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Football

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For every Johan Cruyff there is a Diego Maradona


With the confirmation of Antonio Conte as the new manager of Chelsea earlier this week, I’ll look at the greatest footballers turned managers. Antonio Conte had a stellar career as a player with his tenacious and influential presence that transcended into management. The criteria for entry to this list is only limited to managers who have had distinguishable careers both on the pitch and in the dugout, so managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger et al are excluded.

10.  Diego Simeone

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The feisty Argentine has built up a stellar CV in a relatively short space of time. To many on these shores he is known for being the perpetrator in David Beckham’s dismissal at the 1998 World Cup that inevitably led to England’s exit. He also had a very successful career, playing for clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Lazio with over 100 caps for his national team.

Simeone retired as a player in 2006 and went straight into management in his native Argentina where he won two  Argentine Primera Division titles (2006 & 2008). In 2011 he returned to his former club, Atletico Madrid and certified their status as one of Europe’s elite clubs. With feats such as winning the the Europa League,  Copa del Rey and the La Liga title (on a relative small budget in comparison to Barcelona and Real Madrid).

Simeone also came agonisingly close to winning the Champions League in 2014, however rivals Real Madrid equalised in injury time and dominated in extra time to a flattering 4-1 scoreline in their favour.

9. Sir Bobby Robson 

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The late Bobby Robson started his football education at Fulham as a forward. During his tenure in west London he scored 77 goals in 344 games for the Cottagers. His career both domestically and internationally took off at West Bromwich Albion, as he established himself in the England setup as he was included in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup squads (withdrew from the latter due to an injury).

Although he had a successful career as a player, Robson is more known for his managerial credentials such as leading Ipswich Town to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory in 1978 and 1981 respectfully that eventually led to him becoming the manager of England as he led the Three Lions to the semi-final, their best position to date since their 1966 triumph. Robson went continental after the World Cup with successful spells at PSV, Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona. He returned to England to manage his beloved Newcastle United.

8. Kenny Dalglish

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Known as ‘King Kenny’ to the Liverpool faithful. Dalglish was a superb player for the Reds and was named as their best player in a 2006 player poll.  He won 6 titles with them as a player, along with 3 European Cups (he scored the winning goal in the ’78 final), 4 League Cups and a solitary FA Cup title. Not to forget his accolades with Celtic that included 4 Scottish Premier League titles.

Dalglish became player-manager of LIverpool in the 1985-86 season and led them to the double in his first season. He won two more titles as he cemented his position in Liverpool folklore. In 1991 he joined Blackburn Rovers, who were bankrolled by club chairman Jack Walker. He won the Premier League in 1994/95. Dalglish made a shock return to Liverpool in 2011 and won another League Cup in 2012 in what was a rather ill-fated spell.

7. Mario Zagallo

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Mario Zagallo made football history in 1970 when he became the first footballer to win the World Cup both as a manager and a player. In fact Zagallo won the World Cup twice as a player in the ’58 and ’62 competitions. He was duly named to the latter tournament’s all-star team. Zagallo who played as a forward and winger played the majority of his domestic football for Flamengo and represented Brazil 33 times with 5 goals.

6. Brian Clough 

Sport. Football. England. 1980. Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough with the European Cup trophy.

Dubbed by the media as “the greatest manager England never had”. Cloughie had a phenomenal spell as a manager but it also overshadows his career as player in which he scored 197 goals in 217 league games for his hometown club Middlesbrough and earned two caps for England. His first successful spell as a manager came with Derby County as he led them to the First Division title in 1972.

He had an infamous 44-day spell at Leeds United that has in turn been adapted in the forms of a novel and movie. However his most successful spell as a manager was at Nottingham Forest. He was joined by his trusted assistant Peter Taylor as they turned Forest from a Second Division outfit to back-to-back European champions in the space of five years. Along with their European conquests, Clough led Forest to the First Division title in 1978 and also won four League Cups in his 18-year spell in the East Midlands.

