In demand

Athletic Bilbao has dismissed reports linking him with the vacancy at Inter.

The 56-year-old is thought to be at the top of Massimo Moratti’s wish-list after the Inter chief was warned by Jose Mourinho against installing Andre Villas-Boas as the club’s new coach. Say what you like about Mourinho, but he has few peers when it comes to holding grudges.

Bielsa has long been linked with Inter and this week Moratti suggested he remained a fan of the Argentine.

“I have always spoken well of Bielsa just as I have always said good things about Mourinho and about the Barcelona coach,” Moratti said.

But Bielsa, who oversaw Athletic’s 4-2 Europa League quarter-final first leg victory over Schalke, insisted he is ignoring reports.

“”It is purely a hypothetical situation. I do not think it is worth it to comment on scenarios which lack foundation,” he told reporters after the game.

Inter appointed Andrea Stramaccioni as coach earlier in the week after parting company with Claudio Ranieri following a run of poor results.

Maradona in row with fans

Diego Maradona’s eventful spell in charge of Al Ahly took a new twist on Thursday when he had to be restrained by security staff after confronting fans in the stands.

The Maradona era was never going to be a sedate period in the UAE club’s history, but few people envisaged it would culminate in the combustible Argentinian wading in to the crowd to deal with opposing fans who had verbally abused his wife and the partners of his Al Wasl players.

“Some people are cowards,” Maradona said afterwards. “They only attack women and have no courage to confront men. This is the first time I am upset with the fans.

“If they are angry with me they should know that I did it (climbed the stands) for my wife because someone was calling her names.

“They shouldn’t be angry with me they should be angry with the people who did this. They are cowards, not real fans.”

During his time in the UAE, Maradona has fallen out with his own players, opposing players, coaches and match officials, but this is the first time that opposing supporters have incurred his wrath. Who’s next? The ball boys?

Goal of the day

Age shall not wither him: Raul scored his 75th and 76th European goals last night to extend his lead as the all-time leading goalscorer in European football. The Spaniard’s record may one day be broken by Lionel Messi, but at least he’s making the Barcelona man work for that honour.

Raul’s second goal was an impressively-struck volley from outside the penalty box.

Apologies for the poor quality, but UEFA were quick to take down all the sites providing copyrighted footage.

Quote of the day

“He was nicknamed ‘cry-baby’. He cried and got angry very easily – if a team-mate didn’t pass him the ball, if he or someone else missed a goal or a pass, or if the team wasn’t playing how he wanted.”

Andorinha president Rui Santos describes a 9-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo. Not much has changed.

Nice idea while it lasted

All-India Football Federation (AIFF) general secretary Kushal Das has confirmed that the proposed Premier League Soccer (PLS) is “definitely dead” for this season.

The inaugural league which had attracted the ageing football legends such as Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Robert Pires, and erm, Robbie Fowler, was scheduled to have kicked off in April, but a failure to securing venues caused an indefinite postponement.

Regarding its future, Kushal Das said: “It is definitely dead for this season, we don’t yet know about the next.”

Wait much longer and some of the star players might be.

The league was intended to emulate cricket’s hugely successful IPL, which has taken India by storm in recent years. A footballing equivalent was always going to struggle though, not least because while the IPL features the best players in the world, the PLS comprises players who used to be the best in the world. Plus Robbie Fowler.

The world awaits

As the world awaits today’s publication of Mark Pieth’s eagerly-awaited anti-corruption report, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, never a man to shy away from a vacuous cliché, says the football world needs actions not words.

Pieth, who heads FIFA’s 13-man governance committee which was set up in November, is understood to have made several recommendations about the way FIFA should be run.

Judging from Blatter’s initial response to the report, it would appear as if the focus will be less on the president and more on the composition of FIFA’s Executive Committee.

“Looking forward to our ExCo [executive committee] meeting,” said Blatter on Twitter. “Delighted to see my main ideas for reform in Mark Pieth’s report.”

“I stressed how to improve FIFA’s governance since the beginning of last year. Not just words but actions.”

“I hope my ExCo colleagues share my enthusiasm for reform,” he added with the relish of a man who knows he’s got away with it.

New man at the helm

The first sign that reform is in the air comes with the appointment of Jeffrey Webb, president of the Cayman Islands Football Association, as the new president of CONCACAF.

Webb replaces the disgraced Jack Warner, who resigned in last year’s presidential elections cash-for-votes scandal. The man chosen to replace him was the only nominated candidate and coincidentally, was handpicked by Blatter.

It seems that Blatter has ignored the first rule of reform: don’t just be clean, be seen to be clean.

Happy birthday the Tub

Today marks the 75th birthday of Feyenoord’s stadium, affectionately knowns as the De Kuip (The Tub).

Construction work on the stadium began in 1935. It was modelled on Highbury Stadium, former home of Arsenal.

On 27 March 1937, De Kuip opened with a match between Feyenoord and Belgian team Beerschot. At the time, the stadium had a capacity crowd of 65,000 spectators but, after undergoing a number of renovations, it can now hold 45,000.

To mark the first 75 years of the stadium I came across an interesting piece, detailing De Kuip’s history, as well as some futuristic designs for a new Feyenoord stadium – money permitting.

Here’s some archive footage of the opening of the stadium in 1937.

Ironically, the ground was the setting for a memorable European victory for arch-rivals Ajax. In 1972, the Amsterdam club achieved their second successive European Cup victory by defeating Inter 2-0.

More recently it was the venue for the fional fo Euro 2000.

Money matters

Footbal or phone sex? Which is cheaper? Well, in purely financial terms there’s not much in it these days, especially if you’re a football fan contemplating a Europa League trip to Bilbao.

In the previous round, it was the supporters of Manchester United who were left fuming at the cost of tickets for the second leg at the San Mames stadium.

Last night, Schalke played Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie, after it had been announced that tickets for the second leg in Bilbao, Spain would cost Schalke fans €90 per ticket.

The German fans expressed their dissatisfaction at the cost of a ticket for the return leg by unfurling banners during the match that read (in Spanish): “€90 per ticket = one euro per minute? Football is not phone sex!”


Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has posted a picture of himself on Twitter from his hospital bed.

The picture shows Muamba sitting up and smiling in his hospital chair appearing in good health as he continues to make progress in his recovery.

It was Muamba’s first tweet since 17 March when he suffered a cardiac arrest in the FA Cup tie against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.