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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chelsea Hiddink Plans And International Week

National service leaves Premier League bosses with a nervy wait and deserted training pitches

There will certainly be some empty training grounds among the Barclays Premier League clubs this week.

With players on international duty in all corners of the globe, the top-flight managers have 10 days of fretting to ensure their boys come back wrapped in cotton wool.

Manchester City have the most players on international duty (18), but United, Chelsea and Arsenal are not far behind with 16 or 17 players from each club representing their countries.

Liverpool have released half of the Spain team and there's a large French contingent leaving the Emirates, while Bolton provide the only representative from Oman and a Portsmouth player is the sole Canadian.

From Ecuador to Egypt and Switzerland to Slovakia there will be Premier League players busting a gut for their national team.

Sportsmail looks at the men who are swapping their day jobs for some international jet-setting.

Arsenal (17)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)

Andrey Arshavin (Russia)

Abou Diaby (France)

Eduardo (Croatia)

Kieran Gibbs (Eng U21)

Bacary Sagna (France)

Carlos Vela (Mexico)

Nicklas Bendtner (Den)

Johann Djourou (Swi)

Lukasz Fabianski (Poland)

Samir Nasri (Fra)

Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast)

Gael Clichy (France)

Emmanuel Eboue (Ivo)

William Gallas (France)

Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

Robin Van Persie (Hol)


From Russia with love and hopefully no injuries: Gunners star Arshavin

Aston Villa (9)

G Agbonlahor (Eng U21)

Craig Gardner (Eng U21)

James Milner (Eng U21)

Gareth Barry (England)

Brad Guzan (USA)

Stiliyan Petrov (Bulgaria)

John Carew (Norway)

Emile Heskey (England)

Moustapha Salifou (Togo)

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Forward thinking: Heskey's hard work is key for England

Blackburn (10)

Keith Andrews (Ireland)

Benni McCarthy (Sth Africa)

Martin Olsson (Swe U21)

Zurab Khizanishvili (Geo)

Alan Judge (Ireland U21)

Aaron Mokoena (Sth Africa)

Andrew Ooijer (Holland)

El Hadji Diouf (Senegal)

Ryan Nelsen (N Zealand)

Morten Pedersen (Norway)

Bolton (8)

Ali Al-Habsi (Oman)

Jussi Jaaskelainen (Fin)

Euzebiusz Smolarek (Pol)

Tamir Cohen (Israel)

Fabrice Muamba (Eng U21)

Johan Elmander (Sweden)

Danny Shittu (Nigeria)

Gretar Rafn Steinsson (Ice)

Chelsea (16)

Michael Ballack (Germany)

Petr Cech (Cze)

Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)

Michael Mancienne (Eng U21)

Frank Lampard (Eng)

Jose Bosingwa (Portugal)

Ashley Cole (England)

Michael Essien (Ghana)

Salomon Kalou (Ghana)

John Obi Mikel (Nigeria)

Rhys Taylor (Wales U21)

Ricardo Carvalho (Por)

Deco (Portugal)

Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia)

Ben Sahar (Israel)

John Terry (England)

Nicolas Anelka (France) *withdrew through injury

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john terry

Natural leaders: Ballack left) and Terry wear the armbands on international duty

Everton (11)

Leighton Baines (England)

Marouane Fellaini (Bel)

Phil Jagielka (England)

Jack Rodwell (Eng U21)

Tim Cahill (Australia)

Tim Howard (USA)

Joleon Lescott (England)

Joseph Yobo (Nigeria)

Segundo Castillo (Ecu)

Lars Jacobsen (Denmark)

Steven Pienaar (Sth Africa)

Fulham (9)

Chris Baird (Nth Ire)

Zoltan Gera (Hungary)

Toni Kallio (Finland)

Simon Davies (Wales)

Brede Hangeland (Norway)

John Pantsil (Ghana)

Clint Dempsey (USA)

Aaron Hughes (Nth Ire)

Mark Schwarzer (Australia)

Hull City (8)

Caleb Folan (Ireland)

Kevin Kilbane (Ireland)

Kamil Zayatte (Guinea)

Richard Garcia (Australia)

Boaz Myhill (Wales)

Daniel Cousin (Gabon)

Peter Halmosi (Hungary)

Sam Ricketts (Wales)

Liverpool (16)

Daniel Aggar (Denmark)

Ryan Babel (Holland)

Jonny Evans (Nth Ireland)

Steven Gerrard (England)

Jose Reina (Spain)

Fernando Torres (Spain)

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Xabi Alonso (Spain)

Yossi Benayoun (Israel)

Sami Hyypia (Finland)

Javier Mascherano (Arg)

Albert Riera (Spain)

Alvar Arbeloa (Spain)

Andrea Dossena (Italy)

Dirk Kuyt (Holland)

David N'Gog (Liv U21)

Martin Skrtel (Slovakia)


Spain gain: Torres downed Germany in the final of Euro 2008

Manchester City (18)

Craig Bellamy (Wales)

Nigel de Jong (Holland)

Ched Evans (Wales)

Joe Hart (England U21)

Nedum Onuoha (Eng U21)

Robinho (Brazil)

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Valeri Bojinov (Bulgaria)

Richard Dunne (Ireland)

Gelson Fernandes (Swi)

Vincent Kompany (Bel)

Martin Petrov (Bulgaria)

Vladimir Weiss (Slovakia)

Felipe Caicedo (Ecuador)

Elano (Brazil)

Shay Given (Ireland)

Ryan McGivern (Nth Ire)

Micah Richards (Eng U21)

Shaun Wright-Phillips (England)

robinho and elano

Samba stars: Brazil hero Kaka, a Manchester City target in January, with Eastlands regulars Elano (left) and Robinho (right)

Manchester United (16)

Anderson (Brazil)

Rio Ferdinand (England)

Darron Gibson (Ireland)

Ji-sung Park (South Korea)

Carlos Tevez (Argentina)

Danny Welbeck (Eng U21)

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Michael Carrick (England)

Darren Fletcher (Scotland)

Nani (Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Por)

Zoran Tosic (Serbia)

Dmitar Berbatov (Bulgaria) *withdrew with injury

Patrice Evra (France)

Ben Foster (England)

John O'Shea (Ireland)

Wayne Rooney (England)

Nemanja Vidic (Serbia)


Scot the lot: Fletcher has had a fine season with Manchester United

Middlesbrough (6)

Stewart Downing (England)

Tuncay Sunli (Turkey)

Adam Johnson (Eng U21)

Andrew Taylor (Eng U21)

Emanuel Pogatetz (Austria)

David Wheater (Eng U21)

Newcastle (4)

Damien Duff (Ireland)

Obafemi Martins (Nigeria)

Geremi (Cameroon)

Jonas Gutierrez (Argentina)

Portsmouth (11)

Angelos Basinas (Greece)

Martin Cranie (Eng U21)

Theofanis Gekas (Greece)

Niko Kranjcar (Croatia)

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Asmir Begović (Canada)

Peter Crouch (England)

David James (England)

Armand Traore (France U21)

Nadir Belhadj (Algeria)

Hermann Hreidarsson (Iceland)

Glen Johnson (England)

david james

Safe hands: James

Peter Crouch

Tall order: Peter Crouch

Stoke (5)

Abdoulaye Faye (Senegal)

Thomas Sorensen (Den)

Stephen Kelly (Ireland)

Glenn Whelan (Ireland)

Ryan Shawcross (England U21)

Sunderland (9)

Tal Ben Haim (Israel)

Craig Gordon (Scotland)

George McCartney (Nth Ire)

Carlos Edwards (Tri & Tob)

David Healy (Nth Ireland)

Paul McShane (Ireland)

Marton Fulop (Hungary)

Kenwyne Jones (Tri & Tob)

Teemu Tainio (Finland)

Tottenham (13)

Gareth Bale (Wales)

Chris Gunter (Wales)

Robbie Keane (Ireland)

Ledley King (England) *withdrew through injury

Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia)

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Fraizer Campbell
(England U21)

Tom Huddlestone (England U21)

Aaron Lennon (England)

Jamie O'Hara (Eng U21)

Vedran Corluka (Croatia)

Alan Hutton (Scotland)

Luka Modric (Croatia)

Wilson Palacios (Hon)

Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast)

alan hutton

Spurred on: Hutton


By the Croat: Modric

West Brom (4)

Chris Brunt (Nth Ireland)

Carl Hoefkens (Belgium)

Marek Cech (Slovakia)

James Morrison (Scotland)

West Ham (11)

Valon Behrami (Swi)

Jack Collison (Wales)

Radoslav Kovac (Cze)

Jonathan Spector (USA)

Carlton Cole (England)

Danny Gabbidon (Wales)

Lucas Neill (Australia)

Matthew Upson (England)

James Collins (Wales)

Robert Green (England)

Mark Noble (England U21)

Wigan (8)

Lee Cattermole (Eng U21)

Jason Koumas (Wales)

Antonia Valencia (Ecuador)

Erik Edman (Sweden)

Mido (Egypt)

Amr Zaki (Egypt)

Chelsea face up to life without Hiddink as plans are made for next season


Time is running out: Blues can't wait for Hiddink

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck insists the club have started planning for next season without Guus Hiddink because they can't afford to wait until November to see if he can become their permanent manager.

