Recent Post

31 Juli 2008

Villa And Silva Will Stay - Albiol

Both players have been courted by a number of top-European sides including Chelsea, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter.  

There were fears that Los Che were ready to off load them in order to alleviate some of their financial troubles but Albiol insists that neither player was ever going to leave.  

“Both Villa and Silva are tranquil and they have every ambition to stay here and succeed for many years to come,” Albiol told Marca.  

“We want them to stay and I think they want to remain as well. They are happy here at Valencia and I strongly believe they will be here next term also.  

“Everyone is happy here and we have big ambitions for the coming season. We want to win and enjoy a great campaign.”  

Valencia were a far cry from their usual selves last term and they finished mid-table after suffering a major blip midway through the season.  

Los Che will now be hoping to race up the La Liga table as well as challenge for major honours when the new season begins.  

Ambrosini: We Did Better Than Expected

Ambrosini was impressed with the Rossoneri’s triumph in the Trofeo Tim, but more importantly he was very satisfied with the display of the entire team in both games.

“It went better than we had imagined because after just four days of preparation it’s normal not to be at your best,” declared the midfielder.

“Until the first half we played quite well, but then we had to wait for an hour before our second game and starting again was more difficult.”

Ambrosini saw Juventus in better shape from the physical point of view, but he is not worried by this fact.

“Juventus proved to be physically a step ahead of us and Inter, but these are games which serve to put the squad in the right condition,” he explained.

“I saw a great commitment by everyone and Milan did well.”

Glenn Debattista,

Keane Already Feels Like A Real Red

Keane got his first run-out in Liverpool red shirt against Villarreal yesterday after making a high profile switch from Tottenham Hotspur earlier this week for £19million plus potential add-ons.

Although the Republic of Ireland hitman did not manage to break the scoreless stalemate, he was involved in many of the visitors' best moves during the half that he was on the pitch.

"I'm settling in just fine and it was good to get 45 minutes under my belt with my new team-mates," enthused the new Liverpool No. 7 to the club's official website.

"It has been a busy few days but I feel I am settling in well. I have trained a little with the lads, got in some match action and it is going fine.

"It was useful to get the first game out of the way. I have only had a couple of 45-minute spells in build-up games with Spurs against lower-league opposition, so it was good to play against a good side like Villarreal. It was a good work-out for me," he added.

"There is massive potential here. Just look at the players that were used in the first half, and then another fine bunch after the break.

"There are a lot of quality players here and I am just delighted to be amongst it all."

The 28-year-old did not yet get the opportunity to team up with Fernando Torres in what is being heralded as a dream partnership, but knows it is just a matter of time.

"I know I did not get to play alongside Fernando but I am sure any partnership will work well, but only time will tell.

"He's a tremendous player and it will be great to play up front alongside him. But it is up to the pair of us to make it work."

"We haven't had much chance yet to work together, but over the next few weeks I am sure I will get to know him better, and the rest of the lads.

Derek Wanner,

Anelka To Scolari: Get Robinho

The Blues have made no secret of their desire to lure Robinho away from the Santiago Bernabeu, and have supposedly had an official bid of over £30million turned down by los Blancos, who are thought to be demanding nearer £50million.

Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari, a known admirer of the Brazil star, is keen to encourage competition on the flanks, and has challenged the likes of Florent Malouda and Shaun Wright-Phillips to win back a place in the starting XI.

Anelka is similarly eager to see the wide roles accounted for, as he has voiced his dissatisfaction at being regularly deployed on the wings by Avram Grant last term.

And the Frenchman believes Robinho would be an excellent addition at Stamford Bridge, pointing in particular to the 24-year-old's versatility.

"He can play everywhere, he's a very good player," said Anelka. "He can score, he can give some assists. He's always good for a player like me - a striker - and for Chelsea."

Mike Maguire,

30 Juli 2008

Schuster: I Am The Last To Know Anything

The disgruntled German trainer took a swipe at club president Ramón Calderón and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic, having already revealed the lack of communication on previous occasions.

With the chase for Cristiano Ronaldo looking less likely to produce an outcome that Madrid want, Schuster admitted that he was not kept in the loop about the progress or lack of it.

"I am the last to find out anything," he told reporters at the club's Austrian training camp in Irdning.

"At last I am content because the president has arrived and intends to speak to me and clear things up. We came up with some ideas some time ago that were quite clear.

"I do not now if they have changed, but it would be good to find out. I am not that bothered as I am used to be being more or less the last to find things out.

"Everyone else seems to know things before me. It is not great and nor is not being given any answers. I would like to know more."

The outburst could see Schuster reprimanded again by Calderón after being reminded on several occasions this season to be more careful about his comments when speaking to the press.

With Madird focussing on making Ronaldo their only signing for so long, the coach has become unhappy because he was hoping to add a number of new faces to strengthen his squad.

Lucas Brown,

Milan Beat Inter On Penalties To Lift The TIM Trophy

The Rossoneri started the game brightly with Kaka going close early on following his super run on goal before Julio Cesar was forced to smother the danger.
Inter then responded with Luis Figo playing a brilliant one-two with Jimenez before Abbiati pushed the drive out for a corner but the Nerazzurri failed to capitalise.
The game began to pick up pace midway through with both teams searching for a winner and it was new signing, Sulley Ali Muntari’s turn to test the Milan defence.
The Ghanaian unleashed a superb drive from distance which saw Abbiati make an equally impressive save to prevent Inter from going a goal to the good.
Kaka once again went on one of his trademark runs which left Esteban Cambiasso for dead. However it was another brilliant save from Cesar which denied him.
Neither side were then able to take the lead and the game was decided via a penalty shoot out.
Kaka stepped up first to send Toldo, who replaced Cesar, the wrong way before Adriano levelled for Inter by fooling Abbiati from 12 yards.
It was then down to Massimo Oddo but the stopper saw his tame effort saved by Toldo. Luis Figo also had his effort saved by Abbiati who gathered comfortably.
Jankulovski then restored Milan’s lead before Suazo hit home to level the scores.
Favalli and Jimenez both missed their efforts before Brocchi and Santon stuck theirs away comfortably.
Digao then restored Milan’s lead before Muntari missed his.
The 4-3 result means Milan win the Trofeo Tim with four points with Juve ending runners up also with four points but Milan had the better head to head record. Inter finish the tournament with just one point.

