Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.
Transfer Balls: who will be in goal for Arsenal next season? The Evening Standard reports that Arsenal are watching Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas.
The Times says Casillas will leave Real giants this summer after 25 years with the club – he’s been there since he was nine.
And that means Real getting a clearer run at Manchester United’s David De Gea.
Indeed, so keen are Real to get rid of Casillas they will top up whatever pay he earns at a new club to match his curent earnings.
De Gea is on his way.
The Sun says Manchester City manager Manuel Pelligrini will be given a “blank cheque” to make his team Champion League winners. But very quickly into the story that blank cheque features a figure:
…owner Sheikh Mansour is ready to bankroll bids for the likes of Paul Pogba, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling — worth £160million.
Transfer Balls – a look at dire football reporting. The Daily Express says Manchester United have “BID” for Nicolas Otamendi.
The story of the Valencia player begins:
Manchester United are readying a £35million bid to sign Nicolas Otamendi, according to the Daily Mirror.
To the Mirror, then, where David Anderson has news:
Otamendi is understood to have told Valencia of his desire to leave, with the Spanish club determined to receive their full valuation for the centre-back.
Arsenal have said farewell to their French midfielder Abou Diaby, who has been released into the wild by the club. The French international Diaby made a single appearance in Arsenal’s starting XI this season, and that was in the Capital One Cup. That was an improvement on his tally for the previous season, where he came on once as a substitute. In season 2012-13 season he played 15 times.
For such a talented player, his lack of action is a travesty. Many will trace the 29-year-old’s stalled career to a horrible tackle from Sunderland’s Dan Smith in 2006. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal said Diaby “was the victim of an assassin’s tackle that went unpunished.”
Smith never saw red for that “studs up” “petulant” tackle. He got only a yellow card.
Sunderland lost the game 0-3. And Diaby was forced to miss Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League final clash with Barcelona.
As of next season, Manchester United shirts are available in XXXXL.
The complaints were first made about United’s less-than-generous shirts while Nike were in power in Old Trafford, but the company believed there wouldn’t be enough demand for super-sized shirts and therefore refused to put them into production.
However, Adidas have since taken up the reigns and have agreed to produce a limited run of 4XL versions of their new 2015/16 shirt on a trial basis to test the waters.
As a result, a set number of 4XL jerseys will be available to order from the Old Trafford megastore when the kit officially goes on sale in August/September.
United will then monitor the sales and, if the demand is there, the shirts will become a permanent fixture in the range.
As it happens, United will become only the third Premier League club of offer shirts in size 4XL along with Newcastle and Tottenham, with the latter going one better and announcing that their new 2015/16 home shirt will be available in sizes right up to 5XL.
Here is said Spurs shirt, just to give you an idea of scale…
Anyway, we kind of sympathise with the United fans on this one.
Football shirt sizings have definitely become increasingly stingy over the past 10 years or so, with ever-thinning material and a misguided propensity for ‘athletic’ cuts also not playing into the hands of the average lumpy football fan (a category we most definitely fall in to).
Transfer Balls: Manchester United tricked by The Metro and Daily Star’s Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema Bilge
Transfer Balls – a look at the twilight world for football journalism. Today The Metro says that Manchester United were “in transfer talks for Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane”.
Wow! Would Real Madrid really sell four of their players to Manchester United?
Writes Jamie Sanderson:
United have significant cash to spend this summer and the Daily Star claims contact has been made with Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane.
Over to the Daily Star, then, where we learn:
Manchester United in contact with Real Madrid over AMAZING QUADRUPLE raid – MANCHESTER UNITED have made contact with Real Madrid for FOUR of their world-class stars.
Colin Harvey writes:
Spanish paper AS report that the Red Devils have spoken to Real over potential moves for Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Raphael Varane.
Over on AS we are told by Tomas Roncero:
Manchester United are looking to rebuild after finishing fourth in the Premier League, behind, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal. According to information that AS has secured, United officials have requested contractual details of a number of current Real Madrid players including Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano, along with French defender, Raphael Varane.
