Tuesday, 13 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Another product of Porto's comprehensive scouting network is the Ghanaian born Atsu, signed as a 17 year old and allowed to progress in the club's youth ranks, he won the Best Young Player award for the 2010/2011 season.

He's still in the youth side?

After winning that honour, he was farmed out to Rio Ave where he made 31 appearances for the big river club, scoring 6 times and assisting four goals. Atsu was then considered in a bit-part role for Porto, making 17 appearances, mostly as a sub, as cover for Sylvesre Valera on the left hand side of Porto's three-pronged attack.

Left-winger then is he?

Mostly yes, although he can play anywhere across Paulo Fonseca's front 3. A left-winged touchline hugger is his role though, often relied upon to come onto the field late and punish the weary legs of tiring defences with his lighting pace, particularly in the Champions League. It is his speed that gives his markers nightmares, the type of ones that bite into the conscious and keeps you scared for days, such is his devastation in turning to sprint away from his man. It's not just his pace, but his terrific skill that beats defenders in 1vs1 situations; one blink and BOOM! he's past you, turning on the afterburners on his way to goal. 

He'll have a bright future for Porto then?

Atsu's contract expires next summer and he has so far been less co-operative than an undisciplined child on a shopping expedition with his mother, refusing to sign a new deal. So, he finds himself on the naughty step, that being the exile of the transfer market as Porto have little choice but to cash in on their contract rebel. Or they can roll the dice and risk losing him for zilch next summer, or even on a pre-contract agreement to a foreign club in January. It's their choice.

We suppose he'll be little short of suitors?

Oh no, with the prospect of a deal done on the cheap, Atsu is very much in demand so there is little worry about that. Liverpool want him, Everton want him, as do Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, but it is Spurs who seem to be the most genuinely interested, having been linked with him earlier in the summer before recently rekindling their fondness as the sale of Gareth Bale looms large. It is believed the north London club can lure him away from the Dragao for just £5 million. BARGAIN! Or even for as little as £1 million..... DOUBLE BARGAIN!!!!!

To White Hart Lane it is then?

Maybe, but probably not in direct replacement for the potentially Madrid-bound Bale. Atsu is more directly comparable to Aaron Lennon, the quicker, wider, more conventional of Spurs' wingers. What Astu will bring is a clever use of the ball in the final third which very rarely sees him misplace a pass and gives him an intelligent ability to thread a delightful through-ball. It'll all be coming to a league nearer to you, either this summer, or the next.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Looking for the next-eastern world star who can not only appeal to tonnes of excitable young Asian girls but also prove to be pretty handy on the football pitch, look no further than Kiyotake, the 23 year old Japanese striker playing in Germany for Nuremberg.

We've seen the Japan to Germany route once before?

Yep we have, in Shinji Kagawa who left Cerezo Osaka for Borrussia Dortmund three years ago. It was Kiyotake who took Kagawa's place in the Osaka side, plugging the vacant attacking midfield gap like the now-Manchester United midfielder had not left, displaying a fine first touch and intelligent pass selection as he drifts elegantly around the final third.

He did very well then?

His form at Cerezo, where he scored 19 goals in 85 games over the course of 3 years, saw him called into the full-Japan national team and has so far earned 18 caps, including a few at last year's Olympics in London. Just before that, he joined Nuremberg for £1 million, and jetted off to the Bundesliga. His debut year in Europe has been a great success, scoring four goals and assisting ten, a tally more impressive than Bayern Munich's big money hipster-favourite Mario Gotze.

And that's got him some headlines?

On the back pages yes, in those mundanely tenuous gossip columns. If you have read one recently, you may have noticed Aston Villa are reportedly interested in Kiyotake and are believed to be preparing a £7.5 million offer, but the German club will hold out for £10 million. Nuremberg general manager, Martin Bader, has been stubborn in his refusal to let the Japanese leave, saying "we have made it clear that we have no interest or intention to sell the player. Such inquiries flatter us but Hiroshi is here to stay". Could he make it more unequivocal than that? Probably not.

He'd fit Aston Villa down to the ground?

He definitely would given Villa's apparent lack of a true creative force in the middle of the pitch and his ability to read the game intelligently and dictate the play with poise would be a huge asset. He would also fit in with Paul Lambert's penchant for signing talented young players as well as the added bonus of being able to sell shirts in the far east. However, there is more to him than that, 5ft 8 inches worth in fact, of excellent technique and vision, adept at creating chances in space between the lines. Just like Kagawa.............

You can watch him in action here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAjD2_Z7tHM and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQqhiY1qqVk

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Get your suitcase packed because we're heading stateside for this one, more specifically to Foxborough, Masachusetts so you may be able to get a straw hat. Put it on and head to the New England Revolution's Gillette Stadium where you will find a 20 year old Colombian-orn striker who goes by the name of Juan Agudelo.

