Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rafa needs to sign "unproven, small names" -Ebren

In the wake of the Champions League final defeat there is talk that Rafa Benitez (not to mention every club in the world) needs to sign some "big names", "proven quality", and "world-class performers".

The idea being to inject some extra match-winning class to move on to the next stage.

But most of the big teams don't do that.

Vieira once complained to Wenger that Arsene needed to sign a world-class player. Wenger replied that Vieira wasn't "world class" when he signed him.

Ronaldihno (PSG), Essien (Lyon), Schevchenko (Kiev), Zidane (Bordeaux), Ronaldo (PSV), Ronaldo (Sporting), Rooney (Everton), Figo (Sporting), Drogba (Marseille), Henry (Juventus - but wasn't playing/rated), Vieira (Milan, but wasn't playing), Van Nis (PSV), Keane (Forrest), Bergkamp (Inter - but wasn't playing), Shearer (Southampton).

The players who have made the biggest impact have tended to be the best players in a smaller league, the best players from a middle-ranking club in a major league, or failed experiments in Milan or Juve.

Players with something to prove, not men who have already made a name.

None of these came cheap (several of them worth more than 20 mil), but the way to get world-class players seems to be to buy players that aren't world class yet.

Barca, Juve, Chelsea, Milan, Man U, Arsenal - much of their success has been built on this type of purchase. When Madrid went out to but "the best player in the world every year", the team was kack.

By contrast, the catalyst that made Barcelona great again was Ronaldihno. From PGS, where there were serious question marks over his ability and his lifestyle.

Ferguson's side needed new life. Ronaldo, Rooney, Carrick, Vidic. Two prospects, two under-rated players.

And he's done it before. Keane and Cantona - British transfer records broken, but neither were seen as "world class" before they reached Old Trafford. Neither were Stam, Van Nistelrooy, Yorke, or a host of others. Veron was a big name when he arrived. So was Barthez.

Mourinho needed to take a talented team and make them winners. Drogba, Essien, Carvalho did that. Even Makelele was disrespected at Madrid (he was on a 'paltry' £10,000 a week). Chelsea sign two "world class names" and it all goes a bit wrong.

Newcastle have spend the last ten years buying "big names" - Kluivert, Owen, Woodgate, Bramble, Parker, Duff, Emre, not to mention Shearer. They let Gascoigne and Carrick go. They have won nothing.

Inter anyone? Moratti spent more than £300m on players to win the Uefa cup.

Some players live up to their world-class status in a new home. For one season Zidane, Figo, and Ronaldo won Madrid the European cup in 2002. But most would agree that the Galactico experiment was not a resounding success.

So my advice to Rafa - if you want the best you have to buy from the second-tier.


andrewm said...


I think it's even worse when you identify a particular "world class" player that you apparently just have to sign because they're going to be your saviour, and so instead of saying "What Liverpool need is a Paul Ince type player who can come in and boss the midfield" and then signing a young Paul Ince, you .... er .... sign Paul Ince.

Ince-identally - ha ha! - isn't that just one of those names where the more you say it, the more ridiculous it sounds, until you start to get confused and a bit lightheaded.

file said...


you make some good points but this is all about shopping skills isn't it?

any smart manager will buy cheap, young and fruity if flawed, hoping for development and maturity but while the footy features may be easy to identify the personality may not be so

Rafa has already done what you suggest by investing in the potential in Bellamy, Pennant and Zendon and they haven't been able to live the dream

the other problem with buying under the top tier is the time neccessary to start delivering, not many young players have what it takes to really hit the ground running in the PL and some managers will need immediate fx

that's partly why it's interesting watching the professor at work at Arsenal, watching his little mangoes ripen (or not as may be)

andrewm said...

file, I can't agree with you on Bellamy, Pennant and Zenden. Bellamy was bought because at 6 million he might well have been a steal. Pennant was bought only after missing out repeatedly on Simao Sabrosa due to lack of funds. Zenden was free, and was I think 28 in any case.

Ebren said...

I think Crouch fits the profile. Berbatov and McCarthy do as well (or would have if thay had gone to Man U or Chelsea or somewhere).

