Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Grab: 03.08

What can I say? The fashion is better in Madrid . . .
Having a tremendous year, famous winger/winker Cristiano Ronaldo has opened up contract talks with Manchester United. Seeking at least the $200,000/wk that Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand get, the Portuguese international is under contract until 2010, but Real Madrid is seeking to forget this year's performance and acquire the player.
While invaluable to United's success this year, it's hard to overlook the fact that he only cost a little over $20M (less than Michael Carrick) and word is that Real Madrid are willing to break the record fee (a little less than $100M at today's exchange rate) they set when they bought Zinedine Zidane from Juventus in 2001. Should be a nice chunk of change for Fergie and the Glazers if it happens, but with some key players at the end of their career, will the Red Devils be able to replace Ronnie as well?
[, Times Online]

The er, battle for fourth begins again . . .
It only took a handful of impressive performances by equally impressive youngsters to get Arsene Wenger's Gunners to the League Cup Final, and after that it only took 11 days for them to be knocked out of three cup competitions. Yesterday's 1-1 draw with PSV saw the Dutch leaders go through to the next round in the Champions League, and I have to agree with Freddie Ljungberg when he says Arsenal have no one to blame but themselves (a rare point of view for a Wenger-led player).
Now, the only thing on Arsenal's agenda is to 1) qualify for the next year's Champions League, 2) think of how to make up for the revenue loss that will result from missing the later knockout rounds, 3) get TH14's torn groin and stomach muscles (er, ow?) healed, and 4) teach the mercurial skipper and his gaffer a little lesson in grace, and 5) a miscellanea of some other things. Wenger's little barbs at the FA and referees may have benefited his side just before their clash with Reading in the EPL, but you just had a sense that the Frenchman's bag of tricks was depleted, as his injury list seemed to grow exponentially week after week. Alas, now he can't complain about a crowded fixture list.
[IHT, The Sun, Football365]

It's okay, Gooners, here's some You Tube Classics to cheer you up. [Guardian Sport Blog]

Just when you thought it was safe to leave the couch . . .
Set those DVRs, GolTV subscribers. We've got some great action coming up this weekend on the continent, as well as some FA Cup play on the island. While some traditional powerhouses are stumbling, the rivalries still exist, even if the points and quality aren't there.
Ronaldo (the Brazilian gourmand, not the pacy youth mentioned above) will meet his old team when Milan meet Inter for the Milan derby. Inter hold a comfortable lead in Serie A, but a disappointing draw with Valencia this week to knocked the Nerazzuri out of Europe. Milan went through on a Kaka goal in extra time against Celtic, resulting in Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi to rediscover his ass and start talking out of it again.
[, Malta Star]

And don't forget about Real Madrid visiting the Camp Nou to meet second place Barcelona this weekend. Talk about two clubs reeling from their poor performances this week. Although Barcelona sit only a point behind league leaders Sevilla, things aren't going well
for Rijkaard and the Belgrana. A loss against Sevilla last weekend that saw them drop to 2nd, and failing to score twice at Anfield mean last year's champions of Europe are out. Hype over Samuel Eto'o not wanting to return to play after his injury, a little infighting among players and a series of tactical gaffes by Rijkaard make Barca fans wonder if their team can hold on long enough to regain the lead in La Liga.
For Real Madrid, the situation is even more dire. Roberto Carlos gifted a goal to Roy Makaay and Bayern Munich last night that saw los Merengues out of the next round of Europe and where to begin with all the problems at the Bernabeau? A world-class manager whose job is seemingly in doubt every weekend , a central midfielder who won't play at home for the stick he gets from fans, a humiliated president and squad who's performance would be exaggerated if you called it lackluster. I'd say this could turn out to be a cracker, but Barcelona are really the only side in this match-up that are capable of turning the disappointment of this week into a victory.
[Reuters, The Scotsman, Eurosport, SMiA]


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