The five stand-out stats of Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career

The surreal statistics behind Lionel Messi’s Barca career are well known. Here are our five stand-out figures.

Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona following the end of his contract and the financial issues which left them unable to sign-off on an extended stay.

Having seen his previous deal expire on 30 June, news came out last week that a contract was provisionally agreed and only awaiting La Liga’s go ahead. However, Barca have now admitted defeat and made no effort to hide the fact that they’re blaming La Liga – as well as the previous calamitous leadership of Josep Bartomeu – and looking towards protecting the club’s future.

“I can’t make a decision that will affect the club for 50 years,” said president Joan Laporta.

“The club is over 100 years old and it’s above everyone and everything, even above the best player of the world. We will always thank him for everything he’s done for us.

“In order to have fair play, we need to do this or make an effort which would put the club at risk. We couldn’t keep going with this and we needed to make a decision, which we have.”

Whilst a massive hole remains in Barca’s finances, an even bigger one has just developed at the heart of the team. The surreal statistics behind Messi’s Barca career are well known. Here are five stand-out figures.


Lionel Messi has scored 672 goals in a Barcelona shirt across all competitive competitions. These have come in 778 matches – of which have also seen a remarkable 305 assists.


Messi has played a total of 42,142 minutes across all La Liga matches. The last of which came in a 2-1 home defeat to Celta Vigo on 16 May. Messi scored Barca’s only goal that day.


One red card. Lionel Messi received just the one dismissal across his Barca career. This came as they were beaten 3-2 by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final in January 2021.


Messi’s 35 trophy honours with Barcelona includes 10 league titles, four Champions League winners medals, seven Copas del Rey, three Club World Cups, three European Super Cups and eight Spanish Super Cups.


Lionel Messi has won six Ballon d’Or titles during his time at Barcelona. He is out on his own as the only player to have won it six times – leading Cristiano Ronaldo on five.

Here is our most memorable Messi match in a Barca shirt 👇 What’s yours? 👀

Image Courtesy: 2 TOP (, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic | Flickr


Atletico Madrid must tap into their inner underdog to topple rivals

Ahead of the derby with Real Madrid, would it not be wonderful to once again revel in Atletico Madrid’s counter-attacking, whole-hearted defending style under ‘el Cholo’, and bask in the glory of this underdog team?

Even for the likes of Atletico Madrid, the Nou Camp must be one of the most daunting football stadiums to play in. With seating of more than 99,000, relentless chants of “Messi, Messi, Messi”and thick Catalan air, its Colosseum-like structure embraces the FC Barcelona players and, more often than not, entraps hapless opponents sent to the slaughter house for a fixture that usually ends in a comfortable win for the home side.

In the last home fixture of the 2013-2014 season, Barcelona played host to Atletico Madrid. Three points separated the two, and a win for either would clinch the league title. There was no immense difference in the quality of the players, but there was a clear clash of identity; Atletico were plucky opponents, clad in mustard yellow and evening blue.

If their impressive showing at Stamford Bridge in their 3-1 win in the Champions League semi-final a few weeks before underpinned their pedigree as a thorn in the side of the top breeds of Europe, then their resilient showing amidst the electrifying atmosphere of the Barcelona crowd added another layer to an already solid skin.

The classic 4-4-2 model had served them well, and as Diego Simeone was lifted high in the sky by his team at the end of that pulsating 1-1 draw, it became clear that this team was not disappearing into the realms of nothingness anytime soon. The stranglehold of the top two in Spain had been broken, a nine-year exchange of power, in a season where Barcelona and Real Madrid had scored 100 and 104 goals respectively. Atletico scored 77, but more importantly, had conceded the least amount of goals with 26 in total.

Instead of a procession, Atletico had played a leading role in a fascinating and unexpected title race. When one thought of the word ‘underdog’, they had elevated themselves as the prime synonym. Taking from the rich, and giving to the poor, in pure Robin Hood fashion.

Since that title triumph, like a leopard embracing the shade of a marula tree in the blazing heat of the African sun, Atletico have been lying in wait, picking their moments to pounce and show us that they are still a title-winning outfit. In the period under Simeone, Atletico have entered the stratosphere of the European elite, and having been in two UEFA Champions League finals in the last five years, as well as capturing the Europa League and the Spanish and UEFA Super Cups, the La Liga crown could be a realistic prospect once again.

Atletico enter the Madrid derby this weekend in third place, two points behind their bitter, more illustrious rivals. Although Madrid have won three Champions League titles in a row, as well as a La Liga title in the 2016-2017 season, in this period of transition the playing field seems level. Los Blancos are still finding their feet under Julen Lopetegui, wounded from the calamitous performance against Sevilla, who showed that an ageing Madrid outfit are susceptible to an intense pressing style and once they found a way past Casemiro – the smoke screen to Madrid’s centre backs – then there was a soft underbelly that they ruthlessly exposed.

