Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool & Ian Wright face charges of child-snatching

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “We have a situation where one of our 15-year-olds has been approached. He is an outstanding player by any standards and he has come in and told us that he wants to leave right now to join a big club. The big clubs are stealing other people’s players and you worry financially for the clubs where the players are stolen from. What sort of compensation are we going to get for all the work that has gone into developing him? Any compensation is insignificant for the effort that has gone in. I’m delighted with what has happened with Chelsea. I would hope all the big clubs are frightened to death. There is no excuse for breaking the rules. We lost a 12-year-old to Everton. He was our best 12-year-old. The lure is that the bigger clubs pay big expenses.” – Crewe director of football, Dario Gradi.

Runner-up: “I have been in the France team for 12 years and never have I been in this situation. We do not know how to play, where to go, there is no organisation. There is no style, no guidance and no identity.” – Thierry Henry.

Today’s overview: Another day, and accusations of child poaching are spreading like wild fire.

Focus has now shifted onto the richest club in the world, as Jon Brodkin reports “Manchester City look set to be investigated by Fifa over their signing of the French teenager Jérémy Hélan after the defender’s former club, Rennes, said they had complained to world football’s governing body about the transfer… City are understood to be adamant that they broke no rules in bringing the player, who was then 16, to the club.” Ian Herbert wades into the latest controversy to add “City are expected to reject all such allegations about a player who was described as the ‘next Patrice Evra’ when United were looking to sign him. But the fact that a side feted for their home-grown players have been drawn into the affair underlines how assiduous all of the would-be elite sides have been in scouring the continent.”

And the buck does not stop there. MEverton were ordered to pay Leeds United £600,000 by a Football Association tribunal yesterday in compensation for signing Luke Garbutt, a 16-year-old left back, while Liverpool were accused of making an illegal approach for Max Clayton, a 15-year-old at Crewe Alexandra.”

On the claims against Manchester United, who are already accused of illegally snapping up Paul Pogba, the Daily Mail ratchet up more bother announcing “the controversy escalated as United were being linked with a move for another French prodigy, Caen midfielder Regis Etari.”

The Daily Mail throw a spanner in the works with their own slant on the child transfer story, Matt Lawton and Dennis Rice using hugely controversial language announcing that “Ian Wright and six Premier League stars are involved in an academy that has been accused of ‘raping’ South Africa of its talent by the country’s most senior football official… while the men running the academy insist the players have invested with the best intentions, Wright, Poom and the current Premier League stars will receive 40 per cent of the fee if the players are transferred to Europe.”

In a supplementary article Matt Lawton and Dennis Rice go on to explain that while there may be nothing legally wrong with Ian Wright’s academy, morally it is on shaky ground. “In Cape Town, however, while the cash that is injected into the project by Wright, Julio Arca, Stephen Warnock, Alex Song, Danny Collins, Mamady Sidibe and Mart Poom could, indeed change lives. It could enrich their lives, too. Players making money out of younger players.” 

Looking at the whole child snatching story from a different angle, the Independent’s Ian Herbert and Sam Wallace investigate how players are discovered, both in England and abroad, in the battle to outwit the authorities.

The pace is also quickening this Tuesday towards a ban on the international transfer of players under the age of 18. According to Matt Scott, “if Platini can persuade the Commission that his objectives are for football’s social and educational benefit rather than being a means of straitjacketing English clubs, the ban will be approved.”

With England’s match with Croatia rapidly approaching, the fourth estate are found scratching around trying to think up something clever to write about the Three Lions. Sadly, the pickings are slim.

Kevin McCarra is the first to look stumped for something good to say, opting to prepare a ready-made excuse for Fabio Capello should England not make the grade. “Capello can count himself a prisoner of circumstance. He is confined to players with the correct birthplace or bloodline and, ultimately, his achievements may be restricted by them.” In a similar non-specific fashion, Matt Hughes talks in generalisations about England’s tactics noting “Capello has fused a blood-and-thunder Barclays Premier League style with a more calculating continental approach.” Whatever that means!

Looking ahead to the World Cup itself, loudmouth Ian Wright makes outlandish predictions in The Sun chugging “Jermain Defoe can go to the World Cup finals next year and win the Golden Shoe for the tournament’s top scorer. That’s how good he is. I believe he has the ability to become as prolific for England as Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Michael Owen were. But as far as tomorrow’s match against Croatia goes, Defoe should start on the bench and come on to score again.”

Managing to find a real point of debate, Have we become so pathetically grateful to Capello — and, in the early days, Sven-Göran Eriksson — that we no longer even question whether hiring overseas is the proper thing to do?… From Capello down to Harry Redknapp? Sorry, Harry, but I don’t think so. Guus Hiddink, perhaps, or José Mourinho. A tip for free is not to bet on Stuart Pearce, despite his involvement with the national squad. So will it be five years, or ten, before we have our own coach? Might it be 20?”

Staying in the international arena, James Lawton applauds Thierry Henry for his outburst against the French national team. “Those who still like to think of the World Cup as the pinnacle of the international game will surely thank Henry for more than his elegant defiance of a Domenech regime… They will see Henry’s protest as welcome evidence that the World Cup is not, in fact, fast becoming a distinctly jaded entry in the football calendar.”

No sooner has the transfer window closed than a brand new epic saga appears to be crystalising on the horizon as Barcelona and Robinho begin flirting with one another. Reporting from Spain, Sid Lowe pours fuel onto the fire. “Robinho has been left as the most accessible of Barcelona’s targets after they failed for a variety of reasons to sign David Silva, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Ashley Young or Valencia’s Juan Mata.”

Next, the Independent swoop in with a tabloid-esque transfer rumour boasting “Roberto Carlos is being linked with a sensational move to League Two side Notts County. The former Real Madrid defender, currently plying his trade with Turkish side Fenerbahce, is reportedly being lined up by Sven Goran Eriksson.”

Ashley Gray and Tom Bellwood join forces to report that “Brazil legend Ronaldo reportedly turned down moves to Tottenham and Blackburn before the summer transfer window slammed shut,” while their host paper the Daily Mail also go on to link West Ham with Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni.

Finally, we end with the sad story of Paddy Kenny and the hidden dangers of having the flu.

Alan Gardner reports on how the Blades’ keeper became the victim of a bum decision by the FA, with the authorities banning the goalie for nine months for drug taking. “Kenny could have been given a two-year ban after testing positive for the stimulant ephedrine, which is found in some cold remedies, but mitigating circumstances were taken into account by the FA’s judgment. The Republic of Ireland international was found not to have attempted to ‘enhance sporting performance’ when ingesting an over-the-counter medicine without consulting United’s medical team.”