Jun 042016
Luisao - The Player Benfica Can’t Live Without

In football as in history, it is the story of the victors which is glorified while that of the defeated is, at best, forgotten. So it is that Seville’s five successes in the Europa League has seen them being put forward as the model of a club that achieves success despite constantly selling its best players whilst Benfica, twice losing finalists of this same competition, are overlooked. Yet Benfica have remained competitive – arguably doing […]

May 092016
Alisson - Brazil's and Now Roma's Number One?

Overused (and, often, misunderstood) when it was first imported from baseball, it has since become unusual to hear of Moneyball in football. Clubs’ use of statistics in making decisions over players is no longer the novelty that it once was and so the desire to talk about it has greatly diminished. It is clear, however, that those clubs with ambitions of making it among the elite but do not have the financial wherewithal to buy […]

Apr 052016
Mancini - Flamboyance In An Unlikely Setting

He is remembered mostly for one moment of brilliance; a flurry of step overs that turned defenders from actors to spectators before he proceeded to fire a ferocious shot into the roof of the net. Amantino Mancini’s goal against Lyon is a natural inclusion whenever a highlights reel of the best goals of the Champions League is compiled and that moment of genius has granted him immortality. That goal, however, is also Mancini’s curse.  It […]

Aug 112015
Futsal - Football From The Streets to The Halls

  There’s a video on YouTube which shows Liverpool and Brazil midfielder Philipe Coutinho getting hold of the ball, slaloming past three defenders and then slamming it past the goalkeeper.  It is a wonderful expression of skill and technical mastery; the fluidity of execution breathtaking. In this video, shown below, Coutinho isn’t in a Liverpool shirt.  Nor is he playing for any of his previous European clubs; Inter and Espanyol. Indeed, he isn’t even on […]

Jul 282015
The Strength of Street Football & Brazil's Production Line

A few months ago a website wanted to pay me good money to go to Santos and write a profile piece on the team’s young striker Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa.  And I ended up talking myself out of a lucrative commission. The idea started to lose appeal when he did little of note at the start of the year in the South American Under-20 Championships.  And it died a death when he was not even selected […]

Jul 122015
Can Dunga's Brazil Recover from Copa America Failure?

For Dunga and Brazil, the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup get underway in October, so the coach does not have much time to pick over the rubble of a pretty disastrous Copa América campaign. The Copa is usually considered a neat precursor to the qualifiers. It marks the beginning of a new cycle in the international calendar, and as such, many coaches use it as a laboratory to perfect the formula for the seasons […]

May 212015
Roberto Firmino - At The Forefront of Neymar's Brazilian Backing Band

Since reassuming the reins of the Seleção last August, Dunga’s manifesto has contained two over-arching promises, both designed to clear up the mess of the previous administration, as manifestos are wont to do. Firstly, to expunge the memory of the game now known in common parlance as “the 7-1.” Dunga has made a good start with a perfect set of friendly results, but the Copa América in Chile would be the first proper band aid […]

May 202015
Rubinho - Juventus’ Invisible Brazilian

Goalkeepers are different. So wrote Brian Glanville and, as on most occasions, the wise man of football writing was right. You have to be different to be a goalkeeper. Your basic purpose – that of stopping goals from being scored – means that you are the only one allowed to break one of the most basic rules of the game, that of playing with your hand rather than your feet. But there’s more; goalkeepers are […]

Apr 232015
Jefferson - The New Number One In Brazil's Travelling Circus

The late English showman Bob Monkhouse had at least one great line in his locker; “everyone laughed when I told them I was going to be a comedian,” he said.  “Well, they’re not laughing now!” It is a comment that Botafogo goalkeeper Jefferson may well appreciate.  An unorthodox part of his modest upbringing in Sao Vicente, on the outskirts of Santos, was a spell he spent in a circus as a clown’s assistant.  But he […]

Apr 112015
Philippe Coutinho - Strength of Character

For some reason, when people think about footballers they assume that they are different; that their talent arms them with more than a simple ability to control a ball better than the rest of us. It is (partly, at least) why so much is made when players slip up. People don’t expect footballers to want to go out partying, to want to smoke, to give in to temptation of any kind….they’re footballers, the luckiest people […]