Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Official: United land startlets in double swoop (video clips of both players)

Beating out Tottenham, Manchester United have made a double swoop by signing Sporting Lisbon starlet Nani and have also signed FC Porto attacking midfielder Anderson.

Brazilian youngster Anderson from Porto has been turning heads all season at Porto with his blinding quickness and has been labeled the new Ronaldinho. Nani plays out wide and occasionally as a striker.

United have signed 2 of the most exciting players in World football at the moment.

A United statement said:

'Personal terms have been agreed and a formal announcement will take place once the necessary administrative procedures, including a medical have been completed.'

>>Click here to see 2 videos of Nani<<

Here are 2 videos of Anderson:


Barcelona tussle with Man Utd for Dutch league top scorer, Eto’o could end up at Old Trafford

What if I were to tell you a club has a player who has tallied up 5 hat tricks and 34 goals in 31 games this season? You’d probably want to know about him. Well, his name is Alfonso Alves and he plays in Holland for FC Heerenveen and it appears that Barcelona have waded in with interest to challenge Manchester United for his signature.

It appears United have a shopping list of 3 strikers, Dimetar Berbatov of Tottenham, Jan Klas Huntelaar of Ajax and Alfonso Alves of Heerenveen in that order. Berbatov is out. Huntelaar claims to want to stay in Holland for another season so Old Trafford might be seeing Alves in red next season if they can fend of the vultures who are circling around a very capable player.

Alves, 26 was top scorer in the Eredivisie -12 more goals than his nearest challenger. Alves joined Heerenveen from Swedish outfit Malmo FF during last August’s transfer window and just as you’d expect from a fairy tale season, scored on his debut. He notched four hat-tricks in the league and scored four during the season finally against Feyenoord.

Should Barcelona be serious about a deal for Afonso Alves you can bet speculation will reach fever pitch that Samuel Eto’o will be leaving. If Alves does sign for Barca, a 20m pound fee is rumored. Staggering, huh? Here is a video of what all the fuss is about:

Should Alves sign, wouldn’t it be amazing if Manchester United turned around and bought Eto’o from Barcelona and made him a Red Devil?

Alves arrived in Europe from Atletico Mineiro in 2002, spending 2 seasons in Sweden and the rest in Holland. He’s got a work permit now so a transfer would not be held up because of that. From the looks of it, last year’s weak transfer season will not be repeated.


60 goals in 74 games: good enough for Man U (video clip)

Manchester United have reportedly been inquiring about Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian won’t be leaving White Hart Lane. Alex Ferguson will now concentrate his attention on signing Dutch international Klaas Jan Huntelaar from Ajax Amsterdam who has scored a whopping 60 goals in 74 games at the club.

Not only is Huntelaar prolific, but in Europe he’s scored nine goals in the teams nine Champions League and UEFA Cup matches this season.

While not especially quick or tricky, Huntelaar has incredible timing, is deadly accurate and great in the air as you can see from the video below. He joined Ajax 2 seasons ago from Eredivisie club Heerenveen where he was almost as prolific by scoring 17 in 34 matches. He had a run of 15 in 17 matches which caused Ajax to splurge for a January transfer.

At the moment, Huntelaar is rated in the range of 9m pounds. He’s well suited for the Premiership although comments from his management claim he’d like another season in a lower division. Money, though, can change any player’s mind.


Arsenal snubbed by Portuguese starlet

Speculation around Arsenal has been rampant over the big dollar signing of 20 year old Joao Moutinho of Sporting Lisbon for a staggering 15m pounds. The deal has been squashed as the youngster has signed a new 6 year contract with the Lisbon giants.

Moutinho, a product of the famed Sporting youth academy that produced the likes of Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, may have made the decision with his eye on past flops like Hugo Viana at Newcastle, maybe he worried he’d never play, or maybe his management worries about the trouble in Arsenal’s back room. One thing is for sure, Arsenal are not going to continue to try and sign him now.

The young attacking midfielder, recently a Portugal international, is one of Portugal's hot prospects along with Nani, now has a contract keeping him at the Jose Alvalade stadium until 2013.

Moutinho has had an impressive season as Sporting finished second to FC Porto for a place in the Champions League. His role has morphed to that of an attacking midfielder as early on in his career he played as a defensive midfielder. He’s adept in both roles which is likely why Arsenal took such a keen interest. At age 18 he burst into the Sporting first team while still on a 1500 euro per month youth contract. That deal was quickly adjusted to his newfound status, and now has received an even bigger pay increase 2 years on to match his importance to the club.

If a deal should come it won’t be for a few years, but tuck this little spirfire away, he may end up a Gunner someday.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who is Nani anyway? (video clips)

Speculation among top Premiership clubs Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Liverpool has been rife on which club will secure the young Portuguese and Sporting Lisbon star Nani.

Nani has had a breakout season in Portugal this year, I have been following his progress for a while now ever since my father tipped me off that Sporting has a group of potential superstars. You’ll see below that Nani is not built for power, but for speed with lots of trickery and finess to boot.

