Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 17 year old German midfielder playing in the Bundesliga. 2 for VFL Bochum. 

Is that it? 

I'm sorry, but the obscurity of it all means we are struggling for information on the Bochum youth graduate who has blossomed during his first season since his transition from WSV to VFL in his hometown club. He has impressed so much during his first year that Hanover 96 are toying with the idea of signing him for the summer.

How is he doing then?

The second tier of the German league isn't the best gauge of quality, but nobody can argue with the impact he has made during his first year as a professional. From midfield he has scored 2 goals and has garnered 6 assists from 21 appearances. The versatile teenager, able to play anywhere in the midfield although mainly operating as a central creative force, captained the German under-17's to victory in last year's European Championship success.

Not another German talent, they'll win things for years!?

It's looking that way, although there's nothing wrong with that considering all the money they have invested into producing fine technical players, Mario Gotze, Lars Bender and Emre Can who have all won the gold medal in the Fritz Walter award under-17 category in recent years. Goretzka won that accolade last year.

Will Hannover get him then?

He is contracted to Bochum until 2016 but a stay beyond the summer is unlikely and he is valued at an estimated 3.5 million euros. Clubs in the past linked with the midfielder have generically been Bayern Munich, Manchesters City and United etc. but genuine interest has been mentioned from Arsenal, who have sent scouts to watch him several times, and Barcelona, who had an approach rejected for the talented youngster rejected last summer according to German media outlet Kicker.
News that Hanover are nearing the signature of Goretzka with peripheral negotiations underway between the two clubs being reported here at Goal.Com

"Goretzka is a subject with which we are concerned," Hanover manager Jörg Schmadtke confirmed to image. Even in Bochum is known of the plans of Lower Saxony. "Yes, I've heard that Hanover has put out feelers," said manager Jens Todt. Mirko Slomka, the coach of the Hanoverian, admitted that he was on the phone with the player's agent.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is one of the last remaining survivors of Montpellier's Ligue 1 title winning squad of last year and is currently at the centre of a game of tug-o'-war between scattergun spenders QPR and Turkish club Fenerbache. There have also been rumour of Arsenal and Tottenham chasing the French-born Moroccan attacking midfielder they call "The Magician".

Does he do magic tricks then?

I don't know what he's like with a deck of cards but he's capable of doing great things with the football having led Montpellier to the title last season alongside Olivier Giroud, now of Arsenal and Yang Mbwia, now of Newcastle. I was a season where he got 13 goals and 5 assists from his creative haven of either the wing, or in the middle between the lines. He won the Player of the Year too, as well as the goal of the season award, young player of the season award, a place in the Ligue 1 team of the year AND the best African in Ligue 1 award. I feel sorry for his mantelpiece.

So where's he going?

Inter Milan have been interested in the Moroccan but now it seems likely the 22 year old will follow the migration of talent to Istanbul with Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder having gone to Galatasary. The eccentric Montpellier chairman Laurent Nicollan has given the green light to Fenerbache to sign Belhanda, if they come good with a more attractive payment plan of course, while the English media claim the player is available for £10 million. Most English "journalists" have gone a step further and done what all good media men do towards the end of a transfer window and linked an available player to a desperate, free spending manager;


Fenerbache? A bit obscure ain't it?

The big clubs are understandably showing a reluctance at signing a player who does remain something of an enigma, possibly due to his young age. He can go from the sublime of a wonderful performance vs PSG last year  to the utterly stupidity of the fight against Evian which saw him suspended for the first few campaigns of this campaign. He has spoke of his pent-up aggression, his feeling that he has to take matters into his own hands at all times and sometimes his self-control suffers as a result. He picked himself up two red cards last season, two already this season and despite the technical brilliance, his volatile side is always ready to come out.

That's a shame....

For a creative talent who is so good at holding bigger players off and can dribble so well against defenders, as well as being able to deliver a deadly set-piece, it is an almighty shame he can let himself down so easily with the most trivial of temper-losses. Hopefully that side of his game will improve as he matures and that the motive behind a move to Turkey appears to be the chance to do that. 


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Everton's new £8.6 million signing who the Toffees have sneaked under the transfer radar like a stealth bomber to take off the hands of FC Twente. He's 23, he's Dutch, he has a surname that looks like it has been cut in half and he's a dynamic centre-midfielder who came through the academy at Feyenoord.

Everton signing £8 million + plus on a player?

Yep, the normally tighter than the thighs on a fat girl Bill Kenwright has backed David Moyes quite handsomely with this capture after his manager reportedly spent the whole week in Holland trying to seal the deal. He is billed as the long-term replacement for the heavily sought-after afro-haired Marouane Fellaini and will add young impetus into a midfield that currently looks a little light.

