Vidal Bayern Bound As He Joins Guardiola’s Champions League Chase

Bayern Bound - Arturo Vidal (Image from PA)Losing a World Cup winning midfielder just a month before the new season begins could have the potential to derail a clubs preparations and result in a sluggish start to the new campaign as they frantically try to adjust. However this won’t be the case for German champions Bayern Munich who let German icon and recent World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger leave for Manchester United last week. It is business as usual for Pep Guardiola’s side who are already filling the void left by Schweinsteiger by purchasing Juventus and Chile star Arturo Vidal. A fee of €40m has been agreed between the clubs for the tireless midfielder who will now travel to Germany for a medical and to finalize terms. It will be a welcomed return to German football for Vidal who left Bayer Leverkausen in 2011 to join The Old Lady in Turin.

A young Vidal playing for Bayer Leverkausen  (Image from Getty)

A young Vidal playing for Bayer Leverkausen
(Image from Getty)

Vidal has been a huge success in Italy, helping Juventus lift four consecutive Scudetto’s and reach the Champions League final last year. But that defeat to Barcelona now sees a break up of the existing squad with several key players either on their way out or having already departed. Carlos Tevez has returned to Argentina with Boca whilst creative maestro Andrea Pirlo departed for the MLS. Speculation has been constant around the futures of midfielder Paul Pogba, striker Fernando Llorente and Vidal with the Chilean now set to be next out of the door. Juventus have strengthen already in several positions as Massimiliano Allegri shuffles his pack but the loss of Vidal will hit them hard regardless. Alongside two of either Pogba, Pirlo and Marchisio, Vidal has been the driving force in the Juventus midfield for the past few years. Comfortable as a defensive midfielder or in a more central position, Vidal’s no nonsense approach to the game bears resemblance to former Italian star Rino Gattuso who acted like a bulldog in the heart of AC Milan’s midfield a few years earlier under Allegri. However unlike Gattuso who was more comfortable sitting back, protecting the back line whilst others created in front of him, Vidal is more of a box to box player creating as many opportunities for his strikers as he does preventing them at the other end. He has benefited hugely from playing alongside the highly experienced Pirlo who has shown Vidal how to read the game better, involved his teammates more and pinpoint attacking opportunities before they happen. This tutelage has made Vidal a better all round player and is now regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world.

Vidal is in the same mould as Gattuso but slightly more attack minded  (Image from AFP)

Vidal is in the same mould as Gattuso but slightly more attack minded
(Image from AFP)

The chase for his signature has been going on for months now with Arsenal and Manchester United making several enquiries only to be told by the polite Vidal that he wasn’t ready. The Chilean wanted to win the Champions League with Juventus and the Copa with Chile this summer before thinking about a move. He may have failed at the first objective but was instrumental as hosts Chile beat Argentina in the final to claim their first ever Copa title. Bayern boss Pep Guardiola has been a fan of Vidal for some time now with suggestions that he attempted to bring him to Barcelona before the Chilean moved to Juventus. But the Spaniard would not lose out this time and has swooped under the radar of all other clubs to sign the player. Along with fellow new arrival Douglas Costa, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for €30m at the start of the month, Vidal will be part of a new look Bayern midfield as Guardiola looks to build on their domestic dominance in the Bundesliga success with similar success in Europe, namely the Champions League. Vidal will likely operate as part of a new look midfield trio with Costa and the never aging Xavi Alonso who Guardiola will look to as another Prilo like figure for Vidal.

One player who may not be part of that new look team is Mario Gotze. The forward, who scored Germany’s World Cup winning goal after coming off the bench is set for talks with Juventus about a move after falling out of favour with Guardiola. The former Borussia Dortmund star would move as a separate deal but the revenue generated from his sale would help to cover the outlay for Vidal. Both players offer something different and are not like for like replacements for each other so its hard to judge which side is getting the better end of this deal. For Gotze, it’s a chance to resurrect his career which has somewhat stalled since that dramatic night in Rio. For Vidal its a chance to show that he is one of the worlds best midfielders and that with Guardiola’s help he can finally lift the trophy he has been hoping for – the Champions League.

