THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 A Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich, buys a controlling interest in Chelsea and is expected to  settle the club’s oustanding debts, which will cost him around £130m in total.  Ken Bates, who will stay on as chairman,  professes himself delighted with the deal: “The club will benefit from a new owner with deeper pockets to move Chelsea to the next level.” UEFA president Lennart Johansson repeats an earlier warning that England may be expelled from the European championship if fans misbehave at future away matches. Harry Kewell’s agent claims there are still six clubs in the running to sign him, one of whom he can’t name, just to make it all sound more exciting. Craig Bellamy is to face three charges of racially aggravated  harassment following an incident outside a Cardiff nightclub in March.

Wednesday 2 Former sports minister Tony Banks calls for a government investigation into the sale of the century:  “I want to know if this is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea.” Mark Hughes  is set to reject an offer from Man Utd who want him to be Sir Alex’s new best mate. (Bryan Robson’s still available.)

Thursday 3 Manchester United complete the signing  of Eric Djemba-Djemba from Nantes for £3.5 million  but have a bid for Ronaldinho rejected by PSG who apparently want double the amount offered. After the most protracted move of the century so far, David Dunn finally joins Birmingham from Blackburn for £5.5m.  “I have to come back and try to make people happy,” says an overly optimistic Alex Nyarko on rejoining Everton, where he still has two years left on his contract, after failing to find an employer in France. Knight errant Peter Ridsdale declines to get involved in bailing out Oldham, who need to raise £50,000 in a week to prevent a winding-up order. AC Milan say that “an English club”, believed to be the newly minted Chelsea, offered them £35m for Alessandro Nesta.

Sunday 6 Today’s Chelsea rumours link them with bids for Harry Kewell, Joe Cole – and Wayne Rooney for £30m. With regard to the latter, Everton deny having been contacted: “David Moyes is trying to build a team, not dismantle it,” huffs a club spokesman. Meanwhile, agent Paul Stretford claims to have received death threats from gangsters wanting a portion of Roonaldo business. Dennis Bergkamp’s agent is fuming over Arsenal’s failure to offer his man an acceptable new deal: “For a club of their calibre, they are showing disgraceful behaviour.”

Monday 7 Gianfranco Zola says that he turned down an increased salary offer from Chelsea a day after he left for his home-island club, Cagliari: “This is not just about football, it is about doing something I feel is right.” Wolves are to sign Oleg Luzhny, Nigeria defender Isaac Okoronkwo, previously with Spartak Moscow, and Porto midfielder Silas.

Tuesday 8 Claudio Ranieri wants reassurance following reports that Sven met Lord Siberia for “informal talks”: “I don’t like this story and other ones appearing in the papers. They cause doubts about my work here.” Harry Kewell’s move to Liverpool is held up by his demand that Leeds pay the final year of his contract, worth around £2m. Paul Merson, set to join Walsall, is unhappy at not being offered a new deal by Portsmouth: “It’s about being wanted, about what you’re worth.” The post mortem on Marc-Vivien Foé says that the Cameroon midfielder died of a heart condition caused by “the overall effect of physical activity over time”.

Wednesday 9 Sepp Blatter’s thought for the day is that domestic leagues should be reduced to a maximum of 16 clubs: “We must do something, otherwise we will never get off the carousel of too much football.” Harry Kewell’s move to Liverpool, completed today, triggers off a right old barney between his agent Bernie Mandic and Leeds chairman John McKenzie. Harry stands his ground, however: “It’s a convenient excuse to blame the player but if the club weren’t in such a mess me and a few others would not have needed to be sold.” Keith Gillespie follows David Dunn in slagging off “arrogant” Graeme Souness after leaving Blackburn, in his case on a free to Leicester: “Most of us would say, ‘Great player, decent manager,’ but as a man...”

Thursday 10 The UEFA Cup will feature a mini league stage from  2004-05, with eight groups of five teams playing each other once, the top three going on to the knockout rounds with eight losers from that pesky Champions League. “We believe that the proposed format will add a new and exciting element,” says president Lennart Johansson, who is sure to watch every single match on Eurosport, Granada Men and Motors and wherever else they turn up. Chelsea agree to sign West Ham’s Glen Johnson and might get Damien Duff for £17m, but are rebuffed in approaches for Edgar Davids (“Not even for the moon in exchange,” say Juventus) and Inter’s Christian Vieri. Australian midfielder Brett Emerton completes his move from Feyenoord to Blackburn. Sean Davis demands to be allowed to talk to Everton (that never used to happen) despite Fulham’s rejection of a £3.5m bid. The BBC and Sky agree four-year deals for showing England matches and the FA Cup.

