Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I think Mike Dean might feel slightly disappointed he didn’t do something about it [Sir Alex Ferguson’s ranting]. I think the pressure that was on him was tough for a referee to take. Sometimes when you reflect on a game you think you might have acted differently. You do that as a manager and I think he might have done that as a referee. But it’s an emotional game and apparently they had a cordial discussion. I’ve had a few of those myself and sometimes I’ve ended up in the stands as a result of that cordial discussion.” – Alan Pardew.
Runner-up: “Really and truly this window is the key because, if Demba goes in this window, it will cause us a problem. I think he will stay, but there’s a possibility he could go because of the clause that’s still in force. I won’t let it run until the summer. I’ll do something about it. We will either move Demba on or we will secure him in the summer.” – Alan Pardew.
David Villa: Three Reports, Three Destinations
Yours for £16m! Arsenal handed price for Villa as race with Chelsea for Barca ace hots up (Mail) Arsene Wenger would prefer a short-term loan for the former Valencia star, who is also a target for Chelsea, but is willing to offer a permanent move if the price is right. However, the fee quoted by Barca is likely to be deemed too much by Arsenal because of Villa’s age.
Villa perk? Fed-up Barcelona striker David is eyeing a January move to Chelsea (Mirror) David Villa wants to quit Barcelona next month – and is targeting a move to Chelsea.
Manchester City in shock David Villa raid from Barcelona (Star) Mancini is also looking to bolster his attacking options as City struggle to defend their Premier League title. The Italian has hit out at his misfiring strikers after seeing his side fall seven points behind leaders Manchester United. Now he could make a move for Villa in the hope the Spanish superstar can revive his faltering title defence. Villa is available on loan and City can easily match his £110,000-a-week wages. Mancini wants to make room for Villa in his star-studded squad by getting rid of Mario Balotelli… Arsenal are also interested in signing Villa but Starsport understands the 31-year-old wants to link-up with fellow World Cup winner David Silva. Villa has not started a league game for Barca since November and wants regular first-team football.
Manchester United: Champions Elect
Ronaldo and Mourinho in, Fergie out? Speculation rife duo could be manager’s leaving gift to United (Mirror) With a growing belief this could be Fergie’s last season, United may gazump PSG to bring in both Ronaldo and Mourinho, who is among the favourites to succeed Fergie, in an amazing coup. Ronaldo remains in touch with former United team-mate Patrice Evra, who said: “He’s done amazing things in Madrid, but has not received the respect he deserves.”
Will anything stand in the way of Man United and a record 20th title? (Ian Ladyman, Mail) The only team that can stop United winning this title is United. Manchester City’s challenge lacks the conviction of last season and that makes United clear favourites at this stage. However, United are so unpredictable that I can envisage them dropping enough points to give their rivals a chance between now and the end of the season.
Manchester United and Manchester City are not in a two-horse title race (Paul Wilson, Guardian) Manchester United are seven points clear at the halfway stage of their Premier League season, and still people are asking the same question. Can a team who keep coming from behind and staging dramatic late recoveries really keep it going for a whole campaign, or at least long enough to secure another title? A glance at the table would suggest the answer might be yes.
Rafa: From Interim To Permanent?
Rafa the gaffer for good (Rob Beasley, Sun) Rafa Benitez is in line to land the Chelsea manager’s job permanently. The news will shock fans who have slated the ex-Liverpool boss since he took charge last month. But sources inside Stamford Bridge’s corridors of power say the Spaniard is on course to become ‘Rafa the Gaffer’ full-time after some superb results… Chelsea’s top target Pep Guardiola is being linked with a return to Barcelona after his year-long sabbatical.
Chelsea are starting to thrive under Rafa… but it won’t last so long as fans are ready to pounce if things go wrong (Matt Barlow, Mail) Can Chelsea really succeed in the long-term against a backdrop of animosity (or even ambivalence) towards the manager? It never really worked for George Graham at Spurs, despite some success on the pitch. It ended badly for Steve Kean at Blackburn despite the support of the owners. The slightest downturn at Stamford Bridge will regenerate the protests. What if Chelsea win the Premier League with the “interim manager” just as they won the Champions League with the last “interim manager”? Will that change anything? Will they embrace Benitez as one of their own? Will they sing his name and support him to lead the club in the long-term? Probably not, if those sample comments are anything to go by.
Rodgers the dodger: Liverpool won’t sack boss even if his record gets as bad as Hodgson’s (Mirror) Just like Roy Hodgson two years ago, Brendan Rodgers has 25 points from 19 Premier League games. And if Liverpool lose at QPR on Sunday, Rodgers will have the same points total from 20 games which cost Hodgson his job as Liverpool boss. But unlike Hodgson two years ago, Rodgers will NOT be sacked by Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry for possessing such a record.
