Tag Archives: neymar

Neymar heads to Paris to step out of Messi’s shadow.

Last year Barcelona slapped a €222 million buyout clause on Neymar. Buyout clauses are usually obscene figures to warn off potential clubs interested in availing of a player’s services. In the case of Neymar, astonishingly Paris Saint-Germain look set to spend exactly that to get the Brazilian superstar.

His reasons are both footballing and quite obviously financial.

Firstly the footballing reasons. While many will see a move from La Liga to France’s Ligue 1 as a step down, one must take into consideration the fact that Neymar will only grow so much when he’s playing in the same side as Leo Messi.

On the north-eastearn coast of Spain, Leo Messi is the frontman. The poster boy for the club, the marketing tool, and the focal point on the pitch. Neymar has always, and would always be in the Argentine’s shadow. Neymar wants to take centre stage. And where better than PSG, where players would have to adapt to his style of play, and not the other way around.

It’s an interesting move too in terms of accolades. The Ballon d’Or would be within grasping distance, but never in the palm of his hands. Messi and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo are realistically the only two players who have been battling for it for some time. Not now. Neymar gone solo will see the Brazilian step out of Messi’s shadow and lead PSG. Critics, pundits, fans and peers will take notice,

But make no mistake, another motivating factor is money. As is always the case in the beautiful business game.

Neymar will become the best paid player in the world, doubling his salary while in the Paris. PSG’s owners Qatar Sports Investments (QSi) have seemingly an endless stream of cash going straight from the middle east to the French capital. His father who acts as his agent will receive €36 million in commission. He’s earned almost €100 million at Barcelona. As I said, make no mistake – this is clearly another motivating factor.

It will be a loss for Barcelona. The attacking trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (often called the MSN) formed a front three considered by many as the best in the history of the game. There will be a Neymar-shaped hole if he goes unreplaced, though not catastrophic – Barcelona have over the past decade had a plethora of talent on their bench alone. Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho has been frequently mentioned as a possible replacement. And other left-wingers such as Marco Reus or Eden Hazard could easily fit into the Barcelona’s system if Jurgen Klopp doesn’t budge.

Neymar’s move to PSG is all but confirmed at this stage with Barcelona putting out an official statement on the matter. The Parisians have even reportedly arranged an enormous welcoming ceremony on the streets of the French capital. All that’s left is the Brazilian’s signature. It’s up to Neymar now to deliver for his new club as he takes centre stage.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

City win EPL while La Liga set for showdown.

The English Premier League season ended yesterday pretty much as we guessed for the past week or so now with Man City finishing as champions. After the final whistle, Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher were among those who celebrated on the pitch alongside Sergio Aguero and Vincente Kompany. Meanwhile over in Anfield, a deflated Steven Gerrard spoke about how proud he was with Liverpool this season.

_74779606_hi022221371

The red half of Merseyside enjoyed a hugely improved season from recent years. In fact, had Brendan Rodgers’ men not slipped up (sorry) against Chelsea two weeks ago and again against Crystal Palace last week, the reds easily could have brought home their first league title in almost two and a half decades.

It was a thoroughly entertaining season for all. Unlike some seasons previous, it had many twists on both ends of the table with Norwich also confirming relegation on the final day. But while it was a hugely entertaining, it’s not the last of club football yet. We have another week to go around Europe.

boateng-ducho-guardiola-sobre-cesped-1399738900597

Sure the Dutch Eredivisie, Italian Serie A and the German Bundesliga have all been decided with another week to go. But as La Liga comes to it’s close next weekend, it does so with a true final day drama. The top two teams face each other and the winner takes it all.

Next Sunday is basically the La Liga final at the Camp Nou as second placed Barcelona, who have been playing far from their usual glorious selves, face current leaders Atlético Madrid, who in my opinion have been the best team in Spain this season.

Atléti have got one eye on the Champions League title as they face city rivals Real later this month. But under the guidance of the brilliant and passionate Diego Simeone, they will no doubt be giving it their all in the Camp Nou next Sunday and try to become the first side, other than “the big two“, to win La Liga since Valencia in the 2003/4 season.

fcbatle

And it’s there for the taking. A draw will do Atléti. Barça’s off-field problems leaked into the on-field performances. Players like Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol missed much of it through injury and big name players such as the club’s big signing, Neymar, proved to be far from the Romario or Ronaldinho-esque superstar he was promising to be.

