Friday 17 September 2010

Portugal Seek Mourinho Help

Spanish sports daily, MARCA, is reporting that Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, has been seen  with the President of the Portuguese Football Federation, Gilberto Madail, and his agent, Jorge Mendes, at a dinner in a Madrid restaurant this week.

MARCA reports that Gilberto Madail is looking to "loan" Mourinho for the Portuguese national team and have him take charge of matches in October against Iceland and Denmark.

The former coach Carlos Queiroz was sacked last week after a poor start on the road  to Ukraine and Poland with no replacement names in the offing other than Paulo Bento. It seems the Federation have designs on Jose Mourinho.

The Director of Institutional Relations of Real Madrid, Emilio Butragueño, said the club has no record of the Portuguese Football Federation's (FPF) interest or confirmation that Jose Mourinho wants to manage his national team in the next two qualifying matches of Euro 2012.

"I just spoke with the club management and they do not have any information either, so there is little to say," said Butragueño.

"I will not say something about a matter that we do not know is even true." he reiterated during his participation at the meeting of Technical Committee of the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro). 

Courtesy of MARCA
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Monday 13 September 2010

Mourinho Returns to Champions Action

Getty Images
Last May the Santiago Bernabeu stadium hosted the UEFA Champions League final which saw Jose Mourinho secure the third title of the season for the Inter Milan trophy cabinet when the Italian side deprived Bayern Munich President, Franz Beckenbauer, of taking the title back to Germany. 

This Wednesday night a new Champions League season kicks off with the “Special One” back at the same stadium but this time in charge of Real Madrid, with whom he will be seeking his third Champions league Title – having won his first with Porto FC in 2004.

The Champions League has eluded Real Madrid in recent years with their only win in the 21st century back in Hampden Park in 2002. Since then there have been some promising campaigns, much money spent, lots of upheaval but not the major European trophy in their side board.

Mourinho’s sole purpose in being lured to Madrid by Club President, Florentino Perez, is to change that record and bring the same glory that the Portuguese supremo has brought to Porto, Chelsea and Milan. 

In Real Madrid's first meeting of the qualifying group they face another legendary European Club, Ajax, which brings Mourinho face to face once again with a rival from his Premiership days and seven London derbies between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur – Martin Jol.

After rejecting an offer from Fulham earlier this season, Jol has guided Ajax through the qualifying stages and the club remains unbeaten after wins against PAOK FC and Dynamo Kyiv. They also arrive in Madrid with little form to guide them as 1995/96 was the last time both teams met in the Champions League.

Ajax did appear in the Bernabeu against AC Milan in 1969 losing the European Cup final when Cruyff and company were unable to contain the Italian side. But that history will not weigh too heavily this time as Ajax remain unbeaten away from home in Europe under Jol, who oversaw three wins and two draws as they reached the UEFA Europa League round of 32 last season 

For Real the start of the season has been positive with an away draw to Mallorca in the opening game, followed by a one nil victory at home against Osasuna last Saturday. Having started the change over in players Mourinho has seen the departure of Rafael Van de Vaart to Spurs, Raul Gonzalez to Schalke 04, Guti going to Besiktas in Turkey with Royston Drenthe on loan to Hercules in La Liga - with a few more earmarked for pastures new undoubtedly in due course.

Christoph Metzelder had already left in late June when his contract expired and Mourinho has already plundered the impressive German World Cup team bringing in the talented duo of Sami Khedira and Mehmet Oezil - along with his old sparring partner from Porto and Chelsea, Ricardo Carvalho. 

In the opening games Karim Benzema has made two appearances already which is an improvement from last season when he failed to figure in the former manager, Manuel Pelligrinni’s, game day plans.

Already the players know that times are different at the club, which goes beyond the visible departure of some of the clubs legends such as Raul. On Monday morning Mourinho changed the traditional post match recovery training to a full blown ball session – anxious that the players take the start of the Champions League seriously from the outset 

There is much expectation in Madrid about Wednesday night’s match as fans and club experts look on with anticipation to see if the “Mourinho Magic” can be applied at a club that has not tasted Champions League glory since the soft spoken and understated Vicente del Bosque was moved on in 2003 by Perez - in favour of former Manchester United Assistant Manager and recently fired Portugal manager, Carlos Queiroz.

Undoubtedly even Florentino Perez has nightmares about the wisdom of that decision which was made even worse following Spain's victory at the 2010 World Cup in Johannesburg in July under Del Bosque.

This week all that will be forgotten as Mourinho and company embark on another journey that he hopes will bring winning ways back to Real Madrid that will at least match - and hopefully outdo – those achievements of arch rivals, Barcelona FC.

Real Madrid and Ajax are both in Group G along with AC Milan and FC Auxerre.

