Where Next for Jose Mourinho? Plus His Managerial Honours & Win Rates

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho, one of football’s greatest-ever managers, was sacked from his role at Serie A side Roma on 16th January 2024, thus ending his second spell in the Italian top flight. The Portuguese maestro led the Italian side to Europa Conference League glory in 2021/22, but was unable to sustain a serious challenge for the Serie A title with his side finishing sixth in the last two seasons and – at the time of his sacking – they are languishing in ninth place.

Mourinho has already managed some of the biggest football clubs in the world including Real Madrid and Manchester United, and won numerous honours (see below). Still just 60 years of age, Mourinho is certainly not over the hill, and although there are plenty of top-level managers younger than him, others are at least as old (Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti, for instance, is 64 at the time of writing). So, to the point of the article: which club will Jose Mourinho manage next? And, perhaps equally pertinent, can he ever lead a top club to multiple honours again?

Mourinho’s Managerial Honours

Before we speculate where Mourinho might go next, let’s take a look back at his glittering managerial career that has seen him earn trophies almost everywhere he’s been.

Years Club Honours
2000 Benfica None
2001-2002 União de Leiria None
2002-2004 Porto Primeira Liga: 2002/03, 2003/04;
Taça de Portugal: 2002/03;
Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira: 2003;
UEFA Champions League: 2003/04;
UEFA Cup: 2002/03
2004-2007 Chelsea Premier League: 2004/05, 2005/06;
FA Cup: 2006/07;
Football League Cup: 2004/05, 2006/07;
FA Community Shield: 2005
2008-2010 Inter Milan Serie A: 2008/09, 2009/10;
Coppa Italia: 2009/10;
Supercoppa Italiana: 2008;
UEFA Champions League: 2009/10
2010-2013 Real Madrid La Liga: 2011/12;
Copa del Rey: 2010/11;
Supercopa de España: 2012
2013-2015 Chelsea Premier League: 2014/15;
Football League Cup: 2014/15
2016-2018 Manchester United EFL Cup: 2016/17;
FA Community Shield: 2016;
UEFA Europa League: 2016/17
2019-2021 Tottenham Hotspur None
2021-2024 AS Roma UEFA Europa Conference League: 2021/22

As you can see from the table above, Mourinho certainly proved himself the ‘Special One’ on several occasions, winning league titles, domestic cups and European trophies galore. It’s fair to say, though, that his levels of success have dwindled somewhat in recent years, especially when in charge of Tottenham, the first club he’d managed without winning anything since 2002! This decline is also reflected in his win percentages, as we can see.

Years Club Win Percentage
2000 Benfica 54.55
2001-2002 União de Leiria 52.17
2002-2004 Porto 71.65
2004-2007 Chelsea 67.03
2008-2010 Inter Milan 62.04
2010-2013 Real Madrid 71.91
2013-2015 Chelsea 58.82
2016-2018 Manchester United 58.33
2019-2021 Tottenham Hotspur 51.16
2021-2024 AS Roma 49.28

It must be rather disheartening for Mourinho for his win percentage to have slipped below 50% for the first time in his career in his most recent post. Despite this, we think there’s still plenty of fight left, even if he hasn’t quite garnered the results he would have liked in Serie A recently. So let’s turn to where the Special One might pop up next.

Where Next for Jose?

Given that he has clearly set very high standards over the years in terms of the clubs he’s managed (except maybe when he took the Spurs job!), it’s unlikely Mourinho would settle for a middle-of-the-road side that is unlikely to challenge for serious honours. So here are the most likely options, in our opinion.

A Third Stint at Chelsea or Another Premier League Club?

Given Chelsea’s struggles in recent times, it is not beyond comprehension that the Blues’ board might seek to attract Jose back to Stamford Bridge. After all, he won the Premier League title in both stints at the club. The big question here, though, is whether the fans would accept it. After his rather lacklustre showing at Spurs, Jose’s boat may have long since sailed for most Blues supporters, and he wouldn’t be a popular choice… unless he hit the ground running and started bringing success back to the Bridge, but we can’t see this happening. For similar reasons, we also can’t see a return to Manchester United, where he didn’t particularly excel in his first stint.

One option that could be possible, however, is Newcastle United. The Magpies are hungry for success and after a poor run of form, they are plummeting towards the bottom half of the Premier League. Could the Saudi-backed board take the plunge on a proven winner? It wouldn’t be a massive surprise.

Portugal’s National Team

One option we certainly think is off the table (for now at least) is that of Portugal’s national team boss. Former Everton and Belgium boss Roberto Martínez has not long been in the hot seat and, at the time of writing, he has won 10 out of 10 matches. In other words, there’s no reason to change a winning formula.

Does the Bundesliga Beckon?

The only major league in Europe in which Mourinho has not tested his mettle is Germany’s Bundesliga. With Edin Terzić under just a little bit of pressure at Borussia Dortmund this season, as Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich race ahead, there’s a chance the club could get rid of the German-Croatian and install Mourinho… if he would take the job of course, which is far from certain.

Wildcard Options

With Mourinho getting to the latter stages of his career, he might fancy getting out of the rough and tumble of European football and finding new challenges (and massive pay packets) elsewhere. The Saudi Pro League would be the obvious destination if Mourinho fancied bolstering his retirement fund, as there are plenty of clubs there with the finances to pay whatever it takes to attract the Portuguese coach. It would certainly be a massive coup for the SPL to attract a manager of the Portuguese’s status.

An option that might hold greater appeal to Mourinho, however, could well be a spell across the Atlantic to take charge of an MLS side. He wouldn’t earn as much as he might in Saudi Arabia, but he might feel it would be easier to assimilate into the culture.

Finally, Mourinho might decide to take a break from football, bide his time and see which nation flops. For instance, if Gareth Southgate fails to get out of the group with England, could the FA get rid and opt for the pragmatic but often effective managerial approach of Mourinho? Just like with a possible return to Chelsea, we can’t imagine it would be the most popular appointment with fans, but after what would be almost 60 years of hurt, if Mourinho led the Three Lions to glory, he’d become a national hero.

