Footy thoughts, Mavericks

Jurgen Klopp is just what the doctor ordered at Anfield

One slip and it could have been all so different. But despite nearly winning the Premier League, Brendan Rodgers’ departure from Anfield is not exactly unexpected. Since the club’s near miss in 2014, the Liverpool team we have seen have been somewhat average. And it looks like just the right man is set to head to Anfield to turn things around.

Jürgen Klopp’s reputation as a manager is colossal. As a player, he was a one-club-man with Mainz, who he also went on to managed between 2001 for seven years. In 2008, he was unveiled as Borussia Dortmund manager where he won back-to-back Bundesliga wins in 2011 and 2012, as well as the DFB-Pokal in 2012, the DFL-Supercup in 2008, 2013 and 2014, as well as narrowly missing out on the 2013 Champions League title (to rivals Bayern Munich).

It is widely agreed among pundits and fans that the 48-year-old is just perfect fit to revitalize Liverpool.


I’d have to agree. The two big names that were floating about for the Anfield job was Carlo Ancelotti and Jürgen Klopp. The German, for me, is by far the better fit. He’s more used to working with limitations. Liverpool, as historic and beloved worldwide as they are, have something of a mediocre squad at the moment. Especially with Steven Gerrard now departed for Stateside and Luis Suarez’s enormous talent has not – possibly cannot – be replaced.

Klopp has the charisma and title-winning pedigree to attract some of the world’s best to Anfield. Liverpool’s record of Champions League qualification in recent years plays a major part as to why the likes of Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose other clubs ahead of the Reds (the latter chose Klopp coincidentally). The German would appeal to many players ahead of Rodgers – no disrespect to the man who almost led Liverpool to their first league title since 1989.

Some say Liverpool are a poisoned chalice. And that regardless who the next manager is, unless Liverpool win the Premier League, it will be considered a failure. I disagree. Look at Klopp’s record. As I said earlier, he is used to working with limitations. Not to mention his knack of nurturing of upcoming talent like, for example, Mario Götze – now a World Cup-winning goalscorer.

This is a man, don’t forget, who brought in a little-known player to Dortmund called Robert Lewandowski for €4.5 million from Lech Poznan. He was sublime for Klopp and today, he is considered one of, if not the, most lethal strikers in Europe. Also see Sven Bender, Mats Hummels, Marco Reus etc.

For the average football fan, it will be great to see this man in the Premier League. He is absolute box office. Both he and Mourinho head-to-head should make entertaining television. Think Ferguson v Wenger, only better.

Interesting times ahead  – possibly great times ahead – at Anfield.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Footy thoughts, Internationals

Just another night in the life of Sepp Blatter

It’s Friday night. Some people are out painting the town red, some are working, some are at the Dublin derby between Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers. For Sepp Blatter of FIFA, he’s having a different Friday night. I’ll let these tweets tell the story:

and of course

but then


This could be the night Sepp Blatter resigns from FIFA. Or the night he insists he will stay on for 10 more years after a change of heart.

More on this as it develops.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

We’re no longer part of Jack’s army

On Monday, Aston Villa’s hot prospect Jack Grealish announced that he will give his allegiance to England, should he be called up to their senior squad.

In a short statement, he announced that “It was not an easy decision to make as Ireland has a special place to me through my family. However, I have decided to represent the country of my birth.”

The news will come as a disappointment to Ireland fans, as he represented the Boys In Green on almost 20 occasions from under-17 to under-21 level. He is also known to tweet the more-than-occasional shamrock emoji as well as the popular #COYBIG hashtag. That very well may change now.


Grealish now joins the likes of Wayne Rooney, Martin Keown and Paul Gascoigne, and will don the white shirt of England instead of the green of Ireland. Good luck to him.

Ireland have benefited plenty of times in the past with English born players via the so-called “granny rule”. Names like Aldridge, Kilbane, Cascarino, McCarthy, Lawrenson, Sheedy, Hughton have all played a massive part over the years. Even in our squad now, Scottish born-and-bred players like McGeady and McCarthy would be considered star players for the Tartan Army had they not have pledged to the sacred green shirt.

There’s also some players that could have been a huge benefit to our Northern Irish neighbours such as Wilson, McClean and Gibson until they declared themselves for the Republic. Hull City’s Alex Bruce did the opposite recently.

So, in short, Ireland fans can be disappointed. But we can’t complain. When it comes down to it, I’d much rather have a player who felt Irish and loves playing for Ireland rather than one who would much rather be wearing an England shirt. So perhaps it’s best Jack Grealish does play for the country of his birth if that’s where his heart lies. As a season ticket holder for the Republic of Ireland myself, I can only wish him well.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)



Champions League, Footy thoughts

Man United weren’t poor as much as Phillip Cocu was prepared.

It’s fair to assume that most Manchester United fans would have predicted the Red Devils to beat PSV. And comfortably. Louis van Gaal had a plethora of talent at his disposal for the Champions League tie on Tuesday night, but in the end the legendary manager was outclassed by his compatriot Phillip Cocu.

Cocu was appointed manager of PSV in 2013 (yours truly was at his first home game in charge) following a short stint as an assistant to the Dutch national team.

