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Sir Alex: 18th title will come

. May 14, 2008
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Sir Alex Ferguson is ecstatic after landing his 10th Barclays Premier League title as United boss. Here's a transcript of his first post-match interview at Wigan:

Was this the toughest title race so far?
“It was a tough one alright and being away from home today made it more difficult. In fairness for most of the game we played well. There were some nervous moments and then the rain came and we were wondering what’s going to happen now, because anything can happen on a rainy surface. Just after half-time we started to get a grip of it. We missed a few chances and the goalkeeper made some great saves. I was saying to myself, “Please give us that second goal.” Of course, my oldest player, ten medals today, gets it – Ryan Giggs. Fantastic."

Was Paul Scholes fortunate not to be sent off?
"I think Paul rode his luck a little bit. I thought his first tackle was reckless and he deserved to be booked. The second one was nothing, a shove and it didn’t merit a booking at all. But there was one a few minutes before that one which puts the case in doubt."

How nervous were you when Chelsea went 1-0 up?
“You’ve got to try and dismiss all the stuff round about you, forget what was happening at Chelsea and concentrate on our own game. I think we did that okay. But there was a guy behind us who kept telling us it was 2-0 to Chelsea after just one minute."

What would you regard as the turning point in the title race?
"It ebbed and flowed a bit. Arsenal, for long periods, looked like they were

going to win it. Then they dropped a few points after we knocked them out of the FA Cup and that told for them. We then dropped a few points at Blackburn and Middlesbrough and that allowed Chelsea to close right in. But the two points they dropped against Wigan probably won the title for us."

How does it feel to have won 10 titles?
"Fantastic. I’m very proud. Proud to have survived for so long. It’s a great club and it’s much easier for me than it is for anyone else. How would I do without this? Tell me."

You're now just one title short of Liverpool's record. Is that your next target?
"I think it will come. This side’s young. It’s developing all the time. It’s a good young team and there are plenty of years left in them. They’ll do it in their own time."

What impact will winning the title have on the Champions League final?
"The great thing is we’re bouncing into the final. We can look forward to it. If we’d lost the title today, it would have been difficult. When we lost the title at West Ham in 1995, we lost the FA Cup final the following week. We were dead then. We’re not dead now, we’re alive. If we win the European Cup, this has to be my best team."

Iniesta: “We have to look to the future

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Andrés Iniesta has admitted that he is sad to see Frank Rijkaard leaving the club, but is confident and excited by the prospect of next season and the arrival of Josep Guardiola at the helm.

The 24-year-old midfielder is working on recovering from his knee injury, but spoke to the press on Wednesday: "The thing with Rijkaard is sad, but they are things that happen in the world of football," he said. "But now we have to look to the future and we should confront it with hope and confidence."

Eight years on

Iniesta can now prepare to work under Guardiola, eight years after sharing th dressing room with the incoming head coach. "I am pleased to be able to work with him again," he continued. "He will be the new coach and I have faith that he can change the current situation around. This year has ended sadly for everyone, it was a year full of deception. But in football things can change very quickly and that is what we want."


QM3D3766.jpg"Josep Guardiola and Michael Laudrup were idols of mine when I was a child," Iniesta then revealed. "Now to work with Guardiola will be important to me and we will all give him our total support."

Reflecting on other issues that have arisen at Camp Nou in recent days, Iniesta spoke first about the whistles aimed at Deco and Samuel Eto'o during hte Mallorca game. "We did not like that because they are our team-mates," he said. "But the fans always have their reasons and we just have to accept it."

Captain’s role

In the future, Iniesta could become one of the team captains at Barcelona and he would relish the prospect. "It would be marvellous to be a captain," he stated. "To any player it would given a boost and more confidence, but right now we have the best skipper we could have in Carles Puyol."

Finally, Iniesta was asked about Bojan Krkic's possible inclusion in the Spanish squad for the forthcoming Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland. "We must not become too excited beacuse the list will not be announced until Friday," he said. "But I would be very happy for him and for those that have supported him all year. He has had a very good season and deserves the recognition."

Ronaldo clinches awards treble

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The individual awards keep rolling in for Cristiano Ronaldo, who has picked up the Barclays Player of the Season and Barclays Golden Boot awards to complete a sensational season.

The 23-year-old Portuguese wing wiazard also collected a merit award for reaching 30 league goals this season.

Ronaldo was pivotal in United's Barclays Premier League title success and it was no surprise that he earned the Barclays Player of the Season accolade for the second year in succession.

Whichever way you look at it, Ronaldo has been exceptional this season, and the stats back it up. His 31 goals from 34 league appearances helped see off stiff opposition for the awards from Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor and Fernando Torres of Liverpool.

It's the first time a player has scored more than 30 league goals in a season since Alan Shearer’s 31-goal haul for Blackburn Rovers twelve years ago.

The merit award for reaching 30 goals will also benefit one lucky charity as Ronaldo will receive £1,000 for every goal scored to be donated to a charity of his choice.

However, for all the personal awards showered on the Madeiran magician, his sights will be firmly set on the Champions League trophy in Moscow next Wednesday.

Carlos Tevez Biography

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Carlos Alberto Tevez (born February 5, 1984 in Ciudadela, Buenos Aires Province) is an Argentine football striker who made his name with Argentine giant Boca Juniors and currently plays for Brazil's Corinthians. He is currently regarded as one of the most promising prospects in the world. FourFourTwo labelled him as the new Diego Maradona.

He was born and raised in the humble neighbourhood of Ejército de Los Andes, known as "Fuerte Apache", from where he got the nickname of Apache. Carlitos has a scar from the right ear to his chest, product of a burn with boiling water when he was a young boy. Carlos declined plastic surgery since he would have to be out of the playground for four months.

Carlos Tevez joined Boca at the age of thirteen and played his first professional match with Boca on October 21, 2001 against Talleres de Córdoba. He played for the team until the end of 2004. With Boca Juniors he won an Argentine Championship (2003), a Copa Libertadores (2003), an Intercontinental Cup (2003), and a Copa Sudamericana (2004). Because of the Intercontinental Cup of 2003, he didn't participate in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship with the Argentine team.

Tévez was a key part of Boca's victory in the 2003 Copa Libertadores, but his greatest achievement was during the 2004 Olympic Games, where he won the gold medal with his team, and scored eight goals in six matches to be the top scorer of the competition. He also participated in the 2004 Copa América, helping Argentina to the runner-up spot.

The Argentine Football Writers chose him as Footballer of the Year in 2003 and 2004, and also Sportsman of the Year 2004. He was named Futbolista latinoamericano más destacado ("Most notable Latin American footballer") in 2003 by Latin American Fox Sports, and in the same years was the world's second Top Goal Scorer 2004 in international competitions (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) with 16 goals, one less than Ali Daei from Iran.

In December 2004, he transferred to Sport Club Corinthians Paulista for $20 million with a five year contract worth $10 million, following the Brazilian club's deal with Media Sports Investment. The deal was the biggest transfer ever in South American football. Initially Tévez was not well received by the Corinthians fans - including Brazilian president Lula. However, Tévez has since become the captain and star of the team that won the 2005 Brazilian league, and the fans' favourite player and was being linked to Chelsea FC as a result of Roman Abramovich's link to MSI.

Chelsea manager José Mourinho saw Tévez in action against River Plate during the Copa Libertadores in 05/04/2006, but has played down the transfer speculation linking Tévez with Chelsea. However Chelsea would offer Corinthians a sum of between £12 million and £60 million, but Corinthians stuck a minimum release clause of about £68 million on Carlitos. Corinthians investor Kia Joorabchian has said Tévez is very happy at the club and he would be sold in 4-5 years time. It is alleged that he would prefer to join Manchester United if he were to move to England. This was confirmed when Tevez was spotted wearing a Manchester United shirt whilst training with Corinthians. There are many rumours saying Tevez will come to Manchester United as they are a club out for a striker with Ruud Van Nistelrooy gone to Real Madrid.

Tevez was selected by José Pekerman for Argentina for the 2006 World Cup. He started the first match against the Ivory Coast on the bench but came on as a substitute for the match against Serbia and Montenegro. He scored the fifth goal and assisted Lionel Messi's sixth goal in Argentina's 6-0 victory. In Argentina's drawn final Group C match against Holland, Tevez played the entire duration and emerged man of the match.

John Terry biography

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John TerryJohn George Terry (born in Barking, Essex 7 December 1980) is an English professional football player. Terry plays as a centre back and is currently the captain of both Chelsea in the English Premier League and the national football team of England.

Terry is currently regarded as one of the best defenders in European football. He was voted best defender in the 2005 UEFA Champions League, PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2005, and was included in the FIFPro World XI for 2005. He was also named in the all-star squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He wears the number 26 shirt for Chelsea and the number 6 shirt for England.

Early life

Terry was born in Barking, East London and attended Eastbury Comprehensive School. Before being spotted by Chelsea, he played for Sunday League Team Senrab F.C.. This team featured many future stars of the English game, including, Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky (both of whom now play for West Ham United), Ledley King (of Tottenham) and Jlloyd Samuel (of Aston Villa). Terry joined Chelsea's youth system at 14, playing for the club's Youth and Reserve teams

Personal life

Terry currently lives in Oxshott, Surrey. His older brother Paul is also a professional footballer, but plays in a lower division, currently for Yeovil Town.

Terry is also brother in law to West Ham United left-back Paul Konchesky. Paul Terry is married to the sister of Konchesky.

Since May 18, 2006, John and his fiancée Toni Poole are also the parents of twins, a boy (Georgie John) and a girl (Summer Rose). This was further celebrated after Terry's goal for England against Hungary, when he performed a "baby-rocking" celebration.


Terry made his Chelsea debut on 28 October 1998 as a late substitute in a League Cup tie with Aston Villa; his first start came later that season in an FA Cup third round match, a 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic. He spent a brief period on loan with Nottingham Forest in 2000. Early in his career, Terry was involved in an unsavoury incident in a West London nightclub with Chelsea team mate Jody Morris and Wimbledon's Des Byrne. He was charged with assault and affray, but later cleared. During the affair, he received a temporary ban from the national side, which cost him a place in England's 2002 World Cup squad.

