Tag Archives: Nani

Top Ten Most Expensive Footballers On The Planet

Brazilian sports business consultants – Pluri Consultoria – have this week published online a list of world football’s most valuable player (MVP).

Its no real surprise that the top three are the three players contending Ballon d’Or – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. Further down the list Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Manchester United’s Nani makes an appearance, while the highest value Premier League player is Wayne Rooney.

In today’s Picture Special, we have a look at the top ten most expensive footballers on the planet, according to Pluri Consultoria..

1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona | €140 million)

Lionel-Messi

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid | €96.6 million)

cristiano-ronaldo

3. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona | €68.4 million)

Andres-Iniesta

4. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United | €60.2 million)

Wayne-Rooney

5. Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid | €56.1 million)

radamel-falcao

6. Neymar (Santos | €55 million)

neymar

7. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City | €53.7 million)

sergio-aguero

8. Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona | €51 million)

cesc-fabregas

8. David Silva (Manchester City | €51 million)

David-Silva

10. Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid | €44 million)

Mesut-Ozil

Rest of the list.. 

11. Eden Hazard (Chelsea | €43.7 million)
12. Angel Di María (Real Madrid| €43.6 million)
13. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid | €42.5 million)
14. Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain | €40.5 million)
15. Sergio Busquets (Barcelona | €40 million)
16. Gerard Piqué (Barcelona | €39.5 million)
17. Hulk (Zenit St Petersburg | €39.4 million)
18. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur | €39 million)
18. Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich | €39 million)
20. Juan Mata (Chelsea | €38.7 million)
21. Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid | €38.5 million)
21. Robin Van Persie (Manchester United | €38.5 million)
23. Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich | €38 million)
23. Luka Modric (Real Madrid | €38 million)
25. Lucas Moura (Paris Saint-Germain | €37.3 million)
26. Nani (Manchester United | €35.9 million)
27. Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona | €35.5 million)
27. Edinson Cavani (Napoli | €35.5 million)
27. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City | €35.5 million)
30. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid | €34.6 million)
31. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich | €34.5 million)
32. Yaya Toure (Manchester City | €34 million)
33. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich | €33.8 million)
34. Mario Balotelli (Manchester City | €33.5 million)
35. Oscar (Chelsea | €33.1 million)
36. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-German | €32.6 million)
37. Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma | €32.5 million)
37. Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund | €32.5 million)
39. Ramires (Chelsea | €32 million)
40. Edin Dzeko (Manchester City | €31.7 million)
41. Luis Suarez (Liverpool | €31.5 million)
41. Marcelo (Real Madrid | €31.5 million)
41. Xavi (Barcelona | €31.5 million)
44. Fernando Llorente (Atletic Bilbao | €31 million)
45. Fernando Torres (Chelsea | €30.6 million)
46. Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain | €30.5 million)
47. Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain | €30.2 million)
47. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid | €30.2 million)
49. Axel Witsel (Zenit St Petersburg | €29.5 million)
50. Dani Alves (Barcelona | €29 million)
51. Arturo Vidal (Juventus | €28.5 million)
52. Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich | €28.5 million)
53. Pepe (Real Madrid | €28.3 million)
54. Claudio Marchisio (Juventus | 28 million)
54. Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan | €28 million)
54. Javier Mascherano (Barcelona | €28 million)
54. Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund | €28 million)
54. Pedro (Barcelona | €28 million)
59. Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund | €27.5 million)
60. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid | €27.5 million)

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Manchester City v Manchester United Preview

City-Utd

The first Manchester derby of the season is here as Manchester City and Manchester United resume their rivalry on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium which could provide vital momentum in the title race.

Roberto Mancini’s City emerged victorious in both the Premier League encounters last season, winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at home before winning the title in the most dramatic style on the final day of the season.

The reigning champions have made a decent start to the defence of their crown and remain unbeaten after 15 games, but it is United who have a three-point advantage at the top of the table ahead of Sunday’s meeting. There have been indications that it is already a two-horse race for the Premier League title, with others rivals – Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool – struggling for consistency.

City’s participation in the Champions League and even Europe came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Bundesliga champions – Borussia Dortmund in the midweek, while they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton last weekend after a less than impressive performance. United, on the other, were also beaten 1-0 (at home) by CFR Cluj but had already won the group so Sir Alex Ferguson was able to rotate his squad. The 19-time league champions overcame Reading 4-3 last weekend and have been in superb form going forward all season, but it was yet another match in which they fell behind and this time not once but twice.

Ferguson will surely be demanding greater concentration against a team that has the best defensive record in the league and haven’t lost a single game at home since December 2010. The Scot says it would be one of United’s best-ever results if they can win on Sunday.

