Lots of gossip in the papers this morning about Arsenal making a second offer to Liverpool for Luis Suarez and how it will take to land him.
The Reds are apparently prepared to listen to offers of around £40 million and if anything like that amount of money is on the table some sources say they will encourage the player to put in a transfer request.
Arsenal meanwhile are rumoured to have offered £30 million and a second offer will take them significantly closer to Liverpool’s asking price. It remains to be see though whether Liverpool will cash in on their talented but unpredictable striker.
Suarez’s favoured destination is still reckoned by some to be Real Madrid, the club that currently own Arsenal’s other major target Gonzalo Higuain. The theory is that were Real to sign Suarez it would make Higuain the third choice striker at the club and make a move to north London more likely. There is still argy bargy over the price with Real wanting more than the £23 million that Arsenal are rumoured to have offered them.
Much of whether the Higuain to Arsenal is alive or not centres around whether Ancelotti is truly keen on keeping the player or indulging in mind games with Wenger to get the best possible deal.
Its is still speculation, but Goal are suggesting that rather than go back to their original number one transfer target Gonzalo Higuain, the Gunners are preparing a £35 million offer for Luis Suarez.
Arsenal offered £30 million last week, but we knocked by Liverpool. However £35 million might just be enough to convince the Reds that they should part with their talented but troublesome striker.
It might even by an attempt to push the deal through before Arsenal leave on their pre-season tour of Asia tomorrow.
Like a lot of Arsenal fans I am agonising over this one. Sure Suarez is a superb striker with a proven Premiership record, but are we ready to handle all the baggage that comes with the player?
Also arsenal’s main rivals for Suarez would appear to be Real Madrid. Maybe this an attempt to force Real to play their hand and ultimately keep the pressure on the club so they release Higuain to fund a Suarez deal.
Suarez has already hinted that he might be open to a move to London.
After dominating Arsenal transfer news for months things have gone a little quiet around Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic lately. At one point its seemed as if Arsenal and Juve would be battling for the player’s signature, but now it seems that Arsenal are pursuing Higuain while Juve have landed Tevez.
But there still remains the possibility that Wenger might sign two strikers this month especially considering the ongoing gossip around the club’s pursuit of Wayne Rooney.
If Arsenal are back in for Jovetic though they might find some new opposition. The Star is suggesting that Real Madrid are making a move for the player who is apparently coveted by both Arsenal and Chelsea.
New Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is keen on landing Jovetic, who is valued at around £20m.
I guess the issue for Ancelotti is whether he can land his supposed number one target Liverpool’s Luis Suarez.
If Ancelotti does sign either of the players he will most likely have spent £50 million in a week (after grabbing Isco for £30 milion). I bet some Arsenal fans wish that their manager was as decisive in the transfer market.
Meanwhile Serge Aurier, the 20 year old right back currently playing for Toulouse, has given the club a huge come and get me plea. The player was seen wearing an Arsenal shirt on holiday which he then posted to Facebook and Twitter. Maybe he knows something that the rest of us don’t…
Just when it seemed that it was done deal and that Arsenal fans would be getting the marquee striker signing they crave comes the news that Juventus haven’t given up hope of signing Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain.
In spite of rumours that the player has signed a £130,000-a-week contract to join the north London club and that Arsenal and Real were finalising the fee, Juve’s general director has said that he thinks the striker could still be bound for Italy.
Giuseppe Marotta told Italian television station Sky Sport Italia, which has been reported by The Star.
“Higuain? I do not want to say anything because there is still so much time left for things to happen.”
If the rumours are to be believed then time is the last thing that Morotta and Juve have.
So Arsenal fans is this going to be yet another player that slips through Arsene Wenger’s grasp?
Over the last couple of weeks sports journalists have been trying their best to construct the richest analogy to cover the Will he? Won’t he? Surely he will…? speculation surrounding Jose Mourinho’s supposed or actual return to Chelsea.
Most – actually, all of them – have tried to position coach and club as star-crossed lovers, destined for each other regardless of the more rational arguments as to whether it will be a success second time around.
Whether Chelsea need Mourinho or Mourinho needs Chelsea is not completely clear. We all probably agree that Chelsea need a manager like Mourinho, but is ‘sloppy seconds’ really wise? What Chelsea do need, however, is someone who will deliver trophies , galvanise the fans and, if everyone can just play together nicely this time, provide consistent success over a longer period of time than the current standard length of service of nine months before Abramovich gives his white cat a stroke and presses the button in front of him marked ‘Kill’.