5. Jupp Heynckes

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Heynckes has won almost everything there is to win in the game. A prolific striker, most notably for Borussia Mochengladbach where he won four Bundesliga titles along with two Bundesliga top scorer titles to his name. Internationally he won the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup. He was also as successful as a manager with two Champions League titles (with Real Madrid in ’98 and Bayern Munich in 2013) a part of their historic treble winning season.

4. Carlo Ancelotti

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Ancelotti is a serial winner in every sense of the word. As a player he won 3x Serie A, 4x Coppa Italia and 2x European Cup along with earning a bronze medal with Italy at the 1990 World Cup. He has somehow replicated his achievements as a manager with 3x Champions League titles, 1x Serie A, the domestic double with Chelsea in 2010 (the first in their history) and a Ligue 1 title with Paris Saint-Germain in 2013. At the end of the last year it was announced that Ancelotti will replace Pep Guardiola as the manager of Bayern in the summer.

3. Franz Beckenbauer

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I don’t think there has been a more influential figure in German football than Franz Beckenbauer. ‘Der Kaiser’ single handedly revolutionised the position of central defence, by playing as a Sweeper for the dominant Bayern and Germany sides. He also had superior attacking instincts for a defender as scored 69 league goals for the Bavarian side. Beckenbauer won 5x Bundesliga, 3x European Cup (consecutively) and skippered Die Mannschaft to European and world glory. Beckenbauer followed in the footsteps of Zagallo and also won the World Cup as a manager when Germany won in 1990.

2. Pep Guardiola

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Arguably the best manager in world football at the moment. Guardiola, a defensive midfielder in his playing days broke into the Barca first team in the early 90s as Johan Cruyff assembled his  ‘Dream Team’ that consisted of Romario, Ronald Koeman and Hristo Stoichkov to name a few.  In his 11-year spell as a player for Barcelona, Guardiola won the La Liga 6x, the European Cup in ’92, 2x Copa del Rey and the Cup Winners’ Cup in ’97. Internationally, he won the gold medal at the ’92 Olympics with Spain and won 47 caps for la Roja. Pep has eclipsed his playing career with an astonishing managerial career to date. He won 14 trophies in his 4 years managing Barcelona and has won consecutive Bundesliga titles at Bayern Munich. However Guardiola will always be the apprentice to the man who has had the most influence on his career.

1. Johan Cruyff

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Of course the master that is Johan Cruyff, who sadly passed away a fortnight ago to lung cancer.  Cruyff was one of the main proponents of the ‘Total Football’ movement that was so dominant in the Ajax, Barcelona and Netherlands sides that he spearheaded. In 1999 Cruyff, was voted the best European player of the century in a poll by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). Cruyff retired from playing in 1984 with 9x Eredivisie (Dutch League),  6x Dutch Cup, 3x European Cup, 1x Continental Cup, 1x La Liga and 1x Copa del

Rey. Following a prosperous three-year spell at Ajax, Cruyff returned to Catalonia and certified his legacy at the club with 4 consecutive La Liga titles, 1x European Cup (the first in the club’s history), 1x Copa del Rey, 1x Cup Winners’ Cup, 1x UEFA Super Cup and 2x Spanish Supercups. His influence on modern football is unmatched by any other as many teams from around the world play under a derivative  of the Total Football movement that he made popular.

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As the Barclays Premier League footballing season closes in on its eventual finale, every game becomes critical for those at the opposite ends of the table. Whilst those around the bottom fight and scrap against relegation, those at the top end battle for the league title or a chance at european showboating.

A fixture that will optimise the latter will take place early Saturday afternoon when Arsenal FC visit Upton Park for the last time ever to take on West Ham United. Usually this London derby is a chance for the east enders to get one over their more successful North London counterparts, however on this occasion there is more at stake for both clubs. With the season being so unpredictable you would have a better success playing at this website than predicting how this game will pan out.

It is universally agreed, on the most part, that Arsenal have thrown away their chance of winning the league having led the Premiership at the beginning of January only to see their form continue its winter decline, allowing Leicester and archenemies Tottenham Hotspurs to leap frog them. It now appears that Arsene Wenger’s men have embroiled themselves in the battle to remain in the top four again. A battle that they have been successful at the last 18 successive attempts. Every year this record is under siege but this year the fear of Spurs finishing above them looms like an ominous axe.

