Tag Archives: special

Gerd Muller receives Lionel Messi"s signed Barcelona shirt

Special delivery! Muller receives gift from gracious Messi after Barcelona striker breaks German's goalscoring record

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Muller had held the record since 1972, when the man affectionately known as ‘Der Bomber’ fired in 85 goals while at Bayern.

Chuffed: Gerd Muller said he was 'happy and proud' to receive the gift from Lionel Messi

Chuffed: Gerd Muller said he was 'happy and proud' to receive the gift from Lionel Messi

Class: A close up of the signed shirt, saying: 'With my respect and admiration. A hug.'

Class: A close up of the signed shirt, saying: 'With my respect and admiration. A hug.'

But the ever-graceful Messi’s first thought upon breaking the record was for the man he had surpassed.

The 25-year-old sent his beaten adversary a signed Barcelona shirt with the message: ‘For Gerd Muller, with my respect and admiration. A hug. Leo.’ scrawled into the yellow No 10 on the back of the jersey.

Muller was delighted with the gift Messi has shipped to him, and said he was ‘happy and proud’ to be the recipient of such a gesture from 'the best player in the world'.

How many Lionel Messi poses with his four Ballon d'Or trophies

How many Lionel Messi poses with his four Ballon d'Or trophies

Familiar sight: Lionel Messi celebrates another goal against Malaga

Familiar sight: Lionel Messi celebrates another goal against Malaga

The Bayern reserve team coach, who was a truly fearsome striker for club and country during his playing days, watched Messi’s unparalleled goalscoring run last year earn him another record earlier this month: a fourth Ballon d’Or crown.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell believes that Muller’s goalscoring record was a driving force for the Argentina captain in his bid to score as many goals as possible.

He said that Muller’s prolific performance 40 years ago was ‘a great motivating factor and stimulus for Leo.’

Prolific: Messi took the record from Muller, who scored 85 in 1972

Prolific: Messi took the record from Muller, who scored 85 in 1972

Tito Vilanova returns to Barcelona training

Recovering Vilanova back at training to help Barca prepare for fiery Espanyol derby

By
Martin Domin

PUBLISHED:

11:52 GMT, 2 January 2013

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UPDATED:

11:52 GMT, 2 January 2013

Barcelona have been handed a New Year boost as manager Tito Vilanova returned to training this morning just two weeks after undergoing surgery.

He suffered a recurrence of cancer in his saliva glands and temporarily stepped down from his post.

But Vilanova was pictured at the training ground ahead of Sunday's derby against Espanyol.

Looking well: Tito Vilanova poses with his son Adria after playing paddle

Looking well: Tito Vilanova poses with his son Adria after playing paddle

Club President Sandro Rosell had expected the coach to return to work in the middle of January but Vilanova's son, Adria, posted a picture with his father on his Twitter account after the pair played paddle on New Year’s Eve.

The picture appeared alongside the tweet: ‘Happy New Year to all! This afternoon I fired the year with a game of paddle with a special person.’

Barcelona went into the winter break in outstanding form, having dropped just two points in 17 league matches under Vilanova's stewardship after he succeeded Chelsea target Pep Guardiola in the summer.

In the bag: Barcelona are clear at the top of the La Liga title

In the bag: Barcelona are clear at the top of the La Liga title

Dimitar Berbatov of Fulham shows shirt saying Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball

Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball: Fulham hitman Berbatov delivers special message to his team-mates… and then gets booked for shirt stunt!

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UPDATED:

16:49 GMT, 26 December 2012

Revealing a slogan underneath a team jersey usually means a footballer has something to say, but Dimitar Berbatov’s was a simple instruction.

The Fulham man’s ‘Keep Calm And Pass Me The Ball’ t-shirt, or rather, scrawled message on the front of his thermal wear, was unveiled as he celebrated scoring against Southampton.

It raised a few smiles – we can give the guy credit for humour – but referee Phil Dowd wasn’t in the mood for laughing and booked him for removing his shirt.

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

I'm the man! Berbatov issues an instruction to his teammates

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Main man: Fulham players celebrate with the Bulgarian

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

Booked: Referee Dowd wasn't in the mood

He's now netted six goals for the
Cottagers who are enduring a miserable spell in the Premier League, and
his stunt is worthy of cult appreciation.