Wednesday Transfer Clockwatch

13.31 Wolves manager Mick McCarthy will decide whether to sign trialist Ian Harte after Saturday's pre-season friendly with Blackburn. The Republic of Ireland international, who was released by Sunderland at the end of last season, played 75 minutes in the centre of midfield against Walsall on Tuesday.
13.27 Ipswich manager Jim Magilton has confirmed he is interested in signing Bobo Balde after the defender was told he could leave Celtic on a free transfer.
13.13 Northampton boss Stuart Gray is set to open discussions with Luke Guttridge over a permanent contract at Sixfields after the midfielder impressed during a trial spell.
12.54 Stockport have completed a loan deal to bring Wolves midfielder Stephen Gleeson back to Edgeley Park.
12.25 The agent of Andrei Arshavin has confirmed that Tottenham are in talks to sign the Russian playmaker, but says a deal is still a way off.
12.17 Birmingham have signed Kemy Agustien on a season-long loan deal from AZ Alkmaar. Blues will have the option to buy the midfielder next summer.
12.11 The agent of Liverpool midfielder Yossi Benayoun has played down talk linking him with a move away from Anfield. Speculation has suggested that both Manchester City and West Ham could be interested.
12.00 Fulham have completed the signing of Swedish defender Fredrik Stoor from Rosenborg after a successful medical.
11.58 Reading's Nicky Shorey has admitted he does not know what the future holds for him. The defender has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs including Portsmouth this summer.
11.51 Steve Bruce is happy with the recruits he has brought to Wigan this summer and now plans to stop spending.
11.30 Real Madrid are adamant that Robinho will not be leaving to finance a move for Cristiano Ronaldo. Chelsea have been linked with the Brazilian, but Ramon Calderon says he can play in the same team as Ronaldo.
11.23 Blackpool have captured Daniel Nardiello and Zesh Rehman from Queens Park Rangers with Kaspars Gorkss moving to Loftus Road in exchange.
11.09 Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon has insisted he is just a spectator in the Cristiano Ronaldo saga. Real have been in pursuit of the winger all summer but Calderon maintains he can do nothing except wait.
10.59 Doncaster are confident of tying up a permanent deal for Manchester City defender Matthew Mills in the next 24 hours.
10.41 More Scottish news, with Dundee United boss Craig Levein playing down talk of a move for Alan Gow of Rangers.
10.33 Striker Steve Lovell is on the brink of signing for Falkirk after flying out on the club's trip to Holland. The 27-year-old was released by Aberdeen at the end of last season.
10.23 Rennes manager Pierre Dreossi does not want to allow Stephane M'bia to join Everton and is set for contract discussions with the midfielder. The Toffees have also been linked with a move for Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
10.00 Reports in Spain suggest that Real Madrid will complete the signing of Rafael Van der Vaart next week. They are understood to have lodged a bid of 10million euros (£7.8m) with Hamburg for the midfielder.
9.30 Barcelona's Marc Crosas has admitted he would be interested in a loan move to Celtic, but Sevilla are also looking to strike a temporary deal for the midfielder.
8.45Thomas Sorensen is set to hold talks with Premier League new boys Stoke over a possible move to the Britannia Stadium.
8.30John Oster has rejected an offer to join Derby after impressing on trial at Pride Park.
8.15 Real Madrid defender Pepe says everyone is frustrated with the ongoing transfer saga involving the club's pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo.
8.05 See what stories and rumours have caught our eye in our look at Wednesday's newspapers in our Paper Talk section.
8.00 Manchester City chief Mark Hughes has confirmed Michael Johnsonhas been offered a new deal at Eastlands.
7.45 Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari says Florent Malouda will be staying at Stamford Bridge after being linked with a move away to Roma
7.05 You can email in your views by posting on our Summer Shopping thread, while if you've heard a whisper drop Paper Talk a line.
7.00 Welcome to our Wednesday transfer clockwatch. The market certainly seems to be hotting up in recent days, and we'll keep you right up to date with all the latest developments. In the meantime let us know who you think will be buying and selling this transfer window with our Summer Shopping feature.
Source: Sky Sport

Clubs must release U-23s for Olympics, says Fifa

Fifa has ruled that all clubs must release players under the age of 23 for the Olympic Games, if they are selected to play. The decision was taken by the judge of the players' status committee this morning, but any other outcome was unlikely after the Fifa president Sepp Blatter sent a letter last Wednesday to all affiliated national associations saying the release of players under 23 was mandatory.
The announcement follows complaints from Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke, who were reluctant to release key players Lionel Messi, Rafinha and Diego respectively for the Beijing Games. The clubs had challenged the Fifa rules, saying the Olympics were not on football's international match calendar. However judge Slim Aloulou of Tunisia said the international calendar "is not of relevance in establishing whether clubs are obliged to release players [for the] men's Olympic football tournament".
The judge highlighted the long-standing practice of releasing players for the Olympics and the "unique opportunity" of taking part in the Games. Blatter made similar points in his letter, saying: "The release of players below the age of 23 has always been mandatory for all clubs. The same principle shall apply for Beijing 2008. The fact that this tournament is not included in the coordinated international match calendar does not mean that there is no release obligation for the relevant clubs."
The clubs also have the option of taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Werder and Schalke have already filed complaints with the CAS and Barcelona had previously indicated that they would pursue such a course if the judicial decision went against them. Barcelona and Schalke both have Champions League ties during the Games.
Lionel Messi had earlier said that although he understood Barcelona's position, it was his dream to play for Argentina at the Olympics. "I want everything to be sorted out," he said on the Barcelona website on Wednesday. "I understand the position of the club because a lot is at stake... But they also have to understand that it is my dream to play for my national team at the Olympic Games.
"From the beginning I've said that I want to play for my national team and I've never had problems until now.... If I get there and CAS says I have to come back then I will come back. For the moment I want to be with my national team and my team mates."
This year's Olympics have caused consternation for many leading clubs due to the games being held so far from Europe and the high number of South Americans now playing in European leagues - Argentina are the reigning gold medallists. Several Premier League teams have agreed to let their players travel, albeit reluctantly.

29 Juli 2008

It Is Ronaldo Or Nobody - Calderón

Los Merengues' chief is prepared to stake his reputation on prising the Portuguese star away from Manchester United and that could cause friction with the German trainer, according to Marca.

Schuster has reportedly asked Calderón and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic to look into the possibility of signing other players instead and thought he had an agreement.

"Either Cristiano Ronaldo comes or nobody does," the Spanish sports daily quoted him as stating.

Rafael Van der Vaart and David Villa are two players that the coach wants, but Madrid are unlikely to make a second move for the Dutchman or lodge a bid for the Spaniard now.

It will come as a huge blow because Schuster knows that he he needs two or three new faces to freshen up his squad, despite the fact that they won the title last term.

Calderón promised to sign Kaká and Cesc Fàbregas in his pre-election manifesto but failed to land either and will incur the wrath of the fans if he does sign Ronaldo.

Last summer the supporters made their feelings known during the introduction of Arjen Robben's presentation as they chanted to Kaká.

Lucas Brown,

Shevchenko To Milan Imminent

A number of reports have claimed the Ukrainian international is not really a part of the Blues plans this season and an imminent exit is on the cards.  

With a number of injuries affecting Milan up front, the club have found themselves in crisis and they are desperate for a proven striker.  

Shevchenko has always revealed his ambition to rejoin the club at some point in his career and he may do so as early as next week.  

Il Corriere Dello Sport claims that Milan officials will meet up with the player during the friendly Russian Railways tournament which takes place next week in Moscow and will involve Chelsea, Lokomotiv, Sevilla and, of course, Milan.  

Carlo Ancelotti was quick to reveal that he would welcome Sheva back to San Siro with open arms.  

“If I see Shevchenko in Moscow I will say hello to him. The player will not go to any other Italian club apart from Milan,” said the coach.  

Shevchenko remains a hero in Milan having scored 127 goals in 208 appearances for the club and Rossoneri fans will be eager for his return.  

