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Manchester United vs Real Madrid: Does the winner of the tie become favourite for the tournament?

Champions League football returns tonight with a mouth-watering last 16 clash between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford. The tie is on a knife-edge after an end-to-end 1-1 draw between the teams at the Santiago Bernabeu a couple of weeks ago, with the game very unpredictable. However, with the calibre of the defeated opposition, will the victorious team become frontrunners to lift the trophy at Wembley come May?

Both Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho will know that progression will give their respective team a massive psychological boost and lift confidence heading into the quarter-finals. Plus, with the possibility that Barcelona could be eliminated by AC Milan, the winner of this tie has every chance of going all the way.

United have all but wrapped up the Premier League title, with a 12 point advantage at the summit and only ten games to play. The Red Devils are on a run of scintillating form, and a 4-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend is a continuation of recent victories.

Shinji Kagawa and Cristiano Ronaldo

Ferguson will be pleased with how the tie is positioned given the draw in the Spanish capital, and now knows that victory at home will send his side through. However, this will be no easy task.

At the turn of 2013 Real Madrid looked to be a faded force from the team that lifted the La Liga title last season, with internal wranglings and inconsistent form making the headlines. However, over the course of the last month Los Blancos have set the record straight; back-to-back victories over arch rivals Barcelona show that on their day Madrid can beat anyone in world football.

The 3-1 victory at Camp Nou in the Copa Del Rey will be of specific relevance to the United clash. Madrid sat back and allowed Barca to have the ball, defended diligently and pressed the Blaugrana’s main attacking players. Consequently, when this pressing resulted in a turnover, Madrid hit their Catalan foes on the break clinically and with devastating precision.

At Old Trafford United will be expected to have the bulk of possession and look to kill the tie off by scoring the goals needed to win the game. The English side must be wary of committing too many men forward however, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria in particular have all the attributes to punish.

The absence of Phil Jones will mean that the hosts lack a real physical force in the centre of their midfield, and as such the likes of Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, if selected, will need to work their socks off to close Madrid’s playmakers down.

A fixture that would be a fitting final, both teams will treat this game as such, and come full-time a new favourite to lift the 2012-13 Champions League crown could well book their place in the last eight.

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Real Madrid vs Manchester United: The game where anything can happen

According to Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, this is ‘the match the world is waiting for’.  When you consider the talent on display, the numerous subplots and their history, it is hard to disagree. In short, when Manchester United face Real Madrid, anything can happen.

Just look at the sides’ eight previous meetings in Europe’s premier competition; 31 goals have been scored between them, 11 of which came in the epic quarter-final of 2003. Many are predicting a similar total this time round, but the tie could just as easily be a tense affair where goals are at a premium.

Much depends on how United cope with their former player Cristiano Ronaldo.  If they manage to shackle him, they will nullify Madrid’s most potent threat. But if they don’t, they may be torn apart by the Spanish side’s incisive counter-attack. Sir Alex Ferguson will hope his instructions are carried out to perfection, whilst being blessed with a little luck on the side.

Sir Alex Ferguson and José Mourinho

Phil Jones has found fitness and form at precisely the right time and he, along with Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, will bring the regimented energy the Red Devils need to keep the likes of Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Ronaldo at bay.

In defence, Rafael will hope his man-of-the-match performance against Everton can be replicated in a competition where his rashness has proved most costly. While the rarely-spotted partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will have to be at their very best.

At the other end, the likely attacking trio of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa will have chances they must take. It is games like this that Kagawa was bought for, and that van Persie has the ability to win with one movement.

Aside from Ronaldo, Madrid’s strike-force is out of form of late, but both Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema possess such natural ability that they can punish the smallest misjudgement. Meanwhile, even Kaka was hailed by Spanish newspaper Marca as being back to his best after a rare start in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Sevilla.

First legs of knockout competitions are too-often cagey affairs.  And don’t bet against the pressure on Madrid to perform – from a home crowd desperate for success in a season that is fast becoming a write-off – to have a bearing on the game. Already 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, and with a fight to stay in the Copa del Rey, the Champions League may be Mourinho’s only chance of a trophy this season; a trophy that would go down in history as the fabled Décima – their tenth European title.

Too often, pre-game hype is unjustified; but not this time. It may be the second leg that ultimately proves to be the one the world is waiting for, because it is then that a winner will be decided.  But this week’s match will be both clubs’ biggest challenge so far this season – for United to raise their game in a year when they have hardly needed to, and for Madrid to prevent theirs from ending three months too soon.

