LONDON — It is not always easy being a football reporter. We are sometimes accused of not telling the truth, but knowing who to believe can be more difficult than digging out a world exclusive.
For instance, after Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic on Wednesday night, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke about the future of Carlos Tevez, whose two-year loan period at Old Trafford is coming to an end.
Tevez’s contract is owned by Media Sports Investments, a company headed by Kia Joorabchian rather than another football club, which, to put it mildly, complicates matters.
Ferguson said: “Tevez knows I want him to stay. I had another chat with him today and David Gill, our chief executive, had other meetings as well. I’m sure it has progressed further. The terms we offered him are good, so we’ll see.”
Within minutes a spokesman for Joorabchian telephoned Sky Sports to say:
“It is true David Gill came to see Mr Joorabchian. It is categorically untrue that Manchester United have made an offer to try to persuade Carlos Tevez to stay at the club. In 2007, we agreed a two-year loan for Carlos and at the same time agreed the terms that would make the transfer permanent. They have not taken up that option.”
So there it is. Oh yes we have — oh no you haven’t.
Only the very brave or very foolish would accuse Ferguson of being economical with the truth. On the other hand, why would MSI issue such a statement?
It’s as clear as mud.
According to reports, MSI is believed to want between £22 million and £30 million for its client to sign permanently with United (or anyone else), and how I would love to know exactly how that money might be split.
United appears reluctant to pay top dollar for a player who has either started or finished on the substitutes’ bench 28 times this season.
Who has the final word on Tevez’s future?
MSI, as an investment company, would presumably want to sell to the highest bidder, which in its eyes would be the best deal.
When anyone leaves United in a footballing sense the only way is down — you cannot better being part of the champions of England, Europe and the world. Yet Ferguson and United will not be held to ransom, though the suspicion is that after more double-talk and will-he won’t-he headlines, Tevez will remain a United player.
Whatever the morals of a footballer being owned by, in effect, a private individual, no one could deny Tevez has made a serious impact on English football. His previous club, West Ham United, was fined £25 million for contractual irregularities regarding the player and other legal issues are ongoing.
Tevez, 25, is clearly frustrated at not being a regular in the United side, and as he came off the bench to equalize against Wigan, the Old Trafford faithful chanted “sign him up.”
However, Tevez has appeared in 47 of United’s 63 games this season — only Nemanja Vidikc (50) has seen more action. At Old Trafford, football is a squad game rather than a team game.
United needs a point from its final two games — Arsenal (home) on Saturday and Hull (away) on Sunday next week to retain its Premier League crown. It has lasted the course superbly in a marathon season with Ferguson shrewdly rotating his side using 34 players in all competitions.
There is a solidarity, a consistency and a reliability about United that others cannot match. The match-winning star quality comes from Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, to a lesser extent Dimitar Berbatov . . . and Tevez. United always seem to find a way to win, its hunger for even more glory as great as ever.
Next season Ferguson will probably have to find a goalkeeper to replace Edwin van der Sar who will be 39 in October. Other thirtysomethings like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will be phased out, but Ferguson will do it. He always does.
LIVERPOOL CAPTAIN Steven Gerrard is the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year.
Gerrard beat off the challenge of six Manchester United players to win the award. Second was Ryan Giggs, then Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Carrick.
The choice of Gerrard has echoes of 1999, when Tottenham Hotspur’s David Ginola was named Footballer of the Year even though United won the treble that year.
Sir Alex Ferguson has never let football writers forget this “unforgivable” slight. I was the chairman of the FWA when Ginola was the winner and Ferguson still jokes that “you are culpable then.”
Ten years on the United vote was once more split to an extent that it allowed an “outsider” to come through.
It will be of little consolation to Ferguson, but United players have been a victim of their own success again as far as the Footballer of the Year is concerned with six of the top eight choices.
While most Liverpool fans would agree Gerrard has been the Reds’ top player this season, and Lampard would no doubt be the selection of the majority of Chelsea followers, United has had more outstanding performers than any other club.
That, of course, is why it has already won the World Club Cup and League Cup this season, and is the favorites to complete the unprecedented quadruple by retaining its Premier League and Champions League crowns. Also why the Footballer of the Year plays for Liverpool.
Each FWA member has one vote and we choose the player who by “precept and example” we believe is the Footballer of the Year. Six United players received votes against one from Liverpool and one from Chelsea.
The voting was dominated by United but won by Liverpool.
United did not have a standout performer like Cristiano Ronaldo of last year, but it had more worthy candidates than any other team . . . that is why it is the best.
I voted for Vidic, but I would concede that Gerrard has had a season worthy of winning the award. For club and country he has been an inspiration, coming to the plate in the big games and doing more than any Liverpool player to ensure the Premier League title was a two-horse race.
The fact I voted for Vidic will not spare me from the hair dryer treatment from Ferguson when the award is presented on May 29.
Christopher Davies covers the Premier League for the London Daily Telegraph.