Clean bill of health

UEFA has announced there were not one player involved in last season’s Champions League and Europa League tested positive for drugs.

Which, when you think about the doping scandals that have hit other sports in recent years, is either a remarkable tribute to the honesty and integrity of the modern day professional game or, a terrible indictment of UEFA’s testing programme. Be realistic here, which scenario do you think is more likely.

UEFA conducts both in and out-of-competition doping tests in the Champions League. A total of 813 samples were collected from players during 2012-13, with over 67 percent of the samples analysed for EPO – the substance frequently utilised by elite athletes to boost endurance and physical strength.

Meanwhile, European football’s governing body will begin carrying out blood testing across all its competitions in 2013-14. Until now, UEFA has only conducted blood tests at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 final tournaments.

Blood testing will take place both in and out-of-competition, and players may be asked to give urine samples, blood samples, or both.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the additional testing unearths. Given the stakes in sport and in no other sport are the stakes and the rewards quite so high as those found in professional football, it is scarcely credible that not one elite player has been tempted by the dark side.

Banter

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is encouraged to hear the club linked with big names such as Wayne Rooney and Gonzalo Higuain.

Higuain is reported to be close to agreeing a deal while Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admitted he was interested in signing Rooney should he become available.

On the England forward, he told ESPN: “Rooney is the type of player who can win you trophies. Just to see his name on the team sheet brings fear to the opposition.

“We could do with a little more of that.

“You look at the type of players like Higuain we are trying to bring in and you have got to be encouraged.

“I’ve never played against him, but anyone who plays for Real Madrid and Argentina has to be quality.”

All well and good, but back in the real world, the only player signed by Arsenal thus far is Yaya Sanogo, a 20-year-old injury-plagued forward who arrives on a free transfer after being released by Auxerre.

Wilshere then added, when shown a picture of Higuain’s girlfriend, actress Soledad Fandino: “That’s the sort of picture that will go right up on the bulletin board in the changing room!

“Some of the lads like to put up photos of other players’ wives and girlfriends and have a bit of banter.”

I’m sure that goes down well with the wives and girlfriends.

Pick your targets

Real Madrid’s Brazilian youngster Bruno Vinicius Souza Medeiros saw his contract end on June 30th, but he couldn’t resist leaving without a parting shot for the Spanish club.

He had been playing for Real Madrid C and whilst watching the Confederations Cup Final tweeted “Casillas plays a lot … just doesn’t play football lol!!”

He then went on to say he wasn’t laughing at Casillas but he simply agreed with Mourinho and labelled the Spanish effort ‘pathetic’.

The youngster later deleted the tweets and changed his account name, but not before Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo had seen them.

Making a dig at a World Cup winning national icon is possibly not the most smartest thing to do if you are a young player looking to make a name for yourself in Spain.

Crystal clear

Lionel Messi has been presented with a self-portrait made entirely of Swarovski crystals.

The man responsible for the ostentatious piece of art was Colombian artist Mauricio Benitez – also known, somewhat appropriately, as ‘Mr Bling’ – who was pictured presenting the Argentina international with the gift earlier this week.

According to Benitez’s website. the artist: Found a business opportunity [back in 2000] to apply crystals into fashion and decor… [His] products that stand out for their brilliance, luxury and sophistication.

And, it should be said, extremely vulgar.

Valued at an estimated $50million – or £33million – the artwork is a gift, which means Messi won’t even need to worry about paying tax on it, not that he usually concerns himself too much with such affairs.

Pictures of the gaudy creation can be found here and here.

Quote of the day

“I knew how to read the move because I know Pedro well, I am a big fan of his and I know that he likes to shoot when he just has the keeper to beat. I also knew that Julio César would have the right side covered and block the shot with his right leg, so I raced over to the left side of goal and managed to get my foot to the ball just in time.”

Brazil’s David Luiz explains how he managed to make that amazing goal line clearance. Tomorrow Luiz predicts the lottery numbers.

