Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is Onyewu The Answer To Inter's Defensive Woes?

I recall during the 2006 World Cup when a colleague from La Stampa turned to me and called Oguchi Onyewu, the "American Materazzi." Of course this was well before Materazzi's incident with Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup final so there was no doubt he meant it as a compliment to the American player curently with Standard Liege. Two years later, I wonder if the fates of Materazzi and Onyewu may now somehow be connected.

Jose Mourinho has taken the reins of a powerful Inter Milan side which now finds itself in a defensive emergency just three weeks before the start of the Serie A season. Recent injuries to defenders Marco Materazzi and Christian Chivu have left the Nerazzurri with some big holes in central defense as they look to defend the Scudetto for yet another year. This has led Inter's president Massimo Morratti to back onto the transfer market looking for a solution.

The loss of the soon to be 35 year-old Materazzi is a particularly hard blow given his strong physical presence in the middle, which is hard to replace at this stage. There was some talk in Milan of an interest in bringing in Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvahlo, who played for Mourinho at both Porto and Stamford Bridge. This may not be so easy since the failure to seal a deal on Frank Lampard may have soured both sides soured on any further negotiations right now.

When you look at the transfer pool at this late stage, there is not much depth in the available central defenders. This makes me wonder if Mourinho may look to acquire Oguchi Onyewu not only as an early season stand-in but as a player to take on Materazzi's role in the future or better yet, to give him a sturdy physical partner to replace the often ailing Chivu. The new Inter boss had been keen to sign Onyewu in January 2007 during his last season at Chelsea but was not able to convince his club to spend the money at the time. Having been sold on him once before, could Mourinho now decide that the "American Materazzi" is at least a short term answer to Inter's defensive woes?
At the same time, if Chelsea did sell Carvahlo to Inter, could this open an opportunity for Onyewu at Stamford Bridge and give Gooch the Premiership break he has been looking for? Is Gooch even ready for either club?
All speculation aside, the Bundesliga's FC Cologne remains among the most interested in acquiring Onyewu for the 2008-2009 season. With 30 days left in the transfer period, only time (and money) will tell where he ends up.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

(Updated) Connecting The Dots: Ronaldo's Effect on Bradley Transfer Prospects

(MUNICH, July 29th, 2008) Today Real Madrid made it clear that they are no longer interested in signing Dutch ace Rafeal Van Der Vaart from Hamburger SV as an alternative to Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. According to Real President Ramón Calderón, its Ronaldo or no one - they think their 85 million euro bid may still be workable.

Hamburg had been considering signing Heerenveen's American midfielder Michael Bradley in the event Van Der Vaart was sold to Real Madrid for an estimated 12 million euros. Unless another club swoops in for Van Der Vaart, Bradley's door to Hamburg appears to be closing.

Bradley has voiced a desire to play in England where Middelsbrough and Everton are keen to sign him but little is known of any negotiations taking place with the Premiership clubs. Interest in recent weeks has also been coming from continental clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco (which reportedly offered 8.5 million euros). Leverkusen appears to be cooling on Bradley as their prime target for attacking midfield is now Fluminense's Thiago Neves (who is also being pursued by Tottenham Hotspur). So, With Bradley's Bundesliga options appearing to narrow, it now looks like his main options are in England or on the Cote d'Azur with AS Monaco.

UPDATE: After several statements from Real Madrid (which appeared in the Spanish Marca and Financial Times Deutschland), that the club had written off Van Der Vaart as an option, it now appears the Dutch midfielder may be on his way to the Bernabeu after all. The "off the table" language used by Real President Ramon Calderon not two days ago (in their game of financial chicken with Hamburg) has been replaced by statements that indicate a deal is near. Now, papers such as Die Welt, and Focus are commenting on the 180 by Calderon asking whether it was all to get the price he wanted or a power play with a club Real does not see as their equal. Either way, you fooled us Mr. Calderon!

What this means is that Hamburger SV remains a viable option for Bradley but now another door appears to be closing. Word out of Monaco this afternoon is that they agreed on terms to acquire Bordeux's midfielder Alejandro Alonso (believed to be their plan B if Bradley was too expensive). So, Bradley's options remain open in England and Germany but Monaco now seems to be off the list. Still, much could change in the next few weeks as the dust starts to clear on another transfer season.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Arguez in Hertha Coach's Doghouse

Accroding to several Berlin news sources, young American defender Bryan Arguez is in Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre's doghouse these days after missing two practices in the past few weeks. His most recent was last week when he skipped an afternoon practice to join 200,000 other Berliners (including many other expat Americans) to see Senator Barack Obama speak in front of the Siegesaule. He probably would have been excused missing that day had he not already started a trend of missing and being late for practice.

After looking like he would see several early season starts as a stand-in for Swiss international Steve Von Bergen, Arguez may be blowing a golden opportunity. Last week he was on the subs bench but did not play in a 0-0 draw with Liverpool before 51,000 home fans. A shaky performance in a previous match and skipping practices have drawn public questions on his level of committment (ouch). Favre has several options on Hertha's starting back line when the Bundesliga season kicks off in three weeks. Whether Arguez will be one of them looks less likely than it did two weeks ago.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oh Cana-Huh?

In the spirit of covering our North American brethren, I had been working on a few articles on Canadian soccer including one on ace Julian De Guzman who is making quite a name for himself at Deportivo La Coruna. That was until I saw the incredible display of poor sportsmanship shown by Canadian fans before the MLS All Star Game last night. After that, I lost my urge to finish a number of pieces on Canadian soccer.

It was one thing when Canadian fans booed the US national anthem before a visiting of U-12 hockey team during the run up to the Iraq War (come on, they were only 12) but this one boggles the mind. The US professional league decides to not only expand into Canada but also holds a showcase event there, only to be received with loud, sustained booing during the US national anthem. The Canadian fans not only showed a lack of respect for their southern neighbors but also a lack of respect for themselves. Were they really so insecure to believe that they would not have a chance to sing Oh Canada (which they did while both teams were on the field)?

MLS shined a spotlight on Toronto this week and what we ended up seeing was just how petty their fans could be. I know plenty of great Canadian fans who love the beautiful game and would never do such a thing. Now, some poor sports in Toronto have "branded" their nation's fans in a way which must make real Canadian soccer fans feel nothing but shame.

The Evolution of US Soccer Players in Europe: Part II

Post-1994 World Cup: Breaking Into First Division Soccer

After the 1994 World Cup in which the US team showed great progress from 1990, the European soccer establishment started to notice two things; that the Americans do indeed play soccer and that a few more of their players are worth signing. The next step was to make the jump from second division teams to clubs playing first division soccer.

By now, John Harkes moved to Premiership side Derby County while defender Alexi Lalas signed with Padova of the Italian Serie B in 1994. Lalas would help Padova earn promotion to Serie A while Roy Lassiter was loaned to Genoa for the 1996-1997 season. After that, it would be several years before another American suited up for an Italian professional team. Meanwhile, all time US scoring leader Bruce Murray left England after a one-year stint at Milwall where he scored two goals in just over a dozen appearances.

The advent of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1996 slowed but did not stem the flow of US talent to Europe as the young league could not afford to match continental salaries. MLS would later prove, however, to be a launching pad for the European careers of many American players.

