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    Paul Scholes: The Best Central Midfielder – Ever

    After returning from injury which saw him get sidelined for a couple of months, Manchester United’s Paul Pogba returned to a standing ovation when the Reds welcomed visitors Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Saturday. And with good reason, as the returning Frenchman put in a stellar man-of-the-match performance which drew praise from fans and pundits alike.

    His brilliant inch-perfect cross which lead to Anthony Martial’s equalising goal in the 37th minute sent the Old Trafford faithful into raptures. United have gone a goal behind before Martial scored, and the fans were grateful Pogba pulled off a fantastic assist.

    The accurate pass made many watchers draw comparisons between Pogba and the legendary Paul Scholes. A member of the class of 1992, Scholes was one of the pivotal players that ushered in a golden era of success for the club, winning title after title under the tutelage of the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Pogba’s performance on Saturday was certainly top-notch, but many hard-line, traditionalist fans would argue that the £81-million man would have to do more if he is to be adjudged in the same calibre as Scholes. Indeed, he is, simply put, the best central midfielder in United’s history. In fact, for one football legend, Scholes is even more than that.

    When Barcelona icon Xavi Hernandez went face-to-face with Scholes during his club’s game against United in the Champions League group stages in 1998, the nimble Spaniard was left in awe by the Englishman’s talent. “He’s spectacular, he has it all: the last pass, goals, he’s strong, he doesn’t lose the ball, vision.

    “For me, he’s the best central midfielder I’ve ever seen,” Xavi added.

    Manchester United went on to win that season’s Champions League trophy, beating German giants Bayern Munich at Camp Nou in that historic final match which forced Ferguson to utter the now-famous phrase “Football, bloody hell.”

    Scholes played an instrumental role in that match, which for a midfielder, may be a thankless task. He kept possession, he kept things simple. He maintained United’s offence. Sure, he might not have scored a goal, but he did his job to perfection, allowing United to dominate the midfield.

    The soft-spoken Scholes is not one to hound the spotlight, but his talent speaks volumes that can only leave his fellow stars in awe.

    “My toughest opponent is Scholes of Manchester,” legendary footballer and current Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane once said of the Englishman.

    “He is the complete midfielder. Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation,” the Los Blancos boss added.

    And while his opponents have been left amazed by Scholes’ talents, his teammates could only shake their heads in disbelief at seeing a fantastic talent so up-close.

    “I tell anyone who asks me – Scholes is the best English player,” fellow Reds player Laurent Blanc said.

    “I’d go for Scholesy as the club’s greatest ever player. I’ve seen him do things that no other player can do. The way he can control the tempo of games, and his range of passing, are both incredible,” fellow club legend and Class of 92 mate Ryan Giggs said of his former teammate.

    True enough, Paul Scholes was a midfielder in a class of his own during his prime. And while Paul Pogba certainly has the potential to reach the heights of the great Scholes, as things stand, Pogba still has a long way to be called the best central midfielder, ever.

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    Gianluigi Buffon: The Italian Superman from Parma Whose Tears Sank Everyone’s Hearts

    The image of a teary-eyed Gianluigi Buffon as Italy were kicked out of the World Cup play-off qualifiers sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world. Fans couldn’t comprehend it: Italy lost 1-0 on aggregate against Sweden and ultimately had failed to qualify for the World Cup final stages since 1958.

    “I am sorry for all of Italian football,” the 39-year-old said after the match. Buffon had earlier announced his retirement from international football and for his beloved country not to qualify must’ve been gut-wrenching.

    “It’s a shame my last official game coincided with the failure to qualify for the World Cup,” the legendary goalkeeper added.

    And while pundits were to quick to point out all the mistakes Italy had made in the run-up to their untimely demise, one thing was perfectly made apparent: Buffon’s passion, evident through his heartfelt tears that touched the hearts of everybody, from his fans, to his close friends in the game.

    “A mountain of a man. A giant of a goalkeeper. A credit to his sport,” famous English ex-footballer Gary Lineker said on his Twitter feed.

    “I don’t like seeing you like this. I want to see you as you’ve always been, as what you are for so many – as a legend,” Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas said when he was asked what he thought about Buffon’s emotional post-match reaction.

    But how can one man’s sorrow emanate to so many people across the globe? How can one simple goalkeeper evoke such emotions to so many fans of the sport? Indeed, his ability to touch everyone’s hearts speaks volumes to the legend he has truly become – and his story began that fateful year in 1996, in his second full season at Parma.

