Prandelli happy if Italy withdrew

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has claimed he would have “no problem” if his team was withdrawn from Euro 2012 as a response to the country’s latest match-fixing crisis.

A police investigation into corruption led to 19 arrests being made on Monday, while Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito was dropped from Prandelli’s squad after being questioned about his involvement in the affair.

Prandelli appears an unusually sane voice in asylum of modern football, in that he is prepared to act on principle.

“If you told us that for the good of football we should not participate, it wouldn’t be a problem for me,” Prandelli told RaiSport.

“There are things that I believe are more important.”

Prandelli was speaking after the lawyer of Gianluigi Buffon had rejected claims regarding the Juventus goalkeeper.

Italian reports claimed that the Juventus goalkeeper had made over €1.5 million in payments to a Parma-based tobacconist, which also acts as a betting shop.

Marco Valerio Corini attempted to distance his client from the current investigation.

“The hypothesis of betting and abnormal movement of money was not picked up by any investigation by the Financial Police in 2010,” Corini told Radio Mana Mana.

“This is a strange timing: Gigi is bitter about the ambush against him after his press conference at Coverciano.

“Who says that those payments were made for betting purposes? Because these two people, a goalkeeper and the owner of a betting shop, operated together, then the purpose of their transaction had to be to make illegal bets?

“That argument is very poor, because they have known each other since Gianluigi was in Parma’s youth team, and their friendship can be linked to commercial transactions, such as real estate.

“These are false news that trigger a media bomb that has no criminal value, as confirmed by investigators in Turin. The prosecutor also has denied involvement.

Meanwhile, Prandelli, who has a major tournament to prepare for, could do without the current distractions. Asked about the Buffon’s current mood, he admitted the keeper was finding it difficult.

“How is Buffon’s mood? You should ask him,” he stated. “He is very strong, with a great personality. He manages to hide uncomfortable moments, but despite this, even a person like him can suffer in a difficult moment like this.”

Out of favour, out of pocket, out of work

Ronaldinho is a free agent after walking out Flamengo claiming the Brazilian club owe him £12m in unpaid wages.

That astonishing shortfall is disputed by the Rio club, who claim that the figure is “absurd”.

“His contract has been terminated,” Ronaldinho’s lawyer Gislaine Nunes said. “Flamengo has already been notified. Now we are demanding a very high amount in compensation, of course, which he has the right to receive by contract.”

Ronaldinho said suing Flamengo was the last thing he wanted to do but had no other option.

“I waited as long as I could, but it got to a point that it was enough,” he told Brazil’s UOL website. “I decided to contact my lawyers and end this cycle. I’m sad for the friends that I left there, for the fans who supported me.”

A different message was emanating from the club, with Flamengo claiming they had indulged Ronaldinho throughout his two-year spell with the club,

Club president Patricia Amorim responded: “We didn’t expect an attitude like this. Now the case is in the hands of our legal department, which will take the necessary legal measures to defend the interests of Flamengo. The club is greater than any person and it’s going to be like this forever.

“We will take a close look at the lawsuit before making a decision. We’ve forgiven Ronaldinho’s acts of indiscipline during all this time.”

The club said in a statement that the player made the decision to leave after ‘missing training for four days.’

Earlier, Flamengo vice-president Paolo Cesar Coutinho was filmed by club supporters saying Ronaldinho had been “playing rubbish”. It was a view endorsed by supporters groups, one of whom published a letter on its website criticising Ronaldinho and accusing him of being unprofessional and criticising his party lifestyle.

Goal of the day

Florent Malouda scored with a stunning long range strike in France’s 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday.

Blunder of the day

Bosnia defender Stojan Vranjes could try this a hundred times and not manage to accomplish it again. Mexico striker Javier Hernandez was the fortunate beneficiary of the double mis-kick.

Back to school

Germany’s 18-year-old midfielder Julian Draxler has reacted to the disappointment of missing out on Germany’s 23-man Euro 2012 squad, by reaffirming his desire to pass his A-levels instead.

The Schalke midfielder was one of four players left out of Joachim Low’s final squad for the tournament, but rather than sulk, or head for a three-week binge on Ayia Napa, Draxler will head back to school.

“At first I was really disappointed (not to make the cut),” he said in an interview with Bild. “But when I was packing my bag I phoned by parents are friends. They told me that it is crazy to be sad.

