Monday, January 12, 2009


THE BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE has earned a reputation for being the best soccer league in the world. It attracts the top players, it’s watched by fans on every continent and creates the most revenue.

Money talks. That’s why, since its formation in 1992, only four clubs have won it – Manchester United (10 times), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (2) and Blackburn Rovers (1).

Year in, year out, the league is dominated by these first three clubs, plus current leaders Liverpool.

The “Big Four”, particularly United and Chelsea, spend huge sums on upgrading their first team squad each and every season.

Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich has spent roughly £600,000 million ($900,000 million) on the club since buying Chelsea in 2003.

His millions helped Chelsea win back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. But while money can attract the best footballing foreigners, the contract doesn’t say anything about loyalty to the shirt or commitment to the cause.

Anyone who watched Manchester United thrash Chelsea 3-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday will testify to that.

United played with pride and passion. Chelsea looked as though they were going through the motions.

A midfield containing two England internationals (Frank Lampard and Joe Cole), Portuguese star (Deco) and the captain of Germany (Michael Ballack) were played off the park by their Red Devil counterparts.

And if ever there was a player picking up a huge paycheck under false pretences then it’s Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba.

Chelsea stars going through the motions

Drogba, who cost the Blues £23.8 million from Olympique Marseille in July 2004, has long been rumored to be unhappy at Stamford Bridge. He is constantly linked by the British tabloids to a reunion with his former boss, José Mourinho, now in charge of Inter Milan.

It was under the Portuguese coach Mourinho that Chelsea enjoyed their greatest success, although his negative style of play did not please everyone.

Ironically, the man dubbed by the media as “The Special One” was among the Old Trafford crowd as his Inter team face United in the last 16 of the Champions League next month.

Former Brazilian national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was brought in last summer with a remit to win with style. Chelsea may only be four points behind United but in recent weeks, they’ve hardly been winning and when they do, it’s certainly not in style.

They’ve collected maximum points from just two of their last seven Premier League matches and were far from impressive in qualifying in second place from their UEFA Champions League group.

Big Phil’s coaching skills are not in question. He led Brazil to victory in the 2002 World Cup.

But when it comes to motivating his mercenaries, you have to doubt whether he’s in the same league as tough-talking Scot Sir Alex Ferguson.

Fergie, now in his 23rd year as United manager, is famous – or infamous – for handing out the “hairdryer treatment” when he feels he’s being let down by his players.

No one is immune to his tongue-lashing. David Beckham required several stitches in a cut above his left eye after being struck by a stray boot during a dressing-room rant by Ferguson.

Perhaps that fear factor is why you rarely see any United player – even the sometimes moody FIFA World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo – giving anything less than 100 percent.

So the message to Scolari is crystal clear. Forget about signing another big name player from abroad. Go out and buy yourself a hairdryer!

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