Tag Archives: milito

Even better than the real thing?

Hadi Zogheib

Following Tuesday’s announcements of preliminary squads for World Cup teams, there is no doubt anger from various couch potato managers around the globe. Some are unhappy with players who were included, while other will be upset by the rejects, a talented group now set for a summer stuck at home. In honour of all those armchair managers who think they know best, I’ve come up with a list of the 23 top World Cup rejects:


Sebestian Frey (France – Fiorentina): A model of consistency, one of Serie A’s best keepers year in and out

Diego Lopez (Spain – Villareal): Usually Spain’s number 3, was usurped by Barca’s Victor Valdes this year. Would be a number 1 or 2 on most national teams.

Andres Palop (Spain – Sevilla): Is it me or does Spain have way too many great keepers? Must be something in the water.

A superb season with Inter wasn’t enough to get Zanetti to South Africa.


Javier Zanetti (Argentina – Inter): Far and away the biggest shock of all. Having an unbelievable season. Is arguably the most consistent performer on one of Europe’s best teams.

Gary Neville (England – Manchester United): Not the most popular player in England, but his experience would be invaluable in the biggest tournament on Earth.

Nicola Legrottaglie (Italy- Juventus): A victim of numbers. Italy has many great defenders and there was no room for him. Not a bad reserve on my team, though.

Gabriel Milito (Argentina – Barcelona): Coming back from a horrific spate of injuries that sidelined him for months, is back to his best form. A mistake by Maradona to omit one of Messi’s best buddies.

Joleon Lescott (England – Manchester City): Again, the result of being the odd man out on a team with too many good defenders. Strong and good in the air.

Marco Materazzi (Italy – Inter): Who else is going to complement the opposing star’s sister?


Samir Nasri (France – Arsenal):Great in possession. Can play either on the wing or in the middle.

Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina – Inter): Was much better all season than Maradona’s captain, Javier Mascherano. Deserves to be in South Africa.

Diego (Brazil – Juventus): Creative midfielder would be on any other squad except Brazil’s.

Ever Banega (Argentina – Valencia): Young, fast, can tackle, pass, and shoot. One of Valencia’s stars this season.

Francesco Totti (Italy – Roma): Can play up front or just behind the forwards. Just too talented to be omitted by Lippi.

Mikel Arteta  (Spain – Everton): Once again, the victim of coming from a country that is so deep in talent. Would walk onto most squads in the world.

Owen Hargreaves (England – Manchester United): We had to include one Canadian, didn’t we?

Two-time Player of the Year Ronaldhino isn’t wanted by Brazil.


Pato (Brazil – AC Milan): One of the best in Europe. Didn’t fit with coach Dunga’s system.

Lisandro Lopez (Argentina – Lyon): Voted France’s best club player this year. Far more consistent than Ezequiel Lavezzi, who Maradona chose instead.

Ronaldinho (Brazil – AC Milan): Two-time World Player of the Year is another victim of Dunga’s counterattacking system.

Antonio Cassano (Italy – Sampdoria): One of Italy’s most talented players, but a controversial figure in the locker room.

Karim Benzema (France – Real Madrid): Incredible talent, but judged to have not received enough playing time to garner a call up.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands – Hamburg): Maybe a little old, but would be great coming off the bench in the final ten minutes when his team needs a goal.

Fabrizio Miccoli (Italy – Palermo): Nineteen goals for Palermo this season. Never stops running.

Starting eleven:


Neville, Lescott , Milito, Zanetti

Arteta, Cambiasso, Banega


Benzema, Lopez


Filed under World Cup

Time to rewrite Serie A obituary

Hadi Zogheib

It seems the death of the Serie A has been greatly exaggerated. Just four years ago the top flight of Italian football was mired in a match fixing scandal, the Calciopoli, one that threatened the viability and reputation of the league’s very future. And even though it served as a rallying cry for the Italian national team, who so admirably put the scandal behind them and played their way to a fourth FIFA World Cup crown in Germany that summer, the fallout in the Serie A itself was difficult to ignore.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

In the three years following, the Serie A bore witness to one calamity after another, all of which threatened to label Italian football as a “has been” league. Having Juventus stripped of its 2006 title was just the beginning. Rapidly declining attendance throughout the league soon followed. Italian clubs began finding it difficult to lure bright, young talent, as many starlets opted to play in Spain or England instead. Serie A was quickly garnering a reputation as a league for world stars whose skills were on the decline. There was no Messi, no Ronaldo, no Rooney. Instead, fans watched an aging Beckham, an overweight Ronadinho, and the volatile Adriano.

The once feared European giants of Inter, AC Milan, and Roma couldn’t get a sniff of late round Champions League play in the years following the 2006 World Cup. Time and again they found themselves a step behind Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Lyon and Bayern. Worst of all, the league is on the verge of losing a Champions League berth to the Bundisliga. (Serie A currently has four Champions League spots compared to three for the German league).

This year, amid the doom and gloom, something changed and Serie A found its feet again. It’s hard to put your finger on one event that caused the turnaround. Maybe it was the arrival of Jose Mourinho as manager of Inter. Perhaps it was the the rebirth of Juventus through crafty management, or the ability of the lesser teams to scout talent from under the noses of the Spanish or English giants. All of a sudden the Serie A is the place to be once again. Attendance is up in many stadiums. Young stars such as Marek Hamsik, Mario Balotelli, and Javier Pasatore are lighting up YouTube. The league is the most competitive it has been in years, with 10 teams vying for the fourth Champions League place, separated by just eleven points. At the top, there’s a thrilling title race between the three time champions Inter and Roma, who carry one of Europe’s longest domestic unbeaten streaks at 22 matches.

And Italian teams are once again being noticed in Europe. Fiorentina eliminated Liverpool from its Champions League group. AC Milan waltzed into the Bernabeau and handed Real Madrid a rare home loss. And Mourinho’s Inter salvaged Italian pride by marching Inter into the semi-finals of the Champions League, allowing the Serie A to retain its four qualifying places, at least for one more season. Yes, 2010 has been quite a year in Italy.  And with another World Cup just two months away, other nations are no doubt sweating.

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Filed under Serie A