Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Lorenzo Insigne....Believe the Hype

In the hours proceeding this blog posting, Napoli will have completed their biggest off-season maneuver... (in my opinion) ..giving Lorenzo Insigne a 1-year contract extension, which will run until 2017 (with an obvious pay increase for the kid).

[can Lavezzi lift this?]

You may be wondering why would Napoli be giving a 21-year old who has only ever played 1 minute of competitive calcio in the Serie A a contract extension?

Is it because in Napoli's last two friendly games he has tore it up with a goal and an assist against Bayern Munich or his assist and conistent pressure in Napoli's other friendly win over Bayern Leverkusen 2-1?

Is it because of how good "Lorenzinho" (as dubbed by the Napoli faithful) looked in his last two seasons playing under now Roma head coach Zednek Zemans 4-3-3?

- in the 2010/11 season Insigne was loaned to Foggia (who was coached by Zeman at the time) and scored 19 goals in 33 appearances.

- the following season Insigne was once again loaned out from Napoli to a Zeman coached Pescara team. Alongside fellow Italian youth prospects Marco Verratti and Ciro Immobile; Lorenzinho scored 18 goals in 37 appearances to help Pescara to promotion from Serie B to Serie A.

Although these could be factors in the re-signing. It mostly has to do with the fact that Napoli has just sold Lavezzi, and since Napoli head coach uses the 4-3-3, Insigne is the perfect candidate to replace Lavezzi on the left to pair up with Cavani and Hamsik. 

I watched quite a bit of Pescara matches this past season to catch a glimpse of what I hoped would be a future Juventus signing in Marco Verratti (sigh) and Juventus owned striker Ciro Immobile. But it was Lorenzinho who caught my eye, and had me watching more Serie B soccer than I ever have.

His constant sprint with and without the ball on offense are very entertaining to watch. Having only recently joined the Italy Under-21 program, the hype around the young talent is quickly forming and with good reason.

A lot of credit must be given to Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentis for not only producing the greatest Italian comedy but for also locking down a player who let alone was born and raised in the streets of Napoli, but was brought up in the teams very own youth soccer system. And nothing upsets ultras more than letting your own youth prospects go.....just ask Massimo Moratti.

Poised to play a prominent role in the Napoli starting lineup this season, I believe he will help Napoli achieve a top 4 finish this season.

With players like Lorenzo Insigne and Matteo Destro going to better football clubs it will only help Italy's potential stars, to become superstars.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Serie A Canada Latest

The latest transfer rumours in the Serie A.

Juventus left back Reto Ziegler does not seem to figure in the Bianconeri's plans. A move to La Liga seems unlikely as Valencia and Sevilla have dropped out of talks for him. Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow however have begun tracking him, and are in talks with the players agent/father Rene Ziegler.

They have also closed down talks with Brescia starlet Omar El Khaddouri, a move to the Premiere League is now possible for the young Moroccan who will be showcased in the Olympics.

Sticking with Juventus, Milos Krasic played as a sub in the friendly against Hertha Berlin and scored. He may now have an opportunity in the first team with a possible suspension hanging over Simone Pepe. However, any decent offer for the player would still be accepted at this point.

Bruno Alves is close to a Juventus move, the club are still looking at other options though. Rumours of Salvatore Bocchetti are gaining steam, especially now that Bonucci will likely miss the entire season on a suspension. Bocchetti's contract with Rubin Kazan ends in 2013, a loan deal with option to buy at the end seems likely.

Inter continue to track Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo. It will take at least 30 million Euro for the player, but he has said his future will not be decided until after the Olympics. Manchester United are still in the lead for his signature.

Rumours continue to swirl around Milan. Replacements are needed and the club are looking at everything. Kaka remains a possibility while Catania midfielder Lodi says he is proud to be a Catania player and has no problems staying there. He has recently been linked to the Rossoneri.

Milan continue to look in France for defenders. N'Koulou Nicolas is the latest name to be linked with the club. The Marseille defender is 22 years old and has tonnes of potential. However, he would count as a non-EU player as he is Cameroonian. They should continue to look in Italy for defenders. Angelo Ogbonna anyone?

Napoli have given standout pre-season performer Lorenzo Insigne a contract extension. It runs until 2017.

They are also druelling at the prospects of signing Guiseppe Rossi. However if that deal won't materialize Giampaolo Pazzini, Sergio Floccari and Rolando Bianchi would be other options.

Euro 2012 standout Federico Balzaretti has many admirers, and a move out of Palermo is imminent. The Rosaneri have accepted bids from Roma and Napoli so his future is now in his own hands. His wife would like him to stay in Palermo or move to PSG. Juventus are looking to hijack this deal as well.

Fiorentina are tracking Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani. It seems he would like a move back to Italy but nothing is imminent. Something may happen in the next week or so as Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers tries to figure out if Aquilani will be in his plans for the Reds.

Inter are beginning to look for alternatives to Lucas Moura. Although their hope is still high for the Brazilian, they have looked to Germany for midfield talent. Mario Gotze of Borussia Dortmund as well as Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich. Muller seems likely as he would like more guaranteed playing time than he has been getting in Munich.

Roma has finally made the signing of Mattia Destro official. It's clear now why it took so long, very complicated deal. He moves to the Giallorossi on loan for 11.5m Euro with an option to purchase outright at the end of the year for an extra 4.5. This will obviously happen because it makes no sense to pay 11.5m Euro for a loan, and then throw the player back. Giammario Piscitella and Valerio Verre have gone to Genoa as part of co-ownership deals as well, while Verre will be loaned to Siena. Add it all up you get a 19m Euro deal for Mattia Destro.