He’s not alone – Manchester City
joker Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why Always Me’ t-shirt had fans asking if he
was tiring of the limelight, as unlikely as that sounds.

But while they’re commended for
comedy value, neither the Italian nor Berbatov’s cheeky confidence will
earn places in the hall of t-shirt fame alongside Robbie Fowler’s nod to
the beleaguered Liverpool dockers or Ian Wright’s ‘179 Just done it’,
when he broke the club goalscoring record at Arsenal.

Perhaps Berb’s next one could read
‘Pass Me The Ball To My Feet’, however, given his misplaced header from
six yards out, just minutes later.

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham

Six of the best: Berbatov netted his sixth goal for Fulham

Wigan want 3million-rated Barnsley teenager John Stones

Stones could rock at the DW Stadium as Wigan race to sign 3m teen

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UPDATED:

23:16 GMT, 22 December 2012

Wigan are set to beat Chelsea, Sunderland, Manchester City and Everton to sign 3million Barnsley teenager John Stones.

The 18-year-old right-back has been impressive for the Championship club this season.

Looking to strengthen: Roberto Martinez

Looking to strengthen: Roberto Martinez

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez is
confident of bringing him to the DW Stadium in January by promising him
regular first-team football – something the big clubs are unable to do.

Martinez has already wrapped up a
deal for Honduras international Roger Espinoza and agreed to bring in
striker Chile Angelo Henriquez on loan from Manchester United.

Meanwhile, Michael Appleton's
problems as Blackpool manager continue, with former boss Ian Holloway
determined to take defender Neil Eardley to Crystal Palace.

Appleton, already facing a fight to
keep Tom Ince from Liverpool, does not want lose Eardley as well but
knows the player has a special relationship with Holloway, who signed
him soon after taking the job in 2009.

Jonas Gutierrez enjoys mate tea putting Newcastle United

Jonas is fuelled by special brew: How Gutierrez puts Newcastle and the world to rights over a cup of mate

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UPDATED:

23:38 GMT, 13 December 2012

Video: When Colin met Jonas

Watch Jonas Gutierrez introduce Colin Young to the ritual of mate

There is a daily ritual with a difference at Newcastle United’s training ground.

It is two men putting the club, and the world to rights over a cup of tea. But there is something slightly different about this quiet early morning get-together in the first team dressing room.

Jonas Gutierrez and Fabricio Coloccini enjoy the tranquillity of their surroundings before the rest of their team-mates start to arrive and fill the four walls with noise, banter and naked bodies.

The two Argentina internationals bring their own backpacks from home to enjoy a cup of mate (pronounced 'matay'). They take out their own small wooden cup (calabash gourd), and fill it three-quarters full with some Argentine green tea leaves (yerba mate), which is purchased online or brought back from international duties.

They then tilt the gourd and create a small hole by the side in the leaves with a silver straw (bombilla) and pour in a large mouthful of water from the flask they have filled from the kettle before leaving their houses. The bombilla acts as a straw and a sieve.

Setting the world to rights: Jonas Gutierrez (left) introduces Colin Young to the world of mate

Setting the world to rights: Jonas Gutierrez (left) introduces Colin Young to the world of mate

Normally you then pass your mate to your mate. But Coloccini and Gutierrez sip their own brews and discuss their favourite topic: Newcastle United.

Gutierrez – who also likes a cup of English tea in the afternoon – said: 'It is a tradition from Argentina and Uruguay. Everyday, morning, or afternoon, you sit with your family, or a group of friends and have a drink.

'Colo and I like to sit down and talk before training. We talk about the team, what is right and what is wrong. We always try to see how we can improve things.

'A few of the lads have tried it. Ryan Taylor didn’t like it all, he thought it was too strong and he pulled a very funny face. James Perch liked it but he doesn’t like coffee and he needed to put some sugar in it.’

Fans' favourite: The energetic Gutierrez has endeared himself to the Toon Army

Fans' favourite: The energetic Gutierrez has endeared himself to the Toon Army – and the feeling is mutual

There have been good times and bad for the Argentina internationals to contemplate over their four years on Tyneside.

Both
have admitted their failings as they tried to find their feet in their
debut seasons. They eventually slipped to the Championship. The pair
could have left after relegation, but were integral members of the squad
which returned to the Premier League wiser and stronger.

