Chelsea skipper John Terry lavished praise on Didier Drogba after the Ivorian scored the matchwinner against Barcelona to claim a 1-0 win in their Champions League semi-final first leg.
“Didi is all about these big nights, the big occasions,” said Terry. “He put fear into the Spurs defence at the weekend and he did that again tonight.”
Scared they may well have been. So frequently did he tumble theatrically to the floor there must have been times last night when they were genuinely concerned about the Ivorian’s health
Indeed, the phrase,’Drogba time’ to represent the time added on for unnecessary stoppages, looks set to enter the lexicon of football phrases.
With Anrdres Iniesta bemoaning the “unjust” nature of the result, and Barcelona wondering how they could possibly have lost a game they so manifestly dominated, a disappointed Pep Guardiola suggested that Chelsea were now favourites to reach the final.
“I would say the favourites are now Chelsea because winning 1-0 at home is a very good result for them,” claimed the Barca coach.
Guardiola was asked if he felt, in football terms, that Barcelona had been “mugged” after enjoying so much possession (72 per cent) and creating so many chances (24), only to come away empty-handed.
“If football is about counting possession we would win every game,” he said. “The game is about putting the football in the goal.”
Amid the welter of stats confirming Catalan superiority, there was one statistic that could explain the coach’s gloomy prognosis for the second leg. Of the 55 opponents Barcelona have faced since Guardiola became coach in 2008, the only side they have failed to beat is Chelsea.
In two seasons at Swiss club Sion Ivorian midfielder Geoffrey Serey Die has only managed one goal, and that poor scoring record prompted a shootout challenge from his club owner Christian Constantin.
Constantin, 55, bet Serey Die that he couldn’t score 14 out of 20 shots against him form the penalty spot. If Die won he was be rewarded with full use of Constantin’s Ferrari for three days. Lose, and he would have to take the entire squad out for a meal with him picking up the tab.
Serey Die scored just eleven of his efforts on goal whilst Constantin, who played in goal for FC Lugano in his youth, made seven saves.
“Two years ago I took my summer holiday in Sardinia at the same luxury resort where Chelsea operates a youth academy, and there was a friendly tournament taking place,” Constantin said afterwards. “In the other team was a certain Mario Balotelli, and we ended up having a kick around. The Manchester City star also could not beat me, before asking whether I’m playing in Ligue 1 in France.”
You can tell he’s a chairman who likes to talk about himself.
Perhaps, Barcelona chairman Sandro Rosell could perform similar challenge with one or two of his misfiring players. On current form, if such a wager involved Sergio Busquets, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas, the smart money would definitely be on the chairman.
Money talks… sometimes
Manchester United have retained their position as the world’s most valuable football club in the world, but Real Madrid are gaining ground, according to the Forbes football rich list.
I’m sure their lofty status will be of some consolation to their supporters when they contemplate this season’s dual European exits to the likes of Basel and Athletic Bilbao.
United are also ranked as the most valuable team in any sport, worth $2.24billion, $385million more than baseball’s New York Yankees and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
Real Madrid, who saw their value rise by 29 per cent over the past 12 months to $1.8billion are in second place, while reigning European champions Barcelona are in 3rd spot, valued at $1.3billion.
United’s huge global fanbase, estimated by Forbes to number 330million, has helped maintain the club’s position at the top of the rich list. However both Real Madrid and Barcelona have higher revenues than United, due partly to them negotiating individual TV deals.
Key to the financial well-being of the leading clubs is participation in the annual European cash cow, otherwise known as the UEFA Champions League.
The report states: “During the 2011 season the UEFA Champions League, the world’s richest annual soccer competition, dolled out a total of €870m to the 32 teams that qualified for the group stage, 23 per cent more than the previous year. A 25 per cent increase in UEFA’s broadcasting revenue, to €975m, fueled the increase.”
Forbes 20 richest clubs 2010-11
Clubs Earning ($US millions)
1. Manchester United 2,235
2. Real Madrid 1,877
3. Barcelona 1,307
4. Arsenal 1,292
5. Bayern Munich 1,235
6. Milan 989
7. Chelsea 761
8. Liverpool 619
9. Juventus 591
10. Schalke 587
11. Tottenham 564
12. Inter 490
13. Manchester City 443
14. Borussia Dortmund 394
15. Lyon 385
16. Hamburg 355
17. Roma 354
18. Marseille 349
19. Valencia 288
20. Napoli 283.
Goal of the day
Sarmiento Junin opened the scoring against Deportivo Merlo in their Copa Argentina tie, courtesy of an acrobatic overhead kick from Ramon “Wanchope” Abila.
