Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The midfielder will find a team playing his brand of football, two international team-mates to keep him company and a manager who can explain his ideas in German
As you would expect, Mesut Ozil's £42.5m move to Arsenal has reverberated through his home country – all the way down to the nether regions of Regionalliga West, the fourth division. Rot-Weiss Essen, a traditional powerhouse who have fallen on hard times, were jubilant when they heard the news on Monday; they are expecting a handsome windfall of €800,000 (£675,000) as compensation for developing him over a decade ago. Schalke, where the son of Turkish immigrants played from 2005-08, are due a similar figure.The real benefit to German football of this record transfer – the 24-year-old is now its most expensive footballer – will go far beyond financial considerations, however. Ozil's "escape from circus Real Madrid" (Süddeutsche Zeitung) has been widely seen as a smart decision, both for him and, by extension, the national team. Germany's manager, Joachim Löw, certainly will not have to fret about his sensitive playmaker being frozen out at the Bernabéu in a World Cup season any more.Ozil will instead find a team playing his kind of football, two German team-mates to keep him company and a manager who can explain his ideas in German. Most importantly, Ozil will go from feeling like the fifth wheel at Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid to being the star attraction in north London, and Arsène Wenger's personal favourite. The Frenchman tried to sign him first seven years ago, before he moved to Werder Bremen."I'm a player who needs the confidence [of the manager]," Ozil explained to dfb.tv, the official channel of the national team, on Tuesday. "At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses. I am really looking forward to [joining Arsenal] because I have the faith of the coach. I had spoken to him at length on the telephone, he explained his plans and that he has faith in me – that is what I need as a player."Germany's sporting director, Oliver Bierhoff, joked about a "hectic" start to the international week. The former striker had facilitated the deal just as he had done two years ago, when Per Mertesacker was signed on deadline day by the Gunners. You could just sense the slightest sense of exasperation in the 45-year-old's voice – why do they always leave it so late? – but it was in his own interest to see it get done. Ensuring Ozil got out of the Madrid pressure cooker had become a thing of national importance. He had no longer been feeling "the trust inside the club", Bierhoff explained: "Ancelotti had perhaps different ideas."  
'I am really looking forward to joining Arsenal because I have the faith of the coach,' says Mesut Ozil. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Spanish correspondent Paul Ingendaay took a more negative line on Ozil's departure to the Emirates. The outrageously gifted playmaker did not impose himself in any of Madrid's big matches in the past three seasons, he recalled, and wryly noted that his at times breathtakingly elegant performances were "the stuff of dreams, but not of trophies".The move to Arsenal – "a club that's always involved at the top but never tends to win anything" – amounted to him failing in the Spanish capital and was not simply a consequence of new arrivals Gareth Bale and Isco stealing his limelight. "The air at Real had been thin for him before," Ingendaay insisted.There is some truth to that. Serious seeds of doubt about his future at Madrid were first sown in a meeting with club management in mid-May.Mustapha Ozil, the player's father and agent, expected the president, Florentino Pérez, to offer a contract extension beyond 2016 and improved wages that reflected his popularity with the supporters, but the club coolly professed contentment with the existing status quo. Feelers were put out to a number of Premier League sides over the course of the summer.A combination of Ozil's wage demands – he was already on €5m a year after tax at Madrid, roughly the equivalent of £150,000 per week before tax in the UK – as well as Madrid's preoccupation with incoming players did not lead to any concrete negotiations before the beginning of the weekend, however. Then Arsenal called.As late as last Wednesday, when Ozil was professing his love for Real to German journalists at a Madrid event organised by his sponsors Adidas, he firmly expected to stay at the club. Madrid soon made their plans – or lack of them – for him clear, though. "Real Madrid mobbed him towards Arsenal," was Bild's take on the affair."I wasn't surprised, I had known about it for two or three days," confirmed his former Los Blancos team-mate Sami Khedira, possibly the only German who has seemed upset about Ozil's London move. "I regret the decision, it could weaken [Madrid], from a sporting point of view," said the 26-year-old in Munich.Bierhoff carefully suggested that Germany's No10 will "have to adapt to new conditions" in England after leaving a league that seemed more tailored to his lightness of touch. "In Spain, the style suited him, naturally," Bierhoff admitted, "but he will mature [in England]."A similar hope for Germany's most beautiful but also frail flower was expressed in Süddeutsche. "Wenger is someone who understands artists," mused the broadsheet, "[at Arsenal] somebody like him could find ideal conditions to blossom."

