Blues linked with Mata bid

Chelsea are reported to have made a bid in the region of £27 million for Valencia midfielder Juan Mata.

Andre Villas-Boas is known to be keen to add to his midfield, both to increase numbers and to inject creativity after the team struggled to provide record signing Fernando Torres with sufficient service after his move from Liverpool in January.

Luka Modric is still said to be on the club's radar - though Villas-Boas told a press conference on Thursday that the continuation of the pursuit will be the "club's decision" - but widespread reports in England and Spain suggest that, for now, attention has turned to 23-year-old Mata.

Marca reported the news of Chelsea's interest earlier this week, and Valencia-based SuperDeporte claims "talks between the directors at the London club and Valencia have intensified". The Las Provincias newspaper says Chelsea are ready to pay between €25 million and €30 million, and that Valencia would accept, with Sergio Canales' arrival from Real Madrid offering adequate cover.

The Daily Telegraph, more specifically, claims Chelsea have bid £27 million and adds: "The offer is expected to secure the 23 year-old from Valencia, who are likely to accept the bid ahead of interest from Tottenham Hotspur." The Daily Mail, which reported that Chelsea had seen a £22 million bid for Mata rejected earlier this week, also puts the value of the bid at £27 million but claims the offer includes a further £2 million in top-up payments.

Asked to comment on links with Mata, Raul Meireles and Porto duo Joao Moutinho and Alvaro Pereira, Villas-Boas would only say: "We have been studying all kinds of options."

With their young manager at the helm, Chelsea have been eager to inject youth into the playing staff, and on Thursday completed the signing of 18-year-old Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku. Villas-Boas has tipped the youngster for great success at Stamford Bridge.

"He is tremendously powerful, very strong in the challenges," he said. "Despite his size, he has an explosiveness and an ability to react quickly which looks pretty amazing. He just has to break through this competitive level and, for sure, he will get opportunities this year."


Nasri to leave with 'bitterness and anger

Arsenal's battle to keep hold of wantaway midfielder Samir Nasri appears destined to reach a messy conclusion, with the Frenchman saying he will "certainly leave very soon" with "bitterness and anger in my heart".

Nasri has been pursued by Manchester City throughout the current transfer window, and with contract extension talks at Arsenal long since stalling, the 24-year-old appears set to leave the Emirates on less than amicable terms.

Arsene Wenger had hoped the club could hold on to Nasri, but recently admitted the Gunners were not in a strong position to retain his services.

Nasri, posting on what the club understands to be his personal Facebook page, responded to what he saw as "disrespectful" chants aimed at him by fans during their Premier League opener against Newcastle - despite the France international not appearing on the pitch.

"I was very disappointed by the supporters last weekend," Nasri wrote. "I am still an Arsenal player but I will certainly leave very soon.

"It's nearly done. But I will leave with bitterness and anger in my heart."

The imminent transfer of Nasri will follow the sale of former skipper Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona after protracted negotiations over the Spain midfielder were resolved earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Arsenal are awaiting the fate of Wenger who allegedly gave instructions to club officials during their Champions League qualifier against Udinese, despite serving a touchline ban. UEFA reportedly instructed Wenger to cease the communications at half-time, but assistant coach Pat Rice was believed to have received further messages during the second stanza.

Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou picked up hamstring injuries during the game leaving them in serious doubt for this weekend's clash with Liverpool.


Andrew Carroll

Squad No: 39
Position: Forward
Age: 21
Birth Date: Jan 6, 1989
Birth Place: Gateshead
Height: 6' 3'' (1.91m)
Weight: 79 kg
One of England's brightest young talents, Carroll made a name for himself in the 2010-11 season when, despite a number of off-pitch incidents, he elevated himself among the top strikers in the Premier League.

First appearing as a late substitute for Newcastle at the age of just 17 years and 300 days, Carroll became the youngest ever player to represent the club in Europe, in a match against Palermo in November 2006. After being awarded the 'Wor Jackie Milburn Trophy' in 2007, for being the brightest rising star of North-East football, Carroll spent an unsuccessful six month loan spell at Preston North End, managing just one Championship goal in 11 appearances.

