Goldenballs loses his shine

David Beckham has announced that he is to retire from professional football. The former England captain says he wants to concentrate on the two enduring loves of his life: making money and staring in the mirror.

Apologies for the cynicism, but Beckham’s career as a top flight footballer, notwithstanding the fleeting European cameos of the past decade, effectively ended when he agreed to join LA Galaxy six years ago.

The 38-year-old, who has played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan and Los Angeles Galaxy and whose career ends on a high with a French league success, turned down a one-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain.

“If you had told me as a young boy I would have played for and won trophies with my boyhood club Manchester United, proudly captained and played for my country over 100 times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy,” he said.

“I’m fortunate to have realised those dreams.”

Indeed. If ever there was a case of one player making a little talent (the ability to take set-pieces) go a long, long way, then Beckham would be that player.

The midfielder made his international debut against Moldova in 1996 and captained the side from 2000 to 2006, eventually winning 115 caps – a record for an England outfield player.

“To this day, one of my proudest achievements is captaining my country. I knew every time I wore the Three Lions shirt, I was not only following in a long line of great players, I was also representing every fan that cared passionately about their country,” said Beckham.

“Nothing will ever completely replace playing the game I love. However, I feel like I’m starting a new adventure and I’m genuinely excited about what lies ahead.

“I’m fortunate to have been given many opportunities throughout my career and now I feel it’s my time to give back.”

With an ambassadorial role for China already in the bag and a rumoured position promoting the Qatar 2022 World Cup imminent, Beckham will continue to remain involved in the game – in as much as hobnobbing with the wealthy and powerful is considered part of the game these days.

Captain Dispensable

Chelsea maintained their happy knack of not playing particularly well, firing a manager, lurching from one crisis to another, and yet still finishing he season in possession of one of the major trophies.

If this how not to run a club, tell that to the supporters who have see their team win back-to-back European titles. Or tell it to Fernando Torres, whose supposedly inexorable decline continued with a well-taken goal in Wednesday’s final. The Europa League success also allowed the Spaniard to create a small piece of history as he, along with Juan Mata is now in the unique position of being the holder of the World Cup, European Championships, European Cup and Europa League.

But, well though Torres equipped himself in Amsterdam, and not forgetting the role played by the remarkably strong neck muscles of Branislav Ivanovic in Chelsea’s injury time winner, the undoubted star of the show, just as he was a year ago when Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy in Munich, was John Terry.

Just as happened 12 months ago, Terry, despite not playing any part in the final, nor even being a member of the match day squad, appeared, in full kit, to collect the trophy. This despite watching the entire 90 minutes wearing a suit and tie.

Has the man no shame? Apparently not.

Calling it a day

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus hinted he may leave the club following the heartbreak of their 2-1 injury-time defeat to Chelsea.

The 58-year-old, who has been in charge for four years, said the defeat was hard to bear. Given the week he has endured, one would have to possess a heart of stone to not feel some sympathy for Jesus. Only last weekend, the world watched him sink to his knees in despair, as he watched his previously unbeaten Benfica side concede a late goal to rivals Porto that almost certainly cost them the league title.

“In these last few weeks the club and I have been talking about the future,” he told a news conference. “This defeat today will lead me to take some time to think more about these issues.”

Jesus added that he was hurting as much for the fans, who had followed the team with “emotion, passion and patriotism”, as for himself.

“Benfica were the better side today – more consistent and organised. Chelsea are a strong team especially on the counter-attack but in the first half we neutralised them,” said Jesus.

“The game gave me pride to be in the final. Benfica showed the world they are a team with great quality and they should be proud.”

The defeat was the seventh in a row for Benfica in European finals since they enjoyed huge success half a century ago with European Cup final wins in 1961 and 1962. Since then they appear to have fallen victim to the curse placed upon them by a former coach, Bela Guttmann who, after a row over a pay rise with the club’s board, allegedly told the club: “Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever win a European Cup”.

Cutting it fine

Sao Paulo’s World Cup stadium will be ready on time, FIFA insists, less than 24 hours after warning the city it could lose the right to stage matches because of delays in building the new arena.

Football’s governing body said it had reached agreement with stadium owners Corinthians the day after the two parties were involved in a public row.

Corinthians president Andres Sanchez said there had been some misunderstanding between the two sides, but promised to have the stadium completed on the originally agreed date of December 31.

“This was an excellent meeting. There was some misunderstanding but Sao Paulo and Corinthians are aware of their responsibilities,” Sanchez said, according to a FIFA statement.

