Zigic returns to Racing on loan

Serbian striker Nikola Zigic will spend the rest of the 2007-08 on loan at his previous employer, Racing de Santander.

The tall (203cm) forward joined Valencia from Racing in 2007 but hasn’t been able to break through. This year, he hasn’t even appeared in a single Primera Division game.

Zigic is happy to be back at Racing: “This club and Santander feel like home. I only want to look forward now.”

The Serbian first left his home country to join Racing in 2006. That season, he went on to score 13 goals in 35 games. The performance attracted Valencia’s interest, but the player was never able to convince previous coach Ronald Koeman and current manager Unai Emery.

Wed 31 December, 2008
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Stuttgart sign young midfielder

German side VfB Stuttgart have secured the services of Under-19 international Timo Gebhart from TSV 1860 Munich.

The 19-year-old midfielder has been playing for TSV since 2004 and broke through to the first team last season. With 37 appearances and five goals, he attracted the interest of several Bundesliga sides.

“Timo has several offers from rival sides, but we are delighted he chose us,” said Stuttgart’s sporting director Horst Heldt.

Gebhart himself praised Stuttgart’s habit of giving young players a chance: “They have always trusted in young players, and I want to improve and be part of their first team.”

Stuttgart haven’t been able to convince this season and currently occupy tenth place in the Bundesliga. They did manage to reach the UEFA Cup round of 32, in which they are to face Zenit St Petersburg.

Wed 31 December, 2008
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Panathinaikos sell Rodrigo Souza

Greek side Panathinakos have begun their transfer market activity by selling Brazilian striker Rodrigo Souza to Corinthians. This was announced on the club’s official website.

Souza joined the Athens outfit from Flamengo this summer but hasn’t been able to impress manager Henk ten Cate, who tends to use Vaggelis Mantzios for the position.

Panathinaikos are expected to make a few changes during the transfer window, particularly in order to prepare for the Champions League knock-out phase. The departure of Souza frees up a valuable non-EU spot.

Souza and Corinthians have agreed on a three-year deal

Wed 31 December, 2008
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Aissati choose to represent Morocco

Ajax midfielder Ismail Assaiti will be representing the Moroccan national team in the future. This was revealed by Morocco’s FA on Tuesday.

Aissati has both the Moroccan and the Dutch nationality, and until now the 20-year-old hadn’t pledged his future to either country. He did form part of the Dutch U-21 team that won the European Championships in 2006.

“Ismail Aissati has decided to play in the colors of Morocco from now on. His family and he recently announced this to a board member of the Moroccan FA,” the association said.

Morocco hope to have Aissati, who left PSV Eindhoven for Ajax this summer, available for the international friendly with the Czech Republic in February.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Heskey could return to Liverpool

Wigan Athletic striker Emile Heskey seems likely to leave the club during the January transfer window, possibly to return to Premiership leaders Liverpool.

The 30-year-old will be out of contract at the end of this season and if Wigan want to earn a fee, they would have to allow the player to move elsewhere. Manager Steve Bruce is reluctant to let go of the forward but may not be left with a choice.

Media reports have that Wigan are about to close a deal with Colombian Hugo Rodallega, who currently plays for Mexican side Necaxa. The South American could well be attracted to replace Heskey.

After spending the first six years of his career at Leicester City, Heskey joined Liverpool in 1999. In 2004, the forward moved to Birmingham City to end up at Wigan two years later.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Joaquin blames Ferrari for arriving late

Spanish Primera Division side Valencia has to begin Monday’s training session without their winger Joaquin, who arrived more than thirty minutes too late.

When Joaquin finally did arrive, he first went to apologize to manager Emery, who luckily for the player isn’t as strict on these matters as his predecessor Koeman. Following the apology, Joaquin had to undergo the jokes of his teammate.

While being late by itself isn’t that unique, the reason in this case certainly is. After the training session, Joaquin revealed that everything was to blame on his Ferrari, which wouldn’t start…

Joaquin joined Valencia in 2006 and quickly became one of the side’s key players. Before moving to ‘los ches’, the now 27-year-old spent six years at Real Betis.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Villa leapfrog Arsenal into Champions League position

Aston Villa leapfrogged Arsenal into the last Champions League placing here on Tuesday as an own-goal by Kamil Zayatte gifted them a 1-0 victory over Hull City in the last Premier League match of the year.

