Atlético Madrid Sign Spanish Striker David Villa for a Maximum Fee of €5.1m

David VillaAtletico Madrid have found gold in the bargain bucket. The signing of Spain’s top scorer for a mere €5.1m is pure madness in the modern world of football. Still plenty left within him, the way he was shunned to the side at Barcelona last season following his recovery from a broken leg made a mockery of him. On the few occasions he did play, he showed exactly why he is the best Spanish striker of the modern era.

Atletico usually replace strikers well; Sergio Aguero proved a great replacement for Fernando Torres back in 2007 and then Radamel Falcao proved to excellent replacement for Sergio Aguero in 2011. Both Aguero and Falcao had come from outside Spain, so there was still an element of doubt to them.

But with David Villa, it does exactly what it says on the tin. He will guarantee goals and as a versatile forward that can operate freely across the front-line, and he will fit the Atletico system perfectly. Able to operate as the lone front-man or any other position in a front three, he is perhaps an upgrade on the departed Radamel Falcao. A move to the Premier League seemed imminent, but Atletico were the first to act towards signing the Spanish forward:

“We had a move to the Premier League in mind but then Atleti appeared and within three days all my personal terms had been agreed. From a career point of view, they weren’t lacking anything. They finished third in La Liga and will play in the Champions League. They beat Real Madrid to win the Copa del Rey.”

If anybody will challenge the heavyweights in La Liga, it will be Atletico. There are big things on the horizon at Atletico with a season in the Champions League coming up, it seems David Villa will provide the sort of player for Atletico’s ambitious aims in the competition. Atletico manager Diego Simeone has shown faith in the striker as Villa stated:

“I spoke to Diego Simeone and he showed a lot of confidence in me. I now have to repay that.”

Injuries have been the main problem for David Villa over the past two years, in particular a broken leg. This has resulted in him scoring ten or less league goals in the past two years, a far cry from his 15+ of previous seasons. However, this will simply add more hunger to his game. A full season under his belt could see him challenge for the golden boot.

David VillaHis move does add an extra interest in the Spanish Supercup, he could make his debut over the two-legged fixture. If he steers Atletico to victory in the final, he could be thorn in Barca’s side, making them looking foolish for letting a top player leave for a mere sum.

Winning over the fans won’t be difficult for David Villa, already a popular figure with the Spanish national team. His unveiling at the Vicente Calderon included a pitch invasion as Atleti fans mobbed their new idol. Memories of Falcao may fade with the new number nine in town. Aiming for his best season yet ahead of the World Cup, Villa seems confident he can fill the void:

“But I am simply at his disposal (Simeone’s) and will play wherever he wants. Falcao was loved here but hopefully I can make sure his absence isn’t felt.”

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

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AS Monaco: Rising Superpower or Flash in the Pan?

AS MonacoDespite all of the events occurring in London, Manchester, Madrid and elsewhere, since this transfer season began, the eyes of the footballing world have been firmly fixed on one of the world’s most glamorous locations: Monaco. Based at the Stade Louis II on the iconic Monte Carlo seafront, AS Monaco are one of France’s most successful clubs with numerous domestic successes and Champions League Finals to their name.

But the club have underachieved in recent years; they were relegated to Ligue Deux in 2011 and spent two seasons in the second tier, but were promoted as champions under former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri in the season just finished. Their owner, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, has signaled his ambition with a show of spending power rivaling that of Real Madrid and their French opponents Paris Saint-Germain, with the signings of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez from Porto and the world’s best out-and-out striker Radamel Falcao from Atlético Madrid.

The question must be asked - as it was when PSG splashed the cash on the likes of Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimović - whether we are seeing a new world superpower in its infancy or whether Monaco will be just another flash in the pan. While the quality of the players they have bought can’t be questioned, everyone knows it takes more than good players to make a good team - think how long it took Manchester City to start properly challenging for titles after they started their spending spree with Robinho.

Some have questioned whether the likes of Falcao, who could have gone to literally any club in the world, is doing the best thing for his career by joining a club who won’t even be in Europe next season, but this could be a good thing for the squad as a whole. Without the pressures of European games to worry about, the players may stand a better chance of gelling as a team rather than a group of players, and they won’t be as closely scrutinized by the world’s media.

