Carrick completes £18.6m Man United move

Carrick completes £18.6m Man United move

Well, it's finally official.

Michael Carrick signed for Manchester United on Monday evening after the final details of his £18.6million move from Tottenham were finalised.

United officials confirmed the deal had been done, with Carrick coming through a medical and agreeing personal terms.

So, does this, combined with Scholes' return, move Giggs back to the left and O'Shea to the bench? Is a Scholes/Carrick central midfield the way to go for United? And who from Scholes, Giggs, Ronaldo, and Carrick will take responsibility for set pieces?

Spurs suffer King injury blow

Spurs suffer King injury blow - World Soccer - Yahoo! Sports
Tottenham skipper Ledley King could be ruled out for eight weeks because of a knee injury, the London has club announced.

The 25-year-old defender had recovered from the broken foot which forced him out of England's World Cup plans but then picked up the knee injury in training.

"Ledley is out with suspected cartilage problems and he could be out for six to eight weeks," said Tottenham manager Martin Jol on Sunday.

"It is a big blow for us."
Not how you want to start a season. Luckily Spurs have a blossoming star in Michael Dawson. But Dawson/King is an imposing partnership. Dawson/Gardner, not so much. And Gardner is just getting over (another!) injury of his own.

TCS: It's gettin' hot in here

TCS: It's gettin' hot in here

Though this isn't about the Premiership, there is something universal about the message.
I made fun of RSL giving away another late goal the other night in a 3-3 draw with Los Goats, put Real gaffer John Ellinger found it to be no laughing matter. He did, however, have one of the greatest post-game lines in the history of Major League Soccer. "There's something that goes in a jock strap, and I guess you got to have that to play this game, and we're missing it. Some of the guys the last game and this game were missing that." Phenomenal.

Jose prepared to sell Blues strikers

Jose prepared to sell Blues strikers
Mourinho said: "Both Hernan and Didier are Chelsea players.

"If they desire to leave Chelsea so much then I will have to let them go if the conditions are good for Chelsea.

Where have we heard this before?
"I have an open relationship with Duff and we have talked about all possibilities. He's a player I'm happy to keep, not desperate to keep.
I would figure that pretty much seals their fate at Chelsea. Where do they go is the question. The transfer market is really heating (hotting) up and there may some quality players moving in and out of Stamford Bridge very soon.

Rovers swoop for strike ace McCarthy - Yahoo! Sport UK

Rovers swoop for strike ace McCarthy - Yahoo! Sport UK
Blackburn have completed the signing of Benni McCarthy on a four-year deal from FC Porto for a fee believed to be in the region of £2.5million.Manager Mark Hughes will hope the 28-year-old South African can prove a suitable replacement for Craig Bellamy, who moved to Liverpool earlier in the summer.
Will wonders never cease? McCarthy finally lands in England, for Rovers though, not Everton. He and Jason Roberts could be a decent pairing, but only time will tell. However, I don't have high hopes. McCarthy was great on a great Porto team, but I don't really know that he's done anything since then other than fued with his coaches. Anyone have any better insights?

Pompey sign midfielder Thompson on a free

Pompey sign midfielder Thompson on a free
Portsmouth have signed former Liverpool and Blackburn midfielder David Thompson on a year-long deal.
Not quite the level of an Anelka or even a Petrov, but Thompson has long been a blog favorite (he's guaranteed an assist and a yellow card every time he steps on the pitch) and we're glad to see him stay in the Premiership.

Real: We've reached Ruud agreement

Real: We've reached Ruud agreement
Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy will become a Real Madrid player on Friday, the Spanish club have announced.According to a statement on the club website, the 30-year-old Holland international is scheduled to have a medical in Madrid in the morning before signing a three-year deal.
So the inevitable seems to becoming reality. We bid farewell to a fantasy stud, probably only second to Thiery Henry (though by a fair margin) as a productive forward over the last few years. He was certainly one of a handful of players that if you could afford him, you had to buy him.

Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how Sir Alex sets out his players. Can Scholes and Rooney play together? Will Saha shake the injuries and start terrorizing Premiership defenses again? Will there be a regular spot for a second striker in SAF's plans?

Stay tuned! ;-)

Trend setter

Pennant's early influence on the Liverpool squad.

Sports Guy Errata

The Sports Guy:
You knew I'd have some screw-ups in Wednesday's starting-from-scratch column about the English Premier League. Here were the biggies:

• Tottenham Hotspur's nickname is "Spurs," not "the Spurs." Nobody ever calls them "the Spurs." Unless you want to be a wanker. Along those same lines, the term "EPL" is never used. Only "Premier League."

• Liverpool's main rivals are Everton and Manchester United.

• Newscastle is now sponsored by Northern Rock.

• Celeb update: Jay-Z is an Arsenal fan and James Lipton is a Spurs fan.

• Arsenal did win the Premier League in 1998 and 2002. Not sure how I screwed that up.

• The LeBron comparison for Theo Walcott didn't work -- Walcott hasn't played a single minute yet.

• Amazingly, I forgot to mention that Tottenham Hotspur's emblem is a cock and a ball.

• In my Godather/London analogy about the Premier League, Chelsea should have been Sonny, not Manchester United. Just a brainfart on my part.

• Multiple readers agree that Highbury (Arsenal's stadium) is more like Wrigley than Fenway.

• Wigan coach Paul Jewell wrote in himself to say, "I do not wear a trenchcoat on the sidelines, more often than not I wear a warm-up jacket. Sometimes a suit. Cheers!"

