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Monday, 13 November 2017

Roberto Firmino interview: 'We have restored Brazil's reputation, playing joyful football. That is our essence'

“That defeat to Germany was a really big blow to all Brazilians. But we put it into our heads that what happened then doesn't matter anymore; it's what we do from now on that counts.

“The team spirit couldn't be better. We have been able to restore Brazil's reputation, playing joyful football that is respected around the world. That is our essence.


"Professor Tite is a brilliant coach, with a unique way of working, but he's also a marvellous person. He makes everyone feel at ease. It's because of his manner that the team spirit as good as it could possibly be. He transformed the atmosphere, imposed his style of play and everyone embraced his ideas."

Ahead of Brazil's game against England, I interviewed Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino. See what he had to say about Philippe Coutinho, his slow ascent to stardom and plenty more at The Independent.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Kerlon's retirement at 29 is a sad tale, but we'll always have the joyously goofy theatre of the seal dribble

“I had the privilege of doing something unique in the game.

"Guided by my greatest partner and friend, my father, we created a skill that had never been seen before. I did it in big moments, both for Brazil and for Cruzeiro, even in a big derby at a packed Mineirão.


“Even knowing that I would suffer a foul or a violent challenge, I still tried it, flicking the ball up in the air and travelling metres with the ball on my head, not letting it drop. That was my style of football: irreverent, with lots of joy.”

His own words sum it up rather nicely, but for more on the stunted career of Kerlon – now retired but destined to be remembered for his famous 'seal dribble' – read my latest Unibet blog.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Emperor's new clothes: Adriano's comeback plans are ambitious, but he does not deserve ridicule

The last seven years have been tough for Adriano. 

There were eight games and no goals at Roma, who sent him on his way after nine months. He returned to his homeland with Corinthians, replacing the retired Ronaldo, but managed just five appearances in his first eight months after rupturing his Achilles tendon. One year and 67 skipped training sessions later, his contract was torn up by the club.


Flamengo, with whom he had won the 2009 Brazilian title, offered him another lifeline, but that came to nothing. So too did brief stints with Atlético-PR (2014) and Miami United (2016), announced to some fanfare but ultimately unproductive. "It was an error," Furacão president Mario Celso Petraglia has said since. "He was a good kid, a spectacular guy with a good heart, but sadly he didn't have the strength. There's no way back for him."

Now, though, the Emperor is planning a fresh comeback. I take a look at his chances in my latest piece for Unibet. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Stick or twist? Five lingering questions for Brazil coach Tite as Brazil begin their World Cup countdown

Qualified for the World Cup early? Check. Clear set of tactics? Check. Settled line-up and plentiful options on the bench? Check, check, check.

With nine months to go until Russia 2018, things are certainly looking good for Brazil. The progress made under Tite has been startling, drawing an emphatic line under the dog-eared dog days of the Dunga era.


Yet a a coach's work is never done and now begins the challenge of ensuring that the Seleção are reaching their very best form next June. It's no easy task, as Luiz Felipe Scolari would certainly tell you.

In my latest for Unibet, I look at five lingering questions that Tite will have to answer in the months ahead if Brazil are to live up to expectations next summer.

Monday, 2 October 2017

On Edinson Cavani, Neymar and the morals of penalty theft, football's ultimate dick move

You wouldn't put up with it at your workplace.

Imagine it: you're just about give that knockout presentation you've been working on since last Tuesday when Dominic (it's always a Dominic, isn't it?) from accounts comes over and grabs your laptop, in full view of all your colleagues and the board of directors. "I'm giving this presentation," he whispers to you while avoiding eye contact.


You're flabbergasted, obviously. Dominic's the office whizzkid and you've been getting on well. Beers on Thursday, football chat by the coffee machine, all that jazz. Now here he is being... well, being a total w*****. Your name was down for this; this presentation was yours to give. As a wave of revulsion swells in your belly, you tear the laptop back from Dominic's duplicitous mits. After an unseemly struggle, he backs down.

The damage is done, however. Your confidence shot, you give a bad presentation, stuttering and sweating in front of your PowerPoint slides. Dominic, now lurking beyond the glass room divider over by the pot plant, catches your eye. He's smirking. He knows the next one is his.

Belatedly, here's my piece on the Neymar/Edinson Cavani penalty scuffle at Paris Saint-Germain, for Unibet.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Neymania 101: Enjoy the surface pleasures of Brazil's stepover-envoy, but let's choose our moments

Monday's sports pages in Brazil were dominated not by domestic goings-on but to the latest exploits of the country's premier stepover-envoy over on the other side of the Atlantic.

Fantástico, the frothy staple of the Globo network's Sunday-night offering, now has a whole section – complete with a horse puppet speaking with what the show's producers clearly believe to be a French accent – in which Neymar's every movement is dissected.


Yes, friend, we are now firmly in the grip of Neymania. It bubbled along nicely enough during Barcelona-apprenticeship years, but now it's a whole new thing. Resistance is futile.

My latest piece for Unibet is on Neymania and its dangers. Read it here.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Neymar's breakout year: How the world's most expensive player went from 'butterfly fillet' to Santos star in 2010

Had you asked a hundred Santos fans to identify the club’s brightest star at the start of 2010, you would not have received anything close to a unanimous response.

A good chunk of the vote would likely have gone to Paulo Henrique Ganso, the elegant playmaker with a topographer’s mastery of space. Robinho, back at the Vila Belmiro on loan from Manchester City, would also have been a popular choice. A few contrary types might even have chosen Arouca or Wesley, the side’s midfield dynamos, or arch goalhanger André.


Plenty, of course, would have plumped for Neymar, the wisp of a forward who had emerged from the hinterland of boy-wonderdom in 2009, scoring on his first start and generally looking far more assured than a 17-year-old should. Yet as one decade dissolved into the next, there was no consensus that he – rather than Ganso, say – would be the club’s next big thing.

Twelve months later, though? Well, there wouldn’t be much of an argument then.

I've written a long piece on Neymar's breakout year for FourFourTwo's Year Zero series. Have a read here.