Liverpool target Forlan

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is considering making a move for Atletico Madrid striker Diego Forlan in the January transfer window.

The former Manchester United striker would cost Liverpool around £15million, something that would force Benitez to sell before making a bid for the 30-year-old, according to The People.

Forlan admitted earlier this week that he would be tempted by a return to the Premier League, after failing to make an impact during his spell at United.

Forlan told UEFA’s official website: “England, and the Premier League, gave me many things and I thank them for that. If I have a chance to return, I would like to go.”

“I feel I have nothing to prove there. The only difference is that I am more experienced today.”

[Source: The People]

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Toni: “I’m glad the market opens in a while”

(GSM) – Luca Toni is done with Louis van Gaal and wants to leave Bayern Munich. There have been several attemps to restore the peace between the Italian striker and the Dutch coach but they all failed. Toni returned to the squad for the game against Hannover 96 (0-3 win) after his suspension but he didn’t received any play time.

After the match, the towering hitman said he was looking forward to the winter break. “Luckily for me, the market opens in a little while,” Toni told Italian TV channel RAI 2. “I will talk to the society because I do not like this situation.”

Various Italian teams have been linked with the former Fiorentina player but Toni didn’t want to be to specific about his near future. “In Italy, there are two or three teams that I like.”

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Leonardo wants Gattuso to stay

(GSM) – AC Milan coach Leonardo has made it known that he does not want unsettled midfielder Gennaro Gattuso to leave the club during January transfer window.

The Rossoneri veteran has failed to earn a regular spot in Leonardo’s side because of injuries and coach’s squad rotation policy.

Gattuso, a near-certain selection for Italy’s World Cup squad, said last week he could leave Milan before the end of his contract in June 2011 if his playing time did not increase.

“If Gattuso has this idea in his head, I will try to make him change his mind,” said Leonardo.

“I know Rino (Gattuso) well. I played with him.

“I always speak to Gattuso and try to be very clear. Now the most important thing is that he recovers from the muscular injury.”

Gattuso has been a reported target of Manchester City but AC Milan club administrator Adriano Galliani said: “The other day I showed him (Gattuso) the midfield of the top five teams in Europe and he would not have been a starter in any of those.

“Why leave, only to be relegated to the bench somewhere else?”

The 31-year-old has been with the Rossoneri since 1999 and was a crucial member of the Italy squad which won the 2006 World Cup.

He has made seven league appearances for Milan this campaign.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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FIFA ‘may put more officials on field’ at W.Cup

FIFA could put more assistant referees on the fields during the World Cup, the football governing body’s president Sepp Blatter said Monday.

The question will be discussed at the FIFA executive committee meeting on Wednesday in Cape Town, ahead of the final draw for the World Cup, he said at the opening of the Soccerex football business conference.

“We’ll make a decision to have additional officials for the World Cup or not. This is open,” he said.

The committee will consider placing additional assistant referees behind each goal, a system being experimented with in Europe, he said.

The committee will also consider ways of re-organising the system of qualifiers, he said, after controversy erupted following France’s controversial win over Ireland.

Irish players launched furious protests when they were eliminated in a play-off with France, after a controversial handball by French captain Thierry Henry led to the decisive French goal.

France’s play-off with Ireland was poised at 1-1 on aggregate in the second leg in Paris when Henry controlled the ball with his hand before teeing up William Gallas for the decisive goal.

The referee didn’t see the move, which was captured on video in instant replay.

Blatter said he had spoken with Henry about the incident.

“He explained what he had done and I took note of what he said and I said the players are taking advantages. By advantages means cheating against the laws of the game,” Blatter said.

“And he asked me if he would be punished. I said punished for what?”

“He said his family has received threats from fans because of his behaviour,” Blatter added.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Egyptian club Zamalek sack French coach

French coach Henri Michel has been sacked by Egyptian club Zamalek after a string of defeats, the Cairo-based team revealed on Monday.

The decision to replace the 62-year-old Frenchman with former Egyptian football star Hossam Hassan was taken after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to league rivals Police Union.

Michel rejoined Zamalek for the second time in his career in March after being let go by South African side Mamelodi Sundowns.

After guiding France to third place at the 1986 World Cup, Michel spent most of his time in Africa, coaching Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco and Ivory Coast. He also coached clubs including Raja Casablanca of Morocco.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Ireland asks to become team 33 at World Cup

Ireland have asked to be allowed to compete as a 33rd team in the World Cup, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Monday.

Irish players launched furious protests when they were eliminated in a play-off with France, after a controversial handball by French captain Thierry Henry led to the decisive French goal.

“The delegation of the Football of Association of Ireland, they came to FIFA and naturally they are absolutely unhappy with what happened. They agree the match cannot be replayed,” Blatter said at the opening of the Soccerex football business conference here.

