Thursday, 28 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Napoli's 21 year old versatile attacker charged with filling the void left behind by Ezequiel Lavezzi, who left for PSG last summer. Marek Hamsik is still there, Edinson Cavani is still there, but Insigne is still trying to prove he can be the third member of the new "holy trinity".

I take it he's in the same mould as Lavezzi then?

Lavezzi was the greyhound of a right winger, running up and down the flank and providing the legs and devastating finish as Walter Mazzarri's Napoli operated on the counter attack, Insigne is more nimble, dropping into attacking space in order to supply others. He has just 4 goals this season from 17 appearances but his 7 assists suggests how effective he is at creating; he has made a total of 40 chances this term.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has been particularly glowing in his support of Insigne having called him up to the full squad after just 8 caps for the under-21s. “We have been closely following Insigne and the reports are all excellent. He is a prototypical modern attacker, gifted tactically, and he plays according to the team not to himself,” said the 55 year old manager. 

So less "in your face", more "in your space"?

I don't know what that means, but, erm, yeah. Insigne operates mainly on the left, using his 5ft 4 inch frame (he was discarded from Inter Milan as a youth due to his small physique) and uses his low degree of balance to spring away from tight spaces, creating space for others (the likes of Cavani). He has attempted over 600 passes this season with a completion rate of 80%. 

His great control and willingness to dribble away from opponents in attacking areas bought him to the attention of eccentric 4-3-3 devotee Zdenek Zeman,  who positioned him on the left of his attacking trio whilst on loan at Foggia (scoring 19 goals in 33 games), and then at Pescara (where he registered 18 goals and 14 assists in Serie B).

Zeman eh? Why didn't he follow him to Rome?

Because he went back to Naples, where he is now being likened to Maradona, the last diminutive genius to grace the San Paolo, but it's going to take him a lot more time before he can be truly compared to the Argentine, of course. He will have to improve on his goal-scoring rate for a start, the player has a fondness to shoot from long range, attempting 55 so far this season, instead of getting into the box and finishing chances off like Lavezzi did. 

Interesting stuff. Will he be moving on soon?

With Cavani's departure highly possible, it's doubtful he will leave the lovely (crime-ridden) streets of Naples so soon. With Eduardo Vargas struggling to convince since his big money move, it looks like Insigne may be the on charged with succeeding the Uruguayan goal-machine.

Hang on, wasn't he supposed to be the new Lavezzi?

Well yeah, then the new Cavani before long. How about he's the new Insigne? How will that do.. eh?

Anyways, stop asking questions and read this:

and maybe this

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is the Montenegrin centre-forward who is leading Fiorentina back to the upper echelons of Serie A. He is 23 year old and after joining La Viola back in 2008 for 8 million euros from Partizan Belgrade, he has developed into one of Europe's most coveted talents after injury curtailed his initial impact in northern Italy.

Oh aye, what's he been doing so well then?

Scoring. Very well in fact. After hitting 15 goals last season, his 12 goal campaign this time round has helped fire Fiorentina to fourth place in Serie A, 3 points off a Champions League place. That was at the time of the international break, where he joined up with Montenegro in the aim of firing down England in the World Cup qualifier; coach Branko Brnovic has likened the partnership of Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic as having "two Ferraris".

What makes him so good then?

Vincenzo Montella has installed a bright footballing philosophy at Fiorentina, with an emphasis on possession and attacking football. Jovetic has taken advantage of the service provided to him by the technical brilliance of Borja Valero, David Pizzaro and Romulo behind him in the 3-5-2 system as he has averaged 3.9 shots per game with a shooting accuracy of 50%. In partnership with Adem Ljajic, he is also a good link-man, creating a total of 51 chances this season and registering 4 assists. 

Impressive reading... he's an all action striker?

He is, better at dropping off between the lines to turn and run at defenders, he is more at home drifting out to the left in order to cut inside and get shots away in the space vacated by the movement of other players. His ability to probe between the lines also indicates why his chance creation is so high, averaging a key pass over 2 times per game in this year's Serie A. When not dropping off the front-line, his physical presence of 6ft 1 inch height makes him a force for defenders to deal with, allowing him to play as a target man or as a second striker.

