B/R Gossip Roundup: Bayern Add More Firepower, Torres Finally Leaves Chelsea

BR UK NewsFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2014

B/R Gossip Roundup: Bayern Add More Firepower, Torres Finally Leaves Chelsea

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    With just hours left in the transfer window, the football transfer mill is heading for its annual high point of speculation.

    The transfer window slams shut on Monday in England and the major European leagues, and clubs from around the continent continue to search for last-minute deals, bargains and big-name signings.

    In Germany, Bayern have already added more firepower to an already potent line-up, signing defender Mehdi Benatia from Roma (per BBC Sport) and midfielder Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid (via Sky Sports).

    But Bayern aren't the only team making headlines. In the following slides, we continue our look at the stories dominating the sport's news agenda over the past seven days.

Frank Lampard's England Retirement Ends Torment of 'Golden Generation'

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    When Frank Lampard announced his international retirement this week, as Sky Sports reported, there will have been few looks of astonishment.

    At the age of 36—older than Steven Gerrard, who confirmed his England exit earlier in the summer—there seemed to be little other option for the Chelsea legend.

    After leaving the Stamford Bridge club at the end of last season, the midfielder joined New York City, and is currently on loan with the MLS franchise's owners, Manchester City.

    Following his record-breaking feats with Chelsea, Lampard stands on the verge of the final chapter of his playing career, even if its first few paragraphs are spent on the Etihad Stadium club's bench.

    Prolonging his international career into the qualifying campaign for the European Championships in 2016 would have served no purpose for a player who has graced the England midfield since 1999.

    After making his international debut in a friendly against Belgium at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, Lampard went on to make 106 appearances for his country, becoming his country's fifth-most capped outfield player.

    Lampard said this week:

    Due to my club career now going in a different direction, it is of the utmost importance for me to consider my family first and also to concentrate on how I can perform consistently to the best of my abilities over my next few years in club football.

    It is now the time to move forward and I feel very confident that, with Roy Hodgson in charge, the young players that we have coming through, and the changes that are being made throughout the development of the youth system in this country, we will have success in the future and a team that this country deserves.

    The departure of Lambert brings an end to the so-called "Golden Generation"—a venerated group of young stars deemed to be England's best hope of success in years.

    The tag proved to be a misnomer, and under the auspices of managers such as Sven-Goran Eriksson and Fabio Capello, the team progressed as far as the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006 before blowing their last chance in South Africa four years ago.

    Lampard was viewed as a key element of that period in English football, but his midfield axis with Gerrard was regularly opened up for debate, as Richard Williams of The Guardian did ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

    But whether Gerrard and Lampard could slot together was not the failing of this team of gifted youngsters, it was the question of how they were played.

    Instead of harnessing the two talented midfielders, successive England head coaches would force one out into a wide role, as Capello did with Gerrard at the 2010 World Cup.

    Lampard, like Gerrard, will be able to look back on his international career with satisfaction, but it will be a source of regret that two of the most gifted midfielders England has produced did not find a golden touch for the national team.


    Believability Meter: High

    The Golden Generation was an ill-conceived, if well-meaning, idea at the time, but it will be remembered as a period of underachievement for England.

    Under no circumstances could Lampard or Gerrard be blamed for that, but there will be a major tinge of regret that the Three Lions never really saw the best of both together.

Neil Warnock Perfect for Palace but Is Appointment Too Late to Save Eagles?

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    After four years apart, Neil Warnock and Crystal Palace were reunited this week.

    The former Leeds and Sheffield United boss was named as the successor to Tony Pulis on Wednesday, as David Ornstein of BBC Sport reported, after two weeks of turmoil at Selhurst Park.

    Pulis' departure two days before the Premier League season began had appeared to be a major blow after the former Stoke City manager had—almost miraculously—staved off the threat of relegation.

