Why the transfer market is like a brothel...
Bricks and brothels
The football transfer market is like a brothel: no man can enter it and emerge with his reputation for probity intact.
So Arsenal, who have often threatened to report Real Madrid for trying to pilfer players, hope to sign Andrei Arshavin, a player who during Euro 2008, completely unprompted by a journalist, waxed lyrical about his desire to play for Barcelona and is now quoted as saying that if this transfer falls through he will remain a Zenit St Petersburg player only Ã¢ÂÂon paper.Ã¢ÂÂ
Arshavin would be a brave move given that Russian players have hitherto had about as much impact on English football as Liechtenstein on the development of naval warfare.
Arshavin: Aiming to break mould of rusty Russians in England
If Arsene Wenger is desperate to sign a Russian, he might find CSKA MoscowÃ¢ÂÂs 18-year-old playmaker Alan Dzagoev better value. Those hard to impress folks at Gazzetta Dello Sport say Dzagoev, RussiaÃ¢ÂÂs Young Player of the Year in 2008, could be even greater than Arshavin and heÃ¢ÂÂs young enough to be moulded by the Arsenal boss.
The Kaka/Manchester City stuff makes me want to put a brick through the transfer window. The January transfer window ought to be sponsored by the football media. It cushions their return from the festive season. They can fill any yawning space with idle speculation of the Ã¢ÂÂVilla grab BergkampÃ¢ÂÂ variety Ã¢ÂÂ a Daily Mirror scoop from the glory days of 1995.
Eastern (lack of) promise
Gornik Zabrze, Ujpesti Dozsa, Spartak TrnavaÃ¢ÂÂ¦ where, to quote the blonde in the defunct Australian tourism ad, the bloody hell are you?
No eastern European team from outside Russia has reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League since 2003/04 when Sparta Prague lost to Milan. Last season, there were no Bulgarian or Hungarian players in the tournament at all.
Dzagoev: "Arsene, up here... pick me"
There were 10 Poles but no Polish clubs Ã¢ÂÂ the last representatives from the footballing nation that gave us Lubanski, Lato and Deyna to grace the group stages were Widzdw Lodz in 1996/97. Wisla Krakow, who have won the Polish league five times already this century, have come closest since: in 2005/06 they beat Pana 3-1 at home but lost 4-1 in Athens in the third qualifier.
PolandÃ¢ÂÂs economic resurgence Ã¢ÂÂ and the patronage of telecoms billionaire Boguslaw Cupial, who has backed Wisla Ã¢ÂÂ has not yet been reflected in the Champions League.
One club from the other side of the former Iron Curtain I expect to challenge in the Champions League is Dinamo Zagreb.
The Blues have a productive youth system and a sensible transfer policy. Adrian Caiello, the 22-year-old Argentinian holding midfielder who was in InterÃ¢ÂÂs sights, is a good acquisition and Miroslav Slepicka, the striker just arrived from Sparta Prague, looks a decent bet. The fees arenÃ¢ÂÂt outlandish and the deals donÃ¢ÂÂt hog headlines but Dinamo Zagreb are making progress.
Miroslav Slepicka: "My ball, give it to me, it's mine..."
Their UEFA Cup campaign peaked too early with a win over NEC but theyÃ¢ÂÂll be back. It would help if they had some better luck in the Champions league qualifiers. In four seasons, they have had to face Arsenal, Dynamo Kyiv, Milan and Werder Bremen.
All they need now is some continuity on the bench: former goalkeeper Marijan Vlak is their fourth coach in 2008.
Incidentally Gornik Zabrze are bottom of the Polish Ekstraklasa, Ujpest are second in the Hungarian top flight and Spartak Trnava are third in the Slovak Superliga.
The best Brazilian footballer that Peter Gabriel very nearly wrote a song about (all together nowÃ¢ÂÂ¦ Ã¢ÂÂZico, oh oh ZicoÃ¢ÂÂ) has left Bunyodkor, the most famous team in Uzbekistan, after just two months to replace Valeriy Gazzaev at CSKA Moscow.
The clubÃ¢ÂÂs owner, oil millionaire Isok Akbarov, still has one Brazilian legend Ã¢ÂÂ Rivaldo Ã¢ÂÂ on his books and his team are still unbeaten in Ã¢ÂÂ and top of Ã¢ÂÂ the Uzbeki league. But talk of persuading Johan Cruyff to give up his role as the footballing conscience of Barcelona to manage Rivaldo and chums seems a tad ambitious.
As football effects go, is the Ã¢ÂÂJuande Ramos effectÃ¢ÂÂ now more powerful than Ã¢ÂÂthe Harry Redknapp effectÃ¢ÂÂ?