Could he be off to Arsenal?

I know you've been reading the tabloids so I won't try to point out how much folly that can be, but that is the word on the street, yes. The Gunners have been linked with making a £25 million move for the forward, but why would he want to sacrifice possible Champions League football for possibly nothing with Arsenal, ask yourself that my friend, whilst also checking out just how good the Montenegrin striker is.


Who is he? Where does he play?

A year ago, he was the buzz of the European footballing scene as Athletic Bilbao reached the Europa League final and also went to the Copa Del Rey final. They lost both, but they went out with a fine reputation for some superb high octane football under Marcelo Bielsa with Muniain, the 19 year old winger-cum-forward, being one of the brightest lights at the San Mames and an extremely promising young Basque talent.

Is he still not a buzz?

Well, some of the hype has admittedly faded away. Bilbao sort of imploded in the summer, Bielsa went nuts, Fernando Llorente was marginalised after a training ground dispute and the club's midfield force Javi Martinez left for Bayern Munich in bizarre circumstances. Now, after a dull year, they sit 14th and Muniain's form has suffered along with Bilbao's, playing 19 games and registering just 1 goal and 1 assist.

Any reason why?

It maybe because he, at the tender age of just 20, played 59 times for Bilbao last season, fitting in with Bielsa's high intensity pressure football, before heading to the Olympics with Spain where he played in all 3 games. The youngster is knackered, in a 2-0 defeat against Rayo Vallecano he was ineffective, being substituted after he cut a frustrated figure. Plus, he has been moved from his familiar position of left-sided wing-wizard to an alien central-playmaker, possibly becoming a victim to unfamiliarity. He has created just 24 chances so far this season, a great indication of how far his attacking influence has declined.

Form is temporary, class is permanent though?

It may be a cliche that crawls under my skin and causes a nasty rash on my arm that I constantly itch and itch until it gets worse and I have to get it checked out by a doctor, but yes, that is true. Muniain still boasts a passing percentage of 81.4% and he wouldn't have lost the close control and skill that allows him to take on defenders and coast away from them with break-neck speed. His technical ability still remains and he is only 20, he just needs something, perhaps a move away from madness de la Bielsa, to arrest his slump.

Is anybody interested in him?

The usual popular lines of Manchester United (£32 million, "new Ronaldo", a ridiculous story) and Liverpool have been used, whilst Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been linked via the Spanish press. Though, the word on the street is that Pep Guardiola, a huge fan of the Spanish under-21 winger during his time at Barcelona, could attempt to bring him to Bayern Munich when he takes over the Germans in the summer.

Whatever happens, you have to hope Muniain rediscovers the form that made him such a special player last season. Until he does, we will remind you of what he can do. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is San Marino's 21 year old centre-half bracing himself for this Friday's crunch World Cup qualifier with England. San Marino have never won a competitive fixture but with Buscarini at the back, they may fancy their chances against Wayne Rooney and co. in Serravalle on Friday.

Really? But San Marino are awful aren't they?

Well yes, but their 1-0 win over Liechtenstein back in 2004, their only ever win to date, still strikes fear into the hearts of national teams across the world. They enter the game with England in consistent form, having lost all four of their games so far and shipping just 16 goals. The presence of Buscarini with his 3 caps, will add some much needed inexperience to such a shaky back-line.

He comes with a big reputation then?

Oh yes, his 3 years at Cailungo in which he made 42 appearances stood him in good stead for the future and his form was noticed by rivals Murata who snapped him up for a small fee. Having made 5 appearances for his new club, he has helped guide them to second place in the highly competitive San Marinese Championship. 

Is he international class?

Well, Buscarini is certainly showing it. After making 7 appearances for the under 21s in a defence that conceded 23 goals, he was immediately called up to the full squad, making his debut in the thrashing by England at Wembley back in October. He made an immediate impact at the back, only letting one goal past him during his 14 minutes on the pitch, saving the potential embarrassment of a 4-0 defeat by only losing 5-0.

