Big names not guaranteed places: Mourinho

The arrivals of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack have increased the competition at Stamford Bridge but Mourinho is adamant he will not be afraid to leave his big-name stars on the bench.

Following the Blues’ 1-0 defeat by MLS All Stars last weekend, Mourinho said: “The players’ name, stature and history doesn’t matter because the team always comes first. We could have Pele and Maradona but the best teams are always in front of the players.

“Nothing and nobody can change that. I will pick a team not for the players. I have to make choices and I will forget their stature and history and how much they earn and the money they cost the club. I am interested in what happens on the pitch and I don’t care about names.”

The colourful Portuguese boss also insisted Abramovich’s desire to enhance Chelsea’s global profile will not get in the way of his and the players’ aspirations to be more successful on the pitch.

Keane no longer king

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has revealed Roy Keane moved to Parkhead despite being warned he would not be a first-choice midfielder and was only the club’s eighth-highest earner.

Keane realised a lifetime ambition by signing for the Hoops after being released by Manchester United in December last year, playing in the Bank of Scotland Premier League for six months before retiring.

He was reported to have been given a huge salary in Glasgow but Strachan, in his autobiography, said: “When Keane signed for us, a number of reports indicated he would be on ’40 000 a week at Parkhead and the deal would be funded partly by (majority shareholder) Dermot Desmond. Neither was correct.

“The salary we agreed with him was considerably less than ’40 000 a week, and even then it was dependent on the number of first-team appearances he made.”

You’re finished, Solskjaer: Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson has urged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to forget any notion of reviving his international career.

After missing virtually three entire seasons with knee trouble, Solskjaer has so far come through Manchester United’s current pre-season campaign without a problem.

The 33-year-old completed another encouraging 90 minutes against FC Porto in Amsterdam last week and, having talked optimistically about returning to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, there have been suggestions Solskjaer could be drafted back into the Norway squad for the eagerly-awaited friendly with Brazil in Oslo on August 16.

Yet Ferguson does not believe adding extra games onto his current workload would be of any benefit to Solskjaer at all.

Zidane song tops charts

Zinedine Zidane has gone from a red card to the top of the French music charts with a song parodying the soccer star’s head butt in the World Cup final.

“Coup de Boule,” or the “Head Butt,” pokes fun at Zidane for ramming his head into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup final July 9. Italy won the game on penalty kicks.

Lyrics warn listeners to “Watch out: It’s the head-butt dance,” while a chorus of “Zidane, he hit him” plays repetitively over an upbeat African tune.

“We lost the World Cup but we still laughed a lot,” the song says. “Trezeguet didn’t play. Barthez didn’t stop anything. The sponsors are all upset.”

David Trezeguet missed a penalty kick in the shootout, and Fabien Barthez was the goalkeeper who didn’t stop any of Italy’s penalties.

Barcelona: Lampard’s dream

Frank Lampard has sensationally revealed that Barcelona will be top of his wish list if he ever calls it a day with Chelsea.

The England midfielder’s growing friendship with Barca superstar Ronaldhino and his increasing regard for the Spanish giants are big factors when the 28-year-old looks beyond life at Stamford Bridge.

And the prospect of joining Barca grew when Lampard chatted with Ronaldinho after Chelsea’s Champions League defeat last season.

Lampard, whose current Chelsea deal runs until 2009, explained: “After the game, Roni came over and we swapped shirts and embraced.

“It was a mark of respect and friendship. Then he smiled at me in this particular way and joked that one day we would be playing for the same team.”

Mind games at Villa

Aston Villa players have been warned to prepare for the moment when Martin O’Neill looks them in the eye to demand if they believe they can be champions.

It’s part of the mind games pursued by arguably the best motivator in football.

Johan Mjallby, the former Celtic star and now player-coach at AIK Stockholm, explained: “Martin is in a class of his own as a motivator and he will make the club strong.

“When it comes to man-management, he is the best I’ve ever come across.

“No matter what type of person you are or what you might require to get you going, Martin gets the best out of every single player in a dressing room.”

Houllier’s objective clear

Olympique Lyonnais opened their Ligue 1 title defence with a 3-1 win at FC Nantes Atlantique last week and, for coach G’rard Houllier, the objective is clear. “Last season we won the title for a fifth consecutive year, which is a record in France. Now we have the opportunity to do something even more special because no club has been crowned champions six years in a row in one of Europe’s top leagues,” Houllier told uefa.com.

Since lifting their first league crown under Jacques Santini in 2001/02, Lyon have set about dominating French football in uncompromising fashion.

Paul Le Guen masterminded three more championships before Houllier’s appointment in 2005, and last term Lyon were simply unstoppable.

Unbeaten until December, they amassed 84 points, a Ligue 1 record, and condemned their supposed rivals to a battle for second place.

August 2006
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