Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Gareth Bale must follow Neymar's lead to become the best in the world

The Brazil forward followed his ambition this summer with a move to Barcelona and if Bale wants to reach the footballing summit then he must leave White Hart Lane
By Peter Staunton

Gareth Bale is not yet the best player on the planet, but he's getting there. Former Tottenham Hotspur favourite, David Ginola, agrees. "Well what can I say about him?," he told Goal. "Young Player of the Year, Players' Player of the Year, one of the best players in the world."

Beneath the immovable top two, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, there is a group of contenders for the consolation prizes. Robin van Persie and Franck Ribery are among them. So too is the Welshman. What separates Bale from all the others now is on-field success and, crucially, a place at one of Europe's biggest teams.

Both Ronaldo and Messi were Ballon d'Or winners by the time they were Bale's age, 24, and both had won the Champions League as well as any number of league prizes. Bale? He's had one season in the Champions League. His honours list is an insult to his talents.
Reunited with Pep Guardiola, the Spain star should be provided with plenty of football to impress with Bayern.
Delivered on his potential for Bremen but is taking a step-up at Chelsea. If he wins a first team place, anything is possible.
A full Germany international at 19, the Schalke attacking midfielder has, like Bale, been tipped to join Real Madrid in the future.
Hugely promising central defender who, at the age of only 19, has commanded a fee of €35m from Paris St-Germain.
Joins a long, illustrious line of South Americans seeking to thrive at Porto. Has the touch and poise to be a world-class talent.

He has just enjoyed his best season to date on a personal level. Bale scored 21 Premier League goals from midfield and went within a hair's breadth of qualifying Tottenham for the Champions League, deservedly winning all the individual accolades on offer. But his Herculean efforts were not enough for Spurs on the collective level. Andre Villas-Boas turned to him at every moment of difficulty. He didn't let his coach down. But it could be argued Spurs let him down.

The club have been good to him. He's developed well there since shaking off his horrid winless curse and delivering on the potential he showed at Southampton. But it is apparent now that Bale is considering a career away from White Hart Lane.

He knows he should be playing in the Champions League. Moreover, a player of his calibre deserves to be winning it. He should be challenging for league titles not for fourth place. He will not become the best player in the world at Spurs. He will do so at the Bernabeu.

One of the most challenging periods in any young player's career is the one that Bale has just gone through. From emerging onto the club scene it is a deceptively long, precipitous road to the top. There are no guarantees that just because a player was effective at 19 he will be at 25. But Bale has outgrown Spurs, such is his dizzying trajectory. He has grown up too fast for them. The best players have to play at the best clubs.

Neymar, for example; a prodigiously gifted young player and by the time the 2013 Brasileirao kicked off it was widely agreed that he had become too good for his native league and for his beloved Santos. To continue to make an impact and grow and develop would have been impossible at Vila Belmiro. He needed to take that next step.

And he has done so by taking on a hugely challenging but potentially rewarding transfer to Barcelona. His time came and he took his chance. After winning the Copa Libertadores and going to the final of the Club World Cup there was not an awful lot more he could do with Santos.  No-one could blame Gareth Bale for seeing things similarly. Spurs will not challenge for the league so what is the best he can hope for by staying there?

Thomas Muller has just won the treble with Bayern Munich and looks like he will be among the most highly-regarded players in the world for the next decade. The perfect physical speciment, just like Bale, Muller is a throwback to some of the great lung-busting German midfielders from the seventies and eighties. Compatriot Mario Gotze is no longer 'promising' having established himself as a top-class attacking midfielder at Borussia Dortmund. Something far more exacting is now demanded of him: proving himself at Bayern.

Gotze's ex-colleague Ilkay Gundogan continues on his quest to marshal the Germany midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger and hold the fort for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and abroad. The 22-year-old oozes class in the centre of the park. Thibaut Courtois has another season to show Jose Mourinho he is ready to dislodge Petr Cech at Chelsea. The Belgian is tipped by many as potentially the best goalkeeper in the world in the future.

Meanwhile, Isco and Raphael Varane lead the best young generation at Real Madrid for over a decade after exploding onto the scene last season. The former possesses every attribute needed for an attacking midfielder - skill, creativity, dribbling, a fine shot. The latter has every quality required for a modern defender - pace, power, height, tackling, as well as an old-school intelligence and reading of the game.

Those players, all younger than Bale, have moved on; moved up. This is the new generation, taking their first significant steps in the game and bringing with them the adulation, hopes and expectations of millions. Some will fall down the pecking order. Others will come from nowhere, blooming late. Excellent prospects will continue to be produced.

