Europa League Final match report: Marseille vs. Atletico Madrid


If it was to be Antoine Griezmann’s last game in an Atletico Madrid shirt then it was a fitting farewell. The Frenchman was at his brilliant best as he score a brace and played a part in another as Atletico romped to a 3-0 victory over Marseille in the Europa League Final in Lyon.


The Frenchman is being heavily linked with a move to long-time rivals Barcelona, very much to the annoyance of his current employers. But there was little to be annoyed with on this evening when Griezmann gave everybody a stark reminder as to why he is being so heavily courted by Europe’s best.


It was also an emotional night for Fernando Torres who will be leaving Atletico for the second and final time in the summer when his contract expires. He came on in stoppage time to a chorus of cheers from the travelling Atletico support and finally got his hands on his first trophy with his boyhood club.


Marseille started the game on the front foot, the crowd packed into the Stade des Lumieres gave the contest the feel of a home game for the French outfit. It was Marseille who carved out the first big chance of the match. Dimitri Payet, who would later be reduced to tears after aggravating a hamstring injury, slide through a well-weighted ball into Valere Germain, the striker shaped up to shoot but bent his effort over from ten yards out and gave the Spanish visitors the wakeup call they needed.


Atletico, the footballing predators of the knock-out stages of Continental competitions, struck on the 21st minute to quieten to raucous Marseille fanbase. A Steve Mandanda pass was awfully controlled by Andre Zambo Anguissa. From there, Griezmann was fortuitously played in off a Gabi ricochet. There was little fortuitous about the Frenchman’s finish, however. He slotted the ball into the back of the net and wheeled away for his trademark Fortnite celebration.


Ten minutes later Marseille’s fortunes soured further with Payet laying on the turf massaging his hamstring. Tears ran down his face as he departed, knowing his final was over and he is now left to sweat as to his fitness ahead of the World Cup.


The second Atletico goal came four minutes into the second half. And it came from another Marseille mistake in which they were made to pay for. Marseille failed to get the ball under control from their throw-in and Atletico pounced upon the loose ball and fed it to Griezmann who executed a delicate lob over a hapless Mandanda in the most cold-blooded fashion.


From that point on Atletico gained a stranglehold on the game and suffocated the life out of Marseille. Florian Thauvin failed to produce his best and Lucas Ocampos showed off plenty of neat touches and tricks but, ultimately, failed to find the right final ball in the areas where it mattered.


Substitute Kostas Mitroglou had a header crash back off the inside of the post in the 80th minute which represented Marseille’s last chance.


Atletico captain Gabi completed the night with a well-struck finish in 89 minutes – again Griezmann was involved. Girezmann played a ball into Diego Costa and the brutish striker forced his way into the box before squeezing the ball back to Gabi who beat Mandanda for Atletico’s third of the evening.


It is the Spanish side’s third triumph in the competition in it’s short ten year history. Their attentions will now turn summer recruitment and trying to resist offers from Europe’s superpowers for their key players.


Jan Oblak has also been subject to speculation with several teams on the lookout for a world-class goalkeeper. There is also the matter of a job opening at Arsenal and the increasing likeliness that there will be another one at Chelsea. Diego Simeone will be a manager in high demand after claiming his sixth trophy as manager of Los Rojiblancos in a typically controlled fashion in France.




Five potential replacements for Alexis Sanchez


Alexis Sanchez’s future is still in the air at Arsenal. The Chilean cuts an increasingly frustrated figure at Arsenal and while his manager Arsene Wenger dances to the tune of ‘He wants to stay’ the consensus is that Sanchez will be plying his trade elsewhere next season.


Should the former Barcelona forward leave The Emirates here are five potential players who could replace the dogged Chile frontman:



Anthony Martial

Club: Manchester United

Cost: £35m – £55m

A bit of a wildcard to start off with. With Jose Mourinho and Wenger’s open dislike for each other it is unlikely that Mourinho would want to sell a talented player to a rival. However, Martial is well out-of-favour with The Special One and could be offloaded this summer. Should Arsenal submit a bid which would recoup a lot – if not all – of what Louis van Gaal paid for the then teenager Mourinho may well be willing to part with the young Frenchman.