His other appearances have been a full 90 minutes against the international powerhouses Moldova where he was taught a harsh lesson in a 2-0 loss, then against Montenegro where he was strangely limited to a 16 minute cameo as his stand-ins struggled in a 3-0 defeat. He duly showed what an awful decision coach Giampaolo Miazza made by coming on and seeing the game out without conceding another goal.

England may have problems then?

Well definitely, he can also step into midfield if he has to, his versatility making him hard to pick up as San Marino inevitably put ten men behind the ball. Miazza may even put him on the bench such is the element of surprise Le Serenissima like to keep. If he does play, expect England's attack to struggle in the face of such uncompromising shoddiness. Keep an eye out for Buscarini as England rout to a 6-0 win, he is one to watch out for.


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 21 year old centre-half playing for La Liga's surprise package Real Sociedad, playing 24 times this season as Philippe Montanier's side have risen to fourth in the league. 

That was short and sweet, what is he good at?

He is a composed defender, able to bring the ball out of the back with his cultured left foot. Despite his modest sub-6ft frame, he is also deceivingly good in the air, winning most of his aerial duels (38 from 69 this season) thanks to his salmon-like leap and hang in the air, which almost defies gravity. His tackle success rate, standing at 79%, has given him a reputation of being an uncompromising defender with a superb reading of the game that has drawn comparisons with Barcelona's Carles Puyol. 

Carles Puyol eh? Does he have long hair? 

We don't mean aesthetically, his locks are well and truly short, but we do mean he is intelligent with clever positioning which means he can get by without being particularly quick. He can also rise to the physical battle when a striker gets by him, something he has had to improve on after getting sent-off in his first appearance for the Spanish under-23s at last year's London Olympics, when he was drawn out of position and dismissed for a last-man challenge on Kensuke Nagai. A la Puyol, he can also play-left back.

He's got a fondness for a card then?

You can say that. When he was first given a go in Sociedad's "B" team in 2010, he picked up 10 yellows and 4 reds before being given 9 yellows and 2 reds in the following year. After being promoted to the first team, his discipline has cleaned up, registering 6 yellow cards and staying clean on the red front. 

He's mellowed down with age?

Well.. yeah... he's more of a "champagne" centre-half now, preferring to be comfortable and clever on the ball rather than charging around looking for a tackle. With a passing percentage of 80%  from over 700 passes this year, he fits in with the Spanish vogue of being good with your feet at the back. It's no wonder Barcelona have been looking at him to solve their underlying defensive "crisis".

By the way, if any greater indication was needed about his ability on the ball, why not watch a video of him scoring 2, yes 2, goals from the half-way line. Eat your heart out Beckham.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Well, that's a good question because we've had to go to the far east to find this attacking midfielder playing in Qatar for Al Ain. Well, we discovered him during a morning perusal of the Guardian who say he's a summer transfer target for Manchester City.

Manchester City eh? How come we've not heard of him?

A 21 year old tucked away in the obscurity of Al Ain is not going to be high on everybody's agenda list but Manchester City are well ahead of us, you, and most others as they have already tried to bring Abdulrahman (a tongue-twister for any commentator) to England but faced problems over his work permit. 

City academy chief Brian Marwood said, after the UAE striker had a trial at Eastlands, "we enjoyed having him with us... he is a very talented young player. We will continue to monitor him and we are aware of how he's developing".

A Qatari owned club signing a talented Qatari will be g££d won't it?

Go easy on the cynicism now. You would think that City would be looking to expand on their Asian market with a move for this talented afro-haired youngster who his coach, Cosmin Olaroiu, has said "could play anywhere he is that talented". Benfica have also been interested after he lead his country to a Gold Cup success in January and if he does move to Europe he will be the first Emirati to do so. HOW'S THAT FOR A STAT! EH?

So it's not all marketing bluster then?

