22 May 2006

Transfer News Roundup: Monday

A good morning to you all. Despite reaching the end of the club season, it's a busy time for soccer news. The World Cup finals are less than three weeks away which of course keeps things hopping. More importantly, because of the world cup. much of the transfer news is getting fleshed out early. So, nothing earth-shattering as of yet, but there are a few juicy tidbits.

Let's start with Arsenal (of course) and some more about Thierry Henry. Of course he did agree to a four-year deal with Arsenal last Friday. Gunners everywhere rejoiced. Not only is he a fantastic player, the kind who can lift a whole team onto his shoulders at times, but he's also a class act. His comments at the news conference were like music to the fans' ears, complimenting the club, the fans, and English soccer as a whole. He was relaxed and happy in the news conference, and that as much as anything made for a happy weekend for Gunners fans. He declared that "I think with my heart and my heart told me to stay," and what Gunner wouldn't love him for that?

Evidently the club agrees. The stories out yesterday stated that Aresnal rejected two £50m bids for Henry, from Barcelona and Real Madrid of course. That's a record for a transfer fee, a crazy sum of money. With the two Spanish giants bidding against each other, who knows if the price would have risen? And yet the club chose to keep Henry over such financial windfall. And of course it's the right decision, even beyond the pitch. Having Henry in an Arsenal shirt guarantees publicity and worldwide fandom for the club. I suspect we'll see even more TH14 jerseys this summer.

Other Arsenal transfer news is developing too. There's no news on either Robert Pires or Ashley Cole, so we'll just have to wait on those. There is a story circulating that Sol Campbell is moving to Fenerbahce for something like £8m. It's unlikely that the club would turn down a bid like that, but it's also a bit difficult to believe that it's accurate. That price is too high for the current value. Still, Campbell appears to have worn out his welcome with the club and it would not be surprising to see him leave. Toure and Senderos are the clear first-choice defensive partnership. Pascal Cygan is still around, and Johann Djourou has been promising so far as a substitute. That's perhaps not as much cover as one would like, but maybe another signing is close, or perhaps Mathieu Flamini will now reveal his skills in central defense.

So we'll see what happens. Of course the biggest transfer news so far is that German star Michael Ballack has signed with Chelsea. He's a great player and will add to Chelsea's quality, but the real debate now is how will Ballack share time with Frank Lampard? This presents a selection and tactics problem for Jose Mourinho. He'll face some pressure to find space for both in the lineup, but at what cost for the team's tactics? It's easy to forget, but the pre-Mourinho Chelsea of 03/04 had essentially the same talent as today, but suffered immensely from an unsettled lineup and player squabbling. That's the risk that Chelsea face, and it's always possible that a signing like this will upset the apple-cart.

Chelsea are the focus of other transfer rumors too, notably the perennial speculation around Andriy Shevchenko, and the dissatisfaction of Shaun Wright-Phillips. Manchester United have the future of Ruud van Nistelrooy to consider, while Liverpool have been relatively quiet in the rumor front. Many rumors swirl around Wigan, beginning with Pascal Chimbonda's ill-timed transfer request. It's no surprise that Wigan's success has brought attention to their crop of players, and it's understandable that they would look to move into more prominent clubs. Still, Wigan have been a wonderful story for the past season, and it would be unfortunate to see that success put at risk with many players leaving. Here's hoping that they're able to solve that issue.

That's probably enough highlights for now. I plan to give a season recap for both Arsenal and the Premiership as a whole, perhaps in a week or so. In the meantime we have World Cup preparations to consider. The US have left training camp and have three preparatory friendlies before heading to Germany. They play Morocco on Tuesday in Nashville, Venezuela on Friday in Cleveland, and Latvia on Sunday in Connecticut. I'll be going to the Morocco match with the other Dave, and so I'll give a full report on the US Men's Team after that.

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