Lopez: James will play for a big club within two or three years

The AS Monaco defender is not surprised by his team-mate’s performances at the World Cup and backs him to win the Ballon d’Or later in his career

AS Monaco defender Borja Lopez believes that his team-mate James Rodriguez will play for a major club “within the next two or three years.”

The Colombian playmaker has been arguably the star player of the World Cup so far, with five goals and two assists so far placing him on top of the goalscoring charts.

The 22-year-old has emerged as a hugely influential figure for the Cafeteros and scored a magnificent volleyed goal against Uruguay in Colombia’s last-16 clash.

Subsequently, James has been linked with a summer switch to one of Europe’s elite clubs, with the player himself professing he would prefer a move to Real Madrid over Barcelona, and Lopez believes it will not be long before his team-mate is tempted to leave Stade Louis II.

“I’m convinced he’ll join a big club within the next two or three years at the most,” said Lopez, writing in Marca. “I can’t say he’s definitely a future Ballon d’Or winner, but if he keeps up this sort of form, why not?”

Lopez also said that he was unsurprised by Rodriguez’s performances in Brazil.

“I’m not the least bit surprised by what James is doing at the World Cup because he played at this level throughout the season.

“He got the most assists in the French league and also scored quite a few goals.

“With his dead-ball prowess to boot, he grabs the headlines for what he does going forward, but he also puts in a shift defensively.

“At Monaco he often plays out wide, as a winger, but he’s also lined up infield alongside [Joao] Moutinho. He’s a player who loves mixing up his position, roaming around rather than always staying in the same area of the pitch.”

Colombia have book a quarter-final meeting with Brazil at the Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza on Friday 4th July.

Why Costa will be the key piece in Mourinho's title plan

The Blues have agreed a deal to sign the feisty frontman and he will be charged with applying the finishing touch to chances created by Roman Abramovich’s flair players


COMMENT
By Richard Jolly

Jose Mourinho is gaining a goalscorer and losing an excuse. He used to have a ready-made explanation whenever Chelsea failed to win: he didn’t have a striker. Not any longer.

No matter that Chelsea had the triple Champions League winner Samuel Eto’o or the £50 million man Fernando Torres. Or even, on the rare occasions he started, the less gifted but sporadically potent Demba Ba. They were striker-less, while the centurions of Liverpool and Manchester City had the firepower to reach 100 league goals apiece.

Now the framework is changing. Chelsea have agreed to sign Diego Costa. The spearhead of their attack will be the man who, in his own rough and ready way, went toe-to-toe with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the goalscoring stakes in Spain and propelled Atletico Madrid, the least talented of the top three teams, to the Primera Division title.   

It is the sort of achievement that appeals to Mourinho, who forever imagines himself the underdog. More pertinently, Costa is the kind of striker who should suit his sides. Comparisons can be drawn with another late-blooming Diego, the Argentine Milito who fired his Inter team to Champions League glory.

There is no doubt the greatest striker of Mourinho’s Chelsea years was, rather than the declining Eto’o, Torres or Andriy Shevchenko, the forceful Didier Drogba. Costa does not possess quite as intimidating a frame but there is a similarly direct element to his game, another aggressive streak. Mourinho likes a striker who can wage war on a defence. Costa’s disciplinary record proves he is capable of doing just that.

The incongruous element about Chelsea 2.0, the successors to the team Mourinho built in 2004, was that they possessed the supply line but not the scorer. Roman Abramovich’s fondness for flair players was expressed in the transfer market and creative talents arrived in abundance, from Eden Hazard and Oscar in 2012 through Willian and Andre Schurrle in 2013 and, most recently, Cesc Fabregas, without anyone to convert the many chances they fashion. Costa should be that player.

His 36-goal tally last season was remarkable. The concern for Chelsea might be that it is an outlier, never to be repeated: until a 20-goal campaign in 2012-13, he had never topped 10. Yet it is eerily reminiscent of Drogba, another who wasn’t prolific in his early twenties but who attracted Mourinho’s attention in a year when he struck 32 times.

