January 20 – approaching the weekend with an impending sense of dread

I’m not feeling so hot about the weekend and, no, it has nothing to do with Beetface’s forces of evil pitching up in north London after HRP laid up turds in their last few matches. When we beat Salford LBO last spring, it was unexpected because we were in the middle of our annual spring wilting.

No, both my children are having their birthday parties this weekend, which means sleepovers for hyperactive 12-year-old boys  on Friday and squealing nine-year-old Justin Bieber fans on Saturday night. I’ll have to endure this without any alcohol to dull the pain. It should serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unprotected sex for the childless among you.

Mind you, my trials this weekend probably aren’t any worse than that of a Premier League manager in the relegation places. Well, if he had Joey Barton in the squad, that is. What a cu . . . whoops — better expunge certain words from my vocabulary by 5 p.m.

Speaking of Air Asia FC, I see the Armond Traore experiment is over and they’ve brought in “defender” Taye Taiwo on loan from Milan. I love how this move is cast as a “coup” for Sparky among his friends in the press as opposed to overpaying for a player who can smash free kicks but will be filleted by a mediocre winger. Some of the Holloway Road Properties customer base were shrieking about signing him but frankly, I’d rather have Miquel out there. Milan have realized this and shrewdly dumped him. I’m beginning to realize the corrosive effects of video games like FIFA and Football Manager have had on dumbing down younger supporters, who have all kinds of dumbassed suggestions for players to be brought in. It isn’t as easy to work a deal as going through a few dropdown menus and pressing a button. It contributes to the “instant gratification” culture that has infected the sport. You’ve got to deal with agents and other clubs with other agendas. Then you have cash-rich twats such as Stockport Massive and West End Rent Boys who contribute by badly overpaying for players and queering the market. And no end to the witless rumours stoking up the expectations of supporters and fanboys alike. No wonder why Arsene Wenger wears the angst-ridden visage of a constipated stroke victim or Beetface resembles an empurpled psychopath (and bans much of the media from his pressers). These are two managers who must work within a budget and manage huge expectations from fan bases that contain more than a fair few Chicken Littles and halfwits. And they have play in a market where their stupidest competitors set “value” for the pimps who trading players and rumours to grease their friends in the press, who blithely serve as their stenographers in exchange for a scoop.

A good example is Gary Cahill, whose “transfer value” was fixed at 17m pounds during the summer. That’s not Baresi, McGrath, Stam, Desailly, Campbell or Nesta. It’s Gary frigging Cahill and the nitwits in the media and some supporters chided Wenger for not stumping up that kind of cash. ARRGH!!

I’m not trying to pick on Cahill, whom respected tactical analyst Michael Cox believes is well suited for the West End Rent Boys (and not just because he reported asked for 80k/week). The point is Mark Hughes is being slurped for signing Taye Taiwo just as he showed ambition by singing Roque Santa Cruz. Oh and Wayne Bridge. Good luck with that, Air Asia FC.

Sorry for that little homily but the lack of critical thought amongst the slapheads on Fleet Street bothers me almost as much as a weekend of listening to the inane screeching of Katy Perry and Selena Gomez.

To the links, where the Swiss Ramble assess the business plan of Southhamption, who have done a fantastic job of producing young talent but have been unable to hang on to it.

To the USA, where Leander Schaerlaeckens interviews seven of the brighest minds (or six and Bob Bradley depending on your point of view) in American soccer to ask them how to improve player development. Ernie Stewart makes a great point. I just received the coaching package for the new development scheme being put forward by the Canadian Soccer Association and it highlights his point. The other issue is until soccer begins to pull the best young athletes away from traditional sports such as baseball, gridiron football and basketball, America won’t compete for the World Cup. But I can see that changing, just as I do here in Canada where some of the best young athletes – at least in my community — are soccer-first kids rather than automatically entering minor hockey. Some of that is down to cost and the culture surrroundig competitive hockey, which is one reason why soccer MUST do a good job of ensuring it remains affordable and the behaviour of the adults doesn’t spoil it for the kids.

Gosh, I sound a little preachy today and I still haven’t mocked the rumours yet. Maybe I’ll take a pass as I’ve got some work to do. Enjoy the weekend and say a prayer for me!

Thursday

Like fresh suishi or a colic-ridden baby in coach, Jose Mourinho’s act with the media has not travelled well. Famous for charming Fleet Street’s beardstrokers with a combination of quotable quips, easily generated controversies and smouldering looks, the omelet maker was the best thing to prance about self importantly in the technical area for content providers (many of whom have had to suffer banishment from Beetface’s wrathful press conferences).