Four teams still have 100% records in La Liga following another pulsating round of fixtures on week three in Spain's first division.

It seems our defensive problems are over! With the transfer window now closed Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta gave a press conference this lunchtime alongside Vice-President Josep Maria Bartomeu to explain Barça’s activity, or rather lack of it, in this summer’s market. Zubizarreta stated that the club had tried everything to try and sign Thiago Silva both last summer and this, but the Brazilian had preferred PSG. Zubi then defended the decision not to incorporate another central defender with the usual excuse of the difficulties of finding the right player to fit the Barça system. He went on to talk about Carles Puyol, saying “there were 24 hours to go before the transfer window closed and yesterday Puyol went out to train. This is our signing.”
Now, nobody needs an introduction to Carles Puyol. As captain of our best ever team he has won every cup possible at club and international level. A blaugrana living legend. However, given his recent bad luck with injuries it is difficult to expect the 35-year-old Puyol to play too often or to offer the same level of performance as in previous seasons. Zubizarreta tried to justify the decision by stating that last season we achieved the best first half to a season ever with the same group of defenders even though we suffered injuries. However, Zubi failed to remember that last season we conceded 70 goals in 60 matches in all competitions, a poor record when compared to the previous four seasons under Pep Guardiola (2008/09: 55 goals conceded in 62 matches; 09/10: 41 goals in 59 matches; 10/11: 36 goals in 60 matches; 11/12: 48 goals in 64 matches).
The current situation only goes to magnify the foolishness of the decision not to offer Eric Abidal a new contract. With every day that passes Abidal proves his fitness, playing regularly for Monaco and being called up again for France. You might expect that when the decision was taken to let Abidal go, the club would have had somebody ready to sign as his replacement. But no, the club was thinking only of Thiago Silva who had already turned down the chance to join Barça in 2012. As Zubizarreta said today when talking about the Brazilian defender “not every player gets up in the morning thinking how wonderful it would be to play for Barça”. If Silva chose PSG over Barça in 2012 I think you can be pretty sure it is because they offered him more money. The club should have realised that the only way to get the player was by matching PSG’s wages. If this didn’t agree with Barça’s wage structure, then fine, don’t sign the player, but at least have an alternative ready before letting a player of Abidal’s qualities go.
Zubizarreta also spoke of the confidence the club has in Marc Bartrá. Now, Bartrá is still a promising player and he may still prove to be the answer to our defensive problems. However, last season when the first moment came to give him a chance, Tito Vilanova preferred to play Alex Song and then Adriano in central defence. Later in the season when Bartrá was thrown in at the deep end against Bayern he didn’t look quite ready for the job. The player needs playing time in some of our easier matches to continue to develop. So far this season he is the only fit outfield player who has still not played a minute, which also means Piqué and Mascherano are the only players who haven’t had a minute’s rest. At the moment it seems as though Bartrá could still face problems if suddenly needed against tough opposition.
On paper, Barça have started the season well. The first trophy of the season is in the bag and we are top of La Liga with the maximum nine points. However, there is a feeling that having failed to sign anybody apart from Neymar this summer, we may have to rely more than ever for good fortune regarding injuries if we are to challenge for the top trophies next May.
AC Milan have concluded talks with Real Madrid that will pave the way for Brazilian playmaker Kaka's return to the San Siro, reports claimed late on Sunday.
Milan CEO Adriano Galliani flew in a private jet to Madrid on Sunday morning and Sky Sport Italia later claimed the Spanish giants have agreed a two-year deal with the Rossoneri.
No firm details were given in the report, although speculation suggests Real could release Kaka for free or allow him to go on a two-year loan.
Kaka last week made a public plea to be able to leave the Spanish giants as he looks towards cementing a place in the Brazilian national side ahead of next year's World Cup.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri on Friday praised the Brazilian's attributes and said he had "faith" a deal could be struck for Kaka.
"Kaka would strengthen us. He's versatile, and his technical attributes would be a big plus to the team," said Allegri.
"We still have two and a half days till the end of the transfer window and the club is working on it. I have faith."
The deal is now confirmed and Kaka is now set on with free transfer to Milan.