New man in charge

Manchester City have confirmed the hiring of Manuel Pellegrini as the club’s new manager.

The 59-year-old Chilean arrives from Spanish club Malaga and succeeds the sacked Roberto Mancini.

“I am delighted to accept this hugely exciting opportunity, said Pellegrini, who guided Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League last season and previously guided Villarreal to the Champions League semi-finals.

“The club has a clear vision for success both on and off the pitch and I am committed to making a significant contribution.

“Everything is in place for Manchester City to continue to be successful and I am excited to be able to work with such a talented squad, the executive team and the board to deliver for fans who are renowned for their steadfast support.”

City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak added: “Manuel is a hugely experienced and successful manager with a proven track record.”

“We have been greatly impressed throughout the selection process by his philosophy, his attitude and his commitment to the long-term development of Manchester City.

The only blot on Pellegrini’s impressive coaching resumé was an unhappy 12 month spell in charge of Real Madrid. Having bought Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso in a splurge costing around £200 million, president Florentino Perez assumed he had bought the tools to win the league title, but although It brought Madrid a then record points total of 96 points, Barcelona managed three points better. Pellegrini was fired forthwith.

Pellegrini later reflected: “I didn’t have a voice or a vote at Madrid. They sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position. It’s no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well. He [Pérez] sold players that I considered important. We didn’t win the Champions League because we didn’t have a squad properly structured to be able to win it.”

He might well be dusting that speech down again in the next couple of years. Forget long term development, City’s lavish expenditure programme demands instant gratification.

Novel approach

The Football Association of Malaysia has come up with a novel approach for dealing with crowd violence, by offering fans a financial reward if they catch hooligans causing trouble at the FA Cup final later this month.

The FAM said supporters would be given 1,000 Malaysian Ringgit (£200) for their ‘policework’ during the final between Kelantan and Johor Darul Takzim at the National Stadium on June 29.

“We have decided to take a different, and positive, approach to preventing crowd trouble during the Cup final,” said FAM competitions committee chairman Hamidin Mohd Amin.

Johor’s semi-final second leg against Pahang was abandoned due to crowd trouble, while Kelantan were fined 40,000 Ringgit last year after their fans they threw bottles on to the field.

Amin said each team would also appoint 100 stewards to help the police with crowd control at the match, which is expected to be an 87,000 sell out.

It’s certainly worth a try.

Could be worse

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has dismissed concerns that the venues will not be ready to stage the Confederations Cup, the traditional World Cup warm-up tournament that kicks off in Brasilia on Saturday when hosts Brazil take on Japan.

Brazil has been under pressure to complete construction projects, not least at the iconic Maracana in Rio which stages Italy versus Mexico on Sunday.

“I have seen worse situations,” he told a news conference. “Yes there is still work to be done, but it will get done.”

In short, things are bad, but they could be worse, so let’s be thankful for such small mercies. Confidence inspiring? Hardly. Accurate? Probably.

“I have been to many tournaments when the painters are still painting the stadiums an hour before the first match. It is not a surprise to me that people are still working. It just means that something has not been finished and they need to finish it.

“Since I was first involved in 1978, I have witnessed a lot of problems like this, but when the tournament started, everything went well,” he said. “Let us see. Let us hope this is the same.”

While workers work feverishly to complete the stadiums, it seems that ticket collection is another concern.

“There are thousands of people who have paid for their tickets and not collected them,” said FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. “They need to do so now. … At the World Cup it will be even worse so we need people to understand that.”

“We don’t want to have thousands of people collecting their tickets on match day.”

But, by the sound of it, that’s what you’re going to get.

Real deal

Edinson Cavani has sets his sights on a move to Real Madrid, his father has revealed.

Chelsea and Manchester City are reported to be interested in signing the 26-year-old, but according to his father, they are both wasting their time.

“Cavani’s intention is to play for Madrid. He is excited about it and is very willing to see it through,” Luis Cavani told Futboleros.

“He has told the family in private that he wants to join Real Madrid but if he declares it publicly it will annoy Napoli.”

OK, mum’s the word; let’s just hope that no one lets that cat out of the bag…

“There has been contact with Real Madrid’s lawyers and now we are waiting for the two clubs to meet.

“I hope it happens and that talks take place as soon as possible. Who wouldn’t want to play for Real Madrid?

“It’s not just up to Edi. They are talking about 65 million euros and Napoli won’t negotiate for any less.”

On Thursday, Cavani’s mother Berta Gomez told a Montevideo radio station that her son’s future would be decided in the coming weeks with the striker favouring a move to City over Chelsea.

“Edi is in talks with Manchester City and Real Madrid. Napoli’s president Aurelio De Laurentiis has spoken about the possibility of discussions with Chelsea but there is nothing definite with them at the moment,” she said.

“We will know more in 15 to 20 days. There are so many voices, and when something happens I will be the first to know.”

Not if his father has anything to do with it, you won’t.

Lips were sealed

Newly-appointed Holland captain Robin van Persie has revealed that he was ordered by former club Arsenal to not talk to the media during Euro 2012.

