Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mike Ashley did what?

Just when you thought Mike Ashley was finally done screwing Newcastle United, he does this. For those in the dark, Ashley has sold the naming rights to St James Park to Sports Direct Arena. As such, from now on, Newcastle United's home grown will be called Sports Direct Arena - a name that will inspire or intimidate no one.

In short, Ashley has thrown Newcastle's tradition and history under the bus by selling the rights to one of the most famous grounds in English football.

Sure, Ashley isn't the first. Clubs like Arsenal and Man City have done it too but would Ashley re-channel proceeds raised from the sale into the club? His past actions seem to suggest otherwise.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Will the silly season end already?

With only a few days remaining in the transfer window, activity in the market is expected to intensify until the final hour on Aug 31. And as always, we can expect some major last ditch (or panic) signings on deadline day that will eclipsed anything that happens on the pitch this weekend in the Premier League.

Thankfully, one of the longest transfer sagas of our time (Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona)is behind us but there are still several purported rumors that have plagued the transfer market all summer that are expected to go into fifth gear in thr coming days. These rumours are:

1. Samir Nasri to Man City

Like many talented French footballers of the last decade, Samir Nasri has been labeled the next Zidane by many commentators in his home country. And while Nasri's no Zidane, very few can deny the fact that the Frenchman has been one of the most talented and intelligent footballers in the Premier League. As such, it was no surprise that Man City was going to come knocking on Arsene Wenger's door sooner or later for the French national. After a series of denials by the Gunners, and some jeering from the home crowd, it appears as though Roberto Mancini will finally have his man. And Arsenal would have lost two of their most important players in a span of two weeks.

2. Wesley Sneijder to Man Utd

When Cristiano Ronaldo left Man Utd two seasons ago, he left a huge gaping void behind. Znevermind the fact that his old club still managed to win the Premier Leafue for a record 19th time the season right after his departure. United somehow managed without him in the league but against Barcelona in the Champions League final in May, the absence of a game-changing footballer in the team was sorely missed. Add to that the retirement of club legend Paul Scholes and it would appear as though there is a serious dearth of options in the creative department at Old Trafford. And so, enter Wesley Sneijder. The Dutch midfielder has been in sensational form for both country and Inter Milan over the last few seasons that it's no surprise that Sir Alex sees him as the final jigsaw piece to his squad. Furthermore, the Scotsman has been lucky with the Dutch in the past ( Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Edwin Van Der Sar). so far, Sneijder's salary requirements have been a stumbling block but with reports indicating the midfielder is willing to accept a pay cut, a deal could be imminent. As long as Sir Alex admits he's interested. Until then, we are in for some big Sneijder- Man U rumors in the days ahead.

3. Luka Modric to Tottenham

Here's another one that just won't go away. Like Nasri, Modric had a great season in 2010/11. As expected, the Croatian midfielder has come under the radar of several clubs including Roman Abramovich' Chelsea which is undergoing yet another rebuilding project under new management. With Harry Redknapp slowly warming up to the idea of losing his best player (he's set his sights on using the cash to buy Emanuel Adebayor), it appear as though a deal may be in the offing. But despite Redknapp's indirect overtures to Stamford Bridge, there's no word yet if the Blues will move for Modric. Adding to that is the fact that Chelsea see, closer to signing Juan Mata from Valencia instead. But I have a bigger question. If Modric does go to Chelsea, what will happen to Frank Lampard?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's about time!

At long last, FIFA has come to its senses and may introduce goal-line technology.

It is perhaps a bit of an understatement to say that the football's international governing body has been slow to embrace technology.

Football, after all, is still one of the few major sports that hasn't adopted video replay technology to assist referees.

As such, despite the immense wealth in football and the fact that no other sport is televised as much, embarrassing errors occur every weekend much to the chagrin of millions of football fans.
And while it still seems as though FIFA is still light years away from sanctioning the use of video replays in football matches, the governing body has at least signaled that its ready to introduce goal line technology.

But don't get too excited yet. Here's what Sepp Blatter had to say about it:

"In March next year, we will have a final decision on goal-line technology. If it's proved to be accurate and affordable, it's possible that the international board will adopt this technology during the 2014 World Cup," he said, ABC News reported.

March next year? What exactly needs to be discussed from now until March for something as clear cut as goal line technology?

If there's an agreement in March, reports say goal-line technology can be implemented by FAs from the 2012/13 season onwards.A key factor in making this happen, according to Blatter, is accuracy and affordability.

Still, this is positive news for football fans. For years Blatter was an integral member of the anti-technology/ anti-common sense caucus in FIFA. But Frank Lampard's disallowed goal against Germany in World Cup 2010 changed his mind on the subject. The question of why no decision to implement goal-line technology since then is yet another mystery.
But one does wonder if the announcement of goal-line technology has come about at the right time to shed some positive light on FIFA following its recent corruption scandal.

In the meantime, here some famous incidents which could have used goal-line technology.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A midfield connundrum

Liverpool FC today denied that captain Steven Gerrard's rehabilitation may take longer than expected and keep the England midfielder out of Kenny Dalglish' squad for the beginning of the 2011/12 season.

The Reds captain has been sidelined with a groin injury since mid-March and underwent surgery towards the end of the season. Considering how this isn't the first time Gerrard's been hit with a groin injury, the medics at Anfield have kept the midfielder out of Liverpool's pre-season tour of Asia or it's recent 3-0 defeat in a friendly with Hull City.

Defeat to the Tigers in a pre-season friendly with an experimental side shouldn't concern Dalglish as much as the scoreline would suggest. Nonetheless, the friendly would have certainly highlighted the various challenges awaiting the Liverpool manager when the season kicks off in less than three weeks.

The obvious problem at the moment is the sudden abundance in midfielders at the club. Including new signings Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, there are at - at last count - 14 midfielders in the squad. And this doesn't include prospects from the youth squad.

Most pundits and 'tacticians' in the press have assumed Dalglish will employ a rotational policy to accommodate the various talent available in the squad. Well, no points for stating the obvious. The big question is who he intends to field each game and, more importantly, who he intends to drop.

A fit again Steven Gerrard would be a welcome boost to a squad that now possesses plenty of attacking options. But at the same time, the inclusion of Gerrard would amount to the omission of someone with the capabilities of Raul Mereles, Henderson or Adam as all four players operate best from the middle of the park.

Then again, both Adam and Mereles have been deployed on the wings during Liverpool's pre-season matches although it would seem highly unlikely either one of them will be used on the left following the arrival of Stewart Downing.  It would appear then there might be some room for change on the right side of midfield.

Dutch striker, Dirk Kuyt has spent over three seasons operating as a right-winger and while he certainly isn't a natural wingman, his work rate and penchant for goals almost makes him indispensable to the squad.

