Saturday, December 3, 2011

EURO 2012 Groups Drawn

The 2012 EURO's are slowly approaching, and just yesterday the groups for the initial stages of the tournament were drawn. Below are the resulting groups of the draw:

Group A

Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

Group B

Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Group C

Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia

Group D

Ukraine, Sweden, France, England

As for just about every international tournament, a group of death naturally formed. For the 2012 EURO's it seems that Group B will be the toughest of them all. 2010 World Cup finalists Netherlands along with Germany, Portugal, and Denmark will all make for a group which will definitely provide plenty of action. We also see the holders of the tournament, Spain, with a fairly difficult group in Group C. Croatia and the Republic of Ireland aren't to be taken lightly, and Italy's resurgence could threaten Spain's dominance.

Which of the following groups are you looking forward to the most? What are your predictions for the 2012 EUROs?  Share your thoughts and comments below!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trapattoni Extends Republic of Ireland Contract

Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has signed a new contract to stay in the role, meaning that he will coach the team throughout the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign. Those over at casinos online .com note how Ireland secured their place in Euro 2012 with an excellent play-off victory over Estonia earlier this month of course and the Italian signing a new deal is a testament to the job he has done.

 Speaking about signing a new deal, Trapattoni said:
“It is a huge honour and privilege to represent the Irish team and we look forward to continuing. Marco and I believe very strongly in the work that we are doing to grow and develop the Irish team.”
The former Italy manager will earn around £1.25m per year as part of this new deal, with businessman Denis O'Brien contributing to this fee and helping out the Football Association of Ireland.FAI chief executive John Delaney said:
“On behalf of the FAI board of management, we are very happy to agree a contract extension with Giovanni and his team. They have done fantastic work bringing us to a major tournament for the first time in 10 years. Giovanni's experience, professionalism and achievement in qualifying for Euro 2012 has impressed everyone including the players and the FAI board. The FAI board of management are particularly grateful to Denis O'Brien for his continuing contribution which gives the Irish team and supporters the benefit of Giovanni's services into the next World Cup campaign.”
Trapattoni certainly has a favourable record as manager of Ireland. He has guided them to 21st in the world rankings after 19 wins in his 42 games in charge. First and foremost, he has made the Irish hard to beat, something which is backed up by the fact that he has only lost on eight occasions during his time as manager. Then, as far as they Euro 2012 qualification campaign was concerned, they only lost once in their 10 games, conceding just eight goals along the way.

Many have argued that they need more attacking flair if they are to be successful in Euro 2012, but they have a few months to work on that and it is more important that they have a solid foundation to build upon. It is excellent news that Trapattoni has committed his future to Ireland too. There will be no speculation going into the tournament next summer now, something which could have distracted the players from the job in hand. The next significant date for Trapattoni and Ireland is the Euro 2012 draw which takes place on Friday afternoon.

What are you thoughts on Trapattoni's success at Ireland? Will it continue with this extension? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cavani Double Lifts Napoli Above Manchester City

Cavani's precise headed goal from a corner.

Edinson Cavani punished Manchester City in the penultimate round of Champions League group stage games, scoring a double in the Italian side's 2-1 victory. As Bayern Munich sealed the first place of the group mathematically, now Manchester City must hope that Villarreal (last placed in the group with zero points) can hold Napoli at bay while Mancini's men try and defeat Bayern Munich. While Manchester City's Champions League dream could be coming to an end, Napoli's is only beginning.

At the filled San Paolo stadium in Napoli, it was Edinson Cavani who cruelly punished Manchester City's defensive mistakes. The Uruguayan forward gave the Italian side the lead with a delicately flicked header at the near post, which slipped through into City's net. A simple lapse of concentration by Manchester City's defence lead to Napoli getting the lead in the 18th minute, forcing City to chase the game away from home.

Cavani celebrating after scoring his second and the winner.
While Balotelli managed to tap-in an equalizer after David Silva's parried shot, Manchester City were still under the spell of the 57,000 Napoli fans at the San Paolo. In the second half Cavani enchanted his fans yet again with another bit of magic. The Uruguayan was completely unmarked as he ran into the box to coolly finish Dossena's low cross. For the second time the crowd went wild, as did the overjoyed Cavani who ran around in celebration.

While there were plenty of chances in the remainder of the second half, neither side managed to capitalize. Balotelli and his teammates were constantly being stopped by Napoli's keeper De Sanctis, and Joe Hart made key interventions on the other side of the pitch against Lavezzi and Maggio. The match finished 2-1 for Napoli, and while Manchester City created plenty, their inability to finish and their defensive lapses ultimately punished them.

What are your thoughts on this key Champions League match? Can Manchester City qualify for the next round? Share your comments below!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

El-Hadji Diouf Signs for Doncaster Rovers

Controversial striker El-Hadji Diouf has dropped down to the Championship to join Doncaster Rovers on a three-month deal. The move is still to be rubber-stamped but the Senegalese player has decided to sign for Dean Saunders’ Yorkshire outfit after being released by Blackburn in the summer. The two-time African Footballer of the Year is well known in these parts after spells with Liverpool, Bolton, Sunderland and Rangers and he has, of course, been in his fair share of trouble.

In September 2003, Diouf was fined £5,000 and pleaded guilty to spitting at Celtic fans in a Uefa Cup quarter-final the previous March and in six years later, he was questioned by police over allegations he racially abused a ball-boy at Everton. In truth, that isn’t even the half of it but whether you like him or not, he has undoubted quality – of that there is no doubt. The majority of soccer betting will agree with this. 

However, you can’t deny that controversy follows Diouf wherever he roams and an adverse reaction from West Ham supporters is thought to be one of the main reasons why Hammers chief Sam Allardyce opted against signing him recently. It would have been the third time that Allardyce had worked with the 30-year-old but after he had a short trial spell at Upton Park recently, it seems that fan power won the day and Doncaster nipped in to agree a deal with Diouf. They have handed the man who commanded a £10million transfer fee when he joined Liverpool from Lens a short-term contract.

Saunders has already shown that he’s not afraid to take a gamble on Premier League experience with the acquisition of ex-Spurs defender Pascal Chimbonda, and the Welsh boss – who himself only moved to the Keepmoat Stadium earlier this season from Wrexham – will be hoping that another proven performer can help Rovers climb the Championship table. He will, however, be banking on the Diouf experiment lasting a shade longer than Chris Kirkland’s recent spell at Doncaster, when the injury-prone goalkeeper picked up a back spasm – cutting his loan move from Wigan short after less than a week.

As always with Diouf, it promises to be interesting. For Doncaster as a whole, they certainly need a lift after a poor start to the Championship campaign. They currently sit 23rd in the table after securing only two victories so far this season. They have also only scored nine goals in fourteen games, a very poor return indeed. So, even though Diouf is somewhat of a risk, they will hope that he can provide the spark to improve their fortunes in front of goal. He will get his first chance to impress at home to promotion chasing Middlesbrough tomorrow evening.

What are your thoughts on Diouf's move to the Championship? Will Doncaster succeed with this strange signing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Limitless Lazio Prospers With Klose's Goals

In the past, Lazio have always been lacking the final step to reach the "big" Serie A clubs. While the club has always been competitive under Claudio Lotito's control, they have never managed to push into the highest echelon of Italian football/soccer. Yet this season it seems that Lotito has created the perfect team. With the two brilliant signings of Djibril Cisse and Miroslav Klose, Lazio has now become a side which looks ready to compete for the scudetto.