What they need, thereafter, is the right club, the right environment for their football to grow. And the right environment for Bale is Real Madrid. -------------------------

Moyes wise to trust us old boys says Manchester United stalwart Rio Ferdinand

Moyes wise to trust us old boys says Manchester United stalwart Rio Ferdinand

"The manager is going to try to implement parts of his own style, but he’s not silly - he knows he’s coming into a title-winning team"
United front: Moyes has been picking the brains of the champions' old sweats
United front: Moyes has been picking the brains of the champions' old sweats
Matthew Peters
Rio Ferdinand says Manchester United’s core of experienced players will help David Moyes make a winning start to his Old Trafford reign.
Moyes has canvassed the likes of Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick in the four weeks since he succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson as the champions' manager, drawing on their insight to help him settle in to his new role.
And Ferdinand said the decision by Moyes to look to the established members of the squad he inherited from now-retired Fergie showed the 50-year-old has an open mind and is willing to do whatever it takes to maintain the club’s success.
“I just look at it as if I was taking the job on,” Ferdinand said in Hong Kong, after the final game of United’s pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia.
“Would you lean on players who have been here for many years, for their experience and to ask questions and to better yourself? Of course you would. You’d do the same in any job.
“But I think the manager is fortunate he’s got someone like Giggsy, among others, like myself and Carrick, who have been here for many years and know the fabric of the club.
“If there’s anything we can pass on, with our experiences, to help him to become a better manager and to help us win more trophies, then that’s fantastic.
“Winning the league last season, I don’t think that’s going to change massively from this season, in terms of the way we play and things like that.
“The new manager is going to try to implement parts of his own style into our team, but he’s not silly - he knows he’s coming into a championship-winning team.
“I think it’s still too early to talk about stuff like that [comparing Moyes and Ferguson].
“The manager before was a one-off, there won’t be anyone like him ever again, and you can’t expect anyone to fill his boots exactly the same way.
“And with this manager, you’ve got to give him time and hopefully he is at a club where he will get that.”
One of the features of Ferguson’s reign was his willingness to give young players a chance and Moyes followed that blueprint on tour, giving exposure to the likes of Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj, Michael Keane, Ben Amos and Wilfried Zaha.
All acquitted themselves well during United's five-game, three-week trip, in particular Januzaj and Lingard.
Zaha, a £15million January signing from Crystal Palace who was loaned back to the Londoners, did enough to suggest he could play a key role in the first-team this season.
“The best part of the tour has been seeing the young lads come through,” said Ferdinand. “Obviously, fitness is the most important thing, but the young lads have come through and shown they have the right qualities.
“If you asked anyone else in the club they’d tell you the same thing about Jesse - that he’s a great little player. On the last tour he was one of our best players, but it didn’t work out for him last season.
“This season it remains to be seen, but he couldn’t have done any more to put himself in the shop window in terms of the manager.
“Obviously, Zaha came with a big price-tag for a young player, but he’s come in here, he’s got a great personality and he’s fitted in straight away.
“You can see he has the potential to become a really good player and this is the best place to do that.”
Red hot: Young Jesse Lingard has impressed on United's tour
Brendon Thorne
 United have yet to make a signing under Moyes, but Ferdinand is not concerned:
“We’re confident. If we had to go into the new season with the players we’ve got now, I’d be more than confident of doing well and winning trophies, but if the manager can add to that and chooses to add to that, then great. But that remains to be seen.”
United take on AIK Stockholm in Sweden next Tuesday, where Wayne Rooney is expected to make his much-anticipated comeback fom injury, before Ferdinand’s testimonial against Sevilla at Old Trafford three days later.
Although the testimonial is to honour Ferdinand’s 11 years of service to United, the 34-year-old defender acknowledged it as another vital chance for Moyes to give players some vital game-time ahead of the new season.
“It’s a bit of both,” said Ferdinand. “The manager wants it to be a proper game, with players getting some vital minutes in, but it’s an honour for me to have been able to play for this club for so many years.
“To be granted a testimonial is something I’m very proud of. Hopefully I can share it and enjoy it with the fans.
“You just don’t imagine it, getting a testimonial. You don’t look that far ahead.
As a football player, you just think about the next game. It sounds boring, but it’s true - you never imagine yourself in those shoes.
“Just like with winning trophies. When you first go into the United changing-room in your first season and you see Giggsy’s got five, six or seven trophies, you think, ‘I’d love to be there one day’ but you don’t know - you might only get one or two, and that’s it.
“So to have won as much as I have has been incredible.”

