“A poisoned chalice” is how Aiden McGeady last week described for anyone willing to take on the position of Republic of Ireland manager. Indeed, he is right. You can’t please them all. Especially not the pundits on RTÉ – as Noel King found out during the week. But now with Martin O’Neill, the one-time favourite by far, believed to be keen on returning to the Premier League as soon as possible, who else could we give the job to?
Mick McCarthy‘s name was mentioned. Many wouldn’t mind seeing him return. He did do a great job with the national team when he managed them from 1996 until 2002. He is however contracted with Ipswich. He only signed said contract less than a year ago – which is surprisingly long in modern day English football, isn’t it? It would cost the FAI to bring him in. But would his methods suit the squad in 2014?
Another former Irish international, and one time friend and foe of McCarthy, Roy Keane has also been mentioned. An extraoridnary man of exceptionally high standards, his managerial career has been, well, it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, has it? Aside from securing Sunderland promotion to the Premier League six years ago, there hasn’t been much else to write home about.
There’s the three big names – O’Neill, McCarthy and Keane. If not them, then who?
Well, a bit of an outsider, but Chris Hughton would be a great appointment. A former Irish international, he was actually assistant manager under Brian Kerr from 2003 until 2005. His managerial career has earned him much respect from the football world. The only thing is – and it’s a minor thing – he may not want to leave Norwich at all. Still, one can hope.
Would the FAI bring in another non-Irish manager? Possibly. But who?
Well along with Ray Houghton, the FAI’s High Performance Director Ruud Doktor has been given the task of finding Trap’s permanent replacement. One would think Doktor may look to his native Holland for possible candidates, given his previous affiliation with the Dutch FA. With this in mind, the first names that springs to mind include Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard and Fred Rutten.
Aside from the Dutch connection, I’m sure they’re also thinking about Marcelo Bielsa, Tony Pulis and Felix Magath – all of whom are well respected and currently seeking work. A provisional date of 1 November has been set to appoint a permanent successor to Trapattoni. It’ll be interesting to see who the next gaffer is. A return for Stan? Just kidding,
Who would you like to see in the vacant Ireland manager’s position? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Former Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni told the Italian media that he did a good job with the boys in green – especially since Ireland is a country that doesn’t have it’s own league.
Talking to Tuttosport, the 74-year-old said: “I left Ireland without controversy. We had important results together and had some satisfying moments. It’s true we were unable to achieve qualification to the World Cup, but at the end of the day we said goodbye like civilised people.”
“I got to know an exceptional country, humble and also proud. In a nation that doesn’t have its own football league, I think I did a good job.”
Now, while the League of Ireland isn’t filling giant stadiums and it’s teams aren’t Champions League quality, it’s hugely insulting to the league’s fans and players. But it’s hugely baffling as many of the squad he managed came from the league (eg. Coleman, Hoolahan, Doyle, Forde, Long, McClean etc.)
What’s worse is it’s now the second time he’s made comments like these having told the media that Ireland doesn’t have it’s own league following the loss to Sweden.
Thanks for that. Best of luck with the future, Trap.
What do you make of Il Trap’s comments? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Jack Wilshere has landed himself in a spot of bother as he stated this week that he believes naturalised English players should not be allowed play for the English national team.
It all started with the news that England boss Roy Hodgson was monitoring the progress of Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj – who himself is eligble to play for Belgium, Albania and Serbia. If he remains uncapped at international level and becomes a naturalised English citizen, Hodgson is definitely interested. Wilshire, on the other hand, wasn’t too keen on the idea.
“If you’ve lived in England for five years, for me, it doesn’t make you English,” said the Arsenal star. “If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain”.
Then yesterday England’s South African-born cricketer Kevin Pieterson questioned Wilshere’s comments on Twitter. “Interested to know how you define foreigner … ? Would that include me, Strauss, Trott, Prior, Justin Rose, Froome, Mo Farah?”.
Wilshere responded: “With all due respect Mr Pietersen, the question was about football! Cricket, cycling, athletics is not my field.”
Pietersen then replied: “Same difference … It’s about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!”