The latest speculation has Tottenham in top spot to secure the winger/striker’s signature, regardless, he may be playing for your club, so here are a couple of video clips with Nani highlights.


Hammer rejects Tottenham interest for Arsenal or Manchester United

Nigel Reo-Coker is brushing off the interest of Tottenham for the possibility of a move to Arsenal or Premiership Champions Manchester United. The 10m pound rated midfielder has recently handed in his transfer request after a rocky season at West Ham United and appears to have his sights set high.

After the big news that Tottenham beat out Manchester United for the signature of Gareth Bale, Tottenham were feeling froggish and decided to wade into the water for Reo-Coker’s services. Apparently the player has been quoted as saying that he wants to appear in the Champions League next season.

Reo-Coker might be in for a bit of a wait, it looks like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is waiting for the club to lower their valuation of the player before making an offer. Arsenal have never really, truly replaced Patrick Vieira and have Gilberto, Fabregas, Denilson and Abou Diaby all competing for a central midfield place.

As far as Manchester United go, Sir Alex Ferguson has shelled out a lot of money for Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich so I cannot imagine that Reo-Coker should be of much interest to Old Trafford. With Liverpool signing Lucas and a glut of other central midfielders already on the books it doesn’t look likely either.

So unless its Arsenal, Re0-Coker is either out of luck or planning to watch the Champions League from the bench.

Labels: ,

Portsmouth about to sign top class player

Ghana international midfielder Sulley Muntari is on the verge of a move to Portsmouth for a club record 7m pounds from Udinese.

The player and club are still to agree personal terms over his transfer, but once resolved, Pompey have landed one of the best young midfielders in the world.

I was very impressed with Muntari, age 22, at the 2006 World Cup. He was tireless, smooth and confident on the ball, teaming up very well with Chelsea’s Michael Essien. He is fluent tactically and his ball-winning skills are both brave and refined. He’s also got excellent range in his passing. The downside? Fearless can turn tempermental, tempermantal can turn rash, and rash can turn into red cards.

Harry Redknapp has been chasing Muntari for a long time but was never prepared to pay the past asking prices, as high as 11m pounds right after the World Cup.

The previous club record was 4.4m pounds for Auxerre striker Benjani Mwaruwari.

Everything man looks to Everton

Everton and Sheffield United are apparently on the brink of a 4m pound move for Phil Jagielka. The 24 year old midfielder has a buyout release clause in his contract with the club. Any club willing to match that bid may have the player.

Jagielka has a history with Everton as he was released by the club as a youngster but apparently wants to settle scores with a return chance.

Sheffield United have swiftly denied the report but his minimum fee clause looks just too low to keep the player after Sheffield’s recent relegation.

Jagielka is coveted by a number of clubs for his utility and ability to plug holes across the back and in central midfield, for that matter, even in goal when Paddy Kenny was injured.

The Blades plan to do what they can to hold on to their prize player for a rebound to the Premiership but it looks a losing battle as Premiership clubs and the player’s England career are creating too much pressure.

Feindouno: Rangers, come and get me

Guinea international Pascal Feindouno has asked Rangers to swoop for him to team up with close friend Jean-Claude Darcheville at the club. Feindouno has been impressive both internationally and at the club level with French outfit St Etienne.

Rangers manager Walter Smith has been tracking the player, the Ibrox club look to be in the lead to sign the playmaker. Feindouno has been slapped with a 4m pound price tag, too much for Rangers, but it’s said that Czech winger Libor Sionko could be used in part exchange. St Etienne boss Ivan Hasek is also Czech.

While being so impressive in the African Cup of Nations last year, the price tag has prevented Feindouno from moving to richer clubs Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia in the past but his agent insists the transfer fee could be negotiated.

Revelations emerging from Stamford Bridge

Barcelona , Real Madrid and Juventus are in the hunt for Chelsea talisman Frank Lampard as it has emerged that club owner Roman Abramovich has refused a pay package with equal parity to that of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. In addition, captain John Terry has also been denied parity.

Could this really be possible? I heard rumors in weeks past, even months, and I attributed it to a way to pressure the club’s management to leave manager Jose Mourinho alone, but as the story develops it’s become clear that the club value a pair of underperformers more than Lampard and Terry -or they realize that they overpaid and want to cut it off. You listen to Mourinho’s quotes and he’s worried too:

"They are very important to all of us and I don't think they can find a better club than us” -Mourinho

Chelsea have been claiming all season that the big spending days are over. Looks to be true for more than transfers and if it is, it’s official: Abramovich, while loaded, is a terrible owner.
Unless very quickly resolved, Lampard and Terry are both pretty much certain to leave the club now, and if that happens you will also see Mourinho go as well. In the blink of an eye, a potential dynasty dismantles.

Lampard is apparently waiting for an approach from Barcelona, if Barca come, you can bet Mourinho will quit and go as well.