What else will he add?

While Fellaini has been moved foward as an attacking midfielder to much success, Everton have looked a little light-weight (Darron Gibson/ Leon Osman), old (Phil Neville) or not-really wanted (John Heitinga) in the centre of midfield. Fer, whose strong, unforgiving displays at Twente have earned him the nickname "the bouncer" will restore some bite to the engine room if nothing else. He is big and physical and he is a comparison gold-mine, he has been likened to Patrick Vieira and Franck Rijkaard by Dutch national youth-coaches and to Sami Khedira and Yaya Toure by his modest self.

Vieira, Khedira, Rijkaard and Toure? Tough company..

It's the idea of promoting himself in that mould more than anything. Like Vieira, he can pick the ball up from deep and charge through the midfield like a traction engine in the vein of Toure before using the ball cleverly in the final third like Khedira. He can start attacks and finish them himself as a powerful, energetic box-to-box force and can pass well too, both long and short. He is a complete, robust midfielder who is primed for inheriting Fellaini's place. He currently plays in the double-pivot of a 4-2-3-1 for Twente, so expect him to drop in deep, perhaps alongside Leon Osman, first of all.

This sounds very exciting

It is and I don't think David Moyes and Everton would have been quite so persuasive with the bank manager if Fer, also impressing Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal as he has been given two caps in the Netherland's World Cup qualifying process, wasn't a good prospect. The young midfielder has aspirations of playing in Europe for Everton and with his signing, that may come sooner, rather than later. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He's just another of the many Frenchmen Alan Pardew, Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias have covertly put into the back of a stolen FedEx van and smuggled all the way from across the channel as the Newcastle trio resort to desperate measures in order to save their wretched season. More specifically however, he is a 23 year old dynamic midfielder who has just signed for the Magpies from Toulouse.

He sounds very familiar?

Perhaps because you're thinking of ex-Liverpool midfielder Mohammed SISSOKO who is currently at PSG, or Mahamadou Sissoko who is a centre-back for Kilmarnock, or even Aly Cisshoko who is right-back at Valencia. In fact, if you tried hard enough, you can name a whole team with variants of Sissoko, but it's Toulouse's enforcer that the Newcastle board have chosen to slap a black bag over and bring to England, so let's focus on him.

So he's signed for Newcastle then?

Yeah, the abduction pretense was getting monotonous wasn't it, let alone slightly libelous, he becomes Newcastle's fifth import from Ligue 1 in this transfer window after Mathieu Debuchy, Yoan Gouffran, Mappou Yanga-Mbwia and Massaido Haidara all arrived in the north-east. He comes in for a reduced fee of £1.8 million after the pesky character managed to wind his contract down to the final 6 months. It is a fair climb down from the 30 million euro his president Oliver Serdran demanded to fend off the interest from the usual big clubs (you know the ones, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan etc.) back in 2009.

How's he play?

Newcastle's midfield already has a touch of continental quality about it with Cheikh Tiote and Yohann Cabaye running the "engine room", but Sissoko would add some "drive" and energy to the squad with his lung-busting box-to-box runs that have drawn comparisons to former monster-truck-alike Patrick Vieira. His strong concentration in midfield allows for some disciplined performances off-the-ball before bursting out his lungs and turning into a steam-train as he spreads his legs. He has also played out right and even centre-back for Toulouse.

Anything else to add?

Erm.... maybe.... erm.... well, he plays a bit for the French international team, that's significant right? He has represented Les Blues at all youth levels before being called up to the full squad by Raymond Domenech in 2009. A few sporadic call-ups since and he has earned 5 caps, with Didier Deschamps now also a fan of the powerhouse centre-midfielder. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Digne is Lille's 19 year old defender who may be set to become the Premier League's latest import from Ligue 1 as English clubs continue with their fetish for French talent. This time it is Manchester United who want to provide competition for their current French left-back with Digne, who is another French left-back.

Manchester United? What about Patrice Evra?

At the age of 31, there will be a concern that Evra won't be able to go on forever and after a dip in form last season, which has been allayed somewhat by a return to form in this campaign, Sir Alex Ferguson has toyed with the idea of challenging the current incumbent with younger, fresher alternatives. Alexander Buttner came in last summer but has failed to set pulses rating, so a move for this versatile starlet who can play on the left-side of centre-half and is equally as comfortable in midfield.

How much will he cost?

As well as challenging Manchester United rather annoyingly on the field, it looks likely that they will rather annoyingly challenge their neighbours in the transfer market too as the blue half has been credited with a £7 million bid for the 6ft tall left-back with designs to make him understudy to Gael Clichy. City's head of development Patrick Vieira is a keen admirer of the defender and has scouted him numerous times, suggesting how highly rated he is in his native France.

