1 Liverpool-linked Ezequiel Lavezzi could be heading back to Italy after his agent revealed he is in talks with Inter Milan.The Argentine forward has found first-team football hard to come by at Paris Saint-Germain and is reportedly eyeing a move away to increase his game time.Liverpool have made enquires about a potential deal as have German side Wolfsburg, who are wary about losing Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City.But now Lavezzi’s agent, Alejandro Mazzoni, has revealed that it is in fact Inter who are leading the chase for the 30-year-old former Napoli star.“Lavezzi is playing at PSG and from this point of view, everything’s going well,” Mazzoni told FCInterNews.“I wouldn’t know if there could be news about Inter soon, we will see what happens in the next few days.“I’m always talking to Inter, it’s my job. It depends on Inter, if there isn’t an offer then it’s difficult to say.” Ezequiel Lavezzi
Ray Wilkins expects Manchester City to qualify from the Champions League group stages ‘quite comfortably’, despite being drawn against the toughest opponents in this season’s competition.City will face Juventus, Sevilla and impressive German outfit Borussia Mönchengladbach in Group D, which will provide more of a test than their Premier League rivals.Man United have been drawn against PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg; Chelsea will play Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Group G; while Arsenal will face Bayern Munich once again, along with Olympiakos and Dinamo Zagreb.Despite claiming two Premier League titles, City have struggled to perform at Europe’s top table since their big-money takeover, with the Blues never progressing past the last 16.But, following their ‘imperious’ start to the season, former England captain Wilkins believes Manuel Pellegrini’s side will storm to the knock-out stages.Speaking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, the Aston Villa assistant coach said: “It’s a tough group, but when you look at the squad Manchester City have, and the way they’ve started the Premier League, you would expect them to qualify quite comfortably, because they do look exceptional“They shouldn’t be worrying about anybody. They’ve got probably one of the best squads in world football, so should they be worrying about Borussia Monchengladbach?“They way City have started, they’ve been absolutely imperious.“It’s not just the football, it’s the speed in which they’re playing as well – the ball is like a pinball machine with them.“Chelsea – for me – are the team to beat in the Premier League, but City just tore them apart.“I don’t think they should worry about anyone in the Champions League, because they have a squad of players who are quite exceptional.”
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Macron Stadium Sky Bet Championship club Bolton have confirmed they have been served with a winding-up petition from HM Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill.Wanderers’ alarming financial crisis has deteriorated rapidly over the past few weeks after it was revealed they had failed to pay their players for November, and now HMRC has rejected requests from them to be given more time to conclude a sale.Bolton had hoped they could conclude a takeover this week after drafting in financial advisor Trevor Birch to help long-time owner Eddie Davies, who is willing to wipe out £185million of loans owed to him, sell the club.However, with discussions still ongoing, HMRC has now acted to call in unpaid PAYE and VAT for the month of November.It raises the possibility of administration for Neil Lennon’s bottom-of-the-table side, who would have their entire total wiped out if they were to incur the 12-point deduction.A statement on the club’s official website read: “Bolton Wanderers can confirm that the club has now received a winding-up petition from HMRC in respect of unpaid PAYE and VAT for the month of November.“Despite requests from the club to HMRC to give it further time to either conclude a sale or raise additional funds, HMRC has proceeded with due process and duly served a petition.”Birch added: “Quite clearly the club remains in a critical financial position.“We will continue to try and finalise a sale or alternatively raise some short-term funds needed to give the club a breathing space and time in which to consider its options.” 1
1 Jose Mourinho has been sacked as Chelsea manager.The 52-year-old was informed of his fate on Thursday afternoon after owner Roman Abramovich held extensive talks with senior club figures.Mourinho led Chelsea to the Premier League title only seven months ago and signed a new four-year contract in the summer.But this season has been an unmitigated disaster, with Monday night’s defeat to Leicester the club’s NINTH in just 16 games.That loss left the Blues just a point above the relegation zone and has prompted Abramovich, who publicly backed Mourinho in October, to swing the axe.It is the second time Mourinho has been sacked by the club.The Portuguese’s first spell as Chelsea boss ended in 2007 after a hugely successful three years during which he won the Premier League twice, as well as the FA Cup and League Cup [twice].He went on to win titles in Italy and Spain with Inter Milan and Real Madrid respectively before returning to the Stamford Bridge hotsteat amid much fanfare in 2013.His first year back at Chelsea ended without any silverware but last season he led to the club to the title and to League Cup glory.Now he has been dumped on the managerial scrapheap following a miserable campaign on and off the pitch for Mourinho.He has overseen the worst start to a title defence in Premier League history, while he also came under-fire for his treatment of club doctor Eva Carneiro, who left her position after being criticised in the media by Mourinho.A Chelsea statement read: “Chelsea Football Club and Jose Mourinho have today parted company by mutual consent.