Foster Injury Worries

Just as soon as I start penciling in my line-up for the upcoming season with Ben Foster as the backbone of my defence as ManYoo prepare to defend their title Foster goes and gets himself hurt. According to reports Foster has already had arthroscopic knee surgery (I believe it's called keyhole surgery over there) since the end of the season and he's apparently in need of more serious surgery before the knee is actually on the road to being 100% again. Looks like SAF is likely to feature EvdS for at least the beginning of the season if not the entire season.

Looks like the quest for a cheap goalkeeper will have to continue.

United set to stop splashing cash

FOOTBALL Champions League Sporting Lisbon Nani - 0
Manchester United chief executive David Gill has indicated the Red Devils' triple transfer swoop could mark the end of their summer spending.United have confirmed England international Owen Hargreaves will join them from Bayern Munich on July 1, with only the 25-year-old's signature required to complete a £17million deal.

Neither Anderson nor Nani can expect to play as many games as their fellow new arrival, although if either man shows the type of form Ronaldo produced when he first landed at Old Trafford four years ago, it will not be long before they are providing stiff competition for the likes of Ryan Giggs, who has quit international football in order to prolong his United career.

Queiroz said: "It is really worth stopping to imagine what an attack formed by Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Anderson could do.

On that note, time for a bit of the old blog roundtable:

Jeremy: anderson won't get a work permit and will be loaned back to porto

Jeremy: at least that's my baseless speculation

Neal: don't know how much he's played with the BNT

Neal: will probably be more after Copa this summer

Jeremy: i think he just got his first senior call up

Neal: hard to believe that SAF would spend huge for someone who isn't going to contribute this year

Neal: wonder if he has a Euro passport from his time in Portugal

Neal: regardless of Anderson status - ManYoo looking pretty strong

Neal: Giggs replacement

Neal: done

Neal: Scholes replacement

Neal: done

Neal: two holding midfielders

Neal: done

Jeremy: just a matter of aligning the pieces

Neal: one striker left

Jeremy: no room on the pitch for that striker

Neal: no?

Jeremy: if you figure scholes, carrick, and owen in the center

Neal: Nani the 2nd striker for now?

Jeremy: giggs, probably

Jeremy: nani and cron on the wings

Jeremy: SAF creating his version of AC Milan

Neal: I'd be surprised if Scholes keeps his spot

Neal: he's done

Jeremy: for pirlo/gattuso read carrick/hargreaves

Neal: w/ Giggs playing the Kaka role?

Jeremy: seedorf/kaka read giggs/cron

Neal: so, essentially 4-5-1?

Jeremy: scholes as ambrosini?

Jeremy: basically

Jeremy: keep saha and smith as rooney's cover

Neal: I'm guessing Saha is gone to Lyon based on the rumor mill

Neal: sell him for 6-8M and then pay out for Huntelaar

Jeremy: probably

Jeremy: rossi ;-)

Neal: hasn't rossi already been sold?

Neal: or is he on loan?

Jeremy: loan to parma

Neal: got it

Parker Poised For Hammers Switch

FOOTBALL, Scott Parker, Newcastle - 0

West Ham appear to be on the verge of clinching the £7million signing of Newcastle and England midfielder Scott Parker after fighting off late interest from Tottenham.


West Ham manager Alan Curbishley sees Parker as a potential captain and the ideal replacement for current skipper Nigel Reo-Coker, who has handed in a transfer request.

Parker, who is celebrating the birth of his third child this week, is keen on a return to London where his family is based and a move to Upton Park would see him link up again with Curbishley, his old boss at Charlton.

Newcastle's new manager Sam Allardyce is reported to be eyeing out-of-favour Manchester City midfielder Joey Barton as a potential replacement for Parker.

Quite the midfield carousel, isn't it? And as they say, "where she stops, nobody knows".

So, based on this, does ManCiteh build around NRC? And why were Spurs interested in Parker? Don't they have the center of the midfield covered with Jenas, THud, Zokora, Tainio, etc.? Or are Spurs now linked to any young(ish) English player, regardless of actual need or interest. I'm surprised he wasn't rumoured to be heading to Villa, to be honest. They have dollars to spend and have been linked with anyone and everyone else.

Was There Opera Music Playing in the Background Too?

