Tale of two managers

While Pep Guardiola announces his return to management by accepting an offer to become the next coach of Bayern Munich, his predecessor at Barcelona, Frank Rijkaard, was receiving his cards after being fired by Saudi Arabia.

Success and failure: it’s a thin line that separates them in the fluctuating world of football and it will be fascinating to see if the newly-revitalised Guardiola can maintain the level of success that has eluded Rijkaard.

“We are very pleased that we have succeeded [in appointing] the football expert Pep Guardiola, who was courted by many famous clubs and contacts,” said CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Guardiola, who will replace Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season. .

“Guardiola is one of the most successful coaches in the world and we are sure that he can [help] not just Bayern, but German football, shine.”

Clearly, the decision to snub overtures from several big-spending English clubs in favour of Bayern is a boost to German football, although Guardiola’s decision to join a side almost guaranteed to finish in the top two of the Bundesliga, shows that for all his many attributes, risk taking is not one of them.

Meanwhile, Rijkaard who led Barcelona to two league titles, a Champions League triumph and who arguably created the template that Guardiola would subsequently refine, has been fired as coach of the Saudi national team after a humiliating exit at the Gulf Cup.

Rijkaard’s contract with Saudi Arabia was reportedly worth £6 million, with a penalty clause of more than £4 million in case of dismissal. Which should sugar the pill somewhat.

Thanks but no thanks

Speculation doing the rounds suggests that David Beckham let it be known that he wanted to finish his career with Milan, but the Serie A club were not interested.

Sky Italia claimed on Wednesday Milan had turned down the chance to re-sign Beckham, despite Milan-based newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport reporting the Serie A club were still considering the proposal.

Beckham played for Milan on loan from LA Galaxy in 2009 and 2010, taking advantage of the MLS close season from January to June.

The former England captain finished his career in America in June, winning the MLS Cup last year in his final match for the LA Galaxy.

There are reportedly a dozen offers on the table for Beckham, some from as far afield as China, Australia and the Middle East, but none it would seem, that offer the fitting finale to his career that Beckham believes he deserves.

Korea advisor

South Korea’s 2002 Soccer World Cup hero Ahn Jung-Hwan says he was ignored and subjected to racist slurs from n during his unhappy spell with Serie A side Perugia.

In an interview on a South Korean television talk show, Ahn, 36, alleged that Perugia’s then skipper Materazzi had bullied him.

“He barged into the locker room one day and barked at me in front of everyone, saying that I reeked of garlic,” Ahn said.

“I didn’t understand what he was saying but the translator, who was also a Korean, blushed and, at first, was too embarrassed to translate the remarks,” he added.

Ahn’s wife, a former Miss Korea beauty queen, told the talk show that her husband was so intimidated that he stopped eating Korean food.

If you were to survey followers of Italian football to find out which player they would expect to behave so appallingly to a visiting professional, Materazzi would undoubtedly be near the top of any list.

Ahn joined Perugia in 2000, but the move was not a happy one and ended in controversy.

After Ahn scored the golden goal against Italy that put South Korea through to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci cancelled his contract.

Gaucci was quoted as saying he had “no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football”.

Ahn said he had always been treated as “an outcast” by other players in the Italian club side.

“They seldom passed the ball to me in front of goal, even if they had no way for themselves to score,” he said.

As for Gaucci, well, after leading Perugia to bankruptcy, he went on the run and was sentenced to a three-year suspended jail sentence.

The club fared no better  with bankruptcy eventually to them having their league affiliation revoked in 2010. In the summer of 2011 the club was reconstituted as Associazione Calcistica Perugia Calcio, thus becoming a professional company, and permitted to play in the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione/B.

It would be safe to say that in this particular confrontation Ahn had the last laugh.

Goal of the day

Fredy Guarin gives Inter the lead over Bologna with a cracking strike from the edge of the penalty area.

Quote of the day

“As a player, I couldn’t realise my dream to play there but I hope in the future, I have a challenge to be a coach or a manager there and feel the experience of all the coaches and players that have been there. It is unique, to play in that league. I want to feel the supporters, the environment, the media and the style of the players and everything. I am still young, just 41, so I hope in the future I could be able to train there and enjoy that.”

Pep Guardiola serves notice that he would like to manage in England at some point in the future. In the meantime, he will be succeeding Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich.

Car trouble

Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez has been banned from driving for six months after ignoring police letters about speeding offences because he did not understand the word ‘constabulary’.

This despite living in England for over six years. It’s certainly a novel excuse, but considering he was unable to understand the words ‘on you go Carlos, we’re bringing you on as a sub’ less than 18 months ago, it’s one I’m inclined to believe.