The cult of personality didn’t last in Milan, where the Italian media quickly tired of his blustery trots through grassy knolls about decisions made by match officials and his low-rent sniping at Roberto Mancini. Shockingly, they decided to grill him about what was happening on the field with his stultifying style of park-the-bus football as well as the training ground, where his renowned man-management techniques saw him fall out with Mario Balotelli — the most promising Italian prodigy in a generation, while nearly ruining Davide Santon’s career.  

After lavishly spending Moratti’s millions (and foisting Zlatan on to Catalan Aesthes for Sam Eto’o and millions of euros), the omelet maker managed his greatest triumph in besting Barca in a two-legged tie that saw the luckless Catalans be forced to travel in a leg-sapping bus trip after a volcanic eruption shut down airports across Europe and featured several dubious officiating decisions that would have been greeted by some shrill bitching had they gone against his club.

Off to FC Franco, who paid a king’s ransom for him to run the most expensively assembled squad in the history of the sport. Two years and one Copa del Rey trophy later, the boys at Marca are grumbling. It’s not just the series of embarrassingly painful pants-down spankings inflicted by the Barca boys in a series of El Classicos. It’s the thuggish anti-football produced by a talented group of footballers to unsuccessfully stifle and bully the flowing poetry produced by Catalan Aesthes.

So another defeat punctuated by some disgraceful challenges and stamps by the usual suspects caused even FC Franco loyalists to lecture the omelet maker, reports Tim Stannard.  One wonders how much gloss will be on the league crown — where they lead by five points — if Franco FC fails to defeat the Catalans or suffers a humiliating exit to them in the Champions League. Tainted title?

Michael Cox, meanwhile, breaks down the game with his usual thoroughness.

Speaking of underperformers (though not in Spain), Matthew Stanger argues some clubs *COUGH*ARSENAL*COUGH* need to use a little more ruthlessness a la Fergie in cutting their losses with lost causes. Say pint-sized Russian wingers. Or in the case of Dalglish FC, lumbering Geordie forwards.

At Lille, they don’t wait to clear out players that perform WELL, for God’s sake. The defending French champions sold Moussa Sow to Fenerbache and Ben Lyttleton wonders whether they can grab a Champions League spot, let alone reclaim their crown. It’s a fair question. They remind me a little of Udinese. Or (sigh) Arsenal.

Speaking of which, Bobby McMahon gives a long list of players plus David Bentley and Armand Traore who have carved out good professional careers after leaving Islington as well as their opponents this weekend from greater Salford. I searched high and low and failed to spot Alex Hleb on this list.

Tom Williams looks at how clubs in France have coped with the absences of key performers who’ve left for the African Cup of Nations.

James Horncastle profiles the world’s most profilic scorer, Bosnian striker Aleksandar Duric.

Raphael Honigstein explains why FC Hollywood may force some needed reforms at FIFA. Perhaps one could be bringing in David Brent to oversee the scandal-ridden organization.

On the topic of business in football and Adidas, the Germans refused to stump up 25m pounds every year as Dalglish FC kit supplier so Boston-based Warrior Sports will now pay for the privilege having their logo in the Europa League.

And to distract the Holte End from the hideous performances on the pitch, Aston Villa announce they are interesting in bringing in safe standing areas at Villa Park.

Wow, this is much, much too long. No rumours for today.

Wednesday

It’s been a rather sedate build-up to the zillionth El Classico as the hierarchy at FC Franco have either muzzled or medicated the omelet maker, who isn’t displaying his usual pre-match bellicosity of:
a) accusing the referees of being in the pocket of his opponents

b) wandering through the grassy knolls of loopy conspiracy theories that would embarrass Holocaust deniers, birthers or Paul Merson

c) wooing middle-aged men with by juxtaposing his smouldering looks with playful quips about his opponents playacting.

Perhaps he can afford to magniminous. After all Franco FC have cobbled together a healthy five-point advantage in the league against the defending champions. Or maybe the pressure is finally getting to him. Tim Stannard explains why the omelet maker is feeling a little tense before tonight’s first leg in the Copa del Rey.

Staying on the Continent, new Quatar FC gaffer Carlo Ancelotti claims agents are shopping Fernando Torres around the continent and feels the West End Rent Boys must sell Didier Drogba, who muscular presence is apparently inhibiting the delicate, little 50m pound Spanish wallflower. Great idea, Carlo. And where should they sell him? I’m sure he might suggest Didier would enjoy Paris except for the fact that he didn’t just play for hated rivals L’OM but declared his undying love for the club. I wonder if Drogba would unsettle RvP? Hmmmm.

