Saturday, June 30, 2012

D-Day in Sig saga: Gylfi Sigurdsson to choose between Liverpool and Tottenham in next 24 hours

“The bottom line is he just wants to play and the main thing football-wise is to find the right team which will suit him the most," says his fatherGylfi Sigurdsson will choose ­Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur in the next 24 hours, according to his father Sigurdur ­Adalsteinsson.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

The in-demand Hoffenheim ­midfielder has been the subject of the most-talked about transfer this ­summer.
Swansea and Reading, as well as German giants Bayern Munich, have also expressed their interest in the £8million-rated star, who came from nowhere to light up the Premier League during his six-month loan spell at the Liberty Stadium.
But the 22-year-old Icelandic international’s decision on where his long-term future lies appears to have ­whittled down to a straight shoot-out between being reunited with ex-Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers at Anfield or joining managerless ­Tottenham, who are expected to name Andre Villas-Boas as their new ­manager this week.
Adalsteinsson said: “Gylfi wants to play at the highest level possible – every player wants to do that – but the opportunity has to be right.
“He hasn’t made up his mind yet. There are plenty of clubs interested in him. There are some in Germany, but Gylfi wants to play in England.
“The main aim for Gylfi is to be in as good a team as he can be and play for the best club possible.
“He is no different to anyone else.
“Liverpool and Tottenham are both in Europe next season so that is not the question.
“I have seen the stories that he is demanding a certain amount of money per week and they are rubbish. He just wants a normal salary and to be on the same as other players at the club.
“The bottom line is he just wants to play and the main thing football-wise is to find the right team which will suit him the most.
“It always helps when you know the coach like Brendan Rodgers. He is a very good trainer. But does that mean Liverpool? Maybe, maybe not.
“He is thinking what is best to do and will have a decision by Sunday.”           

Liverpool look to Lloris as Reina replacement: One in, one out between the sticks at Anfield

French source claim Olympique Lyonnais stopper is Liverpool's top choice should Reina quitLiverpool are keen on French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as rumours persist AC Milan are plotting a swoop for Pepe Reina.

Hugo Lloris
French source 10 Sport claim the Olympique Lyonnais stopper is Liverpool's top choice should Reina quit Anfield.
The 25-year-old France international is thought to be settled at Lyon, although chairman Jean-Michel Aaulas said before Euro 2012 that the keeper had told him he could be tempted by an offer from a "great European club".           
Milan were last week linked with the Spanish keeper, who arrived at Anfield in 2005 from Villarreal, as they look to sign a top keeper to replace the aging Christian Abbiati.
Reina, 29, claimed in a recent interview Liverpool are not the club that he and Fernando Torres had joined.
Reina is currently away at Euro 2012 with Spain and has not yet met new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers.

Hamann: Liverpool need time to rebuild

Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann believes that the Reds will need some time before they can return to their former glory in the Premier League.

Liverpool FC
Hamann cemented his name in Liverpool folklore following his effort in stopping AC Milan star Kaka in the 2005 Champions League Final which enabled his side to comeback three goals down to a 3-3 draw and claim the trophy via penalty shoot out.
The Liverpool legend was in Singapore to hold a football clinic with local side Albirex Niigata and show off his skills at the opening of local futsal pitch Stadio@Canberra.
In an exclusive interview with, Hamann shared his thoughts on his former side Liverpool and the state of English football in general.
The Reds ended last season with a dismal 52 points in eighth place, behind local rivals Everton and closer in points to the relegation zone than to a Champions League spot. 
The 39-year-old feels that Liverpool will have to take time in order to rebuld and return themselves with new signings to the status as a powerhouse in English football after the disappointing campaign.
He said: "They ended the season 17 points behind the top four. If they can close the gap to five to eight points, I think that would be a good season for them. I can't see them finishing inside the top four, not with the two Manchester clubs, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea around. It will be a tough task.
"To make up sixteen points within a year without bringing in any players (editor's note: Liverpool have not signed anyone in this window so far), it's a big ask of Brendan Rodgers. I think the best we can hope for is to be back in the Champions League in two or three years time, which will be an achievement."
Speaking on the decision to replace Kenny Dalglish with Rodgers, Hamann feels that the Liverpool board made the right decision.
Despite winning the League Cup and reaching the FA Cup Final, the former Germany international feels that Dalglish's series of mistakes did not warrant him another season at the helm.
"Winning League Cup isn't enough - you need to be in the Champions League these days," said Hamann, "He made too many mistakes on and off the pitch. The way he handled the Suarez affair was a disgrace for Liverpool football club. 
"I think they lost a lot of credit and cedibility, especially in Asia. I was in Malaysia at that time, where people were very upset when Suarez didn't shake Suarez's hand and even put the shirts on in support of Suarez.
"I think they (Liverpool) lacked leadership last season and the club made the right decision.
"I think in Rodgers now they have a man who's ambitious, who's young. I think he'll do well. They will need four or five players. I don't know if they got the money to buy any, but I'm hopeful. I'm more hopeful than I was last year.
Having worked under Sven Goran Eriksson as his assistant at Leicester City and taken charge of Stockport County last season, Hamann is looking to take the next step into management and is currently taking his last UEFA Coaching License. However, he still hasn't made plans and isn't ruling anything out at the moment.
"I want to finish my qualifications first. I finish it next year, and then we'll see. 
"I'm not dreaming where I'll be at in three, five or ten years. The next job is always the most important, so I finish that, see what's coming up and take it from there."

