That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...
Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Is anyone else getting some serious Rooney vibes from Hazard? Like Young Master Wayne, he's capable of doing something stupendous... once every blue moon. Much of the rest of his pitch time is spent as a passenger. In yesterday's game, we saw 11 Americans and 10 Belgians (Fellaini? Ed) fight like Lions, and one man who didn't seem all that bothered. Which is pretty worrying for the Belgians, considering that that one man is their most expensive, most lauded and most high-profile player. That air of 'they're not going to drop me anyway' is something a 23-year-old with only a Europa League and two French trophies to his name should not be having. He's going to have to up the ante by more than a few chips if Belgium are to get past Argentina and give us the Holland v Belgium semi-final we all want to see. Well, that I want to see, anyway.
America! F*** Yeah!
Wow what an effort. Congrats to the Americans for a wonderful match. Congrats to the Belgians too. Thank you. The US are better than us at football. We ought to be hugely ashamed and embarrassed.
...Proud of the US team. Today's effort and team spirit have been on display since USA '94. These efforts have helped us to get out of the group stages four out of six times (with one quarter-final to boot). God help the rest of you if we develop technical players.
Lance Studdard, Atlanta, GA
...We almost got the most classic of all American story lines. Down, broken and worn, utterly defeated in all ways with minutes left the heroes look over to see the strength in their friend fighting in the back (Howard), make one more effort and finally get the break they needed (goal). They rise back on their feet, claw themselves into the game when they need it the very most, pound the big red enemy with unexplained god-like reserves, utterly dominate all the way to the finish that... well... comes up just short.
It wont quite make a blockbuster movie this time, but look and learn kids.
The US showed more will to win those last ten minutes of overtime than... well, you know.
Jon - Stockholm
Left Wanting More
I appreciate the sentiments, "but Jurgen Klinsmann's USA side pretty much took the admiration of everyone watching. A huge, huge effort..." but its getting annoying watching our team get this "far" and then blow it due to poor team selection by the manager. In 2010, Ghana beat the US due to Ricardo Clark being picked (he was a Bob Bradley favorite) and he gave up the ball which gave Ghana their first goal. If we don't do that, we probably beat Ghana.
In 2014, Klinsmann leaves off our most decorated player and brings on Wondolowski. Now don't get me wrong Belgium were the better side but how often do we see a smash and grab in football? Wondo had that smash and grab victory on his foot and he sailed it over from six yards out with pretty much the last kick of the 90. If Donovan had been selected, there is no doubt in anyone's mind on whether he would've finished that.
Just absolutely gutted.
Rob, Orlando, LFC
I was sat at home, watching the match between the USA and Belgium, and even though it was 0-0 at the time, I couldn't but think it was a great game. That got me wondering, why was I enjoying it? Neither team was particularly on song, but then it hit me. The truly amazing thing about last night was that the game was played in the right spirit. There was no obvious cheating, no play-acting, no diving, no crowding the ref, no asking for cards. Not even much shirt pulling. I am sure some of that happened, but the rest was so clean, and well intentioned, that I didn't even register it. I realised I haven't seen a top level game played like that for years (literally). It was like a proper game of football.
I can hear the Hovis music.
John Matrix AFC
...I'm just wondering how long it's going to be before they find 'Evidence of WMDs' in Belgium.
James May Have Runaground At United
Now that the transfer window seems to be picking up, it raised a couple of interesting points for me (Clive).
1. While James Rodriguez is clearly very good now, the articles knocking around saying United could have got him for as little as £6m years ago are a bit off. I don't doubt that, if they'd wanted him, they could probably have made a deal happen, but one thing people seem to overlook is that he might not be the player he is today if he had joined Man United back then.
Playing for Porto, he amassed 63 appearances in 3 seasons from the age of 18. Based on United's more recent record of playing youngsters, he would have either: played significantly fewer games or played out of position to fit into the setup. We've all seen how little progress Phil Jones has made since he joined, it isn't unimaginable that the same would have happened to Rodriguez.
Furthermore, I can only imagine how many players clubs like United, Chelsea, City etc. scout over a season. The law of averages suggests that they will pass up the opportunity to sign players who go on to be successful on a frequent basis. You can't sign them all and you don't necessarily need them all, depending on your current youth team. Some of the high quality players are bound to slip through the net every now and then.
2. Sort of following on from that, there are some clubs which always seem to find brilliant players for next to nothing who, when you see them play, you wonder how your club missed such a talent. Porto and Atletico Madrid are both good examples of teams who seem to have a good scouting network and are constantly unearthing gems. What this got me wondering though, is why the bigger clubs don't gazump teams like Porto when they're replacing their departed stars.
