World Soccer Top Ten stories

9/16/2011

Blatter-watch

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been quick to deny reports that he has reached a secret deal with UEFA president Michel Platini to step down from his post in two years time. Conscious that rumours such as these can quickly develop a momentum of their own, Blatter was straight on to his Twitter account.

He tweeted that “the existence of a reported ‘deal’ between me and Michel Platini for the FIFA Presidency is pure nonsense,” and adds “the suggestion that I intend to stop my four-year mandate before its end is simply ridiculous.”

Blatter was responding to a Harry Harris-penned piece for ESPNsoccernet. Difficult to know who to believe here. On the one hand you have a notorious peddler of half truths, distortions and outright lies, and on the other, there’s Blatter.

Illuminating?

Liverpool striker Nathan Eccleston is in hot water after suggesting that the tragic events of 911 were not the work of terrorists. The forward has been asked by the club to explain himself after he posted remarks about the attacks on his Twitter page.

Eccleston wrote: “I aint going to say attack don’t let the media make u believe that was terrorist that did it. #O.T.I.S.”

The acronym O.T.I.S. is believed to stand for “Only the Illuminati succeed.”

And if you want to find out more about them then I’d recommend the works of David Icke, Dan Brown and Hans Christian Andersen.

Back with a whimper?

The Champions League returned last night to much fanfare, although approximately one in five Chelsea supporters appear to have got their dates mixed up as they failed to take their seats for their opening match against Bayer Leverkusen.

Only 33,920 turned up for the game. Whether this indicates a growing disenchantment with the club, the competition, or just an unwillingness to pay the 40 per cent increase in ticket prices is unclear. Either way, they missed a rare positive contribution from Fernando Torres, as the Spanish striker set up both goals in the 2-0 win.

Before the game Torres was the subject of an investigation by Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas following the uncomplimentary remarks he made about the speed and age of some of his team mates. Thankfully, for Torres, that has now been forgotten.

“The problem is solved,” said Villas-Boas. “The investigation is over. We had a chat and the situation is solved. You saw the player involved [last night] and he put in a good collective performance, like the team had. Hopefully these things won’t arise in the group again. If they do, it’ll be the manager who has to resolve it.”

Match of the day

The most eagerly-awaited encounter of Matchday One was Milan’s visit to Barcelona and the teams did not disappoint. In a tie dominated by Barcelona, Milan somehow emerged with a 2-2 draw and a backhanded compliment from Barca coach Pep Guardiola.

“They are a team with great quality, they are made to play well but instead they came to defend, which surprised me,” he said after the match.

“We had the ball for long stretches, in the end they managed to take away a draw even though they came close to the goal just twice. Also [Clarence] Seedorf did incredible defensive work, I can only give them compliments, big teams can always strike at any moment.”

Goal of the day

There were several contenders from last night’s Champions League matches, but there could only be one winner. Hulk lived up to his name with a net-busting effort for Porto against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Foul of the day

From the same game, Porto’s Joao Moutinho is on the receiving end of an agricultural challenge from Shakhtar defender Yaroslav RakitskiyNew kids on the block

Part two of the opening round of Champions League matches gets underway tonight with many observers interested to see how Manchester City will fare on their debut in the competition.

Acknowledged as dangerous wildcards as a result of their £500 million spending spree over the past couple of years, City host Napoli, another team who appear in the comptition after a lengthy spell in the wilderness.

Like City, Napoli were playing two divisions below the top flight not so long ago, but a remarkable renaissance under the ownership of film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis, sees them back in the European Cup for the first time since Diego Maradona inspired the club to two scudetto titles.

“I live in Naples and I see what people feel,” coach Walter Mazzarri said. “It is only our fourth year in the top flight and already we are at the stage where we are in the Champions League and not through the back-door of the play-off round. I feel a lot of pride.”

In contrast, Mancini will be feeling a lot of pressure. Mainly from his father, who is travelling from Italy for tonight’s game and who admits he has always been his son’s harshest critic.

“It is true what Roberto says, that I have always been his biggest critic,” said Mancini senior.

“It was the same when he was a player as it is now, as a manager.”

Legal jungle

Despite being reinstated to the Europa League by a regional court, Swiss side Sion have decided no to travel to Madrid for the opening game against Atletico on Thursday. The decision denies neutrals the prospect of three teams taking the field in Thursday’s Europa League game between Atletico Madrid and Celtic/and/or Sion. It could be like the double-headers you’d get at park level.

All things considered, and notwithstanding their unhappiness at the way in which they have been treated by UEFA, the decision by Sion to not travel to Madrid seems a sensible one.

Initially, after UEFA rejected the club’s appeal to be reinstated in the competition, Christian Constantin, the Sion president, said: “I give one hour to [UEFA president, Michel] Platini and we will file a criminal complaint. The decision of the Swiss court this morning to be executed. That’s it.”

Alexandre Zen Ruffinen, Sion’s lawyer, said: “UEFA believe they are above the law and must face the consequences. I can’t understand their non-adherence to Swiss law. UEFA has abused its position. It has disobeyed a court order.”

The row concerns the eligibility of Sion players in their qualifying game against Celtic, but ultimately it’s about who runs football.

Value for money?

If there is one area that MLS is ahead of its European counterparts it is in the transparency of its accounting. The league regularly publishes the wages paid to each MLS player and the figures make fascinating reading.

For instance, John Rooney, lesser-known brother of Wayne, commands a miserly $32,000 a year, while his New York Red Bull team mate, Thierry Henry, is the second highest-paid player in the division on $5 million a year.

The highest paid player, inevitably, is David Beckham, whose basic salary is doubled by endorsements, while his new colleague at LA Galaxy, Robbie Keane, is now the 4th highest paid player in the United States.

Here’s the top ten:
David Beckham of LA Galaxy is set to make $6,500,000.04
Thierry Henry of New York Red Bulls: $5,600,000.04
Rafael Marquez of New York Red Bulls: $4,600,000.00
Robbie Keane of LA Galaxy: $3,417,243.15
Landon Donovan of LA Galaxy: $2,300,000.00
Julian de Guzman of Toronto FC: $1,910,746.00
Danny Koevermans of Toronto FC: $1,413,319.33
Juan Pablo Angel of Chivas USA: $1,250,000.00
Torsten Frings of Toronto FC: $1,113,662.67

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