Shock move of the day

Former England defender Gary Neville has been appointed as a Coach to Roy Hodgson’s England staff.

The former Manchester United defender, who since retiring as a player last year, has been widely acclaimed as a pundit on Skysports football coverage, has signed a four-year deal with the FA.

During a hugely successful playing career he made 85 England appearances, representing England at Euro 96, Euro 2000, Euro 2004, World Cup 98 and World Cup 2006.

“Gary has achieved so much in the game as a player with Manchester United and England,” said Hodgson. “He has obtained UEFA coaching qualifications and will be tremendously respected by the players because of his vast experience as a player.

“At my first meeting with The FA, I explained that  Gary was someone I wanted as part of my staff. I think it is very important we have a younger coach who knows the dressing room and is very experienced at international level.

“That he has represented England as a player at five major finals tournaments will make him an invaluable member of staff.”

Neville added: “Roy asking me to be a part of his staff and to work with the national team is not only an honour but a very special moment for me.

“I had absolutely no hesitation in accepting this role and I am relishing the opportunity to work alongside Roy and the team at the Euros and through to the next two tournaments.”

It seems a shrewd appointment by both the FA and Hodgson. Neville brings to the role vast experience of playing at the highest level as well as recent knowledge of the current international and domestic scene. If, as some of his critics have claimed, Hodgson is yesterday’s man, then the same reproach cannot be made of someone who was playing at the highest level just 16 months ago.

The only possible fly in the ointment, and it is a relatively trivial one, is his famously frosty relations with Liverpool. If some of the Anfield club’s supporters really do think there is an FA-backed conspiracy against Liverpool, then the appointment of the man who once sprinted across the pitch to goad their fans, is hardly going to go down well.

Ruud awakening

Neville’s former Old Trafford team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy has retired from football following the end of his contract with Malaga in Spain.

The former Manchester United man has decided to call it a day after finding himself without at a club at the age of 36.

“Yesterday I’ve played my last match in my professional career,” he told reporters.

“I’ve had a great career with the support of great clubs like Den Bosch, Heerenveen, PSV, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Hamburg and Málaga. The time to quit my career has come.”

“I want to thank my family and friends, who’ve supported me all these years. As well as the supporters from the clubs I’ve played for. They have been great.

“I also want to thank Rodger Linse [agent] for the unique relationship we have built up. Special thanks also go out to Nike, for the great collaboration we had over the years.”

Van Nistelrooy made 70 international appearances for Netherlands, scoring 35 goals in the process. He featured at Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and at Euro 2008. He scored 347 competitive goals in 588 official appearances in club football. He is currently the Champions League’s second highest scorer with 56 strikes.

Retirement home 

Van Nistelrooy was not the only big name player to call it a day on Sunday. Indeed at Milan there was something of a clear out as several of the rossoneri mainstays of recent years all left the club simultaneously.

Milan officially bid farewell to six of their players – Gennaro Gattuso, Pippo Inzaghi, Marc van Bommel, Clarence Seedorf, Gianluca Zambrotta and Alessandro Nesta.

For all it was an emotionally charged afternoon, with Gennaro Gattuso one of several players to shed tears on his farewell to the San Siro. The tenacious Italian midfielder has already expressed a desire to return to his former club Rangers, although given their current diminished status, he wisely kept his options open.

“However, they (Rangers) are going through a complicated situation,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to some people who are looking to enter the club, but we’ll have to see what happens next. They are not the only option.

“I’m not bothered about money. I want an experience that will touch me emotionally, I want to feel alive.”

The player to receive the biggest ovation from the Milan faithful was Filippo Inzaghi, the striker memorably described by Sir Alex Ferguson as “born offside”, who marked his final game with the winner against Novara.

It was a typical Inzaghi goal, with the predatory forward lurking on the shoulder of the last defender, collecting a pass from another old stager, Seedorf, before finishing tidily.

Arrivederci

The highest profile departure of the day in Italy came in Turin where Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero played his final game for the Serie A champions.

A 19-year spell with Juventus ended in fairytale fashion with Del Piero scoring a curler from the edge of the area.

In 19 years, Del Piero has played 704 games for Juventus, enjoying a total of 48,785 minutes on the pitch. He has scored 289 goals, hit the woodwork 68 times and missed 12 penalties. He has won 387 games, drawn 197 and lost 120. He has been shown 50 yellow cards, and just two red.