In Holland, Dutch-American Earnie Stewart was still playing for First Division side Wilhem II before moving to NAC Breda. Then in 1998, John O’Brien signed on with powerhouse Ajax and was later loaned to Utrecht where he established himself as a dangerous midfielder in the Dutch league before returning to Amsterdam. Also, a handful of players were plying their trade in Denmark and Switzerland. So, in addition to achieving a presence in the bigger soccer nations, US players were broadening their presence into some of Europe’s smaller leagues.

After short stints at NewCastle United and Denmark’s Brondby, Brad Friedel landed at Turkish power Galatasaray in 1995 and started nearly every match before retuning to play for the Columbus Crew from 1996-1997. He then found himself back in Europe in the rarefied air of Liverpool in 1997. After a protracted battle with the UK Home Office to get a work permit, he languished and Anfield until 2000, making only 25 appearances before signing with Blackburn Rovers, where he has been a mainstay ever since.

At this time, while some inroads were being made in other countries, Germany remained the most fertile European soil to grow American professional players. In 1994, Saarbrucken tried another American striker in US international Joe-Max Moore who scored 13 goals in 25 games for the Second Bundesliga team. In 1995, he moved to 1FC Nuernberg where he tallied eight goals enroute to becoming a fan favorite for his tireless work rate and goal scoring when the team needed it most.

In 1994, a young Claudio Reyna signed on with Bayer Leverkusen where he worked his way up to the first team, making 26 appearances in three seasons. By 1997, he moved to Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg where he flourished as a starter and became the team captain – the first American to do so in a major European soccer league. Playing alongside Reyna at Wolfsburg was fellow American Chad Deering who played with the club from 1996-1998 before returning to play for the Dallas Burn in MLS. Reyna and Deering both helped Wolfsburg earn promotion to the Bundesliga in 1997.

Another young American, Jovan Kirovski, after spending an extended period with the Manchester United youth program was denied a work permit to play professionally in England. So, in 1996, he signed with Bundesliga power Borussia Dortmund where he saw limited playing time. Nonetheless, in 1997 Kirovski became the first American to score in Champion’s League play, and to earn a CL winner’s medal during Dortmund’s successful run to the title. Of course, many observers in Germany did not recognize the California-born Kirovski as an American, thinking he was just another east European import.

Around the same time, German-American players started to indicate their desire to play for the US team, often discovered by fellow German-American Tom Dooley. Dooley brought in David Wagner, his teammate at Schalke 04 and later uncovered Michael Mason at FC St Pauli. US coach Steve Sampson called in both players several times in 1997-1998 but neither made the 1998 US World Cup Team. Wagner, Mason, and his younger brother Marco would continue to play professionally in Germany well into the-2004-2005 season.

Paul Caligiuri stayed in Germany but moved to SC Freiburg of the Second Bundesliga while Eric Wynalda transferred to VFL Bochum of the same league. Greg Berhalter went to Dutch side FC Zwolle in 1994 before moving on to Sparta Rotterdam and finally Cambuur Leewarden, where he saw more regular playing time. This time period also saw increasing numbers of lesser-known players being signed to professional contracts such as Joe Enochs at FC St Pauli and Melchior Arnold at FC Luzern in Switzerland. While most US players earning their paychecks with German and some Dutch teams, more players started to work their way up the ladder in the English game.

In 1995, Mike Lapper made a move to second division club Southend United, where he made 52 appearances. That same year, Juergen Sommer, current US goalkeeper coach , became the first American keeper to play for a Premiership side when he signed on for Queen’s Park Rangers (after an early 1990s stint at Luton Town). Then, in 1996, Keller was transferred to the English Premiership’s Leicester City where he made 99 appearances and helped the team win the 1997 League Cup. As time passed, an increasing number of American goalkeepers would be plying their trade in England.

One of these goalkeepers was Ian Feuer who already had stints at Peterborough and Luton Town before being loaned out by the New England Revolution to English minnow Rushden and Diamonds. His most memorable impact came in early 1999 when his heroics in front of the Rushden and Diamonds goal helped the home side claim a 0-0 draw with Leeds in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Feuer’s ability to successfully withstand the Premiership side’s barrage are still remembered by the club’s faithful today.

This article is a continuation of Part I which you can read here.

Coming Next Week: Part III: The Post-1998 World Cup Breakout

Comments, Questions, Ideas?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Subotic and Dortmund Down Bayern Munich 2-1

Borussia Dortmund's new head coach Juergen Klopp made a good impression with the BVB fans last night as his new-look team beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the preseason T-Home Super Cup. Included in the starting 11 was young American defender Neven Subotic whom Klopp brought with him from FSV Mainz.

Subotic looked nervous during the early going but started to show his stuff in the 26th minute with a terrific 45-meter pass to Delron Buckley to set up a dangerous chance for BVB. From that point on, he looked more confident and won more than his share of one-on-one challenges with Bayern's attacking players. The 47,000 home fans on hand at Westfalen Stadium seemed pleased while Bayern's new coach Juergen Klinsmann was none to pleased to drop such a match just three weeks before the start of the Bundesliga season. The two teams will meet again in league play on August 23rd.

BVB's goals came in the first half from Jakub Blaszczykowski and Tamas Hajnal (on a great free kick) while Mehmet Ekeci saved Bayern's honor with a 73rd minute tally.

Subotic's starting place in central defense is not yet secure since it remains a tossup whether it will consist of Subotic and Mat Hummels (the combination used often in preseason) or whether veteran Robert Kovac, now back from Euro 2008 duty with Croatia, will bump one of the two youngsters. Klopp told Bild last night that " I have not yet made up my mind on that one yet. It doesn't matter to me whether a player is young or old, what counts for me is performance."

Subotic and his Dortmund teammates did not have long to celebrate given their next challenge on Saturday against Juventus.

Photo AP, July 23rd 2008.

Monaco Still After Bradley

According to Le Parisien, now that a deal to bring Freddy Adu to the Rock is sealed, Monaco boss Jerome De Bontin is now focused on signing Heerenveen starlet Michael Bradley. Recent reports from Le Figaro and Nice Matin indicated that Monaco had offered €8.5 million euros for the high scoring American midfielder but that Heerenveen was demanding a price closer to €10 million. Previous reports had Middelsbrough offering circa €5 Million while Germany's Bild had Bayer Leverkusen's offer at €4.5 million.

With only 20 days left until the French transfer deadline, Monaco will need to resolve the Bradley transfer soon. If they cannot afford Heerenveen's asking price, they'll need the time to sign another attacking midfielder - namely Bordeux's Alejandro Alonso from Argentina.

A few Spanish clubs are also interested in Alonso so Monaco may be keeping him on the back burner until they know the outcome of their Bradley gambit. With four goals in 80 appearances, Alsonso is not quite the goal scoring threat that Bradley is but he does come with a good understanding of the French game, UEFA Cup experience, and (most likely) a lower price tag.

It remains to be seen whether another club is able or willing to match Monaco's offer for the 20-year-old American and whether Heerenveen will accept it. The Stade Rennais FanZine Da'Squad mentions that Bradley is among the options the club (which recently signed Carlos Bocanegra) is considering to fill a hole at attacking midfielder.

