Monday, December 24, 2007

2008 Wish List Part I: Lulinha

Madrid are almost incessantly linked to high priced transfer talent, ranging from Didier Drogba to Diego to Kaka.

Madrid is behind a lot of the top European talent in terms of future stars, and they should try to stockpile as much young talent as possible in order to find their Giovani dos Santos, Bojan, or Alexandre Pato. Madrid simply don't have anyone near that level, and there are several young players that could be on that level that Madrid should target in the coming year.

The first such player is Lulinha, (Luiz Marcelo Morais dos Reis), born in Maua, Brazil on April 10, 1990.

Already being dubbed the "The new Ronaldinho" by, this 17 year-old world-beater is well on his way to a big-time transfer in the near future.

The 17 year-old just recently committed his future to his Brazilian club Corinthians, and it will *keep* him with the club until December 31, 2012. The four-and-a-half year deal will reportedly pay him the equivalent of £24million, an amazing sum for the young star. Lulinha actually rejected advances from top European talent, namely Chelsea and also Inter Milan, so it will be a project to get him to leave before the end of his contract.

Corinthians President Andres Sanchez, understandably proud of being able to keep top world clubs at bay, said after the signing, "Now to take him off Corinthians, the interested club would have to pay $50 million American dollars, and the player has 25 per cent of his rights."

This kind of statement, while some may read it as saying the player is off-limits, I interpret as an admission that Lulinha can be had, for the right price. People that are curious may note that, for a club dealing in euros, $50 million is a shrinking figure, and certainly not an outrageous sum for Madrid to pay for a young player.

Need I remind anyone of the two headscratchers of the past year, namely the 20 million euro transfer fee payed by Madrid for little known midfielder Fernando Gago, as well the outrageous 30 million euro transfer paid for little known defender Pepe. Neither was rated anywhere near Lulinha's stratosphere, but the Madrid brass deemed them worth those hefty transfer fees.

Madrid have the money, as well as the gall, to pay 34.7 million euros for a player who's unproven at the highest level. He is, according to a article, blessed, "With his breathtaking cocktail of flicks and tricks, defence-splitting through-balls and assured finishing, the 17-year-old, who is equally at home in an attacking midfield role or operating as a second forward, is every bit the classic Brazilian No10." He's about as good a bet to be worth a big time transfer as anyone, much like Sergio Ramos was when Madrid paid Sevilla crazy money back in 2005. That's worked out nicely I would say.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Greatest Christmas Gift...

Madrid have beaten Barcelona 0-1 at the Camp Nou, riding a stunning goal by Julio Baptista to victory.

This season, Barcelona has kept the tradition of turning the Camp Nou into a fortress alive, posting a perfect 8-0-0 record going into Sunday's Clasico with Madrid. Their dominance at home was backed up by impressive statistics, such as a 2.75 goals per game average, compared to a miniscule 0.50 goals against average. They had outscored opponents 22-4 at the Camp Nou, and without question Madrid were in for a difficult match.

Things started to turn in Madrid's favor last weekend, when Barcelona's (and arguably the world's) best player Lionel Messi was lost to injury and ruled unavailable for "El Clasico."

Messi is Barcelona's key player, disrupting defenses with his blistering pace, setting up his teammates (6 assists in all competitions so far), and finishing with deadly accuracy (12 goals in 19 matches in the current 07-08 season). He's a player to behold, and he uses his diminutive size (5-7, 148 lbs.) to his advantage while running circles around defenders.

Barcelona just isn't the same without the Little Genius, but that should not take away anything from a hard fought victory for Madrid. It just needs to be noted, Barcelona wasn't 100%, or even 90% at that, since they were also without Thierry Henry.

To Madrid's credit, they had what is, in my opinion, the recipe for success at the Nou Camp: defend, counterattack, defend, counterattack, score, defend, defend, counter when given the opportunity, defend, defend, etc. Madrid did not leave themselves exposed very often, and their back 4 were exception tonight.

Sergio Ramos, Cannavaro, Pepe, and Heinze were simply brilliant as a unit, and the fact that Barcelona was held goalless at home in such a big game speaks volumes, with or without Messi.

Special mention must be given to 30 million euro centerback Pepe, who showed today why Ramon Calderon thought it'd be wise to pay thrice what any defender of his pedigree should cost. He was epic, combining excellent endeavor with brave, well-timed tackles. He also put a nice header on frame, redirecting excellent service and showing off some heading skills.

Also flashing brilliance was, surprise surprise, keeper Iker Casillas, who quashed several Barcelona opportunities. He was especially good on a Bojan Krkic missile in the 84th, a shot which could have equalized and kept Barcelona within 4 points of Madrid at the top of the table.

As it turned out, Barcelona dropped a game to Madrid at the Camp Nou for only the third time in a stunning 24 years. Madrid had a plan, stuck with it, and executed to perfection. Madrid even had a few more good opportunities to make it 0-2, but they couldn't finish a couple nice chances against Barcelona keeper Victor Valdez.

Also of note in this game is the continued emergence of Julio Baptista, a player for which this writer has been lobbying for all season. He has gotten his chance, and he is running with it. His goal today was pure magic, and it will be hard for Schuster to do anything but continue to play the Beast. I'm alright with that.