Friday 11 Ronaldinho is apparently “ready for the task of playing for Manchester United” and expects to sign next week. The Football League are to withhold all sponsorship and television money from Luton until the new owners provide further details of their, ahem, plans. Aliou Cissé is transfer-listed by Birmingham after turning up for training a week late. Steve Bruce recommends tough love: “Once players cross the line, nobody hits them with a stick more than I do.”

Saturday 12 Tabloid sermons ahoy as George Best is released without charge after being arrested for hitting a photographer during a drinking binge. “I can’t say I won’t accept an offer from Chelsea,” says a hopeful Jay-Jay Okocha to the dismay of his manager: “Our fans don’t like that sort of talk.”

Monday 14 Chelsea’s stockpiling of midfielders  begins with the signing of Geremi – too pricey for Middlesbrough, where he spent last season on loan – from Real Madrid. Man Utd deny any knowledge of a reported Stamford Bridge offer for Juan Sebastian Veron, however, and Blackburn reject another bid for Damien Duff that falls below the £17m that would activate his release clause. It’s all so damned exciting. Meanwhile, a Venezuelan billionaire, said to have been close to buying Chelsea, is in talks with Aston Villa whom his spokesman sees as “a club which has underachieved in the last few years but could do better”. Here’s a bad idea – Newcastle are considering an offer to take part in a Sky TV documentary series to be filmed throughout next season. Whoever operates the bleeper will be busy. Luton go into administration, meaning that their shadowy new owners will lose control of the club. Sunderland players are to be asked to defer some of their wages until next summer. Lorenzo Amoruso joins Blackburn from Rangers for £1.4m.

Tuesday 15 The FA pass documents relating to the Harry Kewell transfer to FIFA, who may take action against beastly Bernie Mandic for not being a registered agent. He doesn’t seem unduly ruffled: “I find this hilarious. Some of the most corrupt deals ever have involved licensed FIFA agents.” Man Utd do business with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, buying US keeper and Tourette’s Syndrome sufferer Tim Howard, who says: “Hopefully I have some good tools and I can exploit them.”  John Gregory launches a £3m compensation claim over his dismissal by former employers Derby County.

Thursday 17 Villa’s mystery suitor is industrialist Gustavo Cisneros, said to be the second wealthiest man in South America (after Ronaldo’s agent, presumably). Chelsea barter with Southampton over Wayne Bridge, with Graeme Le Saux likely to be offered in part exchange. Spurs full-back Ben Thatcher is set to become Leicester’s eighth signing of the summer and, like Tim Sherwood a little while ago, claims that Glenn hadn’t spoken to him for months. Bobby Zamora’s not put off, though, joining Spurs from Brighton for £1.5m. Chelsea reject Jody Morris spurns a move to Cardiff in favour of Leeds. “For a little lad in stature, he’s very feisty,” says Peter Reid, and ain’t that the truth.

Friday 18 Hold on, now it’s Tottenham, not Villa, that Señor Cisneros is said to have the hots for – a London meeting is being set up. New signing Paul Merson will feel right at home at Walsall according to manager Colin Lee: “We might not be able to compete in terms of facilities but we try to work in the way of a miniature Arsenal.” Trevor Sinclair leaves West Ham for Man City. Craig Hignett, released by Blackburn, is the latest to be snapped up by the New Model Leicester.

Saturday 19 Dennis Bergkamp signs a new one-year deal and Arsène claims to be sure that the procrastinating Patrick Vieira will extend his current deal: “It’s vital to go into the new season with them signed up so I can enjoy my breakfast without reading about players leaving.” Harry Kewell is said to be considering legal action against that nice Gary Lineker following comments made in the latter’s column in the Sunday Telegraph .

Sunday 20 With Ronaldinho suddenly set to join Barcelona for £21m, Paris SG president Francis Graille criticises Man Utd’s manoeuvrings: “We weren’t impressed at all by the behaviour of their representatives, negotiating directly with the player behind our backs.” Peter Kenyon and co are now making eyes at Joaquin of Real Betis and the ever-available Kleberson. Harry Kewell could be out for weeks after injuring an ankle in Liverpool’s friendly against Cologne. Bryan Richardson, who led Coventry to the brink of ruin during his tenure as chairman, emerges as the leader of another group said to be interested in taking over Villa.

Monday 21 “It was the hardest decision of my life,” says Damien Duff, who gives up waiting on a bid from Man Utd and quits Blackburn to join Chelsea for the £17m stipulated in his Rovers contract. Newcastle say they would let Kieron Dyer go for £25m. “Every player has his price and it is only right that Chelsea and Manchester United know,” says a – possibly cheeky – club source.

