Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “You don’t get medals for being complacent and we won’t be. It wasn’t a great performance but where we are today is not down to today. That’s down to the previous six months. The team has shown great consistency. We’re in a fantastic position with nine games to go and 15 points clear but we have to go out and do our job every week.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “We’ve not really been playing too well all season. We have had spells, [been] up and down. We know we have another level to go to. With everyone in front of us [in the Premier League], we are quite encouraged that if we put on a good run, if we put in some good form, we can pick up some points and catch the teams above us. That’s the target: to make the Champions’ League next year, which is a must for this club. We’ve got a big derby at the weekend and we have to aim to just pick up wins and just keep winning games, putting on the pressure.” – John Terry.
Rio Ferdinand will play for England…
Rio boost for England after Fergie says Man United defender WILL answer SOS for World Cup qualifiers (Rob Draper & Joe Bernstein, Mail on Sunday) Rio Ferdinand will join up with the England squad this week after Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed the Manchester United defender wants to end his 21-month absence from international football. England manager Roy Hodgson had left voice messages for Ferdinand and Ferguson to reassure them about the care the player will receive while on England duty and will be delighted that his gamble in naming the 34-year-old in the squad has paid off. Ferdinand is expected to start the crucial World Cup qualifier against Montenegro next Tuesday, although United manager Ferguson had been reluctant for his player to resume his England career because he wanted the defender to protect a chronic back problem.
Roy Hodgson’s compromise leaves Rio Ferdinand free for England return (Daniel Taylor, Observer) What Roy Hodgson had probably never envisaged, having picked a way through all the politics and finally been emboldened enough to select Rio Ferdinand, was the possible scenario that the whole thing could be kiboshed and the player, under considerable pressure from Sir Alex Ferguson, might suddenly perform his own about-turn. Hodgson, to put it another way, may have overlooked one of the occupational hazards that has intermittently affected everyone who has managed England over the past quarter of a century: that Manchester United’s manager tends to think of international football in the same way a teenager thinks of acne. It is permanently an ordeal, it can flare up when you least want it and there is no point pretending it does not drive you mad. It certainly came as a jolt to learn Ferdinand was seriously considering declining Hodgson’s invitation to be reinstated to the England setup and you will have to forgive me for suspecting that Ferguson’s fingerprints were all over it before the confirmation that the player would, after all, be checking into St George’s Park.
Rio in Rio next year is a must (Harry Redknapp, Sunday Sun) Rio in Brazil — it couldn’t sound any better. And I am not getting carried away with my admiration for a player I watched grow and mature. Rio Ferdinand is THE outstanding centre-half in England — still. And he is not back in the England squad because of injuries. He is there because he deserves to be. And now he is back in, I hope he stays and helps us qualify for the World Cup next summer. I listen to the experts who write him off as past his best — and it’s nonsense. He has 81 caps so far and, while it might be a tough task, he has it in him to reach 100.
Manchester City’s mega Neymar & Falcao bids
City prepared to stump up huge fee to gazump Barcelona’s Neymar deal (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) Manchester City and Real Madrid are making a last-minute attempt to gazump Barcelona’s £50million signing of Brazil star Neymar. Barcelona have a pre-contract with the player, who has agreed to join the Catalan club either this summer or after the 2014 World Cup, and Neymar will have to pay a huge amount of compensation if he breaks the agreement. But City director of football Txiki Begiristain and representatives of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez are understood to have made it clear they will cover the costs of any compensation and improve Neymar’s personal terms if he would consider a move to them.
Manchester City ready to break transfer record with £52m bid for Falcao (Tom Hopkinson & Dave Kidd, People) Manchester City are poised to break the British transfer record with a £52million raid for Radamel Falcao, writes the Sunday People. The Blues are confident of landing Atletico Madrid’s Colombian striker now that Real Madrid have dropped out of the running. Falcao, 27, is believed to have a 60m-euro get-out clause in his Atletico deal and, with Real refusing to meet that valuation, City believe they can beat off competition from Chelsea to land the hottest frontman in world football. He could even link up with Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho at the Etihad Stadium, with the Special One set to leave the Bernabeu in the summer and City believed to be his most likely destination.
