Tito Vilanova has insisted that David Villa will not leave Barcelona in January.
The 31-year-old Spain international has been a peripheral figure for the club since returning from a broken leg, and speculation suggested that he was headed out of the club during the transfer window.
But despite not featuring in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Malaga, his coach was left delighted with his two-goal performance in the Kings Cup win over Cordoba in midweek and felt he displayed his worth to the side.
“David will not leave, we are very happy with him,” Vilanova told reporters. “The other night, he scored two good goals.
“It’s been a long recovery process, but we know his importance to the team, and we’re sure that he will help us.”
Vilanova was speaking after watching his side set a new record for points gained in the first half the season.
“We are very pleased, 55 points from a possible 57 is amazing,” he said. “Coming here to Malaga, who had only conceded 13 goals before tonight, and score three is great.
“In addition, our performance levels are sky high and that gives me peace of mind. We are playing with the same dynamics of four-five years ago and that helps.
“It will be difficult to maintain this form [for the entire campaign] with the Champions League coming up. Atletico [Madrid] are only 11 points behind and we still have to go there. We must continue. “
No mention of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who after Sunday’s goalless draw with Osasuna, now languish 18 points behind the runaway leaders. The fat lady might not be signing, but she will soon be clearing her throat.
Flavour of the month
On the subject of the under performing Spanish champions, Michael Laudrup has played down talk of him becoming their next manager, as he waxed lyrical about life at Swansea.
The Dane has taken the Welsh club into the top half of the Premier League and the Capital One Cup semi-finals, where they hold a two-goal first leg lead over Chelsea.
His achievements have not gone unnoticed, with supporters of his former club, Real, nominating him as a possible successor to Jose Mourinho.
But the former Getafe and Real Mallorca manager Laudrup said: “I am happy now. When somebody talks well about you it is nice, but remember I played there and have a lot of friends there.”
Laudrup said he prefers to work in the Premier League than La Liga because he has greater freedom in the transfer market.
The Dane has been praised for his recruitment policy, in particular with the deal of the season, that brought Michu, to the Liberty Stadium for a scarcely believable £2 million.
He added: “It is different over here because the managers here have a lot more influence on who is coming and going.
“I prefer that because it is my responsibility because if things are not going well I am the one being sacked.
“That is why the manager should have some influence on who is coming and who is going instead of just being the trainer of the team and another person sitting behind a desk can buy and sell players.”
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim has told Wesley Sneijder he must regard the club “not as an alternative, but as a first choice” as the Inter midfielder decides on his future.
Sneijder is reported to be dithering over a move to Turkey, allegedly in the hope of prising a bid from a Premier League club.
Liverpool are among several clubs rumoured to be interested, and Sneijder said: “There are still two weeks to go before the end of the transfer window, so there is time. I am relaxed, and I’m considering my options.”
But Terim was quick to emphasise the stature of the Istanbul club, saying: “If Sneijder wants to come to Galatasaray then he must see us as a first choice.
“This club is not anyone’s plaything. Those who play here do not see Galatasaray as an alternative, but as a first choice. Otherwise, one must step aside.”
Inter would appear keen on the matter being resolved sooner rather than later. Having agreed terms with Galatasaray, the Serie A club believe Sneijder has a duty to make a swift decision.
“We want an answer by the end of the day. It would be professional from him if he made a decision shortly,” the Inter president Massimo Moratti told reporters.
Cutting their cloth accordingly
Wolfsburg director of sport Klaus Allofs admits the club need to look into reducing players’ wages following criticism in the German media.
The Bundesliga side have come under fire after reports that Diego earned more annually than the chairman of the club’s main backer, Volkswagen.
Brazilian midfielder Diego is on a salary of €8.2 million a year excluding bonuses, according a report published in Der Spiegel which reveals the huge wage bill of the Bundesliga strugglers. Mercifully for the club his indifferent form has not resulted in any bonus payments being triggered.
Even fringe players like forward Srdjan Lakic and midfielder Christian Trasch are on close to €3 million per year each while Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos earns €2 million.
“It’s certainly the case that one or two players were offered a bit too much in the past,” said Allofs, who joined the club in October.
