It's a Knockaert

The ramblings of a football obsessive and Game of Thrones nerd.


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Five Players Leicester Should Sign

Better writers than me have waxed lyrical about my miraculous Leicester City, our once-in-a-lifetime season, and the superb players who made it happen. That’s done now, though, and it’s time to start looking to the future. Leicester are in a very strong position in this summer’s transfer market, with Champions League football to offer, and the new TV deal meaning they can offer higher wages and transfer fees than they ever could before. We will never have a better chance to attract top players to the club. However, Claudio has said he isn’t interested in signing established world class players who would disrupt the harmonious atmosphere among the squad. So, here are five promising young players who would greatly improve our squad, but still have it all to prove.

Wissam Ben Yedder – Toulouse

Ben Yedder has quietly been one of the best strikers in Ligue 1 for the least few seasons, and scored 17 goals this season for a Toulouse side that only avoided relegation with a dramatic final day escape. He has stated that he will look to move on this summer, and with 62 league goals in his last four seasons, and still being only 25, there will be many interested sides. Lyon and Napoli have been linked, but Leicester have the attraction of playing in the most popular and richest league in the world. Clearly a prolific finisher, he is also gifted creatively and contributes to build up play. He would take some of the goalscoring responsibility off Jamie Vardy’s shoulders.

Expected fee: £10-15million

Likelihood: 5/10

 

Sime Vrsaljko – Sassuolo

Although every Leicester player played out of their skin last season, if you had to pick a weak spot, it would be at right-back. Danny Simpson was perfectly adequate last season, but world class form doesn’t last forever – and then there’s the small matter of him being convicted for domestic assault. Clearly, a new right back should be a high priority, and Vrsaljko has been making waves in Serie A for some time now. A whole host of clubs are after him, including Juventus, Inter, Napoli and even Barcelona, but Leicester could definitely get him with the right offer.

Expected fee: £8-12million

Likelihood: 4/10

 

Juan Quintero – Porto

Two years ago, Quintero was one of the hottest young players in the world, but since then his stock has plummeted, with injury problems, failing to get into the Porto team, and this season’s disappointing loan to Rennes. However, go back a bit further, and you find an incredibly skilled playmaker with a fantastic long shot and free kick ability. Other than Riyad Mahrez, Leicester don’t have any players who can spring a great piece of skill out of nowhere, and if anyone can revitalise a career not going to plan, it’s Claudio Ranieri. Still only 23, Quintero plays best as a number 10, but can also play on the wings, a position than needs strengthening.

Expected fee: £3-6million

Likelihood: 6/10

 

Niklas Sule – Hoffenheim

A tall, strong, and quick centre back, Sule’s no-nonsense style of defending make him a perfect protege for Huth and Morgan to take under their wing. Neither of our current two centre backs are getting any younger, and at just 20 Sule could be the rock in our defence for the next decade or longer. He has been strongly linked with Dortmund as a replacement for Mats Hummels, and with Liverpool due to the Klopp connection, so Leicester would have to fight hard if they wanted to get him.

Expected fee: £15-20million

Likelihood: 3/10

 

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Bayern Munich

Another 20-year-old from the Bundesliga, Hojbjerg looks set to leave Bayern this summer to try his luck elsewhere. A defensive midfielder who has played out wide and already plays for Denmark’s senior team, he is currently on loan at Schalke where he struggled initially, but is ending the season a regular in the team. A greatly versatile player, with excellent attacking and defensive qualities, he can fill in at a number of positions but would mainly be a good rotational option for the centre of midfield.

Expected fee: £7-12million

Likelihood: 7/10

 

Possible line-up:

Schmeichel

Vrsaljko – Morgan – Huth – Fuchs

Mahrez – Kante – Drinkwater – Quintero

Vardy – Ben Yedder

Subs: Schwarzer, Sule, Chilwell, Hojbjerg, Albrighton, Gray, Okazaki

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Premier League Predictions 2015/16

Arsenal

In

Petr Cech – Chelsea, £10m

Out

Carl Jenkinson – West Ham, Loan

Wojciech Szczesny – Roma, Loan

Abou Diaby – Released

Lukas Podolski – Galatasaray, £1.8m

Ryo Myaichi – St Pauli, Undisclosed

Yaya Sanogo – Ajax, Loan

Best XI:

Cech

Bellerin Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal

Ramsey Wilshere

Walcott Ozil Alexis

Giroud

The Gunners ended last season strongly, with players such as Ozil, Walcott, Wilshere and Giroud in good form. Cech is an excellent signing, albeit the only one they’ve made so far. There is very little between them and the two Manchester sides at the moment, and if they can get off to a strong start there is no reason why they can’t finish as high as second, or even make a strong title challenge.

Aston Villa

In

Scott Sinclair – Man City, £2.5m

Micah Richards – Man City, Free

Jordan Amavi – Nice, £7m

Idrissa Gueye – Lille, £9m

Mark Bunn – Norwich, Free

Jordan Ayew – Lorient, £10m

Jose Angel Crespo – Cordoba, Undisclosed

Out

Christian Benteke – Liverpool, £32.5m

Fabian Delph – Man City, £8m

Shay Given – Stoke, Free

Darren Bent – Derby County, Free

Enda Stevens – Portsmouth, Free

Andreas Weimann – Derby County, Undisclosed

Matthew Lowton – Burnley, Undisclosed

Yacouba Sylla – Rennes, Undisclosed

Antonio Luna – Eibar, Undisclosed

Best XI:

Guzan

Richards Okore Clarke Amavi

Grealish Sanchez Veretout Sinclair

Ayew Gestede

Despite the renewed optimism at Villa Park since the arrival of Tim Sherwood, Villa only managed to finish 17th last season. They’ve made some intriguing signings this summer, but in losing Vlaar, Delph and Benteke, they’ve lost the entire spine of their team, and they go into this season with a lot of unknown quantities and youngsters. If the new foreign starlets can hit the ground running, and players like Sinclair and Richards rediscover their best form, they could push for a mid-table finish. It’s a big if, though.

Bournemouth

In

Tyrone Mings – Ipswich Town, £8m

Sylvain Distin – Everton, Free

Artur Boruc – Southampton, Free

Adam Federici – Reading, Free

Joshua King – Blackburn Rovers, Tribunal

Christian Atsu – Chelsea, Loan

Filippo Costa – Chievo, Loan

Out

Ian Harte – Released

Josh McQuoid – Luton, Free

Darryl Flavahan – Released

Mohamed Coulibaly – Released

Miles Addison – Released

Brett Pitman – Ipswich Town, Undisclosed

Best XI:

Boruc

Francis Cook Distin Mings

Ritchie Surman Arter Atsu

Wilson Kermorgant

Bournemouth were the story of last season, securing an improbably Championship title and Premier League football for the first time ever. Now however they face the biggest challenge in their club’s history to stay up. There’s a huge lack of top-flight experience in their squad, but momentum can be crucial, and they have plenty of that.

