Piatek & Belotti- better the egg today than hen tomorrow

piatek

“Meglio l’uovo oggi che la gallina domani” is what Enrico Preziosi must have been thinking when pondering what to do with Krzysztof Piatek during the January window. The Italian saying which translates to “better an egg today than a hen tomorrow” could also be seen as a play on Andrea Belotti’s nickname “Il Gallo”- the rooster, whose dip in transfer value was likely a stark reminder to Genoa’s president that it’s better to sell a player a (half) season too soon than a full season too late.

After a meteoric start to his Serie A tenure in which his goal scoring streak saw him match records of players like Zico and Shevchenko, Piatek was already being linked to Premier League clubs. In addition, if you believe Preziosi and De Laurentiis’ public quotes, Napoli’s bid of around 40 million was rejected since Genoa wanted to see what the Polish striker could do over the course of a full season before establishing his transfer value.

Then came Preziosi’s stunning decision to sack Davide Ballardini, despite the fact that the manager had the team close to the Champions League zone and oversaw Piatek’s incredible start. The Polish scoring machine stalled under Ballardini’s replacement Juric and some wondered if the real gem on Genoa’s attack was actually Piatek’s partner Christian Kouame’.

So when Gonzalo Higuain pulled a Bonucci and pushed to leave Milan as soon as possible, Preziosi decided that he would not pass on another opportunity to turn a massive profit on Piatek after investing under 5 million euro to acquire him last summer from Cracovia. The framework of the deal with Milan was agreed to on Friday and the transaction is expected to be completed after the two teams face each other on Monday.

Piatek will try to end the striker curse at Milan which in just the past 18 months has seen the up an coming Mendes jewel Andre Silva, the functional to Montella’s system Kalinic and now the bona fide big name Higuain fail to live up to expectations. This is a daunting task to say the least, especially when arriving mid season. 

To get a better gauge of the odds on Piatek ending this curse for the rossoneri, I asked Marco Bovicelli- who covers Genoa for Sky Sport- how he would describe the Polish striker and this is what he told me “He’s like a bolt of lightning, very fast with his feet and mind. He gets the ball and if situation allows it within one two seconds he shoots. If he only gets three good balls in a match he’ll score at least once. He’s young, works hard and has significant margins for improvement”

While seeing Genoa sell their best players is nothing new and will continue in the summer when standout defender Cristian Romero and Kouame’ also move on, Torino tried to take a different approach with Andrea Belotti a few years ago. The granata rewarded their main striker with a significant raise, in exchange they were able to insert an exit clause worth 100 million euro in his contract- they also made it valid only outside of Italy to ensure Juventus wouldn’t try to weaken their cross town rivals.

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Now many interpreted this as Torino setting his value at 100 million, but in reality the clause was there to ensure their best player would stay short of an indecent offer. While now it’s easy to mock Torino for over valuing Belotti, those who follow Serie A often complain that the level of the league would improve further if clubs tried harder to keep their best players- the problem is Torino may have picked the wrong one.

After receiving substantial profits for Darmian, Glik and Maksimovic, Torino’s president Urbano Cairo decided he would change course and try to elevate his team. Considering how hard it is for mid table teams to find consistent goal scorers, Cairo turned down substantial bids from Atletico Madrid and Milan to keep Belotti. While we can admire his ambition and desire to not be like many other Serie A clubs, a series of injuries to Belotti, followed by some poor performances, made that decision seem foolish.

Last summer Torino decided to go all in with Belotti. They kept Iago Falque and added Roberto Soriano and Simone Zaza to give him even more support, but so far the results haven’t lived up to expectations. Soriano already left while Zaza has yet to make a real impact.

You have to wonder if West Ham’s recent interest in Belotti to potentially replace Arnautovic who has been linked to a move to China, will make Cairo decide that an egg today is worth sacrificing his rooster over during the January window. 

 

Manchester United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning streak continues

Rashford

As the Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride they are currently experiencing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the side’s next league game was against Brighton & Hove Albion at home, a team that have picked up more points at home than away so far this season. With Arsenal and Chelsea facing one another in the evening fixture, it was more than crucial that the Red Devils picked up the much need three points and also in a comfortable manner.

Overall, United had a perfect first half performance, where they managed to take a healthy lead into the half-time break with the important goals coming from Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Though, the last 30 minutes of the game should be seen as a reality check for the manager and the players, as the visitors pulled back a goal through Pascal Gross and a couple of chances to get the equaliser too.

