Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Four for Citeh this season?

Perhaps Roberto Mancini needs to double-up on his English lessons but did he say he’s targeting Citeh to finish in the top four this season? And did he mention that the Blues will be challenging for the Premiership next season? Has Mancini been watching the way City’s been playing all season?

Maybe the Italian’s expecting a large transfer kitty in January and make some major changes to the squad Sparky assembled (maybe he’ll start to get more defenders and fewer strikers). But would City’s billionaire owners agree to another spending spree in the transfer market after the exorbitant amount the club spent some six months ago?

And if they do succumb to some more spending, what guarantees are there that Mancini will adapt to the fast-pace of the Premier League in the remaining six months of the league to ensure City overtake Tottenham and Aston Villa into the fourth place. This is, by the way, on the assumption Rafa Benitez’ Liverpool continues their abysmal form into the new year.

Maybe Mancini was just saying what his new bosses wanted to hear. Unfortunately for him, its going to take a lot more than bold statements to keep his new employers at the Eastlands happy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sparky’s out, is Rafa next?

Very few people, except for Harry Redknapp, would've been surprised with City's decision to axe Sparky over the weekend. After spending more than the so-called "Big Four" over the summer, the odds were always stacked against Hughes making it into the new year. Especially when City's acquisitions over the summer, specifically their defensive ones, have proven to be flops.

In Hughes' defense, turning City into one of the Big Four within a season was never going to happen. But then again, Kuwaiti oil barons who offer a club like City a transfer budget in excess of GBP60 million in one summer can be expected to be a little unrealistic.

Still, would have Hughes produced the results had he been given more time? There was very little to suggest, based on City's performance this season, that Sparky had what it took to make the Blues a Big Four club. Harry Redknapp's assertion that Hughes was dealt with unfairly due to the fact that the Blues have only lost fewer games than any of the Big Four this season. But Redknapp failed to point out was the fact that City had drawn more games than they've won, a feat shared by the likes of Stoke City and Hull.
One can only imagine Sheikh Mansor's reaction when he was notified that his billion-dollar club had more in common with a bottom-feeder like Hull than Manchester United.

All the same, Hughes' has every right to feel short-changed when other managers who have performed far poorer than he has this season have not been accorded the same treatment. And I'm not referring to Phil Brown but Rafa Benitez. If City's owners were too quick to hit the panic button when the Blues began to draw a little to frequent, they could take a lesson in patience from Liverpool's American owners who seem to have shown next to no concern over the Reds abysmal form this season. Or maybe its indifference. Or fear of a pretty sizeable compensation package should they sack the Spaniard.

But whatever the reasons, and it could be a combination of all three factors mentioned above, Liverpool's want-away American owners should well realise that the value of their investments (ie: the English football club they own) will depreciate immensely should the Reds continue their mediocre performances this season and chalk up several more defeats and slip into mid-table territory. And should that be the case, Liverpool's two American owners will find it even harder to sell the club at a price that would settle their debts.

Should this be the case, transfer funds at the club would be become a luxury of sorts and we all know the sort of consequences that could have on Liverpool’s chances of ever winning that elusive league title number 19.

But apart from financial ruin, a bigger question that should be directed at Benitez is whether providing him more time at Anfield will generate the results. It’s unfortunate but when a club like Liverpool has lost as frequently as it has this season, there is very little to suggest that the manager has it in him to get the club out of the rot. If he did, they’d have ended their losing streak sometime ago. But when a team that comprises Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt, Glen Johnson are made to look like amateurs against a perennial bottom-feeder like Porthsmouth, there is a sense that maybe Benitez’ time at the club is up. Should the Reds defeat to Porthsmouth been a one-off thing, it would be easy to mistake the loss as just another off day. But when the club that nearly won the league last season has had as many off days as Stoke, you begin to wonder.

Make no mistake, the writing on the wall has never been clearer. Benitez had five years to make Liverpool a Premiership winning team and six months after guiding them to within six points of the title, the Reds seem extremely unlikely to repeat that feat this season or the next. Benitez often asks for patience and more time yet how many more years does he need before the league title comes back to Anfield? At Liverpool, winning the Premiership has always been a priority, more so now Man Utd is level with Reds on league titles. Are Liverpool fans willing to risk a few more years with Benitez only to see the Devils land title number 19?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ali G interviews the Beckhams!

This is an old video clip of Ali G interviewing David and Victoria Beckham but it's absolutely hilarious. Do check it out!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maybe Malaysia will finally get to beat Thailand now

Thailand unfortunately has been in the news the past few years for all the wrong reasons. Coup de tat's, frequent change of governments and the closure of its main airport due to the higher number of protesters there in comparison to passengers. But all of that pales in comparison when up against today's headlines that read: Bryan Robson appointed Thailand national team coach.

It's no secret that in Asia, specifically Southeast Asia, people who speak with English accents are held in high regard, more so when the subject they're talking about is football. You can call it post-colonial mental syndrome or something else but there's no doubt we sometimes feel as though these individuals who can speak with an English accent must know something about football. Perhaps it has to with the dumb logic that all Englishmen are experts on English football.

As such, we find yet again another Southeast Asian nation appointing an Englishman who knows nuts about coaching to the top coaching position of its national team. This time the country is Thailand and the Englishman is Bryan Robson.

To be fair, unlike some of the other English duds who've managed our teams, Robson comes with a very impressive playing career on his resume. His coaching CV however is almost as bad as Mick McCarthey. The fact that Robson hasn't coached a premiership side in years should have been enough for the Thais. Sure, former coach Peter Reid didn't have a brilliant CV either but that shouldn't have been justification in keeping the bar low and hiring Robson.

Worse yet is that the Thais, unlike Malaysia, actually have a pretty decent football team and if there's any Southeast Asian country that's going to be featuring in the World Cup sometime in the next decade, the odds are on Thailand.

Oh well, at least now we know for sure Malaysia will have a chance at beating Thailand the next time we play them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What was Adebayor thinking?

Emanuel Adebayor could use a class in the art of lying. You don't classify running down the length of a football field just to celebrate your goal against thousands of fans whose misery you've just contributed to as an act in the heat of the moment.

The fact that Adebayor couldn't even come up with a decent answer as to why he would want to celebrate in front of the small section of Arsenal fans instead of the City fans that occupied the remaining 65% of the seating capacity in the stadium adds further proof that the City forward seems to have later on realised that his actions were perhaps not the brightest.

I mean, he could've said he wanted to stick it to the Gunners fans and left it at that. Sure, the hate mail would've instantly tripled and North London would be out of bounds for the Togolese international for at least two years. Three to be safe.

From the FA's point of view, Adebayor's actions threaded on the fine line between being an asshole and complete stupidity. It's one thing to take the piss at people you despise but another thing altogether when you've nearly incited a riot. Perhaps he needs to view footage of the chaos that ensued at the Millwall-West Ham match to refresh his memory on just what English football fans are still capable of.

As for his alleged stamp on Robin Van Persie's face, some replays online (especially ones edited by Arsenal fans) clearly show the Togolese international's boot making contact with the Dutch striker's face in a somewhat deliberate manner. I'm not too sure only because I don't think Adebayor would've been dumb enough to have done something that against his former club and expect to get away with it. Then again, people say I'm a little too optimistic at times. Check out the video below to judge for yourself.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is there a witch hunt on BPL clubs?

When Chelsea was first slapped with a ban on new signings, I wondered if FIFA was taking itself a little too seriously by punishing the Blues for something that we know is being done by just every top flight club in Europe.

Well, it turns out, for some unknown reason, FIFA is extremely serious and has undertaken what can only be described as a witch hunt on the top teams in the BPL. After Chelsea, reports say Man Utd, Man City and now, Liverpool are said to be the subject of further probes by football's governing body on the "poaching" of underaged footballers by English clubs with huge financial muscle.

Still, I can't but feel that there's something akin to double standards being dealt here. Does FIFA really want us to believe that the Italians, Spanish, Germans, Dutch and French are just as guilty of stealing youngsters from small clubs?

If we remove the so-called ethics violations that FIFA has charged Chelsea with and intends to do so with the rest of the BPL's best clubs (by the way, why haven't Arsenal been charged yet? If anything, you'd think they would be guilty of this kind of activity), it is quite clear that the bigger picture behind FIFA's probes has to do with the financial disparity between big clubs and small clubs. The real argument is that small clubs can't do a thing to prevent big clubs from signing players they help develop and nurture.

