Martins joins Birmingham

Birmingham City have signed Nigeria international Obafemi Martins from Russian side Rubin Kazan on a six-month loan deal.

Martins passed a medical at St Andrew’s on Monday and could line up for the Blues as early as Wednesday’s clash with Manchester City.

The 26-year-old, who scored 39 times in 105 appearances with Newcastle United before departing for Wolfsburg in 2009, has agreed to a six-month move with a view to signing a permanent deal in July.

He becomes the Blues’ third signing of the January window after Tottenham winger David Bentley joined on loan and defender Curtis Davies arrived from Aston Villa in a 3.5 million-pound deal.

Birmingham City Acting Chairman Peter Pannu said the West Midlands club was delighted to have achieved their aim of bolstering the squad for the latter half of the season.

“We are thrilled to have secured the three players in this window,” Pannu told the club’s official website.

“It represents a comprehensive strengthening and support for our back four in Curtis, rejuvenation of the midfield in Bentley and further strengthening of the attack line in Martins.”

“I am certain these new additions will augment and supplement what we already have and create some competition within the team for places which benefits the whole squad.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Blackpool seal Reid signing

Blackpool have confirmed the signing of midfielder Andy Reid from Sunderland for an undisclosed amount.

The English Premier League club have been one of the big movers on Monday’s transfer deadline day, swooping on Reid and reportedly fielding offers from Liverpool and Manchester United for captain Charlie Adam.

The Lancashire club are also believed to be close to a deal for James Beattie, with the former England and now Rangers striker reportedly undergoing a medical at Bloomfield Road.

Republic of Ireland international Reid has signed a contract for the remainder of the season, having made 78 appearances for the Black Cats following a move from Charlton Athletic in January 2008.

The 28-year-old could make a valuable contribution as a creative playmaker in Ian Holloway’s side – especially if Blackpool lose Adam – and the Tangerines boss was thrilled to have snared his man.

“I’ve just met him and had a chat with him,” Holloway said of Reid.

“I think he will be perfect for us, a little dinky-do football player and we’ll have him and it won’t take me long to get him going.”

“I think he has gone for about 12 million pounds in the past, so that is not a bad take for us, I don’t believe.”

Holloway also hinted Blackpool could be making further moves before the transfer window slams shut at 2300GMT.

“The wheels are on the go but I can’t really disclose that yet,” Holloway said.

“They can change direction very quickly and end up going somewhere else on this crazy day because everybody wants a bag of carrots and they might be a bag of carrots, if you know what I mean.”

“We have managed to grab one, thanks Andy, that’ll do. As far as I’m concerned there are two more definitely travelling down, definitely, but that could end up horribly.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Retribution on Moyes´ mind

Everton manager David Moyes wants his side make amends for one of their poorest performances of the season when they face Arsenal on Tuesday.

Moyes still has bad memories of his team’s display that saw them lose 2-1 against the Gunners at Goodison Park in the English Premier League in November.

Arsenal raced into a two-goal lead through Bacary Sagna and Cesc Fabregas, though the scoreline could have been a lot higher.

Midfielder Tim Cahill pulled a late goal back for the home side but Moyes never expected to get anything from the game.

Everton have suffered just one defeat in their last ten games but they won just three of those encounters, and Moyes is keen to see his side get back to winning ways.

“I think one of our poorest performances this season was at home to Arsenal this season,” he said.

“I didn’t think we got to the standards we had in other games. We will try to do better than we did in that game at Goodison Park.”

“Arsenal have good sides every year. There is no question of the quality they have got there. They try to compete at the top of the league which is very difficult.”

“It is always a hard game because of the quality players they have in their side but we have quality players as well.”

“We have drawn a lot of games – some we could have won. Getting a win is important and we have not got enough of them. We need to win instead of drawing them – that would be the answer.”

Moyes is banking on Louis Saha to continue his good form in the second half of the season.

The former Manchester United forward netted his third goal in just four games during the 1-1 FA Cup draw against Chelsea on Saturday.

