Commission fails to blend biofuel with politics

Commission fails to blend biofuel with politics

Internal emails and documents on the EU’s biofuel policy cast doubt over the European Commission’s ability to legislate.



Growing crops for fuel was once seen as part of the solution to climate change. Now, many environmentalists worry that enthusiasm for biofuel could be part of the problem. As passions for and against biofuel have ebbed and flowed over the last three years, they have raised painful questions about how the European Union uses science.

Internal emails and previously unpublished documents obtained from the European Commission through freedom-of-information requests by European Voice undermine the Commission’s claims to be a dispassionate policymaker. They show that two Commission departments tried to prevent the publication of independent research that reached unfavourable conclusions on the EU’s policy on biofuel. They show that a Commission department based a research study on a flawed assumption casting biofuel in a favourable light.

In each instance, the contentious handling of research was accompanied by fierce inter-departmental wrangling that raises doubts about the Commission’s ability to make policy.

The controversies stem from the European Council’s declaration in December 2007 that by 2020 Europe should get 10% of the energy it uses for transport from biofuel.

At the time, the encouragement of biofuel was regarded as having three advantages for the EU – giving greater energy security, helping the agriculture sector and combating climate change. Both the first two advantages depend on the extent to which biofuel is home-grown or imported, but the third became increasingly contentious as the EU’s climate and energy policy was developed during 2008.

Council declaration

At the European Council of December 2008, national leaders declared that Europe should get 10% of its transport energy from renewable sources. Such were the controversies about biofuel that the extent to which the EU would rely on biofuel was left an open question.

On the face of it, getting energy from (renewable) crops is less damaging to the climate than burning oil or gas. But policymakers have had to assess all the greenhouse-gas effects of biofuel production, including, for instance, the use of fertilisers and transport.

Early on, one of the charges made against biofuel was that areas of rainforest are being destroyed to make room for growing biofuel crops – direct land-use change.

More difficult to measure (and to counter) is indirect land-use change (ILUC), for example, when biofuel crops displace food crops on farmland, so that forests or grassland are converted for growing food crops. In January 2008, the Commission presented a proposal for a draft law on renewable energy as part of its flagship legislation on climate and energy. An internal row between energy and environment officials was resolved only at 2.30am on the morning of publication of the draft law when the Commission’s secretariat-general deleted a reference to ILUC.

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But the questions did not go away. In February 2008, a study appeared in the American journal Science, suggesting that, because of ILUC, US maize-based ethanol caused more greenhouse-gas emissions than it saved. This was followed by the official publication of a study by the Commission’s internal research unit, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which identified ILUC as a problem. MEPs and some EU member states – Germany, the Netherlands and the UK – pressed for green safeguards to be included in the EU’s draft law.

Safeguard measures

The final text of the law did include measures to guard against direct land-use change, forbidding biofuel whose production involved the clearance of rainforests or peatland. In addition, biofuel marketed in the EU has to provide greenhouse-gas savings of at least 35% when compared to fossil fuels, a threshold that will rise to 50% by 2017.

But the renewables law left out any specific mention of ILUC. The EU agreed that the Commission should investigate ways to minimise indirect land-use change and come up with an ILUC factor, an off-the-shelf value for each kind of biofuel that would be used to calculate its emission effects. The Commission was given until the end of this year to complete the work. The energy department, which is in charge of implementing the renewable energy directive, had hoped to finish a report on ILUC by March but has missed this deadline. Commission departments are still at loggerheads over the size and importance of ILUC.

The climate-action department shares responsibility for ILUC, by virtue of fuel-quality laws. In addition, the Commission departments for trade and agriculture and the JRC have been asked to contribute studies on ILUC. Around 4.5 million hectares of land could be ploughed up around the world by 2020, according to the JRC study. But a study from the trade department came up with a lower estimate of 800,000- 1 million hectares of land-use change by 2020.

Environmental costs

Meanwhile, the Commission’s energy, environment, agriculture departments had become bogged down over the environmental costs of biofuel policy to date. Commission officials spent 17 months arguing over one study by consultants that had been commissioned by the environment department. Officials from other departments insisted that parts of their report casting biofuel in an unfavourable light should be removed from the report.

Bas Eickhout, a Dutch Green MEP, who has read the documents, says that the emails raise questions about the Commission’s ability to draw up a report that reflects the science. “The vested interest to keep the 10% target alive is so important to some of the DGs that they are willing to ignore the scientific studies, and that is quite astonishing to see.”

He is urging Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner for energy, to “intervene and correct his civil servants”.

Last month Oettinger signalled that he would not rule out “corrective action” on biofuel policy. Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, has yet to intervene.

Christophe Bourillon of the European Bioethanol Fuel Association (eBio) dismissed the concerns as groundless. He said: “I don’t know of any other topic that has been looked at in such an open and transparent way.”

