No Balotelli & Cassano for Sampdoria, says Zenga

June 29th, 2015

The Serie A side’s head coach has denied the Italian strikers could be on their way to the Luigi Ferraris ahead of 2015-16

Sampdoria coach Walter Zenga has insisted Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli will not be joining the club.

A return to Sampdoria has been touted for free agent Cassano, with president Massimo Ferrero confirming talks have taken place between both parties.

Liverpool outcast Balotelli has also emerged as a transfer target for Sampdoria, however, Zenga dismissed those rumours in an interview with Rai Radio 2.

“Cassano and Balotelli are players of extraordinary talent, but no, we won’t be signing them,” Zenga told reporters.

“Giampaolo Pazzini? Who wouldn’t like to train a player like that? But there are problems with such signings that fans are unaware of.

“We have already made three or four buys. There’s Edgar Barreto, Niklas Moisander, Federico Bonazzoli and Mattia Cassani. We got Cassani to plug the gap after Lorenzo De Silvestri’s injury.

“The club acted quickly in the transfer market and we are building a good squad. We’ll see what else happens, the market is open until the start of September.”

Why Balotelli may benefit from Sterling exit at Liverpool

June 25th, 2015

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cc  by  NazionaleCalcio 

It was suggested during the January transfer window, just a few months into his career at Anfield, that Mario Balotelli would be deemed surplus to requirements by Liverpool and allowed to seek a new challenge elsewhere.

He was, however, allowed to stay put and see out the season.

Fast forward to the dawn of a new window and speculation has once again been building regarding a potential departure for the enigmatic Italian.

It has to be noted, though, that none of the noises – in the winter or summer – have been emanating from the corridors of power on Merseyside.

Brendan Rodgers, to his credit, has steadfastly stood by Balotelli and maintained throughout that he can be a useful option for the Reds. He just needs that spark to get him going.

That remains the case heading into 2015/16, but it still makes a lot of sense for Liverpool to keep him around.

Last season, while he may boast past experience of life in the Premier League from his time at Manchester City, Balotelli found himself under the microscope from the moment he signed.

Being snapped up in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona was never going to do him any favours, with there an expectation that a man who has never been prolific would help to fill a 30-goal void.

Daniel Sturridge’s injury struggles also hampered his cause, with there no-one around to help shoulder the added responsibility or to paper over the cracks when confidence started to sap and performance levels began to dip.

This time around, Liverpool have already moved to bring in Danny Ings at the end of his contract at Burnley – and he is more of an out-and-out goalscorer, the much sought-after fox in the box.

If he plays as more of a typical ‘number 9’, then Sturridge, Balotelli and another new boy – Roberto Firmino – will be free to drift deep and wide and attempt to influence play from positions which do not require them to stick the ball in the back of the net.

A potential departure for Raheem Sterling may also play into Balotelli’s hands, as there will be an attacking post up for grabs that is not down the middle and scrutinised on a weekly basis.

Who is to say that in a 3-4-3 formation, or any variation of that, that the 24-year-old could not shine, and almost reinvent himself, as a winger-come-forward?

He may be chastised at times for an apparent lack of effort, but none of Liverpool’s attacking crop from last season – Sterling included – made more tackles or recovered the ball on more occasions than Balotelli.

If Rodgers could ease his goalscoring burden and make more of his playmaking qualities, then a marked increase in his chance created numbers would be expected – with no assists registered in 2014/15.

Liverpool certainly need to find a way of getting more out of what they have, with football betting markets still considering them to be outsiders in the battle for a top-four finish in the Premier League, but in Balotelli they have a player young enough and talented enough to be moulded into whatever they want him to be.

Now is not the time to be cutting their losses, with there no guarantee that investment elsewhere will deliver immediate results, and if Sterling were to leave for big money, those funds could be invested elsewhere – right-back, centre-half, midfield etc. – and pave the way for a man already on their books to prove that he can still make good on the faith and patience shown in him.

'We don't need Balotelli!' – Irish side mock Liverpool striker

June 9th, 2015

The Irish First Division side have compared the Italian’s scoring exploits at Anfield to four of their own players, as the striker’s future in England continues to be questioned


Don’t expect to see Mario Balotelli playing in the Irish First Division any time soon.

Cabinteely FC have publicly ruled out a move for the striker after being less than impressed with his form for Liverpool after joining for €20 million last summer, scoring just once in 16 Premier League games.

Comparing Balotelli to the likes of Conor Foley, John McKeown, Ger Pender and Shane O’Neill, the Italian’s scoring stats do not rank well in a tongue-in-cheek post on Twitter.

