Prayer (and The Positively Big Deal About It)

Prayer: It is not only spiritual. It is the ultimate mind development tool. Every night, and every day when I can, I pray. It deepens me. I could put this article under a "spiritual category" and end it right there, but that is where it begins. Prayer in the mental as well as spiritual arsenal is a great thing, the greatest modality I have ever encountered to challenge and develop my mind to higher levels. So, although prayer is known as spiritual mostly , I shall delve into some of those other uses and modalities of prayer here.

In life and if you live a real life, everyone who lives faces a crisis at one time or another and pray then. But, most of the high teachers, including Jesus and Buddha basically say and mean things like "pray and meditate without ceasing" meaning that you cannot just pray when it is "a spiritual time to pray", pray all the time you can pray and never let up on your forces of prayer and vigilance. That idea there is not exactly mine, it came from many readings of Claude Myron Bristol's books "The Magic Of Believing" and "TNT: It Rocks The Earth". His exact idea was that "constant and subtle undying belief is a consistent form of prayer" in a crisis or in a peaceful time without a crisis. In fact, the richest forms of prayer, if we do pay attention come in times of peace and without a crisis when we are paying attention. In fact, attention must be paid if we want prayer and belief to work in our minds and "outside of our minds". Empty words without emotion, meaning and power do nothing anyhow. Indeed, the big deal about prayer is meaning what we say and following through whether peace or crisis, without that, prayer is just empty action.

In fact, I can say this: Courage is the key to positive prayer, fear is the key to the ultimate curse. Let me explain: The courage to follow through, mean what we say, be consistent and use our power right whatever the appearances may be is power. Fear is the ultimate single and simple weakness that ruins everything to put it how Charles Francis Haanel put it in "The Master Key System". To go by reality whatever the appearance at the time is the Master Mind, to go purely by appearance and fear is everything else. In this paragraph here is the big deal about positive prayer. The great things are what count, the rest is just the rest. Realize this fully and you will have the Master Mind and understand reality and how to deal with it. After all real faith is conscious, despite appearances, despite what is seeming to happen good or bad, and in reality.

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Roma’s Impossible Mission

Looking at the facts of what has gone on this season; no Italian side has managed to score away from home against any of their English counterparts with AC Milan, Inter Milan, Roma and Fiorentina failing to score at Arsenal, Liverpool, United and Everton respectfully this season.

Those particular facts may not be relevant in this case but a more relevant observation is that Roma seem to have an inferiority complex in general and to United to be specific.

In the league match this season in Rome, United put out a virtual 2nd side as they had qualified with so many players that we had not previously heard of whilst Roma had most of their big guns out and they still could only draw 1-1 with United taking the lead.

Roma also are here without Francesco Totti and that suggests that they do not truly believe they have any chance of going through as they might have risked him if they thought there was a chance.

Putting all that aside, the main reason I do not give them and chance is that they are not just not good enough to go to Old Trafford and bettering United’s 2-0 win in Rome.

First of all they do not have Gigi Buffon or Petr Cech in goal that would give you confidence in not conceding, they have Alex Doni and he is not just good enough. They do not have strikers that take their chances went presented like David Trezeguet, Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistlerooy etc and the midfield is not steely enough to stop United if they feel the need to attack and score.

Like Arsenal, Roma are a joy to watch but also like Arsenal they concede too many avoidable goals and do not always make the most of the chances they create. I would dearly like for them to prove me wrong but unfortunately I do not think so as it would be a Manchester United vs Barcelona semi final as Schalke would not have the belief that they can win at the Nou Camp, no matter how much Frank Rijkaard helps them out with his tactical decisions tonight.

En la tienda online de Camisetas de fútbol tenemos todas las camisetas de tus equipos y selecciones favoritas en tallas para adulto y niño. by Dennis Neri

A Starr on the Walk of Fame

Monday February 8th 2010 saw former Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr, earn his place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where he joins 2,400 other famous names.

Born in Dingle, Liverpool on the 7th July 1940, as Richard Starkey, Ringo was the last (and oldest) member to join the world-famous pop group, after George Martin ousted original drummer, Pete Best. Prior to his big break, he played with Rory and The Hurricanes; a popular band in the clubs of Liverpool and Hamburg, who unfortunately never managed a successful recording career. After joining The Beatles in 1962, Starr’s life was never going to be the same again. The Beatles went on to become the second biggest recording artists, only one step behind Elvis Presley.

