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Best goal of 2012: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Papiss Cisse, Neymar, who will win?

Who scored the best goal of 2012 Drogba, Neymar and Ibrahimovic are all in with a shout… here are Sportsmail's top 10



14:40 GMT, 31 December 2012

Compiling a list of the greatest goals of the year is always tricky. It’s difficult to judge whether a magnificent dribble leading to a solo goal is better than a searing volley from 30 yards out.

But come the end of the year it’s time to decide which strikes make the cut and which must fall by the wayside. This collection has been chopped and changed a-plenty, but this is what we’re sticking with.

Only two of FIFA’s three Puskas award short-listed goals are present and correct – apologies and an honourable mention to Radamel Falcao.

We only have space for 10 goals on this list but if you believe other strikes deserve to be recognised then have your say in the comment section below.

Whose was the best 2012 saw some spectacular and brilliant goals and Sportsmail lists the top 10

Whose was the best 2012 saw some spectacular and brilliant goals and Sportsmail lists the top 10

10. Peter Crouch (STOKE v Man City)

People love to stick the boot in on Stoke because of their 'dour' brand of football. But they have offered some magic moments too during their time in the top flight.

Earlier this week we saw Cameron Jerome score an absolute rocket against Southampton. And in March Peter Crouch dealt Manchester City a setback in the title race.

We know now that it didn't stop them winning the Premier League, but at the time this wondergoal gave Man United the chance to open up a three point lead at the top.

Crouch nodded Asmir Begovich's long punt to Jermain Pennant who nodded it back and then the giant striker teed himself up and lashed in a stunning volley from an awkward angle past Joe Hart.

9. Simon Cox (NOTTINGHAM FOREST v Birmingham)

In the 1998 World Cup quarter-final clash between Holland and Argentina, Dennis Bergkamp scored a delightful goal, controlling a long pass expertly and finishing with aplomb.

Nottingham Forest and Ireland striker Simon Cox evoked that spirit against Birmingham in the Championship. Yes, the stage was smaller but the skill was no less admirable.

Cox took one touch to kill Lewis McGugan's long ball and then adjusted instantly to delicately flick it over the helpless Jack Butland.

8. Rodrigo Palacio (GENOA v Lazio)

Did he mean it That was the question everybody was asking when Rodrigo Palacio, now of Inter, scored this gem.

The Genoa striker's cute backflick from this corner floated over the surprised Lazio keeper and sank into the net.

Some say it was luck, others judgement. Sportsmail falls in the latter camp and will give the Argentina hitman the credit this effort deserves.

7. Gaston Mealla (NACIONAL POTOSI v The Strongest)

Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita made it famous at Wembley in 1995. But keeping the scorpion kick revival movement going in 2012 was Nacional Potosi striker Gaston Mealla. (See also THIS hilarious scorpion kick own goal for last year's effort).

During a Bolivian league match between his side and The Strongest, an under-hit dink forward was set to land behind the striker on the edge of the box. But Mealla cared not for his team-mate's mistake.

His stupendous athleticism salvaged the situation and helped create a bizarre and beautiful goal.

6. Neymar (SANTOS v Internacional)

Santos' much sought-after Brazilian demonstrated just why Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City all are willing to splash the cash on him with this bewitching solo goal against Internacional.

He picked the ball up in his own half surged at 100 miles-per-hour past, round and through anybody who stood in his way, before nudging the ball home.

Note – Hatem Ben Arfa's effort in the FA Cup against Blackburn was a contender for the list, but the Newcastle man just missed out to this. A tough call to make.


5. Didier Drogba (Bayern Munich v CHELSEA)

Picture the scene. Chelsea are 1-0 down in the Allianz Arena and the stadium is bouncing. Bayern Munich are on the cusp of winning the Champions League trophy on their own turf.

With two minutes to go Juan Mata floats in a corner from the right. Everything seems to stand still as the ball drops in towards the near post. Everything that is, except Didier Drogba.

The Chelsea striker leaps for the ball and sends a venomous header in at the near post in front of the Blue corner of the stadium. To get so much power into the ball from such an awkward position makes this one of the finest headers of all time – before you even forgetting the circumstances.

An honourable mention goes to Ramires, Drogba's team-mate whose superbly weighted lob against Barcelona in the semi-final earned the Blues passage to Munich.

4. Philippe Mexes (AC MILAN v Anderlecht)

Philippe Mexes is supposed to be a defender. So how on earth did this happen

AC Milan were beating Anderlecht 1-0 in the Champions League when the centre-back doubled the lead with something a little bit special.

The Frenchman chested Riccardo Montolivio's ball away from goal and then flipped it accurately into the top corner with a precisely executed overhead-kick.

Milan's general manager Adriano Galliani waxed lyrical about the strike, and said: 'If Leo Messi had scored that, every news channel around the world would show it and he'd have been made a saint tonight!'

He's probably right.

3. Miroslav Stoch (FENERBAHCE v Genclerbirligi)

He's not the biggest name on the list, but he scored one of the finest goals.

Bringing to mind Zinedine Zidane's Champions League final volley and Paul Scholes' effort against Aston Villa, Fenerbahce winger Miroslav Stoch made Turkish league opponents Genclerbirligi pay.

Stoch stayed cool to pull the trigger on a 25-yard volley which swerved away from the goalkeeper and zipped in to the top corner.

This goal has been nominated for the FIFA Puskas award, along with Neymar's effort. At the Ballon d'Or ceremony on January 7 the winner will be revealed.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWEDEN v England)

This is certainly the most famous goal of 2012.

