Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fergie eying Mesut Ozil?

It's been a rather quiet summer for Man Utd and you'd think there would be some big movements in and out of Old Trafford after losing the league title to Chelsea last season. Yes, they have signed on Mexican star Javier Hernandez but that barely seems like enough for the Devils.

Enter Mesut Ozil.

The latest rumours in the English gossip rags and cyberspace is that Sir Alex is lining up a stunning bid for Germany's World Cup star, Mesut Ozil. The 21-year-old sensation was certainly one of the biggest stories in this World Cup and he has expectedly begun attracting the attention of the big boys.

So far, the Werder Bremen playmaker has been linked with moves to Man Utd, Spurs and Arsenal (wouldn't he fit right in with that squad?) and of course, Real Madrid. The only difference this time, which incidentally gives the Premiership boys a chance, is that Madrid aren't keen on signing him this season but next season when his contract at Werder Bremen ends and he can leave as a free agent. I don't know what to make of this rumour but if true, it would indicate a serious financial problem at the Bernabeu.

But should Ozil ignore Madrid, and there are a few reasons to back this theory (1. He seems pretty intelligent), and choose a move to the Devils, Ferguson would finally be able to fill in the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo two seasons ago. Additionally, should Wayne Rooney's lacklustre form in front of goal continue, Ferguson is going to need some serious firepower to fill in and no one in his side currently qualifies for that position. Yes, this would certainly be a good move for United.

On the other hand, if the rumours are true and funds are limited at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger should go against his norm and sign on the midfielder. Ozil's got creativity, skill, good passing and shooting abilities and speed; the kind of stuff Wenger's Arsenal thrive on.

Is Wenger delaying the inevitable?

So it turns out that the Fabregas - Barcelona rumour has become THE transfer rumour of the summer. And as expected, it appears as though Arsene Wenger has shut the door on any possibility of Barcelona signing the Gunners midfield maestro, Cesc Fabregas.

No one rational would have expected otherwise but it would help if we actually heard from Fabregas himself and found out if it is indeed the midfielder's dream to join the Catalans. In fact very players can boast to have as many admirers in Barcelona as Fabregas does and I'm not referring to the fans. Barcelona stars, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Gerrard Pique have all openly spoken of their admiration for Fabregas with the latter two even going as far as putting on a Barcelona jersey on Fabregas during the Spanish team's recent World Cup celebrations.

With such intense lobbying from Fabregas' Spanish teammates in the Barcelona team, it is worth speculating if the Arsenal captain himself has privately admitted of his desire to return to the Nou Camp. After all, it is pretty uncommon to see these Barcelona players openly lobby for a player to join the club. Even rumours of Fernando Torres or Javier Mascherano joining the Catalans hasn't generated a single response from anyone in Josep Guardiola's side.

So yes, maybe Fabregas himself needs to come out in the open and set the record straight. And if the rumours are true, Arsene Wenger better start hunting for an able replacement now as there would be little point in trying to constantly scuttle the move.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Will the Reds survive without Mascherano?

After months of speculation, it appears as though Argentina skipper, Javier Mascherano, is finally on his way out of Anfield with Inter Milan seemingly his most likely destination. I can't say anyone's really surprised by this turn of events, least of all Roy Hodgson. When your player doesn't answer your text messages, it's time to move on (talk about professionalism though!).

The big question now is what Hodgson plans to do with the cash raised from selling Mascherano. At present valuations, it appears as though Liverpool won't part with anything less than GBP25 million for Mascherano which would certainly boost Hogdson's summer kitty. But will Hodgson use that cash for a direct replacement (the name Rafael Van Der Vaart comes to mind)or will he move Steven Gerrard back into central midfield to partner Alberto Aquilani or the dreadful Lucas Leiva. New signing Joe Cole can then be moved up to his preferred position behind the striker.

All these permutations are certainly going through Hogdson's mind at the moment. But in reference to the biggest question of all (will the Reds survive without Mascherano?), I think the answer is pretty straightforward yes.

No one doubt's Mascherano's commitment and contributions to Liverpool the past few years. But in view of Liverpool's performances last season, where Mascherano was tasked with filling in for Xabi Alonso's absence, it became quite plain to see that Mascherno's abilities are rather limited. Sure, he's great at tackling and frustrating opponents. But he is most effective alongside another midfielder capable of taking over all the distribution responsibilities.

Even in the recent World Cup, especially when he was up against Bastion Schweinsteiger, Mascherano's limited abilities were on full display. And it's for these reasons that Hodgson shouldn't feel too bad about losing one of his biggest star names. Don't get me wrong, Mascherano's exit will be felt but if Hodgson plays his cards right, the Reds should be alright.