Platini: Euro 2020 all over Europe

The 2020 European Championship could be spread across 12 or 13 cities around Europe, rather than being staged in just one or two countries, UEFA president Michel Platini said on Saturday.

Michel Platini at Euro 2012
"The Euros in 2020 could be held all over Europe," Platini told a news conference.
"You could have one country with 12 host cities, or we could have it in 12 or 13 cities all over Europe. It is just an idea, but in these days of cheap air travel anything is possible.
"The majority of the executive committee thinks it's a good idea and says we should really have a good think about this.
"We are going to have a meeting with all of our national federations coming up to December and in Decemeber or January we're are going to make a decision."
Turkey had been favourite to host the event in eight years' time but their bid has been complicated by Istanbul's campaign to also host the Olympic Games in the same year.
Platini said the idea for a multi-country Euros came to him "a while ago" and had been met with interest from his excecutive.
"It's an idea I feel really passionate about, it will be a lot easier from a financial perspective for all the countries.
"If you need to build airports or 10 stadiums in a country, this would be rather easy because it would be one stadium per host city. That's all we can say at the moment.
"We have not decided anything yet, but by January we will decide if we are going to have the Euros in one country or all over Europe."
UEFA originally set a deadline of mid-May for hosts to express an interest, but although they said two or three countries other than Turkey had done so, they did not name them publicly.
One reason for UEFA not making them public is because clearly they were not satisfied the interested countries could stage the event, hence Platini's idea for a multi-country tournament.
Platini said during the UEFA Congress in Istanbul recently that he would support a Turkey bid, but has now retreated somewhat from that stance, saying on Saturday: "We are not going to wait until we know whether Turkey are going to get the Olympics.
"It creates a problem for us. We do have other candidates.
"Everyone has the possibility to host it."
When asked how fans would be expected to attend the matches if they wanted to travel around Europe, he replied that in this day of cheap air travel, movement around Europe was not as prohibitive as it once was.
"And it is easier to go from London to Paris or Berlin than Cardiff to Gdansk," the Frenchman said.
"It would be four games per venue. It is a great debate."
Platini's plan is not without merit. It means that matches could be staged in a number of cities around the continent, in a way, bringing the Euros to the fans, rather than the other way round.
The singlular, or co-hosting identity of the tournament might be lost, but fans in some unlikely places could see matches in their home cities.
The next Euros, in France in 2016, will comprise 24 teams, but Platini said it was unlikely the Euros would expand to 32 teams as it may reduce in quality.
"And anyway the World Cup is 32 teams, its enough. When we go to 24 teams the quality will not suffer. We have plenty of good teams in Europe who could qualify, and there will be more matches in the stadiums, but 32 is too many," he said.
The current tournament, the last to comprise 16 teams and staged in Poland and Ukraine, ends with the final between Spain and Italy in Kiev on Sunday.
By Reuters | Eurosport

Liverpool FC target Salomon Kalou to decide future next month

Salomon Kalou, who has been linked with a number of clubs including Arsenal and Liverpool, has revealed he will make a decision about his future when he returns from holiday.

Salomon Kalou
The former Chelsea striker was released by Chelsea at the end of the last month and has been linked with a number of clubs in recent weeks.

As well as interest from Arsenal and Liverpool, Tottenham have been linked with the Ivory Coast international, along with Lille, Schalke, former club Feyenoord, and several clubs from Italy and Spain.

The 26-year-old is currently on holiday in the United States, and will consider his options when he returns next month.

Speaking after playing in Steve Nash's Showdown, a charity event for underprivileged children staged annually by the NBA's two-time MVP, Kalou told "Right now, it's hard to say because right now I'm here to enjoy my holiday.

"After that, I will decide my future."

Kalou's representative, Rodger Linse, earlier this month noted he was aware of interest from Liverpool and Schalke, and told the Liverpool Echo that his client would be happy to remain in the Premier League next season.

"He has been very happy at Chelsea," he said.

"He is a player with ambition, and he has managed to satisfy a lot of those ambitions over the last few years.