Hiddink, who is also coach of Russia, took over in February on the proviso he would only stay until the end of the season.

The 62-year-old has made a big impact at Stamford Bridge, but is determined to help Russia qualify for next year's World Cup.

He revealed last week he has a clause in his Russia contract which could see him leave in November should they fail to qualify and will meet officials in Moscow tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the situation.

But Buck said: 'The situation is the same as it was when he came. We are planning on that basis.'

Forget Liverpool - Hiddink is already planning a last hurrah with Chelsea in Rome Euro final

Guus Hiddink has brushed off Liverpool's Champions League challenge by insisting he expects Chelsea to overcome the Reds and reach the final in Rome.

Guus Hiddink

Final countdown: Guus Hiddink intends to be in May's Champions League final

The Dutchman admits he was heartbroken that his team lost at Tottenham and is now focusing on European glory after conceding the Barclays Premier League title appeared to be out of reach.

Hiddink reiterated the official line that he will leave Chelsea to resume full control of Russia at the end of the season, though he intends to go out on a high.

'It's true that many people have urged me to stay on at Chelsea,' he told Russian newspaper Sovetksi Sport. 'I'm tired of repeating the same thing over and over.

'But the situation has not changed; I will leave Chelsea in May. I intend that this is very late in the month - after the match in Rome.'

With Liverpool firmly embroiled in the fight for the Premier League title following Manchester United's back-to-back defeats, Chelsea hope the Reds will be distracted when they meet in the Champions League quarter-final over two legs next month.

The winners face Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the last four, but Hiddink will be able to give plenty of attention to the European assault after admitting that Saturday's 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane had left them with little hope of winning the league.

Luka Modric

Heart-breaking: Luka Modric fires through a crowd of players to score for Tottenham against Chelsea on Saturday

'My heart is full of bitterness and sorrow,' he said of defeat to Spurs. 'Chelsea missed a great chance to catch up with Manchester United.

'Neither Liverpool nor Chelsea can now make the slightest mistake. Liverpool can take advantage and we, unfortunately, can't.'

He said the title race was continuing, but admitted: 'We still need to win all our remaining matches. As you can see, this will be quite difficult.'

Hiddink, preparing his Russia squad for World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Liechtenstein, said he would leave the national team post in the autumn if they failed to qualify for South Africa 2010.

But he insisted this did not have a bearing on his future in England. 'We will do everything - and even more - to qualify for the World Cup,' he said.

'But if not, the (Russian Football Union) will certainly want to find new strategies for the development of football in the country. And for that they need other people, not me. In that situation, I am ready to leave in November.'

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka an injury doubt for Champions League clashes with Liverpool

Injury concern: Nicolas Anelka could miss Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final ties against Liverpool

Injury concern: Nicolas Anelka could miss Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final ties against Liverpool

Nicolas Anelka is a major doubt for the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool after aggravating his fractured big toe in the defeat against Tottenham on Saturday.

Anelka has withdrawn from the France squad for the World Cup qualification double-header against Lithuania.

A statement on the French FA website claimed Anelka would be out for three weeks, meaning Chelsea's top scorer could also miss the second leg against Liverpool.

However, Chelsea medical staff are hopeful Anelka is set for a shorter lay-off.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Latest Chelsea News

Bosingwa remains upbeat

Blues ace sets sights on silverware

Bosingwa Jose

Bosingwa: Trophy dreams

Jose Bosingwa envisages Chelsea will enjoy a successful climax to the 2008/09 campaign.

The Blues remain in the hunt for Premier League and UEFA Champions League glory and are desperate to avoid ending a second consecutive season empty-handed.

Sitting four points behind league leaders Manchester United, albeit having played a game more than their rivals, the Blues appear well placed to launch a title tilt.

They have also progressed safely through to the quarter-finals of Europe's premier club competition and will be looking to go one better than last season's runners-up spot.

Bosingwa is confident Chelsea will get their hands on at least one piece of silverware this term, with the Portuguese full-back believing the club have found form at just the right time.

"After recent results, the spirit in the squad has risen and we are playing much better," he told the Portuguese media.

"The mentality of the squad has changed and that is partially due to the arrival of (Guus) Hiddink.


"We now use a different system and have improved as an attacking force.

"The return of (Didier) Drogba to top form is also crucial for us. I think he is very happy at the moment and that is positive for us. He is one of the best strikers in Europe and his quality is unquestionable."

Bosingwa admits the club's disappointing start to the season under former boss Luiz Felipe Scolari affected team morale, but is confident Hiddink can bring the good times back to Stamford Bridge.

"Although it was sad, what happened under Scolari, that is all in the past now," he added.

"Our only interest now is to play well for Hiddink and to do our best in all competitions.

"A club like Chelsea is built to compete at the latter stages of competitions like the Champions League."

Juve ready to go with £11m Flo

TURNAROUND ... Florent Malouda

MALOUDA ... wanted in Italy

JUVENTUS are preparing an £11million summer bid for Chelsea star Florent Malouda.

The Italian giants will swoop for the French international midfielder after making contact with his representatives.

Juve have targeted Malouda after Czech Republic legend Pavel Nedved, 36, announced last month he will retire at the end of this season.

A top source at the Turin club said: “We have been looking at a number of options and Malouda is very high on this list.

“Let’s see what happens at the end of the season.”

Malouda, 28, was set to stay on at Chelsea under old boss Big Phil Scolari but is now considering his options.

The France winger is close pals with striker Didier Drogba, whose Blues future is also in question.

Since new Chelsea gaffer Guus Hiddink took charge in February, Malouda has only started two games.

He moved to Stamford Bridge from Lyon for £13.5million in July 2007 but has only shown glimpses of his talent.

Flo: Michael is Essential for us

Michael Essien

COMEBACK KING ... Michael Essien

FLORENT MALOUDA has backed Michael Essien to propel Chelsea to glory.

Ghana star Essien helped Chelsea to regain second place in the Premier League with a first-half winner against Manchester City on Sunday.

The victory was their fourth straight win under coach Guus Hiddink.

And France winger Malouda believes Essien's return has given the Blues a huge boost.

Malouda said: "He can make the difference.

"We are still trying to win three titles so we know that we will have a lot of games.

"Michael has that spirit, he has worked a lot to come back.

"I hope he will keep on scoring, help the strikers to score and improve our game.

"It's really important for us to see that after those months he spent working every day, to come back and be fit again is good.

"You can see his energy, his spirit and commitment to the team.

"He helps the game for the strikers because he keeps on running, gives good balls and yesterday he scored.

"He has a positive attitude and he gives a lot to the team.

"When you spend five months injured, you want to prove that the time you spent on the sidelines is not lost time.

"He will help all the players in the squad."

Malouda was also delighted to see Liverpool beat leaders Manchester United.

He added: "There is a big hope for us because of the result on Saturday.

"That victory will give hope to the other teams that play United because even if we win all our games we have to hope they fail and lose points."

Deco KO blow hits Blues bid

RETURN ... Deco was back in action against Manchester City

RETURN ... Deco was back in action against Manchester City

DECO could be out for the rest of the season with a niggling hamstring injury.

The Chelsea ace has been troubled by the problem for the last two months and was substituted in the first-half against Manchester City today.

He was making his first start since January and Hiddink thinks it is very doubtful that Deco will return this term.

Hiddink said: "He was fit and worked hard, but after 20 or 25 minutes he had this problem again, so he will be out again for a while.

"I think Deco will not be recovered very shortly.

"He'll have to be very fit to come back this season.

"I have my doubts to be honest but let's see what happens."



Deco could have played his last game for Chelsea with Atletico Madrid lining up a £5m summer move.

The 31-year-old midfielder picked up a hamstring injury at the weekend which could see him ruled out for the rest of the season.

But La Liga high-flyers Atletico want to take former Barcelona star Deco back to Spain.

Deco only arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer in an £8m move from the Nou Camp as Big Phil Scolari’s main signing.

But the Portugal international has struggled with both fitness and form.

Atletico’s sport director Jesus Garcia Pitarch is believed to have already spoken to Deco’s agent Jorge Mendes according to sources in Spain.

It is unlikely, however, that any decision will be taken by Chelsea to sell the player until the summer because of the speculation over who will become their next permanent manager.

Guus Hiddink still maintains that he will not carry on beyond the end of the season due to his commitment to the Russian national team.

But Roman Abramovich is likely to cut his losses on the ageing midfielder, given that Chelsea hope to raise any transfer funds from players sold at the end of the season.

The player himself is eager to get back from injury before May to try to have a say in the final stages of the season.

Barcelona defender Dani Alves insists he will not be leaving the club this summer despite reports linking him to Chelsea.

You'll never buy John Terry

LOYAL ... Guus Hiddink reckons Terry will be a Blue 'forever'

LOYAL ... Guus Hiddink reckons Terry will be a Blue 'forever'

MOST things in football can be bought — including clubs, players and loyalty.

But according to Guus Hiddink, John Terry is the exception to the rule.

