What’s Diego Cost been up to this weekend? Some say the Chelsea striker is injured. Others say he’s been dropped for brooding and rowing, behaving off the pitch much like he does on it. As his manager Antonio Costa put it when asked when his main striker will return to the side, “I don’t know how long it will take, I don’t have his pain. We’ll see about this next week.”
Reports abound that Costa is looking for a huge-money move to China. Will he go? Not if his team-mates have anything to do with it he won’t. The Telegraph says Costa’s Chelsea team-mates have asked him to apologise over his reported row with the club’s fitness coaches.
Match of the Day pundit Ian Wright can’t see that happening. “Costa doesn’t seem like the sort of person who cares what people think,” says Wright. “Whatever happens – if it’s his back it’s very hard to detect – something has turned him.”
ESPN hears from Costa’s friends (unnamed) who say he doesn’t want to go to China. The Mirror says Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has no intention to selling Costa.
But in case he does, Roman will find the cash to buy Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid (Sun) and / or Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller (Express).
Unless the Chinese get to them first and back backs prove to be contagious.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa, 28, is off to China in a transfer worth £80m to Chelsea, says the BBC. His move will hand the Premier League title to anyone but Chelsea and earn the striker a mere 576,000 per week.
The pay packet would see Costa elevated to the rank of the world’s second highest paid footballer, one yacht-a-week behind Shanghai Shenua’s Carlos Tevez, says the Daily Express.
The Times says Costa’s departure would be a “blow” to the Blues. It’d be windier than that. Costa’s been rampant this season.
The Guardian notes that Costa might already have played his last game for Chelsea. The PL’s top scorer has been dropped from the Blues squad for their match at Leicester City. Why? Well, the paper says Costa “clashed” with one of Chelsea’s fitness coaches “over an injury he feels he has been carrying… Costa has not trained fully this week and Antonio Conte has become involved in the argument.”
To stir the pot a little further, Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, is reportedly in China.
To add another layer of weirdness, on Friday Costa’s Instagram account bellowed “Come on Chelsea!!!!” to his 1.7 million followers. The following message did not add “Come on Chelsea!!!! You scumbags!!!!!! Let me got to the Chinese Super League or I’ll cry, point to my ankle and grass you up to the ref!!!”
Ironic, indeed, that a player notable for his perceived interest in seeing other players sent off should be waving the imaginary red card at himself.
Your move, Chelsea.
Transfer balls: Following news that Bournemouth fancy signing Chelsea’s John Terry on loan til the season’s end, the Mirror says the Blues are in the market for a new centre back. So they’re “lining up Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson as their No.1 target”.
Everton also want Gibson. The Mirror told us on January 4 that should Everton fail to sign Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, they’ll move for Gibson. Everton wanted him back on April 27 2016, when the Mirror reported: “Everton line up Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson as replacement for John Stones.”
Stones joined Manchester City. Everton never put an offer in for Gibson, “their No1 target… rated in the £4m class.”
Was Gibson really Everton’s number one targets over the summer? No. Because in July 2015, the Mirror told us Everton were chasing Nemanja Vidic and Gibson was the back-up plan. “The Toffees hope to bring the Inter Milan defender back to the Premier League,” said the Mirror, “but are also eyeing Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson in case they can’t.”
Everton never did buy Vidic. They never stood a chance of getting him. Well, not it your read the Daily Mail on March 25, 2015, which stated: “Nemanja Vidic will stay with Inter Milan despite being linked with return to England.”
As for Gibson, Everton must regret not buying the £4m-rated player because he’s now worth a whole lot more. The Express reported on December 6 2016: “MIDDLESBROUGH star Ben Gibson will reportedly cost Chelsea and Everton a staggering £35m – and there’s no chance of a deal in January.”
Such are the facts.
PS: On 4 April 2015, the Mirror reported: “Liverpool and Manchester City to battle for homegrown Middlesbrough starlet Ben Gibson.” How much? Around the £4m the Mirror said he was worth, right? Wrong. “Gibson could command a fee as high as £10million.”
The Mirror leads with news that Liverpool have no intention of selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £60m. “NOU CHANCE,” puns the paper.” Liverpool manger Jurgen Klopp says “no amount of money” will force him to sell his star player.
Wishful thinking, of course. Every player has their price. After all on December 26, the Mirror reported: “Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Paris Saint-Germain plotting £40million Philippe Coutinho swoop.” Putting a price alongside a player’s name is simple.
Over in the Sun, the figure of £60m also figures large on the back page. This time it’s the sum Manchester United are willing to invest in Spurs full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. But United won’t have it easy. The paper adds that Manchester City will fight United for the England players.
Walker and Rose each earn around £70,000-a-week at Spurs. Given that Spurs are better than United and outplayed City this season, it’s surely only money that will make either of them move.
Mark Irwin tells Spurs fans to expect the worst. Needing money for their new £750m stadium, Spurs will cash on on their star turns. Irwin notes that Rose, Walker and other young Spurs players, like Dele Alli Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen, know they could earn far more at Chelsea, Arsenal or either of the Manchester clubs.
Deep on page 9 of the Daily Mirror is the story of four Chelsea fans found guilty of racist violence and given suspended prisoner sentences by a French judge. The four white men were accused of pushing a back man off a Metro train in Paris ahead of Chelsea’s Champions’ League match with PSG. “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it,” belched fans as the video rolled.
A nasty little event was then amplified beyond all proportion. The Sun led with the news:
Readers were ordered to “FIND PIGS OF PARIS”. The Sun said “an international hunt” was under way for the bellends who also chanted the refrain “Where were you in World War 2?”. It was the type of cross-border hunt usually reserved for jihadis and master criminals. It was that serious.