Cocu himself was a lovely footballer. He had two stints as a player with PSV, but he was truly incredible for Barcelona. He played more games for the Catalans than any other foreigner until Messi overtook him in 2011. He has shared dressing rooms with Van Gaal, Mourinho, Luis Enrique, De Boer and Pep Guardiola – all of whom have gone on to become successful top-flight managers.

PSV have had some absolute greats turn out for them before their prime. Names like Ronaldo, Romario, Van Nistelrooy, Van Bommel and Robben all instantly spring to mind. They don’t import big names much. They often look to their youth academy.

Phillip Cocu isn’t animated in the same way José Mourinho is. But there’s no doubt there’s a superb footballing brain. That’s pretty obvious to see. Manchester United weren’t so poor the other as so much as PSV were prepared. That’s all down to Cocu.

No doubt within the next few years he’ll be linked with some big jobs. Barcelona spring to mind. As do the Dutch national team. PSV probably aren’t going to win the Champions League (though they once did – in 1988), but no doubt you will see some of their players and manager making bigger headlines in years to come.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Footy thoughts, Republic of Ireland

Euro 2016 still within reach for Boys In Green

I was among the 27,000 in the Aviva stadium last night and, despite the positive result, a major effort is needed against the world champions Germany on October 8th.

Eyes will also be on events in Hampden Park on the same evening for if Scotland lose to Poland, Ireland will be guaranteed third place regardless of the outcome in the Aviva. Two wins in our final two games will see us move into second place – and automatic qualification.

It’s probably coming to the time now where Robbie Keane is dropped from our starting eleven. I know, I know. The LA Galaxy man simply doesn’t have the energy he had in previous years. Not to take anything away from him – he’s still our record goalscorer (by a long way) and one of the greatest players to ever wear the green jersey.

Also worth mentioning from my point of view is that the FAI should really reconsider their pricing scheme for home games. There was 27,000 last night. In a very, very important Euro 2016 qualifier. Unthinkable if the old Lansdowne Road was only just over 50% full for a qualifier a decade ago.


For last night’s match, while a child’s ticket was €10, tickets in the upper and lower tiers ranged from €35 to €50. If you were to sit in the premium section would set you back an astonishing €100. A hundred euros? The FAI need to rethink their prices. I, for one, am fed up of seeing thousands upon thousands of empty seats at our games.

Yes, we were uninspiring. Yes, Robbie is probably past it now. Yes, it’s too expensive to even go to these games for many. But all the negatives aside, a place in Euro 2016 is within reach. And that must be both players’ and fans’ mentality when we face the world champions next month.

Clear your calendar clear for 10th June until 10th July next summer. Just in case.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)





Footy thoughts, Republic of Ireland

Not Barça – it’s Bohs who are more than a club

Happy birthday to Bohemians, who tomorrow celebrate their 125th birthday. On the eve of the Gypsies’ birthday, fans took to the Ha’penny Bridge at 1.25am this morning to celebrate the anniversary in style with flares and a banner that read “Our Bohemian City”.

But Bohs have always been a club with a great awareness of wider social issues and also displayed a banner of support to those affected by the current refugee crisis this morning. It simply read “Refugees welcome”.

Hats off to the red and black half of the city.

It’s La Liga giants Barcelona who use the motto “Més que un club” – more than a club. But it’s Bohs who truly deserve to boast these words.

Happy birthday to the big club. 125 years old on Sunday. You don’t look a day over 100.



Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Republic of Ireland

It’s do-or-die for Martin O’Neill on Monday night

It wasn’t the best performance from the Boys In Green, but the result was a given. A credit to Gibraltar, for such a small footballing (and indeed geographical) nation, they improved since the two teams’ last encounter.

Martin O’Neill has been somewhat inconsistent with his selections so I’d be keen to see what team he fields on Monday night.


Well done to Robbie Keane who added onto his goalscoring tally in the green shirt and to Shane Long also, who needed to score that goal – especially if he is to start on Monday night.

Congratulations to Cyrus Christie, too. It was a big night for the lad and he scored a great goal. I was impressed with the Derby man and he could easily be someone to keep an eye on in the future.

There was however no really outstanding players on the pitch last night, but it was that type of game. Luckily for us, Georgia done us a favour in Tsiblisi.

I don’t think that Monday will a guaranteed win. I don’t have the confidence in the current team. A defeat will effectively crush our hopes of going to France next summer.

Georgia come to Dublin with a bit of spring in their step having beaten the Scots. Our performance last night didn’t do us favours in terms of confidence. Ireland need to win their final games of the group. A fall at the first hurdle on Monday will be devastating.

We will be the favourites against Georgia, but they have proven that they can be difficult to beat.

The pressure is on us.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


How did everyone do in the transfer window?

