So much for loyalty and consistency. Scarcely had Shaun Wright-Phillips vowed
his undying loyalty to manchester City than he had dropped out of a friendly
against Macclesfield on dubious grounds, demanded to talk to Chelsea and off to
Stamford Bridge he went for a mere £21million.
There, he will find two other wingers of greater international renown than he in
Damien Duff of Ireland and Arjen Robben of Holland. Not to mention Joe Cole, not
really a winger at all but deployed wide by Jose Mourinho, who had recently
warned him via the club newspaper that he might find it hard to get a place this
season. Harder than ever now.
But how long will Roman Abramovvich’s billions continue to unbalance English
football? One asks because he now faces – in the shape of his immensely
lucrative oil company, Sibneft – a major action in the courts of St Vincent,
brought not only by another oligarch who loathes and despises him, but by a
number of major British companies who are joined. The accusation is that Sibneft
have somehow managed to reduce what was once a 50 per cent share in a joint oil
venture into a mere one per cent! It has therefore been demanded that Abramovich
pay billions of dollars in two separate deposits into court, till the action be
More preoccupying for him still, one imagines, is the insistence that he reveal
all his assets. So far, the origins of his colossal wealth, acquired in so short
a time and at so young an age, have remained deeply mysterious, though we do
know that, like other oligarchs including Mikhail Khordokovsky, jailed for nine
years largely, it seems, for crossing President Putin, and his original patron
Boris Berezovsky (survivor of three assassination attempts and no longer a
friend) his fortune is owed to his good relations with ex-President Boris
Yeltsin and his daughter.
Abramovich’s relations with Putin are reportedly good: he has even recently
given him a yacht, it is said. There will be no attempt to extradite him to
Russia as there has been twice, without success, for Berezovsky. Watch this
Jose Mourinho, forever shouting the odds, has accused the FA of indulging
Arsenal’s vice-chairman David Dein, claiming that because Dein is also a senior
figure at the FA, Arsenal get favoured nation treatment when it comes to
fixtures, playing at home after European games while Chelsea are obliged to play
away. The FA have told Mourinho to behave himself. Chelsea have supported him.
And now Arsenal are under fire from Sevilla for sending Dein and Arsene Wenger
to Sao Paulo to talk to their Brazilian striker Julio Baptista, for whom the
Gunners have offered £13.75million, just over what they are now to be paid, in
instalments, by Juventus; who can no longer rely on all that Fiat money.
Wenger’s defence, for what it’s worth, is that Arsenal had already made their
offer to Sevilla and that clubs need to talk to players in such circumstances,
to find out how they felt. Quite how this can all be differentiated from the
Ashley Cole affair, when Arsenal went in with all guns blazing because Chelsea,
Mourinho, Pini Zahavi, Peter Kenyon, Old Uncle Toom Cobleigh and all, had met in
a Lacaster Gate hotel to discuss Cole’s transfer. I continue to thinkof those
old adages , a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse, and there’s more ways
of killing the cat.
Haven’t these famous London clubs ever heard of the eleventh commandment?
At Barnet, after the friendly game last Saturday, Arsene Wenger seemed
characteristically unpertubed by the departure of Patrick Vieira. He spoke of
the possibility of young players coming through to be “big players” and reminded
us that when Vieira arrived from Milan in 1996, people hadn’t heard of him.
Yes, but Vieira, already a French Under-21 international, had cost £3.5million.
Hardly an unknown youngster. There are those, even Gary Lineker, who think that
Vieira shot his bolt, and was on his way after what was beyond argument an
indifferent season. Others warn that at only 29, he could still find a new lease
of life in Turin.
And where and how are the Gunners going to replace so powerful, dynamic and
influential a player? With Newcastle’s Jenas, gifted, inconsistent, so often out
through injury? Young midfielders such as the precocious, still teenaged,
Spaniard Cesc Fabregas and the Frenchman Matthieu Flamini, who looked busy and
versatile at Barnet, undoubtedly have their merits, but I cannot see either
giving Arsenal the sheer propulsion they got from Vieira.
Interesting and somewhat odd to see the lanky French centre-back Pascal Cygan
breaking cover to criticise the transfer and suggest it even lead Thierry Henry,
the new Gunners captain, into eventually leaving. Cygan has hardly been a
bulwark of Arsenal’s defence and his outburst, however bold and sincere, is
unlikely to consolidate his position at Highbury. Though Wenger, having spent
£2million on him, has always seemed reluctant to admit it was a mistake.