TEAM NEWS

Manchester City

City’s influential playmaker David Silva will be given every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Manchester derby at home. The Spanish international missed the Champions League loss to Dortmund with a hamstring injury but remains in contention and is batting to take part on Sunday. Aleksandar Kolarov has been ruled out with a groin problem and Micah Richards (knee) is still sidelined. Gael Clichy (ankle) and Jack Rodwell (hamstring) both should be available for selection, while James Milner (hamstring) is likely to miss out.

Manchester United

Tom Cleverley is doubtful for Manchester United after limping out in the first half of the game against Cluj and will have a scan on his calf injury. Sir Alex Ferguson has also revealed that Shinji Kagawa and Nemanja Vidic (both) are struggling to be fit in time for the derby and may completely be ready for the Sunderland game. Antonio Valencia (thigh), Nani and Anderson (both hamstring) have been ruled out of the important clash, while the likes of Robin van Persie and Patrice Evra are set to return to the starting XI after being rested in midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 164
Manchester City Wins – 46
Draw – 50
Manchester United Wins – 68

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

30-Apr-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
08-Jan-12 – FA Cup – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
23-Oct-11 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
07-Aug-12 – Community Shield – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
16-Apr-11 – FA Cup – Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Manchester City – LDWDD
The Citizens have been unbeaten in the league so far this season and are just three points behind leaders Manchester United in the standings. But they have won just once and drawn thrice in their last five games in all competitions, with the only win coming at Wigan. A win on Sunday will take them above United in the league table on goal difference.

04-Dec-12 – Champions League – Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Manchester City
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Manchester City 1-1 Everton
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester City
25-Nov-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City
21-Nov-12 – Champions League – Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid

Manchester United – LWWWL
The Red Devils come into this match on the back of three consecutive wins in the Premier League and are sitting three points clear of their opponents at the top of the table. But they haven’t hit top gear and their defensive frailties have already been exposed. A win on Sunday will be massive one and will take them six points clear of City at the top.

05-Dec-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj
01-Dec-12 – Premier League – Reading 3-4 Manchester United
28-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
24-Nov-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
20-Nov-12 – Champions League – Galatasaray 1-0 Manchester United

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The Belgium international scored the only goal in last season’s 1-0 win over United at the Etihad stadium – which won them the title – and was also as solid as rock at the back. The club captain is an inspirational presence for Roberto Mancini, and his match-up against Robin van Persie will see arguably two of the best players in their respective positions battling in a mouth-watering clash. How he copes with the Dutchman and what he can offer going forward will be the key to the outcome of the game, but one thing is for sure – if Kompany is on form, City are a very hard team to beat.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
All eyes have been on Robin van Persie this season, and – even Javier Hernandez has gone past Wayne Rooney in the goal-scoring charts, but numbers alone do not tell the full influence of the 27-year-old on his side. With the Dutch forward being the target man of the strike force, Rooney will certainly drop deeper when United lose possession, and will try to create chances from further back in the final third. His work rate and distribution are very important in clashes like these, and with two strikes in his last league game at Reading, the England forward may be in line for a hot goal-scoring streak.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany (C), Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry; David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri; Sergio Aguero.

City XI

City manager Roberto Mancini is likely to recall Yaya Toure back to the squad after resting him for the Champions League game against Dortmund, while David Silva may well recover from his hamstring injury in time for the big game. Joe Hart continues in goal as Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic will play ahead of him in centre of the defence. Aleksandar Kolarov (groin) has been ruled out, which means Gael Clichy could be rushed back after recovering from his ankle injury, but should he not be ready Joleon Lescott could slot in or Pablo Zabaleta could switch sides win Maicon coming in on the right side. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure are expected to shield the defence as Silva, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri could play in a more advance role. Sergio Aguero is likely to lead the line for the hosts, with both Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko coming off the bench at some point during the game.

Manchester United (4-3-3): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Ashley Young.

United XI

Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to continue with David De Gea in goal after the keeper made his return to first team action against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra are all expected to be back in defence after being rested during the midweek defeat at home. With Valencia and Nani both out, United are expected to play with the same formation (4-3-3) that won at Reading. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes will make the three-man midfield with Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young further up the pitch, playing on either side of Robin van Persie. Shinji Kagawa is expected to make the bench, while the inform Javier Hernandez will be an option should the visitors need a goal at some stage of the game.

OPTA FACTS

  • 3 – Man Utd have won 1-0 against City three times in their last six Premier League games at the Etihad.
  • 5 – There have been just five goals scored in the last six league meetings between City and United at the Etihad Stadium and no more than one in any of those games.
  • 10 – Robin van Persie is joint-top scorer in the league, with 10 goals alongside Demba Ba, Michu and Luis Suarez – Man City’s top scorer is Carlos Tevez with seven.
  • 36 – City (15) and United (21) have come from behind to win a combined 36 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season.
  • 21 – Man City and Man Utd have been awarded more penalties than any other side in the Premier League since the start of 2010-11.

