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The big attraction of the Libertadores

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Tim Vickery | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 20 April 2009

Same old same old in Europe, all change in South America. The Champions League has the same semi-finalists year after year, but it's a very different story in the Copa Libertadores.

The group phase is not yet complete in South America's premier club competition, but even before the action got under way there was a guarantee that there would be no repeat of last year's final.

Fluminense of Brazil, who lost the title on a penalty shoot-out, did not even qualify.

In fact, after that painful defeat, they fell into a depression and at the end of last year, only narrowly escaping relegation to Brazil's second division.

As for their conquerors, LDU, or Liga of Quito, they have very little chance of repeating last year's heroics and taking the title to Ecuador.

Indeed, the club which, last July, was ranked number one in the continent and, in December, number two in the world is now really struggling to make it into South America's last 16 and thus next month's knockout phase of the Libertadores.

Liga of Quito celebrate their win

After four of their six group games, they have just four points. On Tuesday, they face a crunch visit to Brazil's Palmeiras. Defeat could render their final match academic.

And the striking aspect of this rise and fall is that it is not particularly surprising.

In Europe, success is a virtuous circle. Good results lead to increased resources, allowing the squad to be strengthened which, theoretically at least, means that results remain good.

Of course, there is the danger of the club chasing the dream and over-reaching. But, as the results keep proving, sustaining success is much easier in Europe than it is in South America.

There are cases of clubs winning the Libertadores three times in a row. But that was decades ago.

In those days, fewer clubs took part, with the holders only entering in the closing stages.

And it was not only the structure of the competition that made consecutive wins much easier way back when. This was also before the opening of the global market and the mass exodus to Europe.

That European virtuous circle is much harder to apply on the other side of the Atlantic, where winning often means that the squad is weakened. Landing trophies puts players in the shop window. The players want to go. Selling them helps the club pay its bills.

South America's strongest clubs are those which, rather than kicking against this sad reality, have accepted it and work within it.

Over the last few years, Boca Juniors of Argentina and Brazil's Sao Paulo have been the most consistent clubs in the Libertadores.

Both invest heavily in youth development with the aim of selling potential stars to Europe, thus enabling them to maintain competitive squads.

Boca's former president, Mauricio Macri, the man who put the model into operation, used to say that the best products of the club's youth work had a three-year time limit in the first team - one to adapt to senior football, two to enjoy them. Then it's time to sell.

The model, then, comes with built-in instability, since the club is constantly saying farewell, or preparing to say farewell, to important players.

Rogerio Ceni, Sao Paulo's talismanic captain and goalkeeper, is an exception. The 36-year-old, who has just suffered a long-tem injury, could have moved abroad but instead has spent half his life at the club.

Juan Roman Riquelme

At Boca, playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme is another exception, opting to come back from Europe when still at his peak.

Incidentally, I doubt that the Macri administration would have brought him back on a permanent basis - Macri always argued that paying one player much more than the rest was an invitation for dressing room unrest, a view borne out by the complaints Riquelme's team-mates occasionally make about him.

Despite the exceptions - and for all the attempts to impose order on the process - even South America's biggest and best clubs now exist in a permanent state of transition, which prevents them from consolidating European-style success.

Last year, Fluminense took advantage of this, assembling an excellent short-term squad and eliminating both Sao Paulo and Boca before falling to LDU.

The reign of LDU looks set to end, too. They are a shadow of the side that won last year's Libertadores in such enterprising fashion.

In their case, it is not just the loss of key players that has affected the side. It is also the loss of the coach.

Argentine-born Edgardo Bauza stood down after hitting on a superb formula last year.

He converted striker Joffre Guerron to a right winger, where, in the extra space, he could use his acceleration and lung power. And midfielder Luis Bolanos was converted to a left winger, cutting inside and making the most of his strong running with the ball and cool finishing.

It meant that, in Quito, LDU could stretch the opposition and make the most of the altitude. Away from home, they always carried a threat on the counter.

Now, with both players gone, LDU look an ordinary side.

Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati is competent - he won the domestic championship in a previous spell with the club - but his team, with a big target man up front, look very blunt in comparison with last year's rapier thrusts.

But if they do go out early, the Libertadores goes on. Will the 50th version go to one of the favourites. Or will a surprise runner come through once again? Both are possible - and that is one of the big attractions of the competition.

Comments on today's 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) As a Manchester United fan I have enjoyed seeing the Brazilians we have bought over the past few seasons.

Man Utd's Anderson

But as they come over at an ever younger age (Fabio, Rafael, Possebon, Pato and maybe Douglas Costa) do you believe there is a chance that their fun, adventurous, 'jogo bonito' style may be cut away for an approach more akin to the physical, tactical and frenetic Europe leagues? Thus making the national side just like European teams!
Oliver Burrows

A) It's a fascinating question. There clearly are dangers of a loss of identity in this process - you can see this with Possebon declaring his interest in playing for Italy.

