Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Big" Ronaldo was contacted by Man City

Ronaldo has claimed he was contacted by Manchester City about signing for the multi-billionaires but is concentrating on nothing more than regaining his fitness. No, not the Portuguese chap who plays for Manchester United but the Brazilian Ronaldo who is out of contract.

The World Cup-winner is now 32 and without a club after his contract with AC Milan expired earlier in the summer. He has been out of action after damaging knee ligaments in February and is, arguably, the world's most sought-after free agent. Or he would be if there was any guarantee he would return to anywhere near his form - and weight - of old.

Ronaldo apparently said: "There was some contact (with City). I have some projects but I am focused on getting over this injury."

Given Ronaldo has played a the highest level for some time and has sponsored everything (or so it felt like a few years ago!), surely there is no reason for him to even try to return to the big time at this stage in his career?

As far as Man City are concerned, signing Ronaldo would be something of a coup and, as a free agent, he could join whenever he regains his fitness. But if they did decide to sign him, they run the risk of being seen as the last step before the graveyard, where relics go to pick up one last paycheck to pay for their retirement.

They may as well keep their pride - and allow the big Brazilian to keep his - and target players of today and tomorrow, not those of a few years ago.

Everton's Marouane Fellaini in for a rough ride?

A lot can be told about a player when he gives his first real interview after joining a club, and that's certainly true of Everton's £15million signing Marouane Fellaini. It appears the Morocco-born Belgium international didn't see eye-to-eye with the referees on the continent.

The poor lad is certainly in for a rude awakening if he thinks the English contingent are any better!

The 20-year-old, who joined on deadline day, has certainly made Everton's squad look stronger. While the arrival of Louis Saha is a bonus, it remains to be seen whether the former Manchester United striker can put his injury problems behind him for any decent length of time.

Fellaini, meanwhile, is a midfielder with a fair amount of power. And, it must be said, a fair amount of pressure given Everton have blown £15million on him. Then again, a team with genuine Champions League ambitions will probably have to pay far more than £15million for a player given the events of the previous transfer window and the (rumoured) imminent takeover of Liverpool.

Fellaini told "I am a top player but referees in Belgium do not respect me. Anytime I put my leg in, there is a yellow card. That is what pushed me to the Premier League. There they let you play, it's a man's game there and I'm looking forward to it.

In the modern game, the power is clearly with the player (look no further than the Berbatov situation), so it's almost heartwarming to hear Fellaini had no idea Standard Liege were holding talks with Everton until one hour before the transfer window shut.

He said: "I was not aware Liege were discussing my transfer to Everton. I heard about the transfer on 31st August at around 11pm and went to the Sheraton Hotel to meet with the Everton delegation."

A non-nonsense midfielder with a large price-tag who likes getting stuck-in and seems to think referees are too strict? He'll either settle in and be player-of-the-season at Goodison or pick up a new record-haul of red cards!

Scotland set to overtake England

The English national team has become such a joke lately it has been easy to overlook the progress being made north of the border. To put it briefly: would England beat France in Paris in a competitive match? Well, Scotland did.

FIFA's latest rankings - and, yes, the ranking system is a joke - show Scotland are now in 16th, just one place behind England. The development means Scotland could overtake England in next month's rankings if they win their World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Iceland, and England slip-up against Andorra (surely not?) and Croatia.

FIFA Top 20

1. Spain (1)
2. Italy (3)
3. Germany (2)
4. Netherlands (4)
5. Croatia (5)
6. Brazil (6)
7. Argentina (7)
8. Czech Republic (8)
9. Portugal (9)
10. Turkey (13)
11. France (12)
12. Russia (10)
13. Romania (11)
14. Cameroon (15)
15. England (14)
16. Scotland (16)
16. Bulgaria (17)
18. Greece (18)
19. Israel (20)
20. Ghana (19)

Croatia above Brazil and in fifth place. That's an amazing achievement and questions will have to be asked of their boss if he decides to leave his post in order to replace the departed Alan Curbishley at West Ham!