Zayatte turned his attempted clearance from Ashley Young's cross past goalkeeper Boaz Myhill to extend Villa's unbeaten sequence to eight while Hull must be staring anxiously at the bottom three as they have only won once in their last 11 games.

They looked to be on course to salvage a point in time added on when referee Steve Bennett awarded them a penalty for handball but after consulting with a linesman he correctly rescinded his decision as former Real Madrid target Young had not handled the ball, though he did raise his arm as the ball went over the bar.

Aston Villa skipper Gareth Barry praised Bennett after the match.

“That sort of decision doesn't happen too often,” said Barry.

“The referee deserves a lot of credit for changing his mind.”

Young said that his attempt to save the ball had been instinctive.

“I was on the post and it was a reflex reaction. It hit the bar and it went over.

“It's a good feeling to be up there above Arsenal and level on points with Manchester United.”

Barry, though, was relieved to have got the three points which for long periods of the game didn't seem likely.

“It was a very tough game,” said Barry, who was pursued by Arsenal in the summer but eventually opted to stay at Villa.

“They (Hull) bounced back from two heavy defeats (4-1 to Sunderland and then 5-1 to Manchester City) and didn't allow the game to get too stretched which is what they prefer.”

Hull's veteran former England striker Nicky Barmby thought he might have got the opener early in the first-half but Bennett adjudged correctly that he had barged Villa keeper Brad Friedel – who was making his 172nd successive Premier League appearance – before stabbing the ball home.

Indeed despite Villa playing the most creative football it was Hull that were slightly more effective in the danger areas and it took a desperate headed clearance by Curtis Davies 10 minutes from the break to stop Hull capitalising on a fine move.

The second-half was a similar period to the first where Villa played the pretty football but were unable to impose themselves as Hull's players stopped them every time they looked dangerous.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Reports: “Arsenal make bid for Shay Given”

British tabloid The Daily Express reports that Arsenal have made a bid for Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given. The Gunners are reportedly willing to pay eight million Pounds.

The Irish 32-year-old has been at Newcastle since 1997 -with a short stint at arch rivals Sunderland in the 2005-06 season- but might be willing to leave the Magpies in order to join a side that plays regular Champions League football.

Moreover, Given recently stormed off after Newcastle’s match with Liverpool and may not be as happy as he used to be at St. James’ Park.

If Given is to try his luck at Emirates Stadium, he would have to compete with Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone for a spot in Arsenal’s goal.

Newcastle may already have found a replacement, as the Toon showed interest in Sheffield United’s Irish keeper Paddy Kenny.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Fred changes mind and stays at Lyon

Brazilian striker Fred aims to stay with French champions Olympique de Lyon at least until the end of the season, he told a website this week.

Only two weeks ago, Fred requested for his contract to be terminated in order to return to Brazil and play for a club in his home country. However, the player appears to have changed his mind and now wants to serve the full length of his contract, which expires in June 2009.

“I’ll stay until June,” Fred told Lyon Capital’s website. “I can’t say anything more but we will continue discussions over a new contract.”

Fred, also known as Frederico Chaves Guedes, joined Lyon from Cruzeiro in 2005. Since moving to France, the forward scored 34 goals of which only two this season.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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Portsmouth willing to consider bids for Defoe

Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie has confirmed that his club is willing to listen to any bids for striker Jermain Defoe, who recently has been the center of attention of both Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa.

However, Storrie added that only a major bid would have a chance of succeeding. Pompey signed Defoe from Spurs for 7 million Pounds last January, but a fee thrice that amount was mentioned in British media on Tuesday.

“We have had a tentative enquiry about Jermain and told the club concerned he was not for sale unless it was for a very, very big offer,” Storrie told reporters.

Defoe, 26 years old, player for West Ham United and Tottenham before joining Portsmouth a year ago. The player himself has expressed an interest in a Tottenham return, to join up with former Portsmouth manager Redknapp.

Tue 30 December, 2008
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