Either way, if the leaks and rumors turn out to be true, he could be the most expensive American player ever which (at today's exchange rates) would price his transfer at circa $13.7 million. This would surpass the previous record of $10 million Spanish side Villareal paid for the New York Red Bulls' Jozy Altidore just over one month ago.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Donovan A Better Fit In Spain

Now that Sky Sports has mentioned that Landon Donovan is interested in a move to the English Premiership, many are speculating on what it all means. My spidey sense tells me that his agent, Richard Motzkin, is just testing the waters to gauge interest in Europe and to send a signal to MLS that his client's price will be going much higher when contract renewal time comes in 2009.

If I'm wrong, then England is not the place he should be going - the fit isn't right. Landon Donovan is a technical, smooth, flowing player with many similarities to Germany and Chelsea's Michael Ballack. Ballack is one of the world's best players but he has struggled in the forceful English game where he seldom has a chance to put his best tools to use -he would have been much better off at Real Madrid. Andrei Shevchenko also has many similarities to Donovan and Ballack and his English experience has not fulfilled expectations.
Its not fair at this point to look back to Donovan's frustrations at Bayer Leverkusen and compare them to how he would do now as a 26-year old veteran pro. He is a different player now and he has an opportunity to choose his new situation more carefully.
If Donovan wants to challenge himself in European soccer, he should do it where he can thrive, not just survive. That place is Spain, not England.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Altidore Sees First Action For Villarreal

Villarreal got a good look at its four new signings, including American Jozy Altidore in a Sunday friendly against third division side Navata. The match turned out to be a 12-0 romp for the primera side and the club's faithful got its first look at Altidore before he departs to participate in the Olympics for the USA.

Yellow Submarine coach Manuel Pellegrini has indicated that Altidore will remain with the first team until at least January due to an injury to veteran forward Nihat Kahveci. Kahveci suffered a thigh injury during the Euro 2008 tourney while playing for Turkey and eventually required surgery, keeping him out of action for the first half of the Spanish season.

So, Altidore will have a chance to prove his worth as Villarreal faces a tough run of Spanish league and Champions's League matches during the fall. Regardless of how well he does at the Olympics, he'll need to work extra hard to integrate into his new club team after missing so many weeks of preseason training. Opportunity is knocking - will he be ready to answer?

Cherundolo Reports In At Hannover Training Camp

US and Hannover 96 defender Steve Cherundolo has now reported into his club's training camp after being given a bit more time to rest after three tough international matches for the USA. During the break, he also changed agents, from his longtime representaive Dr. Michael Becker to the Hannover based Harun Arslan. Arslan also represents other players for Hannover plus German national team coach Joachim Löw.

As you can see in the photo here, assistant coach Ingo Geissler put Cherundolo to the test early in a drill to maintain balance on a training ball while heading the ball back repeatedly. Who needs the 10 minute abs video when you can do this drill?

Benfica: Adu Transfer To Monaco Complete

According to the official websites of both Benfica and Monaco, American Freddy Adu has been loaned to AS Monaco (French first division) for one year with an option to buy. The deal was struck Monday night after several weeks of negotiations. Adu is expected to join his teammates at "The Rock" after the Olympics.

He will be one of three Americans playing in Ligue 1 this year, along with Carlos Bocanegra at Stade Rennais, and Andrew Jacobson at FC Lorient.

Monaco last won the French championship in 2000 and most recently were finalists in the 2004 UEFA Champion's League beating Real Madrid and Chelsea along the way.

What remains to be seen is whether Monaco will continue to pursue Heerenveen's Michael Bradley, who at last report was too expensive Monaco's taste (the club was asking 8.5 million Euros). Bradley is also being pursued by several English and German clubs, including Middelsbrough, Hamburger SV, and Bayer Leverkusen.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Agorsor: A Natural Replacement For Altidore At New York?

Hot young Maryland prospect Chris Agorsor proved again last week why he could be one of the most exciting young prospects in US Soccer, helping his team win the Development Academy U-17/18 championship at the Home Depot Center in southern California. Jaime Cardenas of the LA Times has a great writeup on the tournament here.

So now Agorsor faces the same decision many young Americans have; play in college for awhile, go to MLS, or try your luck in Europe. Reportedly, the 5'9" forward has a firm offer from the University of Virgina and a number of European teams have show interest in him including NAC Breda, Tottenham Hotspur, Queens Park Rangers. He would be an instant starter at UVA but in Europe he would likely start out with the reserve team. The NY/NJ Red Bulls have also reportedly expressed interest in him where he could be a natural replacement for Jozy Altidore, who was sold to Spanish side Villarreal for $10 million.

From what I've seen over the years, I think Agorsor should start out with the Red Bulls where his chances at advancement would be much greater. He could do well at UVA but he would not be challenged at a level to accelerate his advancement. On a European reserve side, he could languish for years and never get his shot with the first team. Look at the fate of Donovan, Twellman, and others - seldom has an American teenage prospect risen from the ranks of a European reserve team to play first team soccer for the same club.

For a player like Agorsor, the "Clint Dempsey method" of earning your professional spurs in MLS, then going abroad will serve him better in the long run, provided MLS makes him a serious offer. After selling Altidore to Villarreal (not to mention losing Claudio Reyna to retirement), the league owes the Red Bulls an allocation like Agorsor. One more thing MLS should bear in mind is to offer him a real professional contract which reflects his true value and potential. If they offer him a low-wage developmental contract, its either bon voyage and off to Europe or hello Charlottesville.

Totti Hints At Azzurri Return

AS Roma captain Francesco Totto has hinted he may come out of retirement to help the Italian national team in World Cup qualifying. The 31-year old who was a member of the 2006 World Cup winning team had retired from international play due to the effects of grueling league, European, Coppa Italia, and international schedules. Now, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport:

"If I'm well and I don't have problems, it will be possible to address this issue in six months or a year." The main reason Totti appears ready to return is due to the return of Marcello Lippi, with whom he got along well in 2006.

At the same time Totti has ambitions for Roma, second place finishers in Serie A the past two years, to make a more concerted run at the Scudetto this season. To do so, he figured they need to make two more key signings. Roma had been hoping to bring Julio Baptista to Stadio Olimpico on a loan but Real Madrid did not agree to terms. Roma is in desperate need of a quality winger following the departure of Amantino Mancini for Inter. Without a dangerous winger, their 4-2-3-1 system is not potent enough to stay near the top of the Italian game, let alone win it all. The Giallorossi have their eye on several options at winger. One is Fiorientina's Mario Alberto Santana but the Viola appear to be counting on him to fulfill their own Champion's League aspirations this year.

Another is Chelsea's Florent Malouda who was a star for France and Lyon but has had trouble carving out his own role at Stamford Bridge. The English side may be willing to loan or sell him but there is a catch, another big club is also interested; Barcelona. If it comes to a bidding war, the deep-pocketed Catalans will have the edge over the Romans.

Finally, some Roman newspapers and radio commentators indicate that the most realistic option may be Atletico Madrid's Jose Antonio Reyes. The vagabond Reyes, after bouncing to a new club almost every year looking for more playing time, seems to be the odd man out at Atletico. Thus, a move into a starting role at Roma may be just what he, and the Giallorossi, needs.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Evolution of US Soccer Players in Europe: Part I

While players are now reporting to their European clubs’ preseason training camps, we’re all still following the movement of American players between various clubs. This got me thinking that after 20 years of following the fortunes of US players in Europe (9 of them as a reporter), its hard not to notice the evolution of the American presence in the European game. So, let’s take a look back and see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and what progress is yet to be made.

