Posts Tagged ‘ La Liga. ’

Loan Sharks

There are many reasons for a parent club to loan out a player, this type of deal seems to be occurring more and more in England over recent seasons with the gap between the Premiership and the Football League widening and clubs becoming more prudent due to the current economic climate.

Without focussing on the various reasons (which are vast) that lead to a loan deal this article will take a look at five England internationals past and present who have used the loan system to their benefit.  Three of these have gone on to forge impressive international careers whilst also achieving some of the highest available accolades at club level, the remaining two will hope to follow a similar path.  

Firstly, a look at a player who was a relatively late bloomer in modern day terms.  His first big move came at the age of 25, his first international cap at 27 with major club honours not following until the ripe old age of 33.

Teddy Sheringham

Struggling to make his mark in the first team at Millwall during the 1984/85 season, the striker was sent out on loan for a first time to Fourth Division side Aldershot Town.  Being unable to score a goal in six appearances for the club led to the player questioning his future in the professional game.

A second loan spell, this time with Swedish Second Division side Djurgarden put these doubts to bed, kick starting the future England International’s career with 13 goals in 21 games.  These goals helped the Stockholm club to the Division Two North title and subsequently a playoff for promotion, in which Sheringham scored during the second leg to take the tie to a penalty shootout.  Victorious in the penalty shootout, Sheringham returned to The Den in time to score four goals in 18 appearances (9 starts) in the league. 

Establishing himself in the first team during his five subsequent seasons at Millwall, where he was regularly top scorer, Sheringham made a £2m move to Nottingham Forest under manager Brian Clough for the 1991/92 season.

The rest is history, further transfers to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United where he enjoyed the most successful period of his career in terms of honours (3 Premier League Titles, an FA Cup and a Champions League trophy) as well as 51 caps for England (11 goals).  Included in these international appearances is the 4-1 victory over Holland at Euro ’96, Sheringham’s greatest performance in an England shirt which saw he and strike partner Alan Shearer grab a brace each.  Relying on intelligence on the pitch rather than pace, Sheringham had excellent heading ability which was a source of many goals, he also had an unrivalled knack of creating space for others which was one of the reasons why his international partnership with Shearer was so frutiful.

It would be difficult to attribute Sheringham’s loan spell at Djurgarden as the reason for his success in the game, however it played no small part in boosting the strikers confidence in his own footballing ability.  It also swayed then Millwall manager George Graham into giving him more playing time.

Next we move on to one of Sheringham’s former Manchester United teammates, one of the most world renowned players in the history of the game (which can also be attributed to his off field endeavours) who is currently enjoying the twilight of his career.

David Beckham

Now with LA Galaxy of the MLS, Beckham has enjoyed two loan spells with AC Milan in recent seasons, however it is his loan move to Division Three Preston North End in 1995 that this article will focus on.

It is hard to evaluate the bearing that Beckham’s time at Deepdale had on his career, joining as a teenager he made five appearances for the club scoring two goals before his return to Manchester United where he achieved worldwide recognition.

The midfielder had made his senior debut for Manchester United in the Rumbelows Cup against Brighton in September 1992, but struggled to make an impression on the first team.  This eventually led to a temporary move to Preston, in order to gain first team experience.

Given the number 4 shirt for his time at The Lilywhites where he played alongside current Everton manager David Moyes, Beckham’s individual technique in delivering set pieces was clear to see even at the tender age of 19.  One of his goals for Preston came from a freekick (which would later become his trademark), the other coming directly from a corner kick against Doncaster.     

A role model for future generations of England players, the former captain and (presently) second highest capped player of the national side won major honours with both Manchester United and Real Madrid, playing with some of the games greatest ever players under some of the worlds best coaches.  There is no doubt that Beckham would have found his feet in the game regardless of his spell at Preston North End, however it is testament to the Lancashire outfit that the midfielder acknowledged his time at the club during his acceptance speech for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. 

In the England squad for all three of the major tournaments which Beckham captained, this next player is a man who love him or hate him is often revered as the best left back in the world.

Ashley Cole

Now at Chelsea, the defender made his debut in senior football with Arsenal in the 1999/00 season, appearing against Middlesbrough at The Riverside in the fourth round of the Worthington Cup.

