Return to Mediocrity

As I know many of my followers/readers are not hardcore sports fans, let me give some perspective on Oct. 10th, 2017. Headlines across America might have read…

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Unfathomable? Impossible? Maybe those headlines give the American non-sports or general sports fan a glimpse of what has been going on with our United States Soccer Federation and our men’s national team the last fifteen years or more.

In November 2016 I wrote a post (A Litmus Test) about the USMNT fall and firing of one our winningest Head Coaches, Jürgen Klinsmann. In my post a year ago I pointed out what I thought were three central pillars that dictate a FIFA member’s national team success, mediocrity, or failure. If a national footballing federation like our USSF wants to find a dynasty-proven premier model to follow, it doesn’t have to look too hard at all. In fact, it is or should be a no-brainer.

Ever since the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, football, or futebol, or soccer as Americans call it, has by all records been the world’s greatest most popular, most watched sporting event in all of modern history. Around the entire globe crazed, obsessed fans can tell you in remarkable detail specific plays, passes, saves, and goals by who and where for any number of futebol matches! And the records, the stats, the teams, the players, the articles, and video-highlights are easily found anywhere. Here are the three greatest national futebolling dynasties, top to bottom, followed by consistent strong contenders. These include FIFA Federation dynasties, in parenthesis, which are just as competitive as World Cups:

  1. Brazil — 5 world championships and the only nation to have participated in all twenty World Cup tournaments (8 Federation Championships)
  2. Germany — 4 world championships (3 Federation Championships)
  3. Italy — 4 world championships (1 Federation Championship)
  4. Argentina — 2 world championships (14 Federation Championships)
  5. Uruguay — 2 world championships (15 Federation Championships)
  6. Spain — 1 world championship (3 Federation Championships)
  7. France — 1 world championship (2 Federation Championships)
  8. England — 1 world championship

If a new or burgeoning national futebol/soccer governing body — with an equal or better sports fan-base to grow — wants to see how Brazil, Germany, Italy and a host of several other dominating countries play the game at the highest levels, with weaker economies than the U.S., and do it year after year, tournament after tournament, producing world-class players and coaches generation after generation, above are 4-5 nations to mimic with everything it takes to be a juggernaut dynasty for 88-years and 88 more.

matt-besler-usa

A defeated Matt Besler post-game

Yet, one very tiny Caribbean nation eliminated the U.S. Mens National Soccer Team from its 8th consecutive FIFA World Cup tournament. More embarrassing than the loss Oct. 10th to tiny Trinidad & Tobago is the fact that CONCACAF is by far the easiest federation to qualify from to play in the quadrennial World Cup tournament out of all FIFA federations. Given the U.S. made it to the Quarter-finals in 2002, this begs the serious question, What direction has U.S. soccer headed in?

Having played at a very high-level of soccer myself most of my adult life — collegiately, professionally, and semi-pro — on the continents of Europe, South America, Africa, and of course North America, under several coaches and playing styles, with and against some excellent players and several world-class players, for an American I feel I have a well-based, fair standpoint (since 1975) to assess our nation’s soccer/futebol progress. However, this time I won’t. I am going to defer to someone who has much higher experience, much higher qualifications to tell America and the USSF like it is and won’t sugar-coat it. He repeats much of what I’ve been advocating and screaming since 1990.

One of Five American World-Class Soccer Players:  Claudio Reyna

Reyna-on-US-SoccerOf the handful of American boys that the rest of the futebolling world would label world-class, capable of playing several prolonged seasons in Europe’s elite leagues and teams in the starting-11, Claudio Reyna is a shoe-in. Real quick, he played from 1994-2008 at the highest levels with Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg, Rangers, Sunderland, and Manchester City before retiring with the New York Red Bulls. Had he not suffered so many leg injuries, most critics say Claudio would’ve held almost all American soccer records for a long time eclipsed only by Clint Dempsey or the rising Christian Pulisic. I feel what Claudio has to say about Oct. 10th and the state of U.S. soccer today carries a whole lot of weight. Here are his words from an interview with soccer website Goal.com:

REYNA:
“Our approach and our behavior to the sport here — to coaching, to everything, is just wrong. We’re far too arrogant. We’re far too obnoxious. We are egotistical, having never won anything or done anything, and that’s not the case around the world. You travel to Spain, Argentina, Germany and you run into coaches and sporting directors and there’s a humility about their work that doesn’t exist here, and that’s, for me seeing it, is to me a big concern.

