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Paulo Dybala nears Palermo exit as bidding war begins

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Paulo Dybala is set to be the subject of an intense bidding war between Arsenal and Juventus with Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini claiming a sale will take place in April with Dybala’s representatives having been given permission to travel to both London and Paris to seek offers for the 21-year-old forward.

We will sell Dybala by the end of April, Pierpaolo Triulzi has the green light from me and is going to Paris and London to listen to offers, then we’ll evaluate them together.

Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A netting thirteen goals in twenty nine appearances attracting the interest of Arsene Wenger who may eventually be put off by Palermo’s £30million asking price.

Palermo have found the crux of their business model in identifying talented young players from South America and presenting them with a pressure free environment to begin their career in Europe before selling them to a major force for a sizable profit. The names Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani spring to mind as two of the more recent examples of Zamparini’s business model.

It is difficult to see just where Dybala would fit in at Arsenal given the wealth of attacking talent already at the club.

There is a real fear that Theo Walcott may leave the club sooner rather than later with the club’s hierarchy believed to be particularly unenthused at the prospect of dealing with the 26-year-old’s representatives in contract talks once more which would perhaps present an opening for Dybala.

The futures of Joel Campbell and Tomas Rosicky are also in doubt as we approach the summer transfer window with the Costa Rican World Cup star having been unable to impress at the Emirates before being loaned to Villarreal as part of the Gabriel Paulista transfer.

The move itself would represent a significant shift away from Arsenal’s prudent transfer policy over the past decade. Of course the London club have shown their ability to part with huge fees to attract the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez over the past two summers yet spending such a significant figure on a player with just two seasons of top-flight experience is a certain risk which doesn’t entirely fit with Arsene Wenger’s ethos.

The Frenchman has been known to take a chance of players over the course of his spell with Arsenal but never at such a sizable fee with only Francis Jeffers and Jose Antonio Reyes being expensive disappointments at the club. Wenger has often had much more success when taking players for very low fees and moulding them into first-team stars for example Alex Song and Kolo Toure.

It is believed that Juventus remains the player’s first choice with Dybala himself having publically spoken of his admiration for the Italian Serie A and its teams,

As I child I followed all championships, but always chose Italian teams on the PlayStation. I love all the championships for their diversity, but Italy remains the best choice for players from Argentina, especially because of the importance given to tactics.

AS Roma hold an interest in the player too but following last season’s expensive pursuit of Juan Iturbe it would be a surprise if the club were able to commit financially to Dybala and Palermo.

Juventus themselves may well be facing a summer of change with the club expected to reshuffle their forward line. The long pursuit of Fernando Llorente from Athletic Club has ended up being a disappointment with the Spaniard having not replicated the quality shown with the Basque club in Turin.

Carlos Tevez may also leave Juventus this summer with the former Manchester United and City striker believed to desire a return home to Argentina with former club Boca Juniors. Tevez’s contract in Turin runs until June 2016 however the Italian giants may well allow the 31-year-old to leave a year early especially given the quality he has provided in European competition with Juventus set to reach their first Champions League semi-final for over a decade.

If Juventus were to part with the £30million required to sign Dybala it could well be the deal which kick-starts the transfer market in earnest with the futures of Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza then becoming an issue.

Berardi is currently on loan at Sassuolo from Juventus and with the 20-year-old forward having twenty six Serie A goals in his two seasons with Sassuolo it is expected the Italian champions will bring him back to the club. If Juventus were to sign Dybala then there would have to be numerous departures in the forward line to avoid a bloated squad.

Zaza on the other hand is a player who was sold to Sassuolo outright by Juventus on the condition that Juve could buy him back for £11million this summer. Zaza has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Sassuolo scoring eight league goals along with being handed his first Azzurri cap by Antonio Conte. If Dybala was signed it would make such a deal wholly unlikely and could bring Tottenham Hotspur back into play with the London club holding a strong interest in 23-year-old Zaza.

Paris Saint-Germain are a club on the periphery of the Dybala transfer saga with it seeming more likely that the player’s representatives are attempting to drum up interest from the French giants. PSG may wish to rejuvenate their forward line this summer with Zlatan Ibrahimovic approaching the end of his career and Edinson Cavani enduring a second straight difficult season in France.

However given the Financial Fair Play restrictions placed upon the club last year, they have to be very careful in monitoring their spending and with home-grown players regulations always a worry it could be the case that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette would be their preferred option.

Palermo would welcome the cash injection from the sale of Dybala with it still as yet unclear as to whom may replace the skilful Argentine. Former Real Madrid youth prospect Alberto Bueno, now plying his trade with Rayo Vallecano, has been muted as one possible target for the Italian club who sit eleventh in Serie A, just three and four points behind Internazionale and AC Milan respectively, in their first season back in the top-flight.

Palermo may also have to contend with another departure this summer with Dybala’s partner in crime Franco Vazquez also muted to be heading towards the exit door at Renzo Barbera.

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Roma brought back down to earth

Serie A league leaders AS Roma were brought back down to earth last night when their perfect start to the season of ten wins in a row was put to an end by a plucky Torino side who managed to hold the Giallorossi to a 1-1 draw after an impressive performance from their wide midfielder Alessio Cerci. Cerci, a boyhood Roma fan and a former member of the AS Roma Primavera was effective all night long particularly down the right hand side of midfield mainly due to the woeful defensive display from Federico Balzaretti.

Totti and Gervinho were two key men missing for Roma's visit to Torino.

Totti and Gervinho were two key men missing for Roma’s visit to Torino.

After their midweek victory of Chievo Verona took them passed the nine straight wins at the beginning of a Serie A season record formerly set by Fabio Capello’s Juventus team in 2005-2006, Roma were determined to keep their impressive run of form going as the gap between themselves and Napoli was still just four points which is a real testament to the widespread quality in the upper echelons of the Italian top flight this season. Roma headed to Torino’s Stadio Olimpico without a number of key figures who were missing through injury, the most notable of those absentees were the attacking duo of Francesco Totti and Gervinho which forced Rudi Garcia to place Marco Borriello in the starting line-up. In a very attacking 4-3-3 system Borriello looked a bit like a lost sheep with the Italian forward being unable to stay on the same wavelength as his partners Miralem Pjanic and Alessandro Florenzi.