'When you look at the past you realise maybe things happen for a reason,’ he says now.

'Nobody wants to be relegated but it was the right moment for this club. It might have been the right time to start form zero and have a fresh beginning. It was a hard time but look where we are now.

'For me, the biggest thing at that time was when I spoke with Diego Maradona, who was national manager, he told me it didn’t matter where I played as long as I was playing.’ Maradona once said, when asked about his team selections, that it was 'Mascherano, Messi, Jonas and eight others’.

Suited and booted: Gutierrez takes a bite out of the Warrior Skreamer Pro

Suited and booted: Gutierrez takes a bite out of the Warrior Skreamer Pro

'That
was big,’ says Gutierrez, who comes up against Manchester City’s
Argentine trio of Tevez, Aguero and Zabaleta on Saturday lunchtime.

'It
would have put me in a difficult situation to jeopardise playing for
the national team and in the World Cup. Once he said that I didn’t need
anything else and I wanted to stay to get Newcastle back in the Premier
League.’

That
Gutierrez is a footballer at all is not something his parents could
have envisaged at the age of three when he suffered a severe illness
which resulted in paralysis of the top left-hand side of his body.

He
was encouraged by specialists to take up sport immediately to develop
his limbs and bones. For a boy brought up in a small town near Buenos
Aires, football was the only choice. Within six years he had joined
Velez Sarsfeld where he was to win the Argentine championship in 2005.

Getting stuck in: Gutierrez, who will skipper Newcastle when they face Manchester City, models his new boot

Getting stuck in: Gutierrez, who will skipper Newcastle when they face Manchester City, models his new boot

Gutierrez
said: 'I had a high temperature and it developed into a problem with my
body. I couldn’t move the left side of my body so the doctors said I
had to take up sport to help and my mother asked what I wanted to do.
And of course I just wanted to play football.

At ease: Gutierrez has found his spiritual home on Tyneside

At ease: Gutierrez has found his spiritual home on Tyneside

'Obviously
I don’t remember it but it was hard for my parents at the time but they
saw straight away that I was OK and I didn’t have any more problems. I
was just out every single day playing football in the streets with my
friends. I have very happy memories of my childhood and I love my town,
Saenz Pena.’

The
whole Gutierrez clan moved to Spain after the title success when he was
offered a contract with Real Mallorca, who had been Newcastle United’s
UEFA Cup opponents two years earlier.

Although
he was a success on the island, Gutierrez had his eye on a move to the
Premier League and even bought out his contract to move. Like Coloccini,
he has eventually proved one of the successes of the brief and messy
Dennis Wise era, after his switch from Mallorca was resolved by FIFA.

He may have a taste of home every day with his mates but Newcastle is very much his home now.

Gutierrez,
who captains the side in Coloccini’s absence, said: 'Newcastle is a
unique city and a unique club. The fans make the city and the club. They
make all the difference for the players.

'In
Argentina they are really passionate but some of the things that go on
at the stadium are nothing to do with football. Maybe they go to relieve
the stress of their week but I can’t understand it.

'I really enjoyed Spain. The weather is maybe better weather, especially in Majorca where you have sun nearly every day but I prefer the English football.

Kicking off: Gutierrez hopes Newcastle can buck a trend which seen the club lose five of their past six games

Kicking off: Gutierrez hopes Newcastle can buck a trend which seen the club lose five of their past six games

'The
gap between Real Madrid and Barcelona is too big and it makes league a
bit boring. You know when you start a season you are not going to fight
for first position.

'I
always dreamed to be a footballer when I was young and when I started
watching football from England I thought I would get there one day.
Mallorca was the right step at that time and made it easier to come
here.

'And I love it at
Newcastle. We had stability in our first season back and finished 11th,
then we got fifth place which was fantastic and we qualified for Europe,
which the club has not done for a while.

'We
have done a great job in the Europa League to qualify for the next
round but it has been hard in the league. The team has deserved to win
the last three games and we have players back now, which is important.

'Maybe we had more luck last year and we have to refocus and work hard to get results now. The fans have to be patient and believe in the team.’