It would appear that Sir Alex Ferguson has his Michael Corleone moment late on Wednesday. He's already spent a small fortune on Owen Hargreaves, who will be a nice addition, and now he has pulled the trigger not only on the rumored Nani but also on Brazilian attacking midfielder Anderson. With a striker still likely to come, you have to think that Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool are all a little frightened at the hill they'll have to climb next season to unseat ManYoo for the title.

So, a few questions...

1) How do Hargreaves and Carrick (last year's extremely expensive central midfield purchase) co-exist in the same alignment? They aren't the same player by any stretch of the imagination but they tend to play in the same space - in front of the defence in a midfield diamond.

2) How quickly will Anderson displace the aging Paul Scholes? Of course even if Scholes is the preferred starter we know Anderson will get at least four or five starts when Scholes is suspended for silly fouls that the average grade schooler would find embarassing.

3) Same question for Nani and Ryan Giggs. How quickly does Nani claim the mantle of starting winger? I can't imagine a better reserve midfielder than Giggs who could come in for any of Ronaldo, Nani, or Scholes/Anderson and provide a spark in the last 30 minutes plus the occasional spot start.

4) Finally, who will be walking through the door as Wayne Rooney's primary strike partner? and when will it happen? With Saha and Heinze still to be sold (and the possibility of off-loading a few more assets like Phil Bardsley and Keiron Richardson - don't laugh, he's still under 21 and there will be someone who takes a chance on him based on his ManYoo pedigree for a couple million).

I have to admit that both 2 & 3 are the sort of problems that any manager would be happy to be sorting through.

Be afraid non-Devils supporters, be very afraid.

Manchester United announce Portuguese swoop

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Portugal - Superliga Anderson Porto - 0
Manchester United have swooped on Portugal's Superliga to capture exciting young duo Nani and Anderson.

[Anderson] can play on the wing or as a playmaker and has spent the last two seasons at Porto after joining from Gremio - Ronaldinho's former club - after the 2005 youth tournament.


United have also agreed to sign Portugal international Nani, who is 20 and is a winger-cum-striker who had been interesting Spurs.
Depth and youth in a single double move. After losing out to Chelsea and Roman's billions for several years, on players like Robben and Mikel, are ManU back?

Just to Recap

I know it's WAY early in the summer to start thinking about this but here's my tentative opening day line-up assuming the rumors that seem the most credible are true:

GK - Ben Foster (ManYoo)
D - Bale (Spurs), Alex (Chelsea), Aurelio (Liv)
M - Nani (ManYoo), Malouda (Liv), Ronaldo (ManYoo), Ribery (Ars)
F - Villa (Liv), Huntelaar (ManYoo), Henry (Ars)

Given last year's prices, Foster should be relatively cheap (say, 9.00), Bale and Alex should come in around 5.00 each with Aurelio a little higher - say 6.50. Malouda, Ribery, and Nani should be at about 5.50 each; and Villa and Huntelaar should be about 7.00 each. Presuming those numbers are roughly correct you'd have 8 holes filled for roughly 55.00, this would leave 45.00 to acquire Henry and Ronaldo which might be a tight fit but likely do-able given Henry's lack of production (I'd say he'll open at about 20.00) but I can't see Ronaldo being as high as 25.00 to start the season so it should be possible.

Just a few thoughts to get you thinking about next season.

Toffees stuck on £4m Jag swoop

FOOTBALL Phil Jagielka Sheffield United - 0

Everton boss David Moyes is tipped to pip Aston Villa and Newcastle to the £4million signature of versatile Sheffield United ace Phil Jagielka. Jagielka, who is comfortable in midfield or the heart of the defence, has told new Blades boss Bryan Robson he wants to leave Bramall Lane following the club's relegation from the Premiership.

It is reported that Jagielka, who made quite an impact for the Blades despite their failed bid to avoid the drop, had a £4million buy-out clause inserted into his contract in the event of relegation.

Neal and I are a bit divided on this possible signing. While we both agree that 4mil is a lot of money, Neal seems to think that Moyes is in the process of rebuilding his squad with younger, versatile players. I think that Everton have Phil Neville in the utility role, and enough cover in defense and defensive midfield that Jags is a bit of a redundancy. I would rather see them spend the money (and perhaps they will) to improve their depth in the attacking midfield area. With Fernandes unlikely to be signed, Moyes doesn't have much creative spark beyond Arteta, Osman, and Cahill.

Reds Eye Malouda Raid

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Ligue 1 Malouda Lyon - 0

Rafa Benitez will reportedly start his revamp of the Liverpool squad on the wings.

