Conflict of interests

The news that Zenit St Petersburg have signed Hulk from Porto and Axel Witsel from Benfica, in a deal worth worth between 80 and 100 million euros (depending upon whom you choose to believe), will have sent shivers down the spine of UEFA president, Michel Platini, last night.

The deals represent a huge coup not only for Zenit, but also for Russian football as a whole, which can now count itself as a genuine player in the world of big money football deals.

The funding for such extravagant purchases comes from Gazprom, the Russian energy company which bankrolls the club and which in July, was named as one of the six sponsors of the UEFA Champions League – hence the alarm bells ringing at the headquarters of European football.

UEFA’s new Financial Fairplay (FFP) rules allow for a certain amount of sponsorship money to be included as part of a club’s budget, provided – and this is the key term – the deals are agreed at “market rates”.  Presumably, Zenit and Gazprom will massage the figures to comply with FFP and it will be the response of Platini to this and other cases which will go a long way to determining the credibility of his proposals.

As for Hulk’s thought’s on his move, the Brazilian admits he had no desire to leave Porto, but when told of the deal by his agent, it was pretty much a fait au complit.

“I wasn’t expecting this. After Saturday’s game I said I would help Porto win a third title in a row. Suddenly my agent rang to say a deal was done,” Hulk was quoted as saying on the club’s official website.

“I had no reasons to leave, but my agent called me and told that Porto and Zenit have reached a deal. This will be good for me, Porto and Zenit.”

Keeper denies he threw the game

Terengganu goalkeeper Ahmad Sharbinee Allawee has denied allegations he deliberately scored an own-goal in his side’s Malaysian Cup match against Kedah on Saturday.

The former Malaysian national goalkeeper was instantly withdrawn by English manager Peter Butler after he palmed a corner into his own net, allowing Kedah the equaliser in the 1-1 draw.

Butler verbally abused the keeper and shoved him in the back as he left the pitch.

“We don’t need such players,” Butler said afterwards. “We only want those who put in an honest effort. I can safely say that he won’t feature in the team anymore.”

“Sharbinee sealed his own fate when he palmed the ball into his own net in the home match against Kedah … and as long as I am the team coach, he will not be standing between the posts again.”

But Sharbinee says he welcomes an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission as he has nothing to hide.

“Let the MACC investigate me. I want to clear my name,” he told Malaysia’s The Star newspaper. “I have never sold a match and it saddens me that people have labelled me as corrupt.

“It pains me to show my face in public whenever I bungle in a match but it hurts even more now when people accuse me of being corrupt.”

You can make your own mind up about the own goal here. On initial viewing, it doesn’t look great from the keeper.

Deschamps speaks out

France coach Didier Deschamps has revealed that Hugo Lloris was unhappy with Andre Villas-Boas’ after the Tottenham boss suggested that Brad Friedel was his No. 1, ahead of new signing Lloris.

Lloris joined the London club on transfer deadline day for almost £8 million but faces a battle to supplant veteran first choice Friedel.

“When you transfer, it’s not written in the contract that you have to play,” Villas-Boas said. “At the moment, Brad is doing extremely well. He deserves to be playing, and he’ll continue to do so.”

Deschamps said he was shocked by the comments, saying: “I saw what Villas-Boas said. “These statements surprised me.

“If I comment, it will make an echo on the other side of the Channel. I’m not going to create a problem that I don’t have today. I have other problems to solve but, if it happens, it deserves consideration.

“I do not want Hugo put in this situation. He did not appreciate the statements.

“You all know the value of Hugo. He is focused on these two games [for France] and I hope that after it will go well for him.”

It’s hard to know what Lloris has to complain about here, let alone an experienced manager such as Deschamps. What precisely is Villas-Boas supposed to say when quizzed about Friedel, just hours after he has produced an outstanding performance? Thanks Brad, that was a flawless performance, but the manager of France isn’t happy, so you’re dropped!

Managers often complain about players not showing loyalty, but when one demonstrates loyalty to a player he is castigated by a peer.

Save of the day

Racing keeper Jorge De Olivera was sent off after bringing down San Martin forward Claudio Riano in the box. Having used all their subs already, midfielder Agustin Pelletieri donned the gloves and prepared to face the resulting spot-kick from  Gaston Caprari…

Quote of the day

“Today we are the strongest club in Scotland. We have the biggest fanbase, no debts, no loans, no overdraft and money in the bank. Rangers are among the 15 most famous clubs in the world. We have the product, the names and the brand.”

