Didier Drogba: Should Juventus go for him?

As yet another transfer window opens, the cries from Juventus fans around the world continue. When are we going to buy a top class goalscorer?

Before the record breaking season which saw Juventus remain unbeaten for the entire season whilst claiming the Scudetto for the first time officially since the 2002/03 season, they were linked with big names in football such as Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aquero and Giuseppe Rossi to name a few. However, these transfers failed to materialize. Instead they opted for Roma’s Mirko Vucinic for €15 million.

After winning the Scudetto, the rumors began again. This is because Juventus relied heavily on their midfield to score and the amount of draws they accumulated [15] throughout the season. After all the speculation that occurred, Arsenal flop Nicklas Bendtner joined on a season long loan. After another strong start to the 2012/13 campaign, they finished 2012 as winter champions. Now that the January window has opened, the rumors have started again!

The latest links are with Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, now playing his trade for China’s Shanghai Shenhua. Juventus coach Antonio Conte has publicly made his feeling known about the Llorente speculation saying, “He [Llorente] did very well at Athletic Bilbao and in the current economic climate if there is a chance to take a great player at no cost, it is right to do it.”

Llorente has proven himself to be one of the top strikers in the world, making his presence known as he and Athletic Bilbao dumped giants Manchester United out of the Europa League last year, scoring 29 goals in all competitions in the process.

Didier Drogba on the other hand left European Champions Chelsea and signed a huge two and a half year contract with Shanghai Shenhua reportedly worth in the region of €12 million. That’s double what Juventus’ highest earner and club legend Gianluigi Buffon currently earns. Juventus would need to pay very high wages for Drogba to want to leave for the Italian champions; this is in direct contrast to the statement made in regards to Llorente by coach Antonio Conte.

Juventus director general, Beppe Marotta, the genius behind the transfers of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Mirko Vucinic confirmed that the club has inquired about the availability of Drogba, even though the coach Antonio Conte has stated that he has not enquired himself about Didier Drogba’s current situation.

The problems with obtaining Didier Drogba would be the huge wages he would add to the clubs budget. Juventus currently pay €115m in wages per year. The fact that he is ageing now at 34 would also be in direct contrast to the club’s model that is being imposed. He would also be heading off to the African Cup of Nations, and with the Ivory Coast one of the favorites to win the competition, he is likely to be away for the duration of the competition, which will not benefit Juventus in the short term.

There is no doubt that Didier Drogba is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the world. He has scored 9 goals in 9 cup finals. He was voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player and amassed a total of 100 goals for Chelsea. The question is whether the huge investment in Drogba would be the best thing for Juventus in the long run, or would bringing in Llorente on a free transfer be the better option?

 

Written by Tom French

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Gareth Bale: Tottenham’s Golden Boy

There are many beautiful sights in football which delight the many fans around the world: a Messi dribble followed by a subtle chip over the oncoming goalkeeper; a 30 yard Ibrahimovich overhead kick which results in a mass English media bukkake over the enigmatic Swede; and John Terry being directly involved in a goal Chelsea concede.

For Tottenham fans, though, the sight of Gareth Bale hurtling down the left wing is for them the most sumptuous sight in football. Like a freight train, once he starts he’s hard to stop. And it’s utterly terrifying for opposition defenders.

He has all the youthful exuberance and purposeful running of a 10 year old taking delight in running away from their mum after they’ve done something wrong – leaving their mum in their wake shouting extremities and holding a rolling pin. He then proceeds to whip in a ball so deliciously appealing for any striker that it wouldn’t look out of place served on a silver platter in any Michelin Starred restaurant.

In world football, there is no other player like him. His pace, power and left foot have become the envy of most teams in Europe and made him into one of Europe’s best. Unfortunately for defenders he’s only going to get better, though. Well, he is only 23 after all. If this was twitter many would be using the hashtag key with ‘pray’ in some sort of comical fashion aimed at the unfortunate defenders. But this isn’t, so I’m not.

This season, Bale has been in scintillating form: scoring in Tottenham’s historic win at Old Trafford; running the show in the first half against Liverpool; and scoring a hat-trick in the Boxing day fixture against Aston Villa.

Despite this, there has been one criticism aimed at Bale. One which sticks if you unfortunately get a reputation for it. One which results in howls of derision from opposition fans even if it was perfectly harmless and nothing was ‘intended’ in it. I am of course talking about his now unfair reputation of being a diver. A cheat. A worse-than-Hitler-Tom-Daley-aspiring Welsh cheat. Of course, he’s not. But that’s isn’t stopping the fans or even the referees.

Now, the consensus is: to earn this reputation you have had to dive in the first place? Of course, and there’s no denying that Gareth Bale has unfortunately been influenced by the Dark Side, been the Darth Vadar of Tottenham. One can remember the ridiculous dive against Villa at White Hart Lane, where there was a fair amount of green grass between the Villa goalkeeper and Gareth Bale.

Unfortunately for Gareth, everyone else can remember this as well. And now, whenever he goes down the oh so good fans of opposing teams call him for diving, and disappointingly, so does the ref. Now there’s a problem that arises here: not every tumble is a dive. But it seems every Gareth Bale tumble is a dive.

