let me dream a little dream…

 

had a really bad week and lost one year out of his contract: bayern coach louis van gaal, great in football, bad in relationships...

bayern munich is in a crisis. in the most important week of the season so far, the most successful team in germany lost their bundesliga home match against virtual champions borussia dortmund by 1×3. the win was deserved for dortmund, but bayern wasn’t really worse, they were unlucky in front and had some mistakes in the back. this season, it has been a normal occasion that almost every defensive mistake results into a goal against bayern, maybe with the exception of the internazionale match in the champions league.

after that disappointment, bayern would entertain schalke 04 at home, for the german cup semifinal; last year, in the same matchup, bayern beat schalke in gelsenkirchen with a dream-goal by arjen robben; but robben wasn’t able to deliver, always playing against to oponnents in the defense, and bayern lost after a goal early in the first half. this time, bayern was the better team, but they just didn’t manage to score a goal, which would probably have seen them through. the pressure was on for the next match, since bayern had fallen to 4th place in the bundesliga, right behind hannover 96, and need at least 3rd place to qualify for the champions league. qualification for next year’s european competition is a must, since the final will be in the allianz arena in munich, and bayern wants to be there. and the team wouldn’t disappoint; one can lose the cup, and even to be beaten by borussia dortmund this season is no real bummer, although it is an image problem, since bayern claims to be germany’s number one. but the matches before those two defeats were almost all very well played, and mostly won – even the deserved 1×0 victory against the holding champions of europe, internazionale milano. so this away match against 3rd placed hannover was a good way out of a mini-crisis, getting 3rd place back with a convincing win.

 

possible or even likely coach for 2011/12 season? jupp heynckes, bayern coach from 87-91 and in 2009, and a good friend of club president hoeness (left)

but what happened was the worse of the three defeats. hannover deserved the victory even more than dortmund a week earlier, and 3rd place is now 5 points away, with 2nd place (guarantees a spot in the group phase) now a whopping 7 points away (bayer leverkusen). uli hoeness, who really doesn’t like his dutch coach louis van gaal, had said in an interview in the beginning of the year that if 2nd place came into danger, things might get complicated for the coach; he even mentioned jürgen klinsmann’s sacking two years ago, as a warning example.

after the defeat in hannover, president hoeness left with only one comment: “now is no time to talk, it’s time to act”. it can’t get much clearer than that. but since karlheinz rummenigge, bayern’s boss, is responsible for the decisions, reason beat emotion.

 

hoeness' and my dream coach after 2012: jürgen klopp, currently borussia dormtund.

yes, bayern has lost three key matches, and in a row – first time this happened in 11 years. and it does seem that louis van gaal is to stubborn to change his tactics, which have not only been figured out by the opponents, but also finally reacted to, tactically. it seems that you only need to double robben and ribéry on both sides, have a midfielder follow müller, and another one attacking the defensive midfielder who has the ball, either schweinsteiger or luiz gustavo (prajnic); since those are loosing balls due to the pressure, the opponents have been able o create counter attacks, and most of them have been deadly; i wouldn’t even blame the defenders, it just is a very offensive tactic that van gaal follows, in his persuit of attractive football. schweinsteiger, lahm and badstuber have been out of form lately, and brazilian defender breno spoiled his increasing chances with his red card in hannover.

bayern munich decided not to sack louis van gaal, but he will leave the club at the end of the season. van gaal is a brilliant coach, maybe the best football teacher bayern has ever had. but his personality is a problem; his arrogance has made things difficult with quite a few players who left the club because of him (lucio, van bommel, demichelis) and with some that still are in the team (butt, van buyten, ribéry and even robben). van gaal has a tendency to criticise players who he feels are being too celebrated by the media (as done recently with young goalie kraft or earlier with thomas müller); he also thinks he’s always right, which makes life difficult with his bosses christian nerlinger (team manager), kalle rummenigge (club boss) and uli hoeness (club president), all ex-internationals and highly decorated football specialists. this without mentioning honorary president franz beckenbauer! his inability to have that extra sensibility for situations and feelings have cut his stay at bayern shorter than expected, and this is sad.

