Will Rafa Get The Cash At Liverpool?

With the dust not even settled after a (trophy-less) year of in-fighting at Anfield, Rafa’s rumoured to be ready to re-ignite the fireworks. Because after spending a few million last season, he’s obviously got a taste for it and recent reports suggest he’s just put in a request for £50million spending money this time round.

Having brought Torres to Liverpool last summer, this time the Spaniard wants to add David Villa and David Silva whilst still trying to persuade Martin O’Neill to accept bids for Gareth Barry. Sadly for Rafa though, he’s so far been unable to offload Alonso, Crouch and Carson and raise any funds himself, although with him holding out for amounts like the £12million he wants for Crouch it’s hardly surprising. So whether he’ll get any or all of the three on his wish-list remains to be seen. Still, at least we know he’s got a sense of humour.

Out of interest was Rafa being quick to dismiss these reports as ‘ridiculous’, yet notably, it only appeared to be a move for Dani Alves Benitez actually ruled out. But then, with last year’s outburst over transfer restrictions nearly costing him his job, maybe he’s just playing it safe?

Benitez insists he’ll be challenging for the title next season – then again he always pays lip-service to that – but while Hicks is promising some kind of kitty, getting Gillett to agree might be a different ball game altogether, unless of course he believes the line we’re fed every season – that this will be Liverpool’s year?


Chelsea’s Midfield Puzzle

With Lampard looking increasingly likely to join Mourinho at Inter and Ballack offering his services long-term, thoughts turn to who exactly will be bossing our midfield next season.

Rumours of a possible move to bring in Deco have gathered so much pace lately, it’s hard to see how the Portugal star will end up anywhere else and according to the latest reports his £12million signing could see him raking in £92,000 a week from us in the very near future. Scolari’s a big fan of the 30 year old midfielder and his much improved form during the Euros seems to have swung a decent deal for him, with ‘a source close to the deal’ suggesting “it’s just a matter of time to conclude the affair and it should be before the end of this week.”

However, I wonder whether this ‘close source’ – who let’s face it could be anyone from the woman who brings the refreshments into the boardroom, to the man who used to live 3 doors down the road when Deco was a five year old – has taken Abramovich into account. Because sources close to our Russian owner are very clear it’s Arshavin he wants to see at Stamford Bridge next season. Although, with Russia’s brightest star preferring a move to sunnier Spain and not needing Roman’s millions, I’m not sure what sort of tactics Abramovich would have to resort to get him.

And then there’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, what about his ‘possible’ move to Chelsea? Having orchestrated Portugal’s quarter-final defeat, the German midfielder is rumoured to have left Scolari considering a bid for him as well. The 23 year old winger is certainly talking up his desire to play in the Premier League as well and a £15million bid could see it happen. Unless of course, the fact that he’s in the last year of his contract at Bayern and wouldn’t mind a better deal there has some bearing on his ‘desire’ to move?

Finally, another midfielder seemingly confused about a move is Ronaldinho. Whilst he’s in no doubt at all that Barcelona want him out, it appears the Brazilian simply can’t make up his mind where he wants to go. On the one hand, his agent seems to be informing the press the Brazilian has turned down a move to Chelsea, and yet, Man City are the only club actually reported to have made a firm bid so far. Nevertheless, the 28 year old himself suggests “I’m happy because almost all the teams want me to play for them.” Maybe Scolari should step aside for this one to avoid getting caught in the stampede eh?

Could Roman Bring Arshavin To Chelsea?

There’s always someone who catches the eye in the big tournaments and Euro 2008 has been no exception. After some pretty impressive displays for Russia, the man with an unfortunate name has got several Premier League clubs sitting up to take notice. 27 year old midfielder Andrei Arshavin, rumoured to be ready for a move from current club Zenit has put in the sort of performances that’ve made him one of the Euros brightest stars.

