Shock Deadline Moves: Benjani, Guzan’s Work Permit status

Benjani to Manchester City (very close at least)! Portsmouth’s best forward move has made Harry Redknapp’s life a living hell now, unless he’s got transfers lined up today. Benjani’s exit, Utaka and Kanu at the ANC, and Dave Nugent out with an injury leaves Portsmouth rather thin at the forward line. Milan Baros has arrived and Jermain Defoe is apparently VERY close to a $26 million move from Tottenham.

Alan Hutton finally completed his move to Tottenham, giving the Spurs a viable right back option and possibly spelling Pascal Chimbonda’s end at White Hart Lane. He can definitely move to the center, but if there’s one person it spells the end for…it’s Canadian Paul Stalteri. Walter Smith is going to like the $16 million that came from this transfer…wonder what he’ll do with it.
Apparently, Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa is on the verge of collapsing. The initial reuqest for a work permit has been denied – a subsequent appeal will tell the tale.
Afonso Alves has secured a work permit to play for Middlesbrough. Deal should be completed very soon. With Alves and Tuncay up front, Boro’s front line finally rivals their past pairing of Mark Viduka and Yakubu. Inter starlet Goran Slavkovski might be on his way to Boro which further improves their striker situation. Now what about that defense?

Fulham have signed not one, but THREE strikers in January. Finnish legend Jari Litmanen just arrived and at the age of 36, the former Liverpool, Ajax, Barcelona striker will vie for a starting role with Eddie Johnson and FC Groningen’s Erik Nevland. Does this mean Dempsey will move back to his true position?

Manucho, the Angolan and Manchester United striker who has been making waves at the ANC, is set to move on loan to Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. He looks to have a very bright future at Old Trafford but will have to wait his turn.

Last but not least, David Beckham – no not transfer news – has to wait for his chance at an 100th cap as Fabio Capello is afraid that celebrity friendlies don’t constitute being “fit”. Hasn’t Capello learned his lesson about leaving Beckham on the sidelines??? No worries as Capello’s roster picks have some people thinking he’s completely insane. Emile Heskey, Curtis Davies (7 total EPL appearances this year, maybe 8), and Michael Owen (who has looked like shit recently), Peter Crouch in. Who deserved the call-up?

EPL Daily 1.16: Capello to be probed?, Diarra finds a home, and Avram Grant makes his second signing (plus FA Cup replay round-ups!)

FABIO CAPELLO: The new coach of the Three Lions has had to assure people that he will not be joining Joey Barton behinds bars due to tax issues. The claims of a full-scale investigation into Capello’s tax history are coming out of Italy and regarding his time as manager of AS Roma and Juventus. Capello assures his tax affairs are in order.

LASSANA DIARRA: 22-years old and he’s already been to two world-class clubs. In order to get proper playing time, Diarra has now moved on – in a reported $10 million move – to Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth. Kind of seems Diarra’s request for more playing time will come with much competition still as Pompey’s midfield is pretty damn good. Niko Kranjcar, Papa Bouba Diop, and Sully Ali Muntari man the middle – he’s got a chance to Redknapp he deserves it though as both Diop and Muntari are at the African Nation’s Cup.

BIG TRANSFERS: Lyon’s Fred looks to be on his way to White Hart Lane to play for the Hotspur; former Chelsea midfielder Maniche got picked up on loan by Inter Milan;  in some sort of a transfer coup 20-year old Argentinian starlet Mauro Zarate – playing with Al-Sadd in Qatar – could be on his way to rescue Birmingham from the Blues; Chelsea have joined in on the Eastern European fun, by signing their own version of Man Utd success story Nemanja Vidic – this central defender, Branko Ivanovic of Lokomotiv Moscow, is also a Serb, already with a work permit, and worth about $20 million. We’ll see if THAT pans out.

FA Cup Round 3 Replays

Bury 2, Norwich 1

The League Two side sparkled against Championship side Norwich. Dion Dublin found the net for the green and yellow, but it was purely consolation. Bury had already ‘buried’ two – Ben Futcher in the 18th and Andy Bishop in the 61st. A whopping 67% scoring percentage.

Tottenham 1, Reading 0

Robbie Keane the hero – again – although it’s been Berbatov’s name on the scoring charts as of late. Tottenham’s newest signing Chris Gunter got the start and did well, while Bobby Convey played all 90 minutes for the Royals making life difficult for Chimbonda on the right. Hahnemann was given the night off along with some other key players and the Royals still were dangerous, but it was the Hotspur who converted their chances and all it took was one.

Millwall 2, Walsall 1
Zak Whitbread’s squad went on and won with out the American back.

Liverpool 5, Luton Town 0

The first half Reds were silent, but once half-time broke, it was all class. Ryan Babel started things off right. Steven Gerrard then promptly stole the show, unleashing his inner frustrations on the Luton Town defense, scoring three over the course of the second half. Only Sami Hyypia could take the spotlight off of Gerrard for more than a minute when he hit home in the 57th minute, confirming the rout was on. Jamie Carragher played in his 500th game for the Reds.

West Brom 2, Charlton 2 (W.B.A. wins 4-3 in penalties)

The Baggies recovered, after giving up a two goal lead, and won 4-3 in penalties. Darren Ambrose and Chris Dickson led the come back charge for Charlton, only to see their FA Cup hopes dashed after Zheng Zhi’s spot-kick was saved by W.B.A.’s Dean Kiely.

Today’s Games
Havant and Waterlooville vs. Swansea
Tranmere vs. Hereford
Newcastle vs. Stoke (save face Magpies, save face)
Manchester City vs. West Ham United

EPL Daily 12.14: All things Capello; Derby/Coventry takeover?, etc.

