Three Most Talented Players who are 21 or Under

All around the world there are many emerging football stars. Whether they are dazzling for club, country or both, they have very high potential. Here you will find five of the best players aged 21 or under.

Paul Pogba

 

Already one of the best midfielders in the game, it is astonishing that the Frenchman is still just 21 years of age. The former Manchester United reject is now thriving at Juventus, leading their charge for multiple pieces of silverware this season. Pogba has recorded eight goals and three assists in 24 matches so far this season for the Bianconeri. While these aren’t the most astonishing stats, Pogba has been contributing enormously with his playmaking and defending. The Frenchman is so in demand that some are even speculating that he may be football’s first 100 million pound transfer. At the moment, Pogba is probably the best young player in Europe and the world who is aged 21 or under.

Raphael Varane

 

Another 21 year-old Frenchman, the Real Madrid defender is the best young defender in the world. Playing with maturity well beyond his years, his passing is out of this world, a trait not often seen in young defenders. So far this season Varane has an unreal pass accuracy of 90.5%. In addition to his passing skills, Varane is very talented at tackling opponents and winning the ball. Varane plays with great discipline, too, having made 18 appearances for Los Blancos this season and not having been booked once. Real Madrid believes in their young defender so much that they recently inked him to a six year deal.

Raheem Sterling

 

The 20 year-old electric winger recently won the Golden Boy award for the best player in Europe under the age of 21, won by Pogba the previous year. The England international who was born in Jamaica has been linked to top clubs such as Real Madrid. However, the Liverpool man is currently in contract negotiations with his club. Sterling has played for Liverpool 37 times this season, registering 10 goals and six assists. One of Sterling’s greatest traits is his versatility; he can be deployed in any attacking position.

Best Players who haven’t won the Champions League

The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious trophy in club football. Although many of the game’s current superstars have won it, there are still some amazing players who have not gotten their hands on the elusive trophy yet. Here we will look at three of the best players who are still playing but have not won it yet.

*Players must be at least 29 years old to qualify

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

It is still astonishing that the Swedish striker has not won the Champions League yet. Since leaving Swedish club Malmo FF to play abroad, Ibrahimovic has played for Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona and AC Milan, all clubs who have won the Champions League. Inter won it the year after he left and Barcelona the year before he came and the year after he left. The hilariously egotistical striker currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain, a club which has a good chance at going far in this season’s Champions League, has scored an impressive 325 goals in 601 official club matches. One of the most impressive parts of Ibrahimovic’s high tally is the quality of the goals he has scored. He has been known for insane bicycle kicks, back-heel volleys and so much more. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a ridiculously talented player who thoroughly deserves a Champions League title.

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Robin van Persie

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie is an incredibly talented and unlucky player. He has won many individual accolades and has topped many top scorer charts, however, he has won very little silverware. At his first club, Feyenoord, he captured the UEFA Cup (now the UEFA Europa League) in 2002. Although this is a competition with European clubs from many different countries, it is much less prestigious than the Champions League because the teams who contest it are essentially Champions League rejects. While with Arsenal, the Dutchman finished as a runner-up in the 2006 Champions League, although he was an unused substitute in the final. Van Persie has scored 210 goals in 448 club appearances, is the all-time Dutch leading scorer and finished as a runner-up in the 2010 World Cup.

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Gianluigi Buffon

The Italian goalkeeper is still playing incredibly well at the age of 36. After starting his career with Parma 20 years ago, Buffon is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and rightly so. He is a charismatic leader and a great player. It’s not just amazing how reliable as a keeper’ but the kinds of saves he can make, just see for yourself. He has won loads of silverware; seven Serie A titles, one UEFA Cup and a Coppa Italia. He was even the starting goalkeeper on Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning side. He has won countless awards for being the world’s best ‘keeper and has been included intwo FIFPro World XI’s. He even finished as the runner-up for the 2006 Ballon D’or. Although all of these titles make for a successful and enjoyable career, the Juventus shot-stopper has never won the Champions League. In 2003, Buffon finished as a Champions League runner-up with Juventus, losing to domestic rivals AC Milan after a penalty shoot-out. Of all the amazing players on this list, Buffon deserves a Champions League title the most.

