50 Burning Questions for World Football in 2013

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2012

50 Burning Questions for World Football in 2013

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    Football poses an endless array of questions.

    Will the next young superstar reach his potential? Can that useless buffoon turn his career around? Who is the best player in the world?

    This is just a snippet of what is to come in 2013. I've compiled a list of 50 burning questions that should be answered by the time 2014 shows itself.

    Sit back, relax and try to answer as many as you can.

Messi or Ronaldo?

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    Not this question again.

    Is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo the better footballer?

    You've heard it a million times before, and you'll hear it a million times again in 2013. We'll get a little closer to the answer when the Ballon d'Or is handed out on January 7.

Will a New Contender Challenge the Throne?

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    Forget Messi and Ronaldo.

    Could this be the year someone else becomes the world's best footballer? Radamel Falcao certainly thinks so.

Where Will Andy Carroll End Up?

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    Andy Carroll's torrid 2012 has lumbered to a disappointing end. The England international has been riddled with injury since joining West Ham on loan.

    It's clear Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers doesn't want the ponytailed striker on his team. Carroll is expected to return in January, but will another club save him from more Anfield torture?

How Many More Scandals for Italian Football?

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    Italian football continues to obsess with controversy. Juventus coach Antonio Conte initially received a hefty 10-month ban for his part in an alleged match-fixing scandal. Although this was later cut to four months, the controversy still indicated that Italian soccer is in major disarray (via BBC Sport).

    Not wanting to be outdone, Napoli were recently docked two points over a betting row (via The Daily Mail).

    How many more Serie A stories will follow suit in 2013?

Will Demba Ba's Release Clause Be Triggered?

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    Newcastle boss Alan Pardew recently told Demba Ba he can decide on his own future (via The Independent). And everyone knows the Senegalese hitman can be bought for the seemingly minimal fee of £7.5 million.

    This clause could come back around to haunt the Magpies, but who will be the club to trigger such a deal?

Who Will Secure David Beckham's Signature?

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    Reports suggest David Beckham could be on his way to Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham Hotspur or Queens Park Rangers (via Metro).

    The English idol is expected to secure a final career move in the January transfer window. Will any of the aforementioned clubs nab his signature? Will Goldenballs surprise us all and move to Accrington Stanley?

    We shall see.

Will Theo Walcott Sign a New Deal with Arsenal?

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    Theo Walcott's refusal to sign a new Arsenal contract has become tedious. Arsene Wenger seems to be caving towards the player's demands (via The Guardian) and is likely to offer Walcott a wage package he has barely earned.

    Will the English winger sign a new contract at the Emirates? Probably.

    Will he wait until 2013 to ensure a premium wage package? It's likely.

Will Jose Mourinho Leave Real Madrid on a High?

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    Despite falling under extreme pressure, Jose Mourinho remains defiant as Real Madrid's boss (via The Daily Mail).

    The Portuguese manager is unlikely to catch Barcelona in the quest for the La Liga title. Instead, he must capture the Champions League title in order to leave Madrid on a high.

    Manchester United are waiting.

Is Pep Guardiola Going to Return?

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    Pep Guardiola's indefinite sabbatical will continue to generate speculation across the next year.

    In the wake of Tito Vilanova's tumour operation, the former Barcelona man has been rumoured to be returning as the Camp Nou boss (via The Independent).

    If this doesn't go ahead, will we see the Spanish mastermind pop up elsewhere?

Is This the Year We Witness Legendary Manchester United Personnel Retire?

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    Sir Alex Ferguson believes his veteran players can continue to enjoy success at Old Trafford (via The Telegraph).

    While fans may want Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to prolong their Manchester United careers, 2013 could produce the final chapter for both players.

    Indeed, if Ferguson captures the Premier League trophy back from Manchester City, he may also call it a day.

Will Neymar Finally Move to Europe?

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    Neymar is arguably the world's hottest prospect right now. The silly-haired Brazilian is constantly rumoured to be making a switch to Europe.

    Is this the year it finally happens?

    Reports indicate Manchester City are currently circling around the player (via The Daily Mail). But then again, who isn't?

Can Everton Keep Hold of Marouane Fellaini?

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    Marouane Fellaini has posted a stunning start to the current Premier League campaign. Everton's towering Belgian continues to attract attention with his ability to score important goals for David Moyes' side.

    However, one or two disciplinary problems may have lessened Fellaini's attractiveness recently.

    Even so, it is likely Moyes will have to fend off potential buyers in the January transfer window. The Everton boss knows how important his star man is to the team (via The Daily Mail) and will do everything in his power to keep afro wigs in the Goodison memorabilia store.

Is Robert Lewandowski Staying at Borussia Dortmund?