Is the Relegation Battle in the Premier League Effectively Over Already?

Burnley Goalkeeper Letting in Goal

As we move into the second half of the 2023/24 Premier League season, there is still much football to play and points to be won. At the top of the table, we have a wide-open title race with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City all with a strong shout of being crowned champions come May.

At the bottom of the table though, there seems to be much less uncertainty over what will happen. Very few people are giving rock-bottom Sheffield United any hope of survival and the situation is not markedly better for Luton or Burnley. Does this mean the relegation battle is already settled though, or will we see some movement in the bottom three over the next few months?

Current Situation

At the halfway mark in the season (Luton have only played 18 matches) this is the state of play within the betting:

Team Relegation Odds
Sheffield Utd 1/16
Burnley 1/3
Luton 2/5
Nottingham Forest 3/1
Crystal Palace 7/1
Everton 9/1
Fulham 16/1
Brentford 20/1

So, the three newly-promoted sides all find themselves trading at an odds-on price to head straight back down to the Championship. There is even an odds-on price (5/6) when backing the three in a relegation trio (any order), such is the bleak outlook for them.

Bearing in this mind, is it fair to say the relegation battle is effectively over with only half the season played? Although we are expecting the current bottom three to go down, the gap between them and the teams around them is not so great that a turnaround is entirely out of the question.

Position Team Points Goal Difference
14th Brentford 19 -3
15th Crystal Palace 18 -9
16th Nottingham Forest 17 -12
17th Everton 16 -1
18th Luton Town 15 -13
19th Burnley 11 -20
20th Sheffield United 9 -32

All teams above 14th are on course to break the fabled 40-point barrier (if they haven’t already), which is a total that virtually guarantees safety. It would be a real surprise to see any of them dragged into the relegation battle at this point, especially when closer to 36 points will likely be enough to secure Premier League safety.

Looking at the table in isolation you may think the relegation fight is far from settled. Luton, who have that game in hand, could move up three places should they manage to win that fixture. Why then are they trading at such a skinny price to face the drop? The simple answer is that the teams above them all look significantly better. Everton’s league position is artificially low due to their 10-point deduction. Without this, they would be comfortably midtable and they have been playing extremely well since receiving the penalty.

Although it is early days, Forest already look an improved side under Nuno Espirito Santo. He was very unlucky to taste defeat on his debut and then oversaw an excellent away win at Newcastle. Crystal Palace find themselves on a troubling eight-game winless run but they have been competitive in all of the matches and often punished by some very late goals. Although they are not firing on all cylinders, there is no major cause for concern yet, especially with Eberechi Eze back from injury.

The last team to mention is Brentford, a side that has lost six of their last seven matches. Quite tellingly, their one win in this time came against Luton and it was a match they dominated. Luton’s goal in the 3-1 game flattered them, while the Bees could have added more. The form of Thomas Frank’s men is concerning but Ivan Toney is back from his ban very soon and his return will be massive given how much of a goal threat he is.

This sums up why none of the bottom three are fancied to avoid playing Championship football next season. If one of the trio are to pull off an unlikely escape though, which one is it most likely to be?

Sheffield Utd

To their credit, United have looked better since Chris Wilder returned as manager. Already he’s overseen a 1-0 win over Brentford, a hard-fought draw away at Villa (ending the Villain’s 15-game league home winning streak) and was desperately unlucky to lose to Luton. It took a huge goalkeeping blunder and two own goals to see the Blades walk away with nothing that day.

So, while there is some small cause for optimism, the Blades simply do not have a squad that looks capable of managing to get 35+ points. Avoiding the drop would be such a huge overachievement with the players Wilder has at his disposal. They have some decent attacking players but the defence (and goalkeeper) needs a complete overhaul as they are on course to concede almost 100 goals.

Burnley

Vincent Kompany’s Burnley took the Championship by storm last season, becoming just the sixth side in the history of the competition to record over 100 points. The slick passing game that served them so well last year though just has not worked at a higher level. Kompany has tried to stick to the same tactics but so often Burnley have ended up losing the ball in dangerous areas of the pitch.

Not only this, but the Clarets have struggled to progress the ball into dangerous areas, something they did so often in the Championship. They have only managed to create 19 big chances and their total of 18 goals scored is the second-worst in the division. Kompany does not have the personnel for a radically different plan B either, meaning it is hard to see their situation changing much.

Luton

Out of the current bottom three, Luton appear to have the best chance of securing safety. Not only do the Hatters have the most points but they appear to be playing with some real belief. Their first two matches back in the English top flight saw them lose by a three-goal margin but this has not happened again and all but two losses have been by a single goal.

Back-to-back wins either side of Christmas gave their survival chances a real boost but their away form is a concern. They were beyond fortunate to walk away from Bramall Lane with all three points and this represented their first win on the road. A team can get by with few away points if their home ground is a fortress, and admittedly Kenilworth Road is showing some signs of that. You can expect the Hatters to collect more points at home, just probably not enough to keep them up.

How Often Do All Newly Promoted Sides Face Immediate Relegation?

History is one thing that may give fans of the current bottom three some hope. Only once in Premier League history have all the newly promoted sides gone straight back down again. This sole instance occurred in 1997-98 when Barnsley, Bolton and Crystal Palace headed back in the direction they came. While very much a rarity, it is also unusual for all of the newly promoted sides to look this weak. Unless one of them can make some very shrewd signings in the January transfer window, our money is on there being a repeat of the 97/98 season.

Can Girona Win La Liga in 2024?

La Liga Flag

There are some fascinating stories unfolding around Europe’s top leagues, including Bayer Leverkusen’s unlikely push for the Bundesliga title, and even talk of Aston Villa challenging for Premier League glory. But perhaps the biggest fairytale-in-the-making may be Girona, the Spanish minnows who – at the time of writing – lead La Liga after 17 games of the season.

In this article we take a look at Girona FC in more detail and provide an overview of their season so far, including looking at their results and who their top performers have been. We also, of course, answer the question, “Can Girona Win La Liga in 2024?”

