Berbatov is a goner as Spurs target Falcao, Heskey and Huntelaar

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the Day: “I’ve never been ‘north’ but I’m at Chelsea for two seasons, so I must get used to Bolton, Manchester United, Manchester City. What I expected, I saw today. It was difficult. Winning 1-0 away from home in England is the same as winning 10-0 elsewhere. Wigan played better than Portsmouth and had players who are healthy, have power and pressured us. I know we didn’t play as well as we did last week, but I understand the reasons why.” – Felipe Scolari.

Runner-up: “If a player did not want to play for me, I know what I’d do. I’d drive him myself to wherever he wants to go just to get rid of him. Sometimes you’ve got to lose to win. Two years ago, when I got my job, I had a player and I heard he had been speaking to another club, so I just sold him. I said: ‘You can go’ and he went: ‘OK’ and off he popped. The manager has to be the most powerful.” – Roy Keane.

Today’s overview: Heading into the final week of the transfer window, the papers are in unison that Dimitar Berbatov will be departing for Old Trafford.

Oliver Kay and Alyson Rudd say the “acrimonious move from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United [will happen] within days” with Matt Law and Richard Tanner claiming the Bulgarian’s departure will prove an “embarrassing climbdown” for Daniel Levy. Jason Burt reports that before the deal can go through, “United have also told Spurs that they must drop their complaint to the Premier League alleging that they had inappropriately pursued the Bulgarian international.”

Looking to the future, Mark Irwin offers a selection of fanciful names Spurs will look to sign should the Bulgarian leave. But Tottenham are not the only North London side looking to sgn before the window closes, as

Cheslea’s win at Wigan is analysed. Dominic Fifield was full of praise for the Latics, while Henry Winter picked out Deco for special mention (“Deco symbolises what Scolari craves from his team, technique and character”). Richard Jolly asked “How do Deco, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and Joe Cole co-exist in the same team? With difficulty.”

Staying with Chelsea, Rob Hughes looks at the latest comings and goings at Stamford Bridge (“Shevchenko is a quiet, determined, deep individual… Robinho is a party animal”) and Susy Campanale welcomes back Andriy Shevchenko to AC Milan and asks “Now we’ve got the pleasantries over with, what exactly are you doing here?”

The standout article of the day comes from Martin Samuel, who wonders if Steven Gerrard is so “brilliant” why is it that he fails to perform for England on a consistent basis. (“For such a brilliant player, Gerrard’s champions spend an awful lot of time telling the world what he cannot do.”)

In the best of the rest, Clodagh Hartley reports that Sir Alex could manage Team GB, while the coaching is done by none other than David Beckham, Gabriele Marcotti looks back at the football at the Beijing Olympics and

The Times’ duo of Oliver Kay and Alyson Rudd are convinced Dimitar Berbatov will move to Old Trafford. “Dimitar Berbatov will complete an acrimonious move from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United within days… Berbatov’s arrival at Old Trafford will delight Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been desperate to sign a top-class forward to compete with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tévez. Louis Saha will be allowed to leave the club, with AS Roma and AS Monaco having joined Sunderland in expressing an interest, while Ferguson is waiting to hear whether Manucho, the Angola forward, will receive the work permit that he needs to play or the club.”

Matt Law and Richard Tanner (Daily Express) spin the story that Daniel Levy will have to make an “embarrassing climbdown” as Spurs are forced to sell Berbatov to the champions. “United have made it clear they will pay the £25m asking price, and offer Berbatov £90,000 a week, but want Spurs chairman Levy to drop his claim they made an illegal approach. Levy had accused United boss Sir Alex Ferguson of arrogance and hypocrisy for his pursuit of Berbatov, but the Premier League want more evidence. For the second time this season, Levy is facing the prospect of having to drop a complaint. He stood down in his row with Liverpool to allow Robbie Keane to move to Anfield and will have to do so again to cash in on Berbatov.”

Jason Burt (independent) introduces an element of doubt into the Berbatov saga, claiming that “United have also told Spurs that they must drop their complaint to the Premier League alleging that they had inappropriately pursued the Bulgarian international.” “Spurs’ representatives were in Argentina at the weekend to watch the 22-year-old striker Falcao – full-name Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate – score for River Plate in their defeat to Banfield. Spurs accept that they need to buy at least two strikers if Berbatov is sold after a disastrous start to the season.”

