February 26th, 2013
03:53 PM ET

CNN Football Club: Marcel Desailly answers your questions!

Former France and Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly was the star guest on this week's CNN FC show. (Getty Images).
Former France and Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly was the star guest on this week's CNN FC show. (Getty Images).

Marcel Desailly was at the heart of the France team which triumphed at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, as well as lifting the Champions League with both AC Milan and Marseille.

An African-born defender who went on to conquer Europe, Desailly enjoyed a glittering 20-year career which also included a spell with Chelsea before ending his playing days in Qatar.

Desailly was live in the studio to talk Champions League and also to answer your questions this week as the CNN Football Club debated who is European football’s top defender. FULL POST

February 26th, 2013
03:37 PM ET

Pedro's Point of View - My top Euro stoppers are...

Leonardo Bonucci, Pepe and Mats Hummels are on Pedro’s shortlist (Getty Images).
Leonardo Bonucci, Pepe and Mats Hummels are on Pedro’s shortlist (Getty Images).

This week on The CNN Football Club show, we are welcoming one of the greatest defenders of all time - Marcel Desailly.

As I started to prepare topics of discussion with my star guest, who won two Champions League titles, the 1998 World Cup and Euro2000, I decided that it would be a good idea to write about the top center-backs in the Champions League this season. In other words, just like Desailly had inspired Olympique Marseille and AC Milan during the '90s, which top stoppers could do the same for their respective clubs during the current campaign? FULL POST

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February 20th, 2013
05:47 PM ET

CNN Football Club: Ian Wright answers your questions!

What would you ask former Arsenal striker Ian Wright? (Getty Images).
What would you ask former Arsenal striker Ian Wright? (Getty Images).

Ian Wright joined Arsenal in 1991 and went on to become a club legend, scoring 185 goals in 288 games and helping the London team to a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1998.

The former England striker was already at Highbury when Arsene Wenger arrived in 1996 and led the club through an era of domestic success and scintillating football.

Now, with Wenger's Arsenal in apparent crisis following the 3-1 defeat by Bayern Munich, CNN Football Club asked one of the club's greatest ever players your questions. FULL POST

February 20th, 2013
10:57 AM ET

McEnroe mission: Meeting a tennis legend

CNN's Don Riddell interviewed U.S. tennis legend John McEnroe for the Open Court show.
CNN's Don Riddell interviewed U.S. tennis legend John McEnroe for the Open Court show.

Young sports fans don’t know how good they have it these days. When I was growing up in England, there was none of the wall-to-wall HD TV coverage that exists of almost every sport now.

There was no Internet, no cable or satellite, no ESPN or Sky Sports and certainly no CNN World Sport. We didn’t know what we were missing; in hindsight, the bad news was that there wasn’t much sport on TV, the good news was that you were avidly drawn to whatever there was. Saturation wasn’t anyone’s concern.

And, be it football, golf, boxing, cricket or tennis, the top performers quickly became household names.

In Britain, it was hard to avoid Wimbledon every summer and it was impossible to miss the brash, angry young New Yorker John McEnroe. FULL POST

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Filed under:  Tennis
February 19th, 2013
12:27 PM ET

Pedro's point of view: Is Wenger's time at Arsenal running out?

Is Arsene Wenger's reign at Arsenal coming to an end? (Getty Images).
Is Arsene Wenger's reign at Arsenal coming to an end? (Getty Images).

I first said it three years ago and I will say it again now: Arsenal need a new manager. Arsene Wenger had a great run, but all good things must come to an end. Eight years without a trophy is not acceptable and the fact the club’s best players keep leaving is a clear indication they no longer believe in the Frenchman’s philosophy.

Let me make one thing clear. My opinion has nothing to do with this past weekend’s FA Cup defeat to English second-tier side Blackburn Rovers. And it wasn't Arsenal’s elimination from the League Cup - the lesser of England's two domestic knockout competitions - to lowly fourth division side Bradford either, though even now reading that statement tests credulity.

More that, for years now I have seen him lose the Midas touch that delivered so much glory to the proud North London side at the start of his tenure. Unfortunately, the time has come for the owners to recruit a new man with a new plan.

