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QPR new-boy Henrique

Almost a done deal, subject to a work permit he’ll be at Loftus Road on an initial 18-month loan-deal before completing a permanent transfer.

“I know a lot of clubs are interested in me. But when I spoke to Mark Hughes and QPR, they made me feel very excited about their plans.

I want to go to a club with ambition and to play in London would be a fantastic opportunity.

The manager is known everywhere. He played for great clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona.

As a striker, I know I can learn so much from him. I’ve always wanted to play in Europe and, for me, England has the most exciting league in the world.”

A little bit of video:

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Newcastle vs QPR: Preview

Sunday 1.20pm, St James’ Park

Newcastle 1.72 Draw 3.50 QPR 5.00

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A strange time for both clubs. QPR for obvious reasons; a new manager and new faces imminent. For Newcastle though, the kick of the Africa Cup of Nations is about to be felt, as Chiek Tiote and Demba Ba are both absent.

Danny Guthrie and Leon Best(f/g) will likely replace the notable absentees for the home side, and their ability to offer the same kind of contribution will obviously be key to how Newcastle cope with this January period.

Mark Hughes’ first team selection will tell us a lot about who has a future at Loftus Road and who doesn’t. It’s always dangerous to second-guess the impact of a new manager on a club, but expect – this weekend at least – the team to retain a Warnock-like feel to it. Bids have already been lodged for Alex and Chris Samba, which suggests that the future may not be bright for Danny Gabbidon – the Welshman is also expected to bolster his front-line at some point this month, so whichever forwards don’t start on Sunday probably need to be placing calls with their agents sharpish.

The loss of Demba Ba and Tiote is an obvious, yet pertinent, point. I don’t think Newcastle have enough substance without them. Certainly, if you take Ba out of the equation, you’re removing 15 of the 29 total goals that they’ve scored this season. That’s a concern, because while Leon Best is a decent player, he doesn’t offer anything like the presence of his Senegalese teammate. Danny Guthrie? A blue-collared player for sure, but with a Championship feel to him – if Yohan Cabaye(f/g) is to continue to prosper, Guthrie needs to play above himself in anchoring that midfield.

I think QPR will get something on Sunday. They’re obviously not a huge attacking threat, but they’ll be competitive – and they are marginally better away from Loftus Road. I don’t expect Bothroyd and Helguson to get much change out of Coloccini(f/g) and Williamson, but then neither do I think that Newcastle have enough edge up the other end to do any damage.

Rangers to be competitive enough for a stalemate – 0-0.

Rumoured QPR target Henrique

A bit speculative this one, but there’s been more than one report linking 20-year-old Sao Paolo starlet with a move to Queens Park Rangers.

Jason Burt had the story in The Telegraph yesterday, and a couple of tabloids picked up on it today. The Brazilian would certainly be very expensive, but would tick the box labelled ‘marquee signing’ that Mark Hughes is looking for.

It’s one of those that’s so random that it might actually have some foundation – who knows…

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Concerns should exist over Mark Hughes having a big budget at QPR

When anybody in football talks about ‘ambition’, I think we all know by now that they’re really talking about ‘money’. So when Mark Hughes left Fulham citing a lack of ambition on the banks of the Thames, he was really referring to the lack of transfer funds made available to him.

It’s not hard to see why the Welshman has been enticed to Loftus Road then, with all the bank notes spilling out of Tony Fernandes’ pockets.

The problem is though, that Hughes’ track record with money isn’t particularly good. Some managers operate best in frugal conditions, and conversely seem to get over-excited when they have too much cash at their disposal.

That’s Hughes in a nutshell, and Tony Fernandes would be well-advised to not to loosen the purse strings too much at QPR. Realistically, I’m sure Hughes has already been given a guarantee over the funds that will be available, but still.

If you look back at his managerial career, two things become obvious; he has an outstanding eye for a bargain, but he overpays for players if given a chance. I know that’s a contradiction, but look at his track record at Blackburn (modest finances) versus his spending at Manchester City (blank cheque)

Chris Samba – £400,000
Ryan Nelsen – Free
David Bentley – Sub-£1m
Roque Santa Cruz – £3.5m
Benni McCarthy – £2m

Clearly, all five of those deals represented outstanding value – remember also that Blackburn raked in £35m for the combined sales of Bentley and Santa Cruz. Ironically of course, the latter was bought by Hughes at Manchester City for a vastly-inflated £18M – in addition to, amongst others:

Carlos Tevez – £32m
Jo – £18m
Wayne Bridge – £10m
Tal Ben-Haim – £5m
Joleon Lescott – £22m
Kolo Toure – £16m
Emmanuel Adebayor – £25m
Robinho – £32m
Craig Bellamy – £14m

It’s not exactly a glowing reference.

In no way do I think that he’s a bad manager, more that he hasn’t really earned the right to be trusted with a big budget – given that the one time he did have access to one, he essentially failed.

If Fernandes is strong with him in West London then I’m sure it will all go well, he just needs to be sure not to leave the cheque book lying around for too long.

