The Crumbling, Decling Empire Clasico Recap Edition

During last Saturday’s clasico, my twitter feed was curiously silent. Was I in shock after the first half? Was I silently exuberant during the second? No and no. I was driving across Houston to my son’s game and then at a Halloween gathering. Thanks to Dishworld and BeIN Sports, I could watch the game later. Thus, I carefully avoided the excellent Guardian cellphone app, Facebook, Twitter, and incoming text messages and WhatsApp messages from the known entities.

Miraculously, I watched the game at midnight Saturday night and still didn’t know the score. However, the storyline and start were predictable. Continue reading “The Crumbling, Decling Empire Clasico Recap Edition” »

Cool Carlo and the Non-Clasico Clasico

The furling eyebrow. The non-abrasive press conferences. The jovial laugh. Carlo Ancelotti is definitively not Jose Mourinho. Thanks in large part to signings, he’s re-made the Real Madrid roster into an attacking 4-3-3 with little regard for, say, defending. Gone is the counter-attacking 4-2-3-1, the crossfield switches of Xabi Alonso, the darting runs of Di Maria, the lackadaisical drifting of Ozil.

Also gone, perhaps for the better, is the animosity for FC Barcelona. Continue reading “Cool Carlo and the Non-Clasico Clasico” »

More Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0

Being a Real Madrid fan means winning trophies, spending money on big signings, and winning even more trophies. You also get lots of shit when the expensively assembled team doesn’t win, but, hey, comes with the territory. What being a Real Madrid fan never meant before was this: selling key players in the prime of their career.

So what has happened these past two summers? Continue reading “More Reflections on the Galacticos 3.0” »

Yet Another Shameless Author Plug: eBook Rental Edition

Up until recently, my two eBooks, An Illustrated Guide to Soccer & Spanish and Real Madrid & Barcelona: the Making of a Rivalry, were only available for purchase on major retailers Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. However, given the emergence of two eBook “Netflix” style services, that’s all changed.

Here’s the details. Continue reading “Yet Another Shameless Author Plug: eBook Rental Edition” »

Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Gap Year”?

Thanks to the NFL’s mismanagement of a series of domestic violent incidents, the NCAA has been out of the spotlight for a few weeks. However, when last we checked on said institution, a federal administrative body had deemed it an “employer” based on the control it exercised over the lives of student athletes. Also, despite attempts to ban payments to players (and keeping the “amateur” spirit of collegiate sport), SB Nation had an amazing story on the ins and outs of being a “bagman“, the name for alumni who funnel cash to players and use burner cell phones.

What do these two things have to do with one another? And what do they have to do with soccer? For the next ten years of growth of soccer in the US, everything. Continue reading “Should Soccer Players Jump through NCAA Hoops and try a “Gap Year”?” »

Yes, I am still writing about soccer…..

Sigh. For the last few years, I’ve been pretty good about my Monday, Wednesday, Thursday posting. Why those days? Well, anymore and I’d turn the site into a content mill, any less and I’d lose my edge. Also, coincidentally*, those are the days when the internet has heavy traffic for actual readers. No, not bots. Not spiders. Not bait-clickers. Folks with the time to read some serious thoughts. I’m one of those serious thinkers. That’s why my listicles include full paragraphs under the pics and my lazy video posts include puns in the headlines.

Alas, it’s still Monday and I’m still posting, but time is short. Family and professional obligations have arisen. I’ve also gotten pitched by some seriously quality soccer sites, whom have generously agreed to publish my writing. Here are links to two longer pieces for said quality sites, both of which I am proud of: Continue reading “Yes, I am still writing about soccer…..” »

Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest

David Conn of the Guardian is a pretty sharp character. He’s written about financial irregularities in football for several years with clear prose and often original research. Still, I’m always intrigued at how different countries and people view “third party ownership.” In affluent Western European nations, clubs don’t lack for access to credit or cash or revenue, so there’s no need to pinch pennies. In less well-to-do places, though, like Portugal and Brazil, clubs often struggle to get cash to cover basic daily expenses. Many can’t even make payroll on a regular basis. That’s why when Nani got loaned back to Sporting, he insisted United cover his wages.

David recently wrote about Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes and here’s the bottom line: Mendes is an agent for players and often is an adviser and/or investor in firms who own a part of the player’s playing rights (which is legal in Portugal). The major criticism in David’s piece is that this is a possible “conflict of interest.” However, upon closer inspection, this claim falls apart. Continue reading “Jorge Mendes and Confusion about Conflicts of Interest” »

ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation

I’m admittedly not a big fan of transfer rumors. During most silly seasons (the winter and summer), I prefer napping to blogging about soccer. In a recent Bleacher Report article, a journalist describes his methodical process in trying to pin down, unearth, and then break a soccer transfer. They key appears to be building contacts with agents, players, and clubs (“sources” in journalism) but then keeping your mouth shut until the last possible minute. As Balague notes, when a transfer does happen, it can occur in breathtaking speed.

But that’s different from “transfer speculation”, the well-known practice of tossing big clubs and big player names into the same article and basically daydreaming. Still, transfer speculation is an art-form into itself. I’ve articulated a few rules for said craft, and have a nice example courtesy of ESPNFC. Continue reading “ESPNFC Re-activates Transfer Speculation” »

The True Importance of Winning?

In the latest issue of The Classical, there’s some pretty words written about losing. In particular, the NBA has stories from the 2000′s about teams that couldn’t win a ring but earned critical acclaim. I speak, of course, of the Chris Webber Sacramento Kings and the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns. These teams both were fun to watch – the Suns tried to score in six seconds each possession, and relied on the delicious pick-and-rolls of Nash and Amare Stoudemire. The Kings, meanwhile, enjoyed solid guard play from first Jason Williams and then Mike Bibby, while Chris Webber’s soft hands freely spread the ball around.

Neither team won a title, but both won fans hearts. Are there any soccer teams in the same vein? Yes. Here they are: Continue reading “The True Importance of Winning?” »