The Forgotten Dutch Miracle: FC Twente 2009/10

For a long time, there’s reasonable term De Grote Drie or the big three referred to Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord Rotterdam that dominating Dutch football league. Indeed, these leading trios totally have achieved 62 prestigious Eredivisie titles, with Ajax being the strongest one through 33 titles hold. However, as per usual, resistance always exists wherever hegemony emerges. No exception in the Eredivisie.

Last time a David could defeat Goliath it was FC Twente Enschede. The football miracle that happened in 2009-10 season. The momentum that ultimately delivered Enschede City a pride being voetbal kampioen, which means to equal to the others famous football city such as Amsterdam or Eindhoven. However, now that status quo has returned to the dull. Twente relegated last season to Erste Divisie (second tier), which means a fate being a mediocre team, again.

There were several chronic circumstances that weakening Twente side. Perhaps, financial mismanagement in 2015 was the biggest blow. In fact, the turbulence came over the years. In 2016, Twente nearly relegated by the Dutch FA due to the same complicates. Indeed, that problem forced Twente to sell their best players. Obviously, it impacted on their game performances season-by-season and its hard for the players having a peaceful mind when there’s a vulnerable circumstance in their club. How time so flies happened for Twente. From Dutch champion in the summer 2010 and relegated one decade further.

At their best form in 2009/10, with the non-reputable squad, Twente obtained the Eredivisie title through close and tight result in the end. With 85 points and only one point ahead superior and offensive side Ajax, they triumphed the first league title ever in their history since established in 1965. Twente was completely a dangerous underdog at the memorable moment.

Inevitably, in the history of the best team, there were typically backgrounds within it. Indeed, the Twente sides from structural level or board, players, manager, until the enthusiastic supporters had played in substantial parts toward their remarkable achievement with Eredivisie 2009/10 title.

To begin with, an initial success was derived from the new club’s board, who saved Twente from bankruptcy in 2003. Under these board, Twente managed to be the Champions League’s participant and enjoyed Eredivisie title for the first time in their history. The former chairman, Joop Munsterman should be pointed out as the figure who led Twente to the triumphant. Despite ironically the club decline also suffered from the same chairman leadership.

In the technical aspect, the revival project was once under solicitude when Fred Rutten went to Bundesliga for the 2008/09 season. Moreover, Rutten who had built a solid team since his tenure from 2006. Afterward, Steve McClaren took the charge in Twente, replacing Rutten. Absolutely, McClaren, the man behind miserable England failure to pass Euro 2008. However, astonishingly McClaren succeed brilliantly to sustain what Rutten had done and even elevated Twente into the better level.

Indeed, McClaren adapted excellently to the Dutch football style within the 4-3-3 Twente’s formation, and he also didn’t bring contrast changes in the club. However, ignoring this Englishmen manager influence to the Tukkers, was a denial thought otherwise.

Steve Mclaren
Steve McClaren, the man behind the Tukkers historical achievement in 2009/10 season.

When McClaren arrived in 2008/09, he naturally had Rutten squad from the previous season with prominent players like Marko Arnautovic, Eljero Elia or Edson Brafheeid. With the Rutten legacy squad, McClaren brought Twente became the Eredivisie runner-up. But, Twente well-performances under successful McClaren tenure made several European clubs attracted to their players. Subsequently, Arnautovic signed for Internazionale, while Elia and Braafheid had new adventures in Germany with Hamburger SV and Bayern Muenchen in early 2009/10 season.

So, how about Twente’s life after their several the best players went, were they regressed with McClaren? No. In fact, the new signings contributed something better for Twente. For instance, Twente promptly bought Bryan Ruiz Gonzalez (5 million euros) from Gent and Miroslav Stoch (loan from Chelsea) to be partnered with the striker, Blaise N’Kufo in the attacking force.

Stats in Eredivisie 2009/10, Costa Rican attacking midfielder, Bryan Ruiz beside responsible for a creative role, he also managed 24 goals. Meanwhile, Slovak winger Miroslav Stoch delivered 10 goals, then Swiss center-forward, Blaise N’Kufo managed 12 goals. Not to mention other players who demonstrated massive contributions such as box-to-box midfielder Theo Janssen, defensive midfielder Wout Brama, and veteran goalkeeper Sander Boschker. McClaren has made the new players quickly integrated and kept harmony in that mesmerize Twente season.

Besides McClaren quickly adapted to the Dutch football climate and players contribution, another extraordinary thing that made Twente rampant Eredivisie 2009/10 it was their home performances. They won comfortably 16 from 17 home games in De Grolsch Veste stadium. Exactly, home games were the extremely significant factor that gave 51 points from 85 in the totals when Twente won the league. The 16 home-win run including two crucial moments against Ajax Amsterdam in game week 13 with 1-0 result and full pressure battle versus Feyenoord (2-0) in speelronde 33.

For Steve McClaren himself, the Eredivisie titled champion in 2009/10 established him as the last England manager who won a league in the big European football country since Bobby Robson in FC Porto season 1995/96. In another hand, the Eredivisie title also the instant replies to them whoever doubting his managerial capabilities after England tragedy.

After giving the memorable title in 2009/10, he left Twente and made several adventures jobs in Germany and England before returned to the middle of 2011/12 season. However, McClaren failed to emulate the same success in his second spell for Twente and got sacked in early 2013.

Besides well-run club structure, underrated squad qualities and proper manager, Twente magnificent 2009/10 season with the first Eredivisie title ever also thanks to the affirmative gestures did by the supporters. Almost in all home games, the stadium was full. Undeniably, that’s why Twente managed plenty of wins at home when Der Groestce became the fortress.

nkufo getty images
Blaise N’Kufo statue.

In another hand, the supporters had an amazing gesture to the club and important players as well. It proved with Blaise N’Kufo statute in front De Grolsch Veste stadium, which was built up by the enthusiastic supporters. N’Kufo is a legend for Twente and the supporters because he is an all-time goalscorer with 114 goals.

Now, De Grote Drie are so strong to be defeated. AZ Alkmaar or another mid-table team like Heerenveen seems at ease only compete for the European tickets spots. Perhaps, we need a decade or more years to enjoy again the “anomaly” just like what FC Twente served honorably in 2009/10 season. Meanwhile, today Twente or the last underdog who triumphed against old supremacy has sunken in the low caste. Therefore, a piece of memory about the last Dutch miracle has been forgotten for a while.

 

Writer: Haris Chaebar

Photo soures: Eufa.com, Getty images and cloudfront.net.

Advertisements

Calcio and the Impact on Albanian Football

Likely the development of Albanian football isn’t in the same pace comparing to the other Balkan or Southern Europe countries like Croatia, Serbia or Greece. Whereas, the Albanian FA was established since 1930 and even the Albanian league was founded in 1911.

Lot of us might have never seen Albanian team without Euro 2016 or wondering whether there is a good footballer from Albania or not. Indeed, Albanian football power is small at the worldwide level. However, if small football countries like Rumania or Bulgaria had produced high-rated footballers (Gheorghe Hagi or Hristo Stoichkov), why Albania hasn’t produced them yet? 

Thomas Strakosha
Prominent goalkeeper in Serie A, Thomas Strakosha.

How comes almost were no Albanian national team, clubs or footballer had succeeded in major football level in the past?

Arguably, Albania isn’t a wealthy country economically. Low economics growths causing lack of sufficient sports infrastructure. Surely, this problem could be troubling the football development there.

Besides lack of supportive infrastructure, Albania international relation ever been restricted, even isolated by the socialist regime then. This also affected in football, when Albanian people were restricted did traveling abroad.

During the regime, footballers rarely experienced international football atmosphere, sometimes the clubs had been excluded from the European tournament for an uncertain reason and even the national team didn’t participated in several major tournaments. Freedom of movement was something really precious at the time.

The isolation in Albania was different compared to the socialist regime in other countries. The Soviet and Yugoslavia were good in international football, even though against the Western political stand. Those because football was included in political agenda for both former countries. Sophisticatedly, Soviet or Yugos had shown up the ideology’s power through football as well. Unfortunately, that was rarely been did by the Albanian socialist regime.

When the countries frequently face each other (in the club and national football level) to develops and measure the capacity or the footballers sought moved abroad to exercise and fulfill the potential in the European continent. Literally, Albanian football whether their national team, clubs or footballer, had lost that momentum in the past because of the isolation policy.

Fortunately, the circumstances were better when the socialist regime falling down in the 90’s and offered new national hope including the future of Albanian football.

Close Friend: Italy and Albania

Currently, Albania has shown progressive signs in football, and concrete evidence was their campaign in Euro 2016. However, these mostly because of the half-squad from Albanian descents abroad.

In order to keep the sustainability, Albanian couldn’t only be relying on diasporas. They have to create own football development including sufficient competition in order to develop their players or providing and promoting local talents to be developed in the bigger football country.

Hence, Italy might be the nearest and big football country which could be an ideal place to develop the Albanian youth.

As a one of the Latin country in the world, surely Italy has the specific socio-cultural connection with other Latinas. However, as a Mediterranean country where live on the near Balkan and South European region, Italy has intense cross socio-cultural exchanges as well with them, no exception with Albania

The formal historical relation of both countries began since recognization from Italy to the Albanian Independence Declaration in 1912.

Surely, there is fluctuating diplomatic relation between those two Adriatic sea countries. However, co-operation and mutual relation between both countries are just facts not only in economics or politics but also in socio-culture things.

Piana degli Albanesi street sign.
Bilingual street signs in Piana degli Albanesi.

A real example in Sicily. There is commune which specifically inhabited by Albanian, Piana degli Albanesi, that also use officially the Albanian language, beside the Italian one. That commune use to living place for refugees from Albania during the Ottoman conquest. In fact, today several other communes in Southern Italy being the domiciles for many Albanian descents.

Vice versa, many Italian migrates to Albania in order to seek economics or educational activities in the past or nowadays. Moreover, the Italian language also is one of the most popular foreign languages there.

Calcio for Albania

Then, how about Italy and Albania in football? Judging in the current circumstances, likely the close relationship between Italy and Albania also affecting into football area and this could be good things for both sides.

Italian clubs, as we know often get some under-radar talented footballer from Balkan or Southern Europe countries. Mostly they come from Serbia, Croatia, Greek, Romania or even Macedonia instead from Albania. However, the current circumstances are different.

Italian clubs could easily spread their scouting networks into Albania, or Albanian could easily join trial in Italy. Those were like impossible things in the past.

