Friday, 23 November 2012

MARTIN MONTOYA

Who is he? Where does he play?

In keeping with the recent Barcelona theme, Montoya plays for, you've guessed it, Barcelona, at right-back and is 21 years of age. The steam-train-esque Dani Alves also plays right-back in Catalonia, but is under threat for his place by Montoya who has a decent amount of first-team experience considering the competition for places and his age.

He's playing a bit then?

Oh aye, Alves's flirts with injury has bought Montoya 21 appearances in the first team squad over the past three years and new coach Tito Vilanova is a big fan, trying to integrate him into his plans by already giving him 9 appearances this season (Alves has been sidelined with a thigh injury). He is also a regular in Spain's under-21 and under-23 national squads (part of the U-21 squad that won the European Championship in 2011) whilst his progression has not gone unnoticed by Vincent Del Bosque who gave him his first call up to the full senior squad for this season's matches against Chile and Liechtenstein. 


How does he play? Like Alves?

Yes, pretty much. Montoya is a very intelligent full-back who can easily balance the need to defend with the need to push forward. He's not afraid to providing the width in Barcelona's essentially narrow 4-3-3 system whilst also proving to be dependable at the back. Stamina plays a huge role in being a Barcelona full-back and Montoya is typically motor-driven, bombing up and down that right-flank like a footballing Duracell Bunny. Like an Alves-lite if you will.

The next Alves?

I wish we could stop talking about Alves but yes, it really does look that way. In fact, Barclelona are lucky to have Montoya, as in early 2011, Valencia were on the verge of signing the right-back for his 3 million Euro buy-out clause, but he stayed at the Nou Camp, and look what's happened to him? A real Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story eh?

Eh!?

Yeah, I don't know either. Simply put, put money on the 21 year old Montoya being Barca's right-back for the next ten years, and perhaps Spain's as Del Bosque looks for a fill in as he moves Sergio Ramos to become the natural heir to the ageing Carles Puyol at centre-half.

Anything else to add?

Oh yeah... this....  LOOK... HE DENIED IT... ok?




GERARD DEULOFEU

Who is he? Where does he play?

He is another one of those ultra-brilliant teenagers made from the fairy dust they have in large supply over at Barcelona's much-fawned-over La Masia academy. He is 18 years of age and plays as a centre forward or a winger which earn him inevitable comparisons to....

Let me guess.. Lionel Messi?

Nope, surprisingly not, with people preferring to liken the skillful Deulofeu to the buck toothed Brazilian wizard Ronaldinho instead. The Spanish youngster picked up that moniker around La Masia aged 14 and the hype has continued up to the present day where he is on the fringes of Tito Vilanova's squad at 18 years old. The hype over his talent has also been spotted by Nike, who handed him a salary of 150,000 euros back when he was a wee nipper, just 4 years ago, making him the sportswear giant's biggest sponsorship gamble since....

Let me guess.. Lionel Messi?

Yes, this time you're correct! Have yourself a gold star.

Perhaps not as audaciously talented as the Argentinean, though Deulofeu has some of the same characteristics at youth level. Often able to whiz past 4-5 players and beat a startled goalkeeper with consummate ease, his skill and trickery bamboozled so many as he helped Spain breeze to under-19 European Championship glory in the summer. His awesome form for Barcelona B this season, which has seen him net 7 goals in 11 games, convinced Vilanova he was worthy of fighting for a spot among his juggernaut, and so he got a short run out vs Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.

Convinced Vilanova?

To a degree yes. The new Barca boss was reported to be mulling over the idea of shipping the young striker out on loan with a desperate Liverpool lurking, but after a couple of short appearances under his predecessor Pep Guardiola, curiosity got the better of him and so he was kept on. Curiosity about such hype that saw Nike throw money at him when he was 12. Such hype that so many people call him a future Ballon D'Or winner.

Good then, so why doesn't he play more?

Good question. You'd think that Barcelona of all places wouldn't be averse to giving an opportunity to a youngster, especially one as brilliantly gifted as this young fellow. But there is a claim that Deulofeu is perhaps struggling with an over-sized ego, a character that knows he is good too much and likes to over-indulge in his talents. For more, read this, there is a over-hanging feeling that Gerard may not realise his potential due to his characteristic flaws.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

RIECHEDLY BAZOER

Who is he? Where does he play?

