|Mercato? What mercato?
|The winter break usually has the pundits speculating about who's going where for whom and for how much.
This year is no different, however the moves have been few and far between as aside from the Gallacticos, nobody's puting themselves on the line to make the first move.
Why is it that none of the top 4 in the EPL has gone out and improved themselves? Is Chelsea not in need of some depth at striker? Do they have a safety valve should Cech's head injury worsen? Can Arsenal continue to rely on youth alone and make it to the CL? Is Liverpool content with 4th place? Can Man U hold off Chelsea with Larsen as a starting striker?
Too many questions not enough answers, maybe the last week of the mercato will provide some.
The refereeing standards in Europe have been deteriorating the whole season, but it seems to have reached it's controversial best in the last couple of weeks.
First we had Ronaldinho's sending off for a yellow at best type of fault in their King's Cup return leg against Zaragoza, all but settling the cup winner.
Then, this past weekend, surprise suprise as Juve gets the game winner off an offside position, while Messina gets two penalties in the last 10 minutes to manage a point.
Add to that the Charlton snubbing at Manchester United and we can conclude it's a European bad refereeing pandemic.
With UEFA and Champions League games in the upcoming weeks, we better hope these whistle blowers start getting things right or they will continue to be the deciding factor in games we should enjoy watching.
Robert Hoyzer, the referee who took bribes to fix soccer games in Germany was convicted of fraud Thursday and sentenced to 29 months in prison.
The prosecution had recommended a suspended two-year sentence, however judge Gerti Kramer sent the former referee to prison. Another former referee, Dominik Marks, was given a suspended 18-month sentence, although the prosecution had asked for a two-year prison term.
Ante Sapina, the Croatian gambler infuencing Hoyzer, was convicted of fraud and given 35 months in prison for masterminding the match-fixing scheme. Sapina's brothers, Milan and Filip, also were given suspended sentences -- Milan for 16 months and Filip for 12.
During the trial, Hoyzer admitted receiving 67,000 Euros and other goods from Sapina for his part in the match fixing.
|A Very Messi La Liga
First there was the goal that wasn't as Celta Vigo won 3-2 at the Bernabeu. The 3 stands the three blind men: linesman on the far side doesn't see a foul throw in, the linesman on the near side sees a ball that never crossed the line as a goal and the blind man in the middle validades his compadres' mistakes to make it a Daily Pick 3.
This past weekend's situation, involving Real again is even better. The bad fans bringing their whistles to the game messed up an Espanyol PK and turned it into a goal. Of course it couldn't have been the ref that blew the whistle for a penalty and then played advantange, could it?
And it's not just Real that the Gods are playing games with, as Barcelona had a big decission go against them as argentinian starlet Messi who's been with the club for more than 5 years has been declared a non-EU player and looks set to ride the pine for the remainder of the season.
|All that green down the drain
We all knew that Celtic Glasgow were an aging team late last season but we didn't think it would get this bad. Losing the title on the last day of the season was bad, but what if it was just the begining?
Second place in the SPL meant playing in early Champions League qualifying. They knew they would have to travel to a far away place when the draw came out, but but after a 2-0 Kairat win in the 1st qualifying round, it looked like a formality for the club to advance. Then Artmedia managed to qualify with an extra time 4-1 win, setting up a trip to Slovakia for the boys in green.
Preseason wasn't too inspiring and a central defense of Balde and Varga looked weak but nobody could have predicted the 5-0 creaming Celtic endured. Now they need a massive comeback to save their lives for this season and quite a few seasons into the future. With as much as 14 million euros in the balance and no UEFA cup to fall back on, this would be like throwing money out the window.
Somewhere, Rangers are smiling!
Less than 24 hours after pretty much having their season end in dissapointment with their CL semifinal loss to Liverpool, Chelsea rewarded their grouchy manager with a 5 year coaching deal.
The man is a genius and achieved his goal of winning the premiership but he is smug and gets under my skin. Seeing Liverpool go through was a just reward for all of Mourinho's antics and accusations this season in Europe. I can't wait till they get to meet Barca again.