Barcelona also showed signs of fragility as they were handed a surprising defeat at the hands of Leganes, who had Gerard Pique to thank for one of those rare “let the ground open up and swallow me whole” moments that he would like to forget in a hurry. Although it is early on in the season, and many would say that these results are mere blips, there is nothing wrong with setting an early marker to give your rivals something to think about, which Atletico have already done in their 4-2 win against Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

Would it not be wonderful to once again revel in the counter-attacking, whole-hearted defending style of ‘el Cholo’ – as Simeone is fondly known as – and bask in the glory of the underdog team that elevated themselves from the shadows?

There is something beautiful in the ugly 1-0 wins and the tenacity that Atletico exhibit, working hard for every result, covering each blade of grass with an intensity that epitomises the energetic chaos of their master. Instruction from the sidelines, hassling and demanding, asking for more, more, more, pulling at his black tie, apologising to the referee for his antics, encouraging the crowd at the Wanda Metropolitano to lift the players when they need that extra push. How does he sleep at night?

The new stadium adds to the freshness that surrounds Atletico these days. Summer signings such as Thomas Lemar and Rodri have come in and added some much needed squad depth. Rodri, in particular, looks like a midfield commando in the ilk of Sergio Busquets: tall, dark and handsome, calm on the ball, and a good sense of positional awareness. With Gabi departing to Al Sadd SC in Qatar, a warrior in the truest sense of Simeone’s defensive midfield blueprint, Rodri has the task of filling the void left by his predecessor.

Gabi may be gone, but Diego Godin is still there. So are Filipe Luis and Koke. Arguably the best exponent of uncomplicated centre back marshalling in world football, Godin has aged like fine wine, leading from the back like a well-oiled machine. Diego Costa returned in January, still rugged in the edges of his face, still a pest for defenders in the mold of the old-school number nine. His partnership with Antoine Griezmann could be the glue that sticks everything together, and allows the Frenchman to roam free whilst Costa does his best impression of the pantomime villain.

Last year, Atletico failed to seize the moment when they lost limply to Barcelona in their bid to challenge for the title. It was not the sort of performance that reflected ‘Choloism’, especially against one of the big fish. This weekend affords the opportunity to lay some important groundwork for a season that has the same theme of years gone by: find success in an environment where few would expect them to.

This is the sort of narrative that Simeone thrives on. They may always be underdogs, and they may win ugly, but Atletico are always in and around the top positions, striving to achieve glory in ways that make you appreciate the hard work that goes in to becoming the team that continues to defy the odds, even with the quality that is at Simeone’s disposal.

That is just how he likes it. Madrid and Barcelona have been toppled before. Who says that they cannot be found wanting once again?

Is Lionel Messi being treated unfairly by UEFA?

Many fans, especially Barcelona fans, believe UEFA lost credibility by excluding Lionel Messi from the Ballon d’Or top three. Marco Gerges takes a look at the Argentine’s situation…

Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer of all time. He has won a total of 33 trophies with FC Barcelona and has become the best ever to play in the blue and red stripes. Even though he is recognised as one of the best players in the world, he is also criticised, mostly because of his performances with his national team.

UEFA have decided to exclude him from the top three of their Best Player award. Some agree with the decision, whilst some think the decision was very wrong and disrespectful towards Messi. Many think the four-time Champions League winner is being treated unfairly by UEFA.

Although a great player, Messi has recently been falling short of rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has tied the Argentine on Ballon Dor’s. This year’s UEFA Best Player award went to Luka Modric, and Messi wasn’t even included in the top three.

Many fans feel that UEFA is being unfair towards Messi, they could have a case. Let’s compare statistics. Mohamed Salah had the best season of his career, catching the eye of fans and clubs from all around the world. The Egyptian scored 32 goals and gave 11 assists in 36 Premier League appearances. Salah was nominated in the top three for the award.

Salah’s amazing season just fell short of one of Messi’s ordinary seasons. Leo scored 34 goals and gave 12 assists in 36 LaLiga appearances. He achieved top goalscorer status and most assists, he finished the season with the league title, domestic cup, and the Super Cup.

Even after a great season, why didn’t UEFA bat an eye? Many believe UEFA are trying to pick the winner of the Best Player award based on a player’s performance in the Champions League. Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric won the competition, while Salah made it to the final and played very well. Modric had an advantage because of the World Cup, that’s why he won the prize.

Many fans, especially Barcelona fans think that UEFA lost their credibility after excluding Lionel Messi from the top three. The other candidates also had amazing seasons, but excluding the 5-time Ballon Dor winner from the top 3 wasn’t the correct decision.

The majority of the football community aren’t telling UEFA to give him the prize but to at least show respect to the player by ranking him in the top three for the prize. He had as good a season, or an even better season, than most of the players.

Messi has started the 2018/19 season on fire, scoring four goals and giving two assists in three LaLiga appearances. Now we have to wait until the new season ends to decide if UEFA have truly put Messi down, or if he will prove to them that they have made a mistake.

