What a strange weekend of football. On Sunday there were two surreal matches, one in England, and one in Italy. In England, Liverpool hosted Chelsea, and in Italy, Lazio played host to Inter. In both matches the home fans wanted their team to loss, although both got their wish, there was only one where the team agreed with the fans.

Lazio’s fans may have jeered and booed whenever their team attacked or the keeper made a save, they were determined that Roma were not going to win the league, and so happily favoured an Inter win over their team, but there was a difference to what was happening in Liverpool – the players still tried.

From the moment the Liverpool Chelsea match kicked off the viewers were treated to a limp, lifeless and really shameful performance from Liverpool. They wouldn’t make any tackles, stood off the Chelsea players, inviting them to attack, and refused to go at anything other than a jog. Chelsea fared little better, looking as nervous as they had in losing to Spurs a few weeks earlier. They were there for the taking, and until Steven Gerrard gave them an opening goal Liverpool could have easily sprung into action and had them. If they wanted too – clearly they didn’t.

Obviously Liverpool fans will protest that their was nothing sinister or underhanded in Gerrards pass to Drogba. Perhaps there wasn’t, but the truth is would he have been that reckless, careless and irresponsible, had he been concentrating? If he cared? I doubt it. It was the attitude of the players that was alarming.

There can be two things drawn from this. Either they, like the fans, did not want to allow United to win a 19th league title, or they were determined to get rid of the manager. Both are favourite now, so which ever it was they will get their wish. Rafa should be on his way, probably to Juventus, and Chelsea have one hand on the league.

Whoever takes over at Liverpool next year should be alarmed and disgusted by the unprofessionalism of the players, and the loss of integrity they’ve given to the game. They’ve done themselves, their club and the game a disservice. unfortunately I doubt they realise and sadly I don’t think they even care.


At Last Spurs Rise


Each year I predict that Spurs would be the team to crack the top four, and while many have opined that Arsenal would be the team to lose out at the expense of their North London rivals, I always felt it would be Liverpool losing out. Now finally that looks to be on the cards.

Last season Liverpool pushed United to the title. Much was expected of them this season. Many, admittedly within the camp and their fan base, felt this would be there year. That proved to be far from the truth. What we have seen this season is that Liverpools title challenge last season was a once off surprise and not the dawning of a new period of success. They are a team with not enough quality and over reliant on the little that they do have. While many would suggest that Rafa is a genius, this stems solely from the Champions League success of his first season. A success born from an inherited squad. It’s what has happened since that has been the problem. They have stagnated as a top four club and this seasons decline has been a long time coming. It’s fine to turn up for a couple of big games a season but it’s the 30 odd other games that win you titles.

By contrast Spurs have been on the verge of breaking into the top 4 for years. That they haven’t has been mostly down to their form against the big teams where they have flattered to deceive time and again. Not so now. This last week they have beaten both Arsenal and Chelsea and travel to United on Saturday to try to make it 3 in a row. It’s a remarkable record at the business end of the season. While they have steadily build their squad they have had to compete with the shift in power that has seen Manchester City splash the cash to compete for 4th place. In the penultimate weekend these two will battle it out for what should be a winner takes all 4th place play off.

The number of English, and British players, in the Spurs squad must be a factor in their rise. King, Dawson, Jenas, Defoe, Crouch and Bale, supplemented by some foreign flair and experience is a better recipe than Rafa’s bit part foreign mercenaries.It’s meant that there is less time needed for players to adapt and get to grips with both the team and the league. The relatively smaller squad to that of United and Chelsea has meant that they’ve had to persist with the likes of Gomez in goal, who had a nightmare start to his career at Spurs, and Roman Pav has had to remain with them, and is now coming good.

With the right investment, and there is little room for error, they can sustain their push next season. They’ll have to find a blueprint that would take them to the next level and not follow Liverpool path. Next seasons race for 4th, with Spurs, City, Liverpool, Villa and Everton all comepeting promises to be one of the most intense yet.

The Sunday Papers



Cristiano Ronaldo has pledged: “I am staying at Manchester United.”

Manchester City have stepped up their chase for Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

Xabi Alonso has rocked Liverpool by admitting he wants to quit Anfield.

Goodison legend Peter Reid is trying to buy his beloved Everton.

Chelsea are planning for life without Didier Drogba by moving for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City are desperate to push through a new deal for Stephen Ireland while Nedum Onuoha is set to sign a three-year contract.

