Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I am disappointed. I said to him: ‘Stay here to have more treatment but don’t go to play because it would be taking a risk for us because these next two months are really important’. OK, it is correct he can go there to do [a test] with their medical [people] but after that he should come back. I hoped he would come back after one day, two days. It was important that Vinny should work here and prepare very well for the next game, the next two months here, because he hasn’t played for us for 60 days. Sometimes the player should understand that the club is more important. I don’t say that international football is not important because I never say to my players: ‘Don’t go to the national team.’ But there are some cases that the club is more important and all players should understand this. Sometimes you say the right things because the responsibility is also the player’s… The player should understand this. The manager sometimes probably doesn’t understand the real situation. I tried to talk to the Belgium manager also three months ago when Vinny was injured. But probably he didn’t understand very well. I don’t want that he doesn’t go in the national team but when he is injured it is impossible. It is not correct because for 60 days he didn’t play for us, we did everything and he went to play with the national team.” – Roberto Mancini on Vincent Kompany.
Runner-up: “Most of the teams will have to get their act together, us exactly the same. It shifts very quickly for any team in the Premier League who does not get results. I think normally it’s within the 70 to 72 margin. Seventy is normally enough to get in those four spots. The fact we have had these results recently has put people closer to us but we have been under pressure before and we built a gap which has been shortened now. We believe in our team and we haven’t lost our confidence. We just have to make sure we get the minimum amount of points to be within that range of 70 points at the end of the season.” – Andre Villas-Boas.
Rafa Benitez on the Chelsea hate campaign
One blogger started this Chelsea hate campaign and I’m powerless to stop it (Martin Lipton, Daily Mirror) For Rafa Benitez, his biggest foe was not Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho. Not John Terry, Frank Lampard or anybody else in the Chelsea dressing room. Not even the Blues fans who want him out. No. Benitez enters his final two months at Stamford Bridge, the weeks that will make or break his legacy, knowing his foe is faceless, nameless, irrelevent – yet toxic. A teenage blogger in the Czech Republic, who made up the quote that undermined him from Day One, the claim that, six years ago, he had said he would “never” take the Chelsea job, “out of respect for my former club at Liverpool”. Benitez, confident of the abilities his managerial CV illustrates, can cope with the sniping, the enemies that exist in the real world. The ones in the cyber world, though, have helped make the difficult job of replacing the popular Roberto Di Matteo almost impossible.
Liverpool chase Ajax midfielder
Liverpool ramping up their efforts to bring Danish youngster Eriksen to Anfield (Dominic King, Daily Mail) Liverpool are to step up attempts to prise Christian Eriksen away from Ajax this summer. The highly-rated Denmark international is entering the final 12 months of his contract and has given little indication that he will renew his terms in Amsterdam, as his ambition is to play in England. Tottenham are also keen on Eriksen but Liverpool will fight to land one of the most sought after young talents in Europe and, at 21, he fits the profile of player that Fenway Sports Group want to sign. Liverpool have scouted him extensively over the past two years.
Eriksen to Kop switch (Phil Thomas, Sun) Liverpool are to step up their attempts to land Danish golden boy Christian Eriksen. The Ajax midfielder has been on the Kop radar for more than 12 months — but the Dutch side’s previous demands scuppered any chance of bringing him to Merseyside. But Eriksen, 21, now has just over a year left on his contract and a bid of around £15million would capture him. Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has already drawn up alternatives in Shakhtar Donetsk’s Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Newcastle ace Hatem Ben Arfa in case he cannot tempt the Denmark international to Anfield.
… And Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers eyeing Armenia international Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Chris Bascombe, Daily Telegraph) Mkhitaryan is one of several advanced midfield players on Rodgers’ radar, with Ajax’s Christian Eriksen and Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa also under serious consideration. Rodgers is keen to recruit another ‘number ten’ to play behind his strikers, although he is also prioritising a central defender to replace Jamie Carragher when the transfer window reopens. The 24-year-old Mkhitaryan has caught the attention by impressing Shakhtar Dontesk, but he would cost around £12 million. A more high profile target is Danish international Eriksen, the 21-year-old from Ajax who has just 18 months left on his current deal, alerting most of Europe’s top clubs to his availability.
Anzhi set to beat Arsenal to Valdes
Valdes victors? Anzhi poised to blow Arsenal away with £160k a week offer to keeper (John Cross, Daily Mirror) Arsene Wenger is facing a major tug-of-war over Victor Valdes – after big spending Anzhi Makhachkala offered to make him the highest-paid goalkeeper in the world. Valdes, 31, is on Arsenal’s hit-list of summer targets after the Spain international insisted he will not sign a new contract at Barcelona. But that has also alerted Russian club Anzhi, who are offering him a staggering £160,000-a-week three-season deal – more than Valdes could dream of getting at the Gunners. Barcelona are also demanding a £12million transfer fee. Arsenal want a new experienced No1, which is bad news for Wojciech Szczesny.
Get set for war, Rio (Steven Howard, Sun) Let’s hope Rio Ferdinand is feeling both physically and mentally refreshed. He will certainly need to be after the reaction to his opting for a break in Qatar rather than England’s double-header against San Marino and Montenegro. England fans in both venues — especially the former — let him know exactly how they felt. To such an extent that Football Against Racism in Europe have reported them to FIFA. The fallout will continue at Sunderland tomorrow where Ferdinand, if selected, is sure to get a hot reception. But that will be nothing compared to what the former Three Lions skipper faces at Stamford Bridge on Easter Monday when Manchester United meet Chelsea in their FA Cup quarter-final replay.
George Weah’s son on trial at Chelsea
Which former world player of the year’s son is on trial at Chelsea? (Rik Sharma, Daily Mail) Chelsea are giving a trial to the son of legendary Liberian hitman George Weah. Timmy, 13, wanted to play in London for the same team his father signed for in January 2000. Weah joined on loan from AC Milan and scored against rivals Tottenham on his debut. He was only too happy to bring his son to London for a trial.
Sean Ingle on the NextGen Series
NextGen Series offers seeds of hope after disappointing year in Europe (Sean Ingle, Guardian) This weekend, a tournament that is gaining traction will also attract eyeballs, with both semi-finals and the final, on Easter Monday, screened live on Eurosport. But a predator is lurking. Next season, Uefa will launch a rival under-19 tournament for the 32 clubs in the Champions League. How it will play out is unclear, but it surely doesn’t augur well for NextGen – no matter how much Justin Andrews, one of its founders, insists otherwise.
Gazza’s happy eater (Sun) Paul Gascoigne has replaced his life-threatening addiction to alcohol with a new obsession — SWEETS. The England footie legend, 45, has packed his cupboards with goodies including lollies and Easter eggs since returning to Britain from a month in a US rehab clinic. Gazza’s teenage son proudly revealed his dad’s big secret yesterday. Regan, 17, posted snaps of recovering alcoholic Gazza’s huge stash, which includes toffees, biscuits and popcorn.