Sparky shines after City’s UEFA Cup exit, the unhappiness of Carlos Tevez, while Walcott, RVP & Cesc look to commit to Arsenal

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I still want Everton to do well. I’ve said before that I’d love them to finish second in the league to us. It’s just always a bit strange when I face them, because they’re the club I supported growing up and then played for. There’s always banter between me and the fans but it doesn’t run too deep. All the stick I get just makes me want to do better but it doesn’t bother me that much because I expect it whenever I play Everton. Theirs is the result I still look out for first and I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game… It was the best feeling I ever had as an Everton fan, seeing them win the FA Cup. I had loads of Everton posters on my wall as a kid, and I always remember Graham Stuart hitting the bar just before Paul Rideout scored.” – Wayne Rooney.

Runner-up: “In a few years’ time I would like to play in Serie A. I would then have played in the three biggest leagues in European football: Spain, England and Italy. Real Madrid are not the biggest team in the game. They are a big club but so are Barcelona, Milan, Bayern Munich and Inter. It is not a team that interests me and, because of the time I spent at Atletico Madrid, the opposite could be said. I cannot see myself playing for Real Madrid.” – Fernando Torres.

Today’s overview: Despite exiting the UEFA Cup, Mark Hughes’ standing at Manchester City appears to be solidified this Friday as Sparky is credited with inspiring a top-draw performance from his team last night against Hamburg.

Having watched Manchester City’s exit from the UEFA Cup, David Conn argues that Mark Hughes showed a glimpse of tomorrow’s world at Eastlands. “His team played manfully and skilfully for him here Brazilians included, and City’s fans showed how deeply they feel they belong to the club the Sheikh bought. Khaldoon will have been impressed and, although City went out, they did so in a certain blaze of triumph. They banished the question mark dangling over Mark Hughes’ head, for now.” Daniel Taylor followed suit writing “this was a courageous effort from Mark Hughes’s team, toying with the crowd’s nerves and emotions and coming agonisingly close to completing an improbable escape.”

James Ducker remains unsure over Hughes’ future at City. “Hughes is not out of the woods yet. City have made a habit of taking a step forward then two back this season and defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion… would represent another blow to the manager’s hopes of surviving beyond the summer, but when al-Mubarak reports back to Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner, in Abu Dhabi this evening, the assessment could not fail to be glowing.”

With Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, Gabrielle Marcotti reviews the reactions from the continent. “Throughout Europe there were only two real arguments against English top-flight football. The first is a familiar one: the lack of Englishmen… The other perceived flaw is the goalkeepers.” On the same topic Henry Winter challenges Michel Platini’s aversion to the English dominance in the Champions League. “Rarely can the last four have seen such a glitzy cast as assembled by Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Barcelona: Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Frank Lampard, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Xavi. Memo to Michel Platini: now that’s entertainment; now that’s a reason to celebrate the Premier League as well as pay homage to Catalonia.”

No sooner have Manchester United returned to Blighty then trouble appears for the Red Devils in the papers.

Oliver Kay lifts the lid on Carlos Tevez’s unhappiness at Old Trafford at present, with the vultures circling overhead. “The Argentina forward was particularly frustrated at being dropped to the substitutes’ bench for both legs of the Champions League ties against Inter Milan and Porto… [Man] City and Chelsea are aware of the player’s likely availability, along with Inter, but his most likely destination may be Madrid, with Florentino Perez eager to secure the forward’s signature.”

Turning to CR7, Simon Barnes struggles to allow himself to celebrate Ronaldo’s talent. “Every time I hear someone describe Ronaldo as the best footballer in the world, I have always decisively rejected the notion. I think of others, someone, anyone… and yet no convincing alternative comes to mind. And that’s deeply dispiriting.”

Yet again the subject of Chelsea’s future manager is tabled, the Telegraph’s Jason Burt delivering the rumour that “Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Russian international Yuri Zhirkov head a £50 million hit list of summer transfer targets being considered by Chelsea as part of the deal to bring Carlo Ancelotti to the club as their new manager.”

Good news for Gooners this Friday, the Telegraph announce that Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie are set to sign new deals, while over in The Times Cesc Fabregas’ future with Arsenal is said to be cemented for the near future. Lastly on the North Londoners, James Lawton waxes lyrical over the Professor. “You cannot shake off Wenger. He keeps coming with his perfectionist zeal. He is only part football manager. Some of him is also pure missionary.”

Sad news this morning for West Ham fans as Matt Scott reports on how the club “will be taken over by a consortium of international banks in the coming weeks… the consortium of about half a dozen banks nominated by more than 40 institutions – Straumur’s ­creditors – expect to remain in charge of West Ham next season and probably well in to 2011.”

Fulham fans will be buoyed by Paul Doyle’s reporting that manager Roy Hodgson, on the cusp of European qualification, has held a “cusory meeting: with owner Mohamed Al Fayed over funds for new summer signings.

On today’s football grapevine, Richard Bright peddles the story linking Felipe Scolari with a return to management with QPR, however an even more far fetched name is posed by Shaun Custis who claims “Romario is in the frame to become QPR boss.” The Mirror offer a third way, suggesting that Alan Pardew could become the new Rangers’ boss.

According to the Daily Mail, Ryan Babel is set for the Anfield axe this summer, while over at Aston Villa the Mirror report that O’Neill is “lining up a £6million bid for Leeds starlet Fabian Delph as they plan for life without Gareth Barry.” The Mirror continue by saying Blackburn are tracking “19-year-old Austrian striker Mark Arnautovic of Dutch side FC Twente.” Alan Nixon pens “West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola is chasing Swansea’s Spanish right-back Angel Rangel – as a potential replacement for out-of-contract Lucas Neill.” While the Daily Express announce that “Alex McLeish is ready to make a £2million bid for Bolton defender Danny Shittu this summer.”

Real Madrid are talked up in the Daily Mail as preparing to “usher in the new era of the Galacticos by trying to take both Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Bernabeu. And while AC Milan insist Brazil star Kaka will not be sold, it is claimed they are lining up Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor as a replacement.”

Finally, Shane Richmond reviews Goalpostr (check it out here). “Goalpostr wants people to provide interesting, respectable punditry and if Twitter is anything to go by, there’s certainly a demand for that.”