Stop calling us, stop texting us @FinallyMario, we don’t need you for our game on Friday versus @AthloneTownFC pic.twitter.com/2z4CDKyN86

— Cabinteely F.C. (@Cabinteely_FC) June 8, 2015

Balotelli’s future at Anfield is under question despite signing a three-year deal less than 12 months ago, with Liverpool strengthening their forward line with the announcement of Danny Ings’ imminent arrival from Burnley on Monday.

Rafa Benitez, Pele, Gazza and the football figures who cried

June 3rd, 2015

Rafael Benitez was reduced to tears as he was presented as the new coach of Real Madrid on Wednesday but he is not the only one to have shown raw emotion


By Paul Macdonald

Crying doesn’t make you any less of a man. Sometimes, football can be the cruellest of games, taking players and coaches to within moments of glory only to snatch it from them without so much as a warning.

Sometimes it can be frustration boiling over at an inept performance or things just not going your way. Other times it can be an injury robbing you of everything you worked hard for. On occasions, it can be returning to your spiritual home only to be overcome by love and emotion.

The latter was certainly the case on Wednesday as Rafa Benitez broke down in tears during his unveiling as coach of Real Madrid. The Spaniard was unable to control himself as he returned to the club where he began his career in coaching almost 30 years ago.

But Benitez is not the first footballing figure to cry – Goal takes a look at some other famous instances from the past.

Gazza’s tears

In arguably the most famous show of emotion ever witnessed on the pitch, England midfielder Paul Gascoigne wept in the centre of the Stadio Delle Alpi as the realisation sunk in that he would miss the 1990 World Cup final.

With England’s semi-final versus Germany locked at 1-1, the then-Tottenham midfielder threw himself rashly into a challenge on Thomas Berthold and was promptly booked by the referee. The caution meant that if his side progressed, he would be suspended from the biggest match in football. His crumpled expression became one of the abiding memories of the tournament, but his team exited on penalty kicks in any case, and Germany went on to be crowned champions.

Romario’s anguish

After his goals fired Brazil to glory in World Cup ’94 in USA, the legendary striker was seen as a perfect supplement to the genius of Rivaldo and a 21-year-old Ronaldo as the Selecao looked to retain their trophy.

However, the prolific frontman sustained a muscular injury in the build-up to the tournament, and faced a race against time to recover and be included in Mario Zagallo’s squad. The 32-year-old’s weary legs had lost their healing powers, however, and a day before the Selecao’s team for the tournament was announced, Romario dissolved in a flood of tears when the realisation struck that he would play no part in the festival of football in France.

Ronaldo’s injury woes

The brilliant Brazilian was unquestionably the best player in the world when serious injury first struck the knees of Il Fenomeno during his time with Inter. In November 1999, he was forced out of action for six months, but made a recovery against Lazio in the Coppa Italia in April of the following year.

But disaster struck. Ronaldo’s knee collapsed from underneath him on the Stadio Olimpico turf, prompting the striker to scream in agony as he clutched the injured limb. Tears flowed as he was stretchered off, and despite going on to win the World Cup in 2002 and feature for Real Madrid, some argue that the prolific goalscorer was never quite the same again. The enigmatic figure let his emotion get the better of him again years later, when he officially announced his retirement from the game in 2011.

The city of Rome makes Maradona weep

Italy in 1990 was, for a month, the centre of the footballing universe. The hosts faced Argentina in the semi-finals of the World Cup, with an uncontainable air of expectancy sweeping across the nation. However, the South American side, with Napoli star Diego Maradona playing in front of the fans that adored him at the Stadio San Paolo, emerged triumphant.

The crowd that evening might have held aloft a banner saying, “Diego, we love you, but Italy is our father,” but in the final in Rome the diminutive genius received an altogether more racuous reception. As Germany defeated his beloved nation 1-0, fans of the eliminated Azzurri jeered him as he collected his runners-up medal. Maradona was already crying, however, as the famous trophy had slipped through his fingers.

Kuffour devastated by last-minute drama

The 1999 Champions League final has achieved immortal status in the annals of history thanks to Manchester United’s two goals in injury-time that helped to defeat Bayern Munich at Camp Nou. But while Red Devils relish in the memory of that evening, there are as many Bavarians who wake up with a cold sweat at the thought of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s big toe poking home the winner.

As captain and club legend Lothar Mattheus rested on the bench, thinking his work done, his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The reaction of Germany was summed up by FCB defender Samuel Kuffour, who, upon the concession of Solkjaer’s goal, began beating the turf in anger, before his frustration turned to despair as the agony of the incident finally hit home.

The fragile feelings of Franco

Despite his reputation as one of the most uncompromising but utterly incomparable defenders of all time, AC Milan’s Franco Baresi let his mask slip on more than one occasion in order to express the magnitude of the situation.

