When Barcelona suddenly scheduled a press conference for Friday evening, imaginations initially ran wild as to why. All I could think of was ‘did the Spanish court have a change of mind and decided to throw Messi to jail?’. Before we are quick to judge a non-malicious suggestion of a thought, imaginations on Friday evening narrowed the cause of the sudden press conference to one possibility.
And so it was that manager Tito Vilanova announced his resignation with immediate effect due to health reasons. No, not heartbreak and depression from seeing Thiago Alcantara join the team that gleefully skinned them alive last season, he’s been treating cancer for a while now; treatment which saw him miss a chunk of the second half of last season.
A number of names have been linked to be Vilanova’s replacement. Andre Villas-Boas already reaffirmed his commitment to Tottenham Hotspur, former forward Luis Enrique (who has quite a managerial flair on FM) was heavily linked but Argentine Gerardo Martino seems likely to be the man to take over at the Nou Camp.
While the Catalan club’s hierarchy search for a suitable replacement that will be announced this week, they will also be mulling on what to do with Manchester United’s reported increased bid for midfielder Cesc Fabregas. If that was accepted, Arsenal will have to exercise their first right of refusal there; something too many tense gooners would much welcome.
The Gunners, who beat Nagoya Grampus 3-1 this afternoon, have other meals on their transfer plate, as always. Not pleasant meals however, with Italian side Napoli looking like they’ll get Gonzlo Higuain from Real Madrid; should the Spaniards decide to sell the Argentine striker.
Arsene Wenger, spoilt for choice already with the presence of (preseason) free scoring Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo and Nicklas Bendtner (for now) who isn’t on tour with them, is also in for Luis Suarez and a bid a little over £40m has reportedly been submitted to Liverpool. Wenger trying to get Higuain for £25m was believable… I’m just observing how he’s supposedly bid an amount he’d easily use to get three or four players with ‘great potential’.
One player showing great potential in preseason so far is Jesse Lingard who starred in Man. United’s 5-1 win over an A-League All Stars side in the championd Australian leg of their Asian tour. London side Chelsea are also in Asia, and claimed a 4-1 win over a Malasia XI while Liverpool did a 2-0 on an Indonesia XI.
Back in England, Real Madrid paid an unlikely visit to Bournemouth for a friendly match. Higuain was in town, as was star player Cristiano Ronaldo along with Mesut Ozil, Kaka, Luka Modric, new signing Isco among others as Real came away with a 6-0 stroll of a win.
Master strollers Bayern Munich kept up the habit with a 4-0 win over Hamburg while beaten Champions League finalists Borrusia Dortmund lost by a lone goal to Borussia Monchengladbach and big spending AS Monaco lost by a lone goal as well to German side Augsburg.
Unlike Europe where the football’s only just coming to life for the new season, it’s the business on the African continent. First, this year’s COSAFA Cup, a regional football competition for southern African nations, came to an end with Zambia crowned champions thanks to a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe. South Africa made do with third place after coming from behind to beat Lesotho 2-1, with Lesotho seeing a late penalty saved.
In Nigeria, the league resumed after Federation Cup matches were played a week ago, the group stage of the CAF Confederations Cup kicked off as did the group stage of the CAF Champions League.
In the Nigerian Professional Football League, leaders Kano Pillars saw their lead cut to three points by Bayelsa United after losing at the Yenegoa club by a lone goal on Saturday. Enyimba failed to take full advantage of Pillars’ loss following a 1-1 draw at Nasarawa United to end the weekend third on 35 points, four points off the pace.
In other results, Kwara United dropped to fifth with 34 points after losing 3-1 at Sunshine Stars, city rivals ABS beat Gombe United by a lone goal in Ilorin, Heartland got a lone goal win at home to Warri Wolves to end the visitor’s fine recent winning run, Shooting Stars was held to a goalless draw by Dolphins of Port-Harcourt and Enugu Rangers won 2-0 at home to Nembe City.
Rangers should be taking part in the CAF Confederations but were replaced with Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien following the mess of fielding a player whose transfer from Shooting Stars wasn’t exactly completed at the time, a move Rangers have appealed. Doubt that would come to anything favourable for the Enugu side.
In the competition proper, TP Mazembe of DR Congo drew 1-1 at Entente Sétif of Algeria in a Group B match with FUS Rabat of Morocco and Bizertin of Tunisia playing out same scoreline in the group’s other encounter.
St. George of Ethiopia recorded the first win of the group stage with a 2-0 win over Stade Malien in a Group A match while Tunisian rivals Sfaxien and Etoile du Sahel met in the group’s Sunday night kickoff, with Sfaxien winning that one by a lone goal.
In the CAF Champions League, Orlando Pirates played out a goalless draw at home to AC Leopards of DR Congo and former champions Esperance of Tunisia suffered a lone goal loss at Recreativo do Libolo. The star match comes up on Wednesday night when Egyptian giants Ah Ahly and Zamalek clash in a Cairo derby.
Also during the week, the preseason tours to the ends of the world continue with Man. United in Japan playing Yokohama F Marinos on Tuesday and Cerezo on Friday. Liverpool will be in Australia to face Melbourne Victory on Wednesday, same day Real Madrid will face Olympique Lyon and Bayern Munich tentatively face Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Sky Sports News made me understand that England is cleaning out the Australians in the Ashes test series. I’m not even going to bother with the cricket numbers and pretend I know what most of it mean. In all, England lead the series 2-0 and I presume will take an unassailable lead if they come out tops in the next ‘batting’.
In more sports I know next to nothing about, Phil Mickelson blitzed through the field of competitors to claim the British Open at Muirfield for his fifth Major (ala Grand Slam in tennis). Tiger Woods on his part faded off to sixth no thanks to a poor showing in the final holes.
And finally from a sport that seems straightforward to follow, British rider Chris Froome rode easy to win the 100th edition of the Tour de France (pinnacle of cycling), his first time of going home with the yellow jersey after finishing second behind compatriot Bradley Wiggins last year.
Strange names those, as I’m used to names such as Alberto Contador, the disgraced Lance Armstrong and Mark Cavendish;whose disastrous final day in this year’s competition extinguished whatever thread of hope he had of winning the tour.
That’s all the bit from here today. Happy birthday to John Egbunowon, a very good friend and to all others who are a year older today including footballers Leandro Damião, Stewart Downing, Dirk Kuyt and Dennis Rommedahl. And one of my lovely nieces would be a year old during the week, looking forward to that!
On this day in 1933, Wiley Post became the first person to fly solo around the world, traveling in 7 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes. Now, we wait for the first person to fly solo to outer space and back.
Have a blessed last week of July! The year 2013 is running out yo!