The day oil engulfed a Roman conqueror

Sven Goran Eriksson was a lucky manager, past tense. His luck just ran out. When a real Sheik strode off the oilfields, rather than a News of the World reporter in fancy dress, Manchester City's manager had already left the building.

Eriksson's suite was the place to be on Tuesday as City fans wound black masking tape round white tea-cloths to make Arab headdresses. A disguise that crude even Eriksson might have rumbled.

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Man City Robinho

Trophy shirt: Robinho's No 10 vies with a Mark Hughes photo for star billing in the City shop

These capers aren't new to Mexico's new boss. Deep down, he always knew our game is mad. Sunday to Tuesday must be inked in as the most seismic 72 hours in the 16-year story of the Premier League, aka the 20-tower bedlam. Here comes the oil money, the petrodollars, gushing across the game to wash away American speculators and Russian oligarchs.

A more malodorous tide engulfs Newcastle United, that death-wish club who are so brilliantly in control of their own faculties that they kept Joey Barton and sold James Milner to Aston Villa.

Their owner, Mike Ashley, has become so disorientated that he needs to down a pint in one halfway through a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal. Next comes the acute deja vu of worried Newcastle fans assembling on the steps of St James' Park to pledge loyalty to 'King Kev1': the inscription on the back of Ashley's shirt (Harry Redknapp was their first choice, but you write your own mythology in football).

Who pens this stuff? Who determines that Man City should be rescued from a fake messiah by an authentic one? Authentic, that is, if you believe football exists to pay £30m transfer fees for young Brazilians with an awful lot still to prove.

Roman Abramovich has just discovered that he's not the biggest Russian doll but one of the smaller ones inside. The Premier League's talent for escalation in the game of outrageous headline-making went cosmic as Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim and the Abu Dhabi ruling clan turned the city of Manchester into the most powerful conurbation in world football.

Sulaiman al-Fahim

All Smiles: New Man City owner Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim could attract some big names to Eastlands

Milan, it's over for you. Madrid too. The two great bastions of Milanese grandeur have been eclipsed by a combination of Salford and a blighted district of Greater Manchester where the Blair government wanted to build a super casino to trap the locals in gambling addictions and low-paid jobs.

Now this. Out goes the alleged human rights-trasher Thaksin Shinawatra and in skips the apparently lachrymose Robinho as the advanced guard for Gulf State ostentation Thaksin, you might like to be reminded, paid £81.67m for City in July 2007 and is said to be selling 90 per cent of his stake to Abu Dhabi for around £210m. I make that a notional profit of £128m in 14 months.

However robustly you defend our national game's right to operate like the Stock Market, or any other 'investment vehicle', you're lacking a moral compass if you consider it healthy for Shinawatra to be able to exploit the supporter-love that kept City afloat through so many barren years.


Mancunian giants defy credit crunch

According to Real Madrid's president, Robinho couldn't stop crying as he pleaded to be allowed to join Chelsea. It turns out he was merely impersonating Manchester's climate, which was described so poetically last week by United's Nemanja Vidic.

So now we have a former Manchester United chief executive (Peter Kenyon) failing at the last moment to secure a Brazilian's signature for Chelsea, and a former United legend (Mark Hughes) in receipt of probably the biggest windfall in English football history as he aims his new tanks towards Old Trafford. Everyone's a winner, except 87 other clubs trying to compete.

On a single day, you had the two Mancunian giants splurging £63.25m on two forwards, Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov. This, while a Chancellor of the Exchequer talks of the worst recession for 60 years and the housing market performs a passable impression of the Titanic at the moment of impact with an iceberg no one spotted. Meanwhile, Dr Sulaiman is quoted as saying: 'I always feel like I'm a kind of bulldozer, a fully insured bulldozer.'


Brazil nut: Robinho makes a desperate plea to leave Real Madrid

The last owner was a kind of bull-something, too, but it wasn't a dozer.

