Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “No, I don’t think so, because it’s difficult to think about Torres with Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba. Torres is a fantastic player. For every club it’s better to grow a player with this ability in the academy. We have players with experience, with ability, with skills. It’s not necessary to spend for the sake of spending. I think that this club can invest money for players if it is necessary.” – Carlo Ancelotti.
Runner-up: “The structure of the team is all right. We want to improve but the question is how can you improve and where can you improve? It’s difficult to assess what we need. We’ve plenty of players and we’ve got young strikers. We’ve signed Hernandez, we’ve got Diouf, Welbeck and Macheda, who could be a top player. Man City will buy and Tottenham will buy now they’re in the Champions’ League. Harry [Redknapp] likes to buy! But he won’t be at the corner shop this time, he’ll be able to go to the supermarket.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Today’s overview: It’s Sunday, so that means the transfers crap is ready to explode on the public as the final day of the Premier League gets ready to play out.
Lies, Lies & more Lies: Spurs fans, cockahoop at their club’s achievement at reaching the Champions League will have had the wind taken out of their sails by their so-called potential marquee signing this summer. Hyperbole aside, Aidan Magee deflates the Lilywhites by coughing “Harry Redknapp is gearing up for next season’s Champions League campaign by making a move for Real Madrid superstar Raul.” An alternative transfer target is forwarded by Joe Bernstein, who chimes in with news that “Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy is set to end up in the Champions League after all â€” by moving to Tottenham this summer in a cut-price Â£6million deal.”
Turning to their north London rivals, Dan King is found gossip-mongering as he claims Arsenal’s are after West Ham keeper Rob Green and Palermo centre-half Simon Kjaer. Far more worrying for Gunners though is the report in The People that boasts “Barcelona are drawing up TWO plans of attack to land Cesc Fabregas this summer… They are considering is a Â£40m bid for Fabregas, who is contracted to the Gunners until 2014. But a second option being seriously weighed up is a player-plus-cash transfer â€“ a Â£25m cash deal that would also see Ivory Coast star Yaya Toure move to the Emirates.”
Staying in the English capital, Jeremy Butler spreads the news that “Chelsea’s Michael Ballack looks in line for a return to German football with Schalke.” Also heading out of the Bridge, Steve Millar notes “Alex Ferguson hopes to end a seven-year itch by signing Joe Cole from title rivals Chelsea.” The Blues however will keep hold of Frank Lampard according Will Payne, who chin-wags the tabloid trash “England football star Frank Lampard has turned his back on a multi-million-pound move abroad… to stay with new love ÂChristine Bleakley.”
Reported as a done-deal Martin Hardy writes “West Ham will begin their rebuilding process by signing Martin Petrov on a Bosman free transfer.”
Neil Ashton tries to scare the Cottagers by barking “Fulham fear they will lose seven of their star players – plus Roy Hodgson. Skipper Danny Murphy, keeper Mark Schwarzer, Simon Davies, Paul Konchesky, Zoltan Gera, Dickson Etuhu and John Pantsil all have just one year left on their existing deals.” On the incomings at the Cottage Neil Ashton claims “Steve Sidwell is on the verge of a cut-price move to Fulham after being told he can quit Aston Villa.”
Bad news for Pompey fans comes from Rory Smith who yelps “Portsmouth will start a Â£35 million fire-sale of their entire first-team and youth squads immediately after the FA Cup final next Saturday in an attempt to cut their crippling Â£34.2 million annual wage bill.”
A mass clearout is also mooted on Merseyside, with The People reporting “Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez hopes to raise Â£35million for new players by flogging his Kop flops â€“ if he decides to stay on at Anfield. Benitez has put Â£17m Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani up for sale after just one injury-hit season, along with Holland forward Ryan Babel, French striker David Ngog and Moroccan winger Nabil El Zhar.”
Who wants Torres? Harry Pratt details how “Carlo Ancelotti has Âdelivered a sensational snub to Fernando Torres by Âinsisting: We donâ€™t need you at Chelsea.” Simon Mullock is quick to forward other suitors though for El Nino, chugging “Manchester City will attempt to cash in on the chaos at Liverpool by offering the Merseyside club Â£40million for Fernando Torres.”
Consolidation: Neil Ashton coughs “Roberto Mancini has offered Patrick Vieira the chance to stay at Manchester City for another season.” Also looking to keep hold of their midfielders, Steve Sammers scribbles “Luka Modric is set to sign a new contract that will keep him at Tottenham for five years.”
Managers on the Move: Manchester City may have missed out on next year’s Champions League, but that hasn’t appeared to spoil the club’s appetite at looking to the stars. Andy Dunn reports “City have identified Fabio Capello as the man they want to help them become an established European force.”
Greg Gobere twists the truth farting “Roy Hogdson has issued a ‘come and get me’ plea to Liverpool.” (Hogdson’s actual quote reads “If the day comes when a big club wants me and I am available then I would be happy to do it.”) And challenging that position head-on, Paul Hetherington argues “Liverpool have decided to go British in their search for a new manager – with Aston Villa’s Martin O’Neill their No. 1.”
