Friday, 29 June 2012

The Rumour Mill: PSG hunt strikers from Arsenal and Siena

Now that Euro 2012 is nearly over, attention will inevitably turn back to domestic football and the summer transfer market.

For the France team the Euros came to an end in ignominious fashion a week ago with a meek surrender at the hands of reigning champions Spain - you can insert your own joke about similarities with the French army here if you like that sort of thing.

PSG’s efforts in the transfer market so far have been similarly half-hearted. The transfer of Ezequiel Lavezzi still isn’t complete despite having been “announced” several weeks ago, but could go through on Monday.

If the transfer does go through, Lavezzi could be providing the bullets for Robin Van Persie. According to the Daily Mail, Van Persie is the cure for cancer to blame for the death of Diana committing benefit fraud on a massive scale an illegal immigrant on Leonardo’s shopping list, with PSG having made some tentative enquiries about his availability. Yeah, it’s not going to happen.

A more realistic striking target could be Siena’s Mattia Destro. The highly-rated (aren’t they all) youngster is being eyed up by Inter, Roma, and Juventus, with PSG having also supposedly shown an interest.

"He is an important player and for that reason, we need time to reflect and make the right evaluation,” said Siena's sporting director Stefano Antonelli, rubbing his hands together in anticipation of a bidding war.

One player that won’t be coming in is Porto’s Joao Moutinho. Porto president Pinto da Costa has refuted suggestions PSG have made a bid for the midfielder, who impressed for his country at Euro2012. “There is no offer from PSG for Moutinho. The newspapers were the ones who sold him, so they should get the money,” said Da Costa, suggesting an innovative scheme which would certainly revitalise the struggling
media industry.

Unusually for PSG there has also been talk of some outgoing transfers, with several cast-offs set to join Ceara and Granddi Ngoyi in a dash for the exits.

Like a middle-aged woman waiting for her copy of 50 Shades of Grey to be delivered, Kevin Gameiro has cut a frustrated figure of late. He could be on his way to La Liga, having reportedly agreed personalterms with Valencia. As no deal has been struck between the clubs yet, it could be a while before Super Kev’s, er, desires are satisfied.

Now that they have returned to Argentina’s top flight, River Plate seem to think their defence requires someone to stand around and look pretty. According to the Clarin newspaper that man could be Diego
Lugano. “He has character and that’s what is needed in central defence,” said River president Daniel Passarella. Hope they don’t require anything else - such as the ability to run, tackle, head etc – or they could be in for a nasty surprise.

Finally for now, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck is set to don his cowboy boots, mount his horse, and become a loan ranger. Valenciennes are supposedly in pole position to borrow the forward, though St Etienne and Sochaux are also keen.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Menez: La clé pour Les Bleus?

"I see myself in Renaud, whom I respect enormously. He's a single-minded character who stands out. One feels that he is on the edge and that speaks to me."

The words of Jeremy Menez, talking to the official PSG magazine about his favourite singer, the French rapper Arnaud. Compared to his team-mates, who list the likes of Jean-Jacques Goldman, Vasco Rossi (me neither) and, er Justin Timberlake as their top chanteurs, you'd have to say Jezza has reasonable taste. Sort-of.

He and the rest of the France squad will be hoping they are on-song tonight when they Les Bleus take on the mighty Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. According to those in the know, manager Laurent Blanc will choose either Menez or Samir Nasri to join Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema in the France attack, and I believe that it's imperative that Larry White goes with the PSG man.

In fact, I'd argue that Menez holds the key to France's hopes of progression. So far in the tournament he's started one match, scoring a goal and missing a couple of good chances as his side beat Ukraine 2-0. In the other two games, when he was confined to the bench, Les Bleus laboured to a 1-1 draw with England and were beaten 2-0 by Sweden.

Without Jezza in the line-up, I feel France lack penetration. They play some lovely stuff at times, but it's all in front of the opposition which, as we saw in the England game, can be very easy for defences to deal with. You need to be able to up the tempo and go fast and direct when you get the chance, especially against a team like Spain where you don't see much of the ball, and I think those are both qualities the former Monaco man has in abundance. Benzema's link-up play is top notch, and with Ribery and Menez either side of him France look a real threat, especially on the counter-attack.

The problem with Menez is that he's always a stupid foul waiting to happen, and indeed he was lucky not to be sent off in the first half against Ukraine. A moment of madness in tonight's game would probably be disastrous. Blanc may lean towards the safe option and go with Nasri, who is of course a great player in his own right, but if France are going to win the match I think he needs to select the man who, like Arnaud, lives on the edge. Allez Les Bleus!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

UPDATE: Thiago Silva to PSG? Er, no...

