Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “When we looked at Kaka, the numbers being thrown around were crazy. Suddenly in the news you see â€˜City are crazy’ and â€˜City are irresponsible’. Why is it when Real Madrid not only talks about but actually closes two deals, like the ones they’ve closed [for Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo] with the numbers [Â£136million] they’ve committed to, it’s fine? I’m frustrated with people assuming that we are going to throw crazy money at deals, that we won’t understand true values and we can’t negotiate or get value for a player. We’ve had numbers thrown at us that are a joke. There are situations where a Â£10million player will be offered to us for a â€˜City price’ of Â£20million. We just leave because at that point there’s no point arguing. If people are throwing crazy numbers at us, fine, deals won’t be done.” – Manchester City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak.
Runner-up: “Would we be interested in him [Michael Owen]? No. One, his wages are too expensive. Two, has he got the urge, bottle and drive to do what the Premier League demands? I hope he has because he has been a great player. I tried to sign him before. I said I would pay the Â£15m to bring him here and let him leave whenever he wanted, but he’s looking a bit injury-prone now. He can still do a hell of a job for somebody, but I would think he will want to go to a much bigger club than Wigan.” – Dave Whelan.
Today’s overview: After several weeks of mega-rich transfers, the English champions have made public a new strategy in acquiring players that aims to buck the trend of always spending big.
Daniel Taylor reports that “Manchester United have made a long-term decision not to sign any players aged 26 or above for large transfer fees… The restrictions automatically mean that Sir Alex Ferguson’s admiration for Franck Ribery will not manifest itself in a concerted attempt to sign the France international… United are aware that the policy may not go down well with those supporters who are expecting high-profile replacements to fill the void left by Ronaldo’s impending world-record transfer to Real Madrid. However, the club insists it makes sound business sense not to bring in a player for Â£30m or more who cannot be sold for another high valuation some years after signing his contract.”
Yet, with the tabloids failing to report the new United transfer policy, they find themselves free to continue to churn out the guff that helps sells their rags. As such The Sun’s Antony Kastrinakis lies that “Manchester United and Chelsea have made official bids to sign Franck Ribery.” Nevertheless, Chelsea’s bid to sign Ribery appears to be very much on the cards, Dominic Fifield penning how “Bayern Munich have rejected an opening bid believed to be worth around Â£40m” from the Blues.
Tony Banks and Andrew Warshaw also suggest that the Blues are warming up their chequebook for a second mega-money bid, scrawling “Chelsea were last night preparing to join the hunt for Â£30 million-rated Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”
United’s new spending policy sits in sharp contrast to that of Real Madrid’s, Sid Lowe explaining how “Spanish savings bank Caja Madrid admitted that it has agreed to give Real Madrid a â‚¬76m (Â£64m) loan to be secured on two unnamed sources of collateral. Madrid are also understood to have a similar deal in place with Banco Santander.”
The fear surrounding Real is that they are living outside their means, a problem which has crippled Portsmouth and forced their latest takeover as explained by David Conn. “Portsmouth are for sale because it was running at a huge loss, Â£17m last year, to pay millionaire wages to players Harry Redknapp wanted but the club could not otherwise afford… Another owner will provide wherewithal to allow the club to live beyond its natural means.”
The story of the day appears in the Telegraph, as the broadsheet makes public how Hull City chairman Paul Duffen “has had a six-month driving ban overturned after a court ruled he would suffer undue hardship because not being able to drive to see players could cost him vital transfers… A judge accepted Paul Duffen could afford to pay two drivers from his Â£20,000 a month salary but it would not be practical and would present a risk of breach of confidentiality in transfer negotiation.”
John Barnes has returned to the world of football by taking the Tranmere job and already he is getting panned. According to Gregg Roughley, “if the club wanted a Wirral-based former Liverpool player with a decent record and hunger to succeed in management, then Paul Ince, not Barnes, was the man to call upon.” Neil Ashton also jumps on Barnes’ back for his assertions that his long absence from the game stems from racists undertones in English football. “It had nothing to do with the colour of his skin that his seven month spell in Scotland got off to a pretty poor start… [Black managers] can succeed, irrespective of their colour. They just have to be good enough.”
Andy Hunter boasts that Liverpool have won the race for Glen Johnson “after Portsmouth accepted their Â£18.5m bid for the England right-back and Chelsea withdrew from the race for their former employee.” The same story is repeated by Rory Smith save for the fact that he claims the fee is a mere Â£17million for Johnson. It is left to Ian Herbert to question whether Johnson is worth the money. “The outlay on Johnson is extraordinary, even in the context of the last two weeks… only Barcelona’s Dani Alves and Lilian Thuram have moved for more than the figure Liverpool are set to pay for Johnson.”
There are also outgoings at Anfield according to John Edwards as “Frank Rijkaard is ready to announce his arrival as Galatasaray manager by offering to end Ryan Babelâ€™s mounting frustration at Liverpool.”
After weeks of speculation, David Hytner scribbles that Spurs and Aston Villa appear to be ready to do business this summer. “O’Neill has identified Jermaine Jenas as the man to replace Gareth Barry… and the manager also hopes to raid Tottenham Hotspur for the winger David Bentley. O’Neill, though, will resist Spurs’ designs on his winger Ashley Young, who is a target for Chelsea too, and it is more likely that John Carew would serve as a makeweight in any transfer dealings with Tottenham.” Suggestions that Ashley Young could leave Villa Park will be furthered though after Tim Gray barked “Martin O’Neill will revive his interest in Royston Drenthe thanks to the fire sale at Real Madrid.”
Spurs continue to be linked with over-the-top transfer stories, the Telegraph lift the expectations of Lilywhites by announcing “Tottenham have been linked with a Â£36 million swoop for Real Madrid trio Arjen Robben, Gabriel Heinze and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.” The same story though is trumpeted in the Daily Mail, Neil Ashton writing that “Sportsmail can reveal that the White Hart Lane chairman flew to Spain on Monday with agent Dennis Roach and finance director Matthew Collecott to meet Real president Florentino Perez.”
And somehow there is more transfer speculation revolving around Tottenham, with Darren McCaffrey coughing up the old chestnut that “Stewart Downing has been given the green light to join Tottenham â€“ provided they meet Middlesbroughâ€™s Â£15million valuation.” The price drops in The Sun where “Spurs can finally land Middlesbrough’s Stewart Downing for Â£12million.”
On their North London rivals, Simon Jones inks “Arsenal are preparing a renewed Â£15m bid for Fiorentina’s midfielder Felipe Melo.”
Heading up to Eastlands, “a Â£16.5m move [by Manchester City] for Blackburn’s Roque Santa Cruz is close to being agreed,” according to Mark Ogden. But it is not all good news for the Citizens this Wednesday, Martin Lipman claiming “Barcelona are poised to hand Mark Hughes the solution to his biggest Manchester City problem by tabling a Â£35million bid for Robinho.”
Lastly, some of the Premier League’s less sexy sides are also beginning the make their moves in the transfer market.
The big news in the The Times is that “West Ham United were in negotiations last night to complete a loan deal for Mancini, the Inter Milan and Brazil attacking player.” The Telegraph report that “Fulham have signed Republic of Ireland international Stephen Kelly from Birmingham on a three-year contract.” While Colin Young prints “Newcastle defender David Edgar looks certain to join Premier League newcomers Birmingham City after failing to secure a new contract at St James’ Park.”