Saturday, 30 August 2014

F1: Former Caterham workers begin legal action over dismissals

A Caterham car in Formula 1 action
A group of ex-Caterham employees have issued employment tribunal proceedings against the team claiming unfair dismissal, their lawyer says.
The 38 staff were dismissed in July by new owners after a Swiss-Middle Eastern consortium bought the team from founder Tony Fernandes.
Solicitor Christopher Felton, representing the workers, said High Court proceedings were also imminent.
A Caterham spokesman said talks were continuing over the issue.
"We are not not aware of any court claim being lodged today," said the spokesman.
"There are on-going negotiations out of court in order to solve this issue. The team doesn't have any further comments."
Felton said that the High Court proceedings were necessary because some of the claims were larger than the maximum amounts an employment tribunal could award in damages.

Caterham in Formula 1

Debut: 2010 (as Team Lotus)
Points: 0
Best race finish: 11th - Vitaly Petrov at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix
Best team finish: 10th (2010, 2011, 2012)
Felton said the former Caterham staff had not been paid their July salaries and had been no response to a letter from 25 July which invited a settlement.
"The hope is that Caterham will enter into a constructive discussion with the employees and their legal representatives so this matter can be resolved swiftly and amicably," he said.
Caterham's new owners have launched a cost-cutting programme since they took charge of the team, who are 11th and last in the constructors' championship with seven races remaining.
They replaced Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi with German endurance racer Andre Lotterer for last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix and have indicated that further driver changes could be on the way.

Nico Rosberg disciplined by Mercedes for Hamilton collision

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg clash at Belgian GP
Mercedes have taken disciplinary action against Nico Rosberg following his collision with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix.
Championship leader Rosberg accepted responsibility for the collision, calling it an "error of judgement".
The team handed out an undisclosed punishment to Rosberg, likely to be a fine, while agreeing to let them continue racing for the world title.
They have been warned another similar incident "will not be tolerated".
While Rosberg apologised to Hamilton in a statement on Friday, his British team-mate responded by admitting "we have both made mistakes".
The two drivers collided on lap two of Sunday's race as Rosberg attempted to overtake Hamilton at the Les Combes chicane.
Rosberg's front wing hit Hamilton's left rear tyre, damaging the wing and giving Hamilton a puncture which eventually caused the 2008 world champion's retirement.

Andrew Benson's analysis

"Mercedes have tried to draw a line in the only feasible way after team boss Toto Wolff and adviser Niki Lauda came out so strongly against Rosberg after the race. These actions put Hamilton firmly in the right, but what they have not done is fix the damage done to his title hopes by the incident. Hamilton, sources close to him say, remains confident he can close the gap given a few trouble-free races. But trouble-free races are exactly what he has not had - not since the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, amazingly. And any incident that damages both their hopes in a race also helps Rosberg in the championship. It remains, therefore, a combustible situation, and it remains highly likely that this will not be the end of it."
Rosberg recovered to finish second behind Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, moving into a 29-point championship lead over Hamilton with a maximum of 200 still available over the remaining seven races.
The incident was the culmination of ever-building tension between the two over the preceding 11 races.
It was a consequence of Rosberg wanting to prove a point to Hamilton that he would not be intimidated in wheel-to-wheel racing, after being forced to back out of passing moves in previous battles in the Bahrain and Hungarian Grands Prix.
But in the meeting on Friday Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff and executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe made it clear such actions were unacceptable and laid down strict guidelines for future racing between the two.
The statement said: "During the meeting, Nico acknowledged his responsibility for the contact that occurred on lap two of the Belgian Grand Prix and apologised for this error of judgement.

Remaining Races

Venue Date Points for winner
Italian Grand Prix (Monza)
5-7 September
25
Singapore Grand Prix
19-21 September
25
Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
3-5 October
25
Russian Grand Prix (Sochi)
10-12 October
25
United States Grand Prix (Austin)
31 October-2 November
25
Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo)
7-9 November
25
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina)
21-23 November
50
"Suitable disciplinary measures have been taken for the incident.
"Mercedes-Benz remains committed to hard, fair racing because this is the right way to win world championships. It is good for the team, for the fans and for Formula 1.
"Lewis and Nico understand and accept the team's number one rule: there must be no contact between the team's cars on track.
"They remain free to race for the 2014 FIA Formula 1 world championship.
Rosberg released a statement on Friday on his Facebook  page, issuing a further apology.
He said: "After meeting with Toto, Paddy and Lewis, I wish to go a step further and describe it as an error of judgement on my part.
"The number one rule for us as team-mates is that we must not collide but that is exactly what happened.
"For that error of judgement, I apologise to Lewis and the team. I also want to say sorry to the fans who were deprived of our battle for the lead in Belgium.
"Lewis and I have been given clear instructions about how we race each other.
"As drivers, we have a clear responsibility to the team, the fans of the sport, our partners and Mercedes-Benz to deliver clean racing. We take that responsibility very seriously."

Eddie Jordan - BBC F1's chief analyst

"Two drivers of this calibre, they're like two spoilt kids. This was destined to happen. This was inevitable. You can't run an operation of this size and just leave it to two fairly young people to have enough intelligence not to run into each other when emotions and egos are running high. The parameters should have been laid out for them. This has failed and I put that down to the team. I do want to see racing between them but not in the way it happened last Sunday."
Hamilton then issued his own Facebook statement,  which said: "Nico and I accept that we have both made mistakes and I feel it would be wrong to point fingers and say which one is worse than the other.
"What's important is how we rise as a team from these situations. We win and we lose together and, as a team, we will emerge stronger.
"There is a deep foundation that still exists for me and Nico to work from, in spite of our difficult times and differences.
"The fans want to see a clean fight until the end of the season and that's what we want to give them."

