Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

Calcio John Foot


Calcio: A History of Italian Football by John Foot

English academic John Foot looks at the unique football history of Italy. Full of contradictions but an undeniably beauty and success like the country itself. And for those less inclined to the Italian football tradition, this book is so abundantly rich in storytelling that it reads almost like a novel at times. What enriches Foot’s book the most is the excellent profiles of many of Italy’s most famous personalities, Helenio Herrera, Giuseppe Meazza, Gigi Meroni among them. It also has a chapter on virtually every aspect of football down to match-fixing, doping and refereeing.


When Beckham Went to Spain: Power, Stardom, and Real Madrid by Jimmy Burns

An absorbing look at the history and allure of Real Madrid written ironically enough by an Barcelona fan. Burns tracks the evolution of the club as a global brand, using the 2003 transfer of David Beckham as a defining moment in its history. Burns’ book attempts to decipher exactly what Beckham’s move to Spain meant for the club and the country.


La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns

Another book by Anglo-Spanish journalist Jimmy Burns. ‘La Roja’ is a conventional history of football in Spain. Burns takes us from the first organized matches by English industrialists in Rio Tinto to Andrés Iniesta’s winning goal at the 2010 World Cup. The book does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of football to Spain’s society in the 20th century. The less documented stories like the Athletic Bilbao squads of the 1930s is what makes this book fascinating. But of course, there is plenty of detail about the origins of the Real Madrid and FC Barcelona rivalry that still dominates the narrative of La Liga today.


Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner

One of the most original books written on the subject of football. Ironically, it has less to do with the global game and more to do with how Holland’s cultural and history has influenced the Dutch style of football. The distinct Dutch style of shifting positions on the field has everything to do with finding and exploiting space. Is this not also the primary obsession of the nation of Holland that has fought to reclaim land from the sea for almost its entire modern history? Winner illustrates his theory with often brilliant and surprising examples from architecture, literature and society to create an absorbing read.


Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey–and Even Iraq–Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World’s Most Popular Sport by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski

Does for football what Michael Lewis’ Moneyball did for baseball. This book tries to understand the global game using statistics. Although some of their findings will leave you unconvinced, the point of the book is to get people to look at football a different way and not necessarily to provide conclusions. In one section, the authors look at why the vast majority of footballers come from disadvantaged backgrounds. In another, it considers whether hosting football tournaments like the World Cup actually generates real benefits to taxpayers. In its final chapter, Soccernomics looks at penalties in a purely statistical way.


Jogo Bonito: Pele, Neymar and Brazil’s Beautiful Game by Henrik Brandão Jönsson

Jönsson tells eight different stories in which the chapters on the Maracanazo, Garrincha and Corinthian Democracy are the most interesting. The author explains how football has become such an integral part of the socio-political fabric of modern Brazil. And the consequences of all that in rich detail. This book is not the definitive history of football in Brazil but it is full of excellent storytelling. Those interested in a more comprehensive history of football in the South American giant Alex Bellos’ Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life is well worth your time as well.


I am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Why should you read the autobiography of the Swedish striker and not Pele or Maradona? It is simple. Zlatan is honest and cares little about his own image. What you have is a thoroughly enjoyable read. He chronicles his journey from a troubled childhood to his days at AC Milan. It is full of good stories, humour and a surprising amount of heart. His experiences under some of the game’s biggest personalities like Jose Mourinho, Fabio Capello and especially Pep Guardiola is well worth reading as well.


Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry by Sid Lowe

Real Madrid versus Barcelona. Is there a more intense rivalry in football? Certainly, not in the last decade. Guardian journalist and Spanish historian Sid Lowe looks at the way the two great footballing institutions have been connected over the years. He breaks down many of the myths surrounding the rivalry. He also captures how the rivalry reflects many of the deep divisions in Spanish society, even today.


Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics by Jonathan Wilson

The definitive book about formations and tactics in the game of football. At times it is highly technical and therefore not recommended for those who have only a passing interest in tactics. Wilson discusses in great detail the evolving game of football, from the frustrating but effective Italian Catenaccio, to the Total Football of the 1970s, and good old fashion counter-attack. The book even considers the more controversial subjects including the natural playmaker and the sweeper. It also has some great information about some of the tactical geniuses in history like Helenio Herrera, Rinus Michels and Nereo Rocco.