Take the money and run
Spanish striker Raul will not be extending his contract with Schalke and will leave in the summer.
Raul, 34, has enjoyed a successful two-year spell in the Bundesliga, scoring 39 goals in 96 games for the club since arriving from Real Madrid in 2010.
The forward explained that he intends to continue his career outside Europe, with a move to the Middle East or the United States mooted.
“It is not an easy decision for me,” Raul said. “I would like to thank the club for the patience they have shown.
“My sporting future is not in Europe, but rather in another league not as strong as the Bundesliga. In the coming weeks we will meet and look at the offers.
“I will always carry these two years in my heart. I would like to thank everyone at the club and the fans, who have always supported me.”
Del Piero not short of admirers
Another striker entering his football dotage is Alessandro Del Piero, who confirmed yesterday that he was scared of life after Juventus.
The 37-year-old will not be short of offers though and already, Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo, has suggested the club would be interested in offering Del Piero a future away from Juventus.
Pozzo believes the veteran forward “would be of great use” to Udinese.
“We don’t rule anything out, especially as Antonio Di Natale isn’t exactly a kid and yet he’s our top scorer,” Pozzo told Sky Sport Italia.
“We also have players like Giampaolo Pinzi and Maurizio Domizzi who are over 30, so our team is a mixture of youth and experience. Udinese pick players based on their potential, their capacity and therefore do not rule anybody out.
“Of course Del Piero is undoubtedly a champion who would be of great use to Udinese, but there is also an economic consideration. He does not fit into the budget of a little club like Udinese.
“That would be the main reason why we don’t tend to sign mature champions. He’d do very well here, though, and help the locker room. His experience would be good for the side.”
Del Piero has been linked with a move to MLS and last week, Montreal Impact director Nick De Santis, claimed the Italian has his sights set on a move to either Los Angeles or New York.
“We contacted Del Piero in January, but he said no,” De Santis told Tuttomercatoweb. “He told us that he prefers LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls over us, so we abandoned this option.”
Zagallo seeks new challenge
At an age when most people are happy to be able to get out of bed in the morning and remember what day it is, former Brazil player and coach Mario Zagallo has decided to enter the murky, Byzantine world of Brazilian football politics.
The 80-year-old, who won the World Cup as a player in 1958 and 1962, coached Brazil to their triumph in 1970 and was assistant to Carlos Alberto Parreira in 1994, told reporters he will run for a vacant vice-presidency in the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
“You know me, I wasn’t going to rest on my laurels,” said Zagallo, who would be one of five CBF vice-presidents, each representing a region of the country, if elected.
“I’m going to learn about the bureaucratic aspects but I will really be thinking about the Brazilian national team.
“It would be my last World Cup,” he added, referring to the 2014 tournament which Brazil will host.
“This is my last chance to take Brazil to a sixth world title. I will help out with the experience I have.”
Zagallo’s nomination for the south-eastern region vice-presidency, could cause divisions within in Brazilian football.
He was put forward by the Rio de Janeiro football federation while Sao Paulo is expected to nominate FIFA executive member Marco Polo Del Nero.
The position was left vacant when Jose Maria Marin took over the CBF presidency following the resignation of Ricardo Teixeira.
Colombia drinking problem
Inspired by Atlético Nacional’s Darlon Fabon, who earlier this season turned up drunk for training, but redeemed himself somewhat by scoring an astonishing goal (see below) in last week’s Libertadores Cup win over Universidad de Chile.
Thousands of fans have gathered in the Italian city of Bergamo for the funeral of footballer Piermario Morosini, who collapsed and died during a match last weekend.
The 25-year-old Livorno player had been playing in a second division match in Pescara last Saturday.
Initially it was thought Morosini had suffered a cardiac arrest but a post mortem on Monday proved inconclusive.
Among the mourners at San Gregorio Barbarigo church were Italy’s national coach, Cesare Prandelli, and Italian league president Maurizio Beretta. Players from Atalanta, Udinese, Inter and Parma were also in attendance.
One banner read “Piermario, one of us” while another said “Thanks for everything – you’ll always be with us”.
On Wednesday hundreds of people queued to pay their final respects in the northern Italian city on the eve of the funeral.
A minute’s silence will be held at matches across Italy this weekend.
The head of youth development at Morosini’s first team, Atalanta, Mino Favini said: “He was a really sweet young man. He never asked anything for himself but always spoke up for others in the team. It’s natural that with such characteristics Piermario was popular among his peers.”