Who are Girona?

Girona Futbol Club LogoOn Monday the 18th of December 2023, an impressive 3-0 win over Alaves saw Girona move to the summit of Spain’s top flight. As we will explain, Girona have never won La Liga and no side apart from Madrid duo Real and Atletico and the mighty Barcelona have taken the title since Valencia’s triumph 20 years ago in 2003/04. Girona leading the table after almost half the season is a big deal, not least because many casual fans in the UK may never have even heard of them!

The city of Girona lies around 60 miles to the northeast of Barcelona, making the club both Catalan allies and also footballing rivals to the illustrious serial winners of La Liga. It is a small city, with a population of little over 100,000 – for reference, that is around the same as Carlisle and a little smaller than Winchester. And we don’t see Winchester City FC, currently in Southern Football League Division One South and West, challenging for the Premier League any time soon.

The club was founded in 1930 and has never won a single major honour before. Prior to this season, Girona’s best performances came in 2017/18 and also last term when they finished 10th in the top flight. They only made their Liga bow in 2017, and this is just their fourth season in the top tier of Spanish football! In fact, they have often played in the third, fourth and even fifth tiers.

Girona 2023/24: The Story so Far

La Liga League Table - Girona in First Place

Almost all teams in La Liga have played 17 times and it is Girona who have a two-point advantage over Jude Bellingham’s Real Madrid. The Englishman’s stunning start to life in Spain has helped his side accrue 42 points thus far. However, the Catalans have won 14 times, drawn twice and lost just once, to post 44. They are nine points ahead of Barca and are the top scorers in the division, boasting an impressive 41 goals, three more than Real.

Prior to their 3-0 win over Alaves they went to the Nou Camp and won 4-2 earlier in the month, a stunning result which really rubber-stamped their credentials as bona fide title contenders. That their only defeat came at the hands of Real Madrid does not bode too well and the fact it was a 3-0 loss at home bodes even less well for the return fixture. Even so, they have scored for fun thus far, scoring three or more in seven of their league clashes and giving their fans – and neutrals – one hell of a ride.

Who are Girona’s Key Men?

Girona’s boss, Michel (full name: Miguel Ángel Sánchez Muñoz), is sure to be on the radar of PremiLeague clubs following his stunning success with Girona. Incredibly, they were a second-tier side in 2021/22, only winning promotion to La Liga via the play-offs and then finishing 10th last season. That is the third time Michel, who was 48 in October, has guided a side into the top flight, winning the Segunda Division title with Rayo Vallecano in 2018 and Huesca in 2020.

The former Rayo player, born in Madrid, has managed to get the best out of a limited squad, one whose record signing is thought to have cost just £6m! That is Ukrainian striker Artem Dovbyk, who has bagged 10 goals and is Girona’s top scorer this term. They have shared the goals around though, with Uruguayan journeyman Christian Stuani, now 37 and club captain, also scoring eight.

Their squad does not have any real stars though, and is mainly made up of a mix of Spanish and South American players unknown to the average English fan. That said, they do have Brazilian Yan Couto on loan from Man City, whilst Daley Blind brings experience to their back line.

Can They Do It?

Leicester showed that football fairytales can happen, even in an age where money is more important than ever and football is very much a business, not a sport. However, the reality is that the most likely outcome is that Girona stumble and Real Madrid, or possibly Barca, or maybe even Atleti, put together a strong run to take glory.

The bookies certainly think so, with the Catalan underdogs priced at odds of 13/2 to “do a Leicester”. In contrast, Real, despite currently trailing Girona by two points and also having the Champions League to contend with, are available at just 3/10! That is a huge difference, with the bookmakers giving Carlo Ancelotti’s men around a 75% chance of success, compared to Girona’s 13% probability.

However, we have seen the bookies get things wrong countless times before and these are just predictions. If there is a 13% chance of rain every day, the chances are it will rain on one of those days (probably the one when you hung the washing out). And given it is nearly Christmas, we’re going to pray for a Christmas miracle (come May), and hope that Girona can make it rain in Spain!

They are clearly up against it. However, boss Michel has shown with both Rayo Vallecano and Huesca that he knows how to lead a title challenge, albeit in the Segunda. Moreover, like Leicester back in 2014/15, Girona have taken their momentum from the previous season and used it to catapult themselves to the top of the league. Momentum is a powerful thing and the more it grows, the harder it becomes to stop. Vamos Girona!

Top 10 Champions League All Time Goalscorers

Cristiano Ronaldo Playing for Juventus Fc

In the latest round of Champions League football, Manchester City’s superstar striker Erling Haaland fired himself into the top 20 all-time goalscorers in the tournament (including its predecessor, the European Cup). Also, England star (and new Bayern Munich talisman) Harry Kane became only the third Englishman to score 25 Champions League goals (after Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling). But which players make up the top 10 all-time goalscorers in Europe’s elite club competition?

In this article, we’ll run through the top 10 goalscorers, covering both the Champions League and the European Cup (that began in the 1955/56 season). Then we’ll delve a little deeper into the top five and find out what other goalscoring records they set on Europe’s grandest stage.

All-time Top 10 Champions League/European Cup Goalscorers

Player Goals Games Years Playing Club(s)
Cristiano Ronaldo 140 183 2003 to 2022 Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus
Lionel Messi 129 163 2003 to 2023 Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain
Robert Lewandowski 92 114 2011 to present Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Karim Benzema 90 152 2005 to 2023 Lyon, Real Madrid
Raúl 71 142 1995 to 2011 Real Madrid, Schalke
Ruud van Nistelrooy 56 73 1998 to 2009 PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid
Thomas Müller 53 145 2009 to present Bayern Munich
Thierry Henry 50 112 1997 to 2012 Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona
Alfredo Di Stéfano 49 58 1955 to 1964 Real Madrid
Andriy Shevchenko 48 100 1994 to 2012 Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan, Chelsea
Zlatan Ibrahimović 48 124 2001 to 2021 Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United

Note that Andriy Shevchenko and Zlatan Ibrahimović are in joint-10th position in the all-time list.

