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

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#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
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Grading The Deal; The Accession Of Ahmed Musa To Leicester City

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The silly season is fully underway, as club “think tanks” seek to delve into the transfer market and attempt to strengthen their teams going into the new season, while also ensuring that they get the best possible value for money deals in a very competitive and largely inflated global transfer market. We at GSV have taken it upon ourselves to give you a comprehensive breakdown of some transfer deals in our Grading The Deal supplement, an exclusive and comprehensive guide catered towards the purists who seek to know more than the average fan regarding the wheeling’s and dealings in football today. Enjoy!

#TheSuperMarket

Defending English Premier League Champions, Leicester City Football Club, have had to deal with the threat of their league winning side being raided by traditionally bigger clubs; after warding off interest from Arsenal for the signature of last season’s club top scorer, Jamie Vardy, The Foxes watched on in agony as Ngolo Kanté turned down a new deal and eventually chose to join Antonio Conte’s revolution in London. The recent weeks have seen the club’s marquee player, Riyad Mahrez, also turn down an improved deal from Leicester and angle for a move to a much bigger club, with Arsenal said to be leading the chase; the rumour mill has continued to tick with news of players leaving the club, as Jeffrey Schlupp and Ben Chilwell have both been courted by Premier League clubs in recent weeks.

Enter Ahmed Musa, the club’s record signing ,and a player that has the ability to make up for much of the losses Leicester have and may still incur, from losing players due to their unforeseen success. The Nigerian attacking dynamo nearly came close to signing for The Foxes in the January transfer window, but a reported £23m bid was rejected by CSKA Moscow, who he then helped guide to their 3rd league title in the last 4 seasons, with a 17 goal haul in all competitions. Securing the services of a young elite level talent like Ahmed Musa for a truly laughable fee of £16m, in today’s transfer climate, is another example of the great business done by Leicester City in recent years. The former CSKA & VVV-Venlo star brings with him a wealth of Champions League experience, to a team that will be in unchartered waters in the coming season; Ahmed has already amassed 24 Champions League appearances thus far in his career, and his expertise will come in handy for The Foxes.

The one undeniable quality Musa brings to Leicester City, apart from his blistering pace, is his ability to play on the flanks, behind the striker & upfront as well; the versatility of The Foxes new addition will afford them with the perfect platform to unleash him in areas where he can be most effective, against specific opposition, in Leicester’s highly effective counter-attacking game. The rise of The Foxes can be witnessed off the field as well, as Ahmed Musa reportedly turned down offers from Everton, Southampton & West Ham United prior to penning his 4 year deal with Leicester City; the one time Arsenal target is overjoyed to be finally fulfilling his dream of emulating childhood idol and friend Nwankwo Kanu, by starring in the Premier League and hopefully going on to become another Nigerian legend in the division.

Ahmed Musa

Bio

DoB: October 14th, 1992 (23)

PoB:  Jos, Plateau State; Nigeria

Nationality: Nigerian

Caps & Goals: 58 Caps, 11 Goals & 6 Assists

Position/s: Inside Forward, Winger, Deep-Lying Forward, Poacher (L/R/C)

Height: 1, 70m

Preferred Foot: Either

Club: Leicester City Football Club

Jersey No: #7

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2020

Transfer Fee: £16m

Former Club: Jos University Teaching Hospital Football Club (Loan, 2008 – 2009) | Kano Pillars (Loan, 2009 – 2010) | VVV-Venlo (2010 – 2012) | CSKA Moscow (2012 – 2016)

Development Nest: GBS Football Academy (2008 – 2010)

2015/16 Club Stats: 44 Games, 18 Goals & 6 Assists

Total Career Stats: 253 Games, 86 Goals & 41 Assists

GSV Deal Grader: Trevor Benjamin from Cambridge United F.C.  to Leicester City F.C. for £ 1.3m on July 12th, 2000 (3/5)

The Grand Stand View

The former Nigerian Premier League record goalscorer, a record he had set at 17 years of age with 18 goals for Kano Pillars, Ahmed Musa has made great strides in his career thus far; a Nigerian International at 17, after making his debut on August 5th of 2010, Musa has gone onto net 10 further international goals after scoring his 1st for the Super Eagles in March of 2011, as a 17 year old prodigy. It seems almost unfathomable that the diminutive attacking marvel hung up his gloves at age 12, after playing as a keeper since he was 10, to become an infield player that has terrorised shot-stoppers since.

