Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I was very upset at what happened during the game, but having seen the pictures on TV I accept that I overreacted. I also accept that the language I used did not set a good example for those watching at home, especially children. I regret that in the heat of the moment I let out my incredible frustration and disappointment in this way, and for that I apologise.” â€“ Didier Drogba.
Runner-up: “We were all very disappointed and frustrated after the game, but I regret describing the referee as a thief. Having had some time to reflect, I would like to withdraw those comments.” â€“ Jose Bosingwa.
Today’s overview: Chelsea, Didier Drogba and referee Tom Henning Ovebro continue to dominate the back pages this morning. The Ivorian striker’s days at Stamford Bridge look numbered and Chelsea’s rebuilding plans are chewed over whilst there is a fair amount of sympathy for the Norwegian ref. There are also a couple of articles looking forward to the “dream final” featuring Messi v Ronaldo.
Matt Hughes predicts in The Times that “Uefa is preparing to launch an investigation into the ugly scenes that marred Chelsea’s semi-final, second leg at home to Barcelona on Wednesday night, which could lead to as many as five charges being brought against the club and their players.” In a seperate article, Hughes suggests Drogba’s days at Stamford Bridge are numbered. “As Winston Churchill might have put it, Drogba is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The 31-year-old has always lived on the edge, capable of producing acts of blinding brilliance and utter stupidity within the space of a few seconds, but the difficulty of managing his multidimensional personality is further complicated by the diminishing time left on a contract that has little more than 12 months to run.”
Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail suggests Roman Abramovich has lost patience with Drogba and in a seperate article writes “There will be changes to personnel at Chelsea but attitudes need to change as well, if not among the hierarchy then certainly in the dressing room. On a night when the football world should have been with them, it was against them. Now Chelsea need to ask themselves why.”
Sam Wallace also concentrates on the Ivorian striker. “Didier Drogba’s story is the template for the African footballer fairy tale: the kid who left the Ivory Coast to live with an uncle in France; who later slept on a rug with five other siblings and his parents in a one-room apartment in the Paris suburbs. He should represent just about everything that makes football great, its rewards for talent and its rigorous meritocracy. So why is it that when the chips are down and the pressure is on, Drogba reacts with such appalling misjudgement?”
Paul Hayward also adds to the debate on the Chelsea striker. “Jose Mourinho said of Drogba: “He is the kind of player I would tell ‘With you I could go to every war.'” He can start a good one too.”
Steven Howard lays into Drogba and Ballack for further ruining Chelsea’s reputation. “It’s time for a parting of the ways for Chelsea and striker Didier Drogba. And if the club are keen to repair the damage caused by the fallout following Wednesday nightâ€™s disgraceful scenes at Stamford Bridge, Michael Ballack will also have to go. Yes, over-promoted referee Tom Henning Ovrebo contributed to much of the mayhem but there is still little excuse for the behaviour of Chelseaâ€™s two senior professionals. Drogba has made an immense contribution to the clubâ€™s success but the stage has arrived where the good is now outweighed by both the bad and the ugly.”
Patrick Barclay claims Chelsea are “their own worst enemies.” “As a referee, Ovrebo should know that he performed badly enough to be erased from the list of World Cup possibles. As a psychologist, he is better qualified than most to say why, but Ovrebo would hardly be an intelligent human with an understanding of the referee’s burden if he had not arrived at the Bridge determined to banish any hint of intimidation… Along with the sort of casual insult that Mourinho dispensed four years ago, they are the enemies of football – and maybe, in this sense, Chelsea reaped what they had sown.”
Henry Winter argues that Chelsea need to address the flaws in their squad to challenge again. “The nucleus of a European Cup-winning team is in place: Petr Cech, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Michael Essien, Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka. Keep those, move others out. The Portuguese contingent may be thinned out, with Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho and Deco under threat. Michael Ballack is paid an obscene amount, Â£121,000 a week, but does not deliver consistently, a similar accusation that can legitimately be levelled at Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou. John Obi Mikel’s recent driving travails have hardly endeared himself to the club.”
