Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Take A Chance

National pride is beautiful. It is a wonderful feeling. But if you are the English FA, you have a dilemma on your hands. And a major one. But at times of crisis, it is your unique opportunity to look at things differently and proceed with a different perspective.

I started to think about England's dilemma today. Hire an Englishmen or a foreigner to your vacant post...whoops the Swedish-Savant is still the coach on paper but really the FA is already on the clock when it comes to hiring his replacement. The difficulty will be figuring out who is a viable candidate and who is simply using this position as leverage in their current position. Dangle it in front of your current employer that England wants you, you more then likely will see an increase in pay. But the problem persists in that all the likely candidates, of which we do not need to discuss again, are shall we say, not worthy candidates.

True many of them of have not slept with their staffers like the Swedish-Savant has but their overall football accomplishments are the equivalent of his accomplishments--Zip, Nada, Zilch, as empty and fleeting as watching David Seaman trying to recover on that free-kick from 2002. The "line-up" of potential candidates--and I use the term line-up because none of these guys should make it past their initial look to the right, look to the left, look straight ahead--they will get from the FA. Alan Curbishley, Steve McClaren, and Stuart Pierce have never won anything of note between them.

England have been given a cakewalk for their 2008 Euros qualification. So now is the time to take a chance and hire a young, energetic person that the younger generation of English players can all look-up to. We all know being a great player does not make you a great coach. Ask the likes of George Hagi. But you also have rich footballing countries that have taken a gamble. For instance Holland and Germany appointed Marco Van Basten and Jürgen Klinsmann respectively, neither with any prior coaching experiencee. While I doubt Germany's chance in this years World Cup, I do picture Van Basten's team being a legitimate contender if they get out of Group C.

I know somewhere my faithful contributor Feyenoord is wishing I had not put this hex on his team but Holland after the debacble of not qualifying for Japan & Korea in 2002, they needed to start fresh and they did not do it with the hiring of the little general aka Dick Advocaat(even though he took them to the semis of the 2004 Euros). They merely recycled. Just as the Italians, French and Spain have done and continue to do. Now they have a young team building and playing well and limitless possibilities with some tweaking of their mid-field have as serious chance at their first Star. Germany is in the same position with Klinsmann intent on combing any remote corner of the world to naturalize any player he can for Germany and has a young team, a team truly his own and he is willing to stand-up to his football federation. Both these young coaches are proving that sometimes even dominant footballing nations need change and need their associations to be bold enough to enact change from the ground-up and need to look at young(different, soccer personalities that have taken some time away from the game) coaches willing to sacrifice, try new patterns, younger players, and to stand-up to their domestic teams when dealing with call-ups and to be, well un-Dutch and German in their case. This is England's chance to do the same, to shake-it up, ensure the fans keeps showing up and revamp your image and while being bold. Your players will react if you do. With that said, the FA needs to look at two candidates. Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer.

These two guys with a combined age of something like 98 could still show the young kids a trick or two. They understand the pride that goes along with wearing the jersey of one's country and both would instill a different work ethic in the England squad, just as Van Basten and Klinsmann have done. And like Van Basten and Klinsmann, they have not been jaded by previous coaching expereinces(unless, you consider having to constantly tell your teammates Grahame Souness will stop yelling at you like Alan Shearer does, coaching). The FA will search all over the world, will talk to just about everyone for the position. In fact I am being interviewed next week(As I have stated repeatedly on Azzurri Dreams and through my agent, I am not interested in the job but I want to see the amazing assorment of teas in the offices of the FA so I agreed to go in). But I digress.

The FA's list of potential candidates, if they decide to stay English should include the great Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer. Now is your chance, take it and do something different for your country just as Holland and Germany have done. Not winning anything since 1966 means you might need to re-consider your approach. Seriously, barring any catastrophic aberration like England winning the World Cup this June, you can only go up, unlike the Swedish-Savant that is always up...for the wrong reasons.
Azzurri Dreams

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Beauty of Text Messages

I swear I did not receive any text messages. I categorically deny that I am being offered the coaching position at Newcastle. Seriously, who in their right mind would want that job...hmmmm the Swedish-Savant comes to mind, but who knows. The BBC wants to know why I am not interested in this position and have requested a copy of my phone records but the only text messages they will see, are not from the north of England but from my astute contributor, Feyenoord beaming me the latest news from Holland. And here is the quick round-up on today's news:

As we reported on Friday, Jaap Stam has requested to leave AC Milan and just announced he will return to Holland and play for Ajax. He left one mediocre team for another but we wish him the best and pray that we get to see him on Marco Van Basten's world cup team this summer in Germany.