West ham on the other hand are having a fantastic season under the management of Slaven Bilic, a former player who has returned in a risky attempt to bolster his already legend-like legacy at Upton Park. With the acquisition of a certain Dimitri Payet, a shoe-in for all the player of the season awards, West ham have looked a different proposition for their opposition. In fact, at the beginning of the season Arsenal lost 2-0 to the Hammers on the opening day of the season. What started off as a surprise carried on throughout the season and now West sit in 6th place already surpassing expectations. With 9 games to go, forget the Europa League, they have a shot at the big one, the Champions League.

Arsenal sit in third place with 58 points, 7 points above West Ham. Yet only 3 points separate West Ham from 4th place Manchester City. So this meeting between Arsenal and West Ham is important to both clubs for different reasons yet for the same goal. A West Ham win will bring Arsenal closer into their grasp whilst if the Gunners lose, their top four certainty becomes under threat as they get embroiled in a larger battle between Manchester United, Manchester City and West Ham.

This London has a lot of emotional weight behind it other than the fight for Champions League money. West Ham will be moving to the Olympic Park next season so will want to get one over against Arsenal. Wenger’s men will want to ruin the party and solidify their perennial Champions League also-rans tag. Whatever happens and whoever’s side you’re on be sure to tune into BT Sport for the 12.45 kick off this Saturday afternoon because this game will be entertaining.

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Since Stoke City’s return to top flight football in 2008, after a twenty-three year absence they have been infamously known for their robust and physical style of play that has upset many footballistas who prefer to watch the so called beautiful game played with finesse and vigour.

The man who guided Stoke to the Premier League was Tony Pulis, a no-nonsense manager that harks back to the old school British manager with his noticeable management attire of his trusted tracksuit and baseball cap. In their inaugural season the Potters flirted with the relegation zone, as expected with a limited budget in comparison to the other Premier League teams.

The signing of ex-England international James Beattie in the 2009 January transfer window was a significant moment in their season as he scored 7 goals in 16 games with Stoke certifying their status in the top flight on 9 May with a 2-1 away win against Hull City.  They haven’t really looked back since as they reached the FA Cup final in 2011 and lost 1-0 to Manchester City. The following year they had a European adventure in the form of the Europa League as they finished second in their group and were paired against Spanish giants Valencia in the round of 32, who they lost 2-0 in aggregate to.

One year later Pulis left the club after a meeting with club chairman Peter Coates as he felt the club had not progressed from the previous year.

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He was replaced by fellow Welshman Mark Hughes who had a point to prove after his ill-fated spell at Queens Park Rangers, having left west London rivals Fulham in an unsavoury manner in the months prior to the start of his helm at Loftus Road. The Hughes revolution at the Britannia stadium begun with the releases of stalwarts Rory Delap, Mamady Sidibe, Dean Whitehead and Matthew Upson as Hughes seemed intent on trying to shake off the negative reputation that preceded his side.

He followed this up with the shrewd signing of Austrian international Marko Arnautovic from Werder Bremen. Who like his manager was also trying to shackle off an image that the media perceived of him. He has been pivotal to Stoke’s success this season contributing 10 goals (11 in all competitions) as Hughes is hoping that his talisman maintains his development and wants him to be the “complete player.”

In a relatively short space of time Hughes has managed to revolutionise Stoke’s ethos from a “long ball” team into a team full of attacking flair. This has been evident none more so than Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who made the shock move to Staffordshire from Inter Milan for a fee of £12 million.  There seems to be a sense of parallelity between Shaqiri and team mate Marko Arnautovic as both have been highly-rated from a young age and have had brief and rather unsuccessful spells at the San Siro.

Hughes has however managed to get the best out of the talented duo and is reaping the rewards in the process. The final and by no means the least important component of the attacking trio is Bojan, a product of the prestigious La Masia (Barcelona’s youth academy) who recently signed a new contract. The Spaniard is already a fan favourite in the Potteries with his impressive work rate matched with natural ability. To be fair it must be a family trait as he is a distant relative of Lionel Messi.

