Player sentenced to jail

Udinese defender Danilo Larangeira has been found guilty of racist abuse and sentenced to a year in prison by a court in Brazil.

Danilo has been with the Udinese side since 2011 and has made 74 appearances for the club, scoring four goals.

Danilo, 28, was caught on camera spitting in the face of Atletico Paranaense player Manoel and calling him “macaco” – monkey – when playing for Palmeiras in April 2010.

He later admitted that he verbally abused and spat at the opponent, who reported the matter to a local police station immediately after the game.

The Sao Paulo Criminal Court handed the sentence to Danilo, although it is expected that the punishment will be reduced to a €127,000 fine on appeal.

One wonders whether someone less wealthy than Danilo would be allowed an alternative to a custodial sentence. It seems unlikely.

Give him a break

Cristiano Ronaldo has pleaded with Real Madrid fans to get off Jose Mourinho’s back and to get behind the team after a couple of home performances where their coach has been jeered by sections of the Bernabeu.

Twenty four hours after a Marca poll revealed the extent of Mourinho’s unpopularity among Real fans, Ronaldo, scorer of a hat-trick in Wednesday’s 4-0 Kings Cup win over Celta Vigo, called for fans to support his compatriot.

“I have to ask that they (the fans) stop this now,” Ronaldo told reporters after their 5-2 aggregate victory set up a Cup quarter-final with Valencia.

“The boss is going to stay, we still have a lot we can win this year. He is in charge and he takes the decisions, the fans and the players should help him.

“People have shown they are unhappy but that’s enough now. They have to get behind the boss and the team. It affects the players out on the pitch. If we win the Cup and the Champions League it will have been a good year.”

Success on the pitch may not be enough for many fans, who have grown weary of Mourinho’s confrontational style and petulant outbursts – the latest of which was witnessed in the win over Celta Vigo.

Repeat offender

Mourinho’s mood will not have been helped by the dismissal against Celta Vigo of Sergio Ramos. Already the player to have received the most red cards in the history of Real Madrid, the defender was sent off for a 12th time on Wednesday.

Considering he is only 26 and assuming Madrid don’t unexpectedly sign Joey Barton to shore up the leaky midfield, Ramos looks like he will keep that record in perpetuity.

Wednesday’s dismissal – a second yellow awarded after Ramos fell and his boot came into contact with Augusto Fernandez’s face - was unusual in that there was enough evidence to suggest that the repeat offender had been harshly treated by the referee.

Ramos was handed a second yellow card for kicking out at Augusto Fernandez, and the 26-year-old verbally attacked the referee before walking off as he felt he was being treated unfairly.

“You’re a scoundrel. You have been trying to screw us all game long,” the defender repeatedly said to the referee, according to his post-match report.

The centre-back then went on to insult the fourth official, too, before making way to the dressing room.

“On his way out, he approached the fourth official, saying: ‘It’s the same as always you scoundrels.’”

Meanwhile, Ramos has acknowledged that he verbally attacked the referee after his dismissal.

“I am disappointed with the red card. I know this referee for quite some time now and I have never had a good feeling about him.

“Sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment that you shouldn’t say. I apologise for that.”

Here’s the incident in question:

Honeymoon over

It was business as usual at stamford Bridge last night as Rafa Benitez endured angry fan protests after a shock 2-0 home defeat against Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final.

While the rest of the country was giggling at the plight of the reigning European champions, Benitez was subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse from a significant number of Chelsea supporters. Most were angry that the promise of silverware that convinced them to support Chelsea all those months ago, has turned out to be chimeric.

Supporters, furious that the club’s trophy drought has now extended to a scarcely imaginable 7 months, sang for Jose Mourinho and European Cup-winning manager Roberto Di Matteo in the second half.

As fans called for his head, Benitez demonstrated a Canute-like refusal to accept the evidence in front of his eyes, when he declared: “I was pleased with the performance and if we play like that, nine times out of 10 we will win.”

Value for money

Meanwhile, victorious Swansea coach Michael Laudrup was forced to deflect questions about the future of his in-from striker Michu, scorer of Swansea’s opener against Chelsea.

The surprise hit of the Premier League season has begun to attract attention from a number of clubs, but Laudrup warned that few could actually afford to buy him.

“I’m not the one putting the price tag on him,” Laudrup told.

“We all know the economic situation in the world, so there really aren’t that many clubs who can buy him.

“There are some here. In Spain there are only two. Italy, I don’t think so. They’re trying to sell. Bayern Munich in Germany… so only a few, few clubs.”

Michu was also reported to be the subject of interest in Russia, where several leading clubs would also have the means to match his current valuation.

Inevitably, given that both hail from Spain and both now ply their trade for Premier League clubs, comparisons between the £2 million bargain Michu and Chelsea’s Fernando Torres have been made. Both, too, are strikers although in Torres’s case, only nominally so.

It seems a little unfair to keep reminding Torres that he was once valued at £50 million, but the contrast with Michu is quite striking.

