Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I fully expected that when Owen did move from here â€“ he was an ambitious manager and we accepted that might happen â€“ that he would go upwards from Burnley and not to someone who is sideways, a club who we are fighting a relegation scrap with. It was a surprise and obviously it has been a trauma for the football club. None of us wanted Owen to go. We had talks and we managed to get Owen to delay his decision by 24 hours. We put our case strongly and were hopeful that he would stay with us, but he decided to carry on and go to Bolton. He had a fabulous two years here and it was with regret that he went. He said to me that there was only Celtic or Bolton he would leave Burnley for, so I donâ€™t think he took the decision lightly.” – Burnley chairman Barry Kilby.
Runner-up: “I have sent details of all the interested clubs to Liverpool and there are five or six of them. We know Liverpool are thinking seriously about the amount Birmingham have offered, but we only start thinking about it in the same way when an agreement has been reached between the clubs. Even then, we need to look at how Birminghamâ€™s squad is being built up, how the prospects for future success appear and perhaps listen to what the manager has to say. The offer has not been rejected yet, but I can say, in general terms, Ryan would still like to be successful with Liverpool. If the people at Anfield feel it is better for him to leave, though, then we have to think about starting a new chapter in his career.” – Babel’s agent Winnie Haatrecht.
Today’s overview: With no football taking place in the week due to arctic weather conditions gripping England, it feels like hacks all over the country have spent their time in imagination land as we’re spoon-fed yet another bloated serving of never-gonna-happen transfer stories.
David Maddock kick things off with the it’s-so-obvious-why-bother-writing-it piece that Sherlock Homes Ryan Babel “fears he is being forced out of Liverpool against his will… Premier League form side Birmingham last night stepped up their bid to land the Dutch striker, putting in a new offer believed to be in excess of Â£10million.” Yet Tony Barrett remains unsure that the Dutch winger will be sold. “The Liverpool manager will be able to recruit Maxi RodrÃguez, the AtlÃ©tico Madrid and Argentina winger, on an 18-month contract and one other player, in all likelihood on loan. However, he will have to decide whether selling Babel is logical in the knowledge that he will not be able to reinvest the proceeds during the present transfer window and at a time when Liverpool are battling to achieve a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League.”
Manchester City’s search for defensive cover appears to be moving along nicely, Mark Irwin revealing that “Arsenal legend Vieira will be first through the door [at Eastlands] and Â£18million Palermo centre-half Simon Kjaer could be next.” Staying with the Citizens, The Sun suggest that Espanyol, believing Roque Santa Cruz to be surplus to requirements at City, could be available on loan.”
Arsenal fans hoping for a big name striker to walk into the Emirates this winter will be disappointed by Darren Lewis’s report that “Arsene Wenger is tracking giant CFR Cluj striker Lacine Traore – dubbed ‘The New Adebayor.'” Matt Law fleshes out the story further announcing “Cluj are demanding about Â£3.5million for Traore and have already turned down an offer of Â£1m, plus a 10 per cent sell-on clause, from Italian club Napoli. There is also reported interest from Lazio, Hamburg, Udinese and CSKA Moscow.”
Rarely right, Alan Nixon spins the story that “Sunderland boss Steve Bruce is making a major swoop for German international striker Kevin Kuranyi – and opened the door to Kenwyne Jones to be sold.” And the Trinidadian striker is already courting suitors, Geoff Sweet reporting that “Alex McLeish has launched a Â£10million bid for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones… Trinidad hitman Jones is also on Tottenham’s radar, possibly in a swap deal involving David Bentley.”
In a separate article from Nixon, the scribe claims “Blackburn Rovers star Morten Gamst Pedersen is wanted by Greek giants Olympiacos – but the Â£1.8million transfer fee is proving a major snag.”
Looking to make signings on the cheap, the Mirror detail how “David Moyes’ Everton are set to fight it out with Dutch side PSV to sign Belgian youngster Maxime Lestienne. The 17-year-old is a free agent after his club, Excelsior Mouscron, were kicked out of the Belgian First Division after going into bankruptcy.” Similarly staying in the bargain buys, the Daily Mail report that “Everton are considering a move for Blackburn Rovers misfit Benni McCarthy.”
Can there be anything more depressing than your club being subject to a fire-sale but despite that, no-one appears to be buying. That appears to be the case for Portsmouth, as Paul Brown coughs “Portsmouth last night put their whole squad up for sale… French defender Younes Kaboul has been singled-out as the clubâ€™s most valuable asset and is close to a Â£5m switch to Lyon. Nigerian John Utaka is in talks about a cut-price move to Sochaux. But a Tottenham swoop for England No. 1 David James has been thrown into doubt by the keeperâ€™s wage demands.” The Sun continue to link players away from Pompey writing “reserve keeper Jamie Ashdown is attracting interest from QPR and Algerian full-back Belhadj could move to Blackburn when he returns from this month’s African Nations Cup.”
An interesting transfer swap is tabled by Sami Mokbel in The Star, tooting “Martin Oâ€™Neill will be told he can have [Robbie] Keane if he stumps up Â£5m plus [John] Carew as Tottenham cut their losses on the Irish striker they signed for Â£12m from Liverpool a year ago.” In a separate article, Mokbel links West Ham with an unlikely move for Adrian Mutu.
Staying with strikers, Matt Hughes speculates that “Carlo Ancelotti is considering a move for Vincenzo Iaquinta, the Juventus and Italy forward… Juventus have a surfeit of strikers and Chelsea may test their resolve with an Â£8 million offer.”
The headline story in The Sun sees Neil Custis toot “Gary Neville is set to retire from football at the end of this season. The Manchester United hero is out of contract in June and there are no plans to offer a new one.” Quickly moving to temper the rumour, explains “Gary Neville will hold talks with Manchester United at the end of this month to resolve his future as a player. Persistent injuries have restricted the 34-year-oldâ€™s appearances for United and England in recent seasons, raising questions over the right backâ€™s longevity, but The Times understands that no decision has been taken over when he will retire.”
Moving away from all the speculation in the tabloids, Sam Wallace flags up a story which could have crucial implications down the line about the affect of Arsenal’s postponed fixture with Bolton. “Arsenal’s fixture programme has become so congested after the snow-enforced postponement of last night’s Premier League game against Bolton Wanderers that even league officials cannot pinpoint a date when the game will be played â€“ and admit that scheduling it will be dependent on the club’s Champions League progress.”
Lastly, Gabriele Marcotti delivers the main oped of the day in which the scribe rants against Owen Coyle’s move to Bolton. “Coyle and Burnley were planning to sign players in January, which means Coyle has a very clear plan in place for what the club wanted to do. He is privy to aÂ tremendous amount of inside information at Turf Moor, from player wages to transfer targets. He knows the players’ strengths and weaknesses inside out. Does it potentially give him a competitive advantage if he takes over at Bolton? Yes, it certainly does. It doesn’t really matter if Coyle is a man of integrity. He can’t delete whatever privileged information he has from his brain.”