If he were to buy Lita or Nugent I think it would be similar. Of Course Arteta and Cahill wouldn't be bad bets, and Mouth is bricking it that they will come in for Vaughn. Gabriel Agbonlahor seems about right.

file said...

I just mean that they are all gambles on effective assesment, like Hyypia was and look at how he turned out

file said...

mmm, Cahill, Arteta and Vaughan in a straight swap for Crouching tiger wouldn't be bad business, but there might be blood on the streets

Ebren said...

filo - if I may call you filo - agreed. You have to gamble. Essien, Drogba were very costly, and they might well have been expensive mistakes. There was also the clash over Mikel, SWP. Ibrahimovic was anoother recent expensive gamble.

My point was that all the papers, pundits and commentators on certain other sports blogs seem to think the answer is to go out and buy Eto'o.

I mean, Eto'o himself was rejected by Madrid when he went from Mallorca to Barca.

This was an attempt to counter that sort of thing, which seems to go unquestioned when brought up.

file said...

good attempt, Eto'o would likely do wonders for LFC, but when?

is a season to bed in acceptable? Will the reds accept having a toothless season while they wait? And what if he doesn't perform after that, very costly mistake

I agree with your basic idea and I think that he needs to buy broadly too, perhaps in the end that will decide Eto'o, if he want 6 or 7 lesser dogs instead

and he seems to be focusing on the wings these days, Lennon + Bridge with Martins or McCarthey?

andrewm said...

file, fair enough.

It's reported that Rafa feels he should have had Walcott, Vidic, Diaby and a few others of that ilk, but wasn't backed by the board when it came to final negotiations. I think of all the managers bar Wenger he's the least enamoured of so-called star players.

pipita said...

Very suggestive piece Ebren. I feel the need to raise the case for a counter-factual however: my team Everton. I tend to think that its been the lack of big names that explains why their has been no revitalization at Goodison for the last fifteen years. In the mid eighties they very skillfully got hold of bargains who later proved hits-Reid, Sharp, Sheedy,Gray-but they also knew when to go for the more expensive players ie Steven, Heath and most of all, Lineker.
On the other hand, in spite of their inflated transfer fees, cant bring myself to consider the likes of Bramble and Parker as star players

file said...

yeh, he's good like that for sure because he's driven by his tactics

but I can't help thinking that if there had been just a bit of tumb-thumping Keegan in the dressing room at half-time in Athens...

Ebren said...

Ah, but Bramble and Parker were seen as stars.

With Ipswich romping to fifth in the table Titus Bramble was the hottest defensive property in the league. People were likening him to ferdinand and Campbell as a ball-playing centre half.

PArker, likewise, powere Charlton to fourth in the table before departing to Chelsea.

On the big name front - MArgin makes a good case that Spurs only started getting better when they stopped trying to sign a big name - the one player that would make the difference (Rebrov anyone?) and started building a team.

They did some smart business with Dawson, Lennon, Carrick, and Robinson as well (all picked up pretty cheaply).

pipita said...

Yeah, but stars in the context of english football because they stood for basic traditional values of the game there. Think it was pretty clear that neither would develop into potential international level players.

guitougoal said...

Great topic. You could use also "crystal ball"for a title. Because the transfert business turned out to be a guessing game.There are more casualties than success stories with young talented players who got the call to play at a higher level.Arsenal and Manutd are different, Wenger or Fergusson not only are good at picking the very young with enormous potential, they are also great at developing their confidence , allowing them time to grow and blend with their team.
Rapha, has a shorter term mentality, like Mourinho he is asking for immediate performance but history tells that very few players among the best
prospects can switch and raise their game to a top club level-unless they are prepared with minutia-

andrewm said...

guitou, I don't think that's true about Rafa. You don't take into account the way he's transforming the youth and reserve squads and the number of young players from around the world he's signed.

Also, he's integrating players like Agger, Paletta and Insua into the first team squad, with Leto and Leiva to come next season.

Add to that the fact that his most successful signings have been younger players who needed to step up a level and have done so under his guidance - Reina and Alonso to name two - and I think you're off base with the short term mentality suggestion.

guitougoal said...

these 2 players you mentioned were already 100% -
Alonso was a prominent star in la liga with Real Sociedad when he was signed-he was also international with spain-
same with Reina who played with Villareal until 2005 before to be brought to Anfield-I don't think we can name them as Rapha's product-I may be off base with the short term suggestion but that how he was qualified by one of his own player.

offside said...

