Tag Archives: spirit

Gareth Bale says Tottenham team spirit will help Premier League and Europa League campaigns

Spurs' spirit will see us bid for glory on two fronts until the end of the season, says Bale

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

19:53 GMT, 1 April 2013

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UPDATED:

23:10 GMT, 1 April 2013

Gareth Bale has said Tottenham can keep fighting on two fronts until the end of the season, claiming Champions League football for next season and challenging for the Europa League.

Spurs sit in third in the Premier League, five points ahead of north London rivals Arsenal in fifth, but have played a game more than the Gunners.

They also host Basel in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday, but talisman Bale believes the togetherness in the squad will see them through.

Ready to go: Gareth Bale said Tottenham can use their team spirit to compete on two fronts

Ready to go: Gareth Bale said Tottenham can use their team spirit to compete on two fronts

Bale

'We are a very close group as a team. At some places there's little groups here and little groups there but we have got a great team spirit and we want to take that into the rest of the season,' Bale told Eurosport.

'The main thing for us is that we don’t get carried away. We're comfortably able to finish fourth in the league and competing for third – we've got to take it game by game.

'We can push on in the Europa League as well against Basle. Our away form has been very good – we showed that against Lyon. We want to do as well as we can in both competitions.'

Bale's stunning strike against Swansea in Spurs' 2-1 win at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday was his 22nd for Spurs in all competitions this season, prompting some to brand him as one of the best in the world.

Flying high: Bale scored his 22nd goal of the season for Spurs against Swansea on Saturday

Flying high: Bale scored his 22nd goal of the season for Spurs against Swansea on Saturday

But for the man himself, two giants of the Spanish League are still the ones to beat.

'Ronaldo and Messi have set the standard as the best players in the world, and everyone wants to play like them' said Bale.

'Year by year I'm improving and I can still improve.'

Nigel Adkins sacking by Southampton and replacement with Mauricio Pochettino is lunacy

Adkins sacking is lunacy but Saints must heed warning from Chelsea fans' abuse

By
James Coney, Money Mail Editor

PUBLISHED:

15:56 GMT, 18 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:43 GMT, 18 January 2013

You’d find it hard to find one
football fan, let alone any who support Southampton, who does not
believe the sacking of Nigel Adkins is complete madness.

Saints
had a terrible first few games back in the top flight. But even though
they lost eight in 10 matches there were few fans who lost confidence Adkins would get the team out of trouble.

And
the faith was rewarded. Saints have lost two in just 12 games,
including draws at Chelsea and Stoke and at home to Arsenal.

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Ruthless: Nigel Adkins was sacked by Southampton despite consecutive promotions and improved form

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Saint marching in: Former Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino is the shock appointment at St Mary's

Even though the side are just above the relegation places, there are few who don’t believe the only way is up.

The players clearly respect Adkins and the fans adore him.

Yet
club chairman Nicola Cortese has sacked the manager of a team, who just
two days drew, and almost beat, the champions of Europe.

He
has been replaced with a man few will have heard of, and by all
accounts speaks little English. His managerial career hardly sparkles –
getting Espanyol a couple of mid-table finishes before being sacked when
they were at the foot of La Liga.

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

Fighting spirit: Rickie Lambert (second left) helped the Saints hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw just two days ago

FRANTIC FRIDAY

Read all the news of an unbelievable day on the south coast in MailOnline:

Southampton SACK Adkins and replace him with Pochettino just two days after drawing away at European champions Chelsea

Meet the man Southampton hope will keep them up… Pochettino unveiled but he can't speak English and admits he has been researching the Saints 'for several weeks'!

From sinner to Saint: Watch Southampton boss Pochettino foul Owen in the box

But
what is going through the head of every Saints fan will be this: Please
don’t let this be the start of another managerial merry-go-round.

Saints had 12 managers in eight years
before being relegated. Many of these were hopeless, some went on to
bigger clubs.

But sacking one who had gained two promotions in
consecutive seasons and had bought and built a talented team which
players bright attractive football seems like lunacy.

