Oct 272013
 

Following yet another mistake by Joe Hart, the tenth for club and country already this season which has lead to a goal, Twitter mocked the Manchester City keeper with pictures of people better than him…

Oct 232013
 

Zoran Tosic signed for Manchester United in November 2008 before the move was finalised in the January transfer window of 2009. He was given the number 14 shirt and played five games for the first team before being loaned out to Köln.

Despite a successful time in Germany, Tosic struggled to get in to the United team and was sold to CSKA Moscow.

Tonight, Tosic started for the Russian team in their Champions League group stage game against his former team’s rivals.

With just over half an hour played he put his side 1-0 up, before Sergio Aguero scored twice to give City the lead.

“I had been scoring in virtually every game for Partizan when United came calling, and I suppose there was an assumption it would continue after I joined them,” he said. “Certainly, I went there with high hopes, and it was such an exciting moment when I arrived at the club and actually met Sir Alex. I had grown up as a United fan, so to be working for the man who had brought so much success to the club was just unbelievable. ‘But there is a big difference between the Serbian League and the Premier League in England, and I soon discovered I wasn’t quite ready to make the step up. Sir Alex kept telling me I had the quality and just needed to keep working at it, but I wanted to be playing. That’s why I took the chance to spend six months on loan at Cologne, and it went so well, I fully expected to be given a chance in the team when I returned to United. For whatever reason, though, it just didn’t happen. Reluctantly, I reached the conclusion I might be better off making a fresh start somewhere else. My relationship with Sir Alex was good, and I appreciated the way he always took time to speak to me and explain things. Maybe, in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been so quick in deciding to leave and should, instead, have spent a little longer trying to show him I was worth a place in the team. Even now, I find myself thinking back to that time and going over it all in my mind. Perhaps I should have stayed and fought a little harder to win him over. It was Manchester United, after all.”

Aug 302013
 

Manchester City vs Hull, Saturday 12:45

– The most stunning result of the season so far saw Manchester City fall to a shock 3-2 defeat following a stunning fightback by Cardiff. Edin Dzeko’s second-half strike looked to have sent City on their way to victory but Cardiff scrapped their way to a deserved win. Manuel Pellegrini will be demanding an immediate bounceback to form from his team on their return to the Etihad this weekend.

– Despite a revival in his fortunes thanks to the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini, Edin Dzeko will have to find greater levels of accuracy if he wishes to remain in favour with his new boss. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the big centre-forward leads the league for attempts on goal (10), but only 16.7% of these have been on target.

– David Silva became the fourth player to surpass the 100 pass barrier for completed passes in the opponent’s half last weekend, suggesting a return to form for the diminutive Spanish midfielder. Perhaps even more crucially, these have come at a rate of 1.7 minutes on the field per pass, the lowest of any player in the league who has completed more than 60 passes.

– Silva also currently stands as City’s sharpest shooter in front of goal this season, with 75% of his 4 attempts on goal testing the keeper.

– Gael Clichy looks to be continuing where he left off last season as one of City’s most exemplary defenders, leading the squad on a tackle success rate of 77.8% as well as defensive contributions (16).

– Robbie Brady tucked away a penalty as Hull battled to a 1-0 win against Norwich, their first win since their return to the top flight.

– Brady is evidently going to be a central figure for Hull this season. The young Irishman leads the squad for attacking contributions by a distance (29) and has also completed a pass in the opponent’s half on average once every 5.48 minutes he’s been on the field. You can find as an industry-best 10/1 with 888sport.com to score at any time.

– Yannick Sagbo’s sending off could have easily cost his side all three points last weekend and he will have been extremely relieved to see his side escape the match with all three points. His defensive discipline certainly needs to improve though as, despite being yet to win a tackle this season, he’s already given away three fouls.

– Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Elmohamaday’s reading of the game continued to be in excellent form against Norwich. Elmohamady has so far racked up 10 interceptions this season according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, 5 of which came last weekend representing the joint second highest total of any player in the league last weekend.

– Arriving on a free transfer, Maynor Figueroa looks to have been a very smart summer acquisition by Steve Bruce, especially when you consider the experience and work rate he brings to the table. Tellingly, Figueroa also already leads the Hull squad for tackles successfully completed, having come out on top in 71.4% of his 9 challenges so far this season.

Aug 252013
 

Cardiff vs Manchester City 16:00

Cardiff City’s first game in the Premier League ended in a 2-0 defeat to West Ham last weekend, and they’ll have to pull out a special performance to get a result against Manchester City, who swept aside Newcastle 4-0 in their first fixture.