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Despite the fact that the club have changed their philosophy under Hughes, they have maintained their resilience and grit in the shape of the dependable duo captain Ryan Shawcross and Jon Walters. The latter has wanted to dispel the myth of the cold night in Stoke debate by regarding that his side compete with the bigger teams by not using “negative” tactics.

Walters said: “We feel that we can mix it up a bit more – we can go both ways. If we need to direct, we can. But we can play. We have players in different areas of the pitch who make it difficult.” The Irish international who has been at the club since 2010, has been impressed by the depth that the club has at its disposal.

Walters added: “It’s the strongest squad since I’ve been at the club. The depth here is unreal. People will start to take notice of that- but only if we continue winning. And that’s what we’re looking to do.”

The Potters currently lie in eighth position in the Premier League and have a chance, albeit comparatively slim, of reaching the top four and qualifying for the Champions League. With how ridiculously this season has unfolded who can bet against them from reaching the big time as Hughes, who would of been a manager of the year contender if it wasn’t for Claudio Ranieri’s heroics at Leicester or to a lesser extent Quique Sanchez Flores at Watford and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, can build a legacy at the Britannia that match his aspiring ambitions. Their record signing of Porto midfielder Giannelli Imbula, widely touted as the next Claude Makelele seem to prove that they are heading in the right direction.


Iconic Dutch midfielder John Cruyff has died today (24 March) after his short battle with cancer. In February the 68 year-old said that he felt that he was ‘”2-0 up in a match” against lung cancer, so it comes as a shock to the footballing world that he has passed away so soon.

The three-time Ballon d’ Or winner was told of his illness in October. He was surrounded by his family in Barcelona today.  The former Ajax and Barcelona forward was at the forefront of the Total Football movement that propelled the Netherlands into one of the major players in international football as they were runners-up in consecutive World Cups (1974 and 1978). It was also successful continentally as Ajax won three consecutive European Cups from 1970-73.

Cruyff also managed Barcelona for eight years. Under his tutelage he assembled the “dream team” that consisted of Gheorghe Hagi, Ronald Koeman, Romario, MIchael Laudrup, Andoni Zubizarreta, Pep Guardiola and Hristo Stoichkov. During his managerial spell at Barca he captured their first European Cup in 1992 and won four consecutive La Liga titles.

Guardiola, manager of Bayern Munich said of the Dutchman’s innovative influence on him; “throughout my career I’ve simply tried to instil what I learned from Johan Cruyff. He has the biggest influence on football out of anyone in the world, first as a player and then as a coach.” He added; “Johan Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it.

Cruyff’s legacy will always live on, not only did he influence teams from his homeland and Barcelona. He also inadvertently aided the Spanish national team’s dominance from 2008-12.

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by Doha Stadium Plus


Carlo Ancelotti will take over from Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich this summer. The squad that have been flying high for many years won’t need much of an overhaul, but the Italian will surely want to make his own mark with the tactics and may favour some players over others.

The former Milan, Chelsea, and Real Madrid manager could find himself defending the Champions League title next season, as Bayern progressed one step closer after defeating last season’s finalists, Juventus. Luckily for fans, the club are bringing in somebody with great pedigree, who has won the Champions League three times already with two different teams.

Although Bayern currently have a manager who many class as the best in the world in Guardiola, if the Spaniard fails to take them all the way in Europe then Ancelotti could be classed as an upgrade. So what can the fans expect from the Italian next season?

The hierarchy at the Bavarian Club have already informed Ancelotti that his main task will be to deliver the Champions League title, regardless of whether they win it this season or not. So, he will have to focus on this as his primary objective with the Bundesliga title as the secondary assignment. Although Bayern have odds of 1/40 with http://extra.bet365.com/news/en/football/bundesliga to win the league as of 17th March, it’s the European elite competition that matters the most. Ancelotti will have to balance the squad so that he can put out the best possible team in Europe.