Look at Elseid Hysaj story. He was playing in an amateur team, Skhodra before moved to Italy at age 15 (2009). Thanks to the reform in Albania, when isolation policy had been revoked in the early 90’s. If the freedom of movement hasn’t emerged in Albania, probably Hysaj’s father didn’t met football agent Marco Piccioli. By design, Hysaj went to football trial exhibition in Italy after his father effort. He eventually signed by Empoli then.

As the isolation had been revoked in the late 90’s, Albanian allowed going to abroad, nothing less to Italy. Since the freedom of movement began, many Albanian footballers have gone abroad. The momentum impacted good things for Albanian football as well.

An Albanian striker and journeymen, Igli Tare destined to retired at Lazio (2008). Since he becomes the sporting director in 2009, no wonder the Albanian connection is very strong under Tare. Lazio brought several Albanian players such as Lorik Cana, Etrit Berisha, and Thomas Strakosha or Albanian descents like Valon Berisha, and Riza Durmisi.

Igli Tare
The orchestrator of Lazio successful mercato, Igli Tare.

In another hand, massive migrations from Albania creating the socio-cultural mixture, so that we can see a lot of young Albanian players descent who are upbringing or born in Italy. The example names are Rey Manaj (Internazionale/Albacete), Ismet Sinani (Milan, later switch to Kosovo), Emanuele Ndoj (Brescia), Giacomo Vrioni (Venezia) and Kastriot Dermaku (Cosenza).

Not to addition with Albanian national player who currently playing or once been the players for Italian clubs such as Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta), Ledian Memushaj (Pescara), Freddie Veseli (Empoli), Arlind Ajeti (ex-Torino), Migjen Basha (ex-Bari) and Andi Lila (ex-Parma).

Besides being the breed cage for Albanian players, Calcio or Italian football seems to be the national platform of Albanian football. Albanian hopes through their national team have relied on the Italian tactician.

Gianni De Biasi was the man behind the Kuq e Zinjtë successful journey to Euro 2016. After De Biasi resignation, now, former Italian versatile defender, Christian Panucci is the manager for Thaulant Xhaka and co.

Based on the close relationship as the neighboring countries, Italy and Albania could have the reciprocal relationship not only in vertical meaning (politics and economics). In football measure, Italian clubs have more wide networks on scouting under-radar players in Albania, beside comes from the reputable ground like Serbia or Croatia.

Meanwhile, when Albanian footballing environment still develops and relying on diasporas footballers couldn’t be the permanent choice forever, they could gain benefits from Calcio atmosphere which boost much of the Albanian footballer into the better level. Therefore, Calcio impact to the Albanian football could be very important, today and in the future.

 

(Writer: Haris Chaebar)

Additional sources: The Guardian, DW Sports, and thelaziali.com.

Photo sources: Tirana times, CNN, teamtalk.com, and fluruda.blogspot.com.

2018/19 Serie A: The Parade of Polish Attackers

Whether the national team, club or even the footballers quality, the Polandian football isn’t dominant powers in European or world football scenes. However, it doesn’t mean Polandian football has no bargain value.

Currently, the Polish footballer has established their names in several European big clubs. The examples are Robert Lewandowski (Bayern), Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus), Piotr Zieliński and Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli) or Kamil Glik (Monaco).

In Italy, the successful experiences from several Polish like Kamil Glik at Torino, Szczęsny or Milik made other clubs triggered to discovering talents from Poland.

In fact, the Polish footballer seems already to flood in Italian football this season, including they’re who have the position as an attacker.

 

Dawid Kownacki

eurosport.interia.pl Kownacki

Sampdoria signed Dawid Kownacki from Lech Poznań with 4 million euros in 2017/18 season. The 21-years old attacker expected to replace Patrick Schick, who signed by Roma in the same season.

Kownacki has the type like Schick, a versatile attacker who could play widely. But more than Schick that only could be placed on center forward and right-wing, Kownacki can deploy either as a center forward, right or left-winger.

Kownacki had scored five goals and 1 assist in the last season for Il Samp. It was quite good statistics for the rookie in Italy. Under the coach Marco Giampaolo, Kownacki had managed 22 appearances (six as starter player) last season.

The internal competition for Sampdoria’s attacking line-up is slightly tough this season. Under the formation 4-3-1-2, Sampdoria has four attackers for only two regular positions. Marco Giampaolo usually prefers to captain Fabio Quaqliarella and Gregoire Defrel in front.

So, Dawid Kownacki should perform well in every chance he got. Until game-week 7, Kownacki has scored 1 goal in five as a substitute player. Slowly but sure, keep growing up Dawid.

 

Mariusz Stępiński

wewewe chievo.it stepinski

Second part from the parade list, he is Mariusz Stępiński. Since the departure of Roberto Inglese to Napoli, surely Chievo Verona need a player who could be replacing his role for this 2018/19 season.

Obviously, the straight answer; Mariusz Stępiński. Who is he? Yes, he has no reputation like Robert Lewandowski or even Arek Milik. However, we can’t ignore Stepinski potential as well.

Stępiński has come to Serie A since 2017/18, from France club Rennes and joined The Flying Donkey in the loan with buy option. Then, Chievo has been activated buy clause from Stępiński with 2,5 million euros in this early season.

Stępiński might only be deployed as the second option last season, however, he scored five goals and 1 assist in 22 appearances (16 times as substitute player) last season. He specifically can be described as the number 9. A center forward mainly has the task to finish the chances in the box. Likely, Stepinski could be handling the responsibilities as Chievo goalscorer man.

The 24-years old forward has scored two goals this season, including one goal against Juventus in the Serie A 2018/19 opener game at Marc’Antonio Bentegodi. With the supports from experiences midfielders like Emanuele Giaccherini and Valter Birsa behind him and be the first option forward, now Stępiński supposed could get more goals for Chievo than last season.

 

Łukasz Teodorczyk

Udine Twitt Teoo

Udinese struggled to scores many goals in the previous season. Surely, the attacking duo; Kevin Lasagna and Rodrigo De Paul need reinforcement and internal competition as well. So, this season Zebrette brought Łukasz Teodorczyk from Anderlecht for 3,5 million euros.

Teodorczyk was Belgian first league tier top scorer in 2016/17 with 22 goals. He also scored 15 goals in that league last season. These counts were real if Teodorczyk possesses quality as the striker. However, the 188 centimeters tall man seem needs more time to adapt in Serie A.

Udinese coach, Julio Velazquez usually only put one center forward, which likely belong to the vice-captain Kevin Lasagna. That’s why Teo dominantly features as substitute forward this season.

Teodorczyk should perform well in every he gets if doesn’t want to sit on the bench for a long time. Judging by his individual record as former league top scorer, Teodorczyk supposed has no problem either to scoring few or lot of goals in Serie A.

 

Krzysztof Piątek

footballinal com Piontek

The most mentioned Polish man in the early Serie A season 2018/19. With Genoa, Piątek has scored eight goals in 7 appearances until giornata 7 Serie A, plus four goals at Coppa Italia. He signed from Ekstraklasa club, Cracovia with only around 4 million euros. Too cheap, to be honest.

Positioning and clinical finishing are the main abilities from Piątek. With these abilities, the Dzierżoniów-born attacker seems easy to unlock Italian clubs defensive “compactness” and Calcio as the most defensive-minded football in the world. The best rookie award in Serie A already belongs to him, probably.

Plenty, Genoa has forwards choices this season. Beside Piątek, the Genoa coach Davide Ballardini has options like Christian Kouame, Goran Pandev, Andrea Favilli, Gianluca Lapadula and Nicola Dal Monte. However, one slot seems will belong to him for a long while.

Since the beginning of the season, Genoa deploys two forwards who usually occupied by Piatek and Kouame. A complementary duo, Piątek as the finisher and Ivorian’s Kouame as the advance forwards with energetic movement and pace.

Piątek current performances even already being scouted by European giant. Barcelona reportedly has been watching the 23-years old player. Should Piątek move to Spain in January? Likely it doesn’t happen because he is current Genoa savior. However, when he has performances and bagging many goals at the end of the season, everything is possible.

 

Arkadiusz Milik

arek Milik goal com

Since Napoli comeback Serie A in 2007/08, they had several pleasant memories with the beast like Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani or Gonzalo Higuain. Currently, the story has been continued by Arkadiusz “Arek” Milik.

 Napoli spent 32 million euros in 2016/17 to signed Milik from the Dutch giant, Ajax Amsterdam. Milik had been featured on 75 matches and scored 47 goals in two seasons for Ajax before moved to Italy. However, considering the Italian football is that tougher than the Dutch, Napoli decision to bought Milik as Higuain replacement had been questioned at the time.

Napoli needs experience player, rather than a youngster to replace Serie A top scorer Higuain. However, Milik seems would respond that critics in good style. His debut season (2016/17) actually was good then and likely could instantly Higuain role as goal getter under Sarrismo football.

Unfortunately, bad luck (long-term injuries) hit him twice in two consecutive seasons and Dries Mertens successful experiment limited his playing minutes. In fact, Milik just managed 40 appearances and scored 14 goals in the last two seasons.

Presently, Milik (24) is fully recovered from injury and has scored three goals and 1 assist in Serie A (until game-week 7). This season, former Leverkusen player has a significant chance to regain the first place because current Napoli manager, Carlo Ancelotti likes to play real number nine and do rotation properly.

Expectedly, Milik could unlock his immense potential this season and free from terrible injury.

***

All those Polish attackers above are the national team players. Last time Stępiński had been called-up was in late 2017. Kownacki and Teodorczyk were the World Cup 2018 member. Milik and Piątek have been called-up by Biało-czerwoni to the recent squad for UEFA Nations League.

Currently, the captain Robert Lewandowski is the main forward for Poland. However, with so many good attackers choice and Lewa being aged, is possible his position will be taken in the next few years.

Aside from that attacker’s parade, Serie A has plenty of potential Polish player in another position this season like Karol Linetty, Bartosz Bereszyński, Piotr Zieliński or Łukasz Skorupski. Clearly, the 2018/19 season is likely a fine time for Polska footballer to strengthening their name in the football world, especially through Serie A.

 

(Writer: Haris Chaebar)

 

Stats and data: Whoscored and Transfrmarkt.

Photo sources: eurosport.interia.pl, goal.com, footballinal, chievo.it, Udinese twitter and psnfutbol

Troy Deeney: From a Swag Boy, Captain and Legend from Watford

There are many unique stories regarding footballer’s life have been written or told for us. One of the stories is about Troy Deeney. Foremost, have you seen Deeney plays on the pitch or even just heard about his name? Surely, not so many football fans around the world know how exactly Deeney is. But, assuming if the English Premier League represent your weekly agenda, so at least you once heard his name in the football news or highlight.

Troy Deeney isn’t a prolific goal-scorer or modern type of nowadays striker. Has not enough pace or wonder dribbling skills either. Like common old style English striker, Deeney is a player who has powerful advantages aerial duels and physical contact.

