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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


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Ask the Extra – Are Porto and Raul Underrated and Has England Fallen In Luv With Kenny Dalglish

Written by on June 16, 2011 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Ask the Extra

Time to dip into the mailbag and answer some questions.

Q from Ryan

I find it utterly ridiculous that some pundits are ready to call Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi one of the greatest players in history, while the name of Raul Gonzalez Blanco is nowhere to be seen?

Longevity goes hand in hand with greatness. What do you think is the criteria for greatness in football and does Raul deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, and Di Stefano?

Response from Bobby

There is a need to perform consistently at the highest level for an extended period of time and that would certainly be one criterion.

But to be considered one of the truly great players there is a need to go beyond being consistently good, there is a need to dominate your peers in order to be considered one of the all-time greats.

And when I say dominate I mean being so good that other brilliant players can be made to look ordinary in comparison. I would also add that a truly great player often has such ability that he makes ordinary players that play with him look much better than they may actually be.

The all-time great list is normally regarded as being a top ten of players and there are very few who would disagree with a list that included Pele, Maradona, Cruyff and Di Stefano. Brilliant performances at the World Cup Finals certainly help to cement a player’s case but it is not mandatory.

Alfredo di Stefano never played in a World Cup Finals but such was his impact on the Real Madrid side in the late 50s that he “qualifies.”

George Best is the one player who regularly appears on a top ten all-time greats list whom never appeared in the Finals of a major international tournament or whose club dominated the European Cup.

As for Raul I am sorry to tell you that he would not make my top ten and I would be surprised if he made a lot of others list either.

A great player but he falls well short of an all-time great. He would fall into a very large pool of players that would make up a bloated second tier or maybe even third although I am not sure the criterion to split second and third.  I would have him grouped with the likes of Roberto Baggio.

Q from Robert

With Arsenal’s disastrous season Arsenal fans are polling and blogging for Wenger to be sacked.

Do you think his reign at Arsenal is over? If so, who will be his replacement?

Arsenal fans love Wenger’s style of play and will hoping to see the same type of football but desperately need to win trophies to end humiliation.

Response from Bobby

I am having a bit of difficult reconciling the view that “Arsenal fans love Wenger’s style of play” but “are polling and blogging for Wenger to be sacked.”

Maybe I would throw a question back to you that would be something along the lines of “If it went picking up trophies on a regular basis would you (as an Arsenal fan) like to see a return to the George Graham style of play?”

In boards listened to and based their decisions on fans (from the word “fanatic”) say every week there would be some very odd and inconsistent decisions made.

Just go back a few weeks to when Arsenal played and beat Manchester United without Cesc Fabregas in the side.

That set off comments about how Arsenal did not need Fabregas and that he should be sold. Fast forward another week and a loss to Stoke and the “Fabregas can go” tune hit a sour note.

The problem with campaigning for regime change it is predicated on the assumption that the incumbent is to blame for everything and the successor’s decision making will be flawless and success will flow.

Nice thought but not reality. With fourteen top four finishes and entry into the Champions League each season there are far more down sides to firing Wenger than upsides.

Wenger has made mistakes and his unwillingness to fix problems that seem obvious to so many others is incredibly frustrating for Arsenal fans.

Nonetheless those clamoring for him to be replaced should take a moment to remember that sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it is gone.

Q from Robbortega

With all the talk about Barcelona being the best team of all time it’s seems that the likes of Porto’s accomplishments have seemed to be over looked.

So what does it take to be considered one of the greatest club teams of all time are of their time frame?

As an Arsenal fan we went 49 games unbeaten and almost did it twice if it wasn’t for a young Rooney with Everton who scored a late winner.

However never winning a Champions League I understand they will not be in that category.

However, Porto have gone undefeated in the league and won a treble that is one of the great accomplishments but they have got no publicity or praise.

If Barcelona win back to back Champions League it will very hard not to call them the greatest of all time.

So what does it take to be one of the great club teams of a generation are of all time?

Response from Bobby

I think first of all there is a very large difference between being a great team “of the present” and the best or one of the best of all time.

There is also a differentiation between a great domestic team and a great team that dominates their region through the Champions League or the Copa Libertadores.

To be simply a great team in the context of Europe, winning the Champions League is a minimum requirement. As you point out that would rule out Arsenal and it is a major impediment that anointing Porto.

Whether we like it or not winning the Europa League just doesn’t cut it. If the Porto team from last season stays largely intact then we might get a better sense of how good they truly are.

Just a little historical note as I think your mind might be playing tricks.

On October 19, 2002 Everton beat Arsenal 2-1 and Wayne Rooney announced his arrival on the Premier League scene with the winning goal. Blackburn beat Arsenal the following week by the same score and Arsenal lost six games that season in finishing five points behind champions Manchester United.

I don’t think is fair to say Rooney was the difference between Arsenal achieving another unbeaten season seeing that it was only nine games into the season and there were a good number of losses that came before the season was over.

Nonetheless the loss to Everton brought to an end an unbeaten streak of 30 games that had started in December 2001 with a 3-1 loss at home to Newcastle. However Arsenal would go unbeaten in their next 21 league games and win the Premier League in the process.

Q from Robbortega

Is Kenny Dalglish not only winning over Liverpool fans with his love for the club by putting the club first and foremost the priority?

