From the editor
Whether by accident or design, most issues of World Soccer tend to be themed in one way or another, and this month’s edition undoubtedly carries a certain theme to it too; players or clubs emerging from the shadows to showcase their full potential, understudies no longer content with underdog status.
The foremost instance is this month’s player biography. After playing an important but somewhat secondary role at treble winners Manchester City last season, Argentina forward Julian Alvarez has been exceptional in 2023-24, and the bright young talent now looks set for superstardom. Joel Richards tracks his rise from fledgling prospect at River Plate to World Cup winner and now “almost undroppable” superstar, according to Pep Guardiola.
Sporting Clube de Braga are another example of a rising power, and Tom Kundert’s exclusive club focus on the well-run outfit from northern Portugal emphasises how, after years of living in the shadow of Benfica, Sporting and Porto, Braga are now beginning to match the “Big Three” on and off the pitch. With detailed pen pics of their squad, an interview with club president Antonio Salvador, stunning images of their photogenic stadium, and a deep analysis of their strategy and growth over the past 20 years, it really is a must read.
And the examples don’t stop there. African goal machines Victor Boniface and Serhou Guirassy are pulling up trees in Germany’s Bundesliga, this month’s instalment of Talent Scout highlights a selection of breakout stars (headlined by Barcelona prodigy Lamine Yamal), Brazilian clubs Fluminense and Fortaleza are aiming to win their first Libertadores and Sudamericana crowns respectively as we preview South America’s two continental club finals, and Andorra legend Ildefons Lima profoundly sums up his extraordinary 26-year international career by proclaiming: “I wasn’t phenomenal with my feet like Messi, but I played with my soul”.
With eyewitness reports from the United States – where the US Open Cup continues to thrive despite being a lesser-known representation of US soccer in comparison to MLS – and Australia – where Samindra Kunti focuses on Central Coast Mariners, a community club defying the odds as defending A-League champions – the theme continues heavy, before being bookended in World Service with dispatches from Myanmar, where Shan United’s three-year unbeaten run recently came to an end.
With the Africa Cup of Nations and Asian Cup just around the corner, it would be remiss of us not to include some coverage on those tournaments too. Mark Gleeson interviews Namibia coach Collin Benjamin ahead of the AFCON kick-off, while Mike Plastow shines the spotlight on Japan in anticipation of Qatar hosting another major finals. Be sure to catch next month’s issue as well, where we’ll continue our countdown to both competitions with more detailed analysis.
Stephen Fishlock, Group Editor
THE WORLD THIS MONTH
14 Keir Radnedge Club-ownership battle ground
16 Jonathan Wilson Arsenal’s goalkeeper gamble
17 Reports We Couldn’t Make Up
18 Ins & Outs
19 Obituaries Francis Lee
20 On The Radar Serhou Guirassy
24 Victor Boniface
25 Kim Min-jae
26 United States The US Open Cup
30 Australia Central Coast Mariners
34 6 of the Best A-League Ones to Watch
36 Copa Libertadores special Final preview and team profiles
42 Player Biography Julian Alvarez
48 Club Focus Braga
58 Talent Scout Big League Breakout Stars
60 Asian Cup countdown Spotlight on Japan
64 Face to Face Collin Benjamin
66 Face to Face Ildefons Lima
98 My Biggest Game Radhi Jaidi
74 Transfer market growth
80 Australia A-League season preview
82 Indonesia U17 World Cup preview
84 Myanmar Shan United’s unbeaten run
86 Solomon Islands Pacific Games preview
86 Cook Islands Football gets a boost