REFEREE

Name – Martin Atkinson
Based – Yorkshire
Age – 41
Games – 18
Yellow Cards – 71
Red Cards – 1

MATCH ODDS

Manchester City 13/10, Draw 12/5, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

As both teams have pulled away from the rest at the top of the table, it could turn out to be a very close affair decided by a moment of brilliance or a mistake. City will be looking to attack at home and take full advantage of United’s weaknesses at the back, while the Red Devils will hope to avoid conceding the first goal again but have also shown the determination and character to win games from losing positions. With the winner taking the top spot in the league table, both teams will look to get the 3 points. United have the firepower, but City have a very solid defence, making the hosts slight favourites. Expect United to get something out of this one, maybe a high scoring draw.

Predicted Score: Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United

How Can Manchester United Solve Their Striker Dilemma?

Manchester United would not have won their latest Champions League Group H encounter against Portuguese side Braga at Old Trafford if it was not for the excellence of Javier Hernandez.

Hernandez was the lifesaver – bagging a brace in United’s comeback victory – and showed why he must still be considered a key attacking option for Manchester United this year.

His tireless performance not only caught the attention of the Old Trafford faithful but also of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated after the match that the 24-year-old Mexican international striker has given him some selection dilemma ahead of Sunday’s crunch match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

As per Manchester United’s official site, Sir Alex Fergsuon said:

“Chicharito has given me a good problem. He’s got me thinking, I must say that. He and van Persie and Rooney and Welbeck… I don’t know what to do with them to be honest with you.

“The boy is improving all the time. He has a great enthusiasm for the game, he trains magnificently, he practices all the time and his goal ratio is fantastic.

“It was a great ball from Tom Cleverley for the second goal but Chicharito’s movement in behind the defender for the second goal was terrific.”

Given the praise he receives from his manager and his fellow team-mates, the work-rate he puts on the pitch and the attitude he shows on and off the field, everyone would expect Hernandez was starting week-in-week-out for the Red Devils and would be their top choice striker after his dream debut season in the Premier League, but in reality, Chicharito is below Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order at Old Trafford as far as the strikers go and has just made four starts this season (only one in the Premier League).

But after Tuesday night’s man-of-the-match performance, he has surely thrown his hat into the ring for some more regular playing time this term. In his own words he has given the gaffer a ‘problem’ or a ‘selection dilemma’ about whom to play and whom to leave out on the bench.

So, how can United fix their striker dilemma? How can they keep all the four strikers happy at the same time? Which formation should they use?

Without any doubts, Manchester United have one of the best – if not the best – strikeforce in the world. Some squads will have one or maybe even two world-class strikers, but the Red Devils currently have four star strikers in their squad – all of whom are capable of winning the game single-handedly in both domestic and European competitions.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie need no introduction. They are both proven strikers, the top two goal-scorers in the Premier League last season and have scored a total of 362 goals (combined) between them. The duo are also forming one of the most fearsome and dangerous striker partnerships in the league.

Danny Welbeck, the local lad who has come off age in the last couple of seasons, a big-game player and an England regular to whom both the Red Devils and the Three Lions have turn for some inspiration and immediate impact in the past year or so. And then there’s Javier Hernandez, a regular goal-scorer for Mexico, who after Tuesday night’s excellent performance has once again shown everyone that he has the talent in him to become of the top strikers in the world.

They all are stars in their own right and it’s sad to see players who regularly start for their respective countries, on the bench for United. But the answer to handing four star strikers in one squad isn’t selling one of them for a good price in the next transfer window. There is no doubt that United could get a good price for Welbeck or Hernandez but selling them in order to create regular playing time for Rooney and Van Persie is not the answer.

Keeping in mind, the fact that there will be injuries, suspensions, international duties and a number of competitions to play in, a squad needs lot of depth and a number of attacking options, and for United to say that they don’t need a strong squad would be too ignorant. Sir Alex knows it very well that they need to have a lot of depth in their squad – like they had when they won the treble in 99 – and if he is able to keep the players happy, then why sell them?

This means that a rotation policy will be used, meaning that all four strikers will not get the minutes that they would love to every week. There will be times when United’s blockbuster summer signing – Van Persie is rested for Welbeck, and there will also be times when Rooney starts from the bench. This is nothing new in a squad that is blessed with so much of attacking talent. This is what has to happen this season in order to keep all four of them happy at the same time.