Angels with Dirty Faces: The Footballing History of Argentina by Jonathan Wilson

A dense overview of the history of football in Argentina by one of England’s best sports writers. Like John Foot’s Calcio, Wilson’s book is concerned with the unique way football is embedded in the society, culture and politics of the nation in question. Wilson tells the story of Argentinian football chronologically, beginning with British industrialists and ending at the 2014 World Cup final. And it has a wide scope, touching on the domestic game as well as Argentinians in Europe and the national team.


 

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Bruno-Fernandes-Udinese

Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes has enjoyed a very quick rise to stardom over the last two seasons. The 19-year-old is a former Pasteleira and Boavista youth player who signed with Italian club Novara in the summer of 2012.

The Italian club was playing in Serie B at the time, Italy’s second division. Since then, the young midfielder has impressed with his creativity, vision, passing and dribbling skills.

Fernandes began last season with the reserves, but by December he had earned a starting position with the main squad. He would help Novara reach promotion to Serie A via a playoff against Empoli, scoring four goals in 23 matches along the way.

Fernandes signed with top-flight club Udinese this past summer and his star has continued to rise. Again, expected to be a marginal figure, the 19-year-old made his first competitive appearance for the club in a November League match against Inter Milan. Since then, Fernandes has been a regular starter with the Italian club.

In a very short period of time, the Portuguese has become the focal point of attack for a young Udinese side. He has mainly played in a playmaker or ‘number 10’ role behind a striker this season.

Fernandes scored his first goal in Serie A in a December 7th match against Napoli at the San Paulo Stadium. With Udinese down 2-1 in the 70th minute, Fernandes received the ball at the centre of the pitch and delivered a good shot passed Napoli goalkeeper Rafael. The match would end in a 3-3 draw.

“It felt great scoring a goal against Napoli, one of the strongest clubs in Italy,” he told Portuguese website Maisfutebol Total.

“I was so emotional that I did not even think about celebrating the goal. I wanted to at least hug my teammates. I thought about those who have not played and the fans,” he added. “I found room and decided to shoot, not thinking very much about where to place the ball. I did not realize at first that I had scored.”

Fernandes is part of a very promising generation of Portuguese midfielders. A group that includes Manchester City’s Marcos Lopes, Liverpool’s João Carlos Teixeira, Benfica’s André Gomes and Bernardo Silva, among others. But like most of these players, Fernandes never played for one of Portugal’s Os Três Grandes or Big Three.

The Udinese midfielder is an unlikely success story. Portugal’s midfield is expected to be highly congested in a few years but Fernandes has a key advantage over many of his compatriots. At only 19, he is playing regularly for a top-flight club in one of Europe’s top three leagues.

In a February 2014 interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Fernandes revealed that this past summer, he almost went on loan to English club Watford. But Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin decided it was better for him to stay.

“I ended up staying in the end, kept working hard, and eventually earned my spot after playing in club friendlies. The season began badly, we were eliminated from Europe. I earned the confidence of the manager, and after the match with Inter Milan I had more opportunities,” Fernandes said.

“I am lucky to have a manager who is not afraid to take risks.”

Finally, his home country is starting to take notice of his talent. Fernandes was chosen for the U-19 squad in 2012 when he was with Novara. And he was also recently selected to train with the U-20 Portugal squad.

Portugal’s senior squad has been without a natural playmaker since the retirement of Brazilian-born Deco after the 2010 World Cup. Fernandes’ playing style has most often been compared with former Benfica, Fiorentina and AC Milan midfielder Rui Costa.

“I do not think I have done enough to be compared with him (Costa). I do not think it is fair. I have to continue to work hard because one day, another young player could emerge here who wants to be like me,” he said in the December 2013 interview with Maisfutebol Total.

“He (Rui Costa) was a player I extremely admired. He had an incredible career but just fell short of winning something with the Seleção at Euro 2004. It was a great opportunity. I will never forget the goal against England, which raised everyone’s hopes. He is a great player to look up to.”

Anthony Lopes Has Shown Some Great Promise With Lyon This Pre-Season

Anthony Lopes Has Shown Some Great Promise With Lyon This Pre-Season

Futebol Factory is profiling some of Portugal’s most promising young talent in three feature articles ahead of the new football season.

