Monday Musings

Cristiano Ronaldo shows he's human; Matic key for Man Utd; Neymar's start

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:52:00 PDT

The FC crew talk the length of suspension that would be suitable for Cristiano Ronaldo's actions in the Spanish Super Cup. It was all set up so nicely. Other than an eight-minute cameo against Manchester United in the European Super Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo hadn't played at all since June. Against Barcelona, in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday, he came in just before the hour mark with his team one-nil up. After Lionel Messi converted a dubious penalty, Ronaldo scored an absolutely stunning long-range goal to put Madrid ahead. So far, so good. He then decided to take off his shirt (OK, he has the body...

Neymar's record-breaking move: What it means for Barcelona, PSG and more

Thu, 3 Aug 2017 05:13:00 PDT

PSG's world record signing Neymar is confident he can help PSG become the best team in the world. There's a veritable kaleidoscope of vantage points from which to consider the transfer of Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, aka you-know-who. We're not just talking the most expensive footballer of all time; we're talking a guy who cost more than a quarter of a billion dollars. That's Paul Pogba plus Cristiano Ronaldo with enough left over to cover their wages until Christmas. This is not, as some have suggested, the end of football as we know it. It's either a bold, game-changing move from Paris Saint-Germain...

As Miami enjoys a thrilling Clasico, the saga of Neymar's future rumbles on

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 03:51:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti and Ale Moreno break down the latest surrounding Neymar's future, but is he worth the reported transfer fee? The FC crew react to Sergio Ramos' quote about Neymar's future and debate the effect his departure would have on Barcelona. MIAMI -- For many, it did not matter: The ICC Miami version of El Clasico was not going to be overshadowed. 65,000 plus, clad in the colors of Barcelona and Real Madrid's eternal rivalry, braved the soupy South Florida night to see the stars they usually only see in HD and in two dimensions and were treated to a show. But for the rest, particularly those whose blood runs Blaugrana or who simply are fascinated by the sport's journey through time, there was a question haunting the heavy air over Miami's...

Barca, Real's ICC Clasico in Miami defined by Neymar, Bale uncertainty

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 04:00:00 PDT

In a battle between not only two teams but two identities, El Clasico comes to Miami in the match that transcends sport. Gab Marcotti breaks down the latest in PSG's pursuit of Neymar and explains what it would take for him to leave Barcelona. Toni Collins provides an update on Barcelona's ongoing Neymar saga and how they're handling it throughout the ICC. ESPN FC's Sid Lowe and Julien Laurens reveal the truth behind the Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid reports. Gab Marcotti and Shaka Hislop talk Clasico as the La Liga fixtures were released on Friday. MIAMI -- We're a month away from the start of the European season, training camp is in full swing, and we could see, in the space of a few days, two of the greatest front threes -- and perhaps the most recognizable acronyms in football -- blown apart just as Real Madrid take on Barcelona in the Miami Clasico. And if they come, the seismic changes will be driven by money and market forces as much as sporting decisions by management. Real Madrid Barcelona 2 3 FT Game Details Live football odds with bet365. Bet Now » GameCast Lineups and Stats It would take shattering -- more than doubling, in one case --...

Lionel Messi should only get better with age as Barcelona's leading light

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 05:41:00 PDT

Sid Lowe explains the mix of excitement and relief at Barcelona after Lionel Messi agreed to an extension until 2021. Gab Marcotti and Shaka Hislop talk Clasico as the La Liga fixtures were released on Friday. If there's a downside to being Lionel Messi, it probably manifests itself in contract negotiations. Earlier this month, less than a year away from free agency, he signed an extension tying him to Barcelona through 2021. Ordinarily, you'd expect a GOAT candidate running down his contract to foster endless media speculation. Is he looking for a new challenge? What does he want from the club? Can somebody make him an offer that can't be refused? Real Madrid Barcelona 2 3 FT Game Details Live football odds with bet365. Bet Now » GameCast Lineups and Stats Not here, and not Messi. It was about as anti-climactic...

The 50 most influential in football: Who made our list this time around?

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 PDT

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti breaks down the ever-changing top 50 most influential people in football. Gab Marcotti delves into ESPN FC's top 50 most influential people in football, pinpointing No. 16's "John" from Football Leaks. One thing is quite obvious when it comes to assessing influence in football: Once you have it, it's hard to lose -- particularly when you are close to the top. Fifteen of our 2015 Top 20 are back in the second installment of ESPN FC's Top 50 Most Influential in football. Perhaps more tellingly, seven members of 2015's Top 10 find themselves in the Top 10 yet again. Two of the figures no longer among the Top 10 -- former UEFA president Michel Platini, who topped the list, and former FIFA boss Sepp...