The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, lifted his blinkers away from Syria and the EU Referendum to tell us that the matter was “extremely worrying”. “These are very, very serious matters.” Nick Clegg said, without irony given his career: “‘I was so ashamed.”
The United Nations – no, I’m not making this up – thought it wise to comment. “It is important to build on the outrage created by this snapshot of the ugly face of racism, to re-energize the effort to combat it in all its forms wherever it occurs,” said a spokesman. It was, he said, “cruel”. The United Nations is hot on cruelty, human rights and racism, after all just look at the members who sit on its panel: Bangladesh (“Security forces continue enforced disappearances, killings, and arbitrary arrests with impunity”), China (“Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners have faced particularly severe repression in recent years, including forced conversion, torture and imprisonment”), Qatar (“Discrimination against women remains entrenched in both law and practice) and Saudi Arabia (“Members of other faiths can worship privately, but non-Muslim houses of worship may not be built”).
Across the global feelings were hurt by oafs on a Paris tube train. Idiots had been caught behaving sadly. But the elite in Westminster and what used to be Fleet Street wanted more. They held the video up as being a sign of much greater ills. And once again football – the great meritocratic melting pot watched by slum people – was in the dock.
There are no black faces on the Government’s front benches; no black editors of national newspapers; no black faces on the Metropolitan police leadership team; but get a load of those berks on the Paris Metro. There’s your racism. Happily for the elite who use football as a extension of Moral Health UK, the Chelsea fans were wearing club colours.
The elite like their racists white, preferably working class and always obvious.
The Daily Mail (number of black faces on board: nil), knows racism when it sees it. It delivered the time-honoured “LEAGUE OF SHAME”, a list of football fans arrested for “racist and abusive chanting”. The Daily Star (which once supported the EDL) said the “Hate thugs face 3 years’ jail”. “There is a greater shame here because we foolishly, naively, believed the issue of racism among our football supporters was a thing of the past,” wrote Neil Ashton in the Daily Mail. The Guardian’s Barney Ronay opined in the paper’s 40-odd articles on the incident: “For decades this kind of thing has happened, continues to happen, and most troubling, appears to be happening a little more now.”
One by one these wrong ‘uns were lined up to be shot at. Josh Parsons came to epitomise racism. The Sun led with a picture of Parsons. The Times showed us photo of his home in Dorking. He was an ex-public schoolboy. He was a “City high-flyer”. He had studied at “30,000-a-year” Millfield school. He worked for the Business and Commercial Club in Mayfair. And in case you still couldn’t find him, the Sun said his office was on Mayfair, Central London.
Grab your torches! Saddle up! Let’s roll!
And as you journeyed to the lynching, know this – Star told readers: “Meanwhile, season ticket holder Josh Parsons, 21, one of those filmed, is a UKIP supporter who enjoyed a pint with Nigel Farage”.
Damned in print and monstered by the highest offices in global diplomacy, the men who abused Souleymane Sylla, 34, are now buried deep in the papers. Parsons, billed as a”trainee scaffolder”, Jamie Fairbairn, a civil engineer, Richard Barklie and William Simpson are no longer the apogee of all wrongs. They were ordered to pay about £9,000 to My Sylla.” That’s a pretty steep fine for being a prat, and far less than the lengthy custodial terms some were hoping for.
You might supposed the story is front-page news elsewhere. But you’d be wrong. It does not appear in the Star. It’s on page 8 of the Mail (“Chelsea yobs told to pay £9k for racist Paris attack”). The Sun shows the story on page 8. In its version Barklie is not 50 years old, as the Mirror says he is, but 52 and an “ex-cop”. We also get more details of the punishment:
Barklie: Tried in his absence, the County Antrim man got a suspended year long jail term. He denied racist violence.
Simpson: Tried in his absence, he got a suspended year long jail term.
Parsons: He went to court and got an eight months suspended sentence.
Fairbairn: He went to court and got a six months suspended sentence.
The Guardian has more. We get to know what happened to Parsons, public enemy Number 1:
Parsons told the court the Métro was packed and the atmosphere was “hot and hostile”. He said Sylla was “bigger than me” and when the commuter tried to get on the carriage “I pushed back”. He said the pushing was not related to the colour of Sylla’s skin. “The only time I knew the skin colour was when I saw the video afterwards,” he said.
Questioned by the state prosecutor, Parsons said that after he pushed Sylla the first time, he chanted “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea,” and after he pushed him a second time, he chanted “Fuck the IRA”. He said the chant “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it” was shouted in another carriage; he did not sing it and he “did not like that chant”.
Parsons said: “I’m very sorry for Mr Sylla but I wasn’t racist in any way.”
Parsons’ lawyer said his life had been affected by the “total hysteria” of the media, members of which had arrived at his home after he was identified as one of the fans in the video. Parsons, who once posed for a photograph with Nigel Farage, said journalists had come on to “my land” and rung his grandmother’s doorbell every half an hour.
He said he had lost his finance job in Mayfair, London, and had briefly moved to Cornwall where he retrained as a scaffolder. His lawyer said Parsons’ entourage described him as a “well-brought-up boy” and two former dormitory friends from his boarding school, who were not white, had testified that he was not racist.
Such are the facts.
Never mind that Antoine Griezmann says he’s happy in Madrid with his new baby and wonderful life, the British Press have him packed and ready to join the Premier League very soon. France’s footballer of the year is on his way to, well, all the top clubs. Manchester United have £60m and Chelsea £50m and £90m for Atletico Madrid’s super striker, whose new contract set his transfer fee at a minimum of £86m.
