Milan and Genoa – the unofficial feeder club agreement

Milan and Genoa have unofficially struck up an increasingly amicable business agreement that has seen a number of players move between the sides in recent times. Club supremos Adriano Galliani and Enrico Preziosi appear to meet on a regular basis, with the Scudetto holders seemingly, albeit not officially, having first refusal on players from the Stadio Luigi Ferraris who may have the potential to move to the next level. Similarly, players on the outskirts of the Giuseppe Meazza first-team are being farmed out to the less prestigious of the two sides to gain match experience.

The issue of joint ownership is one that has emerged, as in many of the deals agreed by the clubs, both parties share player rights. This seems to be a measure used by Milan to allow them to easily bring a player back to the San Siro if he excels, and for Genoa to participate in transfer deals without having to splurge their transfer budget.

Genoa to Milan

Kevin-Prince Boateng was snapped up by Genoa after an impressive World Cup showing, and in an odd move, loaned to Milan. The move was initially on a temporary basis, but the German born midfielder made 34 appearances for Massimiliano Allegri’s side in 2010/11, and a full transfer to the champions was agreed in May. Marco Amelia signed for Milan on loan from the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in June 2010 following 30 appearances for the Rossoblu, and the deal was made permanent last month. The 29-year-old is now a back up for first choice Christian Abbiati, and the ex-Roma stopper’s stock went up by gaining first-team experience in Liguria.

Stephan El Shaarawy may be a name unfamiliar to fans with only a passing interest in Italian football, but the Rossoneri have earlier this month finalised a co-ownership deal to purchase 50% of the player’s rights for €10m. The 18-year-old attacking midfielder of Italian-Egyptian descent has only made three top flight appearances, but impressed in a loan spell with Serie B side Padova last season and will look to further his footballing education with the Scudetto holders after progressing through the Genoa youth system.

Milan to Genoa

Kakha Kaladze moved from Milan to Genoa in August 2010 for an undisclosed fee, as the 33-year-old found opportunities with the Milanese club waning after nine seasons of service. Sokratis Papastathopoulos has bounced between the two sides, and signed for Milan after 51 appearances for Genoa between 2008 and 2010 for a fee believed to be around €14m. However, only a percentage of the transfer fee was paid in cash – the remainder was recuperated by Preziosi by securing half of the player rights for Milan’s Rodney Strasser, Gianmarco Zigoni and Nnamdi Oduamadi. The Greece international found first-team football opportunities a rarity in 2010/11, and is now back at Genoa.

Alexander Merkel is a German youth player with plenty of promise, who Milan snatched from the youth system of Stuttgart back in 2009. The now 19-year-old midfielder, despite promising much, could not oust the older heads in Allegri’s starting XI, and this month Genoa have bought half his rights and will have him at their disposal for next season.

It should also be noted that besides the fringe players cited in the Papastathopoulos transfer, Giacomo Beretta, Andrea Ganz and Alberto Paloschi also have shared ownership between the two clubs.

The future

Both sides are clearly prospering from the current arrangement, with Milan having the chance to snap up any players that outgrow the Genoa pool, and the smaller club’s Serie A status being protected by talent heading in their direction from the Giuseppe Meazza. However, the deals seem to generally favour the bigger club, as they will beat their rivals to the signing of any players that are ready for the step up, whilst at the same time improving their own fringe players by giving them first-team football. Any deal with part-ownership looks to benefit Milan, as if a player such as Alexander Merkel does well at Genoa and improves adequately, he can bought back at a lesser fee than if a full transfer has been previously arranged.

The future promises to see a continuation of the unofficial ‘feeder club’ agreement, with rumours linking Genoa’s Juraj Kucka with an upgrade after he picked up a man of the match award against Milan in February, and due to the size of the Serie A champions’ squad do not be surprised to see a plethora of non-first teamers making their way south in search of minutes in the future.

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Football’s Great Chokes

Football is a funny old game. One minute your team looks like they have a match or a league title in the bag, the next it can escape their grasp. The term ‘choke’ is synonymous in sporting circles with people or teams that are in a commanding position but suffer a meltdown mentally, losing their composure and consequently the match or competition. With the United States choke against Panama in the Gold Cup fresh in the memory, I have decided to look at some of the famous footballing chokes over the years.

AC Milan, Champions League Final 2005
The Champions League final is the biggest stage in world club football and AC Milan and Liverpool contested the 2005 final in Istanbul, Turkey. The game was a story of two choking sides, firstly Liverpool were the team to freeze up as they were overawed by the occasion and let in a soft goal in the first minute to veteran Italian defender Paolo Maldini. From there Rafa Benitez’s team conceded two more in the first half, with Kaka the architect and Argentine striker Hernan Crespo the executioner. Half time; Liverpool 0 Milan 3, it looked like it could get embarrassing for the English side. However choking can be infectious and the Rossoneri caught the bug in the second half, as Steven Gerrard inspired his side to fight back and the Italian side capitulated under the pressure of being 45 minutes away from European glory. Goals from Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso saw the match finish 3-3, go to penalties and it was Milan’s darling Andriy Shevchenko who eventually crumbled under the pressure and missed the decisive penalty, giving Liverpool the Champions League title.

