Missing out

Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken of the frustrating summer he has endured trying to strengthen his Manchesetr United quad for next season.

Having missed out on Brazilian Lucas Moura, who had agreed to move to Old Trafford until Paris Saint-Germain came calling (“The possibility of living in Paris – a much more pleasant city than Manchester – also influenced his decision,” said his agent Wagner Ribeiro), Ferguson is becoming exasperated in his pursuit of Robin van Persie.

“We have made a bid and they’ve been trying to negotiate with other clubs,” Ferguson said.

“I don’t have a gut feeling on it at the moment, I must admit. We’re not getting any breakthrough with Arsenal.

Ferguson added that “it’s difficult to say why they’re (Arsenal) operating this way. I don’t know what their thoughts are because they’re not giving anything away.”

To the lay person it would seem obvious that they’re operating like this as a way of extracting as much money as possible for van Persie from the prospective buyers. Considering how long he’s been in the game, you’d think Ferguson would have figured that one out by now.

Quote of the day

“When somebody’s paying £45million for a 19 year-old boy you have to say the game’s gone mad.”

Ferguson on Paris Saint-Germain’s signing of Lucas Moura. The actual fee has not been disclosed, although informed sources suggest that it was actually 35 million euros (not pounds); that’s 3 million euros less than United were reported to have bid for the Brazilian. Mad and madder.

Domino effect

Regardless of how much Manchester United were prepared to pay for the 19-year-old Brazilian, Ferguson does have a valid point about the stratospheric transfer fees being paid by the likes of PSG.

“To tell everyone that PSG are here they’ve signed Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. They must have spent about £150million in the last month,” Ferguson stated.

Such spending becomes contagious and the fees demanded by clubs for their prized assets continues to rise. Take Roma, whose midfielder Daniele de Rossi has been a target for moneybags Manchester City.

Roma director  Walter Sabatini was specifically asked for his valuation of de Rossi, considering Fiorentina stated Stevan Jovetic to be worth at least €30m and Napoli claimed Edinson Cavani was worth at least €100m.

“The figure for De Rossi is higher than these you just named. Thank you.”

So, that’s €100 million+ we’re talking about.

If a 29-year-old midfielder is ‘worth’ that kind of money what price for Neymar, the man tipped to be the world’s next great player?

Well, in the light of Lucas Moura’s valuation, Neymar is now deemed by his club, Santos, to be priceless . And in a world where de Rossi is worth more than €100 million, they might be right.

“I am adamant in saying that Neymar is priceless,” Santos president Luis Alvaro told Lance. “Millions and millions of euro, dollars and reais could not pay for him. He is a unique player, he’s distinguished, he is the great idol of Brazilian football, for whom it is impossible to negotiate for.”

The actual buyout clause for Neymar is £57 million – a bargain in the wake of recent player inflation.

Agger do or don’t?

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed he has received an enquiry from Manchester City about the availability of defender Daniel Agger.

There had been reports that Liverpool had rejected a bid in the region of £20 million from City for Agger, and Rodgers says it would take “a ridiculous offer” for Liverpool to sell.

“Daniel is one of the leading centre halves in Europe,” Rodgers told reporters, while somehow maintaining a straight face.

“There’s been contact from City but it’s nowhere near his value. You can only consider something like that if it is going to benefit you.

“Of course, you might lose a top player but if it benefits you going forward — and you can make two or three steps forward because of it — you may have to consider it. But we don’t want to sell him so unless someone comes in with a ridiculous offer, there’s no way I want to lose one of my best players.”

Reassuringly for Liverpool fans who fear that their status is now reduced to that of feeder club, Agger wants to stay at Anfield.

“There’s always rumor, particularly in this period. It’s just a shame the window does not shut as the season starts.

“But Daniel and I have had a number of conversations so he knows where I am at, he knows where the club are at and he doesn’t want to leave, which is great. In my first conversation with him at the Euros he made that quite clear.

“He loves the club, loves the fans, so that was music to my ears – but we’ll see.”

He doesn’t want to leave, you don’t want him to leave, but reading between the lines, he will leave leave.

Mission impossible

While money remains no object for some clubs, for others, a sense of realism pervades. Nowhere more so than at Milan, who have all but conceded defeat in their attempts to re-sign Kaka from Real Madrid.

Milan have held talks over bringing the Brazilian back to San Siro but Real are demanding over £20m for the 30-year-old, with the Serie A club favouring a season-long loan move.

“The operation for Kaka is objectively very, very difficult,” Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani told Sky Sport Italia.

“It is almost impossible. Costs are high, salaries are very high.”

Meanwhile, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho revealed that he would be unwilling to give the player away.

“I’m happy if Kaka stays and am happy if he wants to go. In football it is important that players play where they want to,” he said.

