Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I said at the beginning and I will say it at the end: my job is to bring the best from the players, try to get results and try to play the best football. I’m sure the fans will appreciate this. It’s just a question of time. I think they will realise I am a professional, I will try to do the best for the club and at the end of the day it’s the best for them because they will enjoy it. The fans play every game. It’s the same for the manager. Not every player plays in every game. But the fans and the manager live every game… If you play at this level like we showed against Villa then you can always win games. Manchester United drew so you can make up ground because anything can happen.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “I spent all day thinking about football all the time, nothing else. I couldn’t switch off. The trip back from Newcastle was one of the worst ever. Saturday night coming home for me was like, phew, terrible. It’s ridiculous really. I get so low it’s scary. Horrendous. You have to pick yourself up, but it’s just a nightmare. You think ‘Is it right? Is it worth it?’ When my wife Sandra sees what I’m like at the weekend she probably wishes I wasn’t back at work. I can’t help it, though, it’s just the way I am. I can’t be bothered with anyone. I’m just a f***ing nightmare, an absolute nightmare. It’s scary, it’s wrong. You’d think I’d have learnt after all this time. But I get so low it’s frightening.” – Harry Redknapp.
Chelsea Versus Villa & Liverpool & Arsenal
Rafa plots Villa bid (Sun) Rafa Benitez is planning an audacious New Year’s swoop for Barcelona striker David Villa. Chelsea’s interim boss will offer the Nou Camp giants £12million for the World Cup winner next month. Benitez declared: “We are working hard to find the right players in January.” The Blues’ move could spark a four-way battle with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal when the transfer window opens. But Benitez believes the chance for Villa to play alongside his pal Fernando Torres will tip the balance in Chelsea’s favour.
Chelsea to fight for Barca striker Villa on loan in bid to boost Rafa’s firepower (Matt Barlow, Mail) Chelsea are preparing to join the dash for Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa as Rafa Benitez seeks firepower to complement Fernando Torres… Bayer Leverkusen’s versatile young striker Andre Schurrle remains a serious target but Villa is available, possibly on a loan deal until the end of the season, which means he would not interfere with Chelsea’s long-term pursuit of Radamel Falcao. Benitez accepts it will be difficult and expensive to prise the Colombia striker Falcao from Atletico Madrid next month but this swoop — or even a move for Newcastle United’s Demba Ba — may be more achievable in the summer. Villa provides an attractive short-term solution for Chelsea.
Bridge building: Chelsea set to grab Villa from under Liverpool’s and Arsenal’s noses (Mirror) Chelsea are ready to gazump Arsenal and Liverpool to snatch Barcelona’s David Villa. World Cup winner Villa has become a Nou Camp outsider after suffering a broken leg last season, making just a handful of first-team starts for the La Liga leaders. And interim Blues boss Rafa Benitez is now planning a £12million raid for his fellow Spaniard.
Chelsea Turn Off Lamps
Ruthless Blues kick out Lamps (Sun) Gutted Frank Lampard has been told by his beloved Chelsea: Find yourself another club… The 34-year-old has been told his Blues career is over and that he can find a new team on January 1. A Stamford Bridge insider confirmed: “Frank is absolutely distraught. He wants to keep playing for Chelsea but they’ve told him to find another club in the January transfer window. He can’t believe it. All he wants to do is play for Chelsea. This club means everything to him.”
Shame on Blue (Sun) No matter how well the midfield ace played, how many goals he scored and how much he inspired Chelsea to victory, his services are no longer required. The club did not even want to keep him until the summer, he could go in January. And that really hurts… Lampard is expected to feature in today’s clash at Norwich but after that his future is clouded in uncertainty. Chelsea’s next home game is against London rivals QPR on January 2 and the struggling Rs are showing strong interest in acquiring his services.
John Terry on his way out of Chelsea (David Woods, Star) John Terry will not be offered a new contract by angry Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. The Blues skipper is set to become the latest player to feel the wrath of the Russian billionaire, who has still not forgiven him, Frank Lampard and former star Didier Drogba for failing to back ex-boss Andre Villas-Boas… Terry’s current contract runs until the end of the next season.