“All at Chelsea thank Jose for his immense contribution since he returned as manager in the summer of 2013.“His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history. But both Jose and the board agreed results have not been good enough this season and believe it is in the best interests of both parties to go our separate ways.“The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea. His legacy at Stamford Bridge and in England has long been guaranteed and he will always be warmly welcomed back to Stamford Bridge. “The club’s focus is now on ensuring our talented squad reaches its potential. There will be no further comment until a new appointment is made.”Attention will now turn to the identity of Mourinho’s successor.Guus Hiddink, who enjoyed a temporary spell in charge in 2009, has been tipped to return in an interim role.Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Juande Ramos are also some of the names that have been linked with the job. Joe Mourinho
Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein says he can be trusted to run FIFA and rejected the idea that the sport’s world governing body could not be changed by an insider.The Jordanian is one of five candidates who will stand for the FIFA presidency on February 26 and believes he is the man to unite and reform an organisation which has been severely tainted over the past year.Sepp Blatter’s presidency was ended by an eight-year ban handed down last month over a “disloyal payment” to UEFA president Michel Platini, who received the same sanction from FIFA’s ethics committee, while American and Swiss authorities are also conducting inquiries into further allegations of corruption within the governing body.Prince Ali, 40, is the president of his country’s football association but insisted that position within the game’s establishment would not prevent him pushing through the change needed at FIFA.“I do believe you can make the change from within football and I want to prove that’s the case,” Prince Ali told BBC Sport.“That’s why it is critical to have the right leadership coming in in February.” Asked directly whether he was a leader people could trust, he replied: “Yes. I can guarantee that I am the right person for this job. My track record is that I keep my word and I implement what I say.“Hopefully, when I win this, judge me by my actions. The president has to take responsibility for himself and for the entire organisation.“Of course I am tough enough and I come from a background in my own country of working in crisis management, something that we need in Fifa right now.”Prince Ali was asked about the ban for Blatter but steered clear of criticising the Swiss, saying he was “only focused on the future”.The other four candidates for the FIFA presidency are Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino from Switzerland, former FIFA executive Jerome Champagne from France and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale. 1
Sheffield United have handed banning orders to a number of fans after investigating allegations of racist chanting and the use of smoke bombs at Bramall Lane.It was reported in the Yorkshire Post that a number of United supporters were heard to chant ‘You’re just a town full of ISIS’ towards Bradford fans during United’s 3-1 win against the Bantams in League One on December 28.The results of United’s investigation have been passed on to the Football Association and South Yorkshire Police.A statement on Sheffield United’s website read: “Club officials have this week handed out banning orders to a number of fans and are warning that further incidents will be treated in a similar manner.”Club safety officer Steve Hicks said: “Quite simply, we are determined to bring to a swift end this inappropriate behaviour by a group of fans.“This week’s banning orders indicate that we are wheedling out the troublemakers and we will continue to do so to protect the reputation of the club and the impact on other fans.“Each Football League club is responsible for the actions of its own supporters – home or away – and the actions of a minority is putting the lives of fellow supporters in danger as well as potentially putting the club at risk of costly and severe sanctions from the Football Association.” Sheffield United punish fans after Bradford chants and smoke bombs 1