More Gossip...

Been a few days of repetition since I blogged on the rumor mill last but it looks like there are some new rumors to sift through as well as a few comments on actual moves...

First, the actual moves...
Pennant to Liverpool - Great move - he'll be expensive based on his performance last year but given the talent around him and a regular place in the line-up, Pennant will be a fantasy regular for a lot of managers. You also have to consider Peter Crouch more seriously as a result. He's still a second tier option but his hot streaks might become more frequent with better service from the right.

Fortune to Bolton - Meh

Arca to Boro - I'm actually a little more impressed with this one than my fellow blogger Jeremy. If Arca is listed as a defender and he stays true to form and pushes up, he could be a good option for Fantasy Managers along the lines of a Wayne Bridge or a Luke Young. Reasonable chance of a clean sheet along with some successful crosses and the odd assist. Again, not a must-have but as the season wears on and there are weeks when not every team is playing Arca is a guy to keep in the back of your mind. If he's listed as a midfielder then forget everything I said and refer to the Fortune item above.

And some old gossip that I have to comment on...

Milner to West Ham - If this happens, West Ham will test the depth of my ties to Arsenal. We here at the blog (or at least I) already have a thing for the Hammers given their young, primarily-English squad that plays attacking football. Throw in another young Englishman who the blog already loves and West Ham will continue to gain ground on the Gunners for first place in my heart and mind. I get the feeling that West Ham management reads the blog and is intent on collecting as many of our favorites as possible (Ashton, Milner...)

And now on to today's gossip...

ASHLEY'S PRICE RISES - main story is a snooze, wake me when something happens. Sidelight is that Arsenal, in addition to not getting Gallas in return, are looking at Yossi Benayoun. Sort of a head scratcher. Nice player, had a very impressive first year in England but don't the Gunners have more than their share of wingers? Seems like they should throw that money at Curtis Davies or someone else to fill in the gap as the 3rd center half and then throw some more at a replacement right back. Wayne Bridge? Re-iteration of the Milner to West Ham rumor if Arsenal land Benayoun.

DROGBA READY TO GO? Says here that Jose will keep him around because, despite never really giving him a consistent run of games, Jose likes having him available.

CARRICK OUT, NEDVED IN? Now THAT is how you replace a good player when he's lured away by a big club. If Spurs keep this up and, you know, actually secure a Champions League spot one of these years, we might have to elevate them to the "big club" status their fans clearly think they've already achieved. Throw in the Downing-to-Spurs with ManYoo's money and you have the makings of a great two-for-one deal at the Lane. Downing is a big upgrade over anyone currently playing on the left as well as a great supply line for Berbatov and Nedved (if he is healthy more than occasionally) is better in the short term than Carrick and will likely do the job until Huddlestone is ready to make the jump.

Porto striker Benni McCarthy will today seal a £3m move to Blackburn - Could it be? Will Benni finally wash up on English shores? Rovers definitely need the help

Fulham hope to complete the £2m signing of Middlesbrough left-back Franck Queudrue - another Fulham defender who will defy the odds and be a decent fantasy pick on a team unlikely to get too many clean sheets. Likely to happen as Boro has already filled Queudrue's spot.

Reds Seal Pennant Deal

Reds Seal Pennant Deal
The 23-year-old winger has completed what is believed to be a £6.7million move - rising to over £7million on appearances - from Birmingham and has become boss Rafael Benitez's fifth summer signing.
Liverpool is really putting together a dangerous squad. No one will accuse this group, with Pennant, Bellamy, etc., of lacking attacking talent. I only wonder if Fowler (or the 4th striker to be bought later) becomes a starter and Crouch goes back to being "something different off the bench".

Fantasy managers might just wonder who will be in charge of dead balls between Gerrard, Alonso, and Pennant. Are there enough points to go around, or enough spots in your fantasy lineup?

Thomas breaks foot in friendly

Thomas breaks foot in friendly
Charlton have suffered a blow ahead of the new season after winger Jerome Thomas broke his foot in Tuesday night's friendly at Hibernian.The 23-year-old has fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot - the same injury which delayed England striker Wayne Rooney's participation in the World Cup.
Dennis Rommedahl, welcome to your regular starting role!

Fortune Seals Trotters Move

Fortune Seals Trotters Move
Quinton Fortune is poised to seal a move to Bolton and manager Sam Allardyce cannot wait to have the South African on board.
Surprised the headline didn't contain a pun on his name, but this is a good move for both parties. With Ricardo Gardner hurt, Fortune should get games and will be a good option down the left for Bolton.

This probably isn't much use to fantasy managers as Fortune is that unfortunate player who is listed above their position, ie he will be listed as a midfielder though he will be playing left back. That is against the rules.

Ljungberg likely to miss start of Arsenal season

Ljungberg likely to miss start of Arsenal season
Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is a major doubt for both next month's Champions League qualifier and the start of the new Premiership season.

The Sweden midfielder has been struggling with an ankle problem, which manager Arsene Wenger feels may not even clear up in time for the 29-year-old to feature against Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on August 19.
So Rosicky replaces Pires on the left, Fabergas and Silva in the middle... does Hleb start on the right? Neal, you've probably got a better feel for this than I do.

