Barca feel the pinch, Octopus Idol
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, Women's World Cup hosts Germany launch an Octopus Idol-style hunt for a psychic successor to Paul, Diego Maradona takes a pop at Pele and Neymar, Zenit striker Danko Lazovic is Tasered while giving his shirt to a fan and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell bans colour photocopies in a bid to raise transfer funds.
Octopus Idol - the search for Paul
He may have gone to a watery grave, or possibly a Mediterranean restaurant, but Paul the Octopus will never be forgotten. The psychic cephalopod, who correctly predicted the results of matches at the 2010 World Cup, has already been immortalised by a monument at his former home in Germany and now eight of his species will go head to head in order win the right to sit on his throne.
The Women's World Cup begins in Germany on Sunday and, on each day the host nation is action, the octet of Octopuses will be put through their paces at Sea Life centres in Berlin, Hannover, Konigswinter, Konstanz, Munich, Speyer, Timmendorfer Strand and at Paul's old home in Oberhausen to see which, if any, has extrasensory perception.
Paul, who was found dead in his tank in October 2010, correctly predicted the outcome of eight World Cup matches, including the final, by choosing mussels from boxes bearing the flags of national teams, and this year's hopefuls will have to do the same.
Britta Anlauf, spokeswoman for Sea Life Germany, said: "In order to ensure a level playing field, each of the eight Sea Life centres in Germany ... will have exactly the same equipment, which will be delivered this week."
League One boss uses Twitter to scout players
Off The Ball always imagined that it would be a cat-stroking, megalomaniac villain that eventually took over the world but it would appear that Twitter has already succeeded in doing so.
The social media website's creeping fingers have spread quicker than a footballer's at an end of season party and Yeovil Town boss Terry Skiverton has hatched a cunning plan to use Twitter's extensive reach to scout new players for his thrifty club.
"I can't afford a scouting system. I've got 1,700 followers and out of that I've got quite a few names and there's been some interesting ones," Skiverton said. "It's not a bit of fun for me - it's serious business."
Skiverton isn't the first manager to turn to unorthodox means to scout players. In 2008, David Moyes' Everton signed a deal with Sports Interactive allowing them to use the database of the hugely successful Football Manager computer game to run the rule over players and opposition.
Barca ban photocopies to raise transfer funds
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell is so concerned about the reported €450 million worth of debts the Primera Division champions have run up that he has banned colour photocopies at the Camp Nou in order to save money on toner.
With coffers so bare it's no wonder that Rosell said repeatedly this week that he won't spend any more than €40 million on perpetual transfer target Cesc Fabregas (that's a lot of photocopies) and it also explains why Alexis Sanchez's €30 million move (forget photocopies: pass me the Etch A Sketch!) from Udinese is taking so long.
Rosell blames the club's current cashflow issues on his predecessor, Joan Laporta, and when asked how he could get the club back into the black he said: "By being austere, hard and losing friends. We are suffering with it. We removed the catering events, our bodyguards, and we have even stopped making photocopies in colour at the club. Now we do black and white and save on toner."
However, in the true spirit of the debt-laden approach to modern football, Rosell insisted the club still have transfer funds available. "We negotiated a syndicate credit with the bank ... We have sorted out the situation and what the economic area has achieved means we have €45 million to spend on transfers this summer plus sales."
Zenit striker Lazovic 'zapped by Russian police'
Zenit Saint Petersburg striker Danko Lazovic received a truly electrifying reception when he went to give his shirt to the club's travelling supporters at Volga Nizhny Novgorod when he was zapped by a policeman with a taser.
Television footage showed Lazovic, the Russian Premier League's leading scorer, tossing his shirt to boisterous Zenit supporters and then being approached by a riot policeman who was on the touchline to help restore order between rival groups of fans.
Zenit, who won the game 2-0, claim that Lazovic was zapped by a stun gun - a charge denied both by local police authorities and the Volga club - and the player walked away rubbing his side.
The event has caused something of a scandal in Russia, where security at football matches has come under growing scrutiny after the country won the right to host the 2018 World Cup, with both sides making claims and counter claims in between lobbying various political figures to back their side of the story.
Maradona takes aim at Pele and Neymar
Now that Diego Maradona is safely in gainful employment, the Al-Wasl coach seems more than happy to reopen a series of bitter feuds. Having already hit out at Argentine football chief Julio Grondona, claiming the AFA doped the national team's coffee, El Diego returned to his favourite target Pele this week.
With the Copa America arriving, the Argentine World Cup winner was more than happy to belittle anything arch-rivals Brazil have ever produced, including his verbal sparring partner Pele and the ex-Selecao striker's heir apparent.
"Neymar is bad-mannered, just like Pele," the 50-year-old told TVE.
As for his own heir, Argentina's Lionel Messi, that was an altogether different story. "Messi is an exceptional player and I doubt anyone can separate him [from being the best]," the original Maradona said of the new Maradona.
Video of the week
Arsenal legend and current New York Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry is not known for his violent conduct but this vicious double pat on the head Portland Timbers midfielder Adam Moffat certainly deserved a red card... or maybe not. Click here to judge if Henry's red card pat had bit too much va-va-voom .
More than words...
Aston Villa insist this Twitterpic of Liverpool target Stewart Downing holding a club scarf with Reds striker Andy Carroll is fake.
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