MATA, MOYES, UNITED

Juan Mata looks set to complete a surprise move to Manchester United, making him Manchester United’s record signing. This is a clear statement of intent
by under-fire United boss David Moyes whose team is in dire need of a playmaker able to give defence splitting passes and notch in with goals also when needed. Juan
Mata ticks all these boxes, and at this time a move for the Spanish play maker is a step in the right direction for United. But getting the best out of Mata will depend on the role he
is given in the United set-up

WHERE TO PLAY MATA?
With 19 goals and 34 assists last season, and the prospect of linking up with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, United now boasts an attack line with serious
fire-power ready to propel them to the Champions League places with 16 games to go. Now the only problem for manager Moyes is to find the right position for Mata to exert his influence on the game. Blessed with great vision, dribbling skills, and an eye for goal, Mata could be used in all advanced midfield roles in United’s 4-2-3-1 formation. But his best position and where he influences the game most is just behind the lone striker in this system. This could prove a bit of an issue for United
given that Wayne Rooney currently occupies that position and has contributed excellently when deployed in that role. Now would Moyes keep Rooney in that position, or
would Mata become United’s main creative hub just behind the striker? The most logical thinking would be keeping Rooney in his current position and using Mata as an
inside forward, while given the freedom to roam just like Santi Carzola at Arsenal or Neymar at Barcelona.

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MATA MOVE A NO-BRAINER FOR UNITED, MATA & MOYES.
Juan Mata’s arrival at United could not come at a better time for both player, club and manager. Given United’s dearth of world-class attacking talent, Mata is definitely the player to take them to another level and relieve some unwanted pressure from arguably United’s best attacking talent Januzaj. Such is the decline of United that 18 year old Adnan Januzaj has been placed with the responsibility of chief playmaker. Nani, Kagawa, Young, Valencia have all failed to deliver for United this season with a string of frustrating and depressing performances, and with the imminent arrival of Mata, Moyes can now boast of a world-class midfielder in the team.

For player this move is also a no-brainer, since the second coming of Jose Mourinho to Chelsea, Mata has been overlooked by the ‘Happy One’, with the likes of Oscar,
Hazard and Willian all above him in the Chelsea pecking order. And now with the World Cup on the horizon, and the influx of midfielders in Spain, a move to Manchester United and the role of chief playmaker has given Mata time to stake his claim for a spot in Vicente Del Bosque’s 23 man squad. Mata may also use this opportunity to want to prove Jose Mourinho wrong for doubting his ability, and benching a player once thought of as an untouchable at Chelsea.

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David Moyes has had the proper baptism of fire since he became United manager, with United already out of the FA and Capital 0ne cups, and the Premier League now
almost impossible to win, he must now focus on getting Manchester United into the Champions League places at the end of the season. The acquisition Juan Mata is
definitely a huge statement of intent by Moyes, who has previously been linked with big-name players and has failed to land them. Eventhough many would state that the
player needs playing time hence this move, Moyes has shown that he is definitely learning after reports stated he passed up the opportunity to sign
Mesut Ozil in the summer, claiming he did not need a player in Ozil’s position. And now with the player set to sign Moyes has finally proven he can land top players
and the signing of Mata would do good to his confidence and the team as a whole.

But where it is almost a given that Mata would shine at United, it must be noted that Manchester United are lacking quality in almost every area of the pitch, and Mata’s  arrival would definitely not paper over the cracks. It is a step in the right direction, but it is only the beginning of a team in urgent need of an overhaul.

BRAZIL 2014: LET FOOTBALL WIN

Since its inauguration in 1930, the Fifa World Cup has grown to become one of the finest sporting events in history. From Uruguay through to South Africa, and now
Brazil, this footballing spectacle has travelled all around the globe and has wowed fans with some magical experiences never to forget. And now with the tournament
being staged in Brazil, (the most successful side in World cup history) it should be an event worth looking forward to.

Defending champions Spain head into the games as favourites and will look to defend their trophy and rewrite history by being the first nation to win four consecutive
major tournaments. Host nation Brazil will also be going into the competition in very buoyant mood after they demolished World champions Spain to win the recently held
Confederations cup.

With talents such as Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Mesut Ozil on show and in peak form, this World Cup may well become the best of the bunch.But
before any of the footballing can be played there is a small matter of preparation and organization. Okay, I think I understated the importance. The planning of the
World Cup is the most important aspect of the tournament, but most football enthusiasts seem to play down its value.

The organization of the Brazil 2014 World Cup has been very average and very much behind schedule. Brazil won the bid to host the 2014 World Cup back in 2007, but
preparations for this summer’s show-piece is still ongoing. Fifa president Sepp Blatter recently voiced his frustrations at the 2014 organizers over their inability to
meet the supposed deadlines.

“Brazil has now come to realize that they started too late. They are the country who are the most delayed in terms of World Cup organization since I have been at Fifa,
even though they had such a long time(seven years) to prepare”, Blatter told Swiss newspaper 24 Heures.