Bikey Eyeing French Move

Andre Bikey is not keen on playing in the Coca Cola Football League Championship in the coming season - and both St Etienne and Rennes are said to be interested.
Bikey still has two years to run on his existing Reading contract, but is reported by the Evening Post to be hoping that a compromise can be reached that will enable him to move on from the Madejski Stadium.
The Royals have already seen Dave Kitson move to Stoke, and Glen Little switch to Portsmouth, although most of manager Steve Coppell‘s squad from last season are still there.
Coppell told the Evening Post: “I don’t expect to lose many players now. We may lose one more, but we’re not under constant threat. I thought there would be a lot more interest in the players.
“It does surprise me. Given the performances over the last three seasons, I would have thought our players would have been targeted more. We had speculative bids, but no real serious back-up from there.”
Bikey is currently with the Cameroon squads for the Olympics, and told “To be honest, playing in the Championship has never been my ambition. I love the top level, and Reading are in the Championship. I want to play in a top division.
“Playing in France would be good, but England is my preferred choice. I could learn a lot in the top league here, or in France.
“I am open to a transfer, but I have a contract with Reading until 2010.”
Coppell added: “Like the rest of the players, if anyone comes in – as long as it’s a realistic offer – we will put it to the player and he can make his own mind up.
“He wants to be at the Olympics and I think if I was a player it would be exciting, but I think he will be aware that our season starts before he comes back and other people are likely to be in pole position.
“He’s played in World Cup games in the summer and all the players in national sides talk about playing wherever and all of a sudden he finds himself playing in the Championship so I think he would not find it attractive, but as yet I’m not aware of any interest in him.”
Mark Hinton,

Henry To Sign For Manchester United?

Sir Alex Ferguson has been trying hard to sign a decent striker and Tottenham’s Dimitar Berbatov was his number one target.

However, the Bulgarian hit-man doesn’t seem like he will move to Old Trafford, leaving the Red Devils coach to think about the alternatives.

Sport claims that former Arsenal striker Henry may end up playing for the European Champions next season. His characteristics are what Ferguson is looking for and he would form a lethal partnership with both Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Gunners fans will be left reeling if Henry moves to United given the fact that the Frenchman remains an Arsenal hero following his seven year stint at both Highbury and the Emirates.

Should Ferguson fail in his attempt to sign Henry then Ajax striker Klass Jan Huntelaar will be the other possible option.

It’s highly unlikely that the Barcelona forward will sign for United as he is still very much a big part of the Blaugrana’s side. Henry also declared in the past that he would never play for any other English side apart from the Gunners.  

Salvatore Landolina (

28 Juli 2008

Chelsea To Offer Kaka £1m A Month

Just when you thought the saga was over, once again reports hit the press over a possible Kaka move from Milan to Chelsea.
The most recent episodes in this soap opera started just over a week ago when it was reported that Chelsea had made a €100m offer for the Brazilian.
The next day Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani confirmed that he had rejected a “conspicuous” offer from Chelsea but wouldn’t reveal a figure, before adding that Kaka was not for sale at any price.
Chelsea's chief executive Peter Kenyon then refuted talk of a bid for Kaka, but this didn’t stop the Gazzetta dello Sport from then reporting that the English giants were to make a gargantuan €150m offer for the Brazilian.
This was again rubbished by Galliani, who stated that the press were just making up the rumours, and would soon print stories of a €200m bid.
All talk of a transfer appeared to have died down until a report in The Observer today claimed that Chelsea are set to offer Kaka £1m-a-month in order to tempt him into joining them this season. This would make the 26-year-old the first £1m-a-month player in footballing history
"Kaka's contract gives him €9million in its first season and rises by a million euros for each of its five years," a Milan source revealed. "To better that, Chelsea will have to begin at more than £200,000 a week."
A source close to the World Cup winner also told the Observer that Kaka "has been offered a considerably bigger offer than Milan's.”
It remains to be seen what the truth is, and how both Chelsea and Milan react to this latest report, but one thing is for sure, and that is the speculation surrounding Chelsea and Kaka just will not go away

Coach defends Chelsea’s tour of Asia

FrontPage National International Local Business KSE Forex Sports Editorial Opinion Letters Features Today's Cartoon TV Guide Cowasjee Irfan Hussain Jawed Naqvi Mahir Ali Kamran Shafi The Review Dawn Magazine Young World Images Dawn Group Subscription To Advertise

Coach defends Chelsea’s tour of Asia

MACAU, July 27: Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has defended the club’s Asian tour after reports emerged of backroom unrest among players unhappy with the rigorous pre-season trip.
The newly installed coach said the three-stop Asian swing, followed by a four-team tournament in Russia, was vital as he builds towards Chelsea’s August 17 league opener.
Chelsea strolled to a 7-0 win against hopelessly outclassed Chengdu Blades late on Saturday after thrashing Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in mid-week. They play in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and then head to Moscow for the Railways Cup.
“This is match training for us,” Scolari said.
“I’m building my team for the Russia games and after Russia I will have my team for the first match against Portsmouth.”
Scolari was speaking after British media reported several senior players were angry at touring the sweltering and far-flung Asian venues just weeks before the new season.
The two-week tour represented “the worst possible preparations for the season,” a source told The Sun.
“Some players have been unable to sleep and don’t know if they are coming or going,” the source added.
Winger Joe Cole, who struck twice in the rout of Chengdu Blades, admitted the team found conditions difficult but said they owed such trips to their fans.
“It’s hot and it’s humid but I think for professional players at a club like Chelsea, it’s our responsibility to come out and play,” Cole said.
“These fans pay a lot of money to come out and buy our shirts and give great support. It’s our opportunity to come out and play football and give something back.”—AFP
If you wanna see video of Chelsea Malaysia Tour 2008 Press Conference click here

27 Juli 2008

‘Mind Games’ Don’t Bother Scolari

Both Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have been known to indulge in psychological tactics at key times in the season as they attempt to hitch up the pressure on one another.
Yet the Brazilian has warned his rivals that should they try to lure him into the same kind of battle, they will be wasting their time. According to Setanta Sports, Scolari said:  “I am not going to fight with other managers. Naturally I know they will try to use psychological weapons against me. They will try to wind me up but it won't work, they are wasting their time.”
Scolari also went on to reveal this is not they way he liked his conduct his business and that he was wary his lack of English could be used against him. He admitted “I don't like to work this way. For one thing I don't speak English that well and I could end up using some bad words and that is not right.”
Fergie No Mate Of Mine
The Blues boss also revealed that despite knowing both Ferguson and Wenger, he was much closer to the Arsenal boss than the Manchester United manager.
“I know Sir Alex Ferguson but we are not friends. I am more of a friend with Arsene Wenger than any other coach since I met him in Japan,” said Scolari before adding, “Later when he went to Arsenal he and David Dein asked me a favour over Gilberto Silva. I was happy to help and sent some letters to The FA. So at least I have better relations with him than anyone else.”
His words are unlikely to register with the two managers who regularly use the press  to bait each other, although it has to be said that relations between Ferguson and Wenger do appear to have thawed slightly in recent season.