Van Persie came in for criticism for staying silent during last summer’s tournament, but he claims it was at the request of his former club that he remained mute.

“That was a wish of my club Arsenal and that had everything to do with the sensitivity of my proposed transfer to Manchester United,” he told Sky Sports.

“I didn’t estimate the outcome really at the time. Maybe I was too naive. To be the only one to not talk, I became a mythical figure and the outside world thought I was placing myself out of the group.”

Van Persie was filmed talking on the phone after Netherlands’ 1-0 defeat to Denmark, fuelling further speculation that he had drifted apart from the rest of the dressing room.

“And when I was calling on the pitch after the game against Denmark, that was the evidence,” he said. “Nonsense, that had nothing to do with it. I just wanted to call my wife and children. I do that after every game.

“Only I had no phone range outside, therefore I walked on the outskirts of the fields. Unluckily I was logged by a camera.

“If I had to do it all over again, I don’t know if I would do it the same way. I don’t think so to be honest.”

Quote of the day

“I can only say that we don’t know anything about an alleged Madrid offer for Lewandowski. At the moment, there has not been any contact with Real Madrid about Lewandowski. There have been rumours that Madrid are interested in Robert for a number of weeks now, but he has always been clear that he wants to join Bayern.”There will not be a transfer to Bayern this summer.”

Denying reports that the club have accepted an offer from Real Madrid for striker Robert Lewandowski, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, also insisted again that the Lewandowski will not be allowed to join Bayern Munich this summer.

Hearts broke

Hearts have been banned from signing any new players by the Scottish Premier League.

The club failed to pay some of its players their July wages, incurring a transfer embargo and the possibility of further punishments at a later date. As reported on Thursday, the club has also placed every member of the playing staff up for sale as it looks to generate funds.

Failure to pay their players could be in breach of SPL rule A6.21 and a disciplinary hearing is set to be held.

The wages were due on Friday and it is not yet clear how many players have received their pay, or what percentage has been paid.

The club blames its cash shortage on lower than expected season ticket sales, the team’s worst league finish in more than 30 years (10th in the SPL), the absence of Rangers from the top flight and increased costs relating to the Main Stand.

Vladimir Romanov, Hearts’ majority shareholder, whose role in the current fiasco cannot be be overstated is looking to sell the club. Understandably, given the parlous state of the club’s finances, there have not been many takers.

Running on empty

Fernando Signorini, Argentina’s fitness coach at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, has warned that Lionel Messi is in desperate need of rest if he is to make it to next year’s World Cup in Brazil in top condition.

The Barcelona player missed the last month of the season through injury, and Signorini feels he needs an extended break in order to regain full fitness.

“Messi plays over 100 games a year with Barcelona and Argentina. That brings the risk with it that he will not be in peak condition at the 2014 World Cup,” Signorini told Telam.

“Messi had not had any injuries for three years or so, but when he picked up an injury toward the end of the season, he was played almost right away again.

“He then got injured again and is now playing for the national team. What he needs is a lengthy holiday with his wife and son. It’s impossible to play over 100 games in modern football and still be in top condition.”

Of course Messi’s cause is not helped by him having to fulfil pointless fixtures like this – a friendly international against Venezuela, but played in Calcutta. Argentina, if they really do cherish their star player, would do well to ponder his value as a footballer and not just his commercial value.

Better late than never

Nigeria are due to arrive in Brazil on Saturday to take part in the Confederations Cup, 24 hours later than planned, after the players refused to travel following a row over bonus payments.

A telephone call between FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke and an unnamed Nigerian official resolved the standoff after the 23-man squad refused to travel to the tournament.

“I’ve spoken with the team manager and they will be in the plane on Saturday and they will arrive for the Confederations Cup. The problem is solved,” Valcke told a news conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Nigeria are due to play their first game in the tournament against Tahiti in Belo Horizonte on Monday but will have little time to acclimatise to the conditions.

Which is a shame really, because judging by the attitudes of the players, they are certainly taking the competition seriously.

No pressure

Pep Guardiola’s arrival in the Bundesliga will boost the whole division, according to former West Germany international Gunter Netzer.

The ex-Barcelona boss will end his sabbatical from the game when he returns to take charge of German champions Bayern Munich next season and will arrive in a domestic league that has grown significantly in stature over the past season, with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern flying the flag in Europe, reaching the UEFA Champions League final.

And Netzer is confident that the presence of Spaniard Guardiola will serve to increase the Bundesliga’s profile even further.

“It’s a massive piece of good fortune for the Bundesliga that a coach like Guardiola will soon be arriving,” Netzer told the official Bundesliga website.

“He won’t only have a huge say in the direction of Bayern but of the entire league, I’m sure of that.

“I think we need some new ideas and impetus in Germany and that can only come through foreign coaches that favour a different style of play and have a different footballing philosophy.”

Clearly, providing both teams for the Champions League final was not enough for Netzer.

“Obviously, not every team is going to be able to play football in the image of Guardiola, but he will definitely provide a fresh impetus to the league.”

So, not only will he be expected to improve Europe’s best team, but also act as a catalyst for the entire the Bundesliga.

No pressure there then.

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