Michu outshines Torres after Swans shock Chelsea, Rangers may quit Scotland, Man United close on £12m Zaha & Damiao surveys Spurs

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I was pleased with the performance and if we play like that, nine times out of 10 we will win… You analyse all these things because we lost despite the way we played and the fact we had 23 chances. We have to be more clinical in front of goal and take these chances. The goal was a goal – he was level – and the penalty and yellow card, it wasn’t a yellow card.” – Rafa Benitez.

Runner-up: “My big thing is getting young players in here from the local area in Liverpool. Look at the history here – Carragher, Gerrard, McManaman, Fowler and Owen. Who have been the best two English players in the Premier League in the last six 0r seven years? Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Both scousers, not from a million miles apart, so you are not telling me there is not top young talent out there in Liverpool. It is sexy to look at Spain and I am someone who loves working with European players. All my life I have worked with players from different parts of the world. But we mustn’t forget what is on our doorstep and, for me, this is a hot-bed for footballers who have passion, hunger and incredible qualities. Bringing that through is a massive part of my job and is something we are trying to put in place.” – Brendan Rodgers.

Chelsea 0 – Swansea 2

Swan foot in the final (Sun) Rafa Benitez suffered a torrent of abuse as Chelsea crashed to a humiliating Capital One Cup defeat… Angry Blues fans turned on Benitez and chairman Bruce Buck — but, incredibly, the manager claimed he was “happy” with his team.

One by one the trophies are slipping away from Chelsea (Neil Ashton, Mail) Midway through the second half, Chelsea fans in the Matthew Harding Stand started singing for Jose Mourinho. It’s getting messy again. Then they screamed for Demba Ba, scorer of two on his debut in the FA Cup at Southampton on Saturday, to replace the woeful Fernando Torres. It was tempting to join in. By the end they were singing for Roberto Di Matteo, winner of the Champions League and FA Cup inside three crazy months last season… One by one the silverware is slipping away. Even the Capital One Cup appears to be beyond them after they were beaten at home in the first leg by Michael Laudrup’s rhythmic Swansea side.

Danny Graham scores late as Swansea secure shock win over Chelsea (Dominic Fifield, Guardian) The money men at Capital One who chose to plough millions into sponsoring this competition presumably never saw this coming, even if they could still end up with something remarkable at Wembley next month. Swansea stand on the brink of a first major cup final after registering a victory here that had Chelsea’s players wheezing in disbelief and their support in uproar, with the prospect of a showpiece against Bradford City of League Two very real. There is romance, if perhaps not ratings, to be had in that.

Michu displays cutting edge Fernando Torres is still searching for (Barney Ronay, Guardian) Torres and Michu: on current form it almost seems indelicate to make the comparison. Torres, Michu and Graham even more so given that Swansea’s scorers cost £5.5m combined, or £44.5m less than Torres who, two years on from that record transfer, was making his 100th appearance for Chelsea here. It was tempting to wonder beforehand if he would perhaps celebrate with a goal, or alternatively just carry on as normal. If this seems a little unkind it was, frankly, another entirely peripheral night for Torres, who suffered the added indignity of being overshadowed on his home ground by his superbly composed fellow countryman.

Michu the marksman makes mockery of the Torres transfer fee (Jack Pitts-Brooke, Independent) It seems cruel to compare him to Fernando Torres but when both teams have a Spanish No 9 it is almost unavoidable. Michu, for whom Swansea paid Rayo Vallecano £2m last summer, cost 4 per cent of Torres’s transfer fee. Tonight there was no comparison.

Liverpool Want Dalglish Back

Reds line up shock Kenny return offer (Sun) Kenny Dalglish could make a shock return to Anfield. Liverpool top brass are considering offering the Kop legend his old position as club ambassador… Whether Dalglish would accept any such approach is open to debate. But he admitted how much he enjoyed the role first time around when Rafa Benitez brought him back in 2009.

Rangers Quitting Scottish Football?

Rangrrrrs (Paul Jiggins, Sun) English league chiefs have been placed on red alert — after Rangers said they could quit Scottish football. Clubs north of the border are set to vote on a proposal which would see three divisions, with 12 teams in both of the top two divisions and 18 in the third tier. The move is designed to make Scottish football more appealing. But Gers chief executive Charles Green, whose club were relegated to Division Three for financial irregularities, rubbished the plans. He said: “If that’s what we have waited for, my advice is the quicker we can leave Scottish football the better.”

Rangers giving thought to leaving Scottish football – chief executive (Ewan Murray, Guardian) Green told RangersTV: “If this [reconstruction] does happen what is the point of us finishing the season? Why should we send players out to get broken noses – like Ross Perry last week – or have players getting surgery when no one can get promoted and no one can get relegated? We might as well have a winter break now until next August. I can’t see any point in carrying on with meaningless matches. In what league do you win a division and end up playing the same teams again the following season?”

Asian Fans & Football

Why Bradford City fan in a hijab holds key to the game’s future (Jim White, Telegraph) Watching television coverage of Bradford City beating Aston Villa on Tuesday night, I was struck by the most arresting sight. As the visitors’ Barry Bannan went to take a corner, he was assailed by an overexcited Bradford fan, attempting verbally to put him off his stride… What was striking, though, was the identity of the fan yelling at Bannan: she was an Asian woman wearing a hijab. What is more, she was with a couple of female Asian friends, in a section of the Valley Parade crowd dotted with Asian faces. If it is possible that someone yelling at a footballer represents evidence of social progress, then this was the most encouraging image of the season. After all the miserable racist vituperation that has swilled around football recently, here was a Muslim woman, comfortable in the middle of an ethnically mixed crowd, engaging with the game’s traditional possibilities. And in doing so, clearly having the time of her life. How pleasant was that to see?

