Fabioff; Mourinho targets Lampard, Cole & Fabregas for Real Madrid & Chelsea line up Torres, Kaka & Sneijder

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I signed a contract with Brian Barwick, and I spoke with Lord Triesman [to remove a get-out clause that would have allowed him to leave this summer] and everything was OK. But now I don’t know what will happen. I am waiting to speak with the new chairman. But I haven’t heard from him. I haven’t met him. But I have to speak with the new chairman. At the moment, no one has been in contact with me. I like to stay here, and I like this job, but I have to speak with [the new chairman] to know my situation.” – Fabio Capello.

Runner-up: “I like the responsibility. Every youngster grows up wanting to be captain of their club and this is England. There is no prouder accolade than leading out your country but it won’t mean as much if we don’t win anything. If you lift the World Cup it doesn’t matter who the captain is as long as I have a medal around my neck. You go down in history as one of the best teams, the best players.  There are players from 1966 still being wheeled out to do appearances. It means so much to the country. Countries get caught up in the emotions. What’s important is that the players don’t get caught up like that. It’s great for the country to dream. But we have to be professional.” – Rio Ferdinand.

Today’s overview: The World Cup is well and truly here for the Sundays as Fabio Capello’s future overshadows much of the build up today following some non-committal comments from the Italian yesterday. Elsewhere there is speculation on the Three Lions 23 for South Africa and a typical raft of never-gonna-happen transfer rumours. Features worth a butchers include David Moyes in the Sunday Times on managers at the World Cup and The Observer interview with Jong Tae-se, “The People’s Rooney.”

Don Fabio leaving the Three Lions: The main transfer gossip this Sunday morning surrounds the England manager’s non commital answer over his future. Dominic Fifield adds in The Guardian: “The Inter president, Massimo Moratti, has stated publicly that Capello boasts ‘all the right credentials’ to replace Mourinho at the European Cup winners. The Italian champions would be prepared to pay Capello around £10m a year – which would effectively treble his net earnings when tax is taken into consideration – to lure him back to San Siro, where he enjoyed so much success with Milan, after the World Cup and would grant him considerable transfer funds to reinvigorate an ageing squad.”

Neil Ashton puts a typical tabloid slant on Capello’s comments. “Fabio Capello could quit as England manager over the shambolic running of the FA. Just 72 hours before England fly out to South Africa, Capello refused to commit his future after the World Cup. On the eve of today England’s friendly against Japan, Capello was given several opportunities to say he would stay – but refused to do so. The Italian coach has been disillusioned by the constant changes at the top of the governing body of the English game since the resignation of Lord Triesman. Capello is no longer sure exactly who he is working for after yet another FA re-shuffle. And the availability of the Inter Milan and Italian national jobs has forced him to consider all his options.”

In a supplementary article Ashton sticks the boot in on the Italian gaffer. “This is Capello’s England – the only international team he claims he’s ever wanted to manage. He has nourished and nurtured the country’s best players over the last two years, encouraging them to express their personalities whenever they are on the football field. Suddenly, England has seen another side to Capello, courting Inter when he should be managing expectations. It’s a high-risk strategy on the eve of the tournament and Capello risks losing all the good will he built up during a swashbuckling qualification campaign.”

The England players are worried, report the Sunday Mirror. “England stars fear Fabio Capello will quit after the World Cup finals. The future of the ­highly- ­respected coach has become a major talking point in the wake of Inter Milan’s ­confirmation that Capello is on their short-list to succeed Jose Mourinho. A senior England player ­revealed: ‘The lads have been discussing this and we are concerned he’ll end up back in Italy after the ­finals. He keeps himself to ­himself but there were whispers about this two or three weeks ago.'”

James Corrigan criticises the Three Lions manager for being so reliant on Gareth Barry. “So it has come to this – again. Less than a fortnight to go before the South Africa spectacular kicks off and England’s hopes are seemingly resting on the damaged ankle ligaments of a player the team simply cannot do without. Wasn’t this World Cup supposed to be different?”

