Neymar secures World Record €222m move to PSG

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, otherwise known simply as Neymar Jr, has made a name for himself as one of the best young players in the world over the past few years and has now become the world’s most expensive player by moving to French side Paris St. Germain on Thursday for €222 million. 

The Brazilian international made a name for himself at his boyhood club Santos where he made his debut aged 17, scoring 136 goals in just 225 appearances. During this time he was named South American Footballer of the Year. Bids were reportedly made for the playmaker from the likes of Chelsea and West Ham after just two seasons at the club with Neymar choosing to stay with his boyhood club for a while longer. However, when European giants Barcelona came looking for him in 2014, he could not resist and signed a deal worth €86.2 million. 

At Barcelona, he formed a third of a formidable South American strike partnership with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scoring 105 times in 186 appearances for the Spanish side. Whilst at Barcelona, the Brazilian playmaker won all trophies available including La Liga (Spanish league), the Copa del Rey  (cup), Champion’s League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup. He was also shortlisted for the Ballon D’Or award for the best player in the world in 2015, finishing third behind his teammate Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid. After four seasons at Barcelona and weeks of speculation, Neymar eventually moved to PSG on Thursday for a new world record fee. 

It is believed that La Liga refused to accept the money and asked the governing body of European Football, UEFA to investigate the transfer. They believed it did not abide by the Financial Fair Play rules that UEFA had introduced to stop transfer fees escalating to the point where clubs are spending more than they are making. However, it is believed that the Qatari businessmen that own the French giants found a way around the rules. It is believed that they will either sell a couple of players each year of Neymar’s contract for €50 million each, or that they have paid Neymar €222 million to be an ambassador for the 2022 World Cup, due to be held in Qatar, and that he activated the release clause himself. 

Speaking about his reasons for the move, the Brazilian insisted that he ‘was never motitrated by money’ and that his ‘heart told me [him] that it was the right time to sign for PSG’. He also said that he went there ‘to take on a new challenge and to win titles’. It is believed that he will be paid €30million a year to play for the 

Why are Transfers So Expensive?

With this transfer window wide open, many of the big clubs are spending big in an attempt to strengthen their teams ahead of the new season. Big money moves have been made already for the likes of Romelu Lukaku (75million), Alexandre Lacazette (52.7million), Leonardo Bonucci (50million), Bernardo Silva (43million), Ederson (37.5million), Victor Lindelof (32million), Michael Keane (30million) and Jordan Pickford (30million) this summer. There have also been reported deals for Alvaro Morata (70million), Kyle Walker (54million), Virgil Van Dijk (60million), Naby Keita (57million), Tiemoue Bakayoko (47million) and Kylian Mbappe (100million).

With transfer prices going through the roof in recent seasons, the question on many fans lips is why are prices so high. If prices continue to rise as they are, 100million will be a normal price for a player in a couple of years. The answer is simple. Because these clubs are owned by big multinational corporations, rich sheikhs and oligarchs who all see 100million as we see a tenner, dispensable. Also the new television deals with Sky and BT are producing even more money for these clubs on a daily basis.

The willingness of clubs to hold on to their best players is a huge part of why transfers are going up. Players join a club at a young age and make their way through the ranks into the senior team in any given country and if they are talented, they are bound to be wanted by other clubs. If a player is good enough and the manager and the club want them to stay, they will raise the price of a player up to try and make it near impossible for the club to afford the player and to allow them to be able to afford a talented replacement.The competition for players is also a huge factor in driving their price up.  If two or more clubs are looking for the same player, that also affects their price as the club will try to get the best possible price for their player in order to be able to sign the best possible replacements.

However, the people with the money that buy clubs tend to try to buy bigger, more established clubs as a better return on their investment, pricing other clubs who aren’t owned by millionaires out. It also doesn’t give home grown players much of a chance at the big clubs with these players forced to look elsewhere for a chance. Many fans will ask what the solution is to this problem. The answer to that is that it would probably require a rule change from soccer’s governing body FIFA. They would have to adopt a style similar to the one used in Cricket where only two foreign players are allowed in any team or in Rugby Union where players that leave their country of origin, they forfeit their right to play for their country in international games. A system similar to the Cricket one is already used in China where only three foreign players are allowed to play in any one team. This is a debate which will inevitably continue as prices continue to rise through the roof.