The great contribution that Jose Pekerman made to Argentine football was in seeing early (mid-90s) the dangers of the process and using Argentina's youth sides to give the youngsters a course in the identity of Argentine football.

Even if almost the entire senior squad play in Europe, when the national team get together they revert to style.

Especially in Brazil, there's a danger of over-mythologising. I did a round table debate on Brazilian TV recently with veteran coach Valdir Espinoza.

He put forward the view that Brazilian coaches, in fear of their jobs, are nowadays ultra-defensive. He nodded vigorously when I argued that none of the leading teams in Euro 2008 would have space for a Gilberto Silva in their line-up. So this lack of 'jogo bonito' can't just be blamed on Europe. This is an internal Brazilian dynamic.

The case of Anderson at your club is very interesting. United have changed his position - there is a danger that operating as a central midfielder sacrifices some of his natural ability. But having such a talented player there does give you fluidity through the midfield.

Brazilian coaches were astonished with the change. They have become much more inclined to pack central midfield with cloggers and marking specialists, though there are some hopeful signs of a change of approach.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Tim,

    Great comment about South American clubs accepting that they're going to have to sell sooner or later - it means they can build around a short term model rather than be disappointed when their long term plans don't work.

    In Europe at the moment, clubs in Italy and Spain that would normally hold onto their talent are losing them due to not being able to sign a professional contract until they're 18 - something that has seen a huge power shift to England in the last five years or so.

    My question is - do you think Spanish and Italy clubs should accept this like South American teams or do you think they should fight it and try to change the rules/laws?

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 2.

    I find it interesting that people still think of Brazil as the team that play the beautiful game. I have to say that Brazil these days whenever i have watched them seem to still have very talented individuals but have no intention of playing a truly beautiful passing game. They rely on other teams coming forward at them, then pace and power on the counter attack, but put a defensive side against them and they are clueless as numerous 0-0 in recent times show. Tim do you really think that Brazil have a chance in the coming World Cup. I personally would fancy a number of teams to beat them especially Spain who really are trying to play the beautiful game. What are your thoughts tim?

  • Comment number 3.

    Tim, very good piece again, Who do you think will win the Copa libertodres this year and why ?, and will they have chance in the world club championships against either of 3 English clubs and Barcelona who have made the champions league semis ? Also, we hear alot about South American players making it big in europe, have any european players done well in South America, if the leagues in Argentina and Brazil are not that high a standard will players from english championship or Scottish premiership (sorry Scots, but standards aren't that high compared to the big leagues of europe) be good enough and would the wages be high enough to encourage them to play in Brazil or Argentina ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Having just subscribed to the channel that shows the Libertadores i am definitely looking forward to watching a cup competition that throws up unexpected winners on a regular basis. It will be a nice change from the monotony of the CL, which has become so predictable that the group stages aren't worth watching anymore as the big clubs are now so dominant year in year out.
    Whether the football is better will be worth finding out. I also haven't picked a team to root for yet.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Tim,

    Good article!
    I am a Sao Paulo fa, living in UK,and watching a few Libertadores matches so far, i think Sao Paulo, Gremio and Boca are favourites, personally i'd love to see SP x Boca final.

    In response to line 3 scb1310 - The Argentinean and Brazilian leagues are not low stadandars as you suggest, comparing both of these leagues with the English Champinship is a disrepect to both leagues. I think a lot of players in PL would struggle playing for Brazilian or Argentian clubs and league as would a any English club outside the top four. A Boca, River, Sao Paulo, Corinthians, Inter are good sides, perhaps you should watch more South American football (Brazilian and Argentian leagues) before you compare to them to the poor standards of the Championship in England.

    Tim, as much as i hated Ronaldo scoring against my beloved Tricolor, i must admit he has been playing very well and looked a good investment for Corinthians....

  • Comment number 6.

    As someone who knows pretty much nothing about the Libertadores may I ask some very basic questions? (to Tim or anyone else.) In the group stages are clubs from the same country deliberately kept apart as they are in the CL?
    Are there quotas so Brazil can have say four representatives and perhaps Bolivia (or whoever) just one or two? If so, does any single country tend to dominate the event as England have in the CL recently, and if not, could those things be a factor in making it a more open contest?
    I am not disputing Tim's reasoning behind why S. American clubs find it more difficult to sustain success, it is simply that I don't believe English fans would be happy with that situation. (ie having to sell off your best players on a regular basis.) I don't really object to the quota system either, but I am not entirely convinced of the need to separate clubs from the same country in the group stage. The CL, like the Premier League itself is in danger of becoming tedious, dare I say as tedious as the woeful SPL.

  • Comment number 7.

    4- Enjoy following the Libertadores it really is an excellent competition! The only negative thing about it being from the UK is the time difference!

