In his new weekly column Wayne Farry looks at a surreal week of hair models running for office and a desperate signing from Toronto.
We start this week’s report with last week’s news that Sepp Blatter would potentially have another challenger in the race to sit on the throne at FIFA’s ivory towers. There is already competition from Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein (who better to fix corruption and problems at grassroots level than a Prince, eh?) and former FIFA deputy secretary general Jerome Champagne (seriously, these name’s just scream “DOWN TO EARTH!”, don’t they?) but last week it was confirmed that a former Newcastle midfielder would be seeking to gain the endorsement of five national associations in his bid to make shit tonnes of money, or as he put it, reform FIFA. Rather wonderfully his campaign has been funded by betting giant Paddy Power. While there was some initial tentative excitement that Ginola might actually be serious about reforming the football governing body, when it emerged that his campaign was backed by Paddy Power, everyone soon saw it for what it was; a total pisstake and money maker for Ginola. This was confirmed during his first press conference last week. Not only did the Frenchman, whose only previous ambassadorial role has been as the face/hair of shampoo products, reveal he doesn’t have the backing of any national association, he also confirmed that he doesn’t know the name of any, yes ANY, FIFA executive committee member. Add to this his princely fee of £250,000 and it all became very clear that Ginola has about as much intention of reforming FIFA as Mr. Blatter does. Everyone has had a bit of fun with this and you can see why. It is laughable. But it’s also sad. FIFA’s problems are much publicised and it will take someone with a real love for the game and hatred for the current corruption which has become an integral part of the organisation to truly change things. Sadly, in Ginola, we just have a man who simply saw a way of making a quick buck. I’m sure he’ll be happy with his pay cheque but, much like FIFA, he’ll now find it hard to shift the notion that he’s an exploitative asshole trying to seek as much money out of the game he supposedly loves.
From a Frenchman who doesn’t barely know anything to one whose vast footballing knowledge gets questioned on a near bimonthly basis. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal went to the Etihad on Sunday to take on Manchester City. His side lost 6-3 in the same fixture last season and while the table may have suggested that a similar result could be on the cards, anyone who has watched City this season could have told you that a repeat was unlikely. City have looked a shadow of themselves this season but until this weekend remained close to league leaders Chelsea. Their season has not been helped by injuries to key players but with the money they’ve spent they should have more than enough in reserve. Above all else though City have looked mentally weak this season, apparently unable to muster the same passion and motivation to retain a title they’ve taken in two of the last three seasons. On Sunday, all of this was evident as City looked utterly bereft of creativity against a much improving Arsenal side. Alexis Sanchez has been a revelation for the north London club this season but it was Santi Cazorla – also in sensational form recently – who did the real damage. He scored a first half penalty after Kompany was penalised for a soft foul on Nacho Monreal. It was soft, but it was also naive from a player of Kompany’s calibre and experience. Cazorla slotted away the penalty before he laid the ball on a plate for Olivier Giroud to put their side 2-0 up after the hour mark. The game was notable for City’s near total lack of creativity and for fans and players alike, it was worrying stuff. They knocked on the door late on but with no reward and it’s not inconceivable that they’ll be out of the title race if they fail to beat Chelsea in over a week’s time. For Arsenal things are looking brighter as key players return from injury and there appears to be some new found confidence at the back since Colombian David Ospina took the gloves off of Smokey McSmokerson. He’s kept two clean sheets since he came into the side and looks assured whenever called upon. With a result like this now under their belts, expect him to stay in goal and Arsenal to move up the table over the remainder of the season.
Two transfer stories to finish off with this week and we start with Jermain Defoe’s move from Toronto to Sunderland. In theory it makes sense, but then you remember that it’s not 2010 and that Defoe is now a 32 year old man. He seriously struggled to get into the Spurs team before moving to the MLS and while he’s saying all the right things about his fitness and desire, his reported three year, £70,000 per week wages suggest that Gus Poyet did the real life equivalent of the desperate FM tactic of looking through transfer listed strikers and picking out the only name you know. It’s an exceptionally expensive signing and while Defoe tends to score goals wherever he goes, he’s also joining one of the poorest and least creative teams in the league. I hope it works out for him as he appears to be a nice lad but this signing just screams of desperation and I find it hard to shake the feeling that we’ll look back in years to come remembering this purely as the signing that was the beginning of the end of Poyet’s painful Sunderland reign.
Finally, a slightly more glamorous transfer story as news has emerged that Norwegian wonderkid and childbride Martin Odegaard has apparently chosen to commit his future to Real Madrid. The midfielder, who’s the youngest player to ever take part in a European Championship qualifier, will allegedly leave Strømsgodset IF immediately to join up with Madrid’s reserve team. The young man had been courted by all of Europe’s major clubs in the last year and had visited the training complexes of Bayern, Arsenal and Liverpool as well as others. He instead has decided to join the best side in the world and it’s not hard to see why. This is a Madrid with more focus on youth than in recent years and if he impresses there’s no reason he shouldn’t play a role next season. That is unless he’s not good enough, which is a serious concern. Obviously he’s good, otherwise the world’s best wouldn’t have been grooming him in the way that they have. But the football world is dotted heavily with the underwhelming careers of wonderkids of the past and one simply doesn’t know how the young Norwegian will adapt to playing with the European champions. He may find it a level too high, or he may take to it like a duck to water. I genuinely hope it’s the latter but either way, it doesn’t change the fact that there was something slightly creepy about this entire process. Odegaard’s father has joined Madrid’s staff as part of the deal and he more than anyone else will tell you; “Pimpin’ ain’t easy.”