‘Dry them’ is probably what I would say if I believed Daniel Levy was sincere with his statement about Manchester United and Liverpool’s behaviour. Devious and calculated are words better associated with his actions. As he sits in his throne room with scantily clad women feeding him grapes and sucking his toes, having his PA dictating his latest rant, you and I both know that this is nothing more than a PR stunt to help deflect the fact that we are about to lose the only functioning part of the team. It is however understandable. He is protecting the interests of the club and the team. He knows as well as anyone we have lost these players already so why not deflect the disappointment and turn it into hate, vented towards Fergie and Rafa.
Regardless of whether Ferguson mentioned Berbatov’s name, either in the newspaper stories featured in most red tops and broadsheets or the alleged fans meeting and regardless of the fact that he has further evidence documented – we all know nothing much will happen other than two players leaving Spurs and probably two arriving as replacements.
So why the dramatics? Why the crusade to uphold the integrity of the game when we all know that everybody is involved in talking to players or other clubs managers outside of the correct process? It’s no secret that Utd want Berbatov. The players head was turned a long time ago. And rejecting a Liverpool bid for Keane doesn’t mean he won’t find out via his agent what the Anfield side have to offer.
Let’s run through the delightfully punchy statement.
There has been substantial speculation in respect of the futures of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, including press comment from both Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez. In response our Chairman, Daniel Levy has made the following statement: "Today's public comments by Manchester United's manager, announcing that he has made an offer for Dimitar and is confident that the deal will go through with time working in their favour, is a blatant example of sheer arrogance and interference with one of our players. It is also probably one of the worst offences by any manager in the Premier League to date and is unbelievably hypocritical given his recent comments in respect of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid.
Did he or didn’t he mention Berbatov’s name? The interview given at the airport has Ferguson state he has bid for a player but doesn’t state a name although it’s quite obvious to everyone there and watching on TV who it is. Others are suggesting Ferguson does mention Berbatov in another interview with United fans. Regardless, what’s the complaint about? It’s not tangible because all it amounts to is arrogance. So as far as disrespect is concerned, sure. Ferguson is being disrespectful by suggesting it’s a done deal more or less. He’s predicting a black eye of a future and it’s not nice when a bigger lad pushes you around the play ground, slapping your head with glee and unmovable confidence. There’s no detention for the bully. The headmaster is too busy chatting up the dinner ladies. But complaining and bitching about the inevitable won’t change the fact that nothing ever comes of this. The harsh truth is that football is full of liars and cheats and people in positions of power, managers included, will forever go outside the rules and guidelines, even when it’s not necessary. Ferguson is a master. And not too often are complaints made through the official channels.
‘Confident a deal will be done’ is the usual high level hypocrisy we know he is capable of, acting the Billy Big Bollocks when he wants to be and throwing toys out the pram when he experiences it himself. It's double standards. The trait of the successful no less.
"This comes after a series of events, dating back to last summer, which have shown Manchester United to be in breach of Premier League (PL) rules. As a result, we have today made an official complaint to the PL about the conduct of Manchester United. Benitez made similar comments in respect of Robbie recently and we made an official complaint to the PL about the conduct of Liverpool earlier this week.
Why not complain about United last summer? Has Levy been compiling a dossier because he believes this will bring United down to their knees? I doubt very much they will unzip and gag. Tapping up players, making illegal approaches – whatever you want to call it is common practice. It’s not right, but how else can – for example – a manager of one club know and understand the interest of another? Levy surely isn’t naive to think that there is no contact prior to an official approach and permission granted. Daniel should have a chat with Paul Kemsley about his trip to Spain.
Same type of thing applies to players. If a player is at a club, and a club rejects a bid from another club – the player might be curious to know what offer is on the table, as far as personal terms are concerned. He can hand over a transfer request or he can ask the club to accept a bid so he can talk to the interested club. But in addition, he will have his agent talk to representatives of the interested club so he can sample a taster of what he will earn. Is it above board? Of course not. Does it break Premier League rules? Yes. Still happens though. And even when a club is punished for it, it’s not a devastating moment for all concerned. A few thousand pounds in fines and some moderately bad publicity. The way Levy ends the statement doesn’t suggest that either player will find themselves in the same position Ashley Cole did.
"The behaviour of both clubs has been disgraceful. We told both clubs very early on that we had no interest in selling Robbie or Dimitar, respectively, and that they should refrain from pursuing the player.
