Monday, June 25, 2007

Who wants a decent striker?

It seems like a lot of Europe's big names do this season. Some of them have already done their business: Barca with Henry, Inter with Suazo (if that deal sticks), Bayern with Toni, Chelsea with Pizarro, Juventus with Iaquinta. Then there are the big clubs still looking for someone to lead their frontline.

AC Milan

Yeah, they've got a player who used to be the world's greatest striker in Ronaldo, but Inzaghi isn't getting any younger, Gilardino isn't a sure thing, especially in the Champions League and Oliveira's just been useless since his move from Spain. Hence their stalkerish pursuit of Samuel Eto'o, despite the player repeatedly rebuffing their advances. Might I note once again that this behaviour is still on-going from Milan, despite repeated statements from both the club and the player that he is not for sale.

Update: those pesky Milan suits never give up, do they? Here's an article quoting vice president Galliani, who restates his interest despite Barca and Eto'o's frequent 'back off' signals. Geez, they're really like a persistent suitor who can't take no for an answer. Worth reading for the hilarious quote from Laporta about the possible personal consequences for him if he sells Ronaldinho.

Fortunately, coach Ancelotti is more realistic and further contends that they'll be fine even if they don't sign anyone.

Those Sheva rumours never go away, but since Chelsea are apparently suing people for saying that he's going to go back to Milan now, I'm guessing that's not likely to happen. The latest seems to be a rumoured bid for David Villa, which is highly unlikely to come off given who they're dealing with. Valencia are a big club, and for the most part they are not a selling club. Especially not their best player.

Arsenal

Having lost Henry, the search for a striker would seem to be a priority for Arsenal. The most persistant rumours involve Nicolas Anelka, now of Bolton. Given his past history with Arsenal, opinion seems to be divided on the appropriateness of his return. He's certainly a talented player, but I don't know what Bolton think of selling and therefore won't comment on the likeliness of this transfer. (Tabloids of England, Spain, and Italy need to 1) learn to fact check, and 2) learn to say 'we don't know'.)

While we're on the subject of Arsenal, there's a lot of debate about the club's future going on right now. I wouldn't presume to comment, but I did like this Guardian piece about Cesc Fabregas and his potential leadership role within the team. Fabregas is probably the former Barca youth player I would most like to come back and play for us again someday, but I wish him a long and successful spell at Arsenal before that.

Update: here's another Guardian piece, this time on the possible replacements for Henry.

By the way, AS (otherwise known as Real Madrid's mouthpiece in the same way that Sport is Barca's) is apparently perpetuating the ridiculous rumour that Arsenal were offered Eto'o in a swap deal with Henry and refused in favour of getting the cash. Really? 1) Barca are not keen to offload Eto'o since he's the president's pal, and 2) you're telling me Arsenal wouldn't like getting a younger, and also a proven big name striker if they had to lose Henry? 3) There's no way anybody would be prying Eto'o off Barca's hands with just the 17 million pounds we eventually paid for Henry.

Lastly, here's Henry's last interview given to Arsenal's official website. It's clear he's trying to make the farewell as amiable as possible, and who can blame him for that given his many years of glory at the club? He's probably given his best years to Arsenal, after all.

Liverpool

It has been said many, many times by various commentators, but Liverpool really need a top-class striker. They've got a great, world-class midfield, a solid defence that I envy, but watching the Champions League final their lack of a lethal finisher was painfully apparent. And no, much as I like Peter Crouch, he is not that man. Same applies to the hard-working Dirk Kuyt.

Given Rafa Benitez's Spanish connections, everyone assumes he's going to sign Fernando Torres of Atletico Madrid or David Villa. I already covered the unlikely nature of the Villa deal above.

Like the other clubs covered here, Liverpool has its own draws because of the nature of the club as an institution of European football. They're also apparently very popular in Spain, so that's convenient if you're trying to sign Spanish players. I bring this up because I've see the photo in which Fernando Torres' captain's armband slips and the words 'You'll Never Walk Alone' are revealed to be printed on the reverse side. The Torres to England rumours do seem to run every summer, but this time I think it might be for real. His buy-out clause is not prohibitive and though he loves the club, their failure to clinch an UEFA Cup spot this season has got to be galling. If he wants to go, the club have said they will not stop him. He's not had a great season, though. Maybe Benitez would bring the best out of him.

Update: Atletico claim that they've received no bids for Torres so far.

Liverpool have also been linked to Diego Forlan of Villarreal. The thing about Forlan is that his club have a very clear transfer policy regarding him: meet his buy-out clause. Luckily for any would-be suitors, it's not prohibitive. I'm just not sure Liverpool are actually interested.

Manchester United

They've already done several pieces of big, flashy business in this transfer window, but apparently they're not quite done. Given the injury-prone nature of Louis Saha, the effects of cruel age on Ole Gunnar Solskjær and the possibility of Alan Smith leaving the club, United could do with someone to lead the line.

There have been tons of rumours linking them with many different strikers, but as none of them seem substantial so far I won't mention any. One note on the Fabio Quagliarella saga - Udinese don't seem very keen to sell now that they own the player entirely, so that would seem to be that.

Real Madrid

I thought Real would have been set next season, at least striker-wise, but apparently Ruud van Nistelrooy's injury sustained on the last day of the season has got those in charge of the Bernabeu thinking otherwise. Actually, we're not sure who is going to be managing Real next season just yet, so that could be a barrier towards any significant moves until the Capello-Schuster mess is sorted out. Then again, transfer policy at Real - as it is at other Spanish clubs - isn't entirely dictated by the coach.

Van Nistelrooy's injury isn't very serious, but it is the type of muscle problem which is prone to recur, and while he's still a fine player he isn't getting any younger. The same could be said for Raul, although his value is of course greater than his tangible contributions on the pitch. Higuain and Robinho are talents rather than established names, and Cassano has just fallen apart completely. They won the title with this group, so they may not necessarily need anyone new, but they've got to be planning for possible injury problems next season.

They've been persistently linked to Barca's departing striker Javier Saviola in the Madrid press. If those reports are true I would personally be very unhappy, but then Barca did make the decision to let him go. Where he goes now is his own business.

By the way, I was quite impressed with this Capello interview. Ignore all that talk about Kaka, since everyone knows that already. The way he spoke about why people might not have warmed to his style (which says to me that he 'gets' Spanish football) and his pride in Real's title triumph and the fans' reactions was quite refreshing. You might not agree with him, but at least he says what he thinks and doesn't whine a lot about refereeing.

2 comments:

weenie said...

No...not Forlan!!!

linda said...

He's not actually that bad, you know. Alright, so he can be erratic, and he had a terrible first half of the season...and I'm not reassuring you. But no, joking aside, he's done quite well in Spain. Whether or not that means he's improved as a player since his Man Utd days...no one can say.