Liverpool’s video nasty, Man City want to become the new Arsenal & Chelsea home in on Sergio Aguero

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Anyone who knows me knows that I want to win every trophy, every game. But if you ask me what I prefer, I will say the Premier League. If I do not win the title, I’m sure I’d be so disappointed maybe I would have this feeling [of failure]… The plan was for Barry to play on the left and feed the ball to Robbie Keane, who would play up front with Fernando Torres. This blueprint had to be scrapped. The collateral damage was Keane, who signed from Tottenham Hotspur before the Barry deal had been done. When we wanted to sign Barry, we were sure we were signing a good player with a very good mentality and the quality to play in the Premier League. The priority was Barry, then Keane.” – Rafa Benitez (The full interview can be read here and here.)

Runner-up: “I’m not shocked at all. Wales was a disastrous result. It’s not as if we were playing England or Brazil or France, it was Wales and it was unacceptable from the manager’s and players’ point of view. I don’t think what he wanted to do got across to some players and also I think some of them are too thick to take it on board – and not good enough to take it on board, anyway, to be perfectly honest with you. He can look most of the players in the eye and ask if they did a good job for him, and I don’t think there are many, if any, who can say, ‘Yes, I did.'” – Craig Burley (pictured).


Today’s overview: Can Ireland pull off a miracle and win in Paris?

Unsure, David Hytner details why the Republic can have belief. “They draw hope from their unbeaten away record thus far in the campaign but, moreover, from the encouraging nature of the performances. The 1-1 draw against Italy in Bari has fired much of the optimism, but so has the team’s ability to find the net. Only in Podgorica against Montenegro did they draw a blank.”

Russell Kempson delivers the bad statistical news to the Irish. “No team have recovered from a home defeat in a European play-off, whether for the European Championship or World Cup finals. Only one European team have won the first leg of a play-off and failed to reach the finals, Scotland — against Holland — in 2003.”

Sticking with empirical data, Daniel McDonnell also spells out the difficulties facing Ireland. “No team has ever won a World Cup play-off after losing the first leg at home. A global statistic to add to the personal hurdles Ireland have to overcome. Twenty-two years since a meaningful away competitive victory. Eight years without success against a higher ranked side. In short, there is no logical rationale to suggest the visitors can turn this around. Instead, they need something illogical to happen.”

The hatred between Manchester United and Liverpool is set to be ratcheted up once with regard to the release of a new film. Liverpool have risked a furore over a film starring Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher that portrays Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, as a whiskey-guzzling drunk and Gary Neville, the club’s captain, as a rat who ‘hates Scousers.'”

Martin Samuel makes the case that neither Diego Maradona nor Sir Alex Ferguson should have been punished for their recent rants. “Respect is the buzzword in football right now but nobody lost respect for Wiley over what happened at Old Trafford. They lost respect for Ferguson. Similarly, the combative Argentine press do not need protection from the volatile and unstable Maradona. They will get their right of reply because journalists always do. So nobody needs a slap, on the wrist or anywhere else. If the manager tells you to suck it the best policy is to take it on the chin.”

Turning to the blue half of Manchester, the big news on Eastlands is that City have decided to follow Arsene Wenger’s model to sign best youngsters from outside academy system in order to prepare their club for the future.

Acknowledging that this development “represents a significant cultural shift for a club built on local potential,” Ian Herbert almost sarcastically writes “with the exception of Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland, Shaun Wright-Phillips and possibly Nedum Onuoha and Vladmir Weiss there is not much evidence of players who will meet City’s current expectations. Teams now have to have eight home-grown players in a Champions League squad: four from their own academy and the other four from any British club.”

While the broadsheets detail this new youth strategy for Manchester City, the red-tops continue to churn of fanciful transfer that appear to carry a high risk of never happening. Alan Nixon bleats “Italian hard man Rino Gattuso is ready to quit AC Milan – and expects to sign for Manchester City in the transfer window.”

Spurs, as usual, as also link with a host of transfer stories. The Daily Mail fart “Tottenham Hotspur look set to be priced out of a move for France starlet Moussa Sissoko… Free-spending Manchester City, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Lyon are among the clubs now linked with a move for the player keeping Patrick Vieira out of the France squad.”

Elsewhere, the Mirror churn out the very very old rumour that “Mark Hughes is ready to save David Bentley from his Spurs nightmare with a £8million bid – and send Martin Petrov to White Hart Lane as part of the deal.” And lastly for the Lilywhites, Sid Lowe relays the information that “Ruud van Nistelrooy has paved the way for a return to the Premier League by admitting that he will leave Real Madrid if he does not play for the Spanish club between now and the January transfer window… Tottenham Hotspur are reported to have shown an interest in the 33-year-old.”

The big transfer news of the day though sees Jason Burt announce “Chelsea are expected to clinch a British-record £40 million transfer deal to sign the Argentine international Sergio Aguero at a meeting scheduled with his agents next Monday… Chelsea may follow up the deal with a move for Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery, who would command a similar fee and who is also greatly admired by Ancelotti.” A slight difference of opinion is made public by the Daily Mail’s Steve Skerry, who claims “Chelsea are closing in on a deal for Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid which could be worth £50million – and make the Argentina striker the highest-paid player in the Barclays Premier League.  Aguero’s pay demands mean he is likely to earn more than Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor, who is believed to be on a £170,000-a-week deal at Eastlands.”

The Independent go on to discuss how another rumoured Chelsea target, Angel di Maria, is being well guarded by his current club Benfica. “Benfica are refusing to enter a pre-contract agreement for their winger Angel di Maria in the hope that his performances in next year’s World Cup for Argentina will trigger an auction… Only a huge offer would be enough to draw the player away any sooner as the €14m (£12.3m) release clause in the player’s contract does not comes into play until the summer.”

While Chelsea are buying, Liverpool are selling. The Telegraph claim “Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena, Andriy Voronin and Philipp Degen will all be sacrificed should suitable offers arrive, even though there are currently no guarantees that Benitez will be granted the revenue generated by their departures to reinvest into the Liverpool team.”

Alan Nixon closes out the gossip with yet another old old story, regurgitating “Everton boss David Moyes is chasing Serbian World Cup striker Milan Jovanovic – and hopes to sign him in the next transfer window.”