Thursday, July 24, 2008

Calcio Debate: Marino – Best Transfer Guru In Serie A?

Napoli are possibly the fastest rising team in Italian football right now, and one man in particular must take great credit for this – director general Pierpaolo Marino…

Pierpaolo Marino, Napoli

It is often said that the strength and beauty of Serie A is not judged by the traditional powerhouses at the top, such as Milan, Inter and Juventus, but by the more romantic outfits in the second tier like Napoli, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Torino.

These four teams all challenged for honours in the 1980s and early 90s, with the Napoli of Maradona winning two Scudetti, a Coppa Italia and a UEFA Cup. An important component of the Azzurri during the most glorious period of their history was Pierpaolo Marino who, during his two years as sporting director, helped build the team that would historically win its first ever Scudetto in 1987.

Marino returned to Napoli 17 years later, in 2004, to take the post of director general. The club had endured a spectacular fall from grace from the time of Maradona, Careca and Ferrara and, after going bankrupt, now found themselves in Serie C. Along with new President Aurelio De Laurentiis, who re-founded the club, Marino helped mastermind successive promotions in 2006 and 2007, and in their first season back in Serie A since the beginning of the millennium, Napoli finished eighth, just one place outside Europe. In fact, the Partenopei are looking likely to enter the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto Cup.

So how was this all possible?

Well, the most simplistic way of explaining it, is that Marino has made some quite inspired signings. Last season three of the most explosive talents in Serie A were all snapped up in Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik and Fabiano Santacroce. The former has been compared to the great Maradona himself, the latter is regarded by many as Italy’s best young defender, while Hamsik is one of the most complete young midfielders in Europe, with Napoli recently rejecting a €28m bid for the Slovak. The overall cost of these three starlets - €17m. The overall cost of Tiago Mendes, Sergio Almiron and Jean-Alain Boumsong for Juventus - €27m. No wonder so many Juve fans would like to see Alessio Secco replaced by Marino.

The other signings from last season all held up well too at various stages of the campaign; Marcelo Zalayeta, Manuele Blasi, Walter Gargano, and the talented Daniele Mannini. This summer Marino appears to be conducting his transfer business very well too, signing Sampdoria revelation Christian Maggio, Independiente striker German Denis, who by all accounts has been outstanding in pre season, and Palermo’s Leandro Rinaudo. However it is the imminent capture of Italy Under-21 international Andrea Russotto from Bellinzona that proves how Marino has an eye for young talent.

Sometimes football is made to seem way too over-complicated. If a club has a good transfer chief, who knows a good player when he sees one, then gradually a team can be built for the future. This is what has happened at Napoli. However, if a club has a director with a very poor understanding of the game, who wastes money and signs average players, it thus becomes very difficult for the coach.

Marino, who also oversaw the Udinese of Bierhoff and Amoroso during their third placed finish of 1998, is building something really special at Napoli, and while he is in charge of transfers, who is to say that the glory years of the 1980s cannot return in some form?

What are your views on this Post? Is Pierpaolo Marino the best transfer guru in Serie A? All4All's Blog wants to know what YOU think

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Pogatetz Eyes New Boro Deal

Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz wants to extend his stay at the Riverside beyond the terms of his current contract.

Pogatetz Eyes New Boro Deal

The Austrian international still has two years to run on his current deal, but is confident that a new agreement will be reached in the future.

‘Mad Dog’ featured in all of Austria’s Euro 2008 campaign, and claims that his club are happy to retain his services.

Although a new deal has not yet been signed, Pogatetz is intent on prolonging his north-east stay.

He told the Evening Gazette: "We have been talking about it for a short period now. I have said that I really want to be here as long as possible and there are signals from the club that they want to keep me here, so I think we will reach an agreement. I don't know when, but it looks very good. There's no pressure.

"I still have two more years to go and I'm very confident I can extend my contract and be here as long as possible. There is no rush, we're in talks and that's a good sign. Like I said, the club wants to extend my contract, I want to be here, so I'm sure we will reach an agreement at some point."

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Abidal Reveals Physical Difference

Éric Abidal has taken a swipe at the fitness levels of the Barcelona squad under Frank Rijkaard and stated that he suffered as a result, but things have changed this term

Abidal Reveals Physical Difference

The French full-back is enjoying pre-season under Pep Guardiola because of the renewed emphasis on physical work that he believes was missing under the previous coach.

After joining the club last summer, Abidal said at the time that things were different at the Catalan club, but this year he is confident that the new system will produce result.

"We will have to work hard and well these days so that we are tactically and physically a better team than last season," he told Barça's official website.

“It is all different. It is much more physical than last year, but this year I do not think physical aspects are going to be as fundamental as they were before.

"This year, from what I have seen so far, with things like positioning and unity on the pitch, we are doing things we need to be more aware of and we have to play together as a team more, we need to have a better understanding.

“The new coach wants everything and wants it well done. The boss works and speaks in a very specific way, and he wants us to operate in the same way."

Abidal thinks that now he has adapted to the club the city and his team-mates that he will be able to play like he knows that he can next season.

“Last year I had six very good months, but the I didn’t play as well as I had started. Personally, I need to work on fitness, my body is calling for that," he continued.

“Last season I found it really hard to adapt to the league, to the way the club and Spanish competition work. Now I know what it is all about and that’s good for me”.

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Capello To Retire After England Stint

England's Italian boss Fabio Capello has revealed that the Three Lions will be the last team he manages. He has also spoken out on David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Jose Mourinho...

Capello To Retire After England Stint

62-year-old Fabio Capello is clearly feeling the strain of turning long-underachieving England into world-beaters.
The Italian was unveiled by the Football Association in December 2007 after penning an estimated £6m-a-year, four-and-a-half year deal to manage the international side.

Now, he admits that contract will be his last as a football manager, with retirement now on the horizon.

The former Milan, Real Madrid, Roma and Juventus gaffer is carrying the expectations of the English football fans, who will demand comfortable World Cup qualification and a run to the business end of the South Africa showpiece.
Indeed, predecessor Steve McLaren was released after failing to guide his troops to Euro 2008 and experienced Capello has little margin for error.

However, the final 24 months of his deal are optional and the wily boss could be tempted to step down should England make a splash in 2010.

Speaking to La Repubblica, Capello confirmed: "I will complete my contract with England, but my time in the dugout will end with my England experience.

"However, I would like to end my career having made an impact at a World Cup."
Becks, Lamps and The 'Not-so-Special' One
One man apparently not retiring, though, is LA Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

Old 'Goldenballs' has struggled somewhat whilst juggling North American club football with his England renaissance, yet Capello is keen to see the 33-year-old play on for the time being.

"Until he is unable to play at an international standard, he will play," the boss insisted.

Conversely, Capello wants unsettled Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard to stay in his domestic league, adding: "As England coach I would prefer it if [Lampard] remained in England. He would have less traveling to do that way."

Lastly, the Italian insisted that new Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho won't live up to his notorious 'Special One' tag in Serie A, as the Nerazzurri will be doing most of the work for him.

He sniped: "Mourinho has nothing to teach our coaches. He has taken over a sensational club and I do not think he will do anything special. He will only need to change about one per cent."

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Edmílson: Thank God I Played With Ronaldinho

Edmílson has admitted that he will always be grateful for having had the chance to play alongside Ronaldinho while reflecting on the end of an era at Barcelona.

The Brazilian midfielder joined Villarreal at the end of last season and is already looking forward to facing his old club, but he does not think that things will be the same at Camp Nou.

With himself, Ronaldinho and Deco all having left and Samuel Eto'o likely to follow, Edmílson is just pleased to have played for the Catalan club in such an exciting time.

"A cycle has finished and a change of air was needed. Ronni, Deco and myself have all left. Now there will be another phase," he told El Mundo Deportivo.

"I wish him well. He is a great person and gave everything to Barcelona. I can only thank God that I played alongside side him for Barça and the national team."