When you have a disappointment like last week, and we’ve had past disappointments as well, and we’ll have disappointments in the future, but what we need to understand that it’s for me behavioral. We have coaches who think they’re better than they are. Across the board, we just think we do things better than we really do. I mean in every way. Whether it’s broadcasting, or media, coaching, we’re just not as far along as we tell ourselves we are. We need a little honesty, and hopefully this brought it. I think it’s far too late. I think we’ve been asleep at the wheel for a little bit too long.”

For the key pivotal positions throughout the U.S. soccer culture, youth development, up to the USSF and USMNT since the 1970’s, anyone who is outside of soccer just doesn’t understand what Claudio is saying. Non-futebol leaders, administrators, coaches, presidents, corporate sponsors and fans (who ultimately pay for the product on the fields), bring with them this old guard USA mentality that America is the best at most everything!

REYNA:
“We have all these countries around the world we can learn from, and you go over there and you’re not going to see different training sessions. You’re going to see good games, and poor games, like in any league across the world.

But the one thing that we haven’t realized, I think, when we have our American soccer people go abroad to learn, I don’t think they see the behaviors of the people and how they coach in their day-to-day work. That’s the shake-up I hope people realize more than anything.

You go to a U-14 and U-15 coach in Spain, and they are 10 times more humble than a U-14 or U-15 coach in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York, who thinks they’re the next Pep Guardiola or Patrick Vieira.

Until we realize that — that we’re not as good as we think we are at all levels — then I think we’re going to continue being what we are, which is mediocre.”

Messi-Ronaldo

Spain’s La Liga dominates recent world-class club futebol

In my personal opinion and experience, Claudio is partly correct about European leagues and games. However, the reason the English Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Brasileiro Série A are the top leagues in the world are because of the product they have on the field and sidelines. The best players on the planet play in these five leagues and paying fans with paying sponsors want to watch excellent entertaining futebol of the highest levels. Bad games are few and far between in these leagues between the bottom-dwelling clubs.

Why is the MLS, America’s pro league, consider 2nd or 3rd Division by world standards? Reyna believes that though soccer has grown in popularity in the U.S., the quality has not improved or kept up with that growth.

REYNA:
“What I think has happened in the past 10 years is we’re confusing investment, expansion, growth, (U.S. Development Academy), and all these other things with progress. All these things have sort of created a feeling that we’re progressing, but I call it expanding, growth and more fans.

From the general growth side it’s happening, but are we really progressing? When I look around at certain levels I don’t see progress happening.

I remember the great Johan Cruyff would say something about Dutch football, or Franz Beckenbauer in Germany, and when other big players and coaches spoke out and were honest, it shook things up and make people ask, ‘How are we teaching the game to our youth? How are we playing the game? What’s the competition like?

We don’t have those kind of serious discussions here. We just seem to talk, but never really make any significant changes.”

And I would add here that because of an old guard mindset of sports egotism, like we had about Olympic basketball for so long, Americans falsely thought we could just create our own pro-soccer league here with a lot of American players and a few old retiring European or S. American has-beens and soon advance into the World Cup’s Quarter or Semi-finals. That was the American mentality after the 1994 FIFA World Cup here in the U.S. when we upset Colombia and especially after our performance in the 2002 World Cup.

REYNA:
[The old guard] “are sitting together and thinking about strategies and how we’re going to get better. We need a little humility and modesty at the table. Unfortunately, we have a little too much ‘Mr. I Know Everything’, ‘Mr. Arrogance’, ‘Mr. Obnoxious’, ‘Mr. Loud’, and when those get together nothing happens.”

This is who I believe Claudio is calling out, the American generation in key pivotal positions who did not grow up playing little league soccer, school soccer, and college soccer. At best, that old guard might have had their kids playing, but not at top-quality European or S. American influenced academies with the same foreign coaches. When one wants to learn all the in’s and out’s of a intricate complicated sport, you go and learn from the best in the world. That is what S. Americans did for basketball in the NBA and that’s what the rest of the world did for baseball in the MLB. What has the old guard and USSF done? Can it improve or change as necessary?

What does Claudio think about our retiring 30-year olds, current mid-20 year olds, and teenage soccer generations?

REYNA:
“There’s good players at every age group. There’s some very good players in this country. As supporters of these players, whether it’s coaches, sporting directors, team presidents, we need to continue to push ourselves to make sure they have the best environment to develop because the talent is here. One thing I’ll never say is we don’t have good players, because we do.”