Terry began to establish himself in the Chelsea first team from the 2000-01 season, making 23 starts, and was voted the club's player of the year. He continued his progress during 2001-02, becoming a feature of the defence alongside club captain and French international Marcel Desailly. That season saw Chelsea reach the FA Cup final, though a virus denied Terry a place in the starting line-up (he did come on as a second-half substitute) and Chelsea lost 2-0.

In season 2003-04, his strong, committed, and inspiring displays led to him being handed the captain's armband by manager Claudio Ranieri when Desailly was out of the side. He played well in the absence of the French legend, establishing himself as a genuine contender for a first team slot and forming a strong defensive partnership with William Gallas.

Following Desailly's retirement, new Chelsea manager José Mourinho chose Terry as his club captain, a choice which was clearly positive throughout the 2004-05 season. Chelsea won the FA Premier League title in record-breaking fashion with the best defensive record in Football League history, the most clean sheets and the most points accrued. Terry was voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in England and scored eight goals, including a late winner against FC Barcelona, in the UEFA Champions League. He was voted the best defender in the latter tournament.

Along with Frank Lampard, Claude Makélélé and Petr Cech, Terry is regarded as a part of the "spine" of the Chelsea team. Being a Londoner who came through the club's youth system, he is especially popular with Chelsea fans, because of this. In September 2005 he was selected as a member of the World XI at the FIFPro awards. The team was chosen by a vote of professional footballers based in 40 countries.

In a match on 14th October 2006 against Reading F.C., Terry had to take over in goal for Chelsea after both of Chelsea's usual keepers, Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini were both injured in the game. He wore the number 40 shirt belonging to third-choice goalkeeper Henrique Hilario. However, as the game continued for only a little over a minute, Terry did not have a single save to make - in fact, his goalkeeping experience was limited to taking a free-kick from inside the penalty area. Chelsea managed to hang on to a one goal lead and win the game.


Terry is the current captain of the England national team and he made his debut in June 2003 against Serbia and Montenegro. He played for his country at Euro 2004, and England Manager Sven-Göran Eriksson stated that Terry was the first-choice centre back, ahead of Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell.

In a FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Poland, Terry had the honour of wearing England's captain armband, replacing Michael Owen as captain after the latter was subbed.

He has cemented his place in the England squad by being selected for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In a warm-up match for that tournament against Hungary on May 30, 2006, Terry scored his first goal for England, the team's second in a 3-1 victory. Despite an injury scare in a friendly against Jamaica, he recovered to play in England's opening fixture against Paraguay, a 1-0 victory.

In the next match against Trinidad and Tobago, he made perhaps the most spectacular save of the game. In the game's 44th minute, Carlos Edwards beat England's Paul Robinson to a cross and as Stern John bundled a header towards the goal, Terry cleared the ball off the line with an overhead kick.

In the quarter-finals match against Portugal, Terry played the entire match, but England lost on penalties and he was left in tears with his fellow players. Six days later, he was the only English player to be named in the tournament's all-star squad.

On 10th August 2006, Steve McClaren named John Terry as the England captain, succeeding David Beckham. The new England Head Coach also confirmed that Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard will be vice-captain. McClaren said "Choosing a captain is one of the most important decisions a coach has to make. I’m certain I’ve got the right man in John Terry. I’m convinced he will prove to be one of the best captains England has ever had."

John Terry scored a goal on his debut as the England captain, in a friendly international against Greece. This was the first goal of the match and, as such, the first goal during McClaren's reign as manager. When celebrating he kissed his new captain's armband.

Terry is one of four national team captains in the current Chelsea team, along with Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast captain), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine captain), and Michael Ballack (Germany captain).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic biography

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Zlatan Ibrahimović (born October 3, 1981 in Malmö) is a Swedish football striker. He is currently playing for Inter Milan, in Italy and the Sweden national football team.

Zlatan was born in Malmö, Skåne County (then Malmöhus County). The son of immigrants from Yugoslavia, his Bosnian father Šefik was born in Bijeljina and his Croat mother Jurka was born in Zadar, Croatia. Zlatan's parents met in Sweden, and he grew up in Rosengård, a Malmö neighbourhood known for its immigrant communities, where he also successfully completed junior high school (ninth grade). Although thereafter admitted to Borgarskolan in Malmö, he soon discontinued high school in order to focus on his football career.

Zlatan began playing football at the age of ten. His initial local club was called FBK Balkan, whose participants unsurprisingly reflected the demographics of the Rosengård neighbourhood. In 1995 he joined Malmö FF.


  • Zlatan's father (Bosnian) is Muslim, while his mother (Croatian) is Christian. However, he is not very strict about either religion.
  • Joga TV, a series of TV advertisement for Nike leading up to 2006 FIFA World Cup, frequently features Zlatan. One episode centered on Zlatan's (proven) ability to spit a piece of gum out of his mouth, juggle it between his feet, and then kick it back into his mouth.
  • Zlatan has two tattoos on each of his forearms, nicknamed the Ibrahimovic code. They are a series of numbers which are birth dates of his family:
  • Left arm: 18.07.1979 — Sister, Sanela; 16.04.1951 — Mother, Jurka
  • Right arm: 23.08.1951 — Father, Sefik; 30.04.1973 — Brother, Sapko; 10.07.1986 — Brother, Aleksander
  • During the World Cup in 2006, one of the most popular songs in Sweden was Who's Da Man - a song about Zlatan that was written and performed by a group from Ystad called Elias. It featured a seven-year-old boy on vocals, Frans, who considers Zlatan as his hero.
  • In a poll on during 2003, 61 per cent (4221 votes) voted for Zlatan to wear the name "Zlatan" on the back of his shirt. 29 per cent (2014 votes) voted for "Ibrahimovic", while 9 per cent (617 votes) had no opinion.
  • Zlatan shares a birthday (October 3, 1981) with fellow Swedish footballer Andreas Isaksson.
  • He is trained in taekwondo.
  • Zlatan was the fourth Swede to put on the Ajax shirt, joining Inge Danielsson, Peter Larsson, and Stefan Pettersson.
  • 84% of the population of Rosengård, the part of Malmö where Zlatan grew up, have a background from another country than Sweden.
  • Vägen tillbaka - Blådårar 2 is going to be a movie about Zlatan and the way back to Allsvenskan, the Swedish first division, for Malmö FF after they where degraded from Allsvenskan in 1999 for the first time in 64 years. It is also said to include a "Zlatan song".
  • In April 2002, a new book about training soccer skills was published in Sweden, where readers can learn some of Zlatan's special tricks.
  • Zlatan signed for Malmö FF at the age of 13.
  • He has a son, Maximilian, who was born on September 22, 2006.
  • Zlatan is a Bosnian name which means "gold".


  • "... Zlatan in this form is not an asset for the national team at all. I see no big difference in him being present or not." -- Thomas Ravelli, former Swedish goalkeeper, September 19, 2006
  • "He is possibly the most over-rated player in the world." -- Martin O'Neill on BBC, June 23, 2006
  • "If Zlatan Ibrahimovic goes on like he does at the moment, he will be the best in the world." -- Former England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson, about facing Sweden in the FIFA World Cup, December 11, 2005):
  • "Described as 'half ballerina, half gangster,' Sweden's Juventus striker could be England's undoing in Germany 2006." -- The Sunday Times (UK), December 11, 2005
  • "He is one of the best forwards I have met this year. In my opinion he can become one of the world's greatest players. He already has enormous qualities." -- Hernán Crespo, Inter Milan after UEFA Champions League game on (September 26, 2002)
  • "Zlatan is a ghost that is loose and might be a butcher that can settle the game against Inter. Materazzi has to be prepared to deal with the Swedish beast." -- Gazzetta dello Sport, before a UEFA Champions League game against Inter Milan, (September 25, 2002)
  • "He invents moves that don't exist in the material world and they are done like jazz improvisations on the pitch." -- Björn Ranelid, columnist for Swedish newspaper DN, May 31, 2002

Zlatan started professional football with the Swedish club Malmö FF in the 1999 season (Allsvenskan, the Swedish top division, begins in spring, not in autumn like in Central and Southern Europe). During his stay at the club, Arsène Wenger tried to persuade him to join Arsenal but Malmö did not allow the transfer.

Other than Wenger, Leo Beenhakker also showed interest in Zlatan after observing him practicing in La Manga, Spain. Watching Zlatan score an amazing goal in a training game against Norwegian side Moss, Beenhakker became convinced of Zlatan's talent. He went back to Amsterdam and on March 22, 2001, a deal between Ajax and Malmö regarding Zlatan's transfer to Amsterdam was announced and in July of the same year, he joined Ajax for record-breaking €7.8 million. The deal is by far the most lucrative any Swedish side has struck.

Under manager Co Adriaanse, Zlatan received little exposure. Adriaanse was sacked in November 29, however, and Zlatan's fortune started to change with the arrival of Ronald Koeman. Following Koeman's arrival, Zlatan was consistently chosen in Ajax's starting lineup. Ajax then went on to win the Eredivisie.

The next year Zlatan had a major breakthrough at the biggest stage of European football, UEFA Champions League. In his first game ever in the Champions League against French Champions Olympique Lyonnais, Zlatan scored two goals, including a true masterpiece when he dribbled past Brazilian Edmilson before shooting past the goalkeeper from a difficult angle. Zlatan helped Ajax make it all the way to the quarter-finals where they were narrowly beaten by eventual winners A.C. Milan.

The Champions League success however took its toll in the domestic league and Ajax finished second behind PSV. In the 2002-2003 season, Ajax was back at the top of Eredivisie, though. Zlatan continued to do well both in the league and, in particular, in the Champions League, scoring a new spectacular goal against Celta Vigo. In a Group H match against Milan on September 16, 2003, Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso was sent off late in second-half injury time after backhanding Zlatan in the face. Unfortunately, Ajax did not advance past the group stage.