Despite the unprecedented success of the band and the ensuing ‘Beatlemania’, the band were troubled by personality clashes – these clashes and constant disagreements eventually led to the band calling it a day in 1970. Because Ringo had always kept a degree of detachment from the hype and ego of being in the world’s biggest band and a distance from the arguments, he managed to maintain strong relationships with the other 3 – he was the first to comfort Yoko after Lennon’s murder in 1980.

Surviving alcoholism and becoming sober after a stint in a clinic in Arizona, Ringo continued to work as both an actor and musician, gaining success in both fields. He worked on solo recordings with each of his ex-Beatle friends and even hosted TV shows. His voice became synonymous with children’s television, when he narrated the much loved Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

At 69 years of age, Ringo is still an active musician, touring and delighting audiences with his group – Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band will be touring America from June this year.

For a chance to own a limited edition print of Ringo and his Beatle band-mates, from a collection of photographs taken by an acclaimed photographer and BAFTA award winning cinematographer, visit The Beatles Hidden Gallery online and register your interest now.

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Replica Football Shirts – A Potted History

A replica football shirt is defined as an (official) copy of a kit. In the UK it is a huge business. According to a BBC report from August 1999 about price fixing in the replica shirt market, it was then worth £210m – I’ve not found anything more recent apart from a report by a German company Sport+Markt (www.sportundmarkt.de) which found that at Summer 2008, the top 116 teams in Europe earned 615m euro from marketing. Quite what ‘marketing’ includes alongside replica shirts isn’t stated (I only looked at the free summary of the report), however it’s interesting to note that the report also states that English fans spend the most (an average of 65 euro each per annum) and that Nike and Adidas account for 80% of the total number of replica football shirts manufactured. The recent take-overs by Adidas of Reebok and then by Nike of Umbro should further serve to underline just what a huge market it is.

Of course it wasn’t ever so. In the good old days any old red shirt could indicate that you were a Liverpool or a United fan. A dark blue would indicate either Everton or Chelsea. There were only certain teams which deviated – Arsenal had those white sleeves and Blackburn Rovers played in their blue and white halved shirts. But then things began to change. At Coventry City, Jimmy Hill realised the kit was something more than just a uniform to wear on the pitch and he introduced the first ever kit of just one colour (other than white) as they changed from their hitherto mostly dark blue shirts with white shorts to a kit of all sky-blue. Bill Shankly only adopted all red for his Liverpool side in 1966-66 – 3 years after Coventry’s all sky-blue affair.

Moving into the 1970’s Leeds United, who’d changed from their traditional colours of blue and gold to all white in the early 1960’s, were the first club to offer their fans the chance to buy replica kits in 1975 as part of their deal with kit supplier Admiral. When Don Revie left Leeds to take over as England Manager the national team entered into a similar arrangement with Admiral. Things really took off when Liverpool became the first club to wear a sponsor’s name on their shirts following their 1979 deal with Japanese electronics manufacturer Hitachi. Here’s a list of prominent English clubs and their first identifiable kit manufacturer and sponsor:

Arsenal

Umbro (1978/79)

1981/82 (JVC)

England

Admiral (1974/75)

n/a

Leeds

Umbro (Aug – Dec 1973) then Admiral

1981/82 (RFW)

Liverpool

Umbro (1973/74)

1979/80 (Hitachi)

Man Utd

Umbro from 1955

1982/83 (Sharp)

Newcastle Utd

Bukta (1974/75)

1980/81 (Scottish & Newcastle)

The purchase of a replica football shirt nowadays represents no small investment for the average fan. Of that 65 euros spent on average by an English football fan on merchandising, a fair chunk is devoted to that all important replica shirt. Whether there’s a better way of supporting your team of course is a moot point – in fact it always (well since 1975) has been.

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The Most Popular Liverpool FC Merchandise

There is no doubt that Liverpool FC is one of the truly great soccer clubs of the world. Admittedly in recent years they may not have dominated the game in the way they did in the 1970s but the truth is that they have always made their impact felt at the highest level of European soccer.

And so it is hardly surprising that Liverpool has thousands of ardent fans scattered all over the world. Many of these fans never lose a single opportunity to feel closer to their club. One way of doing this is by getting hold player's shirts and other playing kits and memorabilia that can easily be found in stores selling Liverpool merchandise.

Actually there is a very wide range of different stuff that you can buy. Even with the team shirts you will have to choose between the shirts the boys usually wear for their home games and what they would ordinary don for away matches. Or if you are a really serious fan you can make sure that you get both the strips.