You talk a lot about France, but does he play for France?

I'm not the one mentioning the beautiful country twice in the same sentence. Though he does yes, albeit at under 19 level having represented Les Tricolores at every level from the tender age of the under-15s. Though as he continues to play regularly for Lille, he has played 21 times this season for the 2011 champions this season after making 16 appearances last year, it is only a matter of time before he impresses Didier Deschamps enough to become a full-international.

How does the lad play?

Digne plays left-back like all good modern left-backs; displaying a fondness for bringing the ball forward and a penchant for delivering crosses and passes into advanced areas. As a left-back however, there have been some questions over his tackling as many quick, skillful wingers, particularly those who lurk in the Champions League, can beat his hesitation with slight ease. At 19 however, and playing regularly like I said, he will only grow into a more talented individual.

N.B As well as mentioning France a lot, I also realise I say left-back a lot, so I do apologise.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past week or so and have managed to catch a glimpse at the back page of any tabloid, you wouldn't need to answer that question. He is of course, Inter Milan's attacking midfielder who Liverpool have taken an interest in, having made a bid, seen it rejected, then decided to go back in for another bid.

Interesting... you wanna tell us more?

Definitely. Coutinho is a 20 year old Brazilian who can operate in behind the striker and having flirted with a cheeky move for Turkey-bound Wesley Sneijder, the Rodgers revolution sees the youngster as the perfect fit for the mould of exciting technical talent that is now the Anfield idyll. Rodgers went in with an initial £6 million bid which was knocked back by Inter and, like a persistent squirrel jumping for an out of reach nut, has bought the big guns out of the accountant to the tune of £8 million.

£8 million? Rodgers is a bit of a big spender.

Shirley Bassey wasn't singing about the Anfield boss but he is certainly becoming flash with the cash having already snaffled Daniel Sturridge earlier this month for £12 million. There is no doubting Coutinho is worth it though, Inter president Massimo Moratti said he was the "future of Inter" after joining from Vasco De Gama aged 18. He has gone on to become one of the most highly rated youngsters in Serie A and a full Brazilian international.

Good player then?

You can say that yes, Coutinho is two-footed, dangerous in a variety of attacking positions, able to play left, right or through the middle and his adaptability and movement makes him as difficult to mark as one of the FBI's most wanted. His intelligent positioning and high-work rate allows for some good pressing on opposition defenders in order for his team to win the ball back high up the field.

Can he play in the Premier League?

His creative quality in the final third will suit Rodgers's attacking, ball-friendly philosophy at Liverpool, but a lot of injuries has interrupted his development somewhat as Inter have done a lot of fitness work in order to bolster the player's physical strength to cope with the rigours of Serie A. He has built into a strong, tricky midfielder however but work needs to still be done on unconvincing finishing and sometimes dribbles that have no end-product. 

You can read more about Coutinho's development and current ability here 


Who is he? Where does he play?

The oddly named American is a 22 year old winger who is out plying his trade in the Texas city famed for its long running drama that recently got recommissioned despite it being far-fetched and utterly bland to everybody except working class bores who like cheap western sitcoms...... yeah, he plays for Dallas.

Did he shoot J.R?

No he didn't shoot J.R Ewing, but he has been touted as the "next big thing in America" according to Stoke manager Tony Pulis who wants to bring the blond-haired wide-man to the Potteries for a trial. 

Next big thing in America, sounds good?

It does sound a good title, even by the standards of the hyperbole-loving yanks, but when you cast your mind back to the mysterious rogue Freddy Adu who plunged into mediocrity after being afforded bucket-fulls of hype when he was a 16 year old, it isn't really that much.

So Stoke are trying him out then?

Yeah, in a try-before-you-buy type set-up, Pulis is bringing him over to "have a look at him" which will in fact be a second look after Stoke officials scouted him playing for the U.S.A in a friendly against France last year. Shea has made 15 appearances for the Stars and Stripes* **cringe** and will be familiar with Geoff Cameron, Stoke's current American incumbent of the right-back position.

Anything else to note?

Quite a bit actually; Brek received plenty of MLS individual accolades during his breakthrough year with Dallas which culminated in a trial at Arsenal. Despite originally starting at centre-back, Shea has blossomed into a tall, powerful left-sided winger who can beat a man and provide a decent cross. 2011 saw him included in the MLS MVP XI which is ACRONYM-CRAZY!! 

How was 2012?

2012 in the MLS was less productive however as surgery on a bone in his foot put the neatly-haired midfielder out of action for 3 months, which has kind of stalled his progress. He may find a route back to prominence with Stoke though, who are looking to add numbers to a squad that has lost Maurice Edu, Danny Higginbotham and Michael Tonge this month.