Reflection on 2010 where I give myself a Lifetime Achievement Award

Welcome everybody to what was intended to be an awards ceremony. That has now fallen by the wayside since well, Zonal Marking put it best to me when I asked the good world of Twitter for categories – ‘the best blog award of the year award’. Everyone’s done one, so I’ll hold back until the end of the football season.

Instead, I thought it would be appropriate to thank all those who’ve made 2010 quite a good year for myself.

I had a minor brainwave in August (well startling revelation) that I needed to actually write things for my degree. This blog was half running, after all I did write a lot of World Cup stuff, but most of that incoherent ranting about Marcel Desailly’s patriotism. That makes me sound like Ron Atkinson doesn’t it?

Anyway after that tournament, I decided to research a club called Arles-Avignon. I can’t exactly say why I did this, I think it was because I saw the Ligue Un table and had never heard of them before, so delved in to some French websites. Their back-story became more and more interesting as I went on.

I wrote it. Then through word of mouth (Michael Cox reading it and retweeting it), people flocked to it. Since then, I’ve not done anything as good. But neither have Arles-Avignon. They have won a game though, somehow.

Shortly after that, Andrew Gibney was appealing for podcast guests and I stook my hand up. I was thinking about starting a podcast anyway, but that was in the preliminiary stage so I gladly took up his cordial invitation. I’ve enjoyed every Skype conversation (sorry I’ve ruined the magic of it) with the guys and it feels weird that people actually listen to my Barry White-esque voice and often bumbling pieces of information. I can’t praise how hard Mr Gibney works on his sites, as does Gav, Charlie, Brent, Ethan and every guest we’ve had: all with great websites.

I’d also like to thank Jeff and the team In Bed With Maradona, without doubt one of my favourite reads. To set up a site as great as that within a year, with contributions from that great and good of football blogging (and once in a blue moon me) is a superb achievment and they deserve all the plaudits they get

Through that, I’ve taken an somewhat unhealthy and life-shortening interest in the Jupiler Pro League in Belgium. Why? Because no one else in their right mind would. It’s been fun watching some of Europe’s premier young guns duel it out and also watching not as youthful Tomasz Radzinski at Lierse. My highlight of the year was Zulte’s Habib Habibou throwing a duck off the field against Lokeren; a truly beautiful moment which strangely enough kick-started his season. You could say he found his wings. I thank y0u.

Anyway, to avoid this tone of the article becoming ‘look how great I am’, I’d like to thank all of you for reading the blog at some point in the past year. I’d also like to thank Freddie Shires and Dave Stubbings for their contributions, although I suspect Dave will live to regret his lambasting of an United team that remains unbeaten. We can’t call em all correctly can we, and I should know; I said Mauro Boselli was a good signing.

So what can you expect in 2011. Well a hiatus unfortunately. January sees me visit Champions League magazine for some much-needed work experience and then it’s the final push towards getting a degree. So if anyone wants to contribute to the Player Profiles section, it would be muchly appreciated.

Right, I think my end of year honours list will come to an end now. Thanks to all of you again.

Here’s to 2011 *raises a glass of finest Buck’s Fizz.

Oh and if you can check out this great list of the 100 football blogs to follow in 2011. Don’t know how I made that list, but it is a list of 100, someone was bound to scrape in.

Here’s that moment again. No ducks were severely harmed during the match.

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Top 10 Goals from Centre-Backs

After a long hiatus (thanks to uni work and work placements), I’d thought it was best to actually keep this website running a bit. So what better early Christmas present could I give than ten of the best goals from central defenders.

Of course, we’d rather see a centre-back make a last-ditch sliding tackle that keeps the team in the game or fly in with a diving header deep into stoppage time. But it’s even better when your favourite lumbering oaf at the back unleashes a rasping 30 yard screamer, confusing the entire ground.