PSG to take Nasri off City’s hands
PSG plot Nasri swoop (Vic Peacock, Sunday Sun) Samir Nasri is closer to ending his Manchester City nightmare — with Paris St-Germain stepping up their attempt to sign him. The midfielder has fallen out of favour with boss Roberto Mancini and has started just half of City’s Premier League games this season. Mancini has publicly criticised performances of the French star, a £24million buy from Arsenal in 2011 who helped City win the title last season. But City have all but lost the title to Manchester United this year and must overcome a tough FA Cup semi-final to avoid a barren campaign.
Liverpool’s small summer transfer kitty
Rodgered! Liverpool boss will only be given £20m to spend on transfers next season (Simon Mullock, Daily Mirror) Brendan Rodgers will not be allowed to break the bank to turn Liverpool into Champions League contenders. The Kop boss has been told to expect a transfer budget of no more than £20million this summer. And that means he will be forced to sell to enable him to bring in the four top-class players he wants to recruit ahead of an assault on the top four next season. Rodgers has been assured that he will have the final say on the future of Luis Suarez, a player who would generate a fee in excess of £40m if he was made available. That is a step that both Rodgers and Liverpool’s Boston-based owners are loathe to take given the Uruguayan’s hero status with the Anfield fans.
Where next for JT?
Dubai bye? Middle East clubs line up big money move for Chelsea captain John Terry (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror) John Terry will be offered a lucrative chance to end his career in the Middle East. A number of clubs in the United Arab Emirates have been alerted to the uncertainty over Terry’s Chelsea future. Terry, 32, and his family regularly holiday in Dubai, and sources who work in the region have told Sunday Mirror Sport that clubs are investigating the opportunity of signing the Blues’ centre back. Terry’s former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is now sporting director at Al Nasr, while current UAE Pro-League champions Al-Ain and ambitious Al Jazira could also afford him. The chairman of the Al Jazira Sports Company is Sheikh Mansour, who tried to sign Terry for Manchester City in 2009.
Arsenal linked with Vorm
The Vorm has turned: Arsenal line up Swansea keeper as replacement for Wojciech Szczesny (Tom Hopkinson & Dave Kidd, People) Arsene Wenger is weighing up a summer move for Swansea keeper Michel Vorm as he looks to replace Wojciech Szczesny as Arsenal’s No.1, writes the Sunday People. The Gunners are aware they could activate an ‘affordable’ get-out clause in the Dutchman’s contract and have been closely watching the 29-year-old. Szczesny’s poor form prompted Wenger to drop him for the midweek clash with Bayern Munich. The Arsenal boss could be looking for two new keepers if Szczesny and fellow Pole Lukasz Fabianski are off-loaded. Liverpool’s Pepe Reina is also a long-term target , along with Stoke’s Asmir Begovic – but he seems certain to join Manchester United.
Gary Neville on Stoke & Everton
Fans must never get bored of the stability that Moyes and Pulis bring (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) After they had been knocked out of the FA Cup by Wigan last weekend, many people might not have been expecting their 2-0 win against Manchester City, a performance that was already superb even before they went down to 10 men with 30 minutes to go. But you know what you will get from David Moyes and his Everton players, and that performance epitomised their character. In a 30-year marriage you might get the odd bad day, but you don’t throw away what you’ve built up over time because of that. Likewise, those Everton fans who were most vocal last weekend should realise that, bad though the Wigan performance was, their club are in great hands. We’re bored of saying: ‘Oh, David Moyes is doing well, isn’t he?’ But we should never get bored of that. Or commending the fact Stoke have 25 or 30 players with an incredible work ethic, especially when you see other clubs signing £100,000-a-week players but still having problems getting them to work hard.
Said & Done
Said & Done (David Hills, Observer) 1) Quote of the week: Sepp Blatter, asked about public criticisms of Fifa’s transparency made by Mark Pieth, head of their internal review group. “I have spoken to him. He has now accepted that he will not go public again unless I say he can.”