So AC Milan defender Thiago Silva won't be joining Paris Saint-Germain. The Brazilian becomes the latest in a long line of big-name players not to join PSG, and this is how the non-transfer unfolded:

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

So long Ceara

Ceara: On his way somewhere
All the talk yesterday was of a Brazilian defender arriving at Paris Saint-Germain, but the club also said goodbye to a less high-profile samba star.

Talks are supposedly at an advanced stage with AC Milan defender Thiago Silva, who could join PSG in the next few days for a fee of €40-50million. Were the 27-year-old to arrive it would represent by far the most impressive signing of the QSI era to date, but we'll discuss that more if and when it happens.

On his way out was full-back Marcos Ceara, who has left the Parc-des-Princes after five years. The 32-year-old had a year to run on his contract, but decided to leave after talks with Leonardo.

"It is painful and difficult to leave," said Ceara. "In discussions with Leonardo, I realized that I did not have much playing time at Paris next season.

"The separation is really painful for me and for my family. It hasn't sunk in yet that I'll never play in the [PSG] shirt again. Next week, when I get back from vacation and I say goodbye, I might shed a few tears."

Aww, breaking up is truly is hard to do.

Ceara joined PSG in 2007 from Internacional, and has been a regular in the side ever since, turning out 196 times for Les Rouges-et-Bleu. Last season he made 36 appearances in the first team, but most of these came in the first half of the season, and since Ancelotti took over he hasn't had much of a look-in.

He could be the first of several players to go, as the future looks bleak for a few members of the "old guard". Silva's arrival would surely signal the end for Zoumana Camara, while Sylvain Armand is expected to leave when his contact expires later this month.

At the other end of the pitch the likes of Clement Chantome and Kevin Gameiro have been linked with moves away and, worryingly, Nene's future seems far from certain. The Brazilian has 12 months remaining on his deal, and the club have yet to offer him a new one.

"To get married, it takes two," noted the star's agent Christophe Mongai, who is obviously a clever chap.

"The player wants to extend. But this desire is not shared at all (...) It's not a pay dispute. It's just that the PSG is not receptive to the idea of extending [the contact]. If this is how it is we will begin to consider alternatives."

Lille and Malaga are reportedly interested, and ready to offer Nene a nice shiny diamond ring. Let's hope PSG get down on bended knee and pop the question soon.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Euro 2012: Split loyalties ahead of France vs England

So far Euro 2012 has been pretty great: goals, red-cards, and an opening ceremony which was mercifully short, even if it did feature a dubious dubstepper in the form of DJ Karmatronic.

Yesterday PSG's Thiago Motta played a starring role as Italy held Spain to a 1-1 draw. Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was on the bench, as he probably will be throughout the tournament, while tonight our other two representatives could take to the field, with Blaise Matuidi and Jeremy Menez part of the France squad which will face England.

England vs France is a very difficult match for me; At the last three tournaments I've supported both teams and their paths have never crossed. Now they're crossing at the earliest possible opportunity, and it's about time I picked a side.

The presence of Menez and Matuidi, two of my favourite PSG players, immediately tips the balance in favour of the French. At recent championships les Rouge-et-Bleu haven't really been represented, save for 2006 when Vikesh Dhorasoo was theoretically part of the squad, though so limited was his contribution that he ended up releasing a film about the tournament entitled The Life of a Football Substitute.

Compare and contrast this with the England squad, which contains a number of dislikeable individuals (Cole, Terry, Rooney, Gerrard etc) whose footballing demise would usually cause me great pleasure. Had Harry Redknapp taken up the managerial reigns I think I would have abandoned them completely, but as it is we have Roy Hodgson, a cultured, dignified, man who you can't help but root for a little bit.

In pure footballing terms there's no contest: France will be fast and fluid in attack, England stodgy and rigid. Watching Ireland, albeit under Italian stewardship, get completely outclassed by Croatia last night, brought to mind a quote from the excellent Pete Davies book about Italia 90, All Played Out. In it Davies complains about the two representatives of the British Isles "stinking the place out" with their terrible, out-of-date, football. Twenty two years later little has changed: we still stink.

Finally there are the England fans. Now I don't have a problem with those who support England throughout qualifying etc etc., but tournaments bring out the worst in people. I'll never forget watching England vs France Euro 2004 in a reasonably upmarket London pub with my then girlfriend, now wife, who is French. When Zidane slotted in the winning penalty, she and a few other France supporters jumped up to celebrate, and got the contents of several pint glasses tipped over their heads. Now I've never watched an England game in France, but I'm fairly sure that wouldn't be acceptable behaviour were the shoe on the other foot.

So yeah, all the signs are point to me backing Les Bleus, but having been an England supporter for 20 years it's a bit like having eczema - irritating, but as much as you'd like to scratch it off it won't go away. I'll guess I'll find out where my loyalties lie when the match kicks off...

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What will become of the Likely Lads

"Just like the PSG first team qualified for the prestigious Champions League this season, the PSG U19 squad will also measure itself against the best in its on the continent," declared the club website today, after the draw was made for the group stage of the 2012/13 Next-Gen series.

