Prandelli’s Italy squad: OOOH MAMA!

Italy face Ivory Coast later tonight, which is our new coach Prandelli’s first match in charge and this is how his squad looks like on paper.

Goalkeepers: Marchetti (Cagliari), Sirigu (Palermo), Viviano (Bologna)

Defenders: Antonini (Milan), Astori (Cagliari), Bonucci (Juventus), Cassani (Palermo), Chiellini (Juventus), Lucchini (Sampdoria), Molinaro (Stuttgart), Motta (Juventus)

Midfielders: De Rossi (Roma), Lazzari (Cagliari), Marchisio (Juventus), Montolivo (Fiorentina), Palombo (Sampdoria), Pepe (Juventus)

Attackers: Amauri (Juventus), Balotelli (Inter), Borriello (Milan), Cassano (Sampdoria), Quagliarella (Napoli), Rossi (Villarreal)

Is it just me or is everyone drooling at the sight of seeing Balotelli and Cassano on pitch at the same time (about time fellas..)?
And boy, are there some new faces in there!
Lippi’s era is over and this squad has just one player more than 30 years of age.
Amongst the defenders, Antonini from Milan (finally) gets a much deserved call up to the team and so does Juve’s highly promising Marco Motta. Expect Chiellini to be our defensive leader from now onwards.

In the midfield department, Cagliari’s Lazzari gets a call up too and the likes of Marchisio and Montolivio, what with a World Cup behind them, surely have a major role to play on the road to EURO 2012. Pepe gets a call up after a somewhat mixed World Cup and Sampdoria’s Palombo has been impressive in the recent past to warrant a place in the squad. And of course, De Rossi (captain?) was always going to be there.

And up front is where all the glamour is. Man, is that a fantastic attacking line-up or what? Super Mario and Peter Pan Cassano have respectively been given the No.9 and No.10 jersey (don’t you ask me why). Milan’s Borriello, Juve’s Amauri, WC super sub Quagliarella and Villareal’s Rossi complete the offensive unit. Prandelli’s attackers alone offer more excitement than the entire team that Lippi took to the World Cup.

Come what may tonight against Ivory Coast, this is the beginning of something special. Prandelli has clear objectives in mind and is driven by a seemingly goal oriented approach. What Lippi did in 2006 was out of this world, but he went out of his way to screw up his legacy by probably taking the worst Italy team in years to the WC. Let’s hope Prandelli calls up players who deserve a place in the team and that he stays free of any sorta bias and prejudice. Most of the players from the 2010 WC squad have been axed and it’s really impossible to make any case whatsoever for the inclusion of Zambrotta, Camoranesi et all.
The result against Ivory Coast tonight will matter little, because gentleman, the Italy football team just got a sex-ed up big time (and I did try my best not to sound homosexual there).

If anything, we’ll at least get to see some fancy step-overs, a flick or two, a Mohawk..And of course Italian football players actually running for a change!

It’s showtime. Forza Azurri!

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Mano announces Brazil squad: Milan factor doubles!

Brazil’s new coach Mano Menezes announced his 24-man squad for his team’s friendly against the US.
And of course the good news is Mano’s squad has twice as many Milan players as Dunga’s!
Okay, now that does not sound as good it as it should, simply because Dunga’s squad had 1 Milan player, while Mano’s has 2! (Yes I know, you can now accuse me of sensationalist journalism, what with the headline ‘Milan factor doubles!’)

This is how Mano’s team looks like:
Goalkeepers: Victor (Grêmio), Jefferson (Botafogo) , Renan (Avaí)
Full backs: Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Rafael (Manchester), André Santos (Fenerbahçe), Marcelo (Real Madrid)
Central defence: David Luiz (Benfica), Henrique (Racing Santander), Réver (Atlético Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Milan)
Defensive midfield: Hernanes (São Paulo), Jucilei (Corinthians), Ramires (Benfica), Sandro (Internacional), Lucas (Liverpool)
Midfield: Carlos Eduardo (Hoffenheim), Éderson (Lyon), Ganso (Santos)
Forwards: Robinho (Santos), André (Santos), Neymar (Santos), Pato (Milan), Diego Tardelli (Atlético Mineiro)

Mano has called up Pato to the squad, which I think is fantastic but not surprising. Pato is mature and experienced enough by now to become a regular on the national roster and he deserves a decent shot at that no.9 jersey. The guy boy is just 20 years old and has a lot to offer Brazil and Milan in the coming years.