The Mourinho/Chelsea, Chelsea/Mourinho thing may be correctly compared to a showbiz affair between the ill-matched (Rihanna and her charming beau Chris Brown come to mind, but according to The Sun they’ve just split up) but it is only a part of the wider drama playing out at Stamford Bridge, which does come across as a homo-erotic soap opera:
Roman wanted Carlo, but Carlo wouldn’t leave the relationship he was in, so he got Jose instead. Then, after a massive argument caused by Jose showing off too much, Roman kicked Jose out and brought in Avram. Now Avram may have been old and slow and a tad dull, but didn’t do too badly. However, he still had to go. In his place came an exotic Brazilian, Luiz Felipe, but that didn’t work out at all, and they had to bring in Guus. However, Guus said he would only stay a short while, and so it was back it was back to the drawing board.
Actually, it was back to Carlo again, who this time said yes, and everything went well, until it stopped going well, and even Carlo had to go. Then came André, who was a lot younger than all the others, but had boundless youthful energy. Except he didn’t work out, and Roman had to ask Robbie to take over temporarily, then permanently, and then he was shown the door, to be replaced by an unemployed Spanish waiter with a very high opinion of himself, who will soon be packing his bags to make way for Jose to come back.
Tonight there will be a further twist when young André comes back, now with his new family, to take revenge on Frank Lampard whom he says “never supported me” and to leave a horse’s head or something like it on Roman’s pillow.
Plot twists aside, the return of football’s self-appointed Special One to Chelsea – despite the press having universally made up its mind that it’s a done deal, that Jose is in love with Chelsea, and Chelsea is in love with Jose – is nowhere near clear-cut.
Expensive release clauses at Real Madrid, the future working relationship with Michael Emenalo, Chelsea’s technical director, the desire to play strong, physically imposing players rather than the diminutive but fleet-of-foot forwards currently running rings around defenders, are all possible hurdles to the Second Coming. The relationship between Roman and Jose has, according to those in the know, dramatically thawed, but for Mourinho to come back there will need to be some significant obeisance on both sides.
In the days of hippy free love, Stephen Stills wrote the immortal lines: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. In the case of Jose Mourinho, there can be no alternative squeeze. His avowed affection for the English game, not to mention the none-too-subtle eyelid flashing towards his former club in south-west London, might signify that he and Chelsea are so mutually drawn to each other that a reconciled second marriage can be the only outcome. After all, who else would be willing to get drawn into Roman’s mayhem?
Which brings me back to press analogies. Let proffer my own: Mourinho and Chelsea are the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of football. Or…the Den and Angie of football; the JR and Sue Ellen of football; the Kat and Alfie of football; or the Liam and Noel of…well, you get the idea.
So Chelsea fans – do you fancy having the Special One back at the club? A number of papers are reporting this morning that Jose Mourinho not only knows where his next job will be, but that it will be at one of his former clubs.
The Real Madrid manager is expected to leave the Bernabeu at the end of the season and it seems now that Chelsea or Inter is his favoured destination.
In an interview with Maxifoot Mourinho said
“I have an adventurous spirit and I do not know what will happen next season. It is not easy to choose a new destination, having worked in England, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
“Maybe I could go somewhere where I have been before. Beware of surprises.”
Meanwhile one manager who says that he has no contact with thew club is Chelsea old boy Gianfranco Zola.
He told the Mail on Sunday
“No-one from Chelsea has spoken to me. I am respectful for what Watford have done for me and I am focusing on getting the job done here.
“I really don’t know what is around the corner for me, but whatever happens to me is all down to this experience because I have to prove myself as a manager. I am enjoying what we doing at Watford, enjoying and learning.”
In much of the world, we’ve become quite used to the commonly employed calendar system. We know that this is 2013 AD, and at some point in time there was a year 1AD.
Before that, we had the BC era, which goes back to, well, whenever somebody first named the years in decreasing numbers until you got to 1BC, skipping 0, clearly, because that would have meant having 0BD/AD as a year, which would have sounded like a blood group.
Fans of the England football team, however, follow a similar system to the Jewish calendar, ignoring conventional chronology. Orthodox followers of English football believe the modern era began in 1966. And it’s been downhill ever since.
