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


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

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


after group stages: best 50 european clubs!

the group stages are over, and a few interesting things become evident: out of the twenty best clubs in european football history, 19 qualified for europe ate the beginning of the season – and three of them are now out! juventus turin even had to let ac milan pass them in the all time ranking, loosing their spot as best italian team in the 56 year history of european football. atletico madrid won’t defend their title in the europa league, after failing to progress through the group phase, and celtic glasgow even failed to reach the group stage phase in that competition. in february, we’ll have a look at the clashes in champions league and europa league. here, just a quick top 50 ranking, based on the seasons 2006/07 until the current one; teams with a * are still in the run for a european title this year.

50. standard liege (bel)

49. az alkmaar (ned)

48. spartak moscow (rus)*

47. osc lille (fra)*

46. sporting braga (por)*

45. ajax amsterdam (ned)*

44. juventus turin (ita)

43. ca osasuna (spa)

42. fc paris saint-germain (fra)*

41. vfb stuttgart (ger)*

40. rsc anderlecht (bel)*

39. fulham fc (eng)

38. fc copenhagen (den)*

37. bayer leverkusen (ger)*

36. espanyol barcelona (spa)

35. celtic glasgow (sco)

34. olympiakos piräus (gre)

33. panathinaikos athens (gre)

32. villarreal fc (spa)*

31. fc schalke 04 (ger)*

30. fenerbahce istanbul (tur)

29. dynamo kiev (ukr)*

28. tottenham hotspur (eng)*

27. ac fiorentina (ita)

26. girondins bordeaux (fra)

25. glasgow rangers (sco)*

24. cska moscow (rus)*

23. olympique marseille (fra)*

22. sporting lisbon (por)*

21. benfica lisbon (por)*

now the top twenty, with a few comments:

20. zenit st. petersburg (rus)*

were present in 4 out of 5 seasons, won the uefa cup in 2008.

19. psv eindhoven (ned)*

played every season in europe, best result in 2007 (quarterfinals champions league).

18. atletico madrid (spa)

played the last four season in europe, and for the second time they don’t play after the winter; reigning europa league champions.

17. valencia fc (spa)*

last five seasons in europe, best result in 2007, a quarterfinal in the champions league.

16. hamburger sv (ger)

not in europe this year, but two years in a row in the uefa cup / europa league semifinal right before this season.

15. real madrid (spa)*

5 seasons, 5 times eliminated in the round of 16, last year against lyon (who they will play again in february).

14. fc porto (por)*

every season in europe, a quarter final appearence in the uefa champions league in 2009.

13. sevilla fc (spa)*

second best spanish team, but since their two uefa cup wins in 2006 and 2007, not too much productivity.

12. shakhtar donetsk (ukr)*

have completely taken national control from dynamo kiev, won the uefa cup in 2009.

11. as roma (ita)*

number three in italy, but best results in the last five seasons are four and five seasons ago (quaterfinals in the champions league).

10. olympique lyon (fra)*

in france, their domination ended, but in europe, they reached the semifinal of the champions league for the first time earlier this year.

9. werder bremen (ger)

a final and a semifinal in the uefa cup in the last five years, and always in europe; but the current season was by far the worst one.

8. ac milan (ita)*

since their champions league title in 2007 they’ve never reached the quarterfinals again – maybe this season?

7. arsenal fc (eng)*

a semifinal, two quarterfinals in the last four tries… not too bad, but arsenal wants the champions league title at some point.

6. internazionale milan (ita)*

reigning european champions, but in the three seasons before that, round of 16 eliminations.

5. bayern münchen (ger)*

finalist last year, quarterfinal before that, semifinal uefa cup before that – pretty good, but bayern wants more.

4. liverpool fc (eng)*

europe’s number four, england’s number three;  champions league final in 2007, a semifinal in 2008, a quarterfinal in 2009 and 2010… and this time in the europa league. doesn’t seem like progress.

3. chelsea fc (eng)*

when will they finally win the champions league? two semifinals and one final in the four seasons before the current one.

2. fc barcelona (spa)*

people think they are the best in europe, but in the last five seasons, they’re just number two. one title and two semifinals in the last three seasons give a positive tendency.

