September 29, 2010
Nicolas Anelka has always been a controversial figure, and his standing in France is less than stellar after his behaviour during the World Cup. At Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, though, he was on target as Chelsea beat Marseille 2-0, and Jason Burt, in the Daily Telegraph, says he used his silky skills to answer the boo boys.
“I have never seen Anelka afraid or scared or nervous,” said Carlo Ancelotti. “He is always quiet. He is always calm. He has a good character.”
It is not an opinion universally held. Or, at least, not held in France of the now ex-international following his exit from the World Cup in disgrace.
On the eve of this encounter Ancelotti was asked if Anelka would be intimidated by playing in a match beamed live in his home country and against his nation’s champions. Ancelotti laughed.
On 28 minutes there was the test of whether Anelka was at all fazed by his French exile. Chelsea were awarded a penalty. Would he try and convert it with the confident nonchalance he had shown in taking one-step and rolling the ball in the net against Newcastle United last week? After all this was the Champions League, not the Carling Cup.
No matter. Anelka again took a ridiculously short run-up and, this time, sent the ball into the net before, cheekily, deliberately, heading towards the Marseille supporters and then checking himself, and turning the other way to celebrate with the home fans. He was making his point. “I don’t have to say to Anelka how to shoot his penalties,” Ancelotti said when asked if the approach brought any palpitations. “He is able to take them and has scored twice. I’m happy.”
The Marseille ultras had whistled Anelka’s every touch to that moment – the decibels a notch or two louder than they were for another Frenchman, another World Cup flop, Florent Malouda.
September 28, 2010
Out-of-form Wayne Rooney has been ruled out of Manchester United's trip to Valencia on Wednesday with an ankle injury but the word on Fleet Street is that the striker has more problems than just a knock.
Rooney's form has suffered since the scandals about his private life hit the papers earlier this month and manager Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his concern in an interview last week.
In short, Rooney needs the break, as Matt Lawton explains in the Daily Mail.
"There were two stories on the official Manchester United website at the same time on Monday. One said Wayne Rooney would be fit to face Valencia in Spain. The other said not.
'No Wayne in Spain,' read the headline, citing the same ankle injury that, on the conflicting report, had not been deemed that serious.
Clearly, there is more to his omission than the gash he sustained at Bolton on Sunday or even the continuing problems with an ankle first injured in Munich in March.
England's best player, and the best player at Old Trafford, is struggling, and understandably so.
Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his concern in an interview last week when he spoke of how difficult it must be for the 24-year-old when the focus on him, in the wake of those revelations about his private life, is so intense."
September 23, 2010
Not one to usually talk about football, Jan Moir in the Daily Mail may have an odd take on certain things, but she might just be spot on about the house owned by new Aston Villa signing Stephen Ireland. She begins...
Talk about the taste of Ireland! Or - more accurately - lack thereof. Until he threw open the doors of his lurid Cheshire mansion to a celebrity magazine, Cork-born footballer Stephen Ireland was most famous for once flashing his superman underpants on the pitch.
Oh! There was also another difficult incident when he lied about his grandmother being ill to escape playing in an Irish international match; a misdemeanour for which he has never been forgiven in his homeland. Nor has he played for his national team again.
Now the Aston Villa millionaire can add another crime to his charge sheet. That's right, my fellow décor watchers. Together with his partner, Jessica Lawlor, who is also the mother of his three children, Ireland is guilty of some of the most serious crimes against good taste since the Beckhams parked their bottoms on matching velvet-look, VD-monogrammed thrones during their wedding ceremony.
For this week, in the pages of Ireland's VIP magazine, Stephen and Jessica show exactly what happens when an unlimited decorating budget collides with only a very limited understandingof the concepts of elegance and style, not to mention understatement. And obviously no one did.
Instead, their blingtastic home looks like a cross between the foyer of a Dubai hotel and the downstairs lounge of a flash northern nightclub. And that is just the way they like it.
Really, Stephen and Jessica are the kind of couple who shouldn't be allowed out to buy a cushion without adult supervision, but who can stop them? Amid the high-wattage glare of their conspicuous consumption, they commit grievous bodily harm against soft furnishings and assault the good name of fixtures and fittings over and over again.
