What The Papers Say - 11 August
A round-up of the day's paper talk.
The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
PHIL Neville believes Malaga are the perfect opponents to help Everton FC fine-tune for their high-profile Premier League opener against Manchester United.
The Blues skipper insists that tonight’s final summer friendly against the Spanish Champions League hopefuls will provide the step-up in pedigree that David Moyes’ players need to ensure they hit the ground running on August 20.
Everton take on a club which finished fourth in La Liga last season, although the Andalucians have been plunged into turmoil after their owner Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family, announced he was no longer willing to bank-roll them.
Nevertheless, Malaga have several quality internationals, despite the sales of Santi Cazorla and Jose Rondon, and Neville is confident they will test Everton’s preparedness.
He said: “We had more energy against AEK Athens and you could see that in our play but Malaga will provide the opposition we really need.
“We played Blackpool last Sunday and got beat and it was pretty flat. We’d had a hard week beforehand, we trained pretty hard and we had a practice game indoors so we got a lot of fitness last week.
“I think Malaga is going to be a big step up in levels of competition. We need a good test now going into the season. We’ve played some decent teams but a sterner test away from home where we’re going to have to concentrate, will stand us in good stead for the United game.
Tony Hibbert, who celebrated his testimonial on Wednesday night by scoring during the 4-1 win over AEK, thinks Moyes will keep everyone guessing about his starting line-up to face United.
“We have still got one more game before Man United and some of the lads still need to get a game under the belts,” he said. “We are still working on our sharpness but I think we are getting closer.
“I don't think the manager will play his starting line-up against Malaga, it'll be trying to get the fitness up to a proper Premier League standard. Malaga will give us a chance to do that.”
Roy Hodgson has selected several uncapped players in the squad, as the Three Lions boss opts to rest his established senior players after Euro 2012.
Jagielka has not featured in Everton's last two friendlies having been rested as a precaution while he nurses a ham-string complaint, but is expected to feature against Malaga tonight.
Steven Naismith has also been called up to the Scotland squad for their game against Australia
The 24-year-old came off early against AEK Athens in the week, and is reported to have torn a thigh muscle.
His place in the Ireland squad will be taken by Wes Hoolahan.
IN FOOTBALL as in life, there’s normally somebody worse off than you. While Everton supporters understandably bemoan their club’s financial circumstances by comparison to the Premier League’s free-spending big-guns, maybe they should spare a thought for tonight’s opponents Malaga.
The Andalucians thought they were living the dream with mega wealthy Qatari owners, only to have the rug pulled violently from under their feet.
While Evertonians are hoping David Moyes can reach the end of the summer transfer window without feeling it necessary to sell one of his key players, that is the least of Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini’s problems.
Two years ago, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family, purchased Malaga from the former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz for 36 million euros.
Since then, Al-Thani invested almost 80m euros in the club, which has been spent on a host of exciting new players, improved infrastructure, and developing a youth academy.
The club nicknamed Los Boquerones (the Anchovies) were ready to join Manchester City and Paris St Germain in the quest to dominate European football awash with new money. Ahead of schedule with their five-year-plan they finished fourth in La Liga last season, and face a Champions League qualifier against Greek side Panathinaikos in two weeks.
But then things went wrong. Badly.
Last month, Al-Thani decided he’d had enough. Reportedly fed-up of the uneven distribution of TV revenue in La Liga, and criticism from the Spanish media he announced he wanted to sell his majority share holding and was no longer willing to bank-roll the club.
He even used his Twitter page to rant about the situation, but has refused to formally confirm why he wants to walk away.
Since then, prized winger Santi Cazorla has been ruthlessly flogged to Arsenal and highly-rated striker Jose Rondon has joined Rubin Kazan, as the club desperately tried to deal with unpaid wages and outstanding debts.
North-West Businessman Christian Machowski works with professional football clubs for their European training camps, and during his continental travels he has developed a huge soft spot for Malaga.
Christian has a season ticket at Malaga’s La Rosaleda stadium, and believes that Everton will get a stern test tonight, even if they face a club in turmoil.
“Pellegrini has a lot to contend with at the moment, of course, but most of all he will be thinking about the Champions League qualifier with Panathinaikos,” says Christian.
“The Everton game will be viewed as a chance to get his players in the right shape and frame of mind for such a big test, in the same way that David Moyes will be hoping it helps his squad to face Manchester United.
“It’ll be difficult for him because he has some players who have not received their wages, but if he decides to stay the players might do likewise. He is very well respected.”
Pellegrini will be a familiar face to Evertonians for an unwelcome reason. The Chilean was in charge at Villarreal when they knocked the Blues out of the Champions League qualifying stage in 2005.
This time around, he faces an uncertain future himself. “Teams, players and whatever else the future holds will be decided at the right moment, but now isn’t the time,” he said at a press conference yesterday.
“The coaching team and the players are all completely focused on the Champions play-offs, and with the support of our fans we’re excited about qualifying and looking ahead. My intention has always been to stay at Málaga, I’m very happy here. Whilst all the problems are being sorted out, I will of course remain here.
“The team’s performance has been amazing during the pre-season. Despite everything that’s been happening here, the players were very impressive in Venezuela, and also most recently in Greece.
“Restructuring a team just days before the start of the League season and Champions play-offs, shows the level of team spirit and top quality game play throughout the squad.”
Whatever happens once the two clubs’ paths have crossed tonight, Christian thinks Malaga fans will be as philosophical as Evertonians in times of adversity.
“It’s been a very harsh episode for Malaga and shows how these takeovers can go wrong very quickly if the new owners walk away. It can leave a lot of problems behind.
“But the main thing for Malaga is that they were poor beforehand, and the club is simply going back to where it came from.
“Like Everton they have a very loyal fan base. The club has 20,000 season ticket holders which represents a very strong support base in Spain. Even without Al-Thani’s cash, life goes on.”
EVERTON midfielder Darron Gibson has been forced to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad for next week’s friendly in Serbia through injury.