Forget Fabio, Inter Milan have swooped for Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “It’s one thing to be organised, another to be defensive. When a team is organised, they defend well. When a team is organised they can play. A team that plays with many attacking players and play well defensively, a team that plays with Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o, Gabi Milito, Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Motta plays with five attacking players. But they defend well. Why do they defend well? Because the manager is a great manager… It’s interesting being called defensive. I have played three finals of European competitions. We won all three games and scored eight goals. Once a lie is repeated many times, for intelligent people this lie is always a lie. For the not-intelligent it becomes the truth. Luckily in football there are more people who are intelligent than not. For that reason I managed teams like Porto, Chelsea, Inter and now Real Madrid. That lie continues to be a lie.” – Jose Mourinho.

Runner-up: “There was nothing special last season for me to think back about. The season was normal – even pitiful. But I am happy for Yuri Zhirkov, who won the Premier League with Chelsea. They deserved the trophy, as they were the strongest during the season.” – Andrey Arshavin.

Crazy quote of the day: “I wish he was playing in the World Cup this year. But he will be back for the next one, you know.” – Tom Cruise on David Beckham. (Video of Tom Cruise talking about David Beckham can be seen here.)

Today’s overview: It’s more of the same this morning with Fabio Capello’s future and England’s World Cup hopes extensively analysed across the paper divide. Highlights include Richard Williams on the bumbling FA, Matt Dickinson on the “chemistry” in the England squad and Giles Smith on ITV’s squad selection.

Rafa to Inter: The lead story in The Sun this morning reveals that much of the furore in recent days over Fabio Capello has been just a smokescreen. Shaun Custis: “Inter Milan have sensationally swooped for Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez. The Serie A champions made their move at the weekend – just when everyone thought they were chasing England manager Fabio Capello. SunSport first revealed Inter wanted Benitez two weeks ago but now the Italian giants have closed in and are waiting to see whether Benitez is tempted.”

Don Fabio: Shaun Custis in The Sun predicts Capello will continue as England boss after the World Cup. “England are confident Fabio Capello will commit his future to the Three Lions before they fly out to the World Cup tomorrow. Boss Capello meets Club England chief Sir Dave Richards at Wembley today for face-to-face talks after speaking to him on the telephone yesterday. The Italian has said he is staying on beyond the finals in South Africa – provided he gets assurances about his position.”

Matt Lawton also feels Capello will stay. “The Football Association believe they have seen off the threat of Inter Milan and are now confident Fabio Capello will sign a revised contract before he boards England’s plane to the World Cup tomorrow night. Discussions between the England coach and members of the new Club England board, in particular Sir Dave Richards and managing director Adrian Bevington, were said to have been ‘extremely positive’ yesterday.”

Richard Williams sums up the mess at the FA. “So yet again, as the subject of Capello’s future muddies the waters during the build-up to the World Cup, we are presented with evidence that very little in English public life is more predictable than the ability of the FA to trip over its own bootlaces. Presented with the opportunity to steer the world’s most popular game to success and prosperity in the most helpful of environments, generation after generation of administrators persist in finding new ways of courting ridicule, humiliation and disgrace.”

From 30 to 23: Oliver Kay puts today’s squad announcement in perspective. “Capello has done much over the past two years to rid England’s players of the inhibitions that had overwhelmed them under the previous regime, but when he announces his 23-man squad for the World Cup finals today, having made a last-minute check on the fitness of Gareth Barry, he will do so with many of his first impressions reinforced… he knows that if England are to be contenders to win this World Cup, it will be through reliance on their established stars, rather than an underwhelming supporting cast, among some of whom that shirt still weighs heavy.”

Matt Lawton predicts “Stephen Warnock could emerge today as the shock inclusion in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad — even though he was one of four players who did not play in England’s two warm-up friendlies.” Matt Barlow also reveals that “David James looks likely to be handed the No 1 shirt when Fabio Capello names his squad today, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the manager’s first-choice. The goalkeeping issue has been a long-standing riddle for Capello, who maintains he will not decide who plays in goal – James, Robert Green or Joe Hart – until the eve of the USA game on June 12.