Later that season Cole went on loan to division one side Crystal Palace.  Making 14 appearances for the club (all in the league) arguably his most vital contribution did not come at the back.  With Palace finding themselves one nil down in their final home game of the season against Blackburn Rovers, who had taken the lead from a goal by Matt Jansen, it was Cole who hit the equaliser.  Finding himself on the end of a loose ball at the edge of the Rovers penalty area he hit an ambitious left footed effort which gave the opposition goalkeeper no chance.

Crystal Palace would go on to win the match 2-1 with a headed goal from Clinton Morrison, a result matched in the next (and final) game of the season against Tranmere Rovers, seeing The Eagles preserve their place in Division One by one point.

A revelation during his three month spell in South London, the 18 year old returned to Arsenal in time for the final Premier League game of the season away at Newcastle, which ended in a 2-4 defeat.  It was in this game that Cole made his Premier League debut, with Arsene Wenger casting one eye towards the UEFA Cup final (which was to take place 3 days later) he fielded a somewhat weakened side.

Going on to displace Silvinho in the first team Cole was to become a vital part of the Arsenal backline, his regular forays forward also contributing to the most successful period in the clubs history.  The teenagers break into the first team at Arsenal is largely attributed to the injury of his Brazilian counterpart.  However, the first team experience he gained with Crystal Palace played a part in his initial impressive displays in an Arsenal shirt which ultimately led to Wenger keeping faith with the youngster upon Silvinho’s return to fitness.

In light of their ages and the number of games they have played for club and country it could be seen as premature to include these next two players on a list with some of the best players to represent the national side in recent times.  Still at the early stage of their respective careers, with the talent they both possess they are the future  of the English game and it is surely a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ in terms of honours.   

Joe Hart

The 23 year old goalkeeper who started life as a professional with his hometown club Shrewsbury Town, moved to Manchester City in 2006.  Making one appearance for the club in the 2006/07 season (a Premier League clean sheet against Sheffield United) he would go on to spend time on loan firstly with Tranmere Rovers and later Blackpool, however it is Hart’s loan spell with Birmingham City during the 2009/10 season that really propelled him to the next level.

During the two seasons prior to his time with Birmingham the keeper made a string of appearances for parent club Manchester City, also making his England debut in 2008.  This did not deter City from signing Shay Given from Newcastle (in the 2009 winter transfer window), who subsequently became the ever present first choice goalkeeper at Eastlands for the remainder of the season.

With Mark Hughes unwilling to let Hart leave on a permanent deal a loan move was agreed with Birmingham City in order for the player to gain regular first team action.  This was precisely what he got, playing between the sticks for all but two of the Midland clubs Premier League fixtures (ineligible to play against Manchester City). 
The remarkable exploits of Hart whilst wearing the number 25 shirt of newly promoted Birmingham were a large factor in the club being worthy candidates for a Europa League berth at one stage during the season.  Despite the charge for Europe tailing off later in the campaign the club still managed to obtain a respectable league position of ninth place, their best finish for 51 years.

On an individual level, these impressive performances led to Hart being named Birmingham City’s player of the season for 2009/10 as well as being named as goalkeeper for the Premier League PFA team of the year.  A member of Fabio Capello’s 23 man squad for the 2010 World Cup, Hart did not make an appearance at the tournament, the stopper returned to his parent club for the 2010/11 season.

Returning to Manchester City (who were now managed by Roberto Mancini) surrounded by speculation in regards to who would be first choice goalkeeper at the club, it was Hart who was given the nod for the first Premier League game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur.  Awarded man of the match, Hart has gone on to make 36 appearances in all competitions so far this season, limiting goalkeeping rival Shay Given to just 4 cup appearances.

With Roberto Mancini keeping faith in the young keeper in the face of recent poor performances despite having backup in the form of the vastly experienced Shay Given and also a wealth of riches available to bring in an alternative is testament to Hart’s abilities, only emphasised further by Capello installing him as number 1 for all three of England’s 2012 European Championship Qualifying games so far.
The inclusion on this list of a midfielder who is yet to make a competitive appearance for England is somewhat controversial, only one substitute appearance and one start so far there is surely more to come from the latest player to be heralded as the heir to Gazza’s thrown as the jewel in England’s crown.
Jack Wilshere

Arsenal plucked the predominantly left footed midfielder from Luton Town at the age of nine.  Since then Wilshere has risen through the North London clubs youth and reserve ranks, leading to a place in the first team for the 2008/09 season.  Inheriting the number 19 shirt left vacant by Gilberto Silva, he set a record as Arsenal’s youngest ever league player aged 16 years and 256 days as he came on as a substitute for the last nine minutes of a 4-0 defeat of Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park in September 2008.

