Players

Barney Ronay scrolls through the list of Britain's highest earners and finds it an incriminating document in the case against football's economic competence

Benito Carbone, Mark Bosnich and Winston Bo­garde have something in common. Draw up a list of controversial transfers, and all three would un­doubtedly feature. But Beni and the boys appeared on another list this month: the Sunday Times Pay List 2002, which sets out the 500 highest earning individuals in Britain. The List includes 46 footballers, only one of whom – Steve McManaman at No 213 – is em­ployed outside the domestic leagues. At first glance the temptation is merely to gawp at the presence of such high profile failures as Fabrizio Ravanelli and the notoriously overpaid cheeky boys of Chelsea.

Former Belgium goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff now has his own reality TV show, much in the mould of The Osbournes, which John Chapman has watched

The Art Nouveau gates swing open to a soundtrack reminiscent of Dynasty and Dallas. We’re already thinking JR. The characters are introduced: Nicolas and Debbie on the tennis court, Sam and Kelly by the pool, “Bompa” pouring himself another drink and Lyndsey jumping out of a 4x4. There’s Jean-Marie checking the financial news, while his loyal wife Carmen keeps an eye on what’s cooking in the American-style kitchen. But this is no soap. It’s The Pfaffs, Flemish TV’s answer to The Osbournes, and it’s a massive success.

The European Union is expanding as rapidly as the waistlines of retired footballers. Al Needham puzzled over an event that brought the two together

The Europe United Masters tournament was held at the London Arena on a miserable October Sunday, wedged between the Disney Channel Kids Awards and Beauty and the Beast On Ice. It had a weird premise: the Foreign Office decided that the best way to mark the admission of ten new coun­tries to the European Union was to organise a kick­about for retired foot­ballers, some of them not exactly re­nowned for their Europhilia (one of the British Masters squad once said living in Italy was like being in a foreign country and another famously told Norway to “Fuck off”). Mind you, if you needed reminding that there have been worse ideas, we’re only a stone’s throw away from the Millennium Dome.

Squads are now so vast that players can sink to the bottom and never come up again. Matthew Hall goes in search of Mark Bosnich

Three years ago, Mark Bosnich had it all. He had turned down Juventus to rejoin his beloved Man­chester United, the club he spent three seasons with as a teenager a decade earlier, as successor to Peter Sch­meichel. During the same summer, after a night that ended in a police cell, he had remarried. Happy at work and happy at home, the future was bright. Three years later, the sunglasses are well and truly off, most likely replaced by pyjamas, slippers and a blanket. Mark Bos­nich doesn’t get out much these days, and in that relatively short space of time, Bosnich has felt the wrath of Sir Alex Ferguson, then his new wife and now Claudio Ranieri.

Titi Camara was the catalyst for Harry Redknapp's departure from West Ham, and Glenn Roeder isn't too keen either. Darron Kirkby looks at the brief highlights

In his first 20 months with West Ham, Titi Camara played only 485 minutes – and just 94 of them were at home. Perhaps more than any other player, Titi’s bearing on the club’s history is completely disproportionate to his on-field contribution. Five months after he joined for £1.7 million, the man who signed him, Harry Redknapp, was out of a job. The most regularly aired reason put forward for his departure was that the board had lost faith in his judgment after Redknapp had squandered what little of the Rio Ferdinand money he  had been given on the likes of Rigobert Song, Ragnvald Soma and, above all, Titi Camara.

There are more Latvians than you might think in English football – it's just that very few are actually appearing on the pitch. Daunis Auers numbers them off

Rather unexpectedly, the late 1990s saw an exodus of the best Latvian footballers to England. It was actively encouraged by the spectacularly unsuccessful (yet annoyingly optimistic) former manager of the national side, Gary Johnson. It all seemed a bit odd because, despite a promising start to Euro 2004 qualifying, the national side is essentially crap and the eternal champions, Skonto FC, have never set Europe alight. Indeed, Latvian football in general has a Ven­ables-like tradition of glorious failure: Skonto 2-1 up at Barcelona with a few minutes to go in qualifying for the 1997-98 Champions League, only to lose 3-2; outplaying Scotland in the first 2002 World Cup qualifier only to lose to a last-minute Don Hutchison goal; having an 86th-minute winner against Sweden in the first Euro 2004 qualifier wrongly disallowed for off­side. I could go on. But I won’t.

Following the media frenzy over Wayne Rooney, Barney Ronay looks at teenage players who have acquired star status without even stepping on to the pitch

“Just 16, with brutal power and terrifying pace. The man-boy has nerves of steel and fears no one. He is Wayne Rooney. He is… A PHENOMENON”

As Roy Keane reflects on an eventful career, Joyce Woolridge questions the representation of United's skipper and the influence of the ghost writer

“Journalists and players have an uneasy relationship… Journalists tend to try and make the player say the things they want him to say. And it is all too easy for them to do this… This shows particularly when they are on the ‘discontented player’ story.”
Eamon Dunphy, Only A Game?

A ghost stalks the pages of Roy Keane’s autobiography: the unquiet spirit of professional Irish malcontent, Eamon Dun­phy. The ghostwriter who transcribes the tapes and knocks the pieces into shape usual­ly leaves some sort of footprint on the text of a footballer’s life, whether a flowery met­aphor or a stock phrase.

Ian Plenderleith dissects a biographical account of Lars Leese's career to discover that, unlike his wife, the German never quite felt at home in South Yorkshire

When German goalkeeper Lars Leese signed for Barn­sley at the start of their Premiership season in 1997, he was one of six foreign players at the club that year. As the journalist Ronald Reng describes it in his excellent biography of Leese, published in Germany earlier this year, Barnsley boss Danny Wilson was “like a kid in a toyshop who was finally allowed to buy international stars – or rather, players who were international and were taken for stars in Barnsley”.

Harry Pearson welcomes a new biography of the Charlton brothers that looks more sympathetically on Bobby's personality and flays his detractors

When it comes to the Charlton brothers, most peo­ple probably concur with the assessment Big Jack apparently delivered to Ron Atkinson: “Our kid was the better footballer, but I am the better bloke.”

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