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Priorities right?

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has defended his approach to running the club after being accused of putting profit before footballing success.

Speaking at the club’s annual general meeting, Gazidis insisted Arsenal will be able to compete with the world’s wealthiest clubs when UEFA’s Financial FairPlay rules are implemented. If UEFA collected the breaths being held by those clubs expecting FFP to be a panacea for their lack of success, they could power a hot air ballon to the moon. The Good Ship Wishful Thinking, they could call it.

Arsenal’s  2-0 home defeat to Schalke in the Champions League on Wednesday, came on the back of a 1-0 loss at Norwich, meaning that the timing of this year’s AGM could hardly have been worse. Lack of success on the pitch coupled with the perception among supporters that Arsenal are unable to retain their better players, meant that Gazidis faced a hostile group of shareholders, one of whom accused him of “ruining the club” by focusing on the balance sheet.

Gazidis replied: “In the next two years, we will have the financial resources to sit and compete among the leading clubs in the world, which is an extraordinary achievement.

“Financial success is relevant because it supports our football vision… the money we make is made available to our manager and he decides how to invest those funds. Arsène has done a magnificent job against the spending of our major competitors.”

“Our ambition is shared by everybody at this table, the whole board and by everyone in this room.

“It is all about football, to compete at the top of the game here and in Europe to win trophies and do it in a way which makes fans proud and reflects our values, and also protects Arsenal for the long term.”

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger, perhaps mindful of the hostile reception that lay in wait, arrived fashionably late for the meeting, although reports that he was hiding backstage whispering, ‘have they gone yet Ivan?’ remain unfounded. The Frenchman repeated the time-honoured mantra, that until recently had successfully placated the throng: ‘maybe next year’ was the general thrust.

“For me, there are five trophies — the first is to win the Premier League, the second is to win the Champions League, the third is to qualify for the Champions League, the fourth is to win the FA Cup and the fifth is to win the League Cup,” Wenger stated in what must constitute the most moot pronouncements of recent times.

“I say that because if you want to attract the best players, they do not ask, ‘did you win the League Cup?’, they ask you, ‘do you play in the Champions League?’.

“We want first to win the Premier League, that is what we are here for and that is what we want to fight for — believe me will give absolutely every drop of energy to achieve that and will do that again this year.

“I accept every different opinion but it looks to me that the modern world creates inside every big community, little communities. The multiplication of media creates little groups of different opinions and we see that in this club.

“But these little communities have to learn to live together for one common thing — the strength of our club. We have to keep that in mind. We understand you do not always agree. It is still important that we keep our strength and stay united for the good of Arsenal, sometimes you can forget that.”

Seven years without a trophy tends to do that to a club’s fanbase.

Goal of the day

A remarkable effort from a couple of nights ago as Douglas Caetano lashed home a thunderous free-kick from an improbable angle in Olimpia’s CONCACAF Champions League 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo.

Quote of the day



”I think City aren’t used to playing against a team that plays like us. If we would just kick and rush we would have never won this game. They are too strong for that. But if you play like we did, they suffer from it. The idea that the club has, the trainer has and of course Johan Cruyff has – that idea won tonight.”



Dismissed as a “senile bastard” on Wednesday by leading football agent, Mino Raiola, Johan Cruyff’s reputation at Ajax remains inviolate. So says Toby Alderweireld, after the Dutch side gave Manchester City a footballing lesson in Amsterdam.

Going for A Song

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o has renewed his feud with compatriot Alexandre Song by claiming that he is not a worldwide star.

The 31-year-old forward, who now plays for in Russia for Anzhi Makhachkala, has not got on with his international team-mate since Song refused to shake his hand in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal last year.

In an interview with Canal+, Eto’o spoke dismissively of Song.

“There is no conflict between two stars, ” he said. “Because I am one of the best players in the world, and Song is not even among the best players in Cameroon.”

The players appeared to have made peace before the African Cup of Nations qualifier against Cape Verde but Eto’o is adamant that there has been no reconciliation.

Serbia suspends players

The Serbian Football Association has suspended Under-21 national team players Ognjen Mudrinski and Nikola Ninkovic for a year for their involvement in a brawl with England rivals during a Euro 2013 qualifier.

England won the match 1-0 after scoring with the last kick of the game and fighting broke out between players and officials immediately after the final whistle.

“Having reviewed the television footage of the incidents, the FSS disciplinary committee decided to ban Ninkovic and Mudrinski from playing for Serbia at any level for a period of one year,” Serbia’s governing body (FSS) said on Thursday.

“Also, staff members Srdjan Maksimovic and Andreja Milutinovic have been banned from their coaching duties at any level for Serbia for two years. All four have violated the FSS ethics and fair-play code.”

Friend or Fowler

Former England and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler is in talks with Malaysian Super League side T-Team of Terengganu about joining the club as player-manager for next season.

Have boots-will travel Fowler, has been without a club since February after he left Thai side Muangthong United where he held a similar role.

“I was told that Fowler is willing to take on the roles of manager, coach and player for T-Team,” Terengganu minister Seri Ahmad told the New Straits Times.

“We are negotiating with him as we want to assess his fitness level.”

Could be a short meeting, then.

Fowler played in the Australian league prior to moving to Thailand in 2011 but at the age of 37 his best days are unquestionably behind him.

Nevertheless, in the Liverpool-mad country of Malaysia, Fowler’s name still carries a certain cachet.