After scoring just four goals in the whole of 2010, Moyes is praying the Frenchman can regain the form which saw him net 12 strikes in the first half of last season.

Moyes added: “Goals change centre forwards and everything they do feels a lot better.”

“At the start of last season he scored a lot of goals in the first half of the season so let’s hope he can score a lot of these goals in the second half of this season.”

“He is playing with a lot more confidence and belief. I would like to think he can keep it going.”

Moyes has no fresh injury worries for the trip to north London but will make a decision over the inclusion of defender Tony Hibbert, who has been suffering from illness.

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Dalgish focus on Stoke, not Torres

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insists speculation over Fernando Torres will not distract his players ahead of Wednesday’s game with Stoke.

The Spain striker is reportedly set for a 50 million-pound move to English Premier League rivals Chelsea, with Newcastle striker Andy Carroll apparently Dalglish’s top target to replace him.

But Dalglish said on Monday he will concentrate on matters on the pitch and insisted that his side were focused on claiming a third-successive victory.

“The most important people at Liverpool Football Club are the people that want to be here and the people we have,” Dalglish said.

“That is why the greatest concentration this week is the game against Stoke City, as we have to respect the players we have and look after them.”

“We have to make sure that our train of thought is on the game against Stoke.”

And Dalglish has backed Stoke boss Tony Pulis, who has often been criticised for adopting a physical approach and relying on set-pieces.

The Scot, who could welcome back Jamie Carragher from injury, believes Pulis deserves credit for establishing Stoke as a Premier League side.

He added: “Tony has done a fantastic job. They have a style of play that suits them.”

“There is no definitive way of playing football – there is no right and wrong way, as long as everyone plays within the rules.”

“Our football club has a style and philosophy of playing, but it’s not exclusive. That’s why football is what it is.”

“We have to be better than whoever we play irrespective of the style they play. They play the way that suits them best, and that is of great credit to Tony that he has identified that.”

Dalglish has also challenged his players to build on their back-to-back victories over Wolves and Fulham, which have lifted the club to seventh on the Premier League table.

“We are delighted with two clean sheets and two wins in two games, but we know there is a long way to go,” he said.

“We have moved a significant number of places up the table, but we know our ambitions are further than that.”

“We want to go forward and do the best we possibly can. We need to build on the two results, which haven’t done anyone’s confidence any harm, but there is a long way to go.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Beckenbauer sees positives in Robben punch

Arjen Robben has blamed Thomas Mueller for the Bayern Munich pair’s on-field stoush, but Franz Beckenbauer believes the clash is a good sign.

Netherlands midfielder Robben threw a punch at Mueller after the final whistle of Bayern’s 3-1 Bundesliga win over Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Robben had blasted a free-kick into the wall instead of passing to Germany forward Mueller, with the latter showing his frustration at the Dutchman’s decision.

It led to a bizarre reaction from Robben, who grabbed the 21-year-old by the throat before appearing to punch him as their Bayern team-mates rushed to intervene.

No action was taken by the referee or his assistants but the issue is set to be investigated by the German FA.

Robben, 27, has refused to apologise and has laid the blame at the feet of his team-mate, saying Mueller’s reaction was ‘disrespectful’.

But Bayern’s Honorary President Franz Beckenbauer has defended the pair, suggesting that it was a sign that the reigning champions – 14 points behind league-leaders Dortmund – are rediscovering their hunger.

“It might look a bit strange when two players from the same team get in each others faces but one also has to see the positive side,” he said.

“The team seems to be alive. They have rediscovered their courage, they want to do it, they are addicted to the game again.”

“Everyone wants the ball, nobody hides anymore, that is a very positive thing.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Stuff of dreams for debutant Pazzini

Even Giampaolo Pazzini’s wildest dreams did not include a two-goal debut in Inter Milan’s comeback win over Palermo on Sunday.

