Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Friendlies in America PART 2!

I am writing this in full belief that there will be someone reading it that has some sort of influence in the soccer world.
What would give me that sort of confidence?
If you are a fan of this blog since its inception then you will remember one of my earlier Blog (rants) on the "Friendlies" that have been taking place in North America in recent years featuring the better Serie A teams.
Reading through that piece now it seems scary because it's as if who ever is organizing the Guinness International Champions Cup, read it as well and took my advice.

Currently I am in the Sunny (gorgeous) State of Florida and will be attending the final 4 games of the Summer Friendly Tournament tonight and tomorrow at Miami's Sun Life Stadium, and could not be more excited.

One of the main things I complained about in the aforementioned year-old blog post was the obscene prices that were attached to friendlies featuring Juventus, Milan, Inter, and Roma in Toronto, New York, and Montreal since 2010.

Last summer to watch a ridiculous lop sided game between Milan and Real Madrid in New York, tickets were from 70$-1000$! For a friendly, which if you watch the highlights of, was more of a romp. In Milano for 20 euros you can watch Milan play in the historic San Siro stadium in a game that actually has relevance and is not just a warm up.

How much are tickets for the Guinness International Champions Cup you ask? Starting as low as 60$-350$ (dependent on seating selection) you get a pass to attend all four games in Miami tonight and tomorrow featuring Juventus, Inter, Milan, Chelsea and Real Madrid! If you got the lowest package for 60$ would have you seated in the upper bowl (still a great view) and your paying 15$ a game! Now that's Winning!

My next argument (complaint) was the fact that all these games have no meanings, yet the marketers attempt so hard to sell these games as more than what they are....a warm up and test for Managers to see what changes they need for the upcoming season.
And again the Guinness International Champions Cup listened, they created (albeit not a prominent) Trophy, that the teams announced for the tournament would take part in. 
Although Juventus and Inter may have played like they were ready for the first flight back to Europe, you couldn't tell me that Real, Chelsea and Milan weren't trying to win this trophy.
Kudos to the organizers for doing the best they could to make these games interesting.

How the Tournament has worked itself out
And finally the atmosphere and climate of the city. Having been at the Everton/Chelsea/AC Milan practice at Sun Life Stadium last night, (more on that in a future post) I got goosebumps. The decorations around the stadium and the city of Miami itself right now are a constant reminder that some of the Worlds biggest soccer clubs are in the 305 and its GAME TIME!

Last year, I asked for more meaningful matches and affordable prices; Guinness International Champions Cup so far has delivered.

All in all if you are a Calcio fan and never seem to make it across the pond anymore (life myself), look out for the news of next summer's Guinness International Champions Cup. Reports already suggest that it has been a really good tournament (financially) and there will be a second edition. The final games have not even taken place yet and I am already recommending this tournament to all my calcio-fanatic buddies.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

May the Real Napoli please Stand Up!

Will Napoli be the Real Deal this season or the Real mistake.

Out with the old and in with the new. That is a saying that is probably being heard quite often these days in and around the SSC Napoli clubhouse. The Naples side have parted ways with superstar striker Edinson Cavani and charismatic coach Walter Mazzarri. Since they have brought in controversial Rafa Benitez who immediately acquired an interesting mix of dynamic young players creating quite a buzz of excitement around the Stadio San Paolo despite the loss of their most prolific attacker in Napoli's rich history.
Something about the air in Paris makes Cavani look more presentable
The ambition of last year's Scudetto runner-up is apparent and the gung-ho manner of their transfer campaign has seemed to throw off the balance in the Serie A transfer market...but unfortunately their efforts may all be in vain.

Mazzarri to DeLaurentis "F*** this, I'm out!"

Fact is Napoli has already been on a slight decline ever since they sold Ezequiel Lavezzi to PSG last summer and Walter Mazzarri obviously knew this. Napoli ran out of gas in their Scudetto pursuit this past season and with Cavani set to leave, Mazzarri jumped ship because he believes Napoli are a sputtering ship and it will take one hell of an effort to keep it from sinking...so Walter tucked his tail and ran to the one team that can only go up from the position they currently are in.

DeLaurentis is like "no fear, Rafa is here"

Rafa Benitez has now flung himself into another seemingly impossible position (despite the large transfer $$$ given to him), where expectation will be high for the southern Italian side to mount a serious run at the Serie A title despite the fact Napoli are about to go through a HUGE transitional season.

This fact however has been masked by the interesting transfer campaign that has been undertaken by Rafa. The former Liverpool boss has signed an exciting young Belgianattacker in Dries Mertens and a host of Real Madrid 'misfits', most eyebrow raising, the reported 42Million signing of Gonzalo Higuain.....WHAT....yes that’s right...Napoli has spent two-thirds of the Cavani fund on a striker who, albeit one who may play with a chip on his shoulder this season...in my opinion, has failed to really impress as a top class striker. They were way better off with Cavani compared to him.

thousands of Napoli fans assaulted Gonzalo like he was the Biebs

His goal tally aside, Higuain was always second choice to the likes of Benzema and before him Raul and Van Nistelrooy...and I'm sure there is a reason for that. Higuain has those Inzaghi like abilities of being inthe right place at the right time and being a close range clinical finisher...but he does not possess boatloads of technical ability, does not have the power and presence that his Partenopei predecessor Cavani had...Higuain's skill set matches many other available Serie A strikers...one name that comes to mind is Alessandro Matri...a player who is of not that much less quality than Higuain and one who would probably been allowed to leave Juventus, even to arch-rivals Napoli, on the cheap since they have now found themselves with a glut of strikers...but instead Napoli have forked over 42mil for ONE striker and still have plenty of holes to fill.

Their defence remains a biq question mark with the likes of Gamberini,  Paolo Cannavaro and the newly acquired Raul Albiol hardly being able to instill fear in the eyes of Europe's greatest attacking forces. Their midfield lacks dynamism and creativity...and then there is the coach himself…. Benitez…no doubt a great tactician... but one who gets very set in his ways and ruffles the feathers of his employers...just ask Massimo Moratti. Formation changes, style changes, personnel changes will all be on the cards for Napoli this season. Switching from a very Italian-style 3-4-3 counterattacking system to Rafa’s for 4-2-3-1 will be a major transition that current players will have initial difficulty in adjusting to. And any new acquisitions will need some time to gel.

I'm not saying that Napoli will be a disaster this season, but talk of potential Scudetto champions is definitely premature, if not na├»ve. It seems as though management is just trying to overhype a team in transition and is rushing to create a fresh, attractive team    filled with nothing but names. In a way Napoli kind of reminds me of a certain Toronto baseball team who had all the hype surrounding them after somebig name offseason acquisitions, but unfortunately was never able to put the talent and potential together on the field.

If Napoli fans have Scudetto dreams then they are in for a big disappointment this season.

the irony of Napoli's second jersey being military fatigues, considering it's going to
be a battle for them to achieve even second place this season.