If Cardiff are going to threaten then midfielder Peter Whittingham may be the one to surprise City. Whittingham had four efforts at goal against West Ham, a total bettered only by Frank Lampard among the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s midfielders. Although all 4 were off target, so Whittingham will want to pair the willingness to shoot with greater accuracy against a City team who don’t give away chances cheaply. Whittingham is 17/4 to score and 10/1 to score first against Man City with 888sport.com

The signing of Spurs defender Steven Caulker will boost Cardiff fans. Caulker had limited opportunities at Spurs last season but when he did play he impressed. Of all players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to have attempted 25 or more tackles, Caulker won the fifth highest percentage with 82.7%

That’s no fluke either, as the previous season on loan at Swansea Caulker won 75.6% of the 33 tackles he attempted, while also making 117 interceptions, 33 blocks and 39 clearances

Manchester City announced their intention to reclaim the Premier League title with a comprehensive 4-0 win against Newcastle.

Despite not scoring himself Edin Dzeko was on dangerous form with two assists and eights shots at goal, the most by any player in the opening round of fixtures. Dzeko got four of his eight attempts on target to again top the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index for shots on target

David Silva also looked in imperious form, and was one of four players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index to complete more than 50 passes in the opposition half in the first round of games

Manchester City had two of the top four players in the Premier League for passes completed in opposition territory last season. Yaya Toure was ranked second, having completed 1301 passes in the attacking half, and David Silva fourth with 1150

Man City showed they also have quality in defence, with Pablo Zabaleta winning all six of the tackles he attempted against Newcastle

Aug 162013
 

It has been a summer of change at the top of the Premier League with new managers in place at the clubs that occupied the top three places in last season’s final standings. David Moyes has taken over the hot seat at Man United, Jose Mourinho has returned to Stamford Bridge and Man City have chosen to appoint Manuel Pellegrini as their new gaffer following the departure of Roberto Mancini.

Moyes and Mourinho are well versed to Premier League life but Pellegrini is something of an unknown quantity when it comes to the English game. We know that the Chilean has had relative success in Spain with the likes of Malaga and Villarreal while he also had a season in charge of Real Madrid, but exactly how will he do in the Premier League at the first time of asking?

The first impressions of Pellegrini are good; he speaks perfect English, which is a bonus, and seems to be the sort of manager who will quickly earn the respect of the players. Last season, Man City were 11 points behind their local rivals in the Premier League title race but the early signs ahead of the new season suggest that they could be capable of bridging that gap.

Some big names have arrived at the Etihad over the summer, including Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo; all of whom have signed for the club for more than £20million each, with the quartet costing the club a combined total of £99.3 million!

Navas in particular, who has joined from Spanish side Seville, looks a signing to excite fans with his electric pace and ability to go past players, is likely to give Pellegrini and his City team a new dimension to their attacking options.

Pellegrini will also have been happy to see the departure of Carlos Tevez over the summer after the Argentinian joined Juventus. The 29 year old often proved to be more trouble than he was worth during his four years at Man City and the omission of his disruptive attitude from the dressing room can only work in the favour of the new manager. After six years of controversy in the Premier League, it will be interesting to see how Tevez fairs in Italy…

The new signings are clearly important to Pellegrini in ensuring that he makes his mark on the team from the off but perhaps his biggest task will be to get the best out of the squad of players he inherits.

The likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero all struggled to reach their potential last season, having been integral to the side’s Premier League title winning campaign in twelve months earlier.

If Pellegrini can bring out the best form of the aforementioned players, who form the nucleus of the team, City will be well on the road to improving on last year’s efforts and closer to regaining the title and the new boss will surely be well on his way to being considered a success.

As far as opinions are concerned, the bookies cannot split Man City, Man Utd or Chelsea, with the trio vying for favouritism, with all three around the same odds of 9/4 to be crowned Premier League Champions come next May.

As well as the Premier League, Manchester City will be targeting a good run in the Champions League this season as they look to reach the knock-out stages for the first time.

Pellegrini will be only too aware that previous manager, Roberto Mancini’s, failure of City to progress beyond the group stage of the competition in the past two seasons ultimately cost the Italian his job and the 59 year old will be eager to avoid the same fate.

The draw for the Champions League group stage, which takes place on August 29th, will be crucial to the chances of City with their low seeding likely to ensure they meet at least one of the so-called ‘European Giants.’ However, the strength of their squad is arguably on a par with most of the top seeded teams and under Pellegrini, who guided underdogs, Malaga, to the quarter finals of last season’s Champions League, and a repeat of that effort will surely be a minimum expectation of the new manager and fans alike.

