More than a club?

Eric Abidal is unhappy at how his Barcelona career came to an end and claims he was not even paid by the club when he was undergoing treatment for cancer.

The 34-year-old Abidal had a liver transplant last April, keeping him away from football for one year. He returned to make a few appearances for Barcelona before leaving to join Monaco in the close season.

“The problem was that my contract was coming to an end. In that case, either it’s renewed, either it ends. I was prepared for both,” Abidal said in an interview with L’Equipe. “It was hard to accept but you don’t have the choice. The adventure with Barcelona is over, but I’m very happy to have started another one with Monaco.”

But Abidal said he was disappointed at how his departure was handled.

“What was hard to understand was what Barcelona said during my last press conference. By saying that it was a professional choice, it made other clubs doubt,” Abidal said. “It wasn’t even a question of money. The proof being that all the months I was ill, the club didn’t pay me. Now I’m lucky to have the trust of the Monaco coach and president. Touch wood, everything’s fine. But it’s true that there was a time when I doubted myself.”

Abidal did have kind words to say for former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who is now in charge of Bayern Munich.

“He’s someone who appreciates me enormously and I’m still in touch with,” Abidal said. “He was a great coach. He’s the one who gave me my chance. If he was still there, I may have continued (with Barcelona).”

Money talks

Real Madrid’s revenues exceeded €500 million  for a second consecutive season in 2012-13, rising 1.3 percent to €520.9 million, the world’s richest club has revealed.

The Spanish outfit made a net profit of €36.9 million, up from €24.2 million the previous season, Real said on their website.

Real topped Deloitte’s annual ranking of the world’s richest clubs for an eighth consecutive year on the accounting firm’s list for the 2011-12 season published in January.

Under president Florentino Perez they became the first sports club to exceed the threshold of half a billion euros, said Deloitte, who exclude player transfer fees, VAT and other sales-related taxes from their calculations.

Real’s La Liga rivals Barcelona, the Spanish champions, were second wealthiest club with revenue of €483 million and English Premier League champions Manchester United were third with €396 million.

“Real have led the way in the phenomenal level of revenue growth enjoyed by the sport’s top clubs over the past two decades,” Deloitte said.

And with that growth comes the ability to spend absurd sums to recruit new players, such as Real did when they lured Spurs’ Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu this summer.

Such a move, however, may signal the death knell of the club’s fraternal relationship with Tottenham. The two clubs announced the link-up following Luka Modric’s move to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2012, declaring it would see the clubs “working together in respect of players, coaching, best practices and commercial relationships.”

It hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Spurs fans this week launched an online petition demanding an end to the partnership, stating: “Since we have agreed to form the partnership, Real Madrid C.F. have treated us and our players without respect including “tapping” up Luka Modric and Gareth Bale.

“The transfer of Mezut Ozil to our top rivals in order to recoup money spent on Gareth Bale is the ultimate duplicitous action and we deserve a fair and mutual exchange between clubs rather than being treated as a feeder club.”

That boat sailed a long time ago.

Playing God

FIFA has been accused of playing God after it implemented rules designed to prevent child trafficking to deny a 17-year-old British schoolboy the chance to take up a place on a college course – in Wiltshire.

World Soccer contributor Steve Menary has unearthed the story about Brendan Norris a keen junior footballer in Canada – where he grew up with his British father and Canadian mother – before moving UK in February this year when his father, Mike, returned home for work.

Brendan was offered a place on a BTEC in Sport at Sparsholt College in Wiltshire. To accept, he must first register as a footballer with the college, which has a football affiliation with Premier League side Southampton.

Although Brendan has a British passport, because he played official junior football in Canada he must go through FIFA’s Transfer Matching System, which governs players moving from one country to another before he can play any football in the UK.

As he is only 17, Brendan also needs an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) used to govern moves for players under 18.

The Canadian Soccer Association approved a request from the Norris family almost immediately, only for FIFA to step in and block the transfer.

FIFA’s rules were drafted to prevent trafficking of players from Third World countries. But the decision to bar Norris means that a 17-year-old British national is unable to play football in the country that is now his legal home even though he moved to the UK to stay with his family.

His father Mike Norris said: “In my opinion FIFA have put themselves in the position of police, judge, and executioner while usurping my parental rights with no justification. They’re playing God.

“The first request [for an ITC] was made on football grounds, the second was on legal grounds but both have been rejected and we suspect the second one is again on football grounds. They do not appear to have taken the legal arguments seriously.

You can read the rest of this Kafakaesque tale here.

Eternal optimist

Steven Gerrard has warned against writing off England’s World Cup hopes and insists Roy Hodgson’s men can cause a surprise in Brazil next summer.

