The Soccer Goal https://thesoccergoal.com A Kid's Perspective On The Beautiful Game Wed, 02 Sep 2020 00:28:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://thesoccergoal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/cropped-THE-SOCCER-GOAL-2-32x32.jpg The Soccer Goal https://thesoccergoal.com 32 32 Analysis: North American World Cup Qualifying (Part 1 of 2) https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/09/01/analysis-north-american-world-cup-qualifying-part-1-of-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-north-american-world-cup-qualifying-part-1-of-2 https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/09/01/analysis-north-american-world-cup-qualifying-part-1-of-2/#respond Wed, 02 Sep 2020 00:28:04 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1694 In just one month, World Cup qualifying in North America will begin – but it won’t look like it used to. The format has changed. Originally, only the top six teams in North America (as of July) would advance. Those rankings would go up or down according to how well (or poorly) teams did in the friendlies: that’s usually why they play so many. But due to the coronavirus pandemic,…

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In just one month, World Cup qualifying in North America will begin – but it won’t look like it used to. The format has changed.

Originally, only the top six teams in North America (as of July) would advance. Those rankings would go up or down according to how well (or poorly) teams did in the friendlies: that’s usually why they play so many. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the teams didn’t get to play the friendlies. That means that the rankings stayed the same. What to do? Rather than rely on the rankings, the qualifiers changed the format to this:

The five best-ranked teams automatically advance to the third round. This group includes Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras.

All of the remaining teams are split into six groups of five teams that will play each team in their group once. The winner of each of the six groups will advance to the second round, and they play the winner of a different group over two legs. If you do the math, you’ll see that three winners will emerge from those matchups, and those winners will advance to round three of World Cup qualifiers. But to get to round two or round three, teams first have to navigate the tricky group stages.

Who is expected to advance, and who could surprise some people?

Group A: El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, US Virgin Islands

Had the previous format been chosen, El Salvador would’ve been the sixth and final team to qualify. Instead, they now have to go through qualifiers. El Salvador are attempting to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1982. The blue and whites have never had much success in major international tournaments, as they have never made it out of the group stages in the World Cup, and haven’t made it past the quarter-finals in the CONCACAF Gold Cup since 1989.

However, El Salvador are the only team in Group A to have ever qualified for a World Cup, and only Grenada and El Salvador have qualified for the Gold Cup. El Salvador and Antigua are also the only teams that have players who also play for the first tier European teams, although Montserrat have the most valuable player in the group, with Nottingham striker Lyle Taylor.

On paper, this group should be incredibly easy for El Salvador since El Salvador are the sixth-highest ranked team in North America. They are in a group with the US Virgin Islands, who are ranked as the third-worst team in the world. In fact, El Salvador are ranked 57 times higher than any other team in the group. However, nothing is guaranteed, as Grenada are undefeated in their past eight matches, whilst Montserrat have not conceded more than three goals in a game since 2012.

Group B: Canada, Suriname, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba

Despite typically being known as a hockey country, Canada’s soccer team is on the rise. Alphonso Davies has just won the treble with Bayern Munich after a breakout season, Jonathan David has just completed a highly anticipated move from Belgian team Genk to Lille, Cyle Larin returns to Besiktas after a successful loan spell in Belgium, and Liam Millar is an exciting prospect for Premier League champions Liverpool. This is Canada’s golden generation, and it all starts here.

Canada might have some young prospects, but Bermuda have a goal-scoring machine in Nahki Wells. Despite only being called up to the national team 19 times, Wells has scored 12 times. Wells has also scored 120 goals in his career that has led the marksmen all over England, and he’ll be key if Bermuda want to make it out of the group.

Aruba and Suriname are both benefiting through links to the Netherlands, as Suriname are former Dutch colonies whilst Aruba still are a Dutch colony. This means that players who would normally play for the Dutch team, like Aruba midfielder Gregor Breinburg or Suriname striker Nigel Hasselbaink, are eligible to play for their nations. However, it is a double-edged sword, as players like Patrick Kluivert, Virgil van Dijk, Ruud Gullit, Ryan Babel, and Nigel de Jong have all turned down Suriname for the Netherlands. The Cayman Islands are a British territory, but they rarely get the same benefits as the Dutch territories since typically English players play for England or switch to another team in the UK, like Scotland.

Group C: Curacao, Guatemala, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, British Virgin Islands

I’ve called Curacao dark horses countless times, and now they have a more than decent chance to qualify for the World Cup. Curacao are in the same boat as Aruba and Suriname: they have gained players like Eloy Room, Juninho Bacuna, and Jurien Gaari, but Tahith Chong is expected to leave Curacao behind and play for the Netherlands. Ranked eighth-highest in North America, Curacao haven’t conceded three or more goals in a match in six years, and have not been lacking for goals, as they’ve scored 31 goals in their previous 15 games. Curacao have the quality to qualify for the World Cup, or at least make it out of the qualifying group stages.