Edmílson believes that Pep Guardiola could be a big success in charge of the Blaugrana despite not having had any previous coaching experience at the highest level.

"He has the capability and has spent many years at the club. In Brazil they took a risk with Dunga, who was made national team coach without any experience and has formed a great team," he continued.

In the middle of last season, Edmílson appeared to criticise his team-mates for their passion for material things ahead of playing well and hit the headlines.

"I made my point and I still think the same thing. My comments were not directed at anyone in particular. I only tried to give my vision of how a professional should be in his career," he continued.

"All I did was explained what our commitments as sportsmen and as employees of a club are. Maybe I should not have said black sheep and I could have said it in private instead of to the papers."

One game that Edmílson has already looked for on the fixture list for next season is the visit of Barcelona and he is happy that Villareal do not go to Camp Nou until close to the end of the campaign.

"To play against Barça for the first time will be very special. I have already looked at when they game comes along," he stated.

"I think that is better to go there later on. My departure was very recent and I am still emotional. I have still have a relationship with Barça because of friends and team-mates. That is normal.Now I must only think about Villarreal."

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Ibra Returns To Training Following Injury

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has returned to pre-season training with Inter following his recent injury problems.

Ibra Returns To Training Following Injury

The Super Swede has had a miserable time of things with injuries this calendar year, and missed a large portion of the Nerazzurri’s Scudetto run-in due to a chronic knee injury.

The problem also complicated his Euro 2008 tournament with Sweden, as he played just a half of the 2-1 defeat to Spain, while he also looked short of fitness during the 2-0 loss to Russia.

There were fears that Ibrahimovic’s problems were all set to continue into the new campaign when he limped off the pitch last week just 20 minutes into his first pre-season training session with Inter.

The 26-year-old has now returned to training though with the rest of his team-mates, and he should definitely be fit in time for the new season.

Meanwhile, Inter have a friendly this evening against Saudi Arabian champions Al Hilal. Adriano will start up-front in his first game for the club since last October, and he will be supported in a trident strike force by Mario Balotelli and Luis Figo.

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Pallister: Rio Is Europe's Best Defender

Former Manchester United centre-half Gary Pallister has hailed the present incumbent, Rio Ferdinand, as Europe's leading defender.

Rio Ferdinand Is Europe's Best Defender

Gary Pallister, who formed an impressive and successful central defensive partnership with Steve Bruce in the 1990s, believes the current United centre-back, Rio Ferdinand, has established himself as Europe’s best in that position.

Ferdinand’s career has not always run smoothly at Old Trafford - he incurred the wrath of United fans three years ago with a protracted contract impasse after the club had supported him through an eight-months ban for missing a drugs test. But he committed himself to the Red Devils eventually, and extended that commitment by signing a new deal with a minimum of fuss last season.

As well, he has matured into a top class defender, hailed by manager Sir Alex Ferguson for his contribution and importance to the team.

Banishing speculation that he hankered for a return to London, Ferdinand has won successive Premier League titles as a Red Devil, and captained United to Champions League glory in Moscow last May.

Ex-United star Pallister, for one, has been impressed. He told Setanta Sports agead of the broadcaster’s live coverage of the Vodacom Cup between United and either Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates at 2.30pm on Saturday: "When Rio is at his best, there is no finer defender in Europe. He has pace, is composed and uses the ball intelligently.

"We all know he had a difficult time with his contract negotiations and before that the missed drugs test. But these are the kind of events that make you stronger and Rio is now fulfilling all the potential people knew he had."

Pallister added that he would not be surprised if Ferdinand, 29, got the nod from Fabio Capello to become the next permanent England skipper.

“Rio Ferdinand has excelled as a captain and a leader," he said. "Those qualities first came to the fore at Leeds and now they are doing so at Old Trafford.

"He has grown into the job and United really benefited from that last season when Gary Neville was out.

"Rio has all the credentials required to captain United all the time. That job is currently taken by Gary but it would not shock me at all if he got the job for England."

While Pallister was at his best alongside Bruce, so he feels that Nemanja Vidic has been perfect for Ferdinand at United, declaring: "Rio and Nemanja Vidic have been absolutely sensational over the last couple of seasons.

“Playing alongside a more physical, aggressive type of player seems to have got the best out of Rio and taken him to another level.

"You could say it was a similar thing for me with Steve Bruce. But there is no doubt Rio feeds off Vidic and vice-versa."

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Ramos Impresses O'Hara

Promising young Tottenham midfielder Jamie O'Hara has backed manager Juande Ramos to take the club forward.

Tottenham midfielder Jamie O'Hara

Jamie O’Hara was given his debut by Juande Ramos last season, and the youngster grabbed the opportunity with both hands, impressing with some mature, all-action performances in the Lilywhite shirt.

Ramos has made an even bigger impact at White Hart Lane since taking over last October in succession to sacked Martin Jol.

The former Seville boss steered Spurs to Carling Cup success in February, endi8ng aq nine-year trophy drought in the white half of North London.

And O'Hara claims that Ramos has given the Spurs players the belief that they can challenge the Premier League‘s established Big Four.

"I think we now have all the ingredients to be a really top-class team," O'Hara told the club's official magazine. "Juande, Gus [Poyet] and Marcos Alvarez instil confidence in the players.

"They have brought confidence and belief to the squad. In the big games last season, we showed that we could compete against the top sides in the Premiership. Now we have to take that to the next level."

England Under 21 international O'Hara, who earned himself a new three-year deal with Spurs, also revealed his dream of one day captaining the club.

"Ideally, I'd like to play a lot of games and become a regular," he said.

"I'd also like to take a few more risks and begin to stamp my authority on games.

"One day, I'd love to be captain of Tottenham. Whether that dream ever comes true, we'll just have to wait and see.

"Getting a new contract topped last season off for me. It showed me that the manager sees me as part of his plans and that I'm here for the long term."

O'Hara is also eager to play alongside two of the club’s summer signings, Luka Modric and Giovani Dos Santos.

“They are fantastic players," noted O'Hara. "I watched Modric in Euro 2008 and I'm really looking forward to playing with him.

"Having players like that in the squad will make us a stronger team.

"There will be more competition for places, but that's vital if we're going to push on for a Champions League place this season."

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Blackburn Closing In On Robinson & Pennant?

Blackburn Rovers manager Paul Ince is reportedly close to signing Spurs goalkeeper Paul Robinson - and if that lubricates the wheels of David Bentley’s rumoured switch to White Hart Lane, Ince is expected to make a firm bid for Liverpool’s Jermaine Pennant as Bentley’s replacement.

Blackburn Rovers manager Paul Ince

England goalkeeper Paul Robinson’s turbulent 12 months at Spurs could be ended imminently as Blackburn Rovers move to recruit him as Brad Friedel’s replacement.

New Rovers boss Paul Ince initially ruled out making a move for Robinson, saying two weeks ago: "There is no interest from me in Paul Robinson, as far as I am concerned I want to keep Brad [Friedel]. I do not want to sell Brad, so why should I want Paul Robinson?"

All that changed once Freidel said he wanted to leave Ewood Park. The big American is heading for Aston Villa after Rovers accepted a bid, thought to be for £2million, from the Villans.

Now Spurs have reportedly accepted a £3.5million offer from Rovers for Robinson, and the deal should be finalised by the weekend if Friedel's move to Villa is confirmed.

Blackburn yesterday issued a statement saying they had received a bid for Friedel, 37, from a rival Premier League side, thought to be Villa, but added: "The transfer is conditional to Rovers having a bid for a goalkeeper at another club accepted."

That goalkeeper and other club are understood to be Robinson and Tottenham, respectively.

Although he was a Carling Cup winner with Spurs last term, former Leeds keeper Robinson, 28, has had a miserable 12 months for both club and country, losing form, confidence and his place following a number of costly errors.