This was one of the greatest contributing factors to Roma’s demise yesterday evening as Garcia’s men couldn’t capitalise on their opening goal through Kevin Strootman, Borriello’s limited movement made it very easy for the Torino defensive pairing of Kamil Glik and Matteo Darmian to make him out of the game and limit his link-up with Pjanic and Florenzi.

It was a difficult first half for Roma with the hosts stifling their limited creativity with a very industrious approach to the match, with ten men behind the ball and looking to hit the visitors on the counter attack through Cerci and El Kaddouri respectively. Roma had a lot of possession in the midfield as they were afforded time to think on the ball courtesy of Torino’s game plan and the Giallorossi’s patience did eventually pay off when they got their aforementioned opening goal just before the half hour. An excellent defence splitting pass from Balzaretti set the inform Pjanic free inside the penalty area and he duly cut it back into the path of Strootman who powered past Padelli in the Torino goal.

Roma should have capitalised on this and looked for a second goal but Garcia’s charges simply didn’t have the raw creativity in the forward areas to break down the Torino backline with any great consistency. Many Roma supporters bemoaned the selection of Michael Bradley in the centre of midfield alongside Strootman and club icon Daniele De Rossi citing the American’s lack of mobility and creativity as reasons for Roma’s faltering display yesterday evening.

From the moment Roma took the lead it was as if Torino had been given a second wind so to speak, the hosts began venturing forward out of their own half and were receiving a lot more of the ball than in the previous half hour. The catalyst for this was the energetic Cerci who, after switching from the left hand side of midfield to the right midway through the first period, ran Roma ragged. The former Fiorentina man put real pressure on Balzaretti who in truth isn’t the most able player defensively at the best of times and the mistakes came. Cerci dribbled past numerous Roma defenders on several occasions near the climax of the first half and won a number of free kicks which he then went close with despite not forcing a save from the experienced Morgan De Sanctis.

If Roma’s first half performance was considered a shadow of their brilliant best then their second half display defies description.  The Giallorossi couldn’t get into the game at all, it was as if the break had killed any momentum they had. Borriello became even more isolated than in the first half and through Cerci, Torino began to take the game to Roma. A smart move down the left hand side just short of the hour mark took advantage of Maicon’s poor positioning and Torino were unfortunate not to level the match when Meggiorini’s strike forced a diving save out of De Sanctis.

Alessio Cerci, the former Roma man, was in sensational form last evening and he rescued a point for Ventura's Torino side.

Alessio Cerci, the former Roma man, was in sensational form last evening and he rescued a point for Ventura’s Torino side.

Torino’s precious equaliser was to come just four minutes after, an almost identical move to the one which led to Roma’s goal in the first half saw Meggiorini outmuscle Mehdi Benatia before cutting the ball across the face of goal where Cerci applied a near post finish. With Roma now somewhat stunned into action, Rudi Garcia immediately withdrew Borriello in place of the exciting Adem Ljajic in the hope the Serbian could inject some impetus into Roma’s performance.

Roma were still struggling to build anything like the rhythm they had displayed in their previous ten Serie A matches however they may well feel aggrieved that they did not receive a penalty ten minutes from time when Maicon broke into the Torino penalty area and appeared to be tripped however replays showed the initial contact to be outside the box and once inside Maicon in actual fact, tripped over his own feet.

The game finished 1-1 and the final ten minutes were certainly not a period of football for the ages, with Roma desperately trying to continue their perfect start to the season the visitors threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Torino but due to fatigue and the personnel on the field at the time there was never really any great threat to the Torino goal. Such was the surprise at the result the Torino side lapped up the atmosphere and celebrated a 1-1 draw with their own supporters as you would after winning a domestic cup however who can blame them? They had just matched the standout side in the Italian top flight and had lifted themselves into 12th position, a full three points away from the relegation zone.

Roma on the other hand have been brought back to earth, after seven hundred and forty three, yes 743, minutes without conceding a league goal it does appear as if Rudi Garcia’s men are human after all and with Napoli and Juventus only three points behind in second and third place respectively it will be an important period for Roma to return to form when they face Sassuolo at the Olimpico next weekend, not least because Juventus and Napoli face each other on the same weekend.

Written by Chris Winterburn

You can follow and get in touch with Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

 

Is Erick Thohir what Internazionale need to return them to glory?

With the talk of a boardroom takeover at arguably one of Italy’s biggest clubs having been constant since the beginning of the summer it now appears as if we are ever closer to reaching a conclusion to the saga surrounding Internazionale of Milan. The current owner, the enigmatic Massimo Moratti confirmed in the last few days that the sale of a majority 75% stake in the club to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir could take place within the week.

The Thohir/Levien partnership at their unveiling as D.C. United part owners.

The Thohir/Levien partnership at their unveiling as D.C. United part owners.

The Moratti family have held significant invested interest in the Milanese club dating back to 1955 when Massimo’s father, Angelo, would become club president. This partnership would be a rather fruitful one which over the course of the thirteen years Angelo spent at the helm of the club saw Internazionale win their first ever European Cup in 1964 The trophy was retained just a year later when Moratti’s Internazionale side defeated Benfica in the final.

The baton was eventually passed down from father to son when Massimo took control of the club in 1995 with the sole goal of at the very least matching his father’s haul of two European Cups. However Moratti in this instance would only hold the presidency for nine years before taking over once again in 2006 after a two year hiatus. Massimo Moratti to this day has managed to win one European Cup after a Jose Mourinho inspired Internazionale side conquered the continent in 2010 with what can now be considered an ‘old team’. The legacy of this team did not last long with the figurehead Mourinho leaving to join Real Madrid that very summer. The club never really recovered and with Moratti unable to pump in the finances required to succeed at the very very top level in modern football, Internazionale have slipped down the pecking order within their own country and it appears as though Moratti has decided his time with the Nerazzurri is coming to an end.

