Sunday, July 31, 2005

Arsenal beat FC Porto 2-1

Arsenal looked better tonight in defeating Porto than a couple of nights ago against Ajax in the Amsterdam Tournament. It almost looked like a real game.

Lisandro gave Porto the early lead after side-footing in a cross.

Arsenal faced quite a bit of pressure from Porto the entire game whose midfield had more control before the half, and probably overall. Freddie Ljungberg came off the bench and provided both goals, playing much better than in the 1-0 victory against Ajax. He made an immediate impact.

New signing Alexander Hleb was again full of ideas and looks likely to have earned himself a starting role but I’ve noticed he tends to drift forward a bit too much. Arsenal were exposed a couple of times from that. Speaking of starting roles, Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue is doing well, and against quick players. He’s looked sharper than Lauren albeit making a few mistakes in the process.

Porto, with new Dutch coach Co Adriaanse, looked good. A few late defensive bungles almost made it 2-2. Pascal Cygan provided the late drama. For that matter, Senderos didn’t look that great either before Toure replaced him.

For what its worth, Arsenal are unbeaten so far this pre-season and better keep Sol Campbell.

Owen Premiership return imminent

Real Madrid are reported as saying they will not stand in the way of a Michael Owen transfer. PR code for “let’s hear some offers”.

Now that Santos striker Robinho and Julio Baptista of Sevilla have joined Real Madrid they are well stocked and have signaled they are ready to sell. Realistically, Owen’s form will continue to be ignored so he’d do better to leave.

Generally this means a good price. Manchester United have been in the rumor mill for Owen, as well as Arsenal. A quick purchase benefits everyone and Owen still has a lot to offer.

Real Madrid’s purported asking price is in the 10m pound range. Manchester United are the more heavily linked team but it’s an open race now. Other Premiership clubs like Tottenham need a striker more than Manchester United does and could be encouraged now that Madrid has opened the door.

Chelsea make final Essien offer

Reportedly Chelsea have made their final offer for Lyon midfielder Michael Essien. Earlier in the week Lyon raised their demands on the Ghanaian 22 year old to shocking levels.

The final offer is about 20m pounds plus midfielder Tiago on loan for a single season. That’s a big difference from the 32m pounds plus Tiago outright that was demanded.

When negotiating parties are this far apart and still negotiating it means that one side is bluffing. And that would be Lyon since nobody else in Europe is bidding.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Adu wants Chelsea chance

16 year old American footballer Freddy Adu from DC United has told the media he’d love a move to Stamford Bridge during a preseason exhibition against Chelsea.

"I definitely want to play for Chelsea one day; they’re my favorite club in England” –Adu

Adu looked more comfortable with DC United than the USA side which he joined in this summers FIFA World Youth Cup. He played well, nothing like the splash Christiano Ronaldo made when Manchester United played Sporting Lisbon in a friendly a couple of seasons back (ended up Ronaldo’s last game for Lisbon) but enough to merit a second look.

Adu reasonably needs a few seasons, probably 3, to achieve the polish and consistency required.

The American youth international had a conversation with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho before the game began. Chelsea may have to begin looking other places than Europe for talent because of price. Adu, just thru hype, will get the internationals required. He’d be a juggernaut from a marketing perspective, that’s for sure.

Alan Smith wants to replace Keane

Alan Smith from Manchester United has taken inspiration from Chelsea’s Eidur Gudjohnsen and decided to play in midfield. But while you’d think it would be in attacking midfield like Gudjohnsen, its not.

When I read the headline I thought, “Oh, wants to replace Scholes” and then I read Alan Smith actually wants to replace Roy Keane in a defensive midfielder’s holding role. Keane is planning to retire at the end of this season. I was suprised, but then thought it might be a good idea.

I commend Smith former Leeds United man, he’s never been a perfect fit as a striker and we may just see his do really well. He’s a gritty player and liked to dig for the ball from the front.

The switch will require patience from manager Alex Ferguson but could pay off over time. For now, he has the coaching staff’s support. Given the failure Manchester United had with Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson’s un-emergence, the door is open for Smith.

Arsenal rumors point to Sol Campbell

Rumors persisted around Arsenal that Robert Pires or Freddie Ljungberg would be the next players to leave after Patrick Vieira’s exit to Juventus.

Sol Campbell might actually be the player leaving the Gunners. The reason why, I think, is that Campbell is not willing to risk his World Cup 2006 prospects and at the moment probably feels under a lot of threat for his place.

The durable central defender missed a large part of last season to injury which gave Swiss international Philippe Senderos a chance to emerge. At the moment Campbell is working on a calf injury which means Senderos will start the season.

Newcastle United have admitted they would package Jermaine Jenas in a sale which included Campbell.

Personally, I’m hesitant to change the starting lineup because of an injury. You’re comparing a few months of good form with an entire career. If Senderos didn’t exist Arsenal would be perfectly happy with Sol Campbell.

In fact, I don’t think Arsenal should sell a single player. Pires and Ljungberg have value to the squad and so especially does Campbell. If a sale does take place, it’s because the player wants it. Arsene Wenger stated that he has no interest in selling Campbell but that is what he said with Vieira. With Campbell the circumstances around a move are a bit different but the right ingredients certainly exist to push a deal.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hleb brilliant for Arsenal in win over Ajax

Apart from being meaningless, pre-season tournaments do give new players a chance to mix with the team.

Alexander Hleb did just that. After he scored in his debut, he looked magic tonight against Ajax Amsterdam in the Amsterdam Tournament.

As soon as he came on as a 60th minute substitute the team started moving. Hleb laid crafty balls in the paths of players, played people thru, chased, kept possession and set up the winning goal 1-0 in the 86th minute. Lupoli with the finish.

I can’t say much more. Hleb is even better than I thought.

Ajax played Hedwiges Maduro in central defense tonight instead of his normal defensive holding position. He did rather well for the most part. Ajax held together for most of the game but neither team was overly industrious by any means.

Henry was his curious self. At one point he made a stunning overhead pass by side-foot-chipping the ball up in the air and laying it off with his foot to (eee, I think) Reyes so accurately Reyes didn’t lose a step.

Liverpool sidestep Everton

Everton, Champions League newcomers, were relieved to avoid their neighbors Liverpool but are handed a stiff test against Spanish club Villarreal.

Last years third place club in Spain finished a mile behind both Madrid and Barcelona but had a +32 goal difference. That means top scorer Diego Forlan (bottom) for Everton to contend with.

Liverpool are the better side by a mile against potential draws CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria or KF Tirana of Albania. They take a 3-1 advantage against Kanus home to Anfield for the second leg.

