Happy days

Forget the Special One, from now on, Jose Mourinho would like to be known as the Happy One, or so the new Chelsea manager suggested as he was unveiled to the press for the first time since his return to Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho, who returns to Chelsea for his second spell in charge, was in conciliatory mode, as he renewed acquaintance with the British press pack, many of whom will be relieved to have found a quoteworthy replacement for the new retired Sir Alex Ferguson.

“I am the happy one,” said Mourinho at a news conference.

“Calmer? I believe so. I’m in the best moment of my career in terms of knowledge.”

He added: “I began management in 2000. I thought I knew everything, but after 13 years you realise you know nothing and have to learn every day. My adventures around Europe were fantastic for me, different countries, different cultures, different media. It was fantastic.

“At 50, I think I am still very young as a manager and I think it was like the beginning of a new period. Do I have a different personality? No, but for sure I have a different approach and perspective.”

Enjoy, the more mature, mellow Mourinho while you can; history suggests that the new incarnation will not last long.

Former Real Madrid boss Mourinho, who replaces Rafael Benitez at Stamford Bridge, has signed a four-year contract and said he wants to stay for the entire term.

“I hope I can go to the last day of the contract. If the club is happy and the club wants me to stay then I’ll be more than happy to stay.”

When Mourinho left the Blues in 2007, it was widely reported that his relationship with owner Roman Abramovich had become strained.

But the Portuguese boss denied reports of a rift with the Chelsea benefactor.

“That is not true, he said. ”I read and keep reading that I was fired and we had a complete breakdown in relationship. At the time we thought it was the best for both of us [to go our separate ways].

“It was a decision that was difficult for both of us, but a decision made by mutual agreement. There was never a breakdown of the relationship and that us why it is possible for me to be here today.

“I am back because we feel we are in the best moments of our careers, ready to work together again and in much better conditions this time to succeed in what this club wants, which is stability.”

He hit back at claims (see below) that he “damaged” Spanish football during his three years in charge at Real Madrid.

“I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona dominance,” he retorted.

“They were dominant and dominant and dominant and it looked like it was a dominance without an end.

“Real Madrid won the cup final against Barcelona, Real Madrid win the Super Cup against Barcelona, Real Madrid won in Barcelona and Real Madrid won the championship which is the historical [2011-12] championship of 100 points and 121 goals.”

Unfortunately for Mourinho, breaking the Barcelona dominance proved to be a short-lived achievement. His one title-winning season at Madrid looks less a legacy and more of a blip.

Like a madman

Newly appointed Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has been working like “a madman” ahead of his first press conference at the club on June 24.

Guardiola fever haas certainly hit Germany, and on Monday, Kicker published the first part of a ‘Pep Guardiola story’ that will reach its climax on June 24. The ‘story’ is divided into five parts, looking at ‘Where it all began’, ‘Guardiola: the player’, ‘Guardiola: the coach’, ‘Guardiola: the world traveller’ and ‘Guardiola: the person’.

On Sunday, meanwhile, Der Spiegel published an interview with Guardiola’s brother, Pere, who revealed that the former Barcelona coach has been working hard to learn enough German in time for his first Bayern press conference.

“He is a stubborn dog, he will do it,” he said, adding that Guardiola has been learning German “like a madman” for four hours every day.

While in Barcelona for an Easter break, the former Spain international was joined by a German teacher.

“It’s absurd. You meet him for lunch and that guy is talking German with his teacher all the time,” Pere said.

According to Pere, his brother has been learning German ever since November, nearly two months before his appointment at Bayern was made public in January.

Talent drain

The president of the Spanish Football League, Javier Tebas, has warned of a talent drain in Spain as many players will leave the country in the next four years as clubs are forced to pay off their debts.

Spain international Jesus Navas is expected to sign for Manchester City from Sevilla and, with Radamel Falcao already heading for Monaco from Atletico Madrid, Malaga midfielder Isco is another tipped to leave Spain, while the future of the two highest Spanish scorers in the Primera Division last season, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado, remains uncertain.