Claudio RanieriIt also gives them a better chance of winning silverware; although the Coupe de France is not as loved in France as the FA Cup is in England, nothing brings a team closer together than winning silverware. Again, think how brilliantly Manchester City began the next season after they won the FA Cup in 2011. That said, Monaco did win the cup in 2010, their last season before relegation to the second division.

A team is nothing without a manager, and Monaco certainly have a good one in the experienced Ranieri. Last season was his fourth promotion as a manager, and the wily Italian has won trophies at Cagliari, Fiorentina, and Valencia in a career spanning 25 years. These clubs show that he has form in winning honors with smaller clubs in countries with perennial trophy-winners at the top, but will he be able to cope with the heightened expectation in Ligue Un, where six different clubs have won in the last six years, and where Monaco were once one of the established winners in the sixties, seventies and eighties? Rybolovlev certainly seems to have faith in him, given the financial backing he has offered.

When all is said and done, though, it is the players on the pitch who win and lose games. One could be forgiven for not recognizing the names of any of the current squad, but the numerous superstars heading towards Monte Carlo would improve many of the world’s top sides.

Tottenham Hotspur target João Moutinho has been a fan favorite at every club he has been at due to his dynamism and determination, coupled with his overall skill on the ball. One of the standout performers at Euro 2012, Moutinho has amassed 57 caps for his native Portugal despite still being only 26 years old, and has the talent to become one of Portugal’s greats. He switched from boyhood club Sporting Lisbon to Porto in 2010 and won eight trophies in his time at the Estádio de Dragão, including the 2012-13 league title in stunning fashion, overtaking rivals Benfica with a stoppage time winner in the penultimate game of the season (see video below).

James Rodriguez & Joao MoutinhoMoutinho is known as an excellent passer of the ball as well as a tenacious ball-winner, although his scoring rate has fallen since his move to Porto. His relationship with James Rodríguez, who also makes the move from Portugal to France, should help the team to gel more quickly, as they already have a good understanding with each other.

Rodriguez is said to be one of the most exciting young prospects football has to offer right now, and already has 12 caps for Colombia at the tender age of 21. Many in South America have declared him the successor of icon Carlos Valderrama, and his speed, creativity, and shooting have led some to liken him to a South American Cristiano Ronaldo. He has a fantastic scoring record for a winger, and his exhilarating talent has already seen him rank in The Guardian’s top 60 players in the world. As such, his transfer was reportedly worth €45million of the double-deal with Moutinho. Although he still has to fulfill his promise, his £60million compatriot needs no introduction.

Radamel Falcao García Zárate is widely accepted to be the best striker in the world outside of Messi and Ronaldo, and his goal tally confirms this. Since he moved to Europe (another ex-Porto star) in 2009, Falcao has plundered 142 goals in 177 games, won six domestic titles, and three European honors. He helped Atlético to third place in La Liga behind the big two, and a surprise Copa Del Rey Final win against neighbors and hated rivals Real.

Atlético MadridDespite not being especially tall, he is incredibly strong and a superb header of the ball, and is one of very few people to have scored five goals in a La Liga match: against Deportivo earlier this season. With Moutinho supplying him and Rodriguez providing support, he should find scoring goals no problem against weaker French teams, and he should seek to emulate Ibrahimović’s 35-goal season last term. That in itself creates an interesting match-up, not only between the two big spending clubs of French football but also between its two biggest superstar strikers.

More signings have been promised by the club, with Victor Valdés and Ricardo Carvalho the most likely next arrivals, adding defensive steel to the already-imported attacking flair. Ranieri has been clever in his signings; three of them have played together before, and all speak the same language having played in Spain and/or Portugal at some point in their careers.

It seems unlikely that players of this caliber can do anything other than challenge for titles, domestic and European, but it remains to be seen how long such players will stay around if no silverware is forthcoming. There are already rumors that Falcao could be using Monaco as a stepping-stone to a bigger club such as Real Madrid, but the project of helping to rebuild a formerly great club may excite the players to enough of an extent to keep them in France for a few seasons at least.

