The mystery of Liverpool’s fit Aquilani, why players “like Beattie have that certain attitude” (Ian Wright) & West Ham track Adriano while Celtic want Robbie Keane
Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Alberto’s available to play and has been for more than a month. He feels good and the injury has cleared up, and now the only way he can get truly fit is to play more and more minutes. He is desperate to get his career in England up and running. He has been very frustrated, first at being injured, then at not being chosen to play for so long. Obviously he’s not happy at waiting for such a long time to get involved with the team. I don’t know the reasons why BenÃtez has chosen not to play him since he came back for injury. That is an issue for Alberto. He must convince the coach that he has to play. I don’t know of any special motivation for BenÃtez in not playing him.” – Claudio Aquilani.
Runner-up: “Let’s not dream too much in January that we can find a world-class player, who is what is needed to strengthen our team, who is not cup-tied in the Champions League and who is free.” – Arsene Wenger.
Today’s overview: Another day, another set of problems for Liverpool.
The spotlight is shone straight in Rafa Benitez’s face today by Guardian scribe Andy Hunter, who reports “Alberto Aquilani is scheduled to make a full Liverpool debut tomorrow night against Fiorentina with his father revealing that the Â£20m midfielder has been fit for more than a month and is frustrated at Rafael BenÃtez’s reluctance to deploy his services. Claudio Aquilani’s diagnosis could be dismissed as biased but for his employment as a paramedic at Roma, his son’s former club.”
Ahead of Manchester United’s match with Wolfsburg tonight in the Champions League, Louise Taylor surveys the walking wounded in Fergie’s squad. “Ferguson arrived in Germany accompanied by one fit and established defender and facing the worst injury crisis in all his years at Old Trafford. Thirteen of Manchester United’s first-team squad are injured and while several of those players are due to return against Aston Villa on Saturday, Rio Ferdinand is out indefinitely and Ferguson tonight confirmed that Jonny Evans and John O’Shea will not play again this year.” Looking further afield, James Ducker is concerned that the injury crisis “could derail Manchester Unitedâ€™s title challenge.”
Staying with German club football, Kevin McCarra investigates the failure of Bundesliga clubs in the Champions League since 2001. “It is a blow to the sport when an affluent nation with a population of 82m and an invigorating football tradition does so little to dispel the monotony of English and Spanish domination.”
The fallout from the Stoke bust-up between manager Tony Pulis and striker James Beattie is fleshed out in the backpages this Tuesday. And, unsurprisingly, the footballer appears to have pulled the short straw according to Dominic Fifield, who wrote “so violent was the clash between the two, it could be doubtful that the rift can now be repaired… the forward could yet seek a move away from the Potteries in next month’s transfer window.” Matt Lawton supports that opinion, reporting “Pulis, sources say, is now intent on off-loading the player he signed from Sheffield United in January for Â£3.5million.”
Yet, before the consequences are assessed, the facts of the incident are debated by Ian Edwards. “Details of the embarrassing clash continued to emerge last night and a source within the dressing room indicated that Pulis, wearing only a towel, confronted Beattie after [he]… had shown dissent towards his manager when he learnt that they would not have two days off after their festive celebrations. The insider insists there was no attempt from Pulis to butt Beattie and that no punches were thrown in what was a ’bout of pushing and shoving.'” Ian Herbert claims though “one version of events is that Beattie, as one of the senior players, told the players that he would be able clear it with Pulis for them all to have Monday off, only to find the manager only prepared to release his players for a night out in London on Saturday.”
Despite the facts still being unclear, Martin Blackburn has no qualms in character-assassinating James Beattie in The Sun. “Beattie piled more shame on Stoke as he left the training ground grinning with a bunch of schoolboys… The incident has put a huge question mark over his future at the Britannia less than a year after he joined for Â£3.5million from Sheffield United.Â But it did not seem to bother him as he paid a flying visit to the training ground and left looking pretty pleased with himself… SunSport can reveal a four-letter word outburst from Beattie on Saturday sparked the row with Pulis.”
That opened the door for loudmouth Ian Wright to make broad-brush generalisations and assumptions about modern day Premier League footballers. “The problem is that many footballers’ egos are now massive. Some are pretty average talent-wise but they are multi-millionaires. They think they can do what they like and say what they like. Players like Beattie have that certain attitude. They have no problems financially and they get a false sense of security in terms of the way they act. They can become over-confident. In fact, I heard a rumour that one of the reasons for the bust-up was because he has been repeatedly requesting a contract extension.”
Bobby Zamora, who reacted to scoring against Sunderland by cursing Fulham fans that criticised him on the internet, is given some advise by David Hytner. “Perhaps the lesson for Zamora is not to react. He has only given ammunition to his critics who, since the Sunderland game, unsurprisingly, have been in brow-beating form on the official Fulham forum.”
England’s World Cup aspirations continue to be chewed over, with Matt Dickinson linking last weekend’s spate of missed penalties in the Premier League to bigger problems on the international stage. “Ah yes, England footballers and penalties. Thatâ€™s when things get tricky… This is the baggage that Capello has inherited; a desperation for victory wrapped up with a fateful sense of doom. Germany score penalties; we miss and descend into rancorous recriminations.”
And talking of chokers, Matt Hughes rips into Spurs for their recent run of form. “In the space of six days last week Tottenham Hotspur twice confirmed their unwanted reputation as the kings of the wasted opportunity… Harry Redknapp has rapidly assembled the strongest Tottenham squad for almost two decades, but problems persist that, unless corrected, could undermine it. The biggest appears to be psychological, perhaps a lack of hard-headed belief stemming from years of underachievement.”
In a standout article, Robin Scott-Elliot traces how Flamengo striker Adriano has gone from walking out on Inter Milan amid a battle with drink and depression to winning the title in Brazil. “Six months on and he… is a markedly different Adriano. He has, it seems, travelled his road to redemption.” Not revealing their source, The Sun then chime “Gianfranco Zola plans a shock move for Brazil superstar Adriano in an effort to halt West Ham’s slide towards the Championship.”
Continuing with the rest of the transfers, the Independent print “Manchester United are lining up a summer bid for giant Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko.” Oh no, says the Daily Mail, who fart “Sir Alex Ferguson has distanced himself from speculation linking Edin Dzeko with a big-money move to Manchester United.” The Daily Mail then claim “Iceland wonderkid KristjÃ¡n Gauti Emilsson, 16, is set to sign for Liverpool later this week. The centre back, who also had trials with Manchester United and Rangers, was offered a contract after impressing Rafa Benitez.”
In other news The Sun report “Amr Zaki is in talks with Portsmouth three weeks after making a racist attack on boss Avram Grant,” while according to Phil Thomas “Manchester City are plotting a Â£12million January swoop for Germany defender Philipp Lahm.”
With an atrocious record of bleating transfers lies, Alan Nixon splashes with the EXCLUSIVE that “Celtic boss Tony Mowbray is making a new move to sign Tottenham’s out-of-favour Robbie Keane – in an ambitious loan deal to cope with his huge wages.” Alan Nixon continues with the difficult to swallow stories, then tooting how “Aston Villa striker John Carew is a shock transfer target for wealthy Turkish giants Fenerbahce – with a Â£5million bid on the cards.”
Next, adopting a headline that stinks of trying to get a story spread as many clubs as possible, John Cross tabled the gossip that Barcelona’s “whizz-kid [Jeffren] Suarez offered to Blackburn, Wigan, Everton and Celtic.”
In a hard-to-believe article, Christopher Davies trumpets the rumour that “Tony Adams is in line to become coach of the New York Red Bulls – and hopes to take former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry with him.”