Chelsea’s £25million move for Zenit St Petersburg’s Portugal midfielder Danny has been dealt a serious injury blow.

Newcastle are desperate to keep young goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Wigan want to sign Alan Smith from Newcastle.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has lined up a move for FC Twente’s Austria striker Marko Arnautovic.

Everton face stiff competition for Inter Milan striker David Suazo with Manchester City and Villarreal also interested.


Angry Patrice Evra has accused Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal of trying to kick him out of the Champions League final.

Sunderland are set to have a £200million transfer budget thanks to new owner Ellis Short.

Gareth Southgate will be asked to oversee a fire sale of players if Middlesbrough are relegated.

Bayern Munich want Portsmouth’s England right-back Glen Johnson.

Manchester City are ready to offer Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry £19million in wages to tempt him to Eastlands.

Arsenal are ready to launch a club-record move for Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Aston Villa are set to make another move for David Bentley of Tottenham.

Stephen Hunt and Andre Bikey are on their way out of Reading. Hunt is a target for Everton while Wigan want Bikey.

Everton are closing in on a £12million deal for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Moutinho.

Manchester United want Charlton’s England youth defender Carl Jenkinson.

Middlesbrough want Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson is ready to sign Hibernian’s Polish goalkeeper Grzegorz Szamotulski.

Lucas Neill and West Ham are set to agree a new deal.

Kettering boss Mark Cooper is favourite to take over at Chesterfield.

Salomon Kalou has hinted he may leave Chelsea.

Preston boss Alan Irvine is on Reading’s short-list for their vacant managerial position.


Djibril Cisse is closing down his classy Newcastle clothes shop The Pr9ject – sparking fears that the Sunderland striker will be leaving in the summer.

Manchester City are set to join the race to land Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

Tottenham will switch their attention to Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta – if they fail to land Kenwyne Jones from Sunderland.

Derby are launching a £500,000 bid for Blackpool defender Shaun Barker.

Southampton winger Nathan Dyer is wanted by Ajax.

French club Marseille have joined Wigan in showing an interest in Tottenham midfielder Didier Zokora.

Oldham want Bradford skipper Graeme Lee on a free.

Coventry are chasing Leicester outcast DJ Campbell.

Derby manager Nigel Clough is ready to get rid of £3million flop Claude Davis to Crystal Palace – for nothing.


David Beckham is set to join Chelsea as part of Carlo Ancelotti’s blueprint for the club.

Kanu is anxiously awaiting a decision from Portsmouth as to whether he is to be offered a new deal.

Micah Richards has been assured he has a future at Manchester City.

Aston Villa are preparing a £9million offer for Almeria’s 27-year-old left-back Mane.

Ipswich and Sunderland want Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.

Fulham have turned down the chance to sign Derby’s Giles Barnes on a permanent deal.


Sir Alex Ferguson insists Cristiano Ronaldo is staying at Manchester United but Carlos Tevez looks set to leave.


Texan millionaire Ellis Short will complete his buy-out of Sunderland this week.

Liverpool’s pursuit of Portsmouth right-back Glen Johnson is gathering pace.

A New Chelsea



The take over of Manchester City last season led many City fans to believe that they could be the new Chelsea. Despite spending more than ever, a great start to the season, and doing better than they had for a long time, their rebirth as the new Chelsea didn’t happen. It has now.

The Abu Dhabi United Group have transformed City to a club with new heights to scale and and challenges to compete for. That the take over and transformation happened over night, and on the last day of transfer activity, means that we are unlikely to feel the effect of this move until January, when the transfer window reopens, at the earliest.

There will however be a few nervous glances over their shoulders by the big four. While Spurs and Everton have flirted with the hope of a top four finish, and the Champions League that is the reward, there is now a realistic chance, and hope, that a real sustained challenge is on the horizon.

This news will worry Liverpool, and maybe Arsenal the most. Chelsea may now have the second richest backer in football, but they still have the financial clout to keep buying their way into title challenges, and ensuring a top four finish for years to come. United have never finished out of the top three since the Premiership began, and as they have shown with back to back titles, after a three year drought, they relish the challenge of competing against the irresponsible spending of the blank cheque Chelsea. Arsenal have never been a big spending team, and are starting to look like a selling club at times, but instead rely on the prodigious talent and potential of their young stars. At times Arsenal are the best team in the country, and the world, and on rare occasions they are muscled out of games and end up chasing third place and not first. They will have a cautious look at what is happening in Manchester now, especially since they have refused to entertain the idea of being bought out by many on looking billionaires.