Lack Of Signings Worries Schuster

The Portuguese winger’s proposed transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid has been the story of the summer. However, United appear determined to keep the player and despite rumours of Madrid preparing a world record bid for Ronaldo, the player’s future remains unresolved.
The deal has overshadowed both clubs’ pre-season preparations, a fact Schuster was quick to acknowledge. According to Sky Sports, Schuster joked: “As you all know at this club we have been obsessed with signing a player whose name I can't quite remember at the moment.”
However, with Ronaldo seemingly no closer to moving to Spain and with United digging their heels in, Real Madrid are becoming concerned they will not have time to sign any other players, should Ronaldo stay at Old Trafford.
“When you start something like this you know that if you don't sort it out quickly then it might be too late to sign another player,” said Schuster before adding, “We have had plans in place for several months ready for any movement, for any solution, but the truth is that as time passes you are running the risk that Plan B might have become a little difficult.”
While United appear unwilling to sell the player to Madrid, Schuster also revealed he thought this was to be quite expected and he wasn’t surprised by the European Champions’ stance.
“I'm absolutely certain that if I was in his (Ferguson's) position I would do exactly the same,” said Schuster speaking about United, “I wouldn't like anyone to take a player like him from me even if I had won the league and the Champions League.”
Schuster also went on to compliment the way United manager Ferguson had handled the whole Ronaldo saga. He said: “He is the sort of player that no one wants to lose and for me the way in which the Manchester United manager is defending himself is perfect.”
Yet despite the platitudes, Schuster was unable to hide his interest signing the winger who joined Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.
“They tell me he is a team player and he has proved that at Manchester,” the Madrid coach said before suggesting, “I don't think he would have any problems in adapting to play with us.”
Aside from Ronaldo, Madrid have been linked with a host of other players including David Villa, Rafael Van der Vaart and even Cesc Fabregas. However, whilst admitting the club were in the hunt for players, Schuster remained coy over who they may be. He concluded: “I don't want to give any names. All I can say is that they are attacking players.”

Gill Clark

Lack Of Signings Worries Schuster

The Portuguese winger’s proposed transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid has been the story of the summer. However, United appear determined to keep the player and despite rumours of Madrid preparing a world record bid for Ronaldo, the player’s future remains unresolved.
The deal has overshadowed both clubs’ pre-season preparations, a fact Schuster was quick to acknowledge. According to Sky Sports, Schuster joked: “As you all know at this club we have been obsessed with signing a player whose name I can't quite remember at the moment.”
However, with Ronaldo seemingly no closer to moving to Spain and with United digging their heels in, Real Madrid are becoming concerned they will not have time to sign any other players, should Ronaldo stay at Old Trafford.
“When you start something like this you know that if you don't sort it out quickly then it might be too late to sign another player,” said Schuster before adding, “We have had plans in place for several months ready for any movement, for any solution, but the truth is that as time passes you are running the risk that Plan B might have become a little difficult.”
While United appear unwilling to sell the player to Madrid, Schuster also revealed he thought this was to be quite expected and he wasn’t surprised by the European Champions’ stance.
“I'm absolutely certain that if I was in his (Ferguson's) position I would do exactly the same,” said Schuster speaking about United, “I wouldn't like anyone to take a player like him from me even if I had won the league and the Champions League.”
Schuster also went on to compliment the way United manager Ferguson had handled the whole Ronaldo saga. He said: “He is the sort of player that no one wants to lose and for me the way in which the Manchester United manager is defending himself is perfect.”
Yet despite the platitudes, Schuster was unable to hide his interest signing the winger who joined Manchester United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.
“They tell me he is a team player and he has proved that at Manchester,” the Madrid coach said before suggesting, “I don't think he would have any problems in adapting to play with us.”
Aside from Ronaldo, Madrid have been linked with a host of other players including David Villa, Rafael Van der Vaart and even Cesc Fabregas. However, whilst admitting the club were in the hunt for players, Schuster remained coy over who they may be. He concluded: “I don't want to give any names. All I can say is that they are attacking players.”

Gill Clark

Lehmann: World Cup- Why Not?

The 38 year old, who has just signed for VfB Stuttgart after losing his place in the Arsenal team, won his 61st cap during Euro 2008 as Germany lost to Spain in the final, but he is refusing to rule out playing on.  
The veteran had been widely expected to announce his international retirement after the European Championships and with Germany’s World Cup qualifiers getting underway on September 6, clarity is needed in the German camp.  
"I will discuss this issue in the near future with coach Joachim Löw, but I can live with the speculation" said Lehmann.
"Which player between the age of 18 and 40 can predict whether they will still be playing as well in two years anyway?
"I would even be prepared to sit on the bench at a World Cup.  I would never say never.  We will have to see what happens after this year."
Lehmann had been under pressure before Euro 2008 having not played a great deal of football for Arsenal after Manuel Almunia became the first choice at the Emirates.
Germany also has two highly promising youngsters coming through in Manuel Neuer (Schalke) and Rene Adler (Bayer Leverkusen).  Timo Hildebrand and Robert Enke are also knocking on the door to be considered the German number one, although Hildebrand was surprisingly dropped from the Euro 2008 squad.

Mathew Burt (

Drogba to decide on future

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has revealed he will make a decision on his future within the next week.
AC Milan and Barcelona have set their sights on the 30-year-old, who has become one of the most feared forwards in the world since moving to Chelsea from Marseille in 2004.
The transfer speculation has intensified after the Ivory Coast international missed the Blues pre-season tour of Asia and Russia through injury.
Drogba has now revealed his representatives are set to meet in London and that an announcement will be made within seven days.


"This next week will be key in terms of my future," Drogba said in the Sunday Mirror.
"And I am currently injured. People who say I am not don't know me at all because I always want to play.
"As for my future at Chelsea, well I have a contract with the club that is clear.
"But my agents will have a meeting in London and then it will be known once and for all."

26 Juli 2008

Red Devils claim another trophy

Sir Alex Ferguson saw his Manchester United side beat Kaizer Chiefs 4-0 to lift the Vodacom Challenge trophy on Saturday thanks to goals from two senior professionals and two rookies.
Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney both found the target at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium as did Tom Cleverley and Fraizer Campbell.
United manager Ferguson used the showpiece match in South Africa to mix his side up with a game against Portsmouth to come in Nigeria on Sunday.
Barclays Premier League title challengers Chelsea continued to cruise through their pre-season tour of Asia with a 7-0 victory against Chinese Super League side Chengdu Blades.
Nicolas Anelka, Solomon Kalou and Frank Lampard handed the Blues a comfortable half-time advantage at the Macau Stadium before Joe Cole, Franco Di Santo and a fortunate Shaun Wright-Phillips wrapped up the second rout in four days.
Second-half strikes from Wales international Simon Davies and new signing Zoltan Gera earned Fulham a 2-1 victory over Ulsan Hyundai in Korea's Big Crown Stadium.
Newcastle slipped to their first defeat of pre-season after Doncaster substitute Stuart Elliott gave his side a 1-0 victory at the Keepmoat Stadium
West Brom's winless pre-season run continued with a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ipswich at Portman Road, while Calvin Zola hit a hat-trick as Premier League new boys Hull were thrashed 4-0 by League One Crewe

Spurs A Possibility For Villa - Agent

Tottenham, who have an esteemed Spanish manager in the form of Juande Ramos, are thought to be already preparing a bid for Villa should Robbie Keane succumb to the temptation of joining Liverpool, and the Valencia star's agent has given them reason to believe that they could be successful were this to occur.