The other Milan player called up is Thiago Silva. Nothing surprising there again, I really like Thiago and if he continues his good form with Milan and remains consistent, well who knows…

Lots of domestic players in the squad and Mano has made it pretty clear that European based players won’t be chosen simply because they play in Europe. Santos’ Robinho and Andre make it to the squad, along with their 2 stars of the future, Neymar and Ganso.

Ronaldinho does not get a call up, which I think is fair enough. Yes I know, I was ranting about how Dunga should have called him up for the WC, but that was based on last season’s exploits and if ‘Dinho wants to make it to Mano’s squad, he’s going to have to prove himself all over again. ‘Dinho did say that he wants to play for Brazil in the 2014 WC, so let’s see how that works out.

Talking about the 2014 WC, Brazil are the hosts and thus do not have to qualify. That’s not entirely good news, because as Mano outlined, it means less competitive matches for his team, thus making his job of choosing the right players harder.
That said, he does have the Copa America and the London Olympics to prepare his team for the grand event.
All said and done, Brazil’s squad in the coming years will be interesting, what with the likes of David Luiz, Ganso, Neymar and so many others who have fantastic potential for the future!
And i hope Mano throws caution to the wind and really serves up some interesting football (read that as ‘screw you Dunga’)!

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RAUL MADRID: THE LEGEND WILL LIVE ON

There comes a time when every legend has to become legendary. And Raul’s has come.

Raul, the symbol of Madrid and a fine example of someone who valued the crest on his front rather than the name on the back.

What stands out in Raul’s illustrious career so far is how he has carried himself with so much class, on and off the field. Fantastic person, he always stayed off the limelight and was shy of controversy. He was a loyal servant of the club and his trademark celebration wherein he kisses his wedding ring after scoring a goal, man that was iconic! Beautiful stuff.

Sure enough, he isn’t retiring, but football will be poorer when he does. I kind of know how most Madridistas feel, because last season Maldini bidding farewell to us Milanistas was just as hard to swallow, if not even more. And in a way, I’d wish if Raul simply retired as a Madrid player rather than go ply his trade in some other club, but if he feels he’s still got it in him, well that’s his choice. I somehow always wanted Raul to retire at Madrid and remain a one-club man, because he’s someone who fully deserves to be one.

His trophy-haul is fantastic to say the least. 6 La Liga titles and 3 CL titles stand out. I always loved watching Raul; you have plenty of guys who come up with all the fancy stuff, tricks and step-overs and the likes, but Raul kept it more simple and all the more classy. A delicate lob or a chip, a flick here and there, pure unadulterated class. Raul is the Champion’s League all time leading scorer for a reason!

The only blemish on his CV will probably be his misguided adventure with La Furia Roja and it was somewhat ironic that Spain would go on to win the Euro and the WC just when his services were no longer needed. But that should not take too much away from his glittering career.

Raul has seen 17 coaches and has played with (and in most cases captained) some of the greatest players ever. Laudrup, Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo and so on. And through all this, he’s always been respected by his peers and elders. He’s behaved with grace and set a beautiful example throughout. I can’t even remember him missing training or caught partying late night or in some extreme cases, sleeping with his team-mate’s wife! =P

Raul is to Madrid what Maldini was to Milan, Del Piero is to Juve, Totti to Roma, Gerrard to Liverpool and so on. They are more than just players. Club symbols, that’s what they are. Raul will be part of Madrid’s legacy for years to come and will be remembered. He might have never been their best player, but that was something he never was. When I think of Herb Brook’s quote from ‘The Miracle’, “Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone”, I somehow draw parallels with this man. His youth coach once said that Raul was never the fastest, the strongest, the most skilled, the technically gifted or the smartest or anything of that sort, but yet above all that he had unwavering discipline, commitment, work-ethic and heart, which is why he is where he is now. He was always hungry for goals, always.

