22 October 2016

Celta host Depor in hotly anticipated derby clash

LaLiga Santander Vying for supremacy in Galicia

My piece for MARCA

In a weekend that throws up some cracking fixtures in LaLiga one particular gem may have slipped your radar, but it's one you could do a lot worse than tune into at 12.00 local time (11:00 GMT) this Sunday morning; The Galician derby, los portugueses against los turcos; Celta v Deportivo.

Portuguese and Turks?

Well, yes.

The reason why both clubs have ended up being nicknamed as such by fans of the other is somewhat contested, but the most readily accepted explanation is that Celta Vigo's moniker is down to the city's location some 20 minutes drive from the Portuguese border.

Portugal is a nation which the Spanish like to look to in their worst moments to reassure themselves that there's always somebody worse off - so it's something of a slur.

For Depor's part, it's thought that the 'Turk' reference comes via the Ottoman navy's sacking of the city during the 16th century.

It's a testy rivalry, and although the away allocation has been sold out once again there have been many flash points throughout the years.

La Voz de Galicia has reported that rather than the supporters clubs handling the ticketing for travelling fans, it's been left to the club itself this time round.

The game has also been given the highest alert level by police according to the local press, hence the supporters' groups passing the buck on something that is normally very much their jealously-guarded domain.

That said, it would be a great surprise were we to witness anything of the magnitude of the deplorable scenes when the clubs met in a promotion play-off back in the 1980s in Balaidos.

There's also a contrast to the game played at around this stage last season when both sides were flying high - the hosts in currently sit in 12th position and the visitors in 15th.

While Celta rallied after three defeats and a draw in their opening four games with four straight wins before last Sunday's crushing defeat at Villarreal, Deportivo have only won a solitary match since the opening weekend.

Both sides were scoring for fun twelve months ago, and although Celta stuck four past Barcelona in their last home outing, they've only managed five in their other seven matches.

Depor's record is even worse with neither of the newly arrived pair of Florin Andone and Copa Libertadores winner - and player of the tournament - Marlos Moreno finding the net in a campaign where they've netted just five in total to date.

Of course, it was always going to be hard replacing Lucas Perez's threat up front in any event, the local lad departing for Arsenal late in the summer window.

Gaizka Garitano, the miracle-working former Eibar boss has been criticised for his side's lack of an attacking strategy but to his credit, he's run a tight ship at the other end and despite being hit for four at Camp Nou last week they've conceded the joint fewest goals in the bottom half of the table; indeed two fewer than third-placed Sevilla.

They make the journey south without captain and defensive lynchpin Sidnei, who's agreed a new deal in principle with the club this week, and they also are without regular starter Juanfran.

Celta signalled their priorities by resting a whole raft of players for Thursday's Europa League clash with Ajax.

They had to come behind twice against the Dutch side, with Fabian Orellana coming off the bench to strike a stunning equaliser late on in a game where they possibly edged the play overall.

The familiar defensive shortcomings were there to see as both the Amsterdam side's goals could well have been avoided, Facundo Roncaglia in particular guilty of standing off his man for the second.

Iago Aspas, a Vigo native who's no stranger to controversy in this fixture - his foolish sending off in April 2013 at Riazor looked to doom Celta and keep Depor up - stoked the flames on Friday. 

"You've got to say we're the favourites," he said to gathered media.

He also intimated that their league position, and the fact that Celta have had to rotate as they fight on two fronts proves they are the better side.

"I expect it to be an intense game and they'll probably sit back once more, in recent years they've struggled to get on the ball against us," he concluded.

His words were put to Depor full-back Fernando Navarro, who refused to be drawn on the matter.

"Well if he thinks they're favourites, that's his business," he huffed.

Navarro did note that Depor have suffered from refereeing decisions this term too. 

"Maybe our luck will change this weekend and we'll start being treated like other sides have been treated against us."


18 July 2016

Pokemon Goal!

Finnish team celebrate goal by searching for Pokemon

My piece for MARCA

Two of the world's most popular games cross paths

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and now the latest craze has spread to football, with a team in the Finnish league deciding to celebrate by looking for Pokemon.

