Who’s your PFA Player of the Year???

Here are the nominees, which came out yesterday, for the Professional Footballers Associaton’s Player of the Year. For many, the decision seems to be clear cut. What’s your vote…………?

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) – David Pizarro’s least favorite player has gathered in 40 games a whopping 37 goals – outscoring both Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez together. He has also come through on clutch situations, established himself as a presence in the locker room and in Sir Alex Ferguson’s eyes, all at the ripe age of 23. This is all after a 2006-07 season that saw him hit for 23 goals which now looks like cake compared to 2007-08. Most people’s unanimous selection.

2. Fernando Torres (Liverpool) – Few can argue a nomination, but there many out there that tout his arrival and goalscoring as more impressive than Ronaldo’s feats. If you take his move over from Atletico Madrid, the time it took to get accustomed the English football (or lack thereof), and then the subsequent rebirth of an extremely dangerous Liverpool forward, you could certainly vote for Torres. $50 million for 29 goals? That good value?? Probably better than what it would cost to get Ronaldo’s 37.

3. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) – All these young’uns on this shortlist. Fabregas has officially become Arsenal’s playmaker and on-field presence. With Cesc, Adebayor wouldn’t have his goals. That alone says things. At 20 years old, Thierry Henry has become a little bit of an afterthought at the Emirates when Adebayor and Cesc link up. His flair, skill, and vision are unbelievable for a player at 20 with the weight of the Gunners on his shoulders.

4. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – Feels like this year has been Gerrard’s to get lost in the mix. The three nominations above him have taken most of the attention in Europe and the EPL. But Gerrard has remained steady. His leadership rises above the rest – even in the midst of Liverpool struggles. Gerrard wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s hard to see it on any sleeve but Liverpool’s. 20 goals, game-winning assists, and a tenacity that few midfielders posess in the EPL, Gerrard still has many years ahead of him. At what point does his loyalty and commitment to Liverpool go for naught?

5. Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal) – I would have never predicted Adebayor’s break-out season. Henry’s departure led to it, but it’s one thing to play the role of new striker and another to actually make the most of it. Adebayor has produced some of the most spectacular goals this year and stabilized an Arsenal squad that looked destined for mediocrity at the beginning of the season. Yes, the season is catching up to the Gunners – but Adebayor’s efforts certainly puts him on this shortlist.

6. David James (Portsmouth) – Getting towards over the hill (37 y.o.), James has had one interesting career full of huge ups and massive downs. “Calamity” James isn’t exactly the greatest nickname is it? Regardless, James has become a rock in the Pompey goal as they make their run for Europe. He’s also only been the real constant in Fabio Capello’s pool of underperforming goalkeepers. The real questions is – is this the keeper to put on here?

Who all is missing?? Did Tim Howard get snubbed? Why no Gareth Barry of Aston Villa??

Either way, it’s hard to believe that Cristiano Ronaldo won’t become the 4th ever player to win this distinction twice. Consecutively, I might add. Last person to do so was Thierry Henry in 2002-03 and 2003-04.  

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CHI’s Best XI of March 2008: Newbies Outweigh the Usual Suspects

Fernando Torres – Liverpool (FW)

First Selection

The Reds had an amazing month of March with the only real blemish being a 3-0 loss to a unflappable Manchester United squad. Torres was the biggest reason for Liverpool’s success in March. A total of 7 goals, three of which were gamewinners. A lot of people doubted the effect Torres would have in English football and he has managed to prove the critics wrong and transplant that success in European play as well. Liverpool are now through to the semifinals in the Champions League after beating Arsenal in April and March’s road went through Inter Milan. No easy tasks. After Morientes, after Baros, there comes Torres and 21 goals in the Premiership. Regardless, however, Liverpool sits in fourth and quite a distance from third. Not somewhere 21 goals in the EPL should put you…

Goals: 3 goals vs. West Ham United (3/5), 1 goal vs. Newcastle United (3/8), 1 goal vs. Inter Milan (3/11), 1 goal vs. Reading (3/15), 1 goal vs. Everton (3/30)

Jermain Defoe – Portsmouth (FW)

First Selection

Take that Tottenham. Take that Martin Jol, Juande Ramos. Defoe gets his starting role back at Fratton Park and has since been very unkind to opposing goalkeepers. The speedy striker has 8 goals in 7 appearances with his new club and 6 goals in 4 games during March. Pompey are in a race for a spot in Europe as they sit 4 points outside of 5th with 5 games to play. Defoe is still an outright idiot for cheating on his popstar girlfriend.

