Should Clubs Sell Players to Rivals?

We’ve seen it before, a club being forced into a sale by a player and that player being sold to a direct rival of said club. Arsenal sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United. Obviously, this is only one example of this happening but I chose him because  van Persie played direct roles in Manchester United winning the Premier League. I’m sure a quick search could yield more results of players going from one side of a heated rivalry to the other.

After this season, Mario Götze will join the list of players who moved between rival clubs and it begs the question of should clubs sell their players to clubs who are rivals, either historically or in the grand scheme of winning a championship in their league.

Carlos Tevez went from Manchester United to Manchester City, but is it right to sell to rivals?

Carlos Tevez went from Manchester United to Manchester City after a loan deal, but is it right to sell to rivals?

Hypothetically, we would like to say that clubs shouldn’t do this and I tend to agree. Nothing would anger me more than United somehow prying Vincent Kompany away from the Etihad, but not because United had gotten better but because City sold him to the other side of the city.

Transfers are meant to strengthen clubs and we know that sometimes, clubs’ hands are forced when it comes to want-away players. Would Arsenal have benefited more from sending van Persie to Italy, Spain or Germany? I’ve seen a modified table taking out every club’s top scorer and United would have theoretically still won the Prem, but that’s only when using the season’s actual stats.

Tottenham is doing it the right way. Any time Gareth Bale is linked with a Premier League team, he is also linked with an astronomical transfer fee. They would rather send him to Spain and never play against him than send him to United, City, Arsenal or Chelsea and have to face him multiple times a season.

I also think the big two in Spain are good about not doing this. How many times have you seen a player leave Real Madrid for Barcelona or vice versa. There aren’t many stars who have made that particular move in either direction, I can assure you.

At the end of the day, money is the name of the game. No club is going to turn down a big paycheck, no matter where its coming from. City’s money is good at Old Trafford, Arsenal’s money is good at White Hart Lane and Everton’s money is good at Anfield.

But at some point, on some purely competition level, some executive has to step up and say “No, our clubs are rivals and I refuse to sell him to you regardless of how much money you are willing to pay.”

Edit: It seems in my haste and fog of early morning, I accidentally said Tevez was sold to Manchester City. I apologize for the mistake.

It’s Time for a Rossoneri Revolution

AC Milan is one of the most storied and successful clubs in European football. Over the years, they’ve won 49 trophies and been involved in some of the greatest games in football history. However, last summer, we saw their best players pried away from them by free-wheeling, big-spending Paris Saint-Germain. Without Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahmovic, the Rossoneri have gone from Serie A runner-ups to a team that’s battling to stay in the race for the Italian top flight’s Champions League spots.

It’s time for AC Milan to re-invent itself. The arrival of Mario Balotelli has sparked some much needed life into the red half of the San Siro, but they are far from regaining their former glory and the changes need to start on the touchline.Massimiliano Allegri’s time as gaffer has runs its course and a replacement is needed. Rumors in the media are linking former AC Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf, who currently plays in Brazil with Botafogo, with the job.

Stephan-El-Shaarawy-02

Stephan El-Shaarawy is one of AC Milan’s most prolific players at only 20 years old and it’s vital they keep him at the San Siro.

Secondly, they need to circle the wagons around their players and keep clubs from coming in during the summer to pry them away. Players like Stephan El-Shaarawy, the team’s leading scorer with 16 goals this season, will be highly sought after and clubs like PSG will be right back at the front of the line looking to get the young Italian star to the Parc des Princes or City will be in to bring him to the Etihad.

Silvio Berlusconi needs to work double time to expand on the core of players already at the disposable of whoever is managing the club next season. In a league ruled by an aging Juventus side, this is the time for Milan to re-stake their claim. Rival Internazionale is having a bit of a downturn and not many clubs in Italy can compete with the financial firepower of the Rossoneri.

