Thin end of the wedge

Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile; football clubs that is and specifically those at the elite end whose players tend to form the bulk of the leading international sides.

The European Club Association president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has opened talks with Sepp Blatter after calling for more of FIFA’s World Cup money to go to clubs.

A total of 575 clubs received payments totalling €100 million from UEFA for releasing their players for Euro 2012 duty and Rummenigge has his eyes on an even bigger prize as the 2014 World Cup looms into view.

“We have very good and fair relations with UEFA, and I hope that will be possible with FIFA as well,” Rummenigge said.

“After that meeting I am quite optimistic that we can find a solution.

“Sepp Blatter told me that he recognizes the clubs as the roots of football. You know the roots always need water, and the water has to come from FIFA.”

Stretching that analogy to breaking point, but when it comes to international football, surely the players are the roots, FIFA the water, which would make the clubs the parasites that nibble away at the plant and eventually cause it to wither and die.

Meanwhile, and as if on cue, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness on Wednesday criticised football’s world governing body FIFA for allowing so many international matches to be played this early in the season.

“It is a joke that we are only in mid-September and have only played two league matches but have already had to play three internationals. It’s ridiculous,” he said, conveniently overlooking the fact that many of the midweek dates from now until the end of the year, have been reserved for Champions League matches.

History beckons

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been speaking about life at his new club. Paris Saint-Germain, and his belief that they can sweep all before them this season.

“The current project at PSG is to turn the club’s dreams into reality,” he declared. “I want to be part of this project because for me, the future is here. We’re in the process of recruiting the best players in the world, and the club wants to turn this talent into a great team.

“Every big city needs a strong football team. Obviously, the city is already there; now the team needs to bridge the gap and the club needs to work hard to give the city what it deserves. And it’s up to us to win the titles.”

The Swede believes PSG can dominate not only France but also Europe.

“It’s true that I’ve never won the Champions League, but I’m not despairing,” he said. “I would never have come to this club if I didn’t think we were capable of pulling it off. To win trophies, you need big players, but you don’t win them on your own. I want to say to the PSG fans that they should believe in this team. We have a fantastic coach and talented players, and the fans have been hungry for titles for a long time. And our time has come. That time is now.”

We shall see. In many ways there are parallels with Chelsea’s emergence under Roman Abramovich. In the years since their acquisition opposing fans have often sung “You’ve got no history”. This is almost literally true with PSG, a side that was only formed in 1970, following a merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain.

Two Ligue title wins is a meagre return for a side whose time has allegedly come.

Fighting for his place

After the anguish, soul searching and humiliation of a prolonged spell on the sidelines following his big money move from Lyon, new Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris has vowed to win a place in the starting line up.

Yes, after one (yes one!) game spent on the bench, the £12 million signing returns from international duty intent on ending his White Hart Lane heartache.

“I will join Tottenham calmly, discovering a new world, another league. I have lots of things to prove there. I will have to work hard.

“All that is positive and I am going to get to know my new team-mates and staff, and I am going to work as well as I can.

“There are a lot of things for me to prove. I am going to strive for success.”

Hugo, it was one game.

Responding to Villas-Boas’ suggestion that he cannot be guaranteed a place in the side, Lloris said: “It is too early to reply to this type of question. Today, I have a status – I have the France captain’s armband. It is a mark of trust and respect.”

You hang on to that; it will provide solace through the difficult 90 minutes you may have to endure.

Hard to please

The Serbian league leaders Vojvodina Novi Sad are on the look out for a new coach after firing the previous incumbent, Zlatomir Zagorcic for failing to produce a more entertaining style of football.

Zagorcic brand of football was successful but three successive, uninspiring 1-0 wins was not good enough for the demanding president, Miodrag Pantelic, who is prepared to forego silverware in favour of a bold and admirable commitment to entertaining football.

“We have analysed our performances during the international break and felt that we should have played better football against the three lesser rivals we beat by the skin of our teeth,” Pantelic told a news conference.

“We didn’t play well and we assessed that we needed a new coach for the upcoming challenges again stronger opposition. We have a good squad capable of producing more entertaining football and that’s our first priority because we know that we can’t ask Vignjevic to win trophies at all costs.”

It’s fair to say that this is one job that George Graham will not be applying for.

Goal of the day

You may have wondered how Neymar managed to score 100 goals before the age of 20. Simple: he never stops playing. Just 48 hours after recording his first hat-trick for Brazil in their 8-0 win over China, the striker scores a beauty for Santos against Flamengo.