Strengths

One trait that immediately stands out about Ahmed Musa’s game is his electric pace; the lad is well versed in the art of accelerating quickly, while maintaining his top speed and balance, often leaving his marker eating dust when he’s on one of his trademark mazy runs. A technically gifted attacking weapon with bags of tricks to unleash on any marker brave enough to square up against him, Ahmed uses his low centre of gravity to evade opposition defenders with ease; a trait that makes him a commodity in the game today, where players have to work even harder to create space for themselves or their teammates. Agile and capable of running hard for the entire duration of a game, Musa is a player that stays a threat for 90 minutes, and often punishes the opposition late in games as they tire of chasing him about. A consummate finisher, Ahmed Musa knows how to find the back of the net, while also creating his fair share of chances for his teammates as well.

Weaknesses

The one downside to playing Ahmed Musa on the flanks is his lack of an end product as it pertains to crossing or looking to pick out better positioned teammates 1st, prior to digging into his bag of tricks to create a better chance for himself to score. The lack of composure in the final third is rather surprising, for a player with the goal & assist tally that Ahmed boasts, something he will have to improve upon as he acclimatises to life In the Premier League. Despite being naturally diminutive, Musa will need to strengthen his body, if he is to truly succeed in a fiercely competitive league; his all action game and trickery will naturally invite tougher treatment from opposition defenders, and a stronger body will be crucial to remaining fit for each battle.

Gone But Not Forgotten; The Scintillating Simphiwe Boy-Boy Mosia

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#TheGrandStandView

“Our talents are the gift that God gives to us, what we make of our talents is our gift back to God.” – Felice Leonardo “Leo” Buscaglia

Sombreness overcame me when I heard of the untimely demise of Simphiwe Mosia, a gifted man that many of us came to know by his second given name, Boy-Boy. Blessed with the technical skills that typify the quintessential Mzansi footballer, Boy-Boy was one of those once in a generation players who seemed to have been sent by the Angels from God. It pains me how his football career seemed to never reach the lofty peaks that his abilities merited, and that’s saying a lot, when you realise that Boy-Boy had a football career & life that many young South Africans grow up dreaming of turning into a reality. Boy-Boy Mosia left us 22 days after to his 31st birthday in Hammarsdale, Kwa-Zulu Natal on July 23rd, 2016. A large portion of his life was spent bringing joy to ticket buying supporters on the field, a place where his talents made him stand head and shoulders above his peers, and defy his diminutive stature through his sheer presence on the ball. Therein is the beauty in his life, Boy-Boy lived, he lived a life that many a South African lad dreams of, and his journey is one we should all garner teachable moments from.

The Rise

As a 14 year old prodigy, Boy-Boy was scouted by Serie A giants Juventus Football Club, and invited over to spend time with their development side; spending a year as a Juve apprentice, the young Boy-Boy developed his game further and begun a relationship with European football that would have many more chapters in the years to come. Returning home to sign for AmaZulu’s youth side, Boy-Boy continued his development at a steady rate, and begun to build upon his reputation as one of the best young players in the country. Boy-Boy’s status as one of the nation’s premier talents was confirmed when he was scouted for and enrolled in, the Transnet/SAFA School of Excellence, where the dribbling wizard joined a group of players that were being groomed to become future professionals, and hopefully even lead the national teams to success.

Playing in an environment catering to the nurturing of talented teenage lads into professional footballers, Boy-Boy excelled at the School of Excellence, and his great rise to prominence was also rewarded with recognition at junior youth level, getting called-up to the South Africa u/20 squad for the 2003 u/20 Cosafa Cup as an 18 year old. South Africa finished 3rd in the tournament, hosted on home soil, and Boy-Boy impressed with his playmaking abilities and improving finishing nous. The journey took another turn when Boy-Boy impressed Chelsea scouts while on tour with the School of Excellence squad in Ireland, The Blues signed Boy-Boy, along with fellow SoE graduates, the late, Pule Jeffery Ntuka & Masilo Michael Modubi. The three South African would spend some time training with the Chelsea reserve side during the off-season, while being loaned out long-term to feeder club K.V.C. Westerlo, in the hopes that they would gain experience and international caps to qualify for work permits and play for Chelsea, or gain Belgian citizenship, which would allow them to be registered as EU citizens.

The Star

The diminutive Boy-Boy found it harder to acclimatise to Belgian football due to his frame and style of play, while Jeffery and Masilo overcame their initial obstacles and begun to progress in their development at a good rate, Mosia begun to regress due to a lack of regular game time. Chelsea intervened in January of 2006, sending him to K.F.C. Dessel Sport in the hopes of getting him more first team exposure; three seasons had passed by and Boy-Boy had still not fully found his feet in Europe, yet the faith remained, albeit from the side of the player and not his parent club in London. Chelsea looked to afford Boy-Boy with the best possible platform to become a professional footballer in Europe, allowing him to transfer on a free to Oud-Heverlee Leuven at the start of the 2006/07 season.

