PSG's signing of Javier Pastore surprised many last summer - and there might be more to come this January.
There aren’t many transfer rumours lately that aren’t related in some roundabout way to Paris Saint-Germain. We’ve already covered the possible transfer of Leandro Damiao, and the long list of European teams who are hoping to sign him – a list which includes PSG. But the transfer of Damiao to France will depend on whether or not PSG can sign Hulk from Porto, who is also wanted by Chelsea, or if they can lure Alexandre Pato from AC Milan. At the moment, it looks like the latter story has the most truth to it, as Pato is thought to relish the chance to join a club on the way up in which he can be the star striker. Once they sign one of these Brazilians, then this will trigger the transfer of Guillaume Hoarau away from the club, possibly to Fulham.
PSG are set to be made all the more desirable to potential recruits by the flagship signing of David Beckham, whose time at LA Galaxy may be up, and also the acquisition of a continentally renowned manager in the shape of Carlo Ancelotti, and his left eyebrow.
Another player they have been linked with is Chelsea’s Florent Malouda. Malouda may welcome a return to France after being in and out of the Chelsea team under Andre Villas Boas, and the deal will mean PSG nab an experienced home grown player, and may let Chelsea go in unopposed for Hulk.
In the transfer merry go round it can usually take one significant transfer to kick things off, as clubs look to replace players leaving for pastures new, but PSG could spark a whole funfair this January as many players will see a club on the rise, with wages to match, and think that Paris Sounds Good (PSG – get it?)
Arsenal will undergo a few changes in the upcoming January transfer window if the rumours are to be believed. It would make sense for them to try and raise funds by selling fringe players such as Arshavin, Chamakh and Squillaci, and whilst they have been linked with a whole host of players, as is the norm in any transfer window, the one which stands out is the possible return of Thierry Henry.
It would be a risky move for any club legend returning to the club where they are so highly regarded, especially late in their career. Some may expect nothing to have changed since the player departed, and he’ll still be able to perform with the quickness of movement, and clinical forward play that originally lead to the iconic status now held at the club.
Now 34, Henry no doubt still has the great footballing brain, but it’s always a question as to whether the body can handle the physical side of the game, especially in such a demanding league as the English Premiership. But having said that, everyone knows the reliance Arsenal now have on Robin Van Persie, and another high profile name coming into the club could help take some of the weight of responsibility from the Dutchman.
Or maybe Van Persie enjoys being the main man, and someone coming in to steal his limelight, may encourage a move to Barcelona to replace the injured David Villa…
Leandro Damiao scored his first goal for Brazil against Ghana.
Internacional’s international striker, Leandro Damiao, has been attracting the interest of several European sides as they scour the footballing world for suitable additions to their squad in the January transfer window. The Internacional number 9 has been linked with a few English clubs, including Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, and Liverpool, as well as Juventus and AC Milan in the resurgent Italian Serie A. Barcelona have also been linked with Damiao, though they seem to have turned their attention to Neymar after their Club Championship meeting with his side, Santos. Sao Paulo have also shown interest, but it is likely that the club, and the player would prefer a move to Europe. The affluent PSG might be a good intermediary choice and will probably pay top end wages; they have apparently shown interest in a January move.
As the Brasileirao finishes in December, with Corinthians recently being crowned champions, the January window is often a time for the European clubs to take their pick of the next wave of Brazilian talent, or at least try and tie up a deal for the next summer. The Copa Libertadores takes place during the first half of the year, and many players whose clubs have qualified for this competition, as is the case with Damiao, prefer to see out the campaign before making their move.
Another stumbling block for European clubs is the fact that the bigger Brazilian clubs don’t need the money from sales as much as they used to. Their new TV deal and general economic strength in relation to other failing capitalist nations, means that Brazilian clubs can now afford to keep hold of their stars for longer, as is the case with Damiao who will be 23 next July. This is also evident with another of their future stars – Neymar – who is under contract with Santos until after the 2014 World Cup, and has every intention of seeing out this contract. We’ll see.
Leandro Damiao has already played in internationals for Brazil at two London grounds, The Emirates and Craven Cottage, and whilst he would be a great fit for Arsenal in a position which hasn’t been filled by Marouane Chamakh or Park Chu Young (yet), this Brazilian international, may remain Internacional.
Since Barcelona’s rise to power as the dominant force in world football, tacticians have been exhaustively analysing their methods and style to the nth degree. Barcelona are the successful, world renowned embodiment of certain tactical systems, which make their style of play the subject of many a debate, and numerous analyses. Once the obvious exhibit has been dissected thoroughly, the studious football writer needs to look elsewhere to fulfil their desire to explain tactics to people and draw crap diagrams which don’t really mean much. This is what they found in their search for an alternative.