Quote of the day

“I do not think that Dortmund have passed us marketing wise. Dortmund are more of a regional thing whereas Bayern Munich are a global brand. When you walk the boulevard in Beijing and ask a random person to name a German football club, the answer will always be Bayern Munich and not Borussia Dortmund.”

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness is not one to miss a chance to put down rivals Borussia Dortmund and he certainly tucked away this open goal.

Brawl of the day

Armenia midfielder Gevorg Gazaryan has apologised for his altercation with a ballboy that led to his dismissal during this week’s 1-0 defeat by Bulgaria in a World Cup Group B qualifier.

“I want to apologise to FIFA for having violated the rules of fair play,” Gazaryan wrote on his Facebook page.

“I would also like to apologise to the FFA (Armenian football federation), all members of the national team, the fans and finally the guy that I hit with the ball.

“I understand and accept my mistake.”

The ‘victim’ was Slavia Sofia junior team player Bozhidar Atanasov, and he too was sent off, but judging from his comments he’s unlikely to be scarred by the incident.

“The fourth official shouted in my face ‘You – out’ but it was the coolest day of my life.”

You can see the incident at 2:18 of this clip but you might as well watch the whole thing and see the brawl that precedes it.

Finishing on a high

Stoke City striker Michael Owen is hoping that his move to the Potters will see his injury-hit career end on a high.

The former England forward signed a one-year deal with the Britannia Stadium outfit and he is confident, provided he stays fit – always a major caveat where Owen is concerned – that he can score at this level.

“It’s a move that I’m excited about and I hope I can stay fit for the majority of my time here,” Owen. “I want to perform and I want to finish my career on a real high. I’m still only 32 and I still feel as if I have a lot left in me.

“I’ve always scored goals no matter what team I have been in, so as long as I can stay fit and healthy, then I’m sure I can do that here at Stoke.”

Owen has always flourished in the advanced striker’s role, usually playing off the shoulder of the last defender. At Stoke he’ll have more chance of scoring if he plays on the shoulders of the last defender. Even better, if he were to climb on the shoulders of his team-mate Peter Crouch the pair could form an unstoppable partnership.

Now that would be finishing his career on a high.

Excuses have their uses

Sporting are disappointed UEFA announced they had not complied with new financial fair play rules, the Portuguese team blaming miscommunication over a “minor” payment delay to other clubs.

Club president Godinho Lopes told reporters he was surprised by the statement which said Sporting were among 23 clubs to have prize money withheld because of overdue payments to other teams, their own employees or social and tax authorities.

“I can’t say I am pleased with the ruckus around this issue. I was sad to see Sporting’s name mentioned, there was a communication error,” said Lopes, who probably told teachers that the dog had eaten his homework.

Jose Guedes, the club’s vice-president in charge of financial affairs, and a man clearly on top of his brief, said they did not understand why UEFA’s announcement came before the October 14 deadline for teams to comply with the new fair play rules.

“The case is related to payments to football clubs and the sums are really not too big,” Guedes said.

Better late than never…

On a day of apologies the Football Association have finally jumped on the Hillsborough bandwagon and offered one for their role in organising the 1989 FA Cup semi final.

True, they waited 24 hours after the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel before issuing a statement, with their initial comments reflected a “sadness” about the tragedy rather than an apology for their complicity in it.

A few hours later – and after families’ chairman Trevor Hicks had noted the absence of any contrition – FA chairman David Bernstein expressed regret that the FA chose to stage the match at a venue patently unfit to handle it.

“We are deeply sorry this tragedy occurred at a stadium the FA selected,” Bernstein said. “On behalf of the FA I offer a full and unreserved apology and express sincere condolences to all of the families of those who lost their lives and to everyone connected to the City of Liverpool and Liverpool Football Club.”

Significantly, the papers released yesterday show that the FA took legal advice and were warned within days of the disaster that any offer of financial aid to the families of the victims should be resisted, in case it could be interpreted as an admission of responsibility for the events of April 15. The list of those shamed lengthens by the day.

As with all the other apologies that have poured forth over the past 24 hours, this one is welcome, but it comes far too late.

Finally, for those who think that people should just ‘get over’ what happened a long time ago – and there are some who have expressed that view – I’ll take you back 23 years and leave you with this.

 

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