Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I feel great in a place where everybody loves me and I’m very happy to stay. My family were great allowing me to take the decision independently. I never argued with my father, as somebody wrote. I have listened to my heart as many people advised me to do… I have never asked for a raise in my salary and I will never do. Milan were always nice to me raising my salary whenever they felt it was fair to do it. I can only thank them for this… I’m a religious person and I believe the path God decides for us is not always the most logical one. Milan had never considered any offer for me in the past. This time it was different and I had to think about it but then I decided to stay. My team-mates were incredible. They all tried to tell me something and stay close to me in this period. I haven’t been a Manchester City player not even for one minute.” – Kaka.
Runner-up: “The January transfer window is only for the rich. For those who are not rich it is just another handicap.” – Gianfranco Zola.
Today’s overview: Incredibly, despite Everton clawing a late draw in the Merseyside derby to keep their bitter neighbours Liverpool off the top spot in the league, this is not the story of the day. That right is reserved for Kaka’s rejection of Manchester City.
Not only have Manchester City missed out on Kaka, but could Robinho be heading for the exit door too? Andy Hunter reports that “further concern will be reports last night that Robinho had walked out of City’s training camp in Tenerife after a row with Hughes. One report claimed the pair had fallen out over Robinho’s desire to return to Brazil to celebrate his 25th birthday, which falls this Sunday, with family.” Rod Gilmour adds that “Manchester City confirmed this morning that the Brazilian was no longer at the training ground.”
And the hacks are lining up to stick the boot into City. For Stuart James, “there will have been a chastening realisation that bottomless pits of money have limited appeal.” while the prospect of watching Kaka would have been seductive enough, it does not mean that the rest of us have to admire the short cuts that City are taking, like Chelsea before them, in the hope of breaking into the top echelon.” Calling it “a victory for common sense,” Jeremy Wilson cheerfully tells “City’s ambitious billionaire owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan… it will take more than just money to build a football team.”
Bucking the trend is Gabriele Marcotti, convinced that “City should not be viewed as defeated. By approaching Milan and taking it this far, they have shown that they are a real force in global football. With a lesser person than KakÃ¡, they would have triumphed. Theyâ€™ll be back.”
Some, to their credit, look forward as to what City should do next. Sounding like John Major in his heyday, Henry Winter urges City to get “back to basics, building a team from the ground up, not the shiny roof down.” Richard Williams picks up the thread to argue that Micah Richards, Nedum Onuoha, Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge and Michael Johnson should “form the core of a City team capable of joining Aston Villa, Everton and Wigan in the challenge to the established big four.” ill have to look elsewhere for their marquee signing. Andrei Arshavin, 27, the Zenit St Petersburg and Russia playmaker, is reported to be under consideration.”
And it now appears that Blackburn are refusing to let Roque Santa Cruz head to Eastlands, Ian Herbert writing “it would seem that only a knock-out bid way beyond the parameters expected for a player like Santa Cruz is capable of changing Rovers’ mind.”
Turning focus onto last night’s Merseyside derby, calling the draw “a kick in the teeth that Liverpool had coming to them,” Oliver Kay lauded Everton for not ceding “any kind of psychological advantage to their bitter rivals.” On the flipside, Sam Wallace steers clear of calling the result a disaster for the Reds noting “in many respects Benitez’s team are in great shape but, as all champions must, they have not yet demonstrated that they are capable of overcoming each and every obstacle.”
Martin Samuel is far more critical of Liverpool and Rafa Benitez. “Much will now be made of those infamous Rafa rants, taking on first Ferguson and latterly Rick Parry, his chief executive. United have won three of three since Benitez declared war, Liverpool have dropped four points of six; the contrasts with Kevin Keegan are being dusted off already.”
Changing gears, Kevin McCarra looks at the upsurge in away wins in the Premier League this season noting “the full meaning of that cannot be determined until the campaign is completed, but it is three years since any side ended the season with more points gleaned on their travels.” While in other Premier league news, Oliver Kay reports how Manchester United have made Nani “aware that he needs to grasp the opportunity to make a long-overdue impression.”
Looking at why the foot of the table is so concertinaed, Matt Barlow observes “managers like Tony Mowbray, Tony Pulis and Phil Brown deserve credit but they have been helped by sophisticated scouting methods and smart agents are making it easier for smaller clubs to find players of a high calibre worldwide.” And talking about the relegation battle from the inside, Harry Redknapp uses his column in The Sun to announce “for those of us ringside it is going to be a thrill-a-match ride â€” 13 teams slugging it out right through until May. Buckle up!… Itâ€™s going to be a tough few months because Tottenham are in it until the end, I think.”
Spurious transfer rumours continue to be promoted in the tabloids. The Daily Mail report “Newcastle may risk the wrath of West Ham with a renewed Â£2m bid for Lucas Neill, the 30-year-old Australia defender who is a free agent this summer.” Matt Barlow claims “Martin Jol is interested in taking Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone to Hamburg as a replacement for Manchester City-bound midfielder Nigel de Jong.” While the Mirror claim that “Chelsea are weighing up a Â£7million bid for Wigan winger Antonio Valencia to replace crocked Joe Cole,” before delivering the most unlikely story of the day linking West Ham with a move for Inter’s 19-year-old striker Mario Balotelli.
Lastly, the Guardian’s weekly round-up of European football continues. Leander Schaerlaeckens investigates why Feyenoord fired manager Gertjan Verbeek (“injuries were a major detriment during Verbeek’s reign, but poor attitude and a lack of class on the part of the senior players were far more damaging”), Sid Lowe looks at the end of Ramon Calderon’s reign at Real Madrid (“you’d struggle to fit Calderon’s epitaph on a cliff face. You could, though, probably sum him up on a pebble. ‘Worst. President. Ever.'”) while Paolo Bandini wraps up all the news from Serie A.