Chelsea

In

Radamel Falcao – AS Monaco, Loan

Asmir Begovic – Stoke, £8m

Nathan – Atletico Paranaense, £4.5m

Danilo Pantic – Partizan Belgrade, £1.25m

Out

Petr Cech – Arsenal,  £10m

Patrick Bamford – Crystal Palace, Loan

Didier Drogba – Released

Filipe Luis – Atletico Madrid, £6m

Marco van Ginkel – Stoke, Loan

Danilo Pantic – Vitesse Arnhem, Loan

Christian Atsu – Bournemouth, Loan (subject to Premier League approval)

Josh McEachran – Brentford, Undisclosed

Tomas Kalas – Middlesbrough, Loan

Gael Kakuta – Sevilla, Undisclosed

Mario Pasalic – Monaco, Loan

Kenneth Omeruo – Kasimpasa, Loan

Andreas Christensen – Borussia Monchengladbach, Loan

Isaiah Brown – Vitesse Arnhem, Loan

Lewis Baker – Vitesse Arnhem, Loan

Best XI:

Courtois

Ivanovic Terry Zouma Azpilicueta

Matic Fabregas

Cuadrado Oscar Hazard

Costa

Chelsea are the strongest team in the country by some distance at the moment, and it would be a huge surprise if they were not to retain their crown. They’ve yet to properly improve their first eleven, bringing in only rotation options thus far, although the rumoured signing of Baba Rahman would be a good addition. Their main target this season has to be the Champions League, after last year’s disappointment.

Crystal Palace

In

Patrick Bamford – Chelsea, Loan

Yohan Cabaye – PSG, £13m

Alex McCarthy – QPR, £3.5m

Out

Jack Hunt – Sheffield Wednesday, Loan

Shola Ameobi – Released

Lewis Price – Sheffield Wednesday, Free

Owen Garvan – Released

Peter Ramage – Released

Stephen Dobbie – Released

Jerome Thomas – Released

Best XI:

Speroni

Kelly Mariappa Dann Souare

Cabaye Jedinak McArthur

Puncheon Bamford Bolasie

Palace have defied all expectations made for them and cemented themselves as a solid mid table side. In Yohan Cabaye they have made one of the signings of the summer, and their target now has to be pushing on to a top half finish. What they really lack is a prolific forward – could Patrick Bamford be that man?

Everton

In

Gerard Deulofeu – Barcelona, £4.25m

Tom Cleverley – Manchester United, Free

David Henen – Olympiakos, £0.2m

Out

Sylvain Distin – Bournemouth, Free

Luke Garbutt – Fulham, Loan

Antolin Alcaraz – Released

George Green – Oldham, Free

Best XI:

Howard

Coleman Stones Jagielka Baines

McCarthy Besic

Mirallas Naismith Deulofeu

Lukaku

Last season was bitterly disappointing for Everton, and Roberto Martinez simply must return to the top half if he is to keep his job. The return of Deulofeu is exciting, and Lukaku will want to improve on his solid if unspectacular first season as a permanent Everton player. Ross Barkley also has a point to prove after going off the boil, and keeping hold of John Stones is crucial. Top half should be the minimum requirement, and they seem well placed to achieve it without the distraction of the Europa League.

Leicester City

In

Robert Huth – Stoke, £3m

Shinji Okazaki – Mainz, £7.5m

Christian Fuchs – Schalke, Free

Out

Esteban Cambiasso – released

Anthony Knockaert – Standard Liege, free

Ben Hamer – Nottingham Forest, Loan

Paul Gallagher – Preston, Free

Chris Wood – Leeds, Undisclosed

Tom Hopper – Scunthorpe, Free

Adam Smith – Northampton, Free

Best XI:

Schmeichel

De Laet Huth Wasilewski Fuchs

Mahrez James Drinkwater Schlupp

Ulloa Kramaric/Okazaki

The future prospects of my club are shrouded in uncertainty. Nigel Pearson, idolised by Leicester fans and despised by everyone else, has finally gone after a fantastic spell in charge. Esteban Cambiasso has followed him out the door, along with fan favourite Anthony Knockaert. The Thailand sex scandal has done further dampened the club’s image after several bizarre incidents involving Pearson last season. And on the pitch, we have no idea what to expect. The great escape was simply a thrilling time to be a City fan, but for much of the season we looked totally out of our depth at this level. Claudio Ranieri is a big name, but it has been a good few years since he was an elite manager, and most fans would have liked to see more signings but this stage. N’Golo Kante seems set to be announced imminently, and he would go some way to filling a certain Argentine’s shoes, but the midfield still looks like a weak area, especially with Matty James facing several months out. The good news is we have plenty of strong attacking options, and have kept hold of Riyad Mahrez, our most creative player. This season could go one of two ways – we build on the brilliant end to the season, or all the turmoil and upheaval causes us to implode. Most likely it’ll be something inbetween.

Liverpool

In

Christian Benteke – Aston Villa, £32.5m

James Milner – Manchester City, Free

Danny Ings – Burnley, Tribunal

Roberto Firmino – Hoffenheim, £29m

Nathaniel Clyne – Southampton, £12.5m

Joe Gomez – Charlton, £3.5m

Adam Bogdan – Bolton, Free

Out

Raheem Sterling – Man City, £49m

Glen Johnson – Stoke, Free

Steven Gerrard – LA Galaxy, Free

Andre Wisdom – Norwich, Loan

Lloyd Jones – Blackpool, Loan

Jordan Williams – Swindon, Loan

Kevin Stewart – Swindon, Loan

Sebastian Coates – Sunderland, Undisclosed

Brad Jones – Released

Javi Manquillo – Atletico Madrid, Loan terminated

Best XI:

Mignolet

Can Skrtel Sakho

Clyne Henderson Milner Moreno

Firmino Coutinho

Sturridge/Benteke

The much-publicised departures of club icon Steven Gerrard, and Raheem Sterling for a huge fee have had much attention, but Liverpool have quietly made some very good signings. Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke and James Milner are established Premier League players who would improve any team they played in, while Roberto Firmino has been one of the Bundesliga’s best players for the last few years. The gaps are narrowing between the top clubs, and the Reds have a great opportunity to make a return to the top four, after missing out last year.