The Career

Troy Deeney was born on 29th June 1988 in Birmingham, West Midlands and he raised up in Chelmsley Wood. Then his football life began with Chelmsley Town, an amateur club in 2004 until 2006 as a youth player.

When Deeney played for local team Chelmsley Town, he was scouted by the league two clubs, Walsall and joined them in late 2006. Deeney then was 16 years old and finding himself in tough circumstances in an earlier professional career. However, he ended up with good performances and several goals in Walsall and earned a move to Championship club, Watford in 2010.

Troy Deeney has had a good early career at Watford. But, he usually deployed as a winger at the time, so he only scored few goals. However, since Sean Dyche took the manager role in the 2011/2012 season, Deeney had been positioned as forward and scored more goals than before.

Troy Deeney has relatively massive contributions since he joined the Hornets. After the retirement of Manuel Almunia since 2014/15, Troy Deeney was selected by manager Giuseppe Sannino to be the Hornets captain. Also in the first season under Deeney captaincy, Watford success to earned promotion into Premier League.

Deeney was the first Watford player who had scored more than 20 goals in three consecutive seasons (2012/13, 2013/14, and 2014/15). Moreover, he became the fifth player to reach 100 goals in Watford. The milestone happened in Boxing Day 2016 after the match against Crystal Palace.

Almost in every season, there was managerially changed in Watford, but Deeney remains as the first option in forwarding area and captains as well. Besides that, technically, he always matched with every forward partner in Watford. From Matej Vydra, Odion Ighalo, Richarlison, and currently Andy Gray.

Troy
Troy Deeney

A Swag Boy

Troy Deeney included in category what so-called “swag” by his attitudes. He grows up in the broken home family since he was 11. Might that childhood experience was affected Deeney’s attitude onward.

Deeney kicked out from school when he was 14, back it again at 15 and out again at 16. He was not so serious in education at all. He had stopped educational life until he reached 22 years old.

Troy Deeney nearly to joined Aston Villa youth rank when he 15, if he wasn’t deliberately missed out at the first three days of trial. The reason was just that he upbringing in Birmingham and hasn’t really interested to sign for the rival. He said better chasing a girl in park area rather than joined The Villans. Another his unreal story as a young man, once Deeney drunk while playing in a match, when accidentally Walsall scout was watching the game as well.

His swag attitude came out again when he rampaged against Walsall board in summer 2010. He wanted to move to the bigger club at the time, then he eventually joined Watford. However, the swagest thing did by Deeney was happened in June 2012, when he kicked a man in a brawl and later sentenced to three months in jail.

After that brawl, literally, Deeney almost never showed his swag attitude again unless two accidents. First was about “lack of cojones“ commented against Arsenal, and that famous double middle finger gesture after scoring a goal versus Chelsea in 2017/18 season.

Deeney
In Watford current squad, Troy Deeney is the longest serving player (since 2010).

The captain on and off the pitch

Troy Deeney grow up in the relatively poor family, his parents divorced and their environment near with criminal and gangster life. He might be dragged into that bad life series, but fortunately, his family and also football always there to help him out. Besides that, Deeney maturity also grows up gradually after he suffered the series of bad experiences in his life.

Deeney suffered the very hard times such as father died from cancer, his former Walsall teammate died in the ground, his grandparent died when he was at the jail. Not to mention for having a second child at the proceedings time. All those incidents had changed his life’s perspective. Now, he is a man of better personality.

That’s why Deeney took GCSE certification (at 22 years old, normally at 15 or 16 years old) just after being released from jail because he wants to be a good example for his kids educationally. Besides that, Deeney helped out his brother, Ellis to pay the bills for qualifying to be a personal trainer.

The Jamaican descent men also established a foundation which is used to help kids development in sports area such as give them football boots. It because Deeney once suffered a tough moment for having a boot when he was a kid. Accordingly, his tough life experiences had taught Deeney to be a better person.

There was rumour about Troy Deeney departure from Watford, almost in every transfer windows. But, fortunately, Pozzo family as the club owner always kept him. Although Deeney has swag and even temper attitude, it’s good to keep a player like him. The captain who plays with his dedication and spirit to the club.

From teenage with his swag attitude and once suffered jail sentences. Now, Troy Deeney is a captain and undoubtedly legend for English Premier League club, Watford. Deeney already enjoys challenges to compete with a bunch of the best player in the world and creates histories at the Hornets. He is the real captain either on and off the pitch.

Last but not least if you remember this:

“Almunia save again!!……

“Absolutely astonishing…..

“Now here come Watford…….

“Forestieri………

“It’s Hogg!!!……

“Deeeeeeeeeennneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

 

(Written by Haris Chaebar)

*Additional source: Watford Observer, watfordfc.com, standard.co.uk and support football (youtube).

*Photo source: caughtoffside.com, dailymail/ianhodgson and reddit.

A Tough Challenge for Carlo Ancelotti and His Dynamic of Thoughts in Napoli

Carlo Ancelotti enjoys a successful career during his lifetime in football either as a footballer or football coach. His prominent peak as midfielder came at Milan during 80’s and 90’s with two scudetto and double Champions League titles. Since retired in 1992 and serving as an assistant coach for Italian national team until 1995, Ancelotti began his coaching career debut in Serie B side, Reggiana.

In his official debut as first team coach (1995-96) Ancelotti managed the Reggio Emilia-based club to achieved promotion into Serie A. Then only one season, Ancelotti signed for his former professional team as a footballer, Parma.

Carlo Ancelotti played under coach Arrigo Sacchi in Milan with his preferences of attacking football, 4-4-2, and obsession with spaces. Indeed, Ancelotti had inspired by former boss tactical mastermind in his approach as a football coach. During his reigns in Reggiana and Parma, Ancelotti succeeds with scheme 4-4-2 as well.

However, as a young coach who less experienced, Ancelotti so rigorous at the time. He gently forced the players to adjust in the 4-4-2 formation and ignored their potential. One figure who had been willingly sacrificed by Ancelotti it was Gianfranco Zola. He deployed as a left midfielder, despite naturally Zola was a creative attacking midfielder or trequartista.

Moreover, Ancelotti once turned down the chance for signing one of the best Italian players ever had, Roberto Baggio to Parma. Ancelotti thought the Divine Ponytail wouldn’t adjust to the team because there was no room for trequartista.

Unfortunately, Ancelotti’s obsession with only one tactical profile cost his career immediately. He was sacked by Parma in 1998 with no titles at all. The best achievement it was Serie A runner-up in the 1996-97 season.

The Dynamic of Thoughts

In his thesis as a final requirement for coaching qualification (1997) in Coverciano, Ancelotti wrote “Il Futuro Del Calcio: Piu Dinamicita” or “The Future of Football: More Dynamics.”

Consciously or not, essentially the Ancelotti’s thesis it was self-reflection on his tactical dynamics in future. From conventional and stuck with 4-4-2’s Sacchi, he has been reforming himself into the flexible and adaptive in approach as a football coach.

Since he was sacked by Parma in the middle of 1998, Ancelotti got himself to manage a big club in Italy, Juventus from early 1999 until summer 2001. Despite the Intertoto Cup was only his achievement in Juventus, Ancelotti had learned to established flexibility and adaptive approach at the time.

Ancelotti had combined the trio of Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Del Piero, and Zinedine Zidane up front under the formation; 3-4-1-2. Ancelotti chooses to pair Zidane and Del Piero together despite both players are trequartista. On the pitch, Del Piero drops to the center-left side and created attacking midfielders duo partnership alongside Zidane to support the goal poacher, Inzaghi.

What Ancelotti did to Del Piero and Zidane, might be intended to avoid the deja vu in Gianfranco Zola mismanaged. A gifted player who provides the fantasy for the game like Gianfranco Zola should be given proper role in the team.

Arrigo Sacchi (left) and his Inheritor, Carlo Ancelotti.

When Ancelotti coached Milan (2001-2009), his dynamic thought was discovered Andrea Pirlo’s role then. He knew Pirlo had great vision and passing ability as trequartista, despite lack speed and physical strength. Pirlo struggled to show his magic things when he got hard chased directly by the opposing defensive players.

So, Ancelotti thought Pirlo should be placed in front of Milan defender, then he could dictate attack with his passing skills from the deep line, as well as to freed him from pressure by opponent’s defensive players at the same time.

Andrea Pirlo famous role under Ancelotti era later called as deep-lying playmaker or regista. His positional play is the defensive midfielder, but the role isn’t only to give defensive efforts, but also initiate the attack from the deep line with his great vision and precise passing skills. Another Carletto legacy in Milan it was Christmas tree formation (4-3-2-1) or the advanced (4-3-1-2), which adopted by Italy in World Cup 2006 then.

The dynamic thoughts with flexibility and adaptative approach as a football coach also drove Ancelotti’s career history when he managed several big teams like Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid, and Bayern Muenchen.

In London, he opted to stand on Avram Grant’s (Jose Mourinho obviously) legacy in wide formation 4-3-3, after hearing what The Blues players preferences on the team tactic at the time. Carlo only changed the defensive oriented to be more balanced and effective on their players game mentalities.

In France capital city, Ancelotti continued Antoine Koumbare’s work on mixed Paris Saint-Germain squad between pre and post-Qatari reign since 2011.

When Real Madrid appointed him as entrenador in 2013, Carletto might have one of the best world class squad who nearly came to the peak at the time. Subsequently, he used the flexible tactically, more balances shift, and effectiveness either in defense, transition and attack to boost the stabilization in Madrid world-class squad quality. These Ancelotti work later became the cornerstone for Zinedine Zidane era.

However, Ancelotti’s time in Bayern (2016) was different from before. He totally changed the team mentalities from attacking and possession football fetish under Pep Guardiola to be more balanced and effective football.

A tough challenge: Napoli

Last two seasons, beautiful football in Napoli aren’t a strange view for us. However, Ancelotti couldn’t easy to re-establish what so-called that Sarriball principles. First, Carletto is not an attacking oriented football coach as well. In other hands, the whole Napoli squad needs more time in adapting to the new playing system under Ancelotti, despite the coach still retaining 4-3-3 formation.

Second, there was no Jorginho-esque anymore in Partenopei, a player who can distribute the ball like the BrazItaliano player. Instead, Carletto drop Captain Marek Hamsik to deploy him in regista role, because might too risky to place soon a newcomer like Fabian Ruiz or Amadou Diawara who needs more experiences in the first team.

Third, the gap in quality between the first team and their substitutes, mainly in the defensive area. Aged Raul Albiol, average Vlad Chiriches, stagnated Nikola Maksimovic and less experience Sebastiano Luperto aren’t enough supplies to be partnered and competed with Kalidou Koulibaly.

