Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I am no longer Chelsea coach and I do not have to defend them any more. I think it is correct if I say Drogba is a diver. Drogba, Ronaldo, Torres and Van Persie are the divers. Who dives more? Who has won more penalties in recent years? But English football is the one that criticises the divers the most. I hate diving but I’m not happy if a player is kicked in the box and he tries to remain standing. It’s very, very rare a referee gives a decision if the player doesn’t go down so I tell players not to be naive but to be fair.” – Jose Mourinho.
Runner-up: “It was a millimetre off me losing my sight. I have been sewn up in the eye socket but it is miraculous thereâ€™s no more damage. We are at a stage where it is not funny any more. He [Alan Hutton] could have avoided hitting me. He had no chance to reach the ball but he still threw himself into it, leading with his studs. The doctor has done a very good job so my face is not totally destroyed.” – Thomas Sorensen.
Today’s overview: Today’s round-up begins with two must-read articles, one on the corruption at FIFA and the other on the two-faced approach of Michel Platini.
Exposing the corruption and bribery at FIFA, Steve Amoia interviewed Andrew Jennings about his new book, “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.” – “[Blatter] became President in a rigged election. Iâ€™ve got the documents how they rigged the election, how the bribes were paid, thatâ€™s the practice at FIFA. Theyâ€™re dirty. The football, the football you like to watch is clean most of the time. They’re dirty.”
The second article, from the always top-class Martin Samuel, attacks Michel Platini for his two-faced comments on foreign investment in English football. – “Perhaps Platini does travel Europe, urinating on the structure of each domestic league in turn, while never conceding that the most corrupting force is Uefa’s own money-spinner, the Champions League… Or maybe it is just us. We bad. We wicked.”
Reacting to last night’s Champions League action, Daniel Taylor wonders what the future is now for Carlos Tevez at United, with Berbatov the preferred choice. Barney Ronay gave Berbatov his dues after a stellar performance against Celtic (“Berbatov was the attacking star. Albeit at home and against a team of limited attacking ambition.”), while on Arsenal’s defeat of Fenerbahce, Matt Hughes was quick to point out “the glaring deficiencies of Alexandre Song and MikaÃ«l Silvestre as a central-defensive pairing.”
Ahead of tonight’s Atletico Madrid-Liverpool match, Glenn Moore features Sergio Aguero.
In other news, following a weekend of trouble at Fratton Park, the Emirates and the Den, Jim White (Telegraph) wonders to what extent hooliganism is back in England, David Conn offers a reasoned approach to the likely outcome of a recession for the world of English football, Rob Hughes reports on the Brazilian Ronaldo’s attempts to return to football, and Ben LyttletonÂ features Bordeaux midfielder Yoann Gourcuff.
Finally, in an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi (Guardian) wishes there were more all-rounders in the world of football. “Ten years ago, when Championship Manager was just a relatively straightforward computer game that consumed only your employer’s time, rather than your entire life, three of the most valuable players were Ronald de Boer, Phillip Cocu and Luis Enrique. This was because they excelled in all outfield positions except centre-half.”
Exposing the corruption and bribery at FIFA, SoccerLens’ Steve Amoia interviewed Andrew Jennings about his new book, “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.” “Sepp Blatter really never had a real job. Like a rock star. And heâ€™ll never have a real job again. Blatter studied Business Administration in Lausanne which is in South Switzerland. He did get a real job for about a year with the Swiss Tourist Board. Then he got a job with a Swiss watch firm as a PR man. In 1974, just after the Winter Olympic Games, he was recruited by FIFA. He has never worked anywhere else. He was a technical man, then was in marketing, then became General Secretary and worked with Joao Havelange from Brasil, who he deposed in 1998, he became President in a rigged election. Iâ€™ve got the documents how they rigged the election, how the bribes were paid, thatâ€™s the practice at FIFA. Theyâ€™re dirty. The football, the football you like to watch is clean most of the time. They’re dirty.”