News in the Guardian is that Manchester City also quite like Griezmann – and so do Arsenal. The BBC and Telegraph say that if Mesut Özil or Alexis Sánchez fail to get the £200,000 a week they each want to extend their current contracts and leave the Gunners, Arsenal will swoop for Griezmann by offering him less than the £200,000-a-week City, Chelsea or United would pay.
Should that cunning plan fail, Arsenal will go for Marco Reus or Julian Draxler, although the taller German (Draxler) has apparently agreed to join PSG in France’s Ligue 1. That doesn’t stop the Daily Star says Draxler is on his way to Liverpool.
The tin lid is placed on this Transfer Balls by news that the source for the BBC, Telegraph, Independent and Guardian scoop on Griezmann and Reus being watched by Arsenal is Squawka, a blog whereon we read not a single fact to support the story that Arsenal want either player.
Such are the facts.
Chelsea did not break any Premier League rules in their dealings with former player Gary Johnson, the former player who claims he was sexually abused by coach Eddie Heath as a member of the youth team in the 1970s. When Johnson and his lawyers took the matter to Chelsea in 2014, the club Chelsea agreed to pay him £50,000 and told him never to mention the allegations.
Johnson accepted the deal. But was a man who says his childhood was stolen from him badly advised and badly treated?
Chelsea said the club’s board understood it was “usual practice” to include a mutual confidentiality agreement. They noted that Johnson’s solicitors had not objected to the clause. When Johnson went public, Chelsea waived the confidentiality clause.
Eddie Heath is dead. Chelsea have publicly apologised. They say Johnson “suffered unacceptably” after joining Chelsea as an 11-year-old in 1970. You might well ask what an acceptable level of suffering amounts to, and who gages it?
The matter was put before the Premier League. They have found Chelsea clear of any wrongdoing. The Blues will review their procedures and send a copy of their report to The Premier League. The Premier League board says: “After careful consideration, the board has determined that no Premier League rules were broken by the club not reporting this matter to them in 2014. ‘The League has requested that Chelsea agrees to a full safeguarding audit from an independent safeguarding expert. The league has no reason to have any concerns about Chelsea’s current provisions in this area but, given the seriousness of these historical allegations, feels that such a review is an appropriate course of action.”
Says Gary Johnson to the Mirror: “(Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich may be one of the richest men in football, but he has been very badly advised on this.” Was he the only one who was?
Transfer balls: The Sun leads with news of Manchester United’s £60m bid for Atletico Madrid’s Antione Griezman. It’s an exclusive. But we’ve read of Grizeman heading to United before: here, here and here.
The Press have also told us Griezman was joining Chelsea for £50m.
They told us he rejected a move to Arsenal and declared that he’d never play in England, not even for £80m. Griezmann “was settled in Spain and would not consider a move to England”, said the Indy.
On June 23, the Sun reported: “GRIEZ STAYING – Antoine Griezmann will STAY at Atletico Madrid after signing a new five-year contract.”
The Sun also told readers that Griezmann, 25, was looking at a release clause worth “£78m”.
On September 11 this year the Express reported:
“EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea to make record bid for Manchester United target Antoine Griezmann. ANTONIO CONTE has asked Chelsea’s power brokers to sanction a world-record bid for Atletico Madrid hitman Antoine Griezmann next summer…
That release clause, the one worth £78m?
Conte is ready to go above the £86million release clause in Griezmann’s contract to head off interest from Manchester United. And that means splashing out more than the £89m that United paid Juventus to take Griezmann’s close pal Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford.”
And just yesterday the Standard reported:
“For Arsenal, he [Koscielny] speaks to me about them often,” he told France Football. “But I feel good at Madrid. I do not want to leave. I feel calm here. The little one [his daughter] has just arrived, I am playing matches, I feel good. Sorry, I am going to stay. But Arsenal is a wonderful team. They play great with the ball.”
And today the Daily Star says:
Starsport understand that both Manchester giants as well as Chelsea and Arsenal are all interested in signing Griezmann in the summer. The France international is one of the finest players in the world and valued at around £80m but that would not put off any of England’s top sides.
And so the Sun’s exclusive::
Griezmann has a contract with Atletico until 2021 but his relationship with the club and coach Diego Simeone has soured this season. After losing the Champions League final to city rivals Real twice in the last three years, Atletico look like a team which has peaked.
From feeling calm yesterday (in his own words) to feeling sour today (in the Sun’s words) it’s been a busy few days for the Frenchman.
Arsenal forwards Alexis Sanchez is on his way to Chelsea. Maybe. The Mirror leads with news that should Arsenal fails to give Sanchez the massive pay hike he wants, Chelsea will dip him, his dog, his mum and his house in Russian gold.
The root of this story is not guessology, but something close to it. The Mirror says Chelsea manager Antonio Conte really likes Sanchez, arguably the Premier League’s best player. And, er, that’s it.
This ‘news’ follows yesterday’s ‘news’ that Chinese investors are willing to spirit Sanchez to the Far East an pay him £400,000-a-week to kick a ball. You’d imagine that any club willing to pay that much will also pay an enormous transfer fee.
As Arsenal wonder what Sanchez is worth if someone is willing to pay him £50m a year, the rest of the media slavishly follow the Mirror’s fact-free scoop:
“Arsenal and Chelsea fans lose their minds on Twitter as Sanchez is linked with Blues move” – Express
“Chelsea prepare swoop for Alexis Sanchez amid contract stalemate” – IBTimes
“Chelsea chase Gunners superstar Alexis” – The Sun
Of course, we only know about the Chinese interest because Sanchez’s people have dropped it into conversation with Arsenal over a new deal. It’s a bit desperate from them. If he fancies it, he’d already have agreed to go and Arsenal would be talking about that massive transfer fee.
