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Spain strain

Following the controversy caused by Spain coach Luis Aragone’s racist outbursts ahead of last year’s England friendly, the Spanish F.A. has concluded that the incident was “not of great seriousness” and has fined its employee a mere 3,000 euros. Meanwhile, Madrid are once more making inroads into Barcelona’s lead, their 3-1 win over Betis comparing well with Barcelona’s 0-0 draw with Espanyol. One player who will play no part in Real’s plans this season is Jonathan Woodgate. The 18 million euro gunner capture from Newcastle is continuing his recuperation from injury and is not expected to make a full recovery until the autumn.

French whine

Former Arsenal star Nicolas Anelka, who has had less than satisfying shots at Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Liverpool and Manchester City, is only four weeks into his latest contract with Turkish Fenerbahce and already complaining. He has told friends that the goldfish bowl atmosphere in Istanbul is getting on his nerves. Former mentor, Arsene Wenger, may have unearthed a new French diamond in 20-year-old Bordeaux midfielder, Antonio Mavuba, described as the next Jean Tigana. Arsenal will face stiff competition from Manchester United for the emerging star’s signature this summer.

Magic eye

The recent spate of disputed “goals” given or not given has prompted FIFA to give a trial to new technology involving a microchip in the ball itself and sensors around the goalposts. A signal will transmit information on whether the ball has crossed the goal line or not to a mini-computer on the referee’s wrist. If tests at this year’s U-17 World Championships prove successful, the system will be introduced at the 2006 World Cup at a cost of 300,000 euros per stadium, 3.6 million euros in total!

Changing places

The exodus of Portuguese players is set to continue next season with Porto’s Vitor Baia leading the way. The 36-year-old keeper is wanted by CSKA Moscow who have offered the former international a princely salary. Sporting’s Ricardo is another goalkeeper in demand. Dynamo Moscow are said to be on his trail, but if Arsenal firm up their interest with a 5 million euro offer, the current Portugal No 1 may well be on his way to North London. Benfica’s Simao has attracted the attention of Manchester United, as has Moreira, current number two to Quinn at the Stadium of Light. United, who are also scouting the Italian market, are prepared to pay 3.6 million euros for the Benfica reserve.Two players who will not be leaving are Miguel and Nuno Gomes. Both have turned down offers from Dynamo Moscow.

Keeping them out

By conceding a goal during Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Norwich, Petr Cech ended his perfect record of 1,025 minutes in goal – it was still enough to establish a new best mark previously held by Liverpool’s Storser during the 1998-99 season. In Portugal, Vitor Baia remained unbeaten during 1,191 minutes in the 1991-92 season, and worldwide, Vasco da Gama’s Mazaropi leads the way with clean sheets lasting 1,816 minutes.


In Germany, Bayern and Schalke both won to stay head to head in the Bundesliga on 50 points, seven ahead of the chasing pack. Lyon lost 1-0 in Caen in France, but remain well ahead of the opposition, while AC Milan and Juventus both won 2-1 away in Italy to dominate the championship on 60 points, 16 clear of third place Sampdoria.

Master class

Rinus Michels, the Dutch national credited with putting his country’s football on the world map, has died aged 77 years. The architect of “Total Football”, a philosophy that characterises Holland’s style of play to this day, guided first Ajax to success in the 1970s and he took the national team to the 1974 World Cup final and the 1988 European Championship. Michels was also named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999.