Quickly filling the gap of who’ll move in at Villa Park should the merry-go-round go to plan, Paul Smith shouts “Slaven Bilic has emerged as the shock favourite to succeed Martin Oâ€™Neill at Aston Villa.”
However the whole O’Neill-on-the-move story is flagged up as baseless nonsense in the Sunday Express, who roll out quotes from the northern Irishman. O’Neill: “Of course I want to stay. Why wouldn’t I? It is a fantastic football club and it has things in place. I am well aware these days, more so than ever before, of how things work. Do you deny the story and thereby people say that there is a story in the first place or do you let it run and by letting it run and not denying it you are giving it credibility. So that saying ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ is something that comes to mind pretty readily.”
Crocked, Shocked & the Three Lions: With 33 days to go until the World Cup kicks off, the British press are still frantically trying to second-guess Fabio Capello and work out who’ll be representing England in South Africa.
Andy Dunn positions himself as having the inside track, with some big shake-ups expected at the back for England. “[Rio Ferdinand’s] spot in Fabio Capello’s 23-man squad to South Africa is under serious threat despite his position as England captain… [Jamie] Carragher will not only be named in the provisional squad of 30, he will make the cut for the final 23… Ledley King [is] also a certainty to travel.”
Looking at the England forwards, Gary Lineker goes out on a limb to argue that Darren Bent is more deserving than Emile Heskey of a place in the squad. “It might surprise some but I would take Bent above Heskey. Bent has scored 24 Premier League goals this season, Heskey three. If you are losing a World Cup quarter-final with 10 minutes to go, who would you rather see on the pitch?… I think Capello will opt for Heskey because of the Aston Villa man’s relationship with Rooney – but I’d take Bent.”
Blue is the Colour: Steve Tongue looks at picking apart how Chelsea have managed to put themselves in pole position for this season’s Premier League. “Chelsea have still suffered half a dozen defeats, which will be the highest number inflicted on any champions (United have lost seven) for 10 years. Yet better to lose to those just outside the top bracket â€“ like Tottenham, Aston Villa, Manchester City (twice) and Everton â€“ than conceding points to more serious challengers.”
Next to analyse Chelsea’ impending Premier League success was Jonathan Northcroft. “Chelsea will finish with a points total roughly the same as in the past three seasons but the tallies of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have depreciated. The comprehensive English failure in the Champions League suggests standards of the Premier Leagueâ€™s elite have diminished. One of their number are about to lift the crown having lost more league games than any title-winning side since 2000-01. Thatâ€™s not to say Chelsea will be anything less than deserving champions if they prevail: 95 goals, two short of the Premier League record with one game to play, is the calling card of thrilling and consistent entertainers. The prize for best playing style in England is usually a theoretical joust between Arsenal and United but Chelsea, taking something from Arsenalâ€™s possession game and something from Unitedâ€™s ensemble counterattacking method, have outplayed both.”
The best of British: Piers Morgan, a staunch Arsenal fan, ignores his club allegiances by singing the praising of Harry Redknapp this weekend. “I hate Spurs with a greater passion than I love Ambrosia Creamed Rice (and I could kill for a tin of that sometimes). But even I felt thrilled for Harry Redknapp when he was being doused in iced water by his gleeful players after taking Tottenham to the Champions League… Heâ€™s Mike Bassett with brains. And Iâ€™d have made him England manager years ago, an ultimate dream that I hope he achieves before itâ€™s too late… Harryâ€™s greatest achievement at Spurs may well be that he has single-handedly changed that mentality, and made British managers cool again.”
Next to wax lyrical over Harry Redknapp was Hugh McIlvanney. “Anybody who regards him strictly as a street-wise wheeler-dealer should look closely at his work and recognise that there arenâ€™t many men in this country or anywhere else who know as much as he does about how to create, organise and inspire to maximum performance football teams capable of being both immensely effective and highly entertaining on the field. He talks simply about the game but understands it profoundly. And he has the cojones to confront major challenges, as he showed against City by ignoring the insurance provided by this afternoonâ€™s final fixture at Burnley and opting for a player selection and a strategy that bristled with positive intent.”
Keeping focus on Premier League managers, James Corrigan argues that Redknapp and Hodgson have proved that clubs need to stick with their coaches for the long term. “Owners now have the examples, if not the excuse, to stick with the trusty old hands and ignore their “bright-new-thing” temptations. The urge to replace has never seemed so foolhardy, the rush to appoint a superstar saviour never so unnecessary. Not when you look at the achievements of Fulham and Spurs. Granted, neither of Hodgson or Redknapp has been in their respective hot seats for any great time. But originally they were seen as stop-gap managers, there to do a job and then to make way for the genuine visionaries. Well, who’s fulfilling the dreams now?”
Comparing and contrasting the achievements of Spurs and Fulham, Paul Wilson believes Tottenham come out on top. “Achievement of the season ought to go to Spurs for finally cracking the top four, especially with an English manager and half a dozen players for Fabio Capello to consider, though for almost identical reasons Fulham will have an unanswerable case should they win in Hamburg on Wednesday. One recognises that just getting to the final is an immense achievement for a club of Fulham’s size, but breathing life into the unhealthily static situation at the top of the table is a welcome development for which we should all be grateful.”