Ozil, Modric & the Goal 50 absentees

July 29th, 2014

ANALYSIS: There were some big-name drop-outs and exclusions from this year’s rankings – who is likely to make a return and who is gone forever?

By Chris Myson

In a fast-paced and ever-changing football world, the annual Goal 50 award acts as a useful measuring stick as various players see the value of their stock rise or fall.

While some stars such as James Rodriguez and Thibaut Courtois have surged up into the top 10 of the rankings after enjoying an impressive year, others like Andres Iniesta and Franck Ribery have been knocked off entirely.

Ribery was actually out of the list in 2012, flew up to No.2 in 2013 and now finds himself outside of the 50 again this summer. In other instances, players may return after years in the wilderness.

Here, we profile high-profile dropouts and exclusions from the latest Goal 50 list and analyse their prospects in the future.

Barca stars suffer due to poor season

After failing to win a major trophy for the first time in six years, Barcelona’s squad suffered in the 2014 Goal 50, with only Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Neymar making the cut.

The involvement of a number of Barca’s key stars in Spain’s disastrous World Cup defence would not have helped their case either and Andres Iniesta is the most high-profile omission from the Goal 50. The midfielder was one of only three players – Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo being the others – to have appeared in every one of the six awards from 2008-2013.

The chances of Iniesta regaining his place in 2015 do look strong. Barcelona are expected to improve their performances under new coach Luis Enrique having spent heavily in the transfer market. The Spain international remains the most important creative force in the side and should bounce back.

It is hard to be as optimistic over Xavi and Dani Alves, however. The Barca stalwarts made each of the first five lists but have now been absent for two successive years. The 34-year-old Spain star was close to leaving for Qatar or the United States this summer and is declining, while Alves – another player who was below-par last season – also faces an uncertain future amidst exit rumours.

Thiago Silva, Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta, Koke, Mario Gotze? Wowwwwwwww… http://t.co/zXxAkLSBAh

— Arthur (@nguyenbrah) July 28, 2014

Cesc Fabregas
and Alexis Sanchez have now left Barca and may feel unfortunate to miss out on a place in the 50 after posting strong goals and assist tallies last year. Their absences – along with that of Iniesta – were amongst the most debated by readers. However, with more important roles at their respective new sides Chelsea and Arsenal, they have every chance of making a prompt return to the list.

Casillas, Pirlo, Schweini & the seasoned absentees

A number of established star names failed to make the grade in this year’s Goal 50 and, as more young talents break into the list each year, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to get back in.

Iker Casillas is one man who faces a struggle. Having dropped out of the list in 2013 after losing his place in the Madrid goal under Jose Mourinho, things did not get much better over the last 12 months. Carlo Ancelotti opted to stick with Diego Lopez in La Liga. The experienced keeper may have won the Champions League and Copa del Rey, but his performances in big matches were not up to standard.

In the European final against Atletico Madrid, Casillas’ mistake for Diego Godin’s goal almost cost his side. A dreadful World Cup showing as Spain crashed out in the group stages means his place at international level is now as unstable as it is for his club. Former Madrid star Michael Owen, though, believes Casillas can fight back, telling Goal: “One or two bad games doesn’t mean your career is over. If it happened to a 20-year-old people would make a different excuse.”

Casillas’ club team-mate Xabi Alonso also pays the price for Spain’s struggles despite another influential campaign with Madrid. He was missing in the Champions League final through suspension. Another Madridista, Luka Modric, turns 30 next year and he was another surprise absentee following a superb season pulling the strings alongside Alonso. A poor World Cup and the sheer abundance of top-class talent in Madrid and La Liga saw him pushed down the list of Spanish-based nominees.

Bastian Schweinsteiger enjoyed an impressive World Cup with Germany, but had an injury-hit season with Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery was No.2 in the Goal 50 last year but this time he drops out completely. Injury denied him the chance to impress at the World Cup, while fitness concerns and a lack of form meant he was less influential at Bayern this year as Arjen Robben took centre stage. Both Schweinsteiger and the Frenchman’s chances of a Goal 50 return will depend significantly on how fit they can remain for 2014-15.

