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Suarez saga grinds on

Liverpool have confirmed that they have no intention of selling Luis Suarez.

Liverpool have refused two bids from Arsenal and managing director, Ian Ayre said that their stance will not change.

Speaking on Friday ahead of a friendly in Thailand, Ayre said: “The situation with Luis Suarez remains the same. It’s never been our intention to sell Luis. As has been widely reported in the media we’ve received two separate offers from Arsenal for the player and we’ve rejected those offers. Luis remains a Liverpool player and is here with us in Thailand as part of our squad.”

That message was reinforced by manager Brendan Rodgers, who said Suarez would be making a big mistake swapping Liverpool for Arsenal.

“I know what we are trying to build and grow, so why would you swap Liverpool to go to Arsenal?” the Liverpool manager said. “I am not sure that it adds up, to be honest. Arsenal has a wonderful history in its own right but Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the world. OK, we might not be in the Champions League and haven’t been for a while now but our competitors have grown around us and we have to step up to the challenge now.”

“Would it be a mistake for Luis to leave? 100%. The team was built around Luis last season. I made some big calls to get the team to work in a way to suit his strengths and it is no coincidence he had a great season apart from the end bit. We would love to have him to continue the next phase.

If the football management lark doesn’t work out, Rodgers could do worse than retrain as a motivational speaker for mid-level travelling sales people.

“It is difficult for Luis, I understand that. If a team wants you, it can be difficult. But I am not sure many teams will have done what we have done in the last couple of games [play to crowds of over 80,000 and 90,000 in Indonesia and Australia respectively]. I am sure Luis will have seen the sheer size and status of the club, so we’ll just see how it goes. It is not something we want to run on too long.”

That should do the trick: who needs the Champions League when you can play friendly matches to sold out stadiums in Indonesia?

Big in Japan

Liverpool remain a huge draw in Asia, as does the Premier League in general, with observers at the recent glut of pre-season friendly matches taken aback by the scale and intensity of the fervour bestowed upon the visiting teams.

Premier League players are not just admired, but worshipped in the way that rock stars once were.

David Moyes, newly appointed as Manchester United’s manager, was amazed at the welcome when he stepped off their plane in Bangkok, comparing it to Beatlemania.

“We arrived at the airport and I heard lots of screaming young ladies. I don’t think it was at me!” he said. “It was like some famous pop group arriving, it was an incredible welcome.”

A report by Supersport confirms that the arrival of the Premier League big guns in many countries is regarded by locals as a chance to catch a glimpse of footballing royalty.

“They’re like stars, like Hollywood stars coming here. Football fans feel like that,” said Peerawit Anantasirarat, a sports reporter for Thailand’s Modern9 TV.

“When John Terry came out, or when Rooney came out at the airport, we’re seeing superstars come here. It’s amazing.”

It’s not just the players who are admired – English fans too, are deemed worth of emulation, right down to the adoption of regional accents when singing club anthems.

In Jakarta, Liverpool fans sang ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in a pitch-perfect Scouse accent.

“Liverpool fans here know all the club’s songs and chants, and they’ve even learnt the accent just from YouTube,” said Fajar Nugraha, who helps run Indonesia’s BIGREDS fan club.

Downside

Of course, there is a downside to courting millions of fans in Asia. It means fulfilling obligations and satisfying sponsors and playing matches at times, and in conditions, that coaches and players would rather avoid.

The flip side of the Asian coin is evident in Hong Kong, where Tottenham having already lost defender Jan Vertonghen for the start of the season after he suffered sprained ankle ligaments when slipping on the Hong Kong Stadium’s waterlogged pitch, are forced to participate in a game they would prefer not to play.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas and his Manchester City counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini, have expressed concerns over the Premier League Asia Trophy finals day because of the torrential rain that continues to hit Hong Kong.

“The conditions are extremely poor, we have lost one player through injury,” the Portuguese said. “Not just because of the conditions, but it is a factor and I would ideally like to avoid circumstances like this. The pitch is not in good condition, they are going to be extremely poor conditions tomorrow and the pitch will be even more difficult for the final.

“I would prefer not to go ahead but we are professional and we have come out for this tournament. Conditions haven’t helped us but it is our responsibility to go ahead.”

The pitch was appalling, similar to the one that led to England’s match with Poland being abandoned last October. But, despite this being a meaningless pre-season tournament, there were enough self interested parties with money invested in the event for it to be played regardless of the conditions.

Naturally, Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, whose job it is to promote the Premier League, saw it differently.

“I think it was safe to play,” he said. “You play games in the Premier League and in the Championship in those conditions. If at any point we thought it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t have played it. The pitch drained very easily and they were good games.”

Show me the money

A few days ago that Manchester United’s executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, revealed he intended to restore the words ‘Football Club’ to the club badge. The announcement was seen as an attempt to reinforce the belief that United were a sporting institution first, and a commercial entity second.

In the wake of that decision, the Daily Mail have compiled a list of all the sponsors who currently share a relationship with United. It’s an impressive piece of journalism that reveals how United squeeze every single penny out of any possible marketing deal and which confirms that despite Woodward’s token sop to traditionalists, this is a juggernaut of a commercial enterprise.

The report states that by the time United return home for Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial at Old Trafford on August 9, the players will have clocked up 24,994 air miles.

Here’s the full list of the club’s sponsors and the amount they put into United’s bulging coffers each year.

