Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Negotiations have taken place over the last few months and we are at a crucial stage. I really hope it turns out to be a successful bid. Right now my audit team is examining the books and my legal team is in close contact with theirs.We have a fierce competitor in the Middle East, but it could be finalised in June. I was first approached (to buy Liverpool) in 2008 when I was in Singapore attending a Formula One Grand Prix, but the asking price was 1billion US dollars. It was totally unreasonable so I turned it down. The asking price has dropped significantly and we are talking again. I want Liverpool to win the Champions League and Premier League and I think Benitez is a very good coach.” – Kenneth Huang, a Chinese businessman reported to be close to buying Liverpool.
Runner-up: “The Premier League is such a tough competition and I have always admired this championship and the players who are here. This is my third season and I’m still amazed to see Gerrard, Rooney and Lampard, players who have been here a long time, still playing at such a high level and with such impressive rhythm because the English league really wears down a player. I just can’t imagine what state I’ll be in within five or six years if I continue to play here – it could easily give me problems when I stop playing. The physical level is superior to all other countries.” – Fernando Torres.
Today’s overview: It’s Sunday, which means the gutter press finally get to puke out all their nonsense transfer gossip as the summer transfer window inches ever closer to reopening. And, as standard, the News of the World lead the way with the never-gonna-happen scoops.
Transfer Lies: Doubts about Manchester United’s spending power are raised as Greg Gobere claims “United are set to plunder the Americas again by offering Â£5million for Estudiantes forward Mauro Boselli.”
In a seemingly baseless article, Chris Bascombe claims Alberto Aquilani could soon leave Merseyside as “Liverpool are sure to listen to any offers in the region of the Â£20m they paid for the 25-year-old last summer.”
After all the marquee players linked with Manchester City recently, Julian Bennett could well leave many Citizens underwhelmed reporting “City have made a Â£10m bid for [Sporting Lisbon’s] Russian star Marat Izmailov.” Keeping with apparent concrete bids, Iain Spragg claims that Blackburn have put in a Â£6.5m offer for Panathinaikos’ double winning striker Djibril Cisse.
In the NOTW’s shorts, with the Tigers all but down, John McGarry claims Celtic are eyeing Jimmy Bullard this summer. Next, Everton and Blackburn are vying for Getafe striker Roberto Soldado, while, after scoring a brace last weekend in the Eredivisie, James Masters farts “Chelsea are keeping tabs on [PSV’s] Dutch wonderkid Zakaria Labyad… The teen ace is also being scouted by European giants AC Milan and Barcelona.”
Finally in the red-top, Marc Isaacs shocks no-one reporting “Fran Merida will quit Arsenal in the summer and move to Atletico Madrid,” while Garry Doyle appears to overreach spouting “Martin O’Neill wants to pack FOUR Irishmen into his luxury Villa this summer – with Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Aidan McGeady and Stephen Ireland ALL on his hit-list.”
The NOTW aren’t the only liars spreading transfer lies this Sunday though.
Giving the false impression that once they click their fingers players will come running, Paul Hetherington announces that “Manchester City will go for Frenchman Yoann Gourcuff, 23, if they fail to win the Â£40million battle for his fellow countryman Franck Ribery, who is also wanted by Chelsea and Real Madrid.”
Turning the tables on City, Joe Bernstein reports that “Carlos Tevez is set to stun Manchester City fans by fighting for a summer move if the club fail to qualify for the Champions League. Real Madrid and Inter Milan will be among the contenders to sign him, but there could also be a surprise move from Liverpool, even though their own Champions League hopes are slim.”
Onto Arsenal, Steve Stammers claims that Brede Hangeland is a Â£10m summer target while “Gael Clichy looks set for Spain in a Â£7.5m deal with Barcelona while Tomas Rosicky could return to ÂGermany to either Borussia Dortmund or Stuttgart.” Shifting to their north London neighbours, Brian McNally prints “Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will make an ÂÂ£8million summer move for Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane.”
Managers on the move: Hammers fans, whose Premier League survival is all-but-guaranteed, may want Zola to stay at Upton Park this Sunday, particularly when considering Rob Shepherd’s piece that failed Thailand boss “Peter Reid has emerged as a shock contender to become West Ham’s new manager.” Equally unappealing for Irons’ fans is Paul Smith’s claim that “Nigel Pearson has emerged as one of the shock front-runners to replace Gianfranco Zola at West Ham.”
Licking their relegation wounds, Martin Hardy reveals how Hull may be about to do a managerial u-turn. “Phil Brown could make a stunning return to Hull as their boss next season… Dowie will not be offered a role once his nine-game agreement runs out and in a dramatic twist, chairman Adam Pearson admitted Brown could be back.”
The feeling that Rafa Benitez is set to leave Liverpool this summer continues as Simon Mullock scribbled “last night reports in Italy suggested that Benitez is close to accepting Juventusâ€™ offer of a Â£5million-a-year salary and substantial transfer budget.” Alex Montgomery gives the rumour further weight adding “Juve have put together a package which would make Benitez, 50, one of the richest and most expensive managerial appointments in football. It will be worth Â£15million net in basic salary over three years and acknowledges the need for the payment of a big signing-on fee as part compensation for the Â£16million remaining in his Liverpool contract.”
