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Diego Forlan Overlooked by Europe’s Elite Despite Enviable Record

His goalscoring record compares favourably with anyone else in Europe. But age and the memory of his failure with Manchester United seem to be ensuring Diego Forlan doesn’t get another chance with one the game’s biggest clubs…

Diego Forlan: The finest Uruguayan player since... Alvaro Recoba?

Diego Forlan: The finest Uruguayan player since... Alvaro Recoba?

As the summer transfer window rolls on, strikers have quickly hit the top of the agenda, with every big club looking to improve their team by adding a world-class finisher.
Manchester City have already added Roque Santa Cruz (£18 million) and Carlos Tevez (£25 million) to their squad, with another £25 million believed to be heading Arsenal’s way in exchange for the services of Emmanuel Adebayor.
In Spain, Real Madrid have already spent money on attracting French striker Karim Benzema to their ranks, hoping the former Olympique Lyonnais hitman will be the focal point of the Madrid attack that will also feature £80 million Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real, along with arch-rivals Barcelona, have also been consistently linked with Valencia striker David Villa. The Spanish international is highly coveted by clubs throughout Europe, but the Mestalla-based club are taking a hardline stance in negotiations in order to get the best deal possible for their talisman.
Down the big club’s lists, however, and so far failing to gain serious interest, is a player that—on recent form—is arguably the superior of all the aforementioned names: Diego Forlan.
Some clubs, most notably Barcelona, have flirted with the Uruguayan striker but have yet to get serious with their intentions.
“It is not strange to me that Joan Laporta [Barcelona’s president] says he likes Forlan, as we have known that for a long time,” said Forlan’s agent, Daniel Bolotnicoff, recently. “But the reality is that there has been no offer[s], and we are calm. Barcelona have at no time made contact with us. Laporta has made no movement for Forlan.”
Elsewhere, the top clubs in England seem prepossessed with a move for Atletico’s other talented striker, Sergio “Kun” Aguero, although the club’s valuation of the player might prove an insurmountable obstacle.
Yet it is the Uruguayan striker, and not his Argentinean teammate, who currently holds the Pichichi, the award given to the top scorer in La Liga, having beaten both Villa and another highly sought-after striker, Samuel Eto’o, to the crown last season.
In the 2008-09 season, Forlan scored a fantastic 32 goals in 33 league games, capping yet another great season in Spain for the former Manchester United striker.
Forlan arrived at Manchester United with an impressive reputation, but a poor return of just 17 goals in 120 games (although some of those proved vitally important) saw the £6.9 million signing’s stock plummet.
Indeed, the man once dubbed “Diego Forlorn” around Old Trafford has become virtually unrecognisable ever since he was offloaded to Villarreal in 2004 for a reported sum of just £3 million.
Forlan won the Pichichi in his first season with the Villarreal club, helping the club to its first-ever Champions League qualification.
The Uruguayan international went on to score 54 goals in 103 games for the club before Atletico Madrid came calling with a sizeable €21 million offer for his services.
In two seasons with the capital club, Forlan has notched 48 goals in just 69 games—a record that compares favourably with anyone else in Spain or Europe.
But that hasn’t been enough to make him the focus of Europe’s biggest clubs.
For many, the memory of his underwhelming period at United acts as a deterrent to any transfer bid.
For his part, Forlan is remarkably sanguine about the failures of his career:
“Every coach has his own players,” Forlan said. “Maybe I was not the player that Sir Alex [Ferguson] liked, which is fair enough. He can choose—that’s why he’s the manager.”
For the others, Forlan’s age is the problem. The 30-year-old doesn’t look like a particularly attractive proposition considering the limited number of years left in his career, particularly for English clubs concerned by his failure to adapt to the Premier League, when his 21-year-old teammate Aguero could be purchased for just a slightly higher fee.
But more so than most players currently being bandied about in the rumour pages of newspapers, Forlan’s record should excite any club serious about their aspirations—and with the money to back it up.
Aside from his formidable goal-scoring record, the Montevideo-born man is a truly two-footed finisher—last season he scored 16 goals with his right foot and 15 with his left—with the knack of producing the spectacular.
Forlan doesn’t just rely on his teammates for goals; he has often created his own openings out of nothing. As deadly inside the box as he can be 30 yards out, Spanish defences have had five years to nullify Forlan’s threat and have so far failed miserably.
Content to stay with Atletico, who will enter the Champions League in the playoff round this year, Forlan would nonetheless be intrigued by a second opportunity to prove his worth with a European heavyweight.
“Diego is at Atletico, very happy there because he has been treated wonderfully,” his father Pablo told Spanish station COM radio this week. “But, without a doubt, playing in a team like Barca would interest any player.”
It might interest him, but it looks like Forlan will have to wait until the future of players he has regularly outscored—particularly Eto’o and Villa—is resolved before he can mull over any proposals of his own.
All things considered, a transfer this summer looks unlikely.
“In football, you cannot predict what will happen,” Pablo admitted, “but neither myself nor Diego want to talk about something that has not happened. He is happy at Atletico.”
And Atletico are happy to have him.

