Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mini-exodus at Man City in January?

Santa Cruz and Tevez: Leaving Eastlands?
Man City's "super-sized" squad may be up for some trimming in January. Paraguayan striker, Roque Santa Cruz has announced his intentions of leaving City in January to a club that will field him in the first 11 and rumours are rife Carlos Tevez and Emanuel Adebayor maybe on their way out soon as well.

So far, it would appear the rumour about Tevez leaving is just that - a rumour. But the Argentine international has repeatedly spoken about his intentions to leave England to be with his family - ala Javier Mascherano. It would be a serious blow if Tevez were to leave in January or even next summer for that matter. After a forgetful season last year, Tevez seems to back to his lethal best and Mancini's decision to give the striker the captain's armband seems to have paid dividends.

As for Emanuel Adebayor, it's almost certain the Togolese striker will leave the first chance an offer comes his way. Playing second fiddle to Tevez in the pecking order in Mancini's one-striker formation has left the former Arsenal striker increasingly frustrated with life at the Eastlands. Which is a pity because Adebayor is certainly one of the best forwards in the Premier League. And should Adebayor move to another Premier League club and return to his free-scoring days, Mancini's job be on the line.

If it isn't already, that is.

Losing Santa Cruz itself is quite a blow although I don't suspect many in City would miss him - Paraguayan striker's long-term injury woes kept his appearances for the club rather limited ever since his move from Blackburn Rovers. But Santa Cruz too was regarded as one of the best strikers in the league and his departure may send warning signals to City's owners who paid very good money for Santa Cruz' services, not to mention Adebayor's'.

Still, when money's no object, I guess even Santa Cruz and Adebayor can join the list of expendables at the club.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The wacky world of Wayne Rooney

By now, almost everyone is aware of Wayne Rooney's famous u-turn this week when he decided to pledge his future to Man Utd 24 hours after declaring he was leaving the Devils due to fears the club's future was looking bleak. Some irony.

Rooney and Fergie: Best Friend$ again
One wonders what Sir Alex, David Gill and the Glazers managed to tell Rooney to change his mind and remain in United. $omehow, they managed to ease his fears and convince him that despite debts of GBP700 million, no adequate replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and an aging squad, his future remained at Old Trafford.

Some reports suggest Rooney decided to stay after being assured by the Glazers that GBP100 million will be available to Sir Alex to acquire new signings. If that's all it took, wouldn't it have been easier to have just given Sir Alex a call instead of announcing he wanted to leave the club? Something certainly doesn't add up with that theory.

And while most Man Utd fans seem to be ecstatic with his decision to stay at the club, they seem to be missing the point that Rooney became the first player under Sir Alex Ferguson's reign to hold the club to ransom. The Sir Alex of old would never have tolerated such disloyalty from any player. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

But Rooney's actions have set a dangerous precedence. Now, every prima donna footballer out there is going to hold his club to ransom just to get a raise. What's even more impressive on Rooney's part is that he managed to get the contract he wanted despite being one of the worst performers in a United shirt this season.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rijkaard for Liverpool?

While Europe's biggest sides await to see Wayne Rooney's next move, another major surprise may be in the offing. BBC Sports reports former-Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard has parted ways with Galatasaray and speculation is rife Liverpool may be the Dutchman's next destination.

Officially, there isn't any real indication at all that Rijkaard has left Galatasaray for Liverpool or that the Reds new owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV, have given up on Roy Hodgson and are seeking a replacement.

But at the same time, Rijkaard's sudden departure from Galatasary poses several questions. For one, Rijkaard's performance at Galatasaray hardly warranted a sacking. After leading them to third place last season, the Turkish side have been struggling for form this season and are currently in ninth position. If Roy Hodgson can keep his job (for now) with his team languishing in the relegation zone, what's ninth place?