His missed penalty against Brazil in World Cup 1994, the last act in his career for Italy, rendered the normally reserved stopper inconsolable. Then in 1997, upon playing in his final match for the Rossoneri, Baresi issued a farewell to the San Siro audience that had adored him for two decades, and the thought of leaving the pitch for the final time proved too much for him to take. Even Silvio Berlusconi, the club’s ruthless owner, was visibly moved by one of the game’s true greats departing into the sunset.

North Korean patriotism

The Asian nation were regarded as one of the rank outsiders of World Cup 2010, particularly when drawn in a section that contained Portugal, the Ivory Coast and Brazil. Their first match of the tournament was against the latter, and as the players from both sides lined up for the contest, one individual allowed the playing of the North Korean national anthem to get the better of him.

As the song resonated in the arena, tears of joy streamed down the face of striker Jong Tae-Se as the camera panned along the players, allowing a viewing audience of close to one billion to share in his adulation at appearing on the world’s biggest stage. The boy born in Japan, who had fought for the right to North Korean citizenship, was representing his adopted nation at the World Cup, and his emotion conveyed how delighted he was to be there.

Nedved and Ballack booked and banned

As Gazza had shed tears despite his nation failing to reach the World Cup final in 1990, Germany international Michael Ballack picked up a caution in the 2002 semi-final against South Korea – then set about making sure the rest of his team-mates could enjoy the showpiece occasion.

Four minutes after watching the referee raise the yellow card that ruled him out of a final meeting with Brazil, Ballack bravely struck the winner, and only after the match had ended did the realisation strike the playmaker that he would be denied from taking part.

Similarly in 2003, Juventus’ Pavel Nedved knew that he would be banned from the Champions League final if the Turin giants progressed past Real Madrid, shortly after smashing home a stunning goal to take his team to a meeting with AC Milan. He collapsed, distraught.

Palombo’s outpouring of grief

In May 2011, Sampdoria were consigned to Serie B after a home defeat to Palermo, and club captain Angelo Palombo was rendered inconsolable by the defeat, and in a moving tribute to the club’s followers, he addressed each stand in the stadium in turn and applauded supporters for their efforts.

Through every step the committed midfielder took he grew more and more emotional, with eyes reddened as he saluted the fans who had remained behind. This wasn’t an off-the-cuff reaction to a defeat, but a culmination of a horrible season for the Genoa team, that the skipper had done everything in his power to avoid. Had his president Riccardo Garrone been as desperate to retain Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini as Palombo was to remain in Serie A, the situation may not have arisen.

Teenage Pele’s moment of joy

Countless players and coaches have burst into tears after collecting some of football’s top prizes, but few have expressed their triumph so poignantly and as fittingly as an impressionably young Brazilian forward in 1958.

Soon to be known as one of the game’s greatest ever players, a 17-year-old Pele burst onto the scene in the World Cup in Sweden, and his efforts culminated in a pair of stunning goals in the final against the host that gave the Selecao their first ever crown. Pele was then thrust upon the shoulders of his team-mates and paraded around the pitch, with the player unable to contain himself nor appreciate the gravity of his actions. A star was well and truly born on that afternoon.

Note: this was originally published in 2014

Balotelli is the scapegoat at Liverpool – Richards

June 2nd, 2015

The England international feels his former Manchester City team-mate has been unfairly singled out at Anfield while revealing his own future lies away from Fiorentina


Mario Balotelli has become an easy target for critics because of Liverpool’s bad season, according to former team-mate Micah Richards.

Balotelli was criticised throughout the 2014-15 season in which he netted just four goals in 26 appearances in all competitions for Brendan Rodgers’ side.

However, the Italy international was only one part of the problem at Liverpool as they finished sixth in the Premier League – eight points off the final Champions League place.

And Fiorentina defender Richards, a league champion with Balotelli at Manchester City in 2011-12, said the 24-year-old was a scapegoat whenever the Reds’ performances were called into question.

“I love Mario. I still speak to him now. I think he’s a great player too,” Richards told the Daily Mail .

“At City he was probably still a bit immature. He then came back to Italy and developed more. He impressed at the World Cup.

“But now he’s at a club where everyone seems to have an opinion. And when the team wasn’t doing well, he’s become a target.”

Richards also said he was likely to leave Fiorentina, where he is on loan from City, at the end of the season and is hopeful of joining a club where he can play regularly.

“I’m more tactically aware now. People forget I was 18 when I made my England debut. Two years before that I was playing academy football.

“You can’t be tactically brilliant at 18. I was thrown in at the deep-end at Manchester City. I’d make mistakes and my pace and strength would get me out of trouble.

“I think I’ve improved hugely in that area. I’m much more tactically aware. I’m 26 now and I feel the next five years will be my best and I want to join a club where I’m going to play.

“Being out of contract this summer hopefully I’m in a good position.”

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