Galatasaray’s captures and our temporal distortion


There comes a point in your life when two and a half years seems like “the blind of an eye.” That’s because you’re old. As an infant, two years is monumental – the time you’ll learn to speak, walk, and do basic life tasks that will carry you through the rest of your life. In adolescence, it’s the difference between fifth grade naiveté and seventh grade micro-maturity. In high school, it’s the span between freshman innocence and junior-year consequences.

When you grow up, there’s no difference between 26 and 28, 35 and 38, 62 and 64. The spans that redefined your younger self become worryingly irrelevant. You’re too busy trying to stop time and avoid birthdays to see those small increments dissolve. The type of changes that spanned two teenage years take decades to manifest as adults.

Two and a half years ago, Wesley Sneijder was being billed as one of the best players in the world. He had just let Internazionale to titles in league, Europe, and Inter’s domestic cup. He’d also been a focal point for a Netherlands team that made the World Cup final. Ten months after being deemed surplus to requirements and Florentino Perez’s second attempt to make the Santiago Bernabeu cosmic, Sneijder was completely redeemed. The potential that compelled Real Madrid to pry the savant from Ajax finally manifested its brilliance in Italy.

Memories of 2010 resurfaced last week when the 28-year-old moved to Turkey, a long-rumored link to Galatasaray finally coming good. This weekend, Sneijder made his first Turkish appearance in an Istanbul derby against Besiktas, coming off the bench in Gala’s 2-1 Sunday victory. Though celebrated, the debut was the denouement of a mini-saga born of a huge contract, fueled by a lingering perception, concluded by the paradox of a move both inevitable and surprising.

Sneijder has never really been the player he showed in 2009-10, even if expectations always cast him as such. But it was failure to meet those expectations that  left out of Manuel Pellegrini’s team after the Chilean’s 2010 arrival at the Bernabeu. Failed hope led him to be sold to Inter at a loss, to get one of the biggest contracts in Italy after one breakout season, and to being one of the worst deals in Serie A when he couldn’t maintain his outlying form. They also let to the gasps, awes, and shock of fans when Sneijder’s Turkish move was finally confirmed, Inter also taking a loss.

source:  Nerazzurri fans who followed the Sneijder saga weren’t surprised by the move, but for others whose relationship with Wesley was still anchored in South Africa, the transfer illustrated our flawed perceptions – two-year-old images subject to the same dilations that separate our infancy from adulthood. As far as time is concerned, professional soccer players may as well be infants for whom and a half years is huge. The time can make Arsenal snipers into Manchester United linch pins, modestly competitive Bundesliga club into enviable projects, and talented right wingers into the best player of all time.

They can also defy our assumptions and make Serie A’s best player into a competitive irrelevancy. Some memories want to hold on to visage of Sneijder as an elite player, but with that player now lodged in the annuls of Nerazzuri history, the move to Turkey made sense. The world in which Sneijder was a poor fit for Gala was a reflective, mental one – outdated knowledge that reminds us how old we’ve become. Too expensive for his talent, too young to be giving money back, Sneijder was always destined to end up somewhere that would defy his reputation.

Today comes word that Gala’s made another perception-challenging splash, the Turkish champions reaching an agreement for Chelsea icon Didier Drogba. Given his age and the fact that he’s been away from Europe for eight months, Drogba’s no longer a bank-breaking capture. With Shanghai Shenhua having reportedly failed to pay Drogba for three months, the Ivorian becomes a bargain for the Turkish champions who will reportedly not have to pay a fee for his services. A $5.4 million signing bonus on top of a $2.7 million annual salary makes Drogba’s signing worth the marketing alone.

MORE: Former Chelsea star signs with Galatasaray

As the news gets assimilated, expect the same bewilderment the met Sneijder’s capture to greet word of Drogba’s new home. On one level, fans newly interested in the Super Lïg will not only wonder how Gala captured the duo but how good the team can be. How were they able to get two of the world’s biggest stars? And matched up against Schalke in Champions League … oh just imagine how far they could go.

On another level, that kind of reaction is just another of the same temporal distortion that portrayed Sneijder’s move as a shock. The Dutch midfielder is too good for Galatasaray, the thinking goes, because of the player he was two years ago. And despite the fact that few have seen him play in the last eight months and he’s yet to have an impact on the Africa Cup of Nations, some will let perceptions from last May convinced them Drogba can buttress a Champions League threat. There is, after all, a reason a club like Juventus was thought to be pursuing him (or not).

source: Getty ImagesIt’s a vision of Drogba that overlooks that mere 13 goals in 35 all-competition games he scored last season. Or the 13 in 46 he scored the season before that. We think of his header in the Champions League final and his Europe-winning penalty kick and remember Drogba as the player who scored 37 in 44 during the 2009-10 season. But as is the case with Sneijder, our image of Drogba is nothing more than a strange distortion that’s prevented us from recasting our heroes.