I
was at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. Three times the travelling
support sung Adkins’ name – even when the side were trailing 2-0 at half
time.

By contrast I
was struck by the horrible atmosphere among the Chelsea fans who despise
the sacking of their former manager. The abuse and animosity is having a
detrimental effect on the team’s home performances.

It’s a warning Saints supporters should heed.

I suspect there will now be the same level of anger towards the chairman by the Saints fans.
And
if that starts affecting performances then a side which was slowly
climbing the table could quickly fall back in to trouble.

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

First day: Pochettino gives his first press conference on Friday, ahead of Saints' game with Everton on Monday

Australian Open 2013: Jamie Baker loses to Lukas Rosol in first round

Baker's Aussie dream is over after Brit falls to Nadal's Wimbledon conqueror Rosol

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

07:45 GMT, 15 January 2013

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UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 15 January 2013

Jamie Baker was left to rue some missed opportunities as he fell in the first round of the Australian Open to the man who famously knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon last year.

Playing on a far outside court in the enormous shadow of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the 26-year-old Scot led in both the first and second sets before he became overpowered by the athletic figure of Czech Lukas Rosol 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a shade over two hours.

Having typically battled hard to make it through the qualifying event it was a disappointing outcome for the British No 2 but winning those three preliminary matches still makes it a decent start to the season for the world No 246.

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Over and out: Jamie Baker lost at the first hurdle to Lukas Rosol at the Australian Open

Against 75th ranked Rosol, who played like Godzilla back in June to beat the stricken Nadal in five sets, he had to rely on his counterpunching skills from the back of the court but they served him well early on as his opponent started to get frustrated.

Baker broke for 6-5 in the opener when he played a clever chip-and-charge manoeuvre that brought an error from Rosol. Trying to serve it out, however, he allowed three break points against him and on the last one hit a forehand into the net.

The Briton, an off season training partner of Andy Murray in Miami, was always behind in the tiebreaker as Rosol threw caution to the wind and hit out to take it 7-5, having built up a 6-3 lead.

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

Cruise control: Rosol knocked Rafael Nadal out at Wimbledon and was in no mood to be shocked himself

The second set was also a story of Baker not being able to capitalise on his lead as he went ahead 4-1 and 5-3 and again was unable to close it out. Rosol reeled off four games and Baker’s fighting spirit was sapped, with daylight between them in the third.

Consolation for the Scot is the 18,000 first-round loser’s money and a boost from his wins last week.

Having fought more than his fair share of injuries he is at least heading in the right direction.

Anders Lindegaard hails Manchester United team spirit

While City are fighting amongst themselves, Lindegaard claims United's spirit is sky high as they home in on title

By
Graeme Yorke

PUBLISHED:

11:59 GMT, 5 January 2013

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UPDATED:

12:34 GMT, 5 January 2013

Anders Lindegaard believes Manchester United's impressive festive form is down to team spirit – unlike their neighbours across the city.

The Premier League leaders took 10 points from a possible 12 over Christmas and New Year to open up a seven-point gap between themselves and Manchester City.

And while Mario Balotelli was involved in a training ground bust-up with his manager Roberto Mancini, Lindegaard and his United team-mates were reaping the rewards of a positive atmosphere.

All smiles: Anders Lindegaard praised Manchester United's team spirit

All smiles: Anders Lindegaard praised Manchester United's team spirit

'The team spirit is as high as I can remember since I came here [in December 2010],” he told MUTV.

'We have done tremendously well over the Christmas period and picked up some great results, only dropping points against Swansea – which was a game that we should have won in my opinion.

'We have done brilliantly and you can see that in the team spirit as well, people are happy and there’s a good, friendly and funny atmosphere in the locker room. It’s a joy coming into work at the moment.

Flip side: Mario Balotelli clashed with Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini

Flip side: Mario Balotelli clashed with Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini

'Training is not hard work during the Christmas period because we have so many games. We just come in and prepare for the next game and then we go again.

