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Saturday, 17 January 2004

534: The agitator #1

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by : Antony Melvin

The secret diary of the man who gets things done.


Arsenal are still keen on Angel at Villa. Decided to stop that particular one with a ridiculous £20m price tag (Mirror), after reaching a deal that will see Angel become the new face for Pukka pies in the west Midlands area. And I can also reveal that the rumour surrounding John Hartsons return to the capital with Fulham (Mail) is not unconnected with another food deal. The Fulham firefighters fun Friday fry-up (the 5F) needed relaunching and I think John has the gravitas - but he needs a London base for this kind of deal.

After Michael Owen made a complete Forlan from 3 yards I quickly put out a press release (back-dating it to before the kick-off - that'll put them off the scent) saying that Michael was thinking of re-signing (Star). Well we'd done the 'questioning the ambition of the club' bit and flogged out the 'niggling injury' routine so we really needed to remind everyone that Michael still existed! But after a re-think we are torn between ‘I never said I wanted to leave’ or 'leaving contract negotiations until after the season' as a way forward.

Nicky Butt wants to leave Old Trafford (BBC), which comes as no surprise to anyone. I mean being an understudy to a Neville is bound to wind you up (ask Danny Mills). But as to suitors I think that Tottenham are the best option, no competition for a place, high profile, low expectations. Pele's quote from the World Cup of 'I like butt' was widely misinterpreted, but should ease Nicky's move to north London.

Discussed the situation with Henrik Larsson and flew a kite about him going to Barcelona (Sun). This is agitator short-hand for 'he wants to play somewhere warm and spend some time on the beach'. So Newcastle does not qualify. Had a chat with Roman and I can confirm that there will be movement soon - ex-lax is an important addition to every billionaires medicine cabinet. As for him wanting to sign a cheque/Czech/Cech (Express) - whatever.

Contract negotiations for big Emile at Liverpool were going slowly so we thought we’d give it a bit of a push and make the obvious link to ‘0 shots on target’ Middlesbrough (Mail) and a less obvious link to AC Milan (Times). Somewhat disconcertingly Liverpool seem interested. If we can stall the Saha transfer long enough we can double-bluff Liverpool by suggesting a Man Utd interest. On the basis that if they want him …

Chelsea were a bit concerned that their third place was under threat so a second day of undermining fourth placed Charlton’s best player Scott Parker was in order. But offering Joe Cole in exchange (Sun) doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps we’d better look at stronger rumours of a move for the manager to truly unsettle them.

Operation upset Man Utd has resumed today, after our suggestions that they were about to lose all their transfer targets in one black Thursday! So Chelsea are now favourites to land Saha for £18m (Mirror/Star/Telegraph), Arsenal will land Defoe for £5m (Sun) and Chelsea will also bag Arjen Robben (Express) and Christian Vieri for £14m or £25m (Sun/Times/BBC). Largely quote-free stuff – for obvious reasons.

Yesterday’s links for big Emile didn’t exactly further his contract negotiation as Liverpool seemed a little over-eager to let him speak to Middlesbrough. So Emile has had to quickly restate his loyalty to the cause. Liverpool have waded in and knocked 5k a week off his new deal – some people will use any situation to their advantage. The morality of modern football is a crying shame. Discussed linking him with Everton as a final desperate fling. Or Barcelona. Or Tottenham. Or Celtic. Brainstorming session scheduled.

Moved quickly to link Middlesbrough to another striker in this case Viduka for £6m (Sun) to try to ease the Heskey situation. Given that Man Utd are standing by this is not a viable option for too long. So with a little lateral thinking we quickly linked Alan Smith to Newcastle United for an affordable £2m (Sun), and wait for Middlesbrough to move for him. Once Liverpool accept that there is nowhere for Heskey to go we can make some progress on a new contract.

We have long wondered why Manchester United are so despised when they do such good charity work. Paying over the odds to keep some badly run clubs going, like the £30m the paid for Forgetful Ferdinand. Whilst offering England internationals in deals that pay for themselves. Madrid must have recouped the Beckham cost in shirt sales already, and if Newcastle are allowed to strengthen their midfield by getting Nicky Butt for £5m (Express) then surely Fergie has gone mad. And besides we’ve already agreed with TAG that he’s going to Spurs (BBC).

Chamonix, ski-ing.

Antony Melvin was routing through the bins of the rich and powerful.

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