Erick Thohir at just forty three years of age is a sizeably successful businessman with the main body of his fortune coming through the inherited family business and ownership of several Indonesian media outlets including the television station ‘tvOne’ and the Newspaper ‘Republika’. This fortune has allowed Thohir the freedom to expand his empire into the world of sport and Internazionale supporters may be able to take some solace in the fact their club wouldn’t be Thohir’s first venture of its type.

In 2011 Thohir was part of a consortium which led a takeover of NBA Basketball team, the Philadelphia 76ers, this coupled with his ownership of a number of Indonesian basketball franchises provided a solid base for Thohir to begin to understand how sports franchises worked and how to use his money to improve their success both on and off the field/court. It is interesting to note that in the takeover of the 76ers, Erick Thohir was closely aided by a former basketball agent, Jason Levien who has stuck with Thohir ever since.

Levien and Thohir then set their sights on a football franchise, this time targeting the MLS’ own D.C. United. Their takeover bid was successful in July 2012 with Thohir and Levien forming a three way ownership agreement alongside fellow investor Will Chang with the aim of propelling D.C. United to a successful period on the field as well as finally securing the funds for a new stadium which had been the source of frustration for D.C. United for a number of years.

The partnership between Thohir and Levien is an intriguing dynamic. Levien has a background within the sporting world having made his name, and money, as a basketball agent. This experience within the sporting arena is something which I believe Thohir is trying to tap into when purchasing ownership of numerous sports franchises. There has been no official word as yet whether Levien would be part of Thohir’s consortium if and when the takeover of Internazionale is completed however it would be a pretty safe bet to assume Levien will be involved in one way or another. The way I can characterise the relationship between the pair and the job Levien does to an English audience specifically would be to recall the role undertaken for many years by David Dein at Arsenal.

David Dein had a fantastic working knowledge of not only the business side of football but also the sporting side and as a result of this was always able to assist Arsene Wenger in transfer matters in a manner which greatly benefitted Arsenal. Dein knew how football worked, he knew how agents worked and how players in the midst of negotiations worked, he used all this knowledge to his advantage to persuade players to join Arsenal when in truth they had better financial offers on the table from other clubs. James Levien has been part of Thohir’s sports ownerships to offer the very same role, Levien as I have previously mentioned is a sports orientated man and knows how the business within sports works having been an agent himself. Thohir is willing to place his trust in Levien’s knowledge of the sports world and back him financially in order to achieve results.

Massimo Moratti's time at Internazionale, after some great successes, seems to be coming to an end.

Massimo Moratti’s time at Internazionale, after some great successes, seems to be coming to an end.

Whilst there is currently what feels like a semi-permanent dark cloud surrounding the Milanese giant, things in truth can conceivable improve quickly. Internazionale are very fortunate in the sense they have managed to secure Walter Mazzarri as their manager this past summer. This may very well be the Moratti family’s final gift to the club. Mazzarri is an exceptional man manager, as well as a tactician as we saw during his years at Napoli, despite never making that final step and winning the Scudetto. Internazionale’s current high league position in Serie A is testament to Mazzarri however the 3-0 drubbing at home to high flying Roma really highlighted just how poor the Internazionale squad currently is.

There are players within that squad who have been brought in simply as a cost-saving measure due to the lack of funds available at the club. The recent sales of big name players such as Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o and Julio Cesar were yet again financially motivated measures. The club not only needed the money from the sales but also could no longer afford to offer those players the astronomical wages that they were promised during the club’s recent on field boom period. As a result we have seen the more talented players leave and less talented players come into the squad on sizeably lower wages. This was a measure that has seen Internazionale fall out of the cash cow that is the UEFA Champions League after finishing 9th last season in what was the club’s worst final standing since finishing 13th in 1994.

Internazionale knowing full well the finances were on the decline took a gamble bringing in Andrea Stramaccioni as manager following his successes as the coach of the Internazionale Primavera side which won the 2012 edition of the NextGen series. It was hoped that Stramaccioni being the impressive tactician he was could nurture through the crop of up and coming young players from the Primavera and keep Internazionale competitive whilst the money was not available for the big purchases which have characterised the Massimo Moratti era. This project unfortunately was probably started too soon for everyone and eventually ended in disappointment with players not making the grade quickly enough and Stramaccioni, albeit not free from blame, having to persevere with a lack of quality within the first team.

D.C. United, following the takeover of Thohir and Levien, saw their fortunes turn in a positive manner. They finished an impressive 2012 MLS campaign in second place in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the MLS. This was a huge improvement from the 2011 campaign which saw D.C. United finish a lowly thirteenth in the MLS. Thohir’s impact albeit coming half way through the campaign was significant and there is forward progress currently being made on the construction of a new stadium with planning permission having been submitted to the required authorities for a site near ‘Nationals Park’ baseball stadium.

Thohir is a billionaire and will be able to pump considerable finance into Internazionale, Thohir seems a very astute man as we have seen not only in his previous business ventures but also his alliance with sports mogul Levien. Thohir is rumoured to yet again be looking to surround himself with ‘football people’ by asking Massimo Moratti to stay on as part of the board for at least six months after he completes his proposed takeover. With the experience of Moratti and the sports brain of Levien, provided he joins up with Thohir in this particular venture coupled with the mammoth financing Thohir can provide this may well be the deal that rescues Internazionale. Money will be able to be spent in the transfer market and a lot of players considered ‘deadwood’ will be able to leave the club. With all this financing being trusted to a proven coach in Mazzarri the future may well be bright for Internazionale and it is a whole lot closer than people thought possible.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Fiorentina put themselves into difficulty over Stevan Jovetic

It seems not too long ago that we were all discussing the prospect of a three pronged race to sign Montenegro’s most valued asset, Stevan Jovetic, with Arsenal, Juventus and Manchester City all being linked with the attacking midfielder come striker. However in the month that has followed this intense speculation it appears that none of the three aforementioned clubs are still interested in the forward with Fiorentina’s asking price of thirty million Euros having priced the player out of move away from the club. Juventus opted to spend significantly less money on Carlos Tevez whilst Arsenal look to have secured a slightly cheaper deal for Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain which leaves just Manchester City who appear close to securing the signature of Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla.