It’s an interesting topic. There’s a difference between playing for a country for the sake of international football and playing for pride and the country itself.
Indeed there has historically been some fantastic talent of naturalised players such as the great Alfredo di Stefano, Laszlo Kubala, Patrick Vieira, Lukas Podolski, Marcel Desailly, Eduardo, Deco and Kevin Kuranyi have all excelled for their new country at international level over the years.
England, like ourselves, is a very proud nation. And I have no doubt that many will agree with Wilshire. But if Januzaj becomes a naturalised citizen, feels English and wishes to represent England, then surely he should be given a chance if good enough?
OK, so it’s not exactly holiday season, but that doesn’t stop us from buying a good book does it? Take a peek at my top 5 football books:
5.Mad For It: From Blackpool to Barcelona: Football’s Greatest Rivalries by Andy Mitten (2008)
This is an intriguing account of some of football’s biggest rivalries, written by the founder of the now legendary fanzine United We Stand, Andy Mitten. The Mancunian author has visited more grounds around the globe, covered more games and interviewed more fans and players than I have eaten hot dinners – he knows what he’s talking about. Everything from Buenos Aires’ tense derby to the boys from the black country battling it out is covered here. A fascinating read.
4. Barça: The Making Of The Greatest Team in the World by Graham Hunter (2012)
When I took this book on my honeymoon in Rome last year, I didn’t realise that I’d have a much harder job putting it down than finding my way around the Eternal City without a map. Hunter, who himself is based in the city of Barcelona, presents an incredible page-turner with this book. If you’ve ever watched the author on Revista De La Liga on Sky Sports, then you’ll know his knowledge on Barça seems to never end and in this book and he captures absolutely all that knowledge of the club’s most successful era just brilliantly.
3. I Am The Secret Footballer by Anonymous (2012)
The Secret Footballer is, as you may already know, an anonymous footballer who has played at England’s top tier. Initally a columnist in The Guardian newspaper, his identity remains anonymous so that he can reveal some stories that only a player of his level could reveal and without fear. It’s an incredibly fascinating look at life inside the game. It’s funny, gritty, surprising and hugely enjoyable. For a very similar book, check out The Secret Player (2013). It’s the exact same idea (in fact the Secret Player has been writing his column for FourFourTwo before TSF wrote first his column for The Guardian). Both fascinating accounts but, in my view, I Am The Secret Footballer is just that bit better.
2. Yo Soy El Diego by Diego Maradona (2000)
Maradona, arguably the greatest footballer to ever kick a ball, led an extraordinary life on the pitch. And very much off it. Written by the Argentine genius in Havana, he documents plenty of major and minor events from his humble beginnings in Buenos Aires to playing with Boca Juniors and from his difficult time in Spain to reaching World Cup glory with his country in 1986. Life off the pitch for Diego, believe me, was just as fast as it was on it. Incredible story from the horse’s mouth as he remembers it.
1. Only A Game? The Diary of a Professional Footballer by Eamon Dunphy (1979)
Long before the Premier League, all-seater stadiums and Sky Sports, football was a gritty but beautiful game. In the 1970′s, it was a demanding game and Ireland’s most colourful character of journalism, Eamon Dunphy, documented his time with Millwall in the old second division during the 1974-75 season long before he was getting into arguments with Liam Brady on RTÉ. It’s a truly honest, witty and insightful look of a day-to-day life of a professional 1970′s footballer.
The World Cup in 2022 is, as we all know, to be held in Qatar. With temperatures soaring to around 40°C plus, it would risk the health of many professionals playing at the highest level and even possibly some fans. FIFA’s solution? Move it to the winter.
Of course, that would severely disrupt almost all major leagues at club level. But while that’s one debate why Qatar hosting the World Cup isn’t, in my opinion, an appropriate host nation, the Gulf state now faces serious allegations about its alleged appalling treatment of migrant workers. Far more serious issues than the fact if the competition should be staged at the right time of year. But that’s another debate.
Qatar, a country of just 1.7m people, was announced as the winning candidate of the 2022 competition just three years ago – beating off the rival bids from the United States, who had been considered the favourites by many, Australia, South Korea and Japan.
