In fact, it’s so crap, I believe that he said it in jest, out of context or to be provocative. We don’t need the brains of Eric Cantona to philosophise on the merits of learning and its role in our development. It’s just that we need to understand that our progression is a game of continual adjustment. We are in a permanent state of learning and the more we recognise this, the more advantageous that state becomes.
As soon as we become arrogant about our expertise, we shut ourselves off to insight and clues to betterment. I said that if he won the tournament that we were at that week, could he be No.1 in five years? I then asked him if he lost this tournament in the worst way possible, could he still be No.1 in five years’ time?
I wanted him to understand that there was less pressure than he thought to win tournaments.
We ended up agreeing that the particular tournament he was at was neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things! This would not be appropriate for some players who actually need to believe the opposite and realise the importance of the next tournament. You could argue that the better the learning, the more opportunity there is to win the next game.
On Wednesday, the facts were that 14 executives and officials of Fifa, football’s world governing body, were arrested on charges of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering. And now Fifa president Sepp Blatter stands alone inside the tent, spitting out as he has done for 17 years and will do for at least another four after winning yet another term last night. Of the $5 billion in revenues generated by Fifa from the 2014 World Cup, the organisation posted expenses of $2.2 billion. With three vice-presidents and a number of his executives currently under subpoena by the United States in relation to “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted corruption”, is it possible that Blatter didn’t know that a $100 million corruption was happening all around him in his own organisation over almost two decades?
Blatter’s stubbornness in securing a fifth term as president in the face of countless calls for his resignation is a clear sign that Fifa is his safest option. Once Blatter loses the protection of those closest to him at Fifa, then he no longer has an organisation to defend. And that’s not the place that a 79-year-old wants to be when there are former Fifa employees sat in custody facing 20 years in prison and whom the FBI must believe are going to be keen to talk about a deal at some point. Blatter has sat atop the most corrupt sporting organisation the world has ever seen for 17 years. Aside from the odd jab here and there from English FA chairman Greg Dyke and the Dutch FA president Michael van Praag, it is difficult to remember a sustained attack or questioning of Fifa ethics by anybody of note at any point during Blatter’s reign. It’s alright when Visa win sponsorship contracts that preclude any fans from paying for tickets or merchandise with anything other than a Visa card that fans have had to sign up for on the spot. And it’s alright when you’re securing a bit of extra funding for grass-roots football in your home country. When the story broke, I wished that I’d been the guy following delegates around the world, particularly Blatter. Allegations of money laundering, bribery and corruption; 47 counts are included in the indictment. And that gives certain football associations around the world, which carry any respect in the game where football is a genuine hotbed, a problem. Other nations that do not deal in corruption accept grass-roots Fifa handouts, anyway, and hope beyond hope that World Cups and tournaments will somehow, magically, find their way to their shores legitimately on the back of wheeling out David Beckham and pointing to existing infrastructure. Russia and Qatar, after their respective awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals, proved to be a pill too bitter for most of the footballing fraternity to stomach.
And yet it has stood by not powerless but gutless in the face of Fifa’s blatant flouting and mismanagement of its power. It is that passiveness towards Fifa from sponsors, footballing super nations and respected giants of the game, including players both present and former, that utterly disgusts me. I think he is probably happy as the man who uncovered the biggest drugs cheat in the history of sport and is more than a little jaded by the 13-year pursuit that preceded it. Towards the end of that pursuit, David would eventually find a few kindred spirits and those people began to ask difficult questions, at which point the FBI got involved. Blatter isn’t there yet, despite Coca Cola, Samsung, Visa and adidas releasing statements that voiced shock and disapproval using typical cryptic corporate wording. There isn’t a single sentence in any of those statements that makes me think that any of those companies will actually end their association with the World Cup as a direct result of what has happened. The statements read like a piece of North Korean nuclear propaganda threatening one of their sworn enemies.
They read as such because Blatter hasn’t run football as a game for the fans for the last 17 years.