Benitez will have significant sums to spend this summer from both his planned clearout of the Anfield squad (which could see Mark Gonzalez, Bolo Zenden, Craig Bellamy and Harry Kewell head for the exit door), and from backing from the club's new American owners.

Wednesday's Sun claims that the Spanish boss is lining up a raid on his old club Valencia to sign left-winger David Silva.

Silva has been one of the finds of the season for Quique Sanchez Flores' side after signing from Celta Vigo last summer.

The Valencia man could cost up to £12 million, but a slightly cheaper option could be Lyon wideman Florent Malouda.

Odd to see reports linking Rafa to a Frenchman. It's like a trip in the Way-Back Machine to the Houllier era when Liverpool brought in the likes of Cisse, Cheyrou, Le Tallec, and Sinama-Pongolle. David Silva would be the more likely Rafa signing, simply because he's Spanish.

But either player could achieve "+10" status, depending on which names leave Liverpool. If Zenden, Gonzalez, and Kewell go (and maybe even Riise) it would seem that a new left-winger would quickly find themselves at the front of the playing-time queue.

Keane eyeing bids for Albion pair

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Championship Jason Koumas West Brom - 0
Sunderland boss Roy Keane has set his sights on West Brom duo Jason Koumas and Paul McShane following Albion's Championship play-off heartache.The Baggies were defeated 1-0 by Derby at Wembley on Monday and the majority of their big-name players are expected to leave The Hawthorns this summer.
Jason Koumas is an old-school blog favorite from his earlier stint in the Premiership with West Brom. We would certainly look forward to his return, and would hope that he has improved his all-around game without sacrificing his wicked left foot and skill at set pieces.

Chelsea confirm Crespo's Inter stay

Hernan Crespo
Argentina striker Hernan Crespo will stay at Italian champions Internazionale after Chelsea confirmed that they would not be recalling him.

Crespo, 31, joined Inter from Chelsea on a two-year loan deal, but the Premiership side had the option to recall the former Parma, Lazio and Milan striker.

But Crespo had always insisted that he and his family wanted to stay in Italy and the agreement to continue the loan comes as no surprise. The confirmation came in a fax sent from the London club to Inter's head office.
So Chelsea still need to buy themselves (and fantasy managers) a new world-class striker. Any takers?

Bentley Gets U21 Call

David Bentley of Blackburn attempts a over head kick

David Bentley has been included in the England Under-21 squad for the European Championship finals in Holland.

The Blackburn winger is currently with the seniors and will travel to Estonia next week for the Euro 2008 qualifier before joining the under-21s, with their matches starting on June 11.

Bentley, who scored the first goal for England at the new Wembley when he netted for the under-21s against Italy, has played more than 30 games for his club this season and boss Mark Hughes recently warned against burn-out.
Kudos to a blog favorite. Bentley really came into his own this season, adding the "end product" to his game to complement his long-obvious skill. We're just glad to have been able to take advantage of the fantasy windfall at $7 early in the season. Though to be fair, he was still worth the $12 as the year came to a close and Rovers pushed, unsuccessfully (thank you Jason Roberts!) for a European place.

Pompey finally get their man Muntari

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Serie A Udinese Sulley Muntari - 0
Portsmouth have finally completed the signing of Udinese midfielder Sulley Muntari for an undisclosed club record fee believed to be around £7 million.

The Ghanaian international has long been a target of Pompey boss Harry Redknapp and has signed a five-year contract at Fratton Park.

So who is their starting midfield? Taylor, Muntari, Mendes, and O'Neill, with Krancjar and Davis off the bench? Is it my imagination, or is 'Arry putting together a decent side? Perhaps spending too much in the process, but I guess that is a cost of doing business with ill-gotten Russian gains, eh Jose?

And is it my imagination, or is there no way that this is a picture of a 23 year old?

Spurs Complete Bale Deal

Tottenham seal Bale deal
Tottenham have confirmed the signing of Wales left-back Gareth Bale from Southampton in a deal which could be worth up to £10million to the Hampshire club.
Bale put himself in the spotlight at the start of the season with a stunning free-kick against Derby, followed up with another set-piece against Coventry three days later.

He is the youngest player to be capped by Wales and despite being deployed at full-back so far in his fledgling career, has been tipped to emulate Ryan Giggs if he is developed into a winger.
A defender who can play as a winger (on a team that could use some spark from the left side of midfield) and who takes kicks. Be still my beating heart! Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to present to you the first name off my list.

