Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has reiterated his desire to leave Anfield amid talk of a new, improved offer from Arsenal.
The London club are reported to have submitted a bid worth £35 million for the forward, who says he wishes to play for a club participating in the Champions League. Even if, in Arsenal’s case, that might be a fleeting appearance.
Suarez told the Sunday Sun: “If I receive an important offer to progress my career, I will study it. Some clubs have asked about me but I hand questions over to my agent. I am no stranger to rumours. I always want to improve. That’s why I left Ajax for Liverpool.
“But this club needs to fight to enter the Champions League and, when it doesn’t happen, it damages the morale of any player. So I’ve suffered. It is hard to view the Premier League every week with never a chance of winning it.”
No conversation with the Uruguayan would be complete without one of his trademark, self-pitying laments about how badly misunderstood he is, and this interview proved to be no exception.
“On top of that, the English media do not understand me,” he moaned. “The controversies with Evra and Ivanovic were decisive. There are always extra questions when people analyse me. After the Evra incident, it was very difficult to convince people about the ‘real’ Luis Suarez. Things had improved but then the incident involving Ivanovic was another blow. Had that not happened, perhaps I would have been regarded as the best Premier League player last season.”
And, on his 10-game ban, Suarez said: “I consider my punishment over Ivanovic to be excessive but I accept the decision. It’s damaged my career. I don’t look for controversy but opponents are always provoking me. This is my challenge — to avoid responding. I have no problems with Brendan Rodgers. After those incidents, I received many messages of encouragement. The Liverpool supporters have been the best part of my time in England.”
While Suarez angles for a move away Liverpool, the club’s veteran skipper, Steven Gerrard, has signed a contract extension that may well see him finish his career at Anfield.
Gerrard, 33, is set to enter his 16th season with Liverpool in 2013-14.
“I think everyone knows what it means to me,” Gerrard told the club’s official website. “I’ve been here that long and so, to extend, it’s a big day for me and I’m really happy for myself and my family. It’s great news.
“It lets me know the club thinks an awful lot of me and want me here. I’m glad it’s all done and it’s happened at the right time before the season, so I can just focus on playing as well as I can.”
Managing director Ian Ayre is delighted to have secured the Anfield hero’s future for what he hopes will be for the remainder of Gerrard’s career.
“It’s fantastic for everyone – the club, Steven and the fans,” he added. “He is – and always has been – such a big part of Liverpool. Particularly in this day and age, it’s rather unique to find a local player who has given his whole career to his club.
“We’re pleased today to add an extension to his existing agreement and that keeps him here until the end of his career. We’ve said what we’ll do in two years’ time is review it again and see how happy Steven is. We seem to always be happy with him, so hopefully we’ll just continue in that vein.”
The contrast with Suarez could not be starker.
Former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers has said that gay footballers find it hard to come out in the UK, due to hostility from the fans.
The American left Elland Road last February, before revealing his sexuality and announcing his retirement from the game.
He is now playing professionally again in MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he has urged supporters to think before they act when verbally abusing players.
“For whatever reason, I don’t think fans in England or fans in the UK are homophobic at all,” he said to BBC Radio 5 Live. “The things they will say in a stadium does not reflect their character.
“But they take it just a little bit overboard sometimes. I learned that while I was in England.
“It’s a little bit sad. Fans need to realise what you’re saying to players, especially when you are on that level.
“You need to think it through before you start yelling at players.”
No player in the UK has admitted to being openly gay since Justin Fashanu in 1990, but it has increasingly become an issue that the Football Association and Professional Footballers Association continue to address.
Rogers, 26, hopes that it will be possible for a gay footballer to be publicly open about their sexuality in the near future, and hopes anyone in a similar situation can learn from him.
He said: “I have no clue when someone will feel they can do that. I hope soon.
“I hope they can learn from my experience, if possible, to see that it wasn’t a big deal and that I’m playing football and just carrying on with my life.”
Match fixing latest
Lazio captain Stefano Mauri appeared unconcerned by the allegations of match fixing hanging over his head, as he spoke to the press at his club’s pre-season training camp in Auronzo di Cadore.
The 33-year-old is one of eight players facing a sports trial for his involvement in the Lazio v Genoa and Lecce v Lazio games in 2011, which are both suspected of being fixed. The midfielder is accused of being aware of an attempt to pre-determine the result without reporting the matter to the authorities, an infringement which could carry a suspension of up to five years.
Should he be proven guilty and the punishment be delivered in full, it would effectively mark the end of Mauri’s playing career, but he appeared relaxed as he met the media in Veneto.