Swansea City 1 vs 0 West Bromwich Albion

Live Commentary

Assist Gylfi Sigurdsson
  • Goal Nathan Dyer
    GOAL! Swansea have taken the lead and what a start! It's Nathan Dyer who has scored it after some fine link-up play with Gylfi Sigurdsson. He drove at the visitors and exchanged passes with his team-mate as he raced into the box. Jonas Olsson slipped in the box and Dyer rounded the keeper to score.
  • 1'
    And we're underway!
  • We're moments away from kick-off now with both sets of players out on the pitch! West Brom are getting us underway kicking from left to right.
  • Swansea shocked Louis van Gaal on his Manchester United debut by securing victory on the opening weekend and they’ve gone from strength to strength since. Narrow 1-0 victories over Burnley and Rotherham – the latter in the League Cup in midweek – leaves the Swans undefeated in the early stages of the season. Alan Irvine’s new-look West Brom are also undefeated, but three consecutive draws (albeit one resulting in a penalty-shootout win against Oxford earlier this week) means their run has been steady if unspectacular. They did claim victory in this fixture last season though, with a late 2-1 winner from Youssouf Mulumbu.
  • Let's take a look at the form guide today.
  • Alan Irvine makes alterations to his line-up for the first time in the league this season but they’re both exciting ones - for the visiting fans at least. Jason Davidson is handed his full Premier League debut and so too is Brown Ideye. The striker, a record-signing for the club, has a lot of hope resting on his shoulders with the club failing to find the back of the net on a regular basis last season. Saido Berahino and Stephane Sess├Ęgnon, both joint-top goalscorers, hit just five league goals each.
  • West Brom (4-2-3-1): Foster; Wisdom, Dawson, Olsson, Davidson; Gardner, Mulumbu; Berahino, Dorrans, Brunt; Ideye. Subs: Myhill, Gamboa, Sessegnon, McAuley, Morrison, Yacob, Baird.
  • And now over to the visitors, West Brom.
  • So Swansea, undefeated so far this season, remain unchanged from their previous two league fixtures as Garry Monk looks to build on their promising start to the season. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been in fine fettle for his new (or old) club thus far with a goal and two assists to his name so he is likely to play a vital role yet again today. Wilfried Bony leads the line on his own, as he has done with great success this year. Only Daniel Sturridge has scored more league goals than him in 2014 with 13 as opposed to the Swansea striker’s 12.
  • Swansea (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Rangel, Amat, Williams, Taylor; Ki, Shelvey; Dyer, Sigurdsson, Routledge; Bony. Subs: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Fernandez, Richards, Carroll, Montero, Gomis.
  • Let’s start things off with the team news – first up, the home side.
  • Hello and welcome to live commentary of Swansea City against West Bromwich Albion. You’ll be with me, Tom Davis, as we get set to enjoy more Premier League action.

Manchester City - v - Stoke City

  • And we are off! It is a wonderful day at the Etihad, as the hosts kick-off, moving left to right in their all light blue kits, while Stoke are sporting their red and white striped tops.
  • STAT ATTACK: Manchester City and Stoke City's last six head-to-head meetings have seen just nine goals scored, an average of 1.5 per game.
  • Some real attacking changes in place as Mark Hughes looks for some skill and speed on the counter attack. Jonathan Walters, Viktor Moses and Peter Crouch start in a brand new front three, behind Mame Diouf, in place of Marko Arnautovic, Peter Odemwingie and Steve Sidwell.
  • STOKE CITY SUBS: Huth, Muniesa, Odemwingie, Arnautovic, Adam, Bojan, Sorensen.
  • STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Whelan, N'Zonzi; Walters, Crouch, Moses; Diouf.
  • Pellegrini has made three changes to the team that beat Liverpool on Monday. Wing-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy make way for Aleksandr Kolarov and Bacary Sagna, who makes his first Premier League start with City. Meanwhile Edin Dzeko, who picked up a bit of a knock last week, starts on the bench and Sergio Aguero comes on in his place.
  • MANCHESTER CITY SUBS: Zabaleta, Dzeko, Milner, Caballero, Navas, Clichy, Fernandinho.
  • MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-1-1): Hart; Sagna, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Nasri, Fernando, Toure, Silva; Jovetic; Aguero.
  • The teams have been announced, so let us have ourselves a look at the starting line-ups:
  • Stoke have stumbled their way through the opening two matches. A late Ryan Shawcross equalizer at the KC Stadium on Sunday rescued a point for the Potters, their first of the season after dropping their opening match, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. Their new summer signings have yet to make an impact, but an adjustment period is to be expected. The question remains, how long will it take?
  • The defending champions have looked exactly as such, a few weeks into the new season. Their dismantling of Liverpool on Monday was a statement of intent issued by the Sky Blues to the rest of the league. Two wins from two games, and a plus four goal differential has Manuel Pellegrini's men perched atop the table, right where they left off last season.
  • Good afternoon Premier League fans around the world, and welcome to the Etihad, where the defending champions Manchester City get set to host Stoke City. I am Alex Moretto and I will be your in-game host, guiding you through the match LIVE as it happens!