The Sun’s Mark Irwin splashes with the Berbatov-Manchester United story, offering a selection of fanciful names Spurs will look to sign should the Bulgarian leave. “Ramos… wants Berbatov out of the club as quickly as possible. The former Sevilla coach has already identified Dutch international Huntelaar as the ideal replacement and believes he can push through a £20m deal this week. But Spurs also refuse to rule out a possible £10m move for England and Wigan striker Emile Heskey if Berbatov goes in the next few days.”

According to Arsenal’s opening offer of £10 million was turned down three weeks ago, but after such a lacklustre performance, Wenger knows that he has to make a significant move in the transfer market if Arsenal are to be challengers for the Barclays Premier League and Champions League… Wenger has money to spend after a quiet summer in the transfer market. The Arsenal manager has spent about £18 million on Samir Nasri, Aaron Ramsey and Amaury Bischoff to boost his midfield options, but none of those players is the finished article.”

Dominic Fifield (Guardian) was full of praise for Wigan after they fell to Chelsea yesterday. “The visitors pointed to the lack of fitness of Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard, and to the absence of the injured Mikel John Obi. He also lost Ashley Cole to a dead leg but, in truth, the visitors were winded less by their own ailments and more by Wigan’s aggressive energy. Steve Bruce had seen his own fan out to various corners of the globe for midweek internationals – his Hondurans Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa were in Mexico, his Egyptian Amr Zaki in Sudan – but they tore into this contest unperturbed. Zaki, outstanding throughout, twice forced Petr Cech to claw away rasping drives. The substitute Olivier Kapo did likewise in the final exchanges.”

In his match report for the Telegraph, Henry Winter picks out Deco for praise. “Deco symbolises what Scolari craves from his team, technique and character. As well as stirring admiration for the effortless way he guided the ball around Cattermole in the first half, and then nut-megging him for good measure in the second, Deco also impressed with his relish for the physical side of the game. No shrinking violet, the Portuguese international put in a stiff tackle on Antonio Valencia and bulldozed into a challenge on Cattermole. But it was his clever free-kick after four minutes that inevitably guaranteed him the headlines. When Cattermole handled just outside the hosts’ box, Deco stood with Ashley Cole and watched Wigan arrange their wall. In training, Deco has apparently been placing every free-kick to the right. He changed tack here, sweeping it over the wall and in to the left.”

ESPN’s Richard Jolly was far less complimentary about the Blues display at the JJB. “How do Deco, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and Joe Cole co-exist in the same team? With difficulty, it would appear. Deco delivered a second special goal in as many games, a glorious free kick to defeat Wigan, but that should not camouflage a disjointed display… only Deco, the greatest source of invention, approached his best. Essien proved admirably disciplined but was stymied as an attacking force. For much of the match he resembled a third central defender, and indeed there were times when the Ghanaian was the last man.”

Staying with Chelsea, Rob Hughes (IHT) looks at the latest comings and goings at Stamford Bridge. “The imminent departure of Andriy Shevchenko, and the anticipated arrival of Robinho, illustrate how ruthless and how costly the Russian wheel turns at the London club Chelsea… Their talents are as different as their backgrounds. Shevchenko is a quiet, determined, deep individual, shaped by his boyhood when at 9 years of age he was evacuated from his home near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Robinho is a party animal, who can dance limbo on the disco floor and on a crowded field. Where the Ukrainian appeared born to score goals – until he reached Chelsea – the Brazilian has a repertoire that can score them, make them or simply thrill an audience by doing the unexpected. Chelsea’s wheel turns again, expensively.”

Susy Campanale (Football Italia) investigates the merits of the Shevchenko capture by AC Milan. “Welcome back, Andriy Shevchenko! Now we’ve got the pleasantries over with, what exactly are you doing here? I know you’re a seasoned hitman who could provide Milan with the finishing they have so sorely been lacking since your departure, but last we heard you slammed the door in our face with the lamest excuse in the history of football. Really, an English tutor would’ve been cheaper than forcing a £30m transfer to Chelsea, not to mention considerably better for your career. I hope you have learned from this horrible mistake that listening to the wife is not always the best idea.”

