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Jun 19, 2009

Ronaldo splits Spain, Villa decides future

This was the week in which Inter Milan got into the spirit of 'Silly Season' and slapped a £77m price on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michael Owen made a brochure to market himself, Cristiano Ronaldo split Spain in two and Europe's most wanted man, David Villa, made a decision about his future.

Record Ronaldo deal splits Spain - Friday, 12 June

Friday's editions of the Spanish press were torn asunder by news of Real Madrid's world record £80m bid for Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo. The Madridista media claimed the deal was "the signing of the century" while the Catalan correspondents blasted it as "the most scandalous signing in the history of football".

Madrid mouthpiece Marca proudly proclaimed the £136m splurge on Kaka and Ronaldo as great business and the prospect of seeing the duo at the Santiago Bernabeu meant that "Real Madrid win, football wins, we all win!"

Over in Barcelona territory the reaction to Florentino Perez's recruitment policy was at the opposite end of the scale. With over four million Spaniards unemployed Sport took the moral high-ground, claiming the amount lavished by Madrid was "an immoral and shameful sum" and "a bad example in these times of crisis".

Perhaps most interesting of all was the reaction English satellite channel Sky Sports received when they vox-popped random fans in Madrid and couldn't find a single one who was 100% behind the deals. The biggest complaint was that the transfer fees were far too high. Having just signed two of the best players in the world it seems they are a tough crowd to please, but maybe another £80m spent on Franck Ribery and David Villa will cheer them up.

Masked men invade Australia - Saturday, 13 June

Thirty masked men disembarked at Melbourne airport on Saturday determined to do a job on Australia. But as sinister as that may sound the men were in fact the Japanese national team and the masks a precaution against 'swine flu' ahead of their Group One World Cup qualifier against the Socceroos.

With both countries already qualified for South Africa 2010 a sharp rise of H1N1 flu cases in the country was uppermost in the visitor's minds before the match. Australian media reported more than 130 new cases of the virus last weekend and the flu had already caused disruptions to Australia's sporting calendar with a swimming meeting, also in Melbourne, cancelled last week.

Passengers arriving at Australian airports have been subjected to thermal scanning and issued with hygiene warnings and all of the Japan players and coaching staff wore face masks upon arrival, but removed them after leaving the airport.

Maybe they should have kept them on for their attempted smash and grab raid at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as despite going a goal up they eventually lost 2-1 to finish second in the group.

Owen advertises for new club - Sunday, 14 June

Michael Owen is so desperate to quit relegated Newcastle United that his management company took the unusual step of advertising their client in a brochure and circulating it to the top-flight clubs the striker deems worthy of his services.

Aston Villa and Everton have both been linked with a swoop for the 29-year-old, whose current contract with the Magpies expires this summer, but as yet no club has taken up the option to sign the former England international.

With interest seemingly dwindling, Owen's advisers at Wasserman Media Group have produced a 34-page document that defends their client's injury record as well as highlighting his goalscoring feats and marketability.

Despite the brochure, Owen is still searching for a new employer and the former Real Madrid striker may have to lower his standards, not to mention his current wages of £110,000-a-week, if he wants to play in the Premier League next season.

Inter slap £77m price on Ibrahimovic - Monday, 15 June

The summer transfer window is nicknamed Silly Season for a very good reason and on Monday Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti really got into the mood of proceedings when he slapped a £77m price tag on want-away striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic, who has been slow to commit his future to the Nerazzurri, may have only one year left on his contract but Moratti wants his slice of the mega-deal pie that has already served up a £56m Kaka payday for city rivals AC Milan, a world record transfer of £80m for Cristiano Ronaldo and has pushed up the price of many other players.

Moratti said: "If it is true that Bayern Munich have placed a €70m (£77m) tag on Ribery, then I will need to ask a minimum of €90m (for Ibrahimovic)."

It was Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness who started this whole price comparison nonsense when he slapped a £126m tag on Ribery, in light of Manchester City's unsuccessful £100m offer to Milan for Kaka in January, saying: "If Kaka is meant to be worth €120m (£100m), then Franck Ribery is worth €150m (£126m)."

But if it has got to the stage that Zlatan "choke on the big stage" Ibrahimovic is worth £77m then Silly Season really is upon us.

City chief: We won't pay over the odds - Tuesday, 16 June

"I'm frustrated with people assuming we are going to throw crazy money at deals, that we won't understand true values and we can't negotiate or get value for a player. We've had numbers thrown at us that are a joke."

Those are the unconvincing words of Manchester City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak as he attempted to fool the market that City would not spend silly money when owner Sheikh Mansour attempts to buy "four to six players" this summer to "set the tone very clearly" for the club's pursuit of silverware.

But a quick glance at the books seems to contradict al-Mubarak. Since the Abu Dhabi United Group took control of City in August the club have spent around £100m; on signings that include £32.5m for Robinho, £14m for Craig Bellamy, £17m on Nigel De Jong - when he could have been signed for £2.3m four months later - and let's not forget January's unsuccessful £100m bid for Kaka.

But with Real Madrid having pushed prices through the roof thanks to the £52m capture of Kaka and a world record bid of £80m for Ronaldo, money-bags City, whose owner's family fortune is estimated at $1trillion (£555billion), are eager to keep a lid on transfer fees.

Villa makes decision on future - Wednesday, 16 June

Spain international David Villa might be in South Africa representing his country at the Confederations Cup, but nobody is interested in that. What everybody wants to know is will the Valencia striker be playing for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea next season?

Persistent hacks once again questioned the 27-year-old striker about his future following Spain's 1-0 win over Iraq in Bloemfontein on Wednesday and he revealed he had made a decision... but neglected to tell us the destination.

"I have made my decision," Villa said. "My agent knows my wishes, and he is now working on that. I really do not have any more details as this whole thing is not totally dependent on me."

But there were a couple of big hints as to where the £40m striker might end up. Firstly, he was filmed signing a Real Madrid shirt for a TV station, and secondly, Real President Florentino Perez said: "David Villa's move [to Real Madrid] is just a matter of time."

Cissokho's Milan deal grinds to a halt - Thursday 18 June

We recently reported how Chelsea winger Flourent Malouda put his excellent end of season from down to a quick trip to the dentist and how Robin Van Persie was hoping to end his injury nightmare by getting his teeth fixed; now AC Milan target Aly Cissokho has fallen foul of the curse of the gnashers.

The Porto left-back's £12.8m transfer has been called off by the Rossoneri after the club doctor stumbled across a dental problem during his medical.

AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said: "Our doctors found some problems with his teeth which cause muscular trouble, which he has and which could deteriorate."

Milan were unwilling to meet Porto's original demands following the failed medical and the Portuguese club have refused to drop the price.

So, the moral of the story appears to be if you want a mega-bucks deal then move to Serie A, don't forget to brush your teeth morning and night and visit your dentist regularly.

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