It was a surprise, but it made sense. That is how I can best describe my reaction to Pep Guardiola’s decision to sign for Bayern Munich.
After months of speculation which linked him with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the 42-year-old manager decided to turn his back on the bright lights of the English Premier League, opting instead, to ply his trade in the burgeoning German Bundesliga.
I genuinely thought Pep was heading to Manchester City. The English champions had recently hired two of his former colleagues at Barcelona, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Beguiristain, and in my mind Guardiola was next in line. FULL POST
Actions speak louder than words. So for Rory McIlroy, a missed cut in Abu Dhabi in his opening event of the 2013 season was far from ideal. The world No.1 was the talk of the sports world at the beginning of the week as Nike Golf announced his arrival as their newest and most significant signing. He is believed to have signed one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports history with figures of $200 million over five years being suggested.
At the heavily stage-managed launch by Nike, McIlory confirmed he was making a wholesale change to Nike products throughout the bag. After an eight-week break since he closed out the 2012 season in stunning style up the road in Dubai, the plan for the new year was all about change. He would be playing a driver, fairway woods, irons, putter and ball, all made by Nike. Except that by Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship he had reverted back to his old Titleist Scotty Cameron putter for the second round.
It’s a new phase in McIlroy’s life and career. An established professional of five seasons, with so many expectations realized and so much hype justified, the two-time major champion and undisputed world No.1 was ready to move to a new level. Part of this was his long-held dream to become a sporting brand ambassador on a par with the likes of his heroes Tiger Woods, tennis stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and footballer Wayne Rooney of McIlroy's beloved Manchester United.
With the Nike deal signed and no more logos or brands on public display other than the “Swoosh”, McIlroy is in the perfect position to focus all of his attention on his true goals, those of winning major titles and in the short term, gearing up for the Masters at Augusta and the realistic ambition of winning his first green jacket. No longer does he play for money, he has riches beyond his wildest dreams and he’s only 23. All that he lacks are air miles in the competitive sense with his new equipment.
Mcilroy’s performance in this pipe opener for his season in Abu Dhabi was far from satisfactory, but he will take it on the chin. He’s too good not to sort his game out and as his caddy JP Fitzgerald has stated, “he could play with a hockey stick and orange and still win!”
By the sound of it McIlroy’s off-season was far from relaxing. High altitude training and some downtime in Colorado with his girlfriend, the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was followed by trips with her on the tennis circuit to South America.
After a few relaxing days celebrating Christmas at his new home with his parents and the Wozniacki family, he was quickly into some club testing with the Nike gurus at the Bear’s Club in Palm Beach near his Florida home, before flying to Australia to support his girlfriend as she warmed up for the Australian Open.
He returned to Dubai where he began an intensive week-long series of club fitting and testing at the Els Club before driving to Abu Dhabi for a busy few days of hype regarding his launch as the new face of Nike Golf and another distracting day of speculation over the election of a new Ryder Cup captain. One in which he became very much caught up in as a major supporter of Paul McGinley.
McIlory's very public show of support and outward displays of a conviction regarding how the captaincy issue should be dealt with, gave us a glimpse into the strength of mind which he possesses.
He will be smarting at his poor display and missed cut at Abu Dhabi. With four weeks until his next appearance in Arizona at the Accenture World Match Play, we should expect to see a more commanding performance from McIlroy as he truly begins his build-up to Augusta.
This performance was far from perfect and not what Nike will have desired, but at the end of the day there’s only one man that matters and he will be ready to continue his march towards his sporting destiny. The time for talking is over. Let’s see some action Rory. Just do it.
Paul McGinley emerged as the new European Ryder Cup captain after receiving the very public backing of the key members of last September's winning team at Medinah.
Led by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the core group of stars such as Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari made their opinions known after it appeared that Colin Montgomerie might make a surprise return to the role for 2014. FULL POST
It feels like only yesterday that Zambia stormed to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations title. The Chipolopolo beat the likes of Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast to become the 14th African nation to win the tournament.
No wonder I can remember the competition so well. For the first time, it is being held in consecutive years. Organizers decided to change the calendar so the tournament would not clash with the FIFA World Cup due to take place in Brazil next year.
So as Africa’s top players prepare to take to the field for the 29th edition of the competition, what or who should we look out for? Below is a look at some of the stories I will be following: FULL POST
It’s hard to be a Los Angeles Lakers fan these days.
Our team, the one that was supposed to win an NBA title this year, can barely win a game. Once we talked about posting the best record in NBA history; now we openly wonder whether we’ll post a winning record at all.
Still, I don’t expect any sympathy.
This is what it’s like to be a fan of the Lakers: You are over three times more likely to see your team win the NBA title than miss the playoffs entirely.
Almost half of our seasons have ended in June, at the NBA Finals; this year, our season could end in April. FULL POST
I could feel the frustration in his voice. Kevin-Prince Boateng had decided to make a stand. It wasn’t the first time he had faced racial abuse and he wasn’t going to take it any more. The AC Milan midfielder took a stand and, in my view, became a hero.
During our 15-minute phone conversation, an exclusive interview for CNN, I could tell Boateng was not only frustrated, but also upset that football authorities have not been doing enough to combat racism. FULL POST