"He never quite made it to be a guaranteed starter with Chelsea, but his statistics were always good, and he won lots of trophies there.

"In many ways it will be difficult to find a better place to be, but he is open-minded, and would be happy to continue in England if the right club comes in."

Reports: Spurs to sign AVB, Siggurdson

Reports from Sky Sports claim that former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas is set to join Tottenham over the weekend, with Gylfi Siggurdson set to be his first signing.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is ready to give the Portuguese a second crack at Premier League management just four months after the end of his short spell at Chelsea.
Villas-Boas is as short as 1/14 to replace Harry Redknapp, and Tottenham cleared the decks for his arrival by confirming the departures of coaches Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond on Thursday.
Sky Sports have reported that an announcement sometime over the weekend can be expected to unveil the nw manager at White Hart Lane.

Gylfi Siggurdson

Gareth Bale's decision to extend his deal will be welcome, but the former Porto boss has a fight on his hands to keep Luka Modric.
Modric is again being linked with Real Madrid and is on record saying he wants to leave for a club in the Champions League.
But, according to former Real star Guti, the Croatian is not good enough for the Bernabeu.
"He hasn't even been the key man for Tottenham," Guti said. "I don't think he's done enough to play for Madrid."

Spain v Italy: Head-to-head

Ahead of the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy, we rate the teams' players and coaches out of 10.