Juande Ramos has made it clear that Robinson is not part of his long-term plans at White Hart Lane, telling him he was surplus to requirements and emphasising the point by signing Brazilian keeper Heurelho Gomes from PSV Eindhoven.

Tottenham are presumably hoping that the deal to sell Robinson to Rovers will improve their prospects of taking David Bentley from Blackburn.

The North London outfit are expected to raise their bid for the unsettled former Arsenal winger, having had their initial approach turned away.

And should England man Bentley exit Ewood Park, Ince is said to be planning to replace him on the right-side of the Rovers midfield with another ex-Arsenal winger, Liverpool's Jermaine Pennant.

Pennant, 25, is rated at £6million. He has not established himself as a regular first-team choice at Anfield, and could find the prospect of a move to Rovers appealing.

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Barca Set For New €25m Trezeguet Bid

According to the Corriere dello Sport, Barcelona are set to launch a fresh transfer bid in the region of €20m to €25m for Juventus hitman David Trezeguet.

Barca Set For New €25m Trezeguet Bid

Trezeguet has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona over the past couple of months, and new Coach Josep Guardiola is said to be desperate to sign the prolific marksman.

In the last few weeks the 30-year-old’s name has not been associated so strongly with the Bluagrana as it had been earlier in the summer, however this has changed in recent days.

It is believed that Guardiola has resurrected his ambitions to sign Trezeguet, and indeed the Corriere dello Sport today claims that he is ready to table an offer of €20m to €25m.

Juve have always stated that the prolific marksman, who arrived in Turin from Monaco in 2000, would be staying but their resolve will surely be put to the test should they receive such an offer.

With Trezeguet set to turn 31 later this year, and with a host of top class strikers already at the club, such as Del Piero, Amauri, Iaquinta and Giovinco, Juve may decide that the money is too good to turn down.

If Trezegol were to sign for Barca, he would hook up with old Monaco pal, and good friend Thierry Henry.

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Senna Ends All Prem Speculation

Villarreal star Marcos Senna - whose performances for Spain at Euro 2008 wowed several would-be suitors from the Premier League - has ended any prospect of a move to England by signing a new deal with the Primera Liga side.

Villarreal star Marcos Senna

Marcos Senna, the Brazilian-born midfielder who excelled for Spain in their triumphant Euro 2008 campaign, attracting keen interest from Europe's top sides, including several in England, has committed his future, as expected, to Villarreal.

After being linked with Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton, Senna has ruled out any move to England, though he plans to head back to Brazil later in his career.

For the foreseeable future, though, he will continue to sail in the Yellow Submarine.

Senna was quoted in The Sun today as saying: "I want to play the next World Cup with Spain and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to win the Champions League with Villarreal — that’s my dream.

“I’ve been living in Spain for six years and feel great at Villarreal.

"For sure I’ll return to Brazil when my contract is over, where I’m building a house to live at with my wife and son."

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Villa Join Hunt For Chelsea's SWP

Aston Villa are reportedly set to challenge Portsmouth for the signature of Chelsea midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips.

EPL: Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole , Chelsea - Tottenham Hotspur

Former Manchester City star Shaun Wright-Phillips, who scored for Chelsea yesterday in their 4-0 win over Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in China, is now a target for both Portsmouth and Aston Villa, according to reports.

Pompey manager Harry Redknapp has already declared his interest in the England international midfielder, and is confident SWP would be willing to leave Stamford Bridge for the FA Cup winners.

Redknapp said recently: "I know Shaun and his dad [former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright] think Portsmouth would be a good move for him."

However, Redknapp also admitted he might have to sell some of his current players in order to raise the £8million likely to be demanded by Chelsea for the winger. Pompey have just splashed £11million on Peter Crouch, so that could prove an obstacle.

Meanwhile Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa boss, has reportedly entered the hunt for Wright-Phillips, who struggled to establish himself at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant, but could well get more of an opportunity to impress Luiz Felipe Scolari.

That could rule out any hasty move buy SWP, while O’Neill has two pacy, penetrative flankmen in Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, and may be more inclined to use his available budget on strengthening other areas of his squad.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ribéry: Worst Injury Of My Career

Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribéry has admitted that the ankle injury he suffered at Euro 2008 is the most serious of his career so far and confessed that he is unsure when he will return to action.

Ribéry: Worst Injury Of My Career

The Frenchman suffered ruptured ligaments in his left ankle during his countries’ Euro 2008 loss to Italy this summer.

Despite fears that the injury was a lot more serious, he has undergone successful surgery but is as yet still without a concrete date for his return to action.

"It's without doubt the most serious injury I suffered in my career" he told L'Equipe.

"But it could've been even worse. That's what I feared at first, thinking my knee was injured too. I've been lucky.

"Frankly, it's impossible to say when I'll return. I'm simply hoping to start running again in September. I hope everything is going to go well" he added.

"I feel a lot better though, and in terms of morale I feel great" he said

"I'm happy to be back with my club, the directors and my team-mates. That makes me feel good. At present, I hope to get back into competition as soon as possible. But I have to be careful, as it's an injury that takes time to heal" he concluded.

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Robinho House-Hunts In London?

According to Spanish sports daily As, Robinho has dispatched his agent, Wagner Ribeiro, to London in order to find him a new home...

 Spanish Cup: Robinho desesperation (Real Madrid) (AFP)

Robinho is currently training lightly in Irdning, Austria along with the Real Madrid side, but it seems that he's still got half an eye on a switch to Chelsea.

For despite allegedly penning a new, five-year deal earlier this week, he has sent Ribeiro to the English capital in order to find him a new house.

This indicates that a switch to Chelsea could be imminent: Ribeiro, as well as house-hunting, is to meet with the Pensioners' top brass over the next few days.

Robinho, for his part, has asked to be kept informed of all developments as a matter of urgency, perhaps indicating that he feels his time in Madrid is up.

Among his grievances is that his contractual negotiations were protracted and perhaps even hostile; that there was talk of his being used as a 'bargaining chip' to land Cristiano Ronaldo; and that he was denied permission to go to the Olympics, which one report suggests reduced him to tears.

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Kompany Given Olympic Release

Belgian defender Vincent Kompany has been granted permission from his club Hamburg to join up with his club’s Olympic squad for the Beijing football tournament.

Kompany Given Olympic Release

A compromise has been arrived at between the Belgian FA and the Bundesliga side whereby Kompany will split his time between his countries international friendly this Wednesday and Hamburg’s Emirates Cup games in early August.

He will then be released for Belgium’s group stage games before joining up with HSV in time for the start of the new Bundesliga season.

"We have reached a compromise and can therefore accommodate the wishes of our player and, at the same time, get assurances from the Belgian FA that he will be back to us punctually at the start of the Bundesliga season while being able to take part in the whole of pre-season" Hamburg chairman Bernd Hoffmann explained.

Kompany is one of several high-profile Bundesliga players caught up in a complicated club versus country row with regards the Olympics.

FIFA have said publicly that it is "mandatory" for clubs to release players aged 23 and under for the Olympics, but several clubs in Germany have questioned ruling, and the DFL (German Football League) claims to have received assurances from the world’s governing body that Bundesliga clubs will not be punished for preventing their players from traveling to the Far East.

Fellow Bundesliga club Schalke have recently seen their full back Rafinha defy the club’s wishes not to join up with the Brazilian Olympic squad with club officials threatening legal action.

"We are not interested in an argument with Rafinha and I can understand that it is his dream to play at the Olympics, but the interests of the club always come first" manager Andreas Müller told the club's website.

"He has listened to his Brazilian colleagues and has been wrongly advised in doing so."

Meanwhile, Bremen have approached the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a move which they hope will see midfielder Diego forced to return to them.

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Hleb: Things Are Very Different At Barcelona

Aliaksandr Hleb has revealed that he is enjoying Pep Guardiola's training sessions at Barcelona even though they are completely different from anything he experienced at Arsenal.
Hleb At Barca

The Belarusian midfielder has spent his first week with the Blaugrana and is adapting to life with the Catalan giants both on and off the pitch alongside his close friend, Thierry Henry.