And speaking of indispensable players, let's not forget Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder, Lucas, who's transformation last season from a much-maligned player into one of the club's most reliable midfielders. More importantly, Lucas' defensive contributions have made him an integral player in Kenny's squad.

So, to reiterate my earlier query, who will Kenny be willing to sacrifice? Despite Lucas' popularity, the Brazilian may be dropped in games in which the Reds need more firepower than muscle in the field. Dirk Kuyt may also be another casualty as the Dutch striker may find himself being used more often from the subs bench than on the right-side of midfield.

But would Kenny risk dropping Gerrard? Dalglish often says no player is bigger than the club but Kenny also realizes that he can't afford to relegate Gerrard to the bench after all his years of service to the club. The last time Gerrard was unhappy at Anfield, he nearly signed for Chelsea and despite being much older now, many top level clubs wouldn't think twice of snapping the England international up if he were open to a transfer out of Liverpool.

Still, based on the Reds' performance against Hull, it is abundantly clear that it will take some time before the new midfielders in the Liverpool squad gel together. And Kenny may end up needing Gerrard more than ever.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is Van Persie losing it?

It was always going to happen sooner or later.

After the season Arsenal's had, someone was going to crack. And it looks as if Robin Van Persie's the first casualty.

The Gunners' striker launched a tirade today against what he believes to be unsporting behaviour by Spain and Chelsea players. Van Persie has slammed these players for supposedly putting referees under pressure to produce a yellow card against an opponent player.

"They [Spain players] always go up to referees in an attempt to get an opponent booked. They are trying to screw colleagues! That kind of behaviour really annoys me.

"People who are watching the game on television and fans really do not want to see these kind of things. If you want to witness a lot of complaints, you should just go the bakery or something. There's always people nagging there as well.

"Chelsea players are always bitching against the referees. I really cannot understand that. Just shut the f*** up and focus on playing football," Van Persie said, Soccernet reports.

Hmm. I'm inclined to agree with Van Persie here.

It is annoying when footballers surround referees to get them to book or send off an opponent.  But it's also annoying when footballers, out of frustration or just a lack of maturity, choose to fight with their opponents when thing don't go their way. Sound familiar Van Persie?

And while we're at it, if you're looking to "witness a lot of complaints," the bakery is hardly the place to go.

No, if you want to meet a serial complainer, the place to be would be an Arsenal post-match press conference with Arsene Wenger. Now, that's where you get some Grade A bitching, Van Persie.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Another one bites the dust?

What is it with tabloids and their obsession with celebrities and infidelity? Are celebrities supposed to lead more pious lives than the so-called journalists who cover them? Or is it an acceptable practice to lay judgement on these celebrities just because they're rich and famous?

The latest footballer to fall victim to the media's uncontrollable appetite for sleaze is, according to reports, none other than Man Utd's most decorated footballer, Ryan Giggs. And the fact that Giggs has often been portrayed as a mature family man and a leader on the pitch has only made the story juicier for the tabloids.

Then again, the court injunction obtained by Giggs to prevent publication of his name in this alleged scandal, probably didn't win him any new friends in the media. But as all these reports indicate, Giggs isn't the first person to use a court injunction to install a 'gag' order on the media.

But if the media is willing to print trashy stories, it is only because there are millions out there ever willing to consume them. And nothing demonstrated this any better when the Giggs matter was brought up in the British parliament yesterday. No doubt, the move towards removing a law that obstructs the freedom of the press is a good thing in any country.

But when the catalyst for the movement stems from a footballer trying to prevent his alleged infidelities from being published in the open and causing irreparable harm towards his family, you start wonder what the fuss is all about and if, just if, this whole matter seems to have been blown out of proportion.

After all, it is not as Giggs' supposed injunction was covering up some heinous crime. But such logic hardly matters to self-appointed moral guardians of society.

And so now we wait to see how Giggs handles this fiasco. Unlike some of his teammates who often make it to the newspapers for all the wrong reasons, Giggs has had a career that has been unblemished by scandals. One only has to look at John Terry's career ever since his personal affairs became public to see the toll scandals like these have on professional footballers (Wayne Rooney included).

More importantly, the big question now is whether this scandal will have any effect on Giggs during this weekend's Champions League final against Barcelona in Wembley.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Barca vs Man U Part II

And so, as expected, Barcelona and Man Utd will face each other in Wembley at the Champions League final on May 28, in a repeat of the same fixture in 2009. Will this be redemption time for Sir Alex Ferguson's men or will Pep Guardiola's side march on to s third Champions League trophy in five years?

Interestingly enough, both sides will go in to this final with quite a number of things in common. For one, victory would translate to a fourth Champions League for either side while this is also the third final both sides have been in over the last five years(although only Barcelona have won two of those three finals.

And while having the final in Wembley literally makes Utd the 'home' side in this fixture, both clubs share a common bond with England's most famous football ground. Wembley, after all, was the venue of Man Utd's first ever Champions League (or European Cup as it was known then) in 1968. Fast forward 24 years and Wembley was once again the venue for the coronation of a new European champion and this time it was - you guessed it - FC Barcelona.Ironically, Guardiola was a member of that famous Barcelona team which was at the time coached by Dutch legend, Johan Cruyff.

On another footnote, the final on May 28 will be sixth time Wembley has hosted The final of Europe's most prestigious footballing tournament and no club has won the Champions League/European Cup at these grounds more than once. This in turn means that whoever wins on May 28 will be the only one to have won at Wembley twice.

So who really holds the advantage going into the final? Barcelona's free-scoring form all season has made the Catalans the most feared side in Europe. Add to that an in-form Lionel Messi with a supporting cast made up of David Villa, Xavier Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta, Barcelona are clearly the favourites going into the final even if their semifinal victory against Real Madrid was marred by allegations of diving and play-acting. Indeed, the referring in this month's final will be closely scrutinized.

Like their opponents, Man Utd will be fielding many players that featured in the 2-0 defeat at the 2009 Champions League final in Rome. However, this time around there won't be a Cristiano Ronaldo at Man Utd to match up against Barca's Messi (although I'm guessing Ronnie will be rooting for his old club).

As such, unlike the previous encounter, i'd expect Ferguson's side to employ a more defensive stance going in to this final and capitalize on quick countr attacks. There's no way United's going to win this contest by playing free-flowing football.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Is the title race open?

It's strange how quickly fortunes can change. Several weeks ago, Carlo Ancelotti resembled a man with a very bleak future at a club that was on an alarming decline. But thanks to a five-game winning streak, Chelsea now find themselves second in the table and three points behind Man Utd.

