Quote of the Day: “I have never experienced a situation like this, being two months without kicking a ball. I just want to be fully recovered. I am not used to being sidelined. I feel sad, but the worst moment has already gone and I recognise that I must be patient. I feel well and the time of kicking a ball is coming. Playing football – this is what makes me happy.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Runner-up: “It was unfortunate I suffered a number of injuries during my time [at Chelsea] but I always gave my all… [On rumours that Pato will give up his number 7 shirt] As far as I am concerned, No 76 would do fine. Or 70 or 77. For me, itâ€™s just enough that the number is on a Milan shirt.â€ – Andriy Shevchenko.
Today’s overview: After it looked like the Berbatov-Manchester United transfer was a done-deal, today rumours are flying around that Spurs are willing to let the Bulgarian rot in the reserves (although not one paper is able to source that phrase as a direct quote) as the transfer rapidly descends into farce.
Dominic Fifield expects “compromise” to be reached to allow the transfer to go through, with Martin Samuel, James Ducker and Gary Jacob together reporting that “Tottenham are demanding more than Â£30 million.” Kevin McCarra derides Spurs’ principled stand on Berbatov (“Tottenham are under stress”), but Ian Wright goes on the offensive against the Bulgarian simply charging the player with “Berbatovâ€™s attitude stinks.”
Defending the Spurs number 9, Jeremy Wilson reminds readers why the Bulgarian is such a prized-asset arguing “however distasteful, his recent behaviour also points to a self-belief that he belongs at one of Europe’s biggest clubs.”
Jason Burt wonders who Spurs will bring in to replace their outgoing centre-forward, whilst on the same topic Matt Law reports on the pressure building on Tottenham’s sporting director, Damien Comolli. The final opinion is delivered by Sachin Nakrani who wonders how much the pursuit of Berbatov proves that selling Ruud van Nistelrooy was a mistake.
There is a post-match dissection of Manchester United’s win at Fratton Park. Martin Samuel picks out Darren Fletcher for praise, but Sam Wallace is critical of Wayne Rooney. Neil Ashton however comes to the rescue of Rooney’s reputation, asking “what is it we want from a player who, by common consensus, is the most prodigious talent that the nation has produced since Paul Gascoigne?”
In other Premier League news, Paul Walker reports on what would be the consequences of failing to qualify for the Champions League for Liverpool, Tony Cascarino questions Arsenal’s ability to win the title claiming they play “PlayStation football.”
Moving to the transfer merry-go-round, Wayne Veysey comments on the surprise proposed loan deal seeing Philippe Senderos move to AC Milan. Daniel Taylor and Dominic Fifield claim that “Manchester City have made an official bid in the region of Â£10m to bring Shaun Wright-Phillips back from Chelsea,” and this is backed-up by Shaun Custis and Mark Irwin, who combine to report on what they call Chelsea’s “Â£70million hit in their bid to snatch the Premier League title back from Manchester United.”
Finally, there is a European focus in today’s offering. Previewing the start of the Eredivisie, Leander Schaerlaeckens looks at the comings and goings at Ajax over the summer. Ahead of the start of Serie A, Giancarlo Rinaldi (Football Italia) picks his team to watch out for this season – Bologna. And Guillem Balague makes his predictions for the forthcoming season in Spain.
The Guardian’s Dominic Fifield, in an article supported by zero quotes, delivers the inside scoop on the breakdown in the Berbatov-Manchester United transfer. “Spurs moved swiftly yesterday to indicate that they were willing to relegate [Berbatov] to the second string, where he would remain even after the closure of the transfer window, should United not offer the full Â£30m. The Tottenham hierarchy would argue that he was not psychologically ready to represent the first team, leaving him in limbo with two years to run on his contract. Compromise is still likely to be reached before Monday’s midnight deadline, but Spurs are dismayed that no real interest has been expressed in the striker by any other club.”