There are no real surprises to see two of football’s all-time greats at the top of the list, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi being the only two players to have netted more than 100 goals in the Champions League. They have very similar goals-to-game ratios (0.77 for Ronaldo and 0.79 for Messi), but both are behind Robert Lewandowski (0.81 at the time of writing) and the Real Madrid legend, Alfredo Di Stefano (0.84).

Only one player in the top 20 can better Di Stefano’s ratio… you’ve guessed it, Man City’s Erling Haaland. At the time of writing, the Norwegian ace has an astounding goals-to-game ratio of 1.15, and if he keeps going like that it won’t be long before he ascends into the top 10! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. There’s a long way to go for Haaland to get near the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, so let’s take a closer look at their Champions League goal-getting exploits, along with the other three players in the top five.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 140 Goals in 183 Games (0.77 Goals Per Game)

Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game (although the man directly below him in the table might have something to say about that), Cristiano Ronaldo was a goal machine in the Champions League. Banging in plenty of (often crucial) goals for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, CR7 also tops the all-time list for the number of Champions League appearances.

The Portuguese legend was the top scorer in the Champions League for six seasons in a row (from 2012/13 to 2017/18) and also the top scorer earlier on in his career (2007/08). He holds the top two positions for the most Champions League goals in a season (17 in 2013/14 and 16 in 2015/16) and is also joint third, just for good measure (with 15 goals in 2017/18). He’s the only player to score three hat-tricks in the competition in a single season (2015/16) and shares the record for the total number of Champions League hat-tricks with Messi (with eight apiece). He holds numerous other records in the competition too, but let’s leave it there or it might just go to this head!

Lionel Messi – 129 Goals in 163 Games (0.79 Goals Per Game)

Lionel Messi certainly has valid claims as being the best footballer ever, though most objective pundits would put him just behind Ronaldo. Certainly, when it comes to Champions League goalscoring exploits, the Argentine great has to play second fiddle to his rival.

Having said that, Messi does hold a good number of Champions League records. As well as the aforementioned joint record for the most hat-tricks, Messi has scored more home goals in the tournament than any other player (78) and the most for any single club (120 for Barca). He’s also scored more than anyone else in the Group Stage (80) and the Round of 16 (29), and he’s one of just three players to have scored five goals in a Champions League match (excluding preliminary rounds), although 10 players achieved that feat in the pre-Champions League-era European Cup.

Robert Lewandowski – 92 Goals in 113 Games (0.81 Goals Per Game)

Robert Lewandowski is one of only two players in the current top 10 who is still playing in Europe (along with Bayern Munich’s Thomas Müller), but we can’t realistically see him challenging the top two. He does have a reasonable chance of making it to 100 Champions League goals, although he’s 35 now so he might not have many more seasons left to achieve that milestone.

Lewandowski scored the majority of his CL goals for Bayern (69 in 78 games), including the 15 he scored in the tournament in the 2019/20 season (the joint-third-best total in a single season). He holds the record for the fastest hat-trick in a CL game (from the start of the match) and he’s the only player to have scored hat-trick for three different sides in the competition.

Karim Benzema – 90 Goals in 152 Games (0.59 Goals Per Game)

Like Ronaldo, Karim Benzema has left Europe for the green grass of Saudi Arabia! Before that, though, he was a regular scorer in the Champions League, first for Lyon (for whom he scored 12 goals in 19 games) and then, more famously, Real Madrid (78 goals in 133 games). He’s the oldest player to have scored a hat-trick in the tournament, getting a triple against Chelsea in 2022 at the age of 34 years and 108 days. He is also one of just two players (along with Ronaldo) to have scored 10 goals in the knockout phase of the competition in a single season (in 2021/22), the season in which he notched a total of 15, the joint-third-highest number in a single campaign.

Raúl – 71 Goals in 142 Games (0.5 Goals Per Game)

Spanish great Raúl completes our top five, and though he’s long since retired, he made his mark on the competition early in his career and still holds the record as the youngest player to have scored a Champions League hat-trick (aged just 18 years and 114 days). He was also the first player to make it to 100 Champions League appearances, all of those having been while playing for Real Madrid (though he later appeared – and scored – for Schalke in the tournament).

10 Best Real Madrid Players of all Time

Cristiano Ronaldo

Jude Bellingham recently scored the winning goal for Real Madrid in their Champions League game away at Braga. That strike took his tally for Los Blancos to 11 goals in 12 games, with three assists as well. He became just the third Madrid player ever to score in his first three Champions League appearances for the club too, and has made adream start to his career in the Spanish capital.

There is every chance that Bellingham will go on to write his name into the club’s history and become a true legend of the most successful football team in the world. However, for now, it remains too early to elevate him to the status of club legend, especially given just how many true stars Real have been graced with over the years. Here is our list of the 10 greatest ever players to play for Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
Student News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ronaldo is viewed as the greatest player of all time by some and is undoubtedly in the top two of the last 40 years or so. You would struggle to find any expert that places him outside the top 10 footballers of all time and so he is a shoo-in for this list. A club record 450 goals certainly helps his case, those strikes including 44 hat-tricks, another Real record.

No player has scored more goals for the club in Champions League finals either, though, as we shall see, others have registered more in the pre-1992 era. He also helped the club to win the UCL four times and whilst “just” two La Liga titles may be a disappointment, his time at the club was littered with silverware and goals.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema
Real Madrid, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sticking with the modern era for now, French forward Karim Benzema has to go down as one of the finest Real Madrid players ever. He won far more with the club than even Ronaldo, claiming an incredible five Champions Leagues, plus four La Liga titles. He is second only to Ronaldo in terms of goals for Los Blancos (354) but leads the way when it comes to assists, with 165. He won the Ballon d’Or in 2022 and was the UCL Player of the Season for 2021/22. With almost 650 appearances for Real he makes the top five on that metric and is undoubtedly one of Real’s 10 greatest players.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo Di Stefano
Wim van Rossem for Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Of course, Real were a great side long before the days of the CL and Ronaldo, and fourth on their list of top scorers is Argentine-Spaniard Alfredo Di Stefano. Di Stefano was a key player in the team of the 1950s and 1960s that dominated Spanish and European football. He helped Madrid to eight domestic titles and five European Cups, bagging seven goals in finals of that competition, scoring in a record five different finals.

Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskas
Anefo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Puskas jointly holds the record for most goals in European Cup finals with Di Stefano, though he bagged four in 1960 and three in 1962. The Hungarian legend (84 goals in 85 games for the nation of his birth), who also played for Spain four times, won “just” the three European Cups and helped Real to five consecutive Liga titles between 1961 and 1965. He is the club’s oldest player post WWII, sixth in terms of all-time goalscorers and was a revolutionary footballer who was named player of the tournament at the 1954 World Cup.

Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas
Web Summit, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Casillas is different to the players already mentioned in that he was not an attacking player but is the club’s greatest ever goalkeeper. Only one man has played for Real Madrid more times but nobody has played in Europe more, Casillas making 157 appearances in UEFA competitions for his side. With 725 outings for Madrid and a massive 264 clean sheets, his 17-year association with the club makes the 167-capped Spain international an automatic inclusion for this top 10.

Raul

Raul
DerHans04, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Raul is the only player to have turned out for Los Blancos more times that Casillas and indeed the pair played together hundreds of times during the striker’s 741 games for Real. He netted over 300 goals for his home-town side, earning six league titles and three UCL along the way. The third-highest Real goalscorer is another obvious pick for this list.

Paco Gento

Paco Gento
See page for author, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, via Wikimedia Commons

Returning to Madrid’s first golden era we have club icon Paco Gento, who died in 2022 at the age of 88 having been the Honorary President of Real in his later years. Gento is one of Spain’s finest ever players and his 600 appearances for Real, plus 183 goals, mean he is very much worthy of being included as one of their finest 10 players ever. The fact he helped them win a staggering 12 Liga titles and six European Cups also rather helps his case!

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ramos is fourth in terms of appearances for Real, having played 671 times and helping the club to five league titles and four UCLs. A true leader, he was a rugged, immoveable rock at the heart of Madrid’s defence for 17 years. He won the Euros twice and the World Cup whilst a Real player and his 101 gals for the club is an incredible tally for a centre back, and played a huge part in the many trophies Los Blancos won during his time in the Spanish capital.

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane
Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Zidane may be controversial selection given how many legends there are to choose from but how can we not include a man who helped them win four Champions League titles? His goal in the 2002 final is one of the best the competition has ever seen and proved to be the winner. He only spent five seasons as a player at the Bernabeu and they were not trophy-packed, but he returned as a manager and against the odds won the UCL three years running.

Fernando Hierro

Fernando Hierro
Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like a number of players on this list Fernando Hierro captained Real Madrid and whilst he is fondly remembered in Bolton where he spent one season in the PL. He is a true legend for Los Blancos. Hierro played over 600 games for the club, putting him sixth in terms of appearances, and also bagged an impressive 127 goals, largely from defence. Those goals helped Madrid land five Liga titles and three UCLs during his time at the club and he eases into the top 10 Real players of all time.

Wayne Rooney’s Managerial Career So Far: Derby Country, Washington & Now Birmingham

Wayne Rooney Training

Wayne Rooney was a legend at Everton before he even turned 18. Before his 19th birthday, however, he had moved to Manchester United and was reviled by many supporters of his boyhood club. He would go on to become the leading scorer for the Red Devils and whilst with United became England’s all-time top scorer too (a record since surpassed by Harry Kane).

Despite these achievements, some still feel he didn’t fulfil the immense potential he showed as a youngster – he was named in Team of the Tournament for Euro 2004 when aged just 18 and at the same age scored a hat-trick (and recorded an assist) on his Man United debut: in the Champions League! He won the Champions League with the Red Devils, made two further finals, claimed five league titles, three EFL Cups and an FA Cup with the club and was the England Player of the Year on four occasions. So, whether he truly maxed out his potential or not, Rooney was a top, top footballer and one of England’s greatest ever.

But what about Rooney the coach? The former Everton starlet will not turn 38 until the end of October 2023 but has already tried his hand at management with two different clubs, in two different countries. Or three if you include his role as England manager at Soccer Aid in 2020! It has always been clear that the Scouser lived and breathed football. In addition, whilst his footballing brain was never doubted, he is far more intelligent in general terms than many give him credit for. As such, his early involvement in management should come as no surprise, but how has the 2004 winner of the Golden Boy Award fared in the dugout?

Derby County: Young Boss Shows Appetite for Management

derby county logoRooney’s post-Man United playing career entailed one season back at Everton, where he netted 10 league goals in 31 games, before two seasons in the MLS with DC United. He created some magical moments in America and was a hit with the fans, but moved back to English football in August 2019, signing as player-coach with Championship side Derby.

Derby had a host of issues on and off the pitch and after a particularly woeful start to the 2020/21 season, Rooney was part of a four-person interim coaching group that replaced the sacked Phillip Cocu. It was soon announced that Rooney would be the sole manager, with the Rams in last place in the second tier, having lost their last four games and sitting six points from safety.

They went on a superb run and despite a poor set of results during the run-in and a host of injury issues, Derby maintained their Championship status. The following season they entered administration and were hit with a 12-point deduction. A further nine-point penalty for financial irregularities gave them a sizeable mountain to climb to achieve survival and despite winning a very impressive 40 points at home they were relegated.

In the end they finished on 34 points, though they won 55, and this meant they fell seven points short of safety. Rooney worked tirelessly and contributed his own money to improve the club’s staff and facilities in order to try and keep them up. Operating with no budget and a host of youth players, Rooney won a lot of plaudits for keeping his side in the hunt for so long but in the end it wasn’t to be. Overall he won 24 of 85 games with the club, drawing a further 22, which could be seen as a decent performance under the circumstances.

