Who is West Ham target Toni Martinez?

Unheard of by most, you would be forgiven for never hearing the name Toni Martinez.

That’s probably because he’s never played a first team game.

Climbing his way through the Valencia youth ranks Toni Martinez doesn’t even have a wikipedia page yet, but that isn’t stopping West Ham’ reported interest. In fact depending on who you listen to, the Hammers are willing to spend between 750,000 – 2.4 Million on the young striker.

At 18 years old Martinez has represented the Valencia second string a number of times, though his scoring record is not impressive enough to mention.However Valencia believe he has potential, and enough to warrant a potential buy back clause.

Keep tabs on this one.

Toni MArtinez West Ham.jpg

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All is well at Banstead Athletic

Banstead Athletic… It is fair to say are an obscure club.

I have lived less than 1 km away from this club for 18 years, yet somehow I only found out about it last year. Probably because it’s not actually situated in Banstead its in Tadworth, but anyway. I went for the first time today and witnessed probably the most encouraging sign that grassroots football is alive and well.

Not just because Banstead won 4-1 against Bedfont & Feltham, but because there was an unbelievable mix of talent and quality, something you would only really find in Semi-Professional football. As well as the tiny idiosyncrasies that you still find in the top flights around Europe, even in the combined counties league it seems the obvious choice to put twins as the two full backs. Just like Fabio and Rafael formerly at Manchester United, you have the Hill brothers at Banstead.

I’ll give you an example of the talent gap though. Bedfont’s goalkeeper made zero saves or catches the entire game, as well as kicking 3 goal kicks straight into touch as though in the six nations. Banstead’s Billy Bishop however caught every shot at his goal but for a cruel deflected lob. This guy could play professionally, it was astounding. Equally Banstead right back Joe Hill scored a volley from 30 yards that wouldn’t look out of place on a sky sports highlight reel.

This is really peculiar when compared to the Banstead centre back who seemed to literally just shout and do nothing else, but it’s why the lower leagues are actually so magical.

I think I was the only guy there who wasn’t watching someone they knew, and I don’t know how clubs like this stay afloat, but I really hope they keep going despite all the challenges they face.

For Banstead at least things seem to be going well, they are 5th as of writing, and have a really talented bunch. Billy Bishop especially.

Keep an eye on him.

Arsenal target Michy Batshuayi

Another day and Arsenal are linked with yet another striker, this time Marseille prodigy Michy Batshuayi.

At 22 years of age Batshuayi is part of Belgium’s “Golden Generation” and has 22 goals in 51 for French outfit Marseille. Which is part of the reason he may be available, with the Ligue 1 side languishing in mid table unlikely to reach the champions league, selling a player or two may be an effective way to rebuild.

Arsenal are not alone however, with London rivals West Ham and Tottenham already reportedly involved in a £25 million tussle for the forward. With Olivier Giroud ageing however, and tottenham already possessing Harry Kane as a guaranteed starter, Arsenal may be the more attractive option to the player who scored 39 goals for Standard Liege before he even turned 20. Equally Arsenal may be more determined given the poor progress of Sanogo as well as a lack of depth up front.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing his skills in the Premier League in the near future.

Auxerre: Europe’s forgotten team

In October 2002, a provincial French team defeated Arsenal 2-1 at Highbury. This was a Champions League fixture, in which Auxerre defeated a team that included Henry, Seaman, Campbell, Vieira to name a few, and would stand out as an upset in the modern day.

But when you look at the Auxerre team, you may not be so surprised.

Auxerre had Philip Mexes, later to be AC Milan’s centre back. Djibril Cisse, a champions league winner with Liverpool. As well the likes of Benjani, Kapo, Boumsong, Tainio, Fadiga, Amdy Faye. This team would produce players that would play across Europe for the next decade. So what happened?

auxerre2003

Auxerre were finishing high in Ligue 1, competing in the champions league, and won the Coupe de France. After one of the worst exodus’ the world of football had ever seen.

Between 2004-2006 Auxerre sold all of the players named above, on top of talented youngsters like Abou Diaby, Mohamed Sissoko, and Rafik Djebbour. As such the spine and talent of the team was stripped of the side that Guy Roux had spent so long in creating. Roux who managed Auxerre for over 40 years then left in 2005 and it has been a steady decline since, culminating in the clubs relegation in 2012.

Auxerre still dwell in Ligue 2, and sadly the days of beating the Premier Leagues best are long behind them.

 

Sudden rise of Modou Barrow

Wearing the No. 58 Jersey, many would be forgiven for thinking Gambian Modou Barrow would only play a bit part role for Swansea City this season.

This is not how things have panned out.

Barrow’s impressive goal against Bournemouth at the weekend saw Barrow become the first Gambian to score in the Premier League, and caps off a successful season for the Winger. Joining Swansea in 2014 the player who spent most of his developing years in Scandinavia has found himself in new manager Francesco Guidolin’s long term plans, and even qualifies for swedish citizenship. With speedy and skilful displays, the Gambian poses genuine competition on the Swansea flanks that has been lacking in recent years, with few names to mention beyond Wayne Routledge and Jefferson Montero.

Lets hope Barrow continues his rise and can help Swansea maintain their premier league survival.

With performances such as below it shouldn’t be too hard.

