Del Bosque issues Torres warning

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque says out-of-form Chelsea striker Fernando Torres faces the prospect of missing out on a place at Euro 2012.

The former Atletico Madrid star has been below par since completing a transfer to Stamford Bridge from Premier League rivals Liverpool, starting many matches from the bench.

Torres was a key part of the Spain team that lifted the 2008 European Championships, but Del Bosque affirmed that if he did not see an improvement, it would be hard for the striker to feature in his plans for the upcoming tournament.

“It’s a concern. He isn’t playing much. There are five months to go to the European Championships, in which everything can turn around,” Del Bosque told AS.

“But if the situation doesn’t change it’s going to be difficult for him. Fernando deserves respect for his career and he has our confidence. But if he doesn’t play… well, time will tell.”

“If he plays and he’s fine he will go to the Euros. He has contributed to the success we’ve had and he has some leeway.”

Torres has appeared 37 times for Chelsea since completing a move in January 2011, hitting the net on just five occasions.

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Roberto Mancini Urges Mario Balotelli to Quit Smoking

Mario Balotelli has made it a habit of making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Unsurprisingly, he’s done it yet again, but to be fair to Balotelli this time is far from his fault.

When Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was told of Balotelli’s smoking habit, the Italian manager confessed to being aware of the situation, revealing that the striker smokes “five or six” cigarettes a day.

“Yeah, yeah, I know this, I know he smokes,” said Mancini.

“It’s not okay but I’m not his father or his mother. If he was my son I would give him a kick up the a*** but he’s not.

“I told him it’s better you don’t smoke. I’m against ­cigarettes, always. For this reason my son doesn’t smoke.

“But I don’t think he smokes a lot – maybe five or six a day. But I told him [he should stop].”

To be perfectly honest, it seems that Mancini’s comments have just created drama out of nothing.

But can you really question Mancini’s mindgame tactics?

Surely not, because at the end of the day, City are top of the English Premier League table, with a game in hand.

Prior to Manchester United’s shocking home defeat to Blackburn Rovers earlier today, Mancini admitted that United pose a serious title threat.

“If we want to win this title we will try to win every game because United are very strong,” said Mancini.

“They are used to being at the top for a long time. But I don’t think for us it makes any difference whether we are on the top or behind by one point.

“In the end it could be United are better than us, but we will be okay if we focus on the next 20 games and think positively in difficult moments.

“In every championship every team has a difficult moment. United have had only one, which was against us. But there will be difficult moments again for United, us and Tottenham.”

Despite United’s unanticipated loss to bottom-of-the-table Blackburn, City won’t have the champagne on ice just yet.

It is yet to be determined how United’s “noisy neighbours” will cope with losing Yaya Toure to the Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations.

In addition, City may be in trouble if they suffer injuries at the same rate Manchester United has.

“United have four or five important players injured. If we were to get that problem it will be a big problem,” added Mancini.

“Probably they are better than us, but we want to win this title and we will do everything to win it.”

Does Roberto Mancini really believe that Manchester United are superior to City?

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Pato staying at Milan

AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato says he wants to stay with the Italian champions and will not move to Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazil international has had a tough 2011 through injuries, and has been linked with a transfer away from Massimiliano Allegri’s team.

Despite not featuring as much as he would have liked in recent weeks, the South American forward has reaffirmed his loyalty to the Serie A giants.

“I still want to win titles here,” the 22-year-old told Sky Sport 24.

“I have a common goal with Mr Allegri. We can work well together without necessarily being friends in real life.”

With former Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti taking charge at the Ligue 1 side, rumours of Pato moving to the French capital have intensified although the attacker feels it is just speculation.

“I am a player of Milan, a club that I have chosen over many others when I was in Brazil. I sent a message of happy holidays to Carlo Ancelotti, who answered. That’s all,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ancelotti’s predecessor Antoine Kombouare is set for a four million-euro payout after being replaced as coach at the big-spending side.

The 48-year-old was earning 140,000 euros per month at PSG, and will be paid out the remainder of his intended contract.

Director of football Leonardo has revealed he will meet Kombouare in the near future to discuss the tactician’s dismissal.

“We will meet and discuss it when the news has calmed down,” he said.