Genoa wanted as much money as they could get right away to bring in some re-inforcements. The first two names that have popped up in rumour talks are Milos Krasic from Juventus and Alessio Cerci from Fiorentina. The Rossoblu would like both in a perfect world.

Three teams are hunting Atalanta's Federico Peluso. Juventus, who have been tracking him for quite sometime, Lazio, and Palermo who will soon be searching for a Balzaretti replacement.

Pescara continue to look for new attacking options since losing Veratti, Insigne and Immobile. The three men that won them promotion from Serie B. Emmanuele Calaio is one of the names at the top of their list.

Torino have terminated the contract of Damiano Ferronetti.

Chievo are looking at bringing Valeri Bojinov back to the Serie A. He is currently playing for Sporting Lisbon.

Luc Castaignos made his move from Inter to FC Twente official today. He lashed out at the club saying although he learned a lot during his time in Milan, he had more faith in himself than the team had in him. He's only 19 he can still become a great player. The ceiling is very, very high on this kid.

Udinese, looking for Samir Handanovic replacement, are thinking about bringing former Juventus keeper Alex Manninger into the mix.

Juventus have made the signing of Pablo Armero one of their top priorities. They are thought to want three more players before the window closes. A defender, a striker and left wing. Armero would be that left winger.

That's it for today surely the silly season will have much more tomorrow.
Follow me on twitter @DanRiccio23 for all the very latest transfer news in the Italian Serie A.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Have Napoli replaced Lavezzi?

It is the biggest question revolving around the Stadio San Paolo this summer. With no Champions League to participate in this year one of the 'big three' was bound to leave Napoli this offseason.

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has said that star striker Edinson Cavani will not be sold, unless a crazy offer of 100m Euro came along. Marek Hamsik has also pledged his allegiance to Naples. That meant Ezequiel Lavezzi was going to be the one to go, Napoli clearly identified that Lavezzi would be the easiest to replace of the three.

Ezequiel Lavezzi

Are they right? Maybe, maybe not, let's examine. I think we can all agree that Edinson Cavani is one of the most prolific finishers in the world. While Hamsik can score as well, but its the creator in him that makes him a tad better than Lavezzi in my book. Lavezzi and Hamsik each had nine goals in the league last year, but Hamsik had four more assists than Lavezzi did. Marek Hamsik is also two years younger than Ezequiel, and there is one more factor that plays into this. Flash. There is no question that Lavezzi just has more of it than Hamsik, and to be honest I really think Napoli were able to pull more money out of PSG because of that. It sounds stupid but I truly believe it. Hamsik will consistently play better but it can go unnoticed. Lavezzi on the other hand can disappear for parts of games, but can wow you with his speed and footwork without a moments notice.
Marek Hamsik

The biggest reason it was easy to take the 26m Euro for Lavezzi rather than letting go of Hamsik or Cavani is Lorenzo Insigne. This kid is the real deal and Napoli need to develop him at the top level, and good on them for giving the kid a chance. At least right now it seems like they will give him a chance. We will have a full player profile to come on this rising Azzurrini star but here is a touch about him to start. He was born in Naples, and is a product of the Napoli youth system. He scored 19 goals in Serie B last season and is already scoring bucketloads in the pre-season, including one goal against German giants Bayern Munich.

Lorenzo Insigne

Along with Mr. Insigne Napoli purchased Eduardo Vargas. Another incredible young talent out of Chile, Eduardo will look to provide some of that speed and flare that will be missing now that the Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi has left town. He was signed in January for just above 14m Euro, so now that he has had the end of last season to get himself settled into Italy and the Serie A Walter Mazzarri is expecting a lot out of the big money signing.

Eduardo Vargas

This is exactly why Ezequiel Lavezzi was expendable. Insigne and Eduardo Vargas should actually make the team better because they can spread the offense around a little bit more, however there will be some growing pains for the two. I also like that Napoli has also added to the rest of the squad. Players like Behrami and Gamberini have already been purchased and will improve the overall quality of the squad while the latest rumours have them taking a run at Palermo's Federico Balzaretti. They really were a team last year that had a great attack but severely lacked in depth, andoverall quality. These problems seem to be fixed.

Behrami and Gamberini

They may have lost Lavezzi's flash and dash, but in comes younger talent with an overall better squad. Well done Napoli.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Calcio Corruption

There is not a whole lot of things that upset me about Italian soccer these days. Sunday mornings are just mainly a time for me to sit and enjoy one of my favourite things on this planet; Calcio. However in recent years the team that I love, and the league that I love the most has been tainted. Yesterday was almost like Calciopoli happened all over again.

Several current Juventus members along with many other people affiliated with Italian football were charged with sporting fraud. While some are alleged to have been indirectly involved with match fixing, others have been implicated with direct involvement. I don't have all of the facts or evidence pertaining to these incidents, and quite frankly I don't care all that much. What I do know is that Juventus boss Antonio Conte along with some of his staff have been charged. While Leonardo Bonucci and Simone Pepe have also been named in the latest scandal to rip through the Italian football leagues. None of these allegations pertain to their time at Juventus, so the club itself has avoided any punishment that may come down through this.

The fact is that most of this junk pertains to the lower divisions (Serie B or lower). Bonucci faces the most punishment with charges of being directly involved whereas Pepe and Conte are alleged to have indirect involvement, in other words they knew it was going on and did nothing about it. While some would say these investigations are helping the problem, and are addressing the need to get it out of the game, I say that when you are dealing with low budget, low level teams this will always be a part of the game. As it stands right now teams cannot survive without it.