Revenge mission: Gutierrez tries in vain to stop Yaya Toure scoring during Manchester City's 2-0 win at St James' Park in May

Revenge mission: Gutierrez tries in vain to stop Yaya Toure scoring during Manchester City's 2-0 win at St James' Park in May

The colourful new Warrior boots Gutierrez will now wear are not in keeping with his usual style to let his football doing his talking.

Perhaps they make up for the fact we will never see his famous Spiderman mask again. He has donned it on the few occasions he scored goals – it was forever appearing in the Championship season – but he’s ditched it now.

He added: 'The last time I did it the ref gave me a yellow card, and I prefer not to get a booking.

'I think the fans enjoyed it and I did but a booking can be really important, if you have to make a dirty foul and you’ve already been booked for getting the Spiderman mask out. I don’t think the manager or my team-mates would be very pleased.

'It is a shame but the team is the first thing I have to think about.’

Jonas Gutierrez wears the new Warrior Skreamer Pro boot

NBA Christmas Day 2012 jerseys: Barclays Premier League won"t follow suit

NBA stock up with special Christmas Day kits (but don't worry, our Premier League clubs won't follow suit…)

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UPDATED:

17:36 GMT, 30 November 2012

NBA teams will wear limited edition Christmas Day kits this year. But panicked parents in England must fear not – it isn't an idea ready to be embraced in the Barclays Premier League.

The NBA are certain to cash-in on the lucrative limited edition designs, which will be worn by all the major basketball teams on December 25.

However, Sportsmail understands it has never been on the agenda at Premier League HQ and such an idea for Boxing Day-only kits would have to be recommended and agreed to by the clubs.

Different ball game: NBA stars will wear special Christmas Day-only uniforms

Different ball game: NBA stars will wear special Christmas Day-only uniforms (below)

Different ball game: NBA stars will wear special Christmas Day-only uniforms

Premier League sides have their usual three kits approved in pre-season while officials granted special dispensation for them to wear the recent charitable Poppy kits (which clubs donated to raise funds for the Royal British Legion).

The NBA have explored the addition of one-off uniforms several times with previous themes including 'Latin Night', 'St Patrick's Day' and they will wear special training shirts for World Aids Day.

'The Christmas jerseys are fun,' said NBA commissioner David Stern, speaking exclusively to Sportsmail in New York.

'We're always doing throwback nights. We have Hispanic nights where the players' shirts will have 'Los Bulls' or 'Los Spurs' and sometimes we do a special uniform for some period of games. And so the idea for the Christmas Day jerseys came up and I was like, well let’s do it.

Standing firm: There are no plans to have Boxing Day-only kits in the Premier League

Standing firm: There are no plans to have Boxing Day-only kits in the Premier League

'The festive commercial we did, the cow of the bells isn't played actually because it is played by basketballs.

'These guys are bouncing basketballs and the idea was, let's do a limited number of Christmas Day uniforms (available at the NBA Europe store) and once they're sold out they are gone.

'It was like a kick of excitement. The commercial has over 5 million views within a week. That's crazy. I really do get a kick out of it.

'I wasn't really a big fan of all these changed uniforms. I came of age at a time when you looked at the TV set and you knew the Bulls were in red, the Celtics were in green, the Knicks were in blue, the Phoenix Suns had some orange configuration and the Lakers were the only ones who didn't wear white at home, they wore yellow.

Big seller: Miami Heat forward LeBron James is the most-purchased shirt by NBA fans

Big seller: Miami Heat forward LeBron James is the most-purchased shirt by NBA fans

'Then, all of a sudden New Orleans started wearing yellow in their home uniform and it was like, “Oh my God, everything's changing. Take me back to the good old days!”

'But you know what now – like with the Christmas uniforms – I think it's great. If you try it and you fail, you might look stupid but if you succeed then great.

'You've just got to let it go and don't take yourself too seriously.'

Miami Heat star LeBron James, meanwhile, was revealed as the biggest-selling shirt seller earlier this week.

'It's an honour to be No 1,' said James, who last had the league's best-selling jersey in April 2011.

WATCH THE NBA CHRISTMAS SPECIAL VIDEO

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The Detroit Pistons take on the New York Knicks on January 17 at NBA London Live at the O2 Arena. Watch every NBA game live or on demand via NBA LEAGUE PASS at: www.nba.com/leaguepass

David Beckham quits LA Galaxy

Beckham eyes next move after revealing he is quitting LA Galaxy… but it is Australia, China or even England now

PUBLISHED:

01:08 GMT, 20 November 2012

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UPDATED:

07:39 GMT, 20 November 2012

David Beckham is to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy – but has set his sights on one more challenge before retiring.