“We wanted the most friendly and most relaxed end to our collaboration. Contrary to what was said in the press, we have always had an honest and right relationship.”

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Ferguson plans three more years

Sir Alex Ferguson has signalled his intention to stay on as Manchester United manager for the next three years.

Recent reports have suggested the Scot may be ready to end his time at Old Trafford, but the 70-year-old says that, health permitting, he can see himself staying at the club past the end of this season.

“I think I’ve got three years at the club,” the United boss told reporters.

“As long as my health stays up, and as long as I’m still enjoying it and still getting the satisfaction of the team doing its best.”

When asked if he is still motivated by the challenge of new achievements, Sir Alex replied: “Yes. There are new players that have come in, like (Phil) Jones, (Chris) Smalling, (Ashley) Young, (Danny) Welbeck… and they haven’t won any league medals yet.”

Ferguson conceded he is also driven by the desire for further European recognition.

“We have to continue the dominance of winning leagues and, without question, winning a European Cup is important at this club.”

“We should have been in at least another three finals. But you can’t be greedy, I suppose, and having won two in my time is an achievement. They were special, it was terrific to win them. I think I’d be very keen to do that (again).”

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Thiago: Messi should claim top prize

Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara believe his team-mate Lionel Messi should win the FIFA Ballon d’Or.

Argentina international Messi is up against Barca team-mate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the annual FIFA award, and the 20-year-old feels the South American deserves the title.

“Leo Messi deserves the Ballon d’Or ahead of Xavi and Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s a pleasure playing alongside him,” the Spain international told Marca.

Thiago has made big strides under Barca coach Pep Guardiola, and is eager to progress further as a player during the next 12 months.

“In 2012 I want to continue working, learning from my peers, and continue the work of recent years,” he said.

Barcelona have been drawn against Osasuna in the Copa del Rey last 16, with the first leg to take place on Wednesday, and Thiago feels his side are in the right physical condition to get a victory.

“We are alright, have no problems, and we are perfectly in order to play against Osasuna,” he said.

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Amauri keen on Fiorentina move

Out-of-favour Juventus striker Amauri says he would be honoured to replace Alberto Gilardino at Fiorentina.

The former Palermo attacker has not featured for Antonio Conte’s men this season, and has reportedly turned down moves to Marseille and Genoa.

With Gilardino expected to leave Florence in January to join the latter, Amauri said he would welcome a transfer to the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

“Florence is a wonderful city and I would have no problem reaching an agreement with Fiorentina, as they are an ambitious club,” Amauri told TMW.

“I would accept with great enthusiasm. Reducing my wages would not be an issue, because that is the least of my concerns. We’ll see if these rumours become reality, as I am honoured to hear of their interest.”

“I’d also like to make it clear that I never rejected Genoa.”

“I had contact with the Rossoblu before Christmas and planned another meeting, but it never happened.”

“The only club I ever turned down was Marseille, because they wouldn’t give me the contract length that I wanted.”

The Brazil-born forward regrets the nature of his imminent departure from Juventus, but is looking forward to his next challenge.

“My story with Juventus ended in January last year. I didn’t want it to end this way and could not understand all the rage against me,” he said.

“I don’t even want to understand it. This is over for me and I just want to find a team to recuperate the five months I lost here at Juventus.”

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Pirlo: Juve was the right move

Andrea Pirlo believes he made the right decision in leaving AC Milan for Juventus, and wants to repay the Turin club’s fans.

The 32-year-old midfielder left the Italian champions to join Antonio Conte’s men in the off-season, after spending 10 years with the San Siro outfit.

Despite the decision to leave Massimiliano Allegri’s men being a risk for the Italy international, the Lombardy-born midfielder thinks he made the right choice in changing clubs.

“I needed new challenges and I am increasingly convinced that I have made the right choice coming to Juventus,” Pirlo told Tuttosport.

“I had the desire to begin a new adventure, but also curiosity.”

Juventus have started the campaign strongly, and are joint-top of Serie A alongside Pirlo’s former club Milan on 34 points.

Pirlo, who boasts 81 caps for Italy, has high hopes for Juve, and wants to repay the team’s supporters with success.

“We are hungry and in 2012 we want to give the fans the satisfaction they deserve,” he said.

