When is a Club Successful?

It’s a topic that has been run through the ringers too many times over the past few years as more nouveau rich clubs pop up on Europe’s football landscape. Of course some have last longer than others, the funding being pulled away just as quickly as it arrived but for the ones that remain — or even for the clubs that aren’t backed by petrol-dollars but lack the tradition of the more prestigious sides around the world — when is it okay for supporters to dub their team successful?

Swansea City is one of England's upstarts, but how successful can we call them now?

Swansea City is one of England’s upstarts, but how successful can we call them now?

Many point to silverware as the defining factor of success, arguing that a club is only as successful as its trophy case is vast. We’re talking the Barcelonas, Real Madrids, Juventus(es?) and Manchester Uniteds of the footballing world. The clubs that expect to finish every campaign with at least one cup being added to the cabinet. However, I’m willing to argue that this is a far too simple way of looking at this.

In my opinion, as long as a club is making forward progress, they can be deemed successful. It doesn’t matter how it is achieved, if a club goes from wallowing in relegation battles of lower leagues to fighting for European spots in the country’s top flight, they should get the respect they are due.

Let’s take Swansea City for example. They aren’t that far removed from being a mid-to-bottom of the table side in League 2 or the old Third Division. A few well thought out managerial hires here and a couple cheap player buys there and they are going to be playing European football next season after winning the League Cup.

The Swans’ trophy case isn’t filled to the top but are we really not going to call them successful for such a reason? Most teams get relegated in their second season in the Premier League. With continued improvement, Swansea may be pushing Everton for Europa League spots every season.

For a look at a club with much higher ambitions, Manchester City is moving in the right direction. You can argue that finishing 2nd this season is a step backwards, but it isn’t often that teams other than United repeat in the Premier League. Regardless of the point gap or whatever qualifier you want to attach to it, the league was a two-horse battle from the onset and a few sub-par performances saw City fall behind their crosstown rivals.

And for Borussia Dortmund, coming out of a period when they were struggling to stay in the Bundesliga after their Golden Era of the 1990s, one could argue that they are possibly as successful as any club in Europe right now. They may not have the trophies of Bayern Munich, but their battle from the bottom of the table to the final of the Champions League is sign enough.

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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.

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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.

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.