    Boca, Sao Paulo, Gremio and Cruzeiro have all started well so far but I have a hunch that Sport Recife can go quite far this year.

    Finally, in reference to last week's hot topic of the Brazilian state championships, Internacional confirmed themselves as winners of the Gaucho Championship yesterday, beating poor Caxias 8-1 in the final after being seven up at half time!

    Whoever said they were a waste of time ;)

    Matt
    http://internacionaluk.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 8.

    Nice article, I agree that underdogs such as Once Caldas and LDU Quito have a much better chance of winning the Libertadores, but the title has been retained twice (Boca 2000 & 01, Sao Paulo 1992 & 93) since the European equivalent was retained (Milan 1989 & 1990). Still the Libertadores is more unpredictable than the 60s and 70s when the holders got a bye to the knockout stage and Independiente set the record, winning it 4 times in succession 1972-1975.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Tim,

    Excellent column as always. Following on from last week's discussion I decided to signup as I wanted to ask a question about the sports investment groups in Brazil.

    What is your opinion on groups like Traffic Sports Management et al who buy a percentage of the rights to a player looking to make personal profits? Some have even created puppet football clubs just to hoover up and then loan out young players! Do you not feel this is detrimental to the Brazilian game and if not why not?

    I have heard people comment that the investment from these groups is needed, but surely if the clubs controlled 100% of the player's rights it would be preferable. Taking Keirrison as an example, wouldn't it be better for Palmeiras to make the majority of what they earn when he eventually goes to Europe, rather than the small percentage they will get having ceded rights to Traffic?

    Keep up the good work, both here and on the podcast.

    http://www.just-football.com/

  • Comment number 10.

    Your comment about Man Utd changing Anderson's position intrigued me. He played well again despite Man Utd's semi final defeat to Everton yesterday, but in a destructive midfield role. When he was signed it was expected that he was a typical flamboyant Brazilian playmaker in the style of Ronaldinho. Instead, he appears to be more of a Brazilian Edgar Davids. It is surprising that he is yet to score a goal in open play for Man Utd, certainly he takes penalties with a great deal of confidence.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tim, I'd be interested to see what would happen if a "6-plus-5" rule were to be introduced in europe.
    On the surface it is conceivable that limiting the number of first team opportunities for foreign players would perhaps make players and teams more wary of signing when they will sit on a bench. Perhaps in such a situation it would be more prudent to develop further at home and then leave when they are more assured of 'making it' in Europe, and thus extending their shelf life in South America.
    On the other hand perhaps it could lead to teams recruiting much younger and using accademies and youth teams to make them 'homegrown' players in order to by-pass the rule.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim,

    Great blog this week. I would love to see Libertad winning it this year. Otherwise, Estudiantes or Nacional revisiting their glorious old days would also be great for la libertadores.

  • Comment number 13.

    Anderson is the best example of a young player's singular talent being subdued by European tactics and priorities. When he played his first matches for Gremio we could see a genius in the making. His dribbling, passing and, believe it or not shooting, were dazzling. His only problem seemed to be his temper. Abel Braga, then coach at Fluminense , told him at half time during a match in Porto Alegre , he'd be the best in the world if he learnt to control it . But he was only 16, there'd be time enough for that. Now he goes matches without taking a shot at goal. And when he does it's often with embarassing results. He has obviously been psychologically affected by the pressure , by the theatrical complaints of people like Rooney, Ferdinand and probably most of the coaching staff every time he makes a mistake. And in a language he didnt understand at first. Youngsters who go to Italy and Spain have a much easier adaptation because of language similarities. What he still shows of his early skills is his first time passing but even that suggests a lack of confidence to keep the ball and look for the best opening.
    Love your blog, keep up the good work

  • Comment number 14.

    Tim, I would like to know whether or not you feel Pablo Aimar has a chance of regaining his starting position within the Argentinian side.

    Having witnessed Argentina's games against Venezuela and Bolivia - both of which, despite an emphatic victory in terms of margin in the first, I felt fell rather short in terms of performance. From what I have seen, the fundamental issue lies within the final third of Argentina's system: they currently employ either a trident of Messi, Aguero and Tevez with Jonas and Maxi supporting within a mold of a 3-2-2-3 setup, or Tevez and Messi will provide the spearhead with Maxi and Lucho supporting.

    Any side which employs a gradual, fluid passing game requires an 'enganche' - the Riquelme style figure to sow the seeds between the central midfield machinery and attacking flair. Someone in order to maintain the fluidity and dictate the tempo of the side's passing in the final third. Unfortunately, Diego Maradona seems rather oblivious to this fact. Falling out with Riquelme could proove a costly decision; even in the victory over Venezuela, Argentina's passing game lacked fluidity within the final third, was often snuffed out by organisation of the Venezuelan defence - it took a defensive lapse on the counter, counter attacks and individual brilliance to unlock the defence - the passing game saw the Argentines advance nowhere.

