31 January 2013

Deadline day with Jim and Natalie LIVE

Jim and Natalie: the only two people that matter on 31 January.

It's the final day of the transfer window, and clubs from England, Scotland and most of the other European leagues have a limited time to complete their transfer activities.

The Daily Transfer Request will be here with regular live transfer updates and opinions, right up until the window closes at 11pm.

You can contact me at any time throughout deadline day by emailing TDTR at transferrequest@live.co.uk. No spam, please, though.

If you want to see what happened earlier in the transfer window, click here. But now it's 8pm, so it's time to spend the night with Jim White and Natalie Sawyer, as they help to count down to the deadline...

Arsenal: In - Nacho Monreal.
Aston Villa: In - Simon Dawkins, Yacouba Sylla. Out - Stephen Warnock.
Everton: In - John Stones.
Fulham: In - Urby Emanuelson, Eyong Enoh, Stanislav Manolev.
Liverpool: Out - Alexander Doni.
Manchester City: Out - Mario Balotelli.
Norwich City: In - Luciano Becchio. Out - Steve Morison.
Queens Park Rangers: In - Jermaine Jenas, Christopher Samba, Andros Townsend. Out - Alejandro Faurlin.
Stoke City: In - Jack Butland*, Brek Shea. Out - Rory Delap, Matthew Upson.
Southampton: Out - Steve De Ridder.
Sunderland: In - Danny Graham. Out - Louis Saha.
Swansea City: Out - Danny Graham.
Tottenham Hotspur: Out - Simon Dawkins, Heurelho Gomes, Jermaine Jenas, Andros Townsend.
West Ham United: Out - Stephen Henderson.
Wigan Athletic: In - Paul Scharner.
* Stays at Birmingham City on loan for rest of season

12:01am - It's one minute past midnight, so I think that's it. I hope you've enjoyed reading my views on the last 24 hours of the January 2013 transfer window. After a hectic end to the transfer window, all I want to do now is stroke my cat goodnight and then head to bed. Until next time, ta-ta.
11:58pm - At the end of the day, it's almost time to go to bed.
11:56pm - I'll keep it simple: Tom Aldred (Colchester United > Accrington Stanley), Rob Edwards (Barnsley > Shrewsbury), Luke McCormick (Prison > Truro City > Oxford United), Justin Richards (Burton Albion > Oxford United).
11:50pm - Very shortly, I'll round up some of the transfers I missed.
11:41pm - Reading have made a club-record signing - or at least they would have had the offer been accepted. Director of football Nicky Hammond confirmed the news in the last few minutes. Was Blackpool's Thomas Ince the player in question?
11:40pm - Alan Myers got some hot cross buns for once again keeping us informed about Everton's transfer dealings!
11:31pm - Crystal Palace have brought in another striker. Scotsman Stephen Dobbie's loan move from Blackpool has been rubber-stamped.
11:28pm - Understandably, this is the calm after the storm.
11:24pm - Another Football Focus special regarding deadline day is on BBC Two now, if you fancy watching the footballing equivalent of Miranda Hart getting her dress stuck in the taxi door.
11:21pm - A paperwork kerfuffle has resulted in DJ Campbell's transfer to Blackburn Rovers falling through. But if the Queens Park Rangers striker is desperate to join Rovers, he can wait until the loan window opens next week.
11:16pm - Of course, there's still time for deals to go through as long as the clubs involved got their paperwork to the FA's offices before the deadline.
11:09pm - Ritchie Jones won't be going to Wembley with Bradford City. He's been cut from the Bantams' squad.
11:06pm - Nacho Monreal has signed for Arsenal, but disappointingly in the opinion of some Gooners, Andre Santos doesn't look like leaving North London.
11:04pm - I think this article will calm down the fears of Arsenal supporters.
11:01pm - Andros Townsend, who was joining QPR, then wasn't, has now joined them on loan. Phew!
11:00pm - Big Ben bongs, and the transfer window has a sign on it saying "CLOSED"!
10:59pm - Lastminute.com!
10:58pm - I have confirmation that Jack Butland will spend the rest of the season at Birmingham City before really kick-starting his Stoke City career in the summer.
10:57pm - Nacho, you've got to sign for Arsenal very, very soon!
10:55pm - John Stones comes across as a very polite young man, and I really hope that the Yorkshireman flourishes at his new club Everton.
10:53pm - Hmm, Stoke say that Teen JB cost them no more than £3.5million. Bargain?
10:50pm - Triffic! Sky have just enough time to do yet another interview with Harry Redknapp. Ten minutes to go...
10:48pm - Twelve minutes left. There's still time for the unexpected to happen!
10:45pm - Fulham have gone Dutch again, swooping for Cameroon midfielder Eyong Enoh on a rest-of-season loan from Ajax. He is their third signing from the Eredivisie today.
10:44pm - A bona-fide officer for Greater Manchester Police has tweeted that he's escorted a very special Spanish guest to the Etihad Stadium. Well, Lionel Messi is Spanish by residence...
10:41pm - I also have news of former England defender Matthew Upson swapping Stoke City for ambitious Championship side Brighton & Hove Albion. He'll link up with another ex-Three Lions stopper, Wayne Bridge.
10:40pm - Leandro Damiao will not be going to Tottenham Hotspur after all.
10:38pm - Stephen Henderson has departed West Ham United - but not for Blackburn. In fact, the goalkeeper's gone back to Ipswich Town on a loan basis.
10:37pm - Jack Butland is now confirmed as a Stoke City player.
10:35pm - I'll run through these quickly. Medo Kamara is a Bolton Wanderers player at last, Jermaine Jenas has completed his switch to QPR, Blackburn Rovers' Ruben Rochina has joined Real Zaragoza on loan, and Barnet have signed Neymar. Wait - scratch that last one.
10:30pm - Half an hour to go...
10:28pm - Newcastle United have dismissed their striker Xisco, whom they signed in 2008. I thought he left in 2009.
10:27pm - Norwich City's pursuit for striker Gary Hooper has failed. Celtic still have their man, and Chris Hughton must be gutted.
10:22pm - Confusion surrounding Mohamed Diame. West Ham United insist that they have not received a bid for the Senegalese midfielder that matches their evaluation of him.
10:21pm - Everton can now start to blood Stones. 18-year-old John has completed his transfer from his boyhood club Barnsley to the Toffees, and good luck to him.
10:19pm - Natalie refers us to these tweets (1, 2, 3) from Posh owner Darragh MacAnthony that might explain more.
10:17pm - George Boyd will be concerned. Rumours abound that the midfielder's transfer from Peterborough United to Nottingham Forest has collapsed.
10:13pm - Middlesbrough's Scottish brigade is being broken up again with the news that Kevin Thomson has left by mutual consent.
10:10pm - Dundee United have rejected a bid from Sheffield United for striker Jonny Russell. The fact that one of Scotland's brightest young talents has been linked with a move to the 6th-ranked team in League One speaks volumes about how dramatically the stock of Scottish football has dropped in the last decade.
10:08pm - Jermaine Jenas is a Queens Park Rangers player. He's signed an 18-month deal from Tottenham.
10:03pm - Aston Villa have completed the loan signing of Tottenham Hotspur forward Simon Dawkins for the rest of the season. He's 25 years old, so compared to Villa's other players, he's almost a pensioner!
10:00pm - It's the final hour. IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN, as a certain Swedish band not called ABBA once sang.
9:59pm - Two other loan deals to tell you about. Burton Albion have made a triple swoop - I already informed you about Alex McDonald, but the other two arrivals are Manchester City's Adam Drury and Leyton Orient's Michael Symes.
9:55pm - Another Saint who has left St Mary's temporarily is forward Lee Barnard, who is now a loanee at Oldham Athletic.
9:51pm - Another signing for Bolton Wanderers. Belgian defender Steve De Ridder has made the long trip from Southampton, who have also allowed striker Ben Reeves to pitch up at Southend United on loan.
9:50pm - DJ Campbell is on the verge of signing for Blackburn Rovers from Queens Park Rangers.
9:40pm - Good times for Ian Holloway! The Crystal Palace has been reunited with his ex-Blackpool striker Kevin Phillips, who will wrap up his illustrious career at Selhurst Park.
9:37pm - Leeds' new striker Habib Habibou is to ducks what Christmas is to turkeys. During a Belgian league match in 2010, he picked up a duck and threw it away from the pitch, to the dismay of animal rights activists. He's quackers, the lad.
9:33pm - One more deal for Tony Pulis, perhaps? If there is, the people of Stoke-on-Trent might try to appoint Rob Dorsett as their official town crier!
9:31pm - Leeds United have signed Habib Habibou, a striker from everyone's favourite Pointless answer on the BBC quiz show of that name - the Central African Republic.
9:30pm - Conflicting reports regarding the Shea move. BBC say he cost £2.5million, Sky say £3.5million. But we know for sure that he has signed a four-and-a-half year deal.
9:29pm - Forget the "very very" count. Former Crystal Palace chairman/PR disaster Simon Jordan has in the SSN studio said "very very very" twice in the space of a few seconds!
9:26pm - Stoke have confirmed the signing of Brek Shea from FC Dallas for £2.5million.
9:23pm - Not too long ago, Ian Bolton was in London reporting on Arsenal's non-activity in the transfer window. Now, he's hotfooted it to Paris for Beckham-mania!
9:19pm - What's the latest, Aidan? Peter Odemwingie NEVER entered Loftus Road at all, so says the QPR chief executive officer Phil Beard.
9:18pm - An unpleasant Akinde surprise for John. The Crawley Town striker has been released.
9:12pm - I think we can finally say with confidence that Stoke City have completed the signing of FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea.
9:09pm - Less than two hours to go. Peter Odemwingie is not giving up on his move to QPR!
9:06pm - Stevenage have added a defender to their ranks following Ben Chorley's departure from Leyton Orient.
9:04pm - West Ham United flop Alou Diarra is back in French football, having joined Rennes for the rest of the campaign.
9:01pm - Stockport County have signed Fowler. That's Jake Fowler, from Middlesbrough on loan.
8:57pm - The MLS player Aston Villa want to sign on loan is Tottenham Hotspur striker Simon Dawkins, who spent last year on loan at San Jose Earthquakes.
8:53pm - Does anyone still use a fax machine? Obviously Lazio do. Have they not heard of email?
8:52pm - Lazio's attempts to sign Brazilian prospect Felipe Anderson failed because, and I'm not joking, a fax didn't arrive in time.
8:48pm - Lorient's teenage midfielder Seko Fofana has decided he would rather be team-mates with Sergio Aguero than Ryan Mason. The France Under-18s international has reportedly signed for Manchester City.
8:46pm - Get this. Fulham midfielder Pajtim Kasami's transfer to Italian side Pescara fell through... because the wi-fi connection at his hotel failed.
8:41pm - Cardiff City have sacked French winger Kevin Sainte-Luce after he was convicted of assault, but that hasn't put AFC Wimbledon off signing Sainte-Luce on a free.
8:39pm - Cian Bolger moved in the last transfer window, and the defender is at it again. Bolton Wanderers have taken him from Bolton Wanderers on a permanent basis.
8:37pm - There's a homecoming for Jonathan Forte, who has returned to his first club Sheffield United from Southampton.
8:35pm - Burnley forward Alex McDonald is now on loan at Burton Albion.
8:34pm - Tottenham Hotspur striker Ryan Mason has signed a loan deal with Lorient. That's Lorient, not Leyton Orient. He joins English compatriots Joey Barton and David Beckham in France.
8:31pm - After Jim's chat with Sky Italia presenter Gilda Pensante was cut short by technical difficulties, the Scot said something very funny and very risqué that I won't repeat. Look for it on YouTube later.
8:26pm - Norwich City have upped their bid for Celtic striker Gary Hooper to £9.2million. Will the Bhoys accept this time?
8:25pm - Nothing about Arsenal signing Diame, but they've agreed a fee for Malaga's Monreal.
8:24pm - David Craig in the north-west gets some news from London! West Ham United have accepted a bid for Mohamed Diame!
8:20pm - New arrival at Arsenal alert! Is it Nacho Monreal?
8:17pm - This is in no way related to the Premier League, but it's an intriguing transfer. Barcelona's promising centre-forward Isaac Cuenca is set to go on loan to Dutch giants Ajax.
8:16pm - Another "very very" from Rob.
8:13pm - Rob Dorsett with another "very very". We're very very close to double figures on that count.
8:10pm - Jermaine Defoe is one striker who might be joining QPR legitimately. He's yet another Tottenham Hotspur player who's been allowed to speak to Harry Redknapp.
8:09pm - Aidan Magee has revealed that Peter Odemwingie arrived at Queens Park Rangers without the permission of West Bromwich Albion! Basically, the Nigerian international striker is trying to force a transfer to Loftus Road! This is incredible in every sense of the word!
8:07pm - What's this?
8:05pm - Less than three hours left in this transfer window. Will there be a transfer from left field?
8:04pm - Tottenham Hotspur are trying again to sign Leandro Damiao from Internacional. Will Andre Villas-Boas get the goalmouth finishing executor he craves?
8:02pm - Just like in August, Jim and Nat will take us through the night in yellow attire.
8:00pm - Here we go! This is where the transfer window comes alive - in it's dying hours! Welcome, Jim White and Natalie Sawyer! What gifts do you have for us tonight?

