Barcelona fans unfurl FIFA-defying tifo


See that, Sepp Blatter? You don’t mess with Barcelona!

In response to FIFA handing the Catalan heavyweights a one-year transfer ban for violating international transfer rules regarding minors, the fans at the Camp Nou unfurled a giant, defiant tifo ahead of their match against Real Betis. It read: “La Masia No Es Toca,” or “La Masia is not to be touched.”

La Masia, of course, is Barcelona’s fabled youth academy that has been dragged in the mud a little bit as a result of the ban. Though FIFA will not bat an eyelash to this display, one thing it really can’t touch is the academy’s greatest ever product - Lionel Messi - who scored twice in a 3-1 win.


Images: Reuters


Bologna forgets to pick up new signing from airport


Just before the January transfer window closed, Bologna signed Brazilian midfielder Ibson from Corinthians. While they got the paperwork for the deal completed ahead of the deadline, the club forgot another very, very important detail: to pick up their newest player from the airport.

According to Italian media outlet TMW, Ibson arrived at the airport in Italy and not a single representative from the club was there to greet him. Four members of the technical staff were also reportedly suspended because of the incident.

How embarrassing. Ibson might be having second thoughts about signing for the Serie A strugglers.

(H/T r/soccer)

Image courtesy of Getty Images


Manchester United set to enter Kroos control

Just a couple of days remain before the January transfer window slams shut, and the rumor merry-go-round is certainly in full swing.

One of the main protagonists of this transfer window has been David Moyes’ Manchester United, following their early-season struggles. They don’t look likely to stop spending after snaring Juan Mata from rivals Chelsea, and now they’re looking at another world class midfielder.

Pep Guardiola has admitted that Toni Kroos can leave Bayern Munich, opening the door to a move to Old Trafford.

Also in today’s round-up, there’s news of an alleged Arsenal bid for Julian Draxler from Schalke. Read about it and more on today’s Paper Chase.


Philadelphia anchors its midfield with Maurice Edu


Philadelphia pursued Maurice Edu for the better part of the January transfer window. Club officials waded through the thicket of MLS regulations and wondered if Edu’s price tag would eventually scupper the deal. They pursued it anyways with the prospect of installing the United States international in the starting XI too promising to ignore.

The process took a bit longer than anticipated, but the Union finally secured its man on Monday. Edu returned to MLS on a 12-month loan deal with an option for a permanent move at the end of the agreement. The terms of his contract with MLS and the Union will make him a Designated Player in 2014, according to a club release.

Edu’s arrival in Philadelphia reflects a pragmatic streak from all of the parties involved. The public spat over Edu’s asking price for a permanent contract and MLS’ reluctance to meet it inspired a creative approach to strike a deal the Union desperately wanted to happen. Stoke’s desire to retain a portion of Edu’s wages paved the way for an inventive agreement designed to satisfy Edu and both clubs.

Philadelphia continues its midfield revamp by adding a player capable of dictating and driving the proceedings from a deep-lying position. Edu controls the game by disrupting the opposition and shuttling the ball onward to his more creative teammates. His robust work offers a different dimension and some much needed protection to an evolving side with Argentine schemer Cristian Maidana already in tow and French conduit Vincent Nogueira in talks to claim the Union’s third and final Designated Player spot.

By reinforcing its midfield, the Union places Edu in a position to thrive ahead of the World Cup. This group possesses the depth and the versatility to accentuate Edu’s strengths without asking him to accept a disproportionate burden. Edu must shake off any lingering rust from his time in the shadows and show the necessary sharpness to influence games, but this set of circumstances provides him with the best possible chance to impress USA coach Jürgen Klinsmann and work his way back into the national team setup over the next few months.

Only time will tell whether Edu can book a trip to Brazil with his displays for the Union. For now, he will take solace in a deal designed to place himself and his new club in a position to succeed in 2014.

Image provide by USA TODAY Sports.


Arsene Wenger plays coy with media over Julian Draxler speculation

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice?

Last summer, Arsene Wenger stunned us all by breaking the bank for Mesut Ozil on transfer deadline day, after weeks of steadfastly denying that any deals were even in the works.

So we probably shouldn’t take Wenger at his word this time around. After Friday’s FA Cup win over Coventry City, the Gunners boss said there is “nothing at all” to report on Arsenal’s hotly rumored negotiations with Schalke regarding German international Julian Draxler.

Yeah, sure thing, Arsene. We “believe” you.


Come on, that’s as guilty a look as we’ve ever seen.