Reporting on Manchester City’s win over West Ham, Oliver Kay (The Times) highlights the Londoners poor performance. ” Praise of City’s performance should come with the caveat that West Ham United were awful even before they lost Mark Noble to a red card in the 37th minute, for a second bookable offence, but this was the kind of display that Hughes had been looking for after a 4-2 defeat away to Aston Villa in his first Barclays Premier League match in charge.”

Never one to be scared of taking on the masses, The Times’ Martin Samuel criticises Steven Gerrard’s failure to get it right for England. “Steven Gerrard is a brilliant player, but he cannot start on the left of midfield. Brilliant, but he does not like it on the right, either. Brilliant, yet uncomfortable behind the striker. Brilliant, but obviously cannot play in the same team as Frank Lampard. Brilliant, but he must have Gareth Barry beside him. For such a brilliant player, Gerrard’s champions spend an awful lot of time telling the world what he cannot do. Almost as much as they expend detailing the precise conditions in which he must operate: in the centre, like Roy of the Rovers, with the England team built around him. Now there was a chap who tried that. Oh, you must remember him. Ginger lad, nice smile, carried an umbrella. Not been around for a while.”

Stepping into the lower leagues, FC United of Manchester were formed in 2005 by fans who refused to support Manchester United after the Glazer family took control at Old Trafford and their success on and off the pitch has been just as remarkable as the achievements of Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates during the past three years. After three promotions in three seasons, FC United have worked their way up to the UniBond League premier division, the seventh level in the English game, and this afternoon will take on Boston United, who, before financial meltdown, were playing in Coca-Cola League Two as recently as May last year. Another three promotions and FC United will be rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the Football League.”

With Beijing 2008 coming to a close, attention is already focusing in on London 2012 with Kaz Mochlinski (Telegraph) claiming that a Team GB football squad is looking more likely to happen. “On the night the Beijing Games closing ceremony took place, it emerged that [Lord] Coe has made a concrete proposal for [Sir Alex] Ferguson to become the Great Britain manager/coach. Though Coe, the chairman of the London Games organising committee, cannot himself force through a move to have a Team GB side in the football competition in four years’ time, his position is an influential one, alongside Brown’s increasingly public support for the move.”

Gabriele Marcotti in The Game also writes about the Olympics just gone, “Football at the Olympics is a little bit like inviting George Clooney out for a night with your mates. Everyone quickly recognises the fact that he is cooler, wealthier and far more handsome than the rest of you. And while he may draw some attention to your crew, in your heart of hearts you know he doesn’t quite fit and so, knowingly or not, you ostracise him and he ends up feeling uncomfortable. Knowingly or not, you knock him down a few pegs. Football got the same treatment in Beijing. In terms of aggregate audience, it blew all the other sports out of the water, but that did not stop it from being treated like some kind of interloper. While we were inundated with heart-warming stories about how hard gymnasts, skeet shooters and badminton players worked to attain their Olympic goals and how grateful they all were to their respective federations who got them training facilities, sponsorships and time off work, you got the sense that football’s powers-that-be wished this tournament had never taken place.”

Clodagh Hartley (The Sun) reports that Sir Alex could manage Team GB, while the coaching is done by none other than David Beckham. “David Beckham kicked off the countdown to the London Olympics — and revealed he could be a COACH for Team GB in 2012… Beckham revealed he could coach an all-star GB footie team at the 2012 games, with his old Man United boss Sir Alex Ferguson as manager.”

In an offbeat article in The Times, The daddy of bearded footballers was the legendary Socrates. He had that Che Guevara-thing going on and was the coolest dude ever. Second to him was Sergio Batista, who looked like he’d just stepped out of his cave, and what about the Motherland’s Bee Gee, Paul Breitner? But that was the great thing about beards in football back then — they were the real deal and not some fashion statement like they are now. In Germany we’ve gone from Breitner to Kevin Kurányi, whose facial hair looks like it’s been as carefully crafted as a girl’s eyebrows. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as metrosexual as the next bloke, but as far as I’m concerned that’s just not what having a beard is all about.”


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