So Sanchez won’t head to China. He’ll stay in Europe, and if he and Arsenal are smart he’ll stay at the Emirates and earn closer to the £200,000 a week he wants.
Jose Mourinho is “the rich one” in the Sunday Times’ look at the Manchester United manger’s financial affairs. The allegation is that “a complex offshore structure” has allowed Mourinho “to dodge tax on his image rights income”.
Is it all legal? We should suppose it is. But after the words “criminal investigation”, the paper looks at the cash – pots of it. The paper says since arriving in the UK in 2004 Mourinho has been paid – get his – £120m in salary. Much of that cash came from Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea. Perhaps the paper would be best served looking at the owner’s sources of income. In 2015, the Times‘ Matthew Syed was scathing of the Russian:
The money that has bankrolled Chelsea these past 12 years, which has brought multiple trophies while sanitising the image of one of the most dubious individuals ever associated with British sport, was corruptly amassed
Back to the Mourinho, then, and his cash:
An investigation by The Sunday Times has found evidence suggesting that the Manchester United boss’s advisers misled the tax authorities in Britain and Spain during inquiries into more than £10m in earnings hidden through a Caribbean tax haven.
In an attempt to reduce his tax bill, Mourinho’s advisers appear to have fabricated more than £1m in costs run up by a British Virgin Islands shell company with no employees.
They also withheld from the tax inspectors the fact that Mourinho’s family were the true owners of the shell company.
The story is based on a “1.9-terabyte cache of data was originally handed to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, by a whistleblower who does not wish to be named”. We are told why he’s leaked the data. “It is time to finally clean up football,” he says. “The fans have to understand that with every ticket, every jersey they buy and with every television subscription, they are feeding an extremely corrupt system that is only in it for itself.”
As is the way with big scoops of the past years – politicians’ expenses; the US embassy cables; Hillary Clinton’ emails – the source is huge wad of data dropped on the media’s mat. It;s quickly packaged up as story of bad versus good. But how many of us see the Tax Man as a force for righteousness?
The paper notes:
It shows how the super-rich can employ highly paid advisers and lawyers to shield them from the tax laws that apply to everyone else. The public rarely gets a glimpse into this world. Until now.
Of course it all boils down to one thing: greed. But let’s not too be hard on Mourinho. Football relies on talent. The more talented the football name the more more they get. Revenues run to the workers. Jeremy Corbyn should enjoy that.
Whether or not Mourinho is overpaid or underpaid is neither here nor there. You could defend Mourinho by looking at the vast amounts of tax he has paid. You could say that a foreigner deciding to spend and invest his cash overseas is to be expected. You could see the taxman as an arbitrary force of state power.
What makes us curious is the power Mourinho enjoys. If the man who was indulged at Chelsea so long as he was winning – witness his hideous treatment of referees and Dr Eva Carneiro – is mired, it is not so much down to him as it is the clubs that stuck him on a pedestal and ignored and deflected criticism of odious behaviour that in any other industry would get him sectioned.
Mourinho’s people say they and he have done nothing wrong. But if he has cheated, the clubs that poo-pooed criticism of his antics and in so doing encouraged belief that he is free to exist outside the laws of acceptable behaviour, need to answer questions, too.
The Mirror leads with the “FOOTY Paedophile Scandal”. We hear from former Chelsea player Gary Johnson, who says he was paid £50,000 last year to keep quiet about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a club scout in the 1970s.
Over pages 4,5,6, and 7, Gary Johnson claims he was sexually assaulted by Chelsea scout Eddie Heath “hundreds of times in three years”.
Eddie Heath is dead.
Says Johnson of Chelsea: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.” If they did, will Chelsea be asking for their money back? Johnson says Chelsea “asked him to sign a gagging order”. “They may have paid others for their silence,” he adds. We then learn that Chelsea “waived the clause in Gary’s settlement banning him from speaking about abuse after details of his claim were leaked to the media.”
Did Chelsea know Johnson was being abused in 1973 when he was a 13-year-old at the club, continuing until Gary was “around 16 or 17 and happened two or three times a week”, as he says?
Gary Johnson says Heath got him to perform in threesomes with other boys, “so I know there are mother victims out there.” He adds: “it is now up to them if they come forward”.
Do we expect them to?
Brendan O’Neill writes:
In these post-Savile times, we’ve come to think that all former victims of child abuse have some kind of responsibility to parade their wounds. We have come to expect, somewhat greedily, even perversely, that the abuse of decades ago must be relived, as publicly as possibly, in order to ‘raise awareness’. I’m sorry, but I think it’s possible there’s an element of moral titillation to all this. And I think it’s possible that it makes abuse victims even less likely to get over their experiences by making them go through it all again for our viewing or reading pleasure.
We learn that in 2014, Gary Johnson contacted the Met Police’s Operation Yewtree. He says he was “advised to go back to Chelsea with his case”. The police palmed him off to the club? If so, that’s abhorrent. Did they investigate? We’re not told. Mr Johnson says the “Professional Footballers’ Association did not return his calls”. So he contacted lawyers, who asked Chelsea for compensation.
Says Gary Johnson: “What makes me so angry is that I went to them to say I had been abused an they basically said, ‘prove it’,” Was that wrong of them? Chelsea are no longer owned by the Mears family, as they were in the 1970s. Why should the new owners take anything on face value alone when a man is asking for money and claiming to have been the victim of heinous crimes by a former employee? Gary Johnson says Chelsea’s “attitude when I came forward was to sweep it under the carpet”.
His claim was supported by Roger Kennedy, who says: “Mr Johnson has been haunted by the abuse for most of his life, but the intensity of the flashbacks have increased since he has become more aware of the nature of what happened due to the publicity around Jimmy Savile.”
