Official: Schalke sign Raffael on loan

Schalke have announced on their official website that they have completed the signing of attacking midfielder Raffael from Dynamo Kiev on a six-month loan deal with an option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

The Gelsenkirchen side were keen to add some more creativity to their squad in the January transfer window, and they have now found their man in the former Hertha Berlin man.

The 27-year-old joined Dynamo Kiev ahead of the 2012-13 campaign, but had been struggling to secure regular first team action with the Ukrainian giants, and was keen to move on in order to get more playing time elsewhere.

“We decided to make one more move in the transfer market due to ongoing injury problems, for example Ibrahim Afellay’s misfortune. We are very happy that the signing of Raffael is now a done deal,” general manager Horst Heldt told the club’s official website.

“We have a lot more options in attack now. Raffael will not need much time to adapt to the Bundesliga as he has already played in Germany for four years.”

Raffael will not be eligible to play in the Champions League for Schalke after already participating in European club football’s elite competition with Dynamo.

Emanuelson unhappy with role at AC Milan

Urby Emanuelson’s agent, Brian Berkleef, has revealed that the midfielder is unhappy with his current situation at AC Milan, but added that he is not thinking about leaving the club.


The Netherlands international has been struggling to get regular first team action in recent weeks, and is desperate for more playing time in the second half of the season.

“Urby is not happy at the moment,” Berkleef told reporters.

“Every player is going to be unhappy when they do not play regularly, and so is Urby. His lack of playing time in recent weeks kind of surprises me. I don’t know the reason behind it.

“I don’t think that he will leave Milan, though. He is a calm guy and he will not give up just like that. He is not the type of player to start complaining and kick up a fuss.”

Emanuelson has made 20 appearances in all competitions for the Rossoneri this term.

Inter keen to sign D'Agostino

EXCLUSIVE
By Elia Raimondo

Inter have shown an interest in signing Siena midfielder Gaetano D’Agostino in the January transfer window, Goal.com can reveal.

The 30-year-old initially appeared to be set to join Pescara this winter, but the Nerazzurri are keen to lure him to the Giuseppe Meazza instead as they aim to add some more depth to their midfield.

Head coach Andrea Stramaccioni sees the former Udinese midfielder as a valuable addition to his squad, but sporting director Marco Branca is not 100 per cent convinced yet the Siena player is the right man for the job.

D’Agostino’s relatively low price-tag makes him a serious option for Inter, though, as the midfielder could be available for a fee close to €2.5 million.

Elsewhere, Juventus remain keen to sign Genoa attacker Ciro Immobile, as revealed by Goal.com earlier this week, but their patience could be tested as the Grifone want to sign a replacement for the 22-year-old first.

Genoa are willing to let go of the player this winter, but only if they manage to add some fresh blood to their ranks first as head coach Luigi Del Neri feels they could struggle with fewer attacking options.

Immobile is co-owned by Genoa and Juventus, and club president Enrico Preziosi is ready to part company with their 50 per cent of the player’s rights for an estimated €4.5m once they have found a suitable replacement.

Wenger's kidding himself if he believes Arsenal have the 'complete' squad

COMMENT
By Liam Twomey

Those of a mind to criticise Arsene Wenger can point to many things – his unwavering stubbornness, his tactical inflexibility and misguided trust in certain mediocre players, to name just three – but one could never accuse him of pandering to the wishes of the masses.

With hopes of a 17th consecutive top-four finish hanging in the balance and the very real prospect of that well-documented trophy drought extending to eight years, Arsenal fans are once again demanding decisive action in the transfer market. Their manager, however, remains adamant he will not be dictated to.

“If you look at our squad, it is quite complete,” Wenger told reporters prior to his side’s comprehensive home defeat at the hands of Premier League champions Manchester City.

“You are always under pressure to buy in England and [the belief is] every problem has to be sorted out by buying people. But you have other ways to sort out the problems inside the club – it is about getting your injured players back, getting everybody focused and motivated.

“We still work on the transfer market as well, but we do not want to bring in average players. We only want to bring in an exceptional player, and at the moment we have not found him.”

Admittedly, when it comes to the buying culture which remains prevalent in England’s top tier, Wenger’s comments are underpinned by a fair degree of logic – particularly amid the frantic mid-season scramble for reinforcements which defines the January transfer window.

One needs only to utter the names of Fernando Torres or Andy Carroll to bring home the dangers of lucrative impulse spending, while QPR owner Tony Fernandes may live to regret dearly his reported decision to offer Marseille striker and Newcastle target Loic Remy a six-figure weekly salary to help his team avoid a likely relegation.

Compared to such madness, Wenger’s pragmatism is to be commended. But it is the Frenchman’s unbridled optimism on the capabilities of his own squad which will rightly worry Gunners fans as the club approaches a crucial final few months.

Quite simply, his insistence that the current Arsenal crop are sufficiently prepared to see through a campaign which still has them competing in three competitions without any January arrivals does not stand up to scrutiny.

For while it is not as dismally lacking in quality as some more hysterical Gunners fans would have you believe, Wenger’s squad is nevertheless alarmingly lacking in depth.

