Real to turn their attentions to Fabregas; Kaka could be the first £1m-a-month footballer

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Kaka has always been happy at Milan and he still is, he has a special feeling with the fans and with everyone. His family is happy at Milan. It’s normal that every year big clubs like Chelsea and Real Madrid make offers to sign key players like Kaka. When (Chelsea owner Roman) Abramovich’s offer came to light, Real contacted us to say that if the player was up for sale they would be interested as well. (Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe) Scolari has infinite affection for Kaka but regardless of this, for Abramovich, Kaka is the dream that is missing, Kaka is in his dreams. It will depend on Milan. If (AC Milan owner Silvio) Berlusconi wants to keep him at Milan it will be difficult for Kaka to leave. If a player is happy he remains in a squad.” – Gaetano Paolillo, Kaka’s agent.

Runner-up: “It’s a bad injury and it’s a real blow to us. The pictures are not so good and you could see the reaction of the other players. Wilfred had a brilliant season for us last season and he’s got good strength of character. But if anyone can come through it, I’m sure he will. However, we have serious work to do with getting players in.” – Martin O’Neill on Wilfred Bouma’s injury which has been compared to Eduardo’s, another picture of the Dutchman’s ankle can be seen here.

Today’s overview: As it is a Sunday with only Intertoto Cup and friendly matches to report on, there are a fair few transfer rumours rattling about in the Sunday papers this morning.

The News of the World kick off with the news that Real Madrid have given up on Cristiano Ronaldo and will now turn their attention to Cesc Fabregas.

United themselves also appear to be frustrated in their attempts to sign Dimitar Berbatov, who both The News of the World and The Sunday Times claim has been priced out of a move at 38 million pounds. But, Steve Millar in the Sunday Express says the move will be sealed for the Bulgarian this week.

Rob Shepherd lays into Wayne Rooney in the News of the World and Sir Alex Ferguson is heavily featured in the Sunday Times. He tells Jonathan Northcroft about the United “spy” watching over Ronaldo in LA and Hugh McIlvanney writes on Ferguson’s relationship with the media: “He has reached the point of dominating the media’s agenda for football in this country more extensively and persistently than any of the game’s greatest figures of the past ever did.”

Despite the quotes above from Gaetano Paolillo, Jamie Jackson in The Observer reveals that that if Kaka does join Chelsea he will “become the first £1m-a-month footballer.” But, Sid Lowe and Duncan White in The Sunday Telegraph reveal that Robinho is actually the Brazilian close to moving to Stamford Bridge. And Rob Beasley speaks with Luiz Felipe Scolari in The News of the World about the “easy” Chelsea job.

Other articles of interest on Premier League clubs, include Arsene Wenger’s fight to hold on to Philippe Senderos, Gabriele Marcotti on what he expects to be another disappointing season for Liverpool and that Alan Curbishley is favourite to be sacked first.

The Olympics also receives a fair amount of attention with Jamie Jackson pinpointing the big name players heading to Beijing and Andrew Warshaw and Jonathan Wilson report in The Sunday Telegraph on how some “European clubs have gone on the offensive to prevent their star players going.”

Other pieces of interest include a feature on the Englishman who has just bought Mallorca, Stan Bowles on the changes at QPR and an interview with Sven-alike Derek Williams in The News of the World.

The exclusive from David Harrison in the News of the World is that Real Madrid have given up on Cristiano Ronaldo and will now turn their attentions to Cesc Fabregas. “Real chiefs have run out of patience with United’s stance and Ronaldo’s refusal to ask for a transfer, so have made former Barcelona trainee Fabregas their new No 1 target. Spanish sources are claiming to have made two approaches to Fabregas’ representatives and were told he wants to stay at Arsenal for at least one more year. But, as United will testify, Real do not give up easily and will try to prise him away before the August 31 transfer deadline.”

According to Steve Millar in the Sunday Express, “Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will take his spending to £56million this week by finally capturing Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov. Months of bargaining for the Bulgarian striker will pay off for Ferguson when he lands his target at last – just days after United broke the British transfer record with a £32million deal for Carlos Tevez’s permanent move to Old Trafford… And now the Tevez deal is sorted, talks with Spurs about Berbatov are expected to reach a critical stage within the next 48 hours – with a deal expected by the end of the week. That would allow Berbatov to link up with his new team-mates when the squad returns from the African pre-season tour.”

