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Top 5: First XI costs in Premier League

Transfers 11 hours ago
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Nov 19, 2010

Zlatan kung-fu and the Barca asylum

Off The Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Zlatan Ibrahimovic auditions for the Karate Kid, Crisitiano Ronaldo has a tantrum after Nani ruins his wonder goal, Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola "should be in a mental asylum" and the miss of the century.

Zlatan karate-kicks Materazzi into hospital

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the kung-fu kick he has been practising on unfortunate team-mate Rodney Strasser ESPN Video to use in the Derby della Madonnina when he took out Inter nutcase Marco Materazzi with a blow Bruce Lee would have been proud of.

The 6'5" Swedish striker, who scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after being brought down by Materazzi, took out the Italian defender with a knee, elbow and foot combo ESPN Video that left the Inter player unconscious for over a minute.

The duo have endured an up-and-down relationship since Ibrahimovic's days at Juventus and with "The Matrix" eventually taken to hospital for a check-up, the Swede can certainly be said to be winning that particular grudge match.

Extra points go to Ibrahimovic if he downloaded a copy of the incident and sent it to Zinedine Zidane.

Ibra agent: Cruyff and Guardiola are mental

After watching Zlatan Ibrahimovic's match-winning performance in the Milan derby, Camp Nou legend Johan Cruyff handed the on-loan Barca flop a back-handed compliment that prompted his agent, Mino Raiola, to launch into a marvellously withering tirade.

Cruyff, who remains a Barca icon after coaching and playing for the Catalan club, simply claimed that the Milan striker was "better suited to Italian football", but that was too much for the man who brokered Ibrahimovic's eye-wateringly expensive transfer to Spain.

"Cruyff can go to hell! He is a nobody," Raiola was quoted as saying in Swedish newspaper Expressen. "He is becoming old and didn't have the courage to continue his management career, as he doesn't know how to train a modern club.

"Why didn't Cruyff tell Zlatan that he wasn't suited to Spanish football before Barcelona signed him? I think Cruyff should be in a mental asylum with Guardiola, so they can sit there quietly and play cards together. They would be doing Barcelona a great favour."

Fired up midfielder gunning for trouble

Football is littered with tales of training ground punch-ups and there is nothing wrong with the odd tiff amongst players, but storming off to your car and returning with a gun is probably going too far.

According to reports in Ghana, on-loan Ajax midfielder Rene Osei Kofi is alleged to have done just that following a difference of opinion with Almere City team-mate Christian Ghandu at the weekend.

The 18-year-old Ghanaian had been involved in verbal exchanges with Ghandu after a training-ground row which resulted in another bust-up at the club's car park. Osei Kofi returned from his car with a gun and pointed it to the head of his team-mate Ghandu and threatened to blow his head off in a furious tirade.

Osei Kofi has since been fired by both Almere City and Ajax. "We received a report from Almere who verified that the incident occurred and this is the reason why we have processed his dismissal," said Ajax spokesman Miel Brinkhuis.

Balotelli's brace of blunders

It has been an interesting week for Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, whose ability to say or do the wrong thing at the wrong time is virtually unrivalled.

He kicked off the week by dumping girlfriend Melissa Castagnoli by text message, just as she was about to appear on Italian TV, and could only watch as his jilted lover exacted revenge by reading out his wibble live on air.

Balotelli followed up that blunder by fending of rumours of a possible move to Milan by insisting he was committed to Manchester City ... but only until the summer.

"Until June, I am certainly at Manchester City," Balotelli said. "It's true that I had dinner with [Milan chief] Adriano Galliani after the derby, but what does that mean?"

That kind of dedication will surely get the Eastlands fans, who witnessed the striker get sent off in his last match for City, on side for the remaining five years of his contract.

Ronaldo fumes as Nani ruins wonder goal

Portugal winger Nani has long lived in the shadow of compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo. At Manchester United he didn't really get a look in until CR7 quit Old Trafford and a year on from his mentor's departure everybody seems slightly miffed that Nani just isn't as good.

Nani's eagerness to bathe in the glorious glow of Ronaldo was in evidence in Wednesday night's friendly against Spain as he cheekily stole the final touch on a goal-bound Ronaldo wonder strike ESPN Video. If that wasn't bad enough, Nani was flagged offside following his on-the-line contribution and the goal of the season contender was ruled out.

A fuming Ronaldo, who had slalomed through the Spanish defence and lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Iker Casillas, had a fantastic tantrum before throwing his captain's armband onto the pitch in anger.

Nani has since apologised and Ronaldo has turned his ire towards the match officials, claiming the ball was over the line before his colleague got a touch. "I don't understand, even a blind man could see it was a goal, the ball was half a metre into the net," Ronaldo told Marca. "I don't know if it's a coincidence or not but my best goals with the national team are being disallowed."

Video of the week

Every week it seems there is another "miss of the century" doing the rounds but this shocking blunder from Qatar's Fahad Khalfan could actually take the crown. In extra time of the Asian Games quarter-final match against Uzbekistan, 18-year-old Khalfan outwits the goalkeeper only to fail to hit the back of the empty net. Click here to see Fahad Khalfan's miss of the century ESPN Video.

More than words...


Monaco's Petter Hansson loses a false tooth after a collision with Deme N'Diaye. ©Getty Images

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