Senin, 31 Desember 2012

Cartoon of the Day: Happy New Year! Stars prepare to bring in 2013

Spain secured their place in the pages of football history, Chelsea marched to an unlikely Champions League triumph and two of the greatest players of all time have smashed yet more records. 2012 will be difficult to match.

With the fixtures in the world's major leagues wrapped up for the current calendar year, the game's biggest and brightest can celebrate a job (mostly) well done.

But there's plenty more to look forward to in 2013. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will carry on and, in all likelihood, reach a few more remarkable landmarks. A mouthwatering last 16 of the Champions League awaits. And, when all else fails, there's Mario Balotelli.

The 20 most popular European clubs on

As another busy year of football draws to a close, fans the world over can take time to reflect back on their club's previous season and how the current term is shaping up.

Some readers will have had considerably more content to read through than others given all of the big-name signings, club takeovers, player injuries and a plethora of other headline-grabbing team news.

So, for those curious to know who's most visited team pages in the wake of an entertaining 2012 were, we have put together the list below:

With the Red Devils boasting the record for most Premier League wins of all time, it perhaps isn't so surprising that the English titans have taken the top spot in our list of's most popular teams.

Sir Alex Ferguson is responsible for 12 of the 19 PL titles won during his 26-year reign at Old Trafford, as well as numerous domestic cups and two Champions Leagues. With such a dedicated, results-minded manager at the club, it is easy to see why so many football fans the world over place their allegiance with the currently free-scoring English side.

Despite a failure to pick up any silverware since the 2005 FA Cup, Arsenal remain one of the most followed clubs in the world.

The Emirates side's brand of exciting, attacking football under Arsene Wenger sees the team compete at the highest level every season, although the club's failure to produce trophies has seen former stars such as Robin van Persie look for glory elsewhere.

With that in mind, the Gunners will be under intense pressure in the coming weeks to hold onto the very much in-form Theo Walcott if they are to build on the substance side of their already stylish team.

Always bursting with multicultural talent, reigning Champions League holders Chelsea are the third English side on our list to boast a huge global following.

The only London-based club to go all the way in Europe's most prestigious club competition, Roman Abramovich's billions have not only helped steer the Blues to domestic and European glory since the Russian owner took over in 2003, but has also served to lure in such big names as visionary coach Jose Mourinho, and World Cup winner Fernando Torres, ensuring the star-studded Stamford Bridge side continue to compete at the top level.

One half of the biggest rivalry in world football - El Clasico - Real Madrid's popularity is easily explained by the abundance of talent within the club's squad each season, which is well highlighted by Los Blancos' record for most Champions League titles won (nine).

With such great history, the Spanish outfit is also the richest club in the world in terms of annual revenue, making it easy to recognise why world-class players such as the entire cast of the 'Galacticos' era, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo, can be lured to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The other half of El Clasico. The hugely successful Catalan club's name has become synonymous with a particular brand of football in recent years, to the point where they're playing like Barcelona can often be heard when a less heralded side enjoy long periods of possession coupled with pin-point-accurate pas sing.

Lionel Messi, perhaps the best player the world has ever seen, largely dominates headlines for the Liga side these days. However, it is consistent historical achievements - such as being the only team to feature in Europe every year since 1955 - that should keep supporters coming back for generations to come.

Second only to Real Madrid in terms of Champions League tournament victories, AC Milan are tied for the honour of second-most successful club in Serie A alongside Inter, who also have 18 league titles.

And while the Rossoneri are going through something of a transitional phase at the moment, having just lost such big names as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, the Italian side's history is drenched in success.

Perhaps the best example of their past successes is Arrigo Sacchi's Milan. Sacchi's squad won back-to-back European cups in 1989 and 1990, and are often hailed as the best club side of all time.

By far the most successful club in Italian football, Juventus have accrued a record 28 league wins and a total of nine Italian Cups (also a record), which when added to the rest of The Old Lady's achievements comes to an impressive total of 53 official titles.

And while the hugely productive Bianconeri took a credibility hit following the Calciopoli scandal that saw them relegated to Serie B for the first time in their history, the club has recovered well from the nightmare of 2006.

Returning quickly to the top of European football with a solid core of skilled key players, a talented, loyal, homegrown coach and a new stadium to watch i t all in, it would appear Juventus look armed and ready to continue bolstering their extraordinary history for the hordes of patriotic fans.

Fourth on the popularity list of English clubs is Liverpool, a side in such current turmoil that their past successes really do seem like just that: past successes.

However we have only to look back to the 2012 League Cup to see the Reds' most recent competition win. And, while the Anfield side's transitional phase may see them continue to struggle for consistency in the Premier League, Liverpool fans would remind you of their Champions League win in 2005 - something few would have expected.

All this to say that the dedication from those involved with the club will doubtlessly aid in steering the Reds out of their current funk, as they have done before, on the ir journey to add to their impressive catalogue of trophies.

Internazionale's international appeal is aided in part by their participation in one of the most followed rivalries in world football: the Derby della Madonnina with AC Milan.

However, simply brushing shoulders with their fellow San Siro giant a few times each season doesn't fully explain the Nerazzurri's global pull.

As mentioned before, Inter are tied in second for most Serie A titles won, and equalled the record for league wins on the trot (five) from 2006 to 2010. Add three Champions League wins to that, throw in a trio of Uefa cups for good measure, and the Italian club's popularity is easily understood.

Manchester City began to garner a great deal more interest from football followers after their takeover by Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, as the club's level of participation in the transfer market changed dramatically.

As recently as 1998, the Citizens almost fell off the radar completely as they dropped to the third tier of English football. However, in 2012, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's cash infusion helped Roberto Mancini lead his team of big-money stars to the club's first top-flight league title since 1968.

And with so much expensive talent within the ranks, City fans would say their club's legacy is merely in its infancy.