There are a few rules though. No free-kicks so that rules out every goal by Chelsea’s Alex. Also, Dion Dublin can’t qualify since he’s clearly a striker and was only playing centre-back because he’s huge. No headers – most centre-backs can do that. I’ve also tried to mix the type of goals a bit to add a bit of variety as well.

I apologise in advance if they are slightly Premiership-centric as well, but I’ve included AEK Athens in this so…

Tony Adams vs Everton 03/05/1998

The goal that got me thinking about this Top 10. It gets even better when you consider it was fellow centre-back Steve Bould whose lovely chipped through-ball that sent Adams in with acres of space. Sure, you could criticise the entire Everton team for being as static as a caravan park, but Martin Tyler’s commentary sums up that entire season for Arsenal. Wonderful stuff.

Gerard Pique vs Inter Milan 28/04/10

This game will no doubt be remembered for the Inter Milan masterclass at the back to keep Barcelona at bay and secure their place into the final. But it’s easy to forget how good this goal was. Slight suspicions of offside but I don’t care, Gerard Pique’s deceptive turn and finish is magnificent and left Ivan Cordoba on the deck, after he left Pique in the first place. Shame it didn’t count for anything other than me loving Pique more.

Philippe Albert vs Manchester United 20/10/96

Slight ambivalence to this goal. It was scored against Manchester United but it’s from a Belgian. But what a fantastic goal, leaving Peter Schmeichel knowingly lobbed and the final goal of a crushing 5-0 defeat for Manchester United. The Great Dane just watches it glide over his head compiling more misery on the side.

Edmilson vs Costa Rica 13/06/02

The award for most outrageous piece of innovation has to go to Edmilson at the World Cup against South Korea. An overhead kick that most strikers would want on their greatest hits Youtube video, Edmilson performs some sort of zero-gravity flip and scores a fantastic goal. His only strike for Brazil but an absolute pearler.

Ugo Ehiogu vs Celtic 11/03/07

If there’s one man I’d not expect to score an overhead kick, its probably Ugo Ehiogu. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him score at both ends at a charity match but this goal was quite superb in the Old Firm derby. Such power, such grace, so very not Ugo Ehiogu.

Daniel Agger vs West Ham 26/08/06

Little was known about Liverpool’s newest centre-back in 2006 but he announced himself very early on to the Anfield crowd. The curve on the 30-yarder is glorious as Agger unleashes a thunderous strike, leaving Roy Carroll stranded. Hardly his fault this time though. Just remember, allowing Agger space is very Dane-gerous (please shoot me in the head)

Roland Juhasz vs AEK Athens 21/10/10

Another contender for the innovator award, after Hungarian Roland Juhasz met the end of Mbark Boussoufa’s cross with a sensational back-heel volley. Pick that one out. Have a feeling he could be on the move soon, so keep an eye out.

Williams Gallas vs Spurs 11/03/06

A vital goal from London cab driver William Gallas, this time from his Chelsea stint. He scored this in the last minute against his current club Spurs after a fiercely contested game. It proved pivotal in the run-in for Chelsea’s second title win.

Jason Cundy vs Ipswich 30/08/1992

I’m no fan of Mr Cundy. Let’s forget about his media work and celebrate this unintentional hoof from near the half-way line against The Tractor Boys. Certainly Cundy’s best moment in football, but there’s not much else to compete with.

Gary Cahill vs Birmingham 16/04/06

And finally we visit the West Midlands derby and Gary Cahill’s creative volley against Birmingham City. Maik Taylor didn’t have a chance. Not bad for your first goal.

 

So there we have it. If you want to add some to the list, comment below. Although I was going to add Distin’s goal against Charlton where he ran about 80-odd yards, but the footage is missing. That means it never happened.

