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  • Louis van Gaal must overcome Manchester United’s Chinese Curse

    Louis van Gaal must overcome Manchester United’s Chinese Curse

  • Juventus' problems may run far deeper than Massimiliano Allegri

    Juventus' problems may run far deeper than Massimiliano Allegri

  • Does Chelsea's summer spending pile pressure on José Mourinho?

    Does Chelsea's summer spending pile pressure on José Mourinho?

  • James Rodriguez, Marco Reus and Chelsea FC:  Football Power 101

    James Rodriguez, Marco Reus and Chelsea FC: Football Power 101

Watch out, City. Take heed, Liverpool. Don’t get too excited just yet, Arsenal and United. Having splashed out almost £80m on Cesc Fàbregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis this summer, plus having secured the future services of Croatian teenager Mario Paŝalić for an undisclosed amount, it seems like the "little horses" of last season are ready to gallop. After all the bizarre mind-games and disappointing inconsistency of last term, there is reason for Chelsea fans to be excited again. Certainly, bookmakers up and down the land see the Premier League as a done deal, with most of the major high street chains pinning the Blues as 15/8 favourites to win the title. José Mourinho could boast one of the finest, most extensive squads in England before his latest purchases, of course; the Pensioners have long looked solid in defence and midfield, and Chelsea fans will be hoping that Costa - a man with much to prove after a bitterly disappointing World Cup for his adopted country, Spain – can sort out their misfiring strike-force. Has Mourinho made a rod for his own back, however, in spending so much? Has Roman Abramovich set his club up for ridicule by consenting to yet another Chelsea transfer splurge? And by spending so much, will anything other than a league title or success in Europe constitute a failure for the Blues next season?

For the lack of a better way to put it, Blackpool are up the swanny.

With less than three weeks to go to the opening day of the Championship season, last season's relegation candidates, Blackpool, are only left with eight players. Manager José Riga is reportedly days from leaving due to the situation and they had to cancel a pre-season trip to Spain due to the fact they can only just about field a seven-a-side team.
Chairman Karl Oyston has said that deals are in place to bring in players, but we know that the Championship can be feast or famine, and many clubs have gone to the wall because they've spent big on the promotion dream. So why not spend next to nothing? Let's scour those who are without a club and build a team that could give Tangerine fans something to smile about.

The stage was set, the script written. One of the most pulsating, passionate yet professional World Cup finals of recent years was drawing to a close as the last few seconds of extra time leaked away. As it stood, Joachim Löw’s impressive German team had one hand firmly wrapped around the trophy, after Mario Götze’s stunning chested volley fizzed André Schürrle's cross past a stricken Sergio Romero with 113 minutes on the clock. Then Lionel Messi, the heir apparent to Diego Maradona, finally had his moment. Hauled down in the injury time of extra time by the otherwise indomitable Bastian Schweinsteiger, Argentina’s talisman was a free-kick away from salvaging a penalty shoot-out for his country, and a chance to beat Die Adler at their own game. The ghosts of a hundred and one footballing legends circled the Maracanã, as the whole world watched a shrimp of a man from Rosario in confidence, in expectation. But it wasn’t to be. Not for the first time that night, Messi let us down, shooting a set-piece that wouldn’t look out of place on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke high over the bar. Argentina had lost the World Cup final, and Messi, devastatingly, had fallen short of the standards we set for him.

I'll say this now.

I don't have a lot of time for England. I don't like international games, I don't like the endless collection of St George's flags lashed across advertising hoardings, suspended from rooftops and flown from cars every two years. Furthermore, I hate international breaks, as it means no Liverpool game for a fortnight and my weekly fix of all things Red is put on hold so we can watch a host of rookie England players obtain their only caps before the big lads return for the tournaments. 'What have we learned from this game, Alan?' 'Well, we know that the subs board works.'

It was supposed to be all about the world’s best player. The stage was set for Lionel Messi, the little Argentine following in the footsteps of his compatriot and inspiration Diego Maradona in almost single-handedly dragging his side to glory against a team of Germans. But instead it became about the world’s best team.

Instead, Messi would trudge up the Maracana’s long flight of steps 120 minutes later, not to collect football’s most coveted trophy, but to pick up a barely-deserved Golden Ball award, seen by some as a token gesture in the wake of a disappointing final for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner. Messi failed to crack even a half-smile, perhaps knowing that the decision to give him the award would be deeply scrutinised.

To the game, and much of it was disappointing when compared the rest of the tournament, or at least its early stages. Perhaps understandably, given what was at stake, it was a largely tense affair.

And breathe.

What a World Cup. What was expected by many to be a turgid, sluggish affair in energy-drenching temperatures turned out to be something rather quite special. Brazil is a country notorious for its party planning and it played host to arguably the greatest festival of football there has ever been in a summer that will take more than a couple of Caipirinha’s to forget about. 171 goals were scored, the applecart was upset on more than one occasion, histrionics were at a minimum and some of the world’s best players paraded their quality on a stage that has played host to so many greats of the game in the past. Brazil 2014 was truly a triumph.

  • Scouting Report: Divock Origi

    Scouting Report: Divock Origi

  • Scouting Report: Ciro Immobile (Torino)

    Scouting Report: Ciro Immobile (Torino)

  • Scouting Report: Memphis Depay (PSV)

    Scouting Report: Memphis Depay (PSV)