But David Harrison in the News of the World says the Berbatov to United move is off. “Manchester United are set to pull the plug on their bid to sign Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov. United have become aware that Spurs are willing to sell the Bulgarian to any club BUT themselves despite the European champions making a £20million bid for the player. And the asking price could soar to £38m after United’s interest provoked a public spat between Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and Sir Alex Ferguson over alleged tapping-up of Berbatov, with Tottenham lodging a formal complaint with the Premier League.”

Jonathan Northcroft concurs in The Sunday Times, saying that “Manchester United are to abandon their pursuit of Dimitar Berbatov as a result of continuing conflict between Sir Alex Ferguson and the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, and the exorbitant transfer fee Spurs are demanding for their striker. United have been quoted a price of £38m for Berbatov and having seen a £20m bid rejected feel there is little scope to negotiate a reasonable compromise with Levy, who provoked a war of words with Ferguson when he branded him ‘arrogant’ and reported United to the Premier League last week. Relations between the clubs, and Ferguson and Levy particularly, have only worsened over the past seven days and Ferguson is now exploring other possibilities, with Samuel Eto’o, Roque Santa Cruz, David Villa and Karim Benzema under consideration.”

Rob Shepherd in the News of the World takes the opportunity to lay into Wayne Rooney. “That Real Madrid have been stalking Cristiano Ronaldo rather than Wayne Rooney is depressing. Why? Because it means the boy wonder billed as the player to make English football great again has, so far, failed to justify the hype. The Spanish giants should be tempting Rooney rather than Ronaldo, shouldn’t they? Yet, I doubt if Rooney’s name was even on the radar when the Madrid grandees targeted the man they believe will make their team better and I suspect, more crucially, flog more shirts worldwide. Fernando Torres. Perhaps. Cesc Fabregas. Possibly. Steven Gerrard. Maybe. Kaka… but Rooney? Who?”

Hugh McIlvanney writes in The Sunday Times about how Sir Alex Ferguson uses the press for his mind games. “He must live with the reality that as he prepares to enter his 23rd season in charge of Manchester United he has reached the point of dominating the media’s agenda for football in this country more extensively and persistently than any of the game’s greatest figures of the past ever did. Whether stories are serious or trivial, substantial or frivolous, they are seen as gaining in impact from the inclusion of his name.”

And, also in The Sunday Times, Jonathan Northcroft speaks to Sir Alex Ferguson about the Manchester United “spy” following Cristiano Ronaldo. “Ferguson is satisfied with Ronaldo’s behaviour and that the trip is not affecting his recovery from ankle surgery. Reports of vodka binges are “absolute rubbish”. He is not, believes Ferguson, turning into another David Beckham. United may have had to cool their interest in Dimitar Berbatov because of a breakdown in relations with Tottenham but Ferguson is sanguine, now turning attention to other transfer targets. The goal he is setting his team is the small one of retaining the Premier League and European Cup this season; they are capable of it, he says. Longer term, his plans, contrary to reports, may yet include coaching a Great Britain football team at the 2012 Olympics, though he concedes this would be awkward should a boycott of the side by Scotland materialise.”

Jonathan Northcroft in The Sunday Times also reports on a new venture by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “After all the nightclubs, champagne and massive wages of top football stars, one player is about to do a remarkable body swerve towards philanthropy. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the former Manchester United striker known as the ‘baby-faced assassin’, plans to use the proceeds of a multi-million-pound match in his honour to build 10 schools in southern Africa.”

Duncan White (Sunday Telegraph) suggests the Premier League transfer merry-go-round will move into full swing in the coming days. “The Premier League heavyweights have finally begun flexing their financial muscle with Manchester United ready to break the British transfer record by paying £35 million for Carlos Tevez while Liverpool prepare to sign Robbie Keane from Tottenham for £18 million.”

The double-act of Sid Lowe and Duncan White in the Sunday Telegraph reveal that Robinho is close to moving to Stamford Bridge. “The Sunday Telegraph understands that the Real Madrid winger has agreed personal terms with Chelsea, and that the club have made a first offer of £31.5 million. A second offer – and British transfer record – of £35 million would be acceptable to Real but they will not let the move happen until they have a replacement of equivalent stature in place. The player Real most covet is Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo but they have been investigating the possibility of signing long-term target Kaka from Milan, after hearing that Chelsea had put in an offer for the Brazilian playmaker. Chelsea, though, will not sign both Robinho and Kaka.”