You may have read about the competition, which pits the under-19 sides from many of Europe's top clubs against each other in a sort-of adolescent Champions League, and after a successful first year it is following the model pioneered by it's big brother and becoming as bloated as it can. PSG are one of a number of new competitors, and our under-19s have been plonked in a group with Manchester City, Juventus and Fenerbache.

PSG's youth teams have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years, and indeed our current under-19s reached the final of the national cup - a competition the club won in 2010 and 2011 - again this season, though they failed to make it a hat-trick of triumphs as they were beaten 3-2 by Auxerre. Playing teams from other countries will no doubt aid the development of these young players, but I worry whether we'll see any of them in the first team.

Let's take the example of Neeskens Kebano and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, probably the club's most highly-rated young talents. These likely lads - our Pete Doherty and Carl Barat if you like, only with less guitars and no drugs - broke through in 2010/11, and signed their first professional deals last summer. But the influx of new signings meant both have had limited opportunities to impress this season: Bahebeck featured in 16 games, mainly as a substitute in the Europa League, but hasn't been seen on the pitch since January, while Kebano was called upon just twice. 

Their cause was probably not helped by the change of manager: Antoine Kombouare, the man who handed the dynamic duo their debuts, was always going to be more inclined to give them a chance than Carlo Ancelotti, who I doubt knew much about them before arriving at the Parc-des-Princes in January. And with more new signings on the way both would probably benefit from loan moves. Bahebeck was reportedly courted by Nice, Ajaccio, Valenciennes and Evian TG during the January transfer window, but chose to remain in Paris. Having spent six months kicking his heels in the reserves one imagines he'll be more keen to get away this summer. Defender Loick Landre, another who agreed his first pro contract in the summer, has been at Ligue 2 side Clermont since Christmas.

Knowing when to introduce young players is a tricky business, but I hope that - be it this coming season or the next - Bahebeck, Kebano and Landre will be involved in the first-team squad. QSI gave it the big one about wanting to unearth the new Messi when they first took over, but all that seems to have been side-lined in the pursuit of players who will boost the club's short-term hopes in Ligue 1 and the Champions League. It's inevitable that more big-names will arrive, but unless we can integrate some home-grown players too our participation in the Next Generation Series will be little more than a vanity project.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Rumour Mill: WAGs "confirm" Napoli striker move as PSG eye raids on AC Milan and Tottenham

The Pastores pose (left), while Yanina (right) will be able to afford a new poncho if Lavezzi's move goes through
Now that Paris St-Germain have aspirations to become one of Europe's elite football clubs, the players wives and girlfriends will have to up their game accordingly.

Expect fake tan, stupid clothes, and "exclusives" aplenty for Paris Match and the other gossip mags. You may remember we've met Jeremy Menez's WAG previously, but apparently she wasn't invited to this little get-together of the club's latino contingent. In fairness those ladies look reasonably classy, so probably wouldn't want a reality TV star pouting about the place.

Anyway, Mrs Javier Pastore, aka model Chiara Picone, has been busy breaking hot transfer gossip this weekend thanks to a tweet she sent to Yanina Screpante, beau of another Argentinian star, Napoli's Ezequiel Lavezzi.

PSG have been heavily linked with an €27million move for Lavezzi in recent weeks, and it appears the deal has now been sealed: "I’m happy you are coming to Paris. We’re waiting for you and we’ll spend some fun times together," said Picone. The mind boggles

Ex-Napoli star Roberto Sosa has also confirmed the deal will go ahead: "Chatting to Lavezzi via text messages, I found out the news I hoped to the end I would not receive: the agreement with Paris Saint-Germain is done,” he reported gravely. Seems like there should be some movement in the next few days.

Elsewhere in Italy, there are now only two AC Milan squad members remaining that PSG haven't been linked with, as Les Rouges-et-Bleu are said to have made enquiries about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. Needless to say both would be amazing signings, but neither is going to happen, and indeed Ibra is apparently not too keen on moving his massive ego to a club which he considers beneath him. It's probably for the best, we don't want the Swede unleashing his Taekwondo skills on poor incompetents like Siaka Tiene.

Speaking of Tiene, he and Zoumana Camara both want to stay at the Parc, and with both being under contract for another year they may get their wish, though I saw a story the other day linking Tiene with Sunderland, so fingers crossed they might take him off our hands. Meanwhile Diego Lugano could be returning to former club Fenerbache according to Turkish paper Milliyet, where he could be joined by Kevin Gameiro.

Finally for now, Ancelotti is apparently raising his eye-brow in the direction of Tottenham's Luke Modric, a player he coveted during his Chelsea days. It's questionable whether PSG need another midfielder, and if we do put in a bid we could face competition from another ex-Blues boss, Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho.

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