“They have not asked for any sanctions… Very humbly, they have asked ‘Can’t we be team number 33 in the World Cup?’,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“Finally they asked for that. I will bring it to the attention of the executive committee,” he said.

France’s play-off with Ireland was poised at 1-1 on aggregate in the second leg in Paris when Henry controlled the ball with his hand before teeing up William Gallas for the decisive goal.

FIFA’s executive committee meets Wednesday in Cape Town, ahead of the final draw for the World Cup two days later.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Cahill confident Everton will turn corner

Tim Cahill has played down fears Everton could become embroiled in a relegation scrap, despite the club languishing just three points above the drop zone with over a third of the season gone.

Sunday’s 2-0 home defeat by Liverpool in the Merseyside derby has increased concern among the Everton faithful, but Australia midfielder Cahill felt the display was encouraging.

Everton dominated for significant periods of the match and Cahill said: “I think that’s the best we’ve played in a while.

“Our passing was good, we made lots of space with our movement and had two disallowed goals.

“We were strong from corners too. It’s hard to take but at this stage it’s not going to get any easier.

“We’re in a lot of trouble – the only way we can get out of it is by playing and working our way out of it. We’re too good to be in this position.”

Everton have won only once in 11 matches in all competitions and have scored only nine goals in that run.

Cahill added that he and his team-mates had to get the derby defeat out of their systems as soon as possible.

“It’s just one of those things and nothing’s going to fix it except our mental attitude as individuals and a team,” he added.

“I’m a lot more positive though – we played better football and had a much better attitude.

“We couldn’t hit a barn door at the minute but I’m much happier with our approach.

“It’s the overall attitude and mental toughness that counts.”

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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FA Cup draw leaves Ancelotti singing with delight

Holders Chelsea set out on the first steps towards a defence of their FA Cup crown with a home tie against Championship side Watford, finalists in 1984, in the third round draw made on Sunday.

The pairing had Chelsea coach Carlo Anceletti drooling at the prospect of getting the chance to meet one of his singing heroes, former Watford chairman Sir Elton John.

“I do not know Watford very well at the moment but I will have the opportunity to learn about them,” he said after Sunday’s 3-0 Premier League win at Arsenal.

“The owner of Watford many years ago was Elton John. Elton John is my favourite singer. The match will be an opportunity to meet Elton John.”

West Ham will host London rivals Arsenal, who last lifted the trophy in 2005 and have not picked up any silverware since, in one of three all Premier League fixtures.

The other two top-flight affairs see Aston Villa host Blackburn and Hull travel to Wigan.

Everton, the side Chelsea beat under then interim coach Guus Hiddink in last season’s final, welcome League One side Carlisle to Goodison Park.

The Toffees’ Merseyside rivals, seven-time winners Liverpool, were drawn against second-tier Reading.

Non-league Kettering could be set for a dream trip to Old Trafford to face 11 time winners Manchester United should they manage to negotiate their second round replay with Leeds.

Kettering player-manager Lee Harper vowed that he and his team-mates would give it their “best shot”.

Kettering must knock out League One leaders Leeds first, after the two teams drew 1-1 at Rockingham Road on Sunday.

“It will be really hard but we will give it our best shot,” Harper told ITV1.

“We’ve got an enormous task ahead of us before we start thinking about getting there (Old Trafford) yet.

“The club is in a bit of trouble at the moment, it is difficult for us financially but we will go to Elland Road, try to have a great time and see where it gets us.”

Either Oxford or Barrow will definitely get the chance to claim a Premier League scalp, with the winner of their replay set for a trip to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, while York, from the semi-professional ranks of the Blue Square Premier league (the fifth division) travel to Stoke.

Another non-league side, Staines Town, who forced a replay with 2004 finalists Millwall at Wheatsheaf Park, have the incentive of a home tie with Derby.

The 2008 winners Portsmouth have been drawn at home against Coventry.

Of the remaining Premier League clubs Manchester City will return to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, Tottenham host Peterborough, Bolton are at home to Lincoln, Fulham face Swindon, Wolves will meet either Tranmere or Aldershot and Birmingham are away to Nottingham Forest.

Draw for the third round of the FA Cup made on Sunday:

FA Cup

3rd rd draw

Tottenham v Peterborough

Brentford v Doncaster

Middlesbrough v Manchester City

Stoke v York

Notts County v Forest Green Rovers

Huddersfield v West Brom

Sheffield United v Queens Park Rangers

MK Dons v Burnley

Chelsea v Watford

Nottingham Forest v Birmingham

Preston v Colchester

West Ham v Arsenal

Aston Villa v Blackburn

Portsmouth v Coventry

Sunderland v Oxford or Barrow

Wigan v Hull

Everton v Carlisle

Sheffield Wednesday v Crystal Palace

Tranmere or Aldershot v Wolves

Blackpool v Ipswich

Fulham v Swindon

Stockport or Torquay v Brighton

Scunthorpe v Barnsley

Southampton v Rotherham or Luton

Bristol City v Cardiff

Reading v Liverpool

Staines or Millwall v Derby

Plymouth v Newcastle

Leicester v Swansea

Bolton v Lincoln

Accrington or Barnet v Gillingham

Manchester United v Kettering or Leeds

Ties to be played on weekend of January 2 and 3.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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2010 WCup stadiums almost ready – S.African officials

Once a headache for the local organising committee, the 10 South African stadiums for the 2010 World Cup are now pride and joy as they are set to be ready on time for the football extravaganza.