The Nintendo augmented reality game has officially arrived to the world of sport.

Players for Finnish side Rovaniemen celebrated a goal by pretending to catch one of those elusive beasts.


Negredo reaches agreement with Middlesbrough

Forward will not travel with rest of Che squad to Holland

My piece for MARCA

Alvaro Negredo will not be a Valencia player much longer after he was omitted from the travelling group for their training camp in the Netherlands to complete his move to newly-promoted Premier League side Middlesbrough.

The former Sevilla and Manchester City striker has agreed to terms with the club managed by Aitor Karanka and is now due to travel to the Northeast of England to undergo a medical.

After a decent opening season, the forward has found himself surplus to requirements at Mestalla and the club are satisfied with Boro's 6 million euro offer.

Also not travelling with the squad is the Argentine Rodrigo De Paul who, having spent the second half of last season on loan to Racing Club back home, does not figure in coach Pako Ayestaran's plans for the coming season.


Former players praise Del Bosque in new book

UEFA dedicates chapter to iconic Spanish coach

My piece for MARCA

In a new book called 'The Greatest Coaches in History' published by UEFA, the former Spain and Real Madrid boss Vicente Del Bosque is profiled in the final chapter.

The chapter notes his ability to bring the best out of exceptional talents to mould them into exceptional teams, and includes glowing words from several players who've played under the recently departed Spain manager.

Steve McManaman, who won two Champions Leagues under his tutelage at Real, said that there should be statues in his honour in every town in Spain.

"We reached seventh heaven on July 12 2010," said Iker Casillas, referring to the World Cup final in South Africa.

"He was equally calm in the difficult times and the moments of glory, he helped all the players and the fans.”

Xavi also spoke about the man behind the public persona.

"He's the most human person I've ever come across in a dressing room and the world of football.”

The Brazilian Ronaldo only played a single year under him, but was no less effusive in his praise.

"I think he's the coach who understood me the best," he said.

"All the players loved him because he did what needed to be done with the least amount of fuss."


Real Madrid close in on Andre Gomes

Valencia star seen as heir to Modric

My piece for MARCA

From the moment Euro 2016 came to an end, Real Madrid have been working hard to make Valencia's Andre Gomes a Blancos player.

Los Che had been hoping to hold for a transfer fee of around €65 million but the Champions League holders hope to tie up the midfielder for closer to €50m up front with around €5-€10m in performance related extras.

Injuries hampered Gomes' progress last season but the midfielder is nonetheless on the radar of many top clubs, including Juventus, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Chelsea.

He is considered by both the coach Zinedine Zidane and club chiefs to be the perfect alternative to Luka Modric, who the club have struggled to replace when absent in the past and - with the Croat due to turn 31 soon - his long-term heir in the starting XI.

Indeed, Madrid tried to secure the player last summer but were bluntly dismissed when Valencia's response was that no discussions would take place until an offer of €80m was on the table.

Their financial situation is somewhat more precarious now given that Los Che are currently out of European football, but still have to keep in mind financial fair play restrictions as their primary aim is a return to continental competition.

Furthermore, the player is thought to be keen to move up in the world, both in terms of sport and finance, which Valencia are unable to satisfy at present.

Real hope that the relationship between the two clubs - with Valencia owner Peter Lim and Blancos president Florentino Perez both on good terms - will help smooth the passage of any deal to bring the midfielder to the Spanish capital this summer.


Ex-Real defender Cicinho talks of booze obsession

Confesses to seeing Jesus Christ while drunk and alcoholism

My piece for MARCA

In an interview due to be published later this week, the former Real Madrid and Roma wing-back Cicinho has laid bare the full extent of his battles with alcohol.

Now plying his trade with Sivasspor in Turkey the player was also critical of the current generation of players in the national side.

"The worse things got, the more I would drink," he told EPSN Brasil.”

I couldn't just stop at one or two, I'd have to drink until I collapsed."The 36 year old describes the events of one particularly heavy day's drinking.

