Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “We are giving clubs three years to abide by the simple sentence that you cannot spend more than you own or generate.” – Michel Platini.
Runner-up: “I know why players dive. I’ve dived myself. We did it because we knew the referee wouldn’t see it and also because there were no cameras. The first time I simulated a dive, everyone in my team said to me ‘Well done’. If we could get away with it, we would. It has always been like that. But with our plan to bring in five officials you will be spotted. If you aren’t, it’s the fault of the officials.” – Michel Platini.
Today’s overview: UEFA President Michel Platini has taken the limelight away from the Champions League draw with some far reaching proposals which could have significant impact on the European game. There is also analysis of the CL draw and Eduardo is still dominating some analysts’ thoughts.
Michel Platini’s call for clubs to balance the books is the lead in The Times, Tom Dart adds: “Clubs will be able to go into debt to pay for stadium improvements and youth development, which Platini hopes will inspire investors to pump money into these areas rather than transfer fees and inflated wages. At the heart of his proposals is the desire for a more level playing field and the lessening of the impact of billionaire owners such as Roman Abramovich, of Chelsea, and Sheikh Mansour, of City.”
The main story in The Sun by Shaun Custis is titled “Rom plots to KO spending,” detailing how “Roman Abramovich is backing UEFA to crack down on Manchester City’s spending power – because he does not want to flash any more cash himself. UEFA president Michel Platini has vowed that any club which does not break even in the next three years will be kicked out of European competitions. And he is being spurred on by Chelsea’s billionaire owner Abramovich, who has spent Â£700m on the Blues in six years but no longer wants to pour his fortune into the club.”
Patrick Barclay adds on how Roman Abvramovich joined the war on football debt. “Chelseaâ€™s financial model is hardly comparable, but Abramovich, who last season reduced an estimated Â£600 million debt to him by converting half of it into equity, is also moving the club in Uefaâ€™s direction by requesting that they start breaking even within a year. The three-year deadline set by the European governing body is more realistic and gives Abramovich a chance of stemming the flow of his money (only about Â£8 billion these days) down the drain that top-class football has become.”
Matt Lawton question’s Abramovich’s motives. “Abramovich has spent around Â£700million since taking charge at Stamford Bridge in 2003 but even he now believes it is madness when a club like Real Madrid have a debt of Â£563m. The combined debts of the four English clubs in the Champions League is touching Â£2billion. While UEFA admit the new rules could be difficult to enforce, it is Platini’s desire to see clubs that spend more than they generate banned from European competition – even clubs with owners as rich as those at City, who have spent more than Â£100m in the current transfer window.”
Michel Platini also announced other proposals for the Beautiful Game yesterday. “UEFA president Michel Platini is bringing in FIVE referees at every game to stop diving cheats like Eduardo. Arsenal’s Croatian striker caused uproar by throwing himself to the ground to earn a penalty in Wednesday’s Champions League qualifying win over Celtic. Platini, a former World Player of the Year, is convinced the introduction of two goal-line referees will finally bring to an end the culture of penalty-area cheating.”
Platini’s proposals on cutting down debt have taken the limelight away from the Champions League draw, but there is analysis on how the English teams got on.
Shaun Custis was not impressed. “The draw was as dull as ditchwater. We ended up with barely a whimper as the four English teams avoided the giants of the continent. And but for an almost predictable whinge from the United camp, the quartet will rarely have a better excuse for cracking open the bubbly. With two to qualify from each four-team group, there can be no complaints from the Big Four if they fail to make the post-Christmas knockout stages. Arsenal could hardly contain their joy at their Group H opposition and the bookies agreed – slashing their odds to win the competition to 9-1.”
Gabriele Marcotti feels Liverpool have the most to fear. “Liverpool may well find the going a bit tougher. Lyons were one of Europeâ€™s five biggest spenders over the summer and, after failing to win Le Championnat for the first time in eight years last season, have a point to prove. Fiorentina have a gaping hole in their midfield where Felipe Melo used to be, but the front pair of Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino are always a threat. Debreceni, champions of Hungary, are more of an unknown quantity but look several notches below.”
