Premier League Transfer Talk

13With more reliable contacts in the sporting world than ever before Sport 4 Thought brings you the first in our new Transfer Talk updates by our very own TRANSFER GURU, giving an informed and in-depth look at the possible ins and outs surrounding football’s biggest clubs. Although the EPL season is far from over, today we bring you the latest on giants Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal’s transfer targets for the summer…

LIVERPOOL : Liverpool will look to compound on their excellent season by ensuring that their biggest advantage next year is stability. The fortress will not be rocked, and the club will not seek to make more than 2 or 3 signings this summer (with 5 excellent loanees to return and pad out the squad : Ilori, Wisdom, Suso, Borini & Ibe).

The first and highest priority will be a LEFT BACK. They face competition from several clubs, however, for Southampton’s LUKE SHAW : from Real Madrid, Chelsea, and a host of other clubs. Porto’s Alex Sandro, Roma’s Dodo, & Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno again all interest, but the list of suitors is long.

The other high profile area Liverpool will strength will be a WIDE FORWARD, following the collapse of the transfer of Dnipro winger, Yehven KONOPLYANKA. Roma’s ADEM LJAJIC has been watched, so too Verona loanee JUAN ITURBE. Iturbe however is well liked by Real Madrid and AS Roma (who are very close to securing his transfer). Liverpool also have long-standing interest in IKER MUNIAIN of Atletico Bilbao.

Brad Jones’ future is unclear, and Wigan’s scouse goalkeeper, Lee Nicholls, has been watched. A first option agreement with Derby County midfielder WILL HUGHES has been agreed since Christmas, but there is no news on when this move will be made permanent. Liverpool have spoken with Arsenal’s expiring Bacary Sagna, but aren’t yet willing to match the wages offered by Manchester City. Real Madrid have enquired about the availability of Philippe Coutinho, and been dismissed.

MANCHESTER CITY : The oil juggernaut will continue spending without any regard for FFP. Arsenal’s expiring Bacary Sagna has been made a contract offer, and it is difficult to see anyone else snaring him, now that Inter Milan have withdrawn from the race.

City had a £33.5m bid for Porto centre back Ezequiel Mangala rejected in January. £37.75m is the price tag, and City will return for the player. If this situation continues to frustrate them, Real Madrid’s Pepe and Liverpool’s Danny Agger have both been subject to bids from the Etihad this year, and are definitely on the shortlist.

Inter Milan have enquired about taking the unfancied Javi Garcia, as Man City also seek to compete with Manchester United for midfield general William Carvalho, of Sporting. Jack Rodwell is aware that he is also unfancied. A loan return to Everton in January was cancelled at the last minute, as FC Porto reneged on the sale of midfielder Fernando Reges.

CHELSEA : The £50m transfer of Atletico Madrid goal machine Diego Costa looks all but agreed in principle, as Chelsea look to freshen up their attacking options. As part of the deal, goalkeeping starlet Thibaut Courtois has extended his loan deal at Atletico by another year. Cech will continue in goal.

Fernando Torres has discussed a loan transfer to Inter Milan, who are as-yet unwilling to match his huge wages. Inter have also enquired about Jon Obi Mikel. Chelsea are also looking for more options in the final third : Southampton’s Adam Lallana & PSG’s Ezequiel Lavezzi are both at ‘reasonably advanced stages’.

Didier Drogba has been keeping his future options open : Jose Mourinho has discussed a staff role with him at Chelsea, but should he wish to extend his playing career, Juventus are also very interested in the Ivorian international.

ARSENAL : Wenger’s faith in Olivier Giroud & Yaya Sanogo seems questionable, as Arsenal will again seek to wrap up the transfer of Schalke wonderkid, Julian Draxler. Hopes of landing Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata also seem to have faded, as Arsenal are extremely close to the signature of Standard striker Batshuyi. Bayern striker Mandzukic did discuss options with both Arsenal & Chelsea, but it would appear it is more of a power-play with the Bavarian club, as the player does not feel as appreciated as he should be.

MANCHESTER UNITED : Huge exodus at Old Trafford as a large core of the squad seek to exit (Giggs, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra). The summer could prove to be a difficult one for David Moyes, as he persists with approaching established and settled household names (Benatia, Pogba, Vidal, Kroos, Hamsik). More realistic is ex-Chelsea defender, Alex, whose contract at PSG is expiring. He has held talks with United on two occasions now, and it seems it is between them and AC Milan for his signature.


Sport 4 Thought


EPL Bayernly Crossed My Mind

r-PEP-GUARDIOLA-BAYERN-MUNICH-largeOn Wednesday, Pep Guardiola officially announced his agreement to take on the manager’s role at Bayern Munich at the end of the season, when current gaffer Jupp Heynckes, aged 67, retires.