After Torres left, (as far as I know) Atletico replaced him with Falcao from Porto. Porto then bought Jackson Martinez (who I wouldn't be surprised to see end up in Madrid this summer). They replaced Falcao with Diego Costa who has now gone to Chelsea. If I was a club looking for a quality striker (like Arsenal), I'd be watching both clubs to see who they go for next and get ahead of the game and for a lot cheaper.
I'm sure it wouldn't work all that well in practice, but it seems strange that the big clubs are happier to take a bigger hit financially on a player closer to his peak, than discovering the "next big thing" slightly earlier and developing him themselves for a smaller fee. I suppose Chelsea have sort of done this with Lukaku, though it remains to be seen whether he'll ever get a chance in their first team.
Smile. You're On Camera
I see that fans who suddenly cheer up when the see the cameras have found them are catching some flack from Will, CFC, The Shire and John (at least there was no vuvuzelas this time), Dublin.
Well, as the miserable b*****d chosen by RTE to serve as the face of Irish despair following our 4 - 0 loss to Spain in Euro 2012, can I just say I sure wish I had cheered the f**k up when the camera found me.
There's no fun in your 15 seconds of fame when its for being the grown man on the verge of tears on international TV - especially when you're face is covered in a greeny/orange sludge that only two hours, a heavy rain storm and four cans of Tyskie ago had been a face paint master piece!
So yeah, I wish I had smiled and waved like all those other idiots in Brazil.
Damian (miserable b@stard), Kildare
Not Everyone Flourishes After Arsenal
In reference to you third point Shaun: RvP and Clichy both won an FA Cup with us and Gael a league title too. It's easy to tally up the trophies ex-Arsenal players have won with their new teams but in the majority of cases their personal performances and careers have foundered.
Overmars and Petit and never won a trophy again. Hleb and Song committed career suicide. Adebayor is a laughing stock. Flamini came back with his tail between his legs. Reyes descended into mediocrity. Anelka's post-Highbury career was utterly ludicrous. Cesc's Barcelona DNA wasn't enough to see him tossed on the trash heap after a couple of sub-standard seasons according to fan perception. Van Persie finished seventh in the league last season.
Of course there are a few exceptions: Henry's first two seasons at Barca, obviously Cole and Nasri who has flourished at City over the past couple of seasons (it's not like Gael contributes that much). Kolo won things there too but that was our bizarre decision to sacrifice him to keep Gallas for one more season. Vieira had a decent amount of domestic success playing a bit-part role in the albeit crooked Italian league too.
What irritates Arsenal fans, myself at least, is that those players who left for new challenges and greater successes (never the money, apart from Ade being honest enough about that) often don't find it. Who knows how many more trophies we would have won if Cesc, RvP, Anelka, Adebayor, etc. had chosen to stay?
We had the pattern of developing new players to replace our stars who would then leave in turn once their stock had risen. Hopefully with our current financial firepower and a recent trophy in the cabinet the cycle will now be broken.
Greg Benham, AFC
Change Is Good
I was reading an article recently that was discussing the best sides of all time with mentions of Hungary in the 50's and the Netherlands (not Holland for the pedantics!) in the 70's. But a special mention was given to the great, super, amazing, wonderful Brazilian side that won the 1970 World Cup. As I was about to lament never being able to see these great sides, it occurred to me that we have YouTube, so I found a few full games from 1970 to watch and make up my own mind. And here is my mind made up.
It was simply shocking how much time players were given on the ball back then. I can't imagine what the technical skill of Messi or the power of Ronaldo or the genius of Suarez could accomplish with that much space. That the aforementioned players do it in such tight spaces under pressure and press is incredible. I suppose the English were more physical in 1970 against Brazil, but it was a stupid physicality, not the harassing, and I would argue intelligent, physicality of today that forces an opponent into a silly pass. It seemed like every game was just one team taking the ball deep into the other team's half until finally confronted by a defender a few yards from the penalty area. Then around the 70th minute, both teams would be exhausted and it would open up a bit with even more space being provided and goals would go in because even the goalie looked like he couldn't be bothered in the heat.
So all things considered, I'll take Brazil 2014 over Mexico 1970 and the soccer of yesteryear can stay there. And in any event, we are lucky we don't have to endure players with beer bellies trying to give it a go at the top level.
I have grown increasingly frustrated with Higuain over the last few years. I don't understand why Daniel Storey, in his article, seemed surprised by Higuain's yet another lackluster performance in a big match. His ineffectiveness in front of goal had cost Real Madrid victories in the knock out stages of the Champions League and I was glad he left Madrid last summer. Yet, he is back at his frustrating best at this World Cup for Argentina. His movement is absolutely awful and it doesn't look like he will score at this World Cup. Last summer, I wrote in to the mailbox saying how glad I was Higuain was leaving and Real could finally win the Champions League (yes I can see into the future!) . Unfortunately for Argentina, Aguero isn't fit enough and I feel the lack of a decent striker is going to lead to their exit.