 

why not jogi? löws contract with germany ends after euro 2012; maybe he wants to go back to club football after that?

but it is also an opportunity. van gaal can’t win the bundesliga or the german cup on his way out, but he is proud enough to do everything he cans to leave on top – with a champions league title! he reached the final last year (besides winning both titles he’s lost this year), but lost the final to inter; next tuesday, bayern has a huge chance to eliminate inter and continue to dream of the title. and after these turbulent days, either everyone (players and coach) reacts in a negative way (the coach has been demoralized, the players don’t feel they need to follow him) or in a positive way – now or never! bayern’s chances of winning the champions league, in my optimistic opinion, have just increased with these three defeats and the whole debate about sacking van gaal; and the players will surely want to show character, since other defeats will only lead to the conclusion that the team is weak in personality.

the second dream concerns who might join bayern. ideally, jupp heynckes (or even ottmar hitzfeld) would join bayern munich for a third stint. jupp is a close friend of uli hoeness and understands how the bayern family works. he’s pretty advanced in age and would only be able to stay for one season; currently, he’s been successful with bayer leverkusen, so he still has the goods. and after 2012, jürgen klopp or even jogi löw could take over as head coach, to start a new era at bayern. personally i’d hope for klopp, who is currenlty leading dortmund to a fantastic bundesliga title. after the glory, things might be complicated for him next season, and bayern would then grab him for 2012.

the other candidates being discussed are matthias sammer (i don’t want him), guus hiddink (great, but another dutch, really?), martin jol (also dutch, but i like his style and persona) or even frank rijkaard (yes, yet another dutchman). from the bundesliga, thomas tuchel would be kind of a bet, but i would sign on. no one has mentioned him yet.

but here’s the dream: champions league glory with van gaal, then a year of good old jupp, and finally jürgen klopp; but jogi löw would do, too.😉

Published in: on March 8, 2011 at 13:35  Leave a Comment  
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why football is a special game (valencia 1×1 schalke)

 

messi might show some of his magic this evening, in london...

after a couple of months, finally the uefa champions league is back – the decisive phase is upon us, and great matchups promise great matches, like the one this evening between barcelona light (arsenal fc) and fc barcelona. be sure to catch that one, and hope for a messi and/or van persie show – or some great action from iniesta, villa, xavi, arshavin,  cesc fabregas chamakh and so many more. fabregas, who wanted to move to barcelona last summer, will be especially motivated!

yesterday, i watched a fascinating match between 500 million euro debt against 250 million euro debt. valencia c.f. played schalke 04 at home, raul played on spanish soil again. it was fascinating not because it was a great game (which it was not, although it wasn’t a bad game either), but it just shows who how this very specific sport is. after around 10 minutes of cautious play, valencia started playing with the confidence of five wins in six matches, this year. high velocity football with technical quality, extremely well organized as a team, not leaving any breathing time for the schalke defenders and midfielders. schalke seemed almost always late, and when the got a ball, it would be a matter of seconds for valencia to get it back. agressive pressing, concentrated passing and positioning – but only one goal by roberto soldado, who sat on real madrid’s bench for a long time because of raul (and, more towards the end, besides raul). 1×0 was not enough for valencia, and they deserved to be two up at least, even if  schalke striker klaas jan huntelaar did miss an incredible opportunity, showing off his horrible form of the past months.

 

raul was the hero in spain, yesterday.

the second half was even more frightening for the german fans in valencia, around 2000. schalke lost the ball even faster, metzelder in central defense and matip in central midfield were having a horrible game, and it seemed a question of time until valencia scored their second goal. and you already felt it in the air, after that it could be a catastrophe for schalke, and glory for valencia, just like their matches against bursaspor earlier this champions league season.

but after 65 minutes, lukas schmitz (young, inexperienced but talented left back who has having a terrible day) succeeded in a fast forward pass to the spaniard jurado (talented but sloppy, also having a bad day), who passed the ball to raul. perfect goal from an experienced attacker, literally beating the keeper and defender navarro at the same time and scoring the incredibly unfair equalizer.

the whole match changed.

in any other sport, a team like schalke would be down so far that this lucky, but still brillant punch could start a momentum leading to a change in the game, but it wouldn’t necessarily. but in football, it was as if the game restarted, with now less than half an hour to go.

valencia had invested a lot, and the 1×1 scoreline didn’t seem to compensate that effort. the legs became heavy and tired. they would not be able o produce any dangerous chances until the end of the match, even with chances being created. the physical force just left them, and the mental went with it. schalke was not strong enough a team to take advantage and actually win the game, which they would have, had they played a football even similar to valencia’s display in the first hour. at the end, 1×1 wasn’t even an unfair result, although no one would dare dispute the fact that valencia played much better than schalke.

that’s this strange game. now, 79,000 people will watch the second leg in gelsenkirchen, and schalke will be the favorite to advance to the quarterfinal – just because of one genius moment in the match.

that’s football, as they say.

federer and nadal: the end of an era?

federer and nadal after the wimbledon 2008 final, maybe the greatest in grand slam history.

yesterday, rafa nadal was eliminated in the quarterfinal of the australian open. he didn’t seem to feel well, and the normally physically strong spaniard didn’t resist and lost 0x3 sets to his countryman david ferrer. just now, roger federer suffered elimination at the hands of novak djokovic, the world’s number 3. 0x3 sets, and this time, djokovic just beat him.

