New kid on the block

New Manchester City signing, Sergio Aguero, eager to make a better impression at the club than his compatriot, Carlos Tevez, has been assuring supporters that the infamous Manchester climate, will not bother him in the slightest.

“I don’t like very hot weather so on that I will be OK,” he said. “I’m sure I am going to enjoy myself here and life will be fine.”

Not sure what Aguero would have made of yesterday’s heatwave in the city, where temperatures soared to a balmy 19 degrees celsius.

The Argentinian has obviously been well primed by his advisers to say the right thing, and it would not come as a surprise if next week he issued a statement detailing his admiration for the city’s gun crime culture.

Incidentally, Tevez who, you may recall, accidentally bumped into Inter’s sporting director Marco Branca while on holiday in Sardinia. Well, you won’t believe this, but, his agent, Kia Joorabchian, has accidentally flown to Milan to open talks with Inter about a possible move for his client. No one saw that one coming.

World Cup

There were no great shocks in the Asian World Cup qualifiers played on Thursday, unless, of course, one counts the abandonment of the game between Myanmar and Oman due to crowd trouble.

The referee took the players off after home fans in the Yangon stadium pelted the pitch with rocks, shoes and water bottles, after the home side had gone 2-0 down.

Here are the goals and the subsequent trouble.

Myanmar 0 Oman 2 – match abandoned (Oman win 4-0 on aggregate)
Nepal 1 Jordan 1 (Jordan win 10-1 on aggregate)
Laos 1 China 6 (China win 13-3 on aggregate)
Philippines 1 Kuwait 2 (Kuwait win 5-1 on aggregate)
Tajikstan 0 Syria 4 (Syria win 6-1 on aggregate)
Bangladesh 2 Lebanon 0 (Lebanon win 4-2 on aggregate)
Hong Kong 0 Saudi Arabia 5 (Saudi Arabia win 8-0 on aggregate)
Indonesia 4 Turkmenistan 3 (Indonesia win 5-4 on aggregate)
Kyrgyzstan 0 Uzbekistan 3 (Uzbekistan win 7-0 on aggregate)
Vietnam 2 Qatar 1 (Qatar win 4-2 on aggregate)
Malaysia 1 Singapore 1 (Sinagpore win 6-4 on aggregate)
India 2 U.A.E. 2 (U.A.E. win 5-2 on aggregate)
Palestine 2 Thailand 2 (Thailand win 3-2 on aggregate)
Maldives 0 Iran 1 (Iran win 5-0 on aggregate)
Yemen 0 Iraq 0 (Iraq win 2-0 on aggregate)

The winners go through to the full World Cup draw which takes place in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.

Time running out

Arsenal, who endure every summer haunted by the spectre of their best players being lured away by Barcelona, are losing patience with the Spanish side.

Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood says Barcelona have been “messing about for a year and a half” over Cesc Fabregas and that his club are now close to ending the negotiations.

“They have been messing about for a year and a half now and they have got to make up their minds,” Hill-Wood told the Daily Star. “The ball is in their court. They have made one bid of around £26 million and another rather tentative one.

Asked whether Arsenal were close to calling off the negotiations, Hill-Wood admitted: “We are getting close to that.”

The truth is, if recent reports about Barcelona’s financial position are to be believed, they simply can’t afford to pay what Arsenal are demanding for Fabregas. So, unless the Spanish side employ the nuclear option of persuading the player to agitae a move, it’s difficult to see how the impasse  can be resolved.

Follow the money

With Barcelona one of a number of western European clubs labouring under huge debts, there may come a time, in the not too distant future, when hard-nosed footballers, encouraged by their granite-nosed agents, opt to pursue their careers in countries that pay the most. Cash-rich Russia, for instance, could soon see an influx of talent.

Anzhi Makhachkala, like many clubs in Russia, benefit from the patronage of one of the country’s numerous billionaires. Suleyman Kerimov, who made his fortune through a series of shrewd investments in the 1990s (that’s his story and he’s sticking to it), has a net worth of €3.6 billion and is determined to turn Anzi into a footballing powerhouse.