"I had an encounter with Jesus one time after knocking back 18 caipirinhas and 14 beers," he said.

He also confessed to being less than impressed with his successors in the Brazil team following their group stage exit in this years Copa America.

"Today all they seem to care about is taking selfies, there were even players asking not be picked for the Copa."


17 July 2016

Umtiti pens open letter following Lyon exit

Sign promising defender from Ligue 1 outfit

My piece for MARCA

Making sure not to forget the debt of gratitude he owes to his former employers Lyon, Samuel Umtiti has published a letter to thank everyone back at the French club.

Barcelona have signed the Frenchman who spent 14 years with Les Gones.

"At the age of 22 and for the first time in my life, it's time for me to say goodbye," he wrote on Twitter. "What does that mean? We normally say goodbye when we take a break from something, but that is not the case here.

"I'm not turning my back on Lyon, erasing 14 years of my life, nor am I turning my back on my home; I'm taking all that with me. Lyon is a feeling, it's humility, it's hard work... It's my family.

"I might be moving away geographically but I will never be gone. I'm like that son going out into the world to make his dreams come true, but always in the hope of returning home some day.

"I have so much gratitude and I don't want this message to appear to be a mere platitude. I want to express this gratitude with dedication and sincerity.

"I want to thank Regis Molouba for believing in me. Thanks to Cyril Dolce, Armand Garrido, and Bruno Genesio for helping me through the ranks. Thanks to Remi Garde for giving me my first break in the senior team, all of these people have helped me throughout my career at Olympique.

"My thanks also to Jean-Michel Aulas, who has trusted me and always pushed me to go forward.

"Thanks to everyone who helped me succeed. The coaches, staff and administrators. I would like to thank all the players I worked with at Lyon, with whom I shared the pleasures of hard work and victory. Also CARRE 5, my agents, who have always been there for me.

"I will never forget the fans of Lyon and their encouragement at the Gerland, and off the field too.

"And finally, thanks to my mother, who has been my biggest supporter. Thanks to you, I learned how to become a professional footballer.

"Now it's my turn to live up to everything you have given me."


Menotti: Messi-less Argentina may miss out on World Cup

World Cup winner fears Albiceleste will fail to qualify for Russia 2018

Argentina's 1978 World Cup winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti has never been one to mince his words and the 77-year-old believes his countrymen face an uphill task to even qualify for the next World Cup.

Major problems within the Argentine Football Federation are said to be a major contributor to Lionel Messi's premature retirement from international football.

"There are only five teams going from South America and without Lionel Messi [Argentina] run the risk of missing out," Menotti told La Nacion.

"Maybe we need to start preparing for Qatar in 2022.

"Argentina have had to parachute in Julio Olarticoechea to take charge of the Olympic team next month following Gerardo Martino's resignation, and Menotti was strident in his defence of the former Barcelona and Paraguay boss.

"I wouldn't give [Martino] any rubbish for quitting," said the ex-coach, "he and his staff weren't paid for months, so no wonder he went crazy!”

"He was right to go.”

The veteran also discounted the possibility of Marcelo Bielsa returning to take the helm after his move to Lazio collapsed last week.

"There was some speculation that [the Lazio job] fell apart because he wanted to come back here, but that happened because Lazio went back on their promises," stated Menotti.

"I don't think he's interested in the job.”

Diego Maradona has been a strong advocate for change in Argentina, although Menotti is less keen on the former attacker's outspoken outbursts.

"I don't really like to see this sort of thing," said the Rosario-native.

"I had to put up with guys like this too who I didn't like to listen to, like Diego Passarella and Americo Gallego."


Diego Costa making mischief in pre-season

Rapid Vienna take on high-tempered striker

My piece for MARCA

It may only have been the first game of pre-season for Chelsea but already Diego Costa has had his first run-in with an opponent.

The Spain striker is no shrinking violet and his forceful character was on show as he lost his rag with a Rapid Vienna player who he felt had impeded him.

Chelsea ultimately went down 2-0 in Austria in the first game of Antonio Conte's reign.