All of a sudden, there is a genuine chance Ancelotti may lead the Blues to a second successive league title. And wouldn't that be some acomplishment considering the season they've had?

But make no mistake about it. The Chelsea that had to rely on two contentious goals to al a 2-1 victory over Tottenham last night did not bear any resemblance to the team that won the league last year. The Blues are still unconvincing up despite having the most expensive strike force in the Premier League. Ancelotti has struggled to find the right approach to field both Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba since the former's arrival to Stamford Bridge in January and it appears as that partnership will not produce results Roman Abramovich desires for the remainder of this season.

Still, Chelsea's resurgence may be academic at this point if Man Utd win their remaining four games, starting with their clash tonight with an Arsenal team that has fallen on some really hard times since their Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham in March.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Madrid starts calling the kettle black!

In line with Jose Mourinho's post-match complaints following Real Madrid's 2-0 defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League yesterday, the Spanish giants have now posted pictures and video footage on its official website that indicate Dani Alves' dived to get Pepe sent off.

The pictures and video footage were posted on the club's website along with a lengthy diatribe over what it claims were play-acting antics by Pep Guardiola's men. The video footage even shows clips of other Barca players 'feigning' injury during the match. Yep, pretty provocative stuff.

I think there's no real contention that Pepe's sending off was a bit of a harsh decision. On the contrary, I think everyone's in agreement that it was at the most a yellow card offense. But make no mistake. It was an offense and Madrid's own photos clearly indicate that Pepe's offending foot was heading no where near the ball but aimed directly towards Alves' shin.

I can't say for sure whether contact was made but the video footage seems to suggest there was contact (you can check out the video below).

Perhaps the most appalling aspect about the whole incident is Real Madrid's cry of injustice and attempt to paint Barcelona as a team of Olympic divers. It just seems kinda rich coming from a team that boasts legendary divers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Emanuel Adebayor and Kaka to name a few.
In fact, Mourinho's had a long history of coaching divers. Does Didier Drogba ring a bell? In case your memory needs some refreshing, here's one of Ronaldo's many classic dives.

Last but not least, there's Rio Ferdinand who weighed in over the affair with the following posts on Twitter.

Rio Ferdinand: "This diving is a joke/embarrassing. When Pedro watches that do you think he'll think, "What was I doing!?" Rugby players must laugh at football. If you ever see me go off on a stretcher then run back on to play, I give everyone on here the green light to him me with a two-footed tackle."

Thanks Rio. Hopefully you can impart some of that wisdom to your teammate Nani the next time he falls like a deck of cards at the softest of tackles.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jose's pissed at Barca...again!

For a man who's had his share of good fortune, it's fair to say that luck always seems to desert Jose Mourinho whenever he's up against Barcelona.

From Chelsea to Real Madrid, the Catalan giants have, time and again, foiled the self-proclaimed Special One's quest for glory. Minus that historic victory by Inter in the Champions League last season and you might call Barcelona the Special One's kryptonite.  

And when you consider Mourinho's history with the club, it does seem strange that he keeps finding defeat at the hands of the club that made him the coach he is today. In someways, Mourinho shares a strange similarity with Cesc Fabregas, another Barcelona old boy, who just can't seem to get the better of his former employers.

But unlike the Arsenal midfielder, who speaks fondly of his time at the Nou Camps, there seems to be little love lost between Mourinho and the club where he served as assistant manager to both the late Sir Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the press keep reducing his role at the club over those years to that of a mere translator. (Oddly enough, Mourinho, who once cheekily asked a Spanish reporter, "How do you say 'cheat' in Catalan?" after a Chelsea defeat to Barcelona, is reported to be fluent in Catalan.)

As such, Real Madrid's tie against Barca in the semis of the Champions League was always promising to be vicious affair. Even before the match, Mourinho lay the first challenge by labeling Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola as belonging to a new breed of coaches who complain against referees for making the right decision. That comment, unsurprisingly, drew much ire from Nou Camp boss who got all potty-mouthed at Mourinho at the pre-match press conference (WATCH BELOW).

Suffice to say, all the pre-match psychological baiting did little to alter the outcome of the first leg at the Bernabeu. Guardiola's men won the tie 2-0 but the match will be remembered for many other things than yet another superb showing from Lionel Messi. Real Madrid midfielder, Pepe's sending off in the second half for a lunge at Dani Alves was the turning point for a match that had remained 0-0 until then. Mourinho's protests also earned himself a red card and was forced to watch the remainder of the match from the stands as Barcelona took full advantage of the extra man in their side.

Following the match, Mourinho claimed the tie to be over with Barcelona guaranteed a place in the final although one finds it hard to believe Madrid won't put up a fight in the return leg at Barcelona. Until then though, Mourinho won't be finding his favorability rankings increasing among the Nou Camp faithful following his latest tirade against former employers. This time, the Pissed-Off One claims referee decisions always seem to go Barcelona's way and hinted at a conspiracy behind the Catalan club's success. Is he getting desperate?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

So what's wrong with second place?

Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, has responded strongly to critics of his side by claiming there's nothing wrong with being in second place. The Frenchman also defended his youth policy and strategies and took a few subtle hits against clubs like Chelsea and Man City who have spent big but are behind the Gunners in the league.

Here's what Wenger said as reported by Soccernet.

"We have done well for our age as we are second in the league. Is that a disaster for you? There are teams who invest 10 times more than us, one player cost more than the whole team and they are behind us. I don't understand the way people think. We should not go overboard. We are second in the league so it's not a scandal. Where is the common sense?

"Some of the clubs behind us have done nothing for 20 years, yet suddenly they get a lot of praise. I don't understand. We have eight games to go and are in a position to fight for the championship, so let's give the maximum. If we are disappointed at the end then okay. Why do you say it's a disaster when we are second in the league? Do the 18 clubs behind us have a fantastic disaster?

"If I cannot defend the fact that we are second in the league and fighting for the championship then I should stay at home, but I am in a fighting job.''

Well said indeed and the Prof certainly has a point. Being second in the toughest league in Europe without spending heavily is indeed an achievement.

But it seems strange and a bit sad that Wenger's settling for second place. There was a time when Arsene Wenger's Arsenal were an untouchable force. Remember the 2003/04 season when they won the title without losing a single game the entire season?

Wenger has every right to put on a positive spin on yet another disappointing season and it may at least inject some confidence into his team, which delivered yet another sub-par performance last weekend. But even second place at this point is not guaranteed and if it weren't for Chelsea's own variation of the art of self-implosion, Wenger could have ended up extolling the virtues of being in third place instead.