The remainder of that season saw Wilshere make just 7 further first team  appearances in all competitions.  It was in January of the following 2009/10 season that Wilshere went on loan to Bolton Wanderers in order to gain valuable first team experience.

Bolton was the perfect fit for Wilshere, with the clubs new manager Owen Coyle attempting to advocate his preferred passing style at the club.  Wilshere made his debut in a 2-0 loss to Manchester City, regardless of defeat the midfielder flourished at the heart of every Bolton attack.  He went on to make a further 13 Premier League appearances for the club, acrobatically scoring one goal against relegation rivals West Ham.  The goal turned out to be the winner, three vital points which proved to be even more important considering Bolton would go on to win just three of their remaining ten fixtures.     

Returning to Arsenal ready for action in his breakthrough season, he started away at Liverpool on the opening day of the season.  Wilshere has gone on to make 34 appearances in 2010/11 so far, including a fantastic Champions League performance against Barcelona last week.

It is hard not to wax lyrical about a 19 year old player who has it all; a footballing brain which defies his youth, composed on the ball, impressive in the tackle with an ability to spot space on the pitch that would be envied by players far his senior.  His presence on the field and distinctive running style provide Wilshere with an aura about him that in some young players would be perceived as arrogance.  With Wilshere this is mere graciousness, a childlike love for the game that could be compared to that of Gazza.  Both attributes emphasised by the image that depicts Wilshere proudly standing with his father beside the Emirates pitch, displaying the shirts of Messi and Xavi after the Barcelona game which has elevated his standing in the European game.

Making his first start in an England shirt at the beginning of this month, it is left for Wenger and Capello to duke it out in the press over which player Wilshere shares the most likeness; Makelele, Pirlo or Scholes.  No doubt both hold a debt of gratitude to Owen Coyle’s Bolton for providing Wilshere with regular top flight action last term.

Loan deals have come under the spotlight recently, largely receiving negative press due to the distortion of league tables that such deals can cause, particularly when players on large salaries have their income subsidised by parent clubs during these spells. 

Many have also questioned the credibility of loan deals between Premier League clubs due to their financial muscle (they should be able to afford their own players), however if loan deals continue to aid the development of young (particularly English) players then I’m sure that the present loan system will remain in place for the foreseeable future.


Right Place Wrong Time

Some clubs have become synonymous with Champions League success, since the competition began in 1955 (then under the guise of The European Cup) 21 different clubs have been crowned as champions of Europe.

The top ten most successful clubs in the history of the competition have taken an impressive 42 out of 55 available trophies ₁.  This number is even more staggering when you take into account the 29 trophies won by the top five; Real Madrid (9), AC Milan (7), Liverpool (5), Bayern Munich (4) and Ajax (4), historically winning over 50% of the trophies on offer ₁.

With this in mind it may be easy for players at many of these clubs to take for granted that success in Europe’s most coveted competition is a given.  This article takes a look at the five players who have not been able to win a Champions League medal themselves despite playing for a minimum of four Champions League winning clubs over the course of their careers.

Ronaldo (PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan)

The greatest striker of his generation, and arguably of all time; El Fenomeno (The Phenomenon) has this week announced his retirement from the game, finishing his career with homeland club Corinthians. 

This announcement has sparked a flurry of articles, blogs and youtube compilations depicting his remarkable skills and achievements in the game, it seems unjust to include Ronaldo’s name in this piece which ultimately has a negative outlook.

His start with Cruzeiro and finish at Corinthians sandwiched spells with five European clubs whom have enjoyed success in the continents premier club competition, despite this Ronaldo never managed to acquire a Champions League winners medal himself.

This is not to say that the strikers career could be deemed unsuccessful, far from it, to showcase but a few of Ronaldo’s club level honours; domestic trophies in Brazil with both clubs that he represented as well as in Holland with PSV, a UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Barcelona in 1997 was to be accompanied by a UEFA Cup winners medal with Inter Milan in 1998 before a move back to Spain where R9 was to win La Liga twice.

The only club with whom Ronaldo did not win a trophy was AC Milan where he was cup tied for the Champions League triumph of 2007.  The closest he came to winning an elusive Champions League winners medal was in Real Madrid’s 2002/03 campaign which ended in a 4-3 aggregate semi final defeat to Juventus. 