It was little wonder the Italy striker – who only signed for the Milan club on Friday from Sampdoria – was over the moon at having inspired his new side to an unlikely three Serie A points.

Trailing 2-0 at home after just 36 minutes, Pazzini fired a 16-minute, second-half double salvo before fellow striker Samuel Eto’o converted winning penalty – after Pazzini was felled in the box – in the 76th minute.

Part of an attacking troika alongside Eto’o and Diego Milito, Pazzini was delighted to begin his Inter career on such a promising note.

“Well, I’d have never imagined a debut like that,” he admitted.

“I’d like to thank my team-mates and the coach for making me feel part of the group from the very beginning. It has been really good.”

“The choice of three forwards was really brave, but necessary to help us recover the result from 2-0 down. Someone said it would have been difficult to play with Milito and Eto’o, but it went very well.”"I have felt really good since they are two champions who’ve made me feel at ease. Diego, who played close to me, has helped me and talked to me. We have played well together, so everything has gone pretty well.”

“I’ve scored two goals and Samuel scored one goal, so I think this is the best I could’ve achieved.”

The win kept Leonardo’s men nine points from Serie A leaders and city rivals AC Milan with a game in hand.

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Park Ji-Sung retires from international football

Great servant for South Korea

What a fantastic servant Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung has been for South Korea. He played his one hundredth game for his country last week in their Asian Cup semi-final defeat against Japan and has now announced his retirement from international football.

Problems

The Manchester United wide man says that continuing knee problems have given him little choice in the matter.

“It was a great honour to play for the national football team. If there were no injuries, I could have continued, however, I have no choice.”

Contract

Park has signed a contract at Manchester United that could keep him at the club for another four years and the twenty-nine year old believes that this decision will enable him to do so.

The main reason he is moving on, he says, is that he has done what he can for the national side and now feels he should let younger men take over and have their chance.

“Above all, I would like to make way for team-mates who have been making remarkable progress.”

Map

He certainly has done his bit to put South Korean football on the map. After joining Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven in 2005 he has picked up three Premier League winners medals and three League Cup medals as well. In 2009 he became the first man from his country to play in a Champions League final.

Since making his international debut in 2000 Park has played a major part in a fine decade for South Korea. He was in the team which reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, the best performance by any Asian team in the competition, and also played in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

Announcement

Following the announcement, South Korean manager Kwang-rae said,

“Park Ji-sung has done a remarkable job for the prosperity of Korean football. It would be better if I could retain him in the national team but other players have done an excellent job.”

Midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung said,

“He has been really a great player for ten years and I am really proud of him and he showed to the people all over the world that Korean football is getting better.”

Park can now get down to the business of trying to extend Manchester United’s unbeaten run and adding a fourth Premier League winners medal to his collection.

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Bruce wary of Chelsea threat

Steve Bruce has warned his players that English Premier League champions Chelsea come to Sunderland on Tuesday in ‘Big Four’ mood.

The Sunderland manager said: “It’s very unusual to see Chelsea 10 points off the table of the table but the big boys usually come through like trains later in the season.”

“And it’s Chelsea to me who look as though they are most likely to get a real head of steam going and start pushing through.”

“They’ve won three games in a row comfortably and they’ll be looking to come to the Stadium of Light tomorrow to prove a point after we beat them down there.”

Bruce, who is likely to include new signings Stephane Sessegnon and Sulley Muntari in his squad, knows from his own playing days that the turn of the year is usually when the best teams finally start showing their heels to the rest of the pack.

He said: “When I was at Manchester United we would always look to go on a good run in the New Year.”

“It was when the best teams suddenly found their very best form. Things click and you really start producing your best.”

“I can definitely see that happening to Chelsea.”

Bruce’s biggest selection dilemma tomorrow will be where to deploy Kieran Richardson.

The club’s ‘Mr Versatility’ was the star of the show in Sunderland’s last Premier League game, playing just behind main striker Asamoah Gyan at Blackpool and scoring two classy goals in the sparkling 2-1 win on January 22.

