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Neymar’s Move

After a three-year struggle to keep their star player, Santos have decided to sell their star player, Neymar. Having reportedly accepted two transfer bids, the club has left the decision with the player and his representatives.

“In the face of the offers and the player’s contract, the management committee of the club decided to sell the player,” Santos said in a statement on their website. “At a meeting with the representatives of Santos FC’s management committee, the forward Neymar Jr was informed about the proposals received by the club and will analyse them in the coming days before making a definitive decision.”

The two suitors are widely reported to be Real Madrid and Barcelona – the two Spanish giants – with Barca offering a €28 million and Real Madrid offering €35 million. (As reported by Brazilian publications)

Neymar has stated that he will discuss it with his family before making a final decision (his father being his agent), but reports seem to agree that Neymar has a gentleman’s agreement with Barcelona.

It also appears that Neymar would prefer to go to Barcelona, but it remains to be seen whether a Real Madrid coup is in the cards. It is Real Madrid’s presidential election year, so there will most likely be a big-name signing for them this summer. But will it be Neymar?

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Managerial Shake-Ups

Now that the season has ended in England and drawing to a close across Europe, many clubs are looking to bring in fresh faces. But it’s not the players that are taking up all the headlines at the moment, it’s the managers.

ImageThere is already the done David Moyes deal at Manchester United. He arrived at the training grounds a couple of days ago to meet his new employers and players before he officially takes over in July. This is old news by now, so suffice it to say that he has a big journey ahead of him filled with expectations.

Of course, this leaves the Everton post open and Wigan’s Roberto Martinez and Swansea’s Michael Laudrup have been touted for the job, although it is all just speculation at the moment.

Following Roberto Mancini’s sacking last week, Manchester City is also in need of a new gaffer with Manuel Pellegrini from Malaga in pole position for the job.

Real Madrid confirmed yesterday that Jose Mourinho will leave at the end of the season by mutual agreement. Mourinho has been hinting at a move away from the Bernabeu for months now, and it is almost certain that he will return to the vacant Chelsea position. His language and hints in recent press interviews would certainly suggest so.

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Real Madrid have wasted no time in find a replacement either, and have approached Paris Saint-Germain about Carlo Ancelotti. PSG have rebuffed both Madrid’s offer and Ancelotti’s request to leave as they want to keep their manager for the remainder of his contract which still has one year left.

There is surely more to come from all these stories and I will keep you updated with all the developments over the next couple of months.

Welsh Wizardry

After last week’s Player of the Year Awards, I want to talk about Gareth Bale – this season’s PFA Players’ Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year, and FWA Footballer of the Year. It is a tremendous accomplishment and Bale now joins Andy Gray (76/77) and Cristiano Ronaldo (06/07) in the diminutive list of players who have won both the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in one season. What’s even more surprising is that, at the young age of 23, Gareth Bale has now won the Player of the Year for the second time. So let’s take a look at how Bale came to be one of the most feared attacking footballers in the world.

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He started his career in the youth academy of Southampton and quickly earned a senior debut, becoming the second youngest player to play for Southampton after Walcott, at the age of 16 years and 275 days. Initially, Bale played in a more defensive role as a left back, and gained some attention for his free kick abilities. His potential did not gone unnoticed, and after his first year with the Southampton senior team, Bale was snapped up by Tottenham with a four-year contract on 25 May 2007.

Although Bale showed promise, his first two seasons with the Spurs were marred by injuries and poor form. He endured another frustrating start to his third season, with knee injuries and Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s fine form keeping him on the sidelines. When Assou-Ekotto suffered an injury, Redknapp finally gave Bale a chance and he was not disappointed. Delivering a string of impressive performances, Bale managed to nail down a starting place in the team and helped Tottenham to secure a spot in the Champions League.

The next season, the 10/11 campaign, could be considered Bale’s breakout year. Although Assou-Ekotto returned from injury, Bale continued his good form and secured a starting spot further up the field as a left winger. He proved to be devastating in this position, as Inter Milan would come to discover in the Champions League. Bale almost single handedly salvaged the first leg against Inter, as he scored his first senior hattrick to make the score 4-3, after Spurs had gone down 4-0 in the first 35 minutes.

But enough about history, I’ll let the figures speak for themselves. He ended the 10/11 season with 14 goals and 12 assists across all competitions, 11/12 season with 14 goals and 18 assists. This season he has scored an astounding 30 goals and racked up 17 assists across all competitions with three games still left of the season.

So what makes Gareth Bale such a devastating footballer? Firstly, let’s look at his blistering pace. As a 14-year-old he ran the 100m in 11.4 seconds, and it seems that his speed has only increased since then. Couple this with his great stamina and strength, and you have a steam train running up and down the pitch throughout the game. He tires his markers out because he doesn’t stop running, and this helps him find that extra bit of space as the game goes on. It’s not just his physical qualities that make him difficult to mark though. He does not have trouble using his excellent technical abilities at great pace, and this makes his direct style of play very difficult to defend. Bale is also, of course, a great finisher as his 30 goal-tally would testify, and possesses a powerful left foot. One need look no further than some of his long-distance goals and free-kicks from this season to see his ability. Villas-Boas seems to have unlocked even more of Bale’s attacking potential by using him in a free role this season. Even when he starts out on the left, Bale is given the freedom to drift in to the middle of the pitch to look for goals, causing even more headaches for his markers.