As for John W Henry and co, witnessing Liverpool succumb so easily to Everton last weekend should have surely sent some alarm bells ringing. Even more concerning, perhaps, was Hodgson's cluelesness during the match and his bizzare post-match comments when claimed Liverpool's performance at Goodison was by far the best they've managed under him.

The fact that Hodgson has sent the team to levels no manager has ever done before should be enough for Henry and the rest of NESV to push the panic button. Hogdson has managed just one win out of eight matches and Liverpool weren't all that great in that game against WBA too. In fact, Liverpool's best performance so far this season came in the opening match against Arsenal. But something has gone amiss since then and one can't but wonder if Javier Mascherano's departure has had a much bigger impact on the club than Hodgson would like to admit.

That being said, there's no reason why this Liverpool team should fail so miserably without Mascherano. Perhaps then it has something to do with Hodgson's training methods, player selection and tactics (or the lack of).

But whatever the reason, one thing seems to be clear: Roy Hodgson seems extremely unlikely to turn things around anytime soon and if Liverpool intend to reclaim their place among the Big Four and avoid relegation, they better act fast.

Watch Ferguson's emotional press conference on Wayne Rooney's decision to leave Utd

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Confirmed - Rooney eying Old Trafford exit (Updated with tweets from Rio Ferdinand at the bottom)

Fergie: Rooney wants to leave
A week after rumours first surfaced about Wayne Rooney's apparent desire to leave Man Utd, Sir Alex Ferguson has broken his silence on the matter and confirmed that the England star is indeed looking to exit Old Trafford.

Ferguson, however, has denied that Rooney's decision to leave the club is due to a fallout between the Scotsman and the striker, BBC Sports reports.

"We are as bemused as anyone can be, we can't quite understand why he would want to leave," Ferguson reportedly told a news conference, before adding United is hoping Rooney changes his mind to remain with United.

Not that Fergie would have admitted that yet another high-profile star is set to leave United after a fallout player and manager - David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and Carlos Tevez are among the many stars who have had their careers at Man Utd ended prematurely after getting on Ferguson's wrong side.

If Ferguson's not at fault, why would Rooney choose to leave? Fame? Greed? He's one of the highest paid players in United and he can't possibly get any more famous than he already is. A new challenge? Perhaps, although it's pretty hard to imagine just what it is Rooney has left to achieve at club level.

And as I predicted, Chelsea are apparently ready to snatch Rooney away from Old Trafford, which isn't surprising considering their lack of a proper strike partner / substitute for Didier Drogba (Nicolas Anelka's getting old, people).

So yes, while Chelsea seriously needs a striker like Rooney in its ranks, it remains to be seen why the England striker intends to leave the club that transformed him from a footballer with potential to one of the best strikers in the world.

Meanwhile, teammate Rio Ferdinand had this to say on twitter:

-wanted 2 sleep but just watching sky sports news.I weren't expecting that,my phones HOT right now.This is for the Boss and wayne to sort out

-The twitfam are going in hard here. A lot of hostility at the moment. I respect the Boss so 4 me to comment right now is not possible tweeps

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is Rooney going to leave Utd for good?

Is Rooney on his way out?
Is Wayne Rooney really on the verge of leaving Man Utd? What began as the typical round-off-the-mill tabloid gossip seems to have evolved into yet another high-profile bust-up in the Old Trafford dressing room. And as usual, the antagonist in this drama is none other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

It's no big secret that the English media and Sir Alex don't exactly see eye-to-eye. But the Scotsman's latest self-imposed embargo with the media isn't going to him any favours with countless number of stories being published each day about his deteriorating relationship with Rooney.  

Such is the extent of the rumours that now even the Press Association claims Rooney maybe the next high-profile star to leave United and has refused to sign a contract, leaving the door open for the possibility of a January transfer for the England star.

Can any of this be true? Could Ferguson's wonderboy actually be thinking about turning his back on the club that made him the star he is? If he is, he won't be the first. Many other gifted footballers have left United under similar circumstances. In fact, the list of players who have become casualties of Fergie's wrath could make it a dream team of sorts.