The natural inclination would be not to tinker with a winning team.

But Bruce’s masterstroke in Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November was to select Richardson on the right wing to contain the attacking threat of the Blues’ England right-back Ashley Cole.

Bruce has been absorbed in his pursuit of Inter Milan’s Muntari and Paris St Germain’s Sessegnon and is thrilled to get his two targets of the transfer window.

But he insists he has not taken his eye off the ball when it comes to the Chelsea game

“All people have wanted to talk about is transfers and I can understand that – that’s what you get with the January transfer window, particularly when it starts coming to the end of it,” he said.

“We can’t guarantee a good result, but hopefully we can guarantee a good performance and if we can do that, then I’ll be happy to accept whatever the night brings.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Redknapp closed for business?

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp has rubbished reports of a bid for Sergio Aguero and predicted a quiet deadline day at White Hart Lane.

English Premier League outfit Spurs were linked with an audacious 38.5-million-pound transfer bid for Atletico Madrid striker Aguero on Sunday.

The club also reportedly made advances to forwards Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Giuseppe Rossi (Villareal) and Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla) in an attempt to shore up their front third before the transfer window slams shut at 2300GMT on Monday.

Reporters peppered Redknapp with questions as he arrived for Tottenham’s Monday training session, but the Spurs boss insisted he was not expecting any new faces at White Hart Lane.

“No, I don’t know anything about that one,” he said when asked of Aguero, who signed a new contract with Atletico on Monday.

“We’d have all of them, they’d improve us. But I can’t see any of them being here.”

“I would tell you, honestly. I should be going home after training today. I don’t intend to be sticking around here until 11 o’clock tonight, there’s nothing happening.”

“I would be very surprised if anything happened today. There is nothing very close.”

Meanwhile, Redknapp ruled out allowing centre-back Jonathan Woodgate and Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar to leave on loan.

Woodgate has been cruelled by a groin injury since late 2009 but is nearing full fitness once more, while Kranjcar has struggled to break into a first team loaded with talent of the ilk of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart.

“No chance, we can’t weaken the squad anymore,” the Spurs boss said.

Mon 31 January, 2011
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Delneri hoping for injury reprieve

Juventus manager Luigi Delneri has blamed an injury crisis at the Stadio Olimpico for his side’s January struggles.

Juve fell 2-1 at home to Udinese on Sunday, signing off on a bleak January period that saw them lose three of five Serie A fixtures.

The horror run has seen Juve fall to seventh on the table and 12 points adrift of leaders AC Milan, ahead of a difficult string of fixtures against Palermo, Cagliari and Inter Milan.

The proud club are not being helped by a rash of injuries in the squad, with the absence of strikers Fabio Quagliarella, Vincenzo Iaquinta and Luca Toni leaving Delneri’s side desperately thin up front.

Delneri was understandably disappointed after Sunday’s defeat, which came despite Juve leading 1-0 with half an hour to play.

But he said he expected his side to resume their Scudetto campaign once his key players return from injury.

“We’re struggling at the moment, mainly because we haven’t got replacements in certain key areas,” Delneri said.

“The players are still producing good performances though, even when they’re asked to play in different roles. They’ll be playing again on Thursday (at Palermo) and on Sunday (at Cagliari).”

“Now January is over we hope we’ll have some of our important resources back in order to make a final push, since Juventus are always competing for the championship.”

“Of course we should do better, but we also need to get players back otherwise it won’t be possible to improve our performances.”

“You can play well, battle and have a good spirit, but in order to compete for the championship the whole team needs to be available and right now at Juventus we don’t have that. We’re already doing our best though.”

“January has been a negative month, one of the worst months, maybe this is also due to certain personal issues, but it’s definitely been a very bad period.”

“Things have gone really well also considering all the difficulties we’re having now. At the moment we’re paying for even the small mistakes, therefore there is nothing to say.”

“Right now we should have the strength to accept the criticism in these difficult times and focus on the next match.”

Mon 31 January, 2011
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