Archive for the ‘Bundesliga’ Category

Paul Scholes has announced that he would be joining Gary Neville and Edwin Van Der Sar in retiring from football. The midfielder was renowned for his tenacious play, range of passing and amazing work rate, and despite calls from fellow professionals to stay on, after seventeen years in the Red Devils first team, the former England international has decided to call it a day. Speculation is always rife around Old Trafford but will no doubt increase tenfold, especially with every journalist having their own idea for possible replacements for Scholes. Naturally the cliché that Scholes boots are impossible to fill will be thrown around but who are the main candidates to give it a go?

Luka Modric

The Croatian has perhaps not received the plaudits he has deserved this season, with Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart stealing the show, but the former Dinamo Zagreb has been the ‘heartbeat’ of Spurs’ play. Modric possesses several attributes of the retiring Scholes, strong on the ball, exquisite passing and has the ability to change a game. Where the midfielder prevents himself from being a ‘like for like’ signing is his goal scoring ability, yes Modric does score goals and yes, he can score from all angles and distances much like Scholes. However the Croatian doesn’t score regularly enough like the Englishman, over the years’ Scholes’ goals have been key in United’s success and there inability to replace these could prove costly in the 2011/12 Premier League season.

Jack Rodwell

Sir Alex Ferguson is a huge admirer of the Everton youngster, with speculation linking Rodwell with Old Trafford all season. The Toffee’s star isn’t like the retired Manchester United star with regards to Scholes’ attacking qualities, Rodwell is very much a defensive minded player. However the midfielder is a very strong tackler and very assured when on the ball, much like the man he could be replacing, was. At the age of twenty, there are question marks over whether the Everton man could replace Scholes instantly, but having already established himself as a regular in David Moyes’ starting line up, he has had valuable experience.

Daniele De Rossi

The 2009 Italian footballer of the year has been monitored closely by Sir Alex since he made his debut in 2001 for Roma. De Rossi is regarded more as a defensive midfielder but can play the ‘box to box’ role that Scholes has done so assuredly for years. The Italian’s experience would be a huge positive for Fergie, having played in World Cup’s, in the Champions League and made over 200 competitve appearances for Roma. De Rossi could be another leader in the dressing room after losing such strong characters in Neville, Van Der Sar and Scholes.

Wesley Sneijder

The Inter Milan midfielder has had an inspired couple of seasons, at club and international level, it is hard to believe he is still only twenty six years old. The former Ajax man is quick, tenacious on the ball and has impeccable passing accuracy and range, many of the talents Scholes has been praised for throughout his career. I would say the Dutch maestro’s weakness (for want of a better word), is that he isn’t the most defensive attacking midfielder (if there is such a thing). When Scholes played he would be the rearguard in front of the defence, breaking up the play and then two minutes later he would be unleashing a twenty yard screamer into the roof of the opponents net, Sneijder would have to attend to his defensive duties if he were to replace the Manchester United ‘legend’.

Mario Gotze

The attacking midfielder was a key player in helping Borussia Dortmund win the Bundesliga title this season. Gotze has the technical skill and creativity to be a world class player, with German Football Association’s Matthias Sammer calling him “one of the best talents we’ve ever had.” At eighteen Gotze may be even too much of a gamble even for Fergie, who regularly places his faith in youth, but with Real Madrid reported to also be huge admirers of the German international, Fergie may make a move.

It is believed that Arsene Wenger will finally break all his beliefs and philosophies this summer and loosen the purse strings, after Arsenal finished yet another season empty handed. There is talk of a major squad overhaul with the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Nicklas Bendtner being linked with a move away from the Emirates. If this were to happen, who would be the ideal and realistic replacements for the Frenchman to try and sign?

Scott Parker is available for a reported £6 million following West Ham’s relegation and has all the attributes this current Arsenal squad has been criticised for not having: experience, passion and strength in the middle of the park. The England international would be the man to help Arsenal grind out results and no doubt, fellow Englishman Jack Wilshere would benefit greatly from playing alongside Parker. If the former Charlton man was to be signed by Le Professeur, it would mean Wenger having to break his widely criticised policy of only offering players over thirty one-year contracts, as Parker will want at least three years, to match his Hammers contract.

Andrea Pirlo announced this week that he will leave Italian giants AC Milan when his contract expires at the end of this current season. Although the Italian has been plagued by injuries this year and appears to lack his usual ‘sparkle’, the veteran’s experience could prove a real asset for Wenger’s side. The midfielder has won Serie A titles, Champions Leagues and a World Cup, this experience could have been key for Arsenal in February of this year when they were still in the hunt for four trophies. Pirlo will no doubt be touted by all the major clubs across the globe, but should Wenger pull off such a signing, then next season Arsenal’s young side will be in a much better position to maintain their challenge on all fronts.

Per Mertesacker has been linked with the Gunners since last summer and has recently signalled his intention to leave his current club Werder Bremen. The 6ft 6 in centre back has a wealth of experience and would inevitably form a resolute partnership with Thomas Vermaelen. Furthermore, should Wenger sign the big defender, this will help Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou improve and develop their game. An added bonus would be the German’s penchant for scoring goals from set pieces, something Arsenal haven’t really had since Tony Adams and Sol Campbell.

All the newspaper speculation constantly surrounds Ajax shot stopper Martin Stekelenberg, however, I feel Wenger should make a move instead for Diego Benaglio. The Wolfsburg goalkeeper has performed impressively for the German side this season and with question marks over Wojciech Szezesny and Łukasz Fabiański, the Swiss international would be a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad and a snip of the cost of Stekelenberg.