“He is better prepared to compete at the highest levels. If he wants to stay then perfect. If he leaves then perfect, but we do not want to give him away for free.

“If [Milan] want him, they will have to pay for him.”

Sadly for Milan, once the economic powerhouse not just of Italian but also world football, they cannot afford him.

Thaw in relations

Mourinho was speaking after watching his Kaka-inspired side demolish Milan in a pre-season friendly.

To accompany Madrid’s US tour, the Portuguese conducted an interview with Fox Sports, during which he was asked about the infamous eye poke of new Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova, at last season’s Super Cup game.

“I obviously should not have done what I did, obviously not,” he said.

“But I am not an idiot who does something without a story behind it that led me to lose control a bit.

“I work a lot with my players on exactly that, on controlling emotions, on concentrating on playing and playing well. But there I failed and I am not looking for excuses. If I failed, I failed.”

It’s exceedingly rare for Mourinho to show contrition, so savour those words. It may be a while before we hear them again.

The pair will renew acquaintance in this season’s Super Cup later this month, but Mourinho says he does not anticipate any problems.

“As Tito was saying a few weeks ago, the image will remain forever, the negative image is more important than any words,” he added.

“Between me and him there are no problems, we have greeted each other since when we have met in games since then and that’s that. Story over. And we will try to ensure nothing similar happens.”

Going for a Song?

Vilanova, meanwhile, has been playing dumb, when quizzed about the possibility of a bid for Arsenal midfielder Alex Song.

The transfer window being open, it is traditional for Barcelona to plunder the London club for their prize assets and this year is no exception, with the Cameroonian international Song the man in their sights.

“I prefer to not talk about players that are not part of the Barca team. I think it is disrespectful to other teams if we talk about players that are not part of Barcelona,” Vilanova told reporters.

“Whoever comes must be a good player, that is what is important. There is no rush.”

Expect a deadline day bid from Barca.

Goal of the day

Another day, another stunning free-kick from Juninho Pernambucano. This one helped Vasco da Gama to a 2-0 win over Sport Recife and took Vasco two points clear at the top of the Brazilian Campeonato standings.

War of words

As the biggest crowd ever to watch a women’s football match gathers at Wembley for today’s Olympic final match between USA and Japan, the ramifications from the States’ game against Canada continue to rumble on.

While Canada continued to lament the manner of their extra-time defeat, the victorious United States team have shown that the act of moaning is not confined to the vanquished. Although, on reflection, perhaps it should be.

The Americans aren’t particularly enamoured with Canada’s Melissa Tancredi who – they allege – deliberately stamped on the head of Carli Lloyd in the second half.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw the replay,” said Lloyd. “As it was happening in the game, I just thought someone accidentally stepped on me. When I saw that, I couldn’t believe it. I hope actions are taken.”

“I think for the most part it was two teams going after what they really wanted,” said American midfielder Megan Rapinoe. “But it crossed the line a few times. I think that’s pretty obvious.”

Here’s the moment when Tancredi crossed the line.


Seattle Sounders’ stranglehold on the U.S. Open Cup finally loosened on Wednesday when they were defeated in the final by Sporting Kansas City.

The Sounders had won the competition for the past three years, and until last night had not lost a knockout game in their franchise history. Listening to their coach, Sigi Schmid, it wasn’t just Sporting KC they had to contend with last night.

The holders were already annoyed at not being awarded a home match for the championship game. In selecting Kansas City as the hosts, U.S. Soccer claimed Sporting KC had matched Seattle’s bid and won a coin toss. But that coin toss was done in secret, fuelling suspicion in Seattle that the powers-that-be had grown tired of their pre-eminence in this competition.

“There were some things I just didn’t understand the whole tournament for us,” Schmid said. “Our backs were against the wall this whole tournament. It was as difficult a road as it could be. I’m very proud of what our team did, getting to the point and battling and not giving up and taking the game into overtime and battling all the obstacles that we’ve had to face.”

“It’s difficult when you’re playing against a team at home, so the crowd helps them, and then when you’re playing against the referee as well, and he makes some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls,” Schmid said, singling out referee Ricardo Salazar. “It’s very tough to win.”

The game finished 1-1, but was settled in Kansas’ favour by a penalty shootout. Even that proved controversial with the refereeing allowing Paulo Nagamurato re-take his penalty, after Sounders ‘keeper Michael Gspurning was adjudged to have come off his line to make the save.

“Maybe people forget that I’m quick,” Gspurning said afterwards. “I didn’t do something bad. I was unlucky.”

Asked if the re-take was the turning point of the match, Gspurning said, “Of course, it was a turning point. If it’s not a turning point, then I don’t know what is.”

Schmid’s take: “(Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy) Nielsen moved ahead of every shot as well, but he didn’t call any back there. All of a sudden he calls one back, and he does it indiscriminately?”