It has been the former Bayern Munich striker, Klose, who has truly prospered at his new club. His six goals in the Serie A campaign have allowed Lazio to rise into third place, just one point from the top of the table. His latest goal was in this weekend's 3-0 away victory over Cagliari, a well placed diving header. It was Djibril Cisse who provided Klose the perfect cross, and the two forwards have shown fantastic chemistry throughout the entire season.

This weekend's victory was Lazio's fifth of the season, and it maintains their unbeatable away record. While Lazio suffered a loss at home early in the season to Genoa, after that Edy Reja's team has had few problems. A 2-2 draw away against AC Milan, and the 2-1 victory (Klose scoring the late winner in the final minutes) in the Rome derby over Roma show that this team is prepared to compete with the greatest of the Serie A.

Klose's diving header to make it 2-0 for Lazio away at Cagliari.
Next week Lazio will have to travel to face Napoli in one of the biggest tests of the season. It is important that Reja manages to strengthen his defence, as Napoli's trio of Lavezzi, Hamsik and Cavani have few problems creating goals. Of course, for Lazio we'll see Klose and Cisse up front with the trequartista Hernanes behind them.

It is going to be a massive clash, as both managers are astute tacticians and will have to find ways to shut the other side's forwards down. Yet Klose has shown that it's almost impossible to keep him quiet, as his movement and experience tears through defences. The German has been impeccable in front of goal, and he has propelled Lazio into third place. Whether or not his great scoring form will continue into next week at Napoli's San Paolo stadium, we'll just have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on Klose's magnificent form in Serie A? Can he lead Lazio to victory over Napoli next week? Can Lazio push for the scudetto? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mario Balotelli "is an enigma" says David Platt

Manchester City manager David Platt has spoken positively of Mario Balotelli’s behaviour off the pitch, describing him as an ‘enigma’ and praising his improved maturity. The Italian striker was in fine form at the weekend, scoring two goals as City hammered Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford, and he has certainly appeared to be more consistent at the start of this campaign.

 Referring to the much talked about 21-year-old, Platt said:
“I don't think he is a difficult player to manage. He is not someone who sulks. People saw his talent but they perhaps saw it in fleeting moments last season. His behaviour has always been good but there have been too many ups and downs in terms of his concentration levels. But they are there and have been for a good two to three months now. He will lose concentration but you can snap him back out of it. He is never down for a week - it is 10 seconds and then he is out of it.”
Platt finished off by saying, “He is an enigma”.

There is no doubting Balotelli is having a positive influence over City right now two. He played a starring role at Old Trafford of course, but he has scored four other goals so far this season and is a very important part of Roberto Mancini’s plans. He is a fan favourite as well. After opening the scoring at Manchester United, he revealed a t-shirt saying "Why always me?" and plenty have been bought by City fans to pay tribute to one of their newest heroes.

As for Mancini’e men as a whole, they will be very pleased with life right now. Many people with betting money have them down as favourites to win the title. Their derby victory at Old Trafford was a significant turning point in their rivalry with Manchester United. Of course, many sporting tips are saying that the race is far from over – there are only five points between them and second place after all – but there is no doubt whatsoever that City are showing signs of being a major force in world football over the next few years.

Next up for Manchester City and Balotelli is a Carling Cup tie against Wolves. Whether the Italian forward will be able to produce his magic again, we'll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on Balotelli and his growing role at Manchester City? Still a child or finally matured? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Boca Juniors Continue to Chase Tevez

Boca Juniors are hoping they can agree a deal to sign Manchester City's outcast striker Carlos Tevez, according to reports. The Argentine forward was suspended by the club earlier this month, following his refusal to come on as a substitute in City's Champions' League defeat to Bayern Munich. After that incident, Roberto Mancini has made it clear that Tevez will never play for the club again.

City have accepted that to allow the player to leave, they will have to accept a cut-price £20m for his services, but Boca may not have the financial resources to fund such a move. Instead, it is understood that they would be looking to bring Tevez in on a loan deal when the transfer window re-opens in January.

Sports betting pundits note how Tevez played for the Buenos Aires club during the early part of his career, between 2001 and 2004. Whether City would be open to loan deals remains to be seen, although it is believed they have already rebuffed several enquiries. West Ham were reported to have been interested in taking the forward back to Upton Park in a remarkable swoop, but their offer was shunned.

Boca Juniors fans would welcome Tevez with open arms.
Before the whole "substitution saga" broke out, Tevez had made his intentions to leave the club clear throughout the summer. He almost joined his former club Corinthians, but the deal collapsed at the last moment when the Brazilian side was unable to negotiate the financial side of the deal. While several Italian clubs have been linked, it remains questionable whether Tevez would be open to such a move, having expressed his interest to move closer to his family.

Indeed, that is what most of the issue in recent seasons has centred around, with him making it clear to those placing sports bets that he does not enjoy life in England. Tevez's scoring record at City has been mightily impressive. In just 65 league appearances, he has notched a staggering 43 goals, helping the side to qualify for the Champions' League for the first time last season. But now it seems like Manchester City don't need Tevez anymore with their star-studded forward line.

What are your thoughts on Tevez leaving Manchester City? Would a move back to Argentina be good for him? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Roberto Carlos Chasing Big Name Trio for Anzhi

Roberto Carlos instructing Anzhi players

Roberto Carlos recently hinted at Anzhi's interest in more world-class European players.The former Brazilian full-back and current joint-manager of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala has revealed he would like to bring Arsenal center forward Robin Van Persie to the club during the January transfer window.

During the summer transfer window, Anzhi surprised the football/soccer world by purchasing Samuel Eto'o from Inter Milan. The club made the Cameroon striker the best paid football player in the world after offering him wages believed to be around £8.7 million a year. Roberto Carlos said he could see Van Persie as well as Chelsea forward Nicolas Anelka and Santos youngster Neymar moving to Anzhi and in New Football Kits later this season.

The former Brazilian international said this to the French TV show Canal Football Club:
"We want to make a club the calibre of Real Madrid or Barcelona, Anelka is not the only player. Nene from PSG and Van Persie from Arsenal are players we are following. And Neymar? I talked to him. If Real, Barca or Manchester United cannot pay the transfer fee, we will pay it. (Owner) Suleyman Kerimov can offer what he wants."
Speculation over Van Persie’s future increased after the Dutchman entered the final two years of his current deal with Arsenal which expires in 2013. The Gunners haven't offered an extension, creating a scenario similar to the one that led to Samir Nasri joining Manchester City this summer. Therefore a transfer for Robin van Persie wouldn't be a massive surprise.

Roberto Carlos was the first big name arrival at Anzhi after billionaire Keriomov bought the club in February. Since then the Brazilian has gone on to take over managerial duties alongside Andrei Gordeyev after previous manager Gadzhi Gadzhiev was sacked earlier in the season. Roberto Carlos attracted big names to Anzhi like Chelsea's Yuri Zhirkov and PSV Eindhoven's winger Balazs Dzsudzsak. After that, Anzhi pulled off the big transfer which brought Samuel Eto'o to the club.

Anzhi are currently 8th in the Russian Premier League and are reportedly eying up a major European manager to take up the reins on a permanent basis. Whether or not this massive money project works out will be interesting, but for now it has attracted plenty of media attention.

