In demand

Amid mounting speculation that Kenny Dalglish will soon be fired as Liverpool manager, one man tipped to replace him, Wigan boss, Roberto Martinez, may soon find himself fighting off the offers of new employment. There has been talk of an Spanish Dream Ticket of Martinez and former Reds boss Rafa Benitez taking on dual responsibilities at Anfield, although such a solution seems predicated more on the basis of a common language than a shared coaching philosophy.

Martinez, who once again performed a Harry Houdini-style escape from the clutches of relegation at Wigan Athletic, is also believed to be the man who heads the shortlist to replace the sacked Alex McCleish as the new manager at Aston Villa.

The Spaniard rejected an offer to manage Villa last year in favour of staying at the DW Stadium, but he refused to be drawn on the possibility of switching to Villa Park this summer.

“There’s not a decision to be made,” Martinez told Sky Sports News. “I’m under contract and at the moment there’s nothing else other than preparing for next season and making sure we grow season after season. There’s nothing to discuss.

“When there is speculation about players and managers it is because you’ve done something well. We’ve done something well and there’s speculation, but it’s nothing more than that.”

Barca loner

Barcelona’s director of football, Andoni Zubizarreta, has responded to claims made by the club’s former president, Joan Laporta, that they did not do enough to ensure Pep Guardiola continued as coach at the Nou Camp next season.

If you think a spurned woman can bear grudges, you should try getting into the mind of a Catalan man deprived of the Barcelona presidency.

“One of the consequences of the performance of Sandro Rosell’s board is to destroy everything that we did in our era,” Laporta said. “Therefore, it was inevitable Pep Guardiola would walk away.

“I think they could have done more for him to continue in charge.

“My perception is they didn’t do what was necessary because they weren’t interested in him staying there.”

Zubizarreta told TV3: “I am no-one to answer Laporta, but Pep has already said we did everything possible to try and get him to stay.”

As for the appointment of Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova as the new coach, a move dismissed by the hardly impartial Laporta as a “panic decision”, Zubizarreta said that the club would do what they could to protect the new man.

“He will constantly be compared to Guardiola but we have to view things as they are, not how they used to be,” he said.

“We will help Tito and protect him as much as we can. He will only be responsible for the footballing side of things because he is different to Pep.”

Kean as mustard

A 9-month-old video tape showing Steve Kean, manager of relegated Blackburn Rovers, berating his predecessor Sam Allardyce, and making bold claims ahead of the 2011-12 season, has appeared online.

Kean spoke to fans during a pre-season tour of Hong Kong and the mere fact that he allowed himself to be filmed while making some highly controversial remarks, does raise questions about his judgement and reinforces the belief, prevalent among Blackburn, fans that he was not fit for purpose. Loose talk may not cost lives, but it could cost you your reputation. Fortunately for Kean, he doesn’t have one to save.

“So why did Sam get sacked then?” asks one Rovers fan. “Just because he’s a f*cking crook” replied Kean

“We’ll finish top half, and we’re gonna win the Carling Cup. Definitely,” the Rovers managed added.

One of the fans present bets Kean £20 that his predictions for the season were on the optimistic side; perhaps he will get paid out of the manager’s redundancy cheque.

A word of warning: the industrial language employed by Kean for much of the conversation, is not exactly safe for work.

Belgium appoint Wilmots

Former Belgium midfielder Marc Wilmots will take control of the Belgian national team on a temporary basis following the departure of Georges Leekens.

Leekens left the post Sunday after signing a three-year deal to become the new manager of Club Brugge.

Wilmots, an assistant under Leekens, will take charge of the side for their forthcoming friendlies against Montenegro (May 25) and England (June 2) before a new full-time coach is appointed.

After retiring as a footballer, Wilmots went into politics and became a member of the Belgian senate, for the French-speaking liberal party, the Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur or MR). Unusually for a politician, jumped before he was pushed when he announced that he wanted to resign as a senator.

In trying to reconcile the disparate elements of the Belgium national side, those political skills could definitely come in handy.

Georgia on my mind

On the subject of footballers becoming politicians, former Milan defender Kakha Kaladze has confirmed he intends to pursue a career in politics in his native Georgia.

The 34-year-old made his name during a nine-year spell with the Rossoneri before finishing his career with two seasons at Genoa.

“I am moved to tell you that after 18 years of football I’ve decided to retire,” Kaladze said.

“I will begin a new adventure, as I have decided to go into politics. I want to fight for liberty and democracy in Georgia.

“I dream of a Georgia in which my children can grow in freedom. I want my country to become part of the EU and of NATO.”

Not the kind of statement you hear a player utter every day. But Kaladze has endured personal misfortune beyond the scope of most professional footballers.

In 2001 his brother Levan, a medical student, was kidnapped and a ransom requested, but he was found dead in 2006.

Players should be seen and not heard

As Carlos Tevez issues a swift apology for his rather tasteless RIP jibe at Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, his team-mate Samir Nasri continues to prove the adage that while money can buy you most things, it can’t buy you class.

Twelve months on from his acrimonious departure from Arsenal, Nasri has used the occasion of City’s title success to gloat about his current, exalted status, while mocking his former club and their fans.

“People at Arsenal tried to make out that I came here for the money,” Nasri told a French TV channel. “I hope they are watching me now, collecting my Premier League winner’s medal. I believe they have not won a trophy for many years now.