    Against a more well organised, world class opponent, such as Italy or Germany, the current Argentinian side's style would b very easy to overcome - there is no fluidity within the side's passing. It seems to be a split of two holding players in Mascherano and Gago, while four, five, or even six players crowd around the oppositions backline, with a significant area of vacancy in between - Riquelme used to occupy the hole between these separate sections of the Argentinian side - now that he is absent, Maradona's men prospects of clinching wold cup glory appear bleak.

    My question is, if of course you agree that the playmaker is the key missing component of the Argentinian first eleven, do you feel Pablo Aimar could be recalled to occupy this position? I am unaware of his performances for Benfica, yet his early years under Rafa Benitez at Valencia were filled with performances of a player who appeared set to become a world class playmaker. Does Maradona like him, and could you see Aimar being recalled back to the Argentina starting eleven?

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting that you say that none of the Euro 2008 teams would have a Gilberto Silva type player when part of the reason Spain won was having Brazilian midfielder Senna in their side (although there is more to his game than Gilberto Silva's I know).

  • Comment number 16.

    Regarding the question answered at the end it was interesting to see Gazza talking on MOTD2 last night about how the flair players are being coached in a certain way so that by the time they got to senior level they were much less inclined to dribble and take players on.

    He seemed to talk qutie passionately about how brilliant some of these young kids were and how he was seeing their skill coached out of them.

  • Comment number 17.

    # 14, defintely agree with Rafas 4231 and can add that from watching recent Portugol highlights package that Aimar seems to be doing well although the team is not quite producing.

    #13 - defintely agree also. At Man Utd there seems to be lack of integration skills for Anderson and historically other similar players (Veron the main one).

    The focus on winning ugly has hurt Anderson's game as well as Tevez who feels he must make an impact each time he plays and therefore over does it or shows too much hard work. For Corinthians in 2005, he looked a much calmer ball player and deadly in the box but at United his game is just not suited with Berbatov and Rooney.

  • Comment number 18.

    For me there is a little bit of wait and see with the young South Americans at Manchester United. I have read the concerns about the players loosing or not developing the flair that is associated with their country, but isn't there a chance that more will be added to their game rather than taken away? Could they not become a more complete player if the European and South American traits are gelled successfully?

  • Comment number 19.

    any exploration of south american football is always interesting due to its enigmatic nature. I try and follow brazilian and argentinian leagues but with so much turnover each year is makes it difficult to stay current. The apertura and clausura style also adds confusion to the league. They would be better off switching to a more traditional european format. If I could approach South American football with the same enthusiasm I possess for the European game I would be delightfully overwhelmed with games to watch. The problem is that it is even more obscure in the US than European football. Any thoughts on a way to approach the south american game? as fan of european football is it best to watch to see up and coming talent? curious to hear your thoughts.

    http://www.futink.com

  • Comment number 20.

    #13 v. interesting post
    I'm reserving my judgement on Anderson until Ive seen him perform throughout a match, altho it does seem usually he is too deep and has to curb his natural attacking instincts in favour of a more reserved midfield role. It must be said tho, one of his first time passes to instigate a united breakaway was absolute quality. He looks magnificent on the break, but with two banks of four ahead of him, looks slightly lost. The range of passing seen with carrick and scholes definitely wasnt there in him yesterday.
    That said he looks like a great player, a few years late in the respect that in a diamond formation, he may be most potent, but hopefully he can make that ball stick more often and get the confidence to shoot, and not worry if its off target

    Been reading your blogs religously for a while now Tim, and are always factual and interesting, with you making a point of clarifying any misdeeds with us commoners! In a (very dull!) week, it is the highlight.

  • Comment number 21.

    Tim,
    Why do you think Rogerio Ceni has not featured more for the Seleção (the Brazilian national team)? He's of course famous for scoring more goals than any other goalkeeper, but I think he's a very good keeper, too. In fact, I think his recent injury partly explains why São Paulo lost to Corinthians at the state championship semi-final (or perhaps I'm finding excuses as a SPFC fan). His replacement Bosco is a decent goalkeeper, too, but losing a legend like Rogerio surely affected the Tricolor mentally. Would you agree?

    5 - I think most people would agree that the Brazilian leagues are not as high standard as the top European ones. Especially the state leagues (see Tim's blog from last week). The panic that often strikes defenders here, even at top clubs, reminds me of junior football. But you can still enjoy watching it. Just like I somehow enjoy watching my beloved Birmingham City even though they rarely play beautiful football...

  • Comment number 22.

