Rotten to the core

Former Cagliari midfielder Fabian O’Neill has confessed to fixing two Serie A games.

Many outlets have described this admission as ‘senational’ although those of a more cynical bent will be as underwhelmed by the news that footballers in Italy fix matches as they would on hearing that the man who resides in the Vatican is a catholic.

The Uruguayan is now retired, but played for Cagliari from 1995-2000, before moving on to Juventus in 2000-02 and Perugia for six months.

“I fixed games myself in Italy,” O’Neill told Montevideo.com.uy and calcionews24.

“Against Chievo Verona we both would’ve been safe from relegation with a draw and the clubs would pay us a $60,000 bonus each. I went to speak to their captain and we all placed bets on a draw.

“At the 87th minute one of our players scored and we went 2-1 up, a shot from 40 metres that went into the top corner. That wasn’t supposed to happen. So I shouted at Diego Lopez: ‘Concede a goal or they’re going to kill us.’ Diego lost possession and they scored the 2-2 final result.

“It wasn’t the only time, as I did it with Perugia too, as I was captain and we all placed bets.”

The 2-2 draw with Chievo was on June 14 1998 and his then-teammate Diego Lopez is currently co-coach of Cagliari.

O’Neill was always a colourful character and also confessed to repeatedly punching Gattuso during a match against Milan.

“Gattuso had a reputation for provoking the South American players, so I promised I’d punch him. During a close marking I smacked him and hoped I’d receive one back. He looked like he wanted to kill me. We continued with threats – all in Italian – and I punched him again.

“I drank a lot back then and had a few problems with tests. Nothing happened at Cagliari because the President adored me.

“It was different at Juventus, as every month they did blood tests and I had high cholesterol among other things. The doctor used to say I should’ve been locked up rather than playing football.”

The fun wasn’t confined to the pitch; off it too, there was plenty going on.

“Once at Juve I went to a party at Pippo Inzaghi’s house and there were lots of girls from TV shows there,” O’Neill revealed. “We danced and drank beer, but everyone except me ended up having sex that night. The day after I saw them on television and told my wife: ‘Look, last night I was with all of them and didn’t do anything!’

Roman empire

There was a brilliant dissection of Roman Abramovich’s reign at Chelsea the other day, by Times journalist Matthew Syed.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian’s takeover at Chelsea Sky Sports News staged a debate on the impact his millions have had on the club and on football in general. On hand were Times writers Syed and former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino.

“He’s been a huge success, for me, the Premiership,” stated Cascarino.

This was the cue for Syed to get a few things off his chest, most notably the source of Abramovich’s wealth, his motives for investing in English football, and the pernicious influence his money has had on the British game.

“One has to look at how he amassed his wealth. His QC admitted in open court that he had secured his money in a rigged privatisation,” Syed explained.

“That’s stolen money. Certainly fraudulently got… It has been a deeply corrosive influence on British football.”

You can see the full seven-minute unabridged version here.

Goal of the day

It was only a friendly match but one can still admire the technique displayed by Neymar as he lobs the goalkeeper from 45 yards. Many more goals like this and people will start naming their children after him…

Another fine Messi

Neymar’s goal came during a “Messi and Friends vs. The Rest of the World” charity match, which was part of an organised tour that includes matches in Colombia and Peru, but not, after a very late cancellation, Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, the LA leg of the series was cancelled just 24 hours before it was due to go ahead, as Messi was refusing to take part.

“After hours of trying to convince Lionel Messi’s management team to fulfill their contractual agreement and come to Los Angeles, it is clear they have no respect for these fans and this market,” said a statement from Todd Graham, CEO of El Padrino, one of the main sponsors of the event.

A month ago, in an official match promo on YouTube, Messi stated: “I invite you on July 3rd to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to experience an unforgettable match, with the best soccer stars in the world.”

“In all the years I’ve been doing live events, I have never encountered a situation like this,” said Ralina Shaw, vice president of public relations for El Padrino.

“It’s unfortunate because the only losers in this scenario are the fans that were looking forward to the game, and the City of Los Angeles.”