3 Greatest English Champion’s League Final Victories

The Champions League is European football’s most prestigious tournament. It features the best teams from all across Europe as they compete to become Europe’s top club. From injury time goals to penalty shootout victories, the Champion’s League has seen several famous finals and many thrilling victories. Manchester United’s two injury time goals in 1999 to become the first team to ever do the treble, the first ever Real Madrid ‘Galacticos’ victory in 2002, Jose Mourinho’s famous victory with Porto in 2004, Liverpool’s famous night in Istanbul back in 2005, the start of Barcelona’s dominance as they beat Manchester United to the title back in 2009, Chelsea beating Bayern Munich in Munich to claim the title on penalties back in 2012 and Real Madrid destroying rivals Atletico Madrid in extra time in 2014 are just some of the famous victories and memorable finals that the Champion’s League has had in the modern era.

With this season’s final between holders Real Madrid and Juventus taking place tomorrow night, many will inevitably revisit some of the classic finals the competition has seen. Below are three classic English victories in the competition and what makes them so thrilling and so memorable.

Victory No.1- Two Injury Time Goals Secure Manchester United Treble (1999 Final)

Manchester United were without the suspended midfield duo of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes for this game at the Nou Camp and this went against them as they went behind after just six minutes. Marco Basler curled a free kick around the United wall and past Schmeichel in the goal. Bayern could have put this game to bed in the Second Half with two opportunities that hit the crossbar. However, it was just not their day. Thirty Seconds into injury time, Ryan Giggs got onto the end of a David Beckham corner and parried it into the path of Sheringham, at the far post, who stuck it in the back of the Munich goal to equalise for United. However, the late drama would not stop there as it never seemed to do under Ferguson. The ‘baby-faced assassin’, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shot a foot out after Teddy Sheringham could only head another David Beckham corner across the goal and put the ball in the back of the net to make it two. This famous victory allowed Manchester United to become the first ever team to achieve a treble of League, Cup and Champions League titles in the one season on what would have been the great Sir Matt Busby’s 90th Birthday.

Victory No.2- That Famous Night in Istanbul (2005 Final)

Many Liverpool fans will undoubtedly remember the most famous night in their clubs history. Manager, Rafael Benitez made a brave selection choice early on in this game, leaving out key players such as Didi Hamann and Igor Biscan. Liverpool found themselves in trouble early on as they found themselves at the end of a 3-0 drubbing at Half-Time and it was looking like it could just be one of those nights for Liverpool. Milan legend Maldini opened the scoring in the first minute as he got onto the end of Andrea Pirlo’s free kick to volley home. Hernan Crespo got onto the end of a long pass from Shevchenko, after Kaka had dribbled into the Liverpool half, getting behind the last Liverpool defender to put it past Dudek. Kaka was at the heart of the third goal too as he provided a silky through ball for Crespo on the right to chip over Dudek. Whatever Benitez said at half time seeemed to have worked as Liverpool came out afterwards looking like a new team and three goals in six minutes sent the game to extra time. Eight minutes in, Gerrard got onto the end of a John Arne Riise cross to head it in past the Milan keeper. Smicer volleyed home from just outside the box to make it two a minute later and Liverpool were back on course. Gerrard was pulled down in the box just a few minutes later by Gatusso. Alonso’s penalty was saved by Dida but could only deflect it back to Alonso who put the rebound away to force the game to Extra Time. Milan dominated the extra half hour and Shevchenko was denied twice by Dida as the game went to a Penalty shoot out. Liverpool won 4-3 with Dudek denying Pirlo and Shevchenko.