The good doctor goes on: 'If nobody likes it, it starts moving, even if there are cars in its way, it has to crush the cars and move. I can't stop. If I have an idea, I have to do it.' The Manchester derby as robot wars. That should be fun.

What this spectacular binge achieves, of course, is to bring the last great unreleased avalanche of investment funds down on Premier League football. The first deluge was Russian oil, gas and mineral money, via Abramovich.

The second was American credit: the Glazers at Manchester United and Tom Hicks and George Gillett at Liverpool who, in case anyone failed to notice, are now lumbered with a stadium building project no one wants to lend them the money to complete.

Oil revenues were bound to come because:

1) the Gulf States are desperately trying to buy an alternative identity for when the black stuff runs out and

2) exploding petroleum prices have encouraged Abu Dhabi to over-pay in a way that the Maktoums of Dubai were reluctant to do when eyeing up Liverpool.

Manchester City's jackpot-hitting moment conceals the reality that the boom is closer to being over than this swoop suggests. Study Mike Ashley's spinning eyes; note the deepening problems at Icelandic-owned West Ham.

Ask yourself how solid Portsmouth are. Above all, remember that great clubs are built from the bottom up, not the top down. Michael Johnson and Micah Richards are more important to City's long-term progress than Robinho. Mark Hughes knows infinitely more about the game than Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim, who is already rattling off targets as if football is a form of oil production.

When one foreign speculator sells to another at a vast profit, we enter the next phase of a kind of entertaining insanity. Across town from the 'Middle Eastlands', as City's stadium has now been re-labelled, United closed the summer transfer window by hanging on to Cristiano Ronaldo and acquiring Dimitar Berbatov from Spurs.

Wisdom is like love. You can't buy it at five-to-midnight and then parade it on Sky Sports News.

Wasteful Capello could regret Owen's omission

Fabio Capello is already past the point when his doubts about Michael Owen's fitness have turned into self-defeating prejudice.

The England manager is stuck in a psychological coliseum, in which he turns his thumbs up and down on international careers. Trapped in the golden age of Italian defending and slow, patient passing, Capello is also capable of losing himself in his own opinions.

Fabio Capello

Is Capello Fab?

By now, he ought to be able to see that Owen is still England's most feared predator.

If in doubt, ask centre halves if they want him ghosting around their penalty areas. It's a perversion to judge him solely by his decrease in speed over 20metres.

Owen has scored 40 goals in 89 international appearances. The four strikers chosen by Capello for the games against Andorra and Croatia can muster 24 in total. Why he omitted Jonathan Woodgate, who defended superbly against Chelsea on Sunday, is another troubling mystery.

After the chumminess of the Steve McClaren years, it was said that Capello would usher in Year Zero and judge each player from scratch. But he didn't do that with Owen. He appeared to conclude right away that a 28-year-old, who has scored against Brazil, Argentina and Germany, was already past it.

This isn't good management. It's just a waste.


Collins is no victim

As an ex-Royal Marine, Dave Collins had faced greater perils than the media firing squad we put together in Beijing.

Dave Collins

Firing line: Collins has been criticised for Team GB's poor athletics performance in Beijing

The performance director for a lamentable display in track and field toiled admirably to defend the GB Team's four medals, one of which went to a Jamaican who turned British in 2006 and another to Tasha Danvers, who spends most of her time in Los Angeles.

Collins was walking the plank and he knew it. But at least he sat there for 40 minutes, fielding hostile questions.

When he spoke of 'a fractured sport with lots of different factions, agendas, people taking it in different directions', it was almost tempting to see him as the victim. That moment soon passed.

From personal experience, Charles Van Commenee, his probable successor, is a human whirlwind. Just what they need.


England to see the real Modric in Zagreb

The Chelsea-Tottenham game passed Luka Modric by. The young Croatia midfielder bought for nearly £15.8m was a spectator as the action flowed around him at bewildering pace.

It’s probably too much to hope for a repeat of this bafflement against England in Zagreb next Wednesday.

Still with Spurs, I’ll never see how it can be a good summer if you sell Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane.

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