Thursday, March 27, 2014

All the latest transfer gossip across Europe!

With the football season entering the final stages of the current season both in England and abroad, and with the World Cup kicking-off in 77 days many clubs are looking ahead to the Summer for potential new signings, as well as the negotiation of new contracts, in order to strengthen their squads for next season. This is being done in many cases without the clubs knowing for sure what league division or competitions they will be playing in next season. Today (Thursday 27th March) is also the last day of the loan window for those clubs wishing to boost their squads now, in a final effort to end their season on a high!

Here is a round up of all the latest transfer gossip across Europe today!

Is your club involved?

Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Southampton, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Fiorentina, Aston Villa, Porto, Zenit St Petersburg, Roma, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Benfica, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan, Liverpool, St-Etienne, PSG, Juventus, Everton, Dynamo Moscow, Spurs, West Ham, Arsenal, Wolfsburg, Lazio, Dinamo Zagreb, Barcelona, Hamburg, Stoke, Aston Villa, Fulham, Monaco, PSV, Freiburg, Bordeaux, Rennes, Southampton, Valencia, Ipswich, Deportivo La Coruna, Hertha Berlin, Nuremberg, Wigan, Bolton, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Colchester, Charlton, Watford, MK Dons and Hartlepool..............are all caught up in the latest transfer news/rumours across Europe, as we speak.

Chelsea are keen to sign Atletico Madrid's Spain international striker Diego Costa (right) 25, in a £40m summer deal - Daily Mail and The Sun

Chelsea are in pole position to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa in a £40 million deal this summer. The buy-out clause of the Brazilian striker is about 38 million euros and Blues can offer in the trade also Fernando Torres- Daily Express

Southampton and England left-back Luke Shaw, 18, is a target for Real Madrid, who are confident of beating Chelsea and Manchester United to sign him - Daily Mirror

Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke's future won't be certain until after the World Cup, the 23-year-old Belgium international's agent has claimed - Daily Mirror and

Arsenal reportedly have no plans to offer midfielder Mikel Arteta a contract extension. The 32-year-old, who will only have one year remaining on his current deal at the end of the season, could be surplus to requirements at the Emirates Stadium -

Chelsea have stepped up their bid to convince Atletico Madrid's (on loan from Chelsea) Belgian international goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (right) to sign a new contract and have met with his representatives for more talks -

Manchester City are ready to make a move for Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna. The French defender is set to become a free agent in the summer when his current contract with the Gunners expires - Daily Mirror

Porto are preparing for the imminent sale of 26 year-old defensive midfielder Fernando to Manchester City - Sport TV (Portugal)

Manchester United are reportedly planning to table a bid for Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay. United are thought to be aiming to agree a fee for the centre-back before this summer's World Cup finals, with Manchester City and Zenit St Petersburg also said to be monitoring the situation - The Mirror

Juventus' Chilean star Arturo Vidal (right) has again played down speculation linking him with a move away from the club, insisting he is happy in Turin. Vidal's future has been the subject of conjecture for some time with the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all credited with an interest in his services - and

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly preparing to trigger 23 year-old AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic's £29m release clause - Le 10 Sport (French sports newspaper)

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers may renew his interest in signing Barcelona full-back Martin Montoya after the Catalan club revealed a £16.5m release clause in his new contract - International Business Times and

Croatian Alen Halilovic (right) has agreed a switch from Dinamo Zagreb to Barcelona. The 17-year-old attacking midfielder will cost Barca an initial 2.2million euros (£1.8m) with add-ons depending on his achievements at the Nou Camp - and

Borussia Dortmund are pondering a move for Spurs defender Vlad Chiriches, 24, who is valued at £8m as Dortmund look to find a replacement for Mats Hummels - The Sun

Aston Villa have decided to prepare a new contract for forward Gabriel Agbonlahor. The 27-year-old only has one year remaining on his current deal. Villa are willing to hand Agbonlahor, who made his debut in 2006, a four-year contract when discussions begin in the summer.
The club are expected to be busy over the next few months, with reports suggesting that both Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar could put pen to paper on new contracts - The Telegraph

