Reading close in on Pogrebnyak

Reading have agreed terms to sign Russian international striker Pavel Pogrebnyak.

Manager Brian McDermott sees Pogrebnyak as the ideal signing to add more experience to his side ahead of their Premier League campaign next season.

Pogrebnyak, 28, impressed during a six-month stay at Fulham last season as he went on to score six goals in 12 games for Martin Jol’s outfit after he was allowed to leave German side VfB Stuttgart on a free transfer.

It now looks as if Reading are set to beat Fulham to the striker’s signature in what will represent something of a transfer coup for the newly-promoted side.

A statement on the club’s official website read as follows: “Reading Football Club has agreed terms with Pavel Pogrebnyak to join the club.

“The player has already completed a medical and the deal is now only subject to the player obtaining a UK work permit.

“Reading Football Club anticipate completing the signing within the next 7 days.”

Pogrebnyak featured for Russia at Euro 2012 and has gone on to make 32 appearances for his country, scoring eight times.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Martinez: Spain stronger than four years ago

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said Spain are now stronger than the Euro 2008 winners.

Questions have been raised of the philosophy adopted by Vicente del Bosque’s side, with Spain drawing with Italy, requiring a late goal to beat Croatia and edging past Portugal only after a penalty shootout.

Some have suggested that Spain have taken their ‘tiki-taka’ approach to an excessive level, but Martinez praised their commitment in sticking to their continuous passing style.

“What you must understand is that Spain have got a really strong philosophy,” Martinez told The Sun.

“That philosophy is how they keep the ball, how they are patient, how they play from the back and expose teams, how they defend.

“They are not worse than 2008, they are better. It was easier to beat them in 2008. They are more mature now and don’t get exposed (as much).”

Martinez also believes the teams that Spain have faced should be coming under scrutiny for their defensive approach.

“The criticism shouldn’t be about Spain — it should be about the teams they play against,” Martinez said.

“People don’t realise that it is all about stopping Spain. That’s a compliment to them.

“But if you look through history, the hardest habit in football is to win when you are expected to win. We have seen that with them over three tournaments.

“Once you achieve special status, the opposition can try anything they want to beat you.

“Whatever nation you are, you are allowed to have 11 players behind the ball, you are allowed to defend in your own box, you’re allowed to not create anything. And that is when Spain comes into a different level, by winning.”

Portugal matched Spain for much of the semi-final in Donetsk but Martinez pointed out that del Bosque’s team allowed them little in the way of clear-cut chances.

“Yes, in the semi-final, Portugal were a better side,” he said.

“But, even then, Spain never made the wrong decisions, they never left themselves exposed.

“They kept a fantastic shape and they gave themselves the chance to win. Portugal played as well as they can – and still lost.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Platini has plans for Euro 2020

UEFA president Michel Platini believes Euro 2020 could be held in as many as 12 or 13 cities across Europe.

Platini presented the idea at a press conference on Saturday and claimed that the proposal had the support of most of UEFA’s executive committee.

Turkey were the first to announce that they would be bid for the tournament, with joint bids between Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland and later Azerbaijan and Georgia also confirmed.

The hosts were due to be announced in late 2013 or early 2014 but Platini has revealed that a decision on his new plan will be made in January or February.

The proposal is likely to generate controversy as it would theoretically vastly increase the distances between stadiums and therefore the costs of attending the tournament for fans.

If Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland were to land the tournament, it would be the first time three countries have joint-hosted a European Championship but Platini’s plan would dramatically change the format of the competition.

There will already be a new look to Euro 2016, with 24 teams set to compete in France for the first time.

Initially a four-team tournament in 1960, Europe’s international football showpiece currently has 16 teams.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Klinsmann backs Low

USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann has backed to Joachim Low, who has come under fire following Germany’s semi-final exit from Euro 2012.

For a third time in four previous major tournaments, Germany were dumped out at the last-four stage, as a first-half double from Mario Balotelli was enough for Italy to reach Sunday’s final in Kiev against Spain.

Klinsmann, who fired Germany to their last international title at Euro 96 before coaching the national team to third place at the World Cup in 2006, insists the team are ‘nowhere near’ realising their potential and should not be judged yet.

“It is clear that no matter how good a coach can be that it can automatically lead to success. The coach makes decisions before the game that are not at random.” the former striker told Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

“They (the national team) are the result of (the coach’s) observations and work. There is simply no guarantee of victory.

“This team are nowhere near the end of their development. They were the youngest team in the tournament, and again (we are) pushing more younger players into the set-up.

Germany will now regroup ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, which start in September.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Del Bosque wary of ´peculiar´ Balotelli

Spain manager Vicente del Bosque said Mario Balotelli is ‘very peculiar’, but admits he is wary of the Italy striker.

The unorthodox forward scored an outstanding brace against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, and Spain’s manager is hoping the Manchester City man does not do the same against the world champions in Sunday’s final.

“Balotelli is a peculiar type, very peculiar,” the 61-year-old told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I do not know him personally but he is a very complete footballer; fast, technically good, he knows how to dribble and is good in the air.”

Del Bosque has also identified Andrea Pirlo and Antonio Cassano as threats in the competition decider.

“My assistant Toni Grande always talks highly of Cassano, who he worked with whilst assistant to (Fabio) Capello at Real Madrid. He says that he is an extraordinary player.

“Pirlo is a symbol of the Italian national team. He led Juventus to the Scudetto and in this game we must be aware of his quality,” he said.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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St Mirren join anti-Rangers stance

Rangers’ plans to enter the Scottish Premier League next season as a newco have taken a further hit.

St Mirren have become the seventh club to raise objections over their application, joining Aberdeen, Hearts, Inverness, St Johnstone, Dundee United and Hibernian.