After a fine season Zlatan was well prepeared for Euro 2004 in Portugal, and joined a fine Swedish team featuring Celtic star Henrik Larsson and Arsenal winger Fredrik Ljungberg. Zlatan did well, scoring a penalty goal against Bulgaria and rounding off a fine performance against the solid defence of Italy by scoring an amazing overtime equaliser. He jumped up in the air and kicked the ball one-and-a-half meter above the ground with his backheel into Buffon's top corner. Zlatan is well known for his agility and his ability to score goals with his feet high up in the air, and perhaps this stems from the fact that he practised taekwondo as a youth.

The tournament ended, though, with Sweden losing to Holland on penalties in the quarterfinals. Zlatan was one of the Swedes who missed a penalty.

The next season started brightly for Zlatan, though. On August 22, he scored an incredible goal against NAC Breda which was eventually voted the best goal of the year by Eurosport's viewers. Maradona-like, he dribbled past more or less the entire defence before beating the goalkeeper and calmly putting the ball in the back of the net. On August 31, 2004, the final day of the summer transfer window, Zlatan moved from Ajax to Juventus for a €19 million transfer fee. Surprisingly, he made it rather quickly in to the starting eleven. This was due in part to the fact that the team's top scorer,David Trézéguet was injured, in part to Zlatan being one of coach Fabio Capello's favourite players (Capello had tried to get him already at Roma), but mostly thanks to Zlatan's fine performances. He scored 16 goals, and this in a league that is considered to be very hard for strikers, especially foreign striker. Juventus eventually won a second consecutive Scudetto, but were later stripped of both as part of the verdicts of the summer 2006 match-fixing scandal.

Near the end of the Serie A season Juve reportedly rejected a €70 million bid for him from Spanish power Real Madrid. This later proved to be nothing more than a PR stunt initiated by Zlatan's agent in order to raise his market value. Nonetheless, he was voted the player of the season in 2004-05 by the fans of Juventus. Zlatan was nominated to the 2005 FIFA world player of the year along with thirty other top players and finished as number eight. On November 14, 2005, he was awarded Guldbollen, a prize given to the best Swedish footballer of the year.

The following season was a more turbulent one for Zlatan. He had always had problems with Swedish journalists and these problems mounted as Zlatan's success (and, wicked tongues say, his ego) grew. During autumn, Zlatan's role in Juventus attack changed, and he became less of a goalscorer. He moved more and more to the sidelines, taking much part in the build-up play, especially as a target player, where he could use his exceptional physical strength. He thus started to make more assists than goals.

Even though he played well, arguably the best football of his career, criticism against the lack of goals started to increase. And in spring, when Zlatan lost most of his fine form in the game outside the penalty area as well, criticism rose to a thunderstorm, both in Italy, were fans and journalists preferred Juve icon Alessandro del Piero, often sidelined for Zlatan's benefit, and in Sweden. Even so, Zlatan retained his place in the starting eleven and Juve eventually won Serie A again. Zlatan was also considered arrogant and troublesome, especially in Sweden where these feelings were strengthened due to several incidents between Zlatan and Swedish media.

Zlatan's performances had been a major reason why Sweden qualified to the 2006 World Cup. Both Sweden and Zlatan was though to under-achieve in the tournament, though. Zlatan was substituted at half time in one game, against Paraguay, and did in another, against England, due to a groin injury. How much his performances in the other games was affected by this is hard to know. Sweden was knocked out in the 2nd round by Germany.

In the summer of 2006, Juve and Zlatan lost the league titles of the two previous seasons, due to the excessive cheating initiated by General Manager Luciano Moggi. Juve was also relegated to Serie B. The new staff tried to persuade Zlatan, and other top players, to stay in Juventus, but Zlatan and his agent was adamant to move. Mino Raiola even threatened legal action in order to extricate Zlatan from his contract. He signed a four-year contract to Inter Milan for € 24.8 milion on August 10, 2006.

Not long after his awaited transfer to Seria A giants Inter, Zlatan was called up to the Sweden squad to face Liechtenstein in the European Championship Qualifiers. While the squad was gathered at the players hotel, Zlatan and his teammates Christian Wilhelmsson and Olof Mellberg decided to break the squad curfew by going out to a nearby nightclub. Notable is that none of the players stated above had anything to drink. The Swedish Football Association was quick to ban the three players for their unprofessional behavior and when both Mellberg and Wilhelmsson instantly apologized for their misconduct, Zlatan demanded an apology from the Association, stating that the punishment had been too harsh. When not given the requested apology, Zlatan declared that he wouldn't be playing for the Swedish national team and therefor was withdrawn from the squads upcoming games against both competent Iceland and group giants Spain. Sweden went on to win both matches without Ibrahimovic.

Playing style

Zlatan is 192 cm tall and powerfully built, and thus physical strength is one of his greatest assets. Since Zlatan arrived in Italy, he has become even stronger, since coach Fabio Capello, who is known to prefer physically strong players, ordered him to undergo a gym training program. It has been suggested by Zlatan himself that he might have added a couple of kilos too much, and that this contributed to the poor form in the spring of 2006.

Zlatan is, though, also known for his techical ability, and this unusual combination of technique and strength is what has taken him to the top clubs in Italy. None of the wondergoals described above could have been made by a less technically gifted player. He is also well known to be a good provider of spectacular assists.

His technique consists mainly in his great dribbling skills, but he can also shoot very hard, though not always accurate, and has taken free-kicks in both Inter and Juventus. He is also a good passer of the ball, though he sometimes seem to have concentration lapses and thus make simple mistakes. Zlatan is also quite fast, though this is rarely seen, as he prefers to meet the ball rather than try to beat the offside trap and run towards the opponents goal.

Zlatan is also thought to have a bad temper, resulting in a red card in the important game against Bayern Munich in November 2, 2005, and a two match suspension after head-butting present assistant coach Sinisa Mihajlovic in the match between Inter and Juve in April 17, 2005. He is also known to be quite a bad loser, never giving interviews after defeats. The flip side of this may be that he is a winning type, according to some.

He has during the past year been heavily cricitized for the low numbers of goals he has scored. Zlatan has clearly a tendency rather to go for quality than for quantity when it comes to goals, which is not uncommon for technically gifted strikers. He rarely scores from inside the six-yard box, for example.

With his strength and height, he wins most aerial duels with defenders. He is not very good at scoring with his head, though, often mis-timing the ball.

In Sweden, Zlatan is often accused of laziness: that he does not work enough defensively. In Italy, where people never expected strikers to do much defensive work, this is less often heard. Another drawback he has is that concedes quite a few free-kicks, especially in Serie A where the referees whistle a lot. Sometimes, he runs offside quite a lot as well.

Ronaldinho biography

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Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (born 21 March 1980 in Porto Alegre) is a Brazilian footballer, commonly known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho (due to his being from the Rio Grande do Sul state of Brazil), or simply Ronaldinho.

His name Ronaldinho, Portuguese for "little Ronaldo", was originally devised as a means of distinguishing between himself and fellow Brazilian football star Ronaldo, with the additional title Gaúcho being used when the current Ronaldo was also known as Ronaldinho. Among his many achievements and accolades, Ronaldinho has been awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice (2004, 2005), as well as the European Footballer of the Year award and the FIFPro World Player of the Year award (2005, 2006). He has downplayed suggestions that he is the best footballer in the world, telling FourFourTwo magazine, "I don't even feel I'm the best at Barça."

Ronaldinho was born in Vila Nova, a neighborhood in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He was the youngest of three children. Ronaldinho's mother Miguelina is a former salesperson who later studied to become a nurse. His father João was a shipyard worker and footballer for Cruzeiro. The family moved to a more affluent home in Porto Alegre when Ronaldinho's older brother Roberto signed to play professional football for Grêmio. João died when Ronaldinho was 8, after suffering a heart attack while swimming in the family's pool. Injuries ended Roberto's career prematurely, and he now manages Ronaldinho. Ronaldinho's sister Deisi works as his press coordinator. Ronaldinho's son, named João after his father, was born on 25 February, 2005. João's mother is Janaína Nattielle Viana Mendes, a former dancer on the Brazilian television show Domingão do Faustão.

In his childhood, Ronaldinho's skill in football began to blossom due to his particular interest in futsal and beach football, which later developed into a fondness for more standardised football. His first brush with the media came after a 23 goal flurry against a local team, at just 13 years of age. His reputation as a footballer was built up through his childhood, particularly since he was identified as a rising star at the Egypt 1997 under-17 world championship. He scored two goals in the tournament, both penalty kicks.


  • He is a fan of Brazilian music, and occasionally plays the drums and sings with friends in Barcelona.
  • In December 2005, Ronaldinho and Mauricio de Sousa, a famous Brazilian comic book author, announced the creation of cartoon characters based on Ronaldinho, his brother and his mother. In the UK, the comic is published exclusively in children's football magazine, KiCK!, while in Spain it is being published by Panini Comics and in Greece by Compupress.
  • Ronaldinho appears in advertising campaigns for international companies Nike, Pepsi, and Lenovo, as well as at least eight brands in Brazil, including Kibon.
  • Ronaldinho appears on the front cover of Electronic Arts games FIFA Soccer 06 and FIFA 07 along with Wayne Rooney.
  • He has surpassed David Beckham as the most marketable player in the world, generating $57.8m (£30.8m) annually, though still trails Beckham in estimated yearly income.
  • After playing a friendly match in Stockholm, Ronaldinho received a trophy rating him as the best Brazilian Player in history, according to a survey by Swedish television.


Ronaldinho's career began in the youth team at Porto Alegre club Grêmio, under head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who would later coach the Brazilian national team to glory in the 2002 World Cup. His first senior appearance came in the 1998 Libertadores Cup, and his penchant for goalscoring was quickly displayed, his career soon generating interest due to his phenomenal ball control and ability to score. This was followed by his introduction into the Brazilian national team in 1999.