American fans will have one last chance to witness the Tour, which began when it concludes at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 6. Or not, if the great man is not in the mood

Friendly extortion

There’s some good news and some bad news for supporters of Championship side Bournemouth.

The good news: Real Madrid will be flying in to play a pre-season friendly at the club’s 10,700 capacity Dean Court ground. The bad news: they’ll have to fork out £60 for the privilege.

Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell told Sky Sports that the match, to be played on July 21, was “down to fate”.

“My son was talking to a friend who knows people at Real Madrid and got chatting about a possible exhibition match,” said Mitchell. “We’ve worked hard over the last three or four weeks to finalise things.”

It will be one of the first games for new Real coach Carlo Ancelotti and his assistant Zinedine Zidane.

Mitchell said Real would bring Cristiano Ronaldo “for sure” to the south coast club for the match which is part of Bournemouth’s celebration for winning promotion to the second tier of English soccer last season.

“The only ones who won’t be there are the players who were in the Confederations Cup,” he said.

“I’m over the moon for the supporters. It’ll be a great night for them to see some of the best players in the world and for our players to pit themselves against them.”

Delighted though they may be at the prospect of witnessing the likes of Ronaldo in the flesh, some of that enthusiasm will no doubt have worn off by the time they hand over the £60 for a ticket for the game.

Mitchell defended the prices, saying: “I think for the club, (the game) is priceless.

For the fans it will certainly feel like that.

“It’s showcasing what we can do on a matchday against a special team – some of the world’s best players. So, no, I don’t think it’s too expensive. It’s a great opportunity.”

Stat of the day

Neymar has emerged as the most popular name in La Paz, Bolivia according to the city’s civil registry office.

According to local paper La Razon, two out of every ten babies have been named after the Seleção star. Assuming the Brazilian remains fit and continues to score spectacular goals, this trend is expected to continue.

“We believe that in 17 years most adult males will be called Neymar because that is the current trend,” civil registry office representative Remigio Condori stated. “It is the name in fashion right now.”

Quote of the day

“I miss English football. For me, it was one of the best years in my career when I was there in Manchester United. Everyone knows that it is a club that is still in my heart and I really, really miss. But now my life is in Spain. I am enjoying playing there too.”

Cristiano Ronaldo admits he misses Manchester United, but is no hurry to return.

Paris match?

With interest among English clubs in Edinson Cavani appearing to be dwindling- most put off by his club, Napoli’s, €63 million buyout fee – Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc, for whom money is no object, says he “loves” the Uruguayan striker.

Earlier on Wednesday the Ligue 1 champions’ director general Jean-Claude Blanc cryptically announced that PSG were in talks “with a great player”, prompting speculation that French champions had made a late move to sign striker.

 Blanc did little to disabuse reporters of that belief.

Asked about PSG’s interest in Cavani, Blanc said: “He’s a player I love, as do a lot of other people. I saw him play many times for Napoli and for Uruguay and, if it’s possible to add him to the (PSG) squad, I’d be very happy.”

Super Mario?

Bayern have been forced to apologise to their kit providers Adidas after their new €37 million signing, Mario Gotze, turned up to his official unveiling with the logo of their main competitors splashed across the front of his t-shirt.

“We were called by Adidas and we apologized that this happened. Mario Goetze is authorised by his contract with Nike to wear their football boots during games,” Hoerwick told Bild. “But he must of course meet the needs of our kit handler at official events like [his unveiling].”

He continued: “Goetze’s shirt regretfully passed us by in the general hustle and bustle that surrounded the event and we have assured Adidas that this will not happen again.”

When approached for a reaction to the corporate mishap, Adidas spokesman Oliver Bruggen replied cryptically: “We were negatively surprised.”

One assumes they were not best pleased.

Finally…

The moment the Tevez family received official confirmation that the move to Juventus has been agreed and their time in Manchester was finally over.

May-2014-cover
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  • simon bayley

    Can understand Sky Sports presenters not being particularly keen to talk about “corossive influences on football”