Goals: 1 goal vs. Everton (3/2), 2 goals vs. Birmingham (3/12), 1 goal vs. Aston Villa (3/15), 2 goals vs. Wigan Athletic (3/29)

Claudio Graf – Veracruz (FW)

First Selection

After wasting away at Lanus in the Argentinian Primera Division, Graf has found a new home with Veracruz of the Mexican Primera. He has struck for 10 goals this year, 7 in March alone. The 32 year old has had a journeyman’s career, playing for 11 teams in almost 15 years of work. His newfound consistency has pleased Veracruz fans and almost caused them to take to calling him San Graf (Saint Graf), a nickname given to him in 2004-2007 stint with Lanus. It started fast and furious with Lanus and then waned in the homestretch, now let us see if he can continue the form that has him beloved in Veracruz in just 12 appearances.  

Goals (7): 1 goal vs. Necaxa (3/1 GW), 1 goal vs. Pachuca (3/8), 1 goal vs. Chivas Guadalajara (3/14), 1 goal vs. Atlante (3/23), 3 goals vs. Club America (3/29)

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United (MF)

Second Selection

These stats speak for themselves. In four of out five March matches, Cristiano Ronaldo either scored or assisted EVERY goal. He had a hand in over 90% of the goals scored for Manchester United. Then add to that the intangibles, the stats you don’t see on a scorecard. Against Liverpool, he dictated the run of play, confused defenses, threaded perfect through passes. Still only 23, there’s not much more you can say about this guy without admitting a mancrush. You do have to admit, though, he’s got one hell of a supporting cast. It is Ronaldo’s 2nd selection in 2008 and I think I foresee a couple more.

Goals: 1 goal vs. Lyon (3/4), 1 goal vs. Derby County (3/15), 2 goals vs. Bolton (3/19), 1 goal vs. Liverpool (3/23), 1 goal and 3 assists vs. Aston Villa (3/29)

Alex – Fenerbahce (MF)

First Selection

After a historic night in Sevilla and a berth into the Champions League quarterfinals, Fenerbahce – led by the artistry of veteran Brazilian Alex – destroyed Turkish Super League competition. Alex provided 3 goals and had his hand in over 3/4 of a 15 goal March. Without Alex, Mateja Kezman, Deivid, and Colin Kazim-Richards would have very little to run on to. The 30 year-old not only creates the plays, but he finishes them too. Over 70 goals for Fenerbahce proves that. Long rumoured to be moving to a bigger league, it looks to actually happen this summer as many are starting to wonder after 4 years at the Turkish club, when does loyalty get in the way of ambition? The highlight of March was a two goal performance that dismantled fellow Turkish giants Besiktas 2-1.

Kader Keita – Olympique Lyonnais (MF/FW)

First Selection

Lyon exploded for a great March only to be blemished by a loss to Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League. Kader Keita, however, took March as a chance to establish his position at Stade de Gerland. You can’t say that Juninho is fading, but Keita has impressed enough to provoke talk of him being the new playmaker for OL. It is certainly a closer year for Lyon, who is looking for their 7th consecutive Ligue One title, but Keita’s efforts (4 goals, 4 assists) has kept OL with a 6 point lead over 2nd place Bordeaux. Let’s remember not to lose his name in the midst of Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa.

Aldo Duscher – Racing Santander (MF)

First Selection

Where is Santander coming from?? The veteran midfielder Duscher has sparked an upstart Racing squad to fight its way into the top 5 and a fight for Europe. He started off March by scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Valladolid and followed it with the game winner over Betis. The Argentinian has acted as the glue between a defense that played much of March without their talisman, Ezequiel Garay, and the offense which has produced over 2 goals a game this past month. Along with Jorge Lopez, Duscher has been a big reason Racing now fights for a place in Europe instead of a place in the Primera.

Edson Braafheid – Twente Enschede (DF)

First Selection

Last thing anyone was expecting from Twente was a 5 consecutive win streak in April. Braafheid captained a Twente defense that was the strength of a team now fighting for a spot in next year’s European competition. A 4-3 win over Vitesse Arnhem was the lone defensive hiccup. Braafheid – 24 years old – was the toast of the Dutch Under-21 squad and his homeland Suriname but could never secure a spot on a more competitive team, eventually falling off the radar. Is that the next step? The talent and work is there, but where are the suitors?

Jose Bosingwa – FC Porto (DF)

First Selection

Bosingwa continues to attract interest from the rest of Europe – including Manchester United, Liverpool, Aston Villa, and Tottenham. Understandably so due to his role in an undefeated March for Porto. Every game for the Portuguese giants was remarkably close and if it weren’t for Bosingwa and his backline, each one of those games could have taken a turn for the worse. Plucked from the youth ranks by Jose Mourinho, Bosingwa – Congolese born, now Portuguese – looks poised to lead Porto their second consecutive Portuguese SuperLiga title.

