Tuesday, 13 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Another product of Porto's comprehensive scouting network is the Ghanaian born Atsu, signed as a 17 year old and allowed to progress in the club's youth ranks, he won the Best Young Player award for the 2010/2011 season.

He's still in the youth side?

After winning that honour, he was farmed out to Rio Ave where he made 31 appearances for the big river club, scoring 6 times and assisting four goals. Atsu was then considered in a bit-part role for Porto, making 17 appearances, mostly as a sub, as cover for Sylvesre Valera on the left hand side of Porto's three-pronged attack.

Left-winger then is he?

Mostly yes, although he can play anywhere across Paulo Fonseca's front 3. A left-winged touchline hugger is his role though, often relied upon to come onto the field late and punish the weary legs of tiring defences with his lighting pace, particularly in the Champions League. It is his speed that gives his markers nightmares, the type of ones that bite into the conscious and keeps you scared for days, such is his devastation in turning to sprint away from his man. It's not just his pace, but his terrific skill that beats defenders in 1vs1 situations; one blink and BOOM! he's past you, turning on the afterburners on his way to goal. 

He'll have a bright future for Porto then?

Atsu's contract expires next summer and he has so far been less co-operative than an undisciplined child on a shopping expedition with his mother, refusing to sign a new deal. So, he finds himself on the naughty step, that being the exile of the transfer market as Porto have little choice but to cash in on their contract rebel. Or they can roll the dice and risk losing him for zilch next summer, or even on a pre-contract agreement to a foreign club in January. It's their choice.

We suppose he'll be little short of suitors?

Oh no, with the prospect of a deal done on the cheap, Atsu is very much in demand so there is little worry about that. Liverpool want him, Everton want him, as do Sporting Lisbon and Benfica, but it is Spurs who seem to be the most genuinely interested, having been linked with him earlier in the summer before recently rekindling their fondness as the sale of Gareth Bale looms large. It is believed the north London club can lure him away from the Dragao for just £5 million. BARGAIN! Or even for as little as £1 million..... DOUBLE BARGAIN!!!!!

To White Hart Lane it is then?

Maybe, but probably not in direct replacement for the potentially Madrid-bound Bale. Atsu is more directly comparable to Aaron Lennon, the quicker, wider, more conventional of Spurs' wingers. What Astu will bring is a clever use of the ball in the final third which very rarely sees him misplace a pass and gives him an intelligent ability to thread a delightful through-ball. It'll all be coming to a league nearer to you, either this summer, or the next.

Friday, 9 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Looking for the next-eastern world star who can not only appeal to tonnes of excitable young Asian girls but also prove to be pretty handy on the football pitch, look no further than Kiyotake, the 23 year old Japanese striker playing in Germany for Nuremberg.

We've seen the Japan to Germany route once before?

Yep we have, in Shinji Kagawa who left Cerezo Osaka for Borrussia Dortmund three years ago. It was Kiyotake who took Kagawa's place in the Osaka side, plugging the vacant attacking midfield gap like the now-Manchester United midfielder had not left, displaying a fine first touch and intelligent pass selection as he drifts elegantly around the final third.

He did very well then?

His form at Cerezo, where he scored 19 goals in 85 games over the course of 3 years, saw him called into the full-Japan national team and has so far earned 18 caps, including a few at last year's Olympics in London. Just before that, he joined Nuremberg for £1 million, and jetted off to the Bundesliga. His debut year in Europe has been a great success, scoring four goals and assisting ten, a tally more impressive than Bayern Munich's big money hipster-favourite Mario Gotze.

And that's got him some headlines?

On the back pages yes, in those mundanely tenuous gossip columns. If you have read one recently, you may have noticed Aston Villa are reportedly interested in Kiyotake and are believed to be preparing a £7.5 million offer, but the German club will hold out for £10 million. Nuremberg general manager, Martin Bader, has been stubborn in his refusal to let the Japanese leave, saying "we have made it clear that we have no interest or intention to sell the player. Such inquiries flatter us but Hiroshi is here to stay". Could he make it more unequivocal than that? Probably not.

He'd fit Aston Villa down to the ground?

He definitely would given Villa's apparent lack of a true creative force in the middle of the pitch and his ability to read the game intelligently and dictate the play with poise would be a huge asset. He would also fit in with Paul Lambert's penchant for signing talented young players as well as the added bonus of being able to sell shirts in the far east. However, there is more to him than that, 5ft 8 inches worth in fact, of excellent technique and vision, adept at creating chances in space between the lines. Just like Kagawa.............

You can watch him in action here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAjD2_Z7tHM and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQqhiY1qqVk

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Get your suitcase packed because we're heading stateside for this one, more specifically to Foxborough, Masachusetts so you may be able to get a straw hat. Put it on and head to the New England Revolution's Gillette Stadium where you will find a 20 year old Colombian-orn striker who goes by the name of Juan Agudelo.

Am I packing my goalkeeping gloves?

You can do, but if you're going in goal against him there is little chance you'll keep him out given the electric rate he's started the new MLS season. He's managed 3 goals in 5 games for New England Revolution and he's been noticed by Stoke City who have signed him on a pre-contract deal that will see him join in January.

January!? Ah, but I want him now!

