Money talks

Real Madrid have overtaken Manchester United as the richest football club in the world for the first time since Forbes magazine began its rankings in 2004.

United have topped the list for nine years in a row but the Spanish champions are now worth $135 million more (€103m) at $3.3 billion (€2.429bn), than United.

Barcelona, whose worth has almost doubled in the past 12 months, lie third – $565m (€434m) behind United but $1.274m (€978m) ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal.

Germany champions Bayern Munich complete the top five having made the Champions League final last season as well as finishing second in the Bundesliga and their value look set to grow on the back of another successful season as well as the the appointment of Pep Guardiola.

Milan are the highest placed Serie A side in sixth, although they are also the only club in the top 10 whose worth has gone down over the last 12 months.

Chelsea’s Champions League-winning season saw the team maintain its place in the list and increase its value by 18 percent, ahead of Juventus in 8th Juventus, whose value rose by 17 percent after their Scudetto success in 2012.

Manchester City rose from 13th to 9th in Forbes’ list after winning the Premier League last season, while Liverpool’s slide continues. The five-time European champions were fourth as recently as 2008 but finds themselves 10th five years later as they continue to suffer from not competing with the European elite.

Outside of the top 10 come Europa League quarter-finalists Tottenham in 11th, Bundesliga side Schalke in 12th, Champions League semi-finalists Borussia Dortmund in 13th, Italian outfit Inter in 14th and Lyon in 15th.

 The final five in the top 20 are South America’s sole entrants Corinthians in 16th, Napoli in 17th, German side Hamburg in 18th, Marseille in 19th and Newcastle United hanging on in at 20th.

The details of the list can be found here.

Levelling the playing field?

As Real Madrid and Barcelona revel in their status as 2 of the 3 wealthiest clubs in the world, along comes the prospect of legislation that might bring them back down to earth – or at least closer to the standing of their Spanish peers, most of whom have withered in the face of the all devouring clasico hegemony.

A new Spanish law will include a requirement that clubs negotiate the sale of television rights collectively as in other major European leagues, secretary of state for sport Miguel Cardenal has revealed.

The legislation, expected to be introduced towards the end of this year, would end the divisive practice of clubs signing deals with broadcasters individually.

Under the current system, Real Madrid and Barcelona split around half of the total pot of €650 million for La Liga rights between them.

Understandably, their domestic rivals, many of whom are in dire financial straits, struggle to to compete with the two heavyweights.

“It’s an extremely important issue because it’s the main source of funding (for the clubs),” Cardenal said.

“The idea is that the new law will regulate the collective sale (of TV rights) and that they will be sold in a single package,” he added.

Real earned €199.2 million from broadcasting rights, including European games, in the 2011-12 season, more than any other club, according to the latest Deloitte Football Money League published in January.

Barca were second with €179.8 million, with European champions Chelsea a distant third on €139.4 million.

Domestically, the situation is even more extreme, with the Spanish duo earning 19 times more than the lowest paid club, whereas in England, the league champions will receive just 1.5 more than the team finishing bottom of the table.

Barca earned €163 million and Real €156 million from TV rights in the 2010-11 season, according to a study by a University of Barcelona professor.

In contrast 3rd placed Valencia earned €42 million, while Malaga, who were fourth, earned a paltry €14.8 million.

The problem for Real and Barcelona is that they are competing not just with their fellow Spanish clubs, but also with their English and German counterparts, all of whom benefit from significantly better TV deals – hence the reluctance to share the pie with their domestic rivals.

Cardenal said it would be up to the clubs themselves to decide how the money is shared out, although he added that “it would be natural to expect the gap between those who get the most and those who get the least to narrow”.

For the sake of Spanish football, one would hope so.

Science fiction

Qatar is racing to develop efficient solar-powered cooling technology to counter the oppressive heat of the Middle Eastern summer in its stadiums during the 2022 World Cup.

And if that doesn’t work, playing on Mars might soon be an option. It seems as equally implausible.

“We showed (world governing body) FIFA how the cooling technology works, it was warm outside but in stadium was cold they wanted their jackets,” Al-Nasser Al-Khater, the organising committee’s communications and marketing director, said during a trip to Berlin for a Qatari business and investment conference.

“So cooling a stadium is not the issue.”

Of course not, it’s called air conditioning and it’s existed for decades. The problem however, is that in promising to stage a carbon-neutral World Cup such technology tends be energy intensive which will create a carbon deficit. To counter this, Qatar will either create a central solar power farm or have individual ones installed in each of the 12 stadiums it is building, said Al-Khater.

“With solar, the big challenge is how do you deal with solar technology in the desert in terms of withstanding the elements and getting it clean so it is efficient,” Al-Khater said.

Many leading voices in football such as UEFA president Michel Platini have called for the World Cup to be held in December or January, when the average temperature is 17 degrees, rather than in the middle of the year.

Historically, the World Cup has always been held in June and July and any change could lead to a major scheduling problems with the major European leagues traditionally playing through the winter. Qatar’s right to stage the 2022 World Cup if the event is moved to the winter months would also be open to a legal challenge.

Al-Khater said Qatar would go ahead researching and installing the cooling technology either way as the stadiums would be used in the summer months even after the World Cup.

“Whether it is a winter or summer World Cup we will be ready,” he said.

Peace at last

FIFA has lifted a ban on Libya hosting matches despite the North African country still facing precarious security issues after the 2011 war that removed Muammar Gaddafi.