However, if anyone could challenge Curacao, it would be Guatemala. Despite being ranked 130th in the world, Guatemala have won seven of their last eleven games, including a win over Costa Rica, who have qualified for the past two World Cups. In those eleven games, Guatemala have scored 35 goals and only conceded four goals. This is despite the fact that the Guatemalan soccer federation was suspended in 2016 and only just returned in 2018. Guatemala will also be eager to reach a first-ever FIFA World Cup. The Curacao-Guatemala matchup will be a mouthwatering, can’t miss game – made so even more due to the fact that it is the final match of the group stage on November 17, which means that game could decide who advances to round three of the World Cup qualifying.

Cuba have been conceding goals freely, allowing 37 goals in ten games. However, history will be on Cuba’s side, as the Lions of the Caribbean are the only team in Group C to have ever qualified for a World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in 1938.

The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying process will be unlike any other. Typically, qualifying narrows down nations so that the weakest nations are eliminated long before they see any competitive teams. However, CONCACAF have put 30 teams together, meaning that the bottom teams have chances to surprise some of the teams at the top. Who are you rooting for?

Stay tuned for part 2!

Image Courtesy of Chris from Brampton, Canada / CC BY.

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Three Strikers Set For Bounce-Back Seasons https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/28/three-strikers-set-for-bounce-back-seasons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=three-strikers-set-for-bounce-back-seasons https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/28/three-strikers-set-for-bounce-back-seasons/#respond Fri, 28 Aug 2020 22:33:43 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1689 Typically in the world of soccer, when a player has one or two poor seasons, they move on. Philippe Coutinho struggled in two seasons for Barcelona and was loaned out to Bayern Munich. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had one poor season for Barcelona before he was sold to AC Milan. Alvaro Morata spent just one season with Chelsea after being bought for over $70 million. This pattern likely will not continue this…

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Typically in the world of soccer, when a player has one or two poor seasons, they move on. Philippe Coutinho struggled in two seasons for Barcelona and was loaned out to Bayern Munich. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had one poor season for Barcelona before he was sold to AC Milan. Alvaro Morata spent just one season with Chelsea after being bought for over $70 million. This pattern likely will not continue this year. Due to the stoppage in play because of coronavirus, funds for teams all across the globe are down, so teams will be more reliant on those that they were prepared to cast out. Here are just a few players who you can expect to have more successful seasons than they did last season.

Antoine Griezmann, FC Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann probably would’ve followed Coutinho out the exit had the season continued normally.

Griezmann was bought from Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid last summer for an incredible $132 million. Griezmann had long been linked with Barcelona, and following a World Cup win in 2018, Barcelona set their eyes on the Frenchman. However, after making a TV show called “The Decision” to decide his next team, Griezmann decided to stay with Atletico Madrid. One season later, he changed his mind and signed for Barcelona. The result? Griezmann played 48 games in all competitions, scoring just 15 goals combined with four assists. He received criticism for his terrible attitude and performances and was widely disliked at Camp Nou. Griezmann also reportedly clashed several times with star Lionel Messi, and an exit seemed certain. Then the impossible happened.

Lionel Messi has demanded an exit from Barcelona following yet another embarrassing Champions League exit, this time an 8-2 loss at the hands of Bayern Munich. This, combined with Luis Suarez’ expected exit, means that Griezmann is about to have a far more important role in Barcelona’s attack next season. Griezmann needs to step up next season, because with Barcelona tipped for a full-scale rebuild, they won’t be playing for the La Liga title. They’ll be playing for a Champions League spot.

João Felix, Atletico Madrid

So after Atletico Madrid sold Antoine Griezmann, they needed another big name striker to compliment Alvaro Morata and Diego Costa. Enter João Felix, a teenage sensation who starred for Portuguese giants Benfica. Atletico paid almost $140 million for Felix, making him the fifth most expensive transfer of all time. He hasn’t worked out too well, either.

In 36 games for Atletico this season, Felix has scored only nine goals with three assists. To be fair, injuries got the best of Felix, as he missed 13 games due to various ailments. He also did prove to be clutch at times in the Champions League, assisting Marcos Llorente’s first goal to tie the Liverpool game at 2-2 on aggregate, before Atletico stormed back to win. He also appeared to have saved Atletico in the quarter-finals, earning and then scoring the penalty to tie Leipzig 1-1. Unfortunately, Leipzig scored in the 88th minute to eliminate Atletico.

Still, Felix has shown potential throughout the season. Atletico have realized this too, and are prepared to sell Diego Costa and possibly Alvaro Morata as well. If Felix can stay healthy, he can fire Atletico to their first La Liga title in six years.