Lampard can leave Stamford Bridge for 9m pounds under new FIFA rules.

Ballack and Shevchenko are on Ballack 121,000k per week deals. Lampard is earning 26k per week less at 95k. Terry apparently earns even less at 75k per week.

The X factor here could quite probably be with Lampard's Catalan fiancee who wants a move to Barcelona.

Will all of this going on, you can hear the tumbleweed blowing across the doors of the front office it’s so quiet. No such thing as a free lunch, Roman.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Flamini chooses for a career

Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini has stated his intention to leave the Gunners because of a lack of playing time. Who can blame him? He’s played pretty well but Arsenal always seem to have someone a bit better or more highly rated, relegating the player to playing out of position and Cup ties.

"In my first season at Arsenal, I played in all the matches in the FA Cup only to be left out of the team for the final. Last year, I played in every match in the Champions league but was left on the bench for the final. Then last season I played in a lot of the Carling Cup campaign but once more I didn't play in the final. “ -Flamini

Flamini has not started a game since February, at this rate he’ll be the also-ran of also-rans.

He’s a good player, just not a great player. He’s seen player after player join Arsenal and move ahead of him and I can imagine this gets frustrating over time. It’s better for him to leave, something he should have done already.


Heinze travels to Madrid for talks

It appears that Real Madrid are preparing an approach for Manchester United full-back Gabriel Heinze. Heinze has stated his intention to leave Old Trafford for a new club was in Madrid over the weekend to hash out a move, even going as far as attending a Madrid game.

Real Madrid are looking to replace Roberto Carlos who at 34 has announced he will be leaving Madrid at the end of the campaign. I don’t understand why Madrid want to replace a 34 year old with a 29 year old when there are younger players in better form out there. I don’t know about you, but I found Heinze’s performances this season less than convincing. He looked older by the game.

Should Henize go, the place is now Frenchman Patrice Evra’s who has been in good form all season after a very rocky start at United. He looks nothing like the shaky, nervous and pensive player when he arrived.

For United, I’d say let him go. Heinze’s best years are over.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blatter finally does something

FIFA president and esteemed super-crony Sepp Blatter has finally done something as FIFA president. For the thousands that have died holding their breaths its too late, for the remaining blue-faced: you may finally breathe as it is a rare day indeed.

From now on, no international soccer matches will be played above 2,500 meters in altitude. A number of countries, but most notably Bolivia who play in La Paz (3600 meters) often stage games high in the mountains as a subtle form of cheating, robbing players from lower altitudes of oxygen. While there have been complaints about the announcement there shouldn’t be any because this ploy have been going on for decades.

Blatter has been a crony-in-chief of FIFA too long, don’t hold your breath regarding his exit anytime soon. He’s woven a tangled web of influence over the sport and has basically created a job for life.

Have money, have transfer speculation: Newcastle

Newly appointed Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce has high expectation riding on him. He’s famous for resuscitating careers and getting the most out of lost cause players. So what is Allardyce planning for Newcastle and who is he targeting?

For starters its rumored that the new manager will be given just one season to prove he can handle the job, new majority stakeholder Mike Ashley has been making the wrong kinds of headlines thinking that Allardyce will put up with it. He will be pressured for a European place and is said to be getting 45m to spend on players. If that transfer kitty is accurate, Allardyce should have no excuses anyway.

First problem for Newcastle to solve is up front. There is lots of speculation surrounding Michael Owen's future at the moment but I doubt he will leave, Obafemi Martins is another story, he was a no-show at Watford after claiming himself unfit and has since turned a lot of heads with comments emanating from his camp about a new club. First order for Big Sam is to turn this situation around. Martins scored 17 goals last season and was inspiring. He’s a top striker and Newcastle really need him. They also need cover up front (Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll probably won’t cut it) and with that is the story that they are on the trail of Barcelona and former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen. Gudjohnsen, a former Bolton player wants to leave Barca and has a good relationship with Allardyce, recall he scored 21 goals in his only season at Bolton.

Second on that list should a Gudjohnsen deal not emerge is Mark Viduka, and don’t discount a deal with Robbie Fowler or Darren Bent.

Second priority at Newcastle is at the back. Allardyce has already let Titus Bramble leave as well as Oguchi Onyewu, Craig Moore, Olivier Bernard and Pavel Srnicek. The rumor is that Sol Campbell is on the top of the list, he’s looked revitalized at Portsmouth and would fit the role well. Its another story whether he can be convinced to move from the south of England.

Beyond that, the other options tipped for a move are Liverpool’s Sami Hyypia, Bolton's Tal Ben Haim and Aston Villa’s Jlloyd Samuel. All would probably do fine at Newcastle and I would imagine it will be Campbell and Ben-Haim. Robert Huth has also been mentioned as a long shot.