Arshavin’s introduction to the Russian team, following his brief suspension at the start, saw them transformed into a side posing a much greater attacking threat. His intelligence and ability to read the game, quick feet and skill on the ball have seen comparisons drawn with Bergkamp which aren’t far off the mark. And when Hiddink, who’s managed the likes of PSV, Valencia and Real Madrid, hails Arshavin as the ‘cleverest player’ he’s ever managed, that’s praise indeed.

Little wonder then that he’s attracted a host of admirers from England and even less surprising is that his greatest fan in the Premier League is said to be Abramovich. However, Roman could find that this is one player even his millions won’t sway. A superstar in his own country and earning what must equate to a substantial amount at Zenit already, Arshavin wouldn’t be in any great hurry to leave following their domestic and European success, and can afford to pick and choose. And according to recent reports, that’s exactly what he plans to do. Despite offers from both English and German clubs, the Russian playmaker appears to be holding out for offers from the Primera Liga. But despite reported interest from Barcelona, Arshavin confirmed there’s no offers yet.

Maybe they’re waiting for us to take Deco off their hands first?

Will Chelsea Pay For Scolari’s Taunting of United?

Whilst everyone’s had something to say on the Cristiano Ronaldo saga, it’s something I’ve paid very little attention to largely because I couldn’t really see him going this season. Whether or not that’s still the case, I’m not sure anyone but the player himself knows but as much as I’ve tried to shy away from the subject Scolari is making it very much Chelsea’s business.

In the days before his appointment (or before the announcement of it anyway), Scolari had already had words with Ronaldo about a possible move to Real Madrid. According to Scolari, turning down a move to Real wasn’t an option because chances like this don’t come along everyday. Now, whether Scolari already knew he’d be managing the opposition next season when he was having that chat is debatable, but the fact is, even now his position at Chelsea is public knowledge, he’s refusing to drop the subject.

With the rags suggesting Ronaldo himself has confirmed Scolari seemed to be doing the hard sell on Real’s behalf throughout Portugal’s Euro 2008 campaign, our latest manager doesn’t seem to be helping himself as far as relations with Fergie are concerned. Add to that Chelsea’s decision to announce the appointment of Scolari mid-way through the competition and Scolari seems to be making Chelsea as popular in the football world as Naomi Campbell on a BA flight. Whatever Grant may or may not have tried to do to quieten down the PR mess Mourinho had left behind, Scolari seems to be doing his best to undo before he even walks through the Stamford Bridge gates.

Even with the papers ‘exclusively’ alleging Ronaldo has admitted he will be leaving United having made the decision to quit even before the Champions League final, Scolari’s still reported to be stoking the fires that surely must be raging inside Old Trafford. His latest statement seems to be taunting United with the idea of Ronaldo leaving, by saying “I know Cristiano well and I know the type of person he is so I have no doubts about how he will handle himself in the next few weeks. People must understand that Cristiano becomes stronger with all the difficulties and the stories about him. I have never known anyone so mentally strong. What happened to him at the World Cup in 2006 in the quarter-final against England would have crushed many other players – but not Cristiano.” He goes on to say “What has been happening around him here with the uncertainty about his future has not affected him – I know that because I have been with him. He is so strong mentally and he is in control of his own destiny – and because of that Manchester United can do nothing to hurt him. It is his dream to play for Real Madrid and I am sure Cristiano will fulfil his dream whatever the difficulties.”

Now whilst I don’t doubt for a minute Scolari thinks he’ll be doing everyone at Chelsea a favour by encouraging Ronaldo’s move away from the Premier League, this public riling of United is getting to be about as irritating as Rafa’s daily attacks on Drogba last season – and ultimately could end up costing him just as much. Because whether Ronaldo stays or not – and you’d have to think Big Phil’s praying he doesn’t now – Fergie’s going to be out to kick arse and one particular Brazilian arse is going to be directly in his sights.

Scolari Ready To Wield The Axe At Chelsea?