Bale +10!

Hamstring injury sidelines Albright

CARSON, CA - MAY 12:  Chris Albright #5 of the Los Angeles Galaxy looks on after failing to defend against a goal by Taylor Twellman (not pictured) in the first half of their MLS match at The Home Depot Center on May 12, 2007 in Carson, California. The Revolution defeated the Galaxy 3-2.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

This one's for Mike "Gonna Be Albright":
The Los Angeles Galaxy were hit with a hammer blow when they got the news that veteran right back Chris Albright will miss an extended period of time after suffering a serious hamstring injury.

The injury was severe enough to require surgery on Thursday, and as a result there is no timetable set for the U.S. international's return.

Against Chivas USA last Sunday, Albright landed awkwardly after heading away a cross in the opening 15 minutes of the game. He went to the ground immediately, and the Galaxy training staff was quickly calling for a substitution. Albright said he knew it was going to be bad news immediately.
I guess LA will have to hold on until June 15 when Abel Xavier is free to join up with them. Until then look for a rotating cast of Veris, Roberts, or hell, maybe even Cobi Jones pressed into service.

Wouldn't that be some swan song for the Cobi, who will have to give up his title of "craziest hairdo on the team" to Xavier before retiring for good at the end of this season.

Samuel signs on with the Trotters

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Premiership Jlloyd Samuel Aston Villa - 0

Jlloyd Samuel has become Sammy Lee's first signing as Bolton manager after the left-back agreed a free transfer from Aston Villa.The 26-year-old defender will join the club on July 1 on a four-year deal.
Is this the end of the Ricardo Gardner era? Or another situation where Jloyd finds himself struggling to get a place in the side? Before his injury problems, Jlloyd was a very productive fantasy defender. The blog is hoping that he can regain that sort of form, though we're surprised that Bolton was his destination.

I guess this makes Baines to Newcastle ever more likely. Unless Bolton were resigned to losing the Jamaican international to the Barcodes. Hmmmm.... This is how transfer rumours get started, you know?

Pompey Land Hreidarsson

Iceland's Hermann Hreidarsson
Portsmouth have signed former Charlton defender Hermann Hreidarsson on a two-year deal.

The 32-year-old Iceland defender exercised a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave The Valley on a free transfer if the Addicks were relegated.

He has moved to Fratton Park two days after Pompey secured the services of former Manchester City defender Sylvain Distin on a three-year deal.

Manager Harry Redknapp told the club's official website "I've always liked Hermann. I tried to buy him before and I'm delighted he's now here at Portsmouth.

"He's got great experience at Premier League level, he's big, quick, very good in the air and a good competitor. He can play at left-back and in the centre of defence so he gives us plenty of options."
Last year it was Campbell and Traore. This year Distin and Hreidarsson. I think this is probably a good move for Portsmouth. 'arry's got depth in defense now, though the squad isn't any younger.  As for the Hermannator, the blog has always been a fan. Here's hoping the fifth time is a charm and he can avoid relegation.

No word yet on the status of the Muntari deal. But the day is still young.

Send me an Angel

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 24:  Juan Pablo Angel #9 of the New York Red Bulls celebrates his goal in the 3rd minute against the Chicago Fire at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands on May 24, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Juan Pablo Angel continues to settle into Major League Soccer very nicely. After his goal and assist last weekend won him "Player of the Week" honors, he adds two goals and another assist in NY's win over Chicago tonight.

I haven't seen the match - and to be fair it seems that Chicago had chances - but the Fire need Rolfe back quickly. Against Real Salt Lake would be nice. Especially because I put him in my MLS fantasy lineup hoping he'd make that game, even if, as expected, he'd miss the NYRB match.

Credit where credit is due time -- the MLS fantasy game allows you to designate a captain each week who will earn double points. Yahoo! did this in their World Cup game last summer. It adds a really interesting wrinkle to your decision making and to your rootings. For example, last week Neal and I both had Kenny Cooper in our fantasy sides for Dallas' two games. But Neal made him captain and I didn't. So when Cooper scored the penalty against Chicago I wished he hadn't - even though he was ON MY TEAM! It's a very odd feeling.

I'm happy to report that the tables were turned tonight as JPA was my captain and Neal got a little taste of his own medicine. At least until the weekend when Cooper lines up as captain of Neal's team again. But then I get to root against him whole-heartedly.