The Mirror is quick to blame the club, saying Chelsea used its “financial might to cover up abuse”. It is the “tip of the iceberg”. Did Chelsea behave badly? All we know of the money and the deal is that Mr Johnson says: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.”
The Mirror says the story “implies they [Chelsea] cared more about commercial rights and sponsorship deals than helping survivors cope with the torment of abuse”. The paper says Chelsea are “morally questionable”.
What of the police, then, and the PFA, two institutions Mr Johnson says failed him? What of the lawyers who accepted an worked on the deal?
Writing in the Mail, Martin Samuel confronts the matter of a club’s role. He says the current Chelsea owners are part of the club’s heritage.
Yes, the sport is different now. Yes, stricter protocols and procedures are in place, and those in charge of youth development may protest that the past is a foreign country. But it isn’t.
Modern clubs must assume responsibility, be the custodians for all those years. Everything, from the fanbase, to the location, to modern revenue streams, and items in glass cases that directors view with pride, they owe to those ancient dates and what followed. And much of it may have been good.
But what isn’t, what is almost too poisonous to contemplate, cannot be disowned.
When you buy a club, you buy the heritage, the good and the bad.
It’s a shame we don’t know the full terms of Mr Johnson’s deal and how the £50,000 sum was agreed upon. Chelsea are investigating. Hopefully, Chelsea will be transparent and we will know more soon. Dare they be anything but? The Mail leads with the headline: “FA VOW TO HIT CHELSEA HARD.” Any club “who have given a child abuse victim hush money will be punished”. Chelsea are “in the dock”, says the paper. The club may well ask, “On what charge?”
By way of a footnote, the Mirror says Eddie Heath trained Barry Bennell, the convicted paedophile, when he was a 14-year-old at Chelsea. The Mirror says there is “no suggestion” Bennell was a victim of Heath’s.
Heath is dead. Also dead is Frank Roper, a man who former footballer Paul Stewart says abused him “every day for four years”. Gary Johnson says Paul Stewart encouraged him to tell his story.
We can expert to hear others.
Manchester United balls: Jose Mourinho adapts the Chelsea philosophy to be more and less like Van Gaal
How are things going for Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho? “From the moment he arrived, the message has been positive, about winning the title. Nothing on philosophies or things taking time,” said the Sun’s Neil Curtis on 6th September 2016. Philosophy is for losers, like Louis Van Gaal, Jose’s predecessor at United, whose “attempts to reprogramme everyone with his much-vaunted ‘philosophy’ succeeded only in inhibiting all their natural instincts”.
Philosophy is balls.
Unless it isn’t. On November 15 the Sun thought philosophy and football were a good blend. “Johan Cruyff’s debut 52 years ago today: Inventor of Total Football whose philosophy influenced Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola,” chimed the headline.
On November 22, the Manchester Evening News agreed, reporting: “Daley Blind’s view on Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho’s philosophy.” Said Blind of Mourinho: “He is pretty similar to Van Gaal when it comes to their commitment to the team. They used to work together so I reckon that is no coincidence.” He adds: “…his philosophy is slightly different to that of Van Gaal. He is very direct, it is all about winning.”
And as Jose Mourinho put it in 2013: “You need stability in methods, in philosophy within the club. With FFP [Financial Fair Play], and Chelsea wants to go in that direction, you also need stability. You cannot change manager and philosophy every few years.”
So much for much-vaunted philosophy.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa is playing well. Ian Wright has noticed. He says Chelsea are riding high in the Premier League because of Costa above all else. The former Arsenal striker writes in the Sun:
“I have a message to all those who say Diego Costa has finally got his game under control: It always was. There are plenty of people who reckon it’s all down to the fact he has calmed down. Yet to me, even when Costa was picking up yellow cards, he remained massively in control…. he always knew how far to push it. He’d have picked up far more than a single red card in his time at Stamford Bridge if that wasn’t the case.”
In Marxh 2015, Costa was sent off in the FA Cup at Goodison Park. It was his first red card in a Chelsea shirt. It was his first because he’d been lucky / sneaky. Before that red card, Costa was banned twice in a Chelsea shirt, both retrospectively, by the FA for incidents missed by the officials during games against Arsenal and Liverpool.
So much for the facts, then. And what about all those who say Costa is a hothead? People like Ian Wright, who opined in 2015:
“I would sell him at the first opportunity I get for Costa. I’d sell him… He’s antagonised at the moment. If I was a defender I would just keep talking to him, it takes him away from his game.”
“Martin Keown… would have relished the challenge of Costa. Whatever we say about Costa, he plays on the edge. His hold up play and the runs he makes, honestly, he’s good. Martin could deal with all that and the foolishness as well.”
Such are the facts.
Transfer balls: West Ham United are keen on Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, 29. The former Arsenal captain has played just 87 minutes for the Blues in the Premier League this season.
The Daily Mirror leads with the news that The Hammers wants Cesc in the January transfer window. But why would Cesc want the Hammers?
The Mirror says Chelsea are “even ready” to subsidise Fabregas’s £160,000-a-week wages in order to get shot of him. But there is little on what pull West Ham hold to the World Cup winning midfielder. Indeed, the Mirror says “Fabregas remains determined” to remain at Chelsea.
But the Sun says Fabregas “looks certain to leave Chelsea in January and could replace Dimitri Payet at West Ham”.
Payet recently told a French TV station: ”Leave in January? I’m asking other questions but I’m not closing the door to anything. It’s always the sports project that interests me. I work like that and until I play at a level like this, it will be the case.”
It’s all speculation.
Back in September the Express was reporting that Cesc had agreed to join AC Milan.
