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The European Leagues & Competitions Thread V2

Started by CHOULO19,

16,493 posts in this topic

If Chilwell, pre COVID was rated at £80m, Davies is worth £120m or more

he has permanently benched the best LB in the world for years (in terms of Alaba playing at LB)

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51 minutes ago, Vesper said:

he is streets ahead of TAA in terms of defence

He is so overrated.....defensively ( his main damn job ) he is poor.

47 minutes ago, Vesper said:

If Chilwell, pre COVID was rated at £80m, Davies is worth £120m or more

he has permanently benched the best LB in the world for years (in terms of Alaba playing at LB)

In no timeline or reality is BC worth that amount.....its ridiculous and I for one hope we go nowhere near.

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Why so many American players are finding a place in German football



Ahead of the Bundesliga becoming the first major league to return from the COVID-19 shutdown last weekend, The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas highlighted just how many American players are currently in the German top flight. But why is that the case? 

The paths of the seven Americans involved in Bundesliga action a week ago are varied. Three — John Brooks, Timothy Chandler and Alfredo Morales — were born and raised in Germany. The other four — Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Giovanni Reyna (who missed his first Bundesliga start after suffering an injury in the warm-up but returned off the bench yesterday against Brooks’ Wolfsburg) and Josh Sargent — were primarily brought up in the U.S. and did most of their development in the American youth system. Adams, who moved from the New York Red Bulls to RB Leipzig in January 2019, was the only member of that group who played in MLS; the other three began their professional careers in Germany. 

Although Christian Pulisic, who began his career with Borussia Dortmund before making his big-money move to Chelsea last summer, is the highest-profile example of an American spending formative time in Germany, the trend goes back decades to the likes of Eric Wynalda, Claudio Reyna and Landon Donovan, just to name a few. 

“We’ve seen it over the past 20 years,” said former U.S. right-back Steve Cherundolo, who signed with Hannover after leaving the University of Portland in 1999. He played for the German club for 15 years and coached there for several more before shifting into his current role as an ambassador for the Bundesliga. “I think it’s only getting better and bigger, and it really does seem to be a wonderful fit.” 

The German path is more common these days, particularly for young prospects who are joining academies there. Six members of the U.S.’s 2019 Under-20 World Cup team, including Wolfsburg winger Ulysses Llanez, who now has one senior U.S. cap, were contracted to German clubs during the tournament. Four more German-based players were called up to the first U.S. team of the 2021 under-20 cycle last September.

Llanez, USMNT

    Llanez celebrates scoring on his U.S. debut against Costa Rica (Photo: Michael Janosz/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

A confluence of factors both on and off the field have made Germany a popular destination for top young Americans. One of the most important of those happens to be the least sexy: immigration laws.

England, given its strong, popular league and shared language with the U.S., would probably be a more natural landing spot for Americans, if not for its strict work-permit requirements. But Germany has more lax immigration restrictions for athletes than many other European nations. In fact, no work permit is required for an athlete to gain residency. They only need to be 16 years old, earn a living wage and be confirmed as a competent athlete by their sport’s German governing body. Even FIFA has tougher restrictions — outside of a few exceptions, the game’s international federation bars youth players from moving out of their own country until they turn 18. (Pulisic and Reyna, who both obtained European passports through a grandparent, were able to take advantage of one of those exceptions, which states that players with European citizenship can move to a club in a different European country at age 16.) 

“Obviously, it starts with the work-permit issue,” said former U.S. defender/midfielder Cory Gibbs, who began his pro career with Hamburg club St Pauli in 2001 and, in his current role as an agent with Wasserman, helped McKennie and 20-year-old Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards engineer their moves to Germany. “It just makes it so much easier for Americans to get over there and prove themselves.” 

It also helps massively that German clubs haven’t paid acquisition fees for most of their American players. Pulisic signed with Dortmund for free in January 2015. Four years later, the club sold him for $73 million. Dortmund could turn that trick again with Reyna, who left New York City FC without signing a pro deal and joined for no fee in October 2018. McKennie’s journey from the FC Dallas academy to Schalke was the same, though Dallas did manage to get a $1.25 million transfer fee out of Bayern for Richards, who they signed to a pro deal less than a year before selling him. 