Everton's Saha clearly doesn't get it

There's nothing wrong with a player talking up a club's chances when he joins. But Louis Saha's belief that Everton can reach the Champions League seems to be based more in the world of fantasy than reality.

The 30-year-old's judgement could be blurred by his delight at the chance of regular first-team football and, despite his injury history, Everton seem to have done well to snap him up for around £2million on a two-year deal. But Champions League? If not this season, they never will.

Saha told his new club's official site: "The ambitions of this Club are about progression. When you finish fifth in the table you try to be in the Champions League the next season. We've got the quality to do that. Desire is not enough though - we have to show it on the pitch, and I will try to help my team-mates to do it."

Everton, like Aston Villa and Spurs, to name just two teams in a similar situation, have to make the Champions League this season or they probably never will. At least not in the current format or until after football dies and is reborn in a new format. Assuming Manchester City do not gel immediately, and that their money in January won't be enough to bring in enough players to propel them to the upper echelons of the Premier League, established clubs could, with a bit of luck, break the top-four this year.

But with the practically unlimited spending power City now have, there is little doubt they will use their cash next summer to build a team genuinely capable of challenging for the Premier League title, and possibly winning it. Some will say "but it takes time to build a team" and in the past they would have had a point. But the past and the present are very different and not even Chelsea had the ability to do what Man City can.

So my advice to the likes of Saha would be "keep your chin up, keep the fans happy, but in this new, crazy world of terminally-ill football, don't get either your hopes or their hopes up very high". For unless a club has stupid, Man City money, they are really there to make the numbers up and roll over for the superstars every week.

Alan Curbishley first to go...probably!

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley has become the Premier League's first managerial casualty of the season - assuming Newcastle and Kevin Keegan haven't already parted company!

Curbishley, who becomes the second boss to leave his job in the top four flights of English football following Kevin Bond's exit from AFC Bournemouth on Monday, issued a statement claiming he had to leave as West Ham continued to "make significant player decisions without involving" him.

In a statement issued by the League Managers Association, Curbishley said: "I started my West Ham United career when I left school in 1974 and have remained a lifelong fan. I have been incredibly proud to manage such a great club and my decision to resign has been very tough.

"The selection of players is critical to the job of the manager and I had an agreement with the club that I alone would determine the composition of the squad. However, the club continued to make significant player decisions without involving me. In the end such a breach of trust and confidence meant that I had no option but to leave. Nevertheless, I wish the club and the players every success in the future."

West Ham are now looking for a new manager but, as with the Newcastle situation if Keegan has left or been sacked, will anyone really want to take on a job that is little more than a poisoned chalice? Well, this is football and there are still enough out there who would give it a go, for whatever reason!

A West Ham statement read: "We can confirm that we have accepted Alan Curbishley's resignation as we feel it is in the best interests of both parties. We wish Alan all the success in the future. A shortlist of candidates is being drawn up and an announcement will be made in due course about the new West Ham United manager."

Former Cagliari boss Davide Ballardini and Croatia boss (and former Hammer) Slaven Bilic have emerged as two of the most likely of replacements for Curbishley, according to early prices being quoted by the bookmakers.

Good luck, Alan, you're a decent manager and a decent man - and certainly have earned the right to make your own decisions. If he was being overruled by those above him on matters that should be left to the manager, it's just one more sign that the bad days of interference may be creeping back into the English top-flight.

Man City still "second rank" - Huntelaar

One of the players reportedly targetted by money-men Manchester City on Monday (Sep 1) has seemingly described them as a "second rank club from Europe".

Ajax star striker
Klass-Jan Huntelaar, who has been linked with a move to the English Premier League for some time, was apparently the subject of a last-gasp €40million bid from City, who are also thought to have attempted to sign Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy and Liverpool's Fernando Torres - the latter for a whopping £50million.

However, 25-year-old Dutchman
Huntelaar, who scored 33 goals in 34 appearances for Ajax last season, claimed he is glad the transfer window is now closed, although he did hint the offer was turned down chiefly because Ajax had no time to sign a replacement.