Manchester City

In

Raheem Sterling – Liverpool, £49m

Patrick Roberts – Fulham, £12m

Fabian Delph – Aston Villa, £8m

Enes Unal – Bursaspor, £2m

David Faupala – Lens, Free

Out

Stevan Jovetic – Inter, loan

Edin Dzeko – Roma, £14m (pending)

James Milner – Liverpool, Free

Scott Sinclair – Aston Villa, Undisclosed

Micah Richards – Aston Villa, Free

John Guidetti – Celta Vigo, Free

Dedryck Boyata – Celtic, Undisclosed

Seko Fofana – Bastia, Loan

Best XI:

Hart

Zabaleta Kompany Mangala Kolarov

Sterling Toure Fernandinho Silva

Aguero Bony

City are looking a lot weaker going into this season than they have done for quite some time. Sergio Aguero remains the best player in the league, and can win games on his own, but there are a lot of questions about the rest of the team. Vincent Kompany is no longer the elite defender he was, and Mangala hardly made the best impression in his debut season. Yaya Toure is starting to show his age, and they have lost the always reliable Edin Dzeko, along with Stevan Jovetic, leaving their forward options depleted in the likely event of an Aguero injury. Raheem Sterling has arrived for a record sum, and has shown good form in pre-season, but this squad needs much more.

Manchester United

In

Morgan Schneiderlin – Southampton, £25m

Bastian Schweinsteiger – Bayern Munich, £14.4m

Memphis Depay – PSV Eindhoven, £31m

Matteo Darmian – Torino, £12.7m

Sergio Romero – Sampdoria, Free

Out

Robin van Persie – Fenerbahce, fee to be agreed

Nani – Fenerbahce, £4.5m

Tom Cleverley – Everton, Free

Reece James – Wigan, Undisclosed

Saidy Janko – Celtic, Compensation

Ben Amos – Bolton, Free

Tom Thorpe – Rotherham, Free

Will Keane – Preston, Loan

Angelo Henriquez – Dinamo Zagreb, Undisclosed

Best XI:

De Gea

Darmian Jones Rojo Shaw

Schneiderlin Schweinsteiger

Di Maria Mata Depay

Rooney

It looked touch-and-go at times, but Louis Van Gaal’s extremely expensive United side made their return to the top four after the horror show that was the David Moyes era. The spending has not stopped this summer, with the midfield issues being well addressed, and the additions of Memphis Depay and Matteo Darmian are also highly impressive. Angel Di Maria seems set to leave for PSG, but going on last season’s performances, he won’t be a huge miss. The possible departure of David De Gea is another matter entirely – he would be very hard to replace. Another striker needs to come in, after the departures of Van Persie and Falcao left Wayne Rooney as the only established forward. A title challenge beckons.

Newcastle

In

Chancel Mbemba – Anderlecht, £8.5m

Aleksandar Mitrovic – Anderlecht, £13m

Georginio Wijnaldum – PSV, 14.5m

Out

Sammy Ameobi – Cardiff City, Loan

Jonas Gutierrez – Released

Ryan Taylor – Released

Adam Campbell – Notts County, Free

Remie Streete – Port Vale, Free

Best XI:

Krul

Janmaat Coloccini Taylor Haidara

Sissoko Tiote

Cabella Wijnaldum De Jong

Cisse

Newcastle fans finally got their wish for the departure of Alan Pardew, only to be saddled with the double inept Steve Carver, who did his very best to send them down the second tier. Steve McLaren now holds the reins, and he has made one very impressive signing in Georginio Wijnaldum. They probably won’t go down, but they’re a long way from making the top half.

Norwich

In

Graham Dorrans – West Brom, £3m

Youssuf Mulumbu – West Brom, Free

Andre Wisdom – Liverpool, Loan

Robbie Brady – Hull, £7m

Out

Javier Garrido – released

Mark Bunn – Aston Villa, Free

Carlton Morris – Hamilton, Loan

Cameron McGeehan – Luton Town, Undisclosed

Sam Kelly – Port Vale, Free

Remi Matthews – Burton, Loan

Best XI:

Ruddy

Martin Turner Bassong Olsson

Tettey Mulumbu Howson

Redmond Jerome Hoolahan

Norwich have bounced back up to the Premier League at the first time of asking, and their squad seems almost the same as the one that went down two years ago. A stable, if somewhat boring team, Norwich will probably be fighting off relegation for most of the season.

Southampton

In

Jordy Clasie – Feyenoord, £8m

Juanmi – Malaga, £5m

Cuco Martina – FC Twente, £1m

Cedric Soares – Sporting CP, £4.7m

Maarten Stekelenburg – Fulham, Loan

Steven Caulker – QPR, Loan

Out

Morgan Schneiderlin – Manchester United, £25m

Nathaniel Clyne – Liverpool, Undisclosed (fee understood to be £10m plus add-ons)

Artur Boruc – Bournemouth, Free

Jos Hooiveld – Released

Cody Cropper – MK Dons, Free

Omar Rowe – Released

Jake Sinclair – Released

Dani Osvaldo – Released

Best XI:

Forster

Soares Fonte Caulker Bertrand

Clasie Wanyama Ward-Prowse

Rodriguez Pelle Mane

Southampton were perhaps the most impressive side in the league last season, finishing a hugely credible 7th despite a host of big departures. They have lost two more important players in Clyne and Schneiderlin, but Ronaldo Koeman seems a hugely impressive manager who can cope with it. The Europa League will have some impact on their league form, but it will also raise their profile around Europe and allow them to attract better players. Another strong season beckons.

Stoke

In

Glen Johnson – Liverpool, Free

Phillipp Wollscheid – Bayer Leverkusen, £2.75m

Joselu – Hannover 96, £5.75m

Shay Given – Aston Villa, Free

Marko van Ginkel – Chelsea, Loan

Jakob Haugaard – FC Midtyjlland, £0.6m

Moha El Ouriachi – Barcelona, Undisclosed

Ibrahim Afellay – Barcelona, Free

Out

Asmir Begovic – Chelsea, Undisclosed

Steven Nzonzi – Sevilla, £7m

Robert Huth – Leicester City, Undisclosed

Jamie Ness – Scunthorpe, Free

Thomas Sorensen – Released

Wilson Palacios – Released

Andy Wilkinson – Released

Best XI:

Butland

Johnson Shawcross Muniesa Pieters

Arnautovic Whelan Van Ginkel Afellay

Bojan Diouf

Stoke continue to go under the radar despite two successive top half finishes. They have shed their ‘physical’ tag under Mark Hughes and are now attracting more skilful players such as Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay. Begovic and Nzonzi will be missed but they will endure as they always do.

Sunderland

In

Jeremain Lens – Dynamo Kiev, £8.5m

Younes Kaboul – Tottenham, £3m

Adam Matthews – Celtic, £2m

Sebastian Coates – Liverpool, £1.96m

Out

El-Hadji Ba – Charlton

Santiago Vergini – Getafe, Loan

Best XI:

Pantilimon

Matthews Coates Kaboul Van Aanholt

Larsson Giaccherini Gomez Cattermole Johnson

Defoe

The Black Cat’s nine lives are surely almost up. Sunderland always seem to get out of relegation, but no team can sustain that forever. Another long season beckons.

