Ronaldo to Real, Sam’s Santa clause & the Arsenal boardroom meltdown

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “We have already signed the top player for next summer. The top is the top. It is Cristiano [Ronaldo], there is no one else. It’s not bad, is it?  It is better not to say anything right now because there are clauses that prevent us from announcing it right now. For us it would be the right moment [to go public] but we shouldn’t do so.” – Real Madrid director Pedro Trapote.

Runner-up: “What sort of message does it send out to the players? If you play well for Ports­mouth and win the FA Cup like Lass did last season… he wasn’t getting a game at Chelsea or Arsenal… he came down here and then Real Madrid come knocking. It is an advert for all the players around the Premiership who are not getting in the team at Man United and ­Arsenal. They can come and play here.” – Tony Adams.

Today’s overview: Blackburn have moved quickly to appoint former Bolton and Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce as their new manager, and Big Sam’s return dominates today’s backpages.

For Tim Rich the appointment makes sense, noting “the 54-year-old manager has a reputation for winning football matches on limited budgets and that is precisely what Blackburn, five points adrift of safety in the Premier League, require.” Jason Burt claims that Graeme Souness was Rover’s number one target but the union broke down after the Scot was “believed to have asked for more funds to be made available in the January transfer window.”

James Ducker points out that Sam Allardyce is banking on selling Roque Santa Cruz for £20 million “mindful that such a sum would give him scope to bolster a team bereft of confidence.” However this is directly contradicted by Shaun Custis in his Sun EXCLUSIVE, writing “Allardyce took over as Blackburn boss after being guaranteed the club will not sell star striker Roque Santa Cruz. ”

However Paul Doyle is far from being convinced over the appointment, concerned that “Allardyce’s failure at Newcastle may not be dismissed as the consequence of some cultural incompatibility” but rather indicative of some greater failings. Doubts are also raised by Kevin McCarra who wonders how Allardyce can “fend off the fear that he has already enjoyed the best days of his career?,” a sentiment echoed by James Ducker who argues “it hard to see what he has to gain. He certainly has much more to lose, for Blackburn are far worse off than the Bolton team he left behind.” Trying to be more positive, Sam Wallace claims “the challenge for Allardyce at Ewood Park is to demonstrate that he still has the qualities that made him so successful in eight years at Bolton.”

It is proving to be a difficult day for Arsenal.William Gallas’ future is up in the air with Juventus, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to offer the 31-year-old defender an escape route out of London, but none of them can afford to match his Arsenal wages of £90,000 a week.” But perhaps more damaging is the news from the boardroom, evere rifts resurfaced in Arsenal’s boardroom last night as two directors left, the third and fourth to move on in less than two years.” The fear, as explained by Martin Lipman, will be that Alisher Usmanov will look “to mount the takeover threatened for 18 months – and could take the country’s most traditional club into foreign hands.”

Jonathan Wilson tries to explain the point of the Club World Cup, suggesting “this competition is not about determining the best team in the world. By inviting the other confederational champions, Fifa gives itself a tournament that allows it to share in the wealth of the club game and exert some control over it.” And keeping with the tournament, Martin Samuel comments on the Sir Alex’s decision to field Scholes, Neville and Giggs in today’s match with Gamba saying “it is good to know that [Ferguson] remains, in essence, a history man, paying back his longest-serving lieutenants at occasions such as this, with respect.”

Staying with United, Rob Smyth wonders whether Dimitar Berbatov is Manchester United’s new Veron. “That is quite some black label, because Veron was not just a bad signing: he was the worst decision in the history of the human race. If Cantona is Le Dieu of Old Trafford, then Veron is the antichrist.”

In other news, Sandy Macaskill lists the top 10 January Championship transfer targets, while self valuation of the club at £250 million, noting such figures “would even have been excessive eight months ago.” And in an offbeat article, Louise Taylor fears the “laptop lunacy” has taken grip in the world of football in which a “side’s most skilful individual rarely features as even a substitute, the club’s software having interpreted his astute economy of energy as indolence rather than intelligence.”

Finally, Tom Dart puts together a brilliant list of the 50 top British footballers of 2008. “4. Matthew Upson Arsene Wenger, make a mistake? Selling Upson certainly looks like one. That said, the defender is far more accomplished – and less injury-prone – than he was in 2003 when Arsenal let him go. Rightly called into the England squad by Capello.”