But is there really a rift between Ferguson and Rooney? The media seems to think Rooney's denial of carrying an ankle injury, just weeks after Ferguson had said the opposite, was a case of defiance by the English striker against the Utd manager.

It isn't altogether uncommon for players to claim they are fitter than they really are and for managers to be extra cautious over their star players, especially when they've been the subject of extra-marital accusations in the tabloids.

In fact, Ferguson has always been extremely protective over Rooney and it wouldn't be surprising if Fergie decided benching the England star would be the best thing for him. But Rooney, at 24, falls under the category of footballers who get extremely ticked off when left on the bench, especially when more minutes on the field would help lift him out of the slump he's been ever since the World Cup.

But where would Rooney go? Real Madrid? Barcelona? Almost all of the ex-Man Utd stars who leave the club for greener pastures in Europe have never been able to replicate the success they had with the devils so it would make more sense for Rooney to stay in England. But would he choose to incur the wrath of the Man Utd faithful and move to another English club? At the top of my head, the only club I could see affording Rooney would be Chelsea or, you guessed it, Man City.

I'm sure we'll find out soon enough if there is any truth at all to the "supposed" rift between Ferguson and Rooney although it does have to be pointed out that most of the "rumours" on Rooney that has been published by the media have turned out to be true. And as they say, no star is bigger than Fergie at Man Utd.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And the douchebags of the year are...

And the douchebags of the year award goes to..
If there ever is an award for douchebags of the year in the footballing world, it would certainly have to go to Tom Hicks and George Gillette. Never before have two men who know absolutely nothing of football have been this determined to destroy a football club. Time and again, the duo have defied all logic and rationality to cling on to an asset that should very well be classified as distressed.

And as if being told off by the British High Court wasn't enough, Hicks and Gillette have confirmed they would rather drag the club towards a nine-point deduction than admit defeat. Despite yesterday's ruling in London, Hicks and Gillette have won an injunction against the ruling from, get this, a district court in Hicks' home state of Texas. That's right. A district court. Not only did they defy the court ruling in Britain, they decided to insult it too by getting an injunction from a district court.

And so, the rest of Liverpool's board are heading back to the British High Court to sort this mess out and proceed with the sale of the club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV). Among the things that will be discussed will probably be whether an injunction in America could have an effect on the ruling in Britain. I'm no law expert but I can't for the life of me see how the district court in Texas can stop the sale.

Of course, there will be a hearing for the injunction at the court in Texas but guess what, it would only happen on Oct 25, well after the deadline for Liverpool to repay its debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). So I guess Hicks and Gillette's last roll of the dice is merely a big "screw you" to Liverpool and its legions of fans around the world who hate the American duo.

It is also interesting that this district court in Texas saw it fit to give them the injunction to stop the sale. Hicks and Gillette claimed the rest of Liverpool's board are in cohorts with RBS and that, for some weird reason or other, were determined to sell the club below its market valuation. Oh, wait, I forget. There is a reason. According to Hicks and Gillette, the reason why Liverpool's board is willing to sell the club for less is because RBS has given it strict instructions to make sure Hicks and Gillette see no returns for their investments.

What returns are these guys going on about? Are they living in some parallel universe where Liverpool is a successful football club? Worse yet is how they claim there are parties out there willing to pay GBP400 million for the Reds. If that's true, how come we've never heard of them? I'm pretty sure they would have voiced their frustrations to the press, much like what Peter Lim has done.

But as Hicks and Gillette continue with their la-la land valuations for the club in their head, Liverpool's real market value has steadily dropped. Anyone can tell you that a team that's not in the Champions League and sitting third from the bottom in the Premier League is certainly not worth GBP400 million. Anyone that knows football that is, which is probably why they went to get an injunction from a district court in Texas where they've only heard about Liverpool in connection with the Beatles.