September 21, 2010
Liverpool are, of course, in the news again and Tom Hicks' attempts to take over the club on his own have made the back pages of late. Now the Guardian's Kevin McCarra has his say on the current problems at Anfield.
Tom Hicks has inspired a popular uprising. Liverpool supporters are generally pleased that the co-owner is finding it hard to borrow £280m and so pay back the £237m due to the Royal Bank of Scotland next month. Hicks might still raise the funds but the fans' attempt to deter lenders, with the side-effect of temporarily devastating an institution they love, speaks of desperation.
Hicks and George Gillett, his partner in the purchase of Liverpool, are not entitled to any sympathy. The crisis rests on a miscalculation by them. They were wholly wrong to suppose that they were acquiring a wonderful asset when they completed their takeover in March 2007. Perhaps they were as light-headed as the crowd about a side then on its way to the final of the Champions League, a trophy it had won only two years before.
The glamour of that tournament has had its invigorating effect since then. As recently as March last year Liverpool drubbed Real Madrid 5-0 on aggregate. Four days later Manchester United were trounced 4-1 at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Such spectacular moments have to be appreciated but they divert attention from a long-term decline. The American proprietors themselves may have been blinded to the intrinsic handicaps that this club endures and sometimes transcends.
Potential buyers have cause to be wary. At the end of the old First Division, in 1992, Liverpool came sixth. They filled that spot again at the close of the inaugural Premier League campaign. Rivals like to honour Liverpool, whose heritage is indeed remarkable, but when Sir Alex Ferguson referred to the allure of fixtures with them he was certainly not identifying the Anfield club as his principal foe nowadays.
Liverpool have roused themselves on occasion and, as recently as 2009, came within four points of the champions United. All the same such exploits are misleading. People were aghast when they came seventh last season but the club have been there before in the Premier League and indeed have done worse still, ending up eighth in 1994.
There has still been a sustained and intermittently inspiring fight against the odds since finance became the key consideration. Indeed, the principal grievance with Hicks and Gillett is their failure to fund a new stadium in Stanley Park. Even so, there might have been an improvement in circumstances rather than a transformation of Liverpool's affairs, had the Americans financed it.
There is not the wealth to be tapped that exists in Manchester or, of course, London. Regardless of references to overseas markets and, in particular, the far east, the size of revenues from match-day income and domestic television coverage continues to have a great bearing on prospects. Liverpool presently have the air of a club economising.
Roy Hodgson, below, is an excellent manager but he will have known that, in part, the Anfield post was his because he had demonstrated so keen an eye for a bargain at Fulham. All the same expectations differ at Liverpool. Fans will feel keenly that the side lost substance when first Xabi Alonso and then Javier Mascherano were transferred. Perhaps they could not have been stopped from going but there were no equivalents to succeed them and Raul Meireles, pardonably enough, could not stifle Paul Scholes at Old Trafford yesterday. The economising has taken its toll on the line-up and the lack of distinction around Fernando Torres makes it harder still for the Spain striker to regain form.
Steven Gerrard has recently shone in adversity but not even he will win many games single-handedly. We could start to think of the Europa League rather than the Champions League as Liverpool's natural habitat unless there is a well-funded revolution.
The only fortunes seen in the past couple of years have been plunged into Eastlands. In Manchester City Sheikh Mansour identified a club that already had a well-appointed stadium. It continues to belong to the local council for the time being but the ground can be expanded to a capacity of at least 60,000 in a place where a well-heeled audience may be attracted.
While few suppose that City will land the title this season Roberto Mancini has been given the means to establish his club eventually as a force in the Champions League. Liverpool's decline diminishes the English scene but anyone with the funds and desire to take over from Hicks and Gillett is buying himself a formidable challenge.
September 18, 2010
While Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested Rafael Benitez is to blame for the decline at Liverpool, David Lacey, writing in The Guardian, argues that Ferguson needs a new crop of talent to stave off United's own decline.
For Liverpool, this may be the season that will decide whether they are going to regain their status as one of Europe's leading teams or are about to become another Everton, drifting around in mid-table hoping that one of the elite has a sufficiently lean year to allow them a place in the top four and the chance to revive happier memories.
