaving at a slightly late age but Messi is an example of a player who left Argentina early and ended up in a club whose system has aided the player's development. It's debatable if Argentina would provide just such an environment. work onlinemake money from homepayday loansbest payday loans..

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  • Comment number 83.

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