There's also another rumour floating around which makes even less sense but has gotten everyone's attention. US hedge fund, Mill Financial, which owns George Gillette's shares in the club after the the latter failed to repay a loan to the fund, has bought over Tom Hicks' shares in a private deal and is now the largest shareholder in the club and effectively the new owner. How this is has happened and whether it's true remains quite a mystery.

But I am a little baffled if such a thing can be allowed. Gillette shares can be held by Mill Financial because he had pledged his shares in Liverpool as collateral for the loan he took from the fund. But could have Mill Financial made a secret deal to buyout Hicks' shares yesterday?

From a corporate governance point of view, it would seem unlikely as the shareholders, based on their agreements with RBS, need to have board approval in order to sell the club. And since selling the club involves selling their shares, then wouldn't Hicks have needed board approval to sell his shares to Mill Financial?

Then there's the Premier League's rules. If indeed Mill Financial has acquired both Hicks and Gillette's stakes in the club, it would effectively be the new owner of Liverpool FC. But don't all new owners have to take a test from the Premier League? And seeing as to how the Premier League hasn't made any announcement regarding Mill Financial, it would then suggest that the latter hasn't yet become the new owners of the club and may very well fail the test.

What's a frightening prospect for Liverpool fans are rumours that Mill Financial's got enough to repay the RBS loan this week and will then seek another buyer for the club and send it further down the spiral. Worse of all, Hicks may still be involved in the picture.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hicks and Gillette on their way out! (Well, almost)

For the first time this season, Anfield Road's home team walked away with a resounding victory over its opponents. Only difference is that the victory was the off the field rather than on it but these days, as Liverpool fans will tell you, they'll take anything they can get. And this certainly was a much more significant event than the seven matches the Reds have played in the league this year.

More importantly, after nearly three years of boardroom tussles, mounting debt and general mismanagement, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel after the British High Court granted the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and injunction against Tom Hicks and George Gillette from trying to block the sale of Liverpool to New England Sports Venture (NESV). Better yet was the judge's refusal to allow Hicks and Gillette to appeal the decision.

And so, this time around, Liverpool led by its Chelsea supporting chairman, Martin Broughton and other members of the 'home team', managing director, Christian Purslow, and commercial director, Ian Ayre, had collectively delivered the Reds what many would consider the club's best goal of the season. Even RBS seemed more of a member of the home team today rather than an overly eager and anxious debt collector.

So what's next?

In lieu of Peter Lim's 11th hour bid yesterday, Broughton and the rest of the board will meet later today to deliberate on the sale of the club and consult their lawyers to see if Lim's bid can be entertained at all. Chances are high Lim's proposal will be rejected as the club now has a binding agreement with NESV after it accepted the latter's bid last week. And just as well. The last thing Broughton needs to do is sell the club to a Man U fan.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is Peter Lim a Red Devil or a Red Herring? (And you were afraid of the Americans!)

If Liverpool fans have been a little bit skeptical on the prospect of having another American owner, they want to warm up the idea real soon. Like a scene out of some Hollywood film, another bidder has emerged at the 11th hour to wrest control of the club away from Tom Hicks, George Gillette and the looming threat of administration.

Only thing is, this 11th hour bidder is no knight in white shinning armor. On the contrary, this supposed saviour is more likely to be found wearing a red shirt with the emblem of a devil holding a trident. Yes, Singaporean businessman, Peter Lim, is a Man Utd supporter!

So what on earth is a Utd supporter doing trying to buy Liverpool? Isn't that like a sure recipe for a quick and painful death? Think about it. He'll be hated at Liverpool for being a Man Utd supporter but shunned at Old Trafford for having the cheek to buy over its biggest rivals. If Liverpool fans had some doubts about John W Henry and New England Sports Ventures (NESV), they might start rooting for the Boston Red Sox owners now.

But what are the implications of Lim's last-minute bid?

