Farewell Pep

Pep Guardiola has got supporters of those clubs looking for a manager all of a quiver, by announcing that he may consider a return to management sooner rather than later.

Speaking on the eve of his final match in charge of Barcelona, Guardiola who had previously stated that he needed an extended break from the game, said he “will be ready [to return] if one club wants me and seduces me.”

Potentially good news for Chelsea, who have a manager, but perhaps not the one they want and also Liverpool, who are in talks with a manager, but perhaps not the one their supporters want.

Guardiola has been busy clearing his desk and getting his affairs in order to ensure a smooth departure. Amid claims that he quit because of a deterioration in relations with Barca president, Sandra Rossell, Pep insisted this was not the case.

“I have a marvellous relationship with (former Barcelona president Joan) Laporta and Rosell, and I am grateful to them both for the way they have left me to get on with my job.

“I have told them both I am going, taking a step to the side, and I have asked them not to use my name.”

Guardiola’s final match, tonight’s Spanish Cup final against Athletic Bilbao, is previewed in today’s Guardian, by World Soccer’s Sid Lowe.

Liverpool get their man?

Liverpool owner John W. Henry has been spotted strolling the streets of Miami in the company of Wigan boss Roberto Martinez. The pair were photographed deep in conversation after holding talks over the managerial vacancy at Anfield. Liverpool fans would be advised not to read too much into the presence of a Mickey Mouse toy or the ’70 per cent off sale‘ sign visible in the background.

When they cast their net far and wide in search of a successor to Kenny Dalglish, Martinez may not have been Liverpool’s first choice but their diminished status means they have had to lower their sights somewhat.

The fact that Martinez was happy to interrupt his holidays to visit Henry shows he is keen, but according to reports he is just one of several managers the owners intend to speak to over the coming days.

Dave Whelan, chairman of Martinez’s club, Wigan, has turned out to be a useful source of information when it comes to the Liverpool situation. Moreover, he loves the sound of his own voice and is happy to share his ‘inside’ information with the wider world.

“My information is that the new Liverpool manager will not be given full responsibility of the football department,” he revealed. “There will be somebody else signing players, and they might not necessarily be the choice of the manager. I have to say from what I am hearing the new Liverpool set-up on the football side goes well beyond the norm even with a director of football.”

Euro countdown

It’s been another eventful week in Ukraine as the country prepares to co-host the Euro 2012 finals.

On Monday, there was an astonishing incident when a topless representative of the FEMEN women’s group (is there any other kind?) attempted to grab the EURO 2012 trophy while it was on public display in the Ukrainian town of Lviv, before being seized herself by police and carried away wrapped up in a banner.

“We needed to tear down this trophy to show that this phallic symbol does not need to stand on a pedestal, when our country is being turned into a brothel,” Yana Zhdanova said afterwards.

It’s like the 90s never happened.

Meanwhile, England’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has revealed that his family will not travel to Ukraine for fear of becoming victims of racist attacks. The decision comes after his team-mate, Theo Walcott, confirmed that he too had advised his family to watch the tournament at home on television. In their case, given Theo’s inconsistency, I would stick to the highlights package.

Fellow England squad member Joleon Lescott was another whose family would not be travelling to the finals.

“It’s a shame for some members of the squad that their families feel they can’t go and it’s a situation that needs to be addressed,” he said.

“It was quite alarming to see the reports about the situation out there, but even before the reports, my family weren’t going.”

Finally, anyone concerned about their security during the finals or worried about the country’s capacity to stage a high profile international sporting event, should look away now.

The following clip may look like it’s a Fight Club-themed night out for Kiev’s bouncers, but it is in fact, the Ukraine parliament debating the passage of a Russian language bill.

Goal of the day

A remarkable long range free kick from 40+ metres by FC Stal’s Burnel Okana against FC Nikolaev is our goal of the day. Unfortunately, the footage from Ukraine looks like it was filmed on somebody’s phone.

The goal gives me an excuse to reproduce this free kick effort from earlier in the week. The match is Suwon Bluewings v Ulsan and Eddy Bosnar is about to hit the ball very hard indeed.

Goalkeepers are different

Birmingham City keeper Jack Butland is to be promoted to England’s Euro 2012 squad, after third choice keeper, Norwich’s John Ruddy, was ruled out of the finals after breaking a finger in training.

It is a truly remarkable rise for the 19-year-old, who spent last season on loan at League Two side Cheltenham Town (that’s the 4th rung of English football).