El Clásico: More than a game

The El Clasico is a rivalry teeming with historic significance, from tempers flaring to moments of brilliance, Barcelona and Real Madrid have both produced the goods over the years. Here we take a look at the rivalry and how it developed.

By Gethin Boore

Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. The two biggest clubs in the world, and when they face each other, it usually means a battle. Today, football fans associate El Clasico as Messi v Ronaldo, Suarez v Benzema, Rakitic v Modric and so on, but in a true sense, these clubs represent completely different things. To begin with, they represent completely different nations…

Barcelona was the first to form out of the two in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers, whilst Real Madrid were formed as Madrid FC in 1902, but changed to Real Madrid in the 1920s after gaining the permission of King Alfonso XIII. The first ever meeting between the two was in 1902, the year Real Madrid was formed, in which Barcelona won 3-1 at the old Hipodromo de la Castellana stadium in Madrid. Barcelona won the first ever La Liga title in 1929, but it wasn’t until the year 1936 when the rivalry began for real.

1936 saw the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and football was a big part of it all. Many people say that it was in 1936 the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona truly began. The man who was at the heart of it all was the dictator Francisco Franco. The reason football was a big part of the civil war was because Real Madrid was Franco’s team and the team of the right while the democrats and the team of the left was Barcelona. In 1936, Barcelona president Josep Sunyol was assassinated by Francoist troops just outside Madrid, which caused controversy between the left wing and the right wing. Franco hated Catalonia as well as the Basque country, and banned the Catalan flag from being flown and didn’t allow the Catalan language from being spoken.

The war finished in 1939, and in 1943, the most infamous game in the fixture’s history was played. 13th of June, the semi final of the Copa del Generalismo, the forerunner of the Copa Del Rey named after Franco, Real Madrid beat Barcelona 11-1. This had such a political feel to it.

The famous scoreboard.

One member of that Barcelona team was still alive when he told Sid Lowe in his book “Fear and Loathing in La Liga” in 2013 what happened. He tells the story of a police officer coming into the Barcelona dressing room saying something bad must not happen. Not that they don’t have to lose but that nothing bad should happen. His name was Fernando Argila and he was Barcelona’s reserve goalkeeper at the time, and it was after this game that the people of Barcelona considered Real Madrid as Franco’s team.

In 1947, Real Madrid moved from their old Charmatin stadium to a new stadium named after the man that was Real Madrid, Santiago Bernabéu. He was the president at the time, but also a former player and manager as well. He had an idea of transforming Real Madrid into a global attraction by signing the best players and being recognised by the world. The 1950s became Real Madrid’s golden era, and in 1953, the man that turned out to be Real Madrid’s greatest ever player arrived to the Spanish capital. His name was Alfredo Di Stefano.

Di Stefano was a player that impressed both Barcelona and Real Madrid in his time at Millonarios of Colombia, and Barça were the favourites to sign him. Both clubs claimed to have his signature, but Barcelona’s president resigned, forcing them to cancel the signing. This saw Di Stefano catching the train from Barcelona to Madrid and signing for Los Blancos.

Di Stefano in Barcelona colours with Kubala

In 1955, the European Cup began, and Real won the first ever tournament in 1956. Incredibly, they won it five times in a row, and are considered the best ever to have played the game. They had incredible players who came and went between 1955-1960 such as Raymond Kopa, the rapid Paco Gento, Di Stefano of course and the outstanding Hungarian forward Ferenc Puskas. Real Madrid’s finest hour came in 1960 when they thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park. Di Stefano scored a hat trick while Puskas scored four and some experts say it’s the greatest final ever played.

Real were dominating Europe, but not so much in the league. During that period of dominating Europe, they won the league twice while Barcelona won it twice as well. The El Clasio remained tight, despite Real Madrid dominating Europe. However, Di Stefano once said that Real’s football rivals were their cross city rivals Atletico de Madrid. Barcelona were managed by ‘the magician’ Helenio Herrera. He was appointed as the manager of Barcelona in 1958, and won two league titles. The only thing that was missing was the European Cup, and he was sacked in 1960 after Real Madrid knocked Barcelona out of the competition they wanted to win the most.

Again in 1960, Barcelona and Real Madrid faced each other in the European Cup. This game is mostly remembered for two things. One, Real Madrid knocked were out of the European Cup for the first time in their history and two, the Eenlish referee Arthur Ellis. The Real players were furious with the all the decisions going against them and they also tried to beat him up after the game. The players knew that it was decided that Real Madrid couldn’t win another European Cup. Instead, it was their arch-rivals who came closest to winning it, reaching the final in Bern before losing to Benfica.

Barcelona hadn’t won the league since 1960 under Herrera. That was about to change. Step forward, the Dutchman, Johan Cruyff.