Arsenal eye double deal

Sokratis Papastathopoulos: A target for Arsenal
  • Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is now set to swoop for Roma marksman Mattia Destro after Fernando Torres finally agreed to join AC Milan.
  • Real Madrid have asked about taking Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo on loan but Manuel Pellegrini wants to keep him.
  • Aston Villa have made a £7million bid for Manchester United's unwanted midfielder Tom Cleverley. A number of other Premier League clubs are interested.
  • Tottenham have agreed a £6million fee for Montpellier midfielder Benjamin Stambouli.
  • QPR boss Harry Redknapp is talking to former club Tottenham about signing Brazilian midfielder Sandro and is also interested in West Ham's Mo Diame.
  • And Hoops chairman Tony Fernandes has put a new offer on the table for the former Spurs chief Redknapp.
  • Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal is ready to offload SIX first-team stars before Monday's transfer deadline.
  • Marcos Rojo's move to Manchester United is under threat due to work permit and third party issues concerning the 24-year-old.
  • Chelsea have agreed a deal for Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy after matching his £8million release clause.
  • Manchester United have agreed a £14million deal to sign Ajax and Netherlands defender Daley Blind, who will provide Luke Shaw with competition at left-back.
  • United could also capture Juventus star Arturo Vidal before the transfer window shuts at 11pm on Monday if they come up with the right money.
  • The Reds are also battling with Arsenal for Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho.
  • Liverpool defender Daniel Agger looks set to return to his former club Brondby in Denmark for £3m after falling down the pecking order in defence at Anfield.
  • Arsenal were locked in talks with Borussia Dortmund trying to agree a fee for central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
  • Crystal Palace have made a bid for Queens Park Rangers defender Armand Traore, as new manager Neil Warnock attempts to sign four players before the transfer window closes.
  • Leicester City have had a bid accepted for Queens Park Rangers right back Danny Simpson.
  • Arsenal have been given a boost in their pursuit of Alessio Cerci after Torino's president Urbano Cairo revealed the forward would be sold for the right price.
  • Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has told striker Alvaro Negredo he is not for sale this summer. Real Madrid are just one club who have been linked with the forward, who is currently out with a minor injury.
  • Chelsea are also discussing a move for QPR's wantaway striker Loic Remy as well as Roma's Mattia Destro.
  • Darren Bent is back in from the cold at Aston Villa and is set to stay at the club despite being advertised to other clubs all summer.
  • Aston Villa's £7million move for Manchester United's Tom Cleverley could collapse because they cant afford his wages.
  • Manchester United want to sign 16-year-old defender Timothy Fosu Mensah from Ajax.
  • Southampton are resigned to missing out on Andros Townsend after manager Ronald Koeman confirmed the Tottenham winger is unlikely to join Saints.
  • Frustrated Virgil Van Dijk has rocked Celtic by telling them he wants to leave.
  • Harry Redknapp is set to sign a two-year extension to stay on as QPR manager and says he won't even glance at the small print.

Lansbury gives Forest victory

Henri Lansbury: Celebrates with his Forest team-mates
Nottingham Forest came through their toughest test of the season so far with their unbeaten start intact as they beat a spirited Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at Hillsborough.
Forest, among the favourites for promotion, are enjoying a fine start to life under Stuart Pearce and Henri Lansbury's first-half header made it four Sky Bet Championship wins from five and puts them top of the early league table.
But this victory was by no means plain sailing as they were given a stern challenge by a Wednesday side who saw their own unbeaten start to the campaign end.
After Lansbury's strike eight minutes before half-time, the Owls put up a sterling rally in a bid to get back into the game, with Stevie May going close three times and Forest goalkeeper Karl Darlow producing fine saves to deny Chris Maguire and Atdhe Nuhiu.
But they could not make the breakthrough they deserved and succumbed to a first defeat, although on this showing Stuart Gray's men will not be embroiled in the relegation fights of the last two years and could be play-off candidates.
The confidence running through both sides owing to their respective impressive starts was evident from the off and both attacked with early intent.
A fine piece of defending from Michael Mancienne denied Wednesday striker May a tap-in as the former Chelsea man desperately intercepted Liam Palmer's cut-back while the ever-dangerous Britt Assombalonga tested Keiren Westwood with a low drive for Forest.
It continued to be an open game as Wednesday went close through Jacques Maghoma's testing effort which forced Darlow into a good low save, while at the other end Assombalonga looked every inch the £5million striker as he caused the hosts' defence endless problems.
However, the former Peterborough man was not involved as Forest forged into a 37th-minute lead, which was reward for a sustained spell of pressure.
Instead it was former Wednesday winger Michail Antonio who was at the heart of the action as his teasing ball was guided home by the head of Lansbury.
Wednesday's response was almost immediate as Maguire dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box when he had time to compose himself.
The Owls fightback was more vigorous after the break as they searched for a leveller with May having three efforts in quick succession, two saved by Darlow and one was dragged wide.
Forest's goal was coming under siege and Darlow pulled out a fine stretching save to deny Maguire while Jack Hunt and Mancienne defiantly blocked efforts in a mad scramble.
Pearce's men had to survive a late onslaught as Darlow superbly tipped over from Nuhiu's curler before another scramble was desperately cleared away.
But they held on and headed away from Hillsborough with the points in the bag and looking definite promotion material.

Ashley Cole: 'More English players should follow defender abroad'

Roma's new signing Ashley Cole
There is a detail in Ashley Cole's story, My Defence, scripted eight years ago which seems suddenly resonant this weekend.
In the book the 33-year-old gives his version of events about a rendezvous that turned into a notorious tapping-up scandal, when he met with Jose Mourinho in a London hotel while he was still an Arsenal player.
The meeting, Cole suggested, was coincidental as he thought he was only going to chat with the agent Pini Zahavi about possible options if he decided to seek pastures new when the Chelsea manager arrived.
But what is interesting now, as the defender prepares to make his debut in Serie A with Roma, is the notion that he went to meet Zahavi purely to talk about moving abroad.
"Pini told me not to worry about a thing. Whether it was now or later, there were plenty of clubs who would be interested," he wrote, before adding: "Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia for sure, and these magnificent clubs just rolled off his tongue."
He continued: "I fired off a few questions about the differences between Spanish and Italian football, the weather, the people, the lifestyles. I asked about the different clubs and how other English players had adapted and made to feel welcome.
"It was just while I was talking that there was a knock at the door... " And in walked Mourinho with Chelsea's then chief executive Peter Kenyon.