Fiorentina have priced Stevan Jovetic out of the market and are now struggling to sell the Montenegrin striker.

Fiorentina have priced Stevan Jovetic out of the market and are now struggling to sell the Montenegrin striker.

It was said that the animosity between Fiorentina and Juventus was one of the reasons that the transfer failed to materialise and Juventus director Giuseppe Marotta this morning all but confirmed these reports when speaking at a press conference, “Jovetic? He was an option we went after during the summer, but due to difficult relations with Fiorentina I think at this point we are fine as we are.” It is believed that the Turin club were unwilling to try and negotiate a cheaper deal with relations as they are with the Florence club.

Whilst the three teams mentioned above having all moved on to alternative targets this does not mean that at least one of them won’t come back in for Stevan Jovetic however it will only come once Fiorentina reduce their asking price of thirty million Euros, and that looks highly unlikely at this stage. Fiorentina have as daft as it sounds put themselves into a bit of trouble by price Stevan Jovetic out of the market as the Florence club is now very close to securing an eighteen million Euros transfer for Bayern Munich hitman Mario Gomez with the funding for that transfer having been expected to come out of the profit made of Jovetic. Whilst Fiorentina are still in a position to pay for Gomez it was not at all in their plans to still have Jovetic as a player when they secure the signature of Gomez, this has been a sizeable miscalculation of the club’s part.

On the flip-side however it is relatively easy to illustrate how Mario Gomez and Stevan Jovetic could play together under Vincenzo Montella with the German being utilised as almost a target man who is given the task of holding up the ball, bringing the wider players into the attacking move before making a late run into the box himself. Jovetic would be deposited just behind Gomez in the ‘false nine’ role which has become oh so popular in recent years although it is yet to catch on as widely in Italy’s Serie A, Jovetic would use his quick, neat footwork to create space for himself and then look to play Mario Gomez into a scoring position with a clever reverse pass much like David Silva attempts to do with Edin Dzeko at Manchester City when the Bosnian is given game time.

This does not take into account one Giuseppe Rossi who is rapidly approaching full fitness after recovering from a longstanding anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained during his time with Villarreal.  The Italian signed on with Fiorentina last January for around ten million Euros with the club even then preparing for the summer departure of Jovetic and it was hoped within the club that Rossi and Gomez would go onto forge a partnership where Rossi dropped ever so slightly behind Gomez not quite as an attacking midfield but a second striker feeding off the knockdowns provided by Gomez, Stevan Jovetic was not considered as part of Fiorentina when this plan was conjured up.

According to goal.com, football agent Eugenio Ascari has urged Stevan Jovetic to try and make peace with his current employers as quickly as possible, as it seems as if the Montenegrin forward will be spending another year in Serie A with the Viola, ” I see too many obstacles at this time to see Jovetic join Juve, so now if I were him I would try to fix the relationship with Fiorentina.” This is something that I feel may unattainable with the supporters of Fiorentina having already turned against Jovetic with the majority of their anger being vented towards Jovetic’s desire to leave a club he deems beneath him. Fiorentina supporters responded to this by producing a banner which stated that no single player was bigger than the club and any who thinks so should leave. This difficult situation created both by Jovetic’s open desire to leave the club and Fiorentina’s miscalculation on the Montenegrins’ price has led to a situation where the club needs to sell Jovetic and Jovetic needs to leave the club yet they are struggling to find a buyer.

Fiorentina amidst the controversy surrounding Stevan Jovetic’s protracted move away from Stadio Artemio Franchi have in the past forty eight hours stated that there had been an increased interest in Jovetic from a number of other clubs across Europe however I expect some embellishing of the facts has gone on in this statement with the likelihood being that if a club was seriously interested in Jovetic and was willing to pay a reasonable fee, they would be able to secure a deal for Jovetic quite quickly with all parties looking for the same outcome now.

We may well see Juventus or even Manchester City come back in for Jovetic with a mammoth offer we just can’t rule that out however, it is more than likely that we may not. Fiorentina wanted to assert themselves as the controllers of negotiations by putting such a high asking price upon the shoulders of Stevan Jovetic and it has now backfired on them with the club needing the get the player off the books in order to make room for new signings. Fiorentina’s stubbornness has put the club into a difficult position and it could well lead to them losing Jovetic for far less than what Arsenal, Juventus and Manchester City were original prepared to pay in the first instance.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Wesley Sneijder, 2013’s proverbial man in the wilderness

January 5, 2013 1 comment
wesley-sneijder1

Wesley Sneijder “A European Champion unable to find a new club”

How does it come to pass that a footballer who just over two seasons ago was lifting Europe’s premier club prize finds himself frozen out of his current club and unable to find a new team with which to go and ply his trade? This scenario, it seems somewhat ludicrous yet it is the scenario that is facing Internazionale Milan’s Wesley Sneijder. After his significantly protracted move to Manchester United in the summer of 2011 never came to pass the Dutchman has struggled to find the levels of performance that saw him guide his nation to a World Cup final, the departure of Jose Mourinho signalled the beginning of the end for Internazionale’s great European Cup winning side and Wesley Sneijder a favourite of Mourinho has found himself on the scrapheap as a direct result of the changes in management since that faithful night in Madrid in May 2011.

It is said that the deal between Manchester United and Internazionale for the sale of Wesley Sneijder had long been agreed in the summer of 2011 and it was simply the players astronomical wage demands that were the stumbling block, in one of the most arduous and long winded transfer sagas in recent times fans of both United and Internazionale were left wondering right up until the final moments of the 2011 summer transfer window just where Wesley Sneijder would be spending his footballing future.

