Warrior Muriqi ready for battle – but he’s not the Lazio Ibrahimovic


Out of crisis comes opportunity, so they say. If that’s true, there will be plenty of chances going at Lazio this season.

With just three weeks of the season played, Luiz Felipe, Denis Vavro, Stefan Radu, Bastos, Adam Marusic and Senad Lulic have all suffered injuries, squeezing the Biancocelesti’s limited defensive resources to the limit.

There was hope that the international break would provide a timely healing window, but instead Lazio head back into Serie A action more depleted than ever, with Manuel Lazzari, Gonzalo Escalante and Felipe Caicedo joining the ranks of walking wounded ahead of the trip to Sampdoria. Continue reading

Success or failure? Lazio’s transfer business reviewed


“False promises and mediocrity. The transfer market is the usual mess.”

The ‘Lazio Ultras’ group made their feelings quite clear when they hung a banner with these words over a motorway bridge in September.

It reflected a general frustration among the capital club’s fans about a summer transfer window that had promised much but delivered little.

Things did get a little better when three more players arrived before the deadline, but it still did little to convince many fans that Lazio’s issues have been resolved.


Van Persie set to return to stage of former glory

Euro 2016

At the age of 33, Fenerbache’s Robin Van Persie is now approaching the twilight years of his senior career.

Career commences with Feyenoord

That began in 2001 with Feyenoord.

In 78 appearances Van Persie scored 22 goals for the Rotterdam-based club whilst he was also a member of their team which won the 2001-2002 UEFA Cup by beating Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in the final.

Whilst a Feyenoord player Van Persie amassed 12 Netherlands U-21 caps, although he only earned recognition at senior international level after joining Arsenal in May 2004, for an extremely modest transfer fee of £2.75m.

Lynchpin of Arsenal’s attack

Although Arsene Wenger has a fine record of recruiting new players throughout his 20-year reign as Arsenal manager, the Frenchman’s signing of Van Persie potentially represents one of the most astute signings to have been completed during his time at the club.

In eight seasons with Arsenal, despite only winning the F.A Cup and Community Shield in 2004, Van Persie was invariably the fulcrum of his team’s attack, scoring 132 goals in 277 appearances.

After being an ever present for Arsenal in their 2011-2012 English Premier League campaign, during which he scored 30 goals, Van Persie moved to Manchester United.

Mixed spell of frustration and success with Manchester United

Without delay Van Persie seamlessly integrated into Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, as a natural telepathy developed in his forward partnership with Wayne Rooney.

Just as he did for Arsenal the previous season, Van Persie played in each of United’s 38 league games and scored 26 goals, to help the club win their 13th English Premier League title, which marked the end of Ferguson’s 27-year managerial reign.

Despite Ferguson’s departure, Van Persie then remained with United for two further campaigns, although he was unable to reproduce the fine form he delivered during his maiden season with the club.

Whilst Van Persie flourished under the guidance of Ferguson, he struggled to perform to the best of his ability under the great Scottish manager’s successors, David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, as United endured two disappointing seasons.

Start of a new adventure with Fenerbache

Subsequently in July 2015, Van Gaal made the decision to sell Van Persie to Fenerbache, with the striker being reacquainted with his former Manchester United teammate Nani.  As one of just two recognised forwards in Fenerbache’s squad, with the other being Fernandao, Van Persie scored 16 goals in 31 Turkish Super Lig appearances last season, as the club finished second beind Besiktas, to earn qualification to the Champions League Third Qualifying Round.

Yellow Canaries on song in the Europa League

However Fenerbache losttheir two leg qualifying tie to reach European football’s elite club competition 4-3 on aggregate to AS Monaco, for whom Van Persie’s former Manchester United team mate Radamel Falcao scored in both games.  Subsequently Fenerbache were then granted entry to the Europa League.

After beating Grasshopper 5-0 on aggregate, with former Chelsea winger Miroslav Stoch starring for Fenerbache, Dick Advocaat’s side qualified for the Europa League group stages, which they have commenced excellently.

As a means of building upon the valiant performance they produced to earn a 1-1 draw in the Ukraine against Zorya Luhansk, Fenerbache then beat Van Persie’s former club Feyenoord 1-0.

Courtesy of those two results, Fenerbache currently lead group A and are now to face Manchester United at Old Trafford, with Van Persie set to return to the scene where he achieved great success as part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s English Premier League title winning side in 2013.

Van Persie strives to recapture former greatness for Fenerbache

At that time, Van Persie was potentially in the best form of his career and although failing to emulate that since, the 101-times capped internationalist, who has scored 50 goals for this country, remains an extremely talented striker with the determination and drive to succeed, as proven by the manner in which he is endeavouring to regularly feature for Fenerbache.

So far this season, Van Persie has made nine appearances and worked his way back close to full fitness, after often being overlooked to spearhead Fenerbache’s attack in favour of Fernandao last season by Advocaat’s predecessor Vitor Pereira.

As such as Fenerbache strive to continue their fine start to this season’s Europa League by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, just as they did in 1996 when Elvir Bolic scored their winning goal, Van Persie can undoubtedly help his current club achieve that against the one which he served so well and with whom the 33-year-old enjoyed many memorable moments.

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Impressive Euro 2016 campaign sees Nani move to Valencia

Luis Nani Portugal

Portugal and Fenerbahce forward Luis Nani has signed a three-year deal with Spanish La Liga side Valencia for around £7M. The former Manchester United man has turned his fledging career around following positive showings for his country in Euro 2016, and is likely to remain at the Mestalla Stadium past his 31st birthday.