The games are obviously very hard, but the training in itself is not as hard as during other parts of the year.

'Mentally it’s a very hard period and I think the Christmas programme this year has been tougher than others while I’ve been at United.

At home: Dane Lindegaard is content at the Premier League club

At home: Dane Lindegaard is content at the Premier League club

But it’s a good feeling to come out after New Year’s Day with a lot of good results, a good atmosphere and sitting at the top of the table. We can now focus on the next games and getting more good results.'

Frank Lampard and John Terry post Christmas present picture and Chelsea players record video messages

Blue Christmas: Terry posts picture of him and Lampard having a whale of a time

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UPDATED:

12:15 GMT, 25 December 2012

Chelsea captain John Terry was clearly in the Christmas spirit as he posted this picture of himself and Frank Lampard on his Instagram account.

The mocked up pic shows Terry having the time of his life with a Scalextric set and Lampard enjoying himself on a child's tricycle.

Scroll down for video

Top Crimbo: John Terry and Frank Lampard play with toys in this mocked up picture the Chelsea skipper posted

Top Crimbo: John Terry and Frank Lampard play with toys in this mocked up picture the Chelsea skipper posted

Although these would be fine Christmas gifts for anybody, Chelsea fans would rather Lampard was presented with a new contract.

He scored a cracker against Aston Villa from outside the box in Chelsea's 8-0 triumph on Sunday night.

Chants of 'sign him up' and 'Super Frankie Lampard' reverberated around the stadium as the fans made their point to Rafael Benitez and Roman Abramovich.

Other Chelsea players also got in the Christmas spirit by recording some short messages for this video below.

Season's greetings: Ashley Cole and David Luiz (below)

Season's greetings: Ashley Cole and David Luiz (below)

David Luiz

Oscar, Oriol Romeu, Cesar Azpilicueta, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata, David Luiz and Terry all offered their supporters season's greetings.

Luiz had to tell his rowdy team-mates to 'shut up' as they were making too much noise while he recorded his segment.

Fan favourites: Juan Mata and Petr Cech (below) wished the supporters good tidings

Fan favourites: Juan Mata and Petr Cech (below) wished the supporters good tidings

Petr Cech

Players also took to Twitter as well to pass on their messages.

Victor Moses said: 'Merry Christmas everyone have a lovely day', while Ashley Cole added: 'Merry Christmas people have a lovely day and make sure you drink lots of wine and beer #enjoy'.

Stoke City defence among best in Europe

Europe's meanest defences: Bayern, Juventus, PSG, Malaga and… Stoke

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 23 December 2012

It was not the prettiest way to earn a point, but Stoke City will not care about that. The goalless draw for Tony Pulis’s side at Tottenham was their eighth consecutive match unbeaten – their best run since returning to the top flight in 2008.

‘You have to respect them,’ said Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas. ‘I admire other types of football, but you have to respect Stoke.’

The foundation of their form has been defence: the best in the Barclays Premier League in terms of goals conceded (just 13 in 18 games) and clean sheets (nine). Here is a closer look at what Villas-Boas calls one of the ‘best defences in Europe’.

Cornered: Kyle Walker of Spurs faces a wall of Stoke defiance

Cornered: Kyle Walker of Spurs faces a wall of Stoke defiance

HARD WORK

Stoke’s work-rate is frightening. They chase and hurry their opponents, closing them down within seconds, and get back into position quickly. They tired a little during the second half against Tottenham, but you could not help but applaud and admire Stoke’s work ethic and intensity at White Hart Lane.

‘We do work very, very hard,’ said Pulis. ‘There’s a great spirit among the lads. They’ve had a Christmas party by themselves – everybody turned up and had a great night and they took the wives out and had a great night with their wives.’

CONSISTENT SELECTION

Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth have started every Premier League game in central defence for Stoke this season. Compare that to Steven Caulker of Spurs, who has partnered Michael Dawson, William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen.

