• Van Gaal: United are worth a bet to win the FA Cup
Louis van Gaal has not yet proved a breath of fresh air in English football. For the most part his public utterances have amounted to a barrage of hot air about the philosophy he is trying to impart and the balance he is still seeking, though it must be said his assertion that Manchester United are now favourites for the FA Cup was amusing on several levels.
First, United have hardly played anyone in the FA Cup yet. They are in the fifth round by virtue of knocking out Yeovil and Cambridge, the latter needing a replay, and should they prosper against Preston North End next time out they will reach the last eight without encountering any opponents higher than League one.Continue reading...
“The militia man turned his back on a footballer’s playboy lifestyle after becoming radicalised two years ago.” Even by the standards of fanciful transfer gossip, this claim in a Mirror story last April felt something of a high-water mark. Like the many other news outlets that carried the story, the paper had a picture of the chap in question in his new strip – the black mask of Islamic State – which was taken from a video in which he was described as “an ex-football player (Arsenal of London)”. No snaps dating from his stint at the Emirates, alas, and a slightly disappointing absence of insiders claiming he’d been lured to Syria by the guarantee of first-team action.
Still, the reports all offered an early glimpse of a strangely hard-to-kill character type: the footballer jihadist – in this case a Portuguese by the name of Celso Rodrigues Da Costa, who now calls himself Abu Issa Al-Andalusi, apparently, though little about his persona seems particularly verifiable. But back then, I imagined him turning his back on the aforementioned “footballer’s playboy lifestyle”, a bit like Paula Hamilton in the 80s Golf advert – only instead of shedding a fur coat and a mews house, he’d be divesting himself of the trappings of the Premier League. The bling, the birds, the monogrammed media rooms. Then maybe having second thoughts and hanging on to the Louis Vuitton matchday washbag, tucking it under his arm as the passport to a new life of unspeakable acts on the frontline.Continue reading...
• Ward beats Veic 6-2 6-4 in the Croatian capital
The British No2 James Ward continued his climb towards the world’s top 100 by beating Antonio Veic to reach the second round of the PBZ Zagreb Indoors.
The world No109, who gave veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco a real scare at the Australian Open last month, needed just over an hour to defeat home hopeful Veic 6-2 6-4 in the Croatian capital.Continue reading...
• Cavendish beat Italians Andrea Guardini and Elia Viviani
Mark Cavendish on Wednesday won the opening stage of the Dubai Tour in a sprint finish for his second victory of the season.
Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) beat Italians Andrea Guardini (Astana) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) at the end of the 145-kilometre route from Dubai International Marine Club to Union House Flag.Continue reading...
• Bartomeu: ‘Someone now has overstepped the line’
• Sid Lowe: Court agrees to investigate Bartomeu
The Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has insinuated that bitter rivals Real Madrid had a part to play in the Neymar transfer court case in which he has been called to give evidence.
Bartomeu will be questioned on 13 February over whether Barcelona and their directors defrauded the Spanish tax office of €2.8m during the 2014 tax year.Continue reading...
In the latest in his series of illustrations, David Squires looks back on the closure of the transfer windowContinue reading...