Draxler might indeed not come to Arsenal in this window, though the German starlet reportedly is very eager to do so. Schalke wouldn’t do themselves any favors by selling their best player while fighting for a Champions League spot next season, although they did the same with Lewis Holtby a year ago. At the very least, however, there must be something going on between the two clubs.

In fact, we’ve already seen reports that a fee has already been agreed upon for the 20-year-old, rumored to be between $50 to $60 million.


Real Madrid to raid Manchester United for Rooney


While the potential Juan Mata move from London to Manchester grabs the headlines, it seems that a giant of football is waiting in the wings to capitalize. Mata seems destined for Manchester United, but could a star be shipped out to accommodate him?

It seems likely, and considering Real Madrid’s lure, who could forgive Wayne Rooney for having his head turned? He’s hankered for a move twice during his Manchester stay, but this January could finally see Rooney spread his wings and join a star-studded Bernabeu cast.

Also in our morning British paper round-up is an update on the Mata situation, a potential midfielder moving to Liverpool, Arsenal preparing a bid for Julian Draxler and plenty, plenty more at the click of a button.


Should MLS allow Philadelphia Union to sign Maurice Edu as a Designated Player?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Consider the plight of Maurice Edu as the first significant repercussion from Toronto FC’s lavish outlay on Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe.

Edu has expressed interest in ending his time at Stoke City and returning to MLS in a bid to boost his hopes of playing in the World Cup. His yearly wages at Stoke fall in the region of $1.5 million, a fair number given his status as a Premier League squad player and a significant chunk of change in the MLS sphere.

In these sorts of situations, MLS often coaxes players into a discount in line with their value within the salary budget system. Michael Parkhurst – a similarly situated player in the national team pool and on the fringes of the squad at Bundesliga side FC Augsburg – agreed to terms on a deal that will pay him in excess of $300,000 this season and landed in Columbus on Monday. Parkhurst’s deal is healthy by MLS standards, but it still represents a pay cut from his European wages.

Edu, however, wants to remain in the same bracket if he returns home. His asking price – in the region of $1.2 million – makes him a Designated Player. Under most circumstances, league executives would not countenance such a deal. They would either mandate a lower price point more in line with their perception of the market or table the interest until such a point was reached.

Read More


Michael Bradley chooses MLS challenge over uncertain place at Roma


LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Michael Bradley was forced to assess his future at the start of the January transfer window.. Frustrated by his place in Roma’s midfield pecking order, he wondered if he needed to move to another club to obtain a larger role within the squad.

Then, he surprisingly received the offer of a lifetime from Toronto FC to resolve the matter. The entire package – a central role in the side, a chance to cure TFC’s protracted struggles and a long-term, lucrative contract to secure his future – simply proved too much to resist.

“Listen, at a certain point, I felt the need to at least start looking around a little bit to see what other options were going to be out there,” Bradley told FOX Soccer in a phone interview after his unveiling on Monday morning. “I started to realize that Toronto was a really serious option. When I spoke with (MLSE honcho) Tim Leiweke, (Toronto FC general manager) Tim Bezbatchenko and (TFC coach) Ryan Nelsen, I just got a sense right away that these guys were motivated and committed to building something real and something special in this city. They wanted me to be a big part of that. It’s a challenge I’m very motivated for.”

The move is a jarring conclusion to Bradley’s tenure in European football, a measured climb since he moved from the Metrostars to Dutch side Heerenveen in 2006. Bradley admitted he would not have expected to return to MLS at this stage of his career a few years ago, but he cited the improvement of the league (“In a lot of ways, the league that I left and the league I am coming back to are two totally different things,” he said) and the opportunity presented to him in Toronto as factors in his decision to return to North America.

Bradley’s looming commitments in Brazil also played a part in the swap.

Read More


Defoe headed to the MLS, Mata to Madrid

Not content with shocking the world of soccer with the supposedly imminent signing of USA’s finest midfielder Michael Bradley, Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC are closing in on a move for another international, this time England and Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe.

The striker has Premier League, World Cup and European experience, so should rip up the MLS if he joins. Elsewhere, unsettled Chelsea star Juan Mata is now on the radar for a return to Real Madrid, who he left as a youth star years ago. We think he’d fit right in.

You can read more on those two rumors, as well as many, many more, in a packed edition of Paper Chase.


Premier League giants Chelsea close on Guarin deal?


Chelsea appear to have been big admirers of Guarin for some time and it looks like they may finally be getting their man. The Stamford Bridge outfit don’t appear to be short on midfielders but with the Colombian’s instrumental performance in the Milan derby he could’ve just won over manager Jose Mourinho. 

For this story and the rest of Tuesday’s transfer gossip, click here.