“We know it would be a bold gamble and an exciting prospect but with no risk,” the bid chief executive, Hassan Al-Thawadi, said. “Heat is not and will not be an issue”. Plenty of professionals, journalists and indeed fans seemed to take issue with Qatar as host for the competition in summer. But moving it to winter would be unthinkable surely? Apparently not.
Indeed FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in October 2012: “The FIFA World Cup is played in June and July. That’s the basic condition. It is my duty, my responsibility and my right to defend FIFA’s principles. One of these principles was: June, July”. Just last month he then said: “I came to the conclusion that playing the World Cup in the heat of Qatar’s summer was simply not a responsible thing to do.”
There’s something not quite right about Qatar hosting this World Cup. Play it in the summer and there’s major health risks. Play it in the winter and it goes against what we all love about the competition – let alone the major disruption to club football around the globe. I’ll leave you with a quote from Sepp Blatter about awarding Qatar the tournament: “It may well be that we made a mistake at the time.”
As a fan, I don’t support having a winter competition. Do you?
Noel King, though only a interim manager for Ireland, has done what the Irish public had been demanding of Giovanni Trapattoni for some time – he’s brought Andy Reid back into the Ireland squad.
As well as the Notts Forest midfielder, Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes have also been recalled by King. And of course Darron Gibson has ended his self-imposed exile after vowing never to play under the Italian boss again – he’s in the squad to face Germany and Kazakhstan next month. Some very welcomed names I’m sure you’ll agree.
Though the chances of us going to Rio next summer have pretty much died, it’s still important to play with some heart and passion – something the team had been lacking under Trap’s guidance. Noel King is laying down the foundations for the post-Trapattoni era.
One other player who King was also interested in recalling was Stephen Ireland. The Corkman had indicated his willingness to return to the set-up, but only once he has re-established himself in club football since being put on loan to Stoke City this season.
While most players would cut off their hand to represent their country, here Ireland has the chance to showcase his talents (and he can be quite the player) on a big stage against one of the biggest teams.
I would like to see Stephen Ireland play for Ireland – but I’d prefer if HE wanted to play for us. It shouldn’t be a chore.
The Republic of Ireland squad to face Germany and Kazakhstan are: David Forde (Millwall), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), Darren Randolph (Birmingham), Joey O’Brien (West Ham), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Marc Wilson (Stoke), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Stephen Kelly (Reading), Ciaran Clark (Aston Villa), Paul McShane (Hull), Darron Gibson (Everton), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), James McCarthy (Everton), Paul Green (Leeds), Andy Reid (Notts Forest), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Anthony Pilkington (Norwich), James McClean (Wigan), Stephen Quinn (Hull), Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Shane Long (WBA), Robbie Keane (L.A. Galaxy), Jon Walters (Stoke), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Anthony Stokes (Celtic).
What do you think of Noel King’s selection, and what do you make of Stephen Ireland’s possible return? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
If you think Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is bad – he’s no Maurizio Zamparini. The president of Palermo came back into the headlines recently for sacking Gennaro Gattuso after just six games in charge (he won two of them, including a 3-0 win, lost three and drew one). Six games? What does a man have to do to keep his job as a football manager these days? That is no doubt a question that Roberto di Matteo asks himself every day since November 2012.
But Zamparini, nicknamed “the manager eater” by the Italian press, makes the trigger-happy Chelsea owner seem lazy. While to be sacked after six games is harsh, it’s hardly surprising. Gattuso became the 20th manager to get the bullet from Zamparini since the Italian businessman bought the Sicilian club 11 years ago. Yes – the twentieth! He’s even given the same manager the boot on more than one occasion.
Last season, Zamparini used three different coaches – two of them twice.
Former Inter boss Gian Piero Gasperini was brought in and then very promptly sacked. He was replaced with the much-travelled Alberto Malesani for three games, but then Gasperini was brought back in again before handing him his P45 after just two games in charge. Yes…two! Zamparini eventually brought back Giuseppe Sannino, who had actually started the season as manager but was sacked after three matches.
Part 1 of this blog post appeared almost a year ago. A year you say, Rob? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about part 2. In that edition I featured some beautiful grounds from Lima to Tashkent. Let’s have a look at some other gorgeous stadia that you may not be familiar with.