    Parma, as they are today, were more of a mid-table team back in 1996. Sure, they had just finished 6th during the 1995-96 campaign, but not a lot of people expected them to give eventual champions Juventus a blistering run for their money the following season. Parma finished second in the Serie A at the end of the 1996-97 season, and the then 18-year-old Buffon certainly played his part in the monumental achievement. Indeed, he conceded just 17 goals in 27 competitive appearances that season. In every sense of the word, he was a wonderkid.

    The next season, his consistent performances further cemented everyone’s belief that Buffon is set to become a legend. At just 19 years of age, he was able to look the Brazilian legend Ronaldo and the eyes and save the iconic striker’s penalty kick. It was from that moment that Buffon earned the moniker, “Superman”.

    In his six seasons in his boyhood club, he had managed to win the Italian Cup, the Italian Supercup, and the UEFA Cup. But for Buffon, there was more success to come.

    In 2001, he became one of the most expensive goalkeepers of all time when was bought by Juventus for a monumental value of €52-million (£46.78-million). There had been rumblings that time that Barcelona were eager to bring the young keeper to the Camp Nou. How different history would’ve been written had the keeper opted to go to Spain.

    In his first season at the club, Buffon conceded just 22 goals in his 34 league matches for the club, keeping 15 clean sheets – the best in the Serie A that campaign. From there, everyone knew Buffon was set for heights only a few could imagine.

    And they were right. Since then, he has won eight Serie A titles, three Italian cups, and five Italian Supercups. He has also famously won the FIFA World Cup with Italy. He has won the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a whopping 11 times.

    For all these accolades spanning a 22-year career, Buffon doesn’t just deserve the moniker of “Superman” – indeed he deserves the title of “world-class legend”.

  • Explaining the Popularity of Football in England

    You could argue that the USA is still finding its feet when it comes to the popularity of football (soccer) whereas the sport is embedded deeply within the cultures and history of other countries. The UK, for example, is obsessed with football with many arguing that England is the true home of football. Whether this is true or not is very much up for debate so we thought we would take a look at football and its popularity in the UK and beyond.


    A Brief History of Football

    As we mentioned, many will argue that England is the home of football and this can be attributed down to several key factors. The sport was first played in this country back in medieval times and there is evidence of football being played as far back as 1170! Indeed, the Football Association was set up in 1863 and it was around this time that the modern rules for the game were established. The first football club began even before this date in Sheffield in 1857.

    Things then began to progress quickly and we soon had the first national competition which is the FA Cup which began in 1871. This prestigious competition remains to this day with the final played every year in May. The first national team was also formed by England with the first international football match having been England vs Scotland in 1872.

    The Most Popular Game in the UK?

    Football fanatics will tell you that their beloved sport is the most popular game in the world and there is a strong argument to support this. However, other games such as bingo are also considered some of the most popular games in the UK. Could you imagine football and bingo, the most popular games in the UK mixed into one game? Neither can we but what cannot be understated is that popular games are easy to play and football is easy once you have the hang of it.

    The game is super accessible and all you need is a ball and some players. You can create goalposts or nets out of almost anything and then you and your friends can get started. Some will go as far as to say that money is destroying football but the English Premier League is now the richest and one of the most popular in the world. There are over 40,000 registered football clubs in England and even more in the UK as a whole when you consider Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

    Will the Popularity Remain?

    Here at Dispensable Soccer, we enjoy discussing the history of the game as much as we do the modern game. Things are certainly looking up for US soccer but it cannot be understated that the game’s deep roots originate in the UK and specifically, England! The modernization of the game is not welcomed by all and you could argue that the game is more of a global business than anything else.

    Some will rally against modern football and press the issue that the game has “lost its soul” but football is still a game that is open to all and we cannot see the popularity of it declining anytime soon. We hope you enjoyed our article and feel free to leave us a comment with your thoughts.










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    Top 5: Footballer Hissy fits

    Here’s a list of our favourite footballer hissy fits of all time.

    You won’t see any displays of overtly manly behaviour here. Extra points are given for extreme childlike displays of frustration.


    5. Mido vs Senegal (2006)
    Former Spurs midfielder Mido showed much promise since making his debut at White Hart Lane back in 2005 scoring a double against Portsmouth. Whilst his skills on the pitch at times where quite majestic, his people skills left a lot to be desired. Here’s the much maligned forward playing for his national side Egypt in their African Nations’ Cup semi-final against Senegal in 2006. With the game on tenterhooks at 1-1 Egypt coach Shehata makes a team decision and brings off Mido. The player goes on to express a hissy fit that registers on the Richter scale.

    Quite brilliantly as soon as he goes off Egypt go up the other end and score.


