Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Newcastle pair in trouble

Newcastle defender Celestine Babayaro and midfielder Emre have each gotten themselves in hot water for their violent conduct.

Babayaro has rightly been banned for three matches after he was charged with violent conduct following a punch thrown at Everton midfielder Tim Cahill.

The FA decided to take action after reviewing television footage of the fracas during Everton’s win at Goodison Park.

The referee took no action at the time, not even a booking, but the FA stepped in. This means Babayaro will miss a League Cup game at Wigan and miss matches against Aston Villa and Arsenal.

Emre Belozoglu will probably get the bookthrown at them by FIFA in the wake of a terrible tunnel scrap after the recent World Cup play-off in which Turkey lost to Switzerland.

5 player (I mean 3, believe it or not, Switzerland’s physio Stephan Meyer and Turkey’s assistant manager Mehmet Ozdilek took part) Emre, Alpay, and Switzerland's Benjamin Huggel will all likely get lengthy bans.

How to reduce fouling

Football, especially Premiership and Serie A football, has a problem: players can foul as many times as they like with no fixed penalty. It’s at the referee’s discretion to levy a yellow card for consistent fouling during a game and up to the media to flag players for dirty playing tendencies. It's not enough, but what else can be done?

To solve this I’d suggest a novel solution: give out a mandatory yellow card for a player’s first 4 fouls and then a red card if a player fouls 3 more times during the 90 minutes, then allow an extra foul (or deduct a foul) for extra time. To avoid too many red cards, wipe the slate clean after the first “aggressive” yellow which didn’t come as a result of a harsh tackle, etc, and give the player a maximum of 3 fouls before being sent off.

What this would do is begin taking action against the “professional” foul. Fouling is destroying football and its time that we got serious about it. Stopping play damages the flow of the game. There are too many stoppages of play to the detriment of open football.

What would be the best benefit of my suggestion? More goals. Players would have to be more careful about their tackles AND referees more careful with their whistles. Too often referees are at fault for calling touch fouls because of exaggerated reactions by the offensive player. It’s so pathetic to watch a millionaire flail on the pitch from a brush on his shorts. Enough. Referee's too often give the attacker the call because there is no reason not to give the benefit of the doubt.

More goals would come as a result of defenders having fewer tools at their disposal to stop the attacker. Defenders already have enough leeway. Football is one of the hardest sports in the world to score in. I’d like to see more real chances created thru open play resulting in a goal rather than free kicks. Lets reign in the fouling and start seeing 4-3 scores becoming the norm rather than the exception.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Luca Toni

A year ago he was nobody. Today he’s leading Serie A by a mile in goals; Luca Toni is the new star in Italy. With 16 goals in 13 games so far this season the striker is leading all the European leagues in goals scored. That is more than Lampard at Chelsea and van Nistelrooy at Manchester United, Eto’o at Barcelona, Klose at Werder Bremena and Pedro Pauleta at PSG.

(A midfielder leading the scorers table in the Premiership must have heads scratching)

Fiorentina’s new starlet is making AC Milan’s (expensive) latest new signing Alberto Gilardino look ordinary on 8 goals, only ½ Toni’s total. Toni didn’t come cheap to the Florence club at 7m pounds but can you argue with that price tag now?

Toni’s exploits earned him his first international call up in 2004 against Iceland. Against the Netherlands earlier this month he made one of Holland’s top prospects in central defense look a fool. Attacking the goal Toni, at 193, is huge and as muscular as Inter’s Adriano, put down a tricky dribble and muscled his way past Ron Vlaar to score a superb goal. And Ron Vlaar is no small kid; the Dutch are the tallest people in the world on average but Vlaar was left looking for a shirt to grab as the steamship-Toni sailed past him.

Luca Toni made is Serie A debut in 2000 for Vicenza at age 23, that’s rather late. Today, aged 28 he’s no youngster either, but I rather like to see the late bloomers, we’ve become rather age obsessed with the young hot shots haven’t we?