The 37-year-old is in line to end his six-year Galaxy stay in style as they defend their MLS Cup title against the Houston Dynamo on December 1.

He said: 'I've had an incredibly special time playing for the LA Galaxy, however, I wanted to experience one last challenge before the end of my playing career.

Time's up: Beckham wants to 'experience one last challenge' before hanging up his boots

Time's up: Beckham wants to 'experience one last challenge' before hanging up his boots

Beckham can expect the offers to start flooding in, particularly from growth leagues in Australia and China. There will also be some interest from England, although it is unlikely he will return there.

Australian club Melbourne Heart have confirmed they will try to lure Beckham to the A-League club.

Chief executive Scott Munn said the club planned to offer the midfielder a 10 week contract worth around 1million but they faced competition from at least two Australian clubs plus others from around the world.

Munn told Fox News: 'We're putting forward an offer, it's compelling and the opportunity is here for him to come here.

'That is absolutely legitimate. Let's let David get through next week, play the final of the MLS and hopefully he'll have a win. Then I'm sure he'll assess every offer.'

His final game will take place at the
Galaxy's own Home Depot Center, where he arrived on the American stage
as the first designated player in MLS back in 2007.

'I don't see this as the end of my
relationship with the league as my ambition is to be part of the
ownership structure in the future,' Beckham added.

'In my time here I have seen the
popularity of the game grow every year. I've been fortunate to win
trophies, but more important to me has been the fantastic reception I've
had from fans in LA and across the States.

'Soccer's potential has no limits in this wonderful country and I want to always be part of growing it.'

Landmark signing: Beckham has enjoyed five seasons with the LA Galaxy celebrating the MLS Cup in 2011 (below)

Landmark arrival: Beckham has enjoyed five seasons with then Galaxy celebrating the MLS Cup in 2011 (below)

Landmark signing: Beckham has enjoyed five seasons with the LA Galaxy celebrating the MLS Cup in 2011 (below)

American Dream: Beckham has helped change the face of the MLS

American Dream: Beckham has helped change the face of the MLS

Beckham had an option in his initial deal with the league that allowed him to take a future ownership role in a franchise.

Beckham's stint in Los Angeles brought success in the form of the Galaxy's third MLS Cup crown last year.

But he also faced repeated criticism
from some Galaxy fans, particularly early on in his stay, for a
perceived lack of commitment to the cause.

Two loan stints at AC Milan, during
the second of which he tore an Achilles tendon, as he attempted to keep
his place in the England team did little to help that perception, as
well as comments made while in Italy about the standard of football in
America.

Two low points arrived back in 2009
when Beckham confronted a fan during a match after his every touch was
booed and attracted criticism from team-mate Landon Donovan.

Since then he has won over many
supporters, in no small part due to a dramatic upturn in form over the
last two seasons, and he was voted the league's best player by fans
earlier this year, although his detractors still remain, particularly
among the club's hardcore followers known as the LA Riot Squad.

Beckham was brought to America as
much for the effect of his brand as his on-field ability, and MLS
commissioner Don Garber believes he has been successful in helping to
grow the sport.

Famous faces: The former England skipper meets US president Barack Obama

Famous faces: The former England skipper meets US president Barack Obama

'When David Beckham signed with the LA Galaxy in 2007, he set out to help grow MLS and the sport of soccer in North America,' he said.

'There is no doubt that MLS is far more popular and important here and abroad than it was when he arrived.

'David has achieved great things on and off the field during his time with the Galaxy, and he will always be an important part of our history. We look forward to his continued involvement with the LA Galaxy and the league.'

Beckham's initial contract with the league included a clause allowing him to be involved in owning an expansion team down the line.

Beckham negotiated his deal to join the Galaxy while at Real Madrid at the start of 2007, when he was out of favour with then coach Fabio Capello.

In Spain he added one league title to the six he won in England with United, as well as one FA Cup and a Champions League title in 1999 during United's storied treble season.

Capello later made Beckham a big part his England team – after being sidelined and subsequently recalled by previous manager Steve McClaren – ensuring he became the country's most capped outfield player.

