Checking your sources

We’re indebted to an independent Chelsea site (We Aint Got No History) for this little curio.

The Guardian just ran a story claiming Chelsea are closing in on a deal for Cesar Azplicueta.

The report stated (Marseille president, Vincent) Labrune had told ESPN: “I have spoken to Chelsea’s sporting director and they are easy to deal with. We have told them the price and they will come back and agree it or not. We would much prefer the player to sign a new contract and extend his stay with us, but he wants to go to Chelsea and it’s a good club so we cannot stand in his way.”

Nothing unusual in that you’d think. Were it not for the fact that ESPN used the exact same quote (here), in a story about Wigan’s Dave Whelan and Victor Moses. They have since added the same quotes to the end of this story about Cesar Azpilicueta.

Barring the unlikely possibility that 2 different people involved with separate transfers happened to say exactly the same thing, it seems reasonable to assume that ESPN writers have either fabricated one quote to flesh out one of their transfer stories or, simply just cut and paste from one piece to the other without first checking. Tut, tut.

Today the FIFA rankings, tomorrow…exit on penalties

The FIFA rankings have come in for some stick today after the latest update shows England have risen to the lofty heights of third place. That places them behind World and European champions Spain, and a Germany side, who have reached the last four in each of their three most recent tournaments.

England’s record during that same period has been as follows: 2012 – quarter final; 2010 – last 16; 2008 – did not qualify.

Nevertheless, despite this less-than-stellar record, they are rated, by FIFA, the 3rd best team in the world. Their unstoppable ascent to the pinnacle of world football has come on the back of some decent performances in meaningless friendly matches. England do well in meaningless matches and especially well in meaningless matches against high-ranking sides, who invest very little in said games.

So, Roy Hodgson’s side have leapfrogged Uruguay, although given the turgid nature of their performances in matches that do actually matter, perhaps it would to fairer to say they have clambered over them while their opponents snoozed.

Italy, the side that outclassed England in their most recent match and who went on to lose the Euro 2012 final to Spain, are down in 6th spot. Make of that what you will. For all the talk of coefficiencies, this is clearly a wholly inefficient system when it comes to determining the best teams in the world.

Top ten

1) Spain

2) Germany

3) England

4) Uruguay

5) Portugal

6) Italy

7) Argentina

8) Netherlands

9) Croatia

10) Denmark

Gluttons for punishment

Liverpool have shown that they’re gluttons for punishment, by offering a new, improved contract to the man who dragged their good name through the mud last season. Yes, that’s right, football’s bad boy, Luis Suarez, has agreed a new long-term contract with the club.

Suarez has reportedly trebled his wages to become one of the club’s highest paid players on £100,000 per week. One wonders how much they’d have paid him if he hadn’t been banned for 8 matches last season after being found guilty of racially abusing an opponent.

The Uruguayan told “To sign a new contract with Liverpool is unbelievable for me because I am so happy here at both the club and also in the city.

“That is important for me and I am very happy with my new contract.

“When you are a kid, everybody wants to play for Liverpool.”

But surely not when you grow up.

Goal of the day

Mexico reached their first ever Olympic final with a 3-1 win over Japan. The best goal of the game was scored by Oribe Peralta, who lashed home from 20 yards. Japan’s Takahiro Ohgiharan, who gave the ball away on the edge of his own penalty area, must shoulder some of the blame. Given the controversy surrounding Japan’s Business Class travel to the Games, he may well find himself returning in the hold.

Bayern bound?

Ersin Akan, who works for Bahia Internacional, the company representing Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez, has claimed that the Spain international is keen on a move to Bayern Munich.

So much for client confidentiality, but now that the cat is out of the bag, at least Bayern can begin to consider whether the Spanish side’s £40million valuation of the player is inflated or just insane.

“He wants to go to Bayern, and Bayern are still interested in signing him,” Akan was quoted as saying by Sport1.

“I know that they still want him, but the transfer fee is a problem. He’s just waiting to see how things pan out, but he would like it if the transfer takes place. I’d say chances that it will go ahead are 50-50 now.”