Wesley Sneijder’s public gratitude of the support Manchester United fans gave him during that summer transfer window via twitter all but confirms to us that there was indeed negotiations held that summer but exactly why the transfer didn’t go ahead we perhaps until the former Madrid playmaker writes an autobiography will never know. Now however two years down the line we are looking at a situation where Wesley Sneijder has been prohibited from playing for Internazionale until he signs a new contract on significantly lower wages yet with the Dutchman unwilling to do this there is also no club willing to take him on.

Internazionale Milan would not change their 2010 European Cup win for anything and rightly so, but the legacy that squad has left behind has had a hugely detrimental impact on the finances of the Milanese giants. Mourinho’s squad was built on ridiculously high salaries and bonuses and the players that earned these wages were in the latter stages of their career. Internazionale since then with the introduction of UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations have had to completely restructure their team finances with several of the highly paid, older superstars of that Mourinho side leaving the club for example Samuel Eto’o, Douglas Maicon, Lucio, Thiago Motta and Julio Cesar. These players have been replaced by younger players on significantly lower wages for example Alfred Duncan, Joel Obi and Coutinho with the talented young tactician Andrea Stramaccioni being given the responsibility of building a squad around these young players.

Wesley Sneijder’s struggles began last season, in a campaign that was hampered by injuries Sneijder was never able to put together a consistent run of performances in the first team with his contribution to the teams play becoming less and significant in comparison to what it was only the season before and as a result Internazionale were unable to reclaim their title from fierce rivals AC Milan with the Scudetto returning to Turin with Juventus.

This season Sneijder has once again suffered with injury yet it is instructions from above that are stopping him playing for the first team. It has long been public knowledge that Wesley Sneijder is on wages that are not conducive to fitting into UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations and as a result Massimo Moratti has tried to encourage Sneijder to sign a new deal with a significantly lower salary and this offer has been ignored by Wesley Sneijder who is unwilling to lower his salary. Some will argue that he has no right to do this and he should accept less money with a club that rescued him from his peril at Real Madrid way back in 2009 however why should he? If he is as he believes Internazionale’s most important asset why shouldn’t he be rewarded accordingly and surely being offered a deal with a significantly lower salary is an insult to a player of his individual talents.

It is this blank refusal to sign up to a new deal that has led to this stalemate with both sides being less than blameless for the current state of affairs. Wesley Sneijder is not permitted to play for Internazionale Milan’s first team and he is free to find a new club this January window. Sneijder himself has come out and admitted it will be better for all parties if he finds a new club this month however it is proving considerably more difficult than both he and his agent Soren Lerby had imagined. First it was Anzhi Makhachkala then PSG and finally and most inevitably Manchester United that were reportedly on alert when the situation between Internazionale and Wesley Sneijder had reached stalemate yet all three of those clubs have yet to make any contact with Sir Alex Ferguson informing fans not to “hold their breath” in any expectation of a new signing this January.

Sneijder, following such low levels of early interest has moved to state he would be in favour of a move to England and this sparked all sorts of twitter hysteria with Queens Park Rangers being mentioned as a potential destination for the Dutchman however it is more than likely that these rumours are somewhat false. With Wesley Sneijder being interested in a move to England there would be a number of clubs who would benefit from having this world class playmaker at their disposal.

Tottenham Hotspur after having finally lost their battle to keep Luka Modric at White Hart Lane when the Croatian midfielder moved to Real Madrid last summer have still yet to replace him. The signing of Porto’s Joao Moutinho never went through on deadline day and there has been a lack of creativity in the Spurs midfield ever since, Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have since provided fleeting sparks of ingenuity  on the ball it is however not enough to fill the chasm of creativity left behind by Modric. Wesley Sneijder would fill this hole, the Dutchman having the ability to drop into the deep lying playmaker role in the centre of the midfield and dictate the tempo of the match would allow for Spurs’ more inventive midfielders such as Dembele and Dempsey to sit in their favoured positions further up the pitch just behind the forwards.

Having Sneijder in the centre of the midfield at Spurs would make the team that much more balanced and his wide range of cross field passing would mean countless opportunities for Gareth Bale to use his pace to get on the end of one of these long passes in much the same manner that Ryan Giggs has done in relation to a Paul Scholes pass over the past decade. The main sticking point with this deal would be Sneijder’s wages, Daniel Levy has long been known to be a tough negotiator not to be bullied by any player or agent and this as Spurs fans will testify is quite frustrating at times and it is unlikely Daniel Levy will offer the wages Sneijder is looking for.

Liverpool are a team that under Brendan Rodgers have shown glimpses in quality with a lack of consistency being an overriding theme of their season. The midfield and wide players have created numerous chances for Liverpool this season and it is their frailness in the striking department that has let the Merseysiders down thus far this year. With loanee Nuri Sahin apparently unsettled into life at Anfield Wesley Sneijder could well settle into Brendan Rodgers’ midfield alongside Lucas Leiva and or Steven Gerrard or Joe Allen with relative ease, The Dutchman’s European experience would help the younger members of Liverpool’s squad such as Suso and Raheem Sterling and the levels of creativity Sneijder brings to the table would create even more chances for Liverpool’s forward line now bolstered by the signing of Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool unlike Spurs I feel would be in a position to offer Sneijder something close to the wages he wants especially with Joe Cole now off the Anfield wage bill and with the transfer fee being as low as £6.5 Million pounds it is definitely something Ian Ayre would be taking a closer look at however the level of necessity this transfer would be to Liverpool is relatively low with the defence and forward line needing looking at in the short term as well as the fact Brendan Rodgers needs to find a long term replacement for Pepe Reina so again it appears unlikely Liverpool will make a move for Sneijder, however the conspiracy theorists among us will be the first to point out that signing for Liverpool would anger Sir Alex Ferguson in a way that signing for another team for example Manchester City would not and depending on what occurred in the summer of 2011 signing for Liverpool on slightly lower wages could be the perfect parting shot at Sir Alex from Wesley Sneijder’s perspective.