Football Leaks is blowing the lid on the game's secrets ... but at what cost?

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti delves into ESPN FC's top 50 most influential people in football, pinpointing No. 16's "John" from Football Leaks. ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti breaks down the ever-changing top 50 most influential people in football. We don't know his real name and word is he lives in hiding in Budapest. Yet in a world where information is power, the man who calls himself "John" seemingly has unfettered access to things that are supposed to be private and confidential. And he's not afraid to use that information. It began nearly two years ago, when "John's" Football Leaks website began uploading original player contracts, transfer agreements and assorted other football-related documents. A host of big names would eventually...

Can Gianni Infantino stop FIFA being the wrong kind of four-letter word?

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 PDT

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti breaks down the ever-changing top 50 most influential people in football. Gab Marcotti delves into ESPN FC's top 50 most influential people in football, pinpointing No. 16's "John" from Football Leaks. He's the man charged with restoring faith and credibility in FIFA, which is about as straightforward as getting an aircraft carrier to perform a U-turn in a bath tub. What's more, until less than two years ago, if Gianni Infantino nurtured ambitions over the world's game, it was a faraway prospect. At the time, he was general secretary of UEFA, the governing body of European football, and his boss, Michel Platini, was gearing up to run for the FIFA presidency. At best -- most thought -- Infantino...

Germany, Chile promises to be superb finale to 2017 Confederations Cup

Sat, 1 Jul 2017 03:36:00 PDT

Gab Marcotti explains why the ref in Chile's semifinal against Portugal opted to not use VAR on a potential penalty. On Sunday night, we may be crowning the last-ever Confederations Cup champion. Asked directly about it amid rumors that the competition might be replaced by some kind of global Champions League-lite extravaganza reserved for clubs, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was distinctly noncommittal. "Right now, the future of the Confederations Cup is the final," he said. "What happens after that is something we will analyze like we do with all our competitions. At this stage, there isn't much to say." On...

How many of Germany's stars this summer will feature at the World Cup?

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 03:56:00 PDT

Watch as Germany are crowned U21 champions of Europe for the first time since 2009. When Joachim Low pores over his Mariana Trench of talent, you wonder if perhaps, sometimes, he'd prefer to have a little less choice. Depth is great and depth matters a lot for a club side over the course of a season. But when you're talking a short tournament -- seven games, if you get to the semis, over a month -- can it sometimes be a hindrance? Does having too many choices increase your likelihood of making the wrong choice? This is the footballing equivalent of what you might think is not...

Claudio Bravo rises to the occasion in Chile's heroic semifinal win vs Portugal

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:54:00 PDT

Paul Mariner questions whether or not Claudio Bravo can carry over his fine form for Chile to Man City. The FC panel gets heated when another instance of potential VAR usage goes unused for Chile against Portugal. With Portugal falling in PK's against Chile, the FC crew wonder if it was smart to keep Ronaldo as their final PK taker. KAZAN, Russia -- Claudio Bravo stood under the Kazan lights and gazed at Ricardo Quaresma, taking the longest walk you can possibly take on a football pitch: from the halfway line, enveloped in the embrace of your teammates, to the solitude of the penalty spot, with only a ball and your thoughts for company. Moments earlier, Arturo Vidal had slammed the ball past Rui Patricio to give Chile the lead, celebrating with a fist pump and a glance at his yellow-clad teammate who stood off to the...

Cristiano Ronaldo, Alexis Sanchez drive Portugal, Chile in different ways

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 02:38:00 PDT

Mark Ogden and Nick Ames key in on Cristiano Ronaldo and Alexis Sanchez ahead of the semifinal between Portugal and Chile. With the FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals set, Janusz Michallik breaks down the two exciting matchups. KAZAN, Russia -- You want to look ahead to the first Confederations Cup semifinal, to the champions of Europe taking on the champions of South America (or, more accurately, given last year's Copa Centenario, the champions of "the Americas"). You reckon you're going to do it through the prism of each team's biggest attacking star. And then you run into a problem. Portugal Chile (0) 0 (3) 0 FT-Pens Chile wins 3-0 on Penalty Kicks. Game Details Live football odds with bet365. Bet Now » GameCast Lineups and Stats Because when Cristiano Ronaldo is on one side of a parallel, unless the guy on the other is named Lionel Messi, there is no symmetry,...