Team GB: What are their chances at the Olympics?

With the current campaign over, all eyes are turning to the summer’s international tournaments to fill the off-season void. Euro 2012 comes first in June, before the exciting prospect of Team GB competing for gold at the Olympics. With some of the traditionally bigger nations not present at the competition in London, the home representation will be one of the favourites to claim gold medals, but who will be playing and can they go all the way?

Firstly it should be stated that Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has been in contact with potential players about their interest in competing at the games, with a shortlist of a whopping 80 players being compiled. The squad must be completely 23 years old or under, with leeway for three overage players. Team GB will be comprised of athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and any player who represents England at Euro 2012 will not be considered.

With such a wide span of players to pick from, predicting the Team GB squad is difficult, but there are a number of players who have been mentioned and are seemingly eager to compete. David Beckham has been a high-profile name mentioned as a possible captain, however Pearce recently admitted that the LA Galaxy midfielder’s inclusion will be decided on form and fitness. Welsh midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both been raised as possible candidates for inclusion, and the north London duo would add much-needed quality to the side. From Northern Ireland, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans had been touted to be included but this has been ruled out by the Red Devils, whilst the likes of Barry Bannan and Grant Hanley are potential Scottish inclusions.

The majority of the squad will be comprised of English players, with youngsters on the verge of the senior squad for Euro 2012 potentially taking part. Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out by Pearce in playing, despite the Arsenal man’s long-term injury concerns. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley will wait to see if they are needed in Ukraine and Poland, and if not could feature. Finally, Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury, but could well play in the games as part of his rehabilitation and recovery. With Pearce as manager, former or current England under-21 players could make up a bulk of the 18-man squad.

But can they lift the gold? One of he factors working against the side will be lack of preparation time, and the fact that most of the players will never have played together. However, along with Spain and Brazil, Team GB will be one of the frontrunners for victory, as the rest of the 16 teams seem beatable on paper. Team GB have been drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates, with their first game against the African nation on July 26th.

All-in-all, glory for Team GB at the Olympics would be a real milestone for the game in the United Kingdom, and an excellent collective and personal achievement for the players. With a raft of Premier League talent likely to make up the squad, there is no reason why the hosts will not celebrate glory in the final on August 11th.

Published – 2012 Olympics Blog

England and Euro 2012: Who will be in the squad, and how will they fair in Group D?

England interim manager Stuart Pearce has this week revealed that the nation’s squad for Euro 2012 will be named before the end of the Premier League campaign, whether a new permanent boss is in place or not. With the last game of the season on Sunday 13th May, it is reasonable to expect the successful and unsuccessful players to be unveiled a couple of days before this. With this date only two weeks away, who will be stepping out for the Three Lions in Ukraine and Poland?

Goalkeepers – Joe Hart is a shoe-in, and the Manchester City stopper is an outside shout to be the next national captain. Consistent, agile and assured, Hart is a real attribute to the home nation.

GK to go: Hart, Carson, Stockdale

GK to miss out: Ruddy

Defenders – John Terry’s inclusion or exclusion could well depend on the new boss, with the consideration of Rio Ferdinand also entering into the equation; the Chelsea centre half is to stand court for racially abusing the Manchester United man’s brother Anton. Other central defenders to be included should be Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Joleon Lescott.

At left back Ashley Cole will travel, whilst Leighton Baines is currently injured but will recover in time. On the right, PFA Young Player of the Year Kyle Walker will expect to be included, as will seasoned international Glen Johnson. Micah Richards has been an outcast under Fabio Capello, but under-21 boss Pearce would surely select his former player, potentially to the detriment of the Liverpool man.

DF to go: Walker, Richards, Cahill, Terry, Lescott, Jones, Cole, Baines

DF to miss out: Ferdinand, King, Johnson, Dawson, Smalling

Midfielders – England will most likely play four across midfield, and this will be the most tightly-contested element of the squad. Scott Parker and Frank Lampard are almost certainties, Steven Gerrard hangs in the balance depending on fitness, Paul Scholes is an outside shout, whilst Tom Cleverley, Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere will miss out through injury.

On the flanks, Ashley Young will travel if he stays fit, as will Stewart Downing despite an inconsistent campaign. Aaron Lennon needs to get back to his best, Jordan Henderson looks unlikely whilst Arsenal team-mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may well be in direct competition for a place.