Sebastien Haller, West Ham

Sebastian Haller was one of many Eintracht Frankfurt players who took advantage of a successful season and cashed out, and it’s fair to say it hasn’t worked out for quite a few of them. Luka Jovic made a high-profile move to Real Madrid and has scored just two goals with one assist in 27 games, has done several controversial things including breaking quarantine as many times as he scored last season. Ante Rebic’s loan move to AC Milan has been somewhat successful, with 12 goals and four assists in 30 games, but still not quite the expected numbers. Rebic could have a decent season as he will rejoin AC Milan, but don’t expect anything from Luka Jovic. However, the former Eintracht player who should have the biggest improvement next season is West Ham striker Sebastien Haller.

Haller was bought by the London club last season for $55 million. He scored seven goals with two assists last season after starting the season off strongly, scoring three goals in his first three games. West Ham battled relegation all season, but after Manuel Pellegrini was fired, David Moyes saved the day, with West Ham staying in the Premier League.

Haller only scored two goals under David Moyes, but the scenario on the wings has improved significantly for the Hammers. Jared Bowen arrived in winter and played well, and should play a major role this season, whilst Grady Diangana returns from his loan at West Brom. In a preseason match against Ipswich, Diangana assisted two of Haller’s three goals. If that partnership can continue, Haller has the ability to rediscover his Eintracht form, and West Ham won’t be in a relegation battle.

Do you agree with my predictions for these strikers, and who do you think will have an improved season? Please let me know!

Image courtesy of Анна Нэсси / CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL.

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Where Will Lionel Messi End Up? https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/25/where-will-lionel-messi-end-up/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=where-will-lionel-messi-end-up https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/25/where-will-lionel-messi-end-up/#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2020 00:54:50 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1681 It’s been coming for a while now, but it looks like Lionel Messi will finally be leaving FC Barcelona. The reasons for this are plentiful. Barcelona have just finished a trophy-less season in which they fired two managers. They hired a new manager, Ronald Koeman, who has struggled at club level, and who has already essentially been told by Barcelona’s presidential candidates that he has no future with the team.…

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It’s been coming for a while now, but it looks like Lionel Messi will finally be leaving FC Barcelona.

The reasons for this are plentiful. Barcelona have just finished a trophy-less season in which they fired two managers. They hired a new manager, Ronald Koeman, who has struggled at club level, and who has already essentially been told by Barcelona’s presidential candidates that he has no future with the team. Koeman has told Messi that, “his privileges are over”. Messi’s longtime teammate Luis Suarez is expected to be sold whilst Barcelona are tipped for a massive rebuild.

So who should be considered as candidates to sign Messi, and which rumors should not be taken seriously?

Possible: Manchester City

This move could make sense for many reasons, but there’s also multiple flaws. Financially, yes. Manchester City can afford Messi’s wages thanks to wealthy owner Sheikh Mansour. Messi also has connections with many of the players and staff at City. When Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola coached Barcelona, the duo won three La Liga titles, two Champions League trophies, and two FIFA World Cup Club trophies. Manchester City’s star striker, Sergio Agüero, is teammates on the Argentinian national team with Messi and the two are good friends.

However, there are some potential issues with this move. For a starter, the Citizens will definitely be forced to sell at least one winger. Leroy Sane has been moved on, but with Messi, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres, and Riyad Mahrez on the wing, playing time would not be split adequately to keep all the players satisfied.

More importantly, it would be a strange choice for Messi to leave Barcelona due to conflict and questions about the future, only to join another team with questions about the future. Manchester City were trophy-less this season as well. They lost in the FA Cup semifinals to Arsenal, were eliminated in the Champions League quarter-finals following a 3-1 loss to Lyon, and finished second in the Premier League…18 points behind Liverpool. With Guardiola’s future in the air following yet another Champions League exit, this move would be strange, yet it makes more sense than some others.

Not Possible: Arsenal

Do I really have to explain this one? Arsenal have just finished eighth in the Premier League and are only in the Europa League because they beat struggling Manchester City and wounded Chelsea in the FA Cup. Arsenal have improved their defense, but it’s still far more of a concern than a new winger. Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Nicolas Pepe, Willian, Reiss Nelson, and occasionally Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have played or will play as a winger for the Gunners. Arsenal would be better off signing an experienced center back, like Kalidou Koulibaly or even Gerard Pique.

Furthermore, Arsenal have just had to fire 55 employees due to the financial impact of coronavirus, so there is no way they can financially afford Messi.