Bayern Munich, Champions League Final 1999
Manchester United and Bayern Munich contested the 1999 Champions League final in the Nou Camp, Barcelona, in what would be a prime example of the footballing choke. In an end to end match the German side started the brighter, and deservedly took the lead through a Mario Basler effort after only six minutes. United attacked well but the German side had key chances to win the game by getting the decisive second goal; firstly Mehmet Scholl hit the post and then Carsten Jancker struck the crossbar with an overhead kick. With time almost up, Die Roten started to defend and retreat, looking to protect their precious goal advantage. Enter substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In injury time Peter Schmeichel came forward to attack a United corner, and in a me-lay in the German box Sheringham managed to convert a poor clearance and give The Reds parity. However the best was yet to come as less than thirty seconds later Solskjaer toe poked home the winner following a Sheringham headed effort. Totally capitulation and a great football choke achieved by Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team in three minutes of injury time.

Tottenham, vs Manchester United, September 2001 and April 2009
Tottenham took on English Champions Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Saturday September 29th 2001, with much anticipation around the London club. In a barnstorming first half performance by the home side, goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege gave Spurs a 3-0 lead at the break. North London was full of energy. This could be the start of something big for Glenn Hoddle’s men. Sir Alex Ferguson and United had other ideas as five second half goals from Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistlerooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham broke Spurs hearts and the game ended 5-3.

Almost eight years later and Harry Redknapp took his talented Tottenham side to Old Trafford to lock horns with The Reds, and in an attacking performance in the first half the London club found themselves 2-0 up at half time with goals from Darren Bent and Luka Modric. Redknapp will have urged his team not to solely sit back and defend, to have belief in themselves and to go and win the game in his half time teamtalk, but instead his team choked and again conceded five second half goals to Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Wayne Rooney (2) and ex-striker Dimitar Berbatov, with the game finishing 5-2 to United.

Chelsea, vs Arsenal, October 1999
Fourth placed Chelsea hosted second placed Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in a highly charged match on 23rd October 1999, with local bragging rights and the Premiership title up for grabs. Arsene Wenger had started to mould the Gunners team into his own, an had signed Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu from Inter Milan in February 1999. In the match Chelsea took the lead through Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo on 39 minutes and Dan Petrescu gave The Blues a 2-0 advantage on 51 minutes. The chant of “we want five” rang around The Bridge from a euphoric Chelsea support. In a wet and windy day, Kanu stepped up and got one back for Arsenal on 75 minutes, slotting home a miscued Marc Overmars shot, and the home side, and their fans, became slightly edgy. Kanu shocked the home faithful with seven minutes remaining as he drove home an Overmars cross, but the African striker still had more to come. In the last minute of the game, Kanu closed down a clearance and found himself close to the cornerflag, confronted by home keeper Ed de Goey, who had rushed out of his goal. The lanky striker avoided de Goey’s sliding tackle and converted from the tightest and most impossible angle to give the Gunners the match 3-2, with Chelsea in despair.
Real Madrid, 2003-2004 La Liga Season
In the 2003-04 La Liga season, Real Madrid had a star studded team full of world beaters, were champions from the previous season and followers at the Bernabeu had Ronaldo, Beckham, Figo, Roberto Carlos and Zidane to surely lead them to a second consecutive title. This looked very likely, as by the end of February Los Blancos were eight points ahead at the top of the standings and looking for the treble. However a four month choke by Carlos Quieroz’s side saw them lose the Copa del Rey final to Real Zaragoza, get kicked out of Europe at the hands of Monaco and lose their grip on the domestic title. A loss in El Classico and a 4-1 home defeat to Real Sociedad on the last day of the season saw Valenica lift the title, and the Galacticos finish fourth behind Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna.

Newcastle United, 1995-96 Premier League Season
Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle side of 1995-96 were labelled ‘The Entertainers’, as the Toon amassed a quality side with the likes of Les Ferdinand and David Ginola in their ranks. Keegan’s men dispatched all in front of them and rushed into a 12 point lead at the top of the Premier League. The Geordies had finished second a couple of years earlier, but for the St James Park faithful this would be the season of glory. However Keegan’s men fell victim to a run of inconsistent form and perennial strong finishers Manchester United caught Newcastle up, and won the league from under their noses. Newcastle have fallen from grace since, and the choke of 1996 has significantly impacted upon the team’s fortunes.