If the Arsenal side that won the 03/04 Premiership were called "The Invincibles," an apt label for his current squad would be "The Team That Almost Could." Yes, "almost" because every season this squad makes a promising run for the league title (and the various cup competitions) only to end the campaign empty handed.

But, as Wenger would probably say, "almost" is better than nothing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

LeBron James is now a shareholder at Liverpool!

James has often been compared to NBA legend, Michael Jordan
Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), has inked a deal with LeBron James which will see the basketball star become a shareholder at Anfield. News of the deal was reported earlier today and has been making headlines for the obvious reasons.

The emergence of James, a two-time MVP and arguably one of the biggest names in basketball, as a shareholder in Liverpool certainly offers the Reds a new avenue for commercial revenue. While details of the deal are still sketchy at this point (James' equity in the club hasn't been disclosed nor has it been announced if the basketballer will be given a place on the board), it's clear that FSG believes its grasped onto a great opportunity to bring the Liverpool name to markets where basketball, and in turn James, is popular. One can already envision the commercial possibilities in selling Liverpool jerseys with James' name on the back of it.

At the same time, this deal also offers FSG a new revenue stream. By securing marketing and sponsorship opportunities for James, FSG may be able to raise funds that could be injected back into Liverpool during the summer transfer window. At a time when the club is in dire need of more talented and skilled footballers, today's developments should come as a positive sign that the Anfield side under John Henry and FSG may indeed be headed towards the top of English football once again.

It's also clear that James sees potential in Liverpool. If he hadn't, the Miami Heat star would have opted for a straight cash deal instead of equity, which may very well devalue if the Reds remain a Europa League side in seasons to come. Ironically enough, Liverpool's woes would be over if they could find a footballer who scores as often as James does.

What?! Freakin' what Chelsea?!

If Frank Lampard ever considers leaving football for another profession, he might want to consider fortune telling.

Yesterday, the Blues midfielder issued a warning over the effects the negative publicity surrounding Wayne Rooney's vulgar rant over the weekend would have on his England teammate's performance on the pitch for Man Utd's Champions League clash against Chelsea.

"Wayne is always a very competitive player and there is never a good time to be playing against him. But there's a chance that the ban might spur him on even more. When you get negative headlines like he's had it can make you more of a threat," Lampard said, ESPN reported.

And how right he was.

Rooney's goal made the difference in the first-leg of the all English quarterfinal which resulted 1-0 in favour of the Devils and gives Sir Alex Ferguson an away goal advantage for the second leg in Old Trafford next week.

There's no doubt that Rooney's return to form has arrived at the best possible time for Fergie's side who have been looking a little tired and out of pace prior to the 4-2 victory against West Ham last weekend.

Nonetheless, the England striker looks set to be banned for two matches for his four-letter rant which may see him miss Utd's FA Cup semifinal clash against rivals Man City next week. Unfortunately for Chelsea, the FA's powers don't extend to the Champions League.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Henry: Rafa to blame for Reds' lack of depth

Rafa Benitez has been in the news lately talking about making a return to the Premier League and dropped several hints that he would be open to move back to Anfield if the opportunity arose. Well, he might have to wait until another shareholder takeover at Liverpool before he gets called in for an interview.

Liverpool owner John Henry recently lamented Liverpool's severe lack of depth in the squad and blamed the previous regime in charge for the club's imbalanced squad.

"The worst surprise was the lack of depth. Our biggest concern was this issue - and it was a bigger issue than we feared. There was a huge, multi-year payroll for a squad with very little quality in depth," he said in an interview with Four Four Two.

Henry's comments aren't surprising and perhaps timely following another tame performance by Kenny Dalglish' men against West Brom, who are managed by the man Henry sacked a few months back, Roy Hodgson.

Liverpool's midfield pairing of Jay Spearing and Lucas Leiva produced next to nothing in terms of supply for Luiz Suarez or Andy Carroll while the lack of actual wingers was extremely evident with neither Dirk Kuyt or Raul Meriles providing genuine attacking options down the flanks.

Perhaps more alarming for Henry and Dalglish was the frequency in which the Reds kept deploying long balls towards Carroll who was often left to his own devices up front, which is somewhat reminiscent to the days when Peter Crouch plied his trade in a Liverpool shirt. In fact, Carroll's dejected demeanor, which was on display for much of the match, was similar to the one Fernando Torres wore for the first half of the season prior to his move to Chelsea.

The fact is, Henry, Damien Comolli and the rest of the Anfield hierarchy need to realise that purchasing strikers alone won't be enough to make Liverpool a championship winning team.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who was Rooney swearing at?

Good old Wayne. After what can only be described as a mediocre season by his standards, the Wayne Rooney of old returned last Saturday when he scored a hattrick to help United stage a stunning comback and followed it up by yelling some expletives at Sky TV's camera crew.

Yep. Not many - except for Joey Barton - can go from hero to zero in such short span of time. I say zero not so much because of Rooney's enhanced vocabulary (everyone knows the effenheimer is commonly used by all footballers) but the fact that his actions have landed him a two match suspension is something Man Utd can ill afford at the moment.

Now, in case you're like me and missed out on what Rooney told the camera, it went something like this: "what, fucking what?!" Yes, it doesn't seem to make much sense at all. Even more puzzling is the intended recipient of his mini-rant. Was it the viewers at home? Was it the press? Was it Sky TV? Did the cameraman make an insulting gesture at Rooney? Or does Rooney hate Rupert Murdoch?

Ok, the last question is a bit of an exaggeration but it seems likely that Rooney's message was aimed at his detractors who've constantly taken swipes at him this season for a multitude of reasons. But the ones who probably feel insulted the most at the England striker's actions would be Sir Alex and Man Utd itself who've sorely missed Rooney's goals all season. Just when it seemed as though Rooney had found his form at the right moment, he does something like this and has to sit out the next two games.

Watch Tore Andre Flo take a crack at ballroom dancing!

Remember Tore Andre Flo?

Turns out the lanky Norwegian striker decided to pursue a career in dancing after retiring from football. The video below is a bit dated - it's from 2008 - but shows the former Chelsea striker doing a form of ballet that is supposed to represent an artistic rendition of his goal against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup. Enjoy! (Special thanks to the guys at ESPN Soccernet for highlighting this video)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Balotelli would behave if he meets Ronaldo!

It appears as though Mario Balotelli's determined to dominate the headlines this month. In light of the barrage of criticism that has been leveled at the Man City forward in the past week, the Italian now claims that he would change his ways if he ever gets the chance to meet Ronaldo.

No, not Cristiano. It's the other Ronaldo. You know, the overweight Brazilian one. And why would this encounter compel Balotelli to mature mentally?

