Saturday, June 30, 2007

The greatest penalty ever

You know how in today's football the players rush the box when a penalty is taken? They didn't used to, and this penalty is the reason they started. The greatest penalty ever taken came from Dutch legend Johann Cruyff when he exchanged passes with team-mate Jesper Olsen to score for Ajax against Helmond on December 5th 1982.

Cruff casually stepped up to the spot and chipped the ball slowly to his right, the goalkeeper, confused, reacted by moving to his right, Jesper Olsen casually passed the ball back to Cruyff who walked up to the 6 yard box line and dinked the ball into an empty net. Ajax won the game emphatically 5-0.

Cruyff claims he’d done it once before in the a match played in the snow but I couldn’t find a record of it. This one will have to do.

Years on, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry did a similar trick for Arsenal. Cruyff originated it thought, and here it is:


Friday, June 29, 2007

U-21 Championship top scorer to Celtic

Celtic have just about wrapped up a great deal for European Under-21 Championships Golden Boot winner Maceo Rigters from NAC Breda for only 400,000 pounds nudging out arch rivals Rangers.

It’s a steal; the fee triggers a buyout clause in Rigters contract. Breda director of football Earnie Stewart has confirmed that Celtic had expressed an interest in the player.

The 23-year-old Dutch striker was very impressive during the tournament. In fact, next to Royston Drenthe he was Holland’s best player. Rigters has two years left to run on his Breda contract but the club announced that they were prepared to listen to offers from interested clubs.

And did they get interest. No less than 5 clubs lodged bids for the player in recent days. One is Newcastle United, the others are Rangers and Celtic, the other two are a mystery. The low buyout clause seems to have spread chum in the water.

Rigters scored four goals for Holland during the finals as they secured their second consecutive U-21 crown. While he was on fire at the tournament, he scored just three times in 32 league appearances for Breda last season. Paired with Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink up front next season, the explosive striker should prove more potent.

"We are just waiting for NAC to tell us which clubs we can talk to and that is likely to happen on Monday." –Celtic

Here he is with a bicycle kick to save the game against England:

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Derby County break record

Premiership newbies Derby County have broken their club record transfer fee to sign striker Robert Earnshaw from Norwich City.

The 3.5m pound fee enacted a clause in the player’s contract. The deal is for three years and is proof of Derby manager’s Billy Davies commitment to sign players with top-flight experience for their first campaign at the top in 5 years.

The 26 year old Welsh international striker was top scorer for the Norwich with 19 goals last season, despite missing a large swathe of the season thru injury. Famous for his flips during goal celebrations, Earnshaw, born in Zambia, scored 11 times in his first Premiership season with West Bromwich Albion and has been awarded 32 caps where he has scored 12 times.

Earnshaw’s capture is Derby’s first move in the transfer market this summer.

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Anderson permitted

19 year old Brazilian Anderson has been granted a work permit by the British Home Office which will now allow him to play for Manchester United. Anderson joined United earlier in the summer from FC Porto.

There was a scare inside Old Trafford as the first application for the work permit was rejected. The rules stipulate that a player must play in 75% of his home nation’s international matches over the previous two years.

United have won an appeal on the grounds that Anderson’s youth has not allowed him to fulfill the requirement. Anderson made his full international debut for Brazil in their 2-0 Copa America loss to Mexico earlier in the week.

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Cisse to leave Premiership

Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse is set to make his loan deal permanent with Marseille despite a late attempt from West Ham to sign the player.

Cisse, 25, spent last season on loan at Marseille and wants to see the move happen. Marseille had wanted to keep Cisse on loan but Liverpool made it clear that was not an option.

"The Marseille option is the best choice for Djibril because of the Champions League" - Cisse's agent Ranko Stojic

West Ham representatives tried to contact Cisse’s agent earlier in the week but the interest came too late as the player had already made a decision on the matter. Marseille, flush after the big money sale of Franck Ribery to Bayern Munich, will be looking for Cisse fill the gap as the club grow out of a slump in recent seasons. A Champions League campaign next season should improve the club’s financial fortunes.

Cisse is not famous for his goals, but his two horrible broken legs. Once playing for Liverpool and another in a friendly for France right before the World Cup began.

A deal would serve both club and player, with the impending arrival of Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid it would become crowded up front.

Here's the leg break against China:

And the one versus Blackburn:

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Transfer market? Oh, you would have thought it was the rip-off market

Tottenham have signed England striker Darren Bent from new Championship outfit Charlton and have wildly overpaid. The final negotiated price was 16.5m pounds which is more than Barcelona paid for Thierry Henry. For the Premiership club, the price tag is a club record.

This clears the way for a Jermain Defoe exit at what will probably be a reasonable fee. If I were Charlton, I’d feel like someone forgot their bag of money on my seat at the ground. If I were Tottenham, I’d be opening my wallet, seeing the darkness and wonder where the hell the kitty is for a left sided winger.

Spurs had previously offered a reasonable 12m for Bent, even at that price he was full value but Charlton decided to treat the transfer as silly money and demand the 17m fee West Ham United offered until Bent refused to go. West Ham pulled a Chelsea, if that offer were never made you can rest assured that Charlton would have had very little reason to stick by their guns but being able to say “hey, West Ham thought it was fair value” they were able to keep the price tag on the table.

Bent’s deal is for up to 6 years. The 23-year-old passed a medical yesterday; the transfer fee will be paid in installments. Visa and MasterCard then, cha-ching.

On the bright side, this does give Dimetar Berbatov pause as they paid significantly less for him. He must wonder what he is really worth. If I were Spurs, break out the Visa again, give Dimetar a raise.

On the bright, bright side, this transfer fee will do nothing but stall the transfer market as prices across the board have just risen on the news that a player that has 3 caps could command such a fee.

On the positive side, Bent was in excellent form last season scoring 15 goals. That many goals means on a good team he would have scored 20+. If he can produce like that at Tottenham we will all look back and say wow… Jol has a vision. But, in my opinion there are too many like Angel, Barros and Shevchenko to warrant the risk. But Jermain Defoe scored 18 last season. Hmmmm.