Winning 2 trophies this season is short of the quad they were on pace for earlier, but it's a good Chelsea start for Jose. Now he gets to clean house - does anybody want Kezman, will any of the italians return, etc and Abramovich will fork out some more money. Can you say Defoe? How about Cole?
Look for Chelsea to escalate the inflationary transfer market in the process of perfecting their "robot football". I feel for Lampard!
|Rumours or Real Facts?
With Real set to finish their first season without hardware in a long while, it's time to start the rumour mill.
Things are not going too well for the Galacticos. A coaching change is in the cards and the rumour mill is spinning Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez on the way to the Bernabeu.
The midfield looks set for changes. Will Becks return to Man U? Can Real pry Viera away from Arsenal? Is Figo finally done in the all white uni?
Will Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo put up with the discriminations or will them move on to greener pastures?
We know Real will sign a couple of more pieces to the puzzle this summer. The question is which direction will they lean towards? Will they tweak things or will they let their aging stars go and pick up some young talent. If Benitez comes on board, look for Xabi Alonso to tag along as well.
Stay tuned for all the facts.
|Blowing the Whistle
Referee Robert Hoyzer is soon to be charged with match fixing after allegations surfaced that he influenced the outcome of a German Cup tie between Hamburg SV and SC Paderborn last August.
DFB president Theo Zwanziger said on Sunday that there was also evidence of manipulation of other games involving Hoyzer, who resigned on Friday.
The Germany DFB is hitting the panic button after a slew of games before the winter break smelled funny. It seems a lot of weird betting patterns have surfaced, especially in the second division and regional league where players are more susceptible to bribes and influence.
Look for lawsuits to come out of the woodworks. Former Hamburg coach Klaus Toppmoeller is already positioning himself: "The referee cost me my job". Hamburg SV said they would consider legal action as well.
|The Fix In
Yeah, every so often you get your rumours about an Anderlecht european game, or an albanian team throwing a game but this week we have serious allegations about Panionios - Dinamo Tbilisi.
A large sum of money was laid with a number of bookmakers on the scorelines 4-2 and 5-2 at odds of about 100-1. Bets were also laid on very low odds on a Dinamo/Panionios HT/FT outcome. The Greek club were 1-0 down at half-time and scored two goals in stoppage time to win it 5-2.
Allegations of fixing were prominent in the Greek press after the game. Look for a full UEFA investigation.
With scarce representation in the CL over the last few seasons, Scandinavians needed something with local representation to follow during the winter break. So they came up with their own league. The Royal League.
12 teams from Sweden, Norway and Denmark will play in three groups while the national leagues are off for the winter break. Eventually, a Royal champion will be decided in the championship game on May 26.
The inaugural competition brings Rosenborg, Tromso, Brann and Valerenga from Norway, Brondby, Odense, Esjberg and FC Kobenhavn from Denmark as well as Malmo, IFK Goteborg, Djurgardens and Halmstad to the table.
One question: Do the Fins feel left out?
|The Mutu Saga - Part Deux
Was Rannieri right to say Mutu was a cancer to his Chelsea locker room towards the end of last season? Most people didn't think so and thought Mutu was just misunderstood and had not adapted to the english life yet.
Now we know he was actually very adapted, but most with the nightlife than the activities on the pitch. After having physical problems, not fitting in and getting in a row with his manager, the last straw came in. He tested positive for cocaine and is now waiting for a FA decission on a ban that could be as short as 6 months and as long as 2 years. Either way, his career is shot as it is hard to imagine any top club will take a chance on adding his reputation and history to their locker room.
Nice knowing you. What a waste of talent!
|The Hot Seat
Not even two months into the season, we've seen a few big name coaches move on. It started with Robson at Newcastle, followed by the Camacho debacle at Real and the Voller fire volley at Roma. Even the small clubs got into the act with Ajaccio and Dominique Bijotat parting ways.
Whoever said "a coach is hired to be fired" was a very wise man. There are some other smoldering fires around Europe. The most obvious is Vahid at PSG, with his situation looking like a matter of time after getting the dreadful "vote of confidence".