“They welcomed me from day one with affection and esteem, and I want to reciprocate the courtesy.”

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Lee poised for Southampton switch

Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker Tadanari Lee is reportedly set to join English Championship side Southampton in the January transfer window.

Nigel Adkins’ side, who are three points clear of West Ham on top of the Championship table, have tabled a bid for Lee, according to Japanese sports newspaper Nikkan.

Other sources report the two sides have already come to a basic agreement, and that Lee will travel to England in early January to complete a physical and sign his contract.

Lee, who was born in Tokyo to Korean parents, scored 15 goals this season for Sanfrecce and the 26-year-old has made nine appearances for Japan.

With the club in financial trouble, many believe he will leave in January with clubs in Japan, France and Germany all said to be in pursuit.

Urawa Reds, in particular, hoped to attract the attacker after hiring former Sanfrecce coach Mihailo Petrovic.

The highlight of Lee’s international year was undoubtedly January’s Asian Cup final, when the late substitute skilfully volleyed a cross from Yuto Nagatomo to score the game’s lone goal against Australia.

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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A-League wrap: Roar snap losing streak in style

Brisbane Roar snapped their five-game losing streak on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory at Suncorp Stadium.

Victory made a great start through a sublime third-minute strike from Harry Kewell – his first in open play since joining the A-League – before the Roar stormed back into the game, levelling just before half-time before burying their rivals with a sharp second half.

In a night of fine finishing, Mitch Nichols scored his fourth for the season with a superb header, while Rocky Visconte and man-of-the-match Ivan Franjic both finished well after great assistance from the competition’s leading goalscorer, Besart Berisha.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Gold Coast United continued their recent resurgence, halting Central Coast Mariners’ six-match winning streak with a valuable 0-0 draw in Gosford.

And Newcastle Jets played out a 1-1 draw with a 10-man Perth Glory at Ausgrid Stadium.

Glory did well to walk away with a point after being reduced to 10 men away from home when goal-scorer Billy Mehmet was shown a straight red card just 30 minutes into the contest for his challenge on Tiago.

Perth took an early lead when Mehmet got in front of his marker to convert a Travis Dodd cross after just nine minutes.

Gary Van Egmond looked to his bench for some inspiration and brought on Francis Jeffers 10 minutes into the second half.

It took the Englishman just six minutes to find the back of the net after he headed home Kasey Wehrman’s cross in fine fashion, but despite their best efforts the Jets could not land the knockout blow.

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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Villas-Boas hints at striker swoop

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has hinted at the possible addition of a striker during the January transfer window.

With Nicolas Anelka confirmed to be moving to Shanghai Shenhua, and Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou set to link up with their Ivory Coast team-mates for the African Cup of Nations in January, Chelsea will be left with just three recognised forwards.

Villas-Boas said this is a situation he will be looking to address, but was adamant he will not be forced into panic buying and is still hoping to capture Bolton defender Gary Cahill’s signature before any more business is done.

“We are looking for talent, the best talent available, but the January transfer window is notoriously difficult because the talent is not available, and even when it is it’s always at extra cost,” Villas-Boas said.

“Hopefully we can get the Cahill deal wrapped up, then we will study the forward situation. You have to pay heavily for the talent we need. It can get frenetic in the last week but we have our targets outlined.”

Despite admitting to Chelsea’s need for striker reinforcements, Villas-Boas still has every confidence in his team.

“You have to remember that this is the squad we set out to win four trophies with,” he said.

“We would have to call ourselves incompetent if we were to make radical changes. We are looking to add but not to the extent spoken about (in the media).”

Chelsea are fourth in the Premier League, 11 points off pace-setters Manchester City.

While the club have experienced good results at home to Manchester City and away at Newcastle, Villas-Boas is aware of the need for consistency.

“In the Premier League we are trying to shorten the distance to the leaders in order to make our title challenge more solid and more positive, these are the immediate concerns,” he said.

“Our only regret at the moment is not finding regularity; that is what we are still trying to get to grips with.”

“We know we can show our philosophy and the way we play to a top level. We are having extremes from game to game; from Manchester City to Wigan, then from Tottenham to Fulham.”

“It is stability we are trying to find.”

Sat 31 Dec, 2011
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