Reading between the lines

Betting has been suspended on former Swindon boss, Paolo Di Canio, becoming the next manager of Premier League strugglers Reading.

The Premier League outfit took the bewildering decision on Monday of firing Brian McDermott, after a poor run that has seen the club lose four in a row to leave them second bottom in the standings. However, it should not be forgotten that just over a year ago, the club were languishing in a similar position in the second tier Championship. McDermott’s mistake was not to fail this season, but to overachieve last.

More recently, it was only 33 days earlier that McDermott had been named the Premier League’s manager of the month for January.

Nevertheless, a statement from Reading said: “Owner Anton Zingarevich wishes to place on record his thanks to Brian who had achieved great success with the club since taking over as manager in December 2009. Brian gained promotion to the Premier League last year for only the second time in the club’s history thanks to a remarkable run at the end of last season. However, in our current situation the owner, Anton Zingarevich, felt that a change was necessary.

“The search for a successor will start immediately. It is hoped a new manager will be in place as soon as possible to lead the fight against potential relegation.”

Incidentally, Zingarevich passed what used to be known as the “fit and proper person test” when he took over at Reading in January 2012. You can read more about him and his billionaire father here.

The short term thinking, delusions of grandeur and lack of loyalty that characterise the modern club owner are all evident in the decision to sack McDermott. His successor, be it Di Canio or someone else, will have 9 games in which to extricate Reading from a position that all but their most partisan supporters expected them to be in, when they were promoted to the Premier League 10 months ago.

Managerial merry-go-round

From one mad house to another and the news that Palermo have re-appointed their first coach of the season – just hours after sacking their second boss for the second time.

A statement on the club’s official website confirmed: “Palermo Football Club announce they have re-entrusted the technical guidance of the first team to Giuseppe Sannino. The coach will this afternoon take his first weekly training session.”

Sannino, a glutton for punishment, has retaken over after being dismissed earlier in the campaign having managed just one point from three league games.

Gian Piero Gasperini replaced him, but was then fired by president Maurizio Zamparini in February.

Alberto Malesani came in, but lasted just 19 days before Gasperini was recalled for a spell that lasted just two matches before Zamparini fired him and turned again to Sannino.

Palermo have now managed made more coaching changes than they have wins this season (three). Few would bet on that changing by the end of the current campaign.

Too big for his boots?

Former Paris Saint-Germain players have criticised Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the Swede berated the club’s fans at the weekend.

Ibrahimovic hit out at PSG supporters who booed the team during Saturday’s 2-1 home win against Nancy at the Parc des Princes, accusing them of being too demanding. But it was his claim that the club “was nothing” before the arrival of Qatari investment in the summer of 2011 that has caused most offence.

“They ask a lot,” Ibrahimovic is quoted as saying by Le Parisien.

“This is strange in view of what they had in the past. Because before, they had nothing.”

Words that did not go down well with supporters, nor with some of the club’s illustrious former players.

“He needs to show a bit of humility, a bit of respect,” said Luis Fernandez, a title-winner with PSG in 1986 and later coach at the club, on RMC radio. “He says what he wants, but maybe he doesn’t know the history of French football.

“We have been world champions, Marseille have been European champions. PSG have won a European trophy too. The most important thing is to respect the history of the club.”

Members of PSG’s title-winning team in 1994 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1996 were also unimpressed by the Swede’s remarks.

“The club will always exist, with or without him,” former midfielder Vincent Guerin told RMC, while Alain Roche, the former France defender who until recently worked in the club’s scouting department, told Ibrahimovic to “watch what he says.”

Fernandez added that being booed is par for the course at the Parc des Princes and believes that supporters have the right to expect better than what they are seeing from a PSG team that has been assembled at huge expense.

“Zlatan is disappointed at being booed, but everyone has been booed in that stadium, even me,” he said. “The fans pay to see a spectacle and they certainly expect a bit more than what they are getting.”

Does this mark the moment when Ibrahimovic’s relationship with PSG begins to sour? Probably. The Swede tends to exhaust his supply of goodwill within a couple of years of joining a new club, so the latest developments shouldn’t surprise anyone.


Croatia have snubbed a warning from UEFA that hooliganism and racism could lead to its teams being banned from international competitions.

“We regard this form of address … as diplomatically inappropriate,” read a letter to UEFA president Michel Platini, signed by Croatia’s interior and sports ministers.

Croatian officials said they had taken a series of measures to fight football violence.

“The situation regarding safety in Croatia is no worse or more concerning than in the rest of Europe,” the letter said. It also suggested the governing body should concentrate more on its own corruption and betting scandals than criticizing the Balkan country.