In other hands, to replace legend Christian Maggio and provide internal competition to Elseid Hysaj, Napoli only brought unknown footballer like Kevin Malcuit from Lille.

The only safe position is left back or goalkeeper. Faouzi Goulam return from the long-term injury means the Algerian will seize his place soon or later over the Portugal international player, Mario Rui. The same thing if wonderkid Alex Meret recovers from injury and ready to challenge Colombian international, David Ospina as portiere numero uno.

Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti in a training session at Napoli.

The quality of Napoli squad this season is slightly regressed. The additional players who proven with their qualities are Simone Verdi or David Ospina, others are just average or youngster.

Therefore undeniably, Ancelotti would be facing complicate circumstances, when he needs rotating the team week by week. Moreover, Napoli will feature in three competitions, especially in Serie A and Champions League. So, the squad qualities are important things as also quantities in the team.

Carlo Ancelotti almost often success to gained some achievements in every team he managed, despite he almost always had been sacked too in every team he managed before.

However, Carletto capabilities couldn’t be underestimating easily. He still remains as a coach who won three Champions League as well as the bunch of trophies in football countries like Italy, England, France, and Germany. Carlettto is a genuine top football coach after all.

This time, Carlo Ancelotti reputation as a football coach who has flexible and adaptive approach alongside with hugely successful career and achievements, would meet a tough challenge in Napoli. Subsequently, let us see how the dynamics of Don Carletto’s thoughts settle this challenge he has, could he answer this tough challenge in a good result?

(Writer: Haris Chaebar)

Photo sources: Carlo Ancelotti twitter, 101greatgoals.com, and elfutbolesinjusto.com

Musa Barrow: A New African Jewel from the Gambia

One of the most improved club in Italy during the last three seasons, Atalanta failed to pass European League group stages. The Bergamo-based club was defeated by Copenhagen FC in the play-off after penalty shoot-out (4-3) in Parken Stadium, Denmark (30/8/18). This result implied that La Dea failed to retain back to back participation in European football since the previous season. However, the progressive development in Atalanta merely can’t be stopped.

For the last three seasons, Atalanta is being famous for their successful ways to develop young players onto top flight stages. The players like Roberto Gagliardini, Mattia Caldara, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Leonardo Spinazzola or Bryan Cristante has discovered their “proper paths” in Atalanta before signed by the Italian giants like Internazionale, Milan, Juve or Roma.

In the 2018/19 season, Gianpiero Gasperini as the head coach has to sustain their development further. Fortunately, he has plenty of ready talents to explode in Serie A. There are Emiliano Rigoni, who scored two goals in his debut vs AS Roma in Giornata 2, ex-Milan midfielder Mario Pasalic or the Gambian young boy who stole the attention in the last season, Musa Barrow.

Despite the Gambia well-known as a limited power in African football, promising footballer raise up everywhere in Africa, not an exception in the Gambia in the name of Musa Barrow. He has been called up to the Gambia national team’s senior for their African Nation 2019 qualifiers against Algeria at home. From BBC, the Gambia manager Tom Saintfiet had said, “His (Barrow) performance at Atalanta is impressive, and he is better in a strong team.”

Barrow performances last season just show how promising he is. He scored 23 goals in Campionato Primavera 2018, a competition for under-21’s side in Italian football. After that glorious performance at the junior level, Gasperini called him into the senior team and managed 12 appearances, scored 3 goals and created 3 assists.

Musa Barrow’s career journey from an unknown boy to being a top footballer in a big competition like Serie A was so quick. He signed for Atalanta in 2016 and played for the youth team ranks until got called-up to the senior team two years later. His debut in the senior match was Coppa Italia match against Juventus on 30th January 2018.

Barrow was born on November 14th, 1998 and grown up in Kanifing Estate, Banjul the Gambia capital city Before he was scouted by Atalanta, Barrow footballing world began in the street football. His passion only for football. Look at how Barrow described a little story about his love experiences in football.

“Once as a child I was ill, nothing serious, a little fever, but they had brought me to the hospital. And as a gift for my mother, I asked to deliver me a ball. I slept hugged in the ball. When the doctor noticed, he informed me that with that passion I would become a footballer,” Barrow told to the http://www.atalanta.it.

Barrow
New Atalanta wonderkid from The Gambia, Musa Barrow.

After Barrow impressive performances in Atalanta last season, several big clubs like Juventus and Tottenham Hotspurs were rumored to place his name on the list target.

Currently, Barrow market value estimated around € 6 million via transfermarkt.com. Might be increasing up when he continues getting more minute play and demonstrate his excellent performances this season. Though Barrow should be competing with Duvan Zapata for one slot in prima punta, there is a chance because Gasperini would be rotating the team and his preferences on young players.

Barrow only needs consistency and improving his game mentality, because tactically already has settled into the team system since last season. In this early 2018/19 season, Barrow had scored 4 goals and assisted two goals in European League qualifiers, more to come in future especially in Serie A.

Beside his optimistic career in the club level, currently, Musa Barrow is one of the Gambian football future alongside the national team captain Omar Colley (Sampdoria).

From raised up near the Gambian National Stadium and played street football then, now Barrow is living in a dream for a thousand children in his country and remains a hero for them. Well, let us see how this new jewel from Africa shines in the future.

(Writer: Haris Chaebar)

Sources photos from fantamagazine.com and ilmondoldelfantacalcio.it

Steven Gerrard dan Perjuangan Mematahkan Mitos-Mitos

Steven Gerrard resmi akan menjadi pelatih salah satu kesebelasan terbesar di Skotlandia, Glasgow Rangers untuk musim 2018/19 . Disana, sang legenda akan head-to-head secara langsung dengan mantan bosnya semasa di Liverpool, Brendan Rogders yang menangani Glasgow Celtic.

Derbi Glasgow musim depan akan lebih semarak dari sebelum-sebelumnya. Selain pertemuan klasik Rangers dan Celtic, menu Gerrard bersua Rodgers juga akan menjadi headline yang diapungkan.

Didapuknya mantan kapten The Reds tersebut sebagai pelatih Rangers, harus diakui membawa optimisme ke klub yang bermarkas di Ibrox Stadium tersebut. Keberadaan nama besar seperti Gerrard diharapkan mengangkat kembali The Gers untuk bersaing di papan atas Liga Primer Skotlandia, yang didominasi Celtic dalam 7 musim terakhir.

Tetapi, skeptisme juga muncul karena Gerrard yang masih nol pengalaman dalam menangani tim profesional. Sebelum menangani Kenny Miller dan kolega musim depan, pengalaman Gerrard hanyalah coach di tim U-18 Liverpool.

Tugas berat akan menanti Gerrard di Ranger. Klub itu dalam misi mengembalikan kejayaan masa lalu mereka pasca problem finansial dan terdemosi ke kasta keempat, Scottish Third Division pada musim 2012/13 lalu.

Meski musim lalu sudah kembali ke Liga Primer Skotlandia, Rangers masih kesulitan bersaing terutama dengan rival abadinya Celtic. Melawan dominasi Celtic di Skotlandia saat ini, bagi Gerrard ibarat lah mematahkan sebuah mitos.

Secara tradisi, Rangers dan Celtic adalah duopoli Skotlandia, mungkin mirip-mirip dengan Real Madrid dan Barcelona di Spanyol. Namun, secara kesiapan tim untuk memberi perlawanan sengit pada Celtic, Rangers masih lah butuh proses lebih lama. Bukti nyata ketika Rangers dibantai 0-5 oleh Celtic pada pertemuan terakhir kedua tim awal Mei lalu. Hasil itu makin melenggangkan Celtic merengkuh juara Liga Primer Skotlandia yang ketujuh berturut-turut.

Merongrong dominasi Celtic saat ini adalah mitos yang berat untuk Gerrard hancurkan. Padahal, kita tahu kisah perjalanan karir Gerrard pun lekat dengan perlawanan terhadap mitos-mitos yang ia hadapi. Paling mengena dan tentu paling membuatnya dilema adalah soal relasi Liverpool dan gelar Liga Inggris.

Semenjak mulai debut di tahun 1998, Gerrard perlahan mulai memanggul tanggung jawab yang besar. Di era Gerard Houllier, dia diangkat sebagai kapten utama pada musim 2003/04 menggantikan Sammy Hyppia. Selain scouser tulen, posisinya yang beredar di lini tengah dan memiliki jiwa kepemimpinan yang tinggi membuatnya makin elegan mengemban amanah skipper Liverpool.

Gelar juara masing-masing satu Liga Champions, satu Piala FA dan satu Piala Liga sukses direngkuh Liverpool ketika ban kapten terlingkar di lengan Gerrard. Jelas sebuah pencapaian brilian untuk karir seorang pesepak bola.

Gerrard tumbuh kembang sedari kecil dengan kenangan akan kejayaan Liverpool di Inggris. Disaat itu The Reds sedang merajai Divisi Pertama dengan capaian 18 kali juara. Terbanyak di Inggris. Namun ketika berubah format menjadi Liga Primer per musim 1992/93, Liverpool sama sekali belum mengecap gelar prestisus itu lagi hingga kini. Miris.

 

Gerrard at Liverpool
Satu-satunya hutang Gerrard saat aktif bermain adalah gelar juara Liga Primer Inggris. Mungkinkah terlunasi, ketika suatu saat nanti melatih Liverpool?

 

Narasi yang beredar ketika kita membicarakan Liverpool adalah tentang gelar juara Liga Inggris yang tak kunjung didekap. Dan hal itu pun seakan termitoskan. Liverpool sangat sulit menjuarai Liga Inggris.

Masa bakti Gerrard selama 17 tahun di Liverpool sebagai pemain profesional, sama sekali tak dihiasi dengan yang namanya gelar juara Liga Inggris. Sesuatu yang pasti juga didambakan seluruh Kopites dimanapun berada.

Mitos Liverpool yang kesulitan menjuarai Liga Primer pun semakin terasa perih ketika status sebagai penguasa Inggris dengan 18 titel liga, diambil alih Manchester United yang bahkan mampu mereka genapkan jadi 20 titel di musim 2012/13. Padahal selama Gerrard memimpin Liverpool, dua kali dia merasakan dekat (menjadi runner-up) dengan gelar juara liga yang didamba. Pertama pada musim 2008/09 dibawah manajer Rafa Benitez dan dan musim 2013/14, di era Brendan Rodgers.