Gabriele Marcotti, a European sports journalist-columnist and self-protested “outsider” to U.S. soccer, wrote a good 7-point piece for ESPN FC earlier this month that I think pin-points some chronic and festering problems. Check it out. His first four points are excellent. Back to Claudio…

REYNA:
“There’s a lot of positives despite the disappointing result that we had last week. I think we’re all embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as a former player that I have to go around and have people make fun of us, and get texts from my friends in Europe who remind me we’ll be on [vacation] next summer. I can laugh, but it hurts. It definitely hurts.”

I am right there with your pain Claudio. It does indeed hurt, particularly when the USMNT and USSF have no legitimate excuses for missing the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The first head that should immediately roll is President Sunil Gulati. This decline and disaster has happened on his watch.

As a personal closing opinion and note, without question, all of the USMNT greatest futebol achievements, greatest futebol players, and greatest futebol moments have come with, by and during eras when American players had prolonged experience or were playing in top foreign leagues. After at least five decades of soccer, what does that suggest about our youth development programs and domestic Major League Soccer?

(paragraph break)

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40 thoughts on “Return to Mediocrity

    • I can’t argue that John. My former college coach — who grew-up and played in Brazil in the 60’s – 70’s — then later became a FIFA Representative for European-bought Brazilian players (teenagers, 20-yr olds) sorting out contractual and intercontinental federation policies, etc. — went into that “market” because it was and still is thriving; quite lucrative he said. Nevertheless, in the business arena of world sports, especially futebol, like in many economic-political arenas, the “Top Dogs” if you will, have insane amounts of money to go and buy all the top 50-100 players in the world to come play for the top clubs in Europe. Like the U.S. is for basketball, baseball, and American football, Europe — particularly the EPL, La Liga, and Bundesliga — has the pedigree and multi-million dollar resources to do the exact same thing. And typically where there is a shitload of money everywhere, there is unethical practices and endless disparity pushing/pulling on parity… no matter what developed country you are in; that includes the U.S.!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I would love to say I read this post, I generally read all of your posts but I am going to be totally honest with you and I say I did try but I zoned out pretty quickly at the word sports. Still love ya blog though 😛

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hahahaha! It is completely fine Jad and thank you for commenting on your zoned-out-ness. Like I wrote, many of my followers are not sports fans; that isn’t really why I started this blog. Armchair sports critics/fans are a penny-a-dozen on the internet; for the most part a field OVERLY saturated with a bunch of hot-air opinions that are here one minute, gone the next. 😛

      No big deal Darling. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. South Africa have a similar mentality, and there are times when we have struggled to qualify for the Africa cup of nations.

    In the States soccer has Basketball and Gridiron to compete with.

    When the controlling interests in the US are able to make big money they will get on board very quickly.
    I remember when the US had the World Cup and many of those interviewed ”on the street” did not even know!

    The Premier League is supposedly the pinnacle of the league game yet it is hardly the ”English Game” any more. It’s a billionaires game.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The competing sports here are a factor for our athletes. Many growing up through secondary schooling play multiple sports and can get burnt out quickly that way. Then they sort of choose — with much assistance from their parents or role models — one sport to focus their limited energy. For our domestic soccer leagues and clubs, this is a partial hindrance, yes. But where the lucrative contracts are they will gravitate there, hence, the 3 major sports first, then maybe soccer second or third unless there is a passionate foreign influence in their family. And afterall, the USA is very much a still GROWING “melting pot.”

      I remember when the US had the World Cup and many of those interviewed ”on the street” did not even know!

      Exactly! That is or part of the old guard generation who honestly want to keep the U.S. isolated (arrogantly distinguished?) in all possible ways; our current President and administration being PRIME examples right now. Isolation today is utterly a delusional mindset, on most all levels, particularly in the world’s greatest most popular sport of futebol.