Garcia report doesn't contain smoking gun, but FIFA clean-up has just begun

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 01:35:00 PDT

Even before Michael J. Garcia, a former U.S. attorney and FIFA's chief ethics investigator into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, had submitted his report to FIFA in 2014, there were rumors that there was no "smoking gun." Not of the kind that would see the World Cup taken away from the respective bid-winners, Russia and Qatar. Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of the adjudicatory branch of FIFA's Ethics Committee, decided in September 2014 that the Garcia report would not be published in full for "legal...

Ronaldo, Donnarumma don't have "player power" as clubs still in charge

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 09:22:00 PDT

ESPN FC's Mark Ogden addresses the latest news on Cristiano Ronaldo and looks ahead to his upcoming press availability. This may be remembered as the summer of player power. Cristiano Ronaldo, speaking via his minions, says he has made an "irrevocable" decision to leave Spain and Real Madrid. Gianluigi Donnarumma, who only became old enough to legally buy alcohol in Europe last February, turns down a contract extension that would have made him one of the highest-paid goalkeepers in the world. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil sit tight as their contracts tick down towards free agency at Arsenal. Marco Verratti's...

Confederations Cup is more than just a World Cup warm-up

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 06:04:00 PDT

MOSCOW -- The Confederations Cup is routinely referred to as a warm-up for the World Cup. It's not inaccurate, of course, but it's also not exactly a summer invitational either. Unless you're the host nation, you have to qualify for the event by winning your continental competition, or the World Cup itself. Which means getting here is tougher than qualifying for a World Cup. Much tougher, in fact. (Unless you hail from Oceania, in which case it's easier, because you don't have to go through a playoff...

With 365 days to go, 2018 World Cup faces an uphill, but winnable, battle

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 01:51:00 PDT

The hype and excitement surrounding the 2018 World Cup hasn't yet started. Are we excited for it? MOSCOW -- In some ways, it's sneaking up on us. Russia 2018 is a year away, yet it feels almost subdued relative to the hype and anticipation ahead of the previous two World Cups. A clear narrative for 2018 has not emerged. In 2010, you had Africa's first-ever World Cup and a nation bouncing back from the ravages of racism and apartheid. Four years later in Brazil, it was about an economic boom and a World Cup coming home to the country that most defines it -- 64 years after hearts were broken...

Can anyone topple Real Madrid? Man Utd, Juventus, Chelsea have a chance

Thu, 8 Jun 2017 08:07:00 PDT

Last week, Real Madrid won their third Champions League of the past four seasons. They're also the defending Liga champions and an economic juggernaut that boasts one of the two best players in the world (and a gaggle of superstars beyond him), as well as a manager who thus far has barely put a foot wrong and who seems tailor-made for them. So if those are the ingredients for a dynasty, who is best placed to unseat them? Take this exercise for what it is: a bit of crystal ball juggling. And...

Zidane proves he's perfect for Real right now, Wenger's big risk, Inter mess

Mon, 5 Jun 2017 07:50:00 PDT

As varying reports surround David De Gea's United future, where does Gab Marcotti feel the Spaniard will play next season? When Zinedine Zidane was appointed to replace Rafa Benitez back in January 2016, plenty were skeptical -- including yours truly. Boy, were we wrong. His first 17 months at the helm of the club have been close to unparalleled, and any concerns over his experience and personality have been blown away. What about his lack of experience? Fact is, Real Madrid -- especially this Madrid -- is so different from any other club that a long track record elsewhere isn't quite as relevant. Far more important...

Real Madrid look to confirm dynasty status with Juve standing in their way

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 09:43:00 PDT

CARDIFF, Wales -- Dynasties are cyclical. Right up until the 1990s, Real Madrid prided themselves on having won more European Cups (six) than any other club. While it is true, their rivals could always snort and cruelly point out that all of that happened "in black and white" -- meaning it was a long time ago, belonging to the age of sepia-tone newsreels. Indeed, 32 years passed between 1966 and 1998 when the club appeared in just one final (1981), which they lost. But Real Madrid won it three times...

Why sponsors find Pogba hard to resist even after humdrum season

Tue, 30 May 2017 04:55:00 PDT

As the world's most expensive player, Paul Pogba's return to Man United has been anything but sunshine and rainbows. When Paul Pogba -- who ranks No. 40 on ESPN's World Fame 100 -- moved from Juventus, five-time consecutive champions of Italy's Serie A, to Manchester United, the most successful English club in the Premier League era, it followed a familiar miniseries pattern. You knew where the narrative was going. You knew how it was going to end. And yet you could not take your eyes off it. From the incessant hype that accompanied him as the star player for the host nation, France, at the European Championships...

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