Southampton complete $20 million Shane Long signing

Leave a comment

Southampton have splashed the cash to sign Hull City striker Shane Long for $20 million as the Irish striker becomes Saints sixth new signing as the massive summer overhaul continues at St. Mary’s.

Long, 27, will join the South Coast club on a four-year deal after the Republic of Ireland international spent just half a season with Hull.

[RELATED: Why the exodus at Saints?

In January the pacey frontman left West Bromwich Albion for the Tigers in a $10 million deal and just 15 PL games and four goals later, Steve Bruce’s men have doubled their money for the forward.

Saints needed a new striker. They offered Hull an extremely large sum of money. Everybody is happy.

On the face of things it does seem like a rather large transfer fee for a player who has now played in the Premier League for six seasons and is yet to break into double figures. Long has scored 23 PL goals in 96 games over the past four seasons with Hull and West Brom.

Speaking to the club website Saints manager Ronald Koeman stated that he hopes Long’s arrival will create a strong partnership with 6 foot 4 striker Graziano Pelle during the new season and beyond.

“Shane is a very good player. As a striker, he’s different to Pelle, which is something we needed,” Koeman said. “He brings ambition and a great mentality – he’s always running and always working, and he’s very down-to-earth. He’s a great person, and we need that type of player. He brings a lot of experience to our squad because he’s already played at Premier League level for a few years. He knows what we need at this level, and he can show that to our younger players as well.”

Long’s partnership with Pelle will be key in a new look Southampton side. After losing Rickie Lambert this summer and Jay Rodriguez still out with his ACL injury, Southampton were looking incredibly light up front and have moved to address that. Long is “delighted” with the moves and hopes to be integral to Saints’ future plans.

“You look at how well they did last season and they are developing a new squad for this year to try and achieve those accomplishments again,” Long said. “Hopefully I can be a big part of that.”

With the club raising up to $175 million in transfer fees over the summer by selling Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers and Dejan Lovren, you get the feeling other clubs are holding out for more cash when it comes to selling players to Saints.

This deal for Long proves that but if the Irish international links up with Pelle and hits form, it could be a shrewd buy as ‘Ronald’s Revolution’ continues at Southampton. Romanian defender Florin Gardos also arrived on Thursday from Steaua Bucharest for a fee thought to be around $10 million.

Manchester derby “the game of the season”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Whatever way you slice it up, Thursday’s Manchester derby is huge.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Manchester City host Manchester United (Watch, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola‘s side just one point ahead of United in the Premier League table.

City currently occupy fourth spot and the final UEFA Champions League qualification berth but are coming off the back of a damaging FA Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal after extra time.

United and Jose Mourinho haven’t lost in 23 Premier League games, the longest current unbeaten streak across Europe’s top five leagues, and are in the UEFA Europa League semifinals as their banged up squad have stood tall in the final months of the campaign.

Speaking ahead of the derby, one of United’s stars this season believes everything comes down to this one game.

“It is going to be the game of the season,” Ander Herrera said. “We are one point behind them. If we win we have the chance to finish in the top four, if they win it is going to be very difficult. It is the game of the season.

“Make or break? Probably. Both teams are in a good moment so if one of us wins the game we are not going to lose a lot of games, or make mistakes after that. Us or them. It is going to be key. I don’t know the ‘winner takes all’ expression but it is going to be a massive game. We are in a very good moment, a very good run and we respect them but we are doing a lot of good things and we have to show it on Thursday.”

Herrera’s comments say it all.

It is fair to say that both Manchester clubs have flattered to deceive for much of this season with Guardiola’s tactics yet to flourish in England and Mourinho’s rebuild hampered by injuries and a lack of goals at crucial moments.

On Thursday there will be a raucous atmosphere at the Etihad as both teams are aware of what is at stake.

More of the pressure may well be on City who now have just a place in the top four to focus on and with many previously giving United no chance of finishing in the top four, a win at City would take them above their “noisy neighbors” and into the UCL spots.

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

Ian Walton/Getty Images
2 Comments

Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.