Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cristiano Ronaldo linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona

Cristiano Ronaldo has been in superb form for the Red Devils this season and Spanish giants Real Madrid are reported to have renewed their interest in the player even though Manchester United said that the Portuguese star is not for sale.

Sergio Alves, who claims to be a representative of the winger, told Barcelona radio station Onda Cera: "When Real and Barca are involved the future is always open, not closed.

"Given a little bit of time, the situation may change, let's see."

Ronaldo's future in England looked unwelcoming after he was made a scapegoat for England's World Cup exit to Portugal in the summer.

He overcame the early-season taunts to find his best form to date for United and is currently the second top scorer in the Barclays English Premiership with 13 goals.

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Liverpool permitted to sign Mascherano

Liverpool have been given the go-ahead from FIFA to sign Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano from West Ham.

The deal with Liverpool was initially in doubt because Mascherano had already played for two clubs competitively this season - the Hammers and Brazilian club Corinthians.

The Argentinian has failed to make an impact at Upton Park, after joining the Londoners on the final day of the summer transfer window along with compatriot Carlos Tevez. The transfer itself was shocking football fans and it was thought that the MSI owner, Kia Joorabchian only want to made profit.

A statement from FIFA this morning read: "After due consideration of all aspects, the FIFA single judge ruled that 'upon registration for Liverpool FC during the present registration period, the player Javier Mascherano is eligible to play in official matches with the said club with immediate effect'."

The ruling by FIFA appears to take into account the fact that the Brazilian and English seasons do not run parallel, with the Campeonato Brasileiro beginning in April and ending in December - thus cutting through the close season in this country.

The FIFA statement continued: "Particular emphasis was given to the safeguard of the sporting integrity and the crucial element of overlapping sports seasons between associations, notably in cases in which a sports season starts prior and ends beyond July 1.

"Yet, the single judge made it clear that such permission can only be granted under very restrictive preconditions, such as they exist in the case at stake, yet never occurred in a case that was submitted to the attention of the competent deciding bodies at an earlier stage.

"In particular, he emphasised that a series of elements related, on the one hand, to the duration and the positioning of the relevant sports seasons as well as to the respect of the registration periods and, on the other hand, to the duration and respect of the employment contracts concerned, need to be cumulatively met."

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Premiership review on Tuesday

Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch combined to fire Liverpool to within two points of Barclays Premiership champions Chelsea as West Ham blew their latest chance to climb out of the drop zone.

The Reds duo both netted sublime goals in their 2-1 win at Upton Park which put the in-form visitors to within touching distance of second place in the table.

After a cat-and-mouse first half, barely 12 seconds had lapsed after the restart when Liverpool scored, Kuyt rifling the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.

It was not long before the lead was doubled, a brilliant flowing move matched by Crouch's controlled finish from John Arne Riise's cutback.

Liverpool looked completely in control and should have added to their lead before substitute Kepa Blanco marked his Hammers debut by pulling a goal back 13 minutes from time.

Some sloppy play from the visitors allowed Nigel Reo-Coker to feed Bobby Zamora into the inside-left channel, the forward squaring for Kepa to net with ease.

But, despite piling on the pressure, the home side were unable to force an equaliser and are now seven games without a league success.

The Hammers' evening could not have been in sharper contrast to that of relegation rivals Sheffield United, who beat Fulham 2-0 to move seven points clear of danger.

United bossed the first half at Bramall Lane and were rewarded 23 minutes in when Jon Stead netted his first goal since signing from Sunderland this month.

Vincenzo Montella gave the ball away in a dangerous area, allowing Nick Montgomery to find Stead, who rasped home a left-foot drive off the bar from six yards.

It got better five minutes later, Ian Pearce failing to clear Stephen Quinn's left-wing cross, allowing Michael Tonge to convert from close range.

The only bright spot for West Ham was that fourth-bottom Wigan slumped to their ninth straight defeat in all competitions after Reading came from behind to win 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium.

The visitors got off to the best possible start when, three minutes in, Emile Heskey latched onto a long ball from Josip Skoko, and finished with aplomb on the volley, left-footed.

Reading eased their way back into the game and drew level when Latics goalkeeper Chris Kirkland found himself in no-man's-land, allowing Ivar Ingimarsson to glance a header into the net.

More awful goalkeeping allowed the Royals to take the lead, Kirkland punching a Glen Little cross straight onto the head of Stephen Hunt, who headed it goalward for Shane Long to nod in from point-blank range.

Kirkland completed a hat-trick of howlers in the closing moments, beaten to the ball by Dave Kitson, with the resultant deflection finding Leroy Lita, who could not miss.

Denny Landzaat pulled a goal back for the visitors in the fifth minute of injury-time - but there was no time for them to find an equaliser.

Elsewhere, the Fratton Park faithful were left disappointed for the second straight home game as Portsmouth were held to a goalless draw by Middlesbrough.

Following the shock 1-0 defeat to Charlton 10 days ago, Pompey were looking to reignite their European push but they were thwarted by a stubborn Boro display to remain sixth in the table.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Ronaldo goes to Milan

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani is confident Ronaldo will be wearing the Rossoneri's colours in the next few days.

Galliani will travel to Spain on Monday to meet Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon in the hope of completing the signing of the Brazilian forward.

"I have a meeting at 5pm on Monday in Madrid with the Real Madrid president," said Galliani.

"Only one million (euros) separates us from reaching an agreement. Hopefully, we will reach an agreement and Ronaldo can train with his new team by Tuesday."

Milan have made a six million euro offer for the former Internazionale striker, but Real will not sell him for less than seven million.

Although the deal has yet to be completed, Ronaldo underwent a medical on Friday at Milan's headquarters and Galliani was satisfied with the player's form.