Kenny Dalglish: The horror of Hillsborough haunts me. Liverpool legend King Kenny reveals all in his new autobiography, serialised on MirrorFootball - News -

Kenny Dalglish: The horror of Hillsborough haunts me. Liverpool legend King Kenny reveals all in his new autobiography, serialised on MirrorFootball - News -

Thursday 9 September 2010

Portugal Sack Queiroz

John Toshack Steps Down

Ten years after quitting the job following just one game in charge, John Toshack was reappointed as Wales’s manager for a second time in 2004 – and today he has stood down from the position for the second time.

Discovered at Cardiff City FC, he was to make his name following a move to Liverpool FC in 1970 and at Anfield he won league titles in 1972/73, 1975/76 and 1976/77 and the UEFA Cups in 1972/73 and 1975/76. Throughout most of that period he was paired with Kevin Keegan in a fearsome attack that delivered many memorable goals. 

In 1978 he was transferred to Swansea where he continued a as a player and then becoming manager, leading them to three promotions in succession and into the English top division. Impressed with this success Sporting Clube de Portugal tempted him to Lisbon to become their coach in 1984 and he left the shores of Wales to start his European journey. 

It was to be the start of a long foreign coaching odyssey as Toshack coached Real Sociedad de Fútbol to 1986/87 to a Spanish Cup success and then won the Spanish title as Real Madrid CF coach in 1989/90, with his side scoring a Spanish record 107 goals in the process. Spells at RC Deportivo La Coruña, Beşiktaş JK, AS Saint Etienne and a second spell at Madrid followed before Wales called again. 

Armed with a five year contract John Toshack focused on the finals of the UEFA EURO 2008™ in Austria & Switzerland as his first objective. In Group D Wales were given a tough draw and in the same group as the Republic of Ireland under Steve Staunton – both sides failing to make the finals. 

For the 2010 World Cup in South Africa Wales made a promising start winning 1–0 and 2-0 against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein. However, they lost their next game against Russia in Moscow, 2-1, after Joe Ledley had briefly drawn them level. 

The qualifying campaign showed promise when the team managed to prevent Germany from scoring for 74 minutes of their match in Mönchengladbach, but the match eventually finished 1–0 to Germany. But the Two 2–0 home defeats by Finland and Germany in Spring 2009 effectively put paid to Wales' hopes of qualification. 
In EURO 2010 qualifying group Wales were drawn with Montenegro, Bulgaria, Switzerland and England – losing their opening game to Montenegro 1-0. 

Following the setback Toshack said he had been prepared to continue until after next month's qualifiers against Switzerland and Bulgaria. However, after last Friday's defeat in Montenegro, it was felt in the best interests of the national side that he should leave now. 

John Toshack said: 

"I thought after three matches of this group we would review everything. 

"Even after the disappointment of the game in Montenegro that was still the way I felt. But we have come to the agreement that this might be better for everyone concerned," 

"Wales are still very much in this group, and now the decision has been made hopefully they'll be able to get some positive results in the next two games," he said."If the results do go against us, I think I would have preferred that to happen with me still in charge." 

Managerial record 
Swansea City 1978-1984 (resigned October 1983, re-appointed December 83)
Sporting Lisbon 1984-1985
Real Sociedad 1985-1989
Real Madrid 1989-1990
Real Sociedad 1991-1994
Welsh National Team 1994 (one match)
Deportivo de La Coruña 1995-1997
Besiktas JK 1997-1999
Real Madrid 1999
St. Etienne 2000-2001
Real Sociedad 2001-2002
Calcio Catania 2002-03
Real Murcia 2004
Welsh National Team 2004- September 2010

La Liga 1989/90
Copa del Rey 1987
Supercopa 1995
Turkey Cup 1998
Welsh Cup 1981, 1982, 1983

FAI Statement

The Football Association of Ireland today (September 9) reconfirmed, following its AGM last month, that sales of Vantage seats, including sponsor commitments have surpassed 6,300. At the recent match against Andorra the number of Vantage seats occupied on premium level was 6,900 and the overall attendance at the match against Andorra, the bottom seeds in the group, was third highest at all UEFA qualification matches taking place that day in Europe. Claims made in this morning's Irish Independent about a ticket fiasco are unfounded.

The Irish Independent reported that Mr. David Blood, had stated that an offer was made by a third party to the FAI of €75m to bear all risk from the Vantage Sales Process. The Board of Management of the FAI this morning confirms categorically that the Board never rejected any such offer and David Blood acknowledged this to be the case.

This morning's Irish Independent also claimed that a number of Vantage seats have been cancelled. The Football Association of Ireland can confirm that these account for less than 100 seats in total. The Association has less than 4,000 seats available to sell on premium level and the 6,300 figure reported at the AGM took account of this small number of cancellations.

