Just like old times

Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson ignored the traditional pre-match handshake before Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Old Trafford.

Relations between the pair have been strained since the Spaniard’s time in charge of Liverpool.

Benitez said: “I was waiting for him at the beginning, so you should ask him. I have education. I was ready.

“I know a lot of people were watching and I knew what to do.”

“It’s up to him. I was in the way waiting. If you are brave enough, ask him.”

What was once a competitive relationship, based on mutual respect, deteriorated during the latter years of Benitez’s Anfield tenure, most notably in 2009 when the Spaniard claimed Ferguson received favourable treatment from the authorities.

“Everyone can see that I’m talking about facts,” the Liverpool manager said at the time in a now infamous press conference. “I’m just saying things that everybody can see.”

Unfortunately for Benitez, his outburst resulted not in a reappraisal of Ferguson – opinions on him are far too entrenched fort that to happen – but in the gradual realisation that Ferguson had seen off another yet challenger.

Second coming

Palermo have sacked coach Gian Piero Gasperini for the second time in a season on Monday after just two matches in charge, as owner Maurizio Zamparini battles to avoid relegation.

A statement said the Serie A club were now considering who would take over with media reports speculating that Giuseppe Sannino, who managed the side for the first three games of the campaign, was favourite to be re-appointed. My money would be on Gasperini.

The Sicilians are second bottom and five points from safety with 10 games left after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Siena.

“It would be mad if we managed to stay up at this point,” a Zamparini told reporters on Monday.

“We need luck and our players to be men instead of being gutless.”

Which, as inspirational speeches go, is hardly Churchillian.

Hundreds of Palermo supporters protested outside the stadium after Sunday’s defeat, throwing objects at the team bus and chanting against Zamparini, who has fired four coaches this season and reinstated one of them.

Job security

Just to show that this madness is not confined to Italy, CSKA Sofia have sacked coach Miodrag Jesic after two games in charge and replaced him with former boss Milen Radukanov.

The dismissal came a day after CSKA’s 2-0 win over Chernomorets Burgas – Jesic’s second game at the helm of the club since he returned to the Bulgarska Armiya stadium to begin his second coaching spell.

Jesic was booed by CSKA fans after the 2-0 home defeat by Litex Lovech earlier this month, with some supporters calling for his immediate resignation.

Radukanov becomes CSKA’s third coach this season after Jesic, who guided the team to the league title in 2005, replaced Stoycho Mladenov in January after a poor run in the first half of the season.

“Radukanov will be CSKA coach for the next four months but he can stay longer if we’re pleased with his work,” CSKA’s chief executive Georgi Iliev told reporters.

CSKA are fourth in the standings with 32 points from 17 matches, 10 points behind leaders Ludogorets.

“We have very good players but it’s obvious that we’re not playing well under Jesic,” said Iliev. “Well, we beat Chernomorets but it was just another drab performance.”

Racism latest

Genoa have been fined 30,000 euros after fans racially abused a Milan player in Friday’s 2-0 defeat, Serie A said in a statement.

The league’s disciplinary commissioner did not name the player involved. Milan’s former Genoa player and Guinea international Kevin Constant was sent off in the game.

A statement published on the Lega’s official website read: “A fine of 30,000 euros to Genoa for directing chants containing racially discriminatory language to a player of the opposing team in the 25th minute, for shining a laser at players of the opposing team and for throwing coins and lighters at a referee’s assistant and the opposing goalkeeper in the 75th minute.”

The Lega did not specify which Milan player had been the target of racial abuse, although the introduction of striker Mario Balotelli as a 25th-minute substitute may have drawn unwelcome attention from the home fans.

Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Sulley Muntari were racially abused by Inter supporters last month. Team mate Kevin-Prince Boateng walked off the pitch when racially abused by Pro Patria fans in a friendly in January.

Just to confirm that racism is not confined solely to the supporters, Balotelli was referred to as “the family’s little n****” by Milan vice-president Paolo Berlusconi on the eve of his Rossoneri debut.