"He is in good condition," said Galliani. "Better than what doctors had expected."

This transfer also supported by AC Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti who really like to played the Brazilian player.

The 30-year-old is expected to complete his transfer to the Rossoneri later on Monday in a reported 7million euros transfer.

The former Internazionale forward has been out of favour at Real Madrid and his imminent move to the Rossoneri has met with mixed reactions from supporters who claim he is far from his physical peak.

"Ronaldo is not fat," Ancelotti said.

"He is a very robust player. I think his problem is the fact that in recent times, he has not had much motivation.

"From a physical point of view, he hasn't trained much because he has been excluded from Real Madrid's team and he has lost motivation in training.

"But he remains a great player. In the last five years at Real, he has scored almost 100 goals. No one in the world has done that."

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La Liga match result game week 20th

By Alfonso Jimenez, PA Sport, Madrid

Barcelona moved back to the top of the Primera Liga on Sunday night after they left it late to beat Celta Vigo at the Nou Camp.

Goals from Javier Saviola, Ronaldinho and substitute Ludovic Giuly gave the Spanish champions a hard-earned 3-1 victory and sees them stay one point clear of Sevilla.

Nene pulled a goal back for Celta from the spot midway through the second period but it was not enough to prevent a fourth straight Primera Liga defeat.

Sevilla recorded a thrilling victory against lowly Levante at Estadio Ciudad de Valencia to briefly go top before Barcelona's win.

Frederic Kanoute fired the visitors into the lead before Alexander Kerzhakov and a Damiano Tommasi own goal put them in the driving seat.

But the hosts rallied through Frederic Dehu and Gustavo Reggi before Alejandro Alfaro secured the win.

A brace from Robert helped Real Betis move out of the Primera Liga relegation zone and bring Valencia's run of six straight wins to an end.

David Villa had put Valencia into an early lead only for Robert to equalise shortly after, and the Brazilian rounded off an impressive display by thumping home a penalty midway through the second half to seal all three points.

Basement club Gimnastic defied their league position to thrash Catalan rivals Espanyol at Nou Estadi.

Javier Portillo opened the scoring and the former Real Madrid striker was at the heart of things once again when he was brought down for a penalty by Jesus Lacruz, which was converted by Alejandro Campano.

Antonio Pinilla made it 3-0 and then Cesar headed home a Campano corner to send the home supporters into ecstasy.

First-half goals from Sergio Ballesteros and Jose Carlos Nunes helped 10-man Mallorca edge past Recreativo Huelva at the ONO Estadi.

Ballesteros, who was later sent off after picking up a second booking, put the home side ahead before Nunes doubled their advantage.

Gomez Juanma pulled one back for the visitors four minutes after the break, but Mallorca managed to hold on for all three points.

A first-half brace from Daniel Guiza was enough to see Getafe cruise past Osasuna at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez and stretch their unbeaten run to six games.

The former Mallorca striker powered home his first after 28 minutes and he sealed the three points a minute before the break with a classy second.

Andoni Iraola was the derby hero as Athletic Bilbao heaped yet more misery on relegation-threatened Basque rivals Real Sociedad at the Anoeta.

Iraola scored a goal in each half to consign Sociedad to their third consecutive Primera Liga defeat which leaves them six points adrift of safety, but it could have been a different story had Xabier Prieto converted a first-half penalty.

Diego Milito's 79th-minute penalty was enough to spare Real Zaragoza's blushes in the draw with strugglers Deportivo La Coruna.

Sebastian Taborda had given the visitors a surprise lead in the 21st minute, but 11 minutes from time Taborda turned villain when he hacked down Sergio Garcia inside the box and Milito salvaged a point.

On Saturday, Marcos' solitary goal was enough to see Villarreal defeat Real Madrid, while Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander played out a 1-1 draw.

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Serie A match result game week 21st

Internazionale remain the team to beat in Serie A after they extended their winning streak to a record 14 matches with a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria.

Four days after winning 3-0 at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in the Coppa Italia semi-final, Roberto Mancini's side earned three more league points to take a step closer to the title.

Playing with only 10 men following the seventh-minute dismissal of Gennaro Delvecchio, Samp put up a brave fight before succumbing to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic header in the 38th minute.

Maicon then sealed the win in the 75th minute, although the outcome had been in little doubt since Delvecchio's red card.

Roma revived their Scudetto hopes with a narrow victory over Siena at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Mirko Vucinic struck his first goal of the season on the hour mark to put the Giallorossi on course for a return to winning ways after two consecutive draws.

Siena ended the game down to 10 men after Thomas Locatelli was sent off in the last minute for an elbow on Daniele De Rossi.

The outcome sees second-placed Roma close to within eight points of leaders Internazionale, who play Sampdoria later on Sunday evening.

Substitute Filippo Inzaghi came to the rescue with a second-half goal to give AC Milan a narrow victory over a lacklustre Parma on Sunday.

Inzaghi, who entered the pitch on the half-hour mark in place of injured Christian Brocchi, struck in the 75th minute to give the Rossoneri three valuable points.

The outcome leaves Milan three points behind fourth-placed Lazio, who occupy the final Champions League qualifying place.

A match that pitted two of Serie A's finest goalscorers against each other saw Fiorentina edge out Livorno in a buzzing encounter at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Livorno striker Cristiano Lucarelli - top scorer in Serie A two seasons ago - fired in the first goal of the game just before the half-hour mark while last season's "capocannonieri" Luca Toni levelled the scores midway through the second period.

Veteran midfielder Martin Jorgensen popped up with the winner for La Viola eight minutes from time to extend the hosts' impressive record to just one defeat in 11 league outings.

Meanwhile, the loss for Livorno extends their winless run in Serie A to nine games.