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The build-up to the tournament has also been threatened by widespread protests from the Brazilian locals, which was evident during the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Although the protests were said to be mainly peaceful during the time, there is a growing feeling that the protesters may use the upcoming World Cup to really make
themselves heard.

Ahead of the opening match of the Confederations Cup many disgruntled Brazilians took to the streets to voice their discontent at the amount of money invested in the
World Cup preparation. FIFA president, at the time responded by saying the protesters should not use football to make their demands heard and that the public
expenditure on staging the event was for ‘items that are for the future and not just for the World Cup.

Though the demonstrations continued, the 2013 Confederations Cup was labelled a huge success, and was quoted as ‘the best ever Confederations Cup’ by Sepp Blatter. With
Brazil also hosting the 2016 Olympics, one might hope that this lackadaisical approach to the organization of the 2014 World Cup would not be repeated.

“I am an optimist, not a pessimist,” concluded Blatter in his interview with 24 Heures. “Football will be protected. I believe that the Brazilians will not attack
football directly. This is the sport’s home, it’s a religion.” Blatter continued by saying: “But we know there will be new demonstrations, protests. Last year, they
were born of social networks. There was no goal but, at the World Cup they will be more directed, more structured.

Let’s hope not!!

BALLON D’OR: TEAM SUCCESS OR INDIVIDUAL BRILLIANCE

“Who do i want to win this year? I do not want anyone at all. I am against individual awards. This is an endorsement of an individual which goes against the essence of our sport. I fight like a madman against the award, which hurts football. Unconsciously, the player is prompted to favour individual performance over that of the team,” proclaimed Arsene Wenger when asked about the potential winner for the 2013 Ballon d’or. Indeed Wenger may have a point when he claims that the player is unconsciously prompted to favour individual performance over that of the team, but hey that is the way of the game. Football is a team sport, but like almost every sport there are individuals who are better than the rest thus should be rewarded for their oustanding talent, hardwork and discipline. Whether a player plays for the glory of the team or not is another debatable subject altogther, but personal accolades are seen as recognition for extra effort which also serves to motivate the reciepent and others to scale even greater heights. Enough of the talk about the pros and cons of individual awards, the Ballon d’or is upon us again, and unlike the previous four years where Lionel Messi swept home the award, this years event is one of the most tightly contested in recent history and could well see a different winner for the first time in five years. Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are aguarbly two of the most gifted players to have graced the game, and then there is Bayern Munich star Frank Ribery who has had an outstanding year both with his club and personally. Now the question is posed ‘who wins this year’s prestigious prize’? And unlike Monsieur Wenger most football fans have their favourites for the player of the year. In the years gone by, it has been a two-sided battle between Ronaldo and Messi, but for the first time since 2007 we may have a new player of the year besides those two. Frank Ribery, born 7 April 1983, described as the ‘jewel of French football’ by Zinedine Zidane is the final nominee in this year’s Ballon d’or 2013 final shortlist. The Bayern Munich winger has had a phenominal year by all standards, with Bayern brushing all before them to win 5 trophies in 2013. Ribery for his part was rewarded by being named Bundesliga footballer of the year, French player of the year and the Uefa best player in Europe award. His playing style? A player profile page on ESPN describes him as quick, incisive, committed and a strong winger. At age 30, this may be Ribery’s final chance to add the Ballon d’or to his impressively recent individual honours. But thinking about Ribery surely makes one look back at 2010 when Wesley Sneijder, also just from a treble winning season with Internazionale and the star man of that team was touted to take home the prize but did not even make the final 3 man shortlist. This comparison makes one believe that the award is handed to the most outsanding individual of that year not the most outstanding team player, which made Lionel Messi retain his crown that year. Andy Brasell from the Bleacher report in an article back in August on Frank Ribery said: ‘The statistical case is good. He is not, of course, a goalscoring phenomenom in the mould of Ronaldo or Messi, but Ribery still managed an impressive total 13 goals and 22 assists for Bayern in all competitions last season. He was also the understated architect of both goals in the Champions League final’. In fact while Andy Brasell states clearly that Ribery is not a goalscoring freak like Ronaldo or Messi, 13 goals a season for a forward is pretty average for a potential Ballon d’or winner. Frank Ribery no doubt was at peak form last season aiding his club to an historic treble, but was he better individually than Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo? Or was he just a better Frank Ribery than previous years. The statistics show that he was nowhere near as good as both the Argentine and Portuguese captains in the numbers department. Ribery like Wesley Sniejder gained his recognition through his all conquering team, while Messi and Ronaldo footballing gods in ther own rights gained recognition through pure individual brilliance. In a season where Lionel Messi scored 60 goals and made 16 assists and Ronaldo scored 55 goals and 12 assists, Frank Ribery’s 13 goals and 22 assists cannot be ranked along with these two. In fact some might ague that Gareth Bale had a better individual performing year than Frank Ribery, but that is a topic for another day. Nothing should be taken away from the fact that Ribery had the best footballing year of his career, but due to the standards set by Messi and Ronaldo, 13 goals and 22 assists does not cut it to win the Ballon d’or while these two are still around. Image