"Many clubs have contacted me about the chances of a player who is guaranteed to score goals in England," said Jose Luis Tamargo. "But I am convinced if Spurs present an offer, Valencia will study the subject."

"David likes London and likes how Tottenham play with Juande Ramos. This is a club that excites him," the agent was quoted as saying by Setanta Sports.

Spurs could very well face the daunting task of rivaling Real Madrid for the Euro 2008 star's signature, however, as rumours are rife that they will submit a whopping £31.5million bid in the case that they fail to lure Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu.

Liverpool, Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea have also been credited with an interest in the 25-year-old, who scored 22 goals last season despite Valencia struggling to beat the drop.
Derek Wanner,

Agent - Kaka happy at Milan

Kaka's agent has insisted that the reported Chelsea target is happy at AC Milan and is not looking to move on.
The Brazil playmaker has been linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge, but the Rossoneri have no interest in allowing their star man to leave.
And Gaetano Paolillo insists his client is content at the San Siro, where he is under contract until 2013.
"Kaka has always been happy at Milan and he still is," he said.
"He has a special feeling with the fans and with everyone. His family is happy at Milan."
Last season, Spanish champions Real Madrid made a bid for the 26-year-old but their efforts were rebuffed. They revived their interest again this year but with the same result.
Paolillo is not surprised by the interest shown in Kaka by top European clubs.


"It's normal that every year big clubs like Chelsea and Real Madrid make offers to sign key players like Kaka," he added.
"When (Chelsea owner Roman) Abramovich's offer came to light, Real contacted us to say that if the player was up for sale they would be interested as well."
Paolillo has not ruled out the possibility of Kaka playing for Chelsea one day but believes that all depends on Milan's intentions.
"(Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe) Scolari has infinite affection for Kaka but regardless of this, for Abramovich, Kaka is the dream that is missing, Kaka is in his dreams," said Paolillo.
"It will depend on Milan. If (AC Milan owner Silvio) Berlusconi wants to keep him at Milan it will be difficult for Kaka to leave.
"If a player is happy he remains in a squad."

25 Juli 2008

Scolari - I will do it my way

Chelsea chief Luiz Felipe Scolari has hit back at comparisons with former Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
The Brazilian is fed up being compared with the Portuguese tactician who helped the club win two Premier League titles during his time in charge of Stamford Bridge.
Scolari insists he will do his things his own way in West London as he looks to bring success to Chelsea.


"My name is Luiz Felipe Scolari. I'm not Jose Mourinho. I have my own personality. I follow my way, not another way," snapped Scolari.
"I don't know if Mourinho says yes or no and I say different or not. To my players and the fans, I say what all coaches say - we need to win. Only this."
The Brazilian also ducked questions about whether he would take the defensive shackles off Chelsea's playing style.
"I don't know. I'll answer in June 2009 (after next season)," added Scolari.
"My way in Chelsea is the same as my way in my life. I want the same as I wanted in the clubs and national teams I worked with before - winning.
"This is my way. I follow this way, only this."

Madrid Weighing Up €40m Villa Move

Los Merengues' pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo is seeing president Ramón Calderón lose supporters and he is keen to regain the fans' confidence with another high profile signing.

Valencia looked set to keep hold of their star players when Juan Villalonga took control and stated that Villa and David Silva had been told they were staying.

New contracts were promised and assurances made that the only big name transfers the club would be involved in this summer would be incoming players.

Those plans have collapsed now, however, as majority shareholder Juan Soler has decided not to sell Villalonga his interest and Vicente Soriano has now taken over.

The new man's first words will not have pleased many as it now appears that Soler's plan to sell one of the squad's star players in order to ease debts will be pushed through.

"We cannot assure people that we will not have to sell one of our stars," Soriano told reporters this week.

Madrid could ease the pressure on them this summer with a crowd-pleasing purchase after the Ronaldo saga has soured their international standing and upset some directors and supporters.

Bernd Schuster has asked for a few new faces, but does not want a major overhaul of his squad and is hoping that the new signings will be world class.

Lucas Brown,

24 Juli 2008

Ibra Returns To Training Following Injury

The Super Swede has had a miserable time of things with injuries this calendar year, and missed a large portion of the Nerazzurri’s Scudetto run-in due to a chronic knee injury.

The problem also complicated his Euro 2008 tournament with Sweden, as he played just a half of the 2-1 defeat to Spain, while he also looked short of fitness during the 2-0 loss to Russia.

There were fears that Ibrahimovic’s problems were all set to continue into the new campaign when he limped off the pitch last week just 20 minutes into his first pre-season training session with Inter.

The 26-year-old has now returned to training though with the rest of his team-mates, and he should definitely be fit in time for the new season.

Meanwhile, Inter have a friendly this evening against Saudi Arabian champions Al Hilal. Adriano will start up-front in his first game for the club since last October, and he will be supported in a trident strike force by Mario Balotelli and Luis Figo.

23 Juli 2008

Fergie: Foster Will Be England's No 1

The highly-promising 24-year-old goalkeeper, who had such a tough time with injuries last season, was one of the standouts of United's 1-0 victory yesterday, keeping a clean sheet as the Red Devils edged Orlando Pirates in a pre-season match in South Africa.

"I still believe Ben will be England's goalkeeper for the next few years," Ferguson was quoted as saying by Sky Sports News after the match.

"We did not expect him to get fit so quickly last season and I did not include him in our European squad.

"When I saw his performance against Derby there was maybe some regret on my part.

"The ability he has he is going to be challenging for a first-team place next season. That can only be good news for England.

"With an experienced goalkeeper like David James coming back in the squad it tells you there is an opportunity for someone like Ben."

Foster joined the defending champions from Stoke City and spending two seasons on loan to Watford before suffering a serious injury from which he has only recently fully recovered.

 "It will be difficult for Ben only because he is in competition with one of the best goalkeepers of all time," said Ferguson on the competition he faces with current no 1 Edwin van der Sar.

"Edwin is a man of great experience and consistency and has looked after himself so well.

"He can play until he is 40. Ben is 24, so can play for the next 14 to 15 years. There is no need for the boy to panic. His time will come."

Derek Wanner,

Essien Bites Back At Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday broke what had effectively become a summer ceasefire by claiming the Blues have too many players in their 30s to achieve anything special during the upcoming season.

But Essien thinks otherwise, insisting that veteran midfielders Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard and Deco are of such a calibre that their very presence improves the playing squad as a whole.

“Players like Ballack, Lampard and Deco are world class,” the Ghanaian midfielder said in The Sun. “They can change a game in an instant.

“When you are working with them on a regular basis, you improve every day as a player and as a team.”

United will be defending two titles over the next 10 months after edging out Chelsea to claim both the Premier League and Champions League crowns last term.

Most would be expecting much of the same this time around. Essien, however – whether to rankle or through genuine belief – insisted that the previous campaign’s also-rans will instead be the Blues’ main challengers.

“I don’t think United will be our principal rivals,” he added. “Liverpool, Arsenal and a lot of other clubs are signing good players.”

Mike Maguire

Mourinho: Signing Ronaldo Was 'Impossible'

Mourinho: Signing Ronaldo Was 'Impossible'
Ronaldo’s future remains as uncertain as ever, with Real Madrid still intent on landing the Portuguese winger while United remain unmoved in their desire to keep the 23-year-old.

