It may not be the most glamorous position on the field, with strikers and attacking midfielders often stealing the glory, but no good side is complete without a top-class goalkeeper.

Here are five of the best young emerging keepers in Europe…

Gianluigi Donnarumma – AC Milan

When given his senior debut by Sinisa Mihajlovic last season, Gianluigi Donnarumma became the youngest goalkeeper in the history of Serie A at the age of 16 years and eight months.

Almost immediately, a new superstar of calcio was born. The teenage quickly established himself as the Rossoneri’s first choice between the posts, keeping the vastly experienced Christian Abbiati out of the team.

Standing at 6ft 5ins tall and blessed with remarkable reflexes for such a large young man, Donnarumma has all of the physical gifts to excel as a top-level goalkeeper.

But perhaps the now-17-year-old’s most valuable attribute is his temperament. Ever since making his Serie A bow back in October 2015, Donnarumma has carried himself with the poise and unawed demeanour of a seasoned veteran.

The Milan stopper, who wears the number 99 to reflect the year of his birth, demonstrated his value to the team in the closing stages of their season opener against Torino at the San Siro. Milan were hanging on to a slender 3-2 lead when the away side were awarded a penalty in stoppage time. It was the first time in his fledgling career that Donnarumma had faced a spot kick. But with the coolness of a much more experienced keeper, he made a superb diving save to deny Andrea Belotti and seal the three points for his team.

In just 41 appearances for Milan, Donnarumma has already kept 15 clean sheets. So far this season, he is averaging 2.91 saves per game and has a 100 percent success rate when coming to claim crosses.

This is the kind of form that led to him becoming the Azzurri’s youngster ever goalkeeper when making his debut in a friendly against France in August.

Alban Lafont – Toulouse

In France, 17-year-old Toulouse goalkeeper Alban Lafont has been earning rave reviews.

The teenager became the youngest keeper in Ligue 1 history when he made his first-team debut at the age of 16 years and 10 months last November. At 6ft 4ins, Lafont has all of the physical tools to thrive in his position despite his tender years, and has represented France at under-18 level.

Born in Burkina Faso, Lafont moved to France when he was nine. It wasn’t long before the young man’s athletic gifts were noticed and, after receiving a host of offers from clubs all over the country, he elected to join Toulouse’s youth academy.

With the team shipping goals and struggling at the bottom of the table, Lafont’s introduction to the first team coincided with Toulouse’s turnaround. His debut came in a 2-0 win over high flying Nice; it was Les Pitchouns’ first clean sheet of the campaign.

In the 14 games before his debut, Toulouse had conceded 29 goals; the subsequent 24 matches with Lafont between the sticks they allowed 27 goals. And this season he has been in equally superlative form, with his performance in the 2-0 win over champions PSG in September particularly impressive.

Former Lyon goalkeeper Gregory Coupet believes the key to Lafont’s success is his maturity: “He is a smart goalkeeper who reads the game well. It is possible to feel that. He brings a lot of confidence despite his young age.” It also helps that he is playing behind his good friend Issa Diop. The 19-year-old centre-back was a team-mate of Lafont’s at youth level and the pair have now both become key players for Toulouse.

Jordan Pickford – Sunderland

There are few reasons for optimism for Sunderland fans at the moment. Davis Moyes’s team are bottom of the Premier League having taken just two points from their first 10 games.

But the emergence of young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is providing a small ray of hope in these dark times for the Black Cats.

The 22-year-old England under 21-international has spent the last four years gathering first-team experience through a series of loan spells in the lower divisions.

Darlington, Alfreton Town, Burton Albion, Carlisle United, Bradford City and Preston North End have all benefited from the burgeoning talent of Pickford in recent seasons.

The youngster made his Sunderland debut in December 2015 in an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal. When he made his maiden Premier League appearance against Tottenham Hotspur nine days later, it meant that he had appeared in all of the top four divisions in England by the age of 21.

An injury to regular first-choice keeper Vito Mannone handed Pickford the chance to impress at the Stadium of Light earlier this season. Although Sunderland continue to struggle, the number 13’s stock has risen.

Were it not for Pickford’s average of 3.38 saves per game and 100 percent claim success this season, Sunderland could be in an even worse position.

