Knee jerk legendary status?

Several former Schalke players have expressed their surprise at the decision of the club to retire the number of Raul, who announced on Thursday that he would not be renewing his contract with the Gelsenkirchen-based outfit.

Raul, lest we forget, has only been at the club for two years, during which time they have won the German Cup, reached a Champions League semi-final, and look on course for a top four finish this season. The veteran Spaniard has formed a potent strike force withKlaas-Jan Huntelaar of which, Raul has indubitably been the junior parter. Impressive, of course. But worth retiring a shirt for? Surely not. What are they going to do when Huntelaar leaves? Re-name the club in his honour?

Olaf Thon, UEFA Cup winner for Schalke in 1997,  was among those who shared in the general sense of bemusement at the club’s decision.

“Raul played himself into the hearts of the Schalke fans in two years,” Thon told

“But, in terms of that kind of connection, I want to name players like Ernst Kuzorra, Stan Libuda, Klaus Fichtel and Klaus Fischer.

“Maybe I’m a bit too conservative but they are players with real Schalke roots. They have a real cult status at Schalke. To compare this with Raul’s two years at Schalke… well, that’s too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, Raul played great during his two years at the club, so it’s nothing against him. But you can’t exclude the feelings of others hurt by this decision.”

Plastic pitch

The San Siro looks likely to have an artificial pitch installed in time for the start of next season.

The much criticised playing surface at the Milan stadium came under fresh scrutiny in recent weeks after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola both complained about the state of the pitch this season.

Wenger said after Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat to Milan in March: “I didn’t know it was possible. The pitch we played on was 10 times worse than it was on Tuesday.

“I complained to the official at UEFA but he just looks at you and says, ‘Oh, thank you very much, I have a dinner tonight’.”

As his side were not taken to the cleaners, Guardiola could afford to be more diplomatic in his comments.

“In the end we adapt to everything… but it’s clear that this was a problem for the spectacle,” he said earlier this month.

Gazzetta dello Sport have reported that work on a hybrid pitch combining synthetic and natural layers will begin in June.

The pitch has been problematical for a number of years, ever since a partial roof was installed at the stadium for the 1990 World Cup, reducing exposure to direct sunlight.

Young and impetuous

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson says he has spoken to Ashley Young after allegations of diving were aimed at the winger.

“I’ve had a word with Ashley,” said Ferguson. “He understands where we come from and I hope it makes a difference.”

Ferguson did suggest that the winger’s behaviour is not as big an issue as has been reported.

“I watched Real Madrid against Bayern Munich the other night – it was ridiculous, with players diving and rolling about,” he said.

“It was nothing like approaching what Young’s been accused of and the way the press has reacted, because it’s Manchester United.”

No, it’s because there have been two high profile incidents in United’s last two matches, both of which involved Young and both resulted in the award of penalty kicks.

Ukraine open for business

Ukraine has moved to reassure travelling supporters over hotel room prices during the Euro 2012 tournament, a week after criticism from UEFA chief Michel Platini, who slammed “bandits” for charging exorbitant rates.

“We don’t have problems with accommodation, I am telling you officially,” said Markiyan Lubkivskiy, the director of the event’s Local Organising Committee.

“We have analysed the situation in detail and at the moment we have thousands of hotel rooms in different categories, one, two and three-star,” as well as university campuses, Lubkivskiy said.

“The prices are affordable.”

Platini on a visit to Ukraine on April 12 condemned what he called prices set by “bandits and crooks” during Euro 2012, warning that foreign fans would not bother coming unless something was done.

“It’s annoying to have made a lot of investment and then say to people that they can’t come because there are bandits and crooks who want to make a lot of money during this Euro,” Platini said on a visit to host city Lviv.

UEFA’s profit from Euro 2008? €250million. Their estimated profit from Euro 2012? €1.2 billion.

Bandits and crooks you say?

Lone Rangers

Singapore businessman Bill Ng has abandoned his £20 million attempt to take over Rangers, citing concerns over the bidding process.

There have been whispers that Ng was concerned about passing the Scottish Football Association’s ‘fit and proper’ person’ test, but when you consider that Craig Whyte sailed through that process with flying colours, this would have been a mere formality.

“Recent developments in the bidding process, with unwarranted and unexplained delays, have prompted our withdrawal from the bidding process,” Ng said in a statement.

“After lengthy negotiations with a number of key stakeholders, we have serious concerns over the deliverability of the shares on offer to gain control of the club.”

Ng said his consortium had become “increasingly uncomfortable and frustrated” with dealing with administrators Duff and Phelps, and “noted the ever-increasing uncertainties and complexities in the bidding process.”

The “situation has made the bidding process untenable” and there are “great uncertainties,” he said.

Ng emerged as the preferred bidder for the Glasgow club when a rival consortium, fronted by former Rangers director Paul Murray, stepped aside earlier on the week.

So, where now for Rangers?

Quote of the day

“When I went to Liverpool, I admit it was more of a culture shock than going to France. 

Joe Cole on life at Lille. British footballers have come a long way since the days when Ian Rush memorably described his 12-month spell at Juventus as ‘like living in a foreign country.

Goal of the day

Atletico Madrid’s fourth goal in their 4-2 Europa League win over Valencia was an amazing solo effort from Falcao. The Colombian cut inside two defenders before unleashing an unstoppable shot off the underside of the bar.

Emotional crutch

Fans of Argentina outfit Racing Club have come up with a novel form of protest in response to the club’s poor recent form.

Coach Alfio Basile resigned after last weekend’s 4-1 derby defeat at Independiente and his successor, Luis Zubeldia, had to explain to reporters why supporters hurled crutches on to the pitch during their Copa Argentina match against lower league side Sarmiento.

“The fans’ reaction is logical in a country that experiences football (in the exaggerated) way we do here, but I hope they’ll support us as they always have,” he told reporters.

Media said it was not clear how fans had managed to smuggle a large number of crutches into the ground in Resistencia. I would imagine that most of them affected a limp.

Emre guilty but not as bad as Suarez

Fenerbahce and Turkey’s Emre Belozoglu has been handed a two-match ban for racially abusing Ivory Coast’s Didier Zokora by the Turkish Football Disciplinary Committee (PFDK).

Trabzonspor filed a civil law suit at an Istanbul court accusing Emre of abusing Zokora, while Emre claimed he had been misquoted.

“I was in a car when Sansal Buyuka [host of the TV show Maraton TV] asked if I had said those words,” Emre told Hurriyet. “I didn’t fully understand what he said.

“I thought he was asking whether I had sworn at Zokora, and I said: ‘Yes’. But I didn’t mean to confirm that I had racially abused Zokora.

“I’ll spell it out: I absolutely did not say ‘n****r’. As a human being, I don’t accept racism.

“Personally, I have been subjected to racist slurs like ‘dirty Turk’, or words aimed at my Muslim beliefs. You can ask the Altintop brothers about this.

“[Liverpool forward Luis] Suarez called [Manchester United’s Patrice] Evra ‘A dirty n****r’ four or five times. I’ve suddenly found myself in Suarez’ position. However, the exchange with Zokora only lasted one minute.”

Ah well, that’s alright then…


It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. And thankfully, somebody has. An enterprising reporter for the Daily Mail sat through a replay of Cheslea’s victory over Barcelona on Wednesday night in a bid to determine just how much time Didier Drogba spent on the ground pretending to be injured.

The final figure is 6 minutes and 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, Drogba’s agent has been discussing potential career options should the striker choose to leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

Surprisingly, considering his increasingly theatrical performances on the pitch, auditioning for the role of Othello was not among them.