Two footballers test positive for cocaine, Man City want to build a “supersquad” & Abramovich slips to 3rd in football’s rich-list

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “What’s happened to me over the past six months has matured me. If this had happened to me early in my career, I’d have thrown all my toys out the pram, but I’ve just got on with it. I’ve calmed down. If I lose the ball, I care, of course I do, but I’m going out on to the pitch, if selected, with no pressure on me because of what’s happened. The fans haven’t taken to me; I understand that. But I’ll keep looking for the ball. I can be a calming influence on the young lads because this has been a tricky time and we do have a lot of youngsters in the team. Certain people thought I must’ve won the lottery when I signed for Derby. They forgot about the 11 years I had in the Premiership before that, thought I went from £100 a week to twenty-odd thousand pounds a week. So why aren’t I allowed to buy a nice car? I’ve earned the right.” – Robbie Savage.

Runner-up: “It’s great to be back, I’m looking forward to the challenge. A number of things. Obviously everyone knows the manager was a major factor. My family still live in London and the fans were a factor, too — you can tell by the reception I got. I never wanted to leave, but as a professional there comes a time when you think you need to move on. I did in order to improve my England career.” – Jermain Defoe.

Today’s overview: Today’s backpages are packed. There are fresh rumours of footballer’s with drug addictions, analysis of Spurs’ re-signing of Jermain Defoe, while the new football rich-list is also placed under the microscope.

There are fresh allegations this Wednesday of footballers suffering from drug abuse. Nick Harris reports that “two professional players are coming to the end of secret bans, of three months and five months, after testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine, earlier this season… The bans for cocaine were both ratified in September, while in October the Football Association banned another player for four months for marijuana use. Another player was warned and reprimanded in November for marijuana use, as was a player in August. All three play below the Premier League.”

Analysing the Jermain Defoe transfer from the Pompey vantage-point, Brian Oliver asking “could Pompey afford not to take the profit? Absolutely not. Little is known about sums outstanding on transfer fees, signing-on fees and other debts, except that the situation is not good and the club is up for sale.” According to First he must argue for as big a share of the proceeds as possible to spend this month. And then he must spend it wisely.”

For Tom Dart though, the real winner is the transfer is Defoe himself who “bids farewell to a club who look likely to slide down the table and says hello to one expected to climb the league and have a realistic chance of winning a trophy.” Jeremy Wilson adds “Defoe also now becomes the most expensive English forward… [his] combined transfer fees in his career to more than £35m.” While, also looking at the transfer is David Hytner, who comments on the actual transfer fee that “little money has actually changed hands on the forward’s return to White Hart Lane but Portsmouth sources were satisfied that they had made a £6m profit on him in just under 12 months.”

Rory Smith investigates Manchester City’s overall transfer policy, reporting “City’s billionaire backers want to build a supersquad boasting two world-class stars battling for every position to help the club take its place at football’s top table.” With that being said, Emily Benammar today links the Citizens with “a surprise £20 million offer to land Juventus striker David Trezeguet.” However, Ian Herbert charges City with moving too slowly in the transfer market, with all proposed deals moving along “at a snail’s pace.”

By contrast, William Gray claims that league leaders Liverpool are “highly unlikely to delve into the transfer market this month, with very little prospect of any of his first-team squad leaving.”

In today’s transfer news, the Daily Mail claim that “Bolton are giving a trial to former Brazil and Real Betis midfielder Denilson,” while the Daily Mail also announce that “Stephen Appiah is in the frame to join Spurs, after training with with the north Londoners… The 28-year-old has suffered knee injuries in the past, but Redknapp is confident that will not be a problem and is hoping to arrange a deal.” And Lee Reynolds claims “Aston Villa are poised to make a £10million move for Sporting Gijon’s highlyrated defender Roberto Canella.”

On the storm in a teacup bubbling up in the contract negotiations between Manchester United and Carlos Tevez, Gabrielle Marcotti attempts to defuse the situation arguing “the people who are stirring the crap are those of us in the press and the legions of middle-men, hangers-on and ‘friends of friends’ who feed us scraps of information because they have ulterior motives.”

Owen Gibson reports on FourFourTwo magazine’s 2009 football rich list in which “Chelsea’s owner Abramovich has fallen to third behind the Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayan and Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate who has a stake in Queens Park Rangers.” But Nick Harris points out some problems with the list in the Independent. “The list, compiled through a combination of limited access to meaningful accounts and guesswork, contains its usual anomalies. Robbie Fowler has apparently spent £2m more than he has earned, his fortune reducing from £30m to £28m. Sol Campbell has, apparently, earned nothing, staying on £28m.”

David Conn looks at the likelihood of future acquisitions of Premier League clubs by foreign investors, offering some limited hope for Hammers’ fans. Arguing that in general most investors will be scared off the Premier League these days, “the club which might prove the exception and find a buyer is the one most afflicted by the banking collapse, West Ham… [as] London clubs have a cachet which still appeals to investors even in this market.” And keeping with the Hammers, Jason Burt reports that they have “agreed to sell Matthew Etherington to Stoke City for £4m and Calum Davenport to Bolton Wanderers for £3m” in an effort to raise capital that will allow them to hold onto their star players.

Arsenal’s financial planning is praised by Matthew Syed, saying “in two of the past four seasons Wenger has actually made a profit in the transfer market and has kept the wage bill just below 50 per cent of turnover, the third lowest ratio in the Premier League.” And by all accounts Wenger is poised to splash some cash on Andrei Arshavin, Sam Wallace writing that the playmaker “visited the Arsenal training ground and expressed a desire to join the club this month but the £22m fee demanded by Zenit St Petersburg is still proving a huge obstacle.” Darren Lewis goes as far as saying “Andrei Arshavin was last night on the verge of signing for Arsenal in a cut-price £10million deal.”

Turning to the continent, Richard Bright focuses attention on Lyon and their youth academy in particular, which has produced the likes of “Ludovic Giuly, Frederic Kanoute and Florian Maurice… but the most recent jewel polished there is Benzema, Ligue 1 top scorer last term.”

In an offbeat article, Simon Burton comments on the improving standards ball-boys experience in the modern game. “Over the last few years there has been a steady improvement in ball boys’ seating arrangements. Once they all just sat on the floor, then they started perching on things that looked like small plastic side tables, and now they have sofas.”