    Palace chairman Steve Parish looked poised to unveil Malky Mackay as the new manager last week, before a welter of controversy from his time at Cardiff City rained down on the potential appointment, as Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail revealed.

    Fast forward a week and Warnock made his first return to a dugout since leaving Leeds United after 14 months in charge in April 2013.

    To the external eye, the appointment of the 65-year-old might come as a surprise after the former manager left Palace with the club staring into the abyss of financial ruin.

    Palace entered administration in January 2010, and Warnock left the club for Queens Park Rangers soon after.

    However, Warnock was swift to ensure no bridges were burnt with the Selhurst Park club and its supporters, as The Independent reported.

    Warnock was quoted as saying:

    Leaving a club in administration for one with huge potential must look an easy decision but it has been one of the most difficult of my career, and there have been a few.

    The reason I am sad, as well as excited, is that of all the clubs I have been at the fans at Crystal Palace have been the best.

    It's easy to say, but I'm not just saying it because I'm leaving. The support they have given me and the players during a very difficult few months, and beforehand, has been fantastic and it is something I will never forget.

    As everyone knows, I'm a northerner, and we all think that's the only hotbed of football, but after managing Palace I know better.

    That quote alone will ensure there will be no acrimony over the return of Warnock, but he will have his work cut out in attempting to recreate Pulis' exploits this season.

    His appointment came five days before the close of the transfer window, and the team had not picked up a point from their opening two matches before their last-gasp draw with Newcastle on Saturday.

    Warnock, Palace and the supporters must now unite once more with a series of winnable matches on the horizon.

    And if one man can emulate Pulis, it is the Yorkshireman, who has previously guided both Palace and QPR to safety in the Championship before setting up assaults on the top flight.

    Warnock has become renowned for his belief in youth, and it will need all of his man-management skills to ensure Palace are not fighting a relegation battle in May.

    Believability Meter: High

    In Warnock, Palace have found a manager they know well and a man with a genuine affection for Selhurst Park.

    But this is going to be a long season unless all parties are united behind the returning manager.

Manchester City Reaping Rewards of Keeping Faith with Stevan Jovetic

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Sometimes it pays just to have a little bit of patience—as Manchester City are discovering this season.

    Striker Stevan Jovetic arrived at the Etihad Stadium last year on the back of some superb displays for Fiorentina, which saw him score 13 times in 31 appearances during his final season in Florence.

    The £22 million price tag was a hefty one for the Montenegro international, but hopes were high that the 23-year-old would blossom with City.

    Nobody could have predicted just how Jovetic's first season in the Premier League would turn out, though.

    The striker picked up a hamstring injury in pre-season and did not make his City debut until Sept. 14.

    Ten days later, Jovetic struck twice in a 5-0 Capital One Cup win over Wigan Athletic, and the injury concerns appeared to be over.

    However, further calf and groin problems contributed to the forward making just a handful of appearances.

    Such were the problems Jovetic encountered last term that few people would have argued with City manager Manuel Pellegrini if he had sent the player out on loan or even sold him at a loss.

    John Cross of the Daily Mirror claimed there interest from Roma earlier this summer, while Joe Ridge of the Daily Mail reported that Juventus wanted the forward.

    But Pellegrini was adamant that Jovetic was going nowhere.

    The Chilean was quoted by Paul Handler of the Manchester Evening News as saying in July:

    Stevan is working well with us. He is a very important player for our team.

    Maybe there are a lot of rumours about his future but Stevan will stay with us here.

    After Jovetic scored twice in the 3-1 win over Liverpool on Monday night, Pellegrini will have allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as Dominic King of the Daily Mail reported his post-match words:

    We are pleased with Stevan, he is working hard. He was unlucky last season but we never had any doubt of his quality.

    He deserved to start the season as he has done. We need four strikers and at this moment Stevan is doing really well.

    For me these are games of six points, especially when you play at home. For Jovetic to start the season in this way after an unlucky new season is good.

