Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I am very proud of the club and the players even though we lost the tie. The club and players showed why we are part of the world’s greatest football family. The atmosphere and what they put in to come back from a three-goal deficit and put in that effort was a phenomenal show. I thought we should have had a penalty too. The crowd and players couldn’t do more. It was a fantastic night but we probably lost the tie over in Russia. To have to score that many goals and nearly do it gives me so much pride.” – Brendan Rodgers.
Runner-up: “We’re in it to win it! Qualification was an absolute must for us. We are very disappointed to be out of the Champions League and watching it on Tuesday and Wednesday nights is disappointing. But it’s motivation for us to kick on in this competition. It was not our best performance but we’re in the next round so we’re happy with that.” – John Terry.
United’s £55m Ronaldo Pursuit
Manchester United are working on a stunning £55m deal to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford (Duncan Wright, Star) United aim to piece together a complex financial package which will become the new model for big contracts in European football. Starsport understands the Ronaldo camp are looking at commercial ventures which would tie in with a Premier League return this summer… The big hurdle would be whether the Premier League leaders could offer a salary to rival the player’s current £220,000-a-week deal and stay within the new UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations, which come into force next season.
And Still It’s #WengerOut
Guns Kop it from Wrighty (Sun) Wrighty said: “I hate to see Arsenal in this situation but something has got to give at some stage. It cannot carry on like this… Arsenal are in danger of slipping into a similar situation to Liverpool, struggling to get a squad together and attract players to get back into the Champions League. Liverpool have an unbelievable European record as a club but they just can’t get back on track. I have been saying for years about the deficiencies in respect of replenishing the squad and getting Arsenal back to not just qualifying for the Champions League but getting past the quarter-final stages and really having a good go at it.”
Hard times demand tough measures and they don’t come much tougher than George Graham… bring him back, Arsenal (Jeff Powell, Mail) The terrible truth is that the purist in Wenger has brought him to the mercy of the mob. In his pursuit of aesthetic perfection he has neglected to rebuild at the Emirates the rugged fortress which used to be Highbury… The answer is staring at them from within their own latter-day history: Bring back Graham to rebuild the rearguard.
Why I fear Arsenal’s already embarrassing season has yet to hit rock-bottom (Robbie Savage, Mirror) The end of Arsene Wenger’s reign as manager is surely now a case of when, and not if, he leaves the club or moves ‘upstairs’… I think they risk losing Jack Wilshere to a bigger club capable of fighting for major prizes, just as they have lost Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry Patrick Vieira and others down the years.
Arsenal vs the profits of doom (Dan King, Sun) Timing is everything — and financial rules mean Arsenal must release their latest half-year results by next Thursday. Just as the fans once again accuse the club of putting profit before trophies, figures for the six months to November 30, 2012, will reveal healthy gains.
Di Canio: The Swindon Break-In
Di Canio back at Swindon (shows CCTV footage!) (Alex Crook, Sun) Paolo Di Canio was last night accused of carrying out a midnight raid on his old Swindon office. Just three days after quitting as boss, the Italian was captured on CCTV sneaking into the Robins’ stadium. The League One club checked the footage after believing they had been BURGLED when club-owned pictures went missing. Swindon have now changed the codes on the door locks.
Night raider Paolo! Swindon change locks after former manager Di Canio storms office (Laurie Whithall, Mail) The Italian entered the stadium in the early hours on Thursday, using keys he had kept after resigning on Monday. He was driven by a desire to retrieve mementos of his 21 months in charge. Accompanied by at least one member of his backroom team, Di Canio was caught on CCTV entering his old office and removing the photographs from the walls in what evidence suggests was a forceful fashion.
Lyon 1 – Tottenham 1
Last-gasp Dembele pounces to rescue Villas-Boas’ Europa League dream (Laura Williamson, Mail) Mousa Dembele once told this newspaper about his obsession with scoring the perfect goal. Last night, after 89 minutes and 30 seconds of play and with Tottenham seemingly heading out of the Europa League, the Belgium midfielder managed to do just that… It set up a last-16 clash against Inter Milan next month, where Villas-Boas worked under Jose Mourinho.