Poor performances and boardroom shambles aside, I wouldn’t write off the Catalans’ chances just yet. Footballing drama isn’t over just yet.

 

Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Chaos and superstars: A round-up of the summer transfer window

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 past week in football: from German blushes to the Special One's return

What a week it’s been in the world of football. I suppose the biggest news is that José Mourinho has gone back to Ch…oh you’ve heard. Well, it’s big news for English football and, possibly more so, for English journalists. The Special One has been known to give a good interview or three (something the Spanish press didn’t appreciate).

Mourinho will have his work cut out for him in my honest opinion. Yes – he is a winner. Yes – his record speaks for itself. Yes – he is loved by Chelsea fans. But the pressure will be on him to deliver as he did the first time around. It’s a different team he’s inheriting in 2013 as opposed to the one he managed when he left six years ago.

Over in Germany, the unstoppable Bayern Munich won the DFB-Pokal, becoming the first German team to win a continental treble, defeating Stuttgart 3-2 in Berlin. A nice way for Jupp Heynckes to bow out. It also leaves new coach Pep Guardiola in the knowledge that the only way is down.

With Man City already agreed to purchase Spanish winger Jesus Navas, Liverpool could also be busy in the forthcoming transfer window as Brendan Rodgers rumoured to be eyeing up Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos from Schalke, and Shakhtar Donestk’s brilliant Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Of course, they will likely be looking for a replacement striker for Luis Suarez who confirmed last week that he wants out of Anfield. Many publications have named some potential strikers for the number 7 shirt, with out-of-favour Barcelona star David Villa’s name coming up more than once.

While we’re taling about the Catalans, sixty thousand fans packed into the Camp Nou to see Neymar‘s presentation as a Barcelona player on Monday. It came just hours after the Brazilian had a fairly quiet game in the 2-2 draw against England in Rio de Janeiro. On the same day, Ireland hosted Georgia at the Aviva stadium.

It’s the first Ireland game I’ve missed in some years (I was at Forbidden Fruit instead), and of course, with my luck I missed a goal-fest as we managed an impressive 4-0 win.

Speaking of friendlies, Germany faced the USA at the RFK stadium in Washington DC. The Americans managed a surprise 4-3 victory, but the game will be remembered for this bizarre own goal. Well done, ‘keeper.

Well that was the past week in a nutshell (less than 500 words is a nutshell in this sport). More transfer rumours, movers, shakers, and clichés to come. Ok, maybe not the last one.

 

Be sure to send your comments, questions or even footie gossip to Rob Smith via Twitter (@robsmithireland).

Neymar goes to Europe, Rafa goes to Italy, Monaco go on a massive spending spree

While every sports journalist in the world was reporting on Bayern Munich’s impressive Champions League final victory against Borussia Dortmund, some of Spain’s press decided that such a victory wasn’t worthy of a mention. Instead, they went with the Neymar story.

Neymar, who was amongst one of my first ones to watch on this blog, has long been the target of Europe’s biggest clubs. On Saturday, the 21-year-old Santos striker confirmed that he decided to join Barcelona, stating that playing alongside Leo Messi was a major factor in this decision (rivals Real Madrid were reportedly extremely close to landing the Brazilian’s signature).

But some aren’t convinced if Neymar will be a success at Barça. “Messi and Neymar?” asked former player and coach Johann Cruyff. “Two captains on one boat doesn’t work”.

He has a point. Messi is, after all, the focal point of Barcelona. With Neymar there will be two. As Zlatan Ibrahimovic may tell you, it won’t always work. I would agree.

Which reminds me – it wasn’t long ago when the Italian press said that Rafael Benítez isn’t suited to the Serie A style of play, referring to his short-but-colourful tenure at Inter Milan.

Yesterday the president of Napoli, Aurelio de Laurentiis, confirmed that the Spaniard as the new boss of the club, hailing him as “a great man with international experience. A leader”. His first job may be to try hold on to the in-demand striker Edinson Cavani.