Getting back to the matter of transfers, Milan needs to bring in the type of players who are ready to win immediately. Time is not on their side as Juventus, Inter, and the other clubs of Serie A begin to build and re-build their squads. It might cost them a pretty penny, but I’m sure they still have some lying around from the two sales to PSG.

You have to strike while the iron is hot and it’s starting to heat up. Milan better get their hammer ready.

La Aburrida: Is La Liga Getting Boring?

There is always discussion on which league is the most exciting from the beginning of the season until a champion is crowned. Many will point to the Premier League, others will say the Bundesliga and some will say Serie A. However, for a neutral, I believe that it would be hard to say that Spain’s La Liga is the most predictable of Europe’s big four football leagues.

In my time being a serious follower of the sport, I’ve become more and more disenchanted with the Spanish top flight. As a neutral, there are only so many times someone can watch El Clasico before they get Clasico’d out. I reached that point a long time ago and I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

Are you getting tired of seeing scenes like this? I know I am.

Are you getting tired of seeing scenes like this? I know I am.

It doesn’t come as a shock that Real Madrid and FC Barcelona dominate the league. They are two of the richest clubs in the world with some of the world’s best talent. It’s not a matter of who will win La Liga when the season begins, it’s a matter of who will mess up first — Real Madrid or Barcelona. This season, it happened to be the Merengues.

Manchester City’s mercurial rise to the top of the table in the Premier League was a break to the monotony of a Manchester United-dominated league. It’s slowly becoming a Manchester monopoly, but the other big clubs in England are able to keep pace with these clubs if the form is with them.

With Valencia’s fall from grace, there is no longer a team which can compete with the two Spanish giants. Only nine clubs have won La Liga in its history and Valencia is the only team other than Madrid or Barca to win it since the turn of the century. We could all applaud Atletico Madrid’s time in the runner-up position in the table this season, but no one really believe they would be above their city rivals when it was all said and done.

La Liga needs a Manchester City. They need a club with a stable owner to come in and create a third powerhouse in Spain. They need a club with enough money to distribute the wealth of talent a little more evenly. We thought we had that with Malaga, but well… you know how that turned out.

Surely, Financial Fair Play will put a hamper on anything like this happening. The poor clubs will remain poor and while the rich clubs in Madrid in Barcelona remain the rich and powerful. The status quo will be maintained in Spain and La Liga will continue to get boring.

Here’s your chance to become a big four league, Ligue 1.

Was Nastasic Excluded Because He Isn’t English?

Matija Nastasic joined Manchester City from ACF Fiorentina in the summer at only 19-years-old. No one expects a player, let alone a defender, to go from one league to another at such a young age and perform well but that’s exactly what the young Serbian has done this season. Nastasic’s exclusion from the PFA’s Young Player of the Year Award final six shocked me and apparently it also shocked the man who lost his spot in the starting XI to Nastasic, Joleon Lescott.

“I have no gripe with him. You don’t begrudge someone who comes in and does well,” said Lescott told the Daily Telegraph, “It was a bit harsh he was not nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year. He plays beyond his years and if he was English he would have had a lot more recognition. He’s not a glamorous sort of player who comes out with the ball. He just does his job exceptionally well.”

Matija Nastasic, one of the best young defenders in the Premier League but not one of the best young players?

Matija Nastasic, one of the best young defenders in the Premier League but not one of the best young players?

Not glamorous. Lescott’s right. If you look at the award’s shortlist, Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, Christian Benteke, Danny Welbeck, Romelu Lukaku, and Jack Wilshire are all midfielders or forwards. Wilshire is the closest you get to a defensive player but even he gets forward.

Nastasic’s consistent play is easy to go unnoticed. I can’t remember the last time I saw the 20-year-old Serb lost a battle in the air. He’s been instrumental in Joe Hart’s (an omission from the PFA Team of the Year which shocks me) league-leading 15 clean sheets and the team’s outstanding defensive play, also league-leading.

