Running scared

Speaking ahead of tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Podgorica, Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic has done his bit to wind up the visiting side by suggesting that England are arrogant.

When asked why he thought England should be worried, Brnovic replied: “Only for football-related reasons.”

“I would say [they are arrogant] because that’s what could be seen, even when they played San Marino, given some of the things they said. But things will certainly be quite different now [compared to when Montenegro last hosted England in October 2011 in qualification for Euro 2012]. We are the leaders in our group this time. We’re not chasing after anything and we have nothing to prove. This will be quite a spectacle.”

“I hear England have [pencilled in] friendlies against Germany and Argentina in November. Perhaps they did so before the start of the qualifiers, because definitely they believe in themselves. Perhaps after the game with us they will have to cancel them, and they may suffer a penalty. Who knows? We want to take the opportunity ahead of us. I’m not saying we can’t lose the game, but England will really have to toil to beat us.”

Brnovic also made light of the suggestion that a poor playing surface could inconvenience the visiting side.

“I’m sure we’ll make the most of them,” he said. “I’ve read statements from some English players about the way the pitch will look. As far as I know, the English have always favoured long passes, so who should complain about this? Us, with [Mirko] Vucinic, [Stevan] Jovetic, [Marko] Basa, or England? They’re also intimidated by our fans. All these stories are coming from their side. That shows they’re more scared of this game than we are.”

You’ve got to say, he does have a point.

Back to the future

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has admitted he will manage in the Premier League again one day – and refused to rule out a return to his former club Chelsea.

The Portuguese coach was in London having attended Brazil’s game with Russia at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening.

Mourinho is widely expected to leave Real this summer, and has hinted at a possible surprise move, which many have interpreted as a return to a former club.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, he admitted he still loves English football and confirmed his passion for Chelsea remains.

“In this moment, I am completely independent of talks and speculations, and people who know me, know me well enough that I think about my job at Real Madrid,” Mourinho said.

He even suggested that the current freezing weather conditions in England were not enough to put him off. Now that is dedication.

“I cannot deny that, despite this weather, I love it here, and as I said I have a house and I have big emotional connections with Chelsea and one day I think naturally I will have to be back to English football, or to Chelsea or to another club.

“Of course, Chelsea means to me differently than other clubs. Chelsea is in my heart as Inter is for example.

“One day I have to be back but again it is normal that I am in London. The same way I walk in my home city in Portugal, people see that as normal and this is normal, the same thing is normal when I am in London.”

Also linked with the Manchester United and Manchester City roles, Mourinho admitted that he could not envisage either job becoming available any time soon.

“I think Manchester is Sir Alex’s kingdom and I would love that job to be his job forever, and for many more years and the other chair is Roberto with a contract,” he added.

“He was champion two years ago so I don’t think there is a move over there and I hope everything goes well for everyone. Even Benitez, I hope it goes well for him and I wish the same for them as me for it to go well.”

Mourinho denied that his presence in London, was a sign that he was about to move there permanently.

“You know, there is a lot of talk but I think people has to understand that I can be in London very often, because we have a house here and I love it here and our daughter is coming to study in London and being in London should be seen as a normal thing for us,” he said.

“But every time I come and people see me shopping, people start immediately making connections about a return and I feel it a little bit because I say every day I love it here and I have a fantastic time, and that I will return one day so, to be fair, I give a little contribution to the speculation.

“But at the end of the day I am in Madrid and very committed with ambitions for the club for the rest of the season.

“We are in the last eight of the Champions League and we have a final against our rivals Atletico Madrid.

“People who know me know I am professional and that in this moment I only think of Real. ”

Snow way

Costa Rica’s bid to have Saturday’s snow-affected World Cup qualifier against the United States replayed, has been turned down by FIFA.

The U.S. won the match 1-0 in Denver but Costa Rica were unhappy with the conditions, saying the pitch markings were not visible, the ball could not be passed properly and stadium employees entered the field while the ball was still in play to clear away snow.

“FIFA has examined the content of the letter and … has confirmed that the conditions established in the regulations for an official protest have not been met by the Costa Rica FA,” football’s governing body said in a statement.

“Therefore, the result of the match played on 22 March stands and is considered as valid.”

In effect Costa Rica’s appeal has been turned down on a technicality.

The Costa Rica delegation could have complained about the field in writing to the match referee, Joel Aguilar, before kick-off. Their team captain, Bryan Ruiz, was required to “immediately lodge a protest” with the referee if he believed the field became unplayable during the match. The US captain, Clint Dempsey, also needed to be present for such a protest. Post-match protests must also be filed in writing to FIFA’s administration “no later than two hours after the match”, the regulations state.

None of these things were done, thus the result stands.

The result took the USA into second place in CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying and left Costa Rica bottom in the group after two matches.

Taxing issues

Despite the French government having to re-think plans to heavily tax high earners, French football authorities are concerned that the measures taken will do little to encourage big-name players to stay in Ligue 1.

French President Francois Hollande had made an election pledge to tax all earnings over €1 million at 75%. However, a ruling by France’s Constitutional Court in late December, forced the government to backtrack, possibly lowering the top rate to 60%.