Arsenal and Chelsea are both believed to have rebuffed Wesley Sneijder and Soren Lerby’s advances in the past fortnight and with good reason, there is no way Wesley Sneijder would fit into Arsene Wenger’s carefully constructed wage structure at the Emirates Stadium and with all Arsenal’s negotiating efforts being preoccupied with persuading Theo Walcott to sign a new deal with the club it is unlikely Wenger will look to Wesley Sneijder despite needing to strengthen a midfield that is missing Abou Diaby through long term injury as well as over relying on Jack Wilshere after a long injury lay off himself.

Chelsea despite having the means to offer Wesley Sneijder the wages he demands, have more than enough in the current midfield and the signing of a player approaching twenty nine years old would unlikely fit in with Roman Abramovich’s current reshuffling of his squad with the Russian owner looking to rid Chelsea of the common belief that they are an old team by filling his team with bright young footballers in preparation for the future.

Manchester City seems the most likely English destination for Wesley Sneijder with the English Champions having registered their interest in Sneijder also in 2011. Manchester City have been crying out for midfield reinforcements this year with Javi Garcia not having adapted to English football as quickly as everyone at Eastlands had hoped and with Jack Rodwell seemingly not ready to be a key member of the first team just yet Wesley Sneijder could be exactly what Manchester City need.

He would add depth and quality to a midfield that will be without the talismanic Yaya Toure for a month due to the African Cup of Nations, Sneijder will add a spark of creativity from deeper in the midfield which is something that Roberto Mancini does not get from Gareth Barry and James Milner, just like I have previously mentioned should in relation to Sneijder signing for Spurs, the Dutchman’s deep lying playmaker characteristics could supplement the more nimble footed creative play of Samir Nasri and David Silva perfectly. It would also take City away from the “defensive” stereotype that surrounds them with two holding midfielders often being chosen in the starting eleven.

Whilst needless to point out it is true that Manchester City would be able to offer Sneijder the wages he is on at Internazionale Milan however Roberto Mancini has said just prior to the opening of the current transfer window that Manchester City are not relying on spending big money to improve their squad so it could well be that Manchester City are too not interested in prying Wesley Sneijder away from the San Siro.

With all the English avenues now fully explored there seems very few options available to Wesley Sneijder, Internazionale Manager Andrea Stramaccioni has made his position clear in recent weeks I’m sure that Wesley can make me change my mind and, if he does, the shirt is waiting for him” this leaves the door open for Wesley Sneijder to sign a new deal in Milan and return to the team however I feel too much has happened for this to occur and the once harmonious matrimony of Wesley Sneijder and Internazionale Milan is now irreversibly fractured. Paris Saint Germain is a club that has proven it is not afraid to test UEFA’S Financial Fair Play regulations with the big money signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi and it wouldn’t surprise anybody if they were to add Wesley Sneijder to their list of handsomely paid ‘Galactiques’ however there has been very few signs of development on that front.

Leonardo who is the current Director of Football at the Parc des Princes has worked with Wesley Sneijder during his five month tenure in charge of Internazionale and this could swing a potential move to the French capital for the Dutchman providing there is a bid made. One final point to make in relation to Paris Saint Germain is it would suit Sneijder’s lifestyle it is clear his wife Yolanthe plays a big part in his decisions and a move to Paris would suit Wesley Sneijder in terms of his family.

With Internazionale no longer feeling like home for Sneijder the only other conceivable option would be Russia, it was reported last month that a club believed to be Anzhi had made initial contact with regards to the potential purchase of Sneijder but nothing materialised. The big money at Anzhi and Zenit Saint Petersburg would allow both clubs to offer Sneijder a substantial wage packet and if there are no other options on the table then I feel Sneijder would have to move to Eastern Europe. On the positive note of a move to Zenit, he would be playing in the Champions League alongside stars such as Hulk and Axel Witsel but moving to the Russian Premier League when you look at the position Wesley Sneijder was in two seasons ago, ‘On top of Europe’ and with Manchester United wanting to bring you to their club then you have to look with hands over eyes at the Dutchman’s dramatic freefall from grace and wonder how much of this was of his own doing?

Written by Chris Winterburn

Milan plot Kaka return, the right move for all the wrong reasons?

August 1, 2012 7 comments

Kaka, the return of the “Prodigal Son” to Milan

Just two weeks have passed since Paris Saint Germain completed the mammoth double €62 million signing of both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva from Italian giants AC Milan, and in that time frame there has been multiple reports and rumours about just where the Rossoneri are going to turn next with Dimitar Berbatov and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa muted as potential direct replacements for Zlatan and Thiago Silva respectively. AC Milan being undoubtedly one of the most renowned clubs in all of European football are always going to be linked with players who appear to be available for transfer however in the Milanese giant’s current financial state it is very difficult to look at any rumour involving Milan without a certain degree of scepticism. The talk of Dimitar Berbatov and Yanga-Mbiwa however seem to be both extremely sensible and significantly likely signings with the Bulgarian centre forward available for transfer away from Manchester United with just under a year left on his contract at Old Trafford, and Yanga-Mbiwa having proved himself in the last two seasons, in particular last year where he played a huge part in Montpellier’s French title triumph being available at not such a high price due to the African born Frenchman entering the final year of his contract at Stade de la Mosson. What followed the rumours regarding Berbatov and Yanga-Mbiwa was in a way both surprising and unsurprising, it was the rumours of a potential return to the San Siro for the iconic AC Milan legend Kaka whom had been told his future was uncertain with the Spanish Champions. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho fuelled the fire for more speculation just last week when he announced “I don’t know if he [Kaka] will stay or not” this then forced AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi’s hand with the former Italian Prime Minister stating that ” Kaka would be welcome back at AC Milan.”