Player Profile – Jonathan Legear

He’s constantly linked to a move away from Anderlecht, so the time seems right for an in-depth analysis on Les Mauves tricky winger. Chris Mayer looks at the career of Jonathan Legear

Since actively following the Belgian Pro League this season, I’ve noticed a few things. Firstly, a lot of people are built like Panzer tanks, complete with the manoeuvrability. It’s mainly about muscles in Brussels. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, you get fairly robust games, full of reckless tackles, certainly entertaining in its own way.  Secondly, anyone who is less than 6ft tall and provides such flair stands out straight away. Jonathan Legear is certainly the latter.

Operating on the right wing normally for Anderlecht, he offers something completely different to the rest of the team. Whilst Romelu Lukaku and Kanu tend to provide the hold-up play, Legear is seen marauding down the flank normally tormenting the opposing left-back, who has the unenviable task of trying to stop him.

This season Anderlecht haven’t looked exactly like a dominant force. Several times the side haven’t clicked at all, with the 5-1 defeat away to Standard Liege still irking the faithful despite a decent response since then. One thing is clear, Jonathan Legear is a rare product of the Belgium system. As seen in those Belgians who’ve made it in the Premier League, they all share a similar attribute, height and strength. Kompany, Vermaelen, Fellaini are such examples of this and it’s uncommon to see someone so flashy being linked to the Premier League, especially to Newcastle and Everton.

Legear spent the majority of his youth career at fierce rivals Standard Liege although he could never break into the side. Standard Liege had a superb crop of players in the academy such as Logan Bailly, Sebastian Pocognoli and Kevin Mirallas. All of them current international players, yet none of them could force their way into the side.

By 2003, sick of waiting for his debut and fearing he could stagnate as a player, Legear moved to Anderlecht despite an supposed agreement that barred the big three clubs selling to each other. After spending another season in development, he finally received his debut in 2004 against his former club Standard Liege. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. Hugo Broos, now Zulte coach, also gave Vincent Kompany and Antony Vanden Borre their debuts in that title winning season, all at 16. Kompany and Vanden Borre grasped the chance, Legear wasn’t yet ready and was clearly unprepared for the hostile reception he faced at the Stade Dufrasne and faded badly.

Doppelganger

05/06 wasn’t that fruitful either for Legear as he attempted to solidify his position in the first team. Unfortunately for him he was hampered by several injuries and the fact that Christan Wilhemsson was the star winger at Anderlecht at the time. Legear was considered a small clone of him, and much more fragile. The similarities in appearance are unnerving.

Wilhelmsson departed for a European tour and it seemed Legear was ready to take his place. Well no, Kompany and Vanden Borre had both been sold for considerable fees and Anderlecht brought in Egyptian Ahmed Hassan (one of the best players at the previous African Cup of Nations) and Mbark Boussofa, still going strong in the Anderlecht line up.

It took the appointment of Ariel Jacobs as coach before Legear was considered the viable option down the right, giving the side some much needed speed. Legear went quietly about his business, breaking free on the counter and leaving many a defender for dead. Dinamo Moscow noticed the nippy Belgian and put in a bid to prise him away from Brussels.

But his real breakthrough on the European stage was in last season’s Europa League, in fact the first time I’d really sat up and taken notice of him. He utterly rampaged through full-backs, providing 6 goals and 4 assists, easily the most valuable player in that competition. Here’s two of his best against Bilbao and HSV; foot like a traction engine:

Anderlecht ended the dominance of Liege last season, picking up the title with Legear being the creator to his team’s 62 goals, aiding Romelu Lukaku’s astronomic rise. He’s a gifted free-kick specialist, adept at cutting inside and coolly slotting a shot into the net.

National coach, George Leekens gave him his international debut against Kazakhstan in October, and excelled in a vital 2-0 away win. He grabbed an assist in that crazy 4-4 draw against Austria too.

The main problem for Legear is being surrounded by many other prodigies, most notably Eden Hazard, who was magnificent in yesterday’s win in Russia. Legear will once again have to wait for regular international football but in time, he will be ever present.

Combining with Boussofa really does give Anderlecht a nitrous injection, creating so much for that solid spine of the side, and it seems to be the main reason for the English interest.

