Category: Italy



There are some parts of the American take on the beautiful game that just won’t be transferred to England. Strapping cameras to referees is one, the MLS SuperDraft – where players are traded, assigned and picked from colleges – is another, and finally, there’s the annual MLS All-Star game between the league’s 20 best players and a club from another country.

Since switching from the East vs West format in 2005, the MLS had chosen a British team every year as the All-Stars’ opponents, but this year, Italian giants Roma broke that trend by travelling to Kansas City to play against the cream of America’s footballing crop, coached by Kansas boss Peter Vermes. The involvement of a non-British club follows the increasing glamour the All-Star game has attracted; while the likes of Fulham and West Ham United were early opponents, Manchester United, Chelsea and now Italian sides are becoming open to the idea (no doubt attracted by the revenue opportunities associated with the game).

Vermes and MLS Commissioner Don Garber had picked a strong squad including the likes of Thierry Henry, Marco Di Vaio and Landon Donovan,  and while Roma brought their star-studded first-team – among them captain Francesco Totti and fellow Italy internationals Daniele De Rossi and Federico Balzaretti – the most familiar name to US football fans was national team midfielder Michael Bradley, who has been playing in Europe since 2006.

Strootman slots home Roma’s opener (Pic: USPresswire.com)

There’s been much debate in the US as to whether the league would be better served by a return to the East vs West format of the past, but there’s still plenty of interest in this fixture: the 21, 175 who turned up to Kansas’ Sporting Park was the highest attendance in the stadium’s history.

Vermes opted for an experienced front-line, pairing Henry and Di Vaio (combined age 72) while Roma named Totti, Bradley and new signing Kevin Strootman in an impressive line-up.  To the crowd’s dismay, Roma controlled the tempo from the start and took just four minutes to open the scoring; exploiting the All-Stars’ high defensive line, Strootman collected a through ball before beating Peruvian ‘keeper Raul Fernandez in the hosts’ goal (via an unfortunate deflection off Kansas defender Aurelien Collin.

The All-Stars struggled to recover from that early blow, and just three minutes later Roma almost doubled their lead. Totti, picking the ball up deep in his own half, curled an exquisite 30-yard pass in behind All-Star left-back Corey Ashe for Alessandro Florenzi to run onto, but the 22-year-old’s shot slid just wide. Vermes’ men were dealt another blow on 24 minutes when Graham Zusi, playing just behind the strikers, was forced off with an injury; he was replaced by Vancouver Whitecaps’ Brazilian magician Camilo Sanvezzo.

With the Italians continuing to dominate proceedings but failing to add to their lead, half-time arrived with the score still at 1-0. Just seconds after the restart, however, they made the All-Stars pay: Ashe once more failed to track Florenzi’s run, and Balzaretti’s centre from the left was clinically converted by the unmarked midfielder.

The All-Stars almost managed an immediate reply when Thierry Henry took on three defenders on the left before crossing towards Chris Wondolowski, but the San Jose Earthquakes frontman just failed to connect with the delivery. The hosts’ best chance arrived 20 minutes later, when an unwise short goal-kick from Roma allowed Landon Donovan to pinch possession back; the ex-Everton man rounded the last defender but fired straight at Morgan De Sanctis from close range.

Roma celebrate with the All-Stars trophy after their win (Pic: Goal.com)

It was a miss they were made to pay for. From Roma’s next attack, Bradley released the impressive Strootman with a brilliant one-touch pass, and the Dutchman’s pull-back was turned in by Junior Tallo. Rookie full-back DeAndre Yedlin – on as a substitute for the hapless Ashe – came close to pulling one back on 85 minutes, playing a delightful one-two with Wondolowski but skying the final effort at goal.

However, the All-Stars didn’t have to wait long for their goal. In the first (and only) minute of injury time, Sanvezzo curled a fine free-kick onto the head of fellow sub Omar Gonzalez, and the LA Galaxy defender summoned up enough neck power to beat De Sanctis’ deputy Bogdan Lobont and restore some credibility to the scoreline.

The final whistle blew soon after on an interesting contest that will divide opinion on whether the MLS is as close to Europe as it thinks it is. Make no mistake, Roma strolled to victory here, but, as Jeff Carlisle notes for ESPN, “[given] that the MLS players had a grand total of one training session, and that the Roma players are all eager to impress new manager Rudi Garcia, it was no surprise to see the visitors run out to a 3-1 victory.”

League Commissioner Garber used the game’s interval to announce plans to expand the MLS to 24 teams by 2020 (it currently has 19, with New York City FC set to join in 2015). That demonstrates an ambition that can only help the MLS close the gap on Europe’s elite in the near future, and, as Carlisle adds, “a loss in the All-Star Game isn’t going to change that.”

All-Stars: Fernandez (Rimando 45); Besler (Gonzalez 45), Beltran, Collin, Ashe (Yedlin 66); Johnson, Beckerman (Magee 45), Davis (Donovan 45), Zusi (Sanvezzo 24); Henry (C) (McInerney 57), Di Vaio (Wondolowski 45).

Roma: De Sanctis (Lobont 63); Torosidis, Benatia, Castan, Balzaretti; Pjanic (Marquinho 63), Bradley, Florenzi (De Rossi 63), Strootman; Totti (C) (Ricci 87), Tallo (Caprari 80).

Referee: Hilario Grajeda.

Game MVP: Alessandro Florenzi.

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Uruguay forward Diego Forlan has joined Brazilian side Internacional after his Inter Milan contract was terminated yesterday. Forlan had moved to Italy from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

Something of a flop at Manchester United – his first European club – having cost the Red Devils over £500,000 per league goal at £6.9 million, Forlan has rebuilt his career in recent years, enjoying much more prolific spells at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid after leaving Old Trafford in 2004, as well as winning the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup.

