Paris-Saint Germain

How do you solve a problem like Di Maria? Manchester United’s Argie Bargy

Angel Di Maria is again the target for flush French club Paris Saint-Germain, the side that missed out on the Argentine just last summer. After a disappointing debut season in England, should Manchester United dismiss Di Maria?

Numerous reports today suggest that PSG would be willing to splash the £59.7 million that United paid for Di Maria back in August (which broke the British transfer record in the process).

It would not be unfair to suggest that he has been a let down since his arrival, contributing just nine assists and three goals in the Premier League since arriving at Old Trafford.

Only PSG’s financial frustrations prevented the winger signing the dotted line at the Parc des Princes eight months ago, with UEFA implementing a spending restriction on the club after they breached Financial Fair Play regulations.

Di Maria told French broadcaster Telefoot in November that “PSG, I think they had a money problem and they couldn’t buy players, this is the main reason I didn’t go there”.

Real Madrid cast him aside in favour of the more marketable and star of the-then recently finished World Cup James Rodriguez as well as Gareth Bale who was signed for a world record £80 million from Tottenham the previous summer.

Right from the start, life in England seemed like hell for United’s Angel.

In an open letter to the Madridstas (Real Madrid fanbase) after leaving, the unwanted man admitted he never wanted to say sayonara to Santiago Bernabeu.

“Unfortunately, I have to go but I want to make clear that this was never my desire.

“I went to the World Cup with the hope of receiving a gesture from the board, which never arrived. Many things and many lies were told. Someone may not like me. The only thing I asked for was something fair. There are many things that I value and many of them have nothing to do with my salary.”

Big heart, but shown no love: "broken promises" led to Real Madrid binning Di Maria.

Big heart, but shown no love: “broken promises” led to Real Madrid binning Di Maria

Now United could too sell to recoup their transfer fee for a player who has not produced the sort of world class performances that were displayed during Real Madrid’s run to La Decima (a 10th Champions League triumph) just the season before.

The decision Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal faces, however, is one of does Di Maria want to be here, or is he just struggling to settle?

Van Gaal defended his stellar signing pre FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, noting “we are all human beings and we all have bad days.

“When you bring players into a team from a number of different countries it always takes time for them to settle both personally and with their family but also on the pitch as part of the team,” he wrote in his programme notes.

“Away from the football you have to adapt to a new culture that you are living in, while on the field you have to learn the new rhythm of the game, which is very high in the Premier League and very different to any other league, plus the competition is also very high”, Van Gaal continued.

“We are all human beings and we all have bad days but I am very pleased with the players we have here. They are improving all the time and I don’t think it will be very long before we see the team competing as a unit.”

Off-the-field issues are beyond simply missing home, though. Di Maria has had his house raided and his wife is rumoured to have recently relocated back to Spain.

Paris Potential: Could PSG be saying "Halo" to Angel this summer?

Paris Potential: Could PSG be saying “Halo” to Angel this summer?

If Di Maria’s debacle is simply down to cultural differences, and these are overcome, then United have the player on their hands that has won domestic and continental honours, but this is a conclusion that needs to be drawn between now and August.

If not, United may not get the required transfer fee and end up selling what could have been a star asset for a cut-price deal next January.

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Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Chelsea

Edinson Cavani’s second-half header denied Chelsea a key away win in the first-leg of their last 16 Champions League clash.

Uruguayan Cavani swept in Maxwell’s delivery from the left hand side nine minutes into the second half to ensure that PSG earned a share of the spoils.

It was his sixth goal in the Champions League this season which makes him the tournament’s third top scorer.

Branislav Ivanovic had initially given the English side the lead with a headed goal of his own 36 minutes on the clock in what was his 30th goal in Chelsea colours and his 27th since August 2010.

John Terry’s low cross was flicked on exquisitely by Gary Cahill into the path of defender number three in the move Ivanovic for the vital away goal for the Blues.

PSG were the ones who looked more likely to go into the Stamford Bridge second-leg with the advantage from the off.

Blaise Matuidi had a header palmed away by Thibaut Courtois and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was foiled seconds later, again with a headed effort.

Chelsea took the lead against the run of play, but the Parisians were not deterred, with Ibrahimovic coming close again, denied by Courtois’ feet and then Cesar Azpilicueta blocked Matuidi’s goal-bound shot.

Cavani had another go in the closing stages, but shot wide after a neat bit of footwork but this was a match with little goal-mouth action.

Jose Mourinho’s side were below par but that away goal gives them advantage for the rematch in three weeks’ time.