Baptista Heading Back To Real

FOOTBALL 2006-2007 Premiership Arsenal Julio Baptista - 0

Julio Baptista is set to return to Spain following his season with Arsenal.

The 25-year-old Brazil international was on loan from Real Madrid, with Jose Antonio Reyes going the other way, and had his advisors in London towards the end of the season to discuss his future with the Gunners.

"Arsenal have told me they are not able to buy me and so all I can do is return to Real Madrid," he said in Spanish newspaper Marca.


He got into double figures for Arsenal but six of those goals came in the Carling Cup, and he did not make the same impact in the Premiership. He also revealed recently that he struggled with the English weather.

Baptista's return would improve the chances of Theo Walcott establishing himself in Arsene Wenger's starting XI, with the 18-year-old back in training following his shoulder operation.

This is spectacularly unsurprising news. But it is nice to be reminded of Walcott, whose return to health will give the Gunners another option on the right side of midfield.

AC Milan 2 - Liverpool 1

AC Milan's Kaka, left, and Filippo Inzaghi, right, celebrate after they beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the Champions League Final soccer match between AC M

In the end, the class and experience of Milan paid off. Liverpool set out to mirror Milan's formation, but couldn't copy or cope with the likes of Inzaghi, Nesta, and Gattusso. Milan were patient and composed. And unlike the isolated Dirk Kuyt, when Milan broke forward, Inzaghi had Kaka, and often Seedorf, in close support. Pennant was lively on the right and had the beating of Jankolovski (sp?) early, but his only options were deep crosses to late-arriving players on the edge of the box. Kuyt as I said was isolated, and doesn't have the stature to hold up the ball against the likes of Nesta who had Kuyt in his pocket all night, when Kuyt wasn't fouling him. Which was all too often. Meanwhile Inzaghi played his game -- an ugly vision of football where he tugs your shirt, falls over, and begs for the foul -- and on three occassions he split the defenders and was in on net alone. And twice he scored, albeit once when Pirlo's free kick bounced off his arm. But credit him for being unmarked in front of goal. You just can't do that because bad things will happen.

As hard as it is to like Inzaghi, it is hard not to like Paolo Maldini or Kaka. They play (and in Maldini's case have been playing for 22 years) with such style and grace. The moment of the match that we're all likely to remember is Kaka's drag-back-and-spin-away in midfield that flummoxed Mascherano and about three other covering Liverpool defenders.

There are lots of other talking points -- the substitutions made and not made, Gerrard's largely anonymous night and the chances had but didn't take, Daniel Agger's tattoo collection, etc -- but for now it's 5-4 to Milan on aggregate and I'm looking forward to the rubber match.

UPDATE: After watching the video, it's Riise who flies by when Kaka puts on the brakes. And Mascherano does a great job of staying with the play and winning the tackle. Still pretty.

Cone of Silence

The COS is back, baby!

We're going offline until tonight when we get to watch the Champions League final, which is HOPEFULLY being Tivo'd right now.

Reactions to follow.

Toronto FC acquires F Cunningham from Real Salt Lake

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Expansion club Toronto FC may have cured its scoring woes.

One of the lowest-scoring clubs in Major League Soccer, Toronto landed some offensive help Tuesday, acquiring forward Jeff Cunningham from Real Salt Lake for forward Alecko Eskandarian and a 2008 first-round draft pick.

Cunningham, 30, is a 10-year veteran and has 93 goals and 57 assists in 246 career games - 162 starts. The 5-7 speedster enjoyed his best season last year, scoring a league-leading 16 goals - a career best.

Some transfer news on the domestic (well, North American) front. Toronto get a bit pacier with Cunningham. They had two of a kind with both Alecko and Edson Buddle on the squad, and though they would probably have liked to have moved Buddle, Alecko has the greater trade value. That despite his injury history, though possibly upgraded because of his history with Freddy Adu, his former DCUnited teamate.

Could also be two players who were unhappy with their current situations looking for (another) fresh start.

Transfer Wish List

FOOTBALL 2005-2006 UEFA Champions League Liverpool-Benfica Simao celebrates - 1

Dear Rafa, Jose, SAF, Arsene, et al,

All I want for the transfer window is

And a healthy Dean Ashton.

Thank you.

Muntari Close To Pompey Deal

FOOTBALL 2005-2006 Serie A Udinese Muntari - 1

Harry Redknapp admits midfielder Sulley Muntari is very close to signing for Portsmouth.

