Monte Carlo or bust

Ligue 2 champions Monaco are threatening legal action against the French football authorities, as they might be denied entry to the top flight.

The Principality club have been playing in the French league for nearly a century, but in an era of Financial Fair Play (FFP) attention has been drawn to the club operating within a tax haven.

In March, the Ligue Professionelle de Football [LFP] voted to exclude Monaco unless the club moved its head offices to France so they could register within their financial system.

Underpinning the argument is an entirely understandable French resentment that Monaco has been exploiting its status as a tax haven by signing up a number of foreign players on virtually tax-free salaries. These same players, if they joined any other club in the French league, would be forced to comply with the country’s tax laws, which for leading professional footballers means paying a tax rate of 75 per cent.

The French Football Federation [FFP] has since intervened and suggested that Monaco pay a fee of £170million for the right to continue playing in France – but that angered the club which is owned by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev

Monaco had asked that the FFF overturn the LFP’s earlier decision but, when they refused, the club have sought legal advice.

In a statement Monaco said over the weekend: “The club intends to show that the decision of the LFP imposed on AS Monaco, forcing it to move its headquarters to France, violates several fundamental principles of French and European law, notably the principle of free movement, free competition, free access to sporting competitions, and also the Franco-Monegasque tax convention signed on the 18 February 1963.”

The UEFA president, Michel Platini, was shocked by the stance being taken towards Monaco.

“I find it a little difficult to understand,” Platini said after Wednesday’s Europa League final.

“It’s as if French football always liked Monaco so long as they didn’t win.”

No one would have been surprised to hear Rybolovlev come out with such a statement, but to hear it from the architect of FFP, almost beggars belief.

Further information on the issue of Monaco’s tax status can be found here.

Act in haste…

Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Roman Shirokov has apologized for making an obscene gesture at his own team’s fans during a game.

Shirokov was booed by large sections of the crowd during Sunday’s 3-1 home win over FC Volga, apparently for congratulating CSKA Moscow on winning the Russian Premier League title on Twitter.

After scoring the third goal in injury time, the midfielder received a straight red card for directing an obscene gesture at the stands.

Zenit security held the 31-year-old player in the media zone for his own protection until the Zenit supporters left the arena.

“I regret what happened. I regret what I did,” Shirokov said on the Zenit website.

“I admit that this gesture was completely unattractive. But together with that I’d like to clear up what exactly happened. This gesture was addressed to the people who were insulting me.”

Smells like team spirit

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has called some of his players’ behaviour “ridiculous and pathetic” after warning the club needs a “professional ethic”.

Defenders Phil Bardsley and Matthew Kilgallon, who were pictured in a casino in midweek, were not included in Di Canio’s squad for Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Tottenham.

“They can’t stay with me, people who behave like that,” said the Italian.

“It was disgusting. These people can’t train with me.”

He added: “We were talking about strict rules. I discovered the day after that these people spent nearly all night out in the way you saw.

“I know someone can make a mistake – I did in the past, maybe not in that way. But every time we win, or we are happy, are we going to behave like this? It is ridiculous and pathetic.”

Di Canio, who won two of his seven matches as Sunderland boss after succeeding Martin O’Neill in March, believes improvements in his playing personnel are needed this summer.

“I am going to sit at the table with the chairman,” he said. “Obviously if we want to have a different future in terms of results we need to bring in good players but with a professional ethic.

“Be a real professional, not a good footballer that performs 40 or 50% of the potential they have got because they got blurry or because they go out.

“We have to make sure we are going to bring in not only good players, but with a good professionalism that can give satisfaction to everyone. ”

Not so super Mario?

Another day, another day of verbal abuse for Milan’s Mario Balotelli from opposing fans, but this time the censure had nothing to do with his colour and everything to do with his behaviour on the pitch.

Needing a win to secure the third and final Champions League spot, Milan were trailing 1-0 Siena with time running out, when Balotelli fell theatrically in the penalty area to earn a hotly-disputed penalty kick. The Italian forward converted the spot-kick himself and 5 minutes later Philippe Mexes was on hand to complete a remarkably turnaround.

As you can from the clip below, contact was minimal.

After the match angry Siena fans waited by the Milan bus to vent their anger at Balotelli.

Racism a global problem

On the subject of Balotelli, and in particular the shameful racist abuse he regularly receives from the terraces, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has called on the footballing world to tackle the problem of racism.

Balotelli was abused by Roma supporters during a goalless draw on May 12, resulting in the match being paused by the referee, and Prandelli insists more must be done to combat the issue as it is not confined to Italy.

“This is not just a problem of Milan and Italian football, it is everyone’s problem,” the 55-year-old told Tuttosport.

