Thursday, July 30, 2009

Transfers, Audi Cup, All-Star Game, Oh my!

A variety of things to cover this morning.

Transfers first. Liverpool news reports indicate that Xabi Alonso has handed in his transfer request for a £28 million move to Real Madrid, who are in a fight with Manchester City over who will alter this season's Premier League title race the most. Man City's latest such move, signing Kolo Toure on top of Emmanuel Adebayor, has forced Arsenal to seek a replacement for the defender and striker by offering a one year deal to past-his-prime defensive midfielder and former Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira. That makes perfect sense. Granted, Arsenal do need someone to keep the youngsters on their toes and remind them of how hard things used to be, walking miles in the snow without boots just to get to some relic called Highbury. One of the players who Wenger hoped to step in and play a key role this year, Tomas Rosicky, may have had a set back in his attempt to return after 18 months on the sideline.

Proving that Inter really made out like bandits in the Ibrahimovic-Eto'o swap, they don't really seem concerned that Alexander Hleb will be moving to Stuttgart on loan rather than to the San Siro.

Staying at the San Siro, AC Milan (more on them in a second) need reinforcements badly, so Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko, who netted 26 times while helping his team to the Bundesliga title last season, has declared his desire to move to Milan. However, it doesn't seem like there's much movement on Milan's end.

If you're not tired of reading about Franck Ribery, well here's more! Bayern put a €94 million price tag on the France winger. By setting a market price, the thought now is that if Real is willing to match that price they can get their man, rather than flatly denying that he's moving at all. Chelsea, who have looked strong in preseason, apparently remain in the hunt for Ribery, even though it seems like they're a ways off from meeting Bayern's valuation of the man.

Back to Milan. Yesterday in Munich began the Audi cup, a short tournament pitting Boca Juniors v. Manchester United and AC Milan v. Bayern Munich, with the winners facing off for the championship.

Let's just say AC Milan looks a little bit in disarray.

They are old. They are slow. They have no strikers (would you want to start the season with 19 year old Pato, still an unproven commodity, and 35 year old Pippo Inzaghi?). The defense looks like Swiss cheese. Oguchi Onyewu's move looks worse every time he steps on the field. While he can't be blamed for it all, he hasn't looked great as part of a defense that allowed 3 more goals once he came on. Yesterday the damage was a 4-1 loss in which Milan was thoroughly outclassed, and even the lone goal from Pirlo's free kick was really the result of a goalkeeping blunder.

Here are the full highlights.

Additionally, Man U defeated Boca Juniors 2-1, with Anderson and Antonio Valencia combining to reproduce what used to be done by Cristiano Ronaldo (Anderson scoring from a nice free kick and Valencia opening his account by making a nice burst slightly in from the wing). Man U looked tentative in its overall approach to a degree, which was disappointing, but it's still early.

Here are highlights (including Anderson becoming the 1 millionth person to honor Michael Jackson by celebrating his goal with a patented leg kick).

I also wanted to briefly comment on how impressive the atmosphere seemed at the Allianz Arena. It was a reminder of how great the crowds were for the 2006 World Cup, particular as Germany made its surprising run to the semi-finals. Too bad 2010 will be marred by those damn vuvuzelas.

Finally, last night was the MLS All-Star game, pitting Everton against a team that wasn't really the best of MLS (with some players out or withheld because of injury or their teams playing in the CONCACAF Champions League). The result was a 1-1 tie after 90 minutes, with Everton prevailing in PKs on the back of superstud goalie Tim Howard. Not sure that game means anything at all, other than Stewart Holden apparently brought with him some of the Gold Cup final karma by sending Louis Saha in alone with a wonderful pass for Everton's lone goal, and it's a great sign to see Howard on top of his game ahead of the upcoming clash against Mexico.

Here's video of how not to take penalty kicks.

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