France – The Forgotten Fighters

The Infinite Warfare season has slowly seen the rise of Europeans as a contender for international championships.

At the two most recent tournaments, CWL Dallas and ESWC Paris, we have seen Splyce, Epsilon, and Fnatic place inside the top eight. When you look at the rosters of these teams, you see that all the players are from the United Kingdom. Looking deeper, I realized no players outside the UK have even vaguely touched a top placing at a premier tournament this year.

This was surprising. I remembered back to the days of Black Ops 2 and Ghosts where there was always a battle between the French and the British to see who could steal the higher placings at the limited international events Europeans could afford to attend. It was even more saddening realizing that at CWL London, a tournament only open to European teams, no players from France made it into the top eight. The same thing happened again at ESWC Paris, their very own country’s trademark event. So where has all of France’s top tier talent gone?

The Fallen

Many of France’s most storied professionals such as Clément “RiskiN” Hattée, Jordy “Krnage” Mercier and most notably Corentin “Gotaga” Houssein have now hung up their controllers. These players, despite having inconsistent results, have built up wealthy banks of experience by competing across the globe at the likes of the Call of Duty Championship and the renowned MLG Anaheim. This is experience that would be best shared with some of France’s rising stars. However, these players exited the scene early into Activision’s World League era.

I think that particularly, Gotaga had a huge opportunity to nurture the youngsters. An unwillingness to split from the pack may be an explanation as to why he decided to quit, partnered with the little success he and his longstanding teammates had. Gotaga always had either Kevin “BroKeN” Georges, RiskiN or Krnage on his team at all times in his career and perhaps he felt uncomfortable playing without them when they ultimately made the decision to leave Call of Duty behind.

The core of Team Vitality were inconsistent throughout their years. (Source teamvitality.fr)

The Problem

Gotaga tried to play with local talent such as Wailers “Wailers” Locart and the French Monster’s own brother Ronan “Carbon” Houssein. Again, with little success. He just couldn’t perform without Krnage, RiskiN, or Broken by his side.

Throughout his career, Gotaga was hailed as a phenomenal slayer and a fantastically skilled sniper. Fans could definitely see this from his streams and YouTube content. This is why he always played with one of the aforementioned trio as they would play around him, rather than play for themselves. I have an inkling that Gotaga was unwilling to leave the slaying days to take on a more supportive team role.

Due to his experience, Gotaga could have taken on a mentor role and brought up young players to success. There is no doubt three youngsters would have listened to Gotaga, he was the figurehead of their scene.

Gotaga didn’t compete in Call of Duty for the money because he didn’t need to. His YouTube channel provided a stable enough income. He played purely because of his competitive drive, something which he could satisfy from a coaching role, from where he could carry on the development of the scene he has been part of from the beginning.

Admittedly, there are very few examples of success with coaches in Call of Duty. However, there is no harm in trying and maybe he could have changed that coaching stigma. Instead, we are left with only a handful of players that could restore French pride.

Source - Redbull.com

Gotaga was one of Europe’s longest standing professional players. (Source redbull.com)

The Brother

Stumped by the age restriction on the Call of Duty World League, we have missed out on the rise of Gotaga’s brother Carbon. The youngster, alongside fellow underage competitor Ryan “ZeeK” Lapierre, made waves in the open circuit last year. The pair achieved first and second place finishes at notable local LAN’s across France during Black Ops 3. Both now play for an organization known as ArmaTeam with Maxime “mAxxie” Ebran as captain. This veteran has competed since Modern Warfare 3, finishing 8th at the first CoD XP and attending the World Championship in 2015.

mAxxie is in a similar situation to where Gotaga could be, theoretically: mAxxie, the old guard, using fiery young players who have been unable to compete in order to make a rise back to the top. There are still question marks as to whether or not players such as Carbon and Zeek can be controlled or even reach Europe’s peak, but they are definitely ones to watch out for.

Source - Dexerto.com

Gotaga and his younger brother Carbon at ESWC Zénith 2016 (Source dexerto.com)

The Prodigy

If I had to pick a player to be France’s next star it would be Wailers. Bursting onto the scene in Black Ops 3, Wailers proved to be a consistently solid assault rifle player. Even alongside the Vitality team that had the diminishing core three of Broken, Gotaga, and Riskin, he was one of few Europeans who truly embraced the “Man-o-War” meta when it first came to fruition.

