Cultured Football #148
Xavi Throwing the Towel. A Team Without a Keeper. Living in a Xabi Wonderland. Mali Talent. Birth of the Super League
By Robbie Dunne for The Analyst
It wasn’t that long ago that Xavi came in at Barcelona hit the reset button. With a side built around fresh talent from La Masia and playing the traditional attractive football, he put them on the path to success much faster than anyone expected, winning La Liga in his first full season. That brilliant season has been followed up by a rather dismal second one where nothing that Xavi tries seems to work out as he, like many of Pep’s heirs, is finding it hard to maintain excellence with so many difficulties within the club. That he decided to step down, before being pushed, came as a surprise to very few.
A lengthy ban is the least you would expect if a player was to kick a referee. But in the early 80s the owner of FC Girondins de Bordeaux did not see it that way.
By Abel Meszaros for Sporting Life
For those of a certain age (i.e. dinosaurs like me) thoughts about Bayer Leverkusen immediately turn to the 2002 season when they lost the league on the final day of the season as well as the finals of the Champions League and German cup. The current side so admirably elevated from mediocrity by Xabi Alonso do not seem to be students of history, though. Instead they have a mixture of art and steeliness that have seen them win most of their games (some in pretty dramatic fashion) and drawn the others. Could this be the season where they rip up the history books and win it all?
Bonus Pick: The man who took Leverkusen so close to glory in 2002 was Klaus Toppmoller. His son Dino (named after Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff) is now also a manager doing interesting things at Eintracht Frankfurt.
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By Bence Bocsak
Jean-Marc Guillou was one of the first to see the potential in African football, backing that belief by establishing an academy in the Ivory Coast that ended up producing a golden generation of players. He has followed up on that by doing the same in Mali whose relative success in the latest African Cup of Nations (they reached their first quarter-final in over a decade before losing, ironically, to Ivory Coast) is built around a group of talented young players developed at Guillou's academy. It is difficult not to be impressed by what he has done, which is what this piece focuses on. For all that success, however, does it justify some of the archaic methods like forcing young players to play barefoot?
Bonus Pick: Back in 2013, Sunday Mba emerged from obscurity to score vital goals that delivered the African Cup of Nations to Nigeria. He seemed set for stardom, or at least a shot in Europe, but that never really happened due to the greed of those trying to capitalise on his talent.
Silvio Berlusconi, the Super League and me: How a visionary English ad exec created the blueprint that changed European football
By Frank Dalleres for City A.M.
It might not be something worthy of bragging about given what it has come to represent, but it is also the truth. Alex Fynn was probably the first person to talk about the formation of a European Super League featuring the continent's biggest sides. Whether anything would have happened had Silvio Berlusconi not heard of the idea is more doubtful. As it was, however, Fynn's idea went to change the face of European football and might keep on doing so. A fascinating interview.
Every Saturday, Cultured Football brings you five great football articles you should be reading.
Last Week’s Most Read: Here's who Liverpool should hire to replace Klopp as coach
By Ryan O'Hanlon for ESPN
Jurgen Klopp’s resignation was sufficiently seismic news that articles are still being written well after the news broke. Most of whom seem to be focusing on how Liverpool will ever manage to replace their irreplaceable coach.