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No one knows who came first: the chicken or the egg? But one thing is certain; Peter Schmeichel came first, before a long list of keepers that finished with egg on their face after trying to replace the Great Dane. Eventually, Edwin Van Der Sar was the man to hold down the fort and was a perfect replacement. Like all good things though, they come to an end and so, with the Dutchman retiring at the end of the season, I’m having a look at the reported replacements.

1. Pepe Reina
Not one to upset the red half of Merseyside, but this move isn’t as unthinkable as it might seem to Liverpool fans. Reina’s fiercely competitive nature is evident throughout every form of his play and not only does he want to win trophies, he deserves to; he has been a consistent performer over the seasons for Liverpool and is arguably one of the greatest shot stoppers ever to grace the Premier League. Furthermore, with Fernando Torres’ turbulent exit from Anfield due to the conclusion that aspirations of silverware were best served by leaving Liverpool, Reina will no doubt be thinking about perhaps moving onto pastures new.

All is not lost for the Liverpool faithful yet, though, as there is under Kenny Dalglish a rapid revolution underway on Anfield Road. Liverpool’s recent resurgence is too late to mount a serious title challenge or even get in contention for a ‘top four’ berth. However, ‘King’ Kenny’s momentum is building and this may make the Spaniard consider holding tight for one more season with the promise of further investment in the next transfer window.

You have to remember that Reina is only 28 and in the peak of his career. Numerous goalkeepers still hit top form into their thirties, so if Reina doesn’t move this window it doesn’t mean that he won’t in the not-to-distant future. He could have a long and successful spell at Old Trafford. If he were to move, Reina would most definitely be ‘walking alone.’

2. David de Gea

If you can’t have Iker Casillas, then why not sign his heir to the throne of Spain’s number 1 custodian. David de Gea is at the forefront of the generation and purely in terms of talent has exactly what it takes to succeed in the Premier League, with the potential for further improvement. He could well excel for Man Utd, but youth is something of a double-edged sword.

Snapping up someone so young could have dream like conclusions, filling the space between the Man U sticks with someone possessing proven talent and experience for at least a decade. De Gea himself, though, is reported to have qualms about moving abroad at such a young age, which could see him stay on at Atletico Madrid for a couple more seasons to further his development. As well as this, and with all due respect to Atletico, much of the media attention is on Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, whereas moving to Old Trafford would thrust the young Spaniard into the limelight. Being there and handling the spotlight are two different things all together.

3. Manuel Neuer
Neuer would be a great option for the Red Devils, but with reported interest from Bayern Munich coupled with his desire to win a Bundesliga, a switch to Old Trafford may be ‘off the cards’.

He has been highly rated throughout his fledgling career, but it is this season that has seen Neuer make a name for himself. Errors have fallen by the wayside and been replaced by commanding, assured and ‘safe’ performances by the German number one. At the age of 25 and with six seasons of first team football under his belt, his experience is vastly greater than anyone else his age, but it is his age that provides the problem for Sir Alex Ferguson. Neuer can stay in Germany to win his title and then in a couple of years discuss a move, as he will still be young for a goalkeeper. Ferguson, however, doesn’t have time.

4.Martin Stekelenburg

‘Double Dutch’ now means to me the comparison between Edwin Van Der Sar and Martin Steklenberg. Firstly you have the Dutch connection; as well as both tall in stature, technically good and physically robust. A like-for-like swap would be on the cards for Sir Alex and one that could very well materialise. The current first choice for the Oranje would take the move to Old Trafford in his stride.

5. Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon’s departure is a huge possibility this summer, with Juventus reportedly in major need of balancing the books. The world’s most expensive goalkeeper is now 33 and despite still being a class act, would Buffon’s transfer fee really help Juventus’ financial situation in such a deflated transfer market? All signs point to Buffon remaining at Juve, having already followed them down to Serie B a few years ago and being in the twilight of his career, wherein he will presumably want to just enjoy his football. On top of this, Sir Alex is ideally looking for a long term replacement, and with the Italian’s age and proneness to injury, is he really a long term replacement?

Disagree with my choices or reasoning? Suggest your own to me on Twitter@ The_Pun_King

Norway gave us the music band ‘A-Ha’, and I am sure we are all very grateful for this, however, when it comes to the world of football Norway has never produced the world’s best superstars. Admittedly, players such as Tore Andre Flo were very talented and loveable characters, but they haven’t given us fans a ‘Pele’ or a ‘Messi’. This may all be about to change though, if the talk of Rosenborg’s Midfielder Markus Henriksen becomes legacy rather than Viking myth.

The Norwegian international has been playing for Rosenberg since 2009, and by the beginning of 2010 Henriksen was a first team regular, despite only being 17 years of age at the time. The midfielder is a box-to-box player and can be utilised in numerous positions within the middle of the park; this, coupled with precise passing, a powerful shot and an understanding of the game that belies his years, with excellent positional sense and mature decision-making, makes him a very handy asset for Rosenborg.

Scouts from all over Europe have been making numerous trips to the Lerkendal Stadion this season and have been reporting back very positively on the young Norwegian, with Werder Bremen, AC Milan and Real Madrid reportedly paying close attention to the young starlet. Whether Henriksen moves onto one of Europe’s elite or continues to ply his trade in Norway, one thing is for certain, the teenager will get to the very top.

If all this wasn’t enough for you, then on Football Manager 2011 my Assistant Manger says, “he has the potential to become a leading Premier Midfielder and I believe with right training he could become a top midfielder for any European team.” Surely a sign of things to come?