Let’s take a club-by-club look at how each team in the Premier League in England done in the summer transfer window:


  • IN: Petr Cech Chelsea, £10m.
  • OUT: Lukas Podolski Galatasaray, £1.8m; Ryo Miyaichi St Pauli, released; Abou Diaby Marseille, released. Loans: Chuba Akpom Hull City; Serge Gnabry West Bromwich Albion; Carl Jenkinson West Ham United; Ainsley Maitland-Niles Ipswich Town; Emiliano Martínez Wolverhampton Wanderers; Yaya Sanogo Ajax; Wellington Silva Bolton Wanderers; Wojciech Szczesny Roma; Jon Toral Birmingham City; Danny Crowley Barnsley; Gedion Zelalem Rangers

Aston Villa

  • IN: Jordan Amavi Nice, £7m; Jordan Ayew Lorient, £9m; Mark Bunn Norwich City, free; José Ángel Crespo Córdoba, £500,000; Rudy Gestede Blackburn Rovers, £6m; Idrissa Gueye Lille, £9m; Joleon Lescott West Bromwich Albion, £1m; Micah Richards Manchester City, free; Matija Sarkic Anderlecht, free; Scott Sinclair Manchester City, £2.5m; Adama Traoré Barcelona, £7.1m; Jordan Veretout Nantes, £8m
  • OUT: Darren Bent Ipswich, released; Christian Benteke Liverpool, £32.5m; Fabian Delph Manchester City, £8m; Shay Given Stoke City, released; Matthew Lowton Burnley, £1m; Antonio Luna Eibar, £500,000; Yacouba Sylla Rennes, released; Enda Stevens Portsmouth, released; Ron Vlaar released; Andreas Weimann Derby County, £2.75m; Aleksandar Tonev Frosinone, undisclosed. Loans: Nathan Baker Bristol City Joe Bennett Bournemouth; Aly Cissokho Porto; Callum Robinson Bristol City

AFC Bournemouth

  • IN: Artur Boruc Southampton, free; Silvain Distin Everton, free; Adam Federici Reading, free; Max Gradel St-Étienne, undisclosed; Josh King Blackburn Rovers, free; Tyrone Mings Ipswich Town, £8m; Glenn Murray Crystal Palace, £3m; Lee Tomlin Middlesbrough, undisclosed. Loans: Christian Atsu Chelsea; Joe Bennett Aston Villa; Filippo Costa Chievo
  • OUT: Miles Addison released; Mohamed Coulibaly released; Darryl Flahavan released; Ian Harte released; Josh McQuoid released; Joe Partington released; Brett Pitman Ipswich Town, undisclosed. Loans: Ryan Fraser Ipswich Town



  • IN: Baba Rahman Augsburg, £21m; Pedro Barcelona, £21.1m; Asmir Begovic Stoke, £8m; Michael Hector Reading, £4m; Kenedy Fluminense, £6.7m; Nathan Atlético Paranaense, £4.5m; Papy Djilobodji Nantes, £2.7m; Danilo Pantic Partizan Belgrade, £1.25m. Loan: Radamel Falcao Monaco
  • OUT: Petr Cech Arsenal, £10m; Thorgan Hazard Borussia Mönchengladbach, £3m; Oriol Romeu Southampton, £5m; Josh McEachran Brentford, £400k; Gaël Kakuta Sevilla, £4m; Filipe Luís Atlético Madrid, £16m; Didier Drogba Montreal, released. Loans: Marco van Ginkel Stoke City; Mohamed Salah Roma; Christian Atsu Bournemouth; Mario Pasalic Monaco; Tomas Kalas Middlesbrough; Patrick Bamford Crystal Palace; Michael Hector Reading; Nathan Aké Watford; Juan Cuadrado Juventus; Marko Marin Trabzonspor; Lucas Piazon Reading; Victor Moses West Ham; Andreas Christensen Borussia M’gladbach; Matej Delac FK Sarajevo; Wallace Carpi; Kenneth Omeruo Kasimpasa; Jordan Houghton Gillingham; Jeremie Boga Rennes; Nathaniel Chalobah Napoli; Alex Davey Peterborough; Todd Kane Nijmegen; Ulises Davila Victória Setúbal; Stipe Perica Udinese; Cristian Maneo Mouscron; Bekanty Victorien Angban, Cristian Cuevas, Joao Rodríguez all St-Truiden; Lewis Baker, Nathan, Isaiah Brown, Danilo Pantic, Dominic Solanke all Vitesse Arnhem

Crystal Palace

  • IN: Yohan Cabaye Paris St-Germain, £10m; Alex McCarthy Queens Park Rangers, £3.5m; Bakary Sako Wolverhampton Wanderers, free; Connor Wickham Sunderland, £8m. Loan: Patrick Bamford Chelsea
  • OUT: Barry Bannan Sheffield Wednesday, released; Kyle de Silva Notts County, released; Stephen Dobbie Bolton Wanderers, released; Owen Garvan Colchester United, released; Adlène Guedioura Watford, £2.5m; Glenn Murray Bournemouth, £3m; Lewis Price Sheffield Wednesday, released; Peter Ramage Kerela Blasters, released. Loans: Jack Hunt Sheffield Wednesday; Hiram Boateng Plymouth Argyle; Ryan Inniss Port Vale; Jerome Binom-Williams Burton Albion