Manchester United's Nani will move to Inter Milan on loan until the summer with an option for a permanent deal - O Jogo (Portuguese daily sport newspaper)

Tottenham are hopeful of beating Liverpool to the signing of exciting Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi (right) at the end of the season - Metro

Chelsea's Demba Ba wants a summer move away from Stamford Bridge, with West Ham interested - Daily Mirror

Arsenal and Liverpool transfer target Jeremy Menez, 26, has hinted that he may join Juventus from Paris St-Germain this summer - L'Equipe (French daily newspaper)

Crystal Palace are weighing up whether to recall Welsh international Jonathan Williams (right) from his loan spell at Ipswich Town. Pulis revealed he watched the 20-year-old score Ipswich's opener during their 2-1 victory over Derby on Tuesday and was impressed -

St-Etienne's Kurt Zouma has decided to join Chelsea but probably only in the summer. However, both sides have still to find an agreement - L'Equipe (French daily newspaper)

Liverpool are eyeing a move for Dynamo Moscow's Hungarian winger Balazs Dzsudzsak in the summer but could face competition from Merseyside rivals Everton - Daily Express

Spurs, Arsenal and Hertha Berlin are all vying for the services of Nuremberg's Switzerland international striker Josip Drmic, 21 (right). The striker would reportedly cost around €5m - Talksport and Bild (German tabloid newspaper)

Tottenham are set to step up their interest in Manchester City defender Micah Richards, who is set to leave the Etihad this summer. There are also claims Liverpool could make a move for Richards amid uncertainty over Glen Johnson's future at Anfield -

Stoke City are keen to sign Wolfsburg's 34-year-old Croatian striker Ivican Olic but could face competition from German club Hamburg - Bild (German tabloid newspaper)

Freiburg defender Fallou Diagne (right) says that clubs from across Europe have expressed an interest in acquiring his services. He claims the likes of Aston Villa, Fulham, Borussia Dortmund, Bordeaux and Rennes are all chasing his signature, and he will make a decision on his future when the summer transfer window opens - Radio station RFM (Bordeaux radio) and The Sun

Juventus are close to signing Dani Osvaldo from Southampton but Valencia are also interested - Gazzetta Dello Sport (Italian sports newspaper)and Corriere Dello Sport (Italian sports newspaper)

20 year-old center back Pablo Insua has extended his deal with Deportivo La Coruna until June 2018 -

Guly do Prado, Jonathan Forte and Lee Barnard look increasingly likely to leave Southampton this summer - The Daily Echo

Ryan Bertrand says he'd be more than happy to consider making his loan move from Chelsea to Aston Villa permanent in the summer - Birmingham Mail

Josh McEachran (right) insists he is loving life at Wigan and would consider a permanent move from Chelsea in the summer - Fulham Chronicle

Monaco boss Claudio Ranieri has said that he feels on-loan Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov wants to stay at the club past the end of the season - L'Equipe (French daily newspaper)

Fulham's Costa Rican international Bryan Ruiz, who has been on loan at Dutch side PSV Eindhoven since January admits he is unsure as to whether he will return to West London at the end of the season - Nieuwsblad (Belguim newspaper)

Nottingham Forest have confirmed the on-off loan signing of Lee Peltier (right) from Leeds United until the end of the season - and

Bolton have signed 21 year-old midfielder Andy Robinson on loan from Southampton for the remainder of the season - and BBCSport

Sheffield Wednesday boss Stuart Gray has refused to rule out a summer move for Sunderland striker Connor Wickham, 20, who played on loan for the Owls earlier this season - Sheffield Star

Crystal Palace defender Alex Wynter is set to join Colchester today on loan -

Arsenal are keeping a close watch on Charlton's Jordan Cousins - but his only focus is on helping the Addicks avoid the drop - London Evening Standard

Charlton have signed Italian midfielder Davide Petrucci, (right), 22 on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season - South London Press and

Watford defender Lloyd Doyley has penned a 12-month extension to his contract at Vicarage Road and The Hornets have also drafted in former Manchester City and Liverpool winger Albert Riera on a short-term deal -

Everton youngster Matthew Kennedy has joined MK Dons on a youth loan until the end of the season -

Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper has completed a double swoop by landing Sunderland duo Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver both 20,on loan until the end of the season -

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Satirical Look at the Works of AVB - Past and Present!

