Tag Archives: der

World Cup qualifying round up with Mario Balotelli and Robin van Persie both scoring twice

Super Mario continues scoring streak with two goals for Italy… and Van Persie moves above legend Cruyff in Dutch record books

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

23:49 GMT, 26 March 2013

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UPDATED:

23:59 GMT, 26 March 2013

Mario Balotelli continued his hot streak in front of goals with both goals in Italy's 2-0 win over Malta.

The former Manchester City striker struck a penalty home in the eighth minute before rounding off the win with a cheeky lob inside the area on the stroke of half-time.

The victory, which also saw keeper Gianluigi Buffon deny Malta's Michael Mifsud from the penalty spot, puts Italy three points clear of Bulgaria at the top of Group B.

All smiles: Mario Balotelli celebrates scoring his second goal in Italy's 2-0 win over Malta, and in action (below)

All smiles: Mario Balotelli celebrates scoring his second goal in Italy's 2-0 win over Malta, and in action (below)

MALTA, MALTA - MARCH 26: Mario Balotelli of Italy#9 and Gareth Sciberras of Malta compete for the ball during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifier match between Malta and Italy at Ta Qali Stadium on March 26, 2013 in Malta, Malta.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie's season got even better as a brace in Holland's comfortable 4-0 win over Romania lifted him above Dutch legend Johann Cryuff in the national side's all-time scoring table.

Former Spurs midfielder Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring in the 11th minute, while after the break Van Persie struck twice, the second a penalty, and Jeremain Lens added a fourth in the final minute to leave the Netherlands seven points clear at the top of Group D.

Van Persie wasn't the only Premier League player starring in their national sides' win, as Chelsea's Eden Hazard netted the only goal of the game in Belgium's victory over Macedeonia.

Jubilation: Robin van Persie celebrates topping Johan Cryuff's scoring record, and with Arjen Robben (below)

Jubilation: Robin van Persie celebrates topping Johan Cryuff's scoring record, and with Arjen Robben (below)

RVP

The winger took the ball past two defenders before firing low with his left foot to cement his side's place at the top of Group A above Wales' conquerers Croatia.

Liverpool centre back Daniel Agger was also on target, salvaging Denmark a point against Bulgaria by converting from the spot to earn a 1-1 draw.

Watford's on-loan star Matej Vydra was another English-based player to score twice, setting the Czech republic well on their way to a 3-0 victory at Armenia before the visitors sealed the win through substitute Daniel Kolar.

On target: Chelsea's Eden Hazard scored Belgium's only goal in their triumph over Macedonia

On target: Chelsea's Eden Hazard scored Belgium's only goal in their triumph over Macedonia

In England's group, Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Khacheridi helped 10-man Ukraine edge to a 2-1 win over Moldova, who grabbed a late consolation through Alexandr Suvorov.

Robert Lewandowski scored two penalties either side of Lukasz Piszczek's strike, while Lukasz Teodorczyk and Jakub Kosecki were also on the scoresheet as Poland hammered San Marino 5-0.

On the up: Watford's Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra celebrates after scoring his second goal

On the up: Watford's Czech Republic striker Matej Vydra celebrates after scoring his second goal

Germany moved five points clear of Sweden at the top of Group C after their Borussia Dortmund connection inspired them to a 4-1 win over Kazakhstan.

Marco Reus was on target twice with Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan also scoring for Joachim Low's men.

Top of the group: Marco Reus of Germany scores his team's fourth goal in their rout over Kazakhstan

Top of the group: Marco Reus of Germany scores his team's fourth goal in their rout over Kazakhstan

Greuther Furth's Heinrich Schmidtgal scored a consolation for the visitors, who caused Germany an unexpectedly high number of problems in the second half.

Stuttering Portugal also claimed a win, with second-half goals from Bruno Alves and Hugo Almeida sealing a 2-0 Group F victory at 10-man Azerbaijan.