It will be a problem in Italy, Spain, England, and wherever else you can think of. The mafia or gangs that are setting all this up have such a stronghold on the situation that this will not stop. There is no coincidence that these incidents are becoming more apparent and happening more frequently during the worst global economy we have experienced in quite some time. It is no secret that Italy along with pretty much every other country in Europe is suffering with finances.

Lower level football is in a really bad place right now. Teams are struggling to afford player wages on a week to week basis and the sport is suffering. The mafia or whomever is organising the fixing of these matches is taking advantage. They are targeting players who may not be receiving their pay cheques on a regular basis and therefore are struggling to pay their bills at home. Owners of teams have succumbed to the pressure as well. It has been said that owners are taking bribes to fix a few matches per season in order to help pay the wages of players.

I imagine it like this "OK boys, we're going to do our best to win as many games as we can but if you want to get paid and get paid on time, we have to lose a match here and there."

What is a player to do? Yeah you have your dignity to keep, but you also have a family to feed and bills to pay at home. Not to mention the repercussions one may face for not co-operating with the Mafiosi. (Which is the main argument Domenico Criscito has pleaded to prosecutors after being investigated just before the recent Euro 2012 tournament.)

If you have read the book 'The Fix' by Declan Hill then you would know this problem way more widespread than just Italy. It even reached the World Cup in 2006 where Ghana lay over to Brazil. Ghanaian captain and former Juventus man Stephen Appiah was mentioned in the book to have direct involvement with the fixing of that match. The gangs who are wanting these matches fixed are not just looking for a win or a loss they want exact scores to play, this maximises their profits as the odds on a team to win 6-0 compared to 1-0 are drastically different.

That 8-2 scoreline between Ghana and Brazil in the round of 16 that year seemed fishy at the time and 'The Fix' only clarified my original thoughts on that game. These Mafiosi take advantage of every situation they can, and it shows in instances such as that one way back in 06. So why is that we never hear about the police going after these men who are known for fixing matches all over the world? Why aren't players being forced to give up the real people who are fixing the matches? The men who are putting the money into it? These are questions I cannot answer, and I will not opine any further because I'm sure most of you have seen a mafia movie or TV show at some point in time.

Now I am not so naive to believe that some players willingly participate in these acts, but the problem is bigger than that, and the only way to solve the problem is getting to the source. If the match fixing is to stop then this is what the investigative journalists need to focus on; not the players not the managers or the teams that are involved, they need to go after the people who are actually running the show in this whole ordeal. Until that happen this is something that will not go away.

Further blog posts to come on this topic. I will discuss how it will affect the Serie A for the coming season once rulings come out on everything that has happened. Right now I just needed to vent.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

"Friendlies in America"

when you read the title of the post i want you to sing it like James Brown....because thats how I'm saying it!

Friendlies in (North) America. Now maybe some of you are like me and fell victim to these cash grabs, hopefully not. They try to lure you in with posters such as this one

[Suarez is at the Olympics!]

making you the fan believe that your favourite stars will actually show up to an EXHIBITION in Toronto, days after a much deserved vacation. If they do end up playing, they dont go hard (who can blame them) and its never longer than a half (why risk an injury).

Now I won't argue that exhibitions are much needed to any team sport in warm up for the upcoming season. But my main gripe is the timing for these games and ticket prices.

Two seasons ago Juventus and Fiorentina travelled to Toronto on May 25th to do battle in the Skydome (yes it will always be called that to me). But the problem was it wasn't much of a battle. Both teams had just finished long disappointing seasons one week prior. 
Any really talented player from either side was with their national side prepping for the 2010 World Cup. Unless your last name is Jovetic and your country will never qualify so you have to tear up a fake Juve defence. Juve played 6 local players they had signed on 10 day contracts and played most of their youth players because of the shortage of first teamers. 

Yet ticket prices were cheapest 60$ and most 200$.....for a FRIENDLY!!!!

[side note] it was on this day that i declared to twitter and all Juve fans in attendance that Amauri had to go, and Jovetic has to come in, and i still stand by that.

The following year Juventus came back (2011), to play Sporting of portugal. Ticket sales were disappointing, nearly selling half the stadium with only 10,028 ticket sales. After the previous years showing on Juventus' part I dont understand how anyone in marketing thought that fans in Toronto would be willing to dish that same cash again.

[my condolences to anyone who had to sit through that rainstorm last summer]

Oh but I was wrong as this season Juventus attempted to come back (ticket prices were the same as the previous 2 exhibitions; cheapest 60$, most 200$) but pre sales were soo low that the team decided a trip to China would be more profitable. Now this is in no part due to Juve not having a strong fan base in Canada, it is due to the expensive price for tickets to watch a fake Juventus.

[would of been a great roadie with the boys]

We need more meaningful games to come here to justify those prices. They are the same prices as Miami Heat playoff tickets! And your not even getting stars to entertain us (in the 2010 friendly in Toronto, Del Piero did not take the field even after many chants from the 21,000+ crowd), but kids trying to find their place on the field.

I have absolutely no problem at all with the MLS all-star game. It has been surprisingly entertaining the last few years, and I think its a great idea to have the MLS all-stars face the reigning European Champions every summer. You could tell last night the MLS players were trying, and Chelsea wasnt walking around neither.

