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Top 5: First XI costs in Premier League

Transfers 10 hours ago
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Mar 27, 2009

Rights for corner flags, as United implode

This was the week in which Wayne Rooney added yet more fuel to the fight against corner flag abuse, Jose Mourinho got under the skin of his Italian rivals again and the FA decided to overturn Brad Freidel's red card - starting off a new World War.

We meet again in UCL; Little, Little Robin - Friday, March 20

Hands up, who were the smart ones who had money on this outcome? It was so obvious in hindsight. Liverpool and Chelsea were destined to meet in the quarter-finals of the Champions League as they had been paired together four times in the past four seasons. The only question remains whether Guus Hiddink's men will perform to the expected standard and save everyone the pain of having to watch another tedious battle of wits between blue and red.

Elsewhere on the globe, it always seems like somewhere there's a 'New Messi' or 'new Ronaldo' being unearthed. So step forward the 'New Robinho'. Or 17-year-old Neymar as he likes to be known currently. Small, tricky and wearing the same number seven shirt than the 'Little Robin' once wore for his club, Santos, it will be interesting to see how the boy in braces develops. We just hope he pays more attention to his idol's football than his antics off the field.

United implode, rights for corner flags - Saturday, March 21

It's like London buses. You don't get one turning up for ages and then all of a sudden they all come at once. Manchester United, after such a good run of results without even conceding a goal, went down 4-1 to Liverpool and then on Saturday Fulham picked up a piece of the action with their own shock 2-0 win. Title race open again? Untouchables not so untouchable? United imploding? We're actually all far more concerned with the corner flag situation...

An open letter to football's governing body dated March 21, 2009.

Dear FIFA/UEFA/FA/Premier League and whomever it may concern.
It has come to my attention that there are continued, unprovoked assaults occurring across football pitches every weekend and it is high time that something is done about it.
Long have the custodians of the corners stood, proud and erect. Harming no-one and diligently going about their business - yet they are the subject of constant abuse. I refer, of course, to the recent actions of Mr Wayne Rooney against Fulham where he callously beat a flag to the ground; while the likes of Tim Cahill continue to fly in the face of public decency with their assaults on the most upstanding members of the footballing world in the name of celebration!
Please make sure that in future such gross actions are punishable to the fullest extent of the law, lest the tradition of the corner flag be removed from the game altogether. Remember, without those brave flags, no-one would know where to take a corner from!
Sincerely,
Florence Agpole (National Organisation for the Protection of Corner Flags).

Ach-King call-up to England - Sunday, March 22

When is a footballer not a footballer? No it's not a riddle, it's just the unfortunate story of Tottenham's Ledley King. Despite being blessed with the kind of talent that would probably have made him a first choice for his country, King's chronic knee injury problems mean he can't even train on a regular basis, let alone play. So what was he doing in the England squad, when his partner in crime Jonathan Woodgate was left out? Perhaps Don Fabio knew King would pull out in the end and just wanted to tip his hat to a great, but unlucky, player. His call for Leighton Baines was slightly more confusing, although Tony Hibbert is waiting by the phone expectantly in case he can't make it either.

Funtime Freddie, Jose causes more trouble - Monday, March 23

For a player who worked under the same manager for nine years, you would think that Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg would know a little bit more about Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger than he has let on. Claiming that the Frenchman could quit the club because he could be offered more of a spending budget elsewhere is so far off track that you have to wonder if the Seattle rain has been getting into the midfielder's head. Money has never been a motivator for Wenger, while Ljungberg has reportedly signed a two year contract worth $5m per season to play in the MLS. Ah, now it all makes sense.

Another day, another dollar and another day for Jose Mourinho to p*** off the whole of Italy. Now the Portuguese is claiming that coaches are influenced by their chairmen over team selection and the likes of Massimiliano Allegri and Carlo Ancelotti have not taken too kindly to the 'Special One' criticising them. "If anyone told me what to do with my line-up, the next day my office would be empty and I would have my suitcases packed," said Jose. Although the other coaches in Serie A would probably already have them packed and ready by the door.

Refs rage at FA, Spanish benevolence - Tuesday, March 24

Oh dear. We thought the FA always backed their referees? Through thick or thin, for richer or poorer? Until death do us part? Not anymore, as a storm brews with Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel caught right in the middle. The story goes a little something like this: Friedel is sent off against Liverpool at the weekend for denying a goalscoring opportunity, but the FA reckon he was trying to get out of the way - rescinding his red card a few days later. The Professional Game Match Officials Board and the refs want to know why. The FA stays silent but also overturn Sunderland full-back George McCartney's red against Man City. The tide turns. Angry referees take to the streets with whistles in hand, the FA opens fire with neutron lasers and battle commences for control of Earth. Or at the very least, Soho Square. We might not have heard the last of this, especially if the FA get involved in another card reversal.

Meanwhile, Villarreal are doing their bit to keep the peace by offering unemployed season-ticket holders free passes to watch their side in 2009-10. In a rare moment of humanity, a football club appears to have taken the high road in a bid to keep their stadium full for the coming seasons; but the Spaniards are in for a shock if the credit crunch gets much worse and everyone ends up getting in for nothing.

Pele's misunderstanding over Robinho - Wednesday, March 25

Taking a break from hosting awards, doing penis commercials and generally being great, Edson Arantes do Nascimento (or Pele as you will know him), has caused a bit of a stir in Brazil. He allegedly said that Samba stars Robinho and Ronaldo had taken drugs at a party, before coming out and refuting all the allegations after a ''misunderstanding'' and the inevitable misquote. Robinho was all but ready to take the great man to court over the comments, so we're glad those pesky Brazilian media pranksters didn't get their story. It still seems a bit strange though - if they were going to make something up it could have been anything: he could have bought a whale, dyed his hair pink, or cut off his left foot with an especially sharp piece of mango - why do drugs always have to be involved?

Whelan hits out at Toon owner - Thursday, March 26

Finally this week it was a case of owner versus owner as Mike Ashley found himself looking down the barrel of Wigan supremo Dave Whelan's gun. The Latics' main man hit out at the Toon billionaire for a ''lack of class'' and attacked his counterpart for turning up at the boardroom in "a pair of jeans, a pair of trainers and a replica shirt". Credit must go to Whelan for pointing out what a lot of people have been thinking for a long time, but of course it has nothing to do with the pair's dispute over business matters that has been dragging on for months. Nothing at all.

Although at least he's not a boss in the Argentinian Primera C. 18 players were sent off in a match between Barracas Bolivar and vistors General Lamadrid after a mass brawl between police, fans and players this week; although we thought this was an appropriate time to show the action in full.

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