Most people who follow FIFA’s machinations expected France to be torn out of Pot Four (the European pot) ahead of Friday’s World Cup 2014 draw. That’s what the world’s governing body did for 2006, when they pulled the lowest-ranked team (Serbia and Montenegro) away from the eight other non-seeded European teams, allocating the team so it wouldn’t get grouped with two other UEFA squads. With nine unseeded European teams replicating that problem this year, FIFA’s decided to slightly change course, a move that could be seen as a sign of progress.
Instead of relying purely on FIFA rankings to drop one of UEFA’s teams our of Pot Four, Friday’s draw will start with a team drawn at random from the European pot. That team will then be placed with the seven-team group made up by the African and South American qualifiers. If that UEFA team happens to be drawn with one of the European seeds, they’ll instead be bumped int a group with a non-European seed, thus ensuring only two UEFA entrants are together once Pot Four is drawn.
The difference between 2006 and 2014 isn’t big, but it’s a notable one for those questioning the importance of the FIFA World Rankings. Those world rankings were responsible for teams like Switzerland, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay being seeded at the expense of teams like Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal, calling into question the viability of the system. Today, however, rather than persisting with use of that system and using it to sift one team out of Pot Four, FIFA has decided to draw at random.
The extent you see this as progress probably depends on how strongly you feel about the FIFA rankings. Or perhaps you hate the FIFA rankings but don’t see this as important. Even though I’m bringing up the possible importance of this change, I tend to fall into the “not important” camp. It’s possible today’s “change” says nothing about how FIFA’s rankings will be used going forward.
But if you’re looking for any reason to wonder if FIFA’s second guessing their own ranking system, Tuesday was a good day. It’s at least a change, one that implies some more thought’s going into the process. If we start to see the same second-guessing next time around, perhaps we’ll be spared from a team like Switzerland in Pot One.
Pep Guardiola has brought in a full band of reinforcements to Manchester City this summer, and now he must make room.
With Joe Hart almost certain to move to Italian club Torino in the next few days, a few other City players banished by Guardiola may be set to depart as well.
Manchester City can only include 17 foreign players on its Champions League roster, meaning it must leave off two of the 19 currently with the club. With Hart leaving, that is one less homegrown player on the roster. That is leading Pep Guardiola to try and find new homes for the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Samir Nasri.
France Football reports that Mangala could be headed back to his former club FC Porto on loan, and according to reports in England, the Manchester club might be forced to eat wages in order to make that happen. Tottenham is apparently also interested for a permanent move, but they’d likely want him at a price significantly cheaper than the $55 million City paid for him just two years ago. Other clubs reportedly in for Mangala include Valencia and Napoli, with the former having just sold Shkodran Mustafi to Arsenal and would likely be searching for a replacement.
According to a number of reports in Spain, Samir Nasri has piqued the interest of La Liga side Sevilla. Nasri has seen his playing time at City decline for a number of years, and in the process was ousted from the French national team. According to AS, with the possibility of Nasri’s all-out exclusion from the City squad, he has interest from the Spanish club as well as Besiktas in Turkey. Like Mangala, however, Nasri’s hefty contract is forcing City to consider much of his wages as sunk.
Nasri’s departure is less imminent, however, considering Guardiola’s praise of him after the 3-1 win over West Ham on Sunday. The Spaniard said Nasri could stay, and while the player appreciated the sentiments, he also admitted a switch is yet possible. “Yes, there could still be movement,” Nasri said. “It depends on a lot of things in fact. There’s been a lot of speculation. Things that are true. Things that are false too because they’ve never shown me the door or anything like that.”
Even Stevan Jovetic has been looking for a way out of the Etihad, but a possible move to Fiorentina apparently was nixed over a disagreement on wages.
Joe Hart‘s Manchester City departure seems all but complete.
According to a report in Italy, the goalkeeper’s agent has confirmed a loan move to Torino is complete pending a medical.