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Mainz Reacts To Jara’s Loose Hand

Gonzalo Jara in trouble again for fingering Cavani in Copa match (Image from Getty)The antics of Chilean defender Gonzalo Jara during Wednesday’s crunch quarter-final Copa America clash with Uruguay were despicable. The centre back played a hand literally in the sending off of PSG striker Edison Cavani in the 63rd minute of the match that ultimately swung the balance of the game in favour of Chile. Cavani received a second yellow after appearing to lash out at the defender, striking him in the face. However on closer inspection from a different angle, the reason for Cavani’s actions can be better understood. In footage capture from behind the two players, Jara is seen approaching Cavani at the half way line and sticking his finger into Cavani’s backside. The striker, who was doubtful for the match after his father was arrested for killing a man in a car accident, reacted as most would by pushing Jara away. The act itself was not worthy of a card but the referee was fooled by Jara who fell to the ground in theatrical fashion.

With Uruguay reduced to ten men, Chile went on to win the game thanks to an 81st minute strike from right back Mauricio Isla and progress to face Peru in the semi finals on Monday. Uruguay, quite rightly so were incensed by the actions of Jara and protested saying that he had deliberately done it to get Cavani sent off. Those protests may have fallen on deaf ears with the Copa organisers Conmebal but they have been heard loud and clear by Jara’s club, German Bundesliga side Mainz 05. The side’s Sporting Director Christian Heidel has revealed that the club is appalled by Jara’s actions and is ready to take their own actions by selling the player this summer. Heidel told German newspaper Bild that Jara knows he will be sold if the club receives a reasonable offer. He went on to state that the club will not tolerate that sort of behaviour from a player who represents their club. His disgust is less about Jara’s wandering hand but more so about the theatrical spill he took in order to ensure Cavani was dismissed.

Mainz Sporting Director Christian Heidel is ready to sell Jara  (Image from Mainz 05 website)

Mainz Sporting Director Christian Heidel is ready to sell Jara
(Image from Mainz 05 website)

Jara has as yet failed to make a statement in response but it’s believed that relations between Mainz and himself have rapidly deteriorated. It is however not the first time that this has happened with the Chilean defender well-known for his lack of discipline and hot streak. His career, which has taken him from his native Chile to Germany via a five-year stay in England with West Brom, Brighton and Nottingham Forest, is littered with disciplinary action so it’s hardly surprising that his current club is having similar issues. That said, it is unusual for a club to react in such a manner based on an incident at international level. When Luis Suaraz famously bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup last summer, his then club Liverpool decided to once again to support their player despite several fan protests. It was only after they received a substantial offer from Barcelona that they decided to sell their prize striker but if this had not materialized he would still be at the club today. Mainz decision to sell Jara based on his actions for Chile is a radical step but one that can be rationalized if you consider players as an extension of the clubs brand. Mainz at its heart is a family club, who actively promote games to the next generation of fans with attractive family ticket packages. Having a player like Jara associated to the club could potentially send out the wrong message and damage their brand in the long run. Ridding themselves of the player now appears to be a sensible approach, with any fee a bonus given that he was signed last summer as free agent.

Chiellini shows off the bite mark  (Image from Getty)

Chiellini shows off the bite mark
(Image from Getty)

Jara and his agent will have a busy next few weeks as they start to look for yet another club for the troubled Chilean. There is an argument that the pressure placed on the Chile squad to reach the final is immense which could have resulted in Jara taking such drastic actions to gain the competitive edge in a match which they were in danger of losing. Winning the Copa at home for the very first time would mean a lot to the Chile players including Jara who have developed as a team over the past five years. For the next couple of games, Jara will give his all for Chile in the hopes of lifting the trophy and perhaps also putting himself in the shop window for a potential new club.That is as long as he keeps himself out of mischief which is still to be seen.