As is the case with other soccer clubs, Liverpool FC player's shirts are amongst the most popular merchandise that fans look to own so as to identify themselves with this great soccer club. There are even fans who purchase the complete team set right up to the goalkeeper.

Liverpool merchandise can also be a great idea if you need to get a gift for somebody whom you already know is a fan of the club. However it may be a good idea to start by finding out what memorabilia they already have so that you do not end up getting them something that they got a long time ago.

Another Liverpool item that is wildly popular are the hats if you have watched Liverpool games on TV you may have noticed what most fans like wearing. The most popular hats are called the beanies and will usually be decorated with the Liverpool colors and may sometimes even have the names of players and shirt numbers they usually wear.

Fans usually prefer to have the names of Liverpool legends on these hats. One such Liverpool soccer player who is a true legend is Steve Gerard. Although at a tender age he even had a trial with Manchester United, Gerard ended up signing his first professional soccer contract with Liverpool. The amazing thing is that in his first season he always looked pretty nervous and not the kind of player who would make any impact at Anfield. But in the 2000-2001 season Gerard exploded. Not only did he score 10 goals but he was clearly a very key member of the team that ended up winning both the FA cup and were also UEFA champions.

Who can forget Gerard's enormous contribution to that sensational Champions league victory where Liverpool came from behind having conceded 3 goals by half time and ended up winning. This determined player won man of the match then.

And so you will understand when Liverpool fans seem to be crazy about Gerard wearing all kinds of team memorabilia and Liverpool merchandise that has his name or shirt number on it.

En la tienda online de Camisetas de fútbol tenemos todas las camisetas de tus equipos y selecciones favoritas en tallas para adulto y niño. by Ed Stone

Derby Della Madonnina

Derby della Madonnina, as known as the Milan Derby between AC Milan and Internazionale, is one of the most high-tempered local derby in football world.

It is called «Derby della Madonnina» in honour of one of the main sights of the city of Milan, the statue of the virgin Mary – which is usually called «Madonnina.»

History and Rivalry

Milan were established in December 16, 1899 by former British vice-consul Alfred Edwards and were absorbed in nationalistic ideals which they wouldn’t allow any foreign player to become part of them.

In 1908, issues over the signing of foreign players kindled a rift inside the club and led to a split and the foundation of F.C. Internazionale Milano, which caused a historical rivalry between both clubs.

In the past, AC Milan was the working-class team and was supported mainly by workers and migrants from Southern Italy. Meanwhile, Inter was seen as the club of the Milan bourgeoisie, being of the property-owning class and exploitive of the working class.

However in the recent years this difference has broken down, since Milan is now owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Inter is owned by oil tycoon Massimo Moratti.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Milan derby saw the Dutch trio of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit played for AC Milan, while the German trio of Andreas Brehme, Jürgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthäus wore the Inter colors.

This rivalry is mainly remembered for a famous 1990 World Cup incident, when Netherlands confronted Germany at the San Siro, home ground of Inter and Milan. The match ended in defeat for the Dutch as Rijkaard was saw red after spitting on German forward Rudi Völler. The Germans won 2-1 with two of the Inter players Klinsmann and Brehme scoring, a moral victory for Inter fans.

AC Milan, however, was the more dominant team both locally and internationally. They built a squad under Fabio Capello’s lead, later nicknamed as the invincibles, and reached the Champions League final three times in a row

On the other hand, Inter’s drought for a major title – their last major title was 1989 scudetto – ended in 2006 when the Calciopoli scandal stripped Juventus of the 2005-06 scudetto and handed it to the Nerazzurri. They has since clinched the 2007 Serie A title as well, with a record-breaking run of 17 consecutive victories.

The Most Infamous Match

It must be the second leg of the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League semifinal on April 12, 2005.

Milan were leading 1-0 (and 3-0 on aggregate) when Inter’s supporters became infuriated after a second-half Esteban Cambiasso leveler was controversially denied by referee Markus Merk.

Bottles and coins were thrown onto the pitch, but soon increased to lit flares and Milan keeper Dida, who was clearing bottles in order to take a goal kick, was hit by a flare on the back of his right shoulder.

The match was halted at the 74th minute and restarted after a thirty-minute delay. However, Dida was unable to continue, suffered bruising and first-degree burns to his shoulder, and was substituted by Christian Abbiati.