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    Another player who continues to be linked with a transfer is Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski. Once again, the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City seem to be interested in the Polish striker's services.

    Interestingly, Lewandowski appears to be keen on a move to the Premier League (via Metro).

Which Way Will Joey Barton's Career Turn Next?

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    Ah, Joseph Barton. The working man's Nietzsche.

    His career has raised more questions than an omnibus run of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

    Expect many more to come in 2013. For the first time ever, Monsieur Barton is out of lifelines if his move to Marseille doesn't work out.

Does Money Mean Success for Paris Saint-Germain?

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    Paris Saint-Germain are at the top of Ligue 1 and remain in the Champions League.

    Heavy investment means expectations have rocketed at the Parc des Princes. Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic and friends deliver in the next 12 months?

Will Mario Balotelli Remain at Manchester City?

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    Most managers would have sold Mario Balotelli yonks ago.

    Roberto Mancini's patience is commendable, but you have to question whether or not his Italian striker is worthy of a place at Manchester City.

    Although it appears Milan have ruled out a move for the 21-year-old (via The Daily Mirror), potential transfers will continue to be discussed every time the moody player sulks.

Are AC Milan Going to Offload More Stars?

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    Look away Milan fans. It seems the answer to this question is already apparent.

    Even after offloading Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Antonio Cassano over the summer, more stars are heading for the San Siro exit.

    With Robinho and Alexander Pato returning to Brazil (via Goal.com), it's absolutely crucial that Adriano Galliani keep hold of Stephan El Shaarawy.

    Let's hope his proposed move to Arsenal is nothing more than wishful thinking for the Gunners (via The Daily Mail).

Is Radamel Falcao Coming to Chelsea?

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    Radamel Falcao's move to Chelsea remains some way off in the future.

    Roman Abramovich is happy to make the Colombian striker his top earner (via The Daily Mail), but expect Atletico Madrid to take the Russian billionaire to the cleaners with the final transfer fee.

Will Romelu Lukaku Be Given a Chance at Stamford Bridge?

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    With Falcao seemingly moving to Chelsea, forgotten striker Romelu Lukaku is unlikely to get a chance at the club.

    The Belgian boulder has been in superb form during his loan spell at West Brom. He wishes to stay at the Hawthorns, where he has played a pivotal part in Steve Clarke's initial success as Baggies manager (via The Daily Mail).

    Will Rafa Benitez give Lukaku a chance at Chelsea? It seems rather unlikely.

Netted Areas to Be Introduced into the Premier League?

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    Safety in Premier League grounds has become a hot topic across the past year.

    As Rio Ferdinand found out, players need some kind of protection against an influx of coins and other projectiles.

    Many have called for netting to be introduced around the pitch. While this suggestion has been dismissed by high-profile individuals such as Vincent Kompany (via The Daily Mail), the idea remains a distinct possibility in hostile areas.

Will Turmoil at Zenit Saint Petersburg Escalate?

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    Zenit Saint Petersburg's improved reputation has diminished since September. Decisions at the club have turned Russia's most prominent side into a national disgrace.

    Fans have called for black and homosexual players to stay away from the team (via The Independent). Mega money was spent on bringing in Hulk and Axel Witsel—both of whom have struggled to settle amongst the hostility.

    Will this turmoil continue?

    Until the fans get their way, you had better believe it will.

Next Big Star to Enter the MLS?

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    David Beckham has left a major void in the MLS. Is another aging Englishman going to replace the former Manchester United player at LA Galaxy?

    It seems Frank Lampard's move is now in doubt. The MLS champions are definitely searching for a famous face to lead their brand, which could now come in the form of Brazilian ace Kaka (via The Daily Mail).

Bayern Munich to Regain Bundesliga Crown?

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    Bayern Munich are used to winning. The club is built on ridiculous success, both domestically and in Europe.

    Can the German outfit finally topple Borussia Dortmund as Bundesliga champions? Jupp Heynckes' team is currently nine points clear, so it's difficult to bet against it right now.

Who Will Take a Chance on Wilfried Zaha?

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    It's "Zaha so good" for Crystal Palace's Big Wil. The 20-year-old starlet is attracting attention from the Premier League's elite as we head into the January transfer window.

    Zaha will almost certainly be sold for a lofted fee, especially when you consider his lack of experience.

    Which club will be bold enough to stump up the cash?

Goal-Line Technology to Make a Real Difference?

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    Goal-line technology seems to be gathering momentum.

    Trialled in a number of games—including England's recently friendly against Belgium and the FIFA Club World Cup final—it seems Sepp Blatter and his henchmen could finally solve one of football's biggest problems.

    Plenty of work needs to be completed before the technology will make a real difference, however—both Rafa Benitez and Gary Cahill suggested balls equipped for goal-line technology are too heavy to be used consistently (via Yahoo! Sports).