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has been branded ‘crass’ and ‘pathetic’ by the journalist he reportedly called ‘fat’ after angrily dismissing a question about captain Wayne Rooney.Neil Custis, The Sun’s Manchester correspondent, was verbally attacked by the Red Devils’ boss in the Dutchman’s post-match press conference following the 3-3 draw with Newcastle on Tuesday night.Van Gaal reacted abrasively to a query about Rooney – whose form has come under increased scrutiny in recent months – and identified Custis for specific abuse.Custis, speaking to the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, subsequently launched a scathing attack on Van Gaal and his stuttering United regime.“The comment was crass and pathetic but it’s a shame he’s not so astute when he’s looking at his own failings at Manchester United because the way they play under him has probably been the worst Manchester United have in 35 years,” said Custis.“Win, lose or draw – you come away from a United match at the moment in the same manner.”Custis also hedged the blame for United’s failings this season – they exited the Champions League and League Cup prematurely – on Van Gaal, in turn offering support to the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and club owners the Glazers.He added: “They [Woodward and the Glazers] have given this manager everything he wants and bowed to every whim.“In many ways, Ed Woodward has been the perfect boss for a manager.“The manager has spent £250m and rising. What has he [Van Gaal] done with that money?“I don’t think he’s wasted it on poor players. He’s bought good players, he’s just made them poor.”Untied travel to arch rivals Liverpool on Sunday afternoon – a contest you can listen to exclusively live on talkSPORT from 2.05pm BST.
Kevin Wimmer could be ready for a Premier League title fight at the end of deputising for Jan Vertonghen, according to Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino.Austria defender Wimmer has been tipped to come of top-flight age in Vertonghen’s expected two-month absence due to knee-ligament damage.The 23-year-old should start Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round trip to Colchester – and then Pochettino wants him to jump at the chance for an extended first-team run.Pochettino believes holding off from bolstering his defensive resources in January will allow Wimmer crucial experience that could pay off handsomely if Spurs are chasing top honours come the end of the season.“This is a good example of when we rotate and give the possibilities to other players,” said Pochettino.“You never know when something wrong can happen and we are sure Kevin (Wimmer) can do well.“He has had the possibility to play in different games, not as much as maybe he expects. But he has been good.“He has shown the quality and his team-mates trust him.“It is important because you never know when a problem will arrive and maybe the player who does not play too much will be a key player to achieve big things.”Confirming centre-back Vertonghen is likely to miss two months with his knee problem, Pochettino explained why he could hold off from trying to bring in defensive reinforcements before the close of the transfer window.“I understand you ask me why we rotate but the squad is important,” said Pochettino.“If something happens in the future and you have the last five games of the Premier League, in this moment you need help from the player who has not played too much.“If they deserve to play you need to give them the possibility to play.“Maybe the injury will be two months for Jan (Vertonghen). You never know about injuries and how the knee reacts and the process.“Sometimes it is early or late, all bodies are different.“But in my mind it is two months.”Wimmer made his Premier League debut in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, replacing Vertonghen in the closing stages.The former Cologne defender joined Spurs in the summer, but is now being tipped to cement his future with the club.“He is very calm, he has a very good left foot, he’s very strong, and a very good person,” said Pochettino.“He has a lot of good attributes.He is very young, and now he has more possibility to play.“He is like Vertonghen – but younger!” 1 Jan Vertonghen
1 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned the Premier League about the spending power of Chinese football.The past few weeks has seen clubs in the Far East splash the cash on a host of top players.Chelsea midfielder Ramires and Liverpool target Alex Teixeira have joined Chinese side Jiangsu Suning for a combined £63miillion, while Guangzhou Evergrande have snapped up Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez for £31m.And in the wake of that spending Wenger has told Premier League clubs they should be worried about the growing power of Chinese football.“Yes, of course [the Premier League should be worried],” said Wenger.“Because China looks to have the financial power to move a whole league of Europe to China.“We are long enough in this job to know that it’s just a consequence of economic power and they have that.“Will they sustain their desire to do it? Let’s remember, a few years ago, Japan started to do it and slowed down after.“I don’t know how deep the desire in China is, but if there’s a very strong political desire, we should worry.” Arsène Wenger