In terms of formation, the shift towards the new ‘diamond formation’ (4-1-2-1-2) is the best thing for United to keep their strikers happy as it helps to get most of their best attacking players on the pitch at the same time. The diamond formation is better than the commonly used 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1 as it allows for three attacking options rather than two or just the lone striker in the later two formations.

In the new formation, Van Persie and Rooney could both play at the top of the diamond, in behind the two strikers. That would allow Welbeck and Hernandez to get some more playing time than they would have got in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. Three strikers start in this formation with one playing behind the two in a very advance midfield role and also creating the link between the midfield and the attack. It means that Van Persie could play up front with Hernandez and Rooney behind them or Rooney with Welbeck and Van Persie behind them creating more chances.

Now talking about what happens to United’s second star signing of the summer – Shinji Kagawa. He was very successful at Dortmund last season playing in the hole behind the striker in this case Robert Lewandowski and he could do the same by playing at the top of diamond with Rooney and Van Persie up front. But that would decrease the involvement of Welbeck and Hernandez.

With Kagawa being very versatile and comfortable with the ball on either foot, the most logical solution is to play him on the left side of the diamond and allow him to drift in the middle with the full-back overlapping. Similar to what Andres Iniesta does for Spain or Barcelona whenever he is played out on the left. Kagawa on the left means that Antonia Valencia, Ashley Young and Nani are all left fighting for one starting position on the right side of the diamond. That means less playing time for all three, especially Nani, who looks like is behind Valencia and Young in the pecking order.

After saying all this, the diamond formation is best formation suited for United’s current squad. Its the most effective way for Sir Alex to get his best attacking players on the pitch at the same time without sacrificing the dominance and creativity in the midfield and on the wings.

Players won’t play each week and will be rotated regularly, but that’s part and parcel of playing football at the highest level and especially at a club like Manchester United. This will create a competition for places and it will be healthy for the players also, as they will have to be at their best at all times and continue to impress the manager both on the pitch during the games and in training.

Top Ten Most Valuable Premier League Players

The market value of the player is one of the most important things in world football these days and with the help of  transfermarkt.co.uk, we counts down the top ten most valuable players in the Premier League. 

The players are ranked based on the market value. Have a look at the list below..

10. VINCENT KOMPANY – MANCHESTER CITY (VALUE: £31m)

Bought for just over £6m in 2008, Kompany has gone on to become one of the best defenders in the Premier League. He scored the winner against Manchester United in May which decided the title and has seen his value increase more than five times in the last four years.

9. YAYA TOURE – MANCHESTER CITY (VALUE: £32m)

The 29-year-old is the second Manchester City player in the list and certainly not the last one. The Ivorian box-to-box midfielder played an important role in helping the Citizens win Premier League last season. Their first ever league title in 44 years.

8. NANI – MANCHESTER UNITED (VALUE: £32m)

The Portuguese winger signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2007 for a fee of around £20m and has been one of the key performers for the Red Devils in the past five-years. He has been very inconsistent with his form in the past year or so, but still is the second most valued Portuguese in the world.

7. JUAN MATA – CHELSEA (VALUE: £33.5m)

Juan Mata is the first Spaniard to feature on this list and surely not the last one. The 24-year-old joined Chelsea from Valencia last summer and was very impressive for the Blues, helping them win the FA Cup and the Champions League. He was also voted as the club’s Player of the Year by the Chelsea fans.

6. GARETH BALE – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (VALUE: £35m)

Tottenham’s Gareth Bale is the only Welshman to feature on the list of top 100 most valuable players in the world. The winger has been one of the key reasons for the London club’s success in England and in Europe, and with him signing a new five-year contract at the start of the season means his value won’t decrease any sooner.

5. EDEN HAZARD – CHELSEA (VALUE: £35m)

Hazard is the second Belgium and second Chelsea player to be on the list. The 21-year-old Belgium international joined the Blues in the summer from Lille for a fee of around £35m and his value hasn’t changed at all since. He has been very impressive so far and if he can continue the same form throughout the season, then expect his value to rise a lot at the end of the season.

4. ROBIN VAN PERSIE – MANCHESTER UNITED (VALUE: £42m)

The Netherlands international striker joined Manchester United this summer from Arsenal for £24m, but since has seen his value almost doubled after scoring an important hat-trick for the Red Devils in the comeback win over Southampton last weekend.

3. DAVID SILVA – MANCHESTER CITY (VALUE: £44m)

Manchester City’s left footed playmaker is Spain’s last representative on the list. The former Valencia man had an outstanding last season as he helped City win the Premier League and also won the Euro 2012 with Spain. He was named as Manchester City’s Players’ Player of the Year and was also named in the PFA Team of the Year.