Everton, Champions League newcomers, have a lot to prove this season and are now in the 3rd round qualifying draw. How Andy Johnson could help Everton right now. Crouch is over at Liverpool handing Cisse goals.

Real Madrid scuttled

The Brazilian Football Confederation has rejected Robinho’s transfer to Real Madrid. An international transfer certificate is required which the Brazilian FA and Santos will not provide to make the sale.

Politics at work. Santos insists on the full buyout clause even though 40% belongs to the player. Madrid are offering Santos their 60% portion of the buyout (21m pounds). Robinho has publicly relinquished claim to his part.

The player has refused to train with Santos after suffering thru his mother’s kidnap in Brazil. He wants to leave. After what he’s been thru the Brazilian FA should let him go. Santos gets their money; Robinho is in Spain minus a lot of cash; Madrid gets their man.

Premiership rumors and the Chelsea shakedown

In our latest football shakedown, Chelsea are being asked for an even more enormous sum for Lyon midfielder Michael Essien than before.

32 million pounds + Tiago

That’s about three rungs above too much.

Lyon are really overblowing Essien’s value. I’d rate the exchange as 12m pounds + Tiago, 14m max. Patrick Vieira cost 13.5m pounds!

If it were my club, I’d close the negotiation immediately. Chelsea’s midfield is on par with any club in the world. It’s time to make a statement if Abramovic wants this to stop. There are dozens of super talents emerging all over the world.

Around the rest of the Premiership there are some tempting rumors.

West Ham United appears to have Freddie Kanoute in their sites. Kanoute, who I think Tottenham underrate. An offer has been tabled and rejected. West Ham are ‘considering their options’ (nothing like pr talk, is their?).

Everton have put the money down on the Andy Johnson link to the tune of 7m pounds which was rejected. Everton keep getting rejected.

In the “Why?” category, Aston Villa are interested in Milan Baros of Liverpool. So you’d like to team Angel and Milan Baros up? I don’t know about this one.

Tottenham have secured Dutchman Edgar Davids in a bit of a swoop. Davids and Carrick in the same mid-midfield is a decent pairing.

Bolton Wanderers are apparently preparing a move for Uruguayan Gonzalo De Los Santos. The midfielder has been loaned around but is on the books at Valencia in Spain. Stuttgart and Everton have also shown interest in the 29 year old.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bad for football

European clubs touring around the world to places like Asia and North America is bad for the game.

Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and AC Milan are among a host of clubs which subjugate their players to this meaningless practice.

It’s clear to me in the last few World Cups that the players were tired. The trend of big names dropping in the group stages are as much a product of many teams improving as it is about tired international superstar players. Both exist.

There is a small argument for the practice of touring. Its great exposure for the game and people all over the world see players they would normally not. That’s all great, but the practice of touring is causing harm.

The trend is increasing as FIFA pretends that its changes to the football calendar are making a difference while players load up on matches and have less to give for the different championships.

The problem, like always is money. These games are lucrative, for the players too, the sponsors like it, and obviously the Real Madrid bank account favors it as well.

FIFA’s political players see a host of forces all backed up with money. What is good for bank accounts makes Manchester United more likely to tour and less likely for anyone to act on the harm.

Is it fair to wait 4 years and then have tired-ass players show up at the World Cup?

A smarter strategy would be to have the second teams travel and some youth players. I know, everyone earns a lot less, but there is real benefit in it. And it’s been tried (but not given enough time).

A huge club like Manchester United has quite a good second squad; Chelsea has a second unit that could make Europe on their own. Tour your future and in a decade people will come because they know they will hear the names they see on tour again.

But 2005 is about the quickie, not the investment. And you wonder why these guys are always in debt? Tour, tire your players for money, add risk to losing silverware, and maybe go deeper in debt.

Giving games to players that play less often is good for player’s morale, not to mention experience and exposure.

Touring exposes the fundamental problem in pro sports: business comes first. In the quest for earnings, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester United, et al, continue damaging their own prospects.

German Footballer of the Year announced

Bayern Munich midfielder Michael Ballack has been named German Footballer of the Year for the third time in 4 seasons.

Ballack won by the landslide of landslides too. Sheesh, his 516 votes totaled almost 5 times the second place man.

I’ve felt that Michael Ballack is a bit underrated abroad but he’s not that much better than Lukas Podolski from Koln, Hertha Berlin midfielder Marcelinho, Nurnberg's Marek Mintal, and Bayern Munich playmaker Bastian Schweinsteiger, numbers 2 thru 5 in the journalist’s voting tally.

It’s not the strongest list of 5 finalists compared to any of the top 25 players in England. It’s an indication of the Bundesliga’s decline. You can read into that also Germany’s 2006 World Cup hopes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sleeping giants awake

Manchester United fans, after such a muted response to the club takeover by Malcolm Glazer, have been urging shirt sponsor Vodafone to stop sponsoring Untied. People outside the shareholders meeting had signs with "Hang up on Malcolm Glazer" written on them.

Vodafone’s PR machine says the number of contract cancellations in protest is insignificant. They'd lie anyway, but are probably right.

The sponsorship deal lasts until 2007 so I don’t quite see how this has any effect other than to stir up negative PR for Vodafone.

What might be a more effective strategy would be for Shareholders United to link up with a competitor and sell subscriptions to a new provider outside the ground before games. Not close enough to cause a problem, but promoted well enough for people to seek it out.

Vodafone would take newspaper photos of fans in Man U kit signing up for someone elses mobil service seriously. Would be great comedy in it too.

I read thru Shareholders United’s” paper which has a convincing argument. But nobody will stop any sponsorship unless they see the takeover in real terms.

That means Manchester United related cancellations. The rest is cigar ashes.

The English Patient

If he ever played, he’d be “England international defender Jonathan Woodgate”.

Now, the Real Madrid player has injured his hamstring again in training and is currently traveling to America and Finland for a fresh pair of eyes.

Jonathan Woodgate is football’s version of NBA player Grant Hill. Hill missed about 3 seasons with ankle problems and is in constant threat of it happening again. He's never kicked a ball for Madrid.

Real Madrid paid 14m pounds from Newcastle last summer who acquired the player from Leeds United. Reportedly it even happened while training with the medical staff.

Initially Real Madrid tried to deny it, but it’s a bit hard to deny when your player has to leave the team in Asia to seek treatment. More than often these stories end badly, so I hope Woodgate can sort this out.

If he can’t, don’t make it like watching the movie "The English Patient" made by a director doesn't know when to end a film.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bolton bolting up front and back

Sam Allardyce has agreed to a season long loan deal for Senegalese international defender Abdoulaye Faye.

The snag in a full signing is probably the player’s work permit.