However, if you're looking for THE coaching cemetery, you have to check the Romanian league. I lost count, but at least 6 coaches have moved on this season.
Interesting that during hurricane season, it's Calamity James that comes to the forefront of the English media following his Vienna exploits.
Losing two points is not the end of the World Cup road for Sven Eriksson's boys, but it's the threat of repeat actions that probably has the England manager twisting and turning in his bed late at night nowadays (no FA secretary jokes inserts here please).
Eriksson is trying to put on a brave front with quotes like this: ""It happens in football, but he has saved us so many times before, so it's not a problem" however, most observers fail to remember what those many times before Mr Sven is reffering to.
With a tricky trip to Poland midweek, all England fans are sweating it out until the next earthquake like phenomenon to play tricks on Calamity James.
|The Mutu Saga
At the end of last season we heard how Mutu was a bad influence in the Chelsea locker room and how he was done there. It happens, he will move on, right?
Wrong, Rannieri is sacked, Mourinho comes in and has a talk with him. His Chelsea career is back on... Wait, no so fast, Drogba and Kezman are in town and riding the bench is not for Mutu, so he blows up in a conversation to Mourinho while on Chealsea's american tour. He's done, right?
Juventus steps up to the plate, the deal is done... Not so fast, the done deal is no longer, he's back in Chelsea's squad. All this time Fiorentina and Monaco are still lurking. Stay tuned for the next twist in the Mutu saga.
|Murmured and rumoured and sealed and delivered
Following Charlton's Asian escapades, it's widely expected that Alan Curbishley is about to make a pitch for Southampton's striker James Beattie. Will they get his autograph before he's intercepted by Tottenham?
Did Marc Overmaars retire or is he still shopping his services around? It depends on who you're listening to.
Sergei Rebrov never lived up to his Dynamo Kiev billing while in England. After a stopover in Turkey, it's West Ham who's willing to take a chance on the former wonder boy.
Is Rui Costa on his way to England? Milan says no way Jose, but it's ManU not Chelsea calling.
Good for Portugal for apparently standing up to Chelsea and Man U regarding their young stars playing in the Olympics. We all know the Premiership doesn't get serious until December anyway.
After turning down a permanent move to Barca, it looks like Edgar Davids is on his way to the Premiership to play for either Liverpool or Spurs. "I have had two offers from England, but I especially like the one from Tottenham." The Liverpool option looks enticing because of their CL presence.
Fulham has been wooing Gabriel Batistuta for months, but will his first European love Fiorentina hold serve or will the England attraction be too strong? His agent said: "We've been speaking to Fulham. The football in England is quick and the kind of competitive challenge we want."
Juventus defender Igor Tudor is available on a free transfer and has been linked with Spurs, Boro and Portsmouth. It appears Juve coach Fabio Capello is keen to dispense of his services.
The Hadji Diouf experiment turned disaster is over at Liverpool and he could sign at Malaga. Coventry want former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier to be at their helm.
|BYE BYE ATHENS?
Soccer may be dropped from the Olympic Games in Athens if FIFA does not settle a doping dispute with World Anti-Doping Agency WADA and the IOC.
FIFA claims that each doping case should be dealt with individually. WADA agrees, but insist on keeping the right to appeal against any decision taken on doping by FIFA which WADA feel is too lenient.
FIFA are the only major Olympic federation to have refused to sign WADA's anti-doping code because it imposes an automatic ban of two years for doping offences.
The IOC made it clear that any sports whose federations did not sign the code would not be allowed to compete in Athens.
|Jesus Gill - Rest In Peace
Jesus Gil, the former owner of Atletico Madrid died today according to the "Clinica Cemtro di Madrid". The 71 year old was admited last weekend to their trauma section following head injury he suffered at his residence in Toledo.
Jesus Gil represented the face of Atletico through the 80's and 90's and despite his controversial style and questionable methods, he helped AM become what it is today.
May he rest in peace!
So you are playing for a team that just made it to the Champions League final. You're playing on the Cote d'Azure. Beautiful weather, great looking women, a few hours' drive to your home country. You are not paying taxes in Monaco. You have just had a great season coming second in the Champions League scoring race behind your teammate Morientes.