  • IN: Tom Cleverley Manchester United, free; Gerard Deulofeu Barcelona, £4.2m; David Henen Olympiakos, £500k; Mason Holgate Barnsley, £1m; Aaron Lennon Tottenham Hotspur, £4.5m; Leandro Rodríguez River Plate Montevideo, £500k; Ramiro Funes Mori River Plate, £9.5m
  • OUT: Antolín Alcaraz released; Sylvain Distin Bournemouth, released; Matthew Kennedy Cardiff City, undisclosed; Chris Long Burnley, £500k. Loans: Luke Garbutt Fulham; Francisco Júnior Wigan Athletic; Jonjoe Kenny Wigan Athletic

Leicester City

  • IN: Yohan Benalouane Atalanta, undisclosed; Christian Fuchs Schalke, free; Robert Huth Stoke City, undisclosed; Gökhan Inler Napoli, £5m; N’Golo Kanté Caen, undisclosed; Shinji Okazaki Mainz, £7m. Loan: Nathan Dyer Swansea City
  • OUT: Esteban Cambiasso Olympiakos, released; Paul Gallagher Preston North End, released; David Nugent Middlesbrough, £4m; Gary Taylor-Fletcher released; Matthew Upson MK Dons, released; Chris Wood Leeds United, undisclosed. Loans: Ben Hamer Bristol City; Paul Konchesky QPR; Tom Lawrence Blackburn Rovers; Liam Moore Bristol City


  • IN: Taiwo Awoniyi Imperial Soccer Academy, £400k; Christian Benteke Aston Villa, £32.5m; Adam Bogdan Bolton Wanderers, free; Nathaniel Clyne Southampton, £12.5m; Roberto Firmino Hoffenheim, £29.5m; Joe Gomez Charlton Athletic, £3.5m; Danny Ings Burnley, tribunal; James Milner Manchester City, free
  • OUT: Iago Aspas Celta Vigo, £3.5m; Fabio Borini Sunderland, £8m; Sebastián Coates Sunderland, £2m; Steven Gerrard LA Galaxy, released; Glen Johnson Stoke City, released; Brad Jones Bradford City, released; Rickie Lambert West Bromwich Albion, £3m; Javier Manquillo released; Raheem Sterling Manchester City, £49m. Loans: Luis Alberto Deportivo La Coruña; Mario Balotelli Milan; Sergi Canos Brentford; Ryan McLaughlin, Danny Ward both Aberdeen; Lazar Markovic Fenerbahce; Kevin Stewart, Jordan Williams both Swindon Town; Andre Wisdom Norwich City

Manchester City


  • IN: Kevin De Bruyne Wolfsburg, £51m; Fabian Delph Aston Villa, £8m; Nicolás Otamendi Valencia, £34m; Patrick Roberts Fulham, £11m; Rubén Sobrino SD Ponferradina, £200,000; Raheem Sterling Liverpool, £49m; Enes Unal Bursaspor, £2m
  • OUT: Dedryck Boyata Celtic, undisclosed; John Guidetti Celta Vigo, released; Jordy Hiwula Huddersfield Town, undisclosed; Frank Lampard New York City, released; Marcos Lopes Monaco, £9m; James Milner Liverpool, released; Matija Nastasic Schalke, undisclosed; Micah Richards Aston Villa, released; Scott Sinclair Aston Villa, £2.5m. Loans: Jason Denayer Galatasaray; Edin Dzeko Roma; Stevan Jovetic Internazionale; Enes Unal Genk

Manchester United

  • IN: Matteo Darmian Torino, £12.9m; Memphis Depay PSV Eindhoven, £25m; Anthony Martial Monaco, initial £36m; Sergio Romero Sampdoria, free; Morgan Schneiderlin Southampton, £24m; Bastian Schweinsteiger Bayern Munich, £14.4m
  • OUT: Ben Amos released; Tom Cleverley Everton, released; Ángel di María Paris St-Germain, £44.3m; Jonny Evans West Bromwich Albion, £6m; Javier Hernández Bayer Leverkusen, £7.3m; Reece James Wigan Athletic, undisclosed; Saidy Janko Celtic, undisclosed; Nani Fenerbahce, £4.3m; Rafael da Silva Lyon, £2.5m; Tom Thorpe Rotherham United, released; Robin van Persie Fenerbahce, £4.7m. Loans: Tyler Blackett Celtic; Will Keane Preston North End; Adnan Januzaj Borussia Dortmund

Newcastle United

  • IN: Chancel Mbemba Anderlecht, £8m; Aleksandar Mitrovic Anderlecht, £13m; Florian Thauvin Marseille, £13m; Ivan Toney Northampton Town, £300,000; Georginio Wijnaldum PSV Eindhoven, £14.5m
  • OUT: Mehdi Abeid Panathinaikos, £1.5m; Jan Alnwick Port Vale, released; Jonás Gutiérrez Deportivo La Coruña, released; Ryan Taylor Hull City, released. Loans: Sammy Ameobi Cardiff City; Rémy Cabella Marseille; Haris Vuckic Wigan Athletic