Thiago Silva must be cursing his luck again after missing out on the list this year. After coming in at No.8 last year, he led Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title and Brazil to the World Cup semi-finals, but he suffered from a massive drop in form from March onwards. It appears PSG’s stars will need a Champions League triumph to gain further individual recognition next season.

Andrea Pirlo pays the price for Italy’s poor showing at the World Cup. Despite scoring some trademark free kicks and helping Juventus to another Serie A title, in overall terms Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba were even more influential in midfield. Whether he can secure a return to the 50 will depend on the relationship with his new coach Massimilano Allegri, who got rid of him at AC Milan.

Balotelli, Cavani, Ozil & the attackers

While it is usually easiest for No.9s, No.10s and attacking midfielders to gain recognition when it comes to individual awards, there are still a number of classy names missing from our list. Karim Benzema is the biggest omission. The striker enjoyed his most influential season to date at Real Madrid, scoring 24 goals as his side won the Champions League and Copa del Rey. At the World Cup he netted three goals as France reached the quarter-finals. Similar performances next year would make him impossible to ignore.

Fitness is the only reason Sergio Aguero misses out on selection. His 28 goals in all competitions helped Manchester City to Premier League and League Cup success, but repeated injuries meant he was missing at key times of the season and short of his best form at the World Cup for Argentina.

Following his impressive end to the previous campaign, Mario Balotelli disappointed for AC Milan and Italy in 2013-14. Only 14 goals in Serie A were not enough for a Milan side who slumped to an eighth-place finish. His national team then crashed out at the group stage, a sad contrast to his individual and team success at Euro 2012. Balotelli’s immediate future is uncertain. One thing which is known is that he must produce better performances to return to the Goal 50.

Injury also robbed Radamel Falcao of the chance to post a prolific first season at Monaco and star at the World Cup. Regular games and goals will surely see him return to the list next year as he looks to make up for lost time. Edinson Cavani was played out of position for much of PSG’s season and struggled to emerge from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s shadow for much of his debut term in France. Despite scoring 25 goals, the Uruguayan star was not as prolific as he could have been in big games, particularly in the Champions League defeat to Chelsea. That is the area he must improve on next season if he wants to be ranked amongst the best.

There were few players more divisive than Mesut Ozil in 2013-14 and he split opinions again after missing out on the Goal 50. In his debut season with Arsenal, he helped them to FA Cup success and then went on to win the World Cup with Germany.


— Yash (@YashRodriguez10) July 28, 2014

Despite that, his individual performances were often called into question, with claims that he went missing when games were going against his side. Still, an improved second season in England in a strengthened Gunners side will surely be good enough to see him return in 2014-15.

Carlos Tevez fired in 19 Serie A goals for Juventus as his side were crowned champions. His record in Europe, though, was far less impressive (one goal in 12 games) and he was unable to improve Juve’s struggles on the continent. He missed out on selection for Argentina’s World Cup squad due to a feud with members of the federation. Mario Gotze provided the most memorable moment of 2013-14 with his stunning winning goal in the World Cup final. He was on the list last year at No.26 but falls off this year after a poor club season. He could well explode next term with more game-time.

English talent wiped out

Astonishingly, no English player has gained selection in the latest instalment of the Goal 50. Frank Lampard – placed at No.50 last time out – was the only English player to make the list in 2013 and now the nation has reached a new low.

The performance at the World Cup certainly played a part in the Goal 50 blackout after England finished with just one point from three matches and exited in the group stages, but the decision is also a reflection of the lack of top English talent on show in the Premier League.

Steven Gerrard had a strong season in a deeper-lying midfield role at Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers’ men made a surprise challenge for the title, but a crucial mistake against Chelsea and underwhelming performances in Brazil cost him dear. Having announced his international retirement, the Champions League displays he puts in will be the decisive factor as to whether he will be involved next year. Gerrard’s club team-mate Daniel Sturridge is the most unfortunate of the England crop to miss out on recognition. He scored 24 goals in all competition and also netted in the World Cup against Italy. If he can continue to deliver goals in the absence of Suarez next season, then it is hard to see him missing out again.