André Villas-Boas' managerial merry-go-round had temporarily ground to a halt, but don't worry people because my word the Lord loves a tryer, and yes AVB has managed quite literally to get himself re-ememployed after being presented with his most recent P45 only last December.

File:FK Zenit St Peterburg.svgSo as not to disappoint his 'fans' in Coimbra, Porto, West London and North London, and in order to give newspaper writers more column inches he continues to deliver an unrivaled rollercoaster of 'excitement' - this time by taking his mobile home and footballing managerial expertise to Russia. Following a three month sabbatical 'footballing giants' Zenit Saint Petersburg have unveiled AVB as their new manager in what will be the Portuguese's fifth managerial appointment at a fifth different club in as many years, and he is still only 36 years-old himself - quite an achievement!
As the song goes: "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down, pissing the night away, pissing the night away.......!"

André Villas-Boas spent eight months as manager of Académica de Coimbra from October 2009 to the Summer of 2010, then one year as manager of Porto where he was very successful, before resigning, and a further nine months as manager of Chelsea before being relieved of his managerial duties.

On 3rd July 2012, it was announced that Villas-Boas had been named as the new Tottenham Hotspur head coach. On 16th December 2013, after 17 months at Tottenham it was announced that Villas-Boas had left the club "by mutual consent" (in layman's terms, he resigned before being fired), and just yesterday he signed a two-year deal with Zenit Saint Petersburg, replacing the sacked, but wonderfully named Luciano Spalletti, who obviously felt that his Italian tenor voice would be appreciated more in a theatrical setting in the Provincia di Firenze than in the dugout at the Petrovsky Stadium in Northern Russia, located at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea.

André Villas-Boas footballing beliefs mean that in his opinion he has the knowledge to redesign a club structure from the top down, using a blueprint derived from footballing first principles. In London this was not possible as he failed to show enough respect for the parameters within which he was working. In a footballing sense, this meant he was intent on imposing a style of play that didn’t account for the strengths of weaknesses of the players at his disposal - 'the opposite of the point of tactics.'
The result was an ongoing montage of Jan Vertonghen and John Terry lying on their back somewhere near the halfway line as an opposition forward(s) raced clear to score.

He failed to appreciate the need to keep the media, fans, and players on side. It’s unfortunate that Chelsea’s players were so resistant to change, and that Spurs’s best striker was such a notoriously difficult character, whilst he was in charge at least. But dealing with these problems is a part of the hugely financially rewarding job.

Roman Abramovich paid Porto £13.3million in compensation in order to appoint Andre Villas-Boas as the man to succeed Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea.
  Leaked: Terry's letter to Abramovich that got AVB sacked!

After his sacking Andre Villas-Boas said he was naïve to try and introduce a new style of play at Chelsea and spoke about how he "should have respected" English football culture after his arrival in the Premier League from Porto.
"Chelsea were a counter-culture team, constructing play from the goalkeeper onwards.
I should have respected that culture from the start. I thought it was possible to establish a different game pattern in a country with a radically different culture."
In otherwards he believed he new best and went into West London all guns blazing in an attempt to completely change a club, that ultimately only needed tinkering with. Did he have to remove his head before walking in and out of any doors or just widen them on his arrival at Stamford Bridge!
At Tottenham his position became untenable not just because of a run of poor performances, which in part was due to his apathetic back-room staff, but AVB also demonstrated a streak of stubbornness that hindered him. His appalling eye for a picking a good player and thus blowing his Gareth Bale transfer budget on what can be best described as a bunch of insipid and at best pretty ordinary players was pivitol. But were they poor players or was he simply unable to manage and motivate them into a single and more effective cohesive unit - square pegs in round holes spring to mind!