I remember fantasizing as a kid of the Champions League finals being hosted in the Skydome (and Juve winning it of course). Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds...to have a European Cup final not in Europe. Which is why I was a child at the time. But where I am going with this is that why can't Toronto host the FIFA Club World Cup?

The Italian Super Cup has been hosted in somewhere other than Italy 5 times in the last 10 years. I am sure that if this years Italian Super Cup between Napoli and Juve were held in Toronto or Montreal it would have been a sellout. Instead they are off to China at the Beijing National Stadium in.....wait for it.....Beijing! 

This same stadium has hosted the competition in 2009 and 2011. Last season it was full sellout of 80, 000! This is expected to be the same. So who can blame the teams or League for going for the money, thats the name of the game.

Marketers beware if you plan on bringing Juventus back and expect us to pay those high prices, know that if the buyer doesn't recieve what they expected, not playing the stars you advertised to us or these non competitive matches, it won't sell. Simply because.....

We Want Something Real.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Curious Case of Udinese Calcio

One of the main storylines over the last couple of years in the Italian Serie A, has been Udinese Calcio. Led by Antonio Di Natale this club has found a way to push themselves into Champions League Qualification the last two years running. Ordinarily they are a midtable side who struggles to qualify for Europa league.

Antonio Di Natale (Udinese Captain)

The Friulani have been one of the few sides in Italy that have recorded profits in these trying economic times, because they are able to develop so much talent. In 09-10 they finished 15th way below where they should be, but Antonio Di Natale was the lone bright spot scoring 29 goals to lead the league. This was a sign of things to come in the coming years.

The summer of 2010 brought a huge amount of turnover, and saw many players leave the Stadio Friuli. Simone Pepe, Marco Motta, and Gaetano D'Agostino were all shown the door among others, but the team was able to finish fourth ahead of teams with much larger budgets like Roma, Lazio and Juventus. Simone Pepe and Marco Motta were sold to Juventus. But it was signings from previous seasons that filled the void of departed stars.

Simone Pepe

The summer of 2011 was no different. Instead of adding talent to the squad like most teams do in the wake of competing in the Champions League. Udinese continued to go about their usual business. Identifying players that could be replaced and selling them for a profit. A key player in the 2010-11 surprise season was Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean was bought by Udine in the summer of 2006 for just under 3m pounds. 2010-11 was his breakout year, scoring 12 goals and adding 6 assists catching the eyes of many big clubs he would be sold for 26m Euros that summer to Barcelona. Gokham Inler was also a part of the departed leaving for Napoli at a price around 13m Euros along with standout defender Cristian Zapata at 14m Euros to Villarreal. Udinese turned quite the profit that summer. However, they did not re-invest the money into any big name signings. Paolo Vitor Barreto was the biggest purchase at 3.5m Euro. They ended up losing their Champions League qualifier 2-1 to Arsenal on aggregate.

Alexis Sanchez with Gokhan Inler

However they were able to recover for the start of the Serie A season. Udinese's outstanding record at home (13-4-2) was the main catalyst in their second consecutive Champions League qualification. Antonio Di Natale had another fantastic season scoring 23 goals to go along with 7 assists.

So with the Champions League looming for Udine in the summer of 2012, the purge has arrived once again.

In the summer of 2007 an unknown Chilean was signed to a five year contract by the Friulani. Mauricio Isla came over to Italy for 462 000 pounds. He took the place of Simone Pepe on the right side of midfield in a 3-5-2 formation for the 2010-11 season. He's been sold to Juventus for just over 8m pounds.

Mauricio Isla

In 2008 Kwadwo Asamoah was brought in on a loan deal from a Swiss club. He would sign permanently the following summer for 880 000 pounds. The defensive midfielder has played a key role for Udinese in their past two seasons both resulting in top four finishes. Also sold to Juventus, for just under 8m pounds.

Kwadwo Asamoah

Samir Handanovic is a goalkeeper that Udinese got on free transfer! He had been with the club since 2004 until Inter needed a replacement for Julio Cesar this summer. They worked out a fee of 11m Euro for the Slovenian shotstopper.

Samir Handanovic

So who have Udinese brought into replace? Well to be honest a bunch of players I have not heard much about, typical Udinese. Three Brazilians look to be the ones that will fill the void in the midfield. I can try to speculate who will be their new star this year, but the truth is I have no idea. All we know is someone on the team will get it done. Antonio Di Natale seems to be the only player that can avoid being sold away from the Stadio Friuli and it remains to be seen how much longer the 34-year-old can keep it up.

(One of three Brazilians brought in this summer by Udinese)

To be honest it is a nice story, and it is great to see the incredible profits they've made through transfers. Buying players for next to nothing and selling them at huge prices. But it's also quite frustrating as a calcio fan. I want to see Italian clubs perform well beyond the league. I feel as though when you qualify for a Champions League match you need to invest some money in making the most of it, to represent your country on the Continental stage the best way possible. If Italy is to gain back their 4th Champions League place Udinese have to perform well in the competition, and with the sales from the last two seasons I don't see how that is possible.

It's hard to see them continuing this run in the Serie A also. Inter figures to be better than they were last season, Milan will not drop off as much as people think after the sales of Ibrahimovic and Silva, Roma has made significant improvements to their squad as well as Napoli, and Lazio still figure to be in the mix as well. Unless some 'ready-now' talent is brought into the Stadio Friuli they're run of top four finishes in the league will come to an end this year.