    These are my first comments on the blog as I just found it but well done Tim for an informative blog. I agree with the author's comments about why the Libertadores often sees different clubs contending for the title- the natural flux of players coming and going at most South American clubs. As Tim writes Boca and Sao Paulo have been the most successful clubs in the two biggest leagues in South America and in the Libertadores because they have both been better able to hold on to their better players and have productive youth squads able to replace those they do sell to European clubs. Imagine if Santos, runnerup to Boca in the 2003 Libertadores and quarterfinalistss in 2004, had been able to keep the core of it's fine young team from then with players such as Robinho, Diego, Alex, Elano, Renato and Ricardo Oliveira?

    I also agree with jairsinho about how a promising attacking midfielder like Anderson has been stifled by going to play in Europe at too young of an age. The same has applied to a young African attacking midfielder John Obi Mikel. If you saw Mikel play for Nigeria in the 2005 U20 World Cup you would have thought you were seeing the next great attacking midfielder, one who floated effortlessly across the field and could hit accurate 30 meter passes ala Michel Platini. Instead he's been converted at Chelsea into a static defensive midfielder. Their wallets are bigger now but have Anderson and Mikel really been served by moving to big clubs at such an early age?

    With Rogerio Ceni's injury I think Sao Paulo no longer are favorites for the 2009 Libertadores. Watch out for Cruzeiro and their madman striker Kleber, he's liable to either score a fantastic goal or get himself foolishly sent off. Or as he's done already in the tournament do both in the same match! Cruzeiro have a good team but with Kleber in their lineup they are too unpredictable. My money would be on Gremio who have a well balanced team and in Maxi Lopez a striker with something to prove.


  • Comment number 23.

    Another dig at Gilberto Silva, yawn...

    As for Anderson, i keep hearing he started as an attacking midfielder which is increasingly hard to believe. His game seems more about power than technique and let's not even mention his shooting.

  • Comment number 24.

    haha anderson as ronaldinho..i'm a united fan an i have to say, gary neville looks more likely to score than him!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Hallda - in Brazil and Portugal, Anderson was playing as a winger/attacking midfielder, hence the comparison to Ronaldinho earlier in his career.

  • Comment number 26.

    I saw Anderson on tv at the Copa America in 2007 playing as a deep-lying forward for Brazil and to be honest he was very poor and ended up being dropped from their side. Tim Vickery himself will confirm that. He was no Ronaldinho, even then. Perhaps his talent was such that he dominated games in the domestic league in that role, but he definitely didn't impress in that tournament, before Man Utd allegedly got the chance to 'coach his dribbling skills out of him'.

    A lot of the comments here seem to be about Manchester United 'ruining' Anderson but to be honest I think they identified his strengths.

    He's not a forward. His long term position is going to be as a central midfielder. He definitely needs to improve his shooting and score more goals but thats his best position in my view, as more of a Ze Roberto or Davids-type player.

  • Comment number 27.

    My question is, how does the Copa Sudamericana fit into these reckonings? I guess it is the equivalent of the current UEFA Cup so the participants are second-tier, but do the winners suffer loss of players in the same way that the continent's top teams lose players to Europe?

  • Comment number 28.

    Good post as always Tim. Very true that nowadays any club can win the Libertadores.

    I feel sorry for Gilberto Silva. He has been stereotyped in a similar negative way as Dunga in the nineties for his playing defensive style. Perhaps that's why Dunga keeps calling him for the internationals even though he is well past his best, so people forget about the "Era Dunga" thing?

    As for Anderson, will people please remember that he is playing under Sir Alex Ferguson? I guess he is in pretty good hands. If he ends up leaving unnoticed like that guy Kleberson (anyone remembers?), then it will be only Anderson't own fault. Good luck to him.

    Terrible news about legendary Rogerio Ceni's injury. I also wonder how come he hasn't ended up in Europe, lucky SPFC to keep him all these years!

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't think Europe is entirely a stranger to the problems Libertadores winning teams have, it's arguably the same with the UEFA Cup (soon to be pitifully renamed 'Europa League'.)

    For a lot of clubs who accept winning the Champions League is more likely than not beyond them (Old Firm, Everton, Leverkusen, Fiorentina, Sevilla) the UEFA Cup is a reasonably prestigious award to aim for and winning it is seen as an achievement of significance, just ask Sevilla, Zenith SP or Porto. But with a UEFA Cup triumph comes a heavy price that is similar to Liberdatores winners.

    You have the irony that whilst teams who are competing for the UC all want to win it, very few want to attempt to retain it. The logic is that if you're good enough to win the UC you're good enough to qualify (if not win) the Champions League and the CL group stages are more profitable than a UC run to the final!!

    Secondly you have the almost certain result that winning the UC results in one or more of your top players being lost to bigger clubs. It's hard to believe that if Celtic won the UC that English clubs wouldn't swoop in on the better players and tempt them away with fat wages and the lure of high profile games more than five or six times a year.

    The examples are numerous, Sevilla's success lost them Daniel Alves and Julio Baptista, Porto's eventually lost them Deco, Carvalho and P.Ferreira, Parma's 99 success cost the Crespo and others.