1966 should have heralded a glorious new dawn, but it darkened pretty quickly. By 1972, in fact, when West Germany wrought revenge for the Wembley brouhaha involving a Russian linesman, and ejected England – not for the first time, either – from the European Championships that year. Worse was to come with failure to qualify at all for the 1974 World Cup, and again in 1978 when we all became honorary Scots, And so on, and so on, and so on.
Argentina and all that…
So excuse the miracle-starved among us for thinking there was a new Messiah abroad when, in 1998, a young boy danced through the Argentinian defence at the French-hosted World Cup match to score a wonder goal.
The boy was Michael Owen: born in Chester on December 14, 1979, and who this week announced his intention to retire at the end of this season. At the age of 11, he joined Liverpool as a schoolboy player, turning professional on his 17th birthday. By this stage there was already plenty of buzz about him. Was he The One? On his first-team debut for Liverpool, Owen scored against Wimbledon, setting the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation alive with his arrival.
And then came 30 June 1998. In Saint-Étienne (the French town, not the Sarah Cracknell-fronted indy electro darlings). Aged just 18, he pulled off the goal that had us all convinced he was The One. Collecting a pass from David Beckham, Owen set off on a winding run through the Argentina defence, snaking through it like a raging, coursing river, before letting fly just outside the penalty box, with the ball whistling past goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
While Beckham would get sent off just after half-time for his petulant kickout at the odious Gabriel Batistuta, and the game would end ingloriously on penalties (with Argentina progressing to the quarter-finals), that one goal would be burned in our memories as the start of something new.
The following season’s home Chelsea league fixture against Liverpool was a must-attend. We all wanted to see the wunderkind who’d lifted our hopes that summer.
For Liverpool, Owen would deliver 158 goals in 297 appearances (take note, F Torres). However, by the time the-then 26-year-old made a Mr. Big Pants move to Real Madrid, his star – even with such a prodigious goal record at Anfield – had already started to wain. Some say it had faded by the time he turned 21.
The injury years
Today, Michael Owen may be preparing for retirement with a multitude of records to his name, but the one least likely to appear in his private trophy cabinet is the title of “Most Likely To Be Found On A Treatment Table”. Like a footballing meteor lighting up the night sky, Owen’s early promise did, let’s be honest, fizzle somewhat, thanks to injuries which surely couldn’t have been helped by being thrust onto the world stage so young.
Owen’s switch to Madrid produced a solitary season of just 40 appearances with Galacticos like Zidane, Figo, Carlos and Raul, and a return of just 14 goals. But as inevitable as injuries were, part of the problem was the fit: he just missed the Premier League. Who can blame him?
Returning to England, Owen could have gone back to Liverpool: he wanted to, but the record shows that one Rafa Benitez wasn’t interested. I’ll say no more than that. Instead. Newcastle took him on, until a broken metatarsal playing for England at the end of 2005 led to a year out, and Owen was never the same player again, though 30 goals in 79 games for Newcastle is still not that bad.
After Owen parted company with Newcastle in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt and brought the striker to Manchester United. A 30-year-old striker is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at Didier Drogba. But at 30 Owen was, in Premier League years, and old man. Still, he gave Manchester United 17 strikes in 52 games, and another couple of seasons at a top club, before moving this season to Stoke for just seven appearances so far and a single goal.
No one, however, is that surprised Owen has chosen to retire at the and of this season. Injuries not withstanding, the fire that tore apart the Argentinian defence in 1998 has long since been reduced to a flickering flame.
You could argue that the 15 years since Saint-Étienne have seen diminishing returns. But let’s not quibble too much. Some things aren’t meant to last long: Jimi Hendrix only made three proper albums; The Beatles broke up less than 10 years into their recording career; and it is true that a Big Mac is over with too soon. If only for that one goal in France in 1998, we can be thankful that Michael Owen blazed. It was just a bit early, and didn’t last long.
Well after yesterday’s revelation that Yaya Toure could be about to quit Mnan City the papers today are hinting that Chelsea could be favourites, alongside Real Madrid, to land the 29 year old.
ESPN suggests that Chelsea see Toure as the perfect replacement for England international Frank Lampard, who may or many no be with the club after the summer.
Chelsea are one of only a handful of clubs in the world who could afford to match Toure’s current wages which rank at £220,000 a week.
There doesn’t appear to be too much weight to this story, but it is one to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile the Express suggests that Chelsea are a step nearer signing Atletico Madrid’s sensational striker Radamel Falcao after the club had a secret meeting with the player at the weekend.