    Jovetic has brought a flexibility to the City attack so far this season, with the ability to play a lead role or further back from the front line—traits that only serve to prove patience has been a virtue for Pellegrini.

    Believability Meter: High

    Jovetic was clearly a coveted figure back in Serie A, despite a troubled first campaign with Manchester City.

    But Pellegrini was wise enough to see what the Montenegrin would bring to his team and resisted those advances—a decision which is proving to be fully justified.

Esteban Cambiasso a Surprise, Yet Welcome, Premier League Addition at Leicester

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    After 10 years away from the Premier League, Leicester City will have been looking for an experienced head to maintain their top-flight status.

    What Foxes manager Nigel Pearson managed to provide this week was nothing short of sensational in terms of football knowledge.

    The arrival of Esteban Cambiasso, as confirmed by the club's official website, slipped under the radar compared to the high-profile moves of Angel Di Maria and Mario Balotelli to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.

    But the one-year deal signed by the former Inter Milan midfielder could be one of the shrewdest pieces of business of Pearson's time in charge.

    After being released by the San Siro side in the summer after 10 successful years at the club, Cambiasso was still wanted in Serie A, as Sky Sports reported.

    However, when you consider that the new Leicester man is second only to the late Alfredo Di Stefano as the most decorated Argentine footballer, the deal becomes even more remarkable.

    The 2010 Champions League and five Serie A titles are among the honours gained by the player nicknamed Cuchu.

    Cambiasso is renowned as a defensive midfielder with a terrific work rate and excellent distribution. As the engine of a team, the South American is a decisive box-to-box player, even as he enters veteran status.

    His no-nonsense tackling will also provide a resolve at the heart of the Leicester team as they aim to secure their top-flight status after winning the Championship last season.

    Pearson and the Foxes have secured an impressive coup with the capture of Cambiasso, who made 52 appearances for Argentina, some of which came during the 2006 World Cup, where he scored one of the most memorable goals ever to grace in the finals.

    Diego Maradona omitted the midfielder from his squad for the 2010 finals, and Cambiasso quit the international arena the following year.

    Inter's decision to part company with their stalwart has seen the Italian giants shorn of experience. But their loss is very much Leicester's gain.

    Believability Meter: High

    This is a fabulous signing for Leicester City on their return to the Premier League.

    Cambiasso brings genuine experience and energy to the team, despite being in the autumn of his career.

Fernando Torres and AC Milan Both Need to Restore Reputations

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    One of the longest-running stories of Premier League disappointment has finally come to an end with Fernando Torres joining AC Milan after three-and-a-half years with Chelsea.

    Pictures of the striker with his head in his hands became de rigueur in the English top flight following his then-record £50 million move from Liverpool in January 2011.

    Now, however, the Spain international is bringing his time at Stamford Bridge to an end by trying his luck in Serie A on a two-year loan deal, as BBC Sport reported.

    The move represents a major gamble on the part of a club looking to, at least, take a step toward repeating past glories.

    During his time with Liverpool, Torres was a feared striker across the Premier League, with 81 goals claimed from 142 appearances for the Reds in all competitions.

    His defection to Stamford Bridge stunned Liverpool fans, but there was a silver lining for the Anfield faithful, with Torres suddenly losing his form and confidence following the transfer.

    There were some highs for the former Atletico Madrid man in west London, notably his goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final at Camp Nou in 2012.

    But the prevailing view of Chelsea fans will be one of pity for Torres, who worked hard for the Blues but could not replicate his goalscoring form of the past.

    The days of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and George Weah waltzing into the San Siro, though, are a distant memory with the Italian club far from the pedestal of European giants.

    And the arrival of a striker whose best days and turn of pace are long behind him is an indication to how far the club has fallen.

    Milan head coach Filippo Inzaghi will recognise that deep pockets are no longer the forte of the club's board, but the prospect of Torres joining the Rossoneri should not be summarily dismissed.

