First world problems

Gareth Bale said his protracted move to Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee was “stressful to say the least”.

The 24-year-old joined Madrid from Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday for a world record fee of 100 million euros to conclude a saga that had dragged on throughout the summer months.

“It was a long time. It was very stressful to say the least,” Bale told BT Sport on Thursday.

“I knew their interest from the start and I was always confident the move would go through but obviously the chairman Daniel Levy had to do his business and do Tottenham well so I kind of understood that.

“But at the same time, thinking of myself, it was a hard time, it was stressful and I just had to be patient and try and focus.”

Bale is estimated to be earning £300,000 a week in Madrid, or to put that into a broader context – as a helpful Kenyan publication has done –  the equivalent to what 4100 of the country’s secondary school teachers earn. How about a more skilled profession? Something in the medical profession like an intern doctor perhaps. Well, Bale earns the same as 3280 of them. In fact, Bale’s fee could fund half of the country’s health budget.

Still, one imagines that none of these people have to suffer the kind of ‘stress’ experienced by the Welshman as he waited to hear whether he would be paid £100,000 a week to play for Tottenham next season or £300,000 to turn out for Real Madrid.

Taxing times

Wealthy though Bale undoubtedly now is, he still trails way behind Lionel Messi when it comes to being the best paid player in the world.

Messi, who has an estimated personal fortune of €136 million and whose after-tax income is €16 million per year, has finally got round to repaying the €5 million he and his father owed to the taxman in Spain.

The ruling by a judge in Gava, a town near Barcelona, said the Argentine player’s father Jorge Messi had deposited €5.02 million  with the court on August 14 to cover unpaid taxes, plus interest.

The judge rejected a prosecutors’ request for the 26-year-old Argentina international to be obliged to deposit a financial bond so as to ensure he pays any fine on the tax charges.

A bond was unnecessary “given the worldwide renown of professional footballer Mr. Lionel Andres Messi Cuccittini and his resulting solvency,” the judge said, also citing the fact that the taxes had been repaid.

The judge said he was consulting with the prosecution before making a ruling on a separate request by Messi’s lawyers for the planned September 17 hearing to be postponed.

Prosecutors have charged the four-time World Player of the Year and his father with defrauding the tax office of income related to the use of his image from 2006-2009.

Messi and his father are accused of trying to defraud the state by ceding the player’s image rights to companies based in tax havens such as Belize and Uruguay so they would pay no tax in Spain.

Messi’s lawyers office, Juarez Veciana, has said the player “scrupulously complies with Spanish legislation” and will pay any amount he is found to owe.

Well, now that the cat is out of the bag, what choice does he really have?

Spread the wealth

World Cup winners Diego Maradona and Romario have joined forces to attack the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), saying it has failed to share the immense wealth generated by the sport in the region.

Former Argentina captain Diego Maradona and ex-Brazil striker Romario, now a member of his country’s congress, have been long-standing critics of the football establishment in the region.

The pair met with 20 South American clubs and a group of Uruguayan lawyers to demand change in the way football is run in the continent.

“We have seen, with astonishment and great sadness, that football is for just a few,” Maradona told reporters after a meeting of the group in Sao Paulo.

“It doesn’t belong to the clubs, the supporters or the players. So we are going to form a commission to unmask these people who do so much harm to the game.

“It’s very serious, but thanks to all of us who are not afraid of those people … we are here so that we can have a more transparent football,” he added.

Romario described CONMEBOL as worse than the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), one of his bugbears and an organisation he has frequently criticised.

“The situation is really much more serious than we imagined,” he said. “What has been presented here is one of the biggest disgraces that I have seen. I couldn’t imagine that there was an institution which … did so much harm to the sport.

“We have to get more people together. The clubs, the ex-players and the current players have to take the fight to CONMEBOL. It’s a movement for transparency and dignity in football.

“With this commission that we are going to form, we are going to see what has happened to all this money.”

Nicolas Leoz, a former FIFA executive committee member, quit as CONMEBOL president at the age of 84 in April, citing ill-health. One week later, a report by FIFA’s ethics commission revealed that he had taken bribes for ISL, FIFA’s former marketing partner which went bankrupt in 2001.

He was replaced by his vice-president, the face of the future, 81-year-old Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay.

CONMEBOL spokesman Nestor Benitez said he had no comment on the accusations.

“Everyone has the right to their opinion, football is generous and is an open field for all opinions,” he told Reuters.

Job application

Damien Comolli, the former Director of Football at Liverpool and Tottenham among others, has stated that Manchester United need a similar figure to help them in the transfer market.

The Frenchman believes United’s struggles to make any marquee signings this summer is because they do not have a Director of Football at the  club – presumably, one who goes by the name of Damien.