Messi Could’ve Moved
Messi snubs £205m offer (Sun) Lionel Messi turned down a monster £460,000-a-week offer to quit Barcelona. The Argie superstar was stunned when an unnamed Russian side, believed to be big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala, triggered his £205million release clause. Messi, 25, was also offered a mind-boggling salary totalling £24m a year AFTER tax, according to reports in Spain. Barca were obliged to accept the offer, but Messi swiftly rejected the move after discussions with president Sandro Rosell and his family.
Blackburn: Berg Out, Ali (Who?) In
Two years of misery as Blackburn slither from top-flight comfort zone (Ewan Murray, Guardian) Taken in isolation, Thursday’s sacking of Henning Berg does not rank among the poorer decisions taken by the Indian owners of Blackburn Rovers.
Farce at Blackburn again as owners turn to untested duo (Ian Herbert, Independent) Blackburn Rovers descended into one of the most farcically run football clubs in Britain today, with minimal prospect of finding anyone credible to manage the club in tandem with two coaches – one of them a novice at this level – who are expected to start work imminently. With no one else lined up for the manager’s role, British Indian Judan Ali – who has been involved in a Bollywood football movie and was assistant manager of a London Sunday league side three years ago – is expected to take over the running of the Championship team alongside the former Aston Villa assistant manager Kevin McDonald. Ali would be assistant to McDonald, who is in talks about a No 2 head coach role.
Bollywood star to be Rovers coach after Berg axed (Sun) Bollywood star Judan Ali is set to take a lead role in Blackburn’s new coaching set-up — after another day of high drama at Ewood Park… The appointment of British-born Ali is certain to alarm beleaguered supporters, who are fuming at the way the Indian poultry firm has ruined the club. Ali is a big star in India, having played a footballer in the 2007 feature Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal — a rags-to-riches story set in West London’s Asian football-playing community. He has no pedigree in English football management, yet is likely to pick the team for the game at Oakwell along with academy management duo Colin Hendry and Gary Bowyer.
It’s comical Ali! Blackburn linked to former India Under 15s and Dagenham community coach (Mail) Blackburn’s Indian owners are preparing to appoint English professional football’s first British Asian coach, a 39-year-old former Arsenal trainee who until recently was running a community youth programme in Dagenham.
McLeish At Forest: Fans Get Angry
Alex Nott welcome (Sun) Alex McLeish faces a fans’ backlash after being named as Nottingham Forest’s new boss last night. The ex-Birmingham and Aston Villa chief has been told to take them back into the Premier League.
Forest fans vent anger as McLeish lands manager’s job ahead of Di Matteo just ONE day after O’Driscoll axing (Mail) News of McLeish’s appointment was met with a lukewarm reception in Nottingham. A local newspaper poll ran a list of candidates in the wake of O’Driscoll’s shock exit and McLeish received no votes by way of support. A number of supporters also took to Twitter to voice their frustration after being linked with the likes of Roy Keane and Roberto Di Matteo, who lifted the Champions League trophy with Chelsea last season.
Leight move (Sun) Leighton Baines has emerged as a shock £15million target for moneybags French outfit Paris St Germain. PSG have increased their interest in the Everton left-back as they fear losing out on Chelsea’s Ashley Cole.
Chelsea add Baines to shopping list for January (Independent) Chelsea have joined Manchester United and Paris St-Germain as the leading clubs who are considering a move for the Everton and England left-back Leighton Baines, who is valued at around £15m by his club.
I’m going nowhere: Chelsea target Falcao to remain in Spain until end of season (Mail) Chelsea have been dealt a blow in their pursuit of Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao as he has indicated he wants to remain in Spain until the end of the season.
Fergie in pole position (Sun) Robert Lewandowski is set to complete an £18million move to Manchester United in the summer. The Borussia Dortmund striker will be offered a contract worth £80,000 a week over five years.
Craig’s listed? Frustrated West Brom defender Dawson is a Bolton target (Mirror) Bolton are planning an ambitious swoop for West Brom’s England Under-21 defender Craig Dawson.
Ba takes £2.5m cut (Sun) Newcastle will bank just £5million when top scorer Demba Ba leaves next month. Ba has a clause in his contract stating he can go if a club offer £7.5m — but SunSport understands £2.5m of that will go to the player himself. That leaves Toon boss Alan Pardew with virtually nothing to spend on a top-class replacement.
Puppy Drog (Sun) Chelsea want £10million-rated Lyon and France striker Bafetimbi Gomis, who is nicknamed ‘Baby Drogba’. Gomis, 27, has hit 11 goals in 19 league games this season.
Pot, Kettle… Balotelli
Balotelli in threat to his ex (Sun) Mario Balotelli has threatened to take his baby’s mother to court after she accused him of being irresponsible. The Man City ace, 22, split with fellow Italian Raffaella Fico, before the birth of daughter Pia this month. Balotelli has now reacted with fury after model Raffaella, 24, branded him “irresponsible” and “unconcerned” about Pia in a magazine interview. The footie ace insisted: “I can’t tolerate my honour as a man being damaged.” He has instructed his lawyers to take action against Raffaella if she criticises him in print again.