So far in Guardiola’s reign he has fallen short at the last hurdles in the Champions League, and his replacement will have to rectify some of the reasons for this. Bringing a more defensive Italian style to the game in Europe could work as Bayern have often been exposed on the counter-attack. The likes of Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman have a background in Serie A and could be key players. Ancelotti is also known for his ability to adapt formations and enjoys free-flowing, attacking football. So, he may change the squad and formation depending on the competition and the opponents.

Some of the backbone players at the club signed new contracts this season, including Xabi Alonso, Thomas Muller, and Jerome Boateng, and the new manager must try to hold on to a few of the other stars who have been such dominant figures in the team. There are rumours surrounding the prolific Robert Lewandowski’s future, as Barcelona and Real Madrid are both reported to have expressed an interest in a player who is blasting his way towards the Bundesliga golden boot in style. There is also some uncertainty over Arjen Robben, as a number of big clubs including Manchester United are expected to try and poach the speedy winger in the summer.

The main things for Ancelotti to do when he takes over is to try to hold on to the club’s best players and work out how to use them in his own technical set-up. The foundations have already been built by Guardiola and this team is more than capable of winning the Champions League, if not this year, then quite possibly next.

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Aston Villa are on the brink of relegation for the first time since 1987.





Aston Villa have endured a torrid season to date. They currently sit in 20th position, eight points adrift of 19th-placed Newcastle and the Relegation zone. To the outsider it may not seem out of reach for Villa to rectify their season and avoid relegation, however to many observers of the game this side has been bereft of confidence and it is only a matter of when their relegation is confirmed. So how has this club, with a proud and prestigious history found themselves in this predicament?

Blame game

To the Villa faithful, the main culprit is club chairman Randy Lerner. The American has been unpopular to the claret and blue army of Birmingham for sometime and it was clearly evident in the 3-1 defeat to Everton on Tuesday as many fans left on the 74th minute of the game, in what was called the “out the door on 74.” A statement that harks back to the club’s establishment in 1874.  As mentioned previously, Aston Villa have a prominent history. They were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888 and are the fifth most successful English club based on major honours. Villa’s decline has been long and turgid, it could be argued that they have been lucky to escape relegation, having flirted around the summit of the table for the past five years since Martin O’ Neill’s shock resignation five days before the opening day of the 2010-11 season. What has irked the Villa fans the most about Lerner is his reluctant to spend money and bolster the squad (the reason why O’Neill left), however when he has it’s become detrimental to the club’s progression. For example the signing of Darren Bent was seen by many as Villa’s attempt to certify their status as one of the elite clubs of the Premier League. However this did not come to fruition as Bent wasn’t a hit in the second city, although he was the club’s top goalscorer for two years. The ex- Sunderland striker cost £27,000 per touch as Villa were desperate to get their £24 million flop off their books. He eventually left last summer after being ostracised from the first team and being sent out on loan numerously.

Randy Lerner

Turmoil

This campaign has unsurprisingly been full of turbulence. The club sold key players Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph to Liverpool and Manchester City respectively. The club’s major concern is the lack of firepower especially since the sale of the Belgium international. His replacement, Rudy Gestede has showed flashes of brilliance but only has five goals in twenty-four league games.  The self-assured Tim Sherwood was given his marching orders in October of last year after six consecutive league losses. Off the pitch, other than Lerner’s reluctance to spend. The Villa players have hardly given the fans a vote of confidence, with defender Joleon Lescott’s “entirely accidental” tweet of his Mercedes after the 6-0 drubbing by Liverpool and starlet Jack Grealish’s constant partying that has infuriated manager Remi Garde.

With only two months remaining of the season, Aston Villa face an uphill battle to retain their status as one of the seven founding Premier League clubs not to have been relegated. This is one of the most pivotal moments in the club’s recent history as they could potentially face a long exile from the top flight a la Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday etc.



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Football Manager, or to the older crowd Championship Manager, is a football management simulation game for the PC that has encapsulated the minds of many. To some it has become a second life, as you’re writing down copious notes on players to buy or tactics instead of revising for your exams. The game comes with an emotional package as you build (or destruct) relationships with players and fellow managers with the virtual world submerging with the reality. The game’s scouting database was hit or miss. For every Lionel Messi was a Tonton Zola Moukoko. Enjoy!