Educated feet, he’s got more or less all the attributes to succeed in the Premier League for certain. He’s just clocked up a century for Anderlecht and still only 23. The question is not if Jonathan Legear will move to a top league, it’s when.

 

 

Stop the presses – Arles Avignon have won a game

Photo: Icon Sport

After 1080 minutes of football in Ligue 1, AC Arles Avignon have finally grabbed their first win in the top flight.

Last night, Arles defeated Caen (the only side with similar form to Arles-Avignon at the moment) 3-2. Arles upturn in form in October gives them some remote hope of scaling the chasm between them and Nice in 17th. Only 8 points.

One of the rarest things you will ever see in football is Kaba Diawara either playing well or scoring. The 34 year old former striker, who has played for more or less every club around Europe scored his first goal for Arles, then bettered that by converting a penalty. The only rarer thing you are likely to see on a football field is Karl Henry making a spectacular tackle. Wait, that happened yesterday as well…..

Only Steve Claridge can rival Diawara in terms of the vast number of sides he’s turned out for. Difference being Claridge tended to score.

The match wasn’t one for the defensively minded out there. Caen took the lead through Youssef El-Arabi’s strike in the 10th minute, after a well worked move by Caen that left the entire Arles defence scrambling.

But Arles didn’t let their heads drop (you think they would after 11 games without a win.) Gael Germany equalised after a sensational through-ball from Hameur Bouazza, which he deftly put past Caen keeper Alex Thebaux.

Then in the 33rd minute, Camel Meriem’s high free kick was found with a glancing header from Diawara found the corner of the net. Cue jubilation in the crowd.

However, not to be outdone with a free-kick routine, Caen responded after half-time magnificently as Kandia Traore bicycled kick the equaliser. Lovely finish but question marks over the Arles defence who appeared static as the free-kick came in, leaving Traore unmarked.

More drama followed in the 76th minute after Thebaux lunged in recklessly on Franck Dja Djedje. Penalty given, although Thebaux may have touched the ball. Either way, Diawara hit it straight and true and Arles held on for their first win in Ligue 1.

Manager Faruk Hadzibegic  reflected on the monumental win, he said: “We suffered a lot, but we deserved the win. Caen played well, but that’s football.”

“We won thanks to the determination. We had some difficulties early in the game but the team has managed to remain calm and make a difference. It’s good for morale and I dedicate this victory to all those who work for the club and the supporters. It is a victory that we can revive from even if the road is still long.”

So modest, the threat of the wooden spoon the day before clearly scared Arles Avignon and congratulations to them on their first win and the fact they doubled their goal tally for the season in one game. Still on -18 goal difference and 8 points behind at least for this weekend, there’s a mountain to climb. At least Arles have actually started to climb it finally.

 

The hunt for a win in October – AC Arles Avignon

Finally, there is relatively good news to report about Arles Avignon. Well I say good news, that maiden win in Ligue 1 still eludes our renegades from the south coast of France. They’ve finally managed to get some points on the board this season, with back-to-back draws against fellow promoted and now surprise run-away leaders Brest and Lyon too.

It really is remarkable seeing the contrast between Arles-Avignon and Stade Brestois. It was fairly obvious that Arles-Avignon were going to find the transition tough at best, but the Brittany club have been sensational this season, with only 2 defeats in those 11 games. They started fairly poorly but have been on a roll since with the Arles game being the only blemish in their form.

Brest have done something which is often not associated with promoted sides, and that’s having a rock-solid defence. They didn’t concede a goal in October, mainly thanks to Ahmed Kantari and Moise Apanga being almost ever-present in that back four. Hardly big names but both have grasped their opportunity, and Kantari has said that they deserve their place at the top. It would be hard to argue with him.