However, I also have to agree that he was excluded because he isn’t English. If, for argument’s sake, Rio Ferdinand was 15 years younger, would he have been included in the list? If Steven Caulker has had the breakout season that Nastasic had, would he have been included?

I’m inclined to say yes on both accounts simply because Danny Welbeck made the six-man shortlist. Welbeck, in my opinion, has been largely underwhelming for Manchester United this season. It may be due to the arrival of Robin van Persie, but 1 goal and 4 assists in 29 games isn’t the type of stats that should be having your name in the hat for any award.

Speaking of United, Rafael is another player who should have been in the running for the award but alas, he is also not English.

With those two examples in mind, it begs the question of why one of the two defenders I mentioned weren’t included? Is it because they are defenders or because they aren’t English?

Manchester City Owner in Negotiations for MLS Club

For months, I’ve come across articles linking the owner of Manchester City, Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan with Major League Soccer’s twentieth team which will play in the New York borough of Queens. I figured it was like many of the other rumors about Manchester City. If it’s about money, City has to be involved. Obviously, the Sheik is the only rich sports owner in the world. Not like the Glazers could fork over the $40 million that the Montreal Impact paid to join the MLS as an expansion team nor the $100 million the Sheik is reportedly paying as an expansion fee.

But I digress.

Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, center, whose private investment group owns Manchester City in the English Premier League is looking to expand to Major League Soccer.

Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, center, whose private investment group owns Manchester City in the English Premier League is looking to expand to Major League Soccer.

According to the New York Times, sources close to the negotiations have said they have entered into the final stages and an announcement is likely before Manchester City’s friendly with Chelsea in Yankee Stadium on May 25th.

Take a step back people who thought Financial Fair Play or the abrupt absence of the Sheik would end the beginning of the Premier League’s Evil Empire at the Etihad. This is a move that benefits Manchester City just as much as it benefits the MLS, the Sheik and the club we’ll refer to as New York City FC for now.

Stefan Szymanski, co-author of the book “Soccernomics” (a great read which I highly recommend), believes the New York franchise could be used to help develop Manchester City’s young players. In addition to the Etihad Campus, we could be looking at the start of one of the world’s best youth set-ups if this is indeed the idea behind the purchase.

It is also likely that this a direct move to get a handle on the ledger and fall in line with Financial Fair Play rules set forth by both UEFA and the Premier League. I’m not entirely sure how this would be viewed but I’m sure getting a star player from New York FC owned by Sheik Mansour would not cost Manchester City owned by Sheik Mansour an arm and a leg.

But fear not MLS fans, the salary cap will prevent the Sheik from dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into a New York franchise. I’m inclined to believe that we’ll see a similar situation to that of Udinese Calcio, Grenada CF and Watford FC, all owned by Giampaolo Pozzo. Watford has 9 players on loan from Udinese and Grenada. Grenada has 5 players on loan from Udinese.

Scott Sinclair not getting time at the Etihad, wait until February and send him to New York on loan. Sinclair clearly makes well over the salary cap but who knows how many ways there are to circumvent that with loans. I’m certainly no economist and no expert on the MLS salary cap.

As for the MLS, they get a team that can build a suitable youth set-up and that will get a following simply from being owned by the same man as Manchester City. I know that I’m willing to call myself a supporter of New York FC, three years before they are scheduled to play their first game.

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Gareth Bale is Exactly Where He Should Be

Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur and Wales midfielder Gareth Bale won both the Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year Award and the Young Player of the Year Award. It’s the second time that he’s won the Player of the Year Award (2010-11). Of course, he was also named to the PFA’s Premier League team of the year… and those are three reasons that Bale should remain in North London for the foreseeable future.

Bale is one of the brightest young players in the Premier League. He didn’t need the PFA’s awards for anyone to realize this. His versatility, pace, finishing, crossing and overall poise makes him the type of player that you build a side around to compete for silverware.

Gareth Bale pulled off the PFA double.

Gareth Bale pulled off the PFA double to add to his burgeoning trophy case.

