“The deal feels more like a marriage of convenience than an opportunity for Beckham to illuminate Serie A.” – Dominic Fifield

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Tom [Hicks] is not looking to get out of Liverpool – it is an asset he likes and he doesn’t plan an exit. They have not engaged Merrill Lynch to sell the club – they have been an adviser of Tom’s for 12 months. There is an option with RBS coming up to extend [the refinancing deal] by a further six months until July and they will take up that option unless they have agreed another refinancing package before that.” – A source speaking to PA Sport.

Runner-up: “The fans who argued I should be sacked have a case. I deserve every bit of criticism levelled at me. I am the first to acknowledge that I am indefensible. I have messed up on more than one occasion but nothing sobers you up like going to prison. It was not a nice experience and I know this is the last-chance saloon. I let a lot of people down and now I am just hoping to repay them… I have not had a drink since December 27. It’s well documented that I have had problems with alcohol and the thing I went to prison for was alcohol related. It will be levelled at me that I had a fight with Ousmane when I was sober. I understand that but I know that, if I drink again I will be putting my football career in jeopardy. There are bits of me that I don’t want to be and the majority come out when I am drinking. I don’t want to use drink as an excuse, it was my own stupidity, but it was a major part of me messing up.” – Joey Barton.

Today’s overview: With last night’s Champions League matches throwing up limited surprises, the commentary of note is wafer thin.

Reporting from Atletico Madrid’s tie with Liverpool, Sid Lowe noted how the Spanish fans did themselves credit last night (“There was no racist chanting, little sign of trouble, and not a firework in sight”), while giving his assessment on Chelsea’s defeat of Roma, Sean Ingle shed praise on the Italians talisman, Francesco Totti, a player decribed as “perhaps football’s ultimate Marmite test.”

Beckhamania however has the papers in a frenzy, with his loan move to AC Milan seemingly done and dusted.

Dominic Fifield (Guardian) assesses what David Beckham’s role at AC Milan will be, arguing that “the deal feels more like a marriage of convenience than an opportunity for Beckham to illuminate Serie A.” The same exercise is conducted by the Independent’s Frank Dunne, who suggests Beckham will provide cover and an alternative to Andrea Pirlo. Yet Gabriele Marcotti, who accepts the financial rewards for the Rossoneri, concludes “On the surface, it’s hard to see it as anything other than a win-win-win-win situation all round.”

Kevin McCarra reports on how Don Fabio and his team helped engineer Beckham’s predicted move to the San Siro. However swimming against the tide of all the AC Milan-Beckham stories, the Daily Express’ Peter White claims that “Harry Redknapp is ready to make a shock move to snatch David Beckham from under the noses of Portsmouth’s UEFA Cup rivals AC Milan.”

With all this said and done, British Beckham fans will be able to watch their favourite player on the telly. – “Britons hoping to watch David Beckham don the red and black stripes of AC Milan will have to rely on a broadcaster snapping up the rights to show Italian football.”

Another day and more dissatisfaction at Tottenham, as the Telegraph’s Oliver Brown reports on how the fans are mobilising to enforce change at their club. Duncan White offers his opinion that “sacking Comolli won’t change the poor level of performance on the pitch and the club can’t afford to get rid of Ramos.” While Matt Lawton claims that “Tottenham are planning to combine news of Damien Comolli’s dismissal as director of football with ambitious plans for a new 60,000 seater stadium.”

In other news, Harry Redknapp uses his weekly column in The Sun to argue that English managers are better than foreign managers, Marina Hyde takes the unusual position of defending footballers, by criticising those who are smearing them during the current credit crisis, and Aislinn Simpson delivers a football lifestyle piece to the Telegraph documentating how foreign players at a Premiership team are being sent to a language school to help them understand football jargon.

Reporting from Atletico Madrid’s tie with Liverpool, Sid Lowe (Guardian) noted how the Spanish fans did themselves credit last night. “There was no racist chanting, little sign of trouble, and not a firework in sight. There were whistles for Albert Riera when he dived in search of a penalty but no sign of real animosity. When Aguero made his bow at the start of the second half a chant of “Kun! Kun! Kun!” went round the ground. You could sense the feeling of vindication… When Steven Gerrard went off, he was given a generous ovation. Mostly, though, the home fans just made a hell of a noise. Even when Liverpool scored they did not stop chanting for their players to “put [their] balls into it”. When Atlético fought back, in the second half, the noise was deafening, the roar of “Atleeeeeeti!” showing why the Calderón is one of Europe’s best places to watch football. When the equaliser went in, bedlam ensued.”