Two years ago, he represented England at the under-17 European Championships.

Paying the penalty

It’s the football equivalent of Fermat’s Last Theorem: find an alternative to penalty shootouts to settle drawn matches.

Many have tried, but no one has succeeded in finding a satisfactory sporting method to resolve matches which have been drawn and cannot be replayed. Golden goals, Silver goals, NASL-styl shootouts, tossing a coin, endless extra time, withdrawing players from both sides, you name it, football has tried it, but still, the most enduring albeit imperfect solution, remains the penalty shootout.

Now FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called upon his Football 2014 panel of football experts to try to come up with an alternative.

“Football can be a tragedy when you go to penalty kicks. Football is a team game when it goes to one against one football loses its essence,” Blatter said.

“Perhaps Franz Beckenbauer, with his Football 2014 group, can show us a solution, perhaps not today but in the future.”

Race against time

Luis Suárez has reignited the controversy surrounding his race row with Patrice Evra by suggesting his conscience is “completely calm” and accusing the Football Association of having an anti-Liverpool agenda.

In an interview with Russia Today, the Uruguayan, who served an eight-match suspension year after being found guilty of racially abusing the Manchester United defender, claims he has never apologised to Evra and has no intention of doing so.

“The suspension, I suppose, you could call strange and unbelievable,” said Suárez. “Without a single shred of proof, they suspended me. I accepted it without saying anything obviously because they could have made [the suspension] longer and it would have just made the whole thing continue, but my conscience is completely calm, and so is that of the club and my family.

“There was not a single convincing proof that I had done any of the things they accused me of doing. I am very calm about all of it. I have played all my childhood and everyone knows that in Uruguay there is a huge black population. I had team-mates and friends of both colours all the time in the national team, in Liverpool, in Holland, where the majority [of players] are from Surinam, and I never had any problem with them.

“Holland is one of the countries in the world where there is the highest number of black players and at no point was there an issue. Well, these are the things about football. It seems to me that they had to get rid of a Liverpool player and, well, they definitely were gratified by all of this.”

All of which does beg the question: why would the FA want to ‘get rid of a Liverpool player’?

Last week Suarez spoke of his desire to play in Spain; this week, he revives a topic the club must have hoped was dead and buried. Anyone would think he was looking to manoeuvre for himself a move away from Anfield.

Perfect timing

Suarez’s remarks come on the day that Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, has called for clubs to be given the power to sack players who are found guilty of racial abuse.

Racist abuse will now be deemed as gross misconduct and, although the decision of whether to terminate a contract will ultimately rest with the player’s employers, Taylor stated that any club failing to act “could be held responsible for condoning [racism]”.

No mention of those clubs whose managers sport T-shirts declaring their support for players accused of racism.

Taylor believes that by making it a sackable offence, a powerful message would be sent throughout the profession, after a season when incidents such as the Suarez-Evra affair, highlighted the issue of racism.

“It just highlights the point in the standard players’ contract,” he said. “It would say that racist abuse, if found guilty, will be classed as gross misconduct and a reason to terminate a contract. I feel it’s important to highlight it, bearing in mind what has happened, and not mess about with it and not afford for anybody to be ambiguous about what the consequences are.

Double Dutch

There’s a joke originating in Holland that runs along the lines of: in heaven, the Germans make the cars, the English make the jokes and the French make love. In Hell, the French make the cars, the English make love and the Germans make the jokes.

There’s probably a similar joke told in Germany at the expense of the Dutch, who judging from an advert featuring members of Holland’s Euro 202o squad, are not exactly overflowing with comic talent.


UEFA president Michel Platini has issued Turkey with an ultimatum: bid for the Olympics of 2020 and you can forget about hosting the Euro 2020 finals.

Turkey are so far the only nation to submit a formal interest in hosting the Euro 2020 finals, but the three ‘Celtic’ nations – Wales, Scotland and Ireland – have expressed an interest in co-hosting.

Turkey are also bidding for Istanbul to host the Olympic Games in the same year, and Platini has revealed that success in one, will guarantee failure in the other.

“If Turkey is given the Olympic Games they will not have the Euros,” Platini stated at the FIFA congress in Budapest.

“If they don’t get the Olympics, and they still bid for the Euros, I will still vote for them. The two decisions will not be made at the same time.

“They can carry on bidding for both if they want – I’m not particularly happy about that, but it’s their problem, not mine. But if they get the Games, they won’t get the Euros.

“The can gain everything, or lose everything.”