Biofuels were subject to more investigation than any other power source. “With regard to ILUC, we are being asked to show we are whiter than white,” Bourillon said. “ILUC is still very much a theory. You can make a study say whatever you want.”

Jennifer Rankin 

Commission to seek new data-sharing mandates

Commission to seek new data-sharing mandates

Commission wants rapid deal with Council and MEPs as the EU expects surge in number of PNR requests.



The European Commission plans to seek new mandates in September to negotiate the conditions that it will apply when providing countries outside the EU with information about airline passengers. Scarred by previous battles with MEPs over international data-sharing, the Commission hopes to win approval from the European Parliament, as well as from the Council of Ministers – thus avoiding the rejections it has suffered since MEPs gained new powers under the Lisbon treaty.

The Commission and national governments want rapid agreement on how to react when security-conscious countries request the individualised passenger data that are stored in European airlines’ reservation systems. The EU expects to receive numerous applications in coming years for this passenger name record (PNR) information, which includes a passenger’s name, contact details, payment method, baggage and seat number, and meal preferences.

Without an EU agreement, airlines might be stripped of foreign landing slots for failing to supply the data, or might seek their own deals with foreign governments that are neglectful of privacy standards. The Commission and member states are keen to avoid any diplomatic spat that might arise with the US if legal certainty is lacking over the supply of PNR data.

Interim agreements

In the most recent case of Parliament dissatisfaction, MEPs in May refused to endorse PNR agreements brokered by the EU with the US and Australia – on the basis of a mandate from the Council – that authorise the transfer of data when people fly to these two countries. The refusal of the Parliament’s consent condemns the two agreements to merely temporary status.

The Parliament objected to what it saw as breaches of fundamental EU principles on data protection, and demanded new agreements that meet “minimum requirements” on data protection. These include a ban on “data mining or profiling”, and assurances that PNR data will not be used to deny boarding, or to investigate or prosecute a passenger. Any PNR agreements with non-EU countries would be rejected unless they adhered to these standards, MEPs threatened.

Intelligence mistakes

The Parliament’s insistence on these rules is intended to prevent any repeat of the intelligence mistakes from over-reliance on PNR, including the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was kidnapped by the US government from New York’s JFK airport and held in Syria for more than a year and tortured, after apparently being mistakenly identified on the basis of his PNR data.

The Commission is seeking authorisation to negotiate new agreements with the US and Australia. It will also present a draft mandate for a similar agreement with Canada, that was to replace a PNR agreement reached in 2005 but that expired in 2009. In an accompanying policy paper, the Commission will set out principles for all future PNR agreements.

Sophia in ’t Veld, a Dutch Liberal MEP who takes the lead on PNR issues in Parliament, said that it was “highly unfortunate” that the Commission had yet to present its PNR package. She said that it was “only a matter of time before it [PNR collection] becomes a worldwide issue” and rigorous data privacy standards were vital.

In February, in its first exercise of its Lisbon treaty powers, the Parliament rejected the EU-US agreement on sharing financial transfer data, again on data privacy grounds.

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Jim Brunsden 

Life in the slow lane

Life in the slow lane

Major transport projects across Europe are falling way behind schedule.



The Kehl bridge over the Rhine ought to be the perfect symbol of European integration. It was on the Kehl footbridge that Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel met during last year’s 60th anniversary celebrations of NATO. But building a new railway bridge has proved far harder than arranging a photo-call between the French and German leaders. A €23 million steel railway bridge is expected to open later this year, after two years of building work and a mere 16 years of talking about building work.

The slow progress to a new Kehl railway bridge exemplifies the problems around building the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) – the core roads, railway lines, shipping and aviation routes, and transport infrastructure in the European Union.

Although the TEN-T network covers all major roads and transport links, the centrepiece of the network is a set of 30 priority projects, the most important transnational projects in Europe. Yet since the first prestige projects were announced in 1996, only five have been completed. End dates continue to slip into the future: 16 projects are not scheduled to be finished until 2020 at the earliest, with the remainder to be completed by 2025.

European transport ministers will meet next week (8-9 June) in Zaragoza to discuss how they can keep these big projects on track in tough economic times.

Lack of money was a problem even during times of plenty. Although the EU provides some funding, the bulk comes from national budgets. But governments tend to prioritise work in the interior, rather than the cross-border links. Cross-border links can be the most costly or difficult to build, because they involve building through mountains or over rivers. But many observers think the problems go beyond geology. Brian Simpson, a British Socialist MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s transport committee, says that governments do not trust each other enough and are “suspicious of whether their neighbours are doing their bit”.

Thinking European

The European Commission is increasingly frustrated. “Today’s TEN-T network mainly consists of an assembly of national sections that are not yet or only partially interlined,” states a draft of the 2010 progress report that will be published at the Zaragoza conference.

