Europa League may be a wee bit under-loved, the NIT of soccer in the Old World and all, but it certainly does deliver some crackerjack matches, doesn’t it?
Tottenham-Basel on Thursday was a great example. Tottenham fell behind by two goals inside 35 minutes as the spirited fans from Switzerland sang with great joy from inside White Hart Lane. But Tottenham rallied behind goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson to finish in a swell 2-2 draw in the Europa League quarterfinal first leg.
Tottenham’s defending, nervous and messy, plus a good attacking initiative from two sides willing to be aggressive made this match a dandy to watch, even for fans unattached to either side.
Scott Parker’s first half miss (still trying to sort out exactly how he went wide from inside the six, with only his own fallen player to avoid) was among the numerous chances that came and went with such rapid succession on either side.
The only bummer was Gareth Bale’s late ankle injury; more on that one later, because it could be huge for Spurs in so many ways. We might be talking about Aaron Lennon’s hamstring injury earlier in the match, but Bale’s ongoing availability is far more important around the north London ground.
Andre Villas-Boas and his Spurs have made this tournament a priority, possibly even at the expense of ongoing EPL matters; Third-place Spurs must hold off Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton for a top-four finish and a lucrative Champions League spot next year. (That very spot, of course, was the apple in Clint Dempsey’s eye when he moved so dramatically out of Fulham a few months ago.)
The two away goals for Basel will make things hard on Villas-Boas and his men in next week’s return leg, especially if there is no Gareth Bale. Ironically, in a game with so many offensive flare-ups, Bale was mostly quiet on Thursday, but Spurs will surely hate the thought of traveling to Switzerland without him.
Former American international Brad Friedel was in goal for Spurs; Dempsey entered after 63 minutes.
Take a peek at the merchandise below to see what’s on offer as the German coach tries to bring in a new era of success at Anfield. And hey, if it he doesn’t bring success on the pitch, surely income from merchandise sales will get a boost…
Beckham, 40, is still working on finalizing a stadium for his MLS team to play in, more on that below, but he has been speaking about his dream of becoming an owner and has earmarked the 2018 MLS season as when his franchise will arrive on the scene.
Beckham spoke to the Daily Star in the UK about his vision for the MLS club, and says the team he came up through the ranks with and played for professional for 12-years is the benchmark.
“We want the club to be run professionally — everything needs to be run like a club like Manchester United,” Beckham said. “You have to look at it like that. Luckily, I’ve had a little bit of experience in that and I definitely will be a demanding owner. I want the team to be successful and the club to be successful, so I think I have to be demanding.”
The former United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder also spoke about the lengthy delays with the stadium deal and how “dealing with the political side of things in Miami has been a lot more difficult” than he expected.
In fact, a source has told ProSoccerTalk that the proposed stadium site for Beckham’s franchise, directly next to Major League Baseball franchise Miami Marlins’ home, Marlins Park, in Little Havana, is still some way from being signed off on as many restrictions will be placed on Beckham and his ownership group before the first shovel hits the ground. Beckham himself said in his latest update that in six weeks time he hopes to name the stadium site.
However the source confirmed that any stadium announcement deal could be someway off as Beckham’s ownership group – which includes PR tycoon, agent and close friend Simon Fuller, plus Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure – still haven’t hammered out many of the specifics of a stadium deal with the City of Miami, while negotiations with the Marlins are also expected to take months before any stadium deal can be confirmed. The source added that the Marlins are positive about turning derelict land opposite their current Marlins Park home into an MLS stadium, but there are several conditions which have to be met in order for the stadium to be given the green light by the MLB franchise. These conditions include no MLS games conflicting with Marlins games, sponsorship deals not conflicting with those the Marlins have on the outside of their stadium and various other facets including transportation links and infrastructure.
The source goes on to note that several high-ranking City officials and business operators in and around Miami Dade County still feel unease towards Beckham and the razzmatazz surrounding his initial stadium plan to house his MLS team on a prime waterfront location in Downtown Miami (see photo, above) next to the Miami Heat’s American Airlines arena. Beckham has since accepted that his opening stadium plan was “cheeky” but many business leaders had their noses put out of joint and many are making it increasingly difficult for a stadium deal to get over the line for the former LA Galaxy star.
In terms of the specifics surrounding a potential new home for what will now, given the delays, surely become MLS’ 24th franchise in either 2018 or 2019, the location picked is just over two miles from Downtown Miami with good links via public transport and roads. It is in a neighborhood which has a tough past but is on the up as rap star Pitbull has just built a huge academy (Sports Leaders and Management Charter Middle/High School) offering opportunities for education to underprivileged children in the Little Havana community. Along with Marlins Park, the addition of an MLS franchise would undoubtedly bring plenty of jobs into the area and help boost the economy further.
Beckham’s dream of owning a team in Miami is edging closer to realization but it seems like it’s still some way off having a stadium to call home.