Faye makes a trio with Senegal international team-mates Khalilou Fadiga and El-Hadji Diouf now at the club. This will likely help the player adjust and improves his chances of success.

Mexican international Jared Borgetti has signed for Bolton Wanderers in a 1m pound deal. What a bargain! Allardyce is brilliant. Borgetti is a fantastic striker for that money.

I’m willing to bet he starts and impresses because he’ll compliment Diouf and Okocha well and scores good goals. He’s similar to Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes.

What a penchant this coach has for grabbing good players that are going unnoticed.

Finally, the rumor mill says Bolton are also on the verge of landing Spanish defender Juanfran. The ‘officials’ are saying there are negotiations taking place and the player is very keen to play in England.


Former Liverpool defender joins Wigan Athletic

Movement continues to take place lower in the Premiership pecking order.

Former Liverpool defender Stephane Henchoz has signed a single season contract with Wigan Athletic.

Last season Henchoz played with Celtic in Scotland but languished.

The 30 year old had been on trial with Wigan. German club Kaiserslautern and Basle from his native Switzerland were interested but he chooses to fight the newly promoted fight with Wigan. Might not be a bad idea as he never seemed the most motivated player.

A 12 month contract suits everyone too, Wigan could get relegated or Henchoz could defend like a tree stump.

West Bromwich Albion sign versatile attacker

Senegal international Diomansy Kamara spent part of last season on loan at Portsmouth.

West Brom have signed the player for 1.5m pounds from Modena.

Word is Portsmouth used a get-out clause in the transfer which meant he returns to Modena, minus the 1.5m remaining balance of his transfer being paid. Albion moved in with remaining money to secure the transfer.

Rather surprisingly, Portsmouth didn’t pay the rest and secure the player for such a modest amount. I don’t really understand it.

Kamara adds width and pace, creates more opportunities for others than he can score goals himself, but that’s not such a bad thing.

Kamara becomes West Bromwich coach Bryan Robson's fourth signing of the summer following the purchases of Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland, central midfielder Darren Carter from Birmingham and Steve Watson from Everton on a free transfer.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Unrest continues for Manchester United

I predicted unrest for Manchester United in my top 10. Signs of it have started popping up recently and old faithful, Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane has had a bust up with manager Alex Ferguson.

When Keane pops off a boiling point of one sort or another has tipped. In 1998 Keane was sent home from the World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

Even little things have started happening like players in their own cars instead of the team bus.

This stuff didn’t exist last season and are signs of an unfocused team, Chelsea are focused.

Even the posturing in the transfer market by Chelsea and Newcastle United is barely a sideshow to the big footballing story of the weekend: the apparent eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation and subsequent fall-out between Sir Alex Ferguson and his trusted club captain and sergeant-at-arms Roy Keane that has seemingly left the volatile Irishman training with the juniors back in Manchester, recovering from a hamstring injury, while the senior players complete a lucrative eight-day trip to Hong Kong, China and Japan.
“ -

Done deals

Celtic have finally wrapped up transfer of Reggina playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura. Gordon Strachan has signed one of the best playmakers available in Europe at the moment and boosts his prospects significantly. This is the best player at Celtic since Henrik Larsson.

Cardiff City have signed 18-year-old ex-Parma forward Andreas Ferretti after a successful trial. The player moves to the Welsh side on a 2 two year contract. Apparently the player came at Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson’s recommendation. Funny, he probably gets his first start as a Bluebird in a friendly against Italian side Udinese.

Nigeria midfielder Sunday Oliseh has returned to Belgium with KRC Genk. The move is a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund where he’d spent the last five seasons. Nigerian youth international Promise Isaac had made his first move to Europe via Turkish outfit Genclerbirligi.

Leonardo has left Santos in Brazil to sign for Shakhtar Donetsk. The Ukrainian League title holders have brought in the 19 year old defender to start right away. Leonardo won the FIFA U-17‘s in 2003 with Brazil and looks a quality defender.

Chelsea looked prepared

Shaun Wright-Phillips saw his Chelsea debut as the Blues beat AC Milan comfortably 1-0 in their United States pre-season tour.

Icelandic international Eidur Gudjohnsen was impressive in possession. Floating between a striker and an attacking midfielder he added fluidity by dropping back to link up play. He found a very comfortable playing position last season and I’m hoping he stays there.

Phillips looked sharp from the start. His speed was amazing and opened space for himself on a number of occasions. Arjan Robben, man of the match and the eventual goalscorer, was also quick and profitable.

Chelsea quite literally have two top 10 Premiership sides within the same team. Mourinho, who used virtually his entire team in substitutions, looked eager to make the most of the opportunity to see his players. I got the honest impression he has an open mind about his first 11. Well, except maybe for perpetual disappointment Hernan Crespo who missed the easiest chance of the game.

The most interesting of these decisions Mourinho must make is whether to play Wright-Phillips or Arjan Robben. It’s a tough choice, they were equally impressive. Find a way to play them together like Real Madrid did with Beckham and Figo.

AC Milan, obviously missing Kaka and Shevchenko looked depleted despite hard work by Rui Costa and Cafu to play the team forward. Christian Vieri missed golden chances and looked like a Clydesdale among thoroughbreds.

AC Milan must feel a step behind, like Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United do. From what I saw, in addition to Chelsea’s new livery, was a team chocked full of players eager to prove more than a single Premiership title.

Promise fulfilled

Nigerian youth international Isaac Promise has signed for Turkish first division club Genclerbirligi. I promised there would be interest.

Feyenoord were apparently keen, as well as Auxerre and Sporting Lisbon (where he had been on trial) but the young forward chose for regular first team football out of the gates instead.

Realistically, at a club like Auxerre the player would spend at least his first season on the bench so it makes sense to display the talent, which is no doubt there.

Genclerbirligi, a club from Ancora, get a promising talent. Promise certainly foreshadowed his name with his impressive play at this summers FIFA Youth Tournament in the Netherlands where I happened to have been able to watch him play.

“Turkey was a great football deal and a great financial deal for him and we're sure that we've made the right choice for his future development.” –agent Dan Fletcher

This solidifies the player’s first move from Africa into Europe. There comes now a nervous season of adjustment but as long as Isaac stays focused on his football there is huge upside and eventually an EU work permit for the Premiership.

A good season in Turkey gives Promise Isaac a great chance of a place with the Super Eagles in the 2oo6 World Cup.

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

My Premiership bottom 10 for 2006

I’m following up on my Premiership top 10 list recently with the bottom 10.

The bar has been raised significantly in the Premiership's top 5. Unfortunately, the bottom 10 has fallen even further behind.

