Two-horse race

The delayed start of the Spanish season has arrived with a bang and also a whimper. Fireworks from Barcelona and Real Madrid, but barely a whimper from the other 18 clubs who make up the numbers in La Liga (literally, but also increasingly figuratively).

Following Real Madrid’s opening day 6-0 win over Real Zaragoza, Barcelona hammered Villarreal 5-0 – a win achieved with only one recognised defender, against the side that finished fourth in the league last season.

The 5-0 scoreline at Camp Nou elicited a despairing reaction from Villareal president Fernando Roig.

“If they only want to have two matches (Real v Barca), let them have two matches, but this isn’t good for football,” Roig said. “I give it three or four years. Either this changes or we kill Spanish football.”

Strike action

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has described the current Serie A strike as an ‘own goal’ for football in his country.

The start of the new season was delayed this week due to a dispute between the players’ union and clubs’ union over the collective bargaining agreement.

“It was a mistake made by everyone. I hoped until the end that they were going to play,” Prandelli said. “There was a lot of time to discuss the issue, but now we’re going to play an international game, it was definitely an own goal from everyone.”

Goal of the day

Hard to say whether this was a great goal or a terrible goalkeeping blunder. Either way, one has to admire the technique of Soren Berg, as he opens the scoring in Aarhus’ 3-0 win over Horsens.

Crisis? What crisis?

Conceding eight goals in a match is never a welcome experience, but it does tend to concentrate the mind somewhat. So, in the wake of the shock 8-2 defeat by Manchester United, Arsene Wenger has lifted his head from the sand, decided he no longer wishes Arsenal to be the laughing stock of English football, and finally acknowledged that he needs to sign a defender or two.

Brazilian international Andre Santos is set to arrive from Fenerbahce in a deal worth just over £6million, while Arsenal are also reported to be in talks with Werder Bremen’s German international defender Per Mertesacker.

It may all be a case of too little too late for striker Gervinho, who has only been at the club five minutes but has already developed the uniquely-Arsenal habit of lamenting one’s lot, while hinting that he’d like to move to a ‘bigger’ club.

The Ivorian made little attempt to hide his frustration at the recent departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.

“I wanted to play with Samir [Nasri] because he is a big player,” he said. “His exit has left me in pain. He promised to be there this season… and then changed his mind. I would have liked to have played with Cesc and Samir. I like to play with great players and it’s a shame.

“They left to join big clubs to try their luck elsewhere. One day I hope to have the opportunity to play with them again.”


Sepp Blatter has renewed his attack on England, claiming that their animosity towards FIFA stems from a failure to accept their diminished role within the organisation since Sir Stanley Rous was ousted as president 37 years ago.

The FIFA president claims England wants to “destroy” the sport’s global governing body.

“This animosity comes from England,” he told Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper. “See the timing of the accusations (against FIFA by Triesman) – it was precisely when they lost the right to host the 2018 World Cup.

“You know, I’ll tell the truth. All this is still a revenge for having lost the presidency of FIFA in 1974 to Joao Havelange. They still do not accept that they no longer control FIFA. Since they could not regain the presidency, they decided they would destroy it.”

Big spenders

Anzhi Makhachkala’s spending spree shows no sign of abating. The ambitious Russia side, who last week made Samuel Eto’o the highest paid footballer on the planet, have signed Moroccan midfielder Mehdi Carcela from Standard Liege in a deal reported to be worth €9.1 million.

The lavish outlay may not stop there: reports in England claim that Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic is a shock £25 million target for the Dagestan outfit.

Foreign fields

New Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has described his team’s clash with Venezuela in India on Friday as more than just a friendly. Too true, it’s also a huge windfall for the Argentinian Football Association.

“It is an extremely important match both for me and the team. There are huge expectations from us back home and it is a big responsibility,” Sabella told the Times of India ahead of the match in Kolkata.

India is one of the few countries in Asia that has remained stubbornly immune to the charms of football. However, that soon may be about to change. Last week, Liverpool signalled their intention to exploit the massive untapped market by opening a football academy there, and the arrival in the country of Lionel Messi is unlikely to hinder the sport’s push for global domination.

On the move

David Trezeguet is set to sign for Bani Yas – and give yourself a pat on the back if you didn’t have to google where they’re from.

The UAE club is expected to officially confirm the signing of the former France and Juventus forward later today.

Bani Yas’s media manager told Gulf News: “Everything is looking good, the player is in Abu Dhabi, he’s taking his medical and is expected to sign Monday night or Tuesday — but I obviously can’t confirm if it will go ahead as planned.”

It’s looking pretty good for Trezeguet too; at an age when most strikers would be looking at their post-playing career options, the 33-year-old is set to sign a one-year deal worth €1.7 million.

How the mighty have fallen

Just over a year ago, he was leading Brazil at the World Cup finals, but having not worked since, Dunga is to coach Qatari side Al Rayyan.

The 47-year-old – who captained Brazil to the 1994 World Cup trophy – replaces compatriot Paulo Autuori, who has moved on to coach the Qatari Under-23 sid.

“Yes Al Rayyan will be coached by Dunga,” a club official said. “His name was recommended by Autuori.”


APOEL FC defender Christos Kontis’s career looks to be over after he suffered a mild heart attack following his club’s 0-0 draw against AEK Larnaca FC on Monday.

Former APOEL player and current board member Takis Antoniou said: “We cannot say too much at this moment. We will need to see what the tests reveal. I hope it is nothing serious. Kontis is very much loved by the entire APOEL community and we all hope that he makes a full and speedy recovery.”