Swansea

In

Andre Ayew – Marseille, Free

Franck Tabanou – St Etienne, £3.5m

Eder – Braga, £5.2m

Kristoffer Nordfelt – Heerenveen, £0.6m

Oliver McBurnie – Bradford City, £0.25m

Out

Jazz Richards – Fulham, Undisclosed

David Cornell – Oldham, Free

Alan Tate – Released

Gerhard Tremmel – Released

Best XI:

Fabianski

Rangel Williams Fernandez Taylor

Ki Shelvey

Montero Sigurdsson Ayew

Gomis

Despite the loss of Wilfried Bony, Swansea continue to be one of the most upwardly mobile clubs in the league. Andre Ayew was one of the most in-demand free agents this summer, and Swansea did well to secure him. They will fancy their chances of claiming a Europa League spot.

Spurs

In

Toby Alderweireld – Atletico Madrid, £11.5m

Kevin Wimmer – Cologne, £4.3m

Kieran Trippier – Burnley, £3.5m

Out

Paulinho – Guangzhou Evergrande, £9.8m

Benjamin Stambouli – PSG, £6m

Etienne Capoue – Watford, Undisclosed (fee believed to be in the region of £6m)

Younes Kaboul – Sunderland, Undisclosed

Lewis Holtby – Hamburg

Best XI:

Lloris

Walker Alderweireld Vertonghen Rose

Dembele Mason

Lamela Eriksen Chadli

Kane

Spurs continue to float around in their zone of not good enough for the top four, too good to fall out of the top seven. The excellent Eriksen and Kane will provide goals, and Alderweireld is a solid defender to protect one of the league’s best keepers. Erik Lamela will surely come good eventually, and young midfielders Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb established themselves last season. Will it be enough for the top four? Probably not, but we’ll see.

Watford

In

Etienne Capoue – Tottenham, £6m

Valon Behrami – Hamburg, £3m

Jose Holebas – Roma, £1.8m

Miguel Britos – Napoli, Undisclosed

Jose Jurado – Spartak Moscow, Undisclosed

Matej Vydra – Udinese, £6m

Allan Nyom – Udinese, Undisclosed

Sebastian Prodl – Werder Bremen, Free

Giedrius Arlauskis – Steaua Bucharest, Free

Steven Berghuis – AZ Alkmaar, £4.6m

Out

Jonathan Bond – Reading, Undisclosed

Lewis McGugan – Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed

Juanfran – Deportivo La Coruna, Loan

Best XI:

Gomes

Britos Angella Ekstrand

Anya Abdi Capoue Jurado Holebas

Deeney Ighalo

Watford seem to be going down the QPR route of spending big and spending often in their quest for survival. Many players from Serie A have come in, thanks to their link with Udinese, and long serving players like Troy Deeney will be itching to show what they can do at the top level. They have huge depth to their squad, which could be crucial.

West Brom

In

James McClean – Wigan, £1.5m

James Chester – Hull, £8m

Rickie Lambert – Liverpool, Undisclosed

Out

Graham Dorrans – Norwich, Undisclosed

Youssuf Mulumbu – Norwich, Free

Chris Baird – Derby County, Free

Best XI:

Foster

Dawson Chester Lescott Pocognoli

McManaman Yacob Fletcher McLean

Berahino Lambert

West Brom were many people’s favourites to go down last season, but the appointment of Tony Pulis kept them up. With Pulis in charge, it’s hard to see them going down, but their first eleven is hardly the most inspiring. They will certainly be around the bottom three for most of the season.

West Ham

In

Angelo Ogbonna – Juventus, £7.9m

Dimitri Payet – Marseille, £10.7m

Carl Jenkinson – Arsenal, Loan

Pedro Obiang – Sampdoria, £4.3m

Manuel Lanzini – Al Jazira, Loan

Darren Randolph – Birmingham City, Free

Out

Stewart Downing – Middlesbrough, £5.5m

Dan Potts – Luton Town, Free

Paul McCallum – Leyton Orient, Free

Carlton Cole – Released

Guy Demel – Released

Jussi Jaaskelainen – Released

Nene – Released

Best XI:

Adrian

Jenkinson Tomkins Ogbonna Cresswell

Noble Obiang

Payet Zarate Jarvis

Sakho

West Ham had a decent season, but decided to part ways with Sam Allardyce in favour of Slaven Bilic. They pulled off quite the coup in luring Dimitri Payet, one of the best players in Europe last season, and they will hope to land a top half finish.

Table Prediction

1. Chelsea

2. Manchester United

3. Arsenal

4. Manchester City

5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham

7. Swansea

8. Southampton.

9. Everton

10. Stoke

11. Crystal Palace

12. West Ham

13. Newcastle

14. Watford

15. West Brom

16. Aston Villa

17. Leicester 

18. Norwich

19. Bournemouth

20. Sunderland

Championship Prediction

1. Middlesbrough

2. Derby

3. Ipswich

4. Brentford

5. Wolves

6. QPR

7. Hull

8. Birmingham

9. Burnley

10. Blackburn

11. Cardiff

12. Nottingham Forest

13. Bristol City

14. Sheffield Wednesday

15. Charlton

16. Bolton

17. Leeds

18. Fulham

19. Preston

20. Reading

21. Huddersfield

22. MK Dons

23. Brighton

24. Rotherham


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My Top 100 Footballers 2014

After the release of FourFourTwo’s annual ranking of the top 100 footballers currently playing, I was prompted to compile my own ranking, following on from last year. It’s impossible that a perfect ranking could be created that everyone agrees with, because it’s entirely based on opinion, but here is my list for this year anyway. It isn’t based on who had the best 2014, simply who I think the best players are overall right now. In brackets is how their position has changed from last year’s list, which you can find here: https://mattdale95.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/my-top-100-footballers-2013/

100. Radja Nainggolan – Roma and Belgium (NEW)

100

99. Memphis Depay – PSV Eindhoven and Holland (NEW)

98

98. Marc-Andre ter Stegen – Barcelona and Germany (NEW)

Recreativo de Huelva v FC Barcelona: Pre-Season Friendly

97. Alessio Cerci – Atletico Madrid and Italy (NEW)

96

96. Mathieu Valbuena – Dynamo Moscow and France (No move)

95

95. Daley Blind – Manchester United and Holland (NEW)

94

94. Santi Cazorla – Arsenal and Spain (Down 35)

93

93. Simon Kjaer – Lille and Denmark (NEW)

92

92. Luiz Gustavo – Wolfsburg and Brazil (NEW)

91

91. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Borussia Dortmund and Gabon (NEW)

90

90. Giuseppe Rossi – Fiorentina and Italy (Down 19)

Giuseppe Rossi

89. Jose Callejon – Napoli and Spain (NEW)

88

88. Jackson Martinez – Porto and Colombia (NEW)

87

87. Gianluigi Buffon – Juventus and Italy (Up 3)

Juventus FC v AS Roma - Serie A

86. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – Schalke and Holland (NEW)

