December 28th, 2011
08:00 PM ET

Out with the old and in with the new in 2012

The football fields of the world are set for a thrilling 2012.
The football fields of the world are set for a thrilling 2012.

The approach of the New Year is often a time to take mental stock: to consider and reflect on what has past, while at the same time anticipating and renewing energies for what the next 12 months will bring. And it is with this philosophical dichotomy in mind that I have decided to share my thoughts on what 2011 taught me and what I hope to see in 2012.

Five lessons from 2011:

1. I will never pick Barcelona to lose a Clasico ever again ...

Leading up to the seventh and final Clasico of 2011, I predicted Real Madrid would beat Barcelona at the Bernabeu. It was my belief that Los Blancos were in better form and had matured enough to beat their eternal rivals. I was wrong. Barca still proved they are the best team on the planet, even if they were a little lucky on December 10th in Madrid.

2. You don’t need great central midfielders to win the English Premier League ...

Michael Carrick, Anderson, Darren Fletcher. These were the players who had the most appearances in the center of midfield during Manchester United’s last title-winning campaign alongside the now-retired and much-missed Paul Scholes. Would any of them get into champion sides from Europe's other major Leagues? I don’t think so. Essentially, this shows that the fast pace of the game in England doesn’t require the top teams to have incredibly skilled players in the engine room of the midfield. With wingers and forwards relied upon to make a difference, teams can survive with average or just plain solid players in the center of the park.

3. The English Premier League transfer market is ridiculously inflated ...

$55 million for Andy Carroll? $30 million for Stewart Downing? $20 million for Connor Wickham? I could go on … and don’t think I have forgotten about Fernando Torres costing $77 million. However, the point I am making is that English players are overpriced and the Premier League transfer market only reinforces this. So many average players moved teams for fees over the $15 million mark and it makes you think why? The only answer I can find is that teams know they need home-grown players to comply with UEFA rules and since there aren’t that many top quality English players, the better ones move for a fortune.

4. Go east for the future of football ...

This past year I travelled to Moscow to speak with Samuel Eto’o following his much publicized move to Anzhi Makhachkala. He told me many high-profile players had been in touch with him to ask about his lifestyle in Russia and the quality of the local league, adding that they were interested in following him East. It doesn’t surprise me. The wealth makes out there makes Donald Trump look like a second-hand car salesman. I don’t have a problem with lower profile leagues getting good players, I just wished the stars moving out there would move for the game, not for the cash.

5. Soccer needs youth at the top ...

Earlier this year, my interview with Sepp Blatter made the headlines when the FIFA president suggested racial abuse on the pitch could be resolved with a handshake at the end of the game. Obviously a man in his position cannot say things like this, and it shows there is a mentality that is out-of-touch within football’s governing body. Ethics aside, goal-line technology? Instant replay? 2012 is just around the corner and I can’t believe that at least one of those tools is not in use in the game today.

Five wishes for 2012

1. Pep Guardiola managing a new team ...

Who is the best coach in the world? Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola? I would say Mourinho, not because I am Portuguese but because he has had success at four different clubs in four different countries. I love the way Pep has turned Barcelona into possibly the greatest club team of all time, but I want to see him at another club in a different league. Then we will really see the measure of his talents.

2. Andre Villas-Boas smiling ...

He is young, he is good looking but he is very grumpy, isn’t he? AVB smiled during his first interview with Chelsea TV, but I haven’t seen him do it since. I believe someone should give him some tips on how to deal with the media spotlight and show him that humor and sarcasm would do wonders for his image. Even if it has been a tough season so far, he has had opportunities to smile and he hasn’t. Lighten up, Andre!

3. Less time-wasting ...

I am sick and tired of seeing players pretend that they are injured. How many hours of football are wasted every season by players rolling on the ground trying to win Oscars? FIFA and UEFA need to do something about it and fast. Enough is enough.

4. Arsenal spending money on a star player ...

Name the last high-profile player Arsenal bought. Andrei Arshavin? Samir Nasri? You get the point. Arsene Wenger has refused to spend big money on big players and their trophy drought will continue unless he changes philosophy. It’s great to be contenders and it’s great to play good football, but you need silverware, otherwise even your players will stop believing in your methods.