Inter Milan. These guys never stop and have just agreed to sign Rodriguez Aparecido Cesar, aka Cesar, the Brasilian playmaker from Lazio. They have been salivating over this guy for too long and know they have him come this June.

Additional reports out of Italy are saying Sampdoria are willing to sell Aimo Diana, the midfielder to Fiorentina for about €6M. With only a few hours left in winter transfer market, this might not happen by tomorrow but will definitely be on for June. But this is where is gets tricky, they want Valery Bojinov on loan.

So close. Yet so far. Tottenham's attempt to bring Juventus defender Jonathan Zebina to White Hart Lane failed when Fabio Capello, who insisted on bringing the player with him from Roma had a last minute change of heart. I must applaud Martin Jol as he has been one busy dealer in the past few weeks, but we all know who he really wants, but we will not tease him. At least not today.

How about one more deal for Inter Milan. They beat Juventus to signature for the Brasilian aka Maxwell from Ajax. The player in turn will be loaned out to Empoli until the end of the season. Seriously, I cannot keep up with Massimo Moratti and his brain trust.

Again, as we reported last week it is now official with Manchester United trying to get one deal done before time runs out with a £4m bid for AC Milan midfielder Johann Vogel. Good player, but it still wont give you the mid-field presence you need.

Must be fun playing for second, but the rivarly between Manchester United and Liverpool is evolving to a war of economics and stock-piling good talent for the 2006-2007 season. Since Liverpool are likeliest to catch Chelsea in the next two seasons, they have decided to pursue Marseille's Franck Ribery. And we at Azzurri Dreams definately trust when one teams says the player is not for sale. Read between the lines, Marseille need to hold unto this kid until after the World Cup, watching his price go up and up, just Sir Alex's bloodpressure will once he realizes this was another one that got away.

Kily Gonzalez is headed for Real Betis in Spain. Two in for Inter Milan, one out today, must have been a slow day for them. The player and his new team have agreed to terms, now its the teams turn to define their terms.

AC Milan. I would say you need to update your defense, but I am sure you know that already. They are looking to sign the Livorno goalkeeper, Marco Amelia. And as we mentioned previously, they now really want Lyon defender Cris.

Part of me will be sad when the winter market ends tomorrow but I cannot type fast enough to keep our growing readership at Azzurri Dreams well informed. So here is to doing it all over again tomorrow!
Azzurri Dreams

Friday, January 27, 2006

Too Much

Dare I say it. There is just too much soccer on the calendar right now. Today FIFA made its draw for the 2008 Euros. Seriously, I believe this dilutes the game in Europe, all of which makes FIFA happy as it is constantly creating and re-creating tournaments to keep the game active year-round. But enough is enough. We are officially on the 'clock' with this years tournament and now we have to worry about 2008. Let the teams, countries, and staff focus on the monumental task of having a great 2006, and forget about 2008. And more importantly let us fans enjoy the moment.

The Euros are a great tournament but they pail in comparison to the World Cup. Always. They give hope to the never beens in European soccer and we all know there is no direct correlation between winning the Euros and going on to success two years after at the World Cup. Of course there is not, when you do not have to play Argentina and Brasil. We are now only 134 days away from the World Cup and I awoke this morning to realize how many similarities there are between the stock market and FIFA. Why would you bet against yourself and take the attention off the premier tournament in the World. If you liked a stock and bought it at €10, and its at €8, you buy it again, its called doubling-up. This is the logic on the street when it comes to stocks and its flawed. FIFA must think the same, constantly giving us more, for our ever-growing appetitte in the lulls. Like a buyer between market fluctuations, we are now between the Champions League and the World Cup, with really all that is keeping us interested is the latest FA debacle so I think FIFA believes now is the right time.

I know the cynics will say that the qualifications for the EUROS start this fall after the World Cup and that the host nation(s) should be rewarded, but come on, enough is enough. I am not a business guru like so many of our astute readers at Azzurri Dreams, but it does not make sense to put more product on the market at a time where all the attention should be geared towards the biggest sporting event in the world. Look at the African Cup of Nations being played in Egypt right now. It is not receiving nearly the attention it deserves because it is a scheduling nightmare and it detracts from domestic play. Lets face the possibilities that FIFA needs to re-prioritize itself, for once maybe putting someone first beside the media-craving Sepp Blatter. Restructure your schedule, make the African Cup happen after the domestic season's; seriously there is no alternative, and quash the argument that is too hot and watch the domestic leagues throughout Europe applaud you. Secondly, announce the draw for the EUROS after the World Cup, as to not diminish what we are about to witness. Seriously, how can England focus on planning its victory celebration if it now has to worry about beating the likes of Andorra, Israel, Estonia, and Macedonia. Even without the Swedish-Savant they should be alright. But I digress. Back to my point. Thirdly, diminish the games in Latin America qualification from 18 to 12. Seriously entire governments are toppled, new planets are discovered, and the cures for weird fungi are resolved during this arduous years long process. FIFA needs to simplify. Sometimes less is more. And the latest rumors making the rounds are:

Japp Stam wants to leave AC Milan. Milan are going after Palermo's Andrea Barzagli. Palermo want €10M for the player. If they do not get him, Milan will turn their attention to Inter Milan's Marco Matterazzi. I have nightmares picturing this man taking instructions in Germany from Marcello Lippi.

Manchester United in their never-ending search for mid-field help are after Johann Vogel who is always on the bench at AC Milan but still not giving up on landing Thomas Gravesen. This reeks of desperation.

AC Milan are also going after Dynamo Kiev's Goran Gavrancic. This one is for the women readers of Azzurri Dreams. David Beckham, watch out.


Azzurri Dreams

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I Will Coach England

The office phone at Azzurri Dreams has been ringing off the hook today. Inquires are coming fast and furious from all over Europe wanting to know if I am available for the England job. And with only 136 days left to the World Cup and my deep understanding off what ails the English national team(see my 2004 research Article, entitled, "How to lose Games you should win"), you can understand why I am getting all the attention I am.

My agent and I will be providing our growing readership with a press release shortly that confirms my commitment to Azzurri Dreams and that I am not actively engaged with the English FA to take over for the Swedish-Savant. But I will be honest, while still not completely convinced that the FA was not in on this "News of the World" piece that has caused such an uproar over the last few days, I do believe they have created yet another quandary to deal with, one that might even be bigger then getting the captains arm band from David Beckham.

The FA has gotten their wish; their coach by mutual 'consent' has stated that there was already an agreement in place for him to leave after the World Cup in Germany. And the English being English, they have been total gentlemen and have allowed this to circulate and pass off as truth in the media. Athole Still, Eriksson's agent now has come out and publicly stated that his client might not receive any compensation once the contract is voided. This from a man who had wanted to negotiate an extension for Sven-Goran Eriksson to be England coach until 2010. Of course, who would not want to be paid what the Swedish-savant is paid for doing at best a very mediocre job. One point to the FA which will save millions of pounds annually. The problem is that the majority of English fans(too bad their opinions do not count) want and an Englishman to coach. And I agree. But with the media circus following this coaching spot, the FA is now in the unenviable position of having to assure whoever their top candidate is, that they will be there to support them. The second problem is that the legitimate English candidates for the job will not consider it unless they can split their duties between country and club, which is highly unlikely. The third problem is that the list of potential candidates for this job is split between the contenders and pretenders. Lets look at the pretenders first:

Alan Curbishley, Charlton. Are you serious. Why not give the job to Grahame Souness while you are it.

Steve McClaren, Middlesbrough. Would make a logical fit especially if his team, in a relegation battle goes down since he is already on the England Bench. One of these two, if not both could will be out of a job come the summer and this would make the decision easy for the FA. But the FA should not settle for easy and should not settle until they get a coach that can bring England back to greatness(laughter heard from the staffers at Azzurri Dreams as this was being proofed).

The contenders are:
Guss Hiddink, PSV and Australia. Merely a genius, this guy is too strong a coach to take over this team.

Luis Felipe Scolari, Portugal. Excellent coach, the FA's dream if they cannot get an Englishman to coach this team and more then likely will be done with Portugal after the World Cup.

Ottmar Hitzfeld. Forget about it, with what he will demand financially, he will not be a serious part of any discussion.

Which brings me to this point, when you look at all the names being dropped and bookies taking bets on the likes of Paul Jewell and Sam Allardyce, you have to accept that the FA will try courting two successful coaches in their prime, too driven to only coach on limited basis. These guys live for the everyday, and would not leave. There is no viable English candidate for this job, not at present. Typically you want a coach that can come in and shake things up for you and with retreads like Keegan and Robson being mentioned, you do not have the chance to create the stability the post needs. I suggest you look at Alan Shearer but at this point I would think that while he is sunbathing on some beach come the World Cup, he will be screening endless calls from Freddy Shepard pleading with him to coach Newcastle once they get rid of Grahame Souness and he will not properly consider the job of England manager.