Manchester United have hardly reached that stage but with two of their best players, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, now the wrong side of 35 while their first-choice goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, will be 40 next month, it is going to take a mighty effort to turn the team around while keeping up appearances in the Premier and Champions Leagues. Already the question nobody dares ask must be preying on more than a few minds: what happens when Ferguson decides to retire – and means it.
It is hard to imagine there ever coming a time when the younger part of United's support, those 25 and under say, will have no clear first-hand memories of their team winning the league. Much the same would have been said of Liverpool's fans in the 70s and 80s, yet this is the case now.
Meanwhile, former Arsenal striker Alan Smith turns his focus to Sunday's derby in the Telegraph, saying Nemanja Vidic must prove he can cope with Fernando Torres.
Vidic and Rio Ferdinand must show all their experience by shrewdly choosing when to get tight on Torres and when to drop off, when to defend a high line, as they normally do, and when to withdraw.
After all, the last thing they want is to 'get done' by the kind of simple, long ball that Torres gobbled up in March of last year to trigger Liverpool's ground-breaking 4-1 victory.
In this instance, then, the old coaching adage remains true: if there is pressure on the ball you can afford to squeeze up, knowing that the opponent in possession doesn't have time to pick out a pass. If there isn't pressure, drop off a few yards to allow some breathing space.
In addition, those central defenders must be equally on their guard when their own players have the ball, which is likely to be for the majority of the time. That involves keeping close tabs on Torres, watching where he wanders when play is up the other end.
September 16, 2010
Arsenal destroyed Braga in their Champions League opener on Wednesday, with Fabregas taking the majority of the headlines, but Dominic Fifield, writing in the Guardian, feels there's little sense getting excited yet because the defensive doubts remain.
There was something rather routine about all this pizzazz. Arsenal dazzled tonight, as they invariably do through the group stage of a competition that can feel little more than a giddy formality until the new year, with Braga gasping and the locals rejoicing in everything slick. All semblance of competition had been blown away, along with the visitors, by the interval though Arsène Wenger will not have been hoodwinked.
He has seen all this before and must measure the value of such mismatches on longer-term relevance. The watching world knew that Arsenal can by-pass all-comers – except perhaps Barcelona – once they have built up a head of steam. Now they know they still can. It is fragility at the other end that has cost them and, a little over five months since Barça so ruthlessly exposed a soft underbelly, it is this team's rearguard that has duly been revamped.
The overhaul has been substantial, the departures of older heads in William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikaël Silvestre, together with Philippe Senderos, hinting at revolution across the back-line rather than Wenger's favoured process of evolution. In have come Sébastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny, for not insubstantial fees, to join last summer's acquisition Thomas Vermaelen. Wenger would have added a goalkeeper – Fulham's Mark Schwarzer – had the opportunity arisen which suggests that, even now, his side's defence is a work in progress.
The chance to strengthen further has gone for now. With Lionel Messi's rampaging at Camp Nou in April in mind, the question has been posed whether Arsenal are better equipped this time to excel in a competition neither club nor manager has ever won. Wenger may privately reserve judgment for now, even after this swashbuckling display. His attack remains irrepressible as ever but vulnerability remains. Braga may not have exploited it but better sides would have prospered.
It's a similar story from Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, who feels we learned nothing from the rout.
It would be nice to announce that Arsenal were irresistibly stunning on Wednesday night and that no team could have withstood their onslaught, but this would be a lie. Arsenal were just ... Arsenal.
They passed beautifully, thought inventively, attacked imaginatively, as they do almost every week. Sometimes in the Premier League they do all this and still lose; on other occasions they are made to scrap until the last minute. Against the lamentable Braga of Portugal, however, it proved more than enough.
September 13, 2010
The fallout from Wayne Rooney's omission against Everton is still reverberating around Fleet Street with more than one newspaper claiming Sir Alex Ferguson's assertion that he dropped the Manchester United striker to spare him abuse against his former club is nothing but a smokescreen.
