Players revolt?

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was facing a players revolt after he claimed his players were stabbing him in the back, sports daily Marca reported.

The newspaper reported the following exchange between Mourinho and defender Sergio Ramos.

Mourinho: “You have killed me in the mixed zone.”

Sergio Ramos: “No, boss, you have read only what they put in the press, not everything we said.”

Mourinho: “Riiiight. i get it – Spain are the world champions and your buddies in the press look after you. just like with the goalkeeper.”

Iker Casillas: “Boss, here we say things to our faces, eh…’

Mourinho: “What were you doing on their first goal, Sergio?”

Sergio Ramos: “Marking Pique.”

Mourinho: “But you were supposed to mark Puyol.”

Sergio Ramos: “He (Puyol) and Pique were drawing the defenders (to leave space for others) and we decided to change the marking (responsibilities).”

Mourinho: “What’s this then?. Now you’re trying your hand as coach are you?”

Sergio Ramos: “No. but depending on the situation in the game, sometimes you have to change the markings. and since you’ve never played the game , you don’t understand this.”

Now, that’s got to hurt.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Russian Premier League clubs are rapidly closing the gap in quality between themselves and leading clubs from the top divisions in Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, according to a statistical report, published today.

The demographic study of Europe’s top divisions has been compiled by the CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland, and is based on analysis of 12,410 footballers at 500 clubs in the top divisions of 33 European countries.

One criterion employed to determine the strength of a particular league is to calculate the percentage of active international footballers playing in each league.

Since 2009, the percentage of active internationals in Russia has increased by 17%, from 11.6 to 28.6%. Footballers having played for a national team in 2011 represent a greater proportion of players in Russia than in France (25.8%), Italy (25.1%) and Spain (23.0%). Only levels in England (41.2%) and Germany (33.3%) are still higher than in Russia.

However, before anyone gets blinded by the science, it is worth taking a look at another of the organisation’s findings. A detailed statistical analysis of Europe’s leading leagues concluded that the best team in England last season was Arsenal; this despite them finishing the campaign in 4th spot, 12 points behind champions Manchester United.

To be fair to the study’s authors, they did manage to statistically ‘prove’ that the other four big European leagues were won by the best team, so it’s possible the Arsenal result was an outlier.

Highest number of internationals by team in Europe’s 33 leagues

1 Barcelona 81 per cent
2 Manchester City 73.1 per cent
3 Real Madrid 70.8 per cent
4 Celtic 68 per cent
5 Bayern Munich 66.7 per cent
6 Shakhtar Donetsk 64.3 per cent
7 Zenit St Petersburg 64 per cent
8 Chelsea 61.5 per cent
9 Internazionale 59.3 per cent
10 Manchester United 58.6 per cent
11 Arsenal 58.1 per cent
12 Tottenham 57.7 per cent
13= Porto, CSKA Moscow, West Brom 56 per cent
16 Borussia Dortmund 54.2 per cent
17 Liverpool 53.8 per cent
18 Marseille 52.4 per cent
19 Dynamo Kiev 51.9 per cent
20= Everton, Fulham, Galatasaray, Stuttgart 50 per cent

Goal of the day

Just another day at the office for Lionel Messi. A hat-trick for the Argentinian in Barcelona’s 4-1 win at Malaga, included this gem.

Pele reserves judgment

One man yet to be convinced by Messi’s claims to be an all-time great, is the man widely acclaimed as the best player in the history of the game.

Pele, who won the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970, dismissed Argentinian’s threat to his lofty position.

“He is a great player. When he’ll have scored 1,283 goals and won three World Cups, we’ll talk about it again,” the Brazilian said.

Totti makes history

Francesco Totti consolidated his legendary status at Roma with two goals in the opening eight minutes against Cesena in Serie A on Saturday.

The brace, scored in a 5-1 victory, took him past Milan’s Gunnar Nordahl as the highest goalscorer with a single Serie A club. He now has 211 goals – one more than the Swedish forward – in 486 league appearances.

Totti’s continuing good form has also prompted renewed speculation about a possible return to the Italy side for this summer’s European Championships.

“At the end of the season, we will assess the players’ physical condition,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told Tg1 when asked about Totti.

“We started the season with a project: if there were players with great personality and in good shape, they would be taken into consideration.”

Not so super Mario

Opinion is divided on Mario Balotelli’s stamp on Scott Parker’s head. There are those who believe the Italian intentionally stamped on the Spurs midfielder during Manchester City’s 3-2 win on Sunday. There are those, all of them in the employ of Manchester City it should be noted, who claim they didn’t see the incident. And then there is the referee Howard Webb. He saw the incident, but thought nothing of it.

Webb is a police sergeant in the South Yorkshire police, although his chances of gaining promotion will not be helped if he continues to let perpetrators get away with murder.

You can make your own mind up about the Balotelli incident.

Wenger under fire

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has defended his decision to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrey Arshavin during Sunday’s 2- defeat to Manchester United.

Some fans booed and shouted ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ when Wenger decided to withdraw the 18-year-old, making his first full Premier League start.

“I’ve been a manager for 30 years and have made 50,000 substitutions. I don’t have to justify every one,” he said.

“I can understand that the fans are upset about the substitution, especially when it doesn’t work, but he had started to fatigue.

“He was sick in the week. Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team. You have an 18-year-old kid making his first Premier League start and a player who’s captain of his country and they are querying the substitution?”

Granada fire boss

Granada have fired coach Fabricio Gonzalez after their latest defeat left the club only one point above the relegation zone at the halfway point in the Spanish league season.

The 56-year-old Spaniard had led Granada to back-to-back promotions, taking the club from the third division to its first appearance in Spain’s top flight in 35 years. But, gratitude from the board for his efforts was in short supply, and Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Espanyol proved to be the final straw.

In the dock

In a case that will have a significant bearing on his future career prospects, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has appeared in court at the start of his trial for alleged tax evasion relating to his time in charge of Portsmouth.

Redknapp is the tipped to succeed Fabio Capello as the next England manager, although an unfavourable verdict in court, will almost certainly scupper that ambition.

The 64-year-old was in the dock alongside former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Monday. The pair are jointly accused of concealing payments of £183,000 on occasions between 2002 and 2007.


South African defender Jeffrey Ntuka has been stabbed to death.

He was on the books at Chelsea as a youngster before returning to South Africa to play for Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United.The 26-year-old was capped five times by the South Africa national team.

The stabbing occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning in a local nightclub in the township of Kroonstad in the Free State province.

A representative from his agent Stella Africa confirmed the news.

Stella Africa’s Michael Hughes  said: “I spoke to his wife for a couple of minutes and she confirmed that Ntuka has passed away after being stabbed in a township in Kroonstad.

“Unfortunately, trouble seemed to follow Jeffrey around. He tried hard to surround himself with the right people and club-mates. But he struggled to really shake the image and stories that dogged his career.

“When his contract expired with [SuperSport] United, he had an unsuccessful trial with a second division Belgian side. We have been motivating him and he has been keeping fit.”