Senior European figures have identified a more general malaise. In his recent report on the single market, Mario Monti, the former European commissioner, argued that governments were not “thinking European” on big infrastructure projects, such as roads, pipelines or water. These words are echoed by Mathieu Grosch, a Belgian centre-right MEP who sits on the transport committee: “The main problem is that we call it the Trans-European Networks but we don’t have a European philosophy.”

Fact File

The 30 priority projects

1. Railway link: Berlin-Verona/Milan-Bologna-Napoli-Messina-PalermoCompletion date: 2022
Cost: €51.8 million
2. High-speed railway link: Paris-Brussels-Cologne-Amsterdam-London
Completion date: 2023
Cost: €17.1m
3. High-speed railway link for southwest Europe
Completion date: 2020
Cost: € 45.7m
4. High-speed railway link: eastern France-western Germany
Completion date: 2013
Cost: €5.2m
5. Betuwe railway line (the Netherlands)
Completed in 2008
Cost: €4.7m
6. Railway link: Lyon-Trieste-Divaca/Koper-Divaca-Ljubljana-Budapest-Ukrainian border
Completion date: 2025
Cost: €55.3m
7. Motorway axis Igoumenitsa/Patras-Athens-Sofia-Budapest
Completion date: 2016
Cost: €19m
8. Multimodal axis: Portugal/Spain-rest of Europe
Completion date: 2016
Cost: € 14.6m
9. Railway link: Cork-Dublin-Belfast-Stranraer
Completed in 2001
Cost: €595,000
10. Malpensa Airport
Completed in 2001
Cost: €1.3m
11. Øresund fixed link
Completed in 2000
Cost: €2.7m
12. Nordic Triangle railway/road link
Completion date: 2020
Cost: € 12.7m
13. UK/Ireland/Benelux road link
Completion date: 2015
Cost: €5.7m
14. West Coast Main Line (UK)
Completed in 2008
Cost: €10.8m
15. Galileo
Completion date: 2012
Cost: €2.3m
16. Freight railway link: Sines-Madrid-Paris
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €8.6m
17. Railway link: Paris-Strasbourg-Stuttgart-Vienna-Bratislava
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €13.8m
18. Rhine/Meuse-Main-Danube inland waterway
Completion date: 2021
Cost: €2.6m
19. High-speed rail interoperability on the Iberian peninsula
Completion date: 2021
Cost: €40.8m
20. Fehmarn Belt railway link
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €7.3m
21. Motorways of the sea project
No completion date given
No cost given
22. Railway link: Athens-Sofia-Budapest-Vienna-Prague-Nuremburg-Dresden
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €13.9m
23. Railway link: Gdansk-Warsaw-Brno/Bratislava-Vienna
Completion date: 2025
Cost: €4.4m
24. Railway link: Lyon-Geneva-Basel-Duisberg-Rotterdam/Antwerp
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €21.9m
25. Motorway link: Gdan´sk-Brno/Bratislava-Vienna
Completion date: 2018
Cost: €10.4m
26. Railway and road link: Ireland/UK/Europe
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €7.9m
27. ‘Rail Baltica’ link: Warsaw-Kaunas-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €2.5m
28. ‘Eurocaprail’ on the Brussels-Luxembourg-Strasbourg railway line
Completion date: 2015
Cost: €1m
29. Railway link: Ionian/Adriatic intermodal corridor
Completion date: 2020
Cost: €4.3m
30. Inland waterway: Seine-Scheldt
Completion date: 2016
Cost: €4.5m


Grosch, who represents a German-speaking part of Belgium, argues that countries can overcome national rivalries, citing a decision for a railway line to stop in the German city of Aachen rather than on the Belgian side. But governments do not always want to put the general good above their own local link.

The Commission is in the process of reforming TEN-T policy and would like more control put in the hands of the EU institutions. One Commission official says there needs to be a “radical overhaul…to move away from loosely interconnected national plans to European plans”.

What this means in practice is not entirely clear. Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transport, will present formal proposals in spring 2011. However, people should not expect a “grandiose new deal”, says the Commission official, but rather more attention to missing border crossings and on smoothing out “interoperability” problems, for example, speeding up work on common signalling standards for European railways – the European Rail Traffic Management System.

Shrinking budgets

More leadership is what many in the transport industry have been calling for. Marc Billiet at the International Road Transport Union, which represents European truckers, coach and taxi drivers, says that the problems are “a lack of EU leadership in steering the priorities” and a lack of co-ordination between national, regional and local decision-makers.

Grosch would like the Commission to take a bigger role: it should offer “more than guidelines” but enforce “compulsory measures” to ensure that projects serve a European interest, he says.

Kallas hopes ministers will sign up to the general idea of more European control in Zaragoza. But he will face several obstacles. The most pressing problem is shrinking transport budgets. The total bill for all 30 priority projects comes in at €395 billion. Less than half the money has been pledged so far and this year spending has been cut by €14bn, raising more doubt about completion dates.