The Times’ triple-combination of Martin Samuel, James Ducker and Gary Jacob put their heads together to report on the Berbatov saga. “United remain hopeful that a deal can be struck, even though Ferguson expressed ‘concern’ last night that time was running out, with Tottenham continuing to play hard-ball despite the Old Trafford club lodging an improved offer of Â£25 million over the weekend. Emil Dantchev, Berbatovâ€™s agent, is in England trying to broker a deal, but while Tottenham are demanding more than Â£30 million and are reluctant to release the player until a successor has been lined up, a breakthrough is thought to be imminent.”
Fellow Guardian journalist Kevin McCarra derides Spurs’ principled stand on Berbatov. “If Berbatov does sign for United shortly, will Tottenham really feel as if the extra few million pounds have vindicated the whole exercise? There are no grounds for warming to them as feisty underdogs. When occupying a comparatively similar position to that of United they, too, flex their muscle. Ask Blackburn, who lost David Bentley to White Hart Lane, how much affinity they have for Tottenham… As it is, Tottenham are under stress. The only fate worse than losing Berbatov now may be retaining this moody virtuoso in a surly frame of mind.”
Ian Wright wades into the Berbatov debate, kicking off his column with a joke before slamming the striker’s behaviour. “Dimitar Berbatov is probably about as welcome in the Spurs dressing room right now as I would be on the terraces at White Hart Lane. But at least I have respect for Tottenham. Berbatovâ€™s attitude stinks. He is showing no respect towards the guys who are bothered to turn out on Saturday and work hard â€” and he is treating the club with disdain… If I were a Tottenham player I would not be able to speak to Berbatov at the moment. Being â€˜not readyâ€™ to play against Sunderland at the weekend is putting it mildly. Spurs should have got rid weeks ago.”
With all of the Berbatov bashing, the Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson reminds readers why the Bulgarian is such a prized-asset. “In each of his first two seasons for Tottenham, he scored 23 goals, but he also provided the sort of physical presence and silky touch to extract the best from his partner up front. Berbatov also seemed most likely to deliver in the biggest matches. Ferguson has often talked of a player’s ability to cope with the Old Trafford stage. However distasteful, his recent behaviour also points to a self-belief that he belongs at one of Europe’s biggest clubs.”
In the Independent, Jason Burt wonders who Spurs will bring in to replace their number 9. “Darren Bent is the only available option, although club representatives again watched the Colombian international striker Falcao play and score for Argentinian club River Plate at the weekend. The 22-year-old is available for â‚¬15m (Â£12m) and Spurs may also consider a move for Ajax’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, even though they believe the Dutch international is overpriced. Spurs insist they are no longer interested in signing Andrei Arshavin. But both the player’s representatives and his club, Zenit St Petersburg, still believe that a deal can be struck especially as the asking price for the 27-year-old has been dropped to Â£20m.”
On Spurs’ quest to bring in fresh options up-front, Matt Law (Daily Express) reports on the pressure building on Tottenham’s sporting director, Damien Comolli. “Comolli has been instructed to find Spurs manager Juande Ramos two top-class strikers to replace Berbatov and Robbie Keane, and his position will be under threat if he does not deliver… Comolli was yesterday described as being ‘busy, busy, busy’ in his pursuit of strikers, with River Plateâ€™s Â£10m-rated Radamel Falcao and Â£20m Dutchman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar believed to be among his targets… Now, with one week left in which to do business, it is quite simply time for Comolli to deliver. The clock is ticking.”
From Manchester United’s perspective, Sachin Nakrani (Guardian) wonders how much the pursuit of Berbatov proves that selling Ruud van Nistelrooy was a mistake. “Was that a mistake too? Ferguson may never say it was but he appears to regret letting the prolific Dutchman go. Why else would he be pursuing Dimitar Berbatov with such vigour? Upon signing him – and United are confident they can do so this week for about Â£25m – the Bulgarian will be expected to provide everything Van Nistelrooy once did – an outlet for the side’s dynamic and willing runners, a target for those able to play a raking pass from deep, and of course goals. Despite his current lack of ‘focus’, a record of 46 goals in two seasons proves the 27-year-old Bulgarian is more than capable of supplying those.”
