With all eyes focussed on Poland and Ukraine, it would be easy to assume that there is nothing else happening in the world of football at the moment. Fantastic as it is to have a month of practically non-stop, international football to wile away the evenings with, particularly since Euro 2012 has so far provided fantastic entertainment and bags of goals, the wheels are still turning domestically and, quite frankly, a lot has happened since the end of the Barclays Premier League 11/12 season. This is a brief summary of the more notable happenings which have occurred while most of us have had our heads turned towards Eastern Europe.
As ever in the summer, clubs take stock of the season just past and determine whether they achieved their aims, got to where they wanted to be and if they are prepared to continue in the same vein for, at least, the foreseeable future. Should the hierarchy at a club decide that change is needed to carry things further or to radically alter said club’s fortunes, inevitably it will be the manager who becomes the first to go.
Plenty of gaffers have bitten the dust since May 13th. Some would have seen the shape of things to come and wouldn’t have been too shocked, if disappointed, to have been collecting their P45s. For others, the news would have been a little more unexpected and certainly, no less gut-wrenching. Three remaining Premier League clubs have pointed their gaffers towards the exit door for the last time in the month since the final whistle of the last campaign, namely: Liverpool, Aston Villla and Tottenham Hotspur. They said good-bye to Kenny Dalglish, Alex McCleish and Harry Redknapp respectively, with Dalglish and McCleish leaving almost immediately following the final day and Harry Redknapp getting his marching orders just last night.
Of course, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity and, when heads roll in football, just as in other businesses, a shinier, newer and hopefully better replacement must be found to step in to the breach, who, in turn, leaves a vacancy at the club from which he has departed. After a lengthy interview process, involving much media speculation and after agreeing a compensation package of around £4million with Swansea, Liverpool welcomed Brendan Rodgers to the Anfield hot-seat. The man from Northern Ireland worked wonders with the Swans last term and is one of the most highly respected young managers in the game, any doubters over his appointment were, I’m sure, placated and encouraged by the masterful way that he dealt with his first press conference as the new boss.
After much huff and puff between the two clubs over a compensation payment, Norwich reluctantly agreed to let their manager, Paul Lambert, move on to Aston Villa, in the wake of McCleish’s demise. Lambert, who won two promotions in two years before guiding Norwich through a fantastic Premier League season, is believed to have cost Randy Lerner at least £3.5 million in compensation. However Lambert’s reputation and steely determination, as well as his footballing philosophy, make his capture something of a coup for the sleeping Midlands giants.
As mentioned above, Harry Redknapp has just lost his job so no new boss is in place at White Hart Lane yet. For many Redknapp’s sacking has come as a surprise given the club’s improvement under his tenure, however Redknapp himself is philosophical about the situation and claims that it was certainly no shock to him. One other manager to have departed a Premier League club is Roy Hodgson. The veteran’s contract was up at the Hawthorns and, after an excellent season, the West Brom boss was asked by the F.A. to become the new England manager. A post which he gratefully accepted. Another former Albion boss who’s moved up in the world is Roberto di Matteo. The Italian’s successful spell at Chelsea, following the sacking of Andre Villas Boas, has led to him being handed the managerial position on a permanent basis. Di Matteo, who secured the F.A. Cup and the Champions’ League last term, has signed a two year contract at Stamford Bridge.
So the merry go round keeps spinning and those departures have left holes at several notable clubs. Swansea have appointed Michael Laudrup as boss according to reports. The Dane was considered one of Europe’s bright young managerial stars before ill-fated spells at Mallorca and Spartak Moscow, but his short-passing ,attacking style should suit the Swans to a tee. David Moyes and Roberto Martinez are the bookies’ favourites to take over at White Hart Lane, however, there’s a sneaking suspicion that Rafa Benitez may slide in under the radar, which would be excellent news for Spurs.
Meanwhile former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton, who had a very good season with Birmingham last term, losing out on promotion in the play-offs, has been confirmed as the new boss at Norwich City. The Canaries moved quickly to fill the vacancy laft by Lambert’s departure from Carrow Road and in Hughton they have a very promising young manager. Steve Clarke, who left Liverpool following Rodgers’ appointment as manager, has taken over from Roy Hodgson at the Hawthorns. Clarke, who was assistant to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and number two to Kenny Dalglish at Anfield, makes the step-up to take on the top job for the first time in his career.
There are a few transfers, both in and out, that have also taken place since last season came to a close. Some were agreed prior to the finale of the last campaign, such as that of Marko Marin from Werder Bremen to Chelsea for a fee of 9.8million euro and Lukasz Podolski from Cologne to Arsenal for 13million euro, the rest have all taken place within the last month. Here are some of the main movers so far.
As well as signing Marin from Bremen, Chelsea have completed the signing of the heavily courted Eden Hazard from Lille. The London club have paid 40million euro for the French playmaker’s services, an investment that they hope will bear fruit immediately. Aston Villa have completed the free transfer of Australian forward Brett Holman from AZ Alkmaar, he caught the eye with a fantastic goal against Valencia in the Europa League last season and Villa will be hoping he can produce similar moments of quality in claret and blue. Arsene Wenger is on the verge of completing a deal for Montpelier striker Olivier Giroud. The tall front-man starred as the team from the south captured the Ligue 1 title last season, scoring 21 goals and it is believed that Arsenal eill pay 15million euro to secure the Frenchman’s services.
Manchester United have signed youngster Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra for an undisclosed fee, as well as capturing, Japanese dynamo, Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund for a fee of 15million euro. Kagawa was wanted by several high profile clubs and United will be happy to get their man, bolstering an iffy midfield which relied heavily on 37 year old veteran Paul Scholes in the second half of last season. Also at United, starlet Paul Pogba has been allowed to leave the club and has joined Juventus.
Newcastle United have captured Roman Amalfitano from Reims on a free transfer, as the scouting machine at St. James’s Park which uncovered such gems as Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cisse, looks to secure another cost effective revelation. QPR have made Samba Diakite’s loan spell at the club permanent, securing the player from Nancy with a deal worth 4million euro. Diakite who shone in the African Cup of Nations arrived at Loftus Road after Mark Hughes appointment in January. Back in the Premier League after an absence of seven seasons, Southampton have succeeded in signing long-term target Jay Rodriguez from Burnley. The 22 year old, who scored 21 goals last season, has been on Nigel Adkins’s radar for over a year and with a club record fee of £7million having been accepted by Burnley, the Saints finally have their man.
Meanwhile Gylfi Sigurdsson looks certain to snub Swansea for move to Liverpool. The Icelandic player was on loan at the Liberty in the second half of last season and Brendan Rodgers was instrumental in setting up the deal which would have brought him to Wales permanently. However, Rodgers’s subsequent move to Anfield put the deal on hold and Sigurdsson has now said that Liverpool is his preferred destination. Joe Cole will also make a return to the club after spending a successful season on loan at Ligue 1 side Lille. New boss Brendan Rodgers has spoken to the former Chelsea player, who is keen to prove himself at Liverpool after a dismal start to his Anfield career, and it seems that Rodgers will give him the chance to do just that. Finally, last but by no means least, Dirk Kuyt has left the Anfield club, moving to Fenerbahce in Turkey. The 32 year old spent six years at the club and scored 51 goals.
Plenty of goings on in the Barclays Premier League, as the action never stops. That was a round-up of the major developments of the summer so far. With still two months to go til next season gets underway and even longer still until the transfer window closes, there’s sure to be plenty more intriguing movement before the summer is out. Watch this space for details!
Rodgers image by Strabanephotos. Hughton image by blenky64.
Marin image by 2e14 aka Benjamin Radzun