What's wrong with this picture? Not much really, but Croatian striker Dado Prso is about to throw all that away for more money and a chance to play for the Glasgow Rangers.
Somebody hand this guy a weather report!
According to the English press, Leeds striker Alan Smith will likely replace Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford in the offseason. The Dutchman's relationship with Man Yoo management has reportedly cooled beyond the chilling point. Ruud appears destined for La Liga with Barcelona and Real Madrid preparing to bit up to ?28m for his services at the end of the season.
United is apparently on the verge of offering ?5m for Smith, although Leeds slapped a ?10m price tag on the Englishman.
Back in 2002, Mick McCarthy decided that team unity was more important than star power. At the time, Ireland went on a run and advanced past the 1st round for only the second time in their history.
Now, Roy Keane, possibly at the start of his last available campaign, wants to return to the national side. Given his track record, he should be welcomed back with open arms but will he? Roy Keane walked away from it all at the top of his playing career not giving a damn about his teammates, his coaches and most importantly his country.
Keane can help a young and talented team get to Germany but in my opinion he remains a spoiled brat.
G-14 is a protectionary group representing the interests of Europe's most influential 18 clubs. It's members include Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester United and others.
The G-14 group submitted a complaint against Fifa to the Swiss competition commission, arguing that they should be compensated for the absence of their players to national team duty. The swiss authority has dully obliged to proceed with a preliminary investigation in the matter.
The clubs feel they should receive financial compensation in exchange for releasing the players for national team games organised by FIFA. FIFA enforces rules where players are to be released for a specific number of games per calendar year.
Should the swiss commision decide that the clubs are right, the national associations risk having to meet hefty wage demands for each international match played.
|Celta Corruption Quest
Racing Santander has contacted the Spanish federation following their game this past weekend against Celta Vigo (final 4-4). Aparently, Celta has tried to contact a Racing player, Uruguayan forward Mario Regueiro about throwing the game.
"There are solid facts, not a castle of playing cards" says Santiago Diaz, the Racing president. However, he did not want to name anyone before the federation inquiry.
The spanish media reports that Reguero was contacted via his cell phone by an intermediary, possibly a player from a different club. The name of Atletico keeper Burgos is being circulated.
Celta has been eliminated from the Champions League and are on the brink of relegation.
Following general elections on Saturday at Galatasaray's board of governors, the newly elected president Ozhan Canaydin brought forward the news. Fatih Terim is done at the helm and former Galata star, Gheorghe Hagi will be named interim coach until the end of the season with a chance to have an extension added to the deal based on the club's performance the rest of the season.
Hagi flew to Istambul on a private jet and will be announced today at a press conference at the club's headquarters. Hagi's name was at the top of the replacements list along with Jean Tigana and Bulent Under.
This appointment was desired by the Galata fans as well, as they chanted his name during the last match of Terim's reign, a 2-1 loss to Rizespor.
|Denial of Service Attacks
Over the last year, the gambing industry has had to deal with more pressure. We are not talking about government heat here. We are talking about extorsion.
Hackers demand $20,000 to $30,000 for protection from distributed denial-of-service attacks, which flood a Web site with data so that it is overloaded. The funny thing is these hackers who are demaning the protection are the same ones that will administer the DoS if the ransom is not paid.
High profile books like WWTS, Pinnacle and BoDog are rumoured to have given in to this type of pressure and paid the ransom in order to resume their bookmaking offerings. With the NCAA basketball tourney around the corner, these cyber-thugs are flexing their muscles this weekend with WSEX, BetRoyal, Skybook, Hollywood, Grande and a host of other books aparently being under seige. In another twist, it now appears high traffic gambling forums such as The Prescription, Major Wager and Gambling 911 are being targeted as well.
|FIFA does the right thing
For the first time in God knows how long, FIFA has done some great things and I don't want to let them slip under the radar.
No longer do we have to worry about how "shiny" the rules are on any given night. Gone are the silver and the golden goal. We now know exactly what will happen in any game if it goes to extra time.