On the positive, positive side, Charlton have just reaped a windfall profit of 15m pounds as they only paid 2.5m for Bent in 2005. They have to pay Ipswich 20% of that because of a sell on clause but are still 12+ million in the clear.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Inter out and even more reasons for Tevez to stay a Hammer

Inter Milan have ended their ambition to sign Carlos Tevez from West Ham United. Inter have signed David Suazo from Cagliari and now with a glut of strikers on the books there is no need for such an expensive player.

"He is no longer our objective" - Inter president Massimo Moratti

Tevez was keen on the switch, but it has emerged that West Ham have made a book smashing offer to keep the player on the books for a single season. They are offering Tevez 115,000 pounds a week and a 3m pound ‘loan’ payout to Kia Joorabchian, the owner of Tevez’s rights. The deal totals an astounding 9m pounds. This would suddenly make Tevez one of the Premierships highest paid players.

It’s clear West Ham see the problems they are having attracting top talent despite plenty of money for transfer fees and salaries. A commitment from Tevez would be an indication to potential suitors that the club has ambitions and wants the top talent.

Tevez singlehandedly kept West Ham in the Premiership last season. I think he should stay, I thought so even before the huge offer, and I think the offer is money well spent if it keeps him there and opens up the potential for more transfers to the club.

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Arsenal looking at Martins to replace Henry

Nigerian international Obafemi Martins moved to Newcastle from Inter Milan last summer and scored an impressive 17 goals in his first Premiership season. Arsene Wenger is looking for a replacement for the newly departed Theirry Henry and it looks like Martins fits the bill. Arsenal are prepared to meet the player’s 13m pound buyout clause.

Arsenal have yet to make any formal approach for the striker but it has prompted Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce to urge Obafemi Martins to reject any offer from Arsenal and stay at the club. He plans a sit down with the player at the next possible opportunity.

I doubt it will work. Martins would probably relish the chance to play for Arsenal and after proving himself in the Premiership is well worth the 13m pound buyout clause, especially considering Charlton’s wild overvaluation of Darren Bent.

Should Arsenal be able to make the deal, it would potentially be a saving grace. Martins could be considered a poor man’s Samuel Eto’o as the two have similar attributes. 17 goals in a season with injuries is impressive, and at 22 he has plenty of upside and would come at a much better price.

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Real-ly ungrateful

Just 11 days after Real Madrid’s first success since 2003, the club have decided to fire manager Fabio Capello. It was the first Primera Liga title in four years for Real Madrid. The Italian, who has won a league title with AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Madrid in 1996 (every club he has managed) came thru where it counted but succumbed to politics, Real Madrid’s favorite pastime.

The 61-year-old Italian has now won the league title with Real twice, he did it in the 1997. Capello was brought in by newly elected club president Ramon Calderon before the start of last season and given the task of bringing discipline back to the club and clearing out unwanted players. He delivered on both fronts, getting rid of fat Ronaldo and lazy David Beckham who only decided to start playing a bit as an ‘I’ll show you” to the manager. Both players deserved to go, both did… wash hands move on… oops, I forgot. Politics.

Madrid sporting director Predrag Mijatovic confirmed Capello sacking at a press conference. Capello joined Real after he resigned from Juventus after the match fixing scandal.

Madrid has now seen 6, soon to be 7 coaches since Vicente del Bosque led the club to their last league title in 2003. Strange… at Madrid, when you lose you are fired, but when you win a title you are also fired. Chronic instability, that is all you can say.


The flouncing referee

Man, this is just too funny. In the 90’s there was a referee in Brazil famous for his flamboyant style of refereeing matches. His nickname was Margarida, Portuguese for ‘daisy’. His real name is Jorge José Emiliano dos Santos, now deceased, and he refereed in the Brazilian league.

Apparently he was a well respected referee; he had to be with these antics. Can you imagine this guy in front of the Kop? Kidding aside, you got to give him credit for that backwards running and the technique of the yellow delivery. Rest in peace my friend, you will bring laughter to millions.


Zlatan’s audacious flick

It was either a draw or elimination from the Euro 2004 for Sweden. 5 minutes from time Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an incredible goal to equalize the game and save Sweden from the hatchet.

From a corner, the Italian defense tried to clear a ball away from the box but failed. A head on sent the ball towards the goal line, a volley then followed sending the ball to the 6 yard box, from there Olaf Melberg went up for the ball but couldn’t make clean contact. The ball dropped into the box sending Ibrahimovic charging from the goal line.

Buffon charged but Zlatan got their first and with his back to the goal jumped and flicks it backward with the outside of his right foot audaciously sending the ball floating perfectly above the head of an Italian defender on the goal line and into the goal. Whoa, that's talent. Here is the goal:


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cantona’s kung-fu kick

Former Manchester United icon Eric Cantona lashed out at a Crystal Palace fan in 1995 and paid dearly for it. His punishments for his kung fu attack were well deserved.

He was fined 20,000 pounds and banned from playing for nine months; additionally he was stripped of the French national captaincy.

Cantona, famous for his fiery temper claims the fan shouted racial insults and threw a missile at him as he walked off the pitch after being given a red card for kicking another player during a tackle.

In the incident, Cantona jumped at the fan with both feet and kicked him in the chest, he then punched him as a security person tried to intervene and stop the situation from getting worse:


Liverpool join Gunners in chase for U-21 standout

I reported recently that Arsenal had sent scouts to all the UEFA U-21 Tournament matches to watch Miguel Veloso, now Liverpool has approached Sporting Lisbon about the player, reports A Bola.

The newspaper, not known for its rumoring, is generally accurate when approaches are made within the Portuguese League, and it claims that Liverpool have made preliminary inquiries about the player after it also emerged that their scouts at the games to watch other players were very impressed.

Veloso spent the entire 2006 season on loan to second division club Olivais e Moscavide and helped them on to promotion. Last season Sporting manager Paulo Bento put the player straight into the first team where he held his place despite Sporting’s biggest summer acquisition playing the same position.

Should Veloso leave Sporting have cover, and the Premiership a player to covet. He’s very sharp, especially his passing. He’s also excellent in the tackle and can play as a central defender. What apparently caught the eye of Liverpool most were his free kicks (video at bottom).