Having previously turned down the England job citing press intrusion, our new manager certainly seems to be getting familiar with the press right now. Far from shying away from the media boys, Scolari seems to be having cosy chats about everything from other people’s players to the ‘revolution’ he plans at Chelsea.

I’ve said as much as I’m going to on the whole Ronaldo circus and it’d be nice to think Scolari has as well, but I won’t hold my breath on that one. Onto Chelsea though and he seems to be making it very clear who the boss of these particular players is, suggesting no player in the squad is safe once he takes charge.

Of course we all expect the threatened ‘overhaul’, and Scolari promises “it will be a revolution especially in terms of mentality”. He also ‘confesses’ “For the first few games I will have difficulty in identifying all the players and getting their fusion right,” so it’s good to see his ability to cover his arse is no different to those gone before him. More worrying for some though is his insistence that he’s not that bothered what effect his size nines have on those around him.

Obviously there’ll be a fair few departures and that’s pretty much as expected but maybe there’ll be the odd shock in store even where those are concerned? Whereas there’s a few of us who think Drogba’s antics detract sufficiently from the overall benefits of having him around and regard seeing the back of him as a positive move, but what about Lampard? I’ve never hid the fact that I see the dragging out of his contract as a sign of a player more willing to talk the talk than walk the walk, but general consensus seems to be that he’s a player we should do everything to hold onto. Scolari’s attitude though doesn’t come from the same place as your average sentimental supporter, so Lampard’s failure to sign pre-Scolari could cost him a sizeable contract now.

And what about Ballack? He turned his game around for us last season and even after a strong Euro 2008 doesn’t seem to be taking the opportunity to whore himself to the highest bidder – making his desire to stay at Chelsea pretty clear. But having complained “you can’t trust anybody on the field” after seeing the German midfielder give Ferreira a bit of a nudge for Germany’s third goal against Portugal, is that a grudge he’ll regard worth holding?

One player who definitely won’t be wanting to hear Scolari taking such a hard line in the press though surely has to be JT. Scolari insists “I pick the players I think are the best. I only give explanations about players I pick, never about others. Whoever is not selected is not selected. Let them be unhappy with it. They know that’s the way it is in football.” Anyone fancy his chances against Terry if he wields his axe in that direction?

United, Liverpool, Chelsea: Who’ll Get Van Der Vaart?

With the Dutch taking a surprise early exit from the Euros, all eyes are rumoured to have turned to Rafael van der Vaart, who’d suggested any possible moves would be discussed after his Euro 2008 campaign finished.

The 25 year old, has been with Hamburg since 2005 and having scored 29 goals in his 76 appearances for the club now wants to develop his career at a high profile club.  And with 3 of the top 4 Premier League clubs reported to be interested in the central midfielder, it looks like he can take his pick.

With Chelsea and Manchester United capable of stumping up the £15million Hamburg will ask for him and even Liverpool talking the talk, it looks like the choice is up to him.  But given the choice of the three, which one will appeal to him more?

Starting with Liverpool, they might have expressed an interest but that could be as far as it goes if they can’t get their act together in time for any possible bid. Rafa’s not having much fun in the transfer market so far, with Xabi Alonso’s move yet to happen, likewise the signing of Gareth Barry. Still, it’s not as if Kewell’s departure has left much of a gap to fill anyway. Personally though, I can’t see Van der Vaart hanging around while the books are balanced.

On to Chelsea though, and we’d have no such nonsense to wade through before putting in an offer and with Lampard potentially leaving the club he ‘loves’ for a move to a manager he maybe loves more, the Dutchman could be an ideal replacement. However, with Van der Vaart looking to further his career and Scolari laying down his own brand of law in the press, would the midfielder take the risk of coming to a side already tighter than Wenger’s wallet when in comes to getting regular games?

So what about United? With the possible departure of Ronaldo this summer, they could be looking to bring in some more potential. Money would be no object , in fact, £15million wouldn’t put much of a dent in the world record fee they’re likely to get for the Portuguese hit-man. Add to that their Champions status both domestically and in Europe, and I can’t see him thinking much further than the red side of Manchester.