No more unpunished strip-tease acts. I for the life of me did not understand the reason for a player taking his shirt off in celebration. I could see revealing an undershirt message, but showing off your six pack? C'mon.... Well done IAFB.
Friendlies substitutions - limited to a maximum of 6. Still a couple of too many but I can go along with this. Having 100 caps used to be something worth celebrating. This will do some to restore that. I bet Sven-Goran is fuming somewhere!
It is widely reported that Werder Bremen brazilian born Ailton has been approached by the Qatar football federation in regards to a possible citizenship change.
The deal includes a cheque for a million euros in return for Ailton wearing the Qatari colours in the World Cup 2006 qualifiers.
The Qatari federation is reported to have some back up plans should they be turned down by the Bundesliga leading scorer. Rumoured to be next in line is the Bordeaux striker Jean-Claude Darcheville.
|They said it...
"The way he has treated me is worse than a dog" - Moustapha Hadji on life with David O'Leary. ?I have two dogs of my own and I know how well they are treated" - O'Leary's response.
"I said to the fans at half-time `where's the nearest job centre?'" - Kevin Keegan sums up the situation at White Hart Lane with his side a man down and losing three-nil. "The cup tie of my lifetime" - 45 minutes later, the Big K reflects on the eventual 4-3 win.
"A few people in Holland told me never to trust Germans" - Dunfermline manager Jimmy Calderwood, unhappy at the lack of international opportunity given to his players by German born coach Berti Vogts.
|Running Ranieri out of town?
Ever since Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea it appeared the he was looking for not just superstar players, but front office and coaches.
With 180 million spending on players, I'd say his on the pitch additions are done. With the addition of Peter Kenyon, he's done the front office scavanging. What's left? A change behind the bench.
Ranieri knows that despite still being involved in the Championship race, the FA cup and Champions League, he's about done. With the recent comments by Kenyon and Sven-Goran Eriksson, it looks like he might get to finish the season and then move on.
|No way on the railway
Heerenveen fans must travel to away matches on official buses after 81 supporters were arrested following last weekend's match against Vitesse Arnhem.
The Dutch first division team's fans had had a spotless reputation but a group travelling by train after Saturday's 1-0 win were involved in several incidents that led to arrests. "From now on we will take this measure because we want to prevent it happening again in the near future," said club president Riemer Van der Velde.
|Veikkaus ? Finland?s Monopoly is changing.
FootballStart has learned that Finish state-run book Veikkaus has finally decided to change some of their policies.
So far they have run 125% books (80% payback) and minimum trebles. The new style will be 112% books and singles on ?most of the games?. Our source say?s that this new policy will become effective almost very soon, possibly as early as February 2004.
|BBC's Quote of the Year
To put it in gentleman's terms, if you've been out for a night and you're looking for a young lady and you pull one, you've done what you set out to do. We didn't look our best today but we've pulled. Some weeks the lady is good looking and some weeks they're not. Our performance today would have been not the best looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi. She may not have been the best looking lady we ended up taking home but it was still very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much and let's have coffee
QPR boss Ian Holloway comes up with this quote to describe his team's lacklustre performance against Chesterfield.
|Parmalat - Where's the cheese?
It's supposed to be a time of celebration for Parma. In 2004, they celebrate 90 years from their inception. They've had a decent showing so far in the league, have progressed in the Italian cup and are still alive in the UEFA cup.
A shadow has been cast over the Gialloblu as it appears that their main sponsor, the dairy giant Parmalat is experiencing financial difficulties and might cut back on their cash flow to Cesare Prandelli's team.
Teams are salivating over the prospect of Adriano becoming available with Inter Milano being the front runners in what should be a long and jostling lineup.
|Tis The Shopping Season
With the transfer window just a few weeks away, they wish lists are starting to take shape.
With anything possible after their summer spending spree, Chelsea management have set their collective sights on Juve striker David Trezeguet according to the Daily Mail.
Everybody knows United is shopping for a striker and various names have been mentioned from Mateja Kezman to Mark Viduka, but now it appears Fulham striker Louis Saha has worked his way to the top of Sir Alex's wish list. Expect Man U to come up with a formal bid any day now.