But the match was finally abandoned in less than a minute after more flares and debris rained down. AC Milan was awarded a 3-0 victory, totaling a 5-0 aggregate and moved to the final.

Meanwhile, Inter were fined ¬200,000 – the largest fine ever handed down by UEFA – and were ordered to play their first four Champions League matches behind closed doors in the 2005-06 season as punishment.

The Crossovers

Even though Derby della Madonnina is one of the most raging derby in Italy, but surprisingly both clubs do not forbid players exchange between them.

AC Milan players such as Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Dario Simic and Giuseppe Favalli, all were played for Inter.

While Hernan Crespo is a former Rossoneri player in 2004/05 season. Patrick Vieira is also had a brief spell in 1995-96 with AC Milan, which he made only two Serie A appearances before moving to Arsenal.

AC Milan – Inter Milan players exchange during last decade:

2007/08: –

2006/07: Giuseppe Favalli Inter –> Milan

2005/06: Christian Vieri Inter –> Milan

2004/05: Paolo Sammarco Inter –> Milan

2003/04: Andres Guglielminpietro Milan –> Inter

2002/03: Thomas Helveg Milan –> Inter

Francesco Coco Milan –> Inter

Umit Davala Milan –> Inter

Clarence Seedorf Inter –> Milan

Dario Simic Inter –> Milan

2001/02: Andrea Pirlo Inter –> Milan

Cristian Brocchi Inter –> Milan

2000/01: –

1999/00: Giorgio Frezzolini Milan –> Inter

Taribo West Inter –> Milan

1998/99: Maurizio Ganz Inter –> Milan

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The Mystery of Mascherano and Tevez

West Ham’s capture of Argentinean duo Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez in August stunned the footballing world. The Hammers had pulled of a massive coup to land two of the games most prized assets, but their arrival came under a cloud of mystery.

Corinthians had a partnership deal with Media Sports Investment (MSI) who invested in the club and it is alleged that the company actually owned the rights to all of the clubs players (due to Corinthians being unable to afford the contracts). The partnership between Corinthians and MSI is thought to have gone sour and MSI are believed to haved wanted to ship-out their most prized assets in order to protect their investments.

Both players arrived from Brazilian club Corinthians within 48 hours after being sounded out about a move to West Ham and arrived for undisclosed fees. Speculation mounted as to who actually paid the transfer fees (if any were paid at all) and to who actually owned the contracts.

It is believed that even though the players are registered with West Ham, MSI still own the players contracts and are only using the London club as a shop window to maximise their investment. Before West Ham were offered the players, reports suggested that MSI approached Manchester United and Chelsea with a similar deal, both clubs are believed to have rejected their offer as they were not keen on the idea of not owning the players outright.

English newspaper The Guardian reported that should any club offer £35m for either player West Ham would be forced to sell them, but it is unclear who would pocket the transfer fee.

Since their arrival at Upton Park both players have failed to make any impact on the Premiership and have admitted that they have not fully adapted to life in England. Neither player is a first team regular in the Hammers starting XI and their arrival has coincided in the clubs slump in form. This is linked to reports that there is a rift in the dressing room and this has clearly had an impact on results as West Ham are flirting with relegation.

Newspapper reports suggest that both players will be sold in the January transfer and a host of top European clubs are thought to be showing interest. It is believed that Mascherano was set to join Juventus during the summer but their relegation to Serie B cut-short any potential transfer. The Turin club are still interested in the holding midfielder and are considering sounding out a potential move in the winter transfer window. Barcelona have also been heavily linked with Tevez as they currently have an injury crisis upfront. Carlos Tevez has insisted that he does not want to leave West Ham and has denied rumours of a rift within the Upton Park dressing room and has stated that he is determined to forge a career with The Hammers.

With mystery over who actually owns the players and their contracts, it will be out of Mascherano’s and Tevez’s hands where they end up in the near future.

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Premier League

When looking for the top soccer in the world one not get conflicted by believing the World Cup or the Champions League is the number one tournament in the world. You might be right when thinking the World Cup is the biggest event but it does not present the highest standard of football year in, year out. When you are looking for the best the English League is the number one spot in Europe and in the world. You will find many of the world’s premier players in the League from Drogba to Torres to Ashley Cole to Carlos Tevez and many more.

