Sure, We Believe You Sepp

Sunday’s Serie A night game at the San Siro between AC Milan and AS Roma was momentarily halted because of racist chants aimed at Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng from the Roma Ultras. Under Serie A protocol, an announcement was made over the public address system and the game continued under the threat of being abandoned if the chants continued.

Mario Balotelli tries to quiet racist chants from the Roma Ultras Sunday.

Mario Balotelli tries to quiet racist chants from the Roma Ultras Sunday.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was “appalled” that a game was suspended for racial abuse and Lega Calcio fined Roma €50,000 ($64,900). Again, a paltry amount for a club that’s paying its players much more than that everyday.

Blatter pledged to fight this problem what seems like years ago but the fines that have been handed down are little more than slaps on the wrists and a bit of a timeout in the corner before it happens with the same club a few months later. Lazio’s Ultras, Roma’s Stadio Olimpico co-tenant, was involved in numerous racial chants incidents in the span of two or three months but they weren’t fined much more than their Rome neighbors.

At the end of the day, you can only chalk this up to political rhetoric. Soothing the nerves of the masses who are too busy, too ignorant or too blind to the depth of the situation that they accept what is being said. Fortunately for the football community, I’d imagine that the vast majority of its inhabitants think racism severe enough to warrant players walking off the pitch and games being abandoned needs to be blotted from the game.

As of now, it seems like the fines are always too little. Fining top tier club and entire football associations, €50-100,000 isn’t going to do anything in the grand scheme of things. Forcing them to play a few games behind closed doors only goes so far.

We all remember the scrum between Serbia’s and England’s U-21 National Teams where Serbia’s fans ran on the field and fights broke out. That all began because of racist chants directed at England’s Danny Rose. UEFA ordered Serbia, a country which has a long history of racial abuse at their football matches, to play a game behind closed doors and fined them £65,000.

For comparison’s sake, Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 for showing a sponsor’s logo on his boxers which wasn’t a partner of UEFA during Euro 2012.

One man fined more than an entire FA? For showing a logo on his underwear? Bendtner didn’t spark a near-riot by showing that logo. Danny Rose’s reaction, which we can argue whether he was right or wrong until we are blue in the face, to racial abuse did.

It’s time that the punishments are ramped up. Clubs and FAs need to be banned from competitions for repeated racial abuse. Sides need to be docked points immediately for repeated racial abuse.These paltry fines handed out to clubs that can easily pay them need to be doubled, tripled even quadrupled.

Here’s a good model for FIFA and all the governing bodies of the continents. Here in the United States, the NCAA oversees college and university athletics. In the ’80s, Southern Methodist University was sanctioned for paying their athletes (these players are considered amateurs and can’t be paid) multiple times in a few years’ time.

In 1986, their American football program received the so-called “Death Penalty” banning them from playing for a year. They didn’t play the next season either. They are only just recovering as a team and no program dares do enough to invoke the wrath of the NCAA almost 30 years later.

Don’t threaten it. Do it.

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Possible Summer Targets for Manchester City Pt. 2

Read part one here.

Edison Cavani

Edison Cavani is one of the most sought after players in Europe right now and that’s exactly why I think Manchester City should pass on making a move for the Uruguayan striker who currently plays for Napoli.

Napoli knows clubs what Cavani and they know a lot of those clubs have a lot of money so his price tag is outrageous. Don’t get me wrong, Cavani is a game changer, the type of striker that you put on the pitch and he immediately makes a difference. His ability to put the ball into the back of the net is on par with the best in the world and he is selfish enough to make chances from himself.

All that being said, City can get two or three quality players for the price Napoli is asking for Cavani. There are cheaper strikers out there.

Radamel Falcao

Falcao has been linked with every big money club in the world. It doesn’t help that some call him the best pure number 9 right now. Like Cavani, the problem with City pursuing Falcao is that it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get him to the Etihad. With Financial Fair Play on the horizon, the last thing City needs to do is break the bank to reinforce one of the strongest positions on their team.

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El Tigre will likely be leaving Atletico Madrid in the summer and Manchester City may be one of his landing spots.

The Colombian also known as El Tigre can do it all and do it all well. He’s garnered a reputation for leading his club to Europa League titles but Manchester City is aiming a little higher than winning the Europa League.

Falcao would be an instant improvement to any club, but City’s current striker situation does not demand they go out and spend €80 million on a forward even if the last forward we got from Atletico Madrid led us to a Premier League championships.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas, currently playing for Sevilla FC in La Liga, has been getting a lot of spin in the rumor mill recently, connecting him with a move to Manchester City. Again, this is a move that I don’t think City should make.