“We want to hire him based on his current performance … not past glories,” Ahmad said, while somehow .

“We hope to attract more fans for T-Team by having such a marquee signing. We hope to woo famous players locally as well as internationally.

“We are confident that by having the same individual as the manager and coach, it will help smoothen the running of the club. It will be run more professionally.”

The Good Ship Wishful Thinking has found its pilot.

On the move

A trio of relatively high profile managerial changes have taken place today.

Starting in Germany where Felix Magath has reached agreement to leave Wolfsburg. Magath offered his resignation following last weekend’s 2-0 defeat to Freiburg, which provoked widespread discontent among the fans.

Magath was in his second spell with the club, having led them to the Bundesliga title in 2009.

Wolfsburg chairman Francisco Garcia-Sanz said: “We want to express our thanks to Felix Magath.

“During his two terms with Wolfsburg he showed tremendous commitment and great achievement for the club, the city and sport in the region.”

In Portugal, Sporting have appointed 56-year-old Belgian, Franky Vercauteren, as their new coach.

“I’m very happy,” Vercauteren told Portuguese TV upon arriving back in Brussels this afternoon, having flown from the Portuguese capital where he had signed the 8-month deal.

Questioned about the short duration of the contract, the coach replied, “I’m calm about that. I’m not worried about the future. My only concern is the team and talking to the players. The team is my priority. It’s well known it has a lot of quality.”

Vercauteren arrives with a decent reputation forged in Belgium where he won the league on three occasions, twice at Anderlecht and once at Genk.

“Vercauteren is a champion. In the last five seasons he has won the championship three times, the last of which at Genk, a club that was in 12th place in the table when he took over, coincidently the same position we currently occupy,” Sporting president Godinho Lopes.

So, no pressure at all for Vercauteren then.

Finally, qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League was not enough to save Ioan Andone, who has been sacked by Romanian champions CFR Cluj.

CFR Cluj lie tenth in the Romanian League with 16 points from 12 games and are already 13 points behind league leaders Steaua Bucharest.

“CFR Cluj’s club management and Ioan Andone have reached an agreement to end relations,” a club statement said.

“We are proud of everything that we have accomplished together. Andone has, and will always have, a special place in the hearts of our supporters.”

Reports say former Lazio and Napoli coach Edoardo Reja could be appointed.

Unlikely transfer moves

Russia’s mega-rich club Anzhi Makhachkala would consider a bid for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney, according to their team director Roberto Carlos.

Asked if Anzhi would consider an offer for Rooney, Carlos told Sky Sports News: “Why not? He’s one of the best players in the world and any team would be happy to have him in their squad. He’s still a very young player.

“Of course I could not say when, and if, it will happen. It’s not only Anzhi who can want to buy him. There are plenty of teams in Italy and Spain, all over the world, who are eager to have a player like Rooney.

“If the owner of Anzhi has a wish to buy somebody, he will go and do it. But we are trying to change the image of the club. It’s not just about money.

“Of course we are going to buy good players but not only international players. We want to sign good Russian players that are not that expensive.”

Money is certainly no object to Anzhi and if they’re intent on continuing their policy of paying over the odds for players whose best years are behind then, then who better than Wayne Rooney.

Meanwhile, Rooney’s former England team-mate John Terry, has reportedly been offered to Valencia.

Spanish agent Francois Gallardo claims he’s involved in dealings to extricate the 31-year-old from the Premier League and give him a fresh start at Valencia.

Gallardo allegedly told Radio Intereconomia: “Valencia are negotiating, and I am involved in person, with the signing in the winter transfer market.

“The offer is on his table. The player is out of contract in June and will not renew there for several reasons at Chelsea and he wants to come to Spain.”

Gallardo claims it is Terry himself who initiated the proceedings, allegedly as a result of the lack of support he feels he received from the club over the Anton Ferdinand race controversy.

“Terry has problems,” added Gallardo. “They are insulting him and he is not taking it anymore. He asked to leave, not us.

“It’s real. This has been going on for 15 days and two meetings have already took place. The deal is already on his table – a year and a half plus one. I think he will accept.”

Centenary

South American soccer governing body CONMEBOL will hold a special Copa America tournament in 2016 in the United States to commemorate the organization’s 100th year.

CONMEBOL said that the tournament would include the 10 South American confederation teams, plus the United States, Mexico and four others from the CONCACAF region.

“In July of 2016, CONMEBOL will celebrate its first century. Because of this, with the aim to celebrate it with the pomp it deserves, the association presidents and members of the Executive Committee have decided to hold a tournament with nations throughout the Americas,” read a statement from the South American federation.

The decision to move the tournament outside South America is an ambitious one which will showcase the likes of Brazil and Argentina to North American fans.

CONMEBOL also said Japan and Mexico will play in the 2015 Copa America as guest teams.

Finally…

John Connelly, a member of England’s 1966 World Cup winning squad, has died on Thursday aged 74, his former clubs announced.

Connelly played in England’s opening match in the tournament, a 0-0 draw with Uruguay at Wembley, but did not feature in any of the other games.

The winger won League titles with Burnley and Manchester United in a career spanning 17 years.

He joined United in 1964 and won the title with them in his first season at Old Trafford playing in every match alongside the likes of Denis Law, George Best and Bobby Charlton.

He also had spells at Blackburn Rovers and Bury.

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