Victory No.3- Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in Munich on Penalties (2012 Final)

On their way to the final, Chelsea overcame a Barcelona team that had been dominating in Europe for a few years and were the underdogs going into the game against the reigning German champions on their home ground, the Allianz Arena. For years, owner Roman Abramovic had been searching for this trophy and had sacked managers such as Claudio Ranieri, Avram Grant, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Di Matteo, having won league and cup titles, for not winning the competition. Ryan Bertrand started ahead of regular full back, Ashley Cole for the game in an attempt to counter the threat of Arjen Robben and were without their captain, John Terry who was suspended. The game was far from a classic as both teams nullifed the threat of the other. Bayern had the best of the chances but were easily denied by the Chelsea defence and Petr Cech in goal. The only time Chelsea looked like they would come near was when Kalou had a chance minutes before half time but was easily denied by Neuer. The Bayern assault on the Chelsea defence continued after half time but could not seem to convert their chances. Chelsea had a chance late on in the half as Drogba got onto the end of a Ashley Cole cross which Neuer could only half clear but it lacked the power and so was easily stopped. Bayern had a half chance of their own late on through Muller who pulled the shot wide. With the game looking like it was heading for extra time, Toni Kroos swung in a cross from the left and it was headed in at the far post by Muller. A 35-year old Didier Drogba put Chelsea level just moments later as he headed a Frank Lampard corner in at the near post. The most exciting thing that happenned in the extra half hour was Drogba pulling Riubery down in the box and Cech saving Robben;s ensuing penlaty. The game went to a shoot out with Chelsea emerging victorious as Cech saved from Schweinsteiger.

FA Cup Final Memories

Before the broadcasters started piling money into the Premier League, reaching an FA Cup final was the pinnacle of a player’s career, the highlight of their season. Young boys dreamed of playing at Wembley and lifting that famous trophy. The television coverage would be on for hours, everybody would gather round their television screens in the middle of the day whether their team was involved or not. In recent years however, the FA Cup has lost its appeal slightly with managers using the early stages in particular to blood younger players and give senior players a rest. In recent years, the final of the competition has even been played on the same day as League fixtures taking away from its appeal. However, it seems to be on the way back up as four of the League’s top five teams made it to the semi-final stages this season.

Over the years, the FA Cup Final has produced so much that has shocked us, enthralled us and entertained us. From Wigan shocking Manchester City to win their first FA Cup back in 2013 to Eric Cantona’s volley for Manchester United against their arch rivals Liverpool in 1996 to Second Division side, Sunderland beating the great Don Revie’s Leeds United side back in 1973, it is clear that the FA Cup Final has produced its fair share of magic. I will examine four such moments from FA Cup Finals throughout the years that have enthralled viewers and are still talked about to this day.

No.1- Sir Alex Ferguson’s First Trophy (FA Cup Final 1990)- Many of us will remember Sir Alex Ferguson as being one of the greatest managers ever, having spent 26 years at United, winning countless trophies in the process. However, it did not start out that way for Ferguson. He joined the club in 1986 from Aberdeen and enjoyed a slow start with a squad that was falling apart. He overhauled the squad, bringing players such as Bruce, Ince, Phelan, Hughes and Pallister who would go on to become household names and they peaked just in time for the 1989-1990 season where they went on to win the FA Cup. The final was a cracker, Crystal Palace were the opposition and the match ended 3-3 with Mark Hughes and one Ian Wright scoring a brace each for their club, forcing the tie to a replay. The replay itself was a rather less entertaining one with Lee Martin scoring the only goal in the game which secured Ferguson’s first trophy as Manchester United manager. It was the start of greatness for the man who would go on to lead United to become the first English club to secure a treble.

No.2- Second Division side, Sunderland overcome Don Revie’s Leeds United to win the trophy (FA Cup Final 1973)- In the 1970’s, Sunderland were a side who were lagging in the second division whilst Leeds were flying it in the First Division, having been runners up for the previous three seasons under the stewardship of Don Revie, widely regarded as one of the world’s best ever managers. However, that season Sunderland enjoyed a miraculous FA Cup run defeating teams such as Notts County, Reading, Manchester City and Arsenal on their way to the final of the competition. The final ended 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ian Porterfield. Goalkeeper, Jimmy Montgomery gave a man of the match performance to deny a Leeds side featuring players such as the iconic Irish pundit, John Giles and Scottish centre back, Gordon McQueen amongst others. This will go down in history as one of the greatest ever footballing shocks ever.