you might think, well, anyone can lose, even a nadal or a federer. why this sensacionalist talk about the end of an era? the answer: because although they do lose from time to time, it just doesn’t happen too often. and normally not before a final.

nadal after his first grand slam truimph, in roland garros, six years ago

almost six years ago, rafael nadal reached his first grand slam final, at his first attempt in roland garros. since then, there have been 24 grand slam finals; and wait for this: in 23 of them, either nadal or federer was in the final! and, more: 22 of those times, the grand slam winner was either roger federer (12 times) or rafael nadal (10 times). they actually played out 6 of those finals between themselves (nadal won 4), which seems even a low number for this kind of dominance.

exactly three years ago was the one time that neither one nor the other was playing on the second sunday. australian open 2008 had tsonga beat nadal 3×0 in the first semifinal, and djokovic beat federer 3×0 in the second. almost the same as this time around. so it might be just an exception, a “twice in a lifetime” thing. time will certainly tell, but it does seem possible that federer and nadal might start to share some of their glory with novak djokovic, who’s been trying to enter their league for a while now.

maybe finally getting close to ending the federer x nadal exclusive rivlary? novak djokivic

there is another sign for that: this will be djokovic’s fourth grand slam final in his career; he had two in a row in us open 2007 (lost to federer) and australian open 2008 (beat tsonga in the final); now he lost to nadal in the us open final last year, and might just win his second slam, again in australia. and, who knows, he might try for the grand slam this year, which neither nadal nor federer ever came close to winning. ok, that’s a bit too much. but who knows?

by the way, it’s now completed two years since the last roger federer x rafa nadal grand slam final, also down under. another sign for the end of an era?

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 13:13  Comments (3)  

thank you, mark van bommel!

he will be missed: bayern's ex-captain van bommel announced the move o ac milan today.

i’ve been a fan of mark van bommel as a football player for a long time. since his days at psv eindhoven, mostly that semifinal campaign in the 2004/05 season, when the dutch player was a strong leader and led the team into the semifinal of the uefa champions league, alongside veteran phillip cocu. van bommel had started his career at fortuna sittard, from where he moved the the national top club at the age of 22. after his great season in 2005, fc barcelona hired the  high scoring defensive midfielder (around 60 goals in 320 appearances). it wasn’t the best of seasons for van bommel, who wanted more playing time at his prime age for playing football. although he played and won the uefa champions league final against arsenal in 2006, van bommel decided to move to bayern munich, hoping that he would get more playing time and still add some highlights to his career.

today, after 4 and a half great years for the club and a great performance last weekend, van bommel announced he’s leaving the club. at age 33 and quickly moving to 34, bayern had told their captain (since 2008) that he would not get a new extension. ac milan bought the “old” star, who is still younger than his landsman clarence seedorf and might replace him in the italian’s midfield. van bommel, who became national team captain after the world cup, probably received an 18 month contract. his role in the bayern family might someday bring him back to the club, though.

classic van bommel...

after all, the time at bayern did provide him with some career highlights, almost crowning it last may:

  • van bommel was elected bayern player of the season 2006-07, his first season at the club, beating favorites makaay, scholl and kahn
  • he won the bundesliga and the german cup in may of 2008
  • after oliver kahn’s retirement in 2008, he became the first non-german to captain bayern munich, selected by jürgen klinsmann and confirmed by louis van gaal in 2009.
  • in may 2010, van bommel won the bundesliga and the german cup for the second time, first time as the captain and the one to receive the trophies. he also played the uefa champions league final, which he lost to inter.
  • in july, he played in the world cup final, probably the biggest match in his career; he had a good tournament, but had a bad final, only appearing to the public due to his violent playing style

mark van bommel has earned great respect and admiration from bayern fans anywhere mostly for his behavior outside of the pitch, with his good humor, seriousness, wise words and natural leadership. his playing style is sometimes a little rough (and he gets a lot of yellow cards), but he has a great eye for passes into the holes of the defense and great organizational skills.

bayern need not worry, in terms of quality. luis gustavo will grow into an important role for bayern, anatoly tymoshchuk also deserves a chance in his favorite position; i even think the ukranian has a tad more quality to offer. and the hierarchy without the captain is okay, with schweinsteiger being the chef on the field, and lahm the new and good captain (great media work). for phillipp lahm, it is a dream come true: to become the captain of his home team, in his home town; almost more important than being captain of the german national team. but, as mentioned before, it is bastian schweinsteiger who will take over on the pitch.

bayern in the hands of the bavarian: captain lahm and chef schweinsteiger were both born in munich.

still, van bommel will be missed for the remainder of the season. i wish he’d stayed to try for a champions league title, but his decision to move to milan now is actually the best one for him, at his age. thanks for all, though.

