Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Europe's 10 best transfers from Asia of the season 2010-11

It's been a big year for Asian football with the 2011 Asian Cup headlining the return of Japan as the dominant force on the continent.

The tournament itself in Qatar saw the unearthing of a number of potential future superstars of the game, with some European clubs having had the foresight to have snapped up these gems before the competition rolled around, whilst others were quick to sign up those who made an impression.

This list is exclusively East Asian with the exception of one Australian player and perhaps is reflective of the region's dominance of football at domestic and international level in recent years. Gone are the days where the likes of Ali Karimi was the most recognisable Asian face in Europe...

The top few places in particular are taken up by players who are fast becoming important names in the development of Asian football and its expose across Europe. One joined the champions-elect in Germany, one the European champions and one remains in the Champions League going into the final stages.

10) Mitch LANGERAK

Appearances: 1

Goals Conceded: 1
Borussia Dortmund from Melbourne Victory -£573,000

Has made only one appearance for Borussia Dortmund and for that reason is a surprise inclusion in this list. But when you consider that Dortmund paid just over £573,000 for a goalkeeper who seems set to one day become Australia's first-choice No.1, it increasingly seems another bargain for the Bundesliga leaders.

That said, the only time he has turned out for the senior team was against Bayern Munich in a 3-1 win, when he delivered an excellent performance deputising for the injured Roman Wedenfeller. Appears to have a huge future ahead of him at the tender age of just 22.


Appearances: 9
Goals Scored: 0

Assists: 1
Wolfsburg from Jeju United - £1.7m

Hardly set the Bundesliga alight since joining Wolfsburg in the January transfer window, largely being reduced to appearances off the bench and being hauled off even when he does start. At £1.7 million though he does seem to be a bargain, given - like Langerak before him - he's an investment for the future.

The 22-year-old set alight the Asian Cup earlier this year with a string of outstanding performances for South Korea, top-scoring at the tournament. Boasts excellent vision, sharp passing, a tireless work ethic and a knack for finding the back of the net, as evidenced in Qatar.


Appearances: 20Goals Scored: 3

Assists: 2
Celtic from FC Seoul - £1.8m

Didn't strictly join the Parkhead club at the beginning of this season but is enjoying his first full campaign with the club in earnest. Another young South Korean charger who looks to be a smart investment for the future, he has had a solid introduction to Scottish football.

Voted Young Player of the Month in October, he has nailed down a starting spot for himself and adapted well to life in a physically demanding competition that isn't particularly kind to foreigners.

7) Akihiro IENAGA

Appearances: 9Goals Scored: 1

Assists: 0
Mallorca from Cerezo Osaka - Undisc.

The midfielder wasn't one of the high-profile movers from the Asian continent at the turn of the year but he has quietly gone about his business in La Liga. Hasn't started many matches but looks like he's beginning to adapt to the rigours of Spanish football after netting against Sevilla recently.

He's turned in the odd impressive performance as well and at 24 has plenty of time to mature as a footballer. Looks Japan's best chance of a success story in Spain yet.

6) Michihiro YASUDA

Appearances: 12Goals Scored: 0
Assists: 0
Vitesse Arnhem from Gamba Osaka - Undisc.

One of a few Japanese players plying their trade in the Netherlands at the moment, Yasuda is certainly one of the most impressive. Hasn't proven to be particularly reliable at the back but nonetheless has nailed down a starting spot by virtue of his attacking talents.

Vitesse aren't a club known for stability - nicknamed 'Hollywood at the Rhine' for a reason - but 23-year-old Yasuda has a bright future ahead of him after making a good start to life in the Eredivisie.


Appearances: 10Goals Scored: 3
Assists: 0
Hamburg from N/A - Signed prof. contract

Technically wasn't poached by Hamburg this season but they did have the foresight to offer Son his first professional contract and it immediately paid dividends, as the attacker backed up his excellent pre-season form with some stellar performances in the Bundesliga.

Though he has since been brought back down to earth after losing his first-team spot, the teenager has been highlighted as a future star of both European and Asian football, even receiving praise from German legend Franz Beckenbauer.


Appearances: 10Goals Scored: 3
Assists: 2
Feyenoord from Arsenal - On Loan

Named man-of-the-match in his debut appearance for struggling Dutch giants Feyenoord and ever since that bright display has helped steer the club away from the relegation zone.

Though he went through a bit of a rough patch after bursting out of the blocks, he bounced back recently with an excellent performance against Willem II, scoring two and setting up two in his side's 6-1 home win. Those sorts of contributions have helped turn Feyenoord's season around and when you consider he was snapped up on loan, it's a very astute piece of business.