The Ghana international will cost around £7m from Italian club Udinese and it's understood personal terms have already been agreed.

Redknapp said: "We are very close to getting him and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

"He is a fantastic midfielder, strong and quick and with an eye for goal and he is only 22."

Anyone else a little tired of the Muntari saga? Sign him, or don't sign him. But the daily "we're this close to signing him" is really starting to get on my nerves. Sure, he's a good player. But he's not even the first or second best midfielder on his national side. Certainly not worth all the hubbub.

This however, is just funny:
Charlton's Icelandic defender Hermann Hreidarsson and free agent Titus Bramble are also in Redknapp's sights.
'arry looking to add some relegation experience to his squad? Don't you normally wait until January when you're mere points above the drop zone to do that? And the idea of Bramble and Traore lining up in the same back line is just too beautiful for words.

UPDATE: Seems that Pompey have some follow-through and have signed Sylvain Distin. Perhaps now all the clubs Neal wrote about will be looking at the Hermannator and T*tf#ck Bramble instead. God help them all.

Steve Sidwell agrees Chelsea move

FOOTBALL 2006/7 Premiership Reading Steve Sidwell - 1
Chelsea have confirmed that midfielder Steve Sidwell has agreed to join the club on a free transfer from July 1. The 24-year-old midfielder has quit Reading after rejecting a new £25,000-per-week, four-year deal.

Look for him to get his first start in January '08 when Mikel and Essien go the African Nations Cup. But in the mean time, he can get sodoku help from SWP and Bridge on the Chelsea bench as the three look for something to do on Saturday afternoons.

Wither Distin?

FOOTBALL, Sylvain Distin, Manchester City - 0

With the news that Sylvain Distin will be packing up his gear and putting Manchester City blue in his rear-view mirror, it gets you thinking about where he SHOULD land if he indeed stays in the Premier League. Here's a quick breakdown...

1) Pompey - knows the 'keeper pretty well from their time together at Citeh and after a year of rotating central defenders due to injury (mostly caused by the brittleness of old age) - Distin would be welcome relief. He isn't a spring chicken but he hasn't been a consistent injury casualty like Primus, Campbell, et al.

2) Newcastle - let's see...he's a veteran player, he's foreign, he's a defender, he plays a physical game - anything here NOT scream Big Sam? Actually, he'd be a great signing while NUFC look for some younger options.

3) Aston Villa - continuing yesterday's trend of mentioning Villa everytime a reasonably-good-but-not-great player is being discussed - he'd really solidify the Villains defence in the way that Martin Laursen was supposed to before suffering injury after injury after injury...(there are probably bigger priorities though).

4) Reading - exactly the sort of signing they need to solidify their place in the Premier League. The defence was OK but Distin would represent an upgrade.

5) Everton - more likely to go young than add a veteran but Lescott/Yobo/Distin would be a great 3-man rotation (assuming they can find full backs who will allow Lescott to move back to the middle where he belongs).

6) Arsenal - a stop-gap measure for sure but Senderos doesn't seem to be the answer and Gallas and Toure are pretty much the same player (the smaller, more technical half of a potentially excellent central tandem). Distin would also be a great mentor for Johan Djourou who still seems like he has the potential to be the long-term answer opposite a Toure/Gallas-type partner.

In other random news, I saw a rumor that Everton are chasing Phil Bardsley. If this is more than just hype and he is really available then there should be a lot of interest in him between Everton, Villa, Newcastle, Blackburn, and Bolton all of whom really need a solid right back who can get forward a little bit as well.

The Silly Season Continues

Not much of substance to talk about really but here are a few more rambling thoughts...

1) Everton need to continue the youth movement in the back - they are apparently looking at Phil Jagielka and SHOULD be looking at Leighton Baines. Adding those two to the versatile Lescott and Joseph Yobo and you've got a pretty nice starting four in front of Tim Howard.

2) It would seem that Aston Villa have become the poor man's Chelsea - every slightly-better-than-mediocre player who is out of contract or looking to improve his financial position is having his agent drop their name because everyone knows they have money to spend. Anything not involving a right back (to replace Bardsley who is presumably going back to Old Trafford), a central midfielder (to replace the inadequate for a Top 4 finish duo of McCann and Petrov), or a goalkeeper is probably a lot of hot air unless someone else is on the way out the door.