Possible: AC Milan

AC Milan should be considered dark horses to sign Messi. Messi has received strong interest from AC Milan’s rivals, Inter, but AC Milan are clearly trying to make a grand return to Europe’s biggest stages. French billionaire and Louis Vuitton owner Bernard Arnault has been trying to take over the club for some time now, and if he were to, this would be the perfect signing to immediately get AC Milan back in Serie A contention, as Milan’s defense is stronger than many of their rivals.

The only issue might be AC Milan’s star striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zlatan claims to have had a good relationship with Messi while at Barcelona over ten years ago, but has stated in the past that his lack of success at Barcelona was partly due to Lionel Messi. Messi and Zlatan both wanted to play in the center when Zlatan originally signed for Barcelona in 2009, but Guardiola decided to play Messi there instead of Zlatan. Shortly thereafter, Zlatan was sold to AC Milan and labeled as a flop by the media. However, Zlatan has still spoken fondly of Messi and, given that Zlatan turns 39 in October and is expected to sign a short-term extension with AC Milan, he won’t be staying at San Siro for very long.

This means that if Messi were to sign for AC Milan, he could stay on the wing for one or two seasons to form a partnership with Zlatan. When Zlatan leaves, Messi can do what Cristiano Ronaldo did and become more of a striker in the later stages of his career.

Not Possible: Bayern Munich

He’s very welcome. What coach says no to Messi?

PSG Coach Thomas Tuchel Following PSG’s Champions League Loss To Bayern

Well, not to overhype Bayern, but after winning the Champions League to successfully complete a treble winning season, Hans-Dieter Flick would and should say no to Messi.

Bayern are arguably the reason Messi is pushing for a transfer. Had Bayern beat Barcelona in a close, competitive Champions League match, Messi would likely wait out his contract, and would be a free agent next year. However, Bayern absolutely obliterated Barcelona, 8-2, and that was the last straw, leading to Messi being linked just about everywhere.

But Messi would not get into the starting eleven nearly enough in a team that consists of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and potentially Ivan Perisic on a permanent deal. Bayern has built their team on smart purchases and homegrown talent, and Lionel Messi would be an expensive, unnecessary, and unwanted splurge that would not be in the best interest of Messi or Bayern.

It appears that Lionel Messi will be dominating the transfer window and rumors, so obviously these predictions will become more likely and less likely over time. I didn’t mention all of his options, but if you would like a part two, please let me know. Where do you think Messi will end up?

Image courtesy of Wael Mogherbi / CC BY-SA.

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Champions League Final: Preview & Predictions https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/22/champions-league-final-preview-predictions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=champions-league-final-preview-predictions https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/22/champions-league-final-preview-predictions/#respond Sun, 23 Aug 2020 01:01:05 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1674 The Champions League finalists are confirmed! It will be a clash of the titans between German champions Bayern Munich and French champions Paris Saint-Germain, also known as PSG. Bayern Munich continued to steamroll through the tournament, although the 3-0 victory over Lyon was closer than it looked. Meanwhile, PSG grabbed an early lead against RB Leipzig and never gave it back, advancing to the team’s first ever Champions League final.…

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The Champions League finalists are confirmed! It will be a clash of the titans between German champions Bayern Munich and French champions Paris Saint-Germain, also known as PSG. Bayern Munich continued to steamroll through the tournament, although the 3-0 victory over Lyon was closer than it looked. Meanwhile, PSG grabbed an early lead against RB Leipzig and never gave it back, advancing to the team’s first ever Champions League final. Who will be able to win the match, as well as Europe’s ultimate trophy?

PSG

PSG are probably one of the most popular teams in the world, despite never achieving much Champions League success. This is mainly due to the team’s rich Qatari owners, who have used their vast funds to bring in the likes of David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Kylian Mbappe, Gianluigi Buffon, and Neymar Jr. to the French capital at some point in their careers, but it helps that PSG have dominated the French Ligue 1. In the past ten seasons, have finished in the top four ten times and won the league seven times.

This year, despite a strong squad, PSG have struggled at times against Champions League opponents. They succeeded in winning Group A of the Champions League and were drawn up against Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16. In what would be one of the last Champions League games played in front of fans, PSG lost 2-1 in Dortmund thanks to a brace from Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. Just before the season was halted, PSG played Dortmund at home in an empty stadium and won 2-0 to have a narrow 3-2 aggregate win. Several months later, PSG played Atalanta in the quarter-finals, winning 2-1 after two goals in injury time, including a 93rd minute goal by substitute Eric Choupo-Moting.

With Mbappe fully recovered and Neymar in top form, PSG’s elite offense could help PSG win a first ever Champions League, and this would be a perfect farewell match for 35-year old Thiago Silva. However, to do that, they’ll have to get past…

FC Bayern Munich

Bayern are arguably the most in-form team in the world right now. The Bavarians have now won 20 games in a row, including wins over Chelsea, Barcelona, Schalke, Dortmund, Leverkusen, and Lyon. Coach Hans-Dieter Flick has done a superb job since taking over, as Niko Kovac’s Bayern were struggling, with Kovac’s last game being a 5-1 loss to Eintracht. Flick has also been key in Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, and Jerome Boateng regaining form, as Muller finished the season with a Bundesliga record 21 assists. Of those 21 assists, 17 came during Flick’s reign.

