Man United's mixed fortunes, Bayern sign Alonso, Arsenal striker woe
This week's roundup of the biggest news stories sees Manchester United fans' emotions frayed, Bayern Munich pull off one of the signings of the summer and Arsenal named in one of the transfer window's most amusing rumours.
TOP FIVE STORIES
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has won many fans for his charisma and coaching ability, but he has once again fallen foul of the authorities. Still to serve his European touchline ban for walking onto the pitch during May's Champions League final loss to neighbours Real Madrid, the Argentine has now also been barred from the dugout for eight domestic matches for his antics during the second leg of his team's win over the same opponents in the season-opening Spanish Super Cup. Should Atletico fail in their appeal against the domestic ban -- split equally between league and Super Cup games -- then Simeone will not be seen strutting around the technical area again until Sep. 24.
- Walker: Atletico back to earth with a bump
Just hours after Manchester United announced Angel Di Maria as their British-record signing, they were thumped 4-0 in a cup tie by third-tier MK Dons. Given United's poor start after all the initial optimism under Louis van Gaal, it seemed fitting that their good news was so quickly usurped by such a disastrous result, for which they were not spared by the press. While many have said the 59.7 million pounds spent on Di Maria could have been better spent on defensive recruits, even some of the cash spent on reinforcements at the back is yet to see a return -- Marcos Rojo is still awaiting a work permit needed for him to make his United debut.
- Tactics Board: How will Di Maria fit at United?
Arsenal approached this season looking in great shape. They welcomed three World Cup winners back to the squad and made several summer signings, which presented various causes for optimism. But all that preseason promise threatens to be undone after Arsene Wenger confirmed that centre-forward Olivier Giroud will be out until at least late December with a fractured tibia. Wenger will point to Alexis Sanchez scoring the winner in Arsenal's Champions League playoff against Besiktas as proof that the Chilean can lead the Gunners' attack on a regular basis, but his side's chances of covering for Giroud's absence are as much in the hands of Lukas Podolski, Joel Campbell and Yaya Sanogo as this summer's star signing. Sadly not on that list is Nikola Zigic, after Wenger was moved to deny one of the most amusing transfer rumours of the summer.
Bayern Munich have been the model for effective business in the transfer window this month. With Javi Martinez out for the rest of the year and Bastian Schweinsteiger's fitness a growing concern, the German champions acted swiftly by first signing centre-back Medhi Benatia from Roma and then bringing Xabi Alonso to the Bundesliga from Real Madrid. You do have to feel a bit for the former player, whose official unveiling as a Bayern player was hijacked by confirmation of the latter's imminent arrival. At 32 years of age and with no international football to distract him, Alonso could potentially still perform at the highest level for a few more years and should also greatly diminish the impact of Toni Kroos' departure for the Bernabeu.
Whenever there is a draw for a big international competition, there is usually a glut of news to be reported in addition to the actual tournament fixtures being determined, and so it proved on Thursday. Before the Champions League groups had even been picked in Monaco, we had Ronaldo being named UEFA's Best Player In Europe, FIFA-led talks on the row over clubs in Crimea confirmed, an extra World Cup place for Europe being demanded and France dropping below Russia in the European pecking order. But the biggest -- and least surprising -- news to come out of Monte Carlo was that UEFA president Michel Platini would not be leaving his post in charge of Europe's governing body to contest the FIFA presidency, seemingly leaving the world game's controversial current leader with only protest candidate Jerome Champagne as his opposition.
Luis Suarez may have received a four-month ban from "all football-related activity" for biting Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, but a player in Italy escaped any action for allegedly doing the same to an opponent at the weekend. Avellino forward Gianmario Comi is claimed to have bitten Bari's Giuseppe De Luca during a Coppa Italia match, but authorities were unable to act as there was no footage of the clash between the two players, which saw the latter's angry reaction earn him a red card.
"I made a mistake by reacting and I apologise to everybody for leaving the team with 10 men," he said. "But I would have never imagined being bitten by an opponent. The game can be violent at times, and that is part of this sport, but vile incidents like being bitten or spat at cannot be tolerated."
Summer transfer window roundup
- Premier League: Team-by-team ins and outs
- Transfer Centre: All the done deals
- Marcotti: Mind-boggling transfers
- Delaney: What did we learn on deadline day?
- Horncastle: European transfer grades
- Smith: Transfers more important than the game?
- Macintosh: We worship goals, not balance sheets
A case has been brought to court by concerned parents in the U.S. that has the potential to have an impact on FIFA's treatment of the risk of concussions in the professional game. U.S. Soccer, American Youth Soccer Organization and other groups have filed a suit in California -- which seeks no financial damages -- against world football's governing body claiming its current rules surrounding head injuries amount to negligence.
"There is an epidemic of concussion injuries in soccer at all levels around the world, including in the United States, from youth to professionals, from elite players to children playing for the first time, women and men, girls and boys," the filing reads. "FIFA presides over this epidemic, and is one of its primary causes."
Cristiano Ronaldo, the current holder of the Ballon d'Or and newly anointed UEFA Best Player In Europe, gave some odd comments when asked about his longtime rival Lionel Messi being awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup.
"Everyone can see, make their own judgements, the people in the world of football are intelligent," he said. "It would be a very interesting question for him. I cannot be honest about it. If I said everything that I think, I would be in prison."
Roy Hodgson surprised no one when he appointed Wayne Rooney as his new captain when naming his first squad since the World Cup, but there were a few surprising names on his list. Arsenal's 19-year-old defender Calum Chambers was picked alongside Tottenham full-back Danny Rose, Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph and Newcastle's Jack Colback (all 24) for next month's games against Norway and Switzerland, with the England boss perhaps unwittingly heaping the pressure onto Colback.
"I've seen him called the 'Ginger Pirlo' in some places. We'd be delighted if he could be as good as that," Hodgson said. "He has got an awful lot to offer and is a very talented player. We have lost three important midfielders in [Steven] Gerrard, [Frank] Lampard and [Michael Carrick], and he plays in a position where vacancies can arrive. I was quite impressed that someone who knows him well called him the 'Ginger Pirlo.' I'd be delighted if that epithet turned out to be the correct one."
Champions League group stage
A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo
B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
C: Benfica, Zenit, Leverkusen, Monaco
D: Arsenal, Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
E: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Man City, Roma
F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL
G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting, Maribor
H: Porto, Shakhtar, Athletic Bilbao, BATE
Alessandro Del Piero's decision to sign for Indian Super League franchise Delhi Dynamos was met with surprise, but the subsequent political debate that he sparked will have been even more unexpected to those not familiar with current affairs regarding Italian-Indian relations.
With two Italian military personnel currently being held in an Indian jail under suspicion of shooting dead two local fishermen, relations between the two nations are frayed, and Del Piero moved to justify his decision in the face of criticism in his homeland.
"I know that my decision to go and play in India has raised a bit of perplexity in view of the relations between Italy and India, in view of the two Maro [Italian military] being held there. As an Italian, like all of my compatriots, I am not unaffected by the issue regarding our Maro and I hope that there will be a positive outcome for them very soon. Considering I do not think I am the only Italian to have work relations with India, I know exactly what it is that I am doing, but I also know that I will have a bigger impact on the media. But I accept the responsibility my role entails. I am satisfied with my choice. I'm not going to a hostile country and the last thing I want is to be used [for political purposes] and for sport to be used to divide rather than uniting."