Johan Cruyff as Barcelona captain

He joined Barcelona in 1973, and changed the club forever. A legend at Ajax, he moved to Barcelona in the middle of a pretty gloomy time at the Camp Nou. Franco was still alive at the time, and still, Catalonia was a country depressed. The only place that the Catalan language was spoken and a key place to express Catalanism was at the Camp Nou. Cruyff came to the Camp Nou and brought smiles to the faces of the Barcelona supporters. He carried Barca to their first league title in fourteen years, beating Real Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou along the way. Cruyff came into the 1974-75 season with a World Cup runners-up medal. At the ’74 World Cup, Holland were best remembered for the famous style of play ‘Total Football’ and Cruyff duly brought it with him to the Camp Nou.

As soon as Cruyff arrived in Catalonia, he was a fans favourite, and tried his best to fit into the Catalan culture. In 1974, he called his newly born son Jordi after Saint Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia, which put him in a bit of a mess. Under the dictatorship of Franco, newly born babies had to have a name in Castillan Spanish. A year after Cryuff’s arrival, Franco passed away at the age of 82.

The 1980’s proved to be a strange decade for both clubs in a successful and un-successful way. In 1980, Real Madrid won the league title, but for the next four years it stayed in the Basque Country when Real Sociedad won it in 1981 and 1982 before Athletic Club Bilbao won it in 1983 and 1984. It was an incredible few years in the Basque Country, but the next five years was memorable in Real Madrid’s case.

A team known as ‘Quinta del Buitre’ which translates to ‘The Vulture Squad’ included five players who came through the youth squad at Real Madrid. The five were Miguel Sanchis, Rafael Martin Vazquez. Michél, Miguel Pardeza and the main man and striker, Emilio Butrageño. They won five league titles in a row, yes, five. They were a great side, but like the Barça side in the late 50s, they’re not that well-known for winning one thing; the European Cup. The European Cup is a trophy that Real Madrid will forever want to win. It’s always their aim at the start of every season. It’s what signifies them as a club.

For Barça meanwhile, the end of the decade was turbulent. They won the league in 1985, and tragically lost the European cup final against Steaua Bucharest in Seville. They lost on penalties, and the Romanian keeper saved four penalties. It was a sour evening in Barcelona’s history, and it’s a game that most fans would like to forget. Also in that year, they lost to Real Zaragoza in the Copa Del Rey final, a change was needed, and in 1988, the man that changed the club as a whole, returned to the Camp Nou, Johan Cruyff.

Johan Cruyff in the Barcelona dugout in 1988

When he arrived in 1988, Barcelona were a club in debt and crisis. They had just won the Copa Del Rey, but Cruyff brought in new players, and a brilliant team was starting to emerge. He signed Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup as well as giving local boy, Pep Guardiola a first team place. He started developing young players at Barcelona academy, La Masia.

In 1990, Cruyff brought in Bulgarian striker Hirsto Stoichkov, and a year later, Barça finally won the league title again. They won it again the next year, but in 1992, an even bigger thing was about to happen. A Champions League final at Wembley against Sampdoria.

It was huge. Barcelona just needed to win. After coming so close in 1986, this was a massive chance to forget about the heartbreak in Seville, and to finally put their name on the trophy. The game was 0-0 as it went into extra-time, but in the second half, Ronald Komean’s free-kick flew into the Sampdoria net, and it’s a picture that is still famous to this day. Finally, Barcelona were European champions, and it was down to Johan Cruyff. It was an incredible evening, up there as one of the special evenings in Barcelona history.

A controversial figure in El Clasico history is Luis Figo. After a successful period at his childhood club Sporting Lisbon, he moved to Catalonia in 1995. He was an instant hit, and the fans adored him. He was part of a terrific attacking partnership alongside Rivaldo at Barcelona. It was a strange period, Barcelona had a good team, but in 1998, Real Madrid were European Champions for the first time since 1966 as they defeated Juventus. They then won it again in 2000 after beating Valencia.

That team featured Roberto Carlos, Fernando Hierro, Steve McManaman and one of the greatest players to ever wear the famous white shirt, Raul, having signed from Atletico Madrid after they shut down their youth system. He joined in 1994 and is the all-time record appearance holder at the club with 741 games as well as the second highest scorer in the club’s history with 323 goals. Also in 2000, a new man took over the presidency of Real Madrid, and transformed the club into a global attraction. His name was Florentino Perez.

He had a vision of signing the best players in the world. He called them the ‘Galacticos’, and still to this day, the Galactico policy is ongoing. He said publicly that the first singing he will make will be from Barcelona, and that signing will be Luis Figo. Incredibly, he left for Real and the Barça fans were way more than angry, they were absolutely livid. When he returned to the Camp Nou on several occasions, he was taunted with abuse, and there missiles such as knifes, cigarette lighters and bottles were flying all over the place. In 2002, a pig’s head was thrown by a supporter onto the pitch, and still to today, it’s the most iconic image in the Clasico’s history. Even his old team mates were trying to hurt him, and the players had to be blocked by riot police. He was attacked outside his house 2004 by two members of the ultra group, Boixos Nois.