With a less challenging league to compete in, Monaco should be guaranteed a Champions League place next season, but after that, nothing is certain. Will they crash out in the group stages like Manchester City, or challenge one of the greats like PSG? Literally millions of pounds are at stake, but whatever happens, with players such as Rodríguez, Moutinho, and Falcao around, there will certainly be excitement, and lots of goals.

Written by Sam France

Where Does the Copa Del Rey Final Leave Atlético and Real Madrid?

Atlético MadridAfter 14 years, Atletico got the better of fierce rivals Real Madrid, and what a time to do it. Ending the season for Real in bitter fashion, Atletico had perhaps their greatest triumph, with Jose Mourinho dubbing the season as his “worst ever.” With dust settling on the campaign, where does this leave Atletico and Real?

Real will be under a new guiding philosophy, Carlo Ancelotti seems the likely replacement, however the logistics over a move from PSG are proving difficult for Real. Ancelotti is a safe option, much like most Real appointments. His success in the Champions League makes the most likely to bring the tenth title to Real, however that could prove impossible with the Guardiola reign at Bayern seeming destined to European domination.

A serious league challenge from Real could amount next season, Barcelona stormed the early part of the season, but since Tito Vilanova was away for a short period, the gap got closer. Without so many rifts between Mourinho and the dressing room, it could have been such a successful side this season.

The problem of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema dipping out of form proved to be pivotal, and the ‘sadness’ of Cristiano Ronaldo also provided to be an obstacle. Real did show their class throughout the campaign, the Copa Del Rey Semi-Finals were the pinnacle of their season. It was quite unfitting that they lost the Copa Del Rey Final in such disappointing circumstances.

The divisions in Real’s team were leaped upon by Diego Simeone, who claimed the game showed Real’s lack of unity:

“You can have great champions but, without a group, there is not a team. It’s very difficult. We are a group first. That makes us a team.”

José MourinhoThat was the fundamental difference in the final; Atletico were simply more unified. Divisions could define the Mourinho era, the constant conflict in the Real dressing room was pure poison to success. At times, Real and their conduct was utterly embarrassing.

Atletico are looking on the bright side despite the fact they are set to lose their star player, Radamel Falcao. There is a sense they can easily replace him; it proved to be a task they handled immaculately when replacing Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero.

Rumors have linked Christian Benteke to a move, with his contract at Villa not quite wrapped up, he seems a fine replacement. His touch of class in pace and power proved to be the only thing consistent for Villa this season. If he was to emulate his Villa form in La Liga, he could potentially mature into one of Europe’s finest strikers.

Atletico will again test their weight in the Champions League after years of waiting. Spanish success in the group stage last term can prove as great encouragement. Especially, the success of Malaga, a side that would have made the Semi-Finals if it wasn’t for some bizarre circumstances in latter stages against Dortmund. If Malaga could conquer the tournament to as far as the Quarter-Finals, Atletico could dream of even going a step further.

Real’s success next season will depend on the impact of the new manager; if it is Ancelotti, he would provide a rock solid appointment in combating the dressing room rifts. His success at PSG last season in both league and to some extent the Champions League consolidated his ability to deal with egos.

For Atletico, they could realistically catch Barca. Shown up to be far from the Pep Barca that seemingly would never end, the fear of being far from the pace could corrupt the club. Moreover, the signing of Neymar could lead to complete denial if he ultimately fails to shine at Barca. For every step Barca and Real make backwards, Atletico come creeping further on.

Written by Jimmy Cartwright

Radamel Falcao

Europa League Round of 32 Preview: Part 8

VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany) vs. SS Lazio (Italy)

Miroslav KloseTwo-time Europa League winners, Mönchengladbach, go into this competition’s round of 32 thanks to a relatively good performance in the group stages of the competition, having lost only once to Fenerbahce during this season’s campaign. Lucien Favre’s men finished 2nd in Group C with 11 points from 6 games. They scored 11 goals in the group stages, only five less than Dnipro who were the club to score more goals in the Europa League group stages. They sit safe in the German Bundesliga and everybody knows that to survive in the German Bundesliga is an accomplishment!

