Archive | July, 2012

Barca extends Mascherano’s contract through 2016, with a buyout clause of 100 million Euros

31 Jul

Javier Mascherano playing a Champion’s League game for FC Barcelona

Argentine international and converted midfielder to centerback Javier Mascherano has extended his contract with his current club, FC Barcelona. The 28 year old, who currently wears the #14 kit for the Catalans, has yet to score a goal for his club, but it is his holding presence at the center of the defense that has enabled him to achieve such an extension.

“I am very happy that a club as big as this has offered to extend my contract and I can feel relaxed that as long as I do things well, I can stay here for many more years,” Mascherano said.

With Carles Puyol set to return for the start of the season (knee surgery this past spring), Barca should be set defensively. Their line will consist of Daniel Alves, Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, and new transfer from Valencia Jordi Alba.

One of the reasons Mascherano was rewarded with such a contract has been his consistency as far as playing. In what was oft-injury plagued season, Mascherano was one of two Barca players (the other was Sergio Busquets) who played in every game this past season. Barca was usurped by La Liga champions and El Classico rivals Real Madrid in 2011/12. With this move (and potentially some others before the transfer window closes), expect Barca to not only challenge, but to possibly be favored to take the La Liga crown in 2012/13.

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Florentina takes in Alberto Aquilani from Liverpool for 7 million Pounds

30 Jul

Liverpool has sold Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani to Florentina for a reported 7 million pounds. Here are a few notes on why the move makes sense.

1. An out of form Aquilani: Over the past two seasons, Aquilani was on loan for AC Milan (2011/12) and Juventus (2010/11). In those two transfer seasons including Champions League/other tournaments, Aquilani has 49 starts in which he amassed only 3 goals and 12 assists. What makes this seem even more disappointing is the fact that Aquilani was brought on to ultimately and ideally replace Xabi Alonso who bolted after the 2008/09 season. During the those 2 seasons in which Aquilani was out on loan, Xabi Alonso was busy making a difference for his new club Real Madrid. In all competitions he started 100 games, scored 3 times and had 16 assists. While those statistics don’t seem too glaring, the 100 starts to 49 for Aquilani is huge. A holding midfielder and arguably Real’s most consistent player not named Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso has been sorely missed for the reds.

2. Taking Aquilani’s salary off the books: Liverpool likes to spend money, and for the amount of times Aquilani missed games because of injury, paying him 6 million pounds a year was simply not worth his services. Liverpool can use the funds they just transferred over to Florentina to perhaps bolster other parts of their roster. Clint Dempsey is still an option, though he will cost significantly more than Aquilani- but he will also be more productive.

3. Florentina could use Aquilani: Florentina finished 13th (out of 20) in Serie A last season, winning 11 games, drawing 13, and losing 14. After losing their star midfielder Riccardo Montolivo this transfer season to AC Milan, Florentina’s roster isn’t exactly flourishing with talent. Adding an experienced Aquilani should improve Viola (the Violets) in the midfield, and at least improve the team’s record from last year.

Vincent Kompany Signs Extension with Manchester City

26 Jul

Man City captain Vincent Kompany hoists the Barclay’s Premier League trophy with his teammates

Manchester has signed its defensive captain, Vincent Kompany to a new, 6-year extension. According to various sources, the contract is the longest in City’s history, and for good reason. While players come and go, some lose form, while others get picked up by other teams- Kompany has been a model of consistency and more. His leadership and will to win have proven essential to his team’s championship pedigree.

In a recent ESPN article, Kompany shared his commitment to the club: “For me if you are good somewhere then there is no reason to look elsewhere. Man City as a project is not just a project of the owners or the people employed by the club; it is also my project.”

The 6’3 Belgium international has been an anchor in what appears to be one of the strongest back lines in the world. Kompany, combined with stars Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy, and Micah Richards will all be back next year to defend their title. Now that the Barclay’s trophy is theirs, you can bet City has larger goals in mind. This team will be poised for a long Champions League run, something the club could have hardly dreamed about before Kompany arrived in 2008.

Best remaining USA summer tour games

24 Jul

Though most world soccer fans miss the regular seasons in Europe, the USA summer tour has expanded to include several games. Some of these games have already happened over the course of the past couple of weeks, yet others, including some great ones, remain. Here are five of the remaining games I am most excited to watch, in order of when they occur.