    4. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Spain (2010)
    Unlike other members of this list it’s actually quite easy to empathize with this Cristiano Ronaldo clip. Playing in a International Friendly against Spain, Ronaldo can be seen taking the ball and spinning a Spanish defender before launcing the most beautiful of lobs over the stranded Casillas. The Portuguese captain, thinking he’s added another truly great goal to his collection, looks on in horror as old friend Nani pops up in an off-side position to nod in the already goal bound ball into the net.

    Ronaldo’s body language is priceless. He’s right to be aggrieved but it’s still very funny.


    3. William Gallas vs Birmingham (2009)
    There was a time when defender’s couldn’t come more dependable than William Gallas, with the Frenchman proving pivotable in Mourinho’s early success at Chelsea. How quickly his reputation sank after this incident whilst playing for Arsenal away to Birmingham.

    After James McFadden converted a last minute penalty to make it 2-2 and effectively ended Arsenal’s title hopes, Gallas threw one of the greatest ‘it’s my ball so no one’s playing’ style sulks ever seen on a professional football pitch. Watch as the centre-half simply sits down near half-way line in a heap with added tears streaming down his face.

    Not only that Gallas was in fact the captain of his side…Awkward.


    2. Max Gradal vs Bristol Rovers (2010)
    A true meltdown from former Leeds player Max Gradel playing in his sides last game of the 2009/10 season against Bristol Rovers. After getting the marching orders for violent conduct Gradel, incensed by the referee’s decision, point blankly refuses to leave the pitch. Fellow team mates look on in utter disbelief (and confusion) as the Ivorian stomps around trying to get in the referee’s face before strangely removing his shin-pads in an attempt to express his defiance.


    1. Temuri Ketsbaia vs Bolton (1998)
    Scoring a goal in a Premier League is a feeling only the most privileged and talented of us can ever experience. When former Newcastle and Georgian international Temuri Ketsbaia scores his sides last minute winner against Bolton at St James’ Park, emotions are too much for the midfielder to even describe….or anyone for that matter.

    What happens to Temuri can only be compared to what it must be like to change into a Werewolf.


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    Top 5: Truly unsettling kit sponsors

    In celebration of the time German lower league side FC Carl Zeiss Zena’s dark (but pretty awesome) foray into the world of kit sponsorship, here’s a list of an altogether more unsettling display of shirt sponsors.

    1. Scarborough – “Black Death Vodka”

    Here’s Scarborough’s ill advised kit sponsorship with “Black Death Vodka” during their 1990/1991 fourth division campaign. Interestingly enough the kit was worn for just one season due to it being banned, possibly for just being too darn badass.

    (Image via Whoateallthepies.tv)

    2. Scunthorpe United – “Pleasure Island”

    Not to sure what the connection between shit seaside town’s and unusual sponsorships deal are, anyway here’s Scunthorpe United’s 1994 inviting away kit effort.

    Tony Ford, Scunthorpe United

    We’re getting overtones of some pretty freaky stuff going on at “Pleasure Island” elegantly displayed on Scunthorpe’s sexy candy floss puke kit design.

    (image via inthestands.co.uk)

    3. Clydebank FC – “Wet Wet Wet”

    Ready to strike fear into the hearts of fellow hardened Scotsman throughout the land, Excruciatingly uncool early 90’s pop peddler’s ‘Wet Wet Wet’ delighted locals from home side Clydebank when unveiling this atrocity.

    Why’s it on this list? There’s just something about that band name we just find particularly sleazy….

    4. Voukefala – “Soula”

    Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when Greek club Voukefala rocked up in their new “Soula” sponsored shirts.

    That is until a few guilty looking husbands unveiled “Soula” as the brothel that they……er….heard a friend frequented every Saturday night.

    That’s right an actual brothel paid up to sponsor their local side. Nothing says footballer quite like casual sex.

    5. Paleopyrgo – The Local Funeral Parlour

    Not to be outdone by their fellow Greek side, Paleopyrgo took a slightly darker route of being sponsored by the local funeral home.

    Having to accept the deal due to the clubs financial difficulties, we can’t help but think the decision to couple it with black shirts with white crosses on the front was a tad too far.

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    5 eye melting goalkeeper tops from the 90’s

    As if the bright lights of the newly formed Premier League wasn’t enough to grab the attention of the average football fan, the 90’s was a golden age of of truly unusual, sometimes unsettling, goalkeeper kit design.

    Seemingly frustrated with the more often than not standard green fare throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the loneliest position on the pitch would now stick out like a bucket of paella left in the Spanish sun.