For the midfield, players like Keiron Dyer look set to depart the club. I have not seen too much speculation in this area, except for Bolo Zenden being tipped for a move from Liverpool, especially if they sign Simao. While Zenden is not the exciting superstar everyone surely wants, he’s dependable and won’t cause trouble at the club. He’ll play where he is asked to and will work hard. Would I sign him? No. There are midfielders I would though:

Out wide Stuart Downing might do really well at the club and why not either of the Portuguese players Simao or Quaresma? Simao, heavily linked to Liverpool for the longest time, would bring bags of excitement to the north, Quaresma is ever the showman but inconsistent in his flashes of brilliance. Speaking of Portuguese, wouldn’t central midfielder Manuel Fernandes who was on loan at Everton do well? I was really impressed with the Benfica player all season.

How about an attempt to lure Riquelme back from South America? He’s brilliant. Rio Mavuba from Bordeaux is top class. Liverpool, after their new signing has a glut of central midfielders, Momo Sissoko would do well. And lastly, how about a swoop for Juninho from Lyon… 10 goals from free kicks a year guaranteed.

The biggest longshot of them all has to be a speculated loan deal for David Beckham. I would serve myself lunch on a trash can lid should that happen. I wouldn't want him anyway.

These are exciting times for Newcastle. The team could really turn it around for the first time in years. Should the money come thru, Big Sam can be trusted to spend it well.

Glazers selling Manchester United? I hope so

The Glazer family has almost daily rejected rumors of an imminent sale of Manchester United but they still persist. I ignored the story because it didn't seem logical –they bought the club only 3 years ago, but the rumor won't die and evidence is starting to mount that it may be true. Fingers crossed it is.

What evidence? Well, weak evidence at best, but the most compelling fact that has me thinking it’s true is that the Glazers refinanced the debt with JP Morgan. New TV, sponsorship, and higher ticket prices (14% last season) have significantly increased revenue but not to the point that the debt can be serviced and a profit reached. I told you: United fans will be paying the interest on the Glazers loans. Combine all this with a possibility of a bad season that could lose them much needed Champions League revenues and you have a situation which could result in the club making a large scale loss. How far United has come.

The rumor has also gained strength as a number of papers have reported that financial sources in Manchester have confirmed that feelers have gone out from Old Trafford because the takeover was proving so costly.

A look at the numbers makes the story more compelling: Glazer borrowed 560m pounds, restructured the debt at a cost of 90m pounds, they now owe in the region of 660m pounds and have payments of over 60m pounds annually. 60m pounds of turnover going JUST to pay off a loan. That debt burden is wiping out all the profit and the burden is proving more and more untenable as the costs continue to increase along with transfer kitty demands from the bench.

This should be a lesson: you don’t but football clubs to milk a cash cow.


Dechamps quits Juventus: Lyon next? Even Manchester City?

Didier Deschamps has quit Juventus after a single season and after leading them to promotion from Serie B to Serie A. Could Lyon or even Manchester City be his next destination?

Juventus were demoted last season, beginning the season on -9 points for match fixing. The former Monaco manager may return to France with Lyon but, and pure speculation here, Manchester City might be exactly the place for him. He’s proven he can rebuild a team and work under tough conditions, exactly what Man City need. Recall he played for Chelsea for a while so I don't know how well he's mastered his English, but Dechamps has become a much better manager than I ever thought he would and could do well in England.

I never liked Dechamps much as a player. No special reason, he just never piqued my interest the same way David Beckham or Raul never has, tons of success though. I thought the Champions League march to the final with Monaco was a fluke. I have changed my mind. He’s consistent and knows what he is doing -deserves a chance in the Premiership.

Deschamps last won the Champions League with Juve in 1996 and took command following their troubles and demotion.

Lyon is the more likely destination following Gerard Houllier’s departure but if I were Man City, I’d consider rolling the dice on some fresh blood.

Mavuba asking too much of Arsenal

Bordeaux defensive midfielder Rio Mavuba has suggested a move to Arsenal would be a potential mistake as there is too much competition for that position at the club.

"Arsenal are a super team with a fantastic coach, but they also have a lot of defensive midfielders." – Mavuba

He’s worried about his place in the French national side for the 2008 Euro. An erratic number of games next season at Arsenal would put him in jeopardy as the French team has plenty of options. So important is that Euro 2008 place, he’s suggested staying at Bordeaux and give up a big money move for now. He is hinting at a guaranteed place in the squad before moving clubs, something I cannot see Arsenal doing. Something I would not do for him myself. As much as I like him, you have to earn a place at a big club.

I’m a massive fan of Mavuba, he’s as smooth and silky a defensive midfielder as you can imagine. I suggested him for the role when Veira left. And at only 23 he’s just beginning to enter his prime.

Arsene Wenger already has Gilberto Silva, Denilson and Abou Diaby already competing for the defensive midfield role, all capable and worthy of a place.

You gotta be a big boy Rio. You are good enough. Take the risk!


Reo-Coker: had enough

West Ham United captain Nigel Reo-Coker has handed in a transfer request. Manager Alan Curbishley will be open to offers for the central midfielder starting in the range of 8m pounds. Tottenham as well as Newcastle and Aston Villa are all said to be interested in the player.