The game with Arles was a toughly contested game but featured fleeting opportunities for both sides. Lady Luck smiled on Arles’ side for the first time in the campaign, after Brest hit the woodwork twice in the second half. Nolan Roux’s header was the key chance in the game for Brest and it rattled the crossbar. Coincidently, Roux, only 22 has been superb this season, with the press speculating where his next move may be.

So, Arles managed to grab their first point, next up was Olympique Lyonnais. Now, Lyon haven’t had the best of starts to the season, but October saw them pick up some semblance of consistency under Claude Puel and they finally progressed up the table to 10th. The game was highly anticipated, a must win game for under-fire Puel, but it will be more fondly remembered for the weather. Stormy conditions caused the football quality to deteriorate , even more so with Arles playing.

Bizarre scenes before the match started. The Lyon players all stood on the pitch embracing each other, shaking hands and such possibly showing their backing of Claude Puel. This was after reports that Cris had led a revolt against the manager in a meeting, mainly due to his decision to drop him in previous games. Low and behold, Cris made the biggest impact in this game, literally by elbowing Camel Meriem, forcing him to be stretchered off.

Arles made the most of the slippery conditions at Parc Des Sports and they finally scored their first home goal of the season, through Franck Dja Djedje with a superb jink around Hugo Lloris and slotted in between two Lyon defenders. Cue jubilation and a half-time lambasting from Puel. It worked as Jimmy Briand scored straight after half-time with a downward header that should have been held by Cyrille Merville.

Either way, a fantastic draw for Arles, even considering Lyon’s problems this season. To quote the song – Sur le pont d’Avignon. L’on y danse, l’on y danse.

They took that result to Lorient and were roundly treated to a Kevin Gameiro masterclass. Ah well, a massive improvement in October for them. Here’s some highlights and November’s fixtures for Arles-Avignon:

6th Nov – Caen (H)

13th Nov – Monaco (A) – (biggest game in terms of league positioning)

21st Nov – Bordeaux (H)

27th Nov – Valenciennes (A)

Also we should note that Arles Avignon and Willem II are both on two points this season. If the two end on the same points at the end of the season, and rock bottom of the leagues across Europe, then a fixture should be contested at a neutral venue (DW Stadium) to decide who is the worst team in Europe. I think it has legs Platini….it should be dubbed UEFA Wooden Spoon

Arles Avignon vs Willem II - UEFA Wooden Spoon final?

 

 

Gibfootballshow Podcast

WARNING: Self-indulgent plug alert.

I have now been podcasting for a good 2 months and I’m relatively certain that I can safely link you to these podcasts, as my podcasting skill has truly stayed constantly at an average level. So with that hearty endorsement, here are the fine Gibfootballshow podcasts.

Peruse for general global football chat with

  • Andrew Gibney – a superb conductor in the event of madness on the pods plus a fine website to boot.
  • Me, you don’t need to hear any more about me.
  • Brent Atema of the great GlobalFootballToday website, a very knowledge Chelsea fan from Texas who always brags about the fine weather there.
  • Charlie Anderson – An oracle of  Scandinavian football. He can’t be floored by a question on the Tippeligaen. His own blog is here and writes for IBWM as well.
  • Gav Stone – a purveyor of Englishmen who have fled the destruction of these shores and plied their trade across the globe. He runs the sensational LesRosbifs.net
  • Ethan Dean Richards – I’ve clearly saved the best until last. The comedic foil for the group who never reveals the strategem behind his predictions. West Brom fan with some great views and his great site Surreal Football. Drinks Vimto.

And that’s about it really. This week’s talk revolves around how rubbish the Balon D’Or is now, Eredivisie (predominantly PSV), a sprinkle of Serie A and finally Michael Owen. Don’t worry, we don’t go all Henry Winter on him. Well I do, but that’s beside the point.

Please do listen, I will love each of you for doing so.

Honest.

