Analytics in Football – A Double Edged Sword

Sports as we know it today has come a long way. There were times when watching sports on television was considered a massive step forward in terms of technology. Fast forward 60 years, watching sports on television has become the most basic thing. Today we watch sports on the go on our mobile phones or any device with a screen and internet connectivity. Proud of how far we’ve come, aren’t we? Hopefully I can change your opinion on that by the end of this article.

What is sports all about? Sports is a bunch of people getting together to play a game with pre defined rules and a referee to ensure that these rules are adhered to during the passage of play. I am a sport lover and play sports all time. My love for tennis and soccer in particular cannot be defined. My issue when it came to technology and advanced analytics was with the game of soccer in particular. Soccer is such a beautiful game. The strategies that the coaching staff come up with and the way it is executed on field by the players, it actually is a thing of beauty. I was a soccer player myself (just an average one at that) and have been part of various teams. I know firsthand how strategies are built, how much thought goes into one single run of play.

Enter -> Advanced Analytics

Most of you would’ve seen the movie Moneyball. The movie was based on the book Michael Lewis wrote in 2003. It talks about how a jock turned luminary uses advanced statistics to gain a competitive edge over his better funded opponents. This book brought about a revolution is sports. Fans and boards of soccer clubs didn’t want to settle for subpar statistics or analytics anymore. What Moneyball did is, it took an old cliché – «sports are businesses» and made us move on to the next logical question – «how do we do things smarter?»

Now let’s talk about advanced analytics. Advanced analytics in today’s world plays a massive role in every business sector. Advanced analytics has been a boon for us. Moving from descriptive analytics to prescriptive analytics, we actually have come a long way. In various businesses, where the requirement is demanding, advanced analytics are of utmost importance.

When we look at soccer, its a game that does not require too much machine intelligence, it is a game that needs the human element. When you bring in analytics and technology and try to reduce the human element in the sports, it simply just crushes the spirit of the game.

Relying on analytics heavily killed the Premier Leagues long ball game and brought in the pressing, continual passing tiki-taka. Each league for that matter had its own style of play. The Premier League had the brash and brazen style of football that was termed «The way real men play football». There were beautiful long balls, harsh tackles but all the players just sucked it up, walked it off and it was all up to the referee on the pitch to penalize the offender or not. There were arguments and fights, the passion from the fans was crazy, that was the football that screamed of passion, when players got in the face of other players not fearing punishment. The Eric Cantona’s, the Ivan Genaro Gattuso’s, the Jaap Stam’s of the football world went missing soon enough and the diving and the biting began. Then there was the tiki-taka style of football that was played in the Spanish La Liga, the silky style of play that caught everyone off guard. The legendary Pep Guardiola and his army at Barcelona were the masters of the tiki-taka. There was Real Madrid who were always a star studded line-up with excessive parts of their play relying on lightning quick counters which most often than not left the opponents stunned. There was Manchester United who had their own brand of football being managed by the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. That United team was a team of sheer grit and character. Each of these leagues had their own beauty and the teams had their own style of play.

When you bring in excessive technology and analytics, there emerge sorry technologies like VAR (Video Assistant Referees).

There are 3 stages as to how the VAR works:

Step 1

Incident occurs

The referee informs the VAR, or the VAR recommends to the referee that a decision/incident should be reviewed.

Step 2

Review and advice by the VAR

The video footage is reviewed by the VAR, who advises the referee via headset what the video shows.

Step 3

Decision or action is taken

The referee decides to review the video footage on the side of the field of play before taking the appropriate action/decision, or the referee accepts the information from the VAR and takes the appropriate action/decision.

Now the referee can consult with VAR for basically any doubts he wants clarified. What does this do?

• Removes the human element from the game.

• Takes up excess time and brings too many stoppages within the game, a game that was previously free flowing and continuous.

