Tag: monaco

Summer Transfer Update: July 8th, 2013

We’ve reached the point of the summer transfer season where many of the biggest moves have taken place and the rosters for Europe’s top teams are beginning to take shape. If history is any indication, the remainder of the transfer season should be rife with drama, unexpected acquisitions, and head-scratching rumors. However, given the moves that have occurred, let’s take a look at who has changed uniforms and how that may affect the upcoming season.

Notable Transfers

La Liga

It would not be right to start this conversation without mentioning the biggest signing of the summer – Barcelona’s completion of their multi-year courtship of Neymar, the recent Golden Ball winner at the Confederations Cup who captured the hearts of the host nation and inspired the collective belief that Brazil can win the World Cup next summer. It will be a sight to behold when Neymar lines up with Barcelona and teams up with Messi to terrorize each and every opponent. Thiago Silva is still rumored to be joining the Catalan giants, but his signing has not yet been finalized.

Never one to rest on their laurels, Real Madrid flexed their financial muscle in signing Isco, the skillful winger who turned heads this past season in La Liga and for his native Spain, winner’s of U-21 European Championship. While Isco does not arrive at the Bernabeu with the same acclaim as Neymar, he is a serious talent and adds another weapon to Madrid’s already potent arsenal (Angel Di Maria is likely to lose his spot to Isco sooner rather than later). Madrid is one of the team’s still chasing some of the bigger names rumored to be available (e.g. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani).

As of today, it appears that the other team in Madrid, Atletico, have completed a coup of mercurial Barcelona striker, David Villa. Villa fell out of favor at Barcelona ever since his gruesome leg injury. With Neymar in the fold, Villa became the odd man out so the move should not take any by surprise. I do expect Villa to regain his form and expect him to excel in Madrid.

English Premier League

While La Liga lays claim to the two most talented signings of the transfer season, the English Premier League has dominated much of the conversation and made a number of significant signings. Chief among these signings is Chelsea’s acquisition of Jose Mourinho to finalize one of the world’s worst-kept secrets. Coupled with the addition of Andre Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen and the return of Romelu Lukaku from loan at West Bromwich Albion, Mourinho takes charge of a team replete with talent and depth who should be favored to win the league this season.

From one billionaire-owned team to another. Manchester City opened the transfer season with a bang with their signings of Jesus Navas and Fernandinho. While these may not be the two sexiest signings of the summer, make no mistake about their importance or abilities. Both players have been mainstays at strong clubs (Sevilla and Shakhtar Donetsk) just outside of the scope of the casual soccer fan and will add diversity to an already immensely talented team.

Before discussing Manchester United, it should be noted the Tottenham have quietly made one of the best signings of the summer in acquiring Paulinho, the recent Bronze Ball winner at the Confederations Cup. The 24-year old Brazilian should solidify the central midfield and will be an imposing force for Tottenham. If ‘Spurs can retain Gareth Bale, I believe they have all the tools to finish in the top four and earn a spot in the Champions League.

While Manchester United have yet to make a major signing they are stacked with talent at nearly every position with the exception being a gifted, world-class central midfielder. However, the Red Devils are on the verge of securing the signature of Thiago Alcantara, the supremely skillful Barcelona player and son of Brazilian World Cup Winner, Mazinho. Thiago recently won man of the match at the U-21 European Championship match scoring a hat-trick with goals coming from his head, left foot, and right foot. If United can finalize the Thiago signing, they will be much more confident in their ability to defend their title, though Chelsea and Manchester City will be snipping at their heels.

Other European Leagues

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention AS Monaco who made a serious splash this transfer window with five signings. Monaco broke the bank to acquire the talented trio of Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, nnd James Rodriquez. Furthermore, Monaco added Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abdial on free transfers. It will be interesting to see how Monaco performs with all of these new, talented players so keep an eye on them.