Towards the end of his career at Grêmio, in 2001, many clubs from all over the world, particularly Premiership teams in England such as Arsenal who tried but failed, were eager to sign him as an attempt to attain a player who was both a "big name" and was also performing well. Despite several generous bids from Premiership teams (who would not have been able to sign him due to work permit restrictions) and several requests from Grêmio, Ronaldinho signed a five-year contract with PSG, to which he moved at the beginning of the following season.

Paris Saint-Germain

In 2001 Ronaldinho left Grêmio to play European football. Despite bids from much larger clubs, he opted to play for PSG. During his time at PSG, the manager, Luis Fernandez, claimed that Ronaldinho was too focused on the Parisian nightlife rather than on his football, and complained that his holidays in Brazil would always drag on and never end at the scheduled times.

After the 2002 World Cup, having shown his worth on the international scene, there was no shortage of interest from bigger clubs. In 2003, Ronaldinho made it clear he wanted to leave PSG after they failed to qualify for any European competitions. Ronaldinho's desire to leave set off a bidding war among the top European clubs (Manchester United and FC Barcelona the notable examples) for his services. The club that ended up winning the battle for his services was FC Barcelona.


On July 19, 2003, FC Barcelona acquired Ronaldinho for £18 million. Originally, Barcelona chairman Joan Laporta had promised to bring David Beckham to the club, but following his transfer to Real Madrid, Barcelona entered the running for Ronaldinho and beat Manchester United to his signature. It was thought that a failure on the part of the English and French clubs to agree on a fee was the reason Manchester United's deal fell through. Ronaldinho is also said to have signed with Barcelona instead of Manchester United because of his friendship with former Nike executive in Brazil and Barcelona's then vice-president in charge of sports, Sandro Rosell. Ronaldinho's signing with Barcelona follows in the footsteps of a number of illustrious fellow countrymen who enjoyed successful careers with the club, including Romário, Ronaldo and Rivaldo.

Barcelona quickly showcased the talents of their new striker in an exhibition match against AC Milan. The match took place in front of a crowd of 45,000 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Barcelona had a 1-0 lead through most of the first half, and they increased their lead to 2-0 when Ronaldinho scored in the 51st minute. Having received a short pass from Xavi, Ronaldinho fired a shot that spun around Fernando Redondo and into the net, landing him his first goal for the club.

After returning from injury in the first half of the campaign, Ronaldinho continued to justify his price tag by leading Barcelona to a second-place finish in La Liga during the 2003-04 season. Along with Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Xavi, Ludovic Giuly and Henrik Larsson, Ronaldinho comprises part of a strike force which helped bring the 2004-05 La Liga title for FC Barcelona. On December 20, 2004, Ronaldinho was named FIFA World Player of the Year ahead of Arsenal's Thierry Henry and AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko. It was then that Barcelona rejected a £60 million bid made for him by Chelsea F.C., according to Sandro Rosell.

In March 2005, Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in the first knockout round. Ronaldinho scored a penalty kick and an impressive solo goal in the 4-2 loss at Stamford Bridge.

In June 2005, Rosell resigned from the Barcelona administration following a bust-up with Joan Laporta, and it was feared that his resignation would spell the end for Ronaldinho and Barcelona's association as well. With Ronaldinho's contract running only into 2008, he was offered a contract until 2014 that would net him £85 million over those 9 years, which he rejected. Later that year in September, he signed a two-year extension of his original contract on with FC Barcelona. The new contract contains a minimum fee release clause that allows him to leave should a club make an offer to Barcelona of at least £85 million for him.

On November 19, 2005, he scored two solo goals to help FC Barcelona to a 3–0 win over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid. After he scored his second goal of the night, his team's third, a large part of the Madrid faithful gave him a standing ovation, a rare feat which had not occurred since Diego Maradona played for Barcelona in 1985.

In September 2005, Ronaldinho was crowned FifPro Player of the year, an award voted for by his fellow professionals. He was also named in the FifPro team of the year alongside the likes of Zidane and Maldini. In November 2005 Ronaldinho was named as both the European Footballer of the Year and the best striker in the 2004-05 Champions League. In 2005, Ronaldinho became the third Brazilian to win the Ballon d'Or. On December 19, 2005, he was again named FIFA World Player of the Year with 956 points, more than three times the 306 points of Chelsea's Frank Lampard, who finished second in the poll, and the 190 points of Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto'o who finished third. He was chosen for the UEFA team of 2005 for the third time running in January 2006.

On March 7, 2006, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League first knockout round at Nou Camp, Ronaldinho avenged Barcelona's defeat to Chelsea in the same competition the previous year, running past the Chelsea defence to score. Although the game ended 1-1 with Chelsea equaling through a dubious penalty in the second half stoppage time, Barcelona progressed to the Champions League quarterfinal on aggregate(3-2), in which they beat SL Benfica 2-0 at Nou Camp (Ronaldinho having scored the first goal after missing an early penalty kick) after a goalless draw at the Estádio da Luz. In the first semi-final leg, against AC Milan in the San Siro, Ronaldinho once again proved his worth with a superb pass for the goal volleyed in by Ludovic Giuly, which brought Barcelona a 1-0 victory. The second leg game ended in a goalless draw despite a disallowed goal from Andriy Shevchenko in the 70th minute. The 0-0 result with AC Milan brought Barcelona to the 2006 Champions League Final in Paris against Arsenal F.C., who had not conceded a goal in ten Champions League matches, a competition record.

On May 3, 2006, Barcelona were crowned 2005/2006 La Liga champions after they beat Celta Vigo 1-0.

On May 17, 2006, Barcelona became European champions after defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League final. In this match Ronaldinho was kept relatively subdued and the goals came from Samuel Eto'o and Juliano Belletti, who were both assisted by Henrik Larsson. Ronaldinho finished the season with 25 goals in all competitions, his best goalscoring tally ever. It was rumoured on the 3rd of August that Ronaldinho might move to AC Milan, but Ronaldinho denied it. On August 24, 2006, Ronaldinho was named Champions League player of the year for the 2005-06 season.

Michael Ballack biography

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Michael Ballack (born September 26, 1976 in Görlitz, then GDR) is a German football player.

He is the current captain of the national team, and plays his club football for Chelsea F.C. in the English FA Premier League.

Ballack became pro at the age of 19.Ballack is known for being a versatile and well-conditioned player, equally comfortable in attack and defense. He made his name as a classic box-to-box midfielder with Bayer Leverkusen, where he operated as the central midfielder and took on both defensive and attacking responsibilities. Later in his career, at FC Bayern Munich, under the guidance of Ottmar Hitzfeld and Felix Magath, Ballack excelled in a deeper role, where he went forward less often and instead concentrated on protecting the back four and distributing the ball. However, he remained a box-to-box midfielder for the German national team.

He is regarded as one of the most lethal headers in the world but is equally competent with both his left and right foot. These attributes have earned him the German player of the year award on three occasions (2002, 2003, 2005). He has been one of Germany's leading sports icons of recent times, though his reputation in Germany has suffered recently because of the considerable unpopularity of his decision to leave Bayern.

Ballack was made captain of the German national team by the then national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann in 2004. Current Germany head coach Joachim Löw has indicated that he will keep Ballack as his national team captain. Ballack has always worn the number 13 shirt for every club that he has played for, as well as the German national team.

Ballack has been included in the FIFA 100.

Ballack and his partner Simone Lambe have three children - Louis (born 16 August 2001), Emilio (19 September, 2002), and Jordi (born 17 March, 2005).

Chemnitzer FC

Ballack started his career with BSG Motor Karl-Marx-Stadt. His parents sent him to train with the side when he was seven years old. He later moved on to FC Karl-Marx-Stadt (renamed Chemnitzer FC in 1990). His father had played second-division football himself in Germany. Unusual for his early age was Ballack's ability to use both feet with equal authority.

In 1995, Ballack was given his first professional contract, thanks to his impressive performances in the role of central midfielder. It was little surprise that he was dubbed the "Little Kaiser", in reference to Franz Beckenbauer, who was nicknamed "The Kaiser". His professional debut came on 4 August 1995, on the first day of the new Second Bundesliga season. Chemnitz lost the game 2-1, against VfB Leipzig.

At the end of the season, during which Ballack made fifteen appearances, Chemnitz were relegated to the multi-tiered, regional third division. For Ballack himself, however, that season held one great success: on 26 March 1996, he made his debut for Germany's Under-21 side.

The following season, Ballack became a regular first-team player and almost helped Chemnitz to bounce straight back. He didn't miss a game and scored ten goals for the "Sky Blues". It wasn't enough for Chemnitz to go up, but Ballack managed to win his own, personal promotion: in the summer of 1997, he was signed by decorated German coach Otto Rehhagel to 1. FC Kaiserslautern, who had just returned to the top flight.

FC Kaiserslautern

It was during the seventh game of the 1997-98 season, away to Karlsruher SC, that Rehhagel decided to throw young Ballack into the Bundesliga for the first time, if only for the final five minutes of the encounter. On 28 March 1998, Ballack found himself in the starting line-up for the first time - the opponents were Bayer Leverkusen, and the novice was given the crucial job of marking playmaker Emerson, his future team-mate, out of the game.

Ballack made sixteen appearances for his new team during the season and thus played a part in Kaiserslautern's sensational triumph - the club became the first-ever newly promoted team to lift the league title. In the following season, Ballack became both a regular (he made 30 appearances, scoring four goals) and one of the side's leading players. Kaiserslautern reached the quarter finals of the Champions League, but were knocked out by Bayern Munich.

On 1 July 1999, some two months after his first full international, Ballack moved to Bayer Leverkusen at the age of 22, for a transfer fee of 8 m Deutschmarks (€4.8 m).

