EPL

Aston Villa sign Samatta to help fill striker void

By Sports Desk January 20, 2020

Aston Villa have signed striker Mbwana Samatta on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

Samatta arrives at Villa Park from Belgian side Genk, giving the relegation-threatened Premier League club a much-needed extra option up front.

Former Club Brugge striker Wesley, who joined Villa in a reported £22million move in June, suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in the win over Burnley on New Year's Day.

Samatta will hope to help fill the void, having scored 10 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions for Genk this season.

The Tanzania international has cost Villa a reported £10m.

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  • Ndidi to miss Leicester City clash with Man City Ndidi to miss Leicester City clash with Man City

    Wilfred Ndidi has been ruled out of Leicester City's Premier League clash with Manchester City on Saturday.

    The midfielder has missed his side's past two games - draws with Chelsea and Wolves - due to a knee problem.

    Manager Brendan Rodgers says he will not rush Ndidi back to face the champions and risk any setbacks in his recovery.

    "Wilf won't be available for the weekend," Rodgers told reporters on Thursday. "He's still in a process to try and get fit, so we'll see how he is next week. I'm not sure.

    "He's doing work inside, but you then have to progress that to outside and then when he can join the team. It's another intensity to join the team and then to play.

    "We just want to make sure he's right because he's such an important player for us. It's about the long term, too. There's no timeline on it. We'll see how he progresses."

    Ndidi's absence presents Rodgers with a problem in midfield, with Hamza Choudhury suspended for the game against Pep Guardiola's side and Nampalys Mendy also out with a knee injury.

    "They're three excellent players and obviously we have to find a strategy and a plan to come up with a game that can see us try and get three points," he said.

    "Wilf has obviously played more, but all three give you that defensive solidity, which is important for any team. They're not available, so we can't worry about that."

    Rodgers went on to distance Leicester from an approach for Adam Lallana, who is expected to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

    "I've seen a lot of stuff around Adam and that we've approached Liverpool, which isn't the case," said Rodgers, who signed the player for Liverpool from Southampton in 2014.

    "He's at the stage of his contract where he will have options."

    Leicester, who are third, go into the game four points behind Manchester City in the table, having only won three of their past 10 league games.

  • 'Football student' Braithwaite explains how he will suit Barcelona style 'Football student' Braithwaite explains how he will suit Barcelona style

    New Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite believes his studious approach to football will make him a shrewd addition for the LaLiga champions.

    The striker completed a move to Camp Nou on Thursday after Barca activated his €18million release clause at Leganes.

    The Catalans had been granted special dispensation to sign a forward due to long-term injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, who may not return to action this season.

    Braithwaite scored six times in 24 appearances for Leganes this season to help their fight against relegation but has only twice reached double figures for goals in a single league campaign, back when he was with Toulouse in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

    However, the 28-year-old sees himself as a student of the game and one whose attributes will make him useful to head coach Quique Setien.

    "I'm really excited. It's a childhood dream come true," he told Barca TV. "Everyone who plays football dreams of playing at Barcelona. Here I am, and I'm really excited to win titles.

    "It's a club with a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, and I'm here to go and try to win everything possible.

    "I'm a technical player, always physical in that I'm really fast, really strong. I'd say my best attribute is my intelligence. I move really intelligently. I study the game. I call myself a football student. I always try to improve my football every day.

    "I think, the way we play here, my movement will help the team a lot. And, of course, I'm a goalscorer so I'm here to score goals."

    Braithwaite is looking forward to the chance to call Lionel Messi a team-mate, hailing the Barca captain as arguably the greatest player in history.

    "He's maybe the best player ever, so of course it's a big moment for me to be able to play with this guy and to say that I've played with him, so I'm really excited," said the Denmark international.

    Braithwaite could make his debut when Eibar visit Camp Nou on Saturday.

    Barca then face Napoli at the San Paolo in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie before they take on Real Madrid in El Clasico on March 1.

  • Ibrahimovic, Boateng and Paulinho - Barcelona's most eyebrow-raising signings Ibrahimovic, Boateng and Paulinho - Barcelona's most eyebrow-raising signings

    It is fair to say Barcelona's signing of Martin Braithwaite has raised a few eyebrows.