Bayern Munich have also used smart finances to climb to the top of Germany and now possibly Europe. PSG spent $244 million on Neymar – more than Bayern spent on Thiago, Robert Lewandowski, Serge Gnabry, Manuel Neuer, Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich, Alphonso Davies, Thomas Muller, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Niklas Süle, Leon Goretzka, and Michaël Cuisance combined. There’s still change left, and that isn’t including loan players Perisic and Coutinho.

Bayern have clearly dominated Europe, winning every single game in the Champions League they have played. No losses. No ties. Robert Lewandowski is the top scorer in the Champions League, DFB Pokal, and Bundesliga. Serge Gnabry is averaging a goal a game in the Champions League, and has been superb in away games. However, Bayern have yet to play a young team with such a quick, effective counter attack like PSG, and Lyon demonstrated that Bayern can be caught in the back.

Prediction

Sorry, PSG. You’ll have to wait another year. Bayern win the match 2-0, as Serge Gnabry gets yet another goal and Robert Lewandowski continues his European dominance, scoring the other goal as Bayern win the treble, repeating 2013’s feat.

Image Courtesy of Reubentg / CC BY-SA.

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Barcelona Facts & Rumors Following Loss To Bayern https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/17/barcelona-facts-rumors-following-loss-to-bayern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=barcelona-facts-rumors-following-loss-to-bayern https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/17/barcelona-facts-rumors-following-loss-to-bayern/#respond Tue, 18 Aug 2020 02:03:56 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1669 Barcelona are a historic, successful team but are tipped for a complete rebuild following a humiliating Champions League elimination. So far, here is what we know and here are some rumors about what could happen. Confirmed: Head coach Quique Setien has already been fired after failing to win the Champions League, La Liga, or the Copa del Rey. The former Real Betis coach was hired in January of 2020 after…

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Barcelona are a historic, successful team but are tipped for a complete rebuild following a humiliating Champions League elimination. So far, here is what we know and here are some rumors about what could happen.

Confirmed:

  • Head coach Quique Setien has already been fired after failing to win the Champions League, La Liga, or the Copa del Rey. The former Real Betis coach was hired in January of 2020 after coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked, but Setien has not been popular with the fans or the players, resulting in his departure.
  • Setien’s replacement has already been chosen. Dutch national team coach Ronald Koeman has been hired, despite Koeman’s lack of success in a prior stint in Spain. Koeman is a three time Dutch champion, but when Koeman coached Valencia in 2008, the team that included legends David Villa and David Silva were in 16th place until Koeman was sacked. However, no one can dispute Koeman’s international coaching experience.
  • Despite strong rumors that Sporting Director Eric Abidal would be fired, Barcelona have announced that the Frenchman will not be fired. Abidal has been blamed for many of Barcelona’s issues and has had many disagreements with players, most notably star Lionel Messi.
  • Barcelona already have several confirmed arrivals. Several wingers are joining, including young Portugal star Francisco Trincao and 17-year old winger Pedri, signed from Las Palmas. Midfielders Matheus Fernandes and Miralem Pjanic are also signing, with the latter costing almost $70 million.
  • Several players will be leaving the Catalan capital. Young Brazilian midfielder Arthur Melo has swapped teams with Pjanic and will play in the Serie A for Juventus next season. Loan players Marc Cucurella and Carles Perez will be leaving for Getafe and Roma respectively, after having their loans made permanent. The team’s other departure, however, sums up everything wrong with Barcelona’s transfer policy. In 2015, Barcelona spent almost $38 million on Turkish midfielder Arda Turan, who had impressed with rivals Atletico Madrid. However, Turan’s best years were already behind him, as he was 28 when signed. In five years, Turan has played just 55 games for Barcelona, been loaned out to Istanbul Basaksehir, been arrested in Turkey twice, had his loan terminated, released by Barcelona, and now has returned to Turkey, signing with Galatasaray for free. Barcelona ought to have learned, but they have just paid $70 million for a 30-year old Miralem Pjanic, whilst they allow young talent like Carles Perez to slip away.

