Archive for the ‘Premier League’ Category

(Updated) Connecting The Dots: Ronaldo’s Effect on Bradley Transfer Prospects

July 30, 2008

(MUNICH, July 29th, 2008) Today Real Madrid made it clear that they are no longer interested in signing Dutch ace Rafeal Van Der Vaart from Hamburger SV as an alternative to Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo. According to Real President Ramón Calderón, its Ronaldo or no one – they think their 85 million euro bid may still be workable.

Hamburg had been considering signing Heerenveen’s American midfielder Michael Bradley in the event Van Der Vaart was sold to Real Madrid for an estimated 12 million euros. Unless another club swoops in for Van Der Vaart, Bradley’s door to Hamburg appears to be closing.

Bradley has voiced a desire to play in England where Middelsbrough and Everton are keen to sign him but little is known of any negotiations taking place with the Premiership clubs. Interest in recent weeks has also been coming from continental clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco (which reportedly offered 8.5 million euros). Leverkusen appears to be cooling on Bradley as their prime target for attacking midfield is now Fluminense’s Thiago Neves (who is also being pursued by Tottenham Hotspur). So, With Bradley’s Bundesliga options appearing to narrow, it now looks like his main options are in England or on the Cote d’Azur with AS Monaco.

UPDATE: After several statements from Real Madrid (which appeared in the Spanish Marca and Financial Times Deutschland), that the club had written off Van Der Vaart as an option, it now appears the Dutch midfielder may be on his way to the Bernabeu after all. The “off the table” language used by Real President Ramon Calderon not two days ago (in their game of financial chicken with Hamburg) has been replaced by statements that indicate a deal is near. Now, papers such as Die Welt, and Focus are commenting on the 180 by Calderon asking whether it was all to get the price he wanted or a power play with a club Real does not see as their equal. Either way, you fooled us Mr. Calderon!

What this means is that Hamburger SV remains a viable option for Bradley but now another door appears to be closing. Word out of Monaco this afternoon is that they agreed on terms to acquire Bordeux’s midfielder Alejandro Alonso (believed to be their plan B if Bradley was too expensive). So, Bradley’s options remain open in England and Germany but Monaco now seems to be off the list. Still, much could change in the next few weeks as the dust starts to clear on another transfer season.

The Evolution of US Soccer Players in Europe: Part I

July 18, 2008

While players are now reporting to their European clubs’ preseason training camps, we’re all still following the movement of American players between various clubs. This got me thinking that after 20 years of following the fortunes of US players in Europe (9 of them as a reporter), its hard not to notice the evolution of the American presence in the European game. So, let’s take a look back and see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and what progress is yet to be made.

1980s: The Trailblazers

The NASL went defunct in 1984 so young American players wanting to play at a higher level had a choice; go to a college team, play in a US semi-pro league, or try heading to Europe. But heading to Europe was no easy task since few clubs were interested in experimenting with unknown quantities, especially from a country without a soccer culture. For the time, it was comparable to an English youngster wanting to try out with a major league baseball team.

But some young Americans were starting to get noticed since US players became much more visible in the 1980s. The US played in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic soccer competitions as well as the 1987 Pan-American Games, in addition to a number of lesser international tournaments. In 1986, Bundesliga side Hamburger SV took notice of Paul Caligiuri and brought him to the team where he never managed to break into the lineup. Later, in 1988, he was transferred to Second Bundesliga side SV Meppen where he played for the next two seasons.

Around the same time, Brent Goulet, the 1987 US Player of the Year, moved to English lower division side AFC Bournemouth and later to Crew Alexandra where he scored three goals in 1988. Goulet later moved to Germany where he played on several second and third division teams for the next decade. While other US players received interest from European clubs, few teams seemed willing to make the investment.

Post-1990: Establishing A Toehold

Thanks to a wonder-strike by Caligiuri, the US qualified for its first World Cup in 40 years in 1990 and while the US team did not win a game, scouts at Italia 1990 took notice of several players. What they found were players with decent skills and a good work ethic available at bargain basement prices. Tab Ramos was signed by Spanish second division side Figueras and later moved to Real Betis while John Doyle went to Sweden to play for Örgryte IS. Hugo Perez ended up at Red Star Paris and later joined Doyle at Örgryte IS – the first European squad to have two Americans on its roster.