Andres Iniesta and Andrea Pirlo have been Euro 2012's outstanding players (Reuters)
The marks we have handed to the players we expect to take to the field in Kiev reflect their performances at Euro 2012 so far, rather than their overall ability or quality.
Manager: Vicente del Bosque - 6
It may seem somewhat perverse to award a rather low mark to a coach who has taken his side to the final, but that is the minimum requirement for a Spain side who have actually looked unconvincing at times. But for a save from Iker Casillas against Croatia they could have been eliminated at the group stage and they had to endure penalties to see off Portugal in the semi-final. Del Bosque's tactics in attack have also been uncertain, with a major tournament arguably not the best place to suddenly start playing Cesc Fabregas as a number nine. Meanwhile, choosing Alvaro Negredo for the position against Portugal was downright bizarre.
GK: Iker Casillas - 8
Casillas has spent large spells of Euro 2012 as a passive observer watching Spain dominate possession ahead of him, yet it is a mark of his ability that when suddenly called upon he has been up to the task. This was perfectly demonstrated when he made a fine save from Ivan Rakitic's header against Croatia and Spain's captain has been largely impeccable, conceding only once in five games at the tournament.
RB: Alvaro Arbeloa - 6
The Real Madrid defender found himself in the starting XI following an injury to Carles Puyol that pulled Sergio Ramos in from the right and he has had a mixed tournament despite playing every minute for Spain. Usually defensively sound enough, Arbeloa had a tough evening in the semi-final against Portugal when faced with attempting to contain club-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao.
CB: Gerard Pique - 8
Another ever-present, Pique has been at his classy best at Euro 2012, combining expert defending with genuine ability on the ball. Though Antonio Di Natale posed him a few problems in Spain's opening game against Italy, Pique's signature performance was dulling the threat posed by Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty shoot-out win over Portugal in the semi-final.
CB: Sergio Ramos - 9
Was expected to perform at right-back in Poland and Ukraine but following an injury to Puyol has struck up a superb partnership with Pique. Ramos has been arguably the best centre-back at the tournament and the way he helped nullify Ronaldo in the semi-final was a masterpiece of athleticism and anticipation. The Real Madrid defender also had the audacity to chip home a Panenka penalty in the shoot-out, demonstrating his burgeoning confidence following a fine run of form.
LB: Jordi Alba - 9
One of the revelations of the tournament. Alba had only won five caps for Spain prior to the start of the finals but his energetic performances down the left have been a key feature of their success to date. Alba has combined well with Iniesta and has brought penetration and energy to a Spain side that is otherwise focused on mesmeric passing. It was no surprise to learn he has earned a move to Barcelona from Valencia.
CM: Sergio Busquets - 7
Performs a crucial role for Spain as he looks to destroy while his more coveted team-mates create. That may be a bit of a generalisation, as Busquets is also a passer of some repute himself, but the Barcelona star is generally happy to let others take the limelight. His unfussy displays - characterised by important interceptions and high-tempo pressing - have helped Spain to dominate game after game after game.
CM: Xavi - 8
The global master of passing is yet to pick up an assist at these finals and there is an argument that Xavi has been a touch below his best, after all it was the Barcelona midfielder who was surprisingly sacrificed by Del Bosque when Spain brought on Jesus Navas just before the onset of extra time against Portugal. However, Xavi has of course been key in imposing Spain's tiki-taka, his 136 passes against Ireland setting a new record for the European Championship, and even when not at his peak he remains a class apart.
CM: Xabi Alonso - 8
Alonso has performed with class and composure alongside Xavi in a deep position and settled the quarter-final against France with two goals on his 100th international appearance. It is not often that Alonso's work overshadows that of Xavi but his match-winning performance against France did just that.
AM: Andres Iniesta - 9
Simply sublime. Iniesta has been surpassed by only Andrea Pirlo at these finals and has been largely untouchable for Spain. His faultless use of the ball has allowed la Roja to dominate their opponents at almost every turn, while his assist for Navas against Croatia proved crucial in a tense contest. Whether operating off the left or through the centre, Iniesta has been the nerve centre of Spain's passing game.
AM: Cesc Fabregas - 7
Has flitted in and out of the team with Del Bosque failing to make up his mind over whether to play Fabregas as a false nine or Torres or Negredo as a more conventional striker. Fabregas has performed the role well when required, scoring against both Spain and Ireland in the group stage as well as helping to create the goal against Croatia when dropping off the front. His fluid movement and clever link-up play has been an asset when faced with sides intent on stifling Spain.
AM: David Silva - 8
Silva started the finals at a canter, claiming three assists and a goal in Spain's opening two games, but has tailed off a touch, his performance in the semi-final against Portugal coming as a disappointment. Is vulnerable to an early departure if Spain are struggling to break opponents down but generally the Manchester City star has been in excellent form, his movement and use of the ball essential to Spain's attacking strategy.
TEAM TOTAL: 93/120
Manager: Cesare Prandelli - 9
The former Fiorentina boss has been the most tactically diverse of any coach at Euro 2012, starting out with a back three and then switching to a back four for the final group game against Ireland. The way he steered Italy past England and Germany in the knockout stages, playing ambitious, positive football, was hugely impressive. Prandelli has brought the best out of players such as Mario Balotelli while coping with injury problems in defence and has been the best coach at the tournament.
GK: Gianluigi Buffon - 8
A near faultless tournament for the man who, along with Sunday's opponent, is one of the globe's very best goalkeepers. Buffon has conceded only three goals in five games and Italy rely heavily on his authority and extreme ability in the penalty area.
RB: Ignazio Abate - 7
Came in to face Ireland for the final group game in place of the more attacking Christian Maggio as Prandelli switched to a back four and was very impressive in the quarter-final victory over England. He missed the semi-final against Germany due to injury but is expected to return as Italy look to shackle Andres Iniesta.
CB: Andrea Barzagli - 7
Returned from injury to play against Ireland and has been a calming presence in the knockout stages. Barzagli, a title-winner with Juventus, is a certain pick whether Italy play with a back three or a back four, as they are expected to do against Spain.
CB: Leonardo Bonucci - 8
His place seemed in doubt prior to the tournament when he was linked with the match-fixing investigation gripping Italian football, but the Juve defender has had an impressive campaign. He was dropped against Ireland as Barzagli returned to the side but then came on as a substitute for the injured Chiellini and has kept his place ever since, his form forcing Chiellini to move to left-back. Bonucci made a number of important tackles in the first two group games and has grown as the tournament has progressed.
LB: Giorgio Chiellini - 7
Returned from injury for the semi-final victory over Germany and is expected to be deployed at left-back again as he offers a more commanding defensive presence than Federico Balzaretti. Chiellini is a beast of a defender and has been a key component of a well-functioning and flexible Italy defence.
DM: Daniele De Rossi - 9
Was shunted into an unfamiliar defensive role for the first game against Spain but coped superbly with the challenge of keeping out world football's most talented side. The Roma vice-captain has been in fine form for the Azzurri and slotted naturally back into midfield for the final group game, where he has remained ever since. His snappy tackling and sharp passing has been a prominent feature of Italy's play.
CM: Claudio Marchisio - 7
His versatility makes him an asset across midfield and the Juventus star has played to a good level at Euro 2012. Marchisio has demonstrated in Poland and Ukraine he has an eye for goal but is yet to register on the scoresheet. It is his energy and application, whether in attacking or defensive phases, that has been impressive, as well as the way he helps bring the best out of Pirlo.
CM: Andrea Pirlo - 10
The player of the tournament so far. Pirlo's performance against a daunting Spain midfield in Italy's first game was sublime as he created Antonio Di Natale's opener with a glorious run and pass. Pirlo then curled home a free kick against Croatia and continued to provide a threat from set-pieces against Ireland. His wonderful movement, vision and passing ability overwhelmed England and he excelled again in the semi-final victory over Germany. Peerless.
CM: Riccardo Montolivo - 7
Montolivo made his first start of Euro 2012 in the quarter-final against England and impressed in an advanced role behind the strikers. He has the ability to open up a defence with a cute pass and is a threat when moving between the lines. It was his pass over the top that set Mario Balotelli away for his second goal against Germany.
ST: Antonio Cassano - 8
Impressed with his creative play against both Spain and Croatia and scored Italy's opening goal in their group win over Ireland. The Milan forward's participation in the tournament was in grave doubt when he required heart surgery in November but he has always been a favourite of Prandelli and is rewarding the coach with some vibrant performances, not least when teeing up Balotelli for the opening goal against Germany.
ST: Mario Balotelli - 8
Made an indelible mark on the tournament with his two goals against Germany and also scored a fine effort in the group stage against Ireland. Balotelli had actually lost his starting place to Antonio Di Natale for the Ireland game but his superior link-up play with Cassano in attack has seen him installed as Prandelli's leading striker.
TEAM TOTAL: 95/120

