Those famous glasses will no longer be a familiar sight at Villa Park.
In a surprising turn of events, Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill abruptly turned in his resignation on Monday, just one week before the kickoff of the Premier League season.
No official reason was given for O’Neill’s departure, although many are pointing to the possible sale of Villa starlet James Milner to Manchester City as the straw that broke the camel’s back. O’Neill was adamant about holding onto both Milner and Ashley Young, who is linked with a move to Tottenham. It is telling that his resignation came just three days after he admitted that a transfer deal for Milner could be imminent.
“To my knowledge, no fee has been agreed but talks are taking place involving our chief executive and the chairman,” he said last Friday. “If and when the transfer takes place I will have to speak to the chairman about future transfer dealings.”
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The talks between the two parties clearly did not go as planned, with Villa owner Randy Lerner admitting that he and O’Neill “no longer shared a common view as to how to move forward”. O’Neill departs the club having masterminded three successive sixth place finishes in the Premier League since his appointment in 2006.
“I have enjoyed my time at Aston Villa immensely,” O’Neill said. “It’s obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club. I wish them all the best for the future. I will obviously be assisting the club in the immediate short-term with regard to the handover of my duties.”
As for the next gaffer, reserve team coach Kevin MacDonald has been appointed as caretaker manager while the club searches for a permanent boss. The names rumored to be in contention include former Manchester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, former Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate, and US National Team manager Bob Bradley. With his countryman in the owner’s box, Bradley has become the odds-on favorite to take the post. But with the start of the season just days away, the Villains may have to face the bleak possibility of opening their campaign without both their manager and their best player.
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Bellamy Issues Quit Threat To City
Manchester City forward Craig Bellamy is pondering hanging up his boots – at least temporarily – if he doesn’t get in the Citizens’ Premier League squad. New rules mean that Premier League teams have to register a capped 25-man squad after each transfer window, and no more than 17 non-home-grown players can be over the age of 21. Under the new guidelines, a home-grown player has been with a club for thirty-six months prior to his 21st birthday.
As Bellamy is neither under 21 nor home-grown, he is at risk of losing his place in the team, with competition coming from the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jo, Roque Santa Cruz, and possibly Mario Balotelli, who is strongly linked with a move to the club.
“If I don’t get in the squad I don’t know what I will do,” Bellamy said. “I might finish, full stop. Or look at every option. This game is ruthless. With this 25-man ruling, it doesn’t matter how well I train or how good my attitude is, I might not be registered to play. So do I go without playing football until January, or do I find myself a club where I can play football? I am committed to stay where I am.”
Madrid Snap Up Carvalho
Ricardo Carvalho will reunite with his former boss Jose Mourinho at the Santiago Bernebeu after Chelsea accepted a $10.5 million bid for the defender.
The 32-year-old has played under Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea, and they will now team up for a third time as the “Special One” attempts to wrestle Spanish dominance away from defending La Liga champions Barcelona. Carvalho will join a growing Portuguese contingent in the Spanish capital which includes Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe.
Carvalho will leave Stamford Bridge having won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and two Carling Cups. Soon after his arrival at Chelsea in the summer of 2004, he formed a formidable partnership with club captain John Terry and has since made over 200 appearances for the club. Serbian Branislav Ivanovic or Brazilian Alex are likely to step into Carvalho’s place should manager Carlo Ancelotti refuse to dip into the transfer market for a replacement.
Kenwyne Jones Completes Stoke Move
Stoke City shelled out a club-record $12.5 million to land Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones, who penned a four-year deal on Wednesday.
The Trinidad and Tobago front-man spent some time on loan at Stoke in 2005, and manager Tony Pulis was delighted that Jones decided to return to the Brittania Stadium in time for the new Premier League season.
“It’s no secret that I am one of his biggest admirers,” said Pulis. “He did a smashing job for us when he was here on loan. He was very young back then, but I believe that he has the best years ahead of him as a top striker.”
The departure of Jones saw Sunderland manager Steve Bruce boost his efforts to bring Manchester United youngster Danny Welbeck to the Stadium of Light on loan. Welbeck had an impressive preseason tour of North America with United, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his interest in sending the 19-year-old striker on loan for more first-team experience. Welbeck sealed the loan on Thursday after passing a medical at Sunderland.
Liverpool Land Poulsen, May Lose Mascherano
Roy Hodgson has bolstered the Liverpool midfield with the signing of Christian Poulsen from Juventus. The clubs agreed a $7 million transfer fee and soon after Poulsen penned a four-year deal with the Merseyside club.
The Danish international walks through the Anfield gates as Javier Mascherano looks set to walk out of them. He is keen to leave England, while both Inter Milan, new home of former boss Rafael Benitez, and Barcelona are pursuing the fiery Argentinean.
Poulsen will likely slot into Mascherano’s holding midfielder position, and he will join fellow Dane Daniel Agger at Anfield.