Here are the three factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Marcus Rashford comes up with the goods again

Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford has been one of the few players within the squad that has benefitted from the 45-year-old Norwegian international’s presence as the club’s caretaker manager. The instant progress has been more than obvious over the last couple of weeks, where the forward has managed to become more clinical and proactive in the final third of the pitch.

Rashford is currently on five goals and one assist in his last six league appearances, and he has more or less been the main reason to why Romelu Lukaku has been experiencing a lot of time on the bench. If the rising star from Wythenshawe continues to develop and improve to a consistent level, he could potentially become the 20-goal-a-season striker that the current United side badly needs.

Ander Herrera came up with a Man of the Match performance

Ander Herrera is one of those types of midfielders that gets the job done without any complaints or any excuses at all. From intercepting play and tackling the opposition to moving the ball at a quick level, he produced another top notch performance on both sides of the pitch. With how he is playing at the moment, there is no chance that he will be leaving the club in the summer on a free transfer.

Focusing back onto the last 30 minutes of the game, Herrera’s role quickly became into a defensive and safe minded one, which allowed the team to survive some tough moments in their own half until the final whistle. Time and time again, the dominant displays that the former Athletic Club player produces must make one truly think he has been playing in England for his whole life.

The second half was a huge lesson for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer personally

Although the hosts dominated possession and created a couple of chances in the second half, they did not do enough in taking their shots and it led the visitors to grown in more confidence as they began to have more space and time on the ball. In the 72nd minute, Brighton created a chance out of nothing, which was calmly taken Pascal Gross, who placed it perfectly into the top corner of the net.

On top of that, the Seagulls had a chance or two in the final moments to seize a crucial point away from home, but the end product was not there when it was needed the most. With how relieved the Manchester United players and the manager himself were once the game to an end, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to improve his in-game management as well as his ability to quickly react to the ever so growing and rising threat that is offered by the opposition in the late stages of the game.

De Vrij: “We needed to be more ruthless”

Stefan de Vrij

Stefan de Vrij spoke to Inter TV in the immediate aftermath of the Nerazzurri’s goalless draw at home to Sassuolo tonight. Here is what the Dutch defender had to say: “We faced a good side tonight who played well. Handanović is an excellent player and saved us on a few occasions. For us, it’s important to have a goalkeeper like him playing behind us. We played well, but a goal and perhaps a bit of ruthlessness were missing from our game. However, they demonstrated that they’re a tough side to play. They are dangerous on the counter and we had to remain alert. Now we have to prepare well for our match against Torino. It was great seeing the children in the stadium – although the atmosphere was different, they made themselves heard.” Continue reading

PREVIEW: Fiorentina-Sampdoria

Fiorentina-Sampdoria

Serie A Match Day 20

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After a much-needed Coppa Italia win over Torino, Fiorentina will hope to carry the momentum of that victory in Sunday’s Serie A meeting with Sampdoria. Sitting three points ahead of La Viola, the visitors will arrive at the Stadio Artemio Franchi after two consecutive losses that leave them in search of a positive result of their own.  Continue reading

Serie A Weekly Transfer Market Recap

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The transfer market moves along pretty slowly, waiting for the completion of some massive deals and especially for the final week. Some minor but relevant moves still went down in the past few days. Serie A teams are making it a habit of securing transfers for next season and Fiorentina pulled off an intriguing one: the central midfielder Hamed Traorè, who showed great promise and is just 18-year-old. He will finish the year at Empoli and was acquired for €12M.

With the same formula and for around €4M, Cagliari purchased the defensive prospect Sebastian Walukiewicz from Pogon Szczecin, while Sampdoria, for much cheaper, completed the signing of centre-back of Ernesto Mulè from Trapani. Continue reading

Inter’s busy schedule should offer Dalbert chance to prove his worth

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“Thanks to God, I scored my first goal in the Inter shirt today. I’ve worked hard to experience moments like this, and I also want to thank my family. I did feel some fatigue this evening, but I worked hard and am happy with my performance. Scoring two goals early on helped us a lot, and we did well in terms of approaching the match in the right way and getting the result that we wanted. The team are working hard and did so during the winter break too. We all came back in the same physical condition as before.” Those were the words of Brazilian full-back Dalbert in the aftermath of the Nerazzurri’s 6-2 victory over Benevento on last weekend. Continue reading

Time for Barcelona’s kids in the Copa del Rey

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The draw for the Copa del Rey quarter finals has thrown up an interesting conundrum for Barcelona.

The Catalans have been paired with Sevilla for the two-legged tie, the Andalusians being one of, if not the toughest opponent they could’ve faced.