Kesempatan terbaik Gerrard adalah musim 2013/14 lalu. Liverpool bermain luar biasa di Liga Primer kala itu dan rasa-rasanya akan juara. Namun peristiwa fenomenal terpelesetnya Gerrard sendiri, pada laga versus Chelsea musim itu lah disebut-sebut membuyarkan peluang mereka untuk juara.

Mitos yang ia dan segenap elemen di Liverpool dibuat penasaran akan gelar juara Liga Primer, akhirnya gagal terpatahkan. Ditambah peristiwa “Crystanbul”, dari keunggulan 3-0 menjadi 3-3 kala bersua Crystal Palace semakin memperjelas bahwa antara Liverpool dan gelar juara Liga Primer adalah jodoh yang seakan sulit dipertemukan.

Gerrard sendiri pun merasa masih terhantui akan peristiwa terpeleset itu beberapa tahun setelahnya. Betapa ia masih tak bisa melupakan kejadian itu terbukti walau ia sudah pindah ke LA Galaxy pada 2015 lalu. Kepada The Guardian, dia menjelaskan, “Peristiwa terpeleset itu terjadi di waktu yang buruk, dan itu terasa kejam bagiku secara personal”.

Gerrard bergabung dengan LA Galaxy pada Januari 2015, hanya berjarak beberapa bulan pasca kisah memilukan di akhir-akhir musim 2013/14. Apakah Gerrard tak kuat dengan derita yang ia alami ketika gagal membawa Liverpool juara, hingga harus pindah ke LA Galaxy? Entah lah, hanya Gerrard dan Tuhan yang tahu rahasia itu. Tetapi jelas bahwa berat beban dirasakan Gerrard, sebagai legenda Liverpool di era sepak bola modern yang gagal antarkan Liverpool memecahkan mitos menjarai Liga Primer.

Hijrah ke Amerika Serikat, Gerrard juga dihadirkan untuk melawan mitos lain yang ada. Seperti rekan senegaranya, David Beckham, alasan LA Galaxy mendatangkan Gerrard adalah untuk mengdongkrak popularitas sepak bola di negeri Paman Sam tersebut.

Sudah menjadi rahasia umum, bahwa mengharapkan rakyat Amerika Serikat menggilai sepak bola selayaknya orang Eropa, hanyalah mitos belaka. Namun, belum terangkatnya sepak bola sebagai olahraga nomor satu disana hingga kini, juga bukan kesalahan Gerrard. Lagipula, mendatangkan mega bintang seperti Beckham atau Ibrahimovic pun belum tentu bisa merubah selera orang disana yang lebih gemar terhadap Basket atau American football.

Kembali ke soal Gerrard dan Rangers. Kedepan, selain mematahakan mitos dengan cepat berupa dominasi Celtic di Skotlandia, Gerrard juga dihadapkan pada persoalan yang paradoks; tentang rivalitas Rangers dan Celtic.

Sejarahnya, dahulu Celtic dibentuk sebagai salah satu wadah persatuan orang-orang Katolik, yang menunjukkan eksistensinya di Skotlandia dengan cara melalui sepak bola. Sebaliknya, propaganda keagamaan Kristen Protestan dikobarkan oleh mereka yang menggemari Rangers. Dan kita tahu, rivalitas dua sekte itu sangat lah tajam di Skotlandia pada masa lampau.

Dan isu sektarian ini kerap dijadikan bumbu bagi rivalitas kedua klub. Bagi orang-orang Skotlandia, Celtic vs Rangers bukan hanya perkara siapa yang lebih baik di kota Glasgow. Namun juga soal persaingan antara Katolik vs Protestan.

Dahulu jajaran klub dan pemain-pemain Celtic haruslah orang Katolik, begitu juga Rangers yang menggariskan elemen di klubnya dari golongan Protestan. Bahkan, tak jarang sebuah perusahaan tak menerima pelamar kerja hanya karena sang bos perusahaan beda preferensi soal klub mana yang dibela.

Gerrard adalah seorang katolik, bahkan ada yang mengabarkan dia Katolik yang taat. Bekerja di klub yang bersentimen negatif dengan kepercayaannya, tentu bisa membuat orang mengalami pergolakan pemikiran dan batin.

Mungkin akan berkebalikan andai Steven Gerrard berperangai semacam Lorenzo Amoruso, mantan pemain Rangers asal Italia. Dia seorang Katolik, namun senang dengan hujatan-hujatan dari fans Rangers terhadap kepercayaannya sendiri, yang sebenarnya ditujukan ke sang rival Celtic.

Namun, untuk saat ini sepertinya situasi cenderung lebih baik. Dari elemen suporter, baik di Celtic atau Rangers mungkin masih mempertahankan sentimen masa lalu tersebut hingga kini. Namun di tingkat klub hal itu sudah tak relevan.

Celtic kini diisi jajaran klub dan pemain-pemain Protestan, begitu juga Rangers yang kini banyak menggunakan tenaga direksi dan pemain Katolik. Sehingga, isu Katolik-Protestan dalam rivalitas Celtic vs Rangers sepertinya tak lagi menjadi mitos atau persoalan pelik bagi Gerrard.

Yang lebih krusial bagi diri Gerrard adalah meruntuhkan mitos akan dominasi Celtic dan membuktikan diri bahwa dia punya kapabilitas sebagai seorang juru taktik.

Apakah di Rangers nanti, perjuangan dari seorang Steven Gerrard untuk mematahkan mitos-mitos yang berkelindan dalam segenap perjalanan karier di dunia sepak bola, akan berujung klimaks? Itulah yang akan kita lihat dengan seksama kedepan, berhasil atau tidaknya Steven Gerrard yang seakan selalu berhadapan dengan mitos-mitos dalam kehidupan sepak bolanya.

Sumber foto irishtimes.com

Bisakah Kita Memimpikan “Leicester Jilid Kedua” di Prancis?

Ligue 1 Prancis makin ramai sesak akan perhatian musim ini. Tak lain tak bukan adalah Paris Saint-Germain yang menjadi garda sentral akan hal tersebut. Mereka merekrut pemain muda penuh bakat seperti Kylian Mbappe dan tentu saja megabintang sepak bola, Neymar Jr. Pemain asal Brasil itu bahkan memecahkan rekor sebagai pesepak bola termahal sejaga raya saat ditebus dengan harga 222 juta euro, dari Barcelona di bursa transfer musim panas lalu.

Selain gegap gempita dari klub ibukota itu, Liga Prancis masih punya cerita-cerita lain. Masih Lyon, AS Monaco atau Marseille, yang harap-harap cemas menanti Paris Saint-Germain dengan bodohnya tergelincir dari pekan ke pekan.

Jika masih ingin lebih menikmati Liga Prancis lebih mendalam, bisalah kita menemukan Mario Balotelli di Nice yang terkadang satu laga cetak gol, kemudian laga selanjutnya kartu merah atau ikuti saja akan seperti apa perjalanan Cludio Ranieri di FC Nantes.

Berbicara tentang sosok Claudio Ranieri, tentu ingatan kita semua belum jauh-jauh dari keajaibannya membawa Leicester City juara Premier League musim 2014/15 lalu. Ketika itu, dengan skuat biasa saja atau mungkin bisa dikatakan “medioker”, Ranieri membawa klub berjuluk The Foxes itu mengangkangi klub besar seperti Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United dan Tottenham dalam perburuan gelar juara.

Peristiwa sangat mengejutkan seperti Leicester memang terlampau sukar diulangi kembali, tetapi kemustahilan dalam sepak bola tak pernah seratus persen terjadi. Maka dari itu berharap kembali memang tidak salah, toh manusia juga merupakan tempatnya harapan dipendar.

Claudio Ranieri.
Ranieri semoga adalah rencana jangka panjang di Nantes.

Dan kali ini meski tidak begitu besar, Claudio Ranieri masih punya peluang untuk melakukan hal magis semacam di Leicester dahulu pada klubnya kini, Nantes.

Untuk menjadi raja di Liga Prancis saat ini jelas sulit, karena ada Paris Saint-Germain yang materi skuatnya dibangun dengan kekuatan finansial yang seolah tak ada batasnya. Belum lagi ada keberadaan poros lain seperti AS Monaco, Lyon atau Marseille yang secara tradisi dan prestasi, lebih mengakar di pesepakbolaan Prancis daripada klub seperti Nantes. Tetapi untuk sekedar merecoki pergulatan menuju papan atas, skuat berjuluk Les Canaris itu masih sangat berpeluang mewujudkannya.

Claudio Ranieri memang baru menukangi Emiliano Sala dan kolega awal musim ini. Meski begitu, sebenarnya pencapaian Nantes di musim 2016/17 lalu terhitung lumayan apik. Mereka mengakhiri musim lalu dengan menduduki peringkat ketujuh klasemen. Padahal pada musim lalu itu, mereka pernah terjemabab di nomor dua terbawah klasemen pada tujuh pekan awal liga.

Datangnya Sérgio Conceição menggantikan René Girard di posisi entraîneur atau pelatih, membawa angin segar. Di bawah pelatih yang satu kebangsaan dengan Cristiano Ronaldo itu, Nantes bangkit hingga menembus tujuh besar pada musim lalu. Namun sialnya, kecemerlangan Conceição membuat dirinya dilirik banyak klub yang lebih besar dari Nantes.

Maka, hadirlah FC Porto yang meminang mantan pemain Lazio tersebut di awal musim ini, setelah raksasa Portugal itu berpisah dengan pelatih sebelumya, Nuno Espirito Santo.

Namun penggemar Nantes tak perlu kecewa, perginya Conceição justru melapangkan jalan The Tinkerman, julukan yang lekat pada Ranieri akibat seringnya menggonta-ganti formasi dan komposisi pemain pada masa lalu karir kepelatihannya itu, mendarat di Stade La Beaujoire-Louis Fonteneau, markas Nantes.

Musim 2017/18 ini skuatnya memang tidak banyak mengalami perubahan. Selain minim bujet, deklarasi Ranieri bahwa dirinya tak lagi seorang Tinkerman sejak menukangi Leicester beberapa musim lalu ternyata memang demikian.

Tidak ada perubahan berarti di skuat Nantes. Dan yang pasti, gaya bermain Nantes besutan mantan pelatih Roma dan Inter itu juga masih terasa mirip ala Leicester 2015/16. Nantes sering bermain direct dan mengandalkan dua sayap untuk eksploiotasi serangan. Tentu gaya bermain seperti itu sedikit merepotkan bagi kontestan liga Prancis dan mungkin belum terlalu terbaca. Buktinya sepanjang musim Nantes sukses awet untuk tak jauh-jauh dari lima besar klamesen.