My bottom 10, in descending order:

11thMiddlesbrough losing Zenden has dropped them from the top 10 for sure. They hold the 11th spot tediously, as the summer transfer window’s closure approaches they will have to spend to stay here.

12thCharlton Athletic will more or less hold their ground but they don’t have a lot of depth. In their favor Charlton play well as a team, but are prone to defensive breakdowns. In total Charlton leaked 58 goals last season and until that changes neither will their position in the table.

13th - Until Aston Villa has a striker scoring more than 7 goals in 30+ appearances the team won’t improve. This will probably be Angel’s last chance; Aston Villa had other players step up to deliver goals last season, 10th was an overachievement.

14thBlackburn Rovers have an impressive player in Mort Gamst Pederson. Blackburn gave up a modest 43 goals last season, in small part due to the defensive help of Paul Dickov. But they only scored 32 goals in large part due to Dickov who contributed a meager 9 in 29 appearances. Unless that improves Blackburn won’t.

15thBirmingham City have not made any significant transfers and will probably fall behind to what seems like the theme of this article: lack of goals. Emile Heskey scored 10 in 30+ games. But Birmingham City are without another player in the Premiership top 25 top scorers list from last season.

16thPortsmouth will more or less stay even because they have creativity and talent in midfield and can score a few goals. They leaked goals to the tune of 59 last season and some were so hapless that it looked like the Portsmouth back four competing a three legged race. That can’t continue, but it might just and Portsmouth are not clear of relegation by any stretch.

17th- Wigan Athletic are the best team promoted. They clearly looked the best prepared last season for the Premiership and come in with a squad that can hold itself pretty well under pressure. If they can hold their form early in the season and gain confidence, they will survive.

18th- Sunderland probably have the best chance of surviving. A host of signings came ahead of the season but that may prove a problem. A promoted team that doesn’t start well often goes back down. Former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has an uphill climb.

19thFulham likely to lose Boa Morte and likely to be relegated either way. I think losing Edwin van der Sar was enough to tip the balance. Fulham lack the stability, player for player, to cope with giving up more goals.

20thWest Ham United are prone to a bad performance and don’t have a Joe Cole or Jermain Defoe to make plays and score. In the end, West Ham have a midfield that simply has too many questions to answer. That inevitably means more pressure on the back line; too much pressure to survive.

Politicos discover Figo a galactico after all

Real Madrid’s "politico class" spoiled a move to Liverpool for Luis Figo by demanding a transfer fee.

He was a galactico to the politico after all, so he stays the #10.

Figo has been quoted saying that he is going to stay at Real Madrid and see out the final year of his contract. After this season the player is free to go wherever he chooses without Madrid’s politicos to break up the move.

Liverpool probably won’t try again for the Portuguese international and former world player of the year. It’s Real’s money; they can pay him millions to sit the bench. He saves his legs for a season anyway and can play international.

But in a season, at age 33, his options will be even more limited.

"I know I'm not first or second choice” -Figo

Figo’s penalty actually gave Real Madrid a win on tour, 3-2, over a Chinese side. Expect another season of turmoil and drama at the Bernabeu because of Luxemburgo who I give until mid season before being fired.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ferguson dreaming

Alex Ferguson thinks his Manchester United squad is equal to Chelsea.

He’s dreaming. Let’s begin at the top: Jose Mourinho has out-coached Alex Ferguson virtually every time they have played each other. And that includes FC Porto where Mourinho had a fraction of the Manchester United transfer kitty.

2 years ago Arsenal went through a whole season unbeaten. Last season Chelsea only lost one game and are still hungry. To these grim facts, Ferguson replies:

“The bar might have been raised but there is still nothing between our side and Chelsea’s”

Alex Ferguson has a good team, no doubt. But Chelsea have a better and deeper back four, an equal but deeper midfield and 2 better goalkeepers. Manchester United has the best striker on both teams in Wayne Rooney but Chelsea have the best player in Arjan Robben. Over a season this adds up.

Arsenal, now minus Vieira, are going to find it even rougher going this season, but Manchester United have the storm cloud Glazer to contend with and that’s worth -5 points at least.

Roberto Carlos getting dual nationality

Real Madrid left-back Roberto Carlos will become a dual-citizen of Spain and Brazil so the club can have another non-European Union slot, namely for Robinho.

La Liga rules stipulate only 3 non-EU player are allowed in a squad. Real Madrid’s slots were used by Walter Samuel, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos last season. I speculated that Carlos or Ronaldo would be leaving because of Robinho’s arrival but Real Madrid look set on keeping their big name Brazilians.

With Real trying to close the deal to sign Robinho, the latest news would free up a place in the squad should the transfer saga end.

Strangely, Carlos was robbed in Brazil last month while giving a radio interview. 2 armed gunmen on a motorcycle robbed a car he was driving in. Guns are proliferated in Brazil and gun crime is at fever levels. Not too long ago Pele was carjacked until the thieves realized who it was and ran out of respect. No such luck for Roberto Carlos or Robinho who had his mother kidnapped.

Greatest goal ever?

Too often when you judge something like the greatest goal ever things like nationalism, club allegiance and your favorite players get in the way. Not to mention you haven't seen every goal ever scored.

When Swedish international Juventus striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored this goal back when he was still with Ajax Amsterdam I thought it could have been the best goal I'd ever seen.

I uncovered this video of it the other day and the same thought came to my mind, “this could be the greatest goal ever”.

If you watch this goal in detail, notice he beats 5 players a total of 9 times. One poor guy got faked 3 times, another twice. Every fake was a virtuoso move. He even fakes the camera man out twice!

There are goals that are special because they have meaning but this one is special because if its sheer brilliance.

Best goal ever? If not, it’s up there.


Celtic to get lucky after all

KeepTheFaith.com, a website which follows Celtic FC reports that Shunsuke Nakamura is going to sign for the club.

When a player gets quoted that way, it’s usually a sign that a deal is being prepared. I’m pretty confident that Nakamura is going to join Celtic who really need his playmaking as a host of preseason draws demonstrate.

This on again, off again saga has started to drag on too long. If a player is too hesitant, what does it say?

If the signing doesn't happen in a day or so I think its time to forget about it. Signing hesitant players often goes badly.

Kerlon, the amazing head dribbler

I heard rumors about a Brazilian wunderkind named Kerlon which dribbled the ball with his head to go past players.

Zidane from Real Madrid and Ronaldinho from Barcelona are famous for creating new tricks other players copy but here is one which is truly unique and I have the video to prove it:

Kerlon Moura Souza plays for Brazilian club Cruzeiro, where his trick is named 'seal dribble'. He and his father claim he’s been perfecting the trick since he was a little boy. This may sound like a circus trick but it's very effective.

