Cook the books

Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook is being investigated by the club after being accused of mocking a player’s cancer-stricken mother.

City defender Nedum Onuoha’s mother claimed that she received an email from Cook which mocked her use of the phrase “ravaged with it” in her original message, referring to her cancer.

Onuoha, who also acts as her son’s agent, appears to have been copied into a reply sent from Cook’s email account to City’s football administrator, Brain Marwood.

Cook denies sending the email and claims his email account was hacked while he was on holiday by a practical joker. What kind of person does he work with? Colin Hunt?

Cook’s defence is plausible, although it’s scarcely credible that the chief executive of a Premier League club would not be able to access to his email account while away from the office.

Walking away

A strange tale concerning French midfielder Steed Malbranque who has terminated his contract with St Etienne amid rumours he was leaving because one of his children was ill.

Initial reports claimed that the former Sunderland player had cancelled his contract so that he could spend time looking after his seriously ill son. However, Malbranque doesn’t even have a son and St Etienne were quick to dispel the story.

“St Etienne and the player wish to firmly deny the groundless, sometimes hurtful rumours linking Steed’s decision to his health or that of his children,” the statement read.

No light was shed as to why the player has walked away from a club he joined hust a few weeks ago.

Goal of the day

Brazil were in London for their annual restock the coffers friendly. Ghana were the opponents at Craven Cottage, and the game was decided by a debut international goal for Leando Damiano.

The match also marked the return to international colours of Ronaldinho. The playmaker has impressed for Flamengo this season but his recall to the side by coach Mano Menezes had been interpreted by some as sop to placate Menezes critics.

However, Menezes is convinced that there is still a role for the player on the global stage – as ballast perhaps?

“He played very well and is a player we needed to bring back to the team,” said the coach. “International football is much faster nowadays and he found it a bit difficult at the beginning. But then he got into the rhythm and showed what he is all about in the second half.”

On the move

One Brazilian player to impress in what was generally a workmanlike Brazil performance was Santos forward Neymar. The teenager has spent all summer rejecting overtures from some of Europe’s leading clubs, but a move looks imminent.

“Real Madrid and Barcelona are interested in me,” he told AS. “The two clubs are battling for me, I can confirm, but I have not reached an agreement with either.

“The interest from the two big clubs in Spain is good for my self-esteem – it’s great to know that two clubs like these are interested in me.”

One thing’s for sure, if he joins either of these clubs, he can expect a lifetime of enmity from the other.

Clash of the egos

If there is one person in football who has a loftier opinion of himself than Jose Mourinho then it’s probably former Barcelona coach, Johann Cruyff. So, it will come as no great surprise to learn that the Dutchman is not a huge fan of the Real Madrid boss.

Cruyff has described José Mourinho’s recent eye-poke to one of Barcelona’s assistant coaches as an “act of arrogance and impotence”.

“Mourinho might be a very good person in private and a very good coach but the side he shows the world is something else,” Cruyff told El Periódico de Catalunya. “Many people say that he does it to deflect attention so that it will be talked about and not the football. I don’t believe it. It is an act of arrogance and impotence.”

Cruyff was of course the man in charge of Barcelona’s Dream Team, so he has plenty of experience when it comes to the unique demands and pressures thrown up by el clasico fixture. He insists that Real Madrid have a duty to improve relations with their rivals.

“The current situation is extremely disagreeable,” the Dutchman continued.  “Madrid’s responsibility in the world is very great and there are certain things you should not allow to happen.

Cruyff was not always so keen on diplomacy. When in charge of Barcelona, he fell out with Michael Laurdrup, a key member of the Dream Team. The Danish striker did the unthinkable and joined rivals Madrid. Cruyff’s statesmanlike response? Take a look at this:


Banned FIFA member Mohamed Bin Hammam has claimed FIFA would never have dared to take action against him if he were European. Having heard the way FIFA president Sepp Blatter speaks about England, I wouldn’t be so sure.

In a letter to the head of the ethics committee panel who imposed a lifetime ban on him for bribery, Bin Hammam states: “Were I a European, or were the Caribbean part of Europe, neither Blatter nor Valcke will dare lay a finger on us; were we Europeans, you would have never been given the opportunity to chair this ethics committee panel and slaughter people left and right, as you have done.”

Bin Hammam is not prepared to go quietly, and his attacks on both Blatter, and FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valckedo, certainly have a ring of truth to them.

“Nobody in this world will believe that Valcke and Blatter are qualified to fight any sort of corruption. If they are serious about fighting corruption, they should have the courage to volunteer themselves as the first subjects of such investigations on the allegations raised against them since years until today.”


Blatter is under attack on a number of fronts at the moment. As well as Bin Hammam’s regular character assassinations, Europe’s leading clubs are once again on the warpath.

The European Club Association holds its annual congress in Geneva this week and in their sights are international matches.

The clubs will demand that internationals are always played in 10-day double-headers rather than individual dates, and would like to see the unpopular August one-off friendly date abolished altogether.

ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has described Blatter’s regime as “corrupt”, and called for a democratic “revolution” in world football.

At the end of a long queue of people wanting to criticise Blatter is Belgian MEP, MEP Ivo Belet, who claims that the FIFA’s lack of moral legitimacy under Blatter, has undermined their case for greater autonomy.

“This is only feasible on the condition that the game is governed in a transparent, competent and clean way,” Belet states. “The deplorable events with regard to the World Cup and the election of the president … has severely damaged football in general, from the top to the grass-roots level.”

Strike off

Representatives of the Italian Players’ Association (AIC) and Serie A have finally come to their senses and signed a temporary collective contract ensuring the end of strike action.

Both parties seem happy with the agreement, which does make one wonder what they’ve been arguing about for the last few weeks.

Lega Serie A president Maurizio Beretta said: “The clubs obtained a lot of what they wanted. It’s a very innovative agreement.”

AIC president Damiano Tommasi stated: “The players’ goodwill in these negotiations should be noted. If Beretta says the clubs obtained a lot, that should mean there won’t be much more to discuss for the new contract that will last beyond this short-term deal.”

See you again in 12 months time then.

Super Mario on the I-Pad

One Italian player who often gives the impression that he has withdrawn his labour, but forgot to tell anyone about it, is Mario Balotelli. The Manchester City forward irritated Italy coach Cesare Prandelli with his less-than-enthusiastic contribution to Italy’s 1-0 win over the Faroe Islands on Friday night.

Prandelli was reportedly unimpressed by Balotelli’s warm-up and there were also suggestions he was using his IPad while sat on the bench.

The player, who sometimes appears a law unto himself, at least had the good sense to deny the allegations

“My IPad? I wasn’t listening to it when I was on the bench…I listened to it before that,” Balotelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Mario, for the sake of a quiet life, just don’t take your I-Pad on to a football pitch.

“The future is up to him,” said Prandelli. “From his upbringing to his experiences and how he addresses his problems. I have patience for him, he is only 21 and it would be a shame to forget his potential.”


While Serie A players prepare for their delayed kick-off, one of their members wishes he was elsewhere. Roma forward, Bojan Krkic, who moved to the Italian capital from Barcelona this summer, is missing life at Camp Nou.

“I miss everything that surrounds the club,” Krkic said to Catalunya Radio. “I miss my colleagues, my friends and everyone who cares for Barcelona. I miss a lot of things. I love everything I have here and will always have this feeling of nostalgia. That’s not a bad thing though.

“There’s not a single club out there that can compete with Barcelona. They always aim to win La Liga, the Champions League and everything else.”

Hardly a resounding vote of confidence for his new club, is it.