"Introduce me to Ronaldo and I swear I'll behave to the end of my playing career. I never met him, so you know when you see the idol of a lifetime it can change your way of thinking?

"There are many great players, but Ronaldo was the greatest and so one word from him is worth a thousand from the others," he said, Le Iene reports.

I think someone should alert Balotelli soon - lest he blows his top again - that meeting Ronaldo isn't going to substitute anger management therapy.

Still, it could be worth a shot. Ronaldo didn't exactly have a problem with anger during his playing career. No, most of his problems had to do with women and - during the later part of his career - fast food. And hair styles.

But one could envisage Mancini preferring these lesser qualities over Balotelli's present disciplinary issues. After all, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Balotelli developed an addiction to cheeseburgers. Now, if only Ronaldo can show Balotelli the correct way to put on a bib.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

At least Dzeko finds it funny

It turns out we weren't the only ones who found Mario Balotelli's "bib malfunction" hilarious. Teammate and fellow striker, Edin Dzeko, tried his hand (no pun intended) at donning a bib Balotelli-style. I wonder if City fans find this just as hilarious.

The problem with Balotelli

Mario Balotelli, as talented as he may be, has got anger management issues. A dangerously high kick against Dynamo Kiev's Goran Popov last week earned him a needless red card and contributed to City's exit in the Europa League.

It also earned him the wrath of his manager, Roberto Mancini, who bluntly labeled the striker's reckless challenge as "stupid." Some reports even go so far as saying Mancini threw a suitcase at his compatriot after the game in the City dressing room. Then there are rumours that the club has fined him GBP300,000 for his foolish actions on the pitch last week.

Seems a little drastic for a red card doesn't it? Well, check out the video below. It may explain why the club and Mancini are starting to lose their patience over their star striker.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is this the greatest blunder of all time?

We've all seen goalkeepers making ridiculous mistakes but this one may just be the greatest of all time. Check out how Zulte-Waregam's 'keeper, Sammy Bossut, fumbles this routine save. Some claim that there's an opposition player that steps on his foot as he's about to throw the ball. But seriously, no amount of obstruction could have led to that fumble.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fergie bans media from reporting crap he says!

The ongoing war between Sir Alex Ferguson and the media has taken another twist with the Man Utd manager once again banning all interviews and press conferences with the media.

The reason?

For reporting the Scotsman's post-match tirade against referee Martin Atkinson after United's defeat at Chelsea this week.Those damn journalists.

But it gets even better. It turns that the comments that landed Ferguson in hot water were made to none other than MUTV, which is the club's in-house TV Station! Maybe Fergie should have just banned MUTV.
After all, the editors at MUTV must know that airing such remarks would undoubtedly get their beloved manager in trouble. Talk about a major fubar.

All the same, one wonders why it hasn't occurred to Sir Alex to exercise some caution while talking to journalists. Surely someone who has been in the business as long as he has knows how to deal with the media without saying the wrong thing.

Nonetheless, this isn't the first time Sir Alex has gone to war with the media. Earlier this season, Fergie blamed the media for Rooney's slump and he's had an ongoing feud with the BBC for years. If you haven't realised yet, it's never Fergie's fault.

Of course if United beat Liverpool this Sunday I suppose we can expect Fergie to lift his self-imposed gag order with the media. I can't imagine him letting such an opportunity pass.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dalglish: Carroll may be going for Boyzone on Sunday!

There's no question that Kenny Dalglish' return to the managerial post at Liverpool has been great for both the club and the fans. It's also been great for the press at Anfield after years of deciphering Rafa Benitez' sarcasm.

At his pre-match press conference today, Dalglish refused to give a definitive answer as to whether the club's record signing, Andy Carroll, will play a part in this Sunday's clash with Man Utd.

When pressed further, he said: "Whether he's involved on Sunday or not - I'm sure Fergie would love to know but we don't know. He might not even be a substitute - he might be going to see Boyzone!"


A few checks on the Internet have shed some light on the Boyzone comment (If you're a Liverpool fan and hate Boyzone, read no further). As it turns out, both Dalglish and Carroll were spotted at a Boyzone reunion concert on Feb 22.

As expected, there have been extensive reports by the English tabloids on their mutual admiration for the Irish pop group (I refuse to call them a band. A band comprises musicians). You can read one here.

Well at least that explains Dalglish' Boyzone reference. It doesn't, however, explain how both Dalglish and Carroll, who are 37 years apart, share a similar taste in music (It also doesn't explain how both men, despite the age difference, seem to have such bad taste in music). Even more puzzling is the fact that Boyzone actually has male fans!

Anyway, to Man Utd fans reading this, Boyzone doesn't have a show in Liverpool this weekend.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is the title race wide open now?

If Carlo Ancelotti survives this season, he may refer to last night's victory over Man Utd as the turning point in what has been a tumultuous campaign for the Blues.

With rumours intensifying of a replacement being lined-up to take over from the Italian in the summer, Chelsea's 2-1 win over the Devils may have given Ancelotti some much needed breathing space.

For once, his cosmopolitan side displayed some rare English character to comeback from behind and hand Sir Alex Ferguson his second defeat of the season. Perhaps Ancelotti has finally figured out what needs to be done to get the millionaires in his squad to step it up a notch although it may be too late now for the Blues to get back into the title race. And he still needs to figure a way of getting some goals from Fernando Torres before the season's over.

Still, Chelsea's victory last night has handed their London rivals, Arsenal, a major boost in their quest for the Premier League. The Gunners are now four points behind Man Utd with a game in hand (against Tottenham, no less) and with a genuine chance of winning their first league title since the 2003/04 season.

But can Arsene Wenger's men finally end six seasons of underachievement? Based on the Carling Cup final last Sunday, that would seem like an unlikely proposition (even ludicrous, some might say).

Still, no one doubts the fact that Wenger's side is equipped with enough talent to win the Premiership this season. However, it takes a little bit more to win league titles.

As I've mentioned in an earlier piece on the Gunner's victory against Barcelona, Arsene Wenger's biggest weakness is his reluctance to alter Arsenal's tactics according to its opponents, especially the ones that are more than willing to put 10 men behind the ball.

On several occasions this season, Arsenal have been left frustrated without the maximum points against sides that employ such tactics and its almost certain the Gunners will face more sides like this before May. And if the Carling Cup final was any indication, Arsenal may have to wait a little longer before it lifts the Barclays Premiership trophy again.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Is King Kenny's midas touch waning?

Has King Kenny's golden touch expired at Liverpool? Was Sunday's 3-1 defeat to West Ham a blimp in the side's return to form under the Scotsman or is reality crashing down on Liverpool now that the euphoria surrounding Dalglish' second stint at the club is beginning to die down?

