Cultured Football #144
By Chris Reidy and Conor O'Neill for SkySports
Those of us who have been following English football for a bit know just how much the game and attitudes of those within it have changed. For those who have not, then Howard Wilkinson talking about how Leeds United got to sign club legend Lucas Radebe should provide an indication: “Geoff [Sleight, the then Leeds Chief Scout] was there to see Phil Masinga but he was told the best player in South Africa was currently injured. Lucas Radebe. We watched Masinga. But couldn't watch Radebe because he was injured. But based on Geoff’s conversations out there we took them both." The idea of the whole internet - let alone a club - not knowing of player seems preposterous today yet that’s how it was back then. Wilkinson is often derided but him taking a gamble on Radebe shows just how much of an experimenter he was. And it also shows how far African football has come. This brilliant three part series details that journey one decade at a time. Fantastic writing and storytelling; a must read.
Bonus Picks: Plenty of other great pieces on the African Cup of Nations including Tor-Kristian Karlsen picking the lesser known players who might star in this edition and this Twitter thread by Non League Shop on players called up for the competition who currently play non-league football.
By Luke Bissett for The Analyst
It has been decades since Bologna enjoyed a season as good as the one the current one. Much of that is down to coach Thiago Motta who has overcome early skepticism over his ideas and transformed a side of perennial strugglers into Champions League qualification challengers whilst making some of their players among the most wanted in Europe. Not bad for a coach who dreams of playing a 2-7-2 formation (and it isn’t as crazy as you might think).
By Neel Shelat for FotMob
It is a mark of the region's ever increasing talent pool that the Asian Cup will be depriving top clubs across Europe of key players. Yet, in spite of all this, the competition remains unknown outside the main contenders of Japan and South Korea. So, if you want to get the lowdown on how not only the big guns but also the likes of Tajikistan, Honk Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia are shaping up, this is where you'll find it.
Bonus Pick: Well, not a pick really but a Twitter thread by Ben Bocsak with the most promising players in the competition.
Every Saturday, Cultured Football brings you five great football articles you should be reading.
By Haris Nikolaidis for Terrace Edition
AEK Athens, a phoenix rising from adversity, endured the loss of their iconic stadium, danced on the precipice of financial ruin, and tasted the bitterness of relegation. Yet, against all odds, the indomitable spirit of the team prevailed. Rising from the ashes, AEK orchestrated a remarkable comeback, defying skeptics and reclaiming their glory in the 2023 Greek Super League. The journey wasn't merely a conquest of matches but a testament to resilience, unity, and unyielding determination. The triumphant return symbolized more than victory on the field; it embodied the unwavering spirit that defines true champions, etching AEK's name in the annals of Greek football history.
By Andy Brassel for The Guardian
Franz Beckenbauer, THE libero of football's golden era, not only defined an epoch as a player but signaled the birth of a lasting legacy. His influence transcended the pitch, shaping the sport's trajectory beyond his playing days. Beckenbauer's impact echoed far beyond the field (he was the man who insisted that Germany wore the now iconic shirts in the 1990 World Cup), etching his name as an architect of football's evolution, ensuring his enduring legacy in the beautiful game.
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Last Week’s Most Read: How Wataru Endo Became One of Liverpool’s Most Important Players
By David Segar for The Analyst
Speaking of value, Liverpool certainly found theirs when they brought in Wataru Endo for £16.5 million. After a slow start, the Japanese midfielder became a fixture for Jurgen Klopp so much that his departure for the Asian Cup is now seen by fans as a big blow. As Klopp himself admitted “he’s an exceptional player”.