Bayern Munich have long rated amongst Europe's elite, so it is of little surprise that the Bavarian side - who reached the Champions League final last year - feature s as the most popular German team on our list.

Forever a tightly-run ship, FCB's rich history features four Champions League wins, 22 Bundesliga league titles and 15 domestic cups, making them the most successful club in Germany.

The third London-based club to feature on our list, Tottenham Hotspur appear to be in ascendancy.

Players such as Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale have provided the star power in recent years as the Lilywhites continue to find themselves in Europe, where they have been giving good accounts of themselves.

Tottenham may not be as storied as some other members of the EPL, but if treble-winning coach Andre Villas-Boas is given time to install his philosophy at the club, who knows what Spurs' trophy cabinet will look like in years to come?

Another addition from Italy, three-time Scudetto winners Roma have never tasted European success, but have given a good enough account of themselves in years past to come close on two occasions.

And it is that tenacity and passion within the club that sees the Giallorossi there or thereabouts in Europe each year, while Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and the like have provided the charisma to make the capital side a joy to watch.

Much like Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain's recent takeover by the Qatar Investment Authority has seen the club's popularity skyrocket.

Far from one of the most historically acclaimed sides in the world, world-class striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's presence - and perhaps Thiago Silva's, to a much lesser extent - appears to have been enough to make the world of football stand up and take notice.

It's not often a team comes along with the organisation and talent to dethrone Bayern Munich as kings of Germany, but Jurgen Klopp's exemplary Borussia Dortmund side have pulled it off twice in a row.

That's not to say die Borussien is without its own share of past triumphs both domestically and in Europe, they've done well over the years in fact. However the club's great pull at the moment is the style, skill, resilience and determination of the current BVB squad - the Marco Reus and Mario Gotze-inspired squad that finished unbeaten in their Champions League group which also featured Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Easily one of the best sides in Spain outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atletico's past is littered with Liga titles and Spanish cups, but it is perhaps their most recent triumphs that have seen the club's popularity rise.

Los Colchoneros have won the Europa League in the past two seasons, the first with former Manchester United forward Diego Forlan leading their attack, the latter with the highly sought-after Colombian striking ace Radamel Falcao.

And if Falcao's goalscoring exploits at Porto wasn't enough to get football fans looking his way, three goals against Chelsea in last season's Super Cup surely is.

The second last of our list's Italian teams, Lazio's progression in the past few years has been noticeable. A top-five fini sh in 2010-11 was followed by a top-four finish in 2011-12, while the ever-improving Biancocelesti find themselves second only to Juventus in Serie A at the turn of the year this term.

Shrewd signings such as Hernanes and Miroslav Klose have propelled Claudio Lotito's club back into the European fray. And if the refinement of Vladimir Petkovic's techniques continues, perhaps along with a few depth-providing additions to the squad, fans will be hopeful of sometime soon reliving the glory of the Cup Winners' Cup victory in 1999.

QPR?! Yes, we thought the same thing at first, but the recently promoted side made some huge waves in the transfer market, signing a raft of well known players such as Park Ji-Sung, Djibril Cisse and Jose Bosingwa.

Throw some of Joey Barton's on-field violence on the final day of the 2 011-12 into the mix and presto. Suddenly everyone is reading about Queens Park Rangers.

The surprise package in the EPL last season, Newcastle had a terrific 2011-12 which saw them finish above Champions League victors Chelsea. As well as claiming the Blues scalp at Stamford Bridge, they beat Manchester United 3-0 at the turn of the year, trounced Liverpool at St James Park and then began the 2012-13 campaign with a triumph over Tottenham.

But since that win their luck has evaporated and their form has sunk, along with hopes of a top-four finish. Juggling Europe with league success this season - along with coping with various injuries - has hit the Magpies hard, and a relegation fight is not implausible.

However, everybody loves an underdog, and scoring three goals at Old Trafford and away to Arsen al in their last two thrilling games of 2012 (yet losing both in the final 10 minutes) shows just why readers remain glued to the club's highs and lows.

The year of 2012 has seen Fiorentina star Stevan Jovetic linked with a multitude of clubs including Manchester City, while the arrival of former AC Milan and Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani was also subject to heavy media coverage.

Speaking of Milan, la Viola's 3-1 victory over the San Siro side back in November helped to boost their profile, with the return of former player and World Cup winner Luca Toni the icing on the proverbial cake.

Jumat, 28 Desember 2012

Anzhi rubbish rumours of 250 million bid for Messi

Leo Messi - Barcelona

Anzhi Makhachkala have rubbished rumours linking them with a staggering 250 million bid for Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Reports in Mundo Deportivo had suggested that the Argentina international had rejected earning 30m a season with the Russian club, after his buy-out clause was allegedly met.

However, their marketing consultant German Tkachenko quashed the story as totally false, and insisted that the side do not operate that way in the transfer market.

"There isn't a shred of truth in it," he told Russian newspaper Sport-Express.

"Asking a question about this, let alone writing about it, shows a lack of understanding about how Anzhi's sporting model is designed and what its principles and priorities are."

Spanish media reported that Messi not only dismissed the Russian offer, but duly signed a new contract tying him to the club until 2018.

Former Camp Nou striker Samuel Etoo, who played with Messi at Barca, made the switch from Spain to Russia, and is currently the highest paid footballer on the planet, on a reported 20m per year.

Dzagoev: Playing for Zeman would be a dream

Alan Dzagoev - Russia
CSKA Moscow youngster Alan Dzagoev says he would like to play under Roma coach Zdenek Zeman at some point in his career.

The Russian was in impressive form for his nation during Euro 2012, and is eager to make the move to Serie A in the future.

"Roma have a great young team with a great future and I think it'd be a great opportunity for me," he told the Corriere dello Sport.

