Poli hails dream move

Italian midfielder Andrea Poli is excited about the opportunity to impress for Inter Milan after joining on loan from Sampdoria.

Inter, Serie A runners-up last season, acquired the 21-year-old on a season-long loan from Sampdoria on Monday and have the option to sign him on a permanent deal at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

The form of Poli, considered among the more exciting prospects in Italian football, was one of few highlights for Sampdoria last season as they were relegated to Serie B.

Rather than languishing in the second tier, Under-21 international Poli now has the chance to make his mark for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.

“It’s a great opportunity and a great dream coming true,” Poli said.

“I’m really happy and I’m looking forward to joining up with my team-mates, to start training with them and be at the disposal of the coach.”

“It was really a bit unexpected, but, I repeat, it is a great opportunity for me and I want to do well, I’ll put all my determination into making full use of this opportunity.”

“My aim is to play well and that’s why I want to work a lot and I’m determined to do so. I repeat again, it’s a very important opportunity for me and I don’t want to waste it.”

Poli began his career with Treviso before joining Sampdoria in 2007.

He arrives at Inter with the club looking to improve on last season’s second-placed finish behind cross-city rivals AC Milan.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Anzhi add Moroccan hotshot to star-studded squad

Anzhi Makhachkala are set to complete the signing of midfielder Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez from Standard Liege, the Belgian club have confirmed.

The two clubs have reached an agreement over the transfer fee around midnight, as it was revealed on Standard’s official website.

The cost of the transfer was not disclosed but it is believed to be around €9.1 million.

The 22-year-old is expected to sign a long-term deal with the Dagestan club subject to passing a medical in Rome.

After spending last 15 years at Standard, the Moroccan felt it was time for a new challenge and was eventually granted permission to leave the club.

Carcela-Gonzalez follows the signing of Samuel Eto’o and is likely to be Anzhi’s final capture of the summer.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Sochaux line up Gradel to replace Newcastle-bound Maiga

Sochaux president Alexandre Lacome has confirmed that the club have received an offer from Newcastle for Modibo Maiga.

The Magpies have been hot on the trail of the Malian forward for quite a while now and it appears they are finally closing in on the player.

Sochaux president has now revealed the deal could be close to fruition.

“There has been an offer from them,” Lacombe told French newspaper L’Alsace.

“But my goal is to maintain a competitive team. I will not sell Modibo without having found a replacement.”

It appears that les Lionceaux have indeed found a replacement for Maiga as their negotiations with Leeds over Max Gradel are at an advanced stage.

“We hope to do a deal. It’s at an advanced stage,” Lacombe added.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Zagallo hopes for six of the best

Brazilian World Cup winner Mario Zagallo has inspected progress on the redevelopment of the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Officially called the Estadio Jornalista Mario Filh, the Maracana is being refurbished ahead of the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

The stadium was originally built for the 1950 finals, the last time Brazil hosted the tournament.

Zagallo was in the stands as a young player on military service when Brazil lost the World Cup final to Uruguay 2-1.

“When I was in the junior team at America of Rio, I saw the Maracana being built, and I would say: ‘This place will never be packed’,” Zagallo said.

“In 1950, I was in that corner of the stands. Uruguay’s goal scored by Ghiggia was on this side. I was on duty serving the military over there.”

Two tournaments later, Zagallo had exchanged his army uniform for the famous yellow kit, and lined up alongside Pele and Garrincha.

The winger helped Brazil to their first title the 1958 tournament, with Zagallo finding the net in a 5-2 triumph over hosts Sweden in the final.

“I could never have guessed, I was there seeing Brazil lose in 1950, and eight years later, I would be wearing Brazil’s yellow jersey and becoming a world champion.”

Zagallo boasts one of the richest legacies in Brazilian football.

Now 80, he won the competition twice as a player, following his 1958 triumph with another victory in 1962.

He also coached the national side to glory in 1970, before serving as assistant manager for Brazil’s success in the 1994 tournament.

Zagallo hopes to see another triumph when his country hosts the tournament in three years time.

“We have to win, like it or not,” he said.

“We’ve already lost one final here at the Maracana, but with this stadium modified and our new football, with kids who will be experienced by 2014.”

“We will be together on the 13th of June 2014. Me, you and all of the Brazilian fans – winning our sixth world title.”

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Transfer wrap: Forlan set for Inter

Diego Forlan will complete his move from Atletico Madrid to Inter Milan after arriving in Italy on Tuesday.

