Wednesday 28 May ~
England have failed to qualify for Euro 2008, which means we have been spared the weeks of frantic build-up accompanied by photos of star players wrapped in the flag and staring into the mid-distance, vowing that this time, finally, it will all be different. But the tournament is still providing plenty of opportunities for back-page stories in the national press. Most of these concern transfer rumours and in particular the possibility that the Premier League's outstanding player may be on his way.
Real Madrid want to buy Cristiano Ronaldo and are going about their pursuit of the player in a highly public way, prompting Sir Alex to fly out to Portugal's training camp for a heart-to-heart with his player. Meanwhile, Real coach Bernd Schuster says: “Here he'd line up alongside world champions...the English way has been a perfect education for such an exceptional individual talent.” The implication that Man Utd have been preparing a player for his dream move to the Bernabeu is causing fury – or “growing irritation” as Man Utd put it in their official statement on the matter – and threats of legal action.
Real have of course been quite high handed in their public statements, but most clubs go about their squad recruitment in a similarly crass way at times. Indeed Euro 2008 will be awash with people trying to do business on behalf of Premier League teams, whether they are club officials, agents or those enigmatic middle-men who so often seem to insinuate themselves into deals.
There's no mystery, of course, about Kia Joorabchian, the representative of MSI who organised Carlos Tevez's moves to West Ham and then Man Utd. He's an “adviser” who shares his expertise in an Independent article about the transfer market. Apparently, “It will get busier the nearer we get to the transfer window closing”. He continues: “You will see clubs, the promoted ones in particular, worrying about whether their squads are strong enough to survive.” If he's able to charge for advice like that, he's cleverer than he looks.