A FIFA statement read: “FIFA has decided to re-authorize matches in Libya, thus the two (World Cup) qualifiers in June will be played in Tripoli and in Benghazi. We have aligned ourselves with CAF’s decision.”

Libya will now meet Democratic Republic of Congo in Tripoli on June 7 and Togo in Benghazi on June 14 in Group I of the African World Cup qualifying competition.

Anwar al-Tashani, president of the Libyan Football Federation, told Reuters: “FIFA informed us yesterday that the ban on Libya stadiums was lifted.”

Previously Libyan clubs used neutral venues to host their matches while the Libyan national side have played ‘home’ World Cup and African Nations Cup qualifiers in Mali, Egypt and Tunisia over the last 24 months.

The FIFA statement is timely as it coincides with the announcement that Libya is preparing to spend 400 million dinars (£205 million) on building stadiums this year as it prepares to host the 2017 African Nations Cup.

“Just like Nelson Mandela unified South Africa, we hope to unify Libya under this cup,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad Ibrahim Elbarasi told Reuters on Thursday.

“We will resume construction of these stadiums in June and have asked the government for a budget of 400 million dinars to build 11 stadiums this year.”

Last month, Libya said it would use all its resources to ensure that it kept the right to host the 2017 finals.

The North African country had originally been scheduled to host the 2013 Nations Cup but precarious security saw it swap with South Africa, who had been down for the 2017 event.

French fancy

Joey Barton has reiterated his desire to stay at Marseille permanently when his loan comes to an end, rather than return to parent club QPR in the summer.

Thus far, the French club have not disclosed whether they actually want him to stay.

The 30-year-old left Loftus Road in the summer after being handed a 12-match ban for three counts of violent conduct against Manchester City on the final day of last season. Few clubs expressed an interest in signing the errant midfielder, but Marseille, perhaps unaware of his recidivist tendencies, offered Barton a lifeline by proposing a loan deal.

And now, having made 19 league appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit this season, Barton is content with life at Marseille and hopes to stay there.

“As a football player I don’t want to play for any other football club,” Barton told French Football Weekly.

“For Marseille, for me to stay here. It suits everyone – it suits me, the fans love me, and I love them. I think they see that you care

“I don’t need any convincing. For me, I’m more than happy to stay here. I envisage myself playing for another 6-8 years, I won’t retire, they’ll have to carry me off the pitch.”

Goal of the day

A remarkable overhead kick from the edge of the area by Sebastián Driussi for Argentina Under-17 against Uruguay.

Quote of the day

“I will ask Mourinho what he’ll do the next season. I’ll stay, unless we play so bad I get fired. To be spoken of as a possible successor to Mourinho is an honour. Better they want Klopp than anyone but Klopp.”

Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp is flattered to be considered as a possible successor to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Accidents will happen

Opinion was divided over Andy Carroll’s challenge on Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea during Wednesday’s Premier League encounter.

There were those who thought it an automatic red card and those who thought that the West Ham striker should face criminal charges for assault.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, for one, was admanat that the referee, Lee Probert, should have given Carroll his marching orders.

“I think it’s obvious, I don’t think we need to dwell on that, it’s an obvious red card but the referee has seen it differently,” he said.

Naturally, there were one or two dissenting voices: Carrol being one and West Ham boss Sam Allardyce the other.

“I just went for the ball and obviously went through De Gea, but I just went for the ball and that’s all it was,” Carroll told Sky Sports. “I was running straight in trying to get the ball and couldn’t stop at that moment, obviously the keeper has come and won it and I couldn’t stop when I was flying through the air.”

Meanwhile, Allardyce compared Carroll to a moving vehicle, albeit a slow moving one, with faulty breaks.

“Andy was trying to get the ball,” he said. “It’s a foul. He was committed and he couldn’t stop. It’s like the Highway Code – if you are travelling at 60mph it takes 300 yards to stop. Carroll was probably travelling at 15mph and couldn’t stop.”

It’s palpable nonsense of course. Looking at the footage (below) we can see that the ball is long gone before Carroll flies headlong into the unprotected goalkeeper.

Model professional

Questions over Andrei Arshavin’s commitment to his profession have been rife in recent months, with the suspicion that Arsenal’s Russian international forward no longer has an appetite for the game.

He has been a peripheral figure for Arsenal this season, but Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger enthused last week about the player’s enduring commitment and his willingness to give his all in training.

“I must say publicly that I give him credit,” Wenger told reporters. ”He is working absolutely every session (with) 100 percent commitment and he is an example to everybody because he has been questioned about his commitment.

“If you see him every day, you would respect him for his commitment.”

Meanwhile, here’s Arshavin demonstrating his commitment to his trade last Saturday night. If  only he’d shown commensurate levels of commitment on the pitch, it’s unlikely he’d have spent quite so much time warming the bench this season.

Finally…

Carlo Ancelotti criticised his Paris Saint-Germain players for lack of concentration and “too much self-importance” after they were knocked out of the French Cup to Evian.

“The season is not finished but tonight is a disaster,” he said. “I am sorry. It is my responsibility. Was it our worst game? Yes. Am I upset with the players? Yes. You can lose a game but not in this fashion.”

“It is a huge disappointment especially because of the team’s attitude. There was no concentration, no character, too much self-importance.”

Too much self-importance? In a team that included Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham? Surely not.

PSG lost on penalties after Saber Khelifa had cancelled out Javier Pastore’s early opener, with Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva both missing their attempts in the shootout.

Here’s the Swede’s less-than-convincing spot-kick.

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