January Transfer Window Update….Where are the Big Deals?

We’re almost half way through January the month that sees the transfer window open for European clubs to buy, sell or loan players during the 31 days of the month. However, there appears to be heavy negotiations behind the scenes with managers, players and more correctly agents and chairmen. Where are the big deals?

The likes of Gary Cahill and Carlos Tevez were rumoured to make moves come January but neither deals have taken place with the latest of Tevez’s switch to Milan appears to have been stalled. Rumours are linking the want away Argentinean striker to Queens Park Rangers, who appointed his former boss at City, Mark Hughes as their manager.

It may just be because they share the same agent but could Tevez play his football in London again? Crazier things have happened.

Whatever happens, QPR is one club that’s expected to be very busy this month but have only acquired Federico Macheda on loan from Manchester United.

Whilst across west London, Chelsea were expected to make some signings for manager Andres Villas Boas to boost his squad. Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge although the likes of Tottenham Hotspur could be after him too.

The most interesting deals of the 12 days we’ve had so far have been Nicolas Anelka’s move to China, whilst he may be well past his prime you didn’t expect the Frenchman to end his playing days in the Chinese Premier Division. ‘The Sulk’ has been one the best finisher’s the Premier League has ever seen.

Some interesting loan deals have taken place with Emmanuel Frimpong joining Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Arsenal, a midfield with him and Jamie O’Hara sounds very combative.

Whilst away from the top flight, League Two side AFC Wimbledon have made a double scoop with the return of Jason Euell to the South London club from Charlton Athletic on loan and young midfield George Moncur (son of John) from West Ham.

The biggest signing of this transfer window so far has to be Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal on loan. Whilst players look to end their careers in the MLS, the fact they’re able to come back on loan is a very attractive prospect for players and clubs alike.

Robbie Keane also joins Henry in a short term loan by signing for Aston Villa. The player who never lived up to expectations in his loan move at West Ham United last season has caused a flurry of ‘boyhood club’ jokes on Twitter, as standard.

What’s to come in the remaining days of January? It’s hard to say.

Will Manchester United buy a midfielder? Where will Christopher Samba ditch Blackburn for? And just how many players will Mark Hughes sign at QPR?

I’ll be back in a week to see what’s taken place…

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Mario Balotelli – Saint or Sinner?

Thank God for Mario Balotelli. Despite the negativity I hear and read about the Manchester City and Italian forward, I can’t help but love the guy and I’m not even a City fan. Ok, he may have made a number of mistakes, caused controversy and been a bad boy but let’s remember that he’s only 21 years old, extremely rich for his age and living in a new City and Country.

In a recent interview, he’s stated how he is often misunderstood:

“If I buy a Fiat Uno, I read that a guy like me would be more suited to a Ferrari. If I buy the Ferrari, I read that I should have been more down to earth and bought the Uno.

“If I laugh, I’m not serious; if I don’t laugh, I’m a sulky rich guy who doesn’t enjoy doing the best job in the world.”

He also states that he’s made no friends since his move from Milan, and that he’s found it very hard to adjust to the English lifestyle. Given his track record in Italy, it’s actually a surprise how well Mario has done for City during his time, despite the negative reports, there are just as many positive ones to counter act it.

I’ve seen fans compare him to Gazza, who also enjoyed a prank or two. Whilst I don’t condone setting fireworks off in your bathroom or throwing darts at people, no harm was done and with age, he’ll learn from his mistakes.

However, since when do you hear of well paid footballers donating money to the homeless or solving a child’s bullying problems? There’s certainly two sides to the mercurial talent.

Personally, I think it’s great for football. He’s a talented player and as he gets older, he’ll start to mature on and off the pitch but for now, let’s focus on the positive and help him settle into life in England. It’ll be a shame if he was to leave.

Here’s a list of reported incidents involving Mario Balotelli in a Saint and Sinner list. The Purgatory list at the end is for those I couldn’t work out were good or bad…

Saint

     I.        Gives £1,000 to a homeless man after leaving a Casino

    II.        Very recently, he was reported to have paid for everyone’s gas/petrol when topping up his own car at a petrol station in Manchester.