Kevin McCarra also analyses how Chelsea can improve. “The club needs perhaps three gifted newcomers with their best days ahead of them to bring renewal. They would be costly. Then again, it will also be expensive for Abramovich if Ancelotti or someone else merely presides over decay.”
In The Daily Mail, Jamie Redknapp and Andy Townsend give their views on Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League. “How many penalties should have been awarded to Chelsea? JAMIE: Three. Daniel Alves on Florent Malouda was a penalty. There was the handball by Gerard Pique, then Michael Ballack’s shot which hit Samuel Eto’o deep into injury time. Yes, he had little time to react but watch Eto’o – he was jumping with his hands raised to block the shot. That invites a penalty. ANDY: Two. There’s no chance the late Ballack strike was a penalty, absolutely no chance. It’s ball to hand and what chance does Eto’o have to get out of the way? The foul on Malouda and the Pique handball were both stone-wall penalties. As for the foul on Didier Drogba, if he didn’t spend so much time rolling around on the floor, he might get the odd decision.”
For those who believe UEFA fixed the game to get their dream final, there is now another piece of evidence brought by The Sun. “Chelsea ans blasted UEFA after discovering the final score of 1-1 was posted on its website HOURS before kick-off. Blues supporters were stunned that the governing body of European football correctly predicted the outcome of the explosive Champions League semi-final with Barcelona. A dummy match report on UEFAâ€™s website even stated the Spanish giants would get a late equaliser. It also rightly predicted three of the four Chelsea players who got booked â€” Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Alex.”
Neil Ashton sheds more light on Tom Henning Ovebro and his reputation in Norway. “The performance of Tom Henning Ovrebo at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night was nothing new to Norwegian football fans.Â They chant ‘Mer hur enn hyerne’ – you have more hair than brains – at the bald official whenever he makes a mistake which, if you speak to any of them, appears to be fairly regularly.”
Simon Barnes sums up the issues with referees and respect following Tom Henning Ovebro’s performance. “No one respects referees. As with tax inspectors and traffic wardens, the best they can hope for is acceptance. You can’t have a football match without a referee, you can’t run a society without taxation. All we can do is make the best of the situation. We are not going to start worshipping traffic wardens as gods – or referees. Football’s culture is structured to provide an unending series of confrontations between referees and players, between authority and subject, and it is a situation that is nurtured and maintained by the vanities and fallibilities of both sides. There is an option for sanity, but football prefers madness.”
Amy Lawrence also writes of the Norwegian referee. “Anyone inclined against another Manchester United v Chelsea final would hardly leave Barcelona chasing an equaliser with 10 men for the last 25 minutes. Perhaps in time, when some of the hurt has waned, Chelsea will recognise they were not the only losers. Abidal, who joins Darren Fletcher in unjustly missing what would have been a first Champions League final appearance, is also a loser. Judging by the turbulence, the sinister threats, and by the precedent set when Frisk admitted he was “too scared to go out on a football pitch again”, perhaps nobody will lose as much as Ovrebo.”
James Lawton looks ahead to the Champions League final and in particular the battle between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. “Messi versus Ronaldo is a contest of endless intrigue. Will Ronaldo arrive beside the Tiber with the intensity he brought to the Emirates? Or will he flounce off into his own world of professional indulgence and re-drawn horizons, which we are told ever more firmly encompass Real Madrid. Messi, we can be sure, will give the game all of his heart and all of his talent. So at the end of an epic season there is good reason to believe the best man, and the best team, will be seen to be standing taller than ever before.”
Richard Williams also looks forward to the Rome final and writes that it is Sir Alex Ferguson’s chance to win in style. “The priority in Rome will be to win the match, of course, but the presence of Barcelona puts the onus on United to defend the trophy with style and a sense of adventure. Ferguson would enjoy nothing better than the sight of a side including Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs performing to the fullest extent of their capacity against another of the competition’s great names.”
Finally, it is slim pickings with the transfer gossip this morning. The latest club to be linked with bad-boy Joey Barton is Bolton, Javier Mascherano is going nowhere according to Rafa Benitez and Wigan are weighing up a move for Kris Commons.