Lazio, in the same manner, have been a strong team since day one. Losing no single match in their Europa League campaign this season, Vladimir Petkovic’s men finished top of their Group J and remain top contenders for the title in the Italian Serie A. They managed to score 12 goals in the group stages of the Europa League this season; one more than Mönchengladbach and only 4 behind Dnipro. Just as everyone respects the German Bundesliga, everyone loves the class that’s displayed in the Italian Serie A every matchday; at least I know I do!

Key Players

Despite loaning out their top goalscorer in the Europa League this season, (Igor de Camargo to Hoffenheim), Mönchengladbach still remain with a class player in Luuk de Jong. He scored 2 goals in 3 games for Mönchengladbach this season in the Europa League and still impresses domestically. 21-year-old German international, Patrick Hermann could also turn out to be a wonderful weapon to use against the Lazio defense. Peniel Mlapa, although not too quick to add to his goal tally domestically, had also started alright in the Europa League for Mönchengladbach this season.

For Lazio, I think that with the way Klose has performed domestically, he will be closely watched by the Mönchengladbach defense. Hernanes isn’t half bad either; not even close! Libor Kozak had been wonderful for the Italian side as well; having scored 5 goals in 5 appearances for Lazio during their entire Europa League campaign this season. And finally, Floccari’s been a good influence for Lazio this season in all competitions; having scored a total of 8 goals and assisted 4 in 22 appearances in all competitions this season. He scored 3 in 5 appearances during the group stages of this competition. I think that having Radu play could help neutralize the likes of De Jong and prevent his side from conceding. I sincerely hope that injuries won’t come in the way of Stefan Radu for the remainder of this season.


My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Mönchengladbach would be a narrow win for Lazio. For the second leg of this game to be played in Rome, my prediction would be a comfortable Mönchengladbach victory.

1st Leg: VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-3 SS Lazio
2nd Leg: SS Lazio 0-3 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach

Club Atletico de Madrid (Spain) vs. Rubin Kazan (Russia)

Radamel FalcaoI had to save the best for last, of course! The defending Champions and the 10th best team in all of Europe (UEFA Ranking) are going to be the club with probably the biggest desire to win the trophy (that they’ve already won twice) once again! They were strongly challenged during the group stages of the competition and only just lost the number one position to Czech side, Plzen, in Group B. They lost twice and won the rest of their group stage matches. Diego Simeone’s men are one of the strongest (if not the strongest) contenders in this season’s competition, and losing to Academica doesn’t make this fact any less valid. Domestically in the Spanish Primera Liga as well, Atletico have also impressed, and are still continuing to do so. If there’s any team everyone should be watching this season, it’s Atletico Madrid!

Kurban Berdyev’s men, in the same manner, have had a wonderful season in the Europa League so far. Having lost none of their group stage games and finishing with an almost perfect score, Rubin Kazan finished top of Group H with 14 points from 6 games. Although not as strong as Atletico in domestic Leagues (they’re fighting for a Europa League spot, whereas Atletico are not too far behind leaders, FC Barcelona), Rubin Kazan have established themselves as one of the Europa League’s “big boys” this season. They’ve won the same number of times as Atletico have and so they won’t be feeling like underdogs; not in any way!

Key Players

Radamel Falcao has had a great season and that’s no secret! Diego Costa is the second Falcao for me! Can’t really ask for more in a collaborative strike-force (where Diego Costa is the provider and Falcao the receiver and implementer)! Together, Falcao and Diego Costa have scored 22 goals in the Primera Liga so far this season (19 belonging to Falcao, by the way; Diego Costa has assisted 9 goals). Diego Costa has also scored twice in five games for his club in the Europa League. So you definitely want to watch out for those two! Raul Garcia and Arda Turan could also be very essential in Atletico’s game. And I can’t go on without mentioning Koke too! Strong squad on Diego Simeone’s side!

