Michu finally called up to Spain squad but can he fit in?

1 Comment

In case you missed it, Michu has been handed his first call up to the Spanish National Team.

Por fin!

After a 17 goal season at Rayo Vallecano in 2011-12 and a 22 goal season in South Wales last year failed to turn the head of Spain manager Vicente del Bosque, many wondered if the man from Oviedo would ever get a look.

On Monday, it was confirmed that he would.

Michu will be available for selection in La Furia Roja’s final two World Cup Qualifiers, Friday’s match against Belarus in Palma de Mallorca and next Tuesday’s game against Georgia in Albacete. Four points from those matches will see Spain clinch its place at next summer’s World Cup.

For those of us who admire Michu’s ransacking, all-action style of play, the call up provides an opportunity to see just how good the 27-year-old could be within the context of his Spanish compadres.

There’s little dispute as to Michu’s effectiveness in the Premier League. But does his style fit into the tiki-taka make up of the national team?

At first blush, possibly not. Under del Bosque, the quintessential Spanish player is one who holds his space and only moves with efficiency and elegance when the time is precisely right. They are not merely a well-trained breed, the Xavi’s/Iniesta’s/Mata’s of the world are the kind of stately canines who are always in the final lineup for ‘Best In Show’ at The Westminster Kennel Club.

Michu knows nothing of this elegance. He is like a junk yard dog whose owner doesn’t feed him. He lives on scraps and at any given moment will break into a full-throttle, slobber flailing sprint if he thinks there is even a slight chance of landing some fare, irrespective of the presence of others.

It’s this kind of attitude – take not only what is yours but what isn’t yours – that endears Michu to so many a fan. Classic Michu barrels into the penalty area just as the cross is coming and smashes an off-balanced shot into the top corner. For the Swansea hitman, a careful pass of the ball into the net is practically sacrilege.

That being said, Michu’s game could be exactly what Spain have been missing. A bit of ferociousness. A bit of unpredictability. A bit of bite. It’s the kind of mentality that Spain has missed since the hey-days of Fernando Torres in Euro 2008.

You remember those days, right? When Torres stopped thinking so gosh darn much and just feasted on scraps?

That’s the kind of rabid instinct that makes Michu such an effective player. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a style that Michu has proven can work wonders in a possession-based system like the one Michael Laudrup employs in South Wales.

Del Bosque called Michu in to camp to replace the injured David Villa and notably, the Oviedo-born striker was summoned ahead of Spurs frontman Roberto Soldado and Juventus striker Fernando Llorente.

The question now becomes, will del Bosque take that final step and let the junkyard dog loose?

Premier League player Power Rankings

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here’s a look at the top 20 players in the Premier League right now.

[ MORE: Full Power Rankings archive ]

Players from Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City dominate our latest rankings after a busy seven days in the PL with midweek games and a funky schedule due to the FA Cup semifinal.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League and based on them actually playing in the previous Matchweek. If they didn’t play due to injury or suspension, they aren’t going to make this list. Simple.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Even
  2. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Even
  3. David Silva (Man City) – Up 8
  4. Ashley Barnes (Burnley) – New entry
  5. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal) – New entry
  6. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Up 3
  7. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) – Down 4
  8. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) – New entry
  9. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 3
  10. David De Gea (Man United) – Down 3
  11. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) – Down 3
  12. Raheem Sterling (Man City) – New entry
  13. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City) – Down 9
  14. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) – Down 4
  15. Paul Pogba (Man United) – Down 3
  16. Romelu Lukaku (Man United) – Down 3
  17. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) – Down 12
  18. Marko Arnautovic (West Ham) – Down 3
  19. Salomon Rondon (West Brom) – New entry
  20. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea) – New entry

Could Iniesta succeed at Manchester City

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It appears more likely with each passing day that Andres Iniesta will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

The general feeling around Iniesta’s future is that he’ll either follow former teammate Xavi Hernandez to a club in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, or follow Javier Mascherano to a club in China.

But according to reports in Spain, Iniesta has received a request from a manager who is inextricably linked with his career.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Per Diario AS, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has reached out to Iniesta to try and gauge the 33-year old’s interest in coming to England. It’s a surprising move, considering Iniesta has appeared to have lost a step, and while his skill on the ball is still world class, he hasn’t played as big of a role for Barcelona this season as in years past.

But the big question for Iniesta – as hard as it is to believe we’re asking this – is where he’d fit into the side, and who he’d push out.

If Guardiola sees Iniesta as part of his best XI, and Iniesta played his usual position on the left side of a midfield trio or at left wing, that would see either David Silva or Leroy Sane losing their spot in the team. That’s hard to see, considering how big of an impact those players had.

Sane has scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists in the Premier League while Silva has a nearly-identical stat line, with nine goals and 11 assists in league play.

However, if Guardiola, who played a very small squad this season, wants to have a world-class player to bring off the bench some games or spot start in the UEFA Champions League, he couldn’t do much better than signing Iniesta.

After being given time to adjust to the physicality of the Premier League, there’s no reason why, even at his advanced age, Iniesta can’t make a big impact in 25-30 games for Man City in the future. You can imagine the Spanish maestro setting up 10 to 15 goals and scoring a few himself as he plays for another title-winning side.

Of course, Iniesta likely won’t earn as much money with Man City as he would in the Arab world or in China, so he has a big decision to make coming up.

Iniesta won three La Liga titles, two Copas Del Rey, two UEFA Champions League and two FIFA Club World Cup titles under Guardiola as Barcelona shined as the best club in the world during that era. Iniesta also made UEFA’s Team of the Year all four years.

Perhaps reuniting with Guardiola can bring the best out of Iniesta once again.

Report: Man United to target Rose, other full backs this summer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has identified perhaps the most underrated position on the pitch as a place he needs to upgrade his squad this summer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

According to a report from The Guardian, the Manchester United manager is looking to sign Tottenham wing back Danny Rose and potentially another full back in the summer transfer window. With Luke Shaw likely to leave the club, Mourinho is left with incumbents left back Ashley Young and right back Antonio Valencia, both on the wrong side of 30-years old and both converted wingers playing out-of-position.

Mourinho last December decried crosstown rivals Man City for spending more than $140 million to sign wing backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker last summer. Though Mendy missed most of the season with a torn ACL, Walker and fellow outside back Danilo helped give Man City’s attack another dimension out wide, as the wing backs in the 3-4-3 or Man City’s 4-1-4-1 with Fernandinho dropping back into the centerback pairing become ever more important.

Rose has had a contentious last 18-months or so at Tottenham and could be looking to leave this summer. But it will likely take a bid north of $75 million, around what it cost Man City to sign Walker last summer, to buy Rose out of his Tottenham contract.

Matteo Darmian meanwhile, another potential outside back for Man United, could also be departing the club this summer, as Man United looks to replenish its side.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

Getty Images
1 Comment

The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.