For now, the FA has gotten what they were hoping would happen sometime after the 2004 Euros, a lame-duck coach whom they can finally control and one whom they relied on the media to help oust. What they did not plan on was how this might pail in comparison to the daunting task of recruiting their next coach.
Azzurri Dreams

Monday, January 23, 2006

Stop the Calls

Over the past few days, I must admit, I have been feeling a lot like the Swedish Savant. I have just wanted to be alone. I mean, I know I have not contributed recently, but seriously the rash of emails and calls from the growing readership of Azzurri Dreams has made me simply want to screen my calls like someone we all know that is just making the news for the wrong reason.

I have gone at it alone, with no drink, therapist, or voodoo dolls, but I feel leaving the dedicated followers of Azzurri Dreams this long without some new information, has been unjust. And what makes me happy is to report the news of the days for all of you.

It is with pleasure that I will let the world know that I am in fact ok, alive, and just biting my time for a story that makes me want to come out of my hibernation. Since I gave up Sven-bashing for 2006(well, ok, I have tried and that must count for something, right), I have had to look deep inside and ask what is it that makes me happy? What do I enjoy? And let me tell you loyal readers, the past few days it has been an up-and-down battle with editors, advertisers, and the press all trying to get a piece of me and always wanting to know, what is wrong with me. I told them that I was simply taking a break but that did not suffice. They challenged me to get back to doing what it is I do best, making fun of Sven-Goran Eriksson. So I obliged but only under one condition. That I would dedicate only a few words to address the latest developments, which I have come to call Sven-Gate(because it is just one debacle after another with this man) and not re-visit the subject after today. Although I do not and cannot rely on a source called Deep Throat, I know that I do not need a source when Sven being Sven is enough to give me all the information I need. Watching this man stumble has now becomea favorite passtime.

It has been 'officially' decided that Sven-Goran Eriksson will be leaving the England Job after the World Cup. Too bad the English FA needed any other reason to sack this guy but at least they have their graceful way to get out of this unmanageable contract they gave this coach a few years back. Alleging corruption is not a subject to tread lighlty on and it was what eventually broke the FA's strong patience. They cannot fire him but they sure sent a bold message today. But they are stuck with this coach that apparently no one wants. I do not care what the players are saying, if he were gone, they would be relieved. Going into a World Cup year, you need a few things to have any chance to win. Among these are a full fit team with no injuries, your manager not to be an idiot, no Brasil in your bracket and critical to any success you need absolute tranquility. England has three of the four. Ask the Italians, Spanish, Argetinians and Dutch what they would give to go into a World Cup with no drama and you would probably see four coaches deliriously happy looking for the nearest friend to hug. You can make up all the arguments you want about entrapment, but seriously be professional, do not talk negatively behind the backs of the your players who have stuck it out with you (see Northern Ireland result), wipe that silly grin off your face and go back into hiding until June.

The latest rumors making the rounds are as follows:

Milan and Juventus are in a bidding wat believed to be at €15-17M for the Brazilian defender Cristiano Marques Gomes aka Cris that plays for Lyon. Also being tracked by Juventus is Cris' teammate Anthony Reveillere.

Inter Milan are set to sign the Lazio pair of Cesar and Simone Inzaghi. Bring in the Dalai Lama while your at it, you do not need anybody else, you just need to put yourself on a player diet and see about catching Juventus with what you have.

Why not just make it all about Juventus today. They are also far into discussions, hoping to bring in Christian Terlizzi from Palermo. In the absence of Luca Toni, Terlizzi has become a force in Italy. Although their first goal is to shore uptheir central defense that is 66 years old combined(Cannavaro and Thurman), I would not be surprised if we did not see Manuele Blasi move to Palermo as part of some trade.

Ajax have stated that West Ham are the only club to have made an official approach midfielder Nigel de Jong. What no interest from Chelsea or Manchester United, what is this world coming to.

Lastly. We welcome back to the team he should never had left, the only and only Pierre van Hooijdonk who has come back to play for Feyenoord. I believe other then being on a deserted island with his lady friend, this surely must have brought just as wide of a smile to mycolleaguee. Please go to the stadium and enjoy one of his Pirlo-like free kicks.
Azzurri Dreams

Saturday, January 21, 2006

How the News Helped Sven

I think my co-contributor would wring my neck at reading this, but I have come to realize that this News of the World piece has actually helped Sven and the English teams chances this summer. A good old fashioned case of backfiring.

As crazy as all the shenanigans have been, I believe the British public actually will sympathize with our poor Swedish friend. I mean, in reality, who would not have been tempted by all the fake-sheik's offerings and innuendo. And the comments he made about the players are things that the majority of the English fans believe as well. Add to that, the FA want him gone after the World Cup, and it looks like everyone may just get their way.

