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Jan 13, 2011

Sneijder issues come and get me plea

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, Wesley Sneijder attempts to sweet talk Jose Mourinho at FIFA's awards gala, Tuncay hawks his wares on Facebook, Edin Dzeko scores an own goal at Manchester City, FIFA bend over backwards for Qatar and the greatest goal in the world.

Sneijder: Rescue me!

With the transfer window wide open it's perfectly normal for disgruntled players to issue a come-and-get-me plea but Inter Milan star Wesley Sneijder took it to whole new level this week, using his FIFPro World XI acceptance speech to effectively implore Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho to sign him up.

The Netherlands international, who won the Treble during Mourinho's reign at the San Siro, took time out from praising his wife and fellow XI to gush: "First of all it was a great pleasure to work with Jose Mourinho and I want to tell him this on stage. He is for me the best coach in the world.

"I suffered greatly under Rafa Benitez. It's not the same without you. If we are reunited at the Bernabeu we can conquer the world together." Okay, so he didn't actually say that last part but it was in his pleading eyes. See for yourself ESPN Video.

The gushing praise even brought a tear to the eye of Mourinho - who will now presumably be working on some kind of swap deal - just moments before he was officially crowned the FIFA World Coach of the Year.

Desperate Tuncay turns to Facebook

Unfortunately for Stoke City's want-away forward Tuncay Sanli, he is unlikely to be part of a FIFA awards gala any time soon so the resourceful Turkey international instead turned to Facebook to hawk his wares ESPN Video.

Bored with riding the pine at the Britannia Stadium, having started 29 of his 53 games for the club from the bench, the striker put together an 11-minute compilation of his top ten goals, including strikes for Fenerbahce, Stoke and Middlesbrough, to put himself in the shop window.

The Sun quoted a source close to Tuncay as saying: " ... there is little doubt another club would surely welcome his maverick talent and this video shows exactly what he is all about. It's an unusual way for a top player to try to sell himself but maybe it will work."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis was obviously in denial when he said: "I think he's selling himself to his manager - I think. I'm hoping so!"

Dzeko scores early own goal?

Edin Dzeko pitched up at Manchester City this week clutching a copy of "Cheap Tricks To Win Over The Eastlands Fans For Dummies" under his arm, skipped past page one - Erect a billboard proclaiming: 'Welcome to Manchester' - and settled on page two.

The £27 million striker used his unveiling to take a pop at arch-rivals Manchester United, focusing on the popular taunt that all their supporters hail from outside the city, when he said: "I hear a lot about the fans and that most of the people from Manchester are Manchester City fans."

Dzeko's snipe certainly grabbed the headlines, but unfortunately for the former Wolfsburg striker it also provided a platform for an army of United to fans to debunk that particular myth, take a dig at City's own fanbase and highlight their 33-year trophy drought.

In an article entitled 'Bitter Dzeko Perpetuates City's Desperate Lie', fan site The Republik of Mancunia pointed out that more of United's season-ticket holders live in Manchester postcodes than City's, Eastlands has been on average 13% empty this season and that having a huge number of fans outside Manchester just proves how big the club is.

FIFA move the goalposts again

England are preparing a new World Cup bid to host a zero-gravity tournament on the moon with free shuttle rides for all the fans. The FA's actual plan is to play all matches simultaneously on Sunday League mecca Hackney Marshes, but - sshh - don't tell anybody. After all, "Who will remember the words in 12 years?" Right, Michel?

Because that is exactly how FIFA vice-president Michel Platini dismissed increasing concerns about the sweeping and drastic changes to Qatar's winning World Cup 2022 bid (like not playing it in Qatar for instance) that were never mentioned during their campaign.

Last week, the solar-powered, air-conditioned stadiums that were promised to deal with the scorching 40°C heat were dumped in favour of shifting the tournament from its traditional summer slot to the winter. And this week, Platini revealed that he didn't even expect the event to be hosted by Qatar, claiming it would be better for the tiny nation to share the finals with a variety of neighbours.

It seems defeated host-nation rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States all committed the schoolboy error of telling the truth. It was FIFA they were pitching to after all.

Steaua chief warned over gay slight

Steaua Bucuresti owner George 'Gigi' Becali can add another entry to his lengthy list of misdemeanours after he was given a "formal warning" by a Romanian government agency for cancelling a transfer last year because he thought the player was gay.

"I'd rather dissolve the club than allow a gay to join Steaua," Becali said at the time. It's not the first time the outspoken figure has lambasted homosexuals: The Guardian list of Becali's previous outbursts included backing a campaign to "finish off all homosexuals in the country" in 2006 and suggesting "gays must be kept in enclosures" in 2007.

The government agency said their warning over the collapsed transfer "sent a clear signal" to the Becali.

The Romanian, who is also a Member of the European Parliament, has never been too far away from controversy and in 2008 political colleague and close friend Raul Volcinschi was charged with making a false statement in a football bribery case also involving the Steaua chief.


Video of the week

Unfortunately, Glentoran striker Matty Burrows didn't win the FIFA Puskas Award for scoring the best goal of 2010, as he should have done, but Turkey's Hamit Altintop did and you can see his world goal of the year right here. ESPN Video


More than words...


New Liverpool Kenny Dalglish realises the size of the task he has taken on. ©Getty Images


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