This makes it similar to Formula 1 racing. The analytics which brought about the fuel weight management systems and the numerous pit stops took the continuity out of the race and viewership reduced with the increase in technology. A pretty similar trend might occur in football if this implementation becomes mandatory.

The Positive Side of Advanced Analytics in Soccer:

Analytics are not all that bad in football. Let’s take the case of when Simon Wilson joined Manchester City in 2006. Simon Wilson was a consultant for an analytics startup called Prozone initially. He joined City to start a department of analytics and hired the best data analysts under him. He wanted to change the way how data was used by football teams. He saw that, after a defeat there was no introspection as to why they had lost and what needed to be done next time. City were a mid table club at that time. In September 2008, when the club was acquired by the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, a private-equity outfit owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, the team suddenly found itself with the resources necessary to mount a challenge for the Premier League. Today, Wilson is Manchester City’s manager of strategic performance analysis. He has five departments under him, including the team of performance analysis, which is now led by a sports scientist named Ed Sulley.

After each match, the team’s performance data would be examined. The list is extensive. Line breaks (a rugby term), ball possession, pass success rates, ball win/loss time ratio were what used to be analyzed. «Instead of looking at a list of 50 variables we want to find five, say, that really matter for our style of play,» says Pedro Marques, a match analyst at Manchester City.

«With the right data-feeds, the algorithms will output the statistics that have a strong relationship with winning and losing.» Wilson recalls one particular period when Manchester City hadn’t scored from corners in over 22 games, so his team decided to analyze over 400 goals that were scored from corners. It was noticed that about 75 percent resulted from in-swinging corners, the type where the ball curves towards the goal. The next 12 games of the next season saw City score nine goals from corner.

Teams are investing heavily in analytics today and it is working in their favor. Look at where Manchester City are today, sitting atop the Premier League table and not being threatened at all. Look at Manchester United this season, their game has been such where their possession percentages are low but their goal conversions are high. The Manchester Derby on 7th April 2018 saw United have only 35% of the possession but they managed to trump City 3-2. Each team has their set of analysts who provide inputs as per the strength of the team.

Advanced analytics is like the coin Two Face in Batman has, «Heads you die, Tails you survive!»

It can reap crazy rewards from a team’s point of view but at the same time can disrupt the lovely game by bringing in unnecessary stoppages, replays and by taking the human element out of it. The numerous replays and the different angles, show the fans if the referee has made an error or not. Let the error happen, after all to err is human. Refereeing in soccer is not an exact science and it’s all real time. Let there be arguments about a decision, let the passion in the argument come through. Do you want to watch a football match like the El Classico or the Manchester Derby and sit with your bunch of friends and say «it was a very clean game, the best team won!» Hell NO! Don’t drive the passion out of soccer with technology and analytics. Let soccer be soccer and let technology stay away!

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Is Every Soccer (Football) Player Unique?

1960’s – 2011 comparison (Pele)

There is no doubt that Brazilian striker Pele was the best player of the 1960’s. Pele and Maradona are the two players who are always mentioned when the common question is asked, ‘Who was the best player to have ever lived?’ Pele will often be the answer. So what was Pele like? Pele was a natural goal scorer, the Santos striker was incredibly athletic and his dribbling/balance combination was unstoppable for defenders. His ability to go past defenders at such speed and maintain such balance credited him with many goal scoring opportunities, which more likely than not Pele would score emphatically. Pele had technique, the passing ability of a central midfield maestro, the engine of a Marathon runner and the power of a steam train. His statistics are sensational, 1281 goals in 1363 games.

No one can live up to Pele’s name; Manchester United’s George Best in the 70’s was a similar type of player to Pele but was more a winger than a forward. In the modern era, few have been compared to Pele but none have lived up to the reputation that Brazilian Pele possessed. Alexandre Pato of AC Milan was tipped to be the Pele of this era, but he has to yet to show any phenomenal form to even label him the one of the best strikers today let alone ever lived. Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is the closest of this decade that we have compared to Pele. Rooney possesses the same power and physique that Pele does, the same ability to pick out a 70 yard cross field ball and the same vision and technique. England striker Rooney just doesn’t have same amount of pace that Pele did which combines with the factor that Rooney doesn’t particularly go past players with skill and flair.