Wailers has retained his spot on Vitality, although amongst new teammates. The Frenchman has joined forces with three Brits Shane “ShAnE” McKerral, Deleo “Zerg” Devitt, and Adam “Defrag” Matthews. ShAnE, much like Gotaga is another storied European player who has competed since Modern Warfare 3 and has a top eight finish at the World Championship in 2013. Alongside him are two other breakout players, Defrag and Zerg. The latter has attended two UK events and placed 1st and 3rd. With support from veteran Shane, maybe Britain will actually be the ones to restore French hope and help Wailers bring home a trophy.

Watch Vitality and ArmaTeam in action throughout this weekend at the Call of Duty: World League in Birmingham.

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An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 3)

Europe (UEFA)

Europe’s qualification process for the World Cup involves nine groups of six teams. The winner of each group automatically qualifies for the tournament while eight out of nine second place teams advance to a separate head to head playoff. With so many prominent footballing nations in Europe, the spots are highly competitive.

Group A

Halfway through the qualifiers, France sit at the top of Group A. Sure to be one of the favorites in Russia next summer, Les Bleus are  having no problems in qualifying. The Netherlands, who missed out on Euro 2016, are in danger of missing out on Russia as well. Despite talent such as Arjen Robben, the Dutch sit fourth on 7 points, six behind the French. Sweden sits in second with 10 points, despite the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the national team.

 

Group B

Granit Xhaka (Photo courtesy: goal.com)

The top two in Group B seem to be clear cut at this point, with Switzerland and Portugal distancing themselves from the field. The question is, who will qualify automatically and who will have to go to the gruesome two leg playoff stage? Switzerland are well rounded with players such as Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez, and Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer. Portugal, of course, are Euro 2016 champions and led by the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo. Switzerland have a three point advantage over Portugal with 15. Hungary sit third with 7.

 

Group C

Group C was always going to be Germany’s from the get go. The reigning world champions sit comfortably atop the group with 15 points. The fight for a potential playoff spot is in progress between Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, and Azerbaijan. The Northern Irish, who sit second with ten, are looking to build on a strong performance at Euro 2016. The Czech team are without longtime goalkeeper and current Arsenal player Petr Cech.

 

Group D

Serbia and Ireland currently sit atop Group D with 11 points. The Serbians have many prominent Premier League players such as Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, Man City left back Aleksandr Kolarov, and former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic who now plays for Zenit St. Petersburg. Ireland made it to the knockout stages of Euro 2016. Sitting four points back with 7 are dangerous customers in Wales and Austria. Led by Gareth Bale and David Alaba respectively, both teams are capable of finding themselves in Russia next summer.

 

Group E

Robert Lewandowski looks set to play in his first World Cup next summer as Poland have taken a six point lead in their group. The Polish team also features Monaco defender Kamil Glik and Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik among others. The battle for second is close, so close that the one second place team omitted from the playoff on points scored could very well be from this group. Christian Eriksen-led Denmark is in contention for that spot along with Romania and Montenegro.

 

Group F

England have put themselves in a good position to win Group F. The Three Lions have a four point lead on Slovakia and five point lead on Slovenia. The Liverpool duo of Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana have each scored twice in the campaign. Scotland is also in the group and sits in fourth. Slovakia played in Euro 2016 and enjoy the services of Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik.

 

Group G

Gigi Buffon (Photo courtesy: zimbio.com)

Another group that has seemingly erupted into a two horse race, Group G contains two of the games’ greatest nations in Spain and Italy. Both sides have had to rebuild from the remains of golden generations in recent years. Spain now has David de Gea and Thiago while Italy boasts Marco Verratti and Leonardo Bonucci. However veteran presence still exists with Andres Iniesta and Gianluigi Buffon. The third place team fighting to stay alive is an up and coming Israel side which should see more players move to Europe soon.

 

Group H

After disappointing in recent tournaments, Belgium look set to get another opportunity next summer. They lead their group by two points over Greece and three points over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Belgium is loaded with talent such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Cortouis and Romelu Lukaku in the Premier League alone. Greece is a scrappy defensive side with solid players such as Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Manolas’ current teammate and former Man City striker Edin Dzeko features for Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Juventus midfielder and free-kick maestro Miralem Pjanic.