A bit young, Bazoer is a 16 year old central defender currently at PSV Eindhoven, sparking an FBI-style manhunt across Europe for the prodigy's signature after voicing his desire to leave the Dutch club in the summer.

Oooh.. interesting... do go on...

He was offered a 3 year deal at the Phillips Stadion back in October, just as the defender turned 16, as the Dutch giants try desperately to hold on to one of the brightest prospects in Dutch football, but it looks like that is all in vain as Ajax have won the race to cast the net and land the prize catch of Bazoer, according to reports. 

Ajax? Hmm... 

It is Dutch legislation that 3 years is the most you can offer to a player under the age of 18, so it looks like the Eredivisie champions may have landed him on a similar deal. The Amsterdam ArenA is a kind of nurturing nursery for talented crop, so it will suit his exciting development, plus he will work with defensive guru Frank De Boer, a bonus for any defender learning the trade.

So what's the big fuss?

Bazoer has already played 8 times for the Dutch under 17 team as he steps foot on the ladder of international recognition, he is quick and strong, displaying an intelligent reading of the game for his youthful age. Perhaps the biggest compliment to his potential is that Newcastle, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal were involved in the chase for the kid, with Bazoer keen on a move to England. Eindhoven were desperate for him to remain in Holland where he would be ensured first team football.

Why did he want to leave Eindhoven?

Eindhoven have their own impressive honour roll of youth graduates and are thriving at the top of the Dutch league under Dick Advocaat, but with the club struggling to compete on a financial level with some of Europe's elite, Sporting Director Marcel Brands had to admit defeat in his attempt to hold onto the youngster. Brands gave him the choice between money and development and in the end, Bazoer chose Ajax. Keep an eye out for this promising 16 year old.



LORENZO CRISETIG

Who is he? Where does he play?

Crisetig is a 19 year old central midfielder currently with Inter Milan, or if you like your detail, learning his trade with North-West Liguria-based Serie B side Spezia on loan. With only one appearance for his mother club to his name, a single minute Champions League substitute cameo, the young Italian will have to display the patience of a mother queuing for a bus with a troublesome child his as he bides his time for integration into Andrea Strammacioni's regular thinking.

Not very experienced?

Not at senior level no.... despite being on the fringes of the Internazionale squad since the days of Jose Mourinho (the Portuguese included the teenager in various Champions League squads), his successors Rafa Benitiez, Leonardo, Gian Pierro Gasperini and now Stramaccioni have resisted his claims for a go in the first team. It was Claudio Ranieri who gave Crisetig his only minute of senior football, coming on for Christian Chivu against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League.

What about youth level?

Oh yeah, Crisetig is a seasoned pro at youth level, how's that for a paradox eh? Representing Italy at under-16,17,18,19 and 21 level, the latter for whom he became the youngest ever player, and being a regular member of Inter Milan's Primavera team (the Italian term for reserve squad) with whom he won the new fangled Next-Gen series in 2011. He also won the much coveted Torneo di Viareggio with Inter's team of teenagers. What do you mean you haven't heard of it?

Will he make it at Inter?

If Stramaccioni shares the same views about him as the coaches of his Italian youth level teams, then yes, he would, especially with Inter still under a transitional period following the trophy-laden years of Jose Mourinho and earlier, Roberto Mancini. Perluigi Casiraghi said of him "Crisetig is a player of important attributes", whilst his successor Paulo Ferrara gushed "Lorenzo has a great personality and responded to the task at hand" after playing a vital role in the Azzuri under-21's 3-1 victory over Sweden.

What can he do then?

For a fair-haired Italian who conforms to the exotic stereotype, Crisetig is deceptively physical in the centre of midfield and is effective at recycling possession through his robust style. Forever looking for the ball, he helps play to tick over in the engine room (cliches galore!!) mainly owing to the enviable wizadry of his left foot and impressive vision, meaning the 19 year ol can both hold and create as a central-midfield force.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

ILKAY GUNDOGAN

Who is he? Where does he play?

Gundogan's story is pretty cliched. As with all German youngsters rising through the ranks, the 22 year old was not born in Deutschland (he originated from Turkey), he's technically brilliant and perhaps most predictably of all, he plays for perennial talent spotters, Borussia Dortmund. 

Ah... so he's another Dortmund lad?

Not really, he was at VFL Bochum until signing a four year deal last summer. Though, he has joined Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa, Nuri Sahin, Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Nevan Subotic, Sven Bender and co. as the list of talents who have either made their name or are making their name in the yellow of the North Rhine outfit. It is a talented production line and Gundogan, elegant in possession at the base of a very fluid, technical midfield and attack, is the glue that sticks all the headline-hoggers together when they reach the first team.