85

85. Borja Valero – Fiorentina and Spain (Down 24)

84

84. Stevan Jovetic – Manchester City and Montenegro (NEW)

83

83. Marco Verratti – Paris Saint-Germain and Italy (NEW)

82

82. Carlos Vela – Real Sociedad and Mexico (NEW)

81

81. Marcelo – Real Madrid and Brazil (Down 25)

80

80. Daniel Sturridge  – Liverpool and England (NEW)

79

79. Ilkay Gundogan – Borussia Dortmund and Germany (Down 11)

78

78. Antoine Griezmann – Atletico Madrid and France (Up 19)

77

77. Antonio Candreva – Lazio and Italy (NEW)

76

76. Kevin De Bruyne – Wolfsburg and Belgium (NEW)

75

75. Blaise Matuidi – Paris Saint-Germain and France (No move)

74

74. Samir Handanovic – Inter Milan and Slovenia (NEW)

73

73. Mario Mandzukic – Atletico Madrid and Croatia (NEW)

72

72. Kevin Strootman – Roma and Holland (NEW)

71

71. Lukasz Piszczek – Borussia Dortmund and Poland (NEW)

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70. Oscar – Chelsea and Brazil (Down 24)

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69. Andrea Pirlo – Juventus and Italy (Down 25)

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68. Marek Hamsik – Napoli and Slovakia (Down 38)

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67. Raphael Varane – Real Madrid and France (Up 3)

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66. Arda Turan – Atletico Madrid and Turkey (NEW)

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65. Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli and Argentina (Down 33)

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64. Vincent Kompany – Manchester City and Belgium (Down 31)

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63. Giorgio Chiellini – Juventus and Italy (Down 23)

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62. Juan Cuadrado – Fiorentina and Colombia (NEW)

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61. Paul Pogba – Juventus and France (Down 20)

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60. Roberto Firmino – Hoffenheim and Brazil (NEW)

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59. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United and England (Up 15)

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58. Daniele De Rossi – Roma and Italy (Down 21)

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57. Hugo Lloris – Tottenham and France (Down 6)

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56. Pablo Zabaleta – Manchester City and Argentina (Up 16)

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55. Ricardo Rodriguez – Wolfsburg and Switzerland (NEW)

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54. David De Gea – Manchester United and Spain (NEW)

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53. Robin van Persie – Manchester United and Holland (Down 29)

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52. Carlos Tevez – Juventus and Argentina (Up 46)

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51. Nemanja Matic – Chelsea and Serbia (NEW)

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50. Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea and Spain (NEW)

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49. Javi Martinez – Bayern Munich and Spain (Down 20)

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48. Xabi Alonso – Bayern Munich and Spain (Down 1)

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47. Franck Ribery – Bayern Munich and France (Down 41)

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46. Juan Mata – Manchester United and Spain (Down 21)

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45. Mehdi Benatia – Bayern Munich and Morocco (Up 13)

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44. Mesut Ozil – Arsenal and Germany (Down 30)

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43. David Alaba – Bayern Munich and Austria (Up 2)

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42. Radamel Falcao – Manchester United and Colombia (Down 23)

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41. Miralem Pjanic – Roma and Bosnia (NEW)

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40. Mats Hummels – Borussia Dortmund and Germany (Up 3)

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39. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal and Chile (Up 15)

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38. Edinson Cavani – Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay (Down 21)

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37. James Rodriguez – Real Madrid and Colombia (NEW)

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36. Gareth Bale – Real Madrid and Wales (Down 20)

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35. Karim Benzema – Real Madrid and France (Up 7)

Real Madrid's Benzema celebrates after scoring during their Spanish first division match in Madrid

34. Sergio Ramos – Real Madrid and Spain (Up 15)

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33. Marco Reus – Borussia Dortmund and Germany (Up 5)

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32. Javier Mascherano – Barcelona and Argentina (Up 37)

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31. Ivan Rakitic – Barcelona and Croatia (NEW)

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30. Eden Hazard – Chelsea and Belgium (Up 22)

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29. Mario Gotze – Bayern Munich and Germany (Up 5)

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28. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Bayern Munich and Germany (Down 8)

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27. David Silva – Manchester City and Spain (No move)

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26. Koke – Atletico Madrid and Spain (Up 51)

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25. Diego Costa – Chelsea and Spain (Up 23)

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24. Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich and Poland (Down 12)

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23. Isco – Real Madrid and Spain (Down 5)

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22. Diego Godin – Atletico Madrid and Uruguay (NEW)

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21. Yaya Toure – Manchester City and Ivory Coast (Down 12)

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20. Arturo Vidal – Juventus and Chile (Down 7)

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19. Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea and Belgium (Up 38)

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18. Jerome Boateng – Bayern Munich and Germany (NEW)

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17. Cesc Fabregas – Chelsea and Spain (Down 2)

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16. Thomas Muller –  Bayern Munich and Germany (Up 34)

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15. Angel Di Maria – Manchester United and Argentina (Up 21)

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14. Arjen Robben – Bayern Munich and Holland (Up 21)

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13. Sergio Busquets – Barcelona and Spain (Up 10)

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12. Toni Kroos – Real Madrid and Germany (Up 14)

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11. Neymar – Barcelona and Brazil (Down 1)

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10. Thiago Silva – Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil (Down 3)

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9. Luka Modric – Real Madrid and Croatia (Up 19)

Real Madrid's Luka Modric celebrates after scoring in their La Liga victory against Real Mallorca

8. Andres Iniesta – Barcelona and Spain (Down 5)

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7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden (Down 2)

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6. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City and Argentina (Up 15)

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5. Manuel Neuer – Bayern Munich and Germany (Up 17)

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4. Philipp Lahm – Bayern Munich and Germany (Up 4)

Philipp Lahm playing for Bayern

3. Luis Suarez – Barcelona and Uruguay (Up 1)

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2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid and Portugal (No move)

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1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona and Argentina (No move)

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European Team of the Season

All of Europe’s major leagues have drawn to a close, and it is that time when we look back and reflect on the star performers over the last 9 months. There have been many players bursting onto the scene this season, many upcoming young players enhancing their reputations, and many established stars continuing to do what they do best. Here are my picks for the best players across the five major leagues.

GK: Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid

The Belgian keeper, still only 22 years old, has progressed more than anyone could have imagined in his three years on loan in Madrid from Chelsea. This season has been simply incredible for Madrid’s second club, as they won their first La Liga title since 1996, and were within  a few minutes of winning a first ever Champions League. Diego Costa grabbed the headlines for them, but equally as important was their outstanding defence and goalkeeper. As Courtois won’t be able to return to Atletico next season due to the rule forbidding players from spending more than three years on loan at the same club during one contract, he is at something of a crossroads in his career. He has stated that he has no emotional attachment to parent club Chelsea, and as one of the world’s best keepers he would not be prepared to be the understudy to Petr Cech. He had been linked with Barcelona, but their capture of fellow young keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen seems to have scuppered any chance of him moving there. There is always the chance Atletico could sign him permanently, but would Chelsea be prepared to let him leave? The most likely outcome is that he will return to Chelsea and become their number one, and Petr Cech will move on.