Giving his assessment on Chelsea’s defeat of Roma, Sean Ingle (Guardian) shed praise on the Italians talisman, Francesco Totti. “For the first half, at least, Francesco Totti – perhaps football’s ultimate Marmite test – caught this observer’s eye. You might say that he cheats, he spits, he tumbles at the slightest opportunity and he can choke in the big games. And you might well have a point. But having watched him in the flesh nearly a dozen or so times, I’m a believer. His goals record, better than one every other game, is impressive enough. But what really catches the eye is his movement off the ball: how often he drops and drifts to find space, presents himself, and then – with one touch – finds a team-mate. With a moment of genius he created Roma’s only real chance of the game, turning his marker, before nutmegging Mikel John Obi and rolling it to Matteo Brighi, whose shot was deflected wide.”

Dominic Fifield (Guardian) assesses what David Beckham’s role at AC Milan will be. “Regardless, the former England captain is surely at a stage in his career where he needs younger players around him to provide pace and movement. Flamini and Pato are effectively this side’s legs – Kaka has had his injury problems – and although Milan have a sprinkling of youth they do not have as much as they would like. In that context Beckham can only hope for a bit-part role at best, and would that be enough for Capello to justify his selection?… Serie A will offer far more to confront his talent but Beckham has always been comfortable sitting deeper, conjuring centres which still tug defenders forward to deal with his threat, leaving a void behind which speedier players can exploit. Milan may lack a target man to benefit from his crosses but Pato might relish any space he creates. The deal feels more like a marriage of convenience than an opportunity for Beckham to illuminate Serie A. Even so, Brand Beckham is heading for the fashion capital of the world.”

The same exercise is conducted by the Independent’s Frank Dunne, who suggests Beckham will provide cover and an alternative to Andrea Pirlo. “Pirlo should be back long before Beckham arrives in January but the Englishman would provide a useful alternative should Pirlo struggle for fitness or form. If Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti – who described Beckham as “a serious athlete and a great professional” – sticks with his usual formula, using three players in front of the defence, Beckham could play either in the middle – Pirlo’s role – or on the right of the three. Just ahead of him, Beckham will find two of the world’s most skilful and unpredictable players, the Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldinho. The latter was dismissed in some quarters as being past his best – at 28 – when he left Barcelona for Milan this summer, but is already showing tantalising flashes of his genius, including two goals in the 3-0 victory over Sampdoria last weekend as well as the winner in the Milan derby last month.”

The Times’ Gabriele Marcotti is more crass in his assessment of Beckham’s value to Milan. “Shortly after the news broke yesterday, Milan’s switchboard rang with a call from Dubai, where the club are set to play a few friendlies during the winter break. The organisers wanted to know if Milan could guarantee Beckham’s presence on the pitch alongside Ronaldinho and Kaká. And they let it be known that they’d be ready to stump up more cash if it was going to help to make it happen. Surely all this is worth a few months’ salary plus the promise of a friendly match against Los Angeles Galaxy or whatever they agree with his present employers… for Beckham, it brings him a step closer to his dream of playing in the 2010 World Cup finals and he can add Milan to his CV, completing the treble of the biggest clubs in Italy, Spain and England. On the surface, it’s hard to see it as anything other than a win-win-win-win situation all round.”

According to the Guardian’s Kevin McCarra, Don Fabio and his team helped engineer Beckham’s move to the  Rossoneri. “He and Franco Baldini, the England general manager, put their case to the chief executive of the Serie A club, Adriano Galliani. Capello, given his distinguished place in Milan’s history, can exert great influence. He was keen to ensure that Galliani was not simply attracted to Beckham because of his value in marketing terms. Capello was adamant that the former England captain, despite being a veteran, could still make a sustained impact on the field for Milan. The manager is convinced that Beckham, for an athlete of his age, retains a good level of fitness. There may, of course, be mockery of that assertion, particularly since Capello himself seems to allow the player only appearances bordering on the subliminal in their brevity.”

Swimming against the tide of all the AC Milan-Beckham stories, the Daily Express’ Peter White claims that “Harry Redknapp is ready to make a shock move to snatch David Beckham from under the noses of Portsmouth’s UEFA Cup rivals AC Milan… Redknapp said: ‘He would be a great loan signing for someone – and I would take him. I would definitely be interested in bringing him to Portsmouth. I haven’t made an enquiry yet, but it has crossed my mind. He is a player you definitely think about and no one will tell me that he wouldn’t get in a load of crosses for Crouch and Defoe.'”

But at the end of the day, British Beckham fans be able to watch their favourite player on the telly. “Britons hoping to watch David Beckham don the red and black stripes of AC Milan will have to rely on a broadcaster snapping up the rights to show Italian football. No British broadcaster holds the rights to show Serie A matches this season, but those in the business hope that Beckham’s arrival will encourage a channel to bid… The absence of a British player is only part of the problem. Sky has avoided the Italian league because it would clash with its coverage of Spanish football and Setanta has balked at the price demanded. ITV, with England and FA Cup games to show, feels that it has enough football, but Five or a cable channel such as Bravo may be tempted.”

