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Posts Tagged ‘Tottenham Hotspur’

Soldado set to become Spurs record signing

Tottenham Hotspur have announced that they have agreed terms with Valencia of the Spanish Primera Liga for the signing of striker Roberto Soldado. In doing so, they will smash their transfer record for the second time this summer as Soldado’s agreed price tag of £26 million follows their £17 million capture of Paulinho from Corinthians of Brazil. The twenty-eight year old forward is expected to put pen to paper tomorrow if everything goes well with his medical examination by the north London club. The transfer fee is expected to be paid in instalments with an initial payment of around £10.4 million followed by three further annual payments of about £5,2 million.

The signing takes Spurs’ summer transfer spending commitments to over £50 million, which could be an indication that they are counting on receiving a large income from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. If they can get around £80 million plus a top player from the Madrid club then they will have made a net transfer profit this summer and replaced one outstanding player with several top class players such as Soldado, Paulinho, whoever they can prise from Real and the promising Nacer Chadli. Spurs have also just received a sizeable fee from Cardiff City, who have broken their own club transfer record in paying over £8 million for defender Steven Caulker.

Real and Spurs negotiating over Bale

Real Madrid’s protracted chase of Tottenham’s Welsh international Gareth Bale could gradually be moving towards the end game as new Real boss Carlo Ancelotti, 54, has said that the two clubs are now discussing terms. The Spanish giants, who are currently on tour in Los Angeles, California, and play LA Galaxy in a friendly match tomorrow, have reportedly offered £86 million for the winger, a sum that would smash the current world transfer record fee of £80 million that they paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2011. However, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is playing hardball and is preparing to hold out for a player to be thrown into the deal in addition to the cash.

Ancelotti ruled out a return to Spurs for Croatian international midfielder Luka Modric, saying that he’s an important player for Real Madrid and will be staying with the club, but Real are believed to have mooted Argentinian winger Angel Di Maria and Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrao as potential makeweights in the package for Bale. So far, Spurs haven’t shown much interest in either of that pair, but are believed to pursuing Real’s twenty year old Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, as well as Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. Morata is one of Spain’s most promising young centre-forwards but is highly valued in Madrid and his departure would leave them short in numbers up front with only Karim Benzema and Ronaldo left on the books as genuine forwards, so the two clubs’ positions remain a long way apart on the make-up of any player plus cash deal.

Soldado close to finally ending Spurs quest for striker

Spurs could be on the verge of finally ending their protracted pursuit of a top class centre forward that has seen them linked with endless lists of strikers over the past few transfer windows. Tottenham’s Director of Football, Franco Baldini is reportedly in Spain at the moment for discussions with Valencia, Roberto Soldado and his agent over a €30 million move for the Spain international.

Soldado, 28, has scored an average of around 27 goals a season for Valencia in all competitions over the last three seasons since his move there from Getafe, where he first rose to prominence following his early years in Real Madrid reserves. He has eleven international caps for Spain with six goals to his name and was recently picked ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa as first choice for Spain’s opening Confederations Cup game in Brazil, where he scored against Uruguay.

Tottenham have been repeatedly linked with Roberto Soldado over the past twelve months as well as with other strikers such as David Villa of Barcelona, Christian Benteke of Aston Villa and Leandro Damiao of Internacional in Brazil as manager Andre Villas-Boas searched for someone to share the responsibility for scoring goals with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe. The club has now recognised that they need to spend a significant sum of money to acquire the sort of talent that will take them on to the next level and they have identified Soldado as their number one target for that position, having already strengthened the squad in central and wide midfield this summer.

The signing of Soldado, alongside those of Paulinho and Chadli should convince Gareth Bale to stay for at least one more season and could well make the difference in Tottenham’s annual push for Champions League qualification. €30 million for an accomplished striker like Soldado represents good value in today’s market and if Spurs can secure his signature by the end of the week, they will have completed the bulk of their recruitment in the early stages of pre-season, giving them plenty of time to bed in their new signings ahead of the big kick off, so it looks set to be promising campaign for Tottenham fans.

Spurs to shell out £7 million for Chadli

Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas is on the verge of completing his second summer signing in the form of Belgium winger Nacer Chadli. Chadli, who turns twenty four next month, will join the north London club for a fee of around £7 million from FC Twente of the Netherlands if he successfully completes a medical.

