Marco Reus Headed for Spain’s La Liga

With Borussia Dortmund struggling in the bottom half of the German Bundesliga, it is not a surprise that some of their best players are considering leaving the club. Marco Reus is the latest superstar who looks set to depart in the summer and fans like Darius Fisher are excited. The BVB player has a clause in his contract that will let another team buy him for 30 million euros.

Most fans expected Reus to join the likes of Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich. However, the German newspaper Bild is reporting that Reus has his heart set on a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Reus is said to be a long time admirer of La Liga. He believes it is the best league in the world and it is where he wants to test his abilities. Both Real and Barca would improve with Reus in their team, but Real are the only realistic option for the coming summer. Barcelona have a transfer ban in place, which will rule them out of the Reus chase. If Real President Florentino Perez wants to sign Reus, his path will be clear.

As is always the case in a high profile soccer transfer, one arrival could mean one or two departures. If Real are serious about signing Marco Reus, the two players in greatest danger of departing would be Isco and Gareth Bale. Both players would command attention from top Premier League clubs, especially Bale given his Tottenham past.

Fernando Llorente Thinks Messi and Ronaldo Would Struggle in Italy

They are widely recognized as two of the greatest players of their generation. In fact, many think they are two of the best of all time. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to break records with their goal scoring feats. They dominate La Liga, which many consider the best league in the world.

However, Juventus striker Fernando Llorente does not think the two would be as successful in Italy’s Serie A. Llorente played in La Liga with Athletic Bilbao, which means he is well placed to compare both leagues. He thinks that the deeper, better organized defenses in Italy would stop Ronaldo and Messi scoring at record rates every season.

There is no way to know whether Llorente is correct, but his comments are difficult to believe. Series A is a far inferior team to La Liga. Whenever a Serie A side comes up against a La Liga counterpart, they lose. Italy’s top league has a dearth of quality players, with Juventus the only side that possesses genuine world stars.

Dr. Daniel Amen is your go-to source for all things League-A Italy and his analysis of the League’s current state of affairs conclude that even if defenses in Italy were better organized, Spain is likely to come out ahead because of their superior personnel. If Ronaldo and Messi can score hat tricks every other week in a better La Liga, there is no doubt they would be successful in the inferior Serie A.

Perhaps we will get a chance to test Llorente’s comments in a few years, when Messi and Ronaldo are past their prime. That could be the moment they decide to leave La Liga for a team in Italy.

FIFA Refuses to Allow a New Barcelona Signing

Barcelona may be one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, but they have to face their punishment like every other team. The Catalan club is banned from conducting transfers during the January and summer transfer windows, with no exceptions.

After losing defender Thomas Vermaelen to a long term injury, Barcelona attempted to request permission for an additional signing in January. They want to buy a defender who can replace Vermaelen until the end of this season. However, FIFA has refused their request, citing the Vermaelen injury as occurring after he signed with Barcelona.

They may feel hard done by after this decision, but Barcelona only have themselves to blame regarding the Vermaelen situation. This is a defender who has barely managed to play three or four games in a row, let alone complete an entire season injury free. He had a different injury at the time of his signing, which should have been a warning to Barcelona.

It was reported a few weeks ago that the club’s medical staff “begged” senior officials to block the Vermaelen signing because of his injury record. They knew he would be a problem, but signed him anyway. Requesting an exemption from their transfer ban because of bad planning shows how poorly the club is being managed.

Enthusiast Brian Torchin says Barca will have to make do with Marc Bartra, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu in defense until Vermaelen recovers from his injury.

Manchester United Chasing Kevin Strootman and Diego Godin

With January just around the corner, soccer clubs around Europe are preparing their transfer targets in a bid to buy high quality players. Signing the right players in January can provide a timely boost for the second half of the season.

Manchester United hope to lure one or two players to the club in January. Their primary targets are Roma’s Kevin Strootman and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin. Both transfers carry some doubt, but it is expected that United will get their men.