So let me get this straight. Levy told Utd and Liverpool we are not interested in selling either Berbatov of Keane and he expected them to walk away without even a whisper? Since when has that stopped anyone from chasing a player?
Both clubs arrogantly chose to ignore this request and we now have evidence that both clubs have systematically been working to prise the players away from us, outside of PL rules of conduct. Our subsequent position has been severely compromised by both clubs making their intentions widely known and indeed making contact with the players and their agents, without the Club's permission.
I’ll issue an apology if our Chairman proves to everyone that he does have evidence – and it would have to be damning for the Prem League to do something about it by going up against Sir Alex Ferguson. But an apology in such circumstances would be joyous.
Shame on the likes of United and Liverpool for making public their interests in signing players and discussing potential transfers. No other clubs do that, that I can’t think of. At least not direct quotes from managers. I don’t think we ever do it. In fact I’m certain we don’t say a thing until the other club have accepted an offer and a medical has been booked. And regardless the ‘did he didn’t he’ conundrum of Ferguson’s alleged Berbatov comment and the fact that even Bryan Robson has been publicly airing his opinions on the subject, you would still need to have a Man Utd representative wearing a Utd scarf meeting Berbatov in a motorway McDonalds accepting a Utd shirt to stand even half a chance of seeing them punished.
If we do have the evidence, then I wonder why Levy had to latch onto an alleged newspaper quote – which is the only thing Ferguson has appeared to comment on and can quite easily be washed away with any other tabloid dirt. Is it really possible that Utd and Liverpool would risk the wrath of another Prem League chairman, especially one as excitable as Levy? Would be nice.
"I have absolutely no wish to sell either player and to date we have not accepted any offer for either. However, when a player's head is turned and their commitment is absent, particularly when they occupy key positions such as that of striker, they become a negative influence in a team dressing room in which they were once a positive addition and influence. This is the situation we now have on our hands, with both Dimitar and Robbie having made it clear that they wish to leave for Manchester Utd and Liverpool respectively.
"Irrespective of the outcome and futures of Robbie and Dimitar, we are continuing to seek to bring in quality, talented players for the future, who want to play in a Spurs shirt."
Ooh that word ‘however’. It decimates all that comes before it. The above perfectly illustrates the crux of the problem. Players, either directly via a club representative speaking to his agent or by the means of a manager telling the press how much he rates him or a friendly reporter making up a story to force the issue – it’s ludicrous to believe a player wont move clubs if official routes are initially blocked.
Levy knows this. Although he isn’t laying too heavy a blame on the individuals by suggesting heads have been turned but does criticise them for lacking commitment. Although some of the pics from Spain suggest otherwise. Although more than likely, Berbatov is acting up as per usual and Keane is probably throwing a strop in training (just not when he is being carried by mates on the beach). It’s almost apologetic. It’s very much inevitable.
I’ve actually gone through various opinions and emotions the past few days, and I can’t quite find myself caring too much about this now other than to say:
Sell both players
You might think I’m being a tad harsh with all this. I’m not. I just don’t expect to be surprised. Ferguson, as great and successful as he has been is guilty of countless shameless moments, on (bullying refs) and off (transfers) the pitch. And yet he has the undying support and love of all the media hacks. It would be a fairytale if something was done about it and maybe then things might start to change a little. You’d get better odds on Spurs finishing 4th.
With the current monopoly in the Premier League, the Top Four will always pick and choose who they want and anyone from the likes of Robbie ‘I’ve found my spiritual home’ Keane and the apparently modest down to earth Bulgarian will rip up their contracts to move on if something bigger and better comes along. Can we blame them? Does beg the question why Berbatov even bothered to ignore Utd to sign for us in the first place. Probably a case of Utd making sure he can play in the Prem before they launch their bid and Dimitar proving the case. Keane, as good as he is, isn’t great. He is replaceable. So don’t fret too much. It's up to him if he wants to go from being a big fish in a little pond to....well, you know the rest. But it's subjective anyways. Keane could do great things at Liverpool or he could fall victim to Rafa's rotation revolution.
The reason Levy is frustrated is the same reason we all are. We buy quality players, they prove themselves at this level and then they’re picked up because two years on they realise that they have to move on to play in the Champs League. It's the stepping stone ethos. Players are about careers and are loyal to the club that suits their needs.
How will it change? One of the top 4 has to fuck up and we have to be lucky enough to take their place. Almost happened once. Until the next time....