Empoli's somewhat surprising European aspirations are still intact after they held Chievo to a 0-0 draw inside the Stadio Marc Antonio Bentegodi in Verona.

Michele Paolucci scored twice at the death as 10-man Ascoli came from behind to secure their first away victory of the season at relegation rivals Messina.

A 77th-minute penalty from Alessandro Parisi looked to have put the Giallorossi on course for their first Serie A victory in 12 matches, but they had not bargained for a dramatic late fightback from Nedo Sonetti's bottom of the table side.

Japanese striker Takayuki Morimoto scored his first ever Serie A goal two minutes from time to salvage a vital point for European hopefuls Catania against Atalanta.

Riccardo Zampagna handed the home side the lead after half-an-hour, deflecting home Massimo Donati's long-range drive.

But Catania bounced back in the second period and rescued a point at the death through 18-year-old Morimoto.

A double from Luigi Vigiani ensured Reggina climbed out of the relegation zone with a priceless 2-0 victory at previously in-form Cagliari on Sunday.

The Rossoblu had recorded back-to-back Serie A victories going into the game, but two goals in 12 second-half minutes from Vigiani - a recent signing from Livorno - ended their recent revival.

On Saturday, Lazio moved up to fourth in Serie A after a convincing 3-0 win over third-placed Palermo.

Two goals from Tommaso Rocchi, the first just before the half-time whistle and the second from the penalty spot 12 minutes from time, helped the

Bluceleste to their first win in 2007.

Sebastiano Siviglia scored the other goal in a strong performance for Delio Rossi's side at the Renzo Barbera Stadium.

In Saturday's only other game, Torino were beaten by an inspired Paulo Barreto at the Olympic Stadium, going down 3-2 to Udinese despite a late revival.

The Brazilian striker set up the first goal for Christian Obodo after 18 minutes before grabbing the second himself in the 33rd.

He limped off injured just before the break, but his replacement Gyan Asamoah did not disappoint either, putting Udinese three up on the hour mark.

Elvis Abbruscato netted twice in the last 13 minutes, while a second yellow card for Gabriele Cioffi saw Torino finish the match with 10 men.

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By Cindy Garcia-Bennett, PA Sport, Rome

Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini has played down speculation he is a leading candidate to coach Chelsea if current manager Jose Mourinho leaves at the end of the season.

Inter won the 2005-06 Scudetto after Juventus were stripped and look a good bet to defend the title this term with Mancini having led the the club to a Serie A record 14 consecutive wins.

Mancini said on the club's official website: "It's like if a good player who plays in a great team is wanted by another big club. It is satisfying because it means that I am doing a good job.

"I have never spoken to anyone and I certainly haven't said those comments," Mancini added, when asked if he had expressed interest in leading the Blues.

"I cannot deny something that I haven't said.

"If the press comment on some quotes that I may have said two years ago, for example, that I would want to coach in England after my adventure with Inter finishes, it's a different story."

Inter president Massimo Moratti said earlier this month he wanted Mancini to stay at the club for many years.

Mancini has not signed a contract extension - his current deal expires in 2008 - but he said: "When things are going well, it's not good to make alterations.

"Are there grounds to continue with this project? I think so, there's no problem whatsoever.

"Will I be able to remain at Inter like, for example, Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United?

"I think this is very difficult in Italy... he (Ferguson) has been at Manchester for 20 years. For us, we would have to win practically always.

"In Italy, if you win for four or five straight years and then you fail in the sixth year to win something, things happen."

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Sunday, January 28, 2007


German legend Franz Beckenbauer says England is the "perfect country" to host the 2018 World Cup.

Beckenbauer, who oversaw the successful German bid for the 2006 competition and was president of the tournament's organising committee, believes there are no viable alternatives.

The 61-year-old, who has recently been voted on to the powerful FIFA executive committee as a UEFA representative, insists England has everything necessary to make the 2018 competition a huge success.

He told the News of the World: "I am 100 per cent behind any English bid.

"England has everything - the best stadiums, the best crowds, the infrastructure. It's a perfect country to host the World Cup."

The competition looks certain to be held in Europe under FIFA's rotation system which sees the 2010 tournament held in South Africa and the 2014 event going to South America.

That narrows the competition significantly, and Beckenbauer feels that England, which hosted the tournament in 1966, is best option despite their unsuccessful bid for last summer's World Cup.

"The only country I see with an obvious chance is England. Who else can bid from Europe? France has already staged it in 1998 and Italy do not have the infrastructure.

"England competed with us [the 2006 German bid] and lost, but they always have confidence."

The British government would throw their full support behind any application and FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already been invited to England for initial discussions with Sports Minister Richard Caborn and Gordon Brown.

Caborn said: "The FA can count on commitment from the government and that is something we shall be impressing on Sepp Blatter .

"We have invited him to Number 11 [Downing Street] and he has agreed to a meeting on February 28.

"This will be a great opportunity for a proper dialogue with the main decision-makers in football.

"I am aware of the Treasury's feasibility study on the World Cup and when it is published it will be a positive step towards bringing the World Cup here."

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AC Milan general director Ariedo Braida has admitted the Italian club could be ready to make a cut-price summer move for Chelsea's Frank Lampard.

FIFA rules state that players who have served out three years of a contract signed when the player was under 28 can buy themselves out of their own deal with just 15 days' notice at the end of the season.

The buy-out fee is based on wages not market value meaning Lampard could be available for around £8million.

Braida was interested in the news and raised the possibility of a summer bid for the England midfielder.

"Is this true? Lampard available for £8m?" Braid told the Sunday Mail. "If this is the case, of course it is interesting news.

"Lampard is a very good player, one of the best around, and this is something I wasn't aware of at all. I am glad I have been made aware of this situation."

The Stamford Bridge club last week suggested that they were close to signing a new deal with Lampard but nothing concrete has emerged from talks between club and player.