Norwich City

  • IN: Robbie Brady Hull City, £7m; Graham Dorrans West Bromwich Albion, undisclosed; Jake Kean Blackburn Rovers, free; Youssouf Mulumbu West Bromwich Albion, free. Loans: Matt Jarvis West Ham; Dieumerci Mbokani Dynamo Kyiv; Andre Wisdom Liverpool
  • OUT: Luciano Becchio released; Mark Bunn Aston Villa, released; Carlos Cuéllar released; Javier Garrido released; Bradley Johnson Derby County, £6.5m. Loans: Jacob Murphy Coventry City; Josh Murphy MK Dons; Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe Rotherham; Michael Turner Sheffield Wednesday; Ricky van Wolfswinkel Real Betis


  • IN: Jordy Clasie Feyenoord, £7m; Juanmi Málaga, £5.1m; Cuco Martina Twente, £3m; Oriol Romeu Chelsea, £5m; Cédric Soares Sporting, £3.6m; Virgil van Dijk Celtic, £11.5m. Loans: Steven Caulker Queens Park Rangers; Maarten Stekelenburg Fulham
  • OUT: Artur Boruc Bournemouth, released; Nathaniel Clyne Liverpool, £12.5m; Cody Cropper MK Dons, released; Dani Osvaldo Porto, released; Morgan Schneiderlin Manchester United, £24m. Loan: Sam Gallagher MK Dons

Stoke City

  • IN: Ibrahim Afellay Barcelona, free; Moha El Ouriachi Barcelona, undisclosed; Shay Given Aston Villa, free; Jakob Haugaard Midtjylland, undisclosed; Glen Johnson Liverpool, free; Joselu Hannover, £5.7m; Sergio Molina Real Madrid, undisclosed; Xherdan Shaqiri Internazionale, £12m; Philipp Wollscheid Bayer Leverkusen, £2.75m. Loan: Marco van Ginkel Chelsea
  • OUT: Asmir Begovic Chelsea, £8m; Robert Huth Leicester City, undisclosed; Steven N’Zonzi Sevilla, £7m; Wilson Palacios released; Thomas Sorensen Melbourne City, released


  • IN: Fabio Borini Liveprool, £8m; Sebastián Coates Liverpool, £2m; Younès Kaboul Tottenham Hotspur, £3m; Jeremain Lens Dynamo Kyiv, £8.5m; Adam Matthews Celtic, £2m. Loans: Yann M’Vila Rubin Kazan; Ola Toivonen Rennes; DeAndre Yedlin Tottenham Hotspur
  • OUT: El Hadji Ba Charlton Athletic, undisclosed; Connor Wickham Crystal Palace, £8m. Loans: Jordan Pickford Preston North End; Santiago Vergini Getafe

Swansea City

  • IN: André Ayew Marseille, free; Botti Biabi Falkirk, undisclosed; Éder Braga, undisclosed; Ollie McBurnie Bradford City, undisclosed; Kristoffer Nordfeldt Heerenveen, undisclosed; Franck Tabanou St-Étienne, undisclosed
  • OUT: Jazz Richards Fulham, undisclosed; Alan Tate released. Loans: Nathan Dyer Leicester City; Kenji Gorré ADO Den Haag

Tottenham Hotspur

  • IN: Toby Alderweireld Atlético Madrid, £11.4m; Son Heung-min Bayer Leverkusen, £22m; Clinton Njie Lyon, £10m; Kieran Trippier Burnley, £3.5m; Kevin Wimmer Cologne, £4.3m
  • OUT: Étienne Capoue Watford, £6m; Cristian Ceballos Charlton Athletic, released; Vlad Chiriches Napoli, £4.5m; Ryan Fredericks Bristol City, undisclosed; Brad Friedel retired; Grant Hall Queens Park Rangers, undisclosed; Lewis Holtby Hamburg, £4.6m; Younès Kaboul Sunderland, £3m; Aaron Lennon Everton, £4.5m; Paulinho Guangzhou Evergrande, £9.9m; Roberto Soldado Villarreal, £7m; Benjamin Stambouli Paris St-Germain, £6m. Loans: DeAndre Yedlin Sunderland; Grant Ward Rotherham United


  • IN: Giedrius Arlauskis Steaua Bucharest, free; Valon Behrami Hamburg, undisclosed; Steven Berghuis AZ Alkmaar, £4.6m; Miguel Britos Napoli, undisclosed; Étienne Capoue Tottenham, £6m; Adlène Guedioura Crystal Palace, £2.5m; José Manuel Jurado Spartak Moscow, undisclosed; José Holebas Roma, undisclosed; Allan Nyom Udinese, undisclosed; Obbi Oularé Club Brugge, undisclosed; Sebastian Prödl Werder Bremen, free; Matej Vydra Udinese, free. Loans: Nathan Aké Chelsea; Alessandro Diamanti Guangzhou Evergrande; Victor Ibarbo Roma
  • OUT: Jonathan Bond Reading, undisclosed; Fernando Forestieri Sheffield Wednesday, undisclosed; Lewis McGugan Sheffield Wednesday, undisclosed; Marco Motta released. Loans: Gabriele Angella Queens Park Rangers; Diego Fabbrini Middlesbrough; Miguel Layún Porto; Daniel Pudil Sheffield Wednesday; Matej Vydra Reading