"Just thinking about it seems like a dream. Everyone knows who Zeman is. They know he likes football, and his style would suit me as I'm an attacker.

"I like Italian football, I think I would fit in very well. I can play on both wings, I think I know how to combine technique and vision."

Russia is currently home to two Italian coaches, Luciano Spalletti of Zenit and Fabio Capello of the national team, and Dzagoev went on to voice his respect for both.

"Spalletti is a great coach. He has brought his wealth of experience an d adapted well to our football," he said.

"I've been working with [Capello] for four months. It soon became clear that he's a coach of the highest level."

Hulk defends decision to join Zenit St Petersburg

Hulk, Zenit
Hulk has defended his decision to leavePorto in the summer to join Zenit St Petersburg.

The Brazil striker joined the club for 50 million, but struggled to settle in his new surroundings, with his inconsistent form on the pitch marred by dressing-room disagreements.

However, the 26-year-old recently stated that he had resolved his differences with the club, and has now made it clear that he has no regrets over making the move from Portugal.

"I decided to go to Zenit because I had won almost every competition at Porto and I like new challenges in my career. I hope I can carry on winning like that in the near future," Hulk told O Estado de Sao Paolo.

"I am getting used to my new home. Now I need to focus on football. The biggest challenge in Russia was the cold weather at first but after playing games at -12, I think I am settling down quickly.

"We will fight for the title in the Russian league and try to w in the Europa League."

Zenit captain Igor Denisov publicly criticised the decision to spend huge sums on the Brazil attacker and midfielder Axel Witsel, but Hulk insists that such issues are now firmly in the past.

"He [Denisov] never said anything to me. They talked among themselves and the board did not like it because it became public. But that is in the past," Hulk continued.

"Today we have a good relationship. All this was overcome. We have no more problems."

Kamis, 27 Desember 2012

Spartak Moscow deny De Boer approach

Frank de Boer, Ajax
Spartak Moscow general manager Valeri Karpin has denied any attempt to lure Ajax boss Frank de Boer to the club.

The Dutch side's sporting director Marc Overmars told De Telegraaf that De Boer had been offered the head coach role, with a figure of 6 million a year mooted.

Karpin has taken temporary charge of the Russian club ever since Unai Emery's sacking in November, and he laughed off the suggestion that De Boer had been offered the job permanently.

"I was surprised by the news that I, as general manager, contacted Frank de Boer for the job," Valery Karpin told SovSport.

"To that alleged salary proposal I could only smile. Let's be clear about this: De Boer has never been approached by anyone at Spartak Moscow."

The Russian club were recently knocked out of the Champions League having been in the same group as Barcelona, Celtic and Benfica.

Selasa, 25 Desember 2012's bumper festive quiz: Part two starring Cristiano Ronaldo

Christmas (Getty Images)
Temperatures may be plummeting but the Premier League season is certainly hotting up as the hectic Christmas programme of matches now hits full swing.

Away from the drama on the pitch and your traditional Christmas dinner at home, though, we have some more content to get your teeth into!

All in the name of some festive fun, have produced a bumper festive quiz! We are running a mini-quiz every day from Monday to Friday, with pictures, trivia and football-based brainteasers.

Read on for part one and have a go at the questions, leaving your answers in the comments box below. Enjoy!


What year was the above picture of Cristiano Ronaldo taken?


What is the link between the three men in this picture?


Which team is this?


Who is the only current Premier League player to have scored for six different top-flight teams?

Nicky Barmby, Les Ferdinand, Craig Bellamy, Marcus Bent, Andy Cole and Robbie Keane are the former Premier League players who have achieved the feat.

Check back on Wednesday for round three of our fun festive quiz!

Senin, 24 Desember 2012

Arshavin close to sealing 4m Reading move

Andrey Arshavin
By Wayne Veysey

Andrey Arshavin is close to sealing a 4 million move to Reading, can reveal.

Arsenal have given the Russian permission to hold talks with the Premier League's bottom club and a deal is expected to be completed in the first week of the January window.

The Gunners and Reading are negotiating the fee, which is expected to be around the 4m mark although the north Londoners could try and hold out for 5m.

Sources have told that Arshavin has played his last game for Arsenal and the transfer should be completed early in the window.

Arsene Wenger has sanctioned the sale of the 31-year-old, who has not started a Premier League game this season and has not figured at all since the manager fielded a weakened team for the Champions League trip to Olympiakos on December 4.

Fulham and Arshavin's former club Zenit St Petersb urg were also interested in signing him next month but Reading have made their move in a bid to arrest the club's freefall back into the Championship.

The deal has been sanctioned by Russian owner Anton Zingarevich, who was criticised by winger Jimmy Kebe last week for not buying enough players with Premier League experience in the summer.

Arsenal are keen to agree a straight sale rather than another loan in order to recoup some of their 15m outlay on the forward during the 2009 January window.

Although the former Russia captain spent his entire career at Zenit before joining Arsenal and returned to Saint Petersburg for a second spell on loan last season, his preference is to remain near London.

Arshavin and his family are settled in the capital and would prefer to extend their time in England rather than head permanently back to Russia.

The winger is set to link up at the Madejski Stadium with his countryman, Pavel Pogr ebnyak, who was made the highest paid player in Reading's history when he joined from Fulham on a salary believed to be worth 60,000 a week.

Follow Wayne Veysey on

Sabtu, 22 Desember 2012

Overmars: De Boer turned down chance coach Spartak Moscow

Frank de Boer, Ajax

Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars has revealed that head coach Frank de Boer has turned down the chance to move to Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow.

The 42-year-old has impressed in his first coaching role since taking over at Ajax from Martin Jol in 2010, leading the Amsterdam giants to back-to-back league titles, and was targeted by Spartak last month after they sacked their Spanish coach Unai Emery.