The glass is half full for new Rangers owner Charles Green.

High opinion of himself

Wither Harry Kewell?

Six months after he terminated his deal with Melbourne Victory, the cash-obssessed Australian is still searching for a new club. So far, no luck.

Unsurprisingly, according to sources in the Middle East, where Kewell is currently hawking his wares, the main stumbling block to him finding a new club, is his astronomical wage demands.

According to Dubai-based agent Mohaned Oun Al Harabi, Kewell must accept that pushing 34, he is no longer the same player who once had Manchester United and Liverpool competing for his services.

A number of (desperate) clubs in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai remain interested – but at half Kewell’s asking price of $1.5 million for a single season.

Oun Al Harabi lined up offers in the region of $4 million for one season from Saudi outfit Al Nassr and UAE duo Al-Ahli Dubai and Al Jazira, before his switch from Galatasaray to Melbourne Victory ahead of the 2011-2012 A-League.

And he claims Kewell has recently rejected an offer from another club in the region.

“That is the case and it’s disappointing because Harry Kewell is a very important player for his country and he needs to be playing,” he said.

“There is still interest in the region in him and it’s not too late but it is up to the player to make some decisions before the opportunity is no longer there.

“He is still a fine player and I am sure people just want to see him out there performing, whether it is here in the Gulf or in England.”

Earlier in the summer, Kewell turned up, unannounced, at the training ground of Stoke City. He was told by manager Tony Pulis that while he was welcome to train with the players, there was more chance of Liverpool signing a striker than of Stoke offering him a deal.

Phone tapping

Former Inter striker Christian Vieri has been awarded €1million in damages after the club allegedly spied on him during his six-year spell at the San Siro.

The ex-Italy international was awarded the payout after Inter and Italian communications firm Telecom Italia were found to have conspired to keep tabs on Vieri’s private life.

Vieri was originally seeking €21 million in damages, claiming the spying had caused him ‘undue stress’ and impacted on his career. It probably didn’t help, but nor did the frequent, lengthy injury layoffs, none of which can have been attributed to the phone tapping.

Fan power

Kevin Pezzoni has had his Cologne contract cancelled by mutual consent after a hate campaign culminated in him being confronted outside his home by a group of angry fans.

The episode is the latest in a catalogue of unpleasant incidents which has seen the 23-year-old defender become a hate figure following the club’s relegation from the Bundesliga last season.

Pezzoni was abused on Facebook and found abusive notes stuck on his car, but the final straw came when he was confronted outside his flat by a group of angry fans who threatened to beat him up.

He had already had his nose broken in a previous attack in February.

Coach Holger Stanislawski said: “A group of people were waiting for him in front of his apartment. They abused him and it is a situation which has been building up for a long time.”

Sion of the times

Swiss club Sion named Michael Decastel as their fifth coach in less than two years on Tuesday to replace Sebastien Fournier who quit after four months.

Fournier resigned on Monday after he was reprimanded by the club for publicly accusing three players of spending a night out before a league match. Fournier had identified the players immediately after Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat by St Gallen.

Decastel is unlikely to bother getting new business cards printed up to reflect his new position; he is the 26th coach to take charge of Sion since architect and former goalkeeper Christian Constantin became president of the club in 2003 – two of those appointments, incidentally, were Constantin himself.

Last season, Sion were involved in a lengthy legal battle with UEFA after they were excluded from the Europa League for fielding ineligible players. Sion lost the case and were docked 36 points for breaking the rule which forbids bans clubs from taking cases to the civil courts.

However, Sion escaped relegation after fellow basket cases, Neuchatel Xamax, were expelled from the league over financial irregularities, and officially finished bottom of the table.

Beware Greeks bearing arms

A Greek reporter investigating match-fixing in the country has been injured after being beating up by unknown assailants.

Aris Asvestas was ambushed outside his home on Monday by two men wielding brass knuckles, shortly after completing his radio show, the union of Athens daily newspaper reporters (Esiea) said in a statement.

“Aris Asvestas has extensively investigated match-fixing in football,” the union said, adding that another three reporters have been attacked in recent months, without any arrests being made.

Asvestas had recently bemoaned the failure of authorities to punish clubs for hooligan violence.

The union of sports journalists (Psat) said the reporter had received eight stitches in hospital.

A number of football officials including two top division club bosses were placed in pre-trial detention last year after police phone-taps revealed the existence of a match-fixing ring, but the affair has yet to come to trial.