One we’ll lose out on maybe?

What Can Chelsea Expect From Scolari?

Two titles after 50 years of nothingness saw Jose Mourinho become our most successful and most loved manager ever and Grant’s temporary period in charge was never destined to bring anyone at Chelsea the same sort of euphoria we experienced under TSO. He may well have done better than many of us expected him to and in terms of Europe at least, did better than Mourinho, but entertaining, he wasn’t. That at least seems set to change with the appointment of Scolari, because however he matches up to those gone before him, life at Stamford Bridge should certainly liven up a bit now.

A bit of a loose cannon at times, prone to the odd outburst both verbally and physically, it could be an interesting, and much publicised time at Chelsea next season. If anything, the Brazilian is even less likely to give in to the demands placed on him from above than Mourinho was, so whether his appointment is a recipe for success or disaster remains to be seen.

He’s not nicknamed ‘Big Phil’ for nothing and the Chelsea players will very much feel his presence both in the dressing room and on the touchline. Be it his manic celebrations or almost psychotic-tempered rages on the sideline, he’s anything but subtle. Fiercely loyal to his players yet at the same time more than capable of keeping the larger egos in check, there’ll be no doubt who’s in charge in the forthcoming season.

But then let’s face it, taking over what has to be the most often vacated seat in football, demands a bigger personality than the predecessor could even hope to conjure up, not to mention a bigger desire to win, and Scolari certainly seems to have that. His hunger for success must have ticked the right box as far as Roman’s concerned anyway, along with his proven track record – albeit at international level. After leading Brazil to World Cup victory in 2002, he has gone on to take Portugal to the Euro 2004 final and the World Cup semis in 2006. He’s also had club success in Brazil, with Copa Libertadores victories for both Palmeiras and Gremio – who he also guided to a Brazilian title. But the fact remains, Scolari is yet to test himself on the European scene and ironic as it is, even Avram Grant can boast a better CV than ‘Big Phil’ on that score. Little wonder then that doubts are being raised as to how Scolari will adapt to daily life in the Premier League after so long on the international circuit.

Still, surely the football Scolari brings with him will be worth taking the risk? Well, surprisingly enough, his sides haven’t always played the kind of attractive football people often associate him with. Scolari has often been accused of adopting a physical style of play in the past, along with some undesirable gamesmanship. Notably, it was when he took over at Brazil that his reputation for the sexier game developed. But then how could it fail to with players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo at his disposal? So whilst Abramovich waits expectantly for the attractive football he craves to be delivered, I’ve no doubt the Brazilian will be putting in requests of his own – for the sort of players he’ll need to deliver it.

And deliver he must, if Roman’s previous level of patience is anything to go by. Having already terminated the contract of Chelsea’s most successful manager for failure to deliver the most coveted piece of silverware (amongst other things), he then dispensed with his old mate Grant after a mere nine months despite finals in both the Carling Cup and Champions League, and an admirable second place finish in the league to what can only be described as a bloody good United side.  

And what about the press coverage while all this going on because we all know how Roman felt about Mourinho’s antics where media coverage was concerned – will Scolari, who’s already had many a bust-up with reporters in his time, cope with the vultures around him 24/7? Having cited media intrusion as a reason to reject the England job, it begs the question of why Scolari would take on one of the most covered roles in football as far as the press are concerned. What planet was he on when Mourinho was in the spotlight on a daily basis, when even his dog had no privacy? And which particular beach did he have his head buried in when the search for Grant’s replacement was going on? Does he honestly think he’ll keep the hounds at bay with the odd expletive or two?

No doubt about it though, whether happy with his appointment or not, it still raises as many questions as his behaviour does eyebrows. And whether Chelsea or not, there’ll be as many for his appointment as against it, because let’s face it, who could resist the very idea of the volatile Scolari going up against the likes of Fergie, Wenger and Benitez?