Oh heavens no. This lad can actually play. He looks like a cross between a young Michael Jackson and Brian May (picture; here)  and he has a lot of physical growing to do at such a junior age, but his technical skills and ability to create between the lines has got Manchester City doing their best to lure him to England.  

For a more in-depth look at the player, read this;


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Schalke's 17 year old attacking midfielder who is following in the footsteps of Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Benedikt Howedes in being highly rated products off the conveyor belt at the Gelenkirchen club. He has this season made his Bundesliga debut***** and having witnessed Ozil and Lewis Holtby all move onto bright futures after breaking in at Schalke, Meyer has ambitions to follow.

Another German talent? Ah.... zzzzzz.....

Ah come on... don't be like that!? They may have produced a plethora of talent that has seen them dominate national championships at youth level and look set to follow the success on the senior level, but they are making fine technical players who are good to watch. Meyer is one of those, he can use both feet comfortably, can use intelligent movement to find space in the final third and can thread a killer ball through to the attackers, making him a clever, intricate, creative playmaker with an intelligence beyond his 17 years.

17!? This lad seems to be the real deal?

He's been incredibly prolific at youth level so if that's any indication, then he's going to go very far indeed. He notably impressed at the U-17 European Championship and led Germany to the final, finishing as the tournament’s top goalscorer in the process. His 2011/12 season as a whole was phenomenal though, scoring 24 goals and assisting a further 17 in all competitions, a remarkable record considering his position and age. 

Later in that year he was awarded the Fritz Walter Silver Medal award for his age group and this season was taken to Schalke's Winter training camp after hitting 11 goals in 15 games for the under-19s. He played in an exhibition game against Bayern Munich which caused Schalke's head coach Jens Keller to wax lyrical "you don't expect to see anybody play the ball the way he did in a game like this" he said.

Will he be playing for Schalke soon then?

Sporting Director Horst Heldt has said he may be promoted early, and if he is you will see a versatile attacker who can glide past markers with a dribble, making him comfortable in playing right across an attacking midfield 3, like Mario Gotze in that he is equally at home on the wing. Although he has shown his scoring touch in the youth teams, he remains more of a creator, choosing to pass to others who are in better positions than go for goal himself. 

He's very small too isn't he?

Yep, he is. He stands at 5ft 7 inches in fact, the same height as his role model Lionel Messi "I can learn a lot from him. He is the best player in the world and always remains humble" he said. He said it, not us, but if he does end up with just a fraction of the ability Messi has, he will be one very special player. Schalke have high hopes for him and in a club that are lacking somebody to piece all the fluid attacking play together, Meyer could make his long-awaited break through sooner or later.

****** he made his debut against Mainz and played a huge role in supplying a late equaliser for Michel Bastos. He showed his vast composure and vision by controlling a pass under pressure in the final third and laying it off calmly. He is only 17, this lad will indeed, go very far.

I'll get my college teacher on and suggest some further reading:

Monday, 11 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Sporting Lisbon's 21 year old striker who, as a result of his club's dreadful form in Portugal this season (they've won just 5 times) as well as their financial troubles, has been linked with a summer move to the heart of England with West Bromwich Albion.

Any good then?

Hmmmmm..... not really. He has just 1 goal to his name from 16 Liga Sagres appearances this season (he netted 2 more in the Europa League)  but with West Brom poised to lose on-loan Romelu Lakaku back to Chelsea and Peter Odemwingie currently in limbo following his January window madness, Steve Clarke will be looking to bolster his forward line in the off-season. That could mean a move for Carrillo who can play behind the striker or out on the wing, offering a good burst of pace while he does it.

Is Clarke blind!??! His scoring record is, well, not exactly good...

We are not really in a position to pass judgement on the standard of the West Brom boss' vision, but you are right, it is poor. But that's where his pace and trickery come in. He's more at home taking defenders on and running the ball into the heart of the attacking third rather than getting shots away. Because of his fondness for a weaving, jinking dribble, he is nicknamed "the Snake".

And plenty more improving to do at 21?

