Friday, July 3, 2009

Weekend Transfer Rumors

Sitting at work? Bored, and anticipating the Fourth of July festivities to come? Well, it looks like our friends from across the pond have some fireworks of their lined up for this weekend, and several players could be celebrating their own personal independence shortly.

Brushing those tortured metaphors aside, let's get down to business.

Sir Alex Ferguson could be the biggest mover and shaker since Michael Owen appears to be on his way to Manchester United. He could sign as early as today. At first this move seems shocking and risky. But on second thought, if all Sir Alex wants out of Owen is an effective bench striker (let's assume he gets Tevez-like minutes) then Owen may be a good fit. In addition he may allow Ferguson to buy some more time for the development of Macheda and Wellbeck.

I still question Manchester United's insistence on signing a third starting striker though. Ferguson couldn't satisfy Tevez, who was a consummate professional while he was on the team. I guess Ferguson wants to keep playing Rooney out of position - reports indicate United are looking at both Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero and Confederations Cup topscorer and Sevilla's Luis Fabiano.

The offer for Aguero is reportedly 40 million pounds, or about 46 million euros. Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo, however, appears to continue to refer interested teams to Aguero's buyout clause of 60 million euros. The offer for Fabiano is reportedly 16 million pounds, or 18 .6 million euros. This surpasses the reported bids made by AC Milan for the Brazilian striker. Let me just remark that while the age difference between the two strikers is notable (21 v. 28), the price gap seems a bit shocking. Fabiano has proven himself repeatedly with Sevilla, in both Spanish competitions and UEFA competitions, as well as with Brazil. Meanwhile, Aguero has played one season in Champions League, and is fast becoming best known for creating five scoring opportunities a game, and capitalizing on (maybe) one. It seems to me, Fabiano may be a bit undervalued and Aguero a bit overvalued.

That said, reports are that Atletico would like to sign Pirlo from Milan. Milan recently declared him transferable. Because of their financial circumstances, Atletico is going to need cash - but will it be Aguero-produced cash?

But let's stay in Manchester, but now with City. City is proving cachet and history and a Champions League berth are worth more than money and ambition to most top players. With Eto'o's signing in the ether, Chelsea recently disclosed that they rejected a 30 million pound bid for John Terry.

Sticking with the EPL and continuing our discussion of overrated strikers, Arsene Wenger has admitted that if Adebayor were to leave, despite his own desire that the Togo striker stay at Emirates, he was been eyeing Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh as a replacement. In the same article Wenger stated that he did not make an approach for Benzema because he never thought Lyon would sell him this year.

However, if Adebayor doesn't move to AC Milan, the Italian powerhouse are looking at Luis Fabiano, Huntelaar, and even Peter Crouch to make a move to the San Siro.

Meanwhile, Barcelona begin to make serious moves in the transfer market. Reports from England assure that Barca will make a serious bid for their own youth product and current Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas. Barca also remains infatuated with Liverpool's Argentine bulldog, Mascherano.

Barca's pursuit of David Villa also shifts into high gear, despite Valencia president Manueal Llorente's repeated assurances that there is no offer on the table for the striker, and he will not sell. Undeterred, earlier this week Barcelona Football Director Txiki Begiristain reportedly met with Villa in Asturias and reached an agreement with the player. Today, reports indicate that Barcelona has indeed made a formal offer for the striker. The offer? 40 million euros plus loaning expected Barcelona signing Keirrison and Uruguayan centerback Martin Caceres.

A brief aside, if I may. Valencia is in serious financial straits as a result of terrible management. Their players went without pay briefly this year. Construction on the team's new stadium, the "new Mestalla" has been halted. Sadly, it does not appear that the new management is much of an improvement. Llorente had reached an agreement with Real Madrid for Villa, which Llorente broke. Presumably, the interest from Chelsea, Manchester United, and Barcelona led Llorente to believe he could drive the price of Villa up substantially. Villa proceeded to state that he would not play outside of Spain. Real Madrid signed Benzema, a younger striker, for considerably cheaper than Villa. Llorente is now left with one suitor - Barcelona. If you ask me, Barcelona is offering an enormous amount considering that everyone knows Valencia is in serious trouble. More importantly, Llorente would be well served by deciding whether players are for sale or not, and coordinating his transfer policy with some semblance of logic and planning. Otherwise, a classic Liga team with exceptional talent may fall victim to a series of inept strongmen at the helm.

Anyway, back to Valencia and Barcelona. The Spanish champions are looking to sign ex-Real Madrid youth player and Valencia winger Mata after signing Villa. This appears related to the reiteration this week by Ribery that it was Real Madrid or nothing for him. Bayern, of course, responded, that it would be "nothing."

Speaking of which, Real Madrid has now signed the best player in the Serie A, EPL, and Ligue. So why not the best in the Bundesliga? The dominoes are starting to fall. Ribery told L'Equipe that he wanted to leave and would like to talk with the Bayern brass. Additionally, his attitude has been less than exemplary at practices. Shortly after the start of the second training session Ribery spoke with manager Van Gaal and left practice, ostensibly due to blisters.

There's a backstory here though. Ribery's wife, Wahiba, has not adapted to life in Munich, moving to Paris. As such, he'll only be able to see her and his daughters two months of the year. The assumption appears to be that she would move to the Spanish capital. Ribery, rumor has it, will or has made clear to Bayern that if they opt not to sell he will not renew his contract and stay until its end - January 1, 2011, leaving then, and for free.

Publicly, Florentino Perez has been pessimistic regarding the signing, reiterating that he accepts that Bayern simply does not want to sell. Nonetheless, the player seems willing to force his hand, it appears that Zidane's only mission for the summer is to get Ribery to Madrid, and France teammate Benzema has already said he'd like to play with his friend - well, let's just say this one could get ugly fast. Reports indicate Florentino is holding onto 55 million euros for the possible signing.

Despite earlier reports that Real Madrid youth product Negredo would stay if Van Nistlerooy and Huntelaar are sold, now Negredo appears to be the last shot Real have of signing Xabi Alonso. Real are also pursuing Valencia winger David Silva - I presume if Ribery were not to arrive. So, I'm a madridista, but even I have to ask - what the hell is going on here?

On other fronts:

Nakamura will be presented for Espanyol on the 13th of July, and the fanfare from the Japanese media should be intense.

Newly descended Real Betis and Lazio are in negotiations for Brazilian striker Oliveira. Oliveira blew Betis' chance to beat Barca this year on two terrible misses, and may be best remembered for his failure in Milan, as well as starting for both Zaragoza and Betis when they went down to the second division in consecutive years. I'm just saying, don't be surprised if Lazio goes down next year with Oliveira on the field.

Ironically, Lazio is also trying to snag Matuzalem from newly ascended Zaragoza.

On the international scene, Maradona has stated that he'll call up Higuain when "things are clear." What that means, no one knows. While Messi, Tevez, and his future son-in-law Aguero, carry a lot of weight, Higuain is fast becoming one of the premier Argentine strikers in the world. He's also notably more versatile as to positioning than all those listed barring Messi. How long Maradona will hold a grudge for his sitting out the U-21 World Cup in Canada? We'll soon find out. Though, judging by CONMEBOL qualifying, Maradona may not be Argentina's coach for much longer.

Want more? ESPN's Norman Hubbard writes an interesting piece on one of my favorite subjects - Spain/Liga v. England/EPL, here. Mandatory stab at Real Madrid included.

Also, mark your calendars, Fox Soccer will televise the Copa Libertadores final between Brazil's Cruzeiro and Argentina's Estudiantes live on the 8th and 15th of this month (home and away legs).

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