Since 2000 Toni had previously played for Brescia and then Palermo where he scored 30 goals in their charge back into Serie A and a subsequent 20 in the clubs first season back in the top flight since the 70’s. There were doubters at Fiorentina when Luca Toni was splashed out for but a current 3rd place in the table compared to last season’s relegation battle has sent the critics looking for other fish to fry.


Monday, November 28, 2005

The top 5 strikers in the world

I’ve been thinking about this recently and decided to draw up a list of who I think are the top 5 strikers in the world. From Arsenal to Barcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan to Manchester United, here is a list of whose tops at the moment.

Note: I’m going on a combination of what’s left in the tank and proven results, therefore I didn’t consider young hot-shots like Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres or old timers like Ronaldo.

1. Thierry HenryHenry is the most complete striker in the world at the moment. If he had a bit more gumption he’s score even more goals than he does, but what he does do is always done with artistry and class. His goal celebrations are a bit on the arrogant side but you can’t anything away from his complete package. The Frenchman’s first touch is equal to anyone’s, his shot power is also top notch, and what makes him extra special is the way he integrates into the entire attack with sweeping movements and wonderful passing. Arsenal are keen to keep him at Highbury, but he’s going to need the salary to match his abilities.

2. AdrianoThe single named Brazilian has impressed me so much in the last 2 seasons that he’s on course for every personal accolade you can win. I originally saw Adriano in a youth tournament a number of years ago and was totally unimpressed. He was just a hulking lump of player with only a powerful shot and the ability to muscle anyone off the ball. No finesse, nothing. Has he come on! Adriano has the most powerful shot on the planet and he’s developed a deft touch on the ball, and believe it or not, has learned to pass as well. He raises the level of Inter Milan’s play significantly and attracts so much defensive attention that it opens up space for others around him. I’m so impressed with him that I think he’ll be the star of the show at the World Cup in Germany next year.

3. Samuel Eto’oEto’o has evolved into a deadly striker. He’s currently on top in Spain in goals scored this season and led La Liga last season as well, missing the European Golden Boot by just a single goal. At the time, Eto’o was the youngest player ever to appear in the World Cup finals at France ‘98. Eto’o’s finest qualities are his directness, shot accuracy, quickness and pace. Signed by Real Madrid at the age of 16 the Cameroonian was later to be loaned out to RCD Mallorca and eventually to Barcelona where he features today. He’s improved steadily throughout his entire career and, for my money will one day win the World Player of the Year award.

4. Andriy ShevchenkoShevchenko is the current European Player of the Year and is the model of efficiency. His play is never outlandish and full of tricks but boy does he get the job done. The Ukranian scored 4 goals in the Champions League last week against Fenerbahce that were showpieces for the sort of player he his: super smart runs, a bit of poaching and deadly accuracy, probably the most accurate shot on goal in the world. He’s outshined every strike partner he’s ever played with and, next to Kaka is AC Milan’s most important player. Another great in the line of Milan strikers like van Basten and George Weah, Shevchenko has earned his place.

5. Ruud van Nistelrooy – Begrudgingly I’ll give my last place to van Nistelrooy. To be honest I’ve never really liked him much because he’s a bit of a dirty player, but give him his due: he’s a prolific goal scorer and has behaved himself this season. The Dutchman has been having a great season so far, in fact, the best I have ever seen him play. I used to think of him as one-touch-Ruud but his footwork has improved remarkably. His timing is incredible, always seeming to be in the right place at the right time to slot home. In addition he’s got a top notch first touch that always gets him in position and he knows how to finish as good as any striker in the world. He’s on the tail end of his best years so savor him while he’s there, Manchester.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Best way to remember him

George Best was one of most gifted footballers in history. His skills were silky smooth, and he had the ability to do everything: score, tackle, head, and dribble. He's buried along side his alcoholic demons; dying penniless, but his contributions to the game will never-the-less be remembered. He was probably the most iconic player Manchester United has ever fielded. Every new potential star at United is measured against George Best.