The trophy drought is indeed worrying, but if I were an Arsenal fan, what would really concern me is the fact that most of the team’s best players don’t want to work with Wenger anymore. Just look at some of the stars that have abandoned Arsene’s ship - Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Robin Van Persie. Together, over the last eight years, all the players who have left the Gunners have gone out and won a combined 75 trophies. While Arsenal, as you know, have won none.

Obviously, many of those players I mentioned left because of money. The club has a strict wage structure and the owners deserve part of the blame by refusing to compete with some of Europe’s big spenders.

But the current situation is the culmination of a strategy that has been wrong for a long time. Wenger acts surprised when his best players leave in each close season and then stresses over the little time that remains to sign quality replacements. It happened in 2011 with Cesc and Nasri. It happened again last summer with Song and RVP. This has become a club that hopes for the best in the face of the brutal reality that money talks in the modern game.

The final indication that Wenger’s time has come at Arsenal is his loss of composure. Tired of seeing his team fail time and again, cracks have started to appear in his rusty armor. Earlier this season the 63-year-old was seen snarling at journalists’ persistent questions about failure, and on Monday he simply lost his cool. In the press conference before Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, Arsene went into attack mode and reacted aggressively to suggestions he had not taken the Blackburn game seriously and he was about to sign a new two-year contract.

This from the man dubbed "The Professor" by adoring fans in his Gunners heyday for his suave sophistication and delivery of silverware via swashbuckling football to the Highbury faithful.

All the signs are there. The song is coming to an end, and Wenger and Arsenal have to stop dancing together. The  coach deserves credit for building one of the greatest teams in Premier League history since he arrived from Japan's Grampus Eight in 1996 and he has led the Gunners into the Champions League group stages year in and year out.

However, finishing fourth cannot be a satisfactory objective for a club of Arsenal’s stature. Trophies have to be won, and it seems they will have to be won with someone else sitting in the dugout.

Don’t forget to tune in to the CNN Football Club on CNN International at 1700 GMT on February 21.

You can also have your say by following our @CNNFC Twitter account or visit the show’s Facebook page.

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February 13th, 2013
06:14 PM ET

CNN Football Club: Gaizka Mendieta answers your questions!

Gaizka Mendieta will be the star guest for this week's edition of the CNN Football Club (Getty Images).
Gaizka Mendieta will be the star guest for this week's edition of the CNN Football Club (Getty Images).

Gaizka Mendieta led out Valencia in two European Champions League finals and played for Spain at both Euro 2000 and the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

Now, CNN Football Club has put your questions to the former Barcelona, Lazio and Middlesbrough star.

After debuting with Michael Owen last week, CNN’s new half-hour weekly global debate show ran the rule over the Champions League second-round ties in the company of Mendieta, who reached the final of Europe's top club competition in 2000 and 2001. FULL POST

February 13th, 2013
05:22 PM ET

Pedro's point of view – Is Ibrahimovic a hero or villain?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off during PSG's win over Valencia (Getty Images).
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sent off during PSG's win over Valencia (Getty Images).

Why, Zlatan? Why did you have to do it? Your team was winning, there were just a few seconds left in the game, so what possessed you to stamp on Andres Guardado?

A lot of football fans are asking those questions today. It is difficult to understand why Zlatan Ibrahimovic lashed out at an opponent with Paris Saint-Germain in control of a European Champions League match against Valencia, earning the Swedish international a red card.

However, you shouldn’t expect an answer from the star striker, his teammates or his manager Carlo Ancelotti. I’m not sure anyone can comprehend some of the things the Swede does on the pitch. FULL POST

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February 5th, 2013
12:58 PM ET

CNN Football Club: Michael Owen answers your questions

English soccer great Michael Owen appears on the new CNN Football Club show.
English soccer great Michael Owen appears on the new CNN Football Club show.

He scored one of the greatest goals in World Cup at France '98, aged just 18, before going on to be named European Footballer of the Year in 2001.