The Glasgow-based club had hoped to ease their financial worries by competing in the SPL next term, but they required an 8-4 vote in their favour ahead of a meeting planned between all of the clubs next week.

St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour told both Rangers manager Ally McCoist and chief executive Charles Green in person that he opposes the move, and has now decided to speak about why his club came to such a decision.

“I met with Charles Green, Alistair McCoist and other representatives of Rangers newco last week,” Gilmour said.

“I made it perfectly clear that our directors’ view was that our club would not be voting for a newco entry to the SPL, directly to the officials of Rangers newco,” Gilmour said in a statement.

“This meeting was held in confidential circumstances to allow both parties to enable the other to see their respective positions. A very positive meeting was held.

“However, the position of St Mirren has not changed and our stance of sporting integrity was maintained against the very pressing commercial arguments.”

Gilmour believes an SPL without the presence of one of its biggest and most attractive clubs has already had a knock-on effect with others already counting the cost of their decision.

“Regrettably, the commercial, and hence financial, impact is still not clear to the club. We are very hopeful that this aspect will become clearer in the next few days,” he said.

“It has been impossible for the clubs to downsize as quickly as we would like due to the contractual obligations of the club.

“These are considerable and must be maintained to ensure the club does not slip into the fate of others. It is possible that major cutbacks may have to be made within the company.

“This may well involve people in the club losing their employment – not a good situation – so please accept that the club will be unlikely to be signing any new players until this situation is clear.”

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Hiddink rules out Netherlands job

Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink does not want to replace Bert van Marwijk as coach of the Netherlands, instead choosing to stay in Russia.

Van Marwijk resigned on Wednesday after the netherlands’ humiliating exit at Euro 2012, where the World Cup runners-up lost all three games to Denmark, Germany and Portugal in Group B.

Hiddink, who previously coached the national team at Euro 1996 and to a semi-final at World Cup 1998, insisted that he would rather remain at the Russian club.

“I am not available to replace Bert van Marwijk. I have just received carte blanche from the owner of my club Anzhi and (it is) now impossible to run away,” the 65-year-old told De Telegraaf.

“(I am surprised by Van Marwijk’s resignation), especially the speed with which it happened. I make sure for years that after a sporting disappointment that the team (are) separated from heavy emotions (and) to deal (with them so we can) resume.

“I’ve noticed that you often come to different conclusions, (which is) why I cannot quite shake the feeling that this has not happened and that’s not good.”

Netherlands return to competitive action in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers which start in September.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Balotelli puts pride into Italy

Inter president Massimo Moratti said all of Italy loves Mario Balotelli after his Euro 2012 heroics.

The temperamental forward bagged a first-half brace against Germany in the competition semi-finals, sending Italy into Sunday’s final against Spain.

Moratti said the Manchester City man has proved his doubters wrong and admits he would love to sign the forward for Inter.

“I’m happy for him. I think he’s finally found a home, Italy; all the Italians now love him as he wished,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Balotelli is a complex guy, but above all a great talent and the European Championships have proved this in international terms, in front of the whole world.

“The nice thing is that he has learned to suffer; (Cesare) Prandelli chose not to play him against Republic of Ireland, but he did not give up.

“I have thought of trying to bring him to Inter; I would gladly bet on him here but Manchester City have every right to say no and want to hang onto him,” Moratti said.

Another star of the Italian campaign to date has been Andrea Pirlo, and Moratti admitted that selling him in the early days of his career may have been a mistake.

“He is an immense player. When he plays it is like a 30-year-old playing against boys of 16. Despite this his work never ends and he always is at the service of the team,” he said.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Diego in talks with Lokomotiv Moscow

Wolfsburg midfielder Diego is in negotiations with Lokomotiv Moscow, according to Bild.

The Brazilian playmaker returned to the club following a very successful loan spell at Atletico Madrid, but it looks as though he won’t be staying with the Wolves for much longer.

Bild claims the player’s father and agent Djair da Cunha has traveled to Moscow to negotiate a transfer to Lokomotiv.

The Russian club have prepared a three-year deal for Diego, worth staggering €9.5 million per campaign, and they are ready to pay Wolfsburg around €10 million for the transfer.

The Bundesliga side could be willing to cash in on their star player as he currently earns around €9 million per season.

Lokomotiv Moscow recently appointed former Croatia boss Slaven Bilic as their new manager and have already completed the signing of Vedran Corluka from Tottenham.

The club are eager to continue the summer recruitment as they have big ambitions for the upcoming season.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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Iniesta discounts winning Euro MVP

Andres Iniesta said he has not been the best player at Euro 2012, as Spain prepare to meet Italy in Sunday’s final.

The Barcelona star has been widely considered a standout player for his performances in Poland and Ukraine but wants to defeat Italy in the competition decider over individual recognition.

“I never thought about playing for personal credit,” the 28-year-old told reporters at a press conference.

“I do not think I am the MVP. I feel that what will make me happy is to lift the trophy.

“In football everything is relative; it does not matter who stars and who does not. (Claudio) Marchisio has had a good tournament, (Andrea) Pirlo also.

“I do not know (who the MVP should be) and I really do not care.”

Iniesta went on to discuss his new club team-mate Jordi Alba, who had a deal to join the Camp Nou outfit from Valencia finalised this week – a transfer the midfielder feels is excellent business by the Catalan side.

“I congratulated him yesterday when I heard the news; he is a great reinforcement,” he added.

“I know him well from the national team, he is a fast player who makes good decisions; he is a great signing,” Iniesta said.

The attacker is expected to start for Vicente del Bosque’s side against Italy on Sunday.

Sat 30 June, 2012
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