Rob Shepherd puts Capello’s future into perspective. “It would not be England if the country were not preparing for a World Cup without the sense of impending crisis. After two years of apparent composure, manager Fabio Capello suddenly seems to be a ball of confusion.” Mark Ryan will be bemoaning the timing of his interview with Fabio Capello being published in the Mail on Sunday today. Capello: “I love my job and my lifestyle in London. My wife Laura is happy here, too.”

England-Japan: Ian Hawkey profiles England’s opponents today. “Above all, the Japanese will seek a result that boosts morale. Of their eight matches so far this year, they have won only three — against Yemen, Hong Kong and Bahrain — and old concerns about their physical frailties in individual duels have been agitated during the recent bad run of form.” All the papers report that Darren Bent and Tom Huddlestone will start this afternoon.

The England 23: Steve Tongue rounds up the options for Fabio Capello. “The team Capello has picked to start against Japan this afternoon in Graz offers some clues as to his thinking. Tom Huddlestone will be thrilled to be offered a first start at such a crucial time, after half an hour against Mexico last Monday and a few minutes against Brazil in November. In between those two games, he has proved a strong, if one-paced performer in the Tottenham midfield, with a fearsome shot when venturing forward. Primarily defensive duties are what Capello is seeking while Gareth Barry’s fitness is uncertain, while West Ham’s Scott Parker – the best tackler available if he could avoid the wrath of foreign referees – will consider himself unfortunate if he is not given at least the second 45 minutes today to make a late claim. The selection illustrates the classic dilemma of international football: whether to pick the men in form, however inexperienced, against international opposition, or stick with the tried and trusted. Trust in Michael Carrick appears to be running out.”

Paul Wilson fears for Joe Cole. “While most England fans know what Cole can do and would like him in the squad, Capello has never seemed that impressed and has struggled to find a regular position for him. Given that we are most likely talking about substitute roles, rather than places in the starting line-up, Capello can afford to take a chance on Johnson.”

Andy Dunn bigs up Peter Crouch. “Whereas whenever Fabio’s faith has been put in Crouch, it has been rewarded. It is not just the tangible evidence in the goals column that makes Crouch indispensable. This is a player who joyously accepts he is living the dream and is determined to make the most out of every minute. He has an effervescence that is contagious, an enthusiasm that never dims. He suggested to me recently that the excitement of being at a World Cup made it possible to bear the thought of being apart from his partner Abbey Clancy for such a long time. Anyone who has seen recent snaps of Abbey knows exactly how much commitment to the England cause that reflects.” Mark Ryan speaks with Peter Crouch and David James in the Mail on Sunday. 

Duncan White also feels Crouch should lead the line for England. “The Tottenham striker celebrated bundling in against Mexico, his 21st goal for his country, with vague embarrassment but his international record is a source of pride: his case to take the No 9 shirt is looking irrefutable. Who to pick as striker has – along with goalkeeper, right-back and holding midfielder – been one of Capello’s problem positions. Crouch has repeatedly provided answers. Unless Darren Bent does something special against Japan on Sunday, Crouch will start against the United States in Rustenburg on June 12.”

Patrick Collins in the Mail On Sunday hails Wayne Rooney. “Other players are of enormous importance: the loss of Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand or Steven Gerrard would be desperately difficult to withstand. But Rooney stands high above them all in terms of his contribution to the collective effort. A few weeks back, I suggested in this column that without Rooney there was little point in England travelling to South Africa. As the days dwindle down, that feeling is stronger than ever. He is one of those extraordinary players whose gifts have expanded to meet the tests at hand. At every critical juncture of his career — from Everton to Manchester United to England — his game has faced down the challenge. That aura of being the best kid in the playground has remained intact through the passing years.”

Toff Piers Morgan, with arguably one of the worst football columns across the paper divide, says: “After the 3-1 win over Mexico — a result that deeply flattered us — I also spent a couple of hours in the players’ lounge, which gave me a further chance to study body language. I can always tell whether a player is a winner by the way he walks and stands. Wayne Rooney struts like a cocky bullmastiff. Michael Carrick, by contrast, shuffles and lopes awkwardly.”