Wayne Rooney has scored goals that you wouldn’t think were possible with the stunning volley against Newcastle and the recent potential goal of the season overhead against rivals Manchester City. Pele scored stunning goals in the 60’s and 70’s for Santos and Brazil, one ‘nearly’ goal that would’ve been one of the greatest goals of all time. His dummy against Uruguay that left the keeper for dead when the ball went one way and Pele went around the other way, but his shot off balance and on a tight angle just went wide.

1970’s – 2011 comparison (Johann Cruyff)

Johann Cruyff was part of the Ajax side that inherited the ‘total football’ philosophy introduced by Dutch coach Rinul Michels. Former Barcelona and Ajax front man Johann Cruyff’s style of play was influenced by the total football approach he conducted to his game. His natural position was centre forward but because of the tactical way the Ajax side played the game, he roamed around and ended up playing on the wing and central midfield more often than not. The Holland striker spent half of the 1970’s at Barcelona for Rinus Michels, where he was crowned European Footballer of the Year at his time at Barcelona in consecutive years.

Cruyff was dubbed the ‘Pythagoras in boots’ because of his ability to pick out passes from angles that looked impossible. Not only did he have an eye for a pass but he had tremendous speed and his ability to accelerate away from defenders which was helped by the ‘Cruyff turn’ named after the Dutch maestro is still a turn associated with football 40 years later.

I don’t think any striker could grace Cruyff’s ability to play in multiple positions to maximum effect so I’ve chosen a playmaker and speed merchant who would grace Cruyff’s technical and physical attributes to his game, Ryan Giggs. Both players in their prime had the ability to go past players with flair and tremendous pace creating goal scoring opportunities. Giggs isn’t as prolific as Cruyff as a finisher but Giggs certainly lives up to the playmaking abilities that Cruyff possessed. Ryan Giggs in his prime was lightening over 5-10 yards and could maintain such frightening pace for 40-50 yards which he shared with Cruyff.

However as football has changed much over the years since Cruyff’s successful days at Ajax and Barcelona, the style of play has changed and there aren’t many similar type of players of Cruyff’s calibre that could play naturally upfront and drop back deeper and still be extremely effective.

1980’s – 2011 comparison (Diego Maradona)

Maradona or Messi? There is no doubt that of today’s game, Lionel Messi is the nearest if not potential candidate to surpass Maradona’s ability as a footballer. Former Barcelona striker Diego Maradona along with Pele is one of the best players to have ever graced this planet. He wasn’t as clinical as Pele but taking nothing away from Maradona he still had a very good goal scoring record for club and country. The style of play on the ball for Maradona and Messi is identical. They both dribble with extreme pace and a very low centre of gravity; they both possess extreme dribbling skills with the ability to have 5-10 touches in the space of seconds to make it impossible for defenders to tackle. Many have questioned whether Lionel Messi could do what Maradona did at Napoli. Maradona won what is now the Italian ‘serie A’ with Napoli with what was a very average squad, Maradona being the pivotal part of the Napoli side and no doubt wouldn’t have been title winners if Maradona wasn’t on their books. Could Messi do a similar fate at Blackburn of the English Premiership, Udinese of the Italian Serie A? Many doubt whether Messi could.

In contrast Messi has achieved a lot more than Maradona at this age having already won the Spanish La Liga 4 times and Champions League 2 times. Messi is only 23, Maradona at 23 won the treble with Barcelona in 1983 and an Argentine title with Boca Juniors in 1981 but that was it. So Messi so far has had a better career on silverware success but Maradona’s achievements at Napoli and on the international arena set him aside to Messi. Infamously, Maradona also has a World Cup to his name in 1986 which Maradona made his name.

