Faouzi Ghoulam

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Transfer rumor roundup: Liverpool demand $220m for Coutinho

Leave a comment

It’s the most wonderful time of the year deceptive, draining, trying time of the Premier League campaign: transfer speculation season.

[ MORE: Wenger appears resigned to losing Sanchez, Ozil this summer ]

Manchester United’s search for their full backs of the future could lead to a $70-million bid (release clause) for Napoli left back Faouzi Ghoulam, according to Portuguese publication Record, which also states 22-year-old Spaniard Alex Grimaldo would then move to Napoli for $35 million. The 23-year-old Algerian international has been on the radars of Man United-sized clubs for a couple years now, but is still only just entering the prime of his career.

Arsene Wenger appears resigned to the fact that Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will leave Arsenal this summer, for free, but insists that no offers have been made to acquire either of the Gunners’ star attackers this month.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City, Spurs in action on Tuesday (TV, stream info) ]

Whenever If Philippe Coutinho makes his long-rumored move from Liverpool to Barcelona, he will only be allowed to do so for a fee of nearly $220 million — only $43 million short of Neymar’s world-record transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

Huddersfield Town are reportedly “in talks” to sign 23-year-old Monaco defender Terence Kongolo. The Dutch international only moved from Feyenoord to Ligue 1 in the summer, for $15 million. UPDATE: Huddersfield have announced the loan signing of Kongolo.

Stoke City have rejected West Ham United’s offer for midfielder Joe Allen, according to ESPN UK. The Potters will reportedly continue to reject any bids, at any price, that come in for the 27-year-old Welshman.

Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Senegal upset Ghana; Algeria come back vs. South Africa

Leave a comment

Thursday was quite an eventful day at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as African powerhouse Ghana were the victims of Senegal’s shocking upset victory, and Algeria went a goal down — nearly two — only to come back and brush South Africa aside with a flourish in the game’s final 25 minutes.

[ MORE: All of PST’s 2015 AFCON coverage ]

Ghana 1-2 Senegal

Ghana were well on their way to a strong opening day result after Marseille forward Andre Ayew converted a penalty kick in the 14th minute to give the Black Stars an early 1-0 lead. But the four-time winners were in for a fight in the second half when Senegal and Stoke City forward Mame Biram Diouf equalized with two headers in quick succession — the first off the post and back into the play, the second thumped into and empty net — in the 58th minute.

Both sides looked decent value for a point a piece, but the underdog Senegalese had other plans in mind. Moussa Sow stole all three points for his country late, late into the game as the Fenerbahce forward beat Ghanaian goalkeeper Razak Brimah with a low drive to the far post in the 94th minute after Diouf placed a square pass into his path at the top of the 18-yard-box.

Algeria 3-1 South Africa

South Africa went ahead in the 51st minute when midfielder Thuso Phala made a surging, late run into the 18-yard-box and was rewarded with a squared pass seven yards from goal. Phala took a touch to settle and fired past Algeria and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi.

Bafana Bafana had a golden opportunity to double their lead when Tokelo Rantie stepped up to the penalty spot in the 54th minute. The Bournemouth forward hit his penalty attempt with great force, but hit the crossbar and watched in despair as the ball caromed 20 feet into the air and spun itself over the goal and out of play. This would, of course, turn out to cost the South Africans dearly as Algeria needed just a breakthrough to pull level.

El Khadra were once again gifted a way back into the game in the 67th minute as South African defender Thulani Hlatshwayo flicked with his head a failed clearance into his own net. An equalizer now in hand, Algeria continued to push for an eventual winner and only five minutes later found themselves a goal ahead as Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam blasted a close-range effort past Darren Keet. The scoring was completed in the 83rd minute when Sporting CP forward Islam Slimani slid a powerful effort from 17 yards out underneath the ‘keeper.

[ FULL PREVIEW: PST’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations preview ]

As things stand, Algeria (+2 GD) tops Group C with Senegal (+1) hot on their heels. In the next round of Group C action, Ghana takes on Algeria (Friday, 11 am ET), while Senegal looks to continue their hot start against South Africa (Friday, 2 pm ET).

Tuesday’s AFCON schedule

Ivory Coast vs. Guinea (11 am ET)
Mali vs. Cameroon (2 pm ET)

Young Team of the World Cup: Dutch future is very bright

3 Comments

Who fits into a Starting XI of the best young players of the World Cup? Following the PFA young player of the year format of players aged 23-and-under to start a season or tournament, it’s a pretty tricky undertaking.

For example, Enner Valencia of Colombia, Toni Kroos of Germany and Hector Herrera of Mexico are 24- and 25-years-old, as are several other “new” superstars of the tournament.

We’ll do this thing by the rules though:

GK- Thibaut Courtois, 22 (Belgium) — We already knew he was very good, but he could win the award by default due to the lack of goalkeepers starting for World Cup teams at his age. Then again, doesn’t that say enough in itself?

D- Stefan de Vrij, 22 (Netherlands) — How’s this for a fun fact: de Vrij and Martins Indi (below) were born three days apart in February 1992. They could form the nucleus of a Dutch team that comes back strong in 2018.

[ MORE from our 2014 World Cup review ]

D- Faouzi Ghoulam, 23 (Algeria) — Only played in a pair of games, but it wasn’t a tremendous tournament for young defenders. Still, the French-born Napoli star did a good job in Algeria’s near-upset of the eventual champions.

