The Lead

“If you win you are the best, if you lose you are not.” -Roberto Mancini

The headlines across the English papers this morning form an incredible crisis collage. Brendan Rodgers is apparently locked in a struggle to keep Luis Suarez from “Bayern’s clutches” as his Liverpool are out of every single cup competition forever amen. Arsene Wenger has ‘not for one second’ thought of leaving Arsenal over the “disaster” at his club, insofar as having to score twice away from home in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 is a disaster, or being four points out of the Champions League spots is a disaster. And finally, there’s the situation at City, with Roberto Mancini swearing off press reports that Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini will be coming to town soon to replace Mancini following a season in which the team was a little unlucky in their save percentage. Only Andre Villas-Boas is spared because it’s Spurs, after all.

Yet there is only one Premier League title to win. Only one FA Cup, only one European Cup, only four Champions League spots in a league with five or six would-be contenders. Games need to be won, and to win teams need to be perfect. But a loser is a loser is a loser.

I write this in the context of Mario Balotelli’s plea to Manchester City’s backers to keep Mancini at the club:

“There is nobody better for City,” he is quoted as saying in The Sun. “Most importantly, the players like him. If you asked who they want next season, every single player would say Roberto. He’s not just their coach but also their friend.”

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has been linked with the post, with Mancini tipped to be sacked after City fell off the pace in the Premier League and failed to negotiate a way through the Champions League group stage for a second successive season.

Balotelli, though, has pointed to the fact Mancini ended City’s 35-year trophy drought with the 2011 FA Cup and then steered the team to the league title last season.

He added: “Look at the success Roberto has had – the FA Cup and a first championship in over 40 years. Even Alex Ferguson does not win a trophy every year, but he always comes back.”

Mario could be exaggerating, but it’s telling that the player who physically tussled with his old boss on a training ground is effusive in praising him. The entire narrative behind Mancini is a lack of trust from his players who are tired of his manic tinkering at the back.

If that’s not the case, then his players need to speak up on his behalf. But it also challenges the simplistic, reverse engineering of the assembled punditry in England who long assumed Mancini’s primary flaw was his inability to sell his obscurantist tactical approach to his set of overpaid starlets.

So now, the manager who will almost certainly see City finish second will now be at the centre of an elaborate back story involving his over-friendliness to his charges. Until he wins again, of course.


Wenger says he’s not a quitter.

Di Canio allegedly raided his former office in Swindon, days after resigning.

Mancini annoyed with reporters, uses foul language.

SAF believes in Nani, but says keeping him depends on performance.


Roma put an end to Andreazzoli rumours, say coach will stay.

Preview to all the Serie A games this weekend.

Cagliari ask fans for understanding, will play match behind closed doors.

La Liga

VP of Spanish football reveals match-fixing exists in the country.

Reports suggest Zidane attended Europe League game to observe Spurs’ Bale.


Ribery says Bayern not afraid to face Barcelona if they were to meet in the next round.

Kiessling says he’s honoured over rumours linking him to BVB.

How important is Lewandowski to Dortmund?

Bit and Bobs

European papers in review.

Death of fan in Bolivia was an accident.

Van Bommel says Messi would struggle if he played in Serie A and barely reach 30 goals.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.