Friday, June 29, 2012

Prandelli: We are not afraid of Spain

Having gone desperately close to beating La Roja in their opening fixture in Group C, the Azzurri are relishing another crack at Vicente del Bosque's side

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli insists that playing reigning champions Spain in the final of Euro 2012 holds no fear for his troops.
La Roja is bidding to become the first side to win three successive international tournaments and many pundits believe that the current era of dominance owes much to its shoot-out success over the Azzurri in the quarterfinals of Euro 2008.

However, after recording a draw against Vicente del Bosque's side at the start of the current competition, Prandelli feels that just as Spain took its first step on the path to success against Italy, it could easily come to pass that the journey ends against the same opposition.

"We are not afraid of Spain," the 54-year-old told reporters at a press conference on Friday. "We will try to find their weakest point and work on them. 

"It won't be easy, it's their third final in a row and this means they have great qualities. But we have grown since the start of the tournament and now we really are a team. We were fantastic against Germany [in the semifinals]."

Prandelli is under contract for another two years and Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete has already claimed that the former Fiorentina boss will continue until the 2014 World Cup.

However, the coach, who succeeded Marcello Lippi at the helm in 2010, has again indicated that he is seriously considering a return to the club game.

"I will think about my future after Euro 2012," he explained. "The last two months have been very tough."

Prandelli also indicated that not only does he miss working on the training pitch on a daily basis, he also misses the buzz of constant competition.

"It's true that nobody cares about the national team in certain moments," he mused. "We have brought millions of people in the street, but starting from September no one will think about Italy anymore."

Mancini: Balotelli's time has come

The former Azzurri star has claimed that not only did he know that the enigmatic striker would eventually prove his worth, but also that he would score twice against the Germans

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has heaped praise on Mario Balotelli after his charge's stunning double in Italy's 2-1 Euro 2012 semifinal success over Germany on Thursday.
Balotelli has long been considered an enfant terrible because of his propensity for getting into trouble on and off the field. However, Mancini, who coached the striker at Inter and then signed him for City, never lost hope that the 21-year-old would grow up and realize his potential.

"I'm really happy for him," the Italian coach told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "An adjective? Extraordinary. It's the moment that he can pass from being a good player to a great player.

"And against Spain in the final, I expect that he will carry the team. The moment of his consecration has arrived."

Mancini also claimed that he knew Balotelli would net a double against Germany, though he was disappointed that the forward removed his shirt after his second strike, thus earning himself a booking.

"I was sure that Mario would score two goals; I felt it," the former Azzurri international stated. "I thought it was his night and that he would make a difference. 

"What did I think after the second goal? That he would have been able to score another. But it was a shame that he took off his shirt. He should not have gotten himself booked."

Euro 2012: Italian press reacts to 'Super Mario Balotelli' as 'the whole of Italy celebrates'

The Italian press is unanimous in its praise of Mario Balotelli after last night's 2-1 victory over Germany that clinched a place in the final of the Euro 2012.