The biggest area of concern is the midfield where, after a dazzling start to his first season in England, Santi Cazorla has faded badly. It is hard to argue against the idea that fatigue is behind his decline – this time last year, he had played 19 games for Malaga and Spain. This term, he has played 31 times for club and country, only 11 less than his total for last season.

Jack Wilshere, too, has played in 16 of Arsenal’s 19 matches since returning from a 16-month lay-off at the end of October, raising understandable fears of a recurrence of his injury nightmare. Mikel Arteta’s body has already given out, succumbing to a calf strain having featured in 26 of the Gunners’ 30 games prior to the City defeat.

All three might be considered to be in Wenger’s fitness ‘red zone’, but a lack of cover is forcing the Frenchman’s hand. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are too fragile to be of consistent use, Aaron Ramsey is plugging gaps on the wings and it seems Francis Coquelin is not yet fully trusted.

In years gone by, Arsenal’s astonishingly productive academy would have been asked to shoulder the burden of an FA Cup third round replay, even against a side as talented as Swansea. That Michael Laudrup is more likely to shuffle his pack for Wednesday’s clash is a striking sign of the times at the Emirates Stadium.

Even the likes of Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld, Ignasi Miquel and Jernade Meade do not seem to command the same level of faith as past youngsters. Perhaps Wenger also no longer feels confident enough in his position to treat the domestic cups with the perceived disdain of resting his big guns, with fans protesting ever more loudly against his rule.

Whatever the reasons and the public statements, though, quality January arrivals are a must. Confirmation of Theo Walcott’s renewed commitment to the club would be a good start, but successful moves for highly-rated targets Adrian and Wilfried Zaha would go a lot further towards reassuring Arsenal fans of their club’s continuing ambition.

Few managers are more keenly aware of the risks of bad spending than Wenger. But now he must recognise that dithering can be just as costly, if the gradual decline which has marred the second half of his Arsenal reign is not to ultimately bring it to a sad – if predictable – end.

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With just five goals this season, is Immobile really the striker Juventus need?

COMMENT
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

Juventus’ search for a top-class striker has reached far and wide over recent months. Casting their net across the entirety of Europe, and even dabbling in waters even further afield, the Bianconeri have yet to catch the big fish they feel they require for the remainder of the season. They have entered talks over the transfer of Fernando Llorente, but so far it appears unlikely that he will arrive before the summer.

And now, with their resources still light in the forward department ahead of the resumption of their Champions League campaign, the Italian champions are turning their attentions to one of their own. One year on from cashing in half of Ciro Immobile’s contract for €4 million, the Turin side are looking to bring him back from Genoa in time to play a part in the remainder of the season.

The potential move appears to throw up more questions than answers on the face of it. If Juve are convinced Immobile is the man to lead them forward in the goals department, why didn’t they make this move on January 2 when the transfer window opened? And if he was not in their original plans for the second half of the season, what makes him their go-to man now?

After scoring 28 goals in 37 appearances for Pescara last season, Immobile was more than ready for the step up to Serie A, but he has struggled to find form in a Genoa side hanging around the wrong end of the top table this term. He has netted just five times so far, despite having played every game until suspension ruled him out of Sunday’s trip to Cagliari, and moreover his demeanour has not been the same as during 2011-12.

CIRO IMMOBILE | CAREER STATS

It could be argued that what he needs is the freedom to develop in a side not compromised by the fear a relegation battle can induce, but he does not look ready to lead a club searching for silverware at home and abroad just yet. The flipside of the same debate suggests that it is partly down to the failure in front of goal of the likes of he and Marco Borriello that the Grifone are still struggling to put a gap between themselves and the bottom three.

His game is not that of a player who thrives on playing with his back to goal. Not one for bringing others into play, the absence of Borriello at stages this season has massively compromised Immobile’s and Genoa’s style. When playing off the former Milan, Roma and Juve forward, he has seemed more at home, but even having an experienced partner as a foil hasn’t been enough for the 21-year-old to kick-start his form in front of goal. Immobile has netted only three times in his last 16 appearances, and looks a shadow of the player whose movement in a fluid Pescara forward department was phenomenal.

Studying Immobile’s form more closely, he has not had nearly the same conversion rate in Serie A as he did in the second tier, but that is normal. Defenders give you a rougher ride and close you down more quickly in the top flight, goalkeepers stand taller, the crowd is more expectant. But the former Sorrento youth has yet to adapt to those conditions. Would he be any more successful at Juventus, where each and every chance he has would be replayed countless times more; where every single missed opportunity is discussed at exhaustive lengths on message boards around the world?

The black and white shirt has made a mug of many seemingly capable strikers in the past, and continues to do so. Immobile would need time to come to terms with the new increased demands placed upon him, but will he really get that if he is thrust into regular action for the Bianconeri between now and the end of the season? And if he is not to start often, then would they not be better off leaving him in Liguria for the remainder of the campaign in order that he can grow more over the next five months?

What Juve really need right now is a new figurehead, someone who can help to take the pressure off the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic. The Old Lady’s first-choice front men are not goalscorers of significant repute, more they are flair players whose styles could complement a born finisher. They are scorers of great goals rather than great scorers of goals. Is Ciro Immobile ready to show that he is from the latter category? Current form suggests he’s not what Juventus need just yet.

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