Stadium construction faced many challenges, including strikes in July when more than 70,000 workers asked for salary hikes, countrywide blackouts in January 2008 that crippled the economy, budget deficits and sometimes unpredictable weather.

“It has been a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes we were happy and most times saddened by the criticism and the pessimism but we always knew we would be ready on time,” local organising committee spokesman Rich Mkhondo told AFP.

Mkhondo said five new and five renovated stadiums were now more than 95 percent complete and the final touches were being applied, such as security barriers, planting trees, roads leading to the stadium and parking lot paving.

To win confidence of the local and international community in advance was not easy as many times the capacity of South Africa to deliver world-class tournament infrastructure was scrutinised.

The country’s readiness for the world’s biggest sports spectacular was also questioned when the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth, which cost 2.1 billion rand (282 million dollars, 189 million euro), missed its construction deadline for the curtain-raiser Confederations Cup during June.

Instead, renovated stadiums such as Pretoria, Rustenburg (north-west) and Bloemfontein (central) stole PE’s limelight.

Since then the stadium was the first to be ready for the World Cup.

Other challenges the stadiums faced were public protests.

Greenpoint stadium in Cape Town, one of the semi-final venues, faced fierce competition when residents opposed the development and took the municipality to court.

“We overcame tremendous challenges because in the beginning some residents were opposed to the development (stadium) and tried to stop construction through legal process but lost,” Cape Town World cup 2010 spokesman Pieter Cronje said.

In Nelspruit, township residents protested outside the stadium, demanding a school be built as theirs was used as offices during the construction of the stadium with children taught in containers.

Authorities said construction of a new school would start this week and finish in March.

The stadium architecture had an African feel with roof poles resembled giraffe while criss-crossed black and white seating resembled zebra prints.

Soccer City in Johannesburg, venue for the June 11 opening match and the final on July 11, will seat 91,000 spectators and resembles a calabash while Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane is inspired by the locally iconic Baobab tree.

However, there are question around government spending about 10 billion rands (857 million euros), excluding host city contributions, in a country where poverty affects 43 percent of the population.

Mkhondo said all the stadiums had sustainability programmes beyond 2010.

“Before we gave the go ahead to cities to build stadium we asked them (about) long-term plans to utilise them and were satisfied. Most of them will be turned into multi-purpose centres,” he said.

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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Messi display worthy of Ballon d´Or

Lionel Messi is poised to collect the Ballon D’Or accolade on Tuesday and the Argentine showed why with a mesmerising display to help Barcelona defeat Real Madrid 1-0 in a sizzling ‘El Clasico’ at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winning goal on 56 minutes but with the world watching on Messi stole the show with his his mazy runs, clever turns and incredible close control all the more impressive given that he was a doubt for the match with a thigh injury.

Messi, still only 22, scored in the previous two Clasicos – which finished 2-0 and 6-2 in Barca’s favour – but could not cap his stellar display with a goal with Iker Casillas denying him with a wonder save in the closing stages.

“I came off against Athletic Bilbao as a precaution but came back tonight and fortunately we got the right result,” said the softly-spoken Messi.

“We couldn’t find space in the first half but in the second half we got better and the result we wanted.

“The win over Inter Milan (2-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday) was important for us to stay in the competition and now we have beaten Real Madrid who are a top side.”

Champions Barca now lead Real by two points at the summit and can stretch that to five points with victory over Xerez on Wednesday in a match brought forward due to Barca’s World Club Championship commitments in Abu Dhabi in mid-December.

Treble winners Barca are unbeaten in the league since the penultimate day of last season and lie top of the table but goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who produced a crucial save from Cristiano Ronaldo, said there was no room for complacency.

“Real played on the counter attack at times but with real quality,” said Valdes.

“The Spanish league is the best in the world and complicated to win. It is not just Real Madrid there are other such as Sevilla.”

Midfielder Xavi, one of four Barca players shortlisted for the Ballon D’Or, paid tribute to Real and saluted his team-mates for a determined defensive display.

“It was a physical game but a great spectacle,” said Xavi. “Real have a great team as well and a lot of talent up front.

“Madrid are always a competitive team. In all my years in football they have always had a team that can compete at the highest level.

“It was a great defensive display from the whole team to keep them out and get a very important win.”

Mon 30 Nov, 2009
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