And somewhere along the way, more than a billion consumers around the world were snared in the net, most without even realising it. Those kinds of numbers give an organisation, and the man sitting at the helm of it, real power. Gary Neville, someone who I hadn’t heard a peep from before on the issue of Fifa or Blatter, said last night that the players must lead a revolution against Blatter. With the collective power of the footballing super nations flexing their muscles in such a way, Fifa wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
In my last book, I set out the case that the footballing nations that truly desire change should get together and discuss their withdrawal from Fifa tournaments en masse.
They should create a new democratically elected, not-for-profit body that regulates and enhances the beautiful game. Waiting for Blatter to resign or die isn’t active change and it is also narrow-minded, given how entrenched corruption is in the Fifa business model. The evidence may not yet exist to support the conviction but the facts continue to speak for themselves.
Having read Gary Neville’s column it reminded me of am article you wrote a few years back about an (albeit missed) opportunity to literally turn your back on Blatter. What is clear is that FIFA needs wholesale change but without more arrests I cannot see it coming – players, sponsors and fans just would not boycott the game they love even if it means that they can remove Blatter.
The future of Manchester United striker Robin van Persie has come into question in recent days in regards as to whether he’ll be offered a new contract to stay at Old Trafford beyond 2016. Van Persie has said that he is unsure if he’ll be offered a new deal and is waiting to see what happens over the forthcoming months.
At present, van Persie has 18 months left on his deal, which he signed after joining from Premier League rivals Arsenal for ?24 million back in 2012. Van Persie was vital in United’s pursuit of the Premier League trophy in the 2012-13 season, firing in 26 league goals and clinching the title with a hat-trick against Aston Villa, including that memorable volley. In an injury ravaged 2013-14 season, under new manager David Moyes and a loss of form for the whole team, van Persie managed only 21 league games but still had an impressive 12 goals to his name. This season, under Louis van Gaal, van Persie has registered only eight goals in 21 games in all competitions, an unimpressive tally and one that he knows has to be improved.


A lot will also depend on the future of Radamel Falcao and whether his loan from AS Monaco becomes permanent at the end of the season, which has also been a hot topic for debate in recent weeks.
United will no doubt be looking to strengthen their striking options in the next couple of years, anyway, with only Wayne Rooney and James Wilson looking like mainstays of the first team.
With van Persie also set to receive a ?10 million loyalty fee if he completes his four-year contract in 2016, United and van Gaal have got a big decision to make with regards to his future. With this in mind, they may be looking to get rid of him sooner than the 18 months in order to get some sort of transfer fee and not have to pay the hefty loyalty bonus.
His second season was interrupted by injuries but van Persie still managed a respectable tally of 18 goals in a campaign that saw David Moyes fail to continue Sir Alex’s winning tradition at Old Trafford. Before the tournament, fellow countryman and boss of the Dutch national squad Louis van Gaal agreed to become the new United manager for the coming season on the completion of the World Cup. Van Persie has managed a mere eight goals this term and fellow forward and big summer loan signing Radamel Falcao has also struggled to recapture his world-class form from 2012. This has seen United struggle for goals but they do sit a respectable fourth in the Premier League table. And with other attacking talents such as Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria also fighting for a starting place, van Persie may wish to move on to avoid finishing his playing days on the bench.
Gareth Bale and Juan Cuadrado have been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford recently, which could see RvP become surplus to requirements. On his day, van Persie is up there with the best in the world but he may have to go elsewhere to prove he still has what it takes to compete with the best.
If the Dutchman does decide to leave, a move to Serie A seems most likely – where he would follow former United team-mates Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, after they moved last summer to Inter Milan and Juventus respectively.
For now, at least van Persie has the rest of this season to impress and earn a new contract at United.
