Former world player of the year Luis Figo has joined UEFA as a football adviser, European football’s governing body said yesterday. The 44-year-old former Portugal star will work with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and UEFA’s Football Divison “across a variety of matters including technical aspects of the game, laws of the game and the overall attractiveness of the sport”.
Figo was FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001, a year after winning the Ballon d’Or. “I have learned so much from football that I am now really looking forward to giving something back,” Figo said. He won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002 and added four Spanish La Liga titles — two each with Real and Barcelona — as well as four Italian Serie A crowns with Inter Milan.
He was also part of the Portugal team that lost to Greece in the Euro 2004 final on home soil. He finished his international career with 32 goals in 127 appearances, a record at the time until it was broken by Cristiano Ronaldo. “Luis Figo was a fantastic player who was exemplary in the way he conducted himself both on and off the pitch,” said Ceferin.
Barca promise to try again for Liverpool’s Coutinho
Barcelona are planning a fresh assault on Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho in the January transfer window, the Catalan club’s CEO Oscar Grau promised yesterday. Barca were thwarted in their attempt to prise Coutinho away from Anfield during the summer with Liverpool placing a reported 200mn euros ($238mn) asking price on the midfielder.
Despite the player trying to engineer a move, Liverpool turned down his late transfer request during the close season window. But Grau made clear the Spanish giants had not given up the chase. “We are ready to sign Coutinho, or any other player (during the winter transfer window),” he told a press conference. “We have the money,” Grau said, confirming the club’s announcement in July of record income of 708mn euros ($812.8mn) for 2016/2017 with an after-tax profit of 18mn euros.
Grau added: “The most important thing is the demands from the management, and we will do everything possible to meet them. We want to have the most competitive team possible.”
Barca experienced a tumultuous time during the summer transfer market, losing Coutinho’s compatriot Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record 222mn euros, and bringing in Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund for 105mn euros. But Dembele has endured a nightmare start to life at the Camp Nou. The France international suffered a hamstring injury on his full La Liga debut ruling him out until January at the earliest. Grau also said Barcelona must remain in Spain’s La Liga, following the signing by Catalan leaders of a declaration of independence. “The budgets are based on participation in La Liga. I think that La Liga and Barca must continue together,” Grau said.
Real keeper Navas suffers groin injury
Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas suffered a groin injury while on international duty with Costa Rica, the La Liga club announced. The European champions confirmed that Navas had a “swollen adductor muscle in his right groin” in a statement on their website, but did not say how long the 30-year-old would be out of action.
He joins a long Real injury list featuring the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo, and could miss both Saturday’s La Liga trip to Getafe and Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur at the Santiago Bernabeu. Back-up keeper Kiko Casilla is likely to start at the weekend, with coach Zinedine Zidane’s son Luca set to take his place on the bench. Navas returned to Madrid on Monday before Costa Rica’s final World Cup qualifier against Panama, having played in the 1-1 draw with Honduras in which his country booked their place for next year’s finals in Russia.
FIFA hits Pakistan with ban over ‘interference’
FIFA announced yesterday it has suspended the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for “third-party interference”, in a rare move by the sport’s governing body to issue a blanket ban targeting a country.
The suspension centres on an internal feud at the PFF. This led a court to appoint an administrator to run its affairs in violation of FIFA requirements that such a body be managed independently.
“The PFF representative and club teams are no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted,” FIFA said in a statement.
Senior PFF official Colonel Ahmed Yar Lodhi said he had long anticipated the ban following the government’s intervention in the federation’s affairs. “We are FIFA’s recognised body but the government interfered in our affairs and did not let us work,” Lodhi said. “This situation was unacceptable for FIFA and they have now decided to impose a ban on Pakistan membership, which is very unfortunate.”
In 2015, FIFA suspended Indonesia over government meddling in the country’s football association. It lifted the suspension the following year. The ban on Pakistan comes as neighbour and arch-rival India hosts the U17 World Cup. Pakistan boasted a top place in Asian football until the early 1970s, but a lack of government support and poor infrastructure helped push them as low as 200th currently in the FIFA football rankings. The game is growing in popularity once more, however, even in a country obsessed with cricket.
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