1. manchester united (eng)*

2007 semifinal, 2008 champions, 2009 finalist, 2010 quarterfinal; the record of the best team of the last seasons.

lionel messi – my world’s best for 2010

he didn’t play in the champions league final and score the winning goals (that was his countryman diego milito).

he didn’t play in the world cup final. actually, he had a rather weak game when germany massacrated argentina in the quarterfinal, with a superb individual performance by his direct opponent, bastian schweinsteiger.

he didn’t score the two deciding goals in the europa league final, one of them in extra-time, score five goals in the world cup and be rewarded with the golden ball for the most valuable world cup player – that was diego forlan. actually, he ailed to score even a single goal in five world cup matches.

he didn’t win the champions league and play the world cup final, scoring and assisting in decisive goals in both competitions – that was wesley sneijder, the dutchman.

and of course, he isn’t a current world champion, even though he plays with some in football’s best club of the decade – those would be maestro xavi and world cup winning goal scorer andres iniesta.

so why would i still pick lionel messi as the world’s best player in 2010?

pretty simply put, because he is.

although under a huge amount of pressure, he played a pretty decent world cup.

he scores goals and passes the ball the way no one else can – and he does both things consistently, in high level matches.

he had what can argueably be described as the best single performance of a football player in the history of the game in a champions league quarterfinal match against arsenal fc.

now, take the 5-0 thrashing of fc barcelona over real madrid, the day before yesterday. messi, for once, didn’t even score, while david villa, world champion and 5-time goal scorer in the biggest tournament on earth, scored twice. and still, it was lionel messi who got the deserved attention – for a superb performance.

sneijder, xavi, iniesta, even milito, schweinsteiger and robben had a more successful year. and even cristiano ronaldo has had quite a run since the world cup, let’s admit it!

but don’t tell me any of them is better than lionel messi. not in 2010, and probably not in the years to come.


the best. simply.

fifa nominates 28 players – choose your top 5!

this is a short post, hopefully with some comments and controversy on who you would pick for fifa player of the year and fifa coach of the year. here is the list of players, with their respective clubs and nationalities, and then the list of the coaches. PICK YOUR TOP FIVE PLAYERS (IN RANKING ORDER) AND YOUR TOP COACH, and justify your choices, if you will! I’ll start right after presenting the list:

Xabi ALONSO (Real Madrid, Spain)

Daniel ALVES (FC Barcelona, Brazil)

Iker CASILLAS (Real Madrid, Spain)

Cristiano RONALDO (Real Madrid, Portugal)

Didier DROGBA (Chelsea FC, Ivory Coast)

Samuel ETO’O (Internazionale, Cameroon)

Cesc FABREGAS (Arsenal FC, Spain)


the favorite? diego forlan, atletico madrid and uruguay

Diego FORLÁN (Atletico Madrid, Uruguay)

Asamoah GYAN (Stade Rennes/FC Sunderland, Ghana)

Andrés INIESTA (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Júlio CÉSAR (Internazionale, Brazil)

Miroslav KLOSE (Bayern München, Germany)

Philipp LAHM (Bayern München, Germany)

MAICON (Internazionale, Brazil)

Lionel MESSI (FC Barcelona, Argentina)

Thomas MÜLLER (Bayern München, Germany)

Mesut ÖZIL (Werder Bremen/Real Madrid, Germany)

Carles PUYOL (FC Barcelona, Spain)

Arjen ROBBEN (Bayern München, Netherlands)

Bastian SCHWEINSTEIGER (Bayern München, Germany)

Wesley SCHNEIJDER (Internazionale, Netherlands)

David VILLA (Valencia FC/FC Barcelona, Spain)

XAVI (FC Barcelona, Spain)


The coaches are: Carlos Ancelotti (Chelsea FC), Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Alex Ferguson (Manchester United), Pep Guardiola (FC Barcelona), Jogi Löw (Germany), José Mourinho (Internazionale/Real Madrid), Oscar Tabárez (Uruguay), Louis Van Gaal (Bayern München), Bert Van Marwijk (Netherlands), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal FC)


My Top 5 would be:

5- Bastian Schweinsteiger  – best performance by a single player in the World Cup (against Argentina), decisive in Bayern’s very successful year, and the boss in an impressive German World Cup team.

4- Andrés Iniesta – when he was injured, Barcelona got kicked out of the Champions League. But he came back to have a good World Cup with the decisive title winning goal at the end of it, to crown a spectacular career since he was a teen.

3- Arjen Robben – an MVP for Bayern and their great success in Champions League, Bundesliga and Cup, with lots of goals, assists and beautiful moments.