Don’t get me wrong, Navas is a great player and would do well for most clubs but I don’t know where he fits into City’s future plans with a player like Isco also likely to move from his club this summer. Navas will be 28 soon and the Blues need to look towards the future with their purchases.

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is another player who has recently begun to be linked with a move to the Etihad. The 24-year-old Chilean striker seems to be angling for a way out of the Nou Camp and clubs are lining up to get him.

Known for his speed, dribbling and creativity with the ball, he could wreak havoc on the most disciplined defenses as he has shown many times during his time with Barcelona. Pairing him with Sergio Aguero could be both positive and negative as the two players have very similar play styles.

However, if City were to go out and get a forward, Sanchez should be closer to the top of the list as he won’t cost an arm and a leg to get.

Christian Eriksen

I know Christian Eriksen has been linked with a move to the other side of Manchester more often than he has been with Manchester City, but damn it if there is a player City needs to break the bank on, it is him. The Ajax product recently put clubs on alert when he refused to sign a contract extension with the club, possibly angling for a move to England in the summer.

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Bringing Christian Eriksen to the Etihad could set Manchester City up for a long run at the top of the Premier League.

Roberto Mancini and the City technical staff got an up close look at how talented this guy is during City’s two games against Ajax in the group stage of this year’s Champions League. He’s already a great midfielder and he’s only 21 years old. Just take a look at the hundreds of highlight videos on YouTube.

Eriksen is creative enough to operate in David Silva’s stead or alongside the Spaniard. His ability to put corners into threatening positions would work wonders for players like Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Yaya Toure or Javi Garcia. The possibilities are endless.

Mauro Icardi

Sampdoria’s Mauro Icardi has been getting plenty of looks from Manchester City. The Argentine striker is the Serie A club’s leading scorer at the tender age of 20 years old. Roberto Mancini, who played for Sampdoria for 15 years, personally went down to Italy to watch him play. That has to account for something.

However, I think €13 million is a little too steep for a player this young.

Neymar

Come on… you knew he’d be here eventually. If a club has the cash, then they will be linked with potentially the next great player from Brazil. He’s been linked for years with a move to Barcelona but I think the right people could convince him that going to England would be better for his career.

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Neymar to Manchester City may be a pipe dream, but don’t rule it out until his transfer saga is over.

Like some of the other players on this list, there is no need to talk about how good Neymar really is. His skill with the ball at his feet is second to none and his clinical finishing makes you wonder how is it possible for someone so young to be so good.

Obviously, his price tag is high but with his contract running out Santos may be forced to sell him on before he leaves for free. I’m inclined to believe that his original 2014 timeline for a move to Europe will actually be the summer of 2013.

Marquinhos

Marquinhos has been making the headlines a lot for his near-flawless play for Roma this season. It’s not shocking for a new defender to come into a team and play well, but it is shocking for a player who is two months shy of his 19th birthday to be doing what Marquinhos has done.

His ability to read the game is better than some defenders ten years his senior. He’s the type of player that cleans up mistakes before they turn into goals, something that he has done on more than a few occasions this season. With Joleon Lescott possibly on his way out, Marquinhos can come in and give Manchester City two great young centerbacks to build for the future.

Jetro Willems

Jetro Willems has previously been linked with a move to Manchester United as they tabled a €10 million bid for the young Dutch left back, but I think the guys in blue should make a move for him this summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson called him the “next Patrice Evra.” Well, some called Matija Nastasic the “next Nemanja Vidic” so it’s only right that Manchester City gets another young player who has been compared to some old guy currently playing for the enemy.

Gareth Bale and Wayne Rooney

The reason I put these two together is because it is highly unlikely that Manchester City could get either one of them.

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Is Wayne Rooney the next player to leave United for City? It’s not as unlikely as it sounds.

Gareth Bale has been linked with moves away from White Hart Lane for some time now, but I think that Luka Modric’s inability to settle in at Real Madrid has disenchanted him with the prospect of playing for Los Blancos. Recently, it’s been rumored that Bale intends to stay in England for at least another year.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has also hit the rumor mill after being left out of United’s starting lineup against Real Madrid in their Champions League tie this past Tuesday. Rooney has been effectively replaced by Robin van Persie and the last time Fergie said he wouldn’t sell a player, Cristiano Ronaldo left for Madrid.

Possible Summer Targets for Manchester City Pt. 1

With the 2012-13 Premier League season closer to reaching its end, most teams are going to start taking a closer look at their squad. Manchester City, as they shouldn’t, have not conceded the title race to city rival Manchester United yet but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at possible transfer targets this summer.