Benzema keeping fit to the beat

Frenchman filmed skipping in his garden

My piece in MARCA

With pre-season underway Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is maintaining his athelticism in a markedly relaxed manner.

In this video he shared online, the Frenchman is skipping to the beat of a rap song in his garden, perhaps proving fitness can be cool.


Atletico Madrid betting future on six wonderkids

Nicolas Schiappacasse joining hungry, young squad

My piece for MARCA

With a FIFA transfer ban looking imminent, Atletico Madrid have been keen to boost their ranks by bringing in younger players who can be schooled in the ways of Diego Simeone.

Currently in town is the Uruguayan youngster Nicolas Schiappacasse who is not officially an Atletico player yet, but has just arrived from hometown team Club Atletico River Plate with their permission while Los Colchoneros process the deal. It's expected to be sorted soon, and his new Argentine boss is looking forward to running the rule over the 17-year-old.

Getting in players at such a young age allows them to assimilate to the hard work and dedication ethics required by Atleti and this is very much the case with 20-year-old Santos Borre, and a recent signing from Pacos de Ferreira, 19-year-old Diego Jota, an explosive talent who excelled in Portugal last season.

Last January the club moved to bring in Matias Kranevitter from River Plate and the promising midfielder has gone on a season-long loan to Sevilla to get more first-team football.

Then there's the 21-year-old Ghanaian midfielder Bernard Mensah, who went out on loan to Getafe last season and is now training with the senior squad.

Atletico are also looking into signing the 20-year-old Argentine goalkeeper Axel Werner from Atletico de Rafaela, following a common rule of signing young keepers. Jan Oblak was only a year older when he signed for the club and of course David De Gea was already well-established at that age.

Already in Madrid to add to these six starlets are Angel Correa, who eventually signed up at age 19 having been derailed with a heart issue, and José Giménez, who arrived at 18 and has proved himself to be an exceptional talent since getting consistent first-team opportunities.


16 July 2016

Mourinho wins first game in charge of Manchester United

Mkhitaryan and Mata star

My piece for MARCA

Manchester United got off to a promising start in the Jose Mourinho era as they romped to a routine 2-0 win away to Wigan Athletic.

The Red Devils' ranks were heavily depleted with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, David De Gea and Marcus Rashford all still on extended break after European Championship duty, but second-half goals from Will Keane and Andreas Pereira were enough to see them emerge victorious.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was fresh from an outstanding campaign with Borussia Dortmund, where he hit 23 goals and laid on a further 32, and fellow new boy Eric Bailly started in the heart of the defence.

Defence was the limit of the ambitions of their opponents, recently promoted to the Championship, and United were left to dominate possession but couldn't find a way through before the interval.

Juan Mata entered at half-time and made an instant impact, seizing upon a misplaced pass to tee up Keane who opened the scoring in the 49th minute and ten minutes later Pereira doubled the lead.

Naturally Mourinho chose to ring in the changes as the game progressed but Spaniard Ander Herrera still enjoyed 80 minutes in central midfield, with Memphis Depay and Daley Blind - the latter linked with a move away - both playing from the start.


Zidane announces squad for North American tour

25 players selected for Canadian trip

My piece for MARCA

Ahead of their journey to Canada on Sunday, Real Madrid have announced the list of players making the trip for the International Champions Cup in North America.

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have been excused after the European Championship, but Marco Asenio and Castilla's Mariano and Martin Odegaard all made the cut.

Madrid will face Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in the summer tournament before returning to Europe to face Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup on August 9.

Keylor Navas, who is still recovering for surgery, is also part of the group.


Goalkeepers: Navas, Casilla, Yáñez, Craninx, Luca

Defenders: Varane, Danilo, Carvajal, Marcelo, Nacho, Lienhart, Tejero, Achraf

Midfielders: Casemiro, Isco, Kovacic, Llorente, Asensio, Odegaard, Enzo, Febas

Forwards: Benzema, Jese, Mariano, Mayoral


Stade de Reims invited for Real Madrid's Trofeo Bernabeu

August match will celebrate European Cup final anniversary

My piece in MARCA

Real Madrid have decided to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their maiden win in the European Cup by inviting the side they beat in the final all those years ago, Stade de Reims, to compete in the annual Trofeo Bernabeu fixture.