    Perhaps this problem will be overcome by the end of 2013.

Will Arsene Wenger Remain Arsenal Manager by the End of the Year?

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    It would be silly for Arsene Wenger to remove himself as Arsenal manager.

    He appears to be under pressure as the Gunners boss, but it would be a waste of his vision if Wenger doesn't get to work his youngsters who are beginning to mature as a unit.

    The Frenchman indicated he may consider his future at the end of the season, but an exit would be premature (via The Daily Mail).

Is Fernando Torres Going to Hit Top Form?

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    What a difference a few weeks makes.

    Fernando Torres has netted seven goals in the Premier League this season. Since Rafa Benitez took over at Stamford Bridge, the superstitious striker appears to have shrugged off his label as a major flop.

    Will the former Liverpool man continue firing into 2013?

Will the Scottish Premier League Receive a Major Shake Up?

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    The Scottish Premier League has always suffered under the strength of Celtic and Rangers. Unfortunately for competitive football fans, the slaughtering of the latter club has ended any sense of excitement in Scotland's top flight.

    With Rangers lingering in the third division, the country's league structure needs a serious change.

    How this can be achieved is a question for smarter minds than my own.

Will Diving Be Clamped Down On?

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    FIFA Vice President Jim Boyce recently called diving the "cancer" of football (via BBC Sport).

    If the governing body thinks carefully enough, there are plenty of cures for such a disease. Diving needs to be combated with huge fines and—if the offence is obvious enough—automatic suspensions.

Is It Time to Say Goodbye to the Europa League?

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    Look at Patrick Kluivert's face. Look how happy he is to draw the next round of the Europa League. And shame on FIFA for threatening to axe Europe's second most important club competition (via FOX Sports).

    You had better lap it up while you can. If Michel Platini gets his way, the Europa League will be no more come the end of 2013.

More International Misery for England?

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    Roy Hodgson believes England can win the 2014 World Cup (via The Daily Mirror), but right now qualification for the tournament isn't a certainty.

    The great underachievers must do battle with Montenegro before a trip to Brazil can be thought about.

    As always, such comments are setting England up for international misery across 2013.

Financial Fair Play Restrictions to Catch Major Clubs Out?

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    UEFA has already handed out a number of punishments surrounding the FIFA Financial Fair Play rules (via BBC Sport).

    At the most basic level, these rules stop clubs from spending more than they earn. When you consider that Manchester City posted annual losses of £97.9 million this year, it's obvious huge clubs could be caught out if they aren't careful (via The Daily Mirror).

Who Will Sign Wesley Sneijder?

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    Wesley Sneijder's wife recently revealed the Dutch midfielder is preparing for a move away from Inter Milan (via The Daily Mail).

    The tiny maestro has already rejected a significant pay cut at the San Siro and is likely to finalise a January deal away from Italy.

    Will Manchester United finally land the player who has been linked with them during every transfer window since 1994? Will the ageing star return to his homeland?

    We shall see.

Can Brendan Rodgers Bring Success to Liverpool?

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    Brendan Rodgers should be commended for his start at Liverpool.

    He faced an uphill struggle after Kenny Dalglish's reign ended in disaster.

    Rodgers has given young players such as Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Suso the chance to shine, enabling Liverpool to steadily improve against expectations.

    Can the former Swansea boss land a trophy in his first year at the club? The Europa League and FA Cup titles remain his best bet.

Is This a Big Year for Belgian Football?

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    Belgian football has improved massively across the past few years.

    The national side is full of exciting individuals who are making a real impression in Europe's top leagues. Names including Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Christian Benteke, Kevin Mirallas, Moussa Dembele, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens have become synonymous with quality.

    This small nation could set itself up for an assault on the 2014 World Cup with a fantastic run during 2013.

Will Racism Continue to Grab Headlines?

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    Unfortunately, the answer to this question is probably quite obvious: Racism is never going to be absent from football.

    It doesn't matter how many anti-racism plans are put in place (via The Telegraph); today's technology is always likely to unearth some form of human idiocy.

Can Anyone Pry David Villa Away from Barcelona?

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    David Villa needs time to regain fitness. Rumours suggest the Spanish striker could be on his way to the Premier League, with Arsenal leading the chase for his signature (via The Daily Mail).

    Barcelona are unlikely to sell their important 31-year-old forward.

    I'm sure they could be tempted for the right price or on a loan deal, but it seems likely the former Valencia player's future remains in La Liga.

Which Teams Will Enjoy a Takeover?

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    Mo' money, mo' problems, right? In football, that isn't always the case.

    Leeds United recently received a cash injection from investment bank GFH Capital (via The Daily Mail). The Championship side are going to sign at least six players on the back of receiving extra dosh.