Arca is latest addition to Southgate revolution

Arca is latest addition to Southgate revolution
The Argentinian, who had a clause in his contract allowing him to speak to Premiership clubs, will join Boro as the club prepare to sell Franck Queudrue to Fulham.
First let me say that I'm not quite convinced that anything Southgate has done is revolutionary. As for this addition, I think it's good for Boro but will probably have little impact for fantasy managers. I am assuming (and we all know what happens when you do that) that the left back position is Pogatetz's to lose, and Downing has the left side of midfield for as long as he wants... or until he's sold to a bigger club.

Perhaps the more interesting move is Queudrue to Fulham. He should go right into the staring XI there and has been a good fantasy producer (though prone to too many yellow and red cards) for several years.

Bruce slaps £5m asking price on Pennant

Bruce slaps £5m asking price on Pennant

Sounds like a bargain to me. If Heskey is worth that much, certainly Pennant would be worth more! If I were any Premiership club with a half-decent header of the ball at striker (or even a 6'7" stiff who couldn't get power on a header if he used jumper cables) I would grab Pennant in an instant at that price.

Barton and Richards sign four-year Ctiy deals

Barton and Richards sign four-year Ctiy deals
Manchester City had double cause to celebrate today as Joey Barton and Micah Richards signed new four-year contracts.

The future of midfielder Barton, 23, had been in some doubt after he stunned City with a transfer request last season, while 18-year-old defender Richards was linked with a move to Tottenham.

But both players are now due to stay at Eastlands until at least 2010, with City moving to secure their futures after interest from other clubs.
This is great news for Citeh, and potentially important for Premiership fantasy managers. Citeh have solidified the center of their midfield by signing Dabo and Hamman (and already having Reyna on the books) so Barton will likely have license to push forward in support of Samaras and Corradi. He had a great fantasy season last year, when healthy and available, and looks to be poised for another step forward. Perhaps into Lampard/Gerrard territory?

As for Richards, much will depend on where they play him. If he's a center back he's a good pick, but will probably be over-priced. But if they play him at right back (what ever happened to Danny Mills?) he could be one to watch. He's also tall and good in the air so he could be a secondary target on set pieces, after Samaras.

Ameobi fires Magpies to victory

Ameobi fires Magpies to victory

So Newcastle is into the UEFA Cup, or at least the qualifying rounds. Now they can offer "European football" to their potential transfers, Duff, et al.

Speaking of which, why Duff? I have to admit to being excited because Duff is one of my favorite players. But Newcastle is pretty solid in the midfield as is, especially with N'Zogbia establishing himself on the left. And Duff has a history of injury. Not something Newcastle need more of.

Is N'Zog too young for a full season of work? Would Duff be pushed up as a striker, as he has for the Republic of Ireland (alongside Robbie Keane)?

Thursday Gossip...

Well, Jeremy already started us off with the Juve gossip of the day but here's some commentary on the rest...

THE REAL DEALS - Wow, Cannavaro AND Emerson for £13.7m? That's a great deal for Madrid. Given what Chelsea has done to the market and his star turn at the World Cup, I'd think Cannavaro would be worth that by himself. No impact on our favorite Premiership fantasy game but ponder, if you will, the thought of Cannavaro being worth less than what Feyenoord are asking for Kuyt...madness. Robben, Fabregas, and Kaka being thrown in as "on the way" seems to be a bit much, even for Real.

LEFT BACKS IN THE CHANGING ROOMS - The only interesting tidbit in this piece is the rumor that Wayne Bridge will be moving to Spurs to make way for Ashley Cole and Roberto Carlos. If that were to happen, Spurs would be significantly upgraded on the left of defense and Bridge's fantasy value would be improved over last year with more clean sheets and better strikers on the other ends of his crosses.

POOL CHASING PENNANT - This one has been on-again/off-again for most of the close season. Liverpool would be better off, Pennant would be better off, Birmingham would get a nice return on their investment given that Pennant is unlikely to stay in the Championship with all his talent, it will give Brum a head start on finding replacements as they look to get back to the top flight. As for fantasy value, Pennant's will go up if he starts consistently. Crouch will get more service and have less attention paid him given that Gerrard will also be lurking.

Huth to Boro back on - Mark October on your calendars to start considering the giant German for your squad.

Gravesen back to Everton - Do you ever get the feeling that there are a default set of rumors that someone has on a dartboard and that if there isn't anything else to write about they throw a dart and recycle the rumor? Me too...and this one has been in moderately heavy rotation for the last 18 months or so. Please feel free to nominate others for this category...

Mido to Blackburn (again) - They need a striker, he needs a team, we all need the comic relief...make this one happen Mark

Julio Arca is in talks with Boro - I like the Barton to Boro rumors more for Boro but this is not a terrible thing if it happens instead

The Sports Guy: Choosing my EPL team

The Sports Guy: Choosing my EPL team

Here's the link to the Simmons "reveal" that we've been running with and that Neal mentioned in the post below.

So Spurs are his team for the season. Can't really argue. Team on the up, exciting young players (hopefully they hold on to Carrick), and in London -- one of his criteria, not mine. I decided to "like" them last year, shifting from Newcastle, for many of the same reasons. But as I've written before, for better or for worse, my allegiances are to my fantasy team.

I agree with this comment to the extent that the article was a bit shaky on some of the facts, but it is exciting that someone as high profile as Simmons is hooked on soccer now. And we're sure to get a few thousand words on the Premiership every few months. Which will be fun to read, and to blog!

