War of words

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was involved in an angry tunnel exchange with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard after his side’s 1-0 Carling Cup semi-final defeat.

Mancini was unhappy that a Glen Johnson tackle on Joleon Lescott went unpunished, claiming it was worse than the challenge that resulted in a red card for Vincent Kompany in Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Manchester United.

“Gerrard came to me and said I said something,” said the Italian.

“Steven Gerrard can say what he wants. I said what I think. That is what I am used to doing. It is not important what Gerrard or the other players have said.”

When asked if he agreed with Mancini’s view on Johnson’s challenge on Lescott, Gerrard told BBC Sport: “I don’t think so. It was a clear winner (sic) of a tackle.”

Here’s the tackle, so you can make your own mind up.

Blatter faces fresh questions

Lennart Johansson, who was defeated by Sepp Blatter in the 1998 election to become FIFA president, has called for an independent investigation into statements by ex-Caribbean official Jack Warner that Blatter sold him the broadcast rights in his native Trinidad & Tobago for $1.

“I think I’m entitled to talk about it because I was the second candidate at the election in 1998,” Johansson said. “Mr. Warner made us aware of really what’s happened by telling us about it. Then if he’s telling a lie that should be proved. We will see.”

Author David Yallop reported in his 2006 book How They Stole the Game that cash bundles of $50,000 were handed out to African delegates in Paris before Blatter’s victory over Johansson. Blatter has always denied allegations he paid bribes to win the election.

FIFA fears for players’ safety

FIFA is concerned for the safety of players who are approached by match-fixers, warning that they could pay the “ultimate price” for involvement, security chief Chris Eaton has warned.

“We are very concerned about the safety of players (and) officials,” Eaton told reporters. “There is anecdotal evidence that some players have been killed.”

“We have evidence of players in South Korea committing suicide because of the shame of match fixing. There are players who pay the ultimate price for resisting or for the shame of match-fixing.

“That’s why its incumbent on FIFA and global society to limit access of criminals to it. We certainly have information in some parts of the world… of threats to players who have come forward.

“Most are indicating they are under some form of threat; often these are players are under the control of a senior player, or captain, or technical coach, and these are the people we need to support.”

Tottenham title threat?

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has revealed his players believe they can win the Premier League title this season.

Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Everton in Spurs’ game in hand took the London side to wothin three points of leaders Manchester City.

Redknapp says the run of one loss in the 18 games instilled belief in to a squad which he thinks can help his team win their first championship in 51 years.

“It’s not impossible for us to win the league,” Redknapp said. “We have a chance. The players believe we have a good chance.

“I wasn’t there but someone said William Gallas came in the other day and said to everyone: ‘Listen, we have a chance here’.

“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. We are in there. It’s going to be hard but we are not a bad side. We have some real quality. We can play and we have a good spirit.”

Goal of the day

Even without the slight deflection, Benoit Assou Ekotto’s stunning long range strike for Spurs against Everton looked goal-bound.

Guardiola earmarked by Argentina

Pep Guardiola has been earmarked as Argentina’s “dream” coach for the future, according to Argentina Football Association chief Julio Grondona.

Guardiola has won 12 trophies out of a possible 15 since taking the reins at Barcelona in 2008, while Argentina have been through four different coaches in that time.

“If the Argentina FA had the financial possibility, Guardiola would be the coach of the national team,” Grondona told Ona FM. “It would be a dream to appoint him as coach.”

If anyone could get the best out of lionel Messi, one would imagine it would be his club manager Guardiola. The three-time Ballon D’or winner has so far saved his best form for Barcelona, although Grondona said that the player’s standing in the game would not be diminished if he does not win the World Cup with Argentina.

“It would be very important that Messi won a World Cup with Argentina,” he said. “But it is not necessary that he does it to be the best, considering all that he has won.

“There is no doubt that, although Argentina have not won a World Cup title [with Messi], we have won one of the best players in the world. We are proud of Messi, not the other way around.”

Have boots will travel

Brazil attacking midfielder Rivaldo could be on the move again, with Angola top flight side Kabuscorp close to securing a deal with the 1999 FIFA World Player of the Year.

The president of the Girabola outfit, Bento Kangamba, told A Bola that his side is closing in on the much-travelled player and could announce a deal shortly.

“Every club in Angola is strengthening, we could not fall behind,” Kangamba said. “The opportunity for us to sign Rivaldo came up and we are committed to making this happen.”

The former Barcelona player is 39-years-old, but Kangamba still believes he has the ability to add quality to his side.

“People talk about his age a lot, but a player with his quality and experience still has a lot to give to football, and hopefully Angola,” he said.

Sex and football

Players of Bundesliga club Hannover have been quizzed on their feelings about sex in a psychological test designed as a motivational aid.

The test includes statements such as, ‘I am what you could call sexually unrestrained’, ‘I want any sex I can get’ or ‘I have a lot of erotic fantasies’, which players then evaluate on a scale of -3 to +3.

Coach Mirko Slomka said he had completed the profile containing 128 questions and the players could see his responses if they wanted.

“With this test I know how I can best reach each player,” he was quoted as saying by Bild.

The responses to the Reiss motivation profile will be evaluated by motivation specialist Peter Boltersdorf, who has also worked  for several other German clubs.

According to the Reiss theory, 16 basic desires guide nearly all human action. The test is designed to highlight a person’s fundamental values, goals and motivations.

“Each player needs different conditions to perform at his best over a long period. This is what I have to look into,” Boltersdorf said.

Teenage kicks

The transfers of two 13-year-olds to Bundesliga clubs Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg have sparked a row over clubs’ efforts to attract younger players.

The two players, from Berlin and Hamburg, will now move to Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg respectively, with the full support of their parents.

“We have to accept the transfer but in my view he will not be able to deliver 100 percent in Wolfsburg,” said St Pauli youth director Joachim Philipkowski over the departure of their player. “He will be taken out of his familiar environment. I do not think this is the right way.”

Several other teams as well as the German football league (DFL), which runs the top divisions, and the country’s football association (DFB) have expressed concern.

“There used to be a gentlemen’s agreement in the past that one should not take away talent,” said DFL managing director Holger Hieronymus. “Therefore there is the wish to have such an agreement again.”

Hoffenheim and Wolfsburg have defended their actions, saying such transfers were common practice in every other major European league.

“I don’t know what this hypocrisy is all about,” said Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath from his team’s winter training camp in Dubai. “You have to get the players early if you want to develop them.”

“We all took the decision together to set up youth academies and focus on youth work. That is the consequence,” said Magath.


Defender David Bystron of Czech champion Viktoria Plzen has failed a drugs test and faces a ban from UEFA of up to four years.

Plzen spokesman Pavel Pillar said the club was informed by UEFA on Thursday that the B sample taken after the November 23 Champions League match at BATE Borisov in Minsk confirmed the initial findings of an undisclosed banned substance.

Plzen won 1-0, a result that helped it earn a spot in the Europa League for finishing third in its group behind Barcelona and Milan.