On initial appearances, Manuel Pellegrini looks like the perfect man to lead Manchester City into the new season. Chelsea are sure to up their game under Mourinho, while United will surely be at the head of affairs throughout under David Moyes, ensuring that it could be one of the most competitive season for some time.

It is City though who appear to have taken the steps to improve the most over the summer with a number of exciting new faces joining a squad which already boasts plenty of title winning experience. That combination, coupled with the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini, could well signal the start of something special at the Etihad Stadium, starting with another Premier League title in 2014.

Aug 032013
 

Roberto Soldado celebrates another goal for Valencia. (Picture courtesy of Victor Gutierrez Navarro)

This summer’s transfer dealing in Spain resembles a game of musical strikers. The £26m sale of Roberto Soldado from Valencia to Tottenham has already led to Los Che moving for relegated Real Zaragoza’s Helder Postiga, although a deal is not yet complete. When Soldado’s international teammate, Alvaro Negredo, departed for Manchester City last month, Sevilla immediately reinvested some of his £20m transfer fee in Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro from, respectively, Club Brugge and Paris Saint-Germain. Further high-profile exits involving Radamel Falcao, Fernando Llorente and Gonzalo Higuain from Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid mean that La Liga will feature a much-changed collection of forwards for the forthcoming season.

The transfers of Soldado and Negredo are particularly significant to the league as a whole.  Spain’s top division has not only lost two of its most feared strikers, but players whose clubs had come to rely on their goals to an overwhelming degree. Soldado netted over a third of Valencia’s league goals last season, finishing the campaign with a tally of 24. Only one other Valencia player – Jonas Goncalves – reached double figures in La Liga. Sevilla depended even more on Negredo, whose 25 league goals represented just under half of the team’s overall total. His nearest challenger, midfielder Ivan Rakitic, managed eight.

The reasons why Soldado and Negredo have been sold this summer are telling, as is the fact the pair moved away from Spain. The financial situation at both Valencia and Sevilla is precarious to say the least. Their failure to secure a Champions League berth last season compounded Valencia’s existing woes at having a new stadium they can’t afford to complete and a debt still standing at hundreds of millions of pounds. Meanwhile, selling not only Negredo but also Jesus Navas this summer speaks volumes for Sevilla’s desperate need to address spiralling debts, with their previously much-praised transfer policy having come in for heavy criticism after a series of expensive flops. In leaving La Liga to join the Premier League, Negredo and Soldado have highlighted once again the overall economic disparity between the top divisions of Spain and England at present.

Spurs and Manchester City can easily justify the investment made in their new Spanish strikers as the Premier League begins its astronomical £3bn television deal. With broadcasting revenue in English football still shared in a roughly democratic manner, though, even the smaller Premier League clubs boast an advantage over the majority of teams in Spain who are forced to make do with what television money they can earn individually after Barcelona and Real Madrid have negotiated their own huge packages. The situation in Spain – where what the top two earn from the rights to their matches dwarfs that of the rest of the league – has made the existence of a duopoly in La Liga particularly impossible to ignore in the past five years.

As important as Soldado and Negredo were to Valencia and Sevilla, though, there was no need for either Barcelona or Real Madrid to consider adding them to their squads. While the strikers were huge assets to their former clubs, the overall gap in quality between the top two and the rest has widened considerably since Valencia won two league titles ten years ago and, more recently, Sevilla lifted two Uefa Cups. Barca and Real could afford not to buy Soldado and Negredo, despite their avalanche of goals over the last two seasons and recognition at international level, because they are no better than the options either club already have.

Spurs have bought Soldado to fire them to the Champions League; City, meanwhile, want Negredo to bring them the goals to challenge for the title. However, neither player would have commanded a place in Barca or Real’s first eleven and this, put simply, underlines where the overall strength of the Premier League currently lies in relation to La Liga: below the might of Barca and Real but above the level of most other clubs in Spain. The best players in the world still play in La Liga – highlighted by the fact there was never any doubt that when Neymar moved to Europe it would be to Spain – but they are concentrated at two clubs. The Premier League, though, has benefitted hugely from being able to bring in players like Soldado and Negredo who find themselves put up for sale by La Liga clubs who can no longer afford to keep them in a division whose two biggest clubs don’t need them.

Jul 132013
 

Sevilla coach Unai Emery says that he and the club are “prepared” for the “likely” exit of Manchester City target Álvaro Negredo.

“The cards are on the table,” he said. “Negredo is a very important player for Sevilla and will continue to be so, either by staying here or by being sold and earning the club a big transfer fee. For the time being he is still here, working hard and fulfilling his duties as a captain. It is most likely that he will leave, and if he does so, it should be in everyone’s best interests.”