2. SERGIO AGUERO – MANCHESTER CITY (VALUE: £45m)

The Argentine international joined City for £38m last summer, but his market value has increased to £45m after a stellar first season at the Etihad Stadium, which saw him score the last minute injury time winner against QPR that broke the hearts of many Manchester United fans and won Manchester City their first ever Premier League title in 44 years.

1. WAYNE ROONEY – MANCHESTER UNITED (VALUE: £57m)

Wayne Rooney joined Manchester United as an 18-year-old teenager in 2004 and Sir Alex Ferguson’s big investment in him has certainly paid off. The United striker is not only the club’s main man but also is England’s most valuable player and is fourth in the world behind Andres Iniesta, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Manchester United’s Potential Summer 2012 Transfer Targets

Manchester United had a decent last season as they finished second – just on goal difference – behind city rivals, Manchester City in the league but were very disappointing in both European – both the Champions League and Europa League – and the domestic cup competitions. 

This summer, United will look to strengthen their squad as they look to win back the Premier League title from their noisy neigbhours and also try and win the Champions League for the first time since the 2008. Sir Alex Ferguson has already strengthen his squad this summer by signing the Japanese international Shinji Kagawa and the highly-rated youngster Nick Powell, but the Red Devils will have to bring in some more new names if they want to challenge for trophies on all fronts. Here are Manchester United’s potential transfer targets the summer..

LEIGHTON BAINES – EVERTON (DEFENDER)

The Everton left-back has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for some time now and its highly likely that the England international will be a United player before the start of the season. Patrice Evra’s form dipped last term and the Frenchman is not getting any young. With Fabio away on loan at QPR, United need a new left-back and the 27-year-old would be a great choice. Baines, who is very good at set-pieces, is valued around £15m and would be a quality replacement for Evra.

MATS HUMMELS – BORUSSIA DORTMUND (DEFENDER)

The German defender had an outstanding Euros in Poland/Ukraine this summer and was one of the best performers for his country. The former Bayern Munich youth player has been one of the reasons for Dortmund’s success in the past couple of years as they did the League and Cup double last year. The Turkish origin defender, who is rated around £30m, has stated he is very happy to stay at Dortmund having sign new contract recently, but he would be a great signing for the Red Devils and with Rio Ferdinand past his best, he would be a great replacement for the veteran.

ALEX WITSEL – BENFICA (MIDFIELDER)

Portuguese giants Benfica are ready to cash in on the Belgium international, just a year after they signed him from Standard Liege. The 23-year-old was instrumental in helping the Portuguese side make the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season. Manchester United are interested in signing the £20m rated midfielder as they look to add more depth and quality in their midfield. Chelsea are also interested in him and a chance to play alongside his Belgium teammates – Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku – might just incline him towards Stamford Bridge.

LUKA MODRIC – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (MIDFIELDER)

Luka Modric is one name that has been on the Manchester United radar for some time now. With the playmaker ready to leave White Hart Lane this summer in search of regular Champions League football, Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to bring the £36m rated Croatian international to Old Trafford. But according to the reports in various papers in Spain, Modric has already agreed a deal with the La Liga champions Real Madrid and is expected to sign for Jose Mourinho’s side before July 15.

JOAO MOUTINHO – FC PORTO (MIDFIELDER)

Moutinho has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League this summer after some putting in some impressive displays for Portugal at the Euros. The £25m rated midfielder has been a United target since his Sporting Lisbon days and is seen as an alternative for Luka Modric. Some reports claim that the Red Devils have already launched a bid for the Portuguese international, but they will have to battle with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham – who are also interested in him – to bring him to Old Trafford.

KEVIN STROOTMAN – PSV EINDHOVEN (MIDFIELDER)

Sir Alex Ferguson is said to be interested in the the Dutch midfielder who has been dubbed as the ‘new Roy Keane’ because of his combative style of football. With the future of Darren Fletcher uncertain and with number of injury prone players in the squad, Strootman could be the answer to all of Ferguson’s problems. The PSV star has attracted a lot of interest because of his impressive performances over last couple of years and was also a part of the Dutch squad in Poland/Ukraine. The £15m rated Dutchman, who can also play as a holding midfielder, would no doubt strengthen the United midfield.

JAMES RODRIGUEZ – FC PORTO (MIDFIELDER)

The young Colombian is another player linked with a move to Old Trafford many times in the last couple of months. The 21-year-old had an impressive last season in the Portuguese league with FC Porto and has attracted interested from a host of Premier League clubs. With the future of Nani doubtful, Rodriguez could be a great addition to squad but it looks highly unlike that United and Sir Alex Ferguson would be ready to pay around £30m for the midfielder who has been dubbed the ‘new Cristiano Ronaldo’.