Rafael Van der Vaart admits diving to get Robert Lewandowski sent off

Video: Former Spurs ace Van der Vaart admits diving to ensure Lewandowski sees red after wild kick

By
Dave Wood

PUBLISHED:

17:53 GMT, 10 February 2013

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UPDATED:

18:16 GMT, 10 February 2013

Rafael van der Vaart has admitted that he dived to ensure Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski was sent off after he aimed a wild kick at his teammate.

Play was stopped after Lewandowski followed through on Per Skejbred when aggressively challenging for a bouncing ball.

In the aftermath, the Netherlands midfielder went down after confronting Lewandowski, with the Poland international then given his marching orders.

Scroll down for video

Target: Dortmund fans were unhappy with Rafael van der Vaart after an earlier incident involving Sebastian Kehl

Target: Dortmund fans were unhappy with Rafael van der Vaart after an earlier incident involving Sebastian Kehl

Target: Dortmund fans were unhappy with Rafael van der Vaart after an earlier incident involving Sebastian Kehl

'It was a fiery match,' Van der Vaart said. 'In the scene with
Lewandowski I had to do a bit of theatre.

'I had the feeling that he
would not otherwise have been sent off. It was a clear red card,' he
told reporters.

Hamburg were 2-1 up when Lewandowski was dismissed, and went on to win
4-1, but Van der Vaart dismissed the idea that the red card was key to
the victory.

'Ultimately we won the game because we were better,' he stated.

Boiling point: Vander Vaart squares up to Robert Lewendowski

Boiling point: Vander Vaart squares up to Robert Lewendowski

Boiling point: Vander Vaart squares up to Robert Lewendowski

The former Tottenham man was instrumental in the victory, with the HSV’s
sporting director Frank Arnesen singling him out for praise after the
match.

'You saw again today how important he is to our team. He had an excellent game.'

He drew the ire of Dortmund fans,
however, and was hit on the head with an object thrown from the stands
when he was taking a corner. Van der Vaart was unhurt.

Video: Lewandowski's wild kick

Harry Redknapp tells QPR players to show they care

Four points is shameful! Redknapp tells QPR players to show they care about club

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UPDATED:

00:29 GMT, 27 November 2012

This time last year, Harry Redknapp was managing a team on a run to the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

Tottenham’s football was breathtaking, unbeaten in 10 games as Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart tore into the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal.

A year on, a top-four manager who hoped to succeed Fabio Capello as England boss has taken over a team with just four points.

Prove you care: Harry Redknapp is demanding his men improve their performances

Prove you care: Harry Redknapp is demanding his men improve their performances

Rapid improvement: QPR must get more points on the board if they are to avoid the drop

Rapid improvement: QPR must get more points on the board if they are to avoid the drop

‘When Daniel Levy sacked me that night (June 13) I didn’t leave and think I’d jump off the edge of Bournemouth cliffs,’ Redknapp said on Monday.

‘The next day I was up playing golf. I don’t hold grudges and I spoke to Daniel over the weekend. He wished me all the best. It’s all a bit bizarre the way things finished for me at Tottenham, but that’s life.

‘When I heard Roy Hodgson had got the England job I wasn’t going to lock myself in a room — it’s only a game. I can get het up because I want to do well but in the cold light of day what does it all mean’

Yesterday it meant everything again as he talked at QPR’s decrepit training base in Harlington, west London, where paint peels off the walls and the big industrial bins in the car park are overloaded with rubbish. It may be a case of taking out the trash in January, just as soon as Redknapp works out who is ready for a relegation scrap.

‘Four points is embarrassing,’ he admitted as he prepares the players for this evening’s Premier League clash at Sunderland. ‘How can you have four points from 13 games

‘Players who aren’t playing will blame those who are playing. Those who are playing will blame somebody else. It’s up to me to make my own decisions over what’s wrong with them and what needs doing.’

Redknapp will run this team with the same enthusiasm that filled the air when he walked into Tottenham’s old training ground. His love of the game is infectious and reassuring; he has promised the grandchildren he would stop at the club shop later to buy them QPR kits before his new team travelled to the Stadium of Light.