Los Merengues are willing to shell out up to ₤70million to bring the Seleccao superstar to the Bernabeu, a fee that would comfortably eclipse the ₤46million they spent on Zinedine Zidane in 2001.

Mourinho was known for spending significant portions of Roman Abramovich’s money during his Chelsea days, regularly parting with over ₤100million-per-summer to build and maintain a title-winning machine.

But the Special One confessed that even he could never have hoped to lure Ronaldo to Stamford Bridge, insisting such a ploy would have been unrealistic.

"Ronaldo was the kind of player you know for sure you cannot get," Mourinho said on Ford's

"I always try to be objective, I always try to be realistic and I never ask a club to try something that I know is impossible."

However, the former Porto boss admitted the rivalry between the Blues and the Red Devils played a big part in his not making a move for Ronaldo – barriers a foreign club, such as Real Madrid, would not have to cross.

"It depends on the club, it depends on the situation," Mourinho continued.

"For example, Arsenal sold Thierry Henry to Barcelona. Would they sell Thierry Henry to Chelsea? No, no, no I don't think so.

"So I think you have to be realistic, and Ronaldo was never in my mind, far from it."

22 Juli 2008

Fergie questions Blues' challenge

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is not expecting to see Chelsea come on leaps and bounds this coming season.
The Blues pushed The Red Devils all the way for the Premier League title last season with the trophy only decided on a dramatic final day of the campaign.
However, with many of Chelsea's stars into their 30s, Ferguson fails to see how Luiz Felipe Scolari's side will be able to offer much more than they did last time around.
"They are an experienced side," said Ferguson. "I'm not saying necessarily that they're old because with the modern-day training methods, you should be playing in your 30s.

Lack of progress

"What I'm saying is that I don't see outstanding progress coming from a team that's in their 30s."
Ferguson has even laid down the gauntlet for Scolari, by saying it will be hard for the former Brazil coach to emulate the record of his immediate predecessors.
"I'm not concerned about Chelsea," he continued. "Avram Grant did a good job and Mourinho won the title two years in a row and beat us in the FA Cup final.
"So there's no-one who can improve on (Jose) Mourinho's record really."

Madrid Have Asked About Kaká - Galliani

Los Merengues made contact with the Rossoneri amid reports that Chelsea are preparing a mega offer for the Brazilian star and want to ensur that they do not miss out. Milan's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, confirmed that the Spanish giants had made enquiries, but then reiterated that the player would not be going anywhere this summer. "I was on Abramovich's boat," he said. "I wanted to talk about Shevchenko and he wanted to talk about Kaká, but in the end nothing happened. "On the other hand, I can say that Madrid have again asked about Kaká." Ramón Calderón has already seen his popularity sorely tested over the Milan star after promising to sign both him and Cesc Fàbregas during his race for the Madrid presidency. Arjen Robben was the club's third choice and while he arrived, fans have not forgotten the club's supremo's failure to keep his promise on the more cherished stars. The Madrid chief is currently under pressure after spending the summer making assurances that Ronaldo would be joining from Manchester United, only for the tide appearing to be turning against him. Chelsea's interest in Kaká appears to be going nowhere with Milan dismissing reports that they had received a mega offer or were ready to accept one. "We will never sell him," Galliani added. Even if we received an offer of €300m from Chelsea. The only way we would ever consider letting him go is if it was his desire."
Lucas Brown,

Spanish Debate: Who's Had The Worst Summer?

The chequebooks have already been opened all across Spain, with not a single Primera club conducting at least one sale or purchase so far. But who are the winners and losers as we near the midway point of the transfer window?


To look at the 'out' list at San Moix is almost to examine a "who's who" of their triumphant 2007-08 season. Dani Güiza, the Liga's top scorer, has joined up with Luis Aragonés at Fenerbahçe, while Jonás Gutiérrez is bound for Newcastle United. Fernando Navarro takes his reliable self to Sevilla, Ariel Ibagaza goes to Villarreal, and David Navarro is back at Valencia after his loan deal expired. Héctor and Basinas - the latter of whom may have been on high wages - were released.

The 'in' pile, meanwhile, has some promising names to it, but few, if any, really stack up to those who left. Alhassane Keita is a proven goalscorer in Switzerland who joins up after a stint in the Middle East: whether he can truly live up to Güiza's example remains to be seen. Martí was a decent performer at Sevilla but little more; Josemi, meanwhile, barely touched the ball for Villarreal last season, and while his experience will prove welcome one wonders if he has the legs for a campaign that is looking increasingly bottom half. An array of journeymen round out the new arrivals, and the idea that the side is in financial trouble is looking ever more compelling. And that's before we even talk about what's going to happen to Moyá in goal...

Verdict: The most-weakened side so far. They are, indeed, in a heap of trouble, and it's difficult to see where the class replacements are going to come from. Perhaps some more South American imports are called for if they're to even come close to replicating last season's top-half feat. Only a couple of experienced additions save them from oblivion. D-


As discussed previously here, the Valencia squad is a bloated leviathan that is yet to be fully trimmed of its less desirable appendages. The likes of Mario Reguerio have finally been packed off as the cull begins, but there seems to be a bit of over-enthusiasm to rid the side of younsters, with Sunny - who dealt admirably well with the rigours of last season - being farmed out to Osasuna. Some of the highly-paid veterans remain and may be less than happy: Albelda and Angulo spring to mind, and Vicente can perhaps be added to that list. The real elephant in the room, though, is the future of David Villa and to a lesser extent David Silva. For all their talk of staying, can the club really refuse €40m for the former and €30m for the latter?

Who's come in? Highly-rated coach Unai Emery, that's who. The Basque worked wonders at Almería last season and must be taken seriously: what a shame there's not been a single impressive signing to help him out. The best playing arrival? Probably Pablo Hernández - and he's a loan return.

Verdict: The optimism engendered by Unai Emery's introduction is still being overshadowed by off-field uncertainty. New moneyman Juan Villalonga has talked a good game thus far, but the squad remains over-inflated with several players low on morale. Time is running out to find a solution. D+


Last season saw precious little movement at Racing until the very last second, with both "star" strikers Ebi Smolarek and Mohamed Tchité both sliding in under a closing transfer window, Indiana Jones-like. This year there's already been plenty of movement, but it is of jerry-built, journeyman swap-meet style: the names of Jonathan Pereira and Ayoze Díaz fly past the eyes in a near-indistinguishable mass of unremarkable players.

As with Valencia, the big changes are off the pitch. Manager Marcelino has dropped to the Segunda to boss Real Zaragoza back to the top flight - it's a downward step in terms of league, sure, but few can deny that los maños are not a comatose giant - and Juan Ramón Muñiz has now the toughest of tough acts to follow. What will damage him is if his squad is broken up in front of his eyes: Smolarek's difficult first season in Spain may see to it that it is. Above all, he needs a team in place soon if he's going to make pre-season count.

