Monday, 29 December 2008

Brazil: Zico Set To Ditch Bunyodkor For CSKA

Reports in the Russian press suggest that Brazilian legend Zico will quit his post as coach of Uzbek side FC Bunyodkor to join CSKA Moscow within the next couple of days.

Sport Express suggests that the 55 year old has already communicated his desire to leave and that the "last formalities should be completed within the next 24 hours".

If that is the case, then Zico would be free to negotiate with CSKA, who parted company with Valery Gazzaev following their second place finish to Rubin Kazan in the 2008 Russian Premier League.

Former Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini had previously been strongly linked with the vacant position, but it seems that Zico is now the frontrunner to take over at the Luzhniki Stadium after the Italian backed away from a potential deal.

Zico won the Uzbek league and cup double in his - seemingly - short spell at Bunyodkor, having risen to coaching prominence following a successful two year spell at Turkish side Fenerbache, whom he guided into the last eight of last season's Champions League.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Argentina: Riquelme Targets Libertadores Glory in 2009

Fresh from securing the Argentine Apertura, Boca Juniors playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has his sights set on continent-wide success in next year's Copa Libertadores.

Riquelme, 30, already has three Libertadores triumphs with Boca to his name, but that has not quelled his desire to add to his medal collection with a fourth in 2009.

“What is it I want now? First of all, to rest, because this has been a very long year for me. After that, I’m sure we will go about preparing ourselves in the best possible way to win the Copa Libertadores," he stated on Boca's official website.

"I want to win it once again. And, also, to make sure I enjoy all of my successes more from now on."

In addition to winning the Apertura with Boca, Riquelme was also part of the Argentina Olympic squad that won the gold medal in Beijing. With that in mind, he believes that it has been one of the best years of his professional career.

"This year was my best, alongside 2000. In that year we won the Libertadores and the Intercontinental cup for the first time, as well as the local championship.

"This year I was lucky enough to win with the Argentine National Team and with my own club. I cannot ask for any more," he concluded.

Brazil: Former Arsenal Full-Back Juan Linked With European Return

Flamengo's highly-rated left-back Juan could be set for a January move to Europe according to reports in the Brazilian press, although his agent has indicated that there is yet to be any movement in relation to a transfer.

Juan, 26, was recently chosen as the best left-back of the Brazilian Serie A 2008 after some superb performances for Flamengo throughout the campaign, and received an international call-up for Brazil's World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia in August.

Such form has attracted the attention of a number of European clubs, with Villarreal thought to be leading the race for his signature as they look to strengthen their options at left-back for the second half of the season.

Juan, who made two appearances for English side Arsenal as a youngster, has a buy-out clause of €6million in his contract with Flamengo and also holds Spanish citizenship, making him a very attractive proposition for any European side.

With this in mind, his agent Eduardo Uram is expecting to receive a number of proposals in the coming weeks.

"Nothing is happening at the moment. We would expect to see some movement when the European transfer window opens in January," he told GloboEsporte.

Argentina: San Lorenzo Try To Keep Hold Of Bergessio

San Lorenzo are locked in talks over an extension to their loan deal for striker Gonzalo Bergessio, as they look to build a team capable of challenging for the 2009 Copa Libertadores.

Bergessio, 24, has scored 13 goals in 35 games since joining on a temporary basis from Portuguese side Benfica, and San Lorenzo coach Miguel Angel Russo is keen to keep hold of him, especially with fellow strikers Nestor Silvera and Juan Carlos Mensequez likely to move on.

Russo sees Bergessio as part of the spine of his side, alongside Pablo Barrientos, Crisitian Ledesma, Gaston Aguirre, Sebastian Mendez and Agustin Orion, and therefore considers the former Racing Club striker as vital to his hopes of Copa Libertadores glory.

San Lorenzo president Rafael Savino has contacted Benfica in the hope of agreeing a six-month extension to the current loan arrangement, which expires in January. However, with other sides thought to be interested in signing Bergessio on a permanent basis, San Lorenzo may find themselves at the back of the queue.

Italian side Genoa have been tracking Bergessio's progress and could be set to make a January move, while one-time San Lorenzo coach Ramon Diaz is keen on taking his former charge to Mexico with his current side Club America.

