Barcelona, a new exciting season, Messi, Griezmann and more

Barcelona finished last season as Spanish champions and they will most certainly continue to dominate La Liga with a great new signing in Antoine Griezmann. The main focus must be to get back in the “big walk” of the Champions League.

A few changes were needed to just “freshening up” the situation at Camp Nou. Ernesto Valverde will of course continue the progression and hopefully be able to be even stronger next season.

Barca recently returned from Japan, winning over there against Vissel Kobe. Vissel Kobe with former Barce players David Villa, Sergi Samper and Andres Iniesta in their line-up.  A pre-season defeat to Chelsea was of course no fun, as Frank Lampard’s men are preparing for a new season in Premier League.

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Lionel Messi has not yet taken part in any pre-season games after his Copa America advneture, and that of course will be a major loss for Barca. We will hopefully see another team when the best player is back.

A bit of time left before the season start, and a bit of testing must be allowed. Valverde got a better look at players such as Todibo and Araujo. Two young centre backs ready to get into action if needed.

Barca forward Malcom looks certain to join Zenit as talks are confirmed and under progression, but the Brazilian is still part of the pre-season preparation and came on for the 2nd half against Vissel Kobe.

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The rest of the pre-season contains games against Arsenal and two fixtures against Napoli, played in Miami, before they take on Atletico Madrid in the season opener away on the 16th of August.

The inclusion of young Dutch starlet Frenkie de Jong  will be interesting to watch, but to get a regular place in this Barca team will be a testing task. If Ernesto Valverde is eager to get Neymar back from Paris, he can of course make a move.

A close rumor is that Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian can be on his way to Barca as they try to fill their squad with as much quality as possible.

A remarkable situation really, but Barce defender Gerard Pique is the owner of a football club after buying FC Andorra for deposit fee of €452,022. They are currently playing in the 3rd tier of Spanish football and this will be interesting to see how the highly rated defender will combine his roles.

No 8, Jan Jongbloed, World Cup finals 1974 and 1978, long wait and modern style of goalkeeping

Few goalkeepers can say they have played in two World Cup finals, and few have done it in a more fashionable way than Jan Jongbloed. Despite being on the losers side on both occasions his appearances were special as most of his Dutch caps came in the World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978.

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Jongbloed made his first appearance in the Dutch national team as far back as 1962. A long wait for his next cap, 12 years, and into his 30’s. In the World Cup’s of 74 and 78, he had the number 8 jersey, seldom a number used by a goalkeeper. He was not really a first choice and the goalkeeper position were seen as a problematic one for the national side as Jongbloed stepped in and becoming an “iconic” figure.

Ajax goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers was capped 46 times between 1971 to 1984 and played most of the qualification games and other Dutch friendlies in that period, with Jongbloed only making 26 caps all together.

Heinz Stuy was the first choice at Ajax before Schrijvers, but was never ever used in the Dutch national team. Eddie Pieters Graafland was also a famous goalkeeper and playing for Feyenoord when they won the European Cup in 1970. Pieters Graafland was a Dutch international but never appaered in the national team after 1967.

But whenever the World Cup came around, Jan Jongbloed became first choice. As said earlier he had to wait 12 years between his first and second appearance for the national team, and at the age of 33, returning just before the 1974 World Cup finals.

Few would believe that he would be picked when the 1978 World Cup in Argentina came around but Jongbloed made the squad again. He had frequently appeared in the national team between 1974 and 1978 and still regarded as a suitable option, playing at the time for Roda JC.

Jongbload is well remembered for his appearances in these two World Cup’s once heading the ball outside the penalty area to stop an attack. Jongbloed was often described as a playing goalkeeper and acting more or less like a sweeper, and by that seen as an eccentric and modern type.

He was also the goalkeeper against Scotland when Archie Gemmill made a name of himself and scored his fantastic goal and Jongbloed had to see them going in behind him, but that game and the Dutch defeat had no impact since they were allready through to the next round.

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His last game in the Dutch national team was that World Cup final against Argentina, but his club career was far from over. He continued to play for eight more years, and didn’t hang up his “gloves” and “boots” before he had reached the age of 45.

During his long lasting career in Dutch football, Jongbloed represented DWS and when they merged into FC Amsterdam he continued and in all played a total of 514 league games from 1959 to 1977. Then at Roda JC from 1977 to 1981, and finally four more years in football goalkeeping at Go Ahead Eagles.

After his retirement as a player Jongbloed continued in football as a coach and assistant manager at Haarlem and Vitesse, keeping it going until 2010.




Antonio Valencia, Man Utd exit, Copa America and L.D.U debut

Antonio Valencia left Man Utd this summer after spending a number of years at Old Trafford and silently been one of the best players at the club in the “late years” of Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Sir Alex paid Wigan Athletic £16million for Valencia’s services back in 2009. He had then spent two seasons with The Latics and done well in Premier League action, impressing managers of bigger clubs with his great attitude and good skills.

A number of injuries stopped him from more games at Man Utd, but his “collection” of major titles in football has made him a “grossist” in trophies. Premier League titles from 2010/11 and 2012/13, FA Cup winner, 2015/16, EFL League Cup winner 2009/10 and 2016/17. UEFA Europa League winner 2016/17.

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He won a number of individual honors as well, one being that goal of the month award from September 2017. What a fantastic goal. A volley from outside the box just pasted into the left corner. Valencia had those skills and that wonderful technique that makes him one player that you would say in some way was “complete”.

After a glorious time at Man Utd dong so well, he is now back in Ecuador playing for last seasons champions L.D.U. Quito. Valencia might have left a big club, and a big city, but moving back to Quito, the capitol of Ecuador might not be that different, with 1,9million citizens inside the city and the club attracting attendances as high as almost 20 000.

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Valencia made his debut v. local rival America, winning 1-0. L.D.U. are currently 6th in the table and after 18 games they are far from the top position 13 points behind leader Macara.

Despite seen as a player of less importance at Man Utd in his latter years and being released by newly appointed manager at the club Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Valencia is still in demand at international level. He was often captain of Man Utd and also had the armband occasionally last season.

Still a of great standards he was in that Ecuador team in Copa America this summer, playing Uruguay, Chile and Japan. Sadly they ended bottom of their group, with only one point from those games, coming in a 1-1 draw against Japan.

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One of the finest imports of English football will continue his career in his home country and hopefully he will have a few more years left in football, and it came as no surprise that “the player of silence” would not jump at an adventure in China or MLS, but instead move back and be part of “family” in Ecuador.

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