Strike goes ahead

The start of the season in Spain’s top two divisions has been delayed by at least one week because of a players’ strike which has led to the cancellation of this weekend’s opening programme of matches.

The action is being taken by the players union in protest against unpaid wages for some its members as a result of several clubs going into administration.

It’s a growing problem: last year it was 100 players owed €12million this year it is 200 owed more than €50million.

Interestingly, the strike comes in the wake of Wednesday’s high profile match between and Barcelona and Real Madrid – an encounter that is arguably the highest profile, star-studded, most eagerly-awaited fixture on the world football calendar.

And yet, for all the drama, spectacle and global appeal of El Clasico, something is clearly rotten in the state of Spanish football, and one doesn’t have to delve too deeply to discover what it is. Last season Real Madrid received €136m from television money while down in mid-table Getafe received €6m. Go figure.

News of the strike has come as something of a surprise to Barcelona new boy Cesc Fabregas. He’s used to the dull, grinding, efficient Premier League money-making machine, which although less easy on the eye than its Spanish counterpart, does at least have the redeeming virtue of being able to pay its players.

“I am not used to it because in England everything to do with managing the game is so well organized that there are never problems,” said Fabregas. “All players have to do is play football. Here there are a few more issues which we have to solve and hopefully it will be sorted soon.”

No way José

Speaking of El Clasico, the repurcussions from Wednesday’s stormy Super Cup encounter continue to be felt. There has even been the suggestion that Real Madrid’s patience with coach Jose Mourinho, is wearing thin.

The Portuguese was caught gouging the eye of Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova during the mass brawl that broke out near the end of the game. A novel theory to explain his antics has put forward by AS, who claim that it was an act of revenge against the man who had previously mocked Mourinho’s coaching credentials.

It was Vilanova, who a year ago, said of the Real coach: “Mourinho never talks about football and we do not like that. If a technician wants to be a star it’s because he has not experienced what it feels like as a player.”

For El Mundo Deportivo, the big scandal has been the lack of response to the scenes from Real president Florentino Perez.

The paper laments that there has been no “rebuke from anyone on the first floor of the Bernabeu for Moourinho’s shameful conduct… Instead, Florentino Perez and the rest of the Real board have closed ranks around the Portuguese coach.”

That’s possibly because the Real board are currently poring over the small print of Mourinho’s contract and wondering: ‘Can we fire this lunatic without compensation or are we stuck with him?’

Mourinho’s problem, apart from that fact that he’s clearly unhinged, is that he can get away with this kind of behaviour when his sides are winning, but when they are losing , it all looks a little unseemly.

Olympic sport

The decision by FIFA president Sepp Blatter to propose the inclusion of beach soccer at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has gone down well with the game’s organisers.

Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman said the sport would be one of the highlights of the Games.

“It’s a great idea. If realised, I’m sure that football and the fans only can win, and that beach soccer will be one of the biggest attractions in Rio 2016,” Nuzman told INSIDER.

Considering the snail’s pace at which the Maracana is being rebuilt, they might end up playing the real football tournament on the beach.

Boys from Brazil

In other news from Brazil, supporters have decided to protest against Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ricardo Teixeira demanding he step down as head of the 2014 FIFA World Cup organising committee.

Although one shouldn’t be damn a person by association, it’s worth mentioning that Texeira is a close ally of Sepp Blatter and the former son-in-law of former FIFA president, Joao Havelange. He has come under increasing pressure after police opened an investigation into corruption allegations against him.

“One of our flags will be the fight against Ricardo Teixeira,” said Wildner Rocha, president of Conatorg, a group representing 20 fans’ groups. “We want a transparent administration with ethics.”

On the move

Atletico Madrid, cash-rich following the sales of David De Gea and Sergio Aguero, look set to invest some of the proceeds on Porto’s prolific Colombian striker Falcao.

“Atletico Madrid and Porto have reached an agreement for the transfer of Radamel Falcao. The Colombian is going to sign a five-year contract,” said a club statement.

The deal is believed to be worth €40 million, or in the currency of international strikers, one Andy Carroll.


Robbie Keane welcomed by LA Galaxy fans

Fan holds up helpful banner in case new LA Galaxy signing, Robbie Keane, wonders where he is

LA Galaxy signing, Robbie Keane, has touched down in the United States to be greeted by a number of fans from his new club.

Keane, who whatever you might think about his playing abilities, certainly talks a good game, was charm personified as he spoke to reporters.

“I am fit and hungry and ready to go,” he said. “I hope that they will just throw me in the deep end and let me show what I can do. The club wants success and that is why I am here, too. Hopefully within a few months we are going to be going for the title.”

“I have produced everywhere I have been, and I want to get in there and start scoring goals.”

I must have dreamt about his spell at Liverpool then.

Quick tip for anyone from the USA reading this: when Keane scores, he celebrates by pretending to fire a pistol. Now, however great the temptation might be, and regardless of what the NRA might say about self-defence, that is not an invitation to shoot him.

It never rains…

Arsene Wenger’s dark mood will not have improved by the news that UEFA opened up disciplinary proceedings against him after he broke the the terms of his touchline ban in Arsenal’s Champions League match against Udinese.

According to the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a manager may not communicate with his team during the match for which he is suspended and may follow the game from the stands only.

Breaking the habit of a lifetime, Wenger set out his defence.

”It was very difficult because you don’t know really what the rules are,” said the Arsenal boss. ”They told us first that, through my assistant, he can communicate. And after half-time, it was not like that.”

I suppose it makes a change from: ‘I didn’t see it’

Back to the future

Good news for 30somethings who still think they can teach the youngsters a thing or two on the football pitch.

Argentina have recalled Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian Veron to the national side. Veron played for new coach Alejandro Sabella in his former role as Estudiantes coach, while Riquelme returns after a three year absence from the national team.

The pair are named in an Argentina-based squad to face Brazil in back-to-back matches next month, while Sabella has picked a separate overseas side to face Nigeria and Venezuela. The most notable absentee from the latter squad is Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez.

Another golden oldie recalled to the international scene is Ronaldinho, who has been selected by Brazil on the back of some impressive domestic performances for Flamengo this season.

“Ronaldinho is becoming a leader who must be a key figure we need in the Brazil team. He can come to signify for the national team what he means to Flamengo,” said coach Mano Menezes.

Cynics among you might wonder whether Menezes’ decision to pick Ronaldinho is simply a device intended to appease the many vocal critics of his regime. I couldn’t possibly comment.

Goal of the day

Bit of a shock for last season’s Champions League semi-finalists Schalke, who went down to a 2-0 defeat to HJK Helsinki in Thursday’s Europa League qualifier.

The first goal, scored by Teemu Pukki, was an absolutely beauty.


One player to miss out on Schalke’s Europa League humiliation was striker Raul. The Spaniard was left out of the squad that travelled to Finland, possibly due to the growing speculation about his future at the club.

Blackburn Rovers have been linked with the forward and their manager, Steve Kean, remains optimistic that a deal can be struck. Rovers defender Michel Salgado, a long-time team-mate of Raul at Real Madrid, thinks the striker may be amenable to a move to Ewood Park.

“Speaking to Michel we had the impression it was doable,” Kean said. “We had the funds in place to make it happen. He was anxious to give us a go and I don’t think it’s dead and buried.”

Is this the way clubs normally conduct their business? Ask one of their players to have a word with a mate to see if he wants to sign?

With reports suggesting that French club PSG are also interested in signing him, Raul faces a tough decision: Paris or Blackburn?