1980s: The Trailblazers

The NASL went defunct in 1984 so young American players wanting to play at a higher level had a choice; go to a college team, play in a US semi-pro league, or try heading to Europe. But heading to Europe was no easy task since few clubs were interested in experimenting with unknown quantities, especially from a country without a soccer culture. For the time, it was comparable to an English youngster wanting to try out with a major league baseball team.

But some young Americans were starting to get noticed since US players became much more visible in the 1980s. The US played in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic soccer competitions as well as the 1987 Pan-American Games, in addition to a number of lesser international tournaments. In 1986, Bundesliga side Hamburger SV took notice of Paul Caligiuri and brought him to the team where he never managed to break into the lineup. Later, in 1988, he was transferred to Second Bundesliga side SV Meppen where he played for the next two seasons.

Around the same time, Brent Goulet, the 1987 US Player of the Year, moved to English lower division side AFC Bournemouth and later to Crew Alexandra where he scored three goals in 1988. Goulet later moved to Germany where he played on several second and third division teams for the next decade. While other US players received interest from European clubs, few teams seemed willing to make the investment.

Post-1990: Establishing A Toehold

Thanks to a wonder-strike by Caligiuri, the US qualified for its first World Cup in 40 years in 1990 and while the US team did not win a game, scouts at Italia 1990 took notice of several players. What they found were players with decent skills and a good work ethic available at bargain basement prices. Tab Ramos was signed by Spanish second division side Figueras and later moved to Real Betis while John Doyle went to Sweden to play for Örgryte IS. Hugo Perez ended up at Red Star Paris and later joined Doyle at Örgryte IS – the first European squad to have two Americans on its roster.

Among the higher profile US players of the era, John Harkes signed on with English second division side Sheffield Wednesday and helped the team to win the 1991 League Cup Final where they defeated Manchester United 1-0. In 1992, a young keeper named Kasey Keller started a four-year stint at another English side, Milwall, where he earned praise from the club’s faithful and opponents alike.

At the same time, Cobi Jones was struggling to get playing time at Coventry City but still managed to score nine goals in 28 appearances from 1992-1995. The South African-born Roy Wegerle became an American citizen in 1991 while playing for first division side Queen's Park Rangers where he scored 29 goals in 65 appearances from 1990-1992. He later played for Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City, as well as the US national team.

Overall, most of these players went to second division sides but the biggest impact was felt in Germany where a few American players made their mark. By 1991, Caligiuri had moved to FC Hansa Rostock in eastern Germany, a team he would help to win the final East German championship before the league was disbanded . A year later, Kaiserslautern’s star midfielder Tom Dooley become an American citizen – further raising the profile of American players in Germany. All the while, Chad Deering spent three years, from 1990-1993, in the Werder Bremen system before moving to Schalke 04.

The one American player that made the Germans sit up and take notice was Eric Wynalda who was loaned by the US Soccer to FC Saarbrucken, a Bundesliga club. He made an immediate impact scoring nine goals in his first 10 games before opposing defenders started marking him more closely. In 1994, young Americans Brian McBride and Mike Lapper signed with the Second Bundesliga’s VFL Wolfsburg.

Around the same time, the US Men’s Team started not just showing well but actually beating a few major teams including a 2-0 home win over England in 1993. Instead of ignoring the US as a source of potential talent, some in Europe started to take a closer look. Fluke or no fluke, there must have been something going on in US Soccer. Thus, a toehold was established in the European game but few , mostly the naturalized Americans, were with top-flight teams and not all legionaires across the Atlantic were seeing regular playing time.

Coming This Week: Part II: Post-1994 World Cup: Breaking Into First Division Soccer

Comments, Questions, Ideas?

Copyright Chris Courtney 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

American on Trial At FC Union Berlin

I've always wanted to see an American playing for FC Union Berlin again (since Ryan Coiner left in 2005) and soon it may be possible. Union is one of the über-cool rock and roll teams that may not always be successful, but has a pretty hip band of supporters (not unlike FC St Pauli).

This week, according to the Sächsiche Zeitung, former Cal Bears standout Steven Purdy is on trial for a position in central defense with the third division side. The 23-year-old Purdy played this past season with the 1860 Munich reserves and has competition for the position during the trial. German-Iranian Sasan Gouhari, a 22-year old defender from the Hamburger SV reserves is also on trial with Eisen Union.

A decision between Purdy and Gouhari was supposed to be announced after testing them both in a preseason match against SC Borea Dresden on Tuesday. While the game ended 1-1, Purdy was given partial blame for Borea's goal by Robert Koch while Gouhari reportedly did not fare much better during his appearance in the second half. So far, no announcement has been made on which player has been selected.

Monaco: Ready To Punt On Bradley?

As I suspected in an earlier report this morning, Michael Bradley is looking ever less likely for a move to AS Monaco. The club is now indicating that their main target for an attacking midfielder is Alejandro Alonso of Bordeaux. This means they won't need to up the ante for Heerenveen's Michael Bradley unless they can't snare Alonso.

According to Ouest France, ASM is now interested in negotiating for the 26-year old Argentine who is under contract with his current club until 2009. A few Spanish clubs are also interested in Alonso so Monaco may be keeping the Bradley deal on the back burner. With four goals in 80 appearances, Alsonso is not quite the goal scoring threat that Bradley is but he does come with a good understanding of the French game, UEFA Cup experience, and (most likely) a lower price tag.

Of course, this could just be a negotiating tactic by Monaco to make Heerenveen drop their price for Bradley but its hard to tell at this point. The club does however think it can strike a loan deal for Benfica's American midfielder Freddy Adu within the next week or two.

So, while all this speculation on Bradley has everyone looking to the south of France or England, I have a feeling he'll end up at either Hamburg or Bayer Leverkusen - either would be a good fit given his style of play and level of development.

AS Monaco: Still Interested in American Duo

According to the Nice Matin, AS Monaco is still leaning toward bringing in Americans Michael Bradley and Freddy Adu but under different arrangements. Benfica's young American appears to be close to a deal to be loaned to Monaco with an option to buy. Initially, Benfica had upped his price to €4 million after there was also interest from Bologna and Genoa.

Heerenveen midfielder Michael Bradley had been in ASM's cross hairs recently with reports of an offer in the neighborhood of €8.5 million. Bradley is also being pursued by Middelsbrough, Bayer Leverkusen, and perhaps other clubs working behind the scenes. Monaco remains interested in Bradley but is indicating that his price would need to come down before they will buy him (which means Heerenven are asking for more than Monaco has already offered). Any transaction for Bradley or Adu will need to happen before the August 17th French League transfer deadline and even then, Monaco would need to wait until after the Olympics before either one showed up to Stade Louis II. Personally, I think only one of these two will ever pull on a Monaco jersey (and his name isn't Bradley).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Napoli's Bernardo Called Up for US U-20 Team

SSC Napoli reservist Vincenzo Bernardo has been called up to the US Under 20 national team to play in the Milk Cup, an international youth tournament held in Northern Ireland. He departs on July 24th and is expected back in Naples in early August.

The US, which won the tournament in 2005, opens against host Northern Ireland on July 28th and later faces Israel and Wales in group play. Coach Thomas Rongen's US U-20 team beat Northern Ireland 3-0 during their last meeting in April 2008, helped by a goal from Bernardo.

