Sale of the century

Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu has been crowing about the capture of Cesc Fabregas, claiming the Catalan side got their man on the cheap.

“The transfer of Cesc was a very good deal for us,” he said. “Normally his price wouldn’t have been €29m, but he lowered his value by saying that he really wanted to go to Barcelona. His real price was what Arsenal initially asked. He’s worth at least €60m in my opinion.”

Few would argue with that, but to be fair to Arsenal there was little for them to gain from holding on to a player who wanted to leave. In fact, Fabregas has revealed that manager Arsene Wenger was instrumental in convincing the club to lower their asking price to facilitate the move.

“Without him I would not be a Barca player now, he convinced the owners of Arsenal, who would not sell under any circumstances, to lower the price,” the midfielder said.

Goal of the day

Fabregas certainly seems invigorated by pastures new, and he translated his goalscoring club form on to the international stage with two goals in Spain’s dramatic 3-2 victory over Chile on Friday night.

The pick of the goals, however, was Chile’s opener from Mauricio Isla. There aren’t many sides that can outpass Spain, but Chile, on a good day, are one of them.

Euro qualifiers

Spain enjoy a 100 per cent record in their Euro 2012 qualifiers, an achievement shared by Germany, who on Friday became the first side to reach next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.

The only other side to have won every match so far is Holland, who enjoyed a Beach Soccer-style scoreline against San Marino on Friday. The final result was 11-0, with Robin Persie, who’s usually on the receiving end of such drubbings, scoring four.

If the football equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel is your idea of fun, then you’ll enjoy this:

Mention of Beach Soccer, there was a stunning goal by Brazil’s Jorginho in their 5-2 World Cup win over Mexico on Sunday.

Scotland the grave

One country unlikely to be involved in next year’s Euro 2012 finals are Scotland who were held to a 2-2 draw by the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Scotland boss Craig Levein was livid with the performance of referee, Kevin Blom, who awarded a controversial late penalty to the Czech Republic, but refused what looked a stone cold spot-kick for Scotland just moments later.

“You would need to ask the referee why he made such two such major, major mistakes. It beggars belief that he could make two mistakes of such magnitude,” he ranted.

Levein was backed by former FIFA referee, Graham Poll, who wrote in the Daily Mail: “Consistency is all that players, coaches and fans want from referees. On Saturday, Scotland were denied a vital European Championship qualifying win by Dutch referee Kevin Blom’s complete lack of it.”

At the 2006 World Cup finals, Poll once took this desire for consistency to extreme lengths, showing the same player three yellow cards rather deviate and give him a red.


Lionel Messi was greeted by thousands of people when he arrived in Bangladesh on Monday ahead of Argentina’s friendly international with Nigeria.

For many of the country’s population, this is the closest they’ll come to seeing the little man in action. Exorbitant ticket prices of 7,500 taka ($100 dollars) for Tuesday’s friendly in Dhaka, mean that the game is beyond the means of all bar the most affluent Bangladeshis. As a result, only half of the tickets have so far been sold for the game at the 24,000-capacity Bangabandhu National Stadium, with many fans angry at the cost of entry.

“It’s a ridiculous price. They don’t want real soccer fans to watch Messi’s match. I earn just 8,000 taka per month. How can I afford a ticket?” Rajib Ahmed, 25, a chemical tester at a private company, told AFP outside the ground.

The Bangladeshi Football Federation, who paid $4million for the privilege of hosting the game in the hope of boosting the sport’s profile in the country, must now be wondering whether that money was well spent.

Tactical masterclass

New USA boss Jurgen Klinsmann has brushed aside claims by Germany captain Philip Lahm that he is tactically clueless.

Bayern full-back Lahm wrote that “the experiment with Klinsmann [at Bayern] was a failure. We were only working on our fitness in training. He didn’t care much for tactical stuff. It was up to the players to come together before a match and discuss how we were going to play.

Klinsmann, who was speaking in the wake of the USA’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Costa Rica, was somewhat dismissive of Lahm in his response.

“There is never the perfect coach for a player, there is always a fault,” he said. “Only after your career has ended, do you get the bigger picture.”

When asked where the players had gone wrong against Costa Rica and what they could learn from the game, Klinsmann drew on all his tactical expertise.

“The next step they need to get to is to be even more determined,” said Klinsmann. “There needs to be another piece of determination, another piece of being greedy for that goal. A bit more nastiness is part of it too.”

Perhaps Lahm had a point.

Match fixing

Fenerbahce have opened a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport as they seek damages from UEFA and the Turkish Football Federation following their exclusion from this season’s Champions League.

The Turkish champions were thrown out of the competition amid allegations that they fixed domestic league matches last season.

A statement from the club confirmed they were taking their case to the highest sporting authority.

“The case is opened with a demand now for €45 million and reserving the right for more in connection with our material loss due to the said exclusion,” it said.

Fener have also requested they be reinstated into the Champions League, although with the first set of group games scheduled for next week, time is not on their side.

Out of Africa

Shocks abounded in the qualifiers for next year’s African Nations Cup, with unheralded Niger and Central African Republic taking significant steps towards reaching the finals for the first time.

Niger’s 2-1 win over South Africa and a home draw for Central African Republic with Morocco meant both countries are one win away from a first-ever appearance at the continental championship.

Even if the duo fail to top their groups there remains the possibility of qualifying as best losers.

Elsewhere, Libya played their first match without Muammar Gadaffi as the leader, with a new strip involving the National Transitional Council flag of Libya. The 1-0 win over Mozambique means that a win in their final match against Zambia will bring a place in the finals.

Here’s the goal that earned Rabee Allafi at least a footnote in the history of Libyan football.

Strike over?

A strike by Serie A players is expected to end today. The players’ association and the league were due to sign a temporary collective contract that will last through the end of this season.

The strike over a clause regarding the rights of players who are no longer wanted by their clubs, caused the opening weekend of Serie A action to be called off.

Players’ association president Damiano Tommasi told RAI state radio that “all the elements are in place to sign today. Experts are working out the last details.”


Caros Tevez has been offering some insights into his state of mind. It’s not a pretty sight with the Argentinian claiming he was suffering from depression this summer.

Tevez had been looking to leave Manchester City after claiming that he needed to be closer to his family in Argentina, but saw a move to Brazilian club Corinthians collapse.

“I’m not the shit that they say I am. I had a personal crisis this summer,” he told reporters.

“I put on five or six kilos and had to check myself into a clinic. I was depressed and so I ate and ate. Only my family and my friends know this.”