Ronaround (Antony Kastrinakis, Sun) Ronaldo has told former United team-mates he wants to return and Madrid officials have already discussed a transfer fee they would accept — around £122m… Last week, they finally realised that they are on the verge of losing Ronaldo — and panicked. They have finally realised their star asset feels they have taken him for granted. At least the man he loves the most in football is ready to welcome him back. All it would take for Ferguson to land his target is to tell Ronaldo: “Don’t sign a new deal. Force your way out.”
Players Of 2012
Premier League Bootroom: Laudrup’s the leader of my surprise packages (Martin Keown, Mail) Front three: Michu (Swansea), Christian Benteke (A Villa), Robin van Persie (Man Utd) The transition Michu has made since arriving from Spain has been incredible. He keeps performing and is very cool in front of goal. Quality players find time on the pitch and he does that in the box. He has given a boost to Swansea’s attacking threat. Benteke is so fast and powerful and has justifiably kept Darren Bent out the side. I haven’t yet seen a defender who knows how to handle him. Van Persie was under pressure after a big-money move to United from Arsenal but he has been excellent and there seems to be a real hunger in him. He wants trophies and that motivation is helping drive the rest of the United squad.
Eye On The Championship
A league of their own: The Championship is as thrilling as the top flight… and here’s why (Neil Moxley, Mail) With 10 points separating the top seven sides, none those clubs can be considering automatic promotion with any great confidence. Crystal Palace will suffer if Wilfried Zaha moves on, though Ian Holloway is already backing himself to plug that considerable gap. Kenny Jackett has performed wonders at the New Den but his Millwall squad too may be short on quality. Of the rest, Middlesbrough need Jonathan Woodgate to declare his fitness more often than not. The Teessiders look a different proposition with him shoring up their backline. The other dark horses are Steve Bruce’s Hull City. The Manchester United double-winner has twice tasted promotion at this level with Birmingham City and knows exactly what this race entails. But what should tip the balance in the coming months is the ability to add numbers. And Leicester City, who already boast one of the biggest wage bills in the league, are well positioned to add further.
Transfer Lies: Here Come The January Sales
Wenger takes exception (Sun) Arsene Wenger reckons he will only sign a player next month if he is “exceptional”. Arsenal have given Wenger £30million to spend and Newcastle striker Demba Ba and Manchester United winger Nani are in his sights.
They’re not Gunner like that! Wenger sounds winter window warning to Arsenal fans (Mirror) Wenger is set to re-sign Gunners icon Thierry Henry on a short-term loan from New York Red Bulls, but that is unlikely to be enough to appease the fans… Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez, David Villa of Barcelona and Newcastle’s Demba Ba are all on the radar. They also face a battle with Manchester United and Spurs for Wilfried Zaha, with the Crystal Palace kid likely to choose between United and the Gunners. Arsenal will look to offload Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh in January as Wenger looks to shake up the squad – but Arsenal fans could end up disappointed again.
QPR star Taarabt says he is in talks with AC Milan… and could use move as stepping stone for Real or Barca (Mail) Queens Park Rangers playmaker Adel Taarabt claims he is in talks with AC Milan over a possible move to the San Siro. The Moroccan star says his agent is in talks with Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani and that the Italian giants could tempt him to turn down any advances from a top Premier League club and even open the door for him to move on to Real Madrid or Barcelona.
QPR’s £7m Ba tab: Relegation-threatened Rangers willing to spend big for Demba (Mirror) Harry Redknapp will make the first move to trigger Demba Ba’s £7million escape clause when the transfer window reopens.
Bargain hunt: Spurs on alert to snap up Inter’s Sneijder for buttons in January (Mirror) Wesley Sneijder has sparked the biggest transfer scramble of the January window after Inter Milan began negotiations to offload their Dutch playmaker. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is interested, as Spurs look to strengthen for a push towards Champions League qualification, but they will have to move quickly to fend off strong interest from all over Europe. Just 18 months after Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign Sneijder for £25million-plus, Italian giants Inter are likely to accept around £10m.
Why Always A Balotelli
Balotelli’s brother Enoch arrested for assaulting two policemen in Italy (Mail) Manchester City star Mario Balotelli’s brother appeared in an Italian court on Christmas Eve accused of assaulting two policemen… The court heard how he had been attacked as he drank in a bar in Brescia with his sister Abigail by a man who ripped his shirt but Barwuah then turned on the police, who had been called by the owner of the bar. Officers said they found Barwuah in the street, shirtless and barefooted and when they approached they were kicked and punched. They also reported that their squad car was damaged in the incident.