Breath of fresh Ayre

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has moved to play down suggestions that striker Luis Suarez will leave the club in the summer.

The 26-year-old is reported to have said he would consider leaving the club if a team playing in the Champions League were interested in his services.

With 22 Premier League goals to his name this season, Suarez has been something of a one-man team for an inconsistent Liverpool side. Indeed, his form has gone a long way to silencing many of those critics who claimed there was no more to his game than diving for penalties, baiting opponents, and racially abusing Patrice Evra.

Inevitably, a player in this kind of form is going to attract attention from the big hitters in Europe and Suarez is no exception, with the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus reported to be interested in signing him. Equally inevitably, a player, when questioned about such speculation, wisely keeps his options open.

Suarez is reported to have told a Uruguayan newspaper: “If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have [me], they are welcome.

“We would talk to the club, and we would see if I want to go [or] if I don’t want to go.”

Managing director Ian Ayre, though, attempted to played down any notion the striker may be about to leave Anfield after signing a four-year deal last August.

”You can read into the comments – it was given in his native language so I think maybe it was a bit lost in translation,” said Ayre.

We’re not talking the Basque language here. We’re talking about Spanish and English, two of the most widely spoken languages in the world.

”We’ve been consistent with Luis,” continued Ayre. “Last summer he signed a new four-year contract and we have no desire to sell Luis. He is a fantastic player and a great contributor to our team.

”We’ve been very honest with him and he’s been very honest with us.

”There is always going to be instances, particularly leading up to the summer (transfer) window, when people are quoted or asked these questions.

”We are very pleased to have Luis and long may that continue.

”He also says in the same interview that he feels he is in an elite team at Liverpool.

Now, that last sentence definitely was lost in translation.

(Dis)United States

United States midfielder Michael Bradley has described criticism of coach Juergen Klinsmann by some of his team mates ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica as “shameful” and “embarrassing”.

Bradley was speaking after a report on the website of the Sporting News contained anonymous players questioning the work of Klinsmann and raising the issue as to whether the team was behind the German coach.

“I saw it. I think it is shameful. I think it is embarrassing,” Bradley, the son of Klinsmann’s predecessor Bob Bradley, told reporters after training on Wednesday.

“On every team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy, on every team in the world there are going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things that they wish were different, things they wish would be done another way, but that is normal.”

The report said players had questioned Klinsmann’s training regime and tactical acumen after last month’s 2-1 defeat to Honduras in San Pedro Sula in the United States’ opening game of the six-team final qualifying round in the CONCACAF region.

Credit to Bradley for his loyalty, but the critics of Klinsmann, who wouldn’t be the first to question his coaching methods, may have a point.

The German is not a coach in the traditional sense – nor in any sense – but more a life coach who aims to get players to believe in themselves. It’s homeopathic coaching in that it’s 1 part coaching diluted by 100 parts new age cod psychology. No wonder some of the players have seen through it.

His name is Rio and he dances on the sand…

Rio Ferdinand has defended his decision to fly out to Qatar in the week he withdrew from the England squad in order to follow a pre-planned fitness routine.

The Manchester United defender was called up by England manager Roy Hodgson for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro but pulled out on Monday, citing the need to follow the fitness plan laid out by his club.

It has now emerged that the 34-year-old will visit the Aspire training academy in Doha and then appear as a pundit for Al Jazeera television in the Gulf state for the San Marino match tomorrow night.

Ferdinand wrote on Twitter: “1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime…with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway.

“2) No different from what I done on the last 10day international break…thank you guys.

“Haters are gonna hate…also assume everything…although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!”

Ferdinand’s call-up was his first involvement with the national team since he won his 81st cap in a Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Switzerland in June 2011. Given the circumstances of his withdrawal and the the admission that he can no longer play two matches within a week, it’s hard to imagine he will win an 82nd cap.

The defender was controversially left out of the squad for the finals in Poland and Ukraine last summer, with England boss Roy Hodgson insisting it was for football reasons.

The Ferdinand family had been at the centre of a long-running racism row with John Terry, who was picked for Euro 2012, and the Manchester United player believed that was the real reason behind his omission.

Moving the goalposts

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said he will not stand for a fifth term when his current term ends in 2015, provided there is a candidate to replace him who he believes will maintains his legacy.