Martial offers directness, pace and can finish. He is still inconsistent Wenger will no doubt have patience with the former Monaco man and give him the love he looks like he needs.



Yannick Carrasco

Club: Atletico Madrid

Cost: £51m – £65m

Carrasco will cost a lot of money; the type of money Arsenal have never parted with. However, the Belgian is becoming a star under Diego Simeone in the Spanish capital. The winger has eight goals and four assists this season for Atletico.


An explosive winger who can play on both flanks, Carrasco causes nightmares for opposition full-backs who have a difficult time dealing with tricky wide man. Carrasco is still 23-years-old and can get better with the right nurturing.


Carrasco would bring with him the directness which Sanchez would leave behind. While the young Belgium international may cost a lot but the windfall Arsenal should receive for Sanchez, should he leave, would go a long way to bringing the Atletico Madrid winger to The Emirates. Having said that, with speculation over the future of Antoine Griezmann, Simeone will be more than reluctant to let two of his star men walk away in the same transfer window.



Mohamed Salah

Club: Roma

Cost: £30m – £40m


After failing to shine during his first brief stint in England with Chelsea Salah has gone on to light up Serie A with goals and assists galore. The Egyptian forward has 11 goals and eight assists this campaign and 27 Serie A goals in total since joining Roma in 2015.


Salah himself is still only 24-years-old, although in recent years he has felt like somewhat of a journeyman since his Chelsea move did not work out with stints at former club Basel and Fiorentina before finally settling in Rome.


The Egypt frontman has pace in abundance, can play with either foot and finish in a variety of ways. Arsenal are always looking for classy forwards and Salah has shown that he is certainly one of them. His eight assists and 60 chances created this term show he can pick a pick a pass also – perfect ammunition for Olivier Giroud, or maybe a new Arsenal forward.



Douglas Costa

Club: Bayern Munich

Cost: £22m – £30m

Douglas Costa is reportedly unhappy at Bayern Munich and is seeking a move away. Now at 26 the Brazilian is at a stage in his career where he needs regular games – which he is not getting behind Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.


Costa tore Arsenal apart during their 5-1 hammering of the Gunners in the last-16 tie of the Champions League with trickery and pace that neither Hector Bellerin nor Nacho Monreal could handle.


Costa’s inconsistency is perhaps what drives Carlo Ancelotti to leave him out of the Bayern first XI but he certainly has the ability to get Arsenal fans out of their seats. Not as direct as an out and out winger, Costa is strong on both feet and can float inside to get involved through the middle as well as beating his full-back down the line.


With his unhappiness at Bayern and the German giants seemingly happy to offload the wide man Costa would probably be the cheapest option of the list – which would probably appeal most to Wenger as he is notoriously tight with the  purse strings.



James Rodriguez

Club: Real Madrid

Cost: £45m – £55m


James is maybe the most likely player to make his way to The Emirates on this list. Not so much because he is desperate to join Arsenal or Arsenal are desperate to take him, but because Real Madrid and the Colombian have made no secret about his desire to leave and Madrid’s keenness to offload him.


James is typically a number ten but can play out wide. His goal in the 2014 World Cup against Uruguay was the stand out moment that summer and announced James to the world stage – it is also a glimpse of what he can do in a split second.


If Arsenal part ways with the £50m sum the Spanish giants are asking for then they will be getting a player that will not hound and harass defenders like Sanchez will, but will give you quality in abundance when going forward. In order for the Colombian to succeed he may need, perhaps like Mesut Ozil, a world-class holding midfielder who will pick up his lack of work ethic.


The former Monaco man has the flair that Arsene Wenger loves in a player and the technical quality which the Arsenal boss also looks for in his attacking players. He can float between the lines exposing the gaps in midfield and defence which can carve teams apart.



James is a different type of player to Sanchez – perhaps more in line with Ozil’s style of play but his quality cannot be denied and if Sanchez leaves Arsenal must replace him with quality – and James is certainly that.

