Spilling the beans

Matías Almeyda looks set to open a huge can or worms after revealing tales of match-fixing and doping in Italy in his autobiography.

The former Argentina international, in his book Almeyda: Life and Soul, claims he was given what he is now convinced were steroids while at Parma between 2000 and 2002.

“At Parma we were given an IV drip before games,” Almeyda said, in extracts printed by Gazzetta dello Sport. “They said it was a mixture of vitamins but before entering the field I was able to jump up as high as the ceiling.

“Players do not ask questions but then in the following years there are cases of former players dying from heart problems, suffering from muscular issues and more. I think it is the consequence of the things that have been given to them.”

Another revelation concerned match fixing, with Almeyda claiming that scudetto-chasing Roma players asked their Parma counterparts to throw a match between the two clubs at the end of the 2000-01 season. Roma won 3-1 and edged out Juventus for the Serie A title.

“Some Parma team-mates told us that the Roma players wanted us to lose the game. That as we weren’t playing for anything, it was the same,” said the River Plate manager. “I said no and the majority responded that way. But on the field I saw that some were not running as they always did. So I asked to be substituted and went into the changing room. Money? I do not know, they called it a favour.”

The revelations have been described as ‘astonishing’, although anyone taken aback by the news that Italian footballers have fixed matches or taken illegal substances, must have an unusually low astonishment threshold. In any other major football country these disclosures would rock the game to its foundations, but in Italy, where the game spun off its axis years ago, it barely counts as news.

The biography sounds like an interesting read, with Almeyda also chronicling his struggles with alcohol, which reached a nadir when he actually thought he’d died.

“Throughout my career I smoked 10 cigarettes a day. Alcohol was also a problem. I burned everything off in training but I lived on the limits,” Almeyda said. “Once in Azul, my country, I drank five litres of wine, like Coca Cola, and I ended up in some kind of coma. To try to get it out of my system I ran five kilometres until I saw the sun spinning.

“A doctor put me on a drip for five hours. It would have been a scandal as at the time I was playing for Inter. When I woke up and I saw my whole family around the bed, I thought it was my funeral.”

This, one imagines, is how Paul Gascoigne must have felt each morning during his entire spell in Italy.

Moment of madness

There aren’t many players who can dismiss Joey Barton as a lightweight, but Independiente Santa Fe defender Gerardo Bedoya is one of them.

The former Colombian international, who picked up the 41st red card of his career against Millonarios in last week’s Bogota derby, has been hit with a 15-match suspension for violent conduct and a fine.

That figure of 41 bears repeating; the nearest I can find to that total concerns Czech defender Thomas Repka, who was sent off a mere 17 times during his career.

The punishment comes after Bedoya headbutted Yhonny Ramirez, and then, in full view of the referee, thought it might be a good idea to kick the defender in the face. Thereafter, all hell broke loose with players from both sides thinking that the perfectly rational response to the idiocy was to start pushing and jostling each other.

Here’s the incident and the melee that followed.

Goal of the day

A blistering free-kick from distance by Karsiyaka’s Fatih Sen against Bucaspor.

Honesty doesn’t pay

Miroslav Klose showed that the Corinthian spirit has not been entirely extinguished in the upper echelons of professional football, when he confessed that he had handled the ball over the line for Lazio against Napoli.

Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic praised Miroslav Klose for his sportsmanship after his side’s 3-0 defeat.

Petkovic told Sky Sport Italia: “Miroslav did well to admit he touched the ball with his hand, but we had to take advantage of this occasion as something positive, and instead we slowly switched off.”

Deadline down under

A representative of former German international says that Michael Ballack has given Western Sydney Wanderers until the Friday to submit a bid for his client.

Ballack is considering approaches from several of world football’s retirement homes, including Major League Soccer and the Middle East, but he appears to have set his heart upon a final flourish in the Australia’s A-League.

Third parties involved in the deal are willing to contribute to the 36 year-old’s asking price of $1.6million for one season, to lower the fee paid by Wanderers to $1.1 million.

However, Wanderers Executive Chairman Lyall Gorman dismissed the claims of a deadline, suggesting that he would not be railroaded into making an offer.