Neighboring Serbia has also been warned by UEFA but says it will do all it can to curb hooliganism at stadiums.

UEFA President Michel Platini has twice in two years warned Serbian and Croatian political leaders that their national and club teams face suspension if they don’t act to curb the problems.

Croatia and Serbia meet in a World Cup qualifier March 22 in Zagreb, Croatia. Sensibly, the countries agreed that away fans should be banned for this particular fixture.


UEFA have rejected Lazio’s appeal at what the club termed an “excessive” punishment of having to play their next two home Europa League games behind closed doors.

The ban came after UEFA ruled that racist behaviour and the firing of flares in their recent 2-0 win over German side Borussia Moenchengladbach in the last 32 of the Europa League, merited the club being made to play Stuttgart in Thursday’s last 16 return in an empty Olympic stadium.

If the Italians, who hold a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, progress, their fans will also be excluded from the home leg of their quarter-final.

The club were also fined €40,000 for the incidents.

Lazio had already been in trouble with UEFA earlier this season following racist incidents during both legs of their Europa League ties against Premier League side Tottenham.

Fans behaving badly

Levski Sofia and Botev Plovdiv have been ordered to play their next home matches behind closed doors after hooliganism marred their league match on Saturday, the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) said.

The punishment, handed down by the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) disciplinary commission, will be in effect for Levski’s game against Litex Lovech in the Bulgarian Cup’s quarter-finals on Wednesday and Botev’s league match against Cherno More Varna on April 6.

Hundreds of Botev and Levski supporters clashed with riot police during Botev’s 2-0 win.

The match was interrupted for a few minutes in the first half after fans fought with each other and threw a large number of flares, fireworks and stones.

In August, first division club Minyor Pernik was given a three-match stadium ban following crowd trouble during their league match.

Goals of the day

Two similarly outlandish goals either side of half-time helped Quilmes to a 3-1 away win at Argentinos Juniors.

A long range strike from Sebastian Romero was followed by an audacious effort by Wilfredo Olivera.

Quote of the day

“We are not in crisis. We have fallen to Milan and Real, two great clubs. Admittedly we have not played well, but against the Italians we still have 90 minutes to turn the situation around. We can do it. This club has shown on numerous occasions that it is able to overcome any obstacle.”

Crisis? What crisis? Lionel Messi remains confident that Barcelona can overcome a 2-0 deficit when they meet Milan in tonight’s Champions League round 16, second leg.

Monster mash

Meanwhile, Milan vice president Adriano Galliani has warned his side that Messi is a monster who will be able to hurt them when the sides meet tonight.

The Rossoneri hold a 2-0 advantage going into the second leg of the two sides’ Champions League round-of-16 clash at Camp Nou, and Galliani believes there is still all to play for.

“We are going up against the strongest team in the world who have a monster like ‪Messi‬ who scores all the time,” he was quoted as saying on the club’s official website.

“Let’s hope he takes it easy on Tuesday. We can’t go into the game thinking we’ll be fine just because we’ve got a two-goal advantage.

“One thing is certain – it will be another great challenge, an infinitely difficult challenge. It’s always nice to play Barcelona but we will be going into an incredibly heated atmosphere.”

If Barcelona can’t pull off a comeback against Milan to progress to the quarter-finals, it will be their worst performance in this cpmpetition since 2007, when they were knocked out at the same stage by Liverpool. Moreover, their exit is sure to prompt a flurry of ‘end of an era’ type articles over the coming days. The era in question could be traced back to their 2006 Champions League final defeat of Arsenal, incorporated their 2009 triumph over Manchester United and arguably peaked with their 3-1 victory over the same opponents in the 2011 final at Wembley.

After losing to them in the 2011 Champions League final, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson called Barcelona “The best team we have ever played”, adding: “No one has given us a hiding like that.”

The aura of invincibility that accompanied that performance has definitely faded and failure to progress tonight will confirm the suspicion that Barcelona are about to rejoin their place in the land of the mortals – notwithstanding their almost unassailable lead in the Spanish league.


Sticking with Barcelona and the news that the club’s resident Sandro Rosell has been accused of fraud. The allegations originate in Brazil and arise from claims that he illegally benefited from an friendly match organized by his marketing company in 2008.

Prosecutors say the Ailanto sports marketing company he owns was hired to organize the Brazil vs. Portugal friendly without a proper bidding process. They also say a false document was used to give the company the contract for the match.

Prosecutors say Ailanto received $4 million to organize the match in Brasilia.

Rosell, Barcelona’s president since July 2010, could face up to eight years in prison in Brazil if he is charged and found guilty.

Rosell’s lawyer in Brazil has dismissed the accusations and called them ”irresponsible.”