LUCAS MOURA – SAO PAULO (MIDFIELDER)

Lucas Moura is one of the most talented youngsters and the most hottest property in world football. The 19-year-old Brazilian has attracted interested from almost every top club in Europe and Manchester United are said to be one of them. According to the latest gossip columns, United have sent a delegation to Brazil to convince the £35m rated Brazil international – who has already been capped 13 times by his country – and his family about a move to Old Trafford, where he will join his fellow compatriots – Anderson, Rafael and Fabio.

MOUSSA DEMBELE – FULHAM (MIDFIELDER)

Dembele has had a successful time, so far, at Craven Cottage since joining Fulham in 2010. The forward who scored 24 times for AZ Alkmaar, has adapted very well to a midfield role in the Fulham team and was very impressive in the previous season. Dembele has just a year left on his contract and is in no hurry to extend it because of interest from several big Premier League sides like United and Chelsea. Some papers reported that the Reds Devils had an offer for the Belgium international rejected by Fulham over the weekend.

IKER MUNIAIN – ATHLETIC BILBAO (STRIKER)

Iker Muniain is another teenager who is on the Manchester United shopping list. The 19-year-old Spaniard caught Ferguson’s eye after he played an important role in knocking the Red Devils out of the Europa League last season. The versatile striker, who can play upfront or on the wings or just behind the striker in the midfield, scored the winner in the first leg and impressed in the second leg in Spain. The Bilbao forward, who made his international debut this year, is rated around £25m and would no doubt be great signing for the team.

ROBIN VAN PERSIE – ARSENAL (STRIKER)

Along with Juventus and Manchester City, United are also interested in signing the Arsenal skipper – Robin van Persie, who has said that he won’t be signing a new deal at the Emirates Stadium. Van Persie was in some outstanding goal scoring form last season and ended the league season as the Premier League’s top goal scorer with 30 goals. With Michael Owen having already left and Dimitar Berbatov expected to leave, there is place for another striker in the squad and Van Persie will be an outstanding option. The Rooney-Van Persie combination up front will be just too deadly to deal with for any team. With just one year left on the 28-year-old’s contract, the Gunners are expected to cash in on the forward this summer and an offer around £16m-£20m may well be enough.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI – BORUSSIA DORTMUND (STRIKER)

The Poland international, who scored the opening goal of the UEFA EURO 2012, is another Dortmund player to be linked with a move to United this summer. Lewandowski has had an incredible past 12 months and has scored 30 goals including a hat-trick in the 5-2 win over Bayern Munich in the German Cup final. The striker has just two years left on his contract and has attracted interest from many Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.

Portugal v Spain Preview

Defending champions Spain battle with their Iberian neighbours Portugal for a spot in the UEFA EURO 2012 final when they meet in the semi-finals at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk tonight.

Both teams enter the last-four clash on the back of three consecutive wins at the tournament, with Sunday’s final clearly in sight. Vicente del Bosque’s Spain produced an effective quarter-final victory against France, while their neighbours downed Czech Republic to advance.

Paulo Bento believes patience is key if his Portugal side are going to find a way past the holders and world champions in Donetsk. “Of course there are going to be moments in the game when we can link up and go forward,” he said in Tuesday’s pre-game press conference. We want possession of the ball but we are playing against a team that has played better than all the other teams. It’s going to be about patience. We know what we have to do. We have to put pressure on our opponents in the right areas of the pitch. Our aim is not to defend all the time. You can’t do that against the world and European champions. We are aware that it’s going to be difficult but they also know that we can cause them problems. It was very easy to get motivated because we’re in the semi-finals. There can’t be a more beautiful opportunity than the one we have tomorrow.”

“We’ll intend to throw him (Cristiano Ronaldo) off his game, the best example of that is the second round win at the World Cup, where we managed the better result,” said Vicente Del Bosque of a 1-0 win over Portugal in Johannesburg. “The idea will be the same.” Spain has won its last six knockout round games at major tournaments by a combined score of 7-0. Although the team is not providing eye-catching scorelines, it has shown patience and maturity to break down opponents who nearly always ‘park the bus’, or take a completely defensive approach. “I would prefer if they play back in their own half, it’s a satisfaction for us to keep possession,” Del Bosque said of the Portuguese. “They have enough players that can provide alternatives to their attack, but I would like it if they played in a defensive way because we have solutions to combat that.”

TEAM NEWS

Portugal

Real Zaragoza frontman Postiga has been ruled out with a thigh injury, meaning coach Bento will be unable to field the same starting line-up which he has used in the last six competitive matches. Besiktas forward Hugo Almeida is expected to get the nod in Donetsk, with 20-year-old Nelson Oliveira, who has come on as a substitute three times in the tournament, likely to be on the bench again. Almeida will be flanked in the Portuguese attack by Cristiano Ronaldo, whose glittering displays against the Netherlands and the Czechs played a decisive part in sending Portugal into the last four.