But wait a second. Isn't that the same thing when a club like Real Madrid spend EURO80 million on a player like Cristiano Ronaldo? Let's face it. The Portuguese winger is certainly a gifted footballer but does anyone honestly think he would have blossomed into the player he is if it wasn't for Sir Alex Ferguson and Man Utd? And for that matter, there's this other player named Xabi Alonso who was but an unknown prior to joining Liverpool. He too became a world class player after Rafa Benitez and Liverpool spent years developing his talent. But then came Real Madrid knocking on the door.

In fact, both Ronaldo and Alonso's cases have a distinct similarity in that both players forced their respective clubs to sell them because of some supposed lifelong ambition to play for Real Madrid (and to to make a million euros a month).

So, when you consider the facts, both players, just like those young footballers, jumped the first chance the biggest club in the world showed an interest. Maybe both Alonso and Ronaldo have always wanted to play for Madrid or maybe they just want more money. Either way, neither one of them was satisfied where they were at.

And isn't that what's happening with those young footballers? Who in their right mind would reject an offer to play for Chelsea if the team you're currently attached with is targeting a qualification into Division Two of the Championship. And while the monetary amount of signing someone from Crewe and Man Utd are world's apart, it has to be noted that these transfers happen for the same reason. And there's nothing FIFA or Michel Platini can do anything about it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Chelsea banned from signing new players until 2011!

Just as Chelsea have been enjoying a great start to the current campaign, the London club has been hit by possibly the worst thing any club challenging for honours could face: a ban on signing new players until January 2011. And the worst part is that the punishment was meted out on the Blues for an incident back in 2007 when they signed, get ready for this, some young French footballer named Gael Kakuta!

Yes, Chelsea, who were involved in all sorts of other illegal dealings like clandestine meetings with Ashley Cole when the latter was still an Arsenal player, is being punished over the signing of a footballer none of us have ever heard of. Karma's certainly got a weird sense of humour.

Of course, Chelsea have been given the right to appeal the verdict and like most high profile clubs, the Blues might just get away with a hefty fine. But seeing as to how this ban comes directly from FIFA, there's a possible chance the Blues are not going away that easily.

So, while we await the verdict of Chelsea's appeal, let's assume the worst happens and the ban stays. What's to become of the club?

For starters, despite the Blues being extremely quiet during the previous transfer window, the inability to sign new players for the remainder of this season and the first half of the next is a huge blow to any club, more so one that wants to win the Premiership, the Champions League and everything else in between. With the likes of Real Madrid and Man City buying pretty much anyone with an ounce of talent, clubs like Chelsea need to expand their squads with more quality footballers to remain competitive. Gone are the days when a club can win titles by just fielding the same squad year-in year-out.

Then there's the danger of injuries. Should too many key players end up in the sick bay, Chelsea will have to dig into their reserves for replacements instead of being able to scout the market for some adequate replacements. Besides injuries, let's not forget the age factor. With key stars like Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Ricardo Carvalho all above the age of 30, the Blues could end up in a real tight spot should any of these players succumb to lengthy injury spells..something common with players in that age category.

Still, all this is speculative at this point, and Chelsea's appeal may be successful and the ban will be lifted. Furthermore, as far as I can see, the ban doesn't say anything about loaning in new players so all may not be lost for the Blues.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Are Chelsa back at their best?

Now that two weeks of Premiership action has gone past, I suppose its safe to say that no team, with the exception of Tottenham, has had a better start than Chelsea. Written off by the pundits in pre-season, the Blues under Carlo Ancelotti seem reborn. With Didier Drogba and Nico Anelka back to their best and aided by an in-form Frank Lampard, Chelsea have so far looked the strongest of the Big Four (and are the only one not to have lost a game yet).

What's perhaps most interesting is that Chelsea's fringe players like Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda (and to a certain extent, Deco) are playing some of their best football in recent memory. Without a doubt, the Italian's impact on the club has been nothing short of amazing. And to top it all off, the former Milan boss has been able to excel where Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Scolari and Guus Hiddink failed; as in getting Michael Ballack to do the things he used to do with Bayern Munich at Chelsea.

But despite the perfect start to the season, I believe its still too early to say if Ancelotti's Chelsea will bring the Premiership crown back to Stamford Bridge. After all, the Blues did pretty well under Scolari in the beginning.

As for the other so-called Big Four, let's just say their flaws have been revealed a bit too early on in the season. In Man Utd's case, one could argue that the Devils have generally been slow starters. But the league is a little different this year with the likes of Tottenham, Man City and Aston Villa all itching to break into the top four.

United have at times looked like their best and at times looked like a side sorely missing the creative genius of Cristiano Ronaldo. Against the Gunners last weekend, the Devils were outplayed and out thought at times but their determination held up and it took a contentious penalty and some help from Abou Diaby's misguided head to give Utd the full three points.

As for the Gunners, after a sterling start to the season, Arsene Wenger's boys were once again defeated due to what I believe is a lack of mental strength and experience whenever the going gets tough. Once the score was evened out at 1-1, United threw everything against the Gunners who then subsequently buckled under pressure and began making juvenile mistakes (no pun intended). The Prof can say what he wants but his boys were certainly deserving of those yellow cards.

And there's Liverpool. For a team that believes it was the best in the league last season, the Reds look like a side that's about to implode on the pitch. I've already spoken about the wonders that is Lucas and Voronin before so I won't waste anymore kilobytes on the two. But the fact is, Liverpool are sorely missing the services of Xabi Alonso. Case in point: the Reds most recent fixture against Bolton where the Reds had to slog it out to gather all three points. And victory only seemed certain once Bolton were reduced to 10 men. One wonders if Liverpool would have gone home with three points of Bolton had all 11 players on the pitch throughout the match.

The bigger question of course is whether any of the other big four would have had to huff and puff to beat a side like Bolton.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What a dive!

The Brits tend to have a stereotype that only foreigners dive. But we all know that's not true and we've seen some really good dives from British players over the years, with the most recent coming from Everton's Tony Hibbert against Burnley. Still, Arsenal's Eduardo didn't make things any better for the perception that foreigners are serial divers after this fabulous tumble against Celtic. Check it out below:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is Liverpool's title challenge in tatters?

Maybe 20 years is not long enough.

After their best title challenge in recent memory last season, Liverpool fans the world over were starting to believe as though league title number 19 would finally arrive 20 years after the Reds last won the league. But if the first three games of season 2009/10 are anything to go by, Liverpool fans could end up waiting 21 years before the club of Bill Shankly are once again crowned champions of England.

That's not too suggest Liverpool's two league defeats has sent their title challenge down the gutter. Nonetheless, it would be naive to suggest all is well at Anfield considering the Reds only lost two matches last season and a side that wants to win league titles can only afford to lose four to five games at the most. Not the most comforting outlook considering the fact that the Reds have yet to meet any of the other so-called Big Four sides.

Many of the problems this blog pointed out after Liverpool's defeat to Tottenham on opening weekend were once again clear for all to see when the Merseysiders met Aston Villa. The Reds weakest region still remains its midfield and Rafa Benitez needs to sort it out soon instead of wishing it away.

Case in point of course is the wonder that is Lucas Leiva, ie; the world's most talentless Brazilian. But where Lucas was once just a dud on the field, the Brazilian has now elevated himself into a liability thanks to his reckless challenge that led to a Villa freekick which he then subsequently decided to head it past Reina.

Even Lucas' biggest defender -Benitez himself - took the Brazilian out in the 60th minute before he could commit anymore match-losing moments. As this blog has mentioned before, Lucas is not and WILL NOT ever fill in Xabi Alonso's shoes.

And both Villa and Spurs were quick to exploit the weak partnership between Mascherano and Lucas and if things don't change soon enough, a team playing Liverpool will have to field a tight and organised midfield to ensure the ball never gets to both Torres and Gerrard.

Speaking of Gerrard, I think its time Benitez comes to the realisation that only his captain is capable of filling in Alonso's role. And instead of deploying the likes of Voronin, Babel or Ngog up front with Torres, he might as well give young Kristian Nemeth a chance considering his impressive performances in the Reds pre-season Asian tour.

Whatever it is, Benitez needs to act fast if he doesn't want Liverpool's best chance of winning the Premiership to slip by once again because regardless of how they've opened this season, this campaign is still realistically the best chance they'll get at the title. The players are still fresh from last season's race and the experience gained may be the deciding factor in the title race, should they get to the stage they were in last season.

But if mistakes like Lucas are allowed to go on, Liverpool fans only have their team to blame for not ending what seems like a never-ending title drought. Maybe 20 years just isn't long enough.

Is Moyes in danger of losing his job?

