Odd balls  •

‘Old Lady’ rejuvenated

Juventus, clear of the domestic opposition at the half-way stage of the Italian season, have pulled away from their closest pursuers once more. A Zlatan Ibrahomovic hat-trick contributed to a 5-2 win over Lecce which, coupled with AC Milan’s 2-1 defeat at Siena, gave the ‘Vecchia Signora’ a renewed three-point cushion. Milan turned the tables in midweek, winning against Chievo, while Juve were beaten by Inter. Going into last weekend’s fixtures, both Milan and Juventus were tied on 70 points.

Double dutch

A recent wave of football-related violence has prompted the Dutch Parliament to propose a motion banning fans from stadia. Games considered to be high risk, such as encounters between Ajax and Eindhoven, would be played behind closed doors if the idea is accepted.

Green green grass of home

Owen Hargreaves has ended speculation that he will move to the Premiership this summer by insisting that he will see out his contract with Bayern Munich. The 24-year-old England international recently came off the bench to score the goal that gave his side a 1-0 win over Hannover and as good as assured the record Bundesliga champions this season’s title.

Heirs to the throne

UEFA President Lennard Johanssen has stated that he is not yet ready to step down and that he has not decided if he will run for a further term of office in 2006. Behind the scenes, Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer are jockeying for position with Brazilian legend Pele firmly coming down on the former German playmaker’s side.

Last hooray?

Since being relegated to the bench at Real Madrid, 31-year-old Luís Figo has changed his mind about his international retirement. The former Portugal captain will make himself available for selection once more and hopes to continue playing top level football until the end of the 2006/’07 season.