Wastage, Real and Chelsea style

REAL MADRID have surely been busy in the close season. They've bought at huge expense two Brazilian attackers. Robinho is the rising star of the national side. He is leaving Santos — made famous long ago by Pele — for some �20 million, the irony of it being that he will have as a team-mate none other than his illustrious companion, Ronaldo. The player who recently refused to take part in the Confederations Cup in Germany so that Robinho combined up front with the prolific Adriano. Brazil won the tournament and Ronaldo was quoted as saying that may be he will not lose his place in the Brazil attack to Robinho. Which could be more than just a joke, as we know from the past that the team's manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira, can be very stubborn and even self defeating when a player refuses him.

As did the brilliant little centre forward Romario back in 1993, infuriated because Parreira pulled him back thousands of miles to take part in a friendly, then kept him on the bench. Romario became an unpopular person till it looked ominously as though a flagging Brazilian team was in severe danger of being knocked out of the South American qualifiers. So Parreira then ingested a large slice of humble pie, brought Romario back into the team against Uruguay in Rio, where he scored the two goals which won Brazil the game 2-0 and went on to become the star turn of the 1994 World Cup, in America.

But these are not the only strikers Real Madrid possess. Michael Owen was signed from Liverpool a year ago at bargain price, coolly even coldly greeted in Madrid by contrast with the ecstatic welcome given to the far less gifted David Beckham and put on the bench for most of the season; even viciously insulted by one of the local papers. For all that Owen managed to score no fewer than 13 goals. But the arrival of not only Robinho but the striker or attacking midfielder Julio Baptista from Sao Paolo for over �13 million meant Owen would inevitably be on his way.

Last summer, Fernando Morientes already had been, a celebrated striker nurtured from his youthful years by Real, many times a Spanish international, farmed out last season but one to Monaco, where he scored a profusion of goals, then sold to Liverpool. And where does that leave another of Real's home grown star strikers, Raul?

Whipped away as a boy from the local rivals Atletico Madrid when their notoriously volatile owner Jesus Gil Y Gil suddenly decided to abolish the youth team, Raul has been one of the leading European strikers of his era. Yet he, too, is now left fighting for a place. The word in this context and today, in far too many others, is surely, wastage. And if Real are a salient example, what of Chelsea?

You can never be quite sure whether Real have money, their debts over the years have been enormous, they have even been obliged to sell their training ground, but somehow or other, at times through going into massive debt, they seem to find the money to buy the players whom they want. Very different indeed is the case of Chelsea, bankrolled now by the so called Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, a billionaire who can virtually buy what he likes, when he likes, whether it be houses, yachts or footballers.

There has been speculation recently in England that Chelsea's putative reserve team would probably be stronger than most of the sides in the Premiership, might even be able to compete with the likes of the other three major clubs, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool. Certainly the Stamford Bridge club have an acute embarrassment of riches. Not least in goal; but thereby hangs a tale.

Away back in the 1930s Chelsea, just as today, had two splendid international goalkeepers. Johnny Jackson, a Scottish international, had joined them from Patrick Thistle in the mid 1930s.

But in the latter 1930s there emerged the impressive, commanding Vic Woodley, who didn't in fact cost anything at all, being acquired from the amateur club, Windsor and Eton. By 1938, Woodley was England's number one goalkeeper. He played that year in the famous 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, when the whole England team notoriously gave the Nazi salute before the game. A year later the team — a largely forgotten embarrassing fact — gave the Fascist salute to all four corners of the ground in Milan before playing Italy.

A game in which Woodley was scandalously beaten by a goal blatantly punched in by the Italy centre-forward, wily Silvio Piola.

In the event, England forced a 2-2 draw. In World War Two Woodley continued to play for Chelsea though not for England — as a small boy, I used to watch him and wonder how anyone could beat him — while Jackson was lent to their London rivals, Brentford.

When the clubs met, though it was only in the ersatz wartime, "unofficial", football, Chelsea wouldn't let Jackson play against them!

Now Chelsea have as first choice the remarkable young Czech keeper, Peter Cech, who joined them a year ago, and has displaced a fine Italian keeper in Carlo Cudicini, son of a noted Milan keeper in Fabi. Carlo would surely win a place in almost any other Premiership team. Arsenal could badly do with him; but there he seems content to stay.

But now that Chelsea have signed Shaun Wright Phillips, the ebullient little Manchester City right winger, while they already have Holland's remarkable winger Arjen Robben, could there really be no place for the outstanding Irishman Damien Duff? And, indeed, for so many other stars? Wastage!