Player of the Year

The contenders for this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Award for the best player of 2011 award have been announced.

The three-man shortlist contains no surprises with holder Lionel Messi, last year’s runner-up Xavi and Europe’s leading scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, the three players in contention.

The candidates for the FIFA World Coach of the Year were also announced. The contenders are Josep Guardiola and José Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.

The three nominees for the FIFA Puskás award for the “most beautiful goal of the year” were Lionel Messi, Neymar and Wayne Rooney (England).

Agent denies PSG link

The agent of Rafa Benitez has denied reports claiming the Spaniard is about to be appointed coach of Paris Saint-Germain.

“Rafael Benitez is in Liverpool tonight having dinner with his family,” said Manolo Garcia Quilon. “There is absolutely nothing going on at this time with the Paris-SG.

“Rafa insists there is nothing with PSG.

“He never talked to the club and he has no Paris trip in his agenda in the coming days.”

Speculation that the former Liverpool and Inter manager Benitez has been lined up as a replacement for Antoine Kombouare, was originally broadcast by Al-Jazeera. Coincidentally, Nasser al-Khelaifi, the chairman of Qatar Sports Investments, who became the president of PSG earlier this year, is also the general manager of al-Jazeera Sport.

Make of that what you will.

Quote of the day

“The English have lost power and, most recently, the 2018 World Cup.They were very keen, more than for the Olympics. They thought that football should have come home. The World Cup was theirs by right. When they came here with Beckham, Prince William and Prime Minister Cameron, they were certain of winning. They got two votes. Since then, they have looked for every means to justify their defeat.”

Sepp Blatter rubs salt into England’s wounds.

Goal of the day

Carlos Vela scored this acrobatic effort for Real Sociedad in their last gasp 3-2 win over Malaga on Sunday.

RIP Socrates

Former Brazilian footballer Socrates has died at the age of 57. The qualified doctor died of severe septicaemia and was buried in the town of Ribeirao Preto on Sunday.

An imperious midfielder, Socrates won 60 caps for Brazil, scoring 22 goals and captained the side at the 1982 World Cup finals.

Great player though he was, arguably Socrates’ greatest contribution to Brazil was in the political sphere. While a player at Corinthians, he co-founded the Corinthians Democracy movement

At the end of 1982, with Brazil living under a military dictatorship, Corinthians won the São Paulo state championship with “Democracia” printed on the back of their black shirts. Sócrates told Alex Bellos, the author of Futebol, that it was “perhaps the most perfect moment I ever lived. And I’m sure it was for 95% of [my teammates] too.”

Here’s a couple of clips from the 1982 World Cup. Brazil entered the tournament as favourites to win and although they didn’t manage that, they provided more memories than many countries that have won the trophy.

Here’s Socrates stunning strike against the Soviet Union in Brazil’s opening game.

Here are the highlights from Brazil’s 3-2 defeat to Italy – a match regarded by many as the greatest international match of all time. Socrates scored Brazil’s first after a wonderful set up by Zico.

Beautiful game turns ugly

Corinthians honoured Socrates in the best possible way by winning their first Brazilian title for six years, following a goalless home draw against Palmeiras.

The most memorable incident of a scrappy, fractious game, was this unsavoury brawl that broke out in the closing stages.

No time to celebrate

Kashiwa Reysol have claimed their maiden J-League title after a 3-1 win over Urawa Reds 3-1 at Saitama Stadium meant they pipped defending champions Nagoya Grampus to the title by a point.

It was a notable triumph for the Chiba outfit who were promoted last season; no team had ever before won J2 and J1 league titles in successive seasons.

“We ended the season on top today, but we’ve led for 82 per cent of the way and have always gone out there feeling that the title was within our grasp,” said coach Nelsinho.

It might sound easy now we’re champions, but it’s been a long journey. All of the staff and players without exception have worked really hard this season.”

Kashiwa will have only four days to enjoy their success before they embark on their debut Club World Cup campaign as the representatives of hosts Japan later this week.

Winter wonderland

UEFA president Michel Platini has admitted he would allow the World Cup in Qatar to be played in winter.

Platini said it would be better to stage the tournament when the weather was cooler.

Asked if he would be prepared to move club competitions like the Champions League and Europa League, he said: “Of course.

“If we play in winter, it’s not a problem to organise it.

“How can people go to Qatar in 50 degrees in June? If the people can’t come to enjoy it it’s not good.

“If we play in winter it will be not a problem. Instead of stopping the season in May you play until June, and then stop in December. Where is the problem?”

All good things come to an end

Brisbane Roar’s record unbeaten run of 36 matches came to an end at the weekend when the A-League champions lost 2-0 to Sydney FC.

Brisbane had last tasted defeat at the hands of Melbourne Victory in September 2010.

Brisbane manager Ange Postecoglou refused to blame the defeat on the absence through injury of influential German playmaker Thomas Broich.

“It doesn’t matter if we have Thomas or Lionel Messi out there… sometimes the opposition is better than you on the day and they were today so full credit to them,” he told the A-League website.


Former FIFA president Joao Havelange has resigned from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) days before an ethics hearing into his conduct, according to reports.

Adopting the jump before I’m pushed strategy that spared the former CONCACAF president Jack Warner of a FIFA ethics investigation, Havelange stands down from a position he has held since 1963.

The Brazilian found himself the subject of an IOC investigation for his links with FIFA’s former marketing agency International Sport and Leisure (ISL), who went bankrupt with debts of around $300m in 2001.

Thursday’s IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne was expected to impose a two-year suspension, or even possible expulsion, for Havelange. But, with his resignation, the ethics case against him will likely be dropped.