Unsung hero?

Whilst Reus, Gotze and the like set about interweaving between opposition defences with smart passing, Gundogan does the "tidy", "no-fuss" in front of his own back-line where he remains disciplined patrolling between the lines, strong in the tackle, smart in the interception, quick in the pass, he's vital to Dortmund's reserved style that is centred around a quick counter-attacking philosophy. He also runs like a Duracell bunny too, allowing him to cover a wide range of turf in the Dortmund midfield. From his role of "quarter-back" in the team, he can carry the ball out, pass it long, or short and is integral to the quick turnover of possession that works so well for Jurgen Klopp's young side, especially on the continent.

One of those non-Germans who is German?

He is yes (to find out more, read this), his talent has not evaded Joachim Loew in charge of the Die Maanschaft who has handed him 4 caps over the past year, as well as a place in the Germany 23-man squad for the European Championships in the summer and as long as he produces performances of the same quality he showed vs Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League, it won't be long before he is a regular choice for Loew who seeks to cure a porous defence.

Will he leave Dortmund?

The defensive midfielder has been successful at that big stadium that is named after some mobile telecom company, winning successive Bundesliga titles under Jurgen Klopp. But after departures of Kagawa and Sahin, there is always a feeling Dortmund will be a selling club as they struggle to compete with the financial muscle of the bigger clubs. Tottenham and Manchester United have been linked, but he is currently bound to 3 more years at Dortmund. 







GEORGINO WIJNALDUM

Who is he? Where does he play?

We'll ignore the unorthadox surname enough to tell you Wijnaldum is a 21 year old Dutch attacking midfielder who, with his long locks frollicking in the wind as he glides across the pristine surfaces of the Eredivisie, looks suspiciously like "sexy football" advocate Ruud Gullit. The playmaker, who can also operate on the wing, plays for Dutch luminaries PSV Eindhoven.

Oooohh... Ruud Gullit.. he was good..

He was indeed, but rather than possessing the brutish force that Gullit displayed during his success-littered time with AC Milan in the early 90s, Wijnaldum is like a Gullit-lite, a copybook version thrown into the modern era of physically-slight footballers who pass and move beneath the imposing structure of Lionel Messi. The winger weaves between defenders like a liquid ball, or tries to, after past criticisms of failing to deal with the more robust side of defending.

So, he's a bit of a ponce?

That's a bit unfair, and rather stereotypical against the type of diminutive attacker that is all the rage in modern football. Standing at a midget-like 5ft 8, it was always going to take Wijnaldum time to adapt to the more physical demands of the sport, but his strength has improved tenfold since departing Feyenoord (where he grew up) to join Eindhoven. He is now a mainstay in Dick Advocaat's plans (after convincing former coach Fred Rutten) in screwdriver country, playing six times in a productive campaign so far, hitting 4 goals.

21 you say, he's been around a bit?

Yes he has, making his debut aged 16 (the youngest player ever for Feyenoord) before going on to register over 100 appearances for the Rotterdam club who he left, because, frankly, they're now a bit rubbish. His rise was noticed by the Netherlands national team too, who handed him his debut in the senior squad last summer in which he netted against San Marino (they all count). He has won two KNVB cups domestically, one with Feyenoord, one with Eindhoven.

Anything else to add?

Well, you mentioned Ruud Gullit, or I mentioned Ruud Gullit, it doesn't matter, but he does resemble the latter-day dread-locked hair genius with his natural position being a central midfielder in the play-maker mould. With an ability to pick a pass and dribble both deep and in the final third, forever attempting to create, his versatility can put him on the path to be a very talented, "complete" footballer. Like Ruud Gu... yeah, you know by now...





Tuesday, 13 November 2012

ALVARO MORATA

Who is he? Where does he play?

Morata is a 20 year old striker currently playing for Real Madrid, or as the uniquely fangled way goes in Spain, the "B" team, home of the big team youngsters trying desperately to catch the eye of the club's manager by playing well in the lower leagues. It looks as though Morata may have done just that though by scoring the vital late winner in Madrid's 1-2 victory at Levante.

Go on.... use that cliche....

