Ronaldo’s Madrid Bound – Now What?

11/06/2009

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Manchester United and Real Madrid both confirmed today that a world record bid of 80 million pounds had been accepted by United for Christiano Ronaldo. So after a few years of will he won’t he it now seems that Ronaldo will be a Madrid player before July.

Manchester United are losing one of the best players in the world, and there is no doubt that Ronaldo will be missed, and won’t be easy to replace. In truth a player of his current ability can only be replaced with two other players, Kaka and Messi, and neither will be at Old Trafford next season. So have United erred in letting the current World Player of the Year leave?

The most important factor in all this is that the player wanted to leave. Ronaldo has known for a while that he would end up at Real and has refused to commit himself to United, giving ambiguous answers that best suited him and did nothing to appease the United fans. Rather than vilifying him, what United fans must realise is that while a lot of the world dream of playing for United, kids from Spain, Portugal and Latin America dream of pulling on the Real Madrid or Barcelona shirts. Ronaldo has always wanted to play for Real and players of his calibre generally get to pick their clubs. So while the move may not be the best for his career, and only time will tell, and few have succeeded after leaving Old Trafford, it is his dream move. There is little point in keeping a player who wants to go.

The price tag, 80 million, is too good to turn down. When it became clear to United that Ronaldo wanted to leave, and he asked to, they had to try and get as much as they could. Following so close on Kaka’s move to Real it would have been hard to imagine that Real would be willing, or able, to pay the money being talked about in the press. But thy have agreed. United failed to get the maximum they could for Beckham when he left for Madrid, only taking into account his footballing worth, and not commercial worth. They haven’t made that mistake this time. With 80 million Sir Alex could buy a couple of super stars, or a host of potential stars, or a combination of both.

So what should United do with the money? Replacing Ronaldo is impossible so United should look to do what’s best for the team. Firstly they should sign Tevez. Things have gone on so long that it seems more likely that Tevez will be leaving, but United can not afford to lose both Ronaldo and Tevez, and should do everything possible to convince Tevez he should stay. Most United fans would have chosen keeping Tevez ahead of Ronaldo if asked in the last month. Hopefully those that deal with such things at United will get that right. So which players should be targeted after the Tevez situation is sorted out? United need someone who will score the goals that Ronaldo assured them of each season. They will look at bringing in Benzema, who has been a long time target of there’s. However a better option now would be David Villa. Chelsea and Real have been linked with the Spanish hitman so United would have to move fast to get him, but he will be well worth the 30-40 million Valencia would ask for him. He guarantees goals and that’s what United need. Sergio Aguero, and Pato should also be looked at. Both will be among the best players in the world in the near future, with Aguero closer right now than Pato, but both will work for the future and present. Wide players who United should look at are likely to be Ribery and David Silva. The prices being asked for Ribery by Bayern are too high for the 27 year old, but like United and Ronaldo, Bayern may have a hard time keeping a player who wants to leave. United tried to buy Silva last season but they player wasn’t interested in leaving Spain. If that were to change Silva  could be the ideal replacement for Ronaldo. Another name being mentioned is Madrid’s Robben. United were on the verge of signing him before he went to Chelsea. Fergie is a fan of the dutchman, and with Madrid looking to sell, United could be at the front of the line to bring him back to England. His injury record may be a concern though.

While a host of big names will now be linked to United in the coming weeks, and while Fergie may bring in one or two of them, the more likely scenario is that United will buy Antonio Valencia from Wigan to play down the wing and push Wayne Rooney upfront, where he belongs. While United will miss Ronaldo, and any team would, his leaving may be the best thing for Rooney. Rooney has spent much of his time at United doing whatever job he’s asked to do, and his done it with no complaints. He’s spent much of the last few years out on the wing. Rooney is a forward and needs to be playing there to reach his true potential. This may be his chance to finally get to cement that position, and take him forward on his quest to be the best in the world.

Ronaldo is most likely gone but United can be stronger for it, if they use the money and personnel wisely. It should be an interesting few months.

