Posted June. 27, 2009 08:23,
A silent war is unfolding in European soccer. UEFA has concluded its annual Champions League tournament, but the aggressive transfer moves of Spanish power Real Madrid have dominated the headlines.
Madrid owns nine European Cups but earned no trophies last season as chief rival FC Barcelona clinched a historic treble by winning the Primera Liga, Spanish Cup and the Champions League.
New Madrid President Florentino Perez seeks to regain the clubs lost glory as the worlds best soccer franchise next season, starting with the blockbuster signings of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo for record transfer fees.
The Spanish teams aggressive spending has spurred activity by other clubs as well. Teams with deep pockets including Chelsea and Manchester City of the English Premier League are battling it out to recruit top-notch players.
The Dong-A Ilbo polled Korean soccer commentators on their thoughts on European soccer. Eight commentators from KBS, SBS and MBC TV took part in the survey, expressing their thoughts on players to watch and the outlook for next season.
Commentators singled out four teams as the worlds best: Barcelona and Madrid of Spain and Manchester United and Chelsea of England. Five of the eight commentators picked Barcelona as the strongest team.
On a scale of one to 10, with one being the lowest, the European club champion earned high marks in all categories: nine for offense; eight for defense; 9.1 for teamwork and capacity to implement strategy; and 8.6 for external conditions including its coach.
Madrid scored a nine on offense, but lagged far behind in offense (7.1) and teamwork (seven). Analysts say Madrid is weak in teamwork as it allowed 52 goals last season, more than Barcas 35.
Madrid needs to invest in the central midfield and defense, said Han Joon-hee of KBS. If it fails to land Xabi Alonso and Douglas Maicon, chances are high that Barcelona will win the El Clasico Derby (games against Madrid).
Manchester United boasts a strong defense, as it did not give up a goal over 1,310 minutes of the Premier League last season. The club earned the highest rating for defense (8.8) among the four teams, but its rating for offense took a hit (7.9) after striker Ronaldo was dealt to Madrid.
Chelsea earned the lowest scores in offense (7.6) and external conditions including coach (7.8). Its weaknesses include a lack of replacements for striker Didier Drogba, who is rumored to be transferring elsewhere.
○ Messi at Barcelona, Ronaldo and Kaka in Madrid
The Korean commentators singled out Lionel Messi as the player who will determine Barcelonas performance next season.
Park Moon-seong of SBS and Seo Hyeong-uk of MBC picked midfielders Andres Iniesta Lujan and Xavier Hernandez, but the remaining six commentators picked Messi.
Lee Yong-soo of KBS said, If Messi performs as well as he did this year, no team can rival Barcelona in attack.
On Madrid, the commentators also said that depending on whether Kaka and Ronaldo live up to their monetary value through harmonious play, Madrid will either flourish or completely fail.
Most of the commentators singled out Wayne Rooney as the key player for United, and said the new striker recruited to replace Ronaldo will be the main variable for the teams fortune. If that striker performs worse than expected, United could suffer an unexpected slump.
At Chelsea, Frank Lampard was considered the top player. Choi Gyeong-shik of KBS said, Chelseas performance tends to fluctuate depending on the teams mood, adding, Lampard is its spiritual leader and has a big role to play.