On August 16 2016, the Sun and Star reported that Cesc, who played for Barcelona (the club of his heart), wanted to join their fierce rivals Real Madrid and also stay at Chelsea.
Such are the facts.
Did you read the news that Chelsea are all set to sack Antonio Conte, their manager? It’s nonsense. He isn’t being sacked. The Sun has confirmed that Conte is not being sacked by Chelsea:
Antonio Conte sacked: Chelsea boss’ future at Stamford Bridge is safe after betting firms spark sack rumours
Which betting firms started that rumour then?
The Sun had more:
Which bookmakers were no longer taking money on Conte’s sacking? The paper told readers:
Sun Bets, Betway and Paddy Power have both suspended betting on Conte being the second Premier League boss to get the boot.
Three betting companies have “both” suspended betting on Chelsea sacking Conte?
But only one bookmaker was talking to the Sun. Can you guess which one?
A spokesperson for Sun Bets said: “We’ve currently suspended the next Premier League manager to go until the rumours about Antonio Conte’s future at Chelsea settle down… Diego Simeone is Sun Bets 7/2 favourite to take over the reigns.”
There is no word from any other betting companies.
To recap, then. Antonio Conte has not been sacked. He was never going to be sacked. It was all just a rumour rooted in bookmakers’, like Sun Bets, and amplified by that company’s sister publication The Sun newspaper, which thoughtfully reproduced the odds on something not happening for its readers to study.
And, boy, did the Sun milk the non-news news story about its betting arm:
Such are the facts.
Transfer balls: Chelsea want to sell Hazard, Manchester United offered £170m for Neymar, Arsenal re-buy Higuain
Transfer balls: a look at football reporting. The BBC says Chelsea are looking to cash in on Eden Hazard, the player once billed as the “new Lionel Messi”. The BBC says Chelsea will tie a big bag of cash to the 25-year-old Belgium and offer to swap the lot for Juventus and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29.
The Sun says Juventus don’t want Hazard. They want Cesc Fabregas and an even bigger bag of cash – £50m – for Bonucci.
In other Chelsea news, the Star says the blues are keen on Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Manchester City also want him. Aubameyang doesn’t want to play for either of them, preferring a move to Real Madrid.
City have loads of cash. Will they outbid Real? News is that last summer they offered £170m for Barcelona’s Neymar. The Citizens thought they’d get their man. Mundo Deportivo says Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain matched that bid. And all failed. Odd, indeed, that no other news sources got wind of these bids.
Maybe City will have better luck with Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin, 21. Marca says Barcelona head the queue for the Arsenal flyer, who is happy at the Emirates.
As for the Gunners, well, Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis says Arsenal made a good offer for striker Gonzalo Higuain over the summer. “We received a request from Arsenal,” he told the Evening Standard. “Personally I also received a request from Atletico Madrid but they didn’t put enough money on the table. We were not ready to sell him – for me Higuain was not for sale.”
He was for sale. Higuain went to Juventus for £75.3m.
Of course, Sun readers know that Higuain joined the Gunners years ago:
And Manchester United a few years later:
Such are the facts.
Transfer balls: Manchester United should have no regrets over Burnley’s Mike Keane heading to Chelsea
The BBC says Manchester United are “kicking themselves”. No, not because one of their myriad sponsors has slapped own a big wad of cash and told them to. They are kicking themselves, says the BBC, because they failed to add a sell-on clause to Burnley defender Michael Keane’s contract.
Keane, 23, joined Burnley from United for £2.5m in 2015. He is now being eyed by Chelsea. And in the mad world of football transfers, Keane is worth £25m.
Given that one other option is for Chelsea to give Juventus Cesc Fabregas plus £50m for Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29, (source: BBC), Keane’s fee looks a little more reasonable.
The Sun picks up the story of Keane to Chelsea and that sell-on clause. It says “United are believed to have not been able to get Burnley to agree to deal which means they will receive cash if he moves to another club.” Believed. In other words, the Sun and the BBC don’t know.
The M.E.N. says there is no sell-on clause.
If Keane is so good, why don’t United buy him? The Sun confronts that: “It is not known whether United have first-option to buy-back Keane if a fee is agreed.”
The BBC and Sun’s story add up to a lot of nothing – unless:
a) You’re a rival news organ keen not to miss out on a non-story. “Man United gossip: Red Devils having huge regrets over Michael Keane sale,” says the Mirror. “Michael Keane’s emergence is another indictment of the Louis van Gaal reign at Manchester United,” says EuroSport. Which makes you wonder what EuroSport has to say about Paul Pogba, a player overlooked by Sir Alex Ferguson who rejoined United for a king’s ransom.
Having been loaned out to Leicester, Derby and Blackburn, on 2 September 2014, Keane was loaned to Burnley. On 8 January 2015, Keane joined Burnley on a permanent deal. Van Gaal replaced David Moyes as the new Manchester United boss on 19 May 2014, managing his first game on 24 July. The hammer-headed Dutchman was not a raving success at United but the club was hardly fighting to keep Keane, let alone make him a Premier League starter.
b) You’re a Burnley fan facing the prospect of losing one of their best players in January – a player who has improved under the excellent Sean Dyche. As Keane has said, “Burnley gave me the platform to showcase myself and show my talents in the first place.”
Manchester United have no regrets. They wouldn’t have picked him.
Transfer balls: The BBC says Chelsea’s owners Roman Abramovich has sanctioned a move for Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci, 29. The Blues will offer the Italians £60m.
The Telegraph says this would be a world-record fee for a defender, beating the current record £50m PSG paid for Chelsea defender David Luiz – they bought him back for £30m.
Bonuccio is, says the paper, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s “dream signing”.