Player Profiles – Andy Najar

With the MLS season almost over, DC United will be looking to forget this year in a hurry. Fortunately for them, they have uncovered one of the brightest prospects in recent seasons, maybe since the inception of the MLS. Freddie Shires looks at Andy Najar:

One could be forgiven for stating that the MLS, in its short history, has hardly set the world alight with the amount and overall quality of emerging players it’s exported overseas to more established leagues in recent years.
Examples of such resounding failures like Clint Mathis, Joe-Max Moore and Josh Wolff who have failed to translate their dominance in the US into success across the pond. Their legacies have been put to bed by the likes of Clint Dempsey, Brian McBride, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard, all who’ll be familiar names to even the least informed of football fans.

The latest player who could be about to join this list of star exports is none other than D.C. United’s 17-year-old forward, Andy Najar, one of the few bright points of what has been a fairly dismal 2010 campaign for the side that dominated the early years of the league.

Najar, along with his parents and younger brother, moved to the U.S. from his native Honduras 5 years ago, settling in Alexandria, Virginia, where relatives at the time were living. A far cry from his hometown of Santa Cruz, a small rural village in the south of Honduras, boasting a population of just 6,000, Najar immediately set the local high school soccer scene alight, quickly catching the eye of D.C. United academy scouts, who signed him up to their programme after a successful trial for the under-16 team in 2007.

Initially starting out as a right back, Najar rapidly moved up through the club’s developments system, his impressive play earing a promotion to the under-18s, where his skill and attacking nature prompted coaches to move him upfront, a position he has since flourished in. Outstanding goal scoring form on various club youth tours and tournaments, including 5 in 4 games at the U.S. Developmental Academy Finals in Los Angeles, during the summer of 2009, saw Najar earn the opportunity to train with the senior side later on the year.

Najar signs lucrative deal at DC United

By this time, the Honduran teenager’s impressive play had clearly caught the eye of the club’s first team coaching staff and, after distinguishing himself as one of the stand out performers during early pre-season training for the 2010 season, Najar signed a guaranteed contract with the side, worth $40,000, and cemented a place as one of 2 home-grown academy players allowed on the 26 man roster for the forthcoming season.

While D.C. United’s 2010 season has been a terrible, with the club sitting bottom of the Eastern conference, Najar’s play has been a revelation and one of few bright spots for the club’s supporters. Head Coach Curt Onalfo was given his marching orders in early August, having only been handed the job in January, though despite the turmoil surrounding him, Najar still sits as the prime candidate to win the end of season Rookie of the Year award, establishing himself as one of the first names on the D.C. United team sheet and scoring 5 goals in 24 games. General consensus amongst coaches, players, and fans alike, is that Najar is now one of the hottest young properties the league has to offer and the most exciting prospect coming out of MLS in years.

A benefactor of the newly introduced “Home-grown” rule, allowing clubs to sign 2 players per season from their academy side to the senior roster, Najar thus bypassed the normal process of being selected by any one of the league’s 16 sides in the MLS draft, and the chance to continue to develop, both as a player and person, close to his family home has clearly been of huge benefit to him.

At just 17, Najar is considerably younger than the majority of players coming into the league out of college and it has to be stressed that he still has a huge amount of untapped potential that could yet be unearthed in the next few years.
Some will inevitably compare him to another of MLS’s past starlets, none other than the enigma that is Freddy Adu, but these comparisons could not be further from the truth.

For a start, the emergence of Adu was met with a vast amount of media hype, which transcended football and overflowed into mainstream media. Adu was labelled by many as the new Pelé, earning various endorsement deals, trials with top European clubs, and a multi-million dollar contract with D.C. United as the 1st pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, making him at the time the highest paid player in the league, all before he had even kicked a ball as a professional.

Much Adu about nothing: Najar different to last DC wonderkid

Najar’s emergence on the other hand has been remarkably low key. There was no fanfare when he made his debut, no media coverage of his promising play at the start of the season, and certainly no big money endorsement deals from the likes of Nike and Gatorade. Instead, if one had put his name to a group of supporters, it most likely would have been met by a collective “Who?”

