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May 22, 2009

A week of ''underhand'' players

This was the week in which two players were labelled ''underhand'', England got off on the wrong foot with their bid to host the World Cup and Luis Figo opened himself up to offers from anywhere... and we mean anywhere.

Sam's 1984, Laursen's Room 101 - Friday, May 15

Look out. Big Sam is watching. On Friday, the Blackburn manager made it clear that he was pretty unhappy with the way that Roque Santa Cruz was conducting business. The striker clearly wants out and talked to Paraguayan radio recently to express his distaste. A move Sam callled ''underhand''. The worrying part was that he also said Roque does this when ''we cannot control the situation'' - as if he had his hooks into the North West's media outlets. Maybe he'll put him in Room 101 as punishment.

A player who's been in his own Room 101 for the past few years is Aston Villa's Martin Laursen. Knee injuries, surgery and treatment tables have filled the dreams of the Danish defender since his move to England and his absence has really been felt by Martin O'Neill's men. Unfortunately for him, the nightmare is now over as he chose to retire from the game rather than face more time in a hospital.

Brucey's United bonus - Saturday, May 16

Just as everyone started to think that Liverpool would mount a serious title challenge over the next few years, Steve Bruce goes and ruins everything. ''It will be very, very difficult for them to overtake United,'' the Wigan boss claimed, while the rest of the Premier League prepared themselves for Rafa Benitez's crowing if he ever does pull it off. Yes Steve, it will. Certainly as long as United keep finding themselves up against Wigan everytime they desperately need to win a game.

Klinsi's fault, Jose's party time - Sunday, May 17

Now you can't argue with the facts (no Rafa pun intended) and the evidence of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure at Bayern is there for all to see. But just in case you missed the fact that Bayern have not been the force they once were in the Bundesliga, general manager Uli Hoeness has made it quite clear that Jurgen was not up to scratch. ''There is certainly room for criticism when, one year later, you don't do the same again with the same or even slightly better team,'' he said. And it's very hard to disagree with such cold, hard logic.

Someone doing well for himself (and doesn't he just know it) is Inter Milan's Jose Mourinho. Another Scudetto adds more fuel to the fire that he really is quite 'Special'; but it was Inter's celebration that caught the eye. A nice impromptu bus ride round the centre of town in the early hours of the morning, which left the club's cleaners with a mountain of rubbish to clear before the arrival of the Giro d'Italia cycle race the following day.

Ranieri sacked, Kenya's special delivery - Monday, May 18

Having been told that the club would certainly, definitely, wait until the end of the season before making a decision over his future, Claudio Ranieri can hardly claim to be surprised when he got the sack from Juventus with two games left. The 'Tinkerman' is well aware of how football works, but probably deserved the chance to finish what he started and try to drag them into the Champions League. The Italian media might miss his charismatic personality, but it's doubtful that Jose Mourinho will.

Ok, a joke for you now. What's the difference between the Post Office and the Kenyan football team? Neither of them are good at delivering letters. It may not be that funny [it's all in the delivery], but it is actually true - partially at least - after Kenya coach Antoine Hey dropped seven of his players for not bringing him a letter giving them permission to join the national team's training camp. In this day and age surely an e-mail would have sufficed?

BNP burst bid bubble, CAS change the rules - Tuesday, May 19

One day. That's how long it took the English bid for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to fall flat on its face. While it was great that the bid managed to rope in David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Prince William and Gordon Brown to head up the launch party at Wembley, someone forgot to uninvite BNP candidate Richard Barnbrook. Pushing a message of diversity is probably not best served by the presence of an organisation often associated with racism and facist ideology. Not exactly the right-wing representation the bid bosses were looking for.

While England was busy ruining its chances of hosting a major tournament, the Court of Arbitration for Sport was busy changing the face of the game. With a ruling that tramples all over the famous Webster Ruling (which allowed players to walk away from a contract after a fixed period), CAS have made Brazilian Matuzalem pay €12m to his former club, Shakhtar, for leaving them in the lurch. The decision took into account the value of the player to his former club, his salary, the difficulty he placed them in with the timing of his departure and deducted the salary the Ukrainians would not have to pay him - so anyone looking to buy themselves out of a contract in the future will need very deep pockets.

Messi deserves it all, Effenburg blast - Wednesday, May 20

Probably the worst thing to say before a major final is that your team ''deserves'' to win it. Step forward Barcelona's Lionel Messi. The diminutive Argentine passed over the fact that Chelsea 'deserved' to win their Champions League semi-final and that Steven Gerrard 'deserved' to win the PFA Player of the Year award and will probably only realise that football pays very little attention to that kind of thing when his side loses. He's only 21 after all.

We started the week with news that Roque Santa Cruz was ''underhand'' and now former German midfielder Steffan Effenburg has picked up on the word - applying it, instead, to David Beckham. Effenburg, himself not short of a volatile moment or two, claimed that Beckham would '' clobber you from behind in the Achilles,'' while also holding up Roy Keane as a model of honesty and fairness. If only the German, evidently oblivious to the irony of having a pop in a national newspaper five years after finishing his career, could have been a bit less blatent in his own personal life.

Figo declares his love for everyone - Thursday, May 21

Once one of the best players in the world, it's a little sad to see Luis Figo touting himself out to the highest bidder. The MLS, Australian A-League, J-League, Outer Mongolian Championship, Marsian Intergalatic First Division and even the Chinese Super League are all interested in the former Real Madrid winger, who's still pretty decent when he's not having pigs' heads thrown at him.

The 36-year-old is reportedly ''waiting for calls'' and, while he's not deluding himself that he could continue playing at a high level, his actions suggest that retiring gracefully is not something that modern footballers do anymore.

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