Bonucci has been full of praise of Conte, who managed him at Juventus and Italy. “Conte will be a big success in England, Chelsea are already a very good team and he will have them challenging both in England and in Europe,” said Bonucci, who might care to look again.
But the British Press know not all that much about Bonucci.
In June, the Metro said the player had agreed to join Chelsea.
The Sun said a “three-year deal for defender Bonucci, worth around £130,000 a week, has been accepted by the player and his agents.” The headline tol readers: “ANTONIO CONTE is plotting an amazing £57million double swoop for Italy stars Antonio Candreva and Leonardo Bonucci.”
Three months ago Bonucci cost £25m.
He’s now apparently worth £60m.
And in July he singed for Manchester City. The Sport Bible told us that:
Such are the facts.
Chelsea have a ‘loan player technical coach’. Eddie Newton fills the role that perhaps no other coach has ever held before. Chelsea have hundreds if not thousands of footballers out on loan, young men playing for other clubs in the forlorn hope they will make it to the Blues first XI, but realistically expecting to be flogged for a tidy profit to a less wealthy side.
What technique Newton can teach these loanees no longer in touching distance is moot.
A friend who supports the mighty QPR showed me this season’s official club photo (below). It features the following non-playing team members: Jasper Clinkscales (Sports Therapist), Sam Perrin (Equipment Monitorer), Sam Harwood (First Team Therapist), John Phillips (Head of Performance), Jack Sharkey (First Team Sports Scientist), Matt May (Head of Medical Services), Gary Doyle (Kit Manager), Chris Barnes (Performance Enhancement Consultant), David Oldfield (Assistant Manager), Les Ferdinand (Director of Football) and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Manager).
Eleven in total. And that does really include a man whose job title is ‘Equipment Monitorer’.
Back to Eddie Newton, then, who gets a big write up in the Chelsea FC website:
Loan player technical coach. Eddie Newton works predominantly with our players out on loan, liaising closely with them and coaching staff at their temporary clubs.
He’s not the only one nannying Chelsea players playing for other clubs. Paulo Ferreira and Joe Edwards mean Chelsea have three people performing the role of Loan Player Technical Coach, aka Excess Staff Monitorers (note to QPR: call me, I have ideas). What do they cost do hire? And could the players’ mothers make better a job of it for less money?
Media balls: Spurs concede 6 goals all season, Chelsea beat Manchester United and Liverpool are pipped by Arsenal
Filling in the dull bits between transfer windows when the Daily Express’ clickbait bots can link Arsenal to every striker over 10 years of age, the ‘World’s Greatest Newspaper’ has created a Premier League predictor. Using the technical marvel of guessology and powerful maths, the Express makes some bold statements.
Bournemouth, Sunderland and Stoke are all relegated – Stoke scoring 6 times all season.
In the world of the Express, The Cherries are worse than Hull City – who are better than Southampton – and West Ham. Everton, who Bournemouth just beat 1-10, finish runners up. Chelsea finish above Manchester United.
Spurs finish third, conceding – get this – 3 goals.
Manchester City win the title.
Oh, yeah – Arsenal finish fourth, naturally. Even robots can be right some of the time.
Media balls: Ozil flukes Arsenal’s third, Chelsea have no shots all game and Coquelin hurts his what?
Media Balls: a look at bad and monocular football reporting. Today we look at Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Premier League.
Mesut Ozil scored Arsenal’s third goal. Was it lucky?
The Guardian says it was a fluke: “Ozil watched it carefully onto his left foot, mishit his sidefoot volley completely – and saw it bounce over Courtois and in off the far post.”
The official Arsenal website has an alternative version of events. That shot was deliberate: “The World Cup winner ran on to the ball and met it on the volley, smashing it into the ground, beyond Courtois and in off the far post.”
The BBC agrees, saying, “Mesut Ozil then left N’Golo Kante trailing to expose Chelsea on the counter-attack and steer home Arsenal’s third“.
Was it smashed in? No, says the Times: “Ozil obliged, his goal creeping in off Courtois’ left-hand upright.”
Were Chelsea any good?
The Sun says: “Chelsea improved in the second half but rarely threatened a comeback – and couldn’t even muster a shot on target.”
Maybe the Sun’s man in the know went home early. The BBC says, “Chelsea’s first shot on target came in the 82nd minute.”
That’s right. Chelsea had two shots on target.
Ouch! Where does it hurt, Francis?
The Indy: “Coquelin put in another 100 per cent effort to block N’Golo Kante’s effort shortly after the half hour mark, and an ankle injury sustained in the clash forced him off two minutes later.”
The Standard looks at Coquelin’s injury: “Arsene Wenger admits he is ‘worried’ by Arsenal midfielder’s knee injury.”
The Star says Coquelin and Kante “had a nasty collision of knees“.
Such are the facts.
Following Chelsea’s home defeat to Liverpool in the Premier League, the BBC says Blues’ manager Antonio Conte “subjected his players to an angry dressing-down”. Conte “accused his players of failing to play as a team.”
The Times says Conte read the “riot act to his players after the Liverpool loss”. He and the team took part in “an animated post-match exchange in the dressing room”.
But Conte is no Jose Mourinho, the former Chelsea coach who explained his Manchester Untied’s 3-1 defeat to Watford by blaming the players publicly. “Some individuals probably feel the pressure and responsibility too much,” said Mourinho. We started the season very well… I was completely aware that we were not perfect, with lots of players who are not end products and can make their own mistakes.”
And after Manchester United lost to Manchester City, Mourinho was pointing the finger:
“I had two or three players in the first half that, if I know what is going to happen, I don’t play them. This is football, though, and sometimes players disappoint managers.”
Compare and contrast to Conte who told the Chelsea FC website:
“I’m guilty because I’m the coach and it means I have to work more. We must feel the danger in every single moment of the game if we want to win and think like a great team. We must pay attention and be focused.”