After five years working under Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, Hleb is experiencing a different approach to the game with Guardiola taking his first steps in top flight coaching.

"In London things were very different, but for me there is no problem because we are professional and we can adapt to anything," he stated. "I like this way of training and Henry and Eidur Gudjohnsen help me to understand what Guardiola is saying.

"Henry helps me a lot though, he translates things for me and we speak a lot and I am learning. He explains everything to me and is constantly teaching me about the way thing are done here.

"I will adapt quickly though. I know that the league is very different from the Premier League, but I am convinced that I can do well."

One important date that Helb is already looking forward to is Christmas because for the first time since he played for Stuttgart he will have a family holiday.

"It is true that playing so many games in a short space of time over Christmas was very hard," he said. "For me, family life and Christmas are the best things i life and I have been unable to see that for many years. Now I will be able to."

Finally, Hleb looked ahead to his first appearance in a Barcelona shirt and hopes that he can avoidn receiving any knocks in the opening encounter against Hibernian on Thursday.

"These games are important because there a lot of new players and we have to see how we understand each other and how things work," he added. "It is also important that there are no injuries because in games like this you are no expecting any really tough challenges."

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Calcio Debate: Who Will Win Over-30 World Cup?

Much has been said about the Azzurri’s ageing team at the recent European Championships, but how do Italy’s old-timers match up against their veteran international counterparts? Time for a bit of fantasy football...

Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta - ItalyFor a number of years now the Italy national team has been criticised for failing to give the country’s youngsters a chance, instead sticking to experienced and seasoned campaigners who have 'been there and done it' more times than Paris Hilton and Ulrika Jonsson put together.

At Euro 2008, 14 of Italy’s original 23-man squad were over the age of 30, while the team that took to the field in the opening game against Holland was the oldest starting 11 in the history of the competition at 31 years and 56 days.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that Sepp Blatter and his FIFA ‘family’ suddenly decided that it would be a good idea to organise a FIFA Over-30 World Cup (I would not put it past them) - one would expect Italy to fare quite well.

Below I have drawn up a possible over-30s starting XI for the so-called top teams in the world. Every player has to have been born before 31 December 1978, and those who have already retired from international football such as Francesco Totti and Luis Figo are also eligible to play.

Italy: Buffon (30), Panucci (35), Nesta (32), Cannavaro (35), Zambrotta (31), Camoranesi (32), Gattuso (30), Perrotta (31), Totti (32), Del Piero (34), Toni (31)

Argentina: Abbondanzieri (36), Zanetti (35), Ayala (35), Samuel (30), Heinze (30), Veron (33), Ibagaza (32), Sorin (32), Riquelme (30), Crespo (33), Cruz (34)

Brazil: Dida (35), Belletti (32), Lucio (30) Cris (31), Roberto Carlos (35), Gilberto (32), Juninho Pernambucano (33), Ze Roberto (34), Alex (31), Liedson (31), Ronaldo (32)

England: James (38), G.Neville (33), Carragher (30), Ferdinand (30), P.Neville (31), Butt (33), Scholes (34), Lampard (30), Beckham (33), Dyer (30), Heskey (30)

France: Coupet (36), Sagnol (31), Gallas (31), Thuram (36), Silvestre (31), Makelele (35), Vieira (32), Dacourt (34), Pires (35), Henry (31), Trezeguet (31)

Germany: Lehmann (39), Worns (35), Baumann (33), Fahrenhorst (31), Frings (32), Ballack (32), Hamann (35), Schneider (35), Asamoah (30), Klose (30), Neuville (35)

Holland: Van der Sar (38), Lucius (32), Ooijer (34), Bouma (30), Van Bronckhorst (33), Van Bommel (31), Landzaat (32), Seedorf (32), Makaay (33), Vennegoor of Hesselink (30), Van Nistelrooy (32)

Portugal: Ricardo (32), Meira (30), Andrade (30), Carvalho (30), Nuno Valente (34), Petit (32), Deco (31), Maniche (31), Boa Morte (31), Figo (36), Nuno Gomes (32)

Spain: Palop (35), Puyol (30), Juanito (32), Capdevila (30), Senna (32), Albelda (31), Guti (32), Mista (30), Raul (31), Raul Tamudo (31), Morientes (32)

Who do you think would win the Over-30 World Cup? Would Italy and France’s veterans fight it out in the final, just like they did in the real World Cup of 2006? Would one of the South American giants emerge victorious? What about England, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Holland, or another smaller nation not listed above? All4All Blog wants to know what YOU think…

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Inter Turn Screw In Muntari Pursuit

Sky Italia report that Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari is a massive step closer to a shock Inter move after talks with the Nerazzurri...

Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari

Former Udinese midfielder Sulley Muntari could be on his way back to Italy next term as Inter Milan reportedly turn their full attention to the Ghanaian.

Sky Italia report that the Portsmouth ace has met with Inter chief Marco Branca and has verbally committed to a £1.5-a-year deal which could rise depending on length of stay and appearances.

The £15m rated man is seen as a viable alternative to Frank Lampard by boss Jose Mourinho, with the Englishman still no closer to a Serie A switch.

Muntari signed for Pompey for £5m and has also been linked with Juventus recently, whose pursuit of Xabi Alonso has been similarly unfruitful.

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Cottager Kamara To Roma?

Unsettled and injured this summer, Fulham's Diomansy Kamara could be on his way to Roma, accoring to his agent...

Diomansy Kamara - Fulham

27-year-old striker Diomansy Kamara's future at Fulham has been in doubt for some time, with his ambitious agent angling to move his client to Roma.

The Senegalese striker has been plagued by injuries since moving from West Brom to Craven Cottage in the summer of 2007 for £6m, but returned to play a key role in the Cottagers' miracle Premier League survival last term.

The forward previously played in Italy, albeit at a lesser level with Catanzaro and Modena, but feels that a move to Seria A giants Roma could yet be on the cards for Kamara.

At the end of the season, the player told the Daily Mail: "I've had contact from other clubs and I don't know whether I'll be at Fulham next season."

He was then dealt a blow when he underwent reconstructive knee surgery after sustaining further damage playing for his country against Liberia in July.

However, despite the fact that he'll be out until early next year, agent Fabrizio Ferrari has sought to rekindle a fleeting link between Kamara and the Giallorossi.

He said: "I sense the return of a Roma flame for Diomansy Kamara - a player who the people at Trigoria know - a good attacker who is available at a time when players with his characteristics are few.

"At this moment Diomansy is recovering from his injury, but this does not need to be an insurmountable obstacle. I could think of a loan, though Fulham invested heavily in him and could ask a big figure for the entire transfer."

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Kuyt: Keane? Bring Him To Anfield

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt is apparently unperturbed by the possible signing of Robbie Keane from Tottenham, insisting that he'd welcome the Republic of Ireland forward at Anfield...

Dirk Kuyt - Liverpool

Buoyed after a fine showing at Euro 2008 in an Oranje shirt, Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt is clearly brimming with confidence.

The Dutchman showed great versatility for Marco van Basten's side, getting in on the goals whilst playing a deeper role than he would perhaps prefer.

Perhaps having proven his flexibility to himself in an international team filled with attacking talent, unworried Kuyt is now calling for reported Reds target Robbie Keane to be brought to Anfield.

Speaking of the Tottenham skipper's touted switch to Merseyside, Kuyt told the Liverpool Echo: "Keane has played for many years in the Premier League and he has done really well with Spurs and is a massive player for them.

"We all know how well he did for Spurs last season and if he could do the same for us if he came here he would be a great signing.

"When you are at a club like Liverpool you expect the club to be linked with top players and of course you want players like Keane because they can come in and do a good job.

"It would make competition for places even tougher, but that's the way it should be because it brings out the best in you."

Kuyt also hinted that the Liverpool players are in the same boat as the fans in terms of what to expect during the remainder of the summer.