(For last year's interview with Bernardo, click here.)

Beasley Injured, Again

Just when you thought Ranger's American winger DaMarcus Beasley was healed up and ready to go, it looks like he'll be sidelined with yet another injury. This time, he'll miss at least the first leg of the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round after falling to a hamstring injury during a preseason match against SC Preussen Munster during the weekend. He is expected to be out for three weeks.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hahnemann Plans On Quick Return To Premiership

Marcus Hahnemann told the Reading Evening Post this week that he plans on Reading having a short stay in the Championship. The American keeper acknowledged the tough time the Royals had last year against the bigger clubs but believes they can earn their way back to the Premiership this season.

Reflecting on last season, he remarked that: “When you play against the big boys you are basically playing on the counter-attack, mainly trying to defend like crazy. We had such a crazy year where we were killed, where we were demolished in a couple of games – and sometimes it’s hard to get your head around that.”

But this year, he knows it is different: “Now everyone’s going to be gunning for us, which will bring a different set of pressures. Players aren’t as skillful and not as fast as in the Premiership so everything becomes more of a fight.”

On the Royals' chances for this season, Hahnemann offered that: “Hopefully, this year we will have a speed advantage and a strength and squad size advantage – something we were lacking last year. It’s going to be a lot harder to get up for the games this season. That’s probably going to be the biggest hurdle we are going to have to get over. Attitude is going to play such a key role this year. Hopefully we can repeat what we managed to achieve a few years ago."

Hahnemann will be facing a new challenge for the number one keeper spot this year with the from 23-year-old Australian international Adam Federici. Federici is expected to play for Australia at the Olympics in August and will therefore miss Reading's preseason training.

Reading's other American, midfielder Bobby Convey, appears to be on the mend after going the distance in Saturday's preseason romp over Didcot Town 9-0. Convey scored the sixth goal and set up the seventh for the Royals in their win over the part-timers.

Adu to Monaco: Loan With An Option to Buy?

According to several French press reports, AS Monaco boss Jerome de Bontin is still working to bring Benfica's Freddy Adu to his club. The arrangement reportedly being discussed is a loan with an option to buy since Monaco was not prepared to pay the €4 million Benfica was asking. Observers think the deal is close to done and could be announced within the near future.

Meanwhile up in Austria for pre-season training with his team, Hertha Berlin's Bryan Arguez continues to see significant playing time with the first team due to injuries of veteran defenders. Saturday in Stegersbach against FC Copenhagen, Arguez continued to prove his value to the team in a 0-0 draw. Based on his performance, coach Lucien Favre voiced his satisfaction with Arguez (and four others), that "I'm very happy with these players."

Hertha faces its first real challenge of the season on Thursday in the home leg of a UEFA Cup qualification match against Moldavian side FC Nistru Otaci. The road leg will be played on July 31st in Chisinau before the team heads off to a preseason tourney in Mallorca where they will face Newcastle United and Steve Cherundolo and Sal Zizzo's Hannover 96. Barring injury or a drop in form, Arguez is expected to start each of these early matches in central defense.

Today, Danny Szetela and his Brescia teammates head up north to the Alto Adige region to start their training camp. There, coach Serse Cosmi will put the team through its paces before playing a series of pre-season matches. According to Brescia Oggi, Szetela stands a good chance to earn more playing time this season if he can continue to show improvement.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Transfer Season: Far From Over

This summer we've already seen some major trades at a number of big clubs but some of the biggest deals have yet to be made. Where will Arsenal's now discount priced Emmanuel Adebayor end up? Will Zenith St Petersburg's Russian phenom Andrei Arshavin be sold or is he about to be priced out of the market? Will Cristiano Ronaldo go to Real Madrid or stay at Manchester United? What about Chelseas's bid for AC Milan's Kaka? First, let's take a look at the top five spenders so far this year:

1. FC Barcelona €77.5 million
2. Fiorentina €50.3 million
3. Olympique Lyon €45.200.000
4. Tottenham Hotspur €39 million
5. Liverpool €32.1 million

When you consider the huge sums which have been discussed for Kaka (€94 million), Ronaldo (€100 million), and Liverpool's Fernando Torres (€65 million) - you'll know immediately that the transfer season is just getting started. You'll also note that you don't see Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid, or Inter Milan on this list (to name a few). My experience tells me that Fiorentina, Lyon, and Tottenham are pretty much set while Barcelona and Liverpool may still pick up a player or two. The truly big spenders this year have yet to draw from their war chest so you can expect this list to change. There are still quite a few top players up for grabs and plenty of deep pocketed teams available to bid for them.

Another point to consider is that not all transfer deadlines are created equal. The French League, which does not have the financial bidding power of some others, ends its transfer period on August 17th. So, if Americans Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, Oguchi Onyewu, or any other players are headed for Ligue 1, we'll know it by then.

The clash of the titans will occur in the coming weeks as the deadline approaches on August 31st for Italy's Serie A, the Spanish Primera, and the English Premier League (and others). For each big player sold to another club, they'll need to replace them so the domino effect can also tip which way a club is moving. For example, Britain's Sunday Express reports that Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is looking hard at Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Moutinho as a replacement for Frank Lampard (who is a likely transfer to Inter Milan). So, when you see Stamford Bridge making a strong move for Moutinho, you can expect that Lamps will be packing his bags for Inter.

In the meantime, with so much cash flying around, we won't get a true sense of where the big teams stand until the dust settles on September 1st - which also happens to be the Champion's League roster deadline.

Transfer Facts and Rumors on Americans Abroad:

- According to Corriere Dello Sport, Gabriel Enzo Ferrari of Sampdoria reserves has been loaned o Perugia of Serie C1 (3rd division).

- Vincenzo Bernardo of SSC Napoli is still waiting to see if he will be loaned to a Serie B team or if he'll stay onboard in the reserve (primavera) side.

- In an article for Tutto Mercato, Francesco Letizia recommended that Bologna pursue American defender Oguchi Onyewu, figuring he was just the type of physical presence they'll need in central defense. Bologna has yet to express interest in Onyewu but has looked into acquiring Freddy Adu.

World's Largest Soccer Tournament Starts Today

While facts and rumors on the professional transfer season continue to hold the attention of many soccer fans, the world's largest soccer tournament starts today in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Gothia Cup, a youth tournament, drew 1,551 teams last year with over 33,000 boys and girls in categories from U-12 to U-18, scoring over 22,000 goals. In 1976, the USA took part for the first time with the club Texas Longhorns. Over the years, the USA is the second largest participating country (after Germany).

A number of highly successful players have played in the tournament over the years such as Gothia Cup winners Xabi Alonso (Spain), Adebayor (Togo), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Ze Roberto (Brazil), and Alan Shearer (England). The most successful club team so far has been is the 1984 Tahuichi Academy which saw 8 of its players go on to represent the Bolivian national team at the 1994 World Cup in the USA - a team which included DC United's Marco Etvheverry and Jaime Moreno.

Dozens of American youth clubs are involved in this year's tournament including the Slammers Futbol Club (Newport Beach, CA), Eagle Rays (New Rochelle, NY), Sockers FC (Chicago, IL), Roanoke Stars (Roanoke, VA), and the Boulder County Force (Boulder, CO).

