The Standout Inbetweener; Zlatan Ibrahimović | A Legend That Transcends Era’s

Zlatan(Auditions)Zlatan(G)

#TheHistorian

In an age where every generation seems to be blessed with its fair share of diversely gifted attacking talents, cut from a different cloth, and playing football with a grace that seems to constantly defy so many other lesser talented players; the most painful thing about hearing someone mention their top 5 best strikers of the last decade, is having to cringe at the constant omission of one name, Zlatan Ibrahimović. Zlatan is a true rebel in an age of conformists, a natural born striker capable of conjuring sheer magic with a football, or a piece of bubblegum.

The Zlatan can be said to have been largely unfortunate to have been doing such wonders at the end of the Raúl, Ronaldo, Alessandro Del Piero , Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Owen and Thierry Henry years; while his career also spanned into the dawn of another golden age, where the outrageous talents of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin van Persie, Sergio Agüero, David Villa, Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suárez have rightfully been the centre of all football related conversations in terms of premier level goalscorers and forwards. Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer, with 62 goals, Zlatan deserves special mention for remaining true to his unique skill-set, and ensuring that his arrogance rather fuelled his drive, instead of it hampering the realisation of his unlimited potential; a league champion, and lethal marksman, in every country he has played in, all while having rejected the chance to trial for Arsenal with the lure of developing under the wing of legendary youth development expert Arsene Wenger as a teenager, rebuffing the offer with a simple statement, “No way, Zlatan doesn’t do auditions’, prior to signing for another club steeped in a culture of nurturing young talent, AFC Ajax.

Zlatan Ibrahimović is a man in a class all by himself, one I would never dare to compare to any player in any era, for obvious reasons; not enough will ever be written about one of the greatest strikers ever to play the game of football, which is saying quite a bit, when we consider all that has been writ about him since his teenage years. The legacy of the man can never be truly quantified in words, because “gratefully-enigmatic” and “gracefully-eclectic” do not begin to describe him in his entirety, his impressive career numbers, in various elite level leagues, would quickly be surpassed in the near future, when we look at the career trajectory of the Messi’s, Cristiano’s and Neymar’s of this world; yet a goal getter that became the first man to score for six different clubs in Europe’s most elite competition, the UEFA Champions League, while also having been on a streak of nine straight league title wins in three different countries, with four different clubs of high esteem, has to go down as a genuine legend of the game in both the era’s he thrived in.

The brilliance of Zlatan Ibrahimović, is that he managed to work himself into the history books of football in a time when world-class forwards were playing the beautiful game the way it ought to be played, beautifully; his ability to shine amongst such fierce competition is highly laudable, considering how he could easily have been the premier striker in a different age. Since his arrival at Ajax Amsterdam in 2001, as a promising young player, from Malmö FF in his country of birth, Sweden, Ibracadabra has woven his magic in the elite leagues of Europe terrorising defenders and ‘keepers alike, all while displaying his skills against some of the most lethal goal scorers to ever play the game of football; the cream truly rises to the top, and Zlatan has remained at the top of his game throughout his career. The fact that he netted the bulk of his goals, 148 in all competitions for Juventus, A.C. & Inter Milan, in one of the toughest defensive leagues ever, the Italian Serie A, is a living testament to the deadliness of the man; any striker that can net over 100 goals in Italy deserves to be recognised as a truly great finisher, and a pretty good forward to boot.

Zlatan has mastered his craft, a player who actually got to fully develop his game and truly fall in love with his skills, in the midst of the media frenzy that has surrounded him since his formative years, something we’ve seen countless talented lads continually fail to do; The Zlatan will surely retire from playing professional football sooner rather than later, now that he is at the end of his peak as an elite level striker, and entering the twilight years of his glorious career, although 3 Golden Boot awards in his 4 Ligue 1 seasons shows that he is still an asset upfront for any team. The true legacy of Zlatan Ibrahimović should not be understated, nor should the demeanour of the man be misunderstood or used against him when speaking on his greatness, or his illustrious career.

The arrogance comes from an understanding of one’s true abilities, and a burning desire to make the utmost of those gifts; the outrageous God given abilities aside, the swagger of a Michael Jordan on the court, the nerves of a Roger Federer in a tournament final, the desire to constantly achieve greatness of a Tony Hawk regardless of the conditions & the confidence in self of a Muhammad Ali regardless of the circumstances or the opposition, all point to a man with the makeup of a true champion, and an all round legend of the sport we all love. There may never be another player as talented, confident and enigmatic as The Zlatan has been, and I am honestly happy with those odds; Bob’s your Grandmothers last born son, the world has been blessed enough to have had one Zlatan Ibrahimović, the foremost football inbetweener, living proof that a well balanced mixture of confidence & arrogance can always fuel undoubted ability, when channelled right.