What are your thoughts on Anzhi's transfers and policies regarding spending huge sums of cash? Are you against it? Should money be allowed to control the beautiful game? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inside EA Sports Vancouver Studios: FIFA 12

It's been a long time since I've posted, but I've got something pretty cool for any fans of the FIFA videogame series. I was able to get a tour of EA Sports in Vancouver, Canada where the FIFA series was developed. Not only that, but I got to talk to the lead gameplay producer of FIFA 12, Aaron McHardy, about the new player-impact engine, precision dribbling, and tactical defending. It was an amazing experience, and I made sure to snap as many pics as I could to share with you.

If you're only interested in reading about my chat with FIFA 12's lead gameplay producer Aaron McHardy, scroll down to the FIFA 12 section.

Just entering EA's majestic studios was an experience on its own. The Vancouver studio is EA's largest, and it hosts over 1,000 employees. Television screens were everywhere in the reception/waiting room area, showing off EA's latest games and releases. From there we made our way to see the kitchen and dining area. Steve, my guide, explained that any type of food (sushi, steak, hamburgers, waffles, and whatever else you could desire) was always available thanks to the dedicated staff of cooks. Of course everything from the grand architecture to the chairs and tables was polished and refined to a finite degree.

Volleyball and basketball courts next to the soccer field.
Talking with Steve, he took me around the building to show me the benefits and perks of being an EA employee. Cafe's litter the multiple floors, one of them even had a deep blue think-tank vibe environment to provide a calm place for employees to sip coffee and mentally prepare their work. But if you've got food and coffee, you're also going to have to exercise.

A majestic set of fields and courts outside (soccer/football field, outdoor basketball court, outdoor sand volleyball court) are laid out for the leisure of the employees. I was told that there's a pretty competitive community centered around playing soccer/football with teams and leagues going at the studios!

Yet being in rainy Vancouver, indoors is often where employees will be during a rainstorm. A vast expanse of gyms, massage rooms, along with an indoor basketball court are all provided for employees. Along with this, there's an expert physiotherapist who comes in a few times a week, allowing employees to book appointments when they're feeling injured or sore.

The gym is also impressive, offering just about every variety of machinery to strengthen the human body. There are also spinning, yoga, and aerobics classes offered at various times of the day for employees to take advantage of.

After seeing these impressive sports facilities, it was time to move onto the gaming areas. We passed through the empty NHL 12 development workplace (empty because the game had already been finished and shipped), and through Black Box where the legendary Need for Speed Series is crafted.

It's important to know that the studios aren't just a bland workspace. Every different game development area has its own vibe and feel. NHL's workspace was filled with hockey jerseys everywhere, FIFA's had soccer/football jersey's and banners covering every inch of free space, and the Need for Speed area was covered in brilliant screenshot artwork of past games.

EA Studios also features a large movie theatre/presentation room, allowing employees to present ideas, and sometimes watch the latest movies. For example, when the final instalment of the Harry Potter series was released, EA managed to get a copy and play it in their theater for their employees to watch.

The FIFA developers are big fans of real-life football/soccer as you can see
What also impressed me was an area called EA University. It was a room filled with powerful computers, made for the sharing of knowledge. The idea is that when the developers of a game find and create something new and interesting, they show it and teach it to the other developers so that they can implement it in other games. This allows for a constant level of growth, letting employees tutor each other and help EA's technology advance continuously.


At the end of the tour, I got a chance to sit down with Aaron McHardy, the lead gameplay producer of the FIFA 12 series, and ask him a few questions about the new game. I delved into the new Player Impact Engine, Precision Dribbling, and Tactical Defending, asking him what they were trying to achieve with these new additions.

Aaron explained that all three elements were put together in order to step up the FIFA series to a much more realistic level. All three new features complement each other, allowing for insightful defending, space-creating dribbling, and realistic collisions when the two combine. This trinity of features was created to allow players much more time around the top of the opposition's box, just like in real life games. This way the gamer can utilize the skills of Xavi, Sneijder or Lampard to their full potential, having the time to slip through balls for the forwards or blast a shot into the top corner.

Lead gameplay producer Aaron McHardy helped me
 understand the big and subtle changes in FIFA 12.
I also asked about the new shielding mechanic which allows players to dribble while shielding. Aaron explained to me that the dribbling system while shielding is the same as the Precision Dribbling, so that it can be as realistic as possible. This way forwards can position themselves with a few small touches, and then suddenly burst free of their marker or rifle a shot with the space they've created.

Finally, I asked about my favorite element of the FIFA series, skill moves. As you might have already seen, there are a few new skill moves in FIFA 12, like the elastico-chop (a tricky combination between an elastico and a heel chop) and some new freestyle moves. Aaron talked and pointed out how some previous skill moves have been refined.

Like the Scoop Turn (a particular favorite of Aaron's) used to be a very mechanic and robotic move in FIFA 11, difficult to properly pull off and with only one angle to turn at. But now in FIFA 12, the Scoop Turn has become a move which can be used in many new situations. It can be utilized to quickly breeze by a player on the wing, or it can be a full turn by a center-forward to nutmeg a defender. This is just one of the many moves which have been given a refined new set of animations, allowing for multiple uses in various situations.

Talking with Aaron, I got to see that the FIFA series is in good hands. Not only are they making some exceptional changes to the mechanics of the game, but the team is doing its best to make the game accurately depict the sport in real-life. With the passionate people (like Aaron) at the helm of the operation, the FIFA series will continue to be the best soccer/football game out there.

It was a wonderful experience getting to visit the studios and talk to Aaron. A big thanks to Steve Frost, Aaron McHardy, and all of EA Sports for making this possible. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Derdiyok Scores Breathtaking Goal for Bayer Leverkusen

I don't often watch the Bundesliga, and I rarely watch Bayer Leverkusen. Yet Eren Derdiyok's bicycle kick might be enough to turn me around, and make me into a Bundesliga fan.

Bayer Leverkusen were hosting Wolfsburg at home and drawing 1-1 after having taken the lead. In the 65th minute Derdiyok decided he wasn't interested in a draw, and so he performed a stunning bicycle kick winner.

Sounds simple doesn't it? Check the goal out below:


Is this the best goal you've ever seen? It shows great control, presence of mind to flick it over the defender, and the great amount of skill to bicycle kick it into the goal. Share your thoughts about the goal in the comments below!

Chelsea Underline Title Credentials

While the football world has spent the opening period of the Barclays Premier League season purring over the form of the Manchester Clubs, Chelsea have slipped firmly under the radar and have almost been written off as title contenders.It is true that both United and City have been the most impressive of the frontrunners so far and played the best football, but a quick look at the league table shows Chelsea tucked nicely in third place just three points behind the Manchester rivals.

It could be argued the media focus on Manchester is not unusual. Even when they were winning trophies, Chelsea were never the glamour club in the eyes of the media and Chelsea shirts have never topped the bestsellers charts at online football stores. The assumption in recent weeks has been that the title is Manchester bound this season. Yet nobody knows more about going too fast out the blocks than Chelsea. Last season, the title was all but handed to them after just a handful of games as they, like United and like City, looked unstoppable as they brushed aside all comers.