Giampaolo Pozzo (Udinese Owner)

It's unfortunate but it is clear that Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo sees his club as a business that needs to turn a profit, rather than a team he wants to see perform at the highest level possible. At some point one would think that their luck will run out. That eventually they will guess wrong on one of these unknown commodities that get purchased for next to nothing. The youth system is something that other clubs wish they had and it is a great tool to make substantial profits in the transfer market, but I think it is about time Udinese use some of the profits they've made over the years to make a real push at the Serie A title and who knows maybe a little run through the Champions League.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Is Lucas Moura a fit for Inter?

The quick answer is yes, Lucas would be a fit for any team. But, as we all know in Italy clubs don't just have 30m Pounds to throw at players these days. So I figure we should analyse whether or not Lucas Moura, a boy on the verge of his twentieth birthday is worth this kind of money to Inter.

Lucas Moura (Sao Paulo)

First we'll need to figure out where Lucas fits in the formation. We saw during the Trofeo TIM, which Inter won for the eighth time in its twelve year existence, that Andrea Stramaccionni went with a 4-2-3-1 formation. In other words an ideal formation for the attacking midfielder/winger. But, if we look at the options Stramaccioni has at his disposal the addition of Lucas and the upwards of 30m Pound  price tag that goes with him certainly seems excessive, but when have we ever known Massimo Moratti to not be excessive?

Massimo Moratti (Inter)

Needless to say, Inter do not need Lucas Moura right now. They do not need his price tag. they should focus on bringing in some young Italian talent rather than Lucas at this time. This is a perfect year to do so. The Europa league does not matter to most teams, but if they happen to stumble upon the latter stages of the tournament then they will surely start to play their 'A' squad, the same goes for the Coppa Italia. Andrea Strammaccioni was promoted from youth squad manger to the senior team surely he thinks there has to be more than just Coutinho in the ranks.

Andrea Stramaccioni (Inter)

Moratti continues to spill his guts to the media on his desire for Lucas even though Sao Paulo has already poked fun at Inter's offers and financial situation. Here's a quote from Sao Paulo's director of football Joao Paulo de Jesus Lopes.

'There is no (formal) offer and, even if it were to appear, the amount is ridiculous. How can you pay 25m Euro for a player of Lucas's quality? Italian football is broke - the club (Inter) are broke. It seems they are creating this to satisfy the fans.'

You know, times are tough when a Brazilian team is mocking your finances, but its true. Inter needs to make some sales before they are able to purchases anyone else of significance. After the purchases of Samir Handanovic, Rodrigo Palacio, and Freddy Guarin, which cost them roughly 35m Euro, there is not much left. They bought Gaby Mudingayi and loaned Matias Silvestre since then, both moves that just scream we have no money left.

Freddy Guarin (Inter)

Giampaolo Pazzini seems to be on his way out after Strammaccioni declared him to be spare parts and Diego Milito will be his first option, so maybe some money to be made there, but other than that I am not sure where Inter are going to muster up the 30m plus Pounds for Lucas Moura.

Giampaolo Pazzini (Inter)

Fact is they need to focus on getting themselves back to respectability before dishing out 30m pounds on a player. Inter's main goal should be getting back to the Champions League this season and with their current squad they have a chance at that. New signing Rodrigo Palacio seems to be set to play the right wing anyway. so why spend the money on him only to bring in someone who will kick him to the bench?
Rodrigo Palacio (Inter)

It's nice to believe that Inter still have a chance at the 19-year-old wonder kid, and he would be a heck of a player in the Serie A, but Inter should be OK without him. It seems as though his price tag is too high even for Manchester United so there will be a chance to make a run at him again next summer. For now the Nerrazzurri need to focus on Serie A and posing a serious threat to Juventus.

Lucas Moura (Brazil)

This argument may come to the forefront as the Olympics start this week and Lucas will feature heavily in the Brazil squad. Should be a great chance for all of us to see what all the fuss is about.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Van Persie Agrees Terms with Juventus

More of a story than a blog here today, but Sky Italia's Gianluca Di Marzio is claiming that Juventus have agreed to personal terms with Robin Van Persie.

Twitter has been sent abuzz with news that Van Persie has agreed to personal terms with Juventus. Sky Sport Italia is reporting that it is in the 5-6m Euro per season range, which isn't bad for a player of his quality, but the real sticking point is the transfer fee.

Arsenal are being very stubborn on the fee for Robin Van Persie which is at the very least 20m pounds. So far Juve have not gone anywhere near that. Juventus has always been known for setting their price on a player and how much they would like to pay for his services. If the fee is to high they'll go find someone else, perfect example is Marco Verratti.

To this point Juve have not offered more than 15m Euro which is way off the asking price Arsenal is looking for, and reports have circulated that Manchester United has put down an offer of 30m Pounds for RVP. Naturally, Arsenal has taken this offer into consideration and is trying to use it against Juventus to try and squeeze more money out of the Bianconeri. However, I seriously believe that Juventus will not go much higher than what they are at right now.

Yes it would be nice to get Van Persie but they will only buy him if he costs considerably less money than what Fiorentina is asking for Jovetic. Look at it this way, get a player who is in his prime, and about to fall on the wrong side of thirty(Van Persie), or pay the same price for a young star who has yet is just entering his prime, and whose value is almost certain to grow(Jovetic). The latter is the decision Juventus has a history of making.

Unless Arsenal lower their asking price from Juventus considerably, then this news means nothing. Fans of Juventus or the Serie A can only hope that Arsenal decide to sell RVP at a discount to the Bianconeri just to get him out of the English Premiership.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Welcome to Zemanlandia!