He has turned the season around for the reds with his devotion which has proved to get the best out of his players.

But is he also winning over England as a whole by not only giving the younger generation faith but also by getting the best young English players no matter the price?

Response from Bobby

I am sorry but I don’t share your view of what Kenny Dalglish is doing for Liverpool. Liverpool finished in and around the same position many people would have predicted at the beginning of the season. Yes, he pulled them up by their bootstraps and they were a much exciting side during the second half of the season.

However, suggestions that Liverpool are going to contend for the Premier League title next season are as far off the mark as they were a year ago when similar statements were made.

There is an incredible amount of work to be done at Liverpool and although they are spending money I question the value that the club is actually getting.

A combined fee of £55M for two players with potential seems excessive. (And before the comments started coming in I don’t understand the rationale that Chelsea overpaid for Torres so somehow it is ok  for Liverpool to overpay in return).

Finally as for Dalglish winning over England as a whole – I think that is very optimistic. Any Everton or Manchester United fans willing to chime in on this?

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9 responses to “Ask the Extra – Are Porto and Raul Underrated and Has England Fallen In Luv With Kenny Dalglish”

  1. Gus Keri says:

    Bobby:

    I disagree with you on few issues in regard to Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool.

    1- Few years back there was a poll, I don’t remember by whom, asking the England fans to choose their favorit club after their own. Liverpool came in as the most loved club by far. I would say the number would be much higher now with Kenny in charge especially with all the England prospects playing with the team right now.

    2- I agree that the team finished where we all expected at the beginning of the season but remember that Kenny took control when the team was way below expected position. It means, if he had taken charge at the beginning of the season, he might have gotten the team a higher position that expected.

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    Gus – Regarding your 2nd statement:

    Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…..
    IF grandma had an “Anthony Weiner”, she would be called grandpa.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    SL:

    I agree with you on the “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” stuff.

    All what I am trying to say is: Kenny has his way of getting more out of his players than other managers. This usually result in overachieving, not underachieving.

  4. Seattle_Loon says:

    As a Liverpool fan, I can’t but agree with Bobby on the purchase of Carroll and Henderson. The former I could just about understand in the context of the abrupt departure of Torres. But the more I watched Liverpool under Dalglish and Clarke I really wondered how Carroll will fit into a passing style of football. Henderson seems a “rookie way too far” at 16 – 20 million pounds.

    If Raul Meireles is sold and Charlie Adam purchased my disenchantment will only increase.

    That said, I think you underestimate the impact of Dalglish in the last 18 games of the season. Up to that point, Liverpool had been struggling for 18 months and seemed to be in an inexorable slide.

    From a neutral perspective, I would be very surprised if the top four in England isn’t exactly the same next year. I think the two most interesting questions are whether Arsenal will continue to decline and whether Man City will continue to improve?

  5. John Bladen says:

    Bobby;

    Agreed on Dalglish, we’ll see what next year brings. It is easy to say they were below mid table when Hodgson was sacked and thus Dalglish brought them a ‘great’ finish. But…

    LFC’s early schedule was very harsh, meaning that Dalglish actually had a considerably easier second half opponent list. Secondly, some LFC fans were calling Hodgson’s purchase of Meireles a “waste” early in the season… he of course settled in nicely and was a key component for Dalglish in the latter part of the year. Torres played the ‘disinterested superstar’ card for much of the season before gaining his transfer wish in January. I can’t really claim that helped Dalglish, as Torres’ replacement (Carroll) was injured for quite sometime, but it never hurts to move want away players out of the squad, does it?

    Are they better with Dalglish than Hodgson? Thus far, yes, unquestionably. But Dalglish is some way from fixing LFC’s underlying problems – even with wealthy new ownership on board. If I were a betting man, I’m not sure I’d pick Liverpool to finish higher next year than they did in 2011.

  6. Gus Keri says:

    John:

    I disagree that the second half was easier. Liverpool played half of their games home and the other half away. Against main rivals, they played Man Utd and Man city home while playing Arsenal and Chelsea away. So it was even schedule.

    Secondly, we questioned all of Hodgson’s signings because they were underperforming under his management, including Meireles. Kenny was able to use Meireles better while other Hodgson signings continued to disappoint.

    Also, I don’t think any Liverpool fan talking about winning the title next year. I guess we learnd from our experience. We are hoping to compete though and Dalglish makes it possible to dream.

  7. Jay says:

    Bobby, I’m a long time fan and regular reader of this blog who has never before been inclined to comment. However, I’m compelled this morning to tell you that your response to the Arsene Wenger question is flawless and your opinion, which you’ve stated a few times, is spot on.

    Though I’ve no doubt there are better things to wish for, I often find myself ‘wishing’ that you were England based. Or at least that more of the writers/broadcasters there were of your quality and perspective while lacking bias and agenda. Long may you continue.

  8. John Bladen says:

    Gus;

    Certainly some of Hodgson’s signings look bad roughly a year on. I’m not sold it’s just Dalglish that got the best out of Meireles… I think it just took longer for RM to settle into the EPL. It happens with some players. Some, of course, never do… but you LFC fans know all about that!

  9. mike s. says:

    What LFC paid for Andy Carroll was unreal, seemed like an impulsive move at the time, and a very prudent business decision on Newcastle’s part.

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