Where have all the people gone?

It may have escaped your notice that last Sunday’s attendance for Getafe’s shock 2-1 win over reigning champions and local rivals, Real Madrid, attracted fewer than 10,000 spectators.

The parlous state of the Spanish economy was cited as one reason why people had stayed away, but it was also observed that the late kick-off time for that match (9pm) might have deterred others from attending.

Worryingly for Spanish football, attendances are down across the board and not just marginally either. Crowds are down a third on last season and the suspicion is that fans are fed up with the kick-off times being switched to suit the television audience.

This weekend a new nadir has been reached, with every one of the ten Liga matches kicking off at a different time over the course of three days and nights.

Radio Marca said “it is not difficult to see why” attendances are down this season.

“The fans are fed up with these strange match times, and are staying at home… The difficult economic situation is also a major factor.”

Valencia paper Super Deporte, meanwhile, said: “This looks like a plan to empty the stadia, and this is certainly what it will achieve.”

Indeed, and until the television companies realise that supporters and the atmosphere they generate, are an integral part of the football experience, that will not change.

Hell hath no fury…

Dimitar Berbatov’s decision to snub a move to Fiorentina has not gone down too well in Italy. In fact, it’s fair to say that he can forget about holidays in Tuscany are out for the time being and possibly for ever.

According to Gazzetta, the Bulgarian striker has made himself the most unpopular man in Italy, although it was the response of Fiorentina that will have stung him most.

“The player embarked in the company of his agent and with tickets paid by Fiorentina on a direct flight to Florence,” the Serie A side said. “But the player never arrived in Florence.

“(This was) owing to the reckless and arrogant actions of other clubs which have nothing to do with the values of decency, fair play and ethics of the sport and which go beyond the limits of fairness.

“As for the player, notwithstanding his characteristics and technical merit, at this point we are happy that he did not come to Fiorentina.

“He did not deserve our city and our shirt and the values it represents.”

The clubs deemed to have acted improperly are Fulham and Juventus, although the Turin-based side denied they had done anything wrong.

“We have acted with the maximum fairness and transparency with regard to the market dynamics,” Juventus director general Giuseppe Marotta was quoted as telling Sky Italia.

“I reject the allegations from Fiorentina. We entered into the business over Berbatov when we heard that he had refused Fiorentina, and in the meantime there was a proposal by Fulham.

“We made our own, then the player said he preferred to stay in England for family reasons. It was not a rejection. We wanted to take advantage of an opportunity that had appeared to us in the market.”

The Wright stuff

Manchester City have signed free agent Ricard Wright as cover for goalkeeper Joe Hart.

It’s an odd move for City. Wright, now 34, was once tipped for great things, but after an ill-fated spell at Arsenal and an unconvincing couple of seasons with Everton, he appeared to have found his natural level flitting between various championship clubs.

Odd for City then, but even stranger for Wright himself. Earlier this summer he left Preston after just one week at the club, citing homesickness.

“I’ve only been away from home for a few days and I know already that I cannot live that far away from my family,” he said.

“I think it is only fair to be honest now rather than down the line.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of north west England, the distance between Preston and Ipswich, where Wright lives, is 199 miles. The distance from Manchester to Ipswich is 173 miles. Those extra 16 miles must have been a real killer.


Juventus defender Lucio has criticised his former club Inter for the way they treated him.

The 34-year-old had his contract scrapped in June and he joined the Italian champions on a free transfer less than a week later.

He is unhappy the way he and Brazilian colleague Julio Cesar have been treated, especially considering the success the pair enjoyed at the club.

“I spent three years at Inter and won everything,” he is quoted as saying by fcInter1908. “Julio Cesar was there for even longer and deserved more respect.

“They didn’t ask me to lower my wages, as they did with Julio Cesar. They made me understand that I was no longer wanted.

“I think that was an act of ingratitude from the club, given the way that things developed.

“They could have told me the truth sooner. Instead they waited until the end of the season to tell Julio Cesar and myself to find a new club.

“Inter showed a lack of consideration towards us.”

Quote of the day

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see Andy (Carroll) has been a cover player for us and has been excellent in terms of his attitude and acceptance of where he is at, but as a football club, I don’t think we are in a position to have £35m players as third-choice strikers, or wingers who are on £5m-£6m a year. This is the challenge I have.”

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers makes it clear that Andy Carroll has no future at Anfield.

Goal of the day

Lionel Messi curled in a lovely free kick from outside the area in Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid.

Best of friends

Messi and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo managed to cause a minor stir after last night’s game as they appeared to deliberately avoid eye contact with each other and in so doing, managed to avoid the traditional post-match handshake.

Is it a sign that the pair genuinely dislike each other or merely a clip showing two players who had already shaken hands, walking past each other? Who knows. We’ll have to wait for the dozen or so clasico encounters of the 2012-13 season to find out if there’s genuine animosity between the pair. And by then, we probably won’t care.

Money talks

Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer says he is unconcerned by the size of the fee Bayern Munich paid to lure Javi Martinez away from Athletic Bilbao.

The Spain international signed a five-year deal with the Bundesliga outfit on Wednesday to complete his €40 million move – a record fee for Germany.

Beckenbauer was responding to former Bayern midfielder Stefan Effenberg, who claimed the Spaniard was a “big risk” at that fee, and not worth that kind of money.

Beckenbauer, though, said that Bayern had the money so they may as well spend it.

“Why would you leave the money on the fixed deposit account, since you hardly get any interest for it anyway,” Beckenbauer, donning his accountancy hat, told Bild.

“I am very curious about this purchase. It used to be that you only paid so much money for a striker, while defensive players were brought up from the youth system. Times have changed.”

Homeless crisis

Igor Lebedev, one of the candidates for the post of the Russian Football Union chief, has advocated lifting the limit on the number of overseas players permitted to play in the Russian Premier League.

“Many Russian footballers had stopped their progress as they know that they are guaranteed a place in their clubs’ starting line-ups because of this limit,” Lebedev said.

“It transforms our football from a game of professional players into a game of passports.”

The existing limit allows Russian Premier League clubs to field up to seven foreign players for any of the league’s encounters.

“I cannot agree with those who predict that the lifting of the limit will attract mediocre foreign footballers into the Russian championship,” Lebedev added.

“There’re plenty of skilled Russian football players who are playing pretty well, while their price is much lower than the price of their foreign colleagues.

“Nothing prevents our clubs from purchasing mediocre foreigners right now. However, Anzhi have bought Samuel Eto’o, while Zenit are currently in the hunt for Hulk.”

Looking at the example of England, where clubs have been known to field entire sides of foreign players, we can draw a couple of conclusions. Firstly, the standard of the football played in England has improved immeasurably as a result of the influx of foreign players. Secondly, the standard of football played by English players has improved not at all. Whether the two are related is anyone’s guess.

Champions League draw

The draw for the group stages of the Champions League has been made in Monaco.

As speculated beforehand, a Group of Death has materialised and as was the case last season, it’s plucky little Manchester City who find themselves in it.

Group A: Porto, Dynamo Kiev, Paris St Germain, Dinamo Zagreb.

Group B: Arsenal, Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier.

Group C: Milan, Zenit St Petersburg, Anderlecht, Malaga.

Group D: Real Madrid, Manchester City, Ajax, Borussia Dortmund.

Group E: Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk, Juventus, FC Nordsjaelland.

Group F: Bayern Munich, Valencia, Lille, BATE Borisov.

Group G: Barcelona, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, Celtic.

Group H: Manchester United, Braga, Galatasaray, CFR Cluj.