Finally, it appears that AS Monaco will be the Chelsea of Ligue 1. That’s right, a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, is pouring his cash – Abramovich style – into the club. The newly promoted team having already recruited the highly-rated Porto pair Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez for a combined fee of around €70 million.

Now the club are set to land Colombian superstar Radamel Falcao for a fee of €60 million.

Monaco’s assistant coach, Jean Petit, is reported to have told Radio RCN last weekend: “Yes, we are expecting Falcao and four or five other players of his quality”.

“Monaco need a player like Falcao because he can help us a lot and because he can attract other top players, and that’s the best way of confirming our project is big and interesting.”

If PSG are Ligue 1’s answer to Man City, then Monaco are definitely Chelsea. But with possibly even bigger ambitions. The Parisians should be aware: there’s some new heavyweights in town – and they are not afraid to spend big.

 

What do you think of Neymar’s move to Barcelona? How about Rafa at Napoli? Will he “do a Chelsea”? Or “do an Inter”? And what about Monaco’s big spending? Let Rob Smith know on Twitter (@robsmithireland) and be sure to check us out on Facebook (/FootballElMundo)

The top 15 players of 2012

Along with the Euros, the second half of last season and the first half of the current football season, made 2012 to be quite an exceptional footballing year. But who have the best players been? Well, here’s my top 15.

15. Robert Lewandowski. Borussia Dortmund and Poland.
Lewandowski would be the first to admit that his stint with his national side in the Euros were a little underwhelming. No doubt this is probably due to the huge expectations from the 24-year old prior to the competition. But in the Bundesliga, he absolutely tears defences apart – and one Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to bring him to Old Trafford for big money.

14. Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Shakhtar Donetsk and Armenia.
Mkhitaryan is probably the biggest footballing product to ever come out Armenia – and he’s still only 23. At club level, he is one of – if not the – biggest talents in Ukraine. He was voted Shakhtar’s Player of the Season at the close of the 2011-12 season and continues to play some incredible football. He’s enjoyed a phenomenal 2012 – watch out for him in 2013.

13. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. AC Milan/Paris St-Germain and Sweden.
Serial-title winner Ibrahimovic broke tradition this year when he didn’t win a league winners medal with AC Milan who narrowly missed out on the Scudetto to Juventus. Aside from that, the Swede enjoyed a brilliant Euro 2012, scored the best goal of 2012, and now plies his trade with the noveau riche Paris St Germain, who have their eye on the Ligue 1 title. This Malmo native causes concern for every opposing defender he faces.

12. Robin van Persie. Arsenal/Manchester United and Holland.
Following his controversial £22 million move from Arsenal to Man United, van Persie arrived with huge expectation given his reputation with the Gunners over the previous number of seasons – and he delivered. Totalling 20 goals for his new club so far, van Persie & co finish 2012 in the Premier League’s pole position.

11. Gareth Bale. Tottenham Hotspur and Wales.
Bale’s performances for Spurs throughout 2012 have been stunning. His sheer pace, agility, and that brilliant left foot of his make him one of the most fearsome players any player in the Premier League can face.

10. Mesut Ozil. Real Madrid and Germany.
Madrid’s playmaker and Cristiano Ronaldo’s right hand man may not have played as well as he’d hoped at the end of last season. But he was certainly one of Euro 2012’s better performers and is now considered a crucial element for José Mourinho’s  current Madrid side.

9. Neymar. Santos and Brazil.
The Brazilian wonderkid is constantly being linked with a move to Europe – and very often with both Barcelona and Real Madrid. His 31 goals and 15 assists this year, coupled with his sheer ability and dazzling displays makes him easily the best player in his country’s domestic league. He enjoyed a fantastic spell during the Olympics in London, picking up a silver medal in the process.

8. Sergio Ramos. Real Madrid and Spain.
Ramos’ natural ability to change from his preferred position on the right side of the pitch to partnering Barcelona’s Gerard Pique during Euro 2012 is a testament to his footballing brain. Not only did he end up winning Euro 2012, but he played out of his skin. And I haven’t even mentioned how powerful he has been for Real Madrid during 2012 yet.

7. Andrea Pirlo. Juventus and Italy.
He may have won the Champions League twice with previous club AC Milan, but the 33-year old midfielder has just enjoyed possibly his finest 12 months in football with new club Juventus. Maybe it’s the new beard? Nicknamed “The Architect”, Pirlo was hailed by pundits, along with Andrés Iniesta, to be one of Euro 2012’s best performers.

6. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United and England.
A key player for club and country, Wazza is easily one of the biggest natural talents in British football for the past decade. Depsite being banned for England’s opening two games in Euro 2012, he still scored 4 goals in 5 games during the calendar year all the while playing phenomenal for the Red Devils.

5. Xavi. Barcelona and Spain.
Xavi is, by many people’s opinion, the greatest Spanish player of all time. I agree. His remarkable vision, ability, precision and consistency makes him easily one of the world’s best. The midfield maestro also set a record for pass completions during the summer. I can’t even remember the last time I witnessed Xavi give the ball away. Has it ever happened?

4. Ramadel Falcao. Atlético Madrid and Colombia.
A sheer goalscoring machine, Falcao is one of 2012’s biggest sensations. Recently the Colombian star became the first player for a decade to score five goals in a single La Liga game. His nasty habit of finding the back of the net in almost every fixture is causing him to be the focus of all the big-spending clubs.

3. Andrés Iniesta. Barcelona and Spain.
Many fellow professionals, pundits, managers and fans believe Iniesta to be the finest midfielder in the world. He’s regularly the only player outside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who is even mentioned about for the Ballon d’Or. Dazzling displays for both club and country, Iniesta is on every manager’s dream-list.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid and Portugal.
CR7 has been hugely influential in Real Madrid’s quest to claim the La Liga title off rivals Barça. He enjoyed a superb Euro 2012 and at club level, aside from his impressive performances, he is currently sitting nicely on 20 goals in 24 games this season alone. The last twelve months has been kind to the Portugese winger. But what could be considered a poor season for Cristiano is still better than most.

1. Lionel Messi. Barcelona and Argentina.
It was never in doubt was it? Leo Messi is, and has been for some time, the world’s greatest player. His ability is beyond phenomenal. Sometimes there are no words to describe exactly what I had just witnessed when watching Messi play. His 91 goals in the calendar year is a record – one that may take some time to break it too I should add. One he may even break himself in 2013 if he carries on. The scariest part? He’s still only 25. Diego Maradona once famously said back in 2006, “I have seen the player who will inherit my place in Argentine football and his name is Messi”. El Diego was not wrong.

Honorary mentions must go to Mario Gomez for his eye for goal for Germany during Euro 2012 as well as tearing defences to shreds for Bayern Munich. Yaya Touré and his forceful, direct style constantly causes many an opposing manager headaches. Mats Hummels has been the full package for both Borussia Dortmund and Germany, giving strikers serious problems. Likewise with Sergio Aguero who has been fantastic for both Man City and Argentina – and forever a legend in east Manchestester following that goal at the end of last season. Juan Mata’s consistency has been remarkable for Chelsea and he picked up a winners medal at Euro 2012. Edinson Cavani has been wonderful for Napoli with his insane 19 goals in 17 starts for the Serie A club.

Who do you think have been the best players of 2012? Hit Rob Smith up on Twitter (@robsmithireland)

 

Five for Friday

It’s Friday and the weekend is upon us. The interweb has given me some interesting videos as of late. Here’s five to kick off your long weekend.

1. Remember Brazilian wonderkid Neymar? Well here he is making his 200th appearance for Santos (hence his shirt number) and scoring yet another cracker. Take a bow, son. 
[jwplayer mediaid=”2535″]

2. Speaking of Brazilians, Ronaldinho finishes off a hat trick for Atlético Mineiro in classy style and gets a little emotional. Form is temporary…
[jwplayer mediaid=”2537″]

3. The most infamous debut ever? After scoring an own-goal, Jonathan Woodgate finishes off his Real Madrid debut in style. Ahem!
[jwplayer mediaid=”2538″]

4. An oldie but a goodie. El Diego at his very best warming up. Seemingly the other Napoli players weren’t even good enough lace his boots – literally!
[jwplayer mediaid=”2539″]

5. I leave you with this video that’s been doing the rounds lately. This Latvian amateur team attempt the most ludicrous and brilliant football tactic this year. Mourinho, take note. 
[jwplayer mediaid=”2540″]

Have a good weekend everybody and enjoy the last games of the 2012 Airtricity League tonight.