Pogba’s nightmare tournament still has a dream ending


Watching ITV’s half time closing sequence a Paul Pogba caricature looked smooth and sophisticated. Yet some 44 minutes earlier his clumsy clattering of Shane Long had gifted Republic of Ireland a dream start as Robbie Brady dispatched the penalty. The host nation down a goal at half time with the lion share of the blame placed fairly on their talisman’s shoulders.


If Pogba is the poster boy for France and Euro 2016 it would be a black & white one with “WANTED” written directly underneath it. Alas more villain than hero for Didier Deschamps so far. Pogba’s road to true superstardom yet again encountered more road works and diversions. Outshone by Dimitri Payet in the opening game (and the group stages as a whole) prompting his benching for their second group fixture. Rescued by Antoine Griezmann after his gaffe it was the Juventus star that truly had the Luck of the Irish.


All the omens pointed to Pogba lighting the tournament up like those who have gone before him. A Juventus player making a European Championship in his native land his tournament. Peak Michel Platini inspired hosts France to victory in 1984 and Zinedine Zidane was crowned Player of the Tournament at Euro 2000 as he lead the national side to European glory in Rotterdam. Pogba would complete the trifecta or so he would in the eyes of the world.


The narrative seemed to perfect and unfortunately it is proving that sometimes we can’t have nice things. Pogba to his credit did recover well from his ham-fisted challenge against Ireland making a series of quality touches, passes and turns. It was a glimmer of what the boy wonder can do and why he is so lauded in world football. But only a glimmer. The casual fan, the fan who does not follow Serie A so closely is waiting to see what all the fuss about the powerful midfielder is about. Overrated is the diagnosis for the man mentioned in the same breath as Zidane and Platini.

Pogba’s tournament so far has been a classic case of trying too hard. The pressure on him is almost visible. Playing like a man who has literally been wrapped in cotton wool. We have been spun a tale of a player who is a world beater, has the ability and potential to be the greatest midfielder to ever play the game. A man who has the audacity to shave “Pogboom” into the side of his head is the mark of a man who has unshakable belief in himself yet he advances with trepidation – a player who knows Europe expects.


The former Manchester United prospect has been built up to dizzying heights. The favourite to be named player of the tournament before France raised the curtain on this summer’s football festival Pogba has slipped to 16/1 with the bookmakers. His team mate Payet yet again stealing his thunder being the new favouroite at 4/1. But the pain doesn’t stop there. After his quickfire brace against Republic of Ireland Griezmann takes his goal tally to three and is back in the hunt for the Golden Boot and buzz is building around the Atletico Madrid striker that he is peaking at the right moment to propel his country to third European Championship in just over two decades.


Pogba is slipping further down the pecking order for the role of ‘talisman’ in Deschamps’s side. Payet and Griezmann look set to duke it out for that moniker as a potential showdown with England beckons in the last eight.


However narrative is a funny old mistress and a superstar performance against Roy’s boys (should they navigate past Iceland that is) would not only be Sod’s Law in the eyes of England fans but would also catapult Pogba back into iconic status.


England fans have been burned all too often by young superstars in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Thomas Muller and Ronaldinho. While Wayne Rooney and company are all focusing on the task at hand against Iceland the tale turns it’s watchful eye towards a France vs England showdown with Pogba set to finally break free of his shackles.


They do say after laughter comes tears. We may be mocking Pogba’s hellish tournament thus far but he may still be the one to capture, then break, our hearts.

What We Learned: 5 things from the Champions League final


during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy.

Real Madrid lifted the Champions League trophy in the San Siro after dramatically beating Atletico Madrid on penalties after a 1-1 draw in 120 minutes. Juanfran missed the decisive penalty which gave Cristiano Ronaldo the chance to win it and he blasted home the dramatic winner to see Zinedine Zidane lift the trophy for the first time as a manager and become only the seventh person to win the competition as a player and a manager.