AON 
Principal sponsor of Manchester United – £20m a year

DHL 
Official logistics partner of Manchester United – £10m 

NIKE 
Official kit supplier of Manchester United – £25.4m 

CHEVROLET 
Official automotive partner of Manchester United – £12m 

SINGHA 
Official beer of Manchester United – £2m 

THOMAS COOK 
Official travel partner of Manchester United – £1.3m 

BWIN 
Official online gaming and betting partner of Manchester United – £2.4m 

CASILLERO DEL DIABLO 
Official wine partner of Manchester United – £2m 

HUBLOT 
Official timekeeper of Manchester United – £4m 

The below are all worth approximately £1m – £2m…

SMIRNOFF 
Official responsible drinking partner of Manchester United 

TOSHIBA MEDICAL SYSTEMS 
Official medical systems partner of Manchester United 

STC 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United for Saudi Arabia 

PCCW 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Hong Kong 

AEROFLOT
Official carrier of Manchester United

EPSON 
Official office equipment partner of Manchester United 

MISTER POTATO 
Official savoury snack partner of Manchester United 

YANMAR 
Official global partner 

TM 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Malaysia 

GLOBACOM 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United for Nigeria, Ghana, Republic of Benin 

VIVA KUWAIT 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Kuwait 

MTN 
Official integrated telecoms partner of Manchester United for South Africa / Zambia / Rwanda / Uganda / Swaziland / Botswana.

AIRTEL 
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in India/Sri Lanka/Seychelles/Bangladesh.

ZONG 
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Pakistan 

GLOBUL 
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Bulgaria 

MAMEE 
Official noodles partner of Manchester United for Asia, Oceania and Middle East 

VIVA 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Bahrain 

TURK TELEKOM 
Official integrated telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Turkey 

A.P. HONDA 
Official motorcycle partner of Manchester United in Thailand

AIRTEL AFRICA 
Official telecoms partner in Burkina Faso, Chad, DR Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Congo Brazzaville 

BEELINE 
Official telecommunications partner of Manchester United in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos

BAKCELL 
Official telecommunications and broadcast partner of Manchester United for Azerbaijan 

KAGOME 
Official soft drink partner of Manchester United for Japan 

WAHAHA 
Official soft drink partner of Manchester United for China 

PT MULTISTRADA 
Official tyre partner of Manchester United 

KANSAI 
Official paint partner of Manchester United

Gerrard lays wreath

Continuing the Aisan theme, and the lengths to which clubs will go to ingratiate themselves with the Far East market, we have the slightly surreal sight of Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard placing a wreath at the home of Thailand’s King and Queen.

When he was growing up in Huyton, dreaming of becoming a professional footballer, it’s unlikely Gerrard would have thought that one day, one of his official duties as a professional footballer would be to lay flowers outside the home of the Thai royal family.

Gerrard, along with manager Brendan Rodgers and the club’s managing director Ian Ayre, presented gifts on behalf of the club – including a special book with messages written by the players – and laid flowers beneath a portrait of the King.

Rodgers then personally wrote ‘Long Live The King’ on an LFC shirt with ‘Bangkok 2013’ printed on the back, before all three signed it. There was a minor squabble between Gerrard and Rodgers over which of them should receive the shirt, until it was pointed out that the ‘King’ in question, referred to the monarch.

And, in that moment, King Bhumibol Adulyadej finally lost the tag he had carried for years, of being the only man in Thailand not to own a replica shirt of a Premier League club.

The truth is out there

Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara insists Manchester United were never close to signing him.

Thiago, 22, was linked with a move to United from Barcelona earlier in the summer, but he opted to reunite with former boss Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.

However, according to Thiago, United did not even make contact.

“The truth is that in no moment did United come to us and talk to us,” Thiago told RAC1.

“It came from the press. It was always a lie.”

Surprise surprise. Or is it?

Because it was only two days ago that Thiago’s father, the former Brazil international Mazinho, told Catalan radio station La Xarxa:  “Thiago was close to joining Manchester United and before the European Under-21 Championship there were conversations.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Goal of the day

Today’s goal of the day comes from the Europa Leage and features a splendid piece of athleticism from Piast Gliwice’s Marcin Robak against Qarabag.

Quote of the day

“Is it dead in the water? Certainly there are no plans to resurrect it. It was pretty savaged by the UK media and fan reaction in the UK wasn’t great.Will it probably happen? It will probably happen one day but that day probably won’t be on my watch.”

Premier league chief executive Peter Scudamore does not expect the ‘39th game‘ to be resurrected any time soon.

Boardroom battle

Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta has described current incumbent Sandro Rosell as neurotic and immature.

Laporta, who was in charge at Camp Nou between 2003 and 2010, has frequently criticized Rosell in the past and his latest criticism has seen him label his successor as being too covert with his actions.

“Rosell represents ‘neo-Nunez-ism’ [referring to ex-club president Josep Lluis Nunez],” he told gathered media at the 50th anniversary presentation of magazine Libero.

“He doesn’t act openly. He behaves neurotically and immaturely.”

However, Rosell believes that the Catalans’ decision to hire Gerardo Martino to replace Tito Vilanova was a great one, especially if it brings to best out of Ballon d’Or holder Lionel Messi.

“The Barcelona dressing room is a complex one and requires time to adapt. I think that signing Tata was a good decision,” he added.

“His comments saying that he will have to adapt to the Barcelona system I think is an intelligent attitude to take and I’m sure that he’ll do well.

“If signing Martino makes Messi happy, it seems a good idea to me. It’s one of the points in favor of this decision.”

This, despite Messi admitting he had never met Martino and had no opinion on him as a coach.

Martino is set to be unveiled as the new Barca coach at a press conference on Friday.

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