Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Itâ€™s a ridiculous situation, really. Ledley canâ€™t train and, if he does train, it will be seven days before he can play and do anything again. If he plays next Wednesday against Ukraine there is no chance he can play for us against Blackburn on the Saturday – no chance. I donâ€™t see how he would play in an international tournament, so in the long term I donâ€™t understand the decision. This international week was the best opportunity he has had to rest. If he plays next Wednesday, it is disrespectful to us. Itâ€™s not going to help him or anybody else. If Ledleyâ€™s career has to finish because he has been pushed, whoâ€™s going to look after him? Itâ€™s crazy. I donâ€™t see how he can play. I donâ€™t see how it can work.” – Harry Redknapp.
Runner-up: “I pick the team. A lot of other [Serie A] coaches don’t. They allow other people to suggest the line-up for them. If someone tried that with me, the next day my office would be empty and my bags packed… From now on you’ll see a new Mourinho. I can’t open my heart any more. I’ve decided to hold myself back. To be a hypocrite in a world of hypocrites doesn’t do any harm.” – Jose Mourinho.
Today’s overview: For anyone who is listening, Harry Redknapp has today used the fifth estate as his personal plaything with virtually every paper running with the Tottenham manager’s concerns over Ledley King’s England call-up.
The Independent’s Sam Wallace, who was the first yesterday to highlight Spurs’ displeasure at King’s call-up, today pens that “the Tottenham manager was still hopeful last night that Capello might reverse his decision, despite a Football Association statement that it would ‘take no risks at all’ with King.” Right behind him Dominic Fifield is found grappling with the long term significance of Ledley King’s surprise inclusion. “The agonising reality is that King’s inclusion in a 23-man party for a World Cup would represent a risk.”
In a second article, Sam Wallace then points out the real fears which Spurs are facing from King’s England inclusion. “The last time King played for England in June 2007 he played two full 90 minutes against Brazil at Wembley and then Estonia in Tallinn. The 28-year-old did not play for Spurs for another six months, making his comeback against Fulham on Boxing Day.”
According to the Mirror’s David Woods though, this may all be a storm in a teacup with King “set to quit international football. The Tottenham defender told England yesterday that he feared wrecking his club future if he turned out for his country again. In a heart-to-heart meeting with England medical staff, King spelt out his concerns, with the centre-back fearing another injury setback.”
Kevin McCarra looks at Steven Gerrard’s role for England, highlighting the differences between when the “Liverpool captain flourishes when freedom is unlimited [compared to an] England manager [who] will not fashion a system to serve him.” Picking up on the same thread, Matt losing the gap between Gerrard’s form for club and country, while partly achieved by Fabio Capello, remains top of the Italian’s to-do list.” And keeping with Gerrard, in an article with seemingly no foundations the Daily Mail link Real Madrid with an Â£80m offer for the Liverpool captain.
In an article designed to hit the nerve between sport and business Jeremy Wilson provocatively writes that “Wembley will not switch to a new type of pitch that could improve the quality of the playing surface amid fears it would not be compatible with staging lucrative non-football events.”
Shifting focus back onto domestic league issues, the latest developments suggest that Manchester United are beginning to show tangible signs of fear.
Daniel Taylor and Andy Hunter report how Sir Alex appears to have prioritised the league over the Champions League by opting to face Aston Villa “at 4pm on Sunday 5 April, even though [Sky had offered to bring forward the Villa game to 12.45pm the previous day, meaning that] his players will have only two days to prepare for the home leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Porto.”
And with the Red Devils feeling the strain, James Lawton does his best to kick United when they are down with CR7 taking the brunt of the tongue-lashing. “Some people never grow up, even if they dazzle the world. That Ronaldo may be such a one is becoming a little more evident with each example of his inability to respond to the challenge of behaving maturely under almost any degree of serious pressure.”
Continuing the Ronaldo-bashing, Graham Poll lets rip in the Daily Mail. “Ronaldo has been missing for much of this season and, as a result, a lot of referees would not be disappointed to see the back of the petulant, sulking individual who was fortunate to receive only a yellow card at Craven Cottage on Saturday.”
Flipping the Ronaldo analysis on its head, Matt Lawton conjures up the story that “Manchester United fear Cristiano Ronaldo could be driven out of England by weak refereeing in the Barclays Premier League.” Adding fuel to his own fire, Matt Lawton then backs himself up in a second spurious article farting “with Ronaldo mud sticks. He has a reputation for petulance and a reputation for simulation too, so much so that even managers as mild mannered as Fulhamâ€™s Roy Hodgson talk of how difficult Ronaldo makes life for referees.”
In an article most Liverpool fans will dread to read, Ian Wright put the kiss of death on the Reds’ title challenge. “I now think Liverpool will win the Premier League. Iâ€™m going to stick my neck out here, and predict that Liverpool should win ALL of their remaining league games this season.”
In an article focusing on Liverpool’s renewed pomp in the title race, Rory Smith waxing lyrical that “if Real Madrid were beaten in a swordfight, Manchester United were picked off by a sniper and Aston Villa rolled over by a tank.”is monitoring Arjen Robbenâ€™s situation at Real Madrid as he weighs up a possible summer move for the former Chelsea winger.” Others are simply content with propping up the Reds’ renewed ambitions in the league,
With Chelsea still liable to need a new manager this summer, Dominic Fifield claims that the Blues will consult with Guus Hiddink over their future purchasers as well as accepting heeding his advice of “Frank Rijkaard as his replacement.”
As is standard the Guardian roll out the European Tuesday round-up. Sid Lowe kicks things off by ripping into Madrid’s second team – “Atletico are a complete shambles; in debt and embargoed, torn apart by petty battles.” On Serie A and Roma in particular, Paolo Bandini notes how “after two years of almost constant injury crises the situation [at Roma] is beginning to look less like a freak occurrence than the manifestation of a more serious problem.”
Moving onto the Bundesliga, Raphael Honigstein calls the title race so open “that Jabba the Hut and Beth Ditto could both sit comfortably next to each other and share an ice cream.” And lastly Leander Schaerlaeckens flags up Michel Platini’s latest proposal to merge the Dutch and Belgian leagues and pokes holes in the initiative. “Talk of this new venture is resurfacing just as the Dutch league is finally awash with talent again… most Belgian participants would eventually trickle down to the lower regions, essentially relegating Belgian football and its rich history to a satellite system.”