“Barack Beckham”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Yes I was a bit surprised [with Beckham receiving the man of the match award]. I just thought it was like Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize after eight months as President of the United States. He gets the man of the match after 30 minutes here. That move to Milan is important because he will play there. What impresses me about Beckham is that whether he comes on for 20 minutes, 50 minutes, half an hour or at half-time, he plays well and is always focused. Some players have problems when they come on as substitutes. Beckham always plays well, though.” – Fabio Capello.

Runner-up: “For those who didn’t believe in this national team, for those who treated me like garbage [I say] today we are in the World Cup with all the honours, beating a team like Uruguay. I am black or white, I’ll never be grey in my life.” – Diego Maradona.


Today’s overview: Despite beating Belarus, England take a pasting across the backpages this Thursday.

After Crouch and Agbonlahor got their chances to shine against Belarus, Paul Hayward assesses the front-runners for England’s five striking positions. “Conclusion: Heskey needs more club games, Crouch is Heskey’s main deputy, and Agbonlahor needs Rooney and Defoe to go down at the rate of Spinal Tap drummers to have any chance of starting at the World Cup.”

Keeping with the forwards and painting England as a one-man team, Alan Smith prays Wayne Rooney is fit at the World Cup. “It was a glimpse of a future few want to imagine. A future without the team’s talisman. When the World Cup comes around, England without Wayne Rooney doesn’t bear thinking about, so crucial is the striker in every way.”

Despite the Belarus match being labelled a dead-rubber all week, David Pleat finds plenty of room to criticise England. “There is no apparent substitute for Rooney’s inventiveness and dynamism. Against top sides who keep possession England will need to get closer and disturb rhythm. Better teams, with more power in the final third, would have taken advantage.” Equally unimpressed by England’s performance was Patrick Barclay. “Last night they lacked Rooney — and Heskey, and Gerrard — and we were delivered the nightmare scenario, the Plan B of which Capello had spoken on Tuesday, a sort of 4-4-2 with Peter Crouch and Gabriel Agbonlahor at the front, the kind of thing we used to have except when Hoddle or Terry Venables was trying to teach English footballers to play between well-worn lines.”

And the criticism continues to flow as Matt Hughes picked holes at Rio Ferdinand. “For the first time in his career his head is strong but his body is weak… Most players deprived of football have a tendency to put on weight, but Ferdinand looks as if he has been on a starvation diet, his once-toned figure so lean as to be almost gaunt. The cause is unclear, and he may simply have been overtraining as a result of being confined to the gym.”

Wrapping up the rest of England’s bad press, Kevin Gardside tooted “England’s B-listers looked anything but world champions,”

On Capello’s comparison of man-of-the-match Beckham to Obama, Mike Norrish showers Don Fabio with praise. “Smart, topical, and bang on the money.  Because both Obama and Beckham were hugely embarrassed by their unearned gongs, which made both men look like poster boys for the promotion of style over substance.” And staying on point Sam Wallace sympathised with Peter Crouch, who he believed should have been awarded the title. “Steve Bruce declared himself unwilling to reward Peter Crouch’s two goals with the man of the match award because the striker had turned down the chance to join Sunderland in the summer. It was a typical piece of Crouchian luck: you win the game and then a spurned manager gives all the credit to David Beckham.”

Yet the most angry man of the day has to be the Daily Mail’s self-righteous Jeff Powell, who comes close to bursting a blood vessel as he rips into David Beckham. “Beckham mania descended into certifiable lunacy on Wednesday as England’s bit-part celebrity was named the man of a match to which he made a lesser contribution than the ball boys. The award insulted the rest of England’s team by celebrating a man who did not come on until the last half hour, yet barely had the puff to reach the final whistle.”

Moving on, after two days of Diego-bashing followed by Argentina qualifying for the World Cup, Martin Samuel refuses to accept that Maradona should continue to manage the South American giants. “The question remains whether Maradona’s employers can continue to trust him with some of the crown jewels of world football… Maradona was embraced by his staff and players and disappeared beneath a crowd of bodies at the final whistle, but Uruguay were the better side, had most of the play, most of the chances and looked a more coherent unit.”

For the second day running, this time from Lawrence Donegan, we hear the argument that John Barnes’ dismissal from Tranmere should not take away from the knowledge that racism plagues English football. “Since the 1992-93 there have been just 17 black managers in this country. Given the number of black players who have played at the highest level over that period, these are extraordinary numbers and all the proof anyone should need that racism is alive and thriving in football boardrooms.”

In domestic news, Martin Blackburn goes public with news that “Saudi Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah claims his F6 company are close to buying a major stake in Liverpool.”

Onto the transfers, where the Independent take it upon themselves to quash two rumours which have been doing the rounds of late. First, we learn that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will not be joining Spurs, quickly followed by the news that “Brazil international Douglas Maicon will not be leaving Internazionale in January.” And the denials keep flowing, The Sun announcing that “Sulley Muntari insists he will not leave Inter Milan for Tottenham in January.”

Don’t worry though, as the tabloids make sure to vomit up a whole new set of lies to help them sell papers.

In a never-gonna-happen story, the Mirror fart “Liverpool are poised for a January move for Vasco da Gama starlet Nilton.” Slightly more believable, John Cross chimes that “Spanish club Xerex are trying to sign Bolton misfit Ivan Klasnic on loan in January.

While the standout rumour of the day sees John Cross trumpet “Brazilian superstar Adriano has been offered to Tottenham on a free transfer for the January transfer market… They claim that Adriano has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave on a free transfer in January if a European club makes a move to sign him.”