Another day and more dissatisfaction at Tottenham, as the Telegraph’s Oliver Brown reports on how the fans are mobilising to enforce change at their club. “Instead the confrontation will be delayed until next week, when the club announce their financial results at their AGM, to be attended by Levy and members of their supporters’ trust. The chairman almost never misses a European game but he is said to have received abusive emails and remains in the United States on business. Levy’s detractors have mobilised their opposition and a newly-formed fans’ group are distributing thousands of leaflets ready for Tottenham’s match at home to Bolton on Sunday, when Juande Ramos’ team chase a first-win after their worst ever start to a league season.”

Duncan White (Telegraph) offers his opinion on the mooted sacking of Damien Comolli. “Bolton visit on Sunday with the sense of crisis around White Hart Lane reaching a strident pitch. Damien Camolli, the Director of Football, is widely reported to be scapegoat-in-waiting, a sacrifice offered to appease the angry Spurs support. Failure to win against Bolton is unthinkable because of the difficult of games that follow – the North London derby, followed by Liverpool and Manchester City. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Spurs could find themselves in the middle of November with just two points in credit. And they are already five points off safety… Sacking Comolli won’t change the poor level of performance on the pitch and the club can’t afford to get rid of Ramos. It might still be early in the season but the prognosis is bleak.”

The Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton claims that “Tottenham are planning to combine news of Damien Comolli’s dismissal as director of football with ambitious plans for a new 60,000 seater stadium.” “In an attempt to deflect some of the attention away from Comolli’s departure – which will amount to an admission by Levy that the director of football/manager axis does not work -  Tottenham officials want to finally unveil plans for the club’s new home on the same day… It is hoped that work will begin next year, with the new ground being built alongside the existing stadium at White Hart Lane. Which in turn would allow Tottenham to continue playing on the current pitch.”

Harry Redknapp, using his weekly column in The Sun, argues that English managers are better than foreign managers. “No foreign manager has ever come here and dragged a struggling club up the way that Phil [Brown] has at Hull. Arsene Wenger is the greatest success story of all foreign coaches but he walked into Arsenal, who had won the Double under George Graham. Rafa Benitez and Phil Scolari walked into clubs with money, assets and fantastic facilities. It’s more difficult to fail. But Brown has installed belief, got the players to fight for each other and is doing as good a job — if not better — than any foreign boss here at the moment, even with Chelsea top… I tire of the obsession with appointing foreign coaches just for the sake of it. I wonder if Arsenal will even give Tony Adams a sniff at the manager’s job when Wenger goes. Tony is in his third season with me as a coach at Portsmouth. He was a great player, great captain and is a qualified coach. Arsenal fans would love him to take over in a few years. Will it happen? I won’t hold my breath.”

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde takes the unusual position of defending footballers, by criticising those who are smearing them during the current credit crisis. “You would call it a whispering campaign, were it not for the Daily Mail running endless paparazzi pictures of Steven Gerrard’s wife in a new BMW. ‘What credit crunch?’ the headline demanded tartly, while the copy was full of mawkish asides about the rest of Britain ‘counting the pennies’ while Alex Curran ‘indulged in a spot of retail therapy’… Wondering why, on the day Alistair Darling had spent £500bn of taxpayers’ money bailing out the banks, the Sun had splashed on that Afghan woman living in a big house on benefits, my colleague Peter Wilby noted that the Marxist answer would be that ‘the corporate-owned press and its lick-spittle journalists are trying to direct the workers’ anger away from the bourgeoisie towards members of their own class.’ ‘The depressing truth,’ he countered, ‘is that newspapers are giving readers what they want.'”

Aislinn Simpson delivers a football lifestyle piece to the Telegraph documentating how foreign players at a Premiership team are being sent to a language school to help them understand football jargon. “Now Portsmouth FC has sent international stars back to the classroom to be schooled in the language of football with the help of a Subbuteo table. Currently 16 of the club’s 28-strong squad come from outside the UK, from places as far flung as Senegal, Israel and Iceland. Polyglot Solutions, a language school at Southsea, Hants, has been working with Pompey to ensure players can communicate with each other regardless of the pressurised environment of the football pitch. The crash courses concentrate on teaching pupils to speak “football English”, learning the basic expressions of the game. Run by multi-lingual entrepreneur Dr Jay Kettle-Williams, Polyglot Solutions has a network of local tutors who work one-to-one with the players. Its average time to get a player from zero English language skills to being able to function on the pitch is around 11 hours. Portsmouth’s new Algerian defender Nadir Belhadj is the latest pupil, trained with the aid of Subbuteo.”


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