Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid Legend is Leaving?

With everything that has happened it will be very difficult for Sergio Ramos to stay at Real Madrid. Sergio is a symbol of this club. He has nothing to prove. But so many things are being said about him.

It’s really hard to know what to make of any statements or rumors during the transfer period.  A lot of it could just be agents and people blowing smoke in order to leverage a better deal for their client.  But sometimes there might be smoke because there is an actual fire.

But the fact that it is public that Sergio Ramos is unhappy with the negotiations is ridiculous.  He’s been an integral part of Real Madrid’s defense for years and the foundation of it for the past couple years ever since they moved him from left back to the central position.

Real is known for constantly changing its lineup and going out and always looking for the next big star. But Ramos is still in his prime, still a star and it would be impossible to replace him.  He’s the consistency in the back that every team needs and craves.

Oh, and has Real already forgotten that it has only been a year since he did this?


Pay him the money. All of it if needed.

Can Juventus Stop The Alien? Messi To Descend To Berlin For Epic Final

Messi is an alien, that dedicates himself to playing with humans. The only hope is that this Saturday he will be from earth, like the rest of us

~ Gianluigi Buffon

Messi, Messi, Messi. It’s been the longest week ever. In the U.S., there is a massive media build up prior to the Superbowl where players are subjected to every conceivable question about their lives, their teammates, and the game. This week, the rest of the world focuses on a bigger game. A better game. A beautiful game. The 2015 Champions League Final. Despite the subplots (Suarez bit Chiellini, Suarez racist remarks toward Evra) and plots (Argentines all over the field) within plots (Midfield Masters in Final Games: Xavi v. Pirlo), most of the questions are some version of “How are you going to stop Messi?”

Can they stop Messi? Allegri thinks so. “I hope that tomorrow [Messi] is stoppable,” he said. “We have been thinking about him. Also about [Luis] Suarez and Neymar. We have to play well, and know that this will not end 0-0. We will have to score at least one goal.” So they’ll play on the counter. I think we knew that.

Giorgio Chiellini is out. Does that change things? Paolo Bandini doesn’t think so. He argues that in the Guardian that it might even help some. Andrea Barzagli will take Chiellini’s place.

Barzagli, though, is a more technically accomplished defender. At the start of this week, before the present injury scenario had unfolded, Buffon was invited by to go through Juventus’s players one by one, listing their individual qualities. He described Chiellini as “our strong man”, saying the player’s great weapon was brute force. Barzagli was simply “an exceptional defender. Certainly among the best three or four in the world.”

This choice of words was revealing. Chiellini and Barzagli are very different players, and the former’s absence will certainly cost Juventus a degree of physicality in defence. But how much will that matter on Saturday? Is aggression an especially useful tool for containing Messi and company, or is the real challenge simply to keep up with Barcelona’s movements in the first place?

The debate over how to slow down the Argentinian has raged all week on the peninsula. Great defenders past and present have been sought for their views on how he may be contained.

Alessandro Nesta enjoyed some brilliant duels with Messi late in his career, and was at the heart of a Milan defence that kept a clean sheet against Barcelona at San Siro in March 2012. Even then, however, the rossoneri did ship seven goals in three other meetings that season. “Against Messi a bit of luck is essential,” conceded Nesta in one interview this week. “I kicked him a few times, too.”

Michael Cox over at ESPN outlines the way to make it happen by saying that six opponents have stopped the Neymar, Messi, Suarez combo. Here are his three keys to stopping the big three.

The positioning of the backline is probably Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri’s most important decision. Juve simply can’t play too high up the pitch, because the pace of Barcelona’s attackers will destroy them. But dropping needlessly deep isn’t a viable strategy either, because the Spanish champions’ dominance will eventually break them down.

Juve must also remain disciplined in midfield. While they will start with a diamond midfield on paper, it’s likely that quartet will flatten into a more conventional midfield four with Arturo Vidal dropping in alongside Andrea Pirlo, and Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba covering wider areas.