Yes, it's Zlatan Ibrahimovic's simply ridiculous propeller kick against England, which also happened to be his fourth goal of the game.

He defied gravity as he tossed his 6ft 4 frame into the sky with abandon, to caress the ball sweetly into the net.

There's an arguement to be made that Mexes' effort was trickier because he had a goalkeeper to beat – here Hart is in no-man's land – but this is from further out and far more awkward to hit.

The Swedish superstar had, until this friendly which his side won 4-2, previously been maligned by a fair few people on British soil, who thought he was over-rated and arrogant (OK, so the last part is still true).

This incredible goal was the cherry on the cake which he gleefully stuffed down the gaping mouths of his detractors.

1 Papiss Cisse (Chelsea v NEWCASTLE)

On a cold spring evening in May, Papiss Cisse warmed the cockles of Newcastle's travelling fans and delighted football fans the world over with this simply stupendous effort.

With one momentous swing of his right boot, he destroyed Chelsea's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League through a top four finish and secured himself a place in every 'Greatest Goals' DVD release between now and the end of time.

Every time you watch his outrageous volley, which spins past the thoroughly bewildered Petr Cech, it just gets better and better.

Perhaps the previously lethal Senegal striker decided he could never top this because it seems like he's stopped trying this season. You could forgive him, because this would be the highlight of anybody's career.

Juan Mata is like return of Gianfranco Zola to Chelsea

Mata isn't Juan of a kind… Chelsea star is closest to second coming of King Zola



11:27 GMT, 29 December 2012

Chelsea are not a team many people wish well, bar their own supporters. The club's players are even less popular.

John Terry and Ashley Cole regularly come in for dogs' abuse from the terraces, and the likes of Didier Drogba and Dennis Wise also drew ire with ease from opposition fans.

So when people found a diamond in what was widely perceived to be the rough, it was a shock. But lo and behold, Gianfranco Zola arrived from Parma in 1996 and delighted fans of all clubs week in, week out.

Mata of fact: The Spaniard has been in scintillating form this season

Mata of fact: The Spaniard has been in scintillating form this season

When he left SW6 in 2003 at the same time Roman Abramovich arrived, football fans in England were sad. Zola's expression on the pitch, his joy and skill and smile all drew much admiration, with little venom in response.

If a football player becomes extremely popular there is often a backlash from people who become fed up of hearing about them. See Jimmy Bullard and Mario Balotelli for details. Even Premier League legends like Ryan Giggs and Thierry Henry have their detractors.

Zola didn't, and seemed like he was one of a kind. But then in the summer of 2011, while Chelsea was under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, a young man by the name of Juan Mata arrived.

Much of the talk around Stamford Bridge was concerned with how, where and if Mata would fit in. If he would be strong enough or quick enough for English football. If this 23-and-a-half-year-old was worth the same number in millions of pounds which Chelsea paid for him.

Were the goals he scored for Valencia all he offered Videos on the internet suggested he had an eye for a pass and could whip a ball in. But then if you flicked through the right collection of YouTube clips you could wind up convinced that Jesper Gronkjaer was one of the finest crossers of the ball the top flight has ever seen.

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

Return of the King Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge

However, Mata made an instant impact
at the Bridge by scoring in his first match after coming on as a
substitute and his career has taken an upward trajectory ever since.

He soon became the key – and often
even the only – creative outlet to Villas-Boas' side. Mata forged
chance after chance for Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, while colleagues Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou floundered.

Mata consistently took the plaudits even as the team lost momentum and form, leading to Villas-Boas’ dismissal. Roberto Di Matteo took the reins but the Spaniard did not bat an eyelid, continuing as impressively as before.

He helped Chelsea earn the FA Cup and Champions League trophies in a successful albeit unorthodox year at the club. Across the board he was picking up nods and mentions, and, like Zola before him, rarely attracted a mean-spirited comment.

Five for free on Mata

1. It's not just on the pitch he's smart. Mata is studying for two degrees, one in marketing and one in sports science.

2. He is a home town hero. In Oviedo, Spain, they have opened 'Juan Mata Park' and his youth team decided to rename their stadium after him.

3. Mata runs his own social media accounts, including his Twitter feed, his Instagram account and his blog.

4. He rose to the fore at Valencia after current Manchester City star David Silva left.

5. Real Madrid allowed Mata to leave on a free transfer at the age of 19.

And the comparisons to Zola started
to gather pace. Even visually Mata, at 5ft 7, is only one inch taller
than the Italian and both players had heads which appear fractionally
too big for their diminutive frames.

Mata also plays with a smile – and
some of the artistry he is responsible for could only have been conjured
by someone with a deep love for the game.

As well as enjoying taking to the field, Mata watches a lot of football at home too – especially La Liga. He writes about it on his blog, ‘One Hour Behind’ – in Spanish and then again in near perfect English.

And if you read the comment section below each entry, you will discover the blog is a rare section of the internet which has avoided the usual mudslinging. It is hard to imagine another footballer who would receive such solely positive feedback.

But then Mata does little to enrage opponents or fans. Unlike many players of a creative disposition and slight build, he does not dive and often attempts to stay on his feet despite being pulled back.

During the year-and-a-half which has passed since Mata signed for Chelsea, he has virtually been playing non-stop, so there’s been plenty of opportunity to expose him as ‘one of those diving foreign types’.

But between August 2011, via the Champions League run, Euro 2012, the Olympics and the new Premier League season, until today, Mata has only brought delight to football fans.