Yet problems were to follow as the Blues embarked on a disastrous season that at one stage saw them in danger of missing out on a Champions League spot and would ultimately cost boss Carlo Ancelotti his job. Chelsea's start has been solid if not spectacular. They were written off as title contenders after their opening day draw at Stoke, but as Manchester United showed this is not an easy place to go and it could prove to be a point gained rather than 2 points lost. Even in defeat at Old Trafford, Chelsea played well and were it not for some rather erratic finishing they could have taken something from the game.

The signs are positive for Chelsea. With Frank Lampard back among the goals with a hat-trick at Bolton and Fernando Torres starting to show signs of a return to form, there is more than enough quality for Andre Villas-Boas men to mount a title charge. After the disappointment of last season, perhaps operating in the shadows with lower expectation levels could be just what Chelsea need, particularly with Villas-Boas in his first season in the Premier League. I wouldn't class them as favourites, but Chelsea are definitely not just also-rans in the race for this years title.

Written by Colin Hill, a sports blogger who writes about football gifts.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chelsea and Manchester City Hitting Top Form

Sturridge refrained from celebrating for both of his goals.
Chelsea has been having problems getting into their groove this season while Manchester City is surrounded by the maelstorm of the Tevez fiasco. Yet both clubs displayed dominance this weekend, winning by four goal margins away from home. Chelsea defeated Bolton 5-1 while Manchester City broke down a dispirited Blackburn side 4-0.

Bolton Wanderers - Chelsea

Chelsea had few problems against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok stadium, Lampard claiming a hat-trick in a 5-1 victory for the Blues. A srong start and an early goal for Chelsea when Daniel Sturridge headed in from a corner just 90 seconds in. The young forward had been on loan at Bolton the season before, and he managed to refrain from any celebrations in front of the Bolton crowd. But there were plenty of celebrations when Frank Lampard finished off a smooth Chelsea move (with flicks of the heel and one-touch passing) on the 15 minute mark. Any questions about Lampard's age, or ability to continue being an integral part of the Chelsea system were already being dispelled.

Lampard celebrates his three goals.
As the first half wore on for Bolton, it only got worse for the young keeper Bogdan (replacing injured Jaaskelainen). A low shot from the edge of the box by Sturridge bounced over the Bolton keeper and into the net for Chelsea's third. The fourth came soon after, with Bogdan spilling a long shot by David Luiz, allowing Frank Lampard to jump on the rebound and tuck it away. The first half ended with Chelsea 4-0 up, Sturridge and Lampard both on fire as Bolton fans booed their players (especially Bogdan) into the dressing rooms.

In the second half we saw a revival of Bolton's spirits and strength. Coyle's team pulled one back about a minute into the second half, Boyata powerfully heading it in from a well-delivered free kick by Petrov. Now we were beginning to see Chelsea's frailty. Bolton continued pushing forward, creating some chances and even forcing Ivanovic to make a goal-line clearance (which looked slightly over the line). Yet when Lampard completed his hat-trick (another well crafted passing move between him and Drogba), Chelsea seemed content.

Chelsea showed their dominance away from home against Bolton, with a slick passing style which Andre Villas Boas has been instrumental in achieving. Without Fernando Torres, the team has no problem creating goals. Daniel Sturridge has been improving at a rapid pace, and Frank Lampard has shown that he still has quite a bit to offer the team in their run for the title.

Mario Balotelli's anticipating finish.
Blackburn Rovers - Manchester City

As for Manchester City, Roberto Mancini's players met much less spirited opposition at Blackburn's Ewood Park. The first half was a tight, with Aguero having to be substituted (Samir Nasri replaced him) for injury in the 28th minute, leaving Mario Balotelli as the central striker. The Italian was dangerous, with shots just inches wide and curling onto the post, yet Manchester City went into halftime with the score at 0-0.

In the second half Manchester City managed to find the breakthrough goal thanks to some magic by Adam Johnson. The winger got the ball at the edge of the box from a corner, and he promptly curled it into the far top corner. Just two minutes later Balotelli got his well-earned goal, a tap-in assisted by substitute Samir Nasri. At this point Blackburn were unable to retaliate and the match was already decided.

City fans share their thoughts about Tevez.
Share yours in the comments below!
Nasri got the next goal after some tricky movement and passing with David Silva, and Savic got the fourth with a well-placed header in the dying minutes. While the media has exploded around the Tevez ordeal, Roberto Mancini managed to keep his team together and break down Blackburn. Even if Aguero had to come off for a bit of a groin problem, Balotelli showed that he has the strength and ability to be the lone striker in Mancini's system.

What are your thoughts on Manchester City and Chelsea's impressive performances? Do you think one of these two sides will win the title? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, September 12, 2011

AC Milan and Inter Milan Struggle in Serie A Start

Frustrated Forlan alongside triumphant Miccoli

The Serie A has been dominated by the two main Milanese clubs for a bit more than half a decade. While they have had some testing competition by the likes of Roma and Juventus, the past ten years have seen AC Milan or Inter Milan win the scudetto seven times. Yet this start to the Serie A was different than the past few, instead we saw Inter Milan spectacularly lose 4-3 to Palermo, and AC Milan squeeze out a 2-2 draw against Lazio.

While Inter have been doing their best to rebuild after the last chaotic season, there are still big problems with the nerazzurri. While away against Palermo they were able to create three goals, it was the disorganized three man defence which allowed Palermo to score four times.

While Wesley Sneijder started on the bench, after about 30 minutes of suffering Inter coach Gianpiero Gasperini decided to take out the selfish Zarate and put the Dutch playmaker in. Things began to click, and two goals by Diego Milito, and a sumptuous goal by Forlan were created thanks to Sneijder. 

Yet the man of the match had to be Palermo's captain Fabrizio Miccoli. Palermo's number ten scored twice and also provided an assist for his teammate Abel Hernandez.  Julio Cesar was impotent against Miccoli's powerful free kick, along with Mauricio Pinilla's long range rocket for the fourth goal. It was plain defensive disorganization which led to Inter's loss, along with Palermo's brilliant passing and attacking.

AC Milan hosted an equally strong opponent at the San Siro drawing 2-2 with Lazio. It was a dream start for the Roman club, two goals in about 20 minutes scored by the two new signings, Miroslav Klose and Djibril Cisse. A wonderful turn and finish by the German and a flicked header by Cisse seemingly put AC Milan out of action.

Early on in the game Alberto Aquilani had wasted a precious chance alone in front of the Lazio keeper Bizarri. Yet with time the attacking duo of Cassano and Ibrahimovic began to create, and eventually the former set up the latter for an easy tap-in. Just four minutes later, the short and tubby Antonio Cassano headed in the equalizer from a corner, bringing the score level at halftime.

Djibril Cisse celebrating his goal for Lazio
While the score remained at 2-2 until the end of the match, there were plenty of chances from both sides to score more. Cassano put some opportunities wide of the goal, while Hernanes also failed to score when set up with a simple tap-in. Both sides were hungry for the win, and deserved the point.

Ultimately the strikers were the key men of the match. Cisse's pace and power were devastating to the Milan backline while Klose's quick movement was a constant threat. On the other side of the field, Ibrahimovic and Cassano's creativity was unrivalled, the two of them finding each other again and again with chipped through balls and perfectly placed passes. Yet neither of the pair of strikers was able to capitalize the chances and bring home three points.

