B/R Gossip Roundup: Real's Sterling Bid Set to Stall, Suarez's Sorry Cuts No Ice
The World Cup is approaching its close with just one week separating us from the final, but that has only served to propel the newspaper gossip columns into overdrive.
Transfers and rumours abound this week, with Raheem Sterling, Tim Howard and Ashley Cole among those in the headlines over the past seven days.
And, of course, our weekly round-up would not be complete without a mention of Luis Suarez.
Let's take a closer look at the headline-makers of the past week.
Raheem Sterling Is Surely Beyond Even Real Madrid's Grasp
Raheem Sterling had a breakout season with Liverpool last term, with his form in the second half of the campaign enough to earn him a place in England’s World Cup squad.
England fell at the first hurdle, with Sterling unable to fire the team out of Group D, but it appears his stock has not fallen over the duration of the Three Lions’ short stay in Brazil.
According to Colin Harvey of the Daily Star, Sterling has emerged as a target for Real Madrid.
In his piece, Harvey wrote: "Reports suggest the Spanish giants rate Sterling as a future world star and are prepared to fork out a massive £31 million for the former QPR man."
It sounds obscene to even think it, but £31 million could be on the conservative side for a player classed as a “future world star.”
Sterling is at the start of his career, and if things pan out as hoped, he will have more than a decade ahead of him at the top table.
With that in mind, making a move after just one season as an established first-team member at Liverpool would be an almighty gamble.
Sterling has huge potential, as his searing pace and direct style of play are traits that top teams crave.
Real have that sort of talent already on their books in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. They have been known to load their squad with top-class talent, but the worry for Sterling would be how much game time he would secure if he made the move to the Bernabeu.
A potential angle for Real to exploit is that Sterling has yet to sign a new deal despite talk of a new contract being in the pipeline back in June.
Sterling has a further three years to run on the deal he signed in 2012, but it is reported to be worth around £30,000 per week.
The likelihood is that Sterling will pen a new deal to remain at Anfield for the long term.
Believability Meter: Low
There appears to be little chance of Sterling leaving Liverpool this summer, no matter what offer is made.
Liverpool are in a strong position, as the player is tied to them for a further three years. And with talk of a new deal being in the pipeline, Real may not have the pulling power to seal a deal this summer.
Willy Caballero's City Link Looks to Hold Plenty of Weight
Joe Hart’s Manchester City role has been thrust back into the spotlight, with talk of the club making a move for Willy Caballero.
Hart was on the back foot at the start of last term, as a couple of high-profile blunders resulted in him losing his place in the Manchester City side to Costel Pantilimon.
The England keeper kept his head down, worked hard and won his place back in the side. His form in the second half of the season was good as he helped City to the title.
However, it would appear that he is still far from secure as City’s established No. 1.
According to Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, the club have set its sights on Malaga keeper Caballero.
In his piece, Jones wrote:
Manchester City have revived their bid to sign Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
City have considered Brighton target Keiren Westwood who is a free agent but Caballero will cost around £7 million.
The Argentine is Malaga's highest earner and his buy-out clause is £16.5m yet the relationship between the two clubs means they will negotiate a more sensible price for a goalkeeper regarded as one of the best in La Liga over recent seasons.
Making a move for Caballero would be a clear indication from City manager Manuel Pellegrini that he wants competition for the No. 1 jersey, as opposed to an understudy to Hart.
It is clear that City are in need of a keeper, with Pantilimon having moved on to Sunderland.
Caballero is an obvious fit, as he worked under Pellegrini during the Chilean’s time in charge of Malaga.
What any move for Caballero means for Hart is far from clear, but if he produces the sort of form he showed in the second half of the last campaign, he should be confident of keeping his place in the side.
Believability Meter: Medium to High
This report has enough contributing factors in the right place to make you feel it will happen.
Luis Suarez Apology over Bite Leaves Bad Taste
- I deeply regret what occurred.
- I apologize to Giorgio Chiellini and the entire football family
- I vow to the public there will never be another incident like Montevideo, 30th of June 2014
He might have been contrite, he might have been appalled by his own actions, but it still took one week before Luis Suarez finally apologised for his bite on Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The Liverpool striker took to his official Twitter feed on Monday to offer his humblest apology to Chiellini for the altercation with the Italian during the final World Cup Group D match.
After several days being home with my family, I have had the opportunity to regain my calm and reflect on the reality of what occurred on during the Italy-Uruguay match on 24 June 2014.
Independent from the fallout and contradicting declarations that have surfaced during these past few days, all of which have been without the intention of interfering with the good performance of my national team, the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me. For this:
The apology is far different from the initial excuse Suarez gave for the moment of madness, for which FIFA handed him a four-month ban from football, as Chris Bascombe of The Daily Telegraph reported.