2- Lionel Messi – is still the best player in the world, and showed it quite a few times this year, including some really good World Cup performances.

1- Wesley Sneijder – decisive for Inter in the Champions League and for the Netherlands to reach the final. Lots of assists and goals in important matches.

I think FIFA might pick Diego Forlan, who had a great World Cup and scored both decisive goals in the Europa League final. And he would make a good choice, but I still wouldn’t have him in my top 5, because of the quality of my picks. Even a Xavi or a Cristiano Ronaldo are tough to keep out of the Top 5, even though the latter hasn’t had too much success with his teams, only personal success.

Coach: Jogi Löw – Mourinho will probably win, and he’s had great success with Inter. But Jogi Löw revolutionized the way  great football nation like Germany plays the game, and he did it in style, beating England and Argentina convincingly. The football played by his team was the most beautiful of the year.

Waiting for your Top 5 and Top Coach.


time for european football – part three

greatest talent in the europa league? probably this 17-year old man, romelu lukaku, belgian from rsc anderlecht.

here a quick overview of the remaining groups:

el-g: zenit st petersburg is trying to win this group with portuguese veterans bruno alves, fernando meira and danny and some really good russian internationals (malafeev, semak, anyukov). rsc anderlecht will fight it out with aek athens for second place; the czech jan polak is belgian’s biggest foreign star, lukaku, the belgian, has he greatest future.  at age 17, he is the current belgian top scorer and sure will move to a big team after this season. aek has 32-year old world cup 2002 veteran from senegal, papa bouba diop.

cl-h: arsenal fc is the clear cut favorite for the weakest champions league group of all. with fabregas, arshavin, van persie, nasri, vela, walcott, denílson, bendtner: they already showed what they can do on tuesday. the brazilian-croatian eduardo da silva moved from arsenal do shakhtar donetsk – e team with eight more brazilians and srna as a captain. sporting braga and partizan belgrade will fight it out for the europa league qualifying third place. braga has 17 brazilians (!) and only 7 portuguese players in their squad.

greatest goalscorer in this year's europa league? good chances for luis fabiano.

el-j: sevilla fc is the favorite for the europa league group, with their attacking stars kanouté, luis fabiano. ivory coast ‘s zokora will help talented spaniards capel, negredo, navarro and jesus navas. paris sg really wants to bring it this year, and has french veterans coupet, makélélé, giuly and rothen. they still have kezman (ex-chelsea and atletico) on their pay role, but the promise in the attack is hoarau. this group is tough because the third force is borussia dortmund, which have a very strong team this season: turkish midfielder sahin, barrios in the attack, new japanese player nakawa, and some really good young german players, like grosskreutz and hummels. karpaty lviv is dangerous basically because they are from the ukraine.

el-b: atletico madrid have the greatest star of the world cup, diego forlan. fran merida is still a talent, juan antonio reyes still has more promise, and sergio aguero is the ideal partner for forlan up front. bayer leverkusen have michael ballack, who is injured. vidal, helmes, kiessling, castro, adler, hyppiä… pretty good. rosenborg trondheim is no champions league regular any more, and aris saloniki isn’t really a contender… or are they?

diego forlan is the greatest star in the europa league - and the current champion!

in the other groups, here are my picks to go to the next phase:

el-d: villarreal and club brugge

el-k: liverpool and ssc napoli

el-c: sporting lisbon and osc lille

el-a: juventus, manchester city

el-i: psv eindhoven, sampdoria genova

el-e: dynamo kiev, bate borisov

el-f: cska moscow, us palermo

el-h: vfb stuttgart, getafe fc

time for european football – part two

here are the next four groups of the european football action which will start on tuesday.

cl = champions league, el = europa league, (historical rank/current rank)

cl – group b

enyeama was one of this year's world cup stars - and he'll play some serious champions league for hapoel tel aviv.

olympique lyon (37/10), benfica lisbon (8/21), fc schalke 04 (57/39), hapoel tel aviv (201/64)

quite an unpredictable group we have here, and more attractive than in first sight. french goal keeping future hugo lloris will at some point play hapoel, who has no one less than vincent enyeaman, goalie hero from nigeria at this year’s world cup. benfica can count with midfielder javier garcia, young real madrid talent who dreams of a national team career. the brazilian luisão, central defender, was part of he 2010 world cup squad. maxi pereira had a very successful world cup for uruguay, and who doesn’t know argentinian striker saviola, left back fabio coentrão and their captain, nuno gomes. not a bad team from benfica, who had a great season in 2009/10, but lost brazilian midfielder ramires to chelsea.