“I made the hard choice to come and fight for my place at a big club, where they never settle for second best, and I have proved it correct.

“I now hope the Arsenal fans can get on with their lives and forget me, they should celebrate their third-place achievement and I will focus on winning titles.”

As for Tevez’s RIP ‘gag’, there are two mitigating factors we should consider. Firstly, he might well have been alluding to Ferguson’s famous quip that City would never win the league in his lifetime; secondly, Tevez is an idiot.

City, who didn’t want their biggest day in 44 years overshadowed by a Tevez-inspired row were quick to issue an apology, and a club spokeswoman said: “The creation of the tasteless material is in itself reprehensible and in accepting and brandishing it, Carlos has made a significant error of judgment.”

Di Canio investigated

The Football Association has confirmed they are investigating claims that Swindon manager Paolo di Canio racially abused striker Jonathan Tehoue.

Tehoue, who spent a short spell on loan at Swindon, claims he was racially abused by Di Canio, and several of Swindon’s players who witnessed the alleged remark directed towards Tehoue – after he had left the club – have shown support for the striker.

Swindon, who this season were promoted to League One under Canio, have released a statement saying the Italian”completely denies” the allegations.

It read: “The board was fully appraised of the facts at the time of the alleged incident back in March and having investigated it, was satisfied that it was without merit and took appropriate action then.

“Paolo Di Canio denies completely any suggestion that he used toward Jonathan Tehoue or anyone, abusive, insulting or threatening words or behaviour by reference to race or at all and the board wishes to affirm its complete and unequivocal support for its manager in this regard.

“Further, the board is wholly satisfied that any decisions concerning Jonathan Tehoue’s playing career whilst at Swindon, were made for purely footballing reasons.

“The club will of course however happily assist the FA in its enquiries.”

Di Canio has claimed in the past that he is ‘a fascist, not a racist’, although if history teaches us anything, it is that one invariably leads to the other.

Mancunian candidates

Lille forward Eden Hazard has confirmed he will be playing in Manchester next season, but refused to disclose whether it will be at City or United.

The Belgium international’s future has been the subject of intense speculation for some time with a host of clubs across Europe chasing his signature.

The 21-year-old has now confirmed he will be moving to the Premier League and will be joining one of the two Manchester clubs after being named Ligue 1′s Player of the year for the second consecutive season.

Speaking at the awards gala and when asked about his likely destination at the end of the current season, Hazard said: “To Manchester, I’ve already said. The decision will be taken soon.”

Match fixing

There’s an interesting and rather poignant story today about the temptations offered to underpaid or unpaid players by gambling syndicates.

The piece focuses on Mario Cizmek, a promising Croatian player who never quite made the international grade and was forced to eke out an existence playing professionally in countries as diverse as Israel and Ireland.

Cizmek’s problems started when his club, Croatia Sesvete, failed to pay his salary, which amounted to roughly €3,000 a month for an entire year. Mounting bills and growing debts made him an easy target for the match fixers. Eventually he was sentenced to 10 months in jail. He is now waiting for Croatia’s Supreme Court to give its final ruling. If it finds against him, he will go to prison.

The player is full of remorse and his case, one of many according to players union FIFPro shows the causal link between unpaid wages and match fixing. It found that more than 40 percent of professional players in 12 Eastern European countries did not have their salaries paid on time.

You can read the piece here. The most striking and alarming aspect of the tale is how mundane the the actual process of match fixing has become. As Europe continues to suffer economically it is difficult to see the practice disappearing anytime soon.

Celtic Tigers

Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland have formally declared an interest in hosting Euro 2020.

So far Turkey are the only other nation to inform UEFA that they want to want host the tournament. The European governing body has a deadline of midnight on Tuesday night for any other declarations of interest.

Bidders would need to put forward up to 10 stadiums to host matches in the European Championships, which is being expanded from 16 teams to 24 from 2016. Scotland and Wales would struggle to provide that number of stadiums to satisfy UEFA requirements but Ireland’s involvement would certainly help.

The countries have not fared well in the past in bidding for the tournament. Scotland and the Republic of Ireland bid jointly for Euro 2008 but were one of the first to be eliminated, and Scotland and Wales considered bidding jointly for Euro 2016 but decided against it.

Turkey’s bid is in some doubt already because it conflicts with Istanbul’s bid to land the Olympics in the same year. The UEFA president, Michel Platini, had signalled he would support Turkey bid but only if Istanbul fails to secure the Olympics.

Asked if Scotland and Wales would be able to meet the UEFA criteria for stadiums, Scottish Football Association chief executive, Stewart Regan replied: “There are other ways of skinning a cat and alternative ways of being considered for a major tournament.”

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  • Sean

    WOW just WOW… UEFA and the FAI are for lack of a better word, muppets!

    expanding the Euros to 24 teams is absolutly stupid, and bidding nations will struggle to meet criteria until its triple bid. Which defeats the purpose of having host nations. As it stands Poland and Ukraine are struggling to have 4 stadiums each and thats not including infrastructure!

    The Celtic bid will crash and burn, with Scotland and Wales having realistically 3 Stadia each and Ireland having 1… Thats 7 between 3 countries for a tournament that requires 10. Never mind that fact that Ireland are skint broke and if the bid was won, wouldnt have a bean to put forward into developing the needed requirements to host such a tournament. Very deluded…

    This however is UEFA’s F*** up… the 16 team tournament is perfect. More teams = more money needed, more mickey mouse games and more problems.