Pot, kettle, black…

The mayor of Verona has said that Italy striker Mario Balotelli brings abuse upon himself ahead of Verona’s Serie A opener at home to Milan on Saturday.

Apparently, it’s not Balotelli’s colour that attracts racist abuse, but his behaviour on the pitch. Because whenever a white player misbehaves on the pitch in Italy, supporters start making monkey chats towards them too.

“Mario is a troublemaker. There are lots of black players (in Italy), and those who don’t wind up opposition fans don’t have any problems,” Flavio Tosi, who represents the separatist Northern League party, told Radio Sportiva.

“Balotelli is a formidable player… but he knows how to be irksome when he’s out on the pitch, and that exasperates people. He even managed to have issues with Chievo fans, who most certainly are not racist.”

Perhaps realising that he was coming close to endorsing the well-established Italian custom of racially abusing Balotelli, Tosi did appeal to Hellas fans not to abuse Milan’s black players.

“If chants come from four idiotic individuals then it’s right to close the sector. If it’s the whole stadium at fault then it’s correct to close the entire ground,” the Gazzetta Dello Sport quoted him as saying.

The racist credentials of the Northern League party have been well established, and indeed Tosi was only party MP to publicly apologise to Italy’s Minister for Integration Cecile Kyenge after Senate vice-president and fellow party member Roberto Calderoli said she looked like a orangutan.

Perhaps she too was a troublemaker who wound up opposition politicians.

Part of the game?

Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin is unrepentant about ordering team-mate Miranda to kick Lionel Messi’s injured thigh, during Wednesday’s Spanish Super Cup clash against Barcelona.

The Argentine forward came off at half-time after aggravating a problem he initially picked up in a Champions League quarter-final first leg match against Paris Saint-Germain back in April.

Al Jazeera highlighted the defender apparently telling his team-mate to kick Messi in the back of the thigh after the four-time Ballon d’Or winner had walked around clutching the area.

“These are football gestures and those who play know what they mean,” explained the 27-year-old. “I see that he is touching that part of his leg. I made gestures to my team-mates so that they know to put pressure on.”

“We go for every ball as if it were the last,” Godin added. “That is what has made us winners.”

Death in the family

Following on from yesterday’s announcement that Nicolas Anelka has been granted compassionate leave, West Brom manager Steve Clarke admits that the striker may decide to retire from football altogether.

When asked if the 34-year-old said he planned to quit, Clarke said: “I’m not going to deny that he used that word.

“But we’ve given him time to go away and think about it. I don’t think we could do more in the circumstances.”

Following the news that his agent, Eric Manasse had died, the much-travelled Anelka said on his Facebook page: “I cannot find the words to express my sadness.”

Clarke confirmed that the former France international left training on Thursday after conversations with himself and technical director Richard Garlick.

“Nicolas went to Richard on Thursday and indicated that he wasn’t in a good place,” the Scot said.

“I went in and had a very brief chat with him, and he wasn’t in a good place. So the club have decided just to give him a bit of time to go away and think about it and get himself in a better place for the future.

“That is as much as there is to tell on the situation. It wasn’t dramatic, there was no big bust-up, he didn’t storm out of the training ground. It is just a boy who is really quite upset.”

No agent means no more moves for Anelka; in the circumstances, he might as well retire.

Money makers

Despite not winning any silverware last season Borussia Dortmund enjoyed the best financial results in the club’s history.

On the brink of financial collapse only eight years ago, Dortmund, the Bundesliga’s only publicly-traded club, earned 305 million euros for the fiscal year ending June 30,2013, up 42 percent from last season’s 215m.

Profits were also up to 53.3m euros, from 35m for the previous fiscal year, boosted by their run to the Champions League final and a second place finish in the Bundesliga last season.

“We succeeded, just like in the last few years, to couple sporting with financial success,” club CEO Hans Joachim Watzke told reporters.

“We have been growing quickly and dynamically for several years now. What is important is above all the sustainability of the sporting development,” he said.

Dortmund, who won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012 as well as the German Cup in 2012, remain a selling club, although revenues have been reinvested in new players without the need to create any new debt.

Some 37m euros went into their coffers for the sale of midfielder Mario Goetze to Bayern Munich, with the club bringing in Armenian forward Henrikh Mikhitaryan and Gabon international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for roughly the same sum in total.

Goal of the day

Stunning volley by Olexiy Gai for Chornomorets against Skenderbeu Korce.

