The Madejski Stadium

Next Game

Reading v Cardiff

Saturday, 04 April 2015, 15:00

Sky Bet Ch'ship

The Valley

Last Game

Charlton 3 - 2 Reading

Saturday, 21 March 2015, 15:00

Sky Bet Ch'ship

Movers and shakers

Mario Balotelli's departure to Milan has to be good business for Manchester City.

Last Updated: 05/02/13 at 15:11 Post Comment

Mario Balotelli: was 'mad-as-a-hatter' during his time in England, says

Mario Balotelli: was 'mad-as-a-hatter' during his time in England, says

Not only have they got a handsome fee back for him but, more importantly, they've got a boat-load of trouble off their hands.

I can't imagine that any manager could have been more accommodating than Roberto Mancini was towards the striker; he gave him every opportunity and every encouragement and yet, to my mind, Balotelli was a flop for City.

For their £24m outlay, City got a return of 20 Premier League goals - a lot of them from the penalty spot - and plenty of trouble to boot.

The funny thing is, though, that while Balotelli was a failure in England I'm sure he'll be fondly remembered by a lot of City fans - and probably increasingly so as the years roll by.

In years from now I'm sure people will still be talking about the 'Balotelli years'.

More immediately, we'll now have significantly less to talk about on Soccer Saturday, whether it be fireworks in the bathroom or camouflage-coloured cars.

I don't know what the Italian for 'mad-as-a-hatter' is, but that was Balotelli...

Rewards

Over at QPR, Harry Redknapp recognises that he largely needs to sign players who are proven performers in the Premier League but has found it difficult to do so.

This is a critical transfer window for clubs like Rangers because the rewards next season are going to be absolutely enormous. But do you stick or twist? Do you invest and hope to stay up or not?

If Rangers can win the lunchtime game on Saturday against Norwich, they'll be only one point off safety and who would have thought that a couple of weeks ago? Probably not even Harry...

Harry has been critical of the amount of money paid out for some players in previous regimes and yet he has to pay absolutely top-dollar to strengthen his squad, so he finds himself in a tricky position.

He's got a quick return on Loic Remy, which was a great start for him, but signing Christopher Samba will be an expensive piece of business if the fees reported are the case.

In the long term, however, Samba could easily be the difference between them going up and staying down and, on the plus side, he has got the likes of Djibril Cisse, Anton Ferdinand, Rob Hulse and Alejandro Faurlin off the wage bill.

Risk

These are interesting times on Newcastle, where 'Alan Pardieu' has bought in the French Resistance.

Can you have too many Frenchman in the side? Not if they all play like Yohan Cabaye you can't because he's been absolutely fantastic in the last few games.

But it is a risk. I watched the second half against Aston Villa and thought that Mathieu Debuchy, for instance, was really struggling when the heat was on.

Le Championnat is by no means the strongest league in Europe, so Newcastle must be sure that they are investing in quality.

Are the five that he's brought in all good players? We will see.

Newcastle will be encouraged by the fact that they went to Villa and won, with Moussa Sissoko playing an important role, but if I was a Newcastle fan I think I'd be a little bit frustrated that the club's scouting system doesn't seem to extend beyond the south of France...

Underwhelmed

Reading is another club that fascinates me.

They may be owned by a Russian billionaire, yet the players they've bought in the transfer window so far are universally underwhelming in terms of fee.

Maybe that's because the owner has not been willing to put forward the wheelbarrows of money that some Russians have done in the past, or maybe it's a club policy not to spend big on an overseas signing to avoid rocking the apple cart.

We've seen the sort of divide that can bring about in the QPR dressing room under Mark Hughes.

I expect most fans are distinctly underwhelmed by Reading's signings - the likes of Sporting Lisbon's Daniel Carrico, Hope Akpan from Crawley, Nick Blackman from Sheffield United and Stephen Kelly from Fulham.

Some people will say they are buying for the Championship but I don't share that opinion because these are young players, all of whom have big futures. If they can step up then the club's transfer policy will be entirely justified.

Lightweight

Philippe Coutinho's move to Liverpool is an interesting one.