Braida, meanwhile, confirmed that a host of European clubs would join the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal in opposing new UEFA president Michel Platini's plans to limit each country's Champions League quota to three.

He told the News of the World: "None of the Spanish, Italian, English or German clubs want this and we [AC Milan] don't want it either.

"Platini is a good man and a real football man. We congratulate him on his appointment.

"But he must know there isn't another competition like the Champions League in the world and we don't see the need to change it."

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Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho expects to see out his contract with the Barclays Premiership champions, despite persistent reports of unrest behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho's relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has been under the spotlight this season, and there has been much speculation about who might succeed the manager should he leave the club this year.

But Mourinho, asked if he is confident he will still be in charge at the end of the season, told BBC1: "I don't have to be confident. I have a contract that runs until 2010, and that's a very important thing.

"I am manager today and until the end of the season and I believe I will be manager until 2010," he said, just before Chelsea's FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Nottingham Forest.

Mourinho is aware that a string of potential successors at Stamford Bridge is being discussed in the media but is adamant he is not being unsettled by the speculation.

He said: "If I believe, from what I read in the press, there are contenders - but I don't get influenced by the press. The players feel I am the same - same desire, same commitment."

Pressed on the constant talk of disharmony between himself and Abramovich, Mourinho told BBC's Gary Lineker: "The only thing I can tell you 100% is everyone at this club wants to win. So when I read a few things suggesting we are not on the same side, it's completely untrue. We all want to win.

"Yes we [he and Abramovich] speak. He speaks to me and to (chief executive) Peter Kenyon.

"Roman is not in London for quite a long time. But he is chairman of this club and he doesn't have to give any explanations about his personal life - and when he is back (in London) he is always welcome in our space, in our dressing room."

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By Jim van Wijk, PA Sport

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger accepts that sooner or later he will have to give Cesc Fabregas a break.

The brilliant 19-year-old midfielder has appeared in all of the Gunners' Barclays Premiership and Champions League games this season.

Suspension kept him out of the FA Cup third-round victory at Liverpool, but he was back in the thick of the action for the midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg at Tottenham.

Bolton travel to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday for a fourth-round FA Cup meeting, before the Gunners welcome Spurs for the Carling Cup second leg next week.

With European action resuming at the end of February, it is set to be a hectic schedule for Arsenal, who last weekend beat Premiership leaders Manchester United to remain in touch with the top three.

Fabregas is happy enough to continue his role at the heart of the team whenever asked.

Wenger, though, remains acutely aware of the need to protect one of his key men against burnout.

The Arsenal manager admitted: "I do not know whether Cesc will play or not yet.

"He will be on the bench or in the team.

"But I am tempted to count one game out for him, either on Sunday or Wednesday."

As several other first-choice players are struggling with injury, not to mention the suspension of midfielder Gilberto, Wenger admits he has little room for manoeuvre in team selection.

However, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is set to be given another breather, with Manuel Almunia continuing to deputise.

Wenger believes the current fixture pile-up could present the perfect opportunity for Julio Baptista - who netted a brace at White Hart Lane to make his mark in the side.

The 25-year-old Brazilian is only on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season, having arrived at the Emirates Stadium during the last transfer window as part of the deal which took winger Jose Antonio Reyes to Spain.

That move could yet be made permanent.

Wenger said: "What he is achieving will help to make my mind up.

"He scored four at Liverpool, two at Tottenham - you could do worse.

"It took him time to adapt, but it is amazing - suddenly 'boom' one goal is in.

"That is him. He has a little bit of the qualities which [Robert] Pires had, to turn up in the box - and always you need these kinds of players."

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Wenger and Ferguson comment about Platini as the new UEFA President

By Martyn Ziegler, PA Chief Sports Reporter, Dusseldorf

New UEFA president Michel Platini has been warned by fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger that he may not be able to deliver on his ambitions to change the Champions League.

Platini, who won Friday's presidential election to oust Lennart Johansson from European football's top job, will present proposals in April which aim to eventually limit the number of clubs in Europe's elite competition to three from any one country.

Wenger said: "I am scared that he based his programme on something that he will not be able to deliver because he cannot decide that - that has to be voted [by UEFA's executive committee].

"I am surprised when people say 'yes that's what he promised' but he cannot deliver that. It can only be delivered if it is voted.

"If it gets voted, we will all adapt and fight harder to be number three but I do not think it will change the destiny of the game."

Wenger, who worked under Platini's father at Ligue 1 club Nancy, believes the proposed changes helped him win the vote among UEFA countries by 27 to 23.

He added: "I'm not surprised - the three big countries will vote against you, they will vote for Johansson.

"But you get Andorra, Serbia and the rest and that's the best calculation he made.

"I know him very, very well and I like him as a person. He is a very intelligent person, he loves football and I've known Platini for 30 years.

"His father was influential on my career and had a big influence on his son as well."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson also spoke out against changing the current Champions League set-up.

Ferguson said: "The only way you could get rid of the fourth team is by reducing the competition or bringing in more teams from other countries.

"The way it is at the moment, with the top countries entering their top teams, you get some fantastic games.

"It is a fantastic tournament and you are playing all the best teams. I don't think a lot needs to be done to it."

The Football Association and Premier League are expected to try to persuade Platini to maintain the status quo which allows England, Spain and Italy to have four teams qualify for Europe's premier club competition.

Platini said: "The new format of the Champions League is for 2009.

"I talked about finding a better equilibrium for the number of clubs and that's for 2009-10.

"The final decision will be in April so we have a few months still to see which way we will go, but I would like a better equilibrium - it is very close to my heart.

"If you are just talking about one club in England that doesn't convince me that it is not the right thing to do."