Joël Drommel – FC Twente

FC Twente’s 19-year-old goalkeeper Joël Drommel made his first-team debut against the mighty Ajax in a 2-2 draw December of last year.

The youngster, who is a product of Twente’s own youth academy, went on to make 15 appearances for the Dutch club last season.

This term, Drommel has been back-up to the more experienced Nick Marsman, but there is no rush for the talented stopper to be thrust into regular senior action as he only turns 20 this month.

Much like Donnarumma and Lafont, Drommel cuts an imposing figure for one so young, standing at 6ft 4ins. His decision-making ability and reliability when collecting crosses marks the youngster out as having a level of maturity beyond his years.

Though yet to appear for the Netherlands at under-21 level, the Bussum-born teenager was called up to the Jong Oranje squad last season.

Raúl Gudiño – FC Porto

Mexican goalkeeper Raúl Gudiño signed for FC Porto from Guadalajara in his homeland for $1.5 million in the summer of 2015, following a successful 10-month loan spell with the Dragões.

Gudiño is yet to make his first-team debut for Porto, but he does have Primeira Liga experience thanks to spending last season on loan with União da Madeira.

The 6ft 5ins 20-year-old is renowned for his lightning-quick reflexes and shot stopping ability.

Gudiño was named the CONCACAF Young Goalkeeper of the Year in 2013 for his performances with Mexico at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, and has appeared five times for EL Tricolor at under-23 level.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midland’s based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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If one year summed up the highs and lows of Portuguese football, it was most definitely 2004. It was one for the underdog, an anomaly in many ways, going against the grain. That theme was both a blessing and a curse in an Iberian country that has punched above its weight for a very long time now.

The best way to demonstrate Portugal’s overachievement is by looking at the size of the country. Dwarfed in terms of land by neighbouring Spain, with a population of around 10 million people, they have been able to maintain a reputation as an elite side in Europe and across the world, with so many of their alumni enjoying legendary status within the beautiful game.

Twelve years ago, they showed their powers of fighting against more illustrious company on the club scene, and failing embarrassingly as the favourites internationally. At the Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto stormed to victory in one of the most one-sided Champions League finals ever against Monaco. It was also one of the most surprising, because where AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United had all failed, Mourinho’s charges had succeeded, typically ruthless in their execution and embodying the image of their charismatic coach, who had announced himself to the watching world.

Just a month later, Portugal went into the European Championships under a wave of high expectation. Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari, fresh from leading his native country to the 2002 World Cup, was in charge, and with the competition set to commence in their own back yard amidst a backdrop of new and modern stadia, a first major trophy in their history was more than a possibility.

It made quite a change from the freedom Porto enjoyed on their run to a second major European title in as many years, having lifted the UEFA Cup in 2003. Pressure and expectation on a country that size could be construed as a little over the top, but Portugal were no strangers to excelling as a footballing nation despite the lack of titles, thanks to the plethora of hugely talented individuals produced over the years.

Immediately, when thinking back to that list, the name of Eusebio is mentioned. A striker with pace to burn and a devastating eye for goal in his heyday of the 1960s and 70s, the Mozambique-born icon led Benfica to the European Cup in 1962, not to mention eleven Primeira Liga titles.

On the international stage, the best he could muster was third place at the 1966 World Cup. But he set a precedent, and the squad of players at Scolari’s disposal was arguably stronger, dubbed the ‘golden generation’ by many. One that should have won something, but as is so often proven, football doesn’t work that way.

Luis Figo led this particular group; by now he was an old head who had demonstrated that he was perhaps the natural heir to Eusebio’s throne. What excited most was the opportunity to go one further, and the perfect mix of youth and experience gave balance to the squad. Deco, Porto’s main instigator, Manuel Rui Costa and an 18-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo, the other man now worth mentioning in that Eusebio argument, were primed and ready.

Squads being assembled to make assaults on the international scene are nothing new, it happened before Portugal and has happened after, but there is always a tinge of sadness when it doesn’t quite reach it’s full potential. There is only a finite opportunity to do so with tournaments only coming round every two years.

