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Serie A: Napoli extend run, Gabigol scores

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FA Cup quarterfinal draw

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Pennant 'forgot his Porsche in Spain'

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, Jermaine Pennant forgets he owns a Porsche, Wayne Bridge makes the worst debut in history, Mario Balotelli says Mario Balotelli is the best in the world and Diego Maradona takes on Carlos Valderrama at five-a-side.

Pennant 'forgot his Porsche in Spain'

If there was such a body as the Society for the Promotion of Footballers in a Positive Light (the name might need a little work), it would have disbanded this week after Stoke winger Jermaine Pennant left his expensive Porsche at a train station for five months because he forgot he owned one.

The former Liverpool winger, who moved to La Liga in 2009, did his bit to reinforce the stereotype that footballers have too much money and too few brain cells when he returned the Premier League and left his shiny new car behind in Zaragoza.

Spanish daily Marca reports that when the club phoned him to let him know, Pennant still had no recollection that the vehicle was his and officials had to prove it by telling him it bore his personal plate - P33NNT. Zaragoza were forced to open the car and were surprised to discover the keys were on the seat.

The player's agent naturally denied the oversight but a top source at Stoke City told The Sun: "The plate is now on his Ferrari, which is over here."

West Ham 0 Wayne Bridge 3

West Ham United new boy Wayne Bridge will have to undergo some Clockwork Orange-style mind manipulation if he is ever to forget his calamitous debut at Upton Park this weekend, such was the horror.

The on-loan Manchester City left-back was at fault for all of Arsenal's goals ESPN Video - getting beaten on the first two and taking down Theo Walcott to concede a penalty for the third - and was rated a miserable 3.4 out of 10 by The Guardian after he made a total of zero tackles during the game.

West Ham owner David Sullivan must be wishing he had stuck to his guns when he said "you pay good wages, not crazy wages" rather than being panicked into stumping up £90,000-per-week for Bridge with relegation looming for the Hammers.

The previous standard bearer for diabolical debuts was Jonathan Woodgate, who made his long awaited bow for Real Madrid, having spent an entire season out injured following a £13 million move, only to score an own goal and get sent off. But at least he didn't concede three goals.

Sorry I'm late - I was kidnapped

Brazilian striker Somalia has said sorry to Campeonato Brasileiro side Botafogo for falsely reporting he had been kidnapped as an excuse for running late for training.

Botafogo, one of Rio de Janeiro's leading clubs, threaten their players with a 40% pay cut if they are late, so Somalia claimed he was forced to drive to cash machines at gunpoint. CCTV, though, showed he was actually at home "recovering from a massive party".

Somalia, whose real name is Paulo Rogerio Reis da Silva, told police he had been carjacked at 07.00 and driven around Rio de Janeiro for two hours before having his money and jewellery stolen but later apologised for his deceit. "I say sorry to the staff and the fans," he said. "What a mistake this was."

You have to applaud his dramatic attempt to wriggle out of a fine at Botofago, but Somalia could now face up to six months in prison.

Balotelli: I'm simply the best

Off The Ball loves Mario Balotelli. At a time when football is flooded with mundane and carefully considered clichés, the Manchester City striker simply refuses to engage his brain before opening his mouth.

His latest verbal outpouring, in which he took a swipe at Wayne Rooney and Jose Mourinho, even earned him a rebuke by the wax-chested colossus of football Cristiano Ronaldo, but it is his unbridled narcissism that we really adore.

"[Milan owner] Silvio Berlusconi said that Cassano is the best Italian talent - he's wrong or doesn't know Balotelli," the modest striker said. The self aggrandising Balotelli then opined: "[Rooney] is a very good player but not the best in Manchester. Our attack of Balotelli-Tevez-Dzeko is the best in the world - better even than Barcelona and Real Madrid."

Ronaldo responded by telling Balotelli to button it and concentrate on his football - at which he has achieved very little thus far. But as long as the hot-headed Italian continues to ignore such advice, he'll always have a home right here.

Saudis axe two coaches in ten days

The word "turmoil" doesn't even begin to describe the state of Saudi Arabian football after the national team went through two managers and one first-team coach, as well as axing the president of the FA, in a record-breaking (we assume) ten days.

After an opening 2-1 defeat against Syria in what would become a hugely embarrassing Asian Cup campaign, the Saudis sacked Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro and installed Nasser al-Johar for a third term.

When they crashed 1-0 to Jordan in their second game, King Abdullah removed Prince Sultan Bin Fahd as president of the Saudi Football Federation. After taking a 5-0 spanking at the hands of Japan in their final Asian Cup game, the Green Falcons dispensed with the services of Al-Johar and first-team coach Fahd al-Misaibeeh.

Video of the week

Diego Maradona takes on Carlos Valderrama in an Argentina v Colombia masters 5-a-side match. 'Nuff said. Both men were on the score sheet but Victor Aristizabal stole the show with an overhead kick Hugo Sanchez would have been proud of. Watch Maradona v Valderrama here ESPN Video.

More than words...

Even England's blunder-keeper Rob Green can't believe what he has just seen from West Ham debutant Wayne Bridge. ©Getty Images

Around the web

• Sunderland pitch invader marched to say sorry by dad

• Hannover inaugurates Robert Enke Street

• Cantona the King of New York (Cosmos)

• Painting of crucified Beckham deemed offensive, police called

• Roberto Carlos scores direct from corner in Brazil


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