"We are always looking at the papers to try and find out what is going on and we expect a few more signings."

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Latics land 'World's Number One' sriker Amr Zaki, the 'Egyptian Gladiator'!

Wigan Athletic are delighted to confirm that one of the longest running transfer sags in the club's history has at last been concluded and that in-demand Egypt international striker AMR ZAKI - currently FIFA's highest ranking attacker! - has arrived from Zamalek of Cairo.

The 25 year-old was in Wigan last week to pass a medical and put pen to paper on a one year loan deal, but due to the complicated nature of the transfer, which has taken over ten weeks to finalise, the announcement has had to be delayed until this morning.

Only after a delegation flew to Egypt yesterday to finalise all the contract details has the club been free to unveil the player.

Latics manager Steve Bruce said he was relieved to finally get his man.

"It's been a real tough deal to push through, that's for sure, "he said, "but I'm delighted that Amr's finally a Wigan Athletic player. Everything has been sorted, and now he can just get on with the job at hand."

According to FIFA's current rankings, the 27 goals he has scored in the 48 appearances for his country put Zaki in the number one position in the World and Steve Bruce is thrilled to have netted the twice winner African Cup of Nations winner.

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Under 19 Euro semifinalists decided

Germany,Hungary,Italy and the Czech Republic have entered the semis of the competition.
Italy won a 7 goal thriller against the Czech Republic despite twice surrendering the advantage.England finally found their scoring touch to defeat Greece 3-0 but it was too little too late.They crashed out and so did the defending champs Spain.
All the latest here..

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Juve Fans Organise Street Revolt Against Leadership

Juevntus supporters on are attempting to organise an open protest on the streets against the club’s management.

Cobolli Gigli e Jean-Claude Blanc

Current Juve President Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, managing director Jean-Claude Blanc, and sporting director Alessio Secco have never been popular with the club’s supporters since they replaced the old Triade of Roberto Bettega, Antonio Giraudo and Luciano Moggi, after the Calciopoli crisis in 2006.

Due to their opposition with how the club is being run, Juventus supporters on are planning to organise an open protest on the streets against the club’s leadership.

The grievances are long but they include the failure to keep the promise of signing a top class centre midfielder this summer, as well as the general lack of investment during the past three summers.

Another bone of contention is how the players are always prepared to protect the club in the face of apparent injustices (possibly referring to the poor refereeing last season), while the management is not.

The fans believe it is time the club fights for what is rightfully theirs, and that is the 29 Scudetti they won on the field. This could be in reference to the Juventus management’s refusal to appeal the Calciopoli verdict in the civil courts.

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Official: Mantova Capture Inter Target Locatelli

Serie B side Mantova have announced the shock free transfer signing of former Italy international Tomas Locatelli, a player who had been linked with a move to Inter.

former Italy international Tomas Locatelli

Locatelli was once regarded as one of Italy’s most promising young talents back in the mid-1990s, earning himself a move from youth club Atalanta to AC Milan.

However he never developed as expected, and despite winning two Italy caps in the late 1990s, he has spent the present decade shared between Bologna, and Siena.

Locatelli’s contract with Siena ran out at the beginning of this month, and a few months back he had been heavily linked with a move to Inter in order to help fill their Italian player quota for next season’s Champions League.

The trequartista, who has also been linked with a move back to Bologna, has surprisingly decided to join Serie B outfit Mantova. The 32-year-old will undergo a routine medical tomorrow afternoon, before being presented to the press in the evening.

Locatelli made 30 appearances for Siena last season, scoring three goals.

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Official: Samuel Signs For Torino

Torino have officially completed the signing of Austrian international Jürgen Sämuel from Sturm Graz.

Official: Samuel Signs For Torino

Il Toro have been very disappointing in the transfer market this summer with no real eye-catching signings, only bringing in Abbruscato (Lecce), Moro (Messina), Amoruso (Reggina), Valtulina (Pro Sesto), Calderoni (Treviso), and Colombo (Udinese).

Last week star man Alessandro Rosina launched a withering attack on President Urbano Cairo, even threatening to leave unless some notable players were brought in.

Torino have now reacted to this by snapping up Sturm Graz midfielder Jürgen Sämuel. A deal with the Austrian club was finalised this afternoon, and the player will take part in the pre-season training with the Granata in Malles from tomorrow.

The 23-year-old Samuel has been at Graz his entire career to date, while he has also won nine caps for his country, playing at Euro 2008.

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Henrique Completes Barça Move; Loan To Follow

After much speculation Barcelona have formally announced that Palmeiras defender Henrique is to sign for the club after taking a medical...

Henrique Completes Barça Move; Loan To Follow

The 21-year-old Brazilian has long since been linked with a move to the blaugraa, but only today is such a switch set to take place.

The Palmeiras stopper arrived in Barcelona last night and is currently undergoing medical tests at the Hospital de Barcelona. At 18:30 local time he will then be transferred to the FC Barcelona Medical Services for final examinations.

Barça will pay €8m to the Brazilian club for the former Coritiba youth, with a further €2m payable should the blaugrana finish in the Champions League spots in the Primera this season.

Henrique, though, will be unable to aid his team in their initial drive towards Europe: instead he is to be loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga.

While Barça are eager to strengthen their back line with youngsters after Lilian Thuram's departure and in light of certain others growing older, some have questioned the wisdom of such an expensive move for a player whose first team experience is limited.

However Henrique is aiming to prove his doubters wrong, having already fought his way into the full Brazil squad.

In any case the 6'1" defender will not be meeting up with his new teammates today, given that the vast majority of them are in Scotland with the Barça training camp.

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Camoranesi: Time To Complete The Journey

Juventus star Mauro Camoranesi has stressed the importance of making it through to the Champions League proper, saying it would complete the journey that started following the Calciopoli crisis.

Juventus-Inter: Camoranesi

The Bianconeri were ripped apart by the Calciopoli courts in the summer of 2006, being sent down to Serie B, and losing world class player after world class player.

They have gradually rebuilt though, and just two years on they will find themselves back in the Champions League, providing they can win their qualifying tie next month.

“We have the chance to complete the journey we began two years ago,” Camoranesi told Juventus Channel.

“They've been peculiar seasons. In the first we had to return to Serie A, in the second we had to qualify for Europe.

“Now we need to take a further step and go through the preliminaries. Qualifying for the Champions League proper would be the crowning achievement of this journey.”

Some Juventus supporters have been unhappy with the club’s summer transfer campaign, stating that some bigger names should have been brought in. Camoranesi though believes that Juve have what it takes to do well.

“Juventus are competitive,” he stressed.

“We have the skills in midfield. I think the other teams know they'll be facing the usual Juve, ready to fight to win something important.

“In the big teams it's important to have at least two players for each role, because it allows them to rest when necessary, and we have them. International-level players have joined us, and that's what Juventus needed.”

Camoranesi joined Juve from Verona back in 2002, and has since won three Scudetti with the club, although two of these were revoked following Calciopoli.

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Dacourt Tells Milan: We Are The Best In Italy

Olivier Dacourt has shrugged off Milan’s impressive transfer campaign, and declared that Inter are the “best” team in Italy.

Dacourt Tells Milan: We Are The Best In Italy

Milan have been making waves this summer after signing the likes of Mathieu Flamini, Marco Borriello, Gianluca Zambrotta, and of course Ronaldinho.

Inter meanwhile have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, capturing just Amantino Mancini so far. Despite their lack of activity, Dacourt is certain that the Nerazzurri, fresh from their third successive Scudetto, are the team to beat in Serie A this coming campaign.

“You can talk about the Rossoneri making a great signing [in Ronaldinho], but if you don’t win anything then you have failed,” he said from the club’s pre-season training camp in Brunico.

“The derby will be a great game because both sides will be trying to prove that they are better.

“However, we won the title last year and so we can say that we are the best.”

