Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It was one of those long European nights when you don’t know if you’re watching a game of football or a game of suicide. We started well and after scoring the first goal I thought we could go on and kill them off, but once we started trying to put the icing on the cake we opened the door for Inter and we were lucky to be ahead at half-time. We started doing all these little flicks and balls into space when no one was there â€“ back-heels and stuff. It was practice football and it allowed them to get a grip of the game. From the middle of the first half until the end of the first half they were the better team. We can play a lot better than that… [Giggs] had one of those nights when he was not so great passing… [while Scholes] started absolutely fantastic but had a period when he started to give the ball away frivolously.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “I can’t say that I have a problem with the Premier League, but we have a problem with the concentration of the best players in the world in England. This is a problem. A senior official in Brazil said to me recently: ‘Please stop the exodus of Brazilian players to Europe.’ We have to protect young players. We have to make sure that international transfers are only for players aged 18 and over because at the moment there is a traffic of young players around the world. You could not imagine how many players are in ‘centres’ around the world, having been promised a brilliant future. There are these academies for Africans and Brazilians. Inter Milan have a big academy in Brazil, AS Roma also. If you canâ€™t stop it, thereâ€™s no control in football. We have to stop it and in England they should be fully behind that.” – Sepp Blatter.
Today’s overview: There is almost a palatable wave of sympathy for Jose Mourinho in the papers this morning as the British hacks wave goodbye to the Special One from this season’s Champions League.
Addressing Inter’s exit once again at the last 16 stage of the Champions league, Kevin McCarra deflects attention away from the Special One arguing “Mourinho cannot transcend the limitations of a group of footballers who Âmalfunctioned when the contest had barely begun.” Paul Hayward also absolves Mourinho of any personal failure highlighting “The problem: cool clothes and managerial charisma cannot conceal for long a deficit in individual potency on the field.”
The ready-made excuses keep on coming for Mourinho, Richard Williams calling out Inter as “a club and a squad capable of making even Jose Mourinho look like just another run-of-the-mill European coach.” While Matt Dickinson adds his observation that “Inter are the team that Mourinho coaches but his attempt to micro-manage from the technical area last night betrayed the fact that they are not really his, not yet.”
And the Mourinho analysis continues. Kevin Garside points out that “Mourinho finds himself at a leading Italian institution at a time in the footballing cycle when English clubs are driving the European game.”
David Pleat focused on United’s tactics, flagging up that by “moving Wayne Rooney out to the left and allowing Ryan Giggs to tuck inside, Sir Alex Ferguson won the tactical battle against Inter.” While Martin Samuel lavishes praise on Ryan Giggs – “Forward players of his age, like Luis Figo, another Inter veteran, are often required for cameo roles. Not Giggs. He is still a star performer, still a marquee name. How did Ferguson inspire this desire in him? Maybe one day he will reveal his secrets. It promises to be quite a story when he does, and the greatest chapter is still to be written: The Quintuple, and it is on.”
Moving onto Arsenal, David Hynter forwards the case for the Gunners winning the tournament writing “the prospect cannot be ruled out after a performance rich in energy, commitment and character.” Patrick Barclay also talks up the possibility, particularly as “Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor will be back from injury to make them more articulate in midfield and heavyweight up front.”
Such lofty ambitions are curbed by a more cautious Tom Dart who pointed out “we should not be too hasty to proclaim a bright new dawn when there is still a danger it will prove to be false. This was the closest of shaves and some of the early-season defensive flaws that seemed to have been eradicated resurfaced against impressive opponents.”
From Roma’s perspective, Glenn Moore sympathised with “Totti, who had played majestically despite being hampered by a knee injury, on John Arne Riise who had produced an outstanding performance in central defence, having switched there when Juan limped off, and on Tonnetto.”
Sam Wallace looks to understand why all four English teams progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals. “The story of English football’s four teams taking half the eight places in the Champions League quarter-finals is simple: they have more money, which allows them to buy better players.” While, for Ian Chadband, “all four English sides have shown the attributes needed to go the whole way, and that includes the necessary bit of luck.”
Henry Winter looks at who can stop the English. “With a respectful nod to Jurgen Klinsmannâ€™s Bayern Munich, only Barcelona can eclipse the English for the elegance of their football, a threat thrillingly seen in Leo Messiâ€™s amazing dribble and calm finish against Lyons last night. United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea will all want to avoid Barcelona but none will fear them.”
Lawrence Donegan calls on David Beckham to admit that his move to the LA Galaxy “was an abject failure, professionally and personally. There is no shame in that but there is curious lack of self-confidence in the Englishman’s insistence on portraying his latest career move as another chapter in the great masterplan.”
On the transfer gossip, the Daily Mail reveal how one player is not on the move after “Petr Cech’s agent has dismissed reports linking the Chelsea goalkeeper with a summer move to Barcelona.” Keeping with the Blues, Will Stewart writes how “CSKA Moscow boss Zico says he will not stand in the way of Yuri Zhirkov moving to Chelsea.” While Steve Brenner reports that “Benfica want to help put an end to Afonso Alvesâ€™ Middlesbrough nightmare.”
The Daily Mail also write that “Harry Redknapp is planning a summer swoop for German teen sensation Bilal Marzouki… The 17-year-old Mainz midfielder was spotted by White Hart Lane scouts at a tournament in Wiesbaden in January – when he finished top scorer and was voted best player.” One player who may or may not be leaving Spurs is Kevin Prince Boateng, the Daily Mail reporting that “Dortmund insist the midfielder is overpriced and will not agree a permanent deal unless Spurs lower their asking price.” While the Spurs manager pens his regular column in The Sun, this week discussing how Fernando Torres and DIdier Drogba would be his dream striking partnership.
Lastly, Nick Britten tells the story in the Telegraph of how a celebrated Gulf War pilot was sacked after breaching terrorism security rules by allowing Robbie Savage on to his flight deck to cure his fear of flying.