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May 29, 2009

Iniesta dazzles Europe, Juninho in Boro talks

This was the week in which Jose Mourinho decided Carlo Ancelotti's future, the Real Madrid presidential candidate list was whittled down to one, Andres Iniesta was crowned the best player in the world by Wayne Rooney and the German national team took a Playboy model on their Asian tour.

Ancelotti: I'm going. No staying. Here's my book - Friday, May 22

Although AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is himself uncertain of where he will end up this summer, Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho is in no doubt that the Italian will end up at Chelsea after being tipped off by insiders at his old club.

Ancelotti is the favourite to replace interim manager Guus Hiddink at the Blues and Mourinho's money is on his cross-town rival heading to Stamford Bridge. "My friends at Chelsea tell me it will be Carlo," the Portuguese said.

But before we could all rush down to the bookies to lump on our mortgage, Ancelotti contradicted Mourinho's claim when he said he was staying at the club "100 percent" only to later contradict himself and then perform another u-turn when he said he would stay at Milan if he was asked to, during a showdown meeting with Rossoneri directors.

However, later in the week he launched his autobiography Preferisco La Coppa (I Prefer The Cup) in which he claimed he had actually already been manager of Chelsea; when he helped owner Roman Abramovich plot the best way forward for his club.

"I confess that at certain points in 2008-09 I watched my DVDs of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba," wrote the 56-year-old. "I was already the coach of the boys on paper."

Ronaldo "madness" savages Real candidate - Saturday, May 23

It seems that Real Madrid presidential candidate Juan Onieva's declaration that buying Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for around €100m would be "madness," didn't go down at all well with the Spanish media.

Speaking to radio station Onda Cero about an alleged pre-agreement for the Portugal winger Onieva said: "I wouldn't go through with it. If I had to take a decision I would contest the deal. I think it's madness."

The following day, after his manifesto was derided by the Ronaldo-hungry press, Onieva suddenly felt the urge to drop out of the running. "After thinking it over, I feel obliged to take responsibility ... and abandon the electoral race," he told Marca.

By Thursday Eduardo Garcia had also withdrawn from the running after failing to raise the €57.4m required to register his candidacy, leaving Florentino "Galacticos" Perez as the only candidate to have officially entered for next month's election.

Perez, who is expected to bid for Ronaldo and a host of other stars, brought the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Inter Milan striker Ronaldo and David Beckham to the club during his first stint as Real president from 2000 to 2006.

Shearer demands a new Toon - Sunday, May 24

Following Newcastle United's relegation from the Premier League on Sunday, Geordie Messiah Alan Shearer pulled no punches as he lambasted almost everybody on Tyneside for turning his beloved Magpies into a crisis club.

The Toon went down following a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa and Shearer let fly after the final whistle.

"I spoke to them in the dressing room and said 'you can make all the excuses you like'," he blasted. "But I wasn't good enough, Mike Ashley (the owner) is not good enough, the same with Chris Hughton, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear (who have all managed Newcastle this season), people in the dressing room, all of us.

"I was shocked at the state of the club when I came in. I was aware of mistakes that had been made. There are huge problems at the club. They are there for everyone to see. It's not just about today. It has gone on this season, last season, the season before, four seasons ago. It is a culmination of everything."

Harsh words from the former Newcastle No.9, but at least somebody has finally told it like it is and the latest interim manager may get the chance to rebuild the club in the Championship if rumours about a four-year deal are true.

Balance sheet Bhoys - Monday, May 25

Celtic chief Dermot Desmond did little to dispel the theory that football is all about money when he paid tribute to departing manager Gordon Strachan in financial terms.

"Gordon leaves Celtic a better club both on and off the balance sheet," the club's main shareholder said.

On and off the balance sheet? Come on, Dermot, get with the programme. Strachan leaves the Bhoys having won six trophies in four years - three league titles, one Scottish Cup and two League Cups - and reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in two consecutive seasons.

But to be fair to Desmond he did eventually get around to thanking Strachan for "winning trophies every year" before sticking his nose back in his financial spreadsheets.

Playboy model accompanies Mannschaft - Thursday, May 26

The German national team have taken a Playboy model on their Asia tour and besides training alongside the smiling players in Shanghai, she is also there to help promote German football.

Olympic gold medalist Britta Heidemann, who posed nude for Playboy in August 2004, was the top fencer in her field at the Beijing games in 2008 and, although she has nothing really to do with football, having her along for the ride certainly can't hurt.

The Germans, who will play their first-ever game in China on Friday, are hoping to make a good impression ahead of hosting the 2011 Women's World Cup. Having an attractive lady who is a student of Chinese regional science and speaks fluent Mandarin in the squad is a masterstroke.

As for the men, their end-of-season trip to Asia has been beset by criticism as many players, including captain Michael Ballack, still have club commitments. Ballack's Chelsea have an FA Cup Final against Everton on Saturday.

Iniesta inspires European Champions - Wednesday, May 27

It was billed as the dream Champions League final, with the two best teams in the world and the two best players in the world going head to head; but in the end it was a hugely one-sided affair with Barcelona cruising to a 2-0 victory against a disappointing Manchester United.

As for the battle between FIFA World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and runner-up Lionel Messi, it was the diminutive Argentinean that came out on top, scoring a rare header to seal Barcelona's victory.

But both golden boys were overshadowed by the performance of Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta, who recovered from an injury to run the show at the Stadio Olimpico. So much so that after the match United forward Wayne Rooney declared him top of the pile.

A magnanimous Rooney said: "I think Iniesta is the best player in the world at the moment." Words that may well upset his team-mate Ronaldo.

Juninho in talks over Boro return - Thursday, May 28

Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson is aiming to soften the blow of relegation by bringing Brazilian midfielder Juninho Paulista back to Teesside for a fourth time.

Although the 36-year-old could still probably hold down a place in the Boro first team, judging by their performance in the Premier League this season, it is hoped he can fulfil an ambassadorial role with the club.

Gibson told BBC Radio Tees that his pursuit of Juninho began over a month ago when he approached the Brazilian about becoming Boro's "South American representative".

Juninho, or "The Little Fella" as some Boro fans call him, is one of the greatest players to have played for Middlesbrough in the modern era and hung up his boots in 2008 after a stint in the A-League with Sydney FC.

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