MF to go: Young, Downing, Barry, Parker, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes, Walcott

MF to miss out: Wilshere, Rodwell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lennon, Henderson, Joe Cole, Cleverley, Carrick, Milner, A.Johnson

Strikers – Although Wayne Rooney will be suspended for the first two group games of the tournament, it will take a brave manager to leave out the Manchester United forward. Darren Bent faces a risk against time due to his knee injury, whilst Andy Carroll will need a strong end of season to convince the selectors. Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge should be included, whilst Jermain Defoe is a 50-50.

ST to go: Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Defoe

ST to miss out: Bent, Carroll, Crouch

Group Games

England vs France, June 11: Old enemies renew their rivalry in the Group D opener, and these two will be favourites to progress. Without Rooney England may lack direction in attack, and will need to be regimented to stave off the advances of Ribery, Benzema and Remy.

Prediction: 0-0

England vs Sweden, June 15: The Three Lions have suffered disappointment against the Scandinavian nation in international competitions in the past, and Sweden are a slightly unpredictable entity. Led by AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedes will be no pushover.

Prediction: 1-1

England vs Ukraine, June 19: With a tight group likely to go down to the wire, England will face co-hosts Ukraine in the last round of fixtures in what will be a test of their character and resolve. Rooney’s return will be a boost, but England must be at their best to quell a pumped-up opponent and crowd.

Prediction: 2-1 win

Published – Soccerlens

London 2012: Should the Olympics be higher on a footballer’s priority list?

With an exciting end to the Premier League campaign, the Champions League last four and the upcoming Euro 2012 championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer, football fans can be forgiven for forgetting about the Olympic Games and football’s involvement at the London event.

Attitudes in football to the Olympics are in stark contrast to how modern sports in general perceive the Olympics; they are the moment for professional sportmen and athletes to compete and prove yourself at the highest level possible. For many sports the Olympics are a defining showcase moment, and for many sportspeople they are the ultimate test.

Football, however, is different. Club football has changed the dynamic to the extent that international football seems like an unnecessary luxury, reserved only for countries who lack a strong domestic league. You can even argue that the best football club could easily beat the best football team in the world.

For track and field athletes the Olympics, held every four years, are of a similar importance as the football World Cup or Champions League (or indeed, Premier League survival). Football however is spoilt with one important game after the next, challenges spread out throughout the season and with more opportunities to succeed. As such, the Olympics has been tagged as just another tournament and from a club football perspective, lacking any benefits in an already- packed football calendar.

There is no doubt that the sheer amount of football played by the professional footballer in the modern day is startling, with their domestic leagues, cup competitions, European football, international friendlies and competitive national fixtures all taking their toll physically and mentally. More than the quantity of football is the intensity – playing at full tilt for 90 minutes 50 times a season will take it’s toll on you (just ask David Silva).

For most other sports the Olympics, held every four years, is the pinnacle and the culmination of countless hours on the training ground and gym. Modern-day players are as professional as the game has ever seen, and therefore should want to play at the highest level possible, strive for victory and be the best that they can be. This attitude will be adopted by other sports represented at the Games, and should be treated as such by football.

The age limit on participants in Olympic football ensures that young players – whose footballing output needs to be managed far better than the case of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere – get an early chance to appear in a major tournament and hone their skills against competitors of the same age group, if not always the same technical level.

A raft of leading Premier League players such as Jack Rodwell and Gareth Bale have been rumoured to be keen to represent Team GB this summer with clubs fuming over the possibility of losing star players in pre-season. The FA has had to assure Premier League clubs that players who take part in the Euros will not take part in the Olympics, there will undoubtedly be athletes who prioritise Euro 2012 and the upcoming 2012/13 Premier League season over involvement at the Olympics.

Despite this, Pearce has issued the rallying cry for all interested parties to come forward, and the modern day competitor should jump at the chance. Admittedly the Olympics will not carry the same following in football as Euro 2012, but the unique chance to play in the Great Britain team, at the sporting summit of the Olympics, on home soil, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The fact that the majority of competitors need to be 23 or under (there are three overage players allowed in each squad), should mean that up-and-coming superstars like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Daniel Sturridge to name but a few should be clambering over themselves to be involved at the Olympics. With some of the higher-profile and older players not eligible or interested, a young prospect could shoot themselves to super-stardom with strong performances, and join a very small group of players to have an Olympic medal in their trophy cabinet.