The Commission’s progress report suggests that Kallas is going to bid for more EU money for transport – “financial needs for the next financial perspectives will increase” – but the transport commissioner will face a lot of competition from other political priorities in a tight spending round.

Another challenge is how all this new transport infrastructure can be reconciled with the pledge to cut Europe’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 80%-95% by 2050. The Commission has declared that climate change will be at the centre of TEN-T policy in the future. They suggest this will mean favouring low-carbon transport – rail and water – over road. But national governments’ support for this is unclear.

The bottom line is whether Kallas can persuade ministers to “think European” on transport. National thinking was not erased from the TEN-T projects in times of plenty. Completing the projects looks even less certain in times of austerity.

Simpson puts it bluntly: “Am I hopeful that member states will come up with the money to complete the Trans-European Networks? No, I am not.”

Jennifer Rankin 

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Finding new ways to close the gender gap

Finding new ways to close the gender gap

Virginija Langbakk talks about the challenges of opening the EU’s gender-equality institute.


6/9/10, 9:11 PM CET

Updated 4/12/14, 7:41 PM CET

At first, the prospect of becoming the first head of the European Institute for Gender Equality in Vilnius seemed like a change of direction for Virginija Langbakk. 

“The job was more on the management side, and I was framing my career around gender-equality expertise, so I was a bit doubtful,” she recalls. But now she thinks the fit is a good one. “Gender expertise should be our speciality, which makes my experience relevant for the work I have to do.”

She had spent the previous 16 years working as a gender expert in the private and public sectors. “Mostly I was exporting Swedish and Scandinavian ‘best practice’ for gender-equality work” to developing countries, among others, she says.

Her most recent previous position was in the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs, where she worked on international co-operation projects. Working in the newly created EU agency means dealing more closely with the core issues of gender equality. “I’ll be able to focus on the area that I like most,” she says.

Raising awareness

The institute’s role is to provide technical support and gender expertise to EU and member state policymakers. This ranges from collecting and analysing data on gender issues, to the development of methodological tools that will help integrate gender considerations into all policy areas.

More broadly, the institute is charged with supporting networking, spreading best practice and raising awareness of gender-equality issues among EU citizens.

While this final point has a campaigning air about it, in general the institute is not allowed to push too hard.

“We are not supposed to do advocacy or lobbying. We have to be objective,” Langbakk says. It will mainly work on the request of policymakers, which she sees as an advantage since it suggests the results will be used.

“It’s not trying to push or persuade,” she says. “Your interventions are not isolated, but consolidated and co-ordinated. In that sense, it’s the chance of a lifetime.”

Langbakk was appointed in April 2009, and much of her time since then has been spent learning the legal and administrative demands of establishing an EU agency. But opening offices in Vilnius has been made easier because she speaks the language – born and raised in Lithuania, she went to Sweden to work after university and now holds Swedish citizenship.

Since the institute formally opened its doors in Vilnius in December, she has been able to concentrate more on recruitment and setting up the expert working groups that will help the staff of 30 in its work.

While other EU agencies can count on recruiting from the European Commission, particularly when tasks such as project management are being outsourced, the institute has to look further afield.

“It is not typical for someone who is a gender expert to work in the Commission,” Langbakk says. “That means that we are trying to recruit from all the member states.”

Recruitment issues

Ironically, achieving gender balance is also a challenge. “Traditionally, gender-equality issues have been more focused on women’s rights, and that is why there are more women – including me – who work with gender equality,” Langbakk says. “So we have to find measures to recruit more men.”

The few men already working in the field tend to be career civil servants, unlikely to move abroad, so she is placing her hopes on a new generation. “It would be good to have the young ones, the ones who want to develop and create a career in gender equality.”

She thinks it is increasingly possible to think of gender equality as a career, not just an option in campaigning groups or the civil service in countries where gender is a priority.

“When we start working, it will show that this is an important area and you cannot just ignore it, saying that ‘now we have to work with the economy or the environment, but we’ll deal with gender later’.”

Ian Mundell is a freelance journalist based in Brussels.

Ian Mundell 

Pakistan to get ‘upgraded’ relationship

Pakistan to get ‘upgraded’ relationship

EU and Pakistani officials are meeting in Brussels to boost relations.



The European Union and Pakistan are expected to agree on a programme to upgrade their relations to a “partnership for peace and development” at a summit in Brussels on 4 June. 

Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, will play host to Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister of Pakistan, for a strategic dialogue on counterterrorism, trade and humanitarian assistance. José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, will also attend. The partnership foresees regular meetings between Ashton and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, who will also attend the summit.

A first summit between the two sides took place in Brussels last June. Friday’s summit had originally been scheduled for 21 April but was postponed because of disruptions to air travel in Europe at the time. Earlier in the year, Pakistani officials said that the summit had been put into question by an EU demand that Pakistan should be represented by President Asif Ali Zardari rather than the prime minister, but the disagreement was later described as a protocol issue and has now been resolved.