Spurs fans may remember Chadli from their Champions League encounters with FC Twente in the 2010-11 season, when he scored in both of the group matches between the two sides. He is a winger who can be used on either flank or in a central striking role and will give Villas-Boas more versatility in his attacking options, although the club may also still seek to recruit a genuine centre-forward to further bolster their front line and compete with Adebayor and Defoe for a starting place over the coming season. Chadli himself is a regular goalscorer and he notched up twenty five in his eighty four appearances for the Dutch club as well as two in his fourteen games for Belgium. He is likely to join up with his new team mates on their tour in Hong Kong, where he will find some familiar faces in the squad in the form of his Belgium international colleagues Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele.

Chadli was born in Liege, Belgium in 1989 to a family of Moroccan extraction and holds dual Belgian and Moroccan nationality. He once represented Morocco in a non-competitive match before pledging his international future to the country of his birth. His youth career was spent with clubs in and around Liege before crossing the border to Maastricht in the Netherlands from where he was plucked by second division club AGOVV Apeldoorn and handed his breakthrough in the first team in 2007. He went on to establish himself over three seasons in Apeldoorn before signing for FC Twente in summer 2010 and making his debut for Belgium in 2011. He follows the £17 million capture of Brazilian central midfielder Paulinho as Spurs’ second summer signing.

Benteke Weighs up his Options – London Calling

Aston Villa’s 22-year old striker Christian Benteke has been talking about his future career path at a press conference in the USA whilst on international duty with the Belgian national team. Benteke, who was fourth top scorer in the 2012-13 Premier League season with nineteen goals in his debut season in English football is hot property and has been linked with a big money move away from Villa Park.

He was quoted as saying “If Aston Villa say I must stay, I won’t necessarily accept that. I do not in any way want to feel I didn’t get the most out of my career” and “If the chance comes up for me to join a club like Arsenal, I’m convinced we can reach a compromise where everyone comes out a winner.” However, his agent moved to play down the speculation by reiterating that his client is happy at Villa.

Benteke’s words will obviously have alerted Arsenal, who reportedly have money to spend this summer and may be on the look out for a striker to bolster their forward line. However, there hasn’t been any confirmed interest in Benteke from the Arsenal camp and it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger would be prepared to splash out a large amount of money on one player from the Premier League rather than continue to look for value overseas.

If Christian Benteke does decide to push for a transfer away from Villa Park this summer and the Emirates Stadium isn’t to be his destination then he could still end up in London where Chelsea might show an interest if Jose Mourinho does take over as expected. Mourinho is known to be a fan of the strong, bustling centre-forward type player who is also good on the ball and he could look to build his attack around someone like Benteke in the image of his successful Stamford Bridge teams that were spearheaded by Didier Drogba.

The alternative destination in London could be White Hart Lane. Many people were surprised when they didn’t sign a striker in the January transfer window and Andre Villas Boas will probably look to strengthen his striking options this summer. News that Gareth Bale is staying put shows that they are ambitious to improve next season and Spurs will need a big squad to cope with their domestic and European campaigns so Benteke would be a logical recruitment for Tottenham Hotspur.

English Debate: One good game for Tottenham, and now David Bentley’s good enough for England?

Bentley for England??

 

After picking up the Man of the Match award against Leeds in the FA Cup replay win at Elland Road, Harry Redknapp singled his right sided midfielder for special praise.  With some commentators suggesting that David Bentley might even be an outside contender for a place in the England World Cup squad, www.aboutaball.co.uk looks at what the future might hold in store.

 

There was no denying that David Bentley had an exceptional game last night in the FA Cup replay in what was two hard-fought games against a side that has no trouble whatsoever rising to the big occasion – Leeds gave Liverpool a fright in the Carling Cup before Christmas and of course knocked Manchester United out before taking Spurs to a replay.

Bentley was at the heart of everything that Tottenham did well last night, a constant source of threat to the Leeds defence and delivered some excellent crosses on which both Jermaine Defoe and Peter Crouch thrived.  His award as the Man of the Match was more than justified and Harry Redknapp was right to reserve special praise for a player who has received a lot of criticism since his high profile arrival from Blackburn Rovers.