Barca close to Zambrotta and Thuram deals

Barca close to Zambrotta and Thuram deals

The rich get richer. Barca were vulnerable at fullback last year and now they add two world-class players. Thuram also gives them cover at center back should there be an injury or if Marquez is pushed up into midfield. Anyone going to bet against them retaining for CL crown for another season?

And why aren't they going to Chelsea? Money probably isn't the problem. Is the Spanish league more attractive than the EPL? Or is it just Barca that is more glamorous?

Italian striker Corradi completes Man City move

Italian striker Corradi completes Man City move
Former Italy striker Bernardo Corradi has completed his move to Manchester City from Valencia for an undisclosed fee.

The 30-year-old, who scored 10 Serie A goals last term while on loan at Parma, has penned a three-year contract at Eastlands and becomes manager Stuart Pearce's fifth summer signing.
So is this how the Cole/Vassell partnership ends? Not with a bang but with a Greek/Italian whimper.

Wednesday Gossip...

Before I get to the gossip, a note to Bill Simmons if you've started reading these hallowed pages - you poor, poor bastard. Spurs? You have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Only heartbreak and misery lies down that road (or Lane in this case).

These are starting to get a bit repetitive but I've got some time on my hands, so here goes the EPL Gossip for Wednesday, July 19...

MANNY FERNANDES THE LATEST TO POMPEY? Apparently Pompey really do want to become the poor man's Chelsea by signing even lesser-known Portugese players for insane transfer fees. If he is, as The Special One says, the next Makelele then his presence, if it materializes, is of more benefit to the rest of the Pompey defense and their keeper than it is of direct fantasy benefit to those who include him in their line-up. Regardless, its fun to see what 'arry will do with lots and lots of someone else's money to squander. You do have to wonder if his Russian keeper will have him offed once he realizes how badly his money was spent.

CHELSKI TO BUY A LEFTIE - Blah, blah, blah - Ashley Cole to Chelsea...get it over with or don't but stop talking about it unless there's some actual news.

RAFA NOT FINISHED YET - Feyenoord want £14 million for Kuyt? What sort of hash are they smoking over there? Did they watch the World Cup? If I were them, I'd take the money and run (and buy Mido who we all know can light up the Eredivisie). I have to admit I still don't understand this one for 'Pool.

AC Milan have rejected a £50m bid from Chelski for Kaka - someone apparently has WAY too much time on their hands to think that there's still room in Chelsea's midfield with Ballack, Lamps, Essien, Makelele, Robben, Cole, Duff, and SWP fighting for time

If Ashley Cole leaves Arsenal, the Gunners will look to sign Lilian Thuram - Finally, a rumor that makes sense - Thuram will be too old to help Juve once they get back to Serie A so they might as well sell and based on his World Cup performance he still has what it takes to make an impact in a rotation with Toure and Senderos (when he returns)

Sam Allardyce wants to sign Atletico Madrid's right back Juan Velasco and Argentina captain Juan Pablo Sorin - Nice, another goofy-haired holding midfielder for Big Sam - doesn't he realize he already has Campo?

Mark Hughes wants to sign Benni McCarthy, and is still in talks with Mido - Mido at Rovers would be spectacular too bad Bellamy won't be around to continue to spice things up. Seriously, though this would be a great addition for Hughes and would be a much needed option for fantasy managers looking for an occasional starting striker.

Franck Queudrue is set to join Fulahm for £2m - Fulham need help just about everywhere so why not? Althought Queudrue probably loses some fantasy value by heading to a team that will produce fewer clean sheets and provide him more reasons to accumulate cards.

Steed Malbranque has rejected a move in the opposite direction - Steed has been linked with just about everyone outside the Top 6, he really should make a decision soon and get on with it. His value will probably stay pretty much constant presuming he is guaranteed a starting role wherever he lands (so long as that isn't NUFC where he will undoubtedly blow out a knee stepping off the podium used to sign his contract)...

King Dong silences Kaizers

King Dong silences Kaizers
Dong Fangzhuo's late goal gave Manchester United a 1-0 win Kaizer Chiefs in the second game of their South African tour.

It looked like United might be frustrated in Cape Town until substitute Dong popped up with the winner seven minutes from the end.
ManU trots him out each pre-season as a gift to their Chinese customers fans, and headline writers everywhere.

Landzaat completes Wigan move

While Neal takes care of the rumors, I'll stick to the facts. Call me Friday.

Landzaat completes Wigan move
Wigan have today completed their fourth signing of the summer with the capture of Holland international midfielder Denny Landzaat.

A product of the Ajax youth system, Landzaat scored 10 goals from midfield and as captain of AZ last season on the way to the club finishing second in the Eredivisie.
Looks like Wigan have gotten a good replacement for Jimmy Bullard. For themselves, and fantsay managers everywhere.

To the victor

... goes the spoils.

To the victor...

Thanks, Neal.

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors...

Lots of random speculation today in addition to the official gossip column...

Kuyt to Liverpool - Could he please make a decision? If he goes to Pool, he'll be a fantasy afterthought due to a lack of playing time. If Crouch gets injured, his value increases but he's still not in the Sheva/Ballack/Berbatov/New ManYoo striker class of fanasy prospects for the new season.

Ashton to Newcastle - NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...I suggested last year that this would be a great move for NUFC but since they're a mess and I really don't like them much, I'd hate to see one of my favorite players headed to St. James' Park and the inevitable rash of injuries that seems to follow everyone who signs there. And really, why would Ashton want to leave a West Ham team headed to Europe with tremendous upside for a Newcastle side with lots of tradition and very little hope of living up to it this season. (Yeah, I know, money)

ManYoo to Buy All of Juve - Some Devil supporter in the media decided to have a nice daydream.