Rio Ferdinand – Manchester United (DF)

Second Selection

Rooney and Ronaldo take care of the offense, Ferdinand’s job is the defense. The combination of both has Manchester United tearing through EPL competition. One stinger will be the loss to Portsmouth in the FA Cup, but the eye has been the EPL crown and it looks like United is on their way to grab it. Ferdinand’s EPL accolades have paid him the ultimate dividend – captaincy of the English national team under Fabio Capello’s new regime.

Manuel Neuer – Schalke 04 (GK)
First Selection

Manuel Neuer

It certainly wasn’t a bad month for Schalke even as they struggle to hold on to a Champions League spot in the Bundesliga. It could have been a lot worse without the 22-year old, baby-faced Neuer in net. Schalke started off March with 2 straight 1-0 losses, one which still ended favorably however. Porto beat Schalke in the return leg with 31 shots. Neuer put in the performance of his life and miraculously kept the score at 1-0 and gave the Germans a chance in penalties. Schalke won to move on to the UCL quarterfinals.

Bench: Mario Gomez (VfB Stuttgart, 4 goals), Ivan Cvetkov (Sivasspor, 5 goals), Klaas Jan-Huntelaar (Ajax, 6 goals), Daniel Guiza (Mallorca, 6 goals), Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Allan MacGregor (Rangers), Daiki Iwamasa (Kashima Antlers), Marcos Gomes Araujo (Kashima Antlers)

My League is Better Than Your League

 

El Niño Fernando Torres came out today with a pretty bold statement today on ESPNSoccernet. Saying:

‘I would say football in England is better. It is more attractive than football in Spain, I would say, and certainly faster. ‘It’s more physical. The progress of the game is slower and there are a lot more fouls in Spain. The football here is more dynamic and it is more fun for the team and the individuals.’

So the former Atlético de Madrid striker is saying the EPL is a better league than La Liga. That seems like quite the comparison the young Spaniard is making, especially with all of his 5 months of EPL play under his belt. I’m not criticizing him for the comments, but it made me think: Is it really the case that the English league is better than the Spanish one?

When all is said and done, it is really an opinion that everyone has. Obviously, I don’t play in La Liga nor in the EPL, so I have no first hand experience at this. The only judgments I can make are from my own observations and feelings about the game in general. I’m not alone in thinking that La Liga is the best league in the world. Living in Spain on two different occasions has made me that way. Similarly, anyone having lived in England will tell you that the EPL is the best league on the planet, no doubt. The passion and energy that La Liga has in Spain is something that other leagues could only dream about having.

On the other hand, people in the states love the MLS, and feel that it is the best league in the world. Maybe not talent wise, but it is ‘our’ league in the States, and we should support it. If you see the supporters in Toronto, Dallas and Houston they’ll tell you they support the best.

So, which league is the best in the world? Is Ligue 1 > La Liga > Serie A > MLS > EPL > Bundesliga?? Each country has it’s own style of football, easily seen in competitions like the European Cup and the World Cup, when the US famously is known for knocking the long ball up to the forwards in hopes of burying one home. Every leagues style is what makes every league unique. I don’t think it’s a question of which league is better, but rather which league appeals more to you as a football fan.

I mean in the end, football is football, anyway you slice it.

(Editors Note: For the next few weeks, disregard funny sounding sentences, random sidenotes, and paragraphs that do not make sense as painkillers will do that to you)

Does Rafa need anymore proof?

Rafa doesn’t play Torres-Liverpool has 3 draws.

Rafa plays Torres, Torres scores 3 goals and they win 4-2.

I’m not a manager by any sense of the word.  But I like to believe that I know my football.  I understand the rotation system I do.  As I have expressed over the past month, when it works, Rafa looks like a genius, and when it doesn’t he looks like a complete ass.  And when your top striker is worth 26.5 million pounds, and you don’t play him.  You really look like an ass.

Rafa came out last week and said that Liverpool’s goal was to win the Premiership this season.  How can you say that when you start Voronin over Torres against Birmingham and then you procede to start Torres in a Carling Cup game.  Does anyone care about the Carling Cup anymore?  NO!

What people care about is the Premiership.  That is what brings home the bacon.  Rafa has demonstrated that he knows how to coach in Europe, taking Liverpool to the finals last season.

What he hasn’t shown is the CONSISTENCY in the Premiership.  That is, the ability to coach well and to win points when you should, ie against Birmingham at Anfield.  There is no reason to drop 2 points at Anfield.  No reason at all.

Hopefully this will settle the Torres ‘rotation problem’ once and for all, and we all can get on with our lives.

But why am I certain that this isn’t the last of it…