‘The family are QPR fans now,’ he said. It could easily have been the colours of Ukraine, after Redknapp was offered the job by the president of the country’s football federation, Anatoliy Konkov, in London last week.

‘It was a great job, a four-year contract, and it wasn’t as if I had to live in Ukraine,’ explained Redknapp. ‘Capello is manager of Russia and he lives in Italy. I could have gone over at weekends, watched some games and then spent a few days at home. I spoke to Andriy Shevchenko about it. The Under 21s are good and I was excited.

That's the way to goal: Harry Redknapp gives his players instructions ahead of their first game

That's the way to goal: Harry Redknapp gives his players instructions ahead of their first game

What am I doing here Redknapp has fallen some way from his Spurs days

What am I doing here Redknapp has fallen some way from his Spurs days

Need a cuppa: Redknapp supps on a hot beverage during the press conference

Need a cuppa: Redknapp supps on a hot beverage during the press conference

Sunderland v QPR

‘It wouldn’t have been easy for me to face England in the World Cup qualifiers, but I couldn’t say “Oh it doesn’t matter if we don’t win today” — they would have thrown me down the salt mines.’

But there is no regular contact with players in a national job and there was a twinkle in Redknapp’s eye yesterday as he prepared to take an 11am training session in the wind and rain.

Redknapp has missed the morning commute from his home in Sandbanks, picking up assistant Kevin Bond along the way.

‘I probably needed a break and maybe it didn’t do me any harm,’ he added. ‘I went through a tough year with the court case and maybe leaving Tottenham wasn’t the worst thing. Until last Saturday I hadn’t watched a Premier League game live since I finished at Tottenham. I thought if I turned up people would say, “What’s he doing here, they’ve lost a few games, he’s after my job”. I don’t need that.

‘I used to watch Bournemouth play on
Saturday afternoons and I loved it. But now I’m looking forward to
getting back into the Premier League.’

It starts on Tuesday at Sunderland, his first official game in charge after Mark Hughes was sacked on Friday.

Axed: Mark Hughes was booted out of Loftus Road

Axed: Mark Hughes was booted out of Loftus Road

QPR are without an away win since November 19, 2011, when two Heidar Helguson goals and a Luke Young strike secured a 3-2 win at Stoke under Neil Warnock.

‘We keep saying we have a good team, but you don’t have four points from 13 games if you are playing well,’ Redknapp said.

‘Apart from going back to Portsmouth, when it looked like we were doomed, this is my biggest challenge yet as a manager. If I’d failed there I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to get out alive. At QPR the challenge is to bring the group together.

‘I want to see players chasing and getting the hump if they see other players standing around.’

Instead, he expects to get them up and running.

Clint Dempsey settling in to Rafael van der Vaart role

'Frustrated' Dempsey finally ready to fill void left by Van der Vaart at Tottenham

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UPDATED:

17:02 GMT, 26 November 2012

Tottenham forward Clint Dempsey thinks he is finally ready to fill the giant void left by Rafael van der Vaart’s departure.

Van der Vaart scored 28 goals and provided many more assists during a two-year spell at White Hart Lane before he returned to Hamburg this summer.

Andre Villas-Boas signed Dempsey to fill the No 10 role Van der Vaart performed so well in even though the American was used to operating off the left flank.

Frustrated: Clint Dempsey (left) believes he is doing a better job at Tottenham now

Frustrated: Clint Dempsey (left) believes he is doing a better job at Tottenham now

Dempsey scored a whopping 23 goals from Fulham last season, but he struggled initially to settle in to the more central role required of him at Spurs this season.

Dempsey has scored only twice in Tottenham colours, but he combined well with Jermain Defoe against West Ham yesterday, and the 29-year-old thinks he is finally becoming accustomed to his new position.

'I’ve been frustrated with not getting on the ball, being in the game or affecting games, but I think I’m now starting to do a better job,' Dempsey said after the 3-1 win.

'I thought I was good against West Ham. I was able to get a little bit more on the angle, be able to drive with the ball a bit more, take more shots and create chances for other people.