Maybe we’re all getting lazy. Maybe we’re tired of trying to stay up-to-date or we’ve run out of room in our imaginations, space that could had conceived a world with a changing Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder. Perhaps the metronomic consistency of the Lionel Messis, Cristianos Ronaldos, and Xavi Hernándezs deceived us into believing soccer’s stars are immutable, a notion that explains our continued fascination with Kaká and Steven Gerrard.

But as we move farther and faster from the world that created Sneijder and Drogba’s stars, we fall deeper into this time dilation. The last World Cup cycle speeds farther from us, we allow ourselves to dwell on the outdated images that lead to our empty shock. If our minds were in 2012 instead of 2013, we’d take Sneijder and Drogba’s captures in stride. Our stubborn focus on that retreating world means we’ll never have an accurate view of yesterday’s stars.

Maybe all of us, as a soccer culture, have become so old that two and a half years still seems like a yesterday. Our younger selves would have never got hung up on this before. Maybe a less mature soccer culture wouldn’t have gotten hung up on why stars are moving to Istanbul.

Mathieu Valbuena injures shoulder but won’t need surgery

GENT, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 16:  Mathieu Valbuena of Lyon runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between KAA Gent and Olympique Lyonnais held at Ghelamco Arena on September 16, 2015 in Gent, Belgium.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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French midfielder Mathieu Valbuena will miss a month with a dislocated shoulder, but while initially it was feared he would need surgery, that is no longer an option, and four weeks should be an adequate recovery time according to reports in France.

The 32-year-old has struggled with injuries this year, missing a pair of matches with a hip problem, and now will be sidelined much longer after a hard landing in the 75th minute on Saturday in a loss to Guingamp.

After the match, president Jean-Michel Aulas told TV channel Canal+ that Valbuena would likely need surgery, but after further testing they will look to get him back by the start of December.

Lyon is struggling mightily, having lost three of four in Ligue 1 play and falling to 10th in the table.

Valbuena has been a regular for the French national team, missing just two matches since late 2012. With this injury, he will most certainly miss France’s World Cup qualifier against Sweden in early November, plus the following friendly against the Ivory Coast.

Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Man United

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0 on Sunday in an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for Jose Mourinho.

[ RECAP: Chelsea batter United ]

First half goals from Pedro and Gary Cahill set them on their way and then Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante added gloss to the scoreline as United unraveled as Chelsea went into the top four.

Here’s what we learned from a humbling afternoon for Mourinho back in west London.


“You’re not special anymore!”

“You’re getting sacked in the morning!”

“Who are ya? Who are ya?”

Those were just sum of the chants directed at Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho on his first return to Chelsea since he was sacked last December.

It was an incredibly uncomfortable afternoon for Mourinho as his side fell behind after 30 seconds and never truly recovered.

A man who has been revered around the Kings Road for over a decade had the indignity of being torn apart in front of them. Only once had a Mourinho side conceded four or more goals in a Premier League game, but his side simply waved the white flag when it came to their defensive responsibilities. Going forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard were denied by the brilliant Thibaut Courtois, but United were never truly in this.

A shocking display was summed up by N’Golo Kante’s goal to make it 4-0. The French midfielder waltzed into the box and past a token challenge from Chris Smalling and then Paul Pogba made no effort to track Kante as he held his arms in the air. That one action alone summed up Mourinho’s return to Chelsea.

Chelsea’s fans sung Jose Mourinho’s name loudly after they went 4-0 up. But instead of the happiness it was usually sung with during the three PL titles he delivered in five full seasons in charge, there was a smugness in the tone. The Blues have moved on without Mourinho and the toxic atmosphere his departure created last season. After this abject display, Mourinho will have to work incredibly hard to move on from this.

Standing on the halfway line for the final 20 minutes of the game with his hands in his pockets, the Portuguese coach looked lost in a place where it always felt like he would be a champion forever. With 14 points from his opening nine games this season, maybe the fans are right. Maybe he isn’t special anymore…


United simply couldn’t get to grip with Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation. They got it all wrong defensively. A United side which was able to shut down Liverpool expertly on Monday at Anfield were set up to defend resolutely once again, but Pedro’s goal after 30 seconds changed all of that.

The gaps between center backs Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly were huge. Daley Blind and Antonio Valencia couldn’t cope without Pedro and Eden Hazard cutting in from the flanks and both Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford provided no defensive help out wide.

Conte’s Chelsea have now scored nine goals, won three-straight games and conceded none since he switched to a 3-4-3 formation.

It was always going to take the Italian coach time to find his feet in the Premier League and adapt his defensive methods but he’s found the correct formula to get the best out of his players. Chelsea looked perfectly balanced but United’s inability to shut their wide players down certainly made them look much more effective.


Racing around his technical area like a madman throughout, Antonio Conte is a born winner. You can see it in his eyes.