In an interview with AS, Tebas said fans should expect more players to leave the league, stressing the only way for teams to compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona was to resolve their financial troubles.

He said: “Fans need to be aware that there is going to be an exodus of players over the next three to four years, because we need clubs to decrease their debts if they are able to become alternatives to the big clubs.”

Tebas also reiterated his support for a model of Financial Fair Play for Spanish football, declaring: “The fundamental idea, with a few caveats, is that clubs must spend what they earn.”

The president added that the league was looking to expand its global audience, and said this would have an effect on how it scheduled games in the future.

“We need to look to the foreign market if we are to increase our television revenues, and that means we have to pay attention to the television operators abroad, and make things easier for them in terms of kick off times,” he said.

No doubt the big two of Spanish football will continue to remain immune from the economic problems afflicting the rest of the country, but for the rest, a period of managed decline, similar to the one experienced by Italian clubs in recent seasons, looks the most likely scenario.

Goal of the day

Fluminense’s Rafael eludes the attentions of two Goias defenders before firing a left foot curler in the top corner.

Quotes of the day

 ”A big club can’t play like Mourinho’s Madrid. We don’t let the pitch dry up so it turns into a ‘potato field’, nor do we kick the other team 30,000 times or try to turn up the heat in a game. We didn’t even do that when Madrid went above us.”

Xavi on Jose Mourinho’s footballing philosophy.

“You just have to look at the facts. Yes, he damaged Spanish football, in general more harm than good.”

Xavi’s Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta was not exactly a fan of the recently departed Madrid coach either.

Death threats

Swede Roger Palmgren has quit as Namibia coach after just a month in the role saying he fears for the safety of his family after receiving death threats.

“The president of the Namibia Football Association John Muinjo hereby announces the resignation of the Brave Warriors’ head coach Roger Palmgren who tendered his resignation with immediate effect this weekend due to serious threats directed towards him and his family, as stated in his resignation letter,” the NFA said in a statement.

Namibia Football Federation president John Muinjo told BBC Sport: “Roger emailed us to say that his life was under threat, and based on that he tendered his resignation.

“It would have been good for us to investigate this but he did not talk to us prior to his resignation.”

Muinjo added that he was unsure if the threats were genuine.

“Roger did not raise the issue with us so we have not been able to try to find out who is responsible for these threats – we have not had a direct discussion with him,” Muinjo said.

“We have never had such a problem before and I am worried – if it is true. I’m not 100% sure if it is true, it would have been good if we had had the chance to investigate.”

Palmgren was unveiled as coach on May 2 and led the team to two 0-0 draws, in a friendly against Zambia and a World Cup qualifier in Malawi last week.

Namibia face African champions Nigeria in Windhoek in a qualifier on Wednesday, with former Namibia midfielder Ricardo Mannetti placed in temporary charge of the side.

Namibia trail group leaders Nigeria by four points with two rounds of matches left.

When in Rome…

Four thousand Lazio fans attended a mock funeral on Sunday for the passing of city rivals Roma.

Lazio, who beat their arch-rivals in the 2012-13 Coppa Italia final, staged the event complete with a Roma flag draped across the coffin.

Winter World Cup

The Football Association disagrees with both UEFA and FIFA over plans to move the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to the winter after chairman David Bernstein declared that the proposals are “fundamentally flawed”.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last month that it would be impractical to play in 50-degree summer heat on the Asian peninsula.

He told reporters: ”What do we do? It’s not rational and reasonable to play in June-July.”

He was supported by UEFA president Michel Platini who despite voting for Qatar to host the finals, has undergone a change of heart in recent months.

“Because of the heat the World Cup will need to be held in the winter,” he said earlier this year. “With over 40 degrees (Celsius) playing football is impossible and for the fans it would also be unbearable.

But Bernstein claimed: “The bid was for the World Cup to be played in June and July and for it then to be moved to the winter would be fundamentally flawed. If people want it in the winter they should bid for it on that basis.