    Such urgency begs a simple question: Which clubs will attract additional funds in 2013?

Harry Redknapp to Keep Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League?

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    Can Harry "Houdini" Redknapp work his magic once more and save Queens Park Rangers?

    This sub-plot is likely to become one of the Premier League's main talking points as we progress through the season.

    With a little bit of time and some good fortune, the former Spurs boss has an opportunity to underline his reputation as England's most gifted escapologist.

Will Real Madrid Finish Third in La Liga?

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    Real Madrid currently trail La Liga leaders Barcelona by 16 points. More shockingly, Jose Mourinho's men are also seven points behind local rivals Atletico Madrid.

    Could the unthinkable happen? Will the mighty Real finish third or lower?

    As we saw during the recent 3-2 defeat to Malaga, a handful of clubs are likely to make this a real possibility.

Will Rafael Benitez Win the Chelsea Fans Over?

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    "Chelsea fans do not forget."

    While this sign may be true, fans might need to learn how to forgive.

    If Rafa Benitez's Chelsea build upon the 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa and pose a significant challenge across all trophies, supporters are likely to hush up on the terraces.

Will an Underdog Win the Champions League?

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    A colossal number of Round of 16 ties suggests this is a possibility.

    Schalke or Galatasaray are guaranteed in the quarterfinals. Shakhtar Donetsk or Borussia Dortmund will join them. Throw in Malaga or Porto, and you have yourself three teams that could upset any giants that remain in the race for the Champions League title.

Can Lionel Messi Break His Own World Record?

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    Messi scored a billion goals in 2012.

    Of course, with Gerd Muller's record shattered, people have immediately begun to discuss if he can go one better next year.

    Does the Argentinian have the capability to do so? Sure.

    Will the Zambian FA contest the record's legitimacy? Let's hope so, just for comedy's sake (via The Daily Mail).

Is FIFA Going to Get Tough?

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    FIFA recently handed out a £65,000 fine to the Serbian FA, despite continuous reports of racism and unlawful behaviour in the country's football stadiums (via The Sun).

    Such punishments are ridiculous. We are certainly on the cusp of FIFA getting tough with nations who continue to offend.

    Michel Platini threatened to ban Serbia from international competition at the beginning of 2011.

    Could this be the year action is finally taken?

Who Will Snap Up Fernando Llorente?

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    Athletic Bilbao will have readied themselves for Fernando Llorente's exit since the start of the season. The Spanish forward has made it well known he doesn't intend on extending his La Liga stay (via The Independent).

    Who will drop a significant sum on the physical striker? Manchester City and Spurs are currently linked with making a bid (via The Daily Mail), although I expect this one to run and run throughout January.

Will Aston Villa Finally Drop out of the Premier League?

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    Aston Villa have been involved with every Premier League season. As we head into Christmas, Paul Lambert's young side is three points above the relegation zone.

    An 8-0 loss to Chelsea could do major damage to the club. Lambert's side continues to work hard and has very little to show for their efforts—a combination that often results in relegation.

    At least Wigan, QPR and Reading are in a similar position, right?

Can the Chinese League Continue to Lure World-Class Names?

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    Shanghai Shenhua currently possess the talents of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka amongst their ranks.

    The promise of huge wages has attracted two former Chelsea strikers—but can the Chinese league continue in this manner?

    Reports of unpaid wages suggest not (via The Guardian).

Can Stewart Downing Live Up to His Potential?

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    Believe it or not, Stewart Downing has been excellent across his last handful of Liverpool appearances. To cap off his solid work rate and improved delivery, the Englishman scored his first Premier League goal for Brendan Rodgers' team in the recent 4-0 thrashing of Fulham.

    It's about time Downing lived up to his potential. His £20 million price tag needs to be overcome quickly if he is to remain at Anfield after this season.

How Long Can Aston Villa Keep Christian Benteke?

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    As already mentioned, Aston Villa face a struggle to keep their Premier League status intact this season. Christian Benteke has easily been the Villains' best player this campaign and must be kept if Paul Lambert's side hopes to push up the table.

    Unfortunately for Villa, Benteke has dreams of playing for Arsenal (via The Daily Mail). If he keeps up his excellent run of form, he might realise these ambitions before the end of the year.

Can Cristiano Ronaldo Be Tempted Away from Real Madrid?

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    We all remember Cristiano Ronaldo feeling sad earlier in the year (via The Telegraph).

    Amidst the unrest at Real Madrid, the Portuguese superstar could be tempted away from the Bernabeu (via The Daily Mail). A return to Manchester United seems unlikely—Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't have that kind of money to spend—but could another of the world's richest clubs tempt Ronaldo to pastures new?


    Which questions do you think will be answered in 2013? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:

    Thanks for reading!