West Brom

  • IN: James Chester Hull City, £8m; Jonny Evans Manchester United, £6m; Rickie Lambert Liverpool, £3m; Anders Lindegaard Manchester United, free; James McClean Wigan Athletic, undisclosed; Salomón Rondón Zenit St Petersburg, £12m. Loan: Serge Gnabry Arsenal
  • OUT: Chris Baird released; Donervon Daniels released; Jason Davidson released; Graham Dorrans Norwich City, undisclosed; Joleon Lescott Aston Villa, £1m; Youssouf Mulumbu Norwich City, released; Kemar Roofe Oxford United, undisclosed; Georgios Samaras released. Loan: Adil Nabi Delhi Dynamos

West Ham


  • IN: Michail Antonio Nottingham Forest, £7m; Stephen Hendrie Hamilton, undisclosed; Nikica Jelavic Hull City, £3m; Pedro Obiang Sampdoria, £4.3m; Angelo Ogbonna Juventus, £10m; Dimitri Payet Marseille, £10.7m; Darren Randolph Birmingham City, free. Loans: Carl Jenkinson Arsenal; Manuel Lanzini Al Jazira Club; Victor Moses Chelsea; Alex Song Barcelona
  • OUT: Carlton Cole released; Guy Demel released; Stewart Downing Middlesbrough, £5.5m; Jussi Jaaskelainen Wigan Athletic, released; Nenê Vasco da Gama, released; Kevin Nolan released. Loans: Matt Jarvis Norwich City; Diego Poyet MK Dons


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Footy thoughts, Superstars

Pedro heads to London for first-team glory under The Special One

“If Pedro was Brazilian,” Pep Guardiola once famously said, “he’d be called Pedrinho and we wouldn’t have enough money to afford him.”

Luckily for Guardiola’s one-time arch enemy José Mourinho, he is called Pedro and Chelsea can more than afford the €30 million fee for the multi-trophy winning forward. Life on the bench at Camp Nou for the boy from the Canary Islands has finally taken it’s toll.

When Guardiola was promoted to the Barcelona first team manager having won with promotion with the club’s B team in 2008, he brought two players with him immediately: Sergio Busquets and Pedro. The former is still there, controlling the Catalans’ midfield as Xavi’s natural heir. The latter, who despite winning football’s biggest trophies such as the World Cup, Champions League, La Liga, UEFA Super Cup to name but a few all before his 23rd birthday, left the club who once called him “irreplaceable” this week.

It’s an interesting time in Barcelona. The club, despite winning a league, cup and Champions League treble last season, are a far cry from the sheer powerhouse of their tiki-taka heyday under Guardiola. Just this week, they were defeated by Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup following a 0-4 defeat in the first leg.

I was trying to think when Barcelona last conceded four goals – unthinkable a few mere season prior. Then I remembered it was the previous Tuesday during the UEFA Super Cup final against Sevilla. The winner of the 5-4 tie in Tbilisi? Pedro, of course.

While Pedro played a big part in Barcelona’s recent seasons, he started many games on the bench. The signings of Neymar and Luis Suarez who, along with Leo Messi, provided Pedro with stiff competition. The forward has admitted before that it was difficult to get minutes on the pitch and that he would simply keep going. And he did, outlasting names such as Ibrahimovic, Bojan, Sanchez and David Villa.

But cameo appearances wasn’t always for Pedro. He once said that if it was to continue, that he would “analyse the situation and look for the best solution”. The solution: England. The club: Man United Chelsea.

Having pulled out of joining Louis van Gaal’s men, Pedro joined his compatriots Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and César Azpilicueta and made London his new home instead of Manchester. A wise decision, and an interesting one. Pedro’s ability to adapt from an out-and-out striker to a winger will be vital to Mourinho. But Pedro won’t accept starting on the bench. Again.

Chelsea have got themselves a squad full of some serious talent. But Mourinho really has a game-changer on his hands. All he has to do is manage him like his nemesis, Pep Guardiola, once did.

Footy thoughts

2015/16 shirts: the good, the bad & the very strange

As many seasons are about to begin or have already just begun, we are at the time of year again when we take a look at the clobber that football has to offer it’s players and fans. How about these:

Man City (home)


Their home kit is a smart piece of design from Nike. A fit worthy of champions. But will they be champions once more?

Chelsea (away)

chelsea-15-16-away-kit (1)

Chelsea’s away shirt is not bad, and reminiscent of Bayern’s away kit from last season with the red trim. Decent.

Bayern Munich (home)


The Bavarians have ditched the Barcelona-like blue & red stripes and gone with an all-red affair. Not bad, but not their best.

Wolfsburg (away)


A headache-inducing away kit from Wolfsburg. Not for me at all.

Barcelona (home)


More sponsors on the shirt and the change of vertical to horizontal stripes has split opinion in Catalonia, but the club are sadly marketing to kids around the globe. I prefer the traditional type shirts from Barcelona.

Rayo Vallecano (away)


Yes. That is a rainbow.

Real Madrid (away)


This isn’t a t-shirt for the gym. It’s a jersey.

Juventus (away)


Pink is an enormously popular colour in Italy, so this is actually quite clever. Smart design, too. It does remind me of ice cream though.

AC Milan (home)


Classic Rossoneri. But personally I miss the old badge as opposed to this shield-like crest.