Wayne Rooney’s contract dispute at Manchester United was resolved for 2013-14, but the striker is out of the Goal 50 for the second year in a row, again raising the question of whether his ability can really be compared to some of the world’s best players. Rooney faces a vital 2014-15 season if he wants to avoid his career reaching a level of continued decline.

Joe Hart won the Premier League with Manchester City but had a spell out of the side in mid-season after being dropped by Manuel Pellegrini. A more consistent year combined with further medals at the Etihad Stadium would be needed if he is to match the four keepers named in this year’s list.

Click HERE to see the full list for the 2014 Goal 50


Do you agree with our list of the world’s 50 greatest players of the 2013-14 season?

Get involved via our Goal 50 section this month. Give us all your views on the debate by commenting below and by getting in touch on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #Goal50.

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'Balotelli can be Milan's new Ibrahimovic'

July 27th, 2014

Rossoneri shot-stopper Christian Abbiati has backed the striker and coach Filippo Inzaghi, who took over from Clarence Seedorf this summer

AC Milan goalkeeper Christian Abbiati has faith that Mario Balotelli can inherit Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s crown as the club’s striker.

The former Manchester City striker played in all three of the Italy’s World Cup games in Group D but, while he scored in the opening victory against England, he was impotent in defeats against Costa Rica and Uruguay.

Abbiati claims that the Rossoneri forward is eager to prove himself after humiliation in Brazil and even tipped the striker to match former forward Ibrahimovic, who left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012.

“He will be back in the squad bursting with enthusiasm after the World Cup,” Abbiati told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “He wants to prove that things are different from how it went in Brazil.

“Can he become Milan’s new Ibrahimovic? If he understands that he has to give his best in every training session, then yes.

“I am sure that with new coach Filippo Inzaghi he will succeed.”

Abbiati’s commendation comes amidst rumours that Milan cheif Adriano Galliani is keen to offload Balotelli, with Arsenal linked with the 23-year-old.

Abbiati, who has been at the Lombardy club since 1998 and was team-mates with Inzaghi for 11 years, has praised the boss’ impact since replacing Clarence Seedorf this summer.

“Inzaghi has brought a crazy enthusiasm, the team follows him as one,” he added. “Inzaghi is a concrete example and credible because he is the first one that people respect.”

The making of a pro – the sacrifice

July 26th, 2014

In the final report in our series with Gatorade, Goal examines the lifestyle choices aspiring footballers need to make in order to reach the very top of the game

Everybody has a story to tell about the most talented footballer at their school. A player who seemed supremely gifted when he was young, who appeared destined for the professional game, but just didn’t have what it took to translate the gift he displayed into a career at the top level.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the sport is the concoction necessary for somebody to make it as a pro – and the everyday experiences that teenagers need to sacrifice in order to pursue their dreams.

“I love football, and football is not only played on a Sunday,” said AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli when asked recently how he managed to stay on the right track as a youngster. “You have to prepare yourself during the week for Sunday.

“You can have girls if you want but you can’t go to clubs and drink and do stupid things or go to sleep late. I used to do this when I was maybe 15 or 16, but after that I stopped and that’s ok because either you want to be a footballer or you want to be a normal guy.”

Former Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira believes that there is no way of cutting corners when it comes to realising ambition.

“Dreaming alone takes you nowhere. Dreams are good for seeing where you can go and what goals you can reach. You have to also pay the price,” he tells Goal.

“I paid my price. I was 24 years old when I was appointed by the Brazilian government to be the coach of the Ghana national team. Ghana had asked the Brazilians to send a coach there and I was selected, even though I was very young.

“My salary was $100, but that didn’t matter. It was important only that it was an opportunity. I had the vision to accept that.

