MARTIN SAMUEL: It’s money first, glory second for the US owners circling Chelsea

There was a reason Chelsea and Manchester City were the last to be asked to join the doomed Super League project.

They were different to the rest of the scheming elite. Yes, by the end they were all in it together but the Super League’s architects needed to make it clear to Chelsea and City that they were going to be left behind before they could be strong-armed into joining.

It is less than 24 hours before news of the breakaway leaks in Italy that Bruce Buck calls Ferran Soriano, City’s chief executive officer, and tells him Chelsea are in. Chelsea and City are accomplices but not the plan’s driving force. That’s why they were first to cave when it fell apart.

Many of the investors interested in buying Chelsea are American venture capitalists

Many of the investors interested in buying Chelsea are American venture capitalists

Todd Boehly is one of the candidates to buy Chelsea

Joe Ricketts is also in contention to buy the club

Todd Boehly (L), who owns 20 per cent of LA Dodgers and Joe Ricketts (R), whose family own the Chicago Cubs, are among the bidders for Chelsea

It is likely to be very difficult for Chelsea to find another owner like Roman Abramovich

It is likely to be very difficult for Chelsea to find another owner like Roman Abramovich

Those in contention to buy Chelsea are of a similar ilk to Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke (left)

It is also a similar situation to the Glazer family at Manchester United

Those in contention to buy Chelsea are of a similar ilk to Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke (left) and the Glazer family at Manchester United (Joel Glazer pictured right)

What made them different? Well, the Super League was all about making a fortune out of football and that’s not why the owners of the blue clubs got involved. As we now know, Roman Abramovich would have been considerably richer had he never gone near Stamford Bridge and the same applies to Sheik Mansour in Manchester.

That does not mean they run their clubs like bottomless pits. Neither wants to be taken for a mug. Deloitte now claim Manchester City are the richest club in the world, bigger than Barcelona, while Chelsea have introduced youth production revenue schemes and sell players to balance the books.

Yet there remains a fundamental difference between Chelsea and Manchester City and the red clubs that were first to respond to the Super League’s siren call. So, Thomas Tuchel, good luck. Good luck finding an owner like Abramovich from the list of bidders when the club is sold.

American venture capitalists. That is who are circling Chelsea now. The type of investors that bought into Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Tuchel said last week that he hoped Chelsea’s new owners would be in it for the glory, not the money, but he may be disappointed. The consistent thread tying the Super League agitators in this country was American ownership.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are failing financially, and desperately tried to break the stranglehold of the Premier League. We know what was in it for them.

But Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool were in positions of huge economic strength with no need to feel dissatisfied. All they wanted was more.

Thomas Tuchel wants owners who are focused purely on winning but that may not be the case

Thomas Tuchel wants owners who are focused purely on winning but that may not be the case

‘If somebody buys a club for this amount of money then it’s about challenging on the highest kind of level, then it’s about trophies, then it’s about winning and being the best you can,’ Tuchel reasoned.

‘It’s not about developing a project, or making money with the club. That’s what I hope.’ And hope springs eternal. Yet jostling for position around Chelsea are men who have already invested heavily in Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams.

They are across NFL, baseball, basketball, no different to the Fenway Sports Group, the Glazers or the Kroenke family. They are in it for the money.

Sure, the glory, too, but mainly because that is where the money is. Manchester City wouldn’t be Deloitte’s top anything if Manchester United got their act together.

And there is a reason Stan Kroenke had no intention of selling Arsenal to Alisher Usmanov or, more lately, Daniel Ek. Even without the biggest trophies, there is still enormous value in owning Arsenal.

So, yes, whoever wins the Chelsea auction will not be content with mid-table. But the days when the owner was less interested in the balance sheet than the trophy cabinet are done.

TONY MARTIAL FLOPS AGAIN…

Anthony Martial returned briefly to English football and was largely anonymous as Europa League specialists Sevilla were eliminated by West Ham. He has scored one goal since arriving on loan from Manchester United, against Dinamo Zagreb. He is yet to score in La Liga.

His final year at OId Trafford was similarly underwhelming. One goal since February 2, 2021 — and he played his last game for them almost a year later, January 22, 2022. ‘Tony Martial scores again,’ the fans sang. They didn’t mention it would probably be next year.