"The stuff dreams are made of"? Well, it definitely was for Morata, who was turned to by Mourinho like a weary poker player using his hand in one final act of desperation. With the league title slipping away, "the Special One", shorn of such luminaries as Higuain, Benzema and co. saw Levante's 1-1 and raised them a Morata, sitting quietly on the bench, who duly came on to head the winner with his first touch.

Great stuff! Everybody was happy?

Not really, the political circus of Madrid was never going to embrace the vital contribution of their youthful saviour though was it? Pepe decided to get himself into a fight which kind of marred proceedings, whilst Mourinho was forced to face volatile interrogation as to why he never trusted youth-teamers when one of them had just done such a wonderful thing for him. 

We'll just focus on Morata?

We shall, it seems a shame his golden moment was overshadowed, but we'll point out that Morata was always a prolific scorer for the Madrid "Cantera", as they call their bunch of young lads, hitting 34 goals in one season for Madrid C, before his rise to the B team. Mourinho gave him a dabble in professional matches with a few substitute cameos. An injury to Higuain sparked rumours that Morata may be the first Cantera since Iker Casillas to make a breakthrough, but Mourinho shot that down, "he needs to grow up", he said. He hit 14 goals last year for the B team as they won the Segunda Division B title.

He's pretty prolific then?

He knows where the goal is, that's for sure, he was leading scorer in last year's Under-19 European Championships for Spain with 6. He has been compared with ex-Madrid goal-getter Fernando Morientes due to his ruthlessness in front of the onion-bag. His superb movement and ability in the air (as showcased in Levante) make him a nifty front-man with a potential to suggest he will go far, that is if Mourinho disavows his antipathy with the Cantera.

Will he leave Madrid if not?

So soon is unlikely, especially if he can carry the same impact he did on Sunday that has put him in such high regard with Madridistas already. Mourinho is short on attackers too, so Morata may stick it out, he has a chance to finally break the Cantera hoodoo. However, he's a striker, he's unproven in a senior realm, he's not English, he's young, so it has drawn imperative links with.... yes, you've guessed it.... ARSENAL!!! 




Thursday, 8 November 2012

MARC BARTRA

Who is he? Where does he play?

He's the latest product of the designer conveyor belt of talent at Barcelona that relentlessly sprogs up possession loving genius' that pass, and pass, and pass, all day until you're bored of it and switch over to watch Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday night, though unlike the usual mould that La Masia churns out, Bartra is not a Xavi, an Iniesta or even a Fabregas, the guy's a rather cute looking defender......

A defender!? At Barca...?

Yeah, a defender at Barca, a centre-half in fact. Don't look at me so nonplussed, they did create Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and that lad who's now at Chelsea who everybody has forgotten about, so they're not truly averse to making lads at the back. Plus it will do them some good instead of shoe-horning the likes of Javier Mascherano and Alex Song back there as they show contempt to such a modern football commodity as having a defence.

The Vilanova influence?

To an extent yes, Barca have been far more within the realms of basic football since the tiki-taka passing utopia of Pep Guardiola passed into sabbatical and all part of that has been an inclination to actually set up with designated defenders. 

Whilst to an extent no, Bartra had already dabbled in first team duty under Mr. Guardiola, registering eight performances up until this season where he has been given a more prominent role under Tito, appearing 5 times. He hasn't done too badly. 

Hasn't done too badly? Elaborate...

Okay, well he was given 90 minutes in the home Champions League win over Celtic where he impressed with neat passing out from the back, but that work was undone as he struggled in the cauldron of Parkhead (he was withdrawn after 71 minutes) in the return fixture. His passing percentage of 95% from two La Liga games suggests Bartra is a dab hand with Barca's old fetish of caressing the ball out from the back with zero fuss.

Anything else worth knowing?

Not really, although he did once have to fan the flames after clattering golden Barca boy Lionel Messi with a heavy challenge in training, "nothing happened" he said, like the young child standing suspiciously next to the spillage on the floor.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

RICARDO VAN RHIJN

Who is he? Where does he play?

After Ajax lost Gregory Van Der Wiel to rich-boys in September, Frank De Boer may have been disappointed to lose his energetic right-back after he played such a vital role in his capture of the EreDivisie title last year. But no, De Boer was safe ratifying the sale as he had 21 year old Van Rhijn, a younger, similar version to Van Der Wiel ready to take the reigns at the Ajax right-back spot. 

Similar to VDW, take it he gets forward a lot?