“I personally believe that the domestic league season should remain more or less the way it is now, running from August to May,” revealed the official, who steps down from his post as FA chairman next month.

Bernstein continued: “I think football is a winter game, that the public greatly enjoy their football through the winter and that we should think very carefully before we take football away from the public in the winter.”

This final thought was possibly a response to UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, who said last week that he did not understand why football had been historically played in winter.

“You see people in stadiums with hats and scarves,” he said. “Why did England, who brought to us this beautiful game, decide that football is for the winter and not for the summer?”

Match fixing latest

Three Lebanese football referees have pleaded guilty to accepting free sex from a gambling-linked global syndicate in return for fixing a match in Singapore, with two jailed and sentencing deferred for the third.

A district court judge jailed assistant referees Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, for three months, but deferred sentencing until Tuesday for referee Ali Sabbagh, whom state prosecutors said was the most culpable.

The assistant referees broke down into sobs and repeatedly looked up as if to thank God after Judge Low Wee Ping said they could be freed by later Monday or Tuesday, after remission for good behaviour and due to time already served awaiting sentence.

Turning to Ali Sabbagh, 34, the judge said: “I need time to consider your sentence. I don’t, for the moment, accept that you should be sentenced to six months.”

Deputy public prosecutor Asoka Markandu described Ali Sabbagh as “the most culpable” among the three as he was the one who persuaded the two linesmen to accept the bribe in exchange for sexual favours.

The three men were arrested after agreeing to fix an Asian Football Confederation Cup match on April 3 between Singapore-based club Tampines Rovers and India’s East Bengal.

They were pulled out before the match began.

The three were denied bail and have been held at Singapore’s Changi prison since April 4.

Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, a Singaporean businessman who allegedly supplied the prostitutes, has also been charged with corruption and granted bail.

The judge lashed out at the FIFA-accredited referees for bringing disrepute to the sport, saying they were probably the first international football match officials to be charged with corruption in Singapore.

“That alone, the fact that you are international officials, in my view, is already an aggravating factor,” he said.

“The Singapore public has an interest in preserving football as a professional sport in Singapore.

State prosecutors have said Ali Sabbagh was approached by Ding in “mid-2012″ in Beirut, indicating a “clear international dimension” to the offences.

Singapore has a long history of match-fixing, and syndicates from the island have been blamed by European police for orchestrating a network responsible for rigging hundreds of games worldwide.

Going nowhere

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc and CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke insist that Robert Lewandowski will not be sold to rival Bayern Munich this summer, despite speculation claiming that the striker has already reached agreement with the European champions.

The Poland international stated his belief earlier this week that Dortmund would not stand in the way of a “dream” transfer.

However, Zorc has since moved to clarify that BVB will not allow another of the club’s prized assets to join the reigning European, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal champions following the sale of Mario Gotze there for 37 million euros last month.

“We have communicated to the player and his advisers that we will not allow a transfer to Bayern this summer,” Zorc told Kicker.

Watzke, meanwhile, expressed his belief that the 24-year-old will continue to apply himself professionally to Dortmund despite the ongoing speculation over his future.

“That he told us he wants to leave a few weeks ago is legitimate, but equally legitimate is when we point out our position with the current contract,” Watzke explained to Bild. “He is perhaps now going through a small phase of disappointment, but then he will deliver his usual performance as a professional with character always does. And Robert has a lot of character.”

Lewandowski’s contract expires at the end of next season, and if he is not sold during this summer he could leave Dortmund on a free transfer.

It would appear that Dortmund, runners-up to Bayern in last month’s Champions League final, would rather bite off their nose to spite their face than strengthen further the hand of their arch-rivals.

May-2014-cover
This article is from

World Soccer – The unrivalled authority on the game of soccer around the world, World Soccer calls upon journalists from the globe's great soccer capitals. The best writers, analytical features and the ability to deliver the inside-track on domestic and world football have made World Soccer an institution.

Subscribe to World Soccer in print » | Read the digital edition »