Luis Figo taunted by Barcelona fans

With the Galactico policy, in 2001, Zinadine Zidane moved from Juventus to Real, and was followed by Ronaldo in 2002. In the same year, forty years on from the club’s finest moment in the 1960 European cup, they won it again against Bayer Leverkusen, at the same location, Hampden Park. What is best remembered from that game is Zidane’s superb volley into the top corner, and is arguably the greatest goal ever scored at a European final. They were still signing players from all over the world, as David Beckham left Manchester United for Madrid in 2003 and Michael Owen moved as well in 2004.

Meanwhile in Barcelona, they had their own policy. Although, they didn’t have to sign as much as they used their famous youth system, La Masia. They had a new president, Joan Laporta, who was the most politically driven president in Barcelona’s history. La Masia was used often, and many young talents came through such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Perdo, Victor Valdes, Carlos Puyol, Sergio Busquets and Csec Fabregas. Most of the players who came through were Catalan born and bred.

Though a certain Lionel Messi wasn’t Catalan, but whilst playing for Rosario, he impressed the Barcelona scouts and moved over when he was young. Messi was given his first team debut in 2004, and from then on, he is the greatest player to ever wear the Blaugranna shirt. An incredible team was being built, and in 2006 under the guidance of Frank Rijkaard along with the talent of Brazilian, Ronaldinho, Barcelona won the Champions League for the second time in their history.

The Spanish national team was developing brightly as well, and La Masia was a massive part of that. 2009 came around, and it was the greatest year in the history of the club. Managed by former player and La Masia graduate, Pep Guardiola, incredibly, they won six major trophies in a calendar year – a record. They won the Champions League again that year with a 2-0 win against Manchester United in Rome, as well as the league title, the Club World Cup, Spanish Super Sup, Uefa Super Sup and Copa Del Rey. It was an incredible achievement, and La Masia was the reason behind it.

The 2010-11 season was another season that will go down in the history of famous El Clasico fixtures. In November 2010, Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou, in a first game out of many that featured fights between the players and the managers. The Real Madrid manager at the time was Jose Mourhino who had just won the Champions League at Inter Milan, as well as beating Barcelona in the semi-finals.

In April 2011, they faced each other four times in the space of 11 days, once in the league, once in the Copa Del Rey final and twice in the Champions League semi-finals. In all four games, many players were arguing with each other for various things and the managers were a big part of it.

A big incident occured in the Champions League semi-final first leg when Pepe was sent off for a challenge on Dani Alves. Some people say it is a red, some say it is not, and still, not really many people know if it’s a red or not. Barcelona won the two legs 3-1 on aggregate, and they faced Manchester United again, and at their hallow turf, Wembley. The Catalans won it again for the third time, and it’s up there as the greatest team performance ever seen at a European final. The Spanish national team were gaining success as well. When they won the World Cup in 2010 for the first time ever, seven players La Masia gradiuates started that game, six were Catalans. The only one that wasn’t Catalan was Iniesta, who is from Albececete, scored the winner in extra time.

El Clasico is a fixture that attracts the whole world. Billions of people watch it, and it’s always entertaining on and off the pitch, but, the history behind this fixture is amazing. Politics was a big part of the game, but it’s not all about thatt. For supporters and players, this is the game they want to win.

The remarkable story of Football’s underdogs

As Leicester City continue their march towards the Premier League title, Ed Wade looks into footballing underdogs of the past.

By Ed Wade.

As Leicester City charge towards the Premier League title, only seven games remains before they pull off one of the most incredible stories in footballing history. But will it be the biggest?

Here are some other teams that achieved incredible feats, despite having the odds stacked against them.

The Danes go for glory

International football tournaments have seen some of the greatest shocks of all time. With tournaments being less frequent, and played on an even bigger stage, shock victories can be all the more dramatic.

Denmark caused shockwaves across European football in 1992 when they claimed the top prize at the European Championships. The Danes had not even qualified for the tournament after finishing second to Yugoslavia in their qualifying group.

However, Yugoslavia were disqualified prior to the tournament because of their involvement in the Bosnia war.

With only a week of preparation before the tournament kicked off, Denmark were barely given a chance. Their star player Michael Laudrup had fallen out with coach Moller-Nielsen and didn’t even think it was worth showing up for the Danes.

After a slow start drawing against England and losing against Sweden, the Danes picked up their form and beat France before dispatching the defending champions The Netherlands. They then pulled off the biggest shock, beating reigning world champions Germany in the final.

It was a team which had no real individual star players. They relied on a stalwart defence, with inspirational goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel in-between the sticks. Kim Vilfort who played in midfield for the Danes said ‘We didn’t have the best players, but we had the best team.

The win remains Denmark’s only major international honour and they have since failed to make an impact at a tournament. However, it still remains one of the biggest upsets in international football.