Reo-Coker, 23, suffered a rough season and was much criticized for his performances from the West Ham supporters and media. Deservedly so. He was limp and disinterested most of the season. All brought on by himself.

Extremely impressive in his first season in the top flight, the young captain was often overrun in midfield. Credit to him for playing much better after mid-season but some of the early season performances were so bad he looked like a boy among men.

A change of club will do everyone involved a lot of good but be forewarned. He’s demonstrated a troubling level of inconsistency which not only will affect his value but the trust his next club will have in him.

Reo-Coker moved to Upton Park in the January 2004 transfer window from Wimbledon qucckly becoming a crowd favorite until this season. He scored 11 goals in 142 appearances for the club.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fabianski joins Arsenal (video of player)

Legia Warsaw and Polish international goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski has signed for Arsenal. At age 22 he has received 4 international caps and looks to be a long term replacement for Jens Lehmann.

The fee was undisclosed, as was the length of the deal, likely 5 years. In both his seasons at Warsaw, Fabianski was named the Polish league goalkeeper of the year. He was also as member of the Polsih team’s 2006 World Cup bid.

In 2005, Fabianski was signed by Legia Warszawa and competed with Artur Boruc, now with Celtic FC. When Boric left, Fabianski took over the starting role and never relinquished it. He helped Legia win the Polish league championship in the 2006 season.

Have a look at your new keeper here: (sorry about the music, geez, will the folks who compile this learn? Crowd noise folks, its all we want to hear!)


Friday, May 25, 2007

Arsenal pipped, French star heading to Germany

Arsenal target Franck Ribery has signed for Bayern Munich. Much speculation had it a done deal the French international would become a Gunner this summer but Bayern, cashing in on Owen Hargreaves, had the money in hand and bested all comers for the Olympique Marseille winger.

The 24-year-old has moved in a deal worth around 10m pounds, a bargain in my mind. Bayern, who will be missing out on the Champions League for the first time in forever are apparently looking to revamp parts of the squad, they have also signed German international fullback Marcell Jansen from Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Now with 16 caps, Ribery shone in last year’s World Cup and has been chased by a host of clubs ever since. He’s a tenacious player who will probably thrive in Germany.

Rumours circulated in October 2006 that Marseille had already reached an agreement with Arsenal for the player. This was denied by the Marseille management who that the club ‘would not sell their best players’. Should have added ‘...unless the price is right’ to that quote.


Confirmed: Bale a Spur

Tottenham have beaten out Manchester United and have just confirmed the signing of Wales International left-back Gareth Bale from Southampton for a reported 5m pound initial fee.

The 17-year-old has received lots of attention all season from Manchester but Tottenham have won the day and signed one of the finest defensive prospects in years. Southampton's failure to gain promotion this season made it a foregone conclusion Bale would move.

The initial fee of 5m could double depending on Bale's development.

Bale should challenge for a regular starting place at White Hart Lane from the get go. Tottenham have had problems on the left of defense all season and continued their policy of signing the best British talent they can find.

This is a clear win for manager Martin Jol who pulled off the signing of this past season in Dimetar Berbatov. "Mr. Ears" is now a Spur.

Remembering Bobby Moore

A video download is available about former West Ham United and England talisman Bobby Moore.

For me, Bobby Moore is the greatest defender in the history of the game, better than Frans Beckenbaur or any of the modern pretenders. This documentary cronicles his life and is really worth a watch. You can download it as a torrent file at this location.

Lack of pace and modest ability in the air are not normally qualities associated with a world-class defender. For Bobby Moore, shortcomings in those areas were an irrelevance.

A phenomenal ability to read the game, a cool, reassuring presence under pressure and superb timing in the tackle made England's 1966 World Cup-winning captain one of the finest defenders ever.

Chelsea want Spur, price may be right

Chelsea have made a 10m pound bid for Tottenham right back Pascal Chimbonda.

Jose Mourinho has turned to Chimbonda as his best option to fill the problematic right-back position at the club. For Tottenham it could be a quick 5 million pound profit in just a single season. Chimbonda moved from Wigan for 5m pounds and this could be just the cash Martin Jol needs to compete with Manchester United for the signature of prized Portuguese starlet Nani and Southampton’s Gareth Bale.

Paulo Ferreira, Khalid Boulahrouz and Geremi have all played at right back this season and have left Mourinho wanting. Even the return of Glen Johnson after a season’s loan to Portsmouth has not convinced the manager that someone will grab hold of the position and become the regular.

I suspect we’ll see a deal, it suits the needs of both teams really well and the offer price is well within Chelsea’s ‘no more big names’ policy.

Oh, and as a bonus, everyone at Stamford Bridge can get a laugh when Chimbonda wears his trademark gloves in May.

Houllier the new Manchester City manager?