From the preciseness of his passing, to its scope and incisiveness, to some of the strikes he has to his name, here is a rare thing. A footballer as superb as he is likeable.

And this season he can lay claim to being the finest in the top flight. When he returned from the Olympics he was visibly tired and was sent on a two week break. After he returned, he has been unstoppable.

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

All action: Mata followed Champions League glory with victory at the Euros

'It was just common sense to give him
a break and the way he’s performing suggests it was very welcome by his
body and his mind,’ said Di Matteo.

'Juan Mata is a very intelligent man and I talked to him about this idea; he bought into it and saw the benefits of it.'

His poise and balance are as good as they have always been, but what has really improved is his eye for goal (see below to find out why).

Mata already has 13 goals and 14 assists this term in 28 games, compared to 12 and 20 in 54 respectively last year, in all competitions for Chelsea. Essentially that means he has made a key contribution to a goal in every single one of his matches this season, bar one.

Mata stats… 2011-12

Games played: 54

Minutes played: 4075

Goals: 12

Minutes per goal: 339.6

Total shots: 82

Shots on target: 44

Shot conversion: 15%

Assists: 20

Yellow cards: 3

Red cards : 0

Mata stats 2012-13

Games played: 28

Minutes played: 2201

Goals: 13

Minutes per goal: 169.3

Total shots: 43

Shots on target: 24

Shot conversion: 30%

Assists: 14

Yellow cards: 1

Red cards:0

And he has adapted seamlessly to life under Rafael Benitez. His superb goal against Norwich on Boxing Day was yet another flash of magic which won Chelsea a match.

He has even praised Chelsea's interim coach without drawing fire from sceptical Blues fans who remain at loggerheads with the club over his appointment.

Ask fans at Carrow Road who the best player on the pitch was at the weekend, and they will tell you the answer was Juan Mata. Visit any of the stadiums Chelsea have played at this season, ask the same question, and you're likely to receive the same response.

Chelsea were blessed with one outstanding – and widely appreciated – talent in Zola. Mata is well on his way to emulating the little magician. Quite a few Chelsea fans will tell you he’s done it already.

How has Mata's productivity increased so significantly this year

Mata described Drogba’s departure from Chelsea as an electric shock and said the club have had to work hard to adapt to life without the talismanic striker. Mata’s game has certainly adapted.

In 2011-12 he was often deployed in attacking position on the left, to supply the ball aerially for the Ivorian. This meant Mata was not always in a useful position to add to his own goal tally. But when Di Matteo took over from Villas-Boas he began to play Mata more centrally, where he improved.

At the start of this season Mata was picked by Di Matteo on the right, with Oscar in the middle and Eden Hazard on the left. This gave him the chance to cut inside and shoot from a central position with his favoured left-foot, as well as supplying through-balls to Fernando Torres.

Man of the moment: Mata scored a stunner in the victory over Norwich

Man of the moment: Mata scored a stunner in the victory over Norwich

Since Benitez has arrived he has selected Victor Moses on the right wing and pushed Mata into the middle again, where he is arguably at his most effective and creative. His goals against West Ham and Norwich came as Mata sprang from this area of the pitch.

Frank Lampard’s incredible goal-hauls for the Blues have often led people to believe his eventual departure will be a massive blow for Chelsea. While he will be missed, Mata’s contribution will ensure it is only for sentimental reasons.

Newcastle"s Xisco kid gets rare chance to shine in Bruges after recall to Alan Pardew"s squad

Newcastle's Xisco kid gets rare chance to shine in Bruges after recall to Pardew's squad



23:26 GMT, 7 November 2012

Newcastle outcast Xisco could be given the chance to revive his career in Belgium after he was recalled to Alan Pardew’s Europa League squad.

The 5.7million striker, who was a Dennis Wise/Kevin Keegan signing, has
travelled to Bruges.

Although likely to be among the substitutes, as Pardew turns to Ameobi
brothers Shola and Sammy to start the Group D clash, Pardew has recalled
the former Spain Under 21 striker after he impressed for the club's
reserves in the last month.

Second chance Xisco (right) could be set for a return to action

Second chance Xisco (right) could be set for a return to action

Xisco has been on loan at former club Deportivo La Coruna and Santander
in the last two season and last played for Newcastle in August 2010
against Aston Villa. In fact he has played just three league games since
his 5.7million move from Deportivo and scoring in his debut against
Hull City.

Pardew said: 'He has worked hard, we feel he has contributed to the group and therefore we have included him on this trip.

'The future for Xisco, hopefully, is a return to playing. Like all
players, he wants to play and he has not really done anything wrong
other than not reach the level of the first team since he has been here.

'We have tried to give him some direction and some hope that he can
forward his career. I don't know how much pain he has gone though, if I
am honest, I have not really sat down and spoken to him about that.

'My purpose at this football club is to try to get the best out of every
individual, and I am trying to do that with him. I am not sure if he
will be included tomorrow, if I am honest, but I wanted to bring him
into the group just so he felt part of it.

'He causes us no problems, he is well-liked within the group, he gets on
with his work and we are trying to help him.' Pardew has decided to
leave Hatem Ben Arfa and Jonas Gutierrez in Newcastle to rest, while top
scorer Demba Ba nurses a sore shin. Yohan Cabaye, who came off with a
tight thigh at Anfield on Sunday, has travelled and the Ameobi brothers
will start up front together for the first time.

More than 2,500 Newcastle fans are
expected in the Jan Breydel Stadium, but around double that number could
travel to the Belgian city without tickets.