The Barclays Premier has been around since 1992 and is the top level of the English football league system. There are 20 different teams in the league and work with relegation and promotion with the The Football Championship League which has been around since 1888. Since its creation in 1992 it has become the largest league in terms of revenue with over 2 billion euros coming in for the 08-09 seasons. The Premier League has gone through 3 different title sponsors since its inception. Currently the Premier league is sponsored by Barclays making it the Barclays Premier League. As of this time it is the number one ranked league according to the Union of European Football Associations.

The League is the fourth highest grossing league or any sport in the world. It only trails the big 3 in the United States (National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association) making the Premier League the largest sports league outside of the United States.

The Premier League has been topped by four teams Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, and Manchester United since the league’s inception. These four teams have won all of the leagues titles. Manchester United leads the group with eleven championships but are being caught up by their rival and last years champions Chelsea. All of the 20 teams in the Premier League compete each year for the Malachite trophy which has the names of all the teams since the league’s inception are listed on the trophy. In 2004 Arsenal received a unique gold version of the trophy to signify them going through the season undefeated.

The Premier League also sends four teams to the UEFA Champions League. The top two placed teams will enter the group stage directly while the third and fourth placed teams gets placed into a knockout round that precedes the group format.

The main reason for the success of the Premier League is its presence on the world’s stage. The league is promoted as «The Greatest Show on Earth». The world is watching also since it is estimated that over a half a billion people in over 200 countries follow the Premier League on a regular basis. Many teams regularly expand their global fan base by touring the World as part of their pre season fixtures, this also allows the opportunity to further expand their revenues. The facts are if you are looking for the best soccer in the world the Premier League is your league of choice.

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Which World Football League Is The Best Of The Best

Serie A, La Liga and the Premiership all voice strong claims to be the finest football league in the world today. However, which of these has the most genuine claim. The recognition of being the best is an honor that dictates not just bragging rights, but also the ability to draw the finest players and sponsorship contracts to secure the mantle yet further. There are countless factors to consider; the players the leagues have now, the trophies won by their clubs, the quality of football played and the stature of their various sides. Does that tactical catenaccio of the Italians outweigh the physical pressure of the Premiership? Would the top-heavy flair of La Liga continually overcome the strength of an English midfield? How do the Mediterranean cousins compare?

In comparing these various brands of ‘the beautiful game’ we must consider the many factors that make them great individually. The history, the present and the future are all crucial in contrasting these various brands of and eventually building a perception of whether one does stand above the others.

Players

The first and often the most favored way of fans comparing championships, who has the best players? The natural assumption following this is that Spain hold the upper hand in this argument; especially given that both World (Ronaldinho) and European (Fabio Cannavaro) Players of Year play in La Liga. Also Spain can boast many other great talents; Madrid have van Nistelrooy, Raul, Robinho and Beckham, Barca can boast Ronaldinho, Deco, Messi, Eto’o and Zambrotta. Other clubs have similarly immense performers, David Villa and Joaquin Sanchez at Valencia, Riquelme at Villarreal to name but a few.

Italy can boast a similarly impressive list of galacticos, however, possibly due to the more pedestrian nature of Serie A the players have a tendency to be of a slightly more advanced age. Internazionale (or Inter) boast the most impressive roster; Crespo, Ibrahimovic, Veron, Stankovic, Figo and Samuel all ply there trade for the Nerazzurri. Their city rivals Milan also have a cornucopia of stars; despite losing their talisman Andriy Shevchenko to Chelsea in the summer, they have one world beater in Riccy Kaka’. Also players as renowned as Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta and Alberto Gilardino front a cast that contains talent enough to challenge for any trophy. Also worth mentioning is that the Milan rear-guard still contains the legendary Paulo Maldini as captain. With the shadow of Calciopoli hanging over the Italian top flight, what should be mentioned is the exodus from Serie A that occurred over the summer saw many of their finest individuals leave the division.

Zambrotta and Thuram left Juventus for Barcelona, likewise Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson joined their Bianconieri coach Fabio Capello in Madrid, and former Serie A favourites like Alessandro del Piero, Gigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet have all decided to stay loyal to the old lady and ply their trade in Serie B for a season. As mentioned, Shevchenko also left the Rossoneri for Chelsea.

Whilst discussing Chelsea we must clearly outline that they are the major player in European football today. The premise that currently exists in football is that, when it comes to the transfer market, the Premiership champions are the team that all others must follow. Due to the seemingly unlimited funds stumped up by their Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have amassed a team of stars to match any other club in the world. With Terry and Lampard already present prior to the Russian benefactor’s input, players like Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba, Joe Cole and, as discussed, Shevchenko. The Premiership can also boast some of the world’s finest players in Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal; Rooney, Rio and Ronaldo at Manchester United and Liverpool’s talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard.