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

A quality goalkeeper that has played for Portugal at the U21 level. French-born Lopes played the last 5 Ligue 1 matches last season for the French club and has already figured prominently in Europa League qualifying matches so far this month. He also impressed in Lyon’s 4-0 defeat of Nice in the first match of the Ligue 1 season.

The French-club is currently without a proven stopper and could be tempted to go with Lopes. They have also shown some great faith in him by signing Lopes to a contract extension that will see him stay with the club until 2016. Rui Patrício is the uncontested Portuguese number one but it never hurts to have a quality alternative.

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Centre Back

Unceremoniously released by Benfica this off season, the central defender was quickly signed by Greek giants PAOK. Vitor has played alongside former Benfica player Kostas Katsouranis in PAOK’s Europa League qualifying matches against Metalist Kharkiv.

A very prominant figure with Portugal’s U21 squads, the 24-year old is expected to finally get his chance to play everyday in Greece. A chance he was never really given in Portugal. He joins a club that has been good to Portuguese talent in the past, including Sérgio Conceição and Vieirinha.

Ricardo Esgaio, Sporting Lisbon, Winger/Right-Back

An exciting player who is a big part of Sporting’s amazing pool of young talent. The 20-year old recently signed a long-term extension with the club that will see him under contract until 2018. He also played in the U20 World Cup.

Supremely talented and versatile, Esgaio scored 17 goals in 27 matches for Sporting B squad in the second division last year. However, this might not yet be the year that Esgaio makes the big leap to the senior side. Sporting has depth on the wings, and Leonardo Jardim might decide that it is better for him to continue to develop in the second division or possibly on loan.

Sérgio Oliveira, FC Porto (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Midfielder

Sérgio Oliveira has been in the spotlight since he was the youngest player ever to play for FC Porto’s senior side at the age of 17. He has found opportunities at the Cidade Invicta very limited since then, being loaned out to several clubs in recent years.

He played last season with Porto’s B squad in the second division, scoring 5 goals in 29 matches. Still only 21 years of age, Oliveira should receive playing time at Paços de Ferreira. A natural central midfielder, Oliveira is a free-kick specialist.

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Midfielder

Recently signed to a long-term extension, João Mário is one of the most talked about young players in Portugal today. The central midfielder captained Portugal’s U20 squad at this summer’s World Cup. For many it has always been a matter of when, not if.

Sporting’s new manager Leonardo Jardim has shown a willingness to ‘test’ young players in the past with Braga. However, João Mário might find it hard to play regularly this season because of the club’s investments in Adrien Silva, Andre Martins, Andre Santos and Zakaria Labyad.

Filipe Chaby, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

Another supremely promising midfielder from Sporting’s famed academy. The 19-year old missed most of last season with a serious knee injury however, he has played very well this summer in exhibition matches for the senior squad.

Recently signed to a long-term extension, Chaby will be hard-pressed to earn a position on Leonardo Jardim’s starting XI given the club’s depth in young midfielders. However, Chaby is certainly a player to watch going forward.

Aladje, Sassuolo, Striker

Born in Guinea-Bissau and currently playing in Italy, Aladje has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last two months. A surprise addition to Portugal’s squad for the U20 Toulon Tournament, Aladje wrestled the starting striker position away from Betinho. He would score 3 goals in 4 matches at the U20 World Cup and was even profiled in an article on the FIFA website.

Until now he has only played football in Italy’s lower division but this appears likely to change after he moved to Serie B graduates Sassuolo this summer. Aladje is part of a promising generation of young Portuguese strikers that could finally deliver the country a major trophy.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 3

PORTUGAL: 7 Young Players That Could Help The Seleção Reach World Cup 2014

rolando-espere-aller-au-milan-ac

FC Porto defender Rolando will return to Italy this season after finalizing a one-year loan deal with Serie A giants Inter Milan, according to the Nerazzurri website.

The move reunites the 27-year old with former Napoli manager Walter Mazzarri who moved to San Siro this summer. Rolando played 7 matches for Napoli last season after joining the club on loan in January.

The deal is rumoured to include an option to sign Rolando to a permanent deal at the end of the campaign.

Rolando’s professional career began at Belenenses in 2004 before moving to FC Porto in 2008. He would eventually become an automatic starter under Jesualdo Ferreira.

