'There is a hint of Baggio about Kovacic' – Rapaic

Milan Rapaic is confident that his fellow Croatian Mateo Kovacic can go on to emulate former Italy striker Roberto Baggio at Inter.

The 18-year-old joined the Nerazzurri from Dinamo Zagreb for €11 million in January, and the 39-year-old is certain his compatriot will be a success in Serie A.

“The first few times I saw him play there was a hint of Baggio about him,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“First of all, he’s a great talent. He’s a smart player, very strong technically, he can dribble, he can pass the ball, and handle any opponent that confronts him.

“He plays without fear, because if you’re afraid you cannot be your team’s best player against Real Madrid when you are 17 as he was two years ago.

“He can play in a number of different positions. Certain characteristics can’t be changed, but his game has adapted over time.

“He now comes back for the ball much more often than he did; he likes to play the ball.”

'We were close to one more signature' – Arsenal boss Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed the club almost completed a second signing on January transfer deadline day.

The Gunners brought in Spanish left-back Nacho Monreal from Malaga in a late deal worth around €10 million, following an injury to Kieran Gibbs which will see him sidelined for up to six weeks.

The north London outfit were also heavily linked with Barcelona forward David Villa and West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame throughout the window, though moves never materialised.

The Frenchman has indeed admitted that one other final transfer was near completion, though he did not name any names, while insisting it was not a lack of money that scuppered the signing.

“We were close to one more signature,” he told reporters. “It did not happen because of the desire of the clubs to sell or not sell. It is only linked with that.

“It was not a money problem, it was more a desire from other clubs to keep their players.”

The 63-year-old has declared himself “delighted” with the capture of Monreal, and has now stressed that, although they can always improve, his side has enough ability.

“I believe that we have top quality in our squad and that is what we want to show until the end of the season,” he continued.

“We have some aspects of our game that we need to improve and how active we will be in the market in the summer will be decided by how well we do now until the end of the season.”

A grand total of over €139m was spent by Premier League clubs in the January window this year, double that of last term (€70m). but less than in 2011 (€295m).

Wenger was not surprised that spending remains high and indicated he believes irresponsible spending cannot last much longer.

He added: “I agree football looks to be an exception to society – for how long?

“I am always tempted to say it cannot last much longer, but I must honestly confess I am always wrong on that front! But it is like that.”

Mancini admits it was ‘difficult’ to sell Balotelli to Milan

Roberto Mancini says it was his decision to let Mario Balotelli leave Manchester City for AC Milan, but believes he made the right choice.

Mancini enjoyed a turbulent relationship with the controversial striker, who ended his stay in Manchester by moving to AC Milan in a €23 million move on deadline day.
And while the 48-year-old believes Balotelli’s departure was in the best interests of all concerned, he admits it was a tough call to make.

“It was difficult,” Mancini told reporters. “It was only my decision. Until one week ago it was impossible [to sell him] because we didn’t receive any offers.

“Instead in the last three days Milan started to talk with the club and made the offer.

“We thought it was good for everyone. For Mario, it could be a big chance to go back to Italy and play for a top club like Milan and we hope it will be important for him. For the club, we can get back some money.”

Mancini also denied reports that he was happy to see the back of Balotelli after many public fall-outs with the striker, and has backed him to do well back in Milan.

“We are not happy,” he added. “Mario did well, maybe not in the last three or four months because he had big problems with injury, but he did well because he helped the team win the Premier League and the FA Cup.

“We are sad [to see him go] but this is football.

“He has everything, always. He has quality. It is important he can understand this.”

Liverpool new-boy Coutinho is a 'proper Brazilian', says Lucas

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has hailed the club’s latest signing Philippe Coutinho, describing his compatriot as “a proper Brazilian”.

The 20-year-old, who has been capped once by Brazil at senior level, completed an €10 million move from Inter to Anfield on Wednesday.

And, despite the youngster failing to truly establish himself in Serie A, Lucas expects Coutinho to prove a hit for the Merseyside club both now and in the future.