The press claim the real reason is that Fergie is furious that United's name has been dragged through the mud because of lurid allegations about Rooney's private life and that he has given the England star a taste of his famous hair-dryer treatment.
Writing in The Sun, Steven Howard praises Ferguson for taking a moral stand at the expense of benching his star player.
Alex Ferguson had finally had enough. After six days of seeing Manchester United's name dragged through the gutter, Ferguson knew he had to act. To show Wayne Rooney - and everyone else at Old Trafford - he would no longer put up with stories of his players off the leash, on the lash and up to no good.
Nor did Fergie want it construed he might have lost control of any of his players. It was also to show that no one is bigger than the club. That even in this celebrity-fixated era where the footballer is king that some sort of standards have to be adhered to. And, just as important, to send out the message: We can survive without you.
Ferguson might have claimed he left Rooney out of his side at Goodison Park on Saturday to spare his troubled striker 90 minutes of personal abuse. But that was a smokescreen. Instead, he chose to strike a blow for every manager who feels undermined by star players, their agents and advisers and all the rest who whisper sweet nothings in their ear.
Not that there isn't a vaguely amusing side to it. How best to punish Rooney? Take away his ball and send him home to face the music. And his missus.
The Daily Mirror also suggest there is a deeper meaning behind Rooney's absence and cite Everton manager David Moye's post match comments as proof.
The official reason for Wayne Rooney's absence at Goodison on Saturday was to shield him from the abuse of fans who used to worship him. But Everton manager David Moyes hinted at a darker motivation.
Moyes offered a hint about the mindset of his respected friend Ferguson. "I don't think you should put it all on the crowd," said the Everton manager. The manager there knows what he's doing and I'm sure he did what he thought was right.
"Maybe he was just making sure everybody realises that if you play for Manchester United you have to conduct yourself in a certain manner."
September 12, 2010
You can always bank on Ian Holloway to give you an opinion on something, usually in a bizarre fashion of course.
Old Ollie is worried for the young players of today, and he feels that the vast wealth that is thrust upon them early in their careers could lead them down the path of debauchery - something which blighted George Best's playing days as the first ever pin-up footballer.
He writes in his column in the Independent:
I think now more than ever is the time when football clubs, particularly in the Premier League where there is so much focus and media attention, have to be really careful about responsibility. Managers have a role to play, and so have football clubs and the player himself.
In my opinion we've got a real problem. Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic examples of people who have been at the top of the game all their lives and never put a foot wrong, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes for starters.
But I have a photo of George Best on the wall of my office at Blackpool and how his life went is one of the saddest things ever. He was one of the most brilliant players of all time, but he was the world's first superstar footballer and it cost him. I think we may have a lot more George Bests around if we're not careful.
We have people with a lot of time and a lot of money who go into clubs, and they have VIP areas where they drink champagne. The game has got to do an awful lot more to help eradicate that type of behaviour.
September 10, 2010
Every Sam, Bruce and Harry have put their name forward for the England job following the news that current manager Fabio Capello will step down in after Euro 2012, or before if the nation fails to qualify.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce and Sunderland gaffer Steve Bruce have all be contacted by Fleet Street's finest and all have wasted little time in throwing their hats in the ring.
In The Independent Robin Scott-Elliot casts his eye over the early contenders:
It is little more than a day since Fabio Capello confirmed he would step down as England manager after the European Championship finals in two years' time and already the declarations of interest are springing up from all corners of the land. The race for the most coveted job in English football/ the most poisonous chalice in the game (Harry Redknapp saw it both ways yesterday) has begun.
With the Football Association suggesting that the next man in charge of the national side will be English, the shortlist is likely to be just that. Redknapp is the strong early favourite according to bookmakers and yesterday the Tottenham manager said he could not imagine refusing the job. He described it as the "pinnacle of any English manager's career". But Redknapp also believes that come 2012 he will be too old for the role. Capello will be 66, and a self-labelled "pensioner", when he heads home to Italy – Redknapp will be 65 in 2012.
The others to show an interest in the job yesterday were the 55-year-old Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce, the baby of the pacesetters at 49.