There is no doubt that Barcelona winger Messi scores goals from all sorts of angles and all sorts of scintillating runs but Maradona’s second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup has been regarded as the goal of the century by many people. Maradona travelled with the ball 60 metres and took on six English players in the process, rounded England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and scored from a tight angle to beat England 2-1 in the quarter finals of the 1986 World Cup which they went on to win. The ex-Napoli striker also scored the very controversial ‘hand of god’ goal in the same game which has been spoken about ever since. Messi hasn’t really shined on the international stage and if he does, it might be what takes him past his boyhood hero’s status.

1990’s – 2011 comparison (Ronaldo)

He was a natural goal scorer of his era and by far the best striker in his generation for simply scoring goal after goal. Ronaldo played at the highest level through the 90’s and early 00’s, he represented PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan in an illustrious career that was disrupted by serious knee injuries.

Brazilian striker Ronaldo was a born goal scorer, he had the ability to go past players with his skill and power but defiantly his threat was in the box. He scored 62 goals in just under 100 appearances for Brazil and has been voted Brazil’s best ever striker since Pele by numerous judging panels. Former Real Madrid striker Ronaldo was indestructible, if he got in the box it was inevitable he was going to score.

As Ronaldo has still being playing till quite recent, there hasn’t been long for anyone to potentially replace Ronaldo’s prowess for being a known goal scorer. However, there a few players that this season in world Football has started to develop their reputation. Javier Hernandez of Manchester United is one striker that could have the potential to live up to Ronaldo’s abilities in front of goal. He already has 16 goals for Manchester United in his first season and is a predator in the box similarly to Ronaldo. It’s doubtful whether Mexican forward Hernandez will have the impact on world football that Ronaldo did, but the Mexican is a very similar striker to what Ronaldo was in his prime.

Barcelona’s David Villa is another striker who is known for his potential in the box. Spanish hit man David Villa has earned his trade at Valencia for several years and finally sealed a move to Barcelona where he already has 21 goals to his name. Villa has also lived up to Ronaldo’s international reputation, having already won the European Championships in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010 with Spain being a key member of the winning side in both tournaments with his contribution of goals.

2000’s – 2011 comparison (Zidane)

One of the most gifted players of this century was French midfielder and former Juventus/Bordeaux midfielder Zidane. One of the most natural players at playing the game, Zidane glided through the game in a nonchalant manner that saw him one of footballs most composed players ever to have graced the game. An out and out central midfielder, Zidane possessed a goal scoring ability from midfield and also the ability to craft out magic in midfield to launch attacks for his side.

Zidane joined Real Madrid from Juventus in 2001 for a world record fee at the time of around 50 million pounds. Zidane enjoyed success in Real Madrid, winning the Champions League and the Spanish La Liga in his 6 years at the club. Not to mention becoming a World cup winner with France in 1998 and a runner up in 2006. Zidane was a tall, strong midfielder at 6’1 he was no fool at defending and wasn’t afraid to challenge for an aerial battle but Zidane came alive in the attacking half and his deft touches on the ball and he seemed to have eyes in the back of his head at times with his awareness of space around him.

Not many footballers have composure as a skill to their game because of the extreme amounts of pressure footballers are put under and now with all the money at stake. However, Manchester United’s Dimitar Berbatov is one of very few footballers that possess superb composure on the ball which is a very gracious skill to have. Bulgarian striker Berbatov and French midfielder Zidane also share the same style of control and first touch, with Berbatov having one of the greatest techniques in the world today similarly to Zidane in his prime. Although ex-Tottenham striker Berbatov is an out and out forward and Zidane never played upfront, the abilities they both have are very similar. Even their mental approaches are very alike, both are very quiet and don’t particularly talk much when competing competitively. Both have tremendous control on the ball, both have the ability to go past players with the skill on the ball rather than speed or strength.