    I think South American clubs suffer more than most from the constant lure of Europe but it's all a question of scales. A team from Ecuador may win the Liberdatores and as a result Spanish clubs may pick the bones from the squad, but those Spanish/Italian/English teams will themselves be raided if the South American imports bring too much success.

    The only teams that seemingly sit immune from other teams with bigger pay packets and more glamourous lifestyles seem to be the 'galactico' teams like Man United, Chelsea, Madrid, Barca, Inter and AC. Even clubs like Bayern, Arsenal and Juve struggle to hold on to their players if they're amazingly good.

    I think winning the Liberdatores undoubtedly brings as many problems as it brings successes, but I think it's a universal thing in football and not a South American problem.

  • Comment number 30.

    Having said that Tim, excellent blog as always! Genuinely one of the highlights of my newsreading week.

  • Comment number 31.

    Tim: I really enjoy your blog, particularly as I am a half Mexican, half English (and raised in East Africa!) football fan who has been able to see the diversity of the world, including its irresistible contrasting football cultures.

    I understand that Mexico is a part of Central America/North America, but sometimes I believe the Latin spirit and history of its people likens the country more to its 'southerly'neighbours rather than its wealthier 'northerly' neighbours.

    Would you ever be able to write a piece about the riches of the Mexican league due to the corporate support and television rights it markets and sells so effectively? Maybe in addition you could also comment how this has created a predicament similiar to that in English football, whereby there are many foreigners pl(a)ying their trade in the Mexican league (attracted by high salaries as a result of the financial success of the league) that this has resulted in arguably fewer talented Mexican youngsters emerging? I am not saying there are NO good Mexican youngsters, as Vela and Dos Santos (the latter to a lesser extent) testify. However, Mexico as a national team does seem to be struggling and Mr. Sven Eriksson seems to have had to face this problem of a limited talent pool from which to select a squad as Manager of both England and Mexico. That and also very volatile and frenzied media!

    Thanks again for your weekly column. Why don't you/the BBC start an African column as well? I think football there is the future, and would provide a fountain of interesting socio, political and economic backgrounds to African football, its progression or (most probably) lack of development!

    I know just the person to write the column ;o)

  • Comment number 32.

    Quite simply flair is not as effective and easy to obtain as strength and speed in most situations.

    It is difficult to train every aspect of football effectively, it is simply not possible to be the fastest and have the most endurance. It is not possible to be the strongest, most enduring and skillful player simultaneously. It is however, easy to train to be strong, to be faster and to have more endurance. It is easy to see the improvements, and you will by definition see all aspects of your game improve as your strength endurance and speed improve. Training skill is not only harder to achieve in a consistent fashion, you will struggle to see improvements relative to strength/speed/endurance training and any skill training obviously needs to be backed up with strength/speed/endurance training.

    Further to this improving your physical attributes will undeniably assist you. Say you are facing the most skillful player in the world, be it Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, if you are stronger and faster than them it will be a lot harder for them to get an open shot or get past you. The same is true in reverse, if you are stronger and faster than your opponent you will be able to get past them much more easily.

    Strength / Endurance is the key to many top teams in Europe, for instance if you look at any of the top teams they have great strength and endurance throughout, all the most successful coaches have generally defensive teams...SAF, Mourinho, Capello. They all win leagues due to their teams which run on strength and endurance over flair.

    If you have watched Man United's recent games a number of the goals have come when "skillful" Ronaldo has lost the ball taking people on in midfield. He was "too lazy" to track back. This was clear at Porto, where a less skillful, but harder working Porto drew 2-2 with Manchester. When Ronaldo is tracking back like practically every other player for Manchester they win most matches.

    Strength endurance and consistency win leagues, which is why Anderson is working on his strength and endurance, football fans like flair, but most coaches are happy to only have 1 or 2 "flair" players in their team making sure they are strong throughout their team.

    I recall a comment Pele made about Joe Cole, that it is important to know when to show off and when to play simply. Joe Cole was "showing off" with a 360 step over, about 10m from the box when he was tackled and the opposition scored. As a coach do you say
    1. Thanks Joe we need more flair in our game, keep trying eventually it will come.
    2. Stop being a (enter your own expletive) and play the simple pass and move.

    Who is the most sort after player in the world, probably Kaka. I would argue he is not the most skillful player in the world, he has not got the best endurance, or strength, but he does have a combination of extremely high skill level, extremely high speed and very good endurance which makes him a certainty in any team.

    While most people's dream team would have Messi or Ronaldo in midfield, I would argue that it is vitally important to have someone like Essien or Senna. I feel Chelsea's season emphasised this with a very attacking midfield that ended up getting Scolari sacked as the flair without defense was not enough.