There was a feeling on the south coast that the midfielder, who spent time with Mauricio Pochettino at Espanyol, might go to Southampton.

I know Phil Thompson was worried about that after Saints signed Gaston Ramirez and Vegard Forren, both of whom Liverpool had been interested in.

Yet Liverpool have signed him and it's a risky move from what I understand.

Coutinho - who is still only 20 - was viewed as a bright, young thing of Brazilian football when he was there but didn't play many games. He found the tag of 'the next wonder-kid' hard to carry.

He went to Inter and, in all honesty, didn't make the grade, earning only a handful of league starts before being loaned out to Espanyol.

At five foot 11 and 11 stone there's not much of him but he's a ball player. Whether he'll look lightweight or not, remains to be seen.

Maybe a fresh start is exactly what he needs.

Talent

Meanwhile, I imagine Wilfried Zaha couldn't have chosen anywhere better that Manchester United to go and further his career.

Everybody says he's a fantastic talent and the biggest issue seems to be where exactly he'll fit into the Manchester United side as they've already got fantastic wide players like Ashley Young and Valencia, and they can use Danny Welbeck in a wide role as well.

I suspect he's probably going to have to be patient before fully making his mark.

Until then, I've just one word of advice for him. The next time you are the subject of a big-money deal at one of the world's biggest clubs, wear a different T-shirt...

JEFF'S JEM OF THE WEEK

I've chosen MK Dons for their victory over QPR. For any side to go away to a Premier League side and be 4-0 up if fantastic, even if it was a much-changed Premier League side. Although Harry Redknapp rang the changes and his priority is Premier League survival, he would have wanted to win this and no mistake. He's won the Cup before and it's a competition that he loves. You could see by his reaction afterwards how upset he was with his team's performance.

I've only seen glimpses of MK Dons but they play lovely passing football and Karl Robinson is a smart, engaging, amusing manager - the type of manager that players really want to play for. We know other clubs have been in for him so the Dons have done well to hang on to him. There's no doubt that one day he will manage at a higher level than League One - maybe with the MK Dons, who knows? I've got every confidence that he will get the club's league season back on track.

Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

S

terling needs to be told though that upon entering the Arsenal squad he will re-enact the final scene from Highlander where he will be thrown around a warehouse by cartoon dragons and then be a mere mortal that will only ever spend three to four weeks a season playing football and the rest on the physio's bed. There can be only one.....player available at The Emirates.

rodger's gusset
Arsenal interest in Sterling

T

he game changed in our favour when Carrick came on. We were able to play further up the pitch due to having a player who can give and go with the ball and keep possession. Yet barkley made some runs and Townsend scored a good goal but carrick's inclusion and chiellini's withdrawal made the biggest difference to the flow of the game

ricky villa
Hodgson: Barkley was brilliant

N

o, you've not silenced anyone Andros, i'm afraid. We know you can score a great goal, and it's really handy to have your direct running and willingness to shoot on the bench. But until you can do the other things expected of a winger (beat the man, put a decent cross in, stay wide etc) then you can't expect more than a regular cameo. Wonderful goal though, what a hit! No wonder Buffon wanted the shirt.

badwolf
Townsend: I've silenced critics

Footer 365

'Win some medals', blasts Merson

Paul Merson challenged Andros Townsend to "win some medals" before calling him out after the Tottenham winger poked fun at him for questioning his England credentials.

Raheem Sterling will not resume Liverpool contract talks until the summer

Raheem Sterling has confirmed that he will not resume talks over a new contract with Liverpool until the summer.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane wants to play for England U21s at European Championship says Roy Hodgson

Harry Kane wants to "finish the job" and go to the European U21 Championship this summer, according to Roy Hodgson.

Mail Box

Is This The End Of Ex-Players As Managers?

Do massive wages and cushty TV numbers signal the end of the ex-high-profile player turned manager? Plus Liverpool fans don't actually say the 'next year' thing...

A Solution For The Premier League's 39th Game...

One morning Mailboxer solves the 39th game conundrum. Plus England were actually alright, Harry Kane is rubbish again and do Arsenal have the most embarrassing fans?

© 2015 Sky Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media company