Upon his return to Newcastle though, his quality began to show, and the departure of several key attacking players following the club's relegation back to the Championship in 2009, proved to be a blessing in disguise for the striker. Scoring 17 goals in 39 appearances, Carroll formed a solid partnership with Peter Lovernkrands, with the duo scoring more than half of the club's goals in the season.

His career , however, has been blighted by a number of negative off the field incidents, as he has twice been in court charged with assault. If he keeps his focus on the pitch, he could be one of the best.

Strengths: A true No. 9, Carroll has the strength and power to match it with the very best defenders in the Premier League. His outstanding heading ability, coupled with a strong work ethic, make him a handful for any opposition.

Weaknesses: His temperament off the pitch is the main issue, while his inexperience also leads him to make the odd rash decision.

Career high: Scoring an exceptional hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Aston Villa, marking the perfect return to the Premier League for Newcastle on August 22, 2010.

Career low: Amongst the number of off the field incidents Carroll has been involved in, the most embarrassing from a playing perspective would have to be being sent home whilst on international duty for the England Under-19 side, after breaking a curfew during preparation for a match against Romania U-19.

Style: Powerful, strong and confident, a potential star of the future.

Quotes: "As for Carroll, he is somebody with a genuine chance of emulating Alan Shearer, but history tells you that guys who continually find themselves on the front page never turn into anything." Former Liverpool captain Alan Hanson, November 2010.

Trivia: Part of Carroll's bail conditions for one court appearance was that he was forced to live with club captain Kevin Nolan, who put him on an 11pm bedtime.

Source: Soccernet

Luis Suarez

Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz (born 24 January 1987 in Salto) is a Uruguayan footballer who currently plays as a striker for AFC Ajax, where he is the club's captain. Since 2007, Suárez has also played for the Uruguayan national team.

Having grown up in Salto alongside six siblings, with a single mother, he was a troublesome teenager, being involved with partying at a young age before his mentor gave him an ultimatum, which forced Suárez to choose a life in football. In 2005, he began professional career at Montevideo side Nacional. On 5 August 2010, Suárez became a father, with his wife bearing a baby daughter named Delfina in Barcelona. His older brother Paolo Suárez is also a professional football player.

He moved to the Netherlands with Eredivisie side Groningen in 2006 at the age of 19, before transferring to Ajax in 2007. He made a major impact at the Amsterdam club as a supporting striker with the main striker initially being Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, then Marko Pantelić, and later Mounir El Hamdaoui. Following the arrival of manager Martin Jol at Ajax in 2009, Suárez was made the club captain following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen to Arsenal.

In 2010, Suárez was named Dutch Footballer of the Year, having ended the season as top scorer in the Eredivisie with 35 goals in 33 league matches (49 goals in all competitions). Also in 2010, Suárez became a member of the select group of players having scored more than 100 goals for Ajax in competitive matches, joining players like Johann Cruyff, Marco van Basten, and Dennis Bergkamp.

Source: Wikipedia

Rafael Van der Vaart

Full Name    Rafael Van der Vaart
Birth Date    February 11, 1983
Birth Place    Heemskerk
Height        1.78m
Weight        74 kg
Age        27
Position    Midfielder
Squad No    11

Once one of the most highly-rated players in Dutch football, Van der Vaart suffered from a poor spell at Real Madrid, but has always been viewed as a gem in his homeland.

A product of Ajax's famous youth academy, Van der Vaart made his debut for the Amsterdam club in the 1999-2000 season, aged 17, in a 1-1 draw with FC Den Bosch. Much of his early career was blighted by a series of knee injuries which saw him spend several months out of the first team. He made an average of only 23 appearances a season in five years with Ajax before leaving the club in the summer of 2005.

From Ajax he headed to the Bundesliga with Hamburg, a surprising move for a player who had been linked with much bigger clubs. He helped Hamburg to three successful seasons, qualifying for the UEFA Cup and being named the club's skipper, before he got the big move that was always expected. He went to Real in the summer of 2008 but, despite establishing himself on the international stage at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, he was reduced to a bit-part role and chose to move to Spurs in August.