Roma players have had a rude awakening to the 2012-13 season. The words of new coach Zdenek Zeman tell us just that.

"We are halfway through pre-season and the lads aren't completely accustomed to my methods yet. They have suffered a bit, but you have to learn to suffer in football. I'm pleased with the progress we've made so far."

Zdenek Zeman - New Roma Coach

If the Giallorossi players thought they were going to have an easy time through the preseason they were wrong. So much so that captain Francesco Totti has joked that he 'can't keep up.' The veteran has had a bit of an attitude change it seems after a long season of arguing with former boss Luis Enrique.

“My role? We will see and I will adapt. The important thing is to play. Football is fun, I enjoy the sport and try to give the fans entertainment too. As long as I am physically able, I will try to give my contribution.”

Francesco Totti - Roma Captain

Totti is referring to speculation that he may be moved to the flank under Zeman rather than playing a pure centre forward position. It remains to be seen if his tune will change as time goes by, but as always for Roma Totti is a key to their season. However there is much more in the capital city these days than just Francesco Totti.

The Giallorossi have been making headlines day in and day out, most recently with the Mattia Destro transfer saga. It finally looks as though he will finally sign for Roma barring any last minute moves by Juventus again. There was also Fabio Borini whom Destro is slated to replace. I've stated in previous posts how much I disliked the sale of Fabio. Not only did they sell one of their better performers from last season, but they did not recieve bagfulls of money either. But I digress.

There is much to be said about the new crop of players that they have brought in. Brazil was a main destination the Romans went looking for signatures, and they got a couple. Bolstering the back lines with the likes of Leandro Castan and Dodo. Castan will play in a central role in hopes of replacing the departed Juan. While Dodo figures to play as a left fullback. Both come with good resumes but no track record in the top leagues so they may take time to adapt. Although Dodo is only twenty and could be something special.


In the midfield, David Pizarro is back following his loan to Manchester City but it remains to be seen whether he will be in Zeman's plans for the first team. Jonathan Lucca is an 18-year-old they brought in from Brazil that figures to be loaned out at some point before the transfer window closes. Panagiotis Tachtsidis, who was brought in from Genoa, is a relatively unknown player to me, but what I do know is that he played for Verona in Serie B last term and impressed Zeman very much. American Michael Bradley arrives from Chievo; he is a player who is known more for his work ethic than his skill, so he should fit in nicely with Zeman. Lastly, Marquinho was brought over on a loan deal in January from Fluminense, scored 3 goals in 15 matches and impressed enough to have that loan made permanent.

Bradley, Tachtsidis, Lucca, and Castan

If they are able to sign Mattia Destro to this already impressive attack which includes Pablo Osvaldo and Francesco Totti then Mr. Zeman might actually be telling the truth. Roma can compete for the Scudetto. However, the strong attack somewhat depends on Erik Lamela. The young Argentine who came into the Serie A last season with much hype and while he showed flashes of greatness he did not put it together with consistency. Zdenek Zeman has a reputation for bringing the best out of his young players, and after a season at Pescara where all of Italy was talking about Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile, and of course the now departed Marco Verratti, it sounds to me that the old man knows what he's doing.

Erik Lamela

Now the real kicker came this morning. Reports out of Italy suggest that Manchester City, who has been surprisingly quiet in the transfer window to this point, are preparing a 25 million pound bid for the main reason Roma can be talked about in any Scudetto conversation right now; Daniele De Rossi. One of the best box to box midfielders on the planet who has bled Giallorossi for so many years could be on the way out. It would be a hard bid to reject, but he is one player that would be damn-near impossible to replace.

Daniele De Rossi

The thing is Roma and Zeman need things to fall perfectly into place to mount a serious title challenge. There are plenty of ifs on this team, but that also means plenty of potential. Aside from the sale of Borini I like what they've done so far. However, they may need one more year of developing the youngsters before they can mount a serious title challenge. Champions League qualification is a more realistic goal for the Giallorossi.

Zeman will surely be sending his tried and true 4-3-3 formation and I'm going to take a stab at potential starting XI while I'm at this.

Rosi           Burdisso        Heinze      Dodo

Marquinho        De Rossi             Pjanic

Lamela         Osvaldo       Totti/Destro

If Destro does arrive on Monday like the reports say he will, then Totti may have trouble finding space in the starting eleven in which case we'll see how well he's adapted.

And I almost forgot about Bojan Krkic.. he scored twice today. This team has a lot of talent up front with or without Mattia Destro.

Let me know what you think!!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

What we learned from the TIM Cup

Today's post was originally going to happen before the TIM cup actually started, but I changed my mind due to time constraints and wanting to see some of the action before writing about it.

Since 2001 this midsummer classic has had the three 'giants' in Italy face-off against each other. In one day each team plays each other once in 45 minute mini games. The team with the most points wins the tourney. Tiebreakers are determined by goal differential. Juve has won it only once, that came in 2009, while Inter have enjoyed the most success in the tournament winning it seven times. Milan has won it three times. Winning the tournament is irrelevant really but it does give us a chance to see where each team is at, as the season draws closer. Inter won the tournament for the eighth time winning both of their games today. Here is what I took out of the tournament.

Inter Now Have 8

  1. Stadiums in Italy Need Upgrading.
Even before Vucinic, Pepe and Caceres went off with injuries at the San Nicola Stadium in Bari, it was clear the grass was not in good shape. Chunks of grass flew as players tried to dig their cleets in for traction. It has become widely known that Italy's stadiums need upgrading and this is yet another example. Post game reports have Juventus worrying that Caceres may have ligament damage in his knee.