Brazil: Ronaldo Unconcerned By His Weight

New Corinthians signing Ronaldo has stated that media talk about his ample frame is misguided, and affirmed that he will be in a match-fit state by the conclusion of the club's pre-season preparations.

Ronaldo has born the brunt of many press jibes about his figure since being presented as a Corinthians player on the 12th December, with reports suggesting that he weighed in at 95kg.

Noted physiotherapist Bruno Mazziotti believes that a weight between 89-90kg would be ideal for the striker, and Ronaldo is confident of reaching that by the time he takes to the field in the Corinthians shirt.

"The press exaggerate.. yes, I am heavier than would be ideal, but this is natural considering the amount of time I have gone without playing," he told Timão TV.

"Players can take off, with certainty, five, six kilos during the daily routine of pre-season training."

A number of Corinthians supporters turned up at the training ground on Friday to witness Ronaldo take to the training field for the first time, and the positive reception he has received from the fans will act as an extra motivator for the 32-year old.

"It is incredible. A lot of people are interested in me and that is excellent. Now I must breathe football, breathe training and breath concentration.

"Everything else must be put aside for now, so that I can dedicate myself to my physical training and get in shape for the new season," he concluded.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Argentina: Boca Make Abbondanzieri First Priority

Boca Juniors soon to be technical-director, Carlos Bianchi, has identified the position of goalkeeper as the one they really need to strengthen for next year's Copa Libertadores and believes that Getafe custodian Roberto Abbondanzieri could be the man for the role.

Carlos Ischia's side may have secured the Argentine Apertura title, but with young goalkeeper Javier Garcia prone to errors and Mauricio Caranta likely to be sold to the highest bidder in January, the need for an experienced man between the sticks is clear.

Abbondanzieri, 36, would certainly fit the bill. He spent ten years at Boca between 1996 and 2006, and is the keeper favoured by both Bianchi and Ischia, who are certain that his character would have a positive impact on the dressing room, just as his keeping skills would on the pitch.

"Pato" is out of contract in June, so could be available for a knock-down fee in January. However, with only on-loan cover Jacobo Sanz as a replacement, his Spanish employers are likely to want to keep hold of him until at least the end of the season, which could scupper Boca's plans.

Should a deal for Abbondanzieri not materalise, then Boca are also studying other options. Among those is 38 year old Millionairos goalkeeper Óscar Córdoba, who was a vital component of Bianchi's successful side between 1997 and 2001. There are, however, concerns over his recent form and whether a move for him at this stage in his career would be wise.

In addition, Atacante's Federico Vilar - who came up through the Boca youth system but never played for the first team - Paraguayan national goalkeeper Justo Villar, and San Lorenzo's Agustín Orión are also on Boca's rader.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Merry Christmas From El Espectacular

Ho, ho, ho... no, that's not the shout of some Harlem pimp, but is in fact St Nicholas, coming to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas.

Hope Santa brings you all everything you wanted, and we look forward to seeing you back on the site once the holiday frivolities have ceased... i.e. once that Bucks Fizz hangover has worn off enough for you to focus on a computer screen for more than a couple of seconds.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Argentina: Boca Take Apertura Crown Despite Defeat

Boca Juniors were crowned Argentine Apertura 2008 champions on Tuesday night, despite going down to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tigre.

As the three-team playoff for the Apertura came to its conclusion, Tigre knew that they needed to win by two clear goals to overhaul a Riquelme-less Boca and take the title, with San Lorenzo already out of running.

Diego Cagna's team gave it their best shot and took the lead with just over twenty minutes remaining after a terrible mistake from Boca goalkeeper Javier Garcia allowed Leandro Lazzaro to profit.

Garcia had also been at fault from San Lorenzo's goal at the weekend, and was promptly substituted by Boca coach Carlos Ischia, who was clearly keen to avoid the young goalkeeper costing his side the title.

Despite concerted pressure from Tigre in the remaining minutes, and the late sending off of Rodrigo Palacio, Boca were able to hang on, taking the Apertura crown on goal difference to record their 23rd Argentine championship.

"We put in a lot of effort in these last six months, and we have to enjoy it. We worked hard today, like we have all year round, but it was worth it to reach our objective," midfielder Sebastian Battaglia told reporters after the game.

The title triumph comes at the end of a difficult campaign for Boca, who have had to deal with the death of their president Pedro Pompilio and a number of injuries to key players.