  III.        Donated £200 to local church and paid for £1000 round of drinks in local Pub.

  IV.        Turned his garden into a racetrack for Quadbikes.

   V.        After meeting a young City fan who had been bullied, Mario drove the victim and his Mother to the school to meet the Headmaster in order to deal with the matter.

  VI.        Reportedly dressed as Santa driving around Manchester handing out £20 notes to members of the public.

 VII.        Also reportedly paid for Homeless people to have a five course meal on Christmas Day, paid for a hotel for homeless people on New Year’s eve and left £10,000 in a toilet on a Manchester to London train.

Sinner

     I.        Throwing darts at a youth team player because he was bored.

    II.        Setting off fireworks in his home.

  III.        Squaring up to five bouncers after being evicted from a Strip Club. He does not even drink alcohol.

  IV.        When being interviewed right after a game, he swears on live TV. “My season was s***…”

   V.        Interviewed by Italian Police after being photographed socialising with Italian Mafia.

  VI.        Bust up in training with Micah Richards who accused Mario of not trying hard enough.

 VII.        Tries an outrageous backheel shot in a pre-season friendly in the USA which fails miserably and he’s substituted immediately.

  1. After City beat United in the FA Cup last season, Mario says something to Rio Ferdinand and Anderson who get angry and a scuffle ensues.

Purgatory

     I.        Chanting “Rooney” at escort Jenny Thompson who cashed in on the Wayne Rooney story.

    II.        Apparently sent out by his Mother to buy cleaning products but returned with a giant trampoline, Scalextric, two Vespa scooters and a table tennis set.

  III.        Was stopped in his car by Police in Manchester who wanted to know why he was carrying £5,000 cash in his glove box, to which he answered “because I am rich”. Fair point.

  IV.        Competed against a Manchester United fan at an arcade on a Punchball machine. He was supposed to be resting an ankle injury.

   V.        Scores goal against Norwich City with his shoulder. Some fans loved it, others thought it was disrespectful.

  VI.        Was accused of entering a Prison in Italy without invitation. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing but it’s certainly bizarre.

Friday Focus: European Draws and key Weekend Games…

A rare edition of Friday Focus sees me look forward to 2012 and the European ties involving English clubs. Today saw the draw of the next round in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, and all draws involving 5 English clubs were very interesting fixtures indeed.

Arsenal and Chelsea were the unlikely lads to be left in the Champions League by this stage compared to the Premier League dominant Manchester clubs. However, both London teams have tough games to get through if they want to get further in this year’s competition.

Arsenal take on AC Milan, a side they defeated 3 years ago in the quarter-finals. But this Milan side has gone through a transitional period since then and will be tougher competition that some Gooners may be expecting come February.

Chelsea meanwhile have a tricky task of facing Napoli, the side that advanced in the group stages at the expense of Manchester City. The Italian side showed their counter attacking prowess and with Chelsea looking rocky under AVB this season, it could be a very tough fixture for the Blues to get through.

The Europa League may have taken a beating from fans, pundits and managers alike it has served up three extremely interesting fixtures which should prove to put the spark back into this once famous European competition.

Manchester United take on Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam, whilst Manchester City take on FC Porto from Portugal. Whilst European newboys Stoke City play Valencia, I wonder if these fixtures will even make it to air on Channel 5 and ITV 4, the usual home of Europa League fixtures. I expect ITV 1 including either Manchester clubs on their channel this time around.

The Weekend…

The games I am looking forward to this weekend are in the Premier League with Blackburn hosting West Brom which is already being touted as a relegation decider/six pointer this early into the season. Fulham host Bolton in a similar fixture between sides in the bottom 8 of the table. No one wants to be bottom by Christmas and all clubs will be desperate to beat each other.

Sunday provides four Premier League games, with QPR hosting Manchester United, Liverpool travelling to Aston Villa and Spurs welcoming a rejuvenated Sunderland under Martin O’Neill.

The game of the weekend however has to be Manchester City versus Arsenal which will surely be one of the games of the season, with Arsenal in good form and City under some scrutiny, could it open the title race more?