 

Group I

Following a heartbreaking Euro 2016 exit, Croatia and its “golden generation” currently have the upper hand on an automatic spot in Russia. Led by a superb midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and up and comer Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan, Croatia are certainly favorites to maintain their top spot. In second is Iceland, who grabbed headlines last summer with an incredible run in France culminating with a victory over England. Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson is their vocal point. Ukraine and Turkey sit two points behind the Icemen. Players such as Yovhan Konoplyanka and Arda Turan bring quality to those sides.

 

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2017 NBA Mock Draft

2017 NBA Mock Draft 1.0 (Pre-Lottery)

This mock draft will factor in team needs heavily rather than who is the best player. The draft order won’t be set in stone until the lottery takes place, but the talk is already starting on who will go number one overall.

Many scouts and experts are picking Markelle Fultz to go first, but it depends on who wins the lottery. Right now these predictions will be based solely off current standings and will continue to be until the draft lottery takes place. Here is Hagan’s Haus 2017 NBA mock draft.

1: Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Josh Jackson sG Kansas

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

The Boston Celtics do not need a point guard. Fultz may be the best player in the draft, but Isaiah Thomas isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Thomas is also a proven player while any player coming out of college is unproven.

Fultz may be the best player in the draft but doesn’t fit what the Celtics need. The Celtics play great team defense and need a scorer to take the load off of Thomas.

Josh Jackson could prove to be a valuable scoring option for Boston as he averages 16.7 points per game. Jackson in a two-way player capable of becoming a superstar. Boston would be smart to add him to their core.

2: Los Angeles Lakers: Markelle Fultz pG Washington

Picking what the Lakers will do is extremely difficult. They just spent the 2015 second overall pick on a point guard. The Lakers issue is veteran leadership. They have a core of young players who just need time to develop. L.A. could trade this pick for a star player, but if they do keep it expect them to take the best available player.

That would be Washington guard Markelle Fultz. Fultz is averaging 23.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and six assists per game. Fultz also has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 28.6 and is clearly the best player in the draft. The Lakers can not pass on that just to fill a position of need.

3: Phoenix suns: Jayson Tatum Sf duke

Jayson Tatum has a well-polished iso game that is NBA ready. The Suns have a star in the making with Devin Booker and need to find a player to grow alongside him.

Tatum could grow to be a solid second option in the NBA. He can score anywhere on the floor due to his ability to create off the dribble.

One of his biggest weaknesses is his shot selection. Due to his height and ability to shoot over defenders, Tatum tends to settle for difficult shots. Shot selection will improve over time and the Suns may be able to find a Robin for their Batman.

4: Orlando Magic: Lonzo Ball Pg UCLA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit:https://www.bostonglobe.com)

Everyone is talking about LaVar Ball’s opinions rather than the play of Lonzo Ball. Ball can ball. It is as simple as that.

His father may be onto something when talking about how good his son can be. However, talking so openly may hurt his son’s draft stock.

Sticking strictly to Lonzo and his basketball ability, it is clear that he is a top prospect. Ball is a great passer with a high basketball I.Q. In the NBA Ball will be a floor general capable of running the team from the court.

Many scouts compare him to Jason Kidd, which is a pretty accurate comparison. Having a Kidd-like career would be an amazing accomplishment for anybody. Orlando needs a franchise player and that is exactly what Lonzo Ball will be.

5: Philadelphia 76ers: Malik Monk Sg Kentucky

Trusting the process hit yet another bump in the road this season. Joel Embiid suffered another injury after appearing in just 31 games. If that wasn’t enough, last year’s first overall pick, Ben Simmons, will not make his debut this year either. The 76ers still believe those pieces will result in playoff appearances and maybe even titles.

Interestingly enough, reports came out that Philadelphia brass believes Simmons will be the point guard. That is why they will use this top-five pick on Malik Monk.

Monk has proven to be a flat-out scoring machine and that will translate to the NBA. Drafting Monk will allow the Sixers to develop Simmons as their point guard while putting a scorer in the backcourt beside him.

Creating a powerful backcourt could be the key to a deep postseason run. They already have a great frontcourt player in Embiid.

6: New York Knicks: Dennis Smith Pg N.C. State

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

The Knicks need a young explosive point guard who will grow alongside Kristaps Porzingis. Carmelo Anthony is on the back half of his career and will most likely be out of the picture soon. Derrick Rose has been very respectable in New York, but he is not the same player that won the league MVP.

Dennis Smith is a top-five talent who will fall a bit due to some of the other needs teams have. Not all are looking for a point guard.