Euro 2004 took the same route as that preceding Champions League campaign. Many of the perceived favourites flattered to deceive, with France dropping out at the quarterfinals along with England, and Spain, Italy and Germany falling at the group stages. The Seleccao were perhaps the only elite team to show up, allowing Czech Republic and eventual winners Greece to steal the limelight.

Defeat in the final left Scolari’s men embarrassed, frustrated and licking their wounds, squandering their best chance at silverware yet. It was only the mid-point of the most fruitful era in their history, but Figo was almost 32 and Rui Costa had turned that a few months earlier, their time was coming to an end. Four years earlier, they reached the semi finals in Belgium and Holland, the same stage they went home at two years later at Germany’s World Cup.

Rui Costa’s departure after the tournament perhaps allowed Deco and Ronaldo to shine, but no matter what was achieved later, not winning their own tournament with a squad at the height of its powers will always sting for Portugal.

Reputations may have been built further had they prevailed, too. In the case of Rui Costa, a great in his own right with Benfica, Fiorentina and Milan, memories have faded, more so than his career deserved. Nicknamed ‘il maestro’ in Italy, he was a victim of the team’s strength, failing to stand out as much as he should, never truly making his stamp.

As that squad separated, Portugal have maintained their aura in the game, but struggled to replicate performance overall. Ronaldo is now 31 and has carried the team as a leader in a way few can. His chapter is now closing, and young talent is emerging, but the romantic idea of that ‘golden generation’ relies on nothing but memories.

But that is what makes football great, the inability to predict what will happen. At their lowest ebb this summer, Portugal were finally able to break their duck by winning the European Championships in France. In the final, against the more superior hosts, they were able to exorcise their demons from that night against Greece by turning the tables. Victory was snatched in unlikely fashion, thanks to an extra time goal by Eder, a failed Premier League striker in the right place at the right time.

The legacies of Deco, Rui Costa and Figo will always be great, but that remarkable team will always have a question mark etched on it, showing Portugal are better suited as underdogs. Football doesn’t always follow the script.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo and The Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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It’s safe to say that Portugese football is in good shape right now, European Championship winners in the summer, runners up in the 2015 U21 European championship, and runners up in the U19 European championships the year before. Six of the key players from those youth teams have broken into the national team now – Joao Cancelo (22), Raphael Guerreiro (22), Andre Gomes (23), Bernardo Silva (22), Joao Mario (23), Gelson Martins (21) and Andre Silva (20) with the latter being particularly impressive. Here we look at how his career has taken off.

Silva has played for every Portugal national team from U16 level and has been vital in the success of the new generation. At the 2014 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, he became the first ever player to net four times in a single match (6–1 group stage defeat of Hungary) so progression through the ranks was inevitable and in his first appearance with the under-21 side, Silva scored a hat-trick in 19 minutes, contributing to a 6–1 win against Albania for the 2017 European Under-21 Championship qualifiers. Unfortunately he might not feature in the finals of that tournament for the U21’s as he has done his chances of remaining in the first team no harm with recent performances. Four goals in four games including becoming the youngest player to score a hattrick for Portugal has shown us what an exciting young talent he is.

He made his competitive debut for Porto last season but started the campaign behind Aboubakar and Dani Osvaldo in the pecking order, this situation worsened in January with the acquisitions of Suk Hyun-jun and Moussa Marega. However, after José Peseiro replaced Julen Lopetegui as manager, he received more opportunities and scored his first league goal in a 4–0 home win over Boavista. He subsequently started in the final of the Taça de Portugal, helping his team recover from a 2-0 deficit against S.C. Braga with a brace, which included a bicycle kick in the last-minute.

Silva has begun 2016–17 in good form, with goals in his first two league games against Rio Ave F.C. and G.D. Estoril Praia, while also scoring in Porto’s 1–1 draw at home to A.S. Roma in the UEFA Champions League’s play-off round. A brace against Boavista and another goal a week later against Nacional puts him on nine goals in 14 games (including for Portugal), an impressive return for a 20 year old. He has just signed a new five-year contract with Porto, which includes a release clause of €60 million, a clear statement of how highly he is rated and how much the next superstar on the Porto conveyor belt might cost one of Europe’s superpowers.