It is always the case with any transfer involving a “blockbuster” player that the old adage “he may one day return” gets broadcast, as with Cristiano Ronaldo when he left Manchester United for Real Madrid and indeed Kaka himself when he made the second most expensive ever transfer to Real Madrid from Milan. As much as fans wish to believe that their hero will one day return in actual fact it happens much less frequently than you would think with the saying essentially being used to cushion the blow of losing a top player for the fans, however in this case it seems that Kaka may well return to the club where he established himself as the best player in the world. Kaka has never truly settled in at the Bernabeu like he did in Milan and many have attributed a mixture of injuries and poor fitness as the reason for this although others would point out Mourinho’s signings of fellow attack minded midfielders Ozil and Di Maria havent exactly made it straightforward for Kaka to earn a place in the Real Madrid starting line up on a consistent basis. Kaka now aged thirty is certainly still a player of immense individual talent who if given a consistent run of games at Madrid would undoubtedly produce displays replicating his days at Milan however with the possibility of Kaka being Madrid’s first choice playmaker next season looking highly unlikely especially with Madrid’s apparent significant interest in Tottenham Hotspur’s Luka Modric and to a lesser extent Benfica’s Axel Witsel, it may well be the case that in order to prolong his footballing career and possibly even earn a place in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup squad Kaka has to move on.

A return to AC Milan would no doubt give Kaka a boost when he most needs it, the former Ballon d’Or winner has found life in Madrid extremely difficult and despite having a much better season last term contributing five assists in Real Madrid’s route to the European cup semi final it still appears that Kaka is a shadow of his former self both on and off the pitch. Let us not kid ourselves Kaka was never the most media hungry player whilst at Milan with the former Sao Paulo midfielder often preferring to shy away from the cameras when possible, however he always looked happy in red and black of Milan, he always appeared to be enjoying his football and why wouldn’t he with everything seemingly going his way? However the iconic smile of the deeply religious Kaka has not been a common entity in the three seasons he has spent in the Spanish capital. Despite the obvious positivity that would go with a return to Milan for Kaka there is a question over whether there would be the same “footballing benefits” for AC Milan themselves.

AC Milan despite having lost arguably their two best players in the forms of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva do not have a huge need for an attacking midfielder such as Kaka, if anything they have been trying to cut their midfield down which has been made evidently clear with the decision to release the experienced Clarence Seedorf following a decade long spell with AC Milan. AC Milan have also moved to strengthen their midfield with the free transfer signing of Riccardo Montolivo from Serie A rivals Fiorentina which leaves Massimiliano Allegri with a vast number of midfielders to choose from including Montolivo, Nocerino, Robinho, Kevin Prince Boateng, Muntari, Ambrosini, Mathieu Flamini, Urby Emanuelson and the newly signed midfield duo of Bakaye Traore and Kevin Constant. It is difficult to find a way in which Kaka will fit into the Milan side with Kevin Prince Boateng and Robinho being the usual candidates to fill the Central Attacking Midfield role, however with Ibrahimovic now gone it may well be the case that Robinho plays as a forward next season which arguably leaves a gap in the central attacking midfield position if Boateng is required to play in a deeper role. Kaka could well fill this gap however with Nocerino and Montolivo who can both perform competently in that position it is once again difficult for me to see just how Kaka could command a consistent spot in the Milanese starting line up, and if he cannot be guaranteed playing time then there is little point of him leaving the Bernabeu. Following brilliant campaigns for both Kevin Prince Boateng and Robinho last year with both displaying their ability on the continental stage with their noticeable performances against holders Barcelona and Arsenal it is difficult to suggest that Kaka would be more deserving of a starting spot ahead of those two players in the AC Milan first team, with Kaka having not been at his absolute best for a number of seasons whilst Boateng and Robinho have gone from strength to strength. The signing of Kaka may not represent the best interest for Milan on the football pitch itself but in comparison off the field it would improve the mood in the city surrounding the club substantially.

There is a sense of furore among the supporters of AC Milan this summer as a direct result of the sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, this has illustrated itself in the poorest ever season ticket sales since Berlusconi took ownership of the club way back in 1986. The worry this caused within the AC Milan hierarchy was significant with club C.E.O Adriano Galliani even addressing the fans to try and calm them down stating “AC Milan will sign a champion this summer” How much of this was simply bravado to appease fans we are still unsure, as we will be until the transfer occurs or when the transfer window shuts on the 31st August. The signing of club legend Kaka however would be a masterstroke from Galliani should the deal be completed, not only would he have fulfilled his promise of signing a champion which would restore the fans confidence in both the team and the board of directors but it would also appease the fans whom are angry that Milan are moving backwards by selling their best players, the signing of Kaka in a way would still prove to supporters that the Rossoneri have the capability to attract the world’s best talent at a time when it appears that they can no longer do so. Season ticket sales would also improve at Milan should Kaka be signed up with fans clamouring to get a glimpse of their hero once again, the media frenzy that this signing would cause would also sway fans into the thinking that despite the sale of Zlatan and Thiago, Milan could still well challenge both in Europe and on all domestic fronts next season which would improve the season ticket sales statistics. Finally at a time when Milan have admitted themselves they are struggling to compete financially hence the sales of their two key players, the fact that the deal for Kaka in itself would not be one of huge expense is hugely important with Madrid unlikely to command a huge transfer fee and the player himself would more than likely not request the same wages he is on currently at Madrid. Failing this the deal may well even prove to be a loan with Madrid looking to free up squad space for a season and Milan looking to appease frustrated fans it could well be a win win scenario for all parties involved despite the suggestion that Jose Mourinho would not be in favour of a loan move for his Brazilian playmaker. Should a loan deal be agreed it is rumoured that AC Milan are only in a position to pay half of Kaka’s current salary with Madrid continuing to pay the other fifty percent until the end of the 2012-2013 season when a low fee buyout clause would be involved should Milan wish to make the move for Kaka permanent.