RB: Serge Aurier, Toulouse

He might not be the most famous name, but the versatile Ivorian Aurier has had as good a season as anyone. The attacking right back has contributed 6 goals and 6 assists in the league for Toulouse, which is a record any full back would be proud of. He has also played at centre back and right midfield. Aurier is only 21 still, and is set to play at the World Cup for the Ivory Coast, which will see his stock rise even more if he puts in a good showing. Toulouse only finished 9th in Ligue 1, so it is unlikely they will be able to hold on to him over the summer. He has been strongly linked with Arsenal as a replacement for the departing Bacary Sagna, and if they were to be able to sign him, it would be a very smart piece of business.

CB: Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid

Another crucial member of Atletico Madrid’s squad is the Uruguayan defender Diego Godin, who has been described as their John Terry due to his willingness to throw himself in front of anything. He has a perfect partnership with Miranda, and there is very little between the two of them. The team conceded only 26 goals in their 38 league games thanks mainly to this pair and the keeper behind them. They put in the defensive performance of their lives in the Champions League final, keeping Real at bay for 92 minutes, and it was so close to being enough to win them the trophy.

CB: Mehdi Benatia, Roma

In the first 10 rounds of Serie A, Roma won every single game, and somehow conceded just a single goal in those 10 games. A big reason for that is Moroccan defender Benatia, a summer arrival from Udinese for around £10million. He is arguably now worth around three times that. Last season Roma were excellent going forward but hopeless at the back, and after bringing in Benatia to solve that problem, they were able to return to the Champions League, and for much of the season, they were pushing Juventus all the way for the title. Sadly for Roma, Benatia seems set on a move away to Barcelona. If he were to make that move, it would be exactly the signing Barcelona need to make to return to challenging for the Champions League.

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg had their best season in a long time, and a big part of that was the 21-year old full back Rodriguez. Rodriguez has excellent stats for a full back, scoring 5 goals and making 9 assists in the Bundesliga, and he is considered one of the best crossers of a ball in the game. Next season, with Wolfsburg in the Europa League, he will get to show what he can do on the European stage, and more people will stand up and take notice of him.

DM: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich

The captain of last season’s treble winners has always been one of the most consistent players in the world. That was no different this season, and he took to playing in a new position as if he was born to it. Traditionally a full back, he played mainly as a defensive midfielder this season, and did it so well he kept Javi Martinez, one of the world’s best defensive midfielders, out of the team. Pep Guardiola has called him the most intelligent player he has ever coached – high praise from a man who has coached geniuses such as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Sergio Busquets was credited as one of the most important players for Barcelona under Guardiola, and Lahm has all the attributes to play the same role for him at Bayern.

CM: Yaya Toure, Manchester City

In 2010, Manchester City spent £28million on a defensive midfielder called Yaya Toure. This year, that same Yaya Toure finished as the top scorer in a squad containing Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. He has been transformed from a decent defensive midfielder into a colossal attacking powerhouse. The goal he scored in the penultimate game of City’s title-winning season, summed up his season, when he picked the ball up deep in his own half, and just run all the way down the pitch, shrugging off challenge after challenge, and expertly finishing it off. He has also become something of a free kick specialist this season, and to have finished with 20 goals in the league is simply remarkable for a midfielder. The best business City could do this summer is convince him to stay, because he is simply irreplaceable.

CM: Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid

The arrival of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid seemed to signal the end of Di Maria’s time at the club. 9 months on, Di Maria arguably outshined the Welshman, playing in a different position and still managing to contribute 17 assists in La Liga. He was named man of the match in the Champions League final against Atletico, a game when Bale and Ronaldo were virtually anonymous. After being seemingly discarded by Real, he emerged as one of their most important players.

RW: Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona

Alexis has constantly been outshone at Barcelona by his more glamorous team mates, and with the arrival of Neymar this summer, many didn’t think he would get a look in any more. Despite an excellent season when he scored 19 goals and made 10 assists in the league, he continues to be unappreciated by Barcelona, with them reportedly offering him to other clubs to make room for new signings. Whoever signs him will be getting a brilliant player at probably a bargain price.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

After being continually outshone by Lionel Messi ever since he moved to Spain, this was the season when Ronaldo finally stepped out from behind Messi’s shadow. With the little Argentine sidelined by injury for several months, Ronaldo took the opportunity to fire Real Madrid to the Champion’s League title, scoring a record 17 goals in the competition. and a total of 51 goals in 47 games. His statistics since joining Real Madrid continue to defy logic, and now the argument for who the best player in the world is is more difficult than ever before.

ST: Luis Suarez, Liverpool

Love him or loathe him – and most people do the latter – Luis Suarez was easily the best player in the Premier League this season, and almost single-handedly dragged Liverpool to what would have been an unbelievable title win. His 31 goals and 12 assists in the league are even more remarkable considering he missed the first 6 games of the season, and they were enough to win him the Player of the Year award. And yet he came so close to leaving Liverpool before the season started – some Liverpool fans were even hoping he would leave after bringing so much controversy to the club. Those people have almost certainly changed their minds about him now, even if does still infuriate many with his diving antics.

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GK: Keylor Navas, Levante

It was a big surprise when the Costa Rican Navas was named in La Liga’s team of the season over Courtois, but it was totally deserved. In his first season as a first choice keeper in La Liga, he kept 15 clean sheets for mid-table Levante.

CB: Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid

It was his last-gasp goal in the Champions League final that allowed Real to go on and win in extra time, and that was the pinnacle of a season when many believe he proved himself as the best defender in the world.

RB: Seamus Coleman, Everton

Coleman, and Leighton Baines on the opposite flank, were a major reason for Everton’s excellent season, and at £60k he is one of the best bargains in football.

CM: Arturo Vidal, Juventus

While Juventus continue to dominate in Italy, they flopped in European competition this season, despite Vidal’s heroics. He is a very well-rounded footballer, scoring 11 league goals and also defending very well.

LW: Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad

The Frenchman who has spent his whole career so far in Spain had his best season yet, scoring 16 league goals. and scored an incredible overhead kick to take Sociedad into the Champions League group stage. At only 23, he will only get better.

RW: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Hazard improved on his first season at Chelsea, scoring 14 goals and assisting 7. He was also crucial in their run to the Champions League semi finals.

ST: Lionel Messi, Barcelona

He may have had a ‘below-par’ season in the minds of some, but Messi was still the second-highest scoring player in Europe behind Ronaldo, with 36 goals in 38 games. He now heads to a World Cup many are tipping Argentina to win, and if he were to help them do so, he would surely go down as the best player of all time.