(yes, if you didn’t know it, i am a bayern munich fan)

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 13:06  Comments (1)  

louis van gaal and josé mourinho – alike, but still different

it’s quite a few months ago, now. 8 months, to be exact. louis van gaal and josé mourinho were at the sidelines in the year’s second most important final of the year. in the bernabeu, their clubs bayern munich and internazionale milan were playing the final. and those two trainers seemed so different; here the tall and pretty big dutch, there the shorter and smarter looking portuguese.

van gaal won the champions league with ajax in 95, eliminating bayern with a 5x2 in the semifinals...

actually, there not that different at all. and not at all trendy, either. everywhere in europe, the young coaches with clear concepts, humble but firm image and smart sentences are taking over more and more clubs; the money is short, and suddenly the coach becomes a more important figure to make the little money invested give out the maximum output. but mourinho and van gaal are different; and, to a certain agree, alike.

both had great success early in their career, with clubs that shouldn’t had it. mourinho formed a great fc porto team, which one the uefa cup and the champions league in the early 2000s; van gaal won the uefa cup and the champions league with ajax amsterdam almost a decade earlier. both counted on young and still unknown players, which all became pretty famous in their later career. both used the chance to get to a bigger club; mourinho joined english giants chelsea, van gaal went to fc barcelona. both had immediate national success, but difficulty to repeat european glory. this is were the career parallel ends. and where their story begins.

van gaal and mourinho working together at barcelona.

when van gaal was in barcelona, he made his translater josé mourinho his assitance coach. how were these two ego-maniacs able to work together? well, one was the boss, and in the position to be generous – van gaal loves to be generous, and he even gave mourinho full coaching opportunities. the pupil went on to work for fc porto, and the “master” was called by the dutch federation when barcelona didn’t want him anymore. we’ll come back to that, later.

mourinho beat van gaal in the champions league final last may.

van gaal had a historical football disaster as holland’s chef coach, and the netherlands didn’t qualify for the 2002 world cup. for van gaal, it was back to the beginnings after a few years out of business. he started at az alkmaar – and got them very close to the title in 2008, and to the title in 2009. there was no doubt, he was a fantastic football teacher. and he got his dream job back to a top club, at bayern munich, where they were looking for a football teacher.

mourinho was still having national success, now with inter in the serie a, but not in europe. little did the two men know that they would meet in may 2010, in the bernabeu, where mourinho now works.

one can say that the pupil has surpassed the master. career-wise, having coached chelsea, inter and now real madrid. in the champions league final, beating bayern 2×0. the duel is still on, but what do these two friends have in common?

mourinho, a winner for fc porto, too. and beloved!

mourinho and van gaal are completely convinced of their superior knowledge in all things football. everyone around, including journalists, get the idea that they’re amateurs, compared to these one-man-shows. real madrid is a huge club with gigantic history, and has stars like cristiano ronaldo, kaká, casillas and özil, but they are completely overshadowed by mourinho. he is the club, and he needs it to be that way. when something doesn’t work his way, be it outside or inside the club, the press will know. and the power is in his hands.

van gaal tends to make everyone around him feel a little dumber, too. he has that effect on people, since he is very convinced of his vision of football and of all of his decisions. he listens to others, but at the end he’ll do what he thinks is right, which normally remains unchanged. this is what he has in common with his former protegée – a high opinion of his abilities, with results to back it up. these coaches are becoming rare, but both van gaal and mourinho dominate their respective scenes.

but this is where we come to the differences, which are quite a few. it starts with the view of the sport: mourinho is more pragmatic and wants to win at any cost, even at cost of “beautiful football”; of course, he too likes the game played well, but he prefers to just simply win matches. both chelsea and inter got a reputation for playing defensively, on the fast counter-attack – and that’s how inter beat bayern in the 2010 champions league final. some say that he can’t do that in real madrid. mourinho says that will work with whatever player material he has, but at the end, real is mourinho – until he leaves (which he loves to play with, the idea of leaving). van gaal, on the other hand, wants to win and dominate; he is always in search of the perfect game, his teams always play with ball possession and try to attack. the normal system is to tire the opponents in the first half, and to finish off the match in the second.

another philosophical difference is that of players. mourinho is confident enough that he will remain to be the main star, so he is always in search for players that are ready to go in and win titles. van gaal prides himself in giving young players their first chances, many times against public and even internal opinion. the list of players he’s put on the pitch first is very long and extremely prominent. it’s part of what he does best. so he doesn’t really like big stars in his club, some say because he has to be the biggest star.