Despite this, Martial is demanding playing time at Manchester United if he is to return from Spain. Yet he got playing time. Although he was a substitute on 72 occasions, he featured in 269 games for United but scored only 79 goals and just 56 in the league. For all his potential it was a disappointing return, and leaves him in no position to make threats.

Anthony Martial's display v West Ham suggests he can't demand game time at Man  United

Anthony Martial’s display v West Ham suggests he can’t demand game time at Man  United

PREMIER LEAGUE MUST SHOW THE WILL TO GOVERN 

If Everton have already struck a deal with the Premier League to avoid sanctions over breaches of spending rules, it confirms that the governing body see themselves as facilitators, not regulators. Football is right to resist outside political influence but must first show the will to govern. 

WILL IT TAKE A NATIONAL DISASTER TO DROP HARRY MAGUIRE? 

Gareth Southgate said it was a straightforward decision to drop Marcus Rashford for England’s upcoming friendly matches and anyone who has seen his recent performances for Manchester United would not argue. 

Southgate picks on form, we know that. Rashford is not the first player to be excluded after a fall in standards and won’t be the last. Yet how is that consistent with Harry Maguire’s place in the team? He looks short of confidence, he is making mistakes, United are fragile with him at the heart of defence. Yet Maguire is a guaranteed selection. 

Southgate may counter that Maguire hasn’t let England down but he makes that argument about Jordan Pickford, too, and it isn’t strictly true. Both Maguire, and Pickford, have made mistakes in an England shirt, and Maguire’s for Manchester United of late have been glaring. 

Does he have to wait to transfer that form to a major international before Southgate makes the call? It seems strangely illogical for such a pragmatic coach. 

Gareth Southgate's decision to continue to select Harry Maguire for England is illogical

Gareth Southgate’s decision to continue to select Harry Maguire for England is illogical

STAYING POWER IS KEY FOR A GREAT TEST BOWLER 

Arguably the most under-rated quality in the greatest athletes is fitness. Not the ability to get around the field of play, although that obviously matters as England women’s cricket team have found out, but the ability to stay injury-free.

Part of what made Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic great was their ability to avoid the sheer physical toll tennis takes on the body. Cristiano Ronaldo has been able to score more than 800 goals because he is almost always available.

Some may argue Phil Neal wasn’t a great player but between October 23, 1976 and September 24, 1983, he did not miss a single Liverpool game in any competition: a run of 417 consecutive matches. He then sat out three due to injury, and did another 127 in a row. And you don’t get nicknamed Zico by your team-mates unless you can play.

So, as much as their brilliant seam bowling, if this is the end for the James Anderson-Stuart Broad partnership, what England will miss is their simple availability. England have tried to go in a different direction in the Caribbean and it isn’t working. Ignore for the moment that they are not bowling teams out — six wickets short on the final day in Antigua, unable to make a first innings declaration of 507 for nine count in Barbados — the wider problem is fitness.

Stuart Broad (L) and James Anderson (R) impressed with both their bowling and availability

Stuart Broad (L) and James Anderson (R) impressed with both their bowling and availability

Ollie Robinson’s is impacted by a lack of athleticism and we are yet to see him bowl on this tour. Mark Wood, who has been hampered by injury throughout his career, has flown home having broken down midway through the first Test. Who knows when we will see Jofra Archer in Tests again?

This has put great pressure on an inexperienced bowling line-up, spearheaded by Chris Woakes, who is notoriously ineffectual outside England.

A series of captains have taken for granted that the ball can be casually tossed to Broad or Anderson, and they will be fit and ready to bowl. It may not have made much difference on these flat wickets but it is part of athletic greatness, the bedrock from which the best talent can be launched.

GOALKEEPERS MUST NOT BE ABOVE LAW 

Raul Jimenez’s dismissal for a foul on Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier exposed the inconsistency of the decision not to punish Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez a week earlier.

Sanchez cleaned out Liverpool’s Luis Diaz, high and reckless, and was not even booked. Stuart Attwell, the VAR, looked at the replay and didn’t recommend review. Everyone agreed that anywhere else on the pitch and he would have been off. Wolves striker Jimenez went for a legitimate 50-50 and caught Meslier, who was injured. Referee Kevin Friend had no hesitation in issuing a second yellow card.

And whether we agree or not, we understand. Goalkeepers are required to go into some tackles head first. They need our protection.

But that does not afford them a free pass. What Sanchez did could have caused Diaz serious injury. He didn’t connect with his head, but that was luck, not judgment. Neither decision seemed to be made with any feeling for the game.