The Chelsea captain is coveted by mega-rich Manchester City but JT’s love for his club is stronger than the lure of big bucks.

And it is his emotional attachment with the Blues which will see him end his career where he started it.

City, managed by Mark Hughes, made an enquiry for the England skipper last December but it was rejected out of hand by Chelsea.

And new Stamford Bridge boss Hiddink does not believe they are in danger of losing their on-field leader. He said: “I’m not in a position to talk about City’s enquiry but John made a very clear statement — that he is a Chelsea man and wants to stay a Chelsea man.

“I’m not the money man but the club made it very clear that they want to continue ‘forever’ with John.

“Some players are brought up within this club so it would be difficult to see him leave. There’s also a kind of history with him.”

But Chelsea were more than happy to accept around £20million from Sparky’s City side for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Wayne Bridge. Since last summer, Blues owner Roman Abramovich has become an interested spectator as the Arab billionaires in charge at Eastlands have become the new Chelsea.

City outbid Red Rom to bag Robinho for £32.5m from Real Madrid last August and followed that up with an unsuccessful world-record £105m bid for Milan’s Kaka.

But Hiddink voiced his discomfort at astronomical bids for players.

The Dutch gaffer said: “I’m rather amateur in this. Then you go to a philosophical approach — is a human being worth £1 or £200m to perform?

“Is it worth spending that money? Some people might think so but I don’t have the right answer on that.

“With people who invest money in the clubs, of course it’s a decision. But I don’t care if it’s £100m or £10m.

“If I can have good players then the next step is whether the other management think it’s responsible to invest so much.

“Yes, it’s immoral but where are the boundaries? Is it £10m or £100m? It’s difficult to say.”

Hiddink is considering resting defender Alex for tomorrow’s lunchtime match and starting with the fit-again Ricardo Carvalho.

By then, Chelsea will know the result of today’s titanic showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool so will know what they must do to stay in the title battle.

Terry: Forget about it, City

BLUE SUNDAY .... John Terry celebrates after Michael Essien scored against Manchester City

BLUE SUNDAY .... John Terry celebrates after Michael Essien scored against Manchester City

JOHN TERRY has told Manchester City to forget about signing him.

The Chelsea and England skipper insists he wants to spend the rest of his career at Stamford Bridge.

Terry, who was linked with a big-money move to Eastlands, said: "I can't ever see myself leaving Chelsea - I love this club.

"I've been here since the age of 14 and I never want to leave.

"I've done a statement because there was some speculation a few months ago and that's what I'm putting in it - I never want to leave Chelsea football club, simple as that."

Chelsea starlet offered tempting proposition

Chelsea starlet offered tempting proposition

Liverpool and Manchester City are both monitoring Chelsea’s exciting defensive prospect Michael Mancienne and could move for the under-21 international in the summer, according to The Times.

The 21-year-old, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Wolves, has seen his star rise this term and was even the subject of a surprise call-up to the England squad at the end of last year.

The youngster is expected to begin contract negotiations at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season but having failed to secure regular first team football ahead of established figures such as John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Alex, the suggestion is that he could find his head turned by other offers.

Manchester City in particular would have the financial power to make an attractive offer to Roman Abramovich and with other a proven track record of givin young English defenders a chance at the highest level they represent a tempting and exciting project to join.

Drogba rules out Manchester City move

Didier Drogba will not be joining Manchester City Football Club in the summer.

The Ivorian striker is out of contract at the end of next season and has been linked with a move to City, but he insists his immediate future is at Stamford Bridge.

“The only thing I can say about my commitment is that nobody can question it. Not even the Chelsea fans,” Drogba told Setanta Sports.

“They cannot complain about my commitment. Sometimes as a man you take decisions or say things that turn out to be mistakes.

Arsenal boss Wenger backing Tottenham to beat Chelsea

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes Tottenham could end Chelsea's title bid this weekend.

He told “I watched the [Villa v Spurs] game. When you are in a position where you absolutely have to win the game it makes the game more difficult. When you are 1-0 down that becomes even more difficult.

“Spurs are a good team, they have shown that they can beat anybody in the league on their day. I feel they are improving as a team and that’s why they can make it difficult and I think they have a chance against Chelsea on Saturday."

“As a human being we make mistakes and sometimes you have to apologise. But I’ve said before I will honour my contract and I will stick to my word.

“I am very happy at Chelsea right now.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

~ Essien Earn Praises All Around, Deco Out Of The Season, Drogba Fit For Spurs And Chelsea Back In Title Race ~


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

After half-a-year hidden away in the rehabilitation rooms and gyms of Cobham, you can't keep Michael Essien out of the spotlight. John Terry has been quick to hail the return of a player he describes as a 'machine'.

Against Juventus five days earlier, Essien's goal had been the outstanding moment from his first start since reconstructive knee ligament surgery. Against Man City on Sunday there was much more - a full 90 minutes, chances created by defence-splitting passes, scoring attempts with shots and headers, plus of course the winning goal.

'Only Michael could do that,' announced Terry after the 1-0 win. 'Only he could come back and after two games have scored two goals and play as well as he has been.

'After so long out you think it would take three or four games to find his feet but he is an absolute machine. You see him working his socks off for six months in the gym and it pays dividends. He is brilliant and it is great to have him back.'

Terry's fellow centre-back Ricardo Carvalho was another playing his first 90 minutes since injury, although the latest of his lay-offs was five months shorter than Essien.

'We are both fit at the same time and Essien is very important for us. He showed in this game he has got a great quality and he fights every time,' said the Portuguese defender, joining in with the praise for his team-mate.

'I've been out too long but I am happy to be back now. We have been having good results every match so everyone is more happy and when it is like that, it is easy to come back.

Man City home

'We are playing as a team and when we do we have quality in our squad and we can win our games.'

For players like Essien and Carvalho, their return comes at a time when eyes are still fixed firmly on silverware, even if the Barclays Premier League trophy is eyed-up with realistic caution, the weekend's events still leaving Man United four points ahead with a game in hand.

'We have still got three competitions and for the Champions League and the FA Cup we must look for ourselves,' says Carvalho, 'but the Premier League we have to wait for Man United to drop points so it is more difficult, but still possible.'

'We have still got to win all our games to push them right to the end,' adds Terry.

'We have shown our strength and character in the last month and if we keep doing that, we can apply some pressure to them. If they slip up, they know we are coming up behind them.

'Since the new manager has come in here we have played very well and got the right results. He has changed a few things, given a few of us a kick up the backside which I think we needed.

'Man United have good players but after a big defeat like they had this weekend, you never know how they are going to react. Hopefully they are going to go on a bad run but the main thing for us to do is keep winning and applying the pressure,'

Finally, Sunday's game against Man City, the club that put in an enquiry about buying Terry late last year, led to the subject being raised once more. Guus Hiddink in his short time here has seen a one-club man in the captain and said so on Friday.

'I can't ever see myself leaving Chelsea Football Club,' Terry now reiterates.

'I love this club, I have been here since the age of 14 and I made a statement because of speculation a few months ago and that has still not put an end to it. I never want to leave Chelsea Football Club, as simple as that.'

Chelsea's Frank Lampard is a credit to himself and his profession

Frank Lampard, Chelsea (Getty)

You can argue with someone, but still recognise their qualities. You can reject what they represent, but respect their achievements.

So here goes. Frank Lampard is a credit to himself and his profession. He deserves the serenity he seems to crave.

He will welcome the diversion of the billionaires’ bunfight at Stamford Bridge this afternoon. For an all-too-brief period it will all make sense.

Lampard will be in his element, finding refuge in the eye of the storm that passes as a Premier League match. The release of Manchester City’s visit will be fleeting, reassuringly familiar.

It will not matter that his personal life is the subject of a million water-cooler moments. He will be absorbed in the emotional ebb and flow of a game watched by millions from Abu Dhabi to Zanzibar.

Regular readers may remember we have previous. Lampard took exception to my damning comparison between his contract demands and the rewards of NHS staff.

You don’t get far in my game if you betray confidences, and it would be unforgivable to go into detail.

Suffice to say a long, occasionally loud, conversation followed which ranged from definitions of greed, through the pain of loss, to the importance of allegiance.

As he has subsequently admitted, he was on the ragged edge at the time, mourning his mother. The world has moved on, without minimising his sense of grief.

The recession has become a depression. A seat at a football match is in imminent danger of being a luxury item.

City’s Arab owners have cheapened themselves, and their pet “project”, by accelerating football’s insane inflationary spiral.

It’s still impossible to justify Lampard’s £39.2million deal, but that’s positively frugal compared to the ransoms being offered to Kaka & Co.

Those contracts have too many inducements, too few performance clauses.

Lampard, at least, gives everything of himself. His form has been the most constant factor in another comic strip season at Chelsea.

Were it not for the remarkable longevity and winning personality of Ryan Giggs, he would be a persuasive candidate for Footballer of the Year. The numbers – 67 England caps, 125 goals in 411 Chelsea appearances – don’t add up if they are the only things by which Lampard is judged.

The composure with which he accepted his absurd dismissal at Anfield earlier this season was especially impressive. It hinted at hidden virtues and values.

