venerdì 31 agosto 2012

Maghrebian Messi Oussama Assaidi perfectly suited to Liverpool impact

Comparing a player to Lionel Messi is not the best way to introduce a budding star, setting him up, as it inevitably does, for relative failure. However, for those who have followed new Liverpool signing Oussama Assaidi during his last two seasons at Heerenveen, it is unquestionable that there is a similarity between the Moroccan winger and Ballon d’Or holder Messi. Like the Barcelona icon, Assaidi is very fast with the ball at his feet and has impressive dribbling ability that allows him to quickly change direction, switch feet and turn opponents to create space or get past his man.

Though Assaidi is a Messi-style player, this does not mean that he has the potential to reach the heights scaled by the Argentine phenomenon. The Moroccan is more a winger than a striker, still needs to develop physically and cool his temperament a little. Assaidi is not the easiest player to coach and can in this way be compared with new team-mate Luis Suarez.

 “Assaidi is extremely gifted”, said Jan de Jonge, the man behind the Moroccan’s breakthrough in the Eredivisie. “However, sometimes talent is not enough to survive in a tough competition like the Premier League. Oussama must keep working on his physical attributes and show the right mental attitude.”

The Moroccan will fit perfectly into new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers’ tactical approach. His “if you do not have the ball you cannot score” philosophy needs highly creative and technically gifted players on the flanks who have flair and can change the pace of the game in a second. A footballing approach which is not far off that Assaidi learned at Heerenveen.

The Frisian club are widely known for their attractive attacking football, as the 2011/12 season showed. Heerenveen ended the Eredivisie in fifth spot with 79 goals scored, finishing in the Europa League zone after being firmly in the title race until March. For the side, a superb attacking line was the driving force: Assaidi on the left (despite being right footed), Luciano Narsingh on the right and Bas Dost in the middle. Dost ended the Eredivisie campaign as top scorer with 32 goals, with most being put on a plate by Narsingh and Assaidi. Liverpool’s new number 11 finished as Heerenveen’s second-highest scorer with ten goals. And this despite missing a number of games due to back and Achilles tendon problems.

Before joining Liverpool, the 24-year-old was close to signing for Ajax. The deal faltered though as Assaidi was not happy with the salary on offer at the Amsterdam ArenA. Moving from Heerenveen to Amsterdam would have been a homecoming for the Morocco international, as he grew up in the city, playing football on its streets. In a quirk of fate, one of his playmates then, Narsingh, would later become his team-mate at Heerenveen.

Born on 15th August 1988, in Beni-Boughafer, a village in northern Morocco, Assaidi moved to Holland at the age of four. He took his first steps into football at local Amsterdam side Zeeburgia before joining AZ Alkmaar’s academy. After three years though, AZ showed the youngster the door for poor performance at school and a troublesome attitude. In the summer of 2006, Assaidi began his professional career at FC Omniworld in the Eerste Divisie (Holland’s second tier), then was scouted by former De Graafschaap coach Jan de Jonge, who brought him up to the Eredivisie. The winger spent just one year with the Superboeren, who had in the meantime been relegated, and moved to Heerenveen on the last day of the 2008/09 summer transfer window, having scored five goals in five games in the Eerste Divisie.

Once in Friesland, Assaidi joined forced once again with De Jonge, who this time worked as an assistant coach. The speedy winger’s glory day came on 12th December 2010, when he led Heerenveen to a crushing 6-2 win over Twente, scoring a hat-trick, delivering two assists and winning a penalty. After the match, the Dutch press labelled Assaidi the “Maghrebian Messi”. Two months later, he made his debut for Morocco, despite being eligible to play for Holland.

“Rodgers convinced me to choose Liverpool”, said Assaidi in his first interview on English soil. “How he wants to play is the way I like to. We both want to play football.” The Moroccan’s skills could dovetail with other versatile players such as Suarez and Fabio Borini, especially in a 4-3-3 system. However, the Reds need time to adapt to such a radical tactical change. And Assaidi needs to settle in the Premier League. How long will Liverpool fans give the team and their new Moroccan signing to produce results? For Assaidi, this could be the difference between success and failure.

lunedì 27 agosto 2012

Sion hit gold with Gennaro Gattuso capture

It took about a month for Gennaro Gattuso to become Swiss side Sion’s key player and at the same time demonstrate that he did not sign up with president Christian Constantin’s side for a long-term holiday amongst the vineyards and valleys of the Canton Valais. With his unmistakable style of play, marked by tough tackling and a never-say-die attitude, Gattuso is the undisputed leader of a pack aiming to break Basel’s dominance of Swiss football.

At the time of writing Sion are topping the Swiss Super League, having collected 16 points from seven games, with five of those clashes resulting in victories. Coach Sebastien Fournier has so far put substance over style, as Sion rarely play spectacular football. The team does not lack for technically gifted players though, such as attacking midfielder Xavier Margairaz and number 10 Oussama Darragi, the latter having been nicknamed the “Tunisian Riquelme”. However, Sion appear to have been created in Gattuso’s image - and that means a side with a tough, battling spirit founded on hard work.

“It is not easy to go from the Champions League to the Swiss championship”, said Fournier, speaking about Gattuso. “It is a question of motivation. A top player usually thinks that, as the level of football in Switzerland is 50% lower than in the top competitions, giving 50% could be enough to make the difference. It doesn’t work this way. Since the first day Gattuso joined us he has shown an extremely professional attitude”.

