Martin Keown grew up in Oxford, joined Arsenal aged 14 and made his first-team debut for Brighton in the Second Division in 1984.
Alexis Sanchez grew up, in the words of a Daily Mail piece from July 2014, ‘in poverty-stricken rural Chile in a mining town called Tocopilla, and he used to perform on the street for money at the tender age of six’. His football beginnings were not in the youth system of an established top-flight club, but in playing football barefoot on the streets. His mother, a single parent, was unable to afford boots for him until the mayor of his town gave him his first pair aged 14.
Both Keown and Mail are relevant in this situation for only one reason. Because the pundit uses his platform in the paper to describe Sanchez as ‘the biggest mercenary in football’ on Friday.
‘It has been all about the money,’ laments Keown, who presumably does this work for free. ‘For Sanchez, this is clearly not about going to the best team.’
It’s not like he’s sodding off to the Chinese Super League, is it? He is taking the step up from sixth-placed Arsenal to second-placed Manchester United. And if a player who grew up in poverty wants to earn a lot of money while he can in a job with an extremely limited span, that is his right. It is not yours or ours to brand him a ‘mercenary’.
Dirty Sanchez, the sequel
‘TURNCOAT’ reads the headline, with a sub-headline of ‘Sanchez has done the dirty on Pep’. It’s Neil Ashton, it’s The Sun, and it’s the hottest take in this coldest of months. Let’s go through each of the best paragraphs, shall we?
‘Alexis Sanchez has sacrificed everything to make this move. Morals. Principles. Trophies.’
Trophies won by Manchester City last season: None
Trophies won by Manchester United last season: Two. Apologies to the Community Shield.
‘He is turning his back on Pep Guardiola, and the old school gentleman’s agreement he struck with him last September, to join Manchester United instead. What a piece of work he is.’
And what a piece of work that last line is. It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with Sanchez’s decision and his motives, but really? ‘What a piece of work’?
‘Manchester City, working with Pep again, was supposed to be about so much more than money.’
To clarify, Sanchez was going to earn a wage at City. One around £300,000 a week, according to multiple reports. It was always at least a little bit about the money.
‘City have the coach, the squad, the cash, the lot, to make sure they are in the hunt for the big prizes every season. Everything is in place.’
You can literally replace the word ‘City’ with ‘United’ and it would still make perfect sense.
‘Sanchez, with his heart set on working with Pep again and playing dreamy football with David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne, was up for it. Most would be. That was until Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis started an auction by punting Sanchez around Europe’s top clubs.’
Blaming Arsenal here is a bold turn. How dare Gazidis do his job by trying to get the best possible financial deal for his club?
‘The Chilean forward put money before morals, although United were the only takers.’
Honestly. ‘Money before morals’. Bloody do one.
‘Mourinho, on the verge of signing an extended contract through to 2021, is determined to get the beating of Pep over time. To do it he has out-manoeuvred City, catching them cold at a time when they were a little bit too confident that a deal for Sanchez was already in the bag. Nothing, especially in this sport, is certain.’
Exactly. So what are you whining and moaning about?
‘As things stand it is one-up for United and it is not difficult to imagine Mourinho chuckling away with his assistant Rui Faria after pinching Sanchez from under Pep’s nose. It takes something out of the ordinary for City to walk away from a deal when it comes down to money. There is unlimited funding in place to make them great, but they took the moral high ground when the bidding war began.’
To discuss City taking ‘the moral high ground’ when it comes to money is phenomenal. They literally broke the record for biggest single-window transfer spend at one point last summer. Was spending £221m in the summer part of them taking ‘the moral high ground’? Wonder if Ashton has read this…
Welcome to the black parade
Just when Mediawatch wanted to get off the football train with that last Sanchez piece in the Sun, we realised that this isn’t our stop. Because The Sun online have excelled even themselves with their latest update: ‘Manchester United release branded tractor as they chase wannabe farmer Alexis Sanchez’. Sure.
‘MANCHESTER UNITED have paraded a branded tractor around Old Trafford as they try and complete a deal for Alexis Sanchez,’ Jamie Gordon writes.
‘And the move comes just weeks after the Arsenal ace, 29, was pictured riding a farm vehicle around their training ground.’
‘Just weeks’. The piece includes the following caption, which might just be our new favourite thing ever:
‘Tractor fan Alexis Sanchez is hoping to join United in January’
‘Tractor fan’ or ‘treacherous turncoat’; you decide.
No way, Jose
Andy Dunn says Manchester United are ‘drawing the battle lines’ in his Daily Mirror column. Yes, by signing Alexis Sanchez, but also by extending the contract of one Jose Mourinho.
‘Of the Big Six clubs, four have managers who, as it stands, will be out of contract next season,’ he writes.
‘There have been doubts about the longevity of all four. Surely Arsene Wenger has to pack it in soon, Antonio Conte and Chelsea looks like a divorce waiting to happen every week, while Pep Guardiola’s intensity suggests another sabbatical would not be a surprise.’
Which is really weird, because just over a month ago David McDonnell wrote that Manchester City chiefs believe Guardiola ‘is in it for the long haul with them,’ and feel ‘he’s ready to commit himself to a lengthy spell in charge at the Etihad Stadium’. He sounds knackered.
As for Mourinho, he signed a contract extension with Inter Milan in 2009 before leaving in 2010, with Real Madrid in 2012 before leaving in 2013, and with Chelsea in August 2015 before being sacked that December. If this is United and Mourinho ‘making a show of stability’, what was it at his previous three clubs?
Drop the Mike
Away from suggesting that one of Mike Ashley’s recent ‘regrets’ at Newcastle was to ‘allow’ Amanda Staveley ‘to be photographed so ostentatiously attending St James’ Park’ – she wore a long black coat and everything – Martin Samuel has mastered the art of timing in the Daily Mail.
His piece suggests that, contrary to popular belief, Newcastle owner Ashley ‘is NOT the villain here’. He points the finger of blame at Staveley, PCP Capital Partners and the consortium linked with a takeover of the club, chief among them the Reuben brothers.
‘Ashley bought the club in 2007 for £134m. He is believed to have then spent close to that again on other club projects and responsibilities – not including players. So £250m doesn’t really even get his money back. And that figure is what Staveley is believed to have offered.’
Unless you read The Times, and their excellent exclusive with Staveley herself. The businesswoman confirms that three offers were made: first of £300m, then of £350m, both comprising clauses. The third was of £250m in full, with Staveley ‘committed to investing another £200 million’.
‘In the middle of December, Staveley was told that “another bidder” had emerged, prepared, according to Ashley’s people, to pay £350 million,” George Caulkin’s Times piece continues. ‘Fine, PCP said, but come back to us if you want to re-engage.
‘Since then, they have heard nothing. Not a single thing. Which, again, hardly fits with the Ashley-sanctioned notion of “exhaustive” discussions.’
One thing Mediawatch knows: There is a lot of PR work being done on the pages of our newspapers.
Writes Matt Barlow of VAR in the Daily Mail:
‘Football must not sterilise these nights out of existence in the quest for a cleaner, more clinical product for armchair fans to digest between mouthfuls of popcorn.’
Keep corn-based snacks out of football.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 19, 2018
Man turns up for work. More as we get it.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on Jose Mourinho.
Sean Cole on Matej Delac.
Archie Rhind-Tutt on Peter Stoger.