Guus Hiddink, his latest manager, has an instinct for influence, an eye for individuals to whom lesser characters gravitate.

Hiddink quickly understands the culture of a team he inherits. He dissects a dressing room, mentally separates the sheep from the stronger beasts.

He saw, instantly, that Lampard and John Terry were central figures. They’re more subtle than shop stewards. They’re leaders, lobbyists. Smooth operators.

That, of course, would be irrelevant if their performances did not match their political acumen. They deliver.

Lampard, in particular, has always made the most of his talent. It is the fluff of fame that irritates.

Footballers are accustomed to apologists. Somewhere, in the transition from promising player to global star, most of them lose a little of their humanity.

It is no surprise they become self-absorbed. As one respected coach advised last week: “To understand footballers you have to study what has shaped them.

“They’re conditioned to being cynical. The game teaches them no one else looks after them. They spend their lives in constant competition.

“They’re either looking to get someone’s job, or to protect themselves against the kid who wants their place. They can’t stand still.”

He wasn’t being specific, but the summary rang true.

Run, Frankie, run.


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

There was no need to beware the Ides of March this year as one midfielder did his talking on the pitch and one from the past did his off it.

If Michael Essien's first 90 minutes back surpassed expectations it is only because those expectations didn't take into account everything already known about our midfield powerhouse.

The biggest surprise about the Ghanaian's season is that his body was capable of succumbing to injury in the first place. When in the first 10 minutes on Sunday he surged through the centre in possession like a rugby league star in full flight, it was clear that the force was once again with him.

During 65 minutes play away at Juventus, his passing understandably lacked sharpness and precision but on the second of his early advances against Man City, Essien played one of the balls of the game, working a long pass through two tight markers to the feet of Didier Drogba.

Vision on the ball may not generally be talked about as one of the player's key strengths but his pass to pick out Drogba again immediately after the interval, when only an expertly-timed Nedum Onuoha tackle prevented a goal, would have made Frank Lampard proud had he supplied it. Essien was also heavily involved in a great combination of passes that so nearly played Lampard through in the early stages.

No-one is pretending the timing was right on the goal (although good reactions were needed to make any sort of contact on the swivel) and his strike on 30 minutes was hooked wide, so perhaps the shooting is yet to come. however a second-half piledriver on the run went a lot closer and sure enough, who was it still carrying the attack to Man City by charging up the pitch in the 88th minute?

Matching Essien for moments of individual dominance this Sunday lunchtime was John Terry with his one-man salvage operation just before half-time. That was after Stephen Ireland had played the ball past him to Felipe Caicedo. The skipper also took over when City went aerial as the game drew on. It's little wonder the visitors took until the 82nd minute for a shot that dirtied Petr Cech's gloves.

Following the game Man City manager Mark Hughes spoke of leggy players, Chelsea's success in preventing his forwards making an impact and a difference in preparation time as robbing his side of its spark, handing the headline writers their words on a plate.

And he may have had a fair point, with City playing Thursday then Sunday compared with our Tuesday- Sunday. However the Chelsea team had been away in Europe, traditionally considered a wrecker of form the following weekend. Man City had played at home.

So far this season the squad has done relatively well after Champions League away trips with three out of the four games that followed won, including the impressive home victory over Aston Villa.

The home defeat by Arsenal following the draw in Bordeaux was the one failure, although our record matches Man United after Euro aways. They also lost to Arsenal following a game in Glasgow but won the other three, if a penalty shoot-out win in the Carling Cup Final is included.

After the Whistle caught up with a midfielder from Chelsea's past following the weekend game.

Craig Burley is likely to be seen with his false front teeth in these days, unlike his time on the pitch in blue. That's because the former Scotland international is now a major part of Setanta's Barclays Premier League coverage, the reason he was watching Chelsea's fourth straight league win.

'Obviously the title race door's been opened a bit by the Man United-Liverpool result so it was up to Chelsea to go and make the most of that, which they did,' Burley told us.

'I was quite pleased with their football at times, in patches they showed some good stuff, but at times I thought they were back to the Chelsea we'd become accustomed to which is a little bit ponderous.

'Having Essien back was obviously a huge bonus. His drive was belying somebody who has been out of the game for so long. Superhuman is the wrong word but it almost goes beyond the reality of being out for that amount of time to be able to produce that level of performance for that long.

'I was pleased to see Drogba having some nice touches and showing a completely different body language to when Scolari was here. HHe looks as if he's in a different mindset now and that can only be good for the run-in.'

Making sure Chelsea legs don't go before the end of the season will be part of the Hiddink plan although in his Friday press conference, there was a small but interesting insight into the temporary coaches thinking on this.

Rotating en masse to give rest is not something he especially believes in he stated. However players will be switched to make sure those not match-fit are in the best shape should they be the best option for future games.

By selecting Michael Ballack rather than John Mikel Obi as the anchor midfielder on Sunday, Hiddink showed that position is no longer a straight choice between the young Nigerian (who was missing from a league starting line-up for the first time since August) and Essien, or possibly Juliano Belletti in some circumstances.

And with an unshackled Essien showing what he can bring to the party, it is hard to imagine he won't be bombing forward with Lampard again in the coming months.

After a run of Nicolas Anelka on the left of a front three, Hiddink also showed the Frenchman can be used on the right of Drogba, where he and José Bosingwa left Robinho in the shade until Deco's injury sent Anelka back over to the left.

Following Claude Makelele's surprise drop-in on training at the Bridge recently, another back-to-back title winner came to see old friends this weekend. Having played and scored for Real Madrid on Saturday night, the winger was in London in time for our game.


Posted on: Mon 16 Mar 2009

Guus Hiddink praised Michael Essien's influence after the midfielder's goalscoring league return, while also ruling Deco out for some time.

Essien was making his first league appearance since August, while Deco, who had not started himself since January, limped off towards the end of the first half with more hamstring trouble.

Temporary coach Hiddink is expecting to be without the Portuguese playmaker for some time, and possibly until the end of the season. He did though report that Didier Drogba's injury which forced him off is not serious.

'He was fit, he worked hard the last weeks and played his games. After 20, 25 minutes he got his problem again and I think he will be out for a while,' was the verdict on Deco.

'That's a pity, I think when he starts now he has to be very long and intense after his recovery medically to be very fit, so I have my doubts to be honest [about the rest of the season] but let's see in the upcoming time.

'On the other hand it was good to see Essien, Carvalho playing for 90 minutes, although Alex did very well in recent games but I want to have Carvalho game fit for the upcoming time.

'Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon. I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay.'

Hiddink believes there is still room for improvement in his side's displays, despite six wins from seven games.

'We make decent games, we can improve, today we didn't materialise the game, we didn't come under threat from City because we were solid defensively,' he analysed.

'I would have liked it much more if we could finish it off in the first half. If we could score a second goal I think it could be a 4-0 game, but that's the only thing.

'We had some good play, some good attacks but at the end we have to finish it off. That's the only thing we can be critical of, not to finish.'

It was the first time Essien has played 90 minutes since returning from his cruciate ligament injury, and his impact could not have been greater with a superbly taken first half goal.

'For the team and for the crowd it's very important that he came back after a long period of recovery and I think we played him already at Juve when he did a good job, not just by scoring. Today being in the team gives us a lot of confidence and that's good to see,' Hiddink said.

'I knew him before and he is very strong and gives a lot to the team. He gives me options to play differently with other players as well and that's good because when we go to the end of the season in three competitions we need a lot of players, so when he is available it is perfect.'

The win puts us within four points of Manchester United at the top of the table, and Hiddink admits the door is now slightly more open after their defeat to Liverpool on Saturday.

'I think every now and then you get a defeat which you don't expect. All of a sudden it happens, but on the other hand it is a very experienced team, and let's see how they react in the upcoming days but it is not the first time it happens and big teams always react,' he said of United.

'Four points - I think you have to add the one game as well. If it were four points it would be very close but they have that game in hand. It is clear after yesterday's unexpected result the attention has come back in the league.

'If we want to track them then we have to keep on winning which we are doing, and we must give attention to the end of the league.'

The Dutchman rejected suggestions that he will need to be ready to enter into mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez.

'It is not a battle between the managers at the end, it is a battle between the players. They are both very experienced, Rafael is very experienced, Sir Alex is very experienced, let me as a schoolboy chase them,' he joked. 'There is no battle between managers, it is the players.'

Chelsea's Frank Arnesen to go for Frank Rijkaard

Frank Arnesen is to become the Godfather of Chelsea - making Frank Rijkaard a red-hot tip to be the next boss.

Arnesen will be promoted to director of football by Roman Abramovich and given a major say on appointing the next manager - with Guus Hiddink insisting he WILL go back to managing the Russian national team.

And that makes Dutch legend Rijkaard, out of work since leaving Barcelona a year ago, a big favourite for the Blues hot-seat ahead of AC Milan chief Carlo Ancelotti.

Insiders reveal that Arnesen was pushing for Rijkaard when Avram Grant left last summer, but the Dut chman wanted a year-long break from the game.

Arnesen wanted to team up with Rijkaard a year ago before Luiz Felipe Scolari came in and Hiddink had to rescue their season.