The likes of Lionel Messi have competed in the Olympic Games before (against the wishes of his parent club), and won the gold. If you ask Messi, despite is embarrassment of titles he will still remember the Olympic gold and what it means to him. Most of the players likely to head to London 2012 under Stuart Pearce can only dream of getting close to Messi’s trophy count – and if the world’s best footballer wants to win everything on offer, if a football tournament at home presents your country’s best chance of international success in football for ages – then it’s only right that players and management (FA) make it a high priority.

Football fans in England tend to say that the Olympics don’t matter. They do to the people taking part, and especially to the people who give it their best shot, and win.

Published – Soccerlens

Steve Kean take a bow: Your Blackburn U-turn is almost complete

With Blackburn’s 2-0 win over Sunderland on Tuesday night, the Lancashire club have made a massive step towards Premier League safety. Rovers sit six points clear of the relegation zone, a feat that should not be underestimated after their dreadful start to the campaign, and are now in pole position to maintain their top flight status. Steve Kean was a sure thing to get sacked earlier this term, but the Scot has kept his job, and maybe the club in the division.

The abuse and criticism that Kean received over months whilst Blackburn were in the bottom three was unrelenting and merciless; a lesser manager may well have walked away amid the constant slating. Even the Ewood Park fans turned on Kean, and the bookmakers were defied when Kean did not lose his job.

However, the Blackburn side that stepped out against Sunderland in midweek exuded confidence and were good value for their 2-0 win over The Black Cats. Junior Hoilett continues to impress, whilst Yakubu has been a revelation at Ewood Park this term – the pair scored a goal each in the second half to confirm a well-deserved win.

However scoring has not been Blackburn’s issue this term; only the top five clubs in the division have hit the net more than the Lancashire side. Plugging a defence that has conceded 60 goals during the campaign, the second most in the Premier League, has been Kean’s chalenge and would decide the team’s fate.

The win over Sunderland was Rovers second clean sheet in a row and it appears that Kean has managed to get the best out of his youthful rearguard. Errors that blighted the first-half of the season, although not completely eradicated, seem less frequent and the defence seems to be more confident; an obvious side-effect of Kean’s tutelage.

Blackburn’s mini-turnaround at the back is even more impressive when you consider that a number of leading and experienced defenders have left the club in recent times. With Christopher Samba, Ryan Nelsen and Phil Jones amongst the defenders to exit Ewood Park in recent times, the side are obviously in a transition period, which takes time to fine-tune.

Kean was slated in the press, by pundits and a section of the club’s own fans; now that things are looking better he must receive the praise that he deserves. With Wolves looking doomed, QPR having lost five of their last seven games and Wigan and Bolton still inconsistent, Rovers are on the verge of survival; well done Steve Kean.

England vs Bulgaria: Three Points A Must For Fabio Capello’s Men

England continue their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign this week with fixtures against Bulgaria and Wales promising to give the fans a better idea of the nation’s chances of competing in Poland and Ukraine next year. With Fabio Capello’s men locked at the top of Group G on 11 points with Montenegro and an away day in Podgorica still to come, the Three Lions can ill-afford many more slip-ups.

The Italian coach has selected a number of promising youngsters in his squad for the match in Sofia, and it will be interesting to see whether the likes of Manchester United pairing Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley are trusted to start the match. Chris Smalling has impressed the former Real Madrid coach thus far this term, and should also pick up his international debut at right back. With no Rio Ferdinand to call upon, it will be a toss up between Jones, Lescott and Cahill to who partners skipper John Terry in the heart of the English rearguard.

In attack Wayne Rooney will harbour the responsibility of getting the goals to win the match, and the United striker has started the season in blistering form, with a hat-trick against Arsenal last Sunday ensuring the 25-year-old goes into the game full of confidence. Darren Bent is an injury concern so Andy Carroll may accompany the former Everton man up front.

Bulgaria were put to the sword at Wembley in the return fixture back in September 2010, with Jermain Defoe scoring three in a comfortable 4-0 win. The away match will be no walk in the park however, as the luxury and familiarity of Wembley will be traded in for the hostility of the Stadion Vasil Levski.

The home side no longer have all-time top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov to call upon, who quit the international set-up back in May 2010, but despite this Bulgaria will have some strong players on show come Friday. Stiliyan Petrov will be a familiar face for the away midfield, and the likes of Scott Parker or Gareth Barry will need to get close to the Aston Villa midfielder, who has the ability to shoot from distance or create chances for others. Former Manchester City forward Valeri Bojinov has not been selected in the squad, but Bolton’s Martin Petrov may feature.

