Mascherano warns of Carlos Tevez Champions League final threat

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Dangerman: Carlos Tevez.

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano will line up against a friend turned rival in the Champions League final on Saturday as compatriot Carlos Tevez attempts to fire Juventus to their first European Cup in 19 years.

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Mascherano and Tevez moved to Europe together to join English side West Ham United from Corinthians in 2006. After an poor start at Upton Park, both went onto enjoy successful careers in England as Mascherano joined Liverpool before moving to Barcelona in 2010, whilst Tevez won Premier League titles with Manchester United and Manchester City.

Now Tevez is flourishing at Juve. The 31-year-old has scored 29 goals this season to guide them to the brink of their first ever treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and Champions League.

“Carlos’s career is there for everyone to see. It is formidable,” said Mascherano. “He is one of the best players I have ever shared a pitch with and has an incredible winning mentality.

“He has left a mark at all the teams he has played with. Obviously, if you are faced with playing him you have to be very careful. He is a player that likes to play these type of games and clearly is one of the most important players in the Juventus team.”

At the other end of the field the clash between the Spanish and Italian champions brings Luis Suarez face-to-face with old foes Patrice Evra and Giorgio Chiellini.

Suarez was banned for eight matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Evra in 2011 during their time at Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.

The fiery Uruguayan then received a four-month ban for biting Chiellini at last summer’s World Cup. However, Mascherano believes Suarez has shown this season he has the right temperament to concentrate solely on winning the Champions League for the first time.

“For Luis that is already in the past,” added Mascherano. “It is a special game for him because it is his first Champions League final and these games are special, but not because of the players he will face. Luis is of an age now and has shown that we don’t need to say anything. He is responsible for his actions.”

Mascherano has already tasted victory in a Champions League final during his first season at Barca, but also lost one whilst at Liverpool in 2007.

He added: “Apart from that the feeling of winning any title is very gratifying. The Champions League has that feeling but also an added prestige. As a footballer that prestige is also something that we play for.”

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#360view: Platini and UEFA cannot be sure of FIFA presidency success

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Politician: Michel Platini.

Sepp Blatter is many things but he certainly isn’t stupid and there is a very good reason why he stood as FIFA president for 17 years, winning election after election, despite a raft of corruption allegations.

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The Swiss was determined to open the game out to the world and in doing so he made those footballing nations who once felt small and insignificant, strong and influential… and also, in many cases, rich.

It’s an intoxicating combination and in Blatter’s world, tournaments were his currency: there have been World Cups awarded to Korea and Japan, South Africa, Russia and Qatar, each one gaining him more support in these areas of the world. Not to mention the Under-20 World Cup in the UAE, Canada, Egypt, Turkey and New Zealand; the Under-17 version in Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Nigeria and Mexico; and the women’s World Cup in China.

These were beyond football’s traditional frontiers and while on the face of it helping grow the game, they also further cemented Blatter’s powerbase.

By making these one-time ‘footballing backwaters’ feel important he was able to count on block votes from Africa (CAF), Asia (AFC), South America (CONMEBOL) and Oceania (OFC).

So far there have been only two individuals declaring their interest in standing as his replacement: Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan and France’s David Ginola. The latter may again find it difficult to garner the necessary five nominations from fellow delegates to stand but they are interesting in the sense they are both either from or UEFA-backed candidates.

Although based in the AFC, the groundswell of support for Prince Ali came from within Europe, with estimates around 30-40 of his 73 votes were from European nations.

A third is surely soon to declare his candidacy in Michel Platini, and glancing down the bookmakers list of ‘favourites’ to be the next president the top 10 is filled out by Luis Figo (Portugal), Jerome Valcke (France), David Gill (England), Michael van Praag (Netherlands), Domenica Scala (Swiss-Italian) and Senes Ezrik (Turkey).

It’s a European-dominated list, and while a lot can change between now and December or early next year, it implies the continent trying to take the power back.

However, the landscape created by Blatter has made it hard for the Europeans. The rest of the world don’t trust UEFA and are worried about them reclaiming what they’ve been given over the last 17 years. And who can blame them?

Platini knows this, he’s been part of the fabric of football administration for eight years now, and while he has slowly painted himself as a reformist and a Blatter alternative, the reality could be very different.