The Knicks would get a Russell Westbrook type of player by drafting Smith. He can score, pass and rebound with the best of them in college. He also has insane athleticism that allows him to posterize defenders.

Smith would be a great pick here if the Knicks want to take steps towards becoming a playoff team.

7: Sacramento Kings: Jonathan Issac PF Florida State

The Kings need to start from scratch. Buddy Hield seems to be the guy that Sacramento will build this team around. It looks like Willie Cauley-Stein will be the man up front with DeMarcus Cousins now out of the picture.

Jonathan Issac would be a great fit with this team. Issac is a great rebounder and can run the floor well for a big man. He also shoots well from all areas of the floor. He could play at small forward or power forward in today’s NBA style. The Kings would find a great player with lots of potential.

8: Sacramento Kings (Via Pelicans): De’Aaron Fox PG Kentucky

The Kings can afford to be risky with one of their two top-10 picks. Buddy Hield will need a backcourt partner in crime, and Fox could fit that mold.

Fox is unique because he is left handed. It is sometimes hard to defend left-handed players because defenders are used to right handed defenders. He is also extremely quick and defenders may have trouble keeping up with him.

Fox will need to work on shooting with more consistency. With Hield alongside him, all Fox needs to do is run the offense.

9: Dallas Mavericks: Lauri Markkanen PF Arizona

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu)

Dallas got their center when they traded for Nerlens Noel. The guard positions seem to be held down as well with the emergence of Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry. That makes Lauri Markkanen a perfect option for the Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki will be going into his final season and the Mavericks need to find his future replacement. Markkanen is a 7-foot stretch big who will be able to shoot the three in the NBA. He has all the intangibles to replace the greatest European player in NBA history.

Drafting Markkanen will allow him to develop in his first season before Dirk rides off into the sunset.

10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Harry Giles PF Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves are right on the cusp of becoming a great NBA team. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are continuing to grow and will be one of the most dangerous duos in the NBA in the coming years. They have already begun to show signs of it. Point guard is not an issue as they have Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Picking Giles would be a shock here at number 10, but could be a huge steal.

Giles was considered the best player coming out of high school and was projected to be the number one overall pick before he began having injury problems. We have not seen what Giles is fully capable of, but his potential is through the roof. He is an athletic finisher who can be molded into a great defender under Tom Thibodeau.

This pick could be a bust, but it will more likely create a young core in Minnesota capable of winning championships.

11: Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges SF Michigan St.

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

The Hornets need a solid wing player and Miles Bridges would be a good fit.

Bridges is a dunking machine and plays with an extremely high motor. One of Bridges’ weaknesses is that he has no true position. Shooting guard, small forward and power forward are all in play for Bridges. Charlotte would likely play him at small forward.

Bridges has also shown consistent improvement in his shooting since high school.

12: Portland Trailblazers: Robert Williams PF Texas A&M

Robert Williams can jump out of this world. He can put anyone on a poster and loves to do so. There are countless highlights of him dunking on opponents.

Williams has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he knows how to use it. That wingspan allows him to excel as a rebounder and shot blocker.

One thing going against Williams is that he is raw as a big man. He lacks consistency like many raw prospects. The better competition gave him trouble, but with development from NBA coaches, he can turn into a solid NBA starter.

13: Miami Heat: Isaiah Hartenstein PF Germany

The Heat have been amazing in the second half of this season. Hassan Whiteside is a franchise centerpiece at center. Their guard play has been tremendous, and Justise Winslow is really coming into his own. That leaves the power forward position as their biggest need. The Heat need a power forward that can stretch the floor since Whiteside is the inside presence.

Isaiah Hartenstein would be a great fit in Miami. He is a versatile left-handed player who can not only score inside, but outside as well. Hartenstein is a great passing big man with a high basketball I.Q.

The downside with Hartenstein is his immaturity and lack of experience against tough competition. However, his potential makes him a lottery pick.

14: Chicago Bulls: Frank Ntilikina Pg France

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: https://hardwoodhoudini.com

One thing is clear in the NBA: teams need a franchise point guard. The Bulls do not have a franchise point guard on their roster and will be looking for one in this year’s draft. Drafting at the end of the lottery does not leave them with many options, but it will allow them to take Frank Ntilikina out of France.