FC Porto (away)


Good grief.

…and the award for craziest design is:
CD Guijuelo 


This kit is inspired by ham. Somebody thought that this would be an awesome idea…and I agree! (though I’d never wear it in public personally)

…but the cleverest shirt goes to:
AS Roma (away)

AS-Roma-15-16-Away-Kit (4) roma-away

It’s a bit difficult to make out in these photos, but if you look closely then you will see that there’s a map of the city of Rome in the design of the shirt. Now that is excellent.

What else did I miss?

Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Entertainment & media

Join the official Hot Press fantasy football league

It’s that time of the year again when everyone is getting their fantasy football team in order and we are no different.




Those of you who entered last year (and there was a lot!), all you have to do is renew your team and you’ll automatically entered into the league.

For those who weren’t in the competition last year, but want to join us then here is what you must do:

  1. Go here to the official website of the Barclays Premier League.
  2. Register with the site (it takes around a minute).
  3. Pick your players and once satisfied with your selection click on ‘confirm team’.
  4. Go to ‘join leagues’. We’re in a private league, so enter the code 1386906-326979 when prompted.
  5. Let battle commence once more.

You may know exactly who you are going to select, but for those on the fence about their selection, here are a few of my tips:

Rickie Lambert is a good goal scorer, but last season he barely got a look in at Liverpool. It’s unlikely that this will be the case at West Brom. I reckon he’ll be a regular starter for Tony Pulis. At £6 million, he’d be superb for one of your three strikers, allowing you spend the extra cash elsewhere.


While not usually a big goal-scorer, Memphis Depay enjoyed his best ratio last season for PSV with 28 goals in 40 games in all competitions. Now at Manchester United, not only is he confident in finding the goal, but his incredible pace and touch will see him get a lot more assists for the likes of Wayne Rooney. A great addition for £8.5 million.

But it’s best I don’t give too many tips away. I am, after all, in the league too.

Good luck.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)



What next for Mario Balotelli?

There’s a great moment in the 2012 interview between Noel Gallagher and Mario Balotelli when the Italian international promises the former Oasis guitarist his infamous “Why Always Me?” t-shirt. The looks on Gallagher Snr’s face is that of a genuine fan – something we don’t see that often – such is the aura of Balotelli’s genius. He was a much-loved maverick striker with lethal ability and his antics off-the-pitch were just as legendary.

Fast-forward three years and the striker’s days of being the superstar footballer that was a manager’s dream (or nightmare depending on the day in particular). 



When Balotelli burst onto the scene as an Inter Milan player, he made plenty of manager’s – and indeed fans – take notice. Here was a player with an incredible and unique talent and personality to boot. It was the former that earned him the respect, and the latter that often tested the patience of managers such as José Mourinho, Roberto Mancini and Cesare Prandelli.

When Brendan Rodgers signed the Italian a year ago, he said it was a “calculated risk”. An interesting term when you think about it, but it turns out that Balotelli hasn’t delivered for the Reds. In fact, he hasn’t been the Mario Balotelli that intrigued managers and wowed fans (and vice-versa) in years previous.

Balotelli turns 25 within a fortnight and, not long ago, it was predicted that he should be hitting his peak years around now and playing for one of football’s elite clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Instead, Liverpool have been purchasing attacking players means that the Italian finds himself down the pecking order at both club and, due to poor form, country.


A move out of Anfield is the logical solution and reports of clubs such as Sampdoria and Bologna are prepared to take the 24-year-old back to Serie A, where he first burst onto the scene at the age of 17.

Perhaps it would be best for Mario to go back there. The two clubs widely reported to be keen on him would be good for him – Sampdoria, who finished last year in 7th place would obviously see Balotelli as the obvious replacement for the outgoing Stefano Okaka – and newly-promoted Bologna, who would benefit hugely from a player of Balotelli’s talent, personality and experience.

But Brendan Rodgers has said that the Italian’s future is entirely up to himself. “He is working hard to get fit and we will see when the season begins,” the Liverpool boss said. Indeed, time will tell. But it would be great to see the Mario Balotelli of old back in the back (and almost unavoidably front) pages.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Internationals, Republic of Ireland

Ireland avoid big names as World Cup qualifying group revealed


It could have been a lot worse. While Ireland avoided some of the big guns such as Spain, Germany or Italy, Group D for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers sees Wales, Austria, Serbia, Moldova and Georgia join the Boys In Green.

The qualifying groups in full:

Group A: Netherlands, France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, Luxembourg

Group B: Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra

Group C: Germany, Czech Republic, NORTHERN IRELAND, Norway, Azerbaijan, San Marino

Group D: WALES, Austria, Serbia, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, Moldova, Georgia

Group E: Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan

Group F: ENGLAND, Slovakia, SCOTLAND, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta

Group G: Spain, Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia, Liechtenstein

Group H: Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus

Group I: Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland.

oHXAuxh8RAeCRaOGL3Ps_Sepp Blatter and Vladimir Putin

Some interesting fixtures there with England and Scotland drawn in the same group. That won’t be a dull fixture, that’s for sure. Netherlands and France will be a huge battle and of course Spain against Italy is another massive fixture.