About the author – Liam Bailes

Liam has been a football fanatic since the early 1990s and continues to be delighted by the sport today. He follows the 5 big European leagues as well as the npower championship and major cup competitions both domestically and internationally. He is an FA level 2 coach and loves to be involved with football at every opportunity.



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The Portuguese league is full of wonderkids, and many of those are already being pursued by several European sharks.

It’s a major priority amongst Portuguese football clubs to develop these youngsters, especially with the growing financial cuts in buying foreign players. And it’s not only the smaller clubs who have increased the investment in the youth teams: former league champions such as Porto and Sporting keep a very keen eye on home grown talents.

Here are two of the brightest Portuguese talents to recently emerge and capture admiring glances from some of Europe’s elite

Renato Júnior Luz Sanches “The Torpedo”: Carrying SL Benfica on his back.

One of those youngsters is the 18 years-old Renato Sanches. There’s no way he can be seen as an ordinary player: his dreadlocks remind us of a young Edgar Davids – and let’s be honest, he was a real “Pitbull”. Sanches is no Davids for now, but surely assembles him in features. Side by side with Fejsa or Samaris as Central or even as Defensive Midfielder, Renato Sanches is in the perfect position to do the same thing as Matic and Ramires did in the Benfica’s Midfield: stand out. And boy, he has done that with perfection!

Highlighted by Rui Vitoria (Benfica’s head coach), Sanches has at present scored two very impressive goals, both from outside the box, and the last one managed to save Benfica from a disappointing draw. Gifted with a mighty torpedo that astonishes any of the opponent teams’ goalkeepers, in addition to an amazing passing ability and an irreverence that simply excites the supporters, Sanches is one most promising Portuguese Prospects for the future.

And Benfica recognises the talent: Sanches is protected with a release clause of (hold on to your seats) near €80 Million (about £60 Million). And United have already begun scouting the player. Will they be able to sign this wonderkid, paying Benfica an exorbitant amount for Sanches? Right now, it’s craziness. In a few years, it’s a bargain.

My evaluation:

Stamina Level: 6/10

Shooting: 7/10

Pace: 6,5/10

Heading: 5/10

Tackling: 5,5/10

Teamwork: 6/10

Overall: 6/10

Potential: 9/10

Rúben Diogo da Silva Neves “The Panzer”: Icing the midfield.

There is only one player in FC Porto that truly knows how it feels to be a real Porto supporter: the 18 years-old homemade prospect Rúben Neves. It was a surprise for all the football lovers when a totally unknown kid showed up in the starting eleven against Arouca in September.

A personal bet of the sacked Julen Lopetegui that really paid off – and the kid rose to break Rafael Van der Vaart’s record in the Champions League, becoming the youngest captain in this competition, with only 18 years and 221 days of age.

In his own words: ‘I was many times a ball boy in Estadio do Dragão, and now to be on the other side.. It’s a dream. It’s truly a goal to anyone from the youth teams.” But what does this wonderkid have that the other youngsters don’t?

Well, besides being a true supporter, he is an aggregation of passing and tackling, making him a valuable asset in Porto’s first team. Delegating the defensive tasks to Danilo Pereira, Neves could stand out as the playmaker that Porto really needed.

Yes, it’s true that Neves doesn’t have the irreverence and “flames” that Renato Sanches has: Rúben Neves is much more “ice”, a “Panzer” that manages to control the pace of the game whenever and however he wants.

Porto are indeed very grateful to have a player that controls the game and gives the strikers much needed freedom. He may not score, but his passing it’s a delight to watch.

And let’s be honest: a team that has the Sanches’ torpedo and the “Panzer” is a team to be feared. And apparently there is only one team that might have them both in the future: The Portuguese national team. So watch out for them.

€40 Million (£30,5 Million): that’s the price that FC Porto asks for this wonderkid. But that’s no obstacle to English sharks: Arsenal simply love him, and reports say that Wenger has ordered an approach of €31,5 Million to sign him. It seems though that that’s a small amount to pay for the winner of the Portuguese Youngster of the Year (2015).

FC Porto will be reluctant to sell their most promising player: however, Porto’s chairman Pinto da Costa has confirmed that if the right offer arrives, there will be no other option but to let the youngster go. The question now is: how far are Arsenal willing to go to sign the “Panzer”?