The Manchester City striker scored two superb goals to fire Italy into Sunday's final against holders Spain at the Olympic stadium in Kiev.
Turin-based sports newspaper Tuttosport were understandably delighted. "Li abbiamo fatti Neri" the paper shouted, with a big picture of Balotelli with his shirt off.
"We made them black!" seems an unfortunate phrase to be using, coming as it does only days after Gazetta dello Sport had to apologise for a cartoon depicting Balotelli as King Kong.
But in Italy the idiom means: "We beat them black and blue". So that's OK then.
Gazzetta were keeping it simple this time: "It's us!!!" followed by a sub-header which reads: "Super Balotelli, the whole of Italy celebrates."
Inside the paper Gazzetta salutes Balotelli as a new star whose stunning brace put the Azzurri in the final of the tournament for the first time since 2000.
The Rome-based Corriere dello Sport shows on its front page a photograph of Balotelli celebrating after scoring his second goal with the headline: "Giants of Italy. Germany beaten 2-1, we are in the final. Balotelli amazing."
Corriere's editorial believes the Azzurri's win could not have come at a better time for the country and for the sport.
Italy is struggling with the worldwide economic crisis while the Azzurri went into Euro 2012 with the match-fixing scandal having hit the nation's football leagues.
The paper writes: "Happiness is restored to the country."
National newspaper Il Messagero also gushes over the national team's display: "Magical Italy," the headline reads.
The paper also highlights Italy's dominance over Germany with a sub-headline that said: "Germany defeated again with a superb Balotelli."
The win ended Germany's 15-match winning streak in competitive games and extends Itlay's unbeaten record against them to eight games.
National newspaper La Repubblica salutes the Azzurri's performance, their best of the tournament so far, and says on its front page: "The perfect game, Azzurri in the final.
"The magical night of super Mario."
Elsewhere, no time is wasted celebrating Italy's superiority over the Germans. German Chancellor Angela Merkel comes in for some particularly gentle ribbing.
The front page of Libero features a picture of Balotelli smashing a ball with her face on it and the headline "Vaffanmerkel", a portmanteau of the leader's name and an Italian phrase which suggests in no uncertain terms that the subject "go forth and multiply now please".
"Grande Italia!" they add. "Germany were dominated and liquidated with two goals from SuperMario Balotelli."
The front-page of Il Giornale continues in a similar vein with a headline that reads: "Ciao Ciao Culona" – "Bye bye, fat bum".
"It's not Monti but Balotelli, who with a double destroys Germany and sends us into the final. Frau Merkel, it's you who is leaving the Euro."
The German press on the other hand, can only talk in terms of nightmares and broken dreams.
Hamburger Morgenpost'front page has a single word "albtraum" – "nightmare".
"Aus! Aus! Der Traum ist Aus!" – "Gone! Gone! The dream is gone!", writes Germany's bestselling tabloid Bild in typically melodramatic fashion.
"Again no great German victory. Again, no title," they wail. "The last one we won was in 1996, 16 years ago." Sixteen years?
"Our heart bleeds. Come back in half a century and we might give you some sympathy.
"And once again we lose to the Italians. The fact remains: in a tournament, we cannot beat them."
"Our beautiful run of 15 competitive victories is broken. Oh, how bitter it tastes! Jogi, where were was your golden touch this time?
"Löw gambles, but what worked so well against Greece was wildly off the mark against Italy. Gomes and Podolski are total failures, and both need to be frozen out in the near future.
"Against Italy our Ozil tornado was just a gentle breeze – and the rest was not up to much. Schweinsteiger is an example – he has been nowhere near his World Cup form, and when it mattered he was very poor."
Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung insist: "The German team must ask itself why they once again produced an error-strewn performance at the end of a major tournament."
Die Welt are blaming the impressively-coiffed coach: "The script of the defeat carries Löw's handwriting".
"He chose the wrong tactics and the result was this bitter elimination."
"History repeats itself," writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"Italy remain Germany's nemesis. Löw's squad rotation doesn't work, and Balotelli's goals put the Italians in the final."

Man Utd, Real Madrid CF or Chelsea FC to sign Luka Modric this summer?

Chelsea, Manchester United, and Real Madrid are all preparing to battle to sign Luka Modric - with Madrid now seen as favourites to secure the services of the Tottenham playmaker this summer.
Luka Modric
Modric, who many expect to join either United or Madrid this summer, has confirmed he wants to play in the Champions League next season.
Although it is not believed Modric has submitted a transfer request, he has given Spurs a clear indication that he is ready to seek a move away from White Hart Lane this summer and talks with the club are scheduled to take place this week.
Chelsea - who failed with several bids for the 26-year-old this time last year, including one worth £40million - are keen, as are Paris Saint-Germain, while Manchester City have previously shown interest.
The Croatia international is believed to be Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson's top summer transfer target, but widespread newspaper reports over the past few days suggested he is keen on a move to Spain.
Tottenham, however, are keen on getting one or two of Jose Mourinho's players in return as they prepare to part company with the midfielder, which could hamper a move to the Bernabeu.
But according to Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, Madrid have already "agreed financial terms and length of contract with the player."
Writing on his official website, the Sky Sports pundit also said Spurs are willing to consider a reduced fee in the region of £25 million from Los Blancos if Nuri Sahin is included in the deal.
Modric is aware, however, that joining Mourinho's side may restrict his chances of first-team football next season.
And according to Balague, he has already been assured a regular place in Ferguson's line-up should he move to Old Trafford.
Modric has not personally stated which club he would like to sign for, but his compatriot, Sporting Gijon striker Mate Bilic, last week had said: "I’m very good friends with Modric. He wants to play in the Spanish league.
"He loves the Premier League but he wants to play in Spain. He’s very close to agreeing a move."