“If there was a club in need of a director of football to ease the process for both individuals it was Manchester United,” Comolli told the BBC.

“David Moyes only joined on 1 July which was quite late. The issue for Manchester United is that the two most important people at the club in Sir Alex and David Gill left their positions and new people came in for their first transfer window.

“For some reason the club weren’t prepared or they didn’t think it would be that difficult and they ended up in a difficult situation.”

After enjoying success as a scout at Arsenal and helping bring in some talented young players at Tottenham, Comolli’s career has faltered somewhat. After leaving Saint-Étienne for Liverpool in 2010, the club’s co-chairman Bernard Caiazzo blamed Comolli for the club’s financial problems.

“Damien spent €22 million [£18.7m] of our money on seven players in summer of last year. Only one is a first-team regular now,” he said. “We gave him the keys to our club and are now in financial difficulties. My own view of Damien is he favours size and strength as the qualities he goes for first. Perhaps, he will do better with more money at his disposal at Liverpool than he did with us.”

Then he spent £35 million on Andy Carroll…

Window dressing

Europe’s leading coaches want the transfer window to be shortened, even though their clubs are happy to retain the status quo.

“The clubs like it as it is but the coaches are of the opinion that the market should be closed earlier,” Tottenham Hotspur coach Andre Villas-Boas told reporters after a meeting at UEFA headquarters.

“The coaches need time to prepare their teams for the season,” he added.

“Most coaches would like it be open less time and closed earlier; obviously we will have to have further meetings.”

The summer transfer window closed on Monday, causing confusion among coaches, many of whom began the season unsure which of their players would remain at their club.

“You prepare everything with your players and one week after your players can be playing against you,” Napoli coach Rafael Benitez told the conference.

However, he acknowledged that it was a complicated issue because competitions kicked off on different dates.

“If you close the window on August 15, maybe in England you are already playing and in Italy you haven’t started so it’s quite difficult for everyone,” he said.

“The idea of the coaches that it should close earlier, that is very clear, but if the clubs don’t know or not if they will qualify for the Champions League, they don’t know how much money they can spend on signing players.”

Vilas-Boas also commented on Tottenham’s decision to sell Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a record €100 million.

“The pressure which we were subjected to by the player has been intense, the influence of Real Madrid has been very, very strong,” he said.

“You get to a point where you have to consider if it’s feasible, in not accepting the offer…whether you can press on with the player in that state of mind.”

You think you’ve had it bad Andre, you should hear how stressful it was like for Bale.

Goal of the day

Goias’ Walter takes  touch to evade the onrushing defender before lashing it past the Gremio keeper from the edge of the area.

Quote of the day

“I don’t think anyone realistically thinks we are going to win the World Cup in Brazil.”

Days before two vital World Cup qualifiers, Football Association chairman Greg Dyke writes off England’s chances of winning next year’s tournament.

Food for thought

Venezuela’s preparations for their critical World Cup qualifier against Chile have been thrown into disarray after an outbreak of food poisoning laid low 20 members of their 24-man squad.

Coach Cesar Farias revealed details of the outbreak at a a press conference today. Farias is unaware what caused the spate of illnesses, merely telling local press that: “They didn’t have a good night and they weren’t able to train well.”

Farias’ side needing to register win if they are to keep their dream of reaching Brazil 2014 alive (Venezuela are currently the only South American side never to have played in a World Cup).

They currently sit in sixth place (five points behind Chile in fifth) in the group with the top four qualifying automatically and the fifth-place side given the chance to squeak in through the play-offs.

The match will be played at 8:30 p.m on Friday at Estadio Nacional.

The horror, the horror…

Wayne Rooney’s head looks like “something out of a horror film”, according to his England colleague Theo Walcott. And then the poor United striker was kicked in the head by Phil Jones.

Rooney was left with a gash on his forehead after being caught in the face by Manchester United team-mate Phil Jones earlier this week. It is unclear whether Jones, not the daintiest of footballers and a man whose style of play evokes memories of a farm labourer staggering home after overindulging at the annual scrumpy festival, was aiming for his head or merely lashing out indiscriminately in the vague direction of the ball.

Asked to describe the injury during a press conference at England’s St George’s Park training base, Walcott pointed to a bottle of water beside him and said: “I’ve seen a picture of it and it’s about that big.

“It is a very big gash. It is not a nice sight, to be honest. It is not going to help his looks, I wouldn’t think. It’s not very nice to see. It’s like something out of a horror film.”

On Wednesday, in response to criticisms about his decision to withdraw from the England squad, Rooney published two photographs of the injury on his Facebook page.

“Some people seem to be questioning my commitment to the England squad and the fact I had to pull out of the two games,” he wrote.

“There’s nothing I would like more than to be helping the lads in the qualifiers. I’m sure people will see from these images the reason why I won’t be able to play.”