Quote of the day: Honestly, I don’t think we do enough [on doping tests].It is very difficult for me to believe that you have 740 players at the World Cup and you come out with zero problems. Mathematically, that happens every time. But statistically, even for social drugs, it looks like we would do better to go deeper. I hope England is immune from doping but I don’t know. When you have a doping control at Uefa [matches], they do not take blood, they take only urine. I have asked many times in Geneva [for that to be changed]. Sometimes, you have to wait for two hours after the game, so blood could also be a lot quicker. – Arsene Wenger
Runner-up: After the Arsenal game, 20 days ago, we were doing really well and he [Abramovich] was really happy. Since then I’ve had conversations with people close to him, but not directly. Do you know what he thinks? If you don’t know, you can’t say this or that will happen. Nobody knows. I was talking with him. We were talking about football and in terms of football everything is fine.” – Rafael Benitez
Arsene Wenger calls for football to get tough on corruption (David Hynter, The Guardian) Arsène Wenger has called for the introduction of blood tests to combat doping cheats in football, as he voiced his fears about the extent of corruption in the world game. The Arsenal manager likened the scale of the week’s match-fixing revelations, which Europol are investigating, to a tsunami, although he believes that English football has no problems in this area or with regard to the bribery of match officials.
Danny Mills Interview: Pill-taking was rife when I was a player (Henry Winter, The Telegraph) “Before the lead-up to the 2002 World Cup, we had six months of saliva tests, urine tests, blood tests, so when we turned up, we were given pills of what we were deficient in. I’d come down to breakfast and there’d be a cup of pills with my name on it. I had six in the morning, six at night. I didn’t ask what was in it. You trust what you are given. It was legal. It was magnesium, a bit of ginseng.”
Benitez: I don’t know if I’ll survive a defeat against Wigan (Paul Kelso, The Telegraph) But he is getting no clues from the owner. Benítez said on Friday that he has had no contact with Abramovich since the Arsenal game 20 days ago, and admitted that nobody knows, including the media, what the Russian is thinking. Whether it is the manager’s future or Frank Lampard’s chances of a new contract, all roads lead to the closed door of the oligarch’s mind.
TV is ‘killing’ Manchester United
Ferguson would ‘love to’ boycott a game in protest at TV scheduling (Ian Herbert, The Independent) “Possibly you get more [TV] money [in the Premier League than on the continent]. I don’t know,” Ferguson said. “I’ve got no idea about that part. Teams in other countries do make sacrifices for their top teams in Europe.” When it was put to him that it was in the interests of Sky Sports for United to progress past Jose Mourinho’s team and deep into the tournament, he replied: “Maybe we’ll not get there! Maybe they’ll suffer for that. [But] you can’t reject the TV game. What can you do? Not turn up? I’d love to do that. I’ve complained about that. You’ve heard my complaints. Do you think they listen?”
Fabio Da Silva on leaving Manchester United and twin brother behind (Sam Wallace, The Independent) Fabio estimates that before this summer the two brothers had never spent more than two days apart. They left Fluminense in January 2008 and moved to Manchester together but it took Fabio, afflicted by injuries that have slowed his career, almost a year before he made his first-team debut. Rafael’s progress was more rapid and this season he is established as United’s first-choice right-back. It was not always the case that Rafael was ahead of Fabio, who despi te being a left-back is right-footed and can play on either wing. A good run of form in the 2010-11 season meant that Fabio was selected ahead of Rafael to play at right-back against Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley in May 2011.
Steven Taylor backs Newcastle’s French renaissance (Louise Taylor, The Guardian) If the members of the new cross-Channel influx, spearheaded by Moussa Sissoko, have already eased Newcastle’s relegation fears by helping inspire Premier League wins against Aston Villa and Chelsea, Taylor’s return from the hamstring injury that had sidelined him since November has tightened a previously vulnerable defence. Against Chelsea he suggested that Roy Hodgson could do worse than offer him a run out in an England shirt, but Taylor appreciates that he and Coloccini face tough competition from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, the France centre-half freshly arrived from Montpellier.
Wayne Rooney’s ‘partnership’ with Robin Van Persie is two lone dangers (Barney Ronay, The Guardian) There is some occasional interplay between the two, some complementary spins and turns, and a sense of a twin but distinct threat, which is of course a weapon in itself. Watching them, at times it feels as though Manchester United have two chances to score in every game, that they are effectively playing two lone strikers, simultaneous substitutes in a ghostly 4-4-(1)-(1). Either way it is undoubtedly working. Rooney has 17 goals this season and Van Persie 24. It’s like football reduced to fantasy football. Buy yourself a 30-goal striker and get – 30 goals from your striker. And so Rooney and Van Persie simply get on with it courteously, discreetly, like two men quietly battering away at their laptops in the first-class carriage of a high-speed train.
Government must act to protect the game – club owners rarely do (Glen Moore, The Independent Weekend Dossier) Eighty-odd years ago Babe Ruth was taken to Tottenham Hotspur v Everton. After looking around White Hart Lane’s packed stands, he was taken into the away dressing room and introduced to Dixie Dean, the baseball legend’s nearest football counterpart at the time. “So you’re that Dixie Dean guy?” said Ruth. “Well, you should make some money today. What’s your cut of the gate?” “I’m paid as much as everyone else: £8.” The slugger was shocked. “I’d demand two-thirds of that gate if I was out there,” he said.
AFCON Final Previews
Paul Put guides Burkina Faso to unlikely final appearance against Nigeria (Jonathan Wilson, The Telegraph)
Football has rarely been a source of joy to Burkina Faso, the West African country of only 16 million inhabitants which is dwarfed by neighbouring Mali and Niger. With an annual GDP per capita of $1,400 (compared to $36,700 in the United Kingdom), Burkina Faso is ranked the 203rd richest country in the world out of the 228 considered by the CIA last year and there has been little investment in the game since it hosted the Cup of Nations in 1998. Back then Burkina Faso reached the semi-final but they have not progressed beyond the group stage in any other tournament. Last year, having qualified controversially despite fielding an ineligible player against Namibia, they lost all three group games.
Stallions come up on rails despite moral handicap (Glen Moore, The Independent) The customary British inclination to support the underdog may be tempered when Burkina Faso face Nigeria in the final of the African Cup of Nations. On one hand the Stallions’ coach is a condemned match-fixer and success in Johannesburg will provide one of the continent’s despots with reflected glory. There again, should Burkina Faso triumph, one of the world’s most benighted populations will be able to savour a rare moment of unbridled joy.