Great players are easy to come by; it’s the magical players that are hard to come by. Who’s going to replace Barcelona’s Messi’s or Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s of today’s game in a few years? Football has the ability to produce stars to show on the world stage which is what makes football such an amazing sport to watch.

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Los méritos y la superioridad del Sevilla FC no bastaron para doblegar al Real Madrid



No pudo ser, pese a la buena imagen mostrada por los hombres de Julen Lopetegui, el Real Madrid se llevó la victoria frente a un Sevilla FC que dominó gran parte del duelo. Para ver todos los detalles, dale a reproducir.

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Overpriced Footballers

Denílson de Oliveira Araújo popularly known as Denilson is a Brazilian midfielder that rose to prominence for his display at Le Tournoi just before the 1998 world cup in France.

He was noted for his numerous step-overs and on account of this Real Betis saw it fit to splash out £21m for his services.

It turned out to be a huge waste of money as they actually managed to get relegated and he scored just 12 goals in 165 appearances for the club.

Joaquín Sánchez Rodríguez more commonly known as Joaquin is a very good right winger that plays for Valencia.

He is a very good player but his club, Valencia paid over the odds when they got him from his home town club Real Betis, for EUR25m.

Andriy Shevchenko is an excellent striker as his goals record would testify but Chelsea paid way too much when they forked out £30m for his services from AC Milan.

Charlton football club could not believe their lick when Tottenham Hotspurs came up with £17m for the services of Darren Bent.

Gianluigi Buffon is a great goalkeeper, he is possibly the best in the world and 1 of the best of all times but Juventus paid £33m for his services. When you consider that he does not score goals, it does seem a lot for a goalkeeper.

Rio Ferdinand cost Manchester United £30m from Leeds united and that seems a tad too excessive for a player of his ability.

Staying with Manchester United, Spurs, I am sure would not have believed their lick when United decided to offer them £18.6m for Michael Carrick. Then again they had paid £28m on Juan Sebastian Veron who then went to Chelsea for that same amount.

Chelsea are used to paying over the odds for players as they spent £21m on Shawn Wright-Phillips, £6m for the untested Glen Johnson from West Ham United and worst of all £12m on Paolo Ferreira from Porto.

Only Bobby Robson would know what he was thinking when he decided to splash out £6m on Titus Bramble from his old club Ipswich Town and even more bizarrely £8m on Carl Cort from Wimbledon.

Arsene Wenger is a very shrewd manager when it comes to spending money so it must have been an off day for him when he decided to pay out £8m for Francis Jeffers, no doubt listening to those that kept saying his team needed a jack-in-a-box type striker.

When it comes to spending money, no one does it better than Sven Goran Ericsson, who in the course of his managerial career has spent £70m on Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo, £25m on Juan Veron from Parma, and at Manchester city he is spending big bucks on players like Valerie Bojinov and Rolando Bianchi.

Speaking of Lazio they seem to waste money on players from La Liga like the £28m they spent on Gaskiya Mendietta and the vast amounts spent on Claudio Lopez and Ivan De la Pena.

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Football Player’s Position

If we are talking about playing football, I think most of us want to be a striker or forward player, it’s because we think that the striker is the best position in the game and the others just for supporting the striker. And also we think that the striker is a hero for the team because he makes scores and finally wins the game. Sometimes common people say that they win only because of the Forward players or the strikers. But actually, their assumption is wrong, because the main thing that is important in football game is teamwork. Each player in the game must be discipline and do their duty based on their position. Without that, the play will be bad and the team won’t win the game.

In football game, basically we know about 4 positions of players; Goalkeeper (GK), Defender (DF), Midfielder (MF), and Forward or Striker (FW). In each position, they have their main duty in a game. So, what are actually the characteristics of each of them? Okay, let’s check it out.