another difference is the leadership style. although both are absolute aplha-types, it seems that mourinho gets along better with the players; he seems to be able to communicate with them better, speak their language, motivate and convince them. he’s from portugal (were the wanting to win gene was developed), van gaal is dutch (domination and beautiful game); the success gives van gaal reason, the actual playing, not the communication off-field. van gaal is funny in his own way, but he has no closeness to players, simply because he’s not good at it. they all respect him, but they don’t love him like mourinho’s players do. this might be the biggest difference. both have total support within their squads currently, but everyone who leaves bayern has no warm words for van gaal (mostly players from southern countries).

having problems with his boss: van gaal and uli hoeness.

a further and final difference is the clubs their working for. real madrid has had lots of success with the philosophy of building up and international star team and winning glorious titles. it was like that in the 50s, and it still is like that now. so there is no “real” philosophy outside of buying, and the buying of mourinho is another example for that. this allows mourinho to totally dominate the team, since it has no historical values or traditions, per say – besides winning at any cost. bayern munich is very different, and quite unique in europe. club president uli hoeness, bayern president karlheinz rummenigge and manager christian nerlinger are all ex-players at bayern and for germany. hoeness has been at the club since the 60s, and the club is not used to having someone from the outside being a “one-man show”. louis van gaal is always very direct about his thoughts, and journalists, although slightley afraid of him, know how to take advantage. hoeness and van gaal will never become friends, and it might seem that the german is preparing a premature exit for his great dutch coach if the results don’t come. van gaal has become a coach that will only be able to stay if he has success – exactly what happened to him at barcelona. that’s spain’s only team with a tradition of how they want to play football, and some other values. they didn’t like van gaal’s natural arrogance, but he won them two la liga titles in a row. when it seemed who wouldn’t manage a third, he was fired; and that after bringing forth andres iniesta, carles puyol and victor valdez, amongst others. he did make the mistake of bringing in a bunch of dutch players and fighting with the biggest star (rivaldo), which he didn’t do at bayern. and i, as a bayern fan, would like van gaal to stay as long as possible. he’s just that good, and the players know it, too. but it seems that he can’t really control his ego in moments he should.

the funny thing is that both mourinho and van gaal are really nice guys, and most journalists will confirm this. funny, interesting and extremely capable of doing their job. but where for one, the one-man-show is part of his success story, for the other, it might be, once again, his downfall.

mourinho = real madrid

bayern will meet inter in the round of 16 of this season’s champions league. real madrid will try their revenge on olympique lyon, who eliminated them last season. interesting matches, for sure. and maybe a next step to a revenge in the final, between van gaal and mourinho?

fifa ballon d’or 2010: journalists wouldn’t have given messi the award!

in the spirit of the golden globes later today, i was having a look at the detailed votes for this years fifa balon d’or, won by my favorite lionel messi. for the first time, not only the votes of the world’s captains and coaches were taken into consideration, but also the journalist’s opinion, which i tend to see as the most exact one. i also don’t like the many votes coming from countries with no or little tradition in football, and maybe biased opinion (africans vote drogba, other small countries vote for the traditional best like cristiano ronaldo). so here, i present to you a more detailed look at fifa’s list, creating from it a fairer one, in my opinion. at the end, there were five clear favorites, garnering almost 80% of all votes.

forlan had a great world cup and a great european season right before that; he won the golden ball for the world cup's best player and has deserved be ranked the 5th in the world.

i picked out the votes of the captains from football nations that should have a say in this vote (i chose 48 nations), and this is the top ten based soley on their votes (5 points for first place, 3 points for second place and 1 point for third place).

10. cristiano ronaldo 9 points

9. mesut özil 10

8. didier drogba 12

7. xabi alonso 14

6. iker casillas 15

5. diego forlan 25

4. wesley sneijder 59

3. andrés iniesta 67

2. xavi 77

1. lionel messi 91

wesley sneijder was fantastic in this year's uefa champions league and had a great world cup, with two goals against brazil as high point. he came in 4th place in the official fifa vote.

well, the players clearly supported the idea of giving messi the prize. let’s look at the coaches from only relevant football nations. they normally imagine who they would like to have in their team, for whatever reasons. here are their top ten (considering 44 coaches):

9. david villa & xabi alonso 6

8. carles puyol 8

7. thomas müller 9

6. cristiano ronaldo 18

5. diego forlan 20

4. wesley sneijder 52

3. andrés iniesta 56

2. xavi 79

1. lionel messi 121

a very clear vote for messi, even clearer than that of the players. cristiano ronaldo gets twice the points here, compared to the players, and both thomas müller and david villa weren’t even mentioned by the players, but made the top  ten with the coaches.

barcelona playes the best club football of the world, spain is the best team in the world. iniesta and xavi are the heart of both teams; one is considered the best playmaker in the world, the other scored the world cup winning goal in the final against holland!

finally, here comes the list made by the journalists, who, as a job, evaluate the sport in the year and historically. let’s see wo they thought were the best ten in the world:

9. samuel eto’o & asamoah gyan 3

8. carles puyol 5

7. david villa 10

6. iker casillas 11

5. diego forlan 55

4. lionel messi 101

3. xavi 138

2. wesley sneijder 138

1. andrés iniesta 141

it is clear to see that the media weren’t really sure who to choose: sneijder was mentioned 46 out of 68 times, xavi had the most votes for first place (21), but iniesta would have a slim lead to win. messi is only fourth place in this vote, and almost everyone voted for three of the top five. this seems to be the most coherent list, to me.

he lost to germany with argentina, but was still voted the best by players and coaches around the world; only the media would have voted him 4th place, but he still came away with the win!

adding all of them together, this would be the final result for the fifa 2010 balon d’or:

21. miroslav klose (germany) 1

20. julio cesar (brazil) 2

19. asamoah gyan (ghana) 3

18. maicon (brazil) 4

17. cesc fabregas (spain) 5

15. bastian schweinsteiger & thomas müller (both germany) 11

14. didier drogba (cote d’ivoire) 13

13. mesut özil (germany) 13

11. arjen robben (netherlands ) & samuel eto’o (cameroon) 14

TOP TEN

10. david villa (spain) 16

9. xabi alonso (spain) 21

8. carles puyol (spain) 22

7. cristiano ronaldo (portugal) 27

6. iker casillas (spain) 27

5. diego forlan (uruguay) 100

4. wesley sneijder (netherlands) 249

3. andres iniesta (spain) 264

2. xavi (spain) 294

1. lionel messi (argentina) 313

maicon is the best brazilian (!), and six in the top ten are spanish players (!!) showing their supremacy in the world.

here a ranking by nation (in total, 10 nations were represented in these votings):

1. spain 649

2. argentina 313

3. netherlands 263

4. uruguay 100

5. germany 36

all in all, the combined vote of the ballon d’or (which used to be called european footballer of the year) and fifa’s world footballer prize is still not even enought, for my taste. i do think the right player won, but generally i believe journalists should have a greater say on who should be considered the best; the way to do that would be to give football nations more journalistic votes if they have more football tradition – it can’t be that there is only one english, german or brazilian journalist voting, compared to one of swaziland, uganda and french guinea!

top 50 clubs since 90/91: ranks 20-16

continuing our countdown to the best clubs of the last two decades, with their best three seasons in this period and the stars of those campaigns.

thierry henry, here still at as monaco!

20. as monaco (france), 12 seasons in europe

best season 2003/04: uefa champions league finalist, with fernando morientes, jérôme rothen, patrice evra and dado prso.

season 1993/94: uefa champions league semifinalist, with jürgen klinsmann, enzo scifo, youri djorkaeff, lilian thuram and emmanuel petit

season 1991/92: uefa cup winner’s cup runners up, with gheorge weah, youri djorkaeff and emmanuel petit.

francesco totti is as roma!

19. as roma (italy), 17 seasons in europe

best season 1990/91: uefa cup finalist, with rudi völler, aldair, thomas berthold and ruggerio rizzitelli

season 2006/07: uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with francesco totti, daniele de rossi, mancini, doni and christian chivu

season 2007/08: uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with francesco totti, daniele de rossi, mancini, doni and juan

juninho pernambucano was the center piece of the rise of lyonnaise football.

18. olympique lyonnaise (france), 15 seasons in europe

best season 2009/10: uefa champions league semifinalist, with lisandro lópez, michel bastos, hugo lloris, miralem pranjic and sidney govou

season 2005/06: uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with juninho pernambucano, grégory coupet, éric abidal, mahamadou diarra, florent malouda, tiago, john carew, fred and sylvain wiltord

season 2004/05: uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with juninho pernambucano, michael essien, sidney govou, mahamadou diarra, grégory coupet, éric abidal, florent malouda and sylvain wiltord (& nilmar)

one of three trophies in the 90s for the then called ac parma.

17. fc parma (italy), 13 seasons in europe

best season 1994/95: uefa cup champions, with gionfranco zola, faustino asprilla, dino baggio and fernando couto

season 1998/99: uefa cup champions, with gianluigi buffon, lilian thuram, fabio cannavaro, dino baggio, juan véron, enrico chiesa, hernan crespo and faustino asprilla

season 1992/93: uefa cup winner’s cup champions, with tomas brolin

didier dechamps with the first uefa champions league title in history, for marseille!