“Has there been a deadline set? No,” Gorman said. “We get approached on a daily basis about signing players but there has been no deadline set for that player (Ballack).

“A decision will be made based on the needs of the playing group, but we won’t be pushed into signing any player.”

From Russia without love

Russian fan behaviour, already under scrutiny following incidents at Euro 2012, has once again been thrust in the spotlight following the abandonment of a Russia Cup match between Dinamo Moscow and their local rivals Torpedo Moscow.

The referee took the players off the pitch amid chaotic scenes with the pitch covered in smoke after fans hurled fireworks and flares on to the playing surface.

Earlier, police had arrested 20 fans were arrested as fights broke out between rival groups outside the stadium before the match. Another six were arrested after the match was stopped.

“Fights before going into the stadium, the pitch pelted with fireworks and endless vulgar chants from the stands. What happened yesterday had nothing to do with football,” said Sovietsky Sport a publication that has clearly not been paying much attention to Russian football lately.

Here’s footage of the trouble.

Political intervention

Still in Russia, where there have been calls for President Vladimir Putin to intervene in the internal squabbles afflicting big-spending Zenit St. Petersburg.

Several Zenit players including national team captain Igor Denisov have complained about Zenit spending €80million on Brazil striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel just before the transfer deadline.

Putin, who hails from St Petersburg, distanced himself from the spat by insisting that Zenit, bankrolled by Russian energy corporation Gazprom, were spending the company’s money rather than that of the Russian state. Well, if he says so, I guess we’ll have to take his word for it.

“I also complain sometimes,” Putin told local officials.

“I would like to note that it’s the companies that buy the players and not the Government.

“But fans also want to see world stars, not those who are on the wane but those who are at their peak.”

Putin was responding to an open letter sent by the St Petersburg branch of the Communists of Russia party.

“We have an explosive situation at Zenit and the whole city of St Petersburg,” the letter stated

“It’s obvious, the team is out of control, there are internal squabbles between the players fighting over who gets bigger pay.”

The communists, seemingly oblivious to the end of the cold war and the events of the past 23 years, believe that salvation can be found by replacing coach Lucian Spalletti, with a new coach from…North Korea.

“What Zenit need is a tough taskmaster from the DPRK (North Korea) where the sport is part of a daily struggle,” it stated.

In for the long haul

Newcastle United have handed manager Alan Pardew a new eight-year contract which commits him to the club until the year 2020.

Yes, you read that right, 8 years!

Explaining the decision to give a job for life to Pardew, Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias said: “If you look at clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have shown that stability gives you the best platform to achieve success, and that is the model we wish to emulate here.”

Except you’re not emulating it at all. The likes of Ferguson and Wenger weren’t told: have eight years and with a bit of luck we will have some success. That’s not how stability in football works: it derives from success and is not a cause of it.

Time running out

CSKA Sofia will be thrown out of the domestic championship if UEFA bans the club from European competitions, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) has confirmed.

On Wednesday, CSKA were given until the end of September to pay off their debts by UEFA or face a three-year European ban.

“Everything is clear,” BFU’s vice-president Atanas Furnadzhiev told local media. “They will not obtain a licence (to compete in the first division) if they fail to meet UEFA’s licensing criteria.”

“Things are connected,” he added. “They won’t be able to escape as they did before.”

UEFA representatives conducted an audit of the club last week.

Meanwhile, CSKA president Dimitar Borisov has refused to specify the amount of debt which must be paid off by the end of the week but was quoted as saying by state television station BNT1 that “half of the sum has been paid already”.

Local media have said the debts are almost 80 million levs (£34.4 million).

The future of coaching

Borussia Dortmund have unveiled their new training aid.

The Footbonaut (not a great name, but may work better when spoken in German) is a four-sided ball feeding machine. The 14ft square complex has 64 targets at which players must aim after receiving the ball pumped from the wall.

A light tells you where the ball is coming from, and another light tells you where to pass it.

The device encourages passing, employs cutting edge technology and has a thin veneer of science underpinning it, so it can only be a matter of time before Brendan Rodgers installs one at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground.