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Saturday, Feb 23rd

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The Beautiful Game is a sport which brings together people of all castes and creeds, from all the corners of the world, to cheer for their beloved teams. And with European football being amongst the most glamorous in the world, the finals of its top tier competition – the Champions League – is certainly considered a sporting bonanza, probably surpassed only by the final of the FIFA World Cup.

The competition was started in the year 1955, known by the name European Champion Clubs' Cup, or simply the European Cup, until it was rebranded as the UEFA Champions League in 1992.

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Reigning Premier League champions, Manchester United, look to have been dealt a double blow as PSG striker Edinson Cavani and AC Milan defender Cristian Zapata have ruled out moves to Old Trafford this January. This follows a startling admission by the Manchester United manager, David Moyes, that the champions were unable to acquire their prime targets in the summer, not due to lack of funds, but because their targets had chosen to head elsewhere instead. This latest development may heighten worries among fans of the Red Devils regarding their inability to bring in players of the highest quality.

26 year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, who had just moved to the French club from Napoli for 64 million euros last summer was widely reported to have been unsettled at his new club this season. The speculation came to a head over the weekend with some papers linking him with a transfer to Premier League clubs Chelsea and Manchester United.

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AC Milan star Stephan El Shaarawy has found brand new suitors in the form of Merseysiders Liverpool. According to latest reports in The Daily Star, the Reds are keeping tabs on the Italian and may make a move for him in the near future.

It is believed that the 20 year old has become disillusioned with life at the San Siro due to his reduced number of appearances for the Milan first team, despite being a first team regular last season with a credible 19 goals in 48 appearances. Mario Balotelli’s prolific performances have only made it even tougher for El Sharaawy to carve his place among the starting-XI. Consequently, Liverpool have entered the picture and are reported to be looking to pounce upon him and offer him a way out of his misery.

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Jose Mourinho is all set to add Argentinian defender Nicolas Otamendi to his armoury at Chelsea. The centre-back currently plays for Porto and according to reports in Spain, he could be on his way to West London at the start of Premier League campaign next season.

Otamendi has been the target of several top clubs all through the transfer window this summer, but after rejecting advances from the likes of Barcelona and Milan, Porto have resigned themselves to the loss of their centre-back next season. It is believed that Jose Mourinho had specifically requested the services of Otamendi and a deal has been agreed in principle between the Blues and Porto.

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AC Milan were once renowned for their space-age medical centre which prolonged the careers of a golden generation at the club, inspiring countless imitations across Europe. But the Rossoneri have changed their course since last year, choosing to focus on young and emerging talent instead and one of the most prodigious talents on their books at the moment is 18 year old striker M’Baye Niang. The Frenchman turned down the advances of Arsenal and Everton to join Milan from French minnows Caen last summer

Niang has since signed a long-term contract until 2017 with the Italian giants but that that hasn’t stopped Chelsea from scouting the youngster, reports the Express. The Blues enjoyed a golden period with Didier Drogba leading the line with a unique mix of power and pace, a quality that they have dearly missed this season. Fernando Torres has been a lost cause ever since he arrived from Anfield and although Demba Ba has given them a semblance of dependency up-front, a fresh face is badly needed to spruce up the side.

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Mario Balotelli is now officially an AC Milan player after the Italian striker completed his 19 million pound switch from Manchester City. Balotelli passed a medical on Wednesday and has now signed a four and a half year deal with the Serie A giants.

The Italy International is known more for his off the field antics than his heroics on the football pitch. A life-long Milan fan, Balotelli has now put pen to paper and moved to his dream club. City signed Mario for 24 million pounds from Inter Milan, and now the deal looks to have caused a deficit of 5 million pounds for the blue half of Manchester.

Last season, he played a huge part in Manchester City’s title winning league campaign, but the Italian seems to have lost his mojo in front of the goal. The 22-year-old netted just 3 goals in 20 league appearances for the reigning English champions.

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The long-wait to discover Pep Guardiola’s next managerial move is over after Bayern Munich announced that they had captured the ex-Barcelona coach, who will take over at the Allianz Arena before the start of next season. Guardiola has been on a sabbatical in New York ever since he drew the curtains on four glorious years at Barcelona last year but that hasn’t prevented the press from heavily speculating about his future.

Chelsea were the rumoured front-runners for his signature, with Roman Abramovich heavily courting the Spaniard last summer. Guardiola himself has spoken of his desire to manage in England, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s throne at Old Trafford said to be his ultimate ambition. French moneybags PSG and Italian aristocrats AC Milan have also been linked with the man who catapulted Lionel Messi into the upper echelons of world football but Bayern have ultimately won the race.

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