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Why NYCFC and Lampard Shouldn’t be Blamed for the Englishman’s Stay in Manchester

When legendary Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard officially joined Manchester City’s affiliate club, NYCFC, New York soccer fans were understandably thrilled. That happened on June 24. It was eventually announced that Lampard would be spending the beginning of the Premier League season on loan in Manchester to gain fitness for the upcoming MLS season. A few months and many goals later, the City Group, who owns both clubs, have decided to extend Lamps’ stay in England. All the blame immediately went to New York.

The blame directed towards the NYCFC hierarchy was completely unwarranted. NYCFC is a club that has no control over itself; the owners of Manchester City make all the decisions. If you ran Manchester City and you had a legendary player scoring many goals for you, wouldn’t you choose to keep him on your side if you could? The blame should go to the men in Manchester, not New York.

Perhaps even more absurdly, there is loads of blame going to Lampard himself. At the beginning of the Englishman’s loan spell, he was expected to be an unimportant rotation player. However, he has turned into a pivotal player and is helping the Citizens challenge for silverware on multiple fronts, netting seven goals in 19 appearances. He was a substitute in 15 of those matches. Now pretend you are Frank Lampard. You are enjoying scintillating form for a world-class team in your own country. You are given the choice of staying on that team or moving to a different country for a start-up club, wouldn’t you choose to stay in Manchester?

All that said, I myself am an inaugural NYCFC season ticket holder. I will yearn to see Lampard at the beginning of the season (even though we already have David Villa). However, I understand that the people who run NYCFC, don’t really run NYCFC and both them and Lampard can’t be blamed for his stay in Manchester.147018

Lampard after scoring against Chelsea

Barcelona vs. Elche Analysis

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Today, FC Barcelona went to play Elche at the Manuel Martinez Valero stadium. The Calatans dispatched their opponents in a 6-0 win. Due to having played a Copa del Rey match against Atletico Madrid just three days prior to playing Elche and having another Copa match against Atletico this Wednesday, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique decided to rest some players. Usual starters Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic were all on the bench, with Busquets coming as a substitute. Also rested was Barcelona’s record signing Luis Suarez who turned 28 today. Here you will find analysis of the performances of the whole team and each individual player.

The Blaugrana didn’t start the match very well. Although they were in control from start to finish, they didn’t look their usual effervescent selves at the beginning of the match. Although they were leading 1-0 at halftime off a Gerard Pique goal, at that point Elche had registered more shots than Barcelona. Despite their original struggles, the Camp Nou outfit looked organized throughout the match and was very calm in possession and on defense. At first, the front three of Neymar, Pedro and Lionel Messi were linking up well, but that was to change. The match was a very physical one with Elche committing 18 fouls and Barcelona 12. As always, the Catalans dominated possession, having the ball for 72% of the match. They also completed an astonishing 89% of their passes. Barcelona spent most of the match in and around Elche’s final third.

Claudio Bravo:

Once again, the Chilean goalkeeper wasn’t called into action very often, but he came up big when he was, registering a save on all three of Elche’s shots on target. Bravo’s best moment came in the 25th minute when he pushed away a free kick that was destined for the bottom corner.

Martin Montoya:

Montoya, who was filling in for Dani Alves at right-back, put in a decent performance. While the Spaniard wasn’t nearly as active in the attack as Alves usually is, he certainly got the job done on defense. Multiple times he could be seen making a tackle to thwart an Elche attack. Montoya proved he is a good option at right-back for when Alves needs a rest.

Jordi Alba:

The Spanish left-back didn’t play as well as we have come to expect him to. He did not contribute much on attack and defended mediocrely. Alba, however, did almost score a beautiful volley in the 14th minute after Xavi delivered a beautiful lobbed pass. In the 66th minute, Alba was booked for stepping on the foot of Elche’s Aaron and was promptly taken off for Adriano three minutes later.