Arsenal target Umar Sadiq

With Arsenal’s season seemingly falling apart at the moment, you would expect they may be after a quick fix.

Arsene Wenger however, has other plans.

Despite criticism after a 2-1 loss to Watford, Wenger is sticking to his guns and searching for the next big thing once more, this time in the form of yet another striker. This one however isn’t just any striker, Sadiq has scored 16 in 16 for Roma’s youth setup, including two goals for the senior team. Not to mention 26 in 24 appearances in the Italian youth league last year for Spezia.

This youngster is Umar Sadiq. At the age of just 19 Sadiq is a Nigerian striker, currently on loan at Roma from Serie B outfit Spezia. Given his heritage and height (6’6) Sadiq is naturally drawing comparisons to a former gunners target man, Nwankwo Kanu, and it is hard to not see the resemblance in their play.

Nwankwo Kanu.jpg

If Sadiq was to have the same impact Kanu had during his first few seasons at the club, i’m sure many gunners would be happy for Wenger to sign him. This move would most likely be for the future, and given Yaya Sanogo’s somewhat disappointing progress Wenger may be seeking a long term replacement for First team target man Olivier Giroud who is approaching 30.

If his statistics are anything to go by, he’s certainly got some talent.

Who is Marcelo Brozović?

Its seems that Arsene Wenger is after yet another midfielder, this time from Croatia.

Reports in Italy suggest that Dinamo Zagreb’s Marcelo Brozović is being touted to the Emirates for £15 million, but who is the man currently on loan at Internazionale?

A box to box midfielder Brozović stands at 6ft tall and is known for his versatility. Having represented the Croatian national team at every level, the Zagreb born player has 14 caps for the senior team and is only 23 with supposedly a very bright future ahead of him. Brozović has also been on loan at Inter Milan for the past year and a half so has experience in a big league, so should in theory be able to make the jump.

Somewhat peculiar however is the players ownership. Brozović is on loan at Inter from Zagreb as of writing, however this loan deal contains an option to buy. All reports suggest Inter have already agreed to complete this purchase in the summer for £4 million. However this would mean Inter are simply buying the man to sell him on in the same window. Which if they get their desired asking price would hand them a tidy £11 million profit from a player they were simply the middle man for.

Perhaps this is the start of a new theme in world football, where clubs simply buy to sell in order to make a profit.

Regardless Brozović seems to be a very good player, and an aggressive on at that. If he is what arsenal need though is a different story given the recent outlay on Mohamed Elneny.

Decide for yourself.

Is Perez the man to blame for Ronaldo and Ramos’ Transfer Requests?

Madrid woke up in shock this morning to the news that not just Sergio Ramos, but more importantly Cristiano Ronaldo, have both handed in transfer requests.

The two players probably most synonymous with Madrid both want out it seems and at 29 and 31 respectively, it seems like Real Madrid may be offloading the old guard.

Though it is the players who have requested to leave, it is no secret that Florentino Perez has been egging on both. Despite their status as Real Madrid legends, Perez has his own motives to get rid of both. He is naturally not open about this due to their positions in the dressing room, but there have been rumours in Spain for years.

With Ramos, Florentino Perez has found a thorn in his side. The defender frequently challenges his decisions publicly and undermines the president, which harms his election ambitions. Ramos was particularly critical concerning the sale of one Mesut Ozil.

With Ronaldo however it is a different story. Perez sees the team’s best player, but one on the wane who is slowing the progress of his own man, Gareth Bale. Lets not forget that Bale cost a World record fee, and one which Perez sanctioned. For Perez to seem like an astute president his deals must seem inspired, which Bale so far has not been. With Ronaldo out of the way Perez can finally insist on Bale being the focal point of Los Blancos attack.

Bale - Perez

As such, these transfer requests are a dream for Perez.

But what about for Madrid as a team.

The truth is it could be a great move for all involved. Los Blancos sit 3rd in La Liga 9 points off the top and many fans see the team as on it’s last legs. One has to bear in mind that this side has been together for a long time. The likes of Arbeloa, Benzema, Pepe, Ramos, Ronaldo have been the spine for almost a decade. These players are on some serious pay packets, so the time may have come for a fabled changing of the guard.

Young talented players like Isco, Rodriguez, and most notably Bale now have their time to step up, and the first step is moving on yesterdays men.

Ronaldo is the best player in the world some may argue, but they haven’t seen the stats.

Granted he is still a goal machine, but thats because he is changing. At 31 Ronaldo’s dribbling is practically non existent, averaging just 1.33 successful dribbles per game this season. That is not special for a winger. But that’s because he is no longer a winger. He is a complete striker, more likely to score a header than by a mazy run these days.

But this doesn’t fit any more. Real madrid have relied on Benzema on recent years to be selfless and offer himself as an outlet for Real Madrid’s other talents. Ronaldo would not do this, so obsessed with figures and personal achievements Ronaldo has become his own worst enemy.

Ramos is also not the player he once was, and with Raphael Varane being 7 years his younger, it is time they both moved on.

Ramos is reportedly a target for United. Ronaldo is a target for PSG or perhaps even a return to Old Trafford, though this is probably not a great idea. PSG could certainly afford him and Ronaldo has hinted at the MLS as another possible venture.

Whatever happens it’s the end of an era at Madrid.

Mostly orchestrated by the very man that created it, Florentino Perez.