My Evaluation

Stamina Level: 8/10

Shooting: 5/10

Pace: 6/10

Heading: 6/10

Tackling: 7,5/10

Teamwork: 7,5/10

Overall (with bonus for captaincy): 7/10

Potential: 9,5/10″

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional football for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.



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With all 32 teams in the tournament having already played three times, the Champions League group stage enters its second half this week. All of Europe’s major sides are in action – from Barcelona to Bayern Munich, Manchester United to Real Madrid – but it is some of the continent’s second-tier outfits who could be most worth watching.

Indeed, Wolfsburg, Zenit St Petersburg and Porto are among the teams sitting pretty at the top of their respective groups at the midway point, with all three sides attempting to either qualify with two matches to spare or take a big step in that direction this midweek.

A win for Wolfsburg against PSV Eindhoven would be their third of the campaign and put them at least four points clear of third place. Group B’s German representatives lost key players in Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic in the summer, but have recovered well both domestically and in the Champions League.

Marquee signing Julian Draxler has been vital for last season’s Bundesliga runners-up, with Ricardo Rodriguez, Daniel Caliguiri, Max Kruse, Naldo and Luiz Gustavo also impressing. While a trip to the Netherlands to face PSV will not be easy, Wolfsburg will be confident of their chances of picking up another three points on Tuesday.

Zenit St Petersburg will also be eyeing another triumph when they travel to Lyon. Three wins from three means Andre Villas-Boas’ charges are the only team in this year’s edition of Europe’s foremost continental club competition with maximum points; overcoming Lyon would guarantee their spot in the round of 16, though a point would be enough if Valencia defeat Gent.

Zenit have had a mixed bag when it comes to getting out of their group in recent years: the Russians advanced in 2011/12 and 2013/14 but were knocked out at the first hurdle in 2012/13 and last term. With Villas-Boas already having announced he will step aside at the end of the current campaign, the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur boss will be desperate to lead Zenit into their first ever quarter-final – something that, theoretically, would be more achievable were they to finish top of Group H.

Benfica made the last eight as recently as 2011/12, when they were eliminated by eventual winners Chelsea. A positive start – Rui Vitoria’s men were beaten by Galatasaray last time out but had previously  defeated Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon and won at home to Astana – in this season’s tournament has lifted the 34-time Portuguese champions to the summit of Group C.

Nico Gaitan has been one of the standout performers in the competition so far, with the winger netting three goals in Benfica’s first three encounters. The Primeira Liga side take on Galatasaray at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday knowing that a victory would all but secure their passage into the knockout round.

While the quality of football on display in the latter stages is arguably higher than anything else in history, the Champions League has become rather predictable over the last few years: Chelsea are the only side to have broken the Bayern Munich-Barcelona-Real Madrid oligopoly since 2010, and even that success had a fair amount of good fortune to it.

The group stage of the current campaign has been enjoyable so far, though, with the likes of Wolfsburg, Zenit and Benfica impressing in the first three matches. No member of the trio will win the tournamentindeed, it would be a huge shock if they even made it to the last four – but they have plenty to be pleased about in their showings up to now.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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Ten games into the Ligue 1 campaign, AS Monaco are firmly ensconced in mid-table with 14 points from a possible 30.

Les Monegasques finished third in Le Championnat on the final day of last season, earning a UEFA Champions League playoff berth, but Leonardo Jardim’s men currently find themselves seven points behind Angers SCO and SM Caen and a similar feat looks unlikely for the moment.

Following last Friday’s 1-1 home draw with last season’s runners-up Olympique Lyonnais, the principality outfit are still searching for their first home win in Ligue 1 this term.

Monaco, it appears, are struggling to cope with the heavy number of changes made to the squad over the summer.

This is not completely new. Last season, ASM were in a similar mid-table position until they embarked upon a strong run of form in early December that carried them across all competitions until EA Guingamp ended it in February of this year.

Last summer, like this, Monaco made significant changes to their playing staff. However, despite losing recognisable figures like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, Jardim had a strong core to work with when he arrived at Stade Louis II.