   2.   Palacio Ready to Shine.

With Inter winning the tournament it was easy to pick out a few players that looked good for the Nerazzurri, and Palacio was one of them. Nineteen goals in the league last season finally netted hima move to a big club and he showed why in the Trofeo TIM today with a goal and assist in the derby match. Phillippe Coutinho gets an honourable mention here also.

Rodrigo Palacio

   3. Lucio is Past His Prime.

Lucio didn't have any glaring mistakes in the 1-0 Juve win over Milan, but the Coutinho goal in the first match was all on him. That makes for two Lucio blunders in this early preseason. The 34-year-old was brought in for depth, but he needs to shape up.


   4. Juventus Need a Top Class Finisher

The Bianconeri's only goal came off a Vucinic penatly, and it was a very soft penalty at that. However, it was not because of a lack of chances. Juve created a lot vs Inter but lacked finishing as we saw in so many of those draws they posted in their undefeated season. Quagliarella was the biggest culprit as he was unable to finish a few chances from point-blank range. Unless a top quality finisher is brought in, this will be one of the storylines throughout the 2012-13 Serie A campaign.

Fabio Quagliarella

  5. Milan Need Re-inforcements

It was obvious before the game, but became even more apparent during the games that the sales of Ibrahimovic and Silva have really hurt the Rossoneri. If they are to compete in Serie A re-inforcements are needed. True Vucinic was awarded a soft penalty which was the decider in the Juventus game, but they were severely outclassed against Inter.

Milan Squad

  6. Coutinho Learned a lot During his Loan Spell at Espanyol

The Inter preseason has had one main storyline: Coutinho is ready. The young Brazilian has been all the talk of the Nerazzurri preseason, and today he showed us why. Yes, Lucio gave him a gift on his goal in the first match, but for a 20-year-old he showed great composure in front of goal something we could not say about Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella on the other end of the pitch.

Coutinho with Espanyol

  7. Mirko Vucinic has a Great Mustache.

Mirko Vucinic Mustache

Friday, 20 July 2012

Borini on his way to Canada!

The title of this blog may be a tad bit misleading, but it is in fact true. Fabio Borini, a member of the Italy Euro 2012 squad, is set to play alongside his new Liverpool teammates on Saturday in a friendly against Toronto FC at the Rogers Centre.

The truth is Italy did not lose just one very talented young star when Marco Verratti moved to PSG, but on July 13, 2012 they lost Fabio Borini to Liverpool. Fabio has bounced around quite a bit for a talented 21-year-old. This being his fifth team since joining Chelsea at the ripe young age of 16.

Fabio Borini (Chelsea)

Fabio Borini came up through the Bologna youth system before signing for Chelsea in 2007. He was a standout on the reserve squad coached by Brendan Rodgers, but only made 3 appearances for the senior squad between 2009 and 2011. As Brendan Rodgers moved to Championship side Swansea in 2011 so did Borini on a loan deal. He didn't feature in the squad much but became a big part of the team  down the stretch scoring 6 times in 9 appearances and scoring the winning penalty in a promotion-playoff that sent Swansea to the Premiere League. However Fabio made it clear that he would not return to Chelsea following his loan spell at Swansea, and he had signed on a free transfer with Italian club Parma.

Fabio Borini (Swansea)

He never actually played for Parma as they sent him to Roma on a loan deal before the start of the 2011-12 season. Fabio made a name for himself there, scoring 9 goals in 24 appearances. He earned his first cap for the Azzurri on February 29, 2012 and was later named to the Euro 2012 squad. Now here comes the sad part, Liverpool appointed Brendan Rodgers to take over from Kenny Dalglish. His goal; to bring Liverpool back to respectability. So naturally, who do you think Brendan Rodgers wanted to bring in first to begin the rebuild at Anfield? Fabio Borini. Just over 13 million Euros was the agreed transfer fee between Roma and Liverpool.

Fabio Borini (Parma)

I have yet to figure out why Roma would want to part ways with their young stud. It just seems to be more of a backward step for a team that seemed to be making many strides on the transfer market this summer. It did not make sense to me at all, teams do not part with such great young talent so easily and for such low fees. Roma's new coach Zdenek Zeman prefers a 4-3-3 tactic and needless to say Borini is perfect for it. He can fit in as one of the wing forwards perfectly as he is just as good a playmaker as he is a scorer. Needless to say, I was baffled and still am. On top of all that Roma wants to replace Borini with another young Italian in Mattia Destro who is more of a pure CF than Borini, but Roma already have Pablo Osvaldo in that role, another reason the move does not make much sense for the Giallorossi.
Fabio Borini (Roma)

Now I'm not usually one for conspiracies, but it seems to me that there is more at work here. So I looked a little deeper, and found out that Roma's new American owner Thomas Di Benedetto is also a partner of the Fenway Sports Group who of course recently purchased Liverpool FC. I'm not saying there is anything there, but I'm just saying. I can smell the fish all the way across the pond; or maybe that is just because both teams are in North America, and are getting set for a friendly against each other in Boston on July 25. There is definitely a lot at work here and I guess it was ineveitable that we would see dealings between these two clubs, and there will probably be much more in the future 'you pat my back, I'll pat yours'.

Fabio Borini (Liverpool)

It may be a bad decision for Roma to let Borini go, but clearly the Fenway Sports Group believe he can be more marketable in the EPL, and with Brendan Rodgers at the helm knowing how much potential the 21-year-old Italian international has, he should be in good hands.