      Yeah, I think gone are the days when national leagues, e.g. EPL, Bundesliga, Dutch Eredivisie, etc, were predominately domestic-born players. The one CLEAR exception to this trend is yes, you guessed it, the USA of Isolationists. 😖 Like Claudio alluded to our MLS must change this BEFORE they expand the number of league teams even more (dilution) — this keeps too many good-to-potentially-great American boys here in a mediocre league rather than abroad.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I mean Reyna’s words clearly speak to American exceptionalism. America has nothing to learn from anybody and this is the attitude they take in regards to everything. Except it definitely won’t work in soccer. The USA is for all intents and purposes nothing more in soccer than the nation of Ghana. But the USA can’t ever see themselves as Ghana. They are the U.S. If the U.S. were in almost any other qualifying group they would almost never advance. But every world cup, the announcers on ESPN seem angty and disappointed at the U.S.’s play and come in with these high expectations, when in reality they should just say “We’re happy just to be here and hopefully we can play some good soccer.” And for awhile the U.S. gets excited by soccer and then if fades again. There isn’t a strong youth league like you have any many other countries…soccer isn’t making lots of TV revenue. Most people just want to watch their soccer every 4 years. And until it’s as popular here, from youth leagues all the way up to professionals as it is in other countries, the U.S. will remain in mediocrity.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Claudio didn’t mince his words and I’m very pleased he didn’t. American “Exceptionalism” is a very apropos description Swarn. Ghana is a good comparison, however, as far as “long futebolling histories,” Ghana far outclasses the U.S. In fact, between one-third and half of all African nations can beat the USMNT 7 out of 10 times today simply because so many African-born players play in Europe and all over the world. So you might be insulting Ghana with that comparison. 😉 LOL

      There isn’t a strong youth league like you have in many other countries…soccer isn’t making lots of TV revenue.

      And that right there Swarn is where the key-pivotal American soccer leaders, officials, governors behind the scenes and off the field/sidelines — which still involves that old guard — can make a HUGE difference in not only creating an “88-year” American international soccer dynasty, but also generate tons more revenue by attracting a LOT MORE world-class players (in the prime of their careers) to the MLS! If that is done, THEN the TV revenues grow with the quality product on the field and on the international stages. Hopefully more and more true experts like Claudio — in positions like Claudio now AND with top high-level international futebolling experience — will change our soccer culture here sooner than later.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, after I posted I was like…that might not be fair to Ghana. lol

        I think even with better players it will struggle to take off here. Because it’s not that people find soccer with good players boring, they just find soccer boring. Hockey even takes a backseat to the other sports, and honestly I think it’s because for many people American football, basketball, baseball, these seem like part of American culture, and even watching soccer in the minds of many is to all of a sudden become fans of a sport that the U.S isn’t the best at, that we’ve never been the best at, and that really isn’t “our game”. Hockey is kind of Canada’s thing, and I do think that is a large part why when ESPN has a choice between a baseball game and hockey game, baseball always wins.

        The other reason I don’t think soccer will ever take off here is because what is the one thing you notice about sports the major televised sports in North America? They have lots of commercials. You have 3 or 4 periods…and commercial breaks throughout. Soccer is not like that. One half time, no commercial breaks. That’s soccer and it doesn’t bring in the money like the other sports do. Obviously business are still finding soccer profitable in other countries, but in the U.S. companies don’t like the lack of commercials and soccer would have to get vastly more popular for it to start getting more profit I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Can’t argue your American-sided points. :/ Money, money, corporate MOH-NEE is the heartbeat of our top 3 sports here. Do you remember my sports graphic in my Games of Unknowledging series (Part 2). If not,

          Three of the top five are indeed American sports lead by the NFL, however, for one single sport 14 out of 20 highest revenue-generating leagues are futebol/soccer at however many billions-trillions is up there. Why hasn’t corporate America tapped into THAT/THOSE mega soccer markets, especially the leagues that Americans play in? Whether the generic American sports fan likes, dislikes, loves, or hates soccer, the money out there from the sport is ripe for the picking by American TV networks — FOX Sports (USA), BEIN Sports (Qatar) and NBC (USA) have already tapped into the Bundesliga, La Liga, and English Premier League respectively for the past 3-5 seasons. Guess who reaps the benefits from those TV contracts? Those European leagues! Meanwhile, the MLS (with their still present old guard in key positions) AND American corporate sponsors and additional American TV networks are losing that revenue over to Europe. Are they going to let that continue for more Middle Eastern and Asian TV networks and their leagues in the very near future? The individual clubs in Europe see MILLIONS of dollars every year for those TV contracts on their games and leagues. I tell ya Swarn, I just don’t get it with this American “old guard” in key-pivotal positions. 🤔

