Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I still sleep soundly every night. I’m not worried about everything people say. I don’t care what people outside Liverpool think… I fought hard to get where I am and now all I care about is playing football for Liverpool… Sometimes you’re standing there and someone comes flying in, so you move your leg out of the way or you go to ground because you’re scared of getting hit,’ he says. ‘If I leave my leg there so the referee can see it’s a foul, I risk suffering a big injury. That’s why sometimes your instinct tells you to go to ground. It’s a split-second instinct, not a conscious decision you make on the pitch. Of course, I don’t want people to go around saying ‘this guy just dives’. What matters most to me is my family, playing for Liverpool, the Liverpool fans and the team. Anything else that goes on is not my problem. I don’t read the papers or watch TV. Every time they boo me or chant something about me, it just gives me more confidence to keep playing.” – Luis Suarez (interview in the Mail on Sunday).
Runner-up: “There’s an awful lot of players at this club earning far too much money for what they are; far, far, far too much money for their ability and what they give to the club. We’re short in certain areas. I don’t want to spend the owners’ money really. I’ve got to be honest with you. I don’t want to see the owners have their pants taken down like they have in the past. A lot of agents have made an awful lot of money out of them. I fined a player (Jose Bosingwa) last week and he was earning more than anybody at Tottenham, so that tells you everything.” – Harry Redknapp.
Cristiano Back To Old Trafford?!
I’d love to join United (Sun) Cristiano Ronaldo wants to re-join Manchester United next summer. SunSport can reveal the former United star wishes to quit Real Madrid and return to Old Trafford, a day after boss Alex Ferguson admitted he would love him back. Ronaldo, 27, has already told pals as well as ex-Red Devils team-mates he wants to “come home”. The bombshell news comes days after Real Madrid were pitted against United in a mouthwatering Champions League tie. But the £80million world record signing admits a deal at the moment seems “impossible” due to the vast sums involved, which Fergie conceded.
Ferguson may laud Messi and Ronaldo, but he loves his Roo more (Andy Dunn, People) Mischievously on Friday, Fergie spoke about the possibility of re-signing Ronaldo. But here’s a question. Would United fans have Ronaldo back if it meant Rooney going the other way? I doubt it. For all his dedication to the team ethic, you suspect Rooney would like to be mentioned in the same breath as Messi and Ronaldo, would like to be on the podium when the Ballon D’Or is handed out. For that, he needs to inspire victory against Real and spearhead a successful United bid for a fourth European Cup. In 2014, assuming England qualify for Brazil, he needs to find a way of showing peak form on the grand stage.
Big Sam, Big Shock
Allardicey: West Ham could let Big Sam go despite lofty league position (Mirror) Allardyce has just six months remaining on his West Ham contract and is yet to start formal talks about a new deal. West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan have told Allardyce that no decisions are likely to be made until the club have secured their Premier League status for next season. But a Hammers source told Sunday Mirror Sport: “There are certainly no guarantees that Sam will be offered a new contract at the moment.”
City 1 – Reading 0
My heart can’t take all this (Sun) Roberto Mancini’s team once again showed plenty of heart. But the Manchester City boss admits his ticker might not take the strain if they keep leaving it so late. Gareth Barry sank rock-bottom Reading with a controversial headed winner in the 93rd minute… City have now beaten Reading, Spurs, West Brom and Fulham this season with goals nabbed in the 87th minute… or even later.
‘Fergie-time’ winner sure to lift the mood of champions (Rob Draper, Mail) For now they know that titles can be won in what was once known as ‘Fergie Time’. Yet it has to be said that things did look pretty desperate as full-time approached yesterday with the score locked at 0-0. The backdrop did not help: black skies and pouring rain at the darkest time of the year. But it was not just the weather. The lack of intensity, creativity and guile from the Premier League champions yesterday in the final 30 minutes against a side reckoned to be the Premier League’s poorest was the real reason for the gloominess.
Liverpool 4 – Fulham 0
Stewart Downing finally finds his feet as Liverpool run riot against Fulham (Jack Gaughan, Independent) Even Stewart Downing managed to score and muster an assist. Those facts – both were the winger’s first for the club in the Premier League during 45 much-maligned games – neatly encapsulate how Brendan Rodgers’ philosophical insistence might just be beginning to bear fruit towards the end of a torrid calendar year at Anfield. If it is taking Downing a long time to prove his £20m worth, reinforcements are in the offing. Daniel Sturridge is expected at Anfield to discuss the formalities of a deal in the next two days.