Uruguay upset a Footballing nation

In 1950, Brazil had the privilege of hosting their first World Cup and as a football-mad nation they were favourites to claim the title. But they didn’t count on South American rivals Uruguay upstaging them.

Uruguay were a top national team at the time and would have been one of the favourites had it been on home soil. Nevertheless, Brazil had been unstoppable; they beat Mexico 4-0, Spain 6-1 and Sweden 7-1.

With the tournament being a round robin group, with points awarded, they went into the decider against Brazil only needing a draw. The hosts even went into half time 1-0 up, before one of the greatest comebacks saw Uruguay come out winners despite the home nation having 200,000 fans behind them.

Despite the defeat on home soil, Brazil went on to become the most successful World Cup nation by winning the title five times. The Canarinho have been fortunate to see some of the greatest footballers to ever grace the planet put on the yellow shirt.


Second Division Sunderland upset the odds

At 250-1 pre-tournament, Sunderland were huge outsiders but caused one of the biggest upsets by beating the all-conquering Leeds United 1-0 in the 1973 FA Cup final at Wembley.

Sunderland were a Second Division side at the time and were the first team in 42 years to win the FA Cup that didn’t participate in the First Division.

Ian Porterfield claimed the winner from a Dave Watson corner, but it was goalkeeper Jim Montgomery who was the standout player. He made a string of remarkable saves, including a sensational double save to firstly deny Trevor Cherry and then a Peter Lorimer shot which was turned onto the crossbar.

Sunderland became the first team to win the FA Cup without fielding a single international player, in grave comparison to Leeds, who subsequently had 11.


Steaua Bucharest go for European glory

Although Barcelona are currently the all-conquering force in football, this hasn’t always been the case. In 1986, the Catalonians were going for European glory and were hot favourites to claim the title over Romanian rivals Steaua Bucharest.

Although Barcelona had not won a European Cup at that point, they had knocked out Juventus, the tournament favourites and current holders, at the Quarter Final stage.

With the mercurial talents of Francisco Carrasco, Barcelona thought the game would be a walk over, but Bucharest had other ideas. The Romanians set up very defensively and simply looked to be going for a clean sheet.

After 120 minutes, the score was still at 0-0 and the game went to penalties. Up stepped Helmuth Duckadam who saved four Barca spot-kicks and was dubbed the ‘hero of Seville.’

One of Eastern Europe’s greatest triumphs in football. It is hard to see another team replicating that incredible victory.


In a time when football shocks are fewer and harder to come by, will Leicester City’s be the biggest ever? Despite being in the ascendancy, they should take heart from the famous underdogs stories of the past and believe they can achieve one of the greatest feats of the modern footballing day.

Next Maestro off the Dutch Conveyor Belt

Here is Stuart Griffiths with his view of the newest Dutch maestro on the block – Ajax’s Riechedly Bazoer.

By Stuart Griffiths.

Even before joining Ajax from their fierce rivals PSV in 2013, Riechedly Bazoer had already attracted attention from Europe’s elite.

If not for his mother intervening, Bazoer could today be playing for the blue side of Manchester, having been offered a 3 year deal by the then Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini.

Still only 19, it has been a quick rise through the ranks for the Dutch wonderkid, having already represented The Netherlands at International level and Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.

His first Ajax goal came on 19th February 2015 in a 4-2 victory over FC Twente. He has 5 goals to his name so far this season, which includes a right-footed thunderbolt against Eredivise arch-enemies Feyenoord, which subsequently turned out to be the match winner.

Many in his native homeland see Bazoer as a holding midfielder, protecting the back four which he has done with great maturity at such a young age within this vastly inexperienced Ajax team. This key role allows the likes of Davvy Klaasen and Nemanja Gudelj to advance and support the front three.

Having said this, Frank De Boer has occasionally played him in a more advanced role. In an interview with Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf, De Boer was asked of the reasoning behind this decision.

“He is so talented. I see him as a major force in the future of Ajax and Dutch football, I was just saying to Dennis (Bergkamp) he plays so free and uninhibited. He is so fast and powerful.” He said.

I’ve witnessed Riechedly playing a few times this season and he immediately stood out on each occasion. His strength on and off the ball caught the eye, with this undoubtedly helped by his six foot frame.

Recently, football-oranje caught up with former Ajax youth coach Fons Groendijk and he envisioned the young midfielder as the ‘Patrick Vieira of Ajax’, as he has an ability to drive forward with the ball at great speed and has extremely quick feet for a large man.

With a passing accuracy of 86%, it’s easy to see why he is so increasingly sought after. This accuracy has seen him create numerous chances this season, assisting in 3 goals and creating 19 chances for his teammates, according to

In a recent match against Vitesse Arnhem, he had one of his best games in an Ajax shirt scoring the only goal of the game, creating 3 chances and completing 91% of his passes.