Long live the king…

Issa Hayatou has been re-elected as president of the African football confederation (CAF) for a final four-year term.

In a resounding vote of confidence in the Cameroonian, Hayatou was elected unopposed. Although, that may well have had something to do with him disqualifying rival challengers from standing against him. It may not be democracy as most people would know it, but it does have the redeeming virtue of saving a fortune on election costs.

Earlier this month, FIFA executive committee member Jacques Anouma was barred from being a candidate to lead CAF, losing his legal challenge to stand for election against Hayatou.

Thus allowing the 66-year-old to be re-elected in a North Korean style landslide at Sunday’s vote in Marrakech. FIFA President Sepp Blatter then presented the Cameroonian with a special certificate to commemorate his 25 years at the helm of CAF. The pair will take their secrets to the grave.

Hayatou challenged Blatter for the FIFA leadership in 2002 and lost. He has not made that mistake again.

The world according to Bayern Munich

Today’s sermon from Upper Bavaria comes via the pulpit of Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who has criticized club owners, specifically the Glazer family which owns Manchester United, who have no emotional attachment to their club and are motivated by money.

“At Bayern we don’t look always for short-term success. I’ve won about 20 titles,” Hoeness preached to The Sun.

“To win the 21st title I’ll not sell out the club. But if somebody comes in who’s won nothing, he wants to win quickly and under this pressure he makes decisions which can be very difficult.”

“I do not compare ourselves to United for instance which is a very big club and famous and one I admire greatly. But Mr. Glazer didn’t know where Manchester was 20 years ago. He doesn’t do it because he loves United. He wants to make money.

“Football, you do with your heart. I have no problem with people from Arabia or Russia but they should have a connection to the club, from the heart.”

Hoeness then proceeded to explain why the Bundesliga was superior to the Premier League.

“I only want to have big sporting success on a sound economic basis. It’s no fun to win the championship or Champions League with a 50-60 million pound loss,” Hoeness explained.

“The 12,000 cheap tickets are for young people and the people who cannot afford it otherwise. Football must always be affordable. When you only pay 15 euros you can’t say ‘I hate these millionaires’ because you cannot finance the millionaires with 15 euros. The 15 euro tickets are standing seats behind the goals. Our most expensive season ticket is around 800 euros.”

Hoeness may be correct in making an ethical case for the current suprmacy of the German model, but does he really need to 
mention this every time a microphone is thrust in front of him.


A shocking biting incident dominated the headlines in Switzerland at the weekend, after Zurich’s Loris Benito was viciously attacked during his side’s  Super League  FC Thun.

Fortunately for Benito, the damage was minimal, and fortunately for FC Thun the culprit was not one of their players, but a pine marten who ran on to the pitch and evaded the attention of several players. Eventually, the miscreant was caught, but after a nasty nip to Benito’s hand, off he dashed again before  Zurich goalkeeper David Da Costa finally captured the beast.

Goal of the day

There’s long range and there’s ludicrous: Mor Diouf scored an absurd goal two minutes from time to hand SuperSport United a 1-0 victory over Pretoria rivals Mamelodi Sundowns.

Quote of the day

“There’s a lot of talk about respect for each other, but that’s not really working out, is it? Just look at the decision to appoint this Turkish guy as the referee for the game between Manchester United and Real Madrid. His mother is probably the only one who knows who he is.”

Johan Cruyff is the latest to lay the boot into to referee Cüneyt Çakır; suggesting that his relatively low profile had a bearing on his decision to send Nani off during their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid. What nonsense!

Crossing the line

Goal-line technology proponents received a boost after an appalling decision by referee cost Hibs all three points in Sunday’s Edinburgh derby.

Leigh Griffiths was convinced he had earned victory over Hearts with a stunning strike that hit the bar and bounced in.

The match officials thought differently though: referee Euan Norris and assistant Raymond Whyte failed to see that the ball was about a metre over the line and much to the consternation of the Hibernian players, waved play on.