BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Stevenson

Archives for May 2011

Weary Guardiola nears end of Barca cycle

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Jonathan Stevenson | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

As Pep Guardiola faced the press on Saturday night at Wembley Stadium, he did not look like a man on top of the world. He looked spent, both physically and emotionally, and at one stage begged one of his interviewers for mercy.

"I'm sorry, I'm so tired," said the Barcelona manager, about an hour after the final whistle in their majestic Champions League final dismantling of Manchester United. "I cannot think right now. Please let me go away and have a rest and then I can think."

The contrast with his opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson could not have been more stark. Ferguson, who had just watched his team receive what he called a "hiding", was immediately on the front foot, talking about how his squad could improve and how he would go about building a team to beat brilliant Barca.

"You shouldn't be afraid of a challenge in life," said Ferguson. "We all have a challenge with this Barcelona team. Not just Manchester United, but everyone."

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Player Ratings: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

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Jonathan Stevenson | 07:30 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011


Barcelona are the new champions of Europe after a spectacular 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday.

Pedro's opener was cancelled out by Wayne Rooney, but second-half goals from the magical Lionel Messi and David Villa earned Barca their fourth European Cup.

Here's how the Barca and United players rated on the night:

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Magical Messi stands in Man United's way

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Jonathan Stevenson | 23:50 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

Even in my head, the question sounds stupid. "Can Lionel Messi get any better?"

The Argentine's biographer Luca Caioli thinks for a moment. "Messi's football is so good right now that the only person we have to compare him to is Diego Maradona, because like Maradona he can change the story of a match by himself," he says. "And if you look at Maradona, he was at his best in the 1986 World Cup, when he was 25. Messi is 23. So can Messi be better next year? Of course.

"No-one can really predict what will happen to this boy. Every trainer I interviewed for the book, from his first in Argentina - Salvador Ricardo Aparicio - to his Barca coaches Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola and his former Argentina boss Alfio Basile all told me the same thing: 'We don't know what the limit is for this kid'."

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Real Madrid 1960 - the greatest club side of all time

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Jonathan Stevenson | 21:49 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

On BBC Radio 5 live's Monday Night Club, hosted by Mark Chapman, a panel of experts comprising football correspondent Mike Ingham, Italian football journalist Gabriele Marcotti, former England full-back and now pundit Jimmy Armfield and South American expert Tim Vickery discussed the merits of several of football's top teams.

They whittled the list - exclusively made up of European Cup winners as well as Brazilian sides Santos and Sao Paolo - to three and were in total agreement that the Real side comprising Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas that thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in the 1960 European Cup final was without equal.

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Last-day mayhem at Molineux

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Jonathan Stevenson | 06:54 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

After 90 tortuous minutes, the afternoon ended as it had begun: with Molineux bathed in sunshine and two sets of football supporters blissfully singing songs of survival.

For Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers, a dramatic season of highs and lows was suddenly consigned to the dustbin of history. Despite teetering on the brink of relegation, it only mattered that they had both secured their Premier League status for another campaign.

When managers Mick McCarthy and Steve Kean appeared in the media room at one of English football's grand old clubs in the aftermath of Blackburn's 3-2 victory, they looked as though they had been to hell and back.

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Who's the greatest?

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Jonathan Stevenson | 09:59 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

Every so often, football has a habit of producing a truly remarkable team, a side that makes fans of all persuasions sit up and take notice and - perhaps begrudgingly - acknowledge them as something special.

It's a topic that could fill endless hours of nostalgia, discussion and argument: which is the greatest club side of all time?

With superstars like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta in their ranks, the current Barcelona side - who face Manchester United in a much-anticipated Champions League final - have been talked up as one contender for the title and BBC Radio 5 live's Monday Night Club will bring together a panel of experts to debate the issue on 23 May, five days before the clash at Wembley.

But are Pep Guardiola's side better than the Real Madrid team of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano in the 1960s, Johan Cruyff's Ajax side in the 1970s, the Liverpool of Kenny Dalglish in the 1980s, AC Milan's all-conquering 1990s outfit or the Arsenal Invincibles of 2003-2004?

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Forest, a potted history of the play-offs, and me

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Jonathan Stevenson | 12:09 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

May 2011: Along with many other Nottingham Forest fans, once again I'm confronted by something that, by rights, should terrify me to my core: the play-offs.

It might sound inoffensive to you, but the gut-churning, wretched picture of desolation it conjures up in my mind serves as a timely reminder of the worst three moments I've endured as a football fan.

No, my team have never gone bust or dropped out of the Football League; but by the age of 30 I had suffered four relegations (one, unthinkably, to League One), defeat in the FA Cup final and the premature death of Brian Clough, the greatest manager that ever lived.

Sad, desperate times all of them - but not as judderingly, sickeningly hard to stomach as three occasions when it felt like I and thousands of people around me had been lifted on to cloud nine, only to immediately find ourselves falling off the end of the world.

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