The FAI also wishes to clarify that existing ten year ticket holders who purchased in 2004 and 2006 have paid for their ten year tickets in full and it is incorrect to claim that they have not paid for their tickets in the stadium.

The FAI has met all of its contributions to the €411m Aviva stadium which it jointly owns with the IRFU. In close consultation with its banking partners, the FAI has put in place detailed business plans that will see it debt free by 2020, while continuing to fund the development and growth of the sport at grassroots. The Association's business plans, backed by record levels of turnover and a commercial portfolio which as trebled in the past five years will give the FAI a debt free status from 2020. In addition, the FAI also has a number of sponsorship announcements still to make in the short term. These business plans have been agreed in close consultation with our banking partners who are comfortable with our seat sales and revenues.

Irish Independent, Thursday September 9th 2010
"Ticket fiasco leaves soccer association millions in red"

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Argentina Undo World Champions

The term friendly will rarely apply any of the matches Spain will play outside their EURO 2012 campaign up until the 20104 World Cup in Brazil as proved by the meeting in Buenos Aires on Tuesday evening with Argentina - with the new manager, Sergio Batista, anxious to impose his own style, select his own players and make break with the preceding Maradona era.

At the stadium where Alfredo Di Stéfano first made his name at seventeen years of age over seven decades ago  Argentina handed Spain only their third defeat since 2006 after putting the reigning world and European champions to the sword with a 4-1 scoreline in Tuesday's international at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.

Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, two players who ply their trade in Spain, put Argentina two up inside the opening 14 minutes and Carlos Tevez made it 3-0 in the 34th minute following a costly slip by Jose Reina. Spain, who hit the woodwork three times in the match, pulled a late goal back through Fernando Llorente but Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero made it 4-1 for the home side in injury time.

That wrapped up the scoring and saw Argentina, under the guidance of interim boss Sergio Batista following the departure of Diego Maradona, join USA and Switzerland as the only sides to have beaten Spain in the last 58 matches - 52 of which have seen the Iberian nation emerge victorious.

Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque made five changes to the side that started Friday's 4-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying win over Liechtenstein, resting the likes of Xavi, Fernando Torres and captain Iker Casillas, and the new-look line-up soon found themselves in trouble.

Tevez gave an early warning to the visitors when he beat the offside trap to get on the end of Messi's fine through ball, but the Manchester City man dragged his shot wide of the far past with only Reina to beat. The same two Argentinians were involved four minutes later as Spain were cut open again, but this time with a different outcome. Tevez put Messi in inside the area and the Barcelona man coolly chipped the ball into the net as Gerard Pique and Reina closed in on the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year.

Tevez was heavily involved early on and in the 14th minute he helped make it 2-0 with a great pass for Real Madrid forward Higuain, who looked to have gone too wide as he rounded Reina but still found the net from a tight angle.

That was hardly the sort of start Spain would have been expecting but they settled down and were soon passing the ball around in trademark fashion. Then, in the 28th minute, they came within a whisker of pulling a goal back when David Villa hit the top of the far post with a stunning 30-yard left-footed drive. If that had gone in it would have seen Villa equal Raul's national record of 44 goals, and also given Spain a lifeline back into the match.

However, it flew away for a goal-kick and six minutes later Spain found themselves 3-0 down, and Reina nursing a very red face. There appeared little danger as Reina collected Alvaro Arbeloa's back pass but the Liverpool goalkeeper slipped as he looked set to return possession to his team-mate and Tevez nipped in to slide the ball home.

If Spain this evening did not look like the side that won the World Cup, then the way Argentina played had a lot to do with that.

That was a real setback for Spain just as they looked to be getting into their stride, and the European champions must have realised it was not going to be their night when Villa struck the post for a second time just before the break. The number seven's free-kick from outside the area took a deflection off new Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano in the Argentina wall before striking the far post.

Del Bosque made four changes at the break and Spain had Argentina on the back foot for much of the second half. Llorente went close with a header before Santi Cazorla saw his brilliant dipping volley tipped onto the bar by Sergio Romero. Romero then palmed over a Pedro Rodriguez shot as Spain continued to push for at least a consolation goal.

That goal finally arrived in the 84th minute when Pedro fed Llorente, who turned and stabbed the ball inside the far post. Spain had a half-chance to pull another goal back through Cazorla at the far post but Argentina survived that and then added gloss to the win when substitute Aguero headed home Gabriel Heinze's cross late on.

Argentina coach Batista said that the emphatic win proved that Argentina had put the crushing loss to Germany behind them. "We were sent packing from South Africa, but we could just as well have won the World Cup," he said. "If Spain this evening did not look like the side that won the World Cup, then the way Argentina played had a lot to do with that. We played the way we wanted to play."