It’s tough to see know how much of a difference his antics make to his team on the pitch, but how would you not want to play for him? He is a hard task master, even for the fans. With United’s fans singing away as their side trailed 4-0, Conte took his eyes off the game and urged the home fans to sing.

The entire stadium began to chant. The Italian has an infectious desire and drive within him and thinking back to Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal last month, he’s made big changes to the way they play and it’s paying dividends.

You could almost say it reminded you of a certain Portuguese coach in his early days.

At the final whistle Mourinho and Conte embraced but the former lent in and had plenty to say to Conte. The Italian boss didn’t seem impressed. He has that swagger about him.

Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United: Blues carve up United defense from start to finish

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Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge to a warm reception, but was soundly beaten at his own game by Antonio Conte.

Comprehensive defense and cutting-edge finishing left Chelsea with all three points as they topped Manchester United 3-0. Pedro scored just 30 seconds into the match, and goals from Gary Cahill, Hazard, and N'Golo Kante put it away. On the other end, Manchester United defense put in an embarrassing performance, caught sleeping under a minute in and left red-faced by a scything run from a defensive midfielder near the end.

That early goal came in stunning fashion and left Mourinho’s gameplan in tatters. Marcos Alonso lofted a searching ball over the top for Pedro alone against three defenders, but the ball fell to the Spaniard and with Chris Smalling out of position and completely confused, Pedro broke free and clipped home the opener.

[ WATCH: Pedro scores Chelsea opener 30 seconds in ]

Manchester United seemed to respond immediately, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed just over the bar from close range with 7 minutes gone by. Marcus Rashford was a threat down the left as well.

Eden Hazard had a chance on 14 minutes off a corner, but his low volley skittered just wide of David De Gea‘s right post. Set pieces looked dangerous for Chelsea, and they bagged a second via that route. Hazard swung in a 21st minute corner, and it clipped Ander Herrera, falling right into the path of Gary Cahill who blasted it into the back of the net with little contest.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

United continued to have issues at the back as Pedro dispossessed Daley Blind in a dangerous position, but De Gea was there to stop the ensuing cross with a 2-on-1 developing. The visitors had another chance forcing Thibaut Courtois into action, saving off a long swerving shot from Herrera and again on the rebound from Jesse Lingard.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The hosts were lucky to remain with 10 men five minutes before the break when David Luiz shoved his studs into the thigh of Marouane Fellaini with an ugly, high-footed challenge, but the referee only showed him into the book with a yellow.

After the break, Manchester United got away with one as Eric Bailly – already on a yellow card – downed Hazard on the edge of the area for a clear foul, but it was waved away by the referee. The 22-year-old then went down injured minutes later, replaced by Marcus Rojo.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

United pushed for something, anything in front of net to try and get back into the game. Lingard forced a save by Courtois with a shot from distance just before the hour mark, but instead of building on the possession, it would get worse. Eden Hazard put Chelsea 3-0 up thanks to a beautiful feed from Nemanja Matic slicing up the United defense, and the Belgian superstar was there for a cutback and a shot into the back of the net. The fourth came on a beautiful run on the ball by Kante to leave the defenders in his wake and bag his first goal with the Blues with 20 minutes to go.

The win for Chelsea moved them up to 19 points, remaining in fifth but just a point off the top in the crowded Premier League table. Manchester United is stuck in seventh, left with 14 points and falling further behind the top bunch.

Brad Davis announces retirement at the end of the MLS season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 27:  Brad Davis #14 of the United States in action against Azerbaijan during their match at Candlestick Park on May 27, 2014 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The 15-year career of Brad Davis will come to an end at the end of the MLS season, Sporting Kansas City announced Sunday.

The 34-year-old has spent his entire career domestically, currently with Sporting KC for a season after spending ten years with the Houston Dynamo where he won two MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. The club made it to the final again in 2011, but Davis missed it with an injury and the team fell to Los Angeles.

Davis also collected 17 caps with the U.S. National Team. He debuted in 2005 in a Gold Cup win over Cuba, but was a late bloomer with the national team, making 12 of his 17 appearances from 2013 or later. He earned his final cap for the Stars & Stripes in the 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

“I can’t believe that the last 15 years have gone by so fast and that this journey has come to an end,” Davis told the official Sporting KC website. “Along the way, I have met a lot of great people and have had the privilege to play alongside many great players. There are so many individuals that I look forward to thanking who have made me the person and the player I have become.”

The announcement came just hours before Sporting KC finishes its regular season against San Jose in front of the home fans at Sporting Park. With Kansas City teetering on the edge of the playoff picture, it’s likely they wanted to allow Davis the opportunity foir a sendoff should they fall short of extending the season.

Sporting sits in the final playoff spot on 44 points, level on points with Portland but above on goal difference by a single goal. The Timbers finish their regular season on the road at 9th-placed Vancouver.