Deadline day LIVE

The big Samba question: is he Chris or Christopher?

It's the final day of the transfer window, and clubs from England, Scotland and most of the other European leagues have a limited time to complete their transfer activities.

The Daily Transfer Request will be here with regular live transfer updates and opinions, right up until the window closes at 11pm.

You can contact me at any time throughout deadline day by emailing TDTR at transferrequest@live.co.uk. No spam, please, though.

8:00pm - My transfer deadline day continues here.
7:57pm - That'll be all for this article. See you in a little while on a new one.
7:56pm - Stand by: Jim White and Natalie Sawyer are coming very soon!
7:55pm - Aston Villa: "The club is looking to do a loan deal with a promising player who has recently done well in MLS." Luis Gil? Jose Villarreal? Freddy Adu?
7:50pm - Queens Park Rangers are in talks with Jermaine Jenas over a loan move from Tottenham Hotspur.
7:47pm - It's Boeing time, and that can only be one thing. Just 13 minutes left until you know who.
7:45pm - Aiden McGeady from Spartak Moscow to Wigan Athletic? NYET!
7:43pm - There are also two new strikers at Stockport County. Jon Macken is a free signing and Mark Cullen is on loan from Hull City.
7:42pm - Miscellaneous transfers: Lenell John-Lewis felt the power of love at Grimsby Town, joining them from Bury. Lee Collins has been let go by Barnsley. Ex-Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko has swapped Paris Saint-Germain for Fiorentina.
7:39pm - Northampton Town have taken advantage of Coventry City's decision to release Roy O'Donovan by snapping up the Irishman sharpish.
7:37pm - Several sources are saying that Nacho Monreal is having, or has already completed, a medical at Arsenal.
7:35pm - Newcastle United have already loaned out Paul Dummett to St Mirren. Now, another Magpie has flown north for the rest of the season, that being Mehdi Abeid to St Johnstone.
7:32pm - Kirsty's talking to someone from Sky Deutschland, but it's not Kate Abdo, it's Gregor Teicher. :(
7:30pm - Half an hour left of Julian and Kirsty. Half an hour left until Jim and Natalie begin the end game and I move to another page.
7:29pm - Reading youngster Karl Sheppard has returned to his native Ireland, signing for Shamrock Rovers on loan.
7:27pm - Peter Odemwingie is at QPR as he hopes to complete the formalities of his switch from West Bromwich Albion.
7:25pm - If you're wondering why I never touched on Newcastle United chairman Mike Ashley's arrival at the training ground via helicopter this morning, that's because I refuse to kowtow to the lowest common denominator.
7:20pm - Simon Vukcevic has parted company with Blackburn Rovers.
7:19pm - Valery Mezague used to be on Portsmouth's book, believe it or not. The Cameroonian is now on Bury's.
7:17pm - Talking about players being released, French flanker Romain Vincelot - perhaps the closest thing Brighton & Hove Albion have to a homegrown player - has been given his P45 by Gus Poyet.
7:15pm - Nathan Ellington, who once tried to become eligible for Bosnia because his wife was born there, must now look for a new club following his release by Ipswich Town. Would he consider a free transfer to FK Sarajevo?
7:11pm - Bryan Swanson, who is as much a part of deadline day on SSN as Mr James White, has dropped an "in terms of" A-bomb.
7:09pm - Will Arsenal sign someone on deadline day after all? They're in talks with Malaga over the possible £8million signing of left-back Nacho Monreal.
7:08pm - Fulham have signed Stanislav Manolev from PSV Eindhoven. He's a Bulgarian right-back, so his arrival will satisfy Dimitar Berbatov.
7:05pm - Get as much money as you can and put it on Crystal Palace winning the Championship Play-Off Final. They're about to bring in Stephen Dobbie from manager Ian Holloway's old club Blackpool. Does this mean they've given up on Kevin Phillips?
7:03pm - Back to SSN, and Peter Crouch will be staying at Stoke City, confirms Rob Dorsett. Stoke's fans are delighted, but they're not showing it.
7:01pm - Jim and Natalie, one hour to go!
7:00pm - Sheffield United have brought in ex-Middlesbrough winger Barry Robson from Vancouver Whitecaps for the remainder of the season.
6:55pm - I heard a rumour...
6:54pm - Jody Morris has left Bristol City, not long after they sacked his good friend Derek McInnes as manager. An ambitious lower-league club might want this ageing former Chelsea midfielder.
6:52pm - Stephen Warnock's new manager is Neil Warnock. The pair are not related.
6:50pm - Sky Sports News should get Stephen Warnock's wife as one of their new reporters. She confirmed her husband's transfer from Aston Villa to Leeds United on Twitter before the Villa website did!
6:45pm - Brace yourselves, Macclesfield Town, this is a biggie. Irish midfielder Darren Murphy has arrived from Port Vale on a free transfer. Oh God, I've got Jim White disease, and he doesn't come on for another 75 minutes!
6:41pm - For the first time, Villa manager Paul Lambert is going to sign someone whose voice has broken. Wilson Palacios (remember him?) is on the verge of joining the 2013/2014 Championship winners on loan until the end of their 2012/2013 Premier League relegation campaign.
6:39pm - It was Southampton, of course. But coming up, some news about another possible arrival at Aston Villa...
6:38pm - There is one Premier League team whose name hasn't been mentioned in my deadline day roundup. Do you know what it is?
6:36pm - This next transfer I'm going to mention didn't pass me by, but I just forgot to mention it. Nicky Hunt, who was at Bolton Wanderers in years gone by, has been loaned in by Accrington from Rotherham United.
6:35pm - Another loan move, this time concerning Mark Hughes (not that one), who goes from Bury to Accrington Stanley. (Silence) Oh, wait, I shot him, didn't I?
6:32pm - If you wanted to know who had extended Davide Petrucci's loan spell from Manchester United, it was Peterborough United. Fergie junior has also secured another temporary deal, this time for Tottenham Hotspur winger Alex Pritchard.
6:31pm - The Football Focus deadline day special is now on BBC News. I won't be watching it. If watching deadline day on SSN is like witnessing Felix Baumgartner's skydive, the BBC's deadline day coverage is like watching Miranda Hart fall over something.
6:27pm - Whenever Tony Fernandes says anything like this... put ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, including your mortage, on Junior Hoilett leaving Queens Park Rangers tonight!
6:25pm - Brek Shea has been granted the work permit that the versatile American needs to sign for Stoke City. Yeehaa!
6:23pm - Jordan Slew joined Blackburn very late on deadline day in August 2011. The former Sheffield United striker won't have to stay up until midnight his time - his loan to Rotherham United has been ratified more than four hours before the deadline.
6:18pm - Steve Bruce sure likes Ahmed Elmohamady - and any Egyptians for that matter! Hull City's manager has made a double loan swoop for Al-Ahly pair Ahmed Fathi and Gedo, the latter of whom was top scorer at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
6:16pm - Blackburn Rovers, the club who nearly appointed Judan Ali as their coach, could be about to swoop for India midfielder Syed Nabi if you regard Raig from Harrogate to be a reliable source. While they're at it, why don't they sign a sponsorship deal with the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
6:14pm - Leroy Fer will not be joining Everton. In other news, a man broke the sound barrier.
6:12pm - Leeds United will confirm the signing of Aston Villa and for some reason former England defender Stephen Warnock very, very soon.
6:07pm - One more thing. I'm currently taking a break from SSN for this hour, so if you want to know how Rabbit Warren and Kirsty Gallacher are doing, you'll have to watch it with your own eyes. Soz.
6:06pm - I should also say that the German transfer window has closed as well, so if Nicolas Anelka fancied a move to Germany, he's had it.
6:03pm - Stekelenburg would probably react like this.
6:02pm - I'd hate to be the man that tells Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg when his plane arrives in London that his transfer to Fulham has been called off.
6:00pm - ...CLOSE! But here in Britain, there's still five hours remaining, and only 120 little minutes to go before The White & Sawyer Show is underway!