Two days ago, the players confirmed that he was happy to stay at the club but was unsure what the future held for him.

“Right now I’m at Sevilla and I like it very much,” he said. “If I stay then that will be fine, but if I leave then it will be because it benefits both the club and myself. I’m happy on a personal level but collectively we have not achieved the goals we wanted.”

Jul 042013
 

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.

Jovetic has made it difficult for him to stay with Fiorentina due to his public desire to leave the club.

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.

Jun 282013
 

Carlos Tevez has ended his four-year stay at City and joined Italian champions Juventus in a deal potentially worth £12m. Tevez has signed a three-year deal for an initial £10m fee and will wear the number 10 shirt previously worn by Alessandro Del Piero.

It was an inevitable sale of a player who had only 12 months left on his deal and had made clear he wouldn’t be renewing. By selling him this summer, the club have effectively saved around £27m when the fee and his remaining salary are combined.

Despite this, some City fans seem shocked and disappointed at Tevez’s departure, but the club had little option. It makes far more sense to cut our losses now and save a substantial amount of money, rather than lose him for nothing next season. At 29, Tevez’s best days are probably behind him, and his sale allows us to free up cash to purchase a younger striker.

The investment we made in Tevez was huge: £200k-per-week wages, huge bonus incentives and a reported £47m payment made to his advisors to secure his signature, with James Ducker of the Times claiming the deal cost the club circa £93m in total.

Even with the eye-watering sums Ducker purports factored in, it would be silly to think Tevez was a failure at the club. It was his arrival, probably more than any other, which helped convince people that City meant business; that we would stop at nothing to achieve our goal of becoming a successful side. It sent a message to other players and helped convince them to join.

In his first two seasons he was superb, regularly dragging us through games with his desire and ability. During his four years as a City player, he was the fifth highest scorer in the Premier League. He made a total of 148 appearances for the club, scoring 74 goals. It’s an impressive rate for a player who brought so much more than goals to the table. When he was fit and playing regularly, his attitude on the field was superb, with a work-rate and desire matched by very few in world football.

However, his refusal to warm up and come on as a substitute away to Bayern Munich in 2011 – which led to a self-imposed six-month exile – disgraced our club. The watching world, quite rightly, viewed City as a shambles, and it left Roberto Mancini looking desperately weak and totally undermined. Mancini’s interview after that match transcended football rivalry, with the football community backing a manager who was clearly distraught and embarrassed – his eyes glazed and his face colourless. Tevez returned to Argentina and refused to play for us, despite his incredible salary and the love the fans had shown him since his arrival. I don’t expect footballers to be examples of how to behave, but this incident was something else. It’s a shocking stain on Tevez’s City career and I, for one, struggled to ever appreciate him properly again.

He eventually came back into the side after the club dished out record fines. We had given him a public arse slapping, before doing the sensible thing and getting him back in the squad to help us secure the title. Some fans welcomed him back with open arms, even after his nauseating ‘golf swing’ celebration during a fine performance away at Norwich, but I just couldn’t do it. My loyalty was with the manager he had disgraced.

Last season, his final at the club, he failed to recapture his form from before his hiatus, and made it clear he wanted to run his contract down and leave City for nothing. It left us with little option but to pursue a transfer, and with very few clubs willing to take on his wages and his ego, Juve’s offer was always going to be listened to. Juventus have got themselves a fine player, but Carlos Tevez comes with baggage. I’m grateful for his contribution to our success, but at the same time I’m glad to see the back of such an odious character.

Jun 142013
 

Iago Aspas to Liverpool

26/12/12 – Swansea City and Atletico Madrid both confirm their interest in Aspas.

31/12/12 – Paco Herrera, Celta Vigo coach: “The president has made it clear Iago will not leave until the end of the season, so I am quiet.”

15/1/13 – Paco Herrera: “It seems that there is the possibility of a club emerging that are willing to pay the clause (€10m). In that case, if the player wants to go, Celta will not be able to do anything.”

18/1/13 – Brian McDermott, Reading manager: “I would be surprised if anyone could do that deal. It’s an expensive deal and a difficult one for anyone to do. I’ve seen him play, our scouts have seen him play and he has had a couple of really good seasons. We know him – but it’s a very difficult deal to do. Celta Vigo are a big club. The money that they are talking about on this player (Aspas) is a fortune. There would have to be some structuring to do on that – but we’ve never done a deal like that. The biggest deal that this club has done is £2.5million when we signed Emerse Fae and we sold him back for the same sort of money – the same with Greg Halford.”