Bahkan perolehan 33 poin klub asal barat Prancis itu pada pekan 19 merupakan raihan yang sama persis di pekan sama pada musim 2000/01, ketika waktu itu Nantes beroleh gelar juara liga pada akhir musimnya. Hanya saja itu cerita dahulu kala. Kini apa yang dilakukan Nantes tak begitu berarti, akibat situasi liga Prancis beberapa tahun terakhir lebih terdominasi klub tertentu, daripada tujuh belas tahun lalu yang masih sangat kompetitif.

Namun setidaknya apa yang dilakukan Ranieri di Nantes patut kita apresiasi bersama. Kekhawatiran dan prediksi bahwa Ligue 1 akan semakin menjemukan akibat Paris Saint-Germain semakin kuat, memang tidak meleset. Tetapi persaingan tetap berwarna karena selain keberadaan Monaco, Lyon, Marseille atau Nice, Nantes pun kembali menggeliat ke permukaan.

Bagi Ranieri, pencapaian spesialnya musim ini semakin mempertebal reputasinya sebagai pembawa prestasi bagi tim non-unggulan. Musim 1995/96 dia membawa Fiorentina memenangi Coppa Italia, musim1998/99 dia membuat Valencia merajai Copa del Rey dan tentunya juara kompetisi paling bergengsi saat ini, Premier League pada musim 2015/16.

Padahal perjalanan seroang Claudio Ranieri justru timbul tenggelam di klub besar semacam Chelsea, Roma, Inter dan tak lupa ketika dia hanya lima bulan menangani timnas Yunani pada tahun 2014 lalu.

Tetapi dengan apa yang ia lakukan sekarang di Nantes, semoga saja kejutan seperti yang ia lakukan di Leicester mampu terulang kembali. Mungkin musim ini masih sulit untuk menanti keajaiban tersebut (juara liga Prancis), namun tak ada yang benar-benar mustahil di masa depan sepak bola.

Maka dari itu ada baiknya kita selalu berdoa, berharap dan bermimpi. Mungkin Nantes juara Prancis terkesan terlalu dramatik, namun bukannya mimpi adalah hak setiap yang pernah tertidur? Semoga Claudio Ranieri mampu menjadikan Nantes sebagai ‘‘Leicester jilid kedua’’, entah musim depan atau musim-musim selanjutnya lagi. Ya, semoga saja.

Sumber foto dari eurosport dan getty images.

Renaisans Fiorentina dengan Anak Legenda dan Darah Muda

Wilayah Florence atau dalam bahasa Italia disebut Florenze atau Firenze, dahulu kala dikenal sebagai salah satu pusat peradaban masa renaisans di Eropa. Istilah renaisans sendiri berasal dari bahasa Prancis; renaissance yang artinya kebangkitan atau kelahiran kembali. Masyarakat Eropa menganggap, renaisans sebagai masa kelahiran kembali atau pencerahan dari masa sebelumnya yang sangat kelam. Masa tersebut bisa disebut juga transisi menuju masa yang lebih modern.

Masa renaisans berlangsung pada abad 14 hingga 17. Di masa tersebut berbagai ilmu pengetahuan, seni dan kebudayan berkembang sangat pesat. Pergaruhnya sangat krusial bagi peradaban manusia saat itu, yang secara tidak langsung juga berefek hingga kehidupan masa kini. Intinya masa renaisans membawa pencerahan dan pembaharuan dalam berbagai bidang kehidupan manusia.

Renaisans yang sebenarnya, telah berlalu ratusan tahun di Florence. Namun, kini telah lahir kembali renaisans dari wilayah tersebut. Pelakunya yakni klub sepak bola disana, Associazione Calcio de Fiorentina atau yang biasa disebut Fiorentina.

Fiorentina seperti sedang melakukan renaisans mengawali musim 2017/18 ini. Reniasans a la Fiorentina yang dimaksud adalah perombakan isi komposisi skuat. Klub yang bermarkas di Stadio Artemio Franchi ini, melakukan peremajaan skuat besar-besaran. Walau minimnya bujet transfer juga menjadi alasan, setidaknya Fiorentina terlihat sangat serius melakukan pembaharuan di dalam tim.

Fiorentina ditinggal beberapa pemain pentingnya di bursa transfer musim panas lalu. Mulai dari Gonzalo Rodriguez, Nenad Tomovic, Nikola Kalinic, Josip Ilicic, Borja Valero, Matias Vecino, Cristian Tello, Ciprian Tatarusanu dan Federico Bernadeschi, tidak lagi berseragam ungu kebanggan Fiorentina.

Gonzalo merupakan kapten musim lalu. Nikola Kalinic adalah sumber gol utama klub berjulukan La Viola itu. Sementara Borja Valero dan Matias Vecino adalah pilar di lini tengah. Tetapi itu tidak seberapa dengan kepergian Federico Bernadeschi. Walau merupakan produk akademi dan idola suporter, Bernadeschi justru menyebrang (secara langsung) ke Juventus, salah satu klub paling dibenci oleh suporter Fiorentina.

Bagi sebuah klub, kehilangan pemain penting ibarat sama dengan bencana. Kualitas tim bisa menurun. Suporter pastinya membayangkan kalau era kegelapan akan segera menghampiri Fiorentina. Padahal sebenarnya, selalu ada hikmah dibalik kepergian pemain-pemain andalan yang lama, yakni lahirnya idola baru.

Stefano Pioli, pelatih baru Fiorentina harusnya tak perlu ambil pusing meski banyak pemain bintang minggat. Karena dia mendapatkan pengganti-pengganti baru yang potensial. Klub barunya itu banyak merekrut pemain muda.

Pasca menghilangnya sebagian besar pemain bintang, kini mereka menjalankan “renaisans jilid II” dengan bertumpu pada pemain-pemain muda. Bahkan dilihat dari daftar skuat, beberapa pemain Fiorentina saat ini merupakan anak-anak dari pesepak bola legendaris.

Anak dari Legenda

Giovanni Simeone, datang musim ini dari Genoa dengan mahar 15 juta euro. Kepergian Kalinic membuka ruang baginya. Giovanni, anak dari Diego Simeone legenda dan pelatih Ateltico Madrid, diandalkan sebagai ujung tombak La Viola.

Simeone tergolong cepat “meledak” di Eropa. Musim lalu adalah debut Simeone di Serie A bareng Genoa, setelah dibeli dari River Plate dengan biaya tiga juta euro. 12 golnya untuk Genoa merupakan catatan gemilang bagi seorang rookie di Italia.

Karakter ngotot khas Diego Simeone juga sedikit menular pada Giovanni. Meski berbeda posisi, etos kerja Simeone muda sangat kentara. Dengan permainan yang spartan itu, Simeone mengembalikan muka lama di Fiorentina, Khouma Babacar ke bangku cadangan.

Diego and Giovanni
Diego Simeone dan Giovanni Simeone.

Namun jika berbicara peluangnya di timnas Argentina, Simeone harus berjuang ekstra keras. Paulo Dybala dan Mauro Icardi sudah siap menanti ketika Messi pensiun nanti. Bermain untuk tim nasional Spanyol pun bukan opsi bijak, meski memungkinkan. Simeone sendiri baru memperkuat Argentina U-20 dan U-23.

Pemuda kedua yang merupakan anak dari pemain legendaris adalah Ianis Hagi. Berpososi sebagai winger, dia adalah anak dari legenda timnas Rumania, Gheorghe Hagi. Hagi senior adalah “Maradona of the Carpathians”, karena mantan gelandang serang Real Madrid dan Barcelona itu memang punya skill istimewa.

Ianis Hagi menjalani debut profesional, ketika Gheorghe Hagi yang jadi pelatih Vitorul Constanta sejak 2012. Hagi sendiri direkrut Fiorentina dari Vitorul dengan harga 1 juta euro pada 2016. Adrian Mutu, eks Fiorentina dan timnas Rumandia ikut berperan dalam proses kepindahan Hagi ke Italia.

Hagi yang kini berusia 18 tahun sudah memperkuat timnas Rumania junior di berbagai tingkatan, mulai dari U-16 hingga U-21. Hagi memang jarang diberi kesempatan merumput di Fiorentina. Persaingan di posisi sayap memang ketat, karena ada nama yang lebih menyita perhatian masyarakat di Firenze. Pemuda itu adalah Federico Chiesa.

Chiesa adalah produk Fiorentina primavera. Sedikit kilas balik bagi anda penggemar Fiorentina atau Serie A secara umumnya. Pada era 90an, Enrico Chiesa sempat berkibar bersama Parma. Dia juga malang melintang di Serie A bersama Sampdoria, Fiorentina, Lazio dan Siena. Pemain yang berposisi striker ini pun beberapa kali memperkuat timnas Italia.

Sosok Enrico Chiesa memang tidak selegendaris Simeone atau Hagi dalam dunia sepakbola. Tetapi bagi pecinta sepakbola Italia sejati, nama orang ini harusnya terpatri dalam ingatan. Kini nama Chiesa diwariskan kepada anaknya, Federico. Bahkan jika melihat prospek pemain yang satu ini, dimungkinkan dia akan lebih bersinar daripada sang ayah.

Enrico and Federico
Federico (kanan) penerus kejayaan nama Chiesa dari ayahnya, Enrico (kiri).

Federico Chiesa merupakan simbol kebanggan baru Fiorentina, pasca kepergian Bernardeschi. Jika dirunut, dua pemain ini punya karakteristik mirip. Selain nama depan sama yang sama (Federico), posisi natural antara Chiesa dan Bernardsechi juga sama-sama sebagai pemain sayap. Dua orang ini bisa bermain di sayap kanan atau kiri, gelandang serang dan bahkan menjadi wing-back.

Berposisi natural sebagai winger, baik Chiesa dan Bernardeschi dibekali langkah kaki yang cepat. Meski Bernardeschi lebih stylish dan tendangan bebasnya lumayan akurat, tetapi Chiesa punya keunggulan berupa kedua kakinya yang sama “hidupnya”, tidak seperti Bernadeschi yang cenderung lebih kuat dengan kaki kirinya saja.

Di level timnas, Chiesa yang masih 19 tahun menjadi bagian dari skuat Italia di Euro U-21 tahun 2017. Kemudian, dia sempat mendapat panggilan timnas senior kala Italia melumat San Marino 0-9 bulan Mei lalu di laga persahabatan, meski urung diturunkan oleh Gian Piero Ventura.

Chiesa menjadi jawaban instan setelah hengkangnya Bernardeschi. Pendukung Fiorentina patutnya tak perlu kecewa. Sebab, hilang satu Federico (Bernardeschi), tumbuhlah Federico (Chiesa) yang baru.