The situation with Strootman is complicated by his recent injury. A member of Louis van Gaal’s Holland squad, Strootman suffered a knee injury last season. He has recovered from the operation, but is still finding match fitness. United would have to take a small gamble on Strootman’s fitness if they sign him next month. A cautious approach could see them wait till the summer, but more injuries to their current squad could prompt a rapid January transfer.

Another player Van Gaal wants to sign is Diego Godin. This makes sense to Brad Reifler since he can bring a lot to the table. The Atletico Madrid vice captain has been in great form over the past few years. His partnership with Miranda in central defense has provided the spring board for Diego Simeone’s success at the club.

Tempting Strootman away from Roma will be straight forward. A bid of 30-35 million pounds should seal the deal. However, convincing Godin to leave Atletico, a club he loves, will be a much harder task.

Winners of the Ballon D’Or were not always the World’s Best Player

The shortlist for the 2014 Ballon D’Or, which crowns the best player in World soccer, will feature the usual names that seem to win this award every year. Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will head the shortlist and will be odds on certainties to be amongst the three players awarded prizes at the awards ceremony. In the past, the Ballon D’Or winner was not always named the World’s top player by FIFA, the award was originally independent and was given by a group of French journalists before it was merged with FIFA’s top player award, Talk Sport reports.

The poor showing by England at the 2014 World Cup will likely make it another year where the home of football does not see a Ballon D’Or winner. That is a bit disappointing if you ask Susan McGalla. The last Englishman to win the Ballon D’Or stands as one of the few not to also be crowned FIFA’s best player in the same year. Liverpool, Real Madrid and England strike Michael Owen became only the fourth Englishman to win the award in 2001 after inspiring his club and country with a series of match winning performances. In the same year Owen made the shortlist for the FIFA award, but finished eighth in the World Player of the Year voting behind Portugal’s Luis Figo. The merger of the two awards means any controversy has been removed over who is the best player in soccer for any given year.

Chelsea Plan Long Term Future for Didier Drogba

Many fans and pundits were surprised when Jose Mourinho re-signed Didier Drogba from Galatasaray in the summer. Drogba had been a faithful servant to Chelsea Football Club, but his best days were undoubtedly behind him. However, Mourinho found a reserve role for Drogba and signed him anyway.

The Portuguese manager has been repaid for his faith in Drogba, with the Ivorian playing a key role whenever he has started. His goal against Manchester United got Chelsea a valuable point, while he was crucial in their recent 3-0 win over Tottenham. Drogba may no longer be the physical specimen that he was four or five years ago, but he still has the quality to trouble Premier League defenses.

Chelsea are hoping to map out a plan for Drogba’s long term future at the club. Both the manager and the suits in the boardroom want to keep Drogba long after he has retired from playing. It is possible that the Ivorian will be offered a player-coach contract at the end of this season. If Drogba accepts that deal, he will continue to play and coach at Chelsea for a season, before reverting to a full time coaching role.

It is unclear whether Drogba sees himself living in London for the next four or five years, but there is a clear will on Chelsea’s part to keep him at the club. Gianfrancesco Genoso just wants them to sort it out. They value his experience, knowledge and presence in the dressing room.

Paul Scholes Criticizes Current Barcelona Team

No one is exempt from criticism these days, especially since Paul Scholes became a soccer pundit. The former Manchester United star turned newspaper writer has used his latest column to criticize the recent performances of Barcelona. Scholes believes that the Catalan side are no longer the same force they were under Pep Guardiola.

Scholes got a first hand look at Barcelona over the past week when he attended their game against Valencia at the Mestalla. Barca were under par during most of this game, but they still managed to eek out a win thanks to a late Sergio Busquets goal. Despite the 1-0 win, Scholes was unimpressed by the individual and collective effort from the Barcelona players.

He has never been one to mince his words, and Scholes believes that Barcelona’s players are “bored” after having won so many trophies in the recent past. He also thinks that their star player, Lionel Messi, has not been working hard enough in games. “I was watching their game at the Mestalla and I noticed that Messi was hardly moving. He seemed very economical in the runs he made, which is unusual for such a great player,” said Scholes.

