Sport360° view: Woodward’s words could cost Man Utd in the market

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Finger pointing: Woodward must act quickly if United are to make a mark this summer.

“It is in our capabilities to spend £60m, £70m, £80m on a player – and we would not be afraid to do that. There is no budget. We are in a very strong financial position. We can make big signings.”

With those few words, Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward raised the spirits of supporters crying out for top-line talent and guaranteed a bumper Christmas for the families of football’s ever avaricious agents.

The message was clear.

The fallen Premier League giants intend to keep splashing the cash with abandon to ensure that manager Louis van Gaal is able to drag the club back to the hallowed, and lucrative, lands of the Champions League.

Whether owners the Glazers will feel so enamoured when they have to count the cost of their employee’s candour, or the Dutchman sees discussions for much-needed fresh blood drag on as clubs endlessly hold out for more money, remains to be seen.

And when you promise the world to a supporter base that remain less than convinced of your capability, you must then deliver.

In an often brutal first year at the helm, Woodward has appeared to be adept at learning on the job.

The gloom caused by the painful 2013 summer window, which saw the sole purchase of the woefully inadequate Maroune Fellaini at an avoidably-high price, soon gave way to the cheer of starlet Adnan Januzaj snubbing enticing overtures from across Europe to commit his future.

This was followed by the impressive acquisition of Juan Mata from Chelsea, a deal involving the skilful use of a myriad of middle men.

The new contract for Wayne Rooney divided the fans, but a willingness to pay what was required was a positive sign after years of Glazer-fuelled parsimony.

Ander Herrera was the low point for Woodward a year ago, with failed negotiations featuring fake lawyers staining United’s name.

This summer, the Athletic Bilbao midfielder and promising Southampton left-back Luke Shaw were swept up with minimum fuss.

Add a guiding role in the negotiations that secured the game-changing £750m (Dh4.7bn) kit sponsorship with adidas, and everything looks a lot better for Woodward.

Judging by his latest round with the press, however, the delicate arts of transfer negotiation still seem to evade him.

Woodward often comes across as a crowd-pleaser, promising everything with hallow words, the exact opposite of ruthlessly effective predecessor David Gill. 

Football at the highest level is a seller’s market, with the Machievellian instincts of the wheelers and dealers honed to extract the maximum price for their coveted players.

Information is the life blood of negotiations, both parties should hold cards close to their chest.

Woodward’s words will be manna from heaven for any club that receives a fax on headed Manchester United notepaper (the dated machine collecting dust in your company’s office is still the conduit of choice because of the insecurities of e-mail exchanges).

Name your price and double it. The big-spending Old Trafford behemoth is back in town. 

Financial traders talk of ‘bagging whales’ and United are this year’s Moby-Dick.

Van Gaal needs players to bolster a side that sunk to unimaginable depths under David Moyes and delays in acquiring them as clubs hold on for sky-high prices will not do. 

Neither does talk of competing with Spain’s heavyweights to land the globe’s top stars.

Talk of “capabilities” must match tangible results. 

A year ago, Woodward’s early exit from United’s tour of Asia because of “urgent transfer business” bore nothing but embarrassment. A similar escape this year is officially due to “general business reasons”. 

The club’s press office have obviously learned from their linguistic mistake.

Woodward must behave with similar restraint the next time a dictaphone is pointed in his direction.

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Costa will do anything he can to lead Chelsea to glory

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Powerful addition: Diego Costa signed for Chelsea after a fine season at Atletico Madrid but a disappointing World Cup with Spain.

Striker Diego Costa has vowed to do his utmost to deliver trophies for Chelsea.

The Brazil-born Spain striker joined the Blues from Atletico Madrid, who he helped to a first Primera Division title in 18 years, breaking the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea are chasing a first Premier League crown since 2010 when the new season kicks off next month.

Costa carries a heavy burden, with Mourinho bemoaning his strikers last term and Chelsea’s forward recruits having a history of struggling to make a prolonged impression, Didier Drogba apart.

Costa said: “I’d say to the fans that you need to be confident that I personally will fight for this club to make sure we are in contention to win as many trophies as possible

“I’m part of a great group here of players and we will do everything we can to give the fans what they want – and that’s titles.”

“It was an easy decision for me to make,” he added. “We have some of the best players in the world, the best manager in the world and it’s a club with great history.”

Mourinho wants Costa to per­form the way he did for Atletico and the striker believes his attributes mean he is suited to the Premier League.

“One of the main things he (Mourinho) said was that he doesn’t want me to change,” added Costa, who scored 64 goals in 134 appearances for Atletico.

“It was Jose’s and the club’s deci­sion to buy me and the reason they signed me was because of the way I played at Atletico.”

Costa is with the Chelsea team in Austria but didn’t get on the pitch on Wednesday as they drew 1-1 with WAC RZ Pellets.

Costa’s former Atletico team-mate Felipe Luis started at left-back with teenage French midfielder Jeremie Boga scoring the Blues’ only goal. 

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Xavi set for Barcelona stay, putting end to Fujairah's interest

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Not going anywhere: Xavi is set to stay at Barca despite interest from clubs all over the world, including AGL outfit Fujairah.

Barcelona midfielder Rafinha Alcantara has expressed his delight at Xavi Hernandez's decision to stay at the Nou Camp next season.

Throughout the summer Xavi has been linked with a move away from the club where he has spent his entire career.

First Qatari club Al-Arabi were expected to capture his signature, with coach Dan Petrescu announcing during the World Cup that the 34-year-old had agreed a pre-contract deal with his team.

When that move broke down, new MLS franchise New York City were reported to be in pole position to land the former Spain international before Arabian Gulf League Club Fujairah announced their intention to enter the bidding war for the Barca legend, a story broken by Sport360°

However, Xavi is expected to report for pre-season on Thursday with fellow internationals Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba.

And Rafinha, who returns to Barcelona following a successful loan spell working under Enrique with Celta Vigo, is looking forward to learning from Xavi, who has played more than 700 times for the Catalans.

"Xavi is Barcelona, for us it's great news that he's staying and I'll be able to share a dressing room with him," Rafinha told a press conference.

"I'm going to learn from the best in the business and I'm delighted that he's staying. To be able to learn from the best for me is incredible."

The 21-year-old avoided a question about whether Xavi staying at the club would reduce his own chances of holding down a regular place in the first team, responding: "I don't know, you'd have to ask someone else that question."

However, the player believes he has developed into a better footballer as a result of his loan spell in Galicia and is determined to become as important a member of Enrique's side at Barcelona as he was at Celta.

He added: "It was a very good experience for me and has made me a more mature footballer. Now the most important thing is playing and getting minutes on the pitch."

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