Move Back to Washington Somewhat Underwhelming

DC United LogoHis work with County had taken its toll on Rooney and with the club still in administration as they prepared for League One he resigned, saying that the club needed fresh energy. Within three weeks he had swapped the East Midlands for Washington DC, being appointed Head Coach of former club DC United on the 12th of July 2022.

The club had been one of MLS’s big hitters in the 1990s but had struggled for some time. They have twice finished last in the league and frequently missed out on the play-offs and Rooney was unable to turn this round. He only took charge midway through the 2022 campaign but was unable to take them off the bottom of the overall regular season table; and when they failed to qualify for the play-offs in 2023 he left the club, officially by mutual consent.

The headline stats of his time in Washington do not look great. He was in charge for 53 matches, winning just 14 (26.4%), drawing 14 times and losing 25 times. That would amount to 56 points from 53 games and would, in a typical English league, probably be enough to keep a team in their division but nothing more. However, given he took over when the club was on a downward trend and had struggled for many years, it may be argued that this was not perhaps as bad as it appeared.

What Next for Rooney?

Birmingham City LogoRooney has long said that he was keen to earn his managerial stripes and make slow progress, learning from different leagues and cultures. Thus far he has enjoyed some success, some failure and some rather middling periods as a boss. However, at the time of writing, he is being linked to the vacant position at Birmingham, and a return to the Championship – a league he clearly knows better than MLS – would seem a reasonable option.

He has been strongly linked to the Everton job in the past and if he wanted he could probably secure a post in the Premier League if he waited a little while. His willingness to work hard, with severe financial restrictions, would make him attractive to a PL struggler but we feel he is most likely to seek to progress his career a little further away from the limelight. On the 10th of October Birmingham announced that a new boss “will be announced in the coming days who will be responsible for creating an identity and clear ‘no fear’ playing style”. Perhaps Rooney’s “once a Blue, always a Blue” declaration is back on again?

Update: On the 11th of October Birmingham City appointed Rooney.

Francis Lee’s Stats & Honours – Farewell to a Man City Legend

Man City Stadium

Manchester City have had plenty of fantastic players in the modern era. But in early October 2023, the club said farewell to one of their all-time greats, Francis Lee.

Unfortunately, the former Bolton Wanderers, Man City, Derby County and England forward lost his long battle with cancer at the age of 79. However, “Franny” will be remembered fondly by fans of his three clubs, England supporters and many a neutral who witnessed his goalscoring prowess and the unapologetic swagger with which he played.

Let’s take a closer look at Lee’s career that began back in 1960 when he made his debut for Bolton Wanderers at the age of 16.

Francis Lee’s Career in Numbers

Team Dates Games Goals Honours
Bolton Wanderers 1959-1967 210 106 None
Manchester City 1967-1974 330 148 First Division Title (1967/68)
FA Cup (1968/69)
League Cup (1969/70)
Charity Shield (1968, 1972)
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1969/70)
Derby County 1974-1976 80 30 First Division Title (1974/75)
Charity Shield (1975)
England 1968-1972 27 10 None
Total 647 294

Bolton Wanderers – Learning from a Legend

bolton wanderers logoLee made his debut for Bolton aged 16 in November 1960 against a side he would come to know and love: Manchester City. He scored in the match, as did his strike partner on the day, 35-year-old Bolton and England legend Nat Lofthouse. Lee was still an amateur at the time and didn’t turn pro until May 1961, but he soon earned his paycheque as he was the club’s top scorer in four of the next five seasons.

His goalscoring exploits attracted the attention of many other clubs, with Matt Busby at Man United and Bill Shankly at Liverpool both reportedly interested in signing Lee. But it was Joe Mercer’s Manchester City who got their man for a club-record fee of £60,000 in September 1967 – roughly what Kevin De Bruyne earns in a day now!

Man City – Sustained Success at City

manchester city logoThe move to City worked brilliantly for both Lee and his new club as he slotted seamlessly into the team that contained stars including Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Neil Young. In his first season at the club, Lee scored 17 goals (including 16 in 31 league matches) and City won their first top-flight title since 1936/37, then only the second in the club’s history.

The silverware continued to flow the following year as City took the Charity Shield and the FA Cup, then in 1969/70 the Citizens added the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. City couldn’t mount another effective challenge for the First Division title but Lee continued to hammer in plenty of goals and provide no shortage of assists too.

He was the top scorer for City in four of his seasons at the club, including when he bagged a very impressive total of 35 in 1971/72… with a record 15 of them coming from the penalty spot! He also set a record for the most goals in Manchester derbies (10) that stood until Wayne Rooney edged past it in 2013.

Derby County – Another Team, Another Title

derby county logoLee moved on from Man City to join Dave Mackay’s Derby County in 1974. The club had won the First Division title under former boss Brian Clough and now Mackay was hoping to emulate that success… and for Franny Lee to help him do it. Lee was brought in to bolster what was already an impressive attacking line-up that included Kevin Hector, Bruce Rioch and Roger Davies. Lee didn’t quite hit the scoring heights he’d achieved at City, but he netted 12 league goals in 34 appearances, including one or two crucial strikes, and Derby clinched the title by two points from Liverpool.

Although he will be mostly remembered for his goals, Lee was involved in an incident that will be remembered for as long as many (perhaps any) of his goals. The incident in question was essentially a full-on fistfight with Leeds United hardman Norman Hunter in 1975. Given Hunter was almost four inches taller than Lee (and also had the ominous nickname “Bites Yer Legs”), Lee certainly showed his courage when he went toe-to-toe with the Leeds brawler.

England

England Football LogoHad Lee developed his scoring skills just a little sooner, he might have been involved in England’s 1966 campaign. To be fair, though, Al Ramsay’s men did pretty well without him. As it was, Lee made his England debut a couple of years later in 1968 against Bulgaria in a friendly match. He scored his first of 10 goals for his country in his next game in a one-sided 5-0 thrashing of France. (How the modern-day England team would love a result like that!)