The decision of the 41-year-old former Barcelona legend to sign a 3-year contract with last season’s Bundesliga runners-up has been met with shock, especially in England, where media hype had fans convinced his arrival on British soil was imminent.

However, anyone with half a brain cell or a semi-respectable knowledge of the football industry will appreciate that Bayern Munich were the only club that Guardiola was ever interested in, for some painfully obvious reasons.

So, while Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness conceded, “Only a coach of Guardiola’s caliber came into consideration,” the feeling was entirely mutual on Guardiola’s behalf.

Perhaps more than any other club, Manchester City were touted as the ex-Spanish international’s next challenge, with many believing previous appointments of former Barcelona colleagues Txiki Begiristain and Ferra Sorriano acted as a pulling factor. Those in the know will understand this element was, in fact, dissuasive as numerous signings made when Begiristain and Guardiola worked in conjunction were failures, leaving relations between the two strained at best.

Having spent the first 18 years of his playing career encapsulated by the unique family orientated philosophy that Barcelona have developed, the prospect of dealing with a squad of overgrown, selfishly uncontrollable ego’s that poisons City’s squad would have been enough to strike the current Premier League champions off his list.

The other club in the non-existent race for the Catalan’s signature was apparently Chelsea. Boasting the luxurious title of current ‘Champions of Europe’ is not enough to mask the hideous identity crisis that has taken over Stamford Bridge, leading to appointments of bitter enemies and skirmishes between their own fans during recent matches. Sure Mr. Abramovich would undoubtedly throw huge sums of pocket change in the Spaniard’s direction, but Guardiola has considerably more class.

img_pod_Barcelona-Pep-Guardiola-Champions-League-Manchester-United--Wembley-LondonHe has evolved and achieved excellence as a player then as a manager at a club run and owned by its supporters. Bayern too, are a fan owned club, without the rich interfering businessman owner that comes as standard at Chelski.

Enough of why the ‘top’ English clubs failed to attract one of Europe’s hottest talents and on to the reasons why Bayern Munich so obviously present the most attractive offer for Guardiola.

Bayern Munich are already regarded as one of Europe’s top 5 greatest ever clubs, having been crowned European champions on four previous occasions and runners-up twice in the last three seasons, solidifying their heavyweight status with a history richer than that of Barcelona.

Friend and former teammate of Guardiola, Ajax manager, Frank de Boer claims ex-Bayern coach Louis van Gaal admitted, “It is a very professional club, a well-run club, with the same kind of philosophy as Barcelona.” He was convinced Guardiola’s decision was entirely “…down to the structure of the club.” Former Bayern midfielder Owen Hargreaves concurred, “The facilities and stadium are perhaps better than anywhere in the world.”

The make-up of Bayern’s squad, the style of football they already play and the ability they possess to be molded further to fully represent Guardiola’s footballing fantasy were the key factors in his decision.

His Barcelona team had a strong core of experienced players in Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta and Lionel Messi, whilst Bayern boast a healthy backbone of Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery. Known for his utilisation of youth prospects, he will be fully aware of hot prospects in Xherdan Shaqiri, David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Javi Martinez who all fall under the age of 24. In total, Bayern’s squad boasts eight German internationals.

Having shifted towards a Barcelona-esque keep ball style in recent years, Bayern boast an average of 63 percent possession per game this season, second only to Barcelona with 68.8 percent. Successful passes sees them second again only to Barca, 87.6 percent to 89.7 percent and when it comes to pass completion, the top two players in Europe were, (obviously) Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez on 95.3 percent followed by Bayern’s Holger Badstuber on 93.1 percent.

But, they play in the Bundesliga, I hear you scream. Well here’s a statistic for you – UEFA’s 2013 ranking of domestic league places scored the German Bundesliga on 75 points in third place, just a mere two points behind the Premier League on 77 points in second place. Furthermore, if the FIFA World XI is anything to go by, the Premier League has as many bragging right as the Bundesliga – none.

oktoberfestThe argument that Pep Guardiola still has a lot to prove is a valid one, given that he possesses just four years experience at the top level.

Granted he won an incredible 14 titles during his short reign, though he was working alongside, what is generally accepted to be, the greatest footballing team and individual in the history of the game. Tito Vilanova’s 11-point cushion at the summit of La Liga backs this argument.

If nothing else, his spell at Bayern will certainly help to answer any lingering doubts about his managerial ability.

For those English football fans still in unfounded shock, fear not, Guardiola confessed, “I hope in the future, I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there.”

For everyone else living in the real world, rejoice, for you now have a legitimate reason to attend Oktoberfest this year.

Written by Dom Wallace

Sport 4 Thought