However, there was a fair degree of cynicism over the timing of the Uruguayan's lament, with former England international Gary Lineker leading the way, as Richard Arrowsmith of the Daily Mail reported.
Suarez's words were swiftly followed by Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta referencing the apology to show how the player was "humble," as noted by David Anderson of the Daily Mirror.
The following day, Camp Nou president Josep-Maria Bartomeu appaluded Suarez's actions, as Phil Kirkbride of the Liverpool Echo reported.
Sure enough, the tit-for-tat pleasantries were soon followed up by Ben Smith of BBC Sport reporting that Liverpool and Barcelona were to begin talks on Wednesday over the sale of the forward.
Football is as political as it always was, but the events of this week seem tailor-made to smooth Suarez's path to Barcelona.
If the Anfield star has only issued an apology for that reason, Liverpool should be glad to see the back of him.
Believability meter: Medium
The chronology of events this week would appear to point towards Suarez and Barcelona ensuring his move goes through with little problem after another controversial period in the life of the forward.
But the whole scenario leaves a nastier taste in the mouth than a sweaty Italy defender's shoulder. Suarez should have apologised immediately after the incident, not a week later.
Everton Must Build on Tim Howard's World Cup Heroics with USMNT
It is not often you can say that the President of the United States has referenced you twice in public messages, but this has been an extraordinary week in the life of Tim Howard.
The U.S. men's national team goalkeeper almost single-handedly kept his country in the World Cup with a record-breaking number of saves in the second-round match against Belgium.
Howard made 15 stops during the match in Salvador—the highest number made in a World Cup game since records began being recorded in 1966, according to BBC Sport.
The achievement did not go unrecognised in the highest of public offices, with Barack Obama making a personal phone call to Howard and Clint Dempsey after the game, as David Jackson of USA Today reported.
On Friday, the President again used Howard as the focus of his appreciation for what Jurgen Klinsmann's team had done in Brazil in his Fourth of July address to the American people, as noted by Dan Carson of Bleacher Report.
Truly, this is a week Howard, 35, will never forget.
Back at Everton, however, the Goodison Park promotions and commercial teams should be taking full advantage of the heroics of the goalkeeper.
There will never be a better time for the Merseyside club to make an impact on the North American market in the wake of Howard's display.
Everton might not have the silverware boasts of other Premier League clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea and their neighbours Liverpool, but their history is as rich as that of their rivals.
The Toffees have struggled financially in recent years compared to the spending power of other Premier League clubs, but their No. 1 might just have provided a tremendous possibility for the club.
While Howard has painted his name in the conscience of President Obama and the sports fans of the US, the Goodison Park commercial team will never have a better opportunity to open doors in the country.
Soccer might not be deemed a major sport in the States—NFL, baseball and basketball still dominate—but Jeremiah Oshan of SB Nation noted that the USA vs. Belgium match brought in a combined television audience of 21.6 million people in America. And Howard was, undoubtedly, the star of the show.
Everton must act quickly to maintain the momentum of Howard's achievements in his own country.
And a phone call to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW would be a good starting point.
Believability meter: High
Tim Howard is the man of the moment for sports fans in the United States. Viewing figures and a double recommendation from the President do not come along often—if at all.
This is a big chance for the Everton commercial department to make their own mark, and they shouldn't waste it.
A Tim Howard poster in the Oval Office is the least they should be aiming for.
Bulk Buying of Southampton Players Is Strange Move for Liverpool
If there is one group of people worthy of your sympathies this summer, it is Southampton supporters.
Not content with losing their head coach to Tottenham Hotspur, they are now watching their team systematically being dismantled, with Anfield the main destination for departing stars.
And now Southampton defender Dejan Lovren is the latest St Mary's Stadium name to be linked with Liverpool, claims Colin Harvey of the Daily Star.
According to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo, the Saints have rejected a £20 million offer for the Croatia international.
If Lovren does eventually move to Liverpool, the spine of Southampton's team will have been removed, leaving Ronald Koeman with a major rebuilding job on his hands as he takes over from Mauricio Pochettino.
But while Brendan Rodgers plunders the south-coast club, is the bulk-buying of Southampton stars really sending the right message to Reds fans and the rest of the Premier League?
It cannot be argued that the Saints enjoyed a hugely successful season under Pochettino last term, with the team finishing a creditable eighth in the table.
That is some finish for a team which was in League One just three years ago, but is Southampton where Liverpool should be looking?
The Merseyside club will have spent more than £50 million on Saints players if the deal for Lovren goes through. That constitutes a decent return for Southampton, but it also represents a fair chunk of any monies recouped from the potential sale of Luis Suarez.
All three players are solid additions to a squad, and there is little doubt that Liverpool needed new blood in defence after the collapse of their title bid last season, notably at Crystal Palace.