Moving on to Germany, Bayern Munich made the earliest signing when they snatched Mario Gotze, the young German starlet, from Borrusia Dortmund before their clash in the Champions League final. Also, it goes without saying that, like Mourinho above, the appointment of Pep Guardiola to manager is an extremely important move. Guardiola will have his work cut out for him, as Bayern is coming off a historic, treble-winning season, but if there is any manager that could possibly elevate Baryen’s level of play it is Guardiola.

In Italy, Fiorentina and Juventus have been the most active teams in the transfer market. Fiorentina has added Bayern’s Mario Gomez who should form a formidale duo with Giuseppe Rossi once he recovers from his rash of knee injuries. It appears that Stevan Jovetic, the current Fiorentina frontman, is on his way to Juventus. Juventus has also signed Carlos Tevez who has fleed the city of Manchester for greener pastures for the second time.

Who Still May Move?

Although much of the summer transfer season dust has settled, there is still time for players and teams to make moves. As many big fish players remain on the transfer block and many top teams remain unsatisfied with their squads, there will undoubtedly be some major signings with teams looking to reload and compete for titles. The following lists high-profile players who have been rumored to be transferring and their potential suitors:

Edinson Cavani – PSG, Chelsea, Man City

Luis Suarez – Arsenal, Real Madrid

Gonzalo Higuan – PSG, Monaco

Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich

Stephen El Shaarawy – Chelsea, Man City

Christian Benteke – Tottenham, Chelsea

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Transfer Rumors Heating Up

Even though some of the top transfer targets already found new homes, that’s not to say transfer rumors are lacking thus far.  Let’s take a look at some recent targets being linked with new clubs.

Edinson Cavani – ESPN is reporting increased interest by Chelsea as expressed by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.  The potential €63 million move (Cavani’s release clause) would be a Barclay’s Premier League record.  Demba Ba is a quality Premier League striker, but does not have the quality of the top strikers of the world.  Cavani is a special talent who would instantly propel Chelsea back to being Premier League favorites.

Fabio Contrao – Not exactly a ‘high profile’ transfer target, but it is noteworthy who he is being linked with.  Once again, Monaco is looking to splash even more cash and, most recently, has been linked with the Real Madrid/Portuguese defender.  After already booking the talents of Falcao, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, and Ricardo Carvalho, Monaco looks to add top quality to become relevant again and with these signings, they may be more than just relevant in the near future.

Gonzalo Higuain – Arsenal reportedly has a substantial cash reserve and with another year in Champions League action, they should be able to attract some top talent and not be providers of top talent to the rest of Europe as was the case the past few years.  Out of favor striker Higuain is the latest, and most probable, world class player to be linked with a move to the Emirates.  Arsenal have reportedly submitted a £19 million offer to Real Madrid.  Let’s see how this one plays out but of all the Arsenal transfer rumors, this one seems the most likely.

Marouane Fellaini – It’s been reported that Arsenal have triggered Fellaini’s £24 million release clause.  Fellaini would be a big boost to the Arsenal defensive midfield that has been lacking since the departure of Alex Song prior to last season.  However, would Everton be willing to part with their star player?  He certainly would add a different dimension to Gunner’s squad.

Cesc Fabregas – After departing Arsenal for his dream club, he may not be as happy as he thought he would be playing at Camp Nou.  Which is why speculation is growing with a move back to England.  His family happens to still live in England.  He has always loved Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  Arsenal is not the only club being linked to the Spanish International, Manchester United are also rumored to be interested.   However, Arsenal have the advantage with the transfer clauses they implemented with Barcelona as stipulations for the move.  Arsenal’s release clause for Cesc is set at only £25 million.  They also have a built in fee clause that gives Arsenal half of the transfer fee should Barcelona sell Cesc to another squad.  Meaning, United would have to offer Barcelona £50 million to match an Arsenal offer of £25 million since the £50 million would be split by Barcelona and Arsenal.  Should Cesc leave Camp Nou this summer, which is still unlikely at this point, it would most likely be back to Arsenal and not United.