If there's one manager who's rarely a candidate for an early retirement package from his employers, its David Moyes. After seven seasons in charge of Everton, Moyes has had the kind of board room backing managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger enjoy. But if things don't start improving soon, there's a fair chance Moyes could very well add on to the UK's already high unemployment rate during the course of the current campaign.

Of course, it has be noted that the assumption Moyes is in danger of losing his job because of two consecutive defeats is premature to say the least. Many clubs are traditional late starters and Everton's been one of them over the past few seasons.

But Everton's losses in previous seasons have never been this devastating. A 6-1 thumping at home to Arsenal followed by an equally absymal 1-0 defeat to Premier League newbies, Burnley, seems to suggest, among others, that there is a genuine lack of confidence and quality in Moyes' side. In both fixtures, Everton were outplayed, outpaced and outthought. The only difference was Burnley's poor finishing. If these performances are anything to go by, it's time to push the panic button at Goodison before the Blues fall behind even more.

Making matters worse for Moyes is the loss of England defender, Jolean Lescott, to Man City. I've no idea who he's bringing in as a replacement but he'd better find someone real good this time - the clamatious nature of Everton's defence this season would be something of a spectacle if it was David James and not Time Howard at goal.

Perhaps the loss of Mikel Arteta to injury has cost Everton the creative spark in midfield they so desperately need at the moment. But the fact that there's no one else to step into the Spaniard's shoes in his absence only highlights Moyes' failure to have strenghtened his squad in recent years.

Either way, everything that was going well towards the end of last season for Everton seems to have gone backward at Goodison and Moyes needs his key players like Fellaini and Cahill to step up before they lose too many points and find themselves in the same territory Tottenham found themselves in the first half of last season.

But more importantly, Everton need to get out of this slump quicker than they have in previous seasons if they want to have a real crack at the top four. Otherwise, we can expect a repeat of previous seasons. And while some clubs would consider it an achievement to finish fifth or sixth in the Premier League, it's not good enough for a team that wants to be taken seriously by the big four.

Monday, August 17, 2009

So this is Liverpool without Alonso?

Losing your first game of the season is never a good sign. More so if its a club that's desperately seeking to end a 20-year title drought. But that's just the way it happened for Liverpool on the opening weekend of season 2009/10. Rafa Benitez and Liverpool diehard fans may try to play down the significance of the defeat and they've every right to considering that the outcome of the season openers rarely spell the outcome in May the following year.

But one thing was clearly evident from the Reds 1-2 defeat to Tottenhm: the loss of Xabi Alonso has left a huge void in Liverpool's midfield. Its true that Liverpool managed to win several games last season without the Spanish playmaker but all the signs on Sunday pointed to a team that was totally bereft of creativity, organisation and ambition in the middle of the park.

A mediocre outing by Javier Mascherano as well as yet another miserable showing by the blundering Lucas led to one of the most quiet afternoon's Fernando Torres has had since coming to England on one end and a very vulnerable defence on the other end.

But I wonder what Benitez was hoping would happen with the pairing of both Mascherano and Lucas in midfield. Neither one is known for their creativity or playmaking abilities. And while Mascherano generally provides Liverpool's back four with extra cover, the same can't be said of the Brazilian Lucas who somehow seems to be totally void of all the skills and talents his fellow country men are famous for.

In fact, it wasn't until the last quarter of the game when Steven Gerrard moved down into midfield was there some semblance of order and distribution in the most important part of the pitch. I certainly can understand Benitez' decision to field both Lucas and Mascherano considering he has very few other options thanks to the fact that new signing, Alberto Aquilani won't make his debut in a red shirt until October. And even then, who knows how long it will take him to adapt to English football. Lucas has been there for two seasons and still seems perpetually lost on the field.

But if there is one player who can fill in the void left by Alonso, Benitez needs to look no further than his talismanic captain who spent several years being labelled one of the best attacking midfielders in the game. No doubt, Gerrard has excelled in his new role behind Torres but there's no point keeping him up there when the ball's never going to get to them, as was the case on Sunday.

To move Gerrard back into midfield would of course would pose a bigger problem for Benitez as he too, despite what he says in the press, knows very well none of his backup strikers like Ryan Babel, David Ngog and Andrei Voronin will pose a threat to any defense in the Premier League.

So yes, I reckon the Spanish has got some major reshuffling to do to get Liverpool's season back on track. And while he may take some comfort in the fact that both Man Utd and Chelsea were made to slog it out against lesser opponents over the weekend, he should note that both teams at least got 3 points each.

And while I'm on the subject of the so-called Big Four, only one turned up this weekend and it was a team that's been dismissed thoroughly by everyone. Yes, I'm speaking of the Gooners who reminded David Moyes that his team of school girls are indeed a 'small club.' It's been a long time since Arsenal were this dominant and merciless on the pitch. If they can keep this up, who knows how the title race be?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Alonso finally moving to Madrid?

The Internet as well as the English tabloids have kicked it into fifth gear with news that Xabi Alonso has handed in a transfer request to the Anfield hierarchy to seal his move to Real Madrid. Of course, these reports are all quoting unnamed sources but in the world of football, these things tend to come true.

The big question right now is if Real Madrid do meet Liverpool's GBP30 million valuation of the Spanish midfielder. A few months back, GBP30 million would have been short change for Madrid. But after spending close to GBP190 million on Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzema, the Spanish giants may want to rethink their budget. Especially with Bayern Munich slapping a EURO 90 million price tag on Ribbery who has been one of Madrid's top priorities this summer. But financial prudence is not something Mr Perez seems to be really good at and if Liverpool are willing to sell him, the Spanish giants will somehow come up with the cash.

Still, what's left of Liverpool's title challenge next season should Alonso go? Of all the players Rafa Benitez has brought to the club, specifically the Spanish contingent, Alonso has been among the best and its not an exageration to rate him as one of the best midfielders in the world. And should he go, Liverpool's midfield will be in serious trouble.

And let's not forget that all these stories of Alonso moving to Madrid are closely being followed by yet more rumours about Javier Mascherano's desire to play for Barcelona. Should both Alonso and Mascherano leave, I can't see Liverpool's title challenge going very far next season, especially when the only players they have for backup is Lucas and Damien Plessis.

But let's say Mascherano doesn't move because we all know that Barcelona aren't really lacking in the midfield department (neither is Madrid by the way) and only Alonso goes. It would probably be a bigger blow to Liverpool without Alonso than the Argentinean captain as the former is far better at organising the midfield and dictating the attack. Of course, Liverpool do have a player that's capable of filling up that role and his name is Steven Gerrard. But with the Reds captain preferred in the role of second striker, Benitez will need to bring in a world-class midfielder to the squad to fill in the void left by Alonso. Sadly for Benitez, the league begins in two weeks and there are very few options left.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Say it isn't so Fergie!

Has the Britain's greatest manager turned into a crabby old geezer? His latest comments regarding Man City seem to suggest just that. At the centre of the Ferguson's latest outburst is a billboard put by City that says "Welcome to Manchester" with Carlos Tevez' picture in the background.

Now to Ferguson, he seems to think City are bragging over the fact that they stole Tevez from United. To others, it appears as though City is making a dig at Man Utd over which team truly represents Manchester (City fans have long insisted their club is the true club of Manchester will the boys from Trafford are technically outside of Manchester).

Either way, the billboard's pretty understandable considering the rivalry between both clubs. Not to Fergie though he thinks City were out of line and have taken several new swipes at them. The first, if you haven't heard, is regarding Emanuel Adebayor's big money transfer to the Eastlands with Fergie claiming the the Togo international was desperate to join United or Chelsea to avoid joining City and went so far as to making a call to Old Trafford in a last ditch attempt to steer himself away from Sparky's revolution.

The second dig at City, however, was aimed below the waistline.

Here's what he said:

"It's City isn't it? They're a small club with a small mentality. All they can talk about is Manchester United; they can't get away from it. They think taking Carlos Tevez away from Manchester United is a triumph. It is poor stuff."

City's a small club eh? That's kind of ironic coming from the Scotsman considering the way he blasted Rafa Benitez a few months back for calling Everton a small club. And in case you've forgotten, here's the quote:

"He called them [Everton] a small club which points to his arrogance. They are a big club and David Moyes is doing a great job."

So what's the deal with Ferguson? Has the United boss gone senile or does he truly live in a world where he or United can do no wrong?

Going ballistic at City for the Tevez poster in itself screams of double standards from Ferguson. At Stretford End in Old Trafford, there's a permanent banner that indicates the number of years that have gone by without City winning a trophy. It's currently 32 and the numbers are changeable. So, is there some rule engraved in stone that says United are the only ones that can take the piss out of other clubs?