After warnings last month that
ticketless fans will be arrested near the ground, local police have
relented and are hoping bars and the city squares will provide enough
screens to watch the game.

Pardew added: 'We know what our fans
are like. When we take anything over 600, they start sounding like a
whole stadium, so I am sure we will have very vocal support tomorrow.

'Tickets are at a premium – we can't
get tickets for everyone we want. It's brilliant that they have come and
followed us. We are absolutely delighted.

'I hope they conduct themselves in
and around the city in the right manner – that's important too because
we have got fantastic supporters.'

Lewis Hamilton the outsider: Farewell party backfires as McLaren go out with Jenson Button

Hamilton the outsider: Farewell party backfires as McLaren go out with Button



19:00 GMT, 13 October 2012

Comfort blanket: Lewis Hamilton feels the cold after his decision to quit McLaren

Comfort blanket: Lewis Hamilton feels the cold after his decision to quit McLaren

Lewis Hamilton admits there are those at McLaren who will not be saddened by his departure after almost 15 years with the team.

His attempt to host a farewell party backfired in Japan last weekend when team members opted instead to spend the evening in the company of his team-mate, Jenson Button, he disclosed on the eve of the Korean Grand Prix.

And McLaren chairman Ron Dennis, the man who bankrolled Hamilton’s momentous journey from childhood karting prodigy to Formula One world champion, is no longer on speaking terms with him.

Dennis is believed to be disappointed
that Hamilton’s decision to quit McLaren for Mercedes next season had
been unduly influenced by a grand marketing plan of his management
company XIX Entertainment, led by Simon Fuller, whose most famous
clients are the Spice Girls and David Beckham.

claiming third place on the grid for the race in Korea, Hamilton
conceded: ‘There will be people [at McLaren] who are happy I am going,
some who are unhappy I am going. In life, you cannot have 1,000 people
all with you. Some will be sad, some will be supportive. That’s how
things are.’

Hamilton’s plan to host his team on the road in the Far East to a party at a bowling alley in Japan last Saturday fell apart when he discovered the majority had already accepted an invitation from Button to participate in a fun-run for charity.

‘I booked 16 lanes at the bowling on Saturday night, but something else came up,’ he confessed. ‘They were committed to doing the run and went with JB and the rest of the team.’

Growing apart: Relations between Jenson Button and the departing Hamilton at a low

Growing apart: Relations between Jenson Button and the departing Hamilton at a low

Korean GP

Live: 7am, Sky Sports F1 & BBC1
Replay: 2pm, BBC1

1 F ALONSO (Ferrari) 194
2 S VETTEL (Red Bull) 190
3 K RAIKKONEN (Lotus) 157
4 L HAMILTON (McLaren) 152
5 M WEBBER (Red Bull) 134
6 J BUTTON (McLaren) 131
7 N ROSBERG (Mercedes) 93
8 R GROSJEAN (Lotus) 82

Button’s universal popularity within McLaren is undeniable. Yet his relationship with Hamilton, always cordial in the past, has become strained after his team-mate’s injudicious employment of his Twitter account.

In Belgium, Hamilton posted sensitive telemetry after qualifying, to the infuriation of McLaren’s management, and last week he accused Button of ‘unfollowing’ him when his team-mate had never ‘followed’ him. On both occasions, Hamilton had to apologise.

At 32, Button has never had anything in common with Hamilton outside of their shared desire to make McLaren a winning team.

After a poor Q2 qualifying, Button will start from 11th position, but within the paddock there are those who suspect he will have commanded a great deal of assistance as a strategy was devised to assist him deliver a good result.

Strategy: Button begins from 11th spot in Korea, with McLaren looking to boost their man

Strategy: Button begins from 11th spot in Korea, with McLaren looking to boost their man

Former team owner Eddie Jordan, in Korea for the BBC, said: ‘The team are looking to next year and Jenson is the future, not Lewis.’

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, a natural-born diplomat, is too smart to openly take sides, not least as he still needs Hamilton to win points in the Constructors’ Championship. Yet his evaluation of the race was revealing.

‘Lewis drove a strong lap to qualify third,’ he said. ‘/10/13/article-0-157C08AB000005DC-443_634x440.jpg” width=”634″ height=”440″ alt=”Pole position: Mark Webber is the man to beat” class=”blkBorder” />

Pole position: Mark Webber is the man to beat

The problem for McLaren is that the Red Bull team have gained an obvious advantage on all their rivals, with Mark Webber defeating twice world champion Sebastian Vettel in their duel for pole position. Vettel’s rival for the world title, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, will start alongside Hamilton in fourth place.

For his part, Hamilton is still hopeful of making a dignified exit from McLaren.

‘I am sure at one stage I will be back at the factory,’ he explained. ‘A lot of drivers have come and gone — just left. But I have a good relationship with these people. I did my work experience here when I was at school. I saw all the different areas and workshops. I made some gears and a wishbone. I met a lot of people who are still there today.’

And after winning the 2008 world championship, and a total of 20 grand prix victories, Hamilton insisted: ‘I have never felt that I have not given it my all or anything like that, because I have given it all I have.’

It is a statement that brooks no argument.

Santi Cazorla hailed by Arsene Wenger after Arsenal masterclass

Cazorla He's so good I don't know which is his better foot, says Wenger



21:39 GMT, 7 October 2012

Arsene Wenger has worked with some pretty useful players during his glittering managerial career — but how many of them have been genuinely two-footed Dennis Bergkamp, George Weah, Thierry Henry or Jurgen Klinsmann, maybe

‘Glenn Hoddle was like that — you could not say if he was left or right footed,’ said Wenger.