Don’t all laugh at once.

Blatter, who turned 77 this month, was elected president of football’s world governing body in 1998, said on his re-election in 2011 that he could not imagine standing again in four years time.

“I will not stand again. I have to finish. I have to put it into my mind that you cannot be eternal,” he said in an interview in November 2012.

But four months later and the tone has changed significantly.

“I will not carry on as long as there is at least one candidate prepared to continue my work,” Blatter said in an interview with As.

“The most important thing for me is that the person who takes over FIFA does so with the spirit of globalisation of football that we have developed in recent years,” he added.

Blatter named two possible successors: former France international Michel Platini, who is the president of European governing body UEFA, and Angel Maria Villar, the president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF) and a vice president of both UEFA and FIFA.

“Michel Platini could be a possible successor as we started together in 1998,” Blatter said.

“On the other side is Angel Villar who has had a long career and has good contacts in America and Africa and who would also be a good candidate.

“I don’t know if there is a deal between Villar and Platini on these UEFA and FIFA issues but in any case the elections for the FIFA presidency in 2015 will be open and democratic.”

The suspicion, in footballing circles, is that Blatter, once an ally of Platini, has fallen out with his former protege and his decision to stand again may well be determined by a desire to scupper the Frenchman’s ambitions.

In pursuit of perfection

Bastian Schweinsteiger believes Germany is on their way to attaining perfection, and feels it is an honour for the national side to be compared to reigning European and world champions Spain.

The Bayern Munich midfielder believes Vicente del Bosque’s outfit have set the benchmark for international teams, but he feels that Germany will soon inherit the mantle of the world’s best team.

If the World Cup was determined by self-confidence, then Germany would win most tournaments at a canter.

“Spain have a certain perfection in their game. They have been training on this for the past 10 years or so. We are working hard on achieving the same perfection and are well on our way,” Schweinsteiger said at a press conference.

“It’s absolutely no problem for us to be compared to Spain. They have been the best team out there since 2008. It’s an honour to be compared to them.”

Pride, as they say, comes before a fall. You can picture the hubristic scene during Germany’s last World Cup qualifier against Sweden, with Schweini and the boys trotting back to the centre circle after Mesut Ozil had put them 4-0 up : ‘Hey guys, just how good are we? Almost perfect!’

Time and motion

As befits a team approaching perfection, nothing is left to chance. Therefore, Germany’s players will be going to bed at dawn and training just before midnight as they prepare for their World Cup qualifying game in Kazakhstan on Friday.

With a five-hour time difference between Germany and Kazakhstan, the team have been advised not to change their watches to local time once they arrive but instead stick with German time so as not to interrupt their rhythm. But also, no doubt, because German time is simply more perfect than Kazakhstan time.

“We have a five-hour time difference and that normally needs about five days to adapt,” said team doctor Tim Meyer. “We do not have that time and we have to go straight back to German time.

“Our clocks will be on German time, and the schedule with things like eating and sleeping also on German time. We have a kick-off which is good for German time but it is midnight in Kazakhstan.

“We will not check everyone’s watches but we advise them to do it and expect them to do it. You can do it for a day or two.” Meyer told reporters.

The plan means the Germans will have a late training session in Astana (2300 local) on Thursday. “The schedule then will be like we have after an afternoon training at 1800 in Germany,” team spokesman Jens Grittner told reporters. “Then sleep at 0400 which is 2300 in Germany.”

Quote of the day

“The situation does not bother me at all. To me, it is all a bit childish. I don’t want to give any further comments on it to avoid any misinterpretation.”

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque tries to ignore claims made by Real Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho, that the votes in last year’s FIFA Coach of the Year award, may have been manipulated to favour the Spaniard over his Portuguese rival.

Cover up?

Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who is on trial for allegedly running a doping network in cycling, has said that he would be willing to name his clients.
 some of whom are alleged to be Spanish footballers.

The medical expert had already revealed in his Madrid trial that he has clients in football, athletics, tennis and boxing.

However, the revelations on Wednesday that he might supply information to doping authorities – possibly as part of a plea bargain – will cause jitters in the country’s football establishment. Naturally, in an age when Spain and Spanish clubs have dominated the world and European scene, one can understand why there is no great enthusiasm on the part of the authorities to expose any footballers who may have had contact with Dr Fuentes.