Moving slightly away from the Berbatov story, Paul Doyle (Guardian) takes a move expansive look at Juande Ramos’ tactics so far this season. “It seems strange that a manager who has signed 10 new players since taking charge 45 games ago should still be short in so many positions, but Juande Ramos has been improvising cack-handedly since the start of the campaign. With a slew of new signings Spurs can be forgiven for lacking fluidity so far; similarly, trying two different, and equally ineffective, formations against Middlesbrough and Sunderland need not be alarming, but several other factors cannot so readily be attributed to teething trouble. Oddities include omitting Tom Huddlestone when the midfield is chronically weak, sticking Didier Zokora at full-back in place of the injured Alan Hutton after paying Â£2m for Chris Gunter; removing David Bentley from the wing where he has thrived in recent seasons; and, of course, indulging Dimitar Berbatov’s brooding.”
Martin Samuel (The Times) picks out Darren Fletcher for praise in his match report on last night’s game. “Most impressive, though, was the way that Fletcher got forward in support from the right of midfield, making nonsense of the claim that the starting position is more important than the finish, and showing Capello, who was in the stand with two assistants, what he was missing by picking a player as inert as David Beckham on one flank. Fletcher, the Scotland player, is no Cristiano Ronaldo, but he has scored twice in as many Premier League matches, crucial interventions considering Unitedâ€™s underwhelming start to the season.”
Sam Wallace is critical of Wayne Rooney in the Independent. “Ferguson is determined to make good on his promise to Wayne Rooney to play him as one of two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation although it is open to debate how long he will keep that up should Berbatov arrive soon. There was precious little in what Rooney did last night to suggest to Ferguson, or the watching Fabio Capello, that the England striker is capable of scoring the goals that the injured Ronaldo scored for this team last season.”
Neil Ashton (Daily Mail) comes to the rescue of Rooney’s reputation. “In 128 appearances for United before last night, he had scored 53 goals… So what is it we want from a player who, by common consensus, is the most prodigious talent that the nation has produced since Paul Gascoigne came on as a substitute for Newcastle United and curled a right-foot effort into the back of Oxford Unitedâ€™s net way back in 1985?”
Paul Walker (Independent) reports on what would be the consequences of failing to qualify for the Champions League for Liverpool. “Anything less could create the biggest financial crisis in the club’s recent history. The American owners are facing huge costs to build a new stadium, and also to refinance loans in the near future. And they have already transferred some of their debt to the club, which means that Â£30m a year has to be found to meet interest repayments… Failure to even reach the group stages would cost Liverpool an immediate Â£12m and put in question all Benitez’s plans.”
In The Times, Tony Cascarino questions Arsenal’s ability to win the title, deriding them for playing (his new made-up term) “PlayStation football.” “This Arsenal team, even so early in the season, are looking a pale shadow of their predecessors. Where are the figures such as Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry? Men of stature, men of influence? I don’t see them. As an opponent, you’d stand next to this present lot in the players’ tunnel and think: ‘They’re just a bunch of kids, I’ll have some of this.’ They don’t scare you, there is little physical presence. On the pitch, they don’t impose themselves, either. They play what I call PlayStation football – pretty, lots of running with the ball, intricate passing, but then nothing, just powderpuff overindulging and overelaborating. No punch, no penetration, no end product. As a team, they look extremely vulnerable.”
And staying with the Gunners, Wayne Veysey (Telegraph) analyses the surprise proposed loan deal seeing Philippe Senderos move to AC Milan. “Senderos is set to join Milan on a season-long loan, with the Italians having the option to make the deal permanent for a fee believed to be between Â£5.5 million and Â£6.3 million. He made a series of errors in high-profile games and was granted a few days’ leave by Arsene Wenger after his slack marking contributed to Arsenal’s Champions League exit at Liverpool last season. The surprise signing of Mikael Silvestre from Manchester United last week opened the door for Senderos’ exit and if he settles into a Milan defence where Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini have struggled with injury, it is likely he has played his final game for Arsenal.”