5. River Plate returning to Argentina’s First Division

I was shocked when River were relegated last season and I would love to see them return to Argentina’s top flight. The Superclasicos against Boca Juniors are part of football folklore and I really missed seeing those giants of South America clash this season. The good news is that Los Milionarios are on their way. Halfway through the season, they are in second place in the table. With David Trezeguet and Fernando Cavenaghi leading the line up front, they should have enough goals in them to get promoted.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Killian Donnellan

    How can you say that Mourinho is better than Ferguson? It is such a biased opinion, I still can't believe you said that. Winning titles at four different clubs, at four different countries is completely irrelevant. Lets start with Ferguson, he broke the celtic/rangers grip in scotland with aberdeen and also won the european cup winners cup. With manchester united he has won 37 titles, has 4 or 5 great united teams. Now mourinho has only 17 titles, plays dirty football, he assaults people and unlike ferguson has not developed young talent with the clubs he is at. Also, speaking of you being biased, why is it you say what's wrong with the premiership all the time and that almost every team is poor, i never read any blogs where you criticise the spanish, german or italien leagues.

    December 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  2. Horacio

    Killian, if you were going to hire one manager, would you really hire Fergie ahead of Mourinho? I don't think so... Also, a lot of people outside of UK think EPL is overrated. Football is fast, entertaining, but technical quality is poor outside the top 6.

    December 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  3. alehandro

    What I'd like to see in 2012 is no journalist predicting the result of any game or offering coaching advice to managers. You're observers not experts. You are not coaches or players. You do not have the skill or tactical knowledge to make anything happen yet you believe that rubbing shoulders with the greats makes you their equal. It doesn't. Your job is to break the news not make the news. You're welcome to use the information you gather to raise various questions but don't presume to have the answers because you cannot appreciate what it's like to be truly inside the game....On your 5 lessons learned: 1.Glad you've finally realized that predicting the result of any derby, never mind a classico, is a mug's games. 2. To say English football negates the need for skilled midfielders is a ridiculous generalization when players like David Silva, Juan Mata, Luka Modric, Aaron Ramsey, Yaya Toure and, when fit, Jack Wilshere and Tom Cleverley, are among the most exciting and influential players in the league. 3. Transfer prices are over inflated worldwide. UEFA may be in part to blame but it's the mega-rich owners who set the tone. Look at the money PSG are splashing about at the moment. It just so happens that many of the billionaires are congregated in the BPL right now. Just see what happens if the mass exodus to Russia, referred to in point 4, comes to pass, transfer fees will skyrocket there too as one oligarch tries to out do another. 5. FIFA needs youth and innovation. Not exactly an original theory but can't disagree with you there...On your 5 wishes: Mourinho over Pep and Sir Alex? Fergie created a dynasty whereas Guardiola inherited one and ran with it so I'd give Fergie the edge there. Mourinho has not been "special" since 2009 so he's living on past glories at the moment is he not? AVB smiling – how about AVB less crouching – makes my quads hurt just watching him. Less playacting- no argument there. More spending, less pretty football and a trophy for Arsenal – ain't gonna happen under Wenger. River back in the top flight. – a token nod towards non European football, but sure, why not. Happy New Year CNN.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  4. Kirill Bond

    One big wish for 2012 is for you Pedro to put aside your pro Mourinho bias and acknowledge that he is poor embassador for the sport. The results he achieved are in large part thanks to team owners in Chelsea, Inter and Madrid who are obsessed with overcoming failure and are ready to spend unreasonable amounts of money for short term results. As for Pep coaching another team, well Pep does not need to prove himself anywhere else, the world lauds not just Barca's winning style but also team philosophy and lasting legacy, something that Mou hasn't left in any of the four teams he coached. So, as we enter 2012, please make a resolution to stay objective because when you attribute Barca's December Clasico victory to luck...well, let's say Madrid has enough 'bad losers' on their bench.