Gerard Pique:

The center-back from Spain marked his 200th La Liga appearance for Barcelona by scoring a rare goal. In the 35th minute, with the score still tied at 0, Pique scored a half-volley off a Xavi pass from a free kick. On the other end of the pitch, Pique’s tackling was very strong, even though he was easily dispossessed on multiple occasions. A strong showing for the Spaniard.

Marc Bartra:

Getting a rare start, the Spanish center-back put in a good performance. He defended very well and was skilled in the tackle. He distributed very well in defense, not looking nervous or out place. In the 88th minute, just as Ray Hudson (the beIN Sports commentator who I like very much) was criticizing Bartra’s performance, the young Spaniard played a beautiful through ball to Lionel Messi who danced around a defender and beautifully place his shot in the back of the net, giving Bartra the assist.

Javier Mascherano:

The Argentine who is usually played at center-back for the Blaugrana, was used in his natural defensive midfield position today. As always, Mascherano proved a great defensive presence for Barcelona, thwarting many attacks with his well-timed tackles. Playing in a slightly more advanced role than usual, the former Liverpool man was somewhat of a creative force, playing many long balls forward. Mascherano also did very well at shielding the defense and dictating play. He was eventually substituted off in the 69th minute after receiving a yellow card for a poor challenge on Elche’s Damian Suarez. Despite being substituted, Mascherano touched the ball more times (94) than any other player on the pitch.

Rafinha:

The Brazilian was handed a rare start and did not fail to impress. Playing as a central midfielder, Rafinha helped to control the tempo of the match very well. His best moment came on what was essentially the last play of the match when he gave Neymar a beautiful long pass, setting him up to assist Pedro. Rafinha touched the ball more times (90) than any other player besides Mascherano.

Xavi:

The central midfielder showed once again why he has been a pivotal figure to everything Barcelona and the Spanish national team have achieved in recent years. In his first match back from an injury that sidelined him for several weeks he was dictating play and delivering beautiful passes the whole match. For much of the match he dropped back into a sort of defensive midfield role and played beside Javier Mascherano. In the 35th minute, Xavi delivered a beautiful free kick through the air to Gerard Pique, who scored to give Barcelona the lead. Xavi completed an astonishing 97% of his passes and was taken off for Sergi Roberto in the 71st minute. The diminutive Spaniard played an amazing match and could very well have had more than an assist to show for it.

Neymar:

The Brazilian played in his usual left-wing position and was phenomenal. His work rate was magnificent and he set up his teammates as well as scoring himself. In the 53rd minute, Neymar was fouled in the box, winning a penalty for his team which Lionel Messi scored. In the 69th minute, Neymar received a great through ball from Messi and put the pass in the back of the net. Two minutes later, Messi played a beautiful pass over the Elche defense, which Neymar delicately volleyed into the back of the net. In the 93rd minute, Neymar received a beautiful long ball from Rafinha, dribbled past several defenders and put in a beautiful ground cross that Pedro scored on with ease. Another incredible match from the 23 year-old Brazilian.

Pedro:

The Spanish right-winger surprisingly started in place of Luis Suarez, who was most likely being rested. While Pedro started the match out quietly, he started to heat up in the second half and scored in the 93rd minute thanks to a beautiful assist from Neymar. A good performance from Pedro.

Lionel Messi:

“Don’t write about him, don’t try to describe him. Just watch him.” The wise words of Pep Guardiola about Lionel Messi make complete sense. But I have to disobey him by writing about the magical Argentine. It is nearly impossible to describe Messi; he is a complete player, well disciplined and does pretty much everything on the pitch perfectly. Today, Messi registered a brace and an assist for the Blaugrana, bringing his combined goal and assist tally for the season to 39 in 25 matches. After a fairly quiet start to the match, Messi dispatched a penalty in the 55th minute. However, he was far from done. In the 69th minute, La Pulga played a beautiful little through ball to Neymar who scored for Barcelona. Two minutes later, Messi gave Neymar an even better assist by lobbing the ball over the Elche defense, right into the path of the Brazilian. In the 88th minute, Messi received a great pass from Marc Bartra, danced around a defender and took a great shot for his second goal of the match. Another absolutely amazing performance from the Argentine.

