Capello backs Ronaldinho-Milan partnership

England coach Fabio Capello said the acquisition of Ronaldinho has made AC Milan favourites for the Serie A title.

Milan have not been champions of their country since 2004 and last season they finished a dismal fifth – missing out on Champions League qualification – despite winning the World Club Cup.

However, they have bought well over the summer, bringing in Italy international defender Gianluca Zambrotta from Barcelona and box-to-box French midfielder Mathieu Flamini from Arsenal.

But the piece de la resistence was surely the capture of Ronaldinho, whom Capello believes can return to his top form.

“It is lucky for Milan that he is going to the Olympics,” Capello said in an interview published in Thursday's Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He will return match-fit and motivated following his year off.”

The twice former world player of the year enjoyed three successful seasons at Barcelona, winning two titles and the Champions League, but lost his way last season amid rumours his commitment was waning as his love for the night-life affected his performances and attitude.

But Capello believes he can still get back to his form of old.

“If he has the desire to get back to his best, to rediscover his old self, to become once again one of the best three players in the world, he's gone to the right place.

“Milan has everything to put him back into orbit.”

Milan have had a good pre-season, even winning the Tim Trophy earlier this week – a three-way competition between Italy's biggest three clubs, Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus, where they each play 45 minutes against their two rivals on the same evening.

Milan won both their mini-matches on penalties following draws to claim the trophy, considered quite prestigious despite its format which usually sees the teams playing virtually two separate line-ups in their two matches.

With that success, their summer signings and the fact that Milan will not be distracted by the Champions League this coming season, Capello agrees with Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon that Milan are title favourites.

“Great transfer signings and Tim Trophy success; Milan are favourites for the scudetto if, as I believe they will do, they concentrate on the championship,” said Capello.

“Europe can wait this time. (Coach Carlo) Ancelotti will use his best team in Serie A.”

However, Capello admitted that the pressure is on Milan who, despite winning the Champions League in 2007, have a lot to prove in their own domestic championship.

“Milan can't wait any longer. Waiting makes you grow old. It's important to pick the right signings,” said Capello, suggesting that maybye Milan still need some new faces, particularly with striker Marco Borriello facing two months on the sidelines.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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“Tottenham Hotspur in talks with Pavlyuchenko”

Tottenham Hotspur have set their sights on Russian forward Roman Pavlyuchenko, and reportedly are in talks with the player.

BBC Sports reveals today that the Spartak Moscow forward and the English sides haven’t come to an agreement yet, but plan to continue their talks soon.

The 26-year-old, born in Mostovskoy, played for Dynamo Stavropol and Rotor Volgograd before joining Russian giants Spartak five years ago.

Since 2003, the player appeared in 145 matches and scored 75 goals.

But it wasn’t until his performance at Euro 2008 that other European clubs started to show interest. Not only did he score twice in Russia’s 2-1 win over England in qualification, he also went on to net three goals and earn a place in the ‘Team of the Tournament’ at the finals in Austria and Switzerland.

The Spurs would reportedly pay around twenty million Euros for the striker, who if he joins the London outfit, joins up with other new signins as Gómes, Luka Modric and youngster Giovani Dos Santos.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Discussion Thursday: Clubs versus Olympics

It has been going on for weeks and despite the Olympics starting next week, the story doesn’t seem to be over yet as clubs continue to try and find ways to keep their players from going to China.

The most famous case is that of FC Barcelona, who refuse to cooperate with the Argentinian Olympic team and want Messi to stay in Spain for the preparation of next season.

But more teams have been troubling the FIFA lately. Werder Bremen have been trying everything in their power to keep Diego at the club during the pre-season preparation, and Schalke 04 refuse to let go of another Brazilian, Rafinha.

Earlier this week, FIFA finally ruled that clubs have the obligation of allowing players to go to China. Barcelona seem to have accepted the decision, while Schalke and Bremen have announced to appeal.

Does the preparation of a new season justify the attitude shown by these and other clubs, or are the Olympics simply too important to have to worry about what club sides think?

For that matter, should clubs ever want to interfere with any national team; isn’t it much more important for a player to represent his nation?