In 2010-11 he had his best season under current Tottenham manager André Villas-Boas when the club won the Portuguese league title and the Europa League as well.

However, he did not fair very well under previous manager Vitor Pereira losing his starting position in the process.

Rolando was born in Cape Verde but has represented Portugal internationally, receiving 18 caps with the Seleção.

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TRANSFER MARKET: Napoli Offers 7 Million Euros for Porto Defender Rolando

TRANSFER WINDOW: Porto’s Rolando Signs With Napoli On Loan

quintero

20-Year-old midfielder Juan Quintero is the latest reinforcement for the Portuguese champions, signing a four-year deal that includes a €40million buyout clause. In an official statement, FC Porto confirmed that the club have paid €5million for 50% of the player’s rights.

The Colombian is a natural central midfielder who is one of the most coveted young players in the game today. Quintero drew the world’s attention with his star making performance at the 2013 South American Youth Championship earlier this year, scoring 5 goals and being named the best player of the tournament.

Quintero played in Serie B with Pescara this past season, on loan from Colombian side Atlético Nacional. He is known for his dribbling and ball control skills, as well as for taking excellent free-kicks.

He told Porto Canal on Saturday that coming to A Cidade Invicta has always been a goal of his. “I always wanted to play for this club. I come with a great ambition to win titles. I am very happy because this is a big step forward in my career. Now the goal is to work hard day after day,” he said.

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FC PORTO: 2012-13 Portuguese League Champions

FC PORTO: Paulo Fonseca Officially Named As The New Manager Of Os Dragões

TRANSFER WINDOW: FC Porto Sign Mexican International Midfielder Héctor Herrera

TRANSFER WINDOW: FC Porto Officially Sign Algerian Striker Nabil Ghilas

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Anual

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Anual

Promising forward Salvador Agra will be playing football in Braga for the next two seasons, according to several reports in Portugal. The 21-year-old who struggled to hold down a starting position under Pepe Mel at Real Betis last season will reportedly sign a two-year loan deal with Os Guerreiros do Minho.

As part of the deal between the two clubs, Spanish winger Juan Carlos will remain on loan at the La Liga club for one more season. Agra’s deal includes an option to buy the Portuguese winger for €4million.

Agra began playing football in the Varzim youth ranks before signing with Olhanense in 2011. He was sold to La Liga’s Real Betis in 2012. Agra was loaned to Serie A club Siena in January 2013 to gain more playing time.

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SPORTING BRAGA: Jesualdo Ferreira Replaces José Peseiro As Manager

TRANSFER WINDOW: Rafa Signs Four-Year Deal With Braga

TRANSFER WINDOW: Real Betis Forward Salvador Agra Loaned to Siena

rafa-silva-onsoccer-feirense

Sporting Braga have confirmed that they have signed highly-rated midfielder Rafa to a five-year deal. The 20-year old played in the second division last season with Feirense, scoring 9 goals in 40 matches.

Rafa drew strong interest from Sporting Lisbon as well before signing with the Minho club. He trained with his new club on Monday. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Braga also announced that Portuguese international goalkeeper Eduardo Carvalho has joined the club on a one-year loan deal. Eduardo’s rights are owned by Serie A club Genoa. He played for Braga between 2005-2010 before leaving for Italy.

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SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star

SPORTING BRAGA: 2012-13 Portuguese League Cup Champions

SPORTING BRAGA: Jesualdo Ferreira Replaces José Peseiro As Manager

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Julija Nowikowa

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Julija Nowikowa

João Moutinho, Midfielder
Possible Destinations: Tottenham, PSG, Chelsea, AS Monaco
Transfer Markt.com Value: 26 Million Euros

Moutinho has been the engine of the Porto attack since joining the club in 2010. Now that it looks like Porto will win yet another national title, it seems ever more likely that Moutinho will move on to a bigger stage. It is just a matter of where. A potential move to Tottenham fell through in the last hours of the summer transfer window last year but since then several other clubs have been linked with the midfielder and the price has only gone up.

Recent reports indicate that PSG have made a serious attempt to sign the Portuguese international. AS Monaco and Chelsea and their plutocratic owners could just drive up the price for Moutinho as well. But White Hart Lane has always looked like the most logical choice for him. He would be reunited with former manager Andre Villas-Boas and many believe that his first choice is to play in the Premier League. But if Tottenham misses out on Champions League qualification, will that change matters?

