Spanish Bale out?

Gareth Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett has expressed his willingness to listen to an offer from Real Madrid for his client.

Barnett spoke on Marca TV‘s Futboleros show and said that Bale was worth more than Neymar – the Brazil forward who has just completed a high-profile transfer from Santos to Barcelona.

“If Florentino [Pérez, the Real president] is interested in Gareth Bale, it would be an honour and we’d listen,” Barnett said. “But his contract is with Tottenham. We aren’t free to talk with anybody at the moment, that’s the point we’re at.

“I can understand a lot of teams are interested in him. He’s a great player but he has a contract with Tottenham. I don’t know if there has been a bid [from Real]. What I do know is that the player has three years left on his contract.”

Barnett went on to discuss Bale’s market value in relation to Neymar and how much the former may cost. The Neymar deal is complicated, with the basic fee to Santos and the other economic partners being €28m but the monies rising sharply with add-ons.

“Bale is a better player than Neymar and he’s demonstrated it in one of the best leagues in the world,” Barnett said. “I would imagine clubs want him not just because they missed out on Neymar but because of how good he is. He should be the first option, we’ll see … Bale is worth more than Neymar.

“Bale is very relaxed [about the situation] … he’s enjoying a deserved holiday. He only wants to be happy and enjoy his football.”

But, ultimately, this is not about what’s best for Bale, it’s about what’s best for his agent. Otherwise, Barnett would not be appearing on Spanish TV, discussing the value of his client.

Grounds for concern

Brazil’s build-up to the Confederations Cup suffered another setback after heavy rain ripped a hole in the roof of one of the competition’s newly-constructed venues.

One of the 36 panels was ripped from the roof of the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, leaving a hole in the plastic that covers supporters towards the back of the stadium.

The leak is untimely for a number of reasons, not least for the credibility of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who had just praised the completion of the new stadia across the country in her weekly radio show.

She said: “I am certain that Brazil will shine on and off the field.

“I travelled across the country to inaugurate the six Confederations Cup stadiums…and was impressed with the beauty and the modernity of these football stages.”

Fonte Nova Participacoes, the agency which manages the stadium, said: “Following heavy downpours on Salvador early Monday morning, water accumulated in the 36 panels of the roof’s plastic membrane located in the eastern sector, triggering its collapse.

“Repair work has already started and will be concluded in time for the Confederations Cup. It’s an isolated incident.”

The issue is the latest in a long line of problems that have affected the 2014 World Cup venues. FIFA was only given assurances earlier this month that construction work at Arena Corinthians – the ground chosen to host the opening match next year – would be completed on time, while redevelopment of the famous Maracana Stadium has repeatedly suffered setbacks.

Meanwhile, Engenhao, the home of Botafogo, has been closed after inspectors discovered structural flaws, and several other grounds still require significant work.

The Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for next year’s World Cup, kicks off on June 15. If you’re attending, bring an umbrella would be my advice.

In the money

Monaco have signed Real Madrid defender Ricardo Carvalho and French media reports say Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao will be on his way in a deal worth £50m.

The French second division champions, backed by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, have already spent £60m on Porto duo Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez.

Rybolovlev bought a majority stake in seven-time French champions Monaco in December 2011.

The 46-year-old, who is 119th on the Forbes rich list  and reported to be worth around £6bn, made the bulk of his fortune from the sale of his stake in Uralkali. He intends to pour much of this into the bottomless pit of football ownership in a bid to turn Monaco into one of the European superclubs.

Rybolovlev says he is a “passionate football fan” and wants to help Monaco realise “their potential, both domestically and in Europe”.

Fortunately, he has entered a profession whose members are equally passionate about spending other people’s money. It is a match made in heaven.

An awful lot Toulouse

While Monaco enjoy their undeserved windfall (is there any other kind in football?), elsewhere in France, the picture is not so rosy.

Toulouse president Olivier Sadran has spoken ominously about his club’s future, predicting a “slow and disastrous death” unless revenues improve.

The club have been facing increasing economic pressure in the last few seasons, resulting in an exodus of players to league rivals as well as abroad.