Furthermore, Adu never produced on the pitch during his 4 seasons in MLS, his time at D.C. United and one season at Real Salt Lake wasn’t great either, a mixture of inconsistent play only met by the odd flash of brilliance. Adu was simply unable to develop technically or physically as a player during his early career, never able to play to his one clear strength that was his undisputed technical prowess, as the diminutive attacking midfielder was often overpowered by his opponents and constantly knocked off the ball.

His transfer to Benfica in 2007 was arguably down to reputation more than anything else, and Adu’s career since his move to Europe has ultimately been an unqualified disaster, met with lack of playing time, poor play, and questions surrounding his work ethic and even his age.

We shall leave the Freddy Adu age dispute for another occasion, but undoubtedly these are not issues that Najar should ever have to worry about. For a start the Honduran has already shown himself to be a genuine quality player during his short time in MLS, displaying clear progress in his game from the start of the season to now, and belying his small 5ft 7in frame with tough physical play when matched up against even the most imposing of defenders. Commitment and work ethic are also not a problem.

As former coach Onalfo was quoted as saying, “The guys really like him (Andy) ’cause they respect him and he’s just a well-grounded kid. He’s also got unbelievable concentration. Usually, young players are focused for a short period of time and then they lose focus and they make errors because of that. Andy very rarely makes errors because of concentration.”

Often deployed on the wing, where his sheer explosiveness and trickery are best put to use, Najar has made a habit of burning defenders throughout MLS with his raw pace and agility, though he has shown enough versatility that he has even been employed as an emergency defensive midfielder on occasions. Strong on the ball with either foot, while possessing acute vision, deft touch, and a wide range of passing, Najar has shown in spells even at his young age that he has the confidence and ability to play the role of a playmaker as an attacking midfielder, impressive in a league where tough physical defensive midfielders dominate and the centre of the field can often become clogged. The rumours of a move however have already started, and reports of a trial at Arsenal once the MLS season ends have been widely reported.

The same clubs that were once interested in Adu, the likes of Inter and AC Milan, Real Madrid etc., allegedly all have their eyes now firmly set on Najar and it will be interesting to see what his future holds in the coming months. A tug of war too could soon be developing between Honduras, the country of his birth, and the United States, whom Najar will soon be eligible to appear for once he inevitably obtains his citizenship. Both have expressed a profound interest in the young starlet, and, though Najar himself remains remarkably coy on the issue, refusing to commit to either nation for now, fans of both countries are crossing their fingers in the hope that theirs will be the national team Najar eventually chooses to represent.

Despite the overseas interest however, many surveying the young career of Najar believe that, for now, a stay in MLS would be most beneficial for the young midfielder, where he can continue to develop with regular first team football. Plenty of American youngsters have voyaged abroad for football in the past, only to discover their chances limited and the football too competitive for their raw playing style (Landon Donovan being a prime example when he moved to Leverkusen.)

Bernabeu bound? Najar the next Galactico?

Unlike his choice of national team however, Najar has made no secret about which club team he’d eventually like to represent in the future. An avid Real Madrid fan, he’s been quoted as dreaming of one day pulling on the shirt of Los Blancos. While that day may seem a long way from now, what may seem like an overly ambitious dream of Najar’s could one day become a reality if he continues to develop and assert himself on the field the way he has been over the past 10 months. Avoiding the Freddy Adu comparisons, most would agree Najar has the ability to at least enjoy a career comparable to that of some of MLS’s most famous alumni, names such as Dempsey and Donovan, though those more aspiring of fans would be inclined to suggest he could easily surpass their achievements.

Najar certainly has the talent level to one day become a world star from what we have seen in his remarkably short professional career so far, but he still has many years of development ahead of him and a mountain of obstacles to hurdle before that day can ever arrive. For now, we must sit back and wait with baited breath, as the career of Andy Najar is only just beginning.

Follow Freddie on Twitter @fshires for more superb analysis of the MLS