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Messi still has plenty left to achieve

Barcelona about an hour ago
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Dec 12, 2008

Rafa writes off Reds, Ronaldo a 'traitor'

This was the week in Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez wrote off the Reds' title challenge, Bernd Schuster fired himself and Ronaldo (not that one) was branded a 'phenomenal traitor' by the Brazilian public.

Lyon striker willing to halve salary - Friday 05 December

The universe is all about balance. Where there is a Winston Bogarde happy to sit in the stands at Stamford Bridge and collect £40,000-a-week for four years there is a Joseba Etxeberria happy to play for Athletic Bilbao for free.

When Cristiano Ronaldo's agent claimed his client deserved a £170k-a-week loyalty reward from Manchester United for not going to Real Madrid the world slipped off its axis - explaining why we all fell off our chairs - but this week we can all sit comfortably as Lyon striker Fred redressed the balance.

Sick of being stuck on the bench at the French Champions the Brazilian forward offered to halve his salary if he could be assured that he would play in all of the club's remaining matches this season.

"If I'm told, 'You'll play 100% of the matches' then I'll lower my salary by 50%," Fred said.

The striker had been a regular starter at the club he joined from Cruzeiro in 2005, winning three league titles and a Coupe de France along the way, until he was sidelined by current manager Claude Puel ... and the outstanding form of a certain Karim Benzema.

Maybe he can negotiate a pay-as-you-don't-play deal.

Kaka: It's all Ronaldinho's fault - Saturday 06 December

AC Milan's poor showing in Serie A this season and Kaka's own uninspired form this term are all down to the unsettling arrival of Ronaldinho from Barcelona this summer, according to the Brazilian.

Well, kind of. What Kaka actually said in an interview with La Gazzetta della Sport was the following:

"We need to get used to Ronaldinho. We must develop new habits. I have never played like he plays. I have always started from the centre. Maybe he limits me by going a little to the left. We need to find a better understanding."

But in an age when football's world stars are meticulous about not saying anything that can be misconstrued as negative or controversial then Kaka's unusually interesting words must surely mean something. Luckily we media types were quickly decoding his quotes to reveal their hidden meaning: it's all Ronaldinho's fault.

Although Kaka would surely deny anything was implied beyond the bare words of his interview his winning goal for Milan against Catania this weekend, in the absence of Ronaldinho, surely speaks volumes.

Hughes shrugs off transfer "hysteria" - Sunday 07 December

The constant drip of transfer tittle tattle at Manchester City these days must seem like a form of Chinese water torture to manager Mark Hughes. No surprise then that when The Blues boss decided to speak out about all the ludicrous links this week he used the term "hysteria".

Since City fell into the hands of multi-billionaire owners Abu Dhabi United in August the club have been linked with almost every above average player in Europe:

Samuel Eto'o, Iker Casillas, Kolo Touré, Fabio Grosso, Lassana Diarra, Roque Santa Cruz, Gianluigi Buffon, Thiago Neves, Ronaldo, Adrian Mutu, Esteban Cambiasso, Ricardo Oliveira, Vagner Love, John Terry, Taye Taiwo, Kaka, Stephen Warnock, Luis Fabiano, Sergio Agüero, Torsten Frings, Karim Benzema, Steven Fletcher, Craig Bellamy, Xabi Alonso, Colin Kazim-Richards, Wayne Bridge, Diego Benaglio...

(pause for breath)

...David Beckham, Lukas Podolski, Cesc Fábregas, Michael Essien, Zele Ismail, Steven Gerrard, Antonio Cassano, Amr Zaki, Stéphane Mbia, Steve Mandanda, David Villa, Clarence Seedorf, Axel Witsel, Emile Heskey, Mario Gomez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Christopher Samba, Manuel Neuer, Thiago Silva, Diego Capel, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Kleber Boas, Ashley Cole, Carlos Tevez, Fernando Torres, Michael Turner, Andrei Arshavin.

That's 55 players in total, at least it was on Sunday, and as a single bid for David Villa was valued at £60million this week then it is a good job that City have incredibly deep pockets.