The Gothia Cup runs from July 13th-19th.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ronaldinho: Getting His Mojo Back

Over a year ago in a column for Soccer Times, I recall noting that the great players like Ronaldinho were starting to burn out due to a non-stop season of club, European, and international matches - not to mention the promotional tours that reduce any off time to recharge. In Ronnie's case, we watched him degrade over time until it reached a point where some said he had "fallen out of love with football."

This summer, he apprears to be getting his mojo (and fitness) back under the supervision of Brazilian national team fitness coach Paulo Paixao. This week, Paixao spoke about the superstar who is currently working to get ready to play in the Olympics - something his club (Barcelona) is not happy about.

"He is very happy and motivated." "He has rediscovered his joy, and is once again the Ronaldinho we all knew."

"He has been very cooperative in the work we are doing to improve his physical form, and take him back to his best."

Ronaldinho is aiming to represent Brazil in the Olympics (as an overage player), motivated it seems to prove something to both Barcelona and Brazil boss Dunga who has left him off the national team roster. If Ronnie plays in the Olympics, it means he'll miss club's Champions League qualifiers at a time when Lionel Messi will also be unavailable to the Catalan side.

All the while, speculation continues about whether Ronaldihno will transfer to AC Milan, Manchester City, or remain at Barcelona. Regarless, a Brazil side led by a healthy and motivated Ronaldihno will be sure to make the Olympic soccer tournament more enjoyable for fans, but less so for opposing teams.

Arguez Shows Well in Pre-Season Matches

Hertha Berlin's American midfielder, Bryan Arguez, has had a few growing pains in recent weeks but now looks to be on track. After passing out in a training session two weeks ago (reportedly due to jet lag), the Miami native acquitted himself well in two friendlies last week against Hoeppel Tel Aviv with the latest result being a 0-0 draw.

While the Berlin press continues to bemoan the lack of scoring punch in this year's edition of Hertha, they seem satisfied with the back line, in particular Arguez who is filling in for injured Swiss international Steve Von Bergen. Brazilian defender Lucio also remains injured which means that Arguez, a natural defensive midfielder filling in on the back line, could see some starts with the first team during the early season.

Arguez' arrival and role at Hertha Berlin displays a number of parallels with Hertha's last American player, Tony Sanneh. Both were former players for DC United, both are tall (6'2") and envisoned for use in set piece plays, and both are midfielders who at Hertha spent time filling in on the back line. The main difference is that Arguez is starting his Bundesliga career at a much younger age. He is only 18 while Sanneh was 27 when he joined the team.

Hertha is still looking for an attacking midfielder with Manager Dieter Hoeness and Scout Rudi Wojtowicz reportedly in Brasil this week looking for talent. Too bad they don't take a look over at Heerenveen where American Michael Bradley would fit the bill quite well.

Arguez and his Hertha Berlin teammates play their next friendly tonight against FC Copenhagen near their training camp in Austria.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gooch Picks Up A Second Passport

Friday in Brussels it was made official that Oguchi Onyewu is not only a US but also now a Belgian citizen. His naturalization, along with that of Standard teammate Mohamed Tchité was, made official in the Belgian government's Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees posted at the end of the week.

By picking up an EU passport, Onyewu makes himself more attractive to teams in countries with restrictions on the number of non-EU players which can be on the field at one time. In France, only four non-EU players can be on the pitch at the same time while five are allowed in Italy's Serie A. The Spanish Primera allows only a maximum of three.

Meanwhile, FIFA has sought to apply such restrictions throughout Europe, although the European Union has sued the global soccer federation, citing violations of European labor law. Regardless, by picking up an EU passport, Onyewu has now removed a potential obstacle to moving to a bigger club this fall.

Feilhaber, Five Others Out At Derby County

Derby County is conducting a housecleaning this year bringing in nine new players and letting go of six, including American midfielder Benny Feilhaber. After his $2 million transfer to Derby County from Hamburg, Feilhaber has only played in ten matches (nine as a sub) since last August due to injuries.

Feilhaber is now in danger of catching the disease many Americans abroad have fallen to; lack of playing time and a spate of injuries making them less marketable to other clubs. Still, there are some who remember Feilhaber's performances in the Maccabiah Games, the Bundesliga, and in his 15 caps for the US team.

While his agent is probably working overtime to find him a club, it seems a few options may be available. First, he could always return to Hamburg on a free transfer since Derby looks like it is releasing him, Secondly, given the desperate situation at FC St Pauli, he could fit in and join the starting 11 pretty quickly. And finally, Maccabi Tel Aviv was interested in him back in January so, if they are still interested, they may be able to get him for a bargain.

Altidore's Loan to Huelva Looking Less Likely

Villarreal's new signing from the New York Red Bulls, Jozy Altidore, is looking less likely to be loaned out to Recreativo de Huelva for a six-month period. While the Yellow Submaine have offered the loan to Huelva, there is less interest in borrowing the 18-year-old American now that they have signed striker Adrián Colunga from Las Palmas of the Spanish Segunda (second division).

Now its a waiting game to see if Huelva will consider bringing on Altidore as well or if Villarreal can find another team wanting a shirt term loan deal. Otherwise, he'll stay with his new team but will have a tough time working himself into the lineup. The fact that Villarreal was looking to arrange a loan means that there was no place for him in the scheme this fall. Of course, he has a chance to change all that if he can prove himself during pre-season training which starts on July 15th. Opportunity may be knocking but the question is - will Jozy Altidore be ready to answer?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brescia, Racing Santander Agree to Terms on Szetela

It appears American Danny Szetela will be staying at Serie B side Brescia a bit longer. According to the Corriere Dello Sport, the club has agreed to terms to buy the previously loaned New Jersey native although terms have not been made public. The midfielder made 10 appearances for Brescia last season and now looks primed to earn more playing time in the coming season.

Aston Villa Eyes Three American Players

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is looking to strengthen his squad on the defensive end which has him targetting a number of players, including three Americans.
The team needs a roster deep enough in quality to hold its own in League and European play this season. “I would hope for us to have a real proper squad, at least the size of, say, Everton. “We need players and we know what we have to do,’’ he said. “We’re continuing to work on other deals. We have many things going on at this moment" said O'Neill.

In looking for help on defense, he is targetting Shefffield Wednesday's American Frank Simek, along with West Ham's Anton Ferdinand, among others. Villa is also considering signing either US and Chivas USA's Brad Guzan, or Blackburn's US international Brad Friedel. The Guzan-Friedel consideration is believed to be an either/or choice since it may be difficult to make room for both.

O'Neill remarked that "we are hoping to resolve the goalkeeping situation pretty soon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’ve got a small squad and we don’t really want to be going into this season facing up to games with what we had on the pitch being what we have."

All the while, Simek told the BBC yesterday that he does not know when he will be fit enough to play again since he he still recovering from a serious ankle injury. He missed the last half of last season after suffering serious ligament damage during a road game at Crystal Palace in December 2007.

At the same time, Wednesday chief Brian Laws has dismissed reports linking Simek with a move to Aston Villa. Laws told BBC Radio Sheffield that they have received no approach from Aston Villa. He remarked that "Aston Villa have never even made contact, there's no truth in the matter."

In other tranfer news, Heerenveen's Michael Bradley has told the Dutch press that he "wants to play in a big league and prefers to play in England." The 20-year-old American is still considering offers from AS Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Blackburn Rovers, and Middelsbrough.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Where is Gooch?