Chelsea: Lampard & Cole Out, Mata Signing On & Brining In Falcao
Chelsea would be crazy to let Lampard and Cole walk out (Harry Redknapp, Sun) For me, it would be total madness to get rid of the likes of Frank Lampard, who is 34, John Terry, 32, and Cole. Whatever superstars Chelsea have, and they have many — Mata, Hazard and Ramires to name three — Lampard, Terry and Cole remain the backbone of the Chelsea team. For any club to be successful, they must boast the right balance of talent, experience and total commitment in the back office as well as on the pitch.
A Mata of time: Chelsea tie down Spanish star to a new five-year deal (People) Chelsea are set to offer Juan Mata a new contract that will keep him at Stamford Bridge for the next five years… The indications are he will be offered a two-year extension to his current agreement and take his wages to around the £100,000 a week mark.
Rafa puts heat on Torres (Sun) Fernando Torres has told boss Rafa Benitez that January signings will increase his hunger in front of goal… Chelsea are set to spend with £20million Shakhtar Donetsk striker Willian top of Roman Abramovich’s wish-list.
Fernando Torres to get £50m Christmas present in Radamel Falcao (Star) Chelsea are thrashing out a deal to bring Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao to London as a £50million Christmas present for Fernando Torres.
Eden’s heaven is Real (Sun) Christian Benteke has revealed his pal Eden Hazard dreams of playing for Real Madrid… Benteke said: “I am not surprised at Eden’s success with Chelsea — and he can do even better. He has the qualities needed to become an even greater player. His dream is to join Real Madrid — so I don’t see why he can’t join them in a year or two.”
What About Walcott?
I won’t walk out in January, says Arsenal contract rebel Walcott (Mail) Theo Walcott is determined to see out the season with Arsenal, whatever transpires from his last-ditch contract talks that will take place next month.
Manchester City eye free Theo Walcott (Star) Man City are set to raid Arsenal again and threaten Arsene Wenger’s desperate bid to keep Theo Walcott. Gunners boss Wenger is trying to persuade Walcott to sign a new contract with the England star’s current deal up at the end of the season… City could now make a cut-price offer for Walcott in next month’s transfer window – or try to sign him as a free agent in the summer.
Jose Drops Iker & Madrid Lose
Mourinho dismisses quit talk after Casillas gamble backfires (Pete Jenson, Mail) Critics argue that the Portuguese has already decided to go at the end of the season and knows that if he is dismissed he would be due compensation of €20million (£16.3m) — hence the incendiary decision to leave out a club legend. His supporters emphasise that the team have conceded seven of their 17 goals from set-pieces this season and point to Casillas’s weakness on crosses. For Mourinho to drop the two-times European champion and World Cup winner is seen as provocative.
Sunday Op-eds: Twitter Watch, Christmas Parties & Michu
Why bother watching football when you can follow it through tweets? (David James, Observer) Foolishly I hadn’t counted on how addictive it might be, especially to someone with an addictive personality – without a job. You can imagine the impact on my home life… Everything about the medium screams anarchy, power structures turned on their head. While Rio has 3.7 million followers, the FA has 280,000; while Wayne Rooney tweets to 5.5 million, most Premier League clubs do well to attract even half a million. And, if you have such a huge captive audience, then why bother speaking to traditional media?
Party now and you may be celebrating in May… just like United in our amazing treble year of 1999 (Gary Neville, Mail) I genuinely believe that the Christmas parties were pivotal in creating that. In 1998 we had been disappointing up to Christmas. We had lost against Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday, Spurs and to Middlesbrough at home. But after Christmas we were unbeaten until the end of the season Don’t get me wrong. The main reason you have success on a football pitch is down to what you do on the training ground. It’s down to dedication and determination and concentration during a match. But just as important is the mentality of the squad. And that means being able to call out your team-mates when they’re not delivering. The best teams police themselves.
Van Persie v Michu: Which one will turn out to be the real bargain buy of the season? (Mail) The 26-year-old, who arrived at Swansea in the summer as one of manager Michael Laudrup’s first signings, has matched Manchester United’s Robin van Persie, the top-flight’s most prolific striker over the past two seasons. Both are in the form of their lives, with 12 goals apiece, and today they will meet at the Liberty Stadium with equally strong reputations, even though Michu cost Swansea a modest £2million while Sir Alex Ferguson paid 12 times that to lure Van Persie from Arsenal to United.