But before everyone gets too carried away, it should be remembered that Bentley thrived against a team from League One.  It is beyond doubt that many players struggling for form in the Premiership would catch the eye against the like of Exeter City, Gillingham or indeed Leeds United.  Furthermore he wasn’t just playing against a team from two divisions below Tottenham, but against a not naturally left-footed defender playing in the left-back berth.  Indeed Andy Hughes isn’t even really a natural defender at all; he is far more comfortable in midfield. 

Tottenham will be hoping that the match against Leeds and the subsequent welter of praise directed towards Bentley is the catalyst for something better, because until now the club has seen very little return on its investment of £15 million to bring him back to North London.

With the seemingly long-term nature of Aaron Lennon’s injury, Tottenham will be relying on Bentley to give them the sort of menace from the right wide position he offered last night. As has already been emphatically proved against Liverpool, employing both Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar in the wide areas is simply going to result in Tottenham playing a lot of short but not particularly effective passes and end up herded into a congested midfield with Defoe and Crouch isolated in attack. 

Maintaining the level 

It would appear that Bentley is a confidence player and Tottenham fans will be hoping that he can keep this sort of form going as they head into some important matches, starting with the clash against fellow Champions League aspirants Aston Villa.  However, the question of Bentley’s state of mind would seem a tricky balancing act to perform.  During his time at Blackburn when he was playing his best football and presumably full of confidence he turned down the offer of playing for England at the 2007 UEFA U-21 Championships perhaps because he wanted to go on holiday and await a call to the full senior side.  That cost him a place in the full senior set-up for subsequent friendlies under Steve McLaren, in the immediate aftermath of the refusal, and seems to have tainted him since, despite his six caps to-date.

Now it would seem that certain commentators are touting him for a place in the England team heading to South Africa after just a handful of decent performances, one against lower league opposition.  Certainly with the injury to Lennon and the slow return to full fitness of Theo Walcott there appears to be a vacancy in Bentley’s position.  But surely James Milner or Shaun Wright-Phillips would be more than obvious candidates to come in?  And then there is always David Beckham, who is playing some decent stuff with AC Milan again, albeit in a more advanced position on the right side of a front-three.

If Bentley can maintain the level of contribution that he put in against Leeds to the Tottenham cause on a regular basis during Lennon’s absence and help keep his side in the hunt for a place in the Champions League, then perhaps it is time to return to the subject of Bentley’s future in the national set-up. 

His manager Harry Redknapp perhaps summed up the situation best in the immediate aftermath of the victory against Leeds by stating: “He has shown what a good player he is in the last couple of games”, but quickly added: “He needs to keep doing that…and keep working hard”.

The beauty of the FA Cup lives on

Would you turn down the chance at winning this lovely bit of silverware?

Some people may continue to question the importance and value of the FA Cup to English football. Certain clubs have selected under-strength teams in the competition and maybe haven’t given it the respect it deserves. It is known as the ‘greatest cup competition in the world’ for a reason, and the beauty of the tournament has been there for everyone to see over the last few weeks.

Those teams who fielded under-strength sides will almost certainly look on with envy when they sit down and watch the final on May 15th. There is something special about the FA Cup final. The history, the tradition, the whole Wembley experience, and that doesn’t come around too often.

While a few teams have tried to undermine the FA Cup, matches in the last few weeks have gone to prove there is still something special about the competition. High levels of passion, commitment and desire have been shown both on the pitch and in the stands, with the Leeds v Tottenham fourth round replay being a perfect example. Both teams were desperate to win the game on the field whilst in the stands both sets of fans made so much noise and showed the watching world that this competition matters.

The FA Cup is famous for it’s ‘David v Goliath’ shock results, and this season there hasn’t been a shortage of those. Notts County beating Wigan Athletic, Leeds United winning at Old Trafford to defeat Manchester United, Reading overcoming first Liverpool and then Burnley. Results like these simply cannot be predicted and it is that unpredictability that keeps everybody on the edge of their seat and that’s what gives the FA Cup it’s magic.

The oldest cup competition in club football is alive and kicking, don’t let Sir Alex Ferguson or anyone else convince you otherwise.

Wolfsburg ready to rival Tottenham for Simon Kjaer?

