End of the saga

The summer’s most protracted transfer saga is finally drawing to a close, with the announcement that Arsenal have accepted a £24million offer from Manchester United for Robin van Persie.

The Dutchman therefore becomes the first player to have been sold by Arsenal to United in the Premier League era. Mikael Silvestre travelled the other way a few years back, and I think we all know who got who got the better of that particular deal. This time round, it’s hard to say: £24million decent price for a 29-year-old injury-prone striker but, if he does stay fit, United have signed a guaranteed goalscorer.

Of van Persie, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted he could do nothing to persuade the striker to stay. Several years of being told that the club was on the cusp of winning trophies, clearly wore thin and the player resolved to leave.

“He is at Manchester United, unfortunately for us. The transfer was finalised in the afternoon,” said Wenger. “It’s never great to lose players of that quality but he only had a year contract so we do not have a choice.”

Indeed, Wenger acknowledged that he had bought Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, in anticipation of van Persie’s departure.

“We have already recruited since we bought (Olivier) Giroud and (Lukas) Podolski who originally were intended to offset the departure of van Persie,” he said.

While Arsenal fans burnt their replica shirts emblazoned with van Persie’s name in a spontaneous outburst of fury; so spontaneous in fact, that many felt compelled to record it on film and then spontaneously post the footage on youtube.

There is, however, a huge silver lining to the player’s departure.

Arsenal fan Piers Morgan had earlier tweeted: “No pressure @Persie_Official – but if you leave #Arsenal then I’m going to throw myself off Santa Monica pier in lead weights.”

Let’s hope he is a man of his word.

Real deal

Van Persie’s departure may provide a period of gloating for their north London rivals, Tottenham. However, any schadenfreude looks set to be short-lived amid reports that they too are set to lose their own talisman, with Luka Modric reported to be travelling to Spain to discuss personal terms with Real Madrid.

The latest offer for the Croatia midfielder to be turned down by Spurs was for £38million, comprising £30m in cash with the remainder in add-ons over the length of Modric’s contract.

But Real have told Tottenham officials they are now willing to increase the cash portion of the fee to around £34m and although Spurs chairman Levy was holding out for £40 million, he seems unlikely to bite off his nose to spite his face for the sake of a couple of million.

On recognised striker on his books and soon to lose his most creative player, it’s probably not how Andre Villas-Boas wanted to start his Tottenham career.

Reports of Milan’s demise may have been exggerated

Antonio Nocerino believes Milan will cope without the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, both of whom left for Paris Saint-Germain this summer. Their departure, combined with a slew of retirements has manifestly wakened the club on the field, while strengthening the finances off it.

The Italian international was picked up by Milan for a bargain €500,000 and he believes that the club can still flourish on a limited budget.

“Whoever arrives at Milan will do well, just like I did last year. Milan paid 3,000 lire (£1.21) and a soda for me, yet I scored 11 goals,” Nocerino told Rai Sport.

“I don’t know [who will arrive at Milan]. Great players have left, but that’s happened in the past as well.

“Milan are Milan, they are a great club that will always do well, regardless of the players that come and go.”

For his and their sake, let’s hope so. There are countless examples, though, of former great clubs struggling to regain their place among the elite. Indeed, one only has to look at Liverpool, the team Milan defeated to win their most recent Champions League title, to see that regaining what a club thinks as their rightful place, is not a formality.

The sins of the father

Speaking of the once-mighty reds, Liverpool owner John Henry, of the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), has conceded they face a huge challenge to compete with the very best as they continue to pay the price for the failings of the previous regime.

FSG completed their Anfield takeover in October 2010, bringing to an end the acrimonious reign of fellow Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Whereas they were able to speedily revive the fortunes of Boston Red Sox (winning the World Series within two years of buying the franchise), Liverpool are proving a tougher nut to crack. Last season, after almost two years in charge, the 18-times champions finished in a disappointing 8th place in the Premier League.

“The best analogy is that you can’t turn an ocean liner around like you can turn a speedboat,” said Henry.

Indeed. Although looking at the current Liverpool side, a better analogy would surely have been the Costa Concordia, with former boss, Kenny Dalglish, playing the role of Captain Francesco Schettino.

“When you look at the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester United, Liverpool isn’t holding up its side of the rivalry.

“That is the way it was with the Red Sox and the (New York) Yankees,” he added. “The Yankees were just completely dominant when we arrived.

“We knew we could never be on an equal footing financially with the Yankees. But we had to do everything in our power to get on a level footing with them on the playing field.