Give us your opinion by using the ‘Discuss’ option below. Not registered yet? Join us now!

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Spurs unveil Bentley

Tottenham on Thursday unveiled new signing David Bentley, who has cost an initial 15 million pounds (22 million euros) from Blackburn.

Spurs announced the move late Wednesday and confirmed the news in a statement to the London Stock Exchange after he passed a medical.

A statement from Tottenham plc read: “Tottenham Hotspur plc is pleased to announce that agreement has been reached with Blackburn Rovers for the transfer of the registration of the England international midfielder, David Bentley, age 23 years, to Tottenham Hotspur FC for a total consideration of 15 million pounds and up to an additional two million payable upon future performances.

“The player's contract is for a period of up to six years.”

Bentley, who started his career across north London at Arsenal, is in line for a debut at the Feyenoord Jubileum Tournament in Rotterdam this weekend.

Arsenal will receive a percentage of the deal as per the terms of his transfer to Blackburn in 2006.

“Making the move here was an easy decision to make to be honest. I've been trying my hardest to come here and be part of this. All my friends are season ticket holders. All I want to do is just get out there,” Bentley told Sky Sports News.

“I'm excited by it. There are a lot of good players here, you look at (Luka) Modric, Giovani dos Santos and I'm looking forward to fitting in the side somewhere,” he added.

Tottenham manager Juande Ramos is also still reported to be chasing mercurial Russian Andrei Arshavin, one of the stars of Euro 2008, having offloaded Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane to Liverpool.

Ramos was thrilled at the capture of Bentley, telling reporters: “I'm sure he will bring the best ability to our team and we can help him maximise his potential.”

Bentley repaid the compliment, saying he was looking forward to repaying the Spaniard's faith in him.

“Working under someone like Ramos is great. He's going to get the best out of me.

“I've got a lot of respect for him for what he's achieved. I've talked a lot to the other players about him and I'm sure he'll push me on to the next level. He's really good.”

Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas and centre-back Michael Dawson have meanwhile signed one-year contract extensions keeping them at the club until 2013.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Ronaldinho says Brazil will blend youth and experience

Ronaldinho said on Thursday that Brazil will blend youth and experience as the 'auriverde' bid for a first Olympic football gold.

“There are many young players who have a lot of experience and I think that will make the difference for us,” Ronaldinho, who has just left Barcelona for AC Milan, said ahead of a warm-up Friday against the Vietnamese national side in Hanoi.

Despite five World Cups, when it comes to the Olympics Brazil have been found wanting with runner-up finishes in 1984 and 1988 and a bronze medal in 1996.

“We have let many chances (of gold) slip,” Ronaldinho observed as he trained at the My Dinh stadium in Hanoi, the squad having arrived in Vietnam from Singapore on Tuesday.

“Many good teams have played the Olympics and we have never managed to win it,” he added.

“Now we have the oportunity – we have a very good team.”

He added the side would do all it could “to win a medal that is important for us.”

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Ronaldo still dreaming of Real

Manchester United's Portuguese striker Ronaldo is still dreaming of Real Madrid, despite his club's total opposition to his leaving, Spanish sports daily AS reported on Thursday.

Ronaldo's agent Victor Mendes has, according to AS, been in contact with Real to pass on the message that the player still harbours ambitions of playing at the Bernabeu.

The newspaper quoted Ronaldo as saying, via Mendes, “keep calm, I'll sort things out next week. I will go to Manchester and tell them I only want to play at Real Madrid and that the decision is non-negotiable.”

Ronaldo, who had surgery on his ankle at the start of the month and then followed up with a fortnight break in Los Angeles, returned to Europe Wednesday, arriving in Lisbon to continue his convalescence.

Manchester United have insisted there is no chance they will free a player who scored 42 goals last season on the way to landing the Champions League and Premiership titles amid claims that Real would pay up to 85 million euros for his services.

Real Madrid's German coach Bernd Schuster hit out Wednesday at the Spanish club's managers, saying he was in the dark over possible new recruits as the will-he-won't-he Ronaldo speculation rumbles on.

