Ginola against Blatter
LONDON — Manchester City coped admirably when leading striker Sergio Aguero was on the treatment table earlier this season but take midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure (pictured) out of the engine room and the machine starts grinding to a halt.
After a sluggish start to the season Ivory Coast’s Toure was at his marauding best in the final weeks of 2014, scoring six goals in eight games as champions City closed an eight-point gap to Chelsea in the Premier League.
Since he departed for the African Cup of Nations, however, City have lost momentum, drawing 1-1 with Everton last week and on Sunday losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal -- a defeat that left Manuel Pellegrini’s team five points behind Chelsea.
In fact, of the four Premier League games the 31-year-old Toure has missed this season, City have won none of them.
They may have a squad laden with household names, but when he is in the mood it is Toure who still makes them tick, still the go-to man when trouble is brewing.
Arsenal’s first win at The Etihad since 2010 was built on stifling City’s midfield creativity and hitting the hosts on the break. When chasing the game after falling behind to Santi Cazorla’s first-half penalty, City badly missed the sledgehammer power Toure provides with his runs and his shooting.
With a trip to Chelsea in their next league match on 31 January, Pellegrini can only hope Toure is not detained too long in Equatorial Guinea, although it would be a major surprise if he was back in time for the clash at Stamford Bridge.
“I hope that we are going to recover and play in the way we have so far, except for this game.” — Reuters NAPOLI — Gonzalo Higuain (pictured) has poured cold water on speculation about a possible move away from Napoli, insisting he is happy at the Serie A outfit.
The Argentina striker has been strongly linked with a big-money switch to Liverpool in the winter transfer market.
However, speaking to Sky Italia shortly after Napoli’s 1-0 triumph at Lazio on Sunday –– a match which saw him net the only goal –– Higuain said: “I am happy here. I have a contract here.”
Napoli’s signing of Italy forward Manolo Gabbiadini from Sampdoria last week increased speculation about Higuain future at the club.
The 27-year-old joined Napoli in the summer of 2013 from Real Madrid and is under contract with the Naples outfit until June 2018. Higuain’s winner against Lazio saw him move onto 10 goals in 19 league appearances for Napoli this season, and helped his side leapfrog their opponents into third place in Serie A.
The top three teams in Italy’s top flight will compete in next season’s Champions League.
“Fortunately, we took control of a game that looked to be a difficult test,” Higuain said. “Lazio are a strong side to face but we have to win in order to overtake them in the table. This was an important game for us and now we need to look ahead to our next match.”
Napoli host Udinese in the Coppa Italia round of 16 tonight. — Reuters LONDON — David Ginola crossed the football divide from the pitch to a pin-up long before the days of David Beckham and now he wants to be Fifa president.
The 47-year-old Frenchman wants to stand against Sepp Blatter to sit at the helm of world football’s governing body and is being paid £250,000 by a betting firm, which denies the campaign is a publicity stunt.
As a player, Ginola was box office. He produced moments of magic to stun the opposition and wow fans.
The winger wouldn’t win any prizes for tracking back, but for some his attacking ability more than made up for it.
In his native France he played for Toulon, Racing Club de Paris and Brest before his big move to Paris St-germain. He helped PSG to the league title in 1993-94, while he also won the 1993 French player of the year award and 1993-94 Ligue 1 player of the year award in his time at the club.
A move to Newcastle United followed before spells at Tottenham, Aston Villa and Everton as he made an indelible mark on English football. He had a season to remember while at Spurs during 1998-99 when he claimed both the PFA Player of The Year and Football Writers’ Footballer of The Year awards.
In November 1993, France were level at 1-1 against Bulgaria in the final minutes of a World Cup qualifier and Les Bleus would have been on the plane to USA 94 had it stayed that way.
But Ginola gave the ball away with a cross, Bulgaria scored and Emil Kostadinov’s lastgasp winner in Paris sent France crashing out of the competition.
Gerrard Houllier was the France manager at the time. It’s safe to say he didn’t take the heartbreak too well and the Musketeer spirit of ‘one for all and all for one’ was in short supply.
“The adventure is over all too soon,” said Houllier. “With only 30 seconds remaining we were there but we got stabbed in the back and at the worst possible time.”
In 2000, Ginola, who played 17 times for his country, complained in his autobiography: “Houllier blamed me for ‘murdering’ France’s bid to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals.
“My ‘crime’ was to overhit a cross aimed for Eric Cantona during our last qualifying match against Bulgaria in Paris.”
Ginola’s long locks and model looks did not take long to get noticed by those marketing executives at a number of major firms.
As well as treading the catwalk, one of his most famous adverts was for a men’s shampoo.
“I’m a footballer, not a movie star. I haven’t got time to worry about my hair. I just want to feel good about the way I look,” he mused in the advert.
Yet Ginola did try his hand at acting after he retired from football. He starred in a film called Rosbeef as well as The Last Drop, which also included Michael Madsen –– of Reservoir Dogs fame ––and comedian Jack Dee.
The Frenchman became the figurehead of the Red Cross anti-landmines campaign in 1998 after being chosen to take on the role previously carried out by Diana, Princess of Wales, prior to her death.
“I am very honoured to be chosen to head this campaign –– it is a cause that is worth fighting for,” he said.
“David spoke in very moving terms about why he wanted to do this work and we are very happy to have such a figure working for us,” said Stephane Mantion, then campaigns director of the French Red Cross.
Ginola was part of the BBC Sport team which provided coverage of the 1998 World Cup in his native France and has gone on to continue working as a pundit for various organisations.
He was also one of the ambassadors for England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup before he decided to run for Fifa president. “We all know that the Fifa system isn’t working,” said Ginola.
“By joining Team Ginola, you are saying ‘yes’ to a Fifa built on democracy, transparency and equality. You are saying ‘yes’ to a Fifa which cares about one thing - football.” — BBC
David (right) dazzled supporters at Newcastle after starting his Premier League career in 1995.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter will stand for his fifth Fifa presidential election.