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Euro 2008 Preview – Group D

10/06/2008

Group D is arguably the weakest of the 4 groups in terms of not having at least two teams that are clearly better than the other two. Spain should win this group but who comes second is a very open contest. Sweden are always very good qualifiers and tend to get through group stages before being eliminated and so should be favourites to join Spain in the quarter finals, but both Russia and Greece will be thinking that they should be getting through from this group too.

Group D will play their games in Austria at the Tivoli Neu in Innsbruck and EM Stadion Wals-Siezenheim in Salzburg.

Spain have entered each of the big international tournaments over the last decade or so with one of the most talented group of individuals on the planet, yet have disappointed each and every time. The provincial nature of the country, with different parts wanting their own Independence from Spain, means that it is more difficult for the country to put out a unified team that wants to represent Spain. The job of the coach and the captain is to get these players to play for each other under one flag. If anyone manages that then Spain will be up there with Brazil, Argentina and Italy as world beaters and perennial favourites. The Spanish team will have to make do without Raul for the first time in a big competition since the Real Madrid star made his debut. Raul has rediscovered his form of old this season and has been one of Madrid’s best performers, but this wasn’t enough to see him selected for the Euro Champs. Instead Spain will look to Torres and Villa to lead the line, with Guiza and Sergio Garcia providing back up. These two were picked ahead of Raul and as such will be players to keep an eye on. Guiza was the top Spanish scorer in La Liga for Mallorca and is said to be wanted by the top teams in Spain, Italy and England. It is in midfield where the Spanish are spoilt for choice, with the likes of Fabregas, Xavi, Silva and Iniesta all competing for starting places. Spain have the players to be a world force, they just need the motivation and team spirit. This could be their year, and the beginning of something special for Spanish football.

The rest of the group seems to be on an equal level. Sweden, who finished just behind Spain in qualifying, are a very difficult team to beat, combining a great team ethos with the individual talents of Kallstrom and Ibrahimovic. Each player knows his role and gets on with the job. The experience of Henrik Larrson will be a huge asset to Sweden, but look for him to make an impact from the bench rather than starting. Russia, as you’d imagine, are a well disciplined team with a great sense of national pride. They finished ahead of England in qualifying, but this could prove one step to far for them. Defending champs Greece benefited from an one of the easier qualifying groups, thanks to being seeded first because of their triumph in 2004. That year they won primarily because of fatigue by the players in the other nations, with a lot of Greece players not regular starters at club level or playing in weaker leagues, like Greece, they were fresher and had stronger legs then everyone else. This time they won’t find it that easy and will do well to get out of this group. In Otto Rehhagel they have an astute coach who will look to mastermind another surprise this year.

Spain will be favourites and will probably be joined by Sweden.


Ronaldo Saga Twists and Turns

06/06/2008

It seems everyone with any remote connection to Christiano Ronaldo, real or imagined, is adding fuel to the speculation about whether or not the Manchester United star will be playing for the Red Devils or Real Madrid next season.

With Ronaldo saying on Monday that he will have news about his future in 48 hours the world, and Manchester United more closely, waited… and waited.

Then yesterday a Brazilian website came out with an alleged interview with Ronaldo, where he stated that he wants to go to Madrid, but only if they are willing to pay the amounts being claimed to Manchester United. He went on to say that this is all he will be saying about his future until after Euro 08, and stated that he didn’t want to be asked any more questions on the topic, and that he wouldn’t be answering them, until Euro 08 is complete.

So if the journalist for the website is to believed then it seems Ronaldo wants to go to Madrid.

However when contacted said journalist would give no answers to questions about the interview, where it was held, was it by phone, and more importantly, when it was held. So serious doubts must be expressed about this piece of breaking news.

Even if the interview did occur, the doubts that the journalists lack of answers brings forward put the context into question. Ronaldo may have said that yes he does want to play for Madrid, but it could have been followed by a “in 4 or 5 years time.”

Whatever is being said what was needed was for Ronaldo to come out and state either way what he wants, whether or not he gets it. He is after all contracted to Manchester United for a further 4 years, having just signed a new 5 year deal last year. While this may not mean much to Madrid, and modern day footballers, it should still count for something.