Arnesen went to Chelsea from Tottenham in a controversial move and has progressed behind the scenes from chief scout to the director who looks after their expensive youth programme.

But now Abramovich and his aides have reviewed the set-up and decided to promote Arnesen to an even more senior position that will see him have a large input in signings and finding a new boss.

Abramov i ch has listened to several people after a tough year at Stamford Bridge and he has now opted to back Arnesen - with some other noses likely to be pushed out of joint.

The former Spurs coach is rated highly and will have a new contract out of this shake-up.

Some had tipped him to go during a recent period of cutbacks and checks on the progress of the club's young signings that he had overseen.

Lyon eye up potential Benzema swap deals

French international striker Karim Benzema is fully expected to be the subject of an intense bidding war when the transfer window opens in the summer and with Lyon looking ready to do business with Europe’s top clubs, including Chelsea, Manchester United, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madird it is thought that the saga could drag on for months. The latest round of speculation hints at potential swap deals involving attacking talents from the ranks of two potential Benzema suitors as the French champions look to lessen the blow of losing their prized asset.

Having revealed at the weekend that France and Juventus striker David Trezeguet was a target for Lyon, club chairman Jean Michel Aulas had pulses racing in the Italian media with several reports claiming the French side might do business with the Old Lady for Benzema.

“We wanted him two-and-a-half years ago," Aulas told Tuttosport.

"That is no secret, even if at the end of the day nothing came of it. Could we bring Trezeguet to Lyon now?

"I haven't spoken to our coach about it, nor to Juve, but we do like the player. He is an extraordinary marksman, but we have Benzema..."

Two weeks ago reports emanating from Spain hinted that Barcelona could also lure Lyon to sell Benzema by offering one of their youngest talents. El Mundo Deportivo claimed that 18-year-old Bojan Krkic, who scored twice for the Nou Camp outfit last night, was looking for a move away from Spain and could be ready-made-replacement for Lyon’s 21-year-old.

Chelsea coaching offer for PSG's Makelele

Chelsea want to bring PSG midfielder Claude Makelele back to Stamford Bridge.

The Blues want Makelele, 36, to return in a coaching and ambassadorial role.

Club officials have already sounded out Makelele and his advisers about it.

Cole: Essien absence cost us six points

Joe Cole told Setanta that Chelsea could be right on Manchester United's case had Michael Essien been fit all year.

A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament sustained in early September meant that Luiz Felipe Scolari and then Guus Hiddink were shorn of Essien’s services until his return to duty against Coventry in this month’s FA Cup quarter final.

What a return it has proved to be. Essien has started the next two games and scored twice in the process, receiving particularly widespread acclaim for his performance against Manchester City on Sunday.

Speaking in the aftermath of that game, Cole, himself out with a similar injury until at least pre-season, felt it impossible to underplay the impact the Ghana midfielder has on The Blues.

“It’s so difficult, I’m so pleased with him because we’ve got the same injury,” he told Setanta Sports 1. “To see him go out there and perform like he has, not just today but in the week in Turin [against Juventus], he was different class.

“You know how hard you’ve got to work as a footballer to get back from an injury like this. For him to perform like this is a credit to himself and the medical team.

“What we’ve missed is that little bit of pace in the midfield this year. We’ve been talking about getting tight to teams but he’s breaking up the play, he’s linking the play – he does a bit of everything. Any team would miss him, he’s our engine room.

“We’ve struggled with injuries but that’s no excuse – we’ve got the squad to deal with it. We’ve got players like Ballack, Deco, Lampard and Mikel. These are four world-class midfielders.

“But Essien would have made a difference. With him in the squad maybe we’d have had an extra five or six points.”

Liverpool's surprise 4-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime means that they and Chelsea are four points adrift of United having both played a game more.

English Angle: Michael Essien - One Big Player, But An Even Bigger Headache For Chelsea

The Blues are looking a much better side with their all-action midfielder back in the mix, but his presence will pose a few problems to some of his team-mates in the long-term...

EPL: Michael Essien, Chelsea v Manchester City (PA)
As Chelsea cut through Manchester City time and time again with the whole of Stamford Bridge behind them, there were more than a few echoes of the opening day of the season. Portsmouth were the victims that sunny afternoon in August, with the final score of 4-0 not in any way flattering the Blues in Luiz Felipe Scolari's first league game in charge.

They had the solidity through the middle that has been the cornerstone of their success since Jose Mourinho took charge, but on top of that was the guile of Deco and the freedom afforded to flying full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole. There was inspiration and flair, yet they looked as unbreakable as ever in defence - they had everything.

It was a Brazilian formula for success from one of the most successful Brazilian bosses of all time, but it had its limitations. There is a reason Deco only cost €10 million from Barcelona. For all his skill and pedigree, he has passed his peak and cannot consistently compete at the highest level anymore. The full-backs, though flying, were always restrained to a degree, knowing that the likes of Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack would never provide genuine defensive cover. This limited the width and pace that they could offer, a fact exacerbated further by the lack of speed in midfield.

Scolari soon realised he didn't quite have the squad he thought he did - to assert that Robinho would have solved all their problems would be absurd - and as the blues set in at the Bridge, it was time to for Scolari to get on out.

Guus Hiddink has taken temporary charge and had a similar galvanising effect on the players, so far, and with his introduction have come a few more minor innovations. The return of Michael Essien is, as they say, 'like a new signing'. He is the new Deco. Just as Deco gave Chelsea what they needed in August, Essien is giving them what they need in March. But what was the case then remains so now: it is one central player too many for a team desperately wanting for width.

The difference is that the Ghanaian has the years ahead of him to be the best for the long haul and is a man around whom the Blues should consider building their team, providing they embrace him for the player that he is and play to his strengths. Essien can defend very well - having played at right- and centre-back during his time in west London - but he is at his best breaking from midfield and making an irrepressible nuisance of himself to opposing defences. He and Didier Drogba's interplay split City over and over throughout the game; it was like nothing we had seen all season from anyone besides perhaps Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard - why would any manager in their right mind want to put an end to it by trying to make Essien, or Ballack for that matter, the new Makelele? It worked against Man City - so did Deco against Portsmouth - but such a system will be exposed over time, if for no other reason than neither Essien nor Ballack were required to do any defending at all. Against better teams, the Blues won't have that luxury.

While it is true that not every team needs a specialist defensive midfielder - the English, European and world champions certainly don't - with the likes of Lampard and Ballack on board as potential partners for Essien, Chelsea definitely do. Essien is not the new Makelele. Chelsea had the new Makelele, but they sold him to Arsenal, who sold him to Portsmouth, who were recently more or less forced into selling him to Real Madrid, where Makelele became a brand unto himself and defined his own 'Makelele' position to begin with (thus completing the circle of life). To build a new-look Blues, they will need a new, new Makelele. Is it Jon Obi Mikel? Many have had their doubts due to his failure to perform in the big games and Ballack doesn't have enough years left in him to be considered the 'new' anything.

For all Essien's exuberance, his inclusion as the all-conquering midfield general, along with the new Makelele, leaves only a single place in the line-up for one of Lampard, Ballack or Deco in attacking midfield. Wingers must still remain a priority at the Bridge though, as the diamond midfield formation is highly unlikely to stand the test of time in the Premier League.

Deco may have the most skill and Ballack may be the best all-rounder (at least on paper), but one thing is definite: 'Super Goals' has become the heartbeat of Chelsea. He has earned primacy in his position, and the fact he has had to share it in recent times has only limited and inhibited his ability to make champions out of Chelsea. The problem this decision poses is tempering two tremendous egos who will no longer be regulars - to sell one of them would probably be best for the squad to avoid a situation such as the one that faced Scolari in his last days; having more 'big' players than he knew how to handle.

Chelsea are an old team. Mourinho built for the now and was never one particularly concerned by youth development. The more he became disenchanted by the ever-tightening grip of Abramovich's iron fist, the less motivated he was to even try and effect change. First Hiddink, then Drogba and now Essien have finally reminded us just how special some parts of this Chelsea side can still be, but big changes are needed this summer. Out with the old, in with the Blue.

Chelsea boss Hiddink allays Drogba injury fears

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink insists Didier Drogba is okay after suffering a knee strain during their victory over Manchester City.

Drogba was substituted with a knee injury, but Hiddink insists that he will be fit to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane next Saturday.

Hiddink said: "Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon. I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay."

Deco blow for Hiddink

Portuguese midfielder suffers hamstring injury

Guus Hiddink led Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Manchester City on Sunday, but saw Deco hobble out of the action.

A solitary strike from Michael Essien was enough to keep the Blues in the title race as they reclaimed second spot in the Premier League standings.

However, the victory was soured by an injury to Portuguese playmaker Deco.

He was forced from the field four minutes before half-time after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring problem and could be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

"I think he will be out for a while," Hiddink said.

"He was fit and has been working hard but got the same problem again."

Asked whether Deco would recover before the end of the season, the Dutch coach said: "I have my doubts but let's see."

The injury blow aside, Hiddink was otherwise delighted to take three points from the City clash.


Chelsea now sit four points behind league leaders Manchester United, with all to play for between now and the end of the season.