Whilst there is absolutely no arguments about Kaka’s ability as a footballer whom on his day could still walk into most sides in Europe, there is still a case to answer as to whether he can reach the high standards of performance which he has set for himself with fitness and lack of confidence still being key issues that raise doubt. A return to Milan would boost his confidence noticeable but the question marks over his fitness and recent performances lead me to believe that he would not be a first choice player at Milan and if he was it could well be a potentially disastrous move from Allegri with the possibility of alienating either Kevin Prince Boateng or Robinho being quite likely. Despite the obvious problems that the signing of Kaka would cause for Allegri whom until now has kept relatively quiet on the subject which suggests a great deal about his involvement in any potential deal, there is still the huge matter of off the field positivity that this transfer would cause for AC Milan, it would get them out of a difficult position they have put themselves in following the somewhat forced sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva with fans excited at the prospect of the prodigal son Kaka returning to the San Siro and with the potential to increase the as yet disappointing ticket sales by the signing of Kaka it would be a hugely sensible move for Milan off the pitch. Whether or not it is the best move for footballing reasons however we will have to wait and see.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Roma working the transfer market, Destro in, Borini out

‘Destro’ Roma’s new forward

The 2011-2012 Serie A campaign had promised so much for AS Roma, they had just gained new American owners who had promised to back them financially to allow the Giallorossi to once again compete in the transfer market, they had managed to prise former Barcelona midfielder Luis Enrique away from his coaching position with the B team of the Catalan giants to appoint him as the new head coach with the expectation that he would bring the ‘Tiki Taka’ football that had in recent years revolutionised FC Barcelona to the Stadio Olimpico. However the campaign proved to be one of major disappointment for Roma with Enrique’s methods not quite connecting well enough will all members of the squad and as a result of inconsistent performances by the team it was to be a year of mediocrity from Roma with ‘I Lupi’ finishing in seventh place in Serie A and as a result not qualifying for any European competition for the 2012-2013 season. At the end of the season Luis Enrique was dismissed despite having a year left on his contract and the iconic Zdenek Zeman returned to the club for his second spell in charge. Zeman often revered by the Roma fans for his revolutionary tactics and relationship with the players in particular Francesco Totti, has set about rejuvenating a Roma squad that has been bereft of real quality for a number of years and has shown this with his as yet sensible and economical behaviour in the transfer market this summer.

It was announced last week that Fabio Borini was to become Brendan Rodgers’ first signing at Liverpool with Roma allowing their young striker to be reunited with the former Swansea manager at Anfield for a fee of around €13m. This was a move that was met with a certain sense of unease by the Roma faithful with fans questioning why they had allowed their second highest goalscorer in the previous campaign to leave the club without any sign of a replacement signing on the horizon, however Zeman did indeed have a plan. Borini had in his only season with the Giallorossi scored nine goals in Serie A only two behind Daniel Osvaldo’s eleven and whilst this low number of goals from their two main strikers may well be a reflection of Roma’s poor final league position it must be remembered that it was a debut season in Rome for both players. The general expectation was that Borini would kick on for Roma next season with the ever ageing Francesco Totti expected to play even less of a part in the club’s campaign with his fantastic footballing career ebbing quickly towards its end. Borini’s record of ten goals in twenty six appearances was on the whole impressive for a debut season at a club of the magnitude of Roma and his performances even saw the Bentivoglio born forward earn a place in Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad for the European championships in Ukraine and Poland although the former Roma striker did not make a single appearance throughout Italy’s route to the final of the tournament which they would go on to lose convincingly against the irresistible Spanish.

It was made evidently clear by last season’s collective lack of goals that Roma would need to replace Fabio Borini and Zdenek Zeman set about completing this goal quickly, there was the annual link between Roma and Fiorentina’s talismanic Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic which is the same with any top club in Italy once the transfer window opens and whilst it seems like he will leave the Florence based club sooner rather than later his destination will not be Rome. Rumours then started to appear in the Italian media that Roma were indeed interested in signing the co-owned Genoa and Siena forward Mattia Destro with the former Internazionale man moving closer to a permanent move to Genoa with ‘I Rossoblu’ submitting an offer to secure full registration of the player however this was no guarantee that he wouldn’t leave Genoa straight away just mere assurance that they would receive a full transfer fee. Mattia Destro in his debut season with Siena registered twelve goals in Serie A perfectly illustrating just why he had been on the books of Internazionale Milan, this goal tally just two behind Jovetic alerted several of Italy’s top clubs with reported interest from AC Milan as they look to try and replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic following his record breaking transfer to Paris Saint-Germain however the interest from Milan was purely speculation with representatives from both Siena and Genoa simply meeting in Milan to discuss the deal for Destro involving their clubs respectively. Destro’s high level of performance in Serie A in the past season very much like Borini was noticed by Prandelli and he was included as backup in the final twenty three man squad for Euro 2012 however with no injuries Destro did not travel to the tournament.

It has often been said that Zdenek Zeman works fantastically well with forwards with his tactical system often giving them great opportunities to get forward and put themselves in positions to score a significant number of goals, which is indeed something Roma need to improve on from last season. Roma icon Francesco Totti last week said this of Zeman and the Czech’s tactics ” With Zeman’s playing system, I could score 20 goals a season even as an old man” This bodes well for young Destro who following his impressive year with the Tuscan club last season will be looking to impress even further in the Italian first city and it is expected that a forward pairing of Destro and Osvaldo will work wonders for Roma in the upcoming season. The deal agreed between Genoa and Roma for Destro is in financial terms an astute move from AS Roma with them agreeing to pay just €7m for the twenty year old forward. This leaves the overall profit made from the sale of Borini and the signature of Destro at €6m with this money being spent in yet again another wise way by Zeman on the signature of American international Michael Bradley to sure up the Romans in the centre of midfield.

With Roma having replaced a striker with a slightly younger model who in the past campaign scored more goals and having also made a profit of €6m it is considered that Roma are working the transfer market to their favour thus far this summer, after last summer’s heavy spending to try and force the club into the upper echelons of European football quickly it appears that with Zeman at the helm the Giallorossi are taking a much more patient approach to the transfer market purchasing players when it is necessary and for the right price. This can only bode well for Roma in the upcoming Serie A season as they look to re-establish themselves among Italy’s elite of which they have been apart from for far too long.

Written by Chris Winterburn