“That was a tremendous challenge. You could say Liverpool is an even bigger challenge than the Red Sox.

“Looking back at the day we bought Liverpool, I was trying to make a point then about how much of a challenge it was going to be because of the issues we inherited.

“We had a lack of depth in the squad and some really high payrolls. We also had issues with the age of the players and so forth. We knew it was going to be very difficult.

Nonetheless, and despite the problems he inherited, Henry remains confident that he can oversee a revival of the club.

“We feel that we have work to do,” he said. “We feel that we are behind – but we are on it. Do we feel that it is possible to get on a level with (the top European) clubs? Absolutely.

“We can close that gap and compete at the very highest level. Absolutely.”

Goal of the day

Angel di Maria scored a stunning 35-yard strike Argentina’s 3-1 victory over Germany.

Quote of the day

“Do Germany actually have a footballing identity at the moment? Apart from saying we’ve got some good lads coming through? I don’t see one. Right now, I can’t really define our football. You can define Spain, Italy and some other nations, but I’m having problems with Germany. What do we stand for?”

Bayern Munich sporting director Matthias Sammer believes Germany’s national side has an identity crisis.

History makers

The United States turned out to be party poopers on their visit to the Azteca stadium for Wednesday’s friendly match against Mexico.

With 56,000 in the cavernous ground looking to pay tribute to their returning Olympic heroes, the US managed to create their own little piece of history by winning on Mexican soil for the first time.

Michael Orozco Fiscal’s goal stunned the home crowd into silence to earn the United States a win at the 25th time of asking (their previous record v Mexico was 24 losses, one draw).

”I think it’s huge. It’s huge for I think all American fans, it’s huge for the team, and it’s historic,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. ”We were very well aware that we’ve never won here at the Azteca Stadium. This is an amazing experience for the all the players. We told them before the game: This moment is for you, go and grab it.”

And so they did.

This is a Low

Germany coach Joachim Low, whose position has come under scrutiny following his side’s’ Euro 2012 semi-final exit, has blamed his side’s defeat to Argentina on the red card awarded to goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler on the half hour mark.

Low, who was described in less-than-flattering tones by midfielder, Sami Khedira, as a competent coach, conceded that there was little his side could do when reduced to ten men.

“After that it was difficult for us against world-class people like Messi, [Gonzalo] Higuain or [Angel] Di Maria.

“We made some tactical errors, but the players gave their all.

“It is difficult to disrupt the opponent when you are outnumbered. In the first 20 minutes, we did it, but not later.”

Meanwhile, Khedira, one of the players whose loyalty had been questioned after he refused to sing the German national anthem, answered his critics by ahem, scoring an own-goal.

Afterwards, the repentant Real Madrid player said: “I am sorry about the own goal – it is my first one ever.”

New era

Didier Dechamps has been speaking about his first game in charge of the French national team.

The game against Uruguay finished in a 0-0 draw, but despite not kicking off his new reign with a victory, Deschamps was able to take plenty of positives from the game

He told reporters: “It’s always disappointing when you don’t win, especially as we had twice as many shots on goal as Uruguay. We worked well in our preparations and, apart from the result, tonight’s match was rather satisfying; there were some real positives.

Indeed. The players turned up for training, no one got into a fight with a team-mate, no journalists were verbally abused and above all, no one told the new coach “Go fuck yourself, you son of a whore.”

Small steps, France, small steps.

Swede dreams

Sweden have played their final game at the Rasunda Stadium – a 3-0 defeat to Brazil.

The Råsunda will be demolished at the end of the Swedish domestic season this winter, and the new Friends Arena in Stockholm will open with a friendly against England in November.

AIK will continue to play at Råsunda until 4 November, with their last match – a repeat of the first match ever played there in 1937 – against Malmö.

It wasn’t just the Swedes who enjoyed an emotional evening in Stockholm; for their opponents, Brazil, this was also a venue of historical significance. It was here, in 1958, that they won their first ever World Cup, and the star of that game, the 17-year-old Pele, was in attendance at last night’s game.

Pelé was on hand for the opening ceremony ahead of Wednesday’s game.

“The biggest memory of being here is that Brazil was unknown until we won the World Cup,” he said.

“It’s still alive, this feeling of helping Brazil.

“Brazil started here.

“Before 1958 nobody knew Brazil – even the name on the flag was wrong and [player Mário] Zagallo asked them to fix it.”

Here’s footage of the 1958 final.

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