Don't get me wrong though. I still laugh at the idea that England have a chance at this tournament. Unless Steven Gerrard suddenly kan play left mid, this team has an overdose of central minded players and a strike force that is 6th or 7th at the tournament at best.

As much as I love watching the premiership, it is this very competition that is thwarting the England's squad's development - more so than any foreign coach's lust for women or Arabian dollars. I hate quota rulings, but it may be what is needed for England to improve. Look at Arsenal at the moment where last week not 1 British player was in the squad. I think England will also need a coach like Sam Allardyce who will re-introduce hard-nosed football and most likey choose young and aggressive English talent for the national squad. In the meantime, the FA should ban any more French players from joining the league - or just let Arsene Wenger go back to his homeland, and the balance shall be restored.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Oh Sven

They say a picture is worh a thousand words. In this case, this picture is priceless and it makes me wonder what he is saying about Azzurri Dreams behind our backs. This man(see picture, exciting new development at Azzurri Dreams) is just giving me too much idiotic information to work with these days. And I will not dedicate any words to this man, as I choose to merely link to the NEWS making its way around England right now. And now unto the real news of the day,

This is big because it could spell the end for one of Holland's most promising players at Chelsea with it being reported that Chelsea have made a £15m bid for long-term Liverpool target Simao Sabrosa because Arjen Robben will apparently be leaving Stamford Bridge during the summer. I think this might be politics to raise the price, but you never know.

Palermo have signed Italy striker David Di Michele from Udinese. Udinese will get
midfielder Salvatore Masiello and forward Simone Pepe, on loan.

As we have been reporting for weeks, Valeri Bojinov is set to leave Fiorentina. Even though Monaco and Hamburg are both said to be interested, watch Inter get another player. But this deal, and I hold my breath saying this, makes a lot of sense for Inter. They need cover for Adriano and Obefemi Martins, with the strike force depleted right now and Julio Cruz possibly leaving this summer.

Rangers have reported not willing to sell to Birmingham striker Peter Lovenkrands.

Azzurri Dreams

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Gift of Wood

You knew it was bound to happen. Seriously, how long could we go on reporting without a mention of the Swedish-Savant, aka Sven-Goran Eriksson. In yesterday's relevant news, we forget to mention that Sven-Goran Eriksson was celebrating his 5th year as coach of England. And I for one would like to remind our readership that the traditonal 5-year anniverasry gift is Wood. Ease your minds gentle readers, but I am sure someone got a Rise at the FA yesterday, maybe another secreatry or intern wondering what the appropriate gift for this man is.

But my question is this, how many of us would still have our jobs if we underperformed for five years as this man has? His greatest contibution to the English game has been to name David Beckham captain of this team. No other coach except Marcelo Bielsa ex-Argentina comes to mind having more then 1 major tournamanet with a team without a significant result in the last few years. I also believe it is because no one really wants these jobs(as well as the Italy one) because of the excessive media scrunity. Sven's teams have not even played for third place in any competition. No need to recap all the details but in brief, he has nothing to show from the World Cup in 2002, Euros 2004 and well lets just say, if he wins the World Cup in Germany, this site might be have be shut done as Feyenoord finds me borderline comatose from ramming my head into my wall to stop all the voices of the BBC and Sky saying somethings as original as 'this was a team of destiny.'

The true defitniion of giving wood as a gift might come if Sven pulls off this miracle and is then requested to ride his own bus alone during any post-world cup celebrations as not to endanger any other women in England. Good coach at Lazio, but lets face it, he has been mediocre at best and the English belief in themselves must be at an all time low if they keep this guy around after 2006, regardless of what he does. Bite the bullet, and pay off his contract that is worth more than 4 million pounds (US$7 million; €5.8 million) a year and hire yourself an Englishman to coach this team. Your domestic league is strong enough, your top teams are contending for Europe...whoops, I forgot they are all coached by foreigners...but you get the point, do not settle and let Real Madrid take him off your hands. In this todays news, lets disclose the following:

The Giant and the midget. Liverpool will launch a £10m bid for Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe at the end of the season and hope to pair him up with Peter Crouch. You should not have sold Michael Owen. Thanks to our buddies at FoxSoccer for alerting us to this possible deal.

Real Madrid have turned down a £2.5m bid for Thomas Gravesen from Manchester United. This is not over.

Sir Alex Ferguson has been given a £20m summer transfer stipend to buy a replacement for Roy Keane. If anyone saw Keane's first performance for Celtic, you'd think 20 quid was more like it to replace him. Someone must not have read my previous plea not to give this man any more money.

In the please-do-not-say-it-is-possible realm of news, the Great Alesandro Del Piero mentions the possibility of leaving Juventus after this year to possibly join a team in England or Spain.

