Reports: Fulham close to sealing deal for Steven Defour

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Rene Meulensteen, former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson, apparently took very detailed notes while at Old Trafford.

Now manager at Craven Cottage, Meulensteen is digging into Sir Alex’s bag of tricks, pulling out a bit of the former Manchester United manager’s unfinished business.

The Telegraph is reporting that Porto midfielder Steven Defour is ready and willing to make his coveted move to the Premier League as the 25-year-old has come to an agreement with Fulham.

Apparently, all that is left to complete the deal is a medical, a plane ride to England, and a decision by Porto on whether to sell him.

The biggest hurdle according to the reports is that decision by his current club.  While reluctant to sell, the Portuguese giants are resigned to the fact that their midfielder wishes to leave, which his agent Paul Stefani confirmed last week. Stefani also recently confirmed Fulham are indeed “interested“.

The perfect storm of a World Cup year, the Belgian’s longtime desire to play in the Premier League, and his inability to get onto the pitch at Porto has presented a wonderful opportunity straight into the lap of relegation-threatened Fulham.

Defour was on Sir Alex’s radar in 2010 during his time with Standard Liege, before a broken foot derailed the move and it never rematerialized. Then reportedly priced in the range of £35 million ($57.6 million), Fulham have reportedly been quoted at just around £6.5 million ($10.7 million).

However, they still have to decide whether to outright sell their man, or hedge their bets and agree to a loan deal giving Fulham the option to buy if they were to salvage their Premier League status and stay up.

It would be a masterclass signing by Meulensteen if he can complete the deal, shoring up what could be Fulham’s biggest need – of which the list is practically endless.

The Fulham central midfield, currently consisting of Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell, does not lack in work rate, but does fall well short in the passing and creativity categories.  The addition of Defour would provide pinpoint passing and buildup from the middle, something they’ve lacked since the departure of Cottage throwback Danny Murphy.

All you need to look at are Defour’s numbers. Squawka Statistics has his Champions League appearances accounted for, and while the sample size is small, the numbers are no doubt impressive.  In five matches (four starts) against Zenit St. Petersburg, Atletico Madrid, and Austria Wien, Defour completed 90% of his passes (246/274) including 22/23 long balls, something that would suit Fulham well.

He also completed eight of his ten attempted tackles successfully, and could provide assistance to Sidwell and Parker in front of Fulham’s back line, allowing their wingers to push farther up the field.

Aston Villa were apparently in the mix for the player as well, but their interest has thus far been trumped by that of the Londoners.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.