Just when you thought the upheaval at Scottish club Rangers might slip out of the headlines, along comes another incredible story to hit the Glasgow based outfit.
The financial meltdown suffered by the ‘Oldco’ Rangers Football Club has been well documented over the last 18 months and the creation of ‘Newco’ Rangers, with its outspoken owner Charles Green, have kept the Ibrox club in the news on a regular basis.
The latest controversy to rock Rangers relates to a scheme set up to pay players between 2000 and 2011 which they failed to disclose to the Scottish Premier League.
The commission launched to investigate the irregularities, headed by Lord Nimmo Smith, today decided not to strip the newco Rangers of the Scottish championship titles won by the original club in this period, which it retains.
Investigators deemed that the employee benefit trust (EBT) scheme had been deliberately concealed from the SPL, but that the scheme’s operation did not represent an unfair playing advantage to Rangers and therefore no sporting sanctions were placed upon them. Instead the company responsible for oldco Rangers have been fined £250,000 by the commission.
Tuesday night sees Everton welcome Oldham Athletic to Goodison Park in a crucial FA Cup 5th round replay.
Toffees boss, David Moyes, has been coming under increasing fire since the weekend’s late surrender to Norwich City in the Premier League. His side were quick out of the traps at the beginning of the season, bucking their usual habit of getting away to slow starts. Their quick, incisive play and eye for goal had people sit up and take notice and many thought this might be the year they could break into the top four for the first time since 2005.
Gradually however, Everton have struggled to finish teams off when they’ve been in the ascendency, resulting in too many drawn games and subsequently far too many wasted points for a realistic finish in the Champions League qualification places.
AC Milan boss, Massimo Allegri, insists his team will give a good account of themselves in their Champions League clash with competition favourites, Barcelona.
The coach of the Italian giants reacted spikily to suggestions from reporters that AC Milan were just making up the numbers when questioned at his pre-match press conference.
After a summer of rebuilding, where many of the old guard were packed off to pastures new, and a rather underwhelming beginning to the Serie A season, the seven times winners have crept into the top four of their domestic championship. They also squeezed through their group stage with a meagre seven points and seven goals scored when finishing runners-up to Malaga.
Fully aware of the task ahead, Allegri said “We are facing the best team in the world but I do not accept that everyone is making us out to be the sacrificial lamb”.
The Champions League round of 16 knockout match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich, which already promised to be an enthralling encounter, has taken on extra significance given recent events in London.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger, who has been no stranger to speculation regarding his future over the last few years, suddenly finds himself at the heart of the storm gathering over the Emirates Stadium.
Since taking over in 1996, the Frenchman has earned himself one of the most enviable reputations in European football. His record of success up to 2005 was superb with three Premier League titles and four FA Cup victories chalked up with a team oozing in grace and style. Indeed, it was this ability to thrill and entertain that cemented Wenger’s footballing legacy more than the trophy haul itself.
But since the FA Cup triumph in 2005, Arsenal have gone empty-handed as the likes of the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea have left them behind domestically, and despite an appearance in the 2006 Champions League final, they have repeatedly flattered to deceive on a yearly basis in the continent’s top club competition.
The most eagerly awaited tie of the Champions League round of 16 takes place at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday as nine-time winners Real Madrid welcome English giants Manchester United.
There are so many sub-plots to this clash that make viewing essential to fans of both clubs and neutrals alike.
These teams represent two of the world’s richest and most followed clubs, and the tradition and success the two have had in the past make this encounter worthy of watching.
The two managers, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, are two of the game’s most colourful and successful characters. Both will be bent on ruining the other’s Champions League challenge and have clashed many times in European competition and the English Premier League.
Mourinho is seen as a potential successor to Ferguson at Old Trafford when he finally decides to retire and he admitted in the pre-match press conference that his next destination after Madrid will be a return to England.