Is it better to criticise your team in public or in private?
Matthew Syed notes:
“When pilots experience a near-miss with another aircraft, or have been flying at the wrong altitude, they file a report. Providing that it is submitted within 10 days, they enjoy immunity…Openness and learning rather than blaming is the instinctive response – and system safety has been the greatest beneficiary.”
Conte the pilot?
“Contrast that with the healthcare scene, in which mistakes are very threatening to surgeons who have big egos, and the culture is very litigious – preventable medical error is now the third-biggest killer in western countries.”
Mourinho the surgeon?
“We love to think of ourselves as smart people, so we find mistakes, failure and sub-optimal outcomes challenging to our egos.”
We love to look around for someone else to blame. But the smart listen to advice, look at the data and learn not to repeat mistakes.
Talking Balls: a look at media bias in football reporting. Today’s game is Swansea v Chelsea in the Premier League. The game finished 2-2, thanks to a late goal from Diego Costa.
Conte’s men were dominant now – tenacious in the tackle, composed in possession and a threat going forward. Leroy Fer and Federico Fernandez were booked for cynical fouls on Diego Costa (also carded before the break for a late tackle), and Cesar Azpilicueta drew a near-post stop from Fabianski after overlapping.
No dive is mentioned.
Costa, who might earlier have been sent off, capitalised on poor defending to fire the dominant visitors in front…
It was a small wonder he and Jordi Amat both stayed on the pitch having bickered throughout the game, and Costa was perhaps fortunate to escape a second yellow card for what appeared to be a dive under pressure from Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski in the second half.
If Swansea had real cause for frustration it was that Costa was still on the field to equalise. Already booked for a foul on Leroy Fer, Costa was guilty of clear simulation when contesting a ball with the Swansea goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, who gestured a diving motion at an opponent also assailed by boos.
LEROY FER’S GOAL
“Cahill was unfairly dispossessed by Fer, who raced clear and just about squeezed his shot through Courtois and over the line. In a flash, the Blues were behind.”
Fer appeared to foul Cahill as he dispossessed the Chelsea defender, and Swansea’s Netherlands midfielder ran clear before squeezing his shot past Courtois and over the line.
It did look like a foul. But:
Leroy Fer stole possession from a dawdling Gary Cahill and bundled the ball through Thibaut Courtois legs and over the line.
Such are the facts.
Transfer balls: how much is Atletico Madrid’s France striker Antoine Griezmann worth? The BBC says Chelsea manager Antonio Conte “wants the club to sanction a world-record bid” for Griezmann.
As negotiating tactics go, telling Atletico they should expect no less than the £89.3m Manchester Untied paid for Paul Pogba – and you are willing to pay it – is not exactly canny.
The Sunday Express says “Conte is ready to go above the £86million release clause in Griezmann’s contract to head off interest from Manchester United.”
Of course, it’s not Conte’s money. And as for release clauses, well, are they rally worth their salt? And there is another factor. On September 8, the BBC reported:
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have lost appeals against Fifa bans on signing players in the next two transfer windows. The clubs contested a decision by world football’s governing body to punish them for breaching rules over the transfer of foreign players under 18…
“Both clubs are to serve a transfer ban that prevents them from registering any players at national and international level for the next two complete and consecutive registration periods,” said a Fifa statement.
The Spanish sides will now appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. If that fails, will Atletico sell the France international who signed a new five-year contract with Atletico in June 2016?
These bans have form. In 2014, Barcelona were banned from signing any players in 2015 after their appeal against a transfer ban was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Barcelona were, like Real and Atletico, found guilty of breaching Fifa’s rules on the transfer of players aged under 18.
Of course, there are ways:
Barca went on a summer spending spree this year while the suspension went on hold during the appeals process, splashing out more than 150m euros (£117.5m) on Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Thomas Vermaelen, Claudio Bravo, Jeremy Mathieu and Alen Halilovic.
If you drag any appeal out until the next transfer window opens, look out for Atletico not selling big but buying bigger.
The Manchester Evening News says Chelsea will get no clear run at splurging massive amounts of cash on one player.
M.E.N. Sport understands United have earmarked Atletico Madrid goalscorer Griezmann, 25, as their primary target for the 2017 summer transfer window.
Griezmann’s agent must be delighted.
Chelsea players Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill have “stuck the knife into former manager Jose Mourinho”, says the Express. (It’s a mere flesh wound in the Sun – a “sly dig”). Jose is “UNDER FIRE” as Chelsea players “lash out” at their former coach, the Express continues.
The quotes come. Cahill says Chelsea “lost our way tactically” under Mourinho.
Hazard says: “[Antonio] Conte puts trust in his players. Now we are good after an ugly season last year. I’ve always been the same player. But Conte knows how to treat players having played at the highest level himself.”
Is that a dig at Mourinho’s lack of success as a player? If it is, it echoes Johan Cruyff, who opined, “What I don’t like is that he always puts himself on the first row. He should be on the second row. It’s probably because of his background, where he has never been cheered by 100,000 people, or whistled at by 100,000 people.”
Over in the Mail, Cahill’s quote is given more context. Was he really knifing Jose? No. What he said was:
“We needed organisation. Everyone saw what happened. We went from winning the league, having stayed at the top all year, to the disaster of last season. We lost our way tactically, everyone’s head was in different directions. When I say about pulling together as a team, I felt everyone had different situations going on individually – whether that be if you’re playing or not, the manager, or this or that. Different distractions are never healthy.”
Not all Mourinho’s fault, then. Cahill says everyone at Chelsea played a part in last season’s failures. Although it was Mourinho who got the sack.