The 51-year-old will serve for the next four years and will also replace 77-year-old Johansson as a FIFA vice-president. Platini immediately invited Johansson to become an honorary president of UEFA.

The former France captain and coach said: "This is just the beginning of an adventure.

"I'm happy today to be able to represent European football. I'm very moved and very happy.

"When I was a footballer, when you won a great victory you received a cup and went on a lap of honour. This is a great victory for me but I'm not going to do a lap of honour because the now the work starts."

The election victory followed a tense campaign which descended into bitterness in the days leading up to the vote.

In his final address to the 52 UEFA member associations, Johansson launched an angry attack at FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who had publicly backed Platini at the opening of the Congress.

Johansson said: "I appreciate the FIFA president's words about what we have achieved in the 17 years of my presidency but I cannot appreciate it when the FIFA president interferes in an election process here in UEFA.

"It's not the FIFA president, it is you the Congress taking the decision."

Platini has tried to appeal to the smaller countries and also supported a proposal by the Scottish FA for UEFA to carry out a feasibility study into expanding the European Championships finals to 24 teams.

Johansson's age has not helped his cause, especially with UEFA having a rule that committee members must retire at the age of 70.

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Hughes aiming for FA Cup trophy

By Andy Sims, PA Sport

FA Cup legend Mark Hughes has set his sights on gracing Wembley yet again as Blackburn await the draw for the fifth round of this season's competition.

Hughes, who as a swashbuckling centre-forward lifted the famous trophy four times - three for Manchester United and once with Chelsea - is now aiming to join the likes of Terry Venables, George Graham and Kenny Dalglish in winning the cup as a player and a manager.

Blackburn's progress so far has been serene, with a 4-1 third-round victory at Everton followed up by Saturday's 4-0 demolition of lowly Luton.

With last year's finalists Liverpool and West Ham among a host of Barclays Premiership clubs to have already fallen by the wade, the draw may just be opening up for Rovers.

And few FA Cup aficionados would begrudge a man synonymous with the old Twin Towers as a player the chance to become the first manager to lead a team out at the new Wembley Stadium in May.

"We've shown already we can have an effect on the competition this season," said the Welshman.

"We've come through two rounds - two difficult games away from home - and we've got the job done quite effectively, scoring eight goals and only conceding one.

"It's all about the draw and who you are up against, but I think this year with all the teams who are already out we may have a chance to progress to the latter stages if we can avoid the big guns.

"There's a real prize at the end of it this year. It's at the new Wembley and Her Majesty the Queen is presenting the trophy so it's going to be quite an occasion and one that we would love to be a part of. But there is a long way to go yet."

Red-hot rookie Matt Derbyshire was the star of the show at Kenilworth Road as injury-hit Luton were taken apart.

The 20-year-old grabbed a brace on only his third start for the club, and also turned provider for Benni McCarthy before Morten Gamst Pedersen put the seal on a comprehensive win with a superb left-foot strike for the fourth.

Derbyshire, a Rovers fan who initially worked in the club's community office before signing as a player, celebrated landing a new long-term contract this week by taking his tally to five goals in his last six appearances.

"It was brilliant for me and for the team," he said. "Things are going well and hopefully they continue to do so.

"I think we're due a home tie in the next round, we've been away for quite a few games so it would be good to go back home."

The victory provided Hughes with a timely boost following a miserable week which saw Andre Ooijer and Robbie Savage suffer broken legs.

To rub salt into the Hatters' wounds, Hughes claimed their local rivals played a role in their comprehensive defeat.

"In fairness to Luton the worst result for them was us losing to Watford in midweek," said Hughes.

"We weren't prepared to play like that again and we put in a thoroughly professional performance.

"Matt and Benni played well together and it was a great finish from Morten, who is looking like the player of last season again."

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Man Utd through into the fifth round FA Cup with Rooney's great goal

Wayne Rooney kept his FA Cup dream alive with a superb brace to secure Manchester United's passage into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The England striker stepped off the bench switching Ole Gunnar Solsjaers to score in the 76th and 83rd minutes in the 2-1 victory against Portsmouth.

The first goal came from close range after a cross from Ryan Giggs.

The second goal was exquisite, a 20-yard chip that floated into the top of the net to seal the victory.

Kanu pulled a goal back for Portsmouth when he deflected in a Pedro Mendes shot - but the visitors ran out of time in their bid to force a replay.

The day belonged to Rooney, who has now scored three goals in two games after ending a barren spell by finding the target in the defeat by Arsenal at the weekend.

The 21-year-old England striker said: "The FA Cup is massive as far as I'm concerned.

"It's the one tournament I always looked at as a boy. I dreamt of playing in it and winning it.

"We went really close two years ago but lost to Arsenal on penalties. Hopefully I can get my hands on it this year."

Rooney admitted it had not been plain sailing against Portsmouth.

He said: "I am delighted with the win and glad we do not have to face them in a replay.

"Portsmouth kept going until the end and it was a nervous last five minutes.

"We needed to show a good response from last week and I am thrilled we managed to get the victory to keep progressing in the FA Cup."

On his goals, he said: "In a way I am more pleased with the first one than the second as I need to score easier ones.

"I'm pleased it's three in two games and I hope that will continue.

"I was looking for a pass but I couldn't see one so I tried a chip and fortunately it went in."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson praised Rooney for his contribution, especially his second goal.

"It was one of imagination and audacity," said the Old Trafford boss.

"Wayne brightened up the place when he came on.

"If he gets a scoring run like he did last season it will make some difference to us."

United twice had "goals" disallowed - Nemanja Vidic's header appeared to cross the line before it was cleared by Mendes, while a superb volley from Henrik Larsson found the net only for an offside flag to make sure it did not count.

However United got their rewards and Ferguson said: "We kept the pace and tempo when Portsmouth started to tire.