Despite this, performances on the pitch have stood up reasonably well, with consistent mid-table finishes, and they secured a respectable 10th place this season.

However, with France struggling economically, Sadran remains doubtful over improving fortunes, especially with major sponsors pulling out.

He told La Depeche: ”What is worrying is that the club is going through a very difficult economic period.

“The decline in attendance and sponsorship, which affects the vast majority of clubs is massive and causes a slow death and disaster.

“Our budget is not only down, but we are also in deficit. We probably did not do any good in the league, but we had sold a lot of players this season, allowing us to have a positive financial outcome.

“I alert everyone to the fact that without the support of businesses and spectators at one time or another, the future of the club will be very complicated.

“We have young players who are very good. But there is no chance we will recruit three to five players to build.

“It is reasonable to say that we will finish between the 5th and 15th. And if anyone has any better ideas, let him come…with his chequebook!”

Unfortunately, there are only so many Russian billionaires (96, since you ask) willing to invest their not-so-hard earned money in struggling football clubs.

Goal of the day

Santa Fe’s Jefferson Cuero cuts inside from the right before unleashing a stunning long range effort that leaves the Real Garcilaso keeper flailing.

Quote of the day

“In his condition it’s not very advisable to continue as a coach. I had a heart operation myself…can you be in charge of Barca if you aren’t 100 per cent?. I’d tell Tito to look after himself. He’s not as strong and experienced as Pep Guardiola. He has a massive problem in the form of his illness and his health comes first.”

Former Barcelona coach Johan Cruyff advises current coach Tito Vilanova to step down for the sake of his health.

Match fixing latest

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) has asked the interior ministry to investigate claims of match fixing in seven top-flight games, including Lokomotiv Sofia’s win over city rivals CSKA that saved them from relegation on Saturday.

Four-times Bulgarian champions Lokomotiv escaped relegation with a 2-1 win over third-placed CSKA on the final day of the season.

“Yes, it is one of the seven games in our list,” BFU vice president Atanas Furnadzhiev told local media on Wednesday without giving details of the other matches.

“We informed the interior ministry before the match to let them take appropriate measures and make the necessary checks.”

The ministry refused to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Several club officials were quoted in the media as saying they “knew the outcome of some games in the last two rounds of the championship before they even started”.

“There was no fair play in a lot of matches with relegation-threatened teams involved and it’s a pity,” said Furnadzhiev.

“I hope this investigation will achieve results because there were many signals and checks in recent years but they failed to achieve the expected results.”

Trial by jury?

Former CONCACAF leaders Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer should be tried in a court of law for their alleged misdemeanours during the time that they ran the confederation, according to Domenico Scala, the head of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee.

“In the case of Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer this has far bigger implications than just (FIFA’s) Ethics Committee, or the rules of the game,” Scala said at a rare media briefing the day before FIFA’s annual congress starts.

“There is sufficient suspicion that they have gone against the law and this will become an issue for the FBI and the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) in the case of taxation.

“So here the Ethics Committee and the world of FIFA stops – and people who have gone against the law will have to deal with the law.”

Former FIFA vice-president Warner from Trinidad & Tobago, who was the president of CONCACAF for 21 years, and Blazer of the United States, his general secretary for most of that time, were both members of FIFA’s executive committee.

Warner walked away from football rather than contest charges over his involvement in a bribery scandal in 2011, while Blazer also left the game rather than face the music.

The two men were condemened in a report commissioned by CONCACAF, after the examination of 5,000 documents and the testimony of 38 individuals.

“If you read the CONCACAF integrity report it does not say anything positive or polite (about them),” said Scala.

“It’s a horrible document so therefore whatever they are saying today is frankly useless and worthless because, over an extended period of time, they abused the system.

“I cannot judge on the other cases (of FIFA corruption) as I have no insights but I think it is a stretch to say now that what happened in CONCACAF happened in all the confederations.

“But here we have two individuals who behaved the way they did. Do we have other cases like this at FIFA? Maybe, I don’t know, but we have to face facts; we have to be very careful of accusing everybody because we have had 10 years of accusations and allegations and suspicions.”