    Leaving the pace of the Premier League for the more technical Italian top flight could allow Torres to find the space he needs to rediscover his goalscoring ability.

    Perhaps most importantly, Torres will be free of the £50 million price tag that ensured the spotlight burned brightly on him throughout his career at Chelsea.

    Believability Meter: Medium

    Both Torres and AC Milan have seen far better days. However, both are also finding their feet again.

    Without the baggage of such a hefty fee, the Spanish forward will be eager to prove himself once more. And that can only be to the benefit of Inzaghi and his team.

Loic Remy an Excellent Fit for Chelsea

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    With the transfer window slamming shut in a shade over 24 hours, time is running out for teams to make late tweaks to their squads.

    Chelsea are in need of a striker, with Fernando Torres heading to AC Milan on a two-year loan. Blues boss Jose Mourinho will not want to avoid a repeat of last season, when his side were short on options up front following the loan departure of Romelu Lukaku to Everton.

    Simon Jones of the Mail feels Mourinho is targetting Loic Remy, claiming Chelsea have triggered an £8 million release clause in the French forward’s Queens Park Rangers contract.

    Chelsea have agreed a deal for Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy after matching his £8million release clause.

    Jose Mourinho is keen to add another forward to his squad following Fernando Torres' move to AC Milan on a two-year deal and the Portuguese boss decided to look at their West London rivals' striker.

    Remy's release clause was set at £8m for any team in the Champions League, but at £11m for sides in the top six and £15m for any other club.

    With Torres heading out of Stamford Bridge, Mourinho has only Diego Costa, who has made a blistering start to life in the Premier League, and Didier Drogba as established striking options.

    While bigger names could have been lured to Chelsea, Remy would appear to be a sensible option for Mourinho. Remy is a proven goalscorer at Premier League level, having shown his prowess in front of goal for both QPR and Newcastle.

    Costa will be the first-choice attacking option for the Blues, but Remy—and Drogba—will offer excellent support.

    Believability Meter: High

    There is still time for other options to be placed in front of Mourinho, but Remy ticks enough boxes in that he knows the Premier League, is fully fit and his fee will not be any concern with regard to Financial Fair Play.

Radamel Falcao Finding a New Move Complicated

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    Colombian striker Radamel Falcao continues to be linked with a move away from AS Monaco. According to ESPN FC's Miguel Delaney, Falcao is available on a one-year loan that would cost potential suitors €20 million.

    Delaney claims a "number of elite European clubs" are interested in Falcao and cites his wages as the reason Monaco are willing to let him leave. He specifically names Real Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus and Arsenal among the interested parties, writing that Real Madrid are the "most likely destination."

    But as B/R's Alex Dimond wrote last week, Falcao and his handlers are finding that securing another transfer is more difficult than when he joined the Ligue 1 side in 2013:

    While he seems fit again now, scoring in Monaco’s 1-0 win over Nantes at the weekend, managers and their chairmen will want more assurances than usual when there are eight-figure fees being bandied about.

    Nevertheless, the main reason Falcao finds himself in limbo, for the next few days at least, is due to the influences and whims of those around.

    One of the most prominent recent examples of a player being third-party owned and/or invested in, Falcao made a lot of money for those businessmen who had speculated on his talent earlier in his career (and a little bit of money for his former club, Atletico Madrid) when he moved to the Ligue 1 side for a reported £50 million fee last summer (as explained in this Grantland article).

    Meanwhile, Eurosport's Cristian Maxedo reports that Manchester City are now favourites to sign Falcao, claiming the Premier League side "seems to be his destiny."

    Believability Meter: Medium to High

    While €20 million is an exorbitant sum for a loan, ultra-rich Real Madrid and Man City can surely afford it. The bigger question is whether the Blancos need Falcao, with so many top-class attacking players already packed into the squad.

    Other clubs might view the loan fee as too high, but don't count this one out just yet.