According to The Express Spanish TV station Punto Pelota claims a secret meeting between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea took place on Sunday to discuss a proposed move for Falcao. There are however a few sticking points namely that as part of any deal with Chelsea, the club want to keep Chelsea’s on loan goalkeeper Thiabut Courtois another year.
Falcao would be a hugely impressive addition to the Chelsea squad. Were Toure to sign too surely Chelsea would start the season being perceived as potential Premiership winners.
Some fantastic mischief making from The Daily Star which has today run the story that Chelsea’s favourite son, Jose Mourinho, will be back running the Blues this month if Man United knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League tonight.
It is no secret that the ex-Blues man is unhappy at the Bernabeu and is angling for a return to the Premiership. None of the other big jobs in the league are likely to be available which makes a reunion with Roman and the squad most likely.
Well that’s the theory. Could it happen?
Mourinho has got unfinished business in Spain. Real might be 13 points behind Barca in the league but they do have a Spanish Cup run to continue. And can you imagine Jose ending a season without any silver ware?
Also it doesn’t feel like it is Jose’s style to leave a club mid-season.
Chelsea, well the fans at least and quite possibly the owner and the players, are however a club that would welcome his return. If they drop any more Premiership points then Arsenal would be breathing down their necks for that last Champions League place. If that happens and Roman pulls the trigger on Benitez then Chelsea will need a manager quickly and ‘The Special One’ would be an obvious choice. Maybe Roman would make Jose a deal he couldn’t refuse.
As The Daily Star reports Mourinho has bought a home in London and his daughter, Tita, 16, is attending Camberwell Arts College, as he appears to prepare to work again in the capital.
This is one of those moves that seems unlikely – but who knows circumstances might end up dictating that it happens.
Gareth Bale’s sensational season hasn’t gone un-noticed in Germany. According to today’s Daily Mail Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is lining up a bid to rival the one that which is expected to come from Real Madrid in the summer.
The paper reckons that the ex Barca boss has a transfer war chest of £100 million and that he is ready to fork out half of that on the brilliant Tottenham player. Guardiola apparently has scouts watching Bale and reporting back to him.
Performances like that against Lyon in the Europa Cup are only going to push Bale to the front of the list of Europe’s most wanted. The player signed a four year contract in 2012 and has so far hasn’t had his head turned by big money transfer talk.
Bale said after the game on Thursday
‘I don’t take too much notice. I’m concentrating on every game and just hoping I can keep my form going.’
‘This is probably the best I’ve been playing so far in my career,’ admitted Bale. ‘I’m enjoying my football and the team’s playing well, which obviously makes it easier for me.I’ve just got to keep my head down, keep working hard. I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement.’
Meanwhile writing for The Sun ex Spurs and England boss Terry Venables says that Spurs ambitions must match Bale’s if the player is to stay.
‘I have heard some say that Bale will probably need to quit Tottenham to become a world great like Ron(aldo). But I do not think that is necessarily the case. It just depends on how good Spurs want to become. To be recognised as a top player, Bale will have to play at the highest level and challenge for trophies in club football.
He has previously expressed his desire to take on the challenge of playing abroad in the future. But there is no reason why he could not achieve world greatness with his current club.’
I must admit to not having been to too many of Arsenal’s away Champions League games, but when we drew Real Madrid in in 2006 a trip to the Bernabeu seemed like too much of an opportunity to miss. A huge game in Spain against a very strong Madrid side. Besides I did enjoy watching real at the time. And anyway I have never had any affection at all for Barcelona. The way in which the club seemed to be constantly circling round out best players (both then and now) made me a clear White when it came to El Classico.
It was a strange time for the Gunners. Like a lot of Arsenal fans at the time I was amazed by just how good we were domestically yet baffled that we couldn’t translate that form into European success. And that made the Highbury faithful quite realistic/cynical (delete as you see fit) when it came to the big European nights.
I remember arriving outside the stadium that day imagining that we might just sneak a draw but fully expecting to be sent home with our tail between our legs by a Real Madrid team that included Raul, Zidane and (the porky) Ronaldo. Fortunately we were spared Beckham who was getting over an injury.
Besides no English team had come to the Bernabeu before and won. Even though Arsenal had perhaps the best striker in the world at that time, Thierry Henry, at the peak of his powers, it was still massive ask.
To make matter worse if I remember rightly it was quite a make shift team too, with no recognisable left back – sound familiar? – Mathieu Flamini filled in. Jose Antonio Reyes, who was mid way through his last season at the club and would be Madrid bound in the summer – also started, and in the middle of the park was young Spanish midfielder called Cesc Fabregas.