Fuentes told reporters attending the trial: “If they [anti-doping authorities] believe that I am useful and they ask me [to co-operate] I would consider it and I would be ready.

“What I don’t know is if what I could contribute would be worth anything to them or not.

“This would be in exchange for mutual collaboration. If the list was necessary within this collaboration, they would get it.”

The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Vicente del Bosque have complained that not enough testing is being carried out, but until the evidence suggests otherwise, we have to assume that football is unique in being a high profile sport which offers huge rewards to its leading exponents, but does not suffer from a doping culture.

Sweet FA

David Dyke will become the new chairman of the Football Association, after his nomination was approved by the organisation’s board. He will succeed David Bernstein, who is to leave the post in July after two and a half years in the job – subject to approval by the FA Council.

Dyke, a lifelong football fan, has previously served as director general of the BBC and managing director of London Weekend Television, where he revived the station during a staff strike by employing a puppet who went by the name of Roland Rat. So, as you can see, he’s all about the lowbrow, and as such, will be perfectly suited to leading English football.

Fortunately, Dyke also has a significant background in football. In the late 90s, he was a director of Manchester United, and has been non-executive chairman of Brentford – his childhood club – since 2006.

Quoted on the FA website, Dyke said: “Football has always been a big part of my life whether playing 11-a-side on Sunday mornings or six-a-side on Thursday evenings. I was brought up in a household where my father was much more interested in whether or not you had won at football than whether you had passed your exams. In my case that was just as well.

“I still turn out to play six-a-side some Thursday evenings although at my age I seem to spend more time injured than playing. I supported my local team Brentford as a kid where my elder brother was a junior, watched York City while at university and followed Manchester United whenever I could.

“I got involved in how the game was run when I was first involved in buying sports rights as chairman of ITV Sport in the late 80s and later at the BBC. I learnt a lot in the years when I was on the Board of Manchester United and have seen the other side of the professional game at Brentford.

“Obviously as chairman of the FA it is imperative that I am neutral so that means giving up my current role as chairman of Brentford which I will miss. However, I shall be staying on until the end of the season. As I leave I would like to pay tribute to everyone at Brentford, the staff, the players and manager and particularly the fans. I hope their loyalty is rewarded with promotion, it deserves to be.

“I am very excited to take on this role with the FA. At the grass roots seven million people play football every weekend, women’s football is booming and the ambition is for it to be the second biggest team participation sport in England behind only the men’s game, we have the best known, most successful league in the world with the Premier League and the Football League is so much stronger than it was eight years or nine ago.

“Having said that I am a big supporter of financial fair play which, in both the Premier League and the Football League, will have a big impact and hopefully bring a degree of financial sanity to the professional game.

“I do see one of the most important tasks for the FA is, over time, to make thoughtful changes which will benefit the England team. The FA have made a great start by rebuilding Wembley and developing great facilities at St George’s Park but it is essential that the FA finds a way to ensure that more talented young English footballers are given their chance in the professional game at the highest level.”

He certainly talks a good game; time will tell if he can play one.


Newcastle defender Massadio Haidara has expressed dismay following the news that Callum McManaman will face no action from the FA over his reckless challenge.

The Wigan attacker did not even receive a yellow card after connecting with the Frenchman’s knee with his studs during Saturday’s clash with between the sides at the DW Stadium. Moreover, due to the fact that the incident was witnessed by one of the match officials, no retrospective action can be taken.

“It is difficult to swallow. I don’t understand. He could have smashed my career and my life and he will play football again before me,” he told Le Parisien. “It is ridiculous. You have to protect the players. You cannot tolerate that in football. It ruins football. The authorities have to act.”

Without wishing to downplay the severity of the challenge, I think it’s worth noting, for the sake of perspective, that at no point was Haidara’s life at risk.

Despite the nature of the challenge, the 20-year-old escaped with only serious bruising, however, he is unsure when he can return.

“I don’t know [when I will be back]” Haidara said. “I feel better but the doctors are being cautious. I don’t want to go too fast. But, when I come back, I will be nervous – that is normal.

“I can’t let this disrupt me too much. Mentally, I am strong. I am not going to stay down. I am going to pick myself up.”