The first position is a Goalkeeper. Goalkeeper is a position which has a main task to protect the goal post from opponent attack. This position actually is placed in the back of the others position. So, he just stands under the goal post and blocks the ball that comes to the goal. The characteristic of this position is goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with his hand.

The second position is a Defender or we usually call it as Back. Someone in this position has main task to protect their area from opponent attack. The position of back is in front of the goalkeeper. Usually in a game, defender is divided into two; Center Back (CB) and Side Back (SB). Center Back is a player who stands in the middle of defense area and in front of the goalkeeper. This kind of position holds the biggest responsibility in team after the Goalkeeper. Then the Side Back is a player who plays in the side of the defense area. Sometimes, this kind of position is helpful when attacking.

The next position is Midfielder. I think this is the most flexible position in the match. Because someone in this position can do everything, both attacking and defending. The midfielders play in the middle of the field. And also, midfielder is a position that is very important in a team. Because, they can make the defender are connected to the forward players. It means that the midfielders are the Playmakers in the game. Actually in the real game, the midfielder is divided into 4 positions; Center Midfielder (CMF), Defending Midfielder (DMF), Attacking Midfielder (AMF), and Side Midfielder. CMF tends to make the beautiful play by giving pass to others teammate. While DMF tends to more help the defender to defense. It means this kind of player is more defensive. Then an AMF is the contrary of DMF. It means that this player is more offensive. And the last is SMF, this player can both defending and attacking in the side of the field. This kind of player is usually called as a Winger.

And the fourth position in football game is a Striker or Forward player. This player has the main task to make scores by driving the ball into the goal post. In this position, the player should have good instinct and can make good positioning. And the Striker should be able to maximize the chance to make a score, because in the real game, the striker is always kept by opponent player.

By knowing about the characteristics of football players, we can conclude that, each position have their own duty and role in playing football. It means that the striker that cannot bring the team into victory without support from their teammate. Also the team cannot win the game without the participation of strikers. So we can say that all types of position in the game are important and each of them cannot stands alone, it means that the most important thing is teamwork. Without that, I think it is hard to reach victory.

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El Sevilla FC y Unzué, un gran impulso para Antonio Ojeda



Antonio es un aficionado sevillista al que hace cuatro años le diagnosticaron Esclerosis Lateral Amiatrófica -ELA-.

El Sevilla FC, junto a su familia, quiso darle un pequeño homenaje con una visita al entrenamiento del primer equipo en el que Lopetegui, Monchi y los jugadores dieron todo su cariño a este sevillista lleno de casta y coraje.

Precisamente, el Sevilla FC le regaló una camiseta en la que se podía leer este lema. Una camiseta de portero y con el número 1 a la espalda haciendo un guiño a Juan Carlos Unzué, también enfermo de ELA, quien se unió a la iniciativa con un bonito mensaje.

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Peter Rufai – Nigeria’s Best Goalkeeper

The history of Nigeria’s football will not be complete without mentioning the contribution of goalkeeper Peter Rufai. The 47 years old former Stationary Stores of Lagos shot stopper made history in 1986 when he became the first Nigerian goalkeeper to move out of the shore of the country in pursuit of his professional career. He was signed by AS Dragon F.C of Benin Republic.

The quiet spoken Rufai is vastly traveled having played for Belgian club sides- Lokeren and Beveren before making a surprise move to Go Ahead Eagles of Holland in the 1993-1994 where he got selected to feature for Nigeria at the 1994 African Nations Cup hosted by Tunisia. He helped Nigeria lift the coveted trophy for a second time after defeat of Zambia in the final.

His performance at the African Nations Cup earned him a subsequent call-up to the Nigeria squad that played in the 1994 FIFA World Cup hosted by the United States of America. As both captain and goalkeeper of the team, he succeeded in ensuring Nigeria gave a commanding performance at her first World Cup outing. The team got to the round of 16, before succumbing to the more experienced Italians who were inspired by Roberto Baggio. The match eventually ended 2-1 in favor of the Italians.