Ball Don’t Lie (The Numbers)

Club Spell/s Appearances Goals Assists Goal Ratio
Malmö FF September 1999 – July 2001 40 16 N/A 0.4
AFC Ajax July 2001 – August 2004 108 47 15 0.4
Juventus F.C. August 2004 – August 2006 92 26 6 0.3
Inter Milan August 2006 – July 2009 117 66 30 0.6
FC Barcelona July 2009 – June 2011 47 22 14 0.5
A.C. Milan August 2010 – May 2011 (Loan) & June 2011 – July 2012 85 56 24 0.7
Paris Saint-Germain F.C. July 2012 – July 2016 180 156 61 0.9
Totals   669 389 150 0.6

Half-Time Orange For Thought; Steven Pienaar, Misunderstood, Mismanaged or Misrepresented?

The Real Steven Pienaar | Heaven Sent Talent
The Real Steven Pienaar | Heaven Sent Talent
The Leader Of The Troops | Steven Pienaar
The Leader Of The Troops | Steven Pienaar

#TheBootRoom

Dissected with the attention to detail of a legendary Celebrity Masterchef 2nd episode outcast, your good mate Uncle Bob serves up his weekly Half-Time Orange For Thought; a mental morsel for the sports fanatic with a healthy appetite for wholesome consumables. We at GSV have reluctantly declared ourselves accountable for any digestion difficulties that may or may not occur. Enjoy!

Every generation needs a king, a figure to turn to for inspiration and leadership in times of darkness; a man to rally behind when the cause is there to be fought for. Within the early 80’s generation of Mzansi diski, players born in the time span between 1980 and 1985, the man who was crowned Prince and widely heralded as the natural successor to king of the previous generation, all-time Bafana Bafana top goal scorer Benni McCarthy, was talented Westbury born attacking midfielder Steven Pienaar. The skilful ball wizard is a product of the School of Excellence where he polished his skills in preparation for the professional ranks, Schillo got his chance to impress at Ajax Cape Town in 1999 after joining the Cape side from the School of Excellence and the creativity laden playmaker showed Mzansi diski lovers the outrageous God given abilities he had at his disposal. His uncanny ability to get the crowd on their feet with fleet footwork and artistic vision coupled with his goals impressed parent club AFC Ajax who signed the ball wizard in January of 2001 while the protégé was just 18 years old.

In a team packed to the rafters with promising starlets from across the globe, Schillo took some time to settle into the new environment and it was a year and a month after his arrival in Amsterdam that he finally made his debut for his new club; quickly going on to establish himself as a fixture in the first team side as they won the Dutch Eredivisie in 2002 and 2004. Having played and developed alongside world-class talents like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Nigel de Jong, Maxwell and Mido during his 5 year stay in Holland, Schillo would go down as one of the best South African footballers to ever play in Holland behind Steve Mokone and he would go down in history as the most successful one too. The versatile attacking midfielder caught the eye of then Bafana Bafana coach Jomo Sono with his masterful and mature displays in the Ajax team, Schillo earned a call up to the national team in 2002, making his debut in the 2-0 victory over Turkey on May 23rd 2002 while the team was preparing for the Korea/Japan World Cup with a friendly four nations competition in Hong Kong that also included Scotland, many in the football loving nation of South Africa believed that a saviour had arrived in time to save their senior national football team from a decline they dreaded the prospect of enduring.

Bafana Bafana had looked like a team on a gradual decline after having enjoyed early success by winning the 1996 African Cup of Nations and claiming silver and bronze in the subsequent competitions in 1998 and 2000 respectively coupled with competitive showings in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups added to a quarter-final appearance in the 2002 edition of the African Cup of Nations; now South African football seemed to be back on the rise again and a new crop of players needed to be identified and groomed to take Bafana Bafana even further and continue the progression made by the previous generation who had made the nation so proud. In the 10 years that Schillo has been in and out of the national team, Bafana have drastically underachieved and the lack of success has not gone unnoticed in Mzansi football circles; much of the blame for this lack of success and progression has been attributed to Schillo’s strained relationship with the national team.