Heart of stone

A watchdog has ruled that Scottish Premier League club, Hearts, misled fans over adverts for cheap season tickets.

In a radio advert earlier this year, the club claimed fans could buy the “lowest season ticket starting price”.

However, when supporters tried to purchase them, none were available at the low price.

Hearts said the tickets sold out much faster than they anticipated, but despite the unexpected rush they continued to air the advert.

In previous years they sold around 3,500 tickets in the first few weeks of the launch. However this year 2,230 season tickets were sold on the first day alone.

Hearts said if it had known the tickets were going to sell so quickly it would have mentioned within the ads that they were “subject to availability” or “available while stocks last”.

Match fixing latest

There were conflicting reports in the Italian press on Wednesday over the future of Juventus coach Antonio Conte, with a number of outlets speculating he could resign if he is given a lengthy ban in the ongoing Calcioscommesse scandal.

Conte has refused to negotiate a second plea-bargain agreement after the first – which would have seen him accept a three-month suspension – was rejected by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) disciplinary commission.

Prosecutor Stefano Palazzi has recommended a 15-month suspension on the grounds that Conte failed to alert authorities to two potentially fixed matches during his time at Siena in the 2010-11 season.

The ban would only be partial and would only affect his input on match days, when he would be prevented from taking his place on the bench or in the dressing room.

French fancy

São Paulo’s Lucas Moura has admitted that he could join Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window.

The 19-year-old has been a target for Manchester United, but PSG appear to be winning he battle for his signature. His description of the city of Manchester as ‘boring’, will lend the French side further encouragement.

Lucas told Globo Esporte: “Talks with PSG are well under way, but not done yet. I spoke to Thiago Silva and Leonardo [PSG sporting director], they said many good things about the club and the project they are implementing there.

“I will stay at Sao Paulo until the end of the year. I have always said that I want to win a title and qualify for the Copa Libertadores before leaving.

“If the transfer happens in January, I’ll be able to do that for São Paulo. For now, I’m focused on the national team, though. I can only say something after the Olympics.”

Incredible Hulk price

Chelsea look set to lose the race to sign Brazil striker Hulk, with Russian side Zenit St Petersburg ready to gazump the European Champions with a £38million offer.

Porto striker Hulk, who has helped his country into the Olympic football final at Wembley, has a release clause of £80m. However, he is available for a more modest, though still ludicrous, £38m. That figure is chicken feed to Zenit’s owners’ Gazprom, the largest company in Russia and one of the largest in the world.

Chelsea are refusing to budge from their valuation of £30m, allowing Zenit to outbid them. Even Roman Abramovich’s deep pockets can’t compete with a company that made £100billion last year alone.

Clean Olympics

The London Olympics have been free of the match-fixing that has hit sports around the globe, according to an anti-corruption watchdog.

But success in London should not lead to complacency, the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) warned.

“We have no evidence whatsoever in relation to corruption of the Olympic Games,” said John Stevens, a former London police chief who is chairman of the ICSS advisory board.

A clean Olympics represents an oasis amid rampant match fixing elsewhere.

“Match fixing has been going on for many years, it’s true, but, as of now, in my estimation it’s almost out of control internationally,” said Chris Eaton, FIFA’s former security chief, who is Director of Sport Integrity at the ICSS,

“International organised crime must be prevented from getting these massive free kicks of cash by corrupting sport and defrauding bookmakers,” added Eaton, previously head of security at FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

The ICSS is a non-profit-making organisation based in Qatar which campaigns on sporting security, safety and integrity.

Eaton said an estimated $500 billion annually was gambled on sport each year – or $3 billion a day.

“Around 80 percent of that money is gambled on football and most of that money is either in or to south eastAsia,” he added.

Eaton said mafia gangs were attracted to match-fixing because it was a way of laundering cash and estimated they were making hundreds of millions of pounds annually.

The International Olympic Committee had been concerned that criminals could target the Olympics and it has set up an information point in the athletes’ village helps to warn competitors of the risks.

Which, given the nature and scale of the threat posed by the international gangs, is a quaint and peculiarly English way of dealing with the problem. Rather like sending Miss Marple to sort out the Mafia.