However, Allardyce thinks that Roy Hodgson is the favourite to take the job and isn't very happy about it either. Big Sam thinks the new Liverpool manager has already been anointed as the only man capable of succeeding Capello simply on the basis of a "good season with Fulham".
As Matt Lawton explains in the Daily Telegraph:
With Capello serving notice of his intention to vacate the post of England manager following Euro 2012 and the Football Association already intimating a determination to recruit an Englishman to succeed the Italian, the starting gun has seemingly been fired on the race to find a home-grown manager to take charge of the national team.
But with only one Englishman – Tottenham's Harry Redknapp – guiding his club to a top-10 finish in the Premier League last season, the field of candidates already appears low on trophy-winning credentials.
With the likes of Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince and Alan Shearer all failing to replicate their playing success as managers, seasoned campaigners such as Blackburn manager Allardyce, Sunderland's Steve Bruce, Redknapp and Hodgson appear to be the only options open to the FA.
And Allardyce, who was interviewed for the England job in 2006 before losing out to Steve McClaren, alluded to a lack of faith in the FA's recruitment process, by claiming that Hodgson's success in guiding Fulham to last season's Europa League final has placed him at the top of a one-man shortlist.
Allardyce said: "It wasn't long ago that Roy Hodgson was put up for the England job when he was manager here at Blackburn. But he lost his job here, went back to manage on the continent and he's never mentioned again until he comes back and has a good season with Fulham. Now we say he's the only candidate."
September 9, 2010
With kiss n' tell derailing yet another famous footballer in Wayne Rooney, more questions are being asked about what sort of lifestyle the modern player lives.
The Sabotage Times have heard from one who knows, former Arsenal and Tottenham player Rohan Ricketts, now playing with, rather incongrously, Dacia Chişinău of the Moldovan National Division.
He is happy to lift the lid on the attitudes and temptations offered to players. Ricketts writes:
When I was first thrust into the limelight at Spurs, I was exposed to a whole different lifestyle: the clubs, restaurants, cars and women. I soon discovered that there’s a sense of entitlement that comes with the money and fame of being a footballer which makes you think you can do anything you like and no one can hurt you.
Ricketts suggests there is a certain type of woman willing to offer herself.
The girls can be like vultures – they see football as a market and they want the most expensive brands. They equate you to your market value. Players will shag each other’s mistresses all the time as well and some of the girls seemed to get their kicks out of that. One time I was chatting to a girl and she was proud to tell me that she was up in the 30s with football players. She thought that telling me that was cool.
September 6, 2010
A lot has been said over the conduct of footballer players and James Lawton in the Guardian thinks that the recent antics of the England lot is ruining the game. Read on:
The sexual conduct of Wayne Rooney, and the increasing number of his England team-mates who seem so hell-bent on supporting, for the want of a less romantic term, the kiss-and-tell industry, is no doubt essentially a matter for themselves and their wives and partners. But they are kidding themselves if they believe that is the extent of the problem.
Domestic disharmony is one consequence. But if they get round to it they may also care to consider the wrecking-ball damage their behaviour is doing to the image of the game that has put them in mansions and, in Rooney's case, apparently allows him to pay a porter in a five-star hotel £200 for getting him a packet of Marlboro.
Rooney is of mature age and has not committed an indictable offence, but the timing of the revelation that he also paid a prostitute £1,200 a session and, with ultimate indiscretion, later invited her to ply her wares at the team hotel, could hardly be worse.
It is another lurid brushstroke in the painting of a culture of leading English footballers who seem powerless to accept any professional requirement for personal discipline.
Another casualty is the idea that somehow Fabio Capello sabotaged England's World Cup hopes by imposing too many recreational restrictions on players who had emerged from a long and draining league season.
That argument is based on the belief that Capello should have lightened up his famous emphasis on discipline and allowed the players a little bit more credit for their ability to remain focused on the challenge that stretched before them for a few weeks of the South African winter.
Unfortunately, it is a theory not enhanced by the fact that currently three of the England squad on duty in South Africa have found it necessary to place "super-injunctions" against the reporting of their off-field activities and that already this year Ashley Cole, John Terry, Peter Crouch and now Rooney have been subject to the turmoil of public exposure of affairs they were desperate to keep private.