With The Netherlands missing out on the European Championships this summer in France, whilst many of the current squad seem to be coming towards the end of their International careers – Bazoer looks finely positioned to cement his place in the team.

Matters are helped further with the oranje adopting a similar 4-3-3 formation to Ajax that includes his favoured holding midfielder position.

The position is currently occupied by Daley Blind in the national team, but with Blind now playing centre-half for his club and his versatility across the pitch a well-known attribute, it will only be a matter of time before we see Bazoer taking up the defensive midfielder role, and potentially making it his own.

As to where life after Ajax takes him – your guess is as good as mine. According to recent reports, Barcelona have had him watched numerous times this season and Luis Enrique has him pinned as an ideal replacement for Sergio Busquets – should the long-serving Catalan choose to try pastures new this summer.

He has also been linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League, with talk of Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain, Manchester City Sporting Director, meeting his agent in Amsterdam a fortnight ago.

Personally, I’d like to see him continue to apply his trade at Ajax before making a move. If a move to Manchester City does materialise, the guidance of Pep Guardiola would allow Bazoer to prosper and develop much like Sergio Busquets all them years back at La Masia and Barcelona B.

Whatever comes of him this summer, The Netherlands will be glad to know they have a young prodigy from Utrecht to build their new era around.

Football Protests: Do they work?

Here is Ed Wade with his summary of the most influential Football fan protests.

By Ed Wade.

It doesn’t take much to make fans voice their opinions when they get disgruntled, be it with the owners, manager or players. If something isn’t right, it’s not long before we see a march to the stadium, a banner outside the club, a written letter to the board of directors or even a stadium walk out.

We have most recently seen the likes of Liverpool have ticket prices lowered as a result of a stadium walkout, whereas Charlton Athletic will have to see if the weekend’s ‘Coffin’ protest against the club’s owners comes to any fruition. But how often does the protesting actually work?

  1. Liverpool fans reduce ticket price

With the growing amount of money in the Premier League including a new £5-billion-pound TV deal, fans across the UK are sick and tired of paying extortionate ticket prices. For Liverpool fans, £77 was the highest priced match day ticket and it was simply too much. The Kopites staged a mass walkout during their home game against Sunderland during the 77th minute and got their reward. The club Fenway sports group who are the club’s owners lowered the price to £59 and issued a statement of apology. Since then the Premier league has put a cap on prices for match day away tickets at £30. Score one for the fans.

  1. Seville protest the splitting of La Liga television money

The start of the 2016/17 season will see the television money of La Liga split fairly for the first time. With Spanish clubs negotiating their own deals in previous seasons, Real Madrid and Barcelona would take home the lions share, leaving the other La Liga clubs fighting over the scraps. In 2012 this became too much for Seville fans, who had a home match against Levante delayed, so that Spanish broadcasters could show a post ‘Clasico’ press conference. In protest of their treatment, Seville supporters bombarded the pitch with tennis balls. It has taken years to click but finally we will see a more even split of finances amongst Spanish clubs.

  1. Ajax fans wait until the 14th minute to enter stadium

During a champions league game in 2010/11 season, the famous Ajax VAK410 waited until the 14th minute (club legend Johan Cruyff’s number) before taking their seats against AC Milan. Supporters of the club were unhappy at having to fork out 80 euros for a ticket. Banners read ‘against modern football’ as the spectators expressed their views. Unfortunately, the protest didn’t work as UEFA fined Ajax for misconduct and prices remained just as high.

  1. Swedish fans stay silent over crowd rules

During a derby between Swedish giants AIK and Djurgarden in 2011, supporters of both clubs remained in total silence for the first 10 minutes of the game. The fans were protesting against the Swedish FA who had warned that attending football matches could be dangerous and wanted to prove just how much live games would miss the supporters. Such was the silence, you could hear conversations between players. The FA never a blind eye and didn’t really take any notice.

  1. Manchester United supporters try and get a new manager

It was always going to be a difficult job to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. David Moyes endured a torrid time at the club and was a dead man walking for much of the campaign. Fans were so unhappy with performances at the club, they flew a plane over Old Trafford during a game with Aston Villa, costing £840 with a banner reading ‘Wrong one – Moyes out.’ The Scot didn’t last till the end of the season and was sacked with three games remaining.

  1. A chicken goes wild at Ewood Park

During a relegation six pointer between Blackburn and Wigan in 2012. A 23-year old Rovers fan Anthony Taylor released a chicken with a Blackburn flag wrapped around it onto the pitch. It was a clever move as fans were unhappy with the club owners Venky group who, had made their money, you guessed it, by poultry. Things didn’t get better for the club as they lost the game and were relegated to the championship, with the same owners still there.