Former Manchester Evening News football correspondent David Meek’s article in the Guardian is a great read. Rather than an obituary, Meeks takes us back to one of George Best’s greatest performances:

The greatest game I ever saw him play


Is it all coming back?

When Arsenal had that 49 game unbeaten run in the Premiership I thought it was football nirvana. I don’t think I’d ever seen a football club move the ball so well and dominate the opposition with sheer attacking prowess. Then came that loss to Manchester United last season, and nothing has been the same for the Gunners since, that’s starting to change.

Since, and including, that draw with Tottenham on October 29, Arsenal have started looking better and better. Since then we’ve seen 2 convincing Champions League and 3 even more convincing Premiership wins. In total the Gunners have scored 3 goals in each of those last 3 domestic wins. More impressive than the goal totals has been the style in which they have done it: unbeaten run style.

How about Theirry Henry and Robin van Persie up front? They’ve looked brilliant together recently. Henry’s goals have been exceptionally taken. And van Persie’s curving shot into the far corner yesterday against Blackburn? It was poetry. In their last 5 games Henry has scored 6 goals and van Persie has scored 5. That’s 11 out of Arsenal’s 14 goals.

While that goal scoring tally tells a story, it doesn’t tell the whole story. There is a reason scoring chances are emerging: Arsenal’s midfield is looking better every game, especially Cesc Fabregas who also scored yesterday. That passing flow is returning to Highbury and for one, I’m glad to see it.

At the moment, Arsenal sit second in the Premiership table. If their strikers continue to get service and remain prolific, there might just be a challenge to Chelsea after all.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Robinho disappoints

I’ve been disappointed in Robinho. Arsenal, to my mind, is lucky that they didn’t drop the huge 30m Euro fee Real Madrid paid for him.

Robinho joined Madrid over the summer from Santos in Brazil. He’s been less than sparkling so far and, against Lyon the other night, the fans let him know about it with jeers towards the end of the game and another weak performance. Arsenal were in the hunt for a long while until the price got too high. I may be eating my words in a few months or a year but Robinho looks a little lost and short a few ideas. Madrid may have a bust on their hands.

I was initially enthused by the prospects for the youngster, but that has soured. If I am not mistaken, he’s only scored a single goal since joining Madrid and has had the chances to deliver them.

Barcelona are on fire, and away against Real last week they dominated in a way I have rarely seen. It wasn’t a win; it was a 3-0 demolition of Real Madrid. I really thought Robinho was the kind of player to bring some glue between the midfield and up front. That hasn’t happened, in fact he strands himself in strange positions, makes ill-timed passes and loses the ball.

With Raul out for month with a serious knee injury we will see just what Robinho is made of. My guess is it won't go well.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I’m not. Manchester United and former captain Roy Keane have parted ways. Both player and club made their silly media friendly statements and Roy got a payoff to shut up. That, in a nutshell is the new paradigm at Old Trafford, and it seems Celtic are the most likely to sign Keane, but should they?

The press releases say that is was by mutual consent. If you believe that then you believe anything. Alex Ferguson probably felt that his authority was being undermined; he probably had no trouble convincing the smarmy David Gill, who in turn had no problem convincing the Glazers to fire Keane. The Glazers want what every American businessman wants: to have their employees shut up. Keane ruffled a lot of feathers with his vitriolic interview recently. America is also famous for its hire and fire culture; letting Keane go midseason was a strange development, but not when you take that into account.

Mutual consent? Keane turned up at a reserve match on Thursday to build his fitness and was told he wouldn’t be playing and to go see Alex Ferguson. The next morning the two apparently met and Ferguson told the veteran that the door was over there.

For Keane, it’s like any other star player: they can get away with virtually anything unless their years or form catches up with them. For me, both were true for Keane. I thought the praise he got last season was overdone. He played ok, but compared to 4 or 5 seasons earlier, there was a marked difference. His injury rate had also increased a lot in the last few seasons.

