This season saw Championship side Watford fall just short of promotion to the Premier League via the playoff, but they will still leave behind a lasting impression.
The Football League will meet to consider rule changes that will prevent the exploitation of the loan system that some believe Watford took advantage of this past season.
Watford picked up 14 players on loan last season, 10 from a single club. How is that possible? The family that owns the Hornets also owns two other clubs – Serie A side Udinese and Spain’s Granada.
The current Football League rules state no club can submit a match-day squad consisting of more than five loan players, four from any club. However, those rules only apply to other domestic Football League clubs. Watford was able to pick up so many foreign loan players, thus circumventing the rules.
Watford loaned 10 players from Udinese, including Czech striker Matej Vydra who scored 20 goals in 41 appearances for the Hornets, including a brace in the second leg of their playoff matchup with Leicester that helped overcome a 1-0 loss in the first leg. In fact, that second-leg match against Leicester saw six loan players in the Watford starting eleven – four from Udinese and two from Granada.
Ahead of Watford’s playoff final with Crystal Palace, Palace boss Ian Holloway attacked the loan bundle, saying “Part of me admires (Watford Manager) Gianfranco (Zola) and the Pozzo family for having the foresight to spot the loophole in the regulations, and the ability to recognize the talent of players largely unproven in Italy and Spain. While Watford have clearly benefited as a club, surely what they have done can’t be good for the British game. How on earth can home-grown players come up through the youth system at Vicarage Road? At Palace, we are proud to give our own kids a chance.”
The lack of English players in the Premier League and lower leagues is a heavy topic of debate these days in England.
The 72 Football League clubs will meet in Vilamoura, Portugal Friday, and it is expected that they will equate the foreign loan rules with those already in place for domestic clubs.
Even for talents of the highest levels with top soccer education, sometimes a kid’s gotta learn how to eat.
Richard “Richie” Ledezma, 18, is in the midst of his first year at Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven, a spot which beckoned after a five-match, one-goal season in the USL with Real Monarchs of the USL.
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Ledezma starred for U.S. U-20 team at the World Cup after his first half-season with PSV, which saw him play with the U-19s while trying to lose some weight.
“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. “Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s.”
Goal’s James Westwood had a wide-ranging interview with Ledezma and also spoke with soccer royalty: longtime Real Madrid and Manchester United scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy was Ledezma’s coach with the U-19s.
“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team.”
That’s not just good praise from a legend, but a solid sign for fans of the United States men’s national team. A proper No. 10 or playmaking midfielder could allow Gregg Berhalter or another future USMNT coach to use Christian Pulisic on the wings.
Ledezma has some work to do before he breaks into the first team of the Dutch runners-up, who have signed former Stoke City man Ibrahim Afellay and has Gaston Pereiro in the fold as well.
L’Equipe says that Newcastle United have returned to Nice in the hopes of landing Allan Saint-Maximin.
The Ligue 1 outfit wants $28 million for the playmaker, who could team up with Miguel Almiron and (maybe) Joelinton to give the Magpies a much-improved attack.
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Saint-Maximin, 22, has 10 goals and 10 assists across his last two seasons with Nice, and played everywhere in attack for Patrick Vieira: both wings, center forward, second striker, attacking mid… even some left and right midfield.
The player, however, has been a headache for Vieira at times, with the manager saying Saint-Maximin believes that he has enough talent to reach the highest level without the required amount of work.
That said, the youngster’s skill set is electric. He’s a March birth date, too, so a relatively young 22. That $28 million would be another transfer record broken for Newcastle, assuming it happens ahead of the Joelinton move.
Or… as Newcastle fan knows, neither could go through.
Cristiano Ronaldo will not face sexual assault charges for a June 2009 incident in the United States, attorneys say.
An American woman filed a civil lawsuit against the Juventus superstar last year, claiming that Ronaldo forced himself upon her while she was in a prone position in his hotel room.
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Ronaldo had expressed belief that he would be cleared of the claims, and claimed that graphic documents produced by German publication Der Spiegel were altered and fabricated.
Las Vegas police issued a warrant in a bid to get Ronaldo’s DNA, and the DA’s office says the woman’s refusal to name her attacker stopped them for collecting “vital evidence.” The woman reached a civil settlement with Ronaldo in 2010.
“Based upon a review of the information presented at this time, the allegations of sexual assault against Cristiano Ronaldo cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the D.A.’s office said. “Therefore, no charges will be forthcoming.”
A sensational report is linking Wilfried Zaha not just with a move away from Crystal Palace, but a move clear of the Premier League altogether.
90min.com says that Bayern Munich has turned to Zaha, having been rebuffed in their pursuit of Manchester City’s Leroy Sane.
Palace wants $100 million for Zaha, but so far has only received a $50 million offer from Arsenal for his services. Reports Monday said Arsenal is upping its bid, and offering a loan of Reiss Nelson as a make-good. Palace has had good Fortune with loans from the big boys of the PL, in particular with Ruben Loftus-Cheek two seasons ago.
A lot of this makes sense for all parties, apart from Sane, and it will be interesting to see if the report brings a bigger bid from the Gunners.
Zaha is a sensational player, and has created chances year-after-year for the Eagles. He wants to taste the Champions League, but Palace is not willing to let him go for (much) less than its asking price given its sale of Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United.
Bayern will spend less on Zaha than it would on Gareth Bale or Sane, and get a determined player who is very much in his prime. Zaha would also get the chance to showcase himself with actual breathing room on the pitch, thanks to Serge Gnabry, Robert Lewandowski, and others.
And Palace, of course, will end up with between $80-100 million and the knowledge that it won’t need to mark Zaha on a Premier League pitch. More importantly, the money raised from Zaha and Wan-Bissaka will allow them to strengthen at nearly every position (above what they have now, not above AWB and Zaha).