Guessing QPR’s transfer activity under Mark Hughes

Okay, so Tony Fernandes is pretty confident that he’ll have his man by the end of today apparently, which will give Mark Hughes 21 days to reshape his squad and equip it for Premier League survival. Who’s staying, who’s going, and who’s coming in.

Neil Warnock hasn’t built a bad squad, but it’s deficient in a couple of places – and his late August transfer activity retrospectively looks erratic. Shaun Wright-Philips was a good signing, as was Joey Barton, but I’ve never been a great fan of either Anton Ferdinand or Danny Gabbidon – and Armand Traore is beginning to show why Arsene Wenger is so keen to keep him away from the Emirates.

The first point of call for Mark Hughes is the forward line. Jay Bothroyd, DJ Campbell, Heidur Helguson, and Tommy Smith are not going to get enough goals at this level – Helguson is probably the best of all of them, and excellent in the air, but Smith has never been a Premier League player, Campbell is too erratic, and Bothroyd isn’t an out-and-out goalscorer.

So what’s available? Well, while Tony Fernandes’ pockets aren’t bottomless, he could certainly persuade Roman Pavlyuchenko to swap White Hart Lane for Loftus Road. The Russian is actually absurdly talented, but has always suffered from a lack of continued selection – He’s a goalscorer, he’s an international, and would definitely be allowed to leave Tottenham.

With Hughes’ arrival in West London, the chances of seeing Junior Hoilett and Christopher Samba at Loftus Road have just tripled. Hughes bought Samba to Blackburn in 2007 from Hertha Berlin, and it’s unlikely that the player would reject the chance to leave Ewood Park and rejoin his former manager. Hoilett’s the same – desperate for an exit, and available for under £10m. There’ll be competition for both, but I’d be staggered if they didn’t feature on Hughes’ wanted list.

QPR will mainly shop in England, because this isn’t the time or the place to take risks on foreign players who may need lengthy adjustment periods. Anybody coming in needs to have played and proved themselves in the Premier League.

With Alejandro Faurlin out for the rest of the season, you would imagine that Mark Hughes will look to bring in another central midfielder. Players that can make an impact from that position – and who are available – are fairly thin on the ground, but somebody like Niko Krancjar might be a good fit; an elegant ball-player with a lot to give a side.

Adel Taarabt is almost definitely on his way out; Rangers can’t afford to indulge him anymore, and actually the longer they keep him the more his value depreciates. Take the money and move on, as talented as he is, he’s not a player equipped to deal with English football – let him go and play his own self-indulgent game somewhere else.

Additionally, I’d be surprised if some of the deadwood in that squad is still there come February 1st; Tommy Smith, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Danny Gabbidon – those aren’t names synonymous with Premier League survival

It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks, and it will also show us dedicated Tony Fernandes is to Rangers. Expect a lot of activity, a lot of rumours, and hopefully a significant upgrade to the squad.

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QPRs treatment of Neil Warnock sours the positive first impression of Tony Fernandes

I like QPR, I like the club, I like the ground, and I like what Tony Fernandes stands for; the owner who craves success rather than just notoriety. A lot of what Fernandes does is good for the club, the spending obviously, but the interaction with the supporters and his seeming understanding of what it is to be a fan. This Neil Warnock business has detracted from that a bit though.

CEO Philip Beard this morning announced that the club hope and expect to have a new manager in place before Sunday’s game with Newcastle. That’s fine, because the shorter the transition period the better – but it also means that the club have clearly been actively searching for Warnock’s successor while he was still employed.

It’s just a bit ugly.

Obviously I understand the practicalities of appointing a manager, and the importance of making a full-time appointment as soon as possible, but still. QPR need to be decisive now, and there are only 22 days left of the transfer window, so whoever comes in – Mark Hughes seemingly – needs to already have a set of targets and a budget established. All those mitigating circumstances aside, it’s hard not to feel for Warnock, personable character that he is. Football is so relentlessly commercial now, it’s sad.

A quick note on Mark Hughes, assuming that the rumours are true. He’s somebody that’s damaged his reputation a bit, and needs to put a solid shift into a club now to redress that. Yes, he was badly treated at Manchester City, but he also underwhelmed at Eastlands with a limitless budget – which, although on a lesser scale, is not a million miles away from the scenario that exists at QPR. Tony Fernandes is no Sheikh Mansour, so will want to keep a close eye on how the Welshman deploys his chequebook. His record for cost-efficiency isn’t exactly 100%.

Hughes is also represented by Kia Joorabchian, so expect some grubby third party involvement along the way.

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Steven Pienaar to QPR? Not unrealistic

QPR to beat MK Dons? 2.60 with Paddy Power.

I don’t think anybody doubts that Neil Warnock will be active this month, and don’t surprised if his busy January includes an enquiry into Steven Pienaar’s availability.

The South-African playmaker is completely wasted at White Hart Lane at the moment – in fact, at what point did anybody think he’d be playing more than a back-up role? A classic Harry Redknapp signing; spend money for the sake of it, even when a player doesn’t fit into his team.