Forlan’s move to Milan never quite worked out for either party

Having managed a much-improved strike-rate of around a goal every other league game at each of his Spanish clubs, it was only a matter of time before a European giant such as Inter came calling. Unfortunately, after signing at the San Siro in August 2011, Forlan struggled to emulate this record. Just two league goals all season led to the club tearing up the last year of the Uruguayan’s contract, making him eligible for a free transfer.

Signed as a replacement for Inter legend and Anzi Makhachkala-bound Samuel Eto’o – who had scored 37 times in all competitions in 2010-11 – Forlan was always likely to feel the pressure at a historically expectant club. Despite scoring on his debut in September against Palermo, Diego would find the net just once more in Serie A, having to wait until March for his next – and last – league goal for Inter, against Catania.

A move to Porto Alegre-based Internacional, who finished fifth in Brazil’s top flight last season, represents a chance to move back to his home continent for Forlan. His illustrious career has come the full circle: Forlan’s first club was Argentine giants Independiente; Brazil’s Internacional could well be his last.

The signing is likely to benefit both parties, with Forlan able to escape his Inter nightmare while winding down his career closer to home, while Internacional will likely bask in  increased shirt and ticket sales after the unveiling of Uruguay’s all-time top scorer. Indeed, a club statement read “Diego Forlan is the new reinforcement of Internacional. The Uruguay player is in Milan and will arrive in Porto Alegre on Saturday. The player will be unveiled tomorrow.”, while Forlan himself had earlier this week admitted he was “excited” by speculation linking him with a move to Brazil.

The world’s most casual unveiling? Forlan wears his new shirt

Although Forlan will undoubtedly be the crown jewel in Internacional’s squad – which is entirely comprised of South Americans – he is not the club’s first player to have proved himself in Europe and at international level: Internacional alumni include AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, World Cup-winning midfielder Dunga, Juventus new-boy Lúcio and Villarreal forward Nilmar.

Forlan becomes the second foreign superstar in the space of two weeks to move to the Brazilian top-flight, following Holland legend Clarence Seedorf’s transfer to Botafogo on 30 June. The pair, who have both won over 80 caps for their country, will join fellow footballing celebrities Ronaldinho, Neymar, Deco and Luis Fabiano in the 2012-13 Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, a league that is growing in stature and appeal to European fans with every marquee signing.

 

Images: Forlan at Inter Milan – http://www.nuevaeradeportiva.com/; Forlan in Internacional shirt – http://www.sambafoot.com


Veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf has joined mid-table Brazilian Serie A side Botafogo in a deal that could make him the country’s best-paid foreigner.

Seedorf said an emotional goodbye to AC Milan – where he had spent half of his professional career – in May, after revealing that the league clash with Novara would be his last game for the Rossoneri. He officially departed the San Siro on 21 June and said: “I am leaving after 10 wonderful years…I leave a family”, while club CEO Adriano Galliani gushed “When Milan played well…each and every time it occured, Seedorf played an amazing match. He is a world class player.”

Botafogo will hope Seedorf’s experience and trophy haul can help his new team-mates

The Suriname-born schemer leaves Serie A following a trophy-laden spell in Italy which saw him lift two Champions League cups, two league titles and the FIFA Club World Cup with Milan, as well as reaching the final of the Coppa Italia with Inter in 2000. Having also enjoyed top-flight football in Holland, with Ajax, and won La Liga with Real Madrid, Seedorf joins Botafogo with a wealth of experience in the upper echelons of club football.

The 36-year-old has signed a two year deal with The Lone Star, and is expected to see out the remainder of his career at the 46,000-capacity Estadio Olimpico. A Botafogo club statement claimed the deal is “the biggest contract for a foreigner made by a Brazilian football club”.

Although Seedorf will clearly be the jewel in the crown of Botafogo’s modest squad – midfielder Renato (ex-Sevilla, with 28 caps for Brazil) and Uruguayan forward Sebastian Abreu (formerly of Deportivo and River Plate) are the club’s next-biggest stars – the Dutchman is not the first world-class player to have donned the side’s black-and-white strip. Botafogo alumni include legendary Brazilian wingers Garrincha and Jairzinho, three-time World Cup-winning coach Mario Zagallo (who had five separate spells in the Botafogo hotseat) and midfielder Didi, who has two World Cups to his name.

Seedorf’s impact on Botafogo’s success will stretch further than his performances on the field

Fully aware of Seedorf’s status in the game, Botafogo have already changed their website to have the Dutchman modelling a club shirt as the only image on the home page, with the caption “SEEDORF GLORIOSO”, while thousands of messages from fans with the slogan “Seedorf no Fogao” (“Seedorf the fire”) flooded social networking site Twitter.

The player’s fame is expected to lead to high shirt sales and will boost the club’s marketing prospects – just as the return of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho to Brazil in recent years saw huge advertising contracts and image rights. Expect plenty of stylish shots such as the one on the right.

The club will undoubtedly look to use the 87-cap Holland international to help advertise Botafogo to European audiences, enhancing the side’s reputation and attracting more supporters from abroad. Seedorf, who speaks Portuguese and is married to a Brazilian woman, also has the ability to communicate in his team-mates’ native tongue, an important factor that may save the dressing room from the sometimes morale-lowering impact of a marquee signing for the rest of the squad.

Clarence will join fellow 21st-century footballing icons Ronaldinho, Deco, Luis Fabiano and Neymar in the Brazilian top-flight, demonstrating a trend of up-and-coming superstars and veteran legends having greater faith in a league that has grown in appeal and stature in recent years.

Images: Seedorf at AC Milan – http://www.graphicshunt.com; “Seedorf Glorioso”, Botafogo – http://www.botafogo.com.br/