Super Mario strikes again

Mario Balotelli is facing an internal investigation and possible disciplinary action by Manchester City after breaking a curfew.

Balotelli was seen in Zouk, a city-centre restaurant in Manchester, in the early hours of Sunday, despite clear instructions from the club not to go out within 48 hours of a game.

It’s not just any game either: City face Chelsea tonight, one of the few English clubs with realistic hopes of giving the Premier League leaders a decent game at the moment.

Cruyff-Van Gaal feud takes fresh twist

A Dutch judge has temporarily suspended the appointment of Louis van Gaal as director at Ajax, pending approval by a special shareholders’ meeting.

Four members of Ajax’s five-strong supervisory board appointed Van Gaal and other directors in November without consulting the fifth board member, Ajax legend and van Gaal hater, Johan Cruyff.

An elated Cruyjff said of the verdict: ‘We are going to play football again. Football has beaten the business. Fantastic…a victory for footballers’.

What’s the Dutch word for ‘pyrrhic’?

Namibia lodge final appeal

Namibia have lodged their appeal against Burkina Faso player Herve Xavier Zengue with the the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Zengue is Cameroonian, but played twice for Burkina Faso in the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers against Namibia – matches Burkino Faso won, 4-0 and 4-1.

Namibia insist that Zengue, though married to a Bukino Faso woman, does not fulfil any of the FIFA criteria to represent them at international level.

The The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have brushed aside two previous complaints from Namibia, although their justification for doing so appears to rest on a technicality. Namely, that Namibia’s appeal was not signed by either country’s captain – a criterion which had to be met for the appeal to be successful.

“It is a travesty of justice because CAF, for one reason or another, does not want to enter the debate of whether Zengue is eligible or not,” Namibian FA general secretary Barry Rukoro has told BBC Sport.

“That, to me, is just mind-blowing. We just don’t understand why Caf does not want to enter that debate – and avoid doing so at all costs. For me, it flies right in the face of fair play and in the face of why we have regulations in the first place.”

The 2012 finals are just weeks away so the pressure to resolve the dispute is quite intense.

Shanghai excess

Chelsea have agreed terms with Shanghai Shenhua for the sale of Nicolas Anelka in January’s transfer window.

The Chinese Super League club report that Anelka will sign a two-year contract next month after recently having a transfer request accepted by the Blues.

Anelka has already been welcomed by his prospective new team-mates, with captain Yu Tao writing on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter: “It’s impossible not to be excited by this – a warm welcome to our new team-mate!”

Goalkeeper Wang Dalei added: “Tell Anelka he made his new team-mates really proud!”

Earlier this year, Argentinian midfielder Dario Conca joined Chinese Super League outfit Guangzhou Evergrande in a deal that reportedly made him the world’s third highest-paid player on $10.4 million a year. Anelka, as the highest profile signing in China will doubtless be in a similar pay bracket.

The next big-name player to arrive in China could well be Anelka’s team-mate, Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has been offered a three-year contract worth more than £200,000 a week by Aerbin.

The club’s general manager, Li Ming, told Chinese media last week: “Money is not the problem. Drogba is still one of the most popular soccer stars in the world, though he will be 34 years old. We have talked a lot with Drogba’s agent and promised to provide him with a three-year contract.”

Money is beginning to talk.

Quote of the day

“Throughout this long career, I’ve not been motivated by money, but instead by one goal: to become the best.”

Anzhi Makhachkala striker Samuel Eto’o tries to convince sceptics that the £167,825 salary he receives each week, was not the reason he decided to up sticks and pursue his career in Dagestan.

Incidentally, Eto’o and fellow Cameroonian Enoh Eyong are facing a disciplinary hearing in Yaounde today. The pair were part of the squad which refused to play in friendly game in Algeria in a row over payments.

Make of that what you will.

Goal of the day

Robin van Persie illustrated once again why he is currently indispensable to Arsenal. His wonderfully-struck volley against Everton was a thing of beauty.

Fall from grace

Sitting in the stands, watching van Persie’s wonder goal was former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, who on Friday attended the unveiling of a statue in his honour outside the Emirates Stadium.

The New York Red Bulls striker’s stock has fallen since his halcyon days at Arsenal, as can be seen by the fact that he is now a transfer target for struggling Everton.

David Moyes, manager of the Premier League outfit, confirmed he had made a bid to bring the forward back to England.

“I already asked him on the way in,” Moyes said after watching his Everton side slide to a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal. “I asked him, he’ll tell you; if he wants a game let me know. I’m hoping we might be able to do something.”

Maybe that explains the tears shed by Henry on Friday at the unveiling of his statue.

Luck be a lady tonight

Jose Mourinho, that most meticulous of football coaches, a man who drills his team like no other, has refused to take responsibility for his side’s 3-1 home defeat to Barcelona on Saturday.

“The result,” said the Real Madrid coach, “was a consequence of football. It’s a game and luck plays a big part.”

“When it was 1-0, we could easily have gone 2-0 up.

“Maybe under normal circumstances we would do, but Cristiano [Ronaldo] put it [a scoring chance] wide. That was pure luck. It was not talent, it was not a mistake, nothing – it was just lucky. At 1-0 we had a chance to make it 2-0 and Cristiano, who’s a fantastic player, normally scores those. Then Kaka’s shot went wide off Valdés, which was lucky, too.”

Luck??? Surely luck is for mere mortals, not Special Ones likes Mourinho.

Still, I guess we should be thankful for small mercies. At least the referee won’t be subjected to any death threats and the match passed off relatively peacefully with no injuries to players, let alone coaching staff. Indeed this loss has elicited in Mourinho nothing more than a finely tuned taste for sour grapes. Which given the recent history of this fixture, has to be a good thing.

Hope springs eternal

Mission accomplished on the domestic front, Barcelona flew off to Japan to compete in the Club World Cup. Their opening opponents will be Qatar’s Al Sadd, whose coach, Jorge Fossati, remains confident that an upset is possible.

“If we can have 15 or 16 players on the pitch we will have a good chance,” Fossati joked when asked how his side could possibly beat the European champions on Thursday.

“Of course Barcelona are the best in the world, which we recognise, especially after the match against Real Madrid. But recently Getafe in Spain won against Barcelona (1-0). It sounds illogical and impossible. This is key. But as long as we are humble and maintain a strong spirit, we think it can happen.”

Al Sadd defeated Esperance 2-1, although events on the pitch were somewhat overshadowed by scenes off it as supporters of the Tunisian side clashed with police in the stands. The fans were seething after seeing two goals ruled out for offside and a strong claim for a penalty turned down.

Boca unbeaten

Boca completed an unbeaten season on Sunday extending their unbeaten run to 29 games stretching back to last season as they edged out lowly All Boys.

Elsewhere, on the last day of the Apertura season, Juan Sebastian Veron received a standing ovation at Estudiantes’ home match against Union.

It was originally going to be the midfielder’s final match as he had said earlier in the season announced he would retire at the end of the Apertura. But, under pressure from team-mates and supporters, he has postponed his decision to retire and would play for another six months and retire next June at the age of 37.


In a move that is unlikely to endear him to Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer has revealed that the Borussians coach, Jurgen Klopp, is on the club’s shortlist to replace Jupp Heynckes when he eventually calls it a day.

“I do not know if Jupp Heynckes will want to do the job for the next 10 years, although I think it’s possible for him to stay here until the end of his coaching career,” Beckenbauer told die Welt.

“Our directors do have a successor in mind and I think Jurgen Klopp will be on that list of candidates.”

Bayern’s reasoning appears to be that if you can’t beat them, buy them. It is a philosophy that has served them well down the years.