5:59pm - And after a quick break, I'm back. The Italian transfer window... is about to...
5:54pm - Northampton Town have signed Paul Gascoigne... for an after-dinner speech tonight. Damn.
5:53pm - SSN's north-east reporter David Craig has suggested that Louis Saha might continue his bench-warming career in South Africa after departing Sunderland.
5:50pm - Blackburn Rovers manager Michael Appleton, or whoever it is now, is gonna be a busy man this evening. He's looking to wrap up permanent deals for QPR striker DJ Campbell and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Jerome Thomas, the latter of whom is currently on loan at Ewood Park.
5:47pm - Despite being potless, Birmingham City have still managed to scrape together enough to fund a move for AFC Bournemouth striker Wes Thomas.
5:45pm - The Italian transfer window shuts in just 15 minutes!
5:42pm - The Skytext transfer clockwatch reads, "Davide Petrucci has extended his loan until the end of the season from Manchester United". This misses an important detail. Which club is he staying at?
5:39pm - Tottenham Hotspur have missed out on the signing of Brazil striker Leandro Damiao. He will not be leaving Internacional.
5:35pm - It's one of the biggest deals done so far! Gillingham, get this, have signed... Anton Robinson on loan from Huddersfield Town. I never disappoint you, do I?
5:29pm - Steve Bruce sure likes Ahmed Elmohamady. The Hull City has signed Sunderland's Egyptian midfielder for a third time, his second as Hull boss. Like last time, this is a loan deal.
5:28pm - Norwich City's offer for Birmingham City defender Curtis Davies has been rebuffed by the cash-strapped Midlands club.
5:26pm - Now I will metion that news from oop north. Sheffield Wednesday's Chris O'Grady has made the short trek across Yorkshire to Barnsley on a temporary loan deal.
5:25pm - Newcastle United have signed a non-Frenchman! That deal for Servette teenager Kevin Mbabu, who is a 17-year-old defender, has been confirmed by the Geordies.
5:24pm - Some news from oop north soon, but first...
5:18pm - Rolando has once again said no to the advances of Queens Park Rangers. The Porto defender has begun a loan spell with Napoli. Maybe he doesn't like London...
5:17pm - Dundee, who are about 33 points behind all of the other teams in the SPL, have announced the loan signing of Nottingham Forest midfielder David Morgan.
5:11pm - Heurelho Gomes' time at Tottenham Hotspur is over. He has signed for Hoffenheim on loan.
5:10pm - Arsenal striker Chuks Aneke is back at Crewe Alexandra getting ready for his second loan at the club.
5:08pm - Sunderland have released Louis Saha. Oh well, maybe the French striker will move down the road and ask Kieron Dyer if he can share his Middlesbrough physio.
5:04pm - Rabbit and Kirsty have been joined in the SSN studio by Ray Wilkins and Simon Jordan. Get your mute buttons at the ready, people!
5:01pm - Barnsley youngster John Stones is travelling to Everton ahead of a medical.
5:00pm - David Beckham is giving his PSG salary to charity. Fair enough.
4:57pm - Jim's mentioned Natalie - she's on the rooftop with him, but apparently she's stood still, totally petrified to move!
4:56pm - What colour tie will Jim be wearing at 8:00pm? As for Natalie, she's promised to put on a yellow number for tonight. I hope she doesn't let me down.
4:54pm - Kirsty's speaking right now to Lord Jim of White, who is so godlike on deadline day that he is standing on the roof of the Sky building!
4:51pm - Two quick "very very"s from Kirsty Gallacher as SSN cut away from the Beckham media circus, erm I mean press conference.
4:46pm - Well, at least that's an improvement on Luciano Becchio, who when asked by SSN reporter Kate Riley whether he was happy to have signed for Noriwch City replied, "Yes."
4:44pm - Beckham was given the opportunity to speak in French by an ITV journalist. He said, "Bonjour."
4:39pm - Speak of the devil...
4:38pm - C'mon, David, we've been waiting for more than half an hour!
4:35pm - Rangers have signed Bournemouth midfielder Lorenzo Davids. Sorry, that's a typing error, I meant Randers, the Danish club.
4:34pm - Breaking news about Chelsea... no, wait, it's about Eden Hazard and the ball boy, it's nothing to do with a transfer.
4:27pm - Aiden McGeady hasn't played in English football yet. He might do very soon, though, because Wigan Athletic want to sign Spartak Moscow's Republic of Ireland international midfielder.
4:25pm - Apparently, Watford could be signing Hungarian striker Soma Novothny on loan from Udinese Napoli.
4:24pm - Danny Wilson, the Sheffield United boss, is hopeful of signing former Scotland midfielder Barry Robson within the next few hours.
4:20pm - Fresh transfer news from Norwich-based Kate Riley - the Kate Abdo of Sky Sports News. She has confirmed that Norwich have tabled a bid for Birmingham City defender Curtis Davies.
4:18pm - I'm schtarting to think that Fulham bosch Martin Jol is poschibly Dutsch, becausch he is closche to schigning Roma schotschtopper Maarten Stekelenburg on loan for the rescht of the scheason.
4:13pm - Swansea City have failed in an attempt to sign Manchester City's highly thought-of striker John Guidetti on loan. Roberto Mancini won't let any more strikers go after the departure of Mario Balotelli.
4:12pm - Now this is a big, BIG deal. Big-spending Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala could be about to spend very big - £34million to be precise - on Shakhtar Donetsk forward Willian.
4:10pm - In yet another interview, Harry Redknapp has suggested that Stoke City are not at all interested in selling Peter Crouch to Queens Park Rangers.
4:07pm - Queens Park Rangers look set to add wantaway West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie to their squad.
4:02pm - Another transfer that has been done is that of Yacouba Sylla to Aston Villa. The defensive midfielder, who at 22 becomes one of Villa's more senior players, joins from French second-tier outfit Clermont Foot on a three-and-a-half year contract.
4:00pm - With seven hours to go, former Liverpool keeper Alexander Doni has signed for Brazilian club Botafogo.
3:56pm - David Beckham's Paris Saint-Germain press conference is imminent.
3:51pm - A BBC Sport reporter is saying that Arsenal are trying to sign a left-back before the night is out. Interesting...
3:49pm - Barnsley have snapped up long-throw specialist Rory Delap from Stoke City until the end of the season.
3:48pm - Chelsea's young striker Patrick Bamford, 19, has joined Milton Keynes Dons for a second loan period. His first spell at stadium:MK was cut short by an injury.
3:44pm - He hasn't been at AC Milan for much more than a few hours, and already Mario Balotelli has scored his first goal for the club! It came in a friendly against Serie D side Darfo Boario.
3:41pm - Come on, somebody make another transfer!
3:35pm - Former Newcastle United midfielder Emre has returned to Turkey, signing for Fenerbahce following a brief spell at Atletico Marid.
3:33pm - I can only apologise for that. Now, back to business, and Bolton Wanderers are close to signing midfielder Medo Kamara (unbelievable, Jeff!) from Partizan Belgrade.
3:27pm - We are experiencing some technical difficulties at the moment. We'll be back ASAP.
3:23pm - Barnsley striker Mido has left the club by mutual consent. Wowzer.
3:19pm - Just letting you know that I'll be switching my deadline day coverage to a new article at 8:00pm, when Mr White and Ms Sawyer are on air.
3:14pm - So that I don't come across as sexist, I will now alert my female readers (if there are any) to the fact that Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague is talking to Julian on SSN right now.
3:12pm - Tottenham Hotspur right-back Adam Smith will continue his loan at Millwall until the end of the season.
3:07pm - Still a little less than eight hours until the window is closed, five until we see Jim and Natalie.
3:04pm - Young Jack will stay at Birmingham on loan for the remainder of the season.
3:03pm - Teen JB is now at Team SC! Stoke have done an incredible job in hiding the news that they've signed Jack Butland from Birmingham City for £4million. In fact, he had his medical yesterday and not even SSN noticed!
3:01pm - Shrewsbury Town have shocked world football to the core by loaning out defender Asa Hall to Aldershot Town.
3:00pm - You can stop hiding behind the sofa now, Sky Sports News viewers. The bad man's gone now. Let Kirsty Gallacher and Julian Warren give you their less insufferable voices for the next five hours.