You'll just have to wait as Mark Hughes and Stoke have pulled off a clever move, waiting unitl his MLS contract expires before swooping in with the huge mechanical eagle-like arms to carry the 6ft 1 inch Mexican over the Atlantic and to the Premier League. One feels a little sorry for the MLS who look set to receive not a penny for the striker they have created and the franchise league is currently trying desperately to force Stoke to sign him this summer.

So a belated Christmas present then, what will they get?

He doesn't have the greatest scoring record but don't let that put you off. Just 6 in 33 games as he came through as a green-eyed teenager at New York Red Bulls, then only 5 in 26 during his time at Chivas, which was blighted by the mess the club, sorry FRANCHISE, were in. Agudelo has scored regularly at all levels of the United States youth set-up and has 17 caps for the senior squad, so there have been glimpses of a bright future in front of goal.

You said he was Colombian?

He is, but has acquired citizenship in America after moving to the New Jersey area of New York aged 7. He began to hone his skills, becoming a promising player when he joined the Red Bulls as a 17 year old; 

“He’s been impressive for a 17-year-old. He shows such power. He is something special. When you look at his technical skill, you can compare him with European forwards of the same age, in terms of individual skill.” - Hans Backe, the then- Red Bulls coach in 2010.

So that's why Stoke are signing him?

Well..... YES! Mark Hughes has reportedly coveted the young American-Colombian striker since he was coach at Manchester City and will give him the chance to link-up with the current Yanks at the Britannia Stadium, Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu. He will be able to use him right across the front 3 given his intelligence and versatility, his fine movement constantly keeping defenders on their toes. 


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 23 year old Ecuadorian, smashing the common perception that the term "journeyman" should only apply to lower league vagrants who bounce from club to club until their late 30s. "More clubs than Tiger Woods"? Well nearly, Montero is on his seventh club despite only turning professional with Emelec six years ago.

Emelec, is that in Ecuador?

It sure is. Born in Los Rios, Montero began playing professionally for Emelec in the Ecuadorian Serie A. However, he had to drop down a division in order to make his name, joining Deportivo Independiente Jose Terran where he scored 19 goals in 37 appearances. Villarreal of Spain noted the young winger's progress and signed him as a replacement for Wigan-bound Luis Antonio Valencia. He spent the majority of his time in the reserves with the Yellow Submarine or out on loan, with spells at Levante and Real Betis. Despite appearing regularly for Betis, he failed to impress coach Pepe Mel enough and he returned west, this time to Mexico with Monarcas Morelia.

And now he's moving east again?

Well maybe. Montero is quite the globe trotter and could be set to clock up more air miles should Cardiff follow up their rumoured interest with a move for the 23 year old.  It turns out Montero seems to have quite the following among the Premier League's middle-band, with Swansea, Everton and Hull all interested, but the player's agent Diego Herrera says his client is focused on a move to Cardiff.

What will the Blue/Red Birds get from Montero?

A pacy, agile winger who can stretch defenders and whip in crosses or even score goals. His work-rate his fantastic and Montero is full of energy and should boss Malky McKay get his way, he'll be doing with the right-wing job, or left-wing considering he is capable on both flanks, in the red shirt of Cardiff next season. Or is it blue? We forget. Confident and dynamic, Montero can use his pace intelligently, hugging the touchline to provide width, or drifting inside to trouble defenders. He can also score an array of goals, as this hat-trick for Morelia shows;


A very direct player then?

He is indeed, and it is quite easy to see why he appealed to the scouts of Sam Allardyce, who was prepared to meet the player's reported £3.5 million release clause after watching him impress in a game for Ecuador, for whom he has already registered 27 caps, against Argentina. That move fell through, as did Cardiff's pursuit of Tom Ince and Denis Cheryshev. Though they may find their electric winger in the form of the small (he stands at just 5 ft 7 inches), but determined Montero. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Coming from the same Dinamo Zagreb youth academy that has produced Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic, Niko Krancjar and the midfielder he seems to be twinned in every news report with, fellow 17 year old graduate Alen Halilovic, Jedjav is a big central-defender who is son of former Yugoslavian footballer Zdenko Jedjav. Heard of him? No we haven't either.

We have.... he was a solid defender.....

I know you're making that up, but if he was, the old adage "like father, like son" would ring true as that is exactly what his son Tin is like. Jedjav junior is quick, boasting a fine turn of pace when defending a high-line and he is especially impressive in the air, armed with a great leap. Furthermore, like the players we have mentioned who Jedjav follows out of the Zagreb youth academy, the defender is also cultured on the ball, comfortable in carrying the ball out with his feet and building from the back, he is also assured and versatile enough to play at right-back or even in central-midfield.

He's been learning well then?

He's been at the club since he was a wee nipper in 2002, when the club was known as NK Zagreb, and has risen through the ranks to make his debut for Dinamo over the past year, making 13 appearances in which he has already won the PRVA HNL, the Croatian first division. Not only that, but he is also growing through the national team set-up, earning one cap for the under-19s after appearing 8 times for the under-17s.

Could he be going to Tottenham?

So you've been reading our report on Halilovic then have you? But yeah, about that, the media lot have said he was on his way to Spurs, or even Arsenal, leading you all down the garden path as the Croatian youngster has decided to join Roma in Italy, even though Dinamo are reluctant to do business. With Rudi Garcia looking to overhaul his squad at the Giallorossi, he can do a lot worse than invest in the future with the very talented Jedjav.