‘And Santi Cazorla is similar on that front — I don’t remember anyone else I have worked with who was two-footed as much as those two.

Masterclass: Arsene Wenger hailed super Spaniard Santi Cazorla after his stunning display against West Ham

Masterclass: Arsene Wenger hailed super Spaniard Santi Cazorla after his stunning display against West Ham

Santi Cazorla touches

‘Santi is right footed but when you watch him play you don’t know. It shows how important that is in the modern midfield.

‘Right or left foot was always important, but we forget about it sometimes. I’m surprised there are not more.’

Cazorla ran the show for the Gunners yet again on Saturday as the Spaniard played the puppeteer to ensure Wenger’s men secured all three points, coming back from a goal down to beat valiant West Ham.

Immaculate control with both feet, poise, balance, vision, impeccable passing and an eye for goal — Arsenal’s summer signing truly is the full package.

Super strike: Cazorla completes Arsenal's comeback at Upton Park with his sensational goal

Super strike: Cazorla completes Arsenal's comeback at Upton Park with his sensational goal

Back of the net: Cazorla watches his goal beat Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen

Back of the net: Cazorla watches his goal beat Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen

Just ask Hammers trio Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Mohamed Diame who spent large chunks of Saturday’s clash chasing Cazorla’s shadow.

Cazorla’s magical start to life in England has shades of another Spanish string-puller who graced the Emirates Stadium not too long ago.

‘It is too early to say Cazorla can have the same impact as Cesc Fabregas,’ said Wenger.

‘Cesc played for five years in the Premier League. But when Cazorla plays he makes everyone around him play better.’

When you consider that Cazorla does not play for Spain, it just goes to show how good their national side is. But while Cazorla was the brains behind Arsenal’s win over Sam Allardyce’s men — Theo Walcott was the brawn.

The England forward came off the bench to slot home his side’s vital second before setting up Cazorla for the 20-yard piledriver that helped calm late Arsenal anxieties.

Uncertain future: Theo Walcot scored at West Ham but his future remains unsolved

Uncertain future: Theo Walcot scored at West Ham but his future remains unsolved

Walcott’s cameo will do his chances no harm at all of persuading Wenger to deploy him in that central striker role he so desperately craves. It may also put a few extra pennies on the amount the Emirates hierarchy are prepared to offer the 23-year-old when talks over a new contract resume within the next fortnight.

Walcott’s long-term future remains far from resolved.

With eight months left on his existing deal, the forward can freely talk to overseas clubs from January 1 about a lucrative free transfer next season.
Walcott wants to stay at the Emirates Stadium but the Gunners will have to improve on the 75,000-per-week offer that was turned down in August.

‘We are always in touch (with Walcott’s representatives),’ said Wenger.

‘He has character, Theo. He keeps focused and he wants to show he is 100 per cent professional and I have a big respect for that attitude.’

Damon Hill: Lewis Hamilton had to quit McLaren

Lewis had to quit McLaren… they'd managed him to within an inch of his life



21:15 GMT, 29 September 2012

Lewis Hamilton's gamble of committing the prime years of his career to Mercedes, rather than McLaren, has won the approval of former world champion Damon Hill.

'Lewis has been like a caged bird at McLaren,' said Hill. 'He'd been managed to within an inch of his life. I can't blame him for looking to move elsewhere.'

Time to move on: Lewis Hamilton will bank at least 60m from his move to Mercedes

Time to move on: Lewis Hamilton will bank at least 60m from his move to Mercedes

At Mercedes, Hamilton will receive the freedom to capitalise on his own commercial value as well as banking as much as 60million from the three-year contract that has persuaded him to abandon the team that nurtured him from childhood.

'Lewis needed to leave McLaren to stretch his wings,' argued Hill.

Hamilton had become disillusioned with the culture at McLaren defined by company chairman Ron Dennis, who had steered Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, the late Ayrton Senna, and Mika Hakkinen to world championships before grooming Hamilton to stardom.

Despite their success, Lauda, Prost and Senna all felt compelled to break with McLaren, as Hamilton has done.

McLaren drivers are required to make more personal appearances for a host of sponsors than their rivals.

The space on their racing suit is owned by the team, as are the trophies they win.

Hamilton was not the first to try, and fail, to change that policy; but, ultimately, he felt the restrictions on him had become claustrophobic, a sentiment echoed by his manager, Simon Fuller, whose XIX Entertainment company held up star client David Beckham as an example of what opportunities could be open to a man with global appeal.

Good deal: Damon Hill says teams and drivers have conflicting priorities

Brokered deal: Niki Lauda

Different ideas: Hill (left) says teams and drivers have conflicting priorities, while Lauda (right) brokered deal

Mercedes principal Ross Brawn acknowledged the part Fuller played in moving Hamilton from McLaren.

'Lewis's management expressed interest, wanted to know what our plans were and it grew from there,' said Brawn.

Hill believes McLaren's inflexible approach to drivers through the ages contributed to Hamilton's decision to leave the team.

'I could never get my head around the logic that the team takes the driver's trophy,' said Hill, who won 22 Formula One races.

'It's the principle, not the trophy, that is at stake. After you have won a championship, and jumped through a lot of hoops, there is a point when you think: “This is my life”. You can have a bellyful of becoming a performing seal. You don't want to be on probation for your whole career.

'Of course, you still have to fight inside the car; but there is a time when, surely, you have proved you can motivate yourself. These are things Lewis has tried to balance.