But what's even stranger is that fact that Fergie took the bait on this one so easily. Has age finally caught up with him?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CCTV footage of Steven Gerrard's bar brawl online

As Steven Gerrard's trial goes on in England, the court has now released CCTV footage of the incident from the bar where that ill-fated incident occurred. The prosecutors for their part claim the Reds skipper struck a blow at part-time DJ Marcus McGee with the precision of a boxer.

The BBC currently has the CCTV footage uploaded on their site but its awfully slow and you'll have to put up a really long ad first. I suggest you check it out on You Tube, which, in case you don't know, you can view right here on Final Kick. Just scroll down to the You Tube box and key in "Steven Gerrard, CCTV." That should get you the video you need.

I've viewed it a couple of times and its next to impossible to try and figure out what's really going on although in one scene, the Liverpool captain can clearly be seen being restrained by his friends. I'll let you decide. Gerrard's wearing a light blue sweatshirt, in case you have trouble identifying him.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Can Malaysia do it again?

Very few of us, even the most optimistic among us, would have expected Malaysia to have scored even one goal, let alone two, against Man Utd. I have to admit that as a long-standing skeptic of Malaysian football, I can't remember seeing Malaysia play with as much commitment and passion as it did over weekend against United.

Granted, Malaysia's best moments were in the second half when United's B team showed up. Still, most of us can remember the time when Alex Ferguson would send in his third team and Malaysia would still get a trouncing.

But I suppose we'll get a much better picture of the state of Malaysian football when the two teams play each other again. And this time around, United will have a better idea of what to expect and may make the appropriate tactical changes which will make our boys work a little harder. But if they can deliver a performance similar to their showing over the weekend, there just be might be some hope after all for Malaysian football.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Now City want Adebayor

After a month of relatively no speculation at all concerning the future of Emanuel Adebayor at Arsenal, the Togolese international's made the headlines once again and, you've guessed it right, he's linked with a move to Man City.

And just in case you're wondering, Carlos Tevez is expected to be unveiled as a Man City player some time soon. So, yes, what the heck is City up to?

Buying Adebayor at this stage of the transfer window clearly indicates that Hughes and Co have given up on signing Samuel Eto'o. But it also means that City is bent on having at least four world class strikers in the squad (Robinho, Santa Cruz, Tevez and Adebayor). Why? Does Sparky think linning up four strikers instead of two is going to win him anything?

And if he is going to play all four of them at the same time, which department gets sacrificed? The midfield or the defence? Or are these strikers going to be deployed in positions they aren't familiar with?

It just doesn't make any sense and why Sparky wants to splurge more money on strikers and he's got a joke for a defense is beyond any reasonable and rationale-thinking human being. Still, I suppose we should thank Hughes for doing all this. It will certainly be quite entertaining to see how City perform next season.

All the same, these transfers certainly raise the question of the intellectual capacity of these footballers. Except for Santa Cruz, Tevez and Adebayor, should they move, will be sacrificing their careers at clubs that are vastly superior to City. So why make such a move? Greed?

Tevez is perhaps one of the best strikers in England and it would seem nothing short of insanity to pick City over Chelsea. As for Adebayor, he was once courted by AC Milan and Barcelona. Surely, Man City's no substitute for either one of those clubs. There's just no reasonable explanation why they'd go ahead with such decisions.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rafa says no to Ribery?

Liverpool fans who were hoping Glen Johnson won't be the club's biggest signing of the summer are in for more disappointment. Just days after rumours surfaced of a shock bid for French star Franck Ribery, Rafa Benitez, in a report by the Daily Mirror, claims Liverpool don't need the Bayern Munich player to strenghten their squad.

But after taking a closer look at the report, it appear's as though Benitez didn't specifically mention Ribery's name but stated the club isn't looking to sign anyone for "big, big money - just maybe the ones who can fit into our team." I can't really tell what that means. You can judge for yourself by reading the story here

Still, I think Benitez and Liverpool will have to spend "big, big money" should either Xabi Alonso or Javier Mascherano leave. And he'll have to spend twice that amount should both go. There were some rumours a few weeks back that the Spaniard was looking to bring in Inter Milan's Esteban Cambiasso to Anfield but nothing's happened since.

Nonetheless, I reckon Cambiasso will surface back into the picture if Liverpool lose Alonso and/or Mascherano. Without these two, Liverpool's squad will be severely affected and so will their chances of winning the league next season.

Even if Benitez manages to keep both players, there's no guarantee his squad will mount a better title challenge next season. At the end of the day, it has been pretty clear all along that Liverpool need at least another world class player to their squad to have a decent chance at the league or the Champions League. And it's not Glen Johnson.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What the hell?

Yes. What the hell. If you haven't heard by now, the latest rumours in the world of football is that Michael Owen is on the verge of joining Man Utd. Yes, you read that right.

BBC Sport claims Owen, who has been long admired by Sir Alex Ferguson, is set to undergo a fitness test today and should he pass, will be Man Utd's second signing of the summer and possibly their most shocking.

In all fairness, it's probably good news for Owen that he's finally being linked to a world class club instead of the likes of Stoke and Hull. But Man Utd?

First, whether Owen likes it or not, a move to Old Trafford would tantamount to treason by Liverpool fans, who even after all these years still have great admiration and respect for a footballer who was part of the club since the age of 13 and scored 118 goals in 216 appearances.

And when Owen was linked with a move back to the club a few years ago after a disastrous spell at Real Madrid, many Liverpool fans and players including Steven Gerrard lobbied Benitez to re-sign the player. However, Benitez quite reasonably declined to fork out the amount Madrid was asking for.

Hence, a move to United is bound to piss quite a few people off. Then again, nothing's gone right for Owen since he left Anfield so its understandable if he does go to United.

As far as Man Utd goes, signing Owen is either a sign of pure genius or desperation. Unlike many critics who have written him off, I believe Owen is still one of the best in the game when he's on form. That being said, Owen seems to have spent more time in the sick bay than on the field for Newcastle so United are taking a huge gamble in signing him.

Even Big Sam rejected the possibility of signing Owen at Blackburn in view of the striker's poor fitness level.

Still, all this is speculation at this point but as I've said, rumours in the world of football generally tend to come true. And maybe Carlos Tevez should reconsider his position on joining Liverpool. After all, if someone like Owen is willing to sacrifice his 13-year bond with Liverpool by joining their most hated rivals, he can too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To go or not to go

A few days ago, it was reported that Man City had made a staggering offer to bring Samuel Eto'o to the Eastlands. But despite the GPB1 million a month wage offered, Eto'o's agent said the Cameroon striker did not want to join Sparky and the Funky Bunch at City.

In light of that, Barcelona then makes a new contract offer to Eto'o. With this new offer on the table, it would seem pretty clear that Eto'o would reject a move to the Blues considering the star would rather turn out in a Barca jersey next season than in any other club's jersey. Heck, even Sparky thinks he's fighting for a lost cause now.

But all of a sudden, Eto'o's agent holds a press conference and starts claiming his client's pissed at Barca. Why? Well, according to the agent, Barca told Eto'o twice in the past two weeks the player has no future left with the Catalan giants. And as such, Eto'o's cheesed off with Barca's new contract offer because it seems the champions of Europe only made the offer because of City's move on the player.

Maybe the agent's telling the truth. But what I don't get is this. If Eto'o was unhappy and unwanted at Barcelona, why did he reject City's proposal? Ok, maybe that's not too fair of a question. Still, only a fool would have rejected City's bid outright if he didn't have any future left at his current club or any other offers on the table. So what's really going on here?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Alonso sets an ultimatum...kind of anyway

Xabi Alonso seems to have set the bizzarest ultimatum yet in the world of football. The Spanish midfielder has apparently told his agent to seal a move to Real Madrid by July 19 or he will stay at Liverpool.


These claims of course come from the Daily Mail, which if you haven't realised now, often has trouble separating fact from fiction. Nonetheless, what does this mean? Does Alonso want to go or not? Why is he leaving it all up to his agent? And what the hell happens after July 19? Bad fengshui joining a Spanish club after that date? What gives?

The fact is, Liverpool have said nothing about a possible transfer of Alonso with nearly everyone from Torres to ball boys insisting the midfield pair of Alonso and Mascherano must remain at Anfield. Then again, if I recall, Liverpool denied until the very last minute they were going to sell Robbie Keane back to Spurs after six months. So I'd give that Daily Mail story another chance.

