There is a lot of furore (especially from the Kings Road area of London) about the deal that has enabled Manchester City to sign Frank Lampard for the whole season (he was meant to be joining the champions franchise club – New York City for the start of the MLS season in March 2015). Let me make this clear from the off ‘THERE HAS BEEN NO WRONGDOING’ as far as the rules of Premier League state. His supposed ‘loan’ , which Chelsea fans were finding hard to take anyway, was only meant to be up to the end of 2014 – however City have now clarified that there was never a ‘loan’ deal as the former darling of Stamford Bridge had never actually signed for the New York club – he had just made a commitment to sign. My take – well yes the blues of Manchester did mislead the Premier League into the details of the initial ‘loan’ deal, but they were clever – they knew they were not breaking any rules and exploited the loophole – any other club would have done the same. I take the example of third-party ownership of players – the most high profile being West Ham’s capture of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – Manchester United got in on the act by taking Tevez to Old Trafford a season later. The Premier League soon closed this loophole and it is now not allowed within the league. The onus is now on the hierarchy of the so called (by some people anyways) ‘best league in the world’ to make sure they look at this current situation as its clear that there seem to be more questions than answers and in the future make sure it cannot be exploited in this way again.
I saw a flash poll at the weekend in regards to Manchester City’s proposed plan to sign Swansea striker Wilfried Bony for around 28 million pounds (the deal is now done) and whether he is worth that kind of money. This kind of debate always interests me as it isn’t as black and white as just doing a timed poll which for the record 71.2% said he was not – I’m sure some reds of Manchester and blues of London may well have got involved. Right its clear the champions have paid a heck of a lot of money for the Ivory Coast striker, but lets be honest any player under contract is worth whatever the selling club will sell him for (simple logic really). Swansea bought Bony for 12 million in the summer of 2013 and he promptly scored 16 league goals last season and scored the most the Premier League goals in the calendar year for 2014. If you look at the way he has adapted to the Premier League (a notoriously hard league for foreigners to thrive in initially) he has settled brilliantly and for Swansea to more than double their money – it was a deal they were happy to sanction. For me 28 million is a fair price on what he has done during his time in England and dependant on what he does next it may potentially be a steal – because lets be honest if he scores / contributes to goals that win them the title and/or the Champions League and/or the FA Cup the fee will be the last thing on peoples minds when a trophy is being lifted.
The Tennis season has resumed and the first Grand Slam tournament will soon be upon us with the Australian Open starting this coming Monday (19th January). With little prep time for the players – it is usually a good opportunity for someone who has begun the year at the top of their game – just ask Stan Wawrinka and Li Na – who won their first Australian Open titles in 2014 and in the Swiss players case his first Grand Slam title.
On the mens side – with the return from injury of Rafa Nadal, you would imagine that he, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who in winning the Brisbane Open became only the third male to win 1000 matches on the ATP Tour, will be the players to beat. Two time Grand Slam winner, Andy Murray, has had a good start to the year – he beat Nadal 6-2 6-0 in Abu Dhabi followed by three singles victories at the Hopman Cup. He will be looking to build on his excellent end to last season, though this was tempered by his 6-0 6-1 hammering by the Fed Express in the ATP World Tour Finals. If we are looking at a potential first Grand Slam winner – look no further than Grigor Dimitrov or perhaps Tomas Berdych they both love the hard court surface and are a match for anyone if on their game.
As for the women well the question normally asked is – where is Serena in her preparation. Maybes it does not matter as she has not won in Melbourne since 2010, she has not even made it to the last four in that time. Maria Sharapova has just won the Brisbane Open and will be competitive as ever. Apart from Victoria Azarenka defending her title in 2013 all the winners since 2010 were maiden Australian Open Champions and with a long list of players on the WTA looking for a first Grand Slam win there is always an opportunity so early in the season. So watch out for players such as Aga Radwanska (former Wimbledon finalist), Eugenie Bouchard (last years Wimbledon runner up), 2014 French Open finalist, recent Shenzhen Open winner – Simona Halep and last years US open bridesmaid Caroline Wozniacki who coincidentally has just lost to a certain Venus Williams in the ASB Classic in Auckland. Now that would be a fairytale if the older Williams sister went away with the crown.
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