2:56pm - Fleetwood Town, who it seems have made more signings than a celebrity at an autograph session, will not be adding to their 65-man squad today, says manager Graham Alexander.
2:53pm - Goalkeeper Steve Collis has signed on for Rochdale. That was the one I missed.
2:50pm - I think I've covered all of the transfers that have gone through so far, but I'll double-check right now.
2:48pm - No chance of Everton signing Alvaro Negredo. Sevilla are determined to keep hold of the Spanish striker.
2:46pm - Great news! We won't have to suffer Garrido and McQueen for much longer! Kirsty Gallacher's on her way and so is, er, Julian Warren.
2:43pm - I've just found out that Kate Abdo is not German but, in fact, British. She was born in Manchester.
2:41pm - David Garrido is speaking now to Sky Italia presenter Ghilda Pensante. She's alright, but she's no Kate Abdo.
2:39pm - It seems that French defender Bilel Mohsni has wanted to leave Southend United since he first signed for them. Maybe he'll get his move away now, as he's training with Stevenage.
2:36pm - David Beckham IS now having his PSG medical, at long last.
2:33pm - Inman's not free. Newcastle United midfielder Bradden has had his loan spell at Crewe Alexandra extended until the end of the season.
2:28pm - Kevin Phillips' career might not end at Blackpool, or even Hull City. Could he finish up at Ian Holloway's Crystal Palace instead?
2:25pm - Alexander Doni will be leaving Liverpool on a free transfer. The best thing that Reds fans could say about Doni was that at least he was better than Charles Itandje.
2:24pm - Nottingham Forest are likely to be pretty busy. Peterborough United's George Boyd is having a medical there, and Forest hope to sign Chris Burke from Birmingham City too.
2:16pm - I'm starting to feel like Bill Murray.
2:15pm - Celtic have rejected an offer from Norwich City for striker Gary Hooper.
2:13pm - Pff, don't need them. It's all up on the Sunderland website.
2:11pm - The BBC have claimed that Danny Graham's £5million transfer to Sunderland has been finalised. Expect Sky to confirm soon.
2:06pm - Martin Jol deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for greatly improving international relations. The Fulham manager is close to securing the transfer of Cameroon midfielder Eyong Enoh. I reckons he only needs a North Korean and a Bahamian to complete the full set of nationalities in his squad.
2:01pm - BREAKING NEWS! David Garrido said "Welcome to Sky Sports News" without adding a HD onto it!
1:59pm - It's gone a little bit quiet.
1:54pm - Two hours until David Beckham signs for Paris Saint-Germain. Soon, we will find out the answer to this question: How dreadful will his grasp of the French language be?
1:51pm - Everybody wants to join Oldham Athletic now that they've beaten Liverpool. Reading youngster Jordan Obita has started a loan spell with them, joining Chris Iwelumo at Boundary Park.
1:48pm - Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen has admitted to doping... oh, wait, the football. Sorry.
1:45pm - Wouldn't it be nice if we had a transfer from out of the blue today?
1:39pm - Middlesbrough are going to need another physio. They've tied up Kieron Dyer on a short-term deal. In Dyer's case, this could mean two hours, until he chips a fingernail and is ruled out for the rest of 2013.
1:35pm - Birmingham could lose another of their important players to another City. Norwich boss Chris Hughton wants his former Blues defender Curtis Davies.
1:32pm - Stoke might entice Birmingham to sell Butland by giving them £4million plus Ryan Shotton on loan.
1:30pm - On SSN right now is part 2 of "Harry Redknapp Gets Interviewed Through His Car Window."
1:29pm - Liverpool could terminate the contract of Brazilian goalkeeper Alexander Doni, according to Sky's man in the red half of Merseyside. Maybe Brendan Rodgers is planning a late swoop for Jack Butland.
1:28pm - The latest on Thomas Ince is that Blackpool won't wake up for any less than £6million.
1:25pm - Another "in terms of" from Paul Gilmour. Go back to Northern Ireland, Paul, for goodness sake.
1:22pm - Don't laugh, but Stoke City have tried to sign France defender Rod Fanni. Marseille said, "Non."
1:19pm - I haven't mentioned former England keeper Paul Robinson's transfer to West Ham United just yet. When that deal goes ahead, Blackburn Rovers will sign Stephen Henderson from the Hammers.
1:14pm - This new Villa midfielder Yacouba Sylla is no veteran. He's 22, and he's never played in the top flight of any country's league before, so he's just like the vast majority of Paul Lambert's signings for the Villans.
1:11pm - A bit more on Godsway Donyoh. He's a Ghanaian striker, 18, from the Right to Dream Academy.
1:09pm - A new signing for Manchester City. Godsway Donyoh (what a great name!) has signed for City, and then been immediately loaned out to Swedish outfit Djurgardens.
1:05pm - Female SSN reporter at Norwich City alert!
1:04pm - OI! Liverpool fans! Dani Pacheco - don't remember him? He's signing for Spanish second-tier club SD Huesca on loan for the season.
1:02pm - It's "very very" number four, this time from Dharmesh Sheth.
1:00pm - Paul Rachubka is the latest name to exit Leeds United. He has gone out on loan to Accrington Stanley. "Accrington Stanley, who are they?" (Pulls out shotgun and shoots Scouse kid in the face.)
12:56pm - Danny Graham has arrived at Sunderland's training ground.
12:49pm - Apparently, Dagenham & Redbridge have tied up a deal for Italian striker Gianluca Gracco. Then again, Wikipedia said in August that they had signed Bosko Balaban, so I won't take that as gospel just yet.
12:47pm - Fulham have now, at long last, completed their loan deal for AC Milan's Urby Emanuelson.
12:44pm - Garrido manages to shoehorn in a bit of German as he wraps up his interview with Kate Abdo. At least he has some talent.
12:41pm - QPR have now formally announced Samba's signing from Anzhi Makhachkala. And the big news is that they are calling him Christopher Samba.
12:40pm - I tell you what... the Sky Deutschland presenter Kate Abdo, who is currently talking to Garrido isn't a bad-looking frau.
12:36pm - As Garrido manages to sneak in another reference to Sky Sports News HD, he confirms that Chris/topher Samba has completed his move to QPR. But I won't believe him until Tony Fernandes has tweeted about it.
12:35pm - I've received confirmation that Khaled al-Rashidi has become the first Kuwaiti footballer in the Football League. The goalkeeper has signed for Nottingham Forest from Al-Arabi.
12:31pm - Score two "in terms of"s for Tottenham-based eejit Paul Gilmour, who has confirmed that Spurs ball-dropper Heurelho Gomes has joined Hoffenheim on loan.
12:30pm - Score one "very very" for Dharmesh Sheth.
12:29pm - Sky Sports are broadcasting an interview with Chris Samba where the caption reads: "CHRISTOPHER SAMBA - QPR". Jumping the gun again, are you, Barney Francis?
12:26pm - QPR on Twitter: "TRANSFER NEWS COMING UP!" You don't say...
12:25pm - I could describe my feelings for David Garrido in very colourful language, but because children might be reading this, I'll just say that there are presenters on Newsround that are more talented than him.
12:17pm - Dwight Yorke, what a great pundit he is. He states the obvious, and keeps saying "obviously" on the few occasions when he isn't. Just like Jamie Redknapp, then.
12:15pm - Morison's former club Millwall have sent one of their few remaining forwards Shaun Batt on loan to Leyton Orient for a month.
12:12pm - Norwich City have confirmed that Argentine striker Luciano Becchio is on course to sign for the club. As part of the deal, Steve Morison will move to Leeds United.
12:10pm - The James Cooper 'in terms of' count is now two.
12:07pm - The news from Norwich City is... they will announce a new signing shortly. Luciano Becchio, perhaps?
12:01pm - Eight hours to go until Jim White and Natalie Sawyer take their places in the Sky Sports News studio. Oh, and eleven until the window shuts.
11:58am - Teen JB update: Stoke City have made a formal bid for Birmingham City goalkeeper Jack Butland.
11:54am - Tottenham Hotspur's butterfingers keeper Heurelho Gomes has tweeted that he is on his way to Hoffenheim for a medical. That, Sky Sports, doesn't mean that he's having a medical RIGHT NOW!
11:47am - In a discussion with Iain Dowie, Hayley McQueen mentioned that Danny Graham's a Newcastle fan. Why would he want to join Sunderland if that's the case, then? Surely if he wants to join a big club in his native north-east, he's basically saying that he wants to go to Newcastle, which of course won't happen because he doesn't speak French.
11:44am - Now, the Sky Sports news ticker says that David Beckham is still travelling to Paris ahead of his medical. That's not the first time they've jumped the gun today with regards to medicals.
11:36am - Paris Saint-Germain have called a press conference for 4:00pm UK time. Goodness knows why.