    That being said I would argue that there is a slight difference with Cup matches over league matches. I feel that flair certainly can have a great short term influence. For instance I attribute Chelsea's cup form 1997 FA Cup 1998 Cup Winners Cup and 2000 FA Cup and QF Champions league while averaging 4th place in the league during these years to this. Simply the team was rich with Flair players, which allow then to string together enough wins for a cup, but not strong enough to have enough consistency in the League.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think the comment about Tevez and Corinthians is indicative of the slightly poorer defense in the Brazilian league rather than a regression in player skill. For example I watched Nilmar score 9 goals in 3 different matches in 2006 for Corinthians. While Nilmar is clearly an excellent player, he looked a lot worse for Lyon and Brazil than he did for Corinthians. I am sure Tevez looked more relaxed due to the fractionally worse opposition and obviously the warmer climate dictates a need to conserve your movement to avoid burning out too early in a match.

    He is more aggressive simply because he can be and because he needs to be. While Tevez does not show off the full range of his skill he is still an exceptional player and one of the best in the premiership.

  • Comment number 34.

    I think Boca Jnrs have been the most consistent club in the Libetadores over the last decade (no stats at hand, but I'm sure they would bear that out?)

    Tim is probably right in that Boca's LIbertadores success has been due to taking a long term view - investing in youth facilities and hiring the best youth coaches and scouts in Argrntina, while accepting that the aim of this work is to sell players onto Europe at much younger ages than in the past - they won't be missed too badly if there are more kids waiting behing them on the conveyor-belt.

    As opposed to the short-termism of San Lorenzo, for example - their ill-fated attempts to buy a team to win the Libertadores with Marcelo Tineeli's money (Tinelli is a famous TV presenter who supports San Lorenzo, who must now be wondering now if the millions he and his consortium spent on established figures would not have been better invested in more long term objectives?).

    However, despite having sold so many youngsters over the last decade, Boca still find themselves in big debt. Fans are probably entitled to ask where has all the money gone? and they can expect to see more and more of their young players sold in the near future.

    Mauricio Macri did indeed say he wouldn't've bought Riquelem back if he was still Boca president, and it seems it was done very much on a personal whim of his successor Pompillo, who died recently.

    Just how much affect Riquelme's salary is contributing to Boca's debt is a matter of debate, but with a totla lack of transparency in Argentina football, noone knows. Riqueleme earns more than the rest of the squad put together, but hasn't really found any consistency since rejoining Boca.

    Tha latest news is that he's suffering from 'plantar fascitius', which is quite a serious foot condition that will not go away overnight, even if manages to play through the pain (ironically, it's an injury associated with athletes, and people who run a lot!!!).

    It will be intersting to see if Riquelem does go ahead with his promise to play for Boca for free when his current contract runs out in 2010.

    So far, despite some flashes of his old brilliance, I'd say Boca haven't had their money's worth from Riquelme since buying him out of his Villareal contract 18 months ago, and overall he's been disppointing, nowhwere near the player he was when he played on loan from Villareal during Boca's 2007 Libertadores triumph, which is sad, especially if it means Boca have to sell more and more of their youngsters, at even younger ages, to pay for Riquelme's 'European' salary.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Tim. Great blog.
    I was wondering if you could tell me how Ronaldo is performing for Corinthians and how many goals he has scored. Thanks.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great read as usual. I've recently been keeping an eye of Hernanes of Sao Paulo and Keirrison of Palmeiras (although is owned by Traffic Sporting Marketing). Keirrison has been performing really well for Palmeiras I think he something like 19 goals in 21 games and i'm wondering can you see him going to Europe soon as I think he has fantastic quality although would his contract ownership affect a possible move? Also with Hernanes surely he'll be moving to Europe soon I believe he is ready to go, what do you think?

  • Comment number 37.

    Great blog, Tim, but LDU (Liga Deportiva Universitaria) and Liga de Quito are two different teams.

  • Comment number 38.

    Great question from Oliver Burrows, the Man Utd fan about whether Brazilian players are changing and the Brazilian national team is becoming 'Europeanized.'
    Too true!! My wife is Brazilian and she said that happened years ago!! In fact, I've been saying it on blogs and messagebords for years- but alas, our genius at spotting this has not come to the attention of the Brazilian footballing authorities! Shame on them! To be honest, I don't think much of any of the Brazilians now in England and would sack the lot of them and have 11 players who are now based in Brazil. Look at Brazil's World Cup 2010 qualifying- it's embarrassing!! A bunch of primadonnas only after the money! Why ON EARTH is Dunga STILL playing Gilberto Silva and more importantly...Lucio?!?!?!
    All the best,
    John. Liverpool.
    P.s I still want Brazil to qualify and come second in the World Cup final after England of course!!

  • Comment number 39.


    Nice blog Tim.

    I enjoy reading your insights on the beautiful game.

    Have a nice stay in Rio and thanks for enlightening some of us with first hand information of what is happening out there on the football fields in South America.