No.3- Eric Cantona’s goal to defeat Liverpool (FA Cup final 1996)- With both Manchester United and Liverpool both struggling to win big trophies at the moment, their fans like to entertain each other with classic, memorable encounters between the two. One such encounter was the 1996 FA Cup Final between the two teams at a time when the two teams were going in opposite directions. United had won three League titles in four years and had been in three FA Cup Finals in the past three seasons whilst Liverpool were struggling, having not won a league title 1990 (this is still to this day the last time the club last won a league title) and an FA Cup since 1992. The game itself was pretty drab with both team’s playmaker, Eric Cantona and Steve McManaman being marked well by the opposing midfield players. Neither Schmeichel or James in goal were tested very much. The game was decided by a Cantona volley from just outside the box in the 85th minute, that will stay in United’s fans memories for a long time. Liverpool goalkeeper David James could only lie and watch after he deflected the ball into the frenchman’s feet.

No.4- Wigan Shocking Manchester City to win their first trophy in their 81 year history (FA Cup Final 2013)- The 2013 season will be best remembered for Wigan winning the FA Cup, beating a side who had finished second in the league, and getting relegated to the Championship in the same year. The Cup Final spelt the end for both managers with one on his way to be sacked whilst the other was on his way to a bigger club. It represented a chance for both managers to sign off with a final hurrah and end their time at the club with silverware. The game was exciting and full of action with Wigan capitalising on the fact that City were struggling to play with the fluency and skill associated with the club at this time. Their big players such as Silva, Aguero and Toure didn’t show up on the day at all and their full back, Pablo Zabaleta got himself sent off late on in the game. Wigan looked comfortable having the lion’s share of possession on the day with Dave Watson, an 81st minute substitute, getting his head to a Shaun Maloney corner to put the ball past Hart in the City net just seconds after the fourth official had signalled three minutes of injury time. Wigan just had to hold off for a couple more minutes and when the whistle went, they were the ones celebrating the greatest day in their club’s short history.

The FA Cup Final has over the years seen its fair share of shocks, entertainment and magic. Will this weekend’s final featuring Chelsea and Arsenal see the same? Tune in on Saturday at 5.30 and see.

Manchester United to end season on a high?

Despite having a disappointing season for the most part, with many pundits slamming their overly defensive tactics, Manchester United have the chance to finish the season with two trophies. The first of these, the League Cup, was won back in February at Wembley with a 2-1 victory over Southampton. The second is the Europa League, a competition usually not taken seriously by English managers and teams in recent years with many opting to field weakened sides and give younger  players a chance as they focus on their league campaigns as it comes with the added disadvantage of having to play on a Thursday night. However, the addition of qualification to Europe’s top tier of competition, the Champion’s League, for the following season as the reward for winning the tournament, has led to United’s manager, Jose Mourinho, electing to focus on winning this tournament at the expense of trying to qualify for the Champion’s League by finishing in the top four in the Premier League.

With the Final of this competition in Stockholm approaching in the coming days, the question on many fans lips is whether Manchester United can beat an Ajax side that is full of exciting young talents, coached by former great Dutch players such as Dennis Bergkamp and Edwin Van Der Sar, to claim the title, the only trophy the club has yet to win. A few seasons ago, there would have been few who would have doubted their ability, now though many are divided. Their recent form would suggest they may struggle, having not won a game in four, losing to both Arsenal and Tottenham in recent weeks and drawing with Celta Vigo and Southampton, a series of results which prevents them from being able to finish in the top four and earn an automatic place in next seasons Champions League.