Torres has scored 26 times, equating to almost £2 million per goal, a poor return in comparison to Michu, whose efforts have come at just £125,000 each.

“Michu likes it here,” Laudrup added. “He’s happy where he is, so I’m really not afraid because I’m so sure he will stay with us for the next five or six months.”

“I don’t know how much he’s worth. Ask my chairman. He was the bargain of the season, we know that.”

Appeals process

The Bulgarian Football Union and the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) will appeal sanctions imposed by FIFA for racist abuse by their fans during recent World Cup qualifiers.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee on Tuesday ordered Bulgaria to play in an empty stadium on March 22 when it hosts Malta for a World Cup qualifier and fined the Balkan country 35,000 Swiss francs, while Hungary have been told to play its next home World Cup qualifier against Romania behind closed doors.

Bulgaria fans made monkey chants at Denmark defender Patrick Mtiliga during a World Cup qualifier in Sofia on October 12.

Union president Borislav Mihaylov said the appeal will be against the ”disproportionate punishment for racism and discriminatory behavior of a very small group of the crowd.”

I wonder if FIFA has the powers to extend the punishment if it finds the appeal trivial. Let’s hope so.

At least there were signs of contrition from Hungary after they were handed a stadium ban and fined 40,000 Swiss francs.

A group of their supporters had chanted anti-Semitic chants and displayed offensive symbols in the November friendly match against Israel.

The Hungarian Football Association issued a statement that read: ”To punish tens of thousands of fans in this way is a huge punishment, not only to the MLSZ but to Hungarian football fans and society as a whole, and the association therefore finds FIFA’s decision disproportionate and excessive.

“The MLSZ is committed to the fight against racism and discrimination and will continue to make sure extremist voices that do not adhere to civilised norms disappear from Hungarian football fields as soon as possible.”

Home grown talent

It’s been a while since we heard from Brendan Rodgers so it’s a pleasure to welcome the most quote-worthy of Premier League managers back to the fold.

The Liverpool boss wants Liverpool to make the most of the talent on their own doorstep rather than scout for players overseas.

“My big thing is getting young players in here from the local area,” said the Liverpool manager, who thus far has signed Italian Fabio Borini, Welshman Joe Allen, Turk Nuri Sahin, Moroccan Oussama Assaidi, Germany’s Samed Yesil and Birmingham-born Daniel Sturridge.

“Boys from Liverpool. If you look at the history here: the Carragher, the Gerrard, the McManaman, the Fowler, the Owen…

“And you name me the best two players in England in the last six or seven years? Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, and they are Scousers. One is from that part of the city and the other from that part. So you are not telling me there are not top young talents in Liverpool.

So, in the last 15 years the city of Liverpool produced two exceptional footballing talents. Is that a guarantee that two more will be produced in the next 15 years? Of course not. The worry for Liverpool must be that since Gerrard emerged a dozen or so years ago, the club have not produced one first team regular.

“It is sexy to look in Spain, and I am one who loves working with European players,” continued Rodgers. “I love working with the talents, and all my life I have worked with players from different parts of the world.

“But we mustn’t forget what is on our doorstep, and, for me, this is a hot bed for footballers who have a passion, hunger and incredible qualities. That is a massive part of my job and something we are trying to put in place.”

Say what you like about Rodgers but he certainly knows how to play to the crowd, or in this case the local fans who make up the majority of Liverpool’s match day support. Butter them up, buy yourself some more time, appear to be the guiding principles of his tenure.

Goal of the day

Stunning strike by Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Real Madrid in their 4-0 Kings Cup victory over Celta Vigo.

Quote of the day

“Could Sneijder disrupt the dressing room if he stays? These things happen at the beginning, but if you’re sensible you can get over them. Having said that, I’m not sure how he sees things.”

Inter president Massimo Moratti anticipates problems with Wesley Sneijder if the Dutch playmaker stays with the club.

Staying put

Neymar, who has been courted by some of the world’s biggest clubs, says “it is not yet the time” to play in Europe as the Santos youngster won his second straight South American player of the year award.

“Everyone asks me the same question but I have a contract with Santos until 2014 and I am happy here with my family and my friends,” the striker told journalists at the ceremony on Wednesday.

The 20 year-old also played down comparisons with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who won his fourth straight Ballon d’Or earlier this week, and said he considered that club and country were his priorities.

“That is not what I’m looking for,” he replied when asked about being the best in the world.

“My goal is to help Santos and the Brazilian team. To be the best player in the world is a consequence of that work.”

Santos President Paulo Schiff compared the forward to Pele, who spent almost all his entire career at the club before a late spell with the New York Cosmos.

“In 30 years, no other Brazilian club has been able to keep onto a great player except us with Neymar. We have refused offers from Barcelona, Chelsea and other clubs,” said Schiff.

“We want him to have a great career with Santos like the King Pele during his heyday.”

Wishful thinking perhaps, but one can fully understand why Brazil would not want to lose the poster boy for the 2014 World Cup before the tournament starts.

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