"It was a horrible season for us," experienced full-back Hugo Ibarra noted.

"We experienced a lot of injuries, as well as the death of Pedro. We dedicate this championship to his family and memory."

The title represents coach Carlos Ischia's first in charge of Boca, and he looks set to be rewarded with a new contract, according to reports in the Argentine press. He will, however, have Carlos Bianchi - Boca's most successful coach - placed above him in a technical director role in time for the 2009 Clausura.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Chile: Colo Colo Are The Clausura Champions

Colo Colo sealed the Chilean Clausura championship on Saturday with a 3-1 win at home to Deportivo Palestino in the second leg of the playoff final.

Palestino had done well to come back from a goal behind to draw 1-1 in their home leg of the tie, and showed great heart once more as they came back from Lucas Barrios' half-hour strike to level matters before the break through Luis Pavez.

Barrios' goal was his 37th of the year, equalling Luis Hernan Alvarez's all-time Colo Colo scoring record - set in 1963 - but he was unable to add to his tally after the restart, leaving the scoring to his team-mates as Colo Colo finally made their greater possession count in front of goal.

First, Jose Domingo Salcedo slipped in Daud Gazale to put Marcelo Barticciotto's side in front, and then Rodrigo Millar put the final nail in Palestino's coffin as he collected Barrios' pass, rounded defender and goalkeeper, and tapped the ball into the empty net.

To add insult to injury for Palestino, Jean Paul Pineda was dismissed with just over quarter of an hour remaining for a crude tackle from behind.

Colo Colo's Clausura triumph is their fifth in the last six Chilean championships, but is the first since Claudio Borghi resigned as coach in the early half of the year. They now have a total of 28 league wins in their history.

Argentina: Boca End San Lorenzo's Title Hopes

Boca Juniors ended San Lorenzo's hopes of winning the 2008 Apertura with a 3-1 victory on Saturday that leaves Carlos Ischia's side in pole position for the title ahead of the final playoff game between them and Tigre on Tuesday.

San Lorenzo went into the match knowing that a win would secure them the championship, and had two golden opportunities to take the lead in the first 45 minutes - Nestor Silvera and Gonzalo Bergessio just unable to direct their respective headers on target.

Despite giving up some good chances to their opponents, it was Boca who enjoyed the lions share of first half possession, and it was therefore unsurprisingly when they went ahead in first half stoppage time.

Juan Roman Riquelme whipped in a corner from the left and Lucas Viatri pulled in front of his marker to head home, scoring his eighth goal of the Apertura in the process.

The early exchanges of the second half were conducted with a none too small measure of bite as San Lorenzo attempted to battle their way back into the match, with challenges flying in all across the pitch.

Miguel Angel Russo's side levelled the scores on the hour mark when Boca goalkeeper Javier Garcia allowed Santiago Solari's fairly tame effort to slip through his grasp and into the back of the net.

Boca were rocked by conceding and struggled to re-establish their control of the match in the fifteen or so minutes following the equaliser.

However, with the quality players that Boca have at their disposal, they always carry a goal threat, and it was a superb link-up between two of their most celebrated players that saw them retake the lead with just under quarter of an hour remaining.

Garcia launched a quick counter-attack by punting the ball high up field to Jesus Datolo, who brought the ball down and crossed towards Riquelme at the far post. As the ball dropped, Riquelme cushioned it perfectly into the path of on-rushing substitute Rodrigo Palacio, who finished calmly with his left foot to restore Boca's advantage.

San Lorenzo were clearly rattled and were soon down to ten men when Gaston Aguirre was shown his marching orders after pulling back Palacio for his second yellow of the match.

Bergessio was dismissed with three minutes remaining for dissent, and then San Lorenzo's ambitions of title success were killed once and for all as Cristian Chávez cut inside his marker and fired home from the edge of the area in stoppage time.

Boca will now been seen as favourites to take the title, as they can afford to lose 1-0 against Tigre on Tuesday and still be crowned champions for the 23rd time in their history.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Ecuador: Former Real Madrid Coach Floro Joins Ecuador's Barcelona

Ecuadorian side Barcelona Sporting Club have announced that former Real Madrid coach Benito Floro will take charge of the side in time for the 2009 Serie A Championship.

The Spaniard, who has signed a two year contract, becomes the latest coach charged with returning Barcelona to their previous glories after years of relative obscurity.