Ntilikina has excellent size for a point guard. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds. Ntilikina is a pass-first point guard with a high I.Q. He has developed a mid-range game and excellent floater, but is a really inconsistent shooter. Ntilikina also has great lateral quickness that makes him an elite defender.

All the skills are there for Ntilikina to become the franchise point guard the Bulls desperately need.

15: Denver Nuggets: John Collins Pf Wake Forest

Denver has a lot of young talent, and Collins is a bit of a project. If the Nuggets take a year or two to develop Collins, then he can become a valuable asset.

16: Milwaukee Bucks: Justin Patton C Creighton

There have been a lot of problems with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee. The Bucks have found a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and need a big man inside to feed off of him. Justin Patton from Creighton can be that guy.

17: Detroit Pistons: Ivan Rabb C Cal

There have been swirling rumors that Andre Drummond was going to be traded just before the deadline. That still may happen in the offseason, and the Pistons need to prepare for that. Ivan Rabb would be a great fit with Stan Van Gundy.

18: Indiana Pacers: Luke Kennard SG Duke

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennard has been unbelievable in the second half of the season for Duke. Paul George is rumored to be on his way out of Indiana via trade or free agency in two years. Kennard may not become a franchise player, but will come into the NBA as a scoring machine.

19: Atlanta hawks: TJ Leaf PF UCLA

Drafting a power forward may not make sense with Paul Millsap around, but TJ Leaf is a bit of a project. Millsap will want to be on a contending team as his career unwinds. Everyone knows the Hawks are not winning a championship. Drafting Leaf now gives him time to develop until Millsap leaves.

20: Portland Trailblazers (Via Memphis): Justin Jackson SF North Carolina

Justin Jackson would be a great fit in Portland alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The two guards can focus on the scoring and Jackson can be the team’s wing defender. Jackson is capable of guarding multiple positions and would be a solid pick by the Trailblazers.

21: Oklahoma City: DILLON BROOKS SF OREGON

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports)

It is clear that Russell Westbrook needs help. He is an animal but can’t do it on his own. Dillon Brooks is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball. Brooks is capable of being the second option to Westbrook and a true sidekick that Westbrook desperately needs.

22: TORONTO RAPTORS: DWAYNE BACON SF FLORIDA STATE

Toronto has one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Bacon can come in and be a solid rotation player allowing the Raptors to deepen their bench as they continue to chase a championship.

23: ORLANDO MAGIC (VIA LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS): TYLER LYDON PF SYRACUSE

Orlando is a tough team to gauge and need a lot. Lydon would be a head-scratching pick, but something they would do. Lydon won’t become an All-Star but will be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

24: Brooklyn Nets (via Washington): JOSH HART SG VILLANOVA

2017 NBA Mock Draft

(Photo Credit: AP)

Brooklyn needs anything and everything and is nowhere close to being a good NBA team. Josh Hart could bring a culture change to the franchise. He is a leader and a winner and the Nets could use some of that in their locker room.

25: BROOKLYN NETS (VIA BOSTON): BAM ADEBAYO PF KENTUCKY

Adding Bam Adebayo to pair up with Hart could be the start of turning things around. They won’t win many games, but the rebuild has to start somewhere. Adebayo is a solid prospect with lots of potential.

26: UTAH JAZZ: CALEB SWANIGAN PF PURDUE

The Jazz are in as good of a position as the Celtics. They will finish as the fourth or fifth seed in the tough Western Conference and have two first-round draft picks. Swanigan can come right into the NBA and contribute off the bench.

27: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS (VIA CLEVELAND): RODIONS KURUCS SF LATVIA

Kurucs is a project and Portland can afford to draft a developmental player this late in the first round. Kurucs is versatile and can be a valuable scoring option in the NBA.

28: LOS ANGELES LAKERS (VIA HOUSTON): DONOVAN MITCHELL SG LOUISVILLE

2017 NBA Draft

(Photo Credit: By Pat McDonogh, The CJ)

The Lakers have youth on their side and drafting Mitchell will allow them to continue to build assets as trading blocks so that they can get superstars back in Hollywood. Mitchell is a solid shooting guard who can be a solid sixth man in the NBA.

29: UTAH JAZZ (VIA GOLDEN STATE): JOHNATHAN MOTLEY PF BAYLOR

Utah needs some frontcourt athleticism. Derrick Favors has only had one really productive season and looks to be on the decline. Motley’s offensive I.Q. makes him a perfect fit in Utah to be a solid role player on a solid playoff team.