Chelsea FC on alert as Hulk hints at wanting to play alongside David Luiz

Hulk has put Chelsea on alert by hinting that he would be keen to play alongside compatriot David Luiz at club level.

Chelsea are widely seen as favourites to sign the Porto striker this summer, but it is believed they have been unwilling to meet their valuation.

Hulk has a €100million buy-out clause in his contract at the Estadio do Dragao and it is thought Porto are unwilling to let him leave the club for less than €40m.

The 25-year-old, who has also been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, has admitted in recent interviews that he is ready to leave Portugal this summer should the right offer come his way.

And he will have alerted Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo by praising Blues defender Luiz.

"I am playful and get along well with everyone," Hulk told Globoesporte.

"But my companion was David Luiz at Sao Paulo and Vitoria early in my career. He is a great friend and today is a pleasure to play alongside him."

Of his future, he added: "I'm not desperate to leave Porto. "I love the Portuguese fans and have always been right with the club.

"But, if a club to reach an agreement with Porto, I will leave."

Porto president Pinto da Costa last week insisted he is yet to receive any firm offers for his prize asset.
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Report: Reds scout Lacina Traore

Liverpool have been linked with Russian outfit Kuban Krasnodar's tall striker Lacina Traore, according to the Daily Express.

Lacina Traore
The latest round of rumours indicate that Liverpool are still interested in a suitable forward to pair up with Luis Suarez and offer Andy Carroll further competition in the first team. The club's pursuit of Bologna's Gaston Ramirez has hit a stumbling block following the Serie A side's reluctance to discuss a transfer for the player and new manager Brendan Rodgers has cast his net wide in order to find a suitable first signing. 
His scouts have explored players from the Russian Premier League and have recommended the colossal 2.03-metre Ivorian striker, who was also the third-highest scorer in the league last season with 18 goals. He had earlier impressed in a stint with Cluj in Romania, where he scored 14 goals from 41 appearances over three seasons before securing a €6 million move to the Russian side in 2011.
Traore, 21, has yet to play for the Ivory Coast national team and would cost a reported fee of £6.4 million. He would likely play as a conventional target man in the mould of ex-Liverpool forward Peter Crouch but he also has the ability to fire dangerous shots from distance. 
Meanwhile, Liverpool are facing stiff competition for Gylfi Sigurdsson and the Sun reports that they could divert their attention in the coming weeks towards Wigan's Victor Moses instead. The Nigerian is being courted by Chelsea and has admitted that he would be open to a move to a bigger club in the summer. 