Ashley Cole's career timeline in England

November 1999: Makes Arsenal debut in League Cup
March 2001: Makes England senior debut in World Cup qualifier against Albania
May 2002: First-choice left-back as Arsenal win the Premier League and FA Cup double
August 2006: Signs for Chelsea
May 2010: Wins the second Premier League and FA Cup double of his career
May 2012: Wins a record seventh FA Cup and wins the Champions League final with Chelsea at the third time of asking
May 2013: Wins the Europa League with Chelsea
May 2014: Retires from international football after failing to make England's World Cup squad and also announces he is likely to have played his last game for club
July 2014: Released by Chelsea and signs two-year-deal with Roma
As Cole prepares to make his debut for a continental club this weekend - Roma host Fiorentina on Saturday evening - it is intriguing to reflect that he gave serious thought to an overseas move back in his mid-twenties.
Of course, that never materialised. He took a far shorter and considerably more infamous journey across London instead, echoing the choice made by an old team-mate, Sol Campbell, when he eschewed the chance to play abroad to make the short hop from Tottenham to Arsenal when in his prime.
While there may have been temptation to try out a completely new experience for England's elite players over the last decade, staying on home shores was the preferred bet.
A couple of years ago, Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggested Steven Gerrard should have tried his luck abroad.
"Although of course Liverpool is a big club, I would like to see Steven at a big international club," said the Swede.
Ashley Cole: British footballers who have played abroad
"I would like to see that also for England because it is very exciting when someone goes abroad and shows who he is in another competition. For me, a fantastic player can make the difference in every country wherever he plays."
The general lack of English players who venture overseas remains an anomaly in football's global marketplace.
At the 1990 World Cup, before changes in employment laws transformed the landscape and players began crossing borders in increasing numbers, one player from England's squad played his club football outside Britain - Chris Waddle in Marseille.
But the numbers since don't show much of an improvement.
In all the World Cups since then, only three squad members played for foreign clubs - David Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003 - Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), who had lived most of his life abroad, and Fraser Forster when he played in the SPL. It is a paltry figure covering nearly 25 years.
There are a couple of stereotypical explanations - that the wages in the Premier League are attractive enough to keep talent in-house, and that English people are naturally less inclined to go through the personal tests required to succeed in a different country. But still.
Jimmy Greaves, Trevor Francis and Paul Gascoigne
England stars Jimmy Greaves (left), Trevor Francis (centre) and Paul Gascoigne spent some of their best years playing for AC Milan, Sampdoria and Lazio respectively
Even Italy, who were generally resistant to leaving their home league, now find themselves with greater numbers abroad, including their best young talent (Mario Balotelli, Marco Verratti and Ciro Immobile play in England, France and Germany).
Not so long ago Spanish players seemed to have a hoodoo when it came to trying out other European leagues but that feels like ancient history. England is the last place to appear reluctant to open its exit barrier.
When he was unveiled in Rome, Cole hinted that there is a prevailing fear factor. "Perhaps British players are a little afraid to move abroad," he said. "They are accustomed to British culture and for them it is convenient to stay at home.
"But as soon as I had this opportunity, I was glad to get out of London, to face a new language and a new culture."
It is telling that Cole acknowledges this move has come at exactly the right time for him, a little older and wiser, and thus more confident to take on the various challenges needed to adapt and immerse himself in a new culture, language, and way of life as well as a new style of football.
He recently posted a photograph on Twitter of an afternoon stroll around the Colosseum.
In another he mentioned he was off for an Italian lesson - something that once might have left him open to mockery but now can only be regarded as sensible and good practice. He signed off one tweet in local vernacular with a "buona notte" (goodnight).
It has got to be a positive thing for the English game that Cole appears to be relishing the opportunity to push himself and challenge boundaries that have been familiar throughout his footballing life.
But it also opens up the debate about whether it would benefit the English scene to have more players gaining that kind of experience and taking themselves out of their comfort zone - especially in their formative years.
Welsh footballer John Charles is held aloft by supporters after he led his team Juventus to victory in the 1958 Italian Cup at Turin
In 1997, Wales striker John Charles was voted by Italian fans as the greatest-ever foreign import
Roy Hodgson advocates it for younger players. "It wouldn't hurt them at all to go abroad," he says. "If you're asking me would it be better for some of our players to be playing in good teams abroad rather than warming the bench in the Premier League, then of course, as a national team manager I would like to see that."
As the English game tries to come to terms with its national side exiting the World Cup so early and a new squad that seems short of experienced inspiration, perhaps that is a point the FA could do with encouraging.
When Ashley Cole went on loan to Crystal Palace as a teenager, what influence might it have had on him - not just as a footballer but as a person - if he had tested himself back then with PSV Eindhoven or Porto instead?
Defender Eric Dier, 20, at Tottenham has made an immediate impression not just with his ability but also his mature attitude having spent several years educated at Sporting Lisbon.
English players broadening their horizons can only be a good thing. The sooner it can happen to players, before they reach veteran status, the better.

Torres in Italy for medical

Fernando Torres: In Milan for medical ahead of move away from Chelsea
Fernando Torres has arrived in Italy ahead of his proposed loan move from Chelsea to AC Milan.
The clubs agreed terms on a two-season loan on Friday and Torres has arrived to finalise the deal, agree personal terms and have a medical.
Torres is out of contract at Stamford Bridge in 2016 and the conclusion of the deal could mean the end of what has been a turbulent spell with Chelsea.
The Spain international went through lengthy spells without scoring and has managed only 20 goals in 110 Premier League appearances since joining the club from Liverpool for a then British record £50m in January 2011.
Milan confirmed on Twitter that Torres had landed at the city's Linate Airport, where he was greeted by 200 fans, and they posted a picture of the player holding a scarf before announcing he was at the Madonnina Clinic undergoing his physical tests.
He told Milan Channel: "It’s an honour and a privilege to wear this shirt. I want to take the side back into the Champions League and perhaps stay here for many years.
"I know some of the players like Alex, Essien, Diego Lopez. Demetrio Albertini also spoke well of Milan and he’s a great friend of mine.
"I was close to joining Milan when I was at Atletico Madrid, but we’re talking about many years ago, a long time has since passed. I know the history of the club and it is illustrious. I want to make the fans happy. I couldn’t wait to arrive and start the new season. I have already spoken to the coach."

Daniel Agger: Liverpool defender returns to Danish club Brondby

Daniel Agger
Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has returned to his native Denmark, after signing a two-year deal with Brondby.
The 29-year-old has struggled with injury problems over the past 12 months and Liverpool have allowed him to leave the club for an undisclosed fee.
"Liverpool have been such a big part of my life that leaving is extremely difficult," Agger said.
"The opportunity arose for me to return home and at this stage of my career it felt like the right decision for me."