'It was good to play a part in two of the goals and I was unlucky to hit the post but I enjoyed the game.'

Part of Dempsey’s initial struggle to fit in to the Tottenham team can be put down to what was a tumultuous summer for the 29-year-old.

Dempsey thought he would secure a dream move to Liverpool that he had hankered for all summer when Brendan Rodgers made an enquiry for the forward, but the Merseysiders failed to follow it up with a bid.

Instrumental: Dempsey set up Gareth Bale's goal in the 3-1 victory over West Ham

Instrumental: Dempsey set up Gareth Bale's goal in the 3-1 victory over West Ham

Martin Jol left Dempsey out of his Fulham squad at the start of the season before Tottenham ended the forward’s nightmare summer by meeting the 6million asking price that Liverpool were unwilling to match.

'It was a difficult August for me. I didn’t have a pre-season with Tottenham or anybody, so I’m trying to play catch-up a little bit and trying to adjust to this team and the style they play,” said Dempsey, who supplied Gareth Bale for Tottenham’s second with a clever chip pass.

Playing catch-up: Dempsey signed for Tottenham on transfer deadline day

Playing catch-up: Dempsey signed for Tottenham on transfer deadline day

'I’ve been looking at videos and trying to figure out a way to make an impact and help the team.

'I’m traditionally used to playing in a 4-4-2 where I’m the guy on the left but I’m not an out-and-out winger.

'I come inside and I’m more like an attacking inside-left, so being more central is good, but it’s about getting on the ball and making the right movements, and I’m starting to do a better job in that respect.'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic"s best goals

Reckon the propeller kick is special It might not even be Ibrahimovic's best goal… check out his greatest hits

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UPDATED:

09:52 GMT, 15 November 2012

It was immediately dubbed the ‘greatest goal ever’ and why not

A quite sublime piece of audacity from Zlatan Ibrahimovic set the seal on an outstanding four-goal performance as Sweden beat England 4-2 in Stockholm last night.

It was the perfect riposte to those who have called him ‘overrated’ and those cheeky England fans who thought him inferior to Andy Carroll.

For Zlatan, though, it was also the latest masterpiece to add to an impressive collection of breath-taking goals. Enjoy some of his best here.

Watch Ibrahimovic's goals from last night here

Special: Ibrahimovic soaks up the acclaim of his home crowd after yet another spectacular goal against England last night

Special: Ibrahimovic soaks up the acclaim of his home crowd after yet another spectacular goal against England last night

Tying opposition defences in knots for Ajax

Ibrahimovic was a long way short of the finished product we see today when at Ajax, but his stock was rising with each of his 48 goals in 110 appearances.

The pick came in his final season with the Dutch club, against NAC Breda in 2004, when he tied the opposition in knots with a mazy run, beating the same players two or three times each.

At the time, Zlatan was in a feud with Rafael Van Der Vaart, who claimed that Ibra deliberately injured him in training. After the wondergoal, the camera cuts to an ashen-faced VVD in the stands. Ibra didn’t care, he signed for Juventus the following day.

A flick in the knick of time for Sweden

Euro 2004 and things are looking bleak for Sweden, trailing Italy in their second group match with the clock ticking down. A corner sparks pandemonium in the Italian defence and, with a moment of sheer improvisation, Ibra comes up with a kind of looping back heel which has just enough elevation and dip to evade the Christian Vieri on the post.

Paying back his transfer fee for Juve

Ibrahimovic had plenty to prove after making the 16m euro (12.8m) switch to Juventus and started to repay his transfer fee with strikes like this against Benfica.

Marauding down the left channel, there didn’t seem a lot on but utilising the element of surprise to devastating effect, Ibra launched a powerful, dipping shot inside the near post.

A chance from nothing against Roma

Another excellent illustration of Ibra’s ability to create something out of nothing. Surrounded by Roma defenders, and near the half-way line, he looked very isolated when the ball comes across.