The most nervous of all the big four will be Liverpool. They have some of the best players in the world in Steven Gerrard and, inparticular, Fernando Torres, and have added the guile and unorthodix skill of Robbie Keane to their ranks. Keane and Torres could be the best strike duo in Europe. The potential is there, they complement each other, the only thing they need, and this is where Liverpool have failed over the last 18 years, is for them to click. The back ground squabling by the owners, the manager, the chief executive and anyone else who cares to have a go, that has made Liverpool a virtual laughing stock of the elite clubs, and the news of yet more problems with the planned new stadium, mean that Liverpool are at risk of losing their top four place to the new kid on the block, Manchester City.

City wasted no time in flexing their new financial might, with bids for Robinho, Berbatov, Torres, Villa, van Nistelrooy and another player, thought to be Huntelaar of Ajax. All bids were over the British record mark of 30 million pounds that Chelsea paid for Schevchenko, with the Torres bid in excess of 50 million. They only managed to bring in Robinho from Real Madrid for a new British Record of 32 million pounds. Significantly they signed Robinho when he appeared to be heading to Chelsea, who had even been selling shirts with his name on the back last week. Come January they have made it known that they will be spending whatever it takes to bring the best players in the world to Eastlands. Bids for Christiano Ronaldo, thought to be 135 million pounds, Cesc Fabregas and Buffon (70 million pounds) are in the pipe line, as well as many many more.

Chelsea’s new transformation under Abromovic saw a spree of spending that could not be believed. City look to make that look small. These are interesting times for English football, and with the league crying out for a challanger to the top four it seems they may have found one.

 Buying success may not always work, but it has for Chelsea, so why not City?


Pic from teamtalk.com

Thanks For Spain and Holland


With Euro 2008 about to reach its knock out stage, the business end of the tournament, the most pleasing aspect of the two weeks of matches thus far has been the progress of Holland and Spain. Their performance has been a triumph for football, as much as Euro 2006 was a dark period in recent international competitions.

While the title can never be taken away from Greece, they won it ahead of much better teams and should rightly be pleased with that moment of history, it was still a blight of a tournament that bored rather than entertained. At that stage, at the end of a long season, the Greeks managed to bore the world better than the rest of the field. Blame it on whatever you like, tired legs, the fact that the Greeks were mile fresher then any other team, luck, good for the Greeks, bad for everyone else, history will still tell you that in 2006 Greece won the European Championships. And that’s all it will say. There will be no side not about the way they played, or rather the way they didn’t. So it has always been. This would have been the excuse needed by all in sundry to put out the same stall as the Greeks, and make sure that results are all that matter. 2006 was a tournament that saw teams put out predominately 4-5-1 formations and look to wear the opponents down, get a goal, put everyone behind the ball, and hold out for the win, creating little and using very little imagination or artistry. The Greeks weren’t the only ones to do this, they just managed to do it well at this time. This was the way football was headed, with results become of far more importance than entertainment. Today in England Arsenal and Manchester United are commended for their attacking, flowing, entertaining play. Yet only United have married this with winning. Arsenal must be given credit for continuing with this philosophy despite the lack of trophies. They will continue with it for as long as Wenger is in charge and so lets hope that that is for a long time to come. They could easily adopt the style, or lack of it, of Chelsea and Liverpool, the other two forces of the “Big Four” in England. Liverpool play with one up front, pack the midfield, and launch balls up to the terrific pace of Torres. Chelsea say they play a 4-3-3 and on paper it is exactly that. But on the field, where it matters, they play a 4-5-1. They have been successful with it and so have persisted with it. Abramovich wants fantasy football, like United, Arsenal and Barcelona play, but both Mourinho and Grant brought dull but effective football to the Bridge, winning was more important than putting on a show. Abramovich will be hoping Scolari shares his vision but must be aware that there is a lot of pressure on a manager who spends 100 million a season, pressure to make sure he wins, and this will become more important than how he wins. Will he be happy with a season where his team play the best football in the world, as Arsenal have at times, yet finish with nothing? I doubt that.