While Inter and AC Milan are still obvious title-contenders, this first match-day is a warning that other clubs have improved noticeably and are ready to win. This is also a heads-up that Lazio and Palermo are clubs to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Whether they will be able to overthrow the Milan clubs's dominance in the Serie A, only time will tell.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Roma and Liverpool Kings of Summer Transfer Window

This summer transfer window has been fairly generic. We've seen Fabregas go to Barcelona, Atletico Madrid lose De Gea, Aguero and Forlan, along with a myriad of other deals which we all expected and knew were going to happen. There have been very few big surprises regarding signings, and instead we mostly got what we were waiting for as football/soccer fans.

While many clubs made the signings we all knew were going to happen, there have been a few which decided to build things a little differently. Liverpool bought a brilliant list of new players including Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique, and finishing the window off with the arrival of Craig Bellamy. Of course, while experienced players are important, Liverpool have also kept an eye on some younger players. The 20 year-old Uruguayan central defender Sebastian Coates will have time to bed in, play some games as a substitute, and slowly become essential to the Red's backline.

What will also help is the abundance of versatile players Liverpool have signed such as Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam. These new signings strengthen Liverpool's midfield and secure any holes there might be in case of injuries or suspensions throughout the season. A willingness to spend accompanied by an intelligent plan of selling unneeded players have led to a much stronger squad which looks ready to compete on many different levels.

In the Serie A, there was a similar revelation in Roma's financial freedom on the transfer market. The new owner, Thomas Di Benedetto has brought cash and a new coach, Luis Enrique. The Dutch international keeper Maarten Stekelenburg has been bought, along with Heinze, Kjaer (on loan from Wolfsburg), and Jose Angel to solidify what was once a weary defence. Yet what has been even more impressive is Roma's new and improved attack.

From Barcelona's Bojan Krkic to the Argentinean wonderkid Erik Lamela (along with Pablo Osvaldo and Fabio Borini), the new attack looks ready to score plenty of goals. The midfield has also been bolstered significantly thanks to Fernando Gago on loan from Real Madrid and the signing of Miralem Pjanic from Lyon. Mixing these new players with the likes of Totti, Pizarro, and De Rossi should create a very solid midfield, and a formidable attack.

Both Liverpool and Roma have gone about their business to completely replenish their squads with astute signings while keeping the best of the old guard. The new owners brought some fresh air for everyone, making quick and surprising signings which will stir up the pot as the season progresses. Sadly, these are two anomalies in the many European clubs which either don't need to surprise fans with great unexpected signings, or clubs that don't have a board/directors which will make these bold decisions.

While some clubs don't particularly need to strengthen, or need only a couple of smart signings to taper the cracks of the squad, others continue with a very conservative transfer policy regarding signing new players. Instead, Roma and Liverpool have realized that to climb up the Premier League and Serie A tables they'd need to spend, and spend wisely. I expect great things from these two clubs, the two kings of the summer transfer window.

Friday, August 26, 2011

AC Milan Draw Barcelona in Champions League Group Stages

The Champions League this year has a very different feel to it. We have the omnipresent Barcelona who look ready to conquer the trophy yet again, now faced with AC Milan in their group of the Champions League group stages. While the past few seasons haven't been the best for AC Milan, the rossoneri have strengthened and seem prepared to make a strong run in Europe this upcoming season.

Along with the Spanish and Italian champions, Bate Borisov and Viktoria Pizen have been drawn together in Group H. So it seems that the Catalans and Milan should have few problems qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament.

If there is a group of death from the draw, it would have to be the one composed of Napoli, Bayern Munich, Villarreal and Manchester City. All four sides have clear intentions on advancing to the knockout stages, and it looks to be a very tight battle for who will come out on top of the group. While maybe Bayern Munich have more experience in the competition, Manchester City can't be underestimated, and neither can Villarreal and Napoli.
The cup that everyone is after...

Here are all of the groups of the this season's Champions League:

Group A

Manchester City
Bayern Munich

Group B

Inter Milan
CSKA Moscow

Group C

Manchester United
Sporting Lisbon Benfica
FC Basel
Otelul Galati

Group D

Real Madrid
Olympique Lyonnais
Dinamo Zagreb

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen
FC Genk

Group F

Olympique Marseille
Borussia Dortmund

Group G

FC Porto
Shakhtar Donetsk
Zenit St. Petersburg
Apoel FC

Group H

AC Milan
Bate Borisov
Viktoria Pizen

There are some very tricky groups from this draw, especially Group F, where Arsenal will have to compete with Marseille, Olympiacos and the German champions Borussia Dortmund for qualification. Another interesting group is Chelsea's, as they'll be playing Valencia and the Blues's new signing, Juan Mata, will be facing his former side. And of course, the constant clash between Real Madrid and Lyon in Group D could be interesting, especially with Ajax and Dinamo Zagreb in the mix for qualification to the knockout rounds.

What are your thoughts on the groups? Which one will be the toughest? Will there be any surprise eliminations? Share your predictions, thoughts, and comments below!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ipswich Town Re-sign Jimmy Bullard

This article was written by William Taylor.

Jimmy Bullard has signed for Ipswich on a two-year deal, having had his Hull City contract terminated. Town boss Paul Jewell had been keen to bring Bullard – who could wear his new Mizuno Wave Ignitus boots back to Portman Road following a successful loan spell last season.

However, Ipswich appeared unable to afford the transfer fee Hull had been looking for, or Bullard's wages. But when it was announced that the Tigers would be terminating Bullard's contract at the KC Stadium, the Blues were quick to pounce. It is believed that the former Wigan man turned town moves to several Premier League clubs in order to be re-united with Jewell, the manager he has enjoyed most of his success with.

Jewell was understandably delighted to finally complete the deal that at one point did not look like happening. He told the club's official site:

“We had been chipping away at Jimmy and Hull all summer to try and sort something out but Hull were adamant that we wouldn't be going out on loan again unless someone paid his wages. He had a few clubs to talk to but Jimmy made it clear that if we could sort out a deal then coming here would be his preference. It's a great feeling to know that even though he had the opportunity to go to a Premier League team he still wanted the opportunity to come here. Hopefully he can do what he did for us last year and beyond.”

Bullard becomes Ipswich's tenth signing of the summer, and could soon be followed by Ibrahima Sonko, who has reportedly agreed a one-year deal with the club. Daryl Murphy rejoined the club on loan from Celtic on Wednesday, with Jewell likely to include all three players against Leeds United on Saturday. 

Reports suggest that Ipswich could also be close to completing a deal to bring Stoke City defender, Danny Collins to Portman Road. Whether that deal can be completed before the weekend is not yet known, but Jewell has repeatedly made his intentions to strengthen his sides leaky defence known.

What are your thoughts on Jimmy Bullard signing for Ipswich Town? Share your comments regarding the signing below!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lincoln City FC: The Biggest Drop of All

Disappointed Lincoln City fans.

This article was written by Adam Barlow.

Anybody who regularly watches the Premier League will be well aware of the pressure to stay there, the money, revenues and the prestige that go with being a Premiership club. Chairmen of clubs that are threatened with relegation are often quoted as saying how much it will cost their respective clubs should they drop down to the Championship. For the fans the thought of not being in on football’s biggest gravy train and dining at the top table fills them with dread. As bad as all this is, it cannot compare with the biggest and most devastating relegation of them all; being relegated from the Football League itself.

When a club leaves the Premiership they get parachute payments, still get plenty of coverage on TV and in the newspapers, and keep their FA cup seeding. In short life goes on pretty much as it did before the relegation.

