Milan demolish Arsenal, Rangers demolish their finances, and an Argentine demolishes his foot…at a gas station!
1. Milan thrash Arsenal. Last week A.C. Milan gave Arsenal a sound thumping (4-0) in their Champions League clash in Milan. The commanding display, spearheaded by an outstandingly bullish Zlatan Ibrahimovich, (all but) secured a place for the Italians in the quarter-finals of the competition. Ok, there’s still one more game left to play, but if the Italian side’s away performance is even half of what they exhibited at the San Siro, the match in London is pretty much a rubber stamp. Perhaps Barcelona and Real Madrid are the bookie’s favorites in this tournament, but Milan’s victory confirmed to the outside world what those who have been watching Serie A could already tell you: this is a serious team. And they’re serious contenders not only to repeat their Scudetto title, but also to reach the Champions League final in May.
2. Hiddink gets his pension. This past week Guus Hiddink filled the recently vacant manager position at Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala. The Dagestan-based team was rumored to be courting ex-England manager Fabio Capello, but it turned out to be the Dutchman that was selected. Hiddink, former manager of the Russian national side, is no stranger to the country, but it was hardly the lovely weather that brought him back to coach Anzhi. While unconfirmed, Hiddink’s financial compensation, if true, is truly astounding. The 65 year old stands to earn $13 million per year, and if that’s not enticing enough, his taxes will also be paid by the club. There are many words that could describe this deal, but only one seems fitting…BALLIN!
3. Zambia. In 1993, on their way to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal, eighteen Zambian footballers and their coaching staff died in a plane crash over Gabon. The accident wiped out the country’s “golden generation,” one of Africa’s most promising teams and the side that had beaten Italy 4-0 in the 1988 Olympic games in Korea. Last week, almost twenty years after the tragic plane crash, a new Zambian national team defied all odds to win their first ever African Cup of Nations, defeating tournament favorites Ivory Coast 8-7 in a penalty shootout. The emotional victory was made even more touching by scenes of the national team coach Herve Renard carrying injured defender Joseph Musonda onto the pitch for the post game celebrations. A true storybook ending.
1. Claudio Ranieri skating on thin ice. The so-called “Tinkerman” was supposed to be the answer to Inter’s managerial problems since the departure of Jose Mourinho, which resulted in three different coaches in just over a year. It seemed he was on track after they defeated AC Milan in the Derby della Madonnina, but ever since that victory a month ago, things have gone downhill. Inter have been eliminated from the Coppa Italia after a 2-0 defeat to Napoli, while in the league a massive 4-0 defeat to Roma was followed by two home losses to Novara and Bologna. Inter currently sit seventh in the standings, 14 points behind league leaders and bitter rivals Milan. With the Champions League tie against Marseille coming up on Wednesday, the suspicion is that Ranieri is on borrowed time and if they lose that match he’ll be newly unemployed. Luis Figo, Giuseppe Baresi, and Walter Zenga are all names rumored to be potential caretakers until at least the summer. It should be a crucial week ahead for the Roman that could see things go from bad to worse.
2. Rangers in trouble. On Tuesday one of Scotland’s most successful and prestigious clubs, Rangers F.C., was placed “in administration,” a legal procedure that allows financially struggling football teams to keep operating without without being forced to sell off assets to pay debts. Though wildly successful in recent years, Rangers have far outspent themselves–they currently face £9 million in unpaid taxes and are still embroiled in litigation regarding almost £50 million in disputed taxes from a previous owner. The news has outraged many fans…and worried them too: previous clubs who have entered administration, such as Leeds and Portsmouth, haven’t fared well. Although Rangers were docked 10 points in the Scottish league as punishment for their financial mismanagement, the club still sits in second place, but if they lose out on Champions League football next year, the results could be disastrous, prompting a wholesale exit of players and, in the worst case scenario, complete liquidation of the club. It’s unlikely to happen, of course, but Rangers fans still have many dark days ahead of them.
3. Ever Banega’s petrol problems. Valencia’s Argentine midfielder Ever Banega had a not-so-routine visit to the gas station this past week. According to Reuters, while he was trying to fill up his car, “He forgot to set his handbrake in his car, causing it to roll onto his foot, breaking his ankle.“ He is due for surgery this week followed by an estimated six-month recovery period, ruling him out for the remainder of the season. This news comes after Valencia were dismantled by Barcelona 5-1 at the weekend…a joke about “insult to injury” is begging, but it may be too soon for that.