For Real they win the big eared trophy twice in the last three years. Sergio Ramos opening the scoring inside 15 minutes as he scrambled home a Gareth Bale flick on from a Toni Kroos free kick before winger Yannick Carrasco equalised with a thumping finish from close range in the second half. French forward Antoine Griezmann saw his penalty smack off the bar in between the goals in what was another intense Madrid derby.


The city of Milan rocked with both sets of supporters singing loud and proud but it is the fans of Real that will sing long into the night while Atletico are left to fix broken hearts for the second time in just three years. It seems that fate does not want Atletico to win the biggest prize in club competition with them just seconds from victory in Portugal in 2014 and a post width away from going to sudden death this time around. Without further ado, here are the five things we learned from the Champions League final.


  1. Simeone set up wrong

In the opening 45 minutes Atletico looked overrun in midfield as Luka Modric and Toni Kroos controlled the middle of the pitch and gave their opponents nothing when they had the ball. While Madrid had the better chances in was Atleti who had more of the ball but found themselves playing square passes in midfield leaving Antoine Griezmann and in particular Fernando Torres isolated. Zinedine Zidane set up his side to frustrate the opposition in the first half and they did exactly that plugging up any holes Atletico wanted to exploit. Atletico had no creativity in midfield and Koke was often pushed wide to try and get involved. Nothing went to plan for Atletico in the first half and the entire team from the stands to the side line to the pitch looked flat.


  1. Penalty misses will haunt Atletico

When Yannick Carrasco scored Atletico’s equaliser there won’t have been a man in the world more relived than Griezmann. His penalty miss will now be magnified even more by the miss from Juanfran from the spot during the shoot-out. A post width stopped Atletico from putting pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty which he would have needed to score to keep his side in it had the Atletico full back been able to find the net.


Griezmann showed great nerve to step up in the shoot out and bury his penalty with great coolness only for him to look on in disgust as if to say “Why couldn’t I have done that earlier?”. When every other player finds the back of the net it makes the one miss even greater and one that no doubt Juanfran will never forget.


  1. Passions did not boil over

Two years ago the final was soured with passions boiling over prompting Simeone to gesticulate wildly on the pitch and several high intensity clashes on the pitch made the final probably the edgiest in history. Not so much this time around, sure the passion was there but it was tempered and referee Mark Clattenburg handled it expertly – something for England to be pleased about. Maybe clutching at straws with that one. It was evident that Atletico learned a lot from their loss two years ago and kept their cool even when things were going against them. It seemed we could be in store for more of the same after 47 seconds when Koke committed a foul and every jersey on the field flocked towards the fluorescent yellow stature of Clattenburg but by enlarge the final was kept in check when talking about a Madrid derby in the biggest club game of them all. After Giezmann’s penalty miss you would not have been surprised to see Atelti implode but they simply kept going. Madrid by contrast were as professional as could be – they upped their antics after Atletico equalised with Ramos committing a dangerous foul when Yannick Carrasco looked to be breaking through the Real defence.


  1. Zindane’s tactical flexibility

We’ve discussed how Simeone got it wrong in the first half now let’s flip the coin and half a look at how Zidane got it so right. With the Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu a lot of pressure was on Zidane to deliver a solid 90 minutes – which turned into 120 minutes – of management. He showed that he could mix it up with Madrid daring Atletico to come on to them in the first half. Atleti looked confused and did not know how to deal with having the lion share of possession and having such an attacking outfit defend so deep.


The game plan worked perfectly with Real Madrid making the most of set pieces and defending with 10 behind the ball every time Griezmann and company had the ball. Honestly this is not a typo – it was Real Madrid who did most of the running and defending. It was quite a shock to the system to watch such a disciplined 45 minutes. As the game wore on naturally it got more chaotic but Zidane showed he has more strings to his management bow on the biggest club stage of them all.


  1. Simeone learned his lesson

Two years ago the heart ruled the head and after eight minutes Diego Costa limped off with a hamstring injury forcing Simeone to use an early substitute. By the time Sergio Ramos scored that dramatic 93rd minute equaliser Atleti were out on their feet having gave their all. Simeone had no fresh legs to bring on and help his side close out the game.