Stade des Martyrs, Kinshasa, Congo DR.
The home ground of the National Team of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as local sides AS Vita Club and DC Motema Pembe, this ground has an official capacity of 80,000 spectators. Though it has been known that up to 100,000 people get inside the ground on certain matchdays. This leads me to believe that health and safety isn’t a massive issue. It’s still a fine stadium and indeed one of the finest in the entire continent of Africa.
Hásteinsvöllur, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland
Some of the greatest stadia aren’t always the biggest. This one is quite the opposite. The 950 capacity ground is based on a small island just off Iceland’s south coast. The weather dictates games, not necessarily on the pitch, but on the ferry which brings players and some fans to the ground. David James, of all people, currently plies his trade there with club IBV. Miss the ferry and you could be stuck on the island for days. But you must admit – it is one of the most naturally scenic grounds in the world.
Nou Sardenya, Barcelona, Spain
While everyone in the world knows the Camp Nou, the Olympic Stadium, or Espanyol’s Estadi Cornella, there is another stadium in the fine city of Barcelona. One located in the city itself CE Europa can boast the 7,000-capacity Nou Sardenya. Complete with its own impressive grandstand (and the fanbase to fill it), the stadium is a hidden gem. If you have ever done the touristy thing and visited Park Güell in Barcelona, you could have easily walked past it.
Parque do Sabiá, Uberlândia, Brazil
While this 53,000-capacity stadium is the home ground of Uberlândia Esporte Clube and Clube Atlético Portal, it is a classic South American ground fit for any team. It’s just a shame a stadium this beautiful hasn’t entertained any of Brazil’s top teams for a number of seasons and, located about a thousand kilometres from the Marcana in Rio, the national team don’t use it much at all. Though they did in 1982 for the ground’s inaugral game. Against the Republic of Ireland. And they won 7-0. Seven. Ugh.
Let Rob Smith know of your stadium gems that he may not know of on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
Champions League is back. Is anyone else excited? Oh, everyone is? Ok then. Let’s waste no more time and have a look what’s to come over the next couple of days in Europe’s biggest club competition.
In Group A, it’s an unbelievably massive fixture for David Moyes as he leads his Manchester United side against Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford. Usually, I’d say “ah, it’s business as usual” if Fergie was in charge. But it’s a new era and, to be honest, I don’t know it’s going to fare. United will have to keep the criminally under-rated Stefan Kießling quiet, that I do know.
The people of San Sebastian will be treated to a night of Champions League football as Real Sociedad take on Shakhtar Donetsk at Anoeta. It’s been ten whole years since the Basque side played in Europe. Shakhtar, on the other hand, are at this point veterans of the Champions League and will be looking to spoil the party.
Group B sees Turkish giants Galatasaray take on Real Madrid. Will Gareth Bale feature? Carlo Ancelotti may give the Welshman a run out following his debut where he scored for Madrid. Start as you mean to go on as they say. Gala aren’t pushovers though, with big names such as Sneijder and Drogba in the squad, not to mention that ferocious home support, it’ll be tough for CR7 & co.
Current champions Bayern Munich entertain CSKA Moscow. This is Pep Guardiola’s big return to the competition, having last won the cup in 2011, beating Man United at Wembley in the final. CSKA will prove to be good opponents as they are unbeaten in the Russian Premier League, which began in July.
Chelsea take on FC Basel at Stamford Bridge. The Swiss outfit will be fresh in the misery of English clubs as they look to build on eliminating Manchester United from two seasons ago. Chelsea however, along with new names such as Samuel Eto’o, Andre Schurrle and Willian won’t let anyone get the better of them on their own turf – not on José’s watch.
Group F contains four excellent teams and is, in my view anyway, one of the most intriguing groups. Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli will all battle it out. Anyone could end up in first – or last place. Arsenal travel to the south of France to face Marseille first as Rafa Benitez’s Napoli will take on Borussia Dortmund.