11:34am - D'oh, Everton! They've been beaten on the Stones front by Wigan Athletic, whose £3million bid for the 18-year-old tyke has been accepted by Barnsley.
11:32am - I've been pleasantly surprised with the emergence of young full-back Sam Byram at Leeds United this season. The teenager's good form could be rewarded with a big transfer to Everton, who are also chasing Barnsley kid John Stones.
11:29am - I can now confirm that Queens Park Rangers midfielder Alejandro Faurlin has joined Serie A strugglers Palermo on loan for the rest of the season.
11:28am - Stoke City are waiting for confirmation that USA international midfielder Brek Shea will get a work permit so that they can complete his signing from FC Dallas.
11:24am - The BBC are reporting that the transfer of another Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, Tom Huddlestone, to Fulham is also orf.
11:23am - Aidan Magee on SSN has said that Andros Townsend arrived at the QPR training ground only to be told that his move had been cancelled, so in fact, he didn't have a medical there, and nor will he.
11:16am - Danny Graham looks to be getting his big move to a north-eastern club after all, as Sunderland have agreed a fee with Swansea City for the Gateshead-born striker.
11:13am - David Beckham is having a medical at Paris Saint-Germain. As if you cared.
11:12am - This chat between SSNHD's David Garrido and Sky pundit Gary Neville seems to be going on forever.
11:11am - Gillingham have signed Brentford defender Leon Legge on a permanent basis. Woop, woop.
11:07am - Scottish teenager decides not to move to big English club shocker! Defender Gary Fraser has REJECTED a move to Bolton Wanderers, when any other young Scot in his position would have given their right leg to go down south!
11:01am - Just under 12 hours to go until the transfer window shuts.
11:00am - Newcastle United are likely to complete the signing of a 17-year-old called Kevin Mbabu. But he isn't French. He's Swiss.
10:58am - Reading transfer rumours that football fans post on Twitter never fails to raise a smile. For example, there's a guy works down the chip shop thinks he saw Cristiano Ronaldo at Cheltenham Town. He also swears he's Elvis.
10:51am - The first of the trio who could be swapping Tottenham for QPR is having a medical at Loftus Road. Andros Townsend could be completing his transfer soon.
10:47am - Plymouth have brought in Crystal Palace midfielder Jason Banton on a month-long loan.
10:42am - Robbie Williams has fallen out of love with Plymouth Argyle, as he's been released by the League Two club. He's loving angels instead...
10:41am - Very bad news for Arsenal fans. Fenerbahce will not be signing Andre Santos.
10:37am - Lee Evans has given up pacing up and down the Hammersmith Apollo trying to get sweaty in the name of comedy, as he has secured a lucrative transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Newport County.
10:32am - Norwich City have made another bid for Celtic striker Gary Hooper - it's their fourth attempt to sign the Englishman! If Chris Hughton isn't careful, he'll end the transfer window with a restraining order!
10:29am - Manchester-based James Cooper is the first SSN reporter to shoehorn in the overused "in terms of" phrase today.
10:26am - Staying in Milan, and Inter are close to finalising a deal for Croatia Under-21s prospect Mateo Kovacic, currently of Dinamo Zagreb.
10:21am - The Manchester City website article confirming Balotelli's departure describes him as a "complex character". Understatement of the blooming century.
10:19am - Mario Balotelli has now completed his transfer to AC Milan. I don't think we'll be hearing much more about that.
10:15am - In an earlier update, I said that Chris Iwelumo was leaving Wolverhampton Wanderers. Of course, he left Wolves a long time ago and he is in fact now contracted to Watford, so I've changed it to reflect that. I hope nobody noticed...
10:12am - Okay, that new Aberdeen keeper. He's a German youngster by the name of Dan Twardzik. His brothers Filip and Patrik play for Celtic. Obviously.
10:10am - But first, Aston Villa are on the brink of signing defensive midfielder Yacouba Sylla from Clermont Foot. So far, Villa have, surprise surprise, given us a lorra lorra laughs, but now Paul Lambert faces his moment of truth.
10:08am - Aberdeen have a new keeper, I hear...
10:06am - I'm going to try and keep a count of how often the SSN reporters say "very very". At the moment, I'm at two, courtesy of Stoke City-based reporter Rob Dorsett and Balotelli stalker Gary Cotterill.
10:04am - Another player who could be on his way to Wigan is John Stones, who has established himself as Barnsley's first-choice right-back at the age of just 18. Chuffin' 'eck.
10:01am - Mike and Alex have left us. Now we have to get by with David 'Sky Sports News HD' Garrido and Hayley 'My dad played for Manchester United' McQueen.
9:57am - The first deal in any of the English leagues was perhaps Chris Iwelumo's loan move from Watford to Oldham Athletic. As far as I'm aware, the former Scotland barn door misser will play his football at Boundary Park until the end of the season.
9:55am - Paul Scharner is back at Wigan Athletic after completing a loan move from Hamburg. That's the first Premier League signing of deadline day.
9:50am - Now the ball is in Sunderland's court. Does Martin O'Neill want the prolific striker?
9:49am - Danny Graham will NOT be dropping down to the Championship with Middlesbrough.
9:46am - Who fancies a 166th different nationality at Fulham? The Cottagers are in talks with Valenciennes' French defender Nicolas Isimat-Mirin.
9:43am - Could Kevin Phillips be spending the remaining few months of his career at Hull City rather than Blackpool? That little rumour comes from The Daily Mail: like The Sun, but for middle-class people.
9:38am - There's much interest in Birmingham City's fine young keeper Jack Butland. If he is persuaded to sign for Stoke City, then we could well see Asmir Begovic transferred to a small north-western club called Manchester United.
9:30am - Mario Balotelli hasn't yet completed his move to AC Milan, but already he's causing trouble in the Italian city. Last night, some Milan fans clashed with police near a restaurant where the striker was eating. He probably had firework soup as his starter.
9:23am - It just isn't deadline day until Harry Redknapp is interviewed through his car window.
9:19am - Aidan Magee's done an interview with QPR boss Harry Redknapp, but the windy weather has played havoc with the sound, so we managed to hear about one in every four words.
9:14am - Jamie Redknapp's on SSN as I type this. Nice guy, but obviously he's not a pundit.
9:12am - One deal that looks extremely likely to go through is Fulham's loan move for AC Milan full-back Urby Emanuelson. When it's officially confirmed, I'll let you know.
9:09am - Wow, this is interesting. Sevilla's financial problems could force them to sell striker Alvaro Negredo, and Everton are interested in him. Negredo would be a great coup for the Toffees!
9:06am - Could there be a quartet of Tottenham Hotspurs making the short move to Loftus Road. Apparently, QPR are keen on Jermaine Jenas and Andros Townsend as well as David Bentley.
9:00am - Arsene Wenger usually treats deadline day like just another ordinary 24-hour period. But will the Arsenal chief swoop for a new left-back after Andre Santos had yet another shocker last night? Don't put your mortgage on it...
8:57am - If Norwich don't get Hooper, they'll try to sign Luciano Becchio from Leeds United.
8:48am - Celtic have rejected an offer from Norwich City for striker Gary Hooper.
8:45am - Swansea City have accepted a £5million bid for Danny Graham from... Middlesbrough?! Does Graham not want to play for a bigger club? Or has the Championship suddenly become more prestigious than a Cup final at Wembley?
8:40am - What's Larry Lamb doing on SSN?
8:39am - As always, I'll be getting the assistance from Sky Sports News, who treat this deadline day like the christening of William and Catherine's newborn child. First into the presenters' chairs are Mike Wedderburn and Alex Hammond, the embarrassing uncle and cute sister of SSN.
8:36am - Apparently QPR are also interested in Tottenham Hotspur midfielder David Bentley. The last time I saw David Bentley play was probably 2003...
8:32am - The man at the top of this article is Chris Samba, or if you prefer, Christopher Samba. Anyway, big-spending London club Queens Park Rangers are hoping to sign him from big-spending Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala. Apparently, they're going to offer him £100,000 per week! Jesus...
8:30am - Hello, good morning, and welcome. This is Chris, taking you through the last 14-and-a-half hours of the transfer window. Before I begin, I'll bring you up to speed with the latest Premier League transfers that have gone through. Liverpool have finally signed Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan for £8.5million, and Queens Park Rangers have gone Chunnam style with their latest South Korean signing Yun Suk-Young.