OK, OK, enough fantasizing for one day. Moving on to the rest of the links, Jason Davis suggests the recent spate of positive press about loan deals and signings demonstrates MLS is finally gaining some respect in England. Is that right? I’d think it shows English clubs are relying on short-term deals because they are skint and most of those loan deals represent a low risk for them with “proven” names for their fan bases and lazy pundits. The fact is MLS is not going to gain any more traction with English supporters or press than the leagues in Argentina and Brazil do. Some Americans will succeed in England, such as Clint Dempsey. Others will flop worse than Eddie Johnson. Others will land somewhere in between, as was the case with Jonathan Spector. But it’s a little rich to suggest MLS is gaining more respect in England because Arsenal re-signed Thierry Henry or Alex McLeish rolled the dice with Robbie Keane for two months. I predict both those clubs will kick themselves — or their supporters will do it for them — when they see the impact that Papiss Demba Cisse has for Newcastle. And holding up that signing as a suggestion that English media and fans now respect the Bundesliga more would be just as foolish as this theory. And why is the approval of the braying Eeyors on Fleet Street so important anyway?

Speaking of Germany, Raphael Honigstein suggests Borussia Dortmund’s signing of Marco Reus demonstrates the club has grown into a rival to be feared by FC Hollywood. Wow, a well-reasoned argument based on fact! This could set an ugly trend so let’s jump into the rumours.

TRANSFER GOSSIP (THE BBC LIST – ABRIDGED FOR INANITIES)

Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin is a cut-price £6m transfer window target for Lazio as the London club’s manager Arsene Wenger is unlikely to extend the Russian’s contract beyond 2013. Daily Mirror

If somebody is willing to pay that price for Arshavin, Wenger should snap their wrist off in making that deal. It’s obvious his mind is elsewhere, meandering near the touch line after losing the ball.

Manchester United have been dealt a blow in the transfer market following the news that the agent of Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder, 27, reportedly said that his client will see out the winter transfer window in Italy.  Sky Sports

That’s some blow, all right. They really aren’t trying hard enough at Sky Sports these days.  

Meanwhile, Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov, 30, has emerged as a transfer target for Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. talkSPORT

Currently the best stalking horse in Europe as the usual suspects (PSG, the Massive, Inter, Franco FC, Catalan Aesthes, West End Rent Boys) are all trying to figure out how to circumvent UEFA’s FFP through bribery creative accounting enhancing their revenue streams. They also realize overpaying for players is probably going to send up some red flags. Anzhi doesn’t seem to care about these fopperies at the present time. 

Manchester United frontman Mame Biram Diouf, 24, is a target for Hannover 96, with talks reportedly already at an advanced stage between the German club and the player’s representatives. Bild (in German)

And I’ll bet Beetface turns a profit on him, which is a good thing. Because he’s going to take one hell of a beating on Bebe. 

Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones, 27, is a shock £5m target for super-rich Saudi side Al Hilal. Daily Mirror

You know what? I’ll bet he’d be better than Chamakh. Just saying.

Liverpool and Arsenal have been put on alert as Blackburn defender Scott Dann, 24, seeks urgent talks with manager Steve Kean over his future. Daily Mail

Hahahahahahahahaha. Yeah, I’m sure they are poised on a knife’s edge while waiting for the phone to ring.

Bolton manager Owen Coyle is keeping his fingers crossed that red tape does not get in the way of his plans to sign New York Red Bulls and United States defender Tim Ream, 24. Bolton News

I’m assuming “red tape” means “too much money.” 

Wanderers have also been reportedly ordered to stump up £8m for want-away Spurs forward Giovani dos Santos, 22. Daily Mail

Hmmm, I wonder if Coyle could make this work. I also wonder what dos Santos would think of playing in England’s exotic and cosmopolitan northwest? Perhaps he should text Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Nemanja Vidic and other imports who’ve extolled the virtues of that fine, sun-drenched region.

Newcastle target, 24-year-old defender Aly Cissokho wants to leave Lyon and admits he is just waiting for the “green light” to exit the Ligue 1 club. Newcastle Chronicle

Wenger has allegedly mulled a move but Aulas knows there’s interest and is interested in extracting every last sou from prospective buyers after badly overpaying for the fullback.

Lazio striker Mauro Zarate, 24, is being hunted by Mark Hughes as the new QPR boss seeks to kickstart his Loftus Road revolution.  talkSPORT

Everybody knows Sparky’s got some dosh so sifting the wheat from the chaff on any QPR link this January is going to be tough.