Wednesday 23 Newcastle now claim that Kieron Dyer is not for sale: “I don’t believe anyone is in the business of making us the kind of stupid offer we couldn’t refuse,” says chairman Freddy Shepherd. Birm­ingham pay Argentina’s Rosario Central £2.5m for Luciano Figueroa, who is the 59th striker from his country to be described as “the new Batistuta”. Rustu Recber, now with Barcelona, claims that he turned down Arsenal after they wanted medical tests on an alleged back problem: “I told Wenger I wasn’t some 19-year-old he could treat as he wanted.” Man Utd open their US tour with a 4-0 over Celtic in front of a record crowd of 66,000 at Seattle’s Seahawks Stadium.

Thursday 24 The Financial Services Authority are to investigate the share structure of Chelsea Village – who exactly owned what stakes – prior to Roman Abramovich’s takeover. Ken Bates reacts with his customary dignity: “I challenge the little worms at the FSA to come out from under their stone and justify their action.” The Premier League confirm that European Commission rules may oblige them to sell exclusive rights to a package of live Saturday teatime matches to a terrestrial broadcaster. Gavin McCann leaves Sunderland for Villa.

Friday 25 Partizan Belgrade or the Swedes of Djurgaardens stand between Newcastle and a place in the group stages of the Champions League. Chelsea face a visit to either Zilina in Slovakia or opponents from Tel Aviv, but it’s Maccabi, not Hapoel, their UEFA Cup conquerors two seasons ago. Rufus Brevett and Joe Cole are likely to appeal against FA misconduct charges relating to West Ham’s dust-up at Bolton in April. Oldham appear to have been saved, with owner Chris Moore agreeing to sell to a group led by the club’s accountant and commercial manager. Wimbledon claim that they will move into Milton Keynes hockey stadium in October after Stadium MK “benefactor” Pete Winkleman agrees to fund rebuilding work.

Saturday 26 Raúl’s agent claims that Chelsea wanted to buy him for a world record £71m: “I spoke to my client, and he said ‘no’. His buy out clause at Real Madrid is £128m.” Wayne Rooney is likely to miss the start of the season after picking up an ankle injury in Everton’s friendly at Rangers. Arsenal are to sign Borussia Dortmund keeper and notorious grouch Jens Lehmann. In one of the more unusual matches of the year so far, 600 people turn up at Vicarage Road to see Nigeria beat Venezuela 1-0. No store can be set by pre-season results, but Morecambe 6, Wolves 1 is a strange one nonetheless.

Sunday 27 John Fashanu denies telling undercover reporters from the News of the World that he is able to fix football matches and has done so in the past. “They have basically been trying to do a sting on John Fashanu,” he says, using the third person in that creepy celebrity way. The FA are to study his taped conversations. Chelsea win the inaugural Premier League Asia Cup in Malaysia, beating Newcastle 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out. Jermaine Jenas’s decisive miss, a chip over the bar, has Sir Bobby fuming: “For some reason he has gone against his education to do something different.” Roma threaten to report Chelsea over an alleged illegal approach for their Brazil midfielder Emerson.

Monday 28 Harry Kewell threatens to stop playing for Australia after officials there complained that his agent Bernie Mandic is not FIFA-registered. “It’s always the same old stuff in Australia. A bunch of nobodies trying to be somebodies.” Birmingham chairman David Gold wants Francis Jeffers to reconsider the wage demands  that are blocking his move to St Andrew’s from Arsenal: “Does he wants to just sit on his big... contract and play golf or get on with his career?” Graeme Souness elbows off a late challenge from Portsmouth to sign Millwall’s Steven Reid for £2.5m.

Tuesday 29 Having had unfruitful, but probably frank, clear-the-air talks with Peter Reid, Mark Viduka is likely to be the next departure from Leeds. His agent gets off the phone long enough to say: “Mark is a top player and it’s important that he’s playing at a top club next season.” Dino Baggio has had “a good look around” at Wolves who will have to pay £1m in wages to take him on a season’s loan from Lazio.

Wednesday 30 Kevin Keegan reacts angrily to Eyal Berkovic’s transfer request: “If he thinks he can walk out on Manchester  City he’s got another thing coming.” Portsmouth, as  you might imagine, are hovering with chequebook at the ready. Chelsea are getting close to deals for Juan  Sebastian Veron and Mallorca’s Samuel Eto’o. A US  gaming company wants to open casinos at several Premiership grounds within the next two years.  No trainers or football shirts allowed.

Thursday 31 Harry Redknapp claims that every English football manager has at some time been offered (without, of course, accepting) a bung to buy a player. The FA are on the case: “If there is anyone with evidence that improper activities are going on they should contact us.” Watch out, you evil kingpins. 

From WSC 199 September 2003. What was happening this month

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