Managerial merry-go-round

Not for the first time this summer, Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has spilled the beans on the intentions of Latics manager, Roberto Martinez.

After being linked with the vacancies at Aston Villa and Liverpool, Martinez looks set to stay at Wigan.

According to the loose-lipped Whelan, Villa weren’t a big enough club to tempt him away, and the Spaniard was unimpressed by the way the Liverpool job was presented.

“Roberto is staying at Wigan and, of course, I am absolutely delighted. He was never offered the job at Liverpool because he wasn’t happy with the way the job was presented to him,” Whelan told Sky Sports.

“He has had some talks with Villa, but he’s not going to go there. Villa are a fantastic club with great fans, but I never thought they were big enough for him.”

Instead, another season battling against relegation beckons for Martinez.

Villa meanwhile have turned their attention to Paul Lambert, who is reported to have resigned at Norwich, while at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has agreed to take on the poisoned Anfield chalice.

Italian job

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has spoken about his anger following rumours that he has been linked to the Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal that has hit Italian football.

The speculation arose after he previously spoke about teams agreeing to play for a draw when the result suited both parties. It led to a suggestion that Buffon had made a deliberate mistake in Juventus’s third from last game of the season in which his blunder led to a late equalising goal for Siena.

“If it’s true the investigators want to talk to me then you should tell me,” Buffon told journalists. “You always know these things first so tell me as you know everything before those involved.”

There’s no hard evidence linking Buffon to the scandal, but if it emerged that he was implicated, Italian football would have its very own ‘say it ain’t so Joe‘ moment. Let’s hope there is no fire to go with the smoke.

Turkey shoot

Turkish clubs Besikta and Bursaspor have been banned from next season’s Europa League on Wednesday for violating ”financial fair play” regulations.

The bans are a further blow to the battered reputation of Turkish football, coinciding with the court investigation into match-fixing allegations which overshadowed the whole of last season.

UEFA scrutinised the clubs’ accounts in the second and third quarters of 2011 and ruled that they breached articles of the ruling body’s financial fair play regulations.

Besiktas have been banned for the next two European competitions for which they qualify, although the second ban is suspended for five years.

Besiktas Chairman Fikret Orman said the club would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the ban, but added he was not very optimistic about a ruling in their favour.

“We will defend the club’s rights until the end, and will appeal to CAS as the first step,” Levent Erdogan, a lawyer and club board member told Turkey’s Dogan news agency.    

“I think it’s a dramatic decision, and it will hit us pretty badly, but there’s nothing we can do.”

Still, harsh thought the bans may seem, it’s good to see UEFA following through with their threats to punish those clubs who fall foul of the Financial Fair Play rules. The football world awaits their ruling on the likes of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City with interest.

Hey big spenders

The English Premier League clubs have been advised to bring their spending under control, after a new review into football finances showed that players’ wages were at record levels.

Wages went up by £201 million in the 2010-11 season to almost £1.6 billion – a 14 percent rise – while overall revenues at clubs rose by 12 percent to £2.27 billion, according to analysts Deloitte.

Wages as a percentage of revenue continue to creep up and they now account for a record 70 percent of the revenue generated by Premier League clubs.

Alan Switzer, director in the sports business group at Deloitte, insists that a wage cap was essential, especially with UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules coming into force soon.

“If the wages to revenue ratio is 70 percent or higher it’s very difficult to make an operating profit,” he said.

“In our view it is too high as a league and the clubs need to be edging back to the low 60s. Every one percent that it drops should increase operating profits by £20 million to £25 million.”

One doesn’t have to look too far to identify the clubs that will struggle to conform with FFP rules. League champions Manchester City and Champions League winners Chelsea face the biggest challenge.

“Chelsea and Manchester City are the clubs which have recorded the biggest losses so they are the two which have the most to do, and to be fair to them they have been pretty public about needing to take action,” he Switzer.

“A significant number of clubs around Europe have some distance to travel on the road towards compliance.”

Goal of the day

Zlatan Ibrahimovic took just 90 seconds to open the scoring in Sweden’s friendly game against Iceland.

Stat attack

Spain keeper Iker Casillas reached two new milestones in the recent round of international friendly matches.

The 2-0 win over Serbia at the weekend was the Real Madrid man’s 73rd clean sheet in 130 international matches. That took him past the previous record set by former Holland goalkeeper Edvin van der Sar.