Bayer Leverkusen

It was at Bayer Leverkusen that Ballack made his big breakthrough. Coaches Christoph Daum and Klaus Toppmöller granted him the whole of the pitch as his sovereign territory. With Bayer, he was the man who pulled the strings in the centre of the pitch, making late runs into the opponents penalty box and also the reliable finisher upfront. Over his three seasons at the BayArena, he scored 27 goals in the league, and a further nine goals in Europe.

In 2000, Bayer needed only a draw against minnows SpVgg Unterhaching to lift the league title, but an unexpected own goal by Ballack sunk the club. Still, the disappointment of costing his team the title did not stymie his development into one of Europe's best midfielders.

He left Leverkusen after a memorable, if ultimately heartbreaking, 2001-02 season when they came second in the Bundesliga again and were beaten in both the UEFA Champions League final and German Cup final. He and Leverkusen teammates Bernd Schneider, Carsten Ramelow, and Oliver Neuville were even beaten finalists with Germany in the 2002 World Cup). Ballack finished with 17 league goals, and his remarkable season led to him being voted into the users' Team of 2002 as well being named Germany's Footballer of the Year.

Bayern Munich

Ballack was approached by Spanish giants Real Madrid, but decided to sign with Bayern Munich in a €12.9 m deal in 2002. Ballack was deployed in a more defensive role, but still managed ten goals as Bayern stormed to the Bundesliga title. He also scored twice in the 3-1 German Cup final win against Kaiserslautern.

After a trying second season with the Bavarian giants, Ballack was back to his best in the 2004/05 season as Bayern Munich completed another double. New coach Felix Magath stated he was the only automatic starter in their midfield. In four seasons at Bayern, Ballack won three Bundesliga and German Cup doubles and scored 47 goals in 135 matches. Between 1998 and 2005, Ballack had notched up 61 goals in his domestic league.

However, Ballack was criticized for constantly choking in important UEFA Champions League matches, as well as continually looking for a big international move. This resulted in open public criticism from club general manager Uli Hoeness, communications director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and club president Franz Beckenbauer (all former Bayern players); the later whom went as far as to accuse Ballack of "saving his strength" for prospective employers Chelsea after Ballack turned in an average performance in the 2006 DFB-Pokal final against Eintracht Frankfurt.

During his few final games for Bayern, he was jeered throughout the stadium by Bayern supporters. Ballack was angry at the jeering because he felt that he had honoured his contract and conducted himself professionally on and off the pitch as a Bayern player. Shortly after his transfer to Chelsea, Ballack proclaimed sarcastically that the acrimony surrounding his departure made him glad as it proved how important he had been to Bayern. Ballack also rubbished accusations that money was his primary motivation in moving to Chelsea, stating that he earned well at Bayern. Ballack stated that he had joined Chelsea to fulfil his dream of playing abroad. He also stated that Chelsea's fellow Premiership club Manchester United had made him an approach, but he decided that Chelsea were a more attractive team to join.

Chelsea F.C.

Ballack agreed to join Chelsea on a Bosman transfer on 15 May 2006. During his last season as a Bayern player there were rumours of interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, but Ballack instead chose to go to Stamford Bridge where he had, arguably, a better chance of winning trophies. Shortly after arriving at Chelsea, Ballack stated that he hoped to end his career at Stamford Bridge. He also expressed his hopes of eventually making his mark on English football as great as those of famous midfielders Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira.

After debates in the media as to whether Ballack and Frank Lampard could play together in the same team, Chelsea manager José Mourinho confirmed that he was not worried about the players' compatibility. Mourinho said of Ballack: "For me he's one of the best players in the world. He's very intelligent, tactically very strong and he scores a lot of goals. For me in Europe there's only England and Chelsea's Frank Lampard who plays at that level. The two would form a dream pair."

Ballack's Chelsea debut came on Monday 31 July 2006, during a practice match at UCLA's intramural football pitch. Ballack was presented to the media the following day and was also given his favoured number 13 shirt which he has worn throughout his career. On 27 August 2006, Ballack was handed his Premiership debut for Chelsea against Blackburn Rovers F.C..

Ballack scored his first goal for Chelsea on 12 September 2006 in the Champions League group stage match against SV Werder Bremen at Stamford Bridge with a penalty. However, he received his first straight red card of his career and was banned for the next three Premiership matches for violent conduct against Momo Sissoko in Chelsea's 1-0 win over Liverpool F.C. September 17 2006. Ballack later waited outside Liverpool's dressing room after the match to apologise to Sissoko.

Ballack scored his first Premiership goal on 21 October 2006 against Portsmouth F.C. in a home game at Stamford Bridge. Didier Drogba headed a poor Pompey clearance back across the front of their goal, where Ballack was on hand to head it past the stranded David James. In his very next Premiership game, on 28 October 2006, Ballack scored his second Premiership goal against Sheffield United. He has now scored 3 goals overall for Chelsea.

International career

Ballack celebrates a goal with Miroslav Klose and Oliver NeuvilleOn March 26, 1996, Ballack stood in the starting XI for the national U21 team's encounter with Denmark, shortly after signing for Chemnitz. In all, he played 19 matches for this side, scoring four goals. Then, following his move to Kaiserslautern, national coach Berti Vogts called him up to the senior team.

Ballack's first appearance, however, did not come until April 28, 1999, by which time the man in charge was Erich Ribbeck. Germany was playing Scotland on that day, and Ballack came on after sixty minutes to replace Dietmar Hamann. Bizarrely, the Bremen floodlights failed during the course of this match, yet this didn't turn out to be a bad omen for the rest of Ballack's international career.

Euro 2000 wasn't a bright spot for Germany (Ballack only played 63 minutes at this tournament), but the World Cup two years later in Japan and South Korea became a glorious tournament for the country - and primarily for Ballack. Until that time, he wasn't without his detractors, because he suffered the fate every exceptional player has to live with: as soon as Ballack put in a performance that wasn't of the highest class, he came under criticism from the press, while a great game was considered normal.

But the World Cup became a triumphal procession for Ballack. His three goals against Ukraine won the qualifying playoffs and made sure Germany would go to Asia, where he again proved to be the player who made the difference. Only his goals separated Germany from the USA and South Korea during the knock-out rounds and sent his side to the final. But what the experts lauded even more was his last-gasp effort to stop an opponent from scoring in the semi-final - in so doing he risked a yellow card but still didn't shy away from the tackle. That proved his leadership qualities. In the end, he was booked indeed and had to sit out the final.

Following Euro 2004, Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Rudi Völler at the helm of the national team and made Ballack the side's captain. In a warm-up in his home country, Ballack scored the fourth goal in the 4-1 thrashing of the USA in late March 2006 to prepare for the World Cup in Germany.

In his first 74 internationals, Ballack found the net 34 times. He wears the famous number 13 jersey of Germany which was previously worn by Gerd Müller.

In the 2006 FIFA World Cup he was unable to start in Germany's first game against Costa Rica due to a calf strain, but appeared in the second game against Poland, and assisted on a Miroslav Klose goal in the third group stage game against Ecuador. Ballack also played in the 2-0 second round victory against Sweden, a game notable for the fact that he took no less than seven shots from distance, but did not score. Despite not being at full fitness, he featured prominently in the quarter-final match against Argentina, where he provided the cross that led to Germany's equaliser, and later converted Germany's second kick in the Germans' 4-2 penalty shootout triumph after the game had finished 1-1 after extra-time. Ballack played in the semi-final against Italy, which Germany lost 0-2 in extra-time with just two minutes before the game would have gone to penalties. He sat out the third place playoff against Portugal due to injuries, but his team still won 3-1.

Ballack ended the 2006 World Cup finals with no goals and one assist. He was named Man of the Match in the games against Ecuador and Argentina, and was included in FIFA's World Cup All Star Team.

Lionel Messi Biography

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Lionel Messi started playing football at a very early age for his hometown club, Newell's Old Boys. From the age of 11, he suffered from a hormone deficiency. As his parents were unable to pay for treatment in Argentina, they decided to move to Barcelona, Spain. Shortly after arriving, Lionel tried his luck with a trial at FC Barcelona, despite being only 13 years of age. He excelled at the trial and rapidly found himself starting for the Barcelona B team, averaging more than a goal per game.

Barcelona debut

In October 2004 Messi made his official debut for the first team against RCD Espanyol, becoming the third-youngest player to ever play for FC Barcelona. When he scored his first senior goal for the club against Albacete on May 1, 2005, Messi was only 17 years, 10 months and 7 days old, making him the youngest player ever to score a league goal for FC Barcelona.

Argentina U-20

Messi was offered the chance to play for the Spanish national side, but he declined, preferring to wait for the opportunity to play for the country of his birth. In June 2004 he got his chance, playing in an under-20 friendly match against Paraguay.

In June 2005 Messi starred for the Argentina U-20 team that won the Football World Youth Championship in Netherlands, picking up the Golden Boot as top scorer with 6 goals, and the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. Despite his youth, Lionel was already being compared to Diego Maradona, one of the greatest football players of all time. This comparison was also done with fellow Argentinian striker Carlos Teves. On June 27, FC Barcelona renewed his contract until 2010, establishing a selling clause of €150 million.

International debut

On August 4, José Pekerman called him up to the senior Argentine national team. He made his debut against Hungary. However, he only played for three minutes of the game, being shown a red card, forcing him to leave the field in his first attempt on goal. He left the pitch in tears and the referee was pilloried by many for what was perceived to be a harsh call. Messi famously acknowledged his shortened initiation in international football before Argentina's next match against Paraguay saying "This is a re-debut, The first one was a bit short."

Fernando Torres biography

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Fernando José Torres Sanz (20 March 1984) is a Spanish football player and star striker of Atlético de Madrid.

He was born in the Fuenlabrada neighbourhood, traditionally Real Madrid territory, but he grew up to wear the red and white stripes of Atlético Madrid. Nicknamed El Niño (The Kid) for his youthful face, Torres is a striker for the Spanish National Team and Atlético Madrid, being its current captain despite his age.