Bewildered defenders don’t know how to stop it and, as you can see from the video, resort to fouling the player. At 17 Kerlon has not broken into the Cruzeiro first team. A testament to how overstocked Brazil is with players.

It’s astonishing how many superstars emerge from the same country. European youth systems like Ajax and Arsenal are criticized for being too structured in their programs to the detriment of creativity, look how fathers teach their kids football in Brazil. They are not taught to play well, they are taught to play creatively.

Unfortunately, work permits keep most of these starlets out of the Premiership until they cycle thru other leagues and become 10 times the price.

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Manchester City set for Feyenoord winger

After a windfall from the Shaun Wright-Phillips sale, Manchester City look to be signing 22 year old Dutch international Romeo Castelen.

A natural right winger, Castelen, is similar in size and agility to Wright-Phillips. He made only 30 appearances for Feyenoord in his first season there; Regardless, impressive Dutch national coach Marco van Basten has given Castelen 7 caps.

This is exactly the kind of player that could replace Shaun Wright-Phillips and begin to reduce the City debts. Debt can kill a club off as fast as constant losing.

If the rumored deal for 4 million pounds turns out to be confirmed I’d say City should be quite happy. I’ve seen him play a few times and he’s impressed me at international and club level. Castelen is well worth the money and the chance.

Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle and Fulham rejected

With Andy Cole set on leaving Fulham for Manchester City, coach Chris Coleman sparked a chatter by suggesting Manchester United striker Louis Saha could be loaned back to Fulham.

Everton and Tottenham have since inquired about a Saha loan but all of them have been flatly rejected by coach Alex Ferguson.

Along with Saha, Newcastle have also been rejected on a bid for Luis Boa Morte. Why Newcastle are considering paying 10 million pounds for Nicolas Anelka and not upping their offer for Boa Morte is beyond me. You Newcastle fans want Anelka? After Robert, the pitch fight, et al, wouldn’t a more stable player make more sense? I’d rather pay 10 million pounds for Andy Johnson.

But back to Louis Saha for whom 13 million pounds was paid.

I’m amazed sometimes at how little time players are being given at top clubs. Today’s football climate is similar to the pop music business, you either make a hit song or they try the next disposable act. Saha has only played 16 gamed for United.

Friday, July 22, 2005


Clubs (like Arsenal, Everton, Celtic and Middlesboro) that need a striker, take note.

Brazilian Fred, pronounced “freeetji”, has been lighting up the Brazilian league.

The prolific 22 year old plays for Brazilian club Cruzeiro where he's scored 35 goals in his last 35 matches. 17 of those came in a span of 11 games.

This is Cruzeiro’s biggest prospect since Ronaldo who was swooped up after just his first season at the club by PSV Eindhoven.

Fred’s full name is Frederico Chaves Guedes. His playing name, like so many other Brazilians is a single name substitute, but doesn’t quite have the zing to it yet, does it. Maybe spell it with a phonetic pronunciation. When you hear it in Portuguese it sounds different but I can see the odd stare in a Premiership program with someone thinking to themselves "Fred Something, but single named Fred?”. The first thing that came to my mind was Fred Flinstone, 35 goals in 35 Premiership matches would change that.

Not playing in the big cities like Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro, Fred has not gotten a lot of attention. For his previous club America-MG, he scored 34 in 57 matches. He’s only played a total of 43 for Cruzeiro so far and has already equaled that total.

He’s scored 68 goals in 100 matches. That’s consistent productivity.

His goalscoring touch is immaculate. He has this habit of hitting the bottom inside of the post a lot and the ball ricocheting in. Whether by coincidence, I don’t know. Didn't seem like it, they were spiffy goals.

Fred has patience too. Often waits and waits, even backs off, with an eye for headers a defender can't reach to turn to goal with the foot. At about 6’ 2” (185cm) can head as well.

He reminds me a lot of (at one time) prolific Brazilian goalscorer Mario Jardel or a bit of Freddy Kanoute. The only thing I have seen lacking is a bit of pace. Remember when Tottenham signed Helder Postiga and you could see immediately that he wasn’t nearly quick enough for England? He's quicker than that, but more recently Kezman?

The same could happen to Fred, but he has a much better shot on goal than either one of those players. And Kezman did get some easy chances, from what I saw, this Brazilian would have buried them and kept a place at Chelsea.

It appears Monaco in France made a 3 million pound offer a while back which was rejected. Cruzeiro apparently wants 6-7 million pounds (from clubs like Arsenal, Everton, Celtic and Middlesboro) .

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Dutchman to coach club and national side at same time

PSV Eindhoven coach Guus Hiddink will announce tomorrow that he's also Australia’s new national coach. The team failed to impress at the Confederations Cup in Germany, the place the next World Cup will be held.

The Dutchman, which led South Korea to a quarter final in the last World Cup, will give a big boost to a National side which, like South Korea, lacks a hi-powered domestic league. Hiddink also coached the Netherlands in the 1998 World Cup in France.
The Football Federation Australia has accepted Hiddink as their coach part-time, while staying on at PSV Eindhoven. This is an odd arrangement and I wouldn’t be surprised if Eindhoven balks at it. For Hiddink to coach 2 teams half way around the world from eachother is a ballsy move on his part.

Former Australia coach Frank Farina left the post after six years at the helm and a poor run of form.
So if Australia qualifies for World Cup 2006 you can guess what happens next.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Celtic may not get lucky

Japanese international Shunsuke Nakamura is now being chased by Racing Santander and Borussia Dortmund.

Celtic have offered the most but Japan’s playmaker is keen to play in Spain.

Reggina have accepted 2.75m pounds bid from Celtic but negotiations have stalled with the player.

Nakamura doesn’t seem so interested in joining Celtic. He is waiting for a different team to match the bid it seems, as Celtic seem to have agreed to his imaging rights demands.

Unfortunately it looks likely that Celtic’s league strength is hurting them again in attracting talent.

Baros should take the hint

Liverpool striker Milan Baros should be actively pursuing another club. Gerard Houllier would be glad to have him at Lyon but Liverpool didn’t take their chance to sell.

Maybe money or coach Rafael Benitez was worried that he wouldn’t get another striker to replace him. Maybe he also worried about the lineup considering all the Liverpool injuries last year.

Liverpool purchased Peter Crouch from Southampton and Liverpool have told Baros they don’t want him yet the optimist insists he wants to stay at the club. Why? I thought the objective as a professional footballer was to play (and do well). When you are a defender and don’t score that’s one thing, but a striker ?

Instead of getting his career on track Baros prefers to ignore an imminent sale:

"If he says he does not need me, then we will start solving the problem, but nothing is happening now and I am not letting it play on my mind." -Baros

What team keeps a player out of Champions League matches other than to assure his marketability to potential suitors?