Rumors:

  • Barcelona are reportedly facing a huge summer exodus. Striker Luis Suarez is linked with a return to Ajax. Philippe Coutinho will likely be loaned out again as he is too expensive to be bought permanently. Gerard Pique has said that he would be willing to leave Barcelona. Two expensive flops in Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele are expected to be sold or loaned out. However, the biggest rumor is that Lionel Messi is looking to depart after Barcelona’s Champions League failure. With Abidal now staying at Barcelona, Messi will almost certainly leave.
  • Sadly, it appears Barcelona haven’t learned their lesson as they are set for a big offseason. It wouldn’t be a transfer window if Neymar Jr. wasn’t linked with a return to Spain, but he might be less inclined to as Neymar and PSG are finally achieving Champions League success. Barcelona are looking at other attacking options, with Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez a name brought up often, but defense is a more pressing issue, as demonstrated in a 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich. Former Barcelona youth player Eric Garcia is rumored to return, but Garcia outlines several other issues with Barcelona’s transfer policy. If Barcelona had kept Garcia, they would have a talented defender. However, they sold Garcia when he was 16(!) for under $2 million, and are trying to buy him three years later for around $30 million.

Barcelona will definitely look far different next season, but it could be tricky for the team to transition smoothly. This is what happened to Manchester United, who are just now returning to elite status after struggling after the retirement of coach Sir Alex Ferguson. What rumors have you heard, and do you think Barcelona can continue to compete immediately?

Image Courtesy of Анна Нэсси / CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL.

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Make Your Champions League Prediction! https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/16/make-your-champions-league-prediction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=make-your-champions-league-prediction https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/16/make-your-champions-league-prediction/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2020 00:53:50 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1666 The semi-finalists of the Champions League have been confirmed after some crazy quarter-final results. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) trailed early to underdogs Atalanta, but goals from Kylian Mbappe and Eric Choupo-Moting stole the win for the Parisians. Meanwhile, RB Leipzig advanced to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time ever after a late goal from midfielder Tyler Adams, beating Atletico Madrid. After those close two results, some blowouts were in…

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The semi-finalists of the Champions League have been confirmed after some crazy quarter-final results. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) trailed early to underdogs Atalanta, but goals from Kylian Mbappe and Eric Choupo-Moting stole the win for the Parisians. Meanwhile, RB Leipzig advanced to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time ever after a late goal from midfielder Tyler Adams, beating Atletico Madrid.

After those close two results, some blowouts were in store. And boy, were they blowouts. Barcelona were absolutely obliterated by Bayern Munich, as the German champions slaughtered the Spaniards 8-2. Meanwhile, substitute hero Moussa Dembele scored two late goals to help Lyon continue on a stunning Champions League run which includes wins over Juventus, Manchester City, and eventual semi-finalists RB Leipzig.

However, Lyon will have another tough task, facing Bayern Munich. Both Lyon and RB Leipzig will be underdogs but have proven along the way that they are more than capable. Who do you think can win it all?

Image Courtesy of uefa champions league / Public domain.

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Fulham: Transfer Analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/09/fulham-transfer-analysis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fulham-transfer-analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/09/fulham-transfer-analysis/#respond Mon, 10 Aug 2020 00:34:48 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1655 I’ve already written about who newly-promoted Leeds and West Brom need to sign, so now it’s time to analyze Fulham. Fulham earned promotion after finishing fourth in the Championship before winning the playoff. The Cottagers beat Brentford in the final thanks to a brace from wingback Joe Bryan, which means that they have returned to the Premier League. If Fulham are to stay in the Premier League, they’ll need smarter…

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I’ve already written about who newly-promoted Leeds and West Brom need to sign, so now it’s time to analyze Fulham. Fulham earned promotion after finishing fourth in the Championship before winning the playoff. The Cottagers beat Brentford in the final thanks to a brace from wingback Joe Bryan, which means that they have returned to the Premier League. If Fulham are to stay in the Premier League, they’ll need smarter spending than they did in the 2018/19 season, which saw Fulham spend millions and get relegated. So, who are some cheap options that can help Fulham avoid relegation from the Premier League?

Fulham FC

Before being bought this Summer, Ryan Sessegnon was one of Fulham’s biggest stars. He burst on to the scene aged just 17 in the Championship, scoring an incredible 15 goals with six assists. After helping the Cottagers earn promotion, he was a sole bright spot as Fulham finished 19th. Sessegnon was bought by Tottenham in the summer, but has played just six Premier League games for the Hotspurs.

Fulham are reportedly chasing Sessegnon on loan, which would be a great move for everyone. Tottenham would allow Sessegnon develop, Fulham would have their best player back (even for just one season), and Sessegnon would have first team action. The best thing Fulham can do this summer is to get Sessegnon back, and to try to get an option to buy him permanently.

Fulham are chasing several wingers not named Sessegnon, however. The main target of Fulham is 26-year old Ryan Fraser, who is a free agent after letting his contract with Bournemouth expire. Fraser does have high wage demands, but is proven in the Premier League and had been linked to Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham. However, Fraser is not well liked after forcing his way out of Bournemouth and is arguably the reason for the club’s relegation.