Further news coming out of the papers today say that Ronaldo has banned Sir Alex from coming to Switzerland to talk to him. Again, like any story about Ronaldo these days it must be taken with a pinch of salt. Ronaldo had suggested that he would be staying at United for as long as Sir Alex was in charge, and their relationship did seem strong. For Ronaldo to take such actions would suggest that there had been a huge breakdown in their relationship over the last week, and also show great immaturity and disrespect, especially if there is a chance, as United say, that Ronaldo will be returning to United next season.

Another report claims that Ronaldo’s mother has said that her son will still be a Manchester United player next season and for a while yet.

It seems that the papers have the freedom to make up stories  and quotes with alarming regularity, and or that people are speaking on Ronaldo’s behalf with little or no knowledge of what the players wants or feels.

There are surely going to be many more twists to this story over the coming weeks, with most suggesting that Ronaldo is Madrid bound, and some saying that he will be staying put. Whatever is said, until Christiano comes out and says his bit we should treat them as fiction. Only one man knows the truth and he has yet to speak.


United Must Be Firm In Ronaldo Saga

04/06/2008

Each day seems to bring with it new and differing stories about whether or not Christiano Ronaldo will be a Manchester United or Real Madrid player next season, and each of these stories are said to come from sources close to the player. Todays reports suggest that Ronaldo has decided to leave United for Madrid, but will wait another year before doing so.

While Madrid seem to play games that flirt with the boundaries of ethics in there almost daily task of unsettling Ronaldo, while at the same time reprimanding Robinho for essentially playing the same game, but this time against Madrid, talk of what it would cost Madrid to get United to part with their prize asset, it is hard to separate the fact from rumour.

A figure of 100 million Euro has been branded about a lot, a number that would not just eclipse the world record fee of 50 odd million Euros Madrid paid Juventus for Zidane, but would smash it to pieces. But would Madrid be willing to really pay that much? In truth the fee would probably not make Ronaldo the first 100 million Euro player, it would be less then that, but still far higher than the amount paid for Zidane. While Real do seem to play with monopoly money in the transfer market, they would I think be serious about shelling out that much for their number one target. Ronaldo is Zidane and Beckham put together, the best player in the world with the marketability to go with it. So yes Madrid will be willing to smash all records to get there man.

Another transfer deal that has been doing the rounds is that Madrid are willing to offer United 3 players, Sergio Ramos, Diarra, and Robinho, plus a large some of money for Ronaldo. This may be more realistic as the bank manager would be loath to hand over 100 million to them for a single player. Lending support to this rumour is an interview that Robinho had with a Portuguese magazine where he let on that he may be going to United as part of a deal for Ronaldo. Robinho has since been called to task by Madrid for opening his mouth. He also suggested that Arsenal and Chelsea were also interested in him and this may just be a plot by the player to get a better contract as he feels he is underpaid in comparison to some of his team mates. Sergio Ramos would be wanted as he could be the right back United are in the market for, and can also play at centre back. Diarra Interested United while at Lyon before Madrid stepped in a bought him, and Robinho has talent. However it must be remembered that Madrid are trying to force United to part with their best player, their prize asset, and as such United should play hard ball if they are forced into parting with Ronaldo, something they do not want to do.

If United are to give up their best player then they should ask Madrid to do the same. As well as a record amount of cash they should demand Iker Casillas. Casillas is up with Buffon as the best keeper in the world, and at 27 still has 10 years left at the top. Why should United be the only ones to lose out on their best player? Madrid should do the same. Casillas at the back for United for 10 years would bring the same stabilty that United enjoyed with Schemiecle between the posts. Madrid will not be happy with this idea and will fight against it, but it is high time that someone made Madrid make some concessions in the transfer market. United sold them Beckham, for way to little, van Nistelrooy and Heinze in the past few years, but all were sold because United choose to. Ronaldo is wanted at United and they will fight to keep him, but if they are forced to give him up, then they must make sure they get more than what is offered.

David Beckham has urged Ronaldo to stay, and as a player who made the move from United to Madrid, his words should be listened to by the young star. United are the best team for Ronaldo to be at. However money seems to talk louder than loyalty in this era and there is no guarantee that Ronaldo will be a United player next season. United must stand firm and ensure their demands are met as reluctant sellers. Madrid can not always get their way.