Quote of the day

“I think he’s already made his decision. I don’t like to speak before time because football can betray you.”

Looking like the cat who got the cream, Jose Mourinho hints that Brazil playmaker Willian has chosen to join Chelsea ahead of Tottenham Hotspur.

Dog eat dog

If true, Willian’s decision to reject Spurs in favour of a move to puts something of a spanner in the works of Andre Villas-Boas’ plans for the season.

Having hijacked Willian’s move to Liverpool by offering more money, the Tottenham boss can have few complaints at being gazumped by Chelsea.

The fact that Spurs announced that Willian was undergoing a medical before a deal has been concluded, was a source of much mirth for Blues’ boss Jose Mourinho.

“The best thing to do is to do the medical in secret. If the player is fine you can sign him. If he is not fine, you don’t destroy his career and you can protect the situation,” he said.

“After that you sign a contract and you say it’s done. Sometimes I realise you guys have great sources and find something out.”

Then, when asked if the deal was close, Mourinho laughed: “We have to do a medical.”

Willian was targeted to fill part of the void left by the departing Gareth Bale who, according to everyone and their dog, will soon become a Real Madrid player.

Although Villas-Boas refused to comment on speculation regarding Bale’s future – Real Madrid appear to think they have got their man.

On the ‘Official Real Madrid Store’ webpage, Tottenham winger Gareth Bale is clearly listed as No 11 on the squad list between Mesut Ozil and Marcelo and his new replica shirt is available for purchase.

Well, they have to try and recoup the money somehow.

Like lambs to the slaughter

‘No more pre-match ritual slaughter of animals’ is a slogan most of us would support, and it’s one that animal rights group PETA has called on UEFA to impose after a sheep was sacrificed prior to Kazakh side Shakhter Karagandy’s Champions League play-off match against Celtic.

The organisation has written to UEFA president Michel Platini asking him to use his influence to ensure that the governing body’s “prestigious competitions are not tainted by such horrifying cruelty”.

Shakhter killed the sheep before training for their home first leg tie against Celtic, which they went on to win 2-0 on Tuesday.

“The ritual slaughter of animals deeply upsets caring people worldwide and is already the subject of controversy,” PETA’s associate director Mimi Bekhechi said in the letter.

“May I please have your assurance that you will not permit the proposed killing of animals at stadiums that will host European football matches?”

The letter also points to UEFA’s claims to be “forward-looking” and Platini’s description of UEFA’s “duty to protect the game, the players and our values”.

Let’s hope they never hear about 22 grown men kicking a pig’s bladder about the pitch.

On his way

While many Arsenal fans are growing increasingly exasperated at Arsene Wenger’s failure to make any big name signings this summer, the Gunners boss is keeping himself busy by disposing of his limited assets – presumably to make room for a few last minute deadline day signings of some promising French under-21 players.

Wenger is set to loan striker Lukas Podolski to Bundesliga club Schalke as the German international looks to get more playing time in the build-up season to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Schalke are off to a poor start in domestic action with just one point from two matches, so the switch will not exactly represent a culture shock for Podolski. Schalke, without Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for several weeks and with Peruvian Jefferson Farfa also struggling for fitness, are in desperate need of some attacking firepower.

As for those anxious Arsenal fans wondering where the next signing is coming from, fear not, Wenger’s latest masterstroke could well see French utility man, Matthieu Flamini, return to the Emirates. He is available on a free and therefore his signing will not compromise the club’s non-spending policy.

Life bans

Two officials have been given life bans by UEFA for an attempt to fix the result of a Europa League match last month, European football’s governing body has confirmed.

Armenian referee Andranik Arsenyan and assistant Hovhannes Avagyan, who officiated in the match between FC Inter Turku and Vikingur, were suspended for life by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body (CDB).

In an earlier Armenian Football Federation hearing Arsenyan and Avagyan admitted having tried to fix the outcome of the second-leg fixture, which ended 1-0 in favour of Vikingur.

In the announcement, UEFA said it used its betting fraud detection system to detect “suspicious betting patterns” surrounding the match, which prompted a joint investigation between UEFA and the Football Federation of Armenia. According to UEFA, its system “monitors over 32,000 matches across Europe, including all first and second-division games, cup ties and UEFA competition fixtures.”

The multi-body cooperative effort that resulted in the decision against Arsenyan and Avagyan spanned the continent.

“UEFA is pleased with the excellent cooperation of the FFA, the local authorities and the betting operators during the investigation process,” the governing body said.