Still, why is Alonso bent on joining Real, especially if the Spanish giants land Bayern Munich's wantaway star Franck Ribbery. Where exactly will Alonso fit in the grand scheme of things or more precisely, how the heck is Alonso going to be guaranteed first team placing when there's a midfield packed with the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka and Ribbery? Then again, Real Madrid's billions have a way of convincing footballers the sillest things...

Monday, June 29, 2009

City's bid for Eto'o accepted

That crazy gang at Man City have done it again, this time with an GBP25 million bid for Samuel Eto'o, which, if it goes through, could see the Cameroon striker earn an audacious GBP250,000 a week!

So far, reports quoting Eto'o's agent say the striker will turn it down despite the possibility to gross GBP12 million a year. But in the world we live in, anything can happen and there are just as many reports out there that claim Eto'o is set to sign a deal with City.

Nonetheless, one wonders if there's any semblance of sanity at the City camp. They've already signed on Roque Santa Cruz and are expected to seal an agreement with Carlos Tevez in the coming weeks. That means, plus Robinho and Eto'o, City would have four world class strikers. And if for some reason they decided to keep Craig Bellamy, that makes it five strikers.

Five strikers. What on earth is Mark Hughes planning to do with five strikers? These aren't your run of the mill strikers, mind you. These are expensive talented strikers with even bigger egos. Try to bench them and you'll find them requesting for a transfer come January. And please don't bother telling Bellamy he's not as good as the other four. He might swing a golf stick at you.

But on a more serious note, how will Hughes decided which striker gets to play considering they're among the best in the world and leaving them on the bench would be stupidest thing to do. Well, signing all four of them is the stupidest thing to do. Keeping half of them on the bench would be the second stupidest thing to do.

There's always the possibility Sparky may choose to play some of them in different positions. But that too is rather stupid.

So where will he play them? Even if we assume Tevez has a change of heart and goes to Chelsea, City would still have four strikers. Ok, let's say Bellamy gets the boot. We've still got three world class strikers. What's Sparky going to do? Play three strikers the way Barcelona does?

Maybe. But Barcelona's three world class strikers are capable of doing what they do because:

a) Messi and Henry can actually operate as wingers
b) they've already got world class midfielders behind them which City most certainly don't have

So what is the real game plan here? It is worth noting that the bid for Eto'o comes not too long after Robinho claimed he wanted Eto'o at City. And if you recall, it was Robinho who also said he wanted Carlos Tevez at Man City.

So is Robinho the one calling all the shots at City? Now, that'll be hilarious if it were true.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

He said he said

The world is a big place, but when it comes to football, it can be a small planet ... especially when it comes to what footballers are supposed to have told willing journalists. Case in point is Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas. Only recently, the midfield maestro was supposed to have said, several times, that a move back to his native Spain could be a possibility with only the time frame differing from publication to publication. He was even recently to been quoted as saying that Arsenal were 'impotent' and a quick return to La Liga would add spice to his already saucy game.

Now, senor Fabregas was being interviewed in a Spanish publication but, only a couple of hours flight time away, the UK press got hold of the report, probably fed the story through Babelfish (although we can't discount that some of the British hacks can speak more than one language), and 'voila' instant controversy to be fed to the hungry masses eager to satisfy their footy fix. And Fabregas is not the first footy player to have said something in another language only to have it rammed back down their throats in another.

The fact is, there's a demand for such controversies, especially now in the silly season between football seasons. Footballers (and their advisors) should take note of what they say. Even in jest, words and sometimes whole sentences can be taken out of context ... and that can always get someone in trouble. The moral of the story then is, watch what you say or be prepared to eat humble pie. Case in point, see Fabregas' apology of sorts on the Arsenal website.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sheva wants to come home (sort of)

You might remember this chap named Andriy Shevchenko. Comes from Ukraine, looks a bit like that actor Ethan Hawke. Yes, that's right, him. He's the guy who scored a gazillion goals at AC Milan and then threw it all away for money by going to Chelsea where he ended up scoring bumpkus and then went crying back to Milan. Yep, that guy.

Well, now he wants a second chance at Chelsea. See, turns out Stamford Bridge wasn't really Sheva's kryptonite as his second stint with Milan was worse than his first with the Blues. And with a grand total of zero goals in 17 matches for the Rossoneri, Sheva has wisely opted for a return to Chelsea as chances are slim the Italian giants would want to retain him for another season.

Also, big daddy Carlo Ancelotti, who's always been nice to Sheva, is now at Stamford Bridge and for all we know, might actually give the Ukrainian striker another chance, especially if Chelsea's efforts to bring in Carlos Tevez don't materialise.

But Sheva better learn quickly that the fall from grace in football can be quite unforgiving and if he doesn't make the cut, he could end up in some mid-table club in the Premier League. That would indeed be quite a shame for a footballer that was once Europe's best.

And he only has to look as far as Michael Owen, who at one time was also the best in Europe. Today, he finds himself in a Championship side unless a move to Hull materialises. Imagine that. Hull City's coming to Owen's rescue. There was a time when the likes of Hull wouldn't have been to get through to someone like Owen on the phone let alone enter negotiations with him. It's quite sad, really.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not the best of weekends for both Reds

Yes, it most certainly wasn't the best of weekends for England's most two famous sides - Manchester United and Liverpool.

First up was Man Utd. When the Devils first announced they were selling Ronaldo for a staggering GBP80 million, there was much hope among United fans that the money would be invested in acquiring new quality footballers like David Villa and would also be spent on retaining the services of Carlos Tevez.

Alas, none of the above have happened. Villa has been taken off the market by Valencia and Tevez has rejected a new and improved deal by Man Utd. So United, by all accounts, despite being extremely cash rich, have lost two key players in just a month.

And should Fergie fail to bring in adequate replacements soon, the loss of these two players will bear a heavy consequence on United title challenge next season. Nonetheless, there's still plenty of time left before the new season kicks off.

As for Liverpool, things haven't been any better. First, Tevez ruled out a move to Anfield, citing his "emotional" tie with Man U fans. I wonder how they're feeling right now after he rejected the club's latest offer which, according to some reports, would have made him one of the highest players in the club. Similarly, I wonder if Man U fans will feel better if Tevez goes to Man City or Chelsea.

Besides Tevez, the other blow to the Anfield club came in the form of a counter-offer for Glen Johnson from Chelsea. Yes, it turns out Chelsea too have gone mad and are ready to splash GBP17 million on a defender deemed surplus to requirements two seasons ago. And the GBP17 million price tag they're willing to pay is twice the amount the sold for. Way to go, Chelsea!

Speaking of Chelsea, reports from the Daily Mail claim the Blues are ready to swoop in to bring Xabi Alonso to Stamford Bridge. Now, it's no big secret that Carlo Ancelotti has been a fan of Alonso for quite sometime. But I somehow can't see Alonso working well at Chelsea alongside Frank Lampard. If you recall, Lamps got sent off for a very debatable tackle on Alonso last season.

Either way, I wonder what the Blues would do with yet another midfielder now that they already have Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel. It doesn't really make much sense but then again the Daily Mail rarely does.

Even if the Alonso rumours turn out to be false, Liverpool fans can't be too pleased in knowing that their only confirmed acquisition for the summer -the one and only Glen Johnson- is now in limbo.

Still, there's a bit of good news for Liverpool fans. George Gillette is apparently selling of his ice hockey franchise in the NHL for some US$500 million which could be used to shore up Liverpool's finances. The only question is how much bigger of a budget will Benitez be given and when?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tevez leaves United!

As speculated, Carlos Tevez will not be a Man Utd player next season. The BBC says the Argentine forward has decided to leave Old Trafford despite United meeting the GBP25.5 million fee to keep Tevez permanently on a five-year deal.

So where will he be heading to? Now that the player has supposedly ruled out a move to Liverpool, the only viable candidates in the running for the player's signature is Real Madrid, Chelsea and, you guessed it, Man City. I doubt Man City's on his mind and now that Sparky's signed on Roque Santa Cruz, I don't seem them splashing out a fortune for yet another striker. Then again, it is Man City.

Hence, Real Madrid and Chelsea would seem the likeliest destination. More to come.

Villa not for sale

With no money and mounting debts, Valencia have funnily enough decided to take David Villa off the market. After weeks of rumours of an impending move, the latest announcement by Valencia does come as quite of a surprise but it's not the first time we've heard a club announce a player is not for sale only to sell him a few days later.

According to some reports, despite all the supposed interest in Villa from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd, Chelsea Liverpool, Valenica has received zero bids so far for their prized asset.