Make sure you include or at least reference the following:
Cruyff, Michels and Total Football – this might seem trite initially, but don’t be scared.
Jorge Sampaoli and Universidad de Chile – essential.
Sergio Markarian – gloss over this if you want.
Starting with the essential. Universidad de Chile have attracted attention this year, initially due to their success in the Chilean Primera Division’s Apertura stage where they fought for a play-off win against fellow Santiago based team, Universidad Catolica. They followed this up with a Copa Sudamerica title earlier this month, and continued their good form from the Apertura into the Clausura stage as they went on an impressive 36 match unbeaten run. The run was recently ended by Catolica in the second leg of the Clausura semi-final play-off, but ‘La U’ (their cool nickname) still went through after the tie was a dead level on aggregate, as they finished ahead of Catolica in the league classification phase. Yes, Chilean football is a bit confusing. Boxing Day will see the first leg of their final against Cobreloa.
People started to take note of these impressive performances, and then they started noticing similarities between the style of play of La U and Barcelona. So much so that some have even called them the Barcelona of South America (in Portuguese). Put simply, they press opponents high up the pitch, pass the ball dynamically and make runs into space which means interchanging of positions isn’t uncommon. Total Football? Tick.
Their manager Jorge Sampaoli uses a system loosely based on a 3-3-1-3 inherited from Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile, who in the build up to, and qualification for the 2010 World Cup, drew comparisons with Spain – just as Sampaoli’s team are now drawing comparisons with Barcelona. The systems Sampaoli uses can be set out in a nice tactical diagram or a simple numbered formation such as 3-3-1-3 or 3-4-3, but the manager and team are so flexible when it comes to formation and system, and the movement on the field of play so dynamic, that it is difficult to nail down in simple terms. However, we came across this excellent site on Chilean football which does a great job of explaining his various systems.
The philosophy remains the same, but the formations change, and this flexibility has contributed greatly to the success of La U in multiple competitions this season. This is epitomised by their 4-0 thrashing of Flamengo in the first leg of their Copa Sudamerica last 16 tie, on the Brazilian club’s home soil in Rio no less. They set up the midfield to resemble a diamond formation, with Gustavo Lorenzetti playing the role of Trequartista, and their star man Eduardo Vargas playing up front on the right given license to wander and play as a centre forward (sound familliar?). But the most significant tactical decision in this match was to only play 2 central defenders, rather than the usual 3. This meant their pressing was even more frantic than usual, and Flamengo’s more established stars such as Ronaldinho had little time to influence the game.
Vargas grabbed himself two goals in a 4-0 win. They then went on to beat another Rio team, Vasco de Gama, in the semi-finals, and Brazil, South America, and the footballing world began to take a bit more notice of the side from Santiago, who eventually went on to win the competition and take their first continental cup win.
Fans were eager to know the size of Steve Kean's latest delivery of free chicken.
In our previous articles on Blackburn, Steve Kean, and Venky’s, we were amongst the small percentage of people who thought Kean deserved a chance. Ironically, we were probably the 1%. In early November we highlighted the Christmas run in as Kean’s chance to recover an almost unrecoverable situation by winning some home games before the two difficult trips to Anfield and Old Trafford.
So here we are, and the festivities were over before they began for Blackburn and Kean. A win against Swansea – a team with the league’s worst away record – didn’t convince anyone that the team had turned a corner, not least the fans who stuck to their guns even during a victory. Then the two vital home games against West Brom and Bolton resulted in a total of 0 points. A strange decision to play Hoilett off Yakubu, and Formica on the wing meant the team struggled to keep possession in the first half against Bolton. Everyone could see that these players should have been in the other’s position.
The West Brom game was the first time the players seemed to be affected by the goings on around them, and they generally looked bereft of confidence. Having been on the ropes for most of the game, Odemwingie’s excellent winning goal dealt the knockout punch. A makeshift back four of Lowe, Samba, Hanley, and Pedersen going into the Bolton game didn’t help, but their problems run much deeper than the availability of players for the starting XI.
With the atmosphere around the club as it is, and the lack of points from these winnable games, it’s surely time for Steve Kean to step down. The negativity from the fans is definitely starting to have an effect on the players, and at one point during the Bolton game Yakubu looked like he wanted to come over and sort things out with fans gathered at the front of the stand, in one of many mid game protests.
On the protests themselves, the club should allow banners, protests, even aeroplanes over Ewood, but what isn’t called for is the barrage of personal abuse aimed at Kean, and the shouts for Sam Allardyce to be reinstated. For a start Allardyce is now West Ham manager and it would be arrogant to suggest he’d return, but it is also hypocritical, as many shouting for his return slated the Allardyce tactics and didn’t make any noise when he was sacked by the Indian owners.