    December 30, 2011 at 10:38 am | Reply
  5. Irongwa

    Other than trophies and results a good coach is a sign of loyalty to a club. Sir Ferguson has all these but Guardiola has won more trophies within his short spell at Barca and has developed players and even the game of football more than any of them. Jose did very well with Porto but as an underdog. Many teams didn't see Porto as a treat. Even though Mancini and even Jose have proven me wrong, with money it is easier to win. Please don't use this to persuade Guardiola to move away from his comfort zone. You don't change the winning combination.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  6. DaltonRichardson

    Totally agree with Killian. Alex Ferguson is a much better manager based on the number of titles won and his ability to take ordinary players and turn them into a great team.

    December 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  7. Aleksandar Stojanovic

    I do not see why Guardiola needs to prove himself with other club. Does that mean that Alex Ferguson needs to go to other club to prove himself. Do not think so. Nice article by the way.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Reply
  8. Robert Trisk

    One of the things that makes Guardiola such a great coach is that he could care less about proving to people like you that he is the world's best coach by 'winning with different teams'. He grew up as a fan and player in the team's lower ranks, he keeps winning and his players are rather motivated, to say the least. Had Mourinho coached Barcelona and won every possible title in his first year, he would likely have left right there and then to go earn a higher salary in a different team ... and likely never have won as many titles or attained Barcelona's football level.
    This whole thing about Mou winning with different teams.... he is a great coach, but his clubs have also always been great.

    December 31, 2011 at 10:07 am | Reply
  9. Nishath

    Well you were supporting Real Madrid to win all this time Mr.Pinto but you changed sides at the wrong moment and you will be regretting this, because Madrid are going to win the league this time along with Copa Del Rey. It remains to be seen if they can win the Champions League this year or the next year. Real Madrid will only get better as the year progresses and Clasico on the 10th December was just a slip up.

    When it comes to comparing Sir Alex with the special one well that remains to be seen when Mourinho finishes his career but from what it looks like right now he will beat him.

    January 2, 2012 at 6:54 am | Reply
  10. Archie Plinger

    Spot on Kilian. He even predicted on TV the other day that Portugal were one of the main contenders for the European Cup this year. Villas-Boas may be grumpy, who wouldn't be managing an afluent club like Chelsea and only managing 5th in the league, 11 points behind the leaders and that were booed off the field in their last match. Grumpy maybe, another useless Portuguese, definitely.

    January 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  11. DM

    Killian are you serious?? Only 17 titles? At his age?! That's outstanding! And winning in all major championships under different themes. I love Ferguson and what he has done with United, what he represents etc... but you can not say that Pedro is being biased.
    He doesn't develop young talents? He makes young talents better than they are and he transforms underrated players into great ones. He's like no other and no doubt about... if you are only thinking of silverware, than in a few years time we can have this conversation again! Would love to see Ferguson in another team to see what he would be able to do! One thing is sure... To win a CL with Porto and other with Inter (leaving behind the Super Barca) it's pretty good!

    On a final note, you could at least agree to disagree... but what you just stated is just over the top!

    January 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  12. Catherine Rodgers Giussani

    Bring back the Pedro Pinto interviews in the field!!!

    January 4, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  13. Gene

    Mourhino should have been been ashamed of himself if he didn't win silverware with the teams he has been "given". He is highly overrated as a coach and outside of Porto, he has never stayed long enough to truly develop a first class team.... He could not dare fit in Fergusons shoes at this point.

    January 4, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
  14. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Playing beautiful football and winning in style is what I humbly look forward to in 2012. Wishing the footballers, managers, fans, match officials, club owners, media and Senhor Pedro a very happy and exciting New Year.

    January 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  15. kentsailer

    RE: Manchester City (vs) Manchester United.
    You have to be kidding about that "red card" Not only is it not a straight red it was not even a foul. Rooney had a very good game 2 goals and part time ref. All the commentators agreed it was not even a foul. Mr. Rooney was the ONLY player to complain, Nani (who usually will cry at the slightest) didn't complain and actually looked surprised at the call. If one looks at the play again Kompany gets all ball and Nani jumps over easily having not being touched. I really hope that the Red is voided and the Ref. is reprimended.

    January 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  16. trekker

    hi mr pedro i must admit you are a good reporter but please leave experts deal with football how can you compare sir alex with that wanna be???????? please read the history of SIR ALEX then talk comprende??????

    January 17, 2012 at 12:20 am | Reply

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