The good people of Madeira have paid homage to the Portuguese island’s most famous son by renaming their international airport in honour of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Indeed, Ronaldo himself returned home to accept the tribute in person from Portugal president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who also unveiled a magnificent bust of the Real Madrid superstar on the concourse outside.
As you can probably see, the statuette is a stunning example of local craftsmanship, with the head and neck modelled by one artist and the face obviously cast by somebody else entirely.
Claudio Ranieri has spoken of the “shock” he felt after being sacked by Leicester City, less than nine months after winning the Premier League title.
Strangely, Ranieri did so while appearing on stage in front of inmates at the Rebibbia prison on the outskirts of Rome.
Before you go assuming our Claudio was inside for some sort of violent backlash to his Foxes dismissal, the 65-year-old was actually in attendance at a ceremony celebrating the work of regional coaches in Italy.
Thinking of Leicester, the first thing that comes to mind is the sense of surprise, even more than bitterness.
I have been through a lot in my long career, but never anything like this.
It was a shock, but in the end these things are part of football.
Ranieri also revealed that he planned to air a full list of his grievances when he appears as a pundit for Sky Sports for the upcoming Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal on 10th April.
Until that day I will not talk, because everything took place in England and it seems fitting to talk in England.
One to mark in your diaries, that.
While we’re on the subject, Ranieri was also bestowed with the prestigious Panchina D’Oro (‘Golden Bench’) award in Florence on Monday afternoon, which is essentially the Italian Coach of the Year award…
Having not made a professional competitive appearance since 2015, Ronaldinho is certainly doing a fine impression of a retired footballer despite having never formerly announced his decision to call it quits.
Over the past few years, the ex-Barcelona star has involved himself in a number of musical projects, appearing as a guest artiste on several lively Brazilian numbers.
However, the time has now come for Senhor Gaucho to go it alone, marking his 37th birthday by unveiling his very first self-penned solo effort – a broody, lilting samba ballad called ‘Sozinho’, which translates as ‘Alone’.
The lyrics appear to be of a personal nature, with Ronaldinho – at least we think it’s him – singing in the chorus:
Me, now alone. I do not feel weaker or stronger but who knows the fate? Comfort me in this battle.
Alone for the first time. Alone, the mind goes beyond the beyond. Alone, but with strength and faith to continue.
For the first time since it all went south, Alan Pardew has been talking about getting sacked by Crystal Palace.
Pardew was dismissed in late December, with Palace ending the calendar year as the worst-performing team of all 92 Premier and Football League clubs.
What’s more, their total of six Premier League wins throughout 2016 was the second lowest tally recorded since the league’s inception in 1992/93.
However, you may not be surprised to learn that Pards doesn’t think he personally was at fault, once again failing to accept any responsibility for his team’s risible slump – the same old cycle of boom and, moreover, bust.
Plucked from his featured interview with Matt Dickinson in The Times, here are just a selection of the excuses and laughably self-reverential quotes on offer (under the telling headline “My win percentage was healthy… I was let down by transfer dealings”).
On not being able to bolster his squad as he saw fit…
Looking back, I sat down with [Palace chairman] Steve Parish in the summer and we decided we wanted to take the club forward. We made changes but I definitely have the view we didn’t change the squad enough. We brought players in but I think we should have done more.
On being, if anything, too loyal…
Maybe my loyalty gets in the way a little bit. I have been loyal to a fault with some. That’s just a trait I have. Something I have to keep an eye on.
A little Pard-ism to live your life by…
The game humbles you. And if you don’t humble with it you are in trouble.
Sometimes you have to acknowledge some of your strengths can be your weaknesses.
On namby-pamby players failing to cope with his rigorous training regime…
When I started [at Palace], the hard pre-season was a big thing, maybe too extreme among some.
On the back-room support staff who ultimately let him down…
Doctors under pressure at Premier League level, sports scientists protecting themselves a little bit, sometimes worried what the chairman will think if there is any injury. I am not saying devalue them, don’t take their opinion.
I just think we have become too protective.
On his track record…
My win percentage in the Premier League, when you consider the clubs I’ve been at and the budgets I’ve had, I know it’s healthy.
On that dreadful dance…
I am quite forthright in my views and personality. I am not shy. That’s documented.
Christ. That man. Everything comes with a blame-deflecting caveat. The mental gymnastics involved are almost admirable.
However, the most cringe-inducing excerpt must be Pardew’s allegorical description of the cut-throat circles in which he operates these days.
I wondered if he [Pardew] might be bitter about losing his job at a club who were the nearest thing to a spiritual home from his playing days, but he smiles and says football management reminds him of that famous diner scene in Heat. Al Pacino and Robert de Niro finally meet on screen, cop facing master criminal.
As they chat over coffee, Pacino explains that much as it was nice to talk, to connect as men, there is an inevitability about the shoot-out to come. “You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do,” he says.
“We’ve been face to face, yeah,” De Niro responds. “But I will not hesitate, not for a second.”
“It’s a bit like us in football,” Pardew smiles. “Chairman, manager, you do what you gotta do. But it’s not personal. It’s the business.”
Currently linked with a move across London to Chelsea) imagine Arsenal Fan TV if that happens), Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal’s current woes behind him to produce a fine man of the match display for Chile in their World Cup qualifier with Venezuela on Tuesday.
Sanchez opened the scoring after just five minutes, via an exquisite free-kick.
Noted dimwit Danny Mills has basically accused Wilfried Zaha of chucking away his entire international future by choosing to represent Ivory Coast instead of jolly old England.
Zaha won two non-competitive caps under Roy Hodgson but found his participation limited so instead opted to pursue an international career with the country of his parents’ birth.
However, Gareth Southgate revealed yesterday that he made it his first order of business to attempt to coerce Zaha back into the fold, only to find that he was too late to do so – stating that from now he will only be selecting players with an “inherent desire” to represent England.
This got Mills’ knee-jerk dander up, with the former England full-back (19 caps) subsequently spouting the following tripe on TalkSPORT:
Would you rather play for England or the Ivory Coast? Ultimately he [Zaha] has taken the easier option and thought ‘well, I might get a few more caps and I might get to play in a few more tournaments because my chances with England are probably going to be limited’.
Gareth just means that he wants people to fight for the shirt and if you don’t get in, you don’t get in.
I probably did over 30-odd squads and never got any game time – sat in the stands, sat on the bench – but you still turned up every single time in that hope that you might get a chance and take it.
It is just an easy option from Zaha to go and play somewhere else.
Damn Wilf for wanting to play at tournaments and win caps – especially when he could be winning 19 meaningless caps for England.
Of course, the sly insinuation being that Ivory Coast aren’t really a proper international team like England, brave and brawny, so clearly are.
We could get angry about such obvious nonsense, but that’s only until we remind ourselves that Mills is a proven numpty.
After all, this is the man who seriously suggested England players could circumvent the annual furore over Remembrance poppies by having them temporarily tattooed on their hands.
Newell’s Old Boys captain Maxi Rodriguez dropped in the Argentinian club’s oldest fan last week to deliver a couple of special presents in person on the occasion of her 105th birthday.
Born in 1912, Tati Rodriguez (no relation) moved to Rosario at the age of 18, immediately fell in love with Newell’s and she’s been a staunch supporter ever since – in fact, the club itself is only nine years older than her!
Anyway, Maxi is Tati’s favourite current player, so the birthday girl made sure to personally invite the ex-Liverpool midfielder along to her party on Friday.
Sure enough, he turned up, and with an armful of gifts in tow – namely, a Newell’s jersey with his name and number on the back and a second emblazoned with Tati’s altogether more impressive digits.