Analysis – Chelsea’s title built on granite foundations

With the Premier League trophy now back at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho’s judgement has again proved spot on as John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta have been the most reliable defensive unit in the country.


The first three were selected by their fellow professionals in their ‘team of the season’ along with peerless midfield defensive shield Nemanja Matic.

Luiz, at 50 million pounds the most expensive defender in the history of the game, has become something of a liability at Paris St Germain, committing the sort of howlers that should have earned him a lifetime ban from the centre-back union.

Marcos Rojo, outstanding in the 2014 World Cup, and Luke Shaw, one of the brightest prospects in England, have struggled to make the Manchester United team while Manchester City fans are wondering who thought Eliaquim Mangala was worth 32 million pounds.

Chelsea boss Mourinho knows a long, hard campaign must be built on a reliable rearguard and, with only 27 goals conceded in 35 games, his unit is the most miserly in the Premier League.

Terry and Cahill have had their wobbles in recent seasons and the latter looked horribly exposed for England at the World Cup. But, side by side in the league, they have been superb.

Terry, who seems physically and mentally revitalised under Mourinho, has played every league match this season, a remarkable modern-day achievement.

In Mourinho’s first spell in charge at the Bridge from 2004-07 Terry was one of his “untouchables” and that was again the case this season.

The former England captain was at the peak of his powers last week in the goalless draw at Arsenal that just about secured the title, his organisation, anticipation and overall mastery of the art of defending leaving his manager purring.

“I told John, in the six years with me, that is the best I have seen from him. He was absolutely amazing,” Mourinho said of the 34-year-old who two seasons ago was written off by then-manager Rafa Benitez as being unable to manage two games a week.

“Everything was clean: giving cover, the defensive line, interceptions, reading the game so well, interceptions. The team were phenomenal but John was one step ahead of every other player.”

Cahill is in a similar mould and is learning at the feet of a man former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher describes as the best defender ever in the Premier League.

Ivanovic has been doing his thing for years. Unflappable, relentlessly efficient and determined and chipping in with key goals, he is the sort of full back every manager prays for and, like Terry, has not missed a league game all season.

Azpilicueta is similarly valuable, winning over Chelsea fans after usurping Ashley Cole at left back last season and bedding down seamlessly since.

The back four have been aided of course by a strong goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, and a brilliant shield in front.

Just as Claude Makelele was the relentless screen during Mourinho’s first spell at the Bridge, the long-striding Matic has been of huge importance in his second.

The Serb has fully vindicated the manager’s decision to spend 21 million pounds to bring him back after the club let him go to Benfica three years earlier and Mourinho has shown yet again that when it comes to building title-winning teams, you make sure your foundations are rock solid.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Lorenzo wins Spanish Grand Prix

“It was a good race, I felt great and in reality it has been a perfect weekend,” Lorenzo told reporters.


“I had no problems at any stage of the race, the brakes were fine, better than on other occasions and I was able to win.”

Marquez, riding with a fractured little finger after a training accident, finished 5.576 seconds behind after holding off a challenge from Lorenzo’s Italian team mate Valentino Rossi.

Rossi made MotoGP history with his 200th podium finish and also extended his championship lead to 15 points over compatriot Andrea Dovizioso.

Rossi now has 82 points, with Dovizioso on 67 and Lorenzo on 62. Marquez is fourth with 56.

“There was a part of the race where I went faster than Marc but it has been a difficult weekend,” Rossi told reporters.

“I didn’t want to take too many risks when I was pushing for the front and I have the 200th podium which is not too bad. Next time I’ll try and do better.”

Ahead of Jerez, it was expected to be a tussle between Rossi and Marquez, but instead it was Lorenzo who triumphed after a poor start to the season where he had not had a podium finish.

His fifth win in Jerez across all classes came after he set a lap record in qualifying for Yamaha’s first pole of the season. The Spaniard made a strong start, with Marquez close behind.

He had a lead of more than two seconds after 10 laps while Rossi trailed Marquez by almost three but the Italian gradually closed the gap.

By the 18th lap, it looked as though there could be a repeat of the last race in Argentina where Rossi caught Marquez late on but this time the Spaniard responded and pulled away.

“I am happy as a week ago I was in hospital and now I have got second place,” Marquez told reporters.

“I had more pain from my right arm than the finger on my left. To be honest at times I couldn’t move my fingers and I eased off at one point so that I could have a strong finish as I could see Valentino was pushing behind.”

(Reporting by Tim Hanlon in Barcelona, editing by Alan Baldwin)

Thai businessman expects Milan stake in 3-4 weeks

Returning to Thailand on Sunday after talks in Milan, Bee would not be drawn on details of a deal long shrouded in secrecy but said money was “not a problem” and talks with former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi were going well.


“We are in negotiations…the next step will be arranging documents, preparing financial papers and legal procedures,” Bee told reporters at Bangkok’s airport.

“After the stake is transferred, there will be some restructuring and rearrangement of a new team.” 