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England are always too tired to win the World Cup because there's no winter break says Capello

England are always too tired to win the World Cup because there's no winter break says Capello

Three Lions' old boss claims they "are the least fresh of the competing sides" at tournaments as players don't get mid-season breather
Driving farce: Capello compared England's players to cars running out of gas
Driving farce: Capello compared England's players to cars running out of gas
Fabio Capello has warned England will never win the World Cup - because the players are always "running on empty" after a long season with no winter break.
Don Fabio, who trousered nearly £25million before tax in his four years in charge of the Three Lions, claimed the quality of Premier League football is better in the first half of the season, before fatigue kicks in.
Capello's comments will surprise the England players who complained of his 'boot-camp' philosophy as they prepared for the disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa in 2010, culminating in a humiliating 4-1 defeat by Germany.
But, in an interview with world governing body FIFA's offical website, the Italian insisted: "They (England) are the least fresh of the competing national sides because their league doesn't have a break.
"It's like when you are driving a car: If you stop halfway to put fuel in the tank, then you will definitely get to where you want to go.
"But if you don't, then there's always the chance you will be running on empty before you reach your goal.
"In my opinion, the football played in the first half of the English season is much better than the second half - and because of that, if you want to be a competitive team in the Premier League, you need a really big squad - which is a luxury you don't get with the national team."
Bobby Moore
One and only: Will the FA ever need to make room on the mantlepiece?
 Capello, who quit 18 months ago in protest at John Terry being stripped of the captaincy, believes he left successor Roy Hodgson an enviable legacy.
Hodgson was installed barely a month before last summer's European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, where England suffered their traditional exit on penalties - against Italy this time - in the quarter-finals.
Capello, now in charge of the Russian national side - with whom he communicates through interpreters, which sounds familiar - added: "I think it went very well, but it could have gone even better. The way we went out (of the 2010 World Cup, after a Frank Lampard goal to make it 2-2 was wrongly disallowed) against Germany still hurts - but that aside, I feel satisfied.
"I arrived after the team had missed out on qualifying for Euro 2008, but under me we easily made it through two qualifying campaigns and my win record was very good.
"I also gave lots of young players a chance, such as Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, James Milner and Joe Hart. Theo Walcott had already played one game for England, but he established himself under me.
"I feel I left a good legacy.
"Was there more pressure in England? On the pitch perhaps, yes, and the English media put you under an awful lot of pressure, that's clear.
"But it's hard to compare that with what happens in Russia because here I can't understand what the journalists say!"
By the time he walked out on the Football Association, Capello's patchy grasp of English, after more than four years in the job, did not reflect his salary as the highest-paid England coach in history.

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Ramos endorses Real Madrid's Bale pursuit

The Spain international described a potential world-record fee for the Tottenham star as "not very expensive" considering the Welshman's talents, and urged his club to seal a deal
Sergio Ramos has become the latest Real Madrid player to endorse the club's move for Tottenham's Gareth Bale, declaring that the world-record fees being touted for the Premier League star are "not very expensive" considering his talent.

Los Blancos are stepping up their efforts for the 24-year-old's signature with the Welshman desperate for a move to the Spanish capital, though Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to sell the club's top player - even for a huge sum.

And after Madrid and Spain team-mate Iker Casillas backed the club to sign the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, Ramos also supports a move, suggesting the club should always be looking for "great" players like Bale.

"The price of players is determined by the market. He's not very expensive from my point of view," Ramos told reporters at a press conference.

The 27-year-old defender believes Madrid must prioritise securing the best young Spanish talent - the €39 million deal for Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illaramendi being a case in point - but says "great" players like Bale are always welcome.

"It's important that there are young, national players on this squad because a national core is very important," he continued.

"But from there it's wonderful to have great players. It's a good philosophy and a good project."

And while there has been no official bid for Bale as of yet, Ramos insists the final decision will lie with the club's hierarchy.

"The president [Florentino Perez] and [coach Carlo] Ancelotti will decide if he needs to come here." -----------------------

Fabregas set for talks to clarify Barcelona future

The ex-Arsenal midfielder will meet with new coach Gerardo Martino as he seeks assurances over his role amid interest from Manchester United
By Paul Clennam

Cesc Fabregas will meet with new Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino in the next 48 hours as he seeks assurances over his future at Camp Nou.

The Manchester United target wants to clarify his position with Martino ahead of publicly announcing his intentions this summer, with Barcelona having already rejected two approaches from the Premier League champions for the 26-year-old.

Martino insisted on Friday that the Catalans would also dismiss any further approaches from United for the midfielder, with Goal having revealed last week that the club were preparing an improved bid of €41 million for the former Arsenal star.

Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu has also previously ruled out and chance of the club selling the Spain international, insisting: "Whatever offer United make, however big, we will say no. Cesc Fabregas will stay a Barcelona player."

However, Fabregas is keen to meet with his new manager to ensure he remains key to the club's plans next term, and United are understood to be losing heart in their pursuit of the midfielder.

After Thiago Alcantara opted to join Bayern Munich ahead of United earlier in July, Fabregas has emerged as David Moyes' priority signing this summer.

The United boss admitted on Sunday that he was unsure whether his side will continue their efforts to sign Fabregas but insisted he will add to his squad before the close of the transfer window.

"I couldn't tell you if there will be another bid," Moyes said.

"Obviously we'll take stock and make a decision on what we do next but we have a good squad already. You can't forget about the quality that's already here.

"Undoubtedly we hope to add to it and I'm quite confident we'll do that... certainly before the window shuts." --------------------------

Pep Guardiola denies Bayern Munich are moving for Chelsea's David Luiz

Pep Guardiola denies Bayern Munich are moving for Chelsea's David Luiz

Is the Brazilian part of Jose Mourinho's plans for European Champions Chelsea? Do the other European Champions care?
No: David Luiz is not going to Bayern Munich
No: David Luiz is not going to Bayern Munich
Chelsea defender David Luiz IS NOT going to be heading to Bayern Munich, despite speculation linking the Brazilian with a switch to the Bundesliga from Stamford Bridge.
New Bayern boss Perp Guardiola has moved swiftly to quash any thoughts that the Champions League winners were hunting for defensive reinforcements after a 4-2 Super Cup defeat by Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.
The Chelsea future of Luiz, who travelled out to the USA today with a 25-man Blues squad for pre-season kickabouts, has been the subject of some theorising this summer, with Barcelona sniffing around.
But if he is on his way out of the Bridge, he is not on his way in to Bayern, says Pep.
Speaking at the presentation of the Audi Cup pre-season tournament in Munich, Guardiola was adamant: "He's not coming to Munich. We've got four or five central defenders.
"There is no truth to the speculation."

Six of the best return for Chelsea as 25-man squad heads to USA for more branded kickabouts

Six of the best return for Chelsea as 25-man squad heads to USA for more branded kickabouts

David Luiz, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres are among the stars who were excused Asia duty but are back in Blue... for now at least
Juan Mata and Fernando Torres of Spain and Chelsea, at the Confederations Cup
Juan Mata and Fernando Torres of Spain and Chelsea, at the Confederations Cup
Clive Rose
A 25-man Chelsea squad has departed today for a four-game tour in the USA – and included all six senior players who had been excused the Asia tour.
David Luiz and Oscar (Brazil), Juan Mata, Cesar Azpilicueta and Fernando Torres (Spain) and John Obi Mikel (Nigeria) had been given extended holidays after their international commitments this summer.
Good holiday? David Luiz of Brazil with the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy
Good holiday? David Luiz of Brazil with the FIFA Confederations Cup trophy
Laurence Griffiths
 The Blues travelled to Washington DC today. The tour begins with a match against Jose Mourinho's former club Inter Milan in Indianapolis on Thursday and concludes on August 10 in Washington against Roma.
Bling me sunshine: Fernando Torres with the Europa League jug
Bling me sunshine: Fernando Torres with the Europa League jug
Michael Regan
The squad includes goalkeeper Henrique Hilario despite him being listed on the Premier League's released list last month.
Defender Tomas Kalas has missed the trip due to injury. Josh McEachran, Sam Walker, Nathaniel Chalobah, Lucas Piazon and Islam Feruz (all previously on the Asia tour) were not been selected for the USA.
Chelsea squad: Petr Cech, Mark Schwarzer, Henrique Hilario, Jamal Blackman; Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ryan Bertrand, David Luiz; John Mikel Obi, Michael Essien, Oscar, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Marco van Ginkel, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Victor Moses, Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne; Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba.

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Wenger admits role in Arsenal departures

Wenger admits role in Arsenal departures

Wenger admits role in Arsenal departures

The Premier League's longest-serving manager was open in a recent Q&A session in Japan as he discussed the club's focus on youth development
Arsene Wenger has admitted Arsenal’s focus on promising youngsters has contributed to the departure of key players in the past.

The north London side's failure to win silverware since 2005 has attributed to the sale of key players - such as Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Robin van Persie to Manchester United.

And Wenger has admitted he feels players have questioned his methods at periods during their ongoing eight-year trophy drought, both in the squad and potential new recruits.

"The egos are big, but you must know that a person, no matter how big a star he is, is ready to listen to you if it meets his needs," he explained.