The Guardian’s tag-team of Daniel Taylor and Dominic Fifield claim that “Manchester City have made an official bid in the region of Â£10m to bring Shaun Wright-Phillips back from Chelsea.” “The 26-year-old has misgivings about returning to Manchester and will need to be convinced not to remain on the fringes at Stamford Bridge. City hope he can be tempted by a salary that would make him the highest-paid player in the club’s history… Chelsea hope the deal can be concluded as soon as possible so the money can be put towards their proposed Â£28m signing of Robinho from Real Madrid.”
The Sun’s duo of Shaun Custis and Mark Irwin combine to report on what they call Chelsea’s “Â£70million hit in their bid to snatch the Premier League title back from Manchester United.” “Billionaire owner Roman Abramovich has given the go-ahead to seal the Â£27m signing of Real Madrid striker Robinho this week. And he is writing off Â£43m just to get rid of Andriy Shevchenko and Shaun Wright-Phillips.”
Alan Smith (Telegraph) is full of praise for Mark Hughes’ most recent signing, Vincent Kompany. “Vincent Kompany had only met his team-mates a couple of days before producing a highly accomplished performance in Sunday’s win over West Ham. Not only that, it was the way he dovetailed smoothly with Michael Johnson in central midfield that must have left Hughes feeling very encouraged. Sometimes, a partnership doesn’t need much work, it just clicks into place, and that certainly seemed to be the case here. Kompany’s natural tendency to sit in front of the back four, trying to break up attacks before spreading the play with an excellent range of passes â€“ short and long â€“ suited the athletic Johnson just fine.”
In the Guardian, Steve Claridge returns with his scouting report, today featuring Sam Vokes of Wolves. “He knows when to get involved in the build-up play and when to concentrate on making sure that when a ball comes into the box he has an opportunity of scoring. As well as being dominant in the air he is not a bad finisher for someone so inexperienced, proven by the 12 goals he scored in his first season at Bournemouth, even though the team were relegated from League One.”
Previewing the start of the Eredivisie, Leander Schaerlaeckens looks at the comings and goings at Ajax over the summer in the Guardian. “It seems that nobody had told Van Basten that there was a transfer window in the winter too, leading him to buy just about every player he could get his hands on. The prolific Argentine striker DarÃo Cvitanich, the new ‘most expensive player in Dutch football’ Miralem Sulejmani, the former PSV midfielder Ismael Aissati and the versatile Evander Sno will all be grazing on the lush Amsterdam Arena pasture this year. But Van Basten’s most curious signing was the Barcelona defender Oleguer Presas. What’s confusing isn’t so much that Van Basten bought him, but that there was a transfer at all. Oleguer is a staunch socialist who, one might presume, opposes the capitalist jungle of the modern transfer market. Yet Oleguer had been keen on this move. He had meshed well with Frank Rijkaard’s laissez-faire approach in Barcelona but his new manager has a flair for despotism. The two should clash nicely.”
Ahead of the start of Serie A, Giancarlo Rinaldi (Football Italia) picks his team to watch out for this season – Bologna. “I like the look of the team they have constructed. If they can find a striker worth 15 goals a season or so they could be a real force to be reckoned with. Sergio Volpi guarantees good shape to any team he is part of, while Gaby Mudingayi is the kind of player who provides drive and purpose in midfield. If any of their young South Americans proves to be any good that would give them an extra dash of quality.”
Guillem Balague makes his predictions for the forthcoming season in Spain, putting his neck on the line and picking Barca to win La Liga, with Sevilla, Real Madrid and Valencia finishing in 2nd, 3rd and 4th spots respectively. “I believe in the Guardiola project. I have seen the new BarÃ§a coach and his side in training and the team seems to be switched on and up for it. That is the real difference between them winning or losing La Liga. They have the most talented squad in Spain and their new attitude and confidence will give them the title.”