He told NU Sport: "A second rank club from Europe was very serious and wanted to pay me a lot of money. But Ajax had no time to find a good replacement for me, so I understand the offer was turned down. I'm glad that the transfer market is now closed. On Monday, I was constantly informed of developments, but I will now remain at Ajax and that gives me peace."

Of course, Man City are still a "second rank club" in terms of their squad and what they will be able to achieve this season. But as soon as a few more players like Robinho sign for big money in January - and that is certain to happen - the likes of
Huntelaar will be less likely to sneer at the prospect of a transfer to Eastlands.

Man City Madness: Liverpool twitch first?

Rumours are flying around that Liverpool are about to be bought-out by Dubai International Capital for £500million - suggesting the apaprently "end of football" chain-reaction has started just two days after Manchester City became the richest club in the world.

According to The Sun, Liverpool's current (unpopular) owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett would be able to walk away from Anfield with a profit, the club would become debt-free and boss Rafa Benitez would have a serious transfer budget to play with in January.

The man behind the bid, Sheikh Mohammed, is Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the seventh-richest person in the world in his own right. Dubai International Capital (DIC) were thought to be close to offering £400million for Liverpool earlier in the year, and have been trying to seal a deal for two years.

But the fun-and-games at Man City on Monday, when the mega-rich side blew £32.4million on Robinho and offered anywhere from £250m-£600m for some of the world's top players may have convinced them to step up their efforts to complete the deal.

According to claims by journalists in the Middle East, England's newest football club owners considered buying Arsenal or Newcastle before opting for Man City. Given the farce currently being played out at Newcastle, and the rabid fanbase the club enjoys, it would be no great surprise if yet more Middle Eastern money arrived in an attempt to buy-out owner Mike Ashley.

It's all happening as expected - the rich owners are being replaced by infinitely rich owners, and there is little chance this will all end in anything other than tears. Though it's unlikely Liverpool fans will care in the short-term if they are to ditch two Americans for some Sheikh, Rattle and Roll!

Scolari flips over Robinho move - report

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari was felt feeling "angry and let down" when transfer target Robinho moved to Manchester City instead of Stamford Bridge, according to a report in the Sun.

Scolari was upset his superiors at Chelsea wouldn't increase their £28.4million bid for the player, according to reports but, according to a source, is "too professional" to make a fuss about the issue. Of course, the newspaper may be stirring something that isn't there, but there seems to be more than a grain of truth to the claims.

Who would have thought the Chelsea boss would be fuming he couldn't match Man City's offer of £32.4million for the Real Madrid player? Before the crazy events of Monday, nobody. But it has, apparently, happened.

According to the "source": "It’s no secret that Chelsea has paid a lot of money for players in the last few years. Some of those players have been successful and others not so. Felipe understands the budget has a limit but feels that he did not ask too much of the club.

"He bought Deco for £8million and made it clear how important Robinho was to his plans for the season. So he is entitled to feel let down that the club would not increase its offer by £4m to get the player. He is too professional to make a fuss but this is a blow."

It has also been claimed Robinho agreed to move to Man City without knowing how much he would earn. The claim in the Daily Mail is that the player will earn £108,000-a-week, which is £10,000 more than he would have received at Chelsea, but that figure does seem rather low (see here).

So Chelsea were beaten by Manchester City - the new Chelsea! And if the signing, or lack thereof, of one player can really upset Scolari this much, he may need to purchase some stress-relieving equipment ahead of the January transfer window - although by the time next summer's window comes around, Chelsea's billions may be just a distant memory of happier times!

Bottomless wallet already on show

According to reports in Spain, Manchester City offered Real Madrid a "blank cheque" for former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy on Monday - but we rebuffed by the Spanish giants.

Shortly after completing the record-breaking deal to take Brazil star Robinho to the Eastlands, Marca claims City, for all intents and purposes, told Real to name their price for van Nistelrooy. The Spaniards said no and Man City were left with just one extra player on deadline day.

But how many "top" players did they actually try and sign during those 10-or-so wacky hours on Monday?