Peter Rufai who was fondly called «Dodo Mayana» by his teeming supporters, returned to man the post for the Super Eagles in 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by Spain. He could not however help the team scale through the round of 16, as they were battered by Denmark in a one-sided encounter played at the Stade de France. Dodo Mayana watched helplessly as the Danes put four goals behind him.

That match was incidentally his very last international outing for the senior National team before he eventually called it quit. His best ever performance were in the color of Spanish La Liga side- Deportivo La Coruna, where he made a name for himself despite been a back-up to Cameroonian goalkeeper- Jacques Songo’o for two consecutive seasons.

Peter Rufai presently lives in Nigeria, where he organizes football clinics in selected cities to help discover talented goalkeepers. He will be best remembered as one of the best goalkeepers Nigeria ever had, having earned the respect of fellow players and the Confederation of African Football who named him the 10th best CAF Best Goalkeeper of the century. It is noteworthy to mention that Rufai is the only Nigerian Goalkeeper so mentioned by the African Football body.

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Resumen de Sevilla FC vs Deportivo Alavés (2-2)



El Sevilla FC suma un punto ante el Deportivo Alavés gracias a un gol de Rakitic en el minuto 92 #SevillaFCAlavés J14 LaLiga Santander 2021/2022

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FC Barcelona Players – Eider Gudjohnsen

Eidur Gudjohnsen, of course, is the answer to a well-known quiz question.   Who was the first player to come on as a substitute for his own father in an international football match?   What might be even more amazing is that it could happen again in a few years – Eidur’s son was one of the star players in the annual televised schoolboys tournament in the summer of 2008, captaining the Barcelona team.

Born in Reykjavik in 1978, Eidur Gudjohnsen was clearly always going to be a footballer and made his debut in the Icelandic League when he was only 16 years of age.   After just 17 games for his club Valur, the player had done enough to earn a transfer to Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven.   During his 2 seasons in Holland, however, Eidur suffered numerous injuries and was only able to complete 13 games before being transferred back to Iceland – to KR Reykjavik.

Barely had he signed, though, before he was off on his travels again – this time to England and, after a short trial, to Bolton Wanderers.   It was his success here, mainly as a bustling and determined centre forward, that brought a move to Chelsea, where he was to stay for 6 seasons. During this spell at Stamford Bridge, Gudjohnsen made a total of 268 first team appearances, scoring 78 goals.

Although originally a centre forward, Eidur always demonstrated what pundits insisted on calling ‘a surprisingly good touch for a big man’. Technically gifted, with very quick feet and, crucially, a nimble brain, the Chelsea fans warmed to the big Icelander because of his remarkable versatility.   Able to play up front, in midfield, or even on the wings, Eidur was part of the developing Chelsea team that won the league in 2005 and 2006 and the Carling Cup in 2005.

Many people were surprised when Eidur signed for Barcelona in the summer of 2006, especially when it appeared he was being seen as a direct replacement for the huge fans’ favourite, Henrik Larsen.   Initially played as a striker, he certainly had problems winning over the Barça faithful and, in his first season, a return of just 5 goals in 25 league games led to questions being asked about the player’s suitability for La Liga.

One thing that Eidur Gudjohnsen has always been, though, is determined and that played a big part in his ability to turn the difficult situation around.   By being used more in midfield, the player demonstrated his adaptability and consequently, in both 2006/07 and 2007/08, he became an important member of the squad.   Able to play in a variety of positions, and always liable to come up with a goal, Eidur Gudjohnsen is now an established Barcelona player and one whom the fans now trust totally.

Iceland’s record goal scorer, and with over 50 international caps already, and captain of the national team, Gudjohnsen has been Icelandic Player of the year three times.   It is a good bet that he will try to keep his place in the national squad until he’s able to play in the same team as his son. Now that would be a good quiz question.

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