This time around, Les Monegasques moved on six established members of the group and a seventh first team regular from the past few seasons in Lucas Ocampos.

Anthony Martial, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Aymen Abdennour, Layvin Kurzawa, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Dimitar Berbatov all filed out of the exit door, along with a number of others, for just over €150 million.

No fewer than 14 players were acquired to replace those departed. Among those, Ivan Cavaleiro, Adama Traore, Rony Lopes, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Stephan El Shaarawy all came in for around €80 million. Approximately half of what the club earned.

Taking into account the high volume of transfer activity in and out of the principality outfit this summer, Jardim is doing well to keep Monaco in a similar position to the one they were in last season.

They still have a chance to push towards the upper reaches of Ligue 1 like they did over the second half of the last campaign.

The Portuguese tactician has been frustrated by the high turnover of his squad and bemoaned the lack of experience available to him after ASM recorded just their second win of the season, a 1-0 victory away at top flight newcomers Gazelec Ajaccio, last month.

“We are happy to win but all these young players are going to be the death of me,” said the 41-year-old after a Fabinho penalty had sealed the points for his team. “Our youngsters in midfield and attack missed a lot of chances.”

“Our objective is to play good football but it’s not easy,” Jardim continued. “These young players have come from small clubs, where they are not used to playing with pressure to finish towards the top of the table. But our job is to work with them and help them progress.”

Since it became obvious to Monaco president Dmitry Rybolovlev that UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) was going to prove too difficult an obstacle to navigate, the Cote d’Azur club have changed direction completely.

Through a combination of a limited local fanbase that struggles to fill an already small stadium and their failure to find wealthy sponsors, Les Monegasques realised they could not bring in enough commercial revenue to sustain such a lavish project.

Because of that reality exacerbating the nuisance of FFP, ASM had to restructure their project and make some drastic moves. At first, it looked as if the club was a failed venture, but now there seems to be a plan in place.

Monaco have moved away from high-profile, big money signings, like Ligue 1 rivals Paris Saint-Germain, moving instead towards low cost, high potential acquisitions like the ones mentioned by Jardim after the Gazelec win.

In essence, Monaco have become Le Championnat’s answer to Portuguese transfer masters FC Porto. That policy, much to Jardim’s frustration, is not likely to change anytime soon either.

That business model, often relying heavily on cheap, well-scouted South American talent with enormous potential is something that Portuguese sides like Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal arguably copied from Lyon in the early 2000’s.

However, the Portuguese giants perfected it, leaving OL to concentrate largely on French domestic talent. Porto proved the best of the bunch at it and they have since turned it into an art form.

After selling Danilo to Real Madrid, Jackson Martinez to Atletico, Alex Sandro to Juventus and a number of other players this year, Porto have now made close to an estimated €700 million in transfers since 2004.

Dragoes have also learned how to balance that constant turnover with spells of domestic dominance.

There is a long way to go before Monaco equal Porto’s massive transfer revenue, but the seven-time French champions have clearly identified that model and are actively trying to replicate it. The domestic success part, with a juggernaut like PSG already on the scene, will be harder to emulate.

Adding to the Portuguese flavour in Monaco’s Porto-esque project is the fact that Portuguese transfer guru Luis Campos is overseeing it, as well as coach Jardim.

Gone are the days of Falcao, Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho joining the club in attention grabbing, big money moves.

Buy low, sell high, something said that is often associated with Porto, is now starting to be said of Monaco too. No player is unsellable at Stade Louis II; perhaps best demonstrated by Kurzawa’s PSG move, something Vasilyev chalked up to the player’s desire to move to the capital.

“We wanted to keep the player,” the Russian told RMC Radio after Monaco’s Champions League exit at the hands of Valencia. “We talked to him a few times, but he had decided — he really wanted to go to Paris.”

“It’s his choice. We wanted to keep him — but if a player wants to leave and a club makes us a very good offer, we do it. I can confirm that it’s for a very significant amount.”

Otherwise, why would Monaco sell to a Ligue 1 rival and arguably the only side (perhaps with exception of Lyon) who can beat them to the title?

Following ASM’s Champions League playoff defeat over two legs to Spanish side Valencia CF back in August, vice-president Vadim Vasilyev claimed that his club did not need to sell their most valuable and coveted stars.