    We have a few South American footballers playing in India in our Division One and Division Two I-League competitions. They are doing well for their respective teams in Goa and Kolkata.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 40.


    first of all, apologies for the lck of replies this week - in Lima at the moment with one or two problems to resolve.

    but while I'm here, 37 - you what? Perhaps last night's 2-0 defeat to Palmeiras was so traumatic that last year's champions have sperated into two! But until the at least, LDU and Liga de Quito were one and the same

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Tim, usual fawning stuff I'm afraid - best blog on bbc by a mile!

    Just thought I'd post since you mention Luis Bolanos and Joffre Guerron. I know they've only fairly recently had their big(ish) moves to Santos and Getafe respectively but was wondering if you think there might be some mileage in them coming to England eventually if not this summer? They each have games that are more suited to the Premiership than many stars in South America and I'd have thought the chance to link them up together again in an English 4-3-3 would be very tempting for a manager?

    Yours sincerely

    An exciteable timewasting Wolves fan playing Fantasy Football (sorry)

  • Comment number 42.

    Hold on, Tim. I'm writing you from Quito, and I live next to the LDU stadium, and I've seen them play Liga de Quito. But a quick search of the English-speaking world shows me that you call LDQ "Deportivo Quito." So I apologize, but please know that here in Ecuador when somebody says "Liga de Quito" they're talking about LDQ, not La Liga (LDU).

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi Tim,

    It's great to have dedicated coverage of South American football on the BBC. I catch your blogs and radio appearances whenever possible.

    I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of red cards in the latest round of the Libertadores. Obviously I don't know if these were the result of bad tackles, fights or professional fouls but I wondered if this was a general trend in the competition or in S American football in general.

    For example, are there more intense rivalries between the clubs of different countries or is it to do with different refereeing practices from those we see in Europe?

    Interested in comments anyone might have - perhaps this was just a particularly hot-tempered week over there!

  • Comment number 44.

    Anderson last night was the best player on the pitch. His long range passing capabilities and bullish instincts suit a deeper role. Anderson is a player capable of playing the ball that turns defence into attack and from a deeper position with the play in front of him it provides the opportunity to play such balls.

    Anderson's only real weakness is his finishing but I'd imagine the case being once one comes along...

    His footwork and 'brazillian technique' allow for him to find that small bit of space in a congested midfield and who knows maybe once Hargreaves returns he will have more of a license to get forward.

  • Comment number 45.

    I have often heard about people talking about Anderson as once being a promising attacking midfielder, even as the next Ronaldinho(!) and that United have ruined him, yet it strikes me that for an attacking midfielder he has scored so few goals in his proffessional career.

    Maybe United saw his real potential as a more defensive player.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Tim, I would like to ask a few questions about a few players from and also linked to my club Liverpool. I heard great things about Lucas and wondering if we are playing him in a position that we shouldn't play him or if he hasn't adapted to the Premier League yet. Also, I would like to know if Mauro Zarate is wanted by Rafa because he plays where Gerrard is playing for us right now or is there some qualities that catches our coaches' eyes. Also, what do you know about Victor Flora?

  • Comment number 47.

    Not a good night for Argentinan clubs in Copa Liberatores Boca lose away to Dep.Cuenca of Equador 1-0. River Plate are eleminated as the lost 4-2 to Nacional,Boca were missing key players including JR and in the end Dep Cuenca persistence and altitude paid off.How is the U17 South American championships going Tim?

  • Comment number 48.

    just after registering to post a comment, love the blog, first thing I look for at work on a boring Monday morning!!! I was wondering if we could start a campaign to get BBC to start bidding for highlights of South American football, I remeber Channel 4 used to have the Brazilian matches and channel 5 would have the Argentinian games. Tim, your Blog proves how popular the South American game is over this side of the world and I'm sure we could even get you to host the highlights programme!!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Dear Mr. Vickery,

    I'm a journalist from the danish newspaper Information - one of Denmarks largest and most influential newspapers.

    I would like to make an interview with you on argentine and brazilian football.

    If you are interested please write to me on my mail knp@information.dk in order to schedule the time and the details for the interview.

    All the best,
    Kaare Pedersen
    Information (information.dk)

  • Comment number 50.

    my mail is knp@information.dk

    All the best,
    Kaare Pedersen
    Information (information.dk)

  • Comment number 51.

    I have just recently returned from Ecuador and while i was out there i went to see LDU or liga de Quito (which are clearly the same, there is however a deportivo Quito, who were last years winners of the ecuadorian league.) They beat emelec 2-0 last friday, but i have to agree they were shadows of the side i saw win the ecuadorian league 2 seasons ago and the liberatores last year (even if they were lucky,) and from what i have seen they didnt deserve a place in the last 16 without bolanos and Guerron. On that note, Tim do you have any idea how Guerron is doing at Getafe or Bolanos playing in brazil?

 

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