Stepping down

Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick has resigned citing burnout, just six months after taking charge of the Bundesliga club. The 53-year-old suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and has struggled to maintain the energy levels required for the job.

“After a long and deep reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a break,” Rangnick said in a statement on the club website.

“It was extremely hard to reach this decision but my current energy level is not enough to be successful and to bring the team and the club forward.”

Prior to taking the Schalke job, Rangnick had enjoyed a successful four-and-a-half-year spell with Hoffenheim during which he took the club from the third tier to the top-flight.

“The decision of Ralf Rangnick deserves the highest respect,” Schalke general manager Horst Heldt said.

Level playing field

Barcelona and Real Madrid are doing their bit to refute suggestions that Spanish football is turning into a predictable two-horse race. Both sides dropped points last night, with Barcelona fortunate to secure a 2-2 draw at Valencia, while Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Racing Santander. The results leave the reigning champions in 4th spot in La Liga while Jose Mourinho’s Real sit uncomfortably in 7th spot.

Naturally, Mourinho was magnanimity personified after watching his fail to win or score for the second successive match.

“It’s less worrisome to draw a match in which you’re the only side that tries to play and win, said Mr Charm.

Following Sunday’s defeat to Levante, Mourinho complained about the opponents’ underhand tactics. True to form, he levelled the same accusations against Racing.

“The pace was broken by simulation, by injuries, by the stretcher coming onto the pitch,” he said. “We’re responsible for this because we failed to put a stop to it.”

No logo?

Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has been dragged into the debate concerning the club’s decision to accept a shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation. There is a growing opposition to the deal with thousands of Barcelona fans signing an online petition urging the club to revoke the agreement.

Part of the opposition to the shirt sponsorship deal stems from the lack of democracy in Qatar, but there is also a principle at stake, with may fans believing commercial shirt sponsorship is incompatible with the club’s lofty ideals. A few seasons of mid-table obscurity while they chipped away at their €442 million debt would certainly test those principles.

Guardiola, who knows all about the lure of the petrochemical dollar, having played in Qatar for played Qatar’s Al Ahly between 2003 and 2005 and acted as an ambassador for the country’s successful World Cup bid, has defended the regime.

“I can tell you that I lived for two years in Qatar and my family and I received wonderful treatment,” the 40-year-old said.

“Qatar is opening up to the Western world and I know the efforts that the Foundation is putting in to do some really good things. I think that we often don’t understand the Muslim world – nor they us.

“These are difficult times and the board has the obligation to search for alternatives. Qatar is the most open Muslim country and the closest to the Western democracies, but they need time.”

They need time and Barcelona need money. It’s a perfect fit.

Goal of the day

Israel international made his first start for Palermo and he didn’t have to wait long to impress his new supporters.

Miss of the day

After The Miss comes La Falta, and a huge sigh of relief from Fernando Torres when he saw Valencia’s Roberto Soldado somehow miss the target against Barcelona.

Hit of the day

Uruguayan side Nacional’s match Copa Sudamericana game against Universidad de Chile was abandoned early in the second half after a linesman was hit on the head by a toilet roll thrown from the crowd. Mercifully, it was unused.

The game was the second this week in the  competition to be called off, after crowd violence also marred the previous night’s match in Ecuador between Emelec and Olimpia.

Tinkerman returns

Inter have appointed Claudio Ranieri as their new coach, and the 59-year-old has already vowed to “wake up the team”.

Ranieri told Domenica Sportiva: “Inter are a great team. They have had a bad start to the season and I will have to talk to the team to understand why that was.

“I will have to bring enthusiasm and a change of gear in order to wake up the team. I cannot promise that we will win this or that but I believe this team has a lot to give and we must prove it.”

Ranieri’s managerial cv is as long as your arm, and includes spells at Roma, Juventus, Parma, Fiorentina and Napoli as well as overseas stints at Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea, where he earned the name the Tinkerman for the frequency with which he rotated his players.

He becomes Inter’s 4th manger in little over a year since they won the 2010 Champions League under Jose Mourinho. Say what you like about the Portuguese, but he’s a tough act to to follow


Another day, another humiliation.

A day after FIFA confirmed that Issa Hayatou had been installed as head of its London Olympics football organising committee and GOAL Bureau chief, football’s governing body says his appointments were just a “technical error”.

“Due to a technical error, appointments for FIFA standing committees have appeared on the FIFA website,” said the FIFA statement released to media at 19:00 CET on Wednesday.

“The appointments for the chairman and deputy chairman of the FIFA standing committees will be communicated in due course.

“Therefore, Issa Hayatou has not been appointed as chairman of the organising committee for the Olympic football tournaments.”

Hayatou like most people who have been involved in the running of the sport in the past 20 years, has been the subject of corruption allegations and is currently under investigation following Panorama claims last year that he received kickbacks in the 1990s scandal that engulfed FIFA’s now-defunct marketing partner ISL.

Given that Hayatou is currently the subject of an International Olympic Committee investigation, the decision to appoint him as the replacement for Mohammed Bin Hammam as head of the 2012 Olympics organising team, did seem a little remiss of FIFA.

Like appointing Bernie Madoff to replace Nick Leeson, with the whole process overseen by Arthur Anderson.

Money isn’t everything

Samuel Eto’o has demonstrated that millions of roubles deposited into his bank account following his summer move to Russian side, Anzhi Makhachkala, have not dimmed his competitive edge.

The Cameroon striker was involved in an unsightly incident with Dynamo Moscow’s Argentinian defender, Leandro Fernandez, after heading over the bar from close range.

I can’t lip read and my Spanish is no more than rudimentary, but I suspect that Fernandez might have been saying something about the size of Eto’o’s wage packet and his failure to hit a barn door.

Eto’o appears to have taken to life in Dagestan quite well and has enthused about the welcome he has received from the Anzhi fans.

“My team-mates and I personally are very thankful to them. Owing to our supporters we never feel lonely in away matches.

“They’re like Liverpool fans with their famous hymn ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.”

What? They fly in from Norway each week and most of them are living in a mythical past?


It’s not often that one gets to share some good news, but there will be few football fans who would begrudge Owen Hargreaves his comeback goal on Wednesday night. The Manchester City midfielder has suffered so many setbacks in recent years that the term injury-plagued doesn’t really do justice to his travails. Dead, would seem more aposite.

Having played just six minutes in the past three years, Hargreaves made his debut for City and opened the scoring in their 2-0 Carling cup victory over holders Birmingham City.

“The last three years have been a learning curve for me,” he told Sky Sports. “I could never have anticipated myself being in that position which was trying to make the most of a difficult situation.

“There was a lot of frustration but I met a lot of wonderful people along the way that I would probably have never met, so I can’t say it was all bad.”

On his overall fitness, Hargreaves was cautiously optimistic, even envisaging a return to the England side.

“I’ve just got to take it step by step,” he said. “I’ve just got to get back in training, consistently playing.

“It’s a natural progression. If I do a great job here, then I will be in the England team probably again. So we’ll take it step by step first.”

Steady on now Owen. Don’t run before you learn to walk. And in your case, I mean that literally.