Aston Villa have signed Barcelona winger Adama Traore, 19, for a fee reported to be around ?7 million. Traore stood out because he had the physique that could cope with English football, he had speed and trickery, but what I really liked about him was that he was direct. When he got the ball, it was obvious that the only thing on his mind was to try to create something or score. What I really liked was that, in certain games when the team was struggling for a goal through their usual play, they’d start giving the ball to Traore more and more so that they could change from patient to direct. For all that, I don’t think Traore is ready for the Premier League right now, hence the five-year deal. Good signing for Middlesbrough and another indication that chairman Steve Gibson is heading back to the days where the club were spending money like a drunken sailor. In that respect, it will be very interesting to see Gibson’s approach if Boro do reach the promised land. As for Nugent, he has had decent career to date and still has enough left in the tank to offer Boro something like his best. Not the bravest, or the most orthodox in his finishing, but he does have a huge amount of pace to burn. In the Championship, it’s sometimes hard to find that in the same place as someone who can actually play to a decent standard. Watford have signed former Italy midfielder Alessandro Diamanti, 32, on a season-long loan from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande. It’s difficult to tell what a 32-year old Italian who has had six clubs in the past five years can offer Watford. Teams coming up are far better with a collective that work as hard as possible for one another and play as a team. And Diamanti is not a player that Watford would want hanging around the place if the club is relegated back to the Championship.
The art of being promoted is to buy players who can keep you up and are either easy to get rid of or can play in the Championship if you are relegated. For all that, though, Diamanti is on loan and, in terms of wages, probably isn’t costing Watford a great deal. For that reason, it looks like a signing that Watford made dimly because they could, rather than whether or not they should.
Chelsea have signed defender Baba Rahman, a 21-year-old Ghana international, from Bundesliga side FC Augsburg for a fee believed to be ?21.7 million.
As part of that approach, the club signed Rahman from fellow German side SpVgg Greuther Furth, but Rahman has been on the radar of Europe’s top clubs for a long time.
If you speak to scouts I know, they will cynically tell you that the award is fixed and created to sell top talent to Europe that always seems to be part of the same agencies. Rahman delivers a great cross with his left foot and is a pure athlete going from box to box with ease. I will be interested to see if he can play in a team like Chelsea where opposition sides are regularly pinned back.
That means that Branislav Ivanovic, who has had an uncharacteristically shaky start to the season, will probably be benched.
It has perhaps come one season earlier than Mourinho would have expected but Chelsea are certainly going to be a club to keep an eye on in the transfer market over the next 18 months, even more so than usual. Striker Roberto Soldado has moved from Tottenham Hotspur to Spanish side Villarreal in a deal worth a reported ?7 million. One of the biggest problems that Soldado faced was that Tottenham could not carry a player who just scored goals. Soldado was told that he’d need to work much harder than he had in Spain to crack the PL and that was a game that was completely unnatural to him. He was coming too deep, too wide, running after things he shouldn’t have been running after. And when strikers don’t score goals, they lose confidence and everything becomes ten times harder. But Spurs lost their wingers, changed their shape and approach and then signed a player who desperately needed wingers to excel. Physically, you could argue that Soldado wasn’t exactly in the mould of successful Premier League strikers, anyway. I’m sure he will fair far better back in Spain and to be honest, given his attributes, that was probably always his best option.
But that suggests to me that they knew Pedro’s agent was using Manchester United as bait to draw a bid from Chelsea, which is where Pedro wanted to go all along.
Sergio Ramos used Manchester United to try to draw a new contract from Real Madrid and Wayne Rooney has used Manchester City twice in order to draw new contracts from United.
But for all that, he is a great signing and ?21 million for a player of his versatility and quality is, you’d have to say, a pretty good purchase. Especially given that he is so fit that he could probably play at the highest level for at least another four to five years, even if he begins to lose a little pace in the last couple of seasons. What I most admire about Pedro, apart from his speed of thought and quick feet, is his desire and will to win and a wonderful work ethic that seems to energise the entire team. When players see a forward chasing and shutting down defenders, it encourages the rest of the side to push in behind him and press.


And that is interesting because, against the big teams, Mourinho has, historically, sat back and soaked up the pressure.
He could, indeed, play with Pedro on the counter-attack, but I think that this may be a little sign that Mourinho is going to press the bigger sides more often. Leicester City have signed Switzerland midfielder Gokhan Inler from Napoli on a three-year deal. He may be 31 but this is a decent signing for Leicester as he still has a couple of good years left in him.
But some of my Arsenal fan friends changed their view of Song simply because he was moving to a bigger club. But he’s only 27 and if West Ham manager Slaven Bilic can just get that little bit extra out of him, then the Hammers will have made a very good signing. Newcastle United have signed Marseille winger Florian Thauvin, 22, on a five-year contract. You never quite know if Newcastle’s big signings will work but, on the face of it, Thauvin is a good signing.
He’s certainly not the finished article but then neither was Cristiano Ronaldo when he turned up at Manchester United. That is to say that he tends to receive the ball while facing the opposition goal, which isn’t always the case with some wingers who come deep, then have to turn, are closed down and so have to pass the ball.
He’s not afraid to cross and not afraid to shoot, though neither of those commodities are fully rounded yet. He has a trick but he is far better when he drops his shoulder and knocks the ball past the full back with a five-yard burst. If you’re not on your toes as a full back, then you have no chance in one-on-one situations. And Thauvin, whether he knows that or whether it is something that has come naturally to him, is a better player for it. Manchester City have signed Argentina international Nicolas Otamendi, 27, from Valencia for ?32 million on a five-year deal. I actually think he’s more Javier Mascherano in style, which is no bad thing when you are in a team that tries to keep the ball on the floor and you have Vincent Kompany standing alongside you. It will be Kompany who goes head to head with the more aerially aggressive opponents but don’t be influenced by the fact that Otamendi is only 6ft tall. Otamendi is all the things that City need in a centre half – strong, quick, committed.
I think that he’ll do well for City and that they will be a better, more resolute, team as a result. French-born Bolasie scored a last-minute equaliser for Congo in their 1-1 warm-up draw with Cameroon in Yaounde. Won the title, for the first and only time, in 2012 – beating Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final in Libreville, Gabon. Put up a good display against an in-form South Africa side in a warm-up game at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg. Results are an outcome and that outcome comes from a strategy and structure determined from previous learning. Instead, he tells me that he simply looks at the facts because the answers are right in front of you at all times. Various stories and anecdotes appear in all my books but I wish I’d done more during my career. Could corruption on that scale really have remained a secret to those who didn’t indulge in it for so long?
He has run it, instead, as a vehicle for corporate giants to sell more products to more people. Do you think Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo need that battle dropped in their laps full time?
My anonymity let’s me tell you how it is, from inside the game without the shackles of pre-conception or fan bias.
By no means past it but undeniably in the twilight of his career at the top as a regular first-team striker.
Sir Alex Ferguson beat neighbours Manchester City to the Dutchman’s signature for ?24 million in the summer of 2012. The Dutch finished an impressive third and RvP scored one of the goals of the finals – a sublime lobbed, diving header against the holders Spain. Van Persie’s contract has just 18 months to run, which means that he will be able to talk to clubs this time next year about a potential move during the summer of 2016. They’re not players who I would wholly rely on if I were putting together a team to stay in the Premier League. Augsburg have taken a lot of people by surprise since their promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history at the end of the 2010-11 season. After almost going out of business, they fought their way up the German leagues and, in four seasons in the top flight, the team has finished 14th, 15th, 8th and 5th. A worker bee, as we say in the game, and there’s nothing wrong with being one of those, especially if you can chip in with a goal or two as Inler occasionally does.
The 27-year-old Cameroon international made 31 appearances for Hammers during a loan spell last season. In fact, given the time and space, he can pick out as good a pass as anybody in the Premier League. Otamendi is a good signing and not in the traditional style of centre halves who come to England. He seems to be able to jump and hang in the air and has become very deft at directing the ball with his head. Will rely heavily on Premier League players Youssouf Mulumbu, of West Bromwich Albion, and Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie.
Got all the T-shirts - TV, radio, PR, papers weekly and daily, glossy mags and now the worldwide web. It’s a long time for the various FAs around the world to go along with the status quo, given the overwhelming conviction that they surely had in their hearts that Fifa was inherently corrupt.
Imagine the symbolism for a Messi or Ronaldo to do this on front of millions of people watching on TV.
Back for a second successive tilt at the title after creditably making the quarter-finals in 2013. Trailed 1-0 against ten-man opponents but drew level in 44th minute through midfielder Wahbi Khazri.




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