Bale’s game is all about pace and power and thus, his game is played with speed which most others don’t posses. As he hurtles past someone the mere slightest touch is enough to knock him off balance – to disrupt his rhythm that he’s worked himself into. It might not be a foul – even though there was the slightest of touches – but that doesn’t mean that it is then definitely a dive.

There is indeed a thin line between a dive and fall but that thin line needs to be made clear so players aren’t needlessly booked. Gareth Bale’s yellow card against Sunderland is a clear example of this. There was a touch on his leg which knocked him off his stride and he went down. It should have been a penalty but instead Bale was booked earning him a one game suspension.

Despite this reputation Bale is one of the most coveted players in Europe since introducing himself with a hat-trick at the San Siro. At present he’s a Tottenham player and considering he signed a new contract in the summer will be a Tottenham player for many a year.

But this is football. And this is a contract for a player who will become genuinely world class. Tottenham fans recognise they have a real talent in their team and they also recognise that he will eventually move on. They won’t begrudge him a move with Barcelona and Real Madrid waiting.

Andy Gray once said, “I’ve just never seen a player do what he does”.

 

Written by William Hold

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Everton: January decisive month for the Toffees’ Top 4 Hopes

Everton’s regular late season push is nauseatingly over-referenced. I’ve lost count of the times this season I’ve angrily interrupted insufferable pundits and their propensity to start Toffees-based sentences with ‘Traditionally, David Moyes’ side are slow-starters’. But as we’ve passed the New Year, I’ll risk self-proclaimed hypocrisy to tackle the subject myself.

Everton’s propensity to finish stronger is bandied about as a compliment, a compliment only validated by the sort of start consistently absent from the Blues’ recent records. If you jogged for the first half of the Olympic 100 metres final but sped up enough to overtake a few stragglers late on, tough luck, the Jamaicans have already finished, you’re not getting a medal.

 

Playing well for half a season is only half an accomplishment

Last season’s late surge rewarded David Moyes’ side with eight more points than in the first half, 32 of the overall total of 56. Impressive but still 14 points off third place, 13 points off fourth. A huge deficit. Whilst this season’s significant improvement has given Everton a much better platform – 12 points up on this stage last year – the Toffees’ form absolutely cannot falter if Champions League qualification is to be achieved.

Averaging two points per game for the remaining 17 fixtures will see Everton hit 70 points, Arsenal’s third-place total last year. To achieve this, a run of immediate victories would go a long way. To that end, no Evertonian can complain about the next few fixtures. Everton face Swansea (h), Southampton (a), West Brom (h) and Aston Villa (h) through January and into February.

Whilst 9-10 points would represent a decent return, Everton must view any dropped points as a big failure. Four wins would give Everton 48 points leaving 13 games to accumulate (approximately) 22 points – definitely doable.

 

Taking it two games at a time

To go against the old football adage of ‘taking one game at a time’, it suits the purposes of this article to split those fixtures into two groups rather than four, so let’s look at the first couple.

This Saturday’s home game with Swansea is the biggest threat to a 100 per cent record over the next month, but this is without doubt their toughest period of the season so far.
Swansea’s excellent campaign has them travelling down to London for their Capital One Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea this Wednesday, heading up to Liverpool to face Everton on the Saturday, before returning to London the following Wednesday to replay their FA Cup Third Round tie with Arsenal. Enjoyably hectic; the problems of progress.

A substantial Stamford Bridge loss may dent confidence whilst a positive result may cause a dip in focus. Either way, there’s enough for Everton to forge a winning attitude out of self-convincing logic.

And then Southampton away. Potentially tricky but one that bears the same traits of Everton’s last away success at Newcastle. A midweek night game (Monday counts as midweek in order to make my argument stronger/ less weak), away at a struggling side just above the relegation zone. If Everton can recreate their St James’ Park performance, the three points should be theirs.

Six points from these games would leave Arsenal needing to beat both Man City (h) and Chelsea (a) to maintain their two-point deficit behind the Toffees. Losing those games could see the Gunners eight points behind Everton. Of course Arsenal have a game in hand but January 16th’s FA Cup replay means Arsene Wenger’s men four times in 10 days culminating in that rearranged West Ham game, followed by Liverpool’s visit the following week. Plenty of potential for a slip-up. Spurs face QPR (a) and Man Utd (h) in the next two. Points could certainly be dropped.  Everton must take advantage.

By January 30th when West Brom travel to Goodison in a game which could really cement Everton’s position in the top six (incidentally my birthday for any overly sentimental and unnecessarily generous followers), Everton will have both Darron Gibson and Kevin Mirallas back (touch wood), and hopefully a few new signings. A victory in that game would create incredible momentum before the Premier League’s current worst side Aston Villa head to Goodison.

If Moyes manages his squad properly this transfer window, as he did so effectively last year, January could well prove to be the decisive month in a successful Everton season, providing the springboard and importantly the points to make for a very hopeful run-in.

 

Written by Chris Smith

Follow him on Twitter @cdsmith789

Check out his excellent blog, The Russian Linesman

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