Verdict: Mixed - the ins-and-outs of the squad aren't massively ground-breaking, but to get shot of Ebi Smolarek may be an error. Above all, they have lost their manager, and it remains to be seen exactly how Muñiz fares in his new surroundings. C


The team that started last season so strongly in the Segunda eventually stuttered to the finish line and only just crept back up to the top flight. The squad, starting to fray around the edges, has thus seen a few changes, although relatively few of the regulars have gone. Carpintero's off to Córdoba, Antonio Hidalgo is away to Real Zaragoza, and Paulo Jordge is off to Benfica. Coach Muñíz is away to Racing Santander, as we know, but some of the problems of last season remain. The worry is that the players who have come in are very much lower-half material: Nacho could not get a game at Getafe, Lolo was a bit-part player at Sevilla, and anyone else who has been brought in has an air of mediocrity about them. The boost there, though, is that every single one of them has a point to prove in the top flight. The alternative is that they are this season's Murcia: can Antonio Tapia prevent this?

Verdict: The cobwebs of last season need clearing out with a couple more additions. The club is taking a gamble: they couldn't have done anything but. C+


Certainly the busiest side so far in terms of financial turnover, Barça have seen almost as many outgoing players as incoming ones. The worry is that only a minority of the players who has left could truly have been considered bit-part last season: Ronaldinho, for all his absence, injury and alleged laziness, was still emblematic of the Barça attack and a keen goalscorer to boot; Deco came onto a game towards the end of the season; Lilian Thuram had his moments; Giovani Dos Santos showed precocious talent. But the time was perhaps right to let all go: Thuram needed to make way for the younger generation, and he duly did so as both Martín Cáceres and Piqué came in, while Dani Alves steps in for Zambrotta and Hleb looks to carve out an attacking niche for himself. The problem is that, unless Thierry Henry is going to be shoehorned into the middle, there is no number 9 to speak of, young Bojan aside, and with Samuel Eto'o leaving that must be remedied soon. But the key points are that some definite weak spots have been filled, some classy players have been added, and those who did leave, while recognisable first-teamers, had almost to a man hit the end of the road anyway.

Verdict: So far, at this exact moment, the balance in euros may be negative but the influence to the playing side is positive. However, they miss out on the A bracket due to the unsettling influence of Samuel Eto'o - for the squad's good, Barcelona must resolve this quickly, and the player would surely agree. B+


The only "ins" at Madrid so far are Ezequiel Garay, Rubén de la Red, and Javi García. Garay has already gone back out on loan to Racing, and the other two are cantera buy-backs. In other words, not much doing at the Bernabéu. In previous summers this would have been cause to revolt outside the stadium but this time around it is rather different...

Verdict: Some Madrid fans may see the lack of activity so far as a negative. In fact, this is the stability that was promised. The Ronaldo circus aside - and Robinho-gate, too - everything at Real Madrid is in fact looking rather positive on the playing side. That's not to say that some new arrivals would not go amiss, but it is not urgent. Their increasingly melodramatic negotiating style sees them marked down slightly. B+

Gago: Messi Is Better Than Ronaldo

While the Argentinian midfielder is impressed with Ronaldo, it is his compatriot that he believes is currently the world's number one.

Ronaldo was hailed as the best by many in England after an incredible campaign in the Premier League, but Gago thinks that despite that he is still not as good as Messi.

"For me he is not number one. For me, the best in the world is Messi because of the way he plays, moves with the ball and changes matches," he told AS.

"Messi has incredible ability and I love the way that he plays."

The pursuit of Ronaldo by Madrid has not been met with universal approval by everyone at the club with Wesley Sneijder believing that his huge contract may cause problems, but Gago does not agree.

"He is a very good player and it is logical that Real Madrid would want him because all the big sides are interested. I do not know if he will come here, but if he does he will be made very welcome," he continued.

"If Cristiano joins Madrid and has a big contract then it will be because he deserves it and he should be congratulated, but on the pitch he will be just another player and will have to put in the same effort as everyone else.

"This is a team here and everyone has to be at the heir best in order for us to succeed."

Rafael Van der Vaart is also said to be on Los Merengues' agenda and Gago is confident that if the club are tracking the Hamburg player the he must be good.

"I have not seen much of him, but he seems to have class. If Real Madrid want to sign him then it will be for a reason," he stated.

"One must remember that this team is solid and next year we have to be even more competitive because we are aiming for every trophy."

20 Juli 2008

Madrid Almost Signed Villa

El Guaje is the envy of Europe after finishing as top scorer for Spain at Euro 2008, but his reputation went before him even before the continental tournament.

As a consistent performer for Valencia, in fact, he had attracted the attention of Real Madrid to such a great extent that the blancos were on the verge of signing him in April, it was revealed today. contends that then-vice president of Los Che, Rafael Salom, met with Real Madrid technical secretary Miguel Angel Portugal in a popular Madrid restaurant to talk transfers.

On the surface there was nothing unusual here: Salom had not made the trip specifically for this head-to-head - instead he was in town for the April 16 Copa del Rey final between Valencia and Getafe. He also had an appointment with Marcelino García Toral, then-Recreativo boss who was being groomed for the Valencia hotseat.

But, surprisingly enough, the biggest outcome of the evening was that of David Villa, with Salom proposing a sale package to Real Madrid that seemed to be a hit with the Bernabéu side. For €35m the player was theirs: alternatively they could offer €30m in addition to Esteban Granero - now of Getafe - who at the time excited Los Che greatly.

Both sides seemed to be in agreement, but Madrid decided against sealing the deal. Valencia, meanwhile, underwent massive internal turmoil, rendering their own input moot. The rest is history.

Steve Michaels,


Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan is determined his side will be among the fittest in the Barclays Premier League this season.
The 57-year-old saw his team beat League One Hartlepool 4-1 at Victoria Park yesterday after 12 days' training, and was impressed with what he saw.
Keegan said: "When we came back, we said we can be fitter and we can be stronger.
"We might not have the biggest squad this season and we might not have the best squad in the Premier League because there are some big clubs out there with big squads and a lot of quality players.
"But we can be the fittest team, and that is what we have tried to do. That is why we have never left the training ground."
Keegan will take his side to home-town club Doncaster next weekend as they step up their preparations with executive director (football) Dennis Wise and his team still searching for new recruits.
The manager admits he will need up to four more signings on top of Jonas Gutierrez and Danny Guthrie - the former Liverpool midfielder made his debut and scored at Hartlepool - before the end of the transfer window.
However, he effectively has one on board already after Republic of Ireland winger Damien Duff turned in an eye-catching display against Danny Wilson's side.
The 29-year-old, clearly feeling the benefit of a rare injury-free pre-season, was in sparkling form and was rewarded with a well-taken hat-trick.
Asked if Duff is the fittest he has been since his £5million move to Tyneside from Blackburn, Keegan said: "There's absolutely no doubt of that. The lad has never had a pre-season for three years.
"He is at the weight he was when he was 18 and he has worked so hard in training, the running and the way he has worked with everything we have put on probably showed out there on Saturday.
"After 70, 80 minutes, he still looked like he had got a turbo-charger in him, as did James Milner and a couple of the others.
"You have just got a draw a line under where he has been and just judge him from now, now he has had a chance to put a foundation into his season, which he hasn't had for three years.
"Any players who misses the pre-season, you ask any player, no matter how good they are, where they have played and what qualities they possess, it is very hard without that base.
"I think you will see a different Damien Duff this season. There were signs of that on Saturday, but obviously, there is more to come."
Duff, like Shay Given, Charles N'Zogbia and Obafemi Martins, who also started at Hartlepool, has been linked with a move away from St James' Park this summer, but Keegan is determined to retain his services.
He said: "There has been speculation about every one of our players, but I definitely want to keep him.
"He is a good character around the place, he sets a good standard in training along with three or four of the other players.
"They set the standards, they are the ones who do it right every day. Rain or sunshine, it doesn't make any difference to them.
"We are very strong now in certain positions. Where Damien plays is where Gutierrez can play, where James Milner can play, where Charles N'Zogbia can play and where Geremi can play.
"We have got five very good players competing for two-and-a-half places in the team.
"We haven't got that everywhere, so we need to address that and that is what we are trying to do.
"It might look like not so successfully at the moment, but there is a long time to go and there will be plenty of opportunities.
"If the right player comes along and we think he is right for Newcastle United, we will be in there pitching."

