Time for change

Italy’s Serie A needs radical change and substantial investment if their clubs are to once again compete for European trophies, according to former Milan captain Paolo Maldini.

No Italian club has made the Champions League semi-finals since Inter won the title in 2010, with Serie A leaders Juventus’ 4-0 defeat on aggregate to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals appearing to confirm the suspicion that the once all-conquering Serie A is no longer one of Europe’s big hitters.

“To compete with the great teams in Europe, you have to invest money, there is no other way to reach that kind of level,” said Maldini.

“You could see it with Juventus against Bayern. Juventus are a great team, especially in Italy, but when you compete with a team like Bayern, you can see the difference. They need at least two or three more great players.”

Widely considered one of the great defenders in world football in the last 30 years with 5 Champions League titles under his belt, Maldini looked back fondly on the years when Serie A clubs dominated the European landscape.

“In the 1990s we had seven great teams – Milan, Inter, Juventus, Parma, Lazio, Roma, Fiorentina,” he said. “If you look at the players, they were great players but there was some crazy investment and some teams went bankrupt, like Parma and Lazio.

“Then you had the Moratti and Berlusconi families who put in so much money and are still surviving, it is hard though.”

Indeed it is. The fact remains that much of the success enjoyed by Italian clubs was built on money invested by patrician owners. It worked for a while, but like many a vanity project, proved unsustainable in the long run, and the comedown, when it finally arrived, has been brutal and severe. A situation acknowledged by Maldini.

“Above all we need to learn from leagues that make money from sports rather than lose money,” he said. “Everyone is losing money in Italian football, it’s crazy.”

Deadline day

There is growing concern within FIFA about Brazil’s ability to host this summer’s Confederations Cup, after local organizers delayed the finish date of the venue hosting the opening match in Brasilia.

The stadium was expected to be open Sunday, but problems with the field forced organizers to change the date to May 18, just three days before FIFA takes over all six Confederations Cup venues.

”FIFA and the LOC demonstrated concern with the tight deadlines and the short period available for the test events that guarantee the operational success of events with the size of the FIFA Confederations Cup,” FIFA and the local organizing committee said in a joint statement.

Ideally, FIFA wanted all Confederations Cup stadiums ready by last December but made an exception in Brazil because of delays with several venues, including at the Maracana Stadium, which will host the tournament’s final in Rio de Janeiro on June 30. Local organizers then set April 15 as the deadline for the stadiums, but only three made it.

FIFA said it would be ideal to have three test events in each of the six venues, but Secretary General Jerome Valcke recently admitted that at this stage two would be fine. At this rate, just having a turnstile working come kick off time, will be heralded as a major success story.

Brasilia Governor Agnelo Queiroz guaranteed that the Estadio Nacional will be ready for the test events scheduled for May 18 and May 26.

”We are not going to risk the stadium delivery because of the problem with the pitch,” he said.

Now, where have we heard that before?

Sorry not so hard to say

Manchester City Argentine striker Sergio Aguero has finally apologised to Chelsea’s David Luiz for the challenge he made on the Brazilian defender in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Chelsea were awarded a free-kick after the two-footed tackle nine minutes from time but amazingly, Aguero was not shown a card by referee Chris Foy.

After the game Luiz said Aguero should apologise, which the Argentine did on Tuesday via Twitter.

“I’ve contacted David Luiz and apologised for what happened during the match,” Aguero tweeted.

“It was an impulse reaction that shouldn’t have happened.”

Luiz tweeted in response: “Thank you… for a demonstration of character. We get to know great men and athletes this way.”

Which was very civil of the Brazilian.

As for Aguero, he can count himself lucky not to be facing a three-match ban. As the referee Chris Foy was deemed to have viewed the episode, the FA’s regulations stated there could be no retrospective action.

Pep talk

Former Real Madrid director Jorge Valdano has delivered a glowing tribute to Pep Guardiola and has described the soon-to-be Bayern Munich coach as a revolutionary within the football world.

