Item the first: Europol, the continent-wide law enforcement authority, has uncovered evidence of a far-reaching line of rigged football matches, possibly controlled by a crime syndicate based in Singapore. Details are few, as of yet, but it appears this might have reached as far as international tournaments and possibly even Champions League matches.
Most stories are "unsure" as to whether this new evidence of mob involvement relates to the same match-fixing scandals (mostly Italian) that were already punished over the past few years. My guess is that it does - IE, that many of the matches we already learned were fixed, we will now learn we fixed with the help of mobsters, as opposed to just corrupt Italian football officials and their cronies. Nonetheless, I don't think any of the recent calciopoli stories involved CL or World Cup matches, so there may well be new evidence uncovered here. At any rate, it's important to note that Europol hasn't released any substantial details, so we can't say for sure what teams, players, or leagues may have been involved. Needless to say, we'll be following the story and trying to keep everyone apprised.
- Lazio's Miroslav Klose, formerly of Bayern and veteran of Die Nationalelf, will miss up to 2 months with sprained knee ligaments. Depending upon his rehab schedule, he should b back before the end of the Serie A season (which currently sees Lazio fighting for a Champions League spot, and conceivably with a chance to make a run at the title). So harsh news for Lazio, and for German supporters who like seeing Klose in action (which is most of us). He'll certainly be out for this week's friendly, along with a lot of other absentees, and may or may not return in time for the two Kazakhstan matches in March.
- ESPN's Soccernet attempts to gin up a "Robben is angry" controversy - their headline reads Robben Frustrated by Dream Duo. I'm sure Arjen is not happy at having lost his starting spot, but there hasn't been any evidence of angst or anger in the locker room. The article doesn't even give us a Robben quote to work with. Tommy puts it best: "There is no rivalry between Robben and Müller or something else. We are one team, we have a lot of options in our attacking formation."
It might almost be time for a bit of line-up rotation, though ... not that it even matters whether a given player complains or not, but the fact is you need to keep everyone fresh. You want your regular starters to get a break sometimes, and you also want your valued back-ups to get some playing time in order to stay in shape and keep their timing down. If you're like me, you still think we may need a bit of Robben magic at some point this spring. I'd love to see Robben and Gomez get a start in our next match (home vs. Schalke), or at least get a full half of action.
- This one is available only in German, but it appears that Holger Badstuber has either extended his contract through 2017, or is on the verge of doing so. Excellent news, and the club clearly has high hopes in his complete and full return from the ACL. With Kirchhoff on the way, we figure to have the best CB stable in the world over the next couple years. Boateng may end up being the odd man out. But who knows, he may play so well this spring that we have to keep him around, and Badstuber may have to fight to retain his place.
Any stories from the world of football that we're missing? If so, let us know in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back with more tomorrow or Wednesday, and keep in mind that there's a Germany vs. France friendly (as well as a few other interesting matches) Wednesday evening. Thanks for reading.