"Unfortunately in management, you cannot cheat for a long time. When you are in a squad of 30 people, the players detect at a huge speed the weakness in your personality. If they think you are the man who can help them, they will respect you.

"The next step for them is deciding whether they are in a squad who can help them to be successful. We had that problem when we were under financially-restricted conditions.

"At Arsenal we have fought against the policy of only buying stars. For some players, we didn't have enough stars to be successful as quickly as they wanted to be."

The arrival of Patrick Vieira in 1996 began a succession of youthful stars who went on to great success - including the likes of Thierry Henry, Fabregas and Van Persie - and Wenger says a player's success is just as much down to mental strength than potential talent.

"One of our strengths is young people know we will give them a chance. We try to look all over the world to find players who have the talent and desire," he explained.

"But what we look for is their motivation to be successful. You also need consistency in your motivation and that is what we try to test in players as well.

"For me that is a very underrated quality. It means they are determined and they are ready to hurt themselves to be successful, and that's the type we are looking for - the people that are very demanding with themselves, and each other for a long time." ---------------------

Suarez to Barcelona or Real Madrid makes more sense than Arsenal, says Owen

Suarez to Barcelona or Real Madrid makes more sense than Arsenal, says Owen

Suarez to Barcelona or Real Madrid makes more sense than Arsenal, says Owen

Arsene Wenger's side submitted a £42 million bid for the Uruguay forward on Monday as the striker prepares to hand in a formal transfer request in order to secure a move away
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen believes that it would make more sense for Luis Suarez to join Barcelona or Real Madrid ahead of Arsenal this summer.

The Uruguay international is preparing to hand in a formal transfer request in order to push through a move to Arsene Wenger's side, who lodged a £42 million bid for the forward on Monday.

Despite a lack of Champions League football at Anfield, Owen insists that Liverpool's stature is on a par with Arsenal and argues that the 26-year-old would be better suited to Spain's top two clubs.

"Arsenal are a fabulous club and have got a great heritage but Liverpool are as big - if not bigger," Owen told BBC's Sportsweek.

"I'd be very surprised if he were to move to Arsenal. Madrid or Barcelona would make more sense."

Owen feels that Suarez should not opt to join another Premier League club and feels that Arsenal would not be a force in Europe next season unless their squad is strengthened this summer.

"I'm struggling to understand why he would leave and stay in England with Liverpool being the stature they are," the recently retired forward continued.

"From Suarez's point of view, you can understand him if he wants to reach the absolute pinnacle of the game - that's playing in the Champions League. Liverpool obviously are not in that at the moment.

"Truthfully, can you really see Arsenal winning the Champions League next season or going into the later stages? Unless they buy a good few players then I can't." ------------------------

Newcastle poised for transfer talks with Aston Villa's Darren Bent.. and are eyeing AC Milan striker

Newcastle poised for transfer talks with Aston Villa's Darren Bent.. and are eyeing AC Milan striker

Joe Kinnear to meet England hitman's representatives on Wednesday PLUS: Toon fancy Serie A starlet Niang on loan
Have a word: Will Villa's Darren Bent agree return to the north-east?
Have a word: Will Villa's Darren Bent agree return to the north-east?
Neville Williams
Joe Kinnear hopes to finally end Newcastle’s transfer nightmare when he holds talks with Darren Bent.
Kinnear, the Magpies’ new director of football, is set to meet the Aston Villa striker’s representatives on Wednesday in a bid to thrash out a move to Tyneside.
Fulham are also in the race to land outcast Bent, who can leave the Villans for £6m - two-and-a-half years after joining them from Sunderland in a club-record £24m deal.
Kinnear is under growing pressure as Newcastle are the only Premier League club yet to make a senior-squad signing this summer.
With less than three weeks to go to the big kick-off, fans are voicing concerns that the outspoken former Wimbledon boss has so far drawn a blank since his shock arrival last month.
Kinnear didn’t help his cause by taking a pre-planned holiday soon after coming in over the head of Alan Pardew, as owner Mike Ashley looks to give his manager a helping hand in the wake of last season’s brush with the drop.
Boss Pardew, set to touch-base with Kinnear for a progress report, said: “I let Joe, Mike Ashley and the board get on with trying to get a striker in. I’ll check in with Joe to see where we are.”
Newcastle are also keen on signing AC Milan and France U21s striker M’Baye Niang on a season-long loan with a view to a permanent £5m move.
The 18-year-old, who has been on Arsenal and Everton’s radar in the past, is under contract at the San Siro until 2017.