“I have always been sure that we would host the opening game of the 2014 World Cup and now I am even more. The schedule agreed with FIFA will be respected.”

FIFA has demanded that all Brazil’s World Cup stadiums are finished by the December 31 deadline, repeatedly saying there would be no exceptions.

So you can imagine their horror when last week the chief engineer at the Itaquerao stadium said that, although the main 48,000 capacity part of the stadium would be ready on time, the additional 20,000 temporary seats which will be added for the World Cup would not.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said on Tuesday delays would not be tolerated and that it could change the stadiums until August 1.

Corinthians then called FIFA’s bluff, saying it had already been agreed that the deadline for the new stadium would be extended until February and that if they were unhappy with that, then they could move the matches if they wanted. Which of course they didn’t want, not least because Sao Paolo is the most populous city in the country, the business and financial hub, and also the birthplace of Brazilian football.

Valcke agreed the two sides had made up at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We are very satisfied with the meeting and with the fact that we could talk face to face. Sao Paulo will be an example for other cities to deliver the stadium in time, by December 31,” said Valcke.

“The discussion with Corinthians was very fruitful since we understand we both want the same goal, to have the stadium ready,” he added.

“It is also a special project because of the legacy it leaves for the east zone of Sao Paulo.”

Goal of the day

Was it a shot, was it a cross? As it came from the boot of Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The goal evoked memories of this effort from Gheorghe Hagi at the 1994 World Cup.

Miss of the day

From the same game, Corinthians Alexandre Pato somehow managed to miss from two yards. It was a costly miss too, as the Libertadores Cup holders went out of this season’s competition 2-1 on aggregate.

Quote of the day

“We can have air-conditioned stadiums. But the World Cup is more than stadiums, it’s all the social and cultural activities around the competition. It’s not rational or reasonable to play in June-July. Our technical report, which was available to all members of the executive committee before the vote in 2010, showed up those problems.”

The winter World Cup moves a step closer as FIFA president Sepp Blatter highlights the difficulties of Qatar hosting the tournament in the summer.

Cat out of the bag

On a day of revelations, Blatter also admitted there were “interventions at different levels” when Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup.

To many, the choice of Qatar as World Cup hosts came as a big surprise, with many critics suspecting foul play was at work to ensure Qatar won the bid.

Blatter has hinted that voters on the committee were influenced on a ploitical level to take the World Cup to the Middle East for the first time.

“There were interventions at different levels so that it would go to an Arab country,” Blatter said in an interview with L’Equipe. “Geopolitics did its work.

“Before the awarding of a World Cup or Olympic Games, there is a meeting with the politicians. We had it here in Zurich. They influence the voters. England didn’t get the 2018 World Cup and, ever since, there has been a Cold War with FIFA.”

There have been allegations of corruption resulting Qatar’s successful World Cup bid, but Blatter is confident everything was doing properly.

“Nobody proved that there were payoffs so that Qatar was chosen,” he said.”The ethics commission can open an investigation. That would be good to prove that this was done correctly.

“Whether it’s the right choice, that’s up to the executive committee.”

Clocking off

Paolo Di Canio has told his players to put their holiday plans on hold after Sunday’s final game of the season at Tottenham Hotspur.

The Italian has ordered his squad to return to the north-east for a couple of days after the match and only then would he decide whether to release them.

“If anybody has booked a holiday for Monday, they are going to lose some money. Why would they book a holiday on Monday? They are not being serious, they have to ask me,” he said.

“I will see what happens on Sunday, then we will come back together, and I will tell them when their holidays start.

“I told them we can win, draw or lose with dignity, respecting the club’s name and the fans who follow them. But if not, I will reduce their holiday.”

Speaking of exotic trips abroad, Sunderland will embark upon a pre-season tour of Hong Kong later in the summer, a trip which was arranged prior to Di Canio’s appointment. His preferred destination – a hiking trip across the Bavarian Alps culminating in a motivational tour of the Munich bierkellers – will just have to wait.

A day in the life of Diego Maradona

There’s rarely a quiet day in the life of Diego Maradona, not least when he jets into his native Argentina.

The footballing legend arrived late in the country with his new girlfriend – Rocio Oliva – on his first visit to see his new son Diego Fernando, who was born three months ago to his former partner Veronica Ojeda.

According to reports, Maradona, who was being followed by photographers, stopped the car and threw stones at his pursuers. He also was reported to have kicked at least one photographer.

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