Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The sad decline of Andy Van Der Meyde

For those who've been watching football for longer than the past decade, they'll remember Andy Van Der Meyde pretty well. He was one of a huge bunch of Ajax youngsters in the early 2000s that was being tipped for greatness. At one point he was rated as the best winger in Europe alongside Luis Figo. Alongside him at Ajax he had the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Christian Chivu and Steven Pienaar in a side that was led by Ronald Koeman. All of those players are still striving at the top level of European football. For Van Der Meyde, the story didn't go according to plan.

Having made a huge impression at Ajax, as most youngsters do, one of the bigger clubs around Europe came calling (as usual with an Ajax youth product) and in the summer of 2003, the talented Dutchman moved to Inter Milan. He spent 2 seasons at the club between 2003 and 2005, and both were deemed a failure to say the least. His move to the Premier League was believed to be a very good gamble by David Moyes when he signed for Everton. A mere 2 million pounds for one of Europe's upcoming prospects had all the recipes for a success.

But this is where things got sour for Andy. At Everton, it all went wrong for him. Unable to break into the team, he turned to alcohol and drugs. According to Van Der Meyde, at Everton he earned double the money (30,000 pounds a week) he was earning at Inter Milan and "felt like a King". He also started cheating on his wife while he was at the club. It was all becoming one big mess. His wife had hired a private detective to track down his movements and caught him cheating. This was what he claims began his downfall. Losing his wife and children meant that he now had the door even more widely open for drugs, alcohol, women and so on.

During a spell at the club in which he was injured, Van Der Meyde took advantage of the situation and in his words he said "for me it was a way to get out and not think about my problems. I could do what I wanted, I had a lot of money, I could buy what I wanted and I could get girls that I wanted. It was very easy. Then you can quickly go off the rails because there is no limit and you could do what you wanted. For me, it was going out and drinking and not thinking of reality". Drugs, women, money, putting on weight, losing his football touch...the once talented Dutchman became a troubled man and consistently fought with David Moyes.

When Everton released him in 2009, he was still living in Liverpool despite being club-less. That's when the drugs really hit. He was out every night. Drinking, doing drugs and so on. There was no end to what he was doing. But it was during that period that he got his wake up call on his own. Claiming that he felt he would die if he stayed at Liverpool, he decided to go back home to Ajax and train with the club. He signed a short term contract with PSV in March 2010, but made no impact and had no official appearance. In February 2011, he retired from Football completely at the age of 31.

It's a sad story for one of European football's brightest names. I remember watching him rip Arsenal to pieces with Inter Milan in a 3-0 win at Highbury (if i'm not mistaken). He was a pure talent down the wing and he had it all going for him. When he arrived in the Premier League, you could sense that this was going to be the beginning of something special for the player who had been unlucky with injuries in Milan. But this just goes to show what happens when a player is given everything he wants. A loss of control over one's life is the stuff we see in movies and we never stop and think that this could be happening to the thousands of footballers out there. Van Der Meyde will always be considered as one of the players who messed his own career up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

FIFA awards are a joke

Here we go ladies and gentlemen. The Ballon D'Or and FIFPro are one big fat joke. You want to know why? Of course you do.

Firstly, let me start off by saying congratulations to Lionel Messi (because I know he checks this website every single day before heading to training). No one else deserves the trophy more than him. The man is a magical footballer. Often I criticize many aspects of Barcelona and I get some not-so-friendly responses, but when it comes to Messi I think there is a universal agreement that he is the best player in the world at the moment (click here to know why I think you can't have a "best team/player of all-time"). He's an incredible player.

Secondly, as I began seeing the news flood in about the FIFPro team of the year and the Ballon D'Or trophy itself, I realized (not for the first time and not on my own), just how much of a joke FIFA are at times. I'll start with the Ballon D'Or trophy itself. And before you start calling me names (I'm looking at you Barcelona fans), here are a few things you all probably didn't know about the Ballon D'Or:

  • The original Ballon D'Or trophy (a.k.a European Footballer of the year) was an annual award presented to the best European (that's the key word in here) footballer of the previous year. Its inauguration was in 1956 and its end was in 2009. Yes, what Lionel Messi is winning is the same "trophy" (that golden ball that looks like it's worth more money than we'll ever know), but it's not the same award. The criteria have changed.
  • Up until 1995, the original Ballon D'Or (1956-2009) could only be awarded to European footballers. Meaning that players like Diego Maradona, Pele, Zico, Socrates, Valderama and thousands of other South American (and other continental) legends were ineligible for the award! So for all those making a huge deal out of Messi winning it four times in a row, my answer to them is - yes, it's a remarkable achievement, but can you imagine if all those legends I just mentioned were candidates in their prime? Don't you think one of them would have gotten it the same (if not more) number of times? I'm thinking particularly about Pele and Maradona who had absolutely no competition to them at the time for quite a while!
  • In 2009, the original Ballon D'Or and the previously prestigious FIFA World Player of The Year (which players from all around the world could be candidates for and that started off in 1991 and was stopped in 2009) merged to become the "FIFA Ballon D'Or". This means that all of a sudden, the history books have disregarded the FIFA World Player of the Year which some non-Europeans had won and that prior to the original Ballon D'Or & the FIFA World Player of the year - there was no single international individual trophy out there that could or would recognize players that were NOT European!
  • The only individual trophies that players like Pele and Maradona were eligible for were things like "South American player of the year" and other awards that have no credibility in the Football world today. If that is not a travesty, I don't know what is.

Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that despite the fact that Lionel Messi is an amazing footballer and deserves those 4 Ballon D'Ors, please don't disregard how the Football history of awards has changed.

Now onto my next point and please nobody take this personally (Barcelona, Real Madrid and La Liga fans, again - your fury can chill a bit. It's an opinion. Think logically and you might see that I'm right). But seriously, how on earth is the entire FIFPro team made of 11 La Liga players. Yes, La Liga is a competitive league and all that, but come on. 11 players from La Liga! Here are some points about that:

  • The team selected was: Casillas, Alves, Marcelo, Ramos, Pique, Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso, Ronaldo, Messi, Falcao.
  • Who votes for these players? Well, it's the players themselves. Basically, every single professional footballer in the world votes and then FIFPro take the votes and do the counting. It always has to be a 4-3-3 formation.
  • So the large majority of players around the world decided that no players from the Premier League, the Bundesliga, the Serie A and Ligue 1 warranted a place in the team?
  • Unless, I'm bloody mistaken, but either footballers are complete retards (highly likely) or FIFPro have somehow chosen the players they would rather have licking them (even more likely). Let's go over each player. One by one.
  • Casillas' inclusion can't be debated. A close second would be Gianluigi Buffon. Both, along with Neuer are the 3 best goalkeepers in the world at the moment. Thank God they didn't choose Victor Valdes. It could have happened you know.
  • Dani Alves as the best right back in the world? Highly debatable. But that's not because he's any good at defending, but just because of the luxury he has of playing with such talent alongside him. Put him in any other team in the world and he'd struggle. Just count how many times he's out of position when Barcelona are faced with a "challenge" - if you can call it that in a match. He is their weakest link (along with Valdes).
  • Marcelo at left-back is completely wrong. I still think Ashley Cole is a better left-back than him. I don't know how they choose the players, but Cole won the Champions League and the FA Cup and despite the fact that he's a complete tw*t that I hate, I believe he's been the most consistent left-back over the past 10 years in Europe. Think of him as a footballer, not as a person. If the votes are based on achievements during the year, Cole should get the nod.
  • Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are the central defenders. What a joke! Not only are both incredibly overrated defenders, but there are loads of other defenders in Europe who've had a better 2012 than them. I hate Manchester City more than most, but surely Vincent Kompany is better than both of these players and had a better year. You can't judge their yearly performance solely on Euro 2012. It has to be throughout the year. And besides for Kompany, I think Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus' defender who helped them go undefeated for the whole of last season and was a key member of the Euro 2012 final team) and Matt Hummels (2 Bundesliga titles in a row and a bloody rock at the back) also deserve those spots much more than those two fancy models from Spain.
  • Xavi and Iniesta - no complains there. World class again.
  • Xabi Alonso ahead of Andrea Pirlo might be the biggest crime of all. How was this judgement made? Based on form? I don't think so. Pirlo was arguably the best player at Euro 2012 and the best player in the Serie A last season, so again this might be a selection based on the fact that Alonso won the Euros. Which, if it is the case, is a damn shame. Alonso is a very good player, but this is not a popularity contest.
  • Lionel Messi. Legend. Cristiano Ronaldo. Legend. I don't think we'll know their true value until they've retired.
  • Radamel Falcao is a superstar. I love the player. Had the privilege of watching him live a year and a half ago and he was mighty then, just as he is now. The only striker that I think should be put in this team ahead of him is Robin Van Persie. I'm not sure who can help me find a statistic, but I do believe RVP has scored more goals than Falcao in the calendar year (I might be wrong).
  • Coach of the year: Mourinho, Del Bosque and Guardiola were the nominees. So Antonio Conte, who went a whole season undefeated didn't even make the grade. Del Bosque winning the Euro was a great achievement, but seriously winning Coach of the YEAR for a tournament that lasts a month (winning 5 games in the process)? Hell, even Roberto Di Matteo deserves a mention following his miracles last season with Chelsea, not to mention Jurgen Klopp who won the double for the first time in Dortmund's history. 

All in all, barring the decisions on Messi, Ronaldo, Casillas, Xavi and Iniesta, everything else is extremely debatable and laughable. I can't understand the FIFPro team, nor can I understand the coach of the year award. The Ballon D'Or choice was obvious, but the story of Messi winning 4 in a row tells half of it. Put your allegiances aside and try thinking objectively. This is not a popularity contest. These are awards that, and unfortunately are re-writing the history of our game.