The sad reality is that Schillo was set apart from his peers as the man who would make the difference for Bafana Bafana; a certified match winner with the confidence and character to lead a talented group of players that included some of the best footballers Mzansi has ever produced, yet this generation is one we failed to rally behind and develop fully and our actions led to them letting us down when we needed them the most. No one man can do everything, yet every man can do something; Schillo may be an outstanding footballer with the ability to “take it to the hole in wining time”, yet his abilities needed other competent players around him that were willing to give their all for the success of Bafana Bafana and Mzansi football as a whole. The failure to blood younger players into the national squad, as a group that has previously played together continuously, has been the Achilles’ heel of Mzansi football for many years now; with Schillo’s generation being a case in point as the talented playmaker was only capped once at u/17 level prior to receiving his first national team cap at 20 in a 2­-0 victory over Turkey.

Now that the members of the early 80’s generation are reaching the twilight of their international careers, we are afforded ample room to assess the achievements and shortcomings of the valiant soldiers that battled on the field of play for Mzansi. When one considers the early 80’s generation, some of the most talented South African footballers are mentioned with players like Jabu Pule, Aaron Mokoena, Teko Modise, Nasief Morris, Elrio van Heerden, Morgan Gould, Kagiso Dikgacoi, Simphiwe Shabalala and Tsepo Masilela to name a few. The talent that has flowed through the PSL in the past 10 years alone should have been more than enough to see Bafana put in much better performances when the players are called up to represent the national squad. Many promising players came into the league surrounded by amazing praises of their talents yet very little of that has translated into success when the players don the green and gold.

Players like Terror Fanteni, Lerato Chabangu, Lance Davids, Bevan Fransman and Brett Evans were hot prospects in Mzansi diski yet the failure to develop these players for integral roles in the Bafana team lead to the progression of our football being severely affected by the lack of quality depth for a nation that loves the beautiful game as such. Only Shuffle, Mbazo and Schillo were part of the Bafana squad that went to the 2002 FIFA World Cup with the players being 21 and 20 years old at the time, Jabu and Mbazo were both 21 while Schillo was the youngest member of the side at 20. The fact that the majority of these players first played football together at senior national team level should be a major cause for concern in South African football circles as the only reasonable conclusion is that our scouting networks and development structures are not competent enough to identify the extremely talented players in the country and allow them the room to develop as a unit with the view of promoting the outstanding protégés into the senior setup at a younger age, thus allowing the players to learn from their senior counterparts whom they will be replacing in the side, allowing for seamless transition and continuity at the highest level of our game.

The reality for Schillo, as the natural leader of the pack, is that he never continuously had a group of players he could rely on to do their jobs in the national team; which has lead to the claims that he plays better for his club sides than he does for Bafana. As a natural born trequartista, Schillo is a player who feeds off instinct, and the atmosphere within our national football team as a whole has not been one conducive to him fully feeling the freedom to do what comes naturally with the added strain leading to the player feeling pressurised to alter his style of play to appease the supporters, much to the detriment of his overall performances. No excuses should be made for our failure to transform one of Africa’s brightest talents into a Bafana Bafana Legend as we watch history repeat itself with other talented players like Thulani Serero and Ayanda Patosi. Steven Pienaar is the King of his generation and Bob’s your Grandmothers second born son, Schillo will go down as one of the greatest talents Mzansi has ever misunderstood, mismanaged and misrepresented.

GSV Dugout; The English Chosen One Eddie Howe

A Living Legend| Eddie Howe
A Living Legend| Eddie Howe
Going Up (Yet Again)
Going Up (Yet Again)

#TheBootRoom

A great gaffer is a leader who inspires athletes to perform at their optimal levels and allow them to receive the due plaudits for their impressive performances and achievements while also providing a shield from criticism and ridicule during the less joyful times; football, like many sports, is a beautiful game with its own set of unwritten laws and any gaffer worth his salt knows that great performances are often credited to the players while poor showings can often lead to the hot seat feeling more uncomfortable than usual. At GSV, we take our self allotted duty to help balance the imbalances in our sport dreadfully seriously and we earnestly hope that this GSV Dugout feature helps to shine a light on those that plan the great shocks, thrilling comebacks, goose bump causing thrashings and clinical smash & grab results that leave us confabulating for eons to differing degrees.

