Tuesday 19 December 2017

Kaká, Vladimir Yashchenko and the historic melancholy of being on the wrong side of a Great Leap Forward

Kaká, as you've no doubt grown bored of being reminded in the last few days, was the last player to win the Ballon D'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards before the inception of the all-powerful Messi-Ronaldo Duopoly.

And while it's hard to imagine Kaká being tormented by anything, let alone existential doom, but there was a paradigm shift and someone got paradigm-shafted.

The past isn't just a foreign country in this case; it's practically another world. A decade is a big old chunk of time in anyone's book, but Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have pressed the accelerator on progress, as if determined to operate in dog years. Kaká may have shared a couple of podiums with them, but compare the three and the he cannot help but lose.

Read my piece on the newly-retired Kaká, and his legacy, on the Unibet blog.

Friday 8 December 2017

Is Gabriel Jesus the new Ronaldo? I asked him – plus team-mates and opponents – that very question

Gabriel Jesus' progress since leaving Palmeiras for Manchester City a year ago has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Little wonder, then, that some have sought to draw comparisons with the last great Brazil No.9 to make that adjective his own. "He's the new Ronaldo," claimed Daniel Alves before Brazil's game against England last month. "They have similar qualities, a similar drive. He's going to be one of the greats."

That's lofty company to keep, but what does the player himself make of the comparison? And do team-mates and opponents see the similarities?

Find out in my latest for The Independent. 

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Arthur scouting report: Barcelona target is a pass master who can go far after 'magical year' at Grêmio

"Everything is easy for him," swooned Grêmio coach Renato Gaúcho after another passing masterclass. "Arthur is a hen who lays golden eggs."

It's not the most compelling of metaphors but you get the point: the kid is a bit good at football. Not that you'd have known it 12 months ago: the midfielder played just 36 senior minutes in 2016 and looked to be stagnating.

How things have changed since. Arthur has established himself as one of the best player in Brazil, winning fans in Europe – and at the Camp Nou especially – with his passing masterclasses from deep.

In my latest for Unibet, I look at his strengths and weaknesses, which apparently include PR.