30: SAN ANTONIO SPURS: THOMAS BRYANT C INDIANA

The Spurs are like the Patriots. They know what they are doing and you don’t question them. LaMarcus Aldridge’s future is in jeopardy due to health concerns. With Kawhi Leonard being a two-way star, the Spurs need a big man who can protect the paint.

 

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Why West Ham Should Let Dimitri Payet Leave

No Going Back

It is never easy to lose your best player. Especially in a game like soccer where there are no salary caps. For a team like West Ham United, talent such as French midfielder Dimitri Payet doesn’t come around very often. As a matter of fact, there are many West Ham supporters who would say Payet is the most talented player West Ham has ever had.

It is easy to understand why the Hammers are doing everything in their power to keep Payet. The disgruntled Frenchman reportedly told manager Slaven Bilic that he no longer wanted to play for the club. Payet’s eight goals and eight assists on the season in are perfect examples of his value. If Payet is truly homesick, then there is nothing West Ham can do but send him back to France and cash in on his success.What Bilic and the board need to realize is that they are at the point of no return.

It is very rare in any sport for a player to publicly acknowledge he wants to leave a team and then continue playing for them. The way Payet has handled the situation has turned the fans and his teammates on him. Even if he were to stay, the strain on the relationship between him and cub would be very tough to overcome.

An important aspect to remember is that Payet is 29. He is approaching the twilight of his career in the next few years. West Ham would be foolish to invest massive amounts of money into an aging star. A Payet sale will undoubtedly bring in lots of spending money. West Ham should sell while they still have time to use the money to buy in their bid to stay up.

Scott Hogan has had a wonderful season for Brentford and has caught West Ham’s eye

Replacement?

If West Ham do sell Payet, they will need to replace his tremendous talent as best they can in their relegation battle. One target is Hull City’s Robert Snodgrass. Snodgrass has been a surprise this season and one of the primary reasons that Hull is still competitive. His nine goals leads the team and is one more than Payet. If West Ham snatch him up for cheap they can chose to spend again.

West Ham’s other top target in January is from the Championship. Brentford striker Scott Hogan is just 24, and enjoying a breakthrough season. The Englishman has 14 goals in 25 appearances. A Snodgrass/Hogan combination would surely help West Ham with damage control post-Payet. And the cost of these two players would likely still leave money left over for summer.

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Did Zinedine Zidane Forget the 2006 World Cup?

Real Madrid advanced to the Champions League semi-final with a 3-0 win in the second leg and 3-2 win on aggregate, which is Zinedine Zidane’s best accomplishment as manager. After the match Zidane responded to a question asking if he was nervous during match, where he answered, “I never lost my head as a player, will never do so as a coach”.

Apparently he forgot this moment during the 2006 World Cup Final against Italy:

Zidane headbutts Italy’s Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup Final. From http://www.whoateallthepies.tv

This moment has been ingrained in popular culture with people producing “memes”, games and even a statue in Qatar that was later removed.

From anildash.com

 

Headbutt statue in Qatar. From bbc.com

Leading up to the World Cup, Zidane had announced that he would retire after his contract ran out with Real Madrid at the end of the 2005-2006 season. This meant that his final match during the 2006 World Cup would be his last ever. Entering the World Cup Final, Zidane had an assist and two goals on his way to winning the Golden Ball, which is awarded to the tournament’s best player.

France matched up with Italy in the World Cup Final, for Zidane’s last game. During the match, Zidane scored on a penalty in the seventh minute, but the biggest moment of the match didn’t happen until the second half of extra time, 110 minutes into the game. Zidane and Materazzi, an Italian center back, started exchanging words in the box. The confrontation ended up continuing into the midfield where the infamous headbutt occurred. Zidane claimed that he headbutted Materazzi because he insulted is mother and sister. Materazzi has since admitted to making comments about Zidane’s sister, but not his mother. Zidane was sent off with a red card and Italy ended up winning the World Cup in a penalty shootout. In the immediate aftermath he stood by his actions due to being provoked.

Even as Zidane was beginning his coaching career in 2014 for the Real Madrid B team, he stated he would be “disappointed but, still support his player”, if a player on his team headbutted an opponent.

Maybe the next time Zidane decides to say he never lost his head, he should remember the final game of his career.  He is now known for headbutting his opponent in route to a loss on the largest stage of soccer.