Finally, the media dubbed Group H as “the group of death”. For Celtic, that is certainly true. They travel to Italy to face AC Milan. And despite the return of the prodigal son Kaká from Real Madrid, I truly think Celtic have caught Milan at a good time. The time is now. Then again, the San Siro is an incredibly hard place to win for anyone. Barcelona entertain Ajax – a club who the Catalans historically model themselves on. On paper, the Dutch side have no chance. But Barça’s new coach Tata Martino will be put to the test in his first ever European job. No pressure then.
Here is the statement in full released by the FAI just after 10pm last night:
The recent results against Sweden and Austria were very disappointing for everyone involved in Irish football, the manager, the players and supporters. Our aim of qualification, although mathematically possible, is now highly unlikely even though the team will always do everything within their power to keep that hope alive. The FAI Board of Management will now consider the current position over the coming days. The post-match press conference which was due to take place this afternoon (September 11th) in Dublin has been cancelled.
This would suggest a speedy exit for Giovanni Trapattoni. And rightly so. The truth is that he should’ve been relieved of his duties after the Euros. It was painfully obvious that he was not only failing to get his message across onto the pitch, but he simply wasn’t applying himself to the job at hand.
Our style of football was incredibly poor. The very same style was used in our last two games – which ended in defeats against Sweden and Austria. It was almost too predictable. And don’t get me started on the resources available to him and the players he used.
But now it looks like that in the near future we will very likely have a new manager.
Martin O’Neill’s name has come up a lot – and I mean a lot. As indeed has Chris Hughton’s. Dick Advocaat was mentioned somewhere. Some people (admittedly I am not one of them) would swear that Roy Keane could do a good job. Who would you like to see as new Ireland manager?
Bored at work? Or simply fancy your P45 a bit sooner than expected? If so, here are the best footy-related games on the world wide web.
Sensible Soccer: FIFA 14 is as realistic as it gets? Bah! A 30 yard diving header into the top corner thank you very much! If you grew up in the early 90′s, this was the greatest game ever. It still is.
Football Agent: What does it matter if the player and his wife are settled with the kids put in the local primary school. Sell him! Buy the next Wayne Rooney. Just don’t forget your imaginary 10% for each sale and then buy an imaginary mansion. Not the most exciting.
Super Soccer: Pick from the greats – Bayern Munich, Liverpool,. Juventus, Barcelona and … em … Boavista? Entertaining enough if you truly have nothing but time to kill. It’s either extremely tough to play or I am rubbish at it. I’ll bet it’s the latter.
Hat Trick: One of the internet’s better football freebies. Register, develop your youth squad, make transfers and then compete in the 16 week league. Do you quite literally want to avoid doing any work on the office for an entire day? This is for you.
Goal United: Similar to Hat Trick above. Just put in “entire week” where I have “entire day” written.
Volley 07/08: Pick a team and play a bunch of games. If you can manage anything other than defeat or 0-0 draws, then I applaud you.
Soccer Manager: The classic football management game formula. Just with the added bonus of playing it for free. Got time to kill? Give it a shot.
So there you have it. Some of the internet’s best (and possibly worst) footy games. If I missed anything, let me know on Twitter (@robsmithireland). Now stop playing those games and get back to work!
After the good, the bad and the expensive of the summer transfer window, some players were released from their clubs and, as of right now, play for nobody. Step forward my free agents XI:
GOALKEEPER: Craig Gordon
The 30-year-old Scottish international is still a free agent, having been let go by Sunderland a year ago. He didn’t resign for another team and was rumoured to be joining Rangers. He’d be an incredible addition for Ally McCoist – especially for free.
DEFENDERS: Oguchialu Onyewu
Onyewu would be worth a punt for any manager looking for a defender for free. The former AC Milan man spent last season on loan under Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga from Sporting Lisbon before his parent club released him a few weeks ago.
OK, he’s 36. But he can still do a job at the back. Released by Spurs in June, the former Chelsea and Arsenal man is a top quality defender. He made 17 appearances for Spurs last season.
The Portugese international’s opportunities to start in Chelsea’s starting XI last few seasons were somewhat limited, but in those few rare appearances, the defender’s quality was still top class.
