Thursday, January 11, 2007

This paragraph from Wikipedia's biography of Real Madrid's Brazilian footballer Emerson can't possibly be true.

When Emerson was a child he learned at an early age that he was gay, however, he didn't come out of the closet till he was 18 and playing proffesional soccer. After this not many teams wanted to sign him because of his sexual orientation. Though none of the owners stated this.

I Googled it and got nothing, leading me to believe that it's false. Also, if such a prominent player had come out of the closet, I'd probably have heard about it by now.

If it is true, though, that's just one more act in Madrid's three-ring circus. Supposedly Madrid's GM, Pedja Mijatovic, told the Italian media that Beckham's contract would not be renewed next year. The US media has been reporting for months that Beckham is on his way to MLS.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo and Robinho are in the doghouse for going out and getting drunk last week and showing up for practice hung over two days in a row.

Coach Fabio Capello told the Spanish media yesterday that, basically, his team sucks and he doesn't know why, except that a lot of the players don't seem to give a crap. He declared, though, that he wouldn't resign.

The Spanish press is reporting that Beckham, Ronaldo, Cassano, and Salgado are on their way out at Real. That's not enough. They also need to get rid of Roberto Carlos, Cannavaro, Helguera, Raul, Guti, Diarra, and Emerson. This team needs to be broken up, like Barcelona broke up Van Gaal's team in 2002-03, and then regroup.

The following are young players with promise who I would keep: Robinho, Marcelo, Ramos, Reyes, Gago, Higuain, Diogo (now on loan to Zaragoza), and of course Casillas. In addition, they have four fairly young defenders from the youth squad, Bravo, Pavon, Miñambres, and Mejia. Among these four guys, a couple at least ought to be able to play reasonable center-defense. I'd also keep the veteran striker Van Nistelrooy, since he's new, not contaminated by the bad attitude of the other veteran players, is doing OK this year, and should still have a decent year or two left in him.

Meanwhile, Barcelona does not look great, though they hold second place with one fewer game than league leader Sevilla. They've been moving the ball slowly and not taking advantage of opportunities to score. They have been hurt by injuries, especially to Eto'o and Messi, and when these two come back in February or so, Barça will get a lot better quick. One thing to remember, of course, is that if you're going to have a bit of a cold streak (two consecutive League draws), January is a good time to have it. You need your best players to step up for the stretch run in April or May, not in January.

Of this year's signings, only Gudjohnsen has been good. He's not Eto'o, and he knows it, but he is a competent player and has done exactly what they asked him to. Zambrotta has been OK, not awful, but not an upgrade over Belletti and Oleguer either, which is what they did ask him to be, and Thuram has not been good. I suspect he's over the hill and needs to play somewhere else next year.

You Americans who don't have a soccer team to follow might adopt Sevilla; they're young and hungry, and they've been playing very well this year. They've got several very good players like Kanouté, Luis Fabiano, Alves, and Navas, who are worth watching. They're the underdog, the little guys, in comparison with behemoths Barça and Madrid; also, they put a lot of emphasis on their youth squad and so a lot of their players are homegrown, guys who actually believe in the team.

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