He has scored 40 goals for England and won seven major titles in 17-year career. Now, former Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Michael Owen has answered your questions.

Owen appears in this week's launch of “The CNN Football Club,” a forum for global debate around the UEFA Champions League which will be broadcast as a half-hour weekly debate show presented by Pedro Pinto and live 24/7 on CNN.com. FULL POST

February 1st, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Top five signings of the transfer window?

Wesley Sneijder, David Beckham and Mario Balotelli all feature in Pedro's picks.
Wesley Sneijder, David Beckham and Mario Balotelli all feature in Pedro's picks.

The winter transfer window has now closed and there are various famous faces in different places. I have taken a look at a lot of the deals made and picked my top five. Do you agree? Let me know…

1. David Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain for free.

I know he is 37 years-old and I would agree with those who say he has been somewhat overrated at times during his career, but David Beckham is a great signing for PSG. The English midfielder brings a lot of experience and influence to the table and will become an important piece of the puzzle that Carlo Ancelotti is building in Paris.

Whether you think he is the most gifted player on the planet or not, one thing you cannot take away from Beckham is that he has won trophies everywhere he has been. Yes, his lifestyle off the field can be a little overwhelming, but he works his socks off every time he is on the pitch.

Will he play every minute of every game with PSG? Definitely not, but I expect him to play an important role in the team’s season, especially in the Champions League. He could form quite a solid partnership with Thiago Motta or Blaise Matuidi in midfield, allowing the likes of Lucas Moura, Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi to do some major damage further upfield.

All in all, a shrewd piece of business from the new giants of Paris Saint-Germain. Getting Beckham for free is a great deal.

2. Wesley Sneijder to Galatasaray

He may be moody, he may be high maintenance, but Wesley Sneijder is one of the top creative midfielders on the planet. At the peak of his talents, the Dutchman can run a game with his passing and vision. He is a joy to watch on the ball and my only regret is he didn’t join a higher profile league.

Galatasaray will pay a lot in wages, but the $12 million transfer fee is peanuts for a player of Sneijder’s standing. If you take into account that the Turkish giants also got Didier Drogba, they could be a dark horse in the Champions League.

3. Demba Ba to Chelsea

There aren’t that many pure finishers in the game right now so when a team gets one for less than $16 million, it is always going to be a good deal. The Senegalese striker has proven his credentials as a matador and is giving Chelsea a different dimension up front. The only question is will Rafael Benitez have the courage to drop Fernando Torres in favour of a player who cost less money and earns less money as well?

I see Ba as a real predator around the box and if given a chance he will bang in plenty of goals for the Blues. With such great creative players like Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard behind him, there will be no shortage of balls for the former Newcastle man to pounce on.

4. Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool FC

The deal was reportedly worth around $18 million and I think that is a bargain for a player with great potential and skill. I had watched him play various times for Chelsea and wondered why he wasn’t given more chances at Stamford Bridge. Some fans in England have criticized Sturridge for showboating a bit too much, but in my book, if you have the skills, flaunt them!

The 23 year-old striker will form a great partnership with Luis Suarez and could help Liverpool finish in the top four. With someone like Phillippe Coutinho coming in to help create chances, Sturridge should have plenty of service up front. If he continues to play like he is right now, I expect him to be a regular England international by the end of the season.

5. Mario Balotelli to AC Milan

Is he problematic? Yes. Is he controversial? Yes. But Mario Balotelli is also incredibly talented and he deserves another chance. Even though Roberto Mancini tried his best to control Super Mario at Manchester City, I don’t hink he ever succeeded. Balotelli never felt loved in the north of England and I don’t think he ever got the guidance he needed to mature.

When I think about the 22 year-old striker, I think about the way in which he tore Germany’s defence to shreds during Euro2012. I think about the way he terrorized Spain’s defence during a group game in the same tournament. This guy has a lot of potential and all he needs is the right environment to blossom into a star. I hope for his sake that he gets the support and the nurture he requires to become a top player in the world of football.

Is over $30 million a lot to pay on someone as volatile as Mario? Maybe. But it could turn out to be one of the biggest bargains of the decade!

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