So…I have to write about this don’t I? I mean, there really isn’t much to add to the Llorente to Juve story, outside of the fact the Spanish bench player will likely be padding on a side where Fabio Quagliarella seems perfectly capable of playing effective super-sub.

There’s a bunch of transfer crap that would involve a lot of work with little payoff to pore over. All you need to know is Ba to Chelsea is official and that Joe Cole will likely be Hammer in time for the next slate of Premier League fixtures.

Let me begin by admitting that I’ve been wrong about a lot of things lately. Well, not wrong exactly, but I’ve zigged where others have zagged on various football-related stories, and the zaggers are enjoying some results and news items that confirm their suspicions about how football is turning out.

I made various counter-intuitive claims prior to the Christmas break. They were as follows:

  • Manchester City’s TSR and Manchester United’s high PDO indicated the Premier League title could tighten.
  • It’s possible that Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli might be in a Father/Son soap operatic struggle that will see Balo’s time at City end, but we honestly don’t know and so should stop presuming we do.
  • There was some early evidence Rafa Benitez may know what he’s doing at Chelsea.

None of these things, it should be pointed out, are demonstrably false. Not yet, at least. On the first point, despite Man City’s stumble against Sunderland over the Christmas slog, the two clubs are still seven points apart. Not ‘tight’ exactly, but also not insurmountable. And most of my predictions involved the next several months, not the Christmas to New Year’s dogfight.

On the second, there was a training ground ‘fight’ today that involved Mancini grabbing Balotelli and telling him not to tackle Gael Clichy like a psychopath. There are unflattering photos, too. But this sort of thing happens a lot in football, and would generally not imply anything more profound than a manager calling out a player. But my warning against hoisting these easy narrative tropes onto things we barely understand remains.

On the third, well, I did note when I first pointed out some very early evidence that Rafa may not be as shit as everyone thought he would be. His record at Chelsea as of writing is 7-2-3. There could be a case that Benitez’s preference for rotation may take some time before it’s effective, particularly after Roberto Di Matteo’s slavish devotion to the same starting XI. And while the 1-0 loss to QPR was a shock, Di Matteo’s Chelsea drew the club 0-0 back in September.

Anyway, this Tweet generally sums it up:


Youth development is key to Canada’s success on the international stage.


Gerrard says this is Sturridge’s chance to prove how great he really is.

Joe Cole to return to his old club West Ham.

Ferguson refuses to speculate on his eventual replacement.

“I don’t think that Theo is only interested by money.” -Arsene Wenger

Everton club reveals financial loss last season.


Athletic Bilbao confirm Llorente has begun talks with Juventus.

Del Piero squashes rumours he’s leaving Sydney.

Milan rules out acquiring Balotelli, Drogba, Osvaldo.

La Liga

Ronaldo won’t discuss his future over Real Madrid.

Sevilla retracts earlier statement, don’t have to sell players to balance the books.


Hongistein’s predictions for the second half of the Bundesliga season.

Holtby could join an English side in the summer.

Bit and Bobs

The story of one footballer and why he nearly quit due to racism.

K-League team signs a North Korean striker.

Jonathan Wilson discusses the impact of the match-fixing scandal ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.