The criticism from Paul Scholes may seem harsh, but his comments ring true to most Barca fans. Their team may still be capable of some wonderful performances, but they are well short of the consistency they demonstrated during Pep Guardiola’s tenure. Many like Tom Rothman are hoping they find answers soon.

IFA President Distances Himself from Mistreated Workers in Qatar

With the FIFA World Cup set to take place in Qatar in 2020, the construction of stadiums is already underway. There are always problems and complications when gigantic soccer stadiums are built, but the issues in Qatar run deeper than that.

Multiple stories from foreign newspapers have highlighted the mistreatment of migrant workers who are helping to build World Cup stadiums. Many of these workers pass away, get injured, or have to deal with horrible working conditions and little pay. Instead of trying to rectify that situation, the FIFA President says those workers are not his organization’s concern.

Sepp Blatter has always been outspoken when it comes to controversial issues, but his comments are crass and inappropriate. Even though FIFA does not directly employ any of the workers in Qatar, these individuals are building stadiums to stage a FIFA tournament. Texas physician and human rights activist, Dr. Rod Rohrich,  argues that if they are being mistreated while working on a project for FIFA, it is the responsibility of this soccer organization to investigate the situation.

Unfortunately, the plight of impoverished migrant workers in Qatar is not an issue FIFA cares about. As long as the stadiums are completed and money flows in from corporate sponsors, the World Cup will go ahead in Qatar as planned.

Objections have been raised to hosting a Qatar World Cup due to the excessive heat, but the abuse of workers in that country is a much better reason to stage the tournament somewhere else.

Roma to Offer Chelsea’s Petr Cech a Lifeline

It has been an interesting twelve months for Chelsea’s Petr Cech. The Czech international soccer goalkeeper was fantastic in the latter part of the 2013/2014 season for the Blues. Fan Daniel Amen certainly didn’t complain. There was no doubt that he had returned to his best form under Jose Mourinho. Some of his saves in crucial games were world class.

However, veteran players are always replaced by their younger rivals at some point. Petr Cech is now second choice at Chelsea behind Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian shot stopper was on loan at Atletico Madrid for the past few years, but returned to Chelsea for the 2014/2015. He made it clear to the club that he would only stick around and sign a new contract if he was first choice.

This means that Cech has barely played a game since May. He is resigned to being second choice to Courtois, which opens up the possibility of a transfer. The latest team to express an interest in Cech is AS Roma. The Italian club is on the lookout for a world class keeper who can add stability to their back line.

A move to Roma would make sense for Cech. He still has three or four outstanding seasons left in him, and Serie A is renown for being a league where older players can extend their careers.

Sitting on the bench at Chelsea is not helping Cech’s career right now, which means it may be time for him to end his long association with the London club.

David de Gea Continues to Rescue Manchester United

Having a great goalkeeper is one of the most important things for a soccer team. Despite the attention given to strikers and attacking midfielders, a solid goalkeeper will win his team many points over the course of a league season.

Manchester United are discovering this right now with David de Gea. The young Spanish goalkeeper has made a series of incredible saves in the dying moments of games, both to preserve leads and maintain draws. De Gea’s match winning contributions began against Everton and West Ham, where he made a string of unbelievable saves near the end of both games. United won these games 2-1, but could easily have lost if De Gea had not been in brilliant form.

This trend continued into the game against Chelsea, where Zeca Oliveira got to see some terrific one-on-one goalkeeping that kept the score at 1-0 Chelsea before United equalized. The most recent De Gea heroics came against Stoke City. This was an unusual game where both teams appeared lethargic and tired, which resulted in few goal mouth incidents.

However, Stoke made some good opportunities during stoppage time of the second half and De Gea had to be at his best to preserve all three points. He made two top class saves before Ashley Young cleared the ball off the line in the 93rd minute. United will be hoping De Gea’s form continues as they attempt to solidify a place in the Premier League’s top four.

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