Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It’s just a shame, after the money they invested in the summer to try build a team to do well, that it has not worked out. I don’t regret taking the job one bit. I’ve enjoyed it. We’ve been in every game except against Liverpool. Some people say they will come straight back up, but don’t kid yourself. The Championship is a tough, demanding league and you need the right characters. This will have to be looked at carefully but it’s not easy to shift players on big money. What is important – and this is not an excuse – is to get a new pitch. I’m not saying we play like Barcelona but that pitch is not conducive to good football. It’s third division standard. They must invest in the pitch to play their way out of the division, which is the only way I’d want to go.” – Harry Redknapp.
Runner-up: “The two [red cards] looked all right. I spoke with Giroud and he said he did slip at the moment he went for the ball … He is not a tackler and he went a bit over the ball and knowing Sidwell had been sent off before I had no illusion about the colour of the card. But I did not see it properly and need to look at it. I put it down to psychological reasons, to the fact of thinking: ‘Let’s not be stupid,’ and make a mistake [that costs points]. Everton was a very physical game and somewhere we were a bit jaded in the second half here – maybe that is also why Everton lost at Sunderland.” – Arsene Wenger.
Tottenham will sell Gareth Bale for £100million
Spurs want world record fee for Bale (Rob Beasley, Sunday Sun) Daniel Levy has slapped a £100million price tag on Spurs superstar Gareth Bale. Chairman Levy is demanding a world-record fee for the flying 23-year-old. And he hopes the mind-boggling sum will frighten off the chasing pack, which includes Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. The Sun revealed yesterday that new Bayern boss Pep Guardiola is determined to make Bale his first big signing. But Levy wants to keep the 22-goal Welsh wizard for at least another year. Failure to land a lucrative Champions League spot for next season, however, could force him to change his mind.
Wilshere set for surgery
Jack the knife: Arsenal star Wilshere faces ankle surgery that would rule him out for England (Steve Stammers, Sunday Mirror) Jack Wilshere is set to miss England’s two summer internationals. The Arsenal midfielder may require surgery to clear up a nagging problem with the ankle injury that kept him out of action for more than a year. The 21-year-old was a substitute in the Gunners’ 1-0 victory at Fulham yesterday and came on for the last 19 minutes. He had been sidelined for five weeks after he was injured in the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham last month but was in the starting line-up for recent matches against Norwich and Everton. Although the current injury is not serious, Wilshere may need surgery to replace a pin inserted into his ankle during the original operation in September 2011. An end-of-season op would rule him out of the friendly matches against the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on May 29 and the prestige clash in Brazil on June 2.
Moyes & Fellaini to leave Everton
Moyes and Fellaini set for Everton exit in crushing double blow at Goodison (Bob Cass, Mail on Sunday) Everton are set to be dealt a double end-of-season blow as their fading Champions League hopes mean manager David Moyes and star midfielder Marouane Fellaini are likely to depart Goodison Park. The 1-0 defeat by Sunderland left Everton four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who have two games in hand, and prompted their long-standing manager to admit the club have almost no chance of Champions League qualification. Speculation has been raging for months that Moyes will leave Goodison at the end of the season following 11 years on Merseyside, and with the Mail on Sunday today able to reveal a £23million escape clause in Fellaini’s contract, it could be a bleak summer for Everton.
Balotelli persuades AC Milan to move for Micah Richards
Balo a real Micah-taker (Phil Thomas, Sunday Sun) AC Milan are lining up a summer raid for Micah Richards — thanks in part to Mario Balotelli.The Italian giants mulled a bid for Richards last year. And they have renewed their interest after Super Mario, who left Manchester City for Milan in January, told them the defender would be a perfect fit. Richards has just returned from six months out after knee surgery.