Last season with 11 games to go League Two club Lincoln City were as good as safe from the drop into non league football, but a disastrous run of only two points from those eleven games saw them relegated to the fifth tier of English football for the first time since the 1987-88 season. A 0-3 home defeat by Aldershot Town coupled with Barnet’s 1-0 win over Port Vale sealing the Red Imps’ fate. On the face of it, it may look like any other relegation in any other League but in truth it is by far the most painful relegation any club could go through for several reasons.

Lincoln City's final score in League Two
Until the late 90’s over half the clubs in the Blue Square prem (The 5th tier of English football) operated on a part time basis. Nowadays only a handful of clubs are part time. When automatic promotion/relegation between the Football League and the Non League pyramid first started in the late 80’s the relegated clubs found it easy to bounce back even though only one club went up. Lincoln, Darlington, and Colchester all came back up within a year or two. The fact that they stayed full time being a large factor in their success. Over time as more and more clubs switched from part time to full time the relegated clubs struggled to come back up. Even the addition of an extra promotion place in the 2002/03 season didn’t help. The fact that the last team to win the League the season after being relegated the previous season was Darlington in the 1990/91 season shows how hard it is to adjust to this League.

A quick look at the line up for this season’s BSP (Blue Square Premier League) is a stark reminder to Lincoln and Stockport fans (the other relegated club) that they could well be down here for a while. Former League clubs Mansfield Town, York City, Cambridge United, Darlington, and Wrexham have decades of League football behind them and solid fan bases, while Grimsby Town and Luton Town (who had several crowds of over 7,000 last season) have played in the Championship in the last decade. Yet they still can’t escape.

As you are no longer a League club you don’t take part in the Carling Cup at all and have to qualify for the FA Cup. You don’t receive any parachute payments and aren’t included on the TV highlights on the BBC or Sky. Your match reports are no longer carried in the national press. It really feels as if the media fails to acknowledge your club still exists.

Although the fans of the club are undoubtedly hurt, the cost to the club’s employers is even worse. Relegation from the Football League has cost Lincoln roughly £500,000. Peanuts in terms of Premiership money but a huge amount to a club like Lincoln. This means sweeping cuts across the board at the club. The reserve side has been scrapped, several of the staff in the club office have been made redundant and the club shop now only operates on a part time basis. On the field the goalkeeping coach has been released alongside the first team coach. The Centre of Excellence which is the life blood of the club in bringing through young talent was perilously close to folding until a local business man stepped in to make up the funding that has been lost from losing Football League status.

While all this cost cutting was being done. The Board were called to account by a group of shareholders who called for a vote of confidence in each and every director of the Board. Although the Board survived it remains apparent that deep divisions remain amongst the fans; both on the Board and their management of the club. What the club, fans, Board and manager all needed was a good start to the BSP season to get everybody on board and relight the fans passion. They didn’t get it.

An away draw at Southport has been followed by two home defeats by Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham respectively. This now means that added on the run at the end of last season The Imps have now set a club record 6 consecutive home defeats and haven’t won at all in 14 games. It’s going to be a long way back for Lincoln City.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

EA Sports Developing New FIFA Street Videogame

While the FIFA franchise has reached an amazing amount of success in the past few years, the FIFA Street videogame series has slowly faded away. After FIFA Street 3, it didn't seem like EA was interested in developing the fourth instalment of the series. Yet now, an awesome Youtube trailer has been put out by the EA Sports France channel, showing off what could be the best FIFA Street game yet:

EA is obviously taking this seriously, and they're ditching the cartoony style which they used for FIFA Street 3. The art style looks fresh, the movements and tricks are fluid, and the arenas and environments amazed me. Here's a bit of what EA have said about the game:

“This is the first time our award-winning FIFA development team is creating a street soccer game, and we are going to deliver a level of authenticity never before seen in this genre, along with amazing gameplay,”

EA boasts more than 35 locations around the world, over 50 never-before-experienced skill moves, and a plethora of game modes, including onee on ones and five on fives. But what looks most interesting about the upcoming FIFA Street is that EA Sports have confirmed that it will be connected with EA Sports Football Club.

There's also the new street ball control, brand new aerial maneuvers, and a one-touch passing system. The greatest thing about this new game is probably that we'll get our hands on it in early 2012 on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

What are your thoughts on EA Sports bringing back the FIFA Street series? I'm very excited about it, and I can't wait to play it when it comes out! Share your comments below!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cesc Fabregas Returns to Barcelona

Throughout the past couple of seasons, something must have been on Cesc Fabregas's mind every time he pulled on his Arsenal jersey. His adoration for Arsenal was slowly shifting into a deep homesickness for Barcelona. His past season at Arsenal wasn't his best, as he was probably thinking about playing with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi at Barcelona. Now, he has finally returned to the Spanish and European champions, banishing whatever dark thoughts there were which were haunting him at Arsenal before.

Cesc Fabregas, quite the happy camper at Barcelona
Barcelona and Arsenal have agreed the fee for the 24 year-old Spaniard, and it gravitates around 40 million Euros. Of course, if certain bonuses are met, then we could see the Catalans having to dish out an additional 15 million Euros for Fabregas.

Now that Barcelona have assembled their perfect midfield, Arsenal's has now become questionable. Nasri could also be leaving the Gunners, leaving a creative hole which might need to be replaced. But Arsene Wenger isn't worried about the loss of one of his greatest players:

"We fought to keep him but in the end we have to respect the desire of the player as well. This Club is 125 years-old this season and many big players left and yet the Club went on. We want to show that we have the strengths and unity to fight as we ever did at this Club."

The strange thing is, I slightly agree with him. With or without Fabregas, Arsenal would accomplish the same things in this new season. But the question remains now, can Wenger sign a player who will help Arsenal overachieve? Probably not.

It might sound strange, but a player Wenger should be signing is Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder. He'd be stealing the Dutch playmaker from Manchester United, he'd be replacing Fabregas, and he'd get a player who knows how to shoot the ball from outside the box. Sneijder would strengthen the side notably, and his constant thirst for trophies could only help Arsenal in their struggle for silverware.

Whether Wenger will spend much money this summer is still a mystery to me, but what is certain is that he will be preparing Arsenal to face Udinese tomorrow night. The Champions League qualifier is a defining game for Arsenal's season, and the pressure to get through is all on the Gunners. The first leg of the qualifier is at the Emirates tomorrow, with the second leg being in the Stadio Friuli in Udine.

What are your thoughts on the Fabregas transfer? Who should Arsenal sign? Can Wenger defeat Udinese in the Champions League qualifier? Leave your comments below!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cardiff City Fans Face Transport Problems

Miller celebrates his decisive goal 

Whilst Cardiff’s 1-0 win at Upton Park against West Ham last Sunday was overshadowed by the events in Tottenham, crowd trouble of a different kind is aggravating Cardiff Fans. Arriva Trains Wales have decided to stop trains calling at Ninian Park station for Bluebirds' home games during a 3 hour period.

Arriva claim the decision was taken so as to “better suit the needs of passengers.” Yet the Cardiff City Supporter’s trust thinks differently, and has urged Arriva to reconsider the decision. The Arriva Chair, Tim Hartley said he does not believe there are capacity issues at Ninian Park station ahead of games because "supporters do not arrive in huge numbers at the same time". Hartley also added that there was a lack of consultation about the decision, which means fans will have to use Grangetown station, which is further away from the stadium, a good ten minute walk compared to the convenience of using Ninian Park.