Finding a new lease on life in the Belgian 2nd tier, Boy-Boy became a terrace favourite for Oud-Heverlee Leuven, whose fans came to admire the diminutive playmaker that could play anywhere across the midfield, and still find ways to punish opponents while entertaining the fans. Boy-Boy enjoyed the best years of his professional career in the 3 seasons he spent as a Oud-Heverlee Leuven player, a time that is also fondly remembered by the fans of the club who we fortunate enough to witness some of his best displays as a professional. At 23 years old, Boy-Boy returned home to South Africa with a resume that many players retire never boasting, and it was hurtful to see our local clubs fail to give him the opportunities and support he needed to prolong his career and truly fulfil his potential. A somewhat promising spell with Mpumalanga Black Aces, in the 2008-09 season, was mutually terminated early when Boy-Boy felt aggrieved with issues within the club management, that curtailed homecoming was the last we saw of the gifted playmaker as a professional footballer.

The Legend

If you had to look at what the average South African footballer today has accomplished at 24, flashy cars, social media followers, and a cap or two will be all they have to show for their God given abilities, in an age where we have the scope to do and achieve so much more due to the progress made in the past, by folks like Boy-Boy. When I speak of what Boy-Boy Mosia accomplished when he left the game at 24, I am amazed at his resilience and determination to persevere in a foreign country at such a young age. The same determination Boy-Boy showed when taking on opponents, he showed when the door was shut on his Chelsea dream when he reached 21; at a crossroads where, the few South African lads that dare to go abroad, often find themselves, Boy-Boy chose to bank on his abilities and made a career for himself in Europe when the odds seemed to continually stack against him.

The generation of players that Boy-Boy came from was a highly talented, and somewhat highly troubled one too; our nations socio-economic factors compiled to make lasting success largley unattainable for many gifted players that were born in the 1980’s, South African football will forever wear those scars, and ask itself what might have happened had they been nurtured in a different time. Boy-Boy never played for Bafana Bafana, which compiles the hurt of all the potential we have lost as a nation over the years even more, yet the former South African u/20 & u/23 international will go down as one of our most gifted exports since readmission.

One of the highlights of Boy-Boy’s career was winning with his nation, 3rd place at the 2003 u/20 Cosafa Cup & a Gold medal at the 2004 edition saw him play alongside, and against, players that will go down in the history pages of South African and Southern African football history; the 2003 & 2004 editions of the u/20 Cosafa Cup featured players like Elrio van Heerden, Nhlanhla Shabalala, Graham (Salmaan) King, Lerato Chabangu, Robyn Johannes, Lebohang Mokoena, Daine Klate, Junior Khanye, Felix Katongo, Clifford Mulenga, Jospeh Kamwendo, Jimmy Zakazaka, Rainford Kalaba, Dominic Yobe, Kingston Nkhatha, Davies Nkausu & Lima.

Boy-Boy Mosia

Bio

Full Name: Simphiwe Boy-Boy Mosia

DoB: July 1st, 1985

PoB: Pretoria, Gauteng; South Africa

DoD: July 23rd, 2016 (31)

PoD: Hammarsdale, Kwa-Zulu Natal; South Africa

Position/s: Attacking Midfielder, Advanced Playmaker, Winger, Trequartista (Left/Right/Centre)

Height: 1, 55m

Preferred Foot: Either

Caps & Goals: N/A | South African u/20 & u/23 International

Former Club/s: MG Stars (1994-1999) | Juventus F.C. (1999-2000) | AmaZulu F.C. (2001-2002) | Transnet/SAFA School of Excellence (2001-2003) | Ajax Cape Town F.C. (2001-2002, Loan) | Orlando Pirates F.C. (2002-2003, Loan) | Chelsea F.C. (2003-2006) | K.V.C. Westerlo (2003-2004, Loan) | K.F.C. Dessel Sport (2004-2006, Loan) | Oud-Heverlee Leuven (2006-2008) | Mpumalanga Black Aces (2008-2009)

Grading The Deal; The Laudable Lewis Cook to AFC Bournemouth

Lewis Cook (YPOTY)

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The silly season is fully underway, as club “think tanks” seek to delve into the transfer market and attempt to strengthen their teams going into the new season, while also ensuring that they get the best possible value for money deals in a very competitive and largely inflated global transfer market. We at GSV have taken it upon ourselves to give you a comprehensive breakdown of some transfer deals in our Grading The Deal supplement, an exclusive and comprehensive guide catered towards the purists who seek to know more than the average fan regarding the wheeling’s and dealings in football today. Enjoy!

#TheSuperMarket

Leeds United Football Club can hang their hat on the club’s youth development academy’s ability to produce elite level ready young talents, many of whom often go onto have successful professional football careers in the game. Lewis Cook has followed Sam Byram by joining an ambitious English Premier League club after earning his stripes at Leeds United, while Byram chose to sign for West Ham United in January of 2016, Lewis watched on in agony as his move to The Cherries fell-through at the eleventh hour, when odds looked on for him to join Benik Afobe as the other hot English prospect signing for AFC Bournemouth. Eddie Howe is said to be a keen admirer of Lewis Cook and what he brings to the table, having scouted the wunderkind on numerous occasions over the course of last season, Cook will have been reassured of the opportunities he will have to further his development, in a team that seems perfectly suited to his dynamic game play.