Still, I wonder if Valencia will insist on keeping the "not-for-sale" sign on Villa should a very attractive offer present itself. It seems inevitable that Villa will leave Valencia. A player with that kind of calibre needs something better.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Down the Grapevine

Now that David Villa has taken centre stage alongside Franck Ribery in this week's transfer rumour mill, The Sun claims the Spanish striker will only move to England if it's to play for Liverpool.

The UK tabloid apparently learnt this bit of news from some of Villa's "close friends" who say the Valencia forward will only play for the Merseysiders due to his admiration for Rafa Benitez and friendship with another compatriot, Fernando Torres.

While we're at it, he'd probably fancy a move to Liverpool instead of the other Premier League clubs as Spanish is getting close to becoming the main language in the Anfield dressing room. Plus, deciphering Alex Ferguson's order's through his thick Scottish accent is no easy task.

No one knows how the Sun gets away with its reporting standards as Villa may very well be headed to England this summer although Liverpool look like an unlikely destination due to their financial woes, especially now that the club is willing to pay GBP17 million for Glen Johnson. Then again, maybe there's a secret stash hidden somewhere at Anfield as it would seem like sheer madness to blow your entire budget on someone like Johnson!

Remember these guys?

With all the focus on the big guns, we seemed to have overlooked some smaller but important potential transfers in the league.
First up, it seems as though David Bentley, the one time blue-eyed boy of English football, is ready to quit Tottenham after a miserable season there to join Martin O'Neill's British revolution at Villa Park. Talks between both clubs are reportedly ongoing with Spurs ready to sell the forward for cut price of GBP7 million.

Of course, I can help but wonder if this has anything to do with the Londoners' supposed bid to bring Arjen Robben to the club. All the same, Bentley could do with a fresh start somewhere else and if there's one man who'd get the job done, it would be Martin O'Neill. And this could be what Bentley needs to revive his career.

Besides the England man, another forward who somehow dropped out of the radar is Paraguayan international, Roque Santa Cruz, who has been eying a move out of Ewood Park ever since Sparky went to Man City. Reports suggest a deal is imminent as both clubs are looking to end the season-long saga.

Now, no one doubts Santa Cruz' abilities but I have my doubts as to whether he'll be able to rediscover his scoring touch in a team as mismanaged as Citeh.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Now Chelsea want Tevez?

With all the hoopla surrounding Ronaldo, Kaka, Villa and Ribery, it would seem as though everyone's forgotten about Carlos Tevez. Apparently not.

Carlo Ancelotti, who has made no signings since being appointed at Chelsea, is reportedly interested in bringing in Carlos Tevez to Stamford Bridge. Reports say the Italian has personally approached Tevez and wants the Argentine star to be part of his so-called "revolution" at Stamford Bridge.

If these reports are true, it will come as a huge blow to the likes of Mark Hughes who just can't get seem to get anyone besides Gareth Barry to join his "revolution" at Man City. (Seems like there's just too many revolutions going on at the moment..).

Liverpool fans who've been harboring some hope of seeing Tevez line-up along side Fernando Torres next season may also have to give that dream up seeing as to how Benitez is about ready spend GBP17 million on Glen Johnson.

As for theories on the net Ferguson will utilise part of the cash raised from the sale of Ronaldo to buy Tevez? I somehow don't see that materialising because Fergie could've bought him a season ago when he had all that cash he ended up using to buy the Bulgarian version of Le Sulk.

And so far, Bayern Munich have confirmed United are interested in Ribery and with the way footballers are being priced these days, I don't think Fergie will have much left in his transfer budget for someone like Tevez. If United get Ribery, that is.

Munich have yet to put a price tag on the Frenchman yet but earlier in the year, the club's general manager, Uli Hoeness slapped a EURO150 million tag on Ribery and I'm guessing after Ronaldo, the price may have gotten a little higher.

But I've been digressing a little here. If Tevez does go to Chelsea, Ancelotti will perhaps have the strongest attacking line-up in England. The Argentine has previously shown his abilities in adapting to different styles of play quite quickly and should he develop an understanding with Drogba, Anelka and Lampard, the Blues will definitely be in the running for both the Premiership and the Champions League next season.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Villa and Ribery

As Man Utd and Real Madrid get ready to do business over Ronaldo's transfer out of Old Trafford, the two clubs may start bucking horns again real soon. If the reports out of Fleet Street's finest newsrooms are to be believed, it would appear as though both United and Madrid are really keen on signing David Villa and Franck Ribery.

On Madrid's part, after blowing nearly GBP140 million for two attack-minded players, it would only seem natural that Florentino Perez would be out scouting for a few more attacking footballers. It's just his style, man. And to answer a recent commentator on Final Kick, who the hell needs to defenders when you've got the best attacking line-up in the world. Remember, offense is the best form of defense.

Ok, no. I haven't a clue of the kind of team Perez is assembling and I highly doubt Manuel Pellegrini has even the slightest say on Real's transfer policy. Like I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, having Ronaldo, Kaka and Ribery in your team line-up is great on paper but a whole different matter on the field.

As for United, the speculation over Ribery's been going on for sometime now ever since the subject of Ronaldo leaving Manchester was first mooted. David Villa? Well, just about every club wants him.

Now we all know Sir Alex will have plenty to spend once the Ronaldo deal is settled but both Ribery and Villa may be a little ambitious. After all, thanks to the good folks at Madrid, every club is placing the most ridiculous price-tags on their star assets (Ibrahimovic is now worth EURO90 million).

Buying another striker in the form of David Villa makes little sense when you've already got a huge attacking line-up. Assuming Carlos Tevez leaves, United still have Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. But should Villa come to Old Trafford, which one of the two will have give up his first team place? And is another striker really going to fill up the void that will be left when Ronaldo goes?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eighty-freaking million for Ronaldo?

"Now I understand I made the best decision. I am with Manchester in body and soul."

The divine quote above was uttered by none other than Cristiano Ronaldo in August 2008 after a proposed deal with Real Madrid collapsed. Ronaldo would go on repeat the above quote, or something similar, several more times over the following 10 months, with the latest during a pre-match Champions League press conference in April.

And it goes to show you that Ronaldo, much like his future teammate Kaka, is either a very fickle minded human being or just a pathological liar. But he's not the only liar. Man Utd, which only a year ago refused to entertain any semblance of an offer for Ronaldo, wasted no time in announcing Madrid's bid was accepted.

Of course, why wouldn't they? If Madrid's crazy enough to offer GBP80 million, United would be stupid to turn it down when you consider the fact that Ronaldo is most certainly not worth GBP80 million based on his performance last season.

All the same, if this offer was made 12 months ago when Ronaldo was, at that time, arguably the best player in the world, chances are high United would have turned it down.

But that's not the only thing United's lied about. In their statement on their website, the club states that it has accepted Madrid's bid after "the request of Cristiano - who has again expressed his desire to leave - and after discussion with the player's representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player."

Yeah, that's right. United only decided to accept Madrid's after Ronaldo requested for a transfer. It has nothing to do with the fact the offer on the table is GBP80 million. Throw in another GBP20 million and Alex Ferguson can buy Newcastle United and use St James Park as the Devils' new training ground.

But that's all in the past now. The big question is whether this move will actually elevate the Spanish giants to European champions once more. On paper, or on Championship Manager, having Ronaldo and Kaka in the same team is akin to having the best team in the world. But what works on paper doesn't exactly translate to the same thing on the pitch as exemplified by the previous incarnation of the Galacticos.

More so, one wonders how Kaka feels about the bid for Ronaldo. I'm sure he won't take pride in knowing that he was the world's most expensive player for only week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Prof in Kuala Lumpur!

Arsene Wenger was recently in Kuala Lumpur as part of his role as Castrol's global ambassador. Yes, Arsene Wenger is promoting motor oil. Then again, everyone needs to make some money and looking at Arsenal's financial's, they could certainly use the extra cash!

Speaking of the Gunners, they're another club that's been awfully quiet in this transfer window. Knowing Wenger, he's probably identified some under 21 footballers in France as transfer targets.

And while no one can deny the fact that Wenger has a really good eye for young talent, I still believe the Gunners need some players with experience and maturity to add that little extra that is needed to fight for titles.

PS: Special thanks to Faisal Shah of Autocar Asean for the photo.

Profitable Group to bid for Newcastle

It just gets stranger and stranger every day. Just days after Mike Ashley put Newcastle up for sale at GBP100 million (Yes, for GBP100 million, you can either buy Kaka and Ronaldo or Newcastle), the BBC reports Singapore-based Profitable Group are keen on buying the Magpies.