The EU is Pakistan’s main trade partner, and the government is eager to gain greater access to the EU market.

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Toby Vogel 

Trichet cautious on growth

Trichet cautious on growth

ECB chief defends changes to capital requirements for banks.



The European Central Bank (ECB) today (5 August) sought to play down signs that the eurozone may be through the worst of the economic crisis, saying that it expects growth to slow in the second half of 2010. “We consider that we should not be complacent in any respect,” Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB’s president, said. “We should not declare victory.”

Speaking after a meeting of the ECB’s governing council, Trichet said that the bank expects economic activity in the third and fourth quarters of 2010 to be “significantly less dynamic” than that recorded in the second quarter of the year (April-June). “The second quarter seems to be really exceptional,” he said. He urged governments to be rigorous in improving their public finances, saying this was an essential step to underpin recovery.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, will release its first estimate of second-quarter growth in the EU and the eurozone on 13 August.

The governing council, the bank’s highest decision-making body, kept key ECB interest rates on hold for the 15th month running. The decision means that the bank’s main refinancing rate remains at 1%, a historic low.


Despite his cautious outlook, Trichet said that available data for the third quarter of 2010 indicates that growth will be “better” than previously expected. The European Commission’s latest economic forecast, dating from 5 May, predicts that the eurozone economy will grow by 0.2% in the third-quarter, compared to the previous quarter, and by 0.7% compared to the same period in 2009.

“Looking further ahead…we continue to expect the euro area economy to grow at a moderate and still uneven pace,” Trichet said.

The euro today hit a three-month high against the dollar of $1.3188 on the back of mounting investor confidence that Europe is through the worst of its sovereign debt crisis, which was sparked when markets became concerned that Greece, and other member states were not safe from default. Several of the EU’s benchmark stock indexes were also at three-month highs today.

Fact File


Trichet defended a decision on 26 July by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to amend planned reforms of capital requirements for banks – the minimum levels of capital that banks must hold to protect themselves against risk. The committee, which is made up of central bankers and financial regulators from the world’s major economies, agreed to relax rules on the kinds of assets that banks could use to build up ‘liquidity buffers’ to be drawn down in times of crisis. They also agreed to delay the introduction of a rule that would force banks to match more closely the duration of their liabilities and assets. Bank stocks rallied when the changes were announced, because they were widely perceived as a watering down of the committee’s original plans, published in December.

“I wouldn’t say at all that the discussions that took place in Basel have watered down in any respect future rules and regulation,” Trichet said. He said that a transition period before certain reforms were fully introduced was “natural in the present circumstances” and something that banks considered to be “important”.

Trichet said that further details on the timing and co-ordination of the reforms to capital requirements would be agreed at the Basel committee’s next meeting in September.

“After having been extremely negative on Europe and extremely positive on the US we are now observing some kind of a swing [by investors] in the other direction,” Trichet said.

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Steps taken by the EU to end the crisis have included the creation, on 7 June, of a €440 billion financial stability mechanism to help member states in difficulty, and the publication, on 23 June, of the results of a stress-test exercise of the EU’s banking sector.

Trichet said that the next meeting of the ECB’s governing council, on 2 September, would discuss the timetable for the bank to withdraw temporary measures that it has put in place to combat the financial crisis.

Jim Brunsden 

Souness rips into Pogba with fresh rant at the Man Utd midfielder

Graeme Souness has claimed it would be “an absolute doddle” to play against Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba in a fresh rant at the France international.

The Liverpool legend has previously criticised Pogba for “dancing at a wedding”, setting a “bad example” for other Man Utd players and numerous other things.

Souness was involved in a Q&A with the Sunday Times readers with one asking him about his apparent “disdain” for Pogba. The reader asks: “Much has been made of your apparent disdain for Paul Pogba. Is this a misconception? Should you have been his team-mate, what words of advice do you feel that you would have offered him?”

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To which Souness replied: “Pogba has absolutely everything to be a top player – great athleticism, super technique – but his attitude to the game is the polar opposite of mine.

“He goes out with one thought in his mind: ‘I’m going to show everyone how clever I am today and be the star of the show.’

“My attitude, the way I was taught, was: ‘Go out and work harder than the guy you’re in against and see where that takes you.’ He’d be an absolute doddle to play against.”


The F365 Show is on hiatus until the football returns. Subscribe now ready for its glorious comeback. In the meantime, listen to the latest episode of Planet Football’s 2000s podcast, The Broken Metatarsal.

Former coach reveals why Man Utd ‘might be a nice fit’ for young star

Jude Bellingham’s former coach has explained how the Birmingham midfielder’s mentality will set him up for a fantastic career, wherever he chooses to play.

The 16-year-old has become one of European football’s most sought-after young talents after a stunning breakthrough season in the Championship.