Interesting piece, Ebren, and recruiting is certainly a tricky business. I really enjoy the transfer/speculation time of year.

One small thing: for anyone watching Ligue 1, it was clear when they were there that Ronaldinho, Essien and Drogba were star performers. Absolute class. They just suffered from the prejudice that if you're playing in France, you haven't "made it" yet. And also, when you play in France, you don't really get to shine in Europe these days (even though Drogba almost single-handedly took Marseille to the UEFA cup final).

Ronaldinho was a little bit different at PSG because of his questionable attitude and the strange relationship he had with Luis Fernandez, but his class was obvious.

Ebren said...

Offy, fair point - and that is why they cost that much money (all of them over £20m).

But the point is, they are not proven at a big club. Henry and Vieira failed in italy. Juventus offered twice as much money for McManaman as they did for Zidane.

And when people talk about ribery it is in a very different tone to talking about Eto'o or Ronaldo.

andrewm said...

guitou, they weren't world stars though, and he knew it would take Alonso time to adapt, as it did Luis Garcia.

I could list 10 - 15 promising teenagers he's signed if you want.

offside said...


for your own safety, if you ever go to Marseille, be careful with the "small club" jokes. They're very touchy down there.

It all depends what you mean by "proven". And to follow up on your example, I think Ribery has proved his talent but not his consistency yet. Whereas Essien and Drogba had proven both. I think you can judge a player on performance even if he's playing for a "not-so-big" club.

Twice as much money for McManaman as for Zidane is funny.

Ebren said...

Drogba was frightening when he knocked out Liverpool and Newcastle (sober judges said he was better than Henrey in those games). But he was called a wast of money for his first two seasons in England.

Essien fair point.

France has several big clubs, so does Portugal, Holland and Scotland. But they are not top leagues.

Anyone know why Junihnio (Paulista) has not been picked up yet? At the world cup he and Kaka were the only Brazilian players that lived up to their reputations.

guitougoal said...

(giving more names)
no, I believe you-
Rapha is certainly one of the smartest coach in the world but I think his recruiting of the last three seasons (100millions dollars) are far from brilliant-
And he doesn't have the reputation of being patient with the players.

guitougoal said...

juninho just signed a long term with lyon-
speaking about Lyon, I am more amazed that Malouda was not picked up yet as well as Abidal but this could happen this summer.

Speaktruth said...


Another bash Liverpool blog.



offside said...

Ligue 1 shock news! Toulouse in the Champions League! TOULOUSE!

Watch out, Milan. Allez le Téfécé!

Has anybody seen their "unproven" strike partnership of Elmander and Emana? I wonder if they'll be able to hold on to them now...

Speaktruth said...

Elmander has 6 fingers on each hand.

Just thought potential buyers ought to know.

mimi said...

Speak: does Elmander actually come from Norfolk then?

guitougoal said...

you mean he has a handful of fingers-
that's probably screwing up his mental calculation.

Speaktruth said...

actually its not him.

but one of em has 6 fingers and is brazillian.

whatever that has to do with the ptice of cheese.

guitougoal said...

how naive am i-I would never doubt any of your statement because of your pseud.

Speaktruth said...

Sorry guitigoal.

Just imagine the burden I have to carry.

One false piece of info and its.....


Speaktruth said...

sorry again guitougoal

I must have been thinking of Guti.

(surely not!)

Any news on Rafa's new major signings??

I mean, he did want them to move fairly quick.

Dunno what all the fuss is about??

Voronin is on his way :)

guitougoal said...

I have no clue, only rumors. He must be anxious to improve his offence because it has been the Achilles tendon so far-

Speaktruth said...