Valdano previously labelled Guardiola ‘the Steve Jobs of football’ following his approach at Barcelona and he feels the 42-year-old is one of the few coaches who does not focus solely on the result.

“Football is obsessed with tactics. Tactics have become more important than the technical area of the game. Coaches think about tactics first and only then about the players they have,” Valdano told Sport.

He added, “Most coaches care more about results than about the style of play. Guardiola is the great revolutionary of his time. With Pep, it’s about the love for the game, the style of play and the players itself.”

Guardiola is currently enjoying a one-year sabbatical after leaving Barcelona in the summer of 2012. He will resume his coaching career at Bayern Munich in June.

More than a club?

One person who has bought into the idea that Barcelona are a cut above any other clubs is the club’s midfielder Xavi, who has stated that the Catalan outfit have a strong identity and legacy that other top teams lack.

Like his former coach, Xavi believes that results are not always the ultimate barometer of quality. Although, long-suffering Arsenal fans may take issue with that idea.

“Other teams win and are happy, but it’s not the same. The identity is lacking,” the increasingly patronising 33-year-old told UEFA’s Champions magazine. “In football the result is an impostor. You can do things really, really well but not win. There’s something greater than the result, more lasting – a legacy.

“Barca always try to direct the game, they don’t wait for the opposition but go out and attack, so people identify with the club. Barca fans would never understand if the team were not controlling or dominating a match. It’s about doing something extra, not just winning. That’s the way it has to be.”

Goal of the day

Scant consolation for Wolfsburg’s Diego, but his long range effort was the goal of the game in Tuesday’s 6-1 German Cup defeat to Bayern Munich.

Quote of the day

“Do you mean when we were a little bit rough with the tackling? Up north we do that quite often. That’s actually allowed in football.”

Everton manager David Moyes responds to criticism from Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger, that his players were too physical during Tuesday’s goalless draw between the two sides.

Watergate

It was a tense evening at the Emirates with both sides striving for the three points that would enhance their chances of playing in next season’s Champions League, but there was some light relief provided by Everton’s Kevin Mirallas. As the players traipsed off at half time, the Belgium international was spotted surreptitiously squirting water in the face of Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.

Adios

According to a report in Spain, Jose Mourinho has let slip that he will leave Real Madrid next season.

The Portuguese is being widely tipped to leave the Spanish champions side this summer – regardless of whether he wins the Champions League – and reports from Spain suggest he has now confirmed as much to his son’s football team.

“Mourinho told us that next year he won’t be able to talk to the coaches because he will not be here,” Canillas President Manuel Alvarez told Punto Pelota.

“If Mourinho is going then it is a great loss for Spanish football. I hope Florentino Perez can fix it.”

Finally…

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov says he is lucky to be alive as he continues his fight against leukaemia.

The Bulgarian was diagnosed in March 2012 but is now in remission after finishing his first year of treatment.

“I’ve had my hard moments but I’ve had good moments as well. I’m lucky because some people with this disease will die very quickly,” said the 33-year-old.

“I’m glad that this hard year is behind me now and I can concentrate on getting back to my life.”

Recalling his emotions when he first learned of his condition, Petrov told Aston Villa’s website:  “At the start I thought it was just a cold, nothing serious.

“When I was told the diagnosis, I was a little shocked but accepted it and just wanted to start the treatment straight away.”

Petrov continues to fight the disease, but after a difficult year, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

“I have finished all of the high intensity treatment and from now on I’ll be on the softer treatment, which is two years on tablets,” he said. “It was a very, very long year but now, after all this treatment, I can go back to a normal life.

“The support from all the fans, the club, the players, has been amazing.”

That support extends to the Villa fans applauding Petrov in the 19th minute of every match, in recognition of the midfielder’s squad number at the club.

“The 19th minute has been just incredible,” he said. “It’s them showing their appreciation and their support.

“I don’t know how I can thank the fans because it’s been incredible. Sometimes I joke with friends when they text me saying, ‘You’ve still got that applause in the 19th minute, when are they going to stop?!’”

 

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