Gerard Houllier has quit six-time French champions Lyon with immediate effect leading to ripe speculation that he’ll be named the new Manchester City manager in the wake of Stuart Pierce’s sacking.

Houllier won the French League in both of his two seasons at Lyon, leaving behind a seasoned and talented squad of players I though could have won this seasons Champions League. While he claims to be intent of taking a break from management, it’s likely a signal to Manchester City that he’ll come at the right price and with the right transfer kitty.

The Man City squad is in a bit of a shamble at the moment and needs help: unable to score goals, already losing key central defender Sylvain Distin to Portsmouth, and lunatic Joey Barton still on the prowl/payroll.

Apparently Houllier has been offered a technical director’s role with the French national side and has also been approached by Dynamo Kiev.

Would Houllier be a good fit? I doubt it; he’s a bit of a Sven. He was great at Lyon, but I question his skills at rebuilding a squad; he’s never been especially savvy in the transfer window. Just look at how many Liverpool players remain from his time in charge. I could be wrong. Gerard Houllier brings a lot of experience to the job, but if I were Man City, I’d consider other people.

Portsmouth bag smart free transfer

Portsmouth have scooped up former Charlton defender Hermann Hreidarsson on what appears to be a two-year deal. Harry Redknapp has struck again, good player, free.

Hreidarsson had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave Charlton if they were relegated. He can play both left back and centrally. The 32 year old had made 147 appearances for Charlton in his time there and has moved to Fratton Park just two days after they signed former Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin.

Hreidarsson’s English career seems to have always been attached to a relegation struggle, Crystal Palace in ’97, Wimbledon in 2000, Ipswich 2 years later, and now Charlton. I’m sure Pompey fans hope he does not carry a bad omen. I doubt it, he's always been a good player on bad clubs.

Tevez really heading to Chelsea?

For 35m pounds West Ham United have apparently reached across London and into Roman Abramovich’s pocket to see if the Chelsea owner would like to make a deal.

West Ham claim to be holding out hope that the 23 year old Argentinean will stay on at the club, but since it has emerged that West Ham stand to gain on the transfer fee, I would imagine it’s talk to keep the fans pacified. Let’s see, Premiership survival – 5.5m pound fine + 35m pound transfer fee… that adds up to a sale for me. On top of that, Icelander Eidur Gudjohnsen looks interested in joining West Ham.

The only problem here is that Chelsea have committed not to spend big any more. I cant see that claim holding water. Jose Mourinho loves a hard working striker more than any coach I can think of and Tevez is more than happy to track back and pressure the back four. He’d compliment Didier Drogba well and can also play wide which would provide cover across the front line.

I think Chelsea would do well to sign Tevez and dump Shevchenko back to AC Milan where he can join other wash-up strikers like Ronaldo.

Tottenham and Man Utd vying for Sporting starlet

Totteham have joined the race to sign Sporting Lisbon winger Nani as Manchester United continue talks with the Portuguese club. The Spurs have apparently tabled an offer worth about 13.5m pounds. Tottenham had already made an offer for the player earlier in the year which was rejected by both club and player.

Cristiano Ronaldo has recommended Nani to United but it’s not needed, Nani has already broken into the Portuguese international side and has been extremely impressive all season long. With Ryan Giggs at the tail end of his career, Nani, only 20, would be a natural fit for Old Trafford.

To complicate matters (or, to make sure the price is upped significantly) Nani has signed a new 6 year contract which has a higher buyout clause in it. Apparently Sporting feel that Ronaldo got away too cheap.


Arsene in Spain, but not to sell Fabregas

One thing you can say about the Spanish press: they never give it a rest. A report appeared yesterday claiming Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was in negotiations for a potential transfer sending Cesc Fabregas to Real Madrid for, get this, Jose Antonio Reyes and Julio Baptista.

Wenger was actually meeting with the directors of Atletico Madrid. And for something much more prized: Fernando Torres. Wrong side of town boys.
To make the deal work, apparently Arsenal wants to pay cash and send Atletico players. Reyes could figure into the negotiation. For such a talisman, I think Arsenal are going to have to fork over the cash. They don’t really have a viable asset to grease the deal. If the Gunners are to have Torres, in my opinion, they are going to have to pay in full unless Atletico would consider Tomas Rocisky in exchange, we would still be talking a deal with over 20m pounds in cash.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

AC Milan take revenge, didn't deserve it

AC Milan have taken revenge on Liverpool for their 2005 Champions League defeat to become European Champions for the 7th time.

It was certainly not a classic like the 2005 encounter, Milan played with typical economy and ground out a 2-1 win in a season where they should not have even been there. It’s a bit hard to accept: a team which last year was implicated in the worst match fixing scandal in Italy’s colorful history of football corruption had its penalty reduced (allowing them into the competition) and has now lifted the trophy. Spare a thought for the football purist.