The Manchester Evening News reported that the Argentine international had pleaded guilty to three offences, including driving without a valid UK licence, at a magistrates court hearing.

The player’s lawyer said Tevez had not responded to the letters because he had not understood them.

“He does understand the word ‘police’, but not more complicated words. The letters are written from Cheshire Constabulary and the word police doesn’t appear on it anywhere,” PA news quotes solicitor Gwyn Lewis as saying.

“The word constabulary is not one that is recognised internationally, but of course police is.”

Tevez, 28, had driven with an Argentine licence and his lawyer said the striker, who was not present in court, would take a UK driving test once the ban had expired.

Match fixing latest

There’s a fascinating Reuters interview with FIFA’s match fixing FIFA head of security Ralf Mutschke in which he details the scale and depth of the problem of match fixing within the sport.

Mutschke said a convicted match-fixer had personally told him at a secret meeting that the activity was preferred by many criminals to the drugs trade.

Moreover, more than 50 leagues outside of Europe have been targeted and such is the extent of infiltration by the gangs that the problem is becoming increasingly difficult to police.

“We have seen them trying to take over an entire club and use it for match manipulation, we see it in other parts of the world,” he said.

“If they manage to take over the club, they pay the salaries for the players but they are also transferring players to other clubs.

“We also see infiltration on an association level and on a confederation level.

“I know as well that referees are being lured by fixers who promise them a boost in their career when they get involved in match manipulation, because this fixer has good contacts in the federation.”

It’s not all bad news and there are examples, such as the Guatemalan squad who recently denounced three team mates for trying to persuade them to fix a friendly, but overall it paints a fairly gloomy picture about the probity of the sport in those countries where the financial rewards for cheating outweigh those for playing fair.

Super Mario update

Napoli say the possibility of Mario Balotelli moving to the Serie A club is one “for the future” as talk of the player returning to Italy continues.

Speculation has mounted over a possible departure for the 22-year-old following the training ground fight between Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini and the striker.

Riccardo Bigon, the director of sport at the Stadio San Paolo club, refused to rule out a move when he spoke to Sky Italia.

“It is a very complicated situation and we are complete in terms of our strike force,” he said. “It is a situation for the future.”

Only last week, Napoli striker Edinson Cavani also spoke of the possibility of Balotelli joining, telling TG1 that he would enjoy playing alongside the former Inter man.

“Nobody has the right to negatively judge a player like Balotelli as people can make mistakes,” he said. “I would certainly love to play alongside him. He is a champion and has proved that. He’s an Italian champion who will make people very happy.”

Meanwhile,  Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has backtracked on his recent criticism of Balotelli.

After dismissing the striker as a “bad apple”  Berlusconi has sought to smooth relations with Balotelli, insisting that he did not mean to criticise the Italy international.

“I was talking about the need to have a positive presence in the changing room. I wasn’t referring to Balotelli and I apologise if my words were taken as a criticism towards him”, the Milan supremo told Sky Sport Italia.

“I have never been informed about someone at the club opening up talks with him and neither [Adriano] Galliani or [Massimiliano] Allgeri have pointed him out as a possible target.


Milan are in the market for January arrivals though and Berlusconi is crossing his fingers that they are able to get the players they want.

 I hope that new players will arrive.”

Leading by example

Italian outfit Nuovo Campobasso have been fined €10,000 after their president verbally abused a referee over the stadium PA system during a match.

The incident occurred during the second half of a Seconda Divisione (the fourth tier of Italian football) match against Arzanese.

Ferruccio Capone took to the airwaves during his side’s fourth-tier match against Arzanese after being angered by the ref’s decisions, including the sending off of a Nuovo Campobasso player.

Capone was enraged by the referee’s decisions, including the sending off of one of his players, that he invaded the announcer’s room and grabbed the microphone to vent his frustration. As you do.


Diego Maradona has announced that he has had enough of football and no longer wants to work in the sport.

The former Al Wasl coach has spoken of his disillusionment with the game following the dismissal of Matias Almeyda by River Plate.

“After how disgusted I was with the way they fired ‘Pelado’ Almeyda and by Sunday they had Ramon Diaz, I no longer want to work in football,” he told Racio Nacional.

“To present the new coach in three days, it disgusts me. I don’t want to do it again.”

If that’s the case it marks the end of an entertaining, but ultimately hapless spell as a coach for the mercurial Argentinian. The insights and expertise of many great players have been lost to the game when they retire from playing, but it’s safe to say that the football world is no poorer for Maradona leaving it.