3) I'm sort of shocked that there hasn't been more news about one or more of Liverpool's stable of central midfielders heading out the exit door. If I were any one of Villa, Everton, Blackburn, Reading, or Newcastle I'd be very excited about the possibility of prying away Alonso or Sissoko given the fact that one of those two is now the fourth choice central midfielder - hard to picture either sitting still for that.

4) Speaking of central midfield help, another potential shopping spot is The Emirates Stadium - Alexandre Song was one of Charlton's few bright spots and he'll likely not follow them down to the Championship and he is equally unlikely to figure for the Gunners with Silva, Cesc, and Diaby in the fold with Rosicky also (theoretically) a central midfielder as well as Denilson. I'd imagine he could be had for not much more than the price Birmingham paid for Muamba.

5) Maybe I'm not very bright but doesn't it seem that Manchester United is bidding against itself for Owen Hargreaves? Has any other big name club been liked to him to drive the price up? Aren't Bayern Munich out of the Champions League and presumably a little desperate for cash to retool their squad after finishing third? What exactly is driving the price up? United seemed a little desperate at the beginning of this season and Hargreaves was coming off a great World Cup showing but United have shown that they aren't in desperate straights and Hargreaves obviously wasn't enough to keep Bayern atop the league so I ask again, why so expensive? I'd think £10 million would be about right.

6) Finally, one fantasy note - it would appear that ManYoo might be in the mood to switch starting goalkeepers - next season's line-up is starting to take a little bit of shape: Ben Foster (or that guy from Celtic) in net and Alex as one defender will be a nice set of inexpensive anchors alongside whatever striker ManYoo drafts to replace Saha/Smith/Ole and the striker Chelsea buys to partner Drogba.

Hope you found us again in our new (old) home...

Latics duo set for JJB departure

Empics  Wigan Athletic's Leighton Baines

Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce wants to sign Wigan full-back Leighton Baines - and Paul Scharner could also leave the JJB Stadium.According to the Manchester Evening News, Allardyce wants to sign the England Under-21 left-back as the first step towards rebuilding a backline that has leaked goals.

Allardyce's predecessor at St James' Park, Glenn Roeder, also tried to sign Baines but the lure of some more stability in the North-East could tempt the full-back to leave The JJB.


Latics midfielder Scharner has been linked with a move, with Everton and Aston Villa possible destinations.

Baines to Newcastle makes sense, and is probably the least surprising transfer rumour to date. Scharner to Villa also makes a lot of sense. He and McCann could fight for the holding midfield role while Scharner would also give cover to a young (Ridgewell, Cahill) and oft-injured (Laursen) Villa back-line.

It's funny (not ha-ha though)... Wigan are going to lose players as if they were relegated, though they weren't. Between them and Fulham, I'm thinking 2 of 3 promoted sides will feel pretty confident about retaining their Premiership status next season.


So finally we get points from Blackburn/Spurs.  Though I wish we didn't.  McCarthy's goal combined with Roberts' red mist sees me fall against the competition.  But regardless, I'm glad to have the game come to a belated resolution.

So, how did we all do?  I achieved my goals of beating Neal, winning our private group, and finishing in the top 50 for a second consecutive season!  Final ranking was 33rd, three up from last year.  So I'm pretty happy about all of that. 

Happy, but exhausted.  This game is a TEN MONTH MARATHON and keeping up on everything - and sharing it with you, Dear Reader - became a lot of work as the year wore on.   Looking forward to a break from the week-in-week-out stress of whom to pick, whom to drop, who is injured or to be rotated.  You know what I'm talking about.  A little time at the beach and because "I can't live without my fantasy team" I'll try to catch Neal, who has already raced out to a lead in our domestic fantasy season (MLS ruulz!) will do me well.

So catch your breath, but be sure to stick with us as we cover the silly season of transfers, managerial comings and goings, and summer internationals and tournaments.

And then we'll try to solve the fantasy mathematical equation:

x + 10 = ?


PS.  Congratulations to (TT) Hwanin Revolution who rode a late surge to pip me to the post in Neal's group and finished 30th overall. Good on you, son!


Allardyce Acts Quickly

Titus Bramble's eventful Newcastle career has finally come to an end as new manager Sam Allardyce wasted little time in swinging the axe.

The 25-year-old defender, whose time at St James' Park has been blighted by costly errors, was one of five players released by the club a day after Allardyce was unveiled as Glenn Roeder's successor.