Strengths: A versatile midfielder, good shooting, set piece specialist and a potential match-winner.

Weaknesses: Suspect in the air, his consistency has also been called into question.

Career high: Named the 2003 European Young Player of the Year.

Career low: Being left without a squad number at the start of the 2009-10 season with Real Madrid when told he was surplus to requirements.

Style: Versatile, classy, an excellent passer of the ball.

Quotes: "He has taken a big risk. Though Rafael has had signs he will play, nothing is guaranteed after what went on in pre-season. He's made his choice, but will he even play in his favoured position? At Madrid he is just one more player." Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk on the player's decision to stay at the Bernabeu in 2009.

Trivia: His wife, Sylvie, has claimed that the player's legs are too heavy and they cannot sleep in the same bed. "It's just as well," she says. "His legs are heavy. If I get under them I can't get out."

Source: Soccernet

Santa Cruz Expects Tevez Stay

Roque Santa Cruz believes Carlos Tevez will "stick it out" at Manchester City despite his desire to return to Argentina.

Tevez, who signed a five-year contract with City in 2009, has spoken repeatedly of his dissatisfaction with life as a footballer in recent times due to the fact his daughters live in his homeland.

Santa Cruz, though, expects Tevez, 26, to see out his deal at Eastlands before returning home.

"His heart is with his family," Santa Cruz told the Cadena Ser radio station. "He wants to be with his people and they are in Argentina. His brothers and also his daughters are there.

"When one feels that his homeland is calling he may do anything to go back, but I think he will stick it out and complete his contract with City before going back home."

Santa Cruz, meanwhile, is desperate to secure a move to Spain when the transfer window reopens as he has made just one appearance for City this season.

"I am now 29 and I hope to complete my dream of playing in Spain," he said. "That is the main dream of most South American players, so we shall see. I hope it can happen.

"My aim is to leave City in the upcoming winter transfer window and I hope to be able to go to the Spanish league.

"Unfortunately, I am not playing as much as I would like. The club has spent a lot and the competition is huge and so you just have to work every day to try and convince the manager, but even then I am not called upon.

"The situation is very complicated and I want to stay positive, but I have not been given the minutes to convince anyone and my priority is to leave in the next winter transfer window.

"The manager has put his faith in certain players and, besides, he has chosen a system which only uses one striker, which means I have even less options."

Meanwhile, City technical director Mike Rigg has confirmed the club's interest in Sporting defender Daniel Carrico.

"We are always looking at players and I can't deny Carrico is an interesting player, but we haven't decided on this subject and we are respectful as a club towards other clubs and contacts," he said in the Daily Mirror.

Carrico, 22, is a Portugal Under-21 international and his contract runs until 2013.

Source: Soccernet

Robin Van Persie

Full Name    Robin Van Persie
Birth Date    August 6, 1983
Birth Place    Rotterdam, Netherlands
Height        1.83m
Weight        72.4 kg
Age        27
Position    Forward
Squad No    11

Little was known about Robin van Persie when he finally came on Arsene Wenger's radar in 2004. A young forward with Feyenoord, Van Persie had only been playing in the Eredivisie club's first team for a couple of seasons. Van Persie soon showed Arsenal fans why Wenger rated him so highly and he is now a vital player for both club and country.

Van Persie was handed his international debut in the summer of 2005, 12 months after moving to North London. He had been slowly brought into the Arsenal first team by Wenger, who was eager to transform him from a left-winger to a forward. By the time the 2006 World Cup came around, Van Persie had forced his way into the Dutch first team and he represented the country once again as they lost the final of the 2010 World Cup.

Injuries have plagued his time with Arsenal, though his disciplinary problems appear to have abated, and when fit he can be an explosive player with a bullet shot and a fearsome free-kick. In the 2008-09 season he was named the club's player of the season after scoring 20 goals and started the following campaign in tremendous fashion.

But just as he was drawing comparisons with some of the best strikers in Europe after operating as the central striker in Arsenal's 4-3-3 formation, Van Persie suffered a serious injury in a friendly international against Italy in November 2009 that ruled him out for five months. Once again, the Dutchman must try and prove that his brilliance does not come at cost.