But a flick of genius sends him spinning away from the defender, his pace carries him clear and a clinical finish doubles Juve’s lead.

67mph free-kick against Fiorentina

After Juventus came a 24.8m euro (20m) switch to Internazionale and a flurry of spectacular goals. The pick may well be this one – a stunning 32-metre free-kick at the San Siro against Fiorentina in 2009 which reached 67mph as it flew past the goalkeeper and crashed in off the bar.

More set-piece magic for Barcelona

Another outstanding free-kick, this time in the colours of Barcelona, whom Ibra joined in a megabucks move in 2009. Things didn’t transpire too well in Catalonia but he did grab 22 goals in 46 matches – including this marvellous Nou Camp set-piece against Real Zaragoza.

Loopy goal against Lecce

After spending the 2010-2011 season on loan at AC Milan, the move was soon made permanent. More comfortable to be playing back in Italy, it wasn’t long before Ibra was indulging in the spectacular again.

In this goal against Lecce, lashed in from a good 30 yards, it looks as though the Swede isn’t even looking at where the goal is.

Acrobatics for Milan against Fiorentina

In all, Ibra scored 56 goals in 85 games for Milan, an impressive tally, and he clearly revelled in inflicting pain on Fiorentina. Not a free-kick this time, but a piece of acrobatic trickery in the penalty area.

He pinches the ball from between the legs of the defender, a keepie uppie and then, while falling backwards, a scissor kick.

Holland 0 Germany 0

Holland 0 Germany 0: Bore draw as clash of the titans fails to live up to expectations

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 15 November 2012

It's supposed to be one of the biggest rivalries in world football.

But Holland versus Germany turned out to be a 90 minute snoozefest in Amsterdam last night as they played out an uninspiring goalless draw.

Maybe both sets of players had their weekend domestic fixtures on their minds – but if ever there was a clear illustration of why so many feel international friendliest are pointless exercises, this was it.

Bore draw: Per Mertesacker and Arjen Robben do battle

Bore draw: Per Mertesacker and Arjen Robben do battle

Germany tried to impose their smooth passing style on the hosts – who honoured former internationals Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy before kick off.

In particular, Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Mario Goetze, the man Arsene Wenger dreams of signing, was enjoying plenty of the ball in the opening 15 minutes.

Tough going: Rafael van der Vaart (left) tries to inspire Holland

Tough going: Rafael van der Vaart (left) tries to inspire Holland

However, despite the wealth of
attacking talent on show at the Amsterdam Arena, former Liverpool
forward Dirk Kuyt mustered up the first opportunity of any real note
with a tame sliding effort in the 20th minute.

Everton defender John Heitinga did well to keep the shackles on Goetze a minute later as the 20-year-old tried to conjure up a yard of space to unleash an effort on goal deep inside the Dutch box before blocking Lewis Holtby's low goalbound effort from Benedikt Howedes' excellent cut-back soon after.

Heads: Mats Hummels and Dirk Kuyt

Heads: Mats Hummels and Dirk Kuyt

Arjen Robben wasted a golden opportunity to give Holland a 30th minute lead when he was sent clear through by Ibrahim Afellay – but the former Chelsea winger failed to squeeze his shot in after rounding German keeper Manuel Neuer.

Howedes and Marxo Reus both had chances to put Joachim Low's side ahead before Heitinga was forced into a superb goalline clearance from Ilkay Gundogan's low shot with the final kick of the opening half.

The second half started with the same pedestrian pace as the first, with neither side eager to impose themselves.

And no amount of encouragement from supporters spark any sort of tempo or urgency to this drabbest of matches.

In fact the first worthy attempt on goal in the second half came in the 77th minute when Neuer produced a brilliant stop low to his left, denying Dutch substitute Daryl Janmaat's low effort from the edge of the box after Kuyt's lay-off.

Eljero Elia flashed an angled effort from 16 yards wide moments later as Holland finally showed signs of life.

But it was merely a flash of entertainment as the clash ended goalless.