For the Republic of Ireland, however, we avoided some huge footballing nations there. That’s not to belittle just exactly the damage any of our opponents can inflict. There’s no real easy games there.

It’s hard to tell just exactly what kind of a squad we’ll have going into the campaign, but time will tell. Martin O’Neill, assuming he will still be in the hotseat then, will be delighted how the group turned out no doubt.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)


Where are they now?

Whatever happened to Freddy Adu?

Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Ronaldo, Raul and Maldini are all major names in world football who were widely regarded as immensely talented by pundits, fans, and fellow professionals while still in their teens.  By the time they were all 26, they were well into the peaks of their powers, accumulating an enormous amount of team and personal awards and trophies.

When Freddy Adu was a teenager, he was courted by some of the biggest names in the game such as Manchester United and Celtic. Now 26, the American’s early promise was never fulfilled, and instead of seeing his name up with Rooney and Ronaldo, the forward has returned to play in the NASL, following obscurity with unsuccessful stints in places such as Turkey, Brazil, Serbia, and most recently Finland.


One reason for Adu’s return to his native shores and play with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL is to team up with his former mentor Thomas Rongen. “He was almost like Ronaldinho,” the Dutch tactician remembers. “He always had a smile on his face”. But Ronden admits that he is “flabbergasted” that Adu never made it to the very top, blaming his career path which ultimately made the former United States international something of a journeyman.

When Adu left the MLS for Europe, it was Portugese giants Benfica that landed his signature. But his tenure in Lisbon was short-lived and loan spells with Monaco, Belenenses, Aris and Çaykur Rizespor followed. Then, in 2011, Adu moved back stateside, joining the Philadelphia Union.

Benfica's Adu celebrates his goal against Maritimo during their Portuguese Premier League match at Luz satdium in Lisbon October 28, 2007. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro (PORTUGAL)

Two years later, Adu went to Brazilian side Bahia (in a deal which saw former Manchester United player Kleberson go in the opposite direction), but his time in South America was short lived and he was released in November 2013.

The first six months of the following year were something of a black period for Adu, when he began series of trials with the likes of Blackpool, Dutch side AZ Alkmaar and Norwegian club Stabæk. But it was Serbian side Jagodina who signed Adu on a six month contract which, ultimately, wasn’t renewed and last March Finnish side KuPS became the American’s new home. Briefly.


Despite signing a one-year contract, the contract was terminated last week leaving Adu without a club. The wilderness years going around Europe haven’t been kind to the 26 year old former prodigy who should easily be at the peak of his powers.

After a decade apart, he and Thomas Rogden will be reunited once more as Adu will make Florida his new home and the Tampa Bay Rowdies his 13th professional club. “I think I can resurrect his career, and I mean that sincerely,” Rogden explains. “Freddy knows that too.”

With each move in Freddy Adu’s career there is always talk of him reigniting his career following such amazing early promise. Perhaps this time, lucky number thirteen, with his former mentor can be just that.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)



Sterling signs for City, but it won’t be the transfer of the summer

Raheem Sterling has completed his somewhat inevitable transfer from Liverpool to Manchester City today for a fee of £49 million. Many, myself included, believe it’s an incredible amount to pay for the 20-year-old.


He has an incredible talent, and buckets of potential. But I have always found him to be somewhat inconsistent and, from where I sitting, he seems to have a lousy attitude. And the money City have spent on the England international brings back memories of Andy Carroll – a hot prospect that ultimately failed after huge money was spent.

It’s a big money signing but by no means the best signing of the transfer window so far. Bastian Schweinsteiger‘s move from Bayern Munich to Manchester United is one that utterly blew my mind.


Basti is an incredible player. A World Cup winner, he’s been with Munich since 1998 and quickly became a fan favourite after breaking through to their senior squad in 2002. He’s been a prominent and influential player in the Bavarian side for 17 years. Louis van Gaal has acquired a midfielder who is as intelligent as Xavi, as influential as Steven Gerrard and as powerful as Paul Scholes.

Another huge signing that has occurred in the already manic transfer window is the criminally under-rated Arda Turan, who joined Barcelona from Atlético Madrid.

The Turk has, in the past, been linked with various Premier League clubs, but few of the English papers give the former Galatasaray captain the credit he deserves. His touch and his control are sheer world-class and his vision for the predominantly right-sided midfielder was hugely influential in Atléti’s success in recent years.


Atlético’s loss is Barcelona’s gain, but Turan won’t be able to compete for the Catalans until January of next year after Barça’s transfer ban has been lifted. But I would give up six months of my career to play at Camp Nou alongside Leo Messi, too.

Finally, Iker Casillas‘ move from Real Madrid to FC Porto is obviously a major coup for the Portugese side. Let’s be honest, it is their biggest signing since a then-relatively unknown José Mourinho became manager in 2002. But the move is not without it’s criticism on Real Madrid’s part.


The club have been accused by many of showing a lack of respect to the World Cup winning goalkeeper. Aside from unfollowing Casillas on Twitter minutes after the move to Porto was complete, Real Madrid were heavily criticised for forcing the player out according to the Spaniard’s family – an accusation Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who is currently unpopular among section of the Madrid faithful, has denied.


Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)