"Spartak Moscow wanted [De Boer] to take over immediately and some clubs see him as the ideal trainer for next summer. But he has no interest," Overmars told De Telegraaf.

After seeing the former Netherlands international turn them down, Spartak have once again turned to director of football Valery Karpin to take over as caretaker manager until the end of the season.

This is the second time that Karpin has taken the Spartak hotseat on a temporary basis. In 2009 he replaced Michael Laudrup, now manager of Swansea City, after poor run of results and stayed in charge until May this year when Emery was hired.

Ajax, who play Utrecht on Sunday, currently lie third in the Eredivisie table, four points behind leaders PSV.

Kamis, 20 Desember 2012

Inter meet Cluj, Liverpool face Zenit St Petersburg - Europa League draw in full

UEFA Europa League Trophy (Getty Images)
The draw for the rounds of 32 and 16 of the Europa League has offered some intriguing ties as several of Europe's finest go head to head.

Serie A giants Inter have been paired with Romanian outfit CFR Cluj, who finished third in their Champions League group behind Manchester United and Galatasaray. Were the Italians to make it through, they'll meet either Tottenham or Olympique Lyonnais.

Furthermore, Premier League representatives Liverpool will have to deal with Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg.

Lisbon giants Benfica meet Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen, while holders Atletico Madrid face Russian outfit Rubin Kazan.

Ajax, who host the final, were paired with Steaua Bucharest, whereas Champions League holders Chelsea will have to deal with Sparta Prague. The winners of their respective ties will lock horns in the round of 16.

The round of 32 takes place on February 14 and 21, while the round of 16 will be played on March 7 and 14. The final will be held at the Amsterdam ArenA on May 15.

Rabu, 19 Desember 2012

Samba: Zenit St Petersburg fans are racist

Christopher Samba

Christopher Samba has labelled the fans of Zenit St Petersburg as no good and racist.

A fans group of the club recently penned an open later protesting against the transfers of black players, claiming their absence was "part of the club's history".

Anzhi Makhachkala defender, Samba, has since slammed those responsible and says they are living in the dark ages.

"I'm not surprised. Everybody knows Zenit supporters are no good and racist," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"They are living in another century. It's a sad day for Russian football. In this time we have different communities and countries that constitute teams. If they can't accept that then they are never going to make progress."

Samba also added that black players should not boycott Zenit games, claiming the minority of fans will have beaten the vast majority of supporters who do not share their views.

Boycotting, why? Because fans make a statement saying they do n't want black players? No. Black players should fight for the good ones - not the idiots, he continued..

"It's really sad. It's slowing down the process of Russian football being a better league. I hope the Russian federation take the necessary steps to sanction it.

The fact that a lot of players are going to Russia should be promoted. But if we're not welcome then it would be very difficult to change the mentality ahead of the World Cup.

Zenit will be guilty of condoning racism unless they take serious action against fan group

Hulk - Zenit St Petersburg
By Michael Yokhin

On Monday evening, Zenit fan group 'Landskrona' desperately tried to explain their so-called 'Selection 12 manifesto' after it drew big headlines in Russia and sent shockwaves around world football.

The group have categorically denied accusations of racism, stating that their wish is only that local footballers are prioritised when it comes to squad selection.

In the original document, which has not been sufficiently quoted by the majority of the English-language press (though published much of the letter), these priorities do indeed sound reasonable. Landskrona have urged Zenit to make local players from St Petersburg the nucleus of the team, while the rest of the squad should consist of footballers from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, as well as other Slavic, Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

"Players from continents other than Europe shouldn't be of priority, but t here is no taboo on signing them. We only mean that Zenit shouldn't search for stars in Latin America before we have thoroughly explored the possibilities in local, Russian and European markets. This has nothing to do with racism or nationalism. We just don't want the team to lose its identity."

Unwanted Brazil star Hulk shouldn't be at Zenit, according to Landskrona

The group further attempted to explain their philosophy by comparing Zenit's traditions to Spanish outfit Athletic Bilbao, who only field footballers from the Basque region.

"We can't understand why everyone hails Athletic Bilbao, who only use players from their region, while Zenit's management and fans are accused of racism.

"During the last decade, football has gradually ceased to be a game of the people and has become a business. We are afraid that our club will follow the route of Manchester City, Arsenal and Anzhi Makhachkala, who buy players from around the world and don't represent the city and the region they come from. Keeping the Zenit identity is very important to us."

There will be many football fans who can identify with the above, and indeed the Landskrona manifesto includes quite a few positive messages, such as calling for players to respect their club, as well as imposing a salary cap.

Unfortunately, some of Landskrona's deeper-lying beliefs can only be described as racist and discriminatory.

For starters, when listing the "personal qualities" Zenit players should possess, the fan group states: "We are against having sexual minorities represented in the squad". That's it! No explanation not that it would have changed anything. Pure homophobia, in its most despicable form. Quite outrageously - even when trying to s often the message on Monday evening - Landskrona failed to mention this sentence and didn't apologise for it.

Secondly, part of the manifesto is titled "Zenit and black players", which says: "We see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition that keeps the club's identity. Thanks to this tradition, the club has managed to keep its own face in the football world."

It goes without saying that basing a so-called "tradition" on skin colour is sick and twisted. The above words tarnish the reputation of the club's image the very image the racist fans are allegedly trying to preserve.

What could have been a positive message to the club has turned into a racist and homophobic blurb, which tragically incriminates the whole city of St Petersburg. The former Russian capital is thus seen as a stronghold for racists and extremists with a Neo-Nazi scent.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

St Peter sburg is the most culturally developed city in Russia. Founded by Peter the Great, it was supposed to become Russia's window to the outside world, and that indeed was the case.