 3) Atsuto UCHIDA

Appearances: 23Goals Scored: 0
Assists: 0
Schalke from Kashima Antlers - £1.14m

The right-back has proven to be a bargain and after being initially pencilled in as merely a squad player, the young defender has impressed and is likely to retain his starting role when Tim Hoogland returns from injury.

Uchida struggled in his first few weeks in the Bundesliga but has steadily progressed over the course of the season and was man-of-the-match in Schalke's recent match against Werder Bremen. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him in Gelsenkirchen and has a UEFA Champions League semi-final and DFB-Pokal final to come.


Appearances: 9Goals Scored: 1
Assists: 0
Inter from Cesena - On Loan

Initially signed on-loan by Cesena from FC Tokyo at the beginning of the season, it wasn't long before this pocket-rocket full-back was contracted fully by the Serie A club, only for defending champions Inter to take him on during the January transfer window.

Has proven to be an inspired signing by the Milan club and has surely done enough to earn himself a permanent move after injecting some much needed life into their domestic campaign. Has the potential to become a world-class player at San Siro.

1) Shinji KAGAWA

Appearances: 17Goals Scored: 8
Assists: 1
Borussia Dortmund from Cerezo Osaka -€300,000

Blink and you could have missed Kagawa's move from Cerezo Osaka to Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of this season, the little-known attacking midfielder was not even one of the club's most notable signings.

Yet he has proven to be one of the steals of the season across European football, at the heart of Dortmund's early campaign as they established their title credentials. Injury at the Asian Cup has curtailed his contributions but he will return soon with a host of big-name suitors no doubt monitoring this prodigious talent.

Monday, April 25, 2011

La Liga's 10 WORST transfers of the 2010-11 season

Countdown of the ten worst pieces of business from the 2010-11 Primera Division season.


Appearances: 5
Goals Scored: 0

Assists: 0
Villarreal from Roma - Loan

After stalwart Angel was downed by a cruciate injury against Real Madrid, Villarreal acted quickly to bolster their squad in the form of Brazilian Cicinho, swooping to bring in the full-back on a loan deal until the end of the season.

The former Madrid player has barely featured, however, after a transfer that seemed to be a snap reaction to Angel's problem rather than a considered signing. Five appearances, four of which have came from the bench, suggests that the 30-year-old will be heading back to Rome before too long.


Appearances: 1
Goals Conceded: 1

Clean Sheets: 0
Hercules from Vitesse - Undisclosed

One of the more curious transfers of the summer, ambitious Hercules secured the signature of a goalkeeper who was at one time linked with a move to Arsenal.

The 24-year-old Dutch international was regarded as the future of the national side, but has only managed a single appearance for a team that has toiled desperately for form since the turn of the year, and who face relegation. Inconsistent Juan Calatayud has managed to keep the glovesman on the sidelines, and his stay in Spain may be prove to be a short one.

8) Sergio CANALES

Appearances: 13Goals Scored: 0

Assists: 1
Real Madrid from Racing Santander - £5.25m

One of Spanish football's rising stars, Canales officially moved to the Bernabeu in July 2010, and despite being expected to enjoy a loan spell to gain first-team experience, Jose Mourinho demanded the then-19-year-old was retained.

His decision has not been beneficial for club or player. Canales has not sufficiently impressed to be rewarded with regular minutes, and his progress has stagnated after showcasing unbridled promise in Santander. Efforts must be made from both parties if this transfer is to eventually become a success.

7) Dejan LEKIC

Appearances: 27Goals Scored: 2

Assists: 0
Osasuna from Red Star Belgrade - £2.6m

Landing Lekic was a major coup for a club like Osasuna, for what was a considerable fee, but 27 appearances and two goals later, it seems unlikely he will remain in Spain for another season.

The Serbian international has spent much of the campaign warming the bench, despite the Pamplona club struggling to find the net, and the relegation-threatened Rojillos will almost certainly attempt to offload the 25-year-old at the first available opportunity.

6) Fran MERIDA

Appearance: 24Goals Scored: 1

Assists: 1
Atletico Madrid from Arsenal  Free

The young Spaniard may not have cost the club a transfer fee, but then again his displays when he has been used have been atypical of a season to forget for the capital outfit.

Brought in to bolster a squad that had secured Europa League and European Supercup victories, but he has never looked capable of ousting either Jose Reyes or Simao from the side, and even when the latter joined Besiktas his influence on the team has been minimal. Signed on a five-year deal but must vastly improve to remain a part of this side.