A less controversial option, Brentford winger Saïd Benrahma is being pursued by almost every team in the Premier League. It might be tricky to convince the talented winger to join the London rivals who kept his club from the Premier League, but Benrahma would receive significant playing time at Fulham. If Benrahma were to turn Fulham down, Liverpool are looking to sell young winger Harry Wilson. Wilson also has Premier League experience and would be a great option for the Cottagers.

Another target position is center back, with Chelsea youngster Ethan Ampadu being named as an ideal target. Ampadu would be a loan signing, so Fulham might want a permanent signing as well. They could hijack Sheffield United’s bid for free agent Abdul Mumin, but the better choice would be Arsenal target and free agent Malang Sarr, a center back who could be persuaded to sign with Fulham. Sarr is just 21 and is a highly rated free agent. Fulham have an incredibly rich owner in Shahid Khan, and Khan could help Fulham meet Sarr’s wage demands. If Sarr joined Fulham, the Cottagers would practically be guaranteed safety from the relegation battle.

If Fulham are able to spend well, unlike two seasons ago, the Cottagers could have a successful season and eventually make Fulham a constant in the Premier League. Just 10 years ago, Fulham were in the Europa League final. Signing Sessegnon, Sarr, and Benrahma is the first step for Fulham to not only stay in England’s top flight, but to compete in Europe once more.

Image courtesy of Steffen Prößdorf / CC BY-SA.

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West Brom: Transfer Analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/07/west-brom-transfer-analysis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-brom-transfer-analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/07/west-brom-transfer-analysis/#comments Sat, 08 Aug 2020 00:00:14 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1647 West Brom have earned promotion back to the Premier League, following a two-year hiatus. The Baggies started the season off strong, but struggled towards the end of the season, claiming just three of twelve possible points in their final four matches. Fortunately, poor results from promotion rivals Brentford and Fulham meant that West Brom stayed in second and earned automatic promotion. However, the club definitely has work to be done.…

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West Brom have earned promotion back to the Premier League, following a two-year hiatus. The Baggies started the season off strong, but struggled towards the end of the season, claiming just three of twelve possible points in their final four matches. Fortunately, poor results from promotion rivals Brentford and Fulham meant that West Brom stayed in second and earned automatic promotion. However, the club definitely has work to be done. They tied an incredible 17 games, the joint-most in the Championship. It was lucky that those dropped points didn’t come back to haunt West Brom, and in the Premier League that won’t be the case. West Brom are looking to make a splash, however, and are linked to some of Europe’s brightest stars.

West Brom

The Baggies definitely are looking for attacking-minded players. Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos has been linked, as well as Queens Park Rangers (QPR) winger Eberechi Eze. Morelos has been huge for Rangers’ Europa League success this season, and has teams all over Europe interested. The downside to signing the Colombian international is that Rangers want a massive fee. This might throw off West Brom, as they are expected to spend most of their transfer funds on winger Eze. Eze has scored 14 goals, and also has eight assists for Championship club Queens Park Rangers (not Rangers).

Eze has impressed all season, although he nearly cost West Brom promotion. In the final match of the season, West Brom needed a win to clinch automatic promotion. The Baggies had the lead against Queens Park until the 61st minute, when Eze made the game 2-2. Fortunately for West Brom, Brentford lost, meaning that Eze didn’t cost West Brom automatic promotion. If he had, West Brom would almost certainly be less interested.

A good, experienced option for the wing would be Jose Callejon. Callejon has been largely under appreciated this season, despite four goals and ten assists in all competitions for Napoli. His contract expires at the end of August, so Callejon could be signed for free. With his experience in Serie A and La Liga, Callejon could definitely be a good option and could help West Brom stay up.

West Brom are also reportedly look for a goalkeeper to compete for a starting spot. Sven Ulreich, the backup goalkeeper for Bayern Munich, is looking to be moved on as Bayern have competition in goal. Ulreich is a veteran who has been a great backup for the past few seasons for Bayern, and could potentially be signed for cheap. He would definitely be a more than capable backup, even if he did not become a starter. It also might be worth it for the Baggies to look into Dean Henderson, who Manchester United don’t believe is ready to start for the Red Devils. Henderson was incredible on loan for Sheffield United, and if he gets loaned out again, Henderson would be a superb option for West Brom.

Manager Slaven Bilic has Premier League coaching experience, so he can get the best of his players and signings. With some squad improvements, West Brom can surprise some people and finish higher up in the table, like Sheffield United last season.

Image courtesy of Антон Зайцев / CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL.