As the summer transfer window rolls on, strikers have quickly hit the top of the agenda, with every big club looking to improve their team by adding a world-class finisher.

Manchester City have already added Roque Santa Cruz (£18 million) and Carlos Tevez (£25 million) to their squad, with another £25 million believed to be heading Arsenal’s way in exchange for the services of Emmanuel Adebayor.

In Spain, Real Madrid have already spent money on attracting French striker Karim Benzema to their ranks, hoping the former Olympique Lyonnais hitman will be the focal point of the Madrid attack that will also feature £80 million Cristiano Ronaldo.

Real, along with arch-rivals Barcelona, have also been consistently linked with Valencia striker David Villa. The Spanish international is highly coveted by clubs throughout Europe, but the Mestalla-based club are taking a hardline stance in negotiations in order to get the best deal possible for their talisman.

Down the big club’s lists, however, and so far failing to gain serious interest, is a player that — on recent form — is arguably the superior of all the aforementioned names: Diego Forlan.

Some clubs, most notably Barcelona, have flirted with the Uruguayan striker but have yet to get serious with their intentions.

“It is not strange to me that Joan Laporta [Barcelona’s president] says he likes Forlan, as we have known that for a long time,” said Forlan’s agent, Daniel Bolotnicoff, recently. “But the reality is that there has been no offer[s], and we are calm. Barcelona have at no time made contact with us. Laporta has made no movement for Forlan.” Continue reading

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July 20, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 3 Comments

Madrid Solve Milan’s Recession Woes, in the Hope Kaka Can Solve Theirs

Milan needed money, Real Madrid needed a world-class footballer. Sometimes the most expensive transfers are also the simplest to complete… 