For Rubin, I think we all enjoyed watching Venezuelan international, José Rondón, score 4 goals in 6 group stage matches for his side, as well as some class play from Aleksandr Ryazantsev. Bibras Natkho has also impressed in domestic leagues for Berdyev’s men. Vladimir Dyadun also managed to score good goals for his side this season; including one in the Europa League.


My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Madrid would be a win for the Russians. For the second leg of this game to be played in Moscow, I predict a big win to Atletico! Decided to go all out on this one!

1st Leg: Club Atletico de Madrid 2-3 Rubin Kazan
2nd Leg: Rubin Kazan 1-4 Atletico de Madrid


It’s going to be a very interesting Round of 32 and anything could happen. Many teams are out to prove to the world that they deserve to be the second Champions of Europe, but there’s only one spot available. Who will win this season’s Europa League? We’ll just have to wait (I know how hard it can get, but there’s no other option) and see!

Written by Ange Marline

Radamel Falcao Scores Five Goals to Destroy Deportivo La Coruna

Argentine striker Lionel Messi broke Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in a calendar year on December 9th, but although that was a crucial date in football history, it may have overshadowed something equally as important.

Radamel FalcaoAtletico Madrid star Radamel Falcao has once again reminded us of his claim that he will soon be the best striker in the world after leading the squad to a historic 6-0 victory over Deportivo la Coruna. The game was yet another demonstration of his undisputed talent on the pitch. Of Atletico’s 6 goals, the 26-year old Colombian found the back of the net 5 times as Atletico Madrid demolished Deportivo la Coruna.

Diego Costa opened the scoring with a header for Atletico on the 23rd minute, but the spotlight was completely on Falcao for the remainder of the match.

Falcao recorded his 1st of the match on the 28th minute after slotting the ball past the goalkeeper’s reach and into the bottom-left corner from the right. His 2nd, which was probably the goal of the match, was scored from just outside the box 3 minutes before the end of the 1st half.  His powerful shot went right past the diving goalkeeper and skimmed the right post as he netted the ball once again, putting Atletico up 3-0 at half time.

The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half had remained fairly quiet until Falcao completed his hat trick. Falcao stepped up to take the penalty kick, which found the bottom-right corner as Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia dove left. Just 4 minutes later, the striker found a 4th after he easily headed the ball in following the goalkeeper’s deflection.

Falcao put an end to the Atletico-dominated show as he took advantage of Deportivo’s terrible defense to score his 5th and final goal of the game. Despite the large number of defenders marking Falcao, from inside the box, Falcao slotted a shot that took a deflection off of the goalkeeper but still went in the goal, ending the game in a shocking 6-0 win for Atletico Madrid.

As a result of this historic match, Falcao was named the 1st player to score 5 in a La Liga game since the 2001-02 season. With 17 in total, Falcao is currently the 2nd top goalscorer in La Liga, behind only Lionel Messi (who has 25 goals) and a shocking 3 goals ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

Atletico Madrid vs Deportivo la CorunaBut although Messi has scored more than Falcao this season, he has also played more games. Messi has scored 30 goals in 23 games, which gives him an average of about 1.3 goals per match. Falcao has a similar average of about 1.27 goals per match thanks to 19 goals in 15 games. Therefore, at this rate, Falcao could threaten Messi’s newly set record in 2013.

Falcao has been very hard to beat this season, slotting in goals from all distances, positions, and angles, and he seems to be improving with every year. Because of his newly established popularity, we will most likely see Falcao leave Atletico for another team when the Transfer Market opens in January.

Reigning European Champions Chelsea and Spanish Champions Real Madrid are hoping to buy the Colombian International for themselves, especially because of their lack of success in their respective leagues this season. His game with Deportivo, in which he hit 5 goals, has surely opened their eyes to the significance of acquiring the striker.

Still-undefeated Barcelona stand atop La Liga with 46 points from their 15-1-0 record. Atletico Madrid are in 2nd place 6 points behind Barcelona and have an astonishing record of 13 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are trailing in 3rd with 33 points from their terrible 10-3-3 record. If results hold, this will be the first time since the 2003-04 season that Real Madrid haven’t gotten in the top 2 of the Spanish League.

Written by FutbolPulse