Not the same story this time around. While his managerial counterpart had showed his hand by the end of regular time – which will have no doubt worried him when Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo required attention heading into the second half of extra time and soldiered on with Bale hardly able to run by the time penalties came round – the astute Argentine still had two substitutes to use heading into the final 15 minutes of extra time. In fact in this final Atletico seemed to get stronger as the game went on especially Carrasco who will haunt the nightmares of Brazilian full back Danlio for years to come.


It was a more mature display from Simeone and his team who looked composed throughout the 120 minutes. The last time these two sides met on such a stage it was more like organised chaos from the team in red and white but as the cliché goes you learn more about yourself in defeat than you do in victory.


Perhaps their lesson will be even more harsh this time around with the cruelty of the defeat. There was to be no redemption story for Simeone but in terms of the 120 minutes before penalties Atletico learned their lesson from the 2014.

What We Learned: 5 things from Bayern Munich vs Atletico Madrid


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Atletico Madrid reached their second Champions League final in three years after defeating Bayern Munich on away goals after the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate. Losing 2-1 in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night Diego Simeone’s men played their part in an animated clash in Germany which saw two missed penalties, one controversial penalty call and much more drama. Here are five things we learned:


5. Bayern wanted to up the tempo

Last week in Madrid Bayern did not have the same quick, incisive attacking to their game. That all changed in Munich as Pep Guardiola’s side attacked in waves and had 12 shots in the opening 27 minutes. Even the balls boys had to be at their fastest as the home side looked to keep Atletico under pressure with their speed and intensity. The return of Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller helped push Munich up the pitch quicker and at times the Atletico defending resembled Bambi on ice as they could not get anywhere near their opponents. Every chance Atletico had to slow the game down they tried: delaying the restart of the game at set pieces, arguing with officials and Bayern players, whatever they could do to try and catch their breath.


4. Atletico were better when they had to attack

Simeone is possibly the best manager in the world over two legs. Steal a goal then defend diligently and attack on the break trying to add to the lead. It’s a recipe that works most of the time but they were actually far more effective when they had to go forward and score. In the second half they committed more players forward and although Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann had less support than Kanye West’s plea to Mark Zuckerberg the one slick attack they had resulted in a goal – a counter attack too. After that they threatened much more and looked much more composed in possession and had a number of their own chances they wasted, Torres having a late penalty saved which would have killed off any Munich hope.


3. Missed chances cost Bayern

Possibly the biggest thing that cost Bayern a spot in the final was Bayern themselves. While their build up play was first rate their finishing certainly was not. Muller missed the biggest chance in the first half when he saw his penalty saved by Jan Oblak just moments after Xabi Alonso had put Munich back into the tie with a deflected free-kick. Robert Lewendowski spurned two big chances in the first half and while the visitors had a penalty miss of their own which could have swung the pendulum late on in the game it was Bayern who created the lion share of the chances – especially in the first half. The home side had Madrid on the ropes looking punch drunk after fending off relentless attacks. However a combination of poor finishing and Oblak doing his best impression of an octopus between the sticks saw Atletico survive.


2. Guardiola could be seen as a failure at Bayern

Regardless of how many records Guardiola’s Bayern have set and broken during his reign the big hole in his CV will be failing to win the Champions League with them. Not only did he fail to win the competition with them but he failed to even navigate them to a final. While domestic trophies are all well and good Guardiola was brought in to help usher in a new era of Continental dominance for Munich and it simply has not happened. Failure may be too strong of a word to use but that is how many die hard Bayern fans may perceive his tenure at the club.


1. Atletico want Real Madrid

Make no mistake, Atletico want Real in the final. While Simeone and his players will claim to not care they will want to avenge their heartbreaking 4-1 AET defeat of 2014. Atletico were literal seconds away from winning their first Champions League title before Sergio Ramos scored to take game into extra time and by the end it seemed a one sided result. Simeone and his squad are passionate men and will want to right the wrongs of 2014 as well as last year being dumped out of the competition at the quarter-finals stage by the same opponent. Winning the trophy against one of their fiercest rivals and avenging previous defeats in the process is the kind of motive that drives Simeone.

