Media: Double Standards - 'I saw Diego Maradona rip Brazil apart at Italia 90'

Patrick Barclay and Henry Winter discuss the good, bad and brilliant sides of covering football - as well as the thorny issues of players' salaries and big money transfers.

PATRICK BARCLAY - CHIEF FOOTBALL COMMENTATOR, THE TIMES

- What's the most enjoyable part of the job, and are there any downsides?

The joy of football writing is being able to travel to famous places. Once, I visited the Berlin Wall, the Wailing Wall and Auschwitz, all in the space of a few months - each time because a football assignment took me nearby. What a privilege. The main downside is not being given adequate tools to do the job. The technology frequently lets you down. Often writing a piece, which should be the most important and challenging part of the job, is almost a relaxation compared with the torture of trying to transmit it in a hurry.

- What makes a good football correspondent?

The qualities you would associate with Brian Glanville: writing ability, of course; a sense of humour; an ability to interpret football and put incidents in historical context; independence of mind; courage. The first three qualities are still surprisingly abundant in the profession, the last two are sadly rare. Conventional wisdom rules.

- How would you describe your own, and your paper's, approach to covering the sport?

I like to think I am cynical about the appropriate things and affectionate about the rest. As for my paper, The Times covers football very seriously indeed. There are lots of excellent football writers. For me, it's an insight into how Carlos Tevez must have felt at Manchester United last season. No matter how hard you try, there's always a Wayne Rooney-like Matt Dickinson or a Dimitar Berbatov-like Oliver Kay eager to step in and grab your shirt, or space in the paper. It's proper journalism. Long may it continue.

- Which players will excite us the most in the Premier League this season?

Arshavin, Rooney, Berbatov, Torres, Gerrard, Arteta and Ashley Young.

- How healthy is it that football (in terms of player transfers and salaries, at least) seems to exist in a bubble, immune to recession and other real world factors?

Very unhealthy indeed. Extremely rich men should follow the example of Bill Gates and put their money to good use rather than wasting it on luxury toys such as footballers. It simply fuels a very nasty form of inflation which, by obliging the rest to play catch-up, consumes vast amounts of revenue that could otherwise be devoted to youth development or other community projects. The game seems to have forgotten its purpose. In this respect, it is following in the footsteps of the global financial "system".

- What is the best individual performance from a footballer you have ever witnessed?

Paolo Maldini for AC Milan against Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final. Switched from left-back to central defence because Baresi and Costacurta were suspended, he gently orchestrated the best club-team performance I have ever seen.

- What do you do in the close-season?

This year, press on with writing a biography of Sir Alex Ferguson. Normally, in summers that do not include a World Cup or European Championship, I devote as much time as possible to reading good writing - the novels of William Boyd, say, or the short stories of Somerset Maugham - mainly because I love it but also on the basis (unsupported by any evidence) that the better you read the better you write.

HENRY WINTER - FOOTBALL CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

- What's the most enjoyable part of the job, and are there any downsides?

Enjoyable: watching great players, seeing Giggs destroy defences, admiring Lampard working an inch of space to shoot, interviewing legends like Pele, Cruyff, Charlton, van Basten etc and knowing that every day unpredictability rules. Sven for Notts County! Michael Owen for United! Downsides? None. One of my best mates is in the RAF, dealing with Afghanistan, and another is a doctor, dealing with horrendous injuries and illnesses, so I'd never dream of whingeing if I get stood up for an interview or my planned introduction on a match report gets shredded by a late goal.

- What makes a good football correspondent?

Everyone does the job differently but there are four main elements: news-gathering, match-reporting, interviewing and comment-writing. The correspondents I most admire write with passion and perspective, a difficult juggling act. Contacts and stamina are vital. Enjoying roadworks is also important (I drive 40,000 to 50,000 miles a year).

- How would you describe your own, and your paper's, approach to covering the sport?

Excited but not excitable. The readers of The Daily Telegraph really know their football and expect balanced, accurate reporting. I hope we're pretty fair, although I usually have four or five articles a season which I regret (calling for Ferguson's head in 2003 was not my finest hour). I'd love to have an "article amnesty" at the end of the season when my worst pieces would be expunged from public record.

- Which players will excite us the most in the Premier League this season?

Andrei Arshavin at Arsenal - thunder in his boots. Yuri Zhirkov at Chelsea - skill and energy. Wayne Rooney at United - the ultimate team player needs to be more selfish in front of goal and, pre-World Cup, free of metatarsal injury. Fernando Torres at Liverpool - he may tire but he's the best centre-forward in the world.

- How healthy is it that football (in terms of player transfers and salaries, at least) seems to exist in a bubble, immune to recession and other real world factors?

I have less of a problem with huge fees because, Tevez and agents apart, the money stays within football. My real concern is wages as the money disappears from the game, and spiralling wages for the elite lift the salaries of mediocre players. I'd rather introduce a capped maximum of £100,000 a week but with incredible performance-related bonuses, so if Lampard or Gerrard do score 20 goals, do make 20 assists, do win trophies and are responsible for 20,000 shirt sales, then their pay doubles.

- What is the best individual performance from a footballer you have ever witnessed?

I saw Diego Maradona rip Brazil apart at Italia 90 and Beckham keep believing against Greece before the 2002 World Cup, but I'd have to go for Gerrard in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul (half-time onwards).

- What do you do in the close-season?

Sleep, rediscover my family and then get fidgety for the circus to start again.

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