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Scout Report: Emmanuel Riviere (AS Saint Etienne)

Last time out the focus was Iker Munian, ‘the Spanish Messi’. This week the focus turns to Emmanuel Riviere, who his club hope will quickly become ‘the new Bafitembi Gomis’…

Taking centre stage: Circumstances have thrust Riviere to the fore at Stade Geoffrey Guichard

Position: Striker

Age: 19

Clubs: AS Saint-Etienne

While AS Saint-Etienne were understandably reluctant to sell star striker Bafetimbi Gomis to arch-rivals Olympique Lyonnais during the summer, there were a number of reasons that persuaded the club to relinquish their star player.

The first was the money — €13 million was a not inconsiderable sum, especially considering the striker’s poor form in the previous campaign. That form also contributed to the second reason — St. Etienne had only narrowly avoided relegation in 2009, and French international Gomis had consequently become unsettled. Perhaps the chance to cash in and rebuild was one worth taking.

The third reason perhaps sealed the deal. In Emmanuel Riviere, St. Etienne’s management believed they already had a player capable of quickly inheriting Gomis’ throne.

After all, Riviere had long been touted as a great prospect throughout France. Having grown up on the colony of Martinique, the young striker initially turned heads while making an appearance for his youth team in a national U14 tournament hosted by the world-renowned Clairefontaine academy.

Approached by a number of clubs, Riviere was happy to opt for the most successful in French history. Continue reading

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November 24, 2009 Posted by | World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Scout Report: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)

After Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea, we move across Spain to cast an eye (or even two) over the burgeoning buzz surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s slippery attacker Iker Muniain…

Feet of fury: Muniain has burst onto the scene in Spain

Feet of fury: Muniain (right) has burst onto the scene in Spain

Age: 16

Position: Left or right winger, second striker

Clubs: Athletic Club Bilbao

Bursting on to the scene to become the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history, diminutive Athletic Bilbao prodigy Iker Muniain immediately earned himself the moniker “the Spanish Messi”.

Such comparisions seem to be de rigueur for talented young footballers these days, even if Muniain’s record-breaking goal and ability to play on either wing might more accurately make him “the Spanish James Milner”.

Either way, the boy has some serious talent.

Just 16 and standing barely 5’5” tall, Muniain has nonetheless exploded on to the scene this season in a way that has major clubs across the globe sitting up and taking notice.

The well respected football website, IMScouting, said of Muniain, “it is clear that this young player is a true gem, a genius who is destined for stardom in the near future.” Such praise does not come lightly. Continue reading

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

The focus shifts from attacking midfielder Javier Pastore to one of the most hotly tipped young goalkeepers in the world, Atletico Madrid prodigy (and Football Manager starlet) David de Gea.

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Full stretch: De Gea's physical attributes make him an imposing presence in goal

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 18

Clubs: Atletico Madrid

Life is never boring at Atletico Madrid. As Sid Lowe will undoubtedly tell you, there is almost no end to the drama the club is involved in — and usually of its own making.

After the departure of former No. 1 Leo Franco in the summer, Atletico were keen to find a suitable replacement to shore up their defence. With youngster David de Gea considered a huge talent by his coaches, many thought the club would opt for a short-term solution between the sticks.

But after signing Valladolid’s impressive stopper Sergio Asenjo, who many in Spain see as the heir to Iker Casillas, the club now finds itself with two outstanding young keepers who are set to fight over the No. 1 jersey for years to come.

Asenjo cost the club €5 million in the summer, and so unsurprisingly the 20-year-old quickly grabbed the starting role under then-coach Abel Resino. He is likely to keep his place under new main man Quique Flores, but already in his germinating Vicente Calderon career has been challenged by his emerging understudy.

After all, the 19-year-old, nearly 6’3” De Gea has all the physical attributes required of a top goalkeeper. He showed his shot-stopping skills on his debut, where he saved a penalty (that, admittedly, he gave away) in his side’s 2-1 win over Real Zaragoza.

“I made my debut in the Vicente Calderon, and I stopped a penalty,” De Gea said.

“This is a dream for me. We must continue improving from here. This win will allow us to enjoy a peaceful week.” Continue reading

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Sport, Uncategorized, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Scout Report: Javier Pastore (Palermo)

Last week it was Miralem Pjanic, who might well tear Liverpool apart in the Champions League. Now the focus falls on Javier Pastore, a South American arrival in Italy who looks set for big things…

Ready for lift-off: Pastore announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Ready for lift-off: Pastore (c) announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Position: Attacking midfielder

Age: 20

Clubs: Talleres de Colombia, Huracan, Palermo

Young attacking midfielder Javier Pastore is another in a long line of creative Argentinians to travel to Europe and ply their trade in Italy.

Pastore joined Palermo, capital city of Sicily, in the summer for a reported fee of $8 million, after a scintillating season in domestic football with surprise package Huracan. The 20-year-old was a vital cog as ‘el Globo’ made a valiant challenge for their first title in 35 years.

They eventually finished second behind Velez Sarsfield, but Pastore was nevertheless voted player of the season by the Argentinian sports daily Ole in what was an impressive individual campaign.

Courted by some of the giants of European football over the summer, including Manchester United and FC Porto, Pastore eventually decided to sign with Palermo, who had long been interested in the player. The move was complicated by the midfielder’s contract status — Huracan orchestrated their original move of Pastore from junior club Talleres de Colombia by selling 55% of the player’s economic rights to an investment group and leaving Talleres with the remaining 45% (the move was technically a long-term loan).

Many of the big clubs were put off by this situation, on that is becoming increasingly prevalent in South American football. But not Palermo, who believed the 6’2” attacker’s combination of agility, technical proficiency and creativity was worth spending a sizeable amount of to tie down to a five-year contract, one that should see him remain at the club until 2014. Continue reading

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 1 Comment