It's hard to tell at this point. On one hand, last night's display at Upton Park bared a remarkable resemblance to the side that sent Roy Hodgson packing after six months at Anfield.The defense was in shambles while there was a severe lack of creativity up front and Steven Gerrard seemed terribly out of place in the centre of the park with Lucas. At the end of the night, no one from Liverpool could have argued the scoreline. As has been the case all season, the Reds were once again outplayed by an inferior opponent.

Perhaps Dalglish got his tactics wrong this time around and probably didn't help when both Martin Kelly and Raul Mereles were taken off early in the game. Both players have been extremely instrumental in Liverpool's recent string of wins. Nonetheless, it was clear for everyone to see that the Reds lacked ideas trying to crack open West Ham's sturdy defense.

Even new signing Luis Suarez was played an insignificant role for much of the match until some brilliant individual skill by the Uruguayan forward led to a consolation goal by Glen Johnson and a brief glimmer of hope for Dalglish' side until another defensive error in stoppage time gifted Carlton Cole West Ham's third and final goal of the night.

Perhaps the Reds will fare better once Andy Carroll returns from injury. But it is clear that there is a severe lack of quality in the squad and this was more evident whenever they are up against a side that would rather sit back and hit them on the break.

This Sunday, Dalglish will face a test very similar to the one he faced when he first took over from Hodgson and the Scotsman knows all too well that the Reds cannot afford another defeat in already tumultuous campaign for the Merseysiders.

But with Man Utd seeminly unstoppable these days, Dalglish will have muster all his experience to claim a famous victory over Liverpool's bitter opponents. More importantly, he knows that defeat to the Devils could begin another downward spiral in confidence for his beloved Liverpool.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Man Utd looking to Modric?

After a quiet January transfer window, rumours have been circulating of an imminent shopping spree by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer as the Scotsman looks to reinforce his aging squad. Some reports claim GBP100 million will be made available to the Man Utd gaffer in the summer to ensure Utd has the ability to keep with the other high-spending clubs in the league, especially after Roman Abramovich splashed GBP75 million on two players in January.

And so the first candidate on Fergie's shopping list this summer is apparently none other than Tottenham's midfield maestro, Luca Modric. With Paul Scholes on the way out in the summer and no quality replacements in the current squad, the Croatian international is apparently high on the wanted-list at Old Trafford and Fergie is reported to be ready to pay GBP35 million for the midfielder.

The rumours are perhaps not too surprising considering that Modric has been instrumental to Tottenham's success the past two seasons but would Harry Redknapp part with such an integral figure for his squad?

Some reports claim Modric will be open to a move away from White Hart Lane should Tottenham fail to qualify for next season's Champions League. Other reports say Spurs have slapped a GBP50 million price tag on the player. No official word yet from the player or Man Utd but it is believed that even Barcelona and Chelsea are monitoring the situation. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is this the FA's plan to never win the World Cup again?

If you haven't heard yet, Roy Hodgson is now tipped to be the FA's choice to replace Fabio Capello once the Italian's contract runs out. It seems Hodgson has been regarded as a "safe pair of hands" by the FA in a report by the Well, if this is true, apparently the FA is determined to ensure England's 1966 World Cup victory is its only victory for a long time to come.

Not that England can't achieve that without Hodgson's help. But one wonders - again, if this is true - on how the FA can possibly consider Hodgson for the job after he imploded at Liverpool. And let's not forget, there's a big chance his current club West Brom could very well lose the relegation battle and sink into the First Division. Would they still consider Roy?

It's even worse when you consider the fact that the man favoured by the bookmakers to be the leading contender for the England job is Harry Redknapp, a man who can actually coach a top flight club. It still remains unclear as to why Redknapp wouldn't be the FA's number one choice for the job. If the FA insists on getting someone English -which is the one criteria Hodgson fits - then it should choose the best English manager out there which would be Redknapp.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will Arsenal pull off an upset at the Nou Camp?

Well Arsene Wenger certainly does. Following the Gunners sensational  2-1 victory Barcelona in the first leg tie between the two in the Champions League, the Frenchman now believes Arsenal finally has what it takes to beat the Spanish champions.

"Barcelona are still favourites," he was reported to have said. "But we know now we can beat them. We didn't know that last year. 

But at 2-1, one wonders just what sort of formation will be deployed against Barcelona in the second leg of the tie on March 8. Logically speaking, the game plan should be simple. Defend deep and hit Barca on the counter. But this is Arsene Wenger's Arsenal. It's a not team that's learned the finer arts in parking buses in front of goals. Remember that 4-4 with Newcastle two weeks ago? Had the team decided to adopt a more defensive strategy at some point during the second half of that match when they gradually began to lose their four goal cushion, they would have probably walked out of St James Park with all three points.

But this Arsenal and more importantly, this is Arsene Wenger's Arsenal and defending isn't part of the tactics practiced at the training ground. It has made Arsenal one of the most attractive footballing teams in the world and yet it has made it a club that's become a little barren in the trophy cabinet over the last few years.

So what will it be in three weeks? Will Wenger stick with his brand of attacking football or will he go negative to claim a famous victory?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gattuso turns into the ape-man!

Playing a footballer past his expiry date is never a good idea. Playing a hot-headed footballer who's temper on the pitch has gotten worse over the years is just as bad an idea. Combine the two and you get Gennaro Gattuso the ape-man who ruined what should have been a great night for Tottenham.

In case you missed it, the former World Cup winner headbutted Spurs assistant manager, Joe Jordan following AC Milan's defeat to Harry Redknapp's men in the Champions League at the San Siro last night.

Both Gattuso and Jordan had clashed earlier in the second half and they resumed their war of words at the end of the match which was disgraced by a number of hot-tempered challenges.

During his post-match conference, Gattuso claims Jordan had been "breaking his balls" throughout the match and when the two confronted each other at the of the game, they both got into a heated argument in Scottish (??) before Gattuso's head decided to connect with Jordan's forehead.

The former Italian midfielder is set to face UEFA's disciplinary board for his actions and could face a lengthy ban.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Here's what you need to do Torres

If Fernando Torres' first two games at Chelsea are anything to go by, it's going to take a long time before that GBP50 million price tag hanging over his head will be justified. But the Spaniard shouldn't despair. Instead, he should try to emulate what Wayne Rooney accomplished over the weekend.

Consider this: Much like Torres, Rooney's gone from hero to zero in the eyes of their legions of adoring fans. But Rooney, at the end of the day, stayed -albeit with a huge pay increase - at Man Utd while Torres is now a Chelsea player.