A superb engine allows him to bomb up and down the right-flank for virtually the full 90 minutes, fitting in perfectly with De Boer's Barcelona-lite vision that relies on full-backs flying forward on the overlap to provide width. Not a bad crosser either, he caused havoc with dangerous balls from the right in recent Champions League meetings with Manchester City.

All very well, but can he defend?

Ajax have struggled in their defence of the Dutch championship this year, shipping 14 goals in eleven games as they sit in a mediocre fifth place, but Van Rhijn's reputation hasn't suffered with some solid performances both in the league and the Champions League. Winner of Ajax's talent of the year for 2011/2012, even Louis Van Gaal has noticed the rise of RDV, allowing him to displace his old mate VDW as first-choice right back for the Dutch national team.

Will he leave.. like VD...

Enough of the Van Der Wiel comparisons please, Van Rhijn is a separate entity (obviously) and having that spectre over him would not help his development which is already being picked up on by the "experts" (Gary Neville) and co. his excellent, roaming performances against City have helped and a bright future awaits under a manager that suits his game of right-sided traction engine perfectly.

Keep an eye out for Van Rhijn.....

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

DOUGLAS COSTA

Who is he? Where does he play?

As with all members of the Shakhtar Donetsk squad now, Costa is Brazilian, one of ten South Americans in fact who have traded sandy beaches and sunny climbs for the industrial lands of eastern Ukraine. The mining area of Donetsk is affluent , but the 22 year old midfielder is there to play football, winning 3 straight Ukrainian Premier League titles since his £6 million move from Gremio in 2010.

Is he any good?

Reported interest from Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United doesn't occur if you're rubbish does it? Part of the reckless abandoning Brazilian counter-attacking unit Mircea Lucescu has created at the Donbass Arena, Costa has been a consistent contributor as Donetsk have hoovered up domestic trophies making 120 appearances in 2 years whilst winning 6 trophies for the cutely named Kroty (The Moles).

Should he get a job on Blue Peter?

No, but he wouldn't look out of place creating things on there such is his creative talent behind the front-man. Equally at home on the wings, the skillful Brazilian likes to beat his man by cutting inside and threading balls in behind defences, making him integral to Lucescu's beloved 4-2-3-1. His style has drawn comparisons to Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho whilst his natural ability was never in doubt with his mother, bizarrely, claiming Costa even started playing football in the womb.

So why don't we see to much of him?

Being in the obscure reaches of mining-county Ukraine doesn't help, but if you were watching recent Champions League games with Chelsea et al. Costa was reduced to a bench role as Lucescu airs on the side of caution as he aims to negotiate a difficult group with Chelsea, Juventus et al. Previous links with Manchester United have died down but Sir Alex Ferguson remains a keen admirer, whilst Napoli have made their interest in the 22 year old attacker known.


PAUL POGBA

Who is he? Where does he play?

It's hard not to be aware of the 19 year old Juventus midfielder right now as he makes a significant impact on Serie A for the Italian champions. A few barnstorming performances have opened mouths and pointed fingers at those idiots at Manchester United who saw fit to let the Frenchman go for pittance (1 million euros) in the summer and he's being raved about as the next Patrick Vieira. 

So, who do you think are you, questioning who he is, Sir Alex Ferguson?

Next Patrick Vieira? Blimey...

And this doesn't look to be one of those "Bruno Cheyrou, next Zinedine Zidane" comparisons either, Pogba's fearsome athleticism and superb energy has drawn inevitable likeliness to the ex-Arsenal lynchpin and a nature to reduced a team to just one man is instilled in the youngster as his excellent, match-winning performance at home to Bologna was summed up by Italian media Il Messeggaro with the headline "Paul Pogba beats Bologna 2-1".

So why did Ferguson let him go?

Not so much let him go, but fail to give him a chance. His promise at Old Trafford was far more deserving than a few substitute appearances here and there and with his contract due to expire, Pogba, not big on loyalty after his messy to do with Le Havre, seized the opportunity to put his talent hand in hand with ambition and jumped over to Turin. As Ferguson still wrangles with midfield issues, Pogba has managed to compete for a place with Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal in what is regarded as one of the best midfields in Europe. He is now established as a vital member of the Old Lady's squad.

He's going to play for France?

If he produces performances in a similar vain to Bologna or even his match-winning salvo against Napoli, then it is only a matter of time before Didier Deschamps turns to the big, physical force and slot him into the centre of his side. He has been an integral member of the under-19 side in recent years and has just been promoted to the under 20s, it is inevitable, as Pogba continues to set Serie A alight, that he will become an established member of Les Blues' squad.