16. olympique marseille (france), 12 seasons in europe

best season 1992/93: uefa champions league winners, with fabien barthez, jocelyn angloma, marcel desailly, didier dechamps, abédi pelé, alen boksic and rudi völler

season 1990/91: uefa european cup finalist, with mozer, chris waddle, abedi pelé, laurent fourier, jean-pierre papin and dragan stojkovic

season 2003/04: uefa cup finalist, with fabien barthez, didier drogba and mathieu flamini

greatest goalkeepers in the world!

casillas had a fantastic world cup and is considered the world's best goalkeeper.

who would have thought?

spaniards are the world champions, very true. mostly their midfielders are the best in the world. but when you look at global goalkeeping, it might come as a surprise to some that five out of the fifteen best goalies were born in iberian territory. which is frustrating for anyone who is not iker casillas, the nationl team’s number one for almost a decade, and still not in his thirties. pepe reina, liverpool’s goalie, and victor valdez, from fc barcelona, have the bad luck of having the same age and practically no chance to become number one. diego lópez, who defends villarreal fc, could make the same claim; he is rated the 13th best goalkeeper in the world, but probably won’t even be in the spanish squad for euro 2002. there is more hope for atletico madrid’s david gea, the young europa league champion. he’s still 20, might have a shot for the euro 2002 squad and, who knows, a spot in the spanish national team as number one after the 2014 world cup, if spain defends their title.

no chance for lloris here, against south africa.

the italians have kind of a crisis. in the 90s, they had three or four world class goalkeepers, and buffon was just one of them. now, he’s the only one, but he hasn’t played this season yet, due to his world cup injury. french keepers are on a high. it used to be barthez and coupet, now there are three keepers within the top 12: hugo lloris from olympique lyon, 24 years old and the current number one; sébastien frey, 30 years old but still great for fiorentina; and steve mandanda, long-time olympique marseille coach, but still only 25 (a pretty young age for a goalie). one might also mention cédric carasso, bordeaux’s very good goalkeeper, who is also part of the world’s top twenty.

julio cesar and his decisve mistake against the netherlands...

brazil had never been famous for their goalkeepers; they used to have one or the other, but now, they have three top keepers: julio cesar, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world (he kind of lost this title to casillas, though), won the champions league for internazionale after fantastic matches against chelsea and barcelona. gomes, tottenham’s gk, was voted best goalkeeper in the premier league. and diego alves, playing for spanish side almeria. the 25 year old goalie made a name for himself playing for atletico mineiro in his native brazil, and milan has been interested in his services.

neuer was great at the world cup and has had a fantastic semester for schalke.

germany has a great tradition in goalkeeping: from sepp maier over toni schumacher to oliver kahn and jens lehmann, all of these have been considered top; and this without mentioning bodo illgner, who won the world cup for germany and the champions league for real madrid. currently, there are quite a few young keepers in the path of a great career. manuel neuer is the top name; he’s been at schalke 04 since he was 4, but it seems that his next career step will take place this summer. manchester united and bayern munich seem the most likely choices. rene adler would have been germany’s number one if he hadn’t injured himself a few weeks before the world cup. he is germany’s second top ten goalkeeper; tim wiese, from werder bremen, is already 29, but still considered to be amongst the greatest 20 in the world.

best performance for a goalie at the world cup: diego benaglio against spain

other goalkeepers worth mentioning here are petr cech, still very valuable for chelsea; igor afinkeev, for me still a candidate for the title of greatest goalkeeper, at some point in the future; diego benaglio, the great swiss goalkeeper who rose to fame in this year’s world cup; the american tim howard, who does a very solid job at everton; samir handanovic, still playing for udinese and slovenia, but a candidate for a much bigger european club; and maarten stekelenburg, trying to follow into the footsteps of his great idol, erwin van der saar (who is playing his very last season for manchester united).

top 50 since 90/91: ranks 30-21

for these clubs, their two best seasons and major stars in those campaigns are quickly remembered:

30. glasgow rangers (scotland), 19 seasons in europe

best season 2007/08 – uefa cup finalist with barry ferguson and kevin thomson

season 1992/93 – uefa champions league 3rd place, with aleksey mikhaylichenko

29. lazio roma (italy), 14 seasons in europe

best season 1998/99 – cup winner’s cup winners with pavel nedved, marcelo salas, roberto mancini, alessandro nesta, dejan stankovic and christian vieri

season 1999/2000 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with sinisa mihajlovic, diego simeone, pavel nedved, dejan stankovic, and juan veron

28. bayer leverkusen (germany), 13 seasons in europe

best season 2001/02 – uefa champions league finalist, with michael ballack, zé roberto, lucio, and ulf kirsten

season 1997/98 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with emerson, ulf kirsten and jens nowotny

27. galatasaray istanbul (turkey), 17 seasons in europe

best season 1999/2000 – uefa cup winners with hakan sukür and gheorghe hagi

season 2000/01 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist with gheorghe hagi, jardel, and taffarel

26. spartak moscow (russia), 17 seasons in europe

best season 1990/91 – uefa champions cup semifinalist with tchertchessov, ivanov and radchenko

season 95/96 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist with yuri nikiforov