Uruguay international Forlan has reportedly agreed a two-year deal with the Serie A club after terminating his contract with Spanish side Atletico.

He is set to replace Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o, who left for Anzhi Makhachkala earlier this month.

“I am happy to be here, Inter are a very important club, with great players,” Forlan told Sky Sport 24.

“I am very thankful to (Inter) president (Massimo) Moratti. I have already spoken with (Esteban) Cambiasso, (Diego) Milito and (Javier) Zanetti and they have told me they are happy with my coming.

“I want to play well and win, I promise all the Inter fans I will do my best to help the club reach their goals.”

Former Manchester United man Forlan, 32, joined Atletico in 2007 after three years at Villarreal.

In other transfer news, attacking midfielder Jorge Martinez has left Juventus for Cesena on a one-year loan deal.

The creative midfielder joined Juventus from Catania 12 months ago, but failed to secure regular first team action in Turin.

Arsenal fullback Armand Traore is close to joining Queens Park Rangers after undergoing a medical at the promoted club on Monday.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Elia hesitates over Juve move

Juventus have agreed terms with Hamburg over the transfer of Netherlands international Eljero Elia.

The Serie A side are reportedly desperate to sign a left winger before the close-season transfer window shuts on Wednesday and they have identified Elia as their primary target.

Juve have agreed to pay nine million euros plus an undisclosed figure in variables but are yet to agree personal terms with Elia.

The 24-year-old is keen to leave Hamburg, but would prefer a move to the Premier League rather than Serie A.

“I’ve been told that there is a lot of racism in Italian stadiums and most teams play very defensive. These kinds of things play a role in my decision,” Elia told AD/Sportwereld.

“My style of play would be perfect for England. You often see defenders struggle against attackers with a good individual action. That’s why I prefer a move to the Premier League.”

However, despite Elia’s preference for England, a transfer to Juventus appears to be a more realistic option.

The former Twente ace has been linked with clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool, but neither has tabled an offer.

The winger, who is on international duty with Netherlands, has given his representatives authorisation to sign a contract on his behalf and agent Klaus Vink is ready to open talks with Juventus.

“We will try and reach an agreement, but won’t accept just any offer,” Vink said.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Valdes equals Zubi´s Barcelona milestone

Victor Valdes was a proud man on Monday after equalling Andoni Zubizarreta’s record of 410 appearances as Barcelona goalkeeper.

Valdes, 29, reached the milestone in style at the Camp Nou, recording a clean sheet as his team defeated Villarreal 5-0 in their first match of the La Liga season.

Zubizarreta, who replaced Txiki Begiristain as the club’s sporting director in July 2010, was between the posts as Barca lifted their first European Cup in 1992.

Catalan-native Valdes made his first-team debut 10 years later.

He has already won the Champions League three times and looks set to outstrip his predecessor’s appearance record by some distance.

“I’m very proud to equal Zubi, it’s a very special day,” Valdes said.

“This figure was unthinkable when I made my debut.”

With several regulars sidelined, Barca coach Pep Guardiola opted to field just one recognised defender in Eric Abidal.

The Frenchman formed an unusual three-man backline alongside midfielders Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets.

After the victory, Guardiola could afford to joke about the makeshift line-up.

“As testimonial to Zubi, I decided to play with a three-man defence … our aim is that Victor helps us to move the ball, and he’s not the typical goalkeeper who just makes saves,” Guardiola said.

“We only had one real defender (Abidal) and the idea was that we would play the ball around with a lot of players in the centre of the pitch.”

“If we had all the players available then maybe I wouldn’t have changed the system.”

The match featured a goal for Cesc Fabregas in his league debut, with the assist provided by former youth-team colleague Lionel Messi.

“It’s a pleasure playing with him,” Fabregas said of the Argentine superstar.

“You know you can give him the ball at any moment and he’ll decide the match on his own. It’s awesome.”

“Time will tell if I carry on scoring. For the moment I have a lot of desire to do things well and I am very happy on the pitch.”

Fabregas played alongside Messi in the famed Barca academy, before the former left to join Arsenal in 2003.

“We have known each other since we were kids,” Messi said.

“Like Xavi and Andres (Iniesta), he knows what it means to play at Barcelona.”

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Manchester United coach hints at Sneijder deal

Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has hinted that Wesley Sneijder could sign for Red Devils before the transfer window closes.

Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly very keen on the Inter midfielder and even though it looked as though the player’s high wage demands would scupper any possible deal, the Scott could still launch a final assault on the Dutch international.

Manchester United first team coach Rene Meulensteen has hinted at a possible deal.

“Sir Alex Ferguson has tremendous confidence in our current squad, but a player the calibre of Wesley Sneijder could well suit us,” Meulensteen told Dutch newspaper Voetbal International.

“Where there is a will, there’s always a way. If club and player really want it, there is always something possible.

“I do not see why an older player like Sneijder would not fit into our team.”

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Noisy neighbours look ready to challenge champions this season

On Sunday Manchester City seemed to come of age with a 5-1 hammering of Tottenham on their own patch.

Last season the expensively assembled squad of players never really looked like realistically challenging for the Premier League, but this season is a whole other matter.

Belief

There is a really sense of belief that Manchester City are challenging for the big prizes this season, I never really got the same vibe from the club last season.

This season the boss, the fans and most importantly the players believe they can challenge for the Premier League title.

That belief is important when you are up against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the title race. You cannot doubt your chances for second.

Style

Dare I say their style of play against Tottenham was Barcelona-like. Their front players were always on the move and nobody seemed to stay in a set position. Their passing was crisp and short. And the players looked like they were enjoying themselves.

Last season City appeared slightly defensive but this season boss Roberto Mancini has apparently decided to go on the attack. His tactics in the past have appeared defensive but they were anything but defensive at Tottenham.

White Hart Lane isn’t an easy place to go. This game was seen as City’s first big test this season, I think they passed with flying colours.

Intelligent

Manchester City’s midfield and attack is now full of intelligent players. The likes of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and David Silva make such clever runs and have such good movement. These are players know the right pass or run to make in order to find a route to goal.

Proven

When striker Edin Dzeko arrived at Eastlands in January I predicted that he would be a big success. However when he struggled last season people started to question the striker. I never did, I knew that he would need time to settle and this season he has already shown his quality.

He is the complete striker. He’s decent with both feet, can head the ball and importantly he will get you goals. Dzeko proved to be prolific in the Bundesliga at Wolfsburg and he will be at City. With the supply line he has at City he should be prolific.

Strong

Manchester City haven’t just got a strong start eleven, as you would expect for such a rich club they have a strong squad. The likes of Adam Johnson, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli all found themselves on the bench against Tottenham.

City basically now have two players for every position at the club. In fact Mancini will be trying to offload some of his unwanted stars before the transfer window shuts, with the likes of Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips set to leave the club.

Challengers

I now believe that Manchester City will probably be closer to challenging Manchester United than Chelsea this season. The Blues are still looking mechanical and having changed their style from last season. New Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas needs to be given time to bring in new blood and put across his ideas.

However Mancini has been at City awhile and the players know what he wants on the field. He has had his bedding in period and the club will reap the rewards of that this season.

Realistic

Critics will say that Manchester City should be challenging for the big titles because of the amount of money they have spent. Of course they should but just money doesn’t always bring you a winning team.

You need team spirit and togetherness. The City players look more together than ever this season and the new arrivals have fitted in perfectly with the squad. Although its early in the season Manchester City are looking like a top team.

It remains to be seen if they can keep up the good form for the rest of the season. One thing they will do is put in a stronger fight for the Premier League title with champions Manchester United and that will make the league title race a much more interesting spectacle.

Manchester City may not win the Premier League title this season but the signs are there that Mancini has built the foundations of a promising team and it really wouldn’t surprise if City did claim the Premier League title in the near future.

Can Manchester City win the Premier League title this season?

Tue 30 August, 2011
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Arsenal set to sign Andre Santos

Arsenal are expected to complete the signing of Fenerbahce defender Andre Santos later today, Daily Mail reports.

Arsene Wenger is desperate to add few more quality players to the squad following the humiliating defeat to Manchester United and signing another defender is a top priority at the moment.

According to Daily Mail, the Gunners have already agreed a £6.2 million deal for Fenerbahce full-back Andre Santos.

The 28-year-old is set to undergone a medical later today before penning a four-year deal worth £40,000 per week.

The Brazil international is expected to fill in the left-back position at the Emirates which has been causing Arsene Wenger a real headache after Gael Clichy made a switch to Manchester City.

Tue 30 August, 2011
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