Friedrich is a handy defender. Released by Bayer Leverkusen merely weeks ago, the former-Germany international would be the free agents XI equivalent to Richard Dunne.
MIDFIELDERS: Mahamadou Diarra
In 2006, Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello asked President Ramón Calderón to sign three players: “Diarra, Diarra and Diarra”. The Malian international most recent club, Fulham, didn’t renew his contract beyond the summer and the one-time €26 million man is available on a free
The Israeli is a hugely talented midfielder who can do a job when on the pitch. Of all the free agents, I’m most surprised that he (at the time of writing) hadn’t been picked up. He may be getting on a bit, but still definitely Premier League quality.
Liverpool fans will remember Sissoko. He joined the reds in 2005 while they were still basking in the glory of their recent Champions League victory. The midfielder went on to play for Juventus, PSG and, most recently, Fiorentina.
Many predicted great things for Hunt when he burst into the Irish international squad – myself included. He never fulfilled the promise, but still a decent winger who’s not afraid to take anyone on. A great freebee to whoever gets his signature next.
FORWARDS: Vincenzo Iaquinta
A typical number 10, Iaquinta has always been a great goalscorer for both club and country. The World Cup winner was linked with Fulham but is, as we speak, still a free agent.
The brilliant Croatian striker made his name in Switzerland before moving to Germany with Borussia Dortmund and Hamburg. He spent last year at Fulham and is now up for grabs.
SUBSTITUTES Antonio Adán (GK) Glenn Loovens (DF) Simon Davies (MF) Stephen McPhail (MF) Louis Saha (FW) David Healy (FW)
There you have it. All of those players would cost you the same as a pub team if you wanted to sign them. May cost you a bit in wages however.
Over the summer, there was an incredible amount of money spent on players shifting clubs. The biggest deals include Gareth Bale joining Madrid (€100 mil), Radamel Falcao joining Monaco (€60 mil), Neymar to Barcelona (€57 mil), Edinson Cavani to PSG (€67 mil), Mesut Ozil to Arsenal (€45 mil) and Peter Odemwingie to Cardiff City. OK, maybe not the last one. But at least he did get transferred this time instead of just hanging around a stadium in the hope that someone signs him.
I’ll start off with Serie A, and Juventus strengthened their strike-force with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente while the criminally under-rated-on-these-shores Alessandro Matri joined league rivals AC Milan. Speaking of the Rossoneri, they brought Kaka back to the San Siro on a free – four years after they sold him to Madrid for €65 million. Nice!
Roma brought in the likes of Gervinho, Adem Ljajić and Kevin Strootman but lost out on stars such as Marquinhos, Bojan, Erik Lamela and Pablo Osvaldo. Interesting times ahead in the eternal city. Whatever happened Inter? They slipped off the radar in recent times. Didn’t they win the Champions League not long ago?
In Spain, Neymar was dominating all the headlines for months. Until a certain Welshman joined a certain club from the capital. Real weren’t afraid to splash the cash as they also purchased Asier Illarramendi and Isco. City rivals Atlético Madrid got David Villa from Barcelona for the bargain price of around €5 million. They also got Argentine defender Martín Demichelis from Malaga. But he stayed for all of five minutes before departing for Manchester City. Who says loyalty is dead in football?
European champions Bayern Munich signed not only a new coach in Pep Guardiola, but they also acquired the much-sought-after playmaker Mario Götze from rivals Dortmund. Barcelona midfielder Thiago also joined the side, pairing up with his former manager from Barça.
Borussia Dortmund signed Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan last month, but one can’t help but feel there will be a massive Götze-shaped-hole in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield. It’ll still be between the two sides in the Bundesliga, but how will Pep fare? As I said before, the only way is down.
Finally in England, and £624,560,000 later, it was non-stop in the Premier League. Tottenham and Liverpool made some interesting signings with Spurs bringing in Paulinho, Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and (one of my former ones-to-watch) Christian Eriksen. Liverpool brought in the Spanish duo of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas. Along with the Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure and PSG starlet Mamadou Sakho, Brendan Rodgers’ side will certainly be fighting alongside AVB’s men for a Champions League place.