Regardless of where he plays, the Welsh winger proves to be a problem for defenders everywhere. He has the ability to play for any club in the world and he certainly has no shortage of suitors with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all having expressed interest in the past. A talent like Bale should be playing European football and who knows what will happen in the summer should Tottenham fail to qualify for Champions League. One thing is for sure though – Gareth Bale is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest footballers in the world.

An End of an Era

Here is the full statement from Sir Alex Ferguson after his decision to retire was confirmed by Manchester United today.

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The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so.

The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long- term future of the club remains a bright one.

Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world. Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both director and ambassador for the club.

With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future. I must pay tribute to my family, their love and support has been essential.

My wife Cathy has been the key figure throughout my career, providing a bedrock of both stability and encouragement. Words are not enough to express what this has meant to me.

As for my players and staff, past and present, I would like to thank them all for a staggering level of professional conduct and dedication that has helped to deliver so many memorable triumphs. Without their contribution the history of this great club would not be as rich.

In my early years, the backing of the board, and Sir Bobby Charlton in particular, gave me the confidence and time to build a football club, rather than just a football team.

Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy Chief Executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them.

To the fans, thank you. The support you have provided over the years has been truly humbling. It has been an honour and an enormous privilege to have had the opportunity to lead your club and I have treasured my time as manager of Manchester United.

According to Avie Glazer, Ferguson has accepted a director and ambassadorial role at the club. So although he will not be gone completely, after 27 seasons filled with 38 trophies, Sir Alex Ferguson will most certainly be missed.

Borussia Dortmund: The Return of the Black and Yellow

Echte Liebe. True Love. The motto of one of Germany’s most successful football clubs – Borussia Dortmund.

Founded in 1909 (hence the 09 in their club logo), Dortmund have won eight German championships, three German Cups, four German Supercups, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and one Intercontinental Cup.

It is a dazzling list of trophies, but things have not been all smooth for Dortmund in its 104-year history. Even as recent as the early 2000s, Dortmund were plagued by financial troubles. Facing bankruptcy, Dortmund became the first, and so far only, publicly traded club to be listed on the German stock market, but they still managed to win their third Bundesliga title on the final day of the 01/02 season.

However, things took a sharp turn south from then onwards, and club mismanagement saw Borussia Dortmund buried under debt. They were forced to sell their Westfalenstadion ground – part of the reason the stadium is called the Signal Iduna Park today is the sponsorship deal they signed to stem their flood of financial troubles. They were even forced to borrow €2 million from their Bavarian rivals – Bayern Munich – to pay their players’ wages in 2003.

The mid 2000s saw top players such as Tomas Rosicky and David Odonker leave the club, and Dortmund found itself teetering perilously on the edges of relegation.

At the end of the 07/08 campaign, a new manager was brought in to turn around the club’s fortunes. It was a risky manoeuver considering that this was to be Jurgen Klopp’s first stint outside of Mainz in his football career. He spent twelve years there as a player, before going on to serve as the manager for seven more years.

It proved to be a gamble that paid off. Having put together a squad that cost about €20 million in its entirety, Klopp paved the way for success again. Finishing sixth and fifth in his first two seasons, Klopp went on to win back-to-back titles in the 10/11 and 11/12 campaigns, completing a club-first double with a cup win in the latter. His dedication to fast, free-flowing football gave the Dortmund faithful something to cheer about for the first time in a decade. And with an 80, 645-capacity stadium, the biggest in Germany and sixth in Europe, the fans could really be heard.

But with success came fame, and it wasn’t long before the European giants came calling. Nuri Sahin was lured away by Real Madrid at the close of the 10/11 season after winning the title and the Player of the Year award. However, Dortmund remained unaffected and went on to win the league again, having brought in Ilkay Gundogan to replace Sahin. The next season, it was Shinji Kagawa who jumped ship for Manchester United, but Dortmund reacted again and brought in Marco Reus, who has had a fantastic season this year.

The club is sure to be on the lips of many people around the world after last night’s heroics. After surviving a late 2-goal-surge from Real Madrid, Dortmund held on to progress through to the Champions League Final on aggregate (4-3).

Dortmund’s steady return to the top ranks of European football has been a joy to watch and it is great that they are getting the recognition that they deserve.

However to continue their success and battle for the top, Die Schwarzgelben will need to do everything to keep its spine of players together. Hummels, Subotic, Gundogan, Blaszcykowski, Lewandowski, Gotze, Reus. These are the players that have led Dortmund to success over the last couple of years, and every single one of them has been linked with a transfer away. Gotze’s transfer to Bayern Munich at the end of the season has been confirmed and it will be a difficult pill to swallow for the fans. With Lewandowski seemingly set on a move away too, Dortmund will have their work cut out for them come the summer.

But for now, the fans can relish the fact that Dortmund are through to the Champions League Final with a great chance of winning their second UEFA Champions League title at the Wembley. Allez Borussia Dortmund Allez!

“I know in Engl…

“I know in England I am loved. I am loved by the fans, I am loved by the media, they treat me in a fair way, criticising me and giving me credit when I deserve it.

“I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one.”

“I need to honest and fair. At the end of the season I will speak.”

– Jose Mourinho

Speaking at the post-match interview, after Madrid failed to go through to the Champions League Final, Mourinho dropped the biggest hint yet that he is thinking of a move away from the Bernabeu. Is a return to Chelsea really going to happen? Recent comments and news would suggest so, but we still have to wait to be sure.