    Without wanting to forget the likely lads of horrendous keeper kit design, ie the shirts worn by Mexico’s Jorge Campos and Liverpool’s David James, here are some kits from the 90’s that verged on eye abuse for any oncoming strikers unlucky enough to be put through on goal.

    1. Huddersfield Town 1993-1994

    Kevin Blackwell, was the poor sod instructed to wear this abomination. Whilst the abuse of colour is bad enough, the fact that its composition sends your Iris’s into such a tiz must have annoyed the clubs sponsor intensely.

    The shirt didn’t seem to hinder the side too much however as Town finished in 11th place, with a good run in the Autoglass Trophy resulting in Wembley final for the first time since the 1938 FA Cup Final.

    2. Southend 95/96

    A Christmas jumper from someone who hates you? No this was genuinely the kit given to the Seasiders’ no.1 Simon Royce.

    An array of fused together drawn patterns accompanied with olive sleeves and matching shorts/socks.

    Come the end of the season the shirt had so much kinetic energy it would become the standout performer from an otherwise unremarkable eventual 12th placed finish in Division 2.

    3. Japan 1998

    As exhibited by the countries then no.1 Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, this entry is purely here because it reminds us of the classic ‘flame shirts’ that were around at the time.

    Making their first ever Word Cup in 1998, The design failed to ‘ignite’ the Japanese, with the side limping out at the group stage after three defeats to Argentina, Croatia and Jamaica.

    4. Liberia 1996

    They may have had World Footballer of the Year George Weah up front, Liberia still however had no chance of World Cup Qualification with this messy effort.

    Anthony Topkah, Liberia


    5. Sunderland 1994/1995

    All before joining fierce rivals Newcastle, a wet behind the ears Shay Given began his footballing career with this monstrosity whilst on loan at Sunderland.

    The only consolation presumably being that he could cover it up on the bench whilst then number one Alec Chamberlain had to suffer.

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    Top 5 absolutely absurd scoring records

    In a world were Ronaldo and Messi break records at an absolute canter, we look at football histories other baosutely absurd goal scoring records. The good and the absolutely awful included.

    Steve Bruce smashed in 19 goals in a season playing as a centre back.

    Famous for yo-yo-ing up and down the country’s top two tiers of English football as a manager, having his belly tickled every time he faced his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson and more recently the inspired Twitter page ‘Steve Bruce at Weddings’; prior to all that the former centre-half, along with side-kick Gary Pallister ( for which they were both affectionately nicknamed ‘Dolly and Daisy’), was busy being the absolute rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence during the clubs early 90’s dominance

    Considered by many to be the greatest Englishman never to play for England, Bruce claimed Premier League titles, FA Cup trophies, League Cup winners medals and even a Cup Winners Cup all within an 8 year period, however, a far more impressive feat occurred during the 90/91 season.

    Bruce notched up and incredible 19 goals (13 in the league) all from his default position of centre-back, eventually sharing the clubs top scorer gong with Scotsman Brain McClair. Eleven of these came from the penalty spot – which still leaves an incredible 8 goals in open play. Most, of course, came from headers, a remarkable achievement for an averagely sized defender.

    Of course noticeable mentions go to fellow goal scoring defenders Stuart Pearce (16 goals in a season, 0 penalties) and current Southampton boss Ronald Keoman slammed in 19 whilst playing in the Eredivisie, however due to Bruce’s stiff and functionable on the pitch nature; we see his achievements as all the more ridiculous.

    Just look at the man in action during 1996’s trip to Reading.

    That’s nineteen goals in a season…..nine..teen.

    Fernando Peyroteo goal scoring ratio for Sporting Lisbon was far better than Messi

    World Cup winners medal or no World Cup winners medal, Lionel Messi quite rightly has a claim to be the greatest player to ever play the game. Which is all the more remarkable when you find a record that even he will never be able to break, nay a record that in fact pisses all over the Argentine.

    Consider Fernando Peyroteo.

    Born on a Portuguese colony in Angola in 1918, Peyroteo made 187 career appearances for Sporting Lisbon during the late 30’s/40’s, forming a fifth of the clubs legendary quintuple of Jesus Correia, Manuel Vasques, Albano and Travassos. During this time an almighty 331 goals were scored in the countries National Championship.

    331!…. that’s an 1.7 goals per game return.

    During one season the striker scored 9 goals in one game, then 8 in another. An absurd rate by anyone’s standard.

    The man’s goal scoring was unmatched in the top tier of Portuguese football on five occasions, claiming the the top scorer award in 1937/38 (29 goals) 1940/41 (again 29), 1945/46 (37), in 46/47 (43), and in 48/49 (40).