Here's a short introductory video....


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is the youngest ever player to appear in the Croatian First Division, as known as the PRVA HNL, he is the youngest ever scorer in that league and he is the youngest ever debutant for the Croatian national team. While he has been breaking records, he has been playing as a central-attacking midfielder for Dinamo Zagreb.

Very talented then?

Yes, and he's only 17 years of age. But that hasn't stopped him being rated as one of the highest-rated players in Europe and neither has it stopped him being linked to the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid or Tottenham. Standing at just 5ft 7 inches, able to make use of great balance to turn away from markers to dictate play and blessed with a fine touch and close control, there is no surprise to see the young Croatian labelled as the "new Luka Modric", he even looks like the Real Madrid schemer.

"The new..." labels are rather tedious though?

Yeah they certainly are, but when you look the same, have the same stature and even play the same, it is very hard to avoid the comparisons. The differences come in the fact that Haliliovic is more likely to move forward to join the attack and, unlike Modric, possesses a deadly left foot that can spread long passes or even find the net from range. His eye for a pass is notable, but his main asset is his quick feet which allows him to leave defenders for dead as he glides past them.

Is he just a central-midfielder?

He is growing into one and his preferred position is out on the left-wing where he can use his skills to beat players and send crosses over, but it has been suggested that he is being coached on the periphery of the play where there is more time to think, instead of being set free in the hustle and bustle of the middle. His ability, burgeoning into a complete midfielder, indicates he is set for a Modric-like attacking midfield future, however.

Is he heading to Spurs?

Put simply, he could be, after the club were reported to be in talks with the young midfielder,  though it has all gone a little cold since those reports broke. He definitely hasn't agreed a deal with the club as some websites have jumped the gun to say and some have even said the deal is off because of the player's family's diva-like personal demands, so it's all up in the air. Keep an eye on him anyways, he's the next Luka Modric, you see........

You can watch him in this video or even this one.... while you wait for a deal to be done

Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a 23 year old Dutch midfielder playing for PSV Eindhoven after starting his career at Sparta Rotterdam before moving to FC Utrecht. He is known, and we're not sure if this is a good or bad thing, as the "Dutch Roy Keane" and he is usually found in the centre of midfield mixing it up like an over-enthusiastic dog.

A good thing, I think. Does that means he'll be playing at Man Utd?

It's no secret that the good folk at Old Trafford have been reportedly interested in the young midfielder, in fact it's been pretty damn boring as he's been linked with a move to Salford nearly everyday for the past year. Slightly inevitably, it doesn't look like Strootman will be joining the champions as he pictures his future elsewhere.

So he's leaving PSV then?

The Dutch club have told him they want him to stay, but Strootman has courted interest from clubs, saying "there are several clubs interested but only when they reach an agreement with PSV do I come into the picture". It looks however, like AS Roma are close to signing the tough-tackling midfielder, aiming to negotiate PSV down to a reported 11 million euros.

Ah!? To partner him with Danielle De Rossi?

De Rossi is involved in some transfer confusion of his own at the moment but yeah, what a midfield that would be. The combative, Mark Van Bommel-esque style of Strootman in tandem with De Rossi's poise and guile? Rudi Garcia will definitely have a fine midfield at his disposal in Rome, though Strootman's role is definitely that of a deep-lying midfielder, patrolling the area in front of his defence cautiously with terrific man-marking skills and a fine physique that allows him to shrug opposition players off the ball. 

An heir to the Cocu, Van Bommel job then?

Pretty much. Even before them, the Netherlands have always had gifted defensive midfielders in the form of Rijkaard, Gullit and co. and Strootman, with his fondness for a tackle and sublime positional sense, is set to be the next generation. He already has 18 caps for the senior Dutch side after breaking through in 2011 and has made over 187 appearances in the EreDivisie, so if he does leave it will be with bags of experience. 

You can see what he's all about here 

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a Dutch midfielder currently playing in the EreDivisie with Vitesse Arnhem. He is a box-to-box central midfielder with great energy and he bears an uncanny resemblance to the much-hated teen-pop sensation Justin Bieber.

He's more popular than Bieber though?

He is, already a regular in Vitesse's side at the age of 20 having played 41 times over the past year, scoring 12 goals thanks to his Frank Lampard-esque ability to time runs into the box to perfection. He was integral to the Netherlands under-21 side that went to this summer's European Championship in Israel and has 1 cap in Louis Van Gaal's senior team. If that isn't enough, he was also named the 2012-2013 Dutch Football Talent of the Year.

Ah! Pretty good then?

Yes he is, but those smart souls at Vitesse knew that 3 years before us as he was handed his debut in the side aged 17 in April 2010. 3 years later he has clocked over 100 appearances in the engine room for the Vitas and is ready to move on. His ambition is justified too, he boasts an armory of long range and short range passing which allows him to spread raking diagonal balls to stretch play, or even thread clinical through balls to the striker, such is his remarkable vision. 

His brilliant control and deft touch means he can spread a pass immediately too, vital for when he is pressed hard by the opposition. His passing ability is indicated by his 1223 completed passes over the course of last season, he very rarely wastes a ball or gives it away.