On the bright side of things, Toronto will get a chance to see just how talented Fabio Borini is this Saturday at the Rogers Centre when Liverpool take on our very own Toronto FC. This young man should feature in the Azzurri squad for many years to come.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Search for Number 9

"On a basis of 30 million euros Juventus do not intend to open negotiations for Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic: "It's an unmanageable figure. We're not even going to discuss it right now. Everyone is free to set the price they want. It's a legitimate right. But we haven't opened negotiations with Fiorentina. It's necessary to always have dreams and ambitions(Robin Van Persie), but at the same time you also have to contend with the reality of everyday facts. We're relaxed and we know what we have to do. This is the most important thing."

A quote from Juventus Director General Beppe Marrotta this morning, basically explaining to all Bianconeri fans that Robin Van Persie and Stevan Jovetic are at this point very unlikely signings for the reigning Italian champions.

Giuseppe Marrota

Since the opening of the transfer window I had high hopes for who Juventus might sign this offseason to strengthen the squad in hopes of a lengthy Champions League run. It became a well known fact that Juventus were in the market for a top of the line finisher. But if we really think about it when has Juventus ever really spent big dollars on a well know striker? I looked at transfers they made dating back to 01/02. While the numbers on the transfer fees were difficult to dig up I can tell you with confidence that Marcelo Salas, Marcelo Zalayeta, Adrian Mutu, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Fabrizio Miccoli, Luca Toni, Fabio Quagliarella,Vucinic, and Alessandro Matri were all bought for less than 20 million Euro. A lot of these transfers were also loan deals that had options to buy at the end, or part exchange deals,and even some were free transfers. Now in all of those past transfer markets Juve already had their star striker in Alessandro Del Piero who is now departed as his career starts to wind down. With all this is mind I don't think that I ever truly believed Juventus would make the big money signing. Especially with Antonio Conte's new approach which seems to have a definite team emphasis, and going out to sign a super duper star like Van Persie may hinder that team feel. On top of all that Arsenal are still trying to squeeze 20 million Euro out of teams in a transfer fee for Van Persie, even though his contract is up next summer meaning he could be had for free. It doesn't make much sense to spend that big a fee on a player who could be had for free does it? Van Persie also comes with a heavy wage tag of at least 7 million Euro, and really has only had one fully healthy season at Arsenal in seven years. As far Jovetic goes I totally agree with Marrotta in that Fiorentina are asking for way too much money for the player, so unless those demands come down they should not even negotiate.

   Stevan Jovetic               Robin Van Persie

Before we go any further lets take a look at what's in the system and what could be the future of the Bianconeri attack as there are two players who deserve a mention at the very least in this discussion. Earlier today Juventus completed a 3.8 million Euro move for Manolo Gabbiadini from Atalanta one of Italy's finest forward prospects he will spend this next season on loan at Bologna. On top of that they are 50% owners of Ciro Immobile who enjoyed an incredible season in Serie B scoring 28 goals in just 37 appearances with Pescara helping them achieve promotion to Serie A. He will spend this season at Genoa who own the remaining 50% of his rights and should feature heavily in the rossoblu squad. These players may never make their way back to Juventus but its worth noting that two of Italy's top strikers of the future are affiliated with the Zebras.

Manolo Gabbiadini

Ciro Immobile

So with the future looking bright it may be a wise idea to bring in someone who may be hitting their prime and could have some nice re-sale value in a few years. I mentioned what a great target Edin Dzeko would be for Milan yesterday, well the same goes for Juve. He was at the top of Juve's list a couple of summers ago when he was still a member of Wolfsburg. Juve would not reach the high asking price of Wolfsburg and eventually Manchester City swooped in and took him right out of Juve's hands. He fits all of Conte's wants in a striker. Big, strong, can hold up the ball well, and has a very good work ethic on and off the pitch. The Bosnian has maintained that his future is with Man City at the Etihad however if they were to bring in Robin Van Persie his tune may change a bit. It would be perfect timing for Juventus to get him at a price they could be happy with. However I do think Milan will not make it easy on Juventus if this is the scenario that plays out.

Edin Dzeko (Manchester City)

I will also mention Mattia Destro. Scoring 12 goals with Siena last season has impressed many clubs around the Serie A, and Roma are closing in on the youngster. He had Cesare Prandelli thinking of bringing six forwards to Euro 2012 but in the end got cut after making the preliminary 32 man squad. Impressive nonetheless and Juventus has had their eyes on him. They did not expect Roma to go after the youngster so aggressively and may have already missed their opportunity. The coming days will tell the story on this young man.

Mattia Destro (Italy U-21)

Lastly, there is one player I would like to mention who is a bit off the radar. A couple of months ago I had heard that Sporting Director Fabio Paratici and Director General Beppe Marrotta were tracking the young Argentine striker Matias Suarez. He is twenty four years of age, about to enter the prime of his career and wants out of Belgian club Anderlecht. He has a very impressive track record scoring 13 goals to go along with 16 assists in 35 appearances in the Belgian league this year. Also 7 goals in just 10 appearances in the Europa League. He claims to be ready for the big stage and would like out of Anderlecht; reports indicate he could be had for about 15 million Euro. Go figure, that's right in Juve's price range.

Matias Suarez (Anderlecht)

At the end of the day it is clear to me that Juve will not go out and spend the big money on a superstar, as much as I would like to see Van Persie in the black and white it just doesn't seem likely. Look for Juventus to spend somewhere in the range of 12-20 million Euro on their number 9.