And it also goes on to say that among the directors of the Profitable Group include former Liverpool player and current ESPN Star Sports commentator, Steve McMahon. Additionally, the former Kop legend Kenny Dalglish and another ESPN commentator, Paul Maysfield, are members of the company's executive team.

The report adds the group will keep Alan Shearer if they end up taking over the club. But I wonder if McMahon and Maysfield will still remain as commentators on ESPN.

While it's good to hear that there are people who think there is still hope at Newcastle, I'm not sure the Profitable Group's investors will be too keen on an investment that will not make them any returns for quite sometime. Even if the Toon get back into the Premier League in two seasons, there's no guarantee they'll be making money. And once they're in the Premier League, they'll need to spend money acquiring good footballers just to stay afloat.

No, buying football clubs is not something you do if you want to make money.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ronaldo next?

As widely expected, Brazilian midfield ace, Kaka, has joined Real Madrid for GBP59 million. His move also signifies the beginning of the second phase of Florentino Perez' Galacticos experiment at Madrid. It also signifies that Mr Perez, as delusional as he is, is a man of his word.

And since he's said signing Cristiano Ronaldo is next on his to-do list for this summer, we might as well assume Ronaldo will be at the Bernebau next season.

But before we get carried away wondering whether this "dream midfield partnership" comprising Kaka and Ronaldo will actually translate to some success for Madrid, I'd like to point out the hypocrisy in some of the things the Brazilian star said in his first press conference after leaving AC Milan.

To claim that he's joining Madrid because of Milan's financial woes is about the worst excuse anyone's ever given to leave a club. (If only Luis Figo had thought of this when he left Barcelona to join Madrid). If Kaka was only leaving the Rossoneri to shore up Berlusconi's bank account then he should've gone to Chelsea. Or even Man City.

He also claims to have been contemplating a move to Madrid for sometime now. Was this around the same time he kept insisting to the world he would remain in Italy with Milan? And lastly, he adds that some precious advice from pal David Beckham sealed the deal. I don't know how to put this but the last person Beckham convinced to join Madrid was Michael Owen and we all know how that turned out.

As for Ronaldo moving to Madrid, it seems pretty clear that Perez is willing to do what it takes to bring in the biggest names in football to the Bernebau to create the Galacticos version 2.0 so I guess we can expect an offer to be made to Man Utd in the next few days. And this time, I don't think Ferguson's going to resist as much.

But will Kaka and Ronaldo make the desired impact? Apart from increasing Real Madrid's t-shirt sales immediately, there's no guarantee the two will hit it off on the pitch (especially when you consider Ronaldo's tantrums whenever he's not in the limelight).

And even if they do somehow develop an understanding on the pitch and return Madrid to its winning ways, is that a guarantee there will no longer be overshadowed by Barcelona?

Monday, June 8, 2009

You've got to be kidding..

By now, most of us have become pretty familiar with the financial crisis taking place at Anfield. And as a result, it looks likely that Rafa Benitez will miss out on some his summer targets and may have to settle on some alternatives that will fit his miniscule budget.

But this is taking it too far.

The Sunday Mirror claims Liverpool is set to make a shock bid to bring Peter Crouch back to Anfield. The report goes on to say the Reds will make a bid of GBP4 million for the striker, which is approximately half of the price Liverpool sold the England international to Porthsmouth a year ago.

However, it says that it is unclear of Crouch wants to make the move having failed to establish a regular first team place at Liverpool. Yeah, that's the only stumbling block for this purported move. I think there was a reason why Crouch spent most of his Liverpool career on the bench. After all, has anyone seen a striker that tall who's that bad at heading?

What's more puzzling is the fact that Benitez is also supposedly interested in signing Crouch's teammate at Porthsmouth, Glenn Johnson.

Now, there's a high chance this rumour will remain just that. But even so, this has to be perhaps one of the craziest rumours so far this season, other than the one about Sven joining Pompey. And in case you haven't heard yet, Porthsmouth have confirmed Sven will NOT be their manager next season.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cash crunch at Anfield?

While Europe's top clubs and that crazy entity named Man City have hogged all the news of late, one club in particular that's been awfully quiet is Liverpool. After missing out on signing Gareth Barry for the second season straight, there seems to be concern among Liverpool fans and even former players such as Mark Lawrenson.

And those concerns have not been eased following news Liverpool's American owners lost GBP42.6 million last year.

So far, Rafa Benitez has kept mum over his transfer plans but one wonders if that's because the Spaniard's efforts to sign top players to the Anfield outfit have so far been unsuccessful. In Gareth Barry's case, some reports say Benitez made an 11th hour attempt to keep the England midfielder from signing for Man City.

But when Benitez found out the wages Sparky was offering at City, he withdrew Liverpool's offer. At this point, its anyone's guess if Benitez withdrew his offer for Barry because he felt the former Villa man was not worth all that money or if he just couldn't come up with the funds.

At present, it seems as though Benitez' biggest targets for the summer are David Silva and, believe it or not, Glenn Johnson. And if reports are true Benitez only has GBP15 million, there's no way he'll have enough cash to acquire both players (Yes, Pompey think Johnson's worth some GBP 10 million. Is that inflation or what?)

As such, the popular theory is Xabi Alonso will be sold to raise funds for the acquisition of Silva and Johnson. And if that's the case, Liverpool fans can stop dreaming of Carlos Tevez.

But would it really help Liverpool's cause next season if someone like Alonso were to leave the club? I might be off the mark here but I believe Alonso was one of the best players in Benitez' team last season. Speaking of last season, which was the Reds best season in recent memory, the only thing that stood between them and the Premiership were seven draws against minnows at home. If the Reds had won just three out of those seven draws, they would be champions of England, not Man Utd.

They're many reasons as to why the club failed to beat those inferior teams. In some cases, Steven Gerrard didn't play. In other cases, it was Torres who was absent from the line up. And then there games where both players were unavailable.

Benitez was right last season when he said the biggest difference between Man Utd and Liverpool was the quality of the former's squad. Anyone who doubts that should take a look at Liverpool's bench last season.

And so, Benitez needs more quality players if he wants to take Liverpool to the next level. Not that many. Just a few top notch footballers. But it will all be a waste if he has to sacrifice one of his best players first.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Banzai Kamikaze Man City

Trent said something interesting today about Manchester City's spending plans for the summer. It apparently looks like Sparky has no clear-cut idea who to buy this summer. Instead, he just opens the many gossip columns that have sprung up at most footy websites, blogs and forums, sees who the Big Four are looking to buy and then makes a bid for those players.

Actually, Trent has probably hit the nail right on the head. Mark Hughes, for no rhyme and reason, is looking to boost its midfield and attack while it's Achilles' heel, the defence, is being less attended to and, when I say "less", I mean not attended to at all. There was a team way back when that tried this experiment, Tottenham, that had 6 strikers on the books and all 6 started. The motto then was, they score 1, we score 2. It was epic, it was exciting, it led Spurs to no trophies at all.

It's said that those who do not learn from the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them again. If Man City doesn't learn from those lessons from the past, it too may repeat the same mistakes all over again. People may love you for your attacking flair, and people like Roman Abramovich may praise you for epic to-the-death football, but you won't win games without a solid team in all departments. If you can, Mark Hughes is a genius. Not much chance of that happening, then.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's a Kaka world

Make what you will of the title of this blog posting but one thing's for sure, Kaka is set to dominate the headlines until Monday next week when AC Milan finally make a decision on the Brazilian playmaker's future. That, of course, means that Kaka could still be at the San Siro next season despite all the frenzy.

What's interesting though is that the Rosoneri seem determined that Kaka will not be heading to Chelsea despite reports the Blues were willing to splurge GBP73 million to bring the Brazlian star to Stamford Bridge, especially when Madrid are reported to have made a much lower bid of Euro 65 million.

That's right, Madrid's bid was in Euros. As such, if you convert Chelsea's supposed bid in Euros, it would have been worth Euro 71.9 million. And that's the sort of cash even Florentino Perez wishes he had. So why would Milan snub Chelsea?

Maybe it's because Chelsea never made a bid in the first place. After all, where on earth would Carlo Ancelotti play Kaka when he's already got Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel in midfield? (Ricardo Carvalho has suggested he'll leave the Blues. Maybe Ancelotti could play Kaka as a centre back?)

