Manchester United close in on £62.5m Franck Ribery, as Arsene Wenger has an “obsession” to win the Champions League with kids

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “How many times have I said this? My future belongs to Arsenal and I want to be at Arsenal. I see my future here. I do not have to tell anyone to be relaxed or more confident that I am staying. My name has been linked with other clubs for four years, and I am still here. That should tell you something.” – Cesc Fabregas.

Runner-up: “It’s ridiculous for people to claim that Joey Barton has played his last ever game for Newcastle United because he has three years left on his contract at St James’ Park and he wants to honour that commitment. The club pay his wages and he is still absolutely 100 per cent committed to the Newcastle cause and will be for the foreseeable future. Obviously, though, it’s the club’s prerogative as to whether or not they decide they want to sell Joey or not but as far as he in concerned he remains firmly committed to doing his very best for the club. Whatever people might say, Joey is still a very good midfield player. When he’s fit he’s one of the best players on Newcastle’s books and clubs like that generally don’t get rid of their best players do they? Even if Newcastle do get relegated Joey would want to stay on and play his part in making sure they bounced straight back into the Premier League but obviously the club may decide to sell him. That will be their decision.” – Willie McKay, Joey Barton’s agent.

Today’s overview: Usually we find the tabloids inventing transfer gossip when it is obvious that such deals will never, ever, come to fruition. But today it is the turn of the Guardian to splash with the transfer scoop that will sets pulses racing on the red side of Manchester.

According to Raphael Honigstein, “Manchester United have made an offer of about €70m (£62.5m) for the Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery as they close in on a deal that would shatter the world transfer record.” It a supplementary article, Honigstein goes on to contrast the Frenchman with the player he is most likely to replace – Cristiano Ronaldo. “Cruelly mocked by children after a car accident left him with large scars on his face, Ribery is one of the least vain footballers in the modern era. He has never been spotted with hair gel on his head nor, in fact, any discernible haircut at all.”

A second transfer story that appears as good as done, as reported by James Ducker is that “[Sami] Hyypia will join Bayer Leverkusen on a two-year contract in the summer after shunning Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City.” Staying with the Merseysiders, Rory Smith slips in the throwaway comment that “Almeria’s highly-rated Spanish striker, Alvaro Negredo, has revealed there has been ‘contact’ between his club and Liverpool.”

The main bulk of today’s analysis centres on the Champions League second leg between Arsenal and Manchester United tonight.

Kevin McCarra starts the debate off by pointing out how Wenger’s Arsenal are still a work in progress. “[Wenger] will have to recruit people who can flourish in his sort of football while also being equipped to produce force at least equal to that of the opposition. Wenger is surely searching for rare individuals.” But others, Oliver Kay for example, argue that Wenger does not have eternity to get things right at Arsenal. “Wenger’s is a vision that is beautiful in theory, but Arsenal need to win a trophy sooner or later if it is to work in practice.”

Sam Wallace picks up on the stubbornness of The Professor. “The brilliance of Wenger at Arsenal will live on regardless but when he says that winning the Champions League is an obsession he is only half-right. Rather the obsession for Wenger is that the Champions League must be won his way, with his young players, on his terms.”

Looking to outsmart his fellow pundits, but ending up talking utter nonsense, Ian Wright argues that Arsenal will lose tonight because “I don’t see enough of the Arsenal team really loving their club… If Arsenal fail to win a trophy, I wonder how many of the players will really be hurting.”

David Pleat returns to the stale Berbatov versus Tevez argument, trying to convince his readers that the Bulgarian is in fact far from lazy even though his demeanour suggests otherwise. “Berbatov’s problem is that his particular style of play can make him look uninterested or slack, when actually his body language can be deceptive.”

In an article focused on the development, or otherwise, of Anderson at Old Trafford, Ian Herbert opts to critique United’s “lack of a goalscoring midfielders to go with all those strikers. Where is their Gerrard, Lampard, or Fabregas? It seems fair to ask.”

Spanish pundit Sid Lowe questions whether Barcelona can find a way past Chelsea on Wednesday. “Dominating domestically is one thing; defeating Premier League ­opposition another.”

new anti-racism proposals which would cost football clubs championship points if found guilty. “The depth of religious and racist discrimination in football was one of the reasons that so few Muslims become involved in the sport or attended matches, even though a majority of Muslims in Britain list football as their favourite sport.”

Having watched Aston Villa beat Hull, hopes may rest on Middlesbrough and Newcastle United, who are both three points below them, drawing when they play each other on Monday and then failing to win either of their remaining games.” This same line of argument is used by Alan Hansen to reason how the Magpies can beat the drop. “The only thing going for them at the moment is that Hull and Sunderland are both in absolute freefall and, if Newcastle win their two home games against Middlesbrough and Fulham, those points might be enough to keep them up.”

Putting his head above the parapet, Oliver Kay actually defends Joey Barton in light of his suspension by the Toon for rowing with Shearer. “Witnesses allege that Shearer… called Barton a coward for the tackle on Alonso… While Barton has a chequered past on and off the pitch, his tackle on Alonso was barely less wild than that by Alan Smith on Alvaro Arbeloa, the Liverpool defender, for which the Newcastle player was shown a yellow card on Sunday.” And there is more criticism of Shearer’s tardiness by Shaun Custis, reporting that “some players believe Shearer has gone over the top [with his rules and order] and that, at a time when Newcastle should be focusing on tactics on the pitch, the hard-line approach off the field is causing unnecessary ill-feeling.”

Steve McClaren has reclaimed his honour according to Dutchman Leander Schaerlaeckens. “Having far surpassed what could be reasonably expected of him with Middlesbrough, Twente effectively erases the England disaster, making it an aberration in an otherwise successful career path, rather than a defining and dooming unmasking.”

Charles Sale rips into Stan Collymore in the Daily Mail. “Collymore, arguing the case against Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia being selected for England, informed readers he was at Fratton Park to watch Arsenal beat Portsmouth where ‘the irony wasn’t lost that Almunia kept a clean sheet while (resident England keeper) David James conceded a howler.’ Only trouble, Stan, was that Lukasz Fabianski was in goal for Arsenal.”

To conclude, the tabloids continue to report riduclous transfer news in the hope of selling more copies of their red-top rags. Alan Nixon latches onto the rumours that “Real Madrid’s wannabe president Florentino Perez… claims he has deals set up for United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso among others,” while The Mirror report that “Everton are set to win the race to sign Huddersfield keeper Alex Smithies in a deal worth £2million.” Finally, the Daily Mail print that “Manchester United have leapt to the head of the queue for Paris St Germain’s defensive prodigy Mamadou Sakho.”


GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE, PLEASE PLAY RESPONSIBLY