Alonso out and Aquilani in for Liverpool, AC Milan want Arsenal’s £30m Cesc, as David Nugent and Marc Wilson brawl at Pompey’s training camp

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Until this takeover happens, neither the old, nor the new owner, is placing any money into the business. When – and if – it does, I’m not yet aware of what finance will be available for players.” – Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie.

Runner-up: “Liverpool have just had probably their best season for 20 years, finished up with 86 points and still finished four adrift. It will be hard for them to match that, let alone improve. Other teams will read Liverpool better. It has to be Chelsea as the main threat. Ancelotti will change the way Chelsea play. There is plenty of flexibility in what he’s got and he should get goals from Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Today’s overview: The protracted transfer of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid has finally completed, with Rafa Benitez securing the transfer fee he was holding out for.

Rory Smith leads the congratulations for Benitez. “The fee represents a significant victory for Benitez in the first major sale he has overseen since signing his new contract, which included significantly increased powers in the transfer market.” Similar praise is offered to Rafa from Sam Wallace writing “Benitez has once again proved himself a durable negotiator, holding out for a price of £30m for a player he valued at little more than half that last season.”

On possible replacements for Alonso, Andy Hunter jots down that ” Liverpool are now expected to make an £18m offer for the Roma midfielder, Alberto Aquilani.” However the Independent offer an alternative printing that “Steven Defour’s agent has claimed the Standard Liege midfielder would not turn down the chance to join Liverpool if they came in for him.”

On the eve of the new season, Henry Winter is already found whinging that the new year hasn’t already started. “I wished this season had kicked off a fortnight ago… The football season, particularly in England with its obsession with pace and athleticism, is too intense. It needs a pause for breath and battery-recharging in January, the sort of winter break adopted by the Germans, who know a thing or three about winning World Cups.”

Challenging Winter’s position head-on and wishing the summer break would last longer is Michael Henderson. “When a game becomes omnipresent, as football has, it is impossible to enjoy it fully. Unless, that is, you are the sort of one-eyed fan who believes that football is the only thing in life that matters, in which case you may require the kind of treatment that does not come from the physio’s ‘magic sponge.'”

Not usually ones to spread baseless gossip, The Times’ Gary Jacob will infuriate Arsenal fans reporting “AC Milan officials will meet today to discuss formulating an offer for Cesc Fabregas… Silvio Berlusconi, the club president, is to meet Adriano Galliani, his vice-president, and Leonardo, the coach, with the intention of offering £30 million for the midfield player and a contract worth £90,000 a week.”

Keeping with the Gunners, Ian McGarry makes the case that the North Londoners are too small to win a trophy. “If you were to put today’s Arsenal midfield (Arshavin, Fabregas, Denilson, Walcott) against the ’04 side (Parlour, Vieira, Gilberto, Pires) who do you think would win? It’s like fielding a bunch of Victorian chimney sweeps against the WWF legends… No one is denying that smaller, skilful ball players can be effective in English and European football. But recent history tells us that any team with serious ambitions cannot afford any more than one or two such players on the field.”

Sorry Newcastle fans. The nightmare appears to be coming true as in truly depressing news for the Magpies Helen Power reports that “Mike Ashley, the Newcastle United owner, is examining the possibility of retaining possession of the relegated club for at least another year.”

Joining the Black and Whites down in the doldrums are poor Pompey fans, who not only have to contend with news that their drawn-out takeover may now be on shaky ground but also that “one-cap England striker David Nugent was sent home early from a pre-season trip for an incident with a team-mate during a late-night drinking session.”

Charles Sale goes into greater detail on the incident explaining that “David Nugent and Marc Wilson, fined a maximum two weeks’ wages after a drunken late-night brawl on a trip to Portugal last week… [Nugent and] Wilson are understood to have squared up to each other with metal clothes rails torn from their hotel wardrobes at 5am on Sunday after a night of heavy drinking.” And completing the picture is Darren Lewis, who claims “David Nugent was allegedly hit across the legs with a lump of wood by defender Marc Wilson during the fight. The amazing bust-up took place in a corridor outside their rooms and were witnessed by team-mates who were forced to step in to prevent the situation escalating even further.”

After news broke yesterday that Philippe Senderos had moved from Arsenal to Everton, it now seems that those reports were premature. Andy Hunter details that “Everton have offered about £3m for Senderos… Arsenal, however, are believed to have an alternative offer of £5m on the table as several clubs, including Hamburg plus a Premier League team, pursue the centre-half.” James Ducker is far more optimistic that the transfer will happen announcing “despite strong interest from Villarreal, Hamburg and Hertha Berlin, Senderos, who is out of contract at Arsenal next summer, wants to move to Goodison Park.”

The Guardian continue to roll out their club-by-club Premier League previews.

Stuart James predicts difficult times ahead for Aston Villa. “From the poor form at the end of last season to the departure of two of the club’s most influential players and a worrying lack of new signings, the portents are not too promising… O’Neill is among the Premier League’s top managers but he is not a miracle worker.”

Paul Doyle delivers a similar downbeat message ahead of Blackburn’s new season, chastising how “there’s only so long Rovers supporters would tolerate being a poor man’s Stoke, no matter how little Ewood Park tickets cost.” While on expectations of Birmingham’s season ahead, Stuart James writes “expect a few narrow victories, little entertainment and plenty of rumours about McLeish being on the brink. Give Big Eck a full season, however, and he might just manage to keep Birmingham up.”

Far more upbeat is Daniel Taylor on Bolton. “The summer acquisitions of Sean Davis, Sam Ricketts, Paul Robinson and Zat Knight all look like sensible buys and it is not wholly unrealistic, in a league with maybe only eight good teams, that Bolton could finish somewhere from ninth to 11th next season if their squad is not stretched too much by injuries.”

The Sun come storming back to life this Wednesday with a selection of stories missed by their rival rags.

Antony Kastrinakis begins by announcing that “Didier Drogba last night agreed a new three-year contract at Chelsea worth over £100,000 a week.” Next, the red-top claims that “Arsene Wenger has failed with £5.5million bid for Sevilla centre-back Federico Fazio.” Paul Jiggins spreads the rumour that “Harry Redknapp  hopes to solve his defensive crisis by signing Blackburn’s Christopher Samba in a £10million swoop.” And finally we learn how “Everton are ready to gamble on Rangers hothead John Fleck.”

Finally, in an offbeat article, Rob Bagchi recalls how Teletext revolutionised football back in the day. “Teletext boiled football down to its essentials, the scoreline. Romance, florid descriptions and tactical analysis counted for nothing next to the result. It couldn’t tell you anything about performance or players and in those days you were unlikely to find team line-ups anywhere unless you bought the Sunday People. Before such information became commonplace, it equally satisfied the urges of football junkies and those for whom a Saturday afternoon would not be complete without a fixed-odds coupon.”