"If it was just four points it would be very close, but they have that game in hand," he said.

"But it's clear that after yesterday's unexpected result (United's 4-1 defeat to Liverpool) that the tension has come back in the league.

"It's a boost. But if we want to track them, we have to keep on winning. That'll give tension to the end of the season, which is good for everyone.

"Every now and then you get a defeat you don't expect. Sometimes you don't expect it at home because you have a beautiful record, then all of a sudden it happens.

"But they're a very experienced team. Let's see how they react in the up-coming days. It's not the first time that it's happened, but the big teams always react.

"I don't know what their reaction will be. When you are in the driver's seat and someone else is coming, you can get a little bit nervous. It is a little bit open now."

Chelsea - Drogba Fit for Spurs!
Chelsea - Drogba Fit for Spurs!
The sight of Didier Drogba limping off the pitch, against Manchester City, gave everyone cause for concern yesterday.

Thankfully, it appears that the injury isn`t serious and that Didier Drogba will be fit enough to play against Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.

In his after-match press conference Guus Hiddink remarked,

'Drogba I think is not a big problem, I think he likes to be with the team, he likes to play, he likes to train so I think he will be recovered very soon.'

"I think tomorrow or the day after he will be okay.'

Start panicking Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate, the Drogster is coming!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Essien And Drogba Difference for Juventus And UEFA Champions League Violence Put Rome Finale In Doubt


Posted on: Wed 11 Mar 2009

In the end two goals from players who have endured more than their share of injury frustration in the past 12 months were enough for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, but was the first goal scored by Juventus just as important?

That was the suggestion from Didier Drogba after Chelsea had completed an Italian job in Turin, the Ivorian joining Michael Essien on the scoresheet, adding to his solitary strike against Juventus at Stamford Bridge.

It's all coming good for the centre-forward following his prolonged recovery from a knee problem. Last night's goal, a fourth in five games, just about ended the resistance of Claudio Ranieri's side who became the first Serie A side to score in the three first knockout stage ties against Barclays Premier League opposition.

That was when Vincenzo Iaquinto netted after 18 minutes with Chelsea struggling to get out the starting blocks.

'We did not know really what to do - if we had to attack or let them come at us and we play the counter attack,' admitted Drogba on the early stages of the game.

'But when they scored, we decided to play our game and I think it was a good thing that they scored. You always start wanting to win the game but at some points it was difficult to make the decisions. I think the goal that they scored, it really helped us.

'It was a good result for us in the end,' he reflected, 'but we had good opposition and they did their best to do everything to qualify. We had to play a very good game.'

As Chelsea improved heading up to the half-time interval, Drogba had a free-kick 'goal' controversially ruled by the linesman not to have crossed the line. Shortly after, Michael Essien did manage to bundle the ball over the line.

'It was very important,' Essien said of the goal that capped his first Champions League game of the season. He played the first 65 minutes.

'It has been a long season for me, being injured, but I am happy to be back and I am very happy with the result today. I was a bit tired when I came off but I am fine now.

'It is definitely great that we can come here and go through playing away. I am now looking forward to the quarter-final.'

Essien's away goal was crucial to the tie but there was more tension yet when Juve were awarded a second-half penalty for handball.

'The referee gave a penalty, I think he was right but he did not know who touched the ball so that is why there was a bit of confusion in the box,' explained Drogba who soon went up the other end to score and give Chelsea breathing space.

Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus's World Cup-winning keeper believes the Chelsea number 11 made a big difference to the outcome of the tie.

'When you weigh up the performances in the first and the second legs, Drogba showed beyond doubt he is a striker of true international class,' the Italian told

'He would make the difference to any side in the world. Their first goal was a great shame. Perhaps we didn't play the last few minutes of the first half too well. There was a world of difference between going in at half-time 1-0 up or level at 1-1.'

'It was a very good result and I am really happy to play again and to have my good moments,' summed up Drogba.

'I am happy for the fans that we go to the quarter-finals and it is good for the team. This draw for us is like a victory and when we play like we did today it is difficult to beat us.'

Chelsea's Michael Ballack Poised For Bayern Munich Return – Report

The inclement financial climate is even curbing the spending of money-bags Chelsea and there could be a summer exit for Michael Ballack amongst others. Speculation is linking him with a return to Bayern Munich.

CL: Michael Ballack, Chelsea - Olympiakos (PA)

Guus Hiddink has got Chelsea back on track on the pitch but it seems that even the London giants are not immune to the credit crunch and will have to trim their playing staff for next season

"We haven't properly got together to talk about summer transfers yet but I think that we could expect that several players will leave and that several players will come in," chairman Bruce Buck told the Daily Mirror.

"I don't know whether that is three, four or five, but something in that kind of neighbourhood, so we can expect a handful to leave."

As the club look to reduce the Premiership's highest wage bill of £130 million a year, it is being reported that Michael Ballack could be one of those to exit Stamford Bridge in the summer.

Speculation has already arisen as to Ballack’s next destination and a report in The Guardian suggests that he could be set for a return to former club Bayern Munich.

His contract expires this summer so he would be available on a free and he would quickly be welcomed back at the Allianz Arena. Bayern still need world-class players if they are to compete at the highest level in Europe.

Abramovich should not have lost Mourinho and now he can't afford to let Hiddink go

If Roman Abramovich has not got everything in place in Russia to allow him to keep Guus Hiddink next season, he had better hurry up.

Chelsea have consistently maintained the Dutchman will return to his job as Russian national coach full-time in the summer, but the feeling outside the club has always been they have been keeping up appearances.

Upsetting the delicate political balance in owner Abramovich's homeland, where he is governor of the remote region of Chukotka and provides a large chunk of the football funding, apparently wouldn't take much and is something he is acutely aware of.

Scroll down for more

 Guus Hiddink

Top man: Guus Hiddink

Yet if Hiddink continues to guide Chelsea in the right direction the groundswell of support behind him will build to such a level that Abramovich will find himself in a no win situation.

The manager may not have enjoyed quite as much success in the past as his reputation suggests but he has got off to a flyer at Chelsea and with progress in all the available competitions, he is endearing himself to the supporters.

The players are already calling for him to be kept on too with Petr Cech speaking out after the club went through to the Champions League quarter finals at the expense of Claudio Ranieri's Juventus.

So the plan revealed by Sportsmail to put Dick Advocaat in Hiddink's place for Russian needs to be executed, and fast.

For Abramovich to lose one popular manager (Jose Mourinho) could be considered misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness.

'Russian Ronaldinho' a step closer to joining Chelsea following Moscow talks with Abramovich

CSKA Moscow boss Zico says he will not stand in the way of Yuri Zhirkov moving to Chelsea.

Sources in Moscow say Stamford Bridge owner Roman Abramovich has held preliminary talks with the Russians over the 25-year-old's summer transfer.

Sportsmail first revealed in January that Chelsea were keen on the Euro 2008 star, dubbed the Russian Ronaldinho.

 Yuri Zhirkov keeps the ball from Aston Villa's Luke Young

Wing wizard: Yuri Zhirkov keeps the ball from Aston Villa's Luke Young last month

Zhirkov, who prefers to play down the left wing but can also fill in at left back, is considered one of the best wide men in the world by Russia and Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink and he posseses the pace sadly lacking in the Blues team.

Abramovich and Hiddink saw Zhirkov in action during CSKA's UEFA Cup victory against Aston Villa last month.

Reports in Moscow said Abramovich congratulated the players in the dressing room after the 2-0 win in the Russian capital.

And the oligarch also talked to CSKA president Yevgeni Giner to discuss the preliminary conditions of the transfer, according to Tvoi Den newspaper. CSKA subsequently spurned interest from Bayern Munich and Juventus.

 Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at the Luzhniki Stadium

Mission to Moscow: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich at the Luzhniki Stadium during CSKA's victory against Aston Villa last month

Zico said: 'Zhirkov is a player of such high level that in my opinion he would show all his real potential only playing in such a strong competition as the English Premier League.

'He would easily fit into Chelsea's first-choice team. I don't like to lose him but I won't stop his move to London.'

A winner of the UEFA Cup with CSKA in 2005, Zhirkov was also credited by UEFA with scoring the goal of the 2006-2007 Champions League when he chipped the ball over two opponents, dribbled from the half-way line and then beat the Hamburg goalkeeper.

After Euro 2008, Hiddink said: 'Zhirkov plays very modern game. He's capable of covering all the left side of the pitch alone.

'A player can only do this if he has brilliant technical skills and physical condition. He's top class footballer.'

Chelsea are also thought to be interested in CSKA's 18-year-old CSKA midfielder Dzagoev

Striker shows he is splendid in isolation

For all of last night's positives for Chelsea, Didier Drogba's performance will have given Guus Hiddink most pleasure

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba celebrates after scoring Chelsea's second goal at Juventus. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

The key to Chelsea's victory last night was Guus Hiddink's decision to restore Didier Drogba to a lone striking role. On his own, Drogba can make his runs independently, moving towards or away from the ball without having to concern himself with combining effectively with a partner. For all Nicolas Anelka's goalscoring form this season, last night Chelsea showed that Drogba is not only their most dangerous attacker when in the mood, but that he actively enjoys the challenge of playing in isolation.

