LONDON – Until last Tuesday, few people in England had heard of Dimitry Seluk. Now we are sick of him.
Over the past few days the Ukrainian has become a figure of fun who, along with his client, Manchester City’s YaYa Toure, have had their 15 minutes of infamy.
Seluk, the type of guy who gives even greedy advisers (he is not a registered FIFA agent) a bad name, complained through a daily tabloid that City’s Middle East owners had not shown Toure respect because they did not acknowledge his 31st birthday. You couldn’t make it up.
Forget that City’s official Twitter posted a Happy Birthday Yaya message or on the plane to Abu Dhabi the Cote d’Ivoire international was presented with a cake. Seluk and Toure wanted acknowledgement from the City power brokers.
When the squad met Sheikh Mansour after City’s Premier League triumph, there was no chorus of “happy birthday” or whatever Seluk believed was appropriate.
“It is only 50-50 that YaYa will be with City next season,” said Seluk. “City treated him like a nobody.”
An extremely well-paid nobody because Seluk was also handsomely rewarded to negotiate Toure’s four-year contract worth £220,000 a week last year. After tax and other deductions that is about £100,000 going into the Toure bank account every seven days.
Seluk spoke like a man who made all the big decisions at City and he, alone, controlled his client’s destiny which, to a large extent, has been the case in the past. His favorite negotiating technique seems to be threatening Toure’s club with his departure.
He agitated for Toure’s move from Olympiakos to Monaco in 2006, and from Monaco, where Seluk is based, to Barcelona a year later.
Seluk then complained to Barca that Toure was unhappy at not playing in every game — by coincidence his deal was heavily linked to pay-per-appearances though the player had played 40 games, including a start in the Champions League final. Quite how many games would have made Toure happy is unknown.
Now it is the alleged birthday snub by Sheikh Mansour.
But it is not about money, if you believe Seluk.
“I like my players more than I like money,” he said giving the impression he believed nobody could question his sincerity though he is no doubt happy that Toure has earned an estimated £50 million over the past seven years with Barcelona and City.
Seluk will find Sheikh Mansour a little more difficult to manipulate that other owners and the Ukrainian may be less happy that City has said Toure is going nowhere, not that the birthday farce was about money, of course.
Perish the thought.
One thing is certain, though. One of the finest midfielders of recent years, who has backed his adviser’s stance, will be ridiculed by opposing fans next season with chants of “Happy Birthday to you” a regular occurrence. Let’s hope Seluk and Toure are happy with weekly acknowledgements of the big day.
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IT WAS November 21, 2007, that Steve McClaren was given the nickname that will stay with him forever. As England struggled against Croatia in the Wembley rain, the head coach stood on the sidelines under an umbrella.
When a Daily Mail reporter telephoned Andy Townsend for a ghosted column on the game his wife answered the phone and remarked: “Look at that wally with the brolly.”
And so a headline was born. England lost 3-2 to Croatia, failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and the wally with the brolly was sacked. McClaren is back at Wembley on Saturday leading Derby County in the Championship playoff against Queens Park Rangers where he began the season as part of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team.
McClaren has rebuilt his career and credibility even if the brolly tag remains. He guided FC Twente to its first-ever Dutch title four years ago and is now on the brink of securing an unlikely promotion for Derby after succeeding Nigel Clough last September.
Apart from a place in the Premier League, victory will be worth around £100 million in extra sponsorship, commercial deals, TV revenue and ticket sales to the winners.
McClaren said: “I’m looking forward to it — we all are. We’re a bit like the swan on the river — cool and calm on the surface, but underneath paddling like hell.”
QPR have been the masters of their own downfall in recent weeks with individual errors proving costly.
Derby, on the other hand, has ended the season like a side confident of beating anyone, though Rangers have the more experienced players which could be telling in a winner-takes-all showdown to see which club joins Leicester and Burnley in the top league.
“Harry and I will have a cup of tea or whatever together at Wembley before the game and a hug afterwards, whatever happens,” said McClaren.
And there won’t be a brolly in sight this time even if the rain is torrential.
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AMID THE hysteria calling for Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore to be punished for sending sexist emails to colleagues, one issue has been overlooked.
How do you sanction the most powerful man in English football?
Scudgate has continued to gather momentum since a former temporary P.A. felt she had to reveal contents of his emails to a traditionally generous Sunday tabloid.
The contents of his emails, while ill-advised and unflattering to women, did not breach the Premier League’s anti-discrimination rules. The Premier League clubs voted that no further disciplinary action was justified.
That presupposes there was some initial disciplinary action, which there was not.
Apart from sacking Scudamore, which would have been impossible legally, what were the offended classes looking for?
There is no precedent for someone in such authority being punished. Scudamore could hardly have been suspended or even fined if his comments did not breach Premier League rules.
His biggest punishment is the damage to his image which was previously squeaky clean and is something he has to live with, knowing he will forever be associated with the mother of all misjudgments.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.