Related Article: Four Possible Destinations For Porto’s João Moutinho

Nani, Right Winger
Possible Destinations: Real Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham, Zenit St. Petersberg, AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan, AS Roma, PSG
Transfer Markt.com Value: 27 Million Euros

Nani has been part of a long drawn out saga this year at Old Trafford. He was again noticeably missing from Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell match against Swansea on Sunday. At 26 years old, Nani has simply not fulfilled the potential many people expected of him when he arrived in 2007. Ferguson has recently stated that he believes that Nani will stay, but many feel that a fresh start could be good for his career.

The latest reports have him going to Serie A champions Juventus at a reduced price of £13 million. PSG reportedly had a recent bid rejected. Nani’s situation seems to depend on how much Manchester United is willing to accept for their underachieving winger. There is no denying Nani’s skill and if he does in fact choose to leave, there is no shortage of possible suitors.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: PSG Reportedly In Negotiations To Land Nani

Fábio Coentrão, Left Back
Possible Destinations: Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Juventus
Transfer Markt.com Value: 18 Million Euros

It was always going to be difficult to live up to his €30 million transfer to Real Madrid. Fans of Portugal and Benfica are very familiar with Coentrão terrific skill going forward at left-back. In his time at Real Madrid however, manager Jose Mourinho has decided instead to use him in a defensive role, which he has performed well. But Coentrão might not be part of Florentino Pérez plans going forward despite being one of the club’s best performers in the second half of the campaign.

Juventus has reportedly shown interest in the Portuguese international. It has also been speculated that Coentrão could be used as part of a transfer deal that will see Gareth Bale join Real Madrid. Chelsea and Arsenal are also said to be interested in Coentrão.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Chelsea and Manchester City Reportedly Interested in Fabio Coentrão

Rui Patricio, Goalkeeper
Possible Destinations: Arsenal
Transfer Markt.com Value: 20 Million Euros

One of the few bright spots for Sporting Lisbon this season. At 25 years of age, Patricio is already a seasoned professional and one of the best overall goalkeepers in the world. Sporting’s financial troubles are well documented, and it might be the best time to offload their greatest asset. Media reports indicate that Sporting value Patricio as much as 20 Million Euros but it is very unlikely that any club will pay that much for a goalkeeper.

Arsenal have reportedly had their previous bid rejected. Regardless, Arsene Wenger is looking for a replacement for Wojciech Szczęsny who has fallen out of favour. With Ferguson gone, Manchester City and Chelsea underachieving, the new Fair Play rules coming into effect, Arsenal for the first time in years could just mount a serious title challenge in the years going forward. But to do that they need to spend money on top quality players, like Rui Patricio.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Arsenal in Pursuit Of Rui Patricio

Manuel Fernandes, Central Midfielder
Possible Destinations: Tottenham, Norwich, West Ham
Transfer Markt.com Value: 14 Million Euros

The former Benfica prodigy moved to Turkey in 2011 after some disappointing spells at Portsmouth, Everton, and Valencia. Since then, he has been one of the best players in the Turkish League, reigniting hopes that Fernandes could finally fulfill the potential that many people predicted from him.

His current club Beşiktaş is currently going through financial difficulties and could be ready to let Fernandes go. His likeliest destination is the Premier League where West Ham, Norwich and others appear to be in pursuit of the 27-year-old. Fernandes has only one year left on his contract and he is expected to leave for at least 10 million Euros, a price that is not out of range for many Premier League clubs thanks to the new television deal.

Cédric Soares, Right Back
Possible Destinations: Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Hannover, Dusseldorf, Borussia Monchengladbach, Norwich, Everton
Transfer Markt.com Value: 3 Million Euros

21-year-old Cédric Soares has established himself as one of the most promising young players at the right-back position. He played a major role in Portugal reaching the final of the 2011 U20 World Cup Tournament in Colombia. After playing regularly last season at Académica, he was given his chance with Sporting this year and has made the most of his playing time.