The important thing to outline when comparing the undoubtedly huge talents on show in these various leagues is that although we are examining them from the perspective of now, the future is also a vital factor. As we discussed Serie A does tend to boast more seasoned galacticos whereas the Premiership can argue that, in Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas, they have some of the most promising talent. Spanish football could also argue that their spread is encompasses youth, with youngsters such as Sergio Aguero and Fernando ‘el Nino’ Torres at Atletico, Lionel Messi at Barca and one name to watch in Matias Fernandez, a Chilean playmaker due to join Villarreal in January.

Marketing

Football in the Twenty First Century is far more than the game it was in previous decades. It is now a business, and one of the world’s biggest at that. Transfer prices are now such that it appears any ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’ is worth £15 million. Player’s wages have also experienced astronomical rises. This is to the extent that £3 million per year is not considered to be a completely outrageous wage for a top international player. With the costs to clubs continually rising, somebody is required to fulfill these extravagant fiscal demands.

Sponsorship, television rights and marketing revenue are now utilized by top clubs that are now selling a ‘brand’ rather than a sport. From product association to shirts emblazoned with trade names, the marketing aspect of major clubs and leagues is paramount to the strength therein.

Annually an accountancy firm called Deloitte release details of top European club’s financial incomes over the previous season. Essentially a ‘rich-list’ of sides, comparing their viability and market strength in today’s football world. The most recent edition of this list is from the 2005 season and the zenith of the list is almost totally dominated by our ‘big three leagues’.

The 2005 rankings dictate that the world’s market leader in football terms is now Real Madrid. The previous years had been dominated by the Manchester United marketing machine; however the Castilian club took the mantle from their English rivals. Much of this change in fortunes has been put down to the ‘David Beckham factor’.

Former England skipper David Beckham is as famous for his private life as he is for his football. Married to a ‘Spice-Girl’, the midfielder looks more like a pop star than a footballer, sporting numerous tattoos, continually outrageous hair styles and a multiplicity of product endorsement contracts. Described as being the ‘most photographed sportsman ever’, Beckham is worth his weight in Euros to his club side. The fact that Manchester United, who previously topped the rich-list, were dethroned by Beckham’s new club Real Madrid is regarded as proof of the man’s value from a marketing perspective. However, it is worth mentioning that Madrid’s on-field performances have declined while their finances improved, and a more recent list may also hint at Beckham’s own on-pitch decline as a force in world football.

The top ten teams in the list are, with the exception of Bavarian giants Bayern Munich, all from Spain, Italy or England. The majority is dominated by the Premiership as we see Manchester United (2nd), Chelsea (5th), Liverpool (8th) and Arsenal (10th), this is followed by three Serie A clubs in Milan (3rd), Juventus (4th) and Inter (9th) and Spain’s La Liga only has two top ten entries, despite Real topping the list being followed by rivals Barcelona in 6th. In viewing these figures, we must firstly emphasise that they are not as up to date as we would like, also should a more recent list be compiled we would surely see the effect of Calciopoli on the Italian sides.

Style

The extent to which a league entertains depends vastly upon how you like your football. The three brands all vary in their traits greatly and taste is a vital factor within this, after all, one man’s pineapple is another man’s poison. Main differences in these leagues are inherent of the style of football played in each respective country. Although on the surface this may seem obvious, but when we consider the extent to which domestic football has become incredibly multicultural, it is positive that these leagues maintain their own identity despite this.

The brand of football played in the leagues differs greatly. As mentioned earlier, the Italian game is one based around technique, control of possession and patience. The cattenaccio of today’s Italian game is not as negative as that of sides during the mid-twentieth century, wherein five defenders would be used to enforce a stringent man marking system with a ‘libero’ slotting in behind as a ball-playing sweeper. Unfortunately the system in its original state is now outdated, given that both the zonal marking system has almost uniformly become the status quo of the modern game and that sweepers are now very scarcely employed. However, the football played in Serie A today is one that echoes this system.

Calcio is often regarded by those in Northern Europe as being dull, but those closer to the Mediterranean as being a purists game that encapsulates a higher standard of football than any other. Football in Italy has been likened to a game of chess, with a more systematic approach than that of other countries. Defenders are often as gifted in possession as any other position, a trait not found elsewhere in football. The style football played uses lots of short passes designed to open pockets of space, rather than longer balls targeting taller forwards. The game requires a very high level of technical ability, with the art of controlling and passing paramount.