He was 26 when he joined Chelsea. Costa will be 26 in October. Mourinho is paying for the finisher and the finished article alike. Certainly he should not be worried by Costa’s anti-climactic World Cup. The Brazilian-born attacker was never fully fit and rarely on the same wavelength as his team-mates. Chelsea, who look to get the ball forward rather quicker, don’t debate whether to play tiki-taka.    

They prioritise effectiveness and their inability to score against West Ham, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Norwich in the second half of the season came at a cost. A Premier League crown that appeared theirs to lose then seemed destined for Anfield before eventually ending up at the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho could argue his defeatism was justified every time his supposed scorers drew a blank.

When the more ruthless Costa puts pen to paper, Mourinho will have the most capable squad in England. He already has the outstanding defence. Fabregas has arrived to bolster the midfield and Costa is the striker he has been pursuing for months. Unlike the stopgap signing of Eto’o, this is his first choice.

Mourinho has got the man he wanted. Now he ought to get his title back.

Official: Juventus sign Sturaro

The Italian champions have acquired the rights of the promising youngster, but have immediately sent him out on loan to his former team


Juventus have announced the signing of midfielder Stefano Sturaro from Genoa for an initial fee of €5.5 million, with the youngster set to play the 2014-15 campaign on loan at his former club.

The 21-year-old came through the ranks of the Genoa youth academy and made his official Serie A debut in August 2013.

He made 16 league appearances last term, scoring once the process, thus earning himself a move to the reigning Italian champions.

“Juventus announce that the agreement with Genoa for the definitive acquisition of the registration rights of the player Stefano Sturaro has been finalised,” an official Juventus statement reads. 

“The contract envisages the payment by Juventus of €5.5 million in three years. The purchase value may increase by a further maximum of €3.5m on achieving given sports performances in the course of the duration of the contract from 2015-2016 football season. Juventus and the player have signed a five-year contract of employment.

“At the same time, for 2014-2015 Juventus have reached an agreement with Genoa for the free temporary disposal of the registration rights of the same player.”

Ochoa agent reveals transfer interest

A number of clubs have enquired about the 28-year-old’s situation following the expiry of his contract with Ligue 2 side Ajaccio

Jorge Berlanga, the agent of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, has confirmed that a lot of interest has been shown in his client.

Liverpool are rumoured to be among the clubs to have enquired about the 28-year-old, who is out of contract after his deal with Ligue 2 side AC Ajaccio expired.

The goalkeeper, who spent three years with the French club and made over 110 appearances, has been capped on more than 60 occasions for his national side.

The goalkeeper’s inspired performances helped Mexico to edge their way out of a tough group, which contained Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon, however a narrow 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands saw his side bow out of the tournament at the last-16 stage.

“Many clubs are interested in my client, but we still have not received any concrete offers,” the agent is quoted as saying TuttomercatoWeb.

“Now it is normal that many clubs will be interested in him after he played so well at the World Cup.”

Atletico Madrid and Arsenal are said to be interested in signing the shot-stopper, however the Mexico international has revealed his desire to stay in France, which has led to talk linking him with a move to Monaco.

Ochoa has also expressed his desire to play in Germany, claiming that he “dreams” of playing in the Bundesliga.

“I dream of the Bundesliga,” he told Bild. “It is definitely one of the world’s strongest leagues. It would be really great if I could present myself there.”

Official: Chelsea agree Diego Costa deal

The 25-year-old has long been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, and the switch has now been confirmed by the Blues


Chelsea have agreed a deal to sign Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid after meeting the Spain international’s buy-out clause, the Premier League club have confirmed.

As reported by Goal in early May, the striker’s move to Stamford Bridge was tied up following the Blues’ Champions League semi-final exit to Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea will pay around €44m for the striker, although a significant portion of the transfer fee includes fees paid to agents.

The Brazil-born Spain international will also triple his wages at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea are set to hand the 25-year-old a five-year contract worth €194,000 a week.

The move has long been mooted, with Costa himself confirming the agreement exclusively to Goal in June: “Why would I have chosen to play for Chelsea? It is a thing that is about to happen

“Things are going in a direction and, if they keep going as they are going, it is the team I will play for in the next season.
    
“I’ve wanted to play in the Premier League for a while. Chelsea are one of the greatest clubs of the world so there are many factors that make you take a decision like this.”

Costa becomes Chelsea’s second signing of the summer following the capture of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.