“With Balotelli we still face the problem of racism today. We will discuss it soon, even with the whole [Italy] team.”

Prandelli then criticized former Roma boss Zdenek Zeman for refusing to acknowledge the incident as racism-related and claiming Balotelli provokes such abuse with his behavior.

“Zeman said he [Balotelli] pays for his attitude? That’s a serious problem, it is like saying that women are subjected to violence because they take care of their looks,” Prandelli fumed.

“We must no longer tolerate anything, we must have determination to stay on the subject. It’ll be a long path, but we must insist on this road and think about our children. First of all we must have respect for the person, always, and be aware of what everyone has experienced on their own.”

At least someone in Italy seems understand that footballers being racially abused is not something to be brushed under the carpet.

The boy from Brazil

There have been conflicting reports about the future of Santos forward Neymar, with Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari claiming he’s held talks with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell over an imminent deal, while the player’s father insists he is going nowhere.

Scolari revealed he’s spoken at length with Rosell regarding Neymar.

“He is an example to follow as a sportsman,” Scolari said of Neymar when speaking to Canal+. “I have spoken to Sandro Rosell about how he behaves on the training pitch and about his personality. And he really is an example to follow.

“Barcelona are clearly leading the race for his signature. He would be a great signing for Barcelona.

“He would be an idol for the fans next season alongside Lionel Messi.”

The report claims he could be on the move this summer as a result, with Barcelona thought to be ready to hold talks with Neymar’s representatives after the Confederations Cup.

However, the player’s father has stressed that his son intends to see out his contract with Santos, claiming that both Barca and Real Madrid harbour ambitions to sign the youngster next year.

“Our position is to stay until the end of contract,” he told Radio Bandeirantes. “And we have not heard that Santos are in negotiations to sell Neymar.

“If Santos want then I will talk with my son to see if he really wants to go. We made some plans for Neymar to stay here until 2014. If these change we must be told beforehand.

“Barcelona are waiting for Neymar but for 2014. A project is in place to see how he will fit there. They put people next to Neymar to see how he would work. And Real Madrid do the same thing in the same way.”

Tug of war

Real Madrid target Carlo Ancelotti has asked to leave his role as Paris St-Germain coach but has been told by the club’s president “it is not possible”.

Ancelotti, who spoke last week about his love for PSG, wasted little time in handing in his notice when a bigger club came calling.

“I’ve asked to leave and I am waiting for their answer,” said Ancelotti.

But PSG’s Qatari president Nasser al-Khelaifi said: “He asked to depart for Real Madrid. It is not possible because he has a contract for one year more, so that is our decision.

“It is his problem; it is not our problem. We have offered him another year more on his contract as well as the one he has.

“When you have a contract, everyone is normally obliged to honour that.”

PSG sporting director Leonardo earlier told French newspaper L’Equipe:  “Carlo asked to leave for Real Madrid but we want him to stay. No decision has been made.

“Our priority is still that he stays. We have never contacted other coaches.

“I don’t want him to leave.”

Coincidentally, Real Madrid have called an unscheduled press conference for 7pm (BST) tonight where it is expected the departure of Mourinho will be confirmed.

Alberto Toril, the B-team coach, is poised to step forward to take charge for the last two games of the season.

Managerial merry-go-round

In what promises to be an unusually busy summer in the upper echolons of football management, the latest coach to be seeking pastures new is Walter Mazzarri, who has announced that he is to step down as Napoli coach.

Mazzarri wants a fresh challenge and has been linked with Inter and Roma in recent weeks.

“From next year onwards I will no longer be the coach of Napoli, I did not say anything before because there would’ve been a backlash which could have had a devastating effect on the team and the city,” he told Radio Rai.

“I must thank the president and [sporting director Riccardo] Bigon for trying to change my mind, but I made this decision because I needed a new challenge.

“My next team? Until now I have not considered anyone in particular, but tomorrow [on Monday] I’ll have a look around. Based on what I can offer, I could join a new club immediately, otherwise I’d take a year off.”

The man tipped to replace Mazzarri is Rafa Benitez whose stock has risen significantly after a broadly successful spell as interim manager of Chelsea.

Goal of the day

Just as he has done all season, Gareth Bale produces a moment of brilliance to secure all three points for Tottenham. It was all to no avail, though, as Arsenal’s win at Newcastle ensured that Spurs once again missed out on the Champions League spots.

Quote of the day

“He might rub people up the wrong way. [But] as a manager, he’s brilliant with his team, tactically, he’s brilliant with individuals and I think he’s brilliant with the press. I know it creates a storm, but he does protect his players.”

According to Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Jose Mourinho is ‘brilliant‘.