“I still have to pass three (Abitur, the German equivalent of A-levels) exams: maths, history and biology. I want to sit them as soon as possible so that I can go on holiday before pre-season training starts with Schalke. My motto: the main thing is to pass.”

WAGS not welcome

Frank Lampard’s withdrawal from England’s Euro 2012 squad deprives Roy Hodson of an experienced campaigner, but it also deprives the paparazzi of one of the better-known England WAGS, in the Chelsea man’s partner, TV presenter Christine Bleakley.

In fact, with David Beckham out of the picture and Ashley Cole no longer married to Girls Aloud’s Cheryl, there are relatively slim pickings for your average unprincipled snapper with an unfeasibly large zoom this summer.

The WAG phenomenon peaked at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when the antics of the wives and girlfriends off the pitch garnered as much media attention and certainly gave more entertainment than their partners provided on it.

Those glory days are now over, with England assistant coach, Gary Neville, declaring that a new, more business-like mood permeates the camp.

“That won’t happen again,” he said. “The FA learned from the experience. The England players did. That wasn’t ideal for anybody.

“It was symptomatic of the times. Between 2002 and 2007 everyone got carried away with everything in life. It is a different world now and those mistakes won’t happen again under any manager or any regime.

“We are managing it this time in a completely different way. We are here to play football. We are here to work.”

Can Rodgers buck the trend?

It’s been a meteoric rise for the Northern Ireland man. Three years ago he was slogging around the Championship trying to make a name for himself, but now he sits in charge of a solid, mid-table Premier League side, with aspirations to break into the top 6.

For Rodgers, the decision to quit Swansea was not an easy one.

“It was an extremely, extremely difficult decision because my plan was always to stay here at Swansea for a number of years,” he said.

Having persuaded the club’s board that he is the right man for the job, the new manager must now get to work on the Liverpool supporters who, understandably given their past achievements, had been hoping for a higher profile appointment. Flattery will get you anywhere with football fans though, and Rodgers, showing a keen appreciation of his target audience, appealed to the one thing Liverpool fans can cling on to more than anything else: their glorious past

“Liverpool are one of the dynasties of the game,” he said. “They have won five European Cups and their status is up there with AC Milan, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.”

He had the supporters at ‘dynasty’, but on he continued.

“I’m very proud, it’s a club with wonderful tradition and I feel very blessed with the opportunity to manage the club,” he added.

“I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get started on this incredible project going forward. I promise to dedicate my life to fight for this club and defend the great principles of Liverpool Football Club on and off the field.”

Stadium news

It’s been a busy day at Anfield with the Guardian reporting that progress is finally being made in their bid to redevelop Anfield.

The prohibitive cost of building a new stadium from scratch on neighbouring Stanley Park, has meant that the Liverpool owners have gone back to the drawing board and re-examined the possibility of upgrading their current home.

The main stumbling block to this has always been the geography terrain of the Anfield area. The stadium is hemmed in by residential housing providing little room for further expansion. However, the club, in conjunction with the local council have found a way around that particular problem. They’re just going to knock down the houses, pay off the residents and move them to a different part of the city.

It seems a perfect solution to suit all parties. Unless, of course, you happen to be one of the people who live in one of the soon-to-be-demolished houses and who are now being forcibly removed from your home. Some would call this progress. Others remain unconvinced.

Ros Groves, chair of the neighbouring Salisbury Residents Association, was sceptical of the plan, fearing that that the money they would be paid by the council who will demolish them, will would not be enough to buy a similar home elsewhere.

“Everybody wants a solution to this area’s problems,” Groves said. “But people who have paid off their mortgages, and long-term tenants, are very concerned about the impact on them.”

Quote of the day

”I will persuade him that most probably the only place he can find bananas – even if he wants them – is in Ukrainian restaurants. Most probably he should search for traditional Ukrainian dumplings, for Ukrainian lard and Ukrainian borscht.”

Oleh Voloshyn, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, responds to comments by Italy striker Mario Balotelli, who said this week he’d kill anyone who throws a banana at him.

Match fixing latest

Atalanta have plea-bargained for a further two-point penalty in the ongoing Italian match-fixing scandal.

The club suffered a six point deduction last season for its role in the scandal, but still finished near the middle of the Serie A table.

Meanwhile, former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni has had an existing ban extended. A sports court added two years to a three-and-a-half year ban Doni had received in a previous trial.