Nevertheless when the game kicked the team seemed possessed. Henry should have scored with a header early on and Ljunberg and Reyes both went close.
Half time came and I still couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then things went crazy. Two minutes after the re-start Cesc Fabregas intercepted a pass and threaded the ball through to Henry. The Frenchman then muscled his way past a couple of defenders, held off Sergio Ramos and planted an angled shot that gave Iker Casillas no chance. It happenned so quickly after the break that quite a few Arsenal fans missed the goal as they were still not back in their seats.
There then followed what was possibly the longest forty odd minutes of my life as Madrid pushed forward to try and grab an equaliser, but failed to get past the Arsenal defence.
When the final whistle went the travelling Gunners – there were about 3,500 of us, were ecstatic. Yet that excitement was tempered by the fact that we knew we had to go through all it again at Highbury. Fortunately a very edgy game finished 0-0 and Arsenal progressed on their way to their first and only Champions League Final.
After the final whistle I caught a glimpse of Beckham and also Júlio Baptista. Nicknamed the Beast he had already been linked with a move to London and would join the Gunners in part exchange for Reyes that summer. Sadly he remains as one of Arsene Wenger’s most disappointing signings, though his goal tally of 10 in 15 games wasn’t disastrous.
If anything the Madrid game was the one in which Arsenal fans started to believe that they could actually challenge Europe’s finest. The confidence levels for the next two games against Juventus and Villreal was sky high and really the team should have won the final in Paris.
It is a moot point whether the Madrid of 2006 would beat today’s team. Back then they had great strength in depth, though they didn’t have the brilliantly unpredictable Ronaldo (just the porky one who was past his best by then).
Three years later Liverpool became the second English team to win at the Bernabeu thanks to a headed goal by (kind of) Arsenal legend Yossi Benayoun. Incredibly the Reds beat Real 4-0 at home, which underlines just how far the Merseyside team has fallen in less than four years.
I wonder if United will become the third English team to beat Real in their own back yard? I wouldn’t bet against them.
Arsenal’s quest to sign a new striker continues and this morning sees several old names thrown back into the to mix.
The one that seems to have the most momentum is a loan deal for Real Madrid’s youngster Alvaro Morata. The player has been on Arsene Wenger’s radar for a while (he was a target last summer apparently) and he doesn’t seem to be getting too many games at the Bernabeau. The 20 year old did however score for Real at the weekend against Levante. Here he is in action.
A couple of websites are also mentioning PSG’s out of favour Argentinian striker Ezequiel Iván Lavezzi. Again Wenger has tried to sign the player before. He might stand a better chance now given his poor form at Paris St Germain, he has only bagged two goals this season. The tricky part is likely to be the fee with PSG keen on recouping as much of the £24 million they paid Napoli as possible.
Finally a slew of clubs from QPR to Newcastle wanting to secure the services of Rennes’ combative midfielder Yann M’Villa. However there is no word from The Emirates on long term Arsenal target. The Mail thinks that he will be bound for Loftus Road.
There’s a huge amount of speculation this morning about the next move of Chelsea’s England left back Ashley Cole. According to the Mail he has his heart set on a Spanish swansong.
The paper is reporting that the 32 year old who will not be offered a new contract at Chelsea could be on his way to Real Madrid with his agent already in Spain having talks with the Spanish club. Madrid’s rivals Barcelona are also tracking the player as are big-spending Paris St Germain, which are managed by Cole’s old Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The Express says that there is still a lot of ground to cover before Real get their man.
The uncertain future of Real boss Jose Mourinho is a possible complication while PSG, managed by another former Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti, are ready to match any offer.
Several other papers including The Guardian, suggest that Cole, along with his fellow England international Frank Lampard, could be making the journey north to Manchester United. Fergie is also a huge fan of the player and United already has a growing, but influential groups of 30 something players.
I wonder if PSG are actually the perfect club for the player. They would have no problem with his wage, his relationship with Ancelotti was apparently very good and Paris is just a short train ride away from his London base. Also Cole moved from Arsenal to Chelsea at a time when the balance was shifting in favour of the West London club. PSG are in the same situation that Chelsea were half a decade or so ago and with their existing staff, and the resources to add more quality players you wouldn’t bet against them having a very serious crack at The Champions League within the next couple of year.