Raul would know where the goal was even with his back turned; he had an uncanny ability to be in the right place, at the right time. How many times have we seen Raul pop up in the 89th minute to poke in an invaluable goal? A powerful low shot driven into the corner or his famed vaselina over an onrushing keeper? Or an audaciously high leap to head the ball into the top corner?

Raul defined class throughout and it’s pretty obvious that players of his sort are a rarer bunch these days. Players like Maldini, Totti, Del Piero and of course Raul stood by the club through thick and thin, respected and valued the club beyond anything. Last year, as Raul’s significance faded in the club with the arrival of Galacticos 2.0, Raul accepted his place on the bench with grace and always scored a goal or two when called upon. Not a word of complaint whatsoever from Madrid’s all time leading scorer.

It will be unusual to see a Madrid squad without Raul in it. He defined the club in many ways and will be missed on and off the field. Raul will be remembered for years to come as one of the club’s most loyal servants ever. If anything, Bernabéu will miss him scoring a last minute equalizer followed by him kissing his wedding-ring and pointing to the back of his shirt; reminding everyone that once upon a time this team, and rightly so, was always Raul Madrid!

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Varese 2-0 Milan: So pathetic it’s actually funny!

For those of you who don’t know (that includes me :/) Varese plays in Seria B. It took me half an hour to even find their bloody Wikipedia page!

This was how our team lined up: Abbiati; Grandpa1 Oddo, Bonera, Great great grandpa Kaladze, Grandpa2 Jankulovski; Abate, Ambrosini, Flamini; Seedorf, Pato, Borriello.

We conceded 2 goals in less than 30 minutes (Did we even have a team on the field or what?) and eventually lost(read as ‘got our asses handed to us’).

The only real bright spot I can see in all this is that our defence which conceded 2 goals (that too against Varese, COME ON SERIOUSLY? ) comprised of NO-ONE who will actually start for Milan come august when Seria A kicks in(and by that I mean Nesta, Silva, Zambrotta, Antonini, Papa). And I think it’s pretty obvious the likes of Oddo, Jankulovski, Kaladze are synonyms for useless.

In other news, Oddo has officially extended his contract till 2012 with reduced wages( In all honesty, HE should be paying Milan to play for the club) and Milan are reportedly trying to do the same with 79-year old Kaladze, in the sense extend his contract, but spread his salary over the contract period. All this trouble because Kaladze refused to leave the club(sure why not, where else can you sit on the bench, abuse the coach and management, talk about how the club ‘owes’ you and then still get paid 3 million or the likes). That effectively means that if some club are unbelievably stupid enough to buy Kaladze from us (Hell he wouldn’t even start for Varese I bet), Milan pockets in a decent profit.

Our real pre-season beings on the 31st of this month, when we face Arsenal in the Emirates Cup. If we are close to being even half as rubbish as we were yesterday, we can expect Arsenal to..ermm run rings around us and somersault their way to a comprehensive demolition.

That said the Emirates cup will give Allegri a platform to try out all the players and decide on what formation suits us best. I hope he’s realized today Oddo, Jankulovski and Kaladze have nothing to offer the club and playing them is taking a step backwards. Unlike last season though, we’ve got a deeper defensive department this season. Nesta and Silva will start and Zambrotta, Antonini and Papa will be our full-backs. Onyewu has returned from injury and Yepes is there too, so barring an Arsenal-like injury list (God forbid), it’s safe to say we won’t have to rely on defenders past their expiry date. Good luck to him then, as he..umm manoeuvres his way past Kaldze’s and Jankulovski’s walking sticks!

Galliani has reportedly said that Ronaldinho will stay till 2011 and beyond. I’m kinda just starting to feel that Ronaldinho will stay this season. Nothing’s confirmed yet; In today’s world, words count for nothing. If ‘Dinho stays, then Allegri has to take it upon himself to get the best out of him. With last season’s motivation of making it to Brazil’s WC squad now seemingly gone, Allegri has a major task in dealing with our team’s ‘star-attraction’. (Yes, that’s what our club president Berlusconi called him, WTH, what are we, some circus now?!).

Forza Milan.

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Milan: B&G’s playground

NOTE: Berlusconi and Galliani, the 2 guys who make all the big decisions at AC Milan will be referred to as B&G in this post.