Some names mentioned include Valencia's Spanish star David Villa and Liverpool's Steven Gerrard. Bids may or may not have been made - but what is known is that Man City offered £30million-plus for Dimitar Berbatov (a bid that was accepted). Rumours, and that's all they are, suggest City made bids worth anywhere from £200-600million in 10 hours.

January will provide the next opportunity to see how many top names Manchester City can obtain with their mega-money. Given a £134million bid for Man Utd's Ronaldo has already been mooted (he won't move, but it's hilarious) and Fernando Torres has been mentioned, anything could - and probably will - happen.

Manchester City Day Three - In Quotes

From former boss Stuart Pearce to Oasis star Noel Gallagher, it seems everyone has some thing to say about Monday's mega-money takeover of Manchester City. Below are a selection, from the surreal to the serious.


"I always kind of knew that 40 years of loyalty would be repaid somehow and I always knew that a day would come when we stagger everyone in football. But I've got to say I didn't think it would be like this" - Noel Gallagher, of Oasis, talking to BBC Radio Five Live


"He (Robinho) is going to play in The Premier League, which is probably the biggest league in the world. He will need to learn the language which will give him better possibilities of communicating with his team-mates. The rest is no problem, he is a gifted footballer” - former Arsenal star Gilberto talking to Setanta Sports News


"Clubs such as City, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Aston Villa, have all earned reputations of developing their young home-grown talent and it's so important they carry on with that philosophy" - former City boss Stuart Pearce in the Daily Mail


"It is a benefit to English players if they are competing against the most talented players in the world. It will improve standards in the English game and lead to better players to compete at international level. Manchester City have got a fantastic record of bringing players through their academy and I'm sure that will continue" - A Premier League spokesman in the Daily Mail


"I was watching the transfer news up until 12am to see what was going on. It was an amazing day. It's like an Abramovic-type thing there, you know. To come in and break the British transfer record in one day is pretty amazing. If they've got that type of wealth and have players like Robinho then it's something you have to think about" - Liverpool's Jamie Carragher, quoted by


"This is one of the most disgraceful episodes in Brazilian football. He is a player who is an idol to children, an example. But he has not acted like one" - Marcelo Teixeira, the president of Santos, on Robinho


"We are ashamed at having produced such a player" - Santos manager Jose Fernandos, on Robinho


"Chelsea are lucky. This boy needs some serious counselling. In my view he has been badly advised" - Brazil legend Pele, again on Robinho

Berbatov...what's the point in a contract?

Away from Manchester City for a moment and a quick look at the behaviour of their (once-richer!) rivals Manchester United on deadline-day - in particular their signing of Dimitar Berbatov for £30.75million (plus Fraizer Campbell) from Spurs.

That the Bulgarian international moved to Old Trafford was no surprise - but the events of Monday (Sep 1) gave more ammunition to those who think football is terminally ill. How could a player under contract at one club speak to another without their permission (as Sky Sports News kept reminding us was happening)?

Moreover, Manchester United were not even discrete about it. Sir Alex Ferguson - an arse at times, but without doubt a legend of the game - even picked the player up from the airport in his own car! And all the time, the media kept telling us the only club given permission to talk to Berbatov was Manchester City, who had offered silly money.

So what actually happened? Did Berbatov tell his bosses at White Hart Lane he was off to talk to Man City before nipping to Man Utd instead? Did Man Utd deliberately keep Berbatov with them for as long as possible so he couldn't physically chat to Mark Hughes across the city - and Sparky himself did suggest earlier in the day he expected to talk to the player? Those who know will probably never reveal the facts.

The eventual outcome showed how money talks in football. As part of the deal, Spurs agreed to drop their official complaint against Man Utd. Am I the only one who has visions of chants of "You Sold Out" flying across North London? No, I thought not. Given there seems to be enough evidence, a complaint should be made by someone, and investigated, no matter what agreement Spurs and Man City reached.