Strengths: With pace and skill in abundance, this forward can change a game in an instant with his ability to achieve the improbable. He is technically excellent with the vision to unlock a defence too.

Weaknesses: His injury problems have been well documented, and perhaps sometimes he takes the difficult option when a simple pass would suffice. Not great in the air and there have also been question marks over his temperament.

Career high: Winning the UEFA Cup in 2002, aged 17, as Feyenoord beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in Feyenoord's own stadium.

Career low: Sent off against Stoke in November 2008 after being wound up by goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen. The player thought his disciplinary problems were behind him - it was his first red in three years.

Style: Increasingly likened to the great Dennis Bergkamp, Van Persie is a player of supreme skill and ability who likes to try the audacious.

Quotes: "He is very intelligent and talented but most of all he is passionate about the game. At the start we gave him Dennis Bergkamp as a role model. And he has grown into the Bergkamp role. He is becoming like Dennis in his passing - and he scores more goals than Dennis. He respected Dennis and listened to his advice." Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger in February 2009.

Trivia: Van Persie is a very left-footed player and has an interesting turn of phrase to describe his right. "I think you will miss many more chances with your chocolate leg if you think negatively, thinking that it's not your strong foot," he once said.

Source: Soccernet

Rafael Da Silva

Full Name    Rafael Da Silva
Birth Date    July 9, 1990
Birth Place    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Height        1.72m
Age        20
Position    Defender
Squad No    21

Rafael signed for Manchester United along with his twin brother Fabio in January 2008 and has established himself as a regular in the first-team set-up at Old Trafford, with many tipping him as the long-term successor to Gary Neville.

The Brazilian - who got his first call-up to the national side in July 2010 - is a right-back also able to play as a right-sided midfielder and was part of his country's squad at the World Under-17 Championships in 2007.

A player very much in the Cafu mould, Rafael began his career at Fluminense as a youth where he was initally spotted by United's scouting network, but having been brought to the club, Sir Alex Ferguson was hugely impressed with his performance against Peterborough in a pre-season friendly in August 2008.

That led to Rafael making his debut for the Red Devils at the start of the 2008-09 season, and he went on to impress greatly in the absence of Neville through injury, scoring his first goal for the club in November 2008 with a stunning last-minute volley against Arsenal. His performances in his debut campaign led to a place on the shortlist of nominees for the 2009 PFA Young Player of the Year award.

His progress was hampered slightly in his second season, as a shoulder injury in pre-season kept him out until October, while an ankle injury in the Carling Cup final limited his appearances for the rest of the campaign. Nonetheless, Ferguson placed his faith in the youngster for a number of high profile games, including crucial Champions League ties against AC Milan and Bayern Munich where his impressive first-half performance was tempered by a sending off for a foul on Franck Ribery.

The 2010-11 season brings an opportunity for Rafael to fight for United's right-back slot with Neville, John O'Shea and Wes Brown, in a battle that many are tipping the young Brazilian to emerge from as first-choice.

Strengths: Rafael is a forward-thinking and adventurous right-back, who is not adverse to tough tackling.

Weaknesses: Positional play and the occasional lapse in concentration can get the young defender into trouble - most notably against Ribery in the 2010 Champions League quarter-final.

Career high: The Brazilian ended 2008-09 with a nomination for the PFA Young Player of the Year award, and a place on the bench for the Champions League final just a year after watching from the stands in Moscow.

Career low: Being sent off for two bookable offences as United crashed out of the 2010 Champions League at the hands of Bayern.

Style: Pacy, skilful, creative; a full-back with much promise.

Quotes: "The twins look the same but they don't play the same. Rafael is more forward-thinking, and very fast running with the ball, more explosive. He can go a long way." Manchester United starlet Rodrigo Possebon forecasts a bright future for his team-mate.

Trivia: On 19 April 2009, Rafael and his twin brother Fabio, started a match together for Manchester United for the first time in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton - over 15 months after signing for the club.

Source: Soccernet