    Eventually, the record breaker hung up is boats at the age of 31, possibly due to financial struggles, possibly due to the various stress conditions inflicted on every defender he ever faced.

    In a word…deadly.

    Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni’s has scored 128 career goals


    Whilst former Paraguayan international Jose Luis Chilavert quite rightly earns his place in infamy as a great goal-scoring goalkeeper, there is only one true king.

    Step forward Rogerio Ceni.

    Like Chilavert, Ceni is so good at free-kicks and penalties, his side feel they can quite well do without the need for his services between the sticks for the five minutes it takes for him to travel the length of the pitch back and forth to convert them.

    And their confidence is bloody well justified.

    Ceni has converted 128 set piece goals in his career. And playing into the grand old age of 42, clearly, São Paulo wouldn’t even have been deterred if crippling arthritis had given his hands the dexterity of rocks, fact is when Ceni shoots, he usually scores.

    Nothing encapsulated his genius quite like the recent moment he entered the top 10 ALL TIME scorers list for São Paulo.

    Here’s 127 of them


    Mauro Shampoo – 1 goal in 10 seasons from midfield

    Known in some quarters as the worst player to ever play the game, Mauro Shampoo scored an incredible 1 goal in 10 seasons, captaining his side Ibis in the Pernambeco State first division in the late 1970’s. Under his stewardship, the side failed to win a single game in 3 consecutive years – earning them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

    You’d think a record of such would be about as welcome as cholera, Mauro, however, embraced it with open arms, even saying ‘ it was a great privilege to have that reputation’, very much due to the national popularity that following such an unbelievably poor team, and being an unbelievably poor player brought.

    As you can see from the above photo, Mauro Shampoo is the sort of character that craves attention.

    Why was he called ‘shampoo’? well get this, the former midfielder worked as a hairdresser for much of the time he played, being it a Brazilian football tradition to be known by your local nickname, a football icon was born. Much of his Z list celebrity status came after his playing days – combining his passion for football with his passion for hairdressing.

    Interesting Fact: with the above nickname/name logic, Mauro has assigned the names ‘Toothcomb’ for his wife, and ‘Cream Rinse’, ‘Secador’ (dryer) and ‘Shamoozinho’ (little shampoo) for his three children.

    Here’s the man in action appearing on Brazilian TV:


    Stan van den Buys – 3 own goals in one game

    Stan Ben den Buys is currently assistant coach at at the quite wonderfully named Germinal Beerschot, it’s this incident from 1995 however that has become his defining moment.

    Facing off against fellow Belgians Anderlecht for then club Germinal Ekeren in the Belgian Jupiler League, Ben den Buys somehow managed to conjure up not 1, not 2 but 3 own goals in one match….a match they lost 3-2.

    Here’s footage in the below link (sorry no embed).

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    The Top 5 Most Awesome Premier League Goals from the Halfway Line

    We highlight the 5 greatest efforts from the halfway line we can possibly remember in our tiny nostagoa filled minds.

    Here’s the best we can think of…

    5. Maynor Figueroa (for Wigan Athletic, v Stoke, 2009-10 season)
    Maynor Figueroa may be a defender, but he, like any player, would capitalise on any chance to score a goal. And boy did he capitalise well. After winning a free-kick from just the edge of the halfway line, Figueroa decided he’d take this challenge head on, striking the ball and sending it towards goal with pinpoint accuracy.

    4. Wayne Rooney (for Manchester United, v West Ham, 2013-14 season)
    With iconic number seven David Beckham watching live from the director’s box at Upton Park, Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney took his chance and went for the spectacular. After winning the ball from West Ham’s James Tomkins, Rooney struck the ball on the volley, sending it straight in the air, past Hammers keeper Adrian who was at the edge of the box, into the back of the net – and made Beckham smile.

    3. Charlie Adam (for Stoke City, v Chelsea, 2014-15 season)
    The eventual Premier League champions were in control of their home game against Stoke and thought they would have it easy. They thought wrong – thanks to Charlie Adam. After Hazard goes down theatrically, Stoke pounce on the loose ball, which lands on the foot of the Scottish midfielder. One quick look at the goal sealed his decision. After a first touch, Adam kicked the ball airborne past the entire Chelsea defence into the back of the net. It was an audacious strike that made Chelsea keeper Thibault Courtois shrug in defeat.