But it's not all about buying as some teams are also looking to hang on to some of their stars. With either Ruud Van Nistelroy or Thiery Henry rumoured to be the Galacticos next target, both Arsenal and Man U are working the PR spin to ensure their fan favourites are not on the move.
|Christmas Comes Early For Rennes
Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom is set to sign for French outfit Rennes on a three and half year deal.
Kallstrom, 21, underwent a medical in Rennes on Thursday and is expected to complete the transfer in January when the transfer window re-opens. The youngster is one of the most promising talents in Sweden and has been attracting interest across Europe for some time.
"Tonight the ball seemed to be square for us and very round for them"
Bordeaux manager Michel Pavon explaining a loss by his side.
"To see a man of 15 stones go down like that is embarrassing. He now has to go home and explain to his kids why a man that size falls down so easily. It was the only thing in a poor game that made me laugh and think the world is a funny place"
Southampton manager Gordon Strachan on Bolton's Mario Jardel diving antics
Robert said I was picking the wrong team. At the time I was - because he was in it
Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson on Laurent Robert.
I was sitting with my girlfriend feeling very unfulfilled
New Wycombe boss Tony Adams on why he wanted to get back into football.
|Viera Not For Real
According to the Sunday Mirror, soon to be a free agent Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira says Real Madrid have no chance of signing him because of the way they treated his fellow countryman Claude Makelele.
According to Datasport, in a discussion with Victoriano Sanchez Arminio, the president of the Technical Comitee of Spanish Referees, it was revealed that the Spanish federation is analyzing a plan that would allow referees from the major football federations to referee in the Spanish league and vice-versa.
Currently issues such as traveling and game delegations are being discussed between the Italian, Spanish and Germany forums. Stay tuned for more interesting developments.
|Leeds Saviour In Sight?
Shares in Leeds United soared 28 per cent on Wednesday after a member of Bahrain's royal family said he might bid for the debt-ridden Premiership club. Leeds warned last week they might have to call in administrators if current re-financing moves failed.
We at FootballStart.com have known as early as the first round of the Premiership that long time Leeds fan Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Khalifa has been spending time sniffing a possible deal at Leeds. He spent the opener in the directors' box.
Last week Sky Sports reported that a deal could be in the works and completed by the end of this week. At the same time, L'Equipe quoted Al Khalifa as saying: "It's a group of investors in the Gulf, not only Bahrain, that I direct myself that is going to take over the English club.
This needs to happen sooner rather than later as Leeds cannot afford to lose any more of their talent base. The club needs all the help it can get in order to avoid relegation which could have a 15 million pounds negative impact on their bottom line.
|Alain Smith - Where to next?
The Sun is reporting that all major Premiership clubs, listing Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle are ready to fight it out for the signature of Leeds striker Alan Smith after the Elland Road club announced they were on the brink of administration.
I guess the rich just keep on getting richer. Next on the menu you ask? Mark Viduka, of (main) course.
|Ladbrokes doesn't do Germany
Starting today, Ladbrokes can no longer accept bets from customers residing or in transit in Germany due to new lagislation introduced in support of the West German Lotterie GmbH.
Ladbrokes will stop their entire German-language service (sport bets, LadbrokesCasino and LadbrokesPoker) effective November 26th, 2003.
Although not agreeing with the new laws as it interferes with European Union rights, Ladbrokes regrets these actions and the circumstances under which they took place.
German citizens still have full access to their accounts and assets but they cannott place any more bets. All long term bets will be honoured as placed.
According to insiders, UK-bookie William Hill are being more and more careful booking online. Many costumers have experienced reduced limits. How one of the oldest and biggest bookies don?t have a decent trading-team on soccer is insane and many people in the industry to shake their head in disbelief. We at Footballstart are now down to 0 Euro in limits on all soccer. Not bad!
|Introduction to Rumours
It is widely rumoured that Tuesday, November 25th will mark the release of a bigger and better http://www.footballstart.com
Come check it out and be amazed.
For archived articles in this category prior to the site migration, please click here