Leading by example: Captain Ryan Shawcross marshals the back four

Leading by example: Captain Ryan Shawcross marshals the back four

Stoke’s success is based on each player knowing their role in the system, while the manager offers constant reminders as he barks instructions from the touchline.

‘We spend a lot of time on our system,’ said Pulis. ‘And if the players don’t, they don’t play.’ Simple.

DEFENDING DEEP

Stoke’s back four seem to squeeze the final third of the pitch, leaving no space behind for their opponents to exploit. It took Tottenham at least 20 minutes to realise Jermain Defoe was not going to be effective playing as the most advanced striker because there was no opportunity to sprint on to a through ball – or anything delivered over the top.

Emmanuel Adebayor was sent up to do aerial battle with Shawcross and Huth, but there was no chance for Defoe to pounce on the second ball.

WHO’S GEOFF CAMERON

Stoke’s right back on Saturday used to play for Rhode Island Stingrays. The USA international has been quietly impressive since his move from Houston Dynamo last summer. Not many players frustrate Gareth Bale so much that he moves to the right wing.

The gaffer: Pulis gives his instructions from the touchline

The gaffer: Pulis gives his instructions from the touchline

64 keeping it clean.jpg

HEIGHT

Aaron Lennon had no chance on Saturday, did he Stoke’s back four lines up like a rugby second row: Cameron (6ft 3in), Huth (6ft 3in), Shawcross (6ft 3in) and Wilkinson (5ft 11in). They seize advantage at corners and set-pieces and force opponents to play the ball to feet.

PLAYING ON THE COUNTER

Stoke counter-attack with pace, power and discipline, something Kenwyne Jones and Jon Walters did particularly well on Saturday. But Stoke average less than a goal a game this season as the joint lowest scorers in the top flight along with QPR and Aston Villa. They have scored only 15 goals.

NO-ONE LIKES US, WE DON’T CARE

Stoke revel in their reputation as the so-called enemies of football. It can work against them sometimes when it comes to refereeing decisions, but Tottenham knew exactly what to expect on Saturday and yet still could not break them down.

Villas-Boas said: ‘If it was easy, then Stoke wouldn’t have one of the best defences in Europe. They’ve proved that. There’s no space behind, they’re well organised, they do well on the counter and through crosses they are taller than you.

‘When you play through passes, they outnumber you.’

Jack Wilshere welcomes Christmas break after Arsenal win at Wigan

Wilshere looking forward to Christmas break after hailing Arsenal's win at Wigan

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UPDATED:

14:11 GMT, 23 December 2012

Jack Wilshere hailed Arsenal's fighting spirit after the Gunners ground out a victory over Wigan that lifted them back into the Champions League places.

The Gunners had been at their free-flowing best in thumping Reading 5-2 on Monday but had to show a different side to their game in Saturday's 1-0 win at the DW Stadium.

The Latics more than matched their opponents on a sodden pitch but Arsenal made it three Barclays Premier League wins in a row thanks to Mikel Arteta's hotly-disputed penalty.

Festive cheer: Jack Wilshere, alongside Theo Walcott, was delighted with Arsenal's victory at Wigan

Festive cheer: Jack Wilshere, alongside Theo Walcott, was delighted with Arsenal's victory at Wigan

Arsene Wenger's side have been criticised in the past for slipping up in such games, and Wilshere said: “We got the points and we showed a different side to our game.

'It's a tough place to come to, Wigan, and they play a strange formation compared to other teams in England. They caused us some problems but we dealt well with it.

'It was a big adjustment with the pitch and the conditions but we showed great character. We know we can come to places like this and dig out results and we have to keep doing that.

'All the big teams when they come here, maybe they don't play very well but they seem to get results and we've done that.'

It has been an excellent week for Arsenal with two victories and five players signing new long-term contracts, including Wilshere.

The 20-year-old has been in very good form since returning to action in October following more than a year out with an ankle injury.