So has his stock risen that even senior national coach Philipe Scolari has his eye on the player for a sooner rather than later role in the national side.

Veloso also has pedigree. His father, Antonio, was 40 times capped and an SL Benfica defender for 15 years from 1980 to 1995, including seven seasons as club captain and seven times as Portuguese champions. He was also a member of the 1990 European Cup final squad that lost 1-0 to AC Milan.

"My father's influence is very big. He helps me in every aspect. He watches almost all my matches and tries to correct me in different ways. His great experience and know-how is a very important source of support for me." - Veloso

Liverpool should take note, this player is a serious talent, he must be for a club so stocked with midfielders to make an inquiry. This article goes in depth on the player.

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Bent on a price: a never ending saga

You’d think 16m pounds is good enough, considering that’s what Henry’s transfer fee was, but no. Charlton Athletic are insisting that the only acceptable sale price for Darren Bent is 17m pounds. Tottenham must have their hands in the air at this point, and if I were them, I would give up.

In my view, the price is inflated to begin with. Darren Bent is talented, but not 17m pounds talented. I always felt a price of 12m pounds was more than enough, but wealthier men disagree with me. If I were Tottenham I would save my money because I think they are ok up front with Berbatov/Keane/Defoe. Darren Bent would be a nice to have, but at these top dollar prices they are half a step from the Fernando Torres’s and Samuel Eto’o’s of the world. Even Michael Owen or Obafemi Martins would be better value, in my opinion.

Some reports say have stated that Tottenham have ended the negotiations, probably not true, but Tottenham should send a shot across the bow to the Addicks and start shopping for other strikers. Bent won’t just go where he’s told (rejected West Ham) and not everyone has 17m to toss out for the player. Charlton will bend on Bent, but Tottenham tend to be a bit trigger happy at times in the transfer market.

A meeting of the Charlton board stated that:

"It's 17m or no go"

I’d say no go then. The valuation is way over the top. Charlton’s poker game could easily end up backfiring. In fact, it should. We are not playing with Monopoly money.

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Pair in blue battle it out for bleu

There is a race is on for Juventus midfielder Olivier Kapo with both Steve Bruce at Birmingham City and David Moyes at Everton preparing a bid.

The 26 year old Frenchman is highly regarded in Spain after a season on loan with Levante. Real Betis is trying to sign him and keep him in La Liga next season. It appears that he wants to play in the Premiership though which leaves Everton and Birmingham poised.

The former Auxerre player is owned by Juventus where he has been given very little chance. He’s had a rocky few seasons until the loan spell saw him re-emerge as a viable player for larger clubs. Kapo said he would not consider staying at Levante.

Juventus’s price tag for Kapo is 2m pounds, a fee well within the reach of both Premiership contenders. You can see him in action here scoring against Deportivo De La Coruna:

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Geremi set to free transfer

Newcastle United are on the verge of signing Cameroonian international Geremi from Chelsea on a free transfer.

The 28 year old player is versatile being able to play wide both in defense and midfield has been plugging holes for too long at Stamford Bridge and looks set to move as his four year contract is set to expire and a new deal is not being offered. While he made 23 starts he was never considered a serious contender for a starting role, relying on injuries to build his stats. With Paulo Ferreira and Lassana Diarra competing for the right-back spot, chances will be nil. Recall though that Geremi was on Jose Mourinho's very first team sheet at Chelsea.

Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce has committed to revamping the club’s defense and will be presenting new defensive signing David Rozenhal later today.

Middlesbrough were considered as a place for Geremi who had spent a season on loan there when he was with Real Madrid, but it appears no interest has emerged, even on a free. Geremi's experience could prove valuable to Allardyce as Newcastle face an uphill climb back to the elite.

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The Ben Thatcher hatchet job

Charlton Athletic defender Ben Thatcher is lucky (for the FOURTH time) that he didn’t end a career, even a life. When he was with Manchester City he floored Pedro Mendes so violently that afterwards the Portsmouth midfielder laid completely knocked out and had a seizure and needed oxygen on the way to the hospital.

The Mendes incident took place in August 2006, and you’d think he had learned a lesson before then because this was not the first time. Thatcher is a dirty player. Not only did he knock Mendes into the advertising boards Thatcher also elbow had hospitalized an opponent during a pre-season tour of China.

Before the incident in China, he made similar challenges against Nicky Summerbee when he was with Wimbledon against Sunderland and Allan Nielsen from Tottenham Hotspur.
See the horror challenge here, what makes me gag most is his ‘what, me?’ reaction in anger afterwards:

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Zidane volley

During the 2002 Champions League Final against Bayer Leverkusen, Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid scored one of the finest volleys that I have ever seen. To score such a marvelous goal in such an important match attests to the greatness of the 3 time World Player of the Year.

The goal came from nothing, as Santiago Solari played a difficult long ball along the left touch line to Roberto Carlos. Under pressure Carlos dumped the ball towards the box and set about praying.

His prayers were answered as Zidane, in space, loaded up a brilliant side footed volley into the top left corner of the net. Everyone was left stunned, nobody expected it. It was technique that you can only marvel at. What a goal.

Let Zidane explain for himself:

And watch the goal in real time with some very annoying commentators that don’t know how to shut it:

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Middlesbrough Gera-ing up?

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate is set to reignite his attempt to sign Zoltan Gera from West Bromich Albion. Southgate first attempted to sign the Hungarian international midfielder during the January transfer window but failed because a fee could not be agreed.

Gera has pledged not to force a move ala Jason Koumas from The Hawthorns but insists his future lies in the Premiership.

“I’ve told all concerned parties that I want to leave but I’ve never thought of using any tricks to persuade my bosses to let me go.” -Gera

Gera first asked to leave Albion when they were relegated but was forced to stay on as part of a rebound push. It has not happened and its 2 seasons on, Albion should let him go if he wishes. It’s now up to Southgate to make a reasonable offer. I’ve always felt Gera was a very talented player and would be a solid signing. He scores goals from midfield, something Boro will need after losing Mark Vidula.