5) Diego GODIN

Appearances: 26Goals Scored: 1

Assists: 0
Atletico Madrid from Villarreal - £7.4m

Enjoyed a decent World Cup with a Uruguay side that reached the semi-finals of the tournament, and Atleti swooped to strengthen their defence that has been notoriously porous in recent years.

Despite a solid start, his confidence has waned as the season has developed, and the stopper has been unable to form a consistent partnership with any of his colleagues. £7.4m makes Godin one of the most expensive signings outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid - and he is not the first defender to fail to resolve Atleti's problems at the back.

4) Tiberio GUARENTE

Appearances: 10Goals Scored: 0

Assists: 1
Sevilla from Atlanta - £5.26m

Sevilla enjoyed a far from successful summer window, but the deal to bring Guarente to Andalucia has been disastrous in more ways than one.

The Italian arrived on a big contract for a decent fee, and after a slow start failed to impress the arriving Gregorio Manzano. His knee injury that wrecked his already dismal season was linked to a previous condition that Sevilla were not made aware of prior to his transfer. Gary Medel and Ivan Rakitic now employ the central positions - it is difficult to envisage a way back into the fold for the 25-year-old.

3) Sergio GARCIA

Appearances: 23Goals Scored: 3

Assists: 1
Espanyol from Betis - £1.75m

It is easy to forget that Garcia was once on the books of Barcelona, and was part of the Spain squad that triumphed at Euro 2008, because he has endured a desperately poor season for Espanyol after being rescued from the Segunda Division.

His performances have lacked in confidence, or indeed any cutting edge in the final third. His paltry three goals have came at the end of 3-0, 3-1, and 4-1 wins respectively, and when his team have needed him, particularly in the absence of Osvaldo, he has frequently failed to deliver.


Appearances: 16Goals Scored: 2

Assists: 1
Sevilla from Napoli - £263,000 (loan fee)

After turning in an inspired performance to defeat Barcelona in the first-leg of the Spanish Supercopa at the start of the season, many believed Cigarini to be the answer to Sevilla's lack of a genuine playmaker.

But the Italian had peaked. Fleeting substitute appearances followed the arrival of Gregorio Manzano in October, and the 24-year-old has been absent altogether since the beginning of January. Sevilla are required to pay £7m to retain him in the summer - a less likely deal in European football is hard to find.

1) Pedro LEON

Appearances: 12Goals Scored: 2

Assists: 0
Real Madrid from Getafe - £8.8m

From the sublime at Getafe, to stifled at Madrid; the 23-year-old has made next to no impact at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite the belief that he could an extremely useful squad acquisition for the capital club after a stunning 2009-10 campaign.

Managed to enrage Mourinho earlier in the season by refusing to follow his tactical instructions, and has subsequently failed to feature since January. Given the huge fee involved, it is difficult to see how Leon can rescue his career at the Santiago Bernabeu, certainly while the 'Special One' remains in the dugout.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

La Liga's 10 best transfers of the 2010-11 season

The 2010-11 season in Spanish football witnessed less transfer movement than normal, with teams opting to be more careful with their cash, but some big-name, high-priced risks were undertaken, and the gamble has paid off for the league's leading clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia were among the most active in acquiring fresh talent, and all three clubs are represented on our list below, which showcases the shrewdest signings of the campaign.

We judged the 10 best transfers for 2010-11 based on:
  • The player's overall contribution (this being the most important factor)
  • How the player fitted into his new line-up
  • How quickly the player adapted to his new surroundings, and vice-versa
  • The transfer fee paid, if any, and any other financial details known. (Transfer fees unconfirmed by either club or otherwise unknown are given as approximations and are marked in italics.)
Countdown of the ten best pieces of business from the 2010-11 Primera Division season.

10) Ivan RAKITIC

Appearances: 14
Goals Scored: 4

Assists: 3
Sevilla from Schalke - £1.3m

While Sevilla’s summer signings have failed to impress, January acquisition Rakitic has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival from Schalke. 

The stylish Croatian midfielder signed for a bargain price and settled in quickly at the Sanchez Pizjuan. He has been an important part of the Andalucian club’s revival in the second half of the campaign, scoring four goals – including the winner at Valencia recently – in 14 appearances. The best thing of all for Sevilla is the fact that he’s still only 23.

9) Felipe CAICEDO

Appearances: 24
Goals Conceded: 12

Clean Sheets: 2
Levante from Manchester City - Loan

Still a Manchester City player, Caicedo has spent the last three seasons on loan on the Iberian Peninsula. But following frustrating spells at both Sporting Lisbon and Malaga, the Ecuador forward has blossomed at Levante. 

