Long story short – Zahavi speaks to the Israeli press about the Israel v England game, talks about the England squad under Eriksson being jealous of Beckham and about the possible reaction in England towards McClaren if England loses to Israel tomorrow.
While I can find it easy to accept Zahavi’s statements (in my view there are suggestions of trouble between Beckham and the team, and you can see them in the lack of passes he got during his time on the pitch), there are several glaring faults in his statements. I’m going to tackle his statements segment by segment. This interview was, according to the Guardian, published in the Israel newspaper Yedioth Ahronot (English version), but I haven’t been able to find a translated version at the time of writing.
“The problem in the World Cup was that the players gave only 30% of their ability.”
Arguable, but more importantly, misleading. It implies that the players deliberately held back, which is ridiculous considering the occasion. It also, along with the next segment, takes attention away from England’s tactical and motivational problems, which the manager is responsible for.
“That was because there was a big problem of jealousy inside the team. It’s something that nobody else has talked about before but the fact is a lot of the players didn’t like the status of David Beckham in the team. They were jealous of Beckham. They haven’t talked about it but this was the thing that failed the team in Germany.”
Linking player jealousy of Beckham to England’s poor performance is silly. But regardless, were the players jealous of Beckham? Maybe, maybe not. I know that Neville and Ferdinand would back Becks, so would Owen. The rest?
Interestingly though, who gives a player a certain ‘status’ in the team? The other players? Himself? The manager?
Is Zahavi saying that Eriksson favoured Beckham, and that led to England’s WC failure?
“That is probably why Steve McClaren decided to get rid of him from the squad when he took over. A lot of players didn’t like the way Beckham was treated as a superstar. They didn’t like the status he had in the team and they felt he didn’t deserve that status compared to what he could do on the pitch.”
Once again, who gives the player a certain status?
Also, why does McClaren have to get rid of a player instead of putting him on the bench? Was Beckham splitting the England squad in two with one group supporting him and the other against him?
See where this sort of tripe leads to?
“If Eriksson would ever tell the whole story, everyone would understand what was going on inside the England dressing room. Today, under McClaren, all the players are equal before the coach and that makes it a much more convenient situation.”
Being mysterious only hurts Beckham and England, doesn’t help Zahavi apart from reinforcing his image as the “inside man” in football.
On England’s chances and McClaren’s future:
“He knows if England stumbles in Israel it will be an earthquake in football. If that happens they will drink his blood and finish him.”
He’s right, exaggerations and all. The English press will be reminded of the loss to Croatia and will sacrifice McClaren in a public altar.
Linking Beckham’s status (and subsequent jealousy) – still speculation mind you to England’s performances in the World Cup is ridiculous. England have been playing like that (clueless about tactics, no motivation, too cautious) for a long, long time, before Beckham was made captain, before Beckham was even in the team.
Beckham’s status was probably a problem, but then that would have to be as a captain, and if that’s the case, then we have players like Terry and Gerrard as the most likely opposition to Beckham (both players with aspirations to captaincy). If Beckham’s status is to be questioned as a player then so would be Lampard’s status in the team, or Neville’s status, or Rooney’s status. All are players whose performances have been questioned publicly. Owen’s status would become an issue as well.
In a team, you are bound to have certain players who aren’t happy with some of their teammates. It’s a natural thing. How does that affect coaching decisions? Were the players angry at Eriksson for choosing Beckham as captain? Terry’s performances before and after World Cup have been the same – Beckham’s exit and change of coach has not changed things. Gerrard was playing the same way before and after the World Cup – nothing has changed there as well.
Linking Becks’ status to McClaren’s decision to drop him means that McClaren dropped a match-winning player because of player power.
If England had improved after Beckham’s departure, you would be inclined praise the coach. But if England are going backwards and player performances have not improved because of Beckham’s axing, where does that leave Zahavi’s comments?
In the trash.
Update: Eriksson issues a denial (who chooses these pictures for their articles, by the way? this one makes Eriksson look like a rabbit being escorted by police caught in headlights).