Spain

Del Bosque reported no new injury problems following the quarter-final victory against Les Bleus. However, he must decide whether to start the game again without a recognised striker and allow Cesc Fabregas to fill the role. If Del Bosque decides against the quarter-final line-up, Fernando Torres could lead the line, while Pedro could also get a start in the Spain midfield.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 34
Portugal Wins – 6
Draws – 12
Spain Wins – 16

FORM GUIDE

Portugal – WWWLL
21-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Czech Republic 0-1 Portugal
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Portugal 2-1 Netherlands
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Portugal 1-3 Turkey

Spain – WWWDW
23-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 2-0 France
18-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Croatia 0-1 Spain
14-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 4-0 Ireland
10-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Spain 1-1 Italy
03-Jun-12 – Friendly – Spain 1-0 China

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pepe (Portugal)
The Real Madrid defender has been as solid as a rock in the heart of the Portuguese defence. The hard tacking defender has had an excellent tournament so far, and has been one of the reason why Portugal are in the semi-finals. He was solid against the Czechs on Thursday. Another performance like that against the Spaniards today and Portugal could be through to the finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
He would undoubtedly be the key man for his side, as he is the only player who looks capable of breaching the solid Spanish defence and getting past his Real Madrid teammate Iker Casillas. He has been in tremendous form in the last two matches, scoring three goals and hitting the post four times and is sure to be the biggest test yet for his opposing Captain Casillas.

Iker Casillas (Spain)
The Spanish captain hasn’t been troubled a lot so far in this tournament and this will be arguably his toughest test in Poland/Ukraine.  He has been in good form throughout the year for both Real Madrid and Spain and today he will face his club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. If Casillas is able to keep Ronaldo quite and not let him score any goals today then La Roja have a huge chance of progressing to final.

Andres Iniesta (Spain)
The Barcelona star has undoubtedly been one of the best players in attack for Spain and has hardly let anyone feel David Villa’s absence. Although kept quiet for most of the last game, he did deliver the beautifully weighted pass that let in Jordi Alba to cross for the first goal. He would be raring to go and make an impact against arch-rivals Portugal today and help his team progress to the final.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Joao Perreira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Hugo Almeida, Cristiano Ronaldo (C).

The Portuguese would match Spain’s 4-3-3 formation. However, with Helder Postiga set to miss the clash due to the injury sustained in the quarter-finals, Hugo Almeida is expected to start as the centre man in the front three. He would be the target man and long balls would be hit straight at him, which he would be expected to hold up and then bring the dangerous wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani into play. The rest of the team would be the same which has taken field in all four matches.

Spain (4-3-3): Iker Casillas (C); Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergi Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta.

The defending champions are expected to line-up in the same 4-3-3 formation that started against the French and completely dominated the game. Fabregas was not too impressive, but would still be expected to start ahead of Fernando Torres as he fits better in the team whose emphasis is on passing football and keeping possession. Plus he has better understanding with the other Barcelona players in the squad. Del Bosque would keep the same team players that have delivered the results.

MATCH ODDS

Portugal 10/3 Draw 23/10 Spain 10/11

PREDICTION

The rivalry will be there for everyone to see and it is set to be a tough battle. Portugal have played to their potential in the UEFA EURO 2012 and arguably the same cannot be said for Spain. Spain will play as expected and dominate the possession, while the Portuguese will b looking to catch them on the counter with their pacey wingers. It’s very hard to see Spain losing today as they have the experience and the extra bid of quality in their midfield which could be the difference between the two sides in Donetsk.

Predicted Score – Portugal 1-2 Spain

Czech Republic v Portugal Preview

The group stages are done and dusted and the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals get under way today when the Czech Republic take on Portugal at the National Stadium in Warsaw.

Both teams arrive at knockout stage having bounced back from opening defeats in their respective groups to win their other two games. Portugal were beaten 1-0 by Germany in their first outing but stormed back with victories over Denmark and Holland to finish second in Group B. The Czechs reached the last eight as Group A winners, rebounding from an opening 4-1 defeat to Russia to beat Greece and co-hosts Poland.

The clash is a repeat of the Euro 1996 quarter-final, when the Czech Republic stunned the Portuguese with a 1-0 win thanks to Karel Poborsky’s memorable scoop goal. Their only other meeting since the split of Czechoslovakia 19 years ago came at the 2008 tournament, when Portugal gained revenge with a 3-1 victory in the group stage.