“The damage is done. It’s not by bringing the rate down to 60% that the effect of the initial announcement will be dampened down,” Philippe Piat, co-president of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP), told L’Equipe. “They should have thought more about it before. The news of this 75% rate of tax went right around Europe. And the rate still remains enormous.”

Frederic Thiriez, the French Football League (LFP) president, added: “I had warned everyone enough about this during the election campaign. Subsequent events have proven me right, and that French football was within its rights to lead the battle. It’s better to move on now. There’s been enough of this chronic fiscal instability, which is destabilising French businesses and football.”

The salaries of some 150 players would have been affected by the initial proposal. Jean-Pierre Bernes, agent of Paris Saint-Germain duo Jeremy Menez and Blaise Matuidi, as well as Lille captain Rio Mavuba, acknowledged players had been concerned by the news.

“Of course the players would prefer to be taxed at 60% rather than 75%, it’s mathematics,” he said. “But it won’t be key in keeping players. The best ones will still leave. The 75% tax rate, a lot of players have talked about it, because it was in the news. A small, possible reduction isn’t going to reassure them.”

Blueprint for Italy

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has outlined his plans for a radical overhaul of the Italian club game.

De Laurentiis thinks that four steps are required in order to reform football.

Firstly, he wants clubs to focus more on developing young Italian players rather than recruiting from overseas. He would then give them a platform to play.

“We need to form players for the future because we can’t keep buying from outside of Italy,” the movie mogul argued.

“All that is needed for that is to then allow our youth teams to take part in the Lega Pro Divisions. That would help our youngsters and their value grow.

“We would therefore already have a reservoir that would guarantee us reinforcements for the future.”

De Laurentiis also wants to see a reduction in the number of clubs playing in Serie A, the Italian top-flight which is currently home to 20 teams.

“It needs to be cut to 16 sides,” he continued. “And we can’t wait another 10 years in order to reduce those numbers…

“If we want to revolutionise calcio then we can do so in three months!”

The Napoli chief finally underlined the need for new stadiums, fan-friendly environments that can generate revenue.

“If I could build a new stadium then I’d get rid of the Curvas behind the goal,” he said somewhat controversially.

“I adore the Curvas and I know how much passion is there, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t put those spectators in the best possible place to view the games.

“We have to offer the maximum at stadiums, the best facilities, to give a person who pays €10 the same opportunities to watch the game as one who pays €100.

“We have to think that we can’t please everyone because if you try to do that then you won’t make anyone happy.”

Goal of the day

A well struck free-kick by Thomas Pledl put Germany U-19 up against Ukraine.

Quote of the day

“Neymar is the Justin Bieber of football. Brilliant on the old You Tube. Cat piss in reality….” 

Joey Barton passes judgement on Neymar, who endured a forgettable night for Brazil against Russia on Monday.

It’s a man’s world…

An adviser of Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has angered the coach of the club’s successful women’s team by telling a French radio show that he would not discuss football with women.

During a talk show on RMC on Monday, a female caller criticised France striker Karim Benzema and Aulas’ adviser Bernard Lacombe replied: “I do not discuss football with women, that’s how I see it. They should get back to cooking.”

The former France international’s words infuriated women’s team coach Patrice Lair, whose side have won the French league title for the past six years and the last two editions of the Champions League.

“I’m very disappointed. He has no right to say that,” Lair told 20 Minutes’ website on Tuesday.

“It’s not going to help the development of women football. It’s a lack of respect for the president’s work and the girls’ efforts.

“They (the OL women) know what he thinks about women’s football.”

Great excuses of our time

Russia coach Fabio Capello has come up with a novel excuse for his side’s inability to cling on to a 1-0 lead in Monday’s friendly international against Brazil.

Leading 1-0 entering the final minute of the game, Russia were undone by a late Fred goal, which ensured honours were even at Stamford Bridge. However, a fan ran on to the pitch in the closing minutes causing his players to lose concentration, claimed the Italian.

“I am happy with the way we played, we showed a lot of team spirit,” Capello told the assembled media.

“My only disappointment is that after a supporter came on the pitch my players lost their concengtration and against Brazil you cannot lose your concentration.”

Short term memory

How times change. In February 2013, Zambia created history by winning the African Cup of Nations for the first time. Fast forward 13 months and the country’s sports minister, Chishimba Kambwili, has threatened to withdraw government sponsorship after what he described as a ‘rubbish’ result against Lesotho.

Herve Renard’s side were held to a 1-1 draw against a team ranked 124 places below them in the FIFA world rankings, and Kambwili threatened to disband the team should results not improve.

“I want to warn the Football Association of Zambia and the players that if they don’t improve their game we will be forced to withdraw sponsorship as government and disband the team. The result that we saw on Sunday can only be described as rubbish,” he told ZNBC TV.

“We have given them enough resources and what we are getting leaves a lot to be desired.

“We can’t continue spending taxpayer’s money like this without getting results. We were drawing at the Africa Cup and we have continued with the same.”