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What can West Ham expect from Mauro Zárate?

Mauro Zarate

West Ham have completed the signing of 27 year old Argentine striker Mauro Zarate from Velez Sarsfield. Having been one of Europe’s biggest young talents several years ago, Zarate fell off the radar somewhat recently, but he is still an excellent player, and should he play to his best, he will be an amazing signing for West Ham. He is also one of my favourite players, so I really hope he is a success in the Premier League.

Club History

Mauro began his career at Velez Sarsfield in Argentina. At 17, he was promoted from the youth team into the first team. His breakout season was in 2006/07, when he scored 19 goals, and was promptly signed for around £15m by Qatari side Al-Sadd. After only six months in Qatar, he joined Birmingham City on loan for six months of the 2007/08 season. He scored 4 goals in 14 appearances for Birmingham, not enough to keep them from relegation, but although he was only there for a brief period, he scored some memorable goals and Blues fans have fond memories of him. The following season, he joined Serie A side Lazio on loan, and that was the season he really burst onto the scene of European football. He scored 13 goals in Serie A, and also helping them to win the Coppa Italia with a goal in the semi-final and final. His performances for Lazio convinced the normally stingy president Claudio Lotito to splash out £20m for his permanent signing. However, his next season would be something of a let down, as he only scored 3 league goals, and only 8 in total. The next season was a little better, with 9 goals, but the manager Edy Reja was critical of his use of the ball, saying he is “too in love with the ball” and should pass more. In 2011/12, he went on loan to Inter Milan, scoring just twice in 22 league appearances, although he was used mainly as a substitute. When Inter decided against making his signing permanent, he returned to Lazio, and with Reja gone, he got his head down and prepared for the new season at Lazio. However, despite playing regularly in the Europe League, manager Petkovic couldn’t find room for him in the team for league games. This led to a falling out with the management, and he was ostracised from the team. He ended the season with only league appearance, and just one goal in the Europa League. His Lazio contract was terminated at the end of the season, and he returned to his first club Velez. This move seems to have revitalised him – he finished the top scorer in Argentina last season, with a tally of 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions. This has persuaded Sam Allardyce to bring him to West Ham.

Style of Play

Zarate is most comfortable playing up front, but he has also played on the left wing, allowing him to cut inside onto his stronger right foot. He is a very pacy and skillful dribbler, but has often been accused of being too greedy. He has scored several free kicks and spectacular long range strikes in his time, and he certainly has an eye for the spectacular. The best way for West Ham to utilise him would probably be in a front two with Andy Carroll, allowing him to benefit from Carroll’s flick-ons.

After showing so much early promise, Zarate clearly became unhappy in Italy and failed to play like he could. However, his brilliant form in Argentina shows that he is still an excellent player, and if Big Sam can find a way to get him playing to his best, there is no reason why he can’t be a brilliant addition to the Premier League. As a big fan of him myself, I wish him all the best.


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Facing the Abyss: Five Teams in Danger of Relegation

All across Europe, teams near the foot of their respective leagues are starting to panic as the prospect of relegation becomes more and more likely. Relegation is disastrous for any football club, but even more so in the current financial climate, as the loss in revenue can be crippling and it is not uncommon for teams to go into administration, or even go out of business after dropping out of their country’s top division. This season, there are several teams in real danger of relegation that you might not have expected to be back in August.

English Premier League: Fulham and Sunderland

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Fulham and Sunderland are two of those teams that always flirt with relegation at some point in the season, but eventually the quality in their relatively expensive squads lifts them out of danger into a boring mid-table position. This season however, they have both been in trouble since the first day and are running out of time to sort things out.

Fulham

After 13 years in the Premier League, which has included a run to the Europa League final and escaping relegation on the final day, Fulham look to have run out of steam and inspiration. A squad with players such as Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz, Scott Parker and Lewis Holtby ought to be well clear, but some of those players have been accused of laziness and lacking the ‘fight’ for a relegation battle. As such, Barbatov and Ruiz were shipped out in January and they broke their transfer record to sign Konstantinos Mitroglou – who has gone on to make just two appearances. Sacking two managers also hasn’t helped with stability – Rene Meulensteen replaced Martin Jol in December, who only had 16 days of experience as the main man at a football club, and he was then replaced by notorious megalomaniac Felix Magath, the first German manager to take charge of a Premier League club. The Cottagers are currently five points from safety, but they are at a disadvantage because of their significantly worse goal difference, and have also player more games than the sides just outside the bottom three. As it stands, they look the most likely team to drop out.

Sunderland

Despite several magical moments provided by the on-loan striker Fabio Borini – including a late winner in the Tyne-Wear derby, a winning goal against Chelsea and putting the Black Cats ahead against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final – Sunderland have had a very disappointing season. They took a big gamble in appointing the unpredictable Paolo Di Canio as boss, and it has backfired spectacularly. After splashing the cash on several little-known players from obscure foreign teams, he then fell out with his players and was sacked after just five games in which they mustered only one point. They appointed Gus Poyet to replace him, who had done well at Brighton in the Championship but results haven’t improved enough to lift them out of danger. They currently have home games remaining against fellow strugglers Swansea, West Brom and Cardiff, coupled with away games at Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs, so they simply have to win their home games if they are to survive. Currently four points from safety, but with a game in hand on several of their rivals, they have shown this season that they can pull off a shock win when they need to – but will they be able to do enough?

Bundesliga: Hamburg and Stuttgart

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Stuttgart and Hamburg are two of Germany’s biggest and most storied clubs, but they are both in danger of the drop. Stuttgart were Bundesliga champions as recently as 2007, while Hamburg have been in the Bundesliga since World War One, and have never been relegated from the top flight.

Stuttgart

The five-time champions Stuttgart have missed only two seasons of the Bundesliga since it’s conception in 1963. They surrendered a two goal lead to lose to Dortmund at the weekend, and have only one win in 2014. They face Bayern, Schalke and Wolfsburg in their last six games, they need to get something from their next game against Freiburg to try and kickstart a comeback.

Hamburg

German legend Franz Beckanbauer has said it would be ‘unthinkable’ to see Hamburg in the Bundesliga 2, and with players like Rafael van der Vaart in their squad it would be a huge shock to see them go down for the first time in their history. They and Stuttgart are both only two points from safety, so they still have their future in their hands.

La Liga: Real Betis

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After last season’s 7th placed finish and entry into the Europa League, Betis seemed to be heading in the right direction. It has all gone very badly wrong this season, following the sale of star man Benat and the long-term injury of star striker Ruben Castro. Popular manager Pepe Mel, who led the club out of the Segunda and into Europe was sacked, their President has recently resigned and they are still in administration. All the signs of a club in chaos. The only highlight of their season was a decent Europa League run, but that ended in heart breaking circumstances – a penalty shootout defeat to bitter city rivals Sevilla. A massive eight points from safety with seven games to play, if they were to escape the drop it would be one of the most dramatic turnarounds in football history – but they have been looking more like their old selves lately, so don’t right them off just yet.