And so we come back to Euro 08. Spain and Holland have played football the way it should be played and, with Spain to complete their group matches tonight, have both topped their groups and thus far have both got 100% records. Holland have counter attacked with a true 4-3-3 formation, not Chelsea’s false one, with pace and drive down the flanks, and Ruud in the middle. Spain have done what so many in international and club football have forgotten to do – play with two up front. With Villa and Torres up front you always know that if you create chances they will be put away – and so they have been.

International football was headed into the dark ages but has been rescued by Holland and Spain this year. It would only be right if one of these two teams were to take home the trophy in 10 days time and show the world you don’t have to be dull to win. Football is about passion and entertainment. Let them entertain.

Veloso To Milan?


Miguel Veloso, the Sporting Lisbon midfielder currently with the Portugal squad at Euro 08, has long been touted as being Premiership bound, with Manchester United seemingly favourites to land the talented central player, and Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Newcastle and even Everton ready to pounce. It now seems he may be heading to Italy to join AC Milan.

While a host of club scouts are no doubt waiting to see Veloso in action at Euro 08 before making their move Milan may have jumped the line by taking action. The link to Milan is not new but where as before it was coming out of Veloso’s camp, and denied by Milan, they have now revealed that Veloso could be a Milan player in the future.  Milan director Ariedo Braida has said that the club are interested in Veloso and he could see him being a Milan player in the future. While this does open the door to a move to Italy it does put a vague spin on the time scale. He hasn’t said that they will be moving for Veloso this transfer window but merely that he sees him at Milan in the future.

With the Milan squad an aging one, and any new signings tending to be for the future, as a new Milan is born, with the likes of Pato leading the way, Veloso would fit the mould of the type of midfielder MIlan would want, probably taking over from Gattuso in the middle of the park. However with a host of clubs monitoring the situation anyone interested in Veloso will have to make a move soon, and would have to meet Sportings valuation of the player, which wont be cheap.

For now he is still a Spoting player, but it is only a matter of time before he makes the move to one of Europes elite.

Someone Said No


Roman Abromovich may still be reeling from the shock of someone actually saying no to him, even when bag loads of money were thrown at them. Last night reports began circulating that Chelsea had met with Carlo Ancelotti’s representatives and a deal for a reported 24 million euro’s over 3 years had been agreed with the AC Milan manager.

After this story broke the AC Milan vice president, Adriano Galliani, came out and revealed that he had spoken to Ancelotti who had told him that he is 150% staying at Milan and will not go to Chelsea. Galliani went on to say that Ancelotti had already started arranging the teams pre season friendly programme and would be the manager for next season, 100% guaranteed.

So has it turned out that someone has actually said no to Abromivich and his money? When the Russian bought Chelsea he went on a spending spree that took the team from mid table to the top 2 in England over the last 4 years. Almost every player he wanted he got. Manchester United and Juventus wanted Drogba, Abromovich got him, United wanted Essien and Robben, Abromovich got them, the same with Ballack, Schevchenko and almost anyone else they wanted. He wanted a top manager in Jose Mourinho, they got him, even though the special one was thought to be headed to Spurs. He wanted a chief executive, he took Peter Kenyon from Manchester United. He even got away with expensive flops, Mutu, Crespo, Veron all came for big money, and all were soon gone. He wanted his friend Schevchenko, his manager Mourinho did not, he got him. He wanted Mourinho out, even though the special one had delivered 2 league titles in 2 seasons, after Chelsea had gone 50 years without a single league title. Mourinho was removed and replaced with another of his good friends, Avram Grant. Abromovich is used to getting what he wants and almost always get it.

With his friend Grant let go Chelsea had a 2 man short list of Ancelotti and Mark Hughes as their top targets for the vacant managers position. Ancelotti has apparently said no and Hughes is about to be named as the new manager of Manchester City, unless Chelsea manage to hijack that deal, and they have very little time to do so. Both their targets seem to be lost to Chelsea and they will now have to move further down their list of managers for the job.

Abramovich does not get turned down often and will no doubt not be enjoying this morning too much. Don’t expect him to lay down and accept defeat. Milan can expect a fight for their manager, and Abramovich will no doubt only give up when its clear to him that he has been defeated, and that money can’t get him everything. A theory he will surely be testing in the coming days.

For now we must commend Ancelotti, if it is indeed true that he has turned down the millions on offer at Chelsea, to stay at the club he loves, the club he played for, the club he has won the Champions League with as both a player and as a manager. For today it seems that love has won over money. For today.