Mourinho has in recent weeks, expressed his frustration at the amount of games the club has to play adding that ‘in this moment the Premier League, for us, is just matches we don’t want to play.’ He stated that ‘nobody can play two big competitions with 15 players and this is what we have at this time.’ However, many fans will argue that the fifteen players he has at his disposal are good enough players to compete on two fronts, a sentiment echoed by Jamie Redknapp after their disappointing 0-0 draw with Southampton on Wednesday night. ‘When you look at the United team and Jose says he is struggling for players, that team cost about £260m, I would want a lot more.’, said Redknapp on Wednesday night as he was in the Sky Sports studio It could be argued that injuries are a part of every team and that teams have competed on multiple fronts in the past with several injuries.

Many pundits have slammed Mourinho and his tactics in recent weeks. After their 2-1 defeat to Arsenal, former United player turned pundit, Gary Neville voiced his frustration at United having dropped crucial points at home this year to ‘stupid teams’. After their defeat to Southampton on Wednesday night, Redknapp said that United have had a “disappointing and pedestrian season”, claiming that ‘the Man Utd fans would want more – more excitement and more attacking football.’ He added that ‘watching United is hard work at the moment, it was hard at the weekend [against Tottenham] and hard work again today.’ After their defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago, former Liverpool player, Graeme Souness said that ‘if you set out to play like that, the first thing you are doing is handing the initiative to the other team’.

Several United players have underperformed this season with the majority of goals coming from just two players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now injured, and Juan Mata, who has just returned from injury. Young players such as Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford who impressed towards the back end of last season, have been played out of position at times this season on the wings, meaning that they have little to no confidence when they get the rare opportunity to play in their favoured positons. Chris Smalling, who up until this season would have been considered the number one centre back for England, has found himself on the bench for his country this season due to poor performances for the club. Luke Shaw, who returned to the United side after a lengthy spell out with a double leg break, has failed to find the form that led to United buying him from Southampton the previous season and has faced spells out with further injuries. Both Ibrahimovic and Mata were both injured for long periods of time, putting a dent in United’s hopes of qualifying for the Champion’s League.

However, there have been some bright spots for United this season which will undoubtedly give Mourinho some confidence heading into the game. Ander Herrera, the club’s newly crowned Player of the Year, has been a shining light in the midfield this season, having contained key opposition players such as Phillipe Coutinho and Eden Hazard and has created several chances and set up several goals. Despite being plagued with injuries, Manchester United have the second best defensive record in the Premier League after Tottenham Hotspur. Sergio Romero, who is set to start in goal for United on Wednesday night, has impressed all season in the tournament and in the rare games he has played in the Premier League, including on Wednesday night against Southampton where he was named Man of the Match after saving a penalty early in the first half. Marouane Fellaini, who many would argue should not be at the club, has become a consistent stable option in the midfield.

Mourinho does boast an impressive cup final record, having won 11 out of 13 cup finals he has been involved in since 2003, which will give United and Mourinho confidence heading into the game next week. He also has a perfect cup record from his time in England, having won all of the cup finals he has been involved in in his time with Chelsea and now United. Mourinho’s saviness at knowing how to win cup games may well be what clinches the title for the English club and give them qualification to next season’s Champion’s League, something that the club can use to build upon next season.

 

The Europa League final takes place on Wednesday, the 24th May at 8pm.

Ireland given tricky 2019 Rugby World Cup Draw

Ireland have been given what could turn out to be a tricky draw for the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 yesterday. They will have to face Scotland and Japan, two vastly improving  nations. Both countries are emerging nations who have improved vastly in recent years and have impressed people with their performances.

Scotland finished in fourth place in this years Six Nations tournament and beat Ireland 27-22 in Murrayfield. They also enjoyed victories over Wales and Italy in the tournament this year and narrowly lost to France, securing a losing bonus point in the process. The Scots who will now be led by the former Glasgow Warriors coach, Gregor Townsend, will inevitably fancy their chances having performed quite well in this years Six Nations.

Japan also are an emerging nation and enjoyed a 34-32 victory over South Africa, who ranked third in the world at the time, in the last World Cup in 2015. They also came close to beating Wales in their clash last Autumn, narrowly losing out 33-30 and will relish a chance to cause an upset with the tournament taking place there in 2019.