Tottenham eyeing Alex Song
Going for a Song? Tottenham are keeping tabs on former Arsenal enforcer Alex (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror) Tottenham are keeping tabs on Alex Song’s plight at Barcelona. Song has struggled to force his way into the Barca side since quitting Arsenal last summer. The midfielder has been linked with a return to the Gunners, but it is Spurs who are watching the 25-year-old’s situation. Arsene Wenger, Song’s old boss, has advised him to stay at Barca for another year but Spurs could try to tempt the Cameroon international back to England if they qualify for the Champions League. AC Milan are ready to rival Monaco in a race to sign Tottenham defender Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Man City move for Feyenoord starlet
Manchester City ready to beat United and Liverpool to Dutch teenager Kongolo (People) Manchester City are ready to beat their Premier League rivals for Holland’s new superstar Rodney Kongolo, writes the Sunday People. City sent a delegation to watch the teenage midfielder in action for Holland’s youth team against Belgium. Liverpool also want to snatch the 6ft 1in Feyenoord star when he turns 16 and also had scouts at the international. Manchester United are also keen on Kongolo, whose mixture of size and skill excites all of the Premier League clubs who want to buy at around £1.5million.
Rafa Benitez’s return to Liverpool
Rafael Benítez takes Chelsea back to Liverpool ready to gauge the measure of his popularity (Jason Burt, Daily Telegraph) Rafael Benítez carries a business card which states ‘Rafael Benítez Maudes, Football Manager’. If only matters were that simple for the man who divides opinion more sharply than anyone else in English football. Benítez returns to Anfield on Sunday with this ultimate conundrum: at Liverpool he was more popular with the supporters than with the club; at Chelsea his situation is the polar opposite. The Kop will sing his name and Benítez must decide whether to acknowledge them. The visiting supporters in the Anfield Road Stand are more likely to attach obscenities to references to Benítez, as they did during the away victory against Fulham last Wednesday. The split continues with players. While Dietmar Hamann hails Benítez as being a “footballing genius”, Stephane Henchoz criticises his “arrogance” and “poor man-management”.
Crunch time for AVB
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City: crunch time for Andre Villas-Boas as City await (Jason Burt, Daily Telegraph) Brave because Villas-Boas had failed, for many reasons, including many not of his own making, at Chelsea; brave because his reputation had taken a buffeting in England; brave because he was following a popular manager in Harry Redknapp who many felt had been unfairly sacked. Villas-Boas’s stock had remained high in Europe and he was sounded out for other jobs across the continent, but he wanted to come back to show his truth worth and change opinions in England. It was also brave because while Spurs had finished fourth in the Premier League – only denied Champions League football because Chelsea won the competition – they were undergoing a transformation. The club’s chairman, Daniel Levy, wanted a different approach: although money would be spent, players also had to be developed and coached, especially so given the move to the new £45 million training ground.
The Champions League semi-finals
Germany and Spain put best on display for Champions League semi-finals (Barney Ronay, Observer) It is tempting to read a great deal into the swaggeringly four-square German-Spanish dominance of this season’s Champions League semi-finals. Football loves a sweeping narrative and in Bayern v Barça and Dortmund v Real there is a sense of certain shared sporting values that go beyond mere geography, a butterfly print of matching elites from which the committed Rorschach theorist might draw all manner of overheated conclusions. But if the significance of such moments of dominance can often be overstated – exhibit one: the unstoppable rise of the Premier League (sell-by date 2011) – there is still a starkness to this semi-final lineup, a sense of a greater historical ascent in play. Something is happening here. But what, exactly? Perhaps the most striking element of this drift towards a Germano-Iberian duopoly is the feeling not of opposed and contrasting superpowers, but of convergence and consensus, of a fraternal similarity. The dawning of the age of Iberia may have been upon us for some time, but in the Bayern supremacy it finds an answering echo: if Germany and Spain are streets ahead when it comes to player development and tactical coherence, they appear to have skipped off around the corner more or less hand-in-hand.
An open letter to the FA
Dear Football Association: do you really care about the fans? (Daniel Taylor, Observer) It just grates to learn that Virgin Trains warned you about the problems it would cause for all those thousands of people coming down from Manchester and Wigan and, let’s be honest, you decided to look the other way. It jars that you probably would have known anyway bearing in mind you did the same last season when it meant no trains back to Merseyside for Liverpool supporters. Remember how Kenny Dalglish accused you of taking people for granted? “It’s not just about the fans of this club but every fan,” he said. “The fans should be given more respect and taken into consideration.” What he was saying, in essence, was that you don’t really care less as long as the television companies are happy.