Radamel Falcao, International Football Star Of Mystery

(Stade Louis II)

“There is no sentiment in football” as Robbie Fowler once said. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Radamel Falcao decided not to stay at cash-strapped Atletico Madrid and take his superior talents elsewhere. In the current soccer environment his insistence on a high-profile and lucrative move is nothing new. Plenty of players are choosing to go that route, while very few Jamie Carraghers and Paul Scholes remain. However, the argument for loyalty in football is one best reserved for the backrooms of pubs for it is tiresome and circular. Falcao’s move to AS Monaco is less about the reason he transferred and why he chose AS Monaco over much more popular and influential football teams.

As Monaco currently resides in a stadium that has an 18,523-capacity and resides on top of a car park that fits only 1,700 cars. It was an extremely successful French team from 1960-200, specifically the 1960’s. Recently, it has fallen on hard times when in 2005 it was relegated and has only just now climbed itself back into Ligue 1 for the upcoming season. Much of this is due to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who purchased 66% ownership of the club and has been using his money to return the club to its former glory. However, unlike many other clubs owned by rich owners, it is AS Monaco’s tax status that has allowed it to spend money so freely despite the fact that the FFF (French Football Federation) is so closely regulated. For example “[the FFF] announced their intention to extend a 75% surtax on salaries greater than 1 million euros (equivalent to $1.3M) to soccer teams.” However, since Monaco is a principality, it is tax exempt from all the harsh taxing policies that France has recently become known for. The FFF and AS Monaco are currently embroiled in a conflict to even the playing field with measures such as making AS Monacos offices being relocated to France (Thus making the club no longer exempt.) or charging the club a large lump sum to pay back the difference to the other Ligue 1 clubs. Currently, the conflict is at a stalemate but it is a foregone conclusion to most experts on the subject that AS Monaco will have to make concessions at some point because the FFF will not leave without insuring some measure of inequality.

Why is AS Monaco’s tax status important to the argument? It is important because it explains maybe why Radamel Falcao would go to AS Monaco because he would receive a large sum of the salary they would be paying him whereas elsewhere he could lose a huge chunk to taxes, especially at a club in Ligue 1 such as PSG. He is also aware, that although the club has only been recently promoted, it has a rich winning history and a very wealthy owner so that he can be confident that the team will be able to compete within the first two seasons for one of the all important 3 Champions League Spots Ligue 1 has been allotted. When Falcao steps onto the field at AS Monaco he will do so with confidence in his team and a large bank account. But the real question is could he have had more?

Falcao spurned clubs with large stadiums and even larger fan bases for an obscure (in international football terms) club with a rather small fan base. The stadium may seat 18,523 but for the past seasons the crowds have been around 11,000, sometimes being as low as 5,000. Of course, Falcao’s addition to the team will greatly increase attendance figures but it is within the hard times that true fans emerge and it seems AS Monaco only has 11,000 of those. Not to mention the stadium is smaller than several MLS stadiums and one begins to see that AS Monaco is not the big glamorous club that many young footballers aspire to play for. Although they do have a rich football history, so does Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich. In that regard, how can AS Monaco increase Falcao’s international superstar standing if they barely have a local fan base, let alone an international one.

Falcao is a superstar; his goal-scoring record has proven that. However, he is not yet an international superstar. His footprint has been established amongst football fans that have seen his talent on display but there are many who need to see him on a bigger stage in order for him to cross into the territory of international superstar that players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi now occupy. In order for Falcao to be seen by the international community his team must gain international TV and media coverage. Currently, Ligue 1 is the fifth best European league and PSG has had to do a lot of work just to establish itself as a top European club. AS Monaco will have an even harder time because Ligue 1 does not gain as much international football coverage and getting into the Champions League will not immediately raise AS Monaco’s profile. In order to do that they must be successful and overcome the Champions League giants Falcao spurned in order to go to AS Monaco. It will not be an easy task.