Barton/Distin for Boro - Now, this would be some good stuff for Boro. Barton would bring the sort of box-to-box central midfielder that Boro have been missing from their mix and Distin would presumably take over for manager Gareth Southgate as the anchor of the defense. Not sure why Citeh would let these guys go but they seem to have been making moves to ensure that they're prepared for Barton's departure.

Richards for Arsenal/Chelsea/Spurs - Micah Richards is the new Curtis Davies - lots of speculation - he's issued the "come get me cry" in the media. Would be a cheap defender likely to be a solid point-producer until Senderos comes back if he signs with Arsenal. Chelsea and Spurs would likely send him directly to the bench. Seems like a longshot that this will have any bearing on the fantasy season.

Emerton for West Ham - Emerton has been rumored to be headed a lot of places so far. He'd likely be trading parttime duty at Rovers for parttime duty at Upton Park with Benayoun having had a nice season last year. Not much fantasy impact unless there's an injury.

Whitehead to Reading - A Whitehead/Convey combo on the wings would be a great thing for the Royals as the aim for the Premiership. Whitehead was a nice option if he had a favorable match-up last season and Reading looks to have a bit more firepower so his value might increase a bit. This doesn't seem too far-fetched to actually happen.

What are WBA Doing? - That's a lot of money to turn down for a keeper and a defender on a team that really didn't keep the ball out of the net very often last season.

Monday Transfer Rumors

Looks like the gossip mongers had a busy weekend so I'm going to omit the big lead up and get right to the Rumor Mill for Monday July 17...

Big Names at Spurs
Outside of the traditional rumors page comes the news that Spurs are close to signing everyone's favorite gimpy Irish winger Duffman with an outside shot at adding Pavel Nedved from the Juve relegation firesale. Now THAT would be an upgrade assuming one or both of those gentlemen played and stayed healthy (a big IF). Even if Carrick and Defoe head out - you'd almost have to take that trade (especially if Carrick wants to leave anyway). The health records of the two targets would make fantasy managers nervous but their talent is undoubted and they would have to be in the consideration set every week if they arrive at White Hart Lane.

On to the actual Gossip Page...

Threw up in my mouth a little bit when I saw this one - not a great way to start the morning. I'd love to see him at Inter (the only Italian team I like watching) but the thought of Paddy wearing the red of the enemy is disgusting. That said, he's exactly what they need. From a fantasy standpoint, this isn't huge news because he's never really been a fantasy standout but he would free up Carrick to play a more offensive role which would be good for fantasy managers.

This one also goes on to talk to about strikers possibly coming to Old Trafford (Torres, Ibrahimovich, Trezeguet are the rumors). Seems like someone is on the way in to replace the Ruud one. Can't see Trez being the guy. Zlatan would be interesting but he really disappeared in the World Cup. Torres seems to be the best bet and he would obviously be a no-brainer if he's starting alongside the groin-stomper.

Lots of text but little other than a repeat of the Davies to Arsenal rumor that's been circulating for a few weeks. Seems like it will be necessary rather than a luxury as Sol is gone and Djourou and Senderos are both injured leaving Kolo Toure with no obvious partner in the center of defense.

Trezeguet to Liverpool? I have a hard time seeing that but they do like guys who don't make their penalties...Can't see them affording the overrated Frenchman. If he does arrive on Brittish shores, expect him to be a Morientes-like bust. He doesn't have the game to be a winner if the refs aren't throwing the match in his favor.

David O'Leary out at Villa - why has it taken this long? All Villa players become slightly more valuable if he's not around to mess things up. If Souey is his replacement, forget I said anything.

Klinsmann for America - WOOOOHOOOOO (just wanted to get that in)

And remember, only 33 shopping days left until the points start counting...

World Cup Final from the Plaza Duomo

My friend, Diego, was in Milan for the World Cup final, and recorded the reaction to Grosso's PK and Italy's victory. Insane!

Making a difference

THE SPORTS GUY : Time for another mailbag
Thanks to everyone who e-mailed suggestions for my new English Premier League soccer team that I haven't picked yet. Out of any challenge that I've ever thrown out to the readers, I can't remember getting a more passionate, entertaining and informative batch of e-mails. If anything, I'm even more dedicated to making the leap now. And this isn't going to be a half-assed thing, either. I'll be buying the merchandise, TiVo-ing the games, traveling to see a couple home games, throwing myself into the team ... I'm going all out. Obviously I'm not a huge soccer fan, but I'm a huge sports fan and it's becoming clearer and clearer that I missed the boat with the English Premier League and UEFA. Better late than never.

Anyway, I narrowed it down to three teams (don't worry, none of them is Manchester United) and will be making my official pick in next Wednesday's column. So stay tuned.

Ameobi boost for Magpies

Ameobi boost for Magpies
Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi will be fit to play his part in the club's Intertoto Cup opener against Lillestrom on Saturday.
Kieron Dyer is still struggling with his hamstring and back problems, while Craig Moore will not return to training until Monday after his World Cup exploits and Jean-Alain Boumsong has been given a fortnight off.
Teams that play in the Intertoto Cup normally have a jump on the other teams in the league as they will have warmed up with some competitive games. They also tend to fall off as the season winds on due to the excess of games and travel. Something to keep in mind for NUFC's early season.