D- DeAndre Yedlin, 21 (United States) — The super sub may find his true calling as a true winger, but Yedlin made his mark on the tournament with darting runs and key passes. One to watch.

M- Neymar, 22 (Brazil) — Only near-paralysis could stop the youngster. It’s incredible to think he’s just 22, especially considering the heat he received before the tournament for “not being a superstar“.

M- Andre Schurrle, 23 (Germany) — To be his age and capable of the crosses he made in this tournament… wow.

M- Bruno Martins Indi, 22 (Netherlands) — A bulldog who’s mature and headstrong enough to mess with Arjen Robben in training, the future is extra bright for Martins Indi.

M- Paul Pogba, 21 (France) — Maybe Sir Alex quit on the kid a little too early?

F- Ahmed Musa, 21 (Nigeria) — His pair of equalizers against Argentina came in a massive match, extra packed with pressure. The Super Eagles still made it through despite losing 3-2, but perhaps a star was born.

F- Memphis Depay, 20 (Netherlands) — Memphis just turned 20 in February, and announced his arrival to the world by scoring his first two international goals against Australia and Chile.

F- James Rodriguez, 23 (Colombia) — James just turned 23 on July 12, and we have a feeling we’ll hear much more from him soon. After all, he was also our surprise player of the tournament.

At halftime: Algeria putting Germany to the test — FOLLOW LIVE

Leave a comment

Almost cannot believe we’re saying this, but Algeria’s speed gives them the label of better team after 45 minutes.

Unfortunately, that and a bag of peanuts will get you some protein. Germany looks pretty vulnerable against surging Algeria attack. Could this be an upset for the ages?

FOLLOW LIVE: Soccerly’s real-time match center

Goals:

Nothing yet.

Other key moments:

16 — And here it was: Islam Slimani’s header inside of 16 minutes is past Manuel Neuer, and the upset is on… only to see it ruled offsides.

18′ — Faouzi Ghoulam’s curling, outswinging shot bends too acutely to find side-netting. The Desert Foxes brought their A-game.

33′ — A free kick from a very dangerous position is wasted by Sofiane Feghouli

41′ — M’Bohli with brilliant goalkeeping to thwart and Muller and Goetze attack. The latter looks bewildered at how this match is going.

Stats to know 

8 – Germany appearances in the semifinal or better of their 11 World Cup runs.

1 – Algeria knockout round appearances (This one).

Questions for the second half:

Can Algeria find its final ball? The Desert Foxes have done everything but score.

Will Joachim Low make the right adjustments? The German genius needs to find a way to keep his back line safe against Feghouli, Slimani and company.

Leighton Baines out with broken toe, a loss Everton should get used to

1 Comment

Everton has confirmed that Leighton Baines suffered a fractured toe in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Liverpool.

The injury means the left-back could face up to six weeks on the sideline.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Toffees manager Roberto Martinez said: “It has been confirmed that Leighton has got a fracture in one of the bones in his right foot, which is the phalange.

“We need to treat that now and see how it develops. It could mean anything from missing six weeks to being back in 10 days because it depends how the fracture heals.

“It is in such a specific spot and we are going to see how it (the injury) reacts.”

So how difficult will Baines’ injury be on the Merseyside club?

At first blush, quite difficult. Over the last five years Baines has been the heart and soul of Everton. He has been so consistent, in fact, that his exit shortly after half-time on Saturday was the first time the England defender failed to complete a Premier League match since 2008.

Besides consistency, Baines has proven himself to be a weapon on both sides of the ball. An above average defender, Baines’ specializes in creating offensive opportunities down the left side of the pitch. Last year, no player in Europe created more opportunities than Baines, solidifying his partnership with Steven Pienaar as one of the Premier League’s most deadly.

There’s little doubt that Everton are a much less formidable side with Baines out of the squad. But from all indications, that’s a reality that Evertonians should get used to as my sources tell me that a transfer deal for Baines to Manchester United this January is all but done.

United have tried at least twice to buy Baines in the past, the most recent go this past summer when Roberto Martinez rejected a $24.3 million (£15m) bid for the defender. When the window opens this winter, expect David Moyes to come with an improved offer in the range of $29.1-32.4 million (£18-20m) and for Everton to take the money.

Assuming this deal comes to fruition, there’s no time like the present for Martinez to figure out his new defense. There are a few options.

Martinez could opt to change to a back three, something he was well known for during his Wigan days. To play with a back three a squad typically needs three large, fast center-backs. Sylvain Distin qualifies and Phil Jagielka, while not the speediest man in the world, should be able to make do.

Former Wigan center-back, Antolin Alcaraz, is now fit after undergoing a hernia operation and would be a natural fit as the third center-back. Another option is John Stones, who was massively impressive this summer in Everton’s pre-season friendlies.

Utilizing a back three would make Seamus Coleman the odd man out of the defense but the marauding right-back would likely be pushed into the midfield five to back-track and even out the back three in times of peril.

If Martinez chooses to keep a back four, however, Alcaraz or Stones could come into a center-back pairing with Jagielka, with the left-footed Distin moving out to the left-flank. Using Gareth Barry at left-back, as Martinez did against Liverpool following Baines’ injury last weekend, seems unlikely.

Ultimately this is probably a situation that will require Everton to purchase a left-back in the January transfer market. Martinez could make a move for Algerian international and St. Etienne full-back Faouzi Ghoulam, who at 22 years old could develop into a star of the future at Goodison Park. 

One way or the other, the time is now for Everton to kick on without Leighton Baines.