The Beast Tendai Mtawarira treated in hospital for heart scare

'Beast' misses Ireland match after South African is treated in hospital following heart scare

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UPDATED:

14:47 GMT, 10 November 2012

South Africa prop Tendai Mtawarira was treated in hospital today after suffering mild heart palpitations.

Mtawarira has pulled out of this afternoon's match against Ireland in Dublin and will be replaced by CJ van der Linde.

Heinke van der Merwe, who has played in one Test for South Africa in 2007, will take Van der Linde's place on the bench.

Scare:Tendai Mtawarira (right) was treated in hospital after suffering palpitations

Scare:Tendai Mtawarira (right) was treated in hospital after suffering palpitations

A statement on South Africa's official website said: 'The decision to withdraw Mtawarira is a precautionary measure after he had a recurrence of mild heart palpitations on Saturday morning.

'Mtawarira has been admitted to hospital for observation on Saturday morning. A decision on his continued participation on the tour will be taken at a later stage.'

A further update said the 27-year-old was later discharged from hospital.

Edwin van der Sar offered Ajax director role

Van der Sar in line for director role at Ajax as Dutch club make move for retired goalkeeper

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UPDATED:

10:34 GMT, 8 November 2012

Edwin van der Sar is poised for a return to Ajax.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper will be invited to become a director at the Dutch club.

According to newspaper De Telegraaf, the 42-year-old, who won four Barclays Premier League titles at Old Trafford, is wanted by Ajax's new president Johan Cruyff.

Dutch of class: The former United stopper is wanted by Ajax

Dutch of class: The former United stopper is wanted by Ajax

Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp is already on board as manager Frank De Boer's assistant, while another former Gunner Marc Overmars is employed as director of football.

Van der Sar retired from professional football in 2011 after a glittering career which began at Ajax.

Suit you, sir: The United legend called time on his playing days in 2011

Suit you, sir: The United legend called time on his playing days in 2011

The goalkeeper won four Dutch titles and a Champions League in the nineties before moving to Juventus.

A stint at Fulham followed before his switch to United in 2005 where he became the oldest player to win the Premier League and made almost 200 appearances.

Patrick Collins: Big-spending elite must heed Wenger"s demand for sanity

Big-spending elite must heed Wenger's demand for sanity

By
Patrick Collins

PUBLISHED:

21:37 GMT, 1 September 2012

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UPDATED:

23:28 GMT, 1 September 2012

The late summer sun was shining but
there was a chill in the air, and the reporters shivered gently as they
stood outside the nation’s training grounds and gabbled their stirring
snippets. ‘Charlie Adam is having a medical at Stoke … Rafael van der
Vaart has just left in a chauffeured four-wheel drive … Dimitar Berbatov
could — massive could — be on his way to Tottenham.’

Back in the studio, a blonde in a blue
dress informed us that precisely 11 hours, 28 minutes and 30 seconds
remained of this momentous day. Then we broke for an advertisement,
which invited us to apply for large and instant sums of money at an APR
of 1,734 per cent. Thus did the crack troops of Sky Sports News bring us
the deathless details of transfer deadline day.

So much froth, so much nonsense; there
is a whiff of high camp about the preposterous ceremonial. It is an
orgy of conspicuous consumption, a brash brandishing of banknotes.

No fee is too high, no salary too
gross. Figures recently published by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group
reveal that, even before the latest burst of excess, Premier League
clubs have spent more than 4.4bn on transfer fees since January 2003.
This takes no account of wages, which have continued to soar with
successive television deals.

Big money: Javi Garcia was the flagship signing on a busy transfer deadline day, joining Manchester for 16million from Benfica

Big money: Javi Garcia was the flagship signing on a busy transfer deadline day, joining Manchester for 16million from Benfica

The fact most of those clubs are
desperately in debt is no more than an irritation. It’s trebles all
round and there’s more where that came from. This is the Premier League
we’re talking about, this is the place where tomorrow never comes.