Bellingham has chipped in with four goals and three assists this term and his performances have led to serious interest from the likes of Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

Reports previously indicated that the youngster has been shown around United’s Carrington training complex by Sir Alex Ferguson, while Dortmund are said to have drawn up a prospective salary for the player.

Speaking to The Mirror, Sam Manoochehri – who worked with Bellingham for four years – outlined that United, as well as Chelsea, could benefit from signing the midfielder.

“I’ve got no doubt in my mind that Jude will play in the Champions League and he will represent England at senior level,” the coach said.

“Man Utd, it might be a nice fit for Jude, with a rejuvenated team, and talk of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish going over there.

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“But Dortmund would also suit. The recent profile of players that have come through that system, the likes of Jadon Sancho. Jude would fit that mould, too.

“And look at what’s going on at Chelsea now. A lot of good young players in that team.”

Going further, Manoochehri offered anecdotes about two occasions on which Bellingham displayed the “elite” mentality that he believes will serve the midfielder well.

“Anywhere Jude goes, he will be a success, based purely on his mentality. I have never seen a mentality more elite than this,” the coach said. “When I worked with him, when something was tough, he loved it.

“I can remember games when he wanted to play centre-half to test himself. Now if you say to most young midfielders or attackers, ‘by the way you’re playing centre-half today’, they probably wouldn’t be best pleased with it.

“But Jude would actively go and seek the challenge without having to be pushed from the coaching staff. All we did was provide an environment in which he could go and stretch himself.

“I can remember one training session in particular where after about 20 minutes, I asked him: ‘are you using your other foot?’. He replied: ‘Yeah, I am just going to play on my left foot today’ and that was without any prompts.

“That is his unique ability. He loves a challenge, loves developing and learning, and being pushed out of his comfort zone.”


The F365 Show is on hiatus until the football returns. Subscribe now ready for its glorious comeback. In the meantime, listen to the latest episode of Planet Football’s 2000s podcast, The Broken Metatarsal.

Jurgen Klopp should do the decent thing, and other mails…

Thanks for your mails. Keep them coming in to…


Do the decent thing, Jurgen
If Jurgen Klopp was smart, he would take the noble high ground by forfeiting the EPL title via nulling and voiding the season. Citing “lives over football”, he would forever be revered as a “Martyr in Sports” by the world. He would be immortalised as a “Saint”. That title alone is worth much more than an overdue 30 yrs EPL title.

He should then resign from Liverpool to create more impact.
So Saith Sovereign King Darren


Scrap next season
I’ve listened long enough to fans, players, club owners who are calling for the 19/20 season to be ditched and I can’t listen anymore; its the 20/21 season that should be amended or scrapped over anything else, and here’s why:

We have no real idea as to when football is going to be able to properly start up again. It might be June, it might be August, it might be November, it might not be until January 2021. This uncertainty is a fact and, depending on who you listen to, when we can get back to normality is completely up in the air. And a key word here is ‘properly’: confidently starting football again knowing the pandemic is over. This is likely to be some time.

As such, what are we going to do with the 20/21 season if it starts in November? What about January? There are far too many unknowns and questions regarding how to fit a whole league season, European campaigns and international fixtures in an, as of yet, undefined time period and one that is likely to be significantly shorter that normal. But you know what would be easier to fit into an as of yet undefined and likely shorter time period? Yes: less than a quarter of a season aka the remainder of the 19/20 campaign.

It’s always fairer to complete a season under the rules that all clubs were working with at the start, rather than change them or scrap them some of the way through. If we do alter the 20/21 season – perhaps agreeing the season will have less games overall – at least everybody knows the score right from the start?

So to me the solution is simple: we move forward planning to finish the 19.20 campaign when it is completely safe to do so, and it is done at some point during the 20/21 calendar, August to May. If there then isn’t enough time for a proper season to then be played? Clubs can organise their own little money spinning tournaments, arrange their own games against whoever they like, travel the world, play football as often or as little as they like: all in preparation for the Euros and then the start of a normal 21/22 season. Think of the creativity that could be involved, for a small period of time, for every club across England and much of Europe, and we can also say that we did the right thing by finding a way to not cancel any competitions that we have already started.

Finally, let’s be clear about what the ‘right thing’ to do is: the right thing to do is to stop playing football as we have done, and we probably should have stopped sooner. The right thing to do is waiting until the pandemic has passed and it is safe to continue playing football, likely without more interruption. The right thing to do is to do what we can to finish the current competitions, whenever that may be and however far into the future that is. All of these can be done, and so therefore, why shouldn’t they?

Yes, I am a Liverpool fan.
Jay, I can’t remember the last time we won it!


