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MARTIN SAMUEL: Roman Abramovich's power play has insulted a good man

24 Jan 2011 11:08:50

MARTIN SAMUEL: Roman Abramovich's power play has insulted a good man

Carlo Ancelotti, the manager of Chelsea, says he was not interested in signing Steven Pienaar. Someone at his club was, though, because Everton announced last week that they had agreed terms with Chelsea for the player. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, eventually got the deal over the line for his club, but not before casting a quizzical eye on the transfer machinations at Stamford Bridge. 'It's all very strange that they suddenly offered £3m for him,' he said. 'The manager of Chelsea, who's a lovely guy and honest as the day is long, went on television and denied they made an offer. So I don't know who did it.' Out in the cold: Carlo Ancelotti Whoever it was would surely have known Ancelotti's feelings, but did not care. Either that, or the composition of Chelsea's team is no longer the business of the manager and his views on the subject are not sincerely sought. In the end, the new age of austerity at Chelsea did for the deal more conclusively than Ancelotti could because the club would not offer an increase on Pienaar's Everton wages and the player felt more wanted - financially and professionally - by Tottenham. Pienaar was offered the chance to meet Ancelotti and his underlings, including the assistant coach that he did not appoint, Michael Emenalo, several times, but sensibly refused. What would Ancelotti have said to him at that meeting anyway? He could not have told the truth, which is that he did not feel Chelsea required a player in Pienaar's position.   More from Martin Samuel... MARTIN SAMUEL: Howzat - the way to a level playing field20/01/11 Martin Samuel: Darren Bent at £24m is mad, but more fun than common sense18/01/11 Martin Samuel: Harry Redknapp's defence at Tottenham? All out attack...16/01/11 Martin Samuel: Ollie deserves credit at Blackpool, not the bean-counters16/01/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: Palin, politics and the new lexicon of hate14/01/11 Martin Samuel: With 140 characters, will the witless twits never learn?11/01/11 Martin Samuel: Win some, lose some and Kenny will cause another crisis09/01/11 Martin Samuel: Happy and glorious, but this is only the beginning...07/01/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Would he seriously have gone along just to appease the whim of his employers? 'I didn't have a problem with the negotiations of the club,' was Ancelotti's official reaction, although he was deliberate in not calling it his deal. Increasingly, one wonders how much more Chelsea's manager will take before he calls time on his tenure. He lost control of his backroom staffwith the dismissal of Ray Wilkins and, if transfer policy is no longer within his remit, what is left? Ancelotti prepares the team, but whose team? His, or that of the mystery bidder? Had Pienaar not sensed the vibes and chosen Tottenham, Ancelotti might have been wrestling with the prospect of accommodating an unwanted player in the squad for tonight's match against Bolton Wanderers or of leaving him out and incurring the wrath of whoever bought him at Chelsea. Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, has effectively reduced Ancelotti in the eyes of his players. They could not help but lose some respect for the manager having seen the owner walk all over him, and what was once perceived to be calmness soon becomes weakness in adversity. How can he stand idly by and let this happen? Why doesn't he stand up to them? Abramovich - who is now taking a personal interest in extracting David Luiz from Benfica - has made patsies of some of the world's greatest managers, invariably to the detriment of Chelsea's fortunes. This form of owner empowerment is a growing trend in the Premier League but Abramovich still bucks it by dictating to the world's top coaches. More common is control through over-promotion. Does anyone believe Steve Kean was qualified for the job at Blackburn Rovers, or is he just the sort of guy who is delighted to be managing in the Premier League and will therefore indulge the owners a publicity stunt bid for Ronaldinho or David Beckham? David Sullivan oversees transfer policy at West Ham United, and one cannot help thinking the strongest motivation for appointing Avram Grant was his perceived malleability. If the owner wants to trade players, or have an X Factor-style audition to find India's first Premier League footballer, which is now on the agenda at Blackburn, it helps to have a manager who is not readily employable elsewhere. It is unlikely Grant or Kean would walk into another front-line Premier League job if the gig ended tomorrow - Grant's mate Abramovich might look after him at Chelsea, but he wouldn'tbe manager - and this leaves them with very little clout. Glad to be of assistance: Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean In a Seinfeld episode, The Pez Dispenser, Jerry's friend George is in rapture about his new girlfriend. 