That's it, he is only just developing into Jesualdo Ferreira's squad but having shown glimpses of the talent that makes the Peruvian one of the highest-rated talents in Portugal, and there is a feeling he can grow into an impressive player. That is a feeling not lost on Athletico Madrid who are also rumoured to be interested in the player as Sporting could be tempted to cash in on Carrillo, who is still seen as an exterior figure in the squad, to ease the mounting debts.

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is Feyenoord's 21 year old central defender who can also play left-back. This lad is a talent. Despite his age, he has already made 7 appearances for the full Dutch national side. Ronald Koeman, his club manager, has said he will be the Netherlands' first-choice left back for the next ten years.

So what has he got? 

Strength, an ability in the air that rarely sees him lose an aerial challenge despite his sub-6ft frame and discipline in the tackle. Should he get beaten by an opponent, the defender also has impressive pace at his disposal in order to bail him out. Furthermore, like all good Dutch footballers, drilled in the verse of Johann Cruyff-taught "Total Football", he is perfectly adept at building the ball out from the back.

Does he have any weaknesses?

Of course he has, he's only 21, he's not going to be a world-beater at that youthful age. He can often be reckless in charging forward to leave his position vacant, but that will improve as he matures further. Despite all the media hype over his precocious talent however, he remains perfectly calm under pressure and it is a trait that has not gone unnoticed by Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal who has installed him as a permanent choice. 

Valuation? And who's interested?

Currently, he is valued at around £5.5 million but that figure can easily rise if clubs are queuing up for his signature in the summer. Spurs are the English club who have been linked with the Portuguese-born defender who will be a huge asset with his versatility. 

You can also read this about Spurs' interest in the Feyenoord man who once said he wanted to become one of the best defenders in the world I once said that I want to become one of the best defenders in the world. I'm not there yet, but I'm on the right path," he said.


Who is he? Where does he play?

With Arsene Wenger's Arsenal empire crumbling down around him whilst he faces constant criticism about a transfer policy that relies on unproven youngsters from mainland Europe while all the other clubs go around snaffling up all the proven, experienced quality, he is planning on fixing things by going in for another unproven youngster.

His name is Yaya Sanogo, he is 20 and he plays in Ligue 2 for Auxerre as a striker. 

Sounds like a Wenger-type of player then?

He certainly does. As they face their eighth consecutive year without a trophy, what better way than to get the fans, disillusioned by the sales of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and co. back onside than to go in for an infant striker who has not played at any higher level than the France under-21s? Well, lambast Wenger all you want, the fact is he's a fan of the youthful striker.

Any reason why? Or is he just becoming a parody of himself?

He's a constant goal-scorer. 18 goals in 18 games for the French under-16s, 9 goals in 16 games for the under 17s and, after battling with a tibia injury in 2011, he has bagged 8 goals in fourteen games this season for Auxerre as they look to get back to Ligue 1. That included a goal-crazy February in which he scored 7 goals in a week, putting four past Laval then smashing a hat-trick, seven days later, against Tours.

Just a goal-scoring machine then?

He has an impressive physique, standing at an imposing 6ft 3, and he can either beat a man with his electrifying pace, or latch onto the end of a pass with his agility and physical strength. He is solid in the air and possesses a fine technical ability that allows him to finish strongly and find a variety of ways to unlock defences. 

In the fine words of the Bleacher Report they say: 
As Sanogo matures and continues to learn how to make runs, and use his strengths inside a system, he can take himself to that next level. The team who secures his services from Auxerre will be getting themselves a diamond who is ready to shine.

In their report, they compare him to Theirry Henry, and have a neat little video of Sanogo scoring and doing a lot of impressive stuff. It can be read here;

Anything else to add?

Well, Sanogo is still a work in progress standing at just 20 and you can see why Wenger, who has previously plucked Abou Diaby and Bacary Sagna from Auxerre, rates him as a future prospect. However, he will be rivaled for his signature by the likes of Lyon and Lille who have also registered an interest in the Ivorian-born forward