The city is actually called Sankt Peterburg by Russians (like in German), and it is the most multicultural and diverse community in the country. The population is more educated and tolerant than anywhere in Russia, and the biggest architectural and cultural attractions of the country are sited there.

Zenit is the only football team in a five-million-strong megalopolis, and the vast majority of its people support them passionately. They are now stained and bullied by a vocal fan group who have the audacity to represent the whole city with their senseless racist and homophobic actions.

Landskrona's treatment of Mario Balotelli, who was rumoured to be on the verge of signing for Zenit a few years ago, was shocking enough. When Russia's Under-21s played their Italian cou nterparts in St Petersburg in August 2009, the group travelled to the the Petrovskiy stadium and displayed a banner which read: "Balotelli, we don't want you here".

One wonders whether they will accept Scandinavian players like Denmark's Jores Okore, who is of Cote d'Ivoire descent. Indeed, their biggest problem is that they dont even recognise how racist they are. They sincerely believe they are not.

As for the club itself, they must take a very strict position against Landskrona. They rightfully dismissed the fans' manifesto on Monday evening, but that is not enough.

The club, via a statement issued to CNN World Sport, insisted that they do not support "archaic" values.

"Zenit has always been distinguished by its tolerant approach to players of various nationalities and confessions, and has always had diversity in its side," the statement continued.

However, the rebuttal was not published on the club's offici al website. An insufficient response, and in order to clear their name, Zenit must educate Landskrona and impose serious punishment against those who placed their traditions in such a dreadful light.

As Piara Powar, executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), told Education is difficult but a very necessary piece of work for Zenit to do. This is the only way to go if they want to keep any credibility.

Otherwise, the entire club will be guilty of condoning racism.

Selasa, 18 Desember 2012

Juventus keeping tabs on Danilo & Bocchetti

Salvatore Bocchetti - Italy (Getty Images)
By Romeo Agresti

Juventus are closely monitoring the situation of Rubin Kazan defender Salvatore Bocchetti and Udinese centre-back Danilo, understands.

The Serie A champions are in the market for defensive reinforcements having parted company with Lucio on Monday, and Bocchetti and Danilo top Juventus' wishlist.

The 26-year-old Bocchetti left Serie A for Rubin Kazan in the summer of 2010, and could be open to a return to his native country if the right club comes along. However, Juventus have yet to step up their interest in the former Genoa ace.

Danilo, meanwhile, has developed into one of Udinese's star players since joining the Zebrette in 2011, and Juve have scouted the defender on several occasions.

The 28-year-old has a contract with his current club until June 2016, though, and Udinese are reluctant to sell Danilo this winter.

The refore, Juventus could opt to stick with Luca Marrone and Martin Caceres until the end of the season before deciding on whether to make a move for either Bocchetti and Danilo.

Senin, 17 Desember 2012

Zenit supporters' group warns against buying black or gay players

Hulk - Zenit St Petersburg
Zenit St Petersburg's largest fan group have appealed to the club to not sign black or homosexual players.

The Russian giants are the only major side in the country to have never had a footballer of African descent on their books, and this is something that 'Landscrona' are keen to see upheld.

"We're not racists, and for us, we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition, which emphasises the identity of the club and nothing more," the letter, which was also posted on the fan club's website, reads

"We only want players from other brotherly Slav nations, such as Ukraine and Belarus as well as from the Baltic states and Scandinavia.

"We have the same mentality and historical and cultural background as these nations.

"We, as the most northern club of major European cities, have never been linked with Africa, nor South America, Australia or Oceania.

"We have absolutely nothing against the people of these or any other continents, but want Zenit players to be united in spirit and mentality.

"We do not understand the difference in public attitudes towards this notion. Why is Athletic Bilbao's approach, which involves only using players from their region, not accused of being racist?

"We fear that the club will take the path of Manchester City, Arsenal or Anzhi Makhachkala and many other clubs who buy players from around the world and no longer represent their region or city.

For us it is important to preserve Zenit's identity.We do not want to be another beautiful and perhaps even profitable football project.

"Zenit has a special meaning for the residents of St Petersburg and the region; the city and the word 'Zenit' have become synonymous with each other.

The letter also called for the club to reject "sexua l minorities", "football crooks", those who have publicly announced their addiction to cigarettes or alchohol, as well as calling for the introduction of a wage cap.

It also suggested that players "blackmailing" the club in order to get a good financial package should be sold immediately.

Ex-Zenit striker Alexander Panov has taken a dim view of the demands, and believes that fans should not have a say on transfers or club politics.

"If we don't have enough good players from St Petersburg, then what should the club do?" he asked.

"All clubs around the world have black players. If they are absent from Zenit it's Zenit's problem. I don't think fans should demand the club buy or don't buy certain players.

"The fans have the right to go to the stadium or stay home," Panov concluded.

Luciano Spalletti's side have endured a tumultuous few months, with a number of established players unhappy about the wages being paid to su mmer signings Hulk and Axel Witsel, who joined in a 90 million double deal.

And Brazilian attacker Hulk recently hit out at his coach after being substituted in a Champions League match against AC Milan, admitting that he could leave the club in January.

The former Porto man had previously stated that he was adapting to life in Russia, although he had been the target of a 'bomb' prank by angry fans back in September.

Senin, 10 Desember 2012

Eto'o: I have never met anyone like Mourinho

Samuel Eto'o - Inter (Getty Images)
Samuel Eto'o says that he has never met a character more "larger than life" than Jose Mourinho.

The duo worked alongside one another at Inter and the Cameroon international revealed how he found Mourinho's departure difficult to take when the Portuguese left the club to take control of Real Madrid in 2010.

"He was a great person and a great coach," he told RT.

"Of the few people I have met in my life I have never met such a character that is larger than life. That year we won almost everything and then we parted. It was tough to take."

Eto'o also talked about his time under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and though he admits his own exit from Camp Nou was a tough one, he says the two of them now enjoy a good relationship.