Liverpool's major summer departures

Luis Suarez: joined Barcelona for £75m
Pepe Reina: joined Bayern Munich for £2m
Martin Kelly: joined Crystal Palace for an undisclosed fee
Jack Robinson: joined QPR for an undisclosed fee
The Danish club released a statement  saying Agger has taken a "massive pay cut" to rejoin his old side.
Agger has previously resisted attempts to lure him away from Anfield, notably from Manchester City, but having fallen behind new signing Dejan Lovren in the defensive pecking order, he has decided the time has come to move on.
The Dane joined Liverpool from Brondby in 2006 in a £5.8m deal and made 232 appearances for the Merseyside club.
He scored 14 goals and won the 2012 League Cup with the Reds, but lost in the 2007 Champions League final against AC Milan.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said: "This is a decision Daniel has reached after much soul searching and deliberation.
"On behalf of everyone at Liverpool, I thank Daniel for his service to the club and hope he finishes his career with some happy times in Denmark."
Agger becomes the third defender to leave the club this summer following the departures of Martin Kelly and Jack Robinson.
Liverpool have also sold striker Luis Suarez and goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

From Higuain to Fellaini: Napoli spending dries up ahead of key Champions League clash

From Higuain to Fellaini: Napoli spending dries up ahead of key Champions League clash Deceiving, speculating and saving [money] are the laws of your mission ... mind you, with or without you, our passion will never end. It does not hurt to dare.”

There is a fine line between prudence and parsimony, particularly in football, and, according to Napoli fans, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis has crossed it.

Just days after the San Paolo faithful voiced their dissatisfaction with this summer’s inactivity in the transfer market during last Monday night's friendly against Paris Saint-Germain, the Partenopei supporters illustrated their discontent with a banner six metres wide and three metres tall, which they put up on a wall within the city of Naples.


NAPOLI'S SUMMER SPENDING 2013-14
Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid)
Raul Albiol (Real Madrid)
Jose Callejon (Real Madrid)
Dries Mertens (PSV)
Duvan Zapata (Estudiantes)
Rafael Cabral (Santos)
Pablo Armero (Udinese)
Omar El Kaddouri (Brescia)
Emanuele Calaio (Siena)
Josip Radosevic (Hajduk Split)
Pepe Reina (Liverpool)
Anthony Reveillere (Unattached)
TOTAL
€37m
€12m
€9.5m
€9.5m
€7.5m
€5m
€4m
€1.4m
€1.25m
€1m
Free
Free
€88.15m
The message was clear: the fans are frustrated. After a season in which Rafael Benitez claimed the Coppa Italia and secured Champions League football with a third-placed finish in Serie A, they expected the squad to be significantly strengthened over the summer.

Napoli had, after all, faded during the second half of last season’s title race. Theirs was clearly not a squad deep enough to sustain a title challenge. Reinforcements were required. However, thus far, Napol have spent just €5.7 million during the summer transfer window, signing just one likely starter in Kalidou Koulibaly, with Michu, who has arrived on loan from Swansea, seen as nothing more than a squad player.

What has really grated with Napoli fans, though, is the fact that they have been linked with so many talented targets – yet none have arrived. As far back as May, De Laurentiis was talking optimistically about signing Javier Mascherano from Barcelona. However, Napoli crucially failed to finalise a deal before the World Cup. The versatile Argentine would go on to re-establish his reputation as one of the game's finest defensive midfielders at Brazil 2014 and has since signed a new contract at Camp Nou.

The way in which a long-mooted move for Marouane Fellaini has floundered has also caused consternation. Manchester United want €5 million to loan the Belgium international to Napoli for the coming campaign, but De Laurentiis is only willing to part with half of that sum. It does seem that a loan deal for Villarreal midfielder Jonathan de Guzman is on the verge of completion, but so much more is needed.

Consequently, less than a year after being viewed as a master of the market, having sensationally replaced Edinson Cavani with Gonzalo Higuain and still had nearly €30m left over for further signings, De Laurentiis is now being slated for his alleged stinginess.

Of course, that Napoli have received what Benitez has quite rightly described as the most difficult draw possible in the play-off stage of the Champions League has only intensified the situation at the San Paolo. De Laurentiis has been reluctant to splash the cash this summer until Napoli's place in the group stage has been assured, so a meeting with Athletic Bilbao, with the second leg at San Mames, was the last thing he needed.

He is thus praying that a Napoli side that was dreadfully unfortunate not to have made the knockout round last season, having amassed 12 points from a group containing Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, will prove good enough to overcome Athletic.

NAPOLI'S SUMMER SPENDING 2014-15
Kalidou Koulibaly (Genk)
Michu (Swansea)
TOTAL
€5.7m
Loan
€5.7m
If Benitez’s boys bow out, though, the pressure on De Laurentiis will only increase as he will be held solely responsible for not having opened his chequebook. The 65-year-old is aware of that, of course. But he would argue that he only has the club’s best interests at heart.

It was De Laurentiis, after all, that rescued Napoli from bankruptcy in 2004, so it is unsurprising that he is unwilling to risk the financial security of the club by betting on Champions League qualification, as Leeds United did over a decade ago, or set his side back years with the kind of reckless spending that has reduced AC Milan to relying on loan deals to strengthen their squad every transfer window.

“The fans want to win and that is all,” the Partenopei supremo mused at the turn of the year. “But we must remember that we started out as a club built from nothing.

“Italian clubs struggle to compete with the revenue of Europe’s giants. We followed Financial Fair Play rules and were able to achieve as much as other clubs without wasting millions. We have less than half the turnover of Juventus.

“I send a message to those know-it-alls who tell us to buy him or him: I am proud of the Napoli players who are envied by everyone."

The fans are clearly firm believers in the old adage that 'He who dares wins.' De Laurentiis, though, has taken a major risk of his own in spending so frugally this summer. The outcome of the Athletic tie could throw his future into question but because of the president’s prudence, at least it won’t threaten the club’s.