For Celtic, I doubt new manager Gordon Strachan would want to upset his locker room so soon after taking over the club. His start there was rocky enough and only recently has Strachan, a former hot head himself, started to gain the confidence of the team and fans. Adding an injury prone, volatile player who has shown that he won’t bite his tongue for anyone would be a risk I personally wouldn’t take, especially with world class holding midfielders like Maniche around.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The rise of Lyon

In 1987 nobody had ever really heard of Olympique Lyonnais. Commonly known as just “Lyon”, they were floating around the second division in France but have since seen a meteoric rise to the top of French football, and after thrashing Real Madrid, a real contender to win this season’s Champions League.

While the supporters claim the club was founded in 1899, it was actually founded in 1950 from a split with the original multisport club Lyon Olympique. Since the split Lyon was nothing more than an also ran.

But in 1987 Jean-Michel Aulas, owner of a computer services company, was asked by the Lyon’s mayor to take over the club. Since then Lyon has become the most successful club in France, Aulas, an no other is the reason why.

Aulas has made some great coaching moves in his 18 years as president. Raymond Domenech, JeanTigana, Jacques Santini, Paul le Guen and also the current coach Gerard Houllier have all has their successes and failures, but considering the club’s regional past, that’s an impressive list. A look at Juninho, Fred and John Carew also shows you that they have a great stock of players.

Houllier, while somewhat maligned for his performance at Liverpool has the club poised for a fifth consecutive league title as well as a serious shot at the Champions League, something no French club has won since Marseille in 1993.

You may think that French clubs have no chance in the biggest competitions, but that’s a fallacy. Lyon gets an estimated 20m pounds just from its Canal+ TV rights deal; that sort of cash is on par with Premiership clubs. You may think that French clubs languish behind on marketing and the like, look again. Olympique Lyon has its own restaurant, beer brand, travel agency, a taxi service and a hair salon to compliment the more traditional money makers like the club’s shop. Strange bedfellows, but it’s bringing in money.

One thing that Lyon is clearly not is a cash in on the players kind of club. Jean-Michel Aulas is often quoted as saying you cant win championships by selling players and he as stood behind his words. The Michael Essien saga was not simply a ‘gouge Chelsea’ technique, but more a statement to the media, fans and other clubs that Lyon is intent on becoming a European powerhouse. If you look at the solid lineup of players on display today, they are poised and for that, I wish them luck, this is a club which cares about cultivating the game and has the kind of leadership you cant buy at Manchester United.


Monday, November 14, 2005

A star trio for the future

Sporting Lisbon, famous for its prolific youth system, has 3 more you’ll be hearing about soon. Coming on the tails of Cristiano Ronaldo, now with Manchester United, you can add 3 new rising talents to that list:

Nani, Silvestre Varela and Fabio Paim are all to notch prospects.

Nani is an attacking midfielder. While he doesn’t yet have a place on the starting 11 he will soon. He can fake a defender out of his boots but gets criticized for being a bit selfish with the ball.

He’s still immature in this respect but has brilliant technique. He’s extremely quick and aware of his himself with respect to defenders but still has to learn the subtleties of the attacking midfield role, mainly when to pass the ball. He often strands strikers in offside positions with one fake too many.

Silvestre Varela has more maturity at this stage. As a striker, he’s an U-21 international for Portugal but still hasn’t secured a full time place on the field for Sporting, despite having signed a new contract extension that pretends to keep him at the club until 2009.

Loaned out last season to Casa Pia Atlético Clube he’s now with Sporting’s senior side to stay. Compared a lot to Didier Drogba of Chelsea, I can tell you right now he has a better first touch.

The player they are talking most about in Lisbon at the moment though is Fabio Paim. At 17 years old he is dropping jaws for the Sporting B side and looks set to join the senior side before long. Very gifted technically, he's playing on the right wing but is versatile enough to play up front as a striker.

Paim is a super quick and tricky dribbler, has a good shot on goal, and a great vision. While is crossing still needs some polish he’s got speed to burn.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The rising sun interview

In the 9th part of my global interview series we travel to Japan. Depflight hosts a weblog called Lost in Translation. Depflight’s site is dedicated to following the Japanese J-League and Japanese football players around the world such as Nakata at Bolton and Nakamura at Celtic. My thanks for joining in.

FC: By hosting a World Cup in Japan there was obviously a short term impact on the J-League, but now, 3 years on, what impact has it had on the J-League? What about the impact on football at the youth level?

DF: The biggest impact on the Japanese football scene has been the level of pressure put on the Japan national team to qualify for this 2006 WC. Now that we hosted, it became inexcusable for us not to qualify anymore -- but the truth is that we had only qualified once before (aside from hosting it).

In Japan, the national team comes first, and the clubs/league comes second. After that you have the Asian Champions Leagues. So the J-league has had to sacrifice its schedule and players to accomodate the national team in its battle through the qualifiers. Hosting the WC made qualifying a must, but it also meant we hadn't had to go through the qualifiers since 1997. So there was a great learning process in the league in the past couple years.

The most important thing for football in Japan, at any level, is how well it catches on in the minds of the mainstream. In that sense, hosting the World Cup was a huge deal, and attracted a lot of new fans and affected a lot of people -- to see actual Japanese people competing in such a glamorous and internationally reknowned event right in front of their eyes.

One difference between pre and post World Cup 2002 is that we have lost a lot of the top players to the European clubs. I don't think it was entirely due to the World Cup, since many of them probably would have gone over even if we hadn't hosted, but I think losing these stars in the post-WC era did cost some of the J clubs dearly in the sense of attracting and holding on to fringe fans in the short term. Now, the players going over to Europe are getting younger and younger, and the domestic national team players fatigued by the tough schedule, so we are seeing much younger players getting chances to start at various J clubs too. Which I think is a good thing for the future.

The program for development of youth is getting more aggressive and ambitious. The JFA had a plan in place from the beginning, but lately with the way things have played out in the post-2002 era, the JFA has realized their plan was not enough for Japan to catch up to the "world standard". They will soon be opening the doors of a JFA Football Academy (Fukushima) that will pick promising pre-teens and apply an elite education/development course that is modelled after the French Institut National du Football, and recently made official a relationship with the French Football Association for exchange of information, training, advice, etc.

FC: How does the J-League compare to other football leagues in Asia? What are some of the top teams?

DF: I'm not the best person to ask about other leagues in Asia. Most Asians have little knowledge/info of other Asian clubs/leagues. From what I have seen in the Asia Champions League games, the Japanese league seems to be much more technique-oriented, less rough in the sense of how physicality is used in different situations. The Japanese fans do not approve of anything hinting at unsportsmanlike behavior, and in general the league is very friendly and cheerful.

But we have seen from the Asian Champions League over the years, Japan clubs seem to have trouble playing other Asian clubs because of this -- they continue to struggle to get results under tough conditions. This may be an area the J has to get more realistic and tough.

Some of the top teams historically are clubs like Jubilo Iwata, Tokyo Verdy, Yokohama F Marinos, and of course Kashima Antlers (where Zico has a bronze statue by the stadium). But now we have clubs like Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka who are studded with popular players and appeal with a fast attacking style. Right now Kashima Antlers and Gamba Osaka had a comfortable lead over the rest of the table but are only 3-5 points ahead of Cerezo Osaka, Urawa Reds, and Jef Chiba.

FC: Japan seems to love its sports, how popular is football compared to the more traditional Japanese favorites?

DF: Of course baseball is still considered the top national sport. Up until recently most of the tall athletic types went to baseball as schoolboys, but we are seeing that change to football more now. Though baseball has such a history -- and therefore families pass down the love of a team from generation to generation -- football is becoming more appealing to children.

We are seeing a great deal of attention paid to the Japan national football team -- by far, the National Team gets some of the heaviest sports coverage and scrutiny in the country. When the National team plays, the television broadcast has record viewership numbers. This is the advantage of football over baseball -- the national team. The J League still falls a little behind the baseball league though.

FC: Who are your top 5 Japanese players at the moment? How about 5 players playing in Japan that we have never heard of but you think will become stars?

DF: Right now by far Shunsuke Nakamura is the top with consistent contributions to club and national teams over a long period of time. After a surgery, Shinji Ono recovered in time for Japan's games in Eastern Europe but re-injured the foot, but otherwise he is looking extremely sharp. Hidetoshi Nakata too. These three have so much experience and natural vision for the game that it's hard to not mention them.

I'd also like to direct attention to one of the lesser known European-based players, Daisuke Matsui, who plays at France's Le Mans. He is a young lefty with great elegance in technique and creativity. He has been called up by Zico and played in the games against Latvia and the Ukraine; he has also been chosen for the squad against Angola next week.

In the domestic league two internationals, Mitsuo Ogasawara (midfielder, Kashima Antlers) and Yuji Nakazawa (defender, Yokohama F Marinos), are people I like to keep an eye on. Both of them got offers this year from Europe but had to decline for various reasons. Still, I believe they will become key players in the World Cup, and hope they are able to stay healthy and continue to improve.

In the youth category, more than any other player, I am most convinced Tokyo Verdy's Takayuki Morimoto has a star aura. He is now 17, but scored his first J League goal at the age of 15. I am pretty sure we'll see him in the national team and Europe in the future.

FC: There seems to be a bias in Europe that says you buy Japanese players to sell shirts and have them sit the bench, of course players like Nakata challenge the stereotype, but how is that stereotype viewed in Japan?

DF: I think Japanese on the whole are neither offended or concerned with the stereotype. It is a mark of Japanese fan support that European clubs can make money off of player jerseys, but whether that support continues is up to the club and player. Right now we have nine players in seven European countries, and they are all in different situations -- so it's hard to think of them all as one big stereotype from our point of view, since we follow the details of their individual careers. But maybe if you don't follow Japanese players much, you will see them in this generalized stereotype.

*Please email if you'd like to conduct an interview (over email) or if you know the name of a weblog in your country.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Manchester United linked

Nothing starts transfer rumors like bad form.

Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong is apparently on Alex Ferguson’s mind. The recently capped Dutch international has been in sparking form all season, if Ajax have not. The 21 year old winger and full-back has been added to United’s transfer wish list after he failed to agree an extended deal with Ajax.

Ajax are forced to cash in on their young star whose contract is up at the end of the season.

Apparently Alex Ferguson has been given 10m pounds to spend in the January transfer window to beef up his flailing squad. Nothing like a bad run of form to get the press releases out.

“Don’t blame us, please, um, here is some money to shut them up” –some Glazer, any Glazer

An even tastier link up has Tomas Gravesen of Real Madrid linked up with United as well. This either means Roy Keane is seriously out of favor, Alan Smith is never going to hold the midfield, United will never get Michael Ballack, or maybe all of the above. It would be a world class swoop but for Gravesen, you got to wonder, why leave a club embroiled in politics to join another suffering from the same problem?

Apparently losing to Lille has attracted United to midfielder Jean Makoun. His impressive performances over the 2 legs in the team’s Champions League tussles have opened the transfer speculation.

Maniche would do nicely for me.


Monday, November 07, 2005

George Weah's greatest goal

When he was a member of AC Milan, former World Player of the Year George Weah scored one of the most magical goals in history against Verona in 1996.

It was the opening day of the season when Weah took a bad Verona corner 3 meters inside his own box all the way down the field and scored. It defied belief.

The play started with a quality first touch, typical of Weah, knowing who was around him, he tapped the ball outside his own box and began to run, and run and run. How many players do we see today pelt the ball as far as then can only to lose possession?

The Verona defense, weakened by having so many men forward in the box, followed Weah back on the trot until he was finally challenged by 2 Verona players on the opposition’s side of the center circle. Weah almost lost the ball but somehow managed to force the ball past the challenge, turn, and recover his gallop towards goal.

Once in space, the super-striker turned on the jets and dummied the ball past a hapless defender, which, from that point on meant it was him against the keeper. After another burst of speed and losing space rapidly, Weah shot early from 13 meters out. It was a sublime strike across the goalkeeper right into the corner of the net. Perfect power, perfect placement, all to toast a perfect run, what a goal!