…The talk of what to do with the league season when it eventually starts has naturally reduced given people have begun to realise the seriousness of the situation we are all in.
I’ve have had a feeling the last few days and it’s a feeling that a lot of people I’m sure haven’t given a moments thought.
I am getting a feeling the season may well carry on where it finished but a year later on the 13th March 2021.
When we eventually come through this, life will be very different from how it was before for the world.
Lives will need the-building, our country will need re-building and of course way down the list of national priorities of that football will need re-building.
Don’t anybody think that it will be a quick task to just start up as quickly as it finished.
Who’d of thought that 3 weeks ago?
Ken. Ireland.


Home Internationals Championships
A couple of memories of that competition – the big thing was the games were televised when I was growing up in the 60’s, and that was a big deal. I’m pretty sure not all of them were screened live, but I seem to recall watching the England v Scotland games in full. Other than that the only live game you saw was the FA Cup Final.

The big rivalry was, obviously, England and Scotland. The Sweaties appointed themselves “Unofficial World Champions” in 1967 as they were the first team to beat England since their 1966 World Cup win. When the game was at Wembley (every other year) and I think most of Scotland got on a train to come south, and Trafalgar Square and the area around it was packed with the Tartan Army. You went there at your peril if you weren’t wearing tartan. I recall a couple of bad accidents when fans were diving into the fountains not realizing the water was only about 6″ deep.

I’m pretty sure most of the games during my time were played at the respective “national” stadiums, Ibrox, Wembley & Windsor Park although Wales spread the wealth around a little more.

I don’t remember being particularly bothered about who won the tournament, it was all about beating Scotland to my mind.

The jocks did dig up Wembley after the 1977 win, but I read that the pitch was going to be relaid anyway, so it wasn’t so much a big deal. Breaking the crossbar, however, was so blown out of proportion you’d have think the fans burned the stadium down. Reading the articles in the Glasgow Herald is fun, especially the hand-wringing from Secretary of State Frank McElhone who wasn’t impressed by the chant “If you all hate the English clap your hands”. That seems quite mild compared to the mayhem in the 70’s at a regular league game.

Happy days

Steve, Los Angeles


Poor Paolo

In the same vein as my Players Who Never Won the World Cup but Lost in The Final, here’s one for the European Championship:

Buffon (2012), Lahm (2008), Cannavaro (2000), Maldini (2000), Brehme (1992), Schweinsteiger (2008), Pirlo (2012), Nedved (1996), Ceulemans (1980), Belanov (1988), Figo (2004).

It brings a tear to the eye to see Maldini in both of these teams for the World Cup and the Euros 😢
Matthew, Belfast


Irritating XI
After seeing few worst XI of all time, can we have a new challenge:
What is your most irritating XI of all time? You know – that XI that you would want Meteor to drop on the field if you saw them playing. And why? It does not have to be connected to performance or EPL.

Here is mine (ignore positions)

-GK: Oliver Kahn (couldn’t stand him)

– DC: Marco matterazzi (his presence is enough ti turn off tv)

– DC: Sergio Ramos (i would give him red Card 15 minitues before kick off)

– DC: Pepe (I would give him red card 2 days before kick off and he would have to be in police station during Match)

– MR: Dani Alves (maybe it is just me, but can’t stand the guy)

– MC: Nani (his theatrics and High opinion of his own ability does not Match performance. Most annoying time: after Ronaldo departure)

– MC: Francisco Totti (this is personal. In CM0102 his Roma was unbeatable team and he was always MOM)

– ML: Ryan Babbel (that rap “song” should be enough to ban him for lifetime from speaking/wispering/thinking/singing

– FR: Cristiano Ronaldo (great player, but too much theatricities and waving)

– FC: Nicklas Bendtner (he needs 1000 hours of individual psychotherapy)

– FL: Mario Balotelli (when you think you’re cool but in reality you are Mario Balotelli)

Honourable mention:

– Benzema
– Diego Costa
– Neymar
– John Terry
– Anelka
– Adebayor
– Giroud
– Jordi Alba

I thought this would be easier…


United get a raw deal
I do not buy that F365 are ABUs. I do, however, think that like other commercial outfits you understand that United sell. And that saying things about them, taking a position, being provocative is a sensible commercial strategy. And regardless of if you mean to, that creeps out.

Man City are as close to 14th as they are 1st. Leicester are as close to 1st as they are 19th. Man City have lost more games than Arsenal and Wolves. City have let in more goals than United.

Yet I do not see any mention of these facts when commenting on these clubs. You do not deem it necessary to add snide remarks such as ‘A seemingly necessary reminder that City have meekly surrendered their League title while losing the same number of games as a promoted team,’ or ‘…but a seemingly necessary reminder that Brendan Rodgers has as many points over the last 5 games as Steve Bruce’s 13th placed Newcastle United…’.

You do not apply the same treatment to other clubs and that may not be overt bias, but it is clear and obvious. Pack it in.
Andreas (glad this is the only thing I have to moan about right now) Hunter, St Albans


More fan mail
Was going to send in a mail, telling you lot to just F….k off .