It is not only Drogba who benefits from this formation. With only one striker, and with Mikel John Obi in front of their defence, Chelsea's central midfield have more depth and more room to work. As a result, Frank Lampard was able to get into good forward positions and Michael Ballack passed the ball more comfortably.

Juventus started in sprightly fashion, hustling Chelsea and encouraging their full-backs to chase forward. At this stage Claudio Marchisio and Tiago were nullifying Chelsea's central midfield, pushing on to Mikel and stopping Lampard getting the ball. The home side opened the scoring with a brilliant combination between two strikers in tune. Gianluigi Buffon was not troubled until an amazing finish to the first half.

Chelsea were lucky to win a free-kick against Tiago and Drogba's drive was juggled off the line by Buffon. Then Lampard's deflected shot dropped invitingly to the ever-alert Michael Essien. In the final minute of the half, Chelsea had begun to assert themselves.

Hiddink had reverted to the Chelsea way, with the positions normally occupied by Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou being taken by Essien and Anelka. The Frenchman played a key role, keeping his discipline on the left side while Essien found his feet on the right. Juventus faded physically and, as expected, their ageing legs could not sustain that level of exertion.

Hiddink will be pleased and relieved that Chelsea came through a difficult fixture. Petr Cech was impressive, Mikel showed maturity, but Drogba's excellence in attack will have given the Dutch manager most satisfaction.

Drogba the difference for Buffon

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (©Getty Images)

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon paid tribute to Didier Drogba for his two-goal contribution to Chelsea FC's 3-2 UEFA Champions League aggregate win against the Turin side, but stopped short of conceding the result was proof of the Premier League's superiority over Italian club football.

'International class'
Drogba, who scored after 12 minutes of the opening leg at Stamford Bridge, tested Buffon with a curling free-kick in the first half in Turin before striking Chelsea's second equaliser late on in Tuesday's 2-2 draw. Juventus and Italy No1 Buffon was gracious in his praise of the Ivory Coast forward. "Undoubtedly when you weigh up the performances in the first and the second legs, Drogba showed beyond doubt he is a striker of true international class," Buffon said. "He would make the difference to any side in the world."

No inferiority complex
Though Buffon was prepared to bow to Drogba's quality, he refused to accept that Juve's elimination by Guus Hiddink's side was further evidence, along with Liverpool FC's 4-0 humbling of Real Madrid CF on Tuesday evening, of English football's growing domination of the European scene. "I don't think you can claim this is necessarily another example of English superiority," said Buffon. "We were at full strength in the away leg and I don't think we deserved to lose. In the return leg, we had a lot of players out, Pavel Nedvěd got injured after three minutes and after an hour we were down to ten men so I don't think there is any way you can claim quite that simplistically that Chelsea are a superior side."

'Great shame'
The 31-year-old Italy goalkeeper added that Michael Essien's equaliser on the stroke of half-time was hard to take, but remained sanguine in defeat. "Their first goal was a great shame," he said. "I think perhaps we didn't play the last few minutes of the first half too well. There was a world of difference between going in at half-time 1-0 up or level at 1-1. And in the end having to put three goals past Chelsea was a tall order. But we still have the league to play for and although we can't promise anything we will give our utmost until the very end and, if nothing else, look to reduce the [seven-point] gap between ourselves and Inter."

Chelsea almost robbed as official fails in the line of duty

It was the moment when even those who keep arguing against the introduction of technological goal-line assistance at major football games surely had to acknowledge that enough is enough.

Chelsea almost robbed as official fails in the line of duty
Blue murder: Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon claws the ball back from beyond the line following a Didier Drogba free-kick. The 'goal' was not given. Photo: AFP

Millions of pounds hinge on the outcome of a Champions League match like this and when a goal as clear as Didier Drogba’s just before half-time is not given because of the incompetence of a linesman, it makes a nonsense of the sport’s biggest club event.

If Michael Essien had not scored seconds later just before the break, this could easily have been an episode which cost the Blues a place in the quarter-finals of the Cup. Football can no longer afford for such crucial issues to be decided by such outrageous fortune.

It happened thus; with Chelsea desperate to get back into the game and gaining some control at one down, Drogba curled the ball goalwards from a free kick and Gianluigi Buffon stretched too late to his left, actually appearing to touch the side netting as he clutched the ball.

The naked eye did not lie; an Italian journalist in front of me immediately turned round sheepishly and offered the snap he had just taken on his camera. The ball had been over the line by a clear foot.

Everybody knew it. A noisy stadium went quite silent, as if recognising this was the cheekiest bit of thieving in Turin since Michael Caine and his boys carried out their Italian Job.

The face of the world’s number one keeper was a picture of “who me?” innocence as he quickly plucked the ball from behind the line and made a pointless gesture towards the linesman who had allowed him to get away with blue murder.

Chelsea seemed so stunned, they didn’t even protest but it was a scandal all right. If they had gone into the break one down, rather than being relieved to celebrate Michael Essien’s comeback goal moments later, the whole tenor of the game would have been completely different.

What those two moments demonstrated, though, was just how right Michael Ballack had been before the match when he talked about how the “power” and spirit of the old Chelsea had been rekindled under Guus Hiddink in just a few weeks. The disallowed goal was not a signal for self-pity but for resilience.

And they needed to demonstrate it because, at a Stadio Olimpico bristling with atmosphere and intent, this really did feel like Guus Hiddink’s first true examination.

This was what Juve had been missing in their naughty boys’ exile, one of those European Cup mega nights, only not in their old Stadio delle Alpi with its atmosphere lost in cavernous concrete â “ the miserable old place is being renovated - but in the compact, seater temporary home at the Stadio Olimpico. At least here, so the joke goes, you could feel as if you were experiencing that rarest of phenomena â “ the Turin crowd.

Chelsea were meant to feel intimidated, as if they’d stepped in front of a herd of 27,000 stampeding zebras, and when the home fans tried to unfurl a giant banner pronouncing “YES WE CAN!” just before kick off, but singularly and embarrassingly failed, Chelsea could only hope it was an omen.

It wasn’t. The early exit of Pavel Nedved through injury, prompting thoughts from his fans that this might be the last time they saw him in European action, only served to inspire the home side.

Soon after, a sweet combination between Trezeguet and Vincenzo Iaquinta ripped holes in Chelsea’s rearguard. The man the Bianconeri always look to, Alessandro Del Piero, suddenly awoke too.

Because he too stood by his Old Lady after the scandal, Del Piero’s stature here is beyond compare. He had been given two matches off by Ranieri to prepare himself for this contest and also offered twin support in the shape of both David Trezeguet and Vicenzo Iaquinta.

The introduction of the attacking trio looked like Ranieri’s big gamble but, with Chelsea looking distinctly rattled and nervous after the goal, summed up by Cech’s comedy flap at one cross, Del Piero started enjoying the stage he has graced here for 16 years man and boy.

One free kick snapped in from about 35 yards was preposterous in its ambition but was a signal of the general Italian confidence. Steel was needed and Essien’s return was a godsend.

After the disallowed goal, it was his remarkable alertness for a man who had only played one game in six months which allowed him to surge forward and latch on to the rebound off the bar. Chelsea could only hope it was enough to ensure a scandal wouldn’t k.o them.

Russian Football President: Hiddink Could Stay At Chelsea

The president of the Russian Football Union (RFU) hinted yesterday that Guus Hiddink may be considering an extension at Chelsea.

11 Mar 2009 22:50:57

Guus Hiddink
President of the RFU Vitaly Mutko revealed his fears that Guus Hiddink may give up his responsibilities at the helm of the Russian national team for a permanent deal at Chelsea.

Speaking to the press, Mutko said that he believes Chelsea are among the only sides Hiddink would consider coaching on a less temporary basis due to their global appeal. Mutko believes that any coach would relish the opportunity to manage the Stamford Bridge outfit.

"I don’t think he would agree to join any club other than Chelsea, not because of his special relationship with Roman Abramovich, but because Chelsea is the kind of global side that any coach would like to manage."

It is testament to Mutko's statement that the Dutchman has enjoyed such success since taking over at the club, the Russian believing Hiddink will come under increasing pressure to stay should the impeccable run of form continue.

What lies in store for Hiddink's future really boils down to whether Russia can find a replacement for him, as the combination of managing both teams would be too demanding and no doubt encounter conflicting schedules.

"At the moment we have an agreement with Guus Hiddink that he will combine the two posts only till the summer," Mutko said.

"Of course everything can change, but we should take into account that, for Hiddink, it is better to work with a national side. He is not only a coach but also an organiser, a politician — not a club man."

Chelsea fans stabbed in the rear by Juventus thugs

Around 1,500 Chelsea fans travelled to Turin last night to see their side earn a place in the final eight of the Champions League, but two Londoners found themselves subjected to some of Italy’s less hospitable supporters.

Before kick-off, the Chelsea fans were stabbed, and were taken to hospital with injuries to their derrieres.

Such attacks are said to be common “greetings” from Italian football hooligans, who clearly aren’t aware that a simple wave and smile is much more polite.

