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Lamp’s fading light

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard is in talks with Super League club Guizhou Renhe about a move to China, according to the club.

Lampard, 34, is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season and with clubs in Europe unlikely to be beating a path to his door, China, a culture that still venerates the elderly, offers the chance of one last major pay day.

Renhe chairman Dai Yongge was quoted in the Chinese press over the weekend as saying that Lampard had signed, a claim denied by Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo.

But a Renhe official confirmed that talks with Lampard were under way with a view to signing the midfielder in Janaury. “Yes, we are in contact with Lampard but so far nothing has been settled,” said deputy board chairman Yang Xiaoyu.

Renhe defender Sun Jihai, who spent six years with Manchester City between 2002-2008, has backed the club’s attempt to bring Lampard to China.

“Lampard is a world-class star in both fame and ability, and he has played for the world’s best clubs,” Sun told the China Daily. “I don’t know whether (the transfer) has been confirmed, but it would be great if it is true.”

Fan power

In the wake of Sunday’s 2-0 defeat in Palermo, Sampdoria coach Ciro Ferrara insisted that he would not quit, but the actions of a group of ultras may force him to pause and reconsider that decision.

A group of around 50 ultras were at the airport to welcome the squad back to the mainland, so they were rushed on to a bus for safety reasons.

However, the fans then blocked off the road to stop the bus from moving, performing a ‘sit in’ and demanding talks with the players or technical staff.

Unsurprisingly, the players and staff were unwilling to speak with the ultras, so after a few minutes police intervened to clear the road.

The incident revives memories of last season when the players of Sampdoria’s local rivals, Genoa, were forced to hand over their shirts to angry supporters as they were deemed not worthy of wearing them.

It was a tough afternoon for Ferrara who, to compound his woes, was caught flush in the face by a stray ball during the Palermo defeat.

Numbers game

75 – goals scored by Pele in 1958 in 53 matches.

76 – scored by Lionel Messi this season.

59 – appearances made by Messi this season.

85 – goals scored by German striker Gerd Muller in 1972

60 – matches  it took Muller to set the current record.

9 – matches left for Messi to play in this season.

10 – goals Messi requires to set a new record for goals scored in a calendar year.

11 – goals (11.59 to be precise) Messi can expect to score if he maintains his strike rate until the end of the year.

Solskjaer reputation soars

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reputation as a coach to watch continues to grow after he led Norway’s Molde to a second successive Tippeligaen title.

Molde had not won the league in their entire history before Solskjaer, aided by some financial backing in the transfer market, returned to his former club to try his hand at management in 2011

“The boys have been very focused on getting this done. Now we’ve shown that it can be won two years in a row – without being called Rosenborg,” the former striker told TV2.

“I’m lucky to have very good players, and we always had faith that we’d succeed.

“Now we’ll just have to keep going. If we lose players, we’ll just have to reinforce.”

A more pressing concern for Molde and their benefactor, Kjell Inge Rokke, is the possible departure of the ambitious Solskjaer. The former Manchester United striker has admitted that one day he would  like to work in England and there would be no shortage of Premier League clubs. Last summer he held talks with Aston Villa, but nothing has yet tempted him away from his hometown club.

A decent profile of this inexperienced, but highly-rated coach, can be found here.

Goal of the day

A swift counter attack and ball reaches Maxwell who produces a lovely deft chip from the edge of the penalty area to earn PSG a point at reigning champions Montpellier.

With friends like this…

Luis Suarez shows that his unpopularity is not confined to opponents and opposing fans. Even his own team-mates were content to turn their back on him after his equalising goal against Chelsea.

 

Quote of the day

“He (Suarez) is scoring goals for fun at the moment and the longer he does that the happier we will be. We have a great spirit in the dressing room and a lot of heart. We always fight to the death. We did that and got our reward.”

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson obviously missed the internal memo that circulated among his team-mates.

Crook caves in

Sydney FC coach Ian Crook has resigned after only six games in charge, saying the extra pressure brought by the arrival of Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero had taken a toll on his health.

Crook stepped down with the club languishing in eighth place in the 10-team A-League with just two wins this season. Last weekend’s 7-2 thrashing at Central Coast Mariners obviously didn’t help his cause.