1. Liverpool FC vs AS Roma, July 25th: Liverpool’s 1-1 tie with Toronto FC wasn’t exactly the way Reds envisioned their first game in Canada to go, but nevertheless they still have an exhibition game on the 25th against Roma, who dominated the field of play last Sunday against the severely outmatched Zaglebie Lubin at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The game between the English and Italian sides will take place at the oldest ballpark in America, Boston’s Fenway Park. This should be a tightly contested game, as Liverpool tries to gain some momentum this offseason, and Roma continues to tinker its starting lineup revolving around their new American midfielder, Michael Bradley. These two squads finished their respective league seasons last year in similar underwhelming fashion, and both have some serious ground to make before they head back home to Europe.

2. Chelsea vs MLS All Stars, July 25th: Chelsea has played some exciting games already in the States. First, a resounding 4-2 win over the Seattle Sounders, in which a whopping 53,309 people attended, and transfer Eden Hazard (1) and projected Didier Drogba replacement Romelu Lukaku (2) both netted. Chelsea also tied Paris St-Germain 1-1 after being down most of the game, scoring in the 82nd minute. Chelsea has looked solid, playing some exciting soccer. Their game against the best the MLS has to offer may not be all that close, but still worth a watch. The defending Champions League cup winners don’t have a lot to prove in this game, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see some fireworks from the ultra talented players in blue.

3. Liverpool vs Spurs, July 28th: This game should be a preview of what will be a tightly contested matchup in the upcoming English premier league season. Tottenham finished 4th in the EPL standings last season, but were subsequently knocked out of the Champions League because of 6th place Chelsea’s win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last season. Liverpool finished 8th, and both of these teams will be competing in the upcoming Europa League. Unfortunately for Tottenham and for their American fans, Croatian Luka Modric did not make the trip, holding out for a transfer to what he hopes will be to Real Madrid. Liverpool and Tottenham are in a position where they are compelled to improve on their misfortunes last season, and their matchup at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore is the first step towards figuring out how exactly they will go about doing just that. For EPL fans in the States, this one is sure to be a douzy.

4. L.A Galaxy vs Real Madrid, Aug 2nd: These two teams faced off last year at the L.A Coliseum, and Real Madrid won handily by a score of 4-1. The 2012 version will be a little different, as the Galaxy will be a playing a true home game at their beloved soccer-only stadium, the Home Depot Center, in Carson, California. In typical L.A style, both of these teams will boast some larger than life superstars whose talent and fame will immediately draw soccer fans from all over the country (and possibly the world) to tune in. Expect Real Madrid to play their usual cast sparingly, while Jose Mourinho tries to figure out which youngsters he wants to have on his roster for the upcoming La Liga season. Young Real Madrid player Jose Callejon played a tremendous game last year in L.A, scoring a goal and earning trust from both his manager and teammates, eventually propelling him to earn his spot on the first team. There is no doubt that there will be a lot of talent on the field for this game, and I can’t wait to watch it.

5. Real Madrid vs AC Milan, Aug 8th: This match will take place at Yankee Stadium, and these two storied clubs will face off in what should be an exciting matchup. AC Milan recently sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris St-Germain for a combined 65 million Euros, and I expect the team to pickup at least one huge transfer before the window closes. Several rumors swirling around the web have Edin Dzeko linked towards a possible signing with Milan- and he would be a natural replacement for the loss of Ibrahimovic. Milan’s roster will no doubt be in flux leading up to the game, but Milan still has a cast of ultra talented players such as Alexander Pato, Antonio Cassano, Philippe Mexes, Robinho, and Massimo Ambrosini to name just a few. This game features two of Europe’s giants, and seeing them play at the new Yankee Stadium will be a thrill to watch.

100 million Euros is the price for Napoli’s Edinson Cavani

22 Jul

Edinson Cavani playing for Napoli

Recently Napoli’s President, Aurelio De Laurentiis said that it would take a transfer fee over 100 million Euros for any team to snatch up Azzuri’s best player. No player in the history of world soccer, not even Cristiano Ronaldo or Zinedine Zidane went for that much when they transferred to La Liga giants Real Madrid. So what exactly is De Laurentiis doing?

– Consistency: Napoli qualified for the Europa League as they finished 5th in Serie A, behind Juventus, AC Milan, Udinese, and Lazio, but ahead of traditional power Inter Milan. While Napoli did sell Ezequiel Lavezzi to Paris St-Germain, the ownership is committed long term to keeping Edinson Cavani who scored 23 goals and assisted on 3 in 32 starts. His goal total was tied for 3rd in Serie A only behind Diego Milito of Inter and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan.