The old cliches of ‘it’s not over til it’s over’ and ‘it’s a game of two halves’ spring to mind when reminiscing about some of the great footballing chokes, and it shows that a team must be mentally prepared as well as physically and tactically to succeed at the highest level.

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Leonardo’s Inter – AC Milan Adventure: How To Antagonise An Entire City In Two Easy Steps

I am happy to report that I have started contributing to an excellent football website, World Football Columns. The quality of writing on there makes me feel quite priveledged to be a contributor.

My first article for the site looked at Leonardo and his now ruined reputation in Milan, as the Brazilian leaves Inter to join PSG. Have a look here:

2010/2011 Champions League in Quotes

This season’s Champions League has given us some memorable games, exciting and free flowing football and a mouth watering final between Manchester United and Barcelona to look forward to on May 28th. Inspired by the Barcelona vs Real Madrid semi-final sparking a war of words between the side’s coaches, here is a look back at the best soundbites from this season’s competition.

Barcelona vs Real Madrid

“Next year they might as well give the cup directly to Barcelona. The team is sad, but we knew it was an uphill battle. The name of the match is Mission Impossible IV. Once again it was the referee that didn’t allow us to dictate the outcome. We knew we could beat Barca, but the referee didn’t let us.” – Cristiano Ronaldo after the second leg defeat

“Why does this happen? Barcelona are a fantastic team. I don’t understand why Pepe was sent off. It paved the way for Barcelona to finish the tie. I said nothing to the referee. I just laughed and applauded his decision without saying anything. I’d rather say no more because if I tell him and UEFA what I really think my career would end here and now.” – Jose Mourinho after the first leg defeat to Barca.

” He is the f—— chief, the f—— boss of the press room” – Pep Guardiola (on Jose Mourinho) ahead of the tie.

Arsenal vs Barcelona

“I could understand the referee’s decision if there was four, five, six seconds in between and you make a chip or something, but one second from his whistle to my shot is a joke. But he’s been bad all evening, he’s been a joke all evening, whistling against us, I don’t know why he’s here tonight, I think he’s a joke.” – Robin van Persie (after being sent off for kicking the ball away)

“I am still convinced that in the second half they weakened a lot and that at 1-1 if it had stayed at 11-11 we would have won this tie tonight.” – Arsene Wenger after defeat to Barcelona.

Inter vs Tottenham

”Everyone is so scared of Bale. Maicon is the best right-back in the world. But Gareth killed him.” – Rafael van der Vaart after the 3-1 Spurs win at White Hart Lane

”Gareth was brilliant but the whole team was brilliant – all of them. We outplayed Inter. We were much the better team from start to finish. It was an outstanding performance, one of the greatest nights the fans have seen at White Hart Lane.” – Harry Redknapp after 3-1 home win over Inter

“Me going to Barcelona? Yes, I really hope that, but only as a Tottenham player in the next round of the Champions League.” Gareth Bale after the Inter win.

Inter vs Schalke

“The chat I had with Leonardo in the dressing room confirmed that he is a serious person; I’m glad we had it and I think he is too. “My estimation of Leonardo hasn’t changed. For me nothing has changed because I know how cruel football can be and you have to keep going without losing heart.” – Inter president Massimo Moratti following Inter’s 5-2 defeat against Schalke

There is bitterness and it is hard to digest. We got into difficulty in the vital moments. I really believed in it for sure because we played well in the first half, but we did not have any chances to score goals.” – Leonardo after Inter’s elimination.

Chelsea vs Manchester United

“The Ramires one was clear.  I didn‘t see the other one. I said to him [the referee] it should have been a penalty.” – Carlo Ancelotti after Chelsea were denied a penalty in the first leg against Man Utd.

“I put Fernando in the team because his skills and ability could be good for us. I thought for a lot of time to take this decision whether to start with Fernando for this kind of game.” – Carlo Ancelotti defends starting with Fernando Torres over Didier Drogba in the second leg.

“I think we played very, very well against a very, very good team. Chelsea played a big part in that game today and there were moments after they had gone down to ten men in the second half and still had a go so credit to them, but I thought we were the better team on the night.” – Sir Alex Ferguson after the second leg win over Chelsea.

Milan vs Tottenham

“Over two legs Tottenham had one shot on goal and scored. The best team doesn’t always win.” Zlatan Ibrahomovic after defeat to Spurs.

“I enjoyed the occasion, but no, I couldn’t say I enjoyed the 90 minutes. You’re looking at that clock and you want it to go and that 90 minutes to be up. It’s a great achievement for this club being in the last eight of the Champions League, it’s amazing what the players have done and if people can’t appreciate and enjoy this tonight then they shouldn’t be involved in football, it’s fantastic for everybody.” Harry Redknapp after the second leg against AC Milan.

And finally….

