May 092015

Congratulations to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea for wrapping up the Premier League title with games to spare.

The natural progression for them will be to go on and seriously challenge for the Champions League year on year – starting with next season.

Looking at the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, you wonder how close Chelsea are.

One of the main reasons for their success this season was their activity in the transfer window last summer and I’d expect them to invest heavily in a small number of quality players this time around.

John Stones has been heavily linked to Chelsea this week.

If he does get the opportunity to go to Chelsea the he and his advisors will have a very difficult decision to make.

He won’t be the first young Englishman to face that decision.

I have little doubt that Stones will go on to become a great central defender but would he be better staying at Everton, certainly for the next few seasons, rather than take the plunge now and risk limited game time.

The amount that he plays is very important in these formative years of his career and personally I think he’s better off staying at a club where he is playing every week, loved by the fans and growing in confidence and stature.

Messi proves why he is the greatest

I’ve written on many occasions that the knockout stages of the Champions League are the ultimate for me in football terms.

It’s the greatest competition with the best football played and the best players.

This week didn’t disappoint with two terrific games.

The highlight was undoubtedly the Barcelona versus Bayern Munich match.

Barcelona were brilliant and as often happens the fact that they scored three goals late in the game was no fluke.

It came as a result of 80 minutes of relentless effort and Barcelona wore the opposition down much like the way a boxing champion works for nine rounds to deliver a knockout at the end.

Football – FC Barcelona v Bayern Munich – UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg – The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain – 6/5/15 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi scores their second goal Reuters / Paul Hanna

The greatest players are the ones who produce great moments on great occasions.

We’ve known for a long time that Lionel Messi is one of the all-time greats but his recent form has shown that he’s back to his very best.

He’s on his way to not only ending the debate over himself and Cristiano Ronaldo as to who is the best player in the world of his generation but also cementing his place in being considered the best of all time.

To clinch the tag in most people’s minds and be recognised as such, he could do with a World Cup win with Argentina.

He came very close last summer aged 27 so he might get one more serious crack at that.

People will remember the incident from this week’s game when Jerome Boateng – who is a top class international defender and no slouch himself – capitulated by falling to the ground in the face of Messi’s magic.

The incident said so much about the night, Barcelona’s performance and Messi’s brilliance.

Although his team were well-beaten in the end on his return to the Camp Nou, Pep Guardiola deserves credit for realising that his initial tactics were not working.

He was brave enough to do something about it and make a change midway through the first half and that is the sign of a great coach in that he was big enough to admits he’d got it wrong but then clever enough to make the changes needed early on.

The day marking John Barnes wasn’t enough

Messi’s brilliance made me think why none of the big teams try and man-to-man mark him.

I remember when I went to play at Anfield for the first time with a newly-promoted Portsmouth team.

There had already been occasions that I’d been used as a man-to-man marker with some success but on this particular Saturday I was given the dubious honour of marking John Barnes who was on his way to be named PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.

Although it meant a stange position for me – playing at right-back – the plan worked perfectly only in the sense that Barnes had a quiet day.

Beardsley, McMahon, Aldridge and Whelan all scored in a 4-0 rout.

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