Say it ain’t so Joe

The furore surrounding Joe Kinnear’s surprise appointment as Newcastle United’s technical director has subsided in recent days – mainly because Kinnear has not spoken to the media in that time.

That couldn’t last for ever, though and as sure as night follows day, controversy comes after Kinnear talks to the press.

He told the Shields Gazette: “Every top club in the land has got one [a director of football]. We haven’t – that’s the difference.

“The manager can’t do everything. I’m probably the only football manager to be a director of football. I don’t know any other ex-managers who have.

“I’ve been a manager for 35 years. I’ve been manager of the year. I’ve won every award there is in football as a player. I think all those qualities put me head and shoulders above every other director of football.”

Just to clarify, when Kinnear says he won “every award there is in football” every award does not include a league title, a European Cup or a World Cup. Moreover, when it comes to his managerial career, of all the awards he could have won, Kinnear won precisely none.

Building bridges

South Korea and Iran will sign a sports exchange agreement on Wednesday, just a fortnight after talks of “blood” and “revenge” soured relations between their respective teams ahead of a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier.

Both nations reached next year’s finals in Brazil after Iran beat the hosts 1-0 in Ulsan last month in a volatile encounter stoked by a pre-match row between Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and his South Korean counterpart Choi Kang-hee.

Queiroz’s animated celebrations after the match drew anger from the KFA, who said he had made a rude gesture after the final whistle which FIFA would investigate.

Despite the ill-tempered afair, Yoo Jin-ryong, South Korea’s minister of culture, sports and tourism, and Mohammad Abbasi, Iran’s minister of youth affairs and sports, will sign a deal on the sports exchange programme.

In 2007, the countries had signed a similar agreement and the deal expired in 2010, South Korea’s sports ministry said.

“We hope this signing will further expand sports exchanges and cooperation between South Korea and Iran,” Yoo was quoted as saying in the report.

“We also hope that the two countries will actively engage in exchange programs in culture and tourism, among other areas.”

Fear of tear gas

World Cup matches in Brazil next year will be halted if tear gas from protests outside stadiums affects players.

The recently-finished Confederations Cup witnessed clashes between anti-government protesters and police outside some stadiums.

FIFA said they won’t advise Brazil on how to contain a repeat of the trouble, where police were using rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas close to stadiums.

“That’s not for me to decide on security, that’s an issue for the government,” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said. ”I am asking them to provide the security we need to organize the World Cup … we have no right to ask the government what to do with the security. It’s their problem and their responsibility.”

Tear gas drifted into some Confederations Cup games, with reports that members of the Brazil team were affected during the 3-0 victory over Spain in Sunday’s final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Asked if World Cup games would be halted if tear gas was troubling the teams, Valcke said: ”Anytime the 22 players on the pitch cannot play, then you have to stop.”

Valcke admitted that FIFA and the local authorities were unable to control where the tear gas blew.

”What you do want to do? To put volunteers (blowing) around the stadium?” Valcke asked.

”You want us to put some big fans in order to push (it) away?” he added. ”There is a limit to what we can do. There is a limit to what we can ask. Again, we have to live with what we have sometimes.”

Valcke said security only becomes a concern ”if we cannot organize the event.”

”Along as it doesn’t affect the organisation of the event it’s a responsibility of the government security,” he said.

Couch potato

Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona and the player’s agent, practically implored the Spanish club to make PSG an offer they can’t refuse.

Paulo Tonetto has said that if the Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova is truly interested in his client then he should put his money where his mouth is.

“It has been said that Tito really wants to sign him and if that’s the case, someone should speak up,” Tonetto was quoted on Sky Sports.

“If someone wants to buy someone, it’s not going to happen while they’re sitting at home watching TV.”

It’s thought that Vilanova sees Silva as a long-term replacement for veteran defender Carles Puyol – who at 35 and increasingly injury-prone, is approaching the end of his time at Camp Nou.

The problem for Barcelona is, even if they wished to sign Silva – having already shelled out a small fortune on his compatriot, Neymar, this summer – they would struggle to afford him.

 

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