You make a very good sale... 

He's not half bad off the ball either, able to mix it up (to borrow Sunday League terminology) in the midfield with a good tackle, he doesn't back away from the fight. Winning the ball back to distribute it with intelligent vision and reading of the game is his style, though he can just as easily spring into a run forward to move the ball into the attack, he is best deployed in a double pivot system with somebody who can minimise his defensive contribution.

If he's that good, won't he be moving to a major club?

Well.... it's funny you should ask that because, with all due respect to Vitesse, he is on the shopping list of that handsome old ragamuffin Jose Mourinho who has seemingly convinced multi-quasi-ultra-huge billionaire Roman Abramovich to reach behind his sofa to find that spare £8 million to agree a deal with Vitesse.  The player will join subject to a medical and will be signed, in all probability, to become a long-term replacement for Frank Lampard. A deep midfielder who can easily move forward, Van Ginkel will add a fresher, younger dimension to Chelsea's aging midfield. He will have to work on his strength though, as this literature points out.


Tuesday, 2 July 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is another off the Barcelona production line, the immensely gifted midfield graduate of the famed La Masia academy in Catalonia and potential heir to the aging Xavi. He is 22, has 3 caps for Spain despite being born in Italy and is hogging all the newspaper gossip column space as he seems on the verge of heading to Manchester United.

Leaving the sunny, success-laden Barcelona for Salford?!?

Yes, he may be mad but he also seems to be hugely ambitious, aiming to move to Manchester United in the search for more first team football after being limited to just 15 starts last season under Tito Vilanova. That has dropped his release clause from 90 million euros to 18 million euros as he appeared for less than 30 minutes in 60% of Barcelona's games last season. All work and no play makes Thiago a dull boy, clamoring for an apparent move to the Premier League champions.

What's Vilanova playing at?

He did have Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets and co. at his disposal after all, Thiago faces a massive competition for places at Barcelona but he did manage 41 appearances under Pep Guardiola the year before, the year after winning the Under-21 European Championship with Spain and signing a new four year deal at the Nou Camp worth £30k a week. There is no doubting his potential or talent, just his misfortune at having to compete with a generation of phenomenally gifted players as he wants to break into Vincent Del Bosque's permanent plans ahead of next year's World Cup, he currently has 3 caps.

So Manchester United are giving him a way out?

Reportedly set to offer him an eye-watering £6.2 million a year, it certainly looks like David Moyes wants to make him his first significant import as Old Trafford boss. He will undoubtedly fill the troublesome central-midfield slot at the club in which Michael Carrick is the only established talent. Alcantara's genius in carrying the ball from deep, beating players or even dictating the tempo with smart, measured passes ahead of the defence will be a massive asset to Moyes's United, as it was to Spain's under-21s as they triumphed in this summer's European Championships in Israel.

What will they get for their money?

For a reported £17 million, they will get fine balance which allows his diminutive 5ft 7 inch frame to spin away from the more imposing players in the centre of the field. He can create chances with nimble footwork just as he can take them, as his hat-trick against Italy under-21s out in Israel showed. If Thiago does decide to move to Manchester, Barcelona will lose a hugely talented member of their squad and that is testament enough to his promise.


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a big strapping striker who plays for FC Copenhagen in Denmark, or at least he did do until Premier League newboys Cardiff City swooped in, to borrow newspaper parlance, with huge mechanical eagle arms and took the 20 year old to Wales.

Big striker? In what sense?

Vertically of course, he stands at an imposing 6ft 4 inches and is inevitably brilliant in the air, in last season's Europa League only 4 strikers, from 56 teams, won more aerial duels than Cornelius, how's that for a niche stat? For a more prevalent statistic, how about the 18 goals he scored in the Danish Superliga last time out, which made him the league's top scorer.

All from headers we guess?

Apart from operating with his head virtually in the clouds, Cornelius is actually rather good on the ground, nimble and technical with his back to goal in linking the play, the Danish forward isn't afraid to dribble at defenders. He also has a powerful left foot shot, making him a prime target to become Malky Mackay's first signing as he prepares for life in the Premier League with Cardiff.

A good move all round then?

For Cornelius yes, after he expressed his delight in completing a move just days after graduating from university over the weekend. The 20 year old effusively said "There were opportunities for me this summer and I had to think about what was the right thing to do, the correct step for me to take in terms of my career,"

 "I was impressed by what the club is trying to do, the fact it has reached the Premier League and that it has a passionate fan base supporting it."

Cornelius will also get a prime chance to stake his claim for a spot for Denmark after breaking into their national side last year, so far he has 7 caps and 1 goal for Morten Olsen's side.

What are the finances involved?

£8 million!! Significant when you consider that is the biggest transfer fee received for a single player by a Danish Superliga club, so Cardiff and Mackay must have seen something good in him. It's a five year deal, so expect to see some big, physical, potent striking from the Scandinavian over the next half-decade in the Premier League.

Here's what he can do................

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Bernard Anicio Caldeira Duarte- known lazily as Bernard, is a 20 year old attacking midfielder who plays in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro. He is a tiny 5ft 4 inches, but there has been no trouble in noticing his talents, as he becomes coveted by many clubs around Europe.

Aww... he sounds so tiny! 