In an excellent article for The Times, Martin Samuel goes on the offensive against Michel Platinifor his two-faced comments on foreign investment in English football. “Perhaps Platini does travel Europe, urinating on the structure of each domestic league in turn, while never conceding that the most corrupting force is Uefa’s own money-spinner, the Champions League. Maybe when he lands at Charles de Gaulle he seizes the opportunity to point out that Paris Saint-Germain are 62.5 per cent owned by an American property investment company, Colony Capital, with Morgan Stanley owning another 33 per cent. Perhaps each time he returns to France he calls a press conference to remind people that Grenoble Foot 38 were bought by a Japanese communications company, Index, in 2004 and have Kazutoshi Watanabe as president, a Bosnian coach and players from Togo, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast, Japan and Cameroon, three Serbs and two Moroccans. Or maybe it is just us. We bad. We wicked. Even the chairman of the FA, Lord PleasedMan of Lunchtime News Bulletin, has contrived to associate English football with everything that is wrong, not just with sport, but with the failing global economy.”
The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor wonders what the future is now for Carlos Tevez at United, with Berbatov the preferred choice. “How, you wonder, did Tevez feel, sitting among the substitutes, hunched up against the cold, as Berbatov scored the goals to instigate this victory and waved those black gloves in the direction of the Stretford End? Tevez did at least come off the bench, an hour into the game, and the crowd was quick to remind him that he still has a place in their affections. But this, indisputably, was Berbatov’s night, incorporating the fourth and fifth goals of his seven weeks as a United player and another poke in the eye for all those knee-jerk commentators who rushed blindly into judging him on the basis of a couple of ordinary performances directly after signing from Tottenham Hotspur… This was United’s ninth game since Berbatov’s arrival and the harsh reality for Tevez is that his name has been in Ferguson’s starting line-up on only three occasions. It will not console him, either, that one of those was in the Carling Cup.”
Barney Ronay (Guardian) gave Berbatov his dues after a stellar performance against Celtic. “Dimitar Berbatov was the attacking star. Albeit at home and against a team of limited attacking ambition, this was a totally convincing, and totally committed display of centre forward play. Never mind the two close range (and probably offside) goals. For a man famed for not running much, he really did run a lot. This was Berbatov in motion: shuttling out to the right wing, chasing the full-backs down and always looking potent in possession. There were choice moments. The finish for the first goal was nifty. The control and sideswipe to Ronaldo after he had been tackled on the edge of the Celtic box in the first half were sublime â€“ playground football from a man completely in control of what he wanted to do with the ball.”
On Arsenal’s win in Turkey, The Times’ Matt Hughes was quick to point out that the Gunners still have much work to do. “As an optimist, the Arsenal manager will undoubtedly look on the bright side, preferring to savour the passing of Cesc FÃ bregas and finishing of Theo Walcott rather than lament the space that his side allowed their opponents in midfield or fret over the glaring deficiencies of Alexandre Song and MikaÃ«l Silvestre as a central-defensive pairing. But a quick look at the match video this morning could alter his perspective. The tone of a crazy match that could have ended with both sides scoring in double figures is best conveyed in that Manuel Almunia was Arsenalâ€™s best performer.”
Ahead of tonight’s Atletico Madrid-Liverpool match, the Independent’s Glenn Moore features Sergio Aguero. “Aguero has succeeded Maradona once, breaking his record as the youngest player to compete in the Argentine league when he made his debut for Independiente at just 15 years and 35 days in 2003. Like Maradona he grew up in a grim Buenos Aires barrio â€“ Aguero has recalled dodging bullets as a youngster. He also has a pedigree at world level being one of only two players to lift the world junior championships twice, in 2005 alongside Messi, and 2007 when he won the Golden Ball as player of the tournament and Golden Boot as top scorer… Which leads inexorably to the question, can Atletico keep him? Manchester City are the latest English club to be linked with Aguero following Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.”
David Ginola sat down with The Times’ Stick to a flair game: I don’t like modern football. We have forgotten that football is a game, a show. Fans buy tickets and want to be entertained. Yet football now is about tactics, sides are strict in the way they play and extravagant players are very rare. When I joined Spurs, people told me I was their typical player because I had flair. That image was Spurs’ strength, their marque de fabrique across the world, but it has been lost along the way. They need to recreate it.”