Funny Football Commercial about Premier League

This is pretty hilarious!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The end of an Era

Raul Gonzalez, Real Madrid's all-time goalscorer, said farewell to the club he's served his entire professional career at for a stint at either the Bundesliga or the Premier League (initial reports suggesting Raul had signed on a two-year deal at Schalke appear untrue).

In many ways it's sad to see someone like Raul, who had such an illustrious career at Madrid, have to leave at the twilight of his career to avoid spending another season on the bench.

Just like Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs, Raul was one of those players you could see spending his entire career at his boyhood club, which is something of a rarity these days. Still, don't feel too sorry for him. Not many players can boast a similar trophy cabinet to the one Raul's got (except for the two other players I just mentioned...maybe it does pay to be loyal!).

As for Raul the footballer, he was the embodiment of the modern striker or at least what more strikers should aspire to be. He was both a finisher and a supplier. He had deft touches and was fast when needed and above all, he was always two steps ahead. I tried looking for some classic Raul videos and stumbled upon this one which is the Champions League quarterfinal between Real Madrid and Man Utd in 2000. Raul scores two goals in this one. The clip is a little long but worth watching (especially that piece of sublime skill from Redondo!). Enjoy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

France national team banned (for one game only).

Back in university, I distinctively remember my journalism professors stressing the importance of good headlines. It had to be short, concise and above all, catchy. Even a Pulitzer Prize-winning story runs the risk of going unnoticed by readers if it isn't accompanied by a good headline. As such, news organisations, be it newspapers of the 24-hour cable news stations, strive real hard to come up with the best headlines to grab our attention.

Anyway, there I was sipping a cold one at my friendly neighbourhood pub absentmindedly watching a 24-hour cable news station being projected on screen that has seen better days when one headline on the news crawl caught by attention: "France World Cup squad suspended." Suspended?? I immediately turned to my drinking buddy to see if he caught the same headline. He did and he was just as puzzled. How does one suspend an entire World Cup squad? Due to the excessive noise at the bar (it was a Friday night after all), we weren't able to hear a word of what the newscaster had to say about the news. So we were left to our own devices to guess just what the headline meant.

Other news stations carried similar headlines such as "France squad banned!"and "Blanc suspends World Cup squad." And so we came up with all sorts of conclusion but the most common one that was derived from all these headlines was that Laurent Blanc had banned all 23-players in the France's embarrassing squad in the 2010 World Cup from playing for Les Blues for a long time.

Later when I got home, despite or due to my intoxicated state, I found myself extremely annoyed when I found out that the suspension on the French squad was for just one game and friendly at that! My annoyance wasn't so much at the fact that the French squad was getting off extremely easy after their shameful behaviour at the World Cup but more towards all those misleading headlines which suggested the squad was banned for at least a lengthy amount of time. I guess it was a dry day at the news stations that they had to play up such a mundane story. Still, couldn't they have been a little more truthful with their headlines? If there's one thing worse than a boring headline, it's a misleading one. Those are the worst.

On an added note, it's a bit sad, though not surprising, that new Les Blues coach, Laurent Blanc only chose to suspend France's World Cup misfits for one match only and that too a friendly. If anything, Nicolas Anelka and Patrice Evra should receive some lenghty bans from the national squad for their roles in the series of embarrassing espisodes in South Africa. Don't get me wrong. I'm not one to defend a manager as bad as Domonech but those two displayed a behaviour unfitting for a professional footballer. Period.

Say it isn't so Houllier!

You've got to hand it to Gerrard Houllier; he certainly knows when to pick a fight. Now that Rafa Benitez is no longer at Anfield, Houllier has launched an out-of-character attack on the Spaniard by claiming he was responsible for the Benitez' greatest achievement during his tenure at Liverpool: the 2005 Champions League.

It's a bit odd that Houllier is choosing to make a Mourinho-styled attack on Benitez NOW instead of saying something during the Spaniard's five years at Liverpool. But since Houllier brought it up, and since Benitez has been uncharacteristically quiet on the rebuttal, let me bring up a few points that might refresh the Frenchman's memory on how that 2005 Champions League campaign panned out.

First and foremost, no one, not even Rafa himself, would deny that the 2005 Champions League winning squad was by and large assembled and put together by Houllier in the previous seasons. And yes, of the three scorers on that historical night in Istanbul, two (Gerrard and Smicer) hailed from the Houllier regime. But the third Liverpool player on the score sheet that night was one of the five players brought in by Benitez in his first season in charge. And let's not forget that it was a pint size midfielder by the name of Luis Garcia who scored those decisive goals against Juventus and Chelsea that brought Liverpool to Istanbul in the first place.

So if my math serves me well, two out of the five players signed by Benitez played a huge part in winning Liverpool's fifth European Cup. Not a bad statistic, no? So yes, Houllier, 90% of that squad was built by you but it was two of Benitez' men that contributed more to that victory.