The game is set to take place on August 16, a week after Madrid's season officially gets underway against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, and four days before Los Merengues start their La Liga campaign against Real Sociedad.

Madrid feel the match is a fitting way to mark the occasion of their first success having claimed their eleventh European Cup crown as recently as May.

However, it's also an acceptance of the fact that the calendar can often make it difficult to attract top calibre opponents for this traditional curtain-raiser.

Reims dropped in to the French second division last term, and in 2014 Los Blancos chose to invite Alfredo di Stefano's former club Millonarios having played Raul's Al-Sadd the year before.

Real Madrid set off on their North American tour on Sunday and have already had to cancel a planned friendly against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley due to a clash with the UEFA Super Cup.


Isco to talk to Zidane over future

Playmaker remains minded to fight for spot in XI

My piece for MARCA

The recent headlines at Real Madrid have tended to centre around the future of James Rodriguez but Isco is another talented No. 10 with no defined role within the team at present.

The former Malaga man is popular with the supporters, something which is valued at the club hierarchy, and intends to stay and fight for his place as he enters his fourth season at Los Blancos.

He's due to have a chat with manager Zinedine Zidane about his prospects for the coming campaign and his future may hinge upon their outcome.

Unlike the Colombian, the Spaniard did see game time as a substitute during the Champions League final, and made an impressive impact after entering the pitch.

Excluding the front three, there are no guaranteed starters at Madrid and many clubs will be eagerly monitoring developments in the player's situation.


Sevilla confirm Ganso signing

Playmaker arrives on five-year deal

My piece for MARCA

n Saturday afternoon, Sevilla finally gave official confirmation of the signing of Brazilian playmaker Paulo Henrique Ganso following Sao Paulo's elimination from the Copa Libertadores during the week.

A previous winner of that same competition alongside Neymar at Santos in 2011, Ganso arrives at the Andalusian club on a five year contract for a total fee of 10 million to be divided up between the club and the sports investment fund DIS.

The Brazilian was signed after the express request of new coach Jorge Sampaoli and has been capped eight times by Brazil as well as featuring for the Olympic team which finished runner-up to Mexico in 2012 in London.

He missed his side's midweek defeat to Colombia's Atletico Nacional in the semi-finals of South America's premier club competition due to a thigh strain, but his medical and signature are expected to be mere formalities at this stage.

The attacking midfielder registered 24 goals and 49 assists during his 221 games at Sao Paulo, who he joined in 2012.


Rapid Vienna spoil Conte's debut as Chelsea boss

Blues fall 2-0 in Austria

My piece in MARCA

It was an afternoon to forget for Chelsea on Saturday as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna in the first game of Antonio Conte's tenure at the club.

Granted, it wasn't a full-strength XI for the Blues, but they still had the likes of Diego Costa, Willian, Nemanja Matic and John Terry in the starting line-up and would have been expected to fare better against such opponents.

They fell behind to a 19th minute goal from Joelinton and Conte's side couldn't get back in to the game, the result ultimately being sealed by Tomas Correa's strike seven minutes from time.


Barcelona legends Puyol, Abidal and Deco safe after leaving Turkey

Players had been scheduled to play charity match before coup broke out

My piece in MARCA

Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal, and Deco are all back in Barcelona again having been stranded in Turkey ahead of a charity match organised by Samuel Eto'o when Friday's coup d'etat broke out.

The game was cancelled and at 18:00 on Saturday the trio landed at Barcelona's El Prat airport with friends and family who had joined them on their trip, with the game having naturally been called off.

Puyol insisted that they'd remained "safe and calm" despite the ordeal of being caught up in the strife, and sent his best regards to Eto'o on social media.


Allegri would welcome Higuain at Juventus

Striker also sought by Atletico and Arsenal

My piece for MARCA

Asked about the possibility of signing Gonzalo Higuain this summer, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri made it clear that he's a big admirer of the Napoli striker.