In 1999, Torres signed his first contract with the club and at the end of the 1999–2000 season he was part of the first team. His next success was at the European Under-16 Championship in England in 2001, where he finished as the Player of the Tournament en route to Spain's victory.

Torres made his debut for Atlético Madrid in the Vicente Calderón Stadium against Leganes and he scored his first goal for the club the following week, in a game against Albacete. 2002 saw Atlético Madrid returning to the first division of Spanish football. In his first season playing in the top division, Torres did not find the transition from second tier football too much of a hindrance as he scored 13 goals. Torres has been the top scorer for Atlético in La Liga for the past four seasons.

He is the youngest player to play for Atlético Madrid and the youngest to become captain (at age 19).

International career

In November of 2001 Torres played in the Under-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago. In July of 2002, he played in the Under-19 European Championships in Norway, a tournament Spain won. Torres was both top scorer and Player of the Tournament. He made his debut for the Under-21 national team in 2003. On September 6, later that year, Torres made his debut for the senior national team against Portugal. His first goal for Spain came against Italy on April 28, 2004.

It was widely expected that a good performance for Spain at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany would boost Torres' already significant demand among major European clubs. At his first ever appearance in a World Cup finals match, Torres scored with a spectacular volley helping Spain to a win over Ukraine. In the second group match Spain rallied from a 0-1 deficit against Tunisia to win 3-1. Torres scored in the 76th minute for Spain to take the lead 2-1 and then again from a penalty kick in the 90th minute. He was subsequently given a much-needed rest in Spain's third group match against Saudi Arabia, entering the game only to substitute José Antonio Reyes in the 70th minute. Having managed to score three goals in the tournament, Torres was one of the leading goal scorers in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He was also the first player to score three goals in the tournament. Torres started the round of 16 matches against France, but after initially taking the lead, Spain went on to lose 1-3 and were knocked out of the tournament.

The Spanish national team coach, Luis Aragonés, remarked that he "never scores two goals the same" because of the way he seems to score a different goal every time he steps onto the pitch.

Francesco Totti biography

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Francesco Totti (born September 27, 1976 in Rome) is an Italian football player, who currently plays for A.S. Roma in Serie A and for the Italian national team, who are the current world champions after winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Francesco Totti's position is that of a striker or an attacking midfielder, though he's best known for playing as the "trequartista", a compromise between the two positions where the player acts as a link between midfield and attack. He is also Roma's first choice to take free kicks, having scored a number of goals from dead-ball situations.

Totti is widely recognised as the symbol of Roma, having never left the team despite the possibility of playing in stronger and richer clubs, and being the number one goalscorer in the club's history.

Totti was born and raised in Rome, in the Porta Metronia city neighborhood. His parents are Enzo and Fiorella Totti. Unlike other children his age who preferred to watch cartoons, Totti was always more interested in watching football matches instead. Totti constantly played football with older boys. His mother refused a big deal for her son from A.C. Milan while waiting for a deal from his favourite club A.S. Roma. His mother intended to never let her son step foot out of the "Eternal City". Totti finally joined the A.S. Roma junior team in 1989.

Totti is married to Ilary Blasi, a former model, who currently works as commentator and host on several RAI TV programmes. The couple had their first baby, named Cristian, on November 6, 2005.

Totti also runs a football school, named Number Ten, and owns a motorcycle racing team called "Totti Top Sport".

His best friend is his brother, Riccardo. However, Totti always says that his brother was the better player when they were kids, but he was unlucky on his way. Riccardo now is Totti's agent.

He also had a bad relationship with his previous coach Fabio Capello, who is currently coach of Real Madrid. Totti accused Capello of being a traitor for leaving Roma suddenly without a warning, and left the Roman team in a very bad shape which had them almost relegated to the second division in 2004-2005 season. This rift started on Capello's last days with Roma: according to Totti, his behaviour to most of the players changed, and once advised the younger players not take Totti as their role model player, but to take Brazilian Emerson as an idol for his hard work. Several months later, Capello, Emerson and Frenchman Jonathan Zebina all left AS Roma for rivals Juventus suddenly.

Additional information

A goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Totti published two self-effacing joke books in order to raise money for a children's charity. They were bestsellers for many months. Some of the jokes were filmed into short clips that were acted out by Totti ,himself, along with some of his teammates like Alessandro Del Piero, Gianluigi Buffon, Damiano Tommasi, Alessandro Nesta and Antonio Cassano.

Totti's idol player in his childhood was ex-Roma captain Giuseppe Giannini, whom he considers as his elder brother: he always wished to just shake hands with Giannini, and was one of his biggest fans. Several years after, Totti himself had the opportunity to play alongside Giannini on the pitch in the AS Roma kit.

Totti is famous for his chipping technique, called in Italian il cucchiaio (in English, "spoon" or in his Roman dialect (Romanesco), "er cucchiaio"). He has scored many beautiful goals using this technique. His famous early goals using this technique was in a shoot-out against Netherlands in the Euro 2000 semi-final when he scored against Netherlands keeper Edwin van der Sar, he also scored a second famous goal two years later against Lazio in the derby, which ended 5-1 to A.S. Roma. At the time, they played their best football. Consequently, his autobiography is entitled "Mo Je Faccio Er Cucchiaio", which is Roman dialect (Romanesco) for "Now I'm going to do the Chip Shot".

He was named in the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living footballers selected by Pelé as a part of FIFA's centenary celebrations in March 2004.

National team

Very talented as a teenager, Totti scored in Italy's 4-1 defeat by Spain in the final of the UEFA European Under-18 Championship in July 1995. In the final of the Under-21 competition in 1996, Totti opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw against the Spanish before triumphing on penalties.

Totti made his senior Azzurri debut in the Euro 2000 qualifying victory against Switzerland on 10 October 1998. He played in the finals tournament and scored against Romania and Belgium and played in the final; losing to France. Although he was on the losing side, Totti was named Man of the Match in the final and described by many soccer legends, including Michael Platini (France), as the best player of the tournament.

Disappointment followed at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, with Totti failing to make a significant impact and then being sent off as Italy lost to the South Korea in the second round, when he controversially received a second yellow card for alleged penalty area diving by the referee Byron Moreno.

At Euro 2004, Totti garnered negative media attention when he spat at Christian Poulsen, a midfielder for Denmark. Totti was subsequently banned until the semi-finals, but did not play in the tournament again, as Italy failed to qualify for the next round. In defense of Totti, Poulsen has developed a reputation for a dirty player. The Danish defender was described as "a coward" by A.C. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti during the 05-06 season, for his continuous provocation of Kakà with the ball far away, Sporting Life.

Totti's participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup was put at risk by the broken ankle he suffered a few months before the tournament. He recovered in time to join the national team, although he was not yet in his best shape. During the match with Australia, he scored from the penalty spot in the closing seconds of regular time to give Italy a 1-0 victory. This propelled Italy into the quarter finals. After the goal, he celebrated by sucking his thumb, in honor of his young son. Italy then went on to face Ukraine, a match in which Totti provided a valuable assist to striker Luca Toni. Italy went on to win the match 3-0 and moved on to the semifinals to face Germany. Totti started the game against Germany as well, and stayed on for 120 minutes, helping Italy defeat the Germans 2-0 in a sensational ending to the game. The Italians went on to face the French team in the finals. The score remained 1-1 through extra-time, after which the Italians won by a penalty shootout. For his work at this World Cup, Totti was selected for the 23-man Mastercard All-Star Team.

Totti is currently considering whether or not to continue playing for the national team after he had made it clear that his intention was to retire after the World Cup. When holding the world cup, he said that he was 50-50, if to retire, or to stay in international play. However, as soon as Roberto Donadoni took over a Italy's head coach, his first intention was to convince Totti to stay on the national team. Totti wanted to retire so he can spend more time with his family. Totti has made the decision to return to the national team next year, and only when he returns to his best form. However Italy's poor start to the Euro 2008 qualifiers has prompted Donadoni to try and persuade Totti to return earlier than planned.


Francesco Totti was just 16 when he made his first appearance for AS Roma in a 2-0 away victory at Brescia Calcio on March 28, 1993. He scored four goals in twenty one outings in 1994-95 and over the ensuing seasons became a team regular. He was named Italy's Player of the Year in 2000 and in 2003. The following season (2000-01) he helped AS Roma secure their first league title since 1982-83, having scored thirteen Serie A goals. In the 2001-02 campaign Roma finished runners-up to Juventus, but Totti returned with a then personal-best of fourteen goals during the 2002-03 season.

  • 2003-04: Playing in a more advanced role, Totti hit a career-high twenty goals as Roma finished second in Serie A behind A.C. Milan.
  • 2004-05: A very disappointing season, the only bright side of which was Roma finishing second in the Italian Cup and thus qualifying for the UEFA Cup. In the 2004-05 season Roma had to replace four coaches. Despite all the problems, Totti scored twelve goals, and helped Vincenzo Montella score 21 with numerous assists. On December 19 2004, Totti broke A.S. Roma's goal scoring record when he scored against Parma. It was Totti's 107th goal for the club, a record previously held by Roberto Pruzzo.
  • 2005-06: A strange season for Roma and Totti. On 19 February 2006, while playing in the Italian Championship against Empoli F.C., he suffered a fracture of his left fibula, and severed the interconnecting ligaments with the malleolus. He returned from his injury on 11 May 2006 as a substitute in Roma's 3-1 defeat to Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia. As in the 2004/05 season, A.S Roma came in second in the Italian Cup (again trailing to Inter Milan). In the Serie A they finished 5th, and only qualified for the UEFA Cup for the second season in a row. The team won eleven consecutive matches, breaking the all time record of 10 consecutive wins. The last match was won against rivals S.S Lazio, before a home draw with a late goal from Inter. Coach Luciano Spalletti turned the team's line up from a defensive one to an attacking one (despite playing without strikers for most of the season, and for the last 8 or so games playing without Totti), and the team moved from fifteenth to fifth by the end of the season. The team was spectacular in mid-season, with Totti scoring fifteen goals; an impressive number for a midfielder often playing out of position as a lone striker. He also provided many assists


Francesco Totti uses a variety of celebrations for special occasions. One of the more classic and remembered is the one where he took his shirt off and had a shirt under that said "6 (sei) Unica!" meaning you are unique, he flashed this to Ilary Blasi, his current wife. His most common celebrations are the one where he runs to the side , kissing his ring finger in honor of his wife and than pointing upwards with his finger, thanking god. When his son, Cristian, was born, he began sucking his thumb as a celebration to honour him.