Liverpool 3 – Zenit 1
Liverpool fall short against Zenit despite Luis Suárez free-kick goals (Andy Hunter, Guardian) It was a cruel way for Carragher’s illustrious European career to finish although, as Rodgers pointed out, it was two late goals in Russia that cost Liverpool this tie. The challenge now is to prevent deflation spreading into the league campaign.
Reds bow out on away goals as Carragher’s error proves costly despite Suarez’s free-kick brace (Dominic King, Mail) This could have been a story about the greatest European comeback in Liverpool’s history, one that outstripped evenings against St Etienne, Auxerre and Chelsea; a tale depicting how Brendan Rodgers’ side defied the odds to topple Zenit St Petersburg. Instead, though, they fell cruelly short.
Chelsea’s Banner Police: Europe League Review
Chelsea supporters fume over banner crackdown but Sparta fans use their heads to back team (Aidan McCarthy, Mail) A ‘Rafa Out’ banner directed at under-fire manager Rafa Benitez, which had been a regular feature at Stamford Bridge in recent weeks, was taken down before kick-off. And there were claims a ‘Come Home, Jose’ banner, backing former manager Jose Mourinho to return and replace Benitez, was also removed by ground staff.
Rafa Benitez leaps to defence of Fernando Torres after Eden Hazard saves Chelsea’s skin (Sam Wallace, Independent) In the competition they never wanted to be part of, jeering the manager they never wanted at the club and despairing at the £50m centre-forward who almost never scores, so Chelsea progressed thanks to Eden Hazard’s 92nd minute goal.
The question is: do they even want to be in the last 16 of the Europa League, with a tie against Steaua Bucharest who beat Ajax on penalties last night? At times you saw the very worst of Chelsea’s season, with Rafa Benitez barracked by his own fans and, above all, Fernando Torres woeful in front of goal.
Michael Laudrup For Real Madrid?
Swansea City go to Wembley planning for life without manager Michael Laudrup (Jim White, Telegraph) Even as Swansea prepare for the biggest day in their history ahead of the Capital One Cup final this weekend, the club’s chairman, Huw Jenkins, is considering possible replacements for his highly-rated manager Michael Laudrup… The rumour in Laudrup’s case is that he may have caught the eye of the most substantial employer of all: Real Madrid.
Dzeko, Lescott and Maicon head for City exit as Mancini prepares fire sale to fund move for Fellaini (Mail) Manchester City want to significantly slash their wage bill this summer with a ruthless clear-out. Players City are committed to offloading this summer are Maicon, Joleon Lescott, Edin Dzeko and Scott Sinclair. The futures of Gareth Barry, Javi Garcia, Aleksandar Kolarov and Samir Nasri are also under review ahead of the summer shake-up. Furthermore, City will make an instant £15million annual saving once Roque Santa Cruz, Wayne Bridge and Kolo Toure’s contracts expire at the end of the season… City will look to make at least two significant purchases, with Napoli forward Edinson Cavani, who has a £52million release clause, already identified… City would be willing to stretch to £23million to land Fellaini, who is also a long-term target for Chelsea, in the summer and have already earmarked young striker John Guidetti as a sweetener in the deal. Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama is also a target for City.
Chelsea finalise deal to sign Chilean wonderkid Cuevas (Mail) Chelsea are to sign 17-year-old Chilean Cristian Cuevas from O’Higgins in the summer.
Chelsea complete £1.7m deal for teenager Cristian Cuevas (Mirror) he Blues have also told Nigerian defender Kenneth Omeru, 19, currently on loan at Dutch club Den Haag, that he will be in the Blues first team squad next season.
Real Madrid want Man United keeper David de Gea to replace Iker Casillas (Mirror) Madrid want de Gea as the long term successor of their captain and Spanish No1 Iker Casillas, 31… They are ready to make a move for de Gea this summer – regardless of whether Jose Mourinho stays or goes as it is a club decision.
Bacary Sagna set to be latest star player to leave Arsenal (Mirror) Bacary Sagna is set to be the next big name departure from Arsenal this summer… The Gunners are eyeing Feyenoord’s Dutch right back Daryl Janmaat, 23, as a potential replacement as his scouts are on alert to find a new first choice.