Lewis Cook has made great strides in his relatively young professional career thus far, the lad has progressed in many regards due to regular first team exposure at a highly competitive level; while his potential ceiling remains extremely high, many have questioned just how far he could be in his development, were it not for having to play under 7 coaches during his time in the Leeds United first team, a spell that coincides with the rule of enigmatic & controversial Leeds United manager axing owner Massimo Cellino. A fresh start, and the lure of stability, in a culture that is not too dissimilar to what Leeds United have been aspiring to recreate within their illustrious club, will only serve Lewis Cook well as he continues to develop into the world-class talent he promises to become.

The departure of Matt Ritchie to Newcastle United for £12m had created a void in the Bournemouth midfield, Lewis Cook’s experience playing in multiple positions, and his effectiveness in different roles, garnered from playing differing systems, will have been great preparation for his new challenge in a team that looks to play their passing game while also adapting their structure to combat specific opposition threats. In Lewis Cook, AFC Bournemouth have secured the services of one of the hottest young prospects in English football, the transition from Championship to Premier League level will not necessarily be easy or without obstacles, but the structure in place at the club should allow the transition to be one that only progresses Lewis Cook’s development.

Lewis Cook

Bio

Full Name: Lewis John Cook

DoB: February 3rd, 1997 (19)

PoB: York, North Yorkshire; England

Nationality: English

Caps & Goals: u/16, 5 Caps | u/17, 15 Caps | u/18, 1 Cap | u/19, 9 Caps

Position/s: Deep-Lying Playmaker, Box-To-Box Midfielder, Attacking Midfielder, Advanced Playmaker, Trequartista, Inside Forward, Winger (L/R/C)

Height: 1, 75m

Preferred Foot: Right

Club: A.F.C. Bournemouth

Jersey No: Not Yet Assigned

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2020

Transfer Fee: £6m + add-ons up to £10m

Former Club: Leeds United Football Club (2014-2016)

Development Nest: Leeds United Youth Academy (2004-2014)

2015/16 Club Stats: 47 Games, 2 Goals & 3 Assists

Total Career Stats: 85 Games, 2 Goals & 5 Assists

GSV Deal Grader: Matt Holland from West Ham United FC to A.F.C. Bournemouth on a Free Transfer in 1994 (4/5)

The Grand Stand View

Leeds United gaffer Garry Monk had withdrawn Cook from the England u/19 squad to compete in the 2016 UEFA European u/19 Championship, as he looked to work with the young starlet for a full pre-season, a decision that could eventually come back to benefit Eddie Howe and his Bournemouth side in the coming season, as they now have enough time to get Lewis up to pace with his new teammates. The England youth international was one of the talented young players who went onto win the 2014 UEFA European Championship in Malta; Lewis Cook is also one of the few players from that successful side to progress into fully fledged professionals, after that breakthrough tournament for many in the team, something that may translate into progress at the senior national team level over time, and with great effort invested.

Strengths

Dynamic young attacking English talents with potential world-class ability often catch the eye, due mainly to the rarity of such talents in English football, Lewis Cook is blessed with that almost unEnglish ability to take on players with his dribbling ability, and create space to be exploited simply via his ability to beat his marker 1v1. Blessed with a high level of creativity, to compliment his impressive technical gifts, Cook uses his attacking gifts extremely well and his movement on and off the ball allows him to remain a constant threat in midfield. While his final product still needs some work, Lewis has the ability to distribute the ball well at the elite level, and create attacking opportunities for his side when he goes on one of his mazy runs, that often destabilise opposition defensive lines.

Weaknesses

The lack of consistency in playing one specific role, where he can acclimate to playing for a prolonged period of time, has hurt Lewis in many ways; while the lad is blessed with the potential to do magical things on the ball, his decision making and anticipation of in-game situations has to improve, if he is to fully translate his potential into regular displays of elite level ability in the Premier League. Final product is a great issue of concern for many gifted young players, the pace of football today is prone to expose a player’s lack of composure or execution, now that one has even less time on the ball; Lewis Cook has to work on his final ball or action in attack, his assists and goals tally is not a true reflection of his ability as a player. If Lewis Cook is to eventually progress into playing his more naturally suited role of the deep-lying playmaker, his tackling and anticipation of space on the defensive end will also need to be worked on, yet there is no denying that the lad has many of the intangible gifts truly needed to flourish in a role that he has all the attacking traits to star in at the elite level.