Selain itu ada pula Riccardo Sottil, anak dari mantan pemain Fiorentina tahun 1994 hingga 1996, Andrea Sottil. Riccardo yang masih 18 tahun, berposisi sebagai penyerang, berkebalikan dengan ayahnya yang menjadi bek.

Banyak Darah Muda

Selain anak-anak dari pemain legendaris, Fiorentina juga dipenuhi pemain-pemain yang terhitung muda musim ini. Mereka langsung mengambil beberapa peran penting pasca eksodus pemain penting di Fiorentina.

Kepergian Ciprian Tatarusanu ke Nantes membuka jalan bagi Marco Sportiello. Pemain 25 tahun ini naik tingkat menjadi kiper inti, setelah hanya menjadi pelapis Tatarusanu sejak pertengahan musim 2016/17 lalu. Sportiello akan mendapat tantangan dari Bartolomiej Dragowski (20), kiper muda berprospek cerah asal Polandia.

Gonzalo Rodriguez yang pulang ke Argentina dan pindahnya Nenad Tomovic akan tergantikan oleh dua bek Amerika Latin; German Pezzella (Argentina/26) dan Victor Hugo (Brasil/26). Mereka berdua bersaing menjadi pasangan duet bagi kapten baru, Davide Astori di jantung pertahanan La Viola. Fiorentina juga masih punya stok bek tengah bernama Nikola Milenkovic (Serbia/19) dan Petko Hristov (Bulgaria/18).

Sementara itu, Cristiano Biraghi (25) adalah tenaga baru di sektor bek kiri. Mantan pemain Inter primavera itu menjadi pesaing bagi Maxi Oliviera, pemain asal Uruguay yang seumuran dengan Biraghi. Untuk bek kanan, Bruno Gaspar (24) dari Vitoria Guimaraes didatangkan.

Guna menggantikan Borja Valero dan Matias Vecino, direktur olahraga Fiorentina, Pantaelo Corvino mendatangakan Jordan Veretout (24) dan Marco Benassi (23). Veretout dibeli dari Aston Villa, sedangkan Benassi dari Torino. Veretout adalah bagian penting dari skuat Prancis saat menjuarai Piala Dunia U-20 tahun 2013, dimana ia bermain dengan Paul Pogba kala itu.

Sedangkan Benassi walau masih muda, dia punya jiwa kepemimpinan. Musim lalu dia adalah kapten kedua di Torino dan juga memimpin timnas Italia di Euro U-21 2017. Selain Veretout dan Benassi untuk mengganti Valero dan Vecino, ada juga nama Sebastian Cristoforo. Pemain 23 tahun asal Uruguay itu sudah bermain di Fioentina sejak musim lalu.

Formasi 4-2-3-1 yang digemari Pioli tentu membutuhkan sosok gelandang serang pengatur serangan. Selain punya Riccardo Saponara, Pioli juga bisa memaksimalkan pemain baru, Valentin Eysseric. Saponara dan Eysseric sama-sama bisa menjalankan peran “nomor 10”. Kedua pemain ini sama-sama berusia 25 tahun.

Saponara pernah menjadi pemain Milan selama dua tahun (2013-2015). Namun talenta pemain yang gaya mainnya disebut mirip Ricardo Kaka ini, tidak dimanfaatkan I Rossonerri. Saponara justru mengkilap di Empoli dan karena itulah dia direkrut Fiorentina pada awal 2017. Sementara Eysseric adalah bagian penting dari tim kejutan di Ligue 1 musim lalu, OGC Nice.

Untuk posisi sayap, Fiorentina juga punya Rafik Zekhnini, wonderkid asal Norwegia. Fiorentina membeli pemain berusia 19 tahun itu dari Odds Ballklub seharga 1, 5 euro. Selain Zekhnini, Fiorentina juga punya beberapa stok sayap muda. Gil Dias pemain asal Portugal, berusia 20 tahun dari AS Monaco dan Simone Lo Faso (19) yang juga bisa dimainkan sebagai striker, dari Palermo. Kedua pemain ini datang dengan skema pinjaman.

Untuk lini depan, ada nama si anak hilang Khouma Babacar (24). Dia sudah menjalani debut di Fiorentina sejak musim 2009/10, tetapi dia tak pernah benar-benar menjadi andalan. Padahal ketajaman pemain asal Senegal ini tidak buruk. Contohnya, dia mencetak 10 gol hanya dari 20 penampilan di Serie A musim lalu.

***

Di Fiorentina, pemuda-pemuda seperti Simeone, Chiesa, Benassi, Veretout, Babacar dan lain-lainnya akan akan mendapat bimbingan dari para seniornya. Mereka pemain-pemain senior itu adalah Davide Astori (kapten), Milan Badelj, Carlos Sanchez atau rekrutan baru dari Udinese, Cyril Thereau.

Berdasarkan situs transfermarkt.com, rataan usia pemain-pemain Fiorentina adalah 24,2 tahun. Angka tersebut menjadikan mereka sebagai skuat termuda di Serie A musim 2017/18 ini. Dengan kompsisi dan formasi 4-2-3-1: Marco Sportiello (kiper); Bruno Gaspar, German Pezzella, Davide Astori (kapten), Cristiano Biraghi; Milan Badelj, Jordan Veretout; Marco Benassi, Riccardo Saponara/Cyril Thereau, Federico Chiesa; Giovanni Simeone.

Pada akhirnya dengan skuat muda yang menjanjikani ini, sudah tepat bahwasannya kita menyebut Fiorentina sedang mewujudkan renaisans-nya kembali. Kita tunggu saja akhir musim nanti, akan seperti apa perjalanan tim termuda ini liga yang katanya kompetisi cap orang tua semacam Serie A.

florence view missouri.edu
Florence atau dalam bahasa Italia, Florenze. Tempat dengan pemandangan indah, sebagai awal mula renaisans Eropa. Kini salah satu klub dari wilayah itu, Fiorentina juga sedang melakukan “renaisans’.

Sumber-sumber foto: violanation.com, express.co.uk, missouri.edu dan goal.com.

Belanda, Total Football dan Masalah-masalahnya

Ah, hal apa lagi yang lebih mengasyikkan di dalam alam pikiran manusia jika bukan ingatan akan masa lalu? Masa lalu, sejarah dan nostalgia adalah sesuatu yang mahal, lagipula merawat ingatan tak bisa dinilai dengan materi apapun.

Entah suka atau duka, masa lalu akan senantiasa membersamai hidup manusia hingga masa depan. Jika ingin bukti, lihatlah apa yang terjadi dengan tim nasional Belanda saat ini.

Belanda sebagai negeri sepakbola, sudah tak perlu dipertanyakan lagi. Kalau sampai anda tidak tahu apa itu Total Football di dunia sepakbola, saya rasa anda ibarat menyelami lautan, tetapi urung melihat dengan seksama seperti apa keindahan terumbu karang didalamnya.

Total Football, permainan yang menitikberatkan pada penguasaan permainan, keindahan permainan dan kolektivitas tim baik itu saat menyerang dan bertahan, telah melejit di era 70an dan memang menjadi ciri khas dari sepakbola Belanda. Semenjak munculnya gaya permainan itu, Belanda menapaki tiga kali final Piala Dunia dan menuai satu kampiun Piala Eropa di tahun 1988.

Dalam Total Football, meski terlibat dalam kolektivitas, setiap pemain dibekali teknik individu yang baik. Karena untuk menyajikan permainan mempesona dan sedap dipandang mata, tentu diperlukan olah bola yang baik pula.

Pada mulanya, Rinus Michels si penemu Total Football, meramu filosofi bermain itu di Ajax. Kesuksesan klub dari Amsterdam itu merajai Belanda dan Eropa diawal era 70an, membuat Michels pada akhirnya ditunjuk menangai timnas Belanda. Sang pelatih kemudian menginjeksi Total Football di tubuh skuat Oranje.

Keberhasilan Michels menerapkan sepakbola menyerang itu juga harus diakui memang berkat dominasi pemain Ajax di timnas Belanda. Jika Michels adalah jenderal penyusun stategi perang, maka Johan Cruyff, juga anak didiknya di Ajax, ialah komandannya di lapangan.

Berkat Total Football yang legendaris itu, sepakbola Belanda begitu disegani.
Selama bertahun-tahun, gaya Total Football menjadi cetak biru bagaimana sepakbola Belanda dibangun. Selain permainan yang enak dilihat, buah darinya, banyak pesepakbola sangat berkualitas lahir dari sepakbola negeri kincir angin.

Siapa tak kenal pemain Belanda generasi 80an semacam Van Basten, Gullit dan Rijkaard. Kemudian generasi 90an seperti Bergkamp, Koeman, De Boer atau Seedorf hingga generasi mulai melejit di milenium 2000 seperti Van Persie, Robben dan Sneijder.

Namun, sehebat apapun pencapaian manusia, tetap saja ada sedikit cela didalamnya. Total Football ala Belanda selain menarik disaksikan dan begitu menjiwai sepakbolanya, tetapi disisi lain juga menyimpan duka bersamanya.

Di era keemasan Belanda, meski dipuja-puji setinggi langit, mereka haruslah tetap menginjakkan kaki di bumi. Di Piala Dunia, mereka terjungkal dari efektifitas ala Jerman di 1974, harus kalah dari sepakbola menawan lain bernama “Menottisimo” di 1978 dan justru dilumat Spanyol di 2010, yang ironisnya Tiki-taka adalah evolusi dari Total Football itu sendiri.

Selain efek positif, Total Football bisa juga berefek negatif bagi Belanda. Positifnya, banyak pemain dari Belanda yang berkemampuan individu istimewa. Tempaan dari ideologi itu mau tidak mau menggiring mereka untuk mengeksplorasi teknik bermain sedemikian rupa, karena memang dibutuhkan ketrampilan ekstra dalam menampilkan sepakbola yang “baik” dan dominan seperti Total Football.

Tetapi, filosofi yang sudah sangat mengakar di pesepakbolaan Belanda itu, lambat laun menumbuhkan buah pemikiran dan mentalitas yang bisa dikatakan buruk. Para pelaku sepakbola dari sana entah secara sadar atau tak sadarkan diri, seakan lebih mengedepankan bagaimana bermain (menguasai) sepakbola dengan baik, daripada bagaimana bermain agar memenangi pertandingan.

Hal itu semacam penyakit. Manchester United pernah merasakan bagaimana timnya serasa didikte “how to play good (possesion ball) football”, daripada “how to win the game” ketika seorang meneer Belanda, Loius Van Gaal melatih klub tersebut. Yang lebih parah ketika itu, dengan materi yang tak mendukung untuk “Total Football”, bukannya menguasai bola dan permainan indah didapat, justru permainan menjemukan karena terlalu berlama-lama dengan bola dituai.