Born in Gelsenkirchen to Portuguese immigrant parents, Soares made it clear in a March 2013 interview with Goal.com that he would welcome a move to the Bundesliga. And there has been no shortage of interest from Germany, including giants Schalke who are based in Gelsenkirchen and Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund. Premier League clubs Norwich and Everton are also said to be interested.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany

Amido Baldé, Forward
Possible Destinations: Newcastle, Everton, Wigan, Marseille, Seville, Espanyol, Mallorca, Hamburg, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, Chievo
Transfer Markt.com Value: 1,5 Million Euros

22-year-old Amido Baldé has been a major part of Vitória Guimarães’ surprising campaign this season. He was most recently named as the best young player in the Portuguese League for the month of April. Released by Sporting one year ago and signed by Vitória Guimarães, Baldé is likely to move abroad this summer for several million Euros.

His size at 1.93m, of course makes him very attractive to Premier League clubs who often stress the aerial game with their young centre-forwards. Newcastle have reportedly opened negotiations with his current club. But interest in Baldé is coming from La Liga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A, mainly from middle of the table clubs. Baldé’s rise over the last year has been surely one of the great stories of the Portuguese League season.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Several Premier League Clubs Chase Vitória de Guimarães Striker Amido Baldé

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FUTEBOL - antunes no treino da Seleccao AA de Futebol Na Praia D¿el

Left-back Vitorino Antunes joined the Selecção at their training facility in Óbidos on Tuesday. Paulo Bento had originally left him out of the Portugal squad for two upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifying matches announced last week.

Antunes’ call-up was considered by some to be long overdue. Antunes has been in terrific form this season with Portuguese club Paços de Ferreira and on-loan with La Liga club Málaga. He was a late selection to the squad, and his place will not impact any other player’s position in the squad.

The 25-year-old already has 3 caps to his credit, having first been called up in 2007. But after being signed to Italian giants AS Roma, he did not received much playing time and his career began to stagnate.

Upon arriving with his teammates in Óbidos, Antunes talked about what representing Portugal means to him. “I have worked very hard to be called up. The news was very welcome at home by my family and especially by me. I am always very proud to represent Portugal,” he said.

He was also asked whether he thought he deserved to be selected earlier. “Should I been called sooner? I cannot make that sort of evaluation. I just need to do my work, give my all with my club and in the opportunities that arise. The manager thought it was the right time to call me,” Antunes added.

It has certainly been a long journey for him. Antunes began playing for his local club Freamunde in the third level of Portuguese football. In 2006, he was signed by near-by Paços de Ferreira where he began to make a name for himself at the professional level.

While at Paços, Antunes helped the club finish 6th in 2006-07 and qualify for European competition for the first time in the provincial club’s history. He played in the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and received his first call-up to the Portuguese national team that year.

It looked like Antunes would be Portugal’s left-back of the future. Many clubs took notice, but Antunes was signed by Serie A giants AS Roma on loan for the 2007-08 campaign. Despite playing sparingly that year under then manager Luciano Spalletti, the club exercised an option to sign him to a permanent deal.

The following season, he was sent on loan to newly promoted Lecce. This was followed by another loan to Portuguese-side Leixões, followed by Livorno and Panionios in Greece.

In June 2012, Antunes was finally released by Roma. His old club Paços de Ferreira eventually re-signed him to a new three-year deal. Antunes quickly took advantage of his new opportunity, earning a starting position at left-back with Paulo Fonseca’s club.

Antunes was one of the best performers in the first half of the Portuguese Championship, starting 14 matches and scoring 3 goals for the surprising Paços de Ferreira side who currently stand in fourth position.

His performances earned him a loan deal to La Liga’s Málaga who were looking to replace Nacho Monreal, now at Arsenal. Antunes has been manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first-choice left-back from the start. Most recently, Antunes helped the Spanish side eliminate Porto in the Champions League.

rolando1

Out of favour central defender Rolando has officially signed a loan deal with Serie A side Napoli for the rest of this season.

The Italian club made the announcement through a news release on their official website. The 27-year-old passed his medical exams on Wednesday and officially joins a team that has a realistic chance of winning the Scudetto this year.

Napoli remain only three points behind Juventus for first place in Serie A. Rolando will likely be relied on to provide support from the bench. Once Porto’s first choice central defender, he has seen his playing time dramatically reduced under manager Vitor Pereira.

“I am very happy. I know that Napoli is a great club with many championships. I have heard about the passion of their fans, I want to feel that emotion at San Paulo stadium,” Rolando said in an official statement on the club’s website.