 
See any funny, peculiar or interesting footy vids on the web recently? Send ’em to Rob Smith via Twitter (@robsmithireland)

Transfer rumours and done deals (13th July)

Happy Friday everyone. I’ll just give you all a quick update of some of the recent movers in world football as well as some of the (more believable) rumours doing the rounds.

I’ll kick off with the freebies done this summer and after AC Milan released a number of their old schoolers, Clarence Seedorf is making Rio de Janeiro his home with a move to Botafogo while Allesandro Nesta is on his way to Canada after agreeing an 18 month deal with Montreal Impact. Speaking of AC Milan, recent reports from Italy suggest that AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has agreed to sell star players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris St Germain (who have already spent €30 million on Argentinian playmaker Ezequiel Lavezzi) for a combined fee of €62 million. The former Italian PM is looking at Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and – wait for it – Andy Carroll as possible replacements. Watch this space.

In England, there’s no shortage of rumour but one enormously likely mover is, as previously reported, Robin Van Persie out of Arsenal. Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Sir Alex has brought in Japanese star Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund and 18-year old Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra. On the way out is the great Park Ji Sung to QPR. Presumably to tell Joey Barton how to be a tad bit more professional. Solomon Kalou joins Lille on a free from Chelsea as Joe Cole’s loan spell to the French club is up as he returns to Liverpool vowing to fight for his place in Liverpool’s starting XI.

Finally, the delightfully named Chico joins Swansea City from Mallorca while Spain’s Jordi Alba joins Barcelona from Valencia. Also rumoured to the Catalan club is Javi Martinez as well as Brazilian Neymar (one of my previous Ones To Watch). Rivals Real Madrid have yet to splash the cash but rumours from Spain is that The Special One has got his eyes on one Luka Modric. A player AVB doesn’t want to lose after only five minutes in the Spurs job – but he may have to.

I’ll have more updates from the insane world of football transfers soon. Stay put and follow me on Twitter for more (@robsmithireland)

 

 

Another transfer window, another month of chaos, rumours and big money!

It’s that time again. The transfer window is open. Naturally, the last day of the window (Jan 30th) is always the busiest, but between then and now, we may see some interesting movement throughout the sport.

First off, keep your eye on Paris Saint-Germain (who’s city and club have been recently profiled on this blog). With their Qatari millions backing them, the club’s owners are hungry to make the Parisians what Real Madrid were in the early 2000’s. They’ve already tried to acquire the services of one David Beckham, who recently turned them down in favour of staying put in LA. But PSG have also rumoured to have been eyeing up Mario Balotelli (as have AC Milan) and Alexandre Pato. One thing’s for sure, they will not be quiet in this window.

Speaking of Real Madrid, their defender Raul Albiol is now a target for Manchester City having missed out on the brilliant Daniel De Rossi, who signed a contract extension at Roma. While rivals Man United are linked with CSKA Moscow’s Alan Dzagoev, known as the Russian Leo Messi, himself linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs.

TH back at the Arsenal. Good or bad?

Elsewhere, Arsenal are linked with Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson and Lyon’s Aly Cissokho having already, all-but-officially, snapped up legend Thierry Henry on a two-month loan from the New York Red Bulls. I have reservations about TH14’s move back to London. It might provide a feel good factor for staff, certain players and fans, but I’d be surprised if the Henry of circa 2003/4 will return to the Emirates. We shall see – only time will tell.

Finally, Brazilian magician Neymar, currently playing with Santos, could leave his club in the window. Club president Luis Ribeiro has admitted he is unable to afford the rising star’s salary. Neymar is a long-time target for Barcelona and AC Milan. Barça might have the upper hand however as they need a replacement for David Villa and AC Milan are expected to land Carlos “I don’t want to play” Tevez, who himself isn’t exactly on peanuts.

Come back to me on Wednesday 1st February for a complete round-up of the major transfers over the next four weeks. Also, keep an eye on my twitter for the big movers as they happen.

 

Ones to watch: A look back

I started the “ones to watch” feature on this blog last December. Since then I have profiled 10 of world football’s biggest prospects in my opinion. Let’s have a look and see how some of them are doing.