Reports from Germany suggest that German side VfL Wolfsburg are on the trail of Tottenham target Simon Kjaer.

It looks like the proposed move for Palermo’s Danish defender Simon Kjaer to White Hart Lane could be in danger of being hijacked by ambitious Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg.  The defending German champions are thought to have made Kjaer one of a number of defensive targets to snap up before the closure of the winter transfer window.

Spurs have been long credited with an interest in the Italian-based defender, with reports surfacing early in the window that Kjaer was heading to London for talks with Harry Redknapp and the club.  However, Tottenham and Palermo have struggled to reach an agreement over the fee, which after much haggling appears to have been fixed at €11 million.

There has also been the small matter of the player’s willingness to consider a move, something that has been the subject of some debate as the transfer drags on.

The inability of Spurs to close the deal has promoted Wolfsburg to try their luck and hijack the move.  The potential acquisition of Kjaer wouldn’t be the first time that Palermo and Wolfsburg have done business, as 18-months ago the German side moved for Italian internationals Andrea Barzagli and Christian Zaccardo.

This season Wolfsburg have been hampered in their attempts to defend their Bundesliga title won in thrilling circumstances last May by a leaky defence, and have already snapped up Brazilian defender Rever for around €5 million from Gremio.

The VW-sponsored side have the worst defence in the top-half of the German top-flight, and the second worst in the entire division, with just bottom-team Hertha Berlin letting more in, so more defensive arrivals are a distinct possibility.

FC Twente-based Douglas is thought to one option, whilst one-time Liverpool target Rafina, who was thought to be in talks with Atletico Madrid last week, could also be on his way to Wolfsburg.  The German team, despite losing out to Manchester United and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League group stages, aren’t short of cash, so if Tottenham do want to wrap up a deal they’d better get a move on!

Ruud van Nistelrooy set to snub Premier League for a switch to Hamburg

Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is set to reject a return to the Premier League and instead join Bundesliga side Hamburg on a free transfer. The 33 year-old Dutchman has been linked with moves to West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City, but now it appears he is set to move to Germany despite some big-money offers from the English clubs.

van Nistelrooy has failed to win back a place in the Real Madrid side following lengthy injury lay-offs during the last 18 months. The Spanish club have allowed him a free transfer in order for him to be able to try and push for a place in the Dutch national squad for the forthcoming World Cup this summer after reversing his decision to retire from the international scene after Euro 2008.

The star striker has not been short of offers since becoming available, with half the top flight clubs around Europe vying for his signature. And that’s hardly surprising given his goalscoring record. During his club career, his has amassed 326 goals from 514 appearances and has scored 33 times from 64 appearances for the Netherlands.

Despite receiving better financial offers from elsewhere, including a reported offer of £100,000 a week from West Ham United’s new owners, van Nistelrooy is about to put pen to paper on a transfer to Hamburg.

Spanish sports daily Marca, believe that the main reason behind van Nistelrooy’s decision to snub the Premier League is that he doesn’t believe he is at the same physical level as he was when he was at Manchester United. The less physical demands of the Bundesliga may suit him much better.

A deal between the two clubs is believed to have been concluded and van Nistelrooy will travel to Germany over the weekend to finalise personal terms and complete a medical before signing for the Rothosen.

Premiership Comment: Tottenham – Just like watching Brazil?

After yesterday’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool, www.aboutaball.co.uk looks at the ultra-narrow formation employed by Harry Redknapp at Anfield and asks whether a midfield containing both Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar has a future.

 It used to be a chant that fans of Barnsley sang: “It’s just like watching Brazil, it’s just like watching Brazil”, they chorused, I assume in a somewhat self-effacing manner.  That was until it took them all the way to the Premiership.  The origins of it aren’t clear, but Spurs fans at Anfield yesterday could have sang it, and been largely accurate.  With the narrow formation in midfield that Spurs adopted, it was much like watching Brazil, or in fact any Brazilian league team.

The Sky Sports graphic went with Modric on the right and Kranjcar on the left, but probably only because they couldn’t really conceive what would have been a closer depiction of reality.  That would have been for Palacios and Jenas to be shown as slightly deeper lying central midfielders, Modric and Kranjcar playing ahead of them, but also in a central position, and with then two centre-forwards in the shape of Defoe and Crouch in front of them. 