Del Piero’s carrer ends on a high, a member of first-ever Serie A side to go unbeaten in a 38-game campaign. Previously Milan had gone unbeaten over 34 games in 1991-92, and Perugia over 30 games (though they failed to win the league) in 1978-79.

“I had tears in my eyes several times,” said Del Piero, who though no longer a Juve player, intends to play on elsewhere next season.”Everything was very moving, the bond with people goes above everything and I will always carry that with pride. I am happy and proud of all this.

“In certain aspects it is an incredibly beautiful day, there’s a bit of sadness but it’s right that way. I celebrated with the fans, with my team-mates, doing what I like most, that’s winning.”

The Raul thing

While Del Piero contemplates life after Juventus, one of his contemporaries and one of the few players of the modern era whose achievements can stand comparison with the Italian, has announced he will continue his career in Qatar. It’s probably not where he envisaged completing an illustrious career, but in these unsettled times can anyone really blame him for going in search of one last big pay day?

The former Real Madrid player who has just completed two successful years at Schalke, has signed a one-year contract with AFC Asian Champions League title holders Al Sadd.

“Negotiations with Al Sadd started three months ago,” he told reporters at a press conference.

“I felt the seriousness of the officials, and my wife’s good impression of Doha after visiting it a month ago made me accept the offer.

“My wife and I feel that we have taken the right decision. We are happy to make a new adventure, especially after the warm reception here.”

Stat of the day

36 appearances, 0 goals, no assists, £20 million transfer fee. The stark figures of Stewart Downing’s first league season as a Liverpool player.

Unexpected quote of the day

“I found it very interesting and a colleague said he would buy me a ­dartboard. Then I had an interview with Bobby George and he showed me how to play. And I am good. Now and then he just comes to my house and we play. I don’t play too much against the other Spurs players. Heurelho Gomes is rubbish! I might be the first Brazilian footballer, or even the first ­Brazilian, to play darts. I gave my mum some darts and she took them to Brazil and now everyone is playing.”

Tottenham’s Brazilian midfielder Sandro, acclimatises to life in England.

Goal of the day

Neymar’s brace helped Santos beat Guarani 4-2 and  become the first team in 43 years to win three straight Sao Paulo state championships. The 20-year-old made two of the goals and scored the other two, the second of which was an emphatic finish after a typically adroit dribble had set up the chance.

Double Dutch

NEC captain Gabor Babos cut short a post-match interview on live TV to placate a group of fans who set on invading the pitch after a Europa League play-off defeat to Vitesse.

 

Elsewhere in Holland, De Graafschap were relegated by Den Bosch on Sunday, an event which produced one of the more touching moments of the season when De Graafschap skipper, Rogier Meijer, was consoled by his young daughter Saar.

You’d have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by the brief encounter.

Finally…

While the football world recovers from the breathtaking climax to the English Premier League season and comes to terms with the gloriously improbable nature of Manchester City’s title triumph, one of the bit part players in that game, QPR’s Joey Barton, has continued to drag himself through the dirt.

The midfielder was sent off for elbowing City’s Carlos Tevez, an act which prompted much opprobrium from Gary Lineker and ALan Shearer on the BBC’s Match of the Day highlights programme. Lest we forget about Sunday’s unforgettable game, not only were City’s title aspirations on the line, but a defeat for QPR could have sent the west London side down.

Barton, a prolific and occasionally entertaining Tweeter, replied to the criticism in his own inimitable style, threatening to reveal secrets about Linker’s private life and criticising Shearer’s talent as a pundit.

He posted: “Shearers still on my case… I know I f***** up Alan, thanks for stating the obvious.

“Whilst were both stating the obvious about each other, can I just say for the record what a great player u were. Well better me…

“But I have a better hair (which is not hard), wear well better shirts on TV and have a personality (something u lack).

“P.S. My final point, ur a s*** pundit/manager…

“I really don’t like that p****, in fact I honestly despise him… Goodnight.”

“My favourite memory of him though is when he dropped his spuds when Keano put it on him. Goodnight Al, sleep well matey…”

Lineker replied: “Still raging then? Still kicking out? And still, presumably, misunderstood? But only by yourself I suspect.”
To which Barton responded: “do u wanna go there publicly “Mr Squeaky Clean” ? Think u should have a look in that vast closet of skeltons before u respond.”
“I know a lot about THAT side to u the people don’t and won’t bat an eye lid at exposing u. So mind ur manners Squeaky…”