'This is quite a shift in the power balance in Formula One. It shows a driver is a more important ingredient in the sport than the teams like to think.

'Formula One would do well to remember the public relates to a driver's career path more than any team with the exception of Ferrari. The rest are just operations. To the public, the sport is about the drivers.

'There is a huge disconnect between the philosophy of a team and a driver. Drivers just want to race, they don't see Formula One as a marketing exercise or product development. To a team, a driver is a hired hand. But drivers have a right to a career path. They don't belong to a team.'

Hill engaged in talks with McLaren at one period in his career, after winning the world championship for Williams in 1996.

Replacing Hamilton: Sergio Perez steps in with a monster deal at McLaren

Replacing Hamilton: Sergio Perez steps in with a monster deal at McLaren

He departed for Arrows, a team at the wrong end of the grid, on a reported 3 million salary in the year he declined the new contract he was offered by Frank Williams.

'I feel very close to Williams but they didn't always feel close to me,' said Hill, who provided Eddie Jordan's team with their first grand prix win before he retired.

Brawn, who masterminded seven world titles for Michael Schumacher, at Benetton, then Ferrari, has persuaded Hamilton that the introduction of new engine regulations, introducing 1.6 turbo power plants in Formula One from 2014, will shift the axis of power towards the German car giants.

The jury is still out, however.

In the past three years, Mercedes have won just one grand prix while McLaren have won 16.

Yet the intervention of Lauda, invited by Mercedes' main board to broker a deal with Hamilton, finally persuaded the 27-year-old to accept the challenge of making the team champions.

Mexican Sergio Perez, 22, will replace Hamilton at McLaren on a three-year 20 million contract.

'Of course, Lewis has taken a risk,' said Hill.

'Mercedes don't have a track record like McLaren but, as a driver in Formula One, you have to look at what's coming down the track a couple of years ahead. It will be interesting to see how Mercedes up.'

Sid Watkins dies: tributes pour in for F1 surgeon

Formula One pays tribute as lifesaver Watkins passes away aged 84



09:47 GMT, 13 September 2012

The world of Formula One paid tribute to former medical delegate Sid Watkins who died on Wednesday night at the age of 84.

Watkins was the on-track surgeon for 26 years from 1978 through to 2004, with his crusade to improve medical facilities in Formula One helping to dramatically cut the number of deaths and serious injuries in the sport.

Throughout his career in F1, Watkins' actions helped save the lives of Northern Ireland's Martin Donnelly, Finland's double world champion Mika Hakkinen and Austrian Gerhard Berger, among others.

Lifesaver: Watkins at Silverstone back in 1998

Lifesaver: Watkins at Silverstone back in 1998

Confirming Watkins' passing, McLaren Group chairman and close friend Ron Dennis said: 'Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats.

'No, he wasn't a driver. No, he wasn't an engineer. No, he wasn't a designer. He was a doctor and it's probably fair to say he did more than anyone, over many years, to make Formula One as safe as it is today.

'Many drivers and ex-drivers owe their lives to his careful and expert work, which resulted in the massive advances in safety levels that today's drivers possibly take for granted.'

Watkins was a well-known and highly respected figure in motor sport, with drivers and fans alike expressing their sadness on Twitter.

Britain's Jenson Button, world champion in 2009, posted: 'Rest in Peace Sid Watkins…Motorsport wouldn't be what it is today without u. Thank you for all you've done, we as drivers are so grateful.'

Tribute: Jenson Button was among those to praise Watkins

Tribute: Jenson Button was among those to praise Watkins

Rubens Barrichello, an F1 veteran for 19 seasons, said: 'It was Sid Watkins that saved my life in Imola 94.great guy to be with,always happy…tks for everything u have done for us drivers.RIP.'

Compatriot Bruno Senna, whose uncle and three-time world champion Ayrton was tended to by Watkins following his fatal crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, added: 'RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind.'

F1's current medical delegate Gary Hartstein, who learned his trade for seven years under Watkins' wing, said: 'For a long time I wanted to call him every time I had to make a decision. Then I just started thinking 'what would he do in this situation'

'And finally, for better or for worse, I realised I was doing just what he'd do (but probably not as well).

'When I told him this a few years ago, he smiled and said “Of course old boy! You've had a bloody great teacher!

Legend: Watkins chats to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone

Legend: Watkins chats to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone

'It took me a few years before I actually called him Sid. It was at Spa, maybe 1993, and I asked him if I could.

'And he said “the bums sleeping on the stairs of my hospital call me Sid, I don't see why you shouldn't”.

'He kinda had a big place in my life for a long time. Just about the most extraordinary person I've known.'

Watkins worked tirelessly to improve safety in the cockpit, on the track, and the medical support at circuits alongside the likes of Britain's triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart and FIA president Max Mosley.

During his time as medical delegate, he witnessed at first hand the deaths of drivers like Sweden's Ronnie Peterson, who died after an accident at Monza in Italy in 1978, and Senna at Imola.

Senna: Watkins tended to the Brazilian at his fatal crash in 1994

Senna: Watkins tended to the Brazilian at his fatal crash in 1994

Watkins' interest in motor cycling dated from his childhood in Liverpool where his family had a bike shop and garage.

After qualifying at the Liverpool University Medical School, he trained as a neurosurgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford before becoming Professor of Neurosurgery in New York where he regularly attended races at nearby Watkins Glen.

Watkins became the first Professor of Neurosurgery at the London Hospital in 1970 when he was also appointed to the RAC medical panel.