30 January 2013

Bye bye Balotelli

Far too often, Manchester City fans have asked, "Why always Balotelli?"

So, it seems that Mario Balotelli has come to the end of the road at Manchester City.

The 22-year-old striker is today expected to complete a transfer to AC Milan for around £19million. It marks the end of two-and-a-half very eventful years at the City of Manchester Stadium for a man who has become just as well known by only his first name as only his surname.

There is no middle ground with the Italy international. He has either been 'super Mario' or 'bonkers Balotelli'. He's either one of football's elite players or barely good enough to play alongside his brother for Salford City. And, like Marmite, you either love him or you hate him.

Before arriving in Manchester, Balotelli stood out, and not just because he was one of the few black Italian footballers in Serie A.

He made his first-team debut for Inter Milan in 2007, when Roberto Mancini was their manager. Mancini left the following summer, and when Jose Mourinho arrived, the teenager had a mighty clash of egos with the Special One. Balotelli's performances for Inter dropped to the extent that, after one particularly poor show against Roma, Mourinho said that he "came close to a zero rating".

Every now and then, he would delight those in the blue half of the San Siro, but his attitude problems didn't look like improving any time soon, so Inter started listening to offers for the enigmatic forward.

Manchester United showed an interest in Balotelli, but it was City - now under the guidance of Mancini - that won his signature. After completing his transfer to the City of Manchester Stadium on his 20th birthday, he quickly hit the headlines by crashing his car on the way to the club's training ground just days later.

One game against West Bromwich Albion in November, three months after his arrival, was a clear indicator of things to come. He scored his first two Premier League goals before picking up his maiden red card in English football after a violent clash with West Brom's Youssouf Mulumbu. A month later, the ego came out publicly for the first time when, after having the Golden Boy award bestowed on him, Balotelli claimed that only Lionel Messi was better than him.

In 2011, Balotelli became an even more controversial figure. In March, he received his second red card for a reckless challenge on Dinamo Kiev's Goran Popov. In a tour of America four months later, he was substituted just moments after ignoring the chance to score with a simple finish against Los Angeles Galaxy, preferring instead to try a back-heel that only the very best players can pull off. Balotelli wasn't one of the very best.

That October, Balotelli and his mates set fire to his bedroom after playing around with fireworks. The match that Balotelli was due to play in the following day was the small matter of the Manchester derby. The Italian only went and scored City's opening goal before revealing a T-shirt which read "WHY ALWAYS ME?"

City fans were left asking "Why always him?" after a match against Arsenal in April 2012. Balotelli seemed to be simmering throughout that particular game. He escaped caution for a cynical foul on Alex Song, then earned himself a booking before getting an inevitable second yellow card for fouling Bacary Sagna. City went on to lose 1-0.

Citizens boss Mancini dropped Balotelli, insisting that he would not play again for the rest of the season. It looked like the youngster's infamous strop at the Emirates Stadium had lost Manchester City the Premier League title.

But, like a comic book hero, Balotelli came back, and with a second-half cameo against Queens Park Rangers, you could say that he actually won them the championship. It was his assist that set up Sergio Aguero for that last-gasp winning goal which sunk United hearts and gave City their first title since 1968.

Mancini said of Balotelli a few weeks after the Arsenal capitulation, "It's like a family when a child does stupid things. The affection of the parents is still there. He's young and he commits big mistakes that can put the team in difficulty."

However, when the problem child clashed with his father figure at the Manchester City training ground 27 days ago, Mancini's patience with Balotelli, which he once said was "endless", finally came to an end.

A return to Italy had been mooted for some time, and Balotelli has decided that his second Serie A club, after Inter Milan, will be their great rivals AC Milan. The man sure knows how to make headlines.

In 82 appearances for Manchester City, Balotelli scored 30 goals, was booked 25 times and sent off four times. That's nearly as many cards as goals.

There's no doubting that Mario Balotelli is one of the most gifted strikers in European football, but far too often, his brilliance on the pitch has been overshadowed by his bizarre and sometimes stupid antics both on and off it. Now that Mancini and Man City have given up, it's up to Massimiliano Allegri and AC Milan to answer the age-old question: "How do you solve a problem like Mario?"

27 January 2013

Luton Town: where were they before?

Scott Rendell (right) secures a historic win for Luton Town.

The magic of the FA Cup - it'll never go away.

Luton Town have made history in Round 4 by becoming the first non-league team since 1989 to knock a top-flight side out of the competition.

Their 1-0 victory at Norwich City, thanks to an 80th-minute goal by Scott Rendell, matches the achievement of Sutton United, who 24 years ago stunned a Coventry City side who had lifted the FA Cup just two years previously. In fact, the last time a non-league team managed to do this away from home was in 1986, when Altrincham put Birmingham City to the sword.

The 1980s was a glorious era for Luton. There was 1983, when Raddy Antic scored to keep the Hatters in the top flight, prompting manager David Pleat to perform a jig on the Maine Road pitch. There was 1987, when they finished 7th in the old Division 1. Then, a year later, came their finest achievement to date - trailing 2-1 to Arsenal in the League Cup Final, they fought back with two goals in the final ten minutes to win their only major silverware to date.

Since then, times have been tough for Luton. Just when they were looking on course to win promotion to the Premier League, they ran into choppy financial waters and suffered three successive relegations from 2006/2007 to 2008/2009, ending the last of those campaigns with an excessive 30-point deduction. Having been relegated from the Football League after 89 years as a member, Luton have failed to regain their place, despite being perennial favourites to win the Conference Premier.

So that's what happened to Luton in the years before the now momentous day of 26 January 2013. What about the players?

In a different take on the many "Where are they now?" pieces written up by the football media, The Daily Transfer Request today asks: what happened to the 14 Luton heroes BEFORE the mad Hatters became the Canary killers?

Mark Tyler (Goalkeeper)
Championship Manager fans will remember Tyler as a solid signing for any Football League club, and in real life, he managed to carve out a lengthy pro career at Peterborough United. After being released by Norwich City as a teenager, he moved to London Road, making 483 appearances for the Posh from 1994 to 2009, when he signed for Luton. He is 35 years old - the same age as Bradford City's own cup hero custodian Matt Duke.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Defender)
Centre-back Rowe-Turner started off at his hometown club Leicester City but then joined Torquay United after being released by the Foxes in 2010. At the start of this season, the youngster was reunited with his former Torquay boss Paul Buckle when he moved to Kenilworth Road.
Greg Taylor (Defender)
Taylor was born in Bedford, not far from Luton, but he started his senior career at Kettering Town following his release by Northampton Town. From there, the left-back moved to Darlington before signing for Luton when the Quakers' financial problems worsened. The 23-year-old has been capped for England's C team.
János Kovács (Defender)
Hungarian centre-half Kovács has been in English football for eight seasons. The former MTK man, 27, has previously turned out for the likes of Chesterfield, Lincoln City and Hereford United. This is in fact his second spell at Luton, and he was named the Hatters' Player of the Year upon his return last season.
Jake Howells (Midfielder)
The 21-year-old left-flanker is a product of Luton's youth setup, and has played over 150 league games for the Hatters since his first-team breakthrough. Howells has previously been capped five times by Wales Under-21s, despite actually being born in Hemel Hempstead.
Ronnie Henry (Defender)
Henry is an experienced defender who spent seven years at Stevenage before making the switch to Kenilworth Road last summer. The former Tottenham Hotspur trainee featured well over 300 times for Boro, but the former captain at Broadhall Way then made a somewhat surprising decision to drop down to the Conference Premier and skipper Luton for this season.
Alex Lawless (Midfielder)
The Welsh midfielder used to be on Fulham's books, but then moved to Torquay United before spending three years at Forest Green Rovers between 2006 and 2009. Ater a short spell at York City, he arrived at Kenilworth Road in 2010, originally on loan, and quickly established himself as a key man for the Hatters. Whenever Lawless is sent off, Jeff Stelling is always quick to make a quip about it on Soccer Saturday!
Arnaud Mendy (Midfielder)
The French-born midfielder, who has two international caps for Guinea-Bissau, he came to this country in 2008 when he signed for Derby County but made little impact at Pride Park. He spent last season at Macclesfield Town, and hit the headlines when he scored a stunning goal in the FA Cup against Bolton Wanderers. The 22-year-old signed a two-year contract with Luton in October.
Jonathan Smith (Midfielder)
Former Forest Green Rovers midfielder Smith is so new to Luton that he doesn't yet have a player profile on the club website! The 26-year-old initially moved to the Bedfordshire club from York on a loan deal but signed permanently earlier this month. Yesterday was only his 10th match for Luton.
Jon Shaw (Forward)
Sheffield-born Shaw moved across the north of England earlier in his career. Fondly remembered by Burton Albion and Halifax Town fans in particular, his most impressive performances came at Gateshead between 2010 and 2012 when he incredibly scored 56 goals in just 97 games! This summer, he came down south for the first time with Luton and continues to bang in the goals regularly.
Andre Gray (Forward)
The 21-year-old Midlander caught the eye of Luton last year thanks to his fine scoring record for Conference North side Hinckley United. Former Shrewsbury Town trainee Gray has taken that form to the Conference Premier, and he's currently scoring at a rate of roughly one goal in every three games.
JJ O'Donnell (Midfielder, substitute for Mendy)
Aged 21, O'Donnell has been at Luton since signing from St Albans City in 2010 and has spent most of his time at Kenilworth Road out on loan. However, he made his mark yesterday with a decisive cross to Rendell ten minutes from time. The midfielder is the only one of yesterday's heroes not to have a Wikipedia article.
Scott Rendell (Forward, substitute for Shaw)
The man of the moment, the hero of the hour, the one whose name will still be held in high regard by Luton fans long after he has retired. 26-year-old Rendell has had more clubs than Rory McIlroy, turning out for Crawley Town, Cambridge United, Peterborough United and Torquay United amongst others. This is his first season with Luton and already he is a club legend.
Stuart Fleetwood (Forward, substitute for Gray)
Former Wales Under-21s star Fleetwood has had an incredible career so far. In 2005, he and several other Cardiff City trainees were seriously hurt in a car crash, but Fleetwood managed to continue his career at Hereford United and Forest Green Rovers, and secured a shock FA Cup win with the latter against Rotherham United in 2007. The prolific striker signed for Town in summer 2011 and is their top scorer in the Conference Premier so far this season.

