Players

Michael Owen is in danger of becoming a symbol of Real Madrid’s decline – but is winning fans over and doing pretty well when given a chance, as Phil Ball explains

So Michael Owen is the latest victim of those nasty local cliques in which Johnny Foreigner has spec­ialised, ever since Kevin Keegan went to Hamburg? Real Madrid’s Raúl, a nasty piece of work according to certain recent reports in the English sports media, has apparently been making life un­comfortable for the latest export of Eng­land’s finest, telling the recently departed José Antonio Camacho to leave him out of the team because he wanted his mate Fernando Mor­ientes to play instead. Raúl was also the al­leged guilty party in the cold shouldering of Nicolas Anelka, but if this was true then surely he deserves a medal for bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

Shogo Hagiwara tells us how Michael Owen has helped Real Madrid in the Japanese market

In Japan, A-list celebrities from overseas often endorse products – from canned coffee to cheap shampoo – that they would never purchase in their lives. Footballers are no exception. David Beckham is, of course, as ubiquitous here as everywhere else in the world.

Where were you when you heard the news about Jimmy Glass's goal? In an excerpt from his autobiography, the goalkeeper recalls Carlisle United's JFK moment

We were well into added time when Scott Dobie hit a cross from the right. It came off a Plymouth defender and went out for a corner. I looked across at the manager, Nigel Pearson. At other times when I’ve wanted to run up the field, people have told me to go back. No faith in football to come up with a wonder moment. But now I thought, “Sod it.” What was there to lose? Nigel shrugged his shoulders and waved me up. I began my 100-yard dash up the pitch, hoping to arrive in the penalty area before Graham Anthony took the corner.

Another summer of transfer-related theatre and drama resulted in some surprising deals and a whole lot of bad feeling, Jon Spurling writes

Sir Alex Ferguson described the summer transfer window as “an annual farce of half-truths” and David Moyes claimed it gives football writers the chance to “peddle irresponsible headlines”. The latest doses of rumour and counter rumour seem to have left many Premiership managers feeling far more drained and insecure than normal. “Yous are talking out of your backsides,” barked an apoplectic Ferguson when a gaggle of hacks suggested that Ruud van Nistelrooy was poised to move to Real Madrid. By simply adding the “ski” suffix to a player’s surname, or deploying the “Real deal” headline, tabloids can give even the most experienced manager nightmares, such is the financial clout of Chelsea and the Madrid giants.

Clubs must stop chasing glamorous players and remember they have a duty to their youngsters, warns Jon Spurling

The prize for this summer’s most revealing soundbite must surely be awarded to Dutch defender Michael Reiziger. Shortly before the 31-year-old completed his transfer to Mid­dlesbrough, he commented: “I’m getting to the end of my career and I want to be able to say that I have played in the Premiership.” Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s views on moving to Tee­sside also spoke volumes: “This move will make my family financially secure.” Avoiding any mention of future challenges – much less the possibility of actually winning trophies – the pair neatly encapsulated the prevailing attitude that exists at the top level in English football. Many Premiership chairmen, ever-conscious of season-ticket and replica-shirt sales, would rather spend large sums of money on a seasoned continental star, than invest time and patience in nurturing young British talent.

The idea used to be that clubs paid players to play for them; now they subsidise their opponents to get unwanted 'stars' off their books. Barney Ronay reports

Michael Stewart “took a gamble” this month (accord­ing to the BBC football website) by can­celling the remainder of his contract at Manchester United to have a trial with Rangers. Unfortunately for Stewart this wild leap into the dark didn’t pay off. Alex McLeish decided to let him go, leaving the Scotland international with only the £400,000 lump-sum pay-off from United to tide him over – paid for his waiving the two years left on his £12,000-a-week contract.

Mark O'Brien offers an Everton supporter's perspective on England's star performer at Euro 2004 and wonders whether the adoration of a fickle public will hold

During the latest European Champ­ionship two ques­­tions got asked more often than any other. First­ly, why are there so many Port­u­guese people living in Thetford? And secondly, who is going to buy Wayne Rooney?

Like Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne once returned home a hero from an international tournament. But his new autobiography offers a stark account of a talent subsequently wasted and personal problems ignored. Harry Pearson describes a troubling read

 The Paul Gascoigne who stares out from the cover of this long-awaited (it was commissioned six years ago) autobiography bears a strong resemblance to fellow Nineties casualty Shaun Ryder. There are other similarities, too: talent, loutish behaviour, wild acclaim, drugs, craziness, rehab and, at the end of it all, a greatest hits package that, however enjoyable, never quite adds up to a career. 

Is David Beckham "the most famous person in the world"? Perhaps the most ubiquitous, with his affairs in the papers, his official lookalike aiming for the charts and his sleeping body in an art installation. Barney Ronay tries to work out what it all means

A spell abroad at a glamorous foreign club, a Gucci-clad celebrity wife, Eastern-themed parties at their palatial home, a bogus kidnap scare, a series of hushed-up extra-marital dalliances – and finally a homosexual affair with Paul Scholes. Actually, this last detail appears to be the only major distinction between the lifestyles of Conrad Gates, blond-highlighted Eng­land skipper in the television series Footballer’s Wives, and our own David Beckham. While Conrad happily puts it about in the showers, Becks, we assume, has yet to swing that way. Although nothing, it seems, is to be taken for granted. Over the last month we have been confronted with a new version of David Beckham. Gone is the uxorious cultural icon who once inspired Julie Burchill to exclaim that in the face of his “breathtaking boldness and beauty... the clamour and loutishness of modern celebrity recede”. In his place we have a leering philanderer, a preening fraud and the possessor of a secret “mistress phone” on which he “lays bare his deepest cravings”. 

Do you ever see a picture of a player and come up confidently with half a dozen names for him? Matt Nation knows the feeling, especially with one former Arsenal man

A recent article on European Union expansion  highlighted the problems Slovenia faces in trying to convince people that it is who it says it is. People who try to point it out on a map usually end up putting their finger on Serbia & Montenegro. The flag gets confused with the Russian one. Even George W is convinced Slovenia is half of what used to be Czechoslovakia.

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