Another summer of uncertainty looms over Milan now as B&G do their best impression of the local clowns as Milan becomes more and more of a circus than umm… the world’s most successful club that it rightfully is.

Either ways, a review of Milan’s summer activity so far.

Of course the big talking point is the arrival of our new coach – Massimiliano Allegri. Whether he’s the right man is still up for debate. On the plus side, he’s done a great job at Cagliari. His 4-3-1-2 clearly worked there and in his 2 seasons with them, he won the Panchina d’Oro (Golden bench) both times (a prize awarded to the best Serie A football manager according to other managers’ votes).

Allegri - the new man in charge

Allegri is a brave, courageous man who will hopefully infuse Milan with some much needed energy and creativity. On the downside though, much to the ire of many Milan supporters, Allegri is no big name. Whereas people were expecting the likes of Cappello, Lippi (is he still a big name?), Trapattoni  et all, the board have appointed someone who has never really won anything. Even as a player, Allegri never plied his trade with the biggest of clubs, so yes, he has no experience whatsoever of handling big names. But that’s done and we’re simply going to have to accept Allegri and hope for the best.

I, for one, never really wanted Leonardo to leave. Agreed, he did make his fair share of mistakes throughout the season, but it’s incredible how he took this Milan side to within a point of first place in the table and eventually a third place finish. Apart from that, he was loved by the players and if it had not been for a poor start, where Leo was familiarising himself with his players and experimenting with the formation, we might’ve even won the Scudetto!

He endeared himself to the fans and was a class act. What I liked most about him was that he was calm, composed and relaxed at all times, never the one to get all Mourinho-ish on the sidelines and kick bottles around in fury – and this trait clearly passed on to his players.

I still remember the match against Madrid at Bernabeu, where Milan were a goal down and the commentator said (can’t remember his exact words): “Milan are a goal down away from home, yet they seem so relaxed. So calm and composed on the ball, you wonder if they are a goal down or one up for that matter”

We would eventually go on to win the match 3-2. Incredible stuff!

Most of all he refused to be B&G’s bitch. He never received their support -Galliani called him a ‘pig-head’ in public and our dear Berlusconi claimed that he could have coached Milan to the Scudetto (Honestly I want him to try and I’ll worship him for the rest of my life if he can better Leo’s third place). Which is why Leo deserves every inch of respect he gets, and more. I think as the season progresses, all those who criticized Leo will find out how hard his job was and how much of an impressive feat his 3rd place finish actually is. Good luck to him and I hope he’s appointed as Brazil’s coach.

That apart, there’s the case of Ronaldinho. A whole cloud of confusion surrounds him and though B& G have made their ‘love’ for the man pretty clear, reports rumours flow in everyday about Flamengo and a host of other clubs showing interest in him in response to Milan setting a price in the range of 10 million or the likes.

Selling ‘Dinho does the club good in a lot of ways. Firstly, it represents a substantial save on expenses. If the Milan board are willing to sanction his release by buying out his remaining year, they could end up saving €16 million. He’s also entering the last year of his contract and for all we know, he might leave as a free agent next summer – which is why the board has to evaluate how useful he will be this season. And that’s where Allegri comes into the picture. Allegri favours the 4-3-1-2 formation, which he used in his time at Cagliari and he employs a classic trequartista. ‘Dinho can’t play in the 4-3-1-2 as a trequartista (or as a CAM) even if his life depended on it (as Leo found it out the hard way last seasons). ‘Dinho plays best when deployed as a left-forward in a 4-3-3 and it’s hard to see him fitting in Allegri’s formation, unless he fights for a starting spot as a striker.

That’s really the whole deal about the Ronnie of today – he’s one dimensional in ways.

You’d think he should fit in a central role with ease in the same way Ronaldo and Messi are just as effective from the centre as the wings, but sadly that’s just not the case.

Either ways, I’m not going to dwell into ‘Dinho’s case anymore, simply because all I have is rumours and even some ‘official’ rumours (whatever the hell that is).