29/5/13 – Reports claim that Liverpool have agreed to pay Aspas’ buy out clause.

13/6/13 – Jonathan Aspas, brother and agent: “There should be no problems. Now only bureaucratic issues remain unresolved.”

14/6/13 – The transfer is being blocked by the Spanish Football Federation in a legal row over the player’s representation. Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, continued to negotiate with unauthorised agents over the deal even after discovering that he was not dealing with the player’s official FIFA-licensed representatives. Aspas has a representation agreement with Jorge Santome and Carmelo Vicente until 2014, but attempted to force through a move to Anfield by enlisting the help of Barcelona-based agency PromoEsport. Celta Vigo and the Spanish Federation are refusing to release Aspas’ International Transfer Certificate (ITC).

Cavani to Chelsea

5/2/13 – Cavani: “I know nothing about Arsenal’s interest,” Cavani told Radio Onda Cero. “I have only heard about it now. My future? I have a contract for four years but in football you never know what to expect. Barcelona and Real Madrid are teams which stimulate the imagination. But I only think about the present.”

30/5/13 – Cavani: “It’s all a mystery and no-one knows what will happen. Eventually it will all be sorted. There is nothing concrete at the moment. Only when you sign a contract are you part of a team. It is not a distraction for me. I’m comfortable with what I do.”

7/6/13 – Aurelio De Laurentiis, Napoli president: “The budget for the transfer market will be based in relation to the Financial Fair Play rules. If Cavani is sold then I’ll reinvest all of the €63million (£53.5m) of his release clause. There is interest from Chelsea in Cavani, they’ll call me in the next few hours. I’ll be delighted if he stays, but if he leaves then he will be adequately replaced.”

10/6/13 – Reports emerge that Rafa Benitez is keen to bring Fernando Torres to Napoli in a part-exchange deal for Cavani.

14/6/13 – Luis Cavani, his dad: “His intention is to play for Madrid. He is excited about it and is very willing to see it through. He has told the family in private that he wants to join Real Madrid but if he declares it publicly it will annoy Napoli. I hope it happens and that talks take place as soon as possible. Who wouldn’t want to play for Real Madrid?”

14/6/13 – Berta Gomez, Cavani’s mum: “Edi is in talks with Manchester City and Real Madrid. Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis has spoken about the possibility of discussions with Chelsea but there is nothing definite with them at the moment. We will know more in 15 to 20 days. There are so many voices, and when something happens I will be the first to know. But Edi loves Napoli and, if he has to leave, he will never forget the love and warmth he has had from the fans. He and Naples will remain united for ever.”

Jun 142013
 

After Manchester City’s FA Cup final defeat to Wigan last month, their fans were singing “you can stick your Pellegrini up your arse!”, with news emerging that he was set to replace Roberto Mancini as manager.

Today, Manuel Pellegrini has been confirmed as City’s new manager and has signed a three year deal with the club.

Awkward.

Jun 072013
 

John Terry to Monaco

3/6/13 – Jose Mourinho appointed manager of Chelsea, who Claude Makelele was sacked after John Terry threatened to hand in a transfer request after the manager claimed he would drop him.

6/6/13 – Jose Mourinho, Chelsea manager: “I am a coach who looks for a meritocracy. Whoever I think is best must play – without looking at status or the past. You play as you train. It is a normal situation. As it was normal for me to leave Materazzi, a mythical player at Inter Milan, on the bench. Or like Benitez this year at Chelsea with Terry.”

7/6/13 – John Terry linked with a big money move to Monaco.

Carlos Tevez to Liverpool

21/1/13 – Tevez: “I’ve got a year left on my contract at Manchester City and they want me to sign for two more seasons. I would prefer to return home, but it is very difficult because City won’t let me leave for nothing. I will stay in Europe for another two years and then go back. Boca’s president always says the door is open for me to re-join them and I am dying to pull on their shirt once more. I want to end my career with them. It is my dream and the dream of my family as well. But I am under contract and have to be here in England.”

19/5/13 – Tevez: “For me, Monaco is one of the largest French clubs, and any player would go there. I have a one-year contract left at City and I am happy, and I love playing in the Premier League – but a project like Monaco I really like. I know Ranieri [Monaco coach] and he has proven he is a great coach so for me this would be great.”

7/6/13 – Reports emerge linking Tevez, with just one year remaining on his current deal, to Liverpool as a replacement for Luis Suarez, who has confirmed he wants to leave the club.

Hulk to Chelsea

12/8/12 – Hulk: “I have left a door open for being transferred to another league. I have preference for playing in the Premier League or the Spanish Liga, because they are the two leagues that are the most seen all over the world.”