Team-mates quickly learned to recognise the famous “Ringhio” (growl in Italian). During the club’s training camp at Saint Prex, a small town along Lake Geneva, Sion were beaten 2-0 by Lausanne in a friendly, the first played with Gattuso in the starting eleven. “He went off the pitch looking so angry that in the dressing room nobody dared to say anything to him”, recalls Swiss journalist Pier Luigi Giganti. “He could not stand losing and he did not care that it was a
simple friendly. The day after that match, all the supporters were mad about him”.

Gattuso himself is full of genuine enthusiasm when he speaks about his new adventure. “The only person who was upset when I chose to join Sion was my wife because that meant she had to go on holiday with the children by herself”, said the Italian midfielder. “Obviously, here in Switzerland it is a world apart from when I was at Milan. At Sion I have to clean my own football boots and switch the studs myself. And when I wear an ankle bandage, all eyes are on me because the bandages are expensive and Sion take care of their money. Every day there is a new challenge here. After 13 years with Milan the time was right to look for something new”.

The midfielder is the household name Sion president Constantin needed to push forward his ambition to make his team a top Swiss club. In the past the president has brought other internationals to the Canton Valais, such as Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, Belgian striker Emile Mpenza and former Barcelona midfielder Gabri. But with Gattuso he has excelled himself, signing one of the finest defensive midfielders of the last decade and a World Cup winner to boot.

“Swiss football desperately needed to hit the headlines for positive reasons after seeing its credibility fall below zero last year due to Neuchatel Xamax and Sion”, said another Swiss journalist, Paolo Galli. “Xamax were led to bankruptcy by businessman Bulat Chagaev, while Sion were excluded from European competition for fielding ineligible players in a game and lost their legal battle against the Swiss FA and UEFA, with a 36-point deduction which almost led them to ruin. The Super League needed a breath of fresh air. This time Constantin has done something good for our football’s image abroad”.

Since architect Constantin bought Sion in 2003, the club have won the Swiss Cup three times, but always failed to collect what would be their third national title, after 1992 and 1997. Constantin chopped and changed coaches, appointing an astonishing 24 in ten years, but perhaps now he has settled on the right man to lead Sion back to the top. That man though does not sit on the bench, but directs the team from the pitch. That man is Gennaro Gattuso.

sabato 18 agosto 2012

E' Calato il Leccaos

Ci sono campionati che attirano gli sceicchi e altri che affascinano qualche oligarca dell’Est. In Italia invece siamo spesso costretti ad accontentarci di macchiette stile Borgorosso football club. L’ultimo in ordine di apparizione è Giuseppe “Joseph” Cala, manager italo-americano con alle spalle decine di tentativi falliti di acquisto di società calcistiche, dal Torino al Bari, dall’Ascoli alla Salernitana (ma dalla Campania sparì dopo 12 giorni) fino agli inglesi del Portsmouth. Un inquieto girovagare terminato lo scorso giugno con l’acquisto del Calcio Lecco, fresco di retrocessione in Serie D. Un livello forse un po’ troppo basso per chi nutre l’ambizione di “creare un club di livello mondiale modello Juventus”, ma non ditelo al signor Cala. “Non vuol dire niente, anche la Microsoft è partita con un solo impiegato”.

Dopo anni di grigiore calcistico, la città del Manzoni è pronta per tornare a recitare un ruolo di primo piano nel mondo del pallone. Come? Attraverso la quotazione alla borsa Nasdaq di New York, la creazione di un super-settore giovanile e l’apertura di filiali in Africa, Asia e Sudamerica. Un impegno “non di 2-3 anni, ma per tutta la vita” che però stenta a decollare. A meno di un mese dall’inizio del campionato manca tutto: un campo di gioco di proprietà, una sede, persino i giocatori. “Non so quanti di loro sono tesserati” ha dichiarato il tecnico Stefano Franciosa (pescato da Cala nella C finlandese) in quella che avrebbe dovuto essere la conferenza di presentazione della squadra. I nomi? Mistero. Gli allenamenti? Sgambate di un’oretta e poi partitella, come all’oratorio. Ma nemmeno con i ragazzini della Berretti della si arriva a giocare undici contro undici.

Nel frattempo, tra pernottamenti allo stadio, sponsorizzazioni fantasma e finte denunce di aggressione (smentite dai diretti interessati, ovvero il segretario Ivan Corti e il direttore tecnico delle giovanili Ernesto Nani), Cala ha mantenuto solo una promessa: quotare il Lecco al Nasdaq, inserendo la società nella sua Cala Corporation. Di cosa si occupa? “Non importa l’attività ma il fatturato che produce”. Oltre che con la trasparenza, l’italo-americano sembra avere qualche problema con i pagamenti: gli 800mila euro di debiti lasciati dalla precedente gestione non sono ancora stati saldati. E se con i tifosi è stata guerra aperta sin dal primo giorno, adesso si sono incrinati anche i rapporti con il Comune.

“Lecco in Serie A in cinque anni”, così si è presentato Cala. Una battuta che oggi suona surreale quanto il clima creatosi attorno alla società blu celeste. Nell’anno del centenario, a Lecco avrebbero gradito regali migliori.

Fonte: Il Giornale