What we learned: 5 things from Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich


during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

Atletico Madrid defended diligently and attacked smartly during their 1-0 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Bayern Munich. Saul’s magnificent weaving run and finish was enough to separate the two sides and was the outstanding piece of skill in a highly contested affair. Pep Guardiola’s last chance to win the prestigious competition with the German club is now hanging in the balance as he attempts to rouse his side to overturn their one goal deficit in Munich next week. Here are the five things we learned:


5. Atletico startled Bayern

Atletico used their home stadium to their advantage particularly in the first half. Bayern looked stunned in the opening half an hour and could not get to grips with the game. The hostile atmosphere the Atletico fans created at the Vicente Calderon teamed with Diego Simeone’s tactics to harass Munich put Guardiola’s side into a fit of shock, even resorting to route one tactics when they were unable to link up with Lewendowski.


Saul’s goal capped off what had been an inspired opening quarter of an hour from the home side and at that point, had Atletico grabbed a quick fire second, Munich may well already be out of the tie. Although Bayern came roaring back into the game in the second half the mood of their play suggested they were not fully comfortable playing an Atletico side against such an emotional backdrop.


4. Gabi and Koke ran proceedings

While the pairing of Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcantara are the more universally known central midfield masters they were hugely outshone on the night by the midfield paring of Koke and Gabi. Ian Darke commented on the amount of Atletico fans that had “Gabi” displayed on the back of their shirt calling him “an unsung hero” and the Spaniard was exactly that. Gabi epitomised everything about Simeone’s team’s performance with a blend of grace and grit. Working hard in the midfield areas stamping his authority on the game Gabi allowed him midfield partner, Koke, to roam and create chances for the attackers.


Koke pulled the strings along with Saul for the La Liga side. This gave Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann to the ammunition they require to make Manuel Neuer’s life difficult at times.


3. Tactics & missing players hurt Bayern

Not one to question Guardiola’s tactics often, if at all, but leaving Thomas Muller on the bench has to be seen as a mistake. Muller is a player who links up the attack and midfield brilliantly for Bayern and also works harder than any Munich attacker.


When coming up against such a well drilled, hard working outfit you need the personnel to match Atleti’s worth ethic and Muller may have made a difference had he started the game rather than being introduced from the bench.


Arjen Robben’s absence was felt greatly also. While not the most industrious player he possesses the individual brilliance that could have snatched Bayern the all important away goal.


2. Atletico are the real deal in Europe

After their 2014 final heartache against Real Madrid and reaching the quarter-finals of last season’s competition, only to be thwarted again by Real, Atletico have shown that they are one of the best three or four teams in Europe. If they make it through the test to come at the Allianz Arena it will be the second time in three years that Simeone has guided his side to the final.


While they may not have the budget to compete with Real and Barcelona on a year in year out basis their squad, style of play and fine coaching and management makes them a legit contender for the big-eared trophy every year – every year as long as Simeone is there anyway.


1. Bayern to up the pressure next week

While not a huge defeat to overturn Bayern will be keen to get back into the tie as early as possible next week. This should see them attack with more venom right from the first whistle but it will also leave them more open to the counter attack – and Atletico do not need any invitation to hit teams on the break.


Guardiola will have to find a balance perhaps in both personnel and tactics to attack with real intensity while still remaining stable at the back. Jerome Boateng will be fit for the return leg next week and many would expect Muller to start. Munich should be stronger in terms of options for the return leg.


However Simeone will set up his team much like on Wednesday and will look to frustrate Bayern, forcing them into several long range attempts which kept Lewendowski isolated. Bayern will be more susceptible to the break in Munich and one away goal could kill off any real chance they have.

China mega money shows where player’s priorities lie


The January transfer window was a rather understated affair to previous years gone by. No last minute huge deal, no club scrambling at the 11th hour to grab anybody they could to fill a void in the squad. Overall a very meek and mild month.


What was the most remarkable turn of events throughout the entire opening month of 2016 was the amount of top class players leaving huge European clubs and heading for China. Alex Teixeira is the latest superstar to follow Jackson Martinez and Ramires in the last month. Other players making their mark in Asia are: Gervinho, Demba Ba, Paulinho, Asamoah Gyan and Tim Cahill.


Tim Cahill is excused due to this being the twilight of his career, however for the rest the moves to Asia are puzzling – or a no brainer when considering their contracts. Chinese football broke their transfer record three times within a week with the three latest mega stars arriving in the Chinese Super League. What makes the moves of Martinez, Ramires and Teixeira different to those of Ba and Gervinho is that the former are genuine stars – Champions League winners, winners of their native league for five straight seasons and one of the most sought after forwards in world football.


A sad reality has dawned that players more than ever have a lazy attitude of money and easy success over playing in the best league and against the best players week in week out. Unless for a pre-season tour these players won’t be going head to head with Lionel Messi, Robert Lewendowski or Mesut Ozil – at least for now.


Not so long ago all players had a universal attitude of wanting to play with and against the best in the world’s best competitions. These three transfers showcase otherwise. Chinese clubs are now locked in an arms race to recruit some of the world’s finest talent, a battle which has now turned its attention to Chelsea captain John Terry as it has been announced he will not be offered a new deal to stay with the Blues.


The calibre of player leaving for China is astonishing considering that they could fit into many teams around the world – Arsenal are constantly after another forward, Liverpool chased Teixeira and Ramires – although often underappreciated – is incredibly clever and the engine room of any midfield. The Chinese Super League have exposed the vast amounts of money involved in the game and have courted these players with huge contracts, bonuses and no doubt various other financial perks to tempt them to what is still a substandard league compared to that from which they all came from.


Jurgen Klopp said he respected Teixeira’s decision but it has to be a bitter pill to swallow for Liverpool – outmuscled by a club in Jiangsu Suning who only turned professional 22 years ago. Ten years ago a scenario like this would have been unheard of – a top, historical English club beaten to a player by way of a club with huge resources but is not respected in football terms. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player described the offer from Liverpool as ‘windy’ – a vague and unsatisfying explanation. Liverpool were only three million away from the asking price and could very well have shot themselves in the foot with their reluctance to part with it.


Players have always wanted to make a lot of money – as much of it as possible that has never been a secret. The most important thing to a player however, was to always play with and against the best players possible in the best league possible. The big pull of each of Europe’s biggest leagues in their big clubs with a lot of history and world class players. If a player plays on a consistent basis and shows their worth then the riches will follow. Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Mesut Ozil to name a few are testament to that.


Martinez – although only finding the net three times for Atletico Madrid, still possesses huge quality and his record at previous club Porto is nothing to be taken lightly – 67 goals in 90 appearances. Now at 29-years-old the Colombian forward has placed his career in a tricky position, should he ever want to leave China many clubs will find it tough to match his wages as well as the fee his club will probably demand. Martinez is a player who has featured in matches of the highest caliber to take a huge step down after a failed spell at Atletico seems a defeatist attitude. China does not seem the place to revitalize his career and reputation if that was the plan – beating goalkeepers of maybe League One caliber at best. Strikers with his type of record do not come on the market often, there would have been a long queue of clubs, perhaps not as big as Atletico but still reputable enough to see Martinez stay relevant in the football stratosphere.


It seems more now than ever players have an attitude of simply chasing the large wage slips. The Premier League has recently come in danger of losing out on players to La Liga, Bundasliga, and even Ligue One with PSG’s riches – However all of those leagues and teams have a certain amount of credibility within the football pyramid. For teams to lose out on players to the Chinese Super League shows that there is no longer room for Premier League teams to play hardball when it comes to negotiating fees and wages. History and club stature is starting to count for very little in this money fuelled game. Although Ramires, Martinez and Teixeira will earn sums beyond what many world class players in Europe will they have all but cast their name into football irrelevance.