Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I am only talking about working within a budget, not controlling everything. I wanted to finish with the speculation because there is no sense in talking about the contract from now until the end of the season. I am 100 per cent sure that the players are focused on games and on football. They are concentrating on their training, nothing else, and that is how it should be.” – Rafa Benitez.
Runner-up: “My missus would have scored that. But what can I say to him? What can he say to me? He should have scored; itâ€™s an open goal. Jamo had given it up. He didnâ€™t do it purposefully but it was a bad miss. I was frustrated. Itâ€™s a goal, game over, three points.” – Harry Redknapp.
Today’s overview: This Monday offers a mixed bag of football headlines, with the two main meaty stories being analysis of Rafa Benitez’s latest calls for greater control at Liverpool and further dissection of Man City’s pursuit of Kaka.
Following Spurs’ disappointing draw with Pompey on Sunday, Henry Winter opted to single out Darren Bent and Sol Campbell in his match report writing “this was a tale of two men, of Darren Bent and Sol Campbell, of one footballer who melted under pressure, fluffing his chance to shine, while the other stood tall, relishing the physical and mental challenge.” David Pleat reverted to his “chalkboard,” advising the Lilywhites’ that if they “continue with two up front, the strikers cannot afford to play flat with each other. They need to drag one of the centre-backs towards the play to make themselves available for midfield passes and create more space.”
Staying with Tottenham, Bob Cass reports that “Harry Redknapp responded to losing out to Manchester City in the race for Craig Bellamy by turning up the pressure for Tottenham to wrap up a Â£14million deal for Wiganâ€™s Wilson Palacios and bidding Â£2m for Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper.” While the Daily Mail claim that Jermaine Jenas is looking to engineer a move to Inter Milan after the midfielder has been stripped of his vice-captaincy and dropped. (Obviously the hacks at the Mail paid no attention to Harry Redknapp last week when he claimed “when heâ€™s fit heâ€™s one of the best midfielders in the country. I canâ€™t afford to lose him.”)
Looking ahead to tonight’s meeting between Liverpool and Everton, Oliver Kay describes how “the poisoning of the Merseyside rivalry is one of the most depressing developments of the modern era, but it is a microcosm of what is happening elsewhere.” Gabriele Marcotti eavesdrops on a conversation between Evrton’s Mikel Arteta and Tim Cahill – Cahill: “You cost Â£2.5 million, me Â£1.5-2 million. For what we cost, whatever happens, we know weâ€™ve contributed to a legacy here, to making sure this club has been successful.”
Ian Herbert stokes up the flames at Anfield by reporting that Rafa Benitez has again fallen out with Rick Parry with Daniel Agger’s future at the Reds in the balance. “The delays are a reflection of the uncertainty, bordering on paralysis, that surrounds the club, with the future of its American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett still so unclear, Benitez’s latest criticism of the club is another dig at the chief executive, Rick Parry.” Further controversy is offered by the Sun’s Steven Howard, who uses crafty tactics to report that “one of the main conspiracy theories around on Merseyside is that the Spaniard is lined up to replace Juande Ramos â€” only on a six-month Bernabeu contract â€” in his native Madrid in the summer.”
In a blistering attack on “control freak” Benitez, Sam Wallace charges the Spaniard with demanding more power than even Sir Alex or Wenger before concluding that “no manager, not even one as talented as Benitez, can be allowed to run unchecked.”
Contrary to reports in the Sundays, Matt Hughes notes how Chelsea have “strenuously denied reports yesterday that the Russian wants to sell and has begun sounding out potential buyers in the Middle East.”
Lastly, we turn attention back to Kaka. Martin Samuel continues his crusade to convince readers that the deal makes sense, comparing the Brazilian to Paul McCartney. “How, it is asked, are ordinary football supporters supposed to relate to the mind-blowing wages Manchester City have offered Kaka in this time of recession? Easy, really. The same way they relate to Paul McCartney. Estimates vary, but a ballpark figure suggests the former Beatle earns in the region of Â£40million per year. It doesn’t make The White Album any less impressive, though. You wouldn’t discard it from your collection on the grounds that you and the artist had little in common as human beings.”
For Rob Hughes, the Kaka saga flags up how fans are no longer important in football. “The riches offered for KakÃ¡ will, if Milan decides they are irresistible, take the supporters’ favorite away, no matter what they wish… The fans, poor souls, can stand in the rain with their placards until the cows come home, but the clubs no longer regard them as paramount.”
Martin Kelner takes the pundits at Match of the Day to town for their constant chatter about Kaka’s proposed wage bill. “If Shearer receives a thousandth of Kaka’s wedge for putting on a nice shirt and telling us every week that Aston Villa have got pace up front in Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor, and ‘you’ll always pose problems with that sort of pace’, he should trouser it gratefully.”