"You have to laugh," Hughes concluded.

Quaresma wins Bidone d'Oro - Monday 08 December

Inter Milan winger Ricardo Quaresma has continued the Serie A club's undesired tradition of picking up unwanted awards by scooping this year's 'Golden Bin' gong.

The Bidone d'Oro, a mock version of the Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball), is given to the worst player of the season by RAI radio and it is the third year in a row that table-topping Internazionale has given voters the player they would most like to see in the bin.

Quaresma joined Inter from Porto for €18.6m earlier this year but was dropped by manager Jose Mourinho last month.

The Portugal international received 17% of the vote to finish first ahead of old warhorse Christian Vieri and third placed Adriano, also of Inter. AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko came in fifth.

Top ten: 1. Ricardo Quaresma (Porto/Inter), 2. Christian Vieri (Fiorentina/Atalanta), Adriano (Inter), 4. Ronaldo (Milan), 5. Dida (Milan), 6. Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea/Milan), 7. Simone Loria (Siena/Roma), 8. Álvaro Recoba (Torino/Panionios), 9. Tiago (Juventus), 10. Joaquin Larrivey (Cagliari).

Schuster sacks himself - Tuesday 09 December

Real Madrid manager Bernd Schuster may have been on the brink of being fired anyway but when he claimed that Los Blancos were incapable of winning 'El Clasico' against bitter rivals Barcelona he effectively put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Following Real's 4-3 home defeat to Sevilla - Madrid's third defeat in four league games and a result that leaves the two-time reigning champions nine points adrift of leaders Barca - Schuster claimed that "right now it is not possible to win at the Nou Camp".

Only 48 hours after uttering those words the abrasive German was replaced by Tottenham Hotspur flop Juande Ramos. The former Sevilla coach, who twice won the UEFA Cup with his pre-Tottenham club, signed a six-month contract at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo a "phenomenal traitor" - Wednesday 10 December

Ronaldo, the now portly three times FIFA Player of the Year, has been branded as a "phenomenal traitor" by Rio de Janeiro sports daily Lance after he joined Brazilian club Corinthians rather than their great rivals Flamengo, with whom he had been training for the past four months.

Flamengo allowed Ronaldo to begin his rehabilitation at the club after a serious knee injury prompted AC Milan not to renew his contract at the end of the 2007/08 season. Following the striker's decision to quit Flamengo for their Sao Paolo rivals furious fans gathered outside of the club's headquarter to burn shirts emblazoned 'Stay Ronaldo'.

But the 32-year-old striker was unrepentant and explained: "I was training with Flamengo for four months and didn't receive any offer. Corinthians made an offer that will let me continue my career."

Flamengo president Marcio Braga admitted that his club had not offered the striker a contract because they where waiting for him to fully recover from his injury as it could be "bad for him, he would be too anxious to play".

Ronaldo last played in the Brazilian domestic league for Cruzeiro in 1994, before he left to join PSV Eindhoven.

Rafa writes off Reds title challenge - Thursday 10 December

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez appeared to lose the plot on Thursday night when he ruled his own team out of the Premier League title race, despite being one point clear at the top of the table.

Benitez said: "For us to win the league we need Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal to mess up their season. It is very rare that three teams all mess up."

And even more bizarrely the former Valencia boss then went on to say that he considered Liverpool to be a small club compared to the "bigger" clubs of England's established top four.

"For me, Valencia and Liverpool are similar - for them to win, the bigger clubs have to do badly," Benitez said.

The Liverpool manager's unhelpful quotes cap a week in which the playing staff appeared to be doing their best to derail the club's best chance of winning the title since the Premier League began.

First Ryan Babel's agent claimed the winger wanted to force through a loan move back to Ajax and then Yossi Benayoun joined his Liverpool team-mate in voicing his discontent about limited opportunities at club.

Danish defender Daniel Agger is reported to have had a similar fall-out with Benitez and to add to the unrest AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani revealed that the 23-year-old was a January transfer target for the Rossoneri.

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