Maybe Falcao does not want to be an international football star. It is quite possible he would rather ply his trade on a team with less notoriety and then propel them to greatness. If so, one cannot fault him for his ambition. Unfortunately, many football fans feel deprived of not being able to see such a great talent on a frequent basis. Something they could have done had he played in one of the top four major European leagues on one of the top sixe European football clubs. His international profile would have greatly benefited had he gone to a team with a much bigger international notoriety and fan base. If it was for a tax-free salary though then it is hard to see the logic in such a decision. More money can be made from the international sponsorships he could have garnered had he jumped to one of the bigger clubs. His move to AS Monaco may have installed a glass ceiling above him which could end preventing him from reaching the heights he could have achieved had he gone elsewhere.

Sources

  1. “AS Monaco Sign Falcao But Will We See Much Of Him Next Season?” http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbymcmahon/2013/06/02/falcao-signs-for-monaco-but-why-we-might-not-see-him-play-much-next-season/
  2. “AS Monaco” http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/clubs/club=30983/index.html
  3. “AS Monaco Prepares To Conquer Europe” http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/06/05/as-monaco-prepares-to-conquer-europe/

Huge Transfer Deals Already Making Waves

With the Champions League finished and the European leagues coming to a close, transfer news and rumors heat up.  A few of the hottest commodities in the world are already confirmed to be on the move.  This could mean that when the actual transfer window opens for the English Premier League in July, pickings may be slim on superstars for the top clubs looking to add top quality.  Lets take a look at some of the “confirmed” transfers already in place.

1) Neymar from Santos to Barcelona – Confirmed

New Barcelona teammates Messi and Neymar

Arguably the best young talent to hit the transfer market was Brazilian International Neymar.  Reportedly, he had a choice between Real Madrid and Barcelona and chose to join forces with Messi rather than Ronaldo.  With Alexis Sanchez and Pedro losing form and the likely departure of David Villa, Barcelona were in need of a winger upgrade and what better way than to add a 21 year old prodigy to partner with the best player in the world.

Santos will receive a reported €30 million euros and Barcelona likely have to pay a substantial fee in addition to that to Neymar’s third party investors.  (Explanation of third party investors here.)  Neymar’s talent level is unquestioned, it is whether he can translate that to the rigors of “big boy” soccer in Europe after beating up on the lowly Brazilian League in his teenage years.  Either way, you can’t blame Barcelona for taking a gamble on him.  After all, take a look at some of his highlights:

2) Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid to Monaco – Pending Physical

Falcao celebrating after scoring for Atletico Madrid

Speculation has been surrounding Falcao since last transfer window as Atletico look to cash in on his incredible form in becoming one of the top central strikers in the world over the past few seasons.  The 27 year old looks to be snubbing the Premier League and will look to join France squad Monaco in their attempts to rebuild.  Monaco have already purchased the talented Porto duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez for a combined €70 million and will have to splash out another €60 million for Falcao.  Quite the spending spree for the Ligue 2 champions.  The deal is expected to be confirmed sometime following Atletico Madrid’s final match of the season.

3) Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich – Agent Confirms

As if Bayern hadn’t given enough blows to Dortmund by announcing the signing of Mario Gotze and then beating them in the Champions League final, Bayern are set to steal their top goal scorer as well.  This deal is far from official yet and no transfer fee amount is being reported, but Robert’s agent recently stated to the media that Bayern have agreed on a transfer fee and that his client is set to join following his brilliant season.  I’m willing to bet he had the attention of Bayern even before he put 4 goals past Real Madrid in the Champions League semi’s.  If the signing of Lewandowski comes to fruition for Bayern, they have to be the favorite to defend their Champions League title next season.

With 2 of the worlds top strikers supposedly off the market, it looks like squads will be forced to overpay for the next tier talents.  Cavani, Rooney, David Villa, and Dzeko (among many others) would be included in this group as possible and likely departures.  It should be a very interesting summer as the transfer season heats up so stay tuned.

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