The match will be given an extra bite by the fact that the home coach Lothar Matthaus has been vocal in the media this week and will motivate his players to get three points on Friday. The former Germany international got the better of England in his playing days, and will look to replicate this in his managerial tenure, despite the fact that Bulgaria are almost assured of missing out on Euro 2012.

A win would go far to alleviating fears of a do or die game in Montenegro next month, a draw is not ideal but would be acceptable and a loss would put the nation’s chances of competing in the European Championships in jeopardy. Expect a hostile reception from a passionate home faithful, and Bulgaria to come out of the blocks quickly, but if England can weather an early storm they should have the players and the experience to see them home.

Published – http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/opinion/85363/england-vs-bulgaria-three-points-a-must-for-fabio-capellos-men.html

Does the crop of young centre-backs at Manchester United spell the end for Rio Ferdinand?

Since joining Manchester United from Leeds back in July 2002 for £30 million, Rio Ferdinand has been a mainstay in Sir Alex Ferguson’s backline, a captain, leader and talisman. The centre half has lifted five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown, and has been one of the best defenders in the Premier League throughout his time at Old Trafford. Despite this, at 32-years old, with continued injury concerns and competition from younger squad members, is it the beginning of the end for Rio?

With Nemanja Vidic an ever-present when available, a number of players will contest the remaining spot at the heart of the Premier League champions rearguard in 2011-12, with the Peckham born man no longer a guaranteed no brainer in selection. With the England international suffering from back and calf injuries in 2010-11, the former West Ham youth player may well be starting to feel his age, which will not be helped by the youthful exuberance waiting in the wings.

Whilst Rio was inconsistent last term and struggled to get a real run in the side, Chris Smalling stepped up the plate and showed just what he is made of. A few eyes were raised when the youngster was signed this time last year for a reported fee of £12 million after only 13 first team appearances for Fulham, but the England under-21 international deputised excellently for Ferdinand when called upon. Tall, physical and cool under pressure, Smalling has a lot of the assets that shot his more senior team-mate to fame ten years prior.

Smalling’s international age-grade defensive partner Phil Jones has joined the club in the summer from Blackburn, and again, despite a lack of substantial top flight experience has shown glimpses of real assurance and all the raw abilities to be a top player. Under the tutelage of the coaching staff at Carrington, the 19-year-old will be given time to mature and develop, but will be chomping at the bit to get first team action as early as possible.

Add to this an almost forgotten man at the club, Jonny Evans, who despite a frustrating 2010-11 through injury, on his day is a top drawer defender. The Northern Ireland international has seemingly been around for a lengthy period of time, but at 23-years old has the guts of his career ahead of him. An able deputy, given an extended chance in the starting XI the Belfast born stopper has the ability to overtake his more senior colleague in Sir Alex’s preferences.

United’s manager has recently stated that the club have the best young centre backs in the country. It may well be a case that the likes of Smalling, Jones and Evans have a large part to play in the defence of the Premier League title, whilst Rio Ferdinand, as noble a patron of the side as he has been, may find opportunities not as forthcoming as in previous seasons.

Published – http://www.footbo.com/Blogs/89726-crop_young_centre_backs_United_spell_end_Rio

What does 2011/12 hold for Daniel Sturridge?

So, if Jones is worth £16.5 million and Henderson £20 million, how much is Daniel Sturridge worth?

With the transfer window well and truly open, ’tis the season for ludicrous over payment. Phil Jones’ 37 senior side appearances for Blackburn and Jordan Henderson’s four Sunderland career goals gave the England under 21 internationals a combined value of £36.5million, which was happily paid by Manchester United and Liverpool. No doubt both players are talented and full of potential, but an overpayment none the less.

It is painfully clear that young English talent is much vaunted and that top flight clubs will pay top dollar to ascertain it. The transfers of Jones and Henderson will have been music to the ears of Everton boss David Moyes, who can now pick a number out of the air and slap it on Jack Rodwell’s forehead, for United and all other potential suitors to match if they want the 20-year-old’s services.

But what of their international compatriot Daniel Sturridge? The Chelsea frontman’s club future hangs in the balance, as after a successful loan spell with Bolton he has returned to Stamford Bridge in search of the big time. Realistically, as talented as the former Manchester City forward is (and he is), his chances of first team football are going to be extremely limited, just like before he went to the Reebok Stadium.

With Didier Drogba struggling to get a game due to Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka, what chance does Sturridge have? Add to this the inevitable signings that Mr Abramovich and the eventual new coach will bring to the club, which will more than likely include more attacking talent from the four corners of the globe, and the English born youngster will once more be on the outskirts.