Dacourt is back in training after missing most of last term with a torn cruciate ligament in his knee. In total the 33-year-old made just nine Serie A appearances, six of them starts.

The Frenchman joined Inter from Roma in 2006, having previously starred for Leeds, Lens, Everton and Strasbourg.

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DFB: We’re Not Hosting Euro 2102

The German Football Federation have moved to dispel speculation that they are about to step in and host the European Championships in 2012 with the Poland/ Ukraine plans in turmoil.

DFB German Football Association

The DFB have moved quickly to refute a report in the Daily Telegraph which claims that Uefa have asked the Germans to step in and host the 2012 European Championships as co-hosts with Poland.

The proposed stadium upgrade s in the Ukraine are well behind schedule and the Telegraph claim that Germans, who hosted the World Cup in 2006 have been called upon to help out.

"We are not getting involved in any imaginary games or speculation about the 2012 European Championship" DFB president Theo Zwanziger told Bild.

"Should there be any difficulties, then UEFA president Michel Platini will make suggestions."

The Germans have also recently been linked with taking over the 2010 World Cup from South Africa. These reports have also been strenuously denied by the DFB.

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Matthäus: Bayern Will Walk Bundesliga

Former Bayern Munich captain and German legend Lothar Matthäus believes that the Bundesliga will be a stroll for the club this season as they look to build upon the success of last season.

Matthäus: Bayern Will Walk Bundesliga

Under Ottmar Hitzfeld the Bavarians strolled to their 22nd Bundesliga title last season and Matthäus believes the squad under Jürgen Klinsmann as what it takes to improve even more.

"On paper, it should be a stroll for Bayern" he told Eurosport.

Despite the fact that the club have been very quiet in the transfer market with just Tim Borowski and Hans-Jörg Butt arriving at the club this summer, Matthäus is convinced Bayern will once a gain triumph.

"All of the opponents are going to be highly motivated against Bayern. Bremen have a strong team, but I would reckon on Schalke, too, due to their transfers.

"Leverkusen have always got a strong squad, and then there are Hamburg and Wolfsburg who will be the six teams playing for places in the Champions League or UEFA Cup while you should not forget Stuttgart either.

"The Bundesliga is certainly not going to be boring" he added.

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Messi Olympic Presence Difficult - Batista

Argentina's Olympic football coach has recognised that he faces a struggle to convince Barcelona to release Lionel Messi for the tournament in China.

Messi Olympic Presence Difficult - Batista

Sergio Batista has named the diminutive forward in his squad for the event and expected the player to be allowed to go without any problems as he is under 23.

BUt Barcelona insist that they do not have to allow Messi to play because they require him for the Champions League qualifiers and the Olympics is not a FIFA tournament.

Nevertheless, talks are ongoing and Batista hopes that the situation can be resolved so that the forward either joins his squad or that he calls a replacement.

"We hope to have it solved quickly so that Messi can join us, but it will not be easy because the people at Barcelona continue to insist that he will not be allowed to come," the trainer explained.

FIFA, the Argentinian Football Federation (AFA) and the Blaugrana are locked in talks to resolve the issue while Messi has travelled to Scotland with the rest of Pep Guardiola's squad for a pre-season training camp.

The AFA included the 21-year-old in their plans for the flight to Japan on Tuesday, but he has not used them and will not appear in the friendly encounter against the Japanese.

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Barcelona Still Want Trezeguet - Report

According to Spanish daily Sport, Josep Guardiola wants David Trezeguet in his Blaugrana team.

Serie A, Juventus: Trezeguet

After selling some top players including Ronaldinho, Deco, and Zambrotta, the Camp Nou side are looking to bring Trezeguet to La Liga.

The French player enjoyed a great season with the Bianconeri and he scored 20 goals, helping the Old Lady to a surprising third position in Serie A.

The arrival of Amauri has lead to speculation that the number 17’s days at the Olimpico are numbered because Ranieri may prefer the Italian-Brazilian player to the French striker.

Trezeguet has been followed by the Spanish team for quite some time and last month the Camp Nou side had a €25 million offer rejected.

The player has always claimed that he wants to finish his career with the Old lady and win something important with the club he has played for since 2000.

Now with the right offer from the Blaugrana, the Bianconeri could be tempted to sale the player, even though it would be very difficult to find a replacement who can score 15-20 goals a season

Guardiola is trying to form the attacking partnership which made France successful over the years by reforming the duo Tregeuet - Thierry Henry who had both played together at Monaco.

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De Melo: I'm Like Toni And Trezeguet

Palermo's new Brazilian striker Túlio De Melo is confident that he will do well in his new Sicilian surroundings.

De Melo: I'm Like Toni And Trezeguet

After three seasons in France with Le Mans, Brazilian centre forward De Melo is excited to get his Italian adventure underway, even reportedly promising to score 100 goals for the Rosanero.

When questioned about this figure, the 23 year old lightheartedly said, “It's not true that I promised all those goals, it was a misunderstanding with the press office,” going on to say, “My goals are not the important thing, I would swap them in return for Palermo victories.”

His altruistic view is unique in a position that thrives on selfishness. After picking the number 9 jersey for the coming season, De Melo was asked about who he shares characteristics with, responding, “My characteristics are similar to those of Toni or Trezeguet, but I'm not exactly like them.”

“My favourite players are Toni and Ibrahimovic,” said the Brazilian. These two players have had success in Serie A and perhaps they would serve as good examples for the youngster to follow. After two goals in his debut for Palermo against Nockberge on Sunday, rosanero supporters will have high expectations for the confident Brazilian.

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Seedorf Was Never Asked To Cede No.10

Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani insists that Clarence Seedorf was never asked to hand over his No.10 shirt to new signing Ronaldinho.

Clarence Seedorf .. No.10 shirt

Yesterday the Rossoneri selected their numbers for the new season, and it was revealed that Seedorf would keep his beloved No.10 jersey, with Ronaldinho wearing the No.80, in reference to the year of his birth.

This all followed intense speculation in the press that there was some kind of battle going on between the two players for the mythical No.10.

Seedorf has occupied that squad number since Rui Costa left the club, and he had warned Ronaldinho prior to his arrival that there was no chance of him giving it up.

“In 23 years we have never asked a player to give up his number to another player,” said Galliani during today's press conference at Milanello.

“If the number 10 would have been free it would have been different. Pato took the number 7 because Shevchenko had left.

“We have never asked and never will ask anyone to give up their number. There was never any diplomatic negotiation with Clarence.”

Galliani also commented on the colourful scenes at San Siro last week during the official presentation of Ronaldinho.

“The evening of the party at San Siro was fantastic, even Barcelona said that,” the transfer guru smiled.

“More than 40,000 fans arrived for Dinho, a truly fantastic thing. Someone told me to organise the event at the Duomo, thinking about a presence of 1000-2000 people. Instead we chose San Siro and we did well.

“I understood it would go like this, with the crowd of the big occasions, when I heard the roar on the arrival of Ronaldinho at Malpensa. There I realised something incredible would happen."

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Kenyon 'Very, Very Interested' In Robinho

Chelsea bigwig Peter Kenyon thinks Madrid man Robinho would be the last piece of the Chelsea puzzle and says that the clubs are currently working on a deal...

Kenyon 'Very, Very Interested' In Robinho

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has made no secret of the fact that the Stamford Bridge men are in a buying mood this summer. Nor has he made any secret of the Blues' willingness to consider 24-year-old Brazil ace Robinho.

Now, though, Kenyon is determined to turn up the transfer heat on Real Madrid, for a change, and has candidly expressed his desire to strike a deal that would see the attack-minded man swap Blancos for Blues.

Despite Robinho telling Marca this week that he wants "to continue at Real Madrid for a long time," Kenyon is seemingly determined to further unsettle the player, who is already miffed by Los Merengues refusal to let him go to the Olympics.

Kenyon told Chelsea TV: "I think as far as Robinho is concerned it is quite right he has been one of our targets.

