THE WEEK THAT WAS

Del Piero rules Europe, Liverpool face firesale

November 14, 2008
By Dominic Raynor
(
Archive)

This was the week in which 34-year-old Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero was crowned the king of Europe, Arsene Wenger answered his critics and Liverpool faced the prospect of financial meltdown.

Viva Del PiEuro - Friday 07 November

GettyImagesAlessandro Del Piero scored twice for Juventus

He may have creaking knees and be on the downward slope of his career but veteran Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero is still the king of Europe according to readers of Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport and Spanish daily Marca.

Following on from his two goals against Real Madrid in the Champions League "Del PiEuro", as he was dubbed by Gazzetta, not only realised one of his dreams at the Santiago Bernabeu but also shot to the top of Friday's poll to choose the best player in Europe's top competition - leaving Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero in his wake.

Not a bad pre-birthday present for a player who turned 34-years-old on Sunday and promised to mark his compleanno with a goal against Chievo. Del Piero did just that with his third freekick in a week as the bianconeri won 2-0. And as the advancing years have appeared to bring soothsayer-style insight into the future what are we to make of the birthday-boy's other proclamation that he wants lift the European Cup in Rome?

Gazzetta's Big Champions League Poll rankings: 1) Del Piero 196,133 (votes) 2) Messi 52,956 3) Aguero 50,549 4) Van Nistelrooy 38,631 5) Llorente 31,650 6) Bojan Krkic 27,493 7) Gerrard 23,068 8) Ibrahimovic 17,495 9) Culio 17,286 10) Giovinco 11,950

Victorious Wenger answers his critics - Saturday 08 November
Last week Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was the subject of ridicule and derision but following his team's 2-1 victory against the Premier League champions the Frenchman got the chance, and deservedly so, to crow about what he loves best: his team's spirit and the beautiful way in which they play.

Saturday's thrilling match with Manchester United was widely regarded as a classic encounter and Wenger was eager to remind his critics that he had always maintained it was possible to win and play wonderful football.

Wenger said: "It does not matter if you love Manchester United or love Arsenal. It was a game for people who just love football."

And, with an "I told you so" glint in his eye, Wenger added: "But because we have beaten Manchester United, we are not better than we were last week - and last week we were not rubbish as everybody was saying."

"We showed that we have the squad, and that has been questioned. We showed that no matter who plays, we have the spirit."

Due to their poor run of form Arsenal were at the longest odds they have ever been to win at the Emirates. Perhaps it was all part of Wenger's master plan to boost the club's coffers and he had a few quid on the Gunners.

Lehmann threatens to quit football - Sunday 09 November
If only the ever popular Jens Lehmann would carry through with his threats for once. This week the 39-year-old mild-mannered VfB Stuttgart goalkeeper threatened to quit football because of what he perceives to be poor standards of refereeing in the Bundesliga.

In Sunday's 2-2 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt referee Babak Rafati allowed two controversial goals - one for either side - to stand, but worse than that he dared to book Lehmann for dissent - his third yellow card of the season for indiscipline.

"There was a situation in which a Frankfurt player feigned an injury so we could not launch a counter-attack," the former Arsenal keeper explained. "The referee said he had to stop play for the injury and then the man stands up and doesn't even leave the field to be treated."

"I told the referee, 'Look! There he goes!' and he shows me a yellow card - incredible. That was so bad that I may as well not bother playing in future. I did not even say anything nasty to the referee.

"I am sorry, but things cannot go on like this. This is sad for the whole of the Bundesliga."

Hughes gets vote of confidence - Monday 10 November
All is not well at well Manchester City: The Citizens have lost seven of their opening 12 Premier League games; there are rumours of player unrest and manager Mark Hughes has received the dreaded vote of confidence from club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak.

Such a move usually precedes the fall of the axe but Al Mubarak, who represents the club's gazillionaire owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group, said: "I am told that there are reports that we are associated with two different coaches and that we are about to sign them. It is rubbish."

"This is a winning team that is going through a learning curve. While January is going to be an interesting opportunity for Mark to improve the team, this is an exciting ten-year dynasty that we are building and we are only in the first two months."

However, the Abu Dhabi United Group is rumoured to be underwhelmed by Hughes' plans for January, when his main targets will include Roque Santa Cruz, Lassana Diarra, Wayne Bridge and Christopher Samba. The club's owners have set their sights rather higher and made ambitious claims that they would bid for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard when they took control of the club earlier this year.

In addition, last year's star turn Blumer Elano has declared his "sadness" at not getting much playing time under Hughes. The manager has also reportedly had trouble with Micah Richards regarding his attitude to training and £19 million Brazil striker Jo is yet to justify his price tag.

Add to all this the rumours in the Italian press that Jose Mourinho, who the Italians claim is struggling to cope with the pressure at Inter Milan, is being lined up as Hughes replacement and the smoke is really starting billow - surely there must be a fire?

£170k-a-week loyalty reward for Ronaldo? - Tuesday 11 November

Cristiano Ronaldo
GettyImages / AlbertoE.RodriguezLoyal Ronaldo lives it up in LA as transfer rumours circulate Europe.

Has the world gone mad? Or is it just Cristiano Ronaldo's agent?

Jorge Mendes was apparently in Manchester this week to negotiate a new £170,000-a week-deal for his player - who is just 18 months into a £125,000-a-week contract - as a reward for the Portuguese winger's loyalty in staying at Old Trafford rather than moving to Real Madrid this summer.

We at Soccernet are experts on the concepts of loyalty and failing to commit your future to Manchester United in order to pique the interest of Real Madrid and then conducting a three-month long on-off transfer to La Liga via the media certainly does not to fit the dictionary definition of being 'steadfast in allegiance'.

In any case United are unlikely to offer a new deal until the end of the season - which would make Ronaldo the highest-paid player in the Premier League ahead of Robinho with his £160,000-a-week package - but one of the conditions is that there's no talk of Real Madrid between now and then... oops! Sorry, Ronaldo!

Banks could force Liverpool sale - Wednesday 12 November
It seems that it is not just the Soccernet Yuledtide grogfest that has been hit by the global credit crunch. Five-time European Champions Liverpool may be forced to sell their star players in order to pay off their debts according to Premier League powerbroker Keith Harris.

Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have two months to pay back a reported £350 million in loans and with refinancing packages getting harder to find Harris, who has masterminded the takeover of five Premier League clubs, said: "The one that worries me is Liverpool."

"The two banks which are the principal lenders - the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia - are two of those that have suffered. Whether they want to lend it again or not, they may not be able to."

The worst case scenario would be for the banks to consider repossessing the club if the payments cannot be met.

And, adding insult to injury, on Wednesday evening Liverpool were spanked 4-2 at White Hart Lane by Tottenham Hotspur and were sent crashing out of the Carling Cup.

Seedorf pours scorn on Becks loan - Thursday 13 November
AC Milan star Clarence Seedorf has had the temerity to suggest that David Beckham's two-month loan deal at the San Siro will only be good for publicity. Well, that might be putting words in his mouth but the former Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam midfielder has serious doubts that Beckham will ever get to compete for the Rossoneri.

"I don't even know if he'll be able to play for us," the Dutchman said. "I mean the first goal is for him to get fit and in the best shape possible.

"Training with a club like AC Milan will definitely improve his game even if it's only from a training point of view. But I don't know if he'll play, that's another thing completely."

The 33-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy star was originally seeking to train with a European club during the MLS off-season to keep himself fit to play for the England national side but the move turned into a full loan deal following massive media coverage.