The Achilles injury suffered at Milan ruled him out of the 2010 World Cup, however, and he was surprisingly left out of Stuart Pearce's Great Britain Olympic squad this summer.

Beckham factfile

1975: Born Leytonstone, May 2.

1991: Joins Manchester United as trainee.

1992: Makes debut against Brighton in the League Cup on September 23. Wins FA Youth Cup.

1993: Signs professional contract at Old Trafford.

1995: Joins Preston on loan in February and scores two goals in five games.

1996: Helps United to Premier League and FA Cup double.
Scores goal of the season on opening day at Wimbledon, lobbing Neil Sullivan from the halfway line. Makes his England debut in the 3-0 win in Moldova.

1997: Collects another championship winners' medal, voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

1998: Scores first England goal, a free-kick against Colombia in Lens on June 26. Sent off in second-round penalty shoot-out defeat against Argentina.

1999: Helps United win the Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup after coming from behind to beat Bayern Munich with two late goals.
Runner-up in World Player of the Year awards, behind Rivaldo.

2000: May – Collects fourth championship winner's medal as United win title by a record 18 points.
November – Named England captain for the November friendly with Italy in Turin by stand-in boss Peter Taylor.

2001: May – Collects another Premier League title with United.
October – Curls in a 25-yard last-minute free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford to earn England a 2-2 draw and send them into World Cup finals.

2002: May 11 – Signs new three-year contract reported to be worth between 90,000 and 100,000 a week.
June 7 – Scores from the penalty spot in the World Cup group stage match against Argentina to seal a 1-0 win.
England bow out in the quarter-finals at the hands of eventual winners Brazil.

2003: February – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson accidentally kicks a boot into Beckham's face in frustration at United's FA Cup defeat to Arsenal.
June 14 – Awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to football.
June 17 – United announce they have accepted a 25million bid from Real Madrid for Beckham, who agrees personal terms.

2004: June 24 – Misses a penalty as England lose to Portugal in a shoot-out in the Euro 2004 quarter-finals in Lisbon.

2005: November: Captains England for 50th time in friendly against Argentina in Geneva.
July 2 – Stands down as England captain.
August 11 – Dropped from squad for friendly against Greece, Steve McClaren's first match as manager.

2007: January 11 – Beckham announces he will leave Real Madrid and join Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Galaxy on a five-year contract in August.
January 13 – Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello says Beckham will never play for the club again.
May 26 – McClaren hands Beckham a shock England recall for matches against Brazil and Estonia.
June – Wins the La Liga title with Madrid, having won back his place in the team.
August 16 – Beckham scores his first goal for Galaxy on his full debut in the SuperLiga semi-final meeting with DC United with a trademark free-kick.

2008: March 26 – Wins 100th cap in the friendly against France.
October 30 – Milan announce Beckham will join them on loan on January 7, 2009.

2009: January 11 – Makes shock first start for Milan in 2-2 Serie A draw at Roma.
March 9 – AC Milan announce that under a unique 'timeshare' agreement, Beckham will stay with them in Italy until the end of the season, return to the Galaxy from July to October and then rejoin the Serie A club for the rest of the 2009-10 campaign.
March 28 – Comes on as a half-time substitute against Slovakia at Wembley to win his 109th cap and break Bobby Moore's record for an outfield player.
July 20, 27 – Twice confronts fans who gave him a hostile reception in his first home games after returning to the Galaxy.

2010: March 14 – Tears his Achilles tendon in AC Milan's 1-0 win over Chievo – an injury that rules him out of the World Cup.
June – Part of England's backroom staff for World Cup campaign which ends in second-round defeat to Germany.
August 11 – England career appears to be at an end when Capello tells ITV: 'Probably he is a little bit old.'

2011: November 20 – Wins the MLS Cup as the Galaxy beat Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the final.
December 31 – Five-year deal at the Galaxy expires.

2012: January 19 – Re-signs with the Galaxy.
June 28 – Announces he has not been included in Team GB's squad for the Olympic Games.
November 16 – Football Federation Australia claim a representative of Beckham approaches them with a view to the midfielder making a short-term move to the A-League in the MLS off-season. A Beckham spokesman says his client has “absolutely no plans to play in Australia”.
November 20 – Confirms he is to leave the Galaxy after MLS Cup on December 1.