The way everyone is talking, you'd think he was out the door already. Barcelona seem to think it is their divine right to have any player they wish for. Yet if they do not meet Liverpool's full valuation of £80m, I'd love Suarez to stay. I'm sure Liverpool could soldier on with a front four of Lallana, Coutinho, Sturridge and Sterling without losing much attacking potency. Nine Premier League games is not an eternity.
There is no forward of his class available that would fit seamlessly into Liverpool's system. Sanchez and Shaqiri are both excellent players, but not the out-and-out goalscorers needed to supplement Sturridge. Like him or not, Suarez is pretty much irreplaceable.
Uzzi (Hoping Lalana isn't the new Downing), South Africa
If I were Uruguayan I'd be absolutely fuming with Luis Suarez at the moment. His lack of discipline ruined their World Cup chances and instead of showing any genuine remorse he's angling for a move to Barcelona. But he seems to have become even more of a hero there. Even their president's defended him. How does he get away with it?
After the group stages, (and the not totally surprising exit by England), I was broadly of the same opinion as Sarah Winterburn...Whilst England were hardly world beaters, given a little more luck, they could well have qualified for the last sixteen. Certainly, some of the teams that did qualify, appeared (on paper at least), to be inferior to "our boys".
However, having watched all eight matches in the next round, does even the most ardent England fan believe that any of those eight matches would have been improved by our presence? More alarmingly, does anyone think that England would have beaten ANY of the teams that actually did play?
How can this be? Surely all of the England players are hand picked from the best teams in supposedly one of the very best leagues in the world. I can't be bothered to check the details, but an awful lot of the teams that "stole" our place in the last sixteen, consisted of players from so called lesser leagues...Not all of them were even from the top division in whichever country they play! But they played for each other, for their flag, as a TEAM.
Man for man, England would appear to be as good as most teams: Joe Hart = not the best goalkeeper, but at his best, I think most people would have put him in the top ten(ish) prior to the start of the tournament. To a lesser extent, you can do the same thing for pretty much the whole team. None of them would be ranked best in the world in their respective positions, but they surely wouldn't be out with the also rans either. I don't think we had a single, truly world class player in this particular World Cup, but that hasn't always been the case.
If you added up the individual player rankings, I'd guess we'd probably be in the top eight teams worldwide? And that has probably been the case at most tournaments that we actually qualified for since 19 bloody 66. So why are we so f***ing useless as an actual team? I don't believe for one minute that it is England's divine right to turn up and win every competition they enter, but surely they should make a better fist of it more often than not? Getting through to the last eight (if only lol) is NOT a cup!
There has got to be something plain wrong in the England set up...And I don't think it's Roy's fault, as we've performed below REASONABLE expectations under most of our managers.
Whether it's too much pressure put on the players, petty inter club rivalries, under performing/unfit star players, or any of the myriad other reasons put forward over the years, something is seriously wrong with the whole damn set up, but I'm buggered if I know what it is!
Stevie C (absolutely no relation to Stevie G) THFC
Rob (sorry Hull fans) W. Maybe Tom Ince had some advice before choosing to ignore Inters approach (if there ever was one?).
Perhaps a family member. A father figure maybe, who played 70+ games for Inter himself, told him that its not the best place for him at this stage of his career ? This person may also know the Hull manager...
Does anyone else think Liverpool should play Barca at their own game?
Because a bunch of Barca officials and players have now started their oh so "subtle" attempts of encouraging Suarez to join them some quarters of the media and even some Liverpool fans now think this is a done deal.
We've all seen this sort of operation work before but at times it hasn't. Real openly courted Patrick Vieira for years and he never signed for them and Barca had to wait an additional year to finally recruit Cesc following Spain's successful World Cup campaign.
I say Liverpool should take every opportunity to speak in exactly the same way about Messi. Get Danny Murphy, Hansen and Lawrenson on the Beeb to speak about the possibility of Messi joining them and what a great asset he would be to the five time European Cup winners - that's two more than Barca by the way. Also encourage any new signings such as Lallana to talk of how he would love to play with Lionel Messi and how after all these years it's time he moved for a fresh challenge after Barca ballsed up last season.
Then when Barca get frustrated at Liverpool's tapping up of their player, tell them the only way Suarez is joining them is if Messi moves the other way.
It's all b*llocks and bravado of course but I'd love to see the reaction from this club, which likes to think it's a class apart but is just as classless as the rest of us.
Graham Simons, Gooner, (don't have an axe to grind either as the only player I regret us selling them is Henry, all the others ended up crap), Norf London
Adam Lallana, discussing his move to Liverpool, displays a surprising level of bitchiness: "I just can't wait to keep improving, playing with world-class players and a lot of England teammates as well".
Hasn't Stevie suffered enough?