Also his failure in controlling popular perceptions of him was central to a huge divide within the club and in particular among the fans. He seemed paranoid about an "agenda" against him by the media, which may have had a hint of truth given some of the things written about him. But he brought this cock and bull situation upon himself by continually sending out mixed messages through post-match conferences and confusing and conflicting interviews.
If the point of the media from a manager's perspective is to communicate his message with the fans, then it is unclear at what AVB was trying to achieve.

So AVB latest venture see's him try and revive the flagging fortunes of another wealthy club, who are having a poor season by their standards, but have a recent history of success. Zenit were the 2007, 2010 and 2011–12 champions of the Russian Premier League, runners-up in 2012-13 and the winners of both the 2007–08 UEFA Cup and the 2008 UEFA Super Cup.

Alexander Valeryevich Dyukov, the President of Zenit is also Chairman of the Management Board of Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Gazprom. Gasprom Neft are the fourth largest oil producer in Russia and are amongst one of the largest oil companies in the world by proven reserves.

On 1st January 2007 Gazprom also became the sponsor of the German Bundesliga club Schalke 04 paying up to €25 million a year for the privilege. On 23rd November 2009, the partnership was extended for a further 5 years. The sponsorship is worth $150m (USD) spread over the 5 years.

On 9th July 2010 Gazprom became sponsor of Serbian SuperLiga football club Red Star Belgrade.

On 9th July 2012 Gazprom became sponsor of UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup for three season until 2015.

On 17th July 2012 Gazprom also became the official Global Energy partner of the UEFA Champions League 2012 winners Chelsea for three seasons, lasting until 2015.

According to the BBC: "Mr Villas-Boas will be presented in St Petersburg as Zenit's new head coach on 20th March 2014."

I don't know who has the harder job, Zenit or André Villas-Boas?
Time will tell!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

MY England Squad for the 2014 World Cup.......and why!

With just 96 days to go until the 2014 World Cup Finals kick-off in Sao Paulo, England manager Roy Hodgson is expected to name his provisional 30-man squad - including seven standby players - in mid-May, shortly after the Premier League's conclusion.

The England boss is then scheduled to cut the list down to 23 for the start of June, two weeks before the tournament in Brazil gets under way.

Following this week’s unconvincing performance against a Denmark side that failed to qualify for the finals, the question on the lips of the nations football fans' is who will be selected to represent England at the greatest football show on earth. So what did we learn from Wednesday's narrow win over the Danes.
Not a lot to be fair, but three things in my opinion stood out!

Firstly Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge (right) do not seem able to play together as a front two. To play together Sturridge needs to play as an out and out striker through the middle with Rooney playing behind him or in a deeper position either side. Either way they are both on the plane. Secondly Adam Lallana must go to Brazil and probably deserves a place in the starting XI and thirdly Luke Shaw is a precocious talent, but this tournament has come too soon for the Kingston upon Thames born Southampton youngster.

As fans we all have an opinion, and rightly so! Up and down the country there will be discussions in the workplace, down the pub, on social media sites, as well as an array of articles by numerous newspaper hacks trying to justify their reason as to who and why 'Woy' should choose certain players ahead of others to wear the 'Three Lions' shirt with its single gold star above the crest, dating back 48 years!

Wednesday nights friendly was the penultimate game for England on home soil before the tournament begins in earnest. Three more friendly games stand between now and our opening Group D fixture against Italy in Manaus on 14th June.

Peru are at Wembley at the end of May before the squad fly out to the USA for their final two friendlies in Miami on 4th June and 7th June. However by the time England take to the field at Wembley on the 30th May, Mr Hodgson will, baring injuries, have selected his final squad to take to Brazil.
England without a shadow of doubt need to go into this tournament with a blend of experience and youth. I think Roy should select only seven defenders, freeing up an extra space in midfield or in attack rather than go for cover in every position. In players like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones he has what I would describe as 'multi-functional players.' In otherwards players that may not be first-choice in certain positions, but should they be required they have enough ability to adequately step-in, in this case as potential cover at right-back and at centre-half, plus Jones also possesses enough competence to play in the defensive midfield role as well if necessary. That versatility is extremely useful, and I think that is why they should go to the tournament ahead of the likes of Joleon Lescott or Steven Caulker.