According to several Belgian press reports, Standard Liege does not know where to find its American defender Oguchi Onyewu. Despite much speculation about where Onyewu may transfer next year (Fulham, FC Cologne, French League), the team has started training and expected him at practice. Standard played a friendly match tonight against Amay without Onyewu and club officials report they have been trying to contact "Gooch" but have had no contact with him since June 22nd.

Is he taking a well deserved rest after a tiring year of club and international matches or are he and his agent trying to work out the perfect deal? Maybe both.

Gibbs' Return to St. Pauli In Question

It looks like FC St. Pauli of the German Second Bundeliga is still looking for defensive help since the anticipated return of US defender Cory Gibbs appears doubtful. St Pauli sports director Helmut Schulte told Bild that "I assume he is not now coming." Gibbs, whose contract with Charlton Athletic (a team for which he never appeared due to injuries) just ran out, had recently been training with the Hamburg-based side. He is reportedly still in Miami deciding what decision to make for his future - which we read to mean that someone is shopping him around to MLS franchises.

Another American defender who formerly played for St Pauli, Ian Joy, had also been considered. Hamburg's Abendblatt describes FC St Pauli's defensive woes as an "emergency" situation with few solutions currently available. So, if there are any ambitious young defenders out there looking to break into the German game, I suggest they have their agent contact FC St Pauli soon - training already started this week.

Heerenveen to Keep Bradley - Yeah Right!

Yesterday a club spokeman at Heerenveen mentioned that the club may decide to keep the 20-year-old instead of selling him for a reported €8.5 million. Don't fall for it folks - this is just part of the transfer negotiating game. Bradley is in the last year of his contract so this is Heerenveen's only chance to cash in. The only way they can keep him in summer 2009 is to offer him a pay package he can't resist. The problem there is that the Dutch club won't be able to match the kinds of offers Bradley is sure to receive from teams with deeper pockets.

So, it seems that this may be Heerenveen's last effort to squeeze a bit more money out of the deal before they agree to terms. We presume that would be with AS Monaco but its never to late to count out the other suitors such as Bayer Leverkusen and Middelsbrough (or even another team).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Enochs Hangs Up Boots, Picks Up A Coaching Whistle

Long time VFL Osbabrueck midefielder Joe Enochs has hung up his playing boots and picked up a coach's whistle, taking the reins of VFL's reserve team. The California native has been working on his German coaching certifications during the off-season the past few years. He becomes only the second US-born coach to work in European soccer after Brent Goulet at Elversberg of the German Regionalliga (Division III).

The once capped US international made 359 appearances in 12 seasons for VFL, scoring 12 goals. Enochs broke the club record for matches played on May 19, 2007 and continued to add to his record until the end of the 2008 season. He also won the "goal of the month" award from the ARD television network in September 2004 for his strike against Bayern Munich in an early round of the German national cup competition. In the tradtion of Tony Sanneh, who opened a Berlin bar during his playing days at Hertha, Enochs has also opened his own sports bar in Osnabruck.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monaco Bid For Bradley Now €8.5 Million

It looks like Heerenveen is driving a hard bargain before it parts with leading goal scorer Michael Bradley. France's Le Figaro is reporting that AS Monaco's bid is now up to €8.5 million after being previously reported at €6 million. Over the weekend, The Mirror (UK) reported that Middelsbrough had bid circa €5 Million while Germany's Bild had Bayer Leverkusen's offer at €4.5 million. It remains to be seen whether another club is able or willing to match Monaco's offer for the 20-year-old American. Either way, if this turns out to be true, he could be the most expensive American player ever which (at today's exchange rates) would price his transfer at $13.7 million. This would surpass the previous record of $10 million Spanish side Villareal paid for the New York Red Bulls' Jozy Altidore only one month ago.

Subotic Sees Action for Dortmund in Charity Tourney

Borussia Dortmund fans got their first good look at new defender Neven Subotic in Sunday's Hallelujah Cup, a charity tournament to raise funds to fight child poverty. The tournament consisting of the main Ruhr valley teams, namely Borussia Dortmund, MSV Duisburg, Rot-Weiss Essen and SG Wattenscheid 09 played in a round robin format of 50 minute matches (25 minutes per half).

Subotic got to spend time playing on the BVB back line next to Mats Hummels and Roman Weidenfeller for the first time in a game situation. Against RW-Essen, he had a defensive misunderstanding with Leonardo Dede in the 5th minute which nearly gave up a goal to Essen's Josef Kotula. Match reports indicate he had a few other shaky moments but he later created a dangerous scoring chance against Essen in the 18th minute. That said, all four teams reportedly looked out of form prior to their summer training camps.

Dortmund ended up finishing fourth in the four team tournament which was won by MSV Duisburg of the Second Bundesliga. The Borussia Dortmund team will now decamp on Wednesday to their training camp at Feusisberg near Lake Zürich in Switzerland. The team has five weeks to prepare for the its first competitive match, the DFB-Cup (German Cup) 1st round, which will be played either on August 4th or 5th. Friendly matches against Young Boys Bern and Galatasaray are also planned plus a July 22nd tilt with AS Roma.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cagliari: Interested in Mastroeni?

Serie A side Cagliari are reported to be interested in US and Colorado Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni. The 31-year-old veteran has been keen to play in Spain or Italy and according to Napoli Affari, Cagliari is interested in signing him. Originally born in Argentina, Mastroeni's international performances have been seen positively here the past few years since he seems to fit the mold Italian coaches are looking for.

The Sardinian side finished 14th in the league last year and is looking for experience in the midfield but does not have the resources to buy big-name talent. So, Mastroeni may be just what they need (and the price is right).

Meanwhile, there seems to be renewed interest from Bologna for the services of Benfica's Freddy Adu, who is also reportedly being courted by AS Monaco and Genoa. Fellow American Oguchi Onyewu of Standard Liege is also in talks with a few teams; the Bundesliga's FC Cologne and Fulham of the English Premiership.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Racing Santander, Brescia Still No Deal on Szetela

Racing Santander is still looking to dish off American midfielder Danny Szetela since he does not fit into new coach Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz' plans. He was loaned to Brescia of Italy's Serie B last year where he made 9 appearances. Brescia would like to keep him for another year but Racing wants to sell him and the Italian club does not appear ready to buy.

Part of the loan deal was that Brescia had the opportunity to buy Szetela provided they pick up that option by June 30th. These terms can always be modified if both sides agree to a new deal. If Brescia won't buy, another team may interested. Otherwise, the young American could be left in a bad spot - stuck with a team that does not want him.

Real Madrid, Barcelona In The Hunt For Drogba

As the transfer wheels turn, new and exciting scenarios continue to unfold. With Barcelona seeming to fade in the race to sign Russian phenom Andrei Arshavin (probably bound for Stamford Bridge), they are now in the hunt for Chelsea's Didier Drogba. But wait, their arch rivals Real Madrid have alreadt been courting the Ivory Coast international and appear to have the upper hand thus far. Barcelona has already spent €77 million on transfers for the 2008/09 season and may be near their limit.

