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30 Jun 2011

Silly season round-up

It's been 7 weeks since the end of the football season. Not long. Already it seems some teams have entered some sort of withdrawal-induced meltdown, with several strange, outlandish and just plain dumb transfer requests and rumours

Without further ado, let's get down to the business end of my first silly season round-up.

Signing of the week: Manchester United finally completed a widely expected signing of young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea. A star of the future, De Gea will have to face the tough task of filling the gloves left empty by retiring legend Edwin Van Der Sar. The big Dutchman was consistently brilliant during his time at Old Trafford. De Gea's former coach when he was at Atletico Madrid says of the 20-year old that "he has shown that he is a winner and someone who can handle big finals." Only time will tell if Sir Alex Ferguson has correctly chosen the successor for Van Der Sar in a player with fewer than 100 first-team appearances.

Just getting started: Gossip coming from Merseyside claims that Liverpool's management and Raul Merieles are not the best of friends any more. The Portuguese midfielder provided much-needed energy and attacking intent when captain Steven Gerrard was injured. He was so willing to make his name in England that he took a large pay cut to join 'Pool on the condition that his wages for next year would increase if he played well. Merieles saved Liverpool this season. He scored several vital goals just after Kenny Dalglish took over that stabilized a club staring at a relegation battle. He fully deserves a pay increase, the club do not want to give him one and actually want rid of him. According to various sources, Liverpool are looking to make some money for their pursuits of Aston Villa's Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam of Blackpool, two players that together could replace Merieles.

Please go away: I'm tired of hearing about Cesc Fabregas. Barcelona want him, Cesc wants to go, Arsenal have said they could use the cash. Yet he remains in London. Barcelona gave an offer of £35 million last summer, and seriously reduced it to £27 million this year thanks to "wear and tear" gathered in the meantime. I wish this would all go away because, quite simply, we know how this ends. We've seen it before. A team holds onto their man as his value goes down because they believe they can force a better price. Eventually though, the team ends up accepting an offer well below the starting price and after wall-to-wall press coverage, the regular fan cannot stand the player any longer. Fabregas must be wishing for an easy divorce, for at the minute, the fans still love him. If he continues to push and push then he puts himself in danger of joining other players in being despised by fans of former teams. Take Wayne Rooney and Everton. Carlos Tevez with Manchester United, and a while back, Eric Cantona joining United from Leeds. For Arsenal's sake, and for Fabregas' legacy here, let's hope this ends peacefully.

Biggest winners: Sunderland, without a doubt. The Black Cats landed Craig Gardner for £5 million from Birmingham, have also signed Ipswich's teen sensation Connor Wickham for £8 million (from the palm of Liverpool's hand) and are also in talks with Man United's Wes Brown. Sunderland also managed to secure the services of Korean striker Ji-Dong Won, who wants to be in the first team "within 6 months". Great summer already for the team as they signal their intent to improve rather than simply maintain their position.

Biggest losers: Hard to say anyone has really lost this week, but if I had to choose, the answer is Hearts. Craig Thomson, a right-back at the Edinburgh side, was last week placed on the sex offender's register for sending "explicit images" to two underage girls. Everyone in Scotland expected the player to be instantly sacked, but this was not the case in a week to forget for the club. Hearts first said that he would be staying on, which was questionable, but okay if they were going to be providing support for him. Instead, they seemed to claim he was somehow the victim in all of this. Failure number two was a letter, apparently written by owner Vladimir Romanov, that claimed that Hearts had been "battling for seven years" to protect the club from corrupt influences including the Mafia. He also said that Hearts' performances in the final 12 games of the season were affected by corrupt officials and players. He also accused the SPL and referees of blocking Hearts out of the title race. A bad week indeed.


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