Liverpool need to sell Milan Baros and Milan Baros needs to get himself and his manager hopping in search of a new club.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Liverpool buy the tall guy

24-year-old Peter Crouch has joined Liverpool. The 6’ 7” (200 cm) striker gave defenses fits for Southampton last season.

Crouch should join Liverpool’s training camp in Switzerland this week after a medical.

The final settlement price was 7 million pounds. Liverpool had 6 and 6 ½ million pound bids rejected. Once it became clear other clubs like Manchester City and Middlesboro were preparing to make offers Liverpool got down to business.

So what have Liverpool purchased? Being so tall Peter Crouch causes defenses problems in the air. They can’t defend him and have to be weary of players running off his headers. He’s accurate with the head and has a decent shot. The other thing that makes him tricky is the amount of space his first step creates.

There’s the good stuff. What else.

Liverpool are going to play the long ball more. That’s boring, considering the great passes on the ground Xavi Alonso and Steven Gerrard deliver. Luis Garcia also likes intricate touch passing with the strikers.

I’m not saying Crouch doesn’t have a ground game and has no touch, he’s got both and likes touch passing, but Fernando Morientes clearly has a more polished ground game and a significantly better shot.

Jose Mourinho whilst at FC Porto often used a substitution for a tall striker, usually Benni McCarhy or Edgaras Jankauskas, with success.

I think Crouch would be utilized better as a substitute in the same way. Peter Crouch is a good player at a good price but nothing I’ve seen convinces me he’s a better starting option than Morientes and Djibril Cisse.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Chelsea set the watermark

The watermark stands at 21 million pounds, which is what Chelsea paid for Manchester City starlet Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Notice in the news today how Michael Essien just got more expensive to the tune of 30 or so million pounds?

That’s expensive. About 2x David Beckham to Real Madrid expensive.

I think constant swirling speculation of players moving to Liverpool had the same effect earlier this summer.

Chelsea pays the wealth tax. It will be interesting to see if anyone matches the price. I’m willing to bet there isn’t another team in Europe except for Chelsea that is going to spend more than 21m on a player this summer.

In 2003 Ronaldinho was sold to Barcelona for 21.5 million pounds. David Beckham went to Real Madrid for 17 million. And that is only two years ago. What would Chelsea pay for Ronaldinho today? 40 million?

In the Figo and Zidane boom days, Real, at that time, inflated the market. It’s inflating again. When smaller clubs get big sums from a player sale they raise the middle market’s watermark (4-10m pound range or so) for teams like Newcastle, Manchester City could challenge and bid on Luis Boa Morte now.

Vasco dreaming

Remember Romario?

He’s still playing, believe it or not, going on 40. He’s been back in Brazil for years after stints at a number of European clubs in his prime.

It not so much his age. 40 is not unheard of, age 50 is unheard of and if Romario were to play until that age, his behavior would remain just as unheard of.

Romario was never noted for his smarts. This is the man which had a Mario Zagallo (former Brazil coach) caricature painted on the toilet door of a Rio de Janeiro nightclub he owned. Zagallo was sitting on the toilet seat, with former Brazilian international Zico next to him holding the roll of toilet paper.

Now that’s macho, isn’t it?

Well, guess what, he did the same thing to his teammate Edmundo (pictured left, a real piece of work in his own right, apparently once got a rented chimpanzee drunk at his kids birthday); by making a caricature of him on a different toilet door in the same night club.

We’ve gone from macho to what?

By the way: the club that this toilet door incident happened at is Vasco da Gama.

Playing at age 40, Vasco da Gama's new coach Renato Portaluppi has brought back Romario.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Referee graffiti

I saw an interesting thing done by a referee during a Brazilian league match the other day.

During every free kick the referee pulled a small spray can from his pocket and drew a small line at 10 meters. It was a yellowish line and didn’t leave large marks all over the pitch, but what it did do was measure out 10 meters in a way that players won’t cheat. No more arguments about lines cheating up!

The players didn’t have much choice and often looked at the line to get their bearings instead of following the referee and arguing.

I’ve really no idea how widespread using spray lines is in Brazil, it was the first time I’d personally seen it but I liked it immediately. It sped up the taking of free kicks and, if this little idea is more widely adopted, could serve to produce more goals.

Heavily linked teen gets Arsenal trial

It looks like we have the first shift at Arsenal since the departure of Patrick Vieira to Juventus last week.

Arsenal have invited highly rated defensive midfielder Alexandre Song for a trial and look serious about signing him. There is lots of interest in the youngster.

The 18 year old Cameroonian rejected a move to Middlesbrough 5 years ago at age 13. Alexander is also the nephew of Cameroon international Rigobert Song who currently plays for Galatasaray in Turkey. Rigobert played for Cameroon at age 17 in the 1994 World Cup.

Full name Alexandre Song Bilong, he is currently on the books at French club Bastia where he has been used in central defense and defensive midfield. Bastia were relegated last season which could explain the impetus of the move.

Song, standing 1m 82cm, has been part of the Bastia youth system and made 34 appearances last season in the first team.

Another one of these players Wenger goes after that you'd never imagine.

The player has also been linked with Manchester United, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Auxerre and FC Porto.

This move is not a replacement for Vieira but you can see Wenger stocking youth at the position.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Done deal, Chelsea buy Wright-Phillips

Shaun Wright-Phillips has been withdrawn from the Manchester City squad traveling to Thailand tonight night for an Asian tour.

Chelsea have agreed to a 21 million pound deal which will bring the young and talented England international to Stamford Bridge.

The final push came from the player himself after he told the club that he wanted to move to Chelsea. From that moment, City compromised on their price and the new Chelsea player will now undergo his medical.

Wright-Phillips says goodbye to his boyhood club. He joined Manchester City from Nottingham Forest as a teenage trainee in 1998. Now at age 23 he leaves Manchester City and his brother Bradley to grow into the huge hole he leaves behind.

Wright-Phillips has 4 caps for England. His profile should be significantly boosted for World Cup 2006 and so is Chelsea’s fortune for the Premiership next season.

Manchester City have a big hole to fill now but 21 million pounds can do that nicely.

Everton may finally land player

After weeks of rejections and low offers, it appears that Everton may strike gold in Andy Johnson.

The newly capped England international is anxious to stay in the Premiership after Crystal Palace was relegated last season in a thrilling final day of the season. So anxious that the striker had a meeting with coach Ian Dowie to announce he wants to go. Didn't go so hot.

The competition this time comes from Tottenham.