Or was Chelsea out of consideration simply because they stole Ancelotti from Milan. Yes, Milan may have let Ancelotti go but that was only because of a supposed fallout with club owner and cheif megalomaniac, Silvio Berlusconi. And why would Berlusconi have an issue with Ancelotti? Maybe it has something to do with the fact Blues owner, Roman Abramovich had been courting Ancelotti from the time the former sacked Avram Grant. That was 12 months ago, by the way, if you're asking.

Even Ancelotti's revealed so in his autobiography, going so far as admitting he's been coaching Chelsea on paper for months! (That could also explain why Milan did so poorly in the Serie A last season). And consider what vice president Adriano Galliani said: "An agreement with Chelsea could not exist. Kaka goes to Real or he remains at Milan."

Could not exist? I wonder if Galliani was insinuating something. Or maybe the translation from Italian was bad. Nonetheless, all this is mere speculation at this point and the only club remaining in the running for Kaka is Real Madrid, who want to buy Ronaldo after they get the Brazilian star (isn't there a financial crisis going on right now?)

Still, I wonder if there'll be an 11th hour surprise from Man City in this whole saga before Monday.

City eyeing Tevez now

The craziest club in England has confirmed that they are looking to sign Carlos Tevez a day after buying Gareth Barry from Aston Villa. And it so happens that Tevez' agent, Kia Joorabchian is keen on selling the Argentine forward to City just to piss United off. Well, if this deal goes through, it will certainly piss a number of people off besides United.

Cheif among them will be Liverpool supporters who are keen to see the striker paired with Fernando Torres. While Rafa Benitez has yet to drop the slightest of hints that his interested in the player, there's a common belief Tevez is a player much at admired at Liverpool.

Should Tevez go to City, it will be second time in a week the Manchester club has stolen someone from Benitez' shopping list.

As for Tevez, we'll never really know how much of a say he'll get in deciding where he ends up. I personally don't think he'd trade Man Utd for the mid-table life of Man City. Then again, I never thought Barry would go there either.

Speaking of crazy clubs, if the Real Madrid - Ronaldo saga annoyed you last year, get prepared for another round. No, no, I'm not refering the second edition of the "Ronaldo loves Madrid" show, which by the way, should begin any day now.

No, I'm refering to the "Real Madrid wants Kaka" show. Yes, following Florentino Perez' declaration the Brazlian playmaker is one of the club's targets for the summer, reports from Spain suggest a deal has already been struck with AC Milan, only to have the Italian club deny the whole thing a few hours later. And we haven't heard from Chelsea yet. Let's just hope this new show doesn't last until August.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

So who the heck is Kleber?

Yes, just who is this Kleber guy who claims Liverpool wants to sign him? Information, in English that is, on the player is pretty limited at this time. As far as I've found out, he's 25, plays for Brazilian side, Cruzeiro, is a striker and is nicknamed the Gladiator by his fans.

More importantly, he's scored 19 goals in 19 appearances for Cruzeiro hence the supposed interest from Anfield. Stay tuned for more updates. Hopefully more info on the striker comes out or I'll just have to learn Portuguese.

In the meantime though, I do urge Final Kick readers to search for some of Kleber's performances on the field using the You Tube function on this page. Specifically, search for "Kleber, Cruzeiro."

Barry moves to City! (Updated)

The Bernabeu isn't the only source of crazy news these days. Manchester City, the place where good footballers go on vacation, is back in the limelight and this time it appears as though Sparky's gotten hold of Rafa Benitez' shopping list.

Last night, Aston Villa agreed to sell captain, Gareth Barry to Manchester City for GBP 12 million. Now, this move obviously warrants a "what the f__?" as I can't begin to see how Barry would fit in Sparky's grand plan for world domination. Then again, there may be a hint of a possibility that Martin O'Neill's preferred selling Barry to City to spite Liverpool. After all, last summer's dealings between Villa and Liverpool didn't end on a good note.

Still, even if that's the case, it seems bizzare that Barry would have even considered a move to Man City considering his lifelong ambition to play in the Champions League. Now that Barry has committed to appearing for the blue half of Manchester next season, he might as well give up on ever playing in the Champions League.

Better yet, Aston Villa has much better chance of making it into the Champions League before City does. Oh, I'm sure he'll say Sparky laid out his masterplan and indicated all the great footballers who have verbally agreed to sign on and that's what convinced him. Yeah, Sparky tried that with Kaka and we all know how that turned out.

So Barry's decided to cash in on his career and if Chelsea doesn't come knocking on your door, Man City will do.

It has to be noted that this move comes a day after the British tabloids suggested Kia Joorabchian is willing to spite Man Utd by selling Carlos Tevez to City.

Dubai buying into Milan, Real appoints new coach

The billionaires in Dubai were never going to be satisfied with just the Barclays Premier League. Hence, comes along a story that the ruler of Dubai now wants to buy a 40% stake at Italian giants AC Milan. The report adds the deal includes an option for the Dubai ruler to buy the rest of Milan within two years.

This bit of news comes after the club's general manager, Adriano Galliani, admitted it will hard for Milan to turn down offers for Kaka and Pato as the Italian giants no longer commands the kind of financial power it did in the 90s.

As such, one can see why Milan would be tempted to go for a deal with the Dubai rulers. Still, I can see a big stumbling block to the deal in the form of Silvio Berlusconi.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid have hired Manuel Pellegrini to bring back the good times to the Bernabeu. Pellegrini was formerly the head coach at Villareal who finished fifth in the La Liga last season.

The fact that Madrid opted for him instead of a high-profile name speaks volumes on the direction the club intends to move towards. But is Pellegrini the right man for the job should Real's new president Florinto Perez have his way and restart the failed Galacticos programme? If Kaka, Ribery and co show up, will Pellegrini be able to keep all those egos in check?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ancelotti finally appointed!

In the world of football, rumours tend to have a way of becoming true. And so, the long standing rumour that Carlo Ancelotti will be appointed Chelsea's new manager was finally announced today.

Despite the fact the news comes as no big surprise, Ancelotti's appointment raises a lot of questions. For a man that has practically won everything with AC Milan, it is indeed a little a puzzling as to why Ancelotti would seek to risk his reputation and place in history as one of the best European managers of his generation by taking on a job that has seen three different managers over the last 18 months. Then again, I've been told you can never have enough money.

In fact, several reports in the UK as well as excerpts from Ancelotti's own autobiography indicate the Italian has been Roman Abromovich' radar ever since Avram Grant's sacking and Ancelotti himself has been "coaching" Chelsea on paper for some months now (is it a surprise Milan let him go?).

But is Ancelotti really the man Chelsea need? Don't forget that Felipe Scolari's appointment was also greated with the same amount of fan fare as Ancelotti's. And as the Brazilian found out, things in England, especially at Chelsea, can be difficult. And as it is, Ancelotti already shares one similar trait to the Brazilian: a poor command of English.

Nonetheless, Ancelotti, in his first interview with Chelsea TV (check it out here or on the youtube link on this blog) has promised to polish up his English by the time the new season gets underway in August.

But back to my earlier question as to whether Ancelotti's the right man for the Blues. One doesn't have to look much further than the two Champions League titles he won at AC Milan to see why Abramovich picked him.

Then there's the fact that every new manager at Chelsea has brought in footballers he's previously coached to the club. Mourinho and Scolari did it and Ancelotti will expected to do the same. So don't be surprised if Chelsea launch an audacious bid for Kaka some time soon. And in case Ancelotti needed some help with his summer shopping list, club captain John Terry wants his new boss to bring in both David Villa and Franc Ribery.

Last and not least, Ancelotti will be expected to bring Chelsea back as the champions of English football and implement Abramovich' much desired attacking football.

Its hard to see Ancelotti fulfilling all these demands. He certainly has the experience needed to lead Chelsea to its first Champions League but it's something that could take some time but Abramovich may want to see the results in the coming season itself.

As for player acquisitions, it might take a bit more to convince Kaka to make the move. The same goes for Ribery and Villa. However, Ancelotti is a respected manager, so he might excel in this department.But Italian will have his work cut out for him when it comes to challenging for the Premiership next season and altering Chelsea' style of play.

To implement attacking football, Ancelotti will need to undergo a serious house-cleaning exercise at Stamford Bridge this summer, which is something Scolari failed to do a year ago. The existing members of Chelsea's squad are not cut for free-flowing attacking football. And even if Ancelotti brings in a whole host of players, it will take time for them to gel and form a formidable force.

Thus, like all his predecessors, Ancelotti's fate at Chelsea will very depend on Abramovich's priorities. Will he allow Ancelotti the time needed to achieve all that is craved so dearly by the Russian billionaire and the Stamford Bridge faithful or will Ancelotti be handed the same deadlines the ones before him were given?