3/9/12 – Hulk signs for Zenit Saint Petersburg from Porto for €60m.

26/9/12 – Hulk: “I think I’ll adapt eventually, but no doubt the fact they speak a different language in Russia creates some difficulties. Still, I feel the atmosphere is great at the team. I’m happy for playing for Zenit, absolutely everyone supports me. I’m trying to adapt to the team and to Zenit in general as soon as possible.”

5/12/12 – Hulk: “I feel well in St Petersburg, my family is happy and my son, too. But if the situation with Luciano Spalletti doesn’t improve, I might leave in January. I don’t know if Italy will be my destination, but anything can happen.”

30/5/12 – Teodoro Fonseca, Hulk’s agent: “There are two great teams of the Premier League to have made their interest known. It is normal that such news would arise because it was with Andre Villas-Boas and Porto where Hulk had his best time. The future of Hulk is with Zenit, but I have never made such statements [about Monaco], I have not spoken to anyone from France.”

6/6/13 – Reports that Chelsea have made a £35m offer for Hulk

7/6/13“If I said there wasn’t anything in it [Chelsea link], I would be lying. But that is not for now. At the moment, I am 100 per cent focused on the Selecao (Brazil team), and I hope to be a Confederations Cup winner with my country. It is a matter of great pride for me to be playing in the yellow jersey, so near to my family. Other matters will have to wait until afterwards.”

Jun 032013
 

Mourinho to Chelsea

1/6/13: Real Madrid president Florentino Perez speaks to Sky Sports News. “Mourinho is going to Chelsea. Probably on Monday he will be their new manager. We wish him good luck.”

2/6/13: Mourinho speaks to Spanish football TV show Punto Pelota “I’m going to London on Monday and at the end of the week I will be the manager of Chelsea. I feel the people there love me and in life you have to look for that. Life is beautiful and short and you must look for what you think is best for you.”

2/6/13: Mourinho arrives at Heathrow airport.

Benteke to Liverpool

16/11/12: Benteke interview in The Daily Express: “I am not afraid of making enemies at Aston Villa by saying I love Arsenal. There are worse things one can say. I am a Villa player for now. They are the right club at the right time for me. I have fulfilled a dream by playing in the Premier League. Now it is about staying as long as possible. Villa are the beginning of my career in England. I have not just joined any club – although I didn’t know their full history, I knew they’d played in the Champions League and won plenty of titles and cups. At the time I signed I didn’t know where they played. I thought they were a London club. But my friend Yassine El Ghanassy, who plays for West Brom, rang me to say he was glad I was moving to Birmingham and near to him. Arsenal are the club I love. I like their philosophy of selecting young players and, besides, they had Thierry Henry in their team. For me, he is the best player in the world and he was my boyhood idol.”

16/5/13: Aston Villa confirm talks with Benteke over a new contract will be taking place soon.

23/5/13: Benteke interview in The Sun: “If Aston Villa say I must stay, I won’t necessarily accept that. I do not in any way want to feel I didn’t get the most out of my career. I try to get everything. Of course playing the World Cup in Rio is in my head. But I have no fear of falling out of the team. There is no point in me getting into a tug-of-war with Villa. If the chance comes up for me to join a club like Arsenal, I’m convinced we can reach a compromise where everyone comes out a winner.”

24/5/13: Benteke’s agent, Eris Kismet, speaks to Sky Sports: “Christian and I are surprised and disgusted by a story in the Sun newspaper claiming Benteke can do what he wants. He has been misquoted. The true line is that Christian does not want to make a war with Aston Villa. He has called me today from New York and he is disgusted, I have told him not to speak to any media from now on. If there is interest, which is normal after the season he has had, no way will problems be made by Christian and myself. That is what he said in the interview! He’s more than happy to stay if he has to stay. But we all know he had a good season and it’s normal that maybe other teams are more interested in him, and he might be interested to play European football which is his right. If there is a team, a bigger team playing European football next season, that shows interest to Villa concerning Christian, I would be lying if I said Christian would ignore that. But at the same time Villa have the right to say whatever is going to happen with Christian next year, and Christian will have his word also because it’s his career. It’s no use with all respect to go to Southampton or Norwich. If he can improve himself in a footballistic way, okay, why not? But it’s up to Aston Villa and that supposed team to get an agreement. At this moment nothing is happening. Let’s wait a week or two and then we will see what can happen.”

2/6/13: Further talks between Benteke and Villa are expected to take place once he returns from International duty with Belgium, but Liverpool have lined him up as a replacement for want-away Luis Suarez. Atletico, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund are also reportedly interested.