Following the return of Alvaro Morata to Real Madrid, the Italian champions are in the market for a No. 9, and after scoring a record 36 times in Serie A last season there are few hotter properties around.

"Great players are always welcome," Allegri told reporters.

"To compete at the highest level it's always good to have real winners like him.”

Napoli have insisted that they won't sell Higuain for anything less than his €94 million release clause.

But with the 28-year-old having indicated that he won't be renewing his contract - which expires in two years time - speculation has mounted over the future of a player who is also on the radar of Atletico Madrid and Arsenal.


Alexis Sanchez: Messi is entitled to quit Argentina

Chile have beaten Argentina in successive Copa America finals

My piece for MARCA

Lionel Messi has every right to retire from international football according to his former Barcelona teammate Alexis Sanchez.

Fresh from Copa America Centenario success where his Chile side beat Messi's Argentina on penalties for a second-straight title, the winger is recuperating from a knock he picked up during the final, in his hometown of Tocopilla.

"He's entitled to [quit], it's within his rights," he said during an interview with El Mercurio.

"I'm delighted to have played alongside him.”

Sanchez has been a reported transfer target for Juventus this summer but preferred to talk about his fitness and domestic matters, saying that he supported the proposed players' strike in the Chilean league.

"They have every right to do so," Sanchez maintained.

While back home he's been busy organising a tournament for youngsters and feels happy to give something back to his people.

"They should enjoy their football and not get mixed up in other bad stuff, like alcohol," he concluded.


15 July 2016

FIFA to uphold Madrid clubs' transfer bans

Real and Atletico's fight turns to CAS

My piece for MARCA

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is likely to be the next port of call for both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid regarding their respective transfer bans imposed by FIFA, whose appeals committee are set to reject the duo's overtures.

Both sides appealed the initial verdict but are far from optimistic in seeing it reversed - or even downgraded to one from the current two transfer windows - given that such a move would be unprecedented from the world governing body, and are already gearing up to take their appeal to the highest court in the shape of CAS.

Once FIFA issue their verdict, the appeal to the Switzerland-Based CAS must be filed within a maximum of five days.

Should that ultimate appeal be lodged, the case could be extended by anywhere up to six months, leaving both clubs free to continue adding to their ranks during the current period and possibly the January window as well.

Handed the punishment for allegedly signing 39 youth players illegally, including the children of coach Zinedine Zidane, Los Blancos maintains their compliance with Spanish law.


Villarreal swoop for Marcos Rojo

Manchester United defender not in Mourinho's plans

As a slew of Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes recruits are earmarked for the exit door at Old Trafford, Champions League returnees Villarreal could be tempted to make a move for Marcos Rojo.

The Yellow Submarine are reported to be looking to strengthen their defensive line and given that the former Sporting Lisbon is capable of slotting in at centre-back as well as left-back, both areas the club have been looking to fill, he would appear to fit the bill.

With Eric Bailly having moved the opposite direction earlier this summer Rojo, who has been capped 49 times for Argentina and has made 53 appearances in his two seasons at the Red Devils, is apparently surplus to requirements.

However, there is a potential stumbling block to any deal being agreed, as the English side want to recoup a sizeable portion of the €20 million they forked out for the defender two summers ago.

However, with the player under contract for another three years they may be willing to contemplate a loan move to shift him off the wage bill and place him in the shop window.


James Rodriguez tempted by Premier League switch

Starring role with Man United could induce Colombian

My piece for MARCA 

Premier League offers and a subdued role in the capital are pushing James Rodriguez closer to the Real Madrid exit door.

Thoughts of a departure didn't appear to be on the Colombian's mind even a few short weeks ago, but should anyone match James' €80 million price tag it would be up to the player to decide on his future, having dropped down the Los Blancos pecking order.

Such a fee would clearly limit the number of potential destinations, except for cash-rich clubs such as Jose Mourinho's Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and even West Ham United, who are considering a bid. However, no club has surpassed an offer of €60m at this point.