It will be interesting to see if Roeder uses Milner as a second striker, and how he might take to that role.

Digging Through The Rumor Mill

As we get closer to the start of the season, the transfer gossip is starting to heat up and it's time to start evaluating the implications of the rumors credible enough to make it onto the Transfer Gossip wire. Time permitting, I'll do this every day they publish new rumors (usually Mon-Fri) so check back. Heck, I may even add a few of my own in as I have the occasional conversation with a player agent...

So here are my comments on the Rumor Mill for Friday July 14 (and a Happy Bastille Day to those of you still suffering from the happenings in Berlin).

EXPECT CHELSKI TO SIGN BOTH COLE AND CARLOS - Leave it to Chelsea to mess up a potentially great fantasy situation by signing two left backs. I'd actually be surprised to learn that there was much truth to this one - not because Chelsea can't afford both but because if there's a gap at left back in Madrid and Ashley Cole is available, I'm guessing that he'd be their target. Arsenal would be much more likely to sell AC to Real Madrid even if it meant a little lower price. Verdict: If Chelsea signs one of the two, he's a no-brainer, if they sign two, then good luck not pulling out your hair trying to figure out which one to buy.

RUUD GETS REAL - The core of the rumor (Ruud to Real Madrid) is sort of boring and irrelevant but it is funny to see someone trying to report that both Ruud and Ronaldo want to go to the same place. Who thinks that's a good idea/likely to happen after their tempestous relationship at ManYoo? Verdict: Ruud goes, Ronaldo stays (or goes somewhere else) - ManYoo suffers (good times all the way around).

RICHARDS FOR SPURS - Is he really worth THAT much? I know they're desperate but this smacks of the same sort of gauging that teams with a central midfielder tried to pull on Arsenal last summer. That said, Spurs are likely to have a solid defense next season and if Richards goes there and plays, he could be a nice, cheap option for fantasy managers. Verdict - Could be this year's Dawson and if he plays on the right he could get some successful crosses as well.

POMPEY'S LATEST DUO - Pompey rumors are a dime-a-dozen this off-season but I like the Nelsen rumor. He's quietly one of the excellent central defenders in the Premiership and if Pompey are looking to spend wisely (always in question w/ 'arry) this guy would be a GREAT investment. Verdict - Given that it makes sense, it probably won't happen. If it does, it's good for Pompey but hurts Nelsen's fantasy value because Pompey won't get as many CSs even with him.

BOLTON SET TO WASTE MONEY - Traoré? I guess he'd be OK cover. Anelka would be an interesting fit at Bolton - not sure what to make of Wanderers with someone capable of putting the ball in the net. Verdict - Anelka is always a nice fantasy option but who knows how a couple years away from the Prem will impact his quality, I'd wait and see.

DIARRA BACK ON THE AGENDA - Diarra to ManYoo? I'll believe it when I see it. Much more likely to see a combination of Carrick and Hargreaves (which would be a nice central midfield behind Rooney and Saha) lining up at OT next month. Verdict - not terribly likely and even if it does happen, I expect Diarra to be the fantasy equivalent of Michael Essien. Good player, but not much fantasy value.

Let the countdown begin - only 36 shopping days left until kickoff...

Pompey close on 'New Makelele'

Pompey close on 'New Makelele'
Reports in Portugal have suggested that Benfica's Manuel Fernandes is set to become a Portsmouth player.

The 20-year-old midfielder is rated extremely highly and Benfica are not prepared to part with him lightly, but Pompey's spending power could see them table an irresistible offer.

Fernandes, touted as the new Claude Makelele, is right up there at the top of his list and is believed to be keen on challenging himself elsewhere.
Does this mean that he wasn't tall enough to be the more familiar 'next Patrick Viera'?

Cultural Sensitivity

As seen by the Germans:

As seen by the French:

As seen by the Italians:

As seen by the Americans:

As seen in Hong Kong:

Rafa happy with options

Rafa happy with options
"We wanted more pace, but a different sort of striker who would score a different type of goal [than Cisse would]. Bellamy will give us that."
You know... the kind of goals where the ball ends up in the back of the net, rather than the goals where the ball ends up hitting "some lucky fan" in row zed.

Ridiculous functionality

Fantasy Performance Comparison - Yahoo! Fantasy Sports




88% (10 eligible teams) Game Performance 83% (5 eligible teams)
1 (of 23), 2005 Best Finish 2 (of 23), 2005
2 (of 16), 2004 Worst Finish 3 (of 16), 2004
6 Trophies 2
2000 Player Since 2001
10 Teams Managed 5
20% (2 of 10 leagues) League Commish 0% (0 of 5 leagues)

The Sports Guy chat Page 2 : The Sports Guy chat
Keith (Halifax,NS,Canada): What was your take on Zidane's head butt? I can't figure why he head-butted the guy's chest? If you're going to get red-carded, get your money's worth is my motto ...

Bill Simmons: I thought it was fascinating to watch him wipe out two stereostypes at once: That soccer players are wusses, and that French people are wusses. I'm also delighted that the Euro papers hired lip readers to see what the Italian said to him -- you know how I've been pushing for lip readers to replace sideline reporters for the past few years. But I didn't think the Zidane thing was as big of a deal as everyone made it out to be -- 8 minutes left in extra time, and it's not like they didn't have 10 guys left. Plus, their keeper, Paul Shaffer, didn't come close to stopping any of Italy's penalty kicks. They would have lost either way. I'm just excited that Tyson's ear bite on Holyfield finally has a sports rival.
Joe (Philly): I loved the World Cup, and am thinking about continuing to follow soccer through the English Premier League. How can I pick a team to root for and remain a somewhat-principled sports' fan when I know nothing about England?