“It builds up. All this (media) has become a bit of a burden,” he said with a candour rarely associated with a departing manager. “With Alessandro coming, the whole thing has become a bit bigger.

”There’s a huge amount of pressure on this job and I think you have to be a special kind of individual to take it on but I don’t think I’m the right person for it.”

Crook substituted Del Piero in the 66th minute of Saturday’s 3-2 loss to rivals Melbourne Victory, a move that dismayed the home crowd and saw the coach involved in a heated exchange with a posse of angry fans after the final whistle.

“I don’t regret taking it on … but I don’t think I’m the right person,” Crook added.

“I just felt it started to affect me and my health. I haven’t enjoyed it for a few weeks if the truth be known. I feel like it’s been a burden, a constant burden, and once something gets like that, it starts affecting me and my family.”

Crook, who is expected to stay at the club in a development role, was praised for his work by Del Piero.

“I’m really sorry about our coach Ian Crook leaving,” Del Piero wrote on his website.

“In these few months in Sydney I’ve appreciated a lot of his human and professional qualities. His choice is personal and has to be respected, I just want to wish him all the best for the future.

“As for the team, it’s clear that we are going through a rather difficult period, but it is well known that great success depends also on the capacity to react and find the way out of difficult situations.

“In my career I faced a lot of moments like the one we experience in this period, the most important thing right now is to keep calm and to go on training as much as possible, trying to give our best, and to think positively.

“We have all the time to recuperate a good position in ranking table and to play well up to the end.

“We are surrounded by a lot of enthusiasm and great desire to succeed, we just have to get rid of pressure and fear and take to the pitch … I’m sure we’ll show what we are worth, Ian Crook’s work will bear fruit.”

Clocking in

The demands made of an elite professional football are not too onerous. It’s a well renumerated job, the hours are good and you get to show off your skills in front of thousands of appreciative fans each week. Not much is expected in return: stay healthy, play football for 90 minutes or so a week, and turn up for a few hours training each day.

Nonetheless, this proved too much for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, who was dropped for the Pescara game for disciplinary reasons.

“I don’t plan on being late again,” said the Frenchman who was omitted from the squad that won 6-1 on Saturday night as punishment for arriving at training late on two separate occasions.

“I was wrong and I’m very sorry,” he told Tuttosport. “And of course, I apologise because I know I have been disrespectful to boss Antonio Conte and my teammates.

“It was not my intention to do so and my delays are related to issues that are very trivial, but they are mistakes.

“I know that mistakes are also needed to mature and every experience is useful for the growth of each of us. I realised my mistake and I will do everything to make sure that it is not repeated in the future.

“I think the matter is now closed. And I have no intention of re-opening it by being late again!”

Pogba’s problems with punctuality bring to mind Diego Maradona, a notorious timekeeper throughout his turbulent career.

The Argentinian, as befitting his status at the time as the world’s best player, was given a fair amount of latitude by his employers. On one occasions, while he was at Barcelona, the coach Udo Lattek was left with a dilemma: not for the first time, Maradona kept the players waiting as they prepared to set off for an away match and fed up with waiting, the frustrated Lattek told the coach driver to set off without the player. Fast foward to the Monday after the match when Lattek was summoned to a meeting with the Barcelona president Josep Lluís Núñez, and promtly sacked!

Finally…

It’s a been a grim year for road fatalities within the African football community and the weekend brings news of yet another tragedy. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has released the names of four players from National First Division (NFD) side, Polokwane City, who were killed in a car accident on Sunday.

This comes just a month after national team assistant coach Thomas Madigage was killed while also travelling in the Limpopo province.

The four died when a bus in which they were travelling hit by a car, allegedly driven by a drunk driver.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing away of four young and talented players of Polokwane City FC. May their souls rest in peace and condolences to the families, friends and supporters who have lost their loved ones,” said the league in a statement.

The names of players are: Koketso Takalo, Robert Mphuti, Moeketsi Nthete and Silvester Mpaketsane.

Messages of support poured in from fellow clubs.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by a tragic car accident that occurred in Polokwane yesterday. Moroka Swallows extend our sincere condolences to the club and the players’ families,” said Premiership club Moroka Swallows.

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