Greece goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino, 27, who plays for Panathanaikos, is believed to be a transfer target for Arsenal, as Arsene Wenger seeks new competition for Wojciech Szczesny. Caught offside

Because what Holloway Road really needs is another disaffected keeper. Next!

Blackburn are confident of completing a loan move for Bordeaux striker Anthony Modeste, 23, by the end of the week. Lancashire Telegraph

I’m going to miss Factory Farm FC when they go down. It’s sort of like having a really trashy reality show that you’d never admit to watching but do.

Tuesday

Ah, the delightful twists and turns of the ever-fickle transfer window, which never fails to surprise or amaze. After swearing on a stack of remaindered Patrick Kluivert shirts that the bar codes were done shopping for strikers, the Geordies have turned around and signed another Continental/African player by agreeing terms with Freibrug hitman Papiss Demba Cisse. With the rest of a cast of thousands of being linked to Holloway Road in the past three transfer windows, this news set of a new round of shrieky clucks in Islington and beyond from the club’s Chicken Littles bemoaning Wenger’s parismony, falling skies, cluck, cluck, cluck.

Anyway, the latest signing also brings back memories of Alan Pardew’s comment about Arsenal’s Champions League run in 2006 that “It (Arsenal) is an English club but not an English success.” Hmmm, Ba, Tiote, Cabaye, Coloccini, Santon, Krul and now Cisse. How do those words taste now you (Sofaball’s profanity filter steps in with Tiote’s forceful authority and ends sentence and maintains PG rating)?

Speaking of embarrassing blowhards, has anybody spotted Garry Cook near the Parc des Princes? I ask because word has just “leaked” of a 29m euro bid for FC Kia Stockport Massive malcontent Carlos Tevez and the club has assured the media that the deal is all sewn up. Which sounds strangely similiar to the deals for Becks and Pato that fell apart faster than Cook’s defense for a particularly obnoxious e-mail that forced him to leave the noiser side of Manchester.

In another familiar development, FC Factory Farm captain Christopher Samba displayed the same legendary leadership in abandoning a sinking ship as he did last year in asking for a transfer. It’s comforting to know some things never change, eh?

Henry Winter demonstrates his own consistency at sucking and blowing by proclaiming Michael Oliver as a refereeing star in the making and slating Arsene Wenger’s criticism of his penalty decision EVEN THOUGH WINTER ADMITS OLIVER GOT THAT DECISION WRONG. Wow, just wow. Winter is such an utter (profanity filter volleys away a naughty word with the nimble dexerity of Cabaye).

To the rest of the links, where Jonathan Wilson questions how much progress has been made by African countries on the international scene since Cameroon’s quarter final appearance in 1990. Not too much, I’m afraid, although I’d suggest one reason that many strong African sides always face tough draws is down to FIFA’s ranking system, which almost guarantee top European nations plus Argentina and Brazil get top seeds. I’m sure the ranking formulas have nothing to do with ensuring these nations with the biggest television markets and ties to top FIFA advertisers invariably make the knockout rounds in spite of serial (profanity filter tackles obsencity with Colocinni-like authority) performances by England against lacklustre opposition.

Matt Spiro charts the development of L’OM striker and Spurs target Loic Remy.

With so few links, let’s turn to the rumour mills compiled by the BBC with the exception of gossip from Metro, goal.com and other sources of unadulerated (profanity filter pushes aside bad word with the spry composure of Krul)

TRANSFER TATTLE

Everton are set to give a trial to 30-year-old USA striker Edson Buddle, who currently plays for German second division side Ingolstadt04. Liverpool Echo

I wonder if Landon Donovan recommended him. There’s certainly nothing to lose by giving him a trial.

Tottenham have placed a £20m pricetag on England striker Jermain Defoe, 29, who had been linked with a £10m bid from Liverpool. Daily Mirror

Hahaha. I love Daniel Levy’s brass although I suppose he looked at what they paid for Carroll, Downing, Adam etc. and thought “Why not?”

Striker Dimitar Berbatov, 30, is at the centre of a battle between Russia and Germany. The £30.75m striker is wanted by CSKA Moscow, Anzhi Makhachkala, Bayern Munich and one of his former clubs, Bayer Leverkusen. Manchester Evening News

This is probably the one chance that Fergie has of extracting some value out of the silky/sulky Bulgarian. He (or an agent hired by the club) has managed to stir up quite a few names for an auction, too.

