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Napoli sign Spain defender Raul Albiol from Real Madrid

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Napoli have landed another big fish in the summer transfer market.

Today the Serie A club announced the signing of Spain defender Raul Albiol from Real Madrid. Napoli made the announcement through their website, saying: “The 27-year-old Spanish defender arrives from Real Madrid and has signed a four-year contract.”

The player’s transfer fee has not been revealed although Italian media have reported it to be in the range of $15.8 million (€12m).

The move for Albiol is yet another sign of Napoli’s desire to strengthen the squad following strong domestic and Champions League campaigns. Last week the club sold its prized asset, Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, and collected a fee of $84 million (€64m) for his services.

With their pockets laced the club immediately launched into a buying spree purchasing Albiol’s former Real teammate Jose Callejon. Shortly thereafter Napoli secured a loan-deal for Liverpool goal-keeper Pepe Reina after talks on a similar deal for Queens Park Rangers goal-keeper Julio Cesar hit a snag.

With Reina in tow, Partenopei have managed to strengthen their defense by acquiring Albiol, who was limited to 18 appearances for Madrid last season.

Despite a lack of consistent playing time under Jose Mourinho, Albiol has managed to keep his place with the Spanish National Team, where he has secured 40 appearances since 2007.

Albiol’s transfer to Napoli will be a reunion of sorts as the 27 year old links back up with Rafa Benitez, who managed Valencia from 2001-2004 when a teenaged Albiol was playing for the club’s B side.
At Napoli, Albiol is expected to slot into the right back spot for the departed Hugo Campagnaro, who left the club for Inter Milan earlier this summer.
So who’s the next target for Napoli club president Aurelio De Laurentiis?
Another Madrid player, Gonzalo Higuain.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.