“Joe Cole was awful. Although [his substitution] came as a surprise, it was not a shock. His old manager Jose Mourinho would probably have hooked him after 20 minutes” – Mark Fleming

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Of course I miss playing for Manchester United. I played there for six years and that’s a long time. I am still interested in watching Manchester United and, you never know, maybe in the future I could return to play there. It’s always possible. I want to fulfil my contract here but, in the future, only God knows. I will not say I am not happy here at Real Madrid. I am really happy and everyone knows this is my club but, of course, I miss Manchester United, the boss, the players, because I left family there.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.

Runner-up: “When you’ve had as long a layoff as Joe [Cole] did it takes time to get into tip-top form. Joe will get there. I’m not worried [by his form] and not surprised.” – Ray Wilkins.

Today’s overview: It’s Sunday, which means the tabloids go into overdrive with their pathetic excuse for sports news as smut and never-gonna-happen transfers keeps most of the intelligent football chat in the corner.

Leaders in dumbing-down Blighty, the News of the World’s James Weatherup kicks things off by reporting how love-rat John Terry has patched things up with his missus Toni in Dubai under the headline “Hook, line and stinker.” “The sacked England captain plans to put the seal on their astonishing reunion today with a romantic Valentine’s date – taking mum-of-two Toni back to the beach in Dubai where he proposed, and swearing undying devotion… again.”

Next, Katie Hinds splutters that “cheat John Terry and wife Toni plan to try for a third child to plaster over the cracks in their marriage, The People can reveal. The couple believe a baby to add to their three-year-old twins will bring a fresh start and heal the troubled relationship.”

From one overpaid plonker to another, as the NOTW then go on to announce that Ashley Cole has had his Valentine’s day cancelled by wife Cheryl for his latest misdemeanor. Over-hyping a nothing story, Dan Wootton farted “DEVASTATED Cheryl Cole last night SCRAPPED plans to spend a romantic Valentine’s Day with her nude phone pics scandal hubby Ashley Cole – and changed her schedule so she could WORK instead. As their marriage crisis deepened, the furious Girls Aloud star also BANNED the injured Chelsea star from Tuesday night’s Brit awards – the biggest night of her career so far.”

The scandals aren’t only sex related though, as Keith Gladdis announces how “Craig Bellamy was caked in blood after his face was pummelled outside a nightclub. A Man United fan battered the Man City striker splitting his head open and sending him flying.”

Dispensing with the scandals, the red-tops continue to churn out complete nonsense as the usual transfer crap is spewed in the Sundays.

We start with that fresh, breaking news that apparently Barcelona want Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas. Paul Smith churns out the latest pure speculation revealing “Barcelona believe they have a strategy in place to ensure Cesc Fabregas joins them this summer in a £60million deal… While European ­champions Barcelona deny that any ­contract is in place between the parties, they have ­budgeted for the deal. This includes a £60m transfer purse, a five-year ­contract for the player worth a staggering £160,000 a week, a £9m ­signing-on fee, and image rights and bonuses that could see Fabregas’s earnings rise past the £200,000-per-week mark.”

Fluffing up the Cesc-Barca story, Paul Hayward injects his opinion as to why Fabregas should jump ship. “To watch Fabregas carry the Arsenal midfield in some games is to ask how long he can reasonably be expected to serve as a high-class private tutor to Alex Song and Abou Diaby… Fabregas is 22 and much too young to be Wenger’s lecturer on the field. He has his own potential immortality to attend to… Plainly the time has come for him to decide whether he is part of an unfolding miracle or a manager’s hallucination.”

The NOTW are at pains to use non-committal word “can” as they barf “Dodo can seal a move to Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson secured first option on the promising teenager. The Brazilian left-back has been frustrated by a lack of opportunities at Corinthians and was concerned when the club signed Roberto Carlos, 36, on a two-year deal to play in his position.” Adopting the exact same tactics to produce another article barely worth the paper it’s written on, David Harrison yapped “Karim Benzema could be on his way to Manchester United – at a knockdown price.”