TEAM NEWS

Czech Republic

The Czechs have been dealt a blow with the news Tomas Rosicky will not feature in the starting line-up after struggling to make a full recovery from an Achilles injury. The Arsenal midfielder, who flew back to Prague earlier this week to receive treatment, left his decision until after training on Thursday morning because he wanted to see how the injury would react. Team manager Vladimir Smicer told Czech Television: “Tomas will certainly not play from the first minute. But if we should be in trouble towards the end of the match we might use him.”

Portugal

On the other hand, Portuguese manager Paulo Bento has no injury worries and is expected to field Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo in support of Helder Postiga up front. Ronaldo scored twice against Holland to increase his tally for Portugal to 34 goals.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Played – 2
Czech Republic Wins – 1
Draws – 0
Portugal Wins – 1

FORM GUIDE

Czech Republic – WWLLW
16-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Czech Republic 1-0 Poland
12-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Greece 1-2 Czech Republic
08-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Russia 4-1 Czech Republic
01-Jun-12 – Friendly – Czech Republic 1-2 Hungary
26-May-12 – Friendly – Czech Republic 2-1 Israel

Portugal – WWLLD
17-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Portugal 2-1 Netherlands
13-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Denmark 2-3 Portugal
09-Jun-12 – Euro 2012 – Germany 1-0 Portugal
02-Jun-12 – Friendly – Portugal 1-3 Turkey
26-May-12 – Friendly – Portugal 0-0 Macedonia

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Petr Cech (Czech Republic)
The Chelsea goalkeeper has had a shaky last 12 months for both his club and country, yet he remains the main man between the sticks for his country. The 30-year-old who is set lead his side in the absence of the injured Tomas Rosicky would surely be his side’s main man as they look to face Cristiano Ronaldo and co tonight. The Czechs would need him to be at his best, if they have stand any chance of upsetting the Portuguese and booking themselves a place in the semi-finals.

Michal Kadlec (Czech Republic)
The Bayer Leverkusen man has been playing out of position in the center of the Czech Republic defence, and has been very impressive so far at UEFA EURO 2012. He kept his side in the tournament by making an important in the last minute of injury time against Poland and will have to be at his brilliant best on Thursday to help his team contain Portugal and most importantly Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The Real Madrid star has silenced all his critics by scoring a brace against the Netherlands, when it mattered the most, and he will be keen to continue with that form and prove to everyone that it wasn’t just one of performance. His pace, trickery and shooting from range will be the key to unlock Michal Bilek’s side’s defence. The Portuguese will be dependent on their skipper to produce the good and take them through to the semi-finals.

Pepe (Portugal)
The Real Madrid defender has been as solid as a rock in the heart of the Portuguese defence. The hard tacking defender has had an excellent tournament so far, and has been one of the reason why Portugal has made it through the Group of Death and to the quarter-finals. He was solid against the Dutch on Sunday. Another performance like that against the Czechs today and Portugal are through to the final four.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Czech Republic(4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Theodor Gebre Selassie, Tomas Sivok, Michal Kadlec, David Limbersky; Tomas Hubschman, Jaroslav Plasil; Petr Jiracek, Daniel Kolar, Vaclav Pilar; Milan Baros.

The Czech have an extremely dangerous attacking force down the wings, with both full-backs Theodor Gebre Selassie and David Limbersky supporting Jiracek and Pilar at every given opportunity. Rosicky has been ruled out to start this game but may make an appearance from the bench, in his place Daniel Kolar will continue to deputise. Baros and Kolar will be the men down the middle, with Tomas Hubschman and Jaroslav Plasil protecting the midfield from the deep positions. Tomas Sivoc and Michal Kadlec have grown in stature as the tournament has progressed and their presence in the centre of defence will once again prove to be vital.

Portugal (4-3-3): Rui Patricio; Joao Perreira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao; Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho; Nani, Helder Postiga, Cristiano Ronaldo (C).

The Portuguese have a settled 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldo and Nani flanking with Postiga in the middle. Miguel Veloso will be tasked with shielding the back-four while Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles complete the midfield trio. The central pair of Pepe and Bruno Alves will have Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao for support on either side, with Rui Patricio between the posts.

MATCH ODDS

Czech Republic 4/1 Draw 13/5 Portugal 8/11

PREDICTION

The Portuguese have a lot of attacking talent to trouble the Czechs and in Cristiano Ronaldo they have got the second best player in the whole world. But at the same time Czech Republic are equally dangerous especially attacking from the wide areas. The game will have a cautious start with both teams making sure they don’t concede an early goal. As the two teams settle down, they will start playing some free flowing attacking football and Cristiano Ronaldo will be the key. If the Czech defence can keep the former Manchester United star quiet for the whole game then they are in win a huge chance, but I can’t see that happening with the form he is in.

Predicted Score – Czech Republic 1-2 Portugal