25. panathinaikos athens (greece), 19 seasons in europe

best season 1995/96 – uefa champions league semifinalist with krzysztof warzycha

season 2001/02 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist with giorgios karagounis, angelos basinas and antonios nikopolidis

24. dynamo kiev (ukraine), 19 seasons in europe

best season 1998/99 – uefa champions league semifinalist with andreij shevchenko and sergiy rebrov

season 2008/09 – uefa cup semifinalist with betão

23. fc paris saint-germain (france), 13 seasons in europe

best season 1995/96 – cup winners cup winner, with youri djorkaeff and raí

season 1994/95 – uefa champions league semifinalist, with raí, george weah and david ginola

22. benfica lisbon (portugal), 16 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa champions cup 6th place, with cesar goncalves brito

season 2005/06 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with anderson polga, luisão, emmanuel petit, simão and giorgios kouragounis

21. werder bremen (germany), 15 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa cup winners cup winners, with klaus allofs, wynton rufer, dieter eilts and marco bode

season 2008/09 – uefa cup finalist, with diego, naldo, tim wiese, claudio pizarro and mesut özil

the fifty best clubs of the last 20 years: ranks 50-31

502 different european clubs from 50 different european nations have played at least one first round match of any of the european cups organized by uefa. this list will have a short look at the 50 best clubs in this era, which can be described as the modern era of association football. the election of the world’s best player and the founding of the uefa champions league are in the beginning of this era, and so is the founding of many of these 50 european leagues, due to changes in nations and borders.

our look into the top 50 will begin with ten teams, their memorable seasons and key players involved in those seasons. memory lane for some of you who have been following european football for this long, and historical research material for those who’ve joined us fanatics recently.

first of all, though, a list of currently notable clubs who didn’t quite make the list, with their respective ranking:

153 – ssc napoli (italy), 144 – manchester city (england), 82 – tottenham hotspur (england), 63 – zenit st petersburg (russia), 56 – ac fiorentina (italy), 53 – hamburger sv (germany)

here we go:

50 – villarreal cf (spain) – 6 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa champions league semifinalist, with juan ramon riquelme and diego forlán

49 – shakhtar donetsk (ukraine), 13 seasons in europe

best season 2008/09 – uefa cup winners, with luis adriano and fernandinho

48 – aj auxerre (france), 12 seasons in europe

best season 1992/93 – uefa cup semifinalist, with frank verlaat and corentins martins

47 – red star belgrade (serbia, before yugoslavia), 16 seasons in europe

best season 1990/91 – uefa european cup winners, with dejan savicevic and darko pancev

46 – aek athens (greece), 17 seasons in europe

best season 2002/03 – fourth round uefa cup, with theodoros zagorakis

45 – celtic glasgow (scotland), 15 seasons in europe

best season 2002/03 – uefa cup finalist, with hendrik larsson and paul lambert

44 – fc schalke 04 (germany), 10 seasons in europe

best season 1996/97 – uefa cup winners, with olaf thon and mark wilmots

43 – cska moscow (russia), 12 seasons in europe

best season 2004/05 – uefa cup winners, with wagner love and yuri zhirkov

42 – rosenborg bk (norway), 15 seasons in europe

best season 1996/97 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with bent skammelsrud

41 – sevilla fc (spain), 8 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa cup winners, with frederic kanouté and luis fabiano

40 – steaua bucharest (romania), 18 seasons in europe

best season 2005/06 – uefa cup semifinalists, with nicolae goian and constantin nicolae dica

39 – olympiakos piräus (greece), 17 seasons in europe

best season 1998/99 – uefa champions league quarterfinalist, with predrag djordjevic

38 – sporting lisbon (portugual), 16 seasons in europe

best season 2004/05 – uefa cup finalist, with joão moutinho and liedson

37 – club brugge kv (belgium), 19 seasons in europe

best season 1992/93 – uefa champions league 6th place, with franky van der elst

36 – sparta prague (czech republic), 20 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa european cup 3rd place, with vaclav nemecek

35 – deportivo la coruña (spain), 10 seasons in europe

best season 2003/04 – uefa champions league semifinalist, with mauro silva and walter pandiani

34 – girondins bordeaux (france), 14 seasons in europe

best season 1995/96 – uefa cup finalist, with zinedine zidane and bixente lizarazu

33 – rsc anderlecht (belgium), 18 seasons in europe

best season 1991/92 – uefa european cup 5th place, with luc nilis

32 – atletico madrid (spain), 10 seasons in europe

best season 2009/10 – uefa europa league winners, with diego forlan and sergio aguero

31 – feyenoord rotterdam (netherlands), 16 seasons in europe

best season 2001/02 – uefa cup winners, with pierre van hooijdonk and robin van persie