Part of the reason American teams haven’t received any money for players who leave their academies for Germany or other countries is the fact that MLS and U.S. Soccer have not allowed them to pursue training compensation or solidarity payments. U.S. Soccer claimed it became neutral on the topic in 2015, and MLS changed its stance on that last April, when it announced it would comply with FIFA’s system and allow its teams to go after training compensation and solidarity payments.

“That’s been a big problem for MLS teams, but it’s also one of the reasons why American players are so attractive, because basically they are free,” said Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner, a German national who brought U.S. forward Bobby Wood to 1860 Munich over a decade ago, and even served as Wood’s legal guardian for a time before he later went on to work at Bundesliga club Hoffenheim. “There is an academy payment in place now, but I don’t know if there have been any cases where the German clubs have had to pay training fees.”

The friendly immigration laws and the lack of transfer fees make it easier for Americans to get into Germany, but it’s not what allows them to make a career in the Bundesliga. And while talent is, of course, the most important factor for any player looking to stick in the German first division, Americans are helped by their tendency to have a relatively simple time adapting to life on and off the field in the country.  

Off the field, players can get by using English without too much issue while they learn to speak German. They also have a somewhat easy time dealing with German coaches, who often share similar sensibilities with their American counterparts. 

“When it comes to Germany, football is very structured,” said Gibbs. “Very, very structured. Every player knows where they need to be, the coach has a specific game plan and they follow that game plan. They don’t turn away from that. And I think Americans follow that type of mentality as well.”

The prevailing style in Germany — a fast-paced, transition-heavy game that suits athletic players — also works well for youngsters. The fact that under-21 players get a higher percentage of overall minutes in the Bundesliga than they do in the Premier League, Italy’s Serie A or Spain’s La Liga is another big factor in creating the symbiotic relationship between top American prospects and German clubs. 

“I think whenever we’re talking about players and we evaluate them in scouting or just in general conversation, we’ll break it up into four general areas: mentality, physicality, the technical side and the tactical side,” said Cherundolo. “And I think that most American players are very well developed in three of those areas — physical stature, technical ability and the mentality side of the game. 

“The tactical side, that’s where the Europeans — and I can mostly speak for the Germans — maybe they’re a little further along at 16 years old than Americans are. That would be the only point where I would have a bit of pause, but those other three boxes definitely get checked off. And a lot of German clubs believe they can teach the player the tactical side of the game, which is why they love Americans and why they usually always fit, because most are able to learn the necessary tactical pieces.”

The recent emergence of young Americans in the Bundesliga, beginning with Pulisic and continuing with McKennie and Adams, has created a positive feedback loop on both sides of the Atlantic. The old European biases against American players that Cherundolo and Gibbs had to fight against at the start of their careers have largely evaporated. Meanwhile, in the U.S., prospects are seeing more and more young players have an easier time getting high-level opportunities in Germany than in the other big-five leagues.

Bring it all together, and it’s easy to imagine a steady stream of future American prospects continuing to head to Germany. 

“I remember we used to have to beg clubs to take a look at these players. Now it’s a situation where these clubs are reaching out saying, ‘Find us the next Weston, find us the next Pulisic, find us the next Tyler Adams’,” said Gibbs. “It’s not easy, but it’s opened up a lot more for the demand for Americans going over abroad, for sure. The mental block is gone.”

“Most of the academy boys are looking much more to the English Premier League in comparison to Bundesliga, but they learn now out of the positive examples that it’s probably a better platform to join a Bundesliga club and maybe go to the Premier League later on,” added Tanner. “The most important thing when you are establishing yourself is that you play, and the chances of that in the Bundesliga is really high. That’s quite attractive.” 

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Will empty grounds be the perfect stage for players who only do it in training?



(Photo: Dahoud is congratulated by Erling Haaland last weekend. Credit: Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images)


As Luis Enrique explained in his own inimitable way this week, taking part in matches behind closed doors will be uninspiring and uncomfortable for the vast majority of footballers. “Playing without fans is sadder than dancing with your sister,” the Spain manager said.

As strange as it may sound, not everybody in the game will be feeling that way. The sight of thousands of empty seats and the sound of silence will be liberating for some players and take away one of the biggest barriers to them performing on a matchday: the crowd.

One player’s motivation is another’s suffocation when it comes to supporters, often leaving managers exasperated by the way in which matchday performances bear little resemblance to what they see on the training ground. Jamie Carragher and Alan Shearer have called them “Monday-to-Friday players”. They set the world alight all week and then go missing on a Saturday.