It has taken a while for the Old Trafford faithful to completely forgive their boy wonder and considering the fact that the England international's goal tally this season has been a grand total of FIVE, it's only logical if the fans at the Stretford End start to wonder if Rooney's worth all that money. Until he scores a goal like the one he did against City.

Rooney has often been critised this season of being unclinical in front of goal but against City last weekend, the former Everton striker showcased exemplary technique in dispatching Nani's deflected cross into the top right corner of Joe Hart's goal with an overhead kick.

Thanks to that goal, Rooney's betrayal earlier this season has been forgotten and England's favourite son is back in the limelight for all the right reasons. Best of all, everyone's forgotten the fact that until that goal, Man Utd's most expensive player had only netted four goals this season.

As such, the gameplan should be pretty clear for Fernando Torres. All he'll need to do is score a bicycle kick sometime between now and May and the papers will say the Spain international has justified his price tag. That's all it takes Fernando.

Of course, Rooney's got one advantage over Torres in that the former's English. Rooney's overhead kick is certainly a candidate for goal of the season but the kind of press attention it has received seems to suggest its the best goal in the world.

Perhaps its me but the English press tend to get a little excited when England players perform well. Take the Andy Carroll to Liverpool saga. At GBP35 million, Carroll is now the most expensive British player in history and was priced GBP13 million higher than his new strike partner at Liverpool, Uruguayan international, Luis Suarez.

Is Carroll really worth that much more than Suarez or was it because he's English and that English strikers with a high level of skill and technique are a rarity? For that matter, was Rooney's overhead goal against City that much better than Berbatov's overhead goal against Liverpool this season?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is Hodgson back to where he really belongs?

Barely a month after getting the sack from Liverpool, Roy Hodgson's back in the Premier League. Will this be Hodgson's chance to repair his tattered reputation after his disastrous six-month spell at Anfield? Perhaps.

In fact, ironically enough, West Bromwich Albion are languishing just above the relegation zone in the league, much like where Liverpool were under Hodgson. But the similarities end there.

At West Brom, Hodgson's main goal will be to avoid relegation. This, if you remember, wasn't among his initial targets at Liverpool although he later made it the club's biggest priority after acrimoniously leading the Reds to their worst start in over 50 years. While we'll never know if he would have succeeded in keeping Liverpool out of the relegation zone by May 2011, chances are high Hodgson will save the Baggies from the drop.

One of the key reasons for this is the fact that Hodgson has a much better record at mid-table and relegation clubs. Sure, he'll remind everyone of his time at Inter Milan (although he might skip the part about being sacked by the Nerazzuri) but it does seem as though Hodgson's not cut out as a top club manager. The mere fact that Kenny Dalglish has rejuvenated the Reds to sixth place in the Premiership with the same footballers Hodgson had only adds testament to the fact that the Englishman had gotten it all wrong at Anfield. As Daniel Agger put it: "We were s***."

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that players of top flight clubs operate very differently to those in mid-table teams. At a big club like Liverpool (no pun intended Torres), the players are generally accustomed to competing against other top flight clubs in the Premier League instead of the bottom feeders in the league. Being placed above or in the relegation zone can cause severe damage to their confidence and just about anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Only a top-rated manager is capable of placing some confidence back into the squad to get them back to their winning ways much like what Harry Redknapp did with Tottenham when he took over Juande Ramos' disastrous reign.

On the other hand, mid-table clubs and other relegation zone regulars are used to playing for their survival in the Premiership to the point where their league position has no bearing on their confidence or performance. How else can you explain Wolverhamton Wanderer's season thus far? Mick McCarthy's side are currently second from the bottom but are the only club to have beaten Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City this season.

Thus, going by this logic, one can clearly see Hodgson having a much easier time at West Brom than he did at Anfield. And in a way, this is where he belongs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

West Ham to get the London Olympic Stadium?

West Ham United seems to have won in its bid to take over the London Olympic Stadium following the 2012 Olympics, according to "leaked" documents that's been obtained by nearly every credible media organisation in the United Kingdom.

If it's true - and it most likely will be - West Ham will have beaten city rivals Tottenham for ownership of the stadium. And Spurs, according to reports, are apparently livid with the decision and may appeal the decision.

Reports say West Ham was picked over Spurs as their plan entailed keeping the stadium's athletic track and using the stadium for concerts and other sports. Tottenham on the other hand intended to tear the existing structure of the stadium and converted it into a football-only arena.

No surprise then why West Ham's bid would have been favourable to the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

Additionally, under West Ham's bid, the club would reduce the seating capacity at the London Olympic Stadium to 60,000 from 80,000. All the same, it seems highly unlikely we'll see many sold-out matches for West Ham at the new stadium.

That being said, Tottenham's bid included keeping the seating capacity at 80,000 which again seems preposterous even if Harry Redknapp's men win the Champions League. Tottenham's expected to make an announcement on the decision tomorrow so stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guardiola only extends contract by 12 months?

Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola has somewhat quelled the speculation surrounding his future at the club by penning an extension to his current contract for - get this - just 12 months!

Guardiola's reluctance to agree to a longer contract certainly raises questions if Barcelona's manager, who's been with the club in some capacity or other since 1984, will eventually look to ply his trade elsewhere (hint: England).

At Barcelona, Guardiola's won nearly everything there is to win as a manager, much like he did as a player and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a switch to the Premier League where he's been rumoured to be the favourite besides Jose Mourinho to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd.

Then again, there could be a managerial position opening up at Stamford Bridge real soon. With Carlo Ancelotti's tenure looking more and more precarious each week, Guardiola fits the kind of coach Roman Abramovich would want at the club. It's no secret that ever since Jose Mourinho's departure, the Blues have struggled to recapture the success they enjoyed under the Special One.

But at the same time, would Guardiola have been as successful as he's been without the team he's got? As one would argue, just about any coach who's got Lionel Messi, David Villa, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta at his disposal would have to try hard to lose a game. And let's forget of those four players, one of them is the best player in the world.

The big question at the end of the day is not if but when Guardiola chooses to leave the Spanish champions. Moving at the end of next season may suit well for the likes of Man Utd (Sir Alex has to resign sometime and surely won't be this season).

Another club in desperate need of a big name coach would be Inter Milan who are desperate to regain their spot as the best club in Europe.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Now Liverpool's the bigger club?

Is Fernando Torres starting to regret his move to Chelsea? In his latest interview with the Spanish press, Torres has backtracked on his earlier comments about joining a 'big club' like Chelsea by claiming Liverpool is the bigger club based on its history.

At the same time, just days after claiming he never had a personal attachment to his former club, Torres now says the Reds will always remain special to him.

So what gives? It's probably unlikely the striker completely regrets his record transfer to Stamford Bridge but it does appear that he is beginning to at least regret the manner in which he left Kenny Dalglish' side as well as the various comments he made soon after the deal was announced on Jan 31.