First on Southgate’s list is right winger Gokdeniz Karadeniz of Trabzonspor but the move has stalled over the club’s distinctly different valuations. While Gera is not a first choice, I think he’d be a better option because he has experience in England.

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Where are the new players?

Tom Hicks and George Gillett made promises of transfer fees when they took Liverpool over but so far we’ve seen nothing but empty hands.

Liverpool have been linked with all kinds of players: Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres, Yossi Benayoun, etc but so far no moves and low-ball offers. In trying to land Fernando Torres, Liverpool seem more interested in moving some of their less desirable players in part exchange but Atletico Madrid are not interested, knowing full well what their player is worth. Lots of talk of a Torres offer but none has officially be made.

Despite Benitez being quoted as needing his squad set up as early as possible there seems to be no movement to strengthen in areas the team needs. In fact, the only significant move of the summer is for a holding midfielder something Liverpool have a glut of.

What is all the delay for? Is this a sign that the new owners are more interested in profit than they are the club? Is Liverpool going to wait for a bidding war to ensue while the new owners acclimate themselves to the way the global transfer market operates? All interesting questions and not a lot of answers.

For example, one situation that puzzles me is that Marseille want to buy Djibirl Cisse and Liverpool won’t make a deal. They should sell the player and take the cash. Bolton are also interested in him for 6m. He should have been sold before Torres was available. Same goes for Craig Bellamy and Momo Sissoko, with a glut in midfield why is he needed? Sell him. Combine the transfers for all 3 players and you have half the money you need for Fernando Torres. It seems like Liverpool want to sell their players for the maximum and buy their players cheaply. It won’t work that way. If Darren Bent is worth 17m pounds you can bet Torres is worth 20+. Sell the players, buy your striker and settle the team for a run next season.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Arsenal: if you’re squeamish, don’t look

Man, how’s this for a smiling mug? Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry was unveiled to the press today as well as a horde of supporters at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. Would any other player generate that many people for 16m, a ridiculous price?

It looks so strange to see Henry in a different kit. Henry passed his medical today and signed a four-year contract.

The 29 year old won two Premiership titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal and came a hair from a Champions League medal, losing to Barcelona. In addition he was an integral part of the Gunners 49 game unbeaten run and scored a host of amazing goals.

Henry leaves Arsenal as their all time top scorer. It will be hard getting used to him in Catalan colors, so used to his Arsenal strip we have all become.
He also leaves with the club in a bit of tumult with departures and takeover talk poised to disrup the wonderful flowing football on display at The Emirates.

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Charlton sign one of U-21 Tournament’s best defenders

Charlton Athletic have been preparing for life in the Championship by signing Portuguese U-21 International central defender Jose Semedo. If you didn’t have a chance to see him at the tournament he was very impressive, hardly putting a foot wrong through all the games and showing exceptional skill and athletic prowess for his age.

Charlton have definitely done well as Alan Pardew continues to build a new squad ahead of his attempt to rebound to the top flight.

A powerful central defender, Semedo reminds me a lot of Kolo Toure and Marcel Desially when you watch him. He has never actually played in the Sporting Lisbon first team having spent his youth there and being loaned out since 2004 to Casa Pia AC and then CD Feirense in the Second Division in Portugal and then to Cagliari in Italy. It’s incredible how many talented players are coming out of the Sporting youth academy, it goes another step towards cementing its place as the second best in the world behind Ajax Amsterdam.

Semedo has signed a four-year deal and follows another Under-21 starlet, Frenchman Yassin Moutaouakil, to the club. Luckily Charlton get him on a free transfer, Sporting having slipped on the contractual front.

I will stop short of raving, but this player has tremendous potential and I am certain will do exceptionally well at Charlton. I couldn’t find a video, so you’ll just have to wait and see.

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Wenger stands ground on contract

Arsene Wenger will only sign a new contract if David Dein is brought back to the club, so it’s getting reported in the Daily Mail. I think its 99% true.

Wenger is expected to meet with club directors this week where it appears he will lay down the gauntlet. Wenger’s deal is only good for the coming season and his refusal thus far to extend is set to exert huge pressure on the board to undo the situation. Thierry Henry’s move to Barcelona was in large part due to David Dein’s departure and the situation is devolving inside the club’s board to the extent that a mass exodus could ensue. And Henry is not the club’s biggest asset, Wenger is.

Wenger is furious with the manner of the former vice-chairman's departure and appears ready to ‘go to the mattresses’ over the situation.

It appears more and more that all the money flooding into the Premiership is doing more harm than good. Everywhere you turn its takeover here and buyout there and bla bla bla funds for transfers to placate the fans. Arsenal were just fine before the Stanley Kroenke situation appears and will be fine without him. I tend to support the idea of floating the club on the stock exchange but different from what it is today and only if supporters get a large stake hold and a stipulation in a charter exists so that nobody can take over the club in it’s entirely like the Glazers have at Manchester United.

While Dein was right in some ways, he was wrong, I think, to suggest that another American tycoon would be good for the club long term. It should not have caused a departure thought. This was an issue that could have been worked out. Still, David Dein should not have bedded Kroenke. There are other ways to float the club and generate the money needed to pay for the new stadium and compete in the transfer market.

The remaining board members, who between them own 45% of the club, have agreed not to sell out their stakes for at least one year but you can bet it will happen unless intervention takes place. Remember the 2 horse jockeys at Man United. Same horserace, different club.

I can sympathize with Arsene Wenger. How would you like something that you have been crafting for so many years be put at risk with all the uncertainty surrounding the club? I wouldn’t, and would consider more stable pastures for sure.

Should the situation at Arsenal continue, you can rest assured nothing good will come from it, I don’t care how much money rich pricks throw at the club.

Dein is in a similar position. He has kept a low profile since leaving Arsenal and turned down the chance join Newcastle, another friggin buyout victim.

Buyout = sellout.


Liverpool preparing striker swap to land starlet

Atletico Madrid are laying the groundwork for life without Fernando Torres having made a bid for Diego Forlan and having it turned down. The 23-year-old Spanish international is very close to a deal that would see him join Liverpool as it appears both clubs are willing to accept a player + cash swap. What and who remain. Liverpool better move fast as a certain club in London that just lost its biggest asset might just swoop in.

