A European Roundup: The New Season Brings New Hope?
So for the first roundup of the new season I will look at England, Spain and Italy...
It has been a busy summer, I hope that all you Bleacher souls are refreshed and good to go...
So a lot has gone down since the last roundup, there have been managerial shakes and twists plus the usual pre-season transfer dealings... the ones that did happen and to some more importantly there are the transfers that didn't happen...
From Kaka to Lampard, Robinho, Ronaldo to Barry but the market is only really starting now and big moves are yet to come... there should be no doubting this is a market of reluctant sellers and a market full of players already making big bucks elsewhere, very much a protracted affair.
What a summer and what a party, I have never been in and out of so many fountains in my life. A great celebration in Madrid was had having seen Spain winning Euro 2008 by playing some of the best football at international level not seen for many years... a marker has been set for all to follow.
Vamos to Spain and also Rafa Nadal... Spain kicked it up a gear this summer.
So club football, it has been a turbulent time in Spain since I signed off on the round-ups last season.
This summer has seen Laporta appear in front of the firing squad only to survive by the skin of his teeth, winning by four per cent, after facing a vote of no confidence. No matter, the heat has died somewhat, after the signings brought in and seeing the doubts over Pep Guardiola settle at least for now after a successful pre-season, Laporta is for now at least holding on.
As is the nature of the beast in Spain, be it for Real Madrid or Barcelona each club will take momentum from the others problems, and Laporta's current situation has been tipped in his favour (though he is four or five bad results from the dog house) by the fact Madrid importantly could not sign Ronaldo.
In Madrid, President Calderon has been weakened by events this summer, the full extent to which will not become clear until we are further into the season. The man has all sorts of trouble, not least with what comes out of his mouth, it seems to be his attempt at competing with Blatter for nonsensical quotes of the year.
Importantly for Calderon his trouble lies in the hard truth of perception, that he is not a real credible president, Calderon came to power with a small majority of only 8,000 when 80,000 had voted, also the fact postal votes were thrown out and if they had been included he would not have won.
So for Calderon he has been on a constant campaign for legitimacy, and this has not yet bore desired fruit, despite winning two successive league titles. The things that he promises have not come off, he ran for office on the promise of bringing Kaka, Robben and Cesc to Madrid... Robben came but a year to late and on arrival spent that time injured, he has now failed to sign Ronaldo.
Calderon needs a big player signing and what is making his situation all the more difficult, they now cannot afford to lose Brazilian Robinho for the very reason they have not gotten Ronaldo. Madrid are getting played at their own game and their argument heard all summer that you cannot force a player to stay at a club if he is not happy, a la Ronaldo, has come back to bite them somewhat.
If Robinho does depart then Madrid must buy a big player to score goals. However there is not that type of player readily available. Someone who might be, David Villa, is complicated, in that Valencia will rip their own eyes out before they have to sell to Madrid, for example just what happend to midfielder Mendieta, who was forced to move to Lazio, even though he wanted Madrid.
Not only that there is a real fear in Madrid that if Villa came, it would cause huge problems for Raul, which in turn would cause problems in the dressing room.
Out with the big two...
Villareal will be an exciting prospect having bought well once more, maybe the Champions League and La Liga might be a stretch, however they could be a decent outside bet.
Atletcio Madrid have a first eleven that is world class but have no great bench. Valencia, will not be able to buy and will not challenge the whole season, Sevilla have lost three of their best players but have bought well and looked good pre-season so we will wait and see.
My feeling as we head into the new season in Spain is that it could be one of those years where one of the big two might not win La Liga. I do have a sense Madrid will not be as strong as last year and Barcelona will get their act together, my money is on Barcelona, although I would not be over reaching to think a challenger will come through, and with some intensity.
Chievo are back as are Bologna and Lecce.
There should be another interesting mix at the top, the big four could be broken once again with Fiorentina getting in the pack last year.
AC Milan have bought without having had to spend big, Flamini an excellent signing (and young for Milan), Zambrotta must prove his legs are not gone and Ronaldinho has everything to prove... any doubters you better go hide now the man is a coming back.
Kaka situation... is there one? People in Milan have told me he does not particularly want to leave, he has just become a father and has a great love for the city in addition to the fact he wants to be the heir to Maldini in terms of being the Milanesta captain for life.
However he did say, if it suited Milan, i.e 78 million into their bank account he might think again but I highly doubt this.
At Inter Milan, there is a new man in charge, to the despair and delight off all... Mourinho has arrived, he didn't get Lampard but got Muntari and Mancini. This club needed to sell most importantly and have failed to do so, but they have time.
