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So Newcastle United’s success is just a shadowy conspiracy to shift tracksuits. November 12, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer, European soccer, French soccer, Spanish soccer.
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This may look like an urbane midfield prompter, but actually it is a tracksuit billboard.

Daniel Harris on FCF proffered this explanation for Newcastle’s recent French signings:

Mike Ashley owns Sports Direct, whose main European competitor is Decathlon, a French company. Thus Newcastle buy French players, who can then be marketed in France as “Sports Direct”, wearing the tat and speaking in French, allowing Ashley to sell more towelling socks and tracksuits.

Plausible enough, if a bit too tidy:

Also true:

  • Venezuela uses no Qatari oil for some reason. The emirate’s sheikhs are desperate to break into the South American country’s market, so desperate they’ll try anything. Including a multi-million euro takeover of the club that happens to employ the country’s star striker Salomon Rondon, Malaga. Step one: buy Malaga. Step two: capture baseball-mad Venezuela’s imagination with Rondon’s endorsement. Step three: every hip young kid in Caracas is sporting Qatari oil.
  • Like many people, Suleyman Kerimov may one day need to flee Vladimir Putin’s wrath. What’s a Dagestani billionaire to do? Well, maybe pay a king’s ransom to bring Cameroon’s biggest soccer superstar to his personal top-division football club, Anzhi Makachkala. That way, when Putin’s goons come knocking, he’ll have a sunny, reasonably stable African state willing to welcome him with open arms. Goodbye freezing Dagestan, hello sunny Limbe Beach, Douala, Cameroon! Thank you, Samuel Eto’o.
  • Bill Kenwright actually has loads of money stashed away, waiting to invest it in Everton. But the theater producer has a love of the dramatic and, what’s more, his nephew Gus would do an amazing job in the role of David Moyes. The lower the club gets, the better the story. Twenty years down the line, he’ll make it into the biggest play Merseyside has ever known!

Just think of how good Barcelona and Real Madrid might be without messed-up internal politics. October 20, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in Spanish soccer.
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Gonzalo Higuain (center) suffers because he is associated with former Madrid president Ramon Calderon. Probably his association with Alfredo Di Stefano is not a problem.

Reading Sid Lowe’s most recent Sports Illustrated column about the debate over whether G0nzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema should start for Real Madrid, I was struck by what seems like a fundamental institutional weakness at that club: politics can play itself out in team selection.

It shouldn’t be that the identity of the president that purchased a player dictates whether he’s selected. If that even becomes a shadow of a consideration, the team is poorer for it.

I’m a Barcelona fan, though, so I would say that, but it’s supposedly happened at Barcelona too. Joan Laporta was chiefly responsible for bringing Samuel Eto’o to Barcelona; his political rival Sandro Rossell was instrumental in persuading Ronaldinho to sign. In Ronaldinho’s best years, he was surrounded by fellow Brazilians — Edmilson, Thiago Motta, Juliano Belletti, Sylvinho and the Brazilian-born Deco. In two years, Barcelona sold every one of Ronaldinho’s compatriots and brought in a group of players who, like Eto’o, spoke French — Thierry Henry, Yaya Toure, Eric Abidal and Seydou Keita (plus Lilian Thuram, who was already at the club). The rumor is that this was an intentional move to weaken Rossell and strengthen Laporta. The year when it began, 2007-8, was also Barcelona’s least successful under Frank Rijkaard.

It’s a wonder these clubs ever win anything.

Here are some transfers I’m trying to see on deadline day August 30, 2011

Posted by Alex Tomchak Scott in English soccer, Italian soccer, Spanish soccer.
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The transfer window will snap shut Wednesday, but before it does, there are a few things I’d like to see go down. I’ll go over some of them for you.

When Stephen Ireland moves to Anzhi Makachkala, it will be Samuel Eto'o performing the japery.


Stephen Ireland to Anzhi Makachkala

After accepting a drink from a shadowy man with a thick accent and a thicker mustache in a trendy Birmingham nightclub, Stephen Ireland wakes beneath a soiled newspaper in a dusty Moscow subway station.

His cell phone rings and its his agent, demanding to know why he signed for Anzhi Makachkala. His girlfriend has left him, his life is in tatters, and to make matters worse, on the training ground the next day, Samuel Eto’o delivers even more bad news: this time his gram really is dead.

Ireland, surprisingly, is gutted, and his despair over his grandmother, plus the Cameroonian striker’s obvious distaste for him, make the next six months a living hell. Eto’o, for his part, obviously disdains Ireland’s chrome-plated lifestyle and passes up no opportunity to play cruel jokes on the hapless playmaker. But one day, Anzhi finds itself 4-0 down at halftime against Zenit St. Petersburg and Eto’o puts his hand on Ireland’s shoulder in the changing room.

“Steve,” the striker says. “I made it all up. Your gram’s alive and well, and what’s more, she’s won the lottery. I’ve got her on the line for you.”

Ireland is overjoyed, and he and Eto’o each bag a hattrick in the second half, catapulting Anzhi into first place. Glad for the second chance to reconnect with his gram, he buys her a mansion in Moscow and he and Eto’o are over for tea after practice every weekday. It’s good for everyone; Eto’o’s burning desire and fierce intelligence have rubbed off on Ireland, making him not just one of Europe’s finest playmakers but a respectable man. Ireland’s gram finally feels like people aren’t constantly treating her as if she’s already dead.

As for Eto’o? He has found love. He proposes to grandma Ireland on the podium at the Champions League final and they live happily ever after.

It turns out well for Roberto Carlos, too, because Stephen Ireland gives the World Cup winner his garishly customized SUV, … and only then does the Brazilian realize a Range Rover with pink hubcaps is the only thing he ever wanted.

Ghost Dog to Arsenal.

With Arsene Wenger now the worst coach of all time, it’s clear that what Arsenal really needs is someone to kill him. Forest Whitaker’s character in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, the 1999 film by Jim Jarmusch has a well-documented inability to learn French. His love of exotic Japanese methods would quickly win him Wenger’s trust, but he has a proven history of turning on nebulously foreign employers whose leadership he can’t trust.

Marco Materazzi to Real Madrid

Let’s be honest, these two were meant to be together.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Arsenal

The Swede’s title-winning mojo is really the only thing Arsenal needs/the Gunners’ only hope.