The answer from the Bernabéu has been a resounding negative on all four cases.
About those transfer talks, Jamie…
Transfer Balls time. News on the official Liverpool FC website is that Danny Ings “completes Anfield switch”.
Former Liverpool players lined up to welcome the Burnley player:
The Liverpool website went into full PR mode, informing fans of the 1o things they need to know about Ings.
Playing for Liverpool would be the pinnacle of Ings’ career:
But it’s all wrong becasue Burnley have formally accepted a late £12million bid from Tottenham for the 22-year-old striker.
This from the Independent:
Brendan Rodgers’ side have been very confident since January that [Ings] would sign for them but Tottenham’s late bid for the player will be taken into consideration if a tribunal meets to decide the fee.
Though Ings has no interest in joining Spurs, Burnley can cite the higher offer, as well as the player’s contribution for them, as relevant factors for consideration if the case comes before a Professional Football Compensation Committee (PFCC).
It’s also being reported that Burnley are holding out for £7-8million despite Ings being out of contract.
Liverpool are now attempting to hammer out a club-to-club agreement with the Clarets in an effort to avoid the wrangling going to a tribunal.
Former Spurs, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, QPR and Southampton manager Harry Redknpapp is on twitter. He’s yet to make a single typo.
Back in January 2012 Redknapp told City of London police on the matter of allegations of tax evasion, of which he was cleared in court:
“I can’t write … so I don’t keep anything … I can’t work a computer, I don’t know what an email is … I’ve never sent a fax and I’ve never sent a text message. I’ve never wrote a letter in my life. I couldn’t write a letter, I write like a two-year-old and I can’t spell. You talk to anybody at the football club, I don’t write. I couldn’t even fill a team sheet in”
In October 2014, he talked about twitter:
“I don’t read Twitter, I don’t even know what it is, I wouldn’t know how to read it and it doesn’t interest me one little bit”
And on 8 June 2015 Harry was a man reborn, telling the world via his Twitter account:
“Let’s see what this is all about then”
Look out for Redknapp championing the Government’s life-long learning schemes.
Jack Wilshere thinks the FA have behaved badly towards him. The FA say Wilshere brought football into disrepute by leading a chant inviting Arsenal fans to describe Tottenham Hotspur as “sh*t” and replying to “his old man”who told him to be a Tottenham fan with the line “sh*t, f*ck, bollo**s you’re a c**t”. Arsenal fans gleefully joined in.
The FA then saw the footage, read the media’s shock and horror and ordered Wishere to put some money in their swearbox.
“What do we think of the FA?” Wilshere should ask all football fans. The reply should be monosyllabic.
Wilshere, who looked a tad merry as he led a chant among what he saw as friends and like minds, thinks he’s been hard done by. He is, after all, being fined for swearing. WTF? He says:
“Apologies if I offended or upset any of u with my celebrations… Learning a lesson is one way of looking at it, but at the same time people have been giving me a lot of stick for having some fun and enjoying myself at the end of a successful season. We’ve worked hard all year as a group of players and we’ve won a trophy. That’s the best feeling in the world. No matter what job you do, if at the end of the year you get a promotion and a bonus, you’re going to go out and celebrate. I think criticism for that side of things was a bit harsh.
“I only found out when I reported for England duty. One of the press officers told me. It was a surprise. I didn’t know I’d been charged so I was like, ‘What?’ I don’t think I’m in a position to comment about it any further at the moment. It’s being dealt with by the FA and my club. What will be, will be.”
“I am quite proud of my relationship with the fans. I’ve always had that bond with the Arsenal fans since I was young because I came through the club. I grew up at Arsenal and I love the fans, but believe it or not I’ve actually got family who are Tottenham fans, so it’s nothing personal against them. It was just a bit of fun.”