From the bargains to rip-offs, Alex Shaw announces “Manchester United have been quoted a staggering £30million if they want to lure Everton starlet Jack Rodwell to Old Trafford.” Next, Cliff Hayes twists CR9’s words to report “Cristiano Ronaldo has opened the door on a sensational return to Manchester United.” And finally Rob Draper claims that “Edwin van der Sar is expected to sign a new one-year contact with Manchester United next week, worth around £5million, that will delay by at least 12 months any need for the club to find a successor.”

Even the Sunday Times find themselves spreading transfer rumours, as Duncan Castles yaps that Manchester City are preparing a cheeky move for United centre-half Nemanja Vidic.

In other transfer guff, the NOTW spread their net wide reporting how West Ham’s Valon Behrami is being tracked by Palermo, Lazio, Roma, Juventus and Manchester City, while Everton are reportedly sniffing around City defender Nedum Onuoha. The Mirror on Sunday claim that “Chelsea are lining up a £9million summer swoop for Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor,” while the People claim that West Ham are considering moving for Birmingham’s loanee Christian Benitez.

Moving on, he’s been out of employment for three days, and already Svennis is looking to the future. Aidan McGee trumpets “Sven-Goran Eriksson wants to be the next Liverpool boss… Eriksson is wanted by Juventus and is also interested in taking Nigeria into their World Cup campaign this summer in South Africa.”

Eventually we arrive to some actual football chat.

The Star’s Paul Hetherington sticks his head above the parapet to wonder whether Chelsea can with the treble this season, asking specifically on the FA Cup “with Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool already out, just who is going to stop Chelsea retaining this famous trophy?”

The optimistic mood around Stamford Bridge is soured by Mark Fleming, who flags up Joe Cole’s horrible Saturday against Cardiff. “Being substituted at half-time is always a humbling experience for any player. But when you are an established England international, and your star-studded team is struggling against opposition from the division below, then the embarrassment is all the more acute… Cole was awful. Although [his substitution] came as a surprise, it was not a shock. His old manager Jose Mourinho would probably have hooked him after 20 minutes.”

Joe Cole’s failings were also picked up by . “Among Cole’s low points was the moment when he came at Peter Whittingham, performing step-overs with an overeagerness that made him resemble a comedian doing an absurd Cristiano Ronaldo pastiche. Whittingham, almost wearily, relieved Cole of the ball.”

After another week of clubs battling against administration, several scribes voice their grievances with the current system in place for dealing with hard-up clubs.

First, Rod Liddle believes the current financial status quo in football has to break. “The Premier League football we watch now is of a higher quality than the stuff we saw 20 and 30 years ago. But there is something of the chimera about it, something unsustainable and dangerous. Clubs went out of business in the 1980s, but on nothing like the scale they threaten to do these days.”

James Corrigan complains about the Football Creditors Rule (FCR) and how it affects those owed money when clubs go under. “When a club is bought out of administration, the players owed salaries and bonuses and the other clubs owed transfer fees must be paid first, normally in full. In turn, the HMRC have to take their place in the queue with the other creditors, which outrageously and invariably also include the St John’s Ambulance. So Benito Carbone receives the outstanding £40,000 and the public purse and a charity get 10 per cent of what they are due… So the fairness of the League table took precedence over the fairness of more and more local businesses going through. Absurd.”

Gary Lineker picks over the issue of clubs losing points for falling into administration. “Once they go into administration, the guilty party — the previous owners — no longer have an active role in affairs. So they walk away unaffected and the fans suffer because their team are docked points.”

Dropping a potential bomb, Patrick Hennessy announces how the government are considering making football the first sport in England to come under the control of a state-appointed regulator. “In what would be one of the most controversial political interventions into sport in history, football could effectively lose the right to run its own affairs in the wake of a string of financial crises that have hit a number of leading clubs. Instead the game would be effectively run under licence from a regulator similar to watchdogs which currently oversee the communications industries and privatised utilities.”

The mixture of football and politics then intensifies further as Henry Winter reveals how “calling on their considerable contacts in Westminster and Whitehall, Manchester United supporters are to make the future of their club, and particularly the controversial, debt-driven regime of the Glazers, one of the issues of the forthcoming General Election… United fans are even joining forces with their ancient rivals, Liverpool, to make club ownership a topic of debate on the campaign trail along with more usual Newsnight subjects like the economy, the environment and the war in Afghanistan. Football’s hitting the hustings. Lobbying is already under way.”