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Brazil Recovery On Track As Copa Approaches

BrazilThe 2014 World Cup semi final still haunts Brazil. The humiliating defeat at the hands of eventual winners Germany was an eye opener for a team so confident of success in the tournament that they became blinded towards the truth. Despite having arguably one of the best players in the world in Neymar, the Brazil squad selected for the World Cup in their home land was less than inspiring. Luiz Filipe Scolari’s side were good on paper but lacked the creative spark or cutting edge of previous Brazil world cup teams. No Robinho or Ronaldinho to add an extra dimension to their play and no Romario or Ronaldo like striker to fire them to glory. All in all it was a side built for one purpose – to support Neymar. The talented 22 year old was given a free role, allowed to roam and create and basically do what he does best. With that freedom, Neymar shone picking up four goals on route to the quarter finals and placing himself in the running for player of the tournament. But a bad clumsy challenge by Colombia’s Juan Zuniga in the last few minutes of their clash in the quarters ruled Neymar out for the rest of the tournament. Heading into the semi’s Brazil were like a chicken with its head cut off. Unable to function and without Neymar to lead the way, Brazil were torn apart by a rampant Germany hungry for success. The 7-1 score line was flattering to Germany but in truth it could have been more. Their pride severely dented, Brazil’s national team was in tatters.

Brazil were humiliated by Germany in the Semi Final or The World Cup (Image from Getty)

Brazil were humiliated by Germany in the Semi Final or The World Cup (Image from Getty)

Two months later a fresh looking Brazil side took to the field to play Colombia in a friendly. Led out by new manager Dunga returning for a second spell as national boss, Brazil looked nervous yet prepared to start to rewrite the wrongs that had happened months previously. Their ranks had been changed dramatically with several key players from the World Cup notably absent. Striker Fred, who suffered the most due to his poor showing at the World Cup, had retired from international football aged 30 whilst Julio Cesar, Jo, Hulk, Maxwell and Paulinho all were left out in favour of fresh blood. In came Diego Tardelli, Everton Ribeiro, Philippe Coutinho and a recall for Robinho to add options to Brazil’s approach. The inclusion of Atletico Madrid defender Miranda was also welcomed by the fans and Brazilian media, many of whom felt that he should have been part of the World Cup squad in the first place and not have been excluded. His addition helped to solidify a shaky looking defence, even if it meant breaking up the much hyped PSG duo of David Luiz and Thiago Silva.  The match against Colombia finished in a 1-0 win with newly appointed captain Neymar sealing the win with an 83rd minute free kick. That nervous win would kick start a run of friendly victories that has now stretched to eight in a row. Brazil are back so it would seem and with a bang. Or are they?

Yes they have played against some good sides (notably France, Chile, Argentina and Colombia) scoring 18 times and conceding just twice but in a majority of the games Brazil have labored away to get the win. This may be due to Dunga crafting the team in his vision – less flair, more workhorse like in their performances. Brazil is more disciplined than before preferring to play through teams on the deck rather than looking for adventurous but risky long balls. Neymar in his new role as captain has a more disciplined approach too, less free to roam the pitch and more focused on linking the play and inspiring the team with some quick setup work or a shot on goal. The results of this change have been evident with the Barcelona player scoring eight times in as many games, including a self demolition of Japan when he scored four goals. Unlike during the World Cup though, the pressure on Neymar as his country’s only real goal threat has been lifted with several new players drafted in to ease the burden. In particular, the emergence of Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino has been a massive boost to Brazil’s attacking options with the 23 year old playing a significant role as provider and finisher of some of Brazil’s best moves in recent games. Despite having only four caps to date, Firmino has scored two fantastic goals and looks set to cement his place in Dunga’s long term plans as long as his form continues for both club and country.

Brazil’s fresh start under Dunga has been impressive to date but the biggest challenges await with the Copa America the first of them. Due to be played in Chile in June, Dunga will know that only a strong performance and perhaps a win will be enough to mend the bridges with the Brazil fans that were so violently destroyed by that defeat by Germany. The Copa is far from an easy competition to win, arguably tougher than the World Cup so Brazil will need to be on their best form to be triumphant. Brazil face Peru, Colombia and Venezuela in the group stage starting June 14th with progression expected. Failure to progress is not an option open for Dunga especially with the heartache from the World Cup still fresh in Brazilian hearts and minds.