Liverpool swooped former Valencia player Mohammed Sissoko from Everton after it became public they were negotiating for him. Liverpool quickly raised the offer from 5 million euros to 8 million. Coach David Moyes was left with that distinctive look he gets when Everton give up a goal.

If I were Everton I would stop dancing around it and put down the cash for Andy Johnson. He’s motivated to stay up for a chance at the England World Cup 2006 squad and shouldn’t give any problems on personal terms. And there is Champions League football, too.

Tottenham had an 8 million euro bid for Johnson laughed off. It could reasonably take double that (or 10 million pounds).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Toure joins Olympiakos

Yaya Toure, Arsenal defender Kolo Toure’s younger brother has been signed by Olympiakos Piraeus.

The younger Toure spent a summer on trail for Arsenal a few seasons back but didn’t get picked up. He joined Belgian club Beveren instead and then Ukrainian club Metalurg Donetsk.

The Ivorian midfielder was apparently a target of Norwegian coach Trond Solied and joins the Greek side for a 1.2 million euro fee.

Son of Lybian leader in hot water

Libya football international Al Saadi Gaddafi, son of Lybian leader Mommar Gaddafi, has been charged in Italy for sporting fraud.

The 32-year-old Udinese player is again in trouble but the details are not yet public. He only joined Udinese from Perugia last month but that looks to be in jeopardy now.

This is the same player which hired ex-sprinter and world class cheater Ben Johnson to train him; oh, then he got busted using steroids.

Morte means death, as in relegation for Fulham

Boa Morte, translated literally means ‘good death’ from the player’s native Portuguese.

Luis Boa Morte leaving would certainly be the death blow for Fulham.

Earlier this summer goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar left the club for Manchester United, a move that already leaves Fulham in a precarious position. Having done very little in the transfer market the club can little afford to lose any more talent.

Having Luis Boa Morte follow suit would be enough to place Fulham in the bottom four. I’ve wanted to follow up my top 10 with a bottom 10 and was waiting to see if this move took place. If it did, it means bottom 4 for Fulham, for sure.

They have lost their best player at the back and now their best player up front? Not good. Scoring 44 points last season with a -8 goal difference? Hmmm. Simple math:

Lose goalkeeper = more goals against

Lose attacker = fewer goals for

Total = relegation

Manager Chris Coleman is upset about the approach and wants a speedy resolution telling Newcastle they have a week.

“Newcastle are bidding 3 million. You won't even get his boots for that.”

Fulham are correct on that front. They are asking 5 million pounds which is a good price compared to 20 million for Shaun Wright Phillips.

In fact, it’s a very good price for a veteran Premiership player with a work rate like Luis Boa Morte's.

Stuttgart swoop, AC Milan changes up front

AC Milan are making changes up front. Hernan Crespo is headed from AC Milan back to Chelsea and now Milan have let striker in Jon Dahl Tomasson leave. Parma's Italian international Alberto Gilardino has moved to AC Milan as has Christian Vieri from Inter Milan to partner Andrei Shevchenko up front.

Danish international Tomasson has joined VfB Stuttgart on a four year deal based on a free transfer.

Kevin Kuranyi left Stuttgart for Schalke 04, so Tomasson, a much better striker in my opinion, will finally get the regular first team football he deserves.

New Stuttgart coach Giovanni Trapattoni has shown a decent eye in the transfer market. I guess I’ve underestimated him as a coach. I thought his performance at Benfica last season was remarkable. I even considered adding defensive midfielder Fernando Meira to my list of players I thought Arsenal should buy but I know Stuttgart are not going to sell him.

For Milan though, I wonder why Christian Vieri over Tomasson. I’ve never liked Vieri much. He’s a decent passer/shooter but a bit of a one trick pony in front of goal. It’s either space to shoot or he passes and thus creates very little for himself.

Newcastle, give Hugo Viana chance

Hugo Viana can play.

Mercurial, a bit self interested, a bit whiny, yes. A troublemaker? In the Laurent Robert mold? No, I think Bobby Robson promised him a lot to move there. He was mad about it and didn't handle it well.

At the time Hugo Viana was the most sought after teenager in Europe. The reality of the competition for places in the club and other ego’s was different. Newcastle, remember were ecstatic to get him.

Whether it was Viana or Newcastle that didn’t deliver, I don’t exactly know. I didn’t see a lot of the games he did play in. I read him crying about it when he didn’t play, that’s for sure.

The reason I write he should get a chance is because Newcastle need players that can create. He hopefully has something to prove, and he even has a real footballer's number now.

Viana, when the temperature is just right, when his boots are just so tight and didn’t get up too early for the flight, can play.

We gotta work on the other stuff, especially since the Newcastle fans have a reasonable bone to pick.

Viana, for all his talent, could have handled the whole thing differently. Think about all the Robert episodes, the fact that Gary Speed is gone; if only he was more patient, he’d of had many chances by now.

No money, no Serie A

Messina and Torino have been expelled from Serie A because they have no money.

The Italian Football Federation came down hard on both clubs Friday.

This is not a new precedent in Italy as Fiorentina was expelled a few seasons ago (on top of relegation) from Serie B to Serie C for the poor state of its finances.

Perugia and Salernitana from Serie B are also getting the rabbit-ears-relegation. (If you don’t know what that means, pull your pocket linings from your front pockets all the way out and up, presto, no money but a pair of rabbit ears)

Messina are appealing but Bologna could profit by taking their place in the Italian top flight. I don't know, its kind of hard appealing being bankrupt.

These kinds of regulations force good governance on clubs which private ownership schemes often can hide. I’m glad Italy is doing this, the more transparency the better. Notice Fiorentina is back in the top flight and doing quite well.

Chelsea foiled again

Man, its becoming a routine story. Chelsea have had another bid rejected.

This time they have been told no for winger Shaun Wright Phillips by Manchester City. This bid was for 20 million pounds.

Wright Phillips is keen to join Chelsea though, it has been revealed that he called the club chairman and asked for permission to speak to them. The City spokesman said the board is currently considering their options regarding the player. PR speak.

Manchester City are holding out for a bigger fee for their best asset. To me, 20 million pounds is already fair value. But if you haven’t noticed, Chelsea pay the wealth tax. And clubs usually want max value when it’s their best player on the move. So from a Manchester City perspective I can understand why they want the extra few million. It means more to them than to a wealthier club.

I think this is deal is going to happen. With 20 million already on the table, a few more won’t stop Chelsea from being foiled this time.

For the second time I regret making my top 10 list early.

Five players to replace Vieira at Arsenal

I keep wondering what Arsene Wenger has planned now that Patrick Vieira has left Arsenal.

I can’t image that he’s preparing to pile a heap of pressure on a teenager like Cesc Fabregas. So Arsenal with either move new signing Alexander Hleb into that position, give it Gilberto or spend.