Then there’s the case of Oddo’s contract being renewed (NOTE: Milan have not announced the move officially), which has been met with disgust among most all Milan fans. Oddo’s original contract, wherein he was being paid 3 Million per year expires next season. Milan reportedly have extended his contract for 1 more year till 2012, but with the 3 million now spread out over the 2 years, which means we will be paying him 1.5 million a year, for the next 2 seasons. So, if Milan can loan him or sell him to some other club by next season, we will have pocketed the 1.5 million of his contract’s last year! So in effect, by extending his contract for 1 more year but spreading out his 3 million over the next  2 years, Milan profit by 1.5 million(if we sell him)!

Smart move, but of course the loophole being, we have to find someone willing to buy this useless sack. One guy I knew was like we’d have to actually pay other clubs 1.5 million to force them to buy Oddo from us!

And finally, our transfers this season?

Milan made the masterstroke of selling Storari to Juventus *facepalm* and bought Marco Amelia from Genoa. The brightest spot being Milan have released Dida, so we will no longer have to read the following line in post-match reports: “All was well until Milan conceded a goal after a blunder by the calamitous Dida.”

No seriously, for every 5 world class saves he makes, he literally gifts a goal back. I’d rather see him score an own goal, but some of the mistakes he makes… good God!

That said, he won 2 CL titles with us and we will always respect and love him for that!

Milan have signed Mario Yepes(from Chievo) and  Sokratis Papastathopoulos(he’s asked us to call him Papa, bless his soul!).

Both of them can play as central defenders, with Papa claiming he can fill in at right-back if necessary. Yepes was a free transfer, while Milan had to initially pay €5 million along with   Albertazzi,  Oduamandi and  Strasser to Genoa for Papa, but after Albetazzi decided he wanted to stay at Milan, the price increased to €6.3 million.

Milan also bought Crotone defender, Elia Legati, only to loan him out, along with David De Gennaro to Pandova, on co-ownership. Talking about co-ownership, Milan have loaned out a host of players to other clubs, including the highly promising Paloschi. Hopefully, Milan does makes use of it’s co-ownership on these players and brings them back to Milan later.

All said and done, Milan have to generate funds by selling players who are clearly past it. The likes of Jankulovski, Kaladze can’t even last 90 minutes any more, let alone half a season. Kaladze last season was warming the benches and even whined about how Milan “owes him” and complained about how he was not getting a starting spot. He does all this and gets paid 4 million a year….WHAT?! He’s garbage and we don’t need someone who does not love and respect the club. Ambrosini has been appointed captain of Milan for the season. Good luck to him; he’s someone who genuinely loves the club. I’ve always liked him because he respects the team crest on the front more than his name on the back! Forza Ambrosini!

Finally, Fly Emirates will be our new sponsor for the 2010-11 season and our new outfit is already out (will be uploaded soon). Milan will be taking part in the Emirates Cup and we will be playing against Arsenal and Lyon, on 31 July and 1 August respectively.

Let’s hope Allegri kick-starts an era of promise at the club. Forza Milan!

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Tche, tche, Barcelona!

It really looks like Barcelona need to make up their mind. While they have kept saying here and there that they will respect Arsenal’s stand not to sell Fabregas, they have later gone on to show no respect with all their players barfing all over the papers about their love for Arsenal’s captain.

The latest reports have Busquets “accepting” Arsenal’s stand…

“He is a great player that would add a lot to the team, but we have to respect that he is owned by another club that is not Barcelona, that he is an Arsenal player and, for the time being, there’s nothing to be done.” – Busquets

But, wait! In typical Barca fashion, Lionel Messi has started harping to the media about how great Fabregas would be at Barca. A snippet from the same report, heck, it’s the very next line:

Lionel Messi, though, is still hopeful an agreement can be reached. “I would be delighted if he came,” he said on Wednesday. “We played together as kids [in Barca’s youth team] and he knows the club.”

For people who are new to this, this is all part of a transfer saga that has been
1. Ongoing since Fabregas was ‘stolen’ from Barca by Arsene Wenger back in 2003 (Barcelona’s POV)
2. What transfer? (Arsenal’s POV)

Probably time for Barcelona to realise they’ll have to wait at least one more season. And hopefully by the time they have him, they won’t be pawning him off on New York Red Bulls after two seasons.

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Loser… and he knows it.

Cry me a river...

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