Juventus are still recharging the batteries but this giant is coming back to strength and it will be exciting to have this great team once more in the Champions League.
With Napoli (back in Europe) my fingers are crossed we have Roma, Inter, Juventus, Fiorentina and AC Milan. Serie A is on its way back, although still in recovery mode, it is getting its act together.
So it has been a busy summer for Bleacher Reports' favourite league...
For me I have glimmerings of a disaffection with the mighty EPL, with the financially-imposed inevitability of who wins and who loses—the antithesis of competitive sport I add.
The most interesting match on day one for me was the relegation six-pointer between Hull City and Fulham; looking in from outside, that is the only game that really piqued the interest.
Teams of note...
Are they in free fall or are they building? Can they breach the top four or get close, I don't really care as that would have to happen and then happen again the following year for me to give it due attention. Love the players they have signed just wish they weren't at Tottenham... from Gio to Luka there is now some grace in those Spurs.
What a difference a year makes, 18 Million for Barry? This time last year that figure would have not seen the light of day. No matter was he really the man to solve this teams problems? (For me the problem lies on the right hand side and also in Benitez's facial hair).
18 million on the flanks would give this team much more cutting edge, the money men seem to be questioning the managers judgement over Barry and I am to. Do the money men know something about the game after all?
The experienced core is all but gone. The defence is my main concern, Toure was poor the season past and Gallas worse, both essentially are the first choice as I do not see Sendoros and Djourou challenging the status-quo. For me Wenger is essentially betting on them being far better this year than last.
No replacement for Flamini and I feel this must be the signing to make.
I hope they do well this year and stay clear of injuries, on their day they can beat any team and finishing only four points behind (knowing they were not going to win helped) after that savage injury period I wish them better this year, the EPL needs this team at full strength.
Also of note, early season fixtures have been ever so kind to Arsenal and I think an early lead could be on the books, all the while they get people fit and bring in a new player or two.
New man at the helm. The one and only Frank Lampard re-signed, his new manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari said that Frankie was “a symbol of Chelsea.” Yes, that would be about right, Phil. The odd thing is though, I think Scolari meant it in a good way.
Going further you might argue that Lampard is a symbol of the Premier League itself, its extraordinary, almost surreal, self-regard... its vanities and its hubris. Its limitless greed, its assumption that we are all in thrall to its brilliance.
Chelsea, they ought to with no sense of shock lift the title. But where is the centre forward buy? That is where for me is where they need money spent?
Drogba no doubt one of the best in the land in his position, but he didn't score many goals last term and with age that knee is not getting better. Anelka? Well it is safe to say if one of these two came to life it would make a huge difference but the jury is out.
EPL Transfers of the Summer
Fulham—Zoltan Gera, who has gone for nothing delivers a fantastic ball which many teams lack.
Wigan—Amir Zaki, for next to nothing he has what it takes but time will tell.
Arsenal—Nasri, can see a pass and carries the ball excellently.
Surprise Team of 08/09
Man City and in no good way.
Interesting team for 08/09
Middlesborough young looking adventurous team with great pace.
Most Important Buy To Come
The choosing of Ferguson's assistant they have gone and lost the best Portuguese member of staff lol...
Quieroz has been tremendous for Man Utd and with the added date of Ferguson's departure hanging around once more, it will be an important decision.
But you know what forget that, there have always been people meant to be so vital behind the success and so vital to Ferguson from Kidd to McClaren to Quieroz, my man from Govan has missed them for at best maybe an hour... and you know what Quieroz is the idiot who inflicted the five man Man Utd midfield (much to Keane's dismay) which has only started to bare fruit in the last year and also he was a Madrid flop lol... so I say out you go Quieroz and best of luck... the language barrier in the dressing room will be made a little harder now he has gone at least.
Then I will change my mind again he has been vital on the training ground and the fluidity to Man Utd up front, he has had a huge part to play in making it work (you never knew what they were up to at times very rarely sticking to it throughout a game attacking four or five strong from deep positions which was a nightmare to defend against, it is a complex system)... No matter Alex will be cool and survive without his Portuguese sidekick.
So the EPL, will the second tier be able to grind out the must win games to get near the top four? No way Jimmy...
Hope springs eternal in the human breast and one simply cannot, in all good conscience predict unrelieved boredom for people for the next nine months... top four same as ever, bottom three consisting of the teams that came up last year.
So we have a new season ahead, it will hopefully be full of drama and great matches, let the games begin...
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