Speaking at the draw, Irish head coach, Joe Schmidt was rather coy about his emotions stating that he felt the pools ‘are all good, bad and ugly’ and that ‘it is very hard to assess where teams will be in two years’ time.’

England were handed probably the toughest pool having been drawn alongside both France and Argentina, whilst Australia got the easiest pool having been drawn alongside Georgia and Wales. Holders New Zealand will face South Africa and Italy.

FIFA set to investigate Paul Pogba transfer

FIFA, world football’s governing body are reportedly set to investigate the transfer of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United this summer. Pogba, a former United youth player moved to Juventus in 2012 only to return to the club this summer for a staggering world record £89 million. A spokesperson for FIFA said that they were investigating the deal using its Transfer Matching System (TMS) which keeps an eye on transfers conducted between clubs from different countries. ‘We can confirm that FIFA TMS has been requesting information on this matter. We have no further comment at this stage’.

They are reportedly concerned at the reported £41 million that Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola was set to earn from the world record deal as he was paid for acting for both clubs as well as the player. It is quite unusual that an agent acts for all three parties in a transfer but is allowed under certain circumstances and all deals have to be put into the TMS. A deal that Raiola struck with Juventus that they would receive 50% of any future transfer of Pogba from Manchester United over £40 million.

Neither club is commenting on the matter with United saying they ‘don’t comment on contracts’ and Juventus saying they have received no communication from FIFA yet.

Laidlaw replaces Youngs in Lion’s Squad

Scottish captain, Greig Laidlaw has been called up to the British and Irish Lion’s Squad to replace Ben Youngs who had to withdraw for family reasons. Youngs who was a stand out performer for England in the recent Six Nations and had a strong chance of being involved in the tour withdrew after his brother Tom’s wife was given a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Youngs said in a statement released this week that they ‘are a very close family’ and that ‘time is now precious together’. He said that his main priority now has to be ‘to offer as much support as I can to Tom and his family in the remaining time we all have together.’ On being selected for the tour, Youngs said that it was ‘a great honour to be selected as a member of the British & Irish Lions squad and I would like to thank Warren Gatland, the staff and the other players for their understanding in this situation. I wish them well and, like all rugby supporters in Britain and Ireland, hope they have a successful tour.’

Head coach, Warren Gatland elected to call up the Scotland and Gloucester scrum-half, Laidlaw to replace him on the tour, saying that he ‘ was someone we’d [they] discussed initially, but the fact he’d been injured in the Six Nations was one of the reasons he probably wasn’t in the original squad.’. He added that ‘it’s an opportunity [for Laidlaw], and given his experience and leadership as well.’

Laidlaw, who was a surprise omission from the squad believes ‘it’s a great opportunity to come in for myself to get my feet on the ground, get involved and put my print on the Lions squad.’. He added that he is a competitor and that its one of his strengths ‘that will never leave me’ and that he wants ‘to make sure that when I get an opportunity, I take it.’

The British and Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand begins on 3rd June with a game against the New Zealand Barbarians.

Fun Football Match raises €460 for Sama (from the Carlow Nationalist 4.4.17)

A Special charity soccer match at Carlow College last Wednesday raised €460 for Sama, a young boy with a rare genetic skin disorder. Sama has a thickened skin which grows 200% faster than normal and was the guest of honour alongside his classmates from the Educate Together School in Carlow. An All-Star Team made up of students and staff  from Carlow College took on the college’s crack first 11. Commenting afterwards, organiser of the event, Catering Manager, Julie Lyons thanked everybody who volunteered or helped out, the supporters and everyone who contributed something to the cause. She also expressed her gratitude to the College President, Fr. Conn O’Maoldhomhnaigh for supporting the event. She said that ‘without his support and guidance, the event simply would not have been able to go ahead.’ Finally, Julie said guest of honour, Sama ‘was so thrilled to be here’ and that ‘he and his class mates thoroughly enjoyed their day.’