Saturday, June 30, 2007

Rozehnal Czechs in*

Confirmation came yesterday evening that we've completed the signing of Czech international defender David Rozehnal from PSG. The fee, reported to be £2.9m, was no doubt pushed up by Borussia Dortmund's rival interest, but it's reassuring to see we went the extra distance to land a proven international who at 26 is of a good age. Time will tell, of course, but he looks to be a value-for-money signing, particularly in the context of the £8m we paid Rangers for Jean-Alain Boumsong and of another deal that went through this week.

We already needed defensive reinforcements before a whole raft of defenders were released, but Rozehnal's arrival marks the start of the rebuilding process. Now for a left-back, I think - Leighton Baines is a bit pricey at a rumoured £6m, but if we could nudge that fee downwards a bit he would certainly be worth a punt. Wouldn't it be nice to gazump the Mackems, also alleged to be sniffing around the Wigan player?

Meanwhile, Fat Sam has made public his interest in Chelsea utility player Geremi, saying: "He is someone we would like to pursue, hopefully we can persuade him to join if we get the chance". Allardyce is well aware that several other Premiership clubs are chasing the Cameroon international, and that the deal to sign him on a free may well not come off. Quite where he'd play is anyone's guess - I'm not convinced he'd be better than Nobby at right-back or James Milner on the right side of midfield, but he would at least be a useful addition to the current squad.

More concerning to both Fat Sam and us than the possibility of losing out on Geremi, however, is the prospect of starting the new season without both Michael Owen and Obafemi Martins. Owen's future still seems up in the air (though this pitifully quote-thin story can be disregarded - Viduka quite possibly hasn't even met Owen yet), while in the face of rumoured interest from Arsenal Allardyce has been forced to concede that Martins too has an escape clause in his contract.

We've profited from one escape clause already this summer in signing Joey Barton, so it would be hypocritical to gripe too much about what is a pretty widespread phenomenon - but you have to ask whether the deals were right in the first place for the players to have insisted on the incorporation of such clauses in their contracts. You can argue it either way - presumably we wouldn't have got either Owen or Martins had we refused, but on the other hand it smacks of short-termism on the club's part and a caution and lack of real commitment on the players'.

Finally, Mike Ashley has increased his stake in the club to 93.2% and is now in a position to delist us from the stock market, likely to take place on 18th July, while Dean Saunders has just landed the position of assistant manager for Wales, his first job since leaving Tyneside at the beginning of February last year. Unsurprisingly, given his track record and inability to concede his own failings, Saunders' former mentor Graeme Souness remains unemployed.

* Yes, yes, I know - please excuse my reaching for the obvious. You're lucky to be getting an update at all, you know, what with our current workloads and my being in the process of moving house yet again...


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