Liverpool tried to be adventurous but a certain zing was lacking. No player on the field for Liverpool stands out for criticism any more than an AC Milan player stands out for praise. It was a tense game which both teams tried hard to avoid mistakes, and inevitably that’s a race to the bottom. In 2005 it was all out, last night seemed weighted down by the recent history of that game and made things tense and frankly a bit boring. If it were not for Xabi Alonso’s ill advised tackle on Kaka just outside the center of the box which gave Pirlo and Milan (deflected by Inzaghi) a fluke goal, it might have been different.

Benitez (who has yet to find a decent tailor –guy has never worn a suit that fits) directed the team regularly from the sidelines but the team was a bit listless on a night where Milan looked like they could have been taken. Milan’s passing was erratic and Kaka didn’t have nearly the same impact as he’d had throughout the competition, Liverpool defended better and at times (especially in the first period) were in control of the match. The only period where AC Milan looked dangerous was around the 60th minute and late on. Liverpool looked tired as doubt and the reality of the situation started getting to them until a dangerous moment where Gerrard was thru on goal, it was the chance, and the talisman should have scored.

Gerrard found space all night and in the end was the best player on the pitch but Liverpool could not capitalize. Good long passing and holding in midfield but lots of crosses to an empty box and lack of the ball late on.

In the 82nd minute Inzaghi finished cleanly as Liverpool looked to be tiring. That goal sparked Liverpool into a late surge which ended in a Dirk Kuyt goal but a repeat of 2005, well, it was not to be. Liverpool played the last 8 minutes the way they needed to play the whole night. It was not enough effort and it should indeed have ended differently.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Kaka or Ronaldo: who’s better?

The recent Champions League clash between Manchester United and AC Milan was billed as the duel between the world’s two best players at the moment, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.

For me, what emerged was unclear; Kaka shone with his maturity and poise but by no means outclassed Ronaldo. AC Milan outclassed United. Across the two legs, Kaka was better but I think it had a lot more to do with the maturity of the AC Milan team as a whole more than with a specific player. AC Milan has players which have reached this stage before and were also in the position of having nothing else to play for. Kaka, it must be said, was also clinical in his finishing.

Kaka, today, is more the finished product. But last year this comparison was not even considered, which is a testament to how far Cristiano has grown since he was brought into Manchester United in 2003. Where Kaka is smooth, calm, poised and refined Ronaldo is sudden, tricky, relentless and a ferocious competitor. While they are both attack minded you can see they are quite different players. A player like Ronaldo has his off days with the risk taking style of play he brings, over the course of the season though, you can measure his contribution as nothing short of vital. Man U, champions would not be, without him.

Flash back and consider where Kaka’s contribution was during the World Cup for Brazil? Portugal were quarter finalists and Ronaldo has emerged from that World Cup playing at a whole new level (I think Ruud van Nistelrooy was holding him back as well). He’s also been the best player in the toughest league in the world.

Should AC Milan beat Liverpool in the Champions League final, Kaka will most likely succeed Fabio Cannavaro as FIFA World Player of the Year. At the age of 25, this year may deservedly be his, but the younger Ronaldo will emerge and, I think, eclipse the Brazilian.

I don’t mean to spend this article defending Ronaldo, but I have seen a lot of press to the effect that ‘It’s decided, Kaka number 1’. Kaka is the best player in the world at the moment, but Ronaldo is the most talented. If I had the choice I would take Ronaldo without thinking twice about it.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Messi's Maradona moment

Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi cemented his reputation this season as one of the brightest stars in world football with a goal nothing short of spectacular against Getafe. Comparisons to the Maradona wonder goal from the 1986 World Cup against England are justified as the move started virtually on the same spot on the pitch.

Xavi slipped Messi the ball behind the midway line in a rather awkward position with a defending closing him fast. The Barcelona midfielder jinked the ball right foot inside and slipped the challenge. A second defender challenged Messi immediately and Messi cleverly dribbled behind his legs to open up space.

From that moment it was a horse race. Having failed to clear the defender, Messi still had work to do. In full sprint Messi remained harried down the pitch but showed excellent poise and control to maintain possession.

At this point was what I think was the cleverest bit of the entire goal. In a sprint with the defender Messi chose to drive the chasing defender into the one in front of him and with a slick junk inside evaded the final defender and was thru on goal with only the keeper to beat.

Lesser players would have just smashed at goal figuring their chances were good enough. Not Messi. One final fake right and the keeper was beaten. A defender managed to get back in time and could have spoiled the brilliance but it was Messi’s moment as he struck across the goal from a tight angle to score. Every bit as good as Maradona’s.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The next Zidane is here

You hear about how Barcalona’s Lionel Messi is the new Maradona, how Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo is the new George Best, but we now have a new Zidane playing for Real Madrid, and he is the real thing.

Enzo Zidane, all of 12 years old, is the son of the great Zinedine and is a member of the Real Madrid youth side that just recently beat Barca to the Mediterranean International Cup. The resemblance is unmistakable. They play the same position, show the same body movement and young Enzo even does the infamous ‘roulette’ or ‘ruleta’ move that his father made his own. In the video below, he even pulls it off.