          To your point about commercial breaks, from a fan perspective (which is related to sponsor revenues) that is absolutely a significant concern for American-based TV networks. But how then are FOX Sports and NBC making it work successfully, profitably? European networks make it work and have been for many decades? I LOATHE watching NFL (or collegiate) football, MLB, and now NBA (or March Madness) because a game that should last around 2 – 2.5 hours has been so ridiculously slowed and chopped-up into Revenue-bites, that it averages between 4 – 4.5 hours! Who tha HELL has that sort of free time to watch their favorite teams and if you are in the stadium, spend that kind of money!? No! Obviously I am NOT a typical (hypnotized corporate consumer-zombie) American sports fan! And WHY do Americans want to be so DAMN “exceptionally” isolated!? LOL 🤣

          Liked by 1 person

        • I think that it isn’t that there is no market…so some stations can specialize in soccer coverage and make some money…but it’s kind of a catch 22…to expand more people need to love soccer…but how can more people love soccer without exposure. I just don’t think people want to invest…we can they can more easily get viewers from high school football in some states than professional soccer!

          Liked by 1 person

        • I mean I wish I wasn’t…but I’ve been in this country for some time now and in 22 years I’ve just not seen the situation improve much. The only good news is that we do take more interest in women’s soccer and that is nice to see, but I suspect it’s largely because our team can be competitive there because many countries don’t take women’s soccer seriously unfortunately. We aren’t in the same situation as the men’s team.

          Liked by 1 person

        • On the women’s game, I couldn’t agree more with you! I remember watching a couple of our USWNT games — one was against Canada 😉 — and Abby Wamback, Megan Rapinoe, and I think it was Alex Morgan just tore it up in midfield, down the flanks, making INCREDIBLE runs and passes for each other! MAN it was impressive! 😮 And I feel Julie Ertz is the U.S.’s best women’s centerback I’ve ever watched — she is freakin’ solid!!!

          Yes, I am so happy women’s American soccer has lead the way. They are also modest and humble, as Claudio references and admonishes the men’s side to mimic.

          Like

  4. A good article, Professor, for which many thanks. I’m not sure it’s all about hierarchy and attitudes, but then my knowledge of all this is limited, to say the least. I live in England, Northern Europe; it’s cold and wet a lot of the time. We never produce players who can pass a ball like Iniesta or Pirlo. Is there a correlation? I think so. Go to Southern Europe and pretty much every day you’ll see kids out on the backstreets playing in confined spaces using walls for one-two’s, creating angles, and so on. They’re out there all day; no space to speak of (compared to full-sized pitches), but they learn the close game, tight control of the ball, envisaging angles, the need to think and respond quickly, play one-touch, etc. In England, the kids are out there on vast muddy fields, hoofing the ball long, obsessing about winning before they can even pass a ball and play the game. What do you think, Professor, is the absence of street/beach football a factor in the States’ inability to progress?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Climate and traveling distances/times has been a factor/complaint by some European players considering the MLS here. Then there is the lower contract dollars to accompany those considerations. I don’t know too many world-class European players that ever enjoy having to travel from Portugal or Western Spain over to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc, in Champions League or Europa Group play. Going from the American coast to coast is similar. :/ Your point on average weather conditions is an excellent point.

      Another fantastic point you make Hariod are the boys playing in tight spaces. No one plays the beautiful Tiqui-Taca style better than the top Spanish clubs. I liken it to those 1980’s and 90’s old Soviet Union hockey teams. Remember them? HOLY FRIOLIE they were sublime and easy on the eye were they not? 😮

      …is the absence of street/beach football a factor in the States’ inability to progress?

      It is most definitely one factor Hariod. When myself and my college teammates would return to summer training in Rio de Janeiro, 2-3 of our weekly training sessions were on the beach or on the futsal courts. When Zico would come by to visit and coach a bit, he had several of our midfielders and strikers train with tennis-balls. I’m sure you can imagine why. The ball-skills and touch our players would return with to the States at the collegiate level was night-n-day! So to answer your excellent question Hariod, absolutely the U.S. players and USSF are missing out (neglecting?) on some PROVEN youth development regimes and subtraining techniques! All one has to do is tally up our USMNT stat “Time of Possession” in all matches since 1982 against S. American or European teams and it hits you like a construction wrecking-ball. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • And btw Hariod, don’t be too hard on your Brits. They have produced phenomenal world-class goalkeepers generation after generation! Banks, Shilton, Seaman, and Hart. I am especially fond of the up & coming Butland too! I guess I’m a little partial to goalkeepers. 😉 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    • We never produce players who can pass a ball like Iniesta or Pirlo.

