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The Lead

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (unless it comes to CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals featuring Canada), but my eyebrow raised slightly I noticed another AC Milan-related headline amid all the reports of the vice president of AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi’s brother Paolo, using a racial epithet in regard to Mario Balotelli, whose return to Italy came arguably despite previous incidents of racial abuse.

It was this, from the Telegraph:

This morning a Spanish newspaper published a document used as evidence in the case that appeared to suggest a link between Milan with Fuentes, but the club have said they have had never had contact with the doctor and any suggestion that they may be involved was wrong.

Fuentes is charged, along with four others, of endangering public health, after in 2006 police raided properties associated with Fuentes and found 200 bags of blood and plasma, including some that contained the banned drug EPO.

Fuentes has told the court that he has worked with cyclists, footballers, tennis players and boxers, but the judge has so far refused to insist that he reveal the code names attached to the blood bags.
“AC Milan have never had direct or indirect contact of any nature with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes,” the club said in a statement.

“Any references to the activities of doctor Fuentes in relation to Milan are the result of false interpretations or a mistake.

So no, I’m not going to let that one slide, despite threats of legal action from the club.

As for the slur against a player who only arrived last week, Paolo Berlusconi should resign effective immediately. If not, Mario Balotelli should never play another game for Milan. Easy for me to write, difficult for the parties to accept or even to consider, but there is no morally acceptable alternative. In the wake of Milan’s support of Kevin-Prince Boateng following his decision to walk off the pitch after suffering racial abuse from a group of Pro Patria supporters, the club has little alternative unless they wish to come off as indefensible hypocrites.

Whatever Mario Balotelli decides to do, he should think of the precedent it would set if he failed to take a stand, both for himself and those who come after him.

England

Ferguson reflects on tragic Munich disaster on its 55th anniversary.

Ashley Cole on becoming a centurion.

Swansea captain Garry Monk signs one-year extension with the club.

Italy

Louis Saha to sign with Lazio, to replace injured Klose.

Silvio Berlusconi’s brother makes racist remark about Balotelli.

La Liga

Manzano replaces Caparros as the new relegation-threatened Real Mallorca manager.

Tomorrow Messi will put pen to paper and extend his contract at Barcelona.

Germany

Bayer Leverkusen’s general manager questions the logic of Loew’s post-season USA tour.

Kevin Grosskreutz extends contract with Dortmund until 2016.

Bit and Bobs

Keeper fails to catch ball and let’s in an easy goal.

Neymar says England are a one-man team.

Gambling is destroying the beautiful game.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.

Comments (14)

  1. Not defending England or anything, but boy does Neymar talk a lot of shit for a guy who has done approximately fuck all on any stage anybody actually cares about.

    • I’m pretty sure most people in Brazil care about what he’s done in the Brazilian league…

      • Nice for them. That gives him the right to feel superior to those who play a superior game in superior leagues? He’s accomplished dick in my book, and in his one international tournament with Brazil he was practically invisible.

  2. If Mario were the tough guy he likes to portray, he’d physically confront Mr. Berlusconi as he said he’d do to racist abusers at Euro 2012.

    But wait, those racist fans didn’t pay his more-than-the-average-working person salary, and Milan does….what a conundrum!

    • Plus the word Berlusconi used, while not something that i’d feel comfortable using, is actually pretty common in Italy and isn’t exactly negative. Given the context, I doubt Balo feels it in a negative light.

      But, i’m not him, and i’m ignorant, so we’ll see. Never a dull moment.

      • Lots of words and lots of actions have been “pretty common” and accepted in lots of different places at lots of different times.

        That’s not an argument for something being excusable.

        Seems pretty racist to me; but as you say, it partly depends on how Balotelli feels about it.

    • It probably actually is a conundrum for Balotelli.

      Of course given the wages and the stage, in a way it is a different situation than an regular person would ever face. And its easy to take the attitude of “Balo’s making millions, so he can handle it.”

      But ultimately it is a case of a person’s employer abusing him. What would any of us do if a senior exec of the company we worked for abused us in such a manner? Easy to say in the abstract, probably very difficult in reality. Your comment suggests Balo’s being hypocritical, but talking tough in the abstract about standing up to a racist drunk is very different than confronting the person who pays your salary, whether that salary is millions or not. Regardless, its not something anyone should have to face.

      • To be fair, I’m not saying he is being hypocritical…yet. But if he fails to speak out against what happened in some way, than he is.

        And your point is valid in regards to the “real world”, but this is soccer. If Mario publicly quit on the team because of this, he could likely get another job of similar quality in a second. His time and Inter and Man City proves it.

        Also, Matthew makes a very good point…if this was a colloquial comment, and Mario is legitimately not offended by it, it’s a different scenario.

  3. 2 / 2 for good comments today – well done.

    Looking forward to see if England can play a good match against Brazil. I know Brazil haven’t been the Brazil of old lately, and it’s only a friendly, but will be interesting to see how the Arsenal trio do nationally after thriving (or returning from injury) this season

    • English fans will probably get a kick out of seeing Wilshere play. I just hope he and every other Arsenal player comes home safe.

      International football is like going to Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other god forsaken place: ugly to watch, dangerous, and pretty unnecessary/fruitless. The soldiers/players are proud to serve, while the families/fans pray for a safe and speedy return.

  4. Does anyone know how many caps Ashley Cole has earned in actual competitive matches? Or David Beckham, for instance?

    Nobody pays much attention to friendles at club level, so the idea of counting (and glorifying) caps for international friendlies is a bit much.

    • Never looked at it that way, but very good point.

      I suppose the flip side of the coin is teams who don’t play competitive matches for a few years because they’re hosting (or, way back when, defending champs of) tournaments, like Brazil is now. They’re playing players to see what works, despite the fact the games, essentially, mean nothing. They have no other outlet to judge their current level.

      • True, and it seems like that’s where friendlies are going these days. They’ve become an outlet for teams to test out fringe/younger players and different formations because the scorelines don’t matter (Shawcross with England, Franco di Santo with Argentina, for instance).

        So in the future, players of Ashley Cole’s caliber may end up playing fewer friendlies than you would expect on merit.

        It’s too bad Leighton Baines isn’t a couple of years younger….”his time” as England’s left-back after Cole may not be long enough

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