Meanwhile, United are set to go head-to-head with Serie A giants Juventus for the signature of 19-year-old Basel midfielder Granit Xhaka. talkSPORT

A fresh link and one that would fit United’s profile for signing with his age an pedigree. 

Marseille striker Loic Remy, 25, has turned his back on a January move to Tottenham. the Sun

A summer move would make more sense, assuming his wage demands can fit within Spurs salary structure.

Liverpool are eyeing a move for £5m-rated Swansea striker Scott Sinclair, 22. Daily Star

Another fresh rumour but I’d be a little surprised as Liverpool are fairly heavily stocked with wide boys at present.

New QPR manager Mark Hughes is stepping up his bid to sign Fulham striker Bobby Zamora, 30. London Evening Standard

Hardly new or surprising as Sparky will be linked with plenty of players at his former clubs and Zamora is apparently disgruntled with life under Martin Jol at Michael Jackson FC.

Tottenham could be set to make a renewed bid for Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, 26, who could cost up to £24m. Footybunker

That price is probably a little rich for Spurs but Llorente would certainly make a far more convincing replacement for Emmanuel Adebayor than Peter Crouch.

Brazilian striker Henrique, 20, has insisted he will be a QPR player soon after agreeing to an 18-month loan deal from Sao Paulo, with a £5m option to buy.  the Sun

Hmmm, almost certainly an agent-inspired story but definitely one to monitor. QPR do have money to spend in this market — Gabriele Marcotti figures they will be the biggest spenders in Europe — and that leads to plenty of goose chases. In this case, though, given the relative lack of profile of the player in England and the level of detail about the loan arrangement, this might be more of a “smoke means fire” rumour.  

Bolton boss Owen Coyle is poised to bid £4m for Tottenham’s Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos, 22. Daily Star

The lesser lights have been desperately trying to shift the “next Messi” purchased from Catalan Aesthes at marked-up price. He’s a good footballer and Bolton have both money and the need at forward. Could Coyle coax consistent performances out of him, though?

Blackburn winger Junior Hoilett, 21, looks likely to remain at the club beyond the January transfer window, despite reported interest from Tottenham and a diminishing contract which expires in the summer. International Business Times

Run, Junior, run!!!!! And please make yourself available for Canada.

Monday

Halfway home, both in most European leagues and the January transfer window has been remarkably quiet. Gary Cahill became the latest Rent Boy at 80k/week, and Chris Samba has handed in his transfer request at Factory Farm FC, so that should perk up the defenders’ market a bit in England. 

Inter appear to have stolen a march on their rivals, both in the Carlos Tevez sweepstakes, where they’ve bid about 21m quid, and in the title race, where Michael Cox and Paolo Bandini saw the Tinker Man get his tactics right in a 1-0 win in the Milanese derby. 

To Africa, where Jonathan Wilson wonders whether the Ivory Coast’s golden generation will finally break its duck while Paul Doyle assesses Senegal’s chances. I’m tipping Ghana to win it. While they lack star power, they have a very balanced, organized side.

Sorry for the short post but it is going to be a filthy busy day.

3 comments
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  1. AG
    How do you rate Giovani dos Santos?

  2. @CIAO

    He’s talented and needs a change of venue to a smaller club where he’ll play more regularly. He’s only 22 and many attacking players have developed after that age, notably Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba. He has shown he can perform at a very high level with his national team and it sometimes takes a little time and different surroundings, as has happened with Altidore, who finally seems to be realizing his potential at AZ. His career in north London hasn’t been helped by the constant squad churn due to the changes in the technical area.

    If I were his agent, I’d look outside England, though. Spurs paid a lot of money for him (around 8m pounds) in the summer of 2008 and they’ll be seeking to minimize their losses. He’d be a great pickup for a midtable club in Spain or Italy who need a versatile attacking threat.

  3. There’s an article on Football365 that talks about Liverpool fans needing patience. I think after a year you can start to make your own conclusions on someone’s management and the teams inability to win games at home. Its very frustrating to read pieces like that because its trying to make out anyone who has a problem with the team’s current plight as immature and ignorant.

    Liverpool paid money for the men they bought to perform now AND in the future. This whole patience thing is getting rather tiresome. That is my rant for the day.

    Re: Dos Santos-He is a player that obviously has talent(look at that goal he scored in the Finals of the Gold Cup) and great technical ability. But he can be very frustrating at times as he sometimes fails to track back, gets lazy with his passing and movement and can take ill-advised shots.

    Maybe its a maturity thing, maybe its who he is. In any case, he will need to move clubs to get regular playing time and could be successful whereever he goes. Its just on him to take himself to that elite level, IMO.

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