His goals have helped the Valencia-based club punch above their weight and he has been an integral part of the side’s rise to the top half of the table, which includes a record run of results inferior only to those of Barcelona and Real Madrid since the halfway stage of the championship.

8) Pablo OSVALDO

Appearances: 18Goals Scored: 10

Assists: 0
Espanyol from Bologna - £4.4m

Osvaldo joined Espanyol on loan from Serie A side Bologna last season, before completing a permanent move to Cornella in the summer. 

The Argentina-born striker has been a revelation since then, scoring 10 times in 18 games to boost the Catalans’ hopes of a place in Europe next season. Back in the side following a two-month injury layoff – during which time he was sorely missed – Osvaldo bagged a superb brace in the 2-2 draw at home to Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

7) Tino COSTA

Appearances: 29Goals Scored: 6

Assists: 1
Valencia from Montpellier - £5.7m

Eyebrows were raised in Spain when Valencia paid Montpellier £5.7m for Tino Costa in the summer, but the Argentinian midfielder has proved a fine acquisition. 

Unai Emery’s side had been missing a dynamic midfielder and Costa has added a new dimension to the club’s play this term, while also chipping in with some stunning goals. These include excellent strikes against Bursaspor and Rangers in the Champions League, a 35-yard free kick in the win over Real Sociedad and a brilliant volley versus Getafe.

6) Roberto SOLDADO

Appearance: 38Goals Scored: 20

Assists: 3
Valencia from Getafe - £8.8m

Signed as a replacement for David Villa in the summer, along with team-mate Aritz Aduriz, Roberto Soldado has helped Valencia fans forget their former idol with a number of fine performances and plenty of goals. 

The former Getafe and Real Madrid forward netted six times as Valencia progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League and has scored 13 in La Liga, including seven in the last three games as Unai Emery’s side march on towards a second consecutive third-place finish.

5) Angel DI MARIA

Appearances: 47Goals Scored: 9

Assists: 18
Real Madrid from Benfica - £21.9m

Real Madrid’s most expensive signing in a summer of significant outlay, Angel di Maria cost the capital club £21.9m from Benfica. 

But the Argentina ace has repaid his fee with some excellent performances for Jose Mourinho’s side, netting important goals in both La Liga and the Champions League, as well as racking up an impressive total of 18 assists in all competitions for Madrid. Di Maria is still only 23 and looks set to remain a key player at the Santiago Bernabeu for many years to come.

4) David VILLA

Appearances: 42Goals Scored: 21

Assists: 9
Barcelona from Valencia - £35m

David Villa may have failed to score for the past 10 games, but the Spain striker – now La Roja’a all-time top goalscorer with 46 – has been forced to play out on the left flank for most of the season to allow Lionel Messi to start in a central role. 

In that less familiar position, Villa has still managed to contribute 21 goals and is a key element in the link-up play for Pep Guardiola side, who are still in with a chance of winning the treble this season.  

3) Borja VALERO

Appearances: 48Goals Scored: 5

Assists: 11
Villarreal from West Bromich Albion - £4.4m

Real Madrid may well see Borja Valero as the one that got away. The midfielder was never given a chance in the first team at the Santiago Bernabeu, but has been hugely impressive in the last two seasons. 

Borja cost Villarreal a mere £4.4m from West Brom last summer, having spent last season on loan at Mallorca, and has been a revelation for the Yellow Submarine playing behind the strikers. He even earned a call-up to the Spain side in October, which is no mean feat these days.

2) Ricardo CARVALHO

Appearances: 42Goals Scored: 3

Assists: 0
Real Madrid from Chelsea - £7m 

A key player for Jose Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea, Ricardo Carvalho joined up with his compatriot for a third time in the summer as he sealed an £7m move from west London. 

The Portugal defender impressed instantly and has been a fixture in the Madrid defence ever since. The 32-year-old has also scored three goals this season, including a vital winner over Osasuna early in the campaign, and looks good for more than another year at the capital club.

1) Mesut OZIL

Appearances: 45Goals Scored: 10

Assists: 18
Real Madrid from Werder Bremen - £13.1m

Mesut Ozil has quietly gone about his business since a £13.1m move from Werder Bremen in the summer. But that fee now seems a bargain: Ozil has scored 10 goals and set up 18 this season. 

Madrid just look a better side when he is on the pitch, which was proved as he came off the bench to help his team clinch a 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona on Saturday. 

Still only 22, the German looks set to star at the Bernabeu for many years to come.



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