Despite his agent denying any move is unlikely to lure Kaka away from AC Milan, Jamie Jackson in The Observer reveals how much the Brazilian will be paid if he does move. “Kaka, the World and European Player of the Year, is likely to become the first £1m-a-month footballer if Chelsea manage to sign the Milan midfielder, who ‘is of interest to the club’, executives at Stamford Bridge confirmed last night. The staggering potential salary dwarfs David Beckham’s on-field earnings at LA Galaxy and any previous pay for a player anywhere in the world… Both clubs have issued official denials that a bid had been made, but are believed to be keen to do business over Kaká. The Italian club are conscious that, with a month of the transfer window remaining, the deal should happen as soon as possible so they would be able to reinvest what would be a sizeable fee in the players needed to rebuild after failing to qualify for the Champions League this year.”

Mark Padget in the Independent on Sunday argues that the Kaka to Chelsea deal rests on the future of Frank Lampard. “Internazionale yesterday said they had not given up hope of signing Chelsea’s midfielder Frank Lampard this summer. The England international has been strongly linked with a move to the Nerazzurri, where he would be reunited with the former Chelsea manager Jose Mour-inho. Although Chelsea are reluctant to sell the 30-year-old, and Lampard is yet to decide where his future lies, Inter are happy to play a waiting game as he enters the final year of his contract.”

Paul Wilson in The Observer suggests Luiz Felipe Scolari should take tips from Arsene Wenger on how to deal with Sir Alex Ferguson. “The Arsenal manager has come up with a few highly effective ripostes in his time, and Scolari may even be interested in a book on Wenger published next month (The Glorious Game: Arsène Wenger, Arsenal and the Quest for Success, by Alex Fynn and Kevin Whitcher) in which he discusses the ideal ages of professional players. According to Ferguson’s favourite guru, goalkeepers reach their peak between 30 and 35, which rules out Edwin van der Sar and Petr Cech. Central defenders should be aged between 26 and 34, and all Chelsea’s and United’s are. Midfielders are best between 26 and 32, and strikers should be aged between 24 and 30. So there you have it. Paul Scholes is too old, Wayne Rooney too young, and Chelsea are the perfect age to win the treble next season. Wenger doesn’t quite say that, in fact he queers his own rather generous guidelines with the proviso that early developers and exceptional talents can make their own rules and play at any age, but Scolari does not need to get bogged down in such detail. The Premier League runs on basic playground rules. Assailants must not be ignored or appeased, they must be faced down, while a gleeful media runs around shouting: ‘Fight!’ It’s too late now for Scolari to suggest Ferguson adds Wenger to his bedtime reading list, but let’s hope the Brazilian is a quick learner. The next opportunity for constructive retaliation will be coming along sooner than he thinks.”

But, it would seem Scolari doesn’t need any advice, Rob Beasley of the News of the World speaks with the former Brazil manager who describes the task at Chelsea as “easy.” Scolari: “There is no more pressure at Chelsea than at any of the top clubs. “If I had gone to Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia it is all the same. Even if I go back to Brazil it would be the same — all big clubs want to win.”

The EXCLUSIVE in the Mail on Sunday today is that Arsene Wenger is struggling to hold on to Philippe Senderos. “Newcastle have made a shock bid for Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos, increasing the growing tension between Arsene Wenger and his board over the continuing exodus of players. The Arsenal manager was stunned when the offer of about £4million arrived on Wednesday and even more bemused when it was not rejected out of hand by the club. Arsenal’s board will hold out for about £6m, but their willingness to consider allowing another first-team squad member to leave after four high-profile departures this summer will alarm supporters and Wenger.”

Gabriele Marcotti (Sunday Herald) expects another disappointing campaign from Liverpool. “All told though, it doesn’t look as if Liverpool will be significantly better than last season, which means another campaign between third and fourth place plus possibly a run in the Champions League and a domestic cup. The defence should be stronger with the new arrivals, Martin Skrtel available for the whole season and, possibly, the return of Daniel Agger (sooner or later he’s got to be fit again, right?). Torres is going from strength to strength, Gerrard continues to produce in his position, Babel can be expected to improve. But these seem to be baby steps, not the Great Leap Forward which can seriously worry Chelsea and Manchester United. And, even Barry and Keane, should they arrive, probably won’t be able to change the fact that Liverpool look headed for another season in which they leave the title fight to others. In the year that Manchester United could match Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles, that’s not what supporters want to hear.”

Les Ferdinand speaks to Peter Higgs of the Mail on Sunday and argues that Newcastle are already in “turmoil.” Ferdinand: “I was there on the day of his first match back, it was a 5.30pm start and he was in there two-and-a-half hours before the game. Kevin, Terry McDermott and myself were reminiscing about the old times and he was bubbly and bright. Everything was like the Keegan of old. But over a period of weeks I slowly saw that drain out of him. He got a bit of impetus back with that first win and then, over the summer, you thought that things were going to happen. But then you start hearing rumours that he’s not going to be able to buy the players he wants. He definitely needs to spend. But one of the problems he faces is that when I signed for him he was a big attraction for me to join Newcastle. Do players nowadays remember Kevin Keegan? Is he such a pull as he used to be as a manager?”