Enzo was named after Zinedine’s favorite player as a child, the former Uruguayan international Enzo Francescoli. All indications are that Enzo has what it takes. He’s effective (scored off a free kick in the game), elegant and has a leg up on everyone at the academy with such a famous dad.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Liverpool sign Brazilian player of year

Funny, a bit earlier I wrote about a new starlet coming out of Brazil called Lucas Pezzini -then I find out Liverpool has now wrapped up a deal for him.

It looks like it will be an 8m pound deal but is a bit confusing to me. Pezzini is a holding midfielder, and a very traditional one at that. Liverpool have 4 players already that can fill that role -Alonso, Macherano, Sissoko, and even Steven Gerrard. Why sign another? At 20, this kid is ready to play now, he's not going to sit and wait for a few seasons to get his chance. Granted, this kid is tailor made for the English game and is a GREAT signing, but Liverpool could strengthen in other parts of the field where they need it more. Gerrard is already being pushed out wide from the current glut of central midfielders, how will he feel about this?

So, how real is it? Its done. Gremio secretary Alfredo Oliveira told Brazil's Radio Bandeirantes thats its been wrapped up. Liverpool's website has also made it official.

You can read a bit more about your new starlet and see a video of him here.

Lucas Pezzini

Yet another Brazilian, but this time with an edge. Lucas Pezzini has been winning all kinds of accolades in Brazil for his characteristically un-Brazillian play in the center of midfield. A new Dunga has emerged, a style of player tailor made for the European leagues.

When you watch him play the word that comes to mind is efficient. If you need a tackle, he’ll dirty his shorts, a simple long ball is done simply, and a short pass is short. You won’t see any tricks and flicks in his repertoire to excite fans but what you do get is a player with excellent awareness of his surroundings and the flow of the game. It’s the kind of player every top team needs to compliment their superstars: someone who’ll do the dirty work and keep hold of the football pitch’s most valuable real estate.

(sorry about the horror music)

At only age 20 he’s the captain of Brazil’s under 20 youth side and won the South American under 20 title (scoring 4 in 7 matches). Oh, and he’s won the player of the year award in the Brazilian championship for 2006.

Lucas Pezzini is as complete a 20 year old as you will ever see. Bringing defensive skills, a good shot on goal, poise, awareness and stability to a side he’ll only become more valuable. Coming soon to one of the biggest teams in the world near you.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 07, 2007

The hammer that didn’t come down

West Ham have dodged a bullet. Clubs like Wigan, Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Watford should be angry about it since the English FA has failed in its duties to dock West Ham points for lying and fielding illegal players.

Carlos Tevez and Javier Macherano have never been owned by West Ham, a structure that is illegal. West Ham lied and said they were legal players. You can’t field a player like that. For some bizarre reason the Leauge took forever to make a ruling and to compound the delay declared that there would be no point deduction because of how late in the season the decision was made. Unbelievable. Compound this with a run of form by the Hammers which has taken them just above the drop zone and you have a group of clubs at the bottom with plenty of reasons to be pissed.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is leading the cries of outrage. The FA has so far done nothing.

This kind of half-baked discipline from the FA is nothing new. The bung inquiry failed to name names. And somehow Macherano is now playing for Liverpool when 2 transfers in a season is also against the rules. Macherano got a special ruling and has suddenly started playing well. He was a goof at West Ham. To his credit, Tevez has stuck around and made the difference for the clubs survival hopes.

Not only should the bottom rung sue West Ham, they should also sue the League who should not be hiding behind the skirts of an ‘independent commission’.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Sheva wanna bottle?

Andriy Shevchenko must be the most infantile player in Europe. I must admit that I had him pegged completely wrong. He’s been left out of tonight’s starting lineup when Chelsea face Liverpool in their Champions League second leg semi-final and to repay his 30 million pound fee, he’s claimed the proverbial groin strain to send the team a message.

Instead of sending a message, he’s made himself look a brat and a fool.
As the season evolved I was teetering between Mourinho being too hard on him or whether it was Shevchenko that is too soft and I have finally gotten it. Andriy Shevchenko only plays football when he has a bottle in his hand. I have given way too much benefit of the doubt. Mourinho was right all along.

Watching training Sunday when Mourinho opted for a 4-3-3 formation with Kalou and Cole supporting Drogba up from, the little ballerina watched from the sidelines and pouted with his arms folded. A slightly respected doctor was quoted as saying that prolonged arm folding and a droopy lip led to the injury. To boot, the youngster cannot even travel to Anfield with the team.

At AC Milan, Shevchenko must have been coddled beyond belief. When he arrived at Stamford Bridge he assumed his reputation would get him more of the same, especially with a sympathetic owner. But Mourinho, to his credit, is made of stronger stuff and demands more that what the player would offer so was led to a place on the bench and chance after chance to prove some worth. He has not, and it’s time for Roman Abramovich to accept that his coach has been right all along.