Am I packing my goalkeeping gloves?

You can do, but if you're going in goal against him there is little chance you'll keep him out given the electric rate he's started the new MLS season. He's managed 3 goals in 5 games for New England Revolution and he's been noticed by Stoke City who have signed him on a pre-contract deal that will see him join in January.

January!? Ah, but I want him now!

You'll just have to wait as Mark Hughes and Stoke have pulled off a clever move, waiting unitl his MLS contract expires before swooping in with the huge mechanical eagle-like arms to carry the 6ft 1 inch Mexican over the Atlantic and to the Premier League. One feels a little sorry for the MLS who look set to receive not a penny for the striker they have created and the franchise league is currently trying desperately to force Stoke to sign him this summer.

So a belated Christmas present then, what will they get?

He doesn't have the greatest scoring record but don't let that put you off. Just 6 in 33 games as he came through as a green-eyed teenager at New York Red Bulls, then only 5 in 26 during his time at Chivas, which was blighted by the mess the club, sorry FRANCHISE, were in. Agudelo has scored regularly at all levels of the United States youth set-up and has 17 caps for the senior squad, so there have been glimpses of a bright future in front of goal.

You said he was Colombian?

He is, but has acquired citizenship in America after moving to the New Jersey area of New York aged 7. He began to hone his skills, becoming a promising player when he joined the Red Bulls as a 17 year old; 

“He’s been impressive for a 17-year-old. He shows such power. He is something special. When you look at his technical skill, you can compare him with European forwards of the same age, in terms of individual skill.” - Hans Backe, the then- Red Bulls coach in 2010.

So that's why Stoke are signing him?

Well..... YES! Mark Hughes has reportedly coveted the young American-Colombian striker since he was coach at Manchester City and will give him the chance to link-up with the current Yanks at the Britannia Stadium, Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu. He will be able to use him right across the front 3 given his intelligence and versatility, his fine movement constantly keeping defenders on their toes. 


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 23 year old Ecuadorian, smashing the common perception that the term "journeyman" should only apply to lower league vagrants who bounce from club to club until their late 30s. "More clubs than Tiger Woods"? Well nearly, Montero is on his seventh club despite only turning professional with Emelec six years ago.

Emelec, is that in Ecuador?

It sure is. Born in Los Rios, Montero began playing professionally for Emelec in the Ecuadorian Serie A. However, he had to drop down a division in order to make his name, joining Deportivo Independiente Jose Terran where he scored 19 goals in 37 appearances. Villarreal of Spain noted the young winger's progress and signed him as a replacement for Wigan-bound Luis Antonio Valencia. He spent the majority of his time in the reserves with the Yellow Submarine or out on loan, with spells at Levante and Real Betis. Despite appearing regularly for Betis, he failed to impress coach Pepe Mel enough and he returned west, this time to Mexico with Monarcas Morelia.

And now he's moving east again?

Well maybe. Montero is quite the globe trotter and could be set to clock up more air miles should Cardiff follow up their rumoured interest with a move for the 23 year old.  It turns out Montero seems to have quite the following among the Premier League's middle-band, with Swansea, Everton and Hull all interested, but the player's agent Diego Herrera says his client is focused on a move to Cardiff.

What will the Blue/Red Birds get from Montero?

A pacy, agile winger who can stretch defenders and whip in crosses or even score goals. His work-rate his fantastic and Montero is full of energy and should boss Malky McKay get his way, he'll be doing with the right-wing job, or left-wing considering he is capable on both flanks, in the red shirt of Cardiff next season. Or is it blue? We forget. Confident and dynamic, Montero can use his pace intelligently, hugging the touchline to provide width, or drifting inside to trouble defenders. He can also score an array of goals, as this hat-trick for Morelia shows;


A very direct player then?

He is indeed, and it is quite easy to see why he appealed to the scouts of Sam Allardyce, who was prepared to meet the player's reported £3.5 million release clause after watching him impress in a game for Ecuador, for whom he has already registered 27 caps, against Argentina. That move fell through, as did Cardiff's pursuit of Tom Ince and Denis Cheryshev. Though they may find their electric winger in the form of the small (he stands at just 5 ft 7 inches), but determined Montero. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Coming from the same Dinamo Zagreb youth academy that has produced Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Niko Krancjar and the midfielder he seems to be twinned in every news report with, fellow 17 year old graduate Alen Halilovic, Jedjav is a big central-defender who is son of former Yugoslavian footballer Zdenko Jedjav. Heard of him? No we haven't either.

We have.... he was a solid defender.....

I know you're making that up, but if he was, the old adage "like father, like son" would ring true as that is exactly what his son Tin is like. Jedjav junior is quick, boasting a fine turn of pace when defending a high-line and he is especially impressive in the air, armed with a great leap. Furthermore, like the players we have mentioned who Jedjav follows out of the Zagreb youth academy, the defender is also cultured on the ball, comfortable in carrying the ball out with his feet and building from the back, he is also assured and versatile enough to play at right-back or even in central-midfield.