Coventry and Derby are the latest English clubs to be pegged for an imminent takeover – Derby’s has an American feel however (an “American sports company”) and is still in critical stages. Whereas, Coventry has gone the Ray Ranson-led SISU Capital route (Ranson was responsible for a bid to takeover Man City early last year). With the takeover, which is now just subject to a 90% approval from all Coventry City shareholders, the Championship club saves themselves from administrative and competitive penalties. Also, West Ham is gearing up for yet another injection of capital as baldy Icelandic chairman Eggert Magnusson has relinquished his 5% stake in the Hammers to his Icelandic chum ‘BG’ – Bjorgolfur Gudmondsson – who plans to put another $60 million or so into the club (not player purchases persay).

Now – with the final verdict subject to contract negotiations (6.25 mill pounds/yr) – ALL of the controversy arises around the inevitable appointment of Italian Fabio Capello to the English manager’s position. Paul Parker at Eurosport says this confirms that England is now a ‘second-rate football nation’. Reading’s main man Steve Coppell, M’bro’s Gareth Southgate, former Arsenal defender Tony Adams don’t agree with the decision as well. Former English midfielder and MK Dons boss Paul Ince is pissed too. Got me thinking, were they this pissed when Sven Goran Eriksson took over? SoccerLens put together a list of 10 reasons why Fabio Capello IS a good choice.

If the head coach is Italian, does it balance it out if the majority of the coaching staff is British? Both Alan Shearer and current English U-21 gaffer Stuart Pearce have been tagged as potential number twos. Shearer to England seems a bit improbable as the former Newcastle striker turned down a chance to be assistant when McLaren took over.

Amidst all that, Chelsea’s new boss Avram Grant has just signed on for 4 more years. Pretty well done considering the Mourinho mess.

Nery Castillo – Mexico’s pride and joy at this past summer’s Copa America  and long-time Mexican Guiseppe Rossi – is already sick of Shakhtar (Ukraine) and is being linked to a loan deal with Sven Goran Eriksson’s Manchester City

One hell of a Sunday this weekend – Manchester United vs. Liverpool and Chelsea vs. Arsenal in the EPL. Ajax vs. PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivisie. Valencia vs. Barcelona in La Liga. Juventus vs. Lazio in the Serie A. Who prevails??

EPL Daily 12.12: Maurice Edu abroad!?; Capello done…; Gerrard burgled

Fabio Capello – England’s next skipper. Eurosport says it’s as close as you can get to done. BBC Sport is saying the talks are just beginning. Even Ruud Gullit has thrown in his two cents, saying that the Italian could really make a big impact on English football as long as you don’t expect “sexy football”. The English playing “sexy football”, Ruud? HAH!

No real proof as of yet, but the Maurice Edu to Aston Villa rumors are back!! First, the Daily Mirror (crap). Second, Vital Football. It’s picking up steam, but Martin O’Neill has yet to confirm.

Steven Gerrard joins the list of 6 other Liverpool footballers that have been burgled in the past 18 months. His house was hit while he was in France destroying Marseille. Others? Crouch, Dudek, Agger, Kuyt, Reina. Scary part is, Gerrard’s wife was home at the time – first time someone has been in the house. Lucky no confrontation was involved.

Aston Villa defensive stalwart Olaf Mellberg is ready to snub Martin O’Neill and join Juventus. His contract is up in the summer and pre-contract talks can happen in the January transfer window. His thoughts? “Juventus? I can’t deny it.” Well put. Mellberg’s loss could present some sort of mass defensive exodus as Wilfried Bouma, keeper Thomas Sorensen, and Martin Laursen all are awaiting contract talks but could certainly opt for other opportunities as many will be in line to snatch them up.

MLS: Coaches, GMs and Wet-Dream Thinking

With the recent rash of firings/resignations of Major League Soccer (MLS) coaches – not to mention the barely moral decision to keep around one coach well past his use-by date (though there is hope yet) – chatter about replacements, as well as the talents and qualities that will make said replacements worth the dinero, dominated the soccer-sphere for a second day. In fact, USSoccerplayas.com’s front page looks a little like a special edition given the consistency of the stories (not going to bother linking; the links will change).

A kind of mental quirks typically surfaces in these discussions and this latest round is no different; it could, in fact, be a little worse given how loosely the concept of “ambition” gets thrown around by guys like Alexi Lalas, who has announced his intention to accept nothing less than “sexy” in a new coach for the LA Galaxy (brain…hurting….). But this idea appears just about everywhere, including in a Clemente Lisi column about what he’d term Bruce Arena’s inevitable struggles with Red Bull New York (for the record, I like Lisi’s work on the general subject):

“Now comes the tough task of signing a new coach. With the club’s deep pockets, I would not be surprised if the search is centered on a European coach with plenty of experience. The coach of Red Bull Salzburg, NY’s sister team, is former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni. Other names that could be in the mix are Jürgen Klinsmann and Jose Mourinho, if the LA Galaxy doesn’t get there first. All these men are currently out of work and all of them would make for a great addition to MLS.

Those names – albeit minus Trapattoni and plus Fabio Capello – appear in Billy Witz’ LA Daily News column Lalas’ search. As much as seeing any of those coaches in MLS would be, um, kinda neat, I’m far from convinced they would make “great additions to MLS” outside the marketing department. In a non-response response, (meaning that) Goal.com’s Pat Walsh (could very well have written his piece before or after Witz and Lisi) points to the holes in this, well, wet-dream kind of thinking: Continue reading