– Faith in Cavani’s prime: At only 25 years of age, Edinson Cavani’s best soccer is now, or in the period of the next season or two. While it would be hard to argue that Napoli’s roster, top to bottom, is as talented as Juventus or AC Milan’s- it would be even harder to argue that any of those teams have a player quite as good as Edinson Cavani. The scoring, coupled with the explosion and creativity off the ball is something Napoli is unwilling to give up anytime soon. The next few seasons will most likely be Cavani’s best, and De Laurentiis wants to be sure that the forward’s best is in the infamous light blue kit.

5 Teams I’m Most Excited to play with in Fifa 2013

20 Jul

It’s that time of year where soccer fans all over the world are clamoring for two things: 1. The transfer window to take form and eventually close, so everybody knows what the rosters for this upcoming season will look like, and 2. The new Fifa to come out.

In no particular order, here are the 5 teams I look forward to playing with the most… And we will revisit this once the transfer window closes.

– Spain: Playing international matchups with friends or online is a staple when playing a series of games (best of 3, 5, etc). I think it’s safe to say that in the past couple of Fifa’s, La Furia Roja has been the best team in the game without question, and i’m not counting the “World XI” or “Classic XI”. After demolishing Italy in the 2012 Euro final, this Spanish squad will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the best teams of all time. Give me Spain, and give them to me 3 or 4 times, so I can tinker the lineup in a variety of different ways. Give me David Silva up front, Cesc up front, or even Fernando Torres, Llorente, or Santi Cazorla. Give me Jordi Alba sprinting up the sideline for an in rhythm slash to the goal. This team is so exciting to watch, and I can’t wait to have a field day figuring out the most imposing lineup imaginable. Life is good pretending to be Vicente del Bosque.

Jordi Alba with Spain

– Manchester City: After the manner in which City won the EPL, I am thrilled to see just how dominant this team will be in Fifa. David Silva had a rather up and down season, but he looked spectacular in the Euro 2012 tournament, and I look forward to having him set up the Samir Nasri’s, Kun Aguero’s, Mario Balotelli’s, Carlos Teves’, and Eden Dzeko’s of the team. Not to mention the rest of their club, much like the top clubs in the world, have a 2 deep roster. While the English Premier League is the most competitive league in the world to win, expect this club to look even more dominant throughout the season. This will be one tough team to overcome in Fifa, and much like with Spain, tinkering the lineup will be a fun task. Let the creativity begin.

Sergio Aguero at Man City

– FC Barcelona: From a purist standpoint, is there a better club in the entire world than FC Barcelona? Led by Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, etc, this is the best passing team in the world, and frankly it isn’t even close. Replacing Eric Abidal with Jordi Alba is a natural fit, as Alba not only looked like one of the best players in the world at the Euro 2012, but he also started his young career in FC Barcelona’s youth system. While this team isn’t as sound defensively as their rivals Real Madrid, the tika-taka attack anchored by Xavi in the middle is definitely one of the more fun things to emulate while playing a game of Fifa.

Xavi playing for Barca

– Chelsea: While Didier Drogba left for China, Chelsea hardly stood pat during this transfer window despite winning the Champions League in miraculous fashion. Though rumors have been swirling surrounding Chelsea’s possibility of landing Porto forward Hulk, former Lille and current Belgium star Eden Hazard agreed on a deal with Chelsea for a reported 32 million pounds. Hazard was a model of consistency this past season in the French league, scoring 20 goals and assisting on 15. The 21 year old has a knack for making and creating plays, and there is little doubt of his potential for stardom in the EPL. Coupling him with 19 year old Romelu Lukaku, who at 6’3 is huge force at striker, will make for an incredibly fun team in Fifa. Chelsea still has its usual cast of veterans on the team like John Terry, David Luiz, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Juan Mata, and yes- Fernando Torres among others, but it is the idea of playing with Eden Hazard that has me most excited to start playing with the Blues.

Eden Hazard in an exhibition game against the Seattle Sounders of the MLS

– Paris St-Germain: All you have to do is read my previous post on Paris St-Germain to figure out why this team will be a thrill to play with in the upcoming Fifa 13. The team is stockpiled with talent across the field, and given their new additions of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, and Ezequiel Lavezzi, this will probably be the first team I play with in the new Fifa. The ownership has made a point to bring talent from far and wide to the French capital, and PSG already looks like a team that will very imposing not only in Ligue 1, but also in the Champions League and other competitions.

Ibrahimovic sporting his new PSG kit

The release date for Fifa 13 is scheduled for late september, and retail stores like GameStop are already taking pre orders for the new game. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new Fifa ’13 as the real soccer season becomes that much closer to starting.