He was approached by Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone in 1978 to become an on-track surgeon at grands prix and he was also the chief medical officer for FIA, the sport's world governing body.

Upon stepping down, Watkins focused on his role as president of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety through to December last year, continuing only in an honorary position.

Jack Wilshere will be Arsenal"s new No 10

Life after RVP: Wilshere will inherit Dutch striker's No 10 shirt at Arsenal



22:19 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Jack Wilshere will be named Arsenal’s new No 10 on Friday — taking the shirt of talisman Robin van Persie.

The England midfielder, who has been on the sidelines for over 12 months due to a clutch of injuries, will wear the shirt vacated by former hero Van Persie — and previously worn by Dennis Bergkamp.

Wilshere is making positive progress on his road to recovery from knee and foot problems and is expected to return in October.

Mine now: Jack Wilshere will claim the prized No 10 shirt

Mine now: Jack Wilshere will claim the prized No 10 shirt

Meanwhile Arsene Wenger has told of his disappointment at selling Van Persie to arch-rivals Manchester United, admitting he would rather have sent his talisman abroad.

‘We wanted to avoid it but we couldn’t,’ said the Arsenal manager. ‘I’d rather have sold him abroad, to Paris Saint-Germain for example. Manchester United know him and his qualities. But when you can’t succeed in extending the contract of a player in his last year, there is no other thing to do but to let him go.

Gone: Robin Van Persie arrives for his United medical

Gone: Robin Van Persie arrives for his United medical

‘It’s sad because he played for us for eight years. He’s 29 now. He was 21 when he came and it’s another bitter pill to swallow. The economic part of it is the only satisfaction. But money doesn’t go out on the field and play, players do.’

Sportsmail has learned that Wenger is unlikely to jump straight into the transfer market until it becomes clear he needs more firepower.

Athletic Bilbao centre forward Fernando Llorente features highly on his wishlist and Arsenal spies have extensively watched Atletico Madrid forward Adrian Lopez.

Lewis Hamilton: I want to keep trophies, says McLaren star

I want to keep my trophies… Hamilton fires warning to McLaren ahead of crunch talks



10:11 GMT, 31 July 2012

Lewis Hamilton says keeping his trophies will be a 'push point' in talks over a new contract with McLaren.

The 27-year-old former world champion has been with the McLaren “family” since the age of 11, spending his entire Formula One career with the team.

Family matters: Hamilton wants to keep the trophies he's won with McLaren

Family matters: Hamilton wants to keep the trophies he's won with McLaren

His current deal expires at the end of this year, though, and he heads into the month-long summer break – on the back of his second victory of the season in Hungary on Sunday – poised for talks over a fresh contract.

And he says an agreement which would see him allowed to keep the silverware he wins – it is a McLaren tradition for the team to keep the original, with the driver receiving a replica – could be crucial.

Quoted in several newspapers, Hamilton said: '[McLaren executive chairman] Ron [Dennis] and the team have all the trophies in the cabinet and the drivers get replicas.

Champagne moment: Hamilton is set for talks with McLaren over the summer

Champagne moment: Hamilton is set for talks with McLaren over the summer

'In a lot of other teams, the drivers get their original trophies. As a racing driver, what you work for and what you want to take home are two things; one is your crash helmet and the other is your trophy. For me, they are priceless.

'I don't care if they don't give me a car, but those two things are what you put your blood and sweat into – and they keep those at the moment. So whatever contract I'm having next, that is going to be a push point.

'But I don't feel I have a tough decision to make. It is my career I'm talking about however – the last part of my [professional] life. It's the first time I've been in this position, so I guess it still remains an important decision.'

Will Emmanuel Adebayor be a success at Spurs?

Adebayor: Trouble man or the best 5m Tottenham will spend



12:32 GMT, 14 July 2012

After having only one recognised striker in Jermain Defoe, Tottenham have boosted their attacking ranks by signing Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City in a 5milllion deal.

The striker enjoyed a successful loan spell at White Hart Lane last season under Harry Redknapp but it remains to be seen if he can produce similar strong performances under Andre Villas-Boas.

The former Arsenal star has been accused of not giving 100 per cent effort in the past, so Sportsmail has evaluated all of the 28-year-old’s Premier League seasons to see if Spurs have a bargain on their hands or a whole load of trouble.

Deal me in: Emmanuel Adebayor has permanently joined Spurs

Deal me in: Emmanuel Adebayor has permanently joined Spurs

2005/06 – Arsenal

At a time when the Gunners were struggling to get a grip on a Champions League spot, Adebayor arrived at Highbury mid-way through the season in a 7milllion deal from Monaco.

It took him just 21 minutes to score on his debut in a 2-0 win at Birmingham and before the season was out he added to the score sheet in victories against Fulham, Charlton and Aston Villa.

The then 22-year-old made an early impression and although his top form was yet to be displayed, fans were impressed enough with the Togo striker’s early showings. It seemed a competent replacement for the retiring Dennis Bergkamp.

Appearances: 12 (1 as sub)

Goals: 4

Hat-tricks: 0

Longest goal drought: Five games (9/4/06 – 1/5/06)

Stepping up: Adebayor scored at Craven Cottage in his first season with the Gunners

Stepping up: Adebayor scored at Craven Cottage in his first season with the Gunners

2006/07 – Arsenal

After showing promise in the previous half-season, Arsenal fans were looking forward to seeing how Adebayor would develop.

The answer was slowly but the striker did pick the best moments when he did finally find the back of the net.