Although he missed out on the 1966 tournament, Lee was in the England squad in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. He played in three games but couldn’t find the back of the net. He did become the first England player to receive a yellow card at a World Cup (FIFA had only just introduced them), but he would have happily forgotten that “honour”. Unfortunately for Lee and England, the Three Lions couldn’t capitalise on their 2-0 lead against West Germany in the quarter-finals and ended up losing 3-2!

Lee scored in his next three England games after the 1970 World Cup and then – after a mini-drought by his high standards – he scored in his final match for England, a 3-1 defeat to West Germany in a Euro 1972 qualifying match.

Post-Football Business Career

After retiring from the game, Lee became a successful businessman and created a toilet roll manufacturer (that reportedly once employed the comedian Peter Kay!). After making a few quid, Lee gained enough clout to become the Man City chairman in 1994… but things didn’t go quite to plan and on the pitch, the team couldn’t live up to Lee’s ambitions.

Of course, Lee will be best remembered for his playing days and his many, brilliant goals… including this classic that he scored for Derby against his old club Man City (and that has become immortalised almost as much for Barry Davies’s commentary as the strike itself):

Have Newcastle Ever Won the Champions League? The Magpies Appearances in Full

Newcastle United Shirt and Crest

On Tuesday 19th September 2023, Newcastle United made their return to the Champions League after a long absence. They battled to a hard-fought 0-0 draw in the San Siro against AC Milan and that has to be viewed as a positive result. The Magpies are up against it in a very tough Group F, with Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund making up the quartet.

A point away was a solid start but it should be noted that Milan were beaten 5-1 by local rivals Inter in their last league game. Moreover, Newcastle were decidedly second-best here and could easily have lost the clash.

Nonetheless, many of their fans will simply be glad to be back in the Champions League, given they last played in the competition back in 2003/04. But have the Magpies ever won the Champions League or its forerunner, the European Cup? What has been their best performance in the competition and what does their overall record look like?

Have Newcastle Ever Won the Champions League?

Champions League TrophyThis is a nice easy starter for us because no, Newcastle United have not won this competition, either in its days as the European Cup or since the Champions League rebranding. In fact, prior to the birth of the CL, the North East club had only ever enjoyed four seasons of European competition, with three of those coming in the non-UEFA-sanctioned Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and one in the UEFA Cup (all between 1968/69 and 1977/78).

They have managed to make it into UEFA’s top-tier competition since 1992, however. They had to work their way up to it though, playing in the UEFA Cup (the forerunner to the Europa League) in 1994/95 and again in 1996/97.

How Many Times Have Newcastle Appeared in the UEFA Champions League?

The famous black and white striped shirts of the Geordies have graced this elite-level competition just four times in total. That includes the 2023/24 campaign. Their previous appearances came in the 1997/98 season, then in 2002/03 and again in 2003/04.

It is safe to say, then, that they are far from regulars. With a 20-year wait since their last appearance it is easy to see why the Toon Army were so keen to enjoy their trip to Milan in 2023/24. However, thanks to their Saudi backing they will hope to establish themselves as UCL regulars in the years ahead and, in time, perhaps even challenge for the title – and then go on and win it!

What is Newcastle’s Best Performance in the CL?

Well, as we have established, the Geordie boys have now been able to celebrate lifting this prestigious event and, in fact, have only made it to the start line three times previously. As such, we don’t have a great deal to choose from when it comes to their “best ever” performance.

However, in 2002/03 they managed to progress through two rounds of the competition. The format of the CL has changed numerous times over the years and so direct comparisons cannot necessarily be made but in 2002/03 Newcastle not only made it through the Third Qualifying Round but also advanced from the Group Stage. There were two group stages that season though and they were eliminated at the 2nd Group Stage phase. Nonetheless, they managed seven wins in 2002/03, by far the most they have ever achieved.

1997/98: CL Bow Ends in Group Stage Pain

Newcastle finished second in the Premier League in 1996/97 and so qualified for the Group Stage of the CL the following campaign. Drawn against Dynamo Kyiv, Barcelona and PSV they would have fancied their chances but in the end had to settle for third place. They won two, lost three and drew one, as Barca took the wooden spoon and PSV qualified behind Kyiv.

2002/03: Tough 2nd Group Does for Toon

In 2002/03, Newcastle had to overcome Bosnian minnows FK Željezničar Sarajevo in the Third Qualifying Round, having finished fourth in the preceding campaign’s PL. They won both legs without conceding to advance with an aggregate scoreline of 5-0. Next up was a first group phase, with Dynamo Kyiv once again, plus Juventus and Feyenoord. Three wins and three defeats gave them nine points, meaning they advanced second behind the Italian giants but ahead of Kyiv (seven points) and Feyenoord (five). The Magpies recorded a 3-2 win in Netherlands thanks to a stoppage-time strike from Craig Bellamy to book their spot in the next round.

The CL briefly had a double-group stage and so next up the Toon faced a tricky task to get past Barcelona, Inter and Bayer Leverkusen. It proved too much and despite beating the Germans 3-1 both home and away, Sir Bobby Robson’s Newcastle could only finish third.

2003/04: Magpies Fail in Qualifying Round

Finishing third in the English top flight in 2002/03 meant that Newcastle once again had to play in the Third Qualifying Round. There were some big teams there with them, including former competition winners Celtic, Ajax and Benfica, plus the likes of Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Dynamo Kyiv. The Magpies were pitted against Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade and did the hard work by winning away from home in the first leg, Nobby Solano giving them a 1-0 victory. However, they lost the return 1-0 and after extra time the clash went to penalties. In a poor shootout, seven were missed but the Serbians progressed 4-3.

Newcastle United Champions League Record Appearance-Makers and Goalscorers

Alan Shearer Banner at Newcastle United football club

It is no real surprise to see Alan Shearer top the pile when it comes to the club’s top goalscorers in the Champions League. Mind you, given the Geordie legend only managed seven, albeit from just 14 games, it won’t be long before his record is broken. The second name on the list is, however, rather more surpising!