Subsitutes:

Sergio Busquets:

The defensive midfielder came on for Mascherano in the 69th minute. He didn’t make much of an impact but did well, floating all over the pitch, passing and defending very well.

Adriano:

The left-back came on for Jordi Alba in the 69th minute and played decently. He combined very well with Neymar and made runs down the left wing. Defensively, he did well to block crosses from the Elche attack.

Sergi Roberto:

The Spanish central midfielder was thrown into the action for Xavi in the 71st minute. He didn’t do very much but he passed and tackled well.

*All stats were obtained via ESPNFC.com and WhoScored.com

Best Midfield Options for Manchester United

Although in third place, Manchester United have been visibly struggling this season. The area of the pitch where they lack the most talent is their midfield. Angel di Maria has been utilized as a central midfielder more than any other position this season, and has thrived there, registering three goals and assisting three more while playing in the center of the park for just five matches. However, this is not his natural position and he may be needed elsewhere at any given time. The Red Devils must sign at least one world-class central midfielder before next season. Below you will find viable options.

Paul Pogba:

One of a few dream signings that will feature here today, the Frenchman joining would undoubtedly delight the Old Trafford faithful. After leaving United themselves to join Juventus on a free transfer in 2012, the hierarchy at the club want to bring back the player who was once deemed surplus to requirements. Pogba’s market value is a whopping 50 million euros but the Glazer family has given Louis van Gaal a transfer budget with essentially no limit. The Frenchman would also be a great investment for the future as he is only 21 years of age. Pogba has tallied up seven goals and two assists this season for the Bianconeri and his performances have been vital to his club’s Champions League knockout round qualification and for their domination of Serie A. The strongest part of Pogba’s game are his dribbling and his shots from range. Pogba has been insisting that he will not be leaving Juventus anytime soon, but when United comes banging down his door, who knows?

Koke:

Another dream signing, the 23 year-old Spaniard, dubbed the “Next Xavi” has been improving rapidly. He was linked to United last January but the move fizzled out when he signed a new deal with Atletico Madrid, keeping him at the Calderon until 2019. Koke has represented his country 15 times at senior level despite being so young. Koke’s release clause is officially 63 million euros, but Atletico could possibly accept a lower bid. Koke has registered three goals and twelve assists so far for Atletico this season. Koke is one of the very best players in the world when it comes to delivering the final killer pass, averaging 5.1 key passes (a pass that leads to a shot) per game. Koke, like Pogba, is adamant that he won’t leave his current club, but the bright lights of Old Trafford could very well persuade him to leave the Spanish capital.

Axel Witsel:

A slightly more realistic option, the Belgian midfielder who is currently plying his trade is with Zenit St. Petersburg, would only cost about 15 millions euros. Witsel is a different kind of midfielder than Pogba and Koke, he is not quite as much of a playmaker but is very talented in the tackle and at shielding the defense.

He shone for Belgium at the World Cup this summer in Brazil and has previously been linked to the Red Devils. Don’t be surprised if Witsel ends up signing for United.

Joao Moutinho:

The Portugese midfielder has not fit in very well at current club Monaco. However, from past performances with Porto and still with Monaco, there is no doubt over the huge amount of talent Moutinho possesses. He plays in a sort of advanced playmaker role and is a complete midfielder, his passing and defending are both very strong. While he is far from the world’s best finisher, United’s array of talent up front should make up for his lack of finishing skill. Moutinho would probably be available for 25 million euros.

*All statistics were obtained via WhoScored.com and transfer values via transfermarket.com

Tactical Analysis of Barcelona vs. Deportivo

FC Barcelona extended their good form on Sunday with a 4-0 away win over Deportivo. The Catalans looked good and manager Luis Enrique’s tactics worked very well. Here you will find an overview of how the team played as a whole and how each player played individually.