A Valencia statement read: “Valencia Club de Futbol have reached an agreement with Portuguese international Luis Carlos Almeida – ‘Nani’ – for the player to join the club for the next three seasons.” Nani scored 12 goals in 46 games for the Turkish club, impressing a lot in the Super Lig, but has been keen for a return to a club with higher European stature.

For Portugal this summer, Nani has been operating as more of a striker alongside Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and has flourished with his ex-United teammate. Still boasting explosive pace and showcasing a good eye for goal, Nani still has plenty to offer in his advancing age and could prove to be a bargain for Valencia in the coming season.

The 29-year-old was linked with Premier League side Stoke City this summer, but has opted for the Spanish La Liga which will perhaps be physically easy to combat. His form was always sporadic in England, and given Stoke are a side still on the periphery in the top-flight, a move to Valencia while Nani’s still in favour makes sense from a career progression point of view.

He’s still got international duties to worry about, however, with his Portugal side facing Wales at the Stade des Lumières in Wednesday’s Euro 2016 semi-final. Nani is expected to retain his starting place in the attack, having scored and created three goals in five games, while proving himself as a reliable frontman.

For Portugal, he’s hit the target with 38% of his shots in the tournament, and has shown a new dimension to his game by becoming more of an aerial threat (10 headed shots). Valencia might juggle where best to play Nani as he has impressed as a makeshift striker, but would likely need a partner to hold up the ball and work attacking moves with.

Two-footed, capable of whipping balls in from wide areas, while being comfortable to come inside and create scoring opportunities for himself or temamates, it’s not hard to see why Valencia have signed Luis Nani from Fenerbahce this summer, but whether or not the gamble works will be answers in the coming campaign.

Manchester United’s Robin van Persie set for surprise Fenerbahce move

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie appears set to join Turkish Super Lig side Fenerbahce this summer, with reports suggesting that his agent Kees Vos had been in Istanbul for two days discussing terms of the transfer. It would end a 10-year association in England for the Dutch international, and sees him exiting Old Trafford off the back of a miserable two years.

While the striker leaving Manchester United this summer was largely expected, his next destination is  a surprise to many given the interest in Europe. A host of clubs from the Italian Serie A were keen on his signature, and Van Persie’s ageing limbs would surely suit the slower- paced division perfectly. But Fenerbahce’s financial muscle sees them capturing a talented striker who should still have many years left of a career.

Van Persie, 31, has endured high and lows at Manchester United since his £22M move from Arsenal back in 2012. He was outstanding in his debut campaign at Old Trafford, leading the Red Devils to the Premier League title, but has since fallen down the pecking order at the club, and now manager Louis van Gaal considers him surplus to requirements. He scored just three goals in 2015 for United, and endured another injury-hit campaign.

The former Arsenal hitman netted more league goals in his first season at Old Trafford than he has in the two following seasons combined, and his overall performances were a cause for concern. He failed to strike up a partnership with the equally disappointing Radamel Falcao under their new manager, and both strikers have now been let go.

Fenerbahce are embarking upon a big gamble, with reports suggesting the Turkish outfit are tying the injury-prone Van Persie down for four years. His record at Arsenal (274 games, 131 goals) and Manchester United (105 games, 58 goals) is impressive, but it’s believed his best days are now behind him. And given how much he’s struggled staying fit for a campaign, it’s unlikely he will be a regular by the end of his contract.

For a player who has shown such quality in his pomp, leaving Old Trafford for Fenerbahce is not the way he perhaps envisioned bowing out of the club, but Robin van Persie is now set for a new chapter in his career, and Manchester United are moving in a different direction. Why he was virtually unopposed to join Fenerbahce is a question many sides will be asking, but his high wage demands are likely to have been a factor.

Nani’s stay in the Premier League looks to be finally over

Manchester United winger Luis Nani is reportedly set to sign for Fenerbahce this summer, according to the club in question. The Turkish Super Lig side said on their official Twitter account: “Fenerbahce has begun talks with Luis Nani and his club Manchester United to transfer the player. Nani will be in Istanbul on Sunday for a medical check up.”

Should the deal go through as expected, it would end an eight-year association at Old Trafford for the Portuguese international, and caps a bittersweet career with the Red Devils. Nani promised so much in his time at the club, showcasing quick-feet, an eye for goal, while bursting with creativity. However, he failed to remain consistent, and saw his stock plummet.

The last three seasons of his career with Manchester United have seen Nani make just 23 league appearances in total. He spent the 2014/15 campaign on loan with boyhood club Sporting CP, and enjoyed good form back in his native Portugal, but it wasn’t enough to earn him a place in the United team. New manager Louis van Gaal was quick to dismiss a number of long-serving stars, and Nani’s exit will come as a relief to the majority.

He’s struggled with the Premier League giants for many years, and admitted his loan move away was a positive change from the negativity of a fledging career in England. However, Sporting didn’t appear to have the money to sign Nani on a permanent deal, and Turkish title-chasers Fenerbahce are expected to be the 28-year-old’s next destination for the new season.

Nani’s impressive form while out on loan did threaten to see a reprieve, however, with Van Gaal admitting back in April that he was paying close attention to how his players were getting on with their new clubs. He said at the time: “We also think about the scouting of our own players, and then we have to analyse their performances, so it’s a lot of work. It’s not only the present season but also what we have to decide for players next season.”

But the expensive Portugal winger wasn’t deemed worth keeping, with Manchester United likely to use his funds for a host of summer signings. With the likes of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Ashley Young all playing a role in the side’s top-four success, Nani had a task to force his way back into the team. He’s finally leaving the club, but hardly onto greener pastures in Turkey.