Ronaldo will be able to enjoy his retirement with a feeling of immense pride, having also received a number of individual accolades; two Ballon D’or awards, FIFA Player of the Year winner on three separate occasions (a feat matched only by Zinedine Zidane) and listed in the FIFA 100 by fellow countryman Pele to name but three.

All this without mentioning his 15 World Cup goals (an all time competition record) and two World Cups won with Brazil which are the icing on the cake of a remarkable career blighted by injury.

Laurent Blanc (Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan, Manchester United)

Another player to obtain a World Cup winners medal (albeit serving a suspension in the final) the imposing defender who stands at 6’3” was also a teammate of Ronaldo at Barcelona for the European Cup Winners Cup winning season of 1996/97 (missing the final through injury).

His greatest successes were enjoyed with the French national side, a European Championship winners medal being added to his collection in 2000.  This is not to say that the player was not to taste glory at club level, the highlight’s being a Ligue 1 triumph with Auxerre and a Premier League trophy with Manchester United in 2003.

Often deployed as a sweeper Blanc was one of the modern games greatest defenders, also enjoying stints with Napoli, Inter Milan and Marseille as well as a host of other French clubs he will hope to replicate his successes  on the field with the national side in his new role as manager.

Boudewijn Zenden (PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Liverpool, Marseille)

Another player to enjoy spells with Barcelona and Marseille, but not before his breakthrough at homeland club PSV where he started out in the youth team, now with Sunderland he is the only member of this list still playing.

The Dutch winger benefitted from winning honours with PSV early in his career, receiving the Dutch Football Talent of the Year award in 1997 went hand in hand with an Eredivisie League Championship win.  This rise to prominence led the Dutchman to Barcelona where he added a La Liga title to his honours list.

An extended stay in England with Chelsea, Middlesbrough and then Liverpool, Zenden was somewhat unfortunate with the Anfield club.  He arrived on the back of a Champions League final victory over AC Milan in 2005 only to make his final appearance wearing the famous red shirt in the 2007 Champions League final defeat against AC Milan.  He did however win a European Super Cup with the club in 2005 as well as an FA Cup the following year (although he was injured for the final).

An unfruitful two years in France with Marseille before moving back to the North of England with his present club.

Pierre Van Hooijdonk (Celtic, Nottingham Forest, Benfica, Feyenoord)

The second Dutchman on this list, perhaps a little harshly considering the last time that any of the clubs he played for won the Champions League was in 1980 (Nottingham Forest), nine years before his debut with RBC.

The striker who was an aerial threat due to his sheer size won 46 caps for Holland.  Also seen as a set piece specialist, Van Hooijdonk made his first move abroad to join Celtic before a transfer to Premier League Nottingham Forest, however his greatest successes were to be enjoyed later on his career.

Leaving England saw spells back home and in Portugal with Benfica, prior to another transfer back to Holland where Van Hooijdonk scored two goals in Feyenoord’s 3-2 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the  2002 UEFA Cup Final, at the clubs home ground.  From here the player moved to Fenerbache where he enjoyed top flight league success for the first time, winning the Super Lig back to back in 2004 and 2005 (won English Division One in 1998 with Nottingham Forest).

Now retired after another two years (2005-07) shared between previous clubs NAC and Feyenoord in his homeland. 

Dean Saunders (Liverpool, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Benfica)

The Welsh striker who earned 75 caps for his country enjoyed stints at some of England’s most renowned clubs including Liverpool and Aston Villa as well as the big two in Wales (Cardiff and Swansea City).

Somewhat of a journeyman, Saunders also made appearances for top clubs in Turkey and Portugal (Galatasaray and Benfica respectively).  His career highlight being an FA Cup win at Wembley with Liverpool in 1992, which was shared with his strike partner for club and country Ian Rush.

Premier League runner up with Aston Villa the following season, another trip to Wembley in 1994 saw Saunders grab two goals in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United to lift the League Cup with the Midlands club. 

It is very rare (if ever) that a list of strikers of the modern game will include Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Dean Saunders and Ronaldo but I have managed to do it here.  All five of these players have enjoyed successful careers at some of the European games most prestigious clubs despite not winning the Champions League as individuals.

It remains to be seen if any of these players harbour any regrets in terms of this competition.  All that is left to do is enjoy the opening fixtures in the final 16 of the 2010/11 campaign and to see who will be crowned the 56th Champions League winners at Wembley in May.

₁ This figure is up to and including the final of 2010.