Looking at their recent form, qualifying for the finals would constitute a surprise, but Gerrard remains optimistic about England’s chances.

I suppose, from Gerrard’s perspective, if you can beat a charge of affray despite being caught on camera punching a man in the face, then you’re entitled to believe that anything is possible.

As England prepare for two crucial qualifying matches against Moldova and Ukraine, FA chairman Greg Dyke claimed on Wednesday that they stand no chance of winning the 2014 tournament.

But Gerrard believes the team is good enough to go to the World Cup and make an impression

“I don’t think we’re as weak as has been suggested,” the England captain told reporters.

“Realistically, everyone in the room knows we’re not going to be one of the bookies’ favourites to win the World Cup.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t get there and have a successful tournament to make the country proud. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. Our priority is to get there first.

“To qualify is the challenge. We want to qualify for the World Cup, go there and make the nation proud. We can do that without winning it.

“Playing at a World Cup is the pinnacle of any footballer’s dream as a kid – especially in Brazil.”

Goal of the day

Astonishing solo goal by Hyuri for Botafogo against Coritiba.

Quote of the day

“I completely lost it, and you might have expected Guardiola to say a few words in response, but he’s a spineless coward. He just picked up the metal box, like a little caretaker, and then left, never to mention it again, not a word.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic revives his feud with former coach Pep Guardiola.

Fail to prepare

Wales coach Chris Coleman was left feeling embarrassed today when it emerged that he had missed the team’s flight to Macedonia after he lost his passport.

Assistant manager Kit Symons stepped in to face the media and take training in Skopje, after Coleman had to dash to Newport this morning in order to procure a new passport.

Symons said: ‘There were a couple of passport issues which needed to be resolved and they have been and he will be landing imminently.

“It was a minor issue which has been dealt with, it is sorted so there are no dramas.

“He will not make training but all the tactical stuff has been done during the week and it’s just about the boys stretching their legs tonight, so it will not be a disruption.

“I have not spoken to him since this morning, I am sure he will bat it off and get on with it and not be embarrassed.

“It is not going to affect the set-up for the game in any way, shape or form.

“It is unfortunate and we do not want it happening again. But it is not the end of the world and it will be no excuse if we do not perform.’

Coleman eventually made the journey to Skopje from Heathrow via Vienna, but captain Ashley Williams appeared amused by the incident, joking: “I’ve got my passport!’

The Swansea defender added: “Most people did not realise anything was wrong until we were on the plane, he is touching down any moment I think.

“I don’t think it is too much of a big deal to be honest, it is something that can happen to any of us, we are all human.

“We had our meeting yesterday and we will have meetings tonight and tomorrow, and I am sure it will not be a disruption.”

For Wales’ sake, one hopes the side will be a little more organised than their coach.

All bets are off

Arsenal are investigating tweets suggesting one of the club’s academy coaches bet on the signing of Mesut Ozil “as a matter of urgency”.

Ozil arrived at Arsenal on transfer deadline day from Real Madrid for a club-record £42.5 million fee.

Mark Arber, who coaches for the Gunners’ academy and whose father Bob is also a scout for the Premier League side, reportedly tweeted: “Lovely bit of 14-1 Mesut”.

“We take this very seriously,” said a club spokeman. “All Arsenal employees and workers are well aware of their responsibilities in this respect and we are looking into this as a matter of urgency.”

If found guilty of breaking Football Association rules on gambling, Arber could find himself in a spot of bother.

The rules state: “You are not allowed to place a bet on a game or competition in which you have any influence, either direct or indirect.

“The above includes all bets related to the following: Any other events involving your club or other clubs playing in the same league competition (such as next manager markets).”

Accrington Stanley managing director Robert Heys was recently given a 21-month ban by the Football Association after he admitted making over 200 bets on games involving his own club, including 37 matches in which he had backed Accrington to lose.

Tottenham winger Andros Townsend and Crystal Palace striker Cameron Jerome have also fallen foul in recent months. Townsend was given a ban and fined while  Jerome was fined. 

Finally…

Chile’s team and supporters are being encouraged not to celebrate their first goal in Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in memory of thousands who were tortured 40 years ago at the match’s venue.

Days after a military coup on 11 September 1973, around 12,000 suspected supporters of the deposed President Salvador Allende, were rounded up and herded into the National Stadium, which was used as an interrogation and torture centre.

The viral campaign, #goldesilencio (silent goal), is run by human rights campaigners Amnesty International.

A video uses footage of the time with words superimposed saying: “To all Chile’s players we want to ask that when the first goal arrives – don’t shout.

“Keep down in your throat that shout that comes from the soul. Squeeze your fist so your hand doesn’t raise to the sky. And if you really want to celebrate, make the stadium quiet.”

To see the video, click here.

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