With Gilberto you’d lose distribution. Hleb would be the more likely to play in the role, but that is a pretty big risk for Wenger to take knowing that there is Chelsea to compete with. It makes more sense to spend and bring in a specialist for that role.

So who out there, that Arsenal have a reasonable chance of acquiring, could replace Patrick Vieira?

1 – Arsenal need a player that can battle. They also need experience and are losing a lot of height. That is why I think Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich is the best fit. He also wants to leave Germany.

2 – Last season Michael Carrick emerged at Tottenham Hotspur and I was really impressed with his calmness and consistency. He’s not a battler in the same way Vieira was but he’s a great passer and is also tall. Having already broken into the England side, he’s got a big future and will step to a bigger club sooner or later. Arsenal would do well to try.

3 – In France last season 20 year old Rio Mavuba emerged at Bordeaux. He was so impressive, so quickly, that he was brought right into the French national side to replace the injured Patrick Vieira for a few matches. Mavuba has all the skills for the job. Arsenal would be getting more of a Claude Makelele in Mavuba, but let me tell you, he’s a fantastic player.

4 – Sure he is on the tail end of his career, but Edgar Davids could do well at Arsenal. He was apparently offered to Real Madrid in trade for Luis Figo and has hinted himself at a move away from Italy.

5 - Denny Landzaat was a big reason that Dutch minnows AZ Alkmaar did so well last season. He was given his first international cap and shows a lot of toughness and desire in defending in front of the box. He’s not a bad passer either and reminds me a lot of Roy Keane. He would not be the most elegant player of Arsenal’s 11 but his skills are well suited to England.

It’s too bad Maniche jumped so soon to join Dynamo Moscow.

Liverpool get Real Madrid man

Real Madrid have backed down from demanding a transfer fee and have agreed to let Luis Figo go. Madrid told the player he was free to find another club but once it appeared that club was Liverpool, they decided to ask for a 3 million pound fee.

That meant no deal and Figo joined an aimless tour of America with Real.

Inter Milan swooped in when Liverpool staunchly refused the fee but apparently the player does not want a switch to Italy. He also snubbed a move by German club Stuttgart.

Figo was prepared to spend this season at Madrid and negotiate a free transfer in January on his terms so at the end of the season he had a team. It would have meant many games spent languishing on a bench but Madrid also realizes they would be paying about 7 million euros to warm that seat next season.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Michael Essien insists on Chelsea transfer

Ghana has a football star in 22 year old prized midfielder Michael Essien.

Chelsea seems bent on buying him and he now seems bent on leaving.

Every scout in the world wishes to find a player like this. Whoever scouted Essien for French club Bastia knows his stuff.

Michael Essien, who speaks four languages including English, was born in Accra, Ghana.

His father was a professional footballer for Ghanaian club Hearts of Oak. Essien joined his first club in Ghana, Liberty Professionals, at age 13. By 16 he was in the youth national side and played in the 1999 World Youth Championship in New Zealand (where they finished 3rd).

Interestingly, he was given a trial after that youth cup by Manchester United. Alex Ferguson wanted to lend him out to a Belgian club but the player felt he’d get better football in France. Bastia signed Essien and after three seasons he was signed by Olympique Lyon. Manchester United lost out.

Now, after two seasons at Lyon, Chelsea are about to dish out a large fee for him. Essien has consistently improved and played well with every club he’s joined. Lyon were champions in France last season.

New Lyon boss Gerrard Houllier has been adamant about keeping Essien but recently the player has started to insist for the transfer to Chelsea to take place.

Houllier is fighting a losing battle here and should accept the money. Lyon should find the scout that found Essien and hire him.

Arsenal lose Patrick Vieira

This morning the Italian were reporting leaks of a 13.5m pound deal. Now it’s real. French international midfielder Patrick Vieira is a Gunner no more.

The guard has changed at Arsenal. It’s a shift that I thought would happen with the retirement of Dennis Bergkamp. Next to Thierry Henry I considered Vieira Arsenal’s most important player. After last season, when he turned down Real Madrid, I thought he was going to stay a while. When I heard the rumors about Juventus I thought they were ridiculous.
I’ve enjoyed watching Vieira playing for Arsenal; I hate to see him leave.

I can only hope Arsene Wenger has a way to fill the gap Edu and Vieira have left. Flamini is no Fabregas, and Fabregas is not yet a Patrick Vieira. He is the one holding player which allowed Arsenal to play their style more consistently than anyone else. Fabregas has only had a season in the Premiership and has played above his years but has a long way to go to replace Vieira’s ball winning skills.

Juventus are every bit the team that didn’t sell Trezeguet to Chelsea. The quotes coming from the club said they were not selling, they were in fact buying, and they were true. This will improve Juve’s chances in the Champions League, a place Arsenal has not succeeded.

AC Milan when bought Vieira as a teenager from French club Cannes. From AC Milan Vieira joined Arsenal.

He returns to Italy a seasoned world class veteran player. Good luck Patrick.

Rio Ferdinand unrest is tell tale sign

I have a feeling Rio Ferdinand doesn’t want to play for Manchester United anymore.

Now because Chelsea are interested, or there is big money elsewhere. I don’t think he wants to play for the Glazer clan.

The England international has been offered a 100,000 pound a week deal. That’s huge, for a defender especially. I don’t know for a fact, but it must make him the highest paid defender in the world.

Apparently Rio Ferdinand is holding out for 120,000. That’s too much. That’s I want to leave Manchester United too much. Or that’s Malcom can afford it too much.

Alex Ferguson is keen to shore up his defense and wants Ferdinand to sing a long term deal. I have not seen him put this much pressure on a player before.

It is a fantastic offer. Too bad Manchester United stinks. Maybe Rio has a conscience. The rest of you are sell outs.

Vieira to Juventus looks imminent

In the Italian media there are reports that a Patrick Vieira deal has been finalized with Arsenal.

I just published my predictions for the Premiership next season and I’m already regretting it. I placed Arsenal 2nd, but not without Vieira.

What a surprising move, as last year Real Madrid wanted the player and were offering a lot more and a better team. Juventus must be offering Vieira a lot of money. I can’t see another reason he’d trade Arsenal style football for Juventus’s style of play. And if is willing to trade those two, he’s selling out.

It’s also claimed that the deal is for 5 years. Do you think that Arsenal is getting hurt by its single year contract stance?

Vieira might worry that in a few seasons he may also be getting Bergkamp contracts. I wouldn’t want that either, Pires was offered a single year deal and is going.

Coach Arsene Wenger must have something up his sleeve to lose Edu, Vieira and Pires in the same year.