That said, Drogba is a personal friend of Barça's Sammy Eto'o and the club has deep financial reserves so its too early to count rhe Blaugrana out of the running. The club was also in the running for Arsenal's 25-year-old striker Emmanuel Adebayor, but the Gunners' price tag for him is identical to Drogba's (but whose proven abilities are not nearly the same). With 80 goals in four seasons at Chelsea (which has him under contract though 2010) and an estimated price tag of €45 million, only the biggest clubs will be in a position to bid for Drogba.

There was much speculation that the 30-year-old Drogba was heading to Inter Milan, where he would be reunited with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho but the recent Spanish interest appears to have changed the game. Last week Drogba's agent, Pierre Frelot, stated that a move to Spain could be an attractive proposition. Expect the bidding war to be fierce.

Giuseppe Rossi on Italian Olympic Roster

New Jersey-born striker Giuseppe Rossi has been selected to play for Italy in Beijing next month. The team will gather next week to start training at Coverciano, the Italian Soccer Academy near Florence. Meanwhile, his new Villareal teammate, American Jozy Altidore, is still waiting to learn if he will be able to play for the US Olympic team. It remains to be seen how happy Yellow Submarine coach Manuel Pellegrini will be having two of his young strikers off on Olympic duty during the preseason training which starts on July 14th. Villareal's first preseason match is July 30th against Liverpool while the Olympic men's soccer tourney runs from August 8th-24th.

The rest of the Azzurrini (Baby Azzurris) are:

Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Robert Acquafresca (Cagliari), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa), Antonio Cadreva (Udinese), Luca Cigarini (Parma), Andrea Coda (Udinese), Andrea Consigli (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus), Lorenzo De Silvestri (Lazio), Daniele Dessena (Parma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Marco Motta (Udinese), Antonio Nocerino (Palermo), Andrea Ranocchia (Arezzo), Tommaso Rocchi (Lazio), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Andrea Russotto (Treviso), Salvatore Sirigiu (Citta di Castello), Emiliano Viviano (Brescia)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Monaco: Offering € 6 million for Bradley

According to France's Le Figaro, AS Monaco is not only after Freddy Adu but may be offering SC Heerenveen € 6 million for US midfielder Michael Bradley. Germany's Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburger SV, along with England's Middelsbrough and Everton have also expressed interest in Bradley. Currently, the Monaco bid is the most definitive piece of news to have leaked out thus far. Weeks ago, some at Bayer Leverkusen had reckoned it would take €3 million to buy the 20 year old American before Boro offered €4 million. If the Monaco offer turns out to be true, others may have a tough time topping it.

Subotic Breaks Another Barrier for Yanks in Europe

Yet another barrier is broken by an American soccer player in Europe. This time, its not signing for a big club or playing in a Champions League final (which has yet to happen) but rather making news for being seen around town with a beautiful girlfriend. That's right folks, in the tradition of Lothar Mattheus, Francesco Totti, Gigi Buffon, and others, new Borussia Dortmund signing Neven Subotic is getting ink on the society pages in Germany with his girlfriend Lisa Ryzih.

Ryzih (19) happens to be the women's U-20 world champion in the pole vault but also has the looks to make a living as a model. They met at a German TV studio in March where they were being interviewed for a talk show. Subotic asked her out afterwards and they've been together ever since.

Of course, this kind of media attention only puts more pressure on Subotic to deliver the goods at Dortmund now that he is reunited with his old coach Juergen Klopp, one of Germany's best managers. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Lisa is trying to qualify for the German summer Olympic squad so she can seek gold in Beijing.

Ronaldihno To Man City? Don't Hold Your Breath

There is a reason they call this the silly season. Brazilian superstar Ronaldihno, currently with FC Barcelona, has been linked with AC Milan, the LA Galaxy (which no one took seriously), Chelsea, and now Manchester City is being mentioned. AC Milan boss Silvio Berlusconi is ready to sell the family silver for Ronnie and only one club can probably outbid him, Chelsea. He does does not fit their style, a lesson they should have learned from the purchase of Michael Ballack. Its doubtful Manchester City can come up with the $40-50 million transfer fee and still have resources left to meet his salary demands. So, look for Ronnie to be wearing black and red this fall.

Monaco: "We Really Want Freddy Adu"

The latest word out of the AS Monaco camp is that they "really want" to sign young US international Freddy Adu, currently with Benefica. According to Monaco president Jerome de Bontin, they not only want Adu for his potential on the field but also to "export the image of the club to a wider international audience." According to the club's web site, Monaco and Benefica are getting closer to working of the details of the transfer with a fee running circa 4 million euros.

The deal may be a bit easier to work out given that current Monaco coach Ricardo Gomes played for Benefica for five years during his playing days. Gomes may also be quite understanding of Adu's Olympic aspirations since he himself won a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, playing as a defender for the Brazilian team.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"El Tanque" Promises Napoli 20 Goals

Here in bella Napoli there is much excitement over new signing German Denis, acquired from Independiente in a five year deal for €8 million. The 26-year-old came on the recommendation of last year's Neapolitan Argentine sensation, Ezequiel Lavezzi and will complete an all-Argentine attack for the Ciucciarelli.

Yesterday Denis promised to score 20 goals this season and after scoring 15 goals in his first 13 games of Argentina's apertura, the Napoli faithful seem ready to believe him.

"I want to do well with the shirt of Napoli and try to win the championship,” said ‘El Tanque’, who was presented to the media along with fellow new signings Christian Maggio and Leandro Rinaudo.

Hopefully, 18 year old American striker Vincenzo Bernardo, who plays for the SSC Napoli reserve team can learn some new tricks from Denis. Bernardo finished a respectable reserve season tallying five goals and eight assists in 15 games and even began training with the first team.

Napoli begins training on July 24th in Austria minus Lavezzi and Nicolas Navarro, both on Olympic duty for Argentina.

Ronaldihno in Talks with LA Galaxy? Doubtful

The Spanish sports daily Sport is reporting that the LA Galaxy have made an offer to Barcelona to buy Brazilian star Ronaldihno for a 3-5 year deal paying nearly $30 million (18 million Euros) per year. With $48 million being the minimum transfer fee Barcelona would accept, its hard ti imagine MLS could outbid the deep pocketed AC Milan, which has been pursuing Ronaldihno for the last year. Even if it did, they would have a difficult time justifying sending him to the LA Galaxy, where truckloads of money are already being spent on David Beckham. If anywhere, a player like him would go to New York.

According to Sport, Ronnie's agent (and brother), Roberto de Assis, will be meeting with Galaxy officials in Houston in the next few days. Since MLS negotiates player contracts, this statement smells fishy. Thus, the whole rumor is hardly plausible and only seems intended to put upward pressure on the pay package AC Milan has on offer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Onyewu: Interest from FC Cologne and Fulham

US defender Oguchi Onyewu is still drawing great interest from FC Cologne coach Christoph Daum but the German club also reports that they are facing competition from an English club which they did not identify. Later, Belgian soccer magazine Voetbal Belgie identified the club as (surprise, surprise) Fulham. Any transfer from Belgian champion Standard Liege, Onyewu's current club, is expected to run 2.5-3 million euros.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

AS Monaco Interested in Freddy Adu

As of yesterday, Bologna was no longer expressing interest but according to the Nice Matin newspaper, AS Monaco has now targetted Benefica's American midfielder Freddy Adu for transfer. With Monaco looking to rebuild after a disappointing season, a player like Adu could see significant playing time early on.