And you sound so patronising! He has experienced problems over his height before, being rejected twice by Mineiro as a teenager and called-back once the directors realised the errors of their ways. He had to receive Lionel Messi-style growth hormone to treat his small size as a child, but similarly to the Argentine, it has not held him back as he has helped Mineiro to a 2nd place finish in the Brasilierao as well as 2 State Championships.

He's been playing well then?

So well that he won the "Revelation of the 2012 Brasilierao" award for best newcomer as well as the Superclasico De Las Americas with Brazil, with whom he already has 3 caps. Combining an quick burst of pace with sublime dribbling skills, Bernard offers his own brand of technical flair to Mineiro's front-line together with Ronaldinho, Jo and Diego Tardelli. It is no surprise to see Mineiro going so well in the Copa Libertadores, having reached the semi-finals. 

And Bernard is playing a huge role?

He is, starting mostly on the left-side of the attack, he is often seen drifting across the fluent front 3 like a troublesome rogue, using a deft touch and close control to link play up in the final third, creating chances with a fine pass, or showing an eye for goal with 20 goals coming from 94 appearances with Mineiro. What he lacks in physical presence, he makes up for with tenacious pressing, refusing to shy away from imposing defenders who he glides past with guile and gifted quick-feet. Bernard's reading of the game and intelligence is surprisingly impressive for a youngster, showing an ability to find space to receive the ball in threatening positions and to also track his man when doing his defensive work, coaches will be highly fond of his diligence off the ball.

You mentioned he was being tracked by a few clubs?

Spartak Moscow saw a £9.8 million bid rejected back in December  whilst Borussia Dortmund are also said to be interested in the Brazilian youngster as they seek to replace Mario Gotze. However, it is Spurs who are said to be leading the race for the left-sided attacker as they have been long-term admirers.  Mineiro are said to be after £15 million for Bernard, who has realistic ambitions of making Brazil's World Cup squad for next summer. 

Not sold: we have a couple of videos for you.......



Tuesday, 18 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is another Borussia Dortmund talent to get excited about as, together with Moritz Leitner, he has been billed to become the next big thing at the German club who have harnessed the talents of Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus. However, Bittencourt won't make his breakthrough at Dortmund, instead choosing to join Hannover 96.

Don't they give talent a chance at Dortmund?

As I've mentioned, of course they do, but Bittencourt joined them from Energie Cottbus last year  in the search of first team football, though with the form of Dortmund's Champions League finalists being so good, Jurgen Klopp has struggled to fit him in, limiting him to 12 appearances in the 2nd team with just 5 in the first team. So, he's gone back on his word and is off to Hannover for 4 million euros.

What will Hannover get from him then?

Bittencourt is a natural left-winger who can operate with both feet, using his intelligence to run into pockets of space in the final third. Standing at just 5ft 7, he is another in the mould of the sublimely gifted short player who take advantage of fine balance to move away from defenders. The 19 year old is also hugely ambitious, refusing to settle for a fringe role at Dortmund and following in the footsteps of 20 year old Andre Hoffman after his move from Duisburg. "He is the best piece of evidence showing young players can find their place in the Hannover team", said Bittencourt.

Hannover and everyone are happy then?

Sporting Dirk Dufner is after they signed somebody who "possess all the skills and talents to become a reinforcement for our team". 

Borussia Dortmund are after they inserted a buy-back clause in the youngster's contract.

Whilst coach Mirko Slomka definitely is after he signed a "fast, good-dribbling" player. 

Bittencourt also is after he said "I have a good feeling that Hanover are now just the right stage for me".

Everybody's happy.

Anything else we should be aware of?

The player is now at German under-20 level after earning 5 caps for the under-17s, though he could still choose to represent Brazil as he holds duel nationality, owing to his Dad, Franklin Bittencourt, the ex-Brazilian pro who now coaches in Germany. Apart from that, he has signed a 4 year deal in Hannover, seeing him in Lower Saxony until 2017.

Anything else? No... watch this then....


Who is he? Where does he play?

Kemen is a 16 year old French attacking midfielder who can play on either wing, off the striker as a traditional number 10, or alongside somebody in attack. The versatile talent formerly played for Metz but is now the latest Frenchman to say "Bonjour!" to Newcastle's revolution de Francaise.

Newcastle have found time to sign somebody this week?

Yeah, it seems like not everybody there is preoccupied by the ultra-insane decision to appoint the loony Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, and instead have pressed ahead with the acquisition of this French under-17 international. Kemen, who was born in the Cameroon and lists Barcelona midfielder Alex Song as an idol, is the latest on scout Graham Carr's list of imports from France.

He won't go straight into the squad though?

It's highly unlikely considering the player's age though with Newcastle's penchant for the utterly ridiculous, he'll be starting every single game next season. We joke of course, Kemen is still a raw talent, strong, athletic, powerful and comfortable on the ball, he will be kept in the development squads until time is ready to step up. Kemen's talent was spotted as an 8 year old by La Garenne-Colombes before he moved to Elite 14 in AC Boulogne Billancourt. There he was recruited by Metz.

He's in the France youth squads right?

He is, having represented the under-16s six times, Kemen has moved into the under-17 bracket, earning 3 caps so far and playing in this year's under-17 European Championship. A very highly rated youngster across the Channel, the 16 year old has been dubbed the "great hope of Metz", or now, "formerly the great hope of Metz".