The centre-halves pick themselves in Gary Cahill (right) and Phil Jagielka. The full-back debate however is a tricky one. Kyle Walker and Glenn Johnson are not good enough to both warrant selection so I would go with the Liverpool man, based on experience, which is key in that area. Walker has more pace,and is particularly good at using that pace going forward, but the full-backs primary function; particularly in tournament football is to defend. Johnson shades it for me on that basis. This discussion also applies to the left-back berth.

Leighton Baines is the stand-out player in that position, but should he get injured 15 minutes into the opening game against the 'Azzurri' then the option is the experienced Ashley Cole (107 caps) or the new kid on the block in Luke Shaw (one cap). For me it has to be Cole, despite his age and lack of regular first team action this season for Chelsea.

Shaw is raw but I admit he looks the real deal and I have no doubt he will be first choice right-back at the 2016 European Championships. The 'no to Shaw' debate is sure to upset many, but if I throw the name Joel Ward into the mix you are left with a similar conundrum. The Crystal Palace right-back has arguably been the South London club's player of the season. Superb reader of the game, great ball winner, pacey and another player who loves to bomb forward. The boy has bags of ability but do I think he could cut it at the highest level in the biggest tournament in world football. Possibly, possibly not! Would I take the risk? No I wouldn't and Ward is 24 year-old and has been playing professional football since 2008. Shaw is only 18 and only turned pro in 2012.

Midfield is key! Adam Lallana's form is impossible to ignore and that means players like Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley won't feature this Summer. I would also select Lallana ahead of Adam Johnson too. Granted Johnson has been in superb form in a struggling Sunderland side, but Lallana is a better player. Johnson drifts in and out of games, whereas Lallana always seems to want to take the game to the opposition. Lallana is also comfortable playing out wide or in a central position without it impeding his effectiveness as an attacking prowess.

Steven Gerrard has found a role for both club and country and that suits all concerned. Frank Lampard's experience is vital at a major tournament. At 35 he may struggle to get in the starting XI, but what a great player to have as cover or to bring on should the situation dictate. Not only an asset on the field but he would be invaluable to the youngsters in the squad in and around the training ground and the dressing room. Lampard is a born winner!

I would take Ross Barkley (right) as cover in central midfield, He is adept at playing in a deeper midfield role, should Gerrard or Jack Wilshere breakdown. Both are prone to knocks and niggling re-occurring injuries, so Barkley could feature prominently. I would choose Ross Barkley ahead of James Milner, who for me is far too conservative. I'd also go with Jordan Henderson, who is developing into an exciting young player. It's taken a while but he could be the surprise player in the England camp, as he finally fulfills the promise he showed during his time at Sunderland between 2009 and 2011. I think he is going to have a cracking end to the season at Liverpool — and I think he deserves his place as a squad member, although not necessarily as a starter.

Andros Townsend misses out this time because of his downturn in form and the emergency of others especially Raheem Sterling. England have a lot of players with pace but it’s what they do with the final ball that counts. Sterling has impressed me of late, after going through a poor spell around Christmas time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (right) is also in my opinion a better option than Townsend. Fit again after a long-term injury he like Lallana is at home in central midfield or on the flanks. All are quick and direct but they can't all go!
Townsend however could yet still make it if he has a really decent end to the season at Spurs and depending on whether Hodgson takes 4 or 5 strikers.

Danny Welbeck's adaptability to the left flank is the reason I choose to go with five strikers, therefore broadening the attacking options, particularly when chasing a game. He can play wide left of a three, he works hard for the team and is good in the air. His club form may be a concern, but for his country he remains a real threat.