Gunners fan 'stabbed' in Rome

Rome's suitability to host the Champions League final will be questioned once more after an Arsenal fan was apparently stabbed on Wednesday.

Roma fans: Notorious reputation

Ahead of the Gunners' penalty shootout victory in the Stadio Olimpico, a supporter was attacked, the British Embassy in the Italian capital claimed, when the minibus in which he was travelling lost its way close to the stadium.

In the latest worrying incident of football hooliganism in the city, it was suggested a group of home fans targeted the vehicle and attempted to force their way inside.

"One managed to get on to the bus and there was a fight," an embassy spokesman said.

"The driver managed to get away when the Roma fan was pushed out of the bus."

The victim was able to watch the match after receiving medical care, the spokesman revealed.

He added: "We don't know if it was a stabbing or glass from a smashed window."

An Arsenal spokeswoman said: "A male Arsenal fan was believed to be stabbed outside the stadium.

"Roma fans threw stones at a bus, smashing windows, and an individual allegedly entered the bus and stabbed a fan."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the incident that happened in Italy and we are providing consular assistance."

Arsenal's fans had already been warned to avoid certain areas of the city by their club after a string of ugly incidents over recent years.

"If you travel to the stadium independently, please be aware you are at risk," stated the booklet circulated by Arsenal.

"Do not take trains to the Piazza Flaminio or attempt to use the Ponte Duca D'Aosta bridge as these are habitual routes taken by the 'Ultras' (Roma's hardcore supporters).

"Please stay away from the Campo De Fiori."

The Italian capital has come under the microscope in the wake of several high-profile incidents in recent years, most notably when a number of Manchester United fans were wounded in clashes with Roma fans in two separate incidents in the city in 2007.

City officials had been warned by European football's governing body, UEFA, that any serious acts of hooliganism between now and the May 27 final could see the showpiece moved elsewhere.

It now remains to be seen whether UEFA still have confidence in Rome to host a trouble-free showpiece in two-and-a-half months' time.

Stabbing of visiting fan in attack by ‘Ultras’ confirms club’s worst fears

The violence that has marred the Italian game flared again in Rome last night as two Arsenal fans were injured when the coach taking them to the Stadio Olimpico was attacked by Roma supporters before the match. One of the Arsenal supporters was stabbed in the leg, according to reports. One Roma fan was arrested.

The coach carrying Arsenal supporters, who had travelled independently but had tickets, came under a hail of stones thrown by a group of Roma “Ultras” as it was approaching the stadium. Windows were smashed and at least one Roma fan entered the vehicle, in which a flare was let off. The two wounded Arsenal fans were “lightly injured”, police said, and had refused an offer of transport to hospital for treatment. They received on-the-spot aid from paramedics.

Arsenal said last night that in addition to the coach incident there were two other attacks that left fans with head injuries. “We deplore the incidents as the safety of our supporters is our highest priority,” a statement from Arsenal and the Metropolitan Police, which sent officers to Rome, said.

In a separate incident, police said two Arsenal fans, described as “completely drunk”, were arrested for vandalism on Via Veneto in the city centre. The supporters were taken to a police station, where one attempted to escape but was caught. A policeman was injured in the scuffle with the fan. Police also said that an Arsenal supporter was stopped from entering the stadium after he was found to be carrying a small hammer. He is likely to be charged with carrying an offensive weapon, but had not been arrested.

Arsenal had stated their fears before the match of the possibility of incidents outside the stadium because of the Ultras’ reputation for violence. Sixteen Manchester United supporters were stabbed in the city when the English side faced Roma twice in the Champions League two years ago.

Uefa had threatened to relocate this season’s Champions League final on May 27 away from the Italian capital if trouble persisted. Extra police were drafted to ensure the safety of the 3,000 Arsenal fans, with police vans surrounding the bars in areas where Roma’s Ultra fans meet before and after matches. The North London club sent booklets to fans last week asking them to be vigilant.

The violence came after two Chelsea supporters were stabbed in Turin on Tuesday night before their team’s Champions League game against Juventus. The fans were slashed in the buttocks and were released from hospital after treatment.


Posted on: Tue 10 Mar 2009

Chelsea's community coaches have been rewarded with four out of eight Positive Futures Awards at this year's ceremony held at Park Plaza Hotel in London.

The vital contributions made by Yusuf Jimacale, Ricky Dewey and Billy Thomson have been acknowledged by the youth offending organisation for their dedication and determination to improve both themselves and their communities.

Chelsea Community Coach Ian Jordan also won the special award for Exceptional Contributions to Young People's Development.

Yusuf, Ricky and Billy started out as participants on the club's social inclusion projects, designed to divert young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour.

Yusuf initially came to our Hammersmith & Fulham Kickz programme through a love of football and within weeks he was demonstrating the sort of leadership qualities to become a popular coach who is also the driving force behind his college football team.

Yusuf has now taken various courses gaining Community Sports Leaders and volunteering qualifications and is taking an introductory course in youth work.

'What inspired me to do this is just the work that the coaches do. We don't just cover football; we actually have one-on-ones with the children and find out what they want to do,' said Yusuf.

'It is just good to get credit for the work we have been doing. It motivates me and I want to keep doing it.'

Ricky, aged 19, has shown similar dedication. Having initially started as a participant on our Wandsworth Positive Futures scheme, he has demonstrated a passion for developing himself and others on the programme.

After successfully completing a Prince's Trust course and both Level One & Two FA coaching qualifications, Ricky is now a coach on our Positive Futures & Kickz social inclusion projects but still finds the time to volunteer extensively within his community.

'Basically the main thing that inspired me was putting myself on the right path,' said Ricky: 'To me the award is a big step forward. It is a bigger incentive; it makes you that bit more motivated, I know I can still go further as well.'

Billy was also awarded a special prize for his contribution to volunteering. After being a participant on our Westminster Kickz Programme for almost one year, he now holds his Level One Certificate in Coaching Football and is delivering coaching sessions to Primary School PE lessons. He has recently become a paid employee at Chelsea.

Ian Jordan was surprised but honoured to land the Exceptional Contributions to Young People's Development.

'It's a great honour to be a representative of the great work we as a club do with the community and London as a whole,' explained Ian.

'Our award winners deserve recognition for their hard work. The role model thing does work, so you can see there is a path to progress to work for a club like Chelsea.'

Chelsea’s Kenyon and Barca’s Laporta involved in high-level discussions

Chelsea’s Kenyon and Barca’s Laporta involved in high-level discussions

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and Barcelona president Joan Laporta were two of the big hitters representing England and Spain at UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council meeting in Nyon this week. The well known figures were part of an eighteen man panel, which also included UEFA president Michel Platini, discussing a range of issues affecting the modern games.

The major talking point to come out of the meeting was the unanimous decision by all four groups represented (associations, clubs, leagues and players) to agree in principle a ban on international transfers of minors – players aged under 18 – either into Europe or within Europe.

"The question of minors is above all a moral and ethical issue – we have a duty to take concrete steps to protect young players and training clubs," said UEFA President Michel Platini. "I am delighted that the key stakeholders of the European football family have a common view on this major subject and I welcome the signature of this important resolution," he added.

The meeting was attended by the following persons:

Representatives of the associations (UEFA)
Michel Platini (UEFA President)
Senes Erzik (Turkey)
Geoffrey Thompson (England)
Angel María Villar Llona (Spain)
Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder (Germany)

Representatives of the clubs (ECA)
Maarten Fontein (Netherlands)
Michele Centenaro (General Secretary)
Peter Kenyon (England)
Joan Laporta i Estruch (Spain)

Representatives of the leagues (EPFL)
José Luis Astiazaran (Spain)
Lex Gold (Scotland)
David Richards (England)
Frédéric Thiriez (France)
Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros (General Manager)

Representatives of the players (FIFPro Europe)
Gerardo González Movilla (Spain)
Leonardo Grosso (Italy)
Philippe Piat (France)
Theo van Seggelen (Secretary General)
Mick McGuire (England)

Representative of FIFA
Jérôme Valcke, General Secretary

UEFA Administration
David Taylor, General Secretary

Agent: Ibra and Jose may move to Madrid

Mourinho Ibrahimovic

The agent of Inter Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has claimed that both the Swedish striker and Inter manager Jose Mourinho could both be heading for Real Madrid at the end of the season.

Mourinho, whose side faces Manchester United in a crucial Champions League last 16 clash on Wednesday, only took charge of the Nerazzurri last summer following the sacking of Roberto Mancini.

But he has already fallen out with both the Italian media and his Serie A rivals on several occasions, despite guiding Inter to the top of the table.

But Mino Raiola, Ibrahimovic's agent, has revealed that the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid could be the Portuguese's next port of call along with the Swedish striker, who is also believed to be a target of Barcelona.

"I am sure that Mourinho does all that he can to go to Real Madrid," he told Il Giorno.

"He forced Massimo Moratti to spend 45million euro and now he's winning thanks to Roberto Mancini's earlier signings.

"If Zlatan decides to move, then he'll move.

"We keep receiving new bids. Real Madrid and Barcelona would do everything they could to get him. Ibra would score 40 goals a season in Spain."