"I always thought we were in control of the game and in the second half we got into top gear.

"With the experience Portsmouth had in the team it was never going to be easy.

"But I'm pleased we're through to the next round and a home draw is all you can hope for."

Cristiano Ronaldo will come into contention against Watford on Wednesday after being given a break while Louis Saha could also come into contention after sitting out today's game because of a slight knee problem.

Portsmouth coach Joe Jordan, a former United striker, admitted Rooney had been the difference between the two teams.

He said: "Rooney scored both goals and he is a quality player, we can all see that.

"The second goal was exceptional in the manner it was taken but also vital to Manchester United in that it killed the game.

"At 1-0 we were still in the match but that goal put the tie beyond us.

"We were pretty comfortable up until the first goal but I can't fault the players for their attitude. We put a lot of work in."

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Saturday, January 27, 2007


By PA Sport staff

Chelsea could welcome back captain John Terry for their FA Cup fourth-round tie with Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Terry is on the brink of fully recovering from a niggling calf injury following back surgery.

Chelsea will be without Khalid Boulahrouz (knee), Arjen Robben (ankle) and Joe Cole (foot).

Chelsea (from): Cech, Hilario, Hedman, Cudicini, Geremi, Ferreira, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole, Essien, Lampard, Makelele, Ballack, Kalou, Shevchenko, Drogba, Wright-Phillips, Morais, Diarra, Mikel.

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By PA Sport staff

Arsenal will be without full-back Emmanuel Eboue, who has an ankle problem, for Sunday's FA Cup fourth-round tie with Bolton at the Emirates Stadium.

Julio Baptista could come into contention following his brace in the midweek Carling Cup semi-final draw at Tottenham, while striker Robin van Persie has now had an operation on his broken metatarsal, which will sideline him for up to 10 weeks.

Manuel Almunia continues in goal, with Jens Lehmann rested again, Freddie Ljungberg, Johan Djourou and Alexander Hleb (all hamstring) and defender William Gallas (thigh) are still out, while midfielder Gilberto is suspended.

Bolton striker El-Hadji Diouf is ruled out through suspension.

He could be replaced by either Stelios Giannakopoulos or Ricardo Vaz Te in the fourth-round tie at the Emirates Stadium.

Defender Ricardo Gardner is also pushing for a recall after the team shipped five goals at Middlesbrough last weekend.

Meanwhile Bolton have scrapped plans to bring in defender Fousseini Diawara from Paris St Germain on loan.

Arsenal (from): Almunia, Hoyte, Toure, Senderos, Clichy, Rosicky, Flamini, Fabregas, Baptista, Henry, Adebayor, Poom, Walcott, Diaby, Aliadiere, Denilson, Traore, Connolly.
Bolton (from): Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Meite, Ben Haim, Campo, Giannakopoulos, Speed, Nolan, Anelka, Davies, Walker, Gardner, Vaz Te, Tal, Teymourian, Fortune, Fojut, Smith.

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Friday, January 26, 2007


By Simon Stone, PA Sport Chief Football Writer

Sir Alex Ferguson has slapped a 'not for sale' notice on Cristiano Ronaldo, no matter how much Real Madrid are prepared to pay for the brilliant Manchester United winger.

Reports in Spain suggest the nine-times European champions are preparing a massive £35million offer for the 21-year-old, who expressed a desire to join the club during last summer's World Cup.

Since then, Ronaldo has returned to Manchester, has risen above the abuse of opposition fans and produced the best form of his life.

With 13 Premiership goals to his name, Ronaldo trails only Didier Drogba in the scoring charts and he is one of the major contenders for this season's prestigious player of the year awards.

Earlier this week, Ferguson's assistant Carlos Queiroz suggested United were ready to open contract negotiations with Ronaldo, even though the Portugal international's present deal does not expire until 2010.

Ferguson joked he would be 'in a wheelchair' by that time, although he was deadly serious when he stated Real have no chance of getting their man.

"We sell players we want to sell and there is absolutely no way Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving," he said.

"The boy has done fantastically well. He is developing as a professional, as a person and as a player.

"He is happy here. He has a contract until 2010 and we are not interested in even thinking about selling him."

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Traore missing for Pompey

By PA Sport staff

New signing Djimi Traore is cup-tied as Portsmouth visit Manchester United for their fourth-round FA Cup clash at Old Trafford.

However, Noe Pamarot should be fit to return at left back after four weeks out with a groin injury.

There is a doubt over midfielder Sean Davis who has had dental problems this week but Gary O'Neil is back after a one-match ban.

Manager Harry Redknapp may play a 4-5-1 formation with ex-United star Andrew Cole, top-scorer Kanu and fit-again Benjani Mwaruwari competing for the lone striker role.

Lomana LuaLua is close to a return after a calf injury but Niko Kranjcar is still struggling with a swollen ankle and may not make the squad.

Club captain Dejan Stefanovic is still a few weeks short of a comeback following a knee operation in November.

Sir Alex Ferguson is contemplating a couple of changes ahead of the clash.
Although the Red Devils chief is confident a few minor niggles in the United camp will have cleared for the visit of Harry Redknapp's overachievers, he is still looking to spread the load in a busy week that also features two Premiership outings.

Gabriel Heinze and goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak could be among those to benefit, while Henrik Larsson may be rested.

Possible Teams
Manchester United (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Larsson, Heinze, Saha, Brown, Fletcher, O'Shea, Richardson, Solskjaer, Park.
Portsmouth (from): James, Johnson, Primus, Campbell, Pamarot, Lauren, O'Neil, Davis, Thompson, Pedro Mendes, Taylor, Benjani, Kanu, Cole, Douala, Hughes, Mvuemba, O'Brien, Ashdown (gk).