Up front Jermaine Defoe is the best impact striker substitute we have, and although he has had little game time at Spurs this season, you always feel he is somebody who will get you a goal. His recent move to the MLS will have little or no bearing on his ability to score at a World Cup. Andy Carroll just gets the nod from me ahead of Rickie Lambert. He is an imposing figure and could be a nightmare for defenders. I like both Lambert and his Southampton team-mate Jay Rodriquez, but if Carroll stays fit and plays the final ten games of the season for West Ham I think he will go particularly as I believe he is rated highly by Hodgson.

As for the goalkeepers, Fraser Forster's displays for Celtic means he should get the nod ahead of Ben Foster and Jack Butland would be my third choice, as he is never going to see any action but should go in order to gain valuable tournament experience.

My England Squad for Brazil

1/ Joe Hart - Age 26

2/ Fraser Forster - Age 25  
3/ Jack Butland - Age 20

4/ Gary Cahill - Age 28
5/ Phil Jagielka -  Age 31
6/ Phil Jones - Age 22
7/ Chris Smalling - Age 24
8/ Leighton Baines - Age 29
9/ Ashley Cole - Age 33
10/ Glenn Johnson - Age 29

11/ Steven Gerrard - Age 33
12/ Frank Lampard - Age 35
13/ Jordan Henderson - Age 23
14/ Jack Wilshere - Age 22
15/ Ross Barkley - Age 20
16/ Adam Lallana - Age 25
17 /Raheem Sterling - Age 19
18/ Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - Age 20

19/ Wayne Rooney - Age 28
20/ Daniel Sturridge - Age 24
21/ Andy Carroll - Age 25
22/ Jermain Defoe - Age 31
23/ Danny Welbeck - Age 23

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Babe of the Month - Anouk Hoogendijk. Putting the 'sexy' back into Dutch football.

Anouk Anna Hoogendijk was born on 6th May 1985 in Woerden, Netherlands.

She is a Dutch female international footballer who can play at centre back or as a defensive midfielder.

Anouk joined FC Utrecht in 2007 after a spell training with SV Saestrum.
Hoogendijk realised her ambition of playing abroad when she signed an eight-month contract with English WSL (FA Women's Super League) club Bristol Academy in January 2011.

In February 2012 Hoogendijk returned to Utrecht, before moving on to newly formed AFC Ajax  in May 2012. The transfer represented "a dream come true" for Hoogendijk as she had been a girlhood supporter of Ajax's male team.

In January 2014, Hoogendijk signed for Arsenal Ladies (right) where she wears the number 6 shirt. The 28-year-old joined the Ladies' setup from Ajax and was the club's third defensive acquisition ahead of the 2014 campaign, following the signings of England captain Casey Stoney and goalkeeper Siobham Chamberlain.

Arsenal Ladies' general manager Vic Akers said on completing the signing of Hoogendijk :

"We are delighted to be welcoming Anouk to Arsenal Football Club. 
She's a top quality defender, who has proven herself on the international stage with Holland, in the Eredivisie with Ajax, and of course in the Super League with Bristol."

Anouk added: “I’m excited to be returning to England, and to have the chance to play for Arsenal Ladies. They are one of the leading women’s clubs in the game, with an amazing history, so it is a real privilege to have signed for them. I am looking forward to meeting my new team mates and preparing for the 2014 season.” 

On 6th August 2004 Hoogendijk debuted for the senior Netherlands women's national football team, as a half-time substitute in a 2–0 defeat to Japan in Zeist, Netherlands.

Hoogendijk played in every match as the Netherlands reached the semi-final of the UEFA Women's Euro 2009. In the quarter-final penalty shootout win over France, she struck the winning kick. The Netherlands were eventually knocked out of the tournament by England.
In June 2013 national team coach Roger Reijners selected Hoogendijk in the Netherlands squad for UEFA Women's Euros 2013 in Sweden, and to date Anouk has 94 international caps and eight international goals to her name.

You can follow Anouk on Twitter on Facebook and Instagram