Hal yang sama diperoleh Everton musim 2017/18 ini. Ronald Koeman yang sukses di Southampton justru gagal di Everton pada musim keduanya ini. Setali tiga uang, Frank De Boer, yang coba menyegarkan penglihatan suporter Crystal Palace dengan possesion football-nya yang sukses di Ajax, justru menemui kekecewaan total di Inggris.

Satu hal yang tidak hilang dari setiap pelatih Belanda adalah “penguasaan bola”. Tentu hal itu tak dapat dipungkiri lagi, akibat dari jiwa pesepakbolaan Belanda yang sangat dipengaruhi oleh Total Football sejak dari dahulu kala.

Lalu, bisa kah mengatakan mental “yang penting menguasai laga” daripada “yang penting memenangi laga” ini adalah faktor utama kemerosotan sepakbola Belanda? Bisa dikatakan iya, namun tidak tunggal.

Belanda juga bermasalah dengan regenerasi pemain. Andai kata penghuni timnas akhir-akhir ini adalah pemain-pemain yang lebih berkualitas, tentu mereka mampu lebih banyak memberikan perlawanan berarti untuk melaju ke Rusia. Tetapi lihatlah skuat saat ini.

Hanya ada segelintir andalan timnas yang berasal dari klub besar Eropa. Jasper Cillessen (Barcelona), Daley Blind (Manchester United), Giorginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Kevin Strootman (Roma) dan Arjen Robben (Bayern Muenchen). Itu saja dengan situasi; Cillessen menghangatkan bangku cadangan Barca, Blind dirotasi dengan Matteo Darmian, Strootman dan Wijnaldum bolak-balik cedera dan Robben dimakan usia.

Netherlands' forward Arjen Robben acknow
Robben pensiun dari timnas, ketika Belanda sedang dalam masa-masa terpuruknya.

Memphis Depay memang bagus musim ini, tetapi dia sedang di Lyon, bukan Manchester United lagi. Sneijder sudah menua. Kini harapan Belanda dipanggul pemain semacam Quincy Promes dan Davy Propper. Anda belum tahu siapa mereka? Promes adalah sayap dari Spartak Moskow dan Propper itu gelandang Brighton & Hove Albion, ya.

Jika kebanyakan diisi pemain dari klub medioker dan minim pemain bintang, bisa Anda bayangkan sendiri kenapa melawan tim seperti Islandia dan Swedia saja, Belanda kesulitan bersaing.

Ketika dahulu banyak pemain Belanda menjadi andalan klub besar, kenapa sekarang banyak pemain muda Belanda yang bertebaran di klub semenjana? Tentu itu harus dijawab dengan penelitian dan kajian serius nan mendalam tentang masalah pada Belanda.

Tetapi misalnya satu contoh masalah, tentang pemain muda Belanda masa kini yang terlalu gampangnya mereka mengiyakan tawaran untuk merantau terlalu dini. Anda harusnya ingat kejadian Ricardo Kishna atau Anwar El Ghazi yang dijuluki “The Next Ronaldo”.

El Ghazi, semenjak keluar dari Ajax, kini mentok bersama Lille di Prancis. Kishna malahan kini bermain di ADO Den Haag, klub semenjana di Eredivisie Belanda, setelah gagal di Lazio. Belum lagi menghitung Luuk De Jong, Siem De Jong, Leroy Fer atau Jordy Clasie, yang sempat digadang menjadi andalan masa depan Belanda, namun kini semuanya menghilang dari radar.

Kapten Ajax musim lalu, Davy Klaassen kini terpaksa meratapi nasib menjadi “ban serep” di Everton. Bagaimana dengan Vincent Janssen? Kini dia dibuang oleh Tottenham ke Fenerbahce.

Memangnya klub-klub di Belanda tidak bisa memproduksi pemain-pemain berkualitas? Tentu saja bisa, tetapi apakah kualitas dan mental mereka terasah dengan baik, hal itu belum pasti.

Kompetisi sepakbola Belanda bukanlah yang paling kompetitif di Eropa. Selain itu, prestasi klub-klub Belanda (dengan pemain-pemain Belanda di dalamnya) di kompetisi Eropa juga surut akhir-akhir ini. Ajax, PSV dan Feyenoord tak mampu menuai sesuatu berarti di level benua.

Benang merahnya, bagaimana timnas Belanda beprestasi kalau rata-rata pemainnya ada di klub medioker dan berada di klub lokal yang minim daya kompetitifnya di Eropa? Mungkin ini bisa dijawab dengan: strategi pelatih bisa menuntaskan masalah tersebut. Tetapi, lagi-lagi Belanda juga bermasalah pada kursi kepelatihan dan manajemen organisasi KNVB.

Dalam kurun tiga tahun terakhir (semenjak ditinggal Van Gaal), De Oranje sudah tiga kali berganti nahkoda kapal. Bergonta-ganti pelatih tentu membuat stabilitas tim menuai pertanyaan besar.

Belum lagi Belanda terlalu gegabah dengan menunjuk seorang minim pengalaman seperti Danny Blind. Kesalahan juga ada di KNVB atau PSSI-nya Belanda. Mereka dituding tidak punya visi jelas, yang berujung chaos di timnas Belanda dalam kurun waktu empat-tiga tahun terkahir.

Kalau dikerucutkan, permasalahan Belanda adalah begini kiranya. Pertama, Total Football yang mulai usang dan hanyalah kejayaan masa lalu. Lagipula, permainan indah itu juga terbarengi dengan ironi Belanda diantara kehebatan dan kepahitan sejarah. Sudah saatnya Belanda move on dari nostalgia akan masa lalunya.

Kedua, Total Football yang terlanjur mempengaruhi pola pikir dan mental pesepakbolaan Belanda. Pola pikir mementingkan bagaimana memainkan sepakbola yang baik, daripada bagaimana memperoleh kemenangan, menjadi semacam penyakit tujuh turunan.

Lain daripada itu, meski pada akhirnya menghasilkan individu berbakat, mentalitas pemenang tidak tumbuh pada skuat Belanda, yang secara alam bawah sadar terbiasa mementingkan permainan bagus daripada hasil yang bagus.

Ketiga, soal regenerasi. Padahal saya yakin banyak sekali pemain muda potensial dari Belanda. Tetapi masalahnya, kompetisi di Belanda ketinggalan jauh dari negara-negara lain. Tak heran, kenapa para pemain mudanya terlalu gegabah mencoba kerasnya dunia luar, padahal disisi lain skill dan mental mereka belum siap sepenuhnya untuk itu.

Disamping godaan gaji yang lebih berlimpah jika bermain diluar Belanda. Lain daripada itu, klub-klub di Belanda juga tak kompetitif untuk ukuran Eropa, itulah kenapa Belanda tetap saja ringsek meski mengandalkan pemain-pemain andalan dari Ajax, PSV dan Feyenoord atau klub Belanda lainnya.

Soal adaptasi dengan dunia luar, pemain Belanda juga punya kekurangan. Dalam mengembangkan pesepakbola, Belanda sangat mementingkan kualitas setiap individu pemain muda. Maka tak heran, Belanda selalu bisa menelurkan bakat-bakat muda potensial. Tetapi soal materi taktik bagi pemain muda, lain lagi. Rasanya dalam mengembangkan pemain muda, otoritas disana kurang memberi porsi lebih tentang taktik.

Bisa jadi karena terpacu demam Total Football, disana pemain U-18 masih saja dijejali porsi “ball mastery” atau penguasaan teknik-teknik bermain bola yang baik. Disatu sisi edukasi teknikal semacam itu membuat kemampuan individu pemain terasah, tetapi tanpa edukasi taktik yang memadai justru menjadi blunder tersendiri. Maka tidak heran, pemain Belanda alumni Piala Dunia 2014 banyak yang tenggelam saat ini, meski performa bagus mereka membuat Belanda finis peringkat tiga.

Keempat, terlalu seringnya berganti pelatih dan tak jelasnya visi dari KNVB dalam membangun pesepakbolaan Belanda, tentu ikut berdampak pada kehancuran mereka saat ini.

Total Football memang indah, kawan. Saya bukan membenci, tetapi realistis saja. Untuk apa berkompetisi dengan menendang kulit bulat, kalau kemenangan bukan tujuan akhir?

Tak perlu lah sekiranya Belanda bermain catenaccio hanya demi memperoleh hasil. Ada contoh seperti Spanyol, yang mampu mengharmonisasikan permainan indah dengan kemenangan. Kalau dulu Spanyol sudi belajar dari Belanda tentang Total Football, harusnya sekarang mereka tak malu untuk berbalik dan belajar dari Spanyol tentang Tiki-taka, kenapa tidak?

Kalau sudah begini, apa yang harus dilakukan? Jalannya hanya satu, mereka harus belajar dan sadar diri tak lagi menjadi kekuatan besar. Bahkan kini mereka tertinggal jauh dari Belgia, tetangga mereka yang dulu mereka remeh-temehkan karena kesulitan lolos turnamen besar.

Hakim Ziyech menolak panggilan Belanda dan lebih memilih timnas Maroko. Pilihan itu dikritik Van Basten sebagai pilihan tak masuk akal, karena Belanda, katanya sang legenda jauh lebih besar dari Maroko. Namun, kini Van Basten sendiri harus melihat Ziyech dan kolega bertarung di Rusia nanti, manakala dia meratapi diri tak akan melihat kaus Oranje disana pada 2018.

marco-van-basten independet
Andai kritik Van Basten untuk Hakim Ziyech terjadi delapan atau sepuluh tahun lalu, itu benar. Tetapi untuk sekarang, justru kritiknya menjadi semacam ironi tersendiri kalau tidak ingin disebut “dagelan”.

Dahulu kala, rasanya mustahil ada pemain sepakbola menolak panggilan dari timnas bereputasi besar seperti Belanda. Namun, peristiwa Ziyech menjadi gambaran bahwa, Belanda sudah tak dianggap lagi oleh pemain potensial sebagai timnas yang “besar”. Bisa jadi hal ini akan memicu pemain-pemain keturunan Belanda lainnya untuk menolak berseragam Oranje.

Kegagalan Belanda harusnya dimaknai sebagai alarm bagi mereka untuk segera berbenah, bahwa Total Football dan segala dampak pemikiran dan mentalitasnya tidak seratus persen salah, tetapi harus ada inovasi sesuai perkembangan zaman.

Lain daripada itu, ternyata federasi sepakbola mereka, KNVB juga bermasalah dan perlu segera berbenah. Kalau tidak, mungkin saja Belanda akan terhapuskan namanya dari sepak bola suatu saat nanti.

Sumber foto dari independent.co.uk dan metro.co.uk.