 Meanwhile, Alan Shearer and Paolo Maldini will lead a galaxy of stars to feature in Steve Harper’s 20-year Charity Match at St James’ Park.
Harper will mark the end of his two-decade stay at the club with a former Newcastle XI taking on a team of AC Milan legends on September 11 in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for a host of good causes.
Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Rob Lee and Tino Asprilla are set to figure for Toon, with Maldini, Frano Baresi and Andriy Shevchenko in the Milan squad.
Harper, 38, brough the curtain down on his Tyneside tenure this summer by joining Hull.
He said: “It promises to be a great evening.”

Jermain Defoe interview: Incredible Tottenham are heading for the next level

Jermain Defoe interview: Incredible Tottenham are heading for the next level

Striker expects big things - even without Gareth Bale - as Spurs prepare to add £26million Soldado to new boys Paulinho and Chadli
Animated: Jermain Defoe is excited by Tottenham's summer moves
Animated: Jermain Defoe is excited by Tottenham's summer moves
The doom-mongers are predicting a season of struggles at Tottenham without you-know-who.
But there is not a hint of self-doubt at the White Hart Lane club.
Despite the increasingly likely prospect of Real Madrid buying Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe remains a man inspired by the promise of the coming months.
The England striker is relishing the chance to work with the new wave of talent, and firmly believes it will take them to new heights.
Spain international striker Roberto Soldado is expected to complete his record-breaking £26million move from Valencia within days (click here for our La Liga expert's scouting report on Soldado).
Belgium international winger Nacer Chadli, who was among the best players in Dutch football last season, has already impressed in training after his £7m move from FC Twente.
And Brazil’s Confederations Cup hero Paulinho, snapped up for £17m from Corinthians, trains with his new team-mates for the first time on Wednesday morning.
Defoe said: “You’re talking about three top players who are going to take Tottenham to the next level.
“Yes, people may say that we missed out on Champions League football last season. But you look at the way the club has responded and straightaway you are excited about the way the team is being restructured to go again.
“Out of those three players, only Chadli has ­actually joined the squad so far, but I’ve already told him the team spirit is ­incredible and that he will love it here.
“You need that bond to work as a unit on the pitch and I think we’ve got that. We’re a group that has grown up together. Me, Gareth,
Aaron Lennon, Tom ­Huddlestone, Michael Dawson, just to mention a few of the names.
“I can’t talk about Gareth’s ­situation, because I don’t know anything about it - and it would be unfair for me to focus on anything other than my own job.
“But I can see why Spurs fans would be excited about Soldado coming because I am excited myself about the prospect of playing with him.
“He is a fantastic striker – sharp around the box and hungry to score goals.
 “For me, it’s not a case of thinking, ‘A top-class forward is coming in, maybe I’m not going to play.’ At the end of the day, I work hard and look after myself, so that I can give myself the best chance of bringing goals to the team.”
Defoe certainly has worked hard this summer.
For the second close season in a row, he has cut short his time on the beach to spend two weeks in France working with fitness guru Tiberius Darau.
The result was a display of trademark finishing that earned him a hat-trick in Tottenham’s 6-0 Asia Trophy win over South China last weekend.
It may have also tweaked the antennae of a few clubs still looking to buy a hitman before September 2.
Defoe, however, has his radar fixed firmly on finishing in the Champions League places next May.
He believes the expected addition of Soldado – the 28-year-old marksman who has hit 59 La Liga goals for Valencia over the past three seasons – gives Spurs a great chance.
He added: “A guy like Soldado can only strengthen us. Maybe if we’d had him last season as well as Emmanuel Adebayor we would already be in the Champions League. He’s a ­goalscorer.
“Nacer also looks a very good player. From what I’ve seen of him, he has got fantastic upper body strength and great feet.
“He’s a Tottenham-type of player. Clever, gets on the ball, plays one-twos, looking for the killer pass.
 “Paulinho is a top signing. He’s a midfielder who finishes like a forward and the lads can’t wait to welcome him. He’s had his break after the Confederations Cup so we get to see him on Wednesday morning for the first time.
 “We’re just like the fans. When we get new signings we can’t wait to see them in training.
“When we are finally all together and we’re looking around the dressing room, I know I’ll be excited about what we can achieve this season.
“If we just get off to a good start, you never know. Its about having the experience not to make the mistakes that cost us last time around.
“We’ve got that now.”

Bernard father hits out at Atletico Mineiro board over Shakhtar Donetsk bid

Bernard father hits out at Atletico Mineiro board over Shakhtar Donetsk bid

Bernard father hits out at Atletico Mineiro board over Shakhtar Donetsk bid

Delio Duarte is keen for his son to move to Portuguese champions Porto and points the finger at the Brazilian club's president for using the youngster like "a puppet"
 Atletico Mineiro are forcing Bernard to move to Shakhtar Donetsk against his will in order to make more money, according to the player's father.