He's been learning well then?

He's been at the club since he was a wee nipper in 2002, when the club was known as NK Zagreb, and has risen through the ranks to make his debut for Dinamo over the past year, making 13 appearances in which he has already won the PRVA HNL, the Croatian first division. Not only that, but he is also growing through the national team set-up, earning one cap for the under-19s after appearing 8 times for the under-17s.

Could he be going to Tottenham?

So you've been reading our report on Halilovic then have you? But yeah, about that, the media lot have said he was on his way to Spurs, or even Arsenal, leading you all down the garden path as the Croatian youngster has decided to join Roma in Italy, even though Dinamo are reluctant to do business. With Rudi Garcia looking to overhaul his squad at the Giallorossi, he can do a lot worse than invest in the future with the very talented Jedjav.

Here's a short introductory video....


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is the youngest ever player to appear in the Croatian First Division, as known as the PRVA HNL, he is the youngest ever scorer in that league and he is the youngest ever debutant for the Croatian national team. While he has been breaking records, he has been playing as a central-attacking midfielder for Dinamo Zagreb.

Very talented then?

Yes, and he's only 17 years of age. But that hasn't stopped him being rated as one of the highest-rated players in Europe and neither has it stopped him being linked to the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid or Tottenham. Standing at just 5ft 7 inches, able to make use of great balance to turn away from markers to dictate play and blessed with a fine touch and close control, there is no surprise to see the young Croatian labelled as the "new Luka Modric", he even looks like the Real Madrid schemer.

"The new..." labels are rather tedious though?

Yeah they certainly are, but when you look the same, have the same stature and even play the same, it is very hard to avoid the comparisons. The differences come in the fact that Haliliovic is more likely to move forward to join the attack and, unlike Modric, possesses a deadly left foot that can spread long passes or even find the net from range. His eye for a pass is notable, but his main asset is his quick feet which allows him to leave defenders for dead as he glides past them.

Is he just a central-midfielder?

He is growing into one and his preferred position is out on the left-wing where he can use his skills to beat players and send crosses over, but it has been suggested that he is being coached on the periphery of the play where there is more time to think, instead of being set free in the hustle and bustle of the middle. His ability, burgeoning into a complete midfielder, indicates he is set for a Modric-like attacking midfield future, however.

Is he heading to Spurs?

Put simply, he could be, after the club were reported to be in talks with the young midfielder,  though it has all gone a little cold since those reports broke. He definitely hasn't agreed a deal with the club as some websites have jumped the gun to say and some have even said the deal is off because of the player's family's diva-like personal demands, so it's all up in the air. Keep an eye on him anyways, he's the next Luka Modric, you see........

You can watch him in this video or even this one.... while you wait for a deal to be done

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 23 year old Dutch midfielder playing for PSV Eindhoven after starting his career at Sparta Rotterdam before moving to FC Utrecht. He is known, and we're not sure if this is a good or bad thing, as the "Dutch Roy Keane" and he is usually found in the centre of midfield mixing it up like an over-enthusiastic dog.

A good thing, I think. Does that means he'll be playing at Man Utd?

It's no secret that the good folk at Old Trafford have been reportedly interested in the young midfielder, in fact it's been pretty damn boring as he's been linked with a move to Salford nearly everyday for the past year. Slightly inevitably, it doesn't look like Strootman will be joining the champions as he pictures his future elsewhere.

So he's leaving PSV then?

The Dutch club have told him they want him to stay, but Strootman has courted interest from clubs, saying "there are several clubs interested but only when they reach an agreement with PSV do I come into the picture". It looks however, like AS Roma are close to signing the tough-tackling midfielder, aiming to negotiate PSV down to a reported 11 million euros.

Ah!? To partner him with Danielle De Rossi?

De Rossi is involved in some transfer confusion of his own at the moment but yeah, what a midfield that would be. The combative, Mark Van Bommel-esque style of Strootman in tandem with De Rossi's poise and guile? Rudi Garcia will definitely have a fine midfield at his disposal in Rome, though Strootman's role is definitely that of a deep-lying midfielder, patrolling the area in front of his defence cautiously with terrific man-marking skills and a fine physique that allows him to shrug opposition players off the ball. 

An heir to the Cocu, Van Bommel job then?

Pretty much. Even before them, the Netherlands have always had gifted defensive midfielders in the form of Rijkaard, Gullit and co. and Strootman, with his fondness for a tackle and sublime positional sense, is set to be the next generation. He already has 18 caps for the senior Dutch side after breaking through in 2011 and has made over 187 appearances in the EreDivisie, so if he does leave it will be with bags of experience. 

You can see what he's all about here