How much will he cost Newcastle?

Reports suggest that Kemen has indeed past a medical and now compensation needs to be agreed between the two clubs. It is believed the figure will range between 400,000 euros and 1 million euros, which is pretty costly for a teenager. Though, Metz could probably ask for £49 million when dealing with the much-deluded Kinnear.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

Xabi Alonso went from the heart of the Basque country with Real Sociedad all the way to the very top of the game with Spain's World Cup winners, now Asier Illaramendi is following him as the heir to the throne of the Spanish metronome. 23 and a graduate of the potent Sociedad academy, the small defensive midfielder is passing his way to greatness.

Not hard to guess what he does then....

Just passes, passes and passes the ball. Besides Markel Bergara in Sociedad's 4-2-3-1 system, the deep-lying Spaniard attempted a mammoth attempted 1606 passes last season and completed 1296 of them, giving him a pass percentage of 81%. He created a total of 33 chances though the majority of his work is done deep in midfield, where he is tasked with winning the ball back (121 tackles in total) and moving it on. His gifted use of the ball helped Sociedad qualify for the Champions League as Phillipe Montanier's men completed a superb year in La Liga.

So just like Alonso then? 

He is blessed with intelligent use of the ball but, rather like Alonso, the defensive side of his game usually goes underrated. Last season he intercepted attacks at a rate of 2.3 per game, totaling 75 and suggesting he is adept at nipping attacks in the bud with fine reading of the game and positioning. His work-rate is also very commendable, showing willingness to win the ball back for his team, though he needs to work on his discipline, 49 fouls and 11 yellow cards suggests he can be slightly over-enthusiastic.

Currently out in Israel with the under-21s isn't he?

He is, chalking up a pass percentage of 93% out there, "you can take the midfielder out of Spain" and all that..... but cringe-worthy adages aside, if he wasn't competing with such sublime talent, he'd probably be worthy of a place in the senior squad. He now has 14 caps for the under-21s after representing the under-19s and the under-17s before that, with the latter he finished runner up in the U-17 World Cup back in 2007.

Will he stay at Sociedad?

He is contracted in San Sebastien until 2018 and Sociedad now have the lure of the Champions League to offer him, so the odds on him staying will be pretty good, though that has not deterred Real Madrid who seem desperate to land Illaramendi. The release clause in his contract stands at 30 million euros and rightly so given the quality he has shown. Manchester United and Chelsea have also been linked with the player, summed up in this neat little article.


Who is he? Where does he play?

That, for once, isn't just the banal recurring question we use to get this gig on the road, it is a rather difficult poser. The thing is, nobody is really sure. We know he is a 19 year old Serbian striker but we don't exactly know what club he plays for.....

Huh? Of course you do! You know how to use the internet, right?

Yes, of course we know how to use the internet, but it's the web that has been spreading a web of Markovic-related confusion over the past week. The striker has been playing for Partizan Belgrade, where he has just come off a season in which he scored 7 goals and assisted 7 in 19 league games, but Chelsea have apparently signed him, only to loan him to Benfica for 2 years. However, this has been disputed by Benfica who claim they have signed him out-right on a 5 year deal.

Oh right... yeah... confusing... so what does he offer?

Pace and a hell of a lot of it. Being just 175cm tall, Markovic possesses fine balance and a turn of speed that is comparable to lightning and is effective on the counter attack. However, his main position is not on the shoulder of the defender, instead he has been deployed on the right, the left and behind the striker as a trequarsita. His pace is effective in moving between the lines, dragging defenders around as he searches for space, though his finishing needs work, as he utilises fine intelligence to drift into threatening positions but struggles to take the majority of his chances.

So we don't know who he plays for, or where he plays... great...

Benfica will be a great help for the next stage of his career, with Markovic claiming compatriot Nemanja Matic has recommended Lisbon to him;

“Even today I spoke with Matic and he was telling me that Benfica is a club with more fans, very organized and with plenty of history, and he wished me the best of luck in this important step,” Markovic told Benfica TV.

It is certain that Markovic will be playing his football at Benfica next season, but if the words of Partizan club president Dragan Djurcic are anything to go by, he will be on loan from Chelsea.

And how's he doing for Serbia?

Fine.. he has taken just 2 years to rise from the under-17s to the senior team, with whom he now has 7 caps. Playing usually as a second striker, he has 1 goal to his name, coming against Chile in a friendly. 

As we have mentioned, Markovic's pace can be deadly on the counter attack, as seen here in Partizan's Europa League game vs Inter Milan, which can be seen here http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xy7cti_lazar-markovic-vs-inter-milan-in-the-uefa-europa-league-oct-26th-2012_sport

It was a performance that caused Inter Milan coach Andrea Stramaccioni to call him a "player with exceptional qualities and impressive acceleration" whilst Javier Zanetti said he was an "interesting player who impressed me"

And if that isn't praise enough......................

Monday, 10 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a Uruguayan 20 year old right-back who will be a trivia-fan favourite for years to come as he becomes David Moyes's first signing as Manchester United manager. Remember the name, Guillermo Varela, as the man who Moyes made his hugely-awaited impact at Old Trafford with by signing him for an undisclosed fee from Penarol.

