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Just who is going to buy Wayne Rooney?

Monday, October 18, 2010

With the press being dominated by the Wayne Rooney saga, the inevitable question is this; “Just who is going to buy Wayne Rooney?”

Having spent upwards of £25 million on Rooney back in 2004, and having sold Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million, it would be reasonable to assume that United wouldn’t sell Rooney for anything less than £40 million. And that would be cheap of them.

Toward the end of the last season the figure being bandied about was closer to £60 million, and with his current wage demands reportedly hovering around the £160k p/w mark the possible candidates for his signing can only be Manchester City and Real Madrid.

At a push Chelsea, Barcelona and Inter could be included but the reality is a little different; Barcelona got burnt with the Zlatan transfer, and Rooney doesn’t seem like their “kind” of player. Inter are reportedly trying to deal with vast debts incurred by Moratti over the last 5 years, debts which resulted in an unprecedented trophy haul for the Milan side last season. Regardless, this blog doubts somehow that Benitez would be able to persuade Rooney to move to Inter. And Chelsea? The club needs a (young) striker, and being British certainly helps his cause, but the wage demands will be far too high, and with the club aiming for an operating profit an outlay of £40+ million won’t help.

So we come to the 2 financial giants in European football. Manchester City have the cash, that much is clear, but for Rooney to switch from the red half to the blue half of Manchester would be scandalous. Once bandied about as the boy who would bring United further European glory and be “the man” until he retired it would be unthinkable for him to change his allegiance.

Detractors may point to Tevez, however his case was vastly different. Tevez was on loan at United, and although he cared for their fans, it wasn’t as if he’d been there from a young age with the faith of the fans and more importantly his manager resting on his shoulders. I don’t remember anyone being taken aback when he moved to City.

That really only leaves Real Madrid.

Rooney is rumoured to be an admirer of Mourinho, and at 24 this represents his greatest chance to seal a big money move to play under a manager at the top of his game. He would be reunited with Ronaldo, a player with whom he enjoyed tremendous success, and who he clearly got along with as an individual. But it isn’t as cut and dry as that; when Beckham moved to the Spanish giants he was a media magnet, already the poster-boy of English football, already adorning Adidas billboards around the globe. At a time when Florentino was running a club based on shirt sales Beckham represented the holy grail of footballers.

Now things are very different. Florentino is trying to run a football club, and Mourinho will not suffer fools gladly. Having been ejected from Stamford Bridge after a run-in over transfer policy with Abramovich it has become apparent that his current deal is that he and he alone chooses the team. He is rumoured to be interested in a new striker, but what he wants is a Drogba, a Milito, a Llorente, not a Rooney.

Time is running out for Rooney, if Fergie wants him out, then he’s gone. And if no-one comes in for him then he may find himself on the blue half of Manchester, or biting his tongue and getting on with what his focus should be right now; playing well for the Reds.

posted by teedoubleyou


Can you teach an Old Frim new tricks?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Gascoigne, Laudrup, Thern, McCall, Steven... these were but a few of the top class names I could call upon whenever I loaded up a game of Championship Manager 96/97 and selected my favourite team to play with, Rangers. Its not that Celtic didn't have appeal. Larsson, Lennon, McStay and Lambert were also strong performers and either club, if well managed, would bring me Champions League victory eventually. I would look forward to watching them both on Eurogoals or in the Champions League if they were on TV.

Today, they, and the league they play in are derided by pundits and fans alike. A quick peak at their squads reveal decent ex-championship performers in the likes of Lafferty and Hooper coupled with internationals from Algeria, Israel and Bosnia. The best Scottish talent has long gone South of the border where Craig Gordon, Barry Ferguson and Darren Fletcher ply their trade. Even the young talent is leaving early with Danny Wilson being poached by Liverpool and Shaun Maloney's brief sojourn in the Midlands showing the Old Firm's inability to keep their assets.

Partly this decline must be seen as a by-product of the lack of money available in the SPL where 1st and 2nd receive circa £3m each come pared with £20m+ in the Premier League. Celtic and Rangers real debt is around the £32m mark which has curtailed their ability to attract as well as afford top class talent. Furthermore, it implies that all first team players are effectively up for sale at all time and at affordable prices. Expensive and unsuccessful signings, like the £12m Rangers dished out for Tore Andre Flo, have hardly helped matters. It has to be said that the SPL is one of the least competitive league in Europe, and players' unwillingness to ply their trade in such a league is understandable. This problem has been identified by the head honchos at both clubs and their attempt to join the EPL were doomed to failure.