raul hopes to continue to lead all scoring statistics in the champions league...

it should be quite a battle with the other two favorites. schalke 04 has just bought atletico madrid midfielder jurado, ex-milan and ex-real madrid striker huntelaar (who just scored 5 goals in the first two euro qualifiers for the netherlands) – and, of course, real madrid legend raul. none of these were actually starters for their respective teams, but maybe they will find their football luck in germany. metzelder, 3 years at real madrid, is another one of those. peruvian farfan, future german full back höwedes, and american national jones are not well known in europe, but this might change. lyon’s captain is the brazilian cris, who didn’t make it in germany (leverkusen); the brazilians michel bastos and ederson, and the argentinians delgado and mostly lisandro lópez. the newest star is courcuff, who just ame from girondins bordeaux and is france’s rising star. striker gomis has a great future, toulalan is already very successful.

cl – group e

bayern munich (3/5), as roma (23/12), fc basel (96/57), cfr cluj (374/89)

ribery wants to finally become a world star this season...

bayern are the german powerhouse, roma is only second to inter in italy; at least has been for the last four or five years, where milan has been passing through a crsis. it seems like a run for first position in this group. bayern has world stars like robben (who will not play the group stage, since he player the world cup with an incredible injury), ribéry, lahm, schweinsteiger, müller and klose, and future stars like badstuber, contento and kroos. to put people like turkish star hamit altintop, ukraine captain tymoschuk, german national striker mario gomez and argentinian full back martin demichelis on the bench is a sign of quality. roma has quite a lot of quality, too: eight brazilians are there, the most famous being striker adriano, who is still looking for his physical form. juan is a world class defender, doni is a good goalkeeper, and julio baptista hopes to play more often this year. but it is totti’s team, and he is the star. de rossi is also very important for the team, which has played together for quite some years now. it seems that fc basel (most famous player is the swiss striker alex frei) and cfr cluj (captain cadu played for his native boavista porto) will be playing for the europa league, which is the third place.

cl – group d

fc barcelona (2/2), panathinaikos athens (26/32), fc copenhagen (103/50), rubin kazan (323/73)

carlos eduardo dreams of being brazil's next midfield star in the national team - and hopes to show his from for russian champs rubin kazan.

ok, i guess we agree that barcelona is through; the question will be if xavi, iniesta, messi, villa, puyol & co. will manage 18 points out of six matches. the run is for the second position, and my bet is on rubin kazan, even if the russians have much less experience than panathinaikos. rubin has been great in their home league, as current champions they have a chance to defend the title. adding to an already good team, the russians bought obefami martins (nigeria) and carlos eduardo (brazil), both from the bundesliga and both currently in their national squads. panathinaikos has some international stars, too: cissé, french striker, and gilberto silva, brazilian central midfielder, were both in south africa. but both of them are older, just like gouvou, who just joined the team after a decade of success at olympique lyon (and also played the world cup). other international veterans include spaniard luis garcia (ex-barcelona, atletico madrid and liverpool) and the greek european champion karagounis. a veteran team with the bigger names – will they reach the second round for the third time in a row? copenhagen would love to continue in european football after december and would be happy about a third place. veteran jesper gronkjaer will try to help his team get there.

el – group l

fc porto (12/13), besiktas istanbul (81/62), cska sofia (43/116), rapid vienna (39/111)

after playing for real madrid since teenager years, guti will now defend besiktas in the europa league.

this is by far the most interesting froup in the europa league, even more interesting than a champions league group. this is quite obvious, since porto has played champions league almost every year since the beginning of the tournament, and besiktas saw themselves in the cl, too. rapid vienna and cska sofica are both very traditional clubs, both are well within the best 50 in european history. and quite a few stars will play in this group. porto counts on uruguain internationals álvaro pereira and jorge fucile, who had a great world cup. otamendi played for argentina, and joão moutinho is a veteran for portugal; brazilian goalie helton is their captain. besiktas has famous goalkeeper rüstü (world cup 2002 star), the portuguese defensive winger quaresma, brazilians bobô and tabata, germans ernst and hilbert (both ex-national players) – and their newest star, real madrid’s guti. nihat is the most famous turkish player. cska sofia has michel platini – but don’t worry, he’s just an unknown brazilian player! at rapid, at least a known name: jan vennegoor of hesselink has had quite a successful career at psv eindhoven and celtic (including 17 matches for holland).

time for european football – part one

the preliminary round is done with, the group phases will begin next week. some interesting groups have been drawn, and traditional teams will play some newly rich, unknowns will play famous sides, new stars will be born and olders will become legendary.