He must be pretty darn good then, non?

He seems to be. It was Sir Alex Ferguson who first glanced his gifted eyes towards the South American, inviting him for a 2 week trial in the beginning of May, which went quite well according to the player;

“I have trained with the first-team. I am very happy and I was received very well. It was a surprise to get the chance to test with Manchester United. I’m glad and happy, and grateful to Penarol who allowed me to travel. I was treated so well and Chicharito helped me a lot. The work outs were short but very demanding.”

He must have impressed, as United saw enough to make a permanent move despite the youngster only turning out for Penarol once. Though the coach of the Montevideo club, Jorge Da Silva, believes he deserves the move; 

"This is what he deserves. It is a shame to see him go but you can't deny him the opportunity to join a club like this."
Ah interesting, United scouts found the Da Silva twins....
So we can't really argue with them and the logic behind it appears to be cover for Rafael who has had to settle for the understudy of usual-CBs Phil Jones and Chris Smalling over the past two years. It seems like Moyes wants genuine cover in the position and sees Varela, who offers pace and a fine reading of the game according to MUDHF, as a good choice. Like Rafael, he also shows a willingness to bomb forwards and join attacks, vital to the Manchester United game-plan.
It's unlikely we'll see him soon in England, we'll have to be patient.
That's likely to be true, though Varela does have 9 caps to his name for the Uruguay under-20 side and he will be playing in this summer's u-20 Championships in Turkey. If you are eager enough, you can watch him there, hugging the touchline in his wide right-back role.


Who is he? Where does he play?

Destro is a 22 year old Italian striker who has already broken into the full Azzurri squad and has just moved to Roma on a permanent basis after spending last year on loan at the Stadio Olimpico. He will be hoping to build on his good form in a bid to make next year's World Cup.

His route to Roma was a bit confusing wasn't it?

Yes it was. After starting off with Inter Milan where he impressed with the youth teams, Destro joined Genoa as part of an exchange deal for Andrea Ranocchia. After spending a year with Genoa, he was off to Siena for a 1.5 million euro co-ownership deal. He scored 12 goals for them, attracting the interest of Roma, who forced Genoa to buy him back fully off Siena, before he was loaned to Roma for 11.5 million euros. He hit 6 goals in 21 games in the capital, sparking Roma to make the deal permanent for an extra 4.5 million euros. 

Understand that? No, me neither.....

So Roma seem to rate him then?

He was signed originally as a replacement for Fabio Borini who left for Liverpool and it is possible to see the resemblance. He is technically gifted, able to glide into space to create chances for others, he provided 20 last season, and an 81% pass success rate is impressive for a player in the final third. Although his year in Rome has been slightly disappointing in terms of goals, Destro's main strengths lie with his pace and finishing, best shown by his prolific time at Siena.

That was noticed by the Italy side, right?

He has represented, and scored, at every national level from the under-16s upwards, even managing to hit 16 goals in 14 games for the under 19s. After this good form, he was included in Cesare Prandelli's 32-man provisional squad for the under-21 European Championships, but missed the final cut. He has since earned 4 caps for the full-squad, making his debut in the 1-2 defeat to England and scoring his first goal in a win over Malta in qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil. Destro is currently out in Israel with the under-21 squad, hoping to start a pivotal year in good form.

You can see him in action here; for Siena 2011/2012

                                               and for Roma 2012/2013

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He is a versatile Greek 21 year old centre-defender playing in Germany with Schalke. However, he's not your ordinary Greek 21 year old centre-defender, oh no. There is something you should know about Papadopoulos, he's crazy!!

Crazy!? In what way?

Schalke fans call him "verruckt", "crazy" in English and he departed Olympiakos, with whom he impressed through the youth set-up, by saying they were just a "stepping stone" in his career. Normal Greek players see Olympiakos as the zenith of the Greek game, but Papadopoulos clearly isn't normal, the man who believed his talent that much he gave Greek coach Fernando Santos a dressing down in front of the team when he was left out of the first two games of the Euro 2012 tournament.

Nothing wrong with a bit of self-belief...

Not when you are just on the fringes of the national side and have to accept your position as a youngster. Though he did make his breakthrough in the tournament, in the final group game with Russia, and concreted his position in the side since then, he already has 16 caps. Stavros Drakoularakos, a writer for Greece's largest sports website Sport24, sees him as a "captain of the future" for the national side, but he would probably tell you he is ready to be captain now".

So is he right to be that egotistical?

Being tall, powerful and quick, it would take a bold soul to argue against his inflated hubris. He challenges for every high ball, winning 30 of his 36 aerial duels in the Bundesliga last season as well as 36 of his 37 tackles which gave him the second highest tackle-success rate in the German top division. If that is not indicative enough of his imposing solidity, he also topped the clearances-per-game chart with 6.51 and the interceptions-per-game chart with 3.77. Drakoularakos is a critic of his passing, saying he "needs to work on his distribution to become one of the best defenders in Europe", though an 89% pass completion rate this season suggests he already adept at building the ball from the back.

He probably would have had an even more successful season had knee surgery obliterated the second half of his campaign. 

Liverpool are closing in on him, we believe?