It is likely City will receive a large influx of cash with players such as Edin Dzeko, Samir Nasri, Kolo Toure, Joleon Lescott and even Carlos Tevez receiving their walking papers as well as the residual effects of selling Mario Balotelli to AC Milan in January. With that in mind, some of the big names being linked with the blue half of Manchester may not be so out-of-reach.

Miralem Pjanic and Erik Lamela

The Roma pair have been garnering a lot of attention with their play for the giallorossi in Serie A. Pjanic, who joined Roma from Lyon in 2011, has settled into a starting role at the Stadio Olimpico after beginning the season on the bench. The 22-year-old Bosnian international gained a reputation for being deadly from set-piece situations and having very good passing skills.

On the other hand, you have Erik Lamela. I think that Lamela, 20, could be one of the next great Argentinian players and what better way to indoctrinate him into that role than by playing him alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero. Lamela’s shooting, dribbling and speed make him an asset to any team. Just ask Roma how useful he has been this season, scoring 11 goals for them this season.

Rumor has it that City is preparing a double swoop for both Lamela and Pjanic, but as they continue to impress it will be tougher to get both of them in one deal. City may have to settle for one.

Paul Pogba

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Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba could become the perfect defensive partner for Yaya Toure at Manchester City.

The former Manchester United youth player has hit the ground running in Turin, making many highlight reels with his strikes from well outside the box. But don’t let his flashy goals fool you, Pogba is a defensive tank who can control the game in the middle of the park with well-timed challenges. Hell, just his presence might scare off a few smaller midfielders.

Pogba can fit perfectly into City’s formation next to Yaya Toure or Javi Garcia. With Pogba on the pitch, Toure can make those marauding runs he has become so famous for or if he replacing Toure then Garcia can focus on defending while Pogba gets forward.

City’s defensive midfield has been noticeably weaker without Nigel de Jong this season so if there was one buy they need to make then it is bringing Pogba to the Etihad.

Isco

Malaga is in a tough financial situation. The last time a Spanish club was in a tough financial position, Manchester City got David Silva from Valencia. Isco has all the trappings of the quintessential Spanish midfielder. He can pass, he can shoot and he can orchestrate the attack. Silva will always be City’s little Spanish magician but it doesn’t hurt for him to have an understudy.

With Nasri likely returning to France in the summer, bringing in Isco could finally give City the creative player opposite of Silva that strikes fear into opponents. The thought of Isco and Silva playing behind Aguero and a few of the other players on this list is frightening even from the perspective of a City supporter.

Gonzalo Higuain

We love our Argentine strikers at the Etithad, so much so that City is being linked with out-of-favor Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain. You don’t have to look far to see how good Higuain is. He’s a do it all player who has been gold for Los Blancos when he has gotten a look into the squad. However, Karim Benzema has displaced him in the starting XI and it may be time for Higuain to look elsewhere.

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A swoop for Gonzalo Higuain could be a stroke of genius for Roberto Mancini and form a formidable partnership with countrymen Sergio Aguero.

I think this would be a perfect deal for City as Higuain won’t carry the price tag of a Edison Cavani or Radamel Falcao but comes with all the quality of someone worth three times what he is. There’s only one player who has a better goal-per-game average at the Bernanbeu and Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t someone you mind coming in second to.

Robert Lewandoski

Robert Lewandoski is preparing to leave the Bundesliga and Borussia Dortmund want Edin Dzeko who recently said he wants to go back to the Bundesliga. Sounds like a perfect deal to me, what about you?

The 24-year-old Polish international has been linked with a move to Manchester so much that it started to get old except that was before Manchester United decided to go break the bank on Robin van Persie. Lewandoski has a few more years left in him than van Persie and a few fewer trips to the physio’s table.

Lewandoski doesn’t provide the height that Dzeko has but he makes up for it in sheer scoring ability. In 33 games this season with Dortmund, Lewandoski has found the back of the net 23 times. How’s that for efficiency?

Will Hughes

City put in a few bids for Will Hughes in January but Derby County were reluctant to let the 17-year-old midfielder go to the Etihad. I think we’ll see City send a few more bids Derby’s way in the summer.

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Will Hughes could be one of England’s next big stars but the question is, what Premier League team is going to shell out the cash to get him first?

Hughes has received high praise from all corners as he has settled in quickly at Pride Park despite his age. English U-21 manager Stuart Pearce was impressed has been impressed with his ability to keep the ball and pick out passes.

He might not be able to break into City’s lineup at 17, but after what Matija Nastasic has done at the Etihad at only 19 I’d say what’s the harm in bringing him in sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for part two where we’ll take a look at the usual suspects linked with a move to Manchester City as well as a few guys I think we should take a look at.