Money to burn

If you live in the United States and fancy watching Real Madrid train, then there is some good news for you and some bad news.

The good news is that the Spanish champions are holding open sessions for those interested in seeing them going through the motions; the bad news is that you will have to take out a new mortgage to pay for the privilege of watching Ronaldo and co practising their shooting. The cost of the tickets to see Real rises to a staggering €311 for an hour-and-a-half open training session in Los Angeles on August 4.

The cheapest tickets will cost €69, but the most expensive price bracket, which includes a continental breakfast and a meet-and-greet with European champions such as Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos will set fans back €311. At that price, I’d expect nothing less than a full English.

Of course, if you wish to see the training session and watch the friendly match against LA Galaxy, then you could end up forking out an additional €448.

To be honest, for that kind of money, I’d expect to be playing against them rather than watching them.

Diego’s departure

The surprise is he lasted so long. Diego Maradona that is, who was relieved of his duties as coach of UAE side, Al Wasl, after just over a year in charge.

The club’s board of directors released a statement, saying it was ”decided to terminate his services and his technical staff.” A successor was not announced, although a club source told Gulf News on Wednesday: “( Former UAE boss, Bruno) Metsu is now 90 per cent certain to be the next coach of Al Wasl. There is no-one else in the frame.”

And so ends a turbulent spell in the desert for Maradona, a man who seems to be perpetually in search of a role befitting his footballing reputation, but lacks the requisite skills to perform such an exalted role.

He was popular with fans and helped raise the profile of UAE football, but his team did not qualify for next season’s Asian Champions League or win any domestic titles and when you’re earning €3.5 million a year, that simply is not good enough.

”I was supposed to come here and meant to work and work hard and achieve something,” Maradona said at a news conference earlier this year. ”It’s not about Maradona coming here and rating him as being success or unsuccessful. My intention was not to come here and have an easy going time and spend it on the beach. I’m very happy to be here. It’s a good chance for me. I believe in living in the moment.”

That moment, was yesterday.

Balotelli’s burden

He has a lot on his plate does Mario Balotelli, but it is in his guise as one of the few recognisable black role models in Italian society that perhaps represents the heaviest burden he has to bear.

The Manchester City striker is the subject of an interesting piece on Reuters today, explaining the key role the striker could perform in adjusting Italian attitudes towards race and immigration.

Italy, as you may well be aware, is a country struggling to come to terms with its growing immigrant population and what impact this has on the nature of Italian identity. Children of immigrants must – as Balotelli did – wait until they are 18 before they can become Italian citizens.

“You are forced to queue interminably at police headquarters for a residence permit. I did it once with my mother and that was enough. She did it for me dozens of times…and this is one of the lesser problems you face,” Balotelli said.

There is hope, though, that the increased profile and growing popularity of Balotelli – who not so long ago was greeted by a banner declaring “there are no black Italians” – could facilitate greater understanding and smoother integration.

“Looking at Mario is a bit like looking at all the kids of color who go to our nurseries, elementary and secondary schools, to swimming, basketball, and ask only to be legally Italian,” said La Repubblica journalist Maurizio Crosetti.

If the cap fits…

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey will be consulted on whether Ryan Shawcross should be invited to represent Wales.

Ramsey’s leg was broken by a Shawcross challenge and Wales manager Chris Coleman admits his captain could be reluctant to play alongside the Stoke City defender.

“There are issues there. I’m not going to shy away from that,” said Coleman.

Shawcross, born in Chester, qualifies for Wales having spent five years of compulsory education in the country.

Shawcross was raised in north east Wales, but stated in 2011 he had no intention of playing for Wales, preferring instead to attempt to make his way into the England squad. An admission that is unlikely to endear him to his adopted nation, should he eventually get the call-up.

Goal of the day

It’s the Ukrainian Super Cup featuring Shakhtar Donetsk against Metalurg Donetsk and a sweeping move culminates in a thunderous drive from Douglas Costa.

Quote of the day

“I haven’t been contacted but I’m sure it’s a fantastic job for someone.”

Asked to comment on the fact that he is on the shortlist to become Russia’s next coach, surprise contender, Harry Redknapp, refuses to rule himself in, or out.