    2. Xabi Alonso (for Liverpool, v Newcastle, 2006-07 season)
    When it comes to scoring goals, Xabi Alonso may not be the most prolific. But on one fateful night in September of 2006, he proved he is well capable of putting the ball past the keeper – in extraordinary fashion as well. After a team-mate won the ball inside their own half and gave it to Alonso, the Spanish midfielder shrugged and said, “yeah, let’s go”. He then sent the ball flying past Newcastle’s back four and their helpless goalkeeper for the wonderful goal.

    1. David Beckham (for Manchester United, v Wimbledon, 1996-97 season)
    The halfway line goal was made famous because of David Beckham – it was his claim to fame. After inheriting the number 10 shirt from Manchester United icon Mark Hughes, Beckham decided it was time to put his stamp on his team. With goalkeeper Neil Sullivan well out of his goal, Beckham thought he’d have a crack. The ball floated past much of Wimbledon’s team, over the goalkeeper, into the back of the net – a goal that sent Beckham into superstardom.

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    Copa America Flashback: Martin Palermo misses 3 penalties in one game – a world record

    With advancements in the modern era of sports coverage, the Copa America’s popularity has seemingly surged outside of South America.

    Despite matches just before the turn of the millennium being rather hard to come by outside of satellite channels such as Eurosport or even dodgy cable, it was still rather hard to avoid Martin Palermo’s Copa America exploits when representing Argentina.

    Now it must be said, as any Championship Manager aficionados will agree, Martin Palermo was a striker of great talent. Playing for his beloved Boca Juniors, Palermo won six championships, two Copa Libertadores, one Intercontinental Cup and two Copa Sudamericana, while became twice the top scorer in Argentina. However, in the nerve splitting cauldron that is a international tournament football, things, to put it delicately, can easily go tits up.

    Take a look at those stats.
    Take a look at those stats.

    Palermo became the infamous subject of the most unwanted of world records when ,during his sides group match against Colombia, the Argentine missed, not one, not two (you see where this is going), but an incredible three penalties in one match.

    Martin Palermo misses THREE Penalties IN ONE GAME! by Deborahdeeley3452

    Incidentally the striker did score in the following match against Uruguay, helping his side to a quarter final were they were then knocked out be eventual winners Brazil.

    If you think however that it couldn’t get any worse for Palermo, here he is breaking his leg when celebrating a goal for Villarreal.

    Good lord…..

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    Five Reasons why Italian Football in the mid-90s was Amazing

    Now it’s La Liga, before it was the Premier League, but it was Italian football in the 1990s which captured everyone’s imagination: a colourful tapestry of attacking and defensive masterclasses woven across the television screens around the globe.

    And fans adored it, lapping up the spectacular goals, as well as the passionate madness on the pitch and in the stands.

    Goalscorers of the World Unite

    Before the Milan side of the late 1980s, Italian football had a well-deserved reputation for defensive dourness but the arrival of Arrigo Sacchi and the Dutch masters changed everything.

    Strong defences found themselves stretched by the individual attacking delights of Gianfranco Zola and Thomas Brolin at Parma, Mancini and Gullit at Sampdoria, and, Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluca Vialli at Juventus.

    The impossible was made possible, from Youri Djorkaeff’s fantastic bicycle kick for Internazionale against Roma in 1997…

    … to Gazza’s dribble through the Pescara defence…

    … but it was George Weah who captured everything beautiful about Italian football in the 1990s, with this goal against Verona in 1996/97. Power, grace and precision.

    All this against defences which were marshalled by some of the greats of modern football: Baresi, Maldini, and Costacurta at Milan, Ferrara and Pesotto at Juve along with Bergomi and Festa at Internazionale.


    The Divine Ponytail vs. Bald Eagle

    Stereotypically, the Italian male revelled in machismo and a key attribute of that was the haircut.

    There was only one which mattered: The Divine Ponytail. Roberto Baggio; a world-record buy for £8m(!) in 1990 when he left Fiorentina for Juventus against a backdrop of riots in Florence.

    Five years later, there were riots in Turin when he was sold to Milan. Rightly so, as it happened with Baggio driving the Rossoneri to the Serie A title in 1995/96, following on from the one he lifted in his final season at Juventus.

    The supremely gifted midfielder was crowned Balon d’Or in 1993 and the fourth best player of the twentieth century in a FIFA poll. He is the rarest of creatures: forgiven for a decisive World Cup final miss.

    In 1994, he won the Silver Ball with 5 goals at USA ’94. Had he been English and missed the decisive penalty in the Final shootout, effigies would have been burned in the street while the media crucified him and his family.

    Not Baggio; he did the job himself as he recalled in his autobiography, Una Porta Nel Cierlo (A Goal in the Sky), which is where his penalty nestles. Brazil were world champions, but it speaks volumes for Baggio that he remained the poster boy of Italian football in the 90s where your hair spoke volumes.