 

Things to think about before Real Madrid shells out 35-40 Million pounds for Luka Modric

19 Jul

There had been rumors over the past few weeks that it would take somewhere between 30-40 million Pounds for a team to scoop up Croatian midfielder Luka Modric from Tottenham Hotspur.

According to a recent ESPN article “Reports in the English press claim Tottenham are seeking a £35 million transfer fee for Modric, but a Spurs source told ESPN: ‘Chairman Danel Levy won’t be selling Luka Modric for £35 million. Clubs who are interested know that they would need to move closer to £40 million if they want to buy the player.'” Real Madrid is leading the charge amongst a small handful of teams seeking Modric’s services. Spending money has never been an issue for world’s second most valuable club (Manchester United is first), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Los Blancos should shell out such a large sum for the Croatian sensation.

Luka Modric playing for the Spurs

Here are 3 things Real Madrid needs to think about before possibly signing Luke Modric:

1. Real Madrid is already very deep: The team that won La Liga and was knocked out of the Champions League semifinal in penalty kicks already has what can be looked at as a 2-deep roster. Not only are Real Madrid’s starters (obviously) exceptional players, but so too are all of the backups. Manager Jose Mourinho typically likes to run a 4-2-3-1. Modric is an attacking midfielder with the ability to hold the ball as well as any. In the 2 holding midfielder positions, Mourinho used the combination of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira to start most of the games. Mourinho also has on his roster Kaka, Lassana Diarra and Esteban Granero who are all very capable of playing either of those midfield positions. Also looking at the attacking 3 middle position, Ozil led La Liga in assists last season while starring in that spot. While Modric could fill in as a backup for Ozil (with Angel Di Maria and Ronaldo at the wings), Real Madrid already has a youngster in Jose Callejon who has looked very impressive in that spot. Not only that, but last year’s big signing, the Turkish international Nuri Sahin, is also most comfortable playing in that middle spot in the attack. Summary: While Modric is better and more than capable of filling in than many of Real Madrid’s “second team” players, adding him would merely add more bodies to an already crowded depth chart. All of that for 40 million pounds? Would Modric be happy in a backup or limited role?

2. If Real Madrid is going to spend that much money, spend it on a different position: As the paragraph above clearly states, Real Madrid is loaded with some very good midfielders. By the time the transfer window closes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of those names listed above sold to other teams, however if Real Madrid is looking to make a big purchase (much in the pattern of every summer it seems), I believe that cash should be spent on defense. After the injury of veteran Ricardo Carvalho, Mourinho decided to move Sergio Ramos from right back to center back alongside Pepe, and used a rotation of Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao, and Alvaro Arbeloa on defensive wings. Arbeloa started most of the games down the stretch, but if there is a weak link on Real Madrid, it is Arbeloa who seems a step slow and/or out of sync with the attacking mindset required of Real Madrid wing defenders. Real Madrid has Raul Albiol who is as fine a backup centerback as you’ll find, but adding another wing defender is much more of a priority than beefing up an already stacked midfield. Maicon is old, but he has scoring prowess unlike any of the Real Madrid defenders. If Real Madrid believes they can get 2 solid years out of him, that right there could be money well spent.

3. Real Madrid needs to show more faith in the youth system: Real Madrid Castilla, the reserve team for Los Blancos, won this year’s Segunda Division. Jose Callejon, as mentioned before, has showed tremendous promise in a backup role, and he came from the youth system. So did players like Esteban Granero (still on team), Juan Mata (Chelsea), and Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla). The current B squad team has some young, talented players who could be groomed into eventual full time starters, and would cost a tiny fraction of the amount as buying players from other teams. I know that this has never really been the Real Madrid way, but talent does exist in the Spanish Capital, especially considering the fact that the Spanish Segunda division is a difficult league to win in and of itself, and often comprises the future talent of most of the current La Liga teams.

Even without Luka Modric, and given the way Real Madrid closed out the end to their past La Liga campaign, most soccer experts would pick Real Madrid as one of the favorites to win the Champions League. With another year under Mourinho’s system and given the way Real Madrid dissipated during their penalty shootout against Bayern Munich in the semi-final of last year’s Champions League, this will be a team on a mission. Los Blancos defeated Barcelona at the Nou Camp towards the end of last season en route to winning their first La Liga title in four years. The team as it stands has the confidence and the motivation to take home more trophies than they did last year. While Real Madrid can afford Luka Modric, it is at a price that is simply not necessary considering the team already in place is more than ready to achieve their goals for this upcoming season