It will see a quick return to the Camp Nou for Munir El Haddadi, recently signed by Pablo Machin, and how he would love to put a spoke in the aspirations of his former side. Continue reading

Goalkeeper crisis at Real Madrid ahead of Sevilla clash

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Real Madrid are facing an injury crisis between the sticks as they prepare to host Sevilla tomorrow night, with both of their first choice La Liga net minders potentially sidelined through injury.

Santiago Solari’s side will be desperate to beat Los Rojiblancos, with Pablo Machin’s currently in third, and Real in fourth, separated only by goal difference.

However, the hosts have been hit with a succession of injuries in their squad, and fourth choice goal keeper Luca Zidane could be in line to step in for only his second ever senior appearance.

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Is Aaron Ramsey Juventus’ Missing Piece?

Earlier this month it was announced that Juventus secured Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer at the end of the season. The Welshman’s arrival isn’t the bianconeri’s first bosman dealing, and has come to be a defining feature of the club on the transfer market in recent times. In the past, Juventus signed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Kingsley Coman, Paul Pogba  and most recently Emre Can among others.

While in the past these transfers helped the Italian giants boost their depth, Ramsey’s signing represents something entirely different. This time around, Juventus are turning to Ramsey to complete their midfield ranks and to give them some much needed creativity and drive from deep. But does the 28-year-old fit the bill?

Since breaking onto the scene with Arsenal, a defining characteristic of Ramsey’s game has been his ability to get forward and create space for himself in the opposition’s box. Last season, the player made the most of his chances in close and registered seven goals and eight assists. Juventus are expecting him to bring this aspect of his game to Turin and take some creative burden off Miralem Pjanic in the midfield. You could even argue Juventus haven’t had a player with Ramsey’s characteristics since Pogba. As of right now, Allegri’s side don’t have a single midfielder with more than two goals, and could use some production from deep.

In Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur, the bianconeri have two deep-lying playmakers with a pass-first mentality. In Matuidi and Can, Allegri finds the defensive responsibility he seeks without compromising his team’s balance. With Sami Khedira’s output dropping significantly, it’s normal Juventus are in the market for a progressive midfielder; someone to pick up the slack and drive the team forward in tight affairs. Ramsey is different to what Juventus already have, and will act as an ideal foil alongside Pjanic and Matuidi.

Capable of playing anywhere down the middle, Ramsey’s versatility will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition in Allegri’s setup. However, expect him to make the mezz’ala spot – outside of the midfield three – his own rather quickly upon his arrival. With Pjanic pulling the strings from deep and Matuidi doing much of the dirty work, Ramsey will have the freedom he seeks to push forward.

While the Welsh international, at times, has held onto the ball for too long, expect this to change quickly in Juventus’ extremely structured setup. Simply put, he won’t be afforded minutes if this persists. That being said, over the years the bianconeri have demonstrated an uncanny ability to iron out a player’s weaknesses and quickly turn them into strengths.

Despite arriving on a free transfer, Ramsey is expected to make around £300,000-a-week; a wage typically given to top players. Moreover, his salary indicates that he’s likely going to be Juventus’ only midfield reinforcement in the upcoming summer as it would simply be unfeasible to commit similar money to another player. Given his increased wage and Juventus’ desire to get the deal done as quickly as possible, it highlights the club’s belief in the player.

Over his Arsenal career, Ramsey has polarized opinion, especially in his early days, but has since established himself as a fan favourite. At Juventus, the 28-year-old will be armed with both the proper coaching, a clear system and the teammates to take his game to the next level, competing for Europe’s top honours in the process. This on its own should motivate Ramsey to succeed and hit the ground running upon his arrival.

Juventus are putting many of their eggs in one basket with this investment, but Ramsey will prove to be the midfielder the club are missing. For one, he’s got all the characteristics they’re looking for and have lacked since Khedira’s drop. Secondly, considering Juventus’ rigorous system, Ramsey’s job will be clear. While this signing has all the makings of a good one, only time will tell if Ramsey will be the man to finally solve Juventus’ midfield conundrum.

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Depleted Atletico Madrid look to close the gap on Barcelona

Simeone

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone will be hopeful that his side can close the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona, with a win at bottom of the table Huesca this weekend.

With the Catalan side not playing until Sunday night, at home to Leganes, Atletico have a chance to narrow the gap between first and second place from five points to two, in Game Week 20.

The former Argentine international could not have asked for an easier game in theory, with their hosts ten points adrift of safety in the Spanish top flight, and with just one win in their last 18 league games.

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