Delio Duarte has previously declared that his son, the 20-year-old Brazil international, has set his heart on a move to Porto after being convinced by compatriot Hulk.

Atletico president Alexandre Kalil revealed on Tuesday that he has accepted a bid from Shakhtar and that the Ukrainian side are the only club to have made an appproach that meets their demands.

Duarte, however, has accused him of ignoring what his son wants and treating him like a puppet.

"I think Atletico Mineiro should respect his wishes," he told Maisfutebol.

"I understand Atletico want more money but the player cannot be a puppet. He gave so much to the club, he wants to go to Porto, they should try to reach an agreement.

"He is very focused on the World Cup. I think that, if he goes to Ukraine, he will lose ground. He doesn't even consider this possibility. Portugal is different.

"[Brazil coach Luiz Felipe] Scolari is very fond of Portuguese football and always watches. For him, playing in Portugal would be as or more important than staying here."

Bernard has repeatedly stated that he will not rush his decision and wants to move to a club where he will be able to play his way into the Brazil squad for next summer's World Cup.

Only Ronaldo could replace Bale, says David James

The goalkeeper is convinced a player of the Welshman's quality is virtually irreplaceable and, should Tottenham decide to cash in, the side would require a total "restructure"
By Ewan Roberts

Former England No.1 David James has urged Tottenham to keep hold of Gareth Bale, arguing that the only player capable of replacing the Welshman is Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo.

The PFA and FWA Player of the Year has his heart set on a move to the Spanish capital, where he would link up with the Portuguese attacker, but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is adamant that the 24-year-old is not for sale.

And goalkeeper James, who is currently juggling a trio of roles as player/assistant manager with IBV in Iceland and a pundit with BT Sport, believes that it would be virtually impossible for the north Londoners to replace Bale.

"The guy's not bad. Tottenham need to keep him," James told Goal.

"If Tottenham are looking at how they develop the team – and they've got one player in Bale who, for pretty much two years now, has been the talk of Premier League football – how do you replace that?

"Well, you have to go and then buy Ronaldo, surely. Are you going to get the same things? That's the problem. You can't replace someone, man-for-man, with that kind of ability at the moment.

"That's not to say that someone won't come up and develop into a better player than [Bale], that's a possibility.

"But the thing with Tottenham is that, unlike the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, who have squads of tremendous talent and the money to buy more tremendous talent, I think Bale has been such a fundamental part of Tottenham's success that essentially you would have to restructure the whole team [should he leave]."

Bale scored or assisted 25 Premier League goals for Tottenham last season – 12 of which came against James's former clubs – and is only likely to leave White Hart Lane should Madrid lodge a world-record offer.

The former England keeper will be joining the likes of Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves as part of the punditry team for BT Sport's Premier League coverage and feels that the younger line-up can bring more up-to-date insight.

"There's a lot of current experience as opposed to having not played the game for a couple of decades in some cases," James enthused.

"Players knowing other players, not having to be precious about what they say, there's a little more of an understanding into the personality of these players." ---------------------

Liverpool prepared to let Martin Skrtel go to Napoli on loan

Liverpool prepared to let Martin Skrtel go to Napoli on loan

The Slovakia captain could join the Neapolitans on a permanent contract if he can stay fit
Fall guy: Skrtel doesn't figure in Brendan Rodgers' plans
Fall guy: Skrtel doesn't figure in Brendan Rodgers' plans
Rafael Benitez is close to bringing Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel to Napoli.
The 28-year-old will initially join the Serie A runners-up on loan, but the Reds are insisting on a clause that makes the deal permanent if the Slovakian captain remains fit.
Skrtel had previously vowed to fight for his first-team place at Anfield but will now settle for a reunion with Pepe Reina.
Brendan Rodgers is continuing his attempts to re-model Liverpool's squad, and has signed plenty of attacking talent this summer.
However, the Reds' defence has not seen too many reinforcements and Skrtel's departure will force Rodgers back into the market for another centre-back.
Benfica's Lorenzo Melgarejo is expected to shortly be confirmed as a one-year loan signing in a bid to provide cover for Jose Enrique on the left side of defence.

Ancelotti one of the best in the world, says Ramos

Ancelotti one of the best in the world, says Ramos

Ancelotti one of the best in the world, says Ramos

The Spain international has little doubt that the former Paris Saint-Germain boss will succeed at his new club and has hailed the arrival of Isco
Sergio Ramos has taken the time to praise Carlo Ancelotti and believes the Real Madrid coach is one of the best trainers in the world.