“I am the last to find out anything. I would love to know more,” Schuster told reporters at the club's summer training camp in Austria.

Schuster spoke out after Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon told AS he is still willing to splash out on Ronaldo, 23, whose is under contract at Old Trafford until 2012.

Real will be in England this week for the weekend Emirates Cup contest hosted by Arsenal.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Boghossian to assist France coach Domenech

Former international midfielder Alain Boghossian is to assist France coach Raymond Domenech, a source close to the French camp told AFP on Thursday, confirming a report in French daily Le Parisien.

The French Football Federation would only officially tell AFP that the 37-year-old, who was in the 1988 World Cup-winning squad, was a “hypothetical” choice to join Domenech’s entourage as part of a revamp.

Boghossian, who played for Marseille, as well as Italian sides Parma and Napoli, will join a staff which includes Pierre Mankowski, Domenech’s right-hand man and takes up his duties on August 20, when Les Bleus face Sweden in a friendly.

According to Le Parisien, “Boghossian will try to breathe a bit of new life into a France which weas sadly lacking in Switzerland” during a desperately disappointing Euro 2008, when the team crashed out in the opening phase after losses to Holland and Italy.

Domenech was derided in some quarters for the French showing but the Federation a month ago said the 56-year-old would stay on for the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign which starts in September after the federation’s Executive Committee backed him.

France’s first World Cup qualifier is in Vienna against Euro co-hosts Austria on September 6.

Domenech took over from Jacques Santini as France manager after Euro 2004 and two years later guided the team to the World Cup final where they lost on penalties to Italy.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Gunners spike Lehmann´s Stuttgart debut

German veteran keeper Jens Lehmann conceded three second half goals as former club Arsenal beat his new side Stuttgart in a pre-season friendly late Wednesday.

Lehmann, 38, saw goals from fringe Gunners players Carlos Vela and Jack Wilshere, plus another from Nicklas Bendtner secure the win for the English Premiership side, for whom the keeper starred for five seasons prior to a summer move.

Last season, Lehmann fell out with Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, who benched him for much of the campaign, preferring Spaniard Manuel Almunia.

But Lehmann still starred for Germany as Die Mannschaft reached the final at Euro 2008 before bowing to Spain.

Before joining Arsenal he played for Schalke 04, with whom he won the UEFA Cup, and then starred in a Bundesliga title win with Dortmund after a brief spell at AC Milan.

Lehmann recently said he hoped to stay in the frame for Germany but coach Joachim Loew is inclined to give younger shot-stoppers Rene Adler and Manuel Neuer a chance.

On Thursday, Lehmann was quoted as saying he had made his mind up and would inform Loew.

“I know what I am going to do but I will speak first with Joachim Loew. As yet, we’ve not discussed the matter,” said Lehmann, who admitted it was “possible I will stop” playing for his country.

Stuttgart play in the UEFA Cup this coming season after placing sixth in the league, which resumes on August 15.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Zenit try to lure Valbuena from Marseille

Russia's reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg have made French top flight side Marseille an 18-million-euro offer for their midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, local press reported Thursday.

Reports also said that Zenit, this season's UEFA Cup winners, have offered Valbuena, who is supposed ultimately to replace Andrei Arshavin in Zenit's line-up, an annual three million euro salary.

Valbuena is under contract with Marseille until 2012.

Thu 31 July, 2008
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Conflicting Barry reports

The Gareth Barry soap opera took a new twist on Wednesday. According the club’s official site, Aston Villa have ended negotiations with Liverpool over the potential transfer of the player.

An announcement on the Aston Villa official site read:

This evening, Aston Villa can announce that Gareth Barry will be staying with the club following the interest from Liverpool over the recent months.

During discussions in the past few days, a final deadline to conclude this episode was set that all parties were aware of and agreed to. This deadline has now passed and so Gareth will remain with Villa.

Despite this statement from the Villa board, The Daily Mail later reported that a deal will go through today. According to the report, Barry will cost Benitez about £17.5 million plus Steve Finnan.

[Sources: The Official Website of Aston Villa Football Club, The Daily Mail]

Thu 31 July, 2008
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