Not any more. With football stadiums empty, that player will never have a better opportunity to step out of the shadows in the weeks and months to come. It is, as Franz Beckenbauer put it on the eve of the Bundesliga’s restart last weekend, “a chance for the training world champion”, the player who “benefits from empty stands” and can “turn up like in practice”, to take centre stage.

Beckenbauer went onto predict “some surprises”, and there was one in the first round of matches when Mo Dahoud, who has never quite managed to deliver when it matters for Borussia Dortmund, emerged as one of the Bundesliga’s standout performers. While it is only one game and Schalke were poor, the truth is that Beckenbauer’s theory has plenty of support in the English game too.

Several managers have told The Athletic they are considering giving opportunities to players who would ordinarily have been on the periphery because of doubts about their ability to perform at their best in front of thousands of people. One international has even approached his manager to say that this could be a game-changer for a team that has played within itself on too many occasions this season. Another coach predicts a wave of debuts for youngsters at all levels of the professional game.

For some players, especially those who feed off the energy of the supporters, it is hard to relate to the idea that an empty stadium could be viewed as good news. “For me, I feel like I’m a different player with the crowd there — it gives me that extra five per cent, so I think it’s going to be one of the main challenges for me,” a Premier League player tells The Athletic. “I’m actually nervous about playing in front of no fans.”

But what about the alternative view, the idea that some players will thrive without supporters? “I’ve not thought about that perspective,” he replies. “But now you’ve said it, one player has popped into my head straight away. This would be him down to a tee. A lot of the time he worries about the fans and it does get to him.

“So I do definitely feel that could happen, that players could come out of their shell. It will be like a training session for them, which is where a lot of them show their quality and then it gets to a game and the pressure is a bit too much for them.”

Few players would be brave and honest enough to tell their manager that they are struggling to handle the demands of supporters. Managers quickly pick up on little signs, though, especially when there is such a contrast between what happens in training and in a match.

“I see the difference in body language and decision-making, and I’m thinking, ‘What’s he doing? That’s not him’,” one Championship manager explains.

Those sorts of traits and flaws could be there from the very first minute with some players, and more to do with nerves and the pressure that an individual puts himself under to do well. But with others, the tell-tale signs will surface on the back of supporter frustration, maybe after a misplaced pass in a game where the team, not necessarily one individual, is underperforming.

Some will have the fortitude to shut out a collective groan and play through it. Others, the Championship manager explains, will “turn down” the chance to execute that same pass when the opportunity presents itself again and instead play overly safe or negatively.

Michael Appleton says he often saw that kind of thing unfold during a playing career that took him from Manchester United to Preston and then West Brom, and he has also witnessed it as a manager and a coach. It is why he gave the ramifications of football behind closed doors serious consideration months ago.

“As soon as it was mentioned, I was thinking that the landscape of the game could change very quickly and dramatically,” says Appleton, who is currently the manager of Lincoln in League One. “I was thinking about certain players in our squad who have struggled a bit to have an impact in the first team or to get into the squad because they couldn’t replicate their performances in terms of how they were in training to actually playing in front of a crowd.

“We actually discussed this as a group, with my staff, that if we did have to play behind closed doors, then certain players who might not have been involved previously would come into the frame.”

Looking back, Appleton says that he generally felt “reasonably confident” on the pitch as a player. When he did something wrong away from home and it was met with an ironic cheer, he’d chuckle to himself. As for the moans from the stands at home, they motivated him to do better and to make sure he got the next pass right. “But with some players — and we’re all individuals and deal with things differently — they would go under,” he says.

“If you’re going to go into detail about all of this, and this is just my opinion — I’m not a psychologist — I think the players who really struggle dealing with fans and crowds and being in that type of atmosphere, it’s even worse for them, believe it or not, when they play at home.

“It’s like that added pressure at home that when you’re in possession of the ball, the scrutiny is on you to do something and to be positive.”

The spotlight can be too much for some players. It was fascinating to hear Paolo Vernazza talk honestly and openly to The Athletic recently not only about how he regrets the way that he would “play it safe” for Arsenal, but also the psychological battle that he went through when performing in front of crowds lower down the leagues.

“In training I’d be doing things that I just couldn’t do on a Saturday,” Vernazza admitted. “A lot of my managers at a lower level used to say, ‘Paolo, you train so differently to how you play. What is the hold-up?’