Staying with Spurs, the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson reports that Juande Ramos is safe in his job, but Damien Comolli is set to be axed. “The position of head coach Juande Ramos is also currently safe, with the Tottenham hierarchy largely now focusing on the failure to strengthen the squad in certain key positions during the summer. Frenchman Comolli is to pay for Spurs’ failure to replace strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane after they left for Manchester United and Liverpool… Levy hopes Comolli’s departure will placate supporters who are planning a protest, calling for the chairman to resign, at this Sunday’s Premier League game against Bolton at White Hart Lane. Tottenham face Arsenal three days after that match – with Liverpool to follow, three days later – and yesterday Arsene Wenger backed the under-fire Comolli, describing his former European scout as ‘quality.'”
Following a weekend of trouble at Fratton Park, the Emirates and the Den, Jim White (Telegraph) wonders to what extent hooliganism is back in England. “Nostalgia thrives in hard economic times as people look to the past for comfort. But anyone who really seeks a return to the old ways of the game is surely deluded. Modern football has manifold drawbacks, but of this there is no doubt: attending a match these days is an infinitely more civilised experience than it was in the dark ages of the hooligan era. As the game faces uncomfortable economic circumstances it cannot afford to be complacent about how it deals with those who caused disturbances this weekend. One of the reasons stadiums have become safer is because every seat is under surveillance from CCTV, suggesting the coin chucking miscreants at Millwall, Villa or Arsenal must have been caught on film. In which case, justice must be seen to be done quickly and decisively to prevent a rash of unrelated incidents coalescing into a trend.”
The Guardian’s David Conn offers a reasoned approach to the likely outcome of a recession for the world of English football. “Whisper it amid the current furore: top-level football is not savagely debt-ridden and it is unlikely to implode. The clubs generally look able to ride the economic downturn because, unlike other industries worrying if their customers will disappear tomorrow, they have the cushion of the Premier League’s Â£2.7bn television deal until the end of the 2009-10 season. Global popularity is growing and at home, for all the dissatisfaction about high prices, erratic kick-off times, overpaid players and commercial overkill, fans are turning up – and paying up – in huge numbers. As an uncertain future comes into view, however, we must qualify that sunny picture. If we have a serious recession in which hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs, many will be football fans and they will no longer be able to fork out for boomtime-priced tickets or multiple pay-TV subscriptions. If that happens, the clubs will be more vulnerable, as will every industry. Football fans are unlikely to give up match-going first, but perhaps more clubs will finally have to think sensitively about ticket prices, after years of merciless inflation.”
In a secondary piece, David Conn provides a detailed breakdown of clubs’ finances in the Premier League.
The IHT’s Rob Hughes reports on the Brazilian Ronaldo’s attempts to return to football. “Ronaldo is still in a sense child-like, still convinced he can recapture the fitness of his comparative youth, still sure in his mind that he has tools to be worth his next million, and still defiant to those who say he came from poverty and could go fullÂ circle. He has to recapture the special quickness of body and instinct that gave him 62 goals in 97 games for Brazil, and 319 goals from 452 matches in the top leagues of Brazil, Netherlands, Spain and Italy. He began training with Flamengo last week, and his progress interests Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and he says an Italian Serie A club he will notÂ name.”
The Guardian’s Ben Lyttleton reports on Bordeaux midfielder Yoann Gourcuff. “Gourcuff is now flourishing in Blanc’s 4-2-3-1 system â€“ which mirrors how Les Bleus play â€“ and Bordeaux are up to joint-third as their dismal August becomes a distant memory. Zidane also burst onto the scene at Bordeaux and the pair have similar on-pitch postures and shooting styles. ‘Don’t put too much pressure on the guy and don’t ask him to be the new anybody,’ warned Zidane. ‘We can all see he’s very talented.'”
In an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi (Guardian) wishes there were more all-rounders in the world of football. “There are footballers gifted enough not to be straitjacketed by position. These days they range from Steven Gerrard, one of the few who can play in defence, midfield and attack, to the more mundane attributes of big lads who flit between central defence and centre-forward without being wholly convincing at either. Like Gary “the ginger Pele” Doherty… Ten years ago, when Championship Manager was just a relatively straightforward computer game that consumed only your employer’s time, rather than your entire life, three of the most valuable players were Ronald de Boer, Phillip Cocu and Luis Enrique. This was because they excelled in all outfield positions except centre-half. Since they played for Barcelona it was almost impossible to buy them, but, fortunately, a whimsical programmer had bestowed similar qualities on Chelsea’s Bjarne Goldbaek, who could be bought for a song. You could stick him anywhere and he would become your team’s talisman.”