“Yes, Joe Hart will play for Toro,” agent Jonathan Barnett told Tuttosport. “It’s all done, the goalkeeper said yes to the Granata and now Manchester City have given the green light. It’s all true, it’s secured. Tomorrow Hart will have a medical in Turin.”
Earlier Monday, it was reported that Hart was considering the offer but had not decided yet if this was the right course of action. Reports over the last week have stated the 29-year-old has been looking to leave Manchester City after being benched by Pep Guardiola, but preferred a permanent move to a loan due to the uncertainty for his family that comes with the short-term nature of a loan.
To back this up, Sky Sports reporter Gemma Davis tweeted that Hart has been given permission leave the England squad to travel to Torino for a medical. This is unlikely to affect Hart’s place in the England team, given they do not play until Sunday.
After two games in Serie A play, Torino sits seventh in the league table with a win and a loss so far. 30-year-old Daniele Padelli has started both games in goal, playing the full 90 minutes. Padelli has been the main man for Torino since his arrival in 2013, missing just a chunk of games two seasons ago when benched early in the year.
Multiple reports across both the United States and the Netherlands have claimed Nigel de Jong is close to a move to Turkish giants Galatasaray.
A report by AD writer Maarten Wijffles states that De Jong is currently in the country for talks. However, while L.A. Times writer Keith Baxter confirms that a deal is in progress, he claims the player is still currently situated in the United States and has not left for Turkey yet.
According to reports in Turkey, Galatasaray began its interest in De Jong only recently, when Newcastle enforcer Cheick Tiote apparently failed a medical. Other reports citing sources with Newcastle and the player have disputed this, saying talks instead broke down over personal terms.
De Jong had only joined Los Angeles at the end of the January transfer window, moving from A.C. Milan after the termination of his contract. The 31-year-old Dutchman made 18 appearances for the Galaxy and did not score a goal.
Between Tiote and De Jong, the Turkish club is clearly targeting a certain style of player. De Jong has been known throughout his career as a midfield enforcer, sometimes on the border of dirty play, and that did not change during his short time in Major League Soccer. He made several cringe-worthy tackles, including one in April on Darlington Nagbe that caused many to fear for Nagbe’s career until it was revealed he suffered just a sprained knee. Another in early July earned De Jong a straight red card against Vancouver in early July.
The Dutchman was thought to be taking over Steven Gerrard‘s Designated Player spot next year after his retirement at the end of the current season, but De Jong’s departure means the Galaxy could have an open DP slot next season.
Lionel Messi’s “return” to the Argentinian national team may have to wait.
Barcelona has revealed their superstar picked up a left hamstring injury at an unspecified time, and discovered them during tests earlier on Monday. The statement said he would still travel to Argentina to link up with the national team for the international break, and will have more tests there.
Argentina, sitting in the third spot in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying and just two points above elimination, have vital matches against Uruguay and Venezuela over the next week. “His presence in those matches will depend on how the injury develops,” the statement from Barcelona read.
It is unclear when Messi developed this injury. He has played the full 90 minutes in all four of Barcelona’s matches this season, including the 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, the first of the four matches in which he did not score or assist a goal.
This also could be a bit of gamesmanship from Barcelona. Obviously, it benefits clubs for their players to rest during international breaks instead of play international matches, and for them to suddenly announce an injury to Lionel Messi would put pressure on Argentina to consider sitting their superstar. Of course, in attempts to dispel this idea, Barcelona included in their statement that the injury report was “approved by the FC Barcelona Medical Services and the Argentinian Football Association.”
A legitimate injury to Messi would be a devastating blow to Argentina considering Sergio Aguero has already withdrawn from the squad following an injury picked up against West Ham this weekend. Aguero was substituted in the 88th minute of Manchester City’s 3-1 win over the Hammers.
Messi was expected to make his first appearance to the national team setup after his brief “retirement” following the loss in the Copa America finals.