“Have you seen the last six World Cups? It is better going to the dentist I suppose… The important thing is the Champions League has proved itself since its inception. It is better than the World Cup. It is unbelievable. There are some fantastic games. Yes, you have to get through the group stages before you get to the really exciting stage but it is a fantastic tournament.” – Sir Alex Ferguson is a big fan of the Champions League

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The £30 million transfer shortlist

With the end of the season upon us, the transfer window re-opens in June and the biggest clubs in European football will look to strengthen their playing squads for the forthcoming campaign. The continued investment in the world game has resulted in transfer fees rising, and there are a number of players that this summer could conceivably cost £30 million and up.

1) Javier Pastore
The Palermo playmaker has had another sparkling season and has led the Sicilan side to the Coppa Italia final; ‘El Flaco’ or ‘the skinny one’ is one of world football’s hottest properties. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan and Roma are all ready to part with £30 million to secure the services of the 21 year old, however this may not be enough as controversial Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini has been quoted as saying he feels the player is worth €100 million.

2) Kaka
With Real Madrid in the hunt for Pastore and already signed creative midfielder Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund, first team opportunities for Kaka may be limited. Since his world record £56 million move from Milan to Los Blancos in 2009 the Brazilian has failed to make the required impact, and is currently playing second fiddle to Bernabeu main-man Cristiano Ronaldo. I Rossoneri president Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out a return to the San Siro, so England looks the most likely destination, with long term admirers Manchester City and Chelsea battling it out for his signature.

3) Alexis Sanchez
The Chilean left sided midfielder has been one of the main reasons for Udinese’s charge towards Champions League football, with pundits raving over the 22 year old’s performances. Both Milan and Inter are believed to want the ex-River Plate attacker, but Manchester City again seem to be the frontrunners, with a £30 million summer transfer touted in the Italian press.

4) Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal’s captain has been linked with a move back to Barcelona for a number of seasons, and the move may happen this summer as The Gunners may look to cash in on the 24 year old whilst he is out of form. With Jack Wilshere emerging this season to potentially take Fabregas’ place as Arsenal’s go to midfield man, a move back to the Nou Camp for £30 million or more could be on the cards.

5) Gareth Bale
The PFA Player of the Year has had a strong season domestically and in Europe, and shot to worldwide acclaim with a hat-trick against Inter at the San Siro in the Champions League Group Stages. Due to Tottenham missing out on the competition for next season, Bale may be tempted by the bright lights of Italy or Spain, with Inter and Barcelona linked with the player. United and City are also thought to want the Welshman to come to Manchester, and given his performances the fee would exceed £30 million.

6) Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Tevez
Big spending City may find a change of personnel in attack, with any big name departures or arrivals costing more than £30 million. The club have been linked with an audacious move for Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whilst club captain Carlos Tevez’s future at Eastlands is under scrutiny, with Inter the reported chosen destination for the Argentine forward.

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Why would Madrid sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Milan?

AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has stated that Cristiano Ronaldo is on the Rossoneri’s summer transfer wishlist, with the Italian club ready to make a world record offer for the Portuguese attacker come June. However, with Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, in with a chance of winning the tournament for the first time since 2002 and off the back of beating bitter rivals Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final, why oh why would Los Blancos part with their star man?

The ex-Sporting Lisbon attacker matured and grew as a player at Manchester United, with Sir Alex Ferguson and his coaching staff at Carrington transforming the Portugal international from a promising, fast winger who frustrated with lots of fancy tricks and flicks, into a second striker with strength, finishing ability and an end product in mind.

When the Red Devils decided to sell CR7, they received £80 million for the player. £80 million. So with the 26 year old in the prime of his career and having returned almost a goal a game for Jose Mourinho’s side (scoring 42 goals in all competitions this season) one would imagine that it would take £100 million at least to buy him.

With Los Galacticos not exactly short of cash however, what do they need £100 million for? And who could they buy with that money that would do anywhere near as good a job as Ronaldo currently does?

One of Madrid’s star men this season has been German international Mesut Ozil, who has delighted the Bernabeu with his craft, guile and vision, and the ex-Werder Bremen player is a key part of the side’s attacking brand of football. Despite the creative midfielder’s abilities and continued place in the Madrid starting XI, and with Ozil being the best contender to step into Ronaldo’s boots if the Portuguese forward did leave, Mourinho’s side would lack a certain cutting edge.

Ronaldo gives them the fear factor; in a team of world class international players it is he that opponents fear, he who no-one wants to mark and his ruthlessness is the point of the Los Blancos spear.

Jose Mourinho has stated that he will leave the club should Florentino Perez sell the Madeira born attacker, and who could blame him. Real Madrid would be a much wealthier club without Ronaldo but are a much better team with him, and if they are to break Barca’s stranglehold on Spanish football they need to keep their best player. Ronaldo, ‘The Special One’ and a team of superstars have a chance of glory, a new coach and no CR7 surely do not; Signor Berlusconi your money is no good here.

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