Steffen Freund says Tottenham are closing on Arsenal

We're closing the gap on Arsenal, insists Spurs assistant manager Freund

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UPDATED:

19:52 GMT, 13 November 2012

Tottenham are close to ending Arsenal's 18-year domination of north London, Steffen Freund claims.

Spurs head to Arsenal on Saturday looking to extend the one-point gap that currently separates the two rivals, who sit in seventh and eighth respectively.

Freund in particular does not need reminding that the white half of north London has remained the unhappier of section of the bitter divide since the 1994-95 season when Gerry Francis was in charge.

North London battle: Steffen Freund (left) believes Spurs have closed the gap on Arsenal

North London battle: Steffen Freund (left) believes Spurs have closed the gap on Arsenal

During the German's playing career at White Hart Lane, Arsenal finished in the top two every season and Spurs could do no better than ninth.

But Freund, who returned to White Hart Lane this summer to take on the role of assistant manager, thinks things have improved drastically for Spurs since his playing days there.

'Spurs are really close to Arsenal,' said Freund, who played for Tottenham from 1998 to 2003.

'We are definitely in a better position.

'In my time they used to be involved in the title race every year and we finished ninth or 10th.

'That has changed now. We are really close to our biggest rival.'

This is arguably the first season in a while that neither team can consider themselves genuine title challengers.

That does not seem to have quashed Freund's passion surrounding Saturday's meeting at the Emirates Stadium, and the overall rivalry between the two sides though.

'It would be great to finish above Arsenal,' said Freund, who played 120 times for Tottenham.

Special game: Tottenham face Arsenal on Saturday at the Emirates

Special game: Tottenham face Arsenal on Saturday at the Emirates

'It would be a great experience for me too because it has never happened for me in the past.

'I can't wait for that game. It's a special game.

'There are only two of these games every season.'

Despite his desire to get one over on Tottenham's neighbours on Saturday, Freund does not subscribe to the theory that Arsene Wenger's star is fading.

The Gunners have endured another miserable start to the season, but Freund still admires the Arsenal boss.

'He is doing a fantastic job,' the German said.

'Arsenal have played Champions League every year and that is a lot of money for the club. That makes it a lot easier for them to buy players.'

England caps are still an honour – Jeff Powell

England caps are an honour… so wear them with pride like Bobby once did

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UPDATED:

23:54 GMT, 12 November 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Gerrard emulates Moore on the eve of his 100th England cap

Click here to see the pictures as Steven Gerrard shares a special moment with pupils at his former school — emulating the famous picture of England's iconic captain

They're abandoning ship faster than the rats on the Titanic.

Men for whom it should be a matter of enormous pride to play for their countries are pulling out of international matches this week faster than they can bank their club pay cheques at the rate of 10 a minute.

Never mind the national pride, here’s the sick note. Basically it reads: ‘It’s only a friendly.’

Centurion: The legendary Bobby Moore posed with 99 schoolboys each wearing an England cap prior to winning his 100th as an England player

Centurion: Bobby Moore posed with 99 schoolboys each
wearing an England cap prior to winning his 100th

Time was when these games were nearly all friendlies and great players would have given – if not quite their right arms – at least a couple of fingers for the privilege of pulling on the shirt.

Now they pull a pained expression.

The world might never have heard of Ferenc Puskas and his mighty Magyars had it not been for the small matter of a so-called non-competitive match at Wembley in the spring of 1953, when Hungary stormed the hitherto impregnable fortress of English football and fired a six-goal salvo into the heart of our national game.

A year later, in the return friendly, they made it seven and changed us forever.

John Barnes would not have immortalised himself with a wonder goal in the cathedral of Rio’s Maracana unless England had travelled to Brazil to practice playing against those infernal South Americans.

That friendly is more fondly remembered than any England World Cup match of late.

Magnificent Magyars: Hungary's Ferenc Puskas (right) greets Billy Wright at Wembley in 1953

Magnificent Magyars: Hungary's Ferenc Puskas (right) greets Billy Wright at Wembley in 1953

The cap which Barnes received for his exploit is the most cherished of his mementoes. It seems there are England players now who would rather put a baseball cap on backwards and go for a night out.