Transfer deadline day was an interesting one. I believe Arsenal got the star signing in Ozil, but Man United done well bringing Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford. And £27.5 million is quite an amount for him. But is he worth it? In footballing terms, yes. United however faced some unusual situations – such as getting the signature of Ander Herrera from Bilbao. One minute he was ready to put pen to paper, the next it was all off with various reasons as to why.
This was then followed with news of signing of Real Madrid left-back Coentrao on loan – followed by reports that the deal had not in fact gone through. At least they got Fellaini.
Manchester City and Chelsea surprised nobody by splashing the cash on Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Álvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetić (Man City) and André Schürrle, Willian, Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea). But Chelsea did surprise everyone by hanging onto Fernando Torres. Surely he is surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge? The Special One has decided to hang onto for now him anyway. Same goes for the frankly brilliant Juan Mata who was rumoured to be joining either PSG or Liverpool. But he’s still a Chelsea player. For now.
Everton may have lost their star player, but along with the hugely-promising Gerard Deulofeu and Arouna Koné, on deadline day they snapped up our very own James McCarthy on a permanent deal as well as Man City midfielder Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku. There is life after the afro’d one, Evertonians.
Other Irish players that moved in the window include Keith Andrews (Brighton), Stephen Ireland (Stoke), Enda Stevens (Notts Co), Noel Hunt (Leeds) and James McClean (Wigan). No move for Robbie Keane to (another) boyhood club then. That joke really is old.
Phew. That’s the transfer news until January.
Who were your favourite signings this summer? Tell Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
The most inevitable signing has been officially announced: Gareth Bale has signed for Real Madrid. But it’s quite significant as the Welshman cost the Spanish side a world-record fee of €100 million, eclipsing the previous record of €94 million held by his new team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. But what if he flops in at Madrid? Not everyone settles in the club. I wonder one thing: is he really worth it?
Indeed what if he does fail at Madrid? It’ll be the biggest transfer flop since, well, Andy Carroll. But in far more spectacular fashion. €100 million is an absurd amount of money. If he fails, it will be quite catastrophic. But if he succeeds, he could be an even bigger hero to the Real faithful than Cristiano. After his season last year at Spurs, he could easily be brilliant as a Madridista.
“I have had six very happy years at Tottenham but it’s the right time to say goodbye,” said Bale. “I am now looking forward to the next exciting chapter in my life, playing football for Real Madrid.”
He will be presented at the Bernebéu tomorrow following a medical at around noon Irish time. With the past few weeks in Spain being all about the pairing of Messi and Neymar together at Barcelona, it’ll be world’s media interested in the combination of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid.
Do you think Bale is worth €100 million? How do you think he will fare at Madrid? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland)
On Thursday, the Champions League groups were drawn. Here they are in full:
Group A: Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Sociedad.
Group B: Real Madrid, Juventus, Galatasaray, FC Copenhagen.
Group C: PSG, Benfica, Olympiakos, Anderlecht.
Group D: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Manchester City, FC Viktoria Plzen.
Group E: Chelsea, Schalke, FC Basel, Steaua Bucharest.
Group F: Arsenal, Marseille, Borussia Dortmund, Napoli.
Group G: Porto, Atlético Madrid, Zenit St Petersburg, Austria Vienna.
Group H: Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic.
The one that sticks out most there is Group H, isn’t it? Barcelona, AC Milan, Ajax, Celtic. Four former winners of Europe’s biggest prize and four clubs steeped in history and tradition. Neil Lennon has some task ahead of him. But as Barcelona found out last year, anything is possible.
Elsewhere, Man United seemed to have got off lightly. That said, on European nights, places like Shakhtar’s Donbass Arena and Leverkusen’s BayArena are like fortresses and the intensity can prove to be vital – how will Moyes cope in his first European competition.
Man City will be facing Bayern Munich. Two new managers, two extremely strong squads. Who will be hungrier for victory?
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side will take on Borussia Dortmund and Marseille. Neither of which will be an easy game for the North London side. The French boss has only a few days to strengthen the squad. He really needs to or it could be an early exit for the Gunners.
Who do you think will get through the groups? Tweet Rob Smith with your predictions (@robsmithireland)