Brasileiro: Vitoria Stun League Leaders Flamengo At Maracana

The departures of key players Renato Augusto and Marcinho in the last couple of weeks seem to be taking a toll on Flamengo. The Brazilian league leaders have now lost two matches in a row, and have had their lead reduced to a single point.
Vitoria came to the Maracana seeking a point, and they left the legendary stadium with all three, courtesy of a crossed shot from Dinei early in the second half.
Flamengo, who were backed by a strong 50,000 crowd, dominated their opponents and created several opportunities to draw level but they were kept out by the heroics of Vitoria's brilliant Colombian goalkeeper, Viafara. Vitoria held on and recorded a vital victory that sees them climb up to fourth.
Gremio are now only one point behind the league leaders after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Cruzeiro in Porto Alegre on Saturday night. Paulo Sergio scored Gremio's winner when he connected to a cross from the right wing with a well-timed volley in the 17th minute. The 30,000 crowd went home happy after a good victory over a very difficult side.
Brazilian champions Sao Paulo have continued their sudden revival, after a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Botafogo at the Morumbi stadium. Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni put his side ahead in the 34th minute when he converted a penalty kick; however, in the 77th minute Carlos Alberto drew the visitors level.
But Sao Paulo were to have the last laugh, as striker Dagoberto connected to a precise cross with a powerful header two minutes before full time. The win sees Sao Paulo jump to fifth position.
Santos won only their second match of the season 1-0 against Sport Recife at the Vila Belmiro. The always reliable Kleber Pereira scored their eventual match-winner in the 43rd minute of the first half, to the delight of the 15,000 home fans.
At the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba Atletico Paranaense defeated Vasco da Gama 3-1 with goals from Joaozinho (19'), Marcio Azevedo (50') and Anderson (90'). Kardec (71') scored Vasco's only goal of the match.
In Goiania, Goias edged Palmeiras 3-2 in an authentic thriller. Goals from Terra (11') and Paulo (21') gave Goias a two-goal lead; however, goals from the league's top scorer, Alex Mineiro (42'), and Jeci (45') made things all square going into the half-time break.
Terra's second goal of the afternoon in the 60th minute was the difference between both sides in what was one of the most entertaining matches of the round. Goias recorded only their third victory of the season.
In Sunday's other round thirteen results, Internacional snatched a late point in a 1-1 draw at Nautico, Atletico Mineiro came from two goals down to edge Coritiba 3-2 in another thriller in Belo Horizonte.
On Saturday, Fluminense beat Figueirense 1-0 with a late strike from Thiago Neves, and Ipatinga thrashed Portuguesa 4-1 at the Ipatingao.

19 Juli 2008

Scolari's plea to Chelsea: 'Get Kaka'

Luiz Felipe Scolarihas made 'a personal request to Chelsea that they must sign Kaká', the Milan and Brazil playmaker who is the current World Footballer of the Year. Although Chelsea denied having made a bid, Adrian Galliani, Milan's vice-president, said last night: 'I can confirm that we have received offers from England for Kaká. But the fans can be calm because Kaká will remain at Milan despite the offers received from Chelsea.'
Scolari's request, confirmed by a highly placed source at Stamford Bridge last night, provides the first defining test of the Brazilian's power and influence at the club and how successful his tenure as coach may be.
'We have not bid for Kaká,' said a spokesperson. However, it is thought a representative from the Serie A club was in London last week to meet the Chelsea hierarchy. Two weeks ago, Galliani claimed Chelsea had made an 'astronomical' bid for the player whom Scolari gave his international debut to in 2002.
On Friday, in Brazil, Kaká's assistant Diogo Kotscho said: 'Real Madrid offered €90m [£70m] last summer and Milan did not even think about it. This time is different. This is the first time we feel a deal will definitely happen. Because of the [financial] situation Milan are in at the moment, the deal is good for all parties.'
Kaká has been reluctant to leave the club he joined in 2003. 'He has always been very loyal to Milan,' a friend said. 'But he has been advised to move on for a fresh challenge.' Milan are not in this season's Champions League.
There were also reports last night that Chelsea had bid for the Real Madrid winger Robinho. 'There was a firm offer from Chelsea of €40m [£32m], but Madrid's president didn't want to transfer him,' claimed Robinho's agent, Wagner Ribeiro. 'I think it is difficult for Robinho to move to Chelsea.'

Galliani Confirms Blues' Bid For Kaka

Brazil and Milan ace Kaka was the latest big name to be linked with a mega move this week as the elite clubs continue to test each other's resolve in the summer transfer market.

Big-spenders Chelsea reportedly sought to lure the Rossoneri's star man to the Premiership, just after the Serie A side linked him up with his countryman Ronaldinho.

A €100m bid has been mentioned and subsequently went some way to unsettling the midfield maestro.

The 26-year-old went on to claim that there were in fact two clubs after his services, with his apparent advisor,
Diogo Kotscho, adding that, although Real Madrid had failed to land the player last year, a move to London was more likely.

However, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has confirmed that, although Chelsea have laid their credit cards on the table, bigwig Silvio Berlusconi hasn't taken the rather expensive bait.

“Chelsea want Kaka?” Galliani cheekily asked eager reporters on Saturday. “It's true - they have made a conspicuous offer - but I won't tell you how much it is.

Adding that his boss has a backbone of steel, Galliani continued: "President Berlusconi basically says no to Kaka [leaving], just as he did when Real Madrid wanted [Andrei] Shevchenko in 2001.

“Even Clarence Seedorf is staying here; the fans can sleep easy.”

Liam Black,

Deco pleads with Drogba to stay

Drogba, 30, has been linked with possible transfers to Spain and Italy.
Deco said: "I don't know if he'll stay. I did speak to him and I told him I'd love him to stay and I'd love to play with him, he is a fantastic player.
"I just hope he can stay with us because he is one of the best forwards in the world and to win the Champions League you need players like Drogba."
Playmaker Deco, who joined Chelsea from Barcelona in a deal reported to be worth about £8m, would not be surprised if Drogba was tempted away from Stamford Bridge.

"Obviously, at this time many, many clubs are looking to buy a forward and it's difficult for most teams and Drogba is one of he best centre forwards in the world," said Deco.
"All the big clubs will want a player like him."
New Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari claimed at his official unveiling that Drogba was still "200% in his plans" for the squad.
A decision on Drogba's future is expected before the end of July.