Carroll service

West Ham co-owner David Gold has confirmed that the club would be interested in Liverpool’s Andy Carroll if he became available.

The £35million striker is reported to be a target for Hammers boss Sam Allardyce and Gold  told BBC Sport: “I am not aware of any talks between ourselves or Liverpool over Andy Carroll.

“But that’s not to say we don’t have an interest should he become available.”

Eleven goal in 56 appearances since his record move to Anfield from Newcastle may represent a meagre return, but Allardyce has a penchant for impotent, lumbering strikers. Kevin Davies, around whose physique, Allardyce’s Bolton side was built, would be the obvious template.

If Liverpool were to sanction the departure of Carroll, and the signs from new boss Brendan Rodgers indicate that he wouldn’t stand in his way, then they would have to accept a significant loss on the player. £15million has been mooted, which given his unhappy 18 month spell at Anfield, still seems extravagant. But, in the current market, where English players remain ludicrously over valued, such a figure would represent a more plausible valuation.

Trial latest

Ashely Cole has been called to give evidence in the John Terry trial

The Chelsea and England defender, who has played alongside Terry for a number of years, has been a loyal ally of his team-mate.

Yesterday, the court heard that after the incident, in which Anton Ferdinand was allegedly racially abused by Terry, Cole told the QPR defender:  “You can’t talk to JT like that.” Presumably, because no one talks to JT like that. Such a candid admission clearly makes Cole a far from impartial witness in the case.

Cole maintained his support for Terry, telling Westminster Magistrates Court: “I think we shouldn’t be sitting here.”

He said that while racism should never be tolerated, but claimed that repeating what you thought someone said was ‘completely different’.

Cole said: “If I repeated something that I thought you said, that’s totally different than if someone just says something.”

Which is indeed true, but lest we forget, Ferdinand was unaware that Terry had said anything insulting and would therefore require no clarification from Terry.

Feed the Yak

Nigerian striker Ayegbeni Yakubu has been discussing his move to China and guess what? He’s not there for the money, but to help his new club, Guangzhou R&F, fulfil their ambitions.

According to reports, Yakubu will be paid €6 million by Guangzhou, although the club has not commented on his salary and he said it was irrelevant.

 To them maybe, but presumably it had some relevance in Yakubu’s decision to head to the Far East.

“After hearing the club’s plans, I realised I had to join. Money wasn’t a factor,” Yakubu said.

The Nigerian said Nicolas Anelka’s decision to join Shanghai Shenhua in January had sparked a lot of interest among other top players in coming to China.

“Since Anelka arrived, more and more top-flight players are coming to China, and our arrival can help improve the quality of the nation’s football,” Yakubu said.

What grates, is 

not that Yakubu is set to earn a small fortune in China – that is, after all, his professional right – but the claim that he is not there for the money.

Naming names

An uncomfortable night lies ahead for one or two of world football’s leading political figures after Switzerland’s supreme courtordered the release of a document identifying which senior officials took millions of dollars from FIFA’s marketing partner in bribes from World Cup deals.

The ISL scandal stemmed from alleged payments of tens of millions of dollars to officials made by the Swiss-based agency before its collapse with debts of $300 million. Commercial bribery was not a crime in Switzerland at the time.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal says it’s in the public interest for five media organizations to attain copies of a regional court dossier revealing the officials’ dealings with the ISL agency, which collapsed into bankruptcy in 2001.

The ruling announced overturns the individuals legal fight to block publication. They are widely reported to be former FIFA President Joao Havelange and his former son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira, who stood down as head of the Brazilian Football Confederation earlier this year, due to ill health, personal reasons, bad vibes, depending upon which report you choose to believe.

Havelange, 96, has only recently recovered from a serious bacterial infection that saw him hospitalised for two months. If his name appears on the documents, then a career that in recent years has been blighted by allegations of wrongdoing, will be irrevocably tainted.

FIFA is expected to give a statement on the ruling later today. President, Sepp Blatter, is believed to be named in the41-page document, as FIFA’s longstanding secretary general at the time ISL controlled World Cup rights sales, but he is not suspected of receiving payments.