Monday Muse: La Liga strike,EPL,Spurs,Championship & Tevez…

The La Liga ‘holdout’

La Liga is arguably the most decorated league in world football and yet, it didn’t kick off over the weekend. It’s refreshing to hear that La Liga’s stellar stars such as Xavi and Iker Casillas were standing on the front of the picket line with their less celebrated counterparts across all the major divisions within Spanish Football. As always with a lockout, it’s down to money and how it’s distributed fairly amongst the professional footballers. A large percentage of players have also been playing without pay hence this lockout. Let’s hope the LFP and Spanish Players association resolve their issues soon. Spanish football is the loser.

Arsenal v Liverpool Continue reading

How Arsenal could have benefited from their former Captain

Today came the announcement that Premier League legend, Patrick Vieira has officially retired as a professional footballer. The lanky midfielder spent the last two seasons at Manchester City, where he will continue to stay on as the clubs ‘Football Development Executive’. The 35-year old who wasn’t a regular starter for City made 47 appearances in total with six goals to his name, 3 of which came in the clubs successful FA Cup campaign.

His new role is believed to be working with the youth set-up whilst being an ambassador for the club and with the amount of ‘winner medals’ to his name which include a World Cup and European Championship as well as a number of Premier League and Serie A trophies. City couldn’t have appointed a better candidate for this role which may have been created to keep the former French international at the club.

Whilst the English Premier League lose another familiar face to retirement, could Vieira’s former club Arsenal be rueing a missed opportunity on and off the pitch? Continue reading

Hamann the Man at Stockport County

 Former Liverpool, Manchester City and German international midfielder Dietmar Hamann recently became the new manager of Blue Square Conference side Stockport County. It is a surprise appointment, for both club and manager, who had recently missed out on the managerial vacancy at League Two side Swindon Town to Paulo Di Canio.

He joins a County team with just a squad of nine players following relegation from the Football League last season, which makes it even more bizarre why the 37-year old with a Champions League Winners medal would take the job in Non-League, rather than higher up or even in his native Germany.

Having recently been on the coaching staff Continue reading

Done Deals: Sunderland looking good,Leicester on the march…

  Another new feature for the Verbal Football blog is Done Deals, a general round-up and opinion on the latest transfers from the football world. Whilst we’ve been bombarded with transfer rumours over the summer break, this section will only focus on Done Deals in the transfer market.

The Premier League champions, Manchester United have been very assertive in the transfer market but it was to be expected. Despite manager, Sir Alex Ferguson commenting on how over priced the current market is last summer, this close season he’s had no choice but make some signings with the loss of Edwin Van der Saar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes to retirement.

Whilst I covered United’s signings in a previous article on Fergie and his Continue reading

Manchester United & Sunderland set the transfer standard

  Since the closing games of the 2010/2011 season there have been rumours galore on potential transfers set to be taking place over the summer but many of them have yet to be concluded. However, two clubs from the English Premier League have done the business, nice and early and in preparation for the up and coming pre-season campaign.

Barclays Premier League champions, Manchester United have made three great signings to bolster their squad. They may have lost veterans Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin Van der Saar to retirement but Sir Alex Ferguson has signed three Continue reading

Former City striker now in charge of the Bees

  

 Last month it was pleasing to write about Paulo Di Canio taking over as manager of League Two, Swindon Town. Now, Verbal Football gets to cover another former Premier League foreigner to the Football League manager list with Brentford F.C. appointing Uwe Rosler as their new boss. Continue reading

Favourite Five…full-backs in the EPL this season

  Arguably the most underrated of all positions on the football pitch, the full back position whether left-back or right-back plays the unsung hero role. Whether it’s helping out the central defence and goalkeeper with vital interceptions and tackles, the full-back also links the defence with midfield.

In today’s game, the full-back position has transformed and progressed from that of the past. Despite full-backs in the past often asked to overlap and supply crosses into the area from deep they were more defensive minded than the modern day players, who are more like wing-backs.

Perhaps it is the change in football tactics and philosophy as well as the athleticism of the sport that have contributed to this but it’s no surprise these days to see the likes of Fabio, Raphael, Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker (to name a few examples) bursting forward like an old fashioned winger from the full back position.

The English Premier League has been gifted with some of the best right and left backs in the last decade with the likes of Ashley Cole and Gary Neville, the latter announcing his immediate retirement this season. This years EPL season has had plenty of criticism in terms of quality but there still has been some top performers. So who have been my Favourite Five full-backs in the EPL?  Continue reading