Among the higher profile US players of the era, John Harkes signed on with English second division side Sheffield Wednesday and helped the team to win the 1991 League Cup Final where they defeated Manchester United 1-0. In 1992, a young keeper named Kasey Keller started a four-year stint at another English side, Milwall, where he earned praise from the club’s faithful and opponents alike.

At the same time, Cobi Jones was struggling to get playing time at Coventry City but still managed to score nine goals in 28 appearances from 1992-1995. The South African-born Roy Wegerle became an American citizen in 1991 while playing for first division side Queen’s Park Rangers where he scored 29 goals in 65 appearances from 1990-1992. He later played for Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City, as well as the US national team.

Overall, most of these players went to second division sides but the biggest impact was felt in Germany where a few American players made their mark. By 1991, Caligiuri had moved to FC Hansa Rostock in eastern Germany, a team he would help to win the final East German championship before the league was disbanded . A year later, Kaiserslautern’s star midfielder Tom Dooley become an American citizen – further raising the profile of American players in Germany. All the while, Chad Deering spent three years, from 1990-1993, in the Werder Bremen system before moving to Schalke 04.

The one American player that made the Germans sit up and take notice was Eric Wynalda who was loaned by the US Soccer to FC Saarbrucken, a Bundesliga club. He made an immediate impact scoring nine goals in his first 10 games before opposing defenders started marking him more closely. In 1994, young Americans Brian McBride and Mike Lapper signed with the Second Bundesliga’s VFL Wolfsburg.

Around the same time, the US Men’s Team started not just showing well but actually beating a few major teams including a 2-0 home win over England in 1993. Instead of ignoring the US as a source of potential talent, some in Europe started to take a closer look. Fluke or no fluke, there must have been something going on in US Soccer. Thus, a toehold was established in the European game but few , mostly the naturalized Americans, were with top-flight teams and not all legionaires across the Atlantic were seeing regular playing time.

Coming This Week: Part II: Post-1994 World Cup: Breaking Into First Division Soccer

Comments, Questions, Ideas? courtitalia@yahoo.it

Copyright Chris Courtney 2008

Aston Villa Eyes Three American Players

July 10, 2008


Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill is looking to strengthen his squad on the defensive end which has him targetting a number of players, including three Americans.
The team needs a roster deep enough in quality to hold its own in League and European play this season. “I would hope for us to have a real proper squad, at least the size of, say, Everton. “We need players and we know what we have to do,’’ he said. “We’re continuing to work on other deals. We have many things going on at this moment” said O’Neill.

In looking for help on defense, he is targetting Shefffield Wednesday’s American Frank Simek, along with West Ham’s Anton Ferdinand, among others. Villa is also considering signing either US and Chivas USA’s Brad Guzan, or Blackburn’s US international Brad Friedel. The Guzan-Friedel consideration is believed to be an either/or choice since it may be difficult to make room for both.

O’Neill remarked that “we are hoping to resolve the goalkeeping situation pretty soon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we’ve got a small squad and we don’t really want to be going into this season facing up to games with what we had on the pitch being what we have.”

All the while, Simek told the BBC yesterday that he does not know when he will be fit enough to play again since he he still recovering from a serious ankle injury. He missed the last half of last season after suffering serious ligament damage during a road game at Crystal Palace in December 2007.

At the same time, Wednesday chief Brian Laws has dismissed reports linking Simek with a move to Aston Villa. Laws told BBC Radio Sheffield that they have received no approach from Aston Villa. He remarked that “Aston Villa have never even made contact, there’s no truth in the matter.”

In other tranfer news, Heerenveen’s Michael Bradley has told the Dutch press that he “wants to play in a big league and prefers to play in England.” The 20-year-old American is still considering offers from AS Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Blackburn Rovers, and Middelsbrough.