UEFA Cup debutants Portsmouth FC have made a move for England international striker Peter Crouch. The deal, reported to be for an initial £8million with a further £3million payable in add-ons over the course of Crouch’s contract at Fratton Park, will see Crouch join his England national teammate Jermain Defoe at Pompey and they should feature as a regular partnership this coming season.
Portsmouth are looking to build upon the club’s eighth place finish in the Premier League and their FA Cup triumph, which qualified them for the UEFA Cup. This is the first time in Pompey’s history that they will compete in a European club competition. Portsmouth has one of the more electric home atmospheres in the Premier League and it will be a delight to hear their fans ring out the famous Pompey Chimes on European nights.
Crouch was unhappy at the lack of first-team opportunities at Liverpool, which was compounded by the signing of Fernando Torres, though he still managed 11 goals in limited playing time last season. Liverpool are also trying to finalize a deal for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry but things appear to be locked in a stalemate as Villa boss Martin O’Neill is unwilling to lower his £18m valuation. Liverpool recently had a £15m bid rejected though rumours suggest that right-back Steve Finnan could be thrown in as a makeweight.
Another departure from Anfield this summer is Harry Kewell. The 29-year-old Australian has signed a two-year deal with the Turkish champions. Kewell had been linked with Portsmouth, Celtic and Roma, but Kewell admitted Galatasaray quickly won him over. Kewell suffered through a tough spell at the end of his Liverpool stay, missing many games through injury and loss of form. The left-sided midfielder will look to get his career back on track and can look forward to Champions League football once again.
Staying in Turkey, one of the players I tipped earlier for a summer move, striker Dani Guiza has left Mallorca to join Turkish Fenerbahce. On the surface this would appear a bit shocking, as I thought another Spanish club would move from him after he scored 27 goals last season to finish as the leading scorer in the Primera Liga. However, Fenerbahce’s new manager is they key to this deal. Guiza was capped for Spain by Luis Aragones and the two will now reunite in Istanbul after a successful Euro 2008 campaign. Leaving from Fenerbahce is Brazilian-born Turkish midfielder Mehmet Aurelio, who was out of contract. He will be joining Real Betis on a three-year deal.
The big movers in Spain in the past couple of weeks have been Atletico Madrid. In addition to deals for Czech Republic defender Tomas Ujfalusi, French striker Florent Sinama Pongolle (pictured to the right), France goalkeeper Gregory Coupet and Brazilian midfielder Paulo Assuncao, Los Rojiblancos have signed Netherlands defender John Heitinga from Ajax on a five-year contract. Atletico are in the third qualifying round of the Champions League with an obvious eye on the group stage. I think these moves improve their backline as well as add to their overall depth and I look for them to be one of the dark-horse teams in this season’s Champions League.
Atletico have an exciting core of attacking players that include Portugese winger Simão Sabrosa, young Argentine star Sergio “Kun” Agüero, former Arsenal man José Antonio Reyes, ex-Liverpool winger Luis García and 2004-05 European Golden Boot winner Diego Forlán. Now they have added some quality at the back and should reduce their goals against from last season. Heitinga can play at right back and centre back as can Ujfalusi while Paulo Assuncao is a hard-tackling defensive midfielder.
One footnote to the deal is that news sources from Portugal claim FC Porto will deliver a formal complaint to FIFA against Atletico Madrid over the transfer of Paulo Assuncao. Assuncao terminated his deal with Porto using Article 171 of FIFA’s transfer regulations, which states that any player who signs a contract when aged under 28 is able to break that contract after a period of three years. Porto apparently had offers in the region of 8 million Euro range for the 28-year-old prior to his departure and will be seeking compensation.
1) This ruling is sometimes referred to as the ‘Andy Webster’ rule. Webster was the ground-breaking first player to test the rule when he left Scottish club Heart of Midlothian to join Wigan Athletic.