Kevin McCarra is most worried about congestion. “The notion that Uefa has an anti-English agenda can only be retained if you assume it wanted to torment the Premier League clubs with boredom. For most of the managers in question it is, of course, a pleasure to run their eyes over a drab draw for the group stage of the Champions League. The exception, to some extent, is Manchester United. They may never be in grave trouble but the afternoon did have a slightly challenging air. Administrators at Old Trafford might have pursed their lips at the thought of how turbulent Istanbul might be when they go there on the opening night to play Besiktas. United’s players and fans were attacked there when they played Galatasaray in 1993.”
Henry Winter claims “The Champions League group stage draw felt kind to the English but it carries genuine significance to the Premier League race. Manchester United, who were handed the most awkward draw of the English four, have important domestic fixtures, including collisions with Liverpool and City, following long flights in Europe.”
Sam Wallace in The Independent feels the English clubs got off lightly. “English clubs were handed the best of the Champions League draw last night when they managed to avoid all of the big guns from Spain and Italy. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid will have to face Milan and defending champions Barcelona play Jose Mourinho’s Internazionale while the Premier League clubs have escaped with ties against Europe’s lesser lights.” Andy Townsend provides a guide to all the groups involving English teams.
With Eduardo facing a two-match ban from UEFA, James Lawton gets on his high horse. “If only ArsÃ¨ne Wenger, English football’s principal patron of the beautiful game, could have dragged himself a little further over the line of denial he has always drawn against outrages committed by his own players. Then we might at last say that someone of great football significance, someone whose weight of achievement commands the widest respect, had finally spoken out with some real meaning against the scourge of cheating that has disfigured the game for so long. Maybe football would smell a little sweeter today.”
Steven Howard also has some harsh words for Arsenal’s Eduardo. “The Brazil-born Croatian will face a more immediate jury tomorrow evening at Old Trafford. The slightest suggestion of a repeat performance from the delicate striker – even so much as an unaided stumble anywhere on the pitch – and 70,000 Manchester United fans will deliver a gladiatorial thumbs-down. ‘Same old Arsenal, always cheating.’ So even more fuel has been thrown on the fire as Arsenal and United lock horns in the most significant league meeting between the clubs for five years.”
There is no shortage of transfer gossip/rumours/lies, as the summer window enters its final few days.
According to the Times Window Watch, Everton are after John Heitinga, Scott Brown and David Bentley and “Discussions about Andriy Shevchenko have begun between Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev, with a loan deal to take the Ukraine striker back to his home country the most likely outcome.”
Tottenham have been told by Le Havre that they will have to pay up for Kevin Anin and Harry Redknapp is linked yet again with Sulley Muntari. Stoke are closing in on Tuncay and Robert Huth, Ricardo Vaz Te has left Bolton, Hull are set to sgn Marcin Wasilewski and Wolves are eyeing two strikers.
The standout article of the day comes from David Conn in The Guardian who has yet more woe to heap upon Portsmouth. “Storrie believed he had his saviour when Pairoj introduced him to Fahim, who was then the chief executive of developers Hydra Properties, in Dubai. Fahim said his money, presumed to be enormous, was coming from investors in the Middle East and Asia, but after fierce speculation that Thaksin was his backer, Fahim has since said he is financing the deal himself. In June, he was removed from his position at Hydra, which has suffered myriad problems in Dubai’s construction crisis, and appointed to the company board instead. Doubts grew about whether he really has money to invest in Pompey via his chosen vehicle, Al-Fahim Asia Associates, which boasts the happy initials AAA. In coming months, he will have to prove to nerve-shredded Pompey fans that he is a man of substance, before they accord him anything approaching a AAA rating.”
Another piece in the Daily Mail seems to back this up, as Portsmouth go budget shopping. “Portsmouth’s new owner, Sulaiman Al Fahim, will fund five signings in this transfer window… but fans can forget about a galacticos era.”
Finally, also on the south-coast, The Guardian have Small Talk with Matt Le Tissier. “If you were a manager, would you have picked yourself and Gazza in the same starting eleven? I definitely would have made it work. We never started together because the idea was put about that managers couldn’t have what they classed as two ‘luxury players’. But I think that after playing over 500 games in which I scored over 200 goals without being an out-and-out striker, and probably had at least as many assists, it was a simplistic to dismiss me as a luxury player.”