24 January 2013

A fairytale of two cities

Bradford City: a 'fourth-rate' league team but a first-rate knockout team.

History will be made one way or another on 24 February when Wembley hosts the League Cup Final.

For once, you won't be seeing Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United. This year's finalists are Bradford City and Swansea City, who have both overcome massive odds in the past decade and have been richly rewarded with a trip to Wembley.

There are some who feel that the magic of the FA Cup is fading, but the successes of Bradford and Swansea have brought it back into the second domestic cup, a tournament which for several years has been viewed by many of the bigger teams as second-rate.

Bradford's achievement of getting to the Final is, quite simply incredible. In doing so, they have reached their first major cup decider since 1911 and have become the first team from the fourth tier of English football to reach a Wembley Final. The only other team from the Football League basement division to play in a League Cup Final were Rochdale in 1962, but that Final was played over two legs and, in the cup's early days, some of the bigger teams didn't even enter.

Their Round 1 tie against Notts County, in which they needed extra time to get through, hardly got any column inches in the sports pages. Their Round 2 win over Watford, in which they came from 1-0 down after 83 minutes to win, raised a few eyebrows.

Then, they pulled off an even more incredible comeback against Burton Albion - trailing 2-0 to Burton Albion with eight minutes left, Nahki Wells scored twice to force extra time, in which Stephen Darby got the winner. After that, the Bantams stunned two Premier League sides, Wigan Athletic and Arsenal, by continuing their exemplary record in penalty shoot-outs to advance to the last four.

Bradford pulled off a shock 3-1 home win over Aston Villa in Leg 1 of the Semi Final, and in the end, that would prove decisive. Villa could only win their home leg 2-1, meaning that the Yorkshire club's dream became reality.

This Bradford team has plenty of headline makers. Goalkeeper Matt Duke, who has survived a bout with cancer, put in two particularly outstanding performances against Arsenal and Villa. Captain Gary Jones has shown plenty of grit in the heart of midfield, consistently being their best outfield player. Then, of course, there's the prolific little and large strike partnership of Bermudan youngster Wells and local hero 'Big' James Hanson.

Since being relegated from the Premier League in 2001, Bradford have suffered all sorts of financial problems and have quickly dropped down the leagues. The hometown club of magician Dynamo was even at risk of disappearing on more than one occasion. But now they've got an estimated £1million windfall to look forward to - a sum that secures their financial future for several years.

Top scorer Michu has been a vital cog in the Swansea City machine.

Swansea can sympathise with Bradford's former plight. On 3 May 2003, they would have been relegated from the Football League had James Thomas not scored a hat-trick against Hull City. One of the members of their squad on that historic day was Leon Britton, who next month will play for the Swans in their first major cup Final.

In the last ten years, the Swansea board have made a string of shrewd managerial appointments. Kenny Jackett led them into League One, Roberto Martinez into the Championship, and Brendan Rodgers into the Premier League. When Rodgers left for Liverpool last summer, some of the Swans faithful feared that his work would've been unravelled, but if anything, Michael Laudrup has made this team even better!

The news that their bargain signing, free-scoring attacking midfielder Michu, has signed a new long-term contract will have warmed the hearts of many a Swansea Jack. The Spaniard has played a key role in this cup run, which has seen Swansea reach the Final a year after Welsh rivals Cardiff City did so.

They had a fairly straightforward win over Barnsley in Round 2, but Crawley Town were anything but pushovers in Round 3. Swansea trailed 2-1 with just over a quarter of an hour left but snatched a dramatic late winner. In the last 16, the Swans swept aside Rodgers' new Liverpool team 3-1 to book a Quarter Final meeting with Middlesbrough, whom they edged out 1-0 thanks to a late Seb Hines own goal.

Michu and Danny Graham both scored for Swansea in Leg 1 of the Semi Final as they shocked Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Laudrup's men then managed to hold on at the Liberty Stadium in a controversial 0-0 draw to make their own piece of history.

As well as Michu and Graham, plaudits should also go to the club's German goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. Although not regarded as the number 1 keeper at the Liberty, Tremmel has been very dependable throughout his team's cup run and definitely deserves to retain the gloves for Wembley.

Most Wembley Cup Finals in recent years have been rather humdrum affairs between two of the elite five or six teams in the Premier League. But this one is genuinely exciting, as both teams will be absolutely determined to add some major silverware to their trophy cabinet, and neither is afraid of playing attacking football. What's more, one way or another, we will have a fairytale ending in 31 days' time.

21 January 2013

Weekend reflections #17

The weekend is over, so let's reflect. Erm... it was snowing a little, wasn't it? In all seriousness, there's plenty to talk about in the Premier League: Round 48 of Ferguson vs Referees, the new series of ALF the supersub, and the beginning of Southampton's post-Adkins diet.

Sir Alex Ferguson - before Simon Beck peed him off.

The fury of Fergie
If you're one of those 53 people who bought Pippa Middleton's new book, you will have found out that, "A turkey can serve a large party because of its size." Like we didn't know, Einstein!

Well, like Pippa Middleton, Sir Alex Ferguson's rants at referees are becoming very tiresome and tedious.

The Manchester United boss fired his latest verbal bullet at assistant referee Simon Beck after the linesman missed an apparent foul by Steven Caulker in the 63rd minute of their 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.

The incident saw United striker Wayne Rooney tripped by his England team-mate Caulker in the Spurs penalty area. There's little doubting that the Red Devils should have had a penalty, but despite referee Chris Foy having a clear view of it, Foy saw nothing wrong and instead referred to Beck.

Ferguson was also adamant that his full-back Rafael da Silva was fouled in the build up to Spurs' stoppage-time equaliser, yet neither Beck nor Foy did anything. As a result of play going on, Clint Dempsey cancelled out Robin van Persie's opener for United. While the Tottenham senior team executive director Andre Villas-Boas went nuts on the pitch afterwards, his Manchester United counterpart Ferguson went ballistic.

He cried, "Rafael was fouled in the build-up to their goal. It was a clear foul but we didn't get it. There was no way we were going to get a decision from the linesman.

"It was a clear penalty earlier. He (Caulker) has put his leg right in there. The linesman is facing it. For me, he had a very poor game.

"We have got history with him. He never gave offside with (Chelsea striker) Didier Drogba at Old Trafford (in a 2010 league game) when he was three yards offside. Everyone remembers that. I certainly do."

Everyone remembers that - yeah, right, Sir Alex. I don't recall that, but I do recall most of your rants at referees.

This has gone on for far too long. While Sir Alex Ferguson will go down in history as English football's greatest winner, he will also go down as its worst loser, and it's about time that the FA cracked down hard on him. Just because he has had an honour bestowed on him by the Queen and his name isn't Sam Allardyce doesn't mean he should be immune from punishment.

Reading star Adam Le Fondre is the Premier League's new striking sensation.

ALF Monet
In the recent past, we've seen plenty of strikers rise up the leagues and become big-hitters in the Premier League.

The most recent of those was Grant Holt of Norwich City. But this season, we have seen Adam Le Fondre shine for Reading.