Tony Stenson reports in the Sunday Express that Alan Curbishley is considered the most likely Premier League manager to get the sack. “West Ham boss Alan Curbishley is favourite to be first in the annual Premier League managers’ sack race – and Croatia boss Slaven Bilic is tipped to take over. Curbishley is 5-1 to leave early if the Hammers do not make a solid enough start to the season. The saving grace for their manager is that the first six fixtures are far from the toughest.”

Simon Watts speaks to Stan Bowles on the BBC website about changing times at QPR. Bowles: “The feeling I get from the new owners, I think they will [be a top-four side] – maybe not here, but when they move on. At the end of the day there’s four teams competing in the Premier League right now, it’s getting like Scotland and it’s going to get worse than that. It’s just money, money, money. Whoever’s got the money are going to get the best sides obviously. If you were getting £20,000 and you get offered 60,000 you’re going to take 60,000, aren’t you? I was getting £600 a week.”

Alan Hansen calls for the offside law to be scrapped in the Mail on Sunday. “Nobody can explain it to anybody, the legislators don’t know how it works, referees don’t know how it works, managers and players, supporters and neutrals – not one person in the Western world knows how it works!”

Ian Hawkey in The Sunday Times speaks with Paul Davidson the English multi-millionaire, nicknamed the “plumber,” who has taken over control of Mallorca. “‘I saw the Mallorca people on the Friday and agreed the deal the following Monday,’ he said. ‘The problem with the Premier League is that the top four places, and getting into the Champions League, are almost guaranteed and in the long-term that’s a recipe for disaster. There should be a playoff for fourth; at the moment it’s a like a grand prix where the front four start ahead on the grid. Here, that’s not true.’ Since 2000, Real Mallorca, Celta Vigo, Real Betis, Sevilla, Deportivo La Coruña, Villarreal, Osasuna, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Atletico Madrid have all qualified for the Champions League, usually accompanied by Real Madrid and Barcelona. In the same period, only Newcastle United and Leeds United have interrupted the quartet of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool going into the group stages.”

Jamie Jackson (The Observer) looks ahead to the big-name players who will be looking to bring hole gold from the Olympics. “When Australia and Serbia start the men’s football tournament of the Beijing Olympics in Shanghai on 7 August, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, and Javier Mascherano will be just some of the global game’s superstars forgetting the World Cup, Champions League and £150,000-a-week salaries for dreams of gold-medal glory. ‘It’s a difficult situation,’ Mascherano says of players’ willingness to upset their clubs, which has moved Werder Bremen to seek a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport following the decision of their Brazil forward, Diego, to walk out on the Bundesliga club so he can play in Beijing. ‘But it’s very important for any footballer to win the Olympics.'”

Nick Townsend, in his weekly column in the Independent on Sunday compares modern day footballers to some of the athletes competing in the Olympics. “The rewards are unlikely to compare with certain elite sportsmen’s £150,000 a week. But then there are certain things in life on which you can place no financial value. Their richness is expressed only in terms of pride within. Something perhaps worth remembering in three Saturdays’ time.”

Andrew Warshaw and Jonathan Wilson report in the Sunday Telegraph on how some “European clubs have gone on the offensive to prevent their star players going to the Olympics. Barcelona are refusing to release Lionel Messi to Argentina while German clubs have reportedly confiscated the passports of players bound for Beijing and are threatening to take their dispute to the sport’s highest appeal body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Fifa will rule on Thursday to try to break the impasse.”

Tom Lamont in The Observer Sports Monthly take a closer look at those footballers who smoke. “Pictured lolling in a swimming pool during his honeymoon in June, Wayne Rooney looked like many young Englishmen abroad: high-street Bermudas, lobster tan, can of fizz, cigarette. This Englishman is, however, the country’s most talented footballer, and the cigarette caused a rumpus. Pundits grumbled their disappointment and anticipated the hairdryer treatment from his manager. Other commentators – the smokers, at a guess – came to Rooney’s defence. There was little agreement on how the occasional stick might affect his football.”

Sven-alike Derek Williams tells the News of the World that the FA hired him “for a party in honour of Polish soccer officials before a vital England World Cup game. Derek Williams was paid to entertain the VIPs while the REAL Eriksson was giving his team a pep talk before kick-off.”

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