“(Rotherham team-mate) Paul Warne, who manages Rotherham now, used to say to me, ‘Paolo, forget about them little faces behind the goal. Forget about them little faces in the stand’. And that really affected me, because at that level you can see the faces. If you make a bad pass, you can hear the groans. And I couldn’t deal with that.”

The science behind it all is fascinating to explore. Gary Bloom is a clinical sports psychotherapist and currently involved in research on the subject of “fan-less stadiums”. He also works for Oxford United and privately with players across the Premier League, Championship and League One.

“At the moment I’m working with a player who is a dead-ball specialist and he and I were talking last week about this very thing,” Bloom says. “He said when you’ve had a couple of duff free kicks and the home crowd are going ‘urgh’, and then you come up to take the third one and that noise is there, he said it doesn’t half instil fear in you. And we talked about that disappearing — it’s now completely gone.

“So you enter what is known in psychology as going from a threat state, ‘I don’t want to hit another bloody free kick’, into the challenger state, ‘You know what, I’m going to have another go, it doesn’t matter’.”

Bloom delves a bit deeper as he weighs up the psychological ramifications of playing behind closed doors. “I know the stuff is being televised on TV, perhaps, but that doesn’t really matter to some degree,” he says. “The part of our brain which is aroused by that fear/threat, which is called the limbic part, I don’t think is going to be as aroused in front of an empty stadium.

“The limbic part of our brain is where our emotions live — our fear, our anxiety, our excitement, all that sort of stuff. So you’re not as aroused one way and you’re not as aroused the other way. So if you want to think of a metaphor, you think of a music metronome — you don’t get the big swings, the highs and lows; you just get much more of a consistent swing. Scoring that winning goal with two minutes to go is pretty exciting, but it’s not as exciting as scoring it in front of a big crowd.”

That last comment brings to mind an interview with Lee Trundle a few months ago, when the 43-year-old former Swansea and Bristol City striker explained that while he still can’t contemplate giving up playing, he badly misses the noise of a big crowd. “If you’re playing out there in front of 20,000 and you hear everyone go up, that instant roar from nothing, and then running and seeing the joy on thousands of people’s faces… that’s a feeling that you can never replicate in any way,” Trundle told The Athletic.

Bloom smiles. “That is a classic what I would call, in sport and psychotherapy terms, the big dopamine hit that all footballers, I think, play for. That is transmitted to the crowd, because that is why you go to watch your team on a Saturday or a Wednesday, to get the dopamine of that ball hitting the back of your net when you’ve beaten your opponent.”

According to Dan Abrahams, who is a sport psychologist and works in the medical department at Bournemouth, “more players than you would think are negatively impacted by a crowd”. Few, however, will publicly admit it and especially when they’re still playing. “It’s a challenging one to get any data on,” Abrahams adds. “Nobody is going to say, ‘Hey, I struggle to do this’.”

Jamie Vardy touched on the subject on the back of Leicester’s Premier League title win when he said that he sensed the club’s supporters “weren’t having me” during a difficult first season at the club following his £1 million move from Fleetwood in 2012. “As much as you try to shut out the background noise, you can hear the moans and groans when something goes wrong on the pitch in just the same way that you feed off the buzz when they’re singing your name,” Vardy said.


As much as Vardy may play to the crowd at times, he has explained how it can affect performance (Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images)


The former England striker also believes that he took too much notice of social media in those days, which is something that Shkodran Mustafi recently claimed had affected his Arsenal performances because “once you’ve read criticism, it’s going to stay there.” That platform, which can be brutal at times, has altered the relationship between fans and players, although Abrahams points to a shift inside stadiums too.

“It’s a really interesting juxtaposition because you’ve obviously got that notion of ‘we’re playing at home and that’s an advantage’, but there seems to be a bit of a phenomenon that has built up over the last couple of decades whereby crowds have taken it upon themselves to try to motivate players by getting on their back — ‘It’s not acceptable, we’re paying this money, we’re in the stadium’, and one could assume that’s a fair thing to think. Not every player, but quite a few players will hear it and it will suppress their capacity to perform at their best.”

We go on to talk about how that can manifest itself on the pitch. For example, the player who receives the ball, looks up and then, gripped by self-doubt, turns down the switch of play that they would make without a second thought in training or on a good day, largely because of the fear of making another mistake and how that will be viewed. As a result they become inhibited in how they play and, ultimately, everybody suffers.