Roy Hodgson is not so much England’s new manager as the secretary of a youth club, so little known are some of the kids he is calling up for national service in Sweden on Wednesday evening.

Frankly, at first glance, I thought Zaha was a clothes shop. It turns out he is a lad who, until yesterday, had been torn between playing for England or the Ivory Coast… someday.

I wish the lad well but if he does plump for this country I hope he never forgets that his big chance came in the kind of game which so many of his elders – and supposedly betters – are in the habit of calling ‘meaningless.’

Neither Bobby Moore or Bobby Charlton ever described any England match in which they took part in such disparaging terms. Nor did any of their distinguished peers. For men like these, it was always an honour to play for the country.

And even though David Beckham is a long-time sparring partner of mine, it has to be said that he always wanted to play in every England game. In fact, still does.

Unforgettable: John Barnes embarks on his epic run before scoring against Brazil at the Maracana in 1984

Unforgettable: John Barnes embarks on his epic run before scoring against Brazil at the Maracana in 1984

Although it was country first for the older gentlemen of England they were conscious, also, that every international appearance enhanced their reputations both at home and abroad.

They knew, too, that if they wanted to become World Cup stars it was only proper that they served their time and answered the call every time it came.

Now no-one doubts that John Terry is on crutches for a reason after that leg-crunching collision on Sunday.

But while it could well be that yesterday’s scans of other celebrated limbs revealed serious hurt, we can be forgiven for expecting that a whole posse of celebrated names missing from the passenger manifest for the flight to Stockholm will suddenly reappear, right as rain, in the Premier League this weekend.

Maybe there is pressure from some leading managers – Arsene Wenger for one is a leading campaigner for the abolition of friendlies – but the kind of strong-minded footballer who ought to be picked for England should be able to resist.

Patriot: David Beckham would still play for England in every match if he were selected

Patriot: David Beckham would still play for England in every match if he were selected

It’s not only the English chaps, of course, Robin van Persie – who came under Wenger’s influence for a long time at Arsenal – is one of many overseas Premier Leaguers opting out of ‘friendly’ week on the Continent.

In a perfect world, all the replacements would do so amazingly well that the services of the cynical old drop-outs would not be required in future.

That is most unlikely to happen, of course. But perhaps the mere thought of it might send out a reminder to the celebrities that since much of their fame and fortune is garnered from playing in the big World Cup games we expect in return that they pay their dues on the less glamorous occasions.

And if that’s not enough, in this of all weeks, let them not forget to wear not only their poppies with pride… but also their caps.

Steven Gerrard with school children ahead of 100th England cap – behind the scenes video

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of Sportsmail's exclusive photograph as 99 excited children meet Liverpool and England captain Gerrard

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UPDATED:

23:22 GMT, 12 November 2012

They say never work with children or animals – and taking a photograph of 99 kids so excited to be in the company of Steven Gerrard was something I feared would be difficult.

But the kids were great, as were the staff at Huyton-with-Roby Church of England Primary School, and their reaction when Steven suddenly appeared was brilliant.

Scroll down for the video

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Hats off: The England and Liverpool captain poses a number of exclusive snaps taken by Daily Mail Chief Sports Photographer Andy Hooper

Hats off: The England and Liverpool captain poses for a number of exclusive snaps taken by Daily Mail Chief Sports Photographer Andy Hooper

Enlarge

Hats off: The England and Liverpool captain poses a number of exclusive snaps taken by Daily Mail Chief Sports Photographer Andy Hooper

A stunned silence, then some chants of 'Gerrard, Gerrard' and then a moment of pure comedy when a little girl raised her hand and asked to go for 'a wee-wee'.

The idea was for the kids not to see Steven until the last moment, so that it would create a spontaneous moment; a sense of surprise. But I ended up taking about 100 pictures in 40 minutes, with every frame capturing a special moment. You see kids yawning or looking at the friend next to them or pulling a funny face.

At the same time I wanted Steven to be quite serious, just like Bobby Moore was in the 1973 shot, and looking straight at me. I don't display many of my pictures but this one is going on the wall.

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To cap it all: Gerrard with 99 pupils from his old school in Huyton

To cap it all: Gerrard with 99 pupils
from his old school in Huyton

VIDEO: Behind the scenes as the excited children meet their hero

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