Tuesday, September 9, 2008

England skipper raises white flag to Croatia

Finally, after years of trying to pretend competition with the game's big boys was possible, and England captain has come out and admitted the national side are barely a second-rate team.

John Terry, who has somehow been reappointed as captain by boss Fabio Capello, has claimed a draw against Croatia tomorrow (Wed, Sep 10) would be a good result. Given little (in terms of population, not ability or spirit) Croatia are favourites to win the group, at least the Chelsea defender is being honest.

Terry was quoted by FIFA.com as saying: "The campaign will not be judged on one match but if we win the game we can take control. he memories of last time, home and away, will be enough to get the lads fighting - it's a fresh start for everyone - a new campaign with everybody fighting for a place under the new manager.

"If we can win, then great. But if we draw it is a very good result too. They haven't lost here for a while and that is something we're aware of."

Just to highlight the difference between the resources available to both countries, may I point out the population of Croatia is about 4.5million, compared to England's 50.8million and to compare the domestic leagues would, quite frankly, be ridiculous.

But if John Terry is prepared to raise the white flag before kicking a ball in anger against Croatia, then so be it. Unless he is following a much-used English tactic of making the opposition seem far better than they are so getting anything can be celebrated with gusto in the jingoistic media.

Even as an Englishman, I hope Croatia win - and win well. Their players deserve it, their FA deserves it and their fans arguably deserve it more, so all the best to them.

Zola set to be handed West Ham job

Following my plea to Slaven Bilic to turn down the chance of becoming West Ham boss, I feel I must urge former Celtic star Gianfranco Zola to do the same.

Zola now the clear odds-on favourite to replace Alan Curbishley after fellow Italian Roberton Donadoni removed himself from the shortlist of candidates. Zola is currently the assistant coach of Italy's Under-21 side.

In a statement, Donadoni said: "I would like to thank West Ham United Football Club for approaching and speaking with me in relation to the vacant manager's position at the club.

''I welcomed the opportunity of speaking with such a prominent Premiership club and of course, the opportunity of coming to the English Premiership.

''However, is does appear that the board have not yet, after some time, come to an agreement and a conclusion on who the successful candidate should be.

''It is important for me to feel that I have the full support of the club and I have therefore this morning taken the decision to withdraw myself from the candidate shortlist for the club.''

Latest selected odds

Gianfranco Zola: 1/8
Roberto Donadoni: 6/1
Slaven Bilic: 7/1
Roberto Mancini: 33/1
Paolo Di Canio: 50/1

So why shouldn't Zola take the job? For all the same reasons Bilic shouldn't. West Ham are in a mess, Zola has everything to lose at this stage (ie the start) of his managerial career in terms of reputation, and anybody outside the English game should think hard before entering it because of massive investment-related death it is heading towards.

My messaage to anyone involved in football outside of England right now? Stay away, consider us quarantined for the sake of your own careers.

Premier League is just a fashion - Kaka

AC Milan and Brazil star Kaka has claimed the English Premier League is merely the latest fashion, and fashions often change. Perhaps the 26-year-old, who claims he will never ask for a move away from the San Siro, doesn't realise quite how much money there now is in England - and how that amount of money is likely to increase dramatically with more Middle Eastern takeovers.

It should be pointed out that Kaka is currently on a long-term contract with Milan (until the end of the 2012/13 season) and that has helped inflate the claims about how much certain clubs are prepared to pay for him. Though with the billions (or is that trillion?) now available at Manchester City, a bid of £250million or so is no longer pure fantasy.

Kaki told Gazzetta dello Sport: "Before it was Real Madrid, now it's England that is in fashion. The market is like that, just as Milan make offers other clubs make offers to Milan. But I will never ask to leave.

"I have always been treated well by (club) executives and my rapport is excellent. Perhaps one day they (club executives) may change their approach with respect to me but I don't see that happening.

"I will only leave if Milan decide to sell me or perhaps on the day when we no longer have the same objectives and that day has not come. Milan has done a good job in the transfer market, the club still wants to win and be competitive and those are my aims."

But is Kaka right? Is the injection of cash just the current fashion? Probably not. The English Premier League is now so global, so commercial, that is offers an investment opportunity unavailable anywhere else in the world. And, of course, it's no longer about expecting a return on the investment.

For the reason why reports of £500,000-a-week players appearing within the next couple of transfer windows seem believable is because the sort of owners who have just taken over Man City have so much money that making anything back (financially) doesn't matter. It's not their main aim - instead, they want the prestige and the publicity.

That's why the current slide towards death is not a trend in football, but instead a terminal illness. Clubs in Italy and Spain would do well to keep away from the madness until the big explosion, or implosion, when they can pick-up the pieces and be glad they didn't go the way of England.