Steven Gerrard Biography

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Steven Gerrard was born in Whiston, Merseyside and brought up in Huyton, Merseyside. While attending Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School in West Derby, Liverpool, Gerrard was known to go on scouting trips to check out rival school teams. In 1994 — when he was in Year 9 — he was part of the Liverpool YTS scheme and almost made it into the England Schoolboys team, an odd quirk considering his now massively successful career. He is regarded as one of the best English footballers of his era.

Unlike many other Liverpool legends such as Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, and Jamie Carragher, Gerrard was actually a Liverpool fan as a youth.

Incidentally, his younger cousin, Anthony Gerrard, is a professional footballer who began his career with city-rivals Everton, and now is a highly-rated squad member at League Two side Walsall.

Gerrard is currently engaged to Alex Curran from Merseyside. The couple started dating in 2002, getting engaged in 2004, and plan to marry in the summer of 2007. The live in Formby, and have two daughters: Lily-Ella (born 23 February 2004) and Lexie (born 9 May 2006).

Gerrard joined Liverpool as a schoolboy in 1989 and has come up through the ranks to the first team, in the footsteps of fellow homegrown youth academy seniors like Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler. Gerrard made his Reds debut on the 30 November 1998 as a second-half substitute for Vegard Heggem against Blackburn. His full debut came in the UEFA Cup against Celta Vigo and despite the Reds losing on the night, Gerrard's widely-praised performance belied his tender years. He scored his first goal for the club on 5 December 1999 against Sheffield Wednesday in a match where Liverpool were inspired by their younger players when several of the more senior players missed the game through injury.

Gerrard was one of three Liverpool players that scored in the famous World Cup qualifying game in September 2001 against Germany (1–5 away victory), which was his first international goal. That season, he started all three of Liverpool's Cup Finals, scoring the second goal against Alaves in the UEFA Cup Final. At the end of the season he was named PFA Young Player of the Year.

Gerrard was approached by Chelsea to sign for them during the summer of 2004, but he eventually chose to stay at Liverpool. It is known that he was on the brink of signing for the London club but was persuaded to stay because of his family and friends. It was also alleged in the British tabloid press that Gerrard had been the target of death threats from aggrieved Liverpool fans. The arrival of new Liverpool manager Rafael Benítez also played a part in his decision.

It is widely thought that the club captaincy was handed to Gerrard in 2003–04 season so that he could inspire his teammates, and to compel him to take responsibility for his own indifferent disciplinary record, which apparently worked as in the 2003–2004 season, he was booked only twice. Former Liverpool team mate, Michael Owen, expressed relief in his autobiography at Gerrard being named captain in 2003–2004, as it took some pressure off his own shoulders.

A foot injury sustained against rivals Manchester United on 20 September 2004 ruled him out of first team football until late November 2004. In the final game of that year's Champions League group stage Gerrard scored a crucial twenty-five-yard strike against Greek team Olympiakos. Liverpool needed to win by two clear goals to progress to the last sixteen of the competition. They were 1–0 down at half-time, but scored two goals before Gerrard secured their place with their third. He has since claimed that this was his best, if not his most important, goal for Liverpool to date.

Another notable goal, and an example of his drive and inspirational ability, was his contribution during the 2005 Champions' League final against AC Milan in Istanbul. Unmarked by the opposition, he headed a goal that kickstarted Liverpool's comeback from a 3–0 deficit. Minutes later, former teammate, Vladimir Smicer, would score again for the Reds. Gerrard was also crucial in the winning of a penalty when he was fouled by Gennaro Ivan Gattuso in the penalty area. Xabi Alonso scored from a rebound, having his penalty saved initially, to make it 3–3.

Liverpool went on to win the match via a penalty shootout, making Gerrard the second youngest captain (after Didier Deschamps) ever to lift the European Cup. After the match he gave a hint of his future when he said to the press: "How can I leave after a night like this?" In July 2005, however, contract negotiations broke down between Gerrard and the club. Reports stated that Gerrard was about to leave Liverpool and Chelsea were again reported to have tabled a British record bid of thirty-two million pounds for the player, which was ultimately rejected. Throughout the episode, Liverpool remained insistent that they wanted Gerrard to stay. However on 5 July Gerrard stated publicly that he wished to leave the Reds.

To the delight of Liverpool fans, Gerrard changed his mind the next day and pledged his future to the club. He also apologised to the club's supporters and insisted that there were no get-out clauses in the new contract that he would be signing. He also offered to give up his captaincy, but was told by Rafael Benítez that it was not necessary. On the morning of 8 July, Gerrard signed a new four-year deal with Liverpool alongside teammate, Jamie Carragher.

To cap Gerrard's great year in the Champions' League he was named as UEFA's Most Valuable Player for the 2004–05 Champions' League season. He was also in the running for French sport newspaper L'Equipe's prestigious Ballon D'Or award. Rounding out 2005, Gerrard came third in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year behind Ellen MacArthur (second) and Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff (first).

At the end of the 2005–06 season Gerrard received his greatest personal accolade to date, when he was voted PFA Player of the Year by his fellow players, becoming the first Liverpool player to win the award since John Barnes in 1988.

Real Madrid director Benito Floro was recently quoted as saying: "I've recommended (to club president Fernando Martin) as priority signings a powerful central striker like Adriano, and a top midfielder in case Zinedine Zidane leaves. Gerrard is the football player that I included on the list, a player that the club has already wanted to sign in previous seasons". Gerrard quashed any transfer rumours, publicly stating, "I'm not going to get involved in all that kind of speculation again, I'm settled and happy at Liverpool, and I'm not going to go through another summer like the last two. "I'll be staying here until the day someone tells me they don't want me."

Gerrard capped off what he called his most successful season to date by captaining Liverpool to victory in the FA Cup. He scored twice in the Final against West Ham, including a dramatic equaliser in injury time to send the game into extra-time. The 35-yard blast (past Shaka Hislop) has been called one of the greatest goals in FA Cup final history, and was Match of the Day's Goal of the Season for 2005–06. It had been reported that it took just one second for the 35-yard strike to hit the back of the net, which would mean that the ball was travelling at approximately 68 miles per hour (about 109 km/h) when it was struck.

Scoring in the 2006 FA Cup Final meant that Gerrard had managed the impressive feat of scoring in all four major cup finals: FA Cup (2006 vs West Ham), League Cup (2003 vs Manchester United), UEFA Cup (2001 vs Alaves), and European Cup (2005 vs AC Milan).

Gerrard suffered an injury scare days before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when it was suggested that he might be ruled out of England's first game of the tournament. He was deemed fit to make his first ever World Cup appearance (having missed the entire 2002 tournament through injury), and started in the side that beat Paraguay 1-0. He then went on to score twice in the group stages of the tournament - first netting England's second goal in a 2-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago with a long-range, curled strike (coincidentally, again past Hislop) in injury time. This victory, in which Gerrard's Liverpool team-mate Peter Crouch also scored, ensured England's progress to the second round of the tournament with a game to spare. Gerrard was then rested for the final group game against Sweden, as a precaution against picking up a second booking that would have ruled him out of the second round match (having already received one against Paraguay). He came off the bench to score a powerfully headed goal in the 85th minute, giving England the lead in a game that finished 2-2. Gerrard was one of three England players to see their penalty saved by Ricardo Pereira in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out which was won by Portugal.

In August 2006, the new England national football team manager, Steve McLaren, appointed Gerrard vice-captain of the national side.

Cristiano Ronaldo biography

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CrisTiano Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, (born 5 February 1985), better known as Cristiano Ronaldo, is a Portuguese professional football player, who plays for Manchester United F.C. and Portugal, and is considered one of the finest young talents today.

Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal to his mother Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro and his father José Dinis Aveiro. He grew up with a brother, Hugo, and two sisters, Elma and Katia. His second name ("Ronaldo") is relatively rare in Portugal. His parents named him after former US president Ronald Reagan because he was his father's favourite actor, and not for political reasons.

His father, Dinis Aveiro died on September 7, 2005. Ronaldo played in a World Cup qualifier against Russia only hours after receiving the news. He was also granted compassionate leave by Sir Alex Ferguson and missed the Manchester derby against Manchester City on September 10. However, he declared himself available for Manchester United's next match in the UEFA Champions League, against Villarreal.

In October 2005, Ronaldo and another man were questioned by police for an alleged sexual assault. Ronaldo denied the accusation and the Crown Prosecution Service stated there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

Cristiano was previously linked with Merche Romero (a Spanish TV anchorwoman working in Portugal. She is a divorcee, 9-years older than Ronaldo); she confirmed (see Portuguese magazine Lux of August 2006) the relationship in the Portuguese press, although Ronaldo has never confirmed or denied the relationship, as he chooses to keep his personal life private and separated from his professional life. More recently, the Portuguese media have reported that the relationship has ended. Neither Cristiano nor Merche were available to comment on the reports; however, a friend of the presenter told Spanish reporters that the relation is over and that Merche is devastated. On September 20, 2006 it was confirmed, by Merche, that her and Cristiano had indeed broken up.

In the past, Ronaldo has dated the model Jordana Jardel, sister of Brazilian footballer Mario Jardel, and model Lauren Frain. Ronaldo has done charity work, as well as flying out Martunis, an 11-year-old Indonesian tsunami survivor and his father to attend one of their World Cup qualifiers in June 2005; covering all their expenses. Subsequently all the players contributed money to buy them a house in Indonesia.