Last, but not least, Juventus need a huge performance from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who has never faced Messi before.

In the end, it seems that most people are predicting a Barcelona victory. They’re simply too good.

In truth, in a single game, anything can happen, but the discipline, focus, and determination required to beat Barcelona is very difficult to maintain. There’s a physical and mental discipline required to beat this team. Juventus is a veteran side and might just be able to do it, but I don’t see it.

Barcelona 3 – 1 Juventus


Photo credit: Payayita on Flickr rights reserved under Creative Commons

Pep and Bayern Play Barca’s Way and Lose Their Way

You can only beat Barcelona when you take the ball away from them. When they have the ball they are too strong.

~ Pep Guardiola, 12 May 2015

Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola is vastly different from the Jupp Heynckes team that won the Champions League Final in 2013. Just two years ago, Bayern was thrashing Barcelona. It was a different Barcelona that lacked the strength provided by Luis Suarez. It was the aging, creaky Barcelona that Xavi and Iniesta still led. Pep was already gone. Now, Barcelona looks unstoppable. They are as good as the best team Pep assembled. So the question is whether or not Pep should try to re-create a German version of his greatest Barcelona teams or create something different, that’s maybe better.

This particular Bayern showed a lot of courage and heart in the return leg. They were dynamic, pressing, and creative, but still were exposed defensively by arguably the best front three ever assembled. Pep’s Bayern pressed and did an admirable job of keeping possession, and, despite winning the match, lost the tie and are now out of the Champions League.

After last night, if Bayern Munich is going to try to become Bavarian Barcelona, it’s time to rebuild. Personally, I think they should look to build on the strength they already have. Pep’s going to get it right. It will be interesting to see where he and Bayern land.

Steven Gerrard Bids a Bittersweet Farewell to Chelsea and Stamford Bridge

The Chelsea fans showed respect for a couple of seconds for me, but slaughtered me all game so I’m not going to get drawn into wishing the Chelsea fans well.

It’s nice of them to turn up for once today. The standing ovation from a stadium is always nice, but what’s important to me is the Liverpool fans and they have been there since day one.

~ Steven Gerrard

Spoken like a true competitor and like a Red through and through.  And I think it’s great.  There was just the right amount of respect and disdain from both sides.  The Chelsea fans appreciate Gerrard and his commitment to Liverpool as well as his passion for the game.  But they aren’t about to give him a farewell tour and shower him with gifts a la Derek Jeter with the Yankees. They are Chelsea fans and while they admire him, they also don’t care for him or Liverpool. So they applaud him when he leaves the pitch as a sign of respect for his career, but howl at him while he’s on the pitch trying to score against their beloved Blues. A sense of humanity swept over the Chelsea faithful as they saw one of their favorite pantomime villains leave the stage for the last time.  I can only imagine that the loss of Gerrard will allow them to turn their animus to their own players as they seem to rule atop the Premier League without any clear rivals.

But not that Gerrard is bitter about the reception from the fans or would expect anything different.  He wasn’t looking for a warm reception, which is why he used the chance to get in one last jab at the Chelsea fans.  He wasn’t seduced by the applause as he left the field.  He thanked them for the kind gesture, but reminded them that they will always be second class to the fans at Anfield that have supported him from the beginning.

Messi, Barca Dominate Bayern

Messi did steal the show tonight, but it’s true that the entire Barcelona team should also be credited for the convincing win over Bayern Munich.  Right from the start Barcelona was pressuring and pestering Bayern all over the pitch. Bayern never looked comfortable and didn’t even have a shot on target all night.  Yes, Messi’s goals were brilliant, but it required the entire team to dismantle Bayern Munich like that.  Everyone knew Barcelona had been playing at top form, but Bayern was considered arguably the best club in the world coming into this game.  After tonight’s though, it’s clear who the best club in the world is right now.  And Messi is the unquestioned leader of that club.