Fellow defenders Craig Moore and Olivier Bernard, as well as keeper Pavel Srnicek and loan signing Oguchi Onyewu, have all been told their contracts will not be renewed.


Obscure defenders from second and third tier leagues (and countries) are furiously polishing their CV's this morning. Big Sam in on the hunt (sorry, not that Hunt) for a new back-line!

Royals move for French star Cisse

Reading have signed Boavista midfielder Kalifa Cisse on a three-year-contract.The 22-year-old Frenchman, who has spent the last two seasons with the Portuguese side, becomes Steve Coppell's first signing of the summer.

Royals director of football Nicky Hammond said: "Kalifa is a 6ft 2ins central midfielder who has also played in defence. He has real athletic ability and the technical attributes that should be well suited to the Premiership."


Sounds like they've found a holding middie to replace Sidwell.  Wouldn't expect him to be a fantasy buy next season unless he's listed as a defender.  But even then, Cisse isn't a name with a great history in the Premiership, with neither Djibril nor Aliou leaving much of a mark.

And It Begins

Originally posted by Neal Thurman.

Now that the Premier League season is over I know the media will start doing two things (OK, three things but I don't want to focus on the legal battle over whether the Hammers should or shouldn't stay up):  1) they're going to print a ton of transfer gossip; and 2) they're going to rail against the proliferation of transfer rumors as they drag on and get repetivite. 

I know there are plenty in the media who scoff at some of the rumors that are clearly fanciful but I have to admit that the summer is my favorite part of any campaign.  Supporters of all teams are excited by the possibilities of the youngster purchased from the lower divisions or the exotic foreigner.  Certainly we, as fantasy managers, can start pondering the possibilities of new entrants into the league as we look to find some cheap players that will allow us to purchase Cristiano Ronaldo for the first weekend of next season without having to give up on production from elsewhere in the line-up.

So, since the window isn't quite open yet (although the confirmations of the first deals have started to come through the wires) I'm going to kick off the silly season with a few thoughts on things that SHOULD happen.  We'll get to some analysis of the value of the things that DO happen once they actually start happening.

1) Carlito to Chelsea - defenders would have nightmares for weeks before having to face Tevez and Drogba and THINK of the space that Lamps would have behind those two.

2) Berbatov to ManYoo - perfect craft to balance the speed and explosion of Rooney and Ronaldo.

3) Sidwell for Villa - Sounds like NUFC or Chelsea will be the spot but Petrov never really clicked and there is a TON of talent for Sid to orchestrate between Carew, Agbonlahor, Moore, Ashley Young, and Gareth Barry.  THAT would be fun to watch.

5) Wingers for Arsenal - the only guy who made a difference out wide for the Gunners was Eboue and he is a rotten fullback so unless he is moved up to right midfield, Arsenal need wide players who actually want to play wide - enter Ribery (right) and Babel (left).  Mr. Rosicky and Mr. Hleb please don't let the door hit you on the way out.

6) Kewell and Huntelaar for Spurs - an risk but also a potential answer on the left side for a team that has struggled getting the ball in from that side and a replacement for Berbatov who would be a nice complement to whichever of Keane or Defoe remains (presumably Keane) after Berbs leaves.

7) Someone with Flair for Bolton - with Big Sam gone, hopefully Bolton will change up the formula a little bit and add someone to the mix that can combine with Nicky Anelka to make them watchable.

8) McCarthy and MGP for Rovers and Arteta for Everton - both clubs need to find one or two more players to make a real challenge for the 4th Champions League spot but job number one for both will be keeping their own players who had stellar campaigns sure to attract higher profile interest in England and abroad.  More likely, Arteta heads back to Spain, Pedersen heads to Manchester United and McCarthy heads to either Chelsea or Liverpool.

9) Parker for Reading - with Sidwell on his way out there's a HUGE hole in the middle of the park for the Royals and if Sidwell is going to supplant Parker at Newcastle maybe Parker is the man to replace him and keep the Royals engine moving in their second year in the Premier League.

10) Health for Owen - who knows where he'll end up (don't bet on him being a Red Devil anytime soon - if Saha is too much of an injury risk then how could they justify Owen who hasn't been healthy in a few years?).  If I had to throw out a prediction, I'd guess he'll end up staying at Newcastle for one more season and if healthy and productive, he'll move on to greener pastures.

Anyway, here's to the beginning of the rumor mill - may it be prolific and keep us interested until August.