Sunderland monitoring French talent
Hot French prospect Soualiho Meite is attracting interest from a host of top European clubs. The 22-year-old midfielder is said to be under scrutiny from Monaco, Leverkusen, Schalke, Dortmund, Liverpool, Everton and now Sunderland.
That is according to reports in Belgium where he currently plays for Pro League outfit, Zulte Waregem. The link to Sunderland originates in an article in Belgian newspaper Het Belang van Limberg which lists him as one of Europe's hottest prospects at present.
The midfielder has represented France at various youth levels but was packed off to Belgium after questions continued to be raised about his attitude during spells at Lille and Auxerre. There he seems to have matured and he has been attracting attention for his performances, particularly from German and English clubs.
Nothing much to see in this one. Sunderland, and every other club in the entire world, have scouts watching top talent across Europe and beyond, and the transfer window has just shut, and there's a whole load of stuff to sort out before we ponder any new signings at the Stadium of Light. Transfer rumours are crap in February.
Celtic fans sing Denayer
Jason Denayer is only 21-years-old but he's played for four of the world's biggest clubs already. It's a huge notch on the young Belgian's burgeoning pedigree that he's featured for Manchester City, Glasgow Celtic, Galatasaray and, of course, Sunderland.
And it’s not just that - wherever Jason Denayer has played, he has been incredibly popular. Galatasaray supporters were horrified when he didn't return to them in the summer after he spent last season on loan in Istanbul.
Supposedly, the 6ft 1⁄2in (don't forget the half inch) centre-back was stationed at an airport somewhere awaiting the call to return to Turkey when Pep Guardiola decreed that his development would be better served at a Premier League club; and so he headed for Sunderland on transfer deadline day last summer.
Celtic fans were rather keen on him too. Denayer won the 'Scottish Young Player of the Year' award as a 19-year-old during his spell at Parkhead. He formed a strong partnership with Virgil Van Dijk and was actually quoted as saying he found football north of the border "too easy".
And they're still singing about him in Glasgow. Celtic fans serenading their new favourite centre-back, Dedryck Boyata, can be heard chanting Denayer's name in their latest terrace ditty, sung to the tune of Billy Joel's We didn't start the fire:
We did not sign Denayer,
But it does not matter
'Cause we signed Boyata
Check it out:
But it doesn't matter cause we signed boyata pic.twitter.com/2S5OvrvrYE— Steve (@Stephen_Taggart) February 1, 2017
Boyata is a countryman of Denayer and joined the Bhoys the summer after our Jason left Parkhead. And you can't tell us there isn't a hint of longing and regret in that verse.
Januzaj and his twin massive incentives
Speaking of Belgians, Adnan Januzaj has been talking to safc.com about his blossoming understanding with Jermain Defoe and his renewed confidence gained from a great performance against Crystal Palace last weekend.
Much has been made of the 21-year-old waxing lyrically about his new-found link-up play with Defoe. Januzaj provided two assists for the Sunderland striker's brace against Palace, but the interview also reveals a humbler side to the Manchester United loanee who recognises he has some work to do to achieve his clear twin goals - to return to Old Trafford and get his chance there, and to establish himself in the Belgian national team.
Speaking about his performance last weekend, Januzaj said:
I still need to do more than this. I'm looking forward to playing against Southampton and hopefully I can play well, but getting the three points is the most important thing. If we can get them, I'm happy.
I wouldn't say I played badly in the games before [the Palace game] but obviously people are talking because I got the assists and made a difference.
Belgian national team coach, Roberto Martinez, also praised Januzaj's performance at the weekend when he appeared on Sky Sports on Sunday. Januzaj has six caps to his name for the country in which he was born and the former Everton boss said he has 'high hopes' for the young wingers' future at national team level.
But, Januzaj's international destiny has long been one of debate. At one point Roy Hodgson even suggested the English FA were monitoring his progress with a view to calling him up if he was naturalised as a British citizen.
Januzaj was part of the Belgian squad for the 2014 World Cup though he remains eligible to represent the country of his parents' birth, Kosovo, by virtue of the Balkan country's football federation not being recognised at the time he turned out for Belgium.
Belgium's next international fixtures come at the end of March with a World Cup Qualifier against Greece followed by a friendly match against the global tournament's host nation, Russia. What is the chance of Januzaj and Denayer getting call ups for those games?