Message boards across the internet were full of neutral fans hoping Man City would somehow snatch the player from under Ferguson's large red nose, but it wasn't to be. Perhaps Berbatov should be applauded, however much it grates following how he treated Spurs, for following his heart and not his wallet. Because let's not kid ourselves, Man City could have offered him far, far, far more money than their neighbours in red (see Robinho's wage packet here!).

But even now, even though it is becoming clearer to more and more people that top-flight football is terminally ill as the cancer of silly money eats away at it at an ever-increasing rate, the fact "little" Man City tried to spoil the party of their big, bad neighbours is worthy of a chuckle.

For although the game is dying - and has been for some years - we are in for a roller coaster ride that promises to be incredibly enjoyable along the way...just not from a football viewpoint.

Robinho slammed across the globe

When footballing legend Pele speaks, he usually has something useful to say. That's why his claim new Manchester City signing Robinho "needs some serious counselling" should probably be taken seriously.

It seems there is a lot of anger back in Brazil about Robinho's move, mainly as there is an assumption the player opted to move to Manchester in order to make as much money as possible. A footballer moving for financial reasons, surely not!

Pele has been quoted by as saying: "Chelsea are lucky. This boy needs some serious counselling. In my view he has been badly advised."

Of course, while Pele deserves the utmost of respect for all he has done for the game - both as a player and following his retirement - it should be remembered he made a few dollars while playing in American towards the tail-end of his career. Sure, nothing like the €6million AFTER tax Robinho is currently earning a year, but still...

Pele, of course, is a man with dignity, one of the reasons he is so respected around the globe. However, others who have made comments about Robinho have been less restrained. On face value, it would seem some in Brazil think Robinho is a national disgrace!

Marcelo Teixeira, the president of Santos, Robinho's former club, said: "This is one of the most disgraceful episodes in Brazilian football. He is a player who is an idol to children, an example. But he has not acted like one."

Superb. I don't know enough about the ins-and-outs of Brazilian football, but I'm sure there have been more "disgraceful" episodes than a 24-year-old opting to make some money. And let's not forget Real Madrid were more than happy for him to go to Manchester City instead of Chelsea. Heck, they may have let him go to any club BUT Chelsea, assuming the cash was there.

Santos general manager Jose Fernandos also came out with a gem - "We are ashamed at having produced such a player."

While the Man City money horrifies me, I do feel somewhat sorry for the player. He had little future at Real Madrid, Chelsea didn't offer enough cash (by most accounts) and he took the only option he had available to him. That Man City were making the headlines on the day it happened has made his decision look worse than it is.

But the fact someone with the grace and class of Pele can speak out in such a way shows all is not well in the once-beautiful game.

A trillion dollars...!

Since Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and friends on Monday (Sep 1) - not that the deal is technically completed yet - it has been amazing to see how many football fans have failed to grasp just how much cash the club now have access to.

There have also been many comparisons to Chelsea, and their super-rich owner Roman Abramovich. However, even with his billions, Red Rom no longer looks very rich. Which, for a man worth $23.5billion according to Forbes, highlights just how ridiculous the situation in Manchester is.

Fortunately, today's Mirror (see here) contains a very useful article about the Manchester City cash - and outlines a few things many football fans probably wouldn't consider, including the effect of oil prices on the amount of cash available to City's new owners.

Apparently, bin Zayed "rakes in $500m a day if oil rises $1 a barrel". Fascinating, as while a global financial slide could limit the amount of cash available to nearly every club, the fact the price of oil would rise would actually help Man City.

The total worth of bin Zayed's family (the rulers of Abu Dhabi) is claimed to be $1trillion - or £555billion. For all intents and purposes, this represents a bottomless pit. Given their investments across the globe, it's hard to imagine how money could be spent faster than interest is generated. And that's why silly-money moves will be made in future transfer windows, to add to Monday's £32.4million Robinho deal.

I read an interesting post on an Aston Villa fans forum yesterday (see here) that suggested a fortune of £100billion would generate £600million every 45 days, assuming a moderate interest rate of five per cent. The £600million figure was used as that is, apparently, the estimated worth of Villa owner Randy Lerner.