He struck his first goal of the season in September when he netted a late strike to seal three points at Manchester United, while he scored the first in a 3-0 win against rivals Tottenham three months later – his first of three goals in as many games against the club that season.

When the (winter) gloves were on he produced his best run, scoring in three consecutive games before Christmas. But only on one occasion did he score a brace – and extra-time was needed.

A 3-1 win at Bolton in the fourth round of the FA cup saw Adebayor net in the 13th and 120th minutes in a match that saw Arsenal miss two penalties.

It was also a season where he saw his first red card after being sent off in the 2-1 Carling Cup final defeat to Chelsea – 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute.

It was an inconsistent campaign from the Togo international, as he was rotated in the Arsenal attack along with Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

Only towards the end of the season did he get a consistent run in the team which brought eight consecutive starts. But the Tottenham and Manchester United exploits had brought him fan favour.

Appearances: 32 (12)

Goals: 12

Hat-tricks: 0

Longest goal drought: Nine games (17/2/07 – 21/4/07)

Winning hearts: Adebayor hits the first as Arsenal beat Spurs 3-0 at the Emirates

Winning hearts: Adebayor hits the first as Arsenal beat Spurs 3-0 at the Emirates

2007/08 – Arsenal

With Henry gone it was time for Adebayor to step up and finally deliver – and he didn’t disappoint.

The campaign would mark his finest in an Arsenal shirt as he scored well over double his tally from the previous season – a natural progression from producing his best more consistently.

Between the start of December and the middle of February, Adebayor scored 15 goals in as many games.

First hat-tricks followed too, with Derby on the receiving end of two in the campaign.

The Togo international continued his fine scoring record against Spurs, firing in three goals in four games including a superb volley at White Hart Lane that was voted goal of the season.

But it was against the same opposition in the Carling Cup where cracks started to emerge. Although he scored in a 5-1 defeat, the striker had a public spat with team-mate Nicklas Bendtner which needed club captain William Gallas to tear them apart on the White Hart Lane pitch.

The end of the season brought interest from AC Milan and Barcelona, with both looking to snap up the player worth 35milllion at the time. But the Togolese striker bucked the trend of stars leaving the Emirates Stadium and signed a long-term-deal.

Appearances: 40 (8)

Goals: 30

Hat-tricks: 2

Longest goal drought: Eight games (29/9/07 – 12/11/07)

He stoops to conquer: Adebayor scores at Old Trafford

He stoops to conquer: Adebayor scores at Old Trafford

2008/09 – Arsenal

With the Gunners expecting more of the same, Adebayor’s follow up season after signing a new contract proved disappointing.

The striker scored just over half the goals he did the previous campaign but added to his hat-trick tally in a 4-0 win at Blackburn at the start of the season.

The typical mid-winter burst of goals never came but a red card did after he was sent off in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool in December, following a controversial clash with Alvaro Arbeloa.

/07/14/article-0-04782763000005DC-148_634x367.jpg” width=”634″ height=”367″ alt=”Goal machine: Adebayor nets in the 3-0 win over Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-final” class=”blkBorder” />

Goal machine: Adebayor nets in the 3-0 win over Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-final

2009/10 – Manchester City

Adebayor was still valued highly by the time he played his last game for Arsenal, with the proof coming in July 2009 when Manchester City paid the north London club 25milllion for his services.

He started with a bang. Scoring in four consecutive Premier League games, the last coming against Arsenal where he controversially ran the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the irate Gunners support.

But after that, the goals trickled rather than flowed and it wasn’t enough to save manager Mark Hughes’s job, who was sacked mid-season and replaced by Roberto Mancini with the club struggling to break into the top four.

Consecutive braces against Burnley and Birmingham under the new boss were a highlight but there were lowlights too.

An FA Cup defeat at Stoke saw the striker see a straight red card after catching Ryan Shawcross with a flailing arm, while he was anonymous in two defeats against Tottenham that ultimately cost Manchester City a Champions League place.

Appearances: 29 (2)

Goals: 14

Hat-tricks: 0

Longest goal drought: Five games (13/2/10 – 3/4/2010)

Run of shame: Adebayor sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate scoring against Arsenal

Run of shame: Adebayor sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate scoring against Arsenal

2010/11 – Manchester City/Real Madrid

The signing of Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan saw Adebayor fall out of favour at the Etihad Stadium, as well as with Mancini.

The striker started only two Premier League games, scoring against Wolves. His only other goals for the club came in the Europa League with four strikes against Lech Poznan, including his first and last hat-trick at the Etihad Stadium.

With Edin Dzeko joining the club in January, Adebayor was farmed out on loan to Real Madrid where the striker’s fortunes only slightly improved.

He only scored two league goals up until a Champions League quarter-final with Spurs where he found his Arsenal form by scoring with two headers against the north London club.

It failed to kick-start a free-scoring period but the striker did end his time at the Spanish giants with a hat-trick in an 8-1 win away to Almeria.

Appearances: 15 (20)

Goals: 12

Hat-tricks: 1

Longest goal drought: Eight games (14/8/10 – 21/10/10)

Hoodoo: Adebayor netted against Spurs once more in the Bernabeu

Hoodoo: Adebayor netted against Spurs once more in the Bernabeu

2011/12 – Tottenham

/07/14/article-0-0DD31EF300000578-11_634x413.jpg” width=”634″ height=”413″ alt=”On target: Adebayor impressed in his first season at White Hart Lane” class=”blkBorder” />

On target: Adebayor impressed in his first season at White Hart Lane