Mourinho hails Destro talent

Mattia Destro: Showed signs of a
Jose Mourinho has praised the talent of Mattia Destro amid reports the Chelsea manager is lining the Roma striker up as a replacement for the AC Milan-bound Fernando Torres.
Spain international Torres finally agreed a deal with the Serie A giants on Friday and rumours suggest Mourinho could be set to reunite with Italian frontman Destro.
The 23-year-old rose through the ranks at Inter Milan and Mourinho believes he saw the signs of a “top striker” during his time as coach at the San Siro.
Destro was plying his trade as an under-21 player during Mourinho’s time with Inter but struggled to break into the club’s first team, prompting a move to Roma where he has once again caught the eye of the Chelsea boss.
“Mattia was a kid when I was at Inter,” he told the Daily Mirror. “I think he was like 18. He was playing in the Primavera team, our under-21s, training with us so many times.
“Everyone knew at the club that his potential was there to be a top striker. He was unlucky because we had Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano, then Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito.
“So it was not easy for him to come into the first team. The ones that got the chance were Davide Santon and Giulio Donati.”
Torres’ three-year spell at Stamford Bridge is expected to end soon with the striker set for a medical in Milan on Saturday and the completion of his reported two-year loan deal could pave the way for Mourinho to recruit another forward before Monday’s transfer deadline.
Commenting on the Spaniard’s imminent departure, Mourinho said: “He is going to leave because he wants to try a new life, a new club and a new league.
“I believe that it is to try to be happier than he was in the last couple of years.”

Napoli Champions League exit another humiliation for Italian football

Napoli Champions League exit another humiliation for Italian football
COMMENT: Rafael Benitez's side's elimination at the hands of Athletic Bilbao has only served to further highlight the grave state in which calcio currently finds itself
By Sam Praise

Rafael Benitez argued before Napoli's Champions League playoff round second-leg encounter with Athletic Bilbao that "going out would not be a tragedy" for his club. Napoli's elimination, however, is a further calamity for Italian football; yet another blow for the game which has been dying a slow, painful death for the past five years.

The broader importance of the game at San Mames was underlined on the eve of the first leg at the San Paolo. As was so shamefully highlighted by numerous incidents of territorialism last season, Napoli do not get much love from the rest of Italy, so it was hugely significant that the Sportmasta urged the country's football fans to get behind Benitez's side: "Napoli for everyone!"

As the popular daily pointed out, the Italian game was in dire need of a boost. Juventus - the very best of a very bad bunch in Serie A - were dumped out of the group stage of last season's Champions League by Galatasaray before failing to set up a 'home' Europa League final after elimination by a nine-man Benfica team in the semi-finals.

The national team failed dismally to restore any pride during this summer's World Cup in Brazil, with the Azzurri suffering a second successive first-round exit, while the subsequent election of Claudio Tavecchio as the new president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) not only added to the collective sense of embarrassment but also reinforced the opinion that calcio is not moving forwards, but backwards.


HANG YOUR HEADS | Roma and Juventus are now Italy's sole representatives in the Champions League

Add in the fact that this week Serie A waved goodbye to two of its best players in Mario Balotelli and Mehdi Benatia and you get the sense that things are dire and worsening.

That's certainly what the numbers suggest. Including this season, only one team has progressed through the Champions league qualifiers in the past five seasons - Milan in 2012-13. A look at Uefa's club rankings reveals that there is not a single Serie A side currently in the top 10. That Milan are Italy's sole representative in the top 20 is farcical, given that the Rossoneri embody everything that is wrong with the Italian game.

This is a club with a proud history but one that now has to rely on free transfers and offloading what few valuable assets it has left in order to acquire new players. Given Milan can no longer hold onto their best players, it is hardly surprising that they cannot hold onto their fan base either. According to the latest reports, the seven-time champions of Europe are set to post their worst-ever season-ticket sales figures, with just 16,000 having been sold thus far.

And this is a widespread problem. The Corriere della Sera revealed earlier this week that Serie A sides have sold 50,000 fewer season tickets than last season. It's often said that Italian grounds look half-empty. That's because they literally are, with the 2013-14 Serie A campaign recording an overall 56 per cent attendance rate. Poorly attended games between low-quality teams in crumbling stadiums - the problem is clearly a lack of investment on every level.

Yet there is an understandable reluctance to pump money into a domestic game that appears on its last legs. Hence, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis' reluctance to gamble his side's financial security on qualification for the group stage of the Champions League.

The failure to strengthen Benitez's squad undeniably contributed to Wednesday's collapse at San Mames, though. The Spaniard requested top-class reinforcements in midfield and defence. He did not get them and the consequences were there for all to see against Athletic. Once again he got a lamp because his employers could not afford a sofa.

Napoli were effectively punished for exhibiting a prudence that was crucially conspicuous by its absence during Serie A's heyday. That is no tragedy but it is sad nonetheless. This is another hammer blow for everyone involved in Italian football.

Gerrard: Stage set for Mario


Steven Gerrard insists the stage is set for Mario Balotelli to become a star at Liverpool - now it is up to him to take his chance.
The Italy striker, 24, is set to make his debut at Tottenham this weekend, live on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday, and complete a sensational return to the Premier League after two years at AC Milan.
Reds captain Gerrard admits they have had to make adjustments in the dressing room to welcome Balotelli – known for his eccentric and sometimes controversial character on and off the pitch.
But Gerrard says the club will support his every need and provide him with a platform to become their next goalscoring talisman.
“What about Mario? Does he want to grab it? Does he want to become a star at Liverpool?,” Gerrard questioned in an exclusive interview with Sportmasta News HQ.
“The support is waiting to get behind him and push him and it’s all about whether he wants it or not. I believe he’s capable.
“We know what type of character he is and that needs a bit of support, but he belongs to us now so it’s up to me, the players and the staff to look after him and make sure we give him a platform to perform.
“We’ve not had too much of his character yet – only a few minor changes in the dressing room, like the music changing and a few little alterations we’ve had to make.  But we’re fine (with the way he is).
“I’m looking forward to seeing what reaction he gets from the Liverpool supporters because, for me, they’re the best in the world.”
Liverpool have endured a sluggish start to the season so far, scraping a narrow win at home to Southampton on the opening day before losing 3-1 at Manchester City last weekend.
And Gerrard said: “It’s going to be very difficult to improve on last season because if we do we’ll be champions.
“Last season we were terrific consistency wise, we had a small group of players and we were on a wave of confidence and belief. But it’s gone now. We’ve got to move on.
“The problem is; everyone else has brought really well. The league is going to be a lot more difficult to compete in this year.”
“But I believe we will compete and be up there come the end and that’s because the manager has bought well. I think we’ll get stronger as the season goes on again.”