Isn't it all too quick for the lad?

Perhaps. Antonio Conte is aware of the fierce competition in the Nerazzuri midfield and has made no qualms about his decision to limit Pogba to a certain number of games if not to take the midfielder out of the firing line and risk cracking the young man under the pressure, it was La Gazzetta Dello Sport's GB Olivera who asked "you're 19 Paul, can't you mess anything up?" in a question littered with irony. His 90 minutes on the bench in Sunday's defeat to Inter Milan, Juve's first in 49 games, shows how Conte will be cautious with his progression that promises to be very promising (and very frustrating to Sir Alex Ferguson).








Monday, 5 November 2012

STEPHAN EL SHAARAWY

Who is he? Where does he play?

C'mon, you're surely not asking that after all the headlines the lad gets? He's as high profile as youngsters become, established in the AC Milan side at the tender age of 20. The Italian is also producing the goods, registering eight goals in eleven games already as he cuts through notoriously tight Serie A defences like a carving knife.

Bit of a hitman then?

You would think that given his hot-streak in front of goal this season, but this is the first year he's suddenly burst into an effective goal-bagger, filling in the void for the summer-departed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the early days of his blossoming career have been spent on the left-wing. Only since Massimilliano Allegri took a gamble on moving the mohican-headed youngster to the middle has he found his scoring boots. 

Weird name.. what's the story?

He was born in Savona (northern Italy) to an Egyptian father and Italian mother which kind of explains the difficult-to-pronounce surname. Joining Genoa aged 13, he went on to become the fourth youngest player in the history of Serie A as he made his debut aged 16 and 55 days old. After being loaned to Padova where he showed his quality in firing the Venetian club to a near-miss on promotion to the top league, giants Milan jumped in with £13 million to land the attacker and haven't had to wait long, despite a slow start, for the fee to start being repaid.

This is turning into a good year for him?

As good years go, his has been pretty damn good so far. Kicking off with the signing of a new long-term contract in July, he followed that up by making his senior Italian team debut against England in August. Not content with such little impact, El Shaarawry became Milan's youngest ever Champions League scorer by netting against Zenit St Petersburg. 

What can he do?

Pretty much anything. Effective at running at defenders, dropping deep and turning with pace, he can be useful on the counter attack. His Zenit goal, starting on the left, beating 3 players with skill and direct running shows elaborately what he is capable of. He's confident at going forward but can also contribute well to the defensive side, making him a valuable asset to the Allegri cause. 

Milan are in tenth? Will he leave?

It's unlikely despite the reported interest of mega-bucks Manchester City. If a contract binding him to the Rossoneri until 2017 is not enough, Milan CEO Adriano Galliano has taken it upon himself to refute claims of a possible departure, "enough of the speculation!" he said. 






Friday, 2 November 2012

ANDREJ KRAMARIC

Who is he? Where does he play?

Kramaric is a 21 year old Croatian striker playing for Dinamo Zagreb. Well, he's on the books at Zagreb, but currently out on loan at Kylie Minogue's favourite Croatian club, Lokomotiva. 

Not fancied by Zagreb then?

You may think so, but after breaking into the Zagreb first team in 2009, a goal return of 15 goals in 30 games hasn't been too shabby. Kramaric has won two Croatian first team titles (and a Croatian cup) in that time and as Zagreb fight for success in the Champions League, it could be a case of too much too soon for the youngster, so he's been given a shot across the capital at Lokomotiva, where he has a decent record of 9 goals in seven games.

Another Croatian prospect?

The Vatreni have yielded a good crop in recent years with the likes of Josip Radosevic, Mateo Kovacic and Marko Livaja all breaking into the senior national squad before their 20th birthday and Kramaric looks set to follow them as the new Igor Stimac era burns bight after the departure of Slaven Bilic. It is only a matter of time before the striker dons that luscious red and white squared number as he has been capped at every level under senior, hitting 20 goals in the process.

Likes a goal then does he?

He doesn't exactly require a map to find his way to goal if that's what you're implying. He's Dinamo Zagreb's most potent youth striker in the club's history as he hit over 450 goals. Yes, 450 goals in a football-upbringing similar to Lionel Messi's where he joined the club aged 6 and had every other child screaming "that's not fair" as Kramaric waltzed his way to the net whenever he fancied another goal.

Anybody after him?