World Cup: Ian Hawkey rounds up much of the news affecting some of the major protagonists. “The World Cup kick-off is 12 days away. Brazil, who intend to be the last to leave, were among the earliest arrivals in South Africa, while other nations are still receiving formal send-offs from heads of states. As coaches ponder which players to cut from preliminary squads, German red-tops peek into the private lives of stars and the hosts worry about what shape their best striker is in.”

Paul Ince explains what its like to play in a World Cup. “There wasn’t another World Cup for me, four games is all I got. But it’s four more than most players get and, despite all the frustration and anger at going out in the way we did, I wouldn’t swap a single second of it with anybody. ”

John Deurden speaks with North Korea talisman Jong Tae-se. “He has been nicknamed Inminui Rooney – the People’s Rooney – because of his aggressive and hard-working style and stocky build, but he thinks that it is not the best moniker. ‘I don’t dislike being compared to Rooney, he is one of the greatest strikers in the world so it is a big honour, but my style of play is different to his. My benchmark is Didier Drogba. I want to play in England. When I was at high school, Italy’s Serie A was the most popular league but with the help of cable television, I started watching English football and I really enjoyed the stadiums, the atmosphere and the passion. Years ago, I used to train wearing a Blackburn Rovers shirt.’ Was this a common sight? ‘I don’t think so,’ he says, laughing. ‘In Japan, there were not many people wearing Blackburn shirts. I just went to the shop and bought one because I liked it.'”

David Moyes, writing in The Times, explains why “bosses are so important” at the World Cup. “Jose Mourinho’s triumphs with Inter Milan raised an old question: how important are managers to the success of their teams? Mourinho, no doubt, would answer ‘very’. Having managed in three divisions of English football and in Europe, I would say that, at all levels, managers make a difference — though the type of difference they make depends on the standard of their team. Inter hadn’t won the European Cup for 45 years so the part played by Mourinho was huge. He is a difference-maker. It’s fascinating, at this World Cup, to see how many nations have hired coaches with impressive CVs to try and make a difference to their teams. England see Fabio Capello as their Mourinho. Italy have brought back Marcello Lippi. Switzerland have recruited Ottmar Hitzfeld. The Spanish have Vicente del Bosque. The Special One will not be managing at the finals but special coaches will be.”

Paul Hayward rallies against World Cup fervour in England. “What starts as a tentative poking up of hope ends as a corporate armada and a national brainwashing drive. Off-licences and garages are the main recruiting offices. Never mind that it requires monumental blindness to think England have the best set of players going into this competition and to forget that they haven’t reached the final of a tournament since 1966. Like the trees in the Larkin poem, the disciples begin afresh, afresh. How else could it be? Each World Cup is a chance to escape history, to renew faith, to make amends.” In the Mail on Sunday, John Motson lists his top 10 World Cup games.

World Cup nostalgia: Simon Hart in the Independent on Sunday writes of Italia 90 and how it still impacts English football today. “Twenty years ago this summer, Bobby Robson’s footballers went closer to winning the World Cup on foreign soil than any England side before or since. A semi-final shoot-out defeat by West Germany killed a dream but the English public came away feeling better about their national game than they had done for years. Read on to find out why it was the best of times – the finest songs and a surfeit of compelling storylines – and the worst of World Cups, featuring the fewest goals (2.21 a game).”

The Red Knights: Jenny Davey and Ben Marlow team up to describe how the Knights’ bid is on ice. “The Red Knights consortium has shelved a £1 billion takeover bid for Manchester United. The group of wealthy business people and United fans had been expected to lodge a formal offer for the football club before the start of the World Cup next month, but City sources say the plan has been put on ice. A statement on the future of the bid is expected this week after a meeting of the consortium in London.”

Managerial merry-go-round: Neil Ashton reveals that “Jose Mourinho is convinced he will succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester United manager. The new Real Madrid coach has mapped out a managerial masterplan that takes him to Old Trafford when Ferguson steps aside. Ferguson has twice hinted recently that he will quit United in two years and that will open the door for Mourinho’s dramatic return to the Premier League. Despite tensions between the pair when Mourinho was Chelsea boss, they are good friends and are in regular contact by telephone.”