It appears that the two clubs are 8m pounds apart in their respective valuations of Torres as well as different players involved in the deal. Liverpool have offered former Atletico player Luis Garcia but the Atletico are demanding Peter Crouch.

Liverpool also offered combinations of including Djibril Cisse in their bid for Torres. Rafa Benitez has gone as far as instructing Cisse’s management to discuss personal terms with Atletico. Cisse plus a cash offer of £15 million doesn’t seem enough though.

Liverpool will have to smash their record transfer fee by more than 10m pounds to land Torres as Atletico won’t budge from a release clause of 27m pounds. Last week Liverpool representatives travelled to Spain for negotiations and plan to return again this week.

While Peter Crouch is an option, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez wants to hold on to him, plus there are enough Spanish players at the club and misfits to close the 8m pound transfer gap.

Liverpool better not wait if they are serious about Torres. Arsenal just lost their best ever player who happens to play the same position. Arsene Wenger has long been interested in Torres and would surely step in with a bid should the means appear. He’s a creative manager and knows how to make a deal (and also get shafted on Henry’s transfer fee) and recall that Jose Reyes is still on Arsenal’s books.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Chelsea reportedly make deal for Brazilian wunderkind (video)

Chelsea appear to finally be making a cash signing this season, and it’s not a tried and true European player, its for a 17 year old kid from Brazil. Jose Mourinho's reported to be extremely keen on The 17-year-old Internacional Porto Alegre striker Alexandre Pato. The youngster has been linked with a moves to AC Milan and Benfica, but Chelsea have reportedly closed the deal before any more interest in garnered at this month’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Canada.

Pato's agent Gilmat Veloz said:

"The deal is almost done, the two clubs have discussed the matter in the last few days."

The deal on the table includes incentives and is reportedly for 18m pounds, a giant sum for a 17 year old. It’s an indication of his talent which from the video below is extraordinary. Pato has impressed everyone surrounding the Brazilian League with Internacional in recent months; the deal stipulates the player will be allowed to stay until the end of the Brazilian league’s season in December.

Here is what all the fuss is about:

You can see some other Pato video clips here.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Newcastle sign Czech international

Czech international defender David Rozehnal has agreed terms with Newcastle United for a transfer from French club Paris St. Germain.

Newcastle had initial approaches rebuffed, but raised their initial 2m pound bid to about 3m pounds, an offer which was eventually accepted. Borussia Dortmund offered the same amount but the player chose Newcastle over their German rivals. It appears Newcastle’s hand was forced when Tal Ben-Haim chose to join Chelsea.

Borussia Dortmund had been hoping to pull off the signing but pulled out after failing to match the personal terms offered by Newcastle. Sevilla were very closer to derailing the deal with offers of Champions League football and the pedigree of a 2 consecutive UEFA Cup triumphs.

Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce though has gotten his man and put money behind his commitment to revamp the Newcastle defense after releasing Titus Bramble, Craig Moore, Oguchi Onyewu and left-back Olivier Bernard.

Rozehnal is due to undergo a medical on Monday before signing a four year contract.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Arsenal got shafted on Henry transfer fee

Can you believe the transfer fee for the player that I think is the best striker in the world? 16m pounds? That’s a joke folks, and if I were an Arsenal fan I’d feel hard done by. Barcelona have got a bargain and they sure know it.

The same thing happened to Arsenal with Patrick Vieira’s transfer. A small fee for one of the best midfielders in the world… now Henry, the club’s best player? 16m pounds? Darren ‘done nothing yet’ Bent is about to be sold for that price. How on earth did Arsenal sell Henry so cheap?

I’ll tell you what; if Arsenal sold Henry last season they would have gotten at least 25m-30m pounds for the him. Now they get barely enough money to sign an average striker. News Flash: Arsenal all over Alan Smith! News Flash: Javier Saviola in Arsenal linkup! News Flash: you wuz robbed.

For me, the most bothersome aspect of this transfer is that Samuel Eto’o did not go the other way. All along I thought this would have been a really good deal for Arsenal if Eto’o, younger, quicker and deadlier, could have been persuaded to sign. It appears that Barcelona now plan to team the pair up in what is no doubt the most potent strike partnership on earth. All for a song. Nice, if you can get it.

I am not a Gunners fan, and I’m dismayed, I can’t imagine what you all must be thinking. Arsenal are going to have a tough season next year with nobody to replace Theirry Henry. While Arsene Wenger has made many great deals, this is not one of them and it tells me one thing: Theirry Henry pushed for this deal a lot harder than I or anyone thought thought.


Tribute to Theirry Henry: his two greatest goals (video)

Today it was announced that Theirry Henry is leaving Arsenal for Barcelona, I thought it would be fitting to honor Arsenal’s all time leading scorer with his two greatest goals for the club: in 2000 vs Manchester United and in 2002 vs Tottenham.

Henry was always a showman, and he scored some spectacular goals in his 8 years playing for Arsenal.

My favorite, vs Manchester United:

What a run vs Tottenham:

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Henry signs for Barcelona

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry has signed with FC Barcelona, Spanish news reports confirm.

Barcelona will pay 17m pounds for Henry who have signed a 4-year deal. Cadena Ser radio and the newspaper El Pais have quoted Barcelona officials.

It doesn’t look like Eto’o is going the other way, Gunners. In my view, that's bad news unless Arsene Wenger has a master stroke up his sleeve or one of the strikers on the books comes good.

Henry has been with Arsenal since 1999 when he joined from Juventus and has scored a club record 226 goals in 364 appearance. He has won Premier League titles and four FA Cups in his 8 years in London.

I for one am a huge Henry fan, I think he should have been world player of the year last season and am sorry to see him leave the club.

Henry still had three years left on his contract he signed last season but speculation of his departure has reached a fever pitch in the last weeks.

I sensed along Henry wanted to leave the club from his carefully parsed comments, now its real. Henry acknowledged he was upset that David Dein, a close friend, quit as vice chairman of Arsenal. This coupled with a lack of movement in the transfer window and a perception that Arsenal are rebuilding has caused the plates to shift and bring on the transfer.