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By Simon Stone, PA Sport Chief Football Writer

Sir Alex Ferguson has not yet abandoned all hope of luring Owen Hargreaves to Manchester United.

The Red Devils have reportedly upped their bid for the England midfielder to £20million, yet Bayern Munich are still refusing to sell.

With the transfer window due to close next week, it is looking increasingly likely United will have to wait until next summer at the earliest to sign the midfielder.

Ferguson recognises the difficulty in trying to sign top quality talent at this stage of the season, pointing to a similar lack of activity at Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal.

However, he is not prepared to throw in the towel just yet.

"I am not giving up on anything that makes us better," he said.

"We have been active in one or two areas but it is not as easy as you think. There are a lot of things to consider and many clubs do not want to sell in January.

"You see the four top clubs; ourselves, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. There has been no movement.

"The teams doing the buying are the ones trying to pull away from the bottom of the league like Aston Villa and West Ham."

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Blackburn signed Cristhoper Samba from Hertha Berlin

DR Congo international Samba, 22, has signed a three-and-a-half year deal and earned the move after a successful trial spell with the Ewood Park outfit.

"Chris came in last week," Hughes told the club's website. "I think you get a better idea of what players are about, and he impressed us.

"He's is upwards of 6ft 5ins and a big powerful guy."
He added: "Sometimes when you have players of that stature they don't really leap to their maximum height but he certainly does.

"He's quick enough, he's got a big long stride and covers the ground very easily. he is also a good passer of the ball.
"We think he is a good addition to the squad."

Samba has already played for Hertha Berlin in the Uefa Cup this season and is ineligible to play for Blackburn in Europe for the rest of the campaign.

"I'm very grateful that I'm here, I'm very happy to be here," said Samba.

"It's a dream for me to play in England in this league, and at a great club like Blackburn, it is perfect for me." "It was a good experience (in Germany), I think of all the leagues it is the one that is most similar to the English league.

"It is a very strong league but in England it is more intensive and stronger."

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Robin Van Persie injured for the rest of the season

Van Persie, 23, injured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot after scoring the equaliser in the 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wenger said: "Ideally you would say six to eight weeks - but it could be 10”.

“That means April and you are close to the end of the season. I hope it will be six - but that's really optimistic."

Van Persie had been named on the bench after struggling to overcome an ankle problem but was sent on midway through the second half against United as Arsenal sought to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

And he brought his side level seven minutes from time when he converted Tomas Rosicky's right-wing cross. Thierry Henry won the game with a stoppage-time header.

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Barcelona Leads La Liga by One Point

Barcelona drew 1-1 against Real Betis in La Liga to climb one point ahead of Sevilla and Real Madrid halfway through the season.

Rafael Marquez tied the match with a diving header in the 60th minute after Brazilian striker Robert put Betis ahead after 36 minutes.

Barcelona, unbeaten in 12 league games, has 39 points through 19 of 38 matches. Sevilla and Madrid have 38 points each, with Valencia two points further back. Betis remains in the three-team relegation zone.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

La Liga's matches result game week 19th

The hottest competition in Europe with 3 top teams had the same points. Even though had the same points, Barcelona still have 1 match to be played.Atletico Madrid [1 - 0] Osasuna
83' [1 - 0] J.Z. Castro

Villarreal [0 - 0] Sevilla

Deportivo La Coruna [0 - 0] Espanyol

Getafe [1 - 0] Celta de Vigo
1' [1 - 0] M.D. Moral

Levante [0 - 0] Athletic Bilbao

Real Betis [1 - 1] Racing Santander
85' [0 - 1] E.M. Garay (pen.)
87' [1 - 1] F.M. Xisco

Real Sociedad [0 - 1] Valencia
29' [0 - 1] D. Villa

Zaragoza [0 - 0] Recreativo Huelva

Barcelona [3 - 0] Gimnastic
18' [1 - 0] J.P. Saviola
68' [2 - 0] L. Giuly
81' [3 - 0] A. Iniesta

Mallorca [0 - 1] Real Madrid
78' [0 - 1] J.A. Reyes

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Serie A's matches result game week 20th

Inter Milan looks comfortable in the top of Serie A with 13 points lead over the runner-up, AS Roma. This week Inter made 13th consecutive wins in Serie A after beating Fiorentina.
In the other match, AS Roma failed to catch Inter with only draw against Livorno. After made the equalizer goal the AS Roma's captain, Francesco Totti sent off arguing with the referee.
Ascoli [1 - 3] Atalanta
51' [0 - 1] R. Zampagna
73' [1 - 1] M. Paolucci
84' [1 - 2] A.P.d. Silva
86' [1 - 3] C. Doni

Reggina [0 - 0] Palermo

Catania [0 - 1] Cagliari
9' [0 - 1] D. Suazo (pen.)

Empoli [2 - 0] Sampdoria
55' [1 - 0] L. Saudati (pen.)
86' [2 - 0] D. Matteini

Inter Milan [3 - 1] Fiorentina
5' [0 - 1] L. Toni
19' [1 - 1] D. Stankovic
24' [2 - 1] Adriano
71' [3 - 1] Z. Ibrahimovic

Livorno [1 - 1] AS Roma
20' [1 - 0] C. Lucarelli (pen.)
73' [1 - 1] F. Totti

Parma [1 - 0] Torino
75' [1 - 0] G. Rossi

Siena [2 - 1] Chievo
25' [0 - 1] M. Brighi
62' [1 - 1] L. Antonini
67' [2 - 1] D. Portanova

Udinese [1 - 0] Messina
76' [1 - 0] V. Iaquinta

Lazio [0 - 0] AC Milan

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EPL's matches result game week 24th

