- Liverpool offer £135k annual salary to 15-year-old Roma attacker dubbed ‘the new Ibrahimovic’ [Standard]
- Man United target Diego Godin says he’d like to stay with Atletico for ‘many years’ [Mirror]
- Arsenal players spread Christmas cheer around to children in hospital [Video]
- El Tigre is no longer king of the jungle [@BabboPieta Feature]
- Damning! The key statistics behind every Liverpool signing under Brendan Rodgers [Video]
Montenegro plan to kick Rooney, could Spain miss World Cup 2014, Man United look at Porto’s Sandro & West Ham want Bony
Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “There will be a lot of expectation on Wayne but knowing him I don’t think he will let that faze him in anyway. I don’t think he will be drawing on any negativity from previous performances. He will just be focused on producing the goods. They might play on his temperament but Wayne has matured now and I am sure he will be professional enough to deal with anything that they throw at him.” – Joleon Lescott.
Runner-up: “There is no doubt that Wayne Rooney is one of the best strikers in the world but we know from the last time England played here that he can sometimes play with a hot head,’ said the Juventus striker. Our fans will not forget the red card he received and I am sure they will let him know. It is an intimidating place to come and if England want to have any chance then Rooney will need to keep a calm head.” – Mirko Vucinic.
Previews: Montenegro v England
Scratched, shoved, kicked, abused (Alan Shearer, Sun) [Wayne Rooney] still remains our best chance of getting to Brazil and doing anything if we get there. That is why he is needed on the pitch, winning the battles and overcoming the challenges that come his way. Tomorrow night he needs a good early touch, a telling first pass, even an early goal. That always helps to calm things down for any striker. It’s when things are not working out or everything you try goes wrong that you are more likely to do something silly. It’s a night for cool heads in a hot environment. Rooney’s will have to remain coolest of all.
He used to be all the rage: Now Wayne Rooney (and his baggage) stands at career crossroads (Ollie Holt, Mirror) Maybe it’s because what happened to Michael Owen is fresh in our minds. Maybe it’s because we saw him burn so brightly and then fade away. Maybe it’s because some harbour a nagging fear that it’s happening again. Maybe it’s because there’s a worry that history is about to repeat itself in the form of Wayne Rooney. Whatever the reasons, Rooney will stand at a crossroads when he walks out at the City Stadium here tomorrow night for England’s crunch World Cup qualifier with Montenegro. He is 27 years old, entering what should be the prime of his career, and yet doubts swirl around him. He has been supplanted by Robin van Persie as the golden one at Manchester United. And Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to drop him for the game against Real Madrid earlier this month was not as big a shock as it once might have been. It followed rumours that Ferguson has lost patience with Rooney and is considering selling him at the end of the season.
England can expect Montenegro to give Wayne Rooney a rough ride (Dominic Fifield, Guardian) Rooney has relished returns to scenes of former misdemeanours before. Five years after tangling with, then stamping on, Ricardo Carvalho during England’s World Cup quarter-final with Portugal in Gelsenkirchen, Rooney thrived and scored for United in a 2-0 Champions League semi-final victory over Schalke victory over Schalke in April 2011. His pass for Ryan Giggs’s opening goal that night was breathtaking, slicing apart the Germans’ rearguard. His burst on to Javier Hernández’s pass and finish beyond Manuel Neuer for the visitors’ second was a reminder of his qualities when he is not raging against the world. It will be as much up to England to ensure the 27-year-old does not become isolated and riled again.
Roy Hodgson bungled Rio Ferdinand affair but that’s least of his problems (Mark Lawrenson, Mirror) Thank heavens for Montenegro and some serious football tomorrow. England can now start to put the Rio Ferdinand debacle behind them. The Manchester United defender may be getting a bit of stick, but there are also some questions for Roy Hodgson over his handling of the affair. I mean, what does an England boss do all week? Are you telling me he could not have called Sir Alex Ferguson or Rio himself and said: “I’m planning to bring you back in the squad. Are there any issues with that?” It is one short phone call. Forget protocol. Use some common sense.
Montenegro v England: beware the deadly duo of Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic (Jonathan Wilson, Independent) Both are capable of playing anywhere across the front line or dropping deep and that, combined with years of playing together, has given them a fluency and a mutual understanding. If one plays high, the other will drop back or pull wide, confounding marking schemes while essentially allowing the other outfield players to sit deep in two banks of four. “We play close together in the national side and we often switch positions with each other,” Vucinic said. “I would like to do that at Juve as he is a countryman and a really strong player.”
Spain: A Crisis?
Spain are suddenly in trouble (Guardian) Spain find themselves in danger of falling into the play-offs after they could only draw 1-1 with Finland, who refused to be dazzled by the star on Spain’s chest. The result allowed France to move two points clear at the top of the group and if Spain fail to win in Paris on Tuesday night, there is the very real possibility that they will have to slum it in the play-offs. Caution is advisable though – Xavi and Xabi Alonso could be back against France, and the last time people were doubting Spain, they went and beat Italy 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012.
Spain face the unthinkable in Paris with World Cup play-off looming (Marcus Christenson, Guardian) Should Spain lose that Group I qualifier and fall five points behind France something even more unthinkable could happen: the world and European champions could miss out on automatic qualification to the 2014 World Cup and have to try to reach Brazil via the play-offs.
West Ham Go Olympic
West Ham are the ONLY option for the Olympic Stadium this side of a bulldozer (Martin Samuel, Mail) Who owns it now? You do. For another 99 years at least. It doesn’t belong to West Ham, any more than a council tenant owns his flat. The stadium is public property and the football club will rent. Others will join. Individual concert promoters, the organisers of the Rugby World Cup. West Ham are only anchor tenants. So you haven’t been stiffed, ripped off or deprived of legacy. Those left to sweep up after a very expensive mistake made the best of it.
United step up left-back chase in bid to find Evra’s long-term replacement (and Porto’s Sandro has already been looked at) (Mail) United scouts watched Porto left-back Alex Sandro in the recent Champions League tie against Malaga and plan to look at others in the position before the season ends.
Hammers set to begin talks with Vitesse over prolific £15m transfer target Bony (Mail) West Ham are looking to hold discussions over Vitesse Arnhem striker Wilfried Bony this week. The Dutch club are yet to receive an official bid for the Ivory Coast international but want around £15million while Bony is understood to want around £55,000 a week.
Saints get in Sinc (Sun) Scott Sinclair has emerged as the top target for Southampton after he failed to make an impact at Manchester City.
Arsenal losing Stefan Jovetic battle (Express) Chief scout Steve Rowley has checked on the Fiorentina star on numerous occasions and is impressed. Yet Fiorentina are seeking more than £25million for Jovetic. With Juventus and both Milan clubs keen, there is the prospect of an escalating bidding war.
Nathaniel Chalobah facing Chelsea and Arsenal tug of war (Express) Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may make an offer having been impressed by the Chelsea midfielder’s performances while he was on loan at Watford.
- Updated: March 25, 2013