For starters, his bid is GBP20 million higher than NESV. Secondly, he threw in his new offer around the same time the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Hicks and Gillette are battling in the High Court over whether the American duo can stop the sale of the club to NESV. In contention, particularly, is an alleged letter of undertaking from Hicks while refinancing the club's debt with RBS that gives the bank the right to appoint members of the board to sell the club.

Hicks and Gillette on the other hand attempted to block the sale to NESV by having both Liverpool managing director, Christian Purslow and commercial director, Ian Ayre, removed from the board and replaced with Hicks Jr and another party aligned with the Americans. But under the alleged letter of undertaking from Hicks during the club's refinancing, the American duo have no power over the composition or members of Liverpool's board.

Even if the High Court is not able to come up with a judgment this week, the club will surely fall into the hands of RBS by the end of the week when the club's debt to the bank is up. Should that happen, reports indicate RBS would very likely proceed with the sale of the club to NESV instead of putting Liverpool under administration and facing a possible nine-point deduction.

So it would seem that all is lost for Hicks and Gillette. Until the last minute entrance of Man Utd fan Peter Lim. So far, the Liverpool board have shown no interest or made no comments about considering or accepting Lim's offer.

That, however, could prove to be a salient point in Hicks and Gillette's argument on the competency of Purslow, Ayre and chairman, Martin Broughton. After all, the Americans could argue that only an incompetent board would choose to ignore a counter-bid for the club, especially when the new bid is higher than NESV's.

Should Hicks and Gillette convince the courts that Broughton, Purslow and Ayre haven't been acting in the club's best interest, there might be a way back for the American duo into the picture and the removal of the other three directors from the Liverpool board would be a surety.

Unless Broughton, Purslow and Ayre can prove that Lim is in actuality a red herring meant to block the sale of the club to NESV, which in my opinion, seems more likely. After all, if Lim is and has been serious about buying the club, why has he waited until the 11th hour to make his bid? Liverpool announced it had accepted NESV's bid mid last week while the Premier League approved of the takeover by Friday. Why didn't Lim announce his presence then?

Was it because he didn't have the extra cash in hand and had to raise it by some other means? And what about his allegiance to Man Utd. Here's a man who owns several Man Utd-themed restaurants and bars in the region. Why would he want to come to Liverpool's rescue?

Funnier yet is his announcement that he'll allocated GBP40 million for Roy Hodgson in January. GBP40 million can't buy you more than two world class footballers these days and Liverpool's in need of a lot more than just two. It's almost laughable to think that Lim intends to return Liverpool to their glory days with just GBP40 million.

This isn't the first time Hicks and Gillette have put red herrings on the bidding table in effort to increase another party's offer price. Earlier in the summer, Syrian-Canadian businessman, Yahya Kirdi was suspected to be acting in concert with Hicks and Gillette to increase the value of the other bids for Liverpool.

Last and not least, it seems extremely likely that Hicks would go through such lengths to maintain control over Liverpool although his reasons for doing so is anyone's guess. Already a hated figure at Anfield and by Liverpool fans the world over, Hicks will probably go down as the most hated figure in soccer should he succeed in stalling the sale of the club.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What if football and Formula One were sports in the Commonwealth Games?

I know. You're wondering why I'm writing about Formula One and the Commonwealth Games in a blog dedicated to football and the BPL.

But what do you do when there's no football (except for boring qualifiers), qualification for the Japanese GP is postponed and every other channel on TV is broadcasting the Commonwealth Games? You come up with all sorts of ideas, most of which seem fun but extremely unlikely to ever come to fruition.

And so, in a bid to make the Commonwealth Games a little more exciting and interesting (who the hell wants to watch lawn bowling?) I would like to propose to the Commonwealth Games Federation the inclusion of football and Formula One for the next installation of the games in Glasgow in 2014.

For football, there shouldn't be any limits to the number of senior professionals that can feature in the games. This will certainly increase viewership and interest in the Commonwealth Games. And this way, the organisers of the games will be able to see some returns on the enormous investment that was allocated for the games.

