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First blood

The five team grid lock at the top of Portugal’s Super Liga has an early leader with nine games of the season remaining. Benfica’s workman-like win last time out has established a six point cushion by virtue of Sporting’s “all or nothing” 2-0 victory over a Porto side reduced to nine men. Boavista and Braga also kept up with the pace, all four teams in the chasing pack now level on 45 points.

Homeward bound

It is looking increasingly likely that

Arsenal’s homesick Spanish star Jose Antonio Reyes will be the subject of a serious bid by Real Madrid. Michael Owen will be used as a make weight in any deal to reduce the transfer fee well in excess of 20 million euros. Meanwhile, Sporting’s on loan Newcastle striker Hugo Viana does not want to return to Tyneside. Newcastle have asked for seven million euros for the Portugal International, Sporting have offered less than half.


Bayern Munich manager Felix Magath, who succeeded Ottmar Hitzfeld at the beginning of this season, is struggling to gain acceptance amongst the Clubs fans despite reaching the Champions League quarter finals, the German Cup semifinals and topping the Bundesliga. Paradoxically, one of his spectacularly unsuccessful predecessors, current Benfica coach Giovanni Trapattoni, was loved on the terraces.

Last man standing

The only survivor of the successful French 1998 World Cup winning side, Fabien Barthez, 33, has announced that he will retire at the end of the next season. The former Manchester United ‘keeper will hang up his boots after the 2006 World Cup,

Crowd control

Controversial FIFA President Sepp Blatter is intent on resolving the refereeing crisis currently troubling the game. In addition to Portugal’s continuing “Golden Whistle” investigation into match fixing, several referees and players have been arrested in Germany having been paid by criminal betting syndicates. Repercussions have already been felt in other European Leagues, prompting Blatter to call for the abolition of the men in black all together. If backed at committee level at a FIFA summit in Geneva next month, new measures will see each player fitted with a “spy” camera – a panel of 22 experts in a television studio would then make instant decisions based on live video footage. Scheduled to come on line in April 2006, the revolutionary scheme will be extended to include fans by the 2008 European Championships.