Navas to Manchester City

17/1/11: Navas signs a contract extension until 2015 with a release clause of €35m.

17/5/13: Navas tells La Sexta – “I am prepared for anything. I want to keep progressing and pushing for titles because I am used to such nice things, but I am happy here. City’s interest? I would be excited to be there and I can dream, but we’ll wait until the end of the season and look at the summer to see what happens.”

2/6/13: Navas reportedly said “Manchester City is a team I really like. I’m open to anything and I want to win titles. I want to fight for those things.”

3/6/13: Sevilla boss Unai Emery on Navas’ future – “Everything indicates he will leave.”

May 192013
 

Manchester City v Norwich 16:00

 

- Manchester City recorded their first win following the dismissal of Roberto Mancini on Tuesday night with a 2-0 win over Reading. Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko both got on the scoresheet as City begin their planning their title challenge for next season.

 

- Yaya Toure will likely end the a highly impressive season as Manchester City’s most influential midfield player, having now completed a staggering 1269 passes in the opponent’s half. This places him second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index but he has the best minute per pass ratio of any player in the league, completing one on average every 2.30 minutes he’s been on the pitch this season.

 

- Despite struggling to hold down his place in the team this season, Joleon Lescott has made a healthy contribution to the Manchester City cause this term. He’s made a solid 124 defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions and successful tackles) at a squad-best rate of, on average, one every 12.9 minutes.

 

- After some turbulent moments under Roberto Mancini, Carlos Tevez has shown his worth with some excellent performances this season. The Argentinian’s footballing ability has never been in doubt and he has knuckled down as the season has progressed to record a combined 25 goals and assists, a squad best.

 

- A free-flowing Norwich performance saw them record one of their biggest wins of the season with a 4-0 victory over West Brom. Goals from season standouts Robert Snodgrass and Grant Holt, as well as a top drawer strike from Jonny Howson, completed the rout for Chris Hughton’s side.

 

- Robert Snodgrass’ goal capped a fine season for the Scottish midfielder. Snodgrass has been one of the shining light for Chris Hughton’s side, regularly driving their play forward as well as helping out in defence. He’s completed a massive 726 passes in the opponent’s half as well as contributing defensively 147 times, a figure surpassed only by Bradley Johnson amongst Norwich’s other midfielders.

 

- Sebastian Bassong remains Norwich’s standout defender as the season draws to a close. He leads the Norwich squad across numerous categories according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, including clearances (83), interceptions (138) and blocks (21).

 

- Although the Norwich faithful will most often turn to Grant Holt when in need of a goal, Kei Kamara has also been a solid option for the Canaries up front. The striker has one of the best minutes per shot rate of any Norwich player this season, racking up an attempt on goal on average once every 41.9 minutes he’s been on the field of play.

May 162013
 

This time last year it was all going so well for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City. Two goals deep into injury time during the last match of the season against QPR meant the Italian had delivered City’s first title in 44 years in the most dramatic circumstances imaginable. The long wait was over. City, who for decades had been a laughing-stock, found themselves at the summit of the English game. The days of winning ‘Cups for Cock Ups’ had gone; the Premier League trophy now had pride of place. Mancini’s position in City’s history books was secure.

Twelve months later and the landscape has altered considerably. Mancini has been sacked, with the club preparing to bring in Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini as manager. The Chilean yesterday denied reports that he is set to be installed at the Etihad, but that’s standard practice in these situations: he doesn’t want to upset his current employers, and needed to be seen as respectful to Mancini, who was still officially in charge when the denial was made. It’s become an ugly yet familiar managerial transition at City, after Mark Hughes and Sven Goran-Eriksson suffered similar fates. With the fans so emotionally attached to Mancini, this is an important appointment for the club. If it goes wrong, the relationship between the board and the fans – which has so far been serene – may be damaged somewhat.

City fans are quite rightly angry at the way it’s been handled. A not-so-private meeting with Pellegrini’s agent gave rise to intense speculation about Mancini’s future back in February, with Guillem Balague getting hold of information that a contract between City and Pellegrini’s representatives had been agreed. The Spanish journalist then proceeded to leak the information on Friday evening, just hours before City were set to play their second FA Cup final in three seasons. The rumours became so intense that the board were forced to sack him on the anniversary of that glorious day last May, denying him the opportunity of a proper send off in our final home match against Norwich. Typical City is alive and well.