PREVIEW: PSG v Chelsea

Diego Costa’s much awaited return to the Chelsea fold has been confirmed by manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the Blues’ showdown with Paris Saint-Germain.

Mourinho is worried, however with the lack of game time from his powerful centre forward due to a suspension that was dished out in the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.

“He will start but a long rest is not good for him,” the Special One conceded. “I don’t think it’s good for a player to be three weeks, or three matches, without starting a game. So I don’t think he’ll be in the best condition.

“A little rest is welcome for everyone; a big rest isn’t good for the players. So we are not going to see the best Diego. I hope I’m wrong, but probably he will need this game to try to get back to his best.”

Costa has not scored in the Champions League yet for Chelsea, despite leading the club’s goal scoring charts with 17 goals.

It is not a good omen for the West Londoners, who have not won on French soil since a 3-0 win, coincidentally over PSG, in September 2004, in what was Mourinho’s first Champions League match as Chelsea manager.

PSG themselves are unbeaten in 32 Champions League matches at home, a record that stretches back to December 2004, with their last home loss coming at the hands of CSKA Moscow, who won 1-3 at the Parc des Princes.

Laurent Blanc, PSG manager, is anxious of his side’s injury woes though, stating “You cannot play against Chelsea without being 100%”.

Yohan Cabaye (groin), Serge Aurier (thigh), Lucas Moura (also groin) and Thiago Motta (calf) will all miss tonight’s encounter

Not a problem Chelsea have though as only John Obi Mikel (knee) is unavailable for the away side and January addition Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina is eligible.

Oscar and Willian have “little problems” but are in contention for a starting birth, and the same can be said of play-maker Cesc Fabregas who looks to have recovered from a recent illness.

Chelsea are the only English team to have beaten PSG in France (with the aforementioned 3-0 in 2004, along with a win by the same score line in 1994-95).

Costa and co are the highest scorers in the Champions League this campaign with 17 goals, seven of which have come on the road, which will concern their French counterparts, as they have kept only one clean sheet in this season’s tournament (a 1-0 win over APOEL).

The 2012 champions are also unbeaten in their last four away European matches, as they look to take revenge from the 3-1 defeat they suffered here last season.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, an own goal by David Luiz (now at PSG), and Javier Pastore scored the goals for the hosts in April, with Eden Hazard’s penalty provided an away goal for Chelsea.

Andre Schurrle and a last minute goal by Demba Ba (both have since left Stamford Bridge) sent Chelsea through to the Semi Final.

UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

Manchester City have been handed a tough draw in this season’s Champions League, being matched up with German Champions Bayern Munich in group E.

The Premier League holders will also have to face a tricky trip to CSKA Moscow and AS Roma.

Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow were all drawn in the same group last season with Munich finishing first and Manchester City second.

Chelsea meanwhile were paired with Schalke 04 for the second season running and they will be joined in group G by Sporting Lisbon and Maribor, who elimiated Celtic in the last round.

Arsenal have been matched up with Borussia Dortmund again as well as Galatasay and Anderlecht.

Liverpool, in the Champions League for the first time in five years, will re-enter the competition knowing they will have to play holders Real Madrid, Swiss Champions FC Basel and Ludogorets of Bulgaria who make their Champions League bow.

Elsewhere beaten finalists Atletico Madrid have been drawn with Juventus and Barcelona will play PSG in a mouth watering tie.

Draw in full:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo

Group B: Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Monaco

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasary, Anderlecht

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, AS Roma

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Group H: Porto, Shaktar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

Brazil 1-1 Chile (Brazil win 3-2 on penalties)

Hosts Brazil booked their place in the Quarter Finals with a win over Chile but had to rely on a penalty shootout.

Gonzalo Jara, recently released by Nottingham Forest, had the unenviable role of having to score the deciding penalty but his spot-kick hit the post and away to send Brazil through.

David Luiz, Marcelo and Neymar all netted from twelve yards for El Selecao while Maurico Panilla, Alexis Sanchez and Charles Aranguiz could not convert for Chile.

Paris Saint-Germain’s latest signing Luiz kneed the Brazilians in front 18 minutes in after Thiago Silva headed on Neymar’s corner for a simple finish for his new teammate.

Sanchez leveled the scores after 32 minutes when Brazil lost the ball cheaply from a throw in in their own half. Sanchez slotted home past Julio Cesar with ease after being given the time and space by the Brazilian back line.

Chile almost spoiled the party in the last minute of extra time but Pinilla could only hit the bar with a fierce drive in the dying seconds.