  1. Brazil protest its own World Cup

With Brazil set to host the 2014 World Cup, masses of public funding was used to build new and adequate stadiums. Brazilians were unhappy considering some of the more pending issues in the country such as housing and schooling, were often ignored. Brazilian authorities ended up firing tear gas during riots in Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. There were continuous protests during the tournament, which also saw the ITV studio windows receive a battering. From a footballing perspective it was a massively successful tournament but the protests did very little in terms of funding change

  1. Luis Figo gets a head thrown at him

Luis Figo was labelled Judas after his transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000. The Portuguese star had spent five years at the Nou Camp and was a firm fan favourite. That love turned to hatred during the Clasico in Barcelona, though, as amongst all the booing and missiles Figo received, he also had a pig’s head launched at him whilst taking a corner. Figo never complained about Barcelona fans afterwards and really kept his Poker face to remain cool. The Referee suspended the game for 13 minutes, fearing for the safety of the players.


Football supporters are such a key part of the game and make for the whole dynamic of how the game is played. With the game always changing it will be fascinating to see what else supporters have up their sleeve.


See also – 


The Third Clásico

Here we have Luke Rees with his preview of this Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash between Atlético and Barça at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

By Ed Wade.

Although Atlético Madrid v Barcelona may not hold the same glamour as the official El Clásico, it is now a game which some consider a title decider due to the form shown by both sides this season.

Barcelona were victorious in the reverse fixture having claimed a 1-0 victory and could go six points clear at the top – if they win their game in hand.

The contest on 30th January is one neither team want to lose, but even more so for Atlético Madrid as this will be a serious test for their title credentials come the end of the season.

Atlético were last crowned champions of Spain in 2013-14 by earning a point on the last day of the season in a crunch-match against Barcelona as well as reaching the UEFA Champions League Final.

Many thought that Atlético’s success would be a one season wonder. However, they are currently level at the top of La Liga – behind Barcelona only on goal difference with Diego Simeone being applauded for some shrewd investments in the squad.

The club continued their steady progress following the title win despite the loss of major players, such as Diego Costa to Chelsea and the recent departure of Arda Turan to upcoming opponents Barcelona.

Arda Turan
Arda Turan in his new colours.

The return of Los Colchoneros favourite Felipe Luis from Chelsea has been a big boost and he’s been a constant threat down the left.

Despite suffering from the cliché slow start following his move from Villarreal, Luciano Vietto looks a promising young player who could be vital for the future – or sooner if any of Atlético’s stars move on in the summer.

Last year, they finished the league campaign in third place and managed to make it into the last eight of the UEFA Champions League. However, this time around they look more like the old battle-hardened Atlético that Diego Simeone’s sides have become renowned for.

They are capable of grinding out results when they need to, having won 1-0 seven times and scored a relatively mediocre 30 league goals so far this season.

Incredibly, this amounts to fifteen less goals than Messi, Neymar and Suarez’s combined total.

Catalan giants Barcelona on the other hand had a contrast in fortune. Having lost out on the title in 2014, the club invested heavily the following summer. They brought in Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and the less successful Thomas Vermaelen, which resulted in them winning the treble for the second time in their history.

The trident of attacking prowess through the likes of Messi, Suarez and Neymar was enough to blow most opposition out of the water – registering an astonishing 122 goals in all comps last season.

Barça have coped admirably despite not being able to play their two major summer signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal until January due to the much-publicised transfer ban. Both players could give them that edge during the run-in – something Luis Enrique seems to agree with.

“Arda can play in the middle or out wide, and I dare say Aleix Vidal could play in any of three positions, either at full-back, centre-back or even out on the wing.” Said Luis Enrique early in December whilst discussing what each player would bring to the current fold.

With only two defeats all season, they’ve built on their successful 2014-15 by displaying some impressive form and winning the FIFA Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup and they look in fine-shape heading into the latter stages of the campaign.

Whilst there have been a number of classic meetings between both sides in the past; the last five games have been very tight with the winning team having won by more than one goal, on only one occasion.

Diego Godin has been a real leader at the back for Atlético once again this season, having seen him command a defence that has only conceded a mere eight league goals. On top of this, he normally seems to relish the challenge of keeping out his compatriot and close friend Luis Suarez.

Suarez Godin
Suarez and Godin during international duty.

On a sour note, Diego Simeone had to admit this week that they could lose their prized-possession in Frenchman Antione Griezmann.

He said: “Of course he’s a very important player for us, but we can’t hold him here with chains.”

The cultured left-footer remains the most focal point of attack for the Madrid outfit and the forward will want to justify any potential big money move with a showing at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

On the other hand, newly crowned Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi has pledged his future to Barça by stating his desire to end his career with the club and continue winning trophies:

“My idea is I want to finish at home, and my home is Barca.” He said.

The Argentine captain is starting to get back to full fitness after scoring his 11th league goal of an injury-hit campaign and will surely lead the line for Barcelona on Saturday.

It remains to be seen if ‘The Third Clásico’ will ever be as big as the original, but there is no doubt that Saturday afternoon’s top-of-the table clash will prove to be the biggest European football has to offer this weekend.

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