After the two World Cup qualifiers, Ronaldo flew to Indonesia to visit the areas affected by the tsunami and to raise funds. He met the Vice President of the Indonesian Republic Jusuf Kalla and the President of East Timor Xanana Gusmão, and raised £66,000 (about $120,000 USD) by auctioning off his personal sports gear in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Ronaldo first began kicking a football when he was three, and when he started primary school at age six, his passion for the sport was obvious. His favourite boyhood team was SL Benfica even though he would later join their rival, Sporting CP. He first played for an amateur team, Andorinha, where his father was the kit man, when he was just eight years old. By 1995, at just ten years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo's reputation was growing in Portugal. Madeira's top two teams, CS Marítimo and CD Nacional were both interested in signing him. Marítimo, the bigger team, missed a crucial meeting with Rui Santos manager of Andorinha, and as a result Ronaldo signed for Nacional. After a title-winning campaign at Nacional, Ronaldo went on a three day trial with Sporting Lisbon who subsequently signed him for an undisclosed sum.

Sporting Lisbon

Ronaldo joined Sporting's other youth players who trained at the Alcochete, the club's "football factory," where he received first-class instruction. Sporting realised that Ronaldo needed more support and arranged for his mother to join him. He made his debut for Sporting Lisbon against Moreirense and scored 2 goals. He also featured for Portugal in the UEFA Under 17 Championships.

His performances at the UEFA Under 17 championship drew him to the attention of the wider football world. He was first spotted by former Liverpool F.C. manager Gérard Houllier at the age of 16. However, Liverpool later declined him because he was too young and needed some time to develop into a top footballer. However he came to the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2003, when Sporting Lisbon beat Manchester United 3–1 in the inauguration of the Alvalade XXI stadium in Lisbon. Ronaldo demonstrated his ability to play on both wings. After the match, United's players spoke enthusiastically of the young talent that they had just played against, saying they would rather have him in their team than play against him in the future.

Manchester United

Ferguson decided that he wanted the youngster for his team, who were in the market for a right-sided midfielder with the departure of David Beckham to Real Madrid; Cristiano was signed for a fee of £12.24 million. He made his debut for Manchester United as a 60th minute substitute against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford. United were then 1-0 up but with just minutes on the pitch, Ronaldo won a penalty which Ruud Van Nistelrooy duly converted. The match ended in a 4-0 win to Manchester United and Ronaldo's contributions were hyped everywhere, with certain British tabloids running headlines such as Seven Heaven. He has played primarily as a winger for United and can play on either wing.

However for all his skill and pace, Ronaldo supposedly did not want the pressure of living up to expectations with this number, and so initially asked for the number 28 which he wore at Sporting. Preferring a free role, he has often been accused of being selfish. A row between him and Ruud van Nistelrooy at the Carrington training ground intensified speculation about their roles at the club. Ferguson has however put his faith with Ronaldo, who signed a new deal with United that will last through 2010. Ronaldo is also quoted in the Manchester Evening News as saying "United have stood by me and been there for me and I want to repay that."

Ronaldo has often had problems with his temper during games, he was sent off in a game against Manchester City and received a one-match ban imposed by UEFA for a "one-fingered gesture" towards Benfica fans in a UEFA Champions League match in December 2005. While playing for Portugal in a friendly against Luxembourg he was given a yellow card for pushing Jeff Strasser in the throat in retaliation after Strasser tackled him. Felipe Scolari warned Ronaldo to keep his temper in check during the World Cup.

On the 29 October 2005 Ronaldo scored Manchester United's 1000th Premiership goal, in a 4–1 loss at the hands of Middlesbrough. He bagged a double double in February, with two goals at home to Fulham and another pair at Fratton Park, and also scored in the following Premiership game against Wigan taking his tally to 8 Premiership goals. On 26 February 2006, Ronaldo played in the Carling Cup Final against Wigan in the Millennium Stadium at Cardiff, and scored a goal - taking his season's tally to 10 goals.

He was named FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year 2005, the only award to be voted for by fans. He also ranked 20th in the FIFA Player of the Year 2005 standings.

On 8 July 2006, after the sending off of United team-mate Wayne Rooney, and after much speculation in the English media that he had influenced Rooney's red card, Ronaldo told reporters that he thought he "should get out of Manchester as the circumstances are not right to keep playing there."

"I have told my agent I am prepared to leave. I want to do it in the best manner possible. I want to play for Real Madrid and dream of doing so," Ronaldo told the Spanish sports daily Marca.

On 9 July, he also said for SIC, a Portuguese television channel, he cannot understand all verbal violence and pejorative speculation about him. Cristiano declared he did not behave wrongly when Portugal defeated England and so cannot be blamed for defending his home country colours. He added that he cannot live and work in a place where people do not like him, so he would be glad to move out of England.

Several news sources considered that Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United was imminent, however, Ronaldo chose to remain at United. His decision may have been influenced by Sir Alex Ferguson, who sent assistant boss Carlos Queiroz to Portugal hoping to change the young player's mind, and teammate Wayne Rooney also pleaded with Ronaldo not to leave the team and to let their differences rest.

On July 12, United released a statement saying "The club can confirm there is no possibility of Cristiano being sold. Cristiano recently signed a new contract until 2010 and the club fully expects him to honour that contract. The club will not listen to any offers for Cristiano," and on July 17, Sir Alex Ferguson said, "Cristiano will be coming back," while Chelsea manager José Mourinho said, "If he stays in England, I think he can turn things around." Cristiano Ronaldo returned to United after all potential problems were cleared.

Nevertheless, Ronaldo remained popular with the majority of Manchester United fans when he played (and scored) in his first Premiership match since the 2006 World Cup. Manchester United fans could clearly be heard chanting "there's only one Ronaldo" at various points in the game, in a 5-1 win over Fulham F.C. Since then, a BBC report stated that Ronaldo has said he no longer wishes to leave Manchester United, and is happy to remain at the club. He continued his fine world cup form in to the start of the season, netting 4 goals in just 11 premiership games, including a fine free-kick againt Portsmouth FC Old Trafford in front of 76,004 people.

International career

Ronaldo made his international debut in August 2003, against Kazakhstan. He scored Portugal's only goal in their 2–1 loss to Greece in the opening match of Euro 2004 and the first goal of the semi final against the Netherlands, which Portugal won 2–1. The final saw a rematch of the opening game of the tournament, and again, Greece emerged victorious.

Ronaldo represented Portugal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and was the second highest scorer in FIFA World Cup qualification in the European zone with 7 goals. As of 17 June 2005, he has scored 11 goals in 25 appearances for his country.

Ronaldo scored his first World Cup goal against Iran with a penalty kick.

In the Round of 16, he left Portugal's 1-0 win over Netherlands injured after a high tackle by Khalid Boulahrouz.

Ronaldo recovered in time to play in the quarter-final of the competition against England on 1 July 2006, scoring the final penalty shoot-out that sealed the Portuguese victory. However, Ronaldo was widely criticised for his gamesmanship by the English Press. England's Wayne Rooney stamped on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho's groin after a struggle for the ball. Ronaldo, Rooney's Manchester United team-mate, then sprinted over to appeal to the referee. Rooney pushed Ronaldo before receiving a red card. Former England striker and TV pundit Alan Shearer suggested Rooney might "stick one on Ronaldo" when the two meet again. BBC pundit Gary Lineker showed viewers footage of Ronaldo winking at the Portuguese bench after Rooney was sent off. Also before the match, Ronaldo was seen to whisper something in Rooney’s ear as he walked by him, with a headbutt feint from behind. Ronaldo's behaviour in the match also came under fire from several England players, most notably Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. In their respective autobiographies, Gerrard claimed that 'a dark side stains Cristiano Ronaldo's game', whilst Lampard said Ronaldo's actions made him 'sick'.

Sven-Göran Eriksson told reporters that the referee Horacio Elizondo explained after the match that the red card was for the initial challenge on Carvalho. Elizondo confirmed the initial story told by Eriksson to the The Times, saying "It was violent play and therefore he got a red card. People can say what they want (about Ronaldo) but this had absolutely no influence. For me it was a clear red card, so I didn't react to the Portuguese players." Portuguese keeper Ricardo backed Ronaldo, saying: "There always has to be a scapegoat when someone loses… I don't think influenced the referee. The referee was right on top of it."

Ronaldo said, "I complained to the referee about the foul but I didn't ask for a red card". After the match he admitted reports that Real Madrid were interested in him were correct, and was now more likely to go to the Spanish club or elsewhere over the summer transfer period.

After England's elimination Ronaldo was attacked by the English tabloids. The Sun made a dart board with a picture of his wink in a similar fashion to the one made after the 1998 World Cup for David Beckham by The Daily Mirror, another English tabloid.

Ronaldo has said that Rooney was a friend, and that he was not trying to get Rooney a red card. Rooney said, "I bear no ill feeling to Cristiano but am disappointed that he chose to get involved."

Wayne Rooney was investigated by FIFA's disciplinary committee after being sent off during England's World Cup quarter-final defeat against Portugal, banned for two competitive matches and fined 5 000 Swiss francs (2 207 pounds).

On July 5, in the semi-final against France, which Portugal lost 1-0, Ronaldo was loudly booed each time he had possession of the ball, by French and English fans alike. At the end of the match, he broke down in tears for his loss, like he had done on many other occasions. Though generally considered the best player on the pitch during the match, several reports accused Ronaldo (and other members of his side) of trying to influence the referee by diving. There have been similar accusations in the past, and Ronaldo has been booked for the offence more than once in the English Premiership. Shortly after he dropped back to second place in the online voting for Best Young Player, it was reported by BBC Sport that this was partly because of an email campaign by an England supporter urging people to vote for Luis Valencia, who was the second place player to prevent Ronaldo from winning the award. Though the online vote only affected the nomination process, FIFA Technical Study Group awarded the honours to Germany's Lukas Podolski, citing Ronaldo's behaviour as a factor.

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