The joint most successful side in the history of the Ecuadorian league are without a title in over ten years, and parted company with coach Reinaldo Merlo after missing out on qualifying for the 2009 Copa Libertadores on the final day of the 2008 season.

Barcelona club president Eduardo Maruri believes that, in Floro, they have got the right man to initiate a change in fortunes for the dolo del Astillero.

"We're convinced that Professor Benito Floro and his team will do a good job," he stated on the club's official website.

Floro, 56, had a two year stint as coach of Real Madrid between 1992 and 1994, and has also coached Albacete, Sporting Gijon, Villarreal and Real Mallorca in Spain, alongside spells in Japan and Mexico with Vissel Kobe and Monterrey respectively.

Brazil: Internacional Enter Race For Thiago Neves

Internacional are lining up a possible move for Hamburg attacking midfielder Thiago Neves according to a report on Brazilian radio.

Rádio Gaúcha suggests that the Internacional board are in the process of gathering the necessary funds to make a move for Neves, 23, who is thought to be keen on a move back to Brazil after struggling to settle in Germany.

Delcyr Sonda - the investor behind the transfers of Nilmar and Andres D'Alessandro to the Estadio Beira-Rio - has put his financial clout behind the attempt to sign Neves, and an offer could be forthcoming within the next few days.

Previous reports suggested that Neves could return to his former club Fluminense in January, as Hamburg have failed to make a number of the repayments on the €7.5million fee that they paid for his services in the summer

However, if Internacional were willing to meet these payments as part of a deal, then he could be strutting his stuff in front of the Colorado faithful in their centenary year of 2009.

Argentina: Batista Names South American U-20 Championship Squad

Argentina youth coach Sergio Batista has named his twenty man squad for the 2009 South American U-20 Championship, which kicks off on the 19th January in Venezuela.

Batista's side go into the tournament as one of the favourites, having been victorious in the same age category in five of the last seven World Cups, and will rely on a squad of primarily home based players for the competition.

The exceptions to this are Liverpool full-back Emiliano Insua, Almeria forward Pablo Piatti - both of whom were in the squad that won the 2007 World U-20 Championship - and Chelsea striker Franco di Santo - who was involved in the 2007 South American U-20 Championship.

Velez Sarsfield are the best represented club with four players, while the rest are a fairly even spread, with River Plate and Lanus the only other two sides to have more than one player included in Batista's selection.

Argentina will open their campaign against the host nation Venezuela on the 19th January, as they look to progress to the final group phase as one of the top three teams in a group that also includes Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.


Goalkeepers: Luis Ojeda (Unión de Santa Fe), Diego Rodriguez (Independiente)

Defenders: Fernando Meza (San Lorenzo), Mateo Musacchio (River Plate), Fernando Tobio (Vélez Sársfield), Julián Fernandez (Atlético Rafaela), Emiliano Insua (Liverpool), Maximiliano Oliva (Tigre)

Midfielders: Franco Zuculini (Racing Club), Exequiel Benavides (Boca Juniors), Marcelo Benitez (Lanús), Iván Bella (Vélez Sársfield), Pablo Piatti (Almería), Cristian Gaitan (Estudiantes de La Plata), Leandro Velazquez (Vélez Sársfield)

Forwards: Eduardo Salvio (Lanús), Franco Di Santo (Chelsea), Jonathan Cristaldo (Vélez Sársfield), Andrés Rios (River Plate), Andrés Romero (Argentinos Juniors)

Peru: FIFA Lift Ban On Peruvian F.A

FIFA have elected to lift the sanctions imposed on the Peruvian Football Association that had seen the national team and club sides from the country suspended from international competition, it was announced on Saturday.

A statement released by world football's governing body simply stated that: "The Executive Committee has agreed to lift the suspension of the Peruvian Football Association."

Peru had initially been sanctioned due to a rift between the Peruvian Institute of Sports (IPD) and the country's football federation (PFP), in which the government department failed to recognise Manuel Burga as PFP president.

The two bodies submitted a signed agreement to FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter during the FIFA executive committee meeting in Tokyo, Japan, securing the continued participation of the country in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

The lifting of the ban will also come as good news to Peruvian club sides Universitario, Alianza Lima and Sporting Cristal, who had seen their 2009 Copa Libertadores places put at risk by the sanctions.