James is understandably unsure as to whether he can force his way back in to manager Zinedine Zidane's plans and was disappointed not to see action for a single minute in the Champions League final as Madrid claimed their Undecima European title.

Having plenty of time to muse over his future, Rodriguez enters pre-season following a fine showing for his national side at the Copa America Centenario and would surely relish figuring in a team where he could feel of similar importance, something that may be hard to envisage at his current club.

But on the other hand, the attacking midfielder has come to identify himself with Real Madrid and is happily settled with life in the city; the problem remains though that he is no longer an undisputed starter.

Kicking off his own pre-season on July 26, Rodriguez is putting in solid gym time to be prepared physically for 2016/17, however it is complete mental and psychological commitment that both the coach and president desire for Real, which could be the deciding factor in allowing the Colombian to leave.


MARCA tests Cristiano Ronaldo's oxygen therapy

Winger has been using chamber to beat knee injury

My piece for MARCA

Cristiano Ronaldo may be holidaying in Ibiza, but his fitness is still paramount as he undergoes an innovative oxygen therapy technique that MARCA had to try out.

Rest and relaxation may be the order of the day after a long season, but even in the mediterranean idyll the attacker's undergoing regular sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to speed up recovery in the knee injury he picked up in the Euro 2016 final.

MARCA visited a clinic in Madrid offering this treatment to find out what it's all about.

HBOT is a method of healing injuries based around elevated oxygen levels that's becoming increasingly popular with elite athletes.

All of this takes placed in a specially designed chamber containing pure oxygen delivered at an elevated atmospheric level.

Once the patient enters the chamber, the oxygen is fed through and the increased pressure becomes noticeable in the ears, with a noticeable noise increase.

When MARCA visited the Ulcemed clinic our journalist was treated to the Valsalva manoeuvre which involves forced exhalation while having the mouth and nose covered, creating a sensation akin to diving or blowing up a balloon.

Its benefits are theoretically numerous and include muscle tissue repair, enhanced collagen production, and the combatting of harmful pathogens, all of which put together leads to an acceleration in the body's natural healing processes.


14 July 2016

Neymar case prosecutor demands fresh verdict

Original case saw no personal criminal culpability

My piece for MARCA

The verdict arrived at in the second Neymar case by Judge Jose de la Mata has been roundly criticised by prosecutor Jose Perals who feels there was criminal wrongdoing and has asked for the verdict to be revisited.

No personal criminal culpability was assigned in the verdict issued in this case, although the club took responsibility and paid a small fine.

Perals alleges fraud on behalf of the club on the basis that they left the Brazilian sports investment fund DIS, who owned part of the player's rights, out of pocket. 

He even goes so far as to say that Real Madrid topped the Catalan club's offer for the forward but that a €40 million payment to Neymar proved decisive and, as a result, the player's previous club Santos also lost out on a better price.

Perals went on to say the club 'patently' failed to abide by FIFA rules and criticised the judge's acceptance that €17.1m represented the market value for the player when Real Madrid had tabled an offer in excess of double that amount.

Criticising the opaque nature of the contracts involved in securing the deal, Perals highlighted one such detail with Santos to secure the future rights to three players and the organising of a friendly match between the two clubs.

A secret document kept by Barcelona - "intentionally hidden and casually found" - has also been suggested by the prosecutor as showing that DIS were swindled in the deal.

Judge de la Mata had previously ordered the case closed on the July 8 but it would appear that the headache is far from over as far as Barcelona are concerned.


Froome: Team car was minutes behind, I had to run

Yellow jersey retained after chaotic scenes

My piece in MARCA

controversial collision with a motorcycle, Team Sky's British rider Chris Froome remains in possession of the yellow jersey following the latest stage of this year's Tour de France.

The Brit crashed just one kilometre short of the end of the stage in Provence and looked to have lost the overall lead but was eventually reinstated at the head of the field with a 47 second advantage.

"Ventoux is full of surprises, just before the end we hit a motorcycle and another behind then broke my bike," the rider recounted.

"I knew the team car was several minutes behind me so I had to make a run for it.

"But I'm grateful for the verdict of the stewards, it was the right call."