Struggles in this season’s Champions League meant Mancini’s European record, and his suitability to make City the force they crave to be, came under intense scrutiny last Christmas. Pep Guardiola was the name initially touted as a replacement; a logical assumption given his links with Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain whom he worked with at Barcelona. However, Guardiola soon agreed a deal to take over at Bayern Munich, leaving Pellegrini as the man most likely to become Mancini’s replacement. The club have done very little to quash those rumours and take the pressure off Mancini, something which he rightly feels aggrieved about.

Of course, it’s difficult to feel totally sorry for the outgoing manager. He was appointed in similar circumstances when he joined City, and also held talks with Monaco last season when his future was uncertain. Most people accept that secret talks are part and parcel of football, however, the timing of all this, coupled with the fact that Mancini is so well liked, means the City fans are upset. Once again, our club’s reputation has taken a hit.

Despite the undoubted success he brought us, Mancini’s management is certainly not to everyone’s taste. Public criticism of his players, best exemplified by his admission that he wants to ‘punch’ Samir Nasri for not fulfilling his potential, has led to suggestions that Mancini’s propensity for confrontation has had an adverse effect on team morale; dividing a squad that was buoyant after a title win. City’s two Champions League campaigns under the Italian saw two early exits, with City this season becoming the first English side to finish without a win in the group stage. Our defence of the Premier League title has been dreadful, effectively over in March after yet another defeat to Everton, scoring 26 fewer goals than last season, and playing without the verve and vigour that saw us tear sides apart with ease. It’s been a trophyless and disappointing campaign, unacceptable given the level of investment since Mancini took over.

However, the idea that Mancini’s reign has been a failure (perpetrated by many opposition fans), is deeply flawed. He inherited an imbalanced squad that was leaking goals at an incredible rate, and spent his first months in the job making City competitive. By the season’s end, he’d took the side up only place, finishing fifth and missing out on Champions League qualification, but the difference in professionalism and organisation was clear. It was those first seven months which laid the foundations for what was to come. The following season he delivered the FA Cup, City’s first major trophy in 34 years, and then in 2012 the title, playing the kind of football City fans had only ever dreamed of. This season was the first season in which Mancini’s City didn’t progress.

It’s probably fair to say that Mancini deserved another season to try to put City back on the upward trajectory he himself kick started, but it’s also clear that his influence was waning, and if the board feel a change was needed to really satisfy their thirst for success it should be viewed as the kind of ambition we need. This season, the squad has been disjointed and lacking in focus, with no Plan B if our narrow 4-2-3-1 formation failed. Mancini experimented with three at the back with little success, and there was a dire lack of width in the side. His last-minute trolley dash around Europe saddled the club with a string of players who now need to be sold, and the direction and momentum built up over the first two-and-a-half years in the job was lost. Brian Marwood has, quite rightly, taken much of the blame for this summer’s poor procurement process, and should be sacked during the current clear out, but Mancini still rubber-stamped those rushed transfers.

Although Hughes’ sacking was handled in much the same way, the backlash from the City fans will be much fiercer this time. Hughes’ arrogance, poor results, and inability to take responsibility for anything that went wrong under his stewardship made him a repulsive character, whereas Mancini, pretty much to man, is not just respected but loved by the City fans. His behaviour has largely been exemplary, and when he said he would win trophies at City, he delivered. His time in charge wasn’t perfect, but he will always be remembered at Manchester City as a manager who implemented free-flowing attacking football, and ended our wait for a trophy. He’s the first manager in my time watching City (Peter Reid onwards) that lived for being City boss. It wasn’t just a job, or a stepping stone, or an easy payday, this was Mancini’s life. For three-and-a-half mostly glorious years he gave everything to our club, and for that reason he leaves with the respect of every City fan.

May 132013
 

Manchester City have tonight confirmed that Roberto Mancini has been sacked. The news was leaked to the press ahead of City’s defeat against Wigan in the FA Cup final on Saturday but Mancini appeared to think it was just paper talk.

“You continue to speak about this for six months and also too much in the last two weeks,” he said after the game. “I don’t know why the club didn’t stop this because I don’t think it’s true.”

However, the club have today confirmed that it is true, with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini favourite to replace him.

Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: “Roberto’s record speaks for itself and he has the respect and gratitude of Sheikh Mansour, myself and the Board for all of his hard work and commitment over the last three and a half years. He has clearly also secured the love and respect of our fans. He has done as he promised and delivered silverware and success, breaking the Club’s 35-year trophy drought and securing the title in 2012. I would like to personally and publicly thank him for his dedication to the progress that he has overseen and for his support and continued friendship.”

Assistant Manager Brian Kidd will take interim responsibility for the remaining two games of the season and the post-season tour to the United States.