It is an unattractive attitude at the
best of times but, in an age of bleak recession, it becomes actively
offensive. Arsene Wenger understands. A prudent, reflective man in a
sport which sets little store by such virtues, he believes that tough
times will hasten reform.

‘I’m convinced that, basically, society will force football to become more reasonable,’ he says. ‘The
standard of living is dropping, and you cannot imagine that will happen
in society on one side while, on the other side, football continues to
push up with inflation. That cannot work together.’

More from Patrick Collins…

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11/08/12

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11/08/12

Patrick Collins: London's joyful Games prove there is life on Planet Olympics
04/08/12

Patrick Collins: Olympic lesson in pride and prejudice
28/07/12

Patrick Collins: Wiggins is a name to go with Bannister and Perry
21/07/12

Patrick Collins: After our diet of fish fingers, this was proper cricket
21/07/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

The Arsenal manager speaks with the
authority of one who has built and financed one of England’s finest
stadiums, produced an immoderate harvest of outstanding players and
qualified for the Champions League for the past 15 seasons while making
his club a profit every year. And all without the intercession of a
sheik or an oligarch, the kind of benefactors for whom money is not a
limitation, nor even a consideration. Inevitably, his prudence renders
him vulnerable to the shallow clamour of those who demand cups and
trophies, short-term prizes delivered by the power of the purse. When he
loses a Fabregas, a Nasri, most damagingly a Van Persie, then his
philosophy is put to the test.

We can sense his anguish on watching
Robin van Persie celebrate scoring for Manchester United against Fulham:
‘I was thinking, “He has the wrong shirt on. Why does he jump around
like that in that shirt I don’t know at all”. Deep down I knew but I
didn’t like it too much, you know’ But he accepts principles carry a
price. A dim-witted minority of Arsenal followers insist Wenger is out
of touch with their version of reality. Short cuts are the order of the
day; pay the price, buy the results, let tomorrow take care of itself.
You know it makes sense.

Wenger listens and smiles. He bides
his time and places his faith in UEFA’s tritely mocked yet essentially
admirable attempts to create a level playing field. He believes in
sanity.

‘I think Financial Fair Play will come
through because big clubs who have been spending a lot of money are
worrying about it now. They ignored it until now, but finally we see
they are getting concerned,’ he says. ‘All the clubs are struggling and
we find ourselves a little in the situation of Germany in Europe.’

Arsene Wenger as Angela Merkel; some will dismiss it as an impertinent delusion, others will recognise the analogy. When such an eminent man pursues his convictions with such tenacity, he wants to be certain that others are playing to the same rules. If Financial Fair Play can be equitably enforced, then Wenger will receive his just rewards and the game he serves will be placed upon a saner, fairer footing.

Financially prudent: Arsene Wenger wants to see clubs on a fairer footing

Financially prudent: Arsene Wenger wants to see clubs on a fairer footing

The alternative is miserably depressing. It involves a tiny number of elite teams exercising financial muscle and flaunting all the trophies that money can secure, while less privileged clubs tug their forelocks, give thanks for their loan players and generally make up the numbers.

What was once a league would become a kind of touring company, with two or three stars and a gaggle of bit-part performers. And that chill in the air which set the reporters shivering would take on darker, more sinister overtones.

Unless Wenger’s ideals prevail, then the unthinkable would swiftly become the inevitable. For all its faults and all its failings, football deserves better than that.

Sensitive Allardyce and the West Ham family values

Sam Allardyce, or so his friends tell us, has a thin skin. Bluff of manner and brusque of tongue, the West Ham manager can be easily hurt by a harsh word. For years, this sensitive soul has endured the smear that his sophisticated tactics amount to little more than kick-and-chase. Now he is suffering taunts and innuendoes over the extraordinary influence of his agent.

Happy family: Sam Allardyce

Happy family: Sam Allardyce

Mark Curtis, himself no stranger to controversy, has long enjoyed a lucrative relationship with Allardyce. By happy chance, he also represents Kevin Nolan, who played for Allardyce at Bolton and Newcastle, and now captains West Ham. By still happier chance, he also acts for Matt Jarvis, who West Ham have just signed for a club record 10.75million and who is apparently paying the agent five per cent of his substantial salary for the next five years.

