The Lead

Objectivity in sports journalism is often a movable feast. For all the moralizing about cheering in the press box, there are homers in the announcing booth calling goals for the “good guys.” Even the venerable and widely-admired commentator Martin Tyler for example—one of the few public figures in football who has somehow managed to avoid some hideous scandal (although it’s probably only a matter of time)—could not help himself from hoping aboard the Bantam Bandwagon during the waning moments of Bradford’s semi-final defeat of Aston Villa in the Capital One Cup semifinal. Try as they like, journalists face the same urge we all do to pick a side.

Perhaps it’s just a native quirk of Spanish football coverage, but some papers—well, Marca—maintain little pretense to non-biased coverage of La Liga. News reports from that rag often read like embarrassing fan fiction. Agendas are laid bare. In the lead-up to Jose Mourinho’s almost certain firing at the end of the current Real Madrid campaign, Marca played an integral role running skewed polls, reporting endless, unsourced and unverified hints of player satisfaction, and musing on a glorious post-Mourinho future.

It would be easy to blame all the present discord at the club on that paper. They have abused their access to smear a comparatively capable manager who clearly does not enjoy coddling the disproportional head-sizes within his club. But Real Madrid have been naive in their relationship with the press, a state of affairs not exactly helped perhaps by Jose Mourinho’s classic siege mentality in front of the microphone, but one made far worse by the club’s inability to address leaks.

The fury of club president Florentino Perez at a rare press conference today in which he pointedly criticized Marca‘s story of leaked text messages over a meeting between Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, which Marca described as an “ultimatum” on Mourinho’s future, is hopefully the first step in acknowledging that the press can not simply be ignored. It follows the recent decision to allow players to make more post-match comments. Like Mourinho, Marca is a brash voice that cannot be silenced, but at least contained. And as Sir Alex Ferguson has learned in his time as a Man United manager, it can also be played. Real Madrid’s player clearly know this; it’s time the higher ups joined the club.

England

Wenger favours a two-player January transfer limit.

Mancini says latest Balotelli transfer rumours are false again.

Redknapp also defends Hazard, says ballboy’s behaviour ‘disgusting’

Reading’s Jimmy Kebe says he was only joking when he made twitter comments.

It’s a done deal, Zaha to join United in the summer.

Italy

Milan sign Zaccardo from Parma.

Llorente excited to join Juve in the summer, ‘fulfilled a dream’.

La Liga

Madrid president Perez says Mourinho ultimatum rumour false.

Marca stands by its story and hits back at Perez.

Falcao talks about his goals and competing in a league dominated by two teams.

Germany

Preview to Dortmund vs Nuremberg clash.

Does Bayern choke when it comes to big matches?

Bit and Bobs

FIFA to investigate World Cup bids.

Small club lashes out at decision to broadcast all United FA Cup games

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.