Juan Mata was the very first player I profiled. He was already fairly well-known amongst La Liga fans anyway and especially amongst Los Che’s faithful having been a fan favourite at Valencia for some time. But, in this transfer window, whenever I have read the usual big names players looking to move to Arsenal, City, United, Madrid, Barcelona etc. I have always read Mata’s name in there with all the potential movers and shakers this summer. How likely is it for Mata to play for a much bigger club and go on to even bigger and better things? In my opinion, it is inevitable.

In May, I wrote about Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and I discussed how he was labelled as “the new Drogba” by many. Well, it seems Drogba’s team Chelsea have indeed certainly took notice of the Anderlecht striker. Roman Abramovich will be looking for a successor for the Ivorian to partner Fernando Torres in the club’s long-term. Many agree that Lukaku fits this role perfectly. Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck said “It could happen in the next half hour, it could take until 31 August – that is football”. For the rumoured €20 million being offered, I’ve no doubt Lukaku won’t be wearing Anderlecht’s white jersey next season.

Striker Neymar seems to be the real deal in Brazil’s Campeonato Serie A for Santos. He is wanted by pretty much every major club all over the world. I said last February that he “shows great talent and has absolutely no problem finding the back of the net”. I say now that this boy is pretty much the new Ronaldinho (when Ronnie was in his unstoppable heyday). Skills, pace, tricks, grace, flair… you name it, he’s got it. He scored this goal recently (below). Just a flavour of what he’s capable of. He will definitely not be playing for Santos forever.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/cVbbaxCIa18" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
These are just three of ten rising players in the last seven months that have caught my eye.  But I’m certainly looking forward to profiling more promising young players for this blog in the future.

Think you spotted the new Messi? Let me know here or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

Copa América is a feast for football lovers' eyes

The 43rd edition of the Copa América, hosted by Argentina, is upon us and some of South America’s finest stars will flock to Buenos Aires and seven other cities in a bid to claim the continent’s top international prize.

Argentina have played host the most amount of times and won the competition a record 14 times (tied with neighbours Uruguay). “We are always obliged to win, no matter where we are,” Argentine star Lionel Messi told newspaper El Pais, “Argentina is always among the favorites and we have to fight to win everything, and more so playing at home in front of our own fans.” This will be no easy feat. Big names such as Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Juan Vargas, Luis Suarez, Alexandre Pato and more are all out there to do damage to the defences of whoever it is that gets in their way.

Current holders Brazil are among the favourites. And rightly so with a hungry-for-victory squad and a successful domestic coach in Mano Menezes. But it’s no easy run for any squad in the competition. Argentina face Colombia, Costa Rica and Bolivia in Group A. The Brazilians face Paraguay, Equador and Venezuela in Group B while Uruguay face difficult opening games with Peru, Mexico and Chile in Group C.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0DRL8D_fsn8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
The opening game kicks off on Saturday morning at 1.45 am (Irish time) between hosts Argentina against Bolivia at the new Estadio La Plata just outside Buenos Aires and will run right through until 24th of July where final will be contested at River Plate’s Monumental Stadium (which for the first time in it’s history will see 2nd division football next season).

There are some cracking games. Will the new-look Brazilian side retain their title? Or will Argentina end their 18-year drought in this competition? Or will someone outside “the big two” triumph? Let’s see over the next 24 days.

Ones to watch #5: Neymar

Pelé is adored by the fans of Brazilian side Santos. The three-time World Cup winner spent 18 years at the club. Fans of Santástico must have chosen their words wisely when they call their number 11, Neymar,  “the new Pelé”.

With the 19 year-old earning praise from the media, fans, scouts and fellow professionals, it’s probably no wonder why most major European clubs have been taking notice. Santos have put a €30 million price tag on his head. That amount wouldn’t frighten the likes of Manchester United, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Juventus away from spending that kind of cash on a player of this talent (Neymar said last year that he would favour a move to the latter, Juventus). But is he worth it? Definitely! He shows great talent and has absolutely no problem finding the back of the net.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/4kRPgBg5QYo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Only time will tell where he ends up. But sadly, it is inevitable that he won’t be wearing the famous white and black too much longer – unless he goes to Newcastle United with all the millions they made recently.