"We have had several conversations with Madrid and he is a player we think that would add a great deal to Chelsea.

"We have got a fantastic squad and that has been strengthened with [José] Bosingwa and Deco. I think the [Luiz Felipe Scolari] is just looking for one more to complete what he thinks is the perfect squad.

"There is still a long way to go on that one, but we are very, very interested and the clubs are in dialogue."

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Raúl Defends Madrid Against Ferguson

Raúl González has spoken out in defence of Real Madrid after Sir Alex Ferguson stated that joining the club would be the worst thing that Cristiano Ronaldo could do for his career.

Raúl Defends Madrid Against Ferguson

Los Merengues' captain and iconic striker was stunned by the Scotsman's outburst and believes that playing for the Spanish giants would be the pinnacle for any player.

The public tussle over Ronaldo continued with Ferguson's words and Raúl felt that he could not let the comments pass without responding.

"Joining Madrid is the best thing that could happen to anyone," the Madrid star told Marca. "I have been here for 14 years and I would not change anything."

With rumour and counter-rumour a daily occurrence as the media try to be the first to predict whether Ronaldo will stay or leave United, the soundbytes from both camps are increasing.

Ferguson's statement came on the same day that the Premier League giants were given some encouragement by their player that he would stay as he talked about the team improving next term.

Madrid president Ramón Calderón has also continued to keep the saga in the papers with comments, but his optimism has waned of late and the club have now reportedly asked about Kaká.

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Eduardo To Miss First Two Months Of Season?

Arsenal’s Croatia striker Eduardo da Silva has suffered a setback in his recovery from the horrific double leg-break that curtailed his season last February.

Eduardo To Miss First Two Months Of Season?

Eduardo could be ruled out of the first two months of Arsenal’s season after reportedly encountering a problem in his recovery and rehabilitation from the career-threatening leg injury he sustained at Birmingham in February.

The Brazil-born striker had been making good progress from the traumatic double break, and had even hoped to be able to take part in Arsenal’s pre-season programme.

However, reports now claim that the 25-year-old will not be ready to return to full training until October.

Arsenal have not moved to sign a new striker since Eduardo’s injury, and with Emmanuel Adebayor's future still uncertain, they could be short of fire-power up front early on.

Eduardo had targeted playing again in August, so manager Arsene Wenger‘s talks with Adebayor about a new pay deal this week may have taken on new significance.

If the Togo striker does leave, Wenger would have Robin Van Persie, Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela to choose from. However, neither Walcott nor Van Persie is an out-and-out centre-forward, while Vela has yet to make his Arsenal first-team debut.

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Mafia Fail In Bid To Buy Lazio

It has been revealed in Italy that a notorious mafia organisation failed in an attempt to take over Lazio.

Mafia Fail In Bid To Buy Lazio

Lazio have endured a fall from grace in recent years, having almost gone bankrupt under former patron Sergio Cragnotti.

Claudio Lotito took over the club in 2004, stabilizing the finances and moving the club into the green. Despite this, Lotito is hugely unpopular with the Lazio tifosi, many of whom are desperate for him to relinquish control of the club.

It has now been revealed that a notorious Italian organised crime gang attempted to buy Lazio from Lotito, through third parties.

The Casalesi clan of the Camorra, who are the Naples version of the Mafia, were hoping to finance the deal with funds gained from violence and intimidation.

The plan came to light during a series of 10 arrests made by police in Rome in an operation known as ‘Broken Wings’.

Lazio had a desperately disappointing 2007/08 season finishing 12th in Serie A, being eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages, and failing to make it back into Europe for the coming campaign.

However, things look brighter for the new season, following the arrivals of South Americans Mauro Zarate, Juan Carrizo and Matuzalem, as well as the return of Pasquale Foggia.

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Fornaroli: I Am Samp’s Inzaghi

New Sampdoria signing Bruno Fornaroli has promised that he will be to the Blucerchiati what Pippo Inzaghi is to AC Milan, and that means lots of goals.

Fornaroli: I Am Samp’s Inzaghi

Fornaroli, who is regarded as one of South America’s most promising forwards at present, completed his transfer from Nacional Montevideo to Sampdoria yesterday.

The 20-year-old is known as something of a prolific goalscorer in his homeland, having hit 15 goals last season for Nacional.

"I am happy to be at Sampdoria,” Fornaroli told Tuttosport.

“Who are my idols? As is the case for almost all young Uruguayans, Daniel Fonseca and Enzo Francescoli.

“But even Pippo Inzaghi is an idol, a player whose characteristics I share.”

The South American, like Inzaghi, is not blessed physically, as he is 1.75m tall and weighs just 63kg. However, he is renowned for his excellent movement and predatory skills inside the box, and if he is even half as successful in Serie A as the legendary Inzaghi, then Sampdoria will certainly have signed themselves one hell of a player.

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Striker Crisis Looming For Man City

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is facing a potential shortage of strikers ahead of the club’s Premier League opener against Aston Villa on August 17th.

EPL: Benjani Mwaruwari, Manchester United - Manchester City

With record signing Jo due to be on Olympic duty with Brazil when the domestic League campaign gets underway, Hughes may now have lost the services of Zimbabwe international Benjani Mwaruwari.

Benjani is thought to have ruptured a thigh muscle during training, which given that City also have Uefa Cup qualifying round commitments, poses a major problem for manager Mark Hughes.

He could be short of experienced options in attack without £19million new-boy Jo and 29-year-old Benjani, who joined City from Portsmouth as the transfer window was closing last January. The Zimbabwean will be sidelined for the rest of pre-season and probably beyond.

City have sold Georgios Samaras to Celtic and released both Emile Mpenza and Paul Dickov. That leaves Darius Vassell, plus Ched Evans and Daniel Sturridge, who has been away with the England Under-19 squad at the European Championships, as definitely available striking options.

The Italian pair, Bernardo Corradi and Rolando Bianchi, are currently available but both likely to leave before the season starts.

Hughes was expected to meet City’s executive chairman, Garry Cook, at the weekend to discuss transfer plans following Ronaldinho’s decision to join AC Milan rather than move to Eastlands, and no doubt the need for new strikers will be one of the talking-points.

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Ewerthon Set To Join Málaga

Ewerthon is on the verge of joining newly-promoted Málaga having been told that he could go out on loan once again by Real Zaragoza following their relegation to la Segunda A.

Ewerthon - Zaragoza

The Brazilian striker joined Los Maños in 2005 and after 65 appearances found himself surplus to requirements and is now set to join his third club on a temporary basis.

At 27, Ewerthon is at his peak but according to reports his attitude has affected his performances and meant that clubs have not been keen to make a move permanent.

In 2007 he spent the second half of the year on loan at VfB Stuttgart, but failed to gain a regular first team place and agreed to return to Spain to join Espanyol.

It was coincidence, but his arrival at Montjuïc did not help the Blanc i Blau as the club plummeted down the table after a glorious openig half to the campaign.

Now Ewerthon is set for yet another loan move after Zaragoza decided not to sell him and talks with Málaga are at a very advanced stage, according to AS.

"His desire is to play for Málaga," the player's agent, Rodri, confirmed, and he could be joined up front at the Andalucian club by Deportivo's Adrián who is also on the verge of a move.

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Roma Close In On Malouda

Roma have edged closer to signing Chelsea winger Florent Malouda, according to the Corriere dello Sport.

Florent Malouda (France)

Malouda has only been at Chelsea for 12 months, having signed for them last summer from Lyon for €20m.

However, he failed to live up to his price tag in his first season at Stamford Bridge, and it is believed that he does not figure in new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s plans for the new campaign.

Roma are on the lookout for a new left sided offensive player following the sale of Amantino Mancini to Inter, and it was reported at the weekend that they were eyeing up Malouda as a replacement.

The Corriere today claims that Roma yesterday sounded out Chelsea about the possibility of signing the Frenchman, and the response they received was positive. Malouda is said to be desperate to quit Stamford Bridge, and would jump at the chance at moving to the Italian capital.

