The most important win of the weekend was the new contract for Luis Suarez at Liverpool. No one knows what will happen this summer if Liverpool fall out of the top four, but right now this could be the best news for English football in quite some time vis a vis the superstar competition with La Liga. I firmly believe the Premier League is a better league from top to bottom than any other on the planet, though the Bundesliga has a claim to this distinction as well. However, in recent years, defections to the two super clubs in Spain has diminished the Premier League’s star quality. The buying power of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have also now impacted the Premier League’s ability to attract the world’s most expensive and attractive footballers from a marketing perspective. Suarez’s decision, despite the consistent hostility he has received from opposing fans and the British press, is a strong sign that the Premier League can still stop the best players from fleeing to Spain.
Cardiff City Owner Vincent Tan’s outlandish and unprofessional behavior is putting a damper on what should be a triumphant time for the South Wales club. In Tan’s defense, few seem to recall the financial ruin and deceit authored by former chairman Peter Ridsdale, a man whose career seems to be made by ruining football clubs. Tan saved Cardiff from a fate worse than they currently suffer but may have destroyed the soul of the club in the process. Tan’s reign of terror could give critics of foreign ownership in the Premier League just cause to ramp up a campaign to prevent the destruction of historic clubs by foreign predators. I would expect this issue to continue to be at the forefront of many people’s discussions about the sport this holiday season.
In the debate over foreign ownership, I think it is important to distinguish heavyweight owners who have honored the legacy of the clubs they’ve bought and even embraced that history from lightweight ones like Tan. Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich (who reversed years of historical neglect and denial of Chelsea’s past by former chairman Ken Bates) and Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi based ownership have brought legends of the past back to the club and have honored other legends in a way their predecessors did not. On the flip side Vincent Tan and Assem Allam at Hull have dishonored the club legacies and disgraced themselves in the process. In fairness, both inherited teams that had been virtually bankrupted by British owners, so perhaps history would have been irrelevant if both clubs had been insolvent?
Don’t get too excited yet, but slowly but surely Mark Hughes has transformed much of Stoke’s play and the Potters have climbed up the table into the top half. Important for US Men’s National Team fans has to be the emergence of Geoff Cameron, a classic right-back, not the narrow version that Tony Pulis had developed last season. This season under Hughes, Cameron is showing a great ability to get up the pitch and to deliver a killer ball in the area as he did again for Stoke’s winning goal yesterday. Cameron is deceptively pacey, and as was the case in his MLS career when Dom Kinnear could put him anywhere on the pitch and have him do a job, he has developed these same tendencies in the Premier League.
Manchester City’s Joe Hart is returning to form and will keep his place for the top of the table Boxing Day clash against Liverpool. Manuel Pellegrini has handled Hart’s situation brilliantly. Rather than air dirty laundry in the media, he took Hart aside, demoted him but made it clear if he worked hard he would be back in the team in due time.
Leicester City’s victory at Loftus Road against QPR was a setback to Rangers promotion hopes. In the meantime, Harry Redknapp cannot stop spending money. Yossi Benayoun, out of football since his Chelsea contract expired was signed by the free spending manager earlier this month and made his debut late on replacing Tom Carroll. Regarding Carroll, I wonder if he may get a Spurs recall with the management change at White Hart Lane? Carroll is about a good a short passer in English football with the possible exception of Leon Britton and maybe his loan stint at QPR has toughened up the other parts of his game to where he can contribute to Spurs second half. Just a thought, but with the service from central midfield to the Spurs strikers lacking much of the season, maybe Carroll can be part of the solution.
Everton’s victory over Swansea propelled the Toffees back into the top four. The match was also surprising because given no European commitments this week, I expected a much better and urgent performance from the Swans. Instead Swansea looked listless much of the match at the Liberty and now face a gauntlet of fixtures over the next three weeks that if not carefully navigated could propel the Swans improbably into a relegation fight. This is no different than what happened to Newcastle last season when they were saddled with European commitments.
Bayern’s victory in the Club World Cup coincided with Dortmund and Leverkusen both losing in the league, leaving both sides helplessly adrift heading into the winter break. The Bundesliga title race is all but over.
Just when it seemed Ligue Un was getting interesting again, AS Monaco dropped a shocking home match to Valenciennes.
Congratulations to two NASL teams under new ownership. Firstly, the Tampa Bay Rowdies were sold to Bill Edwards, one of the most influential businessmen in the Tampa Bay area, a week and a half ago. Edwards purchase means the Rowdies are staying in St Petersburg long-term and now have important linkages and synergies with other businesses in the downtown area. While Al Lang Stadium is dated and in a baseball configuration, the location is the most brilliant in North American soccer outside of Portland and Seattle. Edwards owns many of the other businesses in the area and has incredible political weight locally that can be leveraged to the team’s benefit.
The other NASL team under new ownership is the Atlanta Silverbacks. Traffic Sports needed to sell the club and former owner Boris Jerkunica is the leader of the new investors in the club. Jerkunica doesn’t have the best track record with supporters, many of whom appreciated the approach of Traffic in the market. But a reality is while Traffic owned the club, Jerkunica was still involved as a minority owner and owns the facility as well. So perhaps the disruption will not be as dramatic as some fear, although some fans believe the release of NASL Coach of the Year Brian Haynes had much to do with the ownership change and less finances potentially being available for a coach. Whether this is true or not we will discover in the near future.
Editor’s note: For previous columns by Kartik, read the Monday Soccer Insider archives.