If those figures are accurate, and given the amount of numbers that are being flung around right now it's hard to tell, it's clear that if Chelsea and Roman Abramovich are being made to look poor, Aston Villa and Randy Lerner - a club who were competing with Man City - have been made to look totally irrelevant.

So does anyone still believe football's not dying?

Football is a project, not a game!

Robinho's first words regarding his British-record transfer from Real Madrid to Manchester City did little to comfort those (such as myself!) who think football is terminally ill and the death of the once-great game is now inevitable.

Soon after stepping off the plane Robinho, who hasn't even had a medical for City despite costing the club £32,500,000!) appeared to describe his move as part of "an exciting project". The word project conjures up images of experiments and test tubes or, in the case of my Chemistry A-level practical lessons, smashed glassware all over the bench.

The 24-year-old, who has 42 caps for Brazil, has been quoted in The Sun as saying, among other things, he knows his new boss Mark Hughes was a great player and the sight of fans buying shirts with his name on makes him very happy. Even the cynic in me (wish he would get out!) won't stoop to suggesting he is getting a cut of merchandising, as that is very unlikely.

Robinho said: "I want to help the manager and the team win the Premier League, that’s my ambition here. I’m very happy to be here. I knew Manchester City are a very big club, there’s a great team already and this is an exciting project.

"I met with the manager and it went very well, I know he was a great player and I think that will be a big help to me. I liked the project and when City made the offer to Real Madrid, I decided to come here.

"(Fellow City players Jo and Elano) are my friends and I know them very well. Having such great players already at City was one of the reasons why I decided to come here. Seeing the fans buying shirts with my name makes me very, very happy. I hope to bring a lot of joy to them."

Not too bad for a first attempt - especially as the world knows he had his heart set on a move to Chelsea - but the word "project" really does stand out as a non-football word. Sure, it may have been warped in translation, but it doesn't bode well.

For, as any good scientist will know, and this failed scientist is writing, a project has to have aims, equipment, a method, results and a conclusion. Man City are aiming for top-four this year (I really can't see it, but...), the Premier League title next year and the Champions League trophy the year after.

Their equipment is being sought, though the most important parts won't arrive until January and next summer. The method appears to involve, conversely, offering as much cash as is required to pay for the best equipment in the world.

Of course, the results are not yet known - but at least this project has a timescale. Not the so-called "five-year plan" mooted by Aston Villa when American Randy Lerner took control from Doug Ellis, but just three years. So at least we won't have long to wait...!

The conclusions, however, will be less clear. In three years time we will know if they achieved their aims, but will we be any closer to knowing if football is terminally ill? How many other "projects" will this one create? It's not clear, but the more "projects" there are, the more chance one will go horribly, horribly wrong.

Transfer Records: Then and Now

Anybody who has caught more than a few words or seconds of transfer deadline-day coverage in the press or media must have realised Robinho's €42million switch from Real Madrid to Manchester City on Monday (Sep 1) broke the British transfer record.

The fee, equivalent to £32,500,000, was £1.7million more than Chelsea paid for Andriy Shevchenko in July 2006 (let's ignore inflation, as this is about football, not politics or economics!). But when did the transfer record in the UK become "really big"? When were the barriers broken?

While a few are well known, Wikipedia can step in to offer the UK transfer record from 1904 until the present day:

As can be seen, the first recorded record was the £700 switch of Andy McCombie from Sunderland to Newcastle in January 1904. The article claims the four-figure deal taking Alf Common from Sunderland to Middlesbrough in February 1905 "caused a national sensation and outrage amongst the football authorities" - they must be rolling in their graves now!

Without going through all the records - just click the link to the article link to peruse them - one certainly jumps out. Mark Hughes, May 1986, from Manchester United to Barcelona for £2.3million. The same Mark Hughes who is now sitting on top of the largest transfer kitty ever known in football.

We'll probably never find out, but wouldn't it be fascinating to know what he thought then, and what he thinks now, about the amount of money in the game...?