Rumour has it that Daniel Levy will hold-out for £5m for the player which, given the guile he could potentially bring to Loftus Road, would be money well-spent. Rangers have had trouble scoring goals this season – only Wigan have scored fewer times – and while not providing a direct and substantial goal-threat, Pienaar would provide Premier League-quality craft in and around the box.

Given his side’s league position, Warnock isn’t going to take risks on players – he wants proven ability, and wants new signings that have a track record of domestic success. There are very few players in England at the moment who would offer as much as Pienaar whilst being as cost-efficient. Just like Manchester City, everybody is aware of Tony Fernandes’ wealth, and clubs will look to exploit that during Rangers’ Winter splurge – trying to prise unavailable players from unwilling clubs will only make the West Londoners more susceptible to that.

I like Steven Pienaar. He’s not the most dynamic player, but he’s elegant, good on the ball, and a decent set-piece taker. This is all entirely speculative, but QPR could do a lot worse than the little South African.

QPR vs Manchester United: Preview

Sunday 12pm, Loftus Road

QPR 7/1 Draw 4/1 Manchester United 1/2

Interesting. This is not an easy three points for United, QPR can make life very uncomfortable for teams at Loftus Road – just ask Manchester City and Chelsea.

Rangers will probably have to do without Anton Ferdinand, while Kieron Dyer and Paddy Kenny are long-term absentees – Radek Cerny continues in goal. DJ Campbell looks set to give the home side more weight up front, as he continues his return after a foot injury.

United are obviously without Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic – both gone until at least next season – while Anderson is also part of their long-term injury list. Dimitar Berbatov may be fit after ankle trouble, but presumably only for a place on the bench.

If you compare the areas where United are struggling – midfield and defence – with the parts of the field within which Rangers are most competitive, that would concern me. While the home side lack quality in those areas, they don’t want for endeavour. Expect Neil Warnock to encourage his side to go at their illustrious visitors right from the start, because despite the victory over Wolves last week, there’s still something not quite right about the Champions.

Heidur Helguson has very quietly managed a return of six goals so far this season, and expect him to be an aerial threat to whichever centre-back pairing United go with. Rio Ferdinand will probably be partnered with Jonny Evans, and the young Northern Irishman is more than capable of switching off at some point.

Most important aspect of the game? The first goal – if Rangers get it, this is an uphill battle for United, and there’s a very real danger that they’ll be ‘out-efforted’ in front of a partisan crowd. If the visitors snatch one early though, expect all those statistics about a ‘poor home record’ and a side ‘not scoring enough goals’ to come pouring down on Rangers – they don’t have the quality to chase this game, and they need early encouragement.

Interesting fact: Of all the goals conceded by QPR this season, over 33% of them have been between the 61st and 75th minute.

Best bet: QPR to win either half at 17/5

Manchester United 2-1.

QPR’s Adel Taarabt being linked with a move to Napoli

Ah, our old friend Adel Taarabt. What a difference six months makes; from being desperate to keep their Moroccan playmaker, QPR are seemingly now doing everything they can to get rid of him.

According to The Metro – yes, I know – Rangers are now willing to accept around half of the original £15m fee they were said to be demanding from Paris Saint Germain in the Summer. That’s really quite revealing, because under the terms of his transfer from Tottenham, Spurs would be due 40% of any fee – Neil Warnock’s has clearly had enough of the player’s diva-ish behaviour and generally dour form.

Napoli are supposedly now at the front of the queue for the Moroccan. Good luck to them – this is a player who will never be quite as good as he thinks he is.

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Time for QPR to sell Adel Taarabt

It’s not that Adel Taarabt is a bad player, it’s just that his set of attributes don’t align with the way in which QPR have to play to survive in the Premier League.

If you have a player that gets restless anytime a semi-large club is mentioned in connection with him, and at the same time that player isn’t contributing very much on the field, then surely the best scenario for both is a parting of ways?

Taarabt is a luxury player, he doesn’t tackle, he does track back, and he doesn’t often pass the ball. That’s fine, because there are plenty of examples of that kind of player being very successful – and the Moroccan does actually have the ability to be effective in that role. The problem is though, that you can’t have that kind of player if you’re a team like QPR. It creates too much of a strain on the other ten players. A team dripping with quality in different positions can support a Taarabt, a team that needs to rely on its work ethic can not.

Those who cite Taarabt’s contribution in the Championship are missing the point, because at that level the risk to reward ratio is much more in favour of the latter – teams at that level are far less able to exploit the weaknesses created by fielding a passenger in a team. Not so at Premier League level.

Just look at the difference between QPR when they field Taarabt and when they don’t – or look at the two halves they played against Tottenham last weekend. With him they’re flagrant in possession and outnumbered in midfield, and without him they’re hard-working, compact, and stubborn.

It’s ironic, but this is one of those rare situations where QPR’s survival hopes would be boosted by selling their most gifted player. Go back to PSG and bite their hand off.

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