Of course it was bit of fun. He was inviting the fans to join him in mocking the local rivals. They knew the routine and joined in. Wilshere is one of their own. And what fan of any club can take offence at a homegrown player sharing their passion?
What do think of the FA, Jack? As FA Chairman Greg Dyke might put it: “F*** off. I never liked you anyway.”
We regret the error: Pat Vendiette is not the NBA’s first ‘amphibious’ pitcher. But the Oakland Atheltics is an equal opportunities employer.
How football reporting works, with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and the Daily Mail team. Following a dire 0-0 friendly draw with Republic of Ireland, the writers got to work.
Neil Ashton: “Thank the lord for small mercies because at times Jack Wilshere shimmered on the ball, making the type of purposeful, driving runs that brought back memories of Paul Gascoigne striding through England’s midfield.”
Riath Al-Samarrai: “Jack Wilshere is almost alone in showing initiative… he is still the dynamic force in this team. A team performance that could not have been more subdued was at least partially lifted by Wilshere probing and searching from deep.”
John Downes: [Paul] Scholes’ praise of Wilshere continued after the game by stating that the Gunner was the only one in the England team who played well.
‘I think he (Wilshere) was the only one,’ Scholes added.
And now for the scores.
Rob Draper: “5/10. Previously thrived in this position but looked out of sorts. Too much was ineffective, epitomised by the awful first-half free kick routine with Lallana.”
That score marks Wilshere out as the second worst player on pitch. Of the 33 players who appeared for both sides only Chris Smalling (4.5) scored a lower mark than the Arsenal man.
As the player himself might ask, ‘What do you think of that?’
In a game so dull it made you understand why FIFA settled on playing the World Cup on red-hot sand in Qatar, Ireland and England’s draw was remarkable for one thing: a few fans jeered and booed Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling.
“I think he’s going through a bad time publicly,” said England manager Roy Hodgson said. “You can’t expect people just to shrug off the criticism he has been receiving, not least from the local media in Liverpool. That becomes national pretty quickly. He does ever so well and tries well to shrug it off, to let his football do the talking. He needed this game to realise that, if he is going to get it out of his system, he’s going to have to work harder still and get a thicker skin than he has at the moment.
We only took him off today to give others a game, to air the squad.”
If Sterling is letting his football do the talking for him, right now he’s in whisper mode. And we do like the bit about airing the squad, as you would a mattress, cellar or attic. Sterling made way for Andros Townsend, who could have enlivened the moribund affair had he appeared dressed as Miss Havisham or a dusty bottle of wine.
So. Is Sterling going to play for England in Slovenia on Sunday?
“I have no reservations about playing him in Slovenia,” says Hodgson. “I trust Sterling, but players are not robots. He’s done some fantastic things for us, but today he didn’t hit those heights. It’ll take a lot before I and the English national team sway from Raheem Sterling.”
In the meantime, enough with the jering and the booing. Can fans not think up a decent chant to hail Raheem?
The Sunday Times has a cracking story on FIFA troughing. The paper says back in October 2010 it showed FIFA a video of leading FIFA officials talking about bribery. Reporters gained access by posing as lobbyists.
The allegations are that the vote to host the 2010 World Cup was rigged in South Africa’s favour – and that Morocco was the actual winner.
* The vote by 24 the Fifa executive committee (Exco) was rigged. At the final count South Africa (14) defeated Morroco (10) and Egypt (0).
* Ismail Bhamjee, an Exco member from Botswana, says: “After talking with everybody . . . Whose votes went where? We’re all colleagues, you know. And then we found out that actually Morocco won by two votes.” He says Exco members conferred after the vote and realised Morocco had won. Although Bhamjee says some some Exco members could have lied about their votes.
* The ballots were counted behind closed doors. Were they deliberately miscounted?
* It’s alleged FIFA suppressed the Sunday Times’ tapes and failed to investigate claims of bribery.
* It’s alleged members took bribes from Morocco and South Africa.
