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Football

The footballers who have already agreed to switch clubs this summer

Ajax’s ability to form tons of cash on their prized assets while replacing them with cheaper alternatives has been impressive lately and that they are going to be hoping for an additional success story when Antony arrives from Sao Paulo . The 20-year-old Brazilian has the unenviable task of getting into Ziyech’s boots.

Like the Moroccan he played from the proper wing within the Brasileirao last season and positively caught the attention , earning our second highest rating (7.14) for players aged 21 and under. Despite his youth, Antony was a mainstay for Sao Paulo . He had an immediate hand in 10 goals, scoring four and fixing six. he’s almost like Ziyech within the sense that he takes tons of shots for a modest goal return. He also has superb trickery, (completing 2.6 dribbles per 90 minutes).

Only one player aged 21 or under had a better rating than Antony within the Brazilian top flight last season which was his fellow winger Pedrinho (7.24), who has made the move from Corinthians to Benfica. The 21-year-old also plays from the proper and is during a similar mould to the Ajax-bound winger. He has scored a modest five goals from 28 appearances, fixing another four.

Another strong dribbler, Pedrinho may be a real creator from wide areas too, having found out 50 chances from open play in 2019 – only five players managed more within the Brasileiro. it’ll be interesting to ascertain where he fits in at Benfica. Their star player, Pizzi, has operated from the proper this season but he could enter the central playmaker role – as could Pedrinho for that matter – currently occupied by Adel Taarabt.

Alexander Nübel is being talked up because the new Manuel Neuer and he has followed within the Germany goalkeeper’s footsteps by making the move from Schalke to Bayern Munich on a free transfer. Nübel captained Schalke this season before losing his place amid the speculation of his defection to Munich. Schalke have played five games without him in goal, winning only one of them.

The 23-year-old could also be expected to fill in as Neuer’s backup at Bayern but he’s a huge figure between the posts and can produce other ideas. After all, since Neuer returned from a significant injury last season, he has been faraway from his imperious best. He has improved this season after a reasonably dismal 2018-19 campaign, but Neuer will got to be sharp once Nübel arrives. The new kid on the block are going to be expecting another slip-up.

Categories
Football

Inside the world of football’s ultras

The hardest edge of football’s soft power – a daring insider’s guide to the violent but complex world of ultra fans

Ultras are notoriously difficult to define. they’re the foremost hardcore and extremist of football fans, but while many groups became criminal gangs, morphing into semi-secretive, paramilitary organisations that accumulate world power and wealth, others are idealistic crusaders against injustice and tyranny. many ultras are neo-fascist, but there are many far-left groups, too. The ultra mentality is all about the local – your street, suburb or city – but it’s also a globalised subculture during which fans thousands of miles apart influence each others’ songs, protests, politics and philosophies.

James Montague has spent a few years with them (his subtitle – “among the ultras” – seems a conscious nod to Bill Buford’s acclaimed if flawed book on British hooligans, Among the Thugs). The “1312” of the title refers to the alphabet code for ACAB, an ubiquitous acronym which stands for “all cops are bastards”. It’s that which unites the movement: there’s , Montague writes, a “mistrust in any sort of authority”. There’s a bloody-minded contrariness to the ultras. it’s typified by the word dišpet employed by its members from Hadjuk Split: “a term of defiance that roughly means to oppose something regardless of the results … Dišpet means to be anti-everything.”

Montague may be a brilliant and daring guide. Travelling to 25 countries to match ultra movements round the world, he takes the reader to warehouses, forests, terraces and underpasses. In Albania, a nationalist called Ismail drives together with his knees as he loads, cocks and fires a gun. In Indonesia the author is chased by rival ultras armed with machetes. He smokes weed with a fascist mobster in Rome. It’s frequently pretty dangerous: “I had been warned that if we ever got into trouble that I shouldn’t , under any circumstances, fall over. ‘If you fall, you’re dead.’”

It’s an immersive account, partly because it’s clearly a world Montague enjoys. He hints that he was something of a scallywag in his youth: “As an adolescent i need to are arrested a dozen times. Getting caught was almost as big a rush as getting away.” Researching and writing the book was how to recapture that teenage buzz. After one scrape – and there are many here – he says: “My heart was beating fast and that i felt something approaching elation after my escape. i used to be fifteen again. I turned on the sunshine within the bathroom and stared at myself within the mirror. i used to be smiling.”

But the first-person isn’t overdone or naff: there’s enough of it to capture the fix and therefore the fear, but it mainly serves to elucidate the existential attraction of the ultra life: the absorption of the self into something far greater, into the group, into a tribe or a brotherhood. It’s “a sound”, he writes poetically, “that you’ll lose yourself into”. In some ways it’s nothing to try to to with football but all about danger and adrenaline, about vulnerability and protection, about piggy-backing football to enjoy an emotional rollercoaster.