Archive for the 'Awards' Category


Does FIFPRO shortlist highlight United’s flaw?

Carrick and Scholes could be the key to United's season

Carrick and Scholes could be the key to United's season

The shortlist for the worldwide football players union Fifpro team of the year were announced yesterday and despite what every British news outlet has been stating, it Gareth Bale wasn’t the only nominee from the Premiership.

With no less than 16 players from the English Premier League making the 55 man list, Manchester United and Chelsea are the best represented with six apiece. For United, Edwin  Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov all make the list.

There can be no denying that having six players shortlisted for such a prestigious award, voted for by fellow professionals is pleasing and indicates the quality that Sir Alex Ferguson has at his disposal. However without wishing to sound like a miserable b*stard- although I probably will, the fact that not one United midfielder made the shortlist seems to highlight a problem that’s been niggling at the back of my mind for some time now.

Having no midfielders represented on the shortlist is by no means a disaster and doesn’t even mean that there aren’t any players that don’t truly deserve to be their – after all these types of lists and teams are all fairly subjective. You could argue that Paul Scholes or Darren Fletcher deserve to be on the list, but at who’s expense? Maybe Javier Mascherano didn’t have the best season at Liverpool, but he did Captain Argentina to the world cup and also secured a move to the Nou Camp so it was hardly a disaster. Kaka took a little while to get going at Real Madrid but 8 La Liga goals in 21 starts last season, followed by a decent world cup means his place is more than justified.

Of the midfielders who ply their trade in England, Frank Lampard and  Cesc Fabregas had superb season’s and truly deserve their places.  Michael Essien despite his injury problems was still an important part of Chelsea’s title win and has done well so far this season- regardless of his needless sending off against Fulham.

As for Steven Gerrard, last season was hardly a success for his team and this season hasn’t been much better- I really enjoyed writing that- but there can be no denying that if it wasn’t for him Liverpool would be in a far worse position and his performances have often been excellent- I didn’t enjoy writing that.

The point is, there’s not really any midfielders who don’t deserve to be there, which worries me slightly from a United point of view. If United are to challenge for the top honours in Europe- then they’re going to have to face the names on this list and beat them. The likes of Xavi, Esteban Cambiasso, Thomas Muller and Xabi Alonso will need to be dealt with if the Champion’s League trophy is to make its way to Old Trafford.

Then there’s the Premier League battles ahead, Sir Alex Ferguson has already stated he believes the title could be decided by United’s games against Chelsea and the midfield tussles often hold the key.

While I’d always fancy United to put up a strong showing against the title holders, the double loss to them last season cannot be ignored- despite the poor decisions by certain officials.

Looking at the midfield of United there are two players who stand out as being world-class and arguably contenders for the Fifpro list. Paul Scholes has shown at the back end of this season and the beginning of this one that he’s still one of the best midfielders in the world, the only problem being his age and ability to play twice a week. Darren Fletcher has at times shown why he was so sorely missed that night in Rome and if he can find consistency against the smaller teams I wouldn’t bet against him making the Fifpro 2011 team.

Of the other players that make up United’s midfield, there’s only Michael Carrick who could be considered potentially world class. Carrick is United marmite, with his supporters insisting he’s one of the finest midfielders in Europe, with a passing range comparable to anyone and the ability to dictate the pace of games.  His detractors however, point to his errors against Bayern Munich last season and his somewhat erratic appearance record since as proof that he’s not really good enough to dominate the middle of the park.  Whatever your view on  Carrick, personally I’m a fan, there’s a doubt whether he’s even truly won his place in Fergie’s strongest XI back yet, so the argument as to just how good is he is remains somewhat moot. Anderson just hasn’t progressed since his first season and while he still may have a future at Old Trafford, he’s not at the level of world-class yet. In fact it still remains to be seen whether Mr Luis De Abreu Oliveira will actually make the grade at United.

Then there’s also Owen Hargreaves, who if he was fit would be there or there abouts when it comes to the top midfielders in Europe, the only problem with that is he hasn’t been fit for over two seasons now.

