Tuesday 8 July ~
Now that the European Championship is over, the English football media can get back to their main preoccupation of two months ago – speculating about Frank Lampard's move from Chelsea to Inter. There has been a development this week with Inter signalling their intent to reunite The Special One with The Fat One by faxing Chelsea with an opening bid. Or so they claim, although Chelsea have not yet confirmed that they have received any such offer. This may be because it was such an outrageously low amount that they feel insulted, as seems to have been the case with Liverpool's initial bid for Gareth Barry, which was subsequently made into a paper aeroplane by Martin O'Neill with expletives written on the wings.
The various guesstimates in today's papers vary from £8 million in the Mirror to £11m in the Independent. Lampard would be available for free in a year's time so if Chelsea are to release him they need to cash in now. But the amount that Inter are said to be prepared to pay seems a little on the low side, relatively speaking. After all, Bolton have paid £11m for Swedish striker Johann Elmander, who must be a better player than he looked at Euro 2008 (although that wouldn't be difficult), while Liverpool will end up spending considerably more than that on Gareth Barry.
Of course Chelsea don't really need money for any of their players – the fees they will receive for the various squad members set to be sold, including Steve Sidwell and Shaun Wright-Philips, amount to pocket money for the club's beaming benefactor. Indeed, in evidence given at a recent tribunal examining a former club director's claim for unpaid wages, Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon conceded that his employer is "detached from reality" and may believe that everyone owns a yacht and a plane.
On that basis, Roman Abramovich might just as well forego transfer fees altogether and ask prospective purchasers of Chelsea players to secure their signings through competitive dance contests, in front of an invited audience at an exclusive Moscow nightspot. Or to perform a series of tasks of the sort required of princes in fairy tales seeking the hand of a maiden. (In some instances the use of proxies would be permitted, so the Inter president, for example, need not climb the outside of the Empire State Building in person.) The events could be broadcast with a proportion of the advertising revenues going to a charity of the player's choice. Several clubs save money, Roman Abramovich keeps boredom at bay for a little while longer and the WSC Daily picks up a commission on the (copyrighted) idea being faxed to Chelsea right now. Everyone's a winner.