“If we look at the underpinning science behind what you’re saying it’s to do with a stress hormone called cortisol, which is released when players are anxious or worried about their specific situation, and that does a lot of things,” Abrahams explains.

“You’ve used the word inhibited; it inhibits your actions, your motions, your movement. In many respects it’s designed to switch off the front part of your brain, that’s what happens under pressure or when you’re stressed.

“So if you’re worried about what the crowd think of you, you’re self-conscious, you’ve got some social anxiety there, then you’ve got this cortisol that’s streaming through your body, depressing your capacity to execute your skills.

“And then your front brain switches off, and now that’s a problem because it’s the part of the brain that really underpins the intelligence side of the game — your visual-spatial capacity, your capacity to problem solve and find solutions in the moment, to think about the game as you’re playing.

“And then your emotional senses can really, really fire, and again that just compounds the doubt, the worry, the anxiety — whatever emotions you’re experiencing at the time. If you feel that you’re being judged by the crowd, then that’s what you’re going to experience.”

It is, of course, too simplistic to say that the absence of supporters will definitely enable players to perform in a different way. “Perception is everything here,” Abrahams adds. “So if that player creates a narrative, has a perception of ‘Well, there’s no crowd, nobody is going to get on my case’, and that player feels as a consequence that it gives him an enormous sense of freedom, then it might very well be the case that he then goes out and plays more freely. There’s no guarantees even if he has that narrative, but there’s more chance that he will.

“But perceptions are very individual-specific. It might be that the source of that player’s challenge is himself or herself, in as much as he or she might be heavily invested ‘Well, I want to win and I want to perform really well’, so even though there is no crowd there, they might still go out and be inhibited at some stage of the game, so it can be a complex combination of the two. But it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if some players feel a little bit freer and less inhibited now.”

It is interesting listening to players talking about their relationship with the crowd. At the highest level, they say they rarely hear their manager above the noise of the supporters and hardly ever pick out individual comments from fans. An exception would be when taking a throw-in or a corner.

One Championship player says there are “times when I’ve fed off the crowd and the atmosphere” and to such an extent that it has got him through matches when he has not felt particularly good beforehand. Generally, though, it is less about the noise and “more the thought of people watching you” that enters his mind while he is playing.

It would be easy to talk about players who struggle to deal with the crowd and a negative reaction as being mentally weak. Another way of looking at it is that it takes a lot of courage to carry on getting on the ball when supporters are turning against a player or the team.

“Anyone who can do that constantly, even if it’s going wrong, I’ve got a lot of admiration for,” the Championship player adds. “Because the natural thing is to hide.”

The same player later makes a joke but also a serious point about how he would be perceived if he suddenly started playing out of his skin in the matches that are behind closed doors, and whether that would reflect negatively on his character. “People would say, ‘He can’t play under pressure!’”

For Bloom, there is equally as much work to do with players now as there was before football behind closed doors became a reality. “We are thinking about techniques of helping people create the preparation to go into a fan-less stadium. Some people will say, ‘Just get on with it’. I disagree. I think you have to prepare players psychologically,” he says.

“I work with players on how to prepare them for playing in front of a crowd, so one of the techniques I will say to a player who says, ‘I get really nervous when we’ve got a big game’, or ‘I had a bad game last time, I’m not sure the crowd are on my side’, is to say, ‘OK, how would you feel about something like just before kick-off running by the goal and applauding your home supporters?’ And they’ll say, ‘Why would I do that?’ And I’ll say, ‘They’ll appreciate it, you’ll feel good about yourself, you’re starting from a positive’.

“So I would also work with players about the visualisation about playing in an empty stadium and this is where, in my opinion, the big work is about communication. If you’ve got a quiet team, if you haven’t got a team of shouters and screamers and bawlers, I think that’s not great. Because I think you need to gain energy from the internal relationships in your team because you can’t gain it from the crowd.

“I think quiet teams are not going to do well in an empty stadium. If you’ve done something well and you’ve got nobody giving you that positive feedback… you need people saying, ‘Well done. Brilliant, mate. Keep going’. You know what it’s like playing in a game when somebody is saying that to you the whole time, you think, ‘I’ll bloody well do it again’.”

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16 Bundesliga games played so far without fans since the restart last weekend and only 3 home wins and 2 of them are Dortmund and Bayern wins...

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