'A classical pianist. She plays the piano. She's a brilliant woman. I sat in her living room. She played the Waldstein sonata. The Waldstein, Jerry!' Yet when Seinfeld asks if everything is going good, the truth is revealed. 'No, everything is not good. I'm very uncomfortable. I have no power. I mean, why should she have the upper hand? Once in my life I would like to have the upper hand. I have no hand. No hand at all. She has the hand. I have no hand.' George fears his girlfriend is too good for him, just as the Premier League may prove too good for Grant and Kean. They have no hand at their clubs, so the owners dictate to them. Balaji Rao, one of Kean's bosses who coincidentally also runs a film and television company, has announced plans to hold trials for the best young Indian footballers, who will then be sent to Blackburn's finishing school. The aim is to have an Indian in the team by 2014. And if the manager disagrees? Something suggests he won't. If Blackburn were properly run, Sam Allardyce would still be in a job. Kean is therefore the beneficiary of astrange new regime and preposterous sagas are an occupational hazard. What is remarkable about Ancelotti's circumstances is that Chelsea are as lucky to have him as he is to have Chelsea. He does have a hand and would need it to answer the telephone pretty quickly if he finally tiredof being undermined. Abramovich's brazen approach startles. What has Ancelotti done to merit his employers negotiating for players behind his back? He won the Double in his first season and positioned Chelsea comfortably top of the league again, until meddling from above unsettled the club. He does not need this, the way that Kean and Grant do. Indeed, perhaps this is why Grant is so hotly fancied for a return to Stamford Bridge in an executive capacity; he thinks doing business this way is normal. It is not. In the case of Ancelotti, it is an affront to a good man, and a fine manager, who must read the signs and realise Chelsea is an increasingly alien place to be. Coincidentally, this is pretty much what Pienaar thought, too.  Gerard Houllier, manager of Aston Villa, thinks Steve Bruce has it in for him because he is French. Maybe Bruce has some deep-seated xenophobic issues that need to be explored. Hardly. We can all spot the flaw in that argument. Houllier (right) has always been French. He wasn't suddenly taken Gallic last week. So if Bruce's beef was with French, or foreign managers in general, he would have been sounding off about Houllier long ago. All that changed in their relationship was that Houllier nicked Bruce's most prolific goalscorer at Sunderland, Darren Bent, in controversial circumstances. Hey presto, another mystery solved. Amateur psychologists can stand down. It looks like we've cracked it.  Britain's handball ego tripGreat Britain has decided to take up more space at the London Olympics, this time in the handball event. There are only 12 countries allowed to participate in each competition for men and women, and Britain has elected to exercise its right to a place as hosts. How preposterous is this? Well, on the website of the International Handball Federation, the world rankings are published, from one to 47 for men, one to 44 for women and one to 69 overall, including youth and junior teams and beach handball events. It is a fairly comprehensive list. Germany are top overall with 1,356 points, Uzbekistan and Cameroon bring up the rear with one point. Greenland make 59th place overall, 41st for men and 42nd for women. Hands on the prize: (From left to right) British Handball Performance Director Lorraine Brown, Bobby White of Great Britain Men's Handball Team, BOA Chief Executive and Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt, Great Britain Women's Handball Team member Dani Sposi, and British Handball CEO Paul Goodwin pose together The British teams that will compete in 2012 do not feature in any table. Indeed, the 2011 IHF Men's World Championships are taking place in Sweden this month, with 24 countries represented, and Great Britain is not there. Why should they be? We do not play handball to any recognised level in this country. Indeed, there was not even a British handball team from 1984 to 2008, until it was reformed as part of a spurious ambition to be represented in every Olympic sport. Since then, 23 matches have been played and three won, two friendly fixtures against Muscat and Belgium and a European Championship dead rubber with Bulgaria. Even this meagre record is little short of miraculous, but barely deserving of one of 12 precious Olympic places. From Canada's desire to Own The Podium to Great Britain's intention to get in the way of it, there is something rather odious in the self-aggrandisement of Olympic hosts. It may be fun to wave our little flags in support of a doomed British team at the new Handball Arena in Stratford, but in doing so we forget there are serious athletes who have dedicated their lives to this sport and will miss out so we can be granted our ego trip. This may be the way it has always been, but it does not make it right.  AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT...Here we go again. Amir Khan's potential opponents for a fourth defence of his WBA light-welterweight title are treating him like a cash cow, according to Asif Ali, the business manager of Khan (right). Nobody wants to cut a bad deal but, in the wake of David Haye's failure to make a match with either Klitschko brother, the public are growing increasingly tired of bickering taking place where a fight should be.  Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, an Icelandic former discus thrower, has been advising prospective coaches at UK Athletics seminars. Hafsteinsson served a two-year ban after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone, and drug cheats are supposedly banned from coaching by UKA. Hafsteinsson is allowed, however, because, according to UKA, he is 'distilling technical expertise' and was used only in 'a technical capacity'. So not like coaching at all, then. Translation: he may be a cheat, but he's our cheat now.  United drawbackHow predictable that Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, should be churlish about the possibility of Manchester United lasting the season unbeaten. Sir Alex Ferguson (right), his counterpart at Old Trafford, has often been similarly grudging about Arsenal's famous invincible season in 2003-04. 'Too many draws,' he would sniff, according to one correspondent. So, for the record, after 22 games in 2003-04, Arsenal had won two more games than United have this season, earning four more points, but scoring fewer goals. Their away form was better, too, winning seven games compared to Manchester United's two, but they had drawn two of 10 matches at home, compared to United's one draw in 12. Ferguson's problem away this season is the real irony. Too many draws, as he might say, eight of the 10 games played. This is as many as Arsenal in their entire unbeaten campaign. So Arsenal are shading it at the minute but, have no doubt, this is an argument with legs.  Joe Hart is having a difficult time, as can happen with young keepers. During the World Cup, after Robert Green's mistake, a common contention was that Fabio Capello, the England manager, should have chanced Hart (below) sooner. Had this present dip in form occurred in South Africa, however, it could have ruined him as surely as the debacle against Croatia did Scott Carson. Capello rightly protected Hart. Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, may one day have a judgment call to make, too.  Remember the five-way title race? That didn't last long. Manchester United are 10 points clear of Chelsea in fourth place, and will go 13 clear of Tottenham on the same number of games played if they win at Blackpool on Tuesday. Arsenal are two points adrift in second place, but United have the game at Bloomfield Road in hand, so could go five points clear and six points ahead of Manchester City (and would still have another game in hand, as City have played 24 matches). Brian Kidd, City's assistant manager, is right. It is United's title to lose and has been for some time.  Kevin Davies is worried his new image as a charity fund-raiser is affecting his game. 'I've got to make sure I'm not going too soft,' says the Bolton striker (right). 'I haven't been booked in a while.' He has also scored one league goal since November 20. It says everything about English football that he frets more about an absence of yellow cards.  Padraig Harrington, disqualified in Abu Dhabi last week for an infringement that could only be identified with the aid of repeated slow motion television replays, is not a cheat, and golf's rules are exceptionally harsh. But, although there is a middle ground to be explored, better a sport with too much regard for fair play than one with too little. Harsh: Padraig Harrington makes his point after being disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship  It is two weeks since Gunter Hirsch, a German legal scholar and former president of the Federal Court of Justice for Germany, resigned from FIFA 's ethics commission in protest at the lack of interest in tackling corruption issues. So Lord Triesman, who milked England's failed World Cup bid for all it was worth by announcing he would co-operate with any investigation into corruption, may have to do what any true whistle-blower would and bravely go it alone with his revelations. (Sound of wind blowing as tumbleweed drifts across the stage.)  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Robert Green, David Beckham, David Haye, Sam Allardyce, Gerard Houllier, David Sullivan, Padraig Harrington, Roberto Mancini, Kevin Davies, Brian Kidd, Steve Bruce, Fabio Capello, Harry Redknapp, Amir Khan, Arsene Wenger, Darren Bent, Joe Hart, Roman Abramovich, Carlo Ancelotti Places: Canada, Germany, Croatia, Cameroon, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Belgium


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