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Real fear CR9 crisis, England head to finals

This was the week in which Maradona's worshippers started to lose their faith, Adriano was blown out by a Playboy model, England qualified for the World Cup finals and Madrid faced up to the real cost of signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Bored" Henry denigrates Domenech - Friday, September 4

It seems it's not just the general public who can't fathom just how bungling France coach Raymond Domenech has remained in the job since 2004; his leading players are now asking the same question.

In a pre-match press conference, ahead of France's crucial World Cup qualifier against Romania, Les Bleus star Thierry Henry claimed the team had "always had problems" during Domenech's reign and was then overheard going head to head with Domenech in a meeting room.

According to French newspaper Le Parisien, the not-so-private tet a tet with Henry - who later denied the exchange happened - took place in front of the entire French squad and went as follows.

Domenech: "I hope today you'll be better in training. So far, I have not seen guys who wanted, who were fully prepared for the important meeting on Saturday."

After a moment of silence Henry replied: "Coach, we too have something to say. I speak for the entire squad. We are getting bored during your training sessions. In 12 years with the French team, I have never been in such a situation.

"We do not know how to play, where to be on the pitch, how to organise. We do not know what to do. We have no style, no ideas and no identity. It is not working."

The last time Domenech was in such a sticky situation, following France's exit from Euro 2008 when his team failed to win a single match, the quirky coach side-stepped all the troublesome questions in his post match interview by asking his partner, sports TV presenter Estelle Denis, to marry him. She declined, but he kept his job.

And Domenech will need to a pull a stunt at least three times greater than a toe-curling marriage proposal to keep his job this time around. Les Bleus might not even qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Jesus can't save Argentina - Saturday, September 5

Argentina reached their zenith in 1986 when the "Hand of God" helped them win the World Cup. But now messianic hero Diego Maradona, the very man who punched the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and is now coach of the Albicelestes, has been reduced to fastidious prayer as his team stands on the brink of damnation.

Despite a goal from Jesus, Argentina were beaten 3-1 by Brazil in a CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying clash in Rosario and if a humbling at the hands of their arch-rivals was not enough the defeat also means Argentina could fail to reach the finals for the first time since 1970.

"Never before have Brazil given Argentina such a lesson in class, effort, tactics and teamwork," screamed the front page of Sports Daily Ole. "There's not even a Plan A" opined La Nacion. Critica's headline simply read: "In the hands of God".

It seems Maradona's worshippers are losing their faith.

Adriano spectacularly fails to score - Sunday, September 6

For some strange reason the love life of Brazilian striker Adriano has received an unhealthy amount of coverage in this column. It's probably because the Brazilian lothario has particularly good taste in women, at least from a voyeuristic media point of view.

There was of course "The case of the missing tapasexo" back in 2008 when Adriano became involved with carnival queen Viviane Castro, who was later kicked out of a parade for displaying 'exposed genitalia'. The combination of one of Brazil's most famous players and a naked carnival queen was simply too good to ignore.

This week the Flamengo striker has been publicly snubbed by Playboy model and Big Brother Brazil contestant Priscila Pires. Now if you want to keep your private life private then it is surely a bad idea to try it on with a fame-hungry glamour model, particularly when she turns you down.

"I know Adriano only goes out with physically adept women, so I'm flattered to be linked. It delights my ego," Pires said. "But seriously. Doing Adriano is not on my agenda."

WAG bags Dunne £2m pay-off - Monday, September 7

As a general rule WAGs are associated with spending vast swathes of a footballer's money on lavish shopping trips and not negotiating multi-million-pound pay-offs for their partners. But that's exactly what Helen Dunne, wife of Aston Villa-bound defender Richard, managed to do when she played hard-ball with her husband's former employers Manchester City.

Money-bags City were eager to offload Dunne in a £6m deal before transfer deadline day but with a testimonial due and a loyalty payment also payable because the Citizens skipper had not demanded a transfer Mrs Dunne was eager to land a hefty pay-out.

According to club insiders, via the Daily Mirror, the Republic of Ireland international's wife was present at the critical meeting with City officials and demanded a £6m parting payment for her husband. City rejected that request but Mrs Dunne did manage to secure a £2m farewell gift.

Maybe she had her eye on a particularly expensive pair of shoes.

Mutu plays charity card - Tuesday, September 8

With Chelsea still reeling from Kakuta-gate, Fiorentina striker Adrian Mutu, who was sacked by the Blues for cocaine use in 2004, decided the time was right to pull on the heart strings of FIFA in an open letter explaining why he should not have to pay the £14m in damages the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ordered him to pay his former employers.

Mutu was given a seven month ban and a £20,000 fine by the English FA following his dabble with drugs. When he signed for Juventus as a free agent during his suspension, the Blues demanded £9.6m from the player to compensate for the initial transfer fee. CAS agreed and when Mutu appealed the decision they increased it to £14.6m.

The basic gist of Mutu's letter, which was published by Italian news agency ANSA, is that he simply can't afford to pay back such a huge amount. The Romanian wrote: "I cannot pay such a sum, no-body in my conditions would be able to do so. I think the best way to answer this question would be to donate money to a charity of Chelsea's choice that helps youngsters caught up in drug abuse whether it's in London, England or Romania."

Youngsters and charity together? Chelsea could do with the positive PR.

Remember: This is England - Wednesday, September 9

Not only did England book their place at South Africa 2010 with a spectacular win over Croatia at Wembley, so comprehensive was the 5-1 thrashing of the ninth best team in FIFA's rankings that normally sensible experts predicted Fabio Capello's men could win the World Cup.

We have been here before of course. Before every tournament England have entered in fact.

But that didn't stop beaten Croatia manager Slaven Bilic suggesting England could triumph at the finals. "England can definitely win it" he said. And even the usually cautious Capello agreed: "If everyone is fit, we have the quality to do it."

Just a few words of caution: remember this is England. Although years of bitter experience may have taught us never get our hopes up the Three Lions specialise in doing just enough to make us think that this time it might actually be different. But it never has been; at least not yet.

Real fear Ronaldo World Cup crisis - Thursday, September 10

Portugal may have given themselves a chance of qualifying for South Africa 2010 this week but the world's greatest football tournament could still be robbed of the skills and tears of Cristiano Ronaldo, the world's greatest player, and Real Madrid will certainly feel the impact in their coffers.

Spanish daily Sport reports that Real president Florentino Perez was banking on Ronaldo's appearance in the finals to boost shirt sales and rake in the revenue that was budgeted to come from his record-breaking £80m arrival in the summer.

Portugal's sports director Carlos Godinho says his federation will lose €100m if they fail to qualify for the World Cup and Perez could lose even more if the media spotlight shines on the likes of Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres and not his asset.

The galacticos project relies heavily on Ronaldo remaining the world's most popular player and it is somewhat ironic that their former manager Carlos Quieroz, now coach of Portugal, could cause his profile to plummet.

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