Brazil thought they had a winner ten minutes into the second half when Hulk shinned in an effort but after consideration from his linesman, Howard Webb ruled that the Zenit man controlled the ball with his arm.

Hulk also should have made it 2-1 to Brazil seven minutes before the end but had his shot brilliantly saved by Claudio Bravo.

The two teams had to settle for penalties though and it was Brazil who would book themselves a spot in the last eight.

 

 

Have Chelsea finally found Claude Makelele’s successor in Nemanja Matic?

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Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu. Chelsea have tried and failed to find the man to fill Claude Makelele’s boots since his 2008 departure. While the trio have had relative success in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, none of them have come close to having the influence Makelele did. In Nemanja Matic though, Chelsea may have found the solution.

Claude Makelele arrived at Stamford Bridge in the Summer of 2003 for a fee of £16.8 million after being outcast by Real Madrid as they denied his request of a better contract and continued building their “Galacticos” squad without him. The defining mistake by Florentino Perez and possibly the main reason why Real failed to add to their ninth Champions League win in 2002 where Makelele was a regular.

We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” – Perez (2003)

On arriving in West London, then Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said of Makelele that he would be “the battery” of the Chelsea side, and right he was too. Thanks to the Frenchman, and Chelsea’s other signings that year in the first season under Roman Abramovich’s era, Chelsea finished Premiership runners up and reached the Champions League semi finals for the first time ever, losing to Monaco who would go on to be beat by Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.

Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager the following season of course and under him, Chelsea would transform into the European superpower we know them as today. Makelele blossomed in Mourinho’s style of play, his defensive work, along with a solid back five of Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas, meant that Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all season while his passing ability allowed players such as Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba to attack the opposition at will. “The Makelele role”, as it would be known, was born.

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Every team across the land it seemed was after their very own Claude Makelele. Liverpool signed Javier Mascherano, Arsenal opted for Alex Song, Manchester United acquired Michael Carrick while Tottenham snapped up Didier Zokora. Although three quarters of these signings were no doubt successful (Zokora being the exception), none of them were, or are, as good as Makelele.

The role has been adapted slightly in modern times with the fancy named “Deep Lying Playmaker” or “Regista” role being the latest fashionable term. Well known “DLPs” are Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Jack Wilshere while Sergio Busquets is regarded as an efficient Regista.

Makelele continued to shine in a Chelsea shirt for the next three seasons but his last game was to come, aptly in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final, the 2008 clash with Manchester United. It would only have been more fitting if Chelsea had won that night in Moscow’s Red City, to give the mercurial Frenchman the greatest of send offs, much like Drogba’s in 2012.

Chelsea’s number four departed West London for Paris Saint Germain where he spent three seasons, won a Coupe de France in 09/10 and retired the following year to become Assistant Manager, which he remains as today.

Nemanja Matic put pen to paper on a four year deal at Chelsea in 2009 for a £1.5 million fee having spent time on trial at Middlesbrough and he was clearly signed as 2006 World Cup runner up Makelele’s long term replacement. Matic made two appearances in his first spell as a Chelsea player before joining feeder club Vitesse Arnhem on loan where he scored twice in 27 games for the Eridivisie club. Having failed to make a mark on the Premier League though he was sold to Benfica in a player plus cash deal worth £21 million plus David Luiz.

Matic announced himself onto the European stage in the Portuguese Capital, scoring six goals in 56 games over the course of three seasons, including one strike against Porto that finished second in the Puskas Award (given to the year’s best goal) of last season, losing out to Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s acrobatic effort against England before rejoining the 2012 Champions League winners for £21 million in January of this year.

Like Makelele, Matic has the ability to break down the play and slow down the midfield to tire the opposition with accurate passing to support his pinpoint tackles, and what’s more intimidating for his rivals is that Matic might even become better than his predecessor. He’s more dynamic than Makelele was and at a younger age too, and more impressively, is a larger threat going forward making him a more versatile player than his French counterpart. Already this season we’ve seen the Serbian crack the woodwork from long range against Manchester City at the Etihad and have a goal disallowed against Aston Villa for a questionable handball. Makelele only scored two goals in a Chelsea shirt, a rebounded Penalty against Charlton (which he originally had saved) and an 18 yard curler against Tottenham, which as great as it was, was his only shot of the entire season.

With Nemanja Matic the latest man being given the job of controlling the Blues’ midfield and so far looking more in control than anyone has in a good while, Chelsea seem to have finally found the man who has filled the Claude Makelele shaped void in the centre of the pitch.