"I spent a year with him in which I won everything, but the end was hard. Yet, I can say for all the good years I spent at Barcelona that only a small proportion was difficult," he explaine d.

"Anything can happen in life, but you have to be a man and sometimes say certain things. Nowadays I'm happy because when we see each other we talk because we are all in the same Barca family."

Eto'o: Messi is a god

Messi - Eto'o
Anzhi Makhachkala striker Samuel Eto'o has labelled Lionel Messi a "god" and praised his grounded personality.

The pair spent five years together at Barcelona between 2004 and 2009 and having formed a firm friendship with the Argentine off the pitch, the Cameroon international is desperate to see him add international honours to his trophy cabinet.

"Messi is a god, as a person and even more as a player," he told RT.

"I hope that he wins the World Cup with Argentina. To the gods of the world, all I ask is that you give him that chance because I have seen him grow. I can only hope for the best because I have seen and know what a good boy he is."

The 31-year-old also spoke about the effect formerBlaugrana team-mate Ronaldinho had on him during his time with the Catalan club.

"He is a genius, and not just in football. The day I was upset, I did not play well, but when you saw him arrive in the locker roo m with a smile on his face, you knew he was going to roll," he added.

Eto'o moved to Russian club Anzhi in 2011 after a two-year spell with Inter.

Jumat, 07 Desember 2012

Hulk: I have resolved my differences with Zenit

Axel Witsel & Hulk - Zenit
Hulk has made it clear that his differences with Zenit St Petersburg have been put to bed and is now focused on helping the team defend their Russian Premier League title.

The former Porto striker has struggled to justify his 40 million fee, which the Russian champions shelled out to bring him to the club in the summer, and he recently revealed that he was considering his future after a bust-up with coach Luciano Spalletti.

His perceived unhappiness was highlighted when he was substituted in the 1-0 Champions League victory over AC Milan on Tuesday, but
following clear-the-air talks between the trainer and the Brazilian, normal service seems to have resumed.

"Everything is resolved," Hulk told reporters. "I talked with the coach and the board and we were transparent with each other.

"I had never been replaced three times in a row before, but now everything is clear. I'm focused on the goal of winning the Russian title with Zenit."

Zenit are currently third in the Premier League, three points behind Anzhi Makhachkala, and both teams will face off on Monday.

Kamis, 06 Desember 2012

Europa League Results: Groups G-L - Levante earn Hannover point after comeback, as Videoton are eliminated despite washout

UEFA Europa League, Tottenham Hotspur FC v Panathinaikos FC, Sandro, Nikos Spiropoulos


Genk's 0-0 draw with Basel in Belgium on Thursday was enough to confirm them as group winners, whilst also sending the Swiss side through to the last 32.

The match itself was a turgid encounter, though Basel will be buoyed by the fact that they progress regardless of Friday's result between Videoton and Sporting, due to a superior head-to-head record.

SPORTING LISBON P-P VIDEOTON (rescheduled for Friday 21:05 CET)

Sporting Lisbon's game against Videoton was postponed on Thursday evening after heavy rain in the Portuguese capital saw the Estadio Jose Alvalade pitch waterlogged.

Franky Vercauteren's side are already eliminated, but the Hungarian opposition had a chance to qualify, depending on the result in Belgium between Genk and Basel.

The m atch was initially delayed in order to clear the pitch, though it was confirmed later by Uefa that the meaningless game would be replayed in Lisbon in 24 hours time.



A late equaliser by Nicolas Canales denied Inter as Azerbaijani outfit Netfchi Baku bowed out of the Europa League with a brilliant 2-2 draw away at San Siro.(see match report)


Rubin Kazan ended their positive campaign with a 1-1 draw away to Partizan Belgrade on Thursday evening.

The first half was an admittedly scrappy affair in the Serbian capital, though Sasa Markovic should've broken the deadlock in the early stages of the second half, as he wasted a golden opportunity to hand his side the lead.

Nevertheless, Markovic made amends minutes later as he controlled Lazar Markovic's pass on the edge of the area and powered a volley into the net.

The lead lasted five minutes as Rubin rallied. Cristian Ansaldi cut in on his left and found Salomon Rondon on the far side, with the latter applying the finish to restore parity and secure top spot.



Olympique Lyonnais' fine form continued as they comfortably saw off Ironi Kiryat Shmona 2-0 at Stade Gerland.

Lyon coach Remi Garde had named a rather youthful starting 11 with an average age of just 22, but that didn't stop them dominating the Israeli side, as they duly took the lead after a quarter of an hour.

Mouhamadou Sarr got the goal, on his debut as he latched onto an inswinging cross from the left to head home past Daniel Amos.

The visitors were kept at arm's length by Lyon's burgeoning youngsters, who soon went 2-0 up after the break when Yassine Benzia struck, having controlled Mehdi Zaffane's cross.

Under the watchful eye of Zinedine Zidane, the hosts become the second Ligue 1 side of the evening to win their group.


Last year's finalists Athletic Bilbao ended their Europa League campaign with a dour 0-0 draw at San Mames on Thursday evening.

The Czech side were already through, with the result meaning that Athletic, who lost last year's final 3-0 to Atletico Madrid finish third with just five points from a possible 18.



Lazio booked their place in the last 32 as group winners as th ey comfortably saw off the challenge of bottom side NK Maribor with a 4-1 win.

The Italians broke the deadlock after 16 minutes after Ederson's brilliant through-ball tore open a static defence, allowing Libor Kozak to fire with ease past Jasmin Handanovic.

Vladimir Petkovic's men were buoyed by the lead, and it didn't stop them from doubling their advantage as Stefan Radu headed in powerfully from Hernanes' cross. It was 3-0 as Ederson's passing once again proved the difference though this time, Sergio Floccari applied the finish.