GK- Dionisis Chiotis 

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In the highly acclaimed 01/02 Championship Manager, this Greek goalie was available to purchase for as little as £300,000 from AEK Athens. His wage demands were also relatively modest. A man who thrived on the big occasion, Chiotis is known amongst the Football Manager community as an excellent penalty shot stopper, who wins a fair few accolades along the way.

In reality Chiotis played once for Greece in 2002 and participated in the 2009-10 Champions League group stage for Cypriot outfit APOEL.

RB- Michael Duff

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A solid no nonsense stubborn right-back who plies his trade at Cheltenham Town in the 01/02 edition. His attributes are very rangy but he has all the stats needed to be a reliable defender, think of him as the virtual Gary Neville.

Although in the game he is English, Duff has played international football for Northern Ireland and is currently playing in his 12th season for Burnley

CB- Ian Murray 

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The tough tackling Scotsman is a man in demand as many mid-table Premier League clubs are queueing up for his signature in Football Manager 2005. A good depth player for the big clubs who usually achieves a high average rating for the season.

In reality, Murray signed for Rangers in the summer of 2005 in what proved to be a injury ravaged spell. Other clubs in his CV include Norwich, Hibernian and Dumbarton.

CB – Issac Okoronkwo

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Arguably one of the best and versatile defenders the game has ever produced. The Nigerian can play anywhere across the backline and with relative ease as well. A major problem was that if you were playing with an English team, you would have to wait a couple of years until you could purchase Okoronkwo due to him needing a work permit to play on these shores. In saying this he is definitely worth it

Believe it or not Okoronkwo actually played in the Premier League for Wolves in their 2003-04 campaign.

LB- Gareth Jelleyman

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One third of the Peterborough United Trio (the other two are Simon Davies and Matthew Etherington) and the least known. Dubbed the “Welsh Roberto Carlos” on numerous FM forums, Jelleyman like Carlos had a humdinger of a left foot and scored quite frequently for a left-back.

Jelleyman remains a cult figure to many due to being ridiculed by Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling for being sent off whilst playing for Mansfield Town. Stelling said; “looks like Jelleyman’s thrown a wobbler.”

RM – Kennedy Bakircioglu

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A player who will live on in Football Manager folklore. Bakircioglu was the Cristiano Ronaldo of the 99/00 Championship Manager. A skilful winger with a penchant for scoring in a flamboyant manner, the Swede won me numerous trophies.

Although he didn’t live up to his billing from the game. Bakircioglu was capped 14 times for Sweden and had a 3-year spell at Dutch giants Ajax.

CM – Mark Kerr

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A box-to-box midfielder akin to Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Kerr was the real deal, however like his fellow Scot Murray, once you declare interest in him a number of clubs are vying to purchase him too. His determination would get the better of him sometimes with rash tackles that would lead to him getting sent off.

Kerr now plays for Falkirk of the Scottish Championship

CM – Freddy Adu

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Perhaps the biggest disappointment on this list. At the tender age of 14 Adu signed his first professional contract, with a $1 million Nike sponsorship around the corner. He was even billed as “the next Pele”. Unfortunately for Adu things never really took off and he is already considered a journeyman at the tender age of 26. In Championship Manager 4 you can snap up the wonderkid on a free transfer.

LM – Emil Debski

Like To Madeira (Who we’ll come to later), Debski was a fictional player and was in fact a researcher who put himself in the 01/02 installment. He starts off at an obscure Danish club and can be bought in the excess of around £50,000. His development (starts off at 17) is something to behold as he eventually becomes one of the best players in the game

FC – Maxim Tsigalko

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A personal favourite of mine. An absolute goal-machine who would score five goals in a game without breaking a sweat. When I eventually signed Tsigalko (due to Work Permit constrictions) my Leeds team went up another level. His most prolific season under my tutelage was 80 goals in 52. Staggering!

In reality, The Belarusian retired at the age of 26 with 2 caps for his national team.