Wednesday’s 4-1 win over South Korea, in which Casillas came on as a substitute to replace Pepe Reina, was Casillas’ 95th win in 130 international matches. That leapfrogs him above French defender Lilian Thuram and Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Hassan.

Ahmed Hassan holds the all-time record for international appearances, having won 181 caps for Egypt. If he can retain both his form and fitness, there is a good chance that Casillas could eclipse that mark in about 2017, by which time he will be 36, a mere stripling by the standards of modern goalkeeping.

Seemed like a good idea at the time

Lotto, the UK National Lottery firm, asked 2,000 fans to nominate the English players who had contributed most to the national team over the last 25 years. The results were as follows: David Beckham pulled 32%, Paul Gascoigne 25%, Wayne Rooney received 18% of the votes, and Stuart Pearce (13%). It’s a shame they didn’t select the top seven as they could then have gone with a Seven Dwarves theme: Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey, Dopey and erm Dopey.

If only it had stopped there. But no, some ‘enterprising’ folks decided the best use of this information was to immortalise the quartet in a Mount Rushmore-style sculpture. “Mount Score-more” was the result, but as you can see below, the finished carved faces bear no resemblance to the players. OK, at a push, there is a passing similarity to Beckham, but as for the others, even their nearest and dearest would be hard pressed to spot the likeness.

Back to earth with a bump

Wednesday night’s friendly against Brazil turned into something of a reality check for Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA team.

A Neymar-inspired Brazil cruised to a 4-1 win over a United States side that had won their previous five matches. On the eve of the match, Klinsmann said he was relishing the challenge of facing the five-time World Cup winners.

“We want to measure ourselves, we want to look good against them,” he said.  “This is what we need now to see where we really are.”

What Klinsmann found was that his side are where they have always been. Competent, but still a long way short of challenging the best.  It was a harsh lesson for the team, made more painful as it came just days after a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland had hinted at brighter times ahead.

The performance confirmed to Klinsmann that his players needed to be more street-wise.

“We need to get an edge — more nastier,” Klinsmann said. “Maybe we’re a little bit still too naive. Maybe we don’t want to hurt people. But that’s what we’ve got to do.

“You watch big teams in the world, what they do, and there’s a call going against them — Barcelona is one of them — they come with 10 guys towards the referee. The referee is confused. He doesn’t know even know who to show a yellow card.”

Tactically sophisticated it ain’t, but Klinsmann is not that kind of coach and besides, he may be on to something here.

Generally speaking, American players don’t demean their profession. They don’t dive, argue with the referee, cajole officials, maim opponents or indulge in any of the less appealing habits practised by most modern footballers. There’s a refreshing absence of cynicism in their play, possibly borne out out of a misguided sense that they need to ingratiate themselves with the more established football community. Admirable and Corinthian it may be, but it results in them being something of a soft touch at the highest level.

Quote of the day

“(Ashely) Young has a reputation for being a diver? I was not aware of that.”  

Either Anthony Reveillere does a good line in sarcasm, or he he doesn’t watch much English football.


Any hopes Rangers might have harboured of joining the English football pyramid look doomed to failure as club bosses gave the idea a big thumbs down.

The idea of Rangers joining English football reared its head again in recent days, amid fears that the Scottish Football Association could terminate their league membership.

That would leave the Ibrox club unable to play in any league set-up in Scotland and authorities in England said they would not be welcome there either.

A Barclays Premier League told the Daily Record: “This is something the Scottish game has to sort out itself.

“We’re not the asylum when things don’t work out up there. The Old Firm won’t get into the Premiership, it’s not happening.

“Any talk of it has always been pie in the sky – and that remains the case.”

Further down the league ladder, the idea would be equally unwelcome.

“I think the Football League are quite categoric on this as well,” the source continued.

“If you bear in mind that around two years ago when the idea of a two-tier Premiership was floated, the argument of Celtic and Rangers coming into a second tier wasn’t even debated at our shareholders meeting.”

But what about non-league football, surely at that level they would welcome the infusion of wealth, glamour and bar takings that would accompany the arrival of the Scottish giants. Apparently, not.

Conference Chairman Brian Lee said: “If Rangers sent an application letter to the Conference they’d get a letter back saying we couldn’t accept them because we’re signed up to The Football Association structure.

“The other problem we would have is just being able to accommodate a club the size of Rangers and the cost of travel for our clubs would create a problem.”

A fair point. A city the size of Manchester struggled to cope with a huge of influx of Rangers fans, so one wonders how somewhere like Alfreton would manage.