The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States unarguably gets the nod as the most exhilarating spectacle of the week on our living-room television, but not far behind in the cheering stakes were Everton's spirited draw with Liverpool at Anfield, and the announcement on Sky Sports News that Manchester City's astronomical bid for Kaka had broken down irretrievably.
Moreover, although I searched largely in vain for veiled references in Obama's inaugural speech to the Kaka situation, eventually I found one. "We understand that greatness is never a given, it must be earned," he said. "Our journey has never been one of short cuts." The architects of success, he added, are "the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things".
What Sheikh Mansour and his muddle-headed advisers were hoping to find by dangling untold riches in front of Milan and Kaka, was a short cut to greatness. But greatness in football is never a given, it can only be earned by the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things. Enormous wealth helps in that process, but as Roman Abramovich is belatedly discovering, formidable buying power is no substitute for the kind of far-sighted managerial acumen with which Matt Busby, Alex Ferguson, Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Jock Stein and Brian Clough all built dynasties that ended up conquering Europe.
Was Kaka, holed up in his apartment in the centre of Milan, ripe for seduction by the prospect of becoming the best-paid sportsman in the world on a reported £500,000 a week? Nay, nay and thrice nay, as Frankie Howerd in Up Pompeii, another farce set in Italy, often said. No more than he was deluded by the flattering notion that, with his arrival, an ordinary Premier League football team would blossom into Champions League hardy perennials. More flattering to him, and more real, were the pleas from the Rossoneri fans gathered outside his apartment for him to stay.
The City executive chairman, Garry Cook, meanwhile, reckons that Milan "bottled it". Would that someone could bottle the loyalty apparently shown by Kaka, in the face of City's flapping chequebook. Whatever the truth of the negotiations, though, there's little doubt that Milan were willing to sell, a fact which rather pulls the rug from under the club's owner Silvio Berlusconi up there on the moral high ground, if they have rugs on the moral high ground. Yet what Kaka appears to have done is nutmeg the belief that money is everything in football, in which case he deserves the respect of everyone who loves the game – even, if they can see past their disappointment, those who support Manchester City.
In the meantime, at the other end of the East Lancs Road, there was another gratifying reminder this week that the influence of money in football can sometimes be thwarted. Everton destabilised Liverpool's title ambitions with a fully deserved point at Anfield, secured by players whose collective cost, including substitutes, came to £31.65m. The home team, by starkly significant contrast, cost a mighty £142.8m to assemble. Of which Steven Gerrard, so nearly fulfilling his familiar role as Liverpool's matchwinner, cost precisely naught. If ever there was a match to show the twin merits, even in this golden-fleeced day and age, of a productive youth system and astute, bargain basement shopping, it was Monday's Merseyside derby, rescued for Everton by Tim Cahill (bought from Millwall for £1.5m).
Still, it is too early for me and fellow Evertonians to crow. Tomorrow, our team return to Anfield for a fourth-round FA Cup tie, and will be strikingly similar, if not identical, to the team which sauntered off the pitch on Monday. What would David Moyes give for the resources that will enable Rafa Benitez to restructure his side by replacing several expensive players with several other expensive players? A great deal, maybe. But on reflection, probably not. In Lady Windermere's Fan, Oscar Wilde defined a cynic as a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Moyes, like all the smartest football men, knows that price is meaningless. Only value counts.
Hail the mighty Maldives for stumping China
This month's Asian Cricket Council Trophy is not one of the sport's most glittering competitions. It is contested by Oman, Bhutan, Brunei, Myanmar, Thailand, Iran, the Maldives and China. But it is still well worth following. After all, that China (population somewhere around the 1,330,044,605 mark) can compete in any arena against the Maldives (population closer to 385,925) is in itself rather marvellous.
That China should also get thoroughly hammered is cause for downright jubilation. In their group match nine days ago, the Maldive islanders finished their 50 overs on 376 for 7.
In reply, the Chinese took 32.2 overs to reach 61 all out, a 315-run defeat. I'll refrain from wondering whether they had an unorthodox left-arm spinner in their team, delivering what in a less politically correct era was dubbed the Chinaman. The people running Chinese cricket don't need to contend with cheap gags like that in this time of crisis.
Let's keep stupidity of Stevens in perspective
*There is a world of difference between a top sportsman taking recreational drugs, and drugs designed to enhance sporting performance. Amid the shrieks of moral indignation over Matt Stevens' foolishness, I hope his judge and jury bear that in mind.Reuse content