* Ahongalu Fusimalohi, the former Fifa Exco member from Tonga, says Morocco had offered him a $150,000 bribe for his vote. He did not take any money. But did others?
* It’s alleged that members Jack Warner, the former Fifa vice-president, took over $1m in bungs from both sides. Bhamjee is cited as having said: “I know they gave Jack Warner personally a lot of money for the Concacaf [Warner’s north America confederation]. But please, this is confidential.”
Michel Bacchini, a former Fifa director of competitions told the undercover reporters: “But Jack, they [the Moroccans] were paying him and at the end when they were voting here in Zurich, you know, he was making a big scene, he was running out of the hotel complaining that somebody was cheating. He was the guy who cheated, he was making a big scenario out of it. I know a hundred hundred per cent that he was voting for the South Africans and pretended to vote for the Moroccans. I always said you never have to pay any money upfront.”
FIFA has responded thus:
“It cannot have escaped even The Sunday Times’s attention that these matters are being investigated by the proper authorities, ie, government agencies, not newspapers. And Fifa is fully co-operating with these investigations.
Such are the facts.
Transfer Balls: Manchester United lost £50m in Pogba, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ilkay Gundogen horror show
The Metro’s Jamie Sanderson has news that Manchester United and Morgan Schneiderlin have reached an agreement.
The inference is surely that Southampton’s French star is leaving the Saints for Old Trafford, Ilkay Gundogen is on his way and United are bidding for Pogba, a player who has already left them for a great career at Juventus.
Manchester United are set to be one of the busiest clubs in the transfer market this summer. The club have £100million to splash on new players, and, after confirming the signing of Memphis Depay, are looking for other options.
£100m. But just one earlier the Metro told us that Manchester United had £150 in the kitty:
That budget is falling fast in The Metro.
Untroubled by reporting in his own apper, Sanderson ploughs on.
And if these rumours are true, it won’t be long before new players join him.
Schneiderlin is believed to have agreed terms with United despite strong links with Arsenal this summer.
Believed by whom?
United were reported two weeks ago to have finalised an agreement to bring in Gundogan from Borrusia Dortmund.
But they didn’t. Those reports were wrong.
United have made no secret of the fact they’re keen to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford. And they’re now doing something about it, with claims suggesting a £60.6million bid is about to go in to get him signed up.
Or as The Metro put it one day ago:
Such are the facts in The Metro, now rivalling the Daily Express and Daily Star as the biggest sources of utter Transfer Balls in the game.
Juventus have invested £24million in Paulo Dybala on a five-year deal. But it was not so long age that the Daily Star said the Palermo player was on his way to Arsenal. In fact, the deal had been agreed for £31m:
The Express agreed:
The Week said Dybala was off to Barcelona.
“Would I be open to a move to Barcelona? I would swim to Barcelona if they came knocking,” declared Dybala. “I wouldn’t even have to change into my swimming gear.”
That was all utter balls.
Transfer Balls spots the rumours that Raheem Sterling is leaving Liverpool for Manchester United. The Daily Mirror says United will offer £25m for the England player. How it knows this is left unsaid. But, you know, “sources”.
ESPN says Liverpool would rather sell Sterling to Arsenal. The fee? Lots of money plus Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs.
The Star says Manchester City have £40m reserved for Sterling.
Not too long ago (‘hours’ – ed) Sterling was surely heading to Real Madrid, where he’d link up with former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez.
Newly sat in the Real Madrid ejector seat, Benitez was very quickly reading aloud from the Real Madrid Big Book Of Transfers:
“We admire [Raheem], that’s no secret – but he is not one of our players so I can’t really comment on him.”
A Real Madrid comment is in actual fact a huge comment that Real want to buy Sterling.
As it is the lad’s gone nowhere.
The Guardian wonders if the Napoli and Argentina striker is heading to Chelsea for £30m. The Metro says he’s off to Arsenal for £42m. The Star says Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool all want Gonzalo Higuain.