Art attack: Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's winner after scoring from the penalty spot at the DW Stadium

Art attack: Mikel Arteta celebrates Arsenal's winner after scoring from the penalty spot at the DW Stadium

He said: 'It was nice to sign the new contract and I'm thankful for all the support the club have given me.

'This is a great club, everyone can see that, and for me it's like home. My friends and family are down the road, I've grown up at this club so I really feel like part of the family.

'I think I've shown commitment to the club and they've shown it to me so I think we have a good thing going on.'

The Gunners are now in the unusual position of having a week until their next game after the scheduled Boxing Day clash against West Ham was postponed because of a threatened tube strike.

They will aim to make it four league victories in a row next Saturday against Newcastle, who gained a much-needed win over QPR to pull away from the bottom three.

Wilshere said: 'I think this will be one of my first and only Christmases at home. It's going to be quite nice to have a day with the family and then go again at the weekend.

'It's a tough game against Newcastle. They need the points, they're not in a good run of form and they'll want to prove something but we want to keep this momentum going.

'At times it's been tough this season but it seems we've got a good thing going on and we have to keep it going and end the year on a high.'

Arsenal players sing Christmas songs in fans video

Santi Cazorla's coming to town: Gunners give us their top three picks from the fans chant competition

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UPDATED:

10:53 GMT, 21 December 2012

It looks as though Arsenal’s 5-2 thrashing of Reading may have brought a little festive spirit to the Emirates Stadium.

Armed with an array of musical instruments, including some maracas and a harmonica, a few of the Arsenal boys belted out some potential Christmas chants for their fans.

They selected the top three choices from the fans chant competition, which included ‘Santi Cazorla’s coming to town.’

Scroll down for video

Enlarge

The Arsenal team sang their top three fan chants

The Gunners still look merry off the back of their 5-2 victory over Reading

Tomas Rosicky joined the Arsenal team in singing some fan chants

Tomas Rosicky put in a winning performance on the guitar as the team sang 'Santi Cazorla's Coming to Town'

Theo Walcott seemed to be enjoying his turn with the tambourine, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny took the lead on vocals.

He was backed up by Tomas Rosicky and Johan Djourou, who were pleased with the team’s rendition of ‘Call Me Szczesny.’

But their best performance had to be their third – ‘A Little Bit of Arsenal’ set to the tune of Mambo No 5.

Fans can vote for their favourite chant on the Junior Gunners website. Those who do will be in with a chance of winning a PS3 games console.

Ian Wright says Arsenal fans trusting in Arsene Wenger are deluded

If you trust in Arsene you're deluded! Wright joins other Gunners legends and turns on Wenger

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UPDATED:

17:44 GMT, 14 December 2012

Ian Wright has labelled Arsenal fans 'deluded' if they still support Arsene Wenger as manager, joining a host of Arsenal legends in rounding on the Gunners' boss.

Speaking on Absolute Radio, the former Arsenal striker said: 'There’s a lot of deluded Arsenal fans, who are out in the wilderness, still saying “In Arsene We Trust” and all that.

'It is a unique position that Wenger is in – I think that any other manager in any country, in any world, with a record like this and no prospect of light at the end of the tunnel – they would have been gone by now.

Speak your mind: Ian Wright blasted Arsenal fans who still backed the sentiment of 'In Wenger we trust'

Speak your mind: Ian Wright blasted Arsenal fans who still backed the sentiment of 'In Wenger we trust'

And Wright, one of Arsenal’s greatest ever forwards, has called on Arsenal and their manager to start being honest with their supporters.

'When you hear him do interviews after a game and say that he has a great team with a good spirit – well, hang on a minute, we really are not seeing that.

'He may be seeing something in training that we aren’t seeing but he doesn’t tell the truth and say what is happening. And what I’ve said for years and years is that I want some transparency.

'I just want to know, what is going on Have you (Wenger) got any money to spend or haven’t you Is it the board not giving you the money to spend or is it the case that the board are giving you money to spend but you aren’t spending it

'Is that too hard a question to answer Arsenal, with the size of that club that I love, should not be in the predicament that it finds itself in right now.'