That could be just what the Rossoneri need.

AC Milan have been European Champions seven times but have had no silverware since winning their 18th Serie A title in 2011. The club has amassed debts of 250 million euros ($279.98 million) and posted a loss of 91 million euros last year.

Italian media reports said Bee, executive director of private equity group Thai Prime, was offering 500 million euros (£370 million) for a 51 percent stake in Milan.

But Fininvest, the holding company of Silvio Berlusconi, on Saturday said AC Milan would remain in the former premier’s hands and Fininvest “foresees the acquisition of a minority stake by a group of investors”.

Bee’s interest in Milan has taken him from relative obscurity in Thailand, a Southeast Asian nation with more than 25 billionaires, according to Forbes Magazine. Bee is not among them and has refused to say how he would finance any Milan deal.

If the sale goes ahead, Bee would be the latest in a series of Thai businessman with interests in top flight football and the first to venture into the Italian game.

Billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, founder of King Power duty free, is owner of Premier League Leicester City while former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s short reign as Manchester City chairman ended in 2008.

That club was sold to a consortium under the Abu Dhabi United Group.

Thaksin also expressed interest in 2004 in jointly buying a 25 percent stake in England’s Liverpool alongside beverages billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, whose Beer Chang brand is on the shirts of Merseyside rivals Everton.

(Reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat and Khettiya Jittapong; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Baldwin)

Illegal betting has taken a toll on China, India – Eaton

Eaton, the executive director of the non-profit-making International Centre for Sports Security, urged governments to take more control of the problem and said the sport was a victim and not the cause of widespread betting fraud.


Speaking at the Soccerex Asian Forum, he said countries should follow the United States in moving towards “transparent, legalised, regulated and supervised sport betting, so there will be far less money to fix football or any other sports matches.”

Eaton said that more than 80 countries in the world had suffered from match-fixing in the last five years, but the two Asian giants had suffered more than most.

“The innovations being led by Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association (NBA) are important to sport,” he told delegates at the King Hussein convention centre on the shores of the Dead Sea, 60km from Amman.

“China must follow. The core crime here is not the match-fix but betting fraud, (betting on the fixed match).

“The frauds are mostly taking place out of money from China. The amount of money gambled in China on sport or by other Chinese in south-east Asia is probably around $800 billion a year.

“They are betting on up to 5,000 sporting contests a week and these criminals are changing their tactics,” added Eaton.

“They are now corrupting the sport betting monitors. Law enforcement is so far behind — its got a long way to catch up globally and governments must take more responsibility and act together.”

A huge corruption scandal rocked China earlier in the decade with 33 people banned for life, and a total of 60 punished in a purge that affected 12 clubs.

“After the scandals in China attendances went down to 30 percent of the norm. China should be one of the powerhouses of world football but is not,” said Eaton.

“India should also be a powerhouse in world football but it is not, because of match-fixing in cricket for goodness sake.

“The spectators in India have now become very cynical about their sport because they’ve seen what has happened in their most popular sport and they apply it to other sports.”

(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Alan Baldwin)

Dangerman Hazard provides Chelsea’s title spark

The Belgium attacking midfielder, whose pace and trickery earned him the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year award last week, took his goal tally for the season to 19, 14 of them in the league.


The 24-year-old failed to convert a penalty at the end of the first half that he won after being sandwiched by two Palace defenders, but the winger made the most of a rebound off the knees of goalkeeper Julian Speroni to score guide in a rare header and set Chelsea on their way to their fifth English title, and their fourth in a decade.

Hazard has been Chelsea’s stand-out player this season and has drawn comparisons from his manager Jose Mourinho with Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.

There have been rumours of interest from Real Madrid, prompting Mourinho to joke that the Spanish giants would need to spend 200 million pounds to buy him – “100 million pounds each leg, because he’s very young,” he said last month.

Mourinho declined to single out the Belgian at a news conference after Sunday’s title clincher, preferring instead to praise all his squad for a campaign in which Chelsea have lost only two of 35 games played so far.

But it was Hazard’s guile, as well as his goals, that helped Chelsea remain on track for the title, even when the team struggled in recent months to maintain their free-scoring fluency of the first half of the season.

With first-choice striker Diego Costa ruled out for weeks by injury, and his replacement Loic Remy also sidelined, Hazard’s spark has settled several tightly-contested matches.

As well as his winner on Sunday, he scored in Chelsea’s 1-0 wins over a recovering Manchester United last month and also scored decisive goals against West Ham and Queens Park Rangers.

Chelsea spent more than 30 million pounds to bring Hazard from French side Lille to Stamford Bridge in 2012.

It now seems like a bargain.

“The manager gives me a lot of feelings and I can play my best football on the pitch which is the most important thing,” Hazard, who has grown in stature since Mourinho’s return, said.

“I know the team need me and a player like me. I am here to score, and this season all the players did well.”

(Writing by William Schomberg; additional reporting and editing by Martyn Herman)