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The Major Moves This January

Another January transfer window has come and gone, and clubs will now have to make do with what they have until the end of the season. The window started slowly, but really heated up in the last week or so, and some very interesting transfers ended up taking place.

Juan Mata – Chelsea to Manchester United, £37m

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Let’s start with the big one. The biggest transfer fee paid this window, and one Premier League club selling in my opinion it’s best player to a rival? When the rumours of this move started, I laughed it off, thinking there was no way Chelsea would sell their best player to United, and no way that Mata would want to move to a club that might not even be in the Champions League next season. But, it really did happen, and Mata is now at Manchester United. How did this happen? Mata had been having a poor season by his standards at Chelsea, no goals and only 2 assists in only 13 league appearances. It was said that he didn’t suit Mourinho’s style of play, and Mourinho seemed to prefer Oscar as his number 10. Mata has already matched his number of assists in the league in his first 2 games for Manchester United, so he already seems rejuvenated by the move. It is questionable where he will actually play for United, as the number 10 role is filled by Wayne Rooney, and he isn’t suited to playing out wide in a 4-4-2, so they will probably change to a 4-2-3-1 and play him on the right wing where he can cut inside. This move will give him a much greater chance of making Spain’s World Cup squad, as they have no shortage of attacking midfielders, and even a slightly below par season could see someone not make it.

Hernanes – Lazio to Inter Milan, £16m

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A move that it makes me sad to report, as Hernanes is one of my favourite players and Lazio one of my favourite clubs, so I was willing him not to leave. Hernanes had been linked with a move for several months now, ever since the Confederations Cup, but not once did he ask to leave or hand in a transfer request. Having resisted PSG, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid in the summer, Lazio had been having a terrible season, and Hernanes was far below his usual form, not even making the starting XI some weeks. On January 30, he was filmed breaking down into tears as he took pictures with the Lazio supporters for the last time, which seemed conclusive proof that he was on his way. Finally, on deadline day, his move to Inter was confirmed for £16m. However, I have to question whether he is more likely to win trophies at Inter than Lazio – despite being a traditionally better club, and admittedly having a better season than Lazio, Inter are still quite a way off the Champions League, and not even in Europe this season. Hernanes is 29, but has signed a contract until 2018 at Inter, so he may yet achieve his ambition of winning trophies at Inter, but it would require a big turnaround in Inter’s fortunes.

Diego – Wolfsburg to Atletico Madrid, £1.2m

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Another move I didn’t want to happen, Diego is another of my favourite players and Wolfsburg another of my favourite clubs! This move seemed to appear out of nowhere on deadline day, the news broke that he had signed without any warning, and took Wolfsburg fans by surprise. It had seemed likely that Diego would leave at the end of the season when his contract expired, but Atletico decided to sign him now for a minimal £1.2m. He returns now to a club where he had a successful loan in 2011/12, and Wolfsburg have De Bruyne and Max Arnold to take his place, so all in all, this transfer seems to suit everyone. And, should he help Atletico to go on a run in the Champions League, or even win La Liga, is a Brazil recall so out of the question?

Kurt Zouma – St Etienne to Chelsea, £12m

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Zouma is considered one of Europe’s best young defenders, and it is Chelsea who have won the race to sign him. He has been loaned back to St Etienne for the remainder of the season, and it will be interesting to see if he forces his way into Chelsea’s first team plans next season. Mourinho, and Chelsea in general, don’t have a great record of giving young players a chance – the likes of De Bruyne, Piazon, Chalobah, McEachran and Lukaku have all been sent on loan after loan, never really being given a chance. However, with Chelsea lacking in quality defenders, I believe Zouma will be given a chance in Chelsea’s first team last season, and should he adapt quickly to the Premier League, Chelsea will have a fantastic defender for the next 15 years.

Nemanja Matic – Benfica to Chelsea, £21m

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This move is something of an embarrassment for Chelsea, as Matic is a former Chelsea player but they didn’t give him a real chance in the first team and gave him to Benfica as part of the David Luiz deal, and have now had to shell out £21m to re-sign him. Nevertheless, Matic is considered to be just what Chelsea were lacking, a strong defensive midfielder who also had offensive skills, he will have a big part to play in the title and Champion’s League run-in.

Pablo Osvaldo – Southampton to Juventus, loan

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Osvaldo never really got going in the Premier League, scoring just 3 goals in 13 appearances, and after headbutting Jose Fonte in training he was never going to be able to stay at Southampton. His Southampton team mates said they would not welcome him back after his two week suspension by the club, so he moved to Juventus on loan with a view to a £15m permanent move in the summer. He will offer Juve more depth up front, as apart from Tevez and Llorente their other strikers have failed to impress recently. And should he get back in form, he could yet make Italy’s World Cup squad.

Kevin De Bruyne – Chelsea to Wolfsburg, £17m

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Despite a great season on loan at Werder Bremen in 2012/13, De Bruyne couldn’t force his way into Chelsea’ star-studded midfield, making just 3 Premier League appearances for them. It was seen as a great coup for Wolfsburg to sign him, and he will certainly give them a great chance of making the Bundesliga’s top four, despite losing their first two games of the second half of the season.

Yohan Cabaye – Newcastle to PSG, £20m

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Cabaye has been one of the Premier League’s most underrated players ever since he joined Newcastle, and he will definitely be missed in the North East. He fits the bill for what PSG needed: they needed more depth in central midfield, and Cabaye is home grown, eligible for the Champions League, and can play both deep-lying and more advanced playmaker roles. £20m may seem a lot, but when you consider he is regular in France’s starting eleven, and just entering his peak years, it seems a good investment for PSG.

Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley – Tottenham and Roma to Toronto, £6m and £7m

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The MLS has a reputation for only being able to sign over-the-hill players looking for one last pay day, so it was something of a surprise when Toronto managed to sign two international players still playing at a high level – Defoe was still an important member of the Spurs squad, and may have been considered for England’s World Cup squad if not for this move, and Michael Bradley, still only 26 and one of the USA’s best players, was playing for Roma in Serie A, although not a regular starter. These two marquee signings are hoping to revitalise an underachieving MLS team.

Other noteworthy transfers

Lewis Holtby – Spurs to Fulham, loan

Michael Essien – Chelsea to AC Milan, free

Aymen Abdennour – Toulouse to Monaco, loan

Dimitar Berbatov – Fulham to Monaco, loan

Mohamed Salah – Basel to Chelsea, £11m

Konstantinos Mitroglou – Olympiakos to Fulham, £12m

Sergio Canales – Valencia to Real Sociedad, £3.6m

Keisuke Honda – CSKA Moscow to AC Milan, free