United have had a somewhat mixed start to the season, I say mixed because despite the fact they’re still unbeaten there’s been one or two games where the performances have been a little lacklustre. However, being joint top of the League, through to the knockout phase of the Champion’s League and yet to taste defeat is ostensibly a superb start to any clubs season. My concern lies with whether United have the midfield to face a truly big team and beat them.

The three toughest fixtures United have faced so far this season- at least on paper, are arguably, City and Valencia away and Spurs at home. All three games were against top quality players, yet for me the real test for United is yet to come.

My concern is do the Reds have the midfield personnel to beat the Chelseas, Real Madrids and Barcelonas of this world? When Rafael Van Der Vaart signed for Spurs, more than a few United fans felt he may be the answer to the creative force in midfield the team is crying out for, especially when Scholes isn’t playing. Ditto Mesut Ozil.

While there’s no point crying over absent Germans- in fact its usually a time for rejoicing- the question marks surrounding United’s midfield department still remain. Tom Cleverly could well find himself thrown into first team action once his loan spell at Wigan ends, but even the most optimistic United fan will have doubts as to whether the youngsters ready to push United towards Champion’s League or even League glory.

The January transfer window is pretty useless to United in terms of drafting someone in for the Champion’s League as most of the top players will already be cup-tied, however Fergie may decide that buying someone who can do a job in the League and allowing Scholes more time to focus on Europe could be a worthwhile idea.

Although it’s obvious United still have a strong squad and some of the world’s best players, the lack of a real midfield superstar may prove to be the difference between a good season and  a great one.

Here’s the Fifpro10 list in full:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus), Iker Casillas (Spain/Real Madrid), Petr Cech (Czech Republic/Chelsea), Julio César (Brazil/Inter), Edwin van der Sar (The Netherlands/Manchester United)

Defenders: Daniel Alves (Brazil/Barcelona), Gareth Bale (Wales/Tottenham Hotspur), Michel Bastos (Brazil/Olympique Lyon), Ashley Cole (England/Chelsea), Patrice Evra (France/Manchester United), Rio Ferdinand (England/Manchester United), Philipp Lahm (Germany/Bayern Munchen), Lúcio (Brazil/Inter), Maicon (Brazil/Inter), Marcelo (Brazil/Real Madrid), Alessandro Nesta (Italy/AC Milan), Pepe (Portugal/Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain/Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Spain/Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Spain/Real Madrid), Walter Samuel (Argentina/Inter), John Terry (England/Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Brazil/AC Milan), Nemanja Vidic (Serbia/Manchester United), Javier Zanetti (Argentina/Inter)

Midfielders: Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina/Inter), Michael Essien (Ghana/Chelsea), Cesc Fàbregas (Spain/Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (England/Liverpool), Andrès Iniesta (Spain/Barcelona), Kaká (Brazil/Real Madrid), Frank Lampard (England/Chelsea), Javier Mascherano (Argentina/Barcelona), Thomas Müller (Germany/Bayern München), Mesut Özil (Germany/Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (Italy/AC Milan), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany/Bayern München), Wesley Sneijder (The Netherlands/Inter), Xabi Alonso (Spain/Real Madrid), Xavi (Spain/Barcelona).

Forwards: Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria/Manchester United), Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast/Chelsea), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon/Inter), Diego Forlán (Uruguay/Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Higuain (Argentina/Real Madrid), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden/AC Milan), Lionel Messi (Argentina/Barcelona), Diego Milito (Argentina/Inter), Arjen Robben (The Netherlands/Bayern München), Ronaldinho (Brazil/AC Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal/Real Madrid), Wayne Rooney (England/Manchester United), Carlos Tévez (Argentina/Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Spain/Liverpool), David Villa (Spain/Barcelona).


What was the PFA awards ceremony all about?

Rooney and Milner- trying their best to look *rsed.

Watching the PFA player of the year awards the other night was about as entertaining as watching the Eastenders or Hollyoaks omnibus depending on which one it is your missus insists on watching on a Sunday.