Perhaps the fact that his much-anticipated debut for the Blues was a dismal affair punctuated by a defeat at the hands of his former employers. Perhaps Torres is beginning to realise he could very well be headed down the same path as another high-profile Stamford Bridge flop - Andrei Shevchenko.

Then again, Torres could just be learning a lesson in public relations the hard way. Truth be told, unlike Shevchenko, Torres has a lot more potential in succeeding with Chelsea than the Ukrainian ever did.

On another note, speculation seems to be rife that the last remaining star of the 'Rafalution' period in Liverpool - Pepe Reina - may follow his compatriot's footsteps and leave Anfield in the summer for Man Utd or Arsenal.  I would think a move to the former would be highly unlikely considering the fact that Reina isn't stupid. And after witnessing the Torres' jersey bonfires outside Anfield, the Spanish 'keeper can only imagine what would await him should he ever cross the great divide to Old Trafford.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Torres' big overrated debut

So Fernando Torres' big debut for Chelsea turned out to be just another uninspired performance by the Spanish forward. Only this time, he had a hefty GBP50 million price tag hovering over every move he made during the match.

At least when he was in Liverpool, the critics would sugar coat such performances as a consequence of a lack of form or confidence or an injury or just about everything rolled into one. The fact is, the pundits who've been sympathetic to Torres' shortcomings this season seemed to have turned their backs on El Nino now that the former Reds striker is the world's fourth most expensive player. And who knows, some of them may even be a little peeved at the manner in which he left Liverpool.

Still, Torres insipid performance against his old club should have been predicted the moment Kenny Dalglish decided to field five defenders and four midfielders to squeeze the pace and room out of a Chelsea team that's lacked inventiveness all season.

In fact, ironically, Torres' failure to have an impact on the match owed much to the fact that he received very little service from his teammates which is something he's been used to over the past one and half seasons at Liverpool. If he expected some revolutionary change by switching to Chelsea, he could have done himself a favour by actually checking out Blues' dismal run in recent months in the Premier League.

Nonetheless, Torres will eventually find his footing at his new club. The Spaniard will certainly need time to get used to his new striking partners (after having deployed as a lone striker for the last three seasons) and gel with his new teammates.

Speaking of which, with Drogba rumoured to among the ones on the chopping block in the summer to pay for Torres' transfer, one wonders if there will ever be some chemistry between the two. Drogba has always been reluctant to share the spot light with anyone and his current partnership with Nicolas Anelka has been uninspiring and a disappointment.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Et tu Torres?

In the final act of William Shakespeare's Julius Ceaser, during the Roman emperor's dying moments, he is shocked to find his close friend, Marcus Brutus, among his murderers. It is during this moment of betrayal the fallen Ceasar utters the legendary phrase, "Et tu Brute?" to the treacherous Brutus.

Not many other phrases aptly describe treachery like this Latin phrase and one imagines it would have been the first thing to cross Kenny Dalglish' mind on Jan 29 when Fernando Torres handed in his transfer request hours after an offer for the Spaniard had been rejected by the Anfield hierarchy.

Even more devastating was the fact that Torres' transfer request has completely overshadowed the signing of Uruguayan star, Luiz Suarez. Liverpool fans who had been dreaming of an explosive Torres-Suarez partnership were left shaking their heads and quite possibly, searching for the right phrase to describe the situation. Et tu Torres?

One wonders if Torres' transfer request was made without knowledge that a deal to bring in Suarez from Ajax Amsterdam was imminent. After all, until Jan28, it appeared as though the transfer policy of Liverpool's new American owners was very much similar to the previous regime that ran Anfield. Torres and fellow compatriot, Pepe Reina, had made it very clear at the beginning of the season that they would search for pastures greener if the club failed to invest in new players. As such, with even Dalglish complaining of the transfer impasse, one would understand if Torres too had finally thrown in the towel due Liverpool's lack of success in the transfer market.

Then again, this is based on the hypothesis that Torres really isn't the villain in this story and that some bad timing and impatience has landed Liverpool with a host of new problems. Still, Torres has yet to publicly state his true intentions and since his transfer request, Chelsea have followed up with two new offers and the latest rumour is an offer of GBP50 million from the Blues in the form of cash or a combination of cash and Nicolas Anelka.

But Torres' act of betrayal to the club where he has pledged his allegiance to on many occasions, while shocking, isn't anything new. In fact, it follows a series of similar events this season made by footballers. First it was Wayne Rooney who appeared to he heading for a sensational switch to Man City only to change his mind at the 11th hour.

Then it was Rooney's former striker partner, Carlos Tevez, who despite the many public statements of his action towards City's fans, shocked the Eastland's club by handing in a transfer request. Like Rooney, Tevez too was coaxed into changing his mind and their betrayals have been forgotten by Man Utd and Man City fans respectively. And it doesn't hurt to score a couple of goals in the process to heal the wounds.

Still, the precedents left by Rooney and Tevez is an example of footballers holding clubs to ransom and Torres is the latest high-profile star to follow suit. The days in which clubs could play hardball with these players are long gone. Players like Rooney, Tevez and Torres have become too important for their respective clubs to lose.

Perhaps if Liverpool want to dig deeper and search for that moment in history when players became bigger than their clubs can be traced back to 2005 when Reds captain, Steven Gerrard nearly
signed for the Blues only to change his mind at the 11th hour. Any player that would have dared commit such an act 10 years ago would never have been given a second chance.

But Gerrard's betrayal has been forgotten by the Anfield faithful thanks to the results churned out by their captain week-in week-out over the last five seasons and if Torres does stay, his repertoire with the fans will be repaired once he scores a few goals.

On another note, it is somewhat surprising that Torres would choose to move to Chelsea at a time when the Blues have looked just as lost as Liverpool have. Carlo Ancelotti's men have had one of their worst runs in recent memory and the Italian's stint at Stamford Bridge is expected to end prematurely if things don't get much better soon.

To be fair to Torres, his frustrations at Anfield are understandable. After carrying much of the weight of the team for so long, he finds himself desperately seeking some rewards for it. And he probably doesn't believe Liverpool will be winning the Premier League or the Champions League again anytime soon. But then again, the future doesn't look any brighter at Stamford Bridge.

Both Torres and Liverpool are going through a major transition and if history has thought us anything, the Spaniard will be better of staying with the Reds. The club's new owners seem willing to splash the cash on quality players and the return of 'King' Kenny has brought about a positive change to the team. In fact, for the first time since signing for the club in 2007, Torres will finally have a world-class striking partner up front for the Reds. Why would he want to leave now?