Date:Thursday June 5 2008
In the absence of any real football we have only the carnival of the European Cup tournament to look forward to for the next few weeks. Ordinarily it would hold very little interest without the presence of at least one of the British sides participating. But Sepp Blatter and his acolytes may be underestimating the beneficial impact of foreign players in the PL on the national game. I would be confident that at least 50% of the interest in the tournament in this country would be from fans of club sides keen to follow the fortunes of their clubs player contingent in the tournament. Wouldn`t it be natural for Spurs supporters to be more interested in Croatia because of Modric or Liverpool in Spain because of Torres et al? Would Portugal hold the same interest for Manc fans were it not for Ronaldo and Nani? When the moneymen at Uefa tot up the tournament takings they might well reflect on this aspect of national teams finances.
Factor in the record £275m that PL clubs paid out in transfer fees to overseas clubs in 2006/2007, which will have been higher in 2007/2008, and maybe Uefa should be less scornful of the international benefits of foreign players in the Premier League. Perhaps ask Dynamo Zagreb whether the £25m or so that Arsenal and Spurs have contributed to the club in transfer fees is helpful or not. If that has trickled down into other Croatian clubs and player development then the game in that country won`t have been harmed.
Carnival or not knockout tournaments are a chance for reputations to be built. Players can perform in relative obscurity in their respective league for a whole season and more but a couple of eye-catching stepovers in a handful of games in a high profile tournament and stardom could beckon. Some club will decide that this tournament discovery is just the attraction they need and shell out 'big` money for this new 'big` name before he returns to season long anonymity.
Of course it doesn`t always end that way and many club supporters will be hoping that their players enhance their reputations. But what of the Arsenal contingent? Depleted as it is with Eduardo, Rosicky and Sagna lost to injury and Clichy presumably born under the wrong star sign for Domenech there isn`t a great deal to look out for but taking the players that will feature which of them might come back bathed in glory?
Djourou: Johann hasn`t had much of a season other than his loan spell at Birmingham in the first half of last season before succumbing to injury. He has claimed recently that he sees a role in defensive midfield which might be an attempt to find a starting role in the Swiss team. In an interview given by Stephan Ramming of Swiss newspaper NZZ-Neue Zuercher Zeitung to Arsenal.com he says "Djourou is more of a squad player. I don't think he will play in the starting line-up that seems to be quite clear. He is a fringe player. He is versatile but I don't think he will play on the right. He will play centrally if he gets a chance.' Therein lies his challenge. He has to get into the team first but tournaments likes these throw up unexpected opportunities and maybe if he gets in either in defensive midfield or central defence a good tournament could see him staking an early claim to a starting place for us next season.
Fabianski: As third choice keeper behind Boruc and Kuszczak Poland would have to have some sort of major crisis for us to see much if anything of Fabianski. Just there for the squad experience I imagine.
Fabregas: How can the PFA young player and PL top assists maker enhance a reputation that is already so strong? He might help confirm it but he is already rated one of the hottest properties in world football. Aragones has used him sparingly, which his embarrassment of midfield riches in Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and Senna allows him to do. Unlike the Arsenal team Cesc may not be an automatic choice for a starting place though he is bound to feature.
Gallas: Willy is already rightly rated as a world class defender. As such there is little to prove but maybe he has some people to disprove. Without the distraction of questions about his quality as a captain he can focus or doing what he has done for some years and demonstrate what a fine footballer he really is.
Van Persie: These tournaments are tailor built for players just like Robin. His ability to produce an explosive moment of consummate skill that can make the hairs on the back of your head stand up marks him out as someone to watch. Given a successful team performance by the Dutch side he could come back with the accolades ringing in his ears. That`s assuming he doesn`t come back in plaster of course.
Senderos: Opportunity knocks for big Phil. He came back from the 2006 world cup with a positive reputation but after 2 years doubts still persist about his real quality. Though not in his homeland it seems. Again talking to Arsenal.com Stephan Ramming tells us that his reputation in Switzerland is high after his goal in the last World Cup 'It's not clear who will play alongside him - it could be Patrick Muller from Lyon" he tells us "Senderos had a bad performance against Germany [in the recent friendly], he didn't do very well. The problem was that he didn't have anyone experienced alongside him. But now with Muller coming back into the squad after one year, he has the same man alongside him that he had in the 2006 World Cup.' Of all the Arsenal players taking part Senderos probably has most to gain, and in the eyes of some gooners at least, little to lose.
So, there we have it. Will the Euros allow us to bask in the reflected glory of our players` individual success? Or is it more than enough that they just come back fit for proper football which gets underway again in August?
Date:Thursday June 5 2008
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