As far as City boss Peter Grant was concerned it was business as usual today for his Moroccan playmaker Youssef Safri.
After much recent speculation linking the 30-year-old to a switch to West Bromwich Albion following this summer's arrival at Colney of Frenchman Julien Brellier, Grant this morning confirmed that Safri had returned back from his summer break a day early and was now training, as normal, with the rest of the squad.
And that was it, as far as he was concerned. According to this morning's Daily Mirror, there was actually a three-way tussle for Safri's services developing with both Charlton and Southampton throwing themselves into the transfer fray.
“I've not heard a thing on that,” said Grant, in the midst of officially unveiling David Strihavka to the world at Colney this lunchtime.
What the Bitmingham Mail appeared to have heard today was the suggestion that Tony Mowbray's quest to find a midfield playmaker – an “artist” to balance his “warriors” – could be turning to Europe and a move for Portuguese midfielder Filipe Teixeira.
The Baggies opened their own pre-season schedule last night with a friendly against Histon and while Mowbray clearly refused to name names, the Mail reported that he hoped to have his new midfield man in place for their summer trip to Croatia and Slovenia at the end of this week.
Word in the Midlands was that this could be 26-year-old Teixeira, who currently plays for Academica de Coimbra.
“There's an opportunity to maybe get someone in, hopefully before we go away,” said Mowbray last night. “The one we hope to sign before Thursday is not going to be a British player but we won't give too much away because it might not happen.”
Having been rudely reminded as to just what sort of deals can be done 'overnight' with Robert Earnshaw's abrupt exit to Derby County earlier this summer, Grant wasn't ruling anyone – or anything – out.
Expect the unexpected is not the worst managerial motto in football. That and 'Trust me, I'm always the last one to know…' as players and their agents work the system to their best advantage.
For few teams these days – cerainly none in the Championship – can afford to 'carry' a want-away player on so-many thousands of pounds a week.
'We hold your contract; you can rot in the reserves then…' is a luxury that only a handful of clubs can realistically cling to. For everyone else, it is a case of prising as good a deal as you can out of a potentially sticky situation; get the player away; move on; don't let it fester.
“Youssef came in a day early from the extra time we'd given him off and I spoke to him yesterday and he's said there's been no contact,” said Grant, a wistful smile on his face.
“But at the end of the day I know the way that football works. I didn't expect Earnie to go.
“And then you get a phone call on the Wednesday night and somebody's away the next day. And that's why I laugh about it when people say: 'Is this one available? Is that one available?'”
It is, of course, not exactly a Norwich disease.
Scunthorpe United appeared to be the last in the loop as far as Billy Sharp's switch to Sheffield United was concerned with mor ethan one official claiming that they had not heard a peep out of Bramall Lane – Norwich, yes; Wolves, yes; Wednesday, yes. United? No…
By the time they did, it was all but a done deal. The player was going back to his roots; United were rolling out the 'Welcome home, Billy!' bunting and, finally, someone saw fit to give The Irons a ring. Which may, in part, explain why it took the better part of a week for the two clubs to finally come to an agreement.
Today and it was the turn of Cardiff City to be on the wrong end of player power – albeit if Sunderland's sudden swoop for Michael Chopra left them ?4.5 million the richer having signed the one-time Newcastle United starlet for just ?500,000 last summer.
With a ?5 million get-out clause in his re-worked contract was one claim. “I am sorry to see him go, everybody in the camp is,” Bluebirds manager Dave Jones told the South Wales Echo today as Chopra left Cardiff's training camp in Portugal in a hurry.
“At the end of the day there is a price for every player. The money could go on to make us stronger. This is good business for us and after all, we are in a business. And for Michael it means Premiership football ? we cannot stop him.”
That's the rub; Cardiff are a business; football is a business; they cannot stop him. Grant was singing off a similar hymn-sheet at Colney this morning as he watched Jones' best-laid Championship plans come a-cropper. He may now go back in for free agent Robbie Fowler – and pray that his interest in football hasn't wholly waned.
“Last week I was listening to Dave Jones saying: 'Chopra's not for sale…' And then all of a sudden Sunderland are in and, unfortunately, that's the nature of the beast,” said Grant.
“So I could say: 'Safs is here… he's not going anywhere…' but I personally don't know. I could say that about anybody.
“I could say that about Huckerby; I could say it about David Marshall; I could say it about anybody.
“But he's here; he's training. And as I've always said, anyone that's here, training and giving their all will always be selected,” added Grant, quizzed as to whether Safri would be involved in this weekend's trip to Exeter City.
“And, to be fair, he's trained very well; he's part of the group this morning; if he wasn't going to be part of the group, then I wouldn't have had him involved.
“So as far as I'm led to believe, Safs is going to be part of the group. Unless I get a phone call about something I don't know about. Who knows? Who knows?”
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