    He was Samson, with his ponytail growing longer as his powers grew

    Gazzetta Football Italia

    A world of pronunciation opened when the chirpy James Richardson appeared on our screens in Gazzetta Football Italia, replacing the hapless Paul Gascoigne as presenter of the Saturday morning highlights package.

    It gave birth to a generation of football hipster. No longer was the capital of Lombardy known as Milan, it was ‘Meelan’ as Richardson’s weekly cappuccino and trawl through the papers quickly became required viewing.

    La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tuttosport, Il Corriere Dello Sport added to the mystique. Daily newspapers about sport, sport and more sports! Football fans heaven and they passed as quickly into the English language as did calcio, capocannoniere, ultras, and centrocampista.

    But no longer were we content with Inter Milan, Juventus or AC Milan – the ‘AC’ had yet to be dropped – you had to know your Nerazzurri from your Bianconeri and never confuse that with the Rossoneri. Extra points were on offer through dropping the La Vecchia Signora or I Ciucciarelli into the conversation.

    With skits involving a willing Richardson as stooge to Gascoigne’s antics, football had a bright new future aware from the dreary and dull English game. And the return of Kenneth Wolstenholme to our screens. England’s most iconic commentator provided the links on the show with the air of authority. They think it’s all over; not for a few years.


    The Football Weekender

    On 6th September 1992, Sampdoria and Lazio met in Genoa with England internationals Des Walker and Paul Gascoigne on show as the British viewing public was introduced to Serie A.

    Within twenty minutes of kick-off, Lazio led 2 – 1 as it became obvious catenaccio had been consigned to the history books. 3 – 3 at full-time and Italian football had lost the message about being dull.

    This was football the fans wanted to see it. And they duly did, every week seemed to produce a masterwork of artistry. Talk in the pub about a weekend away led to the birth of a sub-industry: the football weekender.

    Fans headed to their local airports and within two hours, were landing in Rome, Milan, Turin or wherever took your fancy. Couldn’t get a ticket to the north London derby? Didn’t fancy Chelsea vs Everton. Why not fly to Genoa and watch Sampdoria take on Bari and quite a few people did.

    Stadia made famous during Italia ’90 found themselves hosting pockets of English fans marvelling at the atmospheres, as well as taking in the culture or finding an Irish pub in Milan next door to the local Hare Krishna temple; it was football, Jim, but not as we know it and a little slice of hipster heaven.


    Supporting Second Teams Became Acceptable Again

    When you were in school, it was acceptable to follow the fortunes of a second team provided they weren’t in the same division as your true love. No self-respecting Arsenal fan would support Manchester United or City but living close to Swindon? Following the Robins was allowed, support your local club and all that.

    Italian football in the 90s meant you could follow a second team publicly but very loyally. Just as betraying your true love is not acceptable, the same loyalty had to be saved for Milan, Juve, Torino or whatever team you followed.

    If you were Irriducibili, you stayed Irriducibili and you knew everything which was happening around your club. The players, the ins and outs of the team, and more importantly how to score points over your friends whose allegiances were pinned to another’s mast.

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    Dejan Savicevic – bona fide cult legend

    Dejan “The Genius” Savicevic was one of the best Montenegrin footballers of all time, famous for the cheeky lob against Barcelona in the Champions League final. Although he won two European champion titles with Red Star and Milan, Dejan Savicevic is not as distinguished today as he was during his playing career, especially when compared with such luminaries as Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, or Marcel Desailly, all of which were his fellow teammates in Milan.

    Savicevic was undeniably an attractive player, the crowd adored him for his amazing technique and pace. However, his lack of discipline caused numerous feuds with teammates and coaches, perhaps most notably with former coach Fabio Capello. An impressive career trophy heavy career, the Montenegrin seemingly ran out of time to prove himself, probably the biggest reason why his legacy seems underwhelming today.


    Ill Disciplined

    “The Genius” is remembered fondly as a highly technical footballer, who didn’t like to train properly and lacked discipline. It is interesting that “Il Genio” dismisses those rumours, claiming that he wouldn’t have been an active footballer until the age of 35 if he was lazy, and he most certainly wouldn’t have played in AC Milan for six seasons if he was undisciplined.

    That is probably true, but Dejan’s feuds with his coaches and teammates were so anthological that his reputation is well-deserved.

    One of those conflicts happened at the beginning of his career when he was still playing for Montenegrin Buducnost. During his first professional season, 1985/86, when he was only 19, Savicevic struggled to find his form and his club barely avoided relegation.