özil will have to prove himself at real madrid.

i will organize the uefa europa league groups and the uefa champions league groups based on the current rankings (considering the last four seasons in europe) and their historical rankings (since 1955). using simple maths, i will determine the toughest group. just a quick way to create an overview of this year’s competitors.

cl = champions league, el = europa league, (historical rank/current rank)

cl group g:

a star at the world cup, how will it go for "prince" at milan.

ac milan (5/8), real madrid (1/16), ajax amsterdam (10/48), aj auxerre (86/122);

you could argue that real hasn’t been in the quarterfinals for six years, ajax is not what they used to be; but this group has three of the best 10 clubs in history, which makes it the strongest group of all. milan has the best record in the last few years, and they just got prince boateng, zlatan and robinho to add to pato and ronaldinho… but real madrid, still without kaka but with higuain, cristiano ronaldo, özil, xabi alonso, khedira and casillas, are almost considered favorites. let’s see how josé mourinho’s and ibra’s rendezvous ends. ajax has luiz suarez, uruguaian world cup hero. this is the toughest group of this european semester.

here are the other groups, with their main stars:

cl group c:

nani might be a star this season, for manchester

manchester united (9/1), valencia fc (20/23), glasgow rangers (17/25), bursaspor (319/171) – not an easy group for the english giants, but they should go through. valencia are favorites for the second spot, but i think bursaspor will challenge them more than the rangers.

manu stars: van der sar (ned), evra (fra), ferdinand (eng), owen (eng), berbatov (bul), rooney (eng), giggs (wal), park (kor), hernandéz (mex), vidic (srb), nani (por), scholes (eng)

others: navarro (spa, val), j. sánchez (spa, val), soldado (spa, val), mata (spa, val), r. costa (por, val),  weiss (slk, ran), insúa (arg, bur), erdogan (tur, bur)

cl group f:

ramires showed promise in the world cup and should do well for chelsea.

chelsea fc (22/4), olympique marseille (29/28), spartak moscow (36/51), msk zilina (267/107) – chelsea is through, marseille will battle it out with spartak; i think the russians will go through.

chelsea stars: cech (cze), ivanovic (srb), cole (eng), essien (gha), ramires (bra), lampard (eng), benayoun (isr), drogba (ivo), mikel (nig), malouda (fra), zhirkov (rus), ferreira (por), kalou (ivo), terry (eng), anelka (fra)

others: l. gonzález (arg, mar), a. ayew (gha, mar), heinze (arg, mar), mandanda (fra, mar), ibson (bra, mos), saenko (rus, mos)

cl group a:

maicon is still one of the best players in the world.

internazionale (7/6), werder bremen (33/9), tottenham hotspur (34/35), twente enschede (100/68) – the defending champ, a current top ten club from germany, the strong brits – and the current dutch champions. this is tough, and even inter has to be careful. hotspurs, werder and inter should battle it out, enschede might decide it by taking points away.

inter stars: césar (bra), zanetti (arg), stankovic (srb), lucio (bra), eto’o (cam), sneijder (ned), muntari (gha), maicon (bra), cambiasso (arg), d.milito (arg), samuel (arg)

others: wiese (ger, bre), naldo (bra, bre), wesley (bra, bre), arnautovic (aut, bre), marin (ger, bre), hunt (ger, bre), silvestre (fra, bre), frings (ger, bre), almeida (por, bre), pizarro (per, bre), mertesacker (ger, bre), gomes (bra, tot), bale (wal, tot), lennon (eng, tot), jenas (eng, tot), pavlyuchenko (rus, tot), keane (irl, tot), van der vaart (ned, tot), gallas (fra, tot), modric (srb, tot), crouch (eng, tot), dos santos (mex, tot), defoe (eng, tot), landzaat (ned, twe), ruiz (cor, twe)

those were the first four of 20 groups, this series will have three more parts. stay tuned.