Calcio in the doldrums but Juventus & Roma represent beacons of hope

Calcio in the doldrums but Juventus & Roma represent beacons of hope
COMMENT: The Giallorossi are following the Old Lady's lead in terms of building their own stadium - the rest of Serie A must now follow suit if Italian football is to rise again
By Sam Praise
A new season. A new dawn? The 2014-15 Serie A campaign kicks off on Saturday evening and Juventus and Roma will both feature, which is fitting, because not only are they the top two clubs in Italy right now, they are also the best run. They represent progress. More importantly, they represent hope.

Juve have long been Italy's club but they have always drawn as much hatred as they have love. The 'grand old lady of Italian football' to some, 'thieves' to others and even 'hunchbacks' to superstitious skeptics. However, while Juve are reviled by many, they are respected by all because of the way in which they have shown the rest of their Serie A rivals the way forward on the road to redemption.

Just eight years ago they were relegated to Serie B for the first time in their history because of the club's involvement in the 'Calciopoli' scandal. Now they are bidding to win a fourth consecutive Scudetto, with their most recent title triumph having come with a record-breaking tally of 102 points. The Bianconeri's return to the summit of Serie A is perhaps unsurprising. They have always been a major name in Italian football. They have the pedigree. However, their current domestic form has nothing to do with their past and everything to do with their willingness to build for the future.

IN NUMBERS
Italian Football's Problems
1 As it stands, reigning Serie A champions Juventus are the only club in Italy to own their own stadium.
2 Serie A will have just two teams in this season's Champions League, Juventus and Roma, following Napoli's midweek play-off loss to Athletic Bilbao.
4 No Italian club has even reached the last four of the Champions League since Inter won the tournament in 2010.
5 According to Uefa's coefficient rankings, Serie A is now the fifth-ranked league in Europe, behind La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Portugal's Primeira Liga.
As far back as the mid-1990s, Juventus were dreaming about owning their own stadium. Of course, getting something done in Italy is easier spoken of and it was no surprise that Juve's dream did not become a reality until 2011. However, the Juventus Stadium has proven worth the wait. It is no coincidence that since moving into their own purpose-bulit arena, the Bianconeri have won three successive Scudetti.

Indeed, the Old Lady's construction of their own stadium is unquestionably one of the most signiificant developments in calcio over the past decade. Italian stadia have always been rented off the local council, meaning clubs have never been in a position to generate any revenue from game-related activities. By becoming the first club to own their own arena, Juventus have changed everything.

They are now making money on their ground. And not just on matchdays. The affect has also been felt in the stands, with Juve having wisely decided to do away with the running tracks that for so long have been synonymous with Italian football. They realised from studying other leagues that immediacy equals electricity and Juventus Stadium is renowned for its fantastic atmosphere. Hardly surprising, then, that the Bianconeri's new home has become a fortress.

"Sold out nights are now almost the norm," club president Andrea Agnelli stated in February of this year, "while it is also a victory to see the stadium used seven days a week through our hospitality areas where businesses, sponsors and private parties can organise events.

"We hope that others can follow our example, because the step up Italian football needs goes through investments in new infrastructures."

The good news is that Roma are well on their way to emulating Juve's achievement. The capital club's American owners made a stadium their primary goal upon taking charge in 2012. Now their plans are set to come to fruition in just two years' time. The speed at which Roma's project is progressing would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago but governmental rule changes in 2013 have helped remove some of the red tape that for so long prevented Italian clubs from building and owning their own stadia.

"[The new stadium] is clearly going to give us a competitive advantage," Roma president James Pallotta enthused after the publication of pictures of the club's new stadium. It will be still be some time before the Giallorossi feels the benefits of owning their own arena. There is no quick fix. Time and patience are just as important as revenue and investment. And all four are precious commodities in Italy.

However, after a summer of disappointment of disillusionment in which the national team suffered a group-stage elimination for the second successive World Cup, there is now at least an acceptance that reform is not only desireable, but imperative.

Even the Italian Football Federation's new president Carlo Tavecchio admitted: "The reforms in football must go hand in hand with reforms in the country. If the country is reforming then football must follow as well.

“Perhaps I have taken on a responsibility that is bigger than me and this Federation, but I think there is no other option."

Of course, whether widespread reform is really attainable under a man who has only further sullied Serie A's image this summer is debatable. Still, while Italian football may be in the gutter right now, Juventus and Roma are, at least, looking at the stars.

Daley Blind: Man Utd agree £13.8m fee with Ajax for defender

Nevin: Why Blind is perfect for Man Utd
Manchester United have agreed a fee of £13.8m with Ajax for versatile Netherlands international Daley Blind.
Blind, 24, was in Louis van Gaal's World Cup squad and can play at left-back and as a defensive midfielder.
Personal terms are still to be agreed but if the deal does go through he will be United's fifth summer signing.
United have already spent over £130m this summer, including a British record £59.7m on Argentina midfielder Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid.
The Old Trafford side have also bought left-back Luke Shaw, midfielder Ander Herrera and Di Maria's Argentina team-mate Marcos Rojo.
A club statement read: "Manchester United is delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Ajax to sign Daley Blind, subject to a medical and personal terms."

