Football: Prepare to drink to Pep's success

Four-time La Liga champion Eric Abidal playing football with children from FCBEscola Singapore - the Barcelona football school here - at a Milo event at the Sports Hub yesterday.
Four-time La Liga champion Eric Abidal playing football with children from FCBEscola Singapore - the Barcelona football school here - at a Milo event at the Sports Hub yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Abidal insists that under-pressure Guardiola will win silverware at City

Former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal has seen it all, famously returning to the pitch after twice going under the knife - the first to remove a tumour from his liver, the second for a liver transplant.

That could explain why the 37-year-old is unfazed by how his former boss Pep Guardiola is seemingly struggling at Manchester City.

Abidal, who played for six years at Barcelona - four of them under Guardiola - said: "Tactically, Guardiola is one of the best coaches in the world. He needs time to put in place his project but for sure, with all his ideas and philosophy, he will win trophies with Manchester City.

"That's why they hired him."

The Frenchman, capped 67 times by his country, did concede Guardiola must win over the City squad with his tactics.

He explained it with an analogy: "If I have to come here to live, I have to speak your language. Then it'd be easy for me to understand you. Football is the same. You have to want to learn (new ideas) and adapt.

  • Milo Cup to hold promise for junior footballers

  • As part of its four-year global partnership with Spanish Primera Liga football club Barcelona, Nestle Singapore will launch a new football tournament by June this year.

    Called the Milo Cup, the event is open to boys and girls aged six to 14 and registration is free. There are four categories: Under-8, U-10, U-12 and U-14.

    At the end of the tournament, the best players will be selected to go on a training trip to Barcelona. The number of players selected will be announced at a later date.

    Local football legend Fandi Ahmad is the tournament's ambassador and will sit on the selection panel.

    Chow Phee Chat, Nestle Singapore's director of marketing communications and corporate affairs, said: "We hope to inspire active lifestyles (among) kids in Singapore and help identify the next generation of local sporting talent."

    Chow added that while only one edition is planned, the aim is to have the event on a multi-year basis.

    This is not Milo's first involvement with local football.

    It also supported the Milo Soccer School in the 1990s, a scheme which over the years produced several players for the national team.

    Chua Siang Yee

"He needs time to adapt. In Barcelona he started well because he knew all the players already. But he will succeed at City for sure."

While City won their first six Premier League fixtures, injuries and a loss of form have seen them slump to fifth in the table on 42 points, 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.

MULTIPLE FACTORS

We had a fantastic team at Barcelona for the 2007-2008 season but we won nothing. A year later we won everything. Winning depends on many things, more than the coach or the players.

ERIC ABIDAL , former Barcelona defender, suggesting that a top manager like his former boss Pep Guardiola cannot single-handedly win trophies.

Abidal, a two-time Champions League winner (2009 and 2011) also said City fans have to temper their expectations, particularly those who are hoping the Spaniard can repeat his success of his debut managerial season in 2008. Then, he won an unprecedented six trophies - La Liga, King's Cup, the Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and the Club World Cup.

Referring to Guardiola's stint at Bayern Munich, he said: "He did a good job at Bayern, changing the philosophy of their game.

"All the players were happy with him. But the fans want trophies every year. What he did at Barcelona, they wanted it there. It's not easy.

"We had a fantastic team at Barcelona for the 2007-2008 season but we won nothing. A year later we won everything.

"Winning depends on many things, more than the coach or the players."

He was equally optimistic when asked if Barcelona can maintain their supremacy should five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, who turns 30 in June, decide to call it quits.

"Messi is one of the best players in the world, and he gives the team something more. But football is a team game. It is how the players perform as a collective," said the former Monaco and Lyon player.

Abidal, who retired in 2014, was speaking at the unveiling of a four-year global partnership between Barcelona and Nestle at the Sports Hub yesterday.

The deal aims to launch programmes promoting healthy living and an active lifestyle among children worldwide.

Milo reaches out to around 22 million children every year through its grassroots programme.

Explaining the decision to launch the global initiative here, Patrice Bula, executive vice-president of Nestle said: "Milo is for us a very important brand in Singapore. We have a research centre where a lot of Milo research is done in Jurong. It is where the (Milo) hub is.

"By educating young people about the importance of sport... we will build a better future for the next generation."

Abidal echoed his sentiments.

"When you have good health, you don't know how lucky you are. Milo and Barcelona are a good match and they are sending an important message about being healthy."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2017, with the headline 'Prepare to drink to Pep's success'. Print Edition | Subscribe