“Our job is to do certain things better.”
“We were brought here to have more success,” Allofs added. “That also means investing, but only where it makes sense.
“In the mid-term, we want to be competing in Europe again, but we don’t want to be throwing our money around.”
No sooner had he said that than he began throwing money around, this time in the direction of Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, in exchange for Ivan Perisic. Allofs has already sanctioned the signing of Perisic for a fee believed to be in the region of €7.5 million.
Wolfsburg have had a poor season to date and lie 15th in the table at the midway stage.
Goal of the day
Goal of the day, week, month, you name it. After a bout of head tennis Benfica’s Nemanja Matic receives the ball and smashes in a volley from the edge of the penalty area to level the scores against Porto.
Quote of the day
“Messi may have four Golden Balls but I don’t have to get on a box to buy a chocolate bar in a vending machine. As for Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s a privileged spectator, who only watches how Messi receives all his awards. He doesn’t deserve to be in the top three, there are at least ten people better than him.”
The words of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to Argentinian website Canchallena.
Hand of God inspired goal of the day
The involuntary hand to the ball, as exemplified by Luis Suarez in Liverpool’s FA Cup win over Mansfield last weekend, has gone viral. Now it’s the turn of Lazio’s Sergio Floccari whose hand controlled the ball before the opening goal of a 2-0 victory over Atalanta on Sunday.
Atalanta’s protests were as prolonged as they were pointless, although their frustration was understandable, not least as the incident took place in front of the perfectly-postitioned assistant referee.
Floccari at least had the decency to not celebrate his piece of good fortune, although he claims, somewhat improbably, that he was unsure whether he touched the ball or not.
“My hand was away from my body and I went for the ball with my knee,” he said. “It went quite close to my hand but I don’t know if I touched it, maybe I did. The goalline referee was two metres away.
“Why didn’t I celebrate very much? It’s nothing to do with the alleged handball. It’s just that I spent two good years in Bergamo.
“What happened isn’t really clear but it’s not like I scored with my hand. That’s how it goes.”
Don’t forget to say thanks
In the wake of the debate over ticketing prices prompted by the announcement that Manchester City were unable to sell a third of their ticket allocation for Sunday’s televised Premier League match at Arsenal, a linesman reminded City’s Joleon Lescott not to forget the financial sacrifice made by the travelling fans.
City, traditionally one of the best-supported clubs in England, hit the headlines last week when they returned 900 tickets for Sunday’s match, with many fans complaining about the £62 ticket price being charged by Arsenal.
As the cameras rolled at the end of the game, linesman John Brooks told England defender Joleon Lescott ”they’ve paid 62 quid over there – go and see them.”
At least the City fans who did travel got to see their team record a comfortable 2-0 win over Arsenal; spare a though for the home fans – some of whom spent a staggering £126 for their tickets|!
So what was it that first attracted you to the wealthiest club in French football…?
Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa has revealed that signing for nouveau riche French side Paris St Germain would be a dream come true for him. A dream he has harboured since childhood apparently, though no doubt his desire to move to the French capital has intensified since they began to pay their staff in gold bullion rather paltry euros.
“I am under contract with Newcastle and I’m fine,” Ben Arfa said, in an interview with Le Parisien.
“First, I must save my club. I only think of that. Help my team and my coach, with whom I get along great. We really want to fight for him.
“Then, once my club is saved, you never know. Signing for PSG would be a childhood dream. If there is an offer, I will study it with interest. If there is a offer. The ‘if’ is important.
“PSG still lives in my heart. Playing there would be a wonderful gift.”
Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted he wants to see out the remainder of his contract with Real Madrid.
The 27-year-old forward’s deal with the Spanish champions expires in 2015.
Portugal international Ronaldo has been the subject of speculation since he admitted last year that he was unhappy with life at Madrid.
Speaking to fifa.com in an interview conducted at last week’s Ballon d’Or awards – at which Ronaldo was beaten to the top prize by Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – the Madrid player said: “I want to see out my contract at Real: I’m very clear about that.
“After that, well, I don’t know what’ll happen in the future.”