While these problems seem to spell doom and gloom in the foreseeable future for the Glasgow giants there are positives as well as options. Celtic Park and Ibrox boast a full 60'000 an 51'000 filled seats, respectively, in most home games as well as a windfall of £5m through the sale of season tickets every year. As things stand the SPL has two Champions League berths which de facto guarantees Rangers and Celtic some form of access every year which gives it an important financial boost as well as allowing players a taste of the big time, which is one of the greatest draws for players moving to either club.

With such a platform these clubs should be looking to follow the example of Portuguese clubs like Benfica and Porto who snap up young, promising talent across Europe and the Americas. Ramires and Cissokho are examples of players who have performed exceptionally well in the League. The jump to one of Europe's 'big clubs' increased their value and they were sold on for a healthy profit. There needs to be an acceptance in Glasgow, that the Old Firm have to shift their emphasis towards being a springboard to Europe's giants, rather than a giant themselves.

In truth, it has been a while since I have played with either Rangers or Celtic in the new Football Manager editions so maybe I will try this philosophy out for myself.

posted by Niles


Nature vs Nurture

I’m sitting at home with the television on Sky Sports 2. Tottenham are about to kick off against FC Twente in the driving rain, you don’t need an HDTV to see that. When discussing the lineup, we aimlessly wander to the subject of Iniesta. “You know he’ll be remembered forever for that goal in the World Cup Final”. Pause, “Oh, and that goal against Chelsea too”.

This of course is nothing new to any of you, yet it is an incredible feat. The ability to score the most important goal of all when the clock is ticking and the pressure is on is what separates the “great” from the “excellent”. In that one moment with what may be the only chance, you have to have the belief, technique and mental presence to put it away. Iniesta of course is not alone, half the Barcelona team alone are players of this calibre. But is that what really separates them? That innate skill?

I’m reminded of an interview I read with Frank Lampard where he discusses his youth and footballing education. He tells a story of how his father, noticing his son’s weakness in speed devised a routine to improve his touch and quick thinking. He would stand Frank Jr in space with his back to a wall, whereupon he would kick the ball with strength. As soon as Frank Jr heard the sound of the impact he would turn and trap the ball. He learnt to use his right foot, left foot, his chest and movement to do so.

The eternal “Gerrard or Lampard” debate often hinges on this point. Gerrard is widely regarded as a player born with the skills he possesses whereas Lampard is said to be a player who worked at his craft. Yet the successes the latter has achieved as an individual are comparable if not greater.

There are other examples; David Beckham was renowned for staying behind after training to practise his free kicks - there’s a clip him taking kick after kick, one flying above the posts in a rugby fashion bouncing off the roof of the stand behind it. He said that he only ever used one ball, so the punishment of having to fetch it was enough to make him work that bit harder.

For every Lampard and Beckham, there’s a Heskey and a Kuyt. Just as for every Iniesta or a Gerrard there’s a Bentley or a Quaresma .

Tottenham’s David Bentley was once a starlet in the Arsenal academy, who after impressing with his form at Blackburn ended up at Spurs for £15 million. There can be no question over his skills, yet his off pitch issues may have cost him his career. Done for drink-driving in August 2009, Harry Redknapp was less than impressed and spoke of Bentley’s need to “develop a different side to his personality”. Later Bentley revealed how personal issues had affected his performances.

Remember Kieron Dyer? Following his move from Ipswich to Newcastle, the trappings of the off-field stardom of a footballer were too much for him. Once touted as a potential England star back in 2000 he found himself involved in a sex scandal with other England hopefuls Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard. Whereas Ferdinand and Lampard went on to bigger and better things, Dyer became notorious for his drinking and injuries. The rest as they say, is history.

Ricardo Quaresma is another; at 27 he is reaching what should the peak of his career yet he has been through Barcelona, Chelsea and Inter and ended up in Besiktas. In his youth at Sporting where he dazzled with his tricks, his understudy was a skinny boy with a heart condition (which later required surgery). That boy with his racing heart was called Cristiano. Cristiano Ronaldo.

Football is filled with those players who work hard and don’t make it to the top table and then there are those who were born with the skills yet don’t have the mental toughness to do the work to improve them. This was embodied in Real Madrid’s “Zidane’s y Pavon’s” policy of the last decade.

That team with it’s galacticos and it’s workers (and a terrific manager in Del Bosque) were superb for a good couple of seasons, however over time when the workers became of lower quality and the galacticos of bigger egos things turned sour.

Remember the playground? It’s lunchtime and everyone’s lined up against the fence waiting to be picked. Standing between big Hugo and toothy Matt are lanky Steven and little Andres. Next to them are pretty-boy David and stocky Frank. If someone asked you which two you’d rather have in your team you’d probably gun for Stevie and that little Spanish lad. But if you really want to win and go to Geography smiling from ear to ear, you’d need to pick David and Frank too.

P.S. What a great goal by Van der Vaart.

posted by teedoubleyou


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