But a block booking of Southampton players seems a little underwhelming for a club looking to build on the near-miss of last year.
The comparison with Tottenham last year will loom large for the Reds after the north London club failed to build on the world-record sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid last summer, their incoming signings failing to make a significant first-team impact.
Liverpool fans will, undoubtedly, remain behind Rodgers and the new signings, but a mediocre start to the season could see fingers pointing.
Believability meter: Medium
These moves cannot be judged just yet. The two arrivals and the potential buy will be given time at Anfield, but any slip may see Rodgers under some early pressure.
After the disappointment of last season, Liverpool supporters will be seeking a big-name move to bolster their Premier and Champions League hopes before the transfer window closes.
Perhaps Rodgers has something up his sleeve to provide just that.
World Football Clubs Chase Ashley Cole, but Premier League Teams Are Missing out
According to Sky Sports this week, former Chelsea and England defender Ashley Cole has a number of overseas clubs looking to sign him.
The 33-year-old is seeking a new employer after being released by the Stamford Bridge club at the end of last season.
The Blues confirmed Cole's departure on their official website on Tuesday after the left-back's contract ended on July 1.
Sky Sports claim that Roma in Serie A or Major League Soccer in the United States could be his next port of call.
Heading towards the close of his career, Cole still has much to offer many clubs with his experience and ability never being questioned.
But the defender has not been linked with a stay in England since reports surfaced of a potential interest from Liverpool and Manchester City in May, as noted by Dave Kidd of the Daily Mirror.
The Reds are particularly in need of a left-back and have been strongly linked with Alberto Moreno of Sevilla in recent weeks, although the La Liga club claim the move is off, as James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo reported.
Having Cole among the Anfield ranks would have added a resilient presence on the left side of the team—even if it was only a short-term deal.
However, there appears to be little interest in Cole from other Premier League clubs, which seems difficult to understand.
The player is still at an age where he has much to offer, and after winning 106 England caps and a host of trophies with Chelsea, his experience could have been invaluable for another top-flight team.
Add into that the fact that Cole is now a free agent, and the situation becomes even harder to grasp.
Of course, there is always the chance that Cole wants to play abroad or does not want to play against Chelsea in the future.
If not, though, some Premier League sides are missing out on a wealth of experience and a very good footballer.
Believability meter: Medium
It is an anomaly that Cole is not being chased by Premier League sides, but perhaps this story is designed to flush out interest from the English top flight.
This story may still have some way to run just yet.
QPR Right to Exercise Transfer Caution but Rio Ferdinand Is Worth the Risk
The return of Queens Park Rangers to the Premier League offers a timely reminder of the folly of throwing money at survival.
The Loftus Road club found themselves saddled with a debt of £177 million after a rash spending spree designed to maintain the club's top-flight status in 2013, as David Conn of The Guardian reported.
Former QPR manager Mark Hughes spent lavishly ahead of the 2012-13 campaign after narrowly avoiding a return to the Championship in the previous season.
Player such as Julio Cesar, Rob Green, Park Ji-Sung and Junior Hoilett were drafted into the club in a bid to ensure Rangers would not face a similar threat.
But the team floundered in the opening weeks, and Hughes was replaced by Harry Redknapp, who also spent big in January 2013 on names like Christopher Samba and Loic Remy to bolster the club's survival hopes.
However, the best-laid plans of Redknapp and his men fell apart as the west London club failed to stave off the drop and slipped back into the second tier.
After just one season, QPR have bounced back into the Premier League after the play-off final win over Derby County, but it is understandable that Rangers owner Tony Fernandes will not be following the same path to financial meltdown this time around.
And this week's story from Darren Lewis in the Daily Mirror underlines the old adage that once bitten is twice shy.
According to Lewis, some members of the QPR board are concerned that former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is too old at 35 to sign on at the club.
However, the article demonstrates candidly the fine line clubs and managers are treading as they attempt to secure their Premier League status.
Redknapp is a wily manager who recognises that the presence of Ferdinand in his back line will provide genuine experience as QPR look to cement their place in the Premier League.
To the board, even with Lewis claiming Ferdinand is taking a huge drop in wages, the figures are the be-all and end-all.
But the former West Ham and Leeds United central defender is currently working at the World Cup as a media analyst with the BBC, which means any deal does not have to reach a conclusion until he returns from Brazil.
Both Redknapp and the board have time to reach a compromise over the Ferdinand deal, but the player's experience on the field could prove it to be one of the most astute they will make.
Believability meter: High
QPR are quite right to consider any transfer moves after the financial issues of recent seasons. That is what a board is all about—ostensibly safe-guarding the club.
But sometimes a risk is worthwhile. Ferdinand provides the kind of experience and presence few Premier League newcomers have for the challenging season ahead.
This move is worth the risk for QPR.