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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Can Ajax and Belgium supporters describe the qualities of Thomas Vermaelen?

It is one summer overdue but finally Arsene Wenger went out into the transfer market and bought Arsenal a much needed centre-back: the Ajax Amsterdam captain and Belgian international, Thomas Vermaelen.

It would be great for readers and visitors to our site if Ajax or Belgium supporters could let us know what this guy is like as a player and a personality? Is he comparable to any current premier league centre-backs?

Personally, I am hoping that Vermaelen has fighting spirit and leadership qualities similar to a John Terry or Tony Adams. Does he have this type of character?

It would be great to know this sort of detail from regular Vermaelen watchers!?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ronaldo - Goodbye and thank you for the memories

In the last few days, hundreds of column inches have been dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo’s imminent record breaking transfer to Real Madrid; articles about the rights and wrongs of the transfer, the second coming of the “Galacticos” era, who United will buy to replace the irreplacable. What I have really taken an interest in though is the reaction of the Manchester United fans.

Most United fans have been saying that the team can cope without him, that in the last few months the tactics of the team have detrimentally been skewed to accommodate his talent (the Champions League final being case in point) and that Sir Alex Ferguson can build yet another great team but this time based around the mercurial Wayne Rooney. I would agree with all those sentiments and feel that they need to be aired. However, what has largely been missing is the expression of thanks to Ronaldo for his six brilliant years of service to United.

Ironically, Ronaldo arrived in the wake of the transfer of another Old Trafford superstar, David Beckham, to Real Madrid. I will never forget his debut against Bolton where he electrified a pensive crowd with a dazzling substitute appearance, all step overs, tricks and electric pace. It was clear that a superstar had arrived, and a humble, brace wearing one at that.

Over the years his petulance and tantrums may have come to the fore, but so too have his extraordinary skills and (like my fellow EFT contributor has pointed out in another article on this site) his undoubted bravery. Put simply, Ronaldo has been the most effective player in club football for the past three years.

My favourite Ronaldo moment was his last minute winning goal against Fulham at Craven Cottage in the 06/07 season. He ran the length of the field with the ball seemingly glued to his boots to score a sensational and crucial goal in a game United should not have won. In many such matches, Ronaldo has pulled United through.

Whatever anyone says, Ronaldo will be missed by United and by English football. He bought flair and skill, the like of which we may not see on these shores for a long time to come. Ronaldo may owe a lot to United for developing him into the player he is today, but the club owe him an even bigger debt for the trophies he has helped them win. So I hope United fans will join me in thanking Ronaldo for his great service to the club and wish him luck in La Liga.

Sorte e adeus!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wenger, Benitez and Ancelotti should be quietly pleased as Ronaldo's exit leaves a massive void

The team at EFT are currently taking a good rest from football analysis as we enter the off-season. However, the pending sale of Ronaldo from Man Utd to Real Madrid in an £80 million deal can't be left unremarked.

For me he has been the major reason for Man Utd's amazing 'double' win of the Premier League and the Champions League in 2007-2008 and their near repeat of this success in 2008-2009. Not only is his goals tally in the last two seasons simply stunning - approx 70 goals - but he also bought a will to win and intensity for attacking success that gave Man Utd a special X-factor crucial to their success over this recent period.

Ronaldo is currently irreplaceable by any single player if the aim is to recruit an individual who brings the same level of playability to the pitch. This makes logical sense as he is officially the number one player in the world. The only two other players who are in his league is Messi and Kaka - and they will not be going to Man Utd anytime soon.

Franck Ribery has been mooted as a possible replacement and he really impressed me in a France World Cup qualifier I saw a couple of months ago. He is a fearless attacking player with the same 'give-all' attitude of a Tevez and a Rooney. Indeed, I would say he is in the same mould of these two players - as he likes to rove with freedom around the pitch and keep a very high tempo and intensity. Yet, he does not possess the same electric pace and all-round ability of Ronaldo, nor would he give Man Utd the same superstar-presence as the Portugese winger.

I think the absence of Ronaldo will have a marked impact on Man Utd. He was worth more than just a single player in an eleven player team. And his ability to remain practically injury free in the last two seasons contributed so much to Man Utd's success. Ferguson was happy to rotate many players this season and last except for two: one of them being Ronaldo (Vidic being the other). As long as Ferguson had Ronaldo on the pitch he knew his team would possess in just one player the superb attacking talent and intense attitude that could win the match.

With Giggs and Scholes showing in the Champs Final that they are at the very end of their fantastic careers and Tevez seemingly also on his way it could well be the case that next season will be one of 'transition' for Man Utd. Man Utd may need some time to find their rhythm next season which can be exploited by their more settled rivals: Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Indeed, the eyes of Benitez, Ancelotti and Wenger should be more firmly set on achieving Premier League title success next season with the departure of the best player from the current champions. In this context, it will now be even more interesting to see what players come in/stay at these clubs as they look to seize upon the increased possibility of breaking the fantastic 'three year in a row' title winning success of Man Utd.

On a final note it must be the case that Premier League supporters congratulate Ronaldo on his play during his time here and to wish him well at Real Madrid. Although he bought an over-dramatisation and penchant for diving that was quite frustrating to watch - it is important to remember that he also bought a great courage to the pitch and an attacking flair and invention that was thrilling to watch. It is also the case that youngsters in this country are imitating Ronaldo in taking a dynamic and very skilful approach to improving their play. In this way his impact may be extremely positive in the years to come - as his commitment to ally amazing skill with courageous attacking intent may hopefully be reflected in the play of the next generation of English footballers.


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