Viva Espana

Spain SoccerAs Chris Lesley said in Kicking The Habit, soccer is on its way to becoming one of the next big American sports.  It has already reached phenomenal levels overseas, and is rapidly growing in America.  When I was a kid, I remember watching the 1994 World Cup.  After a good showing by the U.S. Team, losing in the second round to eventual champions Brazil only by only 1 goal, America seemed eager to burst onto the scene and become one of the many “football” countries.  Since then, the amount of youth soccer players in America has drastically increased; we even have a professional American soccer league called Major League Soccer (MLS).  Some Americans are even good enough to play overseas in more competitive foreign leagues that pay much more money.

The 2008 European championships going on this month have only attracted more attention to the growing sport. Americans and millions more worldwide have been watching the European championships almost religiously. 57 nations attempted to qualify more than a year ago, with only 16 making the final tournament that started June 17th. After two weeks of amazing goals, saves and exciting games, the Spanish have won the country’s first major soccer title in 44 years. On a Fernando Torres first half goal, the Spaniards passed around the Germans 1-0 to win Euro 2008. Spain joins France (2) and Germany (3) as the only countries to bring home more than one European title.

Futbol, or soccer in America, is more popular now. A record number of American viewers watched as Spain beat the Germans. Living in America, we hear the trade rumors and contract offers from athletes in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA almost daily.  We rarely hear anything about soccer trade deals or expensive soccer contracts even though they do exist (Besides David Beckham with the L.A. Galaxy).  Here is the run down on some local and international soccer news that you might not have heard about because you were glued to your television sets watching Spain triumph over the rest of Europe.

  • Following the Italian’s disappointing showing in this month’s European championship, the Italian Football Federation has announced the removal of Head Coach Roberto Donadoni.  Donadoni signed a two-year contract extension before the European Championships, but the contract had an escape clause for both sides, based on the team’s performance in Euro 2008.  The Italians lost to Spain in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks, but had a poor showing overall in the tournament, which ultimately led to Donadoni getting fired.  Marcello Lippi, the man who led Italy to the World Cup title in 2006 but then retired, is assumed to be taking Donadoni’s place.
  • One of the greatest players in the world, Brazilian Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, also know to the world as Ronaldinho, was at the center of trade rumors for the past couple months.  It seems that ‘Dinho has been on the trading block for the past year now, to almost every team out there.  The 28-year-old Ronaldinho and his agent were offered deals by Chelsea and Inter Milan, but the Brazilian star seems to prefer A.C. Milan because of the preexisting Brazilian talent on the team (Kaka, Emerson, Pato, Ronaldo).  As long as Ronaldinho’s price tag drops, I believe we will see him in the red and black of A.C. Milan next year (Barcelona started offers for Ronaldinho at $60 mill).  Right now, Manchester United and Inter Milan seem to be having a bidding war for his contract but nothing has been offered officially by either side.
  • Just like David Beckham, French Star Thiery Henry announced to the media that he would consider coming to America to play in the MLS in the future. Henry has a contract overseas that runs out in two years (Henry in the USA?).  After France’s early exit in the first round of the European championships two weeks ago, Henry went to Manhattan for a celebrity charity soccer match, set up by former USA captain Claudio Reyna. It was in New York that he discussed the option of playing in the MLS.
  • Millions all over watched his penalty kick miss that would have sealed the UEFA Champions League crown against Manchester United for Chelsea. Frank Lampard is now on the trading block to leave the London club. Lampard spent seven previous seasons with Chelsea and is now talking about switching leagues to play for Inter Milan. Lampard has one season left on his contract with Chelsea but is looking to evacuate early. The EPL star is rumored to be signing a four-year contract with the Italian team and receive up to £6 million in wages per season. Inter Milan is also talking about purchasing Ricardo Quaresma and Barcelona/ Portuguese star, Deco.