Floccari made it 4-0 after the interval, as he raced from the halfway line to fire past Handanovic with his second goal of the game.

Marcos Tavares bagged a consolation goal for the Slovakian side, though it is Lazio who win Group J after an emphatic win.


Tottenham secured their passage to the next round as they comfortably beat Greek side Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane, with the visitors missing out on qualification. (see match report)



Rapid Wien ended their Europa League campaign with a flourish, as they beat group winners Metalist Kharkiv in Vienna.

The Austrian side took the lead early on as they searched for the first points of the Europa League campaign. Christopher Trimmel's fine cross was converted in by Deni Alar, much to the delight of the hosts' faithful.

The home side saw defender Harald Pichler shown a straight red card by Estonian ref eree Hannes Kaasik, though it didn't change the result in a turgid second half as Rapid bowed out with victory.


Bayer Leverkusen ended their group stage campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over Rosenborg, as they go through in second place.

The hosts finally took the lead in the second half as Carlinhos' low drive found left-back Julian Riedel in the box, and the youngster fired past the goalkeeper to open his account for the club.

Rosenborg failed to issue a response, as their attackers were well marshalled at the BayArena, and the German side ultimately secured the three points.



Hannover let a two-goal lead slip, as they settled for a 2-2 draw which confirmed them as group winners at Ciudad de Valencia.

The German side opened the scoring after some poor defending. Lars Stindl initiated a fine one-two with Didier Ya Konan, and the former powerfully fired into the net to hand the visitors the opener.

Ya Konan was on the scoresheet too, as he later applied the finish to give the group leaders a convincing 2-0 lead just eight minutes later.

Angel reduced the deficit four minutes into the second half, before Vicente Iborra's stoppage-time equaliser completed an unlikely comeback, as the Liga side qualified a point behind their German counterparts.


Helsingborg departed from the group stage with their first win, as they completed a fine 3-1 win away to winless Twente.

The Swedes started the match brightly, and were rewarded after just six minutes. May Mahlangu's measured pass into the path of Nikola Djurdic saw the striker produce a stunning strike from 25 yards for 1-0.

Djurdic was involved in the second midway through the first half, as his clever move enabled Alejandro Bedoya to etch his name into the scoresheet as Helsingborg raced into a comfortable lead.

The visitors' determination continued at the expense of Steve McClaren's sorry Dutch outfit, who went 3-0 behind as Thomas Sorum converted in from Rachid Bouaouzan's cross, before Dusan Tadic reduced the deficit with a well-taken free-kick.

Celtic - Spartak Moscow Preview: Bhoys must better Benfica result to reach knockout stages

UEFA Champions League, Celtic v Barcelona,  Victor Wanyama

Celtic are currently without Scott Brown, who is sidelined with a hip injury, whilst Victor Wanyama is also unavailable through suspension after picking up a yellow card in the recent 2-1 loss to Benfica.

As for the visitors, Valeri Karpin is likely to freshen up the side from the starting XI that lost 4-2 at home to Zenit St Petersburg in their last match. Juan Manuel Insaurralde and ex-Celtic man Aiden McGeady were both used substitutes in that match and could start.

Demy de Zeeuw may also come in, possibly as an extra midfielder in place of one of their two strikers - Artem Dzyuba and Emmauel Emenike, with the Nigerian most likely to keep his place given his excellent scoring record in the competition so far.

  • Celtic are currently top of the SPL having taken 28 points from their 15 matches.

  • The Scottish giants' last three Champions League games have finished 2-1 - a win and loss against Barcelona, and a defeat in their last match against Benfica
  • The hosts won this competition back in 1967, beating Inter Milan 2-1 in the final in Lisbon.

  • Spartak Moscow currently sit eighth in the Russian Premier League table, having taken 29 points from their 18 matches.

  • Emmanel Emenike (pictured right) has an impressive goalscoring record in this seasons Champions League, having netted three goals in his five appearances.

  • Ex-Valencia boss Unai Emery lasted six months at the club before his recent axing following a poor run of results.

Rabu, 05 Desember 2012

Celtic 2-1 Spartak Moscow: Hooper and Commons seal the deal for Lennons Bhoys

CL - Celtic v FC Spartak Moscow, Gary Hooper
Celtic advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League for first time since 2008 after a nervous win over Spartak Moscow at Celtic Park.

A first-half strike from Gary Hooper was cancelled out by Ari just before the break, but a second-half Kris Commons penalty secured the win after a tense night of football in Glasgow.

The opening stages of the game were tetchy and evenly contested, with neither side establishing much of a stronghold on the contest or creating many clear chances, until Spartak midfielder Kim Kallstrom played a neat one-two on the edge of the area, before placing his left-footed shot narrowly wide of Fraser Forsters post.

With Brazilian striker Emmanuel Emenike looking lively for the Russian side, it looked like Celtic would be set for a difficult night, however not for the first time in this seasons competition, they showed their clinical side.

Greek striker Georgios Samaras picked up the ball on the halfway line and weaved past several Moscow players before launching a long ball upfield which was miscontrolled by defender Juan Insaurralde allowing Hooper to lash the ball first time past the helpless goalkeeper.

Celtic had a few more half chances as the first-half wore on, but allowed their opponents to come back into the contest and when the equaliser eventually came, it wasn't against the run of play.

The eye-catching Emenike was once again at the centre of the action as he shrugged off a challenge in central midfield and drove forward before feeding Ari on the right side of the box, the Brazilian nonchalantly chipped the ball over Forster to equalise.

That was the last major drama of the first-half, but five minutes into the second period Celtic came within a whisker of going back in front when right-back Mikael Lustig put in a decent cross for Samaras but his shot cannoned off the post with Spartak g oalkeeper Sergei Pesyakov well beaten.