Best of all, including football might even give England a chance at winning something. After all, there won't be any of those pesky European and South American nations to foil England's chances. Heck, Capello would have to go out of his way just to screw this one up.

Then there's Formula One, another sport that would give the games a solid adrenaline (and ratings) boost.

Again, advantage will go to England, seeing as to how they would be able to field two former world champions - Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - represent them.

A close second would probably be Australia thanks to Mark Webber. Third place would probably be battled out by India (Karun Chandok and Narain Karthikeyen) and Malaysia (Fairuz Fauz and the retired Alex Yoong).

Speaking of retirees, Scotland could have a chance if they can manage to convince David Coulthard to come out of retirement and race for them.

As for the cars itself, the teams will have to use brands that represent their country. As such, Hamilton and Button will be able still be able to drive McLarens but Webber may have to settle for a Holden formula car (yikes!). I don't think I have to tell you which brands will be featured in the India vs Malaysia fight for third place (I'm not going to mention the Malaysian brand as it seems very touchy about the usage of its name these days).

But this rule could also give Canada a chance. The Canadian government is currently one of the shareholders at General Motors. Thus, they could utilise GM's capabilities to put out a decent car. As for race tracks, why not make things interesting by having street races instead of investing millions on a track?

Of course, none of this will ever occur. The BPL will put up a strong fight to prevent their season being interrupted by another distraction like the Commonwealth games while the cost of setting up Formula One teams for the games will eclipse the entire budget for the rest of the participating athletes.

Still, it's always fun to dream.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Boardroom slugfest at Anfield?

As Liverpool fans (at least some) begin rejoicing over the prospect of new ownership, the club's current shareholders are apparently ready to throw a spanner into the works and block the deal.

While on one hand, it would appear that Liverpool's current owners should have a say on who they sell to, the nature of their debt with RBS is such that the board, which was given the task of finding new owners by the bank, has equal amount or more power to push through a deal.

While I won't dwell too deeply on the law in Britain, I do have one question: What is it going to take for those two dipshits to realise they'll never get GBP600 million for Liverpool? For that matter GBP400 million seems way too much for a club languishing in the relegation zone!

Don't they realise that the longer they prolong this process, the lower the value of the club will be? I mean Roy Hodgson has so far demonstrated an ability to do nothing to stop the downward spiral at Anfield and it appears as though learning from one's mistakes is not one of his qualities.

To top it all off, refusing to sell the club now will tarnish the duo's image to greater lengths. As if they aren't hated enough, blocking this deal could have the potential of making Tom Hicks and George Gillette even more hated than Osama Bin Laden!

As for Hodgson, I hope he doesn't spend too much time worrying about this when he's got much bigger concerns on his table at the moment. Once you've got the Kop chanting another manager's name, you know you've got your work cut out for you.

Liverpool sold to owners of the Red Sox!

It appears as though one of the longest and drawn out M&A sagas of the Premier League is about to end. Various reports, citing Reds chairman, Martin Broughton, say Liverpool FC has finally been sold to New England Sport Venture (NESV), owners of baseball giants, the Boston Red Sox.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. Broughton added that the club may enter legal proceedings against its current owners who unsurprisingly were against the sale and tried to block the deal - by sacking managing director, Christian Purslow and commercial director, Ian Ayre, at the 11th hour.

And why were they against the sale? Well, according to these reports, NESV has offered GBP300 million which is well below the GBP600 million Tom Hicks and George Gillette were holding out for.

Soccernet also reports that Roy Hodgson, who has successfully led the club to its worst start in almost 50 years, will still have a job when NESV officially take over, which is anyone's guess if legal proceedings are initiated against the current owners.

But will this have any effect at all on Liverpool's on-field problems? And will the Kop accept another set of American owners? Stay tuned for more updates.

You can read about the takeover here and here