Wenger too has been linked with a possible move to Barcelona when his contract expires.

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Barcelona selling former untouchable

Barcelona have put Premiership clubs Chelsea and Liverpool on alert that once untouchable midfielder Deco will be sold this summer.

The news comes as the emerging consensus within the club feel Barcelona need an overhaul as questions of the level of commitment have been raised by club president Joan Laporta. A third successive league title slipped from Barca’s hands as they led La Liga at the halfway point of the season.

Only six months ago Deco was viewed as a key member of the team and any offer would have been rejected, no longer. Laporta said certain players were staying including Ronaldinho, Messi and Eto'o, but the list notably lacked Deco. A Catalan paper said Deco was given a warning mid-season about his performances and they did not improve. An unnamed source claims Deco will be sold as a warning to the rest of the squad to reinvest their energies into the club or risk the same fate.

Sensing the shifting tide, last week Deco mentioned a desire to play in the Premiership and remains close to Jose Mourinho, his former manager at FC Porto. Chelsea and Liverpool are said to be keenly interested in signing the influential playmaker. Both Rafa Benitez and Mourinho are great admirers of the player’s talent and could get the Brazilian born, Portuguese international at a cut rate price.

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For some reason Newcastle buy Smith

Newcastle United have made an agreement for Manchester United striker Alan Smith to leave Old Trafford in a deal worth around 3.5m pounds, exactly half of the 7m pounds United paid Leeds United for the player just 3 years ago.

Apparently Sam Allardyce failed in an attempt to sign a trio of players at once from United; he wanted to sign defensive pair Wes Brown and Mikael Silvestre as well.

Smith has been assured of a regular place on the pitch at Newcastle under Allardyce. Why, I don’t know. Alan Smith is a useful player but he’s another striker that doesn’t really score goals along the lines of James Beattie, Juan Pablo Angel, Mikael Forsell, and to a large extent Milan Baros. For my money, 3.5m could have been better spent especially as Mark Viduka has joined Newcastle earlier in the season. Maybe Big Sam has plans for Smith that don’t involve his being a striker, ala the extension of the experiment at Manchester.

While Newcastle may have beaten out a few clubs to sign Alan Smith, I am not sure they didn’t just beat themselves in the process.

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The best goal of the 2002 World Cup

During a group match at the 2002 World Cup, Uruguay’s Dario Rodriguez scored a dream goal from a volley that for me was head and shoulders the best goal of that entire tournament.

The goal came from a corner on 47 minutes with Uruguay down 1-0. Jon Dahl Tomasson put Denmark ahead from a low cross from the left side footing it first time.

The clearance from the corner landed at the foot of a Uruguayan player who tapped hit with his foot, knee, then foot again to lob the ball across the box where Dario Rodriguez unleashed a stunning volley into the top left corner of the net with the outside of the left foot. 5 touches and the ball never touched the ground. The keeper didn’t have a chance in the world and it’s probably my favorite goal from a volley ever.

Uruguay would go on to lose 2-1 but not for lack of beauty and class.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Manchester City in double whammy

Not only are Manchester City potentially going to be owned by the former prime minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra but it has been confirmed he’s met with former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson about becoming the clubs manager.

Not only are City going to potentially be owned by a man with a less than stellar record in government, with more than a few allegations of corruption, but they will get a manager whose record with English players is weak and ability to take a struggling team and turn them around in England untested. Consider how close City were to the relegation zone and I would consider this a worrying sign.

Consider also that Shinawatra seems to think that Eriksson is an ideal candidate. That right there would worry me more than anything. A bad coach is one thing, but an owner, entrenched, making bad decision after bad decision is totally another.

Shinawatra offered 81.6m pounds for City on Thursday.

Shinawatra still has to pass the Premier League's standard of a "fit and proper person" before being able to complete the proposed takeover. Nothing a bribe can’t solve, eh?

Prosecutors in Thailand have recently filed corruption charges against the former Prime Minister. He’s had his bank accounts frozen. Surely this isn’t the right thing for City or the Premiership.

City fans should not be taken in by dangling some new signings or a lot of promises in your face.


Tottenham closing in on central defender

Tottenham are in advanced stages of negotiations for France Under-21 central defender Younes Kaboul from Auxerre in France.

The 21 year old Kaboul impressed in the French top flight last season and is valued by Auxerre at 8m pounds. Auxerre have already rejected 6m pound offers from Portsmouth and Inter Milan during last season’s January transfer window. Kaboul is widely considered Auxerre’s best prospect for the future as he climbs towards a place in the French senior team. Signing for Tottenham may just give him the experience and gravitas he needs to claim a spot.
Auxerre vice-president Gerard Bourgoin has been quoted as saying:

"There are very serious discussions with Tottenham but they are not finalised yet”

Kaboul is an imposing defender at 190cm tall. He’s agile and adpet and could seriously challenge from day 1 for a starting palace. He’s very polished for his age.

Here he is scoring in a league game against Le Mans:


Vaz Te looks to jumpstart career

20 year old Ricardo Vaz Te has fueled transfer speculation by admitting that he would like to leave Bolton Wanderers and return to Portugal. Sporting Lisbon, flush with cash from their sale of Nani, appear to be the youngsters target.

Unsure how he will fit into new manager Sammy Lee's plans, Vaz Te has always been somewhat erratic in his form for the club. Feeling like he needs first team football to develop consistency, a move abroad might just suit him well. For Bolton, a loan deal might be of more interest because in my opinion, Vaz Te is a really talented player who needs to find his feet.

At Bolton he’s always been surrounded by players, for better or worse, more experienced and consistent than him. I have never rated Kevin Davis and have always felt that Vaz Te should have been given his spot in the lineup to try and develop him. While my opinion on this in is not popular with Bolton supporters, I do think not allowing the kid a chance to prove himself without the pressure of the up and down bench-and-start roller coaster he has been on has potentially spoiled a chance to have a really hot property on your hands.

Vaz Te told a Portuguese paper:

"I always had the objective to play in the Portuguese league. My preferred club would be Sporting. It is a team that promotes youth”

Vaz Te came through the academy ranks is likely going to start for Portugal in tonight's Olympic Games play-off against Italy in Nijmegen.