The New Golden Generation

02/11/2007

The golden generation of Portuguese football, a generation that including the likes of Figo, Rui Costa and Couto, where unable to bring hope any silverware, success that their undoubted talent demanded. A new generation of Portuguese footballers are emerging, some with the potential to be better than their much admired predecessors, a generation lead by the supremely talented and confident Christiano Ronaldo, with experienced players like Simao Sabrosa and Ricardo Quaresma, and emerging players like Nani, the future of Portuguese football looks bright.

 

There is a new crop of talented players beginning to push for claims in the national team and who should be catching the eye of the top teams in the very near future, if they haven’t already done so. Not to surprisingly the bulk of the new kids on the block are from Sporting Lisbon, the same youth system that has recently supplied Manchester United with both Christiano Ronaldo and Nani, and if reports are to be believed, could very well supply them with a new face or two in the coming years.

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The first of this new crop of players is the current Sporting captain Joao Moutinho. The young attacking midfielder, who at 21, is the youngest captain in the history of the club, and has already played 81 times for Sporting, scoring 8 goals. He also has 8 caps for the national team. He made his debut at only 17, and in the 2005/2006 season was the only player in Portugal to play every minute of every game. His rise has been quick and has not gone unnoticed with the likes of Real Madrid said to be interested in bringing the midfielder, who is most comfortable playing in the hole behind the front men, but has been used across the midfield, over to Spain in January or next season. Sporting though are adamant that their captain will be going no where, but as we’ve seen with Ronaldo and Nani, the players ambitions and money offered generally speaks louder than mere objections. It wont be to long before the diminutive attacking player is plying his trade in Spain, England or Italy.

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Like Moutinho, Miguel Veloso has also come through the ranks at Sporting, firmly establishing himself in the starting 11 over the last couple of seasons. Less flashy then his team mate Moutinho, and former team mates Nani and Ronaldo, Veloso has non the less gone about establishing and growing reputation in Portuguese football, one that has been noticed by the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Veloso, who has played most of his games in the centre of midfield, as an anchor to Moutinho’s attacking free role, can also play at centre back or left back, and is particularly effective at set pieces. Strong performances in the Champions League both last season and this, particularly last season when he stopped both Figo and Vieria from having an impact in Sportings win against Inter, and this season where he impressed in Sportings loss to Manchester United, have moved Veloso to the top of many teams wanted lists. Arsenal are said to be contemplating a move in January, as are Madrid, for both Veloso and Moutinho, while Manchester United are said to be ready to move in January if the others make an offer, but would rather wait till next season to bring Veloso to Old Trafford. Veloso is thought to favour a move to United, where he would be reunited with former team mates and friends Ronaldo and Nani.

While both Veloso and Moutinho are said to be wanted by the who’s who of club football, Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Barcelona and Madrid, it is in England, with either United or Arsenal, where the futures may lie. Both Fergie and Wenger are youth orientated managers who have scoured Europe for the best young talent and will perhaps by the best place for their potential to be nurtured. The coming coming close season could be a very active one for these young stars, if January doesn’t bring about a big move.

 

While the future both the French and Portuguese national teams looks bright, with a strong potential laden crop of players coming through, and already making a considerable mark in their home leagues, it will only be a matter of time before money talks and the young starts are on their way to England, Spain or Italy. The breeding grounds of France and Portugal are looking particularly plentiful for the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid.


The Great Exporters – France

30/10/2007

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The top leagues in the world are the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A, and perhaps the German Bundasleague would also lay claim to joining the elite at the top, although in recent years, the German national team not withstanding, German clubs have struggles in the Champions League. However, while these 3 or 4 leagues may lay claim to be the footballing hot beds of Europe, it is the lesser leagues of France ,and these days Portugal too, that are producing the worlds best footballers.