Kerimov has earned a reputation as something of a philanthropist and he’s certainly doing his bit for the pension funds of high profile footballers whose careers are winding down. In February of this year he financed the signing of veteran Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos in a deal reputed to be worth €10 million, and the latest target for the Russian club is Inter striker Samuel Eto’o.

If your mind has a capacity to boggle, turn away now. The figures being bandied about, even in the context of the super rich oligarchs, are astonishing.  Anzhi would pay Inter a fee of €30M for Eto’o and renumerate the striker €20M per season. Unsurprisingly, Eto’o is understood to be considering the offer.

Goal of the day

When Liverpool arranged to play Galatasaray in Istanbul, there was much talk about the motivational effect the city might have on the players. This was, of course, the location where in 2005, Liverpool came from 3-0 down to draw level with Milan in the Champions League final, before eventually winning the competition on penalties.

Manager Kenny Dalglish said beforehand that he hoped the players would be inspired by the memories. And in some ways they were. They went 3-0 down, though this time there was to be no memorable comeback.

Former Liverpool striker Milan Baros scored twice, but the pick of the goals came from new Gala signing Johan Elmander.

New man in charge

Former Estudiantes boss Alejandro Sabella has been confirmed as the new head coach of the Argentina national team.

“The decision has been taken. Sabella is the choice,” Argentina football federation general secretary Jose Luis Meiszner told news agency Telam.

Spare a thought though for Al Jazira, the UAE club who had been expecting Sabella to become their new boss until the Argentinian failed to turn up on the day he was due to start work.

It’s always the jilted lover who is the last to find out about the infidelity and Al Jazire are no exception.

“We are still waiting to hear from him and there has been no news,” Al Jazira team manager Ayed Mabkhout said. “He hasn’t come out and told us that he wishes to terminate his contract with the club, but the administration has taken serious steps to search for a new coach and names will be revealed when Sabella submits an official apology.”

It’s the least he can do.

Coincidentally, one of the candidates linked with the Al Jazira vacancy, is Sabella’s predecessor in Argentina, Sergio Batista. Talk about a rebound relationship.

Sack race

Bob Bradley has paid the price for four years of solid, but unspectacular achievement as USA coach, by being sacked.

“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years,” U.S. Soccer (USS) President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. “During his time as the head coach of our Men’s National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change.”

With memories of USA’s 4-2 defeat to Mexico in last month’s Gold Cup fresh in the mind, the decision to fire Bradley is not entirely unexpected. The identity of his successor has not been revealed, although Jurgen Klinsmann, who lives in California, and who held talks with the US prior to Bradley signing a new four-year deal 12 months ago, will obviously be in the frame.

Half-hearted apology

The Football Association of Malaysia has issued a less-than-convincing to Chelsea’s Israeli player Yossi Benayoun and his club for any anti-Semitic abuse suffered by the midfielder in the country last week.

“From our initial observations, if such an incident took place, it would have involved a small section of spectators at the match and this surely does not reflect the feelings of the majority of fans in this football loving country,” it said in a statement.

To all but the hard of hearing within the Malaysian FA, the Israeli midfielder was booed and jeered whenever he touched the ball in the 1-0 win against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.


Having alienated much of the football world in recent months, Sepp Blatter has decided that it’s time to start building bridges.

Asked to comment on Brazilian football chief, Ricardo Teixeira’s recent verbal tirade against England, Blatter donned his seldom-used diplomacy cap and suggested that such an attack contravened the spirit of fair play.

“What Teixeira said is not in the spirit of my fair play,” he said. “I have [also] met FA chairman David Bernstein and we had a good positive meeting. We connected with each other. I am the president of all associations, not just the ones who voted for me.”

A chastened man? Or has the campaign for Blatter’s re-election in 2014 already begun? With Blatter, ever the chameleon, who can tell.


Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho is currently appearing before UEFA’s appeal panel to challenge his five-match ban from Champions League matches.

Mourinho accused UEFA and its referees of a long-standing conspiracy to help rival Barcelona after his team lost 2-0 in a semi-final first-leg match in April.

UEFA’s disciplinary body said the Portuguese coach made “inappropriate” comments.

It’s a win-win situation for Mourinho: either he is successful in his appeal or, he has more ammunition to feed his and Real’s persecution complex. In fact, it’s difficult to know which outcome he would prefer.