Whole Team

 

Enrique fielded a weakened squad in the midweek Copa del Rey match against Elche so that he could give his key players rest and give playing time to others as Barcelona had a 5-0 aggregate lead after the first leg. This rest seemed to greatly benefit Barcelona and they played very well against Deportivo. One of the few negatives in the Blaugrana’s performance was the fact that their defense was easily cut open at times, often because of a Gerard Pique error. However, the defense and rest of the team was constantly pressing the opposition and winning the ball back when they needed to.

Barcelona’s midfield and attack played incredibly well. They dominated possession throughout the match and kept hitting Deportivo on the counter by seamlessly transitioning from defense to offense in the blink of an eye. Although Luis Suarez blew many chances he was given, he still played decently and the deadly trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez continued to become more familiar with each other. Although they “only” had four goals, the Catalans completely dominated the match, registering fourteen shots to Deportivo’s seven and having possession of the ball for 68% of the match.

Individual Play

 

Claudio Bravo:

The ‘keeper had a good match in which he wasn’t called into action very often but when he was, he came through with big saves. One save stands out. At one point in the match, Gerard Pique allowed Deportivo midfielder Juan Dominguez to break through the defense. Dominguez’s shot from six yards out seemed destined for goal, but at the last second Bravo stretch out and diverted the shot from the goal. He also could be seen distributing the ball very well –like Victor Valdes used to— and he organized his defense very well by leading from the back.

Dani Alves:

As always, Dani Alves was a constant attacking threat at right-back for Barcelona. He kept pushing forward with the ball and putting the ball into the box. He combined well with the whole Barca attack, especially Messi. His defensive contribution was also substantial.

Jordi Alba:

Just like Alves, Jordi Alba was as much a constant attacking threat for Barcelona at his full-back position as ever. The left-back could constantly be seen running up and down the left wing, contributing in both defense and attack. He exchanged a countless amount of passed with Neymar, leading the Brazilian to create chances for his teammates.

Javier Mascherano:

Mascherano was once again a reliable choice for the Blaugrana at center-back. The Argentine was skilled in the tackle and succeded at making one last-man tackle. He pushed forward much more than usual, playing like a defensive midfielder, his natural position. He often when on long runs with the ball into Deportivo’s territory. Mascherano proved again that he is the best center-back on Barcelona.

Gerard Pique:

The Spanish center-back didn’t have the best of times against Deportivo. Pique allowed to defenders to brush by him, resulting in goal-scoring opportunities more than once. Hopefully he will be better next time out.

Sergio Busquets:

The defensive midfielder put in another very solid performance. He was calm in possession, drew many fouls and did very well at shielding the defense. He was substituted off for Marc Bartra in the 66th minute.

Andres Iniesta:

Iniesta, the captain on the night, put in the type of performance we have come to expect of the little maestro. The midfielder dictated play throughout the whole match and delivered many beautiful through balls that created scoring chances. In the first half he delivered a ball over a few Deportivo defenders to give Suarez a great chance at goal, but the Uruguayan shot wide. Iniesta completed 94% of his chances before being subbed off for Rafinha in the 66th minute.

Ivan Rakitic:

The Croatian midfielder was magnificent against Deportivo. He played with loads of heart and determination and clocked up two beautiful assists for Messi. On the first one, he put an inch-perfect lobbed pass right in the path of Messi who headed in. On the second one he thread the ball between two defenders at a tight angle, right to Messi who scored with a beautiful shot. Earlier in the match, Rakitic delivered a perfect corner kick to Messi on the ground, but the Argentine’s shot was brilliantly saved.

Neymar:

While Neymar didn’t put in one of his usual amazing performances, he still had a decent game. He constantly got past defenders with skill moves and was linking up very well with Jordi Alba. Neymar still seemed to be a little injured from his collision with Atletico’s Jose Maria Gimenez last week. He was being defended very physically, so he was taken off for Pedro in the 69th minute.

