The end is nigh

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger appears to have decided to end the uncertainty surrounding the club by sanctioning the departures of both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.

The sale of Fabregas is not altogether surprising given that Arsenal have shown a readiness all summer to sell him, provided Barcelona met their valuation of the player. The latest reports are that this value is £30 million plus an additional £5 million in performance-related add-ons.

The decision to sell Nasri comes as something of a shock though, especially as Wenger had earlier insisted that the French international was not for sale. Manchester City (who else) are reported to be his destination, with Arsenal recouping £24 million in the deal.

The combined revenue for both players will, according to Arsenal sources, be reinvested in new signings before the transfer window closes, although the notoriously parsimonious Wenger might have something to say about that.

Latest reports indicate that Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder Jadson, will first player to arrive at the Emirates. Hardly the big name many Arsenal fans crave, but, at 27, at least he’s old enough to vote.

Goals of the day

Two contenders for goal of the day from last night’s international matches.

First, in the evening’s only competitive game, Northern Ireland’s 4-0 Euro 2012 qualifying victory over the Faroe Islands, was this fine individual effort from Paddy McCourt.

Then there was Hugo Almeida’s stunning volleyed effort in Portugal’s 5-0 friendly win over Luxembourg.

Match fixing

UEFA has kicked Greek club Volos out of the Europa League because of its involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

Volos were scheduled to face Paris Saint-Germain in a play-off tie next week, but UEFA, which has banned the club from European competition for an additional three years – suspended for five years – has thrown them out of this season’s competition.

No news from UEFA on which team would replace Volos, although Luxembourg’s Differdange who were defeated by Volos in the third qualifying round, will be sitting by the telephone in the next few days, hoping for a call.

Friendly match?

The unsavoury face of Russian football came to the fore again last night when Yuri Zhirkov was abused by his own supporters during the 1-0 friendly international victory over Serbia.

Zhirkov was heckled throughout by Muscovite fans following his move to Anzhi Makhachkala, a side from the Muslim North Caucasus.

The abuse was condemned by Russia coach Dick Advocaat who said his players “were very disappointed with how the public behaved”.

Striker Pavel Pogrebnyak added: “I’m glad we won and didn’t concede any goals. But what upset me were the fans chanting unprintable words in Zhirkov’s direction. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

The Great Entertainers

Nigeria coach John OduhTo the relief of the tournament organisers and football lovers the world over, England’s painful World Under-20 campaign is finally over.

After sneaking into the knockout section courtesy of three drab goalless draws, England again failed to trouble the scorers and were defeated 1-0 by Nigeria side coached by John Oduh (left), a man who looks like he was auditioning for a remake of Blazing Saddles.

In the night’s other games, there were victories for Spain, Brazil and France.

Too big for his boots?

The Santos attacker has been linked with a move to Europe, with Real Madrid and Barcelona thought to be two of the parties interested in signing the 19-year-old.

The teenager’s performances attracted rave notices, and the player himself is not exactly short of confidence, and when asked to compare himself to Messi, he told Marca: ”I can be as big as him [Lionel Messi], or even better. I’m sure of it.”

Neymar has no need to worry about becoming as big as the Barcelona striker. At 5 ft 9 in (1.74 m), the Brazilian already towers over the  5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) Messi, and at 19 there’s still time for him to grow even bigger. As a footballer though…

Riot casualty

The latest casualty of the riots that swept across England in recent days is the Premier League opener between Tottenham and Everton. London’s Tottenham area was the scene of some of the worst violence and police have requested the game be postponed due to safety concerns.

Despite the loss of that game Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said he was “positive” the other nine games in the opening round of top-flight fixtures would go ahead. A decision on the other games is expected today at 18:00 (BST)

International outlook

Brazil coach Mano Menezes admitted that his side still have some way to go before they can be considered part of the world elite again. The 3-2 defeat to Germany on Wednesday in Stuttgart, a scoreline that flattered the visitors, produced more soul searching for the Brazilians.

Sounding like a preacher in search of a flock, or at the very least a decent playmaker, Menezes told reporters: “It’s a long road to travel and good intentions are not enough. We would like to be better. In football, there are no miracles, we have to get past these stages. We played with three forwards and an attacking midfielder and we were still not as positive as we wanted to be.”

For Germany though, the omens look good. A first win over Brazil for 18 years coupled with an impressive performance by 19-year-old Mario Götze, a player who has been compared to Lionel Messi – as seems obligatory with any player under the age of 20 who can kick a ball without falling over.

Germany coach Joachim Low was effusive in his praise, stating: “Mario Götze has extraordinary vision; he is finding solutions even when under pressure. It is the simple stuff, where he produces ingenious solutions, which makes him so strong.”

An example of the simple stuff can be found in his goal form last night.


Conscious of the Premier League’s responsibilities, chief executive Richard Scudamore has used the launch of the new season as a platform to call for more respect for match officials.

He told a news conference: “We’ve gone to the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB) and asked them what will help them. We came up with a reduction in disrespectful behaviour, turning backs on referees and we don’t want players surrounding referees, as well as the conduct of managers.

“In post-match interviews we don’t want to stamp out constructive criticism, but it’s more about the colour and the disrespectful language.”

Getting your highest profile manager to turn up for post-match interviews might be a step in the right direction.

Although his intentions appear laudable, Scudamore may well be wasting his time. As recently as last season he made a similar call for respect, which fell on deaf ears.

At the time Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson wasted little time deriding the Premier League’s efforts to improve behaviour.

“Richard Scudamore has not got a lot to do, has he?” Ferguson said. “I do think Richard is jumping off a high board here – a high diving board – without thinking about it. He is trying to elevate the Premier League and fine; that’s good and that’s his job but I don’t think that managers do disrespect referees.

Ferguson was serving a five-match ban at the time following his criticism of referee Martin Atkinson. Although to imply that the United boss was reacting vindictively and petulantly as a result of his suspension would be unfair. Wouldn’t it?


The Bermuda triangle that is the CONCACAF cash-for-votes scandal, has claimed another victim. FIFA has banned the Lisle Austin for one year after he went to court in the Bahamas to try to force through his claim to succeed Jack Warner as president of the CONCACAF federation.

Austin was initially made acting president when Warner was suspended on bribery charges but was himself suspended when he tried to sack Chuck Blazer, the organisation’s general secretary and the man who revealed the alleged cash bribes.

FIFA’s statutes say officials should not go to civil courts to settle disputes and the ruling body’s disciplinary committee ruled that Austin will remain banned until he withdraws the court case in the Bahamas, plus an independent one-year ban.