FC – To Madeira 

To Madeira, like Emil Debski was another fictional player created by a researcher working for the game producers. Just like the aforementioned Tsigalko, Madeira was a goal machine with excellent technical attributes to boot (could strike a mean free-kick). Another personal favourite of mine as he along with Tsigalko helped resurrect my Leeds career and lead me onto greatness.

When word spread among the Football Manager community that To Madeira was in a fact a fictional player. He was removed from later instalments.

Hope you enjoyed my list. If I have missed anyone out, remember to leave a comment or share.



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It’s seen by many as the best league in the world and it’s clear to see why. Football these days is determined by events more off the pitch than on, let me explain. The Barclays Premier League is a worldwide brand, just look at how many different countries it’s been marketed in as a result of this ‘worldwide appeal’, the deal for TV rights was agreed at a whopping £5.1 billion!

BT Sport and Sky Sports share the responsibility of broadcasting some of the best players ever to grace the football pitch. Whether it be Sergio Aguero, Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez – but this season the standout player arguably has been Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.

Vardy who started out at Sheffield Wednesday as a teen broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s long-standing record of scoring in 10 successive games by scoring in 11. The reason why many have been raving about the Sheffield-born front man has been due to his very modest early football career.

The 29-year old Vardy had spells earlier in his career with Halifax and Sheffield Wednesday, where he started out his football journey. After getting released by his hometown club a move to Stocksbridge followed, which then lead to a move to Halifax and that’s where the now 29-year-old attracted the public eye.

Vardy’s achievements has shown the value of sourcing local talent. As good players as your Ozil’s, your Sanchez’s and Aguero’s are, it’s fair to say that a £1 million signing from Fleetwood Town has stolen the show this season.

Leicester who took ‘the chance’ on Vardy in 2012 are definitely reaping the benefits as he and Riyadh Mahrez are pushing Leicester to what seemed like an unlikely title push. The success of those two players has lead to many of Europe’s top clubs looking to sign Jamie Vardy.

The success of the Sheffield-born front man, has lead to clubs to do more to source talent like the Sheffield Wednesday trainee, so much that Arsenal have signed Leicester’s Ben Wigglesworth.

Not many would know this, but it was Wigglesworth who was responsible for sourcing those talents (Mahrez and Vardy). With that in mind that, what if I was to tell you that the ‘next Jamie Vardy’ is ‘right under your nose’.

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Not sure what I mean? I am talking about Brodie Litchfield. Litchfield is a striker who is on loan at Stocksbridge (the club where Jamie Vardy spent three years) and is 18 years of age – and also plays as a striker, just like a certain Mr Vardy.

One thing that Brodie does have over his fellow Yorkshireman is that he is the youngest first team debutant at Stockbridge, something which Jamie Vardy can’t even say. The Sheffield United youngster boasts over a very prolific goal ratio of over a goal a game in the past two seasons with a respectable nine and six assists in the past seasons as well.

Don’t just take my word for it, Stocksbridge chairman Allan Bethel in 2015 said quite simply: “Brodie is better than Jamie Vardy when Brody was Jamie Vardy’s age”. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t what is.

Despite being relatively young, Brodie Litchfield has gained valuable experience at youth team football level with FA youth cup experience with Sheffield United and Stocksbridge. It’s not just goals that Brodie has to offer, the Sheffield United man just like Vardy is a very tenacious player and doesn’t give defenders a minute to rest.

To put it simply the 18-year old Brodie Litchfield has the potential to be as good as Vardy if not better. G154 limited who represent the teenager are very enthused about their client who is tipped for big things.



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If you’d have asked me in August of last year whether Tottenham have a genuine possibility of winning the Premier League, my response would’ve been of laughter. Fast forward six months and it now seems like a reality for the long suffering Spurs supporters.

They currently sit in second position two points behind the surprise story of the season, Leicester City. In fact their last defeat was to the Foxes on 13 January and they are currently on a 5 game winning streak, that could be extended on Sunday afternoon as they welcome Swansea City.