“I know what actually happened,” he said. “I’m innocent and I’ve never broken the rules in this sport. We’ll just have to see how the process goes, but I’m certain I’ll be proven right in the end.”
Mauri has the backing of Lazio president Claudio Lotito.
“I’m not jumping for joy about this process, but in any case, I think the player will demonstrate his innocence,” Lotito said.
Goal of the day
Fantastic piece of improvisation by Roda Antar for Shandong Luneng in their Chinese Super League match against Changchun Yatai.
Goalkeeper of the day
Sao Paolo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni steps up and curls one over the wall into the top corner. That’s goal 112 for the veteran keeper.
Quote of the day
“Wayne Rooney can play up on his own, he can play dropped in. Overall my thought on Wayne is, if for any reason we had an injury to Robin van Persie, we’ll need him.”
Wayne Rooney discovers he is no longer top dog at Manchester United.
Playboy of the month
Brazil legend Ronaldo is reportedly embarking on a new career as a porn magnate with hopes of buying the Playboy franchise in his native country.
According to the Daily Mail, the 35-year-old, who helped Brazil win the World Cup in 2002, and is a member of the organising committee for the 2014 World Cup, is planning on making a bid for the magazine.
Sources close to the star told Brazil’s Extra newspaper he sees the publication – Brazil’s tenth best-selling magazine – as a lucrative business opportunity.
The 35-year-old’s marketing firm 9INE already manages images rights to some of Brazil’s biggest sports stars, including new Barcelona signing Neymar.
Playboy in Brazil has the third largest readership of the magazine in the world and reguarly sells over 250,000 copies a month – however, sales have slumped in the past decade from a high point of 1 million copies.
Friends of Ronaldo – who is nicknamed The Phenomenon in Brazil – believes his ‘midas touch’ will help rejuvenate the magazine
Former Inter and Real Madrid striker Ronaldo receives around £10 million a year from sponsors including Nike, Fiat and Duracell, while a spokemsan confirmed his company 9INE is set to make £15 million in 2014.
He also has a chain of gyms, a sports health clinic and a six-storey building which houses a Rio de Janeiro university, as well as a nightclub in Rio’s most affluent neighbourhood, Leblon.
Throw in a number of valuable properties he owns and you can see that beneath that slightly goofy exterior, lies a shrewd business brain.
Turning the tables
A Lebanese referee serving time in a Singapore jail has given evidence at the start of the corruption trial of accused match fixer Eric Ding Si Yang.
Sabbagh said he first met Ding, who was calling himself ‘James Zen,’ at Beirut in June, 2012, and was lured by the promise of a big pay day.
“I was told I could stop anytime but most don’t,” Sabbagh told a Singapore court. “If I did a ‘job’ for James, linesmen would also be involved to make it easier for me.”
He identified James Zen as Ding, a 31-year-old nightclub owner who is accused of trying to rig matches in Kuwait, Indonesia and Jordan.
Sabbagh said Ding wanted him to help fix results of matches, and sent him 35 links to YouTube videos about match fixing with instructions to study them and then delete the emails.
“He wanted me to understand and learn how to make such decisions for matches in future,” Sabbagh said.
Ding was arrested in April and charged with three counts of corruption for allegedly supplying prostitutes to the three Lebanese match officials, in hopes of persuading them to fix the Asian Football Confederation match between Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and India’s East Bengal.
If found guilty, Ding, who denies the charges, faces a maximum of five years in jail, .
Sabbagh was last month sentenced to six months in jail by a Singapore court after pleading guilty to influencing two linesmen to help fix a match in Singapore in April.
Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness could avoid a jail term and instead be sentenced to two years on parole for his alleged tax evasion, according to reports in the German media.
Six days after Bild revealed that 61-year-old Hoeness is likely be charged by the Munich economic and tax criminal chamber after being investigated over the allegations, Der Spiegel said he may not face the prospect of prison.
Under German law, tax evasion of over €1 million is punished by a prison sentence but, according to the paper, Munich prosecutors may instead call for a two-year parole for Hoeness.
One rule for the rich…?
In January, Bayern president Hoeness filed a voluntary disclosure which showed he had not paid tax on a Swiss bank account.
Reports at the time suggested German prosecutors would decide in July whether or not he should face charges.
The Adidas CEO and Bayern Munich board member Herbert Hainer has told German news weekly Focus that, even if charges are brought against Hoeness, he should remain in his position at Bayern.
“I am of the opinion there is no one better for that position,” Haider said. “I would not have necessarily expected the tax story, as he is one of the most caring and trustworthy persons I know.
“But the case shows that none of us is free from mistakes. We should therefore give Uli Hoeness a second chance. He knows best that has committed a monumental stupidity.”
Ah well, that’s alright then.