      That is a bit harsh. England has produced some truly superb ball players and so have several other northern European countries where it rains just as much as the UK.
      Steven Gerard was a marvelous passer of the ball, as is Jordan Henderson.
      Ryan Giggs, Charlton, Beckenbaur, Johan Cruyyf, were all great readers of the game and drop a ball on a sixpence.
      Gerd Mueller (the bomber) and George Best were two of the finest dribblers the game has produced.
      Look at a player like Arjen Robben. He might look like he’s on some sort of designer drug when he sets off on one of his runs but his skill is undeniable.
      Frenchman Thierry Henry – there were times his skill was almost sublime.

      And if you can name a better (current) passer/distributor than Kevin De Bruyn of Man City I’d be impressed!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Those are some fantastic names Ark. I certainly approve all of them, especially Robben and Henry. If I may throw in the mix a few other names…

        Glenn Hoddle, Paul Scholes, and should we forget Johnny Haynes?

        And even though I want badly to name off MY favorite out-of-this-world Brasilian passers, I’m sure the two of you could name a few of them, eh? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • The ’70 world cup Brazilian squad is considered by some to be the epitome of Brazilian football and it is about this time as a young lad I got into football.
          So for me some of the best Brazilians were from this era.
          Jairzinho, Pele, Gerson, Rivelino.
          And of course, later, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Kaka.
          The list would probably go on for quite some length.

          Oh yeah, and Edson Arantes do Nascimento.

          In truth, you cannot talk football without talking Brazil, but I merely wanted to make mention that some of them northern european ”Pig-Skin Hoofers” aren’t too shabby either.

          🙂

          Liked by 2 people

        • Another very fine Brazilian list Ark! Watching that 1970’s team always gives me goosebumps. And as Hariod already knows, everytime I see that SAVE Gordon Banks makes on Pele’s header, at the far-post, from Jairzinho’s cross… my jaw drops and tears well-up every single time. He defied all laws of physics with that epic historic save. Un-frickin-believable it was! 😵

          Btw, I trained and played with Carlos Alberto’s son, Alexandre Torres, while at Fluminense. Eventually met his Dad too. Two wonderfully friendly men.

          Like

      • As I said in my original comment, Ark: “My knowledge of all this is limited, to say the least.” That said, and as you’ve picked out my comment about Iniesta and Pirlo (when they were in their prime), then which of the players you name was quicker, more accurate, a more disguised passer of the ball than either of those two? No argument on the general skills front of select Northern European players, though I confined my (limited) knowledge to the passing game, as you’ll note. Man. City currently doing rather well under Pep. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • OH MY! 😮 No, I hadn’t since he is so very young. I see Roma have already snatched him up! Holy CRAP…LOL!!! 😲 Watched a couple of highlight videos on him and absolutely, all the potential is there, OBVIOUSLY if Roma already has the rights to him. Goodness! But to keep some perspective, let’s realize WHO he is playing against here. 😉

          Definitely going to be tracking him for my Football Manager 2018 game! Hehehe 😛

          Liked by 1 person

        • With any luck no further than Antwerp International Airport.
          Sadly, with a few notable exceptions, so many teams that are chock full of world class players have a nasty habit of coming up a bit short on the World Cup stage.

          However, on saying this Belgium have always been a reasonable bet to qualify from the group stage.

          But this time round they have Lukaku, De Bruyne and the brilliant Hazard. With a line up like this they are almost as good as England(sic). rflmao.

          Okay, I’ll stick my neck out – Belgium for the Semis.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Ooooooo… the Semis, huh!? 😯 You are right. If they can put it all together — as national teams sometimes struggle to do because of non-cohesion from little time together and/or head coaches coming and going — I do see them as a distant favorite for the Semis. But I’m thinking the Quarters, again this WC. David De Gea SHOULD be their #1. IMO he is their clear-cut best. I do like Thibaut Courtois IF he is playing at his absolute best! What I’ve always disliked was his poor (very poor?) footwork. His lateral movement is sometimes non-existent. Watch him/it next time. If De Gea or Courtois are playing out of their skins and not injured, Belgium in the Semis. 😉

          I sure do like Spain and Brazil. Yeah, yeah… I know, Brazil is always favored deep into the tournament, but they are playing exceptionally well right now. Spain is too and I am just extremely impressed with that boy Marco Asensio. WOW he is great, and what a freakin’ cannon of a left-foot! ❤ I hope he makes the WC roster!

          Liked by 1 person

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