Daley Blind factfile

Born: 9 March 1990
Netherlands: 19 caps, 1 goal
Ajax debut: v FC Volendam 7 December 2008
Club honours: 4 Eredivise titles (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14)
Club stats: 120 Ajax appearances, 3 goals
Individual honours: Dutch Footballer of the Year in 2014
United have been linked with Blind throughout the summer but Ajax director of football Marc Overmars said he was reluctant to sell him unless the Premier League side met their valuation, reportedly in the region of £14m.
Overmars claimed on Wednesday that Blind would only leave if an "absolute prize was paid", and told the de Telegraaf  newspaper: "We believe we currently have a strong team and want to hold on to Daley for another a year."
Van Gaal is keen to strengthen his defensive options after a difficult start to his Old Trafford tenure with just one point from the opening two Premier League games and a humiliating 4-0 defeat by League One side MK Dons in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.
Blind, who is the son of ex-Netherlands international Danny, scored his first goal for his country in a 3-0 victory against hosts Brazil in the World Cup third-place play-off in the summer.

Fernando Torres: AC Milan agree loan deal for Chelsea striker

Fernando Torres
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is to join AC Milan on a two-year loan deal.
The 30-year-old Spaniard arrived in Italy on Saturday to undergo a medical and agree personal terms.
The ex-Liverpool and Atletico Madrid forward joined Chelsea for a then-British record £50m in January 2011 but struggled to live up his price tag.
Spain beat Australia 3-0 in Group B
Torres scores for Spain in World Cup
Torres scored just 20 goals in 110 league appearances during his spell at Stamford Bridge, but was part of the club's 2012 Champions League success.
Speaking just hours before the deal was announced, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said: "If he wants to leave, it's because he wants to try a new life, a new club, probably a new league. To try to be happier than he was in the last couple of years."
Torres's prospects were hampered further by the arrival of fellow Spain international Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid this summer.
Costa and Didier Drogba remain Chelsea's attacking options.

Fernando Torres's career in goals

Atletico Madrid (2001-07)
214 league games, 84 goals
Liverpool (2007-11)
102 league games, 65 goals
Chelsea (2011-14)
110 league games, 20 goals
Club total
426 league games, 169 goals
Spain (2003-present)
108 games, 37 goals
Milan have been on the lookout for another forward to replace Mario Ballotelli, who left the club for Liverpool last week.
Speaking on Milan's official website  on Wednesday, Rossoneri vice-president Adriano Galliani said: "Torres is certainly an important forward and we will see if we can sign him or another player."
Torres's British record transfer fee stood until Angel Di Maria moved from Real Madrid to Manchester United for £59.7m this week.
While Chelsea fans only saw glimpses of the form that brought Torres 65 goals in 102 league appearances for previous club Liverpool, Mourinho spoke highly of him at Friday's news conference to preview Saturday's trip to Everton.

Biggest transfer fees paid by a British club

£59.7m
Angel Di Maria
Real Madrid to Manchester Utd
2014
£50m
Fernando Torres
Liverpool to Chelsea
2011
£42.4m
Mesut Ozil
Real Madrid to Arsenal
2013
£38m
Sergio Aguero
Atletico Madrid to Manchester City
2011
£37.1m
Juan Mata
Chelsea to Manchester Utd
2014
£35m
Andy Carroll
Newcastle to Liverpool
2011
£35m
Alexis Sanchez
Barcelona to Arsenal
2014
The Portuguese said he did not expect Torres to depart before the transfer window closed and was against a last-minute deal.
"If that happens in the last hour of the market, we are in trouble," said Mourinho. "In this moment we are doing nothing because our belief is that the market is closed for us.
"I've believed for a long time that the squad is closed. We have our squad. We like our squad. It's not the perfect one, because no squad is perfect, but it's one we like."
Fernando Torres and Rafa Benitez
Fernando Torres cost Liverpool a reported £20m when he joined in 2007 from Atletico Madrid.
Fernando Torres
The Spain international scored 24 Premier League goals in his debut season, and 65 in total for the Reds.
Fernando Torres and Carlo Ancelotti
In January 2011 Torres became a record breaker with his £50m move to Chelsea. Liverpool signed Luis Suarez and Andy Caroll on the same day.
Fernando Torres
Torres scored just one goal for Chelsea that season, and missed an open goal against Manchester United the next season.
Fernando Torres
He scored 20 Premier League goals for Chelsea, the final one coming at Cardiff on the last day of last season.

Ronaldo left out of Portugal squad

Ronaldo left out of Portugal squad
The Real Madrid attacker netted in his club's Liga-opening win over Cordoba on Monday night but the Seleccao coach says that there is a "question over his fitness"
Portugal boss Paulo Bento has left star man Cristiano Ronaldo out of his squad for the start of the country's Euro 2016 qualification campaign due to ongoing concerns over the forward's fitness.

The Real Madrid ace was plagued by thigh and knee problems at the tail end of last season and during this summer's World Cup in Brazil - but the 29-year-old played all 90 minutes of Monday's Liga opener against Cordoba, even netting in the dying seconds with a sensational long-range strike.

However, Bento has decided against calling upon the Ballon d'Or holder for the Group I clash with Albania on September 7.

"There's a question over his fitness," Bento is quoted as saying by Marca. "Regardless of having played regularly, he can't compete."

Ronaldo admitted after being crowned Uefa's Best Player in Europe for last season in Monte Carlo on Thursday that he had pushed himself to the limit for Madrid last season, meaning he was not in peak physical condition for his country's World Cup campaign.

However, while the former Manchester United man will not feature in the Seleccao's meeting with Albania next month, his Madrid colleagues Pepe and Fabio Coentrao have been including in Bento's 24-strong squad.

Portugal: Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon);

Defenders: Andre Almeida (Benfica), Vitorino Antunes (Malaga), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Al-Sailiya), Neto (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Reuben Vezo (Valencia);

Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon), Pedro Tiba (Braga), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev);

Forwards: Bruma (Galatasaray), Eder (Braga), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Ivan Cavaleiro (Deportivo La Coruna), Nani (Sporting Lisbon), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg).