Mediawatch: Benteke AND Sturridge want out

Matt Stead

Big Ben
‘I WISH I HAD NEVER SIGNED’ screams the headline from the Daily Mirror. David Anderson has gone big on this one. The words ‘frustration’, ‘bombshell’, ‘snubs’ and ‘revealed’ adorn the back page, along with a picture of Christian Benteke. He is not happy.

‘Christian Benteke last night claimed he regrets ever signing for Liverpool,’ reads the first paragraph. Wow. This is huge. For some reason the rest of the story is buried five pages into the newspaper.

“What’s annoying me most is that I would have never signed for Liverpool if I wasn’t the manager’s first choice,” explains Benteke. “Since I came to England in 2012 I’ve never been on the bench for such a long period. It hurts, especially since I have never been as fit as I am now,” adds the striker. The headline above the story reads: ‘A MISTAKE TO SIGN.’

The last paragraph includes one final quote from the Belgian international, who ‘WISHES HE HAD NEVER SIGNED’ and ‘regrets’ ever doing so: “It’s my desire to succeed at Liverpool. I want to continue.”

Ah. But the Mirror are not the only culprits here.

* The Daily Express go with a sub-headline of ‘I wish I’d never joined Liverpool’ – justice for the lack of block capitals – for Paul Joyce’s back-page story.

* The Daily Star‘s back page reads ‘I WISH I’D NEVER JOINED,’ with Ian Whittell writing on Benteke’s ‘fury’.

* The Sun opt for a typically low-key angle, with Phil Thomas describing Benteke’s time on the bench as ‘Anfield torture’. The 25-year-old is paid around £120,000 a week, Phil.

Again: “It’s my desire to succeed at Liverpool. I want to continue.” International week is upon us, people.


Baby buy, buy, buy
Be excited, Arsenal fans. John Cross brings you good news in the Daily Mirror. The Chief Football Writer reports an ‘exclusive’ that Arsene Wenger is ‘determined’ to stay on as manager, and will sign everyone this summer. Cross presents us with ‘Wenger’s dream team’, with John Stones, Victor Wanyama, Toni Kroos and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all making the starting XI.

On their way out will be Tomas Rosicky, Kieran Gibbs, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Per Mertesacker. A busy summer indeed. But just a couple of things, John.

* How much will those four cost? More than Wenger will be willing to spend, you’d imagine.

* Somehow, some way, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott will find their way into that starting XI. Jack Wilshere is presumably on the bench. Or recovering from injury.


Stat man
Sky Sports love stats. They really, really love stats. You know how much Louis van Gaal loves substituting one of his full-backs for another after 60 minutes? Sky Sports don’t love stats quite that much, but they really love stats.

Mediawatch knows this because one of the most prominent stories on their website at around 11am on Thursday morning is ‘Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016 according to the stats’. Such a side includes Chris Smalling, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and numerous other predictable faces. Because ‘the stats’ say so, and only ‘the stats’ can reveal that the Premier League’s top two English goalscoring strikers this season should go to the European Championship. And only ‘the stats’ can tell us Dele Alli and Ross Barkley deserve their places.

But Sky Sports love stats. On March 10, they published another story, titled: ‘Who makes England’s Euro 2016 XI based on statistics?’ Just six players make both sides. Where ‘the stats’ tell us that Kyle Walker, Smalling, Phil Jagielka and Danny Rose should form Hodgson’s defence in the summer, simple ‘statistics’ told us that Charlie Daniels, Scott Dann, Craig Dawson and Simon Francis should start a fortnight ago. It’s almost as if ‘the stats’ mean little.


Sturring the pot
Neil Ashton is all sorts of giddy in The Sun on Thursday. In a two-page ‘TRANSFER EXCLUSIVE’ spread, the Chief Football Reporter discusses Daniel Sturridge, a reported target of Paris Saint-Germain.

‘Daniel Sturridge is at the crossroads of his career for club and country,’ writes Ashton. Quite. He has endured a stop-start season at Liverpool due to injury, and has not played for England since September 2014.

But things have improved for Sturridge. The 26-year-old was restricted to just three starts under previous Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers this season. Since overcoming injury issues, the England international has scored five goals in 11 games under Jurgen Klopp. According to Ashton however, his relationship with the German ‘is looking strained’. Have we missed something?

‘When Sturridge, 26, was substituted during Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat to Southampton on Sunday, the forward had a face like thunder.

‘He had been hooked three days earlier at Old Trafford in the Europa League and he was still steaming with Jurgen Klopp for taking him off. All is not well.’

‘All is not well’? A ‘strained’ relationship? Sturridge is ‘steaming’? The striker may not have been too impressed with being substituted in back-to-back games, but does any player ever leave the pitch with the brightest of smiles? Are we to believe that Sturridge and Klopp have fallen out because he was substituted a couple of times? Klopp recently described Sturridge as “a real striker”, and “in really good shape”. But ‘all is not well,’ because he removed him with 20 minutes to go in two games. Perhaps Klopp simply cannot help falling out with all of his strikers.

‘CREATE A STURR’ reads the headline. Quite.


Hedge your bets
‘Manchester United shelve Michael Carrick contract issue until they decide who next season’s manager is’ – Daily Mirror, March 23.

‘Michael Carrick in the dark over his Manchester United future as the midfielder’s contract runs down’ – Daily Mirror, March 21.

‘Manchester United keeping Michael Carrick in dark over Old Trafford future’ – Daily Mirror, February 29.

‘Manchester United eye future coaching role for Michael Carrick as part of new contract’ – Daily Mirror, February 6.

‘Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick ‘poised to quit Old Trafford’ at the end of the season’ – Daily Mirror, January 31.


Setting the Standard
Mediawatch’s favourite part about an upcoming international tournament is the bit where everyone states their favoured starting XIs. The London Evening Standard have served up a few treats.

The Standard have asked their football writers  to conjure up their England sides for the European Championship this summer. James Olley starts us off, and there are no huge surprises. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane start up front; Eric Dier and Dele Alli are in; Jack Wilshere is somewhat questionable, but Roy is rather enamoured with him.

Patrick Barclay then ramps it up a notch. He chooses Jon Flanagan, of one England cap and six appearances for club and country since May 2014, at right-back. This is because he is ‘basically fit’. Poor Kyle Walker. Jamie Vardy, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck then line up behind Harry Kane in attack. Poor Daniel Sturridge.

But it is Tony Evans who takes the plaudits. For the central defensive pairing of Gary Cahill and John Stones, and for his selection of England virgin Aaron Cresswell at left-back.

Evans also apparently dislikes Eric Dier, as although he selects the Tottenham midfielder in his starting XI, he is expecting a fair bit of work from him. In a 4-1-3-2 formation, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Daniel Sturridge and Harry Kane form an attack as imposing for England as it is daunting for the sole central midfielder behind them.

‘Dier would have to hold,’ Evans writes. Just a bit.


When The Sun goes down
Steven Howard of The Sun has joined the ‘How England should line up at Euro 2016’ bandwagon. He argues that captain Wayne Rooney should start – and he almost certainly will – due to his ‘experience’ and ‘goals’. But Mediawatch has two issues with the Chief Sports Writer’s piece.

* Is that Theo Walcott starting on the left-hand side of a 4-2-3-1?

* In describing England’s ‘talented young players’, Howard includes Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – but only ‘when fit’ – and Raheem Sterling – but only ‘when he can be bothered’. Good to see the Manchester City winger is still lazy and impetuous.


Seek and destroy
As part of a feature on ‘Manchester United reject’ Danny Drinkwater, The Sun have kindly conducted ‘Where are they now?’ research for us on Drinkwater and his then-United team-mates, or the ‘Class of 2007’. Alongside a squad picture reads the caption: ‘SunSport seeks them out.’

Is that what they’re calling Wikipedia these days?


Exclusive: ‘An item or story published or broadcast by only one source.’
‘EXCLUSIVE: David Moyes wants the Aston Vila job – even if it means working in the Championship’ – Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror.

‘EXCLUSIVE: David Moyes is ready to drop into Championship football to take over at Aston Villa this summer’ – Tony Banks of the Daily Express.


Worst headline of the day
‘GUNNER BUY..NOT BYE-BYE’ – All kinds of terrible from the Daily Mirror.


Recommended reading of the day
Michael Cox on England’s defensive midfielders.

Ed Aarons on Ousmane Dembele.

Gabriele Marcotti on Leicester, Napoli and settled line-ups.


Sending thanks to Mike Smith. If you see anything that belongs on this page, send it to, with ‘Mediawatch’ as the subject line.