    In season’s finish, when it seemed that Buducnost wouldn’t be able to stay up, Dejan Savicevic was suspended over an argument with Zoran Vorotovic.

    Vorotovic was one of the oldest players in Buducnost, who played over 300 matches for the club. His coach had reportedly said that Savicevic didn’t respect his older teammates nor his coach, and that he had had enough of that “mediocre player”. If Buducnost hadn’t sacked their coach during the summer of 1986, Dejan Savicevic probably wouldn’t have played a major role in European football during the early nineties.


    His most famous confrontation came in 1992, before the Champions League match between Milan and Anderlecht. At the time, clubs were allowed to have only three foreign players on the pitch, but Milan had six of them under contract that season.

    Apart from Savicevic, Zvonimir Boban, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Jean-Pierre Papin and Marco van Basten were playing for Milan during 1992/93 season and it is easy to see why Savicevic had difficulties breaking into the match squad.

    Savicevic v Capello

    Before the above-mentioned match, Savicevic realized that he would be travelling to Brussels, but only as a reserve player. He told Fabio Capello that he had no intention of going to Brussels unless Capello guaranteed that Savicevic would be in the starting lineup.

    Capello couldn’t believe his ears – that was the most audacious request he ever heard from any player.

    After a heated argument, Savicevic got into his car, telling no one where he was going off to, and disappeared for the next couple of days.

    He was one of Silvio Berlusconi’s favourite players in Milan, however, and the club president’s appreciation played a vital role in saving Savicevic’s job. In the next couple of seasons, with Gullit and van Basten gone, Savicevic had more playing time and he was more productive.

    On the other hand, he and Capello never saw eye-to-eye during Savicevic’s playing career, although they are good friends now. Il Genio had similar issues with Yugoslav national team coach Ivica Osim, who preferred more experienced players over him.

    Another anecdote from his time in Milano was related to their training sessions. Dejan Savicevic was not a fan of gym workouts and preferred to spend his time training with the ball instead. When he was interviewed by a Montenegrin journalist, he had reportedly said that he didn’t need the gym workouts.

    He later explained that by saying he was only joking, but the damage was already done and the reputation of being a lazy, arrogant player followed him throughout his career.

    His attitude towards football (he confessed that he liked dribbling more than scoring or assisting), as well as his low work rate, irritated Fabio Capello, which was why he preferred other players over him.

    However, Dejan Savicevic will always be remembered as the player whose magical strike got the legendary Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta fired; for his speed and dribbling technique reminiscent of the Brazilian footballers, and he will always remain The Genius for the fans of AC Milan and Red Star.

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    Match Preview: Roma v Chelsea – Champions League Group Stage

    Build up to the match
    The last time these two sides met, the match ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw with the Italian side clawing back three goals from being two goals down only for Chelsea to clinch an equaliser at the death. Fans and pundits alike will definitely be hoping for more of the same as the two clash again at the Stadio Olimpico come Tuesday.

    Match information
    Kickoff: Tuesday, 31st October 2017, 07:45PM England time
    Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy

    Team News
    Roma have a number of players they won’t be able to call upon come matchday due to injury. Their trio of defenders Emerson, Kostas Manolas, and Rick Karsdorp are all out with injury. Nevertheless, expect them to field veteran striker Edin Dzeko and his former Manchester City team-mate Aleksandar Kolarov against Chelsea.

    Chelsea’s commanding midfielder N’Golo Kante has already returned to training after an injury setback but it remains to be seen if he would be handed a start in Italy by manager Antonio Conte. Meanwhile, striker Victor Moses is still out with a long-term hamstring injury. Setbacks aside, key players Eden Hazard and Marcos Alonzo will be available against the Italian heavyweights.

    W-W-W-D-L (across all competitions)

    Roma have been pragmatic in their recent outings, ensuring they kept enemies’ attacking chances at the minimum while still able to find chances to score. Their last three wins in the Serie A ended up as 1-0 wins and it remains to be seen if their defence-heavy tactic will work against Chelsea.

    W-W-W-D-L (across all competitions)

    In terms of results, the Blues of London have had the same fate as their Italian counterparts, winning three of their last five matches across all competitions. They have had a similar number of goals scored as well. Will this similarity in results translate to a stalemate come matchday?

    Match Prediction
    If Roma were able to force Chelsea’s magical winger Eden Hazard to score a brilliant equaliser the last time they met at Stamford Bridge, imagine what the Italian side can do in their home turf? This could become a very thrilling encounter, but expect Roma to have the slightest of advantages.

    Roma 2-1 Chelsea

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