Sadly for Clarets fans, the Mail on Sunday details that “Burnley manager Brian Laws is adamant he will be at the club next season as he already has plans in place for life in or out of the Barclays Premier League.”
Clubs on the move: According to Ed Reynolds, “Crystal Palace will this week sound out some of their fiercest rivals about a ground share. In a move sure to anger long-suffering fans, the cash-strapped club could host matches at Charlton or Millwall next season.”
Elsewhere, a couple of stories report the sale of several football clubs, beginning with the believable story in the Sunday Mirror that “Sheffield Wednesdayâ€™s Â£20million takeover by Chicago-based investment company Club 9 Sports is set to be sealed within the next few weeks.”
In contrast, Greg Gobere spouts what is almost a threat in the NOTW that “a group of Middle Eastern and Indian businessmen are plotting a Premier League takeover from Dubai. The potential investors, who have connections in the banking industry, aim to thrash out a plan for acquiring a selection of clubs, with Stoke and Aston Villa likely targets.”
Poor Pompey: The news just gets worse and worse for the south coasters as Rob Draper barks “FA Cup finalists Portsmouth are likely to start next season in the Championship with a further 17-point penalty because major creditors are unhappy with the report prepared by administrator Andrew Andronikou.”
Injured Rooney & Three Lions: Sir Alex Ferguson, in his post match interview after United’s defeat of Spurs, reveal the Wayne Rooney has suffered another setback with a groin injury. Despite the public forum in which Fergie made his comments, the cheeky Sunday Mirror slap the word EXCLUSIVE on their piece farting “Wayne Rooney is out of Manchester Unitedâ€™s title run-in.”
Steve Tongue widened the conversation scrawling “Manchester United may have to do without the injured Wayne Rooney for their remaining two games of the season… Worryingly for Fabio Capello, England’s captain, Rio Ferdinand, was also absent.” And staying on an England footing, Tongue added “Manchester City’s Wayne Bridge has one more week to make himself available for this summer’s World Cup squad before Fabio Capello pencils in the list of 30 names that must be submitted to Fifa a fortnight on Tuesday.”
Doubting Wenger: Self-confessed Arsenal fan Piers Morgan turns on his own this weekend as he demands more from Arsene Wenger. “Arsene Wenger is now facing the biggest crossroads in his Arsenal career, of that I am certain. Five years without a trophy of any kind is simply too long for a ‘Big Club’ and everyone at the Emirates knows it… It’s time Wenger stopped priding himself on being Mr Prudence and played the game that all his biggest rivals are playing. Otherwise this great man, who has achieved so many amazing things in his 13 years at Arsenal, will reach the end of his contract in 2011 with six consecutive years of failure on the second half of his scorecard. And if that happens, I believe he will either walk away or he’ll be asked to.”
Heading off on an Arsenal tangent, Rob Draper announces “Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith is poised to sell her 15.9 per cent stake in Arsenal – worth an estimated Â£90 million – to an eastern European in what could have huge ramifications for the club… Insiders suggest the buyer will be on a par with the likes of Kroenke, who is worth an estimated Â£2billion, and Usmanov, whose wealth is more than double that.”
Giggs the Great: After his brace of penalties on Saturday – his first two league spot-kicks in his illustrious career – Henry Winter waxed lyrical over Ryan Giggs. “In a sport not overly stocked with ambassadors, Giggsâ€™ enduring prominence deserves celebrating. He is an inspiration to any youngster setting out with his dedication in training and sense of adventure on match-day. Giggsâ€™ success as he glides elegantly through his 30s offers encouragement even to established pros. A lean advertisement for the joys of yoga and a settled life-style, Giggs should be revered. Donâ€™t be fooled by the flecks of grey in the hair, Giggs exudes the metabolism, low body fat and vitality of players a decade younger. The Red Dragon is far from last orders.”
Spreading the love, Jonathan Northcroft celebrated Nani’s performance against Spurs. “Nani was once Ronaldo Lite but now he almost looks the real thing. This title race could be decided by the five minutes in which Nani sprinkled stardust on this match, to turn drudgery into a jamboree for Manchester United and one point into three.”
Yet Paul Wilson questions whether Nani has been handled correctly throughout the season. “Nani playing with confidence and belief can be a handful for any defender, however, and even as he was praising his player’s courage and audacity Ferguson must have been reflecting on his decision to leave him on the bench against Chelsea. That was the day the decision to place faith in the combined experience of Scholes and Ryan Giggs did not pay off. There is no guarantee that Nani would have been able to make a difference either, had he been on the pitch from the start, though his pace and finishing ability are there for all to see and he might have responded positively to being selected for such a big game. Nani will never turn into Cristiano Ronaldo Mark II if he doesn’t feel he has his manager’s backing.”