Top Scorers

  • Alan Shearer – 7
  • John Beresford – 4
  • Tino Asprilla – 4
  • Shola Ameobi – 3
  • Lomana LuaLua – 2
  • Hugo Viana – 2

Most CL Appearances

With the club set to play at least six games in 2023/24 and competition format changes as of 2024/25 that will probably mean five English teams in the CL, playing at the very least eight games, these records too may not last very long.

  • Shay Given – 20
  • Aaron Hughes – 15
  • Gary Speed – 14
  • Andy O’Brien – 14
  • Nolberto Solano – 14
  • Kieran Dyer – 14

What is the World Record Football Transfer Fee?

Neymar

Everybody knows that football is a world of silly money, with some of the latest deals to Saudi seeing players earn ludicrous sums of cash for plying their trade in what remains a very second-rate league. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, is said to be earning around £173m a year, or almost £1m every other day!

However, one area where the Arab nation is not currently competing is in terms of transfer fees. That is not to say that players have not moved to the Saudi Pro League for substantial sums. Al-Hilal recently bought Alexsandar Mitrovic from Fulham for around £45m, the same club paying PSG a massive £77m for Neymar. Much as these fees are huge amounts of money – able to pay the average British worker for 1,607 years and 2,750 years respectively – in the big league of global world record transfers they are, dare we say it, trifling sums!

In case you have doubts over that assertion, here are the current five most expensive transfers in the history of football. Note that these are correct as of 22 August 2023 and as most were paid in Euros we have used that figure as standard. (Data comes from Transfermarkt)

1) Neymar, €222m, Barcelona to PSG

Neymar, whose deal to move to Saudi is worth around £170m a year, and includes the use of a private jet and a fleet, yes a full fleet, of supercars, has been sold for a total of €400m. That astronomical sum comes from just three deals and makes him the most expensive player in history in terms of total fees.

More than half of that huge total came from his move to PSG, after four seasons with Barcelona following his earlier move from Brazil. He netted 118 goals and provided a raft of assists in just 73 games in the French capital. However, he failed to help the club land the Champions League, which was a big reason why he was signed.

2) Kylian Mbappe, €180m, Monaco to PSG

Just a year after prising Neymar from Barca, the nouveau riche Parisians added the jewel in the crown of French football as well. Mbappe was just 18 when he made the move and the brilliant French attacker has delivered 213 goals in just 261 appearances for PSG. Mbappe has won almost everything the game has to offer and not yet 25 has already played in two World Cup finals.

However, despite playing with Neymar, Lionel Messi and a host of other expensive talent for PSG, the club, as said, have been unable to land the UEFA Champions League. Mbappe’s time in the capital seems set to end badly too, with the player trying to engineer a free transfer to Real Madrid when his contract ends, but PSG are desperate not to lose such a valuable asset without a fee. The player currently looks set to win the battle which is unlikely to go down well with many in France.

3) Philippe Coutinho, €135m, Liverpool to Barcelona

Coutinho was superb for Liverpool and looked capable of becoming one of the world’s very best players. A dream move to Barca came following a stunning run of form for the Reds but things quickly went wrong in Catalonia. In the end Coutinho played just 106 times for Barca and managed a disappointing 26 goals. On loan from them to Bayern, however, he did score a brace and register an assist … against Barca! What’s more, the Germans went on to win the CL, triggering a €5m add-on from Barca to Liverpool for him doing so that was, apparently, not club-specific!

3) Ousmane Dembele, €135m, Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona

Dembele was another Barca signing for big money that went badly wrong. Dembele was scintillating and mesmeric for Dortmund, although not so much in Spain. Over six injury-affected seasons the French ace played just 127 games and managed 24 goals. In August 2023 he moved to PSG for €50m, so at least the club recouped some of their cash.

5) Joao Felix, €122m, Benfica to Atletico Madrid

Felix is still 23 so could yet prove to be the world-class player Atletico Madrid thought they were paying more than £100m for. The diminutive attacking midfielder is as good as they come in terms of technique and skill but has not yet found a way to harness that at the highest level and convert his talent into goals and assists. A loan spell at Chelsea in 2022/23 didn’t really work out and the next few years will be massive for the Portuguese ace.

Why are the Discrepancies Between Different Lists of Transfers?

You may have seen other lists of transfers that look slightly different to this one. For example, Wikipedia, which many other websites would copy, list the following as the five most expensive transfers ever:

  • 1) Neymar, €222m
  • 2) Mbappe, €180m
  • 3) Coutinho, €145m
  • 4) Felix, €126m
  • 5) Enzo Fernandez, €121m (Benfica to Chelsea)

Clearly there is a lot of agreement between that and our top five, although Wiki rank Dembele as just the joint-11th most expensive transfer ever. The further down the list we go, the more discrepancies that appear and there are several main reasons for this.

Probably the most important are that the full details of transfers are increasingly not made entirely public and also that deals are often complex in their structure. It is always frustrating for fans to read that their much-loved star striker has been sold for an “undisclosed fee”. But more and more this is what we see, with both buying and selling clubs, as well as the players and their agents, not always keen for the fee to be known.

Second, it is becoming more and more common for transfers to have various performance-related add-ons. These may include the player making a certain number of appearances, starting a set percentage of games over a defined period, scoring a given number of goals or based on what trophies they help their new club win. Additionally, payments may be staggered over a number of years. Different sites may record such transfers differently, with some assuming that all add-ons will be met, others only counting the initial fee and yet others taking the middle ground and including extras they believe are highly likely to be triggered.

There are other reasons why figures may differ, including exchange rate complications, agent fees and also deals that include loans and/or deals for other players as well as the main transfer. In short, to some degree we should take such lists with a pinch of salt, although we can be certain that any player making any sort of top five or 10 such as this has cost a lot of money!

Biggest and Smallest Football Stadiums in the Premier League

Old Trafford Stadium Drone Shot

The Premier League is undoubtedly the richest league in the world and it can certainly make strong claims to being the best. In addition, it is probably the most watched sports league in the world, with the PL’s global popularity playing a big part in its wealth. However, it also does very well in terms of live attendances too, with a number of the division’s top sides boasting large stadia that are regularly packed.

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