The biggest news today is coming out of the Manchester United camp, as the Daily Mail has an article that states Cristiano Ronaldo has refused to commit his future to United. Real Madrid are apparently prepared to pay Ronaldo a staggering salary of £200,000 a week to join them. United insist Ronaldo is not for sale, but Madrid are so determined to try to sign him this summer they are willing to offer United a transfer fee of at least £40m (some sources are throwing around crazy transfer fees of up to £100m) and make the Portuguese winger the best-paid player in the world.
I asked myself if there was any single player that I would not sell for £100m and I could not come up with one. Mind you, had you asked me in 2001 if Zidane was worth £46m, I would have said no. At £100m, we’re talking more than double that amount though Ronaldo is younger than Zidane was at the time. Still, it reperesents a staggering sum of money and for a team that is saddled with a large debt load like United is, the temptation to snatch that amount of money for a single player would be strong.
Many other players are having huge fees attached to them, in particular a couple of players that appear to have no future at Liverpool. Scott Carson has said that the £10million price tag on him is “stupid” and fears it could wreck his chances of a move. Villa manager Martin O’Neill had been considering a bid but Carson said: “It [Liverpool's valuation] is too much. It’s stupid money. You pay £10m for a goalkeeper who is 27, 28 and the finished article. To be honest, I’m far from the finished article. I’ve got another five years of learning.” It is doubtful that Carson would want to, or benefit from, being an understudy to Pepe Reina. Carson is good enough to be a regular starter for a Premier League club and should be moved on for the player’s sake. Liverpool paid Leeds a £1 million fee for Carson in 2005 and since then have made more than that fee back by loaning him out to clubs like Charlton and Aston Villa. So why the high price tag?
To be fair to Liverpool, one could say they are merely following the market as Sunderland set the bar last summer when they splashed £9m to sign Craig Gordon from Hearts. Is Carson as good as Gordon? I would say they are pretty close at the moment though Gordon, 25, is a couple of years older. Both have many years ahead of them and in theory should get even better with age and experience.
Another Liverpool wantaway is Peter Crouch but he has been priced at £15m. Liverpool bought Crouch for around £7m and he has shown that he can score goals at the highest levels though he has little chance to supplant Fernando Torres as the main striker. As Liverpool seem set on a 4-2-3-1 formation for the future, that leaves Crouch on the bench where he does not want to be. Liverpool have already rejected one approach for Crouch when Manchester City came calling during the January transfer window so I expect them to stick to their valuation fairly closely.
Both moves are driven by the Liverpool manager’s need to raise transfer funds so that he can dip into the transfer market and retool his squad ahead of next season. I really don’t blame him in either case for simply following what’s happening in the market. When Benitez goes to buy a player, no one is going to offer him a cut rate simply because it will be “good for the player’s future”. Why should he be any different? It’s a business, plain and simple and he needs to protect his assets by placing appropriate valuations on them.
In other rumours, Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre has admitted that he could be tempted by a move to Bordeaux, provided the French club can meet his salary demands. Les Girondins coach Laurent Blanc has declared his interest in the France international, whose season has been disrupted by knee injuries. Silvestre’s contract at United runs until the summer of 2009, but the former Rennes player is not discounting a return to France if the offer is good enough. Silvestre, who has also played for Internazionale, missed most of United’s latest title-winning campaign with a knee injury he suffered in September.
Chelsea and Tottenham could make a move for Barcelona midfielder Deco after he has been told by the club that he is free to move away from the Nou Camp. The 30-year-old admits he is ready for a new challenge abroad. He insists his next step will either be the Premier League or Serie A, adding: ‘I will go to England or Italy, I am sure. I won’t stay in Spain because the only club that is of Barca’s level is Madrid and I would never go to Madrid.’ The 30-year-old playmaker struggled with injuries this season and was limited to just 14 starts in Barca’s 37 league games.
Staying with Spurs, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is understood to be planning to fly to Barcelona on Sunday as the club step up their bid to sign Samuel Eto’o. Reportedly the club have been told that Eto’o will cost them upwards of £25m. The Cameroon international has been told he is no longer required by Barcelona and put up for sale. Inter Milan have already contacted the striker’s agent but Spurs have been encouraged by the 27-year-old’s desire to play in England. The price tag has gone up as the rumour speculation has increased so there is no way to be sure what the price will be until a deal is actually struck up and reported. Earlier the stories had Eto’os price at £15m
Spurs will have to somehow fund Eto’os £100,000-a-week wage demands and the fact they will only be in the UEFA Cup and not the Champions League next season is also not in their favour but that won’t stop Levy from trying to sign one of the best strikers in the world. The club could fund the deal by selling Dimitar Berbatov, who is wanted by Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
In Italy, AC Milan are closing in on the signing of Nice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris for a transfer fee thought to be just over 5m Euros. It’s thought that Lloris, who has won three caps for the French Under-21s and two for the senior B team, would become the Rossoneri’s first choice between the sticks, ahead of Kalac. Former number 1 keeper Nelson Dida is expected to be released on a free transfer this summer.
Milan have also bumped up their offer for Ronaldinho to 25m Euros, which is short of the amount Barça wanted but could be enough to have put the move through for the benefit of all concerned parties. Rumours are that Manchester City met Barcelona’s 30m Euro valuation of the player, but Ronaldinho stated that he has no desire to go and play in England while Milan are so interested.
There are plenty of gossip and rumours flying at this time of year and we’ll do our best to keep you up to date on what’s happening.