When West Ham wanted a prolific centre-forward to round off their silky approach play, they turned to Liverpool goal machine Andy Carroll. Who is, wouldn’t you know, represented by the fortunate Mr Curtis.

Now you may see absolutely no conflict of interest in the same agent representing manager, captain and the two most significant players, along with other members of the first–team squad.

Indeed, you will be heartened by the reassuring words of David Sullivan, the club chairman and erstwhile pornography baron, who says: ‘I do not believe there is any skulduggery at West Ham.’

Yet still the Twitterati and the message boards are unconvinced. Ribs are nudged, noses are tapped, there are dark suggestions of an unhealthy monopoly.

Such fears are surely baseless. For those of us who have known the place down the decades will testify that there was always a distinctive West Ham way of doing things, right back to the days when men such as Ron Greenwood and John Lyall created a family club, with civilised standards of play and behaviour.

The cast has changed, but under the resourceful leadership of Big Sam and his chum Mark, Upton Park remains one big, happy, enormously wealthy family. With its own, distinctive way of doing things.

PS

So, farewell Andrew Strauss. The career was glittering, the captaincy exemplary and the going was timely and graceful.

Strauss was one of those precious few sportsmen who exuded an air of something akin to nobility and we understood why those he led would have followed him to the ends of the earth. Well, there was one exception, but he may be swiftly discounted.

History will record that Kevin Pietersen was a superior batsman to Strauss. But as a man, he is not to be mentioned in the same breath.

Joao Moutinho and Hugo Lloris deals agreed by Tottenham

Incoming! Spurs agree 22m fee for Moutinho and strike deal with Lyon for Lloris

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UPDATED:

12:57 GMT, 31 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Andre Villas-Boas is closing in on dream signing Porto midfielder Joao Moutinho for a club record 22million, and has agreed a deal with Lyon for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham will pick up 10.3m from Hamburg as they decided to sell playmaker Rafael van der Vaart on Friday morning and Moutinho is being targeted to fill the gap.

Moutinho operated under Villas-Boas while the manager was at Porto and it is not expected that his personal terms will cause any problems.

Target: Tottenham have agreed a 22m fee for Joao Moutinho

Target: Tottenham have agreed a 22m fee for Joao Moutinho

Porto had previously demanded 30m for the creative midfielder but according to Goal.com the clubs have settled on this smaller fee.

Spurs have been working frantically on deadline day to the do the deal and the signs are positive.

Villas-Boas has hoped to get Moutinho all summer long and, alongside Mousa Dembele and Gylfi Sigurdsson, will be part of a new look midfield.

Lyon's Lloris meanwhile is another long-term target and the clubs finally reached an accord after Tottenham agreed to restructure the deal and pay more up front.

Despite Spurs' last-minute deals, Villas-Boas has added his name to the growing list of managers who think the transfer window should close before the start of the season.

Although he signed Jan Vertonghen and Sigurdsson before the season started, Villas-Boas has only just been able to integrate Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor in to his squad after their recent arrivals.

Villas-Boas also had to contend with having an unhappy player at the club's training ground after Modric's move to Real Madrid dragged on to the point where the Croat was forced to train alone so his unhappiness did not affect the rest of the squad.

Top stopper: Hugo Lloris is on his way

Top stopper: Hugo Lloris is on his way

Villas-Boas, like fellow managers Martin Jol and Martin O'Neill, believes the transfer window should shut before the start of the season to allow everyone to have a settled squad by the time the campaign begins.

'The window should finish at the beginning of the season,' Villas-Boas said.

'It's extremely unfair for players, clubs and managers as they prepare for the beginning of the league.

'There has been a conversation about this between the managers in England but abroad, in UEFA Meetings (we have to) propose a closure before the league starts.

'I think it is something that makes sense and let's everyone focus on one direction. It's the same for everyone at the moment but it doesn't mean it's right.'