Not so much 4-4-2, as 4-2-2-2.

It’s a formation that may sound unlikely, but in fact is commonly employed in South America, most obviously in Brazil.  Indeed Tottenham wouldn’t even be the first team to have tried it out in Europe; Real Madrid under Wanderly Luxemburgo played the system a few years ago, with the Spanish press dubbing it ‘Magic Squares’. 

Indeed one Tottenham player would be no stranger to the whole concept.  Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes’ side Cruzeiro often played this formation, which encourages the full-backs to provide the width and sees the team playing not only with two strikers but two creative attackers given licence to drift across the attacking line.

However, the side that played it best during Gomes’ time with Cruzeiro. when they won the 2003 Brazilian league with a 100 points from 46 games, was Santos, who finished second, but reached the final of the Copa Libertadores.  With the like of Diego and Elano adopting the deeper creative positions, Robinho was given the task of playing up front with Ricardo Oliveira (ex-Real Betis, Valencia and AC Milan), and they created havoc between the four of them until they ran up against Boca Juniors in the final.  There the Argentines mercilessly exploited the lack of natural width with Hugo Ibarra and Clemente Rodriguez doubling up on the over-worked Brazilian full-backs and ran out 5-1 winners over the course of the two games.

Real Madrid under Wanderly Luxembergo quickly discovered the draw-backs to the system too.  After making the best start to a managerial career of any foreigner at the helm of Real Madrid, Spanish sides quickly worked out the key to breaking down the ‘Magic Squares’ was to get the full-backs and wingers to overload the Real defenders, and Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado were quickly swamped.  Luxembergo lasted until about Christmas, and the whole thing has been forgotten about.

Been there, done that

Or it had been, until Harry decided to resurrect the whole idea against Liverpool.  Many wondered how he was planning to accommodate the obvious talents of Kranjcar and Modric into the team when both would be available, and this has been the answer.  The pair first started together in the FA Cup win against Peterborough earlier this month, and with Kranjcar getting the first two goals in a 4-0 win there was evidently little need to tinker with the system.  The 0-0 draw last weekend against Hull was less inspiring, and the performance against Liverpool going forward suggests that some more consideration will need to be given to the whole subject.

For 4-2-2-2 to work, you really need an opposition playing the same system.  That leaves the wide areas to the full-backs to dispute, and the match boils down to which side can move the ball quickest through an obviously congested midfield area.  It can be pretty good to watch when played in Brasilerao, as the Brazilian league is known, but it can also make for some awful matches.  I still rate a league match played between Rio-rivals Vasco da Gama and Fluminense as the worst match I’ve seen in over a decade.

Will it ever work for Spurs?

First of all Vedran Corluka at right-back simply isn’t the sort of rampaging full-back who is going to get forward and deliver crosses into the box.  Comfortable also playing at centre-back, the Croat is a sensible choice at right-back, who can be relied upon to put in a good defensive shift, but raiding forward isn’t really his natural game.  The alternative is Alan Hutton, who is better getting forward, but something of a liability in defensive terms.

Tottenham would also need to move the ball a lot quicker through the midfield area for the system to work.  Kranjcar and Modric were comfortably taken care of by Javier Mascherano and Lucas on behalf of Liverpool last night.  The Croat brainstrust in the Spurs midfield will both need to up their movement significantly to find space, and the like of Jenas and Palacios would need to get the ball quicker to them for this to reap any benefit. 

Yesterday the short-comings of Spurs in terms of natural width weren’t exposed to any great extent by Liverpool, who started with the out of form Albert Riera on one flank and defender Philip Degen on the other.  However, a side like Aston Villa with Ashley Young and James Milner in the team would have a field day against Tottenham in this formation.  And once the system has been shown to be flawed, most opposition managers will quickly adopt the same tactics, against which Spurs may have little recourse. 

With Aaron Lennon out injured, Tottenham’s most obvious provider of the width, it is to be hoped that this ultra-narrow formation is just temporary until his return, if the standard of the forward play against Liverpool is going to set the standard for the second half of the season for Spurs.  With just one point form the last available six in the league, and another failure to beat one of the traditional big-four away from home, Tottenham’s Champions League aspirations may come under severe pressure if this 4-2-2-2 formation is used for much longer.

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