And we go back to the Sun’s 2013 scoop that Higuain was a Gunner:
Higuain never did sign.
But maybe this this year he will. Maybe.
Transfer Balls looks at Paul Pogba in today’s papers. What news of the former Manchester United player now with Juventus?
The Mirror says “The Juventus ace…is understood to favour a move to the Nou Camp”.
Paul Pogba is ready to reject a summer switch to Manchester City to join Barcelona instead.
Or as the Manchester Evening News puts it:
Manchester City are confident they can beat Europe’s biggest clubs to their top transfer targets like Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling….
Liverpool fans will get at least one more season of Brendan Rodgers, a man whose ability to smug it out is unrivalled.
After a meeting with Liverpool chariman Tom Werner and owners’ representative Fenway Sports Group (FSG) President Michael Gordon, Liverpool have agreed on a “comprehensive plan for improvement”. The meeting was “positive and progressive”.
Details are thin.
What will change?
The talk is that James Milner, Danny Ings, Christian Benteke and Nathaniel Clyne could be arriving at Anfield in the near future. The Times says 29-year-old Milner has agreed terms with Liverpool after rejecting a more generous contract offer to remain on Manchester City’s bench. The paper adds that Liverpool are in the hunt for a new goalkeeper.
That would be five new players Rodgers would have to mould into the team in quick time. Given the £110million-worth of new signings bought last summer, the squad is not being short-changed in the club’s quest to move on from last season’s post-Luis Suarez mediocrity, when they were most notably out-thought by Aston Villa and Stoke City and the momentum of that 2013/14 season title-surge was lost.
Rodgers could once rely on Luis Suarez’s brilliance and flashes of inspiration to mask any lack of tactical nous. Last season, the plan seemed to be for Raheem Sterling or Philippe Coutinho to do the same. When they failed Liverpool looked tame, witless and disorganised.
New players bought in by the club’s data and value-driven transfer committee failed to gel. Rodgers remained verbose, talking and talking a good game, continuing to make baffling selections and fussing over details.
One thing Liverpool can move on is to colour-in the grey areas between ownership and management. The club’s structure seems messy.
What is expected of Rodgers? Obviously, Champions’ League qualification and a cup are the targets, but if Rodgers’ Liverpool fails to deliver one or both will be be sacked?
It would be useful to know how Rodgers is being measured and what part FSG consider they’ve played in the club’s slide from the Premier League’s top four.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is the latest player to spit out the craven opinion that “I need to be winning trophies”. Everton’s 22-year-old striker and top scorer added:
“I want to grab titles, not be watching them won from the shadows. I want to know what it’s like to play in the big matches. I am 22 years, it’s time to win something.”
You can hear traces of Raheem Sterling in Lukaku’s opinion. Like the Liverpool player, Lukaku says he’s been played out of position.
“At one point I went to the coach and I said to him: ‘With all due respect, when I’m played as a winger I’m hopeless. I will only score goals if you put me up front.’ That was true. The games that I did not score, I was on the flank. When I played up through the middle, I scored.”
Like Sterling, Lukaku says its not about the money. He’s Everton’s most expensive player. In the pecking order of ability-ranked-by-paypacket, Lukaku is the best at Goodison Park. And like Sterling, the Belgian says he wants to win things. It would a hard task to find a player not on the books of a Malaysian bettering syndicate who doesn’t want to win. Saying you deserve tophies suggests you are only intersted in what the club can do for you. You look like a self-aggrandizing mercenary.
Lukaku then further charmed Everton fans by saying how he loves his former club Cheslea:
“I will always be a fan of that club. Just because I left under the wrong circumstances, that feeling does not disappear. People will ask why, if that is the case, I left? But a footballer wants to play.”
Now that Didier Drogba has left Chelsea, could Lukaku return to play for them?