Arriva said to those placing Bet365 Free Bets that the plans for the suspension of services to Ninian Park were made in conjuction with the British Transport Police, Cardiff City FC, South Wales Police and the Welsh Assembly Government.

In other news there has been no end in sight to the confrontation between the Football League and the news organisations that saw coverage of the first round of Championship matches being severely restricted in comparison with the start of last season Sports journalists from national titles, news and picture agencies were locked out of all but a handful of the 36 football league games after talks broke down last Wednesday between the Football league and a media coalition. Many, but not all, national newspapers dropped match reports over the weekend, with a number also dropping, or limiting, mentions of sponsors' names.

Many regional newspapers which take copy and pictures from news and picture services were also affected after the Press Association, a major supplier of sports content, last Friday that it would not be covering any Football League fixtures over the forthcoming weekend. Speaking of this weekend, it is time to look at Bookmakers Free Bets  and decide who you are backing for the win!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Joey Barton Ready to Leave Newcastle United

The slightly controversial Joey Barton could leave Newcastle United

Joey Barton has been told he can leave Newcastle on a free transfer. The midfielder’s controversial stay at St James Park looks to be nearing a close as the Magpies have placed the former Manchester City player on the transfer list. The 28-year-old still has a year to run on his current contract, but looks set to leave with immediate effect after serious developments this week.

Barton has used social networking site Twitter to declare his thoughts on the club’s off the field troubles which have lingered over the team for some time. Barton is said to be extremely disappointed with the club’s board after a series of events that has torn the current playing squad apart.

The unpopular departure of Chris Hughton, who guided the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt, was then followed by the sale of influential striker Andy Carroll on transfer deadline day to Liverpool for £35 million, without been replaced.

Football betting pundits note how Barton became unsettled with the amount of speculation linking the better Newcastle players with an exit and, after he was willing to sign a new deal, the club decided not to offer him an improved contract. Barton's fellow midfielder and close friend Kevin Nolan then rejoined former manager Sam Allardyce at West Ham after Newcastle failed to offer their club captain and top goalscorer a better deal.

Jose Enrique is also ready to leave Newcastle
Another one of Newcastle's influential players, the left-back Jose Enrique, has been linked with a move away from the club, and to a top-four Premier League side. The move looks likely as the Spaniard made a scathing attack on owner Mike Ashley, and then Barton followed suit after he was overlooked for the Newcastle captaincy in the Toon’s 3-2 pre-season defeat to Leeds.

Controversial Barton, who was dealt a blow when he was refused a visa to travel with the club on a pre-season tour fo America due to previous convictions, seems to have pushed Ashley too far this time and will be definitely playing his football elsewhere in the new season. To make things worse, Barton has been made to train alone and has been fined two weeks wages.

Nile Ranger, Newcastle’s young striker, is also said to be nearing the exit door as Alan Pardew looks toreduce his striking options in time for the new season. Pardew brought in Demba Ba from West Ham following the Hammers relegation to the Championship and has been disgruntled by Ranger’s behaviour since he took over the reigns at St James Park. Ranger, also refused a visa to travel to the USA, was close to a move to Blackpool but after that move fell through, may have to wait in order to find new employers.

What are your thoughts on Joey Barton's possible good-bye to Newcastle? Where do you think he will go? One thing seems certain, Barton most likely won't have a career with England, as Fabio Capello recently said that Barton "might lose his head" while playing for the three lions. Share your thoughts and comments about Barton, Capello, Newcastle and everything else below!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alexis Sanchez Joins Barcelona

Udinese star Alexis Sanchez has completed a move to Barcelona having turned down the offers of Chelsea and Manchester City for the Catalan club. The future of Sanchez, who has been far from successful in selling Chile Copa America Shirts  after his side crashed out at the Quarter Final stage with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of underdogs Venezuela, has been the subject of much speculation after an excellent season with the Udinese, with some of the biggest names in European football entering the race for his signature.

Having helped the Serie A side to Champions League qualification last season, Sanchez quickly became one of the hottest properties in world football, and now the saga appears to be over after the player’s agent appeared in Barcelona to finalise the deal.

With the deal done, a former Real Madrid striker has backed the young Chilean to shine at the Nou Camp. Ivan Zamorano believes Sanchez will be a huge success, and pointed to the experience the talented youngster has gained in one of Europe’s toughest leagues as evidence that he will have no trouble fitting in in Spain.

"Alexis [Sanchez] has an advantage. Already, he has experience. He has triumphed in the world's toughest league, which is Italian, definitely. Sanchez is a guy who knows how to listen and he will adapt to Guardiola."

Zamorano went on to discuss the prospects for another hot young player in the game, Santos’s Neymar who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid. He insisted that while he doesn’t have the experience Sanchez has, he has the ability to make a huge impact on the game.

Neymar could stay at Santos, or join Real Madrid immediately this summer

When questioned about the youngster Zamorano said:

"He (Neymar) has huge potential. He can be a decisive player. The only thing missing with Neymar is experience, but that will be earned over time."

What are your thoughts on Barcelona's latest signing? Will Sanchez fit in with the Catalans? Who's better between Neymar and Sanchez? Share your comments below!

Roma Swoop for Barcelona Star Bojan

Bojan Krkic finalised his move away from Barcelona on Friday as Roma snapped up the enigmatic forward for around €12 million. Barcelona seemed surprisingly willing to let the U-21 Spanish international leave the Nou Camp this summer given his obvious talents, but while the move is permanent, the Catalan club revealed in a statement that a clause had been inserted into the talented youngster’s contract with the Serie A club allowing them to re-sign him at the end of 2012/13 season.

The statement read:

"The cost of the operation is 12 million euros but includes a compulsory buy-out option to be exercised by Barcelona at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, at a cost of 13 million euros. This buy-out option can be blocked by AS Roma but in that case, the total cost of the transfer would be 40million euros."

Bojan found it difficult to break into the Barcelona first XI, and recently expressed his frustrations at not playing regular first team football. The Nike Tiempo Legend wearer had been linked with a move to the Premier League before Roma amerged as the clear favourites for his signature. Bojan admitted that he would have liked to have succeeded with Barcelona, but insisted he was pleased with his move to Roma.

"My dream was to triumph with Barca, but I am very happy that another club has given me the chance to continue succeeding. I'm going from one big club to another and all parties have an interest. That makes me happy. I consider myself privileged."
What are your thoughts on Bojan's move to Italy? Share them in the comments below!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Arsenal and Inter Milan Chasing Ricardo Alvarez

Velez Sarsfield's Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez

While there are many stars which are being observed this transfer window, there are always a few hidden gems which catch the eye of some of the biggest clubs. Often these are late bloomers, players who have suffered an injury or have taken a bit more time to mature and grow.

Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez has attracted the interest of many clubs, most notably Arsenal and Inter Milan. Now, he is being lauded as the new Riquelme yet he prefers to be compared to Zidane, whom he idolized growing up.

While there are supposedly two clubs chasing the Argentine, Inter Milan certainly have the upper hand in signing the left-footed player. While Arsenal are certainly interested and have made their intentions known, Alvarez is more interested in joining the other Argentineans at Inter. Negotiations are still being held, and while the two clubs (Velez and Inter) have agreed a fee around 11 million Euros, the player has yet to give the last word on the deal.