Since Frances 1998 World Cup win, and the Euro 2000 triumph that followed, France have always been amongst the top international teams in the world. Yet their league has failed to produce any real challenges to the likes of England, Spain and Italy’s best. Lyon, 6 times French champions in the last 6 years, have flirted with the idea of being contenders for Europe’s top club prize, but have failed to deliver and solid group form over the last 5 years. The list of French talent that has honed their skill on their home pitches before seeking glory, recognition and huge bank balances on other shores is staggering for such a league. While the likes of Platini, Jean Pierre Papin and Eric Cantona lead the way, the team that won the 98 World Cup and then Euro 2000 was littered with some of the best established and emerging talents to ply their trade on the European and world stage. Desailly, Petit, Deschamps, Barthez, Thuram and Lizarazu won great acclaim and success at the likes of Milan, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Parma, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while the generations finest player, Zinedine Zidane, did it for Juventus and Real Madrid. Those French teams also brought to the worlds, and subsequently the big boys in league football, attention to the likes of emerging, precocious talent such as David Trezeguet, who moved to Juventus shortly after, Robert Pires, who went to Arsenal and is now at Villareal, Anelka, who has played for a host of teams ranging from Arsenal and Real Madrid, to Manchester City and Bolton, and the holder of the new French international goal scoring record, and Arsenal legend, now with Barcelona, Thierry Henry. While that golden generation enjoyed its share of success during a prolific 2 year period, the new set of French super stars are arriving in bulk. Ribery, the flying winger was the first to make an impact, and after being linked to every big club in the world, is now playing in Germany with Bayern Munich, where he is helping to regain the dominance they lost last season, and has gotten off to a very promising start to his new club career. Hot on his heels are the talented young trio who look set to be involved in bidding wars in the near future from clubs in England, Spain and Italy, Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema, both of Lyon, and Samir Nasri of Marseilles. While Nasri has been labelled the new Zidane, as much for his undoubted talent as for his Algerian roots, and Ben Arfa has been lauded as the future of France football, it is Benzema who is making all the head lines at this moment. The 19 year old striker has scored 11 goals in the opening 11 games of the French season, and has been called up to the French national team ahead of Trezeguet.

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Benzema is now the hottest property in France. A striker, who has been used out wide, much to his objection, he has modeled himself on the Ronaldo who he saw playing for Barcelona and scored 47 goals in 49 games for the Catalan giants. With his growing reputation, and notice being taken by all the big teams, Lyon have offered him 5 new contracts in the last 3 years, the latest of which ties him to the club for another 5 years. Yet at the rate he is progressing, and the ambition he has shown, it is highly unlikely that Benzema will still be at Lyon in the next season or two, never mind five. Arsenal, who have a strong French bias, are rumoured to be interested in bringing both Benzema and Ben Arfa to London. Real Madrid are also interested, however a move to England, to either Arsenal or even Manchester United, would surely be more beneficial to his career, as the English game as been better suited to French players, and Ferguson and Wenger in-particular have a history of getting the best out of young talent.

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Hatem Ben Arfa was offered a place in Tunisia’s World Cup squad for Germany 2006, but turned it down, awaiting the call from France, his country of birth. The young midfielder has been widely acclaimed at Lyon since making his debut  against Nice in 2005. The left winger has attracted the attention of Madrid, Barca, Inter and Milan,and at the rate both he and Benzema are going at Lyon will find it very tough not to bow to the inevitable big offers that are bound to come for the pair.

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Samir Nasri, the Marseilles midfielder, has already had to live with the billing as the new Zidane. While this has a lot to do with the fact that he is from Marseilles and of Algerian decent, that is not the whole story. The 19 year old Nasri posses skill and talent that are very much Zidane like, possessing an uncanny likeness to the French legend when on the ball. But the humble kid, showing maturity that many his age in the game are lacking, wishes to shy away from such comparisons, claiming that there is only one Zidane, and he is just a young player trying to make it in the French League, something he says he has not yet done. A host of clubs are looking at the young prodigy, who was named France’s Young Player of the Year last season, including Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester United. Rumours of a first option deal with Arsenal have been denied, yet with Arsenal Wengers history of bringing young players to London, and bias towards French players, don’t be surprised to see Nari at the Emirates Stadium in the future.

These three young players posses the potential and talent to once again take France to the top of world football, and are all being coveted by the best clubs in the world. Unfortunately the French league is a selling league, and all three will have to jump ship to England, Spain or Italy in the near future if they are to fully realise their potential. Hopefully it will see them under the nurturing eye of either Fergie or Wenger and not on the subs benches of Chelsea or Madrid, where their careers are as likely to stall as they are to flourish.