The 26-year-old, who sounds like he should be from Jersey but is actually from Stockport, has taken Edin Dzeko's honour of being the PL's most prolific supersub this season. On Saturday, he single-handedly won three points for the Royals against an out-of-shape Newcastle United team.

Things weren't looking too great from Reading's perspective at half-time. Yohan Cabaye had put Newcastle into a 1-0 lead after 35 minutes. Another 35 minutes followed, and the scoreline was unchanged, so Reading boss Brian McDermott made the decision to take off Danny Guthrie and throw on Le Fondre.

Le Fondre only went and scored the equaliser a minute after coming on! Jimmy Kebe's cross into the Newcastle area evaded the Magpies defender Mike Williamson, allowing Le Fondre to slide the ball in and level in fortuitous style.

If that was lucky, his second goal was far from that. Six minutes later, Jobi McAnuff's cross was headed back by Kebe to Hope Akpan, who then miscued, but the ball still fell to Le Fondre, and ALF - as he is nicknamed at the Madejski Stadium - squeezed it past Tim Krul to bag the points.

McDermott said of Le Fondre, who is now on 10 goals for the season, "When you have Adam Le Fondre coming off the bench like that, the second goal was top-drawer finish. A couple of years ago he was playing for Rotherham and what he is doing now for us, I'm just so proud of him."

He added, "Adam cost us £300,000. You couldn't buy his right sock for that now."

Having scored his way up the leagues from Stockport County to Rochdale to Rotherham United, Le Fondre has shown that the most natural finishers will succeed at any level. Who knows, if he keeps this up, the calls of 'Le Fondre for England' may begin to sound rather serious.

One more fact about Le Fondre before I move on: his actual first name is Glenville. Now you know.

Mauricio Pochettino has suddenly replaced Nigel Adkins as Southampton boss.

Making plans without Nigel
Markus Liebherr was the Swiss-based businessman who posthumously led Southampton from League One to the Premier League.

Nicola Cortese could be the Swiss-based businessman who leads Southampton from the Premier League to the Championship. That's what could happen if the Italian banker's decision to harshly sack his manager Nigel Adkins is a gamble that backfires.

If the former Scunthorpe United boss lost his job earlier in the season, when the Saints were really struggling and shipping goals left, right and centre, it would have been more understandable. But after a run of five games without defeat which included very creditable draws against Arsenal and Chelsea, Cortese has apparently decided that Adkins can't cut it anymore.

The Liverpudlian left the Saints 15th in the Premier League, and had built a squad perfectly capable of keeping the south coast club in the top flight for many years to come. He also took advantage of Southampton's fine youth set-up, transforming left-back Luke Shaw into a first-team regular at the age of just 17.

However, he did spend £28.5million in the summer transfer window, and obviously Cortese wanted more bang for his bucks. Their biggest purchase, Gaston Ramirez, has had a slow start to life at St Mary's and is only just starting to hit his best form. Likewise, Jay Rodriguez has shown plenty of promise but his tally of five PL goals this season is trumped by Rickie Lambert's ten.

With Adkins sacked, who did Cortese appoint as his replacement? Mauricio Pochettin-who?

Mauricio Pochettino is best known in this country for conceding the penalty that resulted in England beating his native Argentina at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A solid centre-back in his younger days, he went into management with La Liga side Espanyol in 2009. Although he didn't fare too badly at Barcelona's other club, he was sacked in November when they dropped to the bottom of the Spanish top flight.

Pochettino speaks very little English and has never worked in the UK before, but his good record when it came to developing young players at Espanyol seemed to attract Cortese's attention.

In fact, Pochettino's quote that he had been 'researching' the Southampton team for several weeks seemed to suggest that Cortese had appointed him as manager-in-waiting some time before Nigel Adkins officially received his P45. If that's the case, Adkins - one of the genuine nice guys of football - has been treated in a far from nice manner by Southampton.

Southampton, who are only just coming to terms with the fact that their best manager in many years has been replaced by a little-known upstart from Argentina, play their first match of the Pochettino era against Everton tonight. The 40-year-old needs to get off to a good start if he's to avoid becoming the Rafael Benitez of the south coast.

18 January 2013

Africa Cup of Nations 2013 preview

It seemed like only last week that South Africa staged the FIFA World Cup.

Now, though, international football is back in the Rainbow Nation as 16 teams arrive for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. With so much world-class talent on show, this is a tournament that grows in stature with every edition.

Which team will be lifting the trophy in Soccer City on 10 February? I've taken a look at all of the teams and given my predictions below:

South Africa's Siphiwe Tshabalala has good moves, and not just when he's playing.

Gordon Igesund has declared this his 'dream team', but Bafana Bafana will have to up their game in a difficult group. Midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala will be a key player for the hosts, and young striker Tokelo Rantie will be keen to make a name for himself. There is also a surprise call-up for Oldham Athletic's Dean Furman, who'll hope to take advantage of Steven Pienaar's retirement.
Prediction: Quarter Finals.
Managed by Uruguayan Gustavo Ferrin, Angola will be looking to former Manchester United forward Manucho for goals. They'll also want left-winger Gilberto to be on firm if they're to do better than last season, when they got knocked out of the group on goal difference.
Prediction: Quarter Finals.
There's no Adel Taarabt in the Moroccan squad, but Premier League newcomers Karim El Ahmadi and Oussama Assaidi are on board. Morocco have underperformed in recent years and could struggle again with a very inexperienced team.
Prediction: 3rd in Group.
This a team that has both David Silva AND Platini - unfortunately, those midfielders are the ones that play for Olhanense and Santa Clara respectively. In all seriousness, though, Cape Verde will struggle to get out of the group as the Blue Sharks lack bite up front.
Prediction: 4th in Group.

Asamoah Gyan will be the key man for Ghana - just don't mention Luis Suarez.

After 31 years of hurt, surely this is the year for James Kwesi Appiah's Black Stars! In the Marmite-esque goal machine Asamoah Gyan, they boast one of the continent's superstar strikers. Anthony Annan has been a Ghana mainstay for half a decade, and Kwadwo Asamoah has become an important part of Serie A leaders Juventus's side, so there's plenty of talent here.
Prediction: CHAMPIONS.
Mali's good form can only have been helped by Seydou Keita's decision to come out of retirement. Another familiar face in the Eagles side is defensive midfielder Mohamed Sissoko, who becomes even more important now that Mahamadou Diarra is out injured.
Prediction: 3rd in Group.
Niger lost every game on their debut last year, and I'm afraid it's hard to see them picking up any points in 2013. Little is known about their side, in fairness, but the performances of captain Moussa Maazou and their other Europe-based player William N'Gounou will be key.
Prediction: 4th in Group.
Claude Le Roy's Leopards will strongly fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages. Anderlecht striker Dieumerci Mbokani has a fast-growing reputation, and West Bromwich Albion's Youssouf Mulumbu called off his very premature international retirement to be in South Africa.
Prediction: Semi Finals.

Will Zambia, spearheaded by Christopher Katongo, be African champions again?

Last year's shock winners Zambia, masterminded by Hervé Renard, have struggled for form lately. They will need star striker and captain Christopher Katongo to be at his deadly best if they're to retain the title. Southampton and Reading fans will be interested in seeing how Premier League rookies Emmanuel Mayuka and Stoppila Sunzu do respectively.
Prediction: Semi Finals.
Failing to qualify last year hit Nigeria hard but Stephen Keshi will have high hopes of bringing home their first title since 1994. Among their most promising youngsters in this fairly young side are Chelsea winger Victor Moses and midfielder Reuben Gabriel.
Prediction: Quarter Finals.
Among the tournament's co-founders from 1957, Ethiopia have finally qualified again after a 31-year absence. They look almost certain to go home pointless, but if forward Adane Girma and captain Degu Debebe can shine, you never know what'll happen.
Prediction: 4th in Group.
Burkina Faso are slowly improving, and have made it to the finals of the last three ACNs. Alain Traore's goals to games ratio for the Stallions is near enough one in two, so if he and leading scorer Moumouni Dagano are in good form, getting out of the group won't be impossible.
Prediction: 3rd in Group.

Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure is one of most complete midfielders to come out of Africa.

The Elephants are consistently rated the best team in Africa but constantly fail to live up to expectations. Can ex-France midfielder Sabri Lamouchi lead them to glory this year? As always, they'll be expecting big performances from box-to-box midfielder Yaya Toure, his brother Kolo Toure, and a certain chap by the name of Didier Drogba.
Prediction: Runners-Up.
Much-travelled coach Vahid Halihodzic is not short of talent - Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli has been given the lofty tag of 'the next Zidane'. But what he really needs is plenty of goals, and young Islam Slimani could make the difference for them in that department.
Prediction: 3rd in Group.
Winners as recently as 2004, Tunisia look solid enough, with the very dependable Aymen Mathlouthi keeping goal for them. Tricky winger Youssef Msakni was in last year's Team of the Tournament and if he impresses again, European clubs will start to show interest in him.
Prediction: Quarter Finals.
Didier Six may be the manager, but in truth, this Togo side is all about one man - Emmanuel Adebayor. The Hawks are back for the first time since the 2010 tragedy of Cabinda, and if they're to do well, they'll need him or former Aston Villa flop Moustapha Salifou to perform.
Prediction: 4th in Group.