First of all there was the live ‘entertainment’ at the ceremony, which began with Gabriella Cilmi, you know the woman who brought you, erm, well that song something about not being sweet, yeah that’s the one. Well, she performed her latest ‘hit’ entitled ‘I am a woman on a mission’ or something to like that, with a team of dancers while footage of some of the nominees scoring goals was shown on a screen behind her.
The sight of Wayne Rooney power-heading the ball past a helpless ‘keeper as our Gabby warbled ‘I am a woman on a mission’ seemed ridiculously comical. Talking of comical, there was absolutely nothing comical in Jeff Stelling’s performance as presenter. His jokes went down quicker than a skinny centre forward in the penalty box – in fact that rubbish metaphor I just used was just the type of garbage Stelling was delivering with all the conviction of confessing sex-offender. It was painful stuff which only seemed to get worse as the evening progressed.

After announcing the lower league teams of the year to applause which varied from polite to disinterested to insulting, there was another live entertainment performance this time from the rifles who underlined the bizarreness of the entire proceedings by covering Billy Joel’s ‘We didn’t start the fire,’ but with a football spin, so we treated to lyrics such as ‘City cash all he said was derby clash’ while pictures of the Carlos Tevez poster and Michael Owen’s injury, sorry ,Fergie-time winner were screened. There was also references to Emmanuel Adebayor’s celebration against the Gunners, and the whole ‘handshake-gate’ episode which no football reference would ever be complete without. To be fair to The Rifles their performance was fairly good and compared to Gabby’s it was at least relevant but the evening seemed to be crying out for a Peter Kay –let’s really take the p*ss out of some footballers- type comic rather than some mildly amusing football rhymes.

Talking of mildly amusing, Stelling never quite reached the dizzy heights of that but did soldier on with a smile unlike those of us viewing this at home. Lucas Radebe was next up, who was receiving the PFA Merit award, we were shown footage of Radebe, in his Leeds United heyday as well as interviews with his managers and coaches not to mention various South Africans. The only disappointment was that Nelson Mandela couldn’t come on, repeating his line from Invictus sort of : “Lucas, thank you for what you have done for this country.” To which Radebe could have replied: “No Mr. President, thank you.” Now that would have been memorable, even without Mandela the PFA could have at least tried to get Morgan Freeman.

The nominees for PFA Young player of the year were announced and this is where we really are into pantomime season. Now I’m not saying that James Milner didn’t deserve his award, but looking at the nominees only one man seemed to fit the idea of a young player- or at least one who’s not been around for five years. With Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and James Milner having about fifteen years worth of Premier League experience between them, it seems a little unfair that any of them should win the award. Surely Joe Hart who has not only had a blinding season but was also nowhere near the Premier League, when Rooney first won the award back in 2005, would have been a more deserving recipient. Milner may be young in years but in experience he’s an old pro. To be fair to Hart at least he turned up, none of the other losing nominees did. Milner and Stelling then engaged in an excruciating bit of banter, which was rescued only when the Villa man, turned the event into an ode to Martin O’Neill’s greatness, while the little Irishman looked on like a proud Director watching his Leading Actress at the Oscar’s as she gives him all the credit while collecting her Academy award.

The Premier League team of the year was announced, and had very few surprises, although perhaps Frank Lampard may think otherwise. Then it was down to business or as Jimmy Greaves, presenting the PFA player of the year award termed it: “The biggest forgone conclusion ever.” Or words to that effect, to be honest I was barely awake by now such had been the drivel of the past hour.

Wazza came up collect his award and actually did manage to raise a few laughs. Firstly by commenting how his bigger bald patch was the reason behind his large amount of headed goals. He then ensured any ideas Liverpool had of trying to beat Chelsea next weekend went out of the window by cracking that they were “chasing a Europa League place.” To all of which Stelling cracked up with just a hint of jealousy in his eye that Rooney had outdone him in the laughter stakes- almost a more difficult task than scoring 34 goals this season.

Forget the world cup, the real football showcase starts here. Remind me not to bother next year thank you very much, unless Gabriella Cilmi’s performing again, “I am a woman on a mission, ye-eah”, it’s very catchy.