Roma would prefer to sign Malouda on an initial loan deal, so that they could then spend their available transfer funds on a centre forward such as Julio Baptista.

However, if this is not possible then they are ready to pay between 13 and 15 million euros for the 28-year-old World Cup finalist.

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Guardiola Puts Fitness First

Pep Guardiola's new ideas at Barcelona continued when he called his squad in for an early-morning training session before they flew to Scotland and then scheduled another soon after their arrival.
Pep Guardiola

The new Blaugrana coach is intent on his players stepping up a level in their fitness after Frank Rijkaard was accused of not pushing his players hard enough.

On the day that they flew to Scotland for their short training camp, the Barça players first had to report to Camp Nou at 7.30am and were on the training pitch within 30 minutes.

A light stretching session and ball work was done before the squad departed and headed for the airport for their trip to St Andrews.

That brief spell was the first time that Dani Alves, Seydou Keita and Samuel Eto'o had trained this summer and gave them a chance to meet the rest of the team-mates.

Upon arriving in Scotland, the team headed to their hotel at the city made famous by golf rather than football, and then headed straight out for more training.

Guardiola recognised that fitness levels in the squad had not been as high as he would have liked in previous seasons with Rijkaard preferring ball work to physical circuits.

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Heitinga: Hard Work Will Pay Off

John Heitinga believes that all the hard work Atlético de Madrid are doing during their trip to Mexico will pay dividends in the Champions League qualifiers next month.

John Heitinga : Atlético de Madrid

The Dutch defender is revelling in his first few weeks with Los Colchoneros and despite not having tasted victory yet he is pleased with the way pre-season is going.

Against Tigres in Atleti's third game against Mexican opposition Heitinga scored, but he it was the performance of the team and the improvement of fitness levels he was more concerned with.

"I am very pleased to have scored my first goal for Atlético. But I know that my job is not to score goals. I know very well that I am a defender and that is my first responsibility," he told AS.

"It is still clear that we are not at our top level yet and we have more work to do to improve that. I think in our first official game though the work we have done in Mexico at altitude will show.

"This club has spent 12 seasons without being in the Champions League and that is a long time away. Now we have to win the qualifier and make it through. Right now, that is our main objective.

Coach Javier Aguirre will be able to choose where to play Heitinga after he revealed that his favourite position is not at full-back, but in the middle.

"I like to play in the centre of defence the most, more than playing at full-back or in midfield," he continued.

Despite there being almost five weeks until the start of the new season, Heitinga is excited about the prospect of playing in la Primera for the first time.

"I am anxious to start. I really want to know what it is like to play in the Spanish league. I am also really looking forward to making my league debut at home in the Calderón," he added.

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Rijkaard Recommends Oleguer To Ajax

Frank Rijkaard has been instrumental in Oleguer's imminent transfer from Barcelona to Ajax after he recommended the player to coach Marco van Basten.

Oleguer - Aguero: Barcelona-Atletico de Madrid

The former Blaugrana trainer was asked about the Catalan defender following initial contact and sang his praises to the incoming coach of the Amsterdam giants.

Barcelona have told Oleguer that once again his chances of a regular first team place will be limited under Pep Guardiola and he is keen on a move to Ajax.

During his five years at Camp Nou, Rijkaard did not always field the 28-year-old in his starting line-up, but always viewed him as an essential squad player.

When calls were made each summer for the fringe players to be reduced at the club, the coach insisted that Oleguer was not included in the list and retained his services.

Now he has highlighted the Sabadell-born defender's ability to play in the centre of defence and at right-back to Van Basten, who is looking to bolster his Ajax squad.

Talks between the Dutch club and Barcelona are advanced, but Oleguer has still asked to go to Scotland with the rest of Guardiola's squad in case a deal is not finalised.

Last term, Oleguer spent several week on the sidelines after injuring his hand, while off the pitch he continues to court controversy with some of his political views.

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Barça Ready With €25m For Drogba

Barcelona will have to pay €25m if they are to prise Didier Drogba away from Chelsea after the striker made it clear that he wanted to leave the Premier League club, according to reports.

Didier Drogba

The Blaugrana are preparing to step up their pursuit of the Ivory Coast forward and are believed to now know the price that they will have to pay to land him, Sport state.

Chelsea have been reluctant to sell, but Drogba is keen to try one last new challenge in his career and sees a stint at Barcelona as the perfect move.

While Luis Felipe Scolari has said publicly that he wants the player to stay, it is believed that if a suitable replacement can be found then he will agree to the transfer.

Drogba has wanted to move away from Stamford Bridge since José Mourinho's departure last season and has already agreed that he woujld sign a three-year deal at Camp Nou.

Money is not an issue because the London outfit would be able to top what is on offer at Barcelona and it is simply a question of ambition at this stage in his career.

After turning 30, Drogba wants to taste life in either the Spanish or Italian leagues and Pep Guardiola's interest has swayed him towards a move to la Primera.

Barça's interest could well see Mourinho move to make a bid for his former goalscorer, but he is still keen on prising Frank Lampard away and knows that talks over another Blues player could jeopardise that.

Now Drogba is believed to want to wrap up a deal quickly in order to avoid the saga becoming tiresome and will use his absence from Chelsea's tour of the Far East to leave the club.

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Madrid Have Asked About Kaká - Galliani

Real Madrid have reignitd their interest in signing Kaká and have asked AC Milan about his availability which could indicate that the quest for Cristiano Ronaldo is stumbling.

Kaka', Lazio-Milan

Los Merengues made contact with the Rossoneri amid reports that Chelsea are preparing a mega offer for the Brazilian star and want to ensur that they do not miss out.

Milan's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, confirmed that the Spanish giants had made enquiries, but then reiterated that the player would not be going anywhere this summer.

"I was on Abramovich's boat," he said. "I wanted to talk about Shevchenko and he wanted to talk about Kaká, but in the end nothing happened.

"On the other hand, I can say that Madrid have again asked about Kaká."

Ramón Calderón has already seen his popularity sorely tested over the Milan star after promising to sign both him and Cesc Fàbregas during his race for the Madrid presidency.

Arjen Robben was the club's third choice and while he arrived, fans have not forgotten the club's supremo's failure to keep his promise on the more cherished stars.

The Madrid chief is currently under pressure after spending the summer making assurances that Ronaldo would be joining from Manchester United, only for the tide appearing to be turning against him.

Chelsea's interest in Kaká appears to be going nowhere with Milan dismissing reports that they had received a mega offer or were ready to accept one.

"We will never sell him," Galliani added. Even if we received an offer of €300m from Chelsea. The only way we would ever consider letting him go is if it was his desire."

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I am a striker, insists Podolski

Lukas Podolski is eager to fight for a place in Bayern Munich's frontline, despite starring for Germany as a left winger in EURO 2008.

Poldi set for Bayern stay

The 23-year-old struggled for a regular spot in the Bayern roster last season, thanks to the presence of Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose upfront.

However, Poldi was arguably Germany's best performer in Austria and Switzerland, where Joachim Loew rediscovered him in the left-wing position.

Podolski, who was poised to leave Allianz Arena this summer, was strongly linked with former club FC Koln, but has now declared his readiness to fight for a place in Jurgen Klinsmann's setup.

"I'll be there for the season opener against Hamburger SV on August 15," he said in an interview with

"I sat on the bench most of the time and that's why I was thinking things over; it's logical.

"But I recently had a good talk with Jurgen Klinsmann and I'm looking forward to the coming season and totally concentrating on it.

"No coach in the world can guarantee a player a regular spot on the team. Everyone has to battle for his position

"I'm a flexible player who can play a variety of positions, but I am first and foremost a striker and I'll fight for my place in the attack."

Bayern will miss key winger Franck Ribery for the start of the season, an issue that could force Klinsmann to use Podolski in a wider position.

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