That looked like being the best chance they were going to have, however, with the home side mindful not to get carried away chasing the game, wise in the knowledge that losing the game would certainly put them out of the tournament.

Lennon threw some caution to the wind in the later stages as he brought more attacking players into the fray, and they nearly got the goal they needed when headed at goal from a corner only for Pesyakov to react well to tip the ball over.

The breakthrough eventually came on 80 minutes when Samaras went down in the box under very minimal pressure to win a penalty. Commons stepped up and thumped the ball in via the underside of the crossbar to secure the victory, and ensure Celtics safe passage into the knockout stages.

AC Milan 0-1 Zenit St Petersburg: Russians secure Europa League spot with San Siro success

Kevin Boateng - Milan-Zenit - Champions League
A single goal from Danny was enough to give Zenit St Petersburg a famous victory over AC Milan and book the Russian champions' place in the Europa League.

Having rested several first-team players, the hosts failed to click and were punished in the first half when the Portuguese playmaker swooped on a rebound for the only goal of the game.

Zenit were the team most in need of a win at San Siro as the two sides kicked off, after Milan secured second spot in Group C and a place in the last 16 in the fifth round of fixtures.

The Russians, on the other hand, knew that three points would guarantee them a consolation prize of Europa League football after Christmas, and also up for grabs was a first victory on Italian soil for the club.

Despite this, however, the game began in an even fashion. Both Milan and Zenit played fluid, passing football and attempted to keep possession, although clear-cut chances were at a premium in the ope ning stages. The Rossoneri, though, were convinced they had earned a penalty when Giampaolo Pazzini went down under Bruno Alves' challenge, but their protests were in vain. Urby Emanuelson also went close for the hosts, flashing a venomous shot just past the post with 15 minutes on the clock.

Milan enjoyed the lion's share of possession during the first half, but it was to be the visitors from who took the lead. Massimo Ambrosini did well to stop Sergei Semak in his tracks with a tackle in the Italian penalty area, but his defence were painfully slow to react as the ball ran free. The first man to reach it was the impressive Danny, who artfully curled the ball past the despairing dive of Christian Abbiati to put Luciano Spalletti's men in the ascendancy.

The goal served as a wake-up call for the home team, who started to commit more bodies into attack. Bojan Krkic was not far away with an ambitious overhead kick that went jus t wide of the post, while Mathieu Flamini called goalkeeper Viacheslav Malafeev into action with a stinging effort from outside the area that was parried by the Zenit man. The Russians held on to go into the break one goal up, and with Anderlecht trailing against Malaga, the Europa League appeared within their grasp.

Seven minutes into the second half, Massimiliano Allegri'scharges looked certain to restore parity. A well-worked counter ended with Pazzini divertingKevin-Prince Boateng's cross into the path of Malafeev. But the keeper reacted smartly to hack the ball away with his feet. Emanuelson was in prime position to convert the rebound, but a momentary hesitation from the winger was enough for Zenit to clear their lines and keep their lead intact.

The pressure continued to build from the home team, who had almost complete control of possession as they probed for an equaliser. Krkic tried his luck from deep with a shot that flew over the bar, whil e Zenit began to defend in numbers in an effort to protect their slender advantage.

The deep backline was paying off for Spalletti's troops, who forced Milan out of their box and into shooting desperately from range in the absence of better alternatives. Despite close calls for substitutes Robinho and Stephan El Shaarawy, who both caused scares, the Russians were able to play out a narrow win to mark their first victory in Italy.

Ambrosini: Zenit defeat did not do AC Milan justice

Ambrosini & Witsel - Milan-Zenit - Champions League
Massimo Ambrosini has played down the significance of AC Milan's 1-0 home defeat to Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on Tuesday.

A first-half goal from Danny meant the Russian champions claimed the win at the expense of the Rossoneri, and third place in Group C, but Ambrosini was adamant his side had done enough to emerge victorious at San Siro.

"We talked about what we should have done on the pitch before the game, we tried to play the best we can as usual," he told reporters.

"We're through, anyway, but I think that the round of 16 will be really tough. We are improving match by match, and we can do even better than what we have accomplished lately.

"We lost tonight, but I think that we played better than them. We played a good first half, maybe we didn't create many chances but we were in control of the ball and of the game.

"We're sorry that we lost, we wanted to keep our momentum going, but t hat's football."

Meanwhile, Ambrosini's team-mate Mathieu Flamini shared his sentiments, claiming Milan had "dominated" their opponents but failed to reap any rewards for their efforts.

"We took the initiative and created many scoring opportunities. They defended well and didn't allow us anything," the Frenchman added.

"The president [Silvio Berlusconi] told us this was an important game and we wanted to win, but were unable to do so.

"We are disappointed because we dominated the game, but instead they punished us with their only chance in the first half.

"After the goal they shut up shop and we couldnt find the space to score despite our efforts."

Milan's next match is against Torino on Sunday, as they aim to make it three wins on the bounce in Serie A.

Hulk admits he could leave Zenit in January

Hulk, Zenit
Hulk has admitted there is a possibility that he could leave Zenit St Petersburg in January in the wake of their 1-0 victory over AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Brazil forward joined the Russian champions in the summer for a reported 40 million fee from Porto, but he has mustered just four goals in all competitions since his big-money transfer.

And amidst reported team unrest following his arrival, Hulk was substituted by coach Luciano Spalletti in the win at San Siro - a decision which appears to have prompted the 26-year-old to consider his options.

"I feel fine in St Petersburg, my family is fine and my son is fine," he told Premium Calcio after the match.

"But if the situation with Luciano Spalletti does not resolve itself, I could leave in January. I don't know if Italy would be my destination, but anything can happen."

In response to the attacker's remarks, Spalletti calmly respond ed: "Hulk does and says what he wants. I will have no qualms about replacing him again."