It looks like all our international players have escaped injury. Two, who were topic of much discussion over the summer, Robbie Keane and Xabi Alonso, scored for their countries but Steven Garrard was substituted in England’s game. For once I suspect he was grateful to get off the pitch. What a mess!
Back to where it really matters and it looks like we are about to experience another fruitless bit of transfer activity. Having switched our attention from Gareth Barry (if I had a fiver for every time I’ve typed that name this summer!) to Albert Riera, Espanyol have responded by slapping a £16m price tag on his head. Riera has played five internationals for Spain and has little or no reputation outside his own country except at Manchester City to whom he was shipped out on loan as he was unable to establish himself in the Espanyol first team. Things seemed to improve on his return to the extent that he has since played five games for Spain but he remains on the fringe of the squad.
Given this £16m seems excessively high. Espanyol, like the rest of the footballing world, obviously know that we were prepared to pay around that for Barry and now that deal appears to have hit the buffers, presumably feel it’s perfectly reasonable to transfer this sum/value to their player, regardless of his true market value? Hopefully we will be quicker in telling Espanyol to go and “shove it” than we were with Villa?
One thing that has emerged out of this is that at least we now appear to be channeling our efforts into acquiring a winger, something that many thought should take priority over “strengthening” the midfield with players like Barry. I think we missed Ryan Babel on Saturday. Although the likes of Dossena tried to get forward to give us width it didn’t really work. Much of the play was still channeled down the centre which became congested meaning that chances were few and far between. The width that Babel will provide when he returns should stretch defences leaving more space in the centre for Torres and Keane to exploit. Many suggested that Torres’ purple patch towards the end of the season coincided with Gerrard playing behind him. However Babel, who played more regularly in this period than he did at the start of season, may also have played a less obvious but just as important role?
Babel certainly feels confident and on his return from Beijing said he’s benefited from his first year with us and feels ready to take his game “to the next level” Rafa in The Echo said
“Ryan’s a player that can change a game. He can be a second striker or a striker, or as a winger on either side. We can use his versatility. We know Ryan prefers to play as a striker, but it’s important to have experience in other positions, and it’s always better to play as a winger than be on the bench”
Meanwhile it seems Rafa and Rick Parry have had clear the air talks. Said Rafa
“Clear the air talks have taken place.”
See, I told you! Rick Parry said
“I can confirm that we had a friendly and positive meeting and we’re moving forward.”
All very nice and heart warming. No doubt they were made to say sorry to each other which provoked an argument over who started it and who should apologise first! Not that we should really have to read about this as it shouldn’t have been in the press in the first place. So, that’s Rafa having clear the air talks with Hicks and now Parry. Hicks and Gillett had the same over the summer. I’ve no doubt such spats go on at other clubs but how many do we hear about? It seems the Anfield Stadium walls have more holes in them than the Bird’s Nest?
Meanwhile Martin O’Neill has been commenting on Gareth Barry..
“We want him to stay I think that’s obvious. I think the fans want him to stay……”
Enough Martin. Enough, please!