Balotelli stars in coming-of-age drama

 Balotelli fires past Philipp Lahm to kill off Germany's hopes

Isn't it reassuring to know that any team, even one with all the current and historical might of Germany, can have a bogey side?
Joachim Loew's young guns may have been many people's favourites to win Euro 2012, and they went into their semi-final against Italy on the back of a 15-game winning streak in competitive games that stretched back to the last World Cup.
We looked on course for the final everyone was expecting, Europe's two best teams providing a fitting showpiece to what has been a highly enjoyable tournament. A rematch of the final at Euro 2008 and the semi-final in South Africa two years ago that would be the chance either for Spain to complete their historic hat-trick or Germany to gain revenge.
But then Mario Balotelli - a player with little time for the crowbarred narratives and worthy significance the media likes to project on to the results of football matches - scored a brace which sealed a 2-1 win that gave the tournament its defining result and extended Italy's unbeaten run over their cross-Alpine rivals to eight matches.
The 1970 World Cup semi-final saw the Azzurri beat the Mannschaft 4-3 after extra time, with five goals scored in that additional 30 minutes, so no wonder it was dubbed 'Game of the Century'. The 1982 final of the same competition was a storming 3-1 win for the Italians, while another World Cup semi in 2006 saw Germany cruelly beaten in extra time in their own back yard. Last night's performance in Warsaw can sit comfortably alongside those memorable results.
Balotelli has never looked more in the mood than he did at the Stadio Narodowy. So often when he scores he tries a little too hard to show he's not at all bothered, like a sulky teenager desperate not to show any weakness.
But against Germany there was no ambivalent shrug of the shoulders, no cocky folding of arms. Balotelli celebrated his historic two-goal salvo - the first goals ever scored by Italy in a European Championship semi-final - by exploding with emotion for the first and whipping off his shirt to reveal a muscle-bound torso only Jodie Marsh can rival for the second, an emphatic strike from the edge of the box.
It was a celebration every bit as iconic as Marco Tardelli's tears of '82, and even though it happened in only the 36th minute, it seemed to mark no way back for the Germans.
Despite becoming Italy's first ever Premier League winner only last month, Balotelli entered into this tournament as a young player with an army of doubters as big as his cult following. The flashes of brilliance he has showed for Manchester City, and his lone goal for his national team before Euro 2012 kicked off, had many questioning if he would become another of football's long list of unfulfilled talents.
This is a player once described by Jose Mourinho as "unmanageable" during their time together at Inter. The stark dichotomy of his precocious quality and pointless stupidity was encapsulated during a European Under-21s match in 2009 when he opened the scoring against Sweden with a wonderful curling strike, only to then get needlessly sent off for a retaliatory attack on Pontus Wernbloom.
But now, still only 21 years of age, he goes into the final of a European Championship as Italy's joint-highest scorer in the history of the competition and favourite to claim the Golden Boot outright.
At the end of Italy's quarter-final win over England, while the rest of the squad was celebrating Alessandro Diamanti scoring the decisive penalty, Balotelli went over to console his City team-mate Joe Hart. After the final whistle last night, there were emotional scenes as he went up to the crowd and embraced his adoptive mother.
"My mother was in the stadium and my father was watching it on television," said Balotelli after the match.
"I scored two goals in front of my mother and I would like to score four in front of my father in Kiev in the final!
"My favourite moment was when I embraced my mum after the match."
One excellent performance in a big game does not wipe the slate clean of all his past indiscretions, a long list ranging from screwball comedy to outbursts of violence, but last night's destruction of Germany had the feel of a young player ready to take his job seriously.
Despite their win over Portugal by the narrowest of margins in their own semi-final, Spain still go into the final against Italy as favourites to lift the trophy. The experience and quality running through the defending champions completely justifies their pricing at almost 1/2 to claim an unprecedented third-straight major title.
But if Balotelli can prove that his performance against Germany is the mark of newfound maturity, and deliver another top display in tandem with Player of the Tournament-elect Andrea Pirlo, then Italy will feel they have a fighting chance of upsetting the odds once again.
As Italy manager Cesare Prandelli put it after the win over Germany: "Mario is rather unique, he's atypical.
"The career of Mario Balotelli has only just begun."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Modric to Real Madrid CF? Jovetic to Chelsea FC? Sahin to Tottenham?

The Sun: Spain remain spot-on to become the first team to win three international tournaments in succession. 
Luka Modric

Also: Roy Hodgson last night slammed Fabio Capello for taking a 'cheap' shot at Wayne Rooney.

And: Luka Modric plans to submit a written transfer at Tottenham in the next seven days to trigger a £30million-plus tug-of-war between Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Plus: Gareth Bale last night committed himself to Spurs - with Andre Villas-Boas set to be his new boss...have told Manchester City and Chelsea to forget about signing Edinson Cavani.

Daily Mirror: Roy Hodgson has hit back at Fabio Capello for his attack on Wayne Rooney. 

Also: Andre Villas-Boas was given a boost yesterday when Gareth Bale signed a new four-year deal.

Daily Star: Cesc Fabregas held his nerve to send Spain into the Euro 2012 final last night. 

Also: Roy Hodgson last night accused Fabio Capello of being cheap for taking a swipe at Wayne Rooney.

And: Gareth Bale yesterday signed a new £5m-a-year deal with Tottenham and promised to help deliver Champions League football again.

Plus: Chelsea are thought to be moving closer to agreeing a deal for Fiorentina striker Stevan Jovetic.

Daily Mail: Roy Hodgson has gone to war with Fabio Capello, accusing his predecessor as England manager of taking a 'cheap' shot at Wayne Rooney.

Also: Tottenham could ease the blow of losing Luka Modric by landing Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin in exchange.

Daily Express: Roy Hodgson has rounded on Fabio Capello for criticising Wayne Rooney's performances at Euro 2012, claiming his predecessor is guilty of a 'cheap' attack on the striker.

Daily Telegraph: Cesc Fabregas sent Spain into their third successive major final with the winning kick in a dramatic Euro 2012 semi-final penalty shoot-out in which Cristiano Ronaldo's gamble on taking Portugal's last spot-kick backfired. 

Also: Roy Hodgson has accused Fabio Capello of making a 'cheap' jibe at Wayne Rooney over the striker's lacklustre performance at Euro 2012.

The Times: Andre Villas-Boas, Tottenham Hotspur's manager-elect, has been kept informed of the club's attempts to strengthen their squad for next season as he waits to be announced officially as Harry Redknapp's replacement on Sunday. 

Also: Roy Hodgson expressed disappointment yesterday with Fabio Capello, his predecessor as England manager, for making 'cheap' comments about Wayne Rooney.

The Guardian: A penalty shootout began Spain's era and a penalty shootout kept it going. The dream of a unique treble is still alive.

The Independent: The first of the European Championship semi-finals went to penalties last night after a frustrating 120 minutes in Donetsk.
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