Fiorentina signed from Serie B side, Ternana chilean striker Luis Jimenez.

Lyon and West Ham will fight for the rights to acquire Chelsea's Glen Johnson.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen have signed striker Stefan Kiessling from FC Nürnberg.

O(h)-NO! And what will be a sad day for my co-editor, Japan midfielder Shinji Ono has completed his move back to Urawa Red Diamonds from Feyenoord, where he won the UEFA Cup in 2002. The 26-year-old had been linked with a switch to English Premiership side Bolton Wanderers but that did not happen. A great player and also the player that helped my co-editor and I bond many years ago, we wish him only the best.

Scottish title contenders Heart of Midlothian FC have signed Lithuanian international Nerijus Barasa until the end of the season from FBK Kaunas. First news on the Dutch league two days running, now mentioning the Scotish league twice(see below) makes as truly a work in progress as we strive to cover all the relevant leaguse here at Azzurri Dreams.

I wish I could spellcheck Ducth names. Gregoor van Dijk will join FC Utrecht on 1 July when his contract with Roda JC expires.

Vitória SC in Portugal will sign 21-year-old Sierra Leone winger Julius Wobay after reaching an agreement with Cypriot club Nea Salamis FC.

And for our very new reader(you know who you are Sir), Livingston FC have secured striker Graham Dorrans on a three-and-a-half year deal. The 18-year-old had been sent to second division side Partick Thistle FC in September but has been recalled since he started to score goals.

Sorry to keep it so short today, but I need to start my wood scultpure to show my appreciation to Sven.
Azzurri Dreams

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Someone is up to something

Call it a sneaky suspicion but as soon as someone denies something, is it not just human nature to wonder why they would deny it in the first place if in fact there is nothing to deny? In our quest for the latest speculation in world of European soccer, I hope, we at Azzurri Dreams, have not become like those annoying paparazzi trying to break the latest rumor or get the latest scoop on the SMS's coming out of Beckham's phone just to feed our addiction. But there is something fishy in Turin. And what raises my suspicions that Juventus is actually plotting to take Michael Ballack from Bayern Munich is that the man spearheading the attack to land the German superstar is non-other then Luciano Moggi, president of Juventus. This is the same man that during Napoli's golden run in the late 80's said he had no idea Maradona was sniffing enough cocaine and running a prostitution racket that would rival the gross revenue of half the ex-eastern bloc nations. With that said, we will keep up on this story but if I am correct in predicting a fairly mediocre World Cup for Germany, Ballack, being the captain of his 'naturalized' teammates might jump ship to avoid the criticism that most unjustly will fall on his shoulders. And now, beyond the speculation, we will proceed with the latest barrage of relevant news.

Manchester United are planning a £12m summer swoop for Lyon midfielder Mohamadou Diarra. Once again playing catch-up with Chelsea, got to love the Scottish pride that keeps Sir Alex Ferguson going and going. But seriously if you want the player, why awaken the giant(Chelsea), just swoop in and get him.

Walter Pandiani leaves Birmingham for Espanyal. I wonder if he is dejected or just thanked his agent with a blank check for getting him out of there while saying buy yourself something nice.

Dutch side FC Twente announced the capture of Jerônimo Daneluz Soares. The 19-year-old Brazilian midfielder comes in from EC Juventude on a six-month loan, with Twente having the option of a permanent transfer in the summer. Feyenoord this is just for you.

Bulgarian champions PFC CSKA Sofia have signed Yannick Boumsong, younger brother of France and Newcastle United defender Jean-Alain Boumsong. Seriously you might consider a name change the way your older brother is playing this year.

Dutch outfit NEC Nijmegen have announced the signing of David Jones from Manchester United FC. The 21-year-old midfielder comes on loan for the remainder of the season. Wow, two mentions of the Dutch league in one day will leave Feyenoord wondering if he should go on vacation more often.

Benfica are ready to jump in for Bolton striker Jared Borgetti. I am convinced after watching him terrorize the Italians in 2002 that this guy can still play and Bolton was just not the right set-up for him.

AC Milan have their man in Marcio Amoroso who landed this morning for his medical. But we all know the real transfers at Milan are coming this summer.