Yet, less than one week later, Kurzawa had joined PSG, Abdennour had been snared by Valencia and Martial had departed for Manchester United.

Those transfers alone garnered Monaco almost €100 million, with Martial the cherry on a well-layered cake considering how his fee could grow significantly in the future.

There is still more talent to cash in on too. Les Monegasques have the likes of Falcao to shift permanently, while Fabinho and Bernardo Silva could be the next to go for big money.

Considering the latter pair’s ability, it should bring the club some of the most significant fees seen so far in the project’s short lifespan. There is also Portugal international Moutinho, who should still attract a fairly sizeable amount, despite Monaco’s keenness to get rid of him.

Spending their hard-earned money more frugally than before does not mean Les Monegasques cannot excite people with their dealings still. For example, El Shaarawy’s acquisition still captured the imagination of many.

Such an existence will keep the principality outfit competitive in Ligue 1, continually qualifying for the Champions League, or at least the UEFA Europa League.

With PSG set to continue their dominance of Le Championnat for the foreseeable future, that is a good niche for ASM to carve out for themselves, especially for when Les Parisiens’ Qatari owners decide to call it a day at Parc des Princes.

Assuming that Monaco continue along their current road, they will be well positioned when that day in the capital finally comes.

About the author – Jonathan Johnson

Ligue 1 and French football journalist. Covering PSG in English. Work is published regularly on @EPSNFC, @br_uk, @YahooSportUK and @beINSPORTUSA.

twitter: @Jon_LeGossip


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As the final whistle sounds at the Emirates 10 blue shirts streak across the immaculate pitch to a hoard of fans jumping in sync. Olympiakos have just felled English giants Arsenal on their home turf, a David vs. Goliath triumph. On the same night Chelsea were slayed in the Dragon Stadium by FC Porto and a man who is so good they named him twice. Andre Andre scored both goals for Porto as José Mourinho’s nightmare continued. Huge Premier League clubs are being torn down by their smaller European cousins on a fortnightly basis in the Champions League, as their hugely assembled squads are put to shame.

Imagine the Premier League swaggering into a room; adorned in the best clothes, shoes and the most expensive watch only to be shown up by their Marks and Spencer suit wearing cousin. Arsenal, Chelsea and the rest of the Premier League spent over £1bn this summer on players from across Europe in a bid to bring success to the shores of England. For all their TV money, overseas pre-season tournaments and bit kit launches it seems that English football has forgotten how to build a winning team.

So many of the English teams that were successful in the past were built on solid foundations, the treble winning Manchester United team had the same core for many years – Keane, Stam, Schmeichel. Chelsea’s Champions League winning squad also had fine skeleton of Cech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba. In only three years, English teams have switched away from structure to short-term success. Arsenal are as good a example as any when talking about structure, it is almost as if they are too structured up front, but have none in defence. Despite their insistence on dominating possession, they look tentative when trying to launch an attack – as if they have to follow a set passing pattern. But all the more concerning is their anxiousness. As soon as Olympiakos went one goal ahead it was almost as if Arsenal had a panic attack, trying to force play from unrealistic areas of the pitch with a series of unnecessary mistakes.

One trend that is constant throughout the English teams is their lack of assertiveness in Europe, their drive to score as many as possible. The Premier League is end-to-end, something where the lack of structure in every team does lead to good ‘entertainment’, and most teams are more than capable of posing a threat offensively. However, as soon as a Premier League side enters a European competition their distinct lack of style rears it’s ugly head. Standardised formations lead to English teams playing the same way regardless of squad members, meaning that opposition teams can steam attacks and break down with little effort. The approach is blinkered, out-dated and down right ignorant.

One thing that was incredibly prominent on that night at the Emirates is Arsenal’s inability to get in behind a defence. The ball is shifted from side to side, through the same two players – Cazorla and Ramsey – in the most predictable fashion. There are no risks taken. On the other hand, Olympiakos streamed forward whenever possible using width and pace to get in behind Arsenal’s full-backs.