England: Matt Dickinson hopes the England team have some chemistry. “Mutual trust will become ever more important on the pitch as Capello fine-tunes his starting XI. Will Walcott be brave enough to take the ball, Aaron Lennon willing to run off little knocks rather than moan? Can Gerrard and Lampard learn to help each other? It is, of course, possible that England could bond better than the other 31 finalists but go out in the first knockout game to a daft mistake. Camaraderie guarantees nothing. It is only a small part of the package required to reach potential. But England are looking to exceed their usual limitations and, in the armoury of the underdog, the ‘spirit of the group’ can be regarded as essential. Can today’s squad become a team? With bad memories of 2006, it is not only formations we will be monitoring.”

The fact Fabio Capello doesn’t know his best team is a good thing according to Kevin McCarra. “For years if not decades, England line-ups were reasonably predictable. That period has come to an abrupt end and the intrigue it offers is refreshing. After all, no one expects to have full, advance knowledge of the team that, say, Sir Alex Ferguson or Carlo Ancelotti has decided upon. The air of mystery has a respectable purpose. Capello chose to be forthcoming on the eve of the match with Japan, but it is unlikely that the positioning of Aaron Lennon on the left would have been anticipated otherwise. As with so much that the Italian does, it all makes sense in retrospect.”

James Lawton worries about England’s defence. “Capello’s assertion that he knows the identity of his goalkeeper is all very well but, if Robert Green appears to have nosed ahead of David James, it is still essential surely that both players are able to concentrate on the needs of their status, whatever it is. Defence is Capello’s biggest concern, despite the fact that England’s failure to score a goal on their own account against Japan made ridiculous claims that before the end of the game in Graz there was some clear light at the end of the Alpine tunnel.”

Ian Wright, who in his playing days was also liable to the old red mist, has called on Wayne Rooney to hold his temper in South Africa. “But like a recovering alcoholic is only ever one drink away from falling off the wagon, Rooney reminded us in Graz on Sunday that he is only ever one moment of pent-up frustration away from destroying our World Cup dreams. The striker’s temperament at the finals in Germany four years ago earned him a straight red card, as England lost to Portugal in the quarter-finals. Cristiano Ronaldo’s infamous wink confirmed the Portuguese had succeeded in their mission to rattle Rooney’s cage. And, after seeing the way Rooney kicked out at Japan’s Tulio Tanaka in Austria, I am sure the USA, our first opponents at this summer’s tournament, will be trying to rattle it even harder in a bid to gain an advantage.”

Following the Under-17s European Championship victory, Louise Taylor describes the new philosophy imposed on England youth teams. “If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, Spanish egos should be boosted by yesterday’s narrow defeat to England in the final of the European Under-17 Championships. The Football Association has used Spain as a key role model in a bid to overhaul youth development across England. With long-ball tactics now kicked firmly into the philosophical long grass, there is a greatly increased emphasis on technical excellence and possession football.”

Can Gerrard & Lampard play together?: Glenn Hoddle rubbishes those who feel Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can’t play together. “Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in midfield together… so what’ s to be worried about? The two of them will arrive at the World Cup with goals all about them. Study the records, look at their power and menace from the midfield area. I’m telling you, any one of the other 31 countries would want to turn up with that sort of threat from midfield.”

Henry Winter believes Jose Mourinho has the answer. “Jose Mourinho has a special knack of blending successful sides and when he considered solving the great conundrum of the modern era, namely uniting Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, the then Chelsea manager intended having the pair underpinned by Claude Makelele. Fabio Capello will discover that the Gerrard-Lampard raiding party lacks sustained threat without someone to hold the fort. Two themes elidedon Monday: Capello pondered his central midfield and Mourinho strode into Real Madrid, trailing speculation about bids for Lampard and Gerrard. Lampard looks committed to Chelsea and Gerrard’s roots run deep in Liverpool but Mourinho’s dream-team midfield would require an anchorman, a Lassana Diarra or Xabi Alonso. Mourinho would never start two attack-minded midfielders without security behind them.”