I wish to say that the funk is now just a random memory as the latest news keeps me bullish that somewhere, somehow I am just getting back to myself and that I have stopped stalking Grahame Souness to see if he is actually crying when he leaves St. James Park because there is enough happening to keep me occupied.
Azzurri Dreams

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Finally, some interesting news

Lets face it, my latest contribution to the world of European soccer lately has been only to complain, but sure as I woke up on a beautiful day, I felt like finally there was some news worth reporting. So the lastest frenzy of relevant news goes like this:

Real Madrid is considering an offer of €15 millionfor Arsenal left-back Ashley Cole, Spanish sports daily Marca reported. Arsenal are set to lose Viera, Henry and Cole all within two seasons. I sure hope they can fill that new stadium next year. What this means is that Roberto Carlos will be leaving Madrid at the end of the season. I have been warned not so start rumors, but can you say Inter Milan.

Arsenal may try to sign 20-year-old Greek striker Georgios Samaras from Dutch team Heerenveen for about £3.75 million, the Daily Mirror reported. I have to reprt this as Feyenord believes I do not give the dutch league enough coverage, so this one is for you. But as I have told you earlier, the player I want to write about is Dirk Kuijt but we will have plenty of time this summer to write about him as he leaves Holland.

Manchester United want to sign Thomas Gravesen, according to Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet. The paper said Alex Ferguson's side had offered €3.8 million for him. Real Madrid once again is looking to cash in on another player they bought for less but I see this as a smart deal since United's mid-field has been non-existence and needs some grit in there. Can you say, who is Roy Keane when this deal is done as many at Old Trafford will.

As reported yesterday on Azzurri Dreams, Hernan Crespo will apply for an Italian passport so he can escape the London Blues and re-unite with Milan. At last news, he was seen already packing his bags. The only problem with this is that Milan is also linked for a June acquisition of Vincenzo Iaquinta.

Inter Milan. Here we go again. I swear if it were not for these guys, I might not have anything to write about. They are now linked with Valeri Bojinov, the Fiorentina striker who has also been linked with Bayern Munich. One scenario is him going to Inter Milan and Fiorentina receiving goaltender Francesco Toldo in return since their starting keeper Sebastian Frey injured himself in a Coppa Italia match yesterday.

I am so happy to have some exciting news to report, that I even spared all our readers another Sven Goran Eriksson joke. Here is to the funk being over.
Azzurri Dreams

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Azzurri Dreams in a funk

Yes it is true, the funk has hit and it has hit big time. But unlike Grahame Souness who can send out his loyal assistant to deal with the media after another lackluster performance, I unfortunately have no such support considering Feyenoord is still tanning somewhere and not returning my calls. So I have to force myself to wade through another day of riveting will-he-or-will-he not Nicolas Anelka rumors and report today's news.

Even though I like to think Newcastle is the most dysfunctional team in Europe, Real Madrid is easily poised to win this award for 2006. Yet, today they finally announced something that makes sense. They want to sign one of the most elegant, excellent, playmakers in the world Juan Ramon Riquelme. Lets face it, since Barcelona signed Ronaldinho a few seasons back, Real Madrid have been playing keep-up with the Catalan side and have also been seriously lacking a creative mid-field presence.

The problem(s) with this deal before we address why it makes sense is that Real Mardid is making a fundamental mistake in asking for the coach's Juan Ramon Lopez Caro's approval. Team president Perez said he needs to fit in Caro's plans. Seriously, who is this guy other then the sponge needed to stop the sinking at Real Madrid until they can focus on getting a big name coach in the summer. If you can get Riquelme you do for one small reason. Your team is awful right now, no creativity, no mid-field magic, Zidane is Zidane but only to a certain extent and the rest of your mid-field, well ok, we wont poke fun at David Beckham today. Now, just maybe your over-hyped, under-worked strikers will have a chance to score. I do not see this deal happening any time soon, but I will be the first to admit being wrong just as I did when I said David Beckham shaving his arm pits was not news but I had to admit just how wrong I was.

Hernan Crespo will leave Chelsea at the end of this season, and Azzurri Dreams sees one likely possibility, an all-out bidding war between the Milan rivals.

Seriously, there is more news ro report but the inspiration has left my fingers and I am left counting the days to the next round of Champions League matches or at least until the next David and Posh marriage crisis because if this lack of interesting news continues on this pace, I will be committed to an insane asylum wondering just why did David Moyes make a bid for Anelka in the vicinity of £5m and Feyenoord will return to find an empty office with no trace of me.
Azzurri Dreams

Monday, January 09, 2006

At Least I Have a chance

To report the news, unlike Arsene Wenger who must now convince Thierry Henry not to leave for Barcelona and make the news! This is spin-control at its finest and everyone knows this. The two men stating that Henry wants to stay at Arsenal. Come on, do you take us for idiots.