Lionel Messi:

The magical Argentine was pretty much flawless once again. He scored three goals, taking his all-time hat trick tally for Barcelona up to 30. Messi officially played as a right winger against Deportivo, with permission to roam wherever he pleased. The first goal of the night for La Pulga came in the 10th minute. He slipped through the Deportivo defense undetected and was founded by a beautiful lobbed pass from Ivan Rakitic which he headed in. His second goal was officially assisted by Suarez, but he created it himself. He received the ball on the edge of the box, dribbled past a few players, appeared to have lost the ball and then beautifully chipped the ‘keeper. Messi’s third and final goal came when he received a beautiful pass from Rakitic deep in the box and unmarked, fire an amazing low shot into the back of the net. During all this attacking, Messi somehow managed to largely contribute in defense also. Another mind-blowing performance from Messi.

Luis Suarez:

Deployed centrally, the Uruguayan had a decent game. Although he assisted Messi, he blew many golden chances to score or create. At one point, he received the ball on the left side of the goal with Messi on his right. The goalkeeper closed off his angle and a pass to Messi would have been a surefire assist, he instead chose to shoot and fired wide. This was uncharacteristically selfish of the former Liverpool man.

Subs:

Rafinha:

The Brazilian midfielder came on for captain Iniesta in the 66th minute but didn’t make much of an impact except for a nice through ball to Suarez that was just of the toothy Uruguayan’s reach.

Marc Bartra:

The center-back came on for Busquets in the 66th minute and received a yellow card due to a bad officiating call almost immediately. However, he quickly recovered and went on to play well including a sliding last man tackle on the goal line.

Pedro:

Pedro came on for Neymar in the 69th minute and played on the left wing. Although he didn’t have much of an impact, he combined very well with Messi and Suarez in attack.

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*All stats were obtained from WhoScored.com

Is Angel di Maria overrated?

Angel di Maria enjoyed scintillating form for Real Madrid at the end of last season, climaxing in a man of the match performance against Atletico Madrid in the final match of the season when Los Blancos claimed their record 10th European Cup title. After that, Di Maria produced good performances for Argentina in the World Cup even though he missed the semifinal and final through injury. These performances led to many people claiming he was the best player in the world behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Still, Real Madrid opted for glamor signings James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, instead of keeping Di Maria on as a starter. Understandably, the Argentine wanted to move to a club where he would receive more playing time. After rumors linking him to many clubs, Di Maria finally signed for English giants Manchester United for a British record transfer fee of 59.7 million pounds. Whenever a player commands such a large sum to move, the expectations are huge. Di Maria was immediately heralded by the Old Trafford faithful as the solution to all their problems. Di Maria has enjoyed a decent start to life in England, but is he as good as he was believed to be when he joined United? Let’s take a look.

Goals

Di Maria has never been known for his goal scoring. However, he certainly is capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. The diminutive Argentine has scored four goals for United in fourteen matches so far this season. He scored his first goal for the Red Devils in a match against Queen Park Rangers, his second appearance for the club when his indirect free kick bounced into the goal. He has since scored against Leicester City and Everton in the league and added one against Yeovil Town in the FA Cup.

Assists and Passing

Di Maria’s passing has always been the best part of his game. It’s what made him famous at Benfica, prompting Real Madrid to buy him, and it’s what he became known for at Real Madrid. So far this season Di Maria’s passing has been fairly good, but nothing more. He has assisted six goals in fourteen appearances. He has created 34 chances this season in the league, more than any of his teammates. However, he has completed only 80% of his passes, a paltry sum for a player of his quality.

Di Maria is clearly a very talented player. The excitement of Manchester United fans everywhere at the time of his arrival was completely warranted. In December, Di Maria won the award for the best Argentine player in 2014. Through all this praise and recognition, di Maria has played well, not well enough, though, to be the third best player in the world. Angel di Maria is a little bit overrated.