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Pascal Chimbonda

Believe it or not, Wigan Athletic has the best defensive record in the Premiership so far this season. Having only conceded 5 goals, Pascal Chimbonda is certainly one reason why and showed it in the team’s win against Portsmouth yesterday.

Chimbonda scored the first goal with a header from a corner and taking a gamble to leave his back line and set up the second 10 minutes from time. He had an impressive display, not allowing the Portsmouth any attacking options on the right wing and getting forward to pressure Pompey into mistakes.

All season long the small Frenchman has been in form, showing great pace and hard work. In addition, he’s closing players down with quick feet and anticipation.

Born in Guadeloupe in the Eastern Caribbean Sea, Chimbonda joined Wigan this summer from Bastia for 500,000 pounds. Offered a three-year deal at Wigan, he turned down French giants Marseille. Before his two seasons at Bastia he made 85 appearances for La Havre.

At Bastia he only scored four goals in 67 appearances but has claimed two already this season for Wigan, the winner last week against Fulham (by muscling Papa Bouba Diop off the ball) and yesterday’s header.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Exclusive: Mourinho and Wenger agree to pissing contest

In a bid to settle their long term disagreements over just who is superior, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal top dog Arsene Wenger have agreed to a pissing contest.

Yes folks Wenger’s thirst for those Abramovic rubles and, desperate for admiration, Mourinho’s craving for that aura of respect the Wenger has, has descended into two wealthy men at the top of their professions having a good old cat fight.

To stop the two men from generating ever more worthless news they have decided to slap their cocks on the table and settle who’s got the biggest one, once and for all. Winner is deemed the superior being, coaches will return to their coaching and we can all get back to watching football again.

The hoards of reporters which were eager to cover the meaningless babble have also agreed to be present for the great unveiling.

Betandwin.com has begun posting odds on the winner, but, in an exclusive quote from an inside source, Football Commentator has the inside line:

“While both men indulging in this means they both clearly have small appendages, it’s probably going to be Mourinho by a pubic hair” –Unnamed insider

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Keane got muzzled

Roy Keane of Manchester United has had his MUTV interview censored by the club because of its strong criticism of the club and players. That’s what happens when you fall back into a dictatorial ownership structure folks. Thank the Glazers again: To hell with the ability to speak your mind.

The show was recorded at United's training complex on Monday and the Irishman laid in to half the team with some harsh words. I hope he laid into Alan Smith: does this kid do anything else except scream and yell at anyone who fouls him or referee that books him?

MUTV, which has lost many subscribers since the takeover, aired action from the junior team instead.

You can thank the smarmy Chief Executive (read: Glazer lap dog) David Gill this time. Wasn’t he the guy that ‘felt your pain’ and promised to quit United if there was a Glazer takeover? Well, like all team players he towed the company line with the good ‘ol “detrimental to the team” crap. Oh and Alex Ferguson also said he didn’t want it aired (looks like his are the only strong words allowed), when questioned, choosing instead to say:

"That is the great thing about football -- we have had a few days to recover from a bad result and hopefully we can put things right tomorrow," –Ferguson

Is that the great thing about football? Hmmm, I’ve missed that one for years; I thought the great thing about football was great movement and passing. Consider me set strait.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been a big Keane fan ever since he intentionally injured Manchester City’s Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001, but I rather like his mouth because you see so many players today saying the same old stupid things to the media; so worried about their image and marketing potential. It’s nice to see outspokenness rather than the fakers that kiss their team’s logo after a goal.

Keane, rightly so, is frustrated. The team looks listless. Remember the days when United played with that pressure that seemed so relentless, when teams really feared leaving the ground with a 5-0 drubbing?

I wrote it then, I stand by it. Last season’s FA Cup loss to Arsenal (right after the takeover) was the first sign of the crumbling walls at Old Trafford. Censorship is another fallen brick.

Airing the interview would have kept a smidge of integrity in place.