“After they won the title I sent a message Eden Hazard, just like I do every game when he scores or gives an assist. I knew what they were capable of this season. When they took Fabregas and Diego Costa, I knew right away: ‘My God, this is going to create sparks’… Right from the start, even in the friendly match against Vitesse Arnhem and the difficult games against teams like Burnley who were fighting relegation, Chelsea played totally different than the season before.
“That was the true stuff of champions. I want to play football and that is the football that you have to play.”
Champions win trophies. Chelsea win trophies – they won two last season. Everton won none. The inference is not that Lukaku failed to press Everton on to bigger things, rather that Everton let the player down.
What a pathetic abdication of the team ethic. It sounds a lot like Lukaku is agitating for a move. But any team keen on him would be wary of taking on a player who seems to be playing for himself.
Transfer Balls: Stella work in The Metro. In a story headline “Manchester United stopper David de Gea is in Madrid to complete transfer to Real Madrid”,
George Bellshaw writes an early contener for our Golden Turd award for football reporting:
Manchester United stopper David de Gea is in the Spanish capital to reportedly complete his transfer to Real Madrid.
The Spaniard is hoping that the two clubs can agree a fee so that he can negotiate his move back to Spain, according to ABC.
We looked at Spanish newspaper ABC’s website. (Unless he’s talking about ABC (USA) or ABC (Aus)? He never says.) We found no word from De Gea expressing his hope for a move to Spain, nor any word of his being in Madrid to sign for Madrid.
Back at The Metro and we are told:
Of course, the keeper is from Madrid and his girlfriend lives there so he does have good reason to be there.
Of course. Either she’s Real Madrid’s chief negotiator or the story is utter balls.
Such are the facts…
Sepp Blatter is no longer president of Fifa. Four days after winning the vote to continue as Fifa boss, he’s resigned. He told a press conference:
“What matters to me is that when all of this is over, football is the winner”
“Fifa needs a profound overhaul. While I have a mandate from the membership of Fifa, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at Fifa. Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as Fifa president until that election. Fifa needs profound restructuring. The interests of Fifa are very dear to me and that is why I have taken this decision [to resign].”
Or as FA chairman Greg Dyke, the FA chairman put it:
“He has stood down. He has gone. Let’s celebrate.”
But one thing we want to know is: what did the alleged bribe money buy? As Dyke says:
“We want to know where the money has gone.”
Arsenal’s FA Cup victory parade excited the Daily Mail after Jack Wilshere stood on the gantry and swore. The Mail says Wilshere “heaped more embarrassment on Arsenal”.
The paper adds:
Young children, along with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, were present at the celebrations as Wilshere chanted: ‘What do we think of Tottenham?’ before adding: ‘And what do we think of s***?
Having laughably bracketed Wenger, 65, and toddlers in a group who must be protected from such words, we wonder when Mail readers and writers became so sensitive?
Transfer Balls: The Sun reports that Diego Costa is ‘bidding’ for a ‘Chelsea exit’.
The story runs:
DIEGO COSTA has told friends he wants to QUIT Chelsea this summer and return to Spain.
Which friends we are not told.
Sources close to Costa, 26, have confirmed Chelsea’s £32million top scorer is homesick and prepared to take a massive pay cut to rejoin former club Atletico Madrid.
Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner has been accused of racketeering. He’s been arrested. Warner says he’s innocent. Warner says his arrest is rooted in the US’s failed World Cup bid.
He accuses the US of gross hypocrisy. How can the US attack FIFA when it was offered the World Cup 2015.
“The U.S. applied to hold the World Cup in 2022 and they lost the bid to Qatar — a small country, an Arabic country, a Muslim country,” says Warner. “I could understand the U.S. embarrassment… Why is it [American prosecutors] believe that they have a right to the World Cup?”
He cites a story that FIFA allowed the US to stage the 2015 World Cup:
“Summer World Cup, 2015, from the very same organization that they are accusing of being corrupt. That has to be double standards.”