He is rather hamstrung by it all.

marcela said...

very interesting piece ebren.

unlike offside, i never enjoy transfer gossip or this time of the season.

but i do think, like guitou says, it is a guessing game of sorts.

there are no formulas, are there?

the closest i can think of to a club trying to define some kind of policy was real Madrid when they implemented their "zidanes and pavones" route. the idea was to build a first team squad with both 'types'. also, they attempted to adhere to a strict ratio: for every super signing the club would promote three home grown players from the 'cantera' or youth squads.

as a policy it was a vote winner at the time. and for a while, it seemed to pay off on the pitch too, non?

you seem to suggest specifically that rafa should look for young unproven unkowns who are cheap but will deliver... in a sense so should anyone trying to build a squad in the commercial football world. but there is a slippery slope here which leads to a moral cul de sac: as the search for ever younger, ever cheaper flesh broadens and takes on the hidden corners of the globe we begin to trade children - quite literally - and the reality of 'big' club or even 'not that big' club set ups in western europe is simply hideous enough that there are neither laws nor ethical socio-psycho-cultural codes in place to factor in any humanity into the equation.

as i say, son't really like transfer time. everything that is seedy, sordid and ugly about football rears its head around this time.


Speaktruth said...

I think evem Gareth Barry would do wonders for this Liverpool side.

Darrem Bent less so.

I am still waiting on someone to make a move for Elano at Shalter Donesk. Quality goalscoring midfielder and a winner and he has wanted to leave for ages.

In fact if I were an english epl side outside of the top 4 I would go shopping in the Ukraine.

MotM said...

Whilst there is always danger in buying a player on the way down (eg Shevchenko), some of the best buys appear to be those you look good in international football, but are failing at their clubs. In this bracket, I would put many of Arsenal's best buys: Pires, Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira (I think), Overmars, even Sol.

Rooney had proved himself for England before he went to Man Utd and I think Cristiano had done so for Portugal too. Henrik Larsson fits this description too, although there are always Jon-Dahl Tommassons and that Portuguese guy at Spurs to spoil it.

So if I were Rafa, I would look for a player proven at international level, but under-achieving at his club. I don't know enough about European football to comment with evidence, but Klose and his strike partner for Germany might do it and er... Peter Crouch.

byebyebadman said...

To me Liverpool seem solid in every position bar their forwards - up until the final third of the pitch they look as good as any team in Europe I'd say.

I agree with an earlier post about the trade of children in football - it is abhorrent in some cases, whilst it may not be illegal it stinks ethically. The transfer of John Obi Mikel shames everyone involved (i'd still consider him a kid at 18) and there are several other examples - how do these young lads feel when they are signed by a big club and then loaned out to a feeder club in another country on the very same day? Not to mention buy-out clauses and minimum transfer fees that can chain them to a miserable existance...a sordid and seedy business indeed.

I hate the agents' wet dream that is transfer time in the summer. Providing Venezuela completes all its stadia in time I'll be focusing on the Copa America instead.

offside said...

Since you're now talking about child slavery (slight exaggeration, non?), I should point out that what I like about the transfer season is the comedy value.

Players declaring their undying loyalty for their club only to be seen kissing another badge a month later. Managers denying they'll be going anywhere only to manage their club's nearest, bitterest rivals the next season. Grown men (and women) playing football manager and building imaginary teams on blogs.

What's not to like?

offside said...

Of course, I might have a very different view if I could take any of it seriously...

byebyebadman said...

I'm quite happy to hear all the speculation offside, it's the practice I don't care for.

Ince-identally I didn't call it child slavery, it's all legal and above board. I just think it's morally dubious to say the least.

Regarding Liverpool, I think they'll get Fernando Torres, who would make a world of difference IMHO.

greengrass said...

Yes, Ebren - Rafa needs some "small" names. "Crouch" and "Kuyt" should stay - only one syllable apiece. There are a lot of two-syllable players on the books, and they can stay - but "Bellamy" and "Carragher" will have to go.

Elmander is a decent act for a Swede, but three syllables is one too many.

They can send us Mascherano, and we'll send Heinze by return of post.

mimi said...

Bear in mind that there's no such thing as "return of post" these days with the bastard Royal Mail!
Priceless jokes about same, freely available. Latest is that I am delivered a note, yesterday, telling me I wasn't in 4 days previous to receive a message that there is a package awaiting my collection in Elgin. Doesn't tell me why they've taken 3 days to tell me. Doesn't tell me who the package is from - I'm not waiting any presents - but now, I have to drive in any pay good moolah, just to find out what fucker couldn't get my address and the postage right?
Domocracy? Huh, not where we live.
Sorry all, I'm in a bad mood.

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