House hunting

A photograph of Jose Mourinho, reportedly house hunting in London, has sparked a frenzy of speculation about his plans for next season, and raised further questions about the future of Andre Villas-Boas.

The Real Madrid coach was spotted in south west London, which for those of you unfamiliar with the city, is within a Didier Drogba dive of Stamford Bridge, home of his former club Chelsea.

Mourinho’s visit to London coincided with the publication of an interview with current Chelsea boss, Andre Villas-Boas, in which he compared the impact made by record signing Fernando Torres with previous high profile flops Andrei Shevchenko and Mateja Kezman. The interview has reportedly infuriated the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

“We have been through the Torres situation before with Shevchenko and Kezman,” said Villas-Boas.

“For me, there was a key moment for Torres: his sending-off against Swansea. He was playing well and he was motivated at the time, he had returned to the goals, also in that match.

“He scored in the 15th minute against Swansea and was sent off in the 35th minute and gets a three-match ban. There was also an international match in between, so he did not play for Chelsea for one month.

“I do not know how much that affected him but when he got back, we had two disappointments in terms of results and he returned to this disbelief in himself.”

As motivational techniques go, comparing your leading striker with past failures and telling him that he has lost his self-belief, might best be described as a work in progress.

All that glitters…

Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer has had his A-League licence terminated by Football Federation Australia (FFA) after refusing to back down in a row over a slogan on the team’s shirt.

The club, bottom of the 10-team league with four rounds of the season remaining, had angered FFA after putting the words “freedom of speech” on their shirts last weekend.

Although the owner has had his licence revoked, the FFA hopes to persuade the club’s players to fulfil their remaining fixtures.

The authorities must have known that their announcement would not mark the end of the saga and Palmer, who has boasted of his unbeaten record in the courts, has already promised to seek to overturn the decision.

“We intend to fight this ludicrous decision by incompetent FFA in the courts,” Palmer posted on his Twitter page.

Speed tribute

It promises to be an emotional evening in Cardiff tonight when Wales face Costa Rica in an international friendly. The match is Wales’ first match since the untimely death last November of much-loved national coach, Gary Speed.

Ryan Giggs, John Hartson, Mark Hughes, Neville Southall and Robbie Savage are among a host of stars to be introduced at half-time on Wednesday night.

A number of charities will also benefit from the match after being nominated by Speed’s family.

Brazil makes progress

A Brazilian congressional commission has partially approved legislation covering the 2014 World Cup.

The move is a significant step although the legislation still needs to be passed by the lower house and the Senate and signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff.

Sticking points remain, including the insistence by FIFA that alcohol, currently banned at matches in Brazil, be sold at venues for the duration of the World Cup.

This clause is deemed non-negotiable by FIFA although it remains controversial in Brazil, where even the country’s health minister has urged Congress to maintain the ban.

World Cup qualifiers

One country likely to have approved of a World Cup alcohol ban would have been teetotal Saudi Arabia, but their feelings on the subject have been rendered academic by their 4-2 defeat to Australia.

That loss ensured that one of the traditional heavyweights of the Asian confederation, who qualified for four successive World Cup finals until 2006, have now missed out for the second successive tournament.

Frank Rijkaard’s side actually led at half-time against already-qualified Socceroos, but a burst of three second half goals conceded in the space of five minutes, ended their hopes for 2014. In their place, Oman, who enjoyed a 2-0 home win against Thailand, go through to the next qualifying stage.

It remains to be seen whether Rijkaard, who only took on the job last August, will be given time to rebuild. When his side lost the return leg on home soil back in September, the former Barcelona coach excused his side’s poor showing on a lack of fitness caused by the players fasting during Ramadan. This time around, with the players spending two weeks in Australia to acclimatise for the match, no such excuses exist.

Another of Asia’s big hitters, South Korea, escaped the same fate as the Saudis by beating Kuwait 2-0. South Korea entered the game knowing a defeat could result in early exit, but their nerves were calmed by two second half goals.

Goal of the day

Salem Al Dawsari opened the scoring for Saudi Arabia in their World Cup qualifier defeat to Australia with a splendid solo effort.

Tribute to coach

Galatasaray supporters have shown their appreciation of Fatih Terim by constructing an impressive 3D display in his honor, choreographed to the Braveheart theme.

The coach, currently in his third spell managing the club, can be seen enjoying the display.

Quote of the day

“If he [Cruyff] asks for him [Guardiola], we will try to bring him [to Guadalajara], although it would be complicated.”

Jorge Vergara, owner of Mexican side Guadalajara, demonstrates his mastery of understatement.

Donadoni angered by shirtlifters

Parma boss Roberto Donadoni has criticised players who celebrate goals by taking their shirt off.

The offence is punishable by a yellow card, but that rarely deters players from whipping their tops off. If Donadoni has his way, the punishment would be much more severe.

“At times I see players take off their jersey after scoring a goal, they get booked and sent-off and are then banned for the next game,” Donadoni said.

“It is absurd! If it was up to me then I would fine that player a month’s salary because in one instant they have transformed something very positive into something negative.

“It’s really crazy and appalling…”


Today marks a big day for Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo, who will become his country’s most capped player in history when he leads the team out against Rwanda.

The 31 year-old defender equalled the Nigerian record of 86 caps, jointly held by late midfielder Mudashiru Lawal and the forward Nwankwo Kanu, when the Eagles overcame Zambia 2-0 in Kaduna on November 15, 2011.

Yobo admits that he would have retired from international football had Nigeria qualified for the 2012 African Cup of Nations, but the lure of one more crack at the tournament in 2013, was enough to persuade him to continue.

“Yes, it’s natural to feel excited at such a record for anybody, but what will make the joy complete is for the national team to win well, that will make my joy complete,” Yobo said.

“If we had qualified for the Nations Cup, I would have retired after the competition, but I want to continue to win the trophy for the country in 2013.”