The word from yesterday’s England press conference was ‘miracle’.
Gerrard, set to win his 97th England cap in Moldova later tonight, was discussing England’s chances of winning the World Cup in Brazil two years from now. The bullishness of the camp from previous years appears to have finally disappeared.
“You never stop believing in football,” Gerrard said. “Miracles do happen. It’s been proved.
“When I speak I’m realistic and honest. At the moment, we’re not one of the favourites to win the World Cup.
“That doesn’t mean you stop believing, working hard to improve, try and learn from the mistakes you’ve made at previous tournaments.
“This team has every chance to improve and get better in the next few years, with players coming through and those players with the experience. We have to have that faith and keep believing.”
We have been here before, mind you. Expectations were at an historic low, we were told, back at the beginning of Euro 2012 – that lasted until England had negotiated their group with minimal fuss.
But still, the idea that England’s chances appear to hinge on a ‘miracle’ before the first ball has even been kicked in qualification is the back page lead across just about every newspaper.
And if miracles are the motif of the day, it would be what Bacary Sagna needs if he is to see a change in Arsenal’s transfer policy.
Not that it stops the full-back having a good old-fashioned whinge about the way things are being done at the Emirates.
Sagna spoke to L’Equipe, and yesterday’s news in France makes it into the papers over here today. ‘Now Sagna’s had enough’ blurts The Sun.
“I am the last player from the 2007 starting XI remaining,” Sagna is quoted as saying. “In May, I watched Manchester City show off. I watched Samir and Gael lift the trophy. That gave me a desire for it. I want that. Were they right to leave? Yes.”
That won’t stop Sagna being offered a new contract, however. According to the Daily Mirror, both he and fellow full-back Kieran Gibbs will be urged to sign fresh deals.
Elsewhere it appears that Nani’s bid for a miraculous pay-packet was what scuppered his move away from Manchester United to Zenit St Petersburg.
The Portuguese midfielder has been eyeing around £130,000 a week to put pen to paper at Old Trafford – he has yet to sign a new deal – and according to the Daily Mail the Russian club have cooled their interest in the player as well.
“It's true we are negotiating for Nani and Moutinho,” said Russian club’s director-general Maxim Mitrofanov, “but Hulk and (Axel) Witsel were our top priorities.”
And having spent a reported €90m on Hulk and Witsel, it looks like that will do for them.
Finally, if by some miracle Cristiano Ronaldo leaves Real Madrid to join another club, his manager Jose Mourinho says it won’t be to join one of Europe’s newly-rich clubs.
Ronaldo is reportedly ‘sad’ at the Bernabeu, for reasons as yet unclear.
The Daily Telegraph picks up on quotes from the Portuguese manager, who insists that the very best players won’t chase big paydays at clubs with deep pockets but little history.
“Madrid, Barca, Bayern ... these clubs have unique historic capital,” Mourinho said. “The trophies, the European Cups, the history, the fans. Things you cannot buy with money.
“The best players will want to be at these clubs, the three I have mentioned, and some others who have trophy cabinets full for almost a century. That is a determining factor for the players.
“We have the potential and history to keep our best players, Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain. Everyone in our squad, Barca, too.
“But clubs which live just from the investments of their owners will not have it so easy, because they do not have the structures of the historic clubs.”
- Bacary Sagna