“Everybody who is successful has had to pay their price. I am happy that I went step by step. It was important to have a target, have the discipline to reach it, then action it.”

Parreira went from humble beginnings and no real playing background to become a world-class coach, with everything coming from a single dream of being able to celebrate with the Brazil team as others had managed when the Selecao won their first World Cup in 1958.

Meanwhile, ex-Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown insists that there is little to lose in throwing yourself into a career in football.

“I didn’t see it as a sacrifice,” he told Goal at a Gatorade event in London. “It was what I wanted to do more than anything else. It was only when I looked back on my career having realised that 23 years had gone by when I might have been doing other things, but effectively I was doing what everyone else wanted to do anyway.

“People thank us for what we did as players but it was all our pleasure and we had a lot of fun in the process. You have to make sport fun, but enjoyable as well.”

Even the most talented players have to make some sort of sacrifice to succeed, while there are countless examples of players whose determination and work ethic has more than made up for a shortfall in natural ability. Winning comes from within.

Find out more about the fuel of football and how Gatorade fuels the unreal experiences of players at www.gatoradefootball.com or www.gssiweb.org. #BeUnreal

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Galliani: Balotelli 99.9 per cent staying

July 26th, 2014

The Milan chief has reiterated his desire to keep the striker at San Siro next season, despite rumours linking him with a move away from Italy

AC Milan chief Adriano Galliani has reiterated his intention of holding on to striker Mario Balotelli this summer, despite rumours linking the Italy international with a move away from San Siro.

The 23-year-old did not feature in Milan’s 3-0 pre-season friendly loss to Olympiacos in Toronto on Thursday with reports suggesting that the forward could be on his way out of the club in the coming weeks.

Balotelli’s rumoured destination is Premier League side Arsenal with Arsene Wenger having met with the striker’s agent, Mino Raiola, during the World Cup over a potential transfer.

Despite the talks having stalled, though, Galliani has insisted that Milan do not want to sell Balotelli to any club this summer.

“Balotelli never asked to be sold. He will stay at Milan. 100 per cent doesn’t exist on the transfer market, but 99.9 per cent does,” Galliani told reporters.

Galliani also commented on the future of Robinho, who has been tracked by several clubs including Santos, Cruzeiro, Atletico Mineiro and MLS outfit Orlando City.

The 30-year-old’s wage demands have proved a problem in finalising any move, but, Galliani is optimistic that the Brazilian will find a suitable club.

“There are some offers and more will arrive on Monday,” he said. “We are convinced that we can find a solution.”

Galliani confirmed that Torino midfielder Alessio Cerci and Arsenal forward Joel Campbell were on Filippo Inzaghi’s wishlist this summer, but that the transfers would only go ahead once the futures of Balotelli and Robinho were sorted.

“Alessio Cerci and Campbell? They have the characteristics our coach likes, but so do many other players,” he said.

VIDEO: Multi-tasking master Balotelli dances & irons while reading 'I Am Zlatan'

July 23rd, 2014

The Italian posted a short video of himself relaxing by doing a bit of housework, catching up on Ibrahimovic’s autobiography and doing a little jig – all at the same time!

Mario Balotelli made his case by being football’s ultimate multi-tasker by sharing a video of him dancing, ironing and reading all at once!

The AC Milan forward, who has been heavily linked with a summer move to Arsenal, posted a short but comical clip on his official Instagram page of him dancing from side-to-side, but that’s not enough for the Italian.

The video was tagged with the statement “reading books is cool” by Balotelli, who is seen flicking through the pages of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s autobiography, entitled ‘I Am Zlatan’.

Reading and dancing is apparently nothing to the ex-Manchester City man, though, as he shows that the modern multi-millionaire footballer is not immune to doing a little bit of housework as he irons on of his t-shirts simultaneously.

Milan – or whomever signs the striker, should he leave San Siro – will be hoping that Balotelli can transfer these multi-tasking skills on to the football pitch in 2014-15!

Check out the clip below and weigh in on the comment section below if you think Balotelli is a world class football player or just a world class clown.

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