The Italian replaced Jose Mourinho at the helm at the Santiago Bernabeu side this summer and Ramos is confident that the former PSG boss will succeed at the Primera Division giants.

"He’s one of the best in the world and we’re going to try to enjoy it. Having highly experienced coaches is a very positive thing," the defender said at a press conference.

"You learn a lot from him and hopefully he can bring titles. The important thing is that we understand perfectly what he teaches us and have a good year from there.

"It's a tremendous joy to be here and we hope he has a hard time choosing the team because competition is very important in great teams."

Ramos went on to discuss the arrival of Isco at Madrid and feels the former Malaga man is a valuable addition to the team.

"It’s good that young players with ambition and a desire to win trophies are in the squad. He made a difference in his former team. He’s good news for the team and can add a lot of great things.

"Competition is always good and we have to expect things from our team-mates. We all want to play and the best players should be the ones that do."

He also had his say on Pepe's situation and is hopeful that the Portugal international will remain at Madrid, despite losing his place to Rafael Varane last season before falling out with Mourinho.

"He’s always been a guarantee on the pitch and is one of the best in the world. It would be wonderful if he continues here, but everyone is free to decide their future," Ramos added.

"He continues to form part of this team, which is more or less complete in defence." --------------------------

Real Madrid will regret selling Higuain, claims Mijatovic

Real Madrid will regret selling Higuain, claims Mijatovic

Real Madrid will regret selling Higuain, claims Mijatovic

The 44-year-old believes his former club should've retained the services of the Argentine because of his prowess in front of goal
Real Madrid will live to regret letting striker Gonzalo Higuain leave the club this summer, according to former Bernabeu favourite Pedrag Mijatovic.

The 25-year-old sealed a move to Napoli for €37 million last week and has subsequently been unveiled by president Aurelio De Laurentiis on Monday.

However, Mijatovic - who enjoyed a three-year stay in the Spanish capital with los Blancos - is convinced the club's hierarchy will struggle to find someone to replicate the Argentine's goalscoring feats.

The former striker told Cadena COPE: "When Real Madrid purchased Higuain he was seen as a kid with great talent. He was settled in Spain and did well in Spanish football.

"He was key to winning the league title under (Fabio) Capello and has grown a lot at Madrid.

"It is not easy to find a player that scores 25-30 goals a season."

The Argentina international, along with goalkeeper Pepe Reina, were presented to supporters for the first time since their respective moves to Stadio San Paolo before the 3-1 victory over Galatasaray on Monday.

The duo sported the club's colours as they were paraded around the field prior to kick-off but, having failed to obtain international clearance in time for the visit of the Turkish champions, were forced to watch on from the stands as Goran Pandev, Juan Camilo Zuniga and Lorenzo Insigne all scored to secure the win.

Pandev put the hosts ahead in the first-half after guiding his header beyond the Galatasaray stopper.

Nordin Amrabat restored parity for the visitors early in the second-half before Zuniga - who was initially booed by the Partenopei fans amid speculation he is set to join Juventus next summer - and Insigne put the result beyond doubt late on.

Both clubs will now turn their attentions towards London as they travel to the English capital to clash with Arsenal in the Emirates Cup in August. ------------------------

Heartbroken Antonio Valencia asks Manchester United to let him attend Christian Benitez's funeral

Heartbroken Antonio Valencia asks Manchester United to let him attend Christian Benitez's funeral

Ecuador international seeks permission to miss pre-season training and return to South America to say farewell to tragic pal
Friendly match: Close mates Valencia and Benitez playing against each other in 2010
Friendly match: Close mates Valencia and Benitez playing against each other in 2010
Laurence Griffiths
Manchester United star Antonio Valencia wants to fly out to pal Christian Benitez’s funeral - and miss a chunk of the champions’ pre-season programme.
Ecuador winger Valencia is distraught after hearing the news that countryman and close friend Benitez died at the age of 27 while playing in Qatar.
Benitez’s death has stunned friends and colleagues, and Valencia will ask United boss David Moyes to give him compassionate leave.
Arrangements are being made for former Birmingham striker Benitez’s funeral in his home city of Quito - and Valencia wants to attend.
Valencia played his first game of 2013-14 for United against Crewe on Monday, after being given extra time off following international duty.
The champions gave him the full 90 minutes to get his fitness increased, but now the winger may miss United's final two pre-season games.
Moyes' men play AIK Stockholm in Sweden next Tuesday, then entertain Sevilla on the Friday in Rio Ferdinand's testimonial.