But what type of a player is Alvarez? That's a pretty tough question to answer in itself. He can best be summed up as versatile and complete. While he is left footed, he is practically ambidextrous, and his tall and fairly strong physique allows him to play a variety of positions. He can play as a playmaker behind the striker or strikers, but can also be put out on the wings. His only problem might be that he never really defined himself in a certain position, playing wherever his club, Velez, needed him to.

A question often asked when young South Americans are brought over to Europe is whether they have the maturity required to be a superstar professional. There are many risks buying a player, especially when they're young and they know they're good.

Alvarez has a fairly well developed sense of maturity though, especially after suffering some career threatening injuries when he was younger. The mental strength he needed to return from a torn cruciate knee ligament, and spend a season not playing is great, and it has helped round him out and make him a well-tempered individual.

Alvarez already training right now in the offseason, and he's ready to put in the effort needed to succeed wherever he goes. Whether he agrees to join the nerazzurri, or decides that his interests lie in the Premier League with Arsenal, Ricardo Alvarez will make an impact wherever.

Tevez Staying at Man City, Will Nasri Join Him?

This article was written by Pete South, follow him on Twitter @peterwsouth.

Carlos Tevez will stay with Manchester City according to Roberto Mancini despite intense speculation the Argentinian forward would be leaving Eastlands this summer. Tevez was being chased by Inter Milan, with Mancini said to be keen on bringing Samuel Eto’o to Manchester as part of the deal, but now the Italian has revealed that the move stuttered because the Serie A side were unwilling to sell Eto’o.

Roberto Mancini said this about the player:

"Yes, of course Tevez will stay, he is a fantastic player... There was talk of an exchange with Eto'o but Inter did not want to sell.”

Tevez had earlier seemed keen on a move after admitting on an Argentinian chat show that he wasn’t enjoying life in the north-west of England – and added that he would not return to Manchester. Here's a bit of what he said:

"I don't have any new friends, I am always with my family and lifelong friends. I don't even leave my house. I'm the stay-at-home type... There is nothing to do in Manchester. The problem is I'm still speaking very poor English... When I finish my contract I will not return to Manchester ever - not even on holiday."

While the deal for Tevez and Eto’o appears to be a non-starter, the future of Arsenal’s Samir Nasri still hangs in the balance after Mancini revealed he would be interested in adding him to his squad. When asked if a deal had been done for the former Marseille midfielder, Mancini offered a short but telling answer, saying: “No, not yet.”

Nasri’s future has been the subject of much speculation after he reportedly turned down a new contract to stay with Arsenal worth £90,000 a week. Manchester United were favourites to land the skilful midfielder, but with City playing Champions League football for the first time next season and said to be on the verge of adding even more new players to their squad as they go in search of trophies, there is a good chance Nasri could end up playing in City’s red black away shirt next season.

With just twelve months left on his current deal, Nasri is keen to listen to other clubs as he goes in search of winning trophies; something he has been unable to do at Arsenal. The Gunners have gone six years without a trophy, and Nasri insisted he wasn’t interested in money, but wanted the opportunity to win silverware. Nasri said the following:

"We already earn huge wages, the priority is to make a big career and to win titles … With no titles under your belt, you can't be in the list for the Ballon D'Or. I came to England to get trophies because I haven't won anything in my career. I am hungry for titles. I play football because I love this sport and want to feel the emotion of winning. Lifting a trophy all together, this is the beauty and sense of team sports."

Will Nasri make the move to Manchester City? How would he fit in? What are your thoughts on Arsenal, Manchester City, Tevez, and Nasri? Share them in the comments below!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Five Players With Something to Prove This Upcoming Season

From arrogant Swedes to bratty Brazilians, there are many players who will have a big spotlight on them in the upcoming season. While some of these players are about to make the biggest move of their career, others will need to solidify their position they hold at their current club. For some, this season could be the last one which they're considered worth looking at. For others, this upcoming season is the one where they can show everyone they're not just a loose cannon with occasional brilliance, that they're something more. Here are five players with something to prove this upcoming season.


As this summer transfer window opened, the name on everyone's lips was Neymar's. This Brazilian wonderboy has been magnificent playing for Santos, and recently won the Copa Libertadores with them at the end of this season. Now he's looking to move on and weave his magic in Europe. While there have been rumours of a deal made with Real Madrid, and now one with Chelsea, it's still uncertain where Neymar will go. Yet it's certain that wherever he does, he'll be expected to produce goals and entertain. The only dark thought clubs have as they consider buying Neymar is his rash temper and rampant diving. His petulance has gotten coaches fired, and while his diving is accepted in Brazil, it would not be tolerated in Europe.

He has big expectations to meet, especially after being backed by Pele as being one of the greatest players around already. Let's hope that Neymar beds in well wherever he goes, and that he manages to show us all what we've been craving from him (goals and general awesomeness) in his first season in Europe.

Fernando Torres

It hasn't been the best of times for Fernando Torres. After last season was notably marked by 732 minutes of his inability to score a single goal, Torres's career has been going slowly downhill. While last year he had the excuse of being the new boy at Chelsea, this season he'll have to show that he can score goals and not be hindered by constant injuries.

If he doesn't, his future club career will be quite a mystery, and his international one for Spain will slowly diminish into one of past memories of when he was a terrifyingly good goalscorer. This is the "make or break" season for Fernando Torres. He'll get the chance to prove many people wrong, as long has he can remain injury-free to do it.


Hulk has been very similar to his comic-book hero namesake, being fantastically strong while loosing his cool every once in a while. The most recent episode in which he misbehaved was last season when he assaulted a steward, resulting in his four month suspension. Yet behind the raging bull there is a huge amount of talent, especially in that powerful left foot of his. His great skill has paid off for Porto this past season in which he scored 23 goals, and now all of Europe is slowly keeping an eye on him for the future.

Yet it's slightly difficult to be trusting of a player who has lost his temper so greatly and is difficult to control. It's very likely that he'll be staying at Porto for one more season, where he'll need to show everyone that he has a clear consistency and won't fizzle out.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic is the culmination of a winner. He has won league titles wherever he has been, most recently at AC Milan. His inventive goalscoring and deadly presence has helped him win many trophies, but not the Champions League. There's a big empty spot in the Swede's trophy cabinet, waiting to be filled by Europe's most esteemed club trophy. While AC Milan dominated Italy last season, their Champions League run could best be summed up as weak. And it has been quite some time that Italian sides have had difficulty in European competitions other than when Jose Mourinho led Inter to glory a couple of seasons ago.

Zlatan's position is a bit of an enigma: while he wants to remain at Milan, he knows that winning the Champions League with the rossoneri is unlikely. He'll either have to have an amazing season, or he'll need to move away in search for the trophy he wants to win so much.

Cesc Fabregas

Last summer, Barcelona's main target was Fabregas. While the Catalans are still interested in the Arsenal midfielder, after his latest season he's now more of an afterthought rather than a "must-have" player. It seems like the blagrana have almost sealed the deal for 40 million Euros, but there's a lot of questions still waiting to be answered about the player and his upcoming season. Will this move help him return to form? Will he be overshadowed by the likes of Xavi and Iniesta? Will this be money well spent by Barca?

Fabregas finally has the chance to return to Spain and play with a team which knows how to win trophies while playing with wonderful style. Now he'll have to show he can fit in the team and cope with the pressure.

What are your thoughts on these five players? What are your predictions for next season? Share your comments below!


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