Of course, he has the playing pedigree, an enticing prospect that is the polar opposite of Blatter, but there are some major red flags to suggest he will only maintain the status quo rather than launching a full-scale revolution.

His voting for Qatar and the subsequent hiring of his son Laurent as chief executive of Qatar-owned sports company Burrda, will, fairly or unfairly, raise question marks.

He even said himself in 2011 of Blatter that he’ll try “to help finish his mandate well, because it is for the good of the game”. Yet four years later he’s calling for his head. A Machiavellian mind is always something to be wary of.

His revamp of the European Championships – taking a successful format and increasing the teams from 16 to 24 – is also a Blatter-esque tactic to appease/earn the trust and support of as many nations as possible. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

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Ligue 1 review: PSG finish strong to overcome fierce challenges

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Celebrations: PSG's quadruple.

The Ligue 1 title race may have had a predictable conclusion but it was by far the most exciting of all Europe’s top five leagues.

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In a season which saw six different teams lead the table, with eight matches to go the standings read: Paris Saint-Germain – 59 points, Lyon – 58 and Marseille 57.

In the end, PSG were worthy winners, but Laurent Blanc’s all-powerful juggernaut hadn’t actually got their noses in front until that moment.

The defending champions sealed a third title on the bounce with nine straight wins but they found an admirable adversary in Lyon who represented an interesting paradox in French football.

Lyon were once the big spenders in Ligue 1, lavishing millions throughout the 2000s in winning seven of the decades 10 championships, but it wasn’t sustainable and when the money dried up, a change of approach from president Jean-Michel Aulas has seen them work their way to the top in a different manner.

Each week, Hubert Fournier – who replaced Remi Garde last May – would regularly field 7-8 academy graduates in his starting XI and the only paid-for player actually in his squad was perennial substitute Arnold Mvuemba.

Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir became household names, while the likes of Anthony Lopes, Samuel Umtiti and Corentin Tolisso also enjoyed breakout seasons.

In the end, Fournier’s men ran out of steam, but for a side who finished fifth – 28 points behind PSG – the season before, to top the table for 11 weeks and close that gap to eight was a fine achievement.

While Lyon enjoyed their best phase in the middle part of the season, PSG were primed for a strong finish and, indeed, despite juggling two domestic cup commitments and the Champions League, Blanc’s side got the job done.

An injury-plagued Zlatan Ibrahimovic had his ‘worst’ nine months at the club since arriving from AC Milan but still managed 19 in 24 games in the league with Edinson Cavani adding a further 18.

With Marco Verratti pulling the strings in midfield, the energy of Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Silva doing the defensive work of two men, following David Luiz’s arrival, PSG’s core was just too strong for their rivals to break.

Slipping to fourth at the start of January, Blanc looked set for the chop but you’d think a domestic quadruple of league, Super Cup, Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue should be enough to keep him in a job over the summer.

As consistent as PSG proved down the home stretch, Marseille were equally as inconsistent and combustible as their charismatic coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Marseille set the early pace and were league leaders from the end of September up to the winter break. In true Bielsa fashion, though, Marseille’s swashbuckling style had a limited shelf-life and where they where once sweeping all-comers aside they were soon conceding five goals at home to Lorient and three to Caen, dropping points to sides in the bottom half of the table.

It hit them hard, as a season in which the top three looked a certainity ahead of the second half eventually saw them finish fourth and out of the Champions League spots.

That place was taken by Monaco, who under Leonardo Jardim impressed in a different way finishing the season with the best defensive record in the league with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic claiming a remarkable 20 clean sheers.

Like at Lyon, Jardim also helped bring through a raft of impressive young talent with Anthony Martial, Fabinho, Wallace and Bernardo Silva bringing scouts flocking to the Stade Louis II.

St Etienne threatened to break into the elite but a lack of a consistent goal threat saw them fall just short.

Bordeaux’s strong finish – two defeats in 17 – while moving into the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux gives them hope for next season while the likes of Rennes and Nice – who beat Guingamp 7-2 with Carlos Eduardo scoring five – performed admirably on tight budgets.

At the bottom, Evian, Metz and Lens occupied the last three spots for almost the entire second half of the season with the only doubt being the order in which they’d be relegated.

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