Eddie Howe

Bio

Full Name: Edward John Frank Howe

DoB: November 29th, 1977 (37)

PoB: Amersham, Buckinghamshire; England

Playing Role: Defender

Playing Experience: Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Swindon Town (273 Games; 12 Goals); 2 England u/21 Caps

Previous Coaching Experience: AFC Bournemouth Developmental Side Coach

Managerial Roles: AFC Bournemouth (December 31st, 2008 – January 16th, 2011); Burnley F.C. (January 16th, 2011 – October 12th, 2012); AFC Bournemouth (October 12th, 2012 – Present)

Managerial Record:

Club Spell Games Won Drawn Lost Win %
AFC Bournemouth December 31st, 2008 – January 16th, 2011 102 51 18 33 50.00
Burnley F.C. January 16th, 2011 – October 12th, 2012 87 34 19 34 39.08
AFC Bournemouth October 12th, 2012 – Present 142 76 31 35 53.52
Total 331 161 68 102 48.64

The Grand Stand View

There seems to be a concern around younger unproven managers looking to overdo the game management phenomenon being promoted these days by setting up their sides to be defensively solid and compact as a unit in an attempt to ensure that they are hard to beat as the gaffer seeks to grow in confidence while on the job, this is something that is truly understandable on both sides and one can only pray that more and more younger gaffers implore their players to play the beautiful game in an aesthetically pleasing manner while also remaining solid and competitive on the defensive end as well. Eddie Howe was a competent defender, before injury ended his career a few years too early, but he still makes it his life’s mission to ensure that his side plays that good brand of football worthy of being played on a football field in front of the thousands of paying fanatics and the endless global viewers.

Adopting an attacking philosophy as a gaffer is one thing, the manner in which you go about looking to create attacking opportunities is another kettle of fish altogether and its within those murky waters that we distinguish who deserves to reign in the reef. I am personally of the opinion that a gaffer that seeks to play a possession based system that implores the players to create attacking opportunities with the ball by combining swift and accurate passing with precisely timed movement off the ball and dynamic play breaking runs on it is a leader that stands head and shoulders above the one that just seeks to get a result regardless of the performance. Eddie Howe is truly a great in the making because of his ability to balance the rigours of defending with the intent to breakup play and transitioning swiftly into that crafty offensive play that seems to slice through opposition defences like a hot knife through some homemade butter at high tea.

Tactical nous can outweigh man management skills when you consider how a tactically inept gaffer can fire a player up to the point of inferno and still fail to utilise the players true abilities for the betterment of the side in the achievements of their goals, while a tactically astute manager can still get a good shift out of a lesser motivated player by structuring the side accordingly and ensuring that the player can gain motivation from playing well and assisting the team. Luckily for Eddie Howe, his past experiences under top level gaffers like Harry Redknapp have moulded him into a good man manager and a decent tactician as well with his interchangeable 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 systems making his side harder to contain when they put the ball down and bring out the Olé chants; the fact that he is unafraid to change it up when the occasion calls for it by throwing two or three up top and chasing the game or going three at the back and shutting up the shop is a testament to just how good Howe truly is as a tactician.

Squad management is where managerial careers can be made or broken, Eddie Howe is a gaffer that has shown that he knows how to make the most of the resources he has available to him both in the transfer market and on the training pitch; his side is well balanced in key areas and there is an ardent desire to ensure that there is strength in depth to create for healthy competition within the squad for playing time. Howe has displayed a keen eye for talent with his purchases and selections showing that he knows what talents looks like without it having to slap him in the face and he possesses the required acumen to utilise that talent while nurturing it to grow and fulfil the potential that was already there to start with.

One of the greatest traits Eddie has been blessed with is the uncanny ability to use British players to their strengths while playing a more continental brand of football with that same English grit and determination evident in the teams’ enterprise. The use of raw pace to create headaches within the defensive ranks, the clever tweaks to the passing game with more Wenger-like triangles and neat interchanges and the mindful imploration of shooting on site with good power and great accuracy at the end of attacking plays; if Eddie Howe can do this with little attraction for players in the lower leagues on the South Coast, he will surely be receiving some pressing calls from a few football intermediaries with clients to sell as that upward momentum continues to be ridden by The Cherries.

The availability of funds at Bournemouth has allowed us a good barometer for just how good Howe is with the cheque book in hand on a stroll through the market, the gaffer has used his purse well and the signings he has made have proven to be choice buys with many of his players either coming at a feasible price or costing the club relatively little in remuneration. Howe has acquired a few talents with good resale value and that return on investment is how we note a thoughtful and competent gaffer in modern football as those proceeds can be used to continue growing the squad and elevating them even further. While the resources available at Bournemouth are enough to make one think that The Cherries are well off, the sea of riches possessed by the South Coast club lies in their club legend gaffer and the brilliance bestowed that within the English Chosen One, and Bob’s your Edgar Street Stadium season ticket holding lifetime Hereford United F.C. beer mug having uncle mate.