Bill Simmons: Intriguing question, I have been wondering the same thing. I was thinking about just picking the team that Michael Davies hates the most, just for comedy's sake, but that's too easy. If anyone wants to make the case for an English premier team for me, e-mail me. I might make the leap. Soccer's growing on me, you don't have to pay attention, it's easy to follow, no sideline reporters, no commercials, no annoying announcers, the crowds are fantastic ... there's a lot to like.

Season in review

... by way of blog headers. Certainly not comprehensive, but fun none-the-less.

Hamann's heading for Manchester City

Hamann's heading for Manchester City
The signing will be welcomed by Blues fans, who have been desperate for more midfield recruitment in the knowledge that former England Under-21 star Joey Barton seems certain to leave.

Pearce has already signed Ousemane Dabo from Lazio and is also in negotiations with Reading's Steve Sidwell, who could provide a useful compliment to Hamann
Add Reyna to the mix and it looks like 2 from 3 for the holding midfield spot. Not much creativity there, however, and the Citeh's other, more attacking middies, Ireland and Flood come to mind, are young and unproven. That places a lot of weight on Trevor Sinclair's brittle frame.

Spurs complete signing of Zokora

Spurs complete signing of Zokora
Zokora's arrival will increase speculation that England international Michael Carrick could be on his way out of White Hart Lane.

Manchester United are tracking Carrick, although Jol says he is reluctant to let him leave.
I figure Zokora to be more of a replacement Davids than for Carrick. Still, it makes you think, if only Spurs had a play-making English midfielder lying around to step up if Carrick moved on. Someone like this guy...

Oh well. I guess we'll never know.

Charlton swoop for free agent Hasselbaink

Charlton swoop for free agent Hasselbaink
Charlton have completed the signing of former Middlesbrough striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on a free transfer.
Dowie hopes the former Leeds, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea frontman can help bring on Darren Bent, who finished last season as the top English goalscorer in the Premiership.
This is a great move for both parties. A win-win. JFH is a proven goal scorer who can still do the job, as we saw with Boro when he was given a chance last season. And Chartlon need another striker to take the pressure off Darren Bent. Bent won't be a surprise package anymore, and Marcus Bent proved to be quite useless (see also Bothroyd, Jay and Jeffers, Franny). JFH also gives the Addicks another option on set-pieces, something they lacked when Danny Murphy moved on, and something that every fantasy manager loves to see.

Zizou il Toro

Shame Materazzi wasn't holding a red cape and a sword.

World Cup Fantasy Final Standings

McDonald's/FIFA World Cup Fantasy Game

Congratulations to Ugly Americans who won our group with an outstanding 817.5 points! Thanks to everyone who played WC fantasy, and to the 50 lucky souls who got into the group (you'll have to be quicker next time, or schedule your travels better, Neal). We'll have to do this again and perhaps on a larger scale when EPL starts up again.

Speaking of which, enjoy the next month. See your families. Get outside a bit. But keep reading the blog. Lots of transfer news to come. Who is coming and going in Manchester? Will Juventus lose their place in Serie A, and if they do will their stars be moving to England? Who will Chelsea buy next, and how much will it cost? All this and more. ;-)

Final Standings
Rank Team Points 
1  Ugly Americans (daveberk2000)817.5 
2  Arenagades (micsamnic)807.5 
3  mattozan (numlocker)777 
4  FC Bootboy (dratra)760 
5  Furious Fcukers (terrydog_80)754.5 
6  (TT) c_o (hkeditor)754 
7  Bermuda Gombeys (alexdecouto)733 
8  Team Flying Banana (ocuk_kaiowas)728.5 
9 (jspitzberg)715.5 
10  Jack Bauer FC (darbselur)715 

Special Summer Progostication...

Here we are...

The big match is on Sunday...

You have to applaud the French for pulling it together after a terrible group stage and the Italians for beating a high-quality Germany side and going through the entire tournament so far without letting the other team score against them (and don't I feel special for being in the stadium to see the only ball that has ended up in Buffon's net?).

So, how's it going to turn out?

I'll start with how I'd like it to turn out. France wins 2-0 with Henry getting the first and Zidane putting the icing on the cake with a late second as the Italians push up looking for the equalizer. Why is this what I'm hoping for?

1) I can't stand watching the Italians play - too much diving, too much crying, too much focus on the defensive end of the field all of which combine to obscure what is an impressive collection of talent.

2) Henry plays for France and in the absence of a national team I support (US, Holland, or England - in that order) - I'm reverting to the team with the most Arsenal players.

3) Zidane deserves to go out like Jordan and Elway (sorry, mixing sports metaphors again)

4) There should be some karmic payback coming in the wake of the Serie A match-fixing debacle. An Italy win would send all the wrong messages.

All of the above said, this match comes down to Buffon vs. Barthez and which one you think is more likely to make a heroic play (Buffon) and which is more likely to make an error at a critical juncture (Barthez). Henry and Zidane are the two players most likely to create an individual moment of magic on the offensive end but big championships usually come down to the team that prevents the other from doing what it wants to do and Italy have shown more propensity for that in this tournament than France has.