Del Bosque said that there was no shame for Spain in losing to Argentina. 
"We lost with dignity and never gave up trying," he said. "Argentina were very fast up front, they move well and it was normal that they controlled the game. They hardly left us any room to play in."

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Monday 6 September 2010

Toshack To Quit Wales

John Toshack is set to resign as Wales manager and is considering announcing his departure within the next 48 hours. The 61-year-old could, though, continue temporarily in the role to give the Football Association of Wales time to identify and appoint a replacement.

That raises the prospect of Toshack remaining in charge for next month's 2012 European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland. Wales, who do not play this week, are then without a competitive game until March.

Toshack was despondent after Friday's defeat in Montenegro, in their opening Group G fixture, and he feels that he has taken the side as far as he can. Toshack has no desire to oversee another qualification campaign where Wales are effectively going through the motions with little chance of progressing and is preparing to bring his six-year reign in his second spell as manager to an end.

FAW officials last night said Toshack had not yet quit, although they are aware of just how low the manager felt in the wake of the chastening 1-0 defeat by Montenegro. It was Wales's sixth defeat in their last nine matches and Toshack cut a dejected figure after a poor display that drew criticism from the 500 travelling supporters.

There had been suggestions that Toshack might wait to see how Wales performed in the Bulgaria and Switzerland matches before reaching a decision over his future but it now appears he will clarify his position early this week.

Toshack, whose contract expires in 2012, had felt upbeat about Wales's prospects when Scotland were defeated 3-0 in November but he has taken few positives from performances since. He had hoped what is a reasonable draw for the European Championship would give Wales a genuine chance of finishing second in their group, behind England, but the 1-0 defeat in Podgorica on Friday means they already face an uphill task, with Toshack describing the Bulgaria game in Cardiff next month as "must-win".

The list of potential candidates to succeed Toshack is likely to include Chris Coleman, who is out of work, Dean Saunders, the Wrexham manager who is also Toshack's assistant, and Brian Flynn, who has done an impressive job in his role as the Wales Under-21 coach. Gary Speed would have been near the top of the list but his recent appointment as Sheffield United manager has taken him out of the reckoning.

Toshack is expected to push Ryan Giggs's name forward as his replacement, although it seems unlikely that the 36-year-old will take the position when he remains a key part of Sir Alex Ferguson's plans at Manchester United. Giggs would, however, be the most popular choice among the public and give Welsh football a much needed boost at a time when supporters have become increasingly disillusioned with the national team's results and their failure to mount a serious challenge to reach a major finals for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.

The job of managing Wales is certainly a challenging one, as Toshack discovered from the moment he replaced Mark Hughes. Although Wales have a sprinkling of talented individuals, there is a small pool of players to pick from and injuries and premature international retirements have made things more difficult still. The Wales manager had hoped a crop of promising youngsters would flourish but, while Chris Gunter and Gareth Bale have caught the eye, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Collison have picked up serious injuries and many others have stood still or regressed.

Toshack knows, however, he must take responsibility for the results, which have generally been disappointing and prompted calls from supporters as well as former players for a change of manager.

Stuart James, The Guardian,23791,12602_6356677,00.html

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Friday 3 September 2010

O'Leary Resigns FAI Finance Post

The FAI’s finance director, Mark O’Leary, has resigned from his position and will finish p working with the organisation this evening, it was announced yesterday. A spokesman for the association claimed the decision was prompted by O’Leary’s desire to return to work in industry and was not related to the organisation’s current financial position.

Only amatter of weeks ago, however, O’Leary played a key part at the association’s agm in Wexford in reassuring representatives of clubs, leagues and other affiliates that the financing of Lansdowne Road’s redevelopment was not placing an unmanageable burden on their finances.

He told delegates at the time the debt, which is believed to exceed €50 million, was to be rescheduled so as to allow for repayment by 2020. He said a business plan had been agreed that would enable the association to meet this target and hinted it would involve both the generation of greater revenues and the tightening of expenditure.

He gave no indication, however, that he would not be staying on to oversee the plan’s implementation despite the fact he had apparently indicated his desire to depart more than three months previously.

“He actually stayed on a little bit longer than his contractual period,” said the association’s communications director, Peter Sherrard in Yerevan yesterday when asked about the suddenness of the announcement.

“He wanted to stay on for the completion of the stadium and the agm. There are personal and private reasons and professional reasons for the timing of the announcement and the way it is being done.

“We thank him very much for his contribution to the association over the past five years. He has done a good job to get us where we are in terms of the financing of the stadium and seeing the project out. Of course, we are sorry to see him go, I think he has done a very good job for the association, which has come on a lot in his five years.”

Pádraig Smith, a key figure in the club licensing scheme over the last few years, will take over O’Leary’s responsibilities on an interim basis.

The Irish Times