While Andre Villas-Boas may be a ways off from having Spurs winning the Premier League, it’s not hard to fathom that they are only a striker away from being a legitimate contender in the domestic competitions and for a top four finish year in and year out. The loss of Luka Modric to Real Madrid was huge, but not signing a top striker was bigger.

Speaking of Modric, he is another reason Bale should stay put. The Croatian has struggled to fit in at the Bernabeu and he is being linked with a move back with England — a move which could be viewed as admitting he was wrong for forcing Tottenham’s hand and that he was wrong about being important to Real Madrid’s future plans.

Meanwhile Bale, who didn’t get the move he wanted in the summer to Madrid, has flourished this season. AVB has employed him both as a midfielder and as a striker and let’s not forget that he began his career as a left back. Playing alongside the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Glyfi Sigurdsson, Moussa Dembele and Lewis Hotlby, we could easily be talking about them unseating Manchester City for second-place if they didn’t have to rely on Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, who has actually had a decent season, to score goals from the front.

Fret not, Champions League football is not yet loss for the men at White Hart Lane and Gareth Bale is still playing for them. They are only two points behind London rivals Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League slot, but they also have a game in hand over the Gunners.

The rumor mill has been pointing to a London exit for Bale if Spurs don’t qualify for Europe’s biggest competition but there are still games to be played and I was never one to believe the media’s rumblings about transfers of big name players in the first place. Let’s not forget how many times Neymar was supposed to have finalized the deal to move to Barcelona.

Bale is becoming one of the world’s brightest stars but he’d do much better if he committed his future to Tottenham.

Beginning of a New Golden Era for Bayern?

I’m aware that it may be jumping the gun to say that Bayern Munich will be at Wembley to play in this season’s Champions League final, but after the 4-0 shellacking they gave Barcelona yesterday, you have to believe that they’ll be making a return appearance to Europe’s biggest final. Couple that with the signing of one of the best young German stars, Mario Götze, and being linked with Robert Lewandowski today, both from their only title rival in Borussia Dortmund and we could be witnessing the birth of Europe’s newest juggernaut.

Jupp Heynckes has done an amazing job in his third stint at the club and has set Pep Guardiola up in a much better position than the one he inherited from Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona — if that’s even possible, as the Blaugrana  weren’t exactly starving for trophies when he got there.

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Mario Götze is set for a move to the Allianz Arena and will likely becoming a key piece of Europe’s new kings.

The amount on talent on Bayern Munich’s squad was clearly evident last night as they made use of their 37% possession with cutting attacks and superb finishing. You can argue that two of their goals shouldn’t have counted for a body check on Jordi Alba and a seemingly missed offside call but they could have easily gone on to score three or four more goals.

David Alaba is on his way to becoming one of the world’s elite fullbacks, Arjen Robben is a man reborn, Javi Martinez is proving that he was worth the trouble to sign him from Athletic Bilbao this past summer and those are just the players I want to tip off now. It doesn’t take a football pundit to know that they are stacked from top to Bayern Munich II.

The arrival of Mario Götze to the Allianz may be the straw that breaks the Bundesliga’s back. It’s the equivalent of Manchester City agreeing to sell Sergio Aguero to Manchester United and it carries the same connotations. Götze was the epitome of what Dortmund stands for. Joining the club at 9, he cut his teeth at the Westfalenstadion and now he’s moving up the big club (no disrespect to Dortmund).

The epic battle between Bayern and Dortmund that people were expecting when Dortmund capped their rise back to prominence with back-to-back Bundesliga titles has already been quashed by Die Roten’s dominating season, winning the league earlier than ever before and the loss of Götze and likely Lewandowski is going to set Dortmund back.

Surely, Bayern isn’t finished spending this summer. Uli Hoeneß‘s tax problems and Financial Fair Play won’t be able to stop this growing storm as long as they continue to reap the benefits of Bundesliga silverware and Champions League final appearances.