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There’s Only Two Claudio Caniggias

Wait a second? Even the mascot didnt believe it was Caniggia as Cordone tries to pull a fast one (Image from Reuters)The unmistakable figure of Claudio Caniggia stood motionless in the tunnel, waiting for the call to take the field for Sunday’s friendly veteran’s game between Argentina and Brazil. The match in Natal, Brazil was billed as a clash of the greats with 1986 World Cup winning Argentina centre-back Oscar Ruggeri, Argentine midfielder Ariel Ortega and Brazilian duo Junior Baiano and Adilio all on show. But arguably one of the star attractions was Caniggia, a pacey winger turned striker that in his day excited crowds wherever he played. As the teams took to the field, Caniggia’s name was read out over the loud speaker and his photo flashed on the big screen to a barrage of applause and cheers. Wearing the number 7 shirt, Caniggia looked good for his 47 years with his famous long blond locks blowing in the wind. But in closer inspection, something just wasn’t right. Caniggia appeared to have gotten a tattoo on his right forearm, which did not look like a recent addition. Added into this, his style of play was slightly different and his passing somewhat off. As the game began fans began to wonder if the player on the field was in fact Claudio or instead an imposter?

Caniggia and Maradona embrace during another veterans match in Georgia earlier this year  (Image from REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

Caniggia and Maradona embrace during another veterans match in Georgia earlier this year
(Image from REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)

They were right to question this as it was in fact not Caniggia but instead former Newcastle and Velez Sarsfield striker Daniel Cordone who was on the pitch. The former Magpie striker was pretending to be Caniggia who it was later revealed had missed his flight. Cordone, who was deemed a flop on Tyneside played the full ninety minutes before quickly scurrying off the field into the dressing room ignoring the waiting media. This caused suspicions to arise in the press core as Caniggia was usually more than willing to speak to reporters, especially given his status in Argentina as a legend. Unlike Cordone who never represented his country, Caniggia appeared over 50 times, scoring 16 goals during a 15 year international career. He played in two World Cups (selected for three but didn’t take the field during the 2002 World Cup) helping Argentina to the final in 1990 but his finest hour was leading Argentina to Copa America success in 1991. His dynamic play and gritted determination to own the ball during that tournament steered Argentina to its first Copa win in over 30 years. Caniggia is also fondly remembered for his club career and the many teams that he turned out for. After starting his career in Argentina with River Plate, he moved to Italy where he would play for Verona, Atalanta and Roma before moving to Portugal with Benfica. After a single season, he returned to Argentina with Boca Juniors before being persuaded three years later to return to Atalanta for a final swansong. Caniggia was happy to escape his homeland after a troubled three years which including losing his mother who commited suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of her apartment building. The event affected Caniggia deeply who considered retiring after spending almost a year out of the game in mourning but when the offer from Atalanta came in, he decided to give it one last shot. It was a move that would eventually see him move to Britain but strangely not to one of England’s big clubs who had been chasing him his entire career but instead to Dundee in the Scottish Premiership. In Scotland he regained his passion for the game and after a fantastic debut season, he secured a lucrative move to Glasgow giants Rangers where he would gain cult status with the fans over a two year stay. He would eventually leave Scotland for a single season in the money laden Qatar league but in truth Caniggia had by then called it a day. Now retired from the game and in an effort to maintain his fitness, he takes part in exhibition matches like this one, but for reasons unconfirmed was not in Natal come Sunday.

Caniggia became a cult hero at Rangers thanks to a goal in the Old Firm derby  (Image from PA)

Caniggia became a cult hero at Rangers thanks to a goal in the Old Firm derby
(Image from PA)

An investigation has been launched into why the organizers would allow Cordone to play in place of Caniggia and more importantly lie to the fans about it. The event organizers, Phoenix Sports insisted when questioned that there was nothing to hide and that it was Caniggia who took to the field on Sunday. ‘This is the Caniggia, the real Caniggia. There is no other Caniggia,’ insisted Andre de Paula, promoter of Phoenix Sports after the game.  But he quickly retracted this remark later on and admitted that Caniggia had failed to turn up so they were forced to field Cordone.  In the end the result of the match was not important, with it finishing in a 3-3 draw. But for the fans it was a bitterly disappointing day as some had paid good money to come and see Caniggia play in particular. Several fans left in disgust before the match had finished after working out that it wasn’t Caniggia on the field, with many more feeling angry about being lied to. There has been no word yet about whether further action will be taken against the promoter or against Cordone himself for his part in this fraud. Caniggia has yet to reveal his side of the story and has remained silent as the controversy over why this happened continues.

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