Steve McClaren: young players in Holland are much more advanced (Observer) “Everybody here wants to ‘get the ball out’; they want to be a coach. They discuss with you not winning or losing, they discuss tactics: ‘Why did you play that team? Why did you make that change? What did you say at half-time?’ It’s not about: ‘Win, you’re the hero; lose, you’re the bum; draw, you’re somewhere in between.’ And the analysis is good. But it’s a football nation, a coaching nation. They develop coaches here.”
City desperate to land Neymar (Telegraph) Manchester City sporting director Txiki Begiristain has flown to Brazil for talks to sign Brazilian superstar Neymar next season.
AC Milan plan £20m swoop for Mario… but City and Mancini are on a collision course if Balotelli returns to Italy (Mail) Italian giants AC Milan claim they are lining up a £20million bid to sign striker Mario Balotelli in next month’s transfer window — against the wishes of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.
The new Villa? Wenger prioritises Adrián over Barcelona’s 31yo original (People) Arsenal made an enquiry about Barcelona striker Villa, but Wenger is worried about splashing out £12m and £100,000-a-week on a 31-year-old. It means Wenger has prioritised Atletico Madrid’s Adrian Lopez, who has been called a younger version of Villa in Spain. Lopez has a buyout clause of nearly £15m, but his wage demands are significantly cheaper than Villa’s and he only turns 25 on January 8.
Gunners eye David Villa, while London rivals battle for Anelka’s signature (Independent) Arsenal are lining up a loan move for the Barcelona striker David Villa with a view to a permanent deal at the end of the season… West Ham and Queens Park Rangers are at the front of the queue to bring Nicolas Anelka back to the Premier League. The striker looks likely to be leaving the Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua in January following a dispute over pay.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger’s new song Lucas Biglia going for big money (Star) Arsenal will have to pay £8.3million if they want Anderlecht’s Argentine midfield player Lucas Biglia.
Okore blimey! United set to raid Denmark for new centre-back (People) Sir Alex Ferguson has made the signing of a centre-back his priority for January – and Denmark international Jores Okore is on his radar… Nordsjaelland star Okore, 20, is high on his list of targets after impressing in his club’s Champions League campaign.
Harry Redknapp plans to use escape clause to seal Diame signing (People) QPR boss Harry Redknapp is ready to move for West Ham’s Momo Diame and exploit a £3.5m ‘escape clause’ in his deal.
West Ham target Kiessling deal (Telegraph) Club have made a £10million bid for the leading scorer in the Bundesliga, Stefan Kiessling of Bayer Leverkusen.
Kop closing in on Sturridge (Sun) Daniel Sturridge will have a medical at Liverpool today ahead of a £12million move to Anfield. The Chelsea strike ace, 23, is due on Merseyside with manager Brendan Rodgers confident the deal can be done the second the transfer window opens.
City continue to watch young defender as Kolo replacement (People) Manchester City are ready to raid French side Saint-Etienne for powerful centre half Kurt Zouma as Kolo Toure’s long-term replacement.
So near yet so Zaha: First bid is in for England kid, and it’s not from United (People) Tottenham are ready to make an £8million bid for Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha – and spark an auction for his signature.
Blues have Arfa chance (Sun) Chelsea are keen to revive their interest in Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa next summer. Blues are ready to pay £12million for the French midfielder.
Clarke hopeful of keeping Chelsea loan signing Lukaku in January window (Mail) Clarke said: ‘He is on a season-long loan but there is an opportunity for the parent club to take him back in January. I can’t affect it so I don’t like to talk about it.’
Bent move: Jol the new frontrunner in chase for Villa forward (People) Darren Bent is expected to be fit to make a move from Aston Villa in the January transfer window – with Fulham favourites to sign the England striker… Fulham are poised to sign Standard Liege goalkeeper Sinan Bolat in an £800,000 deal.
Lille bit of help, Pards (Sun) Mathieu Debuchy has urged Newcastle boss Alan Pardew to make a fresh bid for him. The Lille right-back almost joined the Magpies in the summer before his Ligue 1 club blocked the deal.
Villa call on Alf service (Sun) Villa boss Paul Lambert faces a battle with AC Milan to persuade £6million-rated Iceland striker Alfred Finnbogason to move from Heerenveen.
Leeds ready to splash the cash on Southampton striker Lambert (Mail) Rickie Lambert is the surprise name on Neil Warnock’s wishlist for Leeds following the club’s takeover by Dubai-based group GFH.
Stones could rock at the DW Stadium as Wigan race to sign £3m teen (Mail) Wigan are set to beat Chelsea, Sunderland, Manchester City and Everton to sign £3million Barnsley teenager John Stones.