So what are his options? He could stay and fight for a first team spot, but this is a long, arduous and frustrating journey; young, talented players need regular first team football to evolve, and he risks his career going down the same path as Shaun Wright Phillips out of pure stubbornness. Another loan move looks likely, and Owen Coyle and every other manager outside of the top six will be holding their hands up shouting ‘pick me!’ in a schoolboy’s voice if Chelsea decide to go down this route. However, if Sturridge decides he wants to leave the London club and seek a new employer, the fee that Chelsea would likely charge is of real interest.

The Birmingham born forward exudes quality. He has represented England at youth level from under-16′s all the way up to his current participation in the under-21 Championships in Denmark. He scored eight goals in twelve games for a faltering Bolton side at the end of last season, and seemingly gets better with the more time he spends on the pitch.

Strikers generally command higher transfer fees than any other position, thus the criteria above would suggest that in today’s market he is worth more than Henderson, and more than £20 million. Andy Carroll is worth £35 million apparently, so £20 million+ seems about right. Chelsea would be increasingly reluctant to sell him to a top six side, in which case he is gazumped as none of the other teams have £20 million to throw about like the executives at Anfield and Old Trafford.

Daniel Sturridge will not and cannot leave Chelsea permanently this summer due to the ludicrous nature of the English transfer market currently, and instead of maturing into a player capable of being included in Fabio Capello’s 2012 European Championships squad, may face the prospect of heading the line for the Stamford Bridge reserve side in 2011/12.

Published – http://football-talk.co.uk/27923/what-does-201112-hold-for-daniel-sturridge/

Is the cost of English players forcing Premier League clubs to look abroad?

With the much publicised transfers of Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson being completed by Manchester United and Liverpool respectively in the last week for a combined total of £36.5 million, most Premier League managers will be looking to the continent and beyond for their summer signings. Both England under 21 players have quality and potential in abundance, with that there is no argument, but such extortionate transfer fees will leave the majority of top flight sides financially out of the equation when looking to sign British players, and bring more foreigners to English shores.

The grievance is not with Sunderland or Blackburn, as neither wanted to lose their prodigious talents, both of which have been cultivated and nurtured through the clubs’ youth ranks. It was obvious that both players wanted to go, so why not get as high a fee as possible? The staggering thing is the amount of money it takes, and the big clubs are willing to pay, to buy young English talent. With FIFA eager to bring quotas into the game surrounding the number of home-grown players, and the Premier League being acknowledged as having a style and pace of play that takes time to adjust to, young British players will continue to cost an arm and a leg.

This piece is not a slight against either of the players personally; as a Spurs fan I would have liked to see them at White Hart Lane, especially Jones. But for £16.5 million? The 19 year old has only made 35 appearances in senior football. Henderson’s £20 million buys you a midfielder who has found the net a mere four times in over 70 games. My argument is not that he should score more goals, it is that for £20 million you would expect a player with a more rounded game.

In Europe there are much cheaper alternatives. Newcastle United have just signed Yohan Cabaye from Lille for a fee believed to be around £5million, a player not dissimilar to Henderson. The 25 year old French midfielder is fresh from helping Lille to a league and cup double, playing the majority of the side’s games. He has featured in almost 200 first class matches, and has represented his country on four occasions; the key point however is that he cost a quarter of what Liverpool just splurged on Henderson.

Personally I believe Jones to be the better prospect of the two, but again the transfer fee seems excessive. £16.5million? If Gary Cahill is to leave Bolton in the next months the fee will be similar, whilst Arsenal target and Jones’ centre-half partner at Ewood Park Christopher Samba is reportedly available for £12 million. Lets put this in perspective, as it is not a new pricing trend. Sir Alex Ferguson paid £7 million for the best defender in the league in the form of Nemanja Vidic, but £30 million for Rio Ferdinand. Manchester rivals City signed bench-warmer Joleon Lescott for £22million but paid only £6 million for the first name on their teamsheet, Vincent Kompany. The cost of going home-grown is there for all to see.

I wish both Phil Jones and Jordan Henderson the very best of luck at their new clubs. I believe that both will excel in their new environments, and have the necessary ability to make the step up.  However the fees paid for their services are detrimental to the English game, and it will be to the cost of the national side and Fabio Capello, who will not have as many players to select for international duty due to the continued influx of cheaper foreign alternatives joining Premier League clubs this summer.

Published – http://afootballreport.com/post/6580583976/is-the-cost-of-english-players-forcing-premier-league

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