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So what is the main factor to Spurs’ impressive season so far? Harry Kane? Hugo Lloris? Dele Alli? All three have been instrumental to Tottenham’s remarkable campaign however I think manager Mauricio Pochettino deserves all the plaudits as he has found the perfect balance with his talented squad and utilised them at his disposal.

This was evident on Thursday, in the Europa League round of 32 when they brushed aside Italian outfit Fiorentina 3-0 with a second-string side. Ryan Mason, one of the goalscorers in the game said: “We’ve rotated again and you can see the fresh legs. Everyone was buzzing to be on the pitch.”

Spurs spent just over £49 million in the summer transfer window of last year. The majority of those signings have added depth to the squad, only Toby Alderweireld has been a mainstay of Spurs’ starting XI.

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For me though, Pochettino’s best bit of business was 12 months ago with the under the radar signing of Dele Alli from MK Dons for an initial fee of £5 million, quite a modest fee in comparison to the usual over-inflated prices of English talent. I don’t think many (myself included) could have foreshadowed the progression of the 19-year old who made his debut for England in the 2-0 defeat of Estonia in October of last year.

He has made the jump from League One to Premier League seem effortless. His goal against Crystal Palace is definitely a contender for goal of the season and he is a frontrunner for the PFA young player of the year accolade.

Even Spurs fans must be considerably shocked at their club’s performance this season. Historically known as a cup team with 8 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 UEFA Cups/Europa League and 1 UEFA Cup Winners Cup. They haven’t won one in 8 years since they defeated Chelsea in the League Cup (then known as the Carling Cup) and haven’t won the league since 1961 under the successful era of Bill Nicholson.

Another notion attached to Spurs over the past couple of years is their inability to close out games, especially against so-called weaker teams who would relish the chance to go and get a result a White Hart Lane. This has only happened once this season, with them losing 2-1 to Newcastle.

Spurs fans can also get one over their north London rivals, Arsenal as they will be hoping that the Gooners are not celebrating St. Totteringham’s Day for the 21st consecutive year. The club’s motto is Audere est Facere, that translates into English as to dare is to do. This statement couldn’t have been more significant as the club seek to return to their glory years.



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Arsenal and Barcelona meet in the Champions League round of 16 clash at the Emirates tonight in what many are predicting a stimulating encounter.

Barcelona are the overwhelming favourites as many fans and pundits can see the Catalan outfit overpowering Arsenal’s defence with their potent attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez (colloquially abbreviated as MSN). Their statistics back up the hype as they have scored 91 goals between them this season in all competitions with Suarez leading the way with 41. In context Arsenal have scored as many goals as the Uruguayan in the Premier League.

Both sides are renowned for their attractive brand of football, but can Arsenal really beat Barca at their own game? In a one of game, perhaps but over two legs this seems highly unlikely unless the Gunners change their strategy for this fixture. Arsene Wenger is notoriously known for sticking to his principles whether it comes to his transfer policy or his style of football, although over the past year le Professeur has opened up to so called ‘anti-Arsenal’ football and hit teams on the counter and has been rewarded for doing so, with Arsenal beating Man City 2-0 at the Etihad coming to mind.

There are so many sub-plots underlying between this game, especially the relationship between the two clubs with Hector Bellerin (academy level) and Alexis Sanchez having played for Barca. The latter will definitely have a point to prove as he was virtually sold to Arsenal for Barcelona to accommodate the signing of Suarez. The Chilean is short on form and was rather uninspiring in Arsenal’s draw against Hull over the weekend however this is the perfect occasion to show why they were wrong to sell him.

Another key battle is between Lionel Messi and Petr Cech. It is a well-known stat that the diminutive Argentine has failed to score in 6 games against Cech, in fact his forward buddy Suarez hasn’t exactly fired on all cylinders against the Czech international either with the former Liverpool striker scoring twice in five games against him. Neymar, the final component of the triple threat will be facing Cech for the first time tonight.

For the neutral, this is probably the tie of the round as many are expecting a goal-fest between two excellent footballing teams as Arsenal will seek to nulify the threat of not only Messi but his partners in crime Neymar and Suarez.