I think Bolton should consider a season long loan at Sporting with a season of first team football -something he has never had. From there we can see what Vaz Te is worth.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Holland vs Portugal 2006: History for the wrong reasons

During the World Cup in 2006 a dirty, ill-tempered quarterfinal was played between Holland and Portugal with a madman referee that ended with a record 16 yellow and 4 red cards.

Both teams finished the game with nine men: Deco and Costinha were dismissed for Portugal, while Khalid Boulahrouz and Gio van Bronkhorst were ejected for Holland.

Russian referee Valentin Ivanov, in what I think was one of the worst refereeing performances ever, set the tone by booking players early on for late tackles that he could have given free-kicks for.

It was unwatchable, here are the fouls:


Ryan Giggs’s slaloming supergoal

During the 1999 FA Cup semifinal replay against Arsenal, Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs, playing with a groin injury, took the ball from his own half –ala Maradona against England or Michael Owen against Argentina, to score a superb winner.

Patrick Vieira made a careless pass across the center circle. Giggs picked up the ball in space within his own half and started dribbling at the Arsenal defense. The first defender to approach was Vieira, Giggs jinked left to avoid a challenge. Yorke makes a fantastic diagonal run which causes the defense to hesitate and Giggs took advantage of this.

Next, Giggs wrong-foots a defender and evades a third challenge at which point 3 defenders converge and all looks lost. Giggs’s brilliance then shone as he played a perfect ball to himself directly into the box, takes on a shoulder challenge and with a defenders leg outstretched, unleashes a cannon just under the bar leaving David Seaman with no chance. It proved to be the winner and a 109th minute gem.


Royston Drenthe

The player making the greatest impact at this month’s UEFA Under 21 Championships is Royston Drenthe of Feyenoord. He’s being touted to go just about everywhere with no less than 6 clubs making inquiries: West Ham, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Newcastle and Manchester City as well as Scottish outfit Celtic.

Drenthe has been outstanding during the tournament. A left back converted to winger for the tournament, he has only played one season in the Dutch top flight for Rotterdam side Feyenoord. In his first game against Israel he as deemed to be playing against weak competition but in the second game against Portugal, Drenthe jinked, skipped, slid and all around terrorized the Portuguese defense. If a defender (both Portuguese defenders –starter and sub to replace him, were yellow carded) when they stood off he's let off a hard strike, charge to the by-line or zing cross into the box. He was a real handful and cemented his class against Belgium in the final group match.

As scouts left the matches, I’m sure they were pondering what it would cost them to prize the player away from Feyenoord.

Drenthe’s agent said he’s received about 15 inquiries from different clubs throughout Europe.
He’s a dedicated kid:

“After the Portugal game I didn’t get any sleep until 4am. I’m still so pumped up and I lie and think about my game; analysing what went well and what went wrong. Only after rerunning the game several times do I fall asleep.”

The 20-year-old Drenthe could be available for a modest 3.6m pounds but I can’t imagine that he would sell for that price should he have anymore standout performances at the tournament. The asking price is well within the reach of most clubs so a bidding war could ensue. It’s up to Feyenoord which could easily block a deal and cash in next season where the player will likely garner a bigger sum.


Sensational rumor? How about this…

Barcelona are quickly becoming the revulsion of all things Arsenal as it has sensationally been rumored that it’s not just about Theirry Henry anymore but that now coach Arsene Wenger has become a target of the Catalans.

Apparently the story emerged after Barcelona lost out on the La Liga title on the last day of the season, coach Frank Rijkaard will quit (or, ehm, be asked to quit) and Barcelona will look to Arsene Wenger as a replacement. It’s rumored that when Wenger met with Barcelona financial director Feran Soriano in Paris last week his own future was a topic of discussion in addition to Theirry Henry.

Could it be real? Definitely. You could never seen him takeover another Premiership club, but another country? Yes. Wenger, who has one year remaining on his current contract, has not extended, and is frustrated departure of former Vice Chairman David Dein who was his main ally on the club's board. Additionally, Wenger might be interested in a new challenge. Coaches, like players sometimes need that to keep their motivation high.

Is it likely? No, not at all. The Spanish press is notorious for its sensational journalism and flexibility with facts. Wenger is well, well, well settled in London and is a sacred cow among Arsenal supporters. I can see Soriano making mention of Wenger coaching Barca but I can’t see it going any further than that. At Arsenal Wenger has very long term plans and is the type of person to see them thru.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Butt of a joke

Bayer Leverkusen keeper Hans-Jorg Butt created a truly hilarious situation after scoring on a penalty against Schalke 04.

Known for his free kicks and penalty taking, Butt made the score 3-1 against Schalke with a penalty. Full of hubris and delight he proceeded to hi-five every player on the pitch for Levelkusen, taking his sweet time and paying for it.

As he went back into his goal he found Schalke has scored. The play was restarted quickly and Schalke's Mike Hanke took advantage of the egregious celebrations to score a goal from near the half way line. He’ll never do that again.

Here is the video of it:


Where will Eidur land?

Reports in Spain have claimed that Barcelona are considering a swap sending Eidur Gudjohnsen to Manchester United for defender Gerard Pique. West Ham United are ready to table as much as 12m pounds, well above the speculated valuation.

Gudjohnsen apparently wants to leave Barcelona because of limited first team football. He’s fallen down the choice sheet behind Samuel Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi. If this is what he wanted, I wonder what Gudjohnsen was thinking when he moved to Barca. He must have known he was not going to be first choice, if that is what he cares about, why not play somewhere where he would be. Not to knock his talent, I think he’s a classy player but you have to be realistic.

If he really wants to be the main guy, West Ham are very interested in having him. I understand he wants Champions League football, but he’ll remain a 2nd or 3rd choice option at Manchester United. Should Manchester be willing to swap for Pique, a former member of Barca’s youth team, it would probably be a better situation than he has, but not ideal.