However, Wright does not believe that Wenger will choose to leave the club out of his own volition, telling presenter Christian O’Connell replied: 'No. He won’t step down. I don’t think he’s that kind of person.'

The former England striker is the latest in a series of former Arsenal heroes who have blasted Wenger since Arsenal’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Bradford in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night.

Pressure: Arsene Wenger is under the cosh at the moment with fans and former club legends turning on him

Pressure: Arsene Wenger is under the cosh at the moment with fans and former club legends turning on him

Former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit, who spent three years at the club in the 1990s, has this morning claimed that Arsenal are now seen as a stepping stone to greater things and fears that the club will struggle to attract top-name signings given their current form.

Petit, 42, said: 'The big worry today is that even if Arsenal have the money who are they going to get to join the club now

'The idea they have been giving off for seven years is that it’s a club which doesn’t win trophies and at the end of the season their best players will leave.

'The feeling is that Arsenal are creating a generation of players who will leave in the hope of going to another club in order to win something.'

Meanwhile, Wenger has also come under fire from former Arsenal boss George Graham, who has criticised the manager and the board for their lack of ambition in the transfer market, and does not believe that the club are capable of winning another Premier League title.

Graham, who also managed Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur, told The Sun: “I don’t think Arsenal are ever going to compete with Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Struggle: Emmanuel Petit (left) said big name players might not want to join the club

Struggle: Emmanuel Petit (left) said big name players might not want to join the club

'I thought they could have competed with United because they don’t spend the money the other two do, but Arsenal are not going to compete with them either.

'They have got a structure at the club on transfers and wages. They are very strict on those. They have more or less said to fans that is the way they are going to run the club.

'They can still pick up cups and qualify for Europe, but will they win the Premier League title again I can’t see it.'

However, former Gunners’ midfielder Ray Parlour has defended Wenger, explaining that Wenger will be dealing with the issues behind the scenes.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, he explained: 'I played under Arsene Wenger and thought he was a great manager when I was there. He was always one of those managers you could talk to.'

Silverware: George Graham (right) and Tony Adams at the end of the 1990-91 season in which Arsenal won the title and the former picked up the manager of the year trophy

Silverware: George Graham (right) and Tony Adams at the end of the 1990-91 season in which Arsenal won the title and the former picked up the manager of the year trophy

'Arsene Wenger is one of those sort of guys who will always try to stick up for his players.

'We would have meetings after games and it would all come out in the dressing room, which (is how) it should be. It is a private matter between the players, the manager and the staff.

'It was quite embarrassing to lose to Bradford, there is no doubting that, but I think he is one of those guys who does criticise people behind the scenes instead of in the press.'

Edu, the former Arsenal player and director of football at Corinthians is ready to take on Chelsea

Arsenal old boy Edu-cated in the Corinthian spirit and ready to take on Chelsea

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UPDATED:

23:12 GMT, 14 December 2012

Among the bustle of the Corinthians camp here is a familiar figure. Tall, lean and tanned with an easy smile and elegant style is a man who played more than a hundred times for Arsenal.

Edu Gaspar spent four years at Highbury, winning the Premier League title twice and the FA Cup three times. His final game for the Gunners came as they collected their last trophy in the 2005 FA Cup final.

Though still only 34, he is director of football at Corinthians, the South American champions who will contest the world title with Chelsea on Sunday. It is a powerful role at Brazil’s richest club with huge power and he is in charge of highly desirable footballers; his phone is alive with interest in Paulinho.

On the ball: Edu Gaspar is now director of football at Corinthians

On the ball: Edu Gaspar is now director of football at Corinthians

Arsenal old boy Edu

Arsenal old boy Edu

BIG MATCH ESSENTIAL
Corinthians ended their long wait for a first South American title in July this year, beating Boca Juniors of Argentina 3-1 in the two-legged Copa Libertadores final. They were the first team since Boca in 1978 to win it without losing a game.