“Coutinho is a very talented player,” he told reporters. “He is very young but he has a lot of experience already.

“I had the chance to watch him when he got his first cap for Brazil a couple of years ago as we were both in the team.

“He is a proper Brazilian with a lot of skill and he likes to play with the ball and score goals. He had a very good spell at Espanyol when he was on loan last season and I think he will be a great player for the future for us.”

The former Gremio star also expressed his belief that Coutinho will be able to deal with the added physicality of the Premier League.

“I think he will be able to cope,” the 26-year-old continued. “Of course in Italy it’s a different type of game but he has experience of playing in both Serie A and La Liga.

“We hope he settles very quickly. Hopefully he will feel comfortable and play really well for us.”

Lucas went on to reveal that manager Brendan Rodgers had asked him for his thoughts on the player prior to proceeding with the transfer.

“The manager spoke with me but not to ask about his talents as I think he was sure about that already,” he added. “He just wanted to know what I knew about Coutinho as a person. I only had positive things to say.

“Then I spoke with Coutinho a few times. Not to try to convince him to come here but just to tell him about the club and how things work here.

“He felt it was a great opportunity for him to come to the Premier League and we’re happy to have him here. I know he doesn’t speak much English so I will try to help as much as I can to make him feel at home.

“We have Luis, Coates and myself here. We will all try to make him feel really comfortable. We’ll make sure he settles very quickly like Luis and Coates and is able to show his qualities.”

Close but no cigar: The deals that collapsed on deadline day

Transfer deadline days are among the most manic times in the footballing calendar. It turns rational reporters into raving lunatics, has fans crossing their fingers for a new faces and makes a mockery of coaches who agree to last-minute signings they would never dream of sanctioning at any other time.

However, despite the flurry of activity, not every deal on transfer deadline day was completed, and there were a few high profile moves which looked on the cards only to fall apart at the last moment.

The most comical of Thursday’s near-misses was Peter Odemwingie. In what will go down as a deadline day classic, the West Brom striker rocked up at Loftus Road without the Baggies’ permission to talk to QPR in a desperate attempt to force through a transfer. His club had already rejected several bids. And so he waited outisde the ground for a transfer to come to fruition, but to no avail. The next time he turns up to training with his team-mates, it might be just a little awkward …

Another last-gasp failure was Pajtim Kasami’s temporary swap to Pescara from Fulham. Not for the loan move itself collapsing, but for his agent Mino Raiola’s reaction to why it fell through. He furiously fumed to La Gazzetta dello Sport: “There was no [internet] connection to finalise the deal. F*** off. You can’t do transfers in this s*** hotel.”

Another deal that remained unsealed – once again involving Fulham – was Maarten Stekelenburg’s loan move to Craven Cottage from Roma. The goalkeeper landed in London expecting to spend the next five months in the Premier League, having fallen out of favour at his Serie A side. However, the Giallorossi failed to find an adequate back-up and the deadline day deal fell through, leaving Stekelenburg to make what must have been a frustrating flight back to the Italian capital. The Netherlands international told sport-promotion.nl: “I really wanted to play for Fulham because it is a beautiful club and the Premier League is not bad either, to be using an understatement.”

Everton’s €10 million move for Leroy Fer was one of the more surprisingly implosions in January. The fee had been set with Twente, the terms had been agreed, the medical had been undertaken… and yet, no move occurred. What exactly happened is up for debate, with reports ranging from medical issues cropping up to the Toffees trying to renegotiate the fee after everything was concluded. Talks are rumoured to be renewed in the summer, but for now at least the move is a goner.

Finally, Aiden McGeady looked set to end his exile from the British Isles on Thursday, with Wigan set to sign the Republic of Ireland winger for €5m from Spartak Moscow. However, the Latics either failed to convince McGeady to join the relegation-threatened side, or the Russian club simply refused to part with their player for the price tag on offer. Roberto Martinez said late on deadline day: “It’s not going to happen. Aiden is a phenomenal footballer, but is a footballer that is playing his football in Russia. I don’t think that’s going to change.”