Paul Smith adds in the Sunday Mirror: “Jose Mourinho will have a clause in his Real Madrid contract to allow an escape route back to the Premier League. The Special One will finally be unveiled as Madrid’s new manager at the Bernabeu Stadium tomorrow after Inter Milan paved the way for his departure on Friday by agreeing a compensation package with the Spanish giants. Yet while the Portuguese coach will bathe in the glory and adulation that will follow his arrival, he is already planning for life beyond Madrid and the chance to manage Manchester United.”

Chris Bascombe adds to the uncertainty surrounding Rafa Benitez at Liverpool. “Tom Hicks and George Gillett will not have the final say on whether Rafa Benitez keeps his Liverpool job. The American owners have delegated responsibility to their five-man board, who will vote on Benitez’s future before pre-season starts in July. With Benitez rapidly losing support among the Kop hierarchy, his position is more vulnerable than ever.”

Transfer gossip: It’s Sunday so there is loads. The main transfer gossip in the News of the World claims Real Madrid will send Kaka to Chelsea in return for Frank Lampard. Andy Dunn: “Jose Mourinho has told Chelsea they can have Kaka – but only if Real Madrid get Frank Lampard in return. Carlo Ancelotti is desperate to bring Kaka to Stamford Bridge after building a close relationship with him during their time together at AC Milan. And Roman Abramovich has made it clear to Ancelotti the money is there for the Brazilian superstar. Chelsea even sent their head scout out to Brazil’s World Cup training camp to check on Kaka’s fitness. But Mourinho’s arrival in Madrid has added a new dimension to the negotiations. The former Chelsea boss has already publicly admitted he would like to bring both Lampard and Ashley Cole to Spain and would use Kaka as bait.”

Rob Draper continues the Mourinho-Chelsea link. “Chelsea face a fight to keep their Double-winning team together this week as former manager Jose Mourinho intensifies his efforts to recruit Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole for Real Madrid. Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, who is negotiating transfers for the Spanish club, is planning to visit London in a bid to persuade Chelsea to allow the England pair to leave.”

Staying with Chelsea, Neil Ashton claims the Blues are after Fernando Torres, Kaka and Wesley Sneijder. “Roman Abramovich is prepared to rip up his Double-winning team to capture the Champions League for the first time in Chelsea’s history. Chelsea’s owner has been working closely with chief scout Michael Emenalo to identify the targets that will turn them into European champions.” 

We also learn in the Sunday tabloid that Manchester City have turned their attention from Yaya Toure to Javi Martinez, Arsenal are after Crewe starlet Nick Powell, Everton are impressed by young Danish striker Nicki Bille Nielsen and Sunderland are closing in on Marcos Angeleri and Simon Mignolet.

The NOTW add that Robbie Keane is heading to Aston Villa (“Robbie Keane has been passed around more often than a spliff at a student party.”) Elsewhere, Carlton Cole hopes to stay at West Ham, Man City have offered Jo to Valencia as part of the deal to sign David Silva and Tal Ben Haim can leave Portsmouth for free.

The Mail on Sunday chip in with John Heitinga to Manchester City, Emmanuel Adebayor to AC Milan and Scholes, Giggs and G Neville to be offered coaching roles at Manchester United once their playing days are over. The Sunday Mirror is also full of the goss. Arsenal have targeted Newcastle defender Steven Taylor, but the Gunners face a fight with Aston Villa for Wigan striker Hugo Rodallega and both Manchester United and Chelsea will have to pay 25 million pounds for Atletico Madrid keeper David De Gea.

You were probably wondering where the Cesc Fabregas story of the day was, so the Daily Express don’t disappoint. “Jose Mourinho is threatening to spark a footballing civil war in Spain by naming Cesc Fabregas as one of his transfer targets after he takes over at Real Madrid tomorrow. The Spaniards’ new Special One has hinted that he is prepared to go head to head with arch rivals, Barcelona, for the Arsenal midfield star, who was widely expected to return to the Nou Camp in a £50million deal.”

In the foreign papers we learn Zlatan Ibrahimovic is “interested” in a move to England, Oscar Cardozo wants to leave Benfica and Chelsea are in pole position to sign Yaya Toure.