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Heard Around The Pitch https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/05/heard-around-the-pitch/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=heard-around-the-pitch https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/05/heard-around-the-pitch/#respond Thu, 06 Aug 2020 01:20:01 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1640 Even if Real Madrid or Barcelona appeared, they would have to drag me away from Palmeiras. I have everything here, I am happy and I just need to continue demonstrating what I have done on the pitch. I know that many have the dream of living in Europe, but in Brazil it is also possible to have a good life. Brazilian winger Dudu, stating he would not leave his club,…

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Even if Real Madrid or Barcelona appeared, they would have to drag me away from Palmeiras. I have everything here, I am happy and I just need to continue demonstrating what I have done on the pitch. I know that many have the dream of living in Europe, but in Brazil it is also possible to have a good life.

Brazilian winger Dudu, stating he would not leave his club, Palmeiras, even for Real Madrid. Last month, Dudu signed for rich Qatari club Al Duhail.

Image courtesy of Renato Gizzi from Guarulhos / CC BY.

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Leeds United: Transfer Analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/04/leeds-united-transfer-analysis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leeds-united-transfer-analysis https://thesoccergoal.com/2020/08/04/leeds-united-transfer-analysis/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2020 01:01:37 +0000 https://thesoccergoal.com/?p=1631 The final Premier League spot has been booked following the EFL Championship playoff final. Fulham will be returning to the top flight, denying London rivals Brentford a first-ever season in the Premier League. The Cottagers will join West Brom and Leeds United in earning promotion back to England’s first tier. They will be replaced in the Championship by Norwich, Bournemouth, and Watford, who were relegated after poor seasons. Who do…

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The final Premier League spot has been booked following the EFL Championship playoff final. Fulham will be returning to the top flight, denying London rivals Brentford a first-ever season in the Premier League. The Cottagers will join West Brom and Leeds United in earning promotion back to England’s first tier. They will be replaced in the Championship by Norwich, Bournemouth, and Watford, who were relegated after poor seasons. Who do these newly-promoted teams need to sign to stay in the Premier League? I’ll be reviewing each team in a separate article! First up: Leeds United.

Leeds United

After 16 years, Leeds United are back in the Premier League. They did so in style, winning the league with 93 points and conceding just 35 goals. However, the team will be looking to improve the offense significantly, as they struggled to score goals at times. Leeds were linked to both Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but moves for them now appear unlikely. Leeds are reportedly looking for wingers, as many of their wingers arrived on loan and have all left. The Whites will also need more center backs, as the depth is looking thin. Fortunately, Leeds are strong in goal as Kiko Casilla and Illan Meslier kept 19 league clean sheets between the two of them. Wingback is another position that Leeds are strong in, with several young talents mixed in with experienced veterans.

In previous articles, I’ve identified Ariel Lassiter, Emi Buendia, and Angel Gomes as targets Leeds should pursue. Angel Gomes ended up signing with French club Lille and then being loaned out to Portugese club Boavista, but the other two could be great acquisitions. Lassiter has starred for Alajuelense and would be a great cheap option, and Buendia is proven in the Premier League but will cost quite a lot despite Norwich being relegated. Another player who got relegated from the Premier League, Watford winger Ismaila Sarr would also be a great addition. If Leeds were to bring a winger in on loan, young Barcelona talent Francisco Trincão will likely be loaned out, with Leicester reportedly interested.

There are many options for strikers that can be signed for free. Previously mentioned longtime PSG striker Edinson Cavani has been linked to Leeds United, but his wages will be high, and Cavani has interest elsewhere. Mario Mandzukic has experience all over the globe and recently terminated his contract with Qatari club Al Duhail, but is 34. If Leeds were to look into younger striker options, Moussa Sylla would be ideal. Once referred to as “The Next Mbappe”, Sylla was released recently by AS Monaco. Still just 20, Sylla has played 34 games for Monaco and could be a good fit for Leeds. Another option might be Bournemouth striker Joshua King, expected to leave following Bournemouth’s relegation.

The obvious choice for a free center back is Malang Sarr, but he’s unlikely to sign for Leeds as he linked strongly to Betis and Arsenal. Abdul Mumin is also a great option, as the 22-year old Nordsjaelland defender has done superbly in Denmark. Leeds would have to compete with other Premier League teams, mainly Sheffield United and Brighton, for the Ghanian’s signature. Some players could potentially join for cheap, like Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng or Norwich defender Ben Godfrey. Godfrey has just been relegated from the Premier League, and Boateng has become far less involved in Bayern’s defense.

Those are all great options for Leeds United, but that does not mean that they are expected. Leeds United’s famous fanbase will be backing the Whites, and with manager Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds will be strong candidates to stay up. Stay tuned for future articles about recommended signings for West Brom and Fulham!

Image Courtesy of Boxingfan1995 / CC BY-SA.

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