The next post will look at some of the Portuguese youngsters coming through the ranks at their varies teams, aiming to be the next Figo, Rui Costa or Christiano Ronaldo.


In the Papers

01/10/2007

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NEWS OF THE WORLD:

Avram Grant has become a laughing stock among his own Chelsea stars who are backing him to get the boot by Christmas.

David Dein’s Arsenal dream is in tatters as Alisher Usmanov prepares to send him into exile.

Jose Mourinho could be back in management within a month – replacing Claudio Ranieri at Juventus.

Mark Hughes is the latest manager to be linked with Martin Jol’s job at Spurs.

Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing £10million-rated French star Samir Nasri.

Peter Reid is a surprise candidate to replace Sammy Lee as Bolton manager.

SUNDAY MIRROR:

Jose Mourinho is lined up to take over as Tottenham manager next summer.

THE PEOPLE:

Roy Keane is set to be offered an extension to his Sunderland contract.

Harry Kewell is running out of time to save his Liverpool career.

Manchester United starlet Lee Martin is set to join Plymouth on loan, with a view to a parmanent move.

Manchester City are lining up a £6million swoop for Juan Roman Riquelme.

Spurs are keeping tabs on Southampton winger Nathan Dyer.

SUNDAY EXPRESS:

Ajax striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar wants to move to the Premier League – news that could interest Manchester Untied, Arsenal and Newcastle.

THE SUN

  • Chelsea stars have been told that Avram Grant is the future of the club.
  • John Terry is set to be fit for England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia. Michael Owen is also aiming to play in both games.
  • Frank Lampard has suffered a setback in his bid to be fit for Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Valencia.
  • Hong Kong tycoon Carson Yeung has assured Birmingham he will complete his takeover by the end of the year.
  • Everton midfielder Tim Cahill aims to return for the Merseyside derby on October 20.
  • Roma star Francesco Totti has apologised to a Manchester United fan for the violent police action in the Stadio Olimpico.
  • DAILY MIRROR
  • England boss Steve McClaren faces a massive dilemma for the crunch Euro 2008 qualifiers with Estonia and Russia over John Terry and Michael Owen.
  • Liverpool are lining up a deal for Hamilton youngster James McCarthy.
  • Middlesbrough’s Andrew Davies will hold talks with Hull about a loan move with a view to an £800,000 permanent move.
  • Celtic outcast Jiri Jarosik will spark a bidding war between Middlesbrough, Portsmouth and Wigan when the transfer window reopens.
  • Fulham pair Moritz Volz and Collins John are January targets for Southampton.
  • DAILY MAIL
  • Roma have reopened the wounds of last season’s bitter Champions League clash by claiming Manchester United players deliberately whipped up a hostile atmosphere ahead of the second-leg tie.
  • Jussi Jaaskelainen’s agent has confirmed the Finn is unlikely to sign a new deal at Bolton and would jump at the chance of being reunited with Sam Allardyce.
  • John Toshack has launched an astonishing attack on Jose Mourinho.
  • THE INDEPENDENT
  • Chelsea captain John Terry is ready to play against Valencia on Wednesday night after surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone – and could wear a protective mask.
  • Wales coach John Toshack has launched a bizarre attack on Jose Mourinho.
  • Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has reacted angrily to reports Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer were bugged.
  • THE TIMES
  • After successfully undergoing surgery at the weekend, Michael Owen could return for Newcastle on Sunday.
  • John Terry has promised he will be fit for England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia.
  • DAILY EXPRESS
  • Chelsea are set to ban broken cheekbone victim John Terry from facing Valencia, even though he has begged to be allowed to play.
  • DAILY TELEGRAPH
  • Chelsea want the FA to consider retrospective disciplinary action against Fulham’s Clint Dempsey for the challenge that broke John Terry’s cheekbone.
  • DAILY STAR
  • After undergoing surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone, John Terry has vowed to play through the pain for Chelsea and England.
  • THE GUARDIAN
  • Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck has attacked a minority element of the club’s support for anti-semitic abuse of their manager Avram Grant.
  • Francesco Totti has sought to defuse tensions between the supporters of Manchester United and Roma.