Chelsea lost 2-0 against Liverpool at Anfield followed by Arsenal's 2-1 victory over Man Utd at Emirates Stadium make the competition more tight than before.
Mean while Vicenzo Montella proved that his transfer was the most successful transfer ever made on winter transfer window in this season with a goal debut in Premiership. Before he also made 2 goals on his debut in F.A. Cup.
Liverpool [2 - 0] Chelsea
4' [1 - 0] D. Kuyt
18' [2 - 0] J. Pennant

Aston Villa [2 - 0] Watford
86' [1 - 0] G. Mahon (o.g.)
90' [2 - 0] G. Agbonlahor

Fulham [1 - 1] Tottenham H.
84' [1 - 0] V. Montella (pen.)
88' [1 - 1] P. Chimbonda

Middlesbrough [5 - 1] Bolton W.
6' [1 - 0] G. Speed (o.g.)
10' [2 - 0] A. Xavier
23' [3 - 0] M. Viduka
25' [3 - 1] K. Nolan
43' [4 - 1] S. Downing
84' [5 - 1] M. Viduka

Newcastle U. [2 - 2] West Ham U.
18' [0 - 1] C. Cole
22' [0 - 2] M. Harewood
45' [1 - 2] J. Milner
53' [2 - 2] N. Solano (pen.)

Portsmouth [0 - 1] Charlton Athletic
79' [0 - 1] A. Faye

Reading [3 - 1] Sheffield U.
44' [1 - 0] S. Long
50' [2 - 0] U.D.L. Cruz
70' [3 - 0] S. Hunt
77' [3 - 1] C. Nadé

Manchester C. [0 - 3] Blackburn R.
44' [0 - 1] M.G. Pedersen
62' [0 - 2] M.G. Pedersen
90' [0 - 3] M. Derbyshire

Wigan Athletic [0 - 2] Everton
65' [0 - 1] M. Arteta (pen.)
90' [0 - 2] M. Arteta

Arsenal [2 - 1] Manchester U.
53' [0 - 1] W. Rooney
83' [1 - 1] R.v. Persie
90' [2 - 1] T. Henry

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Arsenal vs United in gameweek 24

This week is very special for all football lovers, especially for English Premier League fan. Because on Saturday night we have a big match between Liverpool and Chelsea then on Super Sunday Manchester United take on the fourth-placed Arsenal which the result of both match promises to have a major impact on the outcome of the title race.

Manchester United will be focused on revenge after Arsenal defeat the Red Devil to their only home defeat of the season all the way back in September. Right now, Manchester United have 6 points lead over Chelsea.

The good news for home team is their captain Thierry Henry is back and having a good performance and scoring a great goal at Edwood Park. But the bad news for Arsenal is they lost two important players. They are Robin Van Persie and Gilberto. Robin Van Persie struggling to shake off an injury that he got in training during the week. And the Brazilian international who has 8 goals to his name this season is suspended after clashing with Blackburn midfielder Robbie Savage in last Saturday’s 2-0 win at Edwood Park. With Van Persie injured and Gilberto suspended, Arsene Wenger looks set to turn to Emmanuel Adebayor and M. Flamini.

On the other hand, Manchester United are at full strength ahead of their trip to the new Emirates Stadium. The only problem facing Sir Alex Ferguson is over which of his four strikers should be starter. Sir Alex Ferguson maybe back to the old pair, Rooney – Saha or maybe trying a new pair, Saha – Larsson. But I think Sir Alex Ferguson would choose Rooney – Saha duet with Larsson and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer available off the bench if required.

Of course if any striker combination can’t scoring a goal, the midfielder will take that job like in the last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Aston Villa where Michael Carrick netting his first goal for the club, Park Ji-Sung opening his account for the season, and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his 13th goal of the season.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Owen Hargreaves going to Manchester United on winter?

This transfer rumor really took a long time to be ended. Since summer 2006 Manchester United has been declared that they are very interested to make Owen Hargreaves move to Old Trafford. But Bayern Munich reject Manchester United’s bid because Bayern Munich think that they still need Owen Hargreaves, even though they bought Mark Van Bommel who can replace Owen Hargreaves in midfield. After that rejection, Manchester United decided to change their target. Their new target is another Englishman, Michael Carrick. Even after bought new player, Sir Alex Ferguson still think that his squad need additional player in midfield area. So, He will bought Owen Hargreaves on winter.

Mean while in Munich, Owen Hargreaves who out for approx. 5 month replaced by Mark Van Bommel. Luckily for Bayern Munich, Mark Van Bommel played really well. So, they think that their side can make profit by selling Owen Hargreaves to Manchester United on winter with high price.

When winter transfer opened, Manchester United made their move. But their first bid rejected by Bayern Munich because Bayern Munich thought that the price is still low for a player like Owen Hargreaves. Manchester United reacted to it with 25 mil euro, but surprisingly Bayern Munich reject it and declared 30 mil euro as acceptable price for Owen Hargreaves.

So with the current flow, I think Owen Hargreaves will not move to Old Trafford on this winter transfer window. I don’t think that Sir Alex Ferguson want to spend 30 mil euro for one player. Even 25 mil euro for a player like Owen Hargreaves is maximum (for right now). The reason why the transfer cannot be made on this winter is because they are so many condition that make Owen Hargreaves not in his maximum value. The first one is he is injured since 4 month ago and still injured for approx 1 month. So what is the brilliant idea for buying a player in his maximum price while he was out from the field for a long time. Reason number two is Owen Hargreaves cannot play in European Champion League 2006/2007 because he is already make his appearance for Bayern Munich this season in ECL. The third is Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t need Owen Hargreaves service to maintain their current position until the end of English Premier League (according to his statement while Manchester United battle against Aston Villa in FA Cup). And the fourth is Bayern Munich demand for Owen Hargreaves may goes down on the next summer.

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