Raul Jimenez's red card for a challenge on Ilan Meslier shows the inconsistency of refereeing

Raul Jimenez’s red card for a challenge on Ilan Meslier shows the inconsistency of refereeing

Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez should have been punished for his challenge on Luis Diaz

Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez should have been punished for his challenge on Luis Diaz

FANS WHO THREW MISSILES AT SIMEONE SHOULD BE PUNISHED

Manchester United say they are investigating the missiles thrown at Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone and the match officials after last week’s Champions League exit, but what does it matter when the punishment is a pitiful three-year ban? 

Fortunately, the fans’ aim was about as good as that of their team on the night, but that’s it? Three years? On current form it might take United that long just to get back into the tournament.

There should be no second chances for behaviour that could leave a player, coach or official seriously injured. Courts are often too lenient on football-related offences, but if clubs are not prepared to issue life bans, then it is up to UEFA to make sanctions stronger.

WHEN WILL RAIL FIRMS STOP TREATING FANS WITH CONTEMPT? 

The International Energy Agency watchdog has come up with a plan to reduce the global demand for oil. Among the proposals — car-free Sundays in major cities. And if you are a supporter of Liverpool, whose match with Nottingham Forest this weekend was moved to a kick-off time with no prospect of public transport home if it went beyond 90 minutes? Cycle? Pogo stick? And it wasn’t the exception. There are hundreds of games like this each season. Fixtures in which the only way in or out is by road. Middlesbrough versus Chelsea on Saturday was another. 

As for Crystal Palace versus Everton, that had the opposite problem. Away fans couldn’t make the early kick-off if using public transport. In the remaining FA Cup tie, the train from Southampton for Manchester City fans was due back at 1am, Monday. Just one weekend, just four games. 

Fans who attend FA Cup ties are being treated with contempt by the transport authorities

Fans who attend FA Cup ties are being treated with contempt by the transport authorities

So when Liverpool and Manchester City were drawn to play in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, we waited to see what time kick-off would be and whether anyone could get a train home after extra time, penalties and a 20-minute delay because some spotty berk had tied themselves to a goal post. 

And the transport authorities excelled themselves: no trains at all between the North West and London that entire weekend. ‘While the major works are necessary, any delays to your journey needn’t be, just by planning ahead,’ says the Network Rail statement. How can fans plan ahead? Three nights in London? The only option is to drive, whether by car or coach. How dare they treat people with such contempt?

This is a mass transit system and the FA Cup semi-finals were always likely to be the events necessitating the biggest movement of people that weekend. And this is what they do? We don’t need to be free of cars. We need to be free of this lot. 

MERYL PERIL FOR MAURICIO POCHETTINO 

Meryl Streep once tried out for the damsel in distress role in Dino De Laurentiis’ 1976 remake of King Kong. As she walked in, the producer said to his son, in Italian: ‘She’s too ugly.’ 

Her voice dripping with sarcasm, Streep apologised, also in perfect Italian, for not being beautiful enough to romantically entice a 30ft gorilla. 

And that may have gone down as the worst audition ever, until Mauricio Pochettino took Paris Saint-Germain to play away at Nantes, Nice, Real Madrid and Monaco, just at the time Manchester United stepped up their search for a new manager. Four straight away defeats later… 

PSG's form could affect Mauricio Pochettino's chances of getting the Manchester United job

PSG’s form could affect Mauricio Pochettino’s chances of getting the Manchester United job

UFC TREADS FINE LINE

UFC is here now, it is huge, and will only get bigger. Even so, it is hard to reconcile the wheeling elbow knockout delivered by Molly McCann on Luana Carolina at the O2 on Saturday, with what we know about head injuries. 

Not least because, if the referee had not stepped in, she would have been perfectly entitled to leap on her instantly unconscious opponent and inflict further damage.

We can admire the speed and technique, but the blow itself — quite legal — looked potentially lethal. Maybe one day it will be. It certainly isn’t a comfortable watch.

MERCEDES DESERVE CREDIT FOR COPING WITH CONDITIONS

George Russell says the bouncing the Mercedes cars are experiencing in Formula One at the moment is like driving in bad airplane turbulence. If so, then their third and fourth-place finishes in Bahrain are an even greater achievement than imagined.

I’m trying to write this on a very bumpy flight back to London and can only say alifdhzcx3Q kudSI2eeeeeeeeeee. 

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