Sunday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Balotelli to Chelsea, Real Madrid staying put

3 Comments

With Mario Balotelli unhappy with AC Milan’s floundering Serie A position, there is a new rumor that striker-hungry Chelsea could be in the market for the Italian superstar.  Balotelli’s previous success in the Premier League combined with the desperate need at the striker position for Jose Mourinho makes this rumor not just a juicy one but a sensible one as well.  Could we see the pairing of two of the most controversial and outspoken personalities in the game of soccer paired up on one team? It’s an exciting thought, and with Mourinho loving to make headlines and grab attention, this would be an outstanding opportunity to ensure he remains in the papers day in and day out.  Despite Milan’s struggles, Balotelli has six goals in 12 Serie A matches this season, and another three goals in eight other appearances elsewhere for his club.  But rumors are abound that between last year’s close shave into a Champions League position and this year’s current 13th place standing, the 23-year-old could be ready to move on. In three seasons previously with Manchester City, he scored 19 goals in 40 appearances before a very rocky 2012 saw him depart.

Rumors are flying out of Real Madrid (as they always inevitably do) that unsettled/dropped players such as Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso could be ready to move on.  However, manager Carlo Ancelotti has insisted nobody will depart this January, and that contract talks with the Spanish captain Alonso will get moving shortly.  “No players are leaving and we’re not going to sign anyone. The window is closed for us,” Ancelotti insisted.  While this isn’t exactly a “rumor” per-say, it’s always difficult to take a manager’s intentions to heart considering the amount of times over the years we’ve seen bosses go back on their word.  Nevertheless, it’s hard to see where Madrid really need any serious overhaul, and it’s also likely that even the great Los Blancos could still be low on cash after their world-record transfer for Gareth Bale in the summer.

We heard just as recently as Friday that Juan Mata’s preferred destination was Napoli, but now it appears that serious moves are being made by Atletico Madrid, and the Spanish club on the rise are making a legitimate play with his agent in talks with a number of clubs (including PSG and Juventus).  The likely move would be a loan for the rest of the season with an option to buy, and the same Daily Star exclusive that describes the Balotelli situation also suggests Atletico could be leading the race for Mata’s arrival.  The rumor isn’t a new one, with the same coming through in summer from the Daily Mail, suggesting there could be some truth to it. It would be a serious coup for the Spaniards, who are into the Champions League knockout stage and also leading the La Liga table, and reinforcements of Mata’s caliber would give their chances in both competitions a serious boost.

As Robert Lewandowski gets ready for live at his new home Bayern Munich, talk has increased about what they will do with incumbent striker Mario Mandzukic.  Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge wants to put all that talk to rest immediately.  While that may be impossible, he worked quickly to do his part, saying, “He’s a fantastic player who has come on leaps and bounds with Bayern. His contract runs until 2016 and I told his advisor in Marrakech that we would be willing to talk about an extension. We have absolutely no intention of selling Mario.”

While Rummenigge was at it, he also ruled out a move inwards for Chelsea defender David Luiz.  When prompted on the player, Rummenigge said, “There’s always lots of speculation and it’s extreme in England, but I can say for certain that he is not a thought for us.” The chairman pointed to the potential return of defender Holger Bastuber from injury as a reason they do not need Luiz’s services.

Ajax reunion at Palace as De Boer signs center back

Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Crystal Palace has added much needed depth and youth to its corps of center backs with 20-year-old Ajax man Jairo Riedewald.

The left back in Ajax’s UEFA Europa League loss to Manchester United, Riedewald completed better than 92 percent of his passes in Eredivisie play. He also nabbed 2.2 interceptions per match.

[ MORE: Russia’s straw stadium ]

Fellow Palace center backs James Tompkins, Scott Dann, and Damien Delaney average age is 31.3.

Riedewald played for Palace boss Frank De Boer at Ajax. From Palace’s official site:

“He will be an excellent addition to our squad, Jairo is a young player but already has a lot of experience. I know he is looking forward to playing in the Premier League.”

Riedewald played the majority of his Eredivisie matches at center back, but has 18 appearances as a defensive midfielder and another 12 at left back.

He’s Palace’s second addition of this summer, the other being a loan of Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea.

Russian farmer’s straw stadium pokes fun at World Cup costs

AP Photo/Oleksandr Stashevskyi
Leave a comment

KRASNOYE, Russia (AP) Russia is desperate to control its spending on the 2018 World Cup, and a farmer might just have the answer – straw.

In a project straight out of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, Roman Ponomaryov has built a straw replica of the 43 billion ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals.

His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament – for local teams only – last weekend using modified soccer rules.

[ VIDEO: Man United beat Real Madrid ] 

“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project – organizing a Straw World Cup.

Spain’s sports court opens disciplinary procedure vs. Villar

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Spain’s administrative court for sport has initiated disciplinary procedures against Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar after he was arrested and jailed in a corruption probe.

The opening of the disciplinary procedure on Monday clears the way for Spain’s sports authority, the Higher Council of Sport, to rule whether it will temporarily suspend Villar when they meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time (1700 GMT).

The court’s decision had been expected since Thursday, when the Higher Council of Sport asked the court to act against Villar following his arrest.

Villar, his son Gorka, federation vice president Juan Padron, and Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional football federation of Tenerife, were arrested last Tuesday when police raided the national federation’s headquarters and other properties.

The four were arrested on charges of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.

National Court judge Santiago Pedraz ordered last week that the Villars and Padron remain in jail without bail after questioning them. Hernandez’s bail was set at 100,000 euros ($116,000).

The elder Villar is FIFA’s senior vice president and also a vice president of UEFA. He’s been president of the Spanish federation since 1988.

Judge Pedraz said the 67-year-old Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”

MLS rejected $4 billion deal which wanted promotion/relegation

Getty Images
2 Comments

Major League Soccer has confirmed it brushed aside a $4 billion TV deal which insisted on promotion and relegation coming into place in North America’s top-flight.

A report from the Sports Business Journal stated that the owner of NASL side Miami FC Riccardo Silva gave a presentation to the league and owners on June 26, offering a 10-year deal for the domestic and international TV rights from 2023 with one clause: promotion and relegation had to become commonplace in MLS.

Of course, Silva, who founded the media company MP & Silva who put in the bid, would love for there to be promotion and relegation in MLS as his team cannot currently rise above the second-tier NASL.

Jeff Carlisle from ESPN has the following statement from Dan Courtemanche, MLS executive vice president of communications.

“As was stated to Mr. Silva both in person and in a subsequent letter, Major League Soccer is prohibited contractually from engaging in discussions about our media rights with other distributors. We are not in a position, nor are we interested, in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal.”

“It is also important to note that since its inception, MLS, like the other North American leagues, has dealt directly with its domestic broadcast partners, rather than through agents and brokers. This ensures that the league and its partners can structure an agreement that addresses all elements, such as scheduling, marketing and digital distribution, that are required for a successful partnership.”

This deal would quadruple the current annual TV deal MLS has with Fox, ESPN and Univision, but it has been stated that no new deal can be discussed until at least 2021.

With cities across the U.S. and Canada lining up to pay the $150 million MLS expansion fee, league commission Don Garber has stated multiple times that promotion and relegation is not needed in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

With USL and NASL now both second-tier, the only way they can become a top-tier franchise is by buying into MLS with two markets set to be selected later this year from 12 current expansion bids, plus David Beckham’s franchise in Miami still pushing ahead with plans to join the league.