Debt-ridden Liverpool are being forced to sell, who owns Leeds United & the “Montenegrin Messi”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I am not slower now than I was seven, eight years ago, no chance. With the hamstring problems early in my career, they knocked a yard off my pace straight away, but since then I have been the same player and if anything I have improved. People think I’m past my 30s, I’m in my 40s, the way they talk about me. I’m only 29. I’m not past it. It’s not an easy squad to get into with the results the team are getting at the minute. But I’m as passionate as ever about extending my time with England… A player like me, I freely admit, I rely on team-mates. I am better in a better team. It sounds stupid, but I could name six players who are better in a poorer team.” – Michael Owen, speaking to Matt Dickinson in The Times.

Runner-up: “We had three French officials with a French coach [Arsène Wenger] on the opposing team and ten French players. Maybe we could have had referees from other countries. I don’t want to talk only about this, but perhaps it should be taken into account. It’s only a comment, but it’s my right to comment.” – Zico.


Today’s overview: It’s another day of pass the parcel on Merseyside as Liverpool’s Yank owners publicly admit that they are looking to sell the Anfield club.

Andy Hunter reveals that “George Gillett and Tom Hicks have confirmed they intend to end their joint-ownership of Liverpool… The Liverpool co-chairmen issued a rare joint statement last night to reject claims that Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdulla of Saudi Arabia is in talks to purchase a 50% holding in the club. They also confirmed, for the first time, that they have employed separate banks to flush out potential new investors in Liverpool.”

Delving a little deeper, Tony Barrett discovers that the Liverpool owners are being coerced into selling by the banks. “Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, the owners of Liverpool, have been issued with an ultimatum by the club’s bankers to attract investors to reduce the club’s debt or to sell up.”

Ownership of football clubs continues to dominate the headlines as David Conn worryingly goes public with news that “the ownership of Leeds – the Yorkshire club finally on the rise in League One after years of financial horror – is unknown… the revelation that Leeds United’s owners are unknown, and offshore, comes as the League board prepares to decide whether to pass as fit and proper Notts County’s takeover – by a group of investors, not yet fully identified, in a fund administered from Switzerland.” And David Conn fleshes out the story in a second article. “The fact that the owners of Leeds United are now revealed as holders of 10,000 shares in a Cayman Islands company [Forward Sports Fund], whose administrators will not disclose their identities without a court order, does beg the question about whether they have ever been passed as fit and proper.”

Sensationalist Ian McGarry then wades into the ownership debate, painting an extreme theory of the ills of not knowing who the owners of clubs are. “If we do not know the source of the money, neither do we know where any money may be channelled out of English football in the future. Much of the new cash comes from the oil-rich Arab states. Countries also known to finance the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. There is no suggestion of any current investment having links to terrorism but can the authorities honestly say they know where the money comes from?”

If you were unaware of his existence before, last night Fiorentina’s Steven Jovetic announced himself to world football by leading the battering of Liverpool.

As detailed by Andy Hunter, “Liverpool were consistently overrun in midfield, with Jovetic delivering a performance they will not forget and rival managers are sure to note. The 19-year-old Montenegrin… wreaked havoc… his first touch, disguised passes and movement proving thorns to an already vulnerable Liverpool defence.”

Almost caught sweating over his keyboard, Rory Smith goes into overdrive when praising young Jovetic. “Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be gone to join the galaxy of stars in La Liga, but on this evidence they have an heir in waiting. In Florence, the fans call him the Montenegrin Messi. The rest will soon follow suit.”

Following Zico’s comments after his Olympiakos side lost at Arsenal, should the selection of referees be a more sensitive issue. Gabriele Marcotti thinks so. “If we want to stamp out suspicion entirely, let’s just allow the best possible referees, regardless of nationality, to officiate Champions’ League games. That would have meant being prepared to hand Arsenal v Olympiacos to an English or Greek referee.”

Ahead of Wednesday night’s Manchester-Wolfsburg clash in the Champions League, Jonathan Wilson assesses the German’s offensive talents. “Edin Dzeko is tall and physically imposing, a target man who from an early age has been described as ‘an English-style striker’. Zvjezdan Misimovic is slow and perhaps a little rounder than most footballers, but blessed with the vision and technical excellence that places him squarely in the great tradition of Balkan playmakers.”

For no particular reason, Martin Samuel decided to pummel Sulaiman Al Fahim in the scribe’s column in today’s Daily Mail. “Portsmouth do not need one extra fan, they already have thousands of them. The club need cash and if provided by a man with a head for business, a sober suit and tie and an aversion to publicity, so much the better. Instead, what they have is Fahim, talking in telephone numbers and making promises that pose more questions than answers.”

We end, as is standard, with the transfer toss as The Sun’s Phil Thomas farts the EXCLUSIVE that “Manchester United are the latest club to keep tabs on Bolton defender Gary Cahill… Cahill, 23, has attracted interest from Chelsea, Juventus and AC Milan.”

It is the Mirror though who go into overdrive with substantiated pieces of gossip, John Cross rattling off the rumour that “Martin O’Neill is weighing up a January bid for Standard Liege midfielder Milan Jovanovic,” the hack also tooting that “Hull boss Phil Brown is desperate to set up a January deal for Sol Campbell,” before Cross delivered his third lie of the day bleating “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is trailing Atletico Madrid whizzkid Keko.”

Not to be left out in the cold, The Star’s Sami Mokbel cough up the never-gonna-happen story that “Arsenal and Tottenham will offer Aston Villa star Nigel Reo-Coker a £3m route back to London.”