So there you have it - Italy 1; France 0 and a sense that there is no justice in the world.

Enjoy the match

Allez Les Blues

Arthritis to keep Kewell out of Premiership openers

Arthritis to keep Kewell out of Premiership openers
The length of time Kewell will be sidelined will do nothing to help him maintain his first-team spot at Anfield, with Chile winger Mark Gonzalez now having been given a work permit and likely to be boss Rafael Benitez's first choice on the left flank.

Brazilian acquisition Fabio Aurelio is able to play left-back and left-wing, adding a further obstacle upon Kewell's eventual return.

Benitez is delighted with his free transfer signing from Valencia, saying: 'Aurelio is a left full-back or a left-winger with a lot of quality.

'He can cross the ball superbly and he is maybe a better passer of the ball than Xabi Alonso.'
Liverpool is shaping up to be the team to watch this season in the EPL, and the one where fantasy managers may find a bargain or two.

Wigan conclude Heskey deal

Wigan conclude Heskey deal
Wigan Athletic have completed the signing of Emile Heskey from Birmingham for a club record £5.5 million.

The 28-year-old England international penned a three-year deal at The JJB Stadium after agreeing personal terms with the Lancashire outfit.
We'll just reiterate what we said here back in May:
Heskey may be valuable (and I fully expect some EPL club to waste millions of pounds on him this summer), but he certainly isn't an asset. If he were an asset, Birmingham would still be in the EPL and we wouldn't be having this discussion.

West Ham seal £1million Mears signing

West Ham seal £1million Mears signing
West Ham have confirmed the signing of defender Tyrone Mears from Preston North End for a fee that could rise to almost £2million.

The 23-year-old right-back has agreed a four-year deal with the Barclays Premiership side for an initial fee of £1million to become the Hammers' second signing in quick succession after Carlton Cole moved across London from Chelsea.

Rovers win Roberts race

Rovers win Roberts race
Blackburn have completed the signing of Wigan striker Jason Roberts, as revealed by

Roberts' arrival follows hot on the heels of the signing of Francis Jeffers on Monday on what completes a busy day in the transfer market at Ewood Park.
That should be quite a strike partnership... save for the striking part. Roberts will score a few goals in a bunch ("Nice grouping."), and Wolfsthal will inexplicably pick him up on the barn door, but like Jeffers he will run around for most of the season without threatening to do damage the opposition nets.

Benitez wants me out, says Cisse

Benitez wants me out, says Cisse
Injured Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse says he is being forced out of the club by manager Rafael Benitez.

Craig Bellamy charged

Footballer Craig Bellamy charged

Liverpool and Wales footballer Craig Bellamy has been charged by police with assaulting a 19-year-old woman in a Cardiff nightclub.

Henry worry for Arsenal

Henry worry for Arsenal

Scary headline, but thankfully the article is a bit more sanguine:
Thierry Henry could be a doubt for the start of next season, according to the expert who has been working on his Achilles problem.

The talismanic Frenchman is currently on international duty at the World Cup, with his goal against Brazil on Saturday enough to book his side a semi-final spot.

While the whole of France are grateful that Henry is fit to start, the striker has been nursing a long-term Achilles tendon injury

Professor Nicola Maffulli, a leading specialist, was brought to North London in a bid to rid the player of the problem but he has now warned that playing at the World Cup could aggravate the issue.
Puts a bit of a damper on the whole "Henry plus 10 world-class newcomers to the EPL" strategy. Especially as France will have at least 2 more games.

Positive knee news for Owen

Positive knee news for Owen

Talk about looking on the bright side!
Michael Owen has handed Newcastle a boost after scans showed only his anterior cruciate ligament was ruptured whilst away on international duty.
"It's a rupture, you can't see the cruciate on the scan so it's obviously floating about somewhere in the knee, but apart from that there is minimal damage.

"There is nothing else that needs operating on, so that is a big bonus.

"Not so much of a bonus in terms of time limits, but just in coming back where you have just one injury to come back from and not plenty of things going on in your knee."
I'm sorry, but I don't see much of an upside here. Owen "will likely be out of action until the New Year", Ameobi is hurting and the next striker on the depth-chart is Albert Luque. Expect NUFC to open their InterToto campaign with lots of possession, but little penetration in the attacking 1/3.

Riquelme confirms United offer

In other ManU midfield news...

Riquelme confirms United offer
Argentina playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has confirmed that Manchester United have made a sizeable bid for his services.

The classy Villarreal star is also believed to be a target for Internazionale but made the revelation from his country's training camp ahead of their World Cup quarter final with hosts Germany.
I find this a little hard to believe, after SAF's disastrous experiment with Seba Veron. What is the old saying about once bitten... ?

Ronaldo makes Real admission

Ronaldo makes Real admission
Cristiano Ronaldo has rocked Manchester United by admitting that reports linking him with a move to Real Madrid should Juan Miguel Villar Mir win the presidential elections on Sunday are true.


Ronaldo was quoted earlier in the week as stating he had agreed to move to Spain if Villar Mir emerged victorious in the club's elections, but the report was dismissed by both United and manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

However, Ronaldo has now shocked his employers after conceding that he is keen on a switch to Los Merengues.

"Yes, they are true," he said when quizzed on the reports, adding later: "After the World Cup, I decide my life."
And we all know how sympathetic to this kind of thing Sir Alex is. Could "Beckham's replacement at ManU be Zidane's replacement (and Beck's new teamate) at Madrid?