Yes they are, Brendan Rodgers seeing the Greek as a potentially gifted addition to his back four, with his electric pace also allowing him to implement the higher-defensive line he has been so-far unable to utilise since taking over at Anfield. Though with Schalke having qualified for the Champions League, the player's agent Paul Koutsoliakos has said he is "perfectly happy to remain in Gelsenkirchen, though he seems to have his heart set on a move to Merseyside having traveled over to watch them play Fulham in the closing game of the season. 

The Sun believe he will cost around £15 million and Liverpool will face competition from Athletico Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City

Monday, 3 June 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

The Netherlands will be hugely excited by the emergence of Feyenoord's 21 year old centre-half. The heady days of Jaap Stam and Ruud Kroll have been replaced by the mediocre times of Joris Mathijsen and Johnny Heitinga. But now, brace yourselves, because it's the time of the solid, imposing De Vrij.

So what does he offer at the back?

A remarkable positional sense that allows for a high interception rate and an impressive ability for man-marking such is his fine reading of the game. His intelligence has been the defining feature behind his quick rise through the Feyenoord youth set-up, being allowed to skip the under-16s before representing the under-17s immediately. Since emerging in the full-team in 2009, De Vrij is now club captain after Ron Vlaar departed for Aston Villa.

One for the future then?

Very much so, and now. Not only does De Vrij cut an extremely resolute and firm figure at the back, his 6ft 2 inch frame allowing him to be a major force in the air, but he is also adept at playing the ball out from the back, like all good Dutch centre-halves are expected to do. He can block, tackle, pass the ball effectively short and long and he has already represented Feyenoord 116 times, so he has experience to compliment his footballing qualities.

Almost the perfect-centre half then?

Luis Van Gaal certainly seems to think so, having called the centre-half up to the provisional Netherlands squad for last year's European Championship. After missing the cut, De Vrij returned to play in a friendly against Belgium before installing himself as the first choice centre-back in Van Gaal's current set-up. He also won the Thorbecke Lyceum Sports Talent award back in 2009, which we won't explain, we'll just let you read about it.

Feyenoord finished 3rd didn't they? Will he be off?

With Everton and Liverpool both interested, you probably would think so and a move did seem likely to happen before the 21 year old showed a decent sense of logic by signing a new deal with Feyenoord, allowing him another year in the familiar setting of the EreDivisie before next summer's World Cup. If his form continues, he will be in Brazil. Keep an eye out for this talented, complete centre-half.

If you can't wait until then, watch this video.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Who is he? Where does he play?

He's the player providing a degree of comfort to those Borussia Dortmund fans upset over Mario Gotze's impending departure to Bayern Munich.  Never fear! Because the 20 year old Leitner is one of an impressive degree of stock available to Jurgen Klopp in midfield, with his emergence promising to brighten the lives of Dortmund's support as much as the yellow shirts they wear on the banks of the River Rhine.

Have to feel for the lad with such talent in front of him?

Just like the Dortmund dream didn't die when Shinji Kagawa left for Manchester United, with talents like Leitner, it won't die when Gotze heads to Munich after Saturday's small matter of the Champions League final. Only 20 and able to control matches from deep, to the extent he has drawn comparison to Bastian Schweinsteiger, he has been handed 10 starts by Klopp this year, as well as a further 19 as a substitute. This is on top of the 17 appearances he made as Dortmund bought home the Bundesliga title in 2011/2012.

His standout performance came in the Champions League at home to Manchester City, where he controlled midfield with composure and energy alongside Ilkay Gundogan.

Klopp certainly has an eye for a talent then doesn't he?

The eccentric 44 year old coach certainly does. After receiving his footballing education Unterfohring on the outskirts of Munich, Leitner joined 1860 Munich after a trial, impressing Klopp in his debut game, a DFB Pokal match against SV Verl. 17 matches later and he was a Dortmund player, now seen as the next big thing and the heir to Sebastian Kehl's defensive midfield spot. Having sad that, Leitner can also play on the wing, given his balance and vision which has allowed him to be involved inn creating a chance every 40 minutes. His slick passing, an 82% pass completion rate, together with a 73% shooting accuracy suggests he is a big threat in the final third.

So why is he being primed for a defensive midfield spot?

VERSATILITY?!!? Isn't that a lovely word? His main game is similar to Gundogan in that he can pass the ball on as well as getting involved with breaking the opposition's possession up, as shown by a huge tackle-success rate of 72%. He stands at a minute 5ft 9, but that doesn't phase him against more imposing players, chasing down the ball like an enthusiastic puppy down in the local park. His technique, control and comfort on the ball allows him to be effective anywhere on the pitch.

What does the future hold?

A possible breakthrough into the Dortmund first team in Gotze Anno Domini, or a loan spell should Klopp find another way of dealing with his loss and deems Leitner not quite good enough, yet. There should be no doubts about Leitner's potential however with him being raised in the same set-up that has produced many of those involved in Saturday's final.

Germany will also reap the benefits of Leitner's ability to cherish the ball and drift into pockets of space with excellent technique and vision. After first appearing for Austria's under-17s, he chose to represent the country of his birth at the same level, scoring a rather potent 7 goals in 8 games. He is now a regular in the much-gifted under-21 team, picking up 9 caps so far.

Not enough!? You can read more about him here http://outsideoftheboot.com/2013/01/21/moritz-leitner-scout-report/