Premier League Pay Outs

City leapfrog Chelsea as biggest payers in Premier League after London club reduce wage bill for first time in Abramovich era (Mail) Chelsea have been overtaken by Manchester City as the biggest payers in the Premier League, the Stamford Bridge club’s accounts have confirmed. The overall wages paid out by Chelsea in the year ending June 2012 actually fell by £18million to £171million – compared to Manchester City who saw their wages break through the £200million barrier. Chelsea announced last year they had made a profit of £1.4million – the first time they had finished in the black in the Roman Abramovich era.

AVB’s Tottenham

It’s early days but it’s already starting to look like Levy’s AVB gamble is paying off (Darren Lewis, Mirror) By the time Dimitar Berbatov realised over the long term that the grass wasn’t necessarily greener the £30million that Levy had managed to rake in for him from United had already accrued a fair bit of interest in the bank. So too the £27million package that Levy thrashed out with Real Madrid for Luka Modric. You know what he did last summer: He stamped his feet until he got his move, yet was recently voted La Liga’s worst signing for 2012. His fee, however, is nestling nicely in Tottenham’s account. At times White Hart Lane big chief has seemed more Daniel Craig than Levy with his hard bargains, calculated risks and his nerveless insistence on taking it to the wire. But his gamble to axe the man that had led Spurs to two top-four finishes in three years (and did more in the Champions League than City did with a £300million outlay) looks to be paying off.

Still Upset With The FifPro XI

I fear for English football’s future – it’s no surprise the Premier League doesn’t have a single player in the World XI (Jamie Redknapp, Mail) I’m scared about the future of English football. The World XI line-up should be a wake-up call to Premier League footballers. Eleven players based in Spain, none in England, Germany or Italy. That’s an 11-0 hiding. I love our league. For its drama and excitement. You won’t see better games this weekend anywhere in Europe than Arsenal versus Manchester City and Manchester United against Liverpool. I’m convinced we still have the best league but it seems we don’t have the best players. Where is the next Wayne Rooney? Normally, we are aware of the next explosive talent coming through but increasingly, English football seems to be turning to foreign players to provide the next level. Raheem Sterling at Liverpool and Everton’s Ross Barkley are two players with rich potential and people are right to point that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has promise, but where is the English Mata, Silva or Cazorla?


Man United To Sign Zaha

Man Utd close on £12m Zaha (Sun) Wilfried Zaha is on the verge of joining Manchester United for £12million… It is understood Palace manager Ian Holloway, who has a close relationship with Ferguson, believes United’s deal to be the best on offer. And it could finally be rubber-stamped in the next few days.

United close in on £12m deal for Crystal Palace whizzkid Zaha (Mail) It is expected that the deal, if it happens, will be £12m with some significant performance-related add-ons. United are open to loaning Zaha back to Palace until the end of the season and are the only club currently in talks to sign him.

Transfer Lies

Dam buster (Sun) Brazilian striker Leandro Damiao is ready for an approach from Spurs. The £15million Internacional star, 23, has been a target for over a year. He said: “Proposals have already arrived.”

Carl’s a hired Gun (Sun) Arsenal could send Carl Jenkinson out on loan. This week Crystal Palace tried to sign the right-back for the rest of the season but he does not want to make a switch to the Championship club.

Betis tell Laudrup to up £800k bid for Canas if Swansea are to land Spanish midfielder in January (Mail) Real Betis manager Pepe Mel has called on Swansea to up their offer for midfielder Jose Canas. Swansea are understood to have offered £800,000 for Canas but may need an extra £200,000 to finalise a deal.

United and Liverpool lead Premier League interest in Vallecano striker Baptistao (Mail) Manchester United’s Martin Ferguson was among a clutch of scouts, including those from Liverpool, Wigan and QPR who watched Rayo Vallecano defeat Getafe on Monday night. It is understood that Vallecano striker Leo Baptistao was among those being watched.

Stuttgart, Levante and Elche weigh up loan deal for Macheda (Mail) The Italian striker is a long way down the pecking order at Old Trafford and has played just three matches this season.

O’Neill turns attention to Van Dijk and Mangane to shore up Sunderland defence (Mail) Sunderland are continuing their search for a defender and have added FC Groningen’s Virgil van Dijk, 21, and Kader Mangane, 29, of Al Hilal to their list of targets.

Winter warmer for West Brom as Lukaku confirm loan from Chelsea will run until May (Mail) Steve Clarke has been handed a transfer window boost by keeping hold of Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea until the end of the season.

QPR steam in for West Brom’s Jonas Olsson with £5m bid (Mirror) QPR believe they have a chance of getting the 29-year-old centre-half, who will be subject to a £4m buy-out clause in the summer.

Everton line up Wigan star James McCarthy as Marouane Fellaini replacement (Star) Chelsea and Manchester United are eyeing the Toffees’ big Belgian midfielder. David Moyes is desperate to hang on to his top scorer – but £8m-rated McCarthy tops the Everton manager’s shortlist of potential replacements should Fellaini go.

Managerial Merry Go Round

Gross and Di Matteo in frame for Saints job as Adkins’ future remains in doubt (Mail) Southampton manager Nigel Adkins’s job is still under review by chairman Nicola Cortese despite the club’s recent revival. Christian Gross and Roberto Di Matteo are being lined up as potential replacements should the axe fall on the Liverpudlian boss.

Managerless Rovers make surprise swoop for Blackpool boss Appleton (Mail) Blackburn have made a stunning approach to Championship rivals Blackpool for Michael Appleton… Appleton has only been in charge at Blackpool for 12 games and won only twice, but is Rovers’ first choice to become the new boss.