Holy Comolli

Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli has left the club by mutual consent, the club has announced.

His departure ends Liverpool’s experiment with the Moneyball culture, or as practised by Comolli, Moneydownthedrainball.

The Frenchman leaves having recruited heavily, but not always prudently, with the spectre of the £35 million misfiring striker Andy Carroll, a constant reminder of his profligacy. Carroll represented a significant chunk of the £112.8 million spent under Comolli, although he was not the only one to perform below expectations. All bar Luis Suarez have rarely looked value for money and given the problems he has caused, one hesitates to call him a ‘success’.

Despite his patchy recruitment record, Comolli’s departure appears to be a source of regret for Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish.

“He has been really helpful in every transfer target that we’ve gone for,” said Dalglish.

“Everyone who has come into the club since Damien has been here was of my choice.

“Once I made the choice who I wanted, Damien went away and did a fantastic job of bringing them in.

“It’s sad to see anyone leave the football club and he goes with my best wishes.”

If nothing else, Comolli’s departure does create a suitable vacancy should Dalglish be offered a role ‘upstairs’ at end of the season.

Tackling racism

Further evidence of the sincerity of the campaign to drive racism out of Russian football, comes with the news that Zenit St Petersburg have been fined $3,400 for racist chanting by their fans during last week’s Premier League game at Lokomotiv Moscow.

Last month, Spartak Moscow’s Emmanuel Emenike was fined $17,000 after he responded to racist abuse from Dynamo Moscow fans.

Make of that what you will.

Meanwhile, it’s not just Russia which is doing its bit to combat racism within European football.

UEFA have fined Manchester City £24,740 for delaying the start of the second half of their Europa League last 16 first leg match with Sporting Lisbon last month.

The punishment comes a week after another Portuguese club, Porto, were fined £16,700 by UEFA for their fans’ racial abuse of City players in the same competition in February.

Incidentally, while the abuse meted out to their black players was sustained, City’s appearance on the pitch was delayed by less than a minute.

Again, make of that what you will.

China crisis

If a decade ago, someone had asked Nicolas Anelka where he saw himself in in ten years time, it’s unlikely he would have replied: ‘helping coach a team in China’.

But, that’s precisely the position the French striker now finds himself in after his club, Shanghai Shenhua, fired several members of its coaching staff following a dismal run of form.

A club statement read: “Due to the team’s recent record which has not met the expectations and demands of the club’s fans, media and other parties and the fact the foreign players are in urgent need of high-quality training the club has made the decision to replace some members of the coaching staff.

“The club will introduce four coaches from the United Kingdom and France to join the coaching staff to provide the necessary training support to ensure the competitive state of the players.

“In addition, the team captain Nicolas Anelka will coach and participate in the team’s daily training management.”

Jean Tigana, despite speculation to the contrary, remains in overall charge, but for how long?

Paying a heavy penalty

After missing a penalty in his side’s top-of-the-table defeat against Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich winger Aren Robben has been criticised by his club’s president Franz Beckenbauer.

“Robben would never have taken that penalty if I were the coach,” Beckenbauer said to Sky.

“There’s an unwritten law in football that says the one who got fouled shouldn’t take the penalty.

“Maybe this rule was changed, or it hasn’t reached Netherlands yet.”

First there was the penalty miss, then Dortmund’s Neven Subotic rubbed his nose in it (see below), and now this from a Bayern legend, in what was truly a night to forget for the Dutch forward.

Goal of the day

Montpellier’s charge to a maiden French title continues apace. Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Marseille which took them three points clear of PSGa the top of the table, included this wonderful piece of improvisation from Younes Belhanda.

Vote of confidence

There’s nothing like a demonstration of loyalty by a coach to inspire his players at the business end of the season.

So, don’t be surprised to see Borussia Monchengladbach’s form fall off a cliff in the coming weeks after coach Lucien Favre requested a release clause inserted into his new contract, lest Bayern Munich come a calling.

The Swiss coach has been widely tipped to replace Jupp Heynckes at Bayern, should the veteran coach, as expected, stand down at the end of the season.

Monchengladbach, who not so long ago were contending for the Bundesliga title, have picked up just one win in their last eight games, and are clinging on to the fourth and final Champions League spot.

With their coach already planning his exit strategy, they’ll do well to stay there.

Poacher turned gamekeeper?

Romario, who has been one of the most vocal and certainly the most high profile domestic critics of Brazil’s 2014 World Cup preparations, has been invited to help with the organisation of the finals.

Brazil football chief Jose Maria Marin said that the former player and now congressman’s support will be important.

Marin said that 

Romario will “help us host the greatest World Cup of all time. With everybody united we can have an unforgettable World Cup.”

Romario said he was “happy” with Marin’s administration and would try to help any way he could.

Keeping quiet would obviously be a start.

Quote of the day

“He’s the best player in the world. We are lucky to be able to train with him every day and to have him with us.”

Sergio Ramos hails his teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, after the Portuguese forward scored a hat-trick to help his side to a 4-1 victory at neighbours Atletico.

That’s 40 for the season now, making Ronaldo the first man to achieve that in back-to-back seasons among Europe’s top four leagues. He and his Barcelona nemesis, Lionel Messi, who’s on 39 for the current campaign, have six matches in which to set a new benchmark for Spanish football.

Euro 2012 hosts in rip off shock

UEFA presdident Michel Platini has accused “bandits and crooks” of raising hotel prices in Ukraine to absurd levels for the Euro 2012 finals amid growing concerns over the price of accommodation.

Platini, who clearly has not yet booked his hotel for the 2012 London Olympics, seemed genuinely shocked that Ukraine hoteliers would be looking to make hay while the sun shone. With the best will in the world, and notwithstanding its many charms, Kharkiv remains off the beaten track for all bar the most intrepid of travellers, and for it to seek to exploit the brief period when a significant influx of visitors will be in town, is surely to be expected.

“It’s annoying to have made a lot of investment and then say to people that they can’t come because there are bandits and crooks who want to make a lot of money during this Euro,” Platini said on a visit to the city of Lviv to mark the opening of the city’s new airport terminal.

“You can’t change (the price of a room) from 40 euros to 100 and then up to 500 just like that from one day to the other, this just is not done,” said Platini.

“We promote Ukraine, we say ‘it’s great, you (Ukrainians) are kind, remarkable and sweet people and the atmosphere is going to be great’. But they are not going to be able to come as it is too expensive.”

The main issue with hotels in Ukraine is one of supply. There are simply not enough rooms for the expected numbers.

The problem is particularly acute in the city of Donetsk where AFP reported last month that a hotel near the stadium is charging 3,600 euros to stay on the night of the June 27 semi-final, 85 times its non-tournament rate of 42 euros.

Fine for the UEFA bigwigs, but for those of you actually paying for your trips with your own money, this might be a more suitable venue.

Finally…

Rodolfo Ares, the Basque regional interior chief, has confirmed that the area’s police force may have acted negligently after it was confirmed that a fan died due to injuries caused by a rubber bullet in the wake of Athletic Bilbao’s 2-2 draw with Schalke last week.

The Europa League encounter was followed by disturbances in the streets, and Inigo Cabacas, a 28-year-old fan was shot in the head before dying four days later.

“The autopsy shows that a rubber bullet was the cause [of death]. Therefore we have to establish whether protocols were adhered to or not,” Ares told a press conference.

“It is unacceptable that something like this should happen in a democracy in 2012. It is essential to establish what happened and assume the consequences,” Antonio Basagoiti, the regional Popular Party (PP) leader added.

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