League of nations

Have you heard the one about the Englishman, the Frenchman, the German, the Spaniard, the Russian, Brazilian, the Czech, the Ghanaian, the Pole, the Cameroonian and the Moroccan?

They were the starting line-up for an Arsenal side featuring 11 different nationalities in Wednesday’s Champions League victory over Olympiakos. The Greek side were playing their tenth Champions League match in England and recording their 10th defeat. They really are Greeks bearing gifts.

This was not the first time an Arsenal side has fielded 11 different nationalities in the competition; back in 2006-07 they managed the feat in a game at Hamburg.

I gleaned that fact from a page dedicated to Arsenal statistical records, where I also learnt that the club once went 10 Champions League matches without conceding a goal. That accomplishment feels not so much like it came from a different era, but from a different geological age.

Record breaker

On the subject of statistical records, another two goals from Lionel Messi saw him draw level with legendary striker, Laszlo Kubala, as Barcelona’s second highest goalscorer of all time.

The player, as ever, was modesty personified when quizszed about his achievement.

“I am very satisfied that I have equalled someone who has been so important for this club in the past. I am really happy,” Messi was quoted as saying by Marca.

“I knew that I could equal Kubala, but I didn’t think about it before the match. I just want to do a good job and help the team.

Here’s Messi’s milestone goal.

Crime and punishment

Manchester City have suspended Carlos Tevez after he allegedly failed to come on as a substitute during Tuesday’s Champions League game against Bayern Munich.

“The player’s suspension is pending a full review into his alleged conduct,” said a City statement.

“The player will not be considered for selection or take part in training.”

Tevez can also expect a fine of about £500,000, or the equivalent of sitting on the bench for three games looking uninterested.

If, as some have suggested, Tevez’s intent was to engineer a move away from City, then there are signs that such a ploy could backfire.

In news that will delight football fans the world over, FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce has warned Tevez that he could face a global ban from football for his refusal to play.

“I believe FIFA should have the power to ban the player from taking an active part in football,” Boyce told Sky Sports. “If he has done what has been said, then I think his club would be better off without him.

“If Manchester City prove it, write to FIFA and state the exact circumstances that happened, I would have no problem with that whatsoever. It hasn’t occurred before but I think what happened was despicable.

“If this player did what he has been accused of doing, then if Manchester City were to release him I don’t think it would be right if he could go and earn a considerable amount of money somewhere else next week.”

Goal of the day

In Zenit St Petersburg’s 3-1 win over Porto, Shiokov fired home emphatically after a nicely-worked free-kick by the home side.

Own goal of the day

In Poland, a misjudged back pass from Dawid Mieczkowski for Okocimski Breszko  v Śląsk Wrocław.

Boys from Brazil

Goals from teenagers Lucas and Neymar gave Brazil a well-deserved 2-0 win over Argentina in the annual Superclasico fixture.

Brazil fielded a side featuring local players which meant there was even a place for Ronaldinho. The former Barcelona and Milan nightclub frequenter is regarded as a useful mentor for the younger players by coach Mano Menezes. Vastly experienced and well aware of the pitfalls that can befall the modern footballer, Ronaldinho would not be everyone’s idea of a role model, but he seems to be enjoying his newly-acquired status.

“It’s wonderful to play with Neymar and Lucas, the young talents … I was called here for that, to give support to these young people,” he said.

“I go step by step – my dream now is to win the Olympic gold that is missing in my career, and then get really well in the 2014 World Cup,” he said.

On schedule

Say what you like about the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, but one thing’s for sure there will be no delays in the construction of the stadia for the finals. I bet the camels run on time too.

The first stadium for the 2022 finals is expected to be ready by 2015, secretary general of Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee Hassan al-Thawadi has said. Which, if true, will mean that it will probably be completed before the Maracana, venue for the 2014 final.

Of course, building the stadium is the easy bit; creating the cooling technology will be far trickier. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll invent the technology to allow players and spectators to watch and play in comfort in the heat of a desert summer? Probably about the same time that we will be visiting the moon for weekend breaks.

High expectations

Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, home of Samuel Eto’o, the highest paid player in the world, have sacked their coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev.

Anzhi are currently placed seventh in the Russian Premier League table, 11 points behind leaders Zenit St. Petersburg. But when you’ve invested a small fortune on your players in the hope of qualifying for the Champions League, seventh just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Confirming Gadzhiev’s departure, a statement from Anzhi reported: “The club would like to express its gratitude to the coach for his work with Anzhi.”

“We hope that his knowledge and experience will serve to further the future development of football in Dagestan.”

Gadzhiev’s assistant Andrei Gordeyev will prepare the team for the upcoming domestic league matches together with Brazilian veteran Roberto Carlos.

No news yet on Gadzhiev’s successor, but the club is looking for an experienced, well-travelled candidate, who has no qualms about working for morally dubious individuals, and who is very, very fond of money. This sounds like a job for Sven Goran Eriksson.

Tennis elbow

Tennis legend Rafa Nadal, a Real Mallorca shareholder, has criticised the club’s board of directors for the way they handled the exit of coach Michael Laudrup.

Mallorca native Nadal, whose uncle Miguel Angel will take charge of the team for the time being, told local television the board’s actions had created “doubts” about the club and what had happened was “a shame.”

“As a fan I would have liked things to have gone differently,” added the tennis world number two.

Laudrup appears not to hold a grudge over his departure.

“I’m going to miss everyone a lot, but it’s the best thing for everything to go back to normal,” he said.

“We’ve won two from three at home and even though I’m not the manager any more, people have treated me superbly and I’m going to stay here and follow the team closely.”


On a day of records, Inter have celebrated Javier Zanetti’s club appearance record.

The Argentine has already reached the 1,000-game landmark in his career and on Wednesday entered the top five all-time appearance list in UEFA club competitions.

In last week’s game against Novara though, Zanetti reached 757 appearances for Inter, breaking the club record previously held by Beppe Bergomi, the man Zanetti succeeded as captain in 1999.

Inter president Massimo Moratti presented the footballer with a gift – the FIGC-authorised copy of his first contract as an Inter player in a silver frame – before leading the accolades.

Zanetti commented on speculation that he would one day take a role as director at the club.

“It would be wonderful if I were to stay on at Inter in a different role, because it would mean carrying on with the Moratti family, but I haven’t thought about it yet.

“I’m concentrating on putting all my passion into the last few years of my playing career, then we’ll sit down and talk about things just as any other family does.”

Zanetti is currently 6th in the list of most appearances made in Serie A having played 540 matches for Inter. He’s played just over a 100 matches fewer than all-time appearance holder, Paolo Maldini, so it’s not inconceivable that he could one day overtake him.