Putting his foot in it again

Sepp Blatter has proved once again when it comes to putting his foot in it, he has few equals in the world of football.

The FIFA president has called Australia’s candidate for a new woman’s place on the FIFA executive committee “good and good looking” in an address to the Asian Football Confederation.

Blatter briefly addressed the AFC Congress meeting on Wednesday, praising Moya Dodd, an AFC vice president, former Australia international and one of four women standing for the seat on the top executive committee.

The remark carries echoes of a speech the Swiss made several years ago, when he called for an overhaul of the kit worn by female footballers.

“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,” he said back in 2004.

“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Still, if nothing else, at least the old man is consistent. In the early 1970s, Blatter was elected president of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders, an organisation which tried to stop women replacing suspender belts with tights.

Brand loyalty

European champions Bayern Munich have overtaken Manchester United as football’s most valuable brand.

The Germans were ranked top of the latest BrandFinance Football 50 list after a nine per cent rise in value from 2012, while United’s perceived value has dropped 2 per cent in that time.

English clubs dominate the list, with several appearing in the top 10; as well as United in second, Chelsea are fifth, Arsenal sixth, Liverpool seventh and Man City eighth.

Brand Finance’s head of sports valuation, Dave Chattaway said: “Bayern Munich is still very much a story of domestic dominance, however its continued presence in the Champions league has provided the club with access to a global audience.

“The challenge now for all Bundesliga clubs and the league itself, is to see if they can export their domestic brand strength into global opportunities.’

Their CEO, David Haigh, added: ‘The commercial transformation of the English game, which has created hugely successful global brands, had been seen as the model to emulate. However the escalation of player wages, poor financial management and alienation of grass roots fans has left many people jaded.

“In contrast the cheap tickets, high attendances, democratic ownership structure and financial prudence of the Bundesliga now looks like an attractive alternative, particularly now it is delivering world-beating, fluid football rather than the more workmanlike style German teams had been known for.”

It’s all highly pseudo scientific, but quite quite interesting nonetheless.

The top 50 

Rank Club Brand value ($) % change Brand rating
1 Bayern Munich 860m 9 AAA
2 Man United 837m -2 AAA+
3 Real Madrid 621m 4 AAA+
4 Barcelona 572m -1 AAA
5 Chelsea 418m 5 AA
6 Arsenal 410m 6 AA+
7 Liverpool 361m -2 AA
8 Man City 332m 10 AA-
9 AC Milan 263m -10 AAA-
10 Borussia Dortmund 260m 15 AA
11 Schalke 04 259m -3 AA-
12 Tottenham 219m -3 AA
13 Juventus 180m 12 AAA-
14 Ajax 162m -12 AA
15 Inter 151m -30 AA+
16 Hamburger 144m -6 AA
17 Galatasaray 116m n/a (new entry) A+
18 Marseille 111m -34 AA-
19 Corinthians 103m 34 A+
20 Napoli 101m 20 A+
21 Lyon 101m -16 AA-
22 Fenerbahce 95 n/a (new entry) A+
23 Bayer Leverkusen 90 41 AA-
24 PSG 85 34 A+
25 Stuttgart 83 18 A+
26 Valencia 83 22 AA-
27 Wolfsburg 82 25 A
28 AS Roma 82 -3 AA
29 West Ham 82 17 A
30 Newcastle 81 -6 AA
31 Aston Villa 80 -8 AA-
32 Werder Bremen 79 17 AA-
33 Everton 78 0 AA-
34 Fulham 75 16 A+
35 Sunderland 72 10 A+
36 Besiktas 71 n/a A+
37 Atletico Madrid 67 34 AA-
38 Santos 65 70 AA
39 Sao Paulo 62 6 A+
40 PSV Eindhoven 61 -18 AA-
41 Stoke City 59 6 A+
42 Benfica 56 n/a A+
43 Sevilla 56 14 AA+
44 Celtic 55 -13 AA-
45 CR Flamengo 55 20 A+
46 Internacional 55 8 A+
47 West Brom 54 n/a A
48 Bordeaux 53 -30 A+
49 Fiorentina 52 15 AA-
50 SS Lazio 52 12 AA-