Instead I have to applaud your commitment to the cause , Of making Ole look inept while trolling Man United fans ,goading us to write in.Right after people complained ,about him not being in the top 5, you’ve doubled down and put him at the top of the worst list, wow just wow.

First of all 17 points against the dominant sides should make any manager above criticism , This website’s preferred choice for manager of United , never achieved that amount of points against similar opposition, In any year ,in charge of Spurs and this was with well rounded teams.

Simply extrapolating 14 points works both ways .Applied to city this season. and they fail to qualify for the champions league in Pep’s 1st season (they actually finish 6th) . There is an argument for Arsenal getting less than 1/2 the points left based on their fixtures, which would make this the season one of the worst since before Wenger took over, Hardly justifying why there new man , is 2nd on the other list .

You can rave about the low number of points,and claim this is a weak league, I can point tp the fact ,that unlike La Liga the premiership is stacked with money and show you a champions league winner in charge of Everton, or a guy with the reputation of Hassenhutl ,managing teams in the botton half, Talk -less of the two former title winners who have been sacked in the last 2 seasons, For practically relegating teams (Ranieri and Pellegrini).

For all the talk of losing because they can’t manage properly , Ole is still 3rd (for points) since he took over, and has had to play the equivalent of at least half a season with the creative void that is Perreira and Lingard .Last year when this was less of an issue,The manager had, Pogba and Lukaku. Lukaku wanted out, and Pogba has downed tools since , the PSG 1st leg .

Unlike at the beginning of the season, when as much as half of the teams total points , Would have gotten ,would have been against the top 6 , It’s closer to 1/3 right now, and will probably drop even further , as the team improves in terms of personnel.

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The two teams you believe he should be better than already, Have been built over several years on an array of talented players in Pep’s case and on Firmino keeping the other from killing themselves in the other, (oh and great wing-back)s . Utd is not suddenly going to play exactly like that just because Bruno showed up it will take at least a few more players.

If there is a tactical mistake Ole made, It was believing Pogba would actually be an adult and show up the first half of the season , Unlike the rest of the list, he has at least seen most of his mistakes and is doing something to rectify them.Portraying this manager in the worst possible light, is however just what you do.

So yeah F…k Off


…On Alex Keble’s latest piece – when VVD comes in and fundamentally alters Liverpool’s defence, he’s ‘the piece Klopp was missing’, ‘the best in the business’ and so on. When Bruno comes in and fundamentally alters United’s attack, ‘he is evidence of the individualism at United’, ‘Solsjkaer doesn’t teach tactics’ and so on. At least be consistent, F365. You make it sound like beating City and other big clubs involves no tactical thinking beyond launching counter attacks. If it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? Not saying Solsjkaer is the second coming of Pep, but he definitely isn’t as bad as you constantly try to make him out to be
Shubham (first-time writer, WFH leaves me with a lot of free time), India

The F365 Show is on hiatus until the football returns. Subscribe now ready for its glorious comeback. In the meantime, listen to the latest episode of Planet Football’s 2000s podcast, The Broken Metatarsal.

Fadela Amara s’éclate à St-Trop’

Fadela Amara a été aperçue par les informateurs du site Bakchich sur une plage de Saint-Tropez, alors même qu’elle avait adopté le mot d’ordre “vacances sobre lancé par son patron Nicolas Sarkozy. Des cités à Saint-Tropez, ça va jaser…

«J’irai du côté de l’Auvergne, a confié Fadela Amara au journal d’M6, et du côté de la Méditerranée, on va dire…». Oui, on dira ça… Pour ne pas dire Saint-Tropez où, comme l’affirme le site Bakchich info, Fadela Amara se trouvait dimanche dernier «accolée à des convives fumant le cigare et buvant du rosé à plus de 200 euros le magnum», précise le site.

Il est vrai que Fadela n’avait pas intérêt à avouer son goût pour l’exubérant Nikki Beach, alors que le président de la République a demandé à ses troupes d’y aller doucement sur les séjours de rêve, et sur le train de vie «bling-bling». Une consigne du style « faites ce que je dis, mais pas ce que je fais ». Partir comme l’année dernière en Auvergne, dont est originaire la ministre de la ville, très bien. Mais Saint-Trop’, ses yachts et ses milliardaires russes, beurk!

Certes, si Fadela doit revenir à Paris en urgence comme le souhaite le boss, c’est fastoche. Mais si elle voulait la jouer sobre, c’est raté. L’information fait d’autant plus mauvais effet que Fadela avait critiqué ceux qui partent «dans des lieux lointains, paradisiaques…», le 27 juillet dernier, dans une interview accordée au Six Minutes d’M6. Et d’ajouter: «je trouve cela indécent, alors que le pays souffre.» Alors qu’un petit village de pêcheurs, tout ce qu’il y a de plus typique…

Mercredi 28 juillet 2009

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