Managed by Tite, they are an industrious team who reflect their working-class heritage and rely upon mental toughness and organisation. Paulinho is the star attraction, but even he is renowned for his work ethic.

The Sao Paulo team — formed in 1910 and named after the English club Corinthians who travelled to Brazil that year — did win the inaugural FIFA Club World Cup in 2000 when they qualified as Brazilian champions. They beat Vasco da Gama in the final.

Corinthians fans are known as the Fiel — the Faithful — and revel in a Crazy Gang reputation. Up to 20,000 have travelled and there are 200,000 Brazilians living in Japan. ‘They’re not here to put pressure on us, they’re here to rejoice,’ said Tite.

They may contest the title of most popular club in Brazil with Rio’s Flamengo, but Corinthians have overtaken Flamengo and Sao Paulo to boast football’s most valuable brand in Brazil, valued at 310million by Forbes this year.

Sunday’s referee is Turkey’s Cuneyt Cakir, who was in charge when Chelsea lost 3-0 at Juventus — Roberto Di Matteo’s final game. He is also the ref who sent off John Terry in Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final second leg and booked Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles, getting all four banned from the final in Munich.

‘When a player says he wants to join another club or have another experience, I have to respect that,’ said Edu. ‘But if I see they are happy, it is easy to keep them.

‘Paulinho is happy, his family is happy, he is enjoying it and he is one of the most important footballers in Brazil, along with Neymar.

‘Brazilian football is strong and the economy is getting better. Our club is one of the richest in Brazil. We can keep good players like Paulinho. We can buy good players. That makes it an exciting time to be in Corinthians.’

Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea are among those linked with the 24-year-old Brazil star.

‘He is a modern midfielder,’ said Edu. ‘He scores a lot of goals, plays box-to-box and is never injured. He has a Brazilian way of playing but is also strong and plays hard, like you need in the Premier League.’

Edu is proud of the Corinthians fans, famed in Brazil football for their devotion. Some 20,000 have travelled to Japan, selling cars and quitting jobs to pay their way.

‘I was born in Corinthians,’ said Edu. ‘I started playing for Corinthians at five, I went to the first team, won important titles, was sold and then I came back and finished my career here and now I’m a director.

‘Corinthians is a club like no other in the world. Now, it is a rich club but it came from the poor people. Corinthians fans sell cars to come here, borrow money from the bank and lose jobs to take money from the government to come here.’

Once Edu was robbed at gunpoint at home in Sao Paulo and the intruders asked him to sign autographs. These days, he can smile about it as he mimes scribbling his name with a quaking hand. Recently, he stopped his car outside the club’s Pacaembu ground to pose with a supporter, who asked him for five Brazilian reals, worth about 1.50.

‘He was borrowing money from everybody and writing down exactly what he owed,’ said Edu.

‘He would write, “From Edu, I borrowed 10 reals; from another guy, I borrow five reals”. When he put the money all together, it was like that, a pile more than three centimetres high. He said, “This is not money for other things. This is money to go to Japan.”

‘I gave him some money, of course. I said, “You go there”. I haven’t seen him. That’s a shame. It would be fantastic to see this guy.’

Talent: Paulinho is highly-rated and sought after by teams including Sunday's opponents Chelsea

Talent: Paulinho is highly-rated and sought after by teams including Sunday's opponents Chelsea

Another Corinthians fan suffered a motorbike accident and was confined to a wheelchair. None of his friends could afford to be his helper, so he went to the club president and help came his way.

Others were invited to lodge for free with Japan-based fans. ‘They have opened their houses and Corinthians fans are sleeping on the floors,’ said Edu. ‘They sleep like sardines, 10 to a room.

‘We have to give something to the fans. We like to have open training so they can be next to the stars. Our gift to them. And, most importantly, play a good match.’

Determined: Edu wants his team to play a good match against Chelsea's stars, for the sake of the fans

Determined: Edu wants his team to play a good match against Chelsea's stars, for the sake of the fans