Soccer: Overpaid strikers fail to deliver the goods

Chelsea's Fernando Torres is the biggest turkey, suffering the most dramatic fall from footballing favour. Picture/ AP
Chelsea's Fernando Torres is the biggest turkey, suffering the most dramatic fall from footballing favour. Picture/ AP

He [Carlos Tevez ] is the fans' favourite in the same way that Sid Vicious was the punks' favourite. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his wallet in his heart. The word is Chelsea are set to cut their losses on El Nino (who is such a pale version of his old self, his nickname should be updated to Al Bino) but, similar to American bankers circa 2008, they are desperate not to be seen as desperate. Never mind the Year of the Rabbit, 2011 has been the Year of the Turkey. Or to use its official term, the Year of the Flop Superstar Striker. We have not experienced a 12-month period in which so much faith and finance was invested in men, only for them to spend most of their time on benches doing sod all. Well, not since the last General Election anyway.

Conduct an audit around our soccer citadels and tot up the waste - and grip on tight as it hurtles past the £150 million ($304 million) mark. Naturally, the circumstances differ from case to case, although these go-backwards forwards seem to fall into three categories.

The strikers who aren't as good as we think they are; the strikers who aren't as good as they think they are; the strikers who aren't as bad as their managers think they are.

Fernando Torres leads the way with such celebrity, just as he has led the line with such infamy. The word is Chelsea are set to cut their losses on El Nino (who is such a pale version of his old self, his nickname should be updated to Al Bino) but, similar to American bankers circa 2008, they are desperate not to be seen as desperate. "Twenty five million won't buy him," says my Stamford Bridge mole. And guess what? I'm one of them.

Has there ever been such a drastic fall from footballing favour, from being the marksman the pub-bore has salivated over to becoming the marksman the pub-bore has regurgitated over? Erm, yes.

Remember Ronaldinho? Now back in Brazil at Flamengo, the twice World Player of the Year was not picked in the 30-man squad for South Africa 2010, and Mario Zagallo, a Jules Rimet legend as both player and coach, doesn't believe he should make the next World Cup either. "He doesn't have the organic conditions," said the 80-year-old. And he wasn't referring to Ronaldinho's tomatoes.

The transfer columns have Ronaldinho joining Paris St-Germain alongside David Beckham. Madame Tussauds must be tempted to put out a select XI to take on PSG, if only on the grounds of pace, movement and the ability to melt in the heat. Maybe PSG should sign Dimitar Berbatov as well. After leading the Premier League scoring charts last season, all the £30.75 million purchase has to boast this season is becoming the first Bulgarian to gain 1 million followers on Facebook (although any praise on that score should be limited as Vladislav The Grammarian refused to sign up because of all the "lols" and "pmsls").

The second category has as their poster boy one Carlos Tevez. He is the fans' favourite in the same way that Sid Vicious was the punks' favourite. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his wallet in his heart. He has managed to offend everyone at some stage this year and even managed to offend Manchester City on stage at an Argentine nightclub. There Tevez hugged a pop star appropriately named Carlos "La Mona" Jimenez, who ridiculed the club who dared to fine him £500,000 and placed him on gardening leave for refusing to play, or warm up to play, or warm up not to play, or whatever it is you believe.

And then Tevez joined in La Mona's Quien se ha tomado todo el vino (Who drank all the wine?), which comes with a characteristic hand movement. It should not be confused with the ditty which begins "Tevez, you're a ..." and also comes complete with a characteristic hand movement.

Tevez is under the misapprehension he isn't expendable. Robert Mancini has proved he is, so Tevez must move (probably to PSG).

The final category should provoke sympathy. In fact, it's possible to shed proper tears for Jermain Defoe. It is not fair to label him a "flop" as he hasn't been afforded the opportunity to "flop" anywhere but on wood. Nobody would disagree he is a great striker, least of all Harry Redknapp. "I'm his biggest fan," says Harry, before picking Rafael Van der Vaart and, rather bizarrely on occasion, Roman Pavyluchenko, ahead of him. Perhaps Harry always wants Defoe close by on the bench because of the frequent urge to tell him how highly he rates him.

There are many, many other Premier League strikers who fit into these categories. Andy Carroll and Andrei Arshavin are naturals to sit alongside Torres, Nicklas Bendtner might even rival Tevez for an elevated sense of self-worth, while Edin Dzeko must wonder what he has done wrong. What do this lot think when they see the likes of Javier Hernandez (£7 million), Daniel Sturridge (£6.5 million) and Demba Ba (zilch) offering such value for money.

There is definitely something going on here, something to do with the pressure, with the expectation, with the panic to buy a 20-goal-a-season man. Whatever it might be, it has inspired those creative brains at TalkSport to come across all witty.

Instead of the "Ballon D'Or" they have created the "Barndoor". This year's recipient is obvious, but, in fairness to Fernando, he does have competition.

To think, they once asked: "Who'd be a goalkeeper?" With the turkeys of 2011 bearing down upon them, the answer would have to be anyone with two arms, a bobble hat and a green jersey.

-Independent

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