Kaka: Belongs to Jesus... but also Real Madrid

Kaka: Belongs to Jesus... but also Real Madrid

The first Galacticos era under Florentino Perez has not been viewed too kindly by history.
Overblown salaries and egos are remembered, and not with great affection. Too many big names, and not enough team unity seems to have been the overriding summation of Perez’s unique experiment.
When the inevitable end came, it came with ugly recriminations for many concerned.
But, amidst the hedonism and glitter, there were some highlights. None more so than the Champions League title the club won at Hampden Park in 2002, thanks to a sumptuous volley from Zinedine Zidane.
The Frenchman, one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, arrived at Madrid in 2001 for a world-record €73.5m. Along with Luis Figo he was one of the original Galacticos, and invariably the best.
But in the long run, that wasn’t enough.
Back for a second bite at the cherry, the returning Madrid president is hoping history can repeat itself for the Galactico experiment—initially at least. But with Zidane retired (he now acts as an advisor for the club), a new talisman had to be found for a club noticeably lacking in leadership.
For Zidane in 2001, then, read Kaka in 2009.
In the Brazilian, Real Madrid hope they have found the player to reassert their position at the forefront of European football.
Unveiled yesterday for the eye-watering fee of €65m, the former AC Milan attacking midfielder is arguably the modern player most reminiscent of Zidane in his pomp.
The 27-year-old might be more sprightly across the turf with the ball at his feet, but he possesses the nearest approximation to the consummate touch and vision that the Frenchman always exhibited.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi might be the two names most frequently mentioned in conjunction with the phrase “the best player in the world”, but over the last five years, it is hard to argue that Kaka has played at a higher level than his two illustrious peers.
His new employers, perhaps unsurprisingly, clearly agree.
“Kaka, who many consider the best footballer on the planet, now plays for Real Madrid,” Madrid stated bullishly on their website. “What he does from here on out will only add to his legend and that of Real Madrid.”
For their part, AC Milan were remarkably sanguine about the loss of their greatest player. In the current economic climate, such a vast sum of money simply could not be turned down.
“It will be very difficult to fill the void that will be left by Kaka, a shining example of commitment and professionalism,” a statement on the club’s website read. “The Rossoneri offer him the most cordial and affectionate wishes for the continuation of his sporting career.”
The player himself admitted that the transfer had been completed with the club’s approval.
“Everything I’ve always done for Milan has been by mutual agreement, from the moment I arrived until my departure today,” he said.
“The world financial crisis has taken a lot of people by surprise and some clubs, such as Milan, also suffered. This is the best way to help the club at the moment.”
While the sale of Kaka has all but solved the Italian club’s financial problems—chief executive Adriano Galliani admitted last week the club was losing €70m a year—Perez is hoping that the player will solve Madrid’s own footballing recession.
Second in La Liga this season, it was clear to all observers that the club were streets behind the accomplished and exuberant football played by arch-rivals Barcelona.
As the Catalan giants grabbed every trophy in sight, Real seemed to lurch from disaster to disaster. The fans demanded change.
In the end, change seemed to mean regression as Perez was re-elected. But Kaka’s signing, while clearly indicating a return to Galactico’s policy, also hints at a slightly adjusted approach.
Where past Galacticos signings might have been as much for economic reasons as tactical ones—David Beckham being the obvious example, as the club turned down Ronaldinho in his favour as the Brazilian was deemed “too ugly” to be a marketable asset—this time it appears football has been prioritized.
Kaka does not have the world image of Messi or Ronaldo. But by adding his creativity, poise and threat to their side, Perez is hoping the club will be back challenging, and winning, the game’s biggest trophies in the very near future.
The club’s footballing recession would be over.
And in the long run, being successful on the pitch makes more money than any other method.
Kaka is just the first high-profile piece to Madrid’s puzzle. Cristiano Ronaldo might indeed end up being the second piece, David Villa the third. But that is not the real issue.
Last time, Perez’s undoing was to forget about the smaller pieces—the unfashionable water carriers like Claude Makelele who allow the attacking superstars to perform. Possessing the likes of Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Zidane was great—but worthless without a rigid and disciplined defensive structure.
Will the likes of Lassana Diarra—the nearest approximation to Makelele in the current squad—find a place in the Galacticos Mark II?
Will the signing of a worldclass defensive midfielder (Javier Mascherano, for example) be sanctioned?
For all the attacking talent in the world, it is questions like these that will decide whether Perez’s second coming is more successful than the first.

The first Galacticos era under Florentino Perez has not been viewed too kindly by history.

Overblown salaries and egos are remembered, and not with great affection. Too many big names, and not enough team unity seems to have been the overriding summation of Perez’s unique experiment.

When the inevitable end came, it came with ugly recriminations for many concerned.

But, amidst the hedonism and glitter, there were some highlights. None more so than the Champions League title the club won at Hampden Park in 2002, thanks to a sumptuous volley from Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman, one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, arrived at Madrid in 2001 for a world-record €73.5m. Along with Luis Figo he was one of the original Galacticos, and invariably the best.

But in the long run, that wasn’t enough.

Continue reading

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , , | 1 Comment