    After being granted special dispensation to complete a deal for the Leganes forward outside of the transfer window, Barca announced the arrival of Braithwaite on Thursday.

    Braithwaite moves to Camp Nou with a modest return of 10 goals in 43 LaLiga appearances and having had uninspiring spells at Middlesbrough and Bordeaux prior to moving to Spain.

    Yet, this is hardly the first time a Barcelona signing has seemed puzzling to those on the outside.

    Here, we take a look at some of the strangest, not necessarily the worst, signings Barca have made in recent history.

    ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

    This feels like the caveat of surprising not worst needs re-emphasising. Ibrahimovic's standing as a world-class talent is not in question. But it was a signing that seemed out of place with Barca's style of play under Pep Guardiola, and a deal made even more perplexing by the club's decision to sanction Inter's signing of Samuel Eto'o, who was part of a devastating triumvirate with Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. While Eto'o went on to win the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2009-10, Ibrahimovic – while still managing a solid return of 16 goals in 29 LaLiga outings – never really fit the mould at Camp Nou and reports of discord with Guardiola were always bubbling under the surface. He was shipped out to Milan a year later with a LaLiga and Club World Cup medal to show for his efforts.

    ALEX SONG

    Cameroon midfielder Song made over 200 appearances for Arsenal but not many truly thought he was a player with the calibre to shine at Barcelona. With Barca's midfield boasting the talents of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, Javier Mascherano, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets when he joined in 2012 it was hard to see where Song fit in. And so it proved, with Song twice being sent out on loan to West Ham before a permanent move to Rubin Kazan was agreed in July 2016.

    JEREMY MATHIEU

    David Luiz, Marquinhos and Mats Hummels were all tipped as potential additions for a Barca side seeking a central defender in July 2014. For one reason or another none made the move and so Barca paid the €20million release clause to Valencia to make Mathieu the most expensive defender over the age of 30. Having only really played one full season as a centre-back it was not a deal that exactly screamed value. But, to his credit, Mathieu proved a useful squad player and he left Camp Nou with two LaLiga medals, three Copas del Rey and a Champions League win to his name.

    PAULINHO

    This one definitely falls under the category of surprising rather than worst. Paulinho was widely regarded as a £17million flop during a two-season stay with Tottenham so not many could have foreseen Barcelona forking out a reported €40million fee to sign the Brazil midfielder from Guangzhou Evergrande. But Paulinho was a solid squad man at Barca and his one-season stay – he would re-join Guangzhou in July 2018 – saw him make 34 league appearances, as well as returning a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double.

    ARTURO VIDAL

    Much like Ibrahimovic, it was not a question of Vidal's talent or achievements, more if he could fit the stereotype of a Barca player. The Chile midfielder, who has won top-flight titles in Italy and Germany with Juventus and Bayern Munich, has proven a useful player for Barca, helping the club to LaLiga glory last term, but has made just six league starts this term. The 32-year-old was the subject of reported interest from Inter in January.

    KEVIN-PRINCE BOATENG

    A player certainly not devoid of talent but Boateng is the sort of player who in years to come many will say out loud "I didn't know he'd played for them!" A nomadic career has seen him take in spells with the likes of Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund, Milan and Schalke but few would have imagined Barca would come calling in January 2019. However, with Ernesto Valverde on the lookout for back-up to Luis Suarez and Boateng having had experience of playing as a centre-forward in LaLiga with Las Palmas, a loan deal with Sassuolo was agreed. He made just four appearances and is now enjoying a temporary spell at Besiktas from Fiorentina.

    JEISON MURILLO

    Much like Boateng, Murillo arrived on a short-term loan in the 2019 January window as a short-term option. With injuries to Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen leaving Barca short at centre-back it was not particularly a surprise to see them enter the market, more that they moved for Murillo who had made just one LaLiga appearance for Valencia since joining on a full-time deal from Inter. Opportunities, as you may expect, proved scarce and Murillo played just four times for Barca.

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