Up in Manchester, things are starting to change. Especially in the sky blue of Manchester City, who have taken their inept performances in the Champions League and domestic competition to adapt this year. A switch from the traditional 4-4-2 has been replaced by a flexible 4-2-3-1 system, that now means that their creativity can come from the middle. Unsurprisingly, the influence of David Silva has been massive in the infancy of this season and City have been in fine form. Their dynamism outwide is something that football audiences have not seen from England in a long time. Similarly, Manchester United have revamped their squad, but have remained in a 4-3-3 formation with Juan Mata playing the role of advanced playmaker. Their ability to hold possession and stretch teams in with the pace of Memphis, Martial and Young is something that Chelsea and Arsenal in particular are lacking.

Until the Premier League sides learn to adapt to European football and change their ignorant stance that they can be successful purely by spending the most money, then they will continue to fail in Europe. More emphasis needs to be put on team structure, and building of a team that has cohesion from front to back which suits squad members, rather than crow-barring players into unnatural positions.

About the Author – Ben Jarman

Freelance football writer with a penchant for Spanish and European football. Work published by Fulham FC, Italian FA and the Evening Standard.

Twitter: @sonikkicks


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The 2015/16 Champions League – the 61st edition of Europe’s foremost continental club competition – gets under way next midweek, with 32 sides all dreaming of a successful campaign on the biggest stage of all.

Many believe that the Champions League now represents the pinnacle of the modern game, with the concentration of quality and talent having surpassed the more glamorous World Cup.

Here are five players worth keeping an eye on from outside the major leagues of England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.

Hector Herrera, Porto

Porto have a habit of signing talented youngsters from the Americas before selling them on for a hefty profit, and Herrera could be the next in line. The Mexican midfielder has gone from strength to strength since moving to Portugal from Pachuca in his homeland, and is expected to be one of the key members of Julen Lopetegui’s side this term.

An all-round, box-to-box midfielder, Herrera is just as likely to put in a crunching tackle as play an incisive through-ball. His energy and drive in the engine room will be vital to Porto in the Champions League, starting with Wednesday’s trip to Dynamo Kiev.

Bernard, Shakhtar Donetsk

Even 14 months on, Brazil’s 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany on home soil in the semi-final of the World Cup remains as astonishing as it was at the time.

Bernard made his first start of the tournament in that fateful encounter, replacing the injured Neymar in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s XI. The 23-year-old winger has not represented his country since.

Nevertheless, Bernard remains a fantastic prospect who will be desperate to show what he can do for Shakhtar Donetsk in 2015/16. A right-footer who tends to play on the left and cut inside, the Brazilian is out to prove his doubters wrong.

Seydou Doumbia, CSKA Moscow

Sometimes – and the reasons are often unclear – a player only really fulfils his potential at a particular club. Doumbia could be one such example: signed by Roma for £10 million in January, he is now back at CSKA Moscow on loan, the team he represented for five years between 2010 and 2015. The Ivory Coast international recently claimed to have rejected Premier League offers in order to return to the Russian capital when Roma agreed to let him go on a temporary basis this summer.

A glance at his goal scoring record for CSKA makes it easy to see why Doumbia feels so at home there: he has hit the back of the net 87 times in  134 appearances in all competitions, including three strikes against Sporting Lisbon in the qualifying play-off for this year’s Champions League. More goals in the tournament proper would confirm that Doumbia and CSKA Moscow is a match made in heaven.

Jeffrey Bruma, PSV Eindhoven

The former Chelsea centre-back is now in his third season in Eindhoven after joining the Dutch outfit in 2013. He was virtually an ever-present as PSV won the Eredivisie last term, and will now be looking to take his domestic form onto the continental stage.

Strong in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Bruma will know that a move to one of Europe’s giants could be in reach if he performs well in the Champions League over the next few months.

Nicolas Gaitan, Benfica

Gaitan was far from alone in being linked with a move to Manchester United this summer, but rumored interest from one of the biggest clubs in the world shows that the 27-year-old is a very good footballer.

Capable of playing out wide or in a central role, the former Boca Juniors forward is quick and tricky dribbler who also possesses excellent vision. Were it not for his country’s incredible depth of attacking options, Gaitan would surely have significantly more than 10 Argentina caps to his name.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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