Detractors of the Italian game often point its lack of pace and time-consuming attacking play as its flaws. Goals are notoriously hard to come by, a fact further embellished by examining Luca Toni’s impressive thirty-one goal season last year, the first player to score over thirty goals in Serie A for forty eight years. As such many prefer the hustle and bustle of leagues like the Premiership.

The Premiership is a very fast and furious division; emphasis on strength, pace and drive. This is not withstanding the fact that a very high standard of football can be seen in England’s top flight, however by and large the game is dictated in a very physically demanding manner. English football was much maligned in the eighties and nineties for a predominance of ‘long ball’ football. The theory being that long, direct passes into forward areas would create chances for purposefully employed big, physical strikers. This style was often considered to not be graceful and was lambasted by critics. Despite the fact that the English league has developed since, similarly to the catenaccio roots of Serie A, this style still exists to some extent today; even league champions Chelsea have been criticised for employing such a style. Despite not being as higher level of technical level, the Premiership is often billed as being ‘the most exciting league in the world’ due to its non-stop action-packed intensity.

In contrast La Liga has a style of its own entirely. Borrowing much from a South American ethic of flair football, the Spanish league is famed for its fast, flowing attacking brand of play. Spain’s Primera Division has won many admirers over recent years, firstly thanks to the Zidane inspired galacticos of Madrid and more recently the exploits of Ronaldinho Gaucho for Barcelona. The emphasis in Spain, more than any other in Europe, is on attacking play. Formations are based around ball playing midfielders and skilful wingers. This does produce a very open brand of football; however this does often expose defensive frailties. With the occasional exception (Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol) Spanish defenders are not generally as strong as their counterparts in farther reaches of the game. This combined with the ability of attackers does make La Liga very enticing from a spectator point of view.

Not withstanding the stereotypes that we have examined, there are clear exceptions to every rule, and this instance no different. Despite being usually solid and defence-orientated, Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan have been praised for their attacking football in Serie A. Also, and potentially the finest example of this, there is Arsenal. Arsene Wenger’s men continually produce some of the most free flowing football in world football today. However, for obvious reasons, the North London outfit could be reasoned to be the exception to the rule as they have a side almost totally dominated by foreign players. To the extent that, since the departures of Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole, it is unlikely that an Englishman will, should the Gunners be at full strength, feature at all.

Competitiveness

What makes a league exciting is often based around not only the vastness of the occasion or the protagonists involved, but the closeness of the competitors. In all leagues, as with walks of life, there are historically bigger sides with larger financial acumen, but where there is no competition, there is no spectacle.

The Premiership has been dominated by the wealth of Chelsea over the past two seasons, not withstanding the fact that it takes more than just money to dominate a league (although it helps) and it is a credit to both players and coaching staff that they have taken the past two successive titles with consummate ease. This season, however is painting a different picture. The wily old Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is now producing the results that his talented array of stars are capable of, and at this point in time stand a commendable eight points clear of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

Beyond the top two, we see something that has been apparent for some time in the Premiership. The gap between the top teams and the chasing pack could be justifiably described as chasm-like. Previously there was a top four that added Liverpool and Arsenal to the current table-topping rivals, but unfortunately for the neutral this gap has extended to these clubs as well. However, this does create what can be seen as almost a ‘second league’ in which clubs behind Manchester United and Chelsea vie for the remaining to places in Europe’s prestigious Champions League.

This chasing pack includes both Liverpool and Arsenal, followed in strength of squad by Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur but effectively any other side that can put together a good run of results can infiltrate the group, as was the case with last season’s surprise package of Wigan Athletic, who almost secured a UEFA Cup berth despite being touted as relegation favorites before the season began.

Spain can also look to the domination of one club over the past two seasons as being the main debating topic. Barcelona’s back-to-back titles have not, however, received anything like the treatment that Chelsea’s similar achievements have. Whilst the ‘boo-boys’ have been out in force ‘pooh-poohing’ the wealth, attitude and style (or lack thereof) the Premiership’s title holders, Barcelona’s success has been lauded as a ‘victory for style over adversity’. From many purists’ perspectives, the brand of flowing football that Barca exhibit is very pleasing on the eye and the fact that Los Cules are considered footballing royalty, rather than the nouveau riche of Mourinho’s men, could be a factor.