Yes, West Ham, we think, as Sam Allardyce's scouts have seemingly been sent east with the remit of landing yet another striker. Likes a good striker does Allardyce with Madibo Maiga, Andy Carroll, Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te and (somewhere in the basement) Frederic Piquionne lurking on the books. Big Sam just can't get enough and a link has formed for Kramaric with Hammers scouts impressed by his potential. 

Player Value: £500,000 - £100,000

Thursday, 1 November 2012

IHOR BEREZOVSKY

Who is he? Where does he play?

Not related to the old Russian rich-guy Boris, Igor (Ihor, Igor, it doesn't really matter) is a goalkeeper playing in the Ukranian Premier League for little known outfit Obolon Kiev. 22 years old and a bit of a jolly green giant at 6ft 3, Berezovskyi is imposing strikers and causing nightmares to spellcheckers everywhere as his solid displays between the sticks catch the eye.

Green giant? Is he genetically disfigured?

Noooo..... don't be stupid, though with just 2 years of first-team experience in a side that sits mid-table in the Ukranian league, the old Eastern Bloc equivalent of Sunderland if you will, he could be a little green behind the eyes. He still hasn't been promoted from the under-21s in the national side either as he attempts to break into a talented band of Zbirna goal-tenders including Bohdan Shust and Andriy Pyatov. 

So why's he in the news?

Because clubs are after him. More specifically, English clubs. More specifically, Chelsea and Manchester City as their search for a more reliable understudy to Messrs Cech and Hart has taken the ultra-affluent clubs to the old Iron Curtain. Ross Turnbull and Hilario have been useless at Chelsea while Richard Wright and Costel Pantillimon haven't fared much better at City, so Berezovsky, impressing folk with his displays this season as Obolon lie in 13th, could be set to move to Blighty to gain some valuable bench-warming experience. Bayern Munich could be set to march in should the English clubs fail as they look for somebody to take the strain off Manuel Neuer.

Anything to add?

Not really, although Berezovskyi (suffixes -skyi or -sky it doesn't matter) is expected to be called up to the Ukraine national team for their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with Moldova and Poland. They're in England's group, so hopefully you can see what the fuss is about for yourself before he comes to a bench, or even a goal, near you, soon........




Wednesday, 31 October 2012

JULIAN DRAXLER

Who is he? Where does he play?

Draxler is a 19 year old German winger plying his trade for Schalke in the Bundesliga. Naturally an attacker, he operates mainly on the left wing but can play anywhere across the band behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1. Fitting the new mould of physically robust winger standing at 6ft 2 and is both footed, with his natural instinct to cut inside as he requires improvement on his crossing ability.

Part of the impressive German generation then?

Oh yes, after making his professional debut last January where at the time he was the fourth youngest Bundesliga ever, his ascent to the top has been fast. Well, his rise through the Diemaanshcaft's youth-system has been pretty darn quick, from the under 18s to the senior squad in two years, with Joachim Loew handing the winger his debut vs Switzerland in the summer after being surprisingly included in the provisional squad for Euro 2012. 

He's a diamond in the Schalke crown?

It's certainly looking that way, with coach Huub Stevens not averse to throwing his faith behind young players with Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Lewis Holtby also earning rave reviews as Die K√∂nigsblauen sit second in the Bundesliga and are performing well in their Champions League group. Draxler forced his way into a regular spot last season as he made 45 appearances, and has somewhat continued that into this season. Stevens remains cautious with his talent though as he has yet to complete 90 minutes this term, despite appearing ten times. He caught the eye with a superb performance against Montpellier in the Champions League before a nasty looking wrist injury forced him off.

Yet there is improvement needed?

He hasn't quite yet managed to emerge into the full creative talent his potential suggests but with an eye for a deadly pass in the final third and a threat from long range shooting, he can be a threat for Stevens' side as he comfortably drifts across the forward areas linking the play effectively. An instinct to beat his full-back and put crosses in is missing, but that may arrive as the 19 year old matures. 

What does the future hold?

His potential has been noticed by Tutto Sport if by nobody else as the website includes him on the list for their European "Golden Boy" award for this season while the German has been linked with a move to Arsenal as Arsene Wenger could be in the market for a replacement for Andrei Arshavin. Everyone knows Wenger has an eye for a young gun worth a bob or two and Draxler would fit his quick-moving, passing Gunners like a well-sewn mitten.

Transfer Value: £12 Million- TYSS Rating: 7/10