The World Cup: Owen Gibson questions what the legacy will be of South Africa 2010. “Critics claim the notion that grateful developing nations should be forced to build gleaming sporting venues at great expense in the belief that it will accelerate development doesn’t add up. They claim money poured into making sure venues are ready, transport systems upgraded and visitors made to feel safe would be better spent on basic amenities. Organisers have claimed the World Cup will deliver a $5.5bn boost to the economy and create 415,000 jobs. But many of those jobs are by their nature temporary and others say such figures are impossible to verify.” The Guardian also have an interview with Dany Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 organising committee.

Mark Ogden describes the “Jabulani” World Cup ball as “another FIFA own goal.” “Fifa and their sponsors will obviously be happy. The fact that Jabulani gets more than one mention in this blog only serves to increase its profile, so I am pretty much helping Fifa and adidas, which is rather unfortunate. But some goalkeeper or outfield player will endure a dose of misery in South Africa as a direct result of Fifa’s new ball. Why do I get the feeling it will ultimately be some poor penalty-taker in a shoot-out, wearing white and with the ghosts of Stuart Pearce, Chris Waddle, David Batty, Paul Ince, Frank Lampard and Jamie Carragher on his shoulder?”

Save the Palace: Matt Scott reports in The Guardian, “Crystal Palace could be forced into liquidation at 3pm tomorrow, unless a deal can be struck with the club’s only prospective buyer. CPFC2010, the vehicle through which Steve Parish and Martin Long have bid for the club, warned that it has set a deadline of tomorrow afternoon to come to an agreement with Bank of Scotland, the chief creditor to Selhurst Park Ltd, over its purchase terms. Parish’s ambitions of taking over the club have always been complicated by the fact that its ground is owned by a different insolvent company to the club itself.”

Mourinho arrives at the Bernabeu: Tom Dart writes: “Who was that polite and humble man, and what has he done with José Mourinho? Bombast, arrogance, theatricality: the Mourinho hallmarks were absent yesterday when Real Madrid unveiled their new coach. The European champion began life at the Bernabéu by playing down expectations and paying due deference to the club’s size and history, as if awestruck by the magnitude of his new job despite his infinite self-belief and vast success.”

Pete Jenson wonders what how The Special One will get on with CR9. “Just how will Jose Mourinho get on with Cristiano Ronaldo? They have not always seen eye-to-eye, with the pair taking part in a public bout of name calling in 2007. Is the dressing room big enough for the both of them — and their egos? Mourinho and Ronaldo share the same agent, Jorge Mendes, and so you would think there will be some harmony… It will be fascinating to watch it all unfold in the cauldron of Madrid.”

Transfer gossip: The Sun run with a fair few stories, including Chelsea’s 5 million pound bid for Liverpool schemer Yossi Benayoun, Barcelona are still after Cesc Fabregas, Stoke plan a bid for Carlton Cole and Birmingham are refusing to meet the asking price for Charles N’Zogbia.

The Daily Mail have their fair share of gossip: Dubai side Al Ahli are after Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, Liverpool want 10 million pounds for Yossi Benayoun and Tottenham and Arsenal lead the chase for Joe Cole. In The Daily Mirror we learn that Manchester United are planning a move for Mikel Arteta, Wigan are after Colombian striker Jackson Martinez and Roma are linked with William Gallas and Joe Ledley. In the foreign press we learn that Lyon will challenge Arsenal for Yoann Gourcuff and Birmingham are chasing Sedar Gokayya.

Have the pundits done enough to make it?: The always amusing Giles Smith wonder which pundits will be on the plane to South Africa. “‘Who’s not coming to the party?’ Adrian Chiles asked before England’s friendly against Japan. Easy, of course, for Chiles to sound slightly smug in this area; his place on the plane to South Africa is secure. Others in the ITV squad, though, must surely be waiting anxiously by the phone this morning. Has Gareth Southgate, for instance, done enough? Yes, it was only a warm-up and one can no more draw categorical conclusions from those than one can infer the shape of the league campaign from pre-season friendlies or, indeed, discern one’s chances of meeting a tall, dark stranger from a handful of damp PG Tips. Yet, granted a final run-out alongside Chiles on Sunday, Southgate struggled to impose himself — to make that one deft run or produce that one quick flick that might have guaranteed his place.”