This leads us to the main problem. Venky’s don’t seem to want to sack Kean, and even if they do, who will want to take over and work for a regime who have plenty of ideas – albeit mad ones – but evidently lack the funding or knowledge to follow them through. It’s almost like their scouting team consists of someone using a late 90’s version of a Championship Manager game.
Kean Out may not solve the problem, but it will hopefully expose it further as no one will want to work with Venky’s, who prove that the Premier League’s fit and proper person test for owners doesn’t work. Maybe the Premier League saw a bit of money in India too…
“I think we need a solid centre back, a creative midfielder, and a striker to put away those chances we keep missing.”
With many teams wanting the same thing from the transfer market, it’ll be interesting to see who will be the most successful in the often unpredictable January transfer window. Unpredictable, unless you’re one of those tabloid newspapers who report every transfer rumour conceivable, and many which aren’t, so then when the transfer goes through you can say “As WE reported LAST WEEK!!“.
Our favourite saga by far, that of Carlos Tevez, will continue this January, as he seeks a return to football after being banished by Roberto Mancini after refusing to warm up. AC Milan are the current favourites to sign the Argentine who will hopefully find a club where he can display his world class footballing ability, before returning to West Ham.
Newcastle had a start to the season which was better than many expected, so most of their players are already linked with moves away. Tim Krul is now the best goalkeeper in the world, so will probably go to Chelsea to replace the hapless Petr Cech, and Demba Ba was a bargain signing, costing the club a massive £Om. He is expected to go to Liverpool for £40 million plus Andy Carroll.
Manchester United may be in the market for a defender, having lost Vidic. Even Michael Owen can’t find him, and no one knows the periphery of Manchester United Football Club as well as the former England striker does.
Chelsea are expected to sign the Porto team, and Arsenal have tabled another bid for Lille, having failed with a similar bid in the summer transfer window.
Neymar admitted Santos were taught a lesson, whilst Messi reckons Neymar would fit in at Barca.
Santos 0 – 4 Barcelona
Everyone was waiting to see Messi versus Neymar, and Santos had been waiting for months to test themselves against the best team Europe has to offer – one of the best teams Europe has ever offered. After an average domestic season in which Santos finished 10th in the Brasileiro and only qualified for next seasons Copa Libertadores by being the defending champions, all thoughts were on the World Club Cup, and a faceoff between the best players on their respective continents. A sense of anticipation emanated from Brazil as a nation; they were represented in the final of this intercontinental competition for the first time since 2006, but the main date on their minds was 2014, when they hope Neymar and Ganso bring them World Cup glory in Rio.
After the fantasy pre-match build up. Reality hit home. Barcelona can make even the best teams and the best players look rubbish. Just ask Real Madrid.
Neymar showed glimpses of the class that has lead people to speak of him in the same breath as the words Lionel, and Messi, but in truth he didn’t touch the ball enough to give those watching him for the first time an idea of what he’s about. Indeed after the game most people don’t know how Santos play, or who this Ganso fella is.
This might be a new experience for the South American audience, but they shouldn’t feel too downhearted by it. Like Real Madrid and Manchester United before them, Santos have gained a valuable lesson into the methods of Barcelona, and maybe more importantly – Spain, and should take these on board. Brazil should be thankful that Spain don’t yet have a Lionel Messi – the Argentine showed how important he is to the Barcelona machine with two brilliantly taken goals and all round attacking play which still seems to be improving with each game.
Maybe Neymar’s best contribution to the future of Brazilian football so far will be this line he was quoted as saying after the game:
“Barcelona have fantastic players. They are the best team in the world and were far superior. Today we learned how to play futbol.”
Maybe the lesson came just in time for Brazil’s preparations for 2014.
Bang bang Maxwell's left foot hammer came down upon Al Sadd
Barcelona set up the Club World Cup final tie predicted by everyone at the start of the tournament, as they defeated Al Sadd by four goals to nil in front of over 66,000 people at the Nissan Stadium, Yokohama. The win came at a price though, as their Spanish star striker David Villa suffered a broken leg which will rule him out for the rest of the season, and probably next summer’s European Championships. A blow for Barcelona, and for Spain.
Brazilian club Santos await Barcelona in the final, and Barcelona’s goals against Al Sadd had a few Brazilian connections to speak of. The first two goals were scored by Adriano, who played his youth and first senior football at Coritiba in Brazil, before moving to Spain. His first goal was a gift – the result of a defensive mix up between goalkeeper and defender – allowing an alert Adriano to pounce and open the scoring.
His second goal was a curling left footed effort from just inside the area, which he executed after receiving a pass from Thiago Alcantara, which sounds like a Brazilian name… A little shoddy, rushed, Wikipedia style research shows us that Thiago is the son of 1994 Brazil World Cup winner Mazinho, and played a large amount of his youth football in Brazil for Flamengo, but was born in Italy.
Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita managed to spoil our Brazilian connections by combining for the third goal, as Lionel offered Keita a way through to goal with a neatly placed pass which the Malian took full advantage of. So we have another skill that Messi has become one of the best in the world at – the pin point through ball.
We go back to the Brazilian love in, which seems to be the theme of this tournament, as Barcelona’s fourth goal was scored by another player brought up on the Jogo Bonito – former Cruzeiro player -Maxwell. He fired a left foot shot past the near post of Mohamed Saqr, who should have done better, and it was again Thiago Alcantara with the assist – a clever disguised pass beyond the back line in the style of, erm, Lionel Messi.
This means that on Sunday we will witness one of the most eagerly anticipated World Club Cup finals in recent years as Barcelona take on Santos, but more importantly for the headline writers, Neymar takes on Messi.
Today’s World Club Cup fixture saw South American representatives, Santos of Brazil, show their class to edge past a spirited Kashiwa Reysol side, a result which takes them through to the final of the competition. They will meet the winners of tomorrow’s game between Al Sadd and Barcelona.
Many pundits are predicting big things from Santos forward Neymar in the build up to the 2014 World Cup, by which time he will be aged 21 and carrying the hopes of the home nation on his shoulders. Until then he’ll just have to make do with Pele describing him as better than Messi – “I think Neymar is much better, more complete” – and a whole host of European clubs chasing his signature and offering huge financial incentives to secure it.
In a move which shows the growing financial clout of Brazilian clubs, Santos have managed to tie up a contract with Neymar until after the 2014 World Cup, and in case a European club does come in with big cash, they’ve made sure they’ll have to pay silly money by upping his release clause to around £60m. The fact the club are also celebrating their centenary season next year, which is a big deal in Brazilian football, also swayed the club and players’ decision for him to hang on in South America that little bit longer.
Back we go to today’s game, and it wasn’t long before people watching Santos for the first time saw what the fuss surrounding their wonderkid was all about, and it only took him 20 minutes to get on the score sheet. Receiving a pass from his buddy Ganso, another player who might be central to the 2014 Brazil squad, he feigned to shoot on his right to commit the defender, before setting up for a left footed strike into the top corner. Both defence and keeper were beaten convincingly in one swift manoeuvre just right of centre, outside the 18 yard box.
Not to be outdone by his young compatriot, Santos’ other striker, the 31 year old Borges, scored a similarly impressive goal from the other side of the pitch. Cutting in from the left before sending a powerful right footed effort into the opposite top corner. An impressive acrobatic celebration followed.
Kashiwa Reysol enjoyed a substantial amount of possession and certainly tested the favourites with their set pieces and general stubbornness. The match statistics show that they had slightly more possession in the game, and they have something to show for their efforts in the shape of a goal from a corner, taken by their own Brazilian, Jorge Wagner, and nodded in by centre back Hiroki Sakai.
Santos made sure of their final berth by scoring another impressive goal, this time from a free kick. Right back Danilio, who will join Portuguese side Porto straight after this competition, struck a the set piece with so much precision it seemed to make the goal frame slightly wider, as it crept inside far post leaving ‘keeper Takanori Sugeno stood watching in disbelief. Here we could have another in a long line of great Brazilian right backs, and Danilio will be another player pushing for a place in that all important 2014 squad.
AFC Champions League holders Al Sadd of Quatar secured themselves a dream tie against Barcelona in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup, after defeating the current CAF Champions League holders AS Tunis by two goals to one. Al Sadd can boast a few relatively familiar names in their line-up – including players such as Nadir Belhadj, Abdul Kader Keita, and Mamadou Niang – all of whom may be familiar to followers of European football. The game will take place at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama this Thursday, the 15th of December, and could draw a large crowd in host nation Japan’s second largest city.
The first semi-final will take place the day before, on Wednesday the 14th December, at a venue – the Toyota stadium – where host nation hopefuls Kashiwa Reysol are undefeated in the competition so far. The J-League Champions previously defeated a plucky Auckland City 2-0 in the play-off round, and then scraped past stronger opposition in the shape of Monterrey of Mexico on penalties, after the game finished 1-1.
The home team will be hoping for an upset against Santos of Brazil, who are in the competition due to their Copa Libertadores win earlier in the year. Santos will be looking to their future Brazilian superstar Neymar, who Pele recently claimed is better the Lionel Messi, to see them through to a possible final against Barcelona where he might get the chance to add some weight to this fanciful claim.
The host nation have also promised to take further security measures at these semi-finals, as the game between AS Tunis and Al Sadd ended with some spectators taking to the field.