Early Doors

Merry new year

Early Doors

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After the rip-roaring success of ED's pre-season predictions
(well, at least in one of the eight categories, and with just half the campaign
gone), here's a bit more soothsaying as we head into 2009.

- - -

What we will see...

City spending
never-seen-before sums of money on players who are nowhere near worth what will
be paid for them
. Think £70m for Kaka, £63m for Gigi Buffon and £20m for Roque Santa Cruz. Or £1.99 for
Michael Owen. City may now be the richest club in the world with real aspirations
of global domination, but it remains to be seen whether Mark Hughes has the
nous to gel it all together on the pitch and deliver what his bosses expect. Or how itchy their trigger fingers are.

More shenanigans at Newcastle.
There hasn't been a dull moment on Tyneside this year and it is unimaginable
that things will be any different in the 12 months ahead. In between x-rated
rants at journos and some woeful performances on the pitch, we've seen managerial
comings and goings, plenty of boardroom unrest and a wealth of naked torsos on
the terraces. Football is supposed to be entertainment; Newcastle go a long way to proving it.

A Premier League player sign for Real Madrid. Cristiano
Ronaldo has flirted with the Spanish giants and the Spanish giants have
(bizarrely) flirted with Jermaine Pennant. Neither relationship got past the
first date - it turns out one already had a partner and the other wasn't interested. But Real have a penchant for poaching players from the Premier
League and it looks like they will be getting one player this January: only it is more likely to be Antonio

At least one more Premier League player spend time behind
. ED is in no position to speculate who that might be
(purely for legal reasons), but with the spotlight on players like never before
- especially when they're 'tired and emotional' and falling out of night clubs
in the early hours of the morning - they are unlikely to get away with much. And
that's not to mention the public clamour for heads to roll if they are found
guilty of any wrong doing. ED says: bring back the stocks and a bucket of
rotten tomatoes.

- - -

What we won't see...

Alex Ferguson bury the hatchet with Real Madrid. It would be
fair to say that Real Madrid weren't Fergie's favourite club even before they
started winding him up about transfers - something to do with politics
apparently. But now they've really got his goat over the whole Ronaldo thing
and it is all-out war. A potential Champions League meeting of the two clubs
has got ED salivating in anticipation.

Cristiano Ronaldo score another free-kick. The Ballon d'Or
winner is in danger of going down the same route as Roberto Carlos. He likes to
remind everyone of his prowess from set pieces - the exaggerated run-up, the
hands on hips, the pout, the splayed legs - yet nine times out of 10 his
efforts don't even trouble the keeper. Forget about Real Madrid, a move to Fenerbahce awaits.

David Beckham make an impact on the pitch in Milan. The hype
surrounding Becks's arrival in Milan has been
incredible, yet the former England
captain will have to be on top form if he is to even get a game at the San
Siro. Considering he hasn't played for two months, coming into a side that has
been together for half a season is going to be tough. Expect a squeaked "grazie
per niente" into a microphone before too long.

- - -

What we might see...

Fabio Capello hailed as the saviour of English football. When
the Don guides England
to a perfect World Cup qualifying campaign in 2009, he will be championed as a
hero throughout the country. And with a major tournament to look forward to, the nation can
once again hold its head high as some of that famous potential is finally realised.

Fabio Capello fall flat on his face. But, of course, the
margin between success and failure is a fine one, and Capello could just as
easily go the same way as so many before him. Kazakhstan in June promises to be a real date with

A 'high-profile' WAG to go on another television celebrity
. Despite her incessant moaning about the burden of being super-rich and
her regular emotional breakdowns in the absence of Joe Cole - or perhaps
exactly because of that - poor little Carly Zucker proved a hit on I'm a
Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. And her tear-stained performance has opened the
door to yet more TV action for footballers' better halves in the next 12
months, although a second series of WAG's Boutique is unlikely. That really was
a bad show.

Diego Maradona become Scotland manager. He loves Scotland and Scotland loves him. Why not? There's no reason why these two great English-haters
cannot be brought together in what would surely be a glorious union.

Footballers get some taste. But probably not.

- -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We know that Arsene
Wenger likes the look of Arshavin. But I like the look of Angelina Jolie and it
doesn't always mean you get what you want." Andrei Arshavin's ubiquitous agent
Denis Lachter links the bespectacled Arsenal manager with the sexy world of Hollywood films for the first, and probably last, time.

FOREIGN VIEW: Napoli midfielder Marek
Hamsik thought he'd never see his watch again after he was relieved of the
expensive timepiece at gunpoint in Naples
earlier this month. But, miraculously, it has since been safely returned to
him, thanks to the all powerful local tifosi. "The fans knew what to
do," the Slovakia
international said. "Napoli footballers
are like divinities for them. It's forbidden to touch them." Aah,
everybody loves a happy ending, although it is not clear what exactly happened
to the muggers.

COMING UP: Today sees a wealth of end of year features
winging their way towards you, including the Eurosport team's favourite contests
of 2008 and the result of a sportsperson of the year poll. Ebbsfleet
United, the Egyptian national side and Michael Bisping all feature, so you'd be
foolish not to check them out.

Right, that's it for 2008. ED is off to prepare itself for
yet more celebrations, no doubt involving plenty of cheap spumante from Asda
and party games. And that can only mean one thing (other than inevitably soiled
cream carpets): there will be no ED on New Year's Day. It will be back on
January 2.

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