Where the previous number bandied about was 8m pounds, West Ham would be coming in with an offer that Barcelona would take very seriously. It would take some convincing to get Gudjohnsen to share that feeling, West Ham, now with an Incelandic owner, would be an idea place as they look to revamp their squad and would likely be very effective next to Carlos Tevez should he stay (and I think he should).


Birmingham rejected for now

West Ham have rejected a 3m pound offer from Birmingham for striker Marlon Harewood.

The 27-year-old striker has been told he can leave the club but West Ham are waiting on a better bid, near 5m pounds. Harewood joined West Ham in 2003 from Nottingham Forest and was instrumental in their 2005 promotion campaign racking up 22 goals. Year before last Harewood scored 16 goals but had a let down season as did many Hammer last term with only 4 goals.

While Birmingham has been first to the table with cash in hand, Blues do come in with a renewed offer it is likely they will face competition from Charlton who are losing Darren Bent and Fulham needing help just about everywhere. A reunion with Alan Pardew would seem on the cards but to step down to the Championship when a move to a club in the Premiership looms would make it unlikely.

Harewood, I’m sure, would like to stay in the top flight and could get intransigent if he wanted, but so far he’s been relaxed about it:

"I just can't wait to be scoring again and winning games for a team, that's what I want to be doing."

The Blues have already had a bid recently rejected for West Brom's Diomansy Kamara but succeed in signing Middlesbrough defender Stuart Parnaby and a permanent deal for Arsenal midfielder Fabrice Muamba.

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Golden boot back to Italy

Roma striker Francesco Totti has won the European Golden Boot award. Going into the last game of the season Ruud van Nistelrooy of Real Madrid had a chance to match or pass Totti for the award but came up limp on 33 minutes of Real’s last game.

The 30 year old Totti scored 26 times for Roma to finish one goal ahead of van Nistelrooy.

With the weighted scoring system his 26 goals in Serie A gave him 52 points, two points ahead of Van Nistelrooy with 50.

Totti played the entire World Cup and season with a pin in his ankle. He was injured last season and took the measure so he could compete.

Totti, normally an attacking midfielder took a different role with his club this season and it has paid off for him. Last year compatriot Luca Toni of Fiorentina won the award.

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First 10 million takes him

Chelsea have announced that winger Shaun Wright-Phillips can leave Stamford Bridge for 10m sparking interest from Tottenham, West Ham, Manchester City and Newcastle United.

Failing to impress Jose Mourinho after a 21m pound move from Manchester City 2 years ago, the 25-year-old could serve to generate transfer funds for strengthening other areas of the squad. Selling seems to be the only means for Chelsea as Roman Abramovich's funds have been cutoff for new players as the club has been focused on free transfers.

Tottenham are reported to be keenly interested along with host of other clubs including his previous home at Manchester City. Tottenham are desperate for a left winger, but I think it would be awkward having Lennon and Wright-Phillips on the flanks. Although not noted as a position that size is important, two such diminutive players could see Tottenham outmuscled in midfield. A swap for Chimbonda would be equal value.

Alan Curbishley is also keen after missing out on Darren Bent, as he looks to rebuild his West Ham side after a disastrous season of underperforming players. Flush with cash, West Ham seem to have no problems with the asking price.

Manchester City would be a natural place for Wright-Phillips to return to but the price tag would be steep for a City side in debt.

While Newcastle seem obsessed with a new defense, cash remains for a new winger. Newcastle could be an excellent place for Wright-Phillips, especially with manager Sam Allardyce’s reputation for recuperating careers. In my opinion it’s the best team he could join because there is very little downside for him personally. I also think the cast of Newcastle's players would do Wright-Phillips some good, especially playing with Mark Viduka and Michael Owen.

Personally, I am suprised. Last season Wright-Phillips was on the verge of coming good at Chelsea. I thought he could have had a breakout season next year. To see him being sold means to me that there is indeed no money available.

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Kanu likely leaving

It appears almost certain that former Nigerian international Nwankwo Kanu will quit Fratton Park this summer after failing to reach agreement on a new contract. This will probably be the end of the player’s career in the Premiership as he appears headed back to Ajax Amsterdam on a free transfer.

The 30 year old striker had a resurgent season scoring 12 times.

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp expects the player to leave after contract negotiations broke down. He was offered a single year contract and would be given a second year should he play in 20 games for the club.

It appears the 20 game clause is the cause of the contract breakdown. While Redknapp has indicated Portsmouth would extend the contract for a second season in case an injury forces the player under the clause but still maintains good form. The clause is a protection against a great drop in form. It’s not too much to ask from Kanu, who has been known for spats of laziness and swings in form, it would serve as a motivator.


Miguel Veloso

Watching all the games of the UEFA Under 21 Championships so far, the one player that has impressed me more than any other is Miguel Veloso of Sporting Lisbon. Arsenal have their sights set on him, but Manchester United could prove a spoiler as they have a right of first refusal.

The Portuguese is a natural defensive midfielder and has been so impressive of late he is already challenging for a place on the senior side, where Felipe Scolari sees the 21 year old as a potential stalwart for midfield as Portugal challenge for a Euro 2008 place.

Physically they are different but there are a lot of similarities to Patrick Vieira, especially in terms of tenacity and passing. Veloso shows great composure and excellent technique. He has a great free kick as well as the ability to link up play. The 21-year-old admits he would be interested in a move to England:

"There is a lot of quality in England and for any young player it is an attractive proposition."

Reports in Portugal claim Arsene Wenger will approach Sporting Lisbon to discuss a transfer within weeks.

Veloso's agent Paulo Barbosa confirmed interest:

"There are some big European clubs in for the kid, but not only clubs from England but also Spain - but the subject is exclusively for Sporting, Veloso has a deal signed until June 2013 and club is not willing to negotiate his exit."

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger had Veloso and Joao Moutinho watched in all three of Portugal U21's group games at the European Championships. Veloso is also on Manchester United's radar screen and have a first refusal agreement with Sporting which could potentially keep him away from Arsenal. You would imagine after signing Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich there would not be much interest but nonetheless, United have also been tracking the player closely and had scouts at Portugal’s games to watch him.

Couldn’t find a decent video compilation of his skills, so here is a goal from a free kick at the U-21 Championships:

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