Henry is a going, whether he knows it or not, and if I am Arsenal, I take the money. Moving into a new arena as they are next year, building a young team, Wegner would be silly not to cash in on his amazing 29 year-old striker. He'l be able to buy half the stars from League 1 as he likes to do with all the new cash. Which only leads us to this point, if Didier Drojba was bought for €44M, what is Henry worth? Although Aresnal will not be dealing with the idiotic business penchant of Peter Kenyon of Chelsea who can simply pay anything, in Barcelona thay have an active admirer and a person in president Joan Laporta who is keen on signing Henry like the did with Ronaldinho a few seasons ago. Laporta knows how to get his man and remember this, he passed on Beckham, which must mean he at least understands something about soccer. And while they will not break the bank to do it, I figure Henry, barring any major attack of conscience holding him to the London club and any serious injury, will be sold for about €20-€24 Euros(sorry, I do not feel like making the conversion to Pounds right now). As for the other days pending deals, here we go:

As reported last week on Azzurri Dreams, Christian Vieri will be officially unveiled as a Monaco player tomorrow.

Real Madrid defender Alvaro Mejia has been linked with a loan move to Blackburn. Rumor has he asked for Sir David's advice and Becks told him to move, as he'd be silly to pass away the opportunity to play along side Robbie Savage.

Manchester City will make a final £5m bid to land Steed Malbranque from Fulham.
Azzurri Dreams

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Today's news leaves me uninspired

In fact, the most exciting thing that is happening in the world of European soccer today is that my co-editor, Feyenoord is lounging on some deserted isle in the Caribbean, with a cocktail and his lover. And although I pleaded with him to take me, actually to swap roles with me, he urged me to keep our ever-growing readership informed on the days happenings. I said I promise to take great pictures if you let me hang out with her as we sun bath topless and drink great vodka concoctions with little umbrellas in them, but yet he resisted again. So Feyenoord, this one is for you.

AC Milan's Christian Vieri is on the move, looking to play regular ball so he can increase his chances of playing for Italy in the World Cup. I am amazed he has not run out of teams to play for yet considering he seems to always be on the move. Chelsea should make a move for him, but stay tuned for more details.

In the here-we-go-again never-ending dumb-and-dumber saga known as Newcastle, the team is now interested in re-uniting with target Nicolas Anelka, who is desperate for a return to the Premiership. Seriously, this guy is so over-rated, how does he keep coming up with teams that 'desperately' want him.

While Juventus is busy looting every other European team's defense, they are now intent on making a move for Chelsea defender William Gallas in the summer. Along with Sagnol, Kovich and possibly Gallas, what does this mean for Jonathan Zebina, aka 'I want raise' while not having played in three months. Zebina will be on the move to a team in England by the end of the month.

More uneventful days like today and I will phoning this column in from the Caribbean...I hope Feyenoord does not mind the company.
Azzurri Dreams

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

First Owen, Now Cassano

I know it has become easy to criticize Real Madrid just as it is easy to make fun of Sven Goran Erikkson. But when a team with a tradition such as Real Madrid is focused on 'laundering players,' then I know they are a little bit confused and need some guidance, which means they are ripe for making fun of. But Enzo, what do you mean by 'laundered' players?

Roma striker Antonio Cassano and his hot girlfriend are in Madrid as we speak to undergo his medical examination before signing his new contract tomorrow.(On a sidenote, if I were the physician, I would rather check her out then the thug from Bari, but ok back to the point).

The Sensi family bought him for $28.5M Euros in 2001 and now will sell him for $6M Euros, and they are thankful they will get this since his contract is up at the end of the season and they are in financial problems. But, just as they did with Michael Owen, Real Madrid bought a premium striker, in his prime, only to turn around and sell him at a profit. For some reason, when they bought Owen and just as quickly decided to sell him, they had a slew of suckers(see Newcastle United) willing to pay double what they paid in just twelve months. I was happy to hear Rafa Benitez refuse to pay what Real Madrid were asking just as a matter of principal. Great business and great profit. Owen never had a chance to make an impact at Real Madrid yet they still cashed in on him and I fear this is what will happen with Cassano especially if he is invited to Italian side for Germany 2006, performs well and the usual suspects(see Inter Milan) start to salivate and pay double, maybe even triple what Real Madrid paid for him this week. What happened to building a team contending for European honors? Real Madrid's profit making machine is ambitious and smart but other teams in Europe need to wise up to this.

Right now, Real Madrid reminds me of the bored housewife that is not getting any so she turns to real estate and the stock market, buying and selling to feel the rush, any rush, when she would simply give her new 'hobby' up for the touch of a good man, kind of like Real Madrid would give up all this buying and selling just to feel the rush of reaching second place in La Liga.
Azzurri Dreams