The Primera Liga at present still see’s the Catalonian giants on top, a mini-renaissance from their bitter rivals Real Madrid has been temporarily halted as the surprise package of Sevilla look to ‘upset the apple cart’. Traditional bridesmaids Valencia appear to have moved back to a position more akin to an usher as Atletico Madrid and Zaragoza enjoy good form. Unlike the Premiership, La Liga does not usually purvey the gulf between the top sides and their competitors. Such is the nature of Spanish football, that although unexpected, the top teams are more often beaten by their less illustrious competitors.

In the Italian top flight, again the competitiveness is affected by the match fixing scandal. From the season’s opening, it seemed that it would be a two horse race. In previous seasons this has been the case, with Juventus battling Milan for lo scudetto. However, with Milan docked points and Juventus having to cope with life in Serie B, it has left Roma and Inter to battle for the title. Inter, the perennial underachievers of calico, have amassed one of the world’s strongest squads and as such currently stand a clear distance ahead of their rivals. Nine consecutive wins for the nerazzurri (an Italian record) sees Mancini’s men looking down the barrel of their first actual title (they were handed the 2006 title by default of being the highest placed side guilty of no wrongdoing in the Calciopoli scandal) in over ten years.

In Conclusion

Upon first attempting to tackle this question, I can honestly state that I did not conceive quite what I was undertaking. All three leagues are packed with all things that make football the worlds biggest, and in my opinion best, sport. Rather than scrutinized with a cynical eye, we should really be embracing these bastions of passion, flair and ability, rejoicing in the pleasure that millions of fans get from these three small collections of twenty teams. However, I set out on a journey, a journey that took longer than anticipated, but a journey all the same to root out which I believed to be the best.

If that assessment leaves all of the leagues attributes equal then the next separates. Money and marketing are bigger in the Premier League than in any other non-American sport and the financial credence there eclipses anything that Spain or Italy can boast. However, the argument in this instance must remain, how important (bragging rights aside) is the money? Which leads us to question, is money not potentially the ultimate undoing of these leagues? Using Italy as a prime example, the great football broadcaster James Richardson cites this as the reason for Serie A’s downturn in fortunes; he believes that money that was spent around the turn of the century was effectively ‘promised’ funds for projected future television rights that sadly never materialized. However, in the Premiership, the money just keeps rolling in.

Finally we draw to the final issue of competitiveness and with Calciopoli forcing Serie A to dismount its jockey leaving a two horse race. In this issue I am setting my stall out early and backing the Premiership. With no disrespect to Real Madrid, but I cannot see Barcelona being usurped this season. From watching football for many years now, you learn to know when a resurgence is threatening, and Madrid’s is not that. Manchester United however is the English top flight, for the first time in a while, looks as though it will draw to a truly nail-biting conclusion.

Overall, as I have mentioned throughout, it is with regret that I concede that Italy, given all of their difficulties, cannot compete. This upsets me, as it was Serie A where I gained much of my development as a football supporter, spending years enjoying the delights of the Mediterranean game, watching exotically monikered players with equally glamorous abilities. It is true that the average Italian top flight footballer is of higher fundamental ability than his English counterpart, but the stigma of scandal is too apparent in the current Serie A climate for them to be considered. It is my hope that we see a renaissance in Italian football and that over the coming decade we see a nation rejuvenated and again rivaling their Spanish and English counterparts.

So it comes to the final two, and in truth it could not be tighter. However, it is the Premiership which I believe to be the best. It is by the width of a flee’s reproductive organs, but the Premiership has the lot. It has, in my opinion, the most exciting crop of young players, the most competitive title chase and the best supporters. It has the biggest worldwide audiences and is (marginally) the strongest nation in the worldwide transfer market. This is not to detract from La Liga, a league of endless attacking improvisation, flair and adventure, a league that has history, has impossibly gifted players, has Ronaldinho, but its flaws are too clear. The hapless defending is one such example of this and too bigger issue to be ignored.

For me, the Premiership has only recently secured the mantle it has sought since its creation. For the Baggios, van Bastens, Papins, Maldinis, Batistutas and friends in Nineties Serie A to the Zizous, Figos, Rivaldos, Ronaldos, Rauls et al of Noughties La Liga, there has always been something to separate English Football from the top of the tree, however now it is clear that the FA Premier League is THE major force in world football today and given the money and following dedicated to retaining that mantle, I foresee that this will be the case for years to come.

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