Unfortunately, that is asking too much in a celebrity-obsessed society which slavers for a daily diet of fresh titillation, however squalid.
When Capello fired Terry from the England captaincy – after a failed super-injunction which sought to suppress reports that he had conducted an affair with friend and team-mate Wayne Bridge's former partner, and mother of his child – some argued that he had reacted excessively.
However, the point Capello made with some force was that as long as he was captain Terry had a supreme responsibility for leading his team without distraction. Brusquely, Capello told the player that he had failed in this basic requirement quite utterly.
Rooney's situation, however torrid it was when his wife Coleen picked up the News of the World yesterday, is not complicated by the kind of responsibility Terry was expected to carry, but as a £100,000-a-week footballer, and England's outstanding talent by some margin, he is not without certain obligations.
One is that for a short time in his life he is equal to the challenge of conducting himself in the most professional manner. For the best part of two months now there has been a fierce debate over the cause of Rooney's complete failure to justify the expectations he took to the World Cup. One reason advanced was the nagging effects of the injury he picked up in a Champions League game in Munich. Another was the sheer pressure on a player rated alongside such as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta as a potential star of the tournament.
Now, another possibility presents itself. It is of a young man fearing for a marriage that was launched in Italy at huge cost and with a tearful speech of adoration from the bridegroom. But, again, this is Wayne Rooney's business. The broader, more legitimate concern is the apparently devastating effect the flood of wealth is having on the ability of too many of England's leading footballers to keep the game, the basis of all that life has brought them, in the forefront of their minds.
Tiger Woods, we know, has been obliged to consider the problem for the best part of a year, even to the point of entering a sex addiction clinic, and he has had to do it despite being possibly the most gifted golfer the world has ever seen.
In the context of English football, Rooney does have a talent that makes him separate – as we were reminded in flashes at Wembley last Friday night – but there is no argument that his form has slipped quite alarmingly, even to the point where some are asking if the best of him, at the age of 24, has already gone.
That may be an extreme fear but for the moment there does indeed seem to be a missing dimension. He played beautifully at times when opening up the way for his strike partner Jermain Defoe against the Bulgarians but, by his old standards, there were also occasions when he seemed to lack the hard edge of conviction that in the past has been his greatest strength.
In Basle tomorrow night Rooney may take another step along the way to some more significant rehabilitation of lost form. In the meantime, however, there must be the worry that he and too many of his team-mates are piling upon themselves too many pressures unrelated to the business of doing that which they do best.
Possibly the greatest player these islands ever produced, George Best, managed to perform both sexual pyrotechnics, epic drinking and the most sublime football into his middle twenties, and then slid away from the mountain top. That was in a different age, when the rewards were relatively minuscule, and it took a Best to invent the football paparazzi.
Now the world has changed and they are everywhere, the cameras and the girls itching to tell their stories, waiting for a Rooney or a Terry or a Crouch to make one false step. What is surprising, when so much is at stake, is that their prey appear to do so much of the hunting.
September 3, 2010
As Fabio Capello prepares to lead his England players into European Championship qualifying battle against Bulgaria, the focus in the English press is, of course, on the Three Lions.
The basic crux of all of the articles spread around Friday's newspapers is that Mr Capello is under pressure and that his side must produce a performance of acceptable quality in order to ease that pressure.
Among those analysing the build-up is Matt Lawton at the Mail who was left intrigued by Capello's pre-match press conference, in which he demonstrated his intellectual credentials by borrowing a line from Mary Shelley's famous 1818 novel, Frankenstein.
"Did he borrow the line from a Frankenstein movie or from Franco Baldini? Or was it something, despite his long struggle to master the English language, that just came to Fabio Capello there and then?
‘To a new world of gods and monsters,’ declared Septimus Pretorius to Dr Frankenstein in toasting the creation of a bride for Boris Karloff’s beast. And yesterday, England’s manager, perhaps inspired in part by his intellectual assistant, Baldini, used such a line for his own devices.
It amounted to quite a moment during Capello’s tenure at the Football Association — a statement that was very much directed at his critics but one that also revealed a deeper understanding of the role he continues to perform.
The world the England manager occupies is one of extremes, he now realises. He’s a god if he wins; a monster if he loses. In the eyes of some, anyway.
Not that it seemed to bother him too much on the eve of a European Championship qualifier against Bulgaria that could yet determine if he is still employed by the FA when England meet Montenegro at Wembley next month. Did he feel under enormous pressure? ‘This is a big game for England, not for me,’ he said."
September 1, 2010
So the dust is settling and the ink drying on another closed transfer window, and it's time for football fans to keep their fingers crossed that players - especially those who are previously untested in the Premier League - live up to their billing and, more importantly, their price tag.
While one may laud the move of Birmingham to bring in Alexander Hleb on loan - there will undoubtedly be a significant number of expensive mistakes. Paul Hayward at the Guardian looks at Manchester City's selling and spending, starting with Brazilian flop Robinho.
"More compelling than Manchester City's lavish buys were the crashingly expensive errors they tried to correct in this transfer window: chiefly, that deadline-day thespian, Robinho, who has bounced between Real Madrid, City and now Milan inside two years, and left no pool of perspiration at Eastlands when he moved to Italy.
While the gaze was locked on David Silva, Jérôme Boateng, Yaya Touré, James Milner, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov as they pushed City's new wage commitments to £488m, the purge of other recent acquisitions pointed to a problem only the sky blue half of Manchester could afford to solve without recourse to Valium. In the downturn other Premier League high-spenders focused their energies on shedding players whose inflated transfer fees felt onerous and whose high wages have rendered them hard to move on.
Liverpool's Alberto Aquilani, bought for £20m to replace the superior Xabi Alonso, was dispatched on loan to Juventus to conceal the reality that he was the worst piece of business in the Rafa Benítez years. So frantic were Liverpool to correct that booboo that they rushed Aquilani off the wage bill for a year and will not know whether the £20m transfer fee is recoverable until the Old Lady of Turin has seen him play.
Across the league there is a platinum club of names who were big enough for long enough for agents to secure mega-deals that their clubs are still manacled to. Among those who might have been on the move at 6pm had their employers been able to persuade their rivals to assume the high salary costs were Newcastle's Xisco (a dud, reportedly on £55,000 a week), Nigel Reo-Coker (Aston Villa) and David Bentley, Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko of Spurs. Bentley was wanted by Fulham, but only as a loanee."
Surprisingly, the closing of the transfer window appears to have been quickly forgotten by much of the English press, with focus already turning to the start of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. I must of course note that the qualifiers have already begun - apologies to Estonia and Faroe Islands - but this is where the big boys get under way.
That "big boy" tag is still applied to England, despite their poor World Cup showing, and after some harsh criticism in recent months, Martin Samuel at the Mail believes Three Lions boss Fabio Capello needs to be given a break.
"A life in football being what it is, there will come a time when one of the greats, Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, makes a real mess of the season. Brian Clough, remember, finished not with a bang but the whimper of relegation with Nottingham Forest, the club he led to two European titles.
The equivalent now for a member of the established Champions League elite would be to finish without a trophy and outside the top four. It marked the end for Rafael Benitez at Liverpool, and may one day hasten the departure of men of greater standing at Manchester United and Arsenal.
Yet even in retreat, it would not be possible to speak of either man as a fool. There will be decades of brilliance, of inspiration and success to be taken into consideration. An appraisal that amounts to 'Useless pillock Ferguson stuffs it up again' would ignore spectacular achievements. Clearly, Ferguson is not useless, just having a bad year